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Third Coast Ensemble: Wrecks (RogueArt)

Merging France's Nautilis Ensemble with musicians from Chicago created this large improvising orchestra, here in a new suite composed by Rob Mazurek and dedicated to Great Lake Michigan and the devestation of thousands of shipwrecks over many centuries, using historical data, first hand accounts of shipwrecks off both shores, magical realism and steampunk aesthetics. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Kodian Trio: II [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The uniquely voiced free improvising Kodian Trio formed of saxophonist Colin Webster using aggressive techniques and unusual approaches to his horn, electric guitarist Dirk Serries (vidnaObmana) throwing spiky lines in forceful and unorthodox dialog, and in-demand UK drummer Andrew Lisle providing underpinning and punctuation, in six far-ranging and impressive tracks. ... Click to View


Becoming Animal (Massimo Pupillo / Gordon Sharp): A Distant Hand Lifted [VINYL] (Trost Records)

An album of dark atmospheric electroacoustic sound with voice and introductory narrative from Zu bassist Massimo Pupillo and Gordon Sharp of Cindytalk, the first meeting between the two, performed live at Cafe Oto for four pieces of rich sonics, emotional and hypnotic playing from two creative masters with a long history of powerful and passionate music. ... Click to View


Novaks Kapelle: Fartwind - Complete Discography (1967-1979) [2 CDs] (Trost Records)

Hard rocking Novaks Kapelle was an Austrian underground rock band, formed in 1967 by Erwin Novak, Walla Mauritz, Peter Travnicek and Helge Thor, with Paul Brown Steiner joining in 1970, and after a period of quiet, in 1978 jazz guitarist Harri Stojka joined the band; this double CD collects all known tracks, presenting a fascinating evolution of style. ... Click to View


Kan Mikami / John Edwards / Alex Nielson: Live at Cafe Oto [VINYL] (Otoroku)

More typically a solo performer, Japanese bluesman Kan Mikami has created a distinctive path for his voice, guitar and poetic lyrics; here he is propelled in an improvisational setting with two powerful UK players--John Edwards on bass and Alex Neilson on drums--captured live at London's Cafe Oto for a growling concert of finesse and brusque attitude. ... Click to View


William Parker : Conversations II Dialogues & Monologues [CD & BOOK] (RogueArt)

The 2nd volume in New York free improvising basist William Parker's "Conversations" series, more than 500 pages with 32 interview between William Parker and artists including Marshall Allen, Tim Berne, Wadada Leo Smith, Mark Dresser, Henry Grimes, &c &c, plus a CD excerpting those interviews and punctuated with duos between Parker and saxophonist Kidd Jordan. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Feat. Pika: Astro Infinity Discotheque [VINYL 2 LPs] (Bam Balam Records)

A live album in 2016 from the mind-blowing and prolific Japanese psychedelic improvising rock band Acid Mothers Temple with Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi, Mitsuru Tabata, Stoshima Nani, S T, and Pika, performing some of their well known works and starting with Gong's "Flying Teapot", all recorded at 15th Acid Mothers Temple Festival at Tokuzo (Nagoya). ... Click to View


Strycharski / Andriessen: Ghost (Bolt)

Polish composer and recorder player Dominik Strycharski wrote these pieces in response to a work for the recorder by composer Louis Andriessen that he dedicated to Frans Bruggen: "Melodie"; Strycharski response is "Harmonie", performed in a duo with pianist Sebastian Zawadzki to demonstrate the impracticability of harmony in its purest forms. ... Click to View


Vinny Golia Wind Quartet: Live At The Century City Playhouse (Dark Tree Records)

Dark Tree's Southern California archive series adds this phenomenal session from multi-woodwind player Vinny Golia's Wind Quartet with clarinetist John Carter, trombonist Glenn Ferris, and cornetist Bobby Bradford, recorded fairly early in their careers in 1979 live at Century City Playhouse in LA for two sets of exploratory, dexterous and astounding jazz. ... Click to View


Christian Kobi (solo and with Taku Sugimoto / Yoko Ikeda / Wakana Ikeda: Atta! (Monotype)

Four solo saxophone improvisations, two on tenor and two on soprano, using remarkable technique and concentration from Swiss improviser Christian Kobi performing live in Tokyo and Osaka in 2017, plus a live quartet improvisation with flutist Wakana Ikeda, violinist Yoko Ikeda, and guitarist Taku Sugimoto for an open-approached performance of detailed, minimal improv. ... Click to View


Natsuki Tamura / Alexander Frangenheim: Nax (Creative Sources)

An impressive, creative, startling meeting between Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and German double bassist Alexander Frangenheim, taking Tamura out of his more typical structured improv and Frangenhemin into more active and agressive styles than his Creative Sources output; a great album reminding just how fun and awe inspiring free improvised music can be. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski : Populista Presents BOX [3 CDs + POSTER] (Bolt)

Raphael Roginski's Trilogy - 3 CDs in Bolt's Populista series: CD 1. "Raphael Roginski plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes African mystic music"; CD 2. "Zywizna plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs"; CD 3. "Populista presents Raphael Roginski plays Henry Purcell featuring Olga Myslowska and Sebstian Witkowski"; in a slip box with a poster. ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Red October [CASSETTE w/DOWNLOAD] (Out and Gone Music)

Polyorchard founder and double bassist David Menestres leads the quartet of Jeb Bishop on trombone, Shawn Galvin on percussion, and Laurent Estoppey on saxophone, using skills drawn from both improvisation and compositional music to present six free dialogs showing intent listening amongst the four as they create complex, interweaving, sophisticated statements; impressive! ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Color Theory in Black and White (Not On Label)

Two trios, "Black" with cellist Chris Eubank and violist Dan Ruccia, and "White" with trombonist Jeb Bishop and saxophonist Laurent Estoppey, each with the foundation of bassist David Menestres, balancing experience in free improvisation and compositional music to create an exciting hybrid, a chamber collective of tumult and control. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Lao Dan / Rick Countryman / Colin Webster: Saxophone Anatomy (Armageddon Nova)

Saxophone solo improvisation omnibus by three free saxophonists from around the globe: Lao Dan from China recording in an underground bomb shelter in an agressive solo performance; US ex-pat Rick Countryman from the Philippines in a traditional yet extremely free jazz exposition; and London's Colin Webster on baritone sax for an exploration of extended techniques. ... Click to View


Aishi Oyauchi : Wrong Exit (Armageddon Nova )

Under-recorded but legendary Japanese free improvising saxophonist Aishi Oyauchi in a double CD, performing on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, and piano through 52 untitled and inventive pieces, from a few seconds in length to several minutes, presented as 7 composite tracks; part of the Armageddon Nova Series exploring radical free improvisation. ... Click to View


Zywizna: Roginski, Raphael with Genowefa Lenarcik: plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs (Bolt)

Guitarist Raphael Roginski reinterprets the music of the Kurpi region of Poland, performed with vocalist Genowefa Lenarcik who was born in 1940 in the village of Krobia, part of the Kurpi region, and is the daughter of folk singing legend Stanislaw Brzozowy; together they bring out the rich heritage of this region, expanded by the natural sounds of the forests of Northeaster Poland. ... Click to View


subterrene: Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (Bad Architect Records)

Rich sonic atmospheres from subterrene, aka Grant Stewart, a member of the 910 Noise collective, using slowly evolving and dovetailing drones that resonate and reveal shimmering beauty, deeply controlled and maintaining aural interest without any sense of impatience, maintaining a steady hand that reveals hidden harmonics amongst beautiful clouds of sound. ... Click to View


Alessandro Bosetti : Notebooks (Bolt)

Czech composer Leos Janacek was fascinated with speech melodies, writing them down in notebooks to use in his compositions; Italian composer Alessandro Bosetti has adapted these notes, using the words themselves to create a series of works that builds rhythmic structures in place of melody, injecting himself and other performers into Janacek's interest in the voice. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski (feat. Olga Myslowska / Sebstian Witkowski): plays Henry Purcell (Bolt)

Polish guitarist Raphael Roginski presents works from baroque English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), considered one of the greatest English composers, performed on solo guitar and with accompaniment by Sebastian Witkowski on synth and Olga Myslowska on voice, a beautiful and languorous album that pays homage to the profound lasting qualities of Purcell's music. ... Click to View


Boguslaw Schaeffer : Travel Notes (Bolt)

Several compostions by Polish composer Boguslaw Schaeffer developed in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio from 1966-1978, including works for tape, electronic computer, voice, a quadraphonic generator, the SynLab synthesizer, composed using both graphic and notated scores, and realized with incredibly detailed layering and development of the material. ... Click to View


DJ Lenar: Drite Shtilkayt (Bolt)

Using recordings of Polish Jewish cantors with cello arrangements from Marek Czerniewicz, DJ Lenar (aka Marcin Lenarczyk) dedicates an album to the memory of Polish Jews by reimagining the recordings in subtle and sincere ways, reinforcing the powerful voices that guide the liturgical music of the Jewish faith, accompanied by a booklet of inspirational text. ... Click to View


Refusenik (Arturas Bumsteinas): Musikaliszer Pinkos (Bolt)

A collection of more than two hundred Hebrew religious chants compiled and published by cantor Abraham Berenstein in 1927 in Vilna, Poland (today Vilnius, Lithuania), re-composed by Arturas Bumsteinas using fragments of melodies found found in the Berenstein's book, with electronics recorded on the old Russian analogue synthezier Polyvox then mixed in EMS. ... Click to View


Trio 3 (Lake / Workman / Cyrille): Visiting Texture (Intakt)

This time around the long-standing trio of drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Reggie Workman, and saxophonist Oliver Lake doesn't add a 4th player to the group, instead focusing on the trio itself and their intuitive and implicitly lyrical approach to free jazz, in this 11th album recorded in the studio to feature their masterful collective playing as a group of equals where "music is the leader". ... Click to View


Thanos Chrysakis / Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Miguel Mira / Abdul Moimeme: Micrographia (Creative Sources)

Recording in Portugal, the quintet of Aural Terrains label leader Thanos Chrysakis on piano, Creative Sources label leader Ernesto Rodrigue on viola, son Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Miguel Mira on double bass and Abdul Moimeme on electric guitar, three parts of microscopic collective electroacoustic improvisation of highly focused, detailed interplay. ... Click to View


VCA (Vilanova / Castrillon / Andean): Ceres (Creative Sources)

Electroacoustic improvisation from the trio of Marc Vilanova on saxophone, Sergio Castrillon on cello, and pianist James Andean also performing on objects and electronics, in nine collective improvisations of close-knit dialog balancing intense activity and silent space, building tension and releasing it in unexpected and wonderfully eccentric ways. ... Click to View


Edward Sol / Alpha Crucis: Excessive Weight [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Ukrainian sound artist Edward Sol collaborated with Puerto Rican sound experimenter Jorge Castro (Cornucopia) via the post to create these two long works of harmonic drones from indecipherable sources creating slowly building chambers of rich noise that resonate and shift above deep underpinnings of cavernous bass. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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A Month of Zorndays
John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration at Tonic

Updated througout the month

John Zorn







John Zorn Improv Night  (Tonic) 

September 29, 2003

With Derek Bailey unable to make it to town for his scheduled night in the monthlong Zornfest, John Zorn pulled together an old-fashioned improv night (although having drummer Joey Baron still in town certainly made it something more than an ordinary night). It was the first nonevent of the month, which almost carried with it a tinge of relief.

Two opening pieces by Baron, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and cellist Erik Friedlander achieved the often-claimed-but-usually boring improvised classical. Violinest Mark Feldman and laptop percussionist Ikue Mori followed in a similar vein, Feldman playing bold, heavy notes, leaving Mori's laptop as the melody instrument. Their second piece took a very different path, with Feldman playing fast lines and scratches over Mori's busy backing. Feldman and Friedlander also carried the high-art torch for a piece, and were joined by Courvoiser (making the group into Courvoisier's Abaton trio) for an equally stunning piece.

Baron and Zorn had of course already shared the stage during the month - two weeks prior had been the Masada quartet's first gig in over a year - but seeing them in duet was just good. Starting and stopping, completing each other's sentences until they built to a roar, only Baron to stop and play a quiet, slowly metered rim roll while Zorn carried on full throttle. Later Baron backed Zorn with licked-finger drum-head rubs, not just for effect but really playing with Zorn's saxophone.

Better yet was Baron sitting in the Susie Ibarra seat with the Mephista line-up. He's a faster, busier player than Ibarra, it's not really fair to call it Mephista at all, but they played wonderfully, although he ultimately overpowered Courvoisier and Mori. A second, quieter piece where Baron rode cymbals worked better. The piano, drums and laptop created torrents of rhythm together, and Courvoisier and Mori now have the shared pleasure of playing with the two happiest drummers in the world.

The final group piece opened with Baron, Friedlander and Mori, then Zorn coming in, suggesting combinations that hadn't been heard, and built slowly to a gorgeous sextet, Zorn blowing a slow lament, Feldman complementing him while Friedlander carried a deep bass, the rest melding into a beautiful, thick blanket.

Perhaps it wasn't quite like old times, not just in Zorn's calling consecutive pieces by the same ensembles, but in the near-formal virtuosity exhibited throughout. Certainly it was a different sort of Improv Nite than he would have presented 10 years ago. And if anything really stands as a testament to the growth of John Zorn and the scene he embraces, it's what they do for fun.

- Kurt Gottschalk






Bezique  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

Bezique is the last game piece Zorn conceived, and by his own admission in introducing the piece, "it's very strange." It differs from other pieces in that the players - the musicians involved - create the settings ahead of time rather than while they are playing. As a result, more coherent musical statements are made without losing the structured improvisations that can make the game pieces so rewarding.

The game pieces in general are interesting not just because of the music that's made, the characters they bring out or the mystery in which they're kept. They predate what could be called Zorn's "index card" period, and seem to have informed it. After creating a series of situations where he could hear styles, genres and moods crashing into each other, he began to use it as a formula for composing and arranging, most notably on the album The Big Gundown and the piece Spillane. Beziques was written in 1989, just two years before Spillane was recorded, and combines the tools of the game pieces with a compositional approach.

Each of the 11 players (Trevor Dunn, 5-string electric bass; Anthony Coleman, Farfisa organ; Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Marc Ribot, guitar; Jim Publiese and William Winant, percussion; Jim Staley, trombone; Mark Dresser, bass; Okkyung Lee, cello; Mark Feldman, violin; and Jamie Saft, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer and effects) got a turn creating a piece, calling out a series of directives ("EP1, Ribot; M7, Courvoisier, Lee, Winant; EP3-1...") while a "gaffer" played interlude music. It was reminiscent of Duke Ellington's idea that he writes for individual musicians, except purely that, without scores. Zorn would write down the directives that he would then guide them through by holding up his familiar cue cards, and reminding the arranger of rules and trying to keep an overall cohesion between pieces. "The hardest thing is coming out of Ts," he reminded the group more than once. "You can't just write a whole piece and think it's gonna work," he told them later. "You gotta think about the piece that came before it. You gotta think about the pieces in order."

While pieces like Cobra show player's proclivities in what they want to hear at the moment, it was fascinating to watch entire pieces borne of one player's musical sense. Dresser created a beautiful suite. Lee jumped back and forth between styles, relying heavily on a Ribot/Saft/Dunn trio. Coleman injected humor, which in itself is impressive when you're only able to suggest with genre, tempo and volume. But "M4 and 9 for Dresser and Sylvie" got a good laugh from the bandstand. (When they got to that point in the piece, Zorn showed the two cards "Quiet" and "Rock" to the audience.) Likewise, it was interesting to watch players run the pieces through their heads as they were being called.

The performance lasted 80 minutes, and it's a shame that Bezique has been forgotten over the years. While the other game pieces make for great theater and a fun night of in-the-moment creation, Bezique resulted in some truly memorable music.

- Kurt Gottschalk






John Zorn's Lacrosse, Hockey, Rugby  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

In the progression of game pieces that led John Zorn to create the magnificent Cobra and Xu Feng structures, several earlier games were devised. Lacrosse was developed in 1977, originally performed in the days of Studio Henry in lower Manhattan where, as Zorn recalled at the beginning of the performace, the music competed with the sounds of crickets in the building. This rendering of the game had Anthony Coleman on keys, Marc Ribot on guitar, William Winant and Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on alto. The game was very interactive, the players motioning amongst themselves and using a sparse set of rules, each calling segments and directing the game while in motion - unlike most of Zorn's game pieces there was no prompter. They used extended techniques on their instruments, and the piece was enjoyable if for no other reason than the mastery each showed: Zorn and Ribot played off each other, Coleman working inside the grand piano, and both Pugliese and Winant seeming to utilize every inch of their percussive sources. The ensuing music was not particularly coherent, a series of stop-starting quotations that were often punctuated but rarely lyrical.

Following was Hockey, a piece from 1978 that Zorn described as "exotic aquatics." He displayed the score for the game, explaining that at the time of its writing he believed that "all you really needed for an evening of music is one sheet of paper." Hockey limits each player's language to five sounds, which are carried out through a series of solos, duos and trios. Two versions of Hockey were presented, the first which Zorn referred to as the "dry version" with Okkyung Lee on cello, Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on duck calls. This version was tremendous fun, particularly in seeing Zorn playing the duck calls again, a fistful of varying bird and buzzer sounds that are clearly enjoyable to play. Lee provided an excellent foil to Zorn as she scraped, sawed and zipped around her cello while Pugliese provided often rollicking outbursts. The music frequently shifted, Zorn sometimes calling off directives to change the rhythm. More sophisticated than Lacrosse, the piece still paled to later game pieces in its sometimes spastic results. The second rendering of Hockey was presented by Anthony Coleman, Marc Ribot and Mark Dresser on bass. Zorn described this as the "wet version,", and the difference between the two renditions was remarkable. Coleman here stuck to his heavily effected Farfisa organ. Ribot as well played heavily effected and downright alien guitar, while Dresser was a monster on the bass, sometimes playing with a stick, plucking around the neck or bowing below the bridge. Zorn prompted from the front as the three played with clear enjoyment. The results were, once again, fun to watch, somewhat dubious in their music results, but inspiring and important in their ability present new possiblities in improvisational playing.

The last piece, Rugby, was written several years later, in 1983, and was more like his later pieces. Sylvie Courvoisier was on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, Mark Feldman on vioin, Jim Staley on trombone, William Winant on percussion, with Zorn prompting using a card system. The interplay this time was much more obvious, players pointing to each other to suggest musical direction to Zorn. The cards instructed the players with phrases like "Intercut," "Trans," "1 Clock Changes" or "4 Trades," and the piece seemed to work at time similar to Butch Morris' conductions. A series of escapades and interludes, the structure provided much more lyric and expressive opportunities to the musicians, adding a quirky and playful air to the resulting music. Zorn once again showed the single sheet that defined the game, but this time it was clear that the direction he was to take game pieces in 20 years ago held great potential for making excellent and unpredictable music.

- Phil Zampino






September 12, 18, 25 2003

Bar Kokhba - (Tonic) September 12, 2003, 8:00 set
Masada - (Tonic) September 18, 2003, 8:00 set
Electric Masada - (Tonic)September 25, 2003, 8:00 set

One of the wonderful things about Zorn's 50th birthday month was the opportunity it presented to hear the various Masada permutations on successive or nearly-successive nights, the chance to compare the way the different voicings and personnel shaped the music (sometimes even the same charts), and the air around us, the actual feel of the world, or as much of it as you can fit inside the little Tonic warehouse. This is evocative music, music that reaches down into the limbic system and plants fleeting images of places that, for a few moments, I have a terrible longing to visit.



continued...




The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
independent writers.

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