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Biliana Voutchkova / Michael Thieke: Blurred Music (elsewhere)

Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

The second collaboration between sounds artist Vanessa Rossetto and writer and sound artist Matthew Revert is a monumental work that studies the evolution of communication through fragments of spoken words, and a rich tapestry of sound from acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and perplexing and dramatic sources of sound. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

Two electroacoustic improvisers and composers--Lucio Capece on reeds, analog synths, effects, field recordings, drums machines, speakers in motion, and Marc Baron on field recordings and analog devices--developed these 6 extraordinary recordings that blend motion, perspective, sound and noise, and concrete references in a mystifying and mesmerizing journey in sound. ... Click to View


Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

Inspired by the work of Hungarian-born French media artist Vera Molnar, and by the vicissitudes of natural phenomena, French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert developed algorithmic procedures to compose this work, translating to "Music for the Daybreak", as an illusory "endless piece" of meditative layered, resonant music in the mode of Morton Feldman. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

An intensively diverse and thrilling game of "cat and dog" between Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, performing live at Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia in 2016 for two extended improvisations that exemplify incredible technical skills, reflective and introspective dialog, and cathartic release; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Marker (w/ Ken Vandermark): Wired For Sound (Audiographic Records)

The debut from this Chicago band merging strong grooves with free playing, with 2 guitarists--Andrew Clinkman & Steve Marquette, plus Macie Stewart on keys & violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and Ken Vandermark on reeds, each of the 3 tracks dedicated to an artist: Belgian movie director Chantal Akerman; German choreographer Pina Bausch; and Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

Celebrating bassist and composer William Parker's 65th birthday at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia in a band led by Bobby Zankel on alto saxophone, Muhammad Ali on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Steve Swell on trombone, Diane Monroe on violin, and William Parker himself on bass, in a 4-part suite of beautifully turbulent and masterful free jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

French double bassist Fred Marty joins Creative Sources core performers, violist Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and electronic artist Carlos Santos for an extensive improvisation exploring both lyrical and pointillistic improvisation, themed loosely around a garden quartet or frame, the music detailed, active and formidably sophisticated. ... Click to View


Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

Using Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" as his muse, German cellist living in Portugal, Ulrich Mitzlaff, presents 10 acoustic miniatures from just over a minute to 4 1/2 minutes in length, including wildly interactive moments of delirium to darkly melodic bowed passages, using his impressive technique to create vivid depictions of Munch's work. ... Click to View


4! (Patrizia Oliva / Carlo Mascolo / Domenico Saccente / Felice Furioso): Factorial (Creative Sources)

Free electroacoustic improvisation from the Italian quartet of Patrizia Oliva on voice, electronics, bawu, objects, Carlo Mascolo on prepared trombone, Domenico Saccente on accordion and prepared piano, and Felice Furioso on drums, cupa cupa, contrabbassa, sounded objects, using voice and unusual instrumentation to guide unusual and forward-thinking improv. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot's first solo album takes the viola into unusual territory, using an acousmatic approach to create music and sounds with no visual reference by transforming the sound of the viola through preparations and remarkable extended techniques, layering and assembling his works to create concrete statements of movement. ... Click to View


Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

New York composer and drummer Carlo Costa assembled this accomplished ensemble of NY improvisers for a live performance at IBeam in Brooklyn, capturing his piece "Strata" that evolves layers of sound from very sparse to densely yet accesibly stacked sound, varying recurring material to change perspectives in the aural space as the piece progresses; impressive. ... Click to View


Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

Many years after Pere Ubu and his work as a pilot, one of the world's most unique synth players, Allen Ravenstine, releases an album of composed works, 18 discrete hybrid miniature sound worlds that blend acoustic, real-world and synthetic sounds in unorthodox ways that elusively twist conventional approaches with unexpected elements and narrative twists. ... Click to View


Lance Olsen Austin : Dark Heart (Another Timbre)

Four fascinating and detailed compositions from Canadian composer and painter Lance Austin Olsen, each work giving the performers space to collaborate on the results, using graphic scores and Cage-like elements from recordings; performers include Terje Paulsen, Gil Sanson, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Patrick Farmer and Apartment House. ... Click to View


Alex Jang : Momentary Encounters (Another Timbre)

Four fragile and mostly minimal works by Victoria-based composer Alex Jang, performed by the Apartment House ensemble, with solo pieces by Heather Roche on clarinet + field recordings, one with Cristian Alvear on guitar, an acoustic quintet, and "any three players" designed for any mix of instrumentation, here on melodica, vibraphone & cello. ... Click to View


Linda Smith Catlin: Wanderer (Another Timbre)

Eight sophisticated chamber pieces composed by Linda Catlin Smith and realized by the Canadian Apartment House ensemble, including a solo piano performed by Philip Thomas, a piano duo with Thomas and Mark Knoop, and works for percussion & cello, 2 quintet pieces for strings, percussion and winds, and two 7-piece conducted works with two percussionists, strings and brass. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : O Zomer! (Another Timbre)

Two ensemble works and two solo pieces by Christian Wolff's favourite contemporary composer, Cassandra Miller, who is blazing a very personal trail through the experimental music world, with brilliant performances by Apartment House, Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, and Charles Curtis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : Just So (Another Timbre)

A disc of extraordinary string works by Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, presenting four string quartets superbly played by the Quatuor Bozzini quartet of Clemens Merkel on violin, Alissa Cheung on violin, Stephanie Bozzini on viola, and Isabelle Bozzini on cello, including the large work "About Bach", awarded the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman (w/ Simon Tan / Isla Antinero): Extremely Live in Manila (ChapChap Records)

A live concert in Quezon City from the Manila based duo of Rich Countryman on alto saxophone and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, who are joined on one track by acoustic bassist Simon Tan and trombonist Isla Antinero. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Adam Pultz Melbye / kriton b.: The Distant Sound Within (Creative Sources)

Three strings--cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, double bass from Adam Pultz Melbye, and viola from Ernesto Rodrigues--plus harmonium and objects from Kriton Beyer, in a live performance at Kuhlspot Social Club in Berlin, each of the 9 movements a concentrative work named with a three-letter onomatopoeia, as the players draw sound from a mysterious dark distance. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Engel (Machinefabriek)

Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, expanded the existing score for Marta Alstadsaeter & Kim-Jomi Fischer's dance piece "Engel", which is a contemporary piece combining dance and circus acrobatics, the new soundtrack a large work combining rich mirages of electronica, ambient sound, assertive noise, and even a section of Paal Nilessen-Love's drumwork. ... Click to View


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  Fiasco in Chicago  

The 2003 Jazz Festival, and the Story that Needn't Be Told
Text and Photos by Kurt Gottschalk

Fans of challenging jazz in Chicago know that the best shows to see during the Chicago Jazz Festival aren't at the festival. The clubs light up at night, especially the Hot House and the Velvet Lounge, with after-hours jams that blow the lakefront concerts off the stage.

But the Jazz Festival has, in recent years, tried to do better by its hometown heroes. Founding members of the seminal Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians - the collective founded by Muhal Richard Abrams in 196# that has seen the likes of Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith and the Art Ensemble or Chicago rise from its ranks - have been booked and even honored by festival organizers. Last year, the festival introduced an "artist in residence" position, scheduling concerts and workshops with trombonist George Lewis and following that this year by giving Roscoe Mitchell the title. Recent years have also seen performances by Threadgill's Very Very Circus and a reunion of Abrams' Experimental Big Band, the group that gave birth the to AACM.

Roscoe Mitchell
Roscoe Mitchell
Mitchell presented a big band and an octet during this year's fest, and two other Chicagoans of note were given slots: Ari Brown played a soulful set of standards with brother Kirk Brown on piano, Yosef Ben Israel on bass and onetime Sun Ra drummer Avreeayl Ra behind the kit, despite the increasing rain (which, by the time McCoy Tyner's big band was to come on had chased many, including this reporter, away). Also on the bill was a "Velvet Lounge" jam and a recognition of the 50th anniversary of Chicago jazz/blues label Delmark. (Famadou Don Moye's "Sun Percussion" drum summit was sadly canceled.) In short, they've come a long way from the days when the smooth jazz label GRP was underwriting and overwhelming the schedule.

There's still room for improvement, however. Their hair-brained seating policy at the main stage doesn't allow entry to the seating area once the capacity has been counted at the door, leaving people sitting on the lawn and empty chairs up front. Why they hold a festival from Thursday through Saturday and then skip the Labor Day holiday on Monday is a mystery, and poor promotion outside the city guarantees a loss of potential tourist dollars. A new outdoor amphitheater, designed by Frank Gehry, is under construction, and may hold promise for more satisfying festivals in the future. But until then, as Howard Reich pointed out in the Chicago Tribune, "sub-par acoustics, semi-pro emcees and constant audience chatter ... are intrinsic to this jazz festival."

The runaway smash of the fest, according to a number of people with whom I spoke, was Art Ensemble founder Roscoe Mitchell's Big Band set Friday evening. Because of flight delays, however, I missed the most exciting set of the weekend trying to fly the friendly skies. I did catch a strong set by Mitchell's octet Saturday afternoon, however. The group was billed as a septet, but at the last minute a third percussionist was added (that fact whispered to the emcee by Mitchell as the band was introduced). The group was at least part Note Factory, with Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver, Tani Tabal and Jaribu Shahid all hopping over from Mitchell's other mid-size group. They were joined by Vincent Davis, Cory Wilkes and the excellent Chicago bassist Harrison Bankhead, making for a rhythm section of one pianist, two bassists and three drummers.

They opened with one of Mitchell's slow bops, a pure jazz piece that was almost frustrating in its refusal to ignite for minutes on end. Mitchell can (and later would) play extraordinarily fast without risking cogency, but his tenor solo here began as single, articulated notes, slowly building to runs and blurs, the mighty rhythm section simmering to a boil behind him. The piece allowed for lyrical solos by Bankhead and pianist Taborn (the former ably comped by fellow bassist Shahid) before Wilkes pushed it into a storm warning. By Mitchell's alto solo on the second piece, the rhythm sextet behind him pushing as hard as they could, the storm had erupted into a tornado. Mitchell picked up his soprano, blew two notes and signaled a drum trio before taking a soprano solo with the full band that made his previous eruption sound subdued.

Mitchell can carry two or three distinct lines at a time. His remarkable speed and control over register allow him to drop a midrange statement here, a false-fingered phrase there and a low blow between the two. It's like a Picasso solo: at once a portrait and a profile of the same subject.

Mitchell's set unfortunately overlapped with a memorial tribute to the late, great AACM trumpeter Ameen Muhammed, which probably left many devotees opting for the living over the dead (Mitchell's set at the small outdoor stage, in any event, was packed.) The afternoon sets also included a surprisingly strong solo recital by Kurt Elling's pianist and arranger Laurence Hofgood and a Cuban pretension by saxophonist Jane Bunnett that started out entertaining but quickly became uncongealed party music.

The evening held a premiere of a new group by Windy City stalwart Ken Vandermark. The Crisis Ensemble opened with a brief, serene, motionless intro before moving straight into a funky bop propelled by Jason Ajamian's electric bass. After a few minutes, the groove stopped dead for a dense duo by Kent Kessler on upright bass and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, during which Ajamian switched to the upright as they led into a pointillistic avant blues carried by trombonist Jeb Bishop, then into an Ornettish bop led by Dave Rempis on alto sax.

The restless tentet take their name not so much from the obscure 1969 Ornette Coleman record, according to Vandermark, as the cover art for that record, which featured the Bill of Rights in flames. Vandermark drew his politics from the jazz pantheon for the set. One of the three compositions he presented was a piece called "Globe Unity," named after the big band pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach founded in 1966 ("The sentiment is still relevant," Vandermaek said from the stage.) Here again, the namesake didn't follow the music so much as the message. The piece was a carefully sculpted suite, moving quickly, as Vandermark often does, through varying moods and ideas, and impressive piece that sounded nothing like the music of Von Schlippenbach's wild and wooly orchestra.

It could be said that with CrisisVandermark has found his soapbox. In the past, he has suffered from spreading himself too thin, often in an effort to pay tribute to previous generations. This group seemed to mold all the ground Vandermark tries to cover, from different eras of jazz history to his own compositional voice, into a strong (though hardly seamless) whole. The group included players he's worked with before (Bishop, Kessler, Rempis and drummer Tim Daisy are all in the Vandermark 5), and was supposed to feature Sun Ra alum Robert Barry on drums. (Illness unfortunately prevented Barry from participating, and he was replaced by Frank Rosaly.) Keeping a 10-piece band together in the current jazz economy is a difficult proposition, but the ever-resourceful Vandermark might, with luck, make this more than a one-night stand.

Getting into the after-hours at the Velvet Lounge - or at least getting into the main part of the club - means missing the last set of the festival proper, in Saturday's case the mechanized churnings of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. The room seats about 75 (Anderson would be wise to get rid of the tables, at least during the festival) and a recent spate of occupancy- and code-violation enforcement in Chicago resulted in head counts inside and a long line of people outside hoping someone might give up a bar stool. The Velvet packs as much of a punch in a few hours as the festival does all week, so it's not too tough a choice to make. Kidd Jordan and Bluiett (who's dropped the "Hamiet" from his name) were both in town to play the after-hours sets even though they weren't booked on the downtown stages.

Bluiett
Bluiett
Bassist Bankhead opened the first set at the Velvet Saturday with an unaccompanied meditation (what Chicagoans called a "naked solo" back in the day), as Hamid Drake set up his drums. Jordan joined in, keeping the mood, and Bluiett followed on wooden flute. With Drake they soon hit the fury then found the swing, Drake's syncopations keeping them in the pocket. By the time club proprietor Fred Anderson joined in on tenor, they had settled on the swing and the fury, locking into grooves when it wasn't expected and slipping out of them again almost unnoticed.

Chicago is a saxophone town. It's a town where a dozen horn players line up to play with a single rhythm section on a wobbly stage in a club with peeling paint and after the Bluiett/Jordan/Anderson/Bankhead/Drake quartet finished (and a 50-minute break) the ranks began to swell and flank the stage. Douglas Ewart, Billy Brimfield, Malachi Thompson and Mwata Bowden were among those standing offstage, adding flourishes and waiting to take the stage.

Bluiett began the second set, yelling "This is Gene Ammons country, right? Let's let this shit roll" and doing an odd, brief squeal on his baritone sax before giving up the stage to hometown saxophonist Paul Taylor with Brimfield deftly leading punctuations from the offstage horn section. Ewart took his turn on sopranino, showing that with all his excursions into pure sound, he can still play the hard way. Thompson played clear and low as Bluiett took over leading the backing horns, everything well supported by Bankhead and Drake. Fred Anderson's Velvet Lound is considered home by many jazz travelers, and on such a night it's easy to understand why. This is their community. This is theirs.



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