The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Evan Parker / Pat Thomas / John Russell / John Edwards / Alex Ward / Alison Blunt / Benedict Taylor / David Leahy / Kay Grant: Mopomoso Tour 2013 | Making Rooms [4 CDs] (Weekertoft)

An excellent 4-CD set from a UK tour of the long-running London monthly concert series Mopomoso, featuring improvisations from various grouping of John Russell, Evan Parker, John Edwards, David Leahy, Pat Thomas, Alison Blunt, Benedict Taylor, Kay Grant & Alex Ward. ... Click to View

Alvin Curran: Natural History [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

The first-ever vinyl issue of Alvin Curran's 1983 cassette release, a composition of organized field recordings, a major work he describes as a series of "still lifes" from 20 years of recordings with an engrossingly diverse set of curious and concrete sounds - amazing! ... Click to View

Sam Shalabi / Alan Bishop & Sam Shalabi: Mother Of All Sinners (Puppet On A String) [VINYL] (Unrock)

Montreal guitarist Sam Shalabi and Sun City Girls guitarist Alan Bishop in a release on Unrock's Saraswati Series, string-oriented albums; here Shalabi performs on electric guitar and oud, while Bishop plays alto sax and sings in a "oriental psychedelic free form". ... Click to View

Aaron Dilloway: Songs About Jason [VINYL 10-inch] (Amethyst Sunset)

Originally released in limited edition of forty copies for a solo/duo show with Jason Lescalleet in 2013, this 10" release remasters the original release, a disorienting and melodic album of tape loops and dark ambient drone. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen (Rune Grammofon)

The Norwegian trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard in their 8th Bushman's Revenge album, bridging free improvisation and 70s style prog-oriented rock, non-histrionic, outstanding instrumental music with great depth. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

The Norwegian trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard in their 8th Bushman's Revenge album, bridging free improvisation and 70s style prog-oriented rock, non-histrionic, outstanding instrumental music with great depth. ... Click to View

Bushman's Revenge: Bushman's Fire [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

Live recordings at Cafe Mono in Oslo, Norway of the extended edition of Bushman's Revenge, the trio of guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, drummer Gard Nilssen, and bassist Rune Nergaard with David Wallumrod on Hammond Organ and Kjetil Moster on saxophone. ... Click to View

Peter Brotzmann / Steve Noble / John Edwards: The Worse The Better (Otoroku)

CD edition of the first set performed by the trio of Peter Brotzmann, Steve Noble and John Edwards at Cafe OTO in January 2010 during Brotzmann's first residency at the venue, and the first time this trio had played together. ... Click to View

Hearts & Minds (Stein / Giallorenzo / Rosaly): Hearts & Minds [VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

The Chicago trio of Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Paul Giallorenzon on keys, and Frank Rosaly on drums, performing a joyful album of lyrical jazz, blending compositions and free playing with modern creative skills and unpredictable, enthusiastic soloing; superb! ... Click to View

Talibam! w/ Alan Wilkinson: It is Dangerous to Lean Out [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The Downtown NY insanely creative duo Talibam! of Kevin Shea on drums and Matt Motel on keys is joined by free improvising legend, saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, for two incendiary improvisations performed live at Sant'anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, Italy. ... Click to View

Tim Stine Trio The: Tim Stine Trio [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

Acoustic guitarist Tim Stine and his trio with upright bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly, an all-star group of younger Chicago players in an album of buoyant, original improvisations with great give-and-take from a superb working band of contemporaries. ... Click to View

Konstrukt w/ Graham Massey & David McLean: Live at Islington Mills [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The Turkish Konstrukt trio teamed up with 808 State guitarist Graham Massey and pianist David Andrew McLean (Charles Hayward's Anonymous Bash) for a live album at Islington Mill in Salford England for two sides of blistering avant-funk, cosmic space sounds. ... Click to View

Rankin-Parker/Pearce: Odd Hits [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

An exhilarating and unusual set of duos for drum and cello from Daniel Pierce and Teddy Rankin-Parker, the latter known for Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, ICE, and work with Primus; together they deliver intense and captivating polyrhythms and unexpected string sonics. ... Click to View

Tashi Dorji / Tyler Damon: Live at the Spot +1 [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

The free improvising duo of Himalayan guitarist Tashi Dorji and drummer Tyler Damon, who preform regularly as a duo based in Asheville, NC and Bloomington, IN, here in a live album of thick and energetic interaction bordering on the ecstatic, recorded in two exhilarating concerts. ... Click to View

R. Dockery Lee / Smokey Emery: Cathedrelic [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

An album of dark and cavernous sound in the second release from the sound-sculpting duo of R. Lee Dockery and Smoke Emery (aka Daniel Hipolito), two long tracks that evolve with the patience and intensity of a dark sacramental journey in deeply detailed drone. ... Click to View

Ben Bennett : Trap [CASSETTE with DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

Twelve tracks of solo percussion using a variety of drum-like devices, an intense album of percussive possibilities that surprise in the variety of approaches, the intensity of sound, and the dynamics of each work, using close microphones to capture sonic details. ... Click to View

Jerman / Barnes: Goethe (Confront)

An extended improvisation of muted sound from the long-running duo of Jeph Jerman and Tim Barnes, performing live at Non-Event in Boston, creating mysterious analog sounds and cycles of drones with underlaying metallic textures creating an environment of suspense. ... Click to View

Angharad Davies / Tisha Mukarji: Ffansion | Fancies (Another Timbre)

The title reflecting violinist Angharad Davies' Welsh Roots, this duo with inside pianist Tisha Mukarji furthers the collaborations of these improvisers, recording in St Catherine's Church in South London, using the acoustics of the space to shape the form of their music. ... Click to View

Illogical Harmonies (Chang / Majkowski): Volume (Another Timbre)

A joint composition for violin and double bass, developed over six months in 2015 by violinist and Wandelweiser composer Johnny Chang with bassist Mike Majkowski, a fragile and beautifully revealing work in 5 parts that moves slowly through subtle harmonic changes. ... Click to View

Linda Smith Catlin : Dirt Road (Another Timbre)

Canadian composer Linda Catlin Smith's extended composition for violin and percussion in 15 parts, performed by percussionist Simon Limbrick and violinist Mira Benjamin, a unique orchestration that reveals a journey of steady pace, tension and beauty. ... Click to View

Bryn Harrison : Receiving the Approaching Memory (Another Timbre)

Bryn Harrison's highly acclaimed, labyrinthine composition for violin & piano from 2014, expertly realised by violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and pianist Mark Knoop, for whom this 5-part work of beautiful repetitions reflecting tapestries of sound was written. ... Click to View

Sergio Merce: Be Nothing (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

A beautifully ambient album of analogue synthesiser, microtonal saxophone and electronics by Argentinian saxophonist Sergio Merce, a single long track that pauses and resumes its rich tones and harmonies at a deliberate and measured pace, allowing each environment to ring. ... Click to View

John Cage : Branches (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

The Ensemble Daswirdas performs John Cage's "Branches" composition, which is based on a previous work, "Child of Tree", but here each performer plays an 8 minute variation of that work, which is performed on amplified pods, cacti, and other plant materials. ... Click to View

Radu Malfatti: Radu Malfatti (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Austrian trombonist and composer presents two works: a solo piece for trombone comprised of a series of detached sonic events; and a work performed with the Wandelweiser String Quartet, using bowing and blowing techniques to create punctuations of unusual sound. ... Click to View

Wilmington Sound Orchestra: Play Russolo (Bad At Raving Foundation)

Two interpretations of Luigi Russolo's 1914 Futurist noise composition "Risveglio Di Uns Citta" ("The Awakening Of A City"), performed forwards and backwards, from a live performance at Squidco headquarters in Wilmington, NC. ... Click to View

Nate Wooley: Argonautica (Firehouse 12 Records)

Trumpeter Nate Wooley's major 3-part work makes oblique reference to dodecaphony, ambient tape music, and the minimalist rock of Terry Riley, conceived as a tribute to Wooley's mentor Ron Miles, who performs alongside Devin Gray & Rudy Royston (drums), Cory Smythe & Jozef Dumoulin (piano). ... Click to View

Peter Evans: Lifeblood [USB Drive] (More Is More)

Trumpeter Peter Evans' first solo release in over 5 years, presenting two demanding and impressive live performances from 2015/16, during Evan's residency at Roulette, and at Bop Stop in Cleveland, presented on a USB credit card drive in mp3 and wav formats, with liner notes. ... Click to View

Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Duet (Long Song Records)

First meeting of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and New York bassist Joe Fonda, initiated at the suggestion of Fonda, recorded in Portland, Maine at the Dimensions in Jazz Series, a beautifully recorded and intimate duo of superb dialog between two seasoned improvisers. ... Click to View

Bertrand Denzler / Antonin Gerbal / Alex Dorner: Le Ring (Confront)

Having performed in duos previously, this trio came together at Festival Noise No. 5, at Theatre Le Ring, in Toulouse, the sound of the group is a "malleable space in which the musicians generate small or bigger shapes, simple and complex sounds, irregular and mechanical rhythms." ... Click to View

Forebrace (Ward / Sassi / Horro / Doulton): Steeped (Relative Pitch)

Blending jazz and rock forms with frenetic excitement and masterful control, multi-reedist Forebrace quartet with Roberto Sassi (electric guitar), Santiago Horro (electric bass) and Jem Doulton run the gamut on exultantly virtuosic improvisation, here recording live at Cafe Oto. ... Click to View


The Squid's Ear
Squidco Sales

  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.

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.

The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !

  Copyright © 2016 Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (686)