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Sick Boss (Schmidt / Meger / Peggy Lee / JP Carter / Naylor / Page): Sick Boss (Drip Audio)

A richly refined and sophisticated album drawing on improvisation, experimenation and rock elements from the collaborative Vancouver ensemble Sick Boss of core members guitarist Cole Schmidt, bassist James Meger and drummer Daniel Gaucher, with guests including guitarist Tony Wilson, cellist Peggy Lee, trumpeter JP Carter, synth player Tyson Naylor, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Ron Samworth (Samworth / Adler / JP Carter / Naylor / Peggy Lee / James Meger): Dogs Do Dream (Drip Audio)

Presented at the Vancouver International Improvisation Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, guitarist Ron Samworth's conceptual work explores the life and dreams of a dog, with narration from Barbara Adler and an incredible ensemble including cellist Peggy, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, trumpeter JP Carter, drummer Dylan van der Schyff, etc. ... Click to View


Peregrine Falls (Grdina / Loewen): Peregrine Falls (Drip Audio)

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Keiji Haino: Watashi Dake [VINYL + DOWNLOAD CODE] (Black Editions)

Enigmatic Japanese legend Keiji Haino's 1981 debut album receives a fitting reissue in this metallic gold and silver jacket pressing, presenting the stark vocals, whispered and screamed, punctuate dark silences over intricate and sharp guitar figures that interweave, repeat, and stretch, trance-like, emerging from dark recesses; an essential piece of the Haino puzzle. ... Click to View


Janek Schaefer: Glitter In My Tears (Room40)

A phenomenal album of mysteriously ambient and emotionally evocative music from London sound artist Janek Schaefer, creating 26 vignettes of dream states from texture, atmosphere, and emotive acoustic states, a collection of interludes, like reflective memories, interweave and carry the listener through passionate and beautiful passages. ... Click to View


Barbares (Bopp / Foussat / Petit / Sato): Debris d'orgueil (Fou Records)

Two live recordings at Theatre au Clain, in Poitiers, France and at le Bistrot, in Bayonne, from the free improvising quartet of Christiane Bopp on trombone, Jean-Marc Foussat on synth & voice, Jean-Luc Petit on bass clarinet and sopranino sax, and Makoto Sato on drums, for submersive interchanges blending electronics and acoustics in remarkable ways. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey: Ephemeral Constructions (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Three works, two for large ensembles of performers on sax, guitar, clarinet, voice, percussion, horn, flute, vibes, and objects that belie the size of the group in its fragile presences, with a shorter trio of Frey, Greg Stuart and Erik Carlson transitioning the large pieces; compositions conceived as both short presences within abundant orchestration. ... Click to View


Cem Guney: A Hint Of An Emotion (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

The duo of Beat Keller and Philipp Bowee on electric guitars perform 6 subtle compositions from Turkish-born sound artists and composer Cem Guney's, including 'a bas relief of a talisman' dedicated to Charles Ives and 'soft kill incubator' dedicated to Sylvia Alexandra Schimag. ... Click to View


Eva Houben Maria: Organ Sonatinas And Drones [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

American organist and composer Carson Cooman performs three sontatinas, each in three movements, and the 2014 work "drones", by German contemporary composer Eva Maria Houben, a member of the Wandelweiser group, all slowly evolving works of tone and subtle harmonics. ... Click to View


Nick Storring : Exaptations [CASSETTE] (Notice Recordings)

Toronto-based composer Nick Storring presents two highly textural, side-long pieces; "Field Lines" originally composed for Yvonne NG Peck Wan's dance piece, "Magnetic Fields", presenting a series of a brief, dreamlike clearings through clusters of tonal instruments; and "Yield Criteria" a work of drifting drones that ebb and flow in rich harmonies. ... Click to View


Chris Strickland : Excruciating... [CASSETTE] (Notice Recordings)

Montreal composer Chris Strickland used strategies of "deliberate uncertainty" to direct these 3 pieces of minimized technique, narrative, and emotion, performed by Montreal musicians Guido del Fabbro on violin and Solomiya Moroz on flute, with field recordings creating a hazy ambiance over the slowly evolving works. ... Click to View


Stefan Thut / Seth Cooke: Aussen Raum [CASSETTE] (Notice Recordings)

Bristol sound artists Seth Cook presents a rendering of Stefan Thut's text-based score "aussen raum" realized in both stereo field recordings and no input field recordings, focusing on a botched water feature of the River Frome beneath Bristol's Harbourside that has been the subject of ridicule and reconstruction. ... Click to View


Christoph Erb / Jim Baker / Frank Rosaly: ...Don't Buy Him A Parrot... (Hatology)

Saxophonist and bass clarinetist Christoph Erb travels between Europe and Chicago, here in a trio with Chicago mainstays, pianist Jim Baker and drummer Frank Rosaly, for an intense and fierce album of collective improvisation captured live at their second-only encounter on the stage of the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago in 2014. ... Click to View


Paula Shocron / German Lamonega / Pablo Diaz: Tenzegridad (Hatology)

Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the trio of Paula Shocron on piano, German Lamonega on double bass, and co-founder of her Nendo Dango Records label, Pablo Diaz on drums, for an exciting album of free jazz with lyrical intent and great technical skills, an unexpected gem from a part of world not well known for free improvisation. ... Click to View


David Stackenas : Bricks (Clean Feed)

An amazing solo CD of free improvisation from guitarit David Stackenaus, showing incredible technique and melodic intent, equally at ease when exploring tonality and melody or abstract noisy textures; compelling and impressive playing! ... Click to View


Tristan Honsinger / Nicolas Calioa / Jesse Zubot: In The Sea (Relative Pitch)

The transatlantic string trio of Amsterdam-based cellist Tristan Honsinger (also on voice) with Montreal free improvisers violinist Joshua Zubot and double bassist Nicolas Caloia in an album of informed improvisation that bring an upbeat approach to authoritative dialog which is both sharp-witted and irreverent, but never less than engaging. ... Click to View


Christian Lillinger / Tobias Deluis: Dicht (Relative Pitch)

Berlin-based improvisers Christian Lillinger on drums and Tobias Delius on tenor sax and clarinet in an album of powerful rhythms, instant melodies, and quick-witted responses, bridging a generation of experience in dialog and give and take that works well head on and in reserve, a great encounter from two modern and active creative players. ... Click to View


Isabelle Duthoit / Franz Hautzinger: Lily (Relative Pitch)

French free vocalist Isabelle Duthoit met world traveling improviser and Zeitkratzer trumpeter Franz Hautzinger in New York City to record these highly unusual duos, using extreme techniques and inexplicable intent to create 9 uniquely aberrant accompaniments to your most subtle and strange dreams; reference Phil Minton, Axel Dorner, Freddie Kruger. ... Click to View


Orphax / Machinefabriek: Weerkaatsing (Moving Furniture)

"Weerkaatsing is the first collaboration by Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and Sietse van Erve (Orphax), both active players in the Dutch experimental electronic music field, in an album of mesmerizing sound and drone work, with one composition from each artist reworking a track from the other's previous work, and one new collaborative piece. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Assemblage (Zoharum)

A great collection of short film soundtracks and pieces that appeared on compilation albums and out-of-print CDRs, including the "Nerf" EP, the tracks for the book "Things That A Mutant Needs To Know" by Reinaldo Laddaga, and 3 soundtracks of which two are for a short movie and one for a video installation, alongside tracks from other compilations. ... Click to View


Lambs Gamble: Farewell Body Bags [VINYL] (Discombobulate)

Bizarre, disruptive, aberrant sound from twisted experts in the field Lambs Gamble, comprised of George Cremaschi on bass & electronics, Fritz Welch on drums, percussion and voice, and Eric Boros (Vialka) on electronics and voice, recording in Switzerland for a fantastic album of intelligent abnormality. ... Click to View


Elton Dean Quintet: Welcomet - Live in Brazil, 1986 (Ogun)

In 1986 saxophonist Elton Dean toured Brazil with his quintet of Harry Beckett on trumpet, Liam Genockey on drums, Marcio Mattos on bass, and Paul Rutherford on trombone, capturing this exemplary band at Radio Culture Sao Paulo, the tapes now transferred by Michael King and mastered by Martin Davidson, presenting the entire concert for the first time. ... Click to View


Jean-Luc Guionnet + Eric La Casa: Reflected Waves [60 pages 21x25 cm + DVD video 1h48mn] (Passage d'encres)

Eric La Casa and Jean Luc Guionnet recorded this conceptual work in Melbourne, Australia, combining different scales of time, space, & attention, with different working strategies to create a gallery installation, and this book & DVD package exploring the acoustic phenomenon of "standing waves" to engage with the physical relationship between sound and space. ... Click to View


Anthony Pateras : Blood Stretched Out (Immediata)

A dramatic work for solo piano, exploring sound phenomena in fast repetitions that generate whirlpools of overtones, "Blood Stretched Out" is the primary track on composer & pianist Anthony Pateras' first solo album in 10 years, paired with "Chronochromatics", recorded live at The Loft in Cologne as part of the Plush Music Festival in 2013. ... Click to View


Jerome Noetinger / Anthony Pateras / Synergy Percussion : Beauty Will Be Amnesiac Or Will Not Be At All (Immediata)

Anthony Pateras was commissioned to compose this work by Synergy Percussion for their 40th birthday in 2014, performed with a six piece ensemble including electronic artist Jerome Noetinger, using the same instrumentation as Xenakis' "Pleiades" of more than 100 orchestral percussion instruments, including Xenakis' 17-pitch microtonal metallophones. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa : Paris Quotidien [CD+60 page booklet of photos & text] (Swarming)

Eric La Casa documents his home environment in Paris through audio investigation and field recordings, creating 3 large works that reveal the properties, singularities, banalities and features of his audio environment in perspective to his status as a citizen of the city, presented in a gatefold CD package with a color 60-page booklet of photos and text. ... Click to View


Electric Bird Noise: The Spider / The Christ Child / The Crow (Silber)

Guitarist Brian McKenzie is known best for his dramatic rock persona, where his multi-instrumental approach to song-writing shows great skill; on this album, McKenzie gets down to the guitar itself, with loops, effects and electronics creating a cohesive set of 9 pieces that maintain an edgy, discordant approach to enthralling sound. ... Click to View


Ezio Piermattei : Tre Madri Ludopatiche [CASSETTE] (Discombobulate)

Using an eclectic set of audio tools, objects, voice and electronics, Ezio Piermantel creates a bizarre sound world of concrete and inexplicable sound that fascinates the listener in a strange non-narrative that still manages to tell a story in sound and noise; truly unique. ... Click to View


Flamingo Creatures: Fisch Versucht Das Sprechenlernen (Discombobulate)

Ten tracks of unusual electroacoustic experiments from the duo of Ronnie Oliveras and Ruth Maria Adam, using sound boxes and a variety of instruments to create a psychedelic yet embraceable set of recordings that leave the listener scratching their head but still grounded by tangible music, albeit in the strangest of settings. ... Click to View


Mike Majkowski : Days and Other Days [VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

Following double bassist Mike Majkowski's Astral Spirts cassette "Neighbouring Objects", this vinyl release is Majkowski's 7th solo album, here using analog synthesizer, percussion, piano, vibraphone, samples, and field recordings to create an amazing sonic universe through sound, tone, timbre, deep cogitation and mutant interjections. ... 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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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


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