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Georg Graewe Quintet:
Amsterdam, October 1998 (Random Acoustics)

Recorded in concert at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum in 1998, legendary pianist Georg Graewe's Quartet with Frank Gratkowski on alto saxophone & clarinet, Kent Kessler on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums present a tour-de-force of passion, technique and creative drive in an epic 53 minute improvisation from high energy to reflective stretches; superb! ... Click to View


Georg Graewe:
Stills And Stories (Random Acoustics)

German pianist and Euro Free Jazz stalwart Georg Graewe in his first solo release in more than a decade, a remarkable set of succinct compositions balancing astonishing technical skills with beautifully expressive playing, presented in several series of "stills" and "stories". ... Click to View


Frederick Galiay (Viard / Sebastien / Boudart / Galiay):
Time Elleipsis (Ayler)

Dramatic, darkly thrilling with moments of sheer beauty, from French electric bassist Frederick Galiay and his Camaeleo Vulgaris ensemble, a sextet performing Galiay's compositions in a potent mix of electric guitar, electrified baritone sax, synthesizer, and two drummer/percussionists, recorded after a dozen live concerts honing the material to this riveting studio version. ... Click to View


Francois Carrier / Tomek Gadecki / Matcin Bozek / Michel Lambert:
Wide (FMR)

A burning album of collective free jazz from Canadian compatriots Francois Carrier on alto saxophone and Michel Lamber on drums, on a spring tour of Europe, performing at Polands MOZG in Byrgoszcz, hope of the MOZG Festival, with Polish tenor saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki amd bassist Mracin Bozen, also on French Horn, in an exhilarating set of three extended improvisations. ... Click to View


Thollem / Parker / Cline:
Gowanus Sessions II [VINYL] (ESP)

Free collective improvisation with an electronic edge from the trio of Nels Cline, double bassist William Parker and pianist Thollem McDonas, following up on their 2012 "Gowanus Session I" recorded in the same studio space, here expanding on the 1st session's shorter works with two large and evolving improvisations that balance reflective moments with intensive playing. ... Click to View


Werner Dafeldecker :
Parallel Darks [VINYL] (Room40)

Viennese-born, Berlin-based electro-acoustic composer Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel, Fennesz, &c) creates an intense and beautiful musique concrete and acousmatic journey in two parts, examining "perspective, extreme subjectivity and the specters that haunt our auditory worlds" through mysterious sound and enveloping sonic construction, a profound and riveting work. ... Click to View


Skeleton Crew (Frith / Cora):
Learn to Talk [VINYL] (ReR Vinyl)

Reissuing the first of two albums from the NY collaboration of guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Tom Cora, both providing vocals, percussion, violin, & bass, in a classic example of Downtown NY genre-merging of improvisation and rock with a vicious edge, in smart songs and even smarter instrumental sections, an insanely inventive and intelligent album as vital now as it was then. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.:
Minstrel In The Galaxy [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (RIOT SEASON)

... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
Cosmic Distance Ladder (Evil Clown)

The core trio of the Leap of Faith Orchestra comprising multi-reedist & wind player David Peck, also on percussive devices, with Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice, and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussions, with special guests Kat Dobbins on trombone and Bob Moores on trumpet & flugelhorn, in an evolving set of strong harmonic, percussive & lyrical interaction. ... Click to View


Gen Montgomery Ken:
Endogeny [CASSETTE] (Tribe Tapes)

Sound and Visual artist Gen Ken Montgomery released this album on cassette on the Directions Music label in 1990, here reissued in 2020; the two side-long pieces were performed live and then remixed, using a mixture of tapes, concrete and mechanical sounds alongside love instrumentation of percussion, violin, voice, &c, sometimes stark, always fascinating. ... Click to View


Jean Derome:
Somebody Special (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Drawing on Steve Lacy's quintet, Montreal saxophonist Jean Derome pays homage to the late saxophonist through a selection of 9 Lacy pieces with lyrics from Brion Gysin, Lao Tseu, Herman Melville, &c, in a quintet with Derome on alto sax, bass flute & voice, Karen Young providing vocals, Alexandre Grogg on piano, Normand Guilbeault on double bass, Pierre Tanguay on drums. ... Click to View


Ensemble SuperMusique / Symon Henry:
voir dans le vent qui hurle les étoiles rire et rire (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Montreal's true supergroup since 1998 of some of the city's essential Musique Actuelle performers and composers, directed by Danielle Palardy Roger and including Jean Derome, Joane Hetu, Scott Thomson, Lori Freedman, Alexander St. Onge, &c. &c., take on Quebec composer Symon Henry's piece, performed in an exceptional and impressive concert in the Chapel in Bon-Pasteur. ... Click to View


Gabriel Dharmoo :
Quelques fictions (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Stunningly unusual vocal music from composer, music researcher and vocalist based in Montreal, Gabriel Dharmoo, collecting works from 2012 to 2019, performed with small and large ensembles using almost completely wordless voice, utterance, guttural sound, swoops and, melodic flights, augmented with physical percussion like stamping and clamping; brilliant and enthralling. ... Click to View


Prevost / Solberg / Pettersen / Moore / Brice / Hardie-Bick:
Plumes of Ash in Moonlight [2 CDs] (Split Rock Records)

Bringing together two innovative improvising percussionists--Eddie Prevost of AMM fame, and Stale Liavik Solberg (VCDC, John Butcher)--for a studio album of wide-ranging and sometimes hair-raising electroacoustic improvisation, recorded live and unedited with Olie Brice on double bass, Tony Hardie-Bick on piano & tapes, Ed Pettersend on lap steel, and NO Moore on guitar. ... Click to View


Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo:
AMR (NO LABEL)

The long-running duo of Chicago saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love are heard in this live concert at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland in 2018, performing the first four letters of the alphabet ("A", "B", "C" & "D"), each letter a unique creative approach in evolving their remarkable and enthralling dialogs. ... Click to View


Decoy (Alexander Hawkins / John Edwards / Steve Noble) With Joe McPhee:
AC/DC (Otoroku)

The UK Decoy trio of John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Alexander Hawkins (keys) joins forces with pocket trumpet and saxophone player Joe McPhee during McPhee's residency at London's Cafe OTO, recording these two huge sets of brilliant free improv, Hawkins performing on organ adding a unique and soulful tone to the set that balances powerful energy with innate lyricism. ... Click to View


John Carter Octet:
Dauwhe [VINYL] (Black Saint Vinyl)

A much-needed reissue of John Carter's 1982 LP "Dauwhe", the first chapter in his "Roots and Folklore" saga, a 5-part epic through African American heritage, performed with Carter himself on clarinet, Bobby Bradford (cornet), James Newton (flute), Charles Owens (sax, oboe & clarinet), Red Callender (tuba), Roberto Miranda (bass), William Jeffrey (drums), and Luis Peralta (percussion). ... Click to View


Philip Samartzis / Eric La Casa :
Captured Space [CASSETTE] (Cronica)

Kruger National Park in the north-east corner of South Africa is the subject of Eric La Casa and Philip Samartzis's audio exploration, using field recordings made over 10 days in and around the park, and taking them into the studio to organize them into an aural representation of the park's exotic mystery, placidity and tension, with a tinge of the modern world nearby. ... Click to View


Laboratorio Della Quercia:
Laboratorio Della Quercia [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

Documenting the 12-day Italian experimental jazz festival at the ancient amphitheater Tasso della Quercia in 1978, revolving around Italian improvsers Tommaso Vittorini, Eugenio Colombo, Maurizio Giammarco, Alberto Corvini, Danilo Terenz, with visiting players Steve Lacy, Steve Potts, and Evan Parker, trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist Frederick Rzewski, and drummer Noel McGhee. ... Click to View


Turbulence:
Eddy Flux (Evil Clown)

The extended horn section for the Leap of Faith Orchestra from the Boston-area collective led by reedist/multi-instrumentalist David Peck, here with PEK on an assortment of saxophones, clarinets, flutes, game calls and percussion, the other horns from Michael Caglianone on sax, game calls, wind sirens and percussion, with drums, bells, bowls and other percussion from Yuri Zbitnoff. ... Click to View


Ratchet Orchestra:
Coco Swirl (Ambiances Magnetiques)

Active since the early 90's, the superb Montreal super-group Ratchet Orchestra under the direction of Nicolas Caloia with 19 performers presents 10 works including the title track, with soloists including Jean Rene, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ellwood Epps, Sam Shalabi, Craig Petersen, Yves Charuest, Joshua Zubot, Scott Thomson, Isaiah Ceccarelli, &c. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos :
Speak In Tongues And Hope For The Gift Of Interpretation (Relative Pitch)

Dedicating his pieces to Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and John Zorn, NY alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos is heard live at this solo concert in New Haven, CT in 2019, reflecting on the history of jazz through his intense playing style that deploys incredible technique balanced with abstraction and rapid lyricism. ... Click to View


Raoul Bjorkenheim :
Solar Winds (Long Song Records)

Paying tribute to his musical inspiration John Coltrane, Finnish/NY electric guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim leads a quartet with Silvia Bolognesi on contrabass, Tiziano Tononi on drums & percussion, and Emanuele Parrini on violin, as they perform five Coltrane compositions and two Bjorkenheim originals, a superlative homage to technical brilliance and conceptual vision. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Duck Baker / Randy Hutton :
The Guitar Trio In Calgary 1977 (Emanem)

A concert recording from 1977 in Calgary, CA captured during Eugene Chadbourne's time in Canada prior to his move to NYC, from the guitar trio of Duck Baker, Randy Hutton & Eugene Chadbourne, performing on acoustic guitars, using a variety of approaches to improvising in trio, duo and solo configurations, with original work, an Ornette Coleman mashup, and a piece by Charlie Haden. ... Click to View


Company:
1983 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Honest Jons Records)

Unreleased recordings from Derek Bailey's Company project, recorded at the BBC in 1983 with a stellar set of performers including Evan Parker (clarinet), Hugh Davies (electronics), Jamie Muir (percussion), Joelle Leandre (bass), J.D. Parran (winds), John Corbett (trumpet), Vinko Globokar (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Peter Brotzmann (reeds). ... Click to View


Muhal Abrams Richard:
Celestial Birds [VINYL] (KARLRECORDS)

A compilation of works from the late Chicago multi-reedist, experimenter, and AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, focused on his widely unknown electronic compositions, in four recording from 1968-1995 with collaborators including Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Amina Claudine Myers, Roscoe Mitchell, Maurice McIntyre, Yousef Yancey, Thurman Barker, &c. ... Click to View


Eric La Casa:
L'inspir du Rivage part 2&3 [VINYL 7-inch] (Povertech / Joe Colley)

First stock of this 1999 7" from French sound artist Eric La Casa created as part of Joe Colley's "Explorer" series, the title translating to "the shore breathing" where each composition develops from field recordings of water, the first part more naturalist and adhering to the initial recordings, the second using sound processing to create something unique and mesmerizing. ... Click to View


Rachel Musson / Naoko Saito / Audrey Lauro:
The Region Of Braille Responsibility [CD with English Braille Sheet] (Armageddon Nova)

Three female saxophonist from around the world--Rachel Musson (UK), Naoko Saito (Japan) and Audrey Lauro (Belgium)--in a compilation of solo saxophone works, two extended pieces from Musson and Satio, and four shorter works from Laura, with a CD insert with English Braille characters, and a QR code that, when scanned, plays the audio information for the album. ... Click to View


Musica Elettronica Viva:
United Patchwork [VINYL 2 LPs] (Alternative Fox)

A reissue of Musica Elettronica Viva's innovative 1978 open-structured album of free improvisation, United Patchwork, with the core performers of Frederic Rzewski on piano & electric piano, Richard Teitelbaum on synthesizer & conch shells, Alvin Curran on synthesizer & keys, plus Karl Berger on keys & vibraphone, Garrett List on trombone, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax. ... Click to View


Karkhana:
Bitter Balls [VINYL] (Unrock)

LP-only, no 7" single. The second full-length album from Karkhana, a septet featuring members of Dwarfs Of East Agouza, A "Trio", Konstrukt, Chicago Tentet, Land of Kush, among others in four compositions of "crystal clear and deep, dark, distorted unrock compositions" in both electric and acoustic instrumentation, an international genre-crossing album. ... 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:


Georg Graewe Quintet:
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Werner Dafeldecker:
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Skeleton Crew
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