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Wooley / Antunes / Queijo / Costa / Corsano: Purple Patio [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A very open album of improvisation, using an intensely responsive section of three drums and one bass, with Wooley in amazing form playing about the fray, from introspective reserve to seething runs, supported by a wicked undercurrent of astounding, criss-crossing rhythm. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Mark Dresser / Alex Cline: Live At The Open Gate [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

West Coast cornetist Bobby Bradford captured live in 2013 for a superb set at the Center for the Arts in Los Angeles, part of the Open Gate Theatre Sunday evening concert series, in a quartet with Hafez Modirzadeh on alto sax, Mark Dresser on bass, and Alex Cline on drums. ... Click to View


Arthur Williams (w/ Peter Kuhn / Toshinori Kondo / William Parker / Denis Charles): Forgiveness Suite [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Never before released radio recordings at WKCR in 1979 of NY trumpeter Arthur Williams, a member of the loft scene, in a quintet with Toshinori Kondo on trumpet, Peter Kuhn on sax, Denis Charles on drums and William Parker on bass, a great example of probing free jazz from that period. ... Click to View


Peter Kuhn Trio (w/ Kyle Moti / Nathan Hubbard): The Other Shore (NoBusiness)

Multi-reedist Peter Kuhn's 1st release as a leader in over 30 years, picking up from the NY loft scene after years of struggle, here in a collective free improv album with Kyle Motl on bass and Nathan Hubbard on drums, promoting spiritual values through creative music. ... Click to View


Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (NoBusiness)

Bassist Jason Roebke leads his octet with Keefe Jackson, Greg Ward, Jason Stein, Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Jason Adasiewicz, and Mike Reed in a set of collaborative compositions, lyrical yet free improvisation from some of Chicago's finest players. ... Click to View


Bennett / Johnston / Mezzacappa / Rosaly: Shipwreck 4 (NoBusiness)

Named for Shipwreck Studios, this is the first meeting between San Francisco Bay Area improvisers Darren Johnston (trumpet), Aaron Bennett (sax) and Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) with Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly, for 6 tracks of outstanding interactive and playful improvisation. ... Click to View


Peter Kuhn (w/ Toshinori Kondo / Arthur Williams / William Parker / Denis Charles): No Coming, No Going. The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-1979 [2 CDs] (NoBusiness)

Two recordings from multi-reedist Peter Kuhn from 1978-79; a reissue of an LP of a '78 radio broadcast with Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), Arthur Williams (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Denis Charles (drums); and a live concert with Denis Charles in Massachusetts in '79. ... Click to View


Fail Better! (Reis / Vicente / Guimaraes / Pereira / Filipe): OWT [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Mesmerizing electric free improvisation from the Portugese quintet of Marcelo Dos Reis on guitar, Luis Vicente on trumpet, Joao Guimaraes on sax, Jose Miguel Pereira on double bass, and Joao Pais Filipe on drums, recording live at Salao Brazil in Coimbra, Portugal in 2014. ... Click to View


BZ BZ UEU: Tapes & Vinyls (Music a la Coque)

Reissue of Italian improvising rock band of Jacopo Andreini (sax), Pino Montecalvo (bass), Carlo Lupori (drums), Efisio Biancofiore (guitar), Edi Leo (trumpet), active from 1993 to 2005, in their first demo tape recorded live in studio in 1994 plus two 7" split with NO and God Is My Co-Pilot. ... Click to View


Peter Brotzmann / Heather Leigh: Ears Are Filled With Wonder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

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Akira Sakata: The Tale of the Heike [VINYL 2 LPs] (Trost Records)

Clarinetist, percussionist and vocalist Akira Sakata performs a disturbing rendering of "The Tale of the Heike", an epic account of the 12th century struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan. ... Click to View


Full Blast (Brotzmann / Pliakas / Wertmuller): Risc (Trost Records)

Full Blast, the long-running trio of Peter Brotzmann (reeds), Marino Pliakis (electric bass) and Michael Wertmuller (drums), recording in the studio for an album of seven masterful free improvisations of strong technical and powerfully intense playing. ... Click to View


"A" Trio + Alan Bishop: Burj al Imam [VINYL] (Unrock)

Sun City Girls guitarist Alan Bishop, also improvising on voice, meets Beirut's "A" Trio of Mazen Kerbaj on trumpet, Sharif Sehnaoui on guitar, and Raed Yassin on bass for four quite unusual improvisations, and a cover of "Gently Johnny", best known from the UK movie "Wicker Man". ... Click to View


Robin Hayward: Rubble Master [CASSETTE] (Cassauna)

Microtonal tubist Robin Hayward in a solo cassette release of two extended explorations of noise production, with the lips and tongue acting as noise generators that are filtered using half-valve techniques, using live electronics to create hallucinatory effects of motion. ... Click to View


Paulo Jorge Alexandre Improbable Trio (w/ Tom Wheatley / Eddie Prevost): Elements (Creative Sources)

Saxophonist Paulo Alexandre Jorge leads his Improbable Trio with Tom Wheatley on double bass and AMM/Matchless legendary percussionist Eddie Prevost in a six part album of ardent free improvisation on titles about Sex, Love, Death, Friendship, Art Beauty, Power Law, &c. ... Click to View


Ana-Maria Avram / Iancu Dumitrescu: Ilan Volkov conducts and plays Ana-Maria Avram and Iancu Dumitrescu (Edition Modern)

World premieres of new compositions by spectral composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram performed live with the Hyperion International Ensemble under the batton of Ilan Volkov at the 15th George Enescu Festival in 2015. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Astro Infinity Arkestra: The Intergalactic Thing [VINYL 2 LPS + DOWNLOAD CODE] (Roaratorio)

Unreleased material from Sun Ra & His Astro Infinity Arkestra recorded in the rehearsal space of Sun Ra's Philadelphia home in 1969, with a dozen never-before-heard pieces from Ra's songbook, plus reworkings of some classics; invaluable music for the Sun Ra collector. ... Click to View


Sun Ra: The Saturn Singles Vol. 2: 1959-1962 [VINYL] (Jeanne Dielman)

The second volume of "The Saturn Singles", recordings from Sun Ra's own El Saturn label, focusing on recordings with Yochanan (aka The Space Age Vocalist), a wildly original street performer from Chicago whom Sun Ra befriended, plus other tracks from 1959-1962. ... Click to View


Hubert Zemler : Gostak & Doshes (Bolt)

Drummer/percussionist Hubert Zemler's second solo album with two compositions inspired by electronic music, particularly by works of the ensemble Suaves Figures, recorded in the vaults of the Camaldolese Church in Bielany, Warsaw with Milosz Pekala on vibraphones. ... Click to View


Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables [2 CDs] (Pi Recordings)

New York drummer Tyshawn Sorey's impressive work for double trio is an ambitious chamber jazz composition using multiple harmonic, formal, rhythmic, and modal vocabularies in an exploratory and improvisational framework, inspired by the work of Lawrence D. Butch Morris. ... Click to View


Yoni Kretzmer (Steve Swell / Thomas Heberer / Max Johnson / Chad Taylor): FIVE (OutNow Recordings)

An excellent example of collective free improv from a quintet led by NY tenor saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer with collaborators Steve Swell (trombone), Thomas Heberer (cornet), Max Johnson (double bass) and Chad Taylor (drums), capturing the horn sound of the late 60's Blue Note era. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot Systematic Distortion Orchestra: The Assembly (OutNow Recordings)

The 11 piece Systematic Distortion Orchestra is led by composer and viola player Frantz Loriot, with Brooklyn Downtown players Nathaniel Morgan (sax), Brad Henkel & Joe Moffet (trumpet), Ben Gerstein, Sam Kulik (trombone), Sean Ali & Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), and 3 drummers. ... Click to View


JC Jones / Yoni Kretzmer (w/ Barre Philips / Mark Dresser / Reuben Radding / Sean Conly / Damon Smith / Pascal Niggenkemper): Esoteric Duos [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

A tremendous CD of duos, disc one presents Israeli bassist JC Jones in duos with Steve Horenstein, Barre Phillips, Mark Dresser, Damon Smith, Yoni Kretzmer, and Carmel Raz; Disc 2 presents NY saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer in duos with Pascal Niggenkemper, Reuben Radding, Sean Conly, and JC Jones. ... Click to View


Kretzmer / Ajemian / Shea: Until Your Throat is Dry (OutNow Recordings)

The trio of NY free improvisers Yoni Kretzmer on tenor sax and Kevin Shea on drums (Talibam, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) with bassist Jason Ajemian in an intense album of "immaterial tangibility, the raw flesh, dirty concreteness, thoughtlessness and stuff called music." ... Click to View


Ehran Elisha / Kindred Spirit: Kindred Spirts: Quintets [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

Composer-Improviser-Percussionist Ehran Elisha presents two quintets interpreting two of his extended compositions: "Kindred Soul" and "Spirit Suite", with collaborators including Roy Campbell, Sam Bardfeld, Dave Phillips, Yoni Kretzmer, Michael Attias, Sean Conly, &c. ... Click to View


Malfatti / Drumm / Capece: The Volume Surrounding The Task (Potlatch)

A moody album of minimal improv, using space, innuendo, breath and a wonderful sense of darkness from the trio of Radu Malfatti (trombone), Kevin Drum (electronics) and Lucio Capece (bass clarinet & preparations), performing live at Q-O2 in Brussel, Belgium. ... Click to View


Tony Conrad W/ Faust: Outside The Dream Syndicate [VINYL] (Superior Viaduct)

Originally released in Europe in 1973, this reissue details the meeting of NY violinist, composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, a peer of John Cale, La Monte Young, &c. with the legendary German rock band Faust, recording these two side-long and forward-looking works. ... Click to View


Tony Conrad W/ Faust: Outside The Dream Syndicate (Superior Viaduct)

Originally released in Europe in 1973, this reissue details the meeting of NY violinist, composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, a peer of John Cale, La Monte Young, &c. with the legendary German rock band Faust, recording these two side-long and forward-looking works. ... Click to View


Mats Gustafsson And Friends: MG 50 - Peace & Fire [4 CD BOX SET] (Trost Records)

A box set documenting the October 2015 3-day event held at Porgy and Bess in Vienna for the 50th birthday of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (The Thing, Fire! and innumerable duo/trio/ensemble formations) with a who's-who of collaborators invited to join in various formations. ... Click to View


Rempis / Abrams / Ra + Baker: Perihelion [2 CDs] (Aerophonic)

Following their 2013 release "Aphelion", the working trio of Dave Rempis on sax, Joshua Abrams on bass & clarinet, and Avreeayl Ra on drums release their 2nd collaboration in a 2-CD album of live and studio improvisations, adding Jim Baker on keys and electronics for the 2nd disc. ... 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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