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Robert Dick : Our Cells Know (Tzadik)

Using multiphonics, percussive effects, circular breathing and other extended approaches to the contrabass flute, composer/performer/improviser Robert Dick releases a mesmerizing album of improvisations, breaking new terrain by letting the largest of flutes lead his muse. ... Click to View


John Zorn : The Mockingbird (Tzadik)

John Zorn's Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell on guitar, Carol Emanuel on harp and Kenny Wollesen on vibes and chimes, perform Zorn's compositions inspired by the classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" in lyrical chamber jazz of great depth and nuance. ... Click to View


Jacob Bandolin do : Great Jewish Music (Tzadik)

A tribute to Jacob do Bandolim, one of the founders of the Brazilian instrumental style choro in the 30's and 40's, in compositions from Tzadik artists Davka, Cyro Baptista, Carla Kihlstedt, Jon Madof, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, Ben Perowsky, Rob Burger, Jamie Saft, &c. ... Click to View


Smith Quartet with John Tilbury: Morton Feldman: Music for Piano and Strings Volume 3 [DVD-AUDIO] (Matchless)

Recorded live at the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music in 2006, this is the 3rd and final volume of works by Morton Feldman performed by the Smith Quartet with John Tilbury on piano, recorded in high quality DVD audio and with extensive liner notes by Tilbury. ... Click to View


Dave Douglas High Risk: Dark Territory (Greenleaf Music)

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Universal Indians w/ Joe McPhee: Skullduggery [VINYL 2 LPs] (Clean Feed)

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Rodrigues / Yamauchi / Santos: The Presence Of Air Particles Ignited By Memory (Creative Sources)

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The duo of Johannes Nastesjo on double bass and Vasco Trilla on drums and percussion, an album of extended techniques and unexpected devising, using quietly agressive techniques balanced by concentrative improv to create unexpected eruptions and unusual sonic environments. ... Click to View


Fridolin Blumer : Camping; Cafe Bar (Creative Sources)

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Miimo: Miimo 4 (Amorfon)

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Tony Marsh / Chefa Alonso: Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9) (Emanem)

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Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Withdrawal (1966/7)[REISSUE] (Emanem)

Featuring the earliest published recordings of Barry Guy & Evan Parker, percussionist John Steven's presents transitional sextet and septet performances of his groundbreaking free improv group from 1966 & '67 with Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherford, Kenny Wheeler, and Derek Bailey. ... Click to View


Duck Baker : Outside (1977-83) (Emanem)

Fingerstyle guitarist Duck Baker was influenced by Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, recording these solo original improvisations plus 2 Ornette Coleman pieces from '77-'83 in London, Torino & Calgary, plus 2 duos with guitar madman Eugene Chadbourne. ... Click to View


Kent Carter: Oratorios and Songs (2010) (Emanem)

The Riviere Ensemble led by bassist Kent Carter with Christiane Bopp (trombone), Albrecht Maurer (violin), Katrin Mickiewicz (viola) and Laura Tejeda Martin (mezzo soprano) recording original works in historic churches in France, blending classical, jazz, free improv & traditional musics. ... Click to View


Anker / Lonberg-Holm & Jackson / Serries: Two Duos [CASSETTE with download] (Astral Spirits)

Two aspects of reed & string duos, side A presents Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm with Danish/NY saxophonist Lotte Anker in 4 free improvisations of unusual technique; side B is UK saxophonist Dave Jackson & Dirk Serries on electric guitar for an extended improv live at Cafe Oto. ... Click to View


Chatoyant: Place Of Other Destination [CASSETTE w/ download] (Astral Spirits)

With members of Wolf Eyes and Volebeats, Crime and the City Solution, &c. this Detroit quartet blends acoustic and electronic instruments in spontaneous composition with a rock aesthetics, a dark fusion of sound that plays both burning improv and mysterious soundscape. ... Click to View


Black Spirituals: Black Tape [CASSETTE with download] (Astral Spirits)

The duo of Zachary James Watkins on guitar and electroncis and Marshall Trammell on drums in a dark album of distorted riffs and heavy polyrhythmic drumming, free playing that demands attention while entrancing the listener in gritty sound. ... Click to View


In Love With (Ceccaldi / Ceccaldi / Darrifourcq): Axel Erotic (BeCoq)

The French experimental jazz trio of Theo Ceccaldi (violin), Valentin Ceccaldi (cello) and Sylvain Darrifourcq (drums, percussuions, zither) in a playful release of quick paced, creative improvisations in an album of exciting and somewhat off-kilter music; superbe! ... Click to View


Louis Minus XVI : Kindergarten (BeCoq)

Joining noise rock and free jazz, the Louis Minus XVI quartet is fronted by two saxophonists--Adrien Douliez on alto and Jean Baptiste Rubin on tenor--with Maxime Petit on bass and Frederic L'homme on drums, in a balanced album of powerful and introspective compositions. ... Click to View


Bi-Ki?: Quelque Chose Au Milieu (BeCoq)

The alto sax duet of Jean-Baptiste Rubin and Sakina Abdou sculpt sound material that draws on the acoustic resources of the space within which they play, captured here in various locations in Northern France by the keen ear of saxophonist/conceptualist Jean-Luc Guionnet. ... Click to View


Michael Moser: Antiphon Stein [2 Vinyl LPs] (Edition Rz)

A site-specific sound installation in the nave and choir of Minoritenkirche in Krems/Stein that engages with the architecture and sound of this church space from composer Michael Moser working with Berndt Thurner, Klaus Lang, Hannah Schwegler and Nik Hummer. ... Click to View


Ghedalia Tazartes : 5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine [VINYL 10-inch] (Holidays Records)

A 10" vinyl reissue of outside artist Ghedalia Tazartes' tribute to the poetry of Rimbaud and Verlaine, reinterpreting six small poems through a variety of genres that are playful and profound, previously available only in a small mini CD edition on the Jardin au Fou label. ... Click to View


Peter Brotzmann / William Parker / Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (Otoroku)

One of a dual CD/LP release documenting three nights at London's Cafe Oto by the trio of Peter Brotzmann on reeds, William Parker on double bass, guembri, shakuhachi, and shenai, and Hamid Drake on drums, an incredible display of improvised music from three masters of the form. ... Click to View


Peter Brotzmann / William Parker / Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale [VINYL] (Otoroku)

One of a dual CD/LP release documenting three nights at London's Cafe Oto by the trio of Peter Brotzmann on reeds, William Parker on double bass, guembri, shakuhachi, and shenai, and Hamid Drake on drums, an incredible display of improvised music from three masters of the form. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Ashley John Young: Now Has No Dimension (FMR)

Live recordings from the trio of Paul Dunmall on soprano and tenor sax, Philip Gibbs on guitar, and Ashley John Young on double bass, performing at Cardiff University School of Music Concert Hall in 2016, a great example of concentrative, complex and lively interplay. ... Click to View


Frode Gjerstad / Ramiro Molina: Unseen Seas (FMR)

Frode Gjerstad returned to Chile after his 2013 Trio tour to meet with guitarist Ramiro Molina, both to sample the amazing fish recipes Molina introduced him to, but more importantly, to perform live and to record these delicate and sophisticated improvisations. ... Click to View


Luis Conde / Fabiana Galante / Frode Gjerstad: Give And Take (FMR)

During multi-reedist Frode Gjerstad's tour of South America in 2015 he met with pianist Fabiana Galante and fellow reedist Luis Conde to record these excellent improvisations, all three using unusual and extended techniques to create these 8 captivating dialogs. ... Click to View


Stefan Keune / Lovens, Paul: Live 2013 (FMR)

Working together in various ensembles since the early 90s, Stefan Keune on sopranino, alto and baritone saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums and cymbals captured these three extraordinary improvisation in the studio in Brussels, Belgium and live Munich Underground in Germany. ... Click to View


Trevor Watts / Stephen Grew: Con Fluent (FMR)

Saxophonist Trevor Watts and pianist Stephen Grew improvised these pieces at a distance, Grew sending recordings of two separate solo concerts from Newcastle, which Watts improvised over resulting in these intricate and exuberant "Improvised Compositions". ... Click to View


Rob Hall / Chick Lyall: Myth (FMR)

A lyrical and sincere dialog from the Scottish duo of Rob Hall on clarinets and Chick Lyall on piano, recoreded at the chapel in St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh, blending improvisation with chamber music, free jazz, contemporary classical and folk idioms. ... Click to View


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  Singing at the Threshold  

Kali Fasteau's Lifetime of Listening and Playing


By James Keepnews 2003-12-15

I lived on four continents to experience many concepts of the divine in music. Sound creates reality as it moves through time. It is important for me to let the life energy create freely in the full magic of the moment without premeditating on form. Musicians study form to learn how to embody sound with grace and energy. The ultimate goal is formlessness, to manifest grace and energy in all our actions, and to offer the gift of a fresh expression of the infinite present with love and compassion. The form of the music can be seen after the fact of its creation. I choose to perform on the threshold of the unknown. - Kali Z. Fasteau


I should know better than to trust a map to find her.

In our email correspondence leading up to my visit, Fasteau offered to give me directions but Natty Bumpo insisted on a prevalent inelegance, viz. the transformation of websites into verbs, and tried to find her house by "Mapquesting" its address. My bad - turn-offs can't be found, roads meant to be turned onto after previous turns show up early, etc. Backtracking, with more hope than intuition, Brought me into the Orange County backwoods of the perfectly-named Balmville, NY and, eventually to her home.

"Her" being Kali Z. Fasteau, as she is known today. Discographers, record collectors and other lovers of fine art and its alphabetizing might still know her best, if at all, as Zusaan Kali Fasteau, as she was billed on her recordings as recently as 1997. To musicians, however, she's always been Kali Fasteau, and she laughs when I remark on the name change on her albums - it's a conscious effort on her part and, soon, she insists, "all that will be left is 'Kali.Z'!".

However she is named, Kali Fasteau is an inimitable presence is creative music. In a music whose appreciation of its female practitioners is still rare, Kali is all the more unique, but her contributions resist easy pigeonholing, much as finding her residence resisted cartography. To call her one of the most accomplished female multi-instrumentalists in free music specifically, and musics associated with "jazz" generally, still feels like putting too fine a point on her abilities. For starters, those multiple instruments aren’t your standard jazzers’ swapping of reeds, either, but a worldwide collection of reeds, keyboards, string instruments and percussion from many different cultures - a short list would read soprano saxophone, piano, cello, ney, balafon, kaval, mizmar, shakuhachi, moursin, sanza, sheng, drums and the incomparable vocal stylings she characterizes as “international vocalese.” Her global odyssey, one seemingly as spiritual as it was musical, across two decades, where she lived and studied in many different countries, including Haiti, Turkey, India, Nepal, and many European nations makes her a singular authority on musical practice across those cultures; the degree to which these cultures have helped shape her range of expression is nearly immeasurable. There's also her early embrace of musican-owned record labels with Flying Note. These distinctions are fueled by a deep appreciation of the divine in all aspects her musical process, leavened with a radical political consciousness also developed and practiced over the decades. There's no one quite like her in any music, anywhere.

Fasteau was gracious as she greeted me, and almost apologetically invited me into her marvelous home. "I'm used to sleeping on the shores of the Indian Ocean," she said with a calm smile. "This is still new for me." Laid out in an open, quasi-Japanese single level, replete with long rooms surrounded by windows which look out upon her sylvan property, the outside feels inside, and the inside out. The analogy is inevitable.

Metaphors are probably too easy to come by with an artist of Kali's accomplishment and global perspective - but they're there for anyone to see. Her music is an uncanny distillation of traditional and spontaneous, refinement and fire, inside and out. And no single map can guide you there - ragas on soprano saxophone can lead to blues on the Turkish flute (or ney) leading to feral vocalized wails that can descend, precisely, into pitch. Far from a scattered aesthetic, Fasteau has absorbed her extraordinarily far-flung experience to make a bracing, unified and emotionally sophisticated music that doesn't lack for resources, spiritual or instrumental.

Raised in Paris to an accomplished musical family, Fasteau recalled a youth filled with music and music making.

“My mother’s father was a cellist in the New Jersey Symphony, and had also played cornet in the Russian army," she said. "His oldest daughter, my mother’s sister, was an opera singer, composer and conductor, which was very rare back in those days. She did programs at Carnegie Hall. My first year and a half I lived in my grandfather's house, and so I heard and saw the cello being played, right in front me, as an infant. That was, I think, very important - I mean, the sound of the cello, and the bass and strings is very close to me.”

Her formal musical training started at a very early age on piano. By fourth grade, she was studying cello; by seventh, she began flute, while maintaining her studies on the other instruments. Multi-instrumentalism, then, played a decisive aspect early in Kali's musical development, and her facility on these and subsequent instruments, she said, isn't unusual as a result. “It's like when children grow up speaking several languages, it's normal for them to switch languages - it's like nothing. So, the same being a multi-instrumentalist as a kid. It's not a big thing to change from one to another.”

Along with the Western classical influences surrounding her from an early age, Fasteau had the opportunity to hear music closer to the sensibilities she would develop over the years. “My girlfriend when I was in second grade, she had some records of Miriam Makeba," she said. "She turned me on to Miriam Makeba when I was 7 or 8 and I just loved her music. That was my first experience with non-Western music, as far as I can consciously recall. That was a really important influence. My brother had alot of jazz records, too -- Bobby Timmons, Miles, Ahmad Jamal, he had a lot of good records. So, I feel a feeling for jazz early, too."

She also recalls an experience featuring the bedrock of her musical style today and one that strikes fear in the heart of most “formally-trained” musicians: improvisation. “When I was about fourteen, I had a dream that I was playing at a recital -- classical music, playing some Bach -- and I forgot what I was supposed to play and I just made up some music on the spot, and it worked out fine. I dreamt that I was improvising. And then, the next day, I tried it, and I started to figure out how to improvise.”

Her politics slowly began to reveal a radical edge, sharpened by her attendance at the legendary March on Washington in 1963. The following year, she attended Reed College, where she earned a degree in social anthropology while minoring in music. Certain students helped shape her understanding of jazz and r&b and spending summers in Georgia and Louisiana as part of voter drives organized by such radical student groups as CORE and SCLC helped shape her emerging revolutionary consciousness. By 1968, she had already spent time working with the Oakland branch of the Black Panthers and went from that experience to graduate school in music at Wesleyan University. The culture shock was enormous. One wonders whether any traditional Western educational system could have provided Kali with a satisfactory pedagogy with the direction her life was going but, as Fasteau described it, just being in Middletown, CT for her studies was only too redolent of her days with CORE.

“I had this really rebellious spirit," she said. "I almost didn't even go to graduate school, I was really in this revolutionary mode. So, when I got to Wesleyan...Middletown, CT was set up like a southern town, with a black part and a white part, there were hardly any women there, very few women in the grad program. It was too retro for me.”

Still, she did have a chance to study music from other cultures, as well as contemporary classical music. Moreover, Middletown's proximity to New York meant that she had a chance to take in so much of what was available there as the 60s gave way to 1970, when Kali eventually graduated and moved to the city. She left for San Francisco in late 1971 where she met Donald Rafael Garett, the multi-instrumentalist best known for his contributions to a series of West Coast recordings by John Coltrane (Om, Live in Seattle, Kulu Se Mama and Selflessness) on which he played both bass and bass clarinet.

It was, says Kali, "love at first sight – lightning struck and everything!" Speaking about him today, Kali's abiding love and respect for the late musician, composer, philosopher and polymath is palpable.

“He was very advanced,” Kali recalls, “Rafael was a genius in many areas of intellectual life. He taught me how to make bamboo flutes, shakuhachi, he taught me T'ai Chi Chuan, macrobiotic cooking, he was up on many of the latest philosophies of the time, like Gurdjieff. The way he was, he was always sharing his knowledge with whoever was around.”

They began playing together immediately, eventually recording Kali's first appearance on record, the ESP-Disk release by the Sea Ensemble, aka Rafael and Kali. By 1974, they were married and their global journey had begun, having already lived in France, Zaire, Senegal, Morocco, Haiti, as well as New York.

"When I met Rafael in 1971, feminism was enjoying a surge of development and I was certainly was encouraged by that, and Rafael definitely considered himself a feminist," she said. "When he met me, he was very supportive and had me in his band right away. He was very happy to be playing with a woman and with someone who had similar ideas about music. We could really be equals in creativity.

The music of the Sea Ensemble - occasionally expanding to a quartet with the addition of the late saxophonist Glenn Spearman and drummer Jay Oliver - is boundlessly lyrical and a template for Kali's later work. Like many small groups of the period, they were resourceful orchestrators, with the ability to create the illusion of a far larger group with their varied instrumentation. Their approach to performance also seemed to transcend Western notions of composition, pacing and even, at points, an easily discernable jazz element -- theirs was a nascent global improvisatory music where melody flowed organically from one piece and grouping of instruments into an entirely different one. Memoirs of a Dream (Flying Note, 2000), a 2-cd set of music which Fasteau carefully shepherded over years of travel (including a concert in Ankara, Turkey in 1977, during which Garrett gently encourages the listeners to "chew their food") is a revelation, a carefully preserved document of Fasteau and Garett's extrasensory interplay and pancultural ritual expression through improvisation, sounded from Holland to Turkey.

The duo played several tours opening for, and playing with, Archie Shepp, as well as a performance with Sun Ra in Amsterdam. Yet, by 1977, the two had parted, and she returned to Paris for three years, beginning a solo career and working as a bandleader. She moved to India in 1981, with a Selmer Mark VI soprano saxophone added to her arsenal, to study Hindustani vocal music with Mangala Mishra.

"I stayed at [Mangala's] father's house, and she would come over at 6 in the morning. They started playing [recorded] music there at 4 in the morning. Everyone gets up early in tropical countries - that's the coolest time of the day. It was beautiful and I learned so much." She then moved on to Chennai (Madras) in South India, where she lived in an “untouchable” fishermen’s village on the coast for six months, traveled all around the region, and earned money making film soundtracks, and performing concerts.



continued...




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