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
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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.


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