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Sylvaine Helary : Spring Roll / Printemps [2 CDs] (Ayler)

A hybrid of theater, music, sound poetry and political manifesto from Sylvaine Helary, focused on the "Arab Spring" in Egypt, using intertwining words and voices around the quartet performances of Hugues Mayot, Sylvain Lemetre, Antonin Rayon and Sylvaine Helary. ... Click to View


Korekyojinn: Fall Line (Magaibutsu)

The 5th studio album from the trio of Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins alone / Koenji Hyakkei), Kido Natsuki (Bondage Fruit / Salle Gavoux), Nasunomitsuru (Altered states / Umbeltipo), avant-progressive instrumental rock, melodic and complex rock performed at breakneck speed. ... Click to View


PYN (Yoshida / Pittard / Nasuno): Songs for children who don't want to sleep (Magaibutsu)

P (Yann Pittard on oud and guitar & vocals), Y (Tatsuya Yoshida on drums & vocals) and N (Mitsuru Nasuno on bass & vocals) performing Arabian Progressive Pop Improvisation, an unusual melding and orchestration of arabic progressions and melodic prog rock. ... Click to View


Bryan Eubanks & Stephane Rives: fq (Potlatch)

French soprano saxophonist Stephane Rives and US Sound artist Bryan Eubanks on oscillators and feedback sythg recorded this extended improvisation after performing live together in Berlin in 2014, using twisting acoustic and electronic tones punctuated by dramatic confrontations. ... Click to View


Seijiro Murayama : Broken Iteration [2 CDs] (Herbal International)

A 2-CD release from Japanese percussionist Seijiro Murayama, performing solo on "objects" which combines clearly percussive objects and other electroacoustic items of obscure origin, creating active, rich and curious sonic environments that envelop the listener. ... Click to View


Murmer: Framework 1-4 [2 CDs] (Herbal International)

Patrick McGinley (Murmer) in a series of bold experiments with untreated field recordings, exploring notions of musicality within the structures of found sound, written partially as a reaction against the idea of documentary or objective presentation of found sound. ... Click to View


Roldolphe Alexis / Stephane Rives: Winds Doors Poplars (Herbal International)

Rodolphe Alexis composed these works from a diverse set of recordings of trains, factories and other potent sounds, pairing them with recording from saxophonist Stephane Rives using extended and unusual techniques, yielding these inventive and irrepressible sound works. ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee : Good Vibrations (Herbal International)

Aberrant experiments with a stereo DJ mixer from Herbal International label leader Goh Lee Kwang, 5 tracks of unexpected sounds, micro-drills, crackles, purrs, hums, buzzes, quirks and bleeps from the mixer itself, performed live with no overdubs or pre-programming. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn / Phil Julian: Valentines (Confront)

The first meeting of Jason Kahn and Phil Julian, both performing on analogue modular synthesiser, intended to be recorded as material for studio sound compositions, but which was so compelling as improvised work that they chose to release the album as recorded. ... Click to View


IST: London: Conway Hall (Confront)

IST, the trio of Rhodri Davie (harp), Simon H. Fell (double bass) and Mark Wastell (violincello) from their 2003 live performance at London's Freedom of the City Festival, 8 years into the project, showing the remarkable sonic language the trio had developed. ... Click to View


IST: New York (Davies / Fell / Wastell / Zorn): Featuring John Zorn (Confront)

Acoustic string improvising trio IST was invited by Derek Bailey in 2001 for his Company event at Tonic in NYC, here in the entire and intense concert they performed that night, including a 2nd set pairing with John Zorn, pushing the band into amazing and unexpected territory. ... Click to View


Joacim Nyberg : Fylkingen, March 27, 2014 (Confront)

Guitarist Joacim Nyberg, also performing on double bass, bell and recorder, in a live performance in Stockholm, Sweden at Fylkingen in 2014, using "Wood, steel, air. Hands, fingers, heart" in an open-ended and ardent exposition of his interpretation of jazz. ... Click to View


Matthew Shipp Quartet Declared Enemy: Our Lady Of The Flowers (RogueArt)

Named after Jean Genet's infamous novel, New York pianist Matthew Shipp's quartet Declared Enemy with Sabir Mateen on tenor sax & clarinet, William Parker on double bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, return for a second outstanding album of dynamic and masterful jazz. ... Click to View


The Turbine! (Bankhead / Duboc / Drake / Lopez + guests): Entropy/Enthalpy [2 CDs] (RogueArt)

The transatlantic quartet of Harrison Bankhead & Benjamin Duboc on double bass, and Hamid Drake & Ramon Lopez on drums and percussion in recordings from a 2014 tour of France as part of The Bridge, with guests William Parker, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, and Lionel Garcin. ... Click to View


Sonny Simmons: Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom and Brilliance / Chasing The Bird? [8 CD BOX] (Improvising Beings)

An 8 CD set presenting 2 major works from saxophonist Sonny Simmons celebrating his 80th birthday, split into two sections: "Chasing The Bird" and "Leaving Knowledge Wisdom And Brilliance", using a variety of approaches using improv and world music to create a visionary music. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Pellucidar-A Dreamers Fantabula (Tzadik)

The 4th album from John Zorn's Dreamers (Cyro Baptista, Joey Baron, Trevor Dunn, Marc Ribot, Jamie Saft, & Kenny Wollesen) is a lyrical album of tuneful compositions and superb soloing, in an ornate package accompanied by a 36 page book of colorful drawings. ... Click to View


Les Rhinoceros: Les Rhinoceros III (Tzadik)

Compellingly lyrical music with a klezmer influence from this Washington, DC trio, blending rock, world music, math rock, klezmer, reggae, noise, ambient and jazz into wonderful groove-based works, here in their 3rd album after 5 years, with a host of guests. ... Click to View


Chuck Bettis : Pixel Bleed (Living Myth)

New York improvisor and electronic artist Chuck Bettis in an exploration of decay and repetition, performed live using Max/Msp with no overdubs or sequencers, using simple pop melody progressions and superimposing them over the cut-up techniques of musique concrete. ... Click to View


Rob Mazurek : Vortice of the Faun [CASSETTE with download code] (Astral Spirits)

An unusual 18 piece work from Chicago trumpeter Rob Mazurek, entirely constructed through electro-acoustic means, using hundreds of samples selected for their audio quality, joined to electronics utilizing oscillators and modules, some of which sample acoustic sources. ... Click to View


Mike Majkowski: Neighbouring Objects [CASSETTE with download code] (Astral Spirits)

Double bassist Mike Majkowski in his 4th solo album, two long works using variation from repetition to create an album of rich extended bass sonics through the use of bowing, processing, and the mysterious addition of accordion, bass guitar, percussion, and piano. ... Click to View


SSBT (Chris Cogburn, Steve Jansen & Parham Daghighi): 247 Main [CASSETTE with download code] (Astral Spirits)

Free improvisation from the Austin-based SSBT of Chris Cogburn (drums, percussion, electronics), Steve Jansen (electronics, tapes, guitar, saxophone), and Parham Daghighi (guitar, saxophone, vocals), a unique electro-acoustic blend of frantic and ecstatic playing. ... Click to View


Brotzmann / van Hove / Bennink: 1971 (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Unreleased material from legendary European players Peter Brotzmann (sax), Fred Van Hove (piano) and Han Bennink (drums), captured live in 1971 for intensely heavy playing at the 2nd Internationales New Jazz Meeting Auf Burg Altena, and in detailed studio work at Radio Bremen. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy / Steve Potts: Tips (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Recorded in Paris in 1979, Steve Lacy (soprano sax) and Steve Potts (alto sax) perform music for the aphorisms of Georges Braque, as sung by Irene Aebi; originally issued on Hat Hut records, this reiusse remasters the original release and includes images from the score. ... Click to View


Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Pianist Tom Prehn's quartet with Frits Krogh on tenor sax, Poul Ehlers on bass, and Finn Slumstrup on bass, superb European free jazz recorded in 1963 in Copenhagen but never formally released, here remastered and issued with an unreleased track from 1966. ... Click to View


John Butcher / Burkhard Beins / Mark Wastell: Membrane (Confront)

Mysteriously dark electroacoustic improv from the adept trio of John Butcher on acoustic and amplified saxophones, Burkhard Beins on amplified bass drum and electronics, and Mark Wastell on amplified 32" paiste tam-tam, slowly evolving, rich environments in sound. ... Click to View


Tony Wilson 6tet: A Day's Life (Drip Audio)

The first recording of Tony Wilson's music inspired by the plight and lives of the homeless and drug addictied in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, in a band with P Carter on trumpet, Jesse Zubot on violin, Peggy Lee on cello, Russell Sholberg on bass and Skye Brooks on drums. ... Click to View


Joyfultalk: Muuixx (Drip Audio)

Vancouver-based Jay Crocker, half of Bent Spoon with Chris Dadge, in an album of electronics using homebuilt instruments and treatments, rhythmically based music with effective melodies and a quirky, sometimes lo-fi, but always engaging approach. ... Click to View


Gordon Beeferman Trio (w/ James Ilgenfritz, Michael Evans): Out In Here (OutNow Recordings)

Pianist/composer Gordon Beeferman's trio with bassist James Ilgenfritz and drummer/percussionist Michael Evans in an entirely acoustic record that conjures up electronica, noise, free jazz, and new-complexity, in a sublimely creative fashion. ... Click to View


Yoni Kretzmer / Pascal Niggenkemper / Weasel Walter: ProtestMusic (OutNow Recordings)

Passionate jazz from Brooklyn saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer, in a trio with double bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Weasel Walter, from aggressive blowing to subtle and beautiful use of sound, and despite the track titles, near-telepathic interplay. ... Click to View


Davidovski, EFT (Bukelman Bymel): Spatial Awareness (OutNow Recordings)

Formed in 2010, Israeli trio EFT of Ido Bukelman (guitar), Daniel Davidovsky (electronics) and Offer Bymel (drums) create a resilient hybridization of genres and musical approaches, incorporating free jazz, improvisation, noise and modern electronic music. ... 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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