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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 work 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


Gunwale: Rempis / Wildeman / Packard: Polynya (Aerophonic)

The debut album of this focused and intrepid Chicago trio led by saxophonist Dave Rempis with young stalwarts Ryan Packard on percussion and electronics, and Netherlands transplant Albert Wildeman, for three extended improvisations recorded live and in the studio. ... Click to View


The International Nothing: The Power Of Negative Thinking (Monotype)

The 4th album from The International Nothing, originally the clarinet duo of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, now extended with Christian Weber on double bass and Eric Schaefer on percussion, adding new facets to their sonic spectrum of precise microtonal interaction. ... Click to View


Alfred Harth 23 / Wolfgang Seidel: Five Eyes (Moloko Records)

A fascinating psychedelic stew of improv and audio construction dovetailing tremendous playing with unexpected concrete and electronic interventions from the duo of Alfred 23 Harth on reeds, trombone, keys, and misc., and Wolfgang Seidel on drums, percussion and misc. ... Click to View


Matt Turner / Hal Rammel: As On A Pivot Of Air [10'' VINYL] (Penumbra)

A live recording by the long-running duo of Matt Turner on cello and Hal Rammel on amplified palettes at Acme Records & Music Emporium in Milwaukee in 2015 as part of the Audible Electricity series, presenting uniquely voiced and detailed improvisations. ... Click to View


PaPaJo (Hubweber / Lovens / Edwards): Spiela [2 CDs] (Creative Sources)

The long-running trio of Paul Hubweber on trombone, Paul Lovens on drums, and John Edwards on double bass in an album releasing a radio concert from Croatia in 2003, and another from Klangbrucke in 2009; highly attuned free improv with near-telepathic dialog from three masters. ... Click to View


Parak.eets (Ute Wassermann / Richard Scott / Emilio Gordoa): Natura Venomous (Creative Sources)

The trio of Richard Scott on modular synths, Emilio Gordoa on vibraphone & percussion, and Ute Wasserman on voice, in uniquely orchestrated free improvisations that focuses on sound interaction with detail and restraint, while still bringing a sense of wonder and exuberation. ... Click to View


Iridium String Quartet (Rocha / Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Mira): Iridium String Quartet (Creative Sources)

Unusual approaches to string improvisation from the quartet of Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello), Maria da Rocha (violin), and Miguel Mira (double bass), using extended techniques in subtle yet detailed discourse yielding unexpected qualities to their instruments. ... Click to View


Moondog AKA Louis T. Hardin: Round the World of Sound (New World Records)

The "Viking of 5th Ave" Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) was a blind musician noted for his unique garb, but also for his beautiful compositions that blended creative and rhythmic music with lyric and song, here in a collection of 25 songs from his "Madrigal Book 1". ... Click to View


Miimo: Miimo 3 (Amorfon)

The improvising steelpan ensemble of Yoshio Machida (steel drums, percussion, electronics, PanKAT), Tatsu (bass, electronics) and Norihide Saji (drums, laptop, electronics) in their 3rd release, an alternative dub album, or music created by poly-rhythm and sound effects. ... Click to View


Chaman Chomeur : Chaman Chomeur (BeCoq)

A direct translation of this band's name is "unemployed shaman", the trio of Leo Ratherius (guitar), Marc-Antonie Moercant (drums) and Thomas Cockerel (bass) use trance-like rhythms to build sonic progressions like cathartic rituals, alongside open-minded improvisations. ... Click to View


Mats Gustafsson : Piano Mating [VINYL] (Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records)

When Blue Tapes asked Gustafsson to compose an album using an instrument he'd never recorded with before he chose the Dubreq Pianomate, an electronic instrument from the 60s intended to be used with a piano; Gustafsson used it sans-piano, and the results are these 2 beautiful drones. ... Click to View


Keiji Haino / Jim O'Rourke / Oren Ambarchi: I Wonder If You Noticed... [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

The trio of Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke and Oren Ambarchi continues with this double LP of the band performing live at SuperDeluxe in Tokyo in 2014, for a journey in improvised rock and electronics with the shamanistic vocals of Haino guiding their unique and powerful playing. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece : Awareness About (Another Timbre)

Four recent pieces by Berlin-based instrumentalist, composer and improviser, Lucio Capece, all focusing on the process of listening, one performed by Konzert Minimal, the other solo performances including a work for hanging speakers and helium balloons. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey (performed by Cristian Alvear): Guitarist, Alone (Another Timbre)

A double CD featuring all of Wandelweiser composer Jurg Frey's music for solo acoustic guitar, beautifully interpreted by the Chilean guitarist Cristian Alvear, including a new piece written specially for Cristian Alvear; beautifully unfolding, concentrative music. ... Click to View


Angharad Davies / Rhodri Davies / Michael Duch / Lina Lapelyte / John Lely & John Tilbury: Goldsmiths (Another Timbre)

An extended group improvisation and compositions by Lely, Sarah Hughes, and Jurg Frey, subtle and beautiful performances by Angharad Davies (violin), Rhodri Davies (electric harp), Michael Duch (bass), Lina Lapelyte (violin), John Lely (objects & electronics) & John Tilbury (piano). ... Click to View


Marek Poliks : Hull Treader (Another Timbre)

Referencing sci-fi, C.S. Lewis, and alien worlds, the compositions of Marek Poliks each have a central metaphor like alien environment and warmth, spaceship and cradling, performed by ensembles using traditional and electronic instruments and objects. ... Click to View


Michael Bisio / Kirk Knuffke Duo: Row for William O. (Relative Pitch)

New York bassist Michael Bisio pays tribute to his teacher William O. Smith in this tremendous duo with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, in a beautiful mix of lyrical playing and heavy technical skills made to sound remarkably simply; a joyful and profound jazz album. ... Click to View


Ingrid Laubrock / Tom Rainey: Buoyancy (Relative Pitch)

Drawing on several years and many shared projects, the duo of Ingrid Laubrock (sax) and Tom Rainey (drums) recorded this excellent album of sophisticated improvisation at the end of a 17-date tour, performing for a studio audience at Audio for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. ... Click to View


Audio One (Vandermark/Adasiewicz/Berman/Bishop/Rempis/Williams/Mazzarrella/Daisy/Macri/Paulson): The Midwest School (Audiographic Records)

With a quartet of reeds (Nick Mazzarella, Dave Rempis, Ken Vandermark, Mars Williams), Jeb Bishop on trombone, Josh Berman on cornet, plus Jen Paulson on viola, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, Nick Macri on bass and Tim Daisy on drums, this Chicago band burns with amazing free playing! ... 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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