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Tom Chant / John Edwards / Eddie Prevost: All Change (Matchless)

Recorded in concert at The Network Theatre, Waterloo in London, 2012, the trio of Tom Chant on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Eddie Prevost on drums present a tour de force of modern free jazz with great technical and conversational power. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / John Butcher: The Natural Order (Northern Spy)

This album documents guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher's first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio, two titans of their instruments playing without overdubs in a single session for remarkable creative and sonic results. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet: Silver Cornet (NESSA)

The last stop on the North American tour of The Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet (Bobby Bradford-cornet; Frode Gjerstad-alto sax & clarinet; Ingetbrigt Haker Flaten-bass; Frank Rosaly-drums), bridging generations through tremendous free improvisation. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Transmigration Of The Magus (Tzadik)

Inspired by the Gnostic philosophies of the Nag Hammadi library, Zorn invokes the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo as a tribute to the passing of Lou Reed, presented by his Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and Carol Emanuel, plus guests. ... Click to View


Wollesen / Haffner / Naujo: Rasa Rasa (Tzadik)

Rasa Rasa members Kenny Wollesen, Dalius Naujo, Jonathon Haffner and Sean Francis Conway present the ancient polyphonic vocal music of Lithuania using a mix of ensembles, reviving the infectious grooves and ancient vocal rounds, aided by new instruments devised by Wollesen. ... Click to View


Thomas Carnacki / Vulcanus 68: Split [VINYL] (Alethiometer / Gigante)

A split LP from two Bay area electronic composers inspired by the masters of tape and electronic music: Vulcanus 68 in a nostalgic rendering of spliced and collaged tape techniques; and Thomas Carnacki in an engaging collage of identifiable or sinister sound. ... Click to View


Kevin Drumm / Jason Lescalleet: The Abyss (erstwhile)

Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey / Radu Malfatti: II (erstwhile)

Two works, one each from trombonist Radu Malfatti and clarinetist Jurg Frey, also credited with "instruments", field recordings and couterpoints, electroacoustic reductionist work of beautiful character that unfolds slowly and rewards attentive listeners in morphing sound. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro: Continuum Unbound [3 CD Box Set] (Gravity Wave)

Three large works in a solid box with a 12 page color booklet of notes and images from composer Pisaro, working with Greg Stuart, Joe Panzner, Patrick Farmer and Toshiya Tsunoda, examining fragile discontinuities in the apparently continuous sound world. ... Click to View


Gen Ken & AMK: Smile [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A collaboration of NYC sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery (Generator) and West Coast sound improviser AMK (Anthony Michael King), in an extended work of electronic improvisation presented over two cassette sides, a varied program that never overloads its listeners. ... Click to View


Chop Shop: Grey Area [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Grey is the color of these murky recordings from Scott Konzelmann, AKA Chop Shop, sounding like they were recorded inside a furnace with distant punctuation occasionally contributing to the gloom of this oppressive audio environment. ... Click to View


John Hudak: Listening To The Wind [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

John Hudak created "listening to the wind" using wind chimes, half of a phone conversation, and digital manipulation, splitting the work into an "inner" and "outer" side, altering the character of this murky emission. ... Click to View


Duncan Harrison / Dylan Nyoukis: The Many Great Necked / Jeer Sabbath [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A split cassette, the first side presenting two live sets of vocals and tapes from Duncan Harrison; the second presenting Jeer Sabbath on vocals, tapes, trumpets, piano, clarinet, guitar, violin & other assorted instruments; both recording in the UK and reworking at Wino Lodge. ... Click to View


WHO Trio (Hemingway / Wintsch / Oester): Zoo [2 CDS] (Auricle)

Percussionist Gerry Hemingway's Who Trio with Michel Wintsch on piano and synth, and Banz Oester on double bass and lamp, in an outstanding 2 CD release contrasting their work in acoustic improvisation with "electric" improv, albeit an unusual take on the latter. ... Click to View


Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet (Hawkins / Edwards / Yarde): 4 Blokes (Ogun)

Blue Notes drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's quartet with three of London's finest improvisers--Jason Yarde on sax, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano--in live studio recordings of exciting and impressive structured free improv. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy Four: Morning Joy ...Paris Live [reissue] (Hatology)

One night at the Paris Sunset Club by saxophonist Steve Lacy's Quartet with Steve Potts on sax, Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums, performing an exuberant mix of Lacy originals and Thelonius Monk tunes, remastered & expanded for Hat's 40th Anniversary. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: As Serious As Your Life [reissue] (Hatology)

In 1996, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Joe McPhee's first solo release, McPhee recorded this remarkable album of solo reeds, pocket cornet, and electronics, using overdubbing to create gripping music including an homage to Miles Davis and unique versions of standards. ... Click to View


Chistopher Fox: Works For Piano, Philip Thomas piano (Hat [now] ART)

Four large and distinctive works by composer Christopher Fox performed by pianist Philip Thomas, who also writes the liner notes about the works, revealing and explaining the compositional elements, piano preparations, and physical requirements placed on the performer. ... Click to View


Stockhausen / Beethoven (Pi-hsien Chen): Klavierstucke/Sonaten (Hat [now] ART)

Alternating between Stockhausen and Beethoven, pianist Pi-Hsien Chen performs solo works including "Klavierstuck", "Sonata A-Dur Op. 101" and "Sonata C-moll Op. 111", contrasting and comparing the innovations of both composers. ... Click to View


Lacerda / Manso / Nilssen-Love / Zenicola: Bota Fogo (Bocian Records 2014/QTV/PNL)

A live recording of two extended improvisations at Audio Rebel's Quintavant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from the quartet of Arthur Lacerda on guitar and electronics, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola, guitarist Eduardo Manso, and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda : Everybody Digs Michel Doneda (Relative Pitch)

A collection of solo pieces from forward-thinking French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, using extended techniques and utilizing every inch of the horn, creating unconventional and captivating sonic expressions from the instrument. ... Click to View


Lee Noyes: Truth In Opposition [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Sound artist Lee Noyes based this improvised laptop work on the 1776 work by James Beattie, "Essays: On the nature of truth, in opposition to Sopfifstry and Sceptifism", arguing that both consonance and dissonance are equally important to the perfection of harmony. ... Click to View


Trevor Watts: Veracity (FMR)

Pure Trevor Watts performing solo on the alto saxophone, showing his lyrical and technical skills in full force through 13 studio recordings, from succinct tracks of a minute in length to longer displays of powerful playing with great skill and ingenuity. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe: The Ravens Look (FMR)

Paul Dunmall performs on soprano sax along with clarinets and contra bassoon, in a give and take album with flutist Neil Metcalf and guitarist Philip Gibbs, a trio that allows space and a free melodic approach to guide their intelligent discourse. ... Click to View


Fred Lonberg-Holm / Frode Gjerstad: Life On Sandpaper (FMR)

Frode Gjerstad in a duo with long time colleague Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm for 9 pieces performed in 2012, with Gjerstad on bass saxophone, Bb and bass clarinets and Lonberg-Holm on cello; open-ended dialog of compatible approaches to free improvisation. ... Click to View


Udu Calls Trio feat. William Parker: The Vancouver Tapes (Long Song Records)

A live recording from 1999 in Vancouver, two extended improvisations from drummer Tiziano Tononi's UDU Calls Trio featuring William Parker on double bass; Tiziano Tononi on drums, congas, gong, bells & whistles; Daniele Cavallanti on saxophone, Ney flute and bells. ... Click to View


Oren Ambarch: Quixotism (Editions Mego)

With collaborators from Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA, "Quixotism" presents guitarist Ambarchi's 5 part work, built on a foundation of pulsing double-time electronic percussion, with abstracted sonic additions punctuating and building a dream-like aural environment. ... Click to View


Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual (Aum Fidelity)

The fourth installment in Darius Jones' on-going "Man'ish Boy" epic, an a cappella presentation from his vocal quartet, The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit using Jones' fictional, mythological sacred language used in the alien birthing ritual of a new being. ... Click to View


Matt Nelson: Lower Bottoms (Tubapede)

Brooklyn saxophonist Matt Nelson in a solo album of extended saxophone techniques along with a litany of guitar effects pedals, all run through a large 70's era Peavy combo amp with real-time feedback manipulation, a unique album of muscular playing and unusual soundscape. ... Click to View


The Gate (feat Tim Dahl / Nate Wooley): Stench [VINYL] (Smeraldina-Rima)

Massive, disturbing sound sculptures and forbidding landscapes, just what you'd expect from an album named "Stench" by tuba & amp player Dan Peck's The Gate, with Nate Wooley on trumpet & amp, Tim Dahl & Tom Blancarte on electric bass, and Brian Osborne on percussion. ... 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.



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