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Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker [2 CDs] (Confront)

Derek Bailey's Company in recordings from 2000 at The Klinker in London, with four performers--Bailey on guitar, Simon H. Fell on double bass, Mark Wastell on violincello, and Will Gaines tap dancing--the concert presenting various permutations of these musicians improvising, with narrations from Bailey, Fell, Wastell and Gaines punctuating the recordings. ... Click to View

Phil Maguire / James L. Malone: Working Title (Confront)

Phil Maguire (Verz label) exchanges abstract electronics from a variety of lo-fi devices with glitch and aberrant guitarist James L. Malone, a London improviser who has worked with Eddie Prevost, Phil Durrant, Steve Beresford and Adam Bohman, as the two trade strange sonic disruptions, avoiding pandemonium, instead using noise in pointed discourse. ... Click to View

Phil Minton / Roger Turner: Scraps Of Heard (Confront)

London Free Improv Scene long-standing members, vocalist Phil Minton and drummer/percussionist Roger Turner's first album together, "Ammo", was released in 1984; the two have continued to record together, and this live recording from 2016 in Hanover, Germany shows the two continuing to create distinctly bizarre and wonderfully personal dialog unlike any other. ... Click to View

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole (BeCoq)

Rough and ready, angular instrumental rock from this Stavanger, Norway-based instrumental duo of Kristoffer Riis on guitar and Thore Warland on drums, two parts of the power-trio Staer, here creating a massive dose of momentum as they push heavy rhythmic riffs with odd tonality and a great sheen of prickly effect layers, in a compelling and muscular album. ... Click to View

Loubatiere / Warnecke: Couleurs Chimeriques (BeCoq)

An album of rich aural environments contrasted with clamorous action and disintegrating sound from the duo of French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere performing on snare drum and Berlin-based sound sculptor Pierce Warnecke, their second album as a duo presenting a sophisticated and diverse set of compositions that both entrance and disrupt their listeners. ... Click to View

IKB: Apteryx Mantelli (Creative Sources)

IKB continue their series of albums graced with taxonomic latin names for animals, here with the North Island brown kiwi bird, as the string- and wind-heavy electroacoustic ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues present this extended improvisation of subtle motion and understated complexity live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017. ... Click to View

Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calalv : Snow Country (Creative Sources)

A duo between Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo (Fire! Orchestra) and bass clarinet Erik Blennow Calalv, in a low-key, moody and tranquil album of improvisations with titles implying their unhurried approach to their dialog--"Clouds", "Moving, Dancing", and "Ryoanji"-- making a beautiful album of nearly ambient but decidedly determined music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae : Live at Cafe Amores (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae: Live at Cafe Amores [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Jeph Jerman : The Bray Harp (White Centipede Noise)

Aural explorer Jeph Jerman reworks 20 years of source material into this large work of recurring sound, obscuring sources in a rugged mill that turns its sonic grist into a mesmerizing flow of ringing tones and resolute grit, constructed from Jerman's own recordings and tapes from Eric La Casa and Oskar Burmmel, and metal & wood from Ben Brucato. ... Click to View

Stephen O'Malley / Anthony Pateras: Reve Noir (Immediata)

Pianist Anthony Pateras and guitarist Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))) performed a concert in 2011 at Instants Chavires in 2011, which they took into the studio to deconstruct and recompose on 1/4 inch tape, creating a compelling landscape of fractured musique concrete, introspective meditations, electro-acoustic textures and heavy guitar; includes a 20 page interview with O'Malley. ... Click to View

Rohan Drape / Anthony Pateras: Ellesmere (Immediata)

A founder of the Slave Pianos collective and co-organizer of the Inland Concert Series, Australian computer and synth artist Rohan Drap joins keyboardist Anthony Pateras for an extended exploration of interlocking vintage electric organs, allowing their tones and timbres to interact in microtonal richness as they create tonal environments and gradually unfolding progressions. ... Click to View

Max Eastley / Steve Beresford / Paul Burwell / David Toop: Whirled Music [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Remastering a singular album of joyfully disruptive free improv recorded in England in 1979 at Ikon Gallery from the quartet of Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, and David Toop, their goal: to create music from instruments and objects that would be whirled to produce sound, performed behind a net and played with masks to protect the performers and audience. ... Click to View

Jean-Luc Guionnet / Daichi Yoshikawa: Intervivos [VINYL] (Empty Editions)

Recording at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong furing a week residency, the duo Jean-Luc Guionnet (Ames Room) on saxophone and Daichi Yoshikawa (Eddie Prevost) using self-developed feedback of speakers, contact microphones & found objects, create intense yet constrained improvisations of impressive control, technique and exotic soundscape. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk)

Focusing on sound, warmth and exploration, pianist Matthew Shipp leads his quartet with saxophonist and clarinetist Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey through 10 tracks that explore a diverse set of moods and styles, allowing each player space for expressive solo space, while never leaving the jazz and blues behind in this beautifully paced album. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp: Zer0 aka Zero [2 CDs] (ESP-Disk)

New York pianist Shipp extends his infrequent solo career with this set of eleven solid studio recordings, taking us into the inner working of the influential pianist's approach to improvisation through lyrical, structured, enigmatic and unusual approaches to the keyboard; the first CD pressings include an hour talk "On Nothingness" that Shipp gave at The Stone. ... Click to View

Loren Connors: Pretty As Ever [VINYL] (Recital)

The Recital label continues its Loren Conners editions/reissue series with their 4th album of the guitarist's music, collecting and remastering tracks from out of print albums "Sails" and "Little Match Girl" in an album of ballads, complemented with a 12-page art-booklet of previously unpublished illustrations by Conners himself. ... Click to View

Sun Ra & His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy [VINYL WITH DOWNLOAD] (Roaratorio)

Recordings from Sun Studios made between 1968-1969 with Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Daddy DAvis, Ray Thompson, Danny Davis, &c. in nine tracks, six of which have never been heard before in any form, plus remasters on 1950s classics "Sunology" and "Ancient Aiethiopia", plus an early rendition of "Why Go To The Moon". ... Click to View

Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra: Sleeping Beauty [VINYL] (Art Yard)

An extremely soulful electric album from Sun Ran and the Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra, a groove driven and funky swirling masterpiece from the late 70's, with Sun Ra on piano, electric piano and organ, the Arkestra propelled by the drumming of Luqman Ali over a full band with Craig Harris, Michael Ray, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Ray Thompson, &c &c. ... Click to View

Bistre (Muller / Rodrigues / Wong): As We Read Along... (Creative Sources)

A trio of free improvisers recording five detailed and subdued dialogs in the studio, from trombonist Matthias Muller (Splitter Orchester), cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, and guitarist Eric Wong, collective improvisation guided by long pointillistic passages that converge into lyrical focal points, a profound example of concentrative discourse. ... Click to View

Anthony Braxton : Sextet (Parker) 1993 [11-CD BOX SET] (New Braxton House)

Originally released on Hat Hut in '95, this 11-CD box blows open these 2 European concerts in Zurich and Koln, reworking the music of Charlie Parker and associated bop composers, with Braxton himself on reeds, plus saxophonist Ari Brown, trumpeter Paul Smoker, pianist Misha Mengelberg, and alternating between drummers Han Bennink and Pheeroan AkLaff; superb, essential! ... Click to View

Yoni Kretzmer's New Dilemma (Kretzmer / Loriot / Hoffamn / Sinton / Niggenkemper / Van Hemmen): Months, Weeks and Days [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

The 2nd album for NY-based saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer's Chamber-Improv ensemble New Dilemma with Frantz Loriot (viola), Christopher Hoffman (cello), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet), Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass) and Flin Van Hemmen (drums), investigating "the intricacies differentiating and combining the written and the improvised continue with further depth and chance". ... Click to View

Quin Kirchner: The Other Side Of Time [VINYL 2 LPs + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Known as a superlative sideman, Chicago drummer/percussionist Quin Kirchner's debut as a leader brings together trombonist Nick Broste, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, saxophonist Nate Lepine, pianist Ben Boye and bassist Matt Ulery for an excellent album of spiritual free playing with compositions from Sun Ra, Andrew Hill, Charles Mingus, Paul Motian, Phil Cohran, &c. ... Click to View

William Hooker Trio (Feat. Ava Mendoza / Damon Smith): Remembering [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Downtown NY drummer William Hooker leads a trio with West Coast players, Damon Smith on double bass and Ava Mendoza on guitar, for a live album at New York University in 2017 that blends free jazz and avant rock forms to create something unique and powerful, yet filled with moments of intrinsic beauty and drama, a great amalgamation of free playing. ... Click to View

Eave (Anna Webber/ Erik Hove / Vicky Mettler / Evan Tighe): Eave [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

A mix of New York and Canadian players, "Eave" is the quartet of Anna Webber and Erik Hove on saxophones, Vicky Mettler on guitar and Evan Tighe on drums, a collective abstract improvising band that uses its instruments as much for effect as for conventional playing, with commanding skill in all approaches as they surprise, bemuse and mesmerize the listener. ... Click to View

Tony Irving / Massimo Magee: The Fog [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

London scene free players since the 90s, drummer Tony Irving and alto saxophonist Massimo Magee, both of the improvisation duo Ascension, meet in the studio to record seven distinctive and quirky dialogs of strong technical skill, Irving often thundering over Magee's strangling runs and melodic diversions and asides; powerful and unpredictable. ... Click to View

Muyassar Kurdi / Nicholas Jozwiak: Intersections & Variations [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Interdisciplinary vocalist Muyassar Kurdi and Chicago-born, NY-based cellist Nicholas Jozwiak use the ambient sounds of their recording spaces in Brooklyn to add a presence to their introspective dialogs that take an almost devout approach to their calmly measured performances, making an intimate and evocative album of unorthodox improvisation. ... Click to View

Udo Schindler / Korhan Erel : leben | nebel (Creative Sources)

Live at the 66th SALON fur Klang+Kunst in Krailling, Munich, Germany finds festival leader Udo Schindler on cornet, bass, contrabass clarinet, soprano saxophone in a duo with Berlin-based Istanbul-born computer musician Korhan Erel, who designs his own unique instruments with unusual controllers, performing 9 singular dialogs of ethereal and unorthodox sound. ... Click to View

Yoko Miura / Jean-Marc Foussat: When Lowlands Consume the Space (Creative Sources)

Two approaches to keyboards from Japanese acoustic pianist Yoko Miura and keyboardist Jean-Marc Foussat (Fou Records) recording these extended and excursive improvisations in Paris in 2017, contrasting Foussat's alien and encompassing synthetic and electronic worlds with Miura's sophisticated playing inside and out of the piano. ... Click to View

Michael Winter : Approximating Omega (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Composer Michael Winter uses the "maximally complex, incomputable number" known as Chaitin's Constant, plus text adapted from Gregory Chaitin's 1994 book "The Limits Of Mathematics", samples from 36 creative musicians, the voice of Muirgen Eleonore Gourgues, plus cello from Judith Hamann and piano from Winters, to create this curious and compelling narrative work. ... 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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