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Thumbscrew (Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara / Mary Halvorson): Ours (Cuneiform Records)

The New York free improvising jazz trio Thumbscrew with long-time collaborators guitarist Mary Halvorson, double bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara in the 1st of 2 albums on the reborn Cuneiform label, here presenting creative original compositions from each of the three musicians in 9 virtuosic, sometimes quirky, and always warmly adventurous tunes. ... Click to View


Thumbscrew (Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara / Mary Halvorson): Theirs (Cuneiform Records)

The second of two albums from the reborn Cuneiform label by New York free improvising jazz trio Thumbscrew with long-time collaborators guitarist Mary Halvorson, double bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, here presenting compositions from jazz greats Benny Golson, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Nichols, Stanley Cowell, Misha Mengelberg, &c. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe / Ashley John Long : Seascapes (FMR)

Long-time collaborators, saxophonist Paul Dunmall and guitar Philip Gibbs are joined by Neil Metcalfe on flute and Ashley-John Long on bass for a concert at the Victoria Rooms, in Bristol, England in 2017, six collective improvisation of spectacular technique and inventive playing, often at very fast tempos, but always resolving to an inner calm and beauty. ... Click to View


Frode Gjerstad / John Stevens / Johnny Mbizio Dyani: Detail 83 (FMR)

A significant release from the history of the Detail trio of Frode Gjerstad on reeds, John Stevens on drums, and Johnny Dyani on bass, recorded at the Red Seahouses in Norway in 1938 during Detail's first trio tour, a smoking set of free jazz showing the power of these innovative players around the time of their first album, "Backwards and Forwards". ... Click to View


Fake Humans (Fisher / Didur): Exegesis [ VINYL] (Shhpuma)

The Toronto-based duo of Colin Fisher on woodwinds and percussion and Carl Didur on keyboards and bass bridge acoustic and electronic improv with science fiction sensibilities in their four part "Exegesis", a critical exposition of un-genred music that borrows from global sources in service to their unusual and exotic tale; a wonderfully perplexing album. ... Click to View


Jaap Blonk : Irrelevant Comments (Kontrans)

As he delves further into electronics, Netherlands vocal improviser and experimental artists Jaap Blonk finds an ever-increasing array of approaches to modify his voice and set it into alien and astounding environments, here in 16 tracks of musique concrete, sound poetry, pulse based electronics, soundscapes, and inexplicable hybrids of the same. ... Click to View


Tomomi Adachi / Jaap Blonk: Asemic Dialogues (Kontrans)

Performing together since 2004 between Tokyo and Amsterdam, Dutch vocal improviser, innovator and electronicist Jaap Blonk meets Japanese vocal improviser and fellow electronics artists Tomomi Adachi at Lettretage in Berlin in 2017, recording this, the 5th in Kontrans Electronic Improvisation, for two extended and energetic dialogs of unique creative interplay. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn : Voice and Sky [BOOK + CD] (Editions)

Sound experimenter and electroacoustic organizer Jason Kahn revisits previous works and expands on them with the book and CD release, with an essay on his approach towards public space interventions and text / sound installations, a track listing, photographs from the locations of his field recordings, and texts and prose poems to accompany the listener. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn : Space Text Sound [BOOK] (Editions)

A 244 page book documenting text material used in three of sound experimenter Jason Kahn's recent installations: "An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Hong Kong (After Perec)" (2016), "Drifting" (2016) and "Other Ghosts" (2015), emphasizing how words can convey the sense of place sounds can and how these words impart a feeling for inner spaces. ... Click to View


Sean Conly : Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)

The history of bassist Sean Conly's collaborations and releases shows a strong love of the jazz tradition and a perceptive writing style that references that tradition, heard here in free and lyrical original Conly compositions performed in the studio in a trio setting with fellow New York musicians Satoshi Takeishi on drums and Michael Attias on alto saxophone. ... Click to View


Caterina Palazzi Sudoku Killer: Asperger (Clean Feed)

A wicked hybrid of jazz, avant rock and cinematic elements, bassist Caterina Palazzi's quintet Sudoku Killer takes on the music of Disney in a suite where each track is dedicated to an antagonist from movies like "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty", performed with Giacomo Ancillotto (guitar), Maurizio Chiavaro (drums), Sergio Pomante (sax) and Antonio Raia (sax). ... Click to View


Alberto: Pinton Noi Siamo: Opus Facere (Clean Feed)

Multi-reedist and wind player Alberto Pinton's quartet Noi Siamo ("We Are") with Niklas Barno on trumpet, Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass and Konrad Agnas on drums, are caught at the Swedish Glenn Miller Cafe in Stockholm for this exciting album of knowledgable and passionate free jazz, a dynamic concert referencing Eric Dolphy, Freddy Hubbard, and Ornette Coleman. ... Click to View


Jemeel Moondoc Quartet: The Astral Revelations (RogueArt)

Saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc takes his masterful NY quartet of pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Hilliard Green, and drummer Newman Taylor Baker to perform live at Bimhuis in Amsterdam in 2016, capturing four remarkable improvisations of Moondoc compositions including an extended rendering of "Cosmic Nickelodeon", the band balancing lyricism with intensely creative playing. ... Click to View


North Of North (Pateras / Tinkler / Veltheim): North Of North (Offcompass)

The first release on pianist Anthony Pateras' new label OffCompass intended to explore a more diverse set of projects is from the North Of North trio of Anthony Pateras on piano, Scott Tinkler no trumpet, Erkki Veltheim on electric violin, using improvisation, Carnatic music, 20th and 21st century compositional strategies, mathematical theories and open forms of jazz. ... Click to View


Will Guthrie : 6 Days into 8 [CASSETTE] (Careful Catalog)

The sixth set performed during an 8-day tour of Japan in 2018 by Australian drummer / percussionist Will Guthrie (Ames Room, The Sommes Ensemble) took place at 0g in Osaka, captured here as a 32 minute set of vigorous playing tempered with introspective passages, using powerful technique and unorthodox approaches to his kit; cathartic and captivating. ... Click to View


Karl Berger: In A Moment - Music For Piano And Strings (Tzadik)

Pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger is also a professor of composition, having won numerous awards and commissions for his work, here presenting the final part of a trilogy written Tzadik, a beautiful 14-part suite for piano and string realized with Berger himself at the keys in a septet of well known NY performers including Ken Filiano, Tomas Ulrich, Jason Kao Hwang. ... Click to View


Dave Holland Feat. Evan Parker / Craig Taborn / Ches Smith: Uncharted Territories [2 CDs] (Dare2 Records)

Reuniting late bassist Dave Holland with saxophonist Evan Parker, a longtime friend from their early days in London, and joined by Craig Taborn on piano and electronics, and Ches Smith on percussion, as the group performs as a quartet and also in a variety of permutations of duo and trio configurations, for a set of rich and informed dialogs of masterful skill. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Fuck Chuck (Chadula)

An unsual album even by Chadbourne's standards, this reissue and remaster of material recorded in the 80s and 90s from his cassette series brings recordings from his noise group Chuck with Murray Reams and David Nikias together with recordings with Ut Gret (Joee Conroy and David Stilley) to create a hybrid of live experimental improv and found sounds. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Lets Get Weird But Comfortable (Chadula)

Named for an audience comment that their music was "weird but comfortable", guitarist Eugene Chadbourne's band with Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jorrit Dijkstra on saxophone, Nate McBride on bass, and Curt Newton on bass are caught live in Boston covering the music of Thelonius Monk, Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy, Duke Ellington, Doc Chad, Willie Nelson and The James Gang. ... Click to View


Omelette: Live At The JazzLab (FMR)

Australia's performing trio Omelette of Jordan Murray on trombone, Ronny Fereller on drums, and Luke Howard on piano follow up their 2014 album on Jazzhead with this live album, the trio joined by Chilean percussionist working in Melbourne Javier Fredes, for a lyrical and rhythmically rich live performance at Melbourne's JazzLab in 2017. ... Click to View


Implicate Order, The : At Seixal (Clean Feed)

The very first album from Portugal's impressive Clean Feed Records is this live album at Auditorio do Forum Cultural do Seixal from the trio of Steve Swell on trombone, Ken Filiano on bass and Lou Grassi on drums, joined by Paulo Curado on alto sax and Rodrigo Amado on baritone sax, a significant concert merging free players from two nations with profound influence on jazz music. ... Click to View


Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage: Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars: Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers: Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, and essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Seymour Wright. ... Click to View


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  John Fahey 
  Vampire Vultures  
  (Drag City) 

   review by Kurt Gottschalk
  2003-12-15

John Fahey's life was an open book. True enough, even during his life that book was at least as much a novel as it was a memoir, but it was there for all to read, its chapters doled out in liner notes, interviews and the occasionally published essay.

Fahey's influence as a guitarist cannot be understated. As far back as the early 1960s, he was taking folk and blues styles and extracting them from the limits of song form. The mass of musicians that came in his wake, from Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges to Jim O'Rourke and Loren Connors and countless others, only eclipsed his significance. His contributions to solo guitar music are lost without context, in the way that Billie Holiday or Hank Williams might now be seen as just singers. If an artist truly revolutionizes a form, their impact can be overshadowed by their influence.

Along the way, Fahey imagined his old age, his death and his posthumous reputation in the lengthy notes that came with the recordings he released on his own Tacoma record label. And just as he labelled his music "American primitive," his writing carried an unschooled honesty. His first book, How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life was largely a catalogue of romantic relationships and yearning for acceptance. Vampire Vultures follows in that vein, but expands his fanciful imaginings into a story of a childhood that could be licensed to Steven Spielberg.

In short, young Fahey - innocent, outcast and above reproach in his actions - is chosen by the Great Koonaklaster (who also has concerns about land use issues) to lead the Cat People in a battle against a plot by the Krell to eat all of the earth's people in a single sitting. It's a ridiculous story, and one that probably requires a love of Fahey's music to be bought into, but somehow it relates a moral vision and, probably more important to those likely to read it, an insight into the strange mind of a seminal and under appreciated musician.

The fabrications are hard to ignore, but they aren't the whole of the book. As soon as the evil plot of the lizard-like Krell is revealed, a darker revelation is made. At age 40, twelve years before his death in 2001, Fahey came to realize that he was sexually abused as a child. It was a time when he was lost in the world. His records during that period bordered on New Age and he was deep in psychoanalysis. His revelation - and he seemed to want people to know about it, was ugly and muddled. He often repeated a story of seeing a turtle in the yard and recognizing it as a symbol he'd adopted for a penis, in particular his father's. But the story was always a bit uncomfortable and vague, told so briefly that it felt like troubled ramblings: true, perhaps, but certainly no one's business. Here, in eight brief and painful pages, he makes the story real, and concludes that: "The church, the school, the supermarket - all institutions - all teach that it is a far greater sin to talk about incest than to commit it. Or condone it. 'Remember the Fourth Commandment.'"

Fahey's prose isn't great, but it is entertaining, and he knew how to spin a yarn. Some of the dialogues are so stilted and self-praising that they could only be tongue-in-cheek, but at other points he does a nice job of creating a tale. He brings the reader in midstream and hints at what's going on in a scene, slowly providing concrete details and leaving the reader wondering if he's really writing about the absurdities he seem to be (and generally is). Other times he mixes folk vernacular with his biting and cynical intelligence, creating parodies that carry with them a strange verity:

"One day in the sweltering summer N.W. Washington, D.C. Ecozone, har har, while Grandma was sitting beside her pet terrestrial hammerhead shark reading a copy of Animal Farm, Grandpa rose his demeanor from the book he was reading, Black Beauty, and opened his mouth and spake unto me saying, "John, I think it's about time we loaded up the car with our surf poles and tackle, and yes, yes, yes, let's go out to West Virginia and do some fishing. I hear the stripers are running in the Ohio River. And I have to go to the Moundsville Agricultural Experimental Station and make a survey."

"That's a great idea, Gramps," I offered. "I'm fer it."

"John, Jane, Catherine, Suzie, Rover, George, Al, Jane, what do you think?" He posed there in the midst of time, exposing his Aufhenen, and thus opening the matter up for all to peer. Such courage.

Then John, Jane, Catherine, Suzie, Rover, George, Al, and Jane said in conglomerate mastiglian association,

"AFFIRMATIVE."

Some passages seem genuinely autobiographical, if we are to believe the reprinted letters he penned to women for whom he pined. But his penchant for self-contradiction was never more blatant than in these pages. In another reprinted letter he writes (and apparently later editorialized) of the John Fahey Trio, the group he recorded with in his final years. "Playing in a band is a new experience for me. We have recorded some great stuff. (All enclosed.) But it is inhuman music. It contains no emotions. (7/17: Not true.)"

The prose leapfrogs from letters to dialogue to memoir, from fiction to likely fiction to passages so human that if they're not autobiographical then there's so much wool over eyes toss it in and join forces with the Krell. Of which Fahey was one, at least by upbringing. Fahey's father was a factory and his mother was a river, but he was raised by Krell, who can of course block people's thoughts so he never saw them in their true lizard form. The Krells are Christian. They've always been at war with the Jews. The Cat People (who may or may not be Jewish) fight the Krell with the promise of being rewarded in an afterlife where they can maim and pillage and rape and kill every day. And that's not even getting into Garrison Keillor's role in the plot.

It's a complicated world Fahey imagined, but then it's a complicated world in which he lived. The book is published by the Chicago record label Drag City, and it's just as well it didn't go to a proper publishing house. An editor might have missed the point of the clutter.





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