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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo attempts bring new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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  Berlitz Jazz  

David Murray's Musical Travels


By Kurt Gottschalk 2003-12-15

David Murray
[Photo: Kurt Gottschalk]
David Murray took the stage at one of the most prestigious halls in New York City in mid October. The room itself was the beautiful new Zankel Hall, but this was nevertheless Carnegie Hall, which no matter what – even when pop brothers Hanson rent it – is a statement.

Less than a decade ago, Murray was living in Brooklyn, leading a big band Monday nights at the Knitting Factory and playing well lubricated gigs at the Village Vanguard and other spots around town. Despite being one of the best jazz horn players alive, he was another New York gigging musician.

But times change, and now his appearances in town, once or twice a year at best, are events. On this night, it was the 10 string players - in addition to his quartet of pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Hamid Drake - that made the gig a concert proper. But even if this was Carnegie Hall and even if the string players were in concert black, the only orchestra Murray was taking cues from was the Love Unlimited. And while he didn't mention Philadelphia, he alluded to his other musical journeys of recent years.

"My quartet is the core of my explorations in Africa and the Carribean," he said from the stage. "We've traveled many miles together and we have many more miles to travel."

Murray's sculpting of events in part relies on a fonder heart borne of absence. But it's also – or would seem to be – by design, part of a master plan. When asked after a rehearsal for his Cuban Big Band's appearance at the Knitting Factory in January why he doesn't play in New York anymore, he said simply "That's by design."

It's also logistics. Murray left New York to live in France in 1995, where he and his wife Valerie Malot run 3D Family Productions. Since then, his performances in the town he called home for some 25 years haven't been gigs, they've been concerts: proper halls, thematic programming, and ticket prices to match. He brought a big band to Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem to play the music of Duke Ellington and appeared with his octet on Broadway for a performance with the dance troupe Urban Bushwomen.

And after three score and more cds leading dozens of musicians through his insightful arrangements of the jazz repertoire, Murray announced his retirement from jazz around the time he left New York, saying he would focus his efforts on musical traditions of other cultures. That and the move to Paris marked his fall from New York jazz darling, our own anti-Marsalis, to an outsider, someone whose name most often elicits responses like "Is that guy still around?" and "Oh yeah, what's he been up to?"

But for Murray, the musician's life in New York was getting worse, with fewer places to play and less opportunity to get paid.

"It seemed kind of a void, like things were going to change for the worse," he said. "The musicians didn't really want to stand up for their rights - the right to play anywhere they want to, to be creative. New York has always been the most creative city in the world. Conservatism had taken over jazz."

To sidestep that conservatism, Murray became a world traveler. In a tradition dating back to Dizzy Gillespie, Murray began looking to sounds from other cultures to feed his jazz. He's borrowed from the Carribean (Creole, released in 1998), Guadalupe (Yonn-De, from 2002) and now, Gillespie's beloved Cuba on the new Now is Another Time (released, like the others, on the Canadian label Justin Time).

"I'm not in everybody's faces," he said. "I'm in different people's faces all over the world. My mind is so far from New York at the moment. It's nice to be here, but I don't care to live here. I'm having the ball of my life right now."

The Cuban jazz he brought to the Knitting Factory shows that spirit. It's infectiously fun. But while the record was made with Cuban musicians (along with a few of his regular collaborators), the New York shows were a reunion of his old big band days, meaning pulling the musicians together and running charts with limited rehearsal time before the four-night stand.

Sixteen people, a baby grand, drums, congas, an upright bass, three trombones crossing over music stands, a five-strong sax section plus the bandleader and his unrivaled tenor were crowded onto the stage, the same stage where he held court on Monday nights for a good chunk of the '90s with his big band, often under the conduction of Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris. Rolls of sheet music fell from Murray's stand as he sang "New York, OK," then called "Sad Kind of Love."

"Ok, so y'all gotta groove with that," Murray said to the band. "It's weird, but ya gotta groove. You could even put it into a rock thing if you want - pah pah pah - but it's gotta lock. What's happening here is we're playing a ballad, and it's not going to get fast."

Much of his conducting during the rehearsal involved pointing heavenward with his right hand - always up, always more. Whatever project Murray takes on, he's unlikely to demand less than fire from is band. The band ran through some unmistakable Murray heads, vintage even, the pure sugar of albums like Shakill's Warrior, but with a Latin backbeat.

Whatever the influence, the Cuban here or the other "world music" projects he's taken on, the music swings. Taking the jazz out of David Murray would be something like taking the soft out of a pillow.

"It's jazz," he later affirmed. "It's my way of trying to seize something Latin inside what I'm doing.

"I started out studying the rhythms of the drums," he said. "I'm not a master of it. I just tried to study the masters." He cites Cuban pianist Monolito Simonet and flutist Jose Luis Cortez (who appears on the new record) as some of the sources to which he's been turning.

"It's not just me blowing my horn," he said. "You're going to countries, pacing out the project. I'm learning and I'm teaching. It takes me away from the mundaneness of what jazz has become. I think my life is a lot more exciting than a lot of jazz players."

Asked if he thinks he's fitting more into a world music than a jazz mold lately, he was careful not to commit.

"I haven't played at that many world music festivals, so I guess not," he said. "As long as I'm playing the jazz festivals, I guess what I'm doing is jazz. The European community is putting more white in it on the one side, I'm putting black in on the other. Me being an African, it's probably the truest thing I can do."

Still, he said, following the rhythms of the African diaspora isn't his sole ambition.

"I'm interested in China," he said. "There's so many curiosities in the world, for me to focus just on "I Got Rhythm" is kind of stupid."

But if his concert at the Knitting Factory was a cross pollinization, the Carnegie Hall night was pure jazz; if he was following in the tradition of Diz before, here he was touching on something that goes back to Charlie Parker with Strings. They played Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," a piece dedicated to Curtis Mayfield and a second for John Coltrane, in which Murray went from 1958 to 1966 in the first two minutes, eclipsed Trane altogether from a moment, then landed squarely in the early Impulse! years and worked his way to 1968.

It's with no false modesty that he takes on Trane, and he can kick it with Prez and Bean, too. And when he skips across them all like a stone across the surface of a pond, that's pure Murray. He sells big ideas, and in the end you can't blame him for whatever it takes to get him where he's going. But ultimately it isn't big ideas he delivers. It's a variety of pastiches and facades, borrowings and labellings with the same saxophone he's been playing for decades. Which may sound like harsh criticism, but it isn't, for the simple reason that Murray is still about the best saxophonist in jazz. He's easily the most dextrous and soulful, and that's what he's paid for. He's not a conceptualist, and he's not even a great composer. Out of the scores of pieces he's composed, only a handful are really memorable (and perhaps only "Hope Scope" is truly great). But his huge tone and his rich soulfulness, not to mention his equally great bass clarinet playing, have been one of the pure treasures in jazz for three decades. The rest is just window dressing.

And somewhere, behind all the dedications and below the Ben Webster hat, Murray seems to know it.

"I believe in the past," he said. "You have to study the past to have a strong future. The history of jazz is so short, why not know everything?"



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