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Matthew Shipp : Magnetism(s) (RogueArt)

The creative NY jazz trio led by pianist Matthew Shipp with Rob Brown on alto sax and flute and William Parker on bass re-release and re-master their 1999 Bleu Regards album "Magnetism", a 20-part suite of concise and informed dialogs; and add a live CD of the trio recording three larger "Magnetism" improvisations capture live at the Stone, 2016. ... Click to View


Larry Ochs / Sax and Drumming Core: Wild Red Yellow (RogueArt)

Rova leader Larry Ochs takes his Sax and Drumming Core to the next level with this charged album of mind-bending album of free improvisation with an hallucinatory edge, joined by Libra artists Satoko Fujii on piano & synth and Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, with Scott Amendola on drums, William Winant and Matthias Bossi on a wild set of percussive instruments. ... Click to View


The Seen: Archive: Volumes I - V (2005 - 2009) [5-CD BOX SET] (Confront)

Since 2005 bassist and percussionist Mark Wastell has been organizing concerts of ever-changing groups of improvising musicians under the collective name The Seen, using predominantly improvised material with occasional instructions or themes, here presented in 5 CDs, each a complete concert recorded at venues including Cafe Oto, Red Rose Theatre, &c. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds [VINYL] (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Michael Foster / Ben Bennett: In It [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The second release for the duo of Ben Bennett on drums, percussions and membranophones, and Michael Foster on tenor, soprano, sopranino saxophones and aerophone, in uniquely voiced improvisations that develop both carefully and, at times, erratically, but always with an ear to interesting dialog that captivates and confuses the listener. ... Click to View


Andrew Smiley : Dispersal [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

An uncommon solo guitar album from Andrew Smiley, a member of Little Women and the Chris Pitsiokos Quartet, creating textures on the guitar by applying unconventional techniques with his pick and fingers instead of using effects or guitar preparations, and accompanying himself on voice in Haino-esque ways, creating an album of sharp contrast and color. ... Click to View


Emmanuelle Waeckerle : Ode (owed) to O [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

London-based composer Emmanuelle Waeckerle in a project of spoken word, flute and melodica with contributors including Antoine Beuger, using minimal and multiple narrations in texts that blend erotic literature, conceptual writing and verbal scores, presented as 2 Scores for voice(s) and instrument(s) based upon Pauline Reage's "Story of O". ... Click to View


HMS (Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Erich Steiger): Tetrad [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Blurring the lines between experimental music, improv, and composition, the trio of Joe Houpert, Nathan McLaughlin, and Erich Steiger use the studio to rework their improvisations, accenting aspects of the acoustic and electronic elements and morphing them in unexpected ways; "think Henry Flynt meets Cluster meets Revolutionary Ensemble". ... Click to View


W-2 (Sam Weinberg / Chris Welcome): Fanatics [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The Brooklyn duo of saxophonist Sam Weinberg (Captain Phillips) and synth player Chris Welcome (Chris Pitsiokos, Mike Pride) in an album of abrasive, rhythmically abraded and contorted electro-acoustic improvisation, each player embedding themselves into each other's sound, at time making their instruments indistinguishable from one another. ... Click to View


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 brings 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


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Op-Ed (Opinions and Editorials)


  Ameri-chord: Johnny Cash Remembered  

Amer-chord - Johnny Cash & June Carter
By Skip Heller

In 1964, Johnny Cash recorded the Bitter Tears album, which made known his feelings about Native Americans. Its centerpiece was his hit version of Peter LaFarge's "Ballad Of Ira Hayes," a brilliant, accusatory song about the Pima Indian who was one of the five men to raise the flag at Iwo Jima, came home to less than fanfare, and died drunk in 1955 at the age of 33.

The Pima tribe inhabited a piece of Arizona not far outside Tuscon. They were a peaceful tribe who farmed well enough to sustain their food needs, until their water rights were taken from them and everything they worked for was either killed off by dry heat or was taken from them outright. But Ira Hayes felt a duty to his country, enlisted, went to fight for the good old USA, and became a decorated American hero. You can guess how glorious his life was upon returning. One night Ira Hayes fell drunk into an irrigation ditch and froze to death in cold water.

I saw that land had a gig in Tuscon in May 2002, driving southeast from Los Angeles on the way to a gig in Tuscon.

Los Angeles in spring is paradise. The sky is visible and wide, the mountains pose for postcards, freeways open and you realize how vast our country is. It is beautiful as long as you don't go too far east. That's when the oasis turns back into the desert from which it was carved. LA to Tuscon is about eight hours of driving, and the first four or five are gorgeous.

Arizona comes on the heels of a fairly ugly piece of southeastern California, and has nothing to recommend it upon entry. As you drive in a little more, the Indian reservation stores - with tax-free cigarettes - pop up. Past Phoenix towards Tuscon, you see a rest stop with wall displays that tell the story of Ira Hayes and the Pima tribe. Sort of.

The tale they tell is some "see Dick run" shit and says nothing about the kind of man Ira Hayes was - to forgive what had been done to his tribe and enlist in the Marines. And they certainly said nothing of his death and who helped that tragic process along. The Pima Indians, in recent years, are noted for diabetes (studies have shown that one out of two adults suffers from Type II) and morbid obesity. It seems that, when their right to water was stolen and they could no longer grown their own crops, they had to adopt a "western" diet, which did egregious things to their bodies.

I have a thing about Cash. Maybe it's because the only actual day he spent in jail was the very day I was born, October 4, 1965. Cash was popped at the El Paso border checkpoint. He was trying to smuggle several thousand amphetamine capsules across the border from Mexico.

If you've ever brought contraband through a Mexican border crossing, you know the drill. I got pulled out of the car once, holding a hundred 600 mg Ibuprofen capsules, sold over the counter in the local farmacia but illegal without a presciption in the USA. Fortunately, the border cops didn't look far inside a gym bag of clean clothes (although they were very thorough with the dirty clothes, the guitar case, and the glove compartment).

Mexico was wide open in '65, so Johnny - then no stranger to intense amphetamine procurement - probably thought nothing of it until they slapped the cuffs on.

June Carter - who he married and who died May 15th of post-operatory complications - got him cleaned up, helped him find religion, and helped him realize certain dreams that were not in reach for most country singers in the sixties. June was born into the Carter Family - a major American Music dynasty if there ever was one - but had enough brains and ability to keep herself from being defined by her legendary mother, Maybelle Carter. She had a viable career in country music, then chucked it and went to New York, where she joined the Actor's Studio (director Elia Kazan - who died just 16 days after Cash - sponsored her enrollment), and finally returned to the Carter Family. They became part of Johnny Cash's touring show in 1961; by '63 June was in love enough with Cash - then totally out of control on pills - to write a song, "Ring Of Fire" about it.

Johnny Cash burst onto the scene in 1955 with "Cry Cry Cry." He came not from a Nashville major but that most venerable of indie labels, Sun, the Memphis label that had at about the same time sold Elvis' contract to RCA for an unprecedented $30,000. RCA would soon enough begin trying to make sister Anita Carter into a rock'n'roll star as part of a trio called Nita, Rita, and Lita. June was at the time married to country star Carl Smith, whose "You Are The One" is a classic of the period. They would have a daughter, Carlene, who later married British pop singer Nick Lowe.

If you can find photos of country singers of the period, you notice that 1950s Nashville had nobody like Johnny Cash. Look at George Morgan, Webb Pierce, Porter Wagoner or the great Lefty Frizzell. They're colorful, extroverted. Cash was hard-looking, introverted, and dressed in black.

Similarly, listen to the typical male country singers of the period. The biggest was Eddy Arnold, a human Hallmark card. Singers like him and Marty Robbins forecasted the "countrypolitan" movement to come and paved the middle of the road for Nashville easy listening artists like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and Floyd Cramer.

Honky-tonk, on the other hand, was nowhere near so repulsive. This was a harder Southern urban sound, with walking electric bass, and a cracking drumbeat that cut through the din in bars and dancehalls. All the guitars were electric, too. Webb Pierce's fantastic "Honky Tonk Song" was not hill music, although his voice stayed in close touch with the high lonesome sound. "Honky Tonk Song" was a 12-bar blues streamlined in Nashville, and it's not wussy music.

To my ear, Cash was most influenced by Ernest Tubb. Both made unpolished, minimalist records. Tubb was from Texas, and sang in a low, craggy voice. His records of the '40s are very proto-Cash, with sparse electric guitar up front. Cash covered Tubb's "Thanks A Lot" while he was still on Sun, and you can hear how close to Tubb Cash really was.

Cash was not immediately invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, but Louisiana Hayride, which was more at home than the Opry with mavericks, like Elvis Presley, Jimmy Martin, and a few others who were a little dangerous.

The more famous Cash got, the more rebellious he seemed. He left Sun because he wanted a higher royalty and to make thematic LPs. The subject of royalties is always dangerous, and LPs were then a novelty for country singers. In 1957, Cash became the first artist to have an LP on Sun. The following year, Cash had a new album out - on Columbia.

As his success elevated, Cash became a speed freak. This was common in country music back then. Lots of driving, being on the road 250+ days a year, often having to drive back from wherever you were to be back in Nashville to do the Opry or Shreveport, LA to do Hayride. Early morning broadcasts after playing 'til midnight or later 300 miles away from where you did your morning broadcast were common. It was a rough life, and the pay wasn't great. But it was the job, and benzedrine helped many get it done.

In those days, tour buses were a rarity. Bands traveled by car. If they were lucky, they had a station wagon and a little trailer. You'd strap the upright bass to the roof. Cash and his band made about $150 per week each on the 1961 package tour. June Carter fell in love with Johnny Cash under these conditions, which speaks volumes about his appeal and her intestinal fortitude. It sure wasn't about the money.

Very few artists can achieve some of their highest achievements in their art while being up to their eyeballs in chemicals. But Cash was on an artistic roll through the 1960s, before, during, and after the period of his El Paso arrest, with groundbreaking thematic LPs. He also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, where he finally met Bob Dylan, whose "It Ain't Me Babe" Cash had been performing for some time.

In 1968, he recorded the Live In Folsom Prison album, followed shortly after by Live At San Quentin, which contained "A Boy Named Sue", his biggest hit of the decade. He was not new to playing prisons - Merle Haggard was a member of the captive audience when Cash performed at Quentin in 1959, and said afterwards that the sheer force of Cash's performance turned his life around. By 1968, largely because of June carter, Cash had turned his own life around, trading drugs for fundamentalist Christianity. Whatever works.

Around that time, Cash got his own network TV show, pretty much unheard of for country artists at that time. Unlike other music shows of the time, his show was often a showcase for cutting edge music of the time. His guests included Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and even Bob Dylan, who at that point was largely allergic to TV cameras. But Cash was held in such high artistic regard that someone like a Dylan or a Joni would do TV if he asked.

Because of his celebrity at that point, June Carter's contributions are usually reduced to her appearances on records like "Jackson" and "If I Were Carpenter". But it was she who first told Johnny about a janitor at the Columbia recording studio who was writing songs. His name was Kristoffer Kristofferson.

People don't recognize it now, but Kristofferson was a threat to Nashville's status quo. Cash was tough enough for the local establishment to deal with, but he came from nothing, and Nashville always likes a Cinderella story.

Through the 1950s, Nashville's GNP was not music but insurance. It's nickname (self-imposed, I'm sure) was "the Athens of the South." Nashville has Vanderbilt University and a full-scale replica of the Parthenon.

Kris Kristofferson was a former Air Force pilot, Golden Gloves boxer, and a Rhodes Scholar. And he chucked it all to go starve in Nashville. I'm sure the attitude towards Kristofferson in Nashville was that local society would be better off with less songwriters and more Rhodes Scholars.

Kristofferson was a longhair from Texas, and his songs were a little raw by the standards of the time, which were getting a too loose for the locals anyway. Texans had always been a problem, ever since Bob Wills brought drums to the Opry stage and Floyd Tillman wrote unapologetically about cheating. Kristofferson lines like "the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad so I had one more for desert" did not fit the image makeover Nashville was going for, which was typified by the string-drenched records of former honky tonk great Ray Price. But Cash was all-powerful. And June Carter was the power behind him.

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" was a remarkable song, and Cash turned in a performance that came from hard-won field research, and it was a hit. Cash started doing tunes like "Cocaine Blues."

Cash was definitely the only '50s country performer who could fit in with the 60's songwriters. June Carter, who was a very intelligent woman but who was also duty bound to country music tradition because of her family, was likely the key to his ability to expand so gracefully while never forgetting who Johnny Cash was.

The '70s were scattershot for Cash. The hits didn't dry up completely, but he was no longer a constant on the country charts. He became something of an actor, and made The Gospel Road, a documentary about him in the Holy Land. There was a Christian comic book chronicling his fight with pills. He played a great many benefits for Native Americans, especially in Arizona.

Johnny Cash and June Carter had come into that Louis Armstrong place where they were genre symbols about as much as they were musicians who still occasionally had hits. By the 80s, Cash had been dropped by Columbia, who refused to grant him the respect they gave Miles Davis. So Cash went to Mercury, and, for the first time, put out a few shitty records. He also teamed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kristofferson for a group called The Highwaymen, who had a few hits but nothing all that memorable.



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