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District Five (Ruegg / Svosve / Huter / Amereller): Decoy (Intakt)

Lyrical and creative modern jazz from the young Swiss quartet of Xaver Ruegg on double bass, Tapiwa Svosve on alto saxophone, synths, electronics, Vojko Huter on guitar, synths, electronics, and Paul Amereller on drums, members of the Gamut Kollektiv and aiming to extend conventional acoustic improvisational forms with rich sonic additions and modern grooves. ... Click to View


Metamorphic: The Two Fridas (Discus)

This excellent London-based contemporary jazz/folk sextet formed in 2011, the instrumentalists having met at Middlesex University in 2001, and adding vocalist Kerry Andrew (Juice), pianist Laura Cole composing most of the music and text based on her personal experiences; pieces include two collective improvs and 2 reworkings of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman". ... Click to View


Chris Meloche / Martin Archer / Gino Robair / Lyn Hodnett: The Sincerity Of Light (Discus)

The quartet of Canadian electronics composer Chris Meloche, label leader Martin Archer on woodwinds and electronics, who orchestrated these pieces, performed with improvsations from Gino Robair on percussion and electronics and Lyn Hodnett on voice, a 3 part work of rich interactive loops, drones and soundscape, ranging from spine-chilling to lush and lovely environments. ... Click to View


Eclectic Maybe Band: The Blind Night Watchers' Mysterious Landscapes (Discus)

Univers Zero bassist Guy Seger brought this eclectic group of improvisers into the studio to develop the music on this genre-defying album, informed by a sextet of musicians who have performed and recorded with projects and artists including Vanishing Pictures, X-Legged Sally, Wrong Object, Tony Levin, Tony Bianco, Paul Schutze, Trevor Watts, Zeena Parkins, Jim O'Rourke, &c. ... Click to View


Martin Archer & Engine Room Favourites: Safety Signal From A Target Town (Discus)

Saxophonist Martin Archer composed the five works on this, the 3rd release for Engine Room Favorites, his AACM-influenced big band with a tremendous orchestration of horns with drums, vibes, piano and bass, here with their most complex yet melodic and rich, including melodic elements of folk music, powerful rhythms from prog-oriented rock, and free improv and jazz. ... Click to View


Laura Steenberge : Harmonica Fables (Nueni)

A truly unique album of solo harmonica and voice from Bay Area performer and composer Laura Steenberge, who's studies in folk music, psycholinguistics, acoustics and medieval Byzantine chant brings a sense of the ancient to modern experimentalism, transforming the instrument in a variety of illusive ways that are both enigmatic and entirely embraceable. ... Click to View


Florian Stoffner / Albert Cirera: I'm A Resonant Aircraft (Creative Sources)

Swiss electric guitarist Florian Stoffner (Manuel Mengis Grupp) and Spanish/Portuguese saxophonist Albert Cirera (Agusti Fernandez Liquid Trio) present the 8 part "IRMA" in concise free improvisations, restrained but alert and quick-witted dialogs that explore their instruments with alternate approaches to each in articulate ways. ... Click to View


Niklas Fite / Alexander Frangenheim: Sugar Is A Necessary Fluid (Creative Sources)

Two string players, Swedish acoustic guitarist and banjo player Niklas Fite, and German double bassist Alexander Frangenheim, recording in the studio in Berlin in 2017 for 10 succinct improvisations ranging from quick interactive discourse of a pointillistic nature to near silent meditations using unusual and extended techniques, a quirky and informed album. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Gene Moore / Gene Janas / Federico Ughi: Morfina [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (577)

First conceived during the 2016 Forward Festival when noise guitarist Gene Moore and NYC experimental bassist Gene Janas invited noted avant-garde drummer Federico Ughi for the second part of their set, the results being so impressive that they asked saxophonist Paul Flaherty to join them to record this album and to perform at the Forward Festival 2017. ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / Tobias Wilner / Djibril Toure / Federico Ughi: New York United [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (577)

An excellent blend of electronics and acoustics as saxophonist, flutist and trumpeter Daniel Carter meets sound artist Tobias Wilner from world-renowned electronic pop band Blue Foundation, with Wu-Tang Clan bass player Djibril Toure and drum wiz Federico Ughi rounding out this forward-thinking album of hazy and rhythmic electroacoustic environments. ... Click to View


Silvan Schmid Quintet: At Gamut (Hatology)

Swiss trumpeter Silvan Schmid is a cofounder of the Gamut Kollektiv, organizing festivals and concerts, here caught live in 2016 at Gamut Series No 1 at Amboss Rampe in Zurich with his own quintet of Tapiwa Svosve on sax, Silvan Jeger on cello, Vincent Glanzmann on drums, and Lucas Wirz on tuba performing 6 Schmid compositions of profoundly lyrical free jazz. ... Click to View


Bucher / Tan / Countryman: Tributary (Self Released)

American ex-pat and Philippines-based alto saxophonist Rick Countryman joins with Philippines bassist Simon Tan and visiting Swiss drummer Christian Bucher to capture this live concert in the that starts by paying homage to Eric Dolphy, amongst a strong set of jazz and blues influenced numbers and the two part building and flowing "Tributary". ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman: Estuary (Self Released)

A live concert in the Philippines from American expatriate saxophonist Rick Countryman and visiting Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, a classic free jazz drum and sax duo informed by creative playing and superb rhythmic interplay, balancing lyrical progressions with a wonderful stream of concepts, this is a great example of the far reach of free jazz. ... Click to View


Sabu Toyozumi / Rick Countryman / Simon Tan / Stella Ignacio / Isla Antinero: JYA-NE (Self Released)

Four configurations of free jazz recorded live during a vist by trombonist Sabu Toyozumi to Manila: first in a duo with alto saxophonist Rick Countryman; then in a duo with drummer and erhu player Sabu Toyozumi; then expanded to a quintet with vocalist Stella Ignaci and electric bassist Simon Tan; and last as a free jazz trio with Countryman, Tan, and Toyzumi. ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith: Thought Experiment (Evil Clown)

The core trio of Leap of Faith Orchestra--David Peck on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussion--joined by Mimi Rabson on violin, the quartet recording with the full Leap of Faith Orchestra arsenal of instruments; plus an expanded LOF recording of the Orchestra work "Possible Worlds". ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith: Gravitation (Evil Clown)

The core of Leap of Faith Orchestra--David Peck on reeds and winds, Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums & percussion-- joined by Eric Zinman on piano, recorded at Outpost 186 in Cambridge, MA, where Evil Clown has a residency on the third Saturday of each month, presenting a variation of subunits one of their larger units. ... Click to View


PEK Solo: Fulcrum (Evil Clown)

Extracting the leader from a multitude of ensembles, David Peck's solo album has him performing on tenor saxophone, bass saxophone, clarinet, contraalto clarinet, bassoon, tarota, hand chimes, accordion, [d]ronin, wood, metal, aquasonic, daxophone, Atlantis gong, plus pre-recorded mixes adding a "soloist with tape" aspect to his complex and rich performance. ... Click to View


Turbulence: Amorphous Solids (Evil Clown)

Turbulence is the extended horn section for the Leap of Faith Orchestra, a varying-sized ensemble, recording here at Boston area's Outpost 196 as a quartet with PEK on reeds, Bob Moores on trumpet and Dan O'Brien on sax, clarinets & flutes, all playing an assortment of percussive devices, with Leap of Faith core member Yuri Zbitnoff as a dedicated percussionist. ... Click to View


Metal Chaos Ensemble: Shape Memory (Evil Clown)

Wind player David Peck and percussionist Yuri Zbitnoff formed Metal Chaos Ensemble to explore chaotic rhythms on metallic instruments, employing an arsenal of percussion, electronic and wind instruments, becoming one of Evil Clown's most prolific sub-units, here with Bob Moores on space trumpet & guitar, Eric Woods on analog synth, and Eric Zinman on percussion. ... Click to View


Mekaniks: The Great Klown Panik of 2017 - Klownpocalypse (Evil Clown)

A collaboration of Leap of Faith members, percussionist Yuri Zbitnov, multi-reedist and wind player David Peck, with guests from the Evil Clown roster, adding electroacoustic elements including looping, sampling and electronic processing to their improvisation, here with Joel Simches on real-time signal processing, alongside sound artists Greg Grinnell & Bob Moores. ... Click to View


Anthony Braxton : Braxton: (Willisau) 1991 Studio [2 CDs] (Hatology)

Reissuing and remastering the two studio albums from the 1992 4-CD boxset of Anthony Braxton's Quartet with Marily Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (double bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums & marimba) recording in Willisau, Switzerland, realizing 10 Braxton numbered compositions with masterful skill and virtuosity, an exceptional set of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Matthew Shipp : Symbol Systems (Hatology)

Originally issued in 1995 on the No More Records label, this was New York pianist Matthew Shipp's 6th release as a leader and first solo album, still a rarity in his discography, as we hear Shipp in 14 succinct improvisation that explore texture, tone, and his frameworks that embrace a structured approach to theoretical aspects of the music with warmth and lyricism. ... Click to View


Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt... And More Dirt (Pi Recordings)

Composer, saxophonist and flutist Henry Threadgill presents 2 full-length works for his 15 piece band "14 or 15 Kestra: Agg", as he explores new ways of integrating composition with group improvisation, here using an entirely new system of improvisation based on preconceived series of intervals realized in multi-layered counterpoint, rigorous polyphony, and timbral contrasts. ... Click to View


Henry Threadgill : Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (Pi Recordings)

Composer Henry Threadgill's Double Up band does not include Threadgill himself, but for this second release with the group he adds a 3rd piano (also doubling on harmonium) alongside two alto saxophones, cello, tuba, drums and percussion, the octet performing Threadgill's complex yet effortlessly intricate and distinctive compositions that allow his performers to shine. ... Click to View


Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (Intakt)

Fifty years after pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach joined the Manfred Schoof Quintet with the Peter Brotzmann Trio and named it the Globe Unity Orchestra, the ensemble is larger and stronger than ever, here celebrating the milestone in a band of 18 of the globe's most impressive improvisers, recorded live in a commanding concert at Jazzfest Berlin 2016. ... Click to View


Espen Eriksen Trio w/ Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy (Rune Grammofon)

Pianist Espen Eriksen's Trio with bassist Lars Tormod Jenset and drummer Andreas Bye in their third album of melodic and inventive creative jazz, here with 8 new lyrical pieces informed by their extensive touring, and charged by the addition of legendary UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard, for whom Eriksen wrote a set of tunes tailored to his playing. ... Click to View


Espen Eriksen Trio w/ Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy [VINYL + CD] (Rune Grammofon)

Pianist Espen Eriksen's Trio with bassist Lars Tormod Jenset and drummer Andreas Bye in their third album of melodic and inventive creative jazz, here with 8 new lyrical pieces informed by their extensive touring, and charged by the addition of legendary UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard, for whom Eriksen wrote a set of tunes tailored to his playing. ... Click to View


Joe Talia: Tint [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Known more as a drummer than a composer, Australian-born and Tokyo-relocated Joe Talia composed and organized this two-part, album-length electroacoustic composition using his skills as a percussionist. performing on modular synths and tape machines, and using his vast studio skills as an engineer and producer to create these impressive electronic works. ... Click to View


Variable Geometry Orchestra: Ma'adim Vallis [2 CDS] (Creative Sources)

Two mesmerizing, diverse, and incredibly sophisticated large scale conductions led by Ernesto Rodrigues and an ensemble of more than 30 performers on reeds, guitars, strings, electronics, pianos, voice, megaphone, brass, drums and percussion, rich yet restrained with moments of mystery and excitement, in two complete concerts from Lisbon in 2017 & 2018. ... Click to View


Christoph Schiller / Eric Ruffing: Trance (Creative Sources)

Finding common ground between the acoustic past and the electronic present, the duo of Christoph Schiller on spinet and Eric Ruffing on analogue synthesizer present two extended improvisations of tempered interaction, exploring periods of extended sound, timbre and decay, scrabbling inside playing, restrained electronic whines, and active pointillistic playing. ... Click to View


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  Guelph's Caring Adventure  

The Little Engine in Ontario


By Mike Chamberlain
Photos: Michael E.J. Powers, 2003 2003-12-18

The Guelph Jazz Festival might be thought of as The Little Festival That Could. Could what? Well, bring high calibre non-mainstream jazz and improvised music to a small university town and make it an important part of the community’s cultural calendar, for one. For ten years now, the festival’s artistic director, Ajay Heble, and his cadre of volunteers have made Guelph, an hour west of Toronto, a good place to be during the week following Labor Day.

This was my fifth visit to the Guelph festival. On my first visit, I was captivated by the charm of the town, the friendliness of the people, and the manner in which the music was presented. None of that has changed over the years, but Heble’s ambitions have grown along with the festival’s budget. This year, the centerpiece of the program was a jazz opera by pianist/composer D.D. Jackson and poet George Elliott Clarke commissioned by Heble. Also on the program were performances by Evan Parker, Steve Lacy, Myra Melford, Mark Dresser, the Willem Breuker Kollektief, and the Peggy Lee Band. As usual, Saturday afternoon featured a number of free concerts in a tent in the city’s downtown shopping area.

The colloquium, which runs from Wednesday to Friday, gives the public a chance to participate in some of the academic discourses around jazz and improvised music. It is a vital component of the festival, and one that sets it apart from other events of its kind. Keynote addresses this year were given by Georgina Born of Cambridge University and Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid.

Jerry Granelli
Jerry Granelli
The music began on Wednesday evening with a performance by Iron Sky, who are Halifax percussionist Jerry Granelli and bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly. Besides a normal trap set, Granelli works with metal sound sculptures designed by Nova Scotia blacksmith John Little. Working with the acoustics of the Macdonald-Stewart Art Centre, Granelli coaxed mid-range overtones out of Little’s creations, while Reilly played against those tones. The duo seemed a bit timid, with the concert not quite living up to the results of their album, Love Slave. Nevertheless, the performance had some touching moments.

Thursday afternoon’s performance by Myra Melford and Canadian violist Tanya Kalmanovitch, also at the MSAC, had flashes of spark, but ultimately faltered due to a certain paucity of ideas, with Kalmanovitch, who shares a fascination for Indian music with Melford, clearly out of her league. Too often, the improvisations ended up revolving around what sounded like Broadway show themes.

Evan Parker’s solo performance in the sanctuary of St. George’s Anglican Church on Thursday evening was an undisputed highlight of the festival. Working with the acoustic properties of the deep nave and high ceiling, Parker, especially on soprano saxophone, piled overtones one on top of another in an arresting display of control. While Parker’s soprano playing might have seemed a little cold to some, the gorgeous tone of his tenor contained worlds of emotion. This was the first time I had seen Parker solo — unforgettable.

The Willem Breuker Kollektief was, alas, just as I remembered them from my previous two experiences: tight, precise, and too much shtick. The only thing that kept them away from excesses such as the dog act was the size of the stage. Not my cup of tea, and, I suspect, it never will be.

Raw Materials, the duo of pianist Vijay Ayer and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, were in synch right from the beginning of their Friday noon concert at Macdonald-Stewart. Working in tight unison much of the time, Maranthappa’s keening sound was balanced by Iyer’s darker-hued tonalities. This was the second time in two months that I was fortunate enough to see them. (I had seen them at the Montreal jazz festival in late June.) If anything, the second performance was even more satisfying both artistically and emotionally than the first.

The trio of Evan Parker, Sarah Peebles (electronics), and Nilan Perera (guitar) on Friday afternoon at the MSAC were a bit hit-and-miss, though Parker and Perera found much common ground in exploring microtonal possibilities, with Peebles having a bit of trouble finding a groove that jived with the other two.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Kalaparush and the Light, who performed at the Guelph Youth Music Centre in a late afternoon performance on Friday. The trio — Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre (tenor), Jesse Dulman (tuba), and Ravish Momin (drums) — are apparently a street band. (From what I gathered, they have all spent a fair bit of time playing on the streets of New York City.) As the performance went along, the cohesion improved, with McIntyre and Dulman picking up on each other’s melodic ideas, but unfortunately, the three often sounded as though they were playing on three different street corners.

Friday evening was taken up by the premiere of Quebecité, the afore-mentioned collaboration by D.D. Jackson and George Elliott Clarke commissioned by the festival. Billed as a jazz opera, the piece, an interracial love story that dealt with the dynamics of marginalized voices in a multicultural context, did for the most part adhere to the dictates of both forms. The music, played by a promising quintet of Jackson, John Geggie (bass), Jean Martin (drums) and Peggy Lee (cello) was definitely jazz, most of it fairly hard-driving at that. And the singers — Dean Bowman, Yoon Choi, Haydain Neale, and Kiran Ahluwalia — were operatic, in that they sang all of their lines. Unfortunately, the singers were buried much of the time in the sound mix, and technical snafus had their microphones cutting in and out. As a result, much of the message in the libretto was lost; the audience got little more than a broad-brush exploration of the libretto’s themes.

Steve Lacy’s solo set at the Guelph Youth Music Centre on Saturday morning was an affecting performance with intimations of mortality. Lacy alternated his own compositions with those of Thelonious Monk. He also employed a piano as a not-quite-silent partner, with a block depressing the sustain pedal, which produced subtle overtones as the air from Lacy’s soprano hit the strings. For most of the performance, Lacy stood at the front of the stage, but on one piece, Lacy placed the block so that it held the sustain pedal all the way down and then played into the body of the piano. I’m not a fan of encores, but Lacy’s version of “Crepuscule With Nellie” made me glad I hadn’t followed my usual practice of leaving the room before the encore.

Most of Saturday afternoon was taken up by a double concert, again at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. First up were the Peggy Lee Band, a sextet led by cellist Lee, playing her compositions that evoked those of Robin Holcomb and Bill Frisell’s neo-Americana. Particularly strong among the soloists were trumpeter Brad Turner and guitarist Tony Wilson.

Denman Maroney
Denman Maroney
Mark Dresser’s trio with pianist Denman Maroney and flautist Matthias Ziegler comprised the second half of the double bill. The music was paradoxically spare yet intricate at the same time, equally concerned with tonal and thematic development. An added bonus was the inclusion of three short films for which the group provided the live soundtrack in the second half of the concert.

Saturday evening at Chalmers United Church saw the final double concert of the festival. The trio of Myra Melford, Mark Taylor (French horn), and Bourque Simmons (soprano voice) was more precious and pretentious than penetrating. However, the quartet of Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Jean-Jacques Avenel and John Betsch gave a fully-realized performance. Drummer Betsch and (especially) bassist Avenel were astoundingly inventive in their roles, while Lewis (on trombone) and Lacy were very subtle in their exploration of melody. The quartet played a mix of older Lacy pieces such as “The Bath” and “The Rent” as well as compositions from the recent Beat Suite Quintet recording inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, and a new, unfinished piece titled “Baghdad.” In the absence of Irene Aebi, who was home battling a throat infection, Lacy read the beat poetry between the musical pieces, an approach that took nothing away from either the poetry or the music.

Evan Parker
Evan Parker
A tribute to writer Paul Haines, which took place on Sunday morning, was the final performance I attended. (A seven-hour drive precluded my seeing the duo of Martin Tetreault and percussionist Jesse Stewart that evening.) Coda editor Stuart Broomer, making a return to performance after approximately two decades, hosted the tribute, reminiscing about Haines, who died earlier this year, reading some of his work, and singing a Haines poem while accompanying himself on guitar. Guelph-based percussionist Jesse Stewart told a funny Haines story about Tony Oxley’s stool and did a short solo piece. He was followed by baritone saxophonist David Mott and pianist Michael Snow, who both spoke little and played much. Then, Evan Parker, who enjoyed a thirty-year friendship with Haines, spoke emotionally of their friendship before presenting his own solo improvisation. Finally, the five musicians did a “free for Paul,” as Broomer put it. All five listened, and all five contributed mightily in a collective effort that Haines would most probably have greatly appreciated.

This last performance stands for some of the best values that the festival represents — caring, community, and adventurous music-making. It’s for those reasons that I continue to go back to Guelph every September. If you haven’t been, you must do yourself the favor sometime.



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


District Five
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Svosve /
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Decoy
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