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Third Coast Ensemble: Wrecks (RogueArt)

Merging France's Nautilis Ensemble with musicians from Chicago created this large improvising orchestra, here in a new suite composed by Rob Mazurek and dedicated to Great Lake Michigan and the devestation of thousands of shipwrecks over many centuries, using historical data, first hand accounts of shipwrecks off both shores, magical realism and steampunk aesthetics. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Made to Break: Trebuchet [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The eight release from Ken Vandermark's hard-hitting quartet with Austrian electronic improviser Christof Kurzmann, Netherlands bassist Jasper Stadhouders, and Chicago drummer and frequent Vandermark collaborator Tim Daisy, for 3 vigorous and extreme pieces dedicated to Shellac, Susan Sontag, and Kerry James Marshall; powerful, informed, essential. ... Click to View


Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Kodian Trio: II [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The uniquely voiced free improvising Kodian Trio formed of saxophonist Colin Webster using aggressive techniques and unusual approaches to his horn, electric guitarist Dirk Serries (vidnaObmana) throwing spiky lines in forceful and unorthodox dialog, and in-demand UK drummer Andrew Lisle providing underpinning and punctuation, in six far-ranging and impressive tracks. ... Click to View


Becoming Animal (Massimo Pupillo / Gordon Sharp): A Distant Hand Lifted [VINYL] (Trost Records)

An album of dark atmospheric electroacoustic sound with voice and introductory narrative from Zu bassist Massimo Pupillo and Gordon Sharp of Cindytalk, the first meeting between the two, performed live at Cafe Oto for four pieces of rich sonics, emotional and hypnotic playing from two creative masters with a long history of powerful and passionate music. ... Click to View


Novaks Kapelle: Fartwind - Complete Discography (1967-1979) [2 CDs] (Trost Records)

Hard rocking Novaks Kapelle was an Austrian underground rock band, formed in 1967 by Erwin Novak, Walla Mauritz, Peter Travnicek and Helge Thor, with Paul Brown Steiner joining in 1970, and after a period of quiet, in 1978 jazz guitarist Harri Stojka joined the band; this double CD collects all known tracks, presenting a fascinating evolution of style. ... Click to View


Kan Mikami / John Edwards / Alex Nielson: Live at Cafe Oto [VINYL] (Otoroku)

More typically a solo performer, Japanese bluesman Kan Mikami has created a distinctive path for his voice, guitar and poetic lyrics; here he is propelled in an improvisational setting with two powerful UK players--John Edwards on bass and Alex Neilson on drums--captured live at London's Cafe Oto for a growling concert of finesse and brusque attitude. ... Click to View


William Parker : Conversations II Dialogues & Monologues [CD & BOOK] (RogueArt)

The 2nd volume in New York free improvising basist William Parker's "Conversations" series, more than 500 pages with 32 interview between William Parker and artists including Marshall Allen, Tim Berne, Wadada Leo Smith, Mark Dresser, Henry Grimes, &c &c, plus a CD excerpting those interviews and punctuated with duos between Parker and saxophonist Kidd Jordan. ... Click to View


Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Feat. Pika: Astro Infinity Discotheque [VINYL 2 LPs] (Bam Balam Records)

A live album in 2016 from the mind-blowing and prolific Japanese psychedelic improvising rock band Acid Mothers Temple with Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi, Mitsuru Tabata, Stoshima Nani, S T, and Pika, performing some of their well known works and starting with Gong's "Flying Teapot", all recorded at 15th Acid Mothers Temple Festival at Tokuzo (Nagoya). ... Click to View


Strycharski / Andriessen: Ghost (Bolt)

Polish composer and recorder player Dominik Strycharski wrote these pieces in response to a work for the recorder by composer Louis Andriessen that he dedicated to Frans Bruggen: "Melodie"; Strycharski response is "Harmonie", performed in a duo with pianist Sebastian Zawadzki to demonstrate the impracticability of harmony in its purest forms. ... Click to View


Vinny Golia Wind Quartet: Live At The Century City Playhouse (Dark Tree Records)

Dark Tree's Southern California archive series adds this phenomenal session from multi-woodwind player Vinny Golia's Wind Quartet with clarinetist John Carter, trombonist Glenn Ferris, and cornetist Bobby Bradford, recorded fairly early in their careers in 1979 live at Century City Playhouse in LA for two sets of exploratory, dexterous and astounding jazz. ... Click to View


Christian Kobi (solo and with Taku Sugimoto / Yoko Ikeda / Wakana Ikeda: Atta! (Monotype)

Four solo saxophone improvisations, two on tenor and two on soprano, using remarkable technique and concentration from Swiss improviser Christian Kobi performing live in Tokyo and Osaka in 2017, plus a live quartet improvisation with flutist Wakana Ikeda, violinist Yoko Ikeda, and guitarist Taku Sugimoto for an open-approached performance of detailed, minimal improv. ... Click to View


Natsuki Tamura / Alexander Frangenheim: Nax (Creative Sources)

An impressive, creative, startling meeting between Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and German double bassist Alexander Frangenheim, taking Tamura out of his more typical structured improv and Frangenhemin into more active and agressive styles than his Creative Sources output; a great album reminding just how fun and awe inspiring free improvised music can be. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski : Populista Presents BOX [3 CDs + POSTER] (Bolt)

Raphael Roginski's Trilogy - 3 CDs in Bolt's Populista series: CD 1. "Raphael Roginski plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes African mystic music"; CD 2. "Zywizna plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs"; CD 3. "Populista presents Raphael Roginski plays Henry Purcell featuring Olga Myslowska and Sebstian Witkowski"; in a slip box with a poster. ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Red October [CASSETTE w/DOWNLOAD] (Out and Gone Music)

Polyorchard founder and double bassist David Menestres leads the quartet of Jeb Bishop on trombone, Shawn Galvin on percussion, and Laurent Estoppey on saxophone, using skills drawn from both improvisation and compositional music to present six free dialogs showing intent listening amongst the four as they create complex, interweaving, sophisticated statements; impressive! ... Click to View


Polyorchard: Color Theory in Black and White (Not On Label)

Two trios, "Black" with cellist Chris Eubank and violist Dan Ruccia, and "White" with trombonist Jeb Bishop and saxophonist Laurent Estoppey, each with the foundation of bassist David Menestres, balancing experience in free improvisation and compositional music to create an exciting hybrid, a chamber collective of tumult and control. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Lao Dan / Rick Countryman / Colin Webster: Saxophone Anatomy (Armageddon Nova)

Saxophone solo improvisation omnibus by three free saxophonists from around the globe: Lao Dan from China recording in an underground bomb shelter in an agressive solo performance; US ex-pat Rick Countryman from the Philippines in a traditional yet extremely free jazz exposition; and London's Colin Webster on baritone sax for an exploration of extended techniques. ... Click to View


Aishi Oyauchi : Wrong Exit (Armageddon Nova )

Under-recorded but legendary Japanese free improvising saxophonist Aishi Oyauchi in a double CD, performing on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, and piano through 52 untitled and inventive pieces, from a few seconds in length to several minutes, presented as 7 composite tracks; part of the Armageddon Nova Series exploring radical free improvisation. ... Click to View


Zywizna: Roginski, Raphael with Genowefa Lenarcik: plays Zaswiec Niesiacku and other Kurpian songs (Bolt)

Guitarist Raphael Roginski reinterprets the music of the Kurpi region of Poland, performed with vocalist Genowefa Lenarcik who was born in 1940 in the village of Krobia, part of the Kurpi region, and is the daughter of folk singing legend Stanislaw Brzozowy; together they bring out the rich heritage of this region, expanded by the natural sounds of the forests of Northeaster Poland. ... Click to View


subterrene: Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (Bad Architect Records)

Rich sonic atmospheres from subterrene, aka Grant Stewart, a member of the 910 Noise collective, using slowly evolving and dovetailing drones that resonate and reveal shimmering beauty, deeply controlled and maintaining aural interest without any sense of impatience, maintaining a steady hand that reveals hidden harmonics amongst beautiful clouds of sound. ... Click to View


Alessandro Bosetti : Notebooks (Bolt)

Czech composer Leos Janacek was fascinated with speech melodies, writing them down in notebooks to use in his compositions; Italian composer Alessandro Bosetti has adapted these notes, using the words themselves to create a series of works that builds rhythmic structures in place of melody, injecting himself and other performers into Janacek's interest in the voice. ... Click to View


Raphael Roginski (feat. Olga Myslowska / Sebstian Witkowski): plays Henry Purcell (Bolt)

Polish guitarist Raphael Roginski presents works from baroque English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), considered one of the greatest English composers, performed on solo guitar and with accompaniment by Sebastian Witkowski on synth and Olga Myslowska on voice, a beautiful and languorous album that pays homage to the profound lasting qualities of Purcell's music. ... Click to View


Boguslaw Schaeffer : Travel Notes (Bolt)

Several compostions by Polish composer Boguslaw Schaeffer developed in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio from 1966-1978, including works for tape, electronic computer, voice, a quadraphonic generator, the SynLab synthesizer, composed using both graphic and notated scores, and realized with incredibly detailed layering and development of the material. ... Click to View


DJ Lenar: Drite Shtilkayt (Bolt)

Using recordings of Polish Jewish cantors with cello arrangements from Marek Czerniewicz, DJ Lenar (aka Marcin Lenarczyk) dedicates an album to the memory of Polish Jews by reimagining the recordings in subtle and sincere ways, reinforcing the powerful voices that guide the liturgical music of the Jewish faith, accompanied by a booklet of inspirational text. ... Click to View


Refusenik (Arturas Bumsteinas): Musikaliszer Pinkos (Bolt)

A collection of more than two hundred Hebrew religious chants compiled and published by cantor Abraham Berenstein in 1927 in Vilna, Poland (today Vilnius, Lithuania), re-composed by Arturas Bumsteinas using fragments of melodies found found in the Berenstein's book, with electronics recorded on the old Russian analogue synthezier Polyvox then mixed in EMS. ... Click to View


Trio 3 (Lake / Workman / Cyrille): Visiting Texture (Intakt)

This time around the long-standing trio of drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Reggie Workman, and saxophonist Oliver Lake doesn't add a 4th player to the group, instead focusing on the trio itself and their intuitive and implicitly lyrical approach to free jazz, in this 11th album recorded in the studio to feature their masterful collective playing as a group of equals where "music is the leader". ... Click to View


Thanos Chrysakis / Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Miguel Mira / Abdul Moimeme: Micrographia (Creative Sources)

Recording in Portugal, the quintet of Aural Terrains label leader Thanos Chrysakis on piano, Creative Sources label leader Ernesto Rodrigue on viola, son Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Miguel Mira on double bass and Abdul Moimeme on electric guitar, three parts of microscopic collective electroacoustic improvisation of highly focused, detailed interplay. ... Click to View


VCA (Vilanova / Castrillon / Andean): Ceres (Creative Sources)

Electroacoustic improvisation from the trio of Marc Vilanova on saxophone, Sergio Castrillon on cello, and pianist James Andean also performing on objects and electronics, in nine collective improvisations of close-knit dialog balancing intense activity and silent space, building tension and releasing it in unexpected and wonderfully eccentric ways. ... Click to View


Edward Sol / Alpha Crucis: Excessive Weight [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Ukrainian sound artist Edward Sol collaborated with Puerto Rican sound experimenter Jorge Castro (Cornucopia) via the post to create these two long works of harmonic drones from indecipherable sources creating slowly building chambers of rich noise that resonate and shift above deep underpinnings of cavernous bass. ... 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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