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XT (Seymour Wright / Paul Abbot): Pah' (Pleasure of the Text Records)

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Sylvia Ocougne / Chico Mello: Musica Brasileira Descomposta (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

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Jason Kahn: For Voice (Confront)

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Staplerfahrer / Bonehole: Excessive Extension [CASSETTE] (Bicephalic)

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Simon Nabatov / Mark Dresser / Dominik Mahnig: Equal Poise (Leo)

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Uwe Oberg / Silke Eberhardt: Turns (Leo)

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Uwe Oberg: Twice, At Least (Leo)

Live recordings from 2012 & 2015 by German pianist Uwe Oberg performing a mix of original compositions and work by Monk, Bley, Lacy, & A. Peacock, balancing melodic and exploratory playing with passionate conviction backed by masterly skills and impeccable pacing. ... Click to View


Pauline Oliveros / Roscoe Mitchell / John Tilbury / Wadada Leo Smith: Nessuno (Angelica)

The unexpected and open-minded quartet of Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilbury and Wadada Leo Smith performing live in Italy at the Angelika Festival in 2011, presenting the three part improvised work "Nessuno"; delicate, virtuosic, rewarding music from 4 masters. ... Click to View


Social Insects (Koch / Badrut): Social Insects II (Confront)

Sparse yet intently focused interaction with unusual timbre and technique in the 2nd release from the working duo of Hans Koch (Koch-Schutz-Studer) and Gaudenz Badrutt (strom), pairing reeds and electronics in micro-world improvisations that delight in subtlety. ... Click to View


Biliana Voutchkova / Ernesto Rodrigues / Micha Rabuske: 77 Kids (Creative Sources)

Exploratory free improvisation with an emphasis on strings from the trio of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Biliana Voutchkova on violin, and Micha Rabuske on flutes & sax, collective conversation with scraping and overblowing mutating their sound in interesting and curious ways. ... Click to View


Stones Of Contention : Stones Of Contention (Citystream)

Sicilian pianist Tommaso Vespo assembled the multinational sextet of Antonio Aiella (bass), Noel Taylor (clarinet), Antonio Longo (drums), Nicola Hein (guitar), Ricardo Teje (saxophone), and Tommaso Vespo (piano), blending lyrical jazz, chamber, and free improvisation. ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Black Stabat Mater (Rune Grammofon)

Another strong instrumental rock album, blending heavy prog, free jazz and psychedelia with forceful and technically excellent guitar work from leader Mollestad, backed by fellow Norwegians Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjornstad on drums; keeping the 70s alive! ... Click to View


Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Black Stabat Mater [VINYL] (Rune Grammofon)

Another strong instrumental rock album, blending heavy prog, free jazz and psychedelia with forceful and technically excellent guitar work from leader Mollestad, backed by fellow Norwegians Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjornstad on drums; keeping the 70s alive! ... Click to View


Frode Gjerstad / Jon Rune Strom / Paal Nilssen-Love: Steam In the Casa (PNL)

A live recording from the Casa Del Popolo club in Montreal, Canada, named because Gjerstad was upset that Air Canada had messed up his sax in transit, which he played regardless; his frustration pushed him into an overwhelmingly amazing set of smoking free jazz! ... Click to View


Large Unit: Ana (PNL)

Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit recorded this ecstatic, Brazilian influenced material in 2015 after a mammoth European and North-American tour, hours after their performance at the 2015 Oslo Jazzfestival with an extended line-up with Brazilian percussion players. ... Click to View


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  Helen Stapinski 
  Baby Plays Around  
  (Villard) 

   review by Kristen Persinos
  2004-04-26
Helen Stapinski: Baby Plays Around (Villard)

December.  June.  Four Heads.  Recliner.  Star 69.  Speed Dial.  Bitter.  Panchino.  Gump.  Maraschino.  Tug.  Dish.  Reflector.  Stipend.  Slattern.  Slatternly.  Carmie.  Maxilla.  Shifter.  Resentful.  The Stevedores.

This is the pastime popular with musicians called the "name our band" game, as played by Helen Stapinski and her old bandmates in her memoir Baby Plays Around.  (My own band once considered "Jesus Streisand.")

The book chronicles a year or so in the life of 30-something Stapinski as she made her living as a freelance writer, played drums in an indie rock band based in the Lower East Side of New York City (with no prior band experience other than playing along to her favorite records as a kid) and faced marital problems.

Being a 30-something female in a rock band based in the Lower East Side myself, I was curious and armed for battle: What was her experience, her take on the male-driven popularity contest of the indie rock scene in NYC?  Would the book be much like most of the hipsters involved: puddle deep?  Would familiarity breed contempt?

Upon reading the first few chapters, it seemed that Stapinski and I share more in common than just age and the band thing. We both have older brothers who influenced our involvement with music. We both sometimes come off as tomboyish. We listened to some of the same records (REM's Murmur) growing up, and had some of the same rock heroes (Elvis Costello). And to top it off, much of the book's action takes place within a 10-block radius of my apartment. (One of her band's old haunts was a restaurant where I used to bartend.) After a few no shits - "no shit, that sounds familiar" and "no shit, that is a block from my house" - my claws began to retract and I ended up not being able to put the book down; not just for the cheap thrill of reading about my immediate surroundings and the things we have in common, it was Stapinski's self-effacing, wry sense of humor, her intelligence, and her sincerity.She is delightfully sarcastic, but also thoughtful, decent and ultimately fair. (Hey Helene, wanna play in my band?)  Her writing style is refreshing in its directness and its lack of masturbatory word play. She knows when enough is enough.

There are many witty moments in this book.  The chapter on her band's bass player auditions was funny and dead on, but you do not have to be a musician to appreciate the humor.

"There was another guy, who hadn't even listened to the tape.  'Why are you wasting our time?' Julie asked him.  He just shrugged, grinning like the teenager he actually was.  You could tell what was passing through his meager brain, as he nodded and looked us over: 'Chick band.  Cool.  Two chicks.  One guy.  Guy is me.  Hey.  Maybe I'll score.  Threesome!  Cool!'  I think he actually drooled on his bass guitar.  Unfortunately he was not electrocuted."

"Then there was the guy with the long ponytail who played New Age bass.  He was sent packing, back to the mother ship."

Later chapters in the book are touching as her relationships with her band mates and her estranged husband…well I wouldn't want to give it away, now would I?

So yes, I laughed ... I cried ... as her increasingly troubled marital life intertwined with her rocky (forgive me) band life, both marriages affecting each other with moments of ecstasy and despair as Helene powered through.

Readers who live in New York City, or just love it from afar, will enjoy reading about such landmarks as Katz's Deli, Ratners and the Lansky Lounge, as well as some of the popular rock clubs: Arlene's Grocery, Luna Lounge, and the now defunct Spiral and Brownies.

So, I'll do my best now to sound like a book critic and say that Baby Plays Around is a well crafted, entertaining book about the weathering of love found and love lost (and visa versa); dry but not without heart.





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