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Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables [2 CDs] (Pi Recordings)

New York drummer Tyshawn Sorey's impressive work for double trio is an ambitious chamber jazz work using multiple harmonic, formal, rhythmic, and modal vocabularies in an exploratory and improvisational framework, inspired by the work of Lawrence D. Butch Morris. ... Click to View


Yoni Kretzmer (Steve Swell / Thomas Heberer / Max Johnson / Chad Taylor): FIVE (OutNow Recordings)

An excellent example of collective free improv from a quintet led by NY tenor saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer with collaborators Steve Swell (trombone), Thomas Heberer (cornet), Max Johnson (double bass) and Chad Taylor (drums), capturing the horn sound of the late 60's Blue Note era. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot Systematic Distortion Orchestra: The Assembly (OutNow Recordings)

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JC Jones / Yoni Kretzmer (w/ Barre Philips / Mark Dresser / Reuben Radding / Sean Conly / Damon Smith / Pascal Niggenkemper): Esoteric Duos [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

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Kretzmer / Ajemian / Shea: Until Your Throat is Dry (OutNow Recordings)

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Ehran Elisha / Kindred Spirit: Kindred Spirts: Quintets [2 CDs] (OutNow Recordings)

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Malfatti / Drumm / Capece: The Volume Surrounding The Task (Potlatch)

A moody album of minimal improv, using space, innuendo, breath and a wonderful sense of darkness from the trio of Radu Malfatti (trombone), Kevin Drum (electronics) and Lucio Capece (bass clarinet & preparations), performing live at Q-O2 in Brussel, Belgium. ... Click to View


Tony Conrad W/ Faust: Outside The Dream Syndicate [VINYL] (Superior Viaduct)

Originally released in Europe in 1973, this reissue details the meeting of NY violinist, composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, a peer of John Cale, La Monte Young, &c. with the legendary German rock band Faust, recording these two side-long and forward-looking works. ... Click to View


Tony Conrad W/ Faust: Outside The Dream Syndicate (Superior Viaduct)

Originally released in Europe in 1973, this reissue details the meeting of NY violinist, composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, a peer of John Cale, La Monte Young, &c. with the legendary German rock band Faust, recording these two side-long and forward-looking works. ... Click to View


Mats Gustafsson And Friends: MG 50 - Peace & Fire [4 CD BOX SET] (Trost Records)

A box set documenting the October 2015 3-day event held at Porgy and Bess in Vienna for the 50th birthday of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (The Thing, Fire! and innumerable duo/trio/ensemble formations) with a who's-who of collaborators invited to join in various formations. ... Click to View


Rempis / Abrams / Ra + Baker: Perihelion [2 CDs] (Aerophonic)

Following their 2013 release "Aphelion", the working trio of Dave Rempis on sax, Joshua Abrams on bass & clarinet, and Avreeayl Ra on drums release their 2nd collaboration in a 2-CD album of live and studio improvisations, adding Jim Baker on keys and electronics for the 2nd disc. ... Click to View


Gunwale: Rempis / Wildeman / Packard: Polynya (Aerophonic)

The debut album of this focused and intrepid Chicago trio led by saxophonist Dave Rempis with young stalwarts Ryan Packard on percussion and electronics, and Netherlands transplant Albert Wildeman, for three extended improvisations recorded live and in the studio. ... Click to View


The International Nothing: The Power Of Negative Thinking (Monotype)

The 4th album from The International Nothing, originally the clarinet duo of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, now extended with Christian Weber on double bass and Eric Schaefer on percussion, adding new facets to their sonic spectrum of precise microtonal interaction. ... Click to View


Alfred Harth 23 / Wolfgang Seidel: Five Eyes (Moloko Records)

A fascinating psychedelic stew of improv and audio construction dovetailing tremendous playing with unexpected concrete and electronic interventions from the duo of Alfred 23 Harth on reeds, trombone, keys, and misc., and Wolfgang Seidel on drums, percussion and misc. ... Click to View


Matt Turner / Hal Rammel: As On A Pivot Of Air [10'' VINYL] (Penumbra)

A live recording by the long-running duo of Matt Turner on cello and Hal Rammel on amplified palettes at Acme Records & Music Emporium in Milwaukee in 2015 as part of the Audible Electricity series, presenting uniquely voiced and detailed improvisations. ... Click to View


PaPaJo (Hubweber / Lovens / Edwards): Spiela [2 CDs] (Creative Sources)

The long-running trio of Paul Hubweber on trombone, Paul Lovens on drums, and John Edwards on double bass in an album releasing a radio concert from Croatia in 2003, and another from Klangbrucke in 2009; highly attuned free improv with near-telepathic dialog from three masters. ... Click to View


Parak.eets (Ute Wassermann / Richard Scott / Emilio Gordoa): Natura Venomous (Creative Sources)

The trio of Richard Scott on modular synths, Emilio Gordoa on vibraphone & percussion, and Ute Wasserman on voice, in uniquely orchestrated free improvisations that focuses on sound interaction with detail and restraint, while still bringing a sense of wonder and exuberation. ... Click to View


Iridium String Quartet (Rocha / Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Mira): Iridium String Quartet (Creative Sources)

Unusual approaches to string improvisation from the quartet of Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello), Maria da Rocha (violin), and Miguel Mira (double bass), using extended techniques in subtle yet detailed discourse yielding unexpected qualities to their instruments. ... Click to View


Moondog AKA Louis T. Hardin: Round the World of Sound (New World Records)

The "Viking of 5th Ave" Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) was a blind musician noted for his unique garb, but also for his beautiful compositions that blended creative and rhythmic music with lyric and song, here in a collection of 25 songs from his "Madrigal Book 1". ... Click to View


Miimo: Miimo 3 (Amorfon)

The improvising steelpan ensemble of Yoshio Machida (steel drums, percussion, electronics, PanKAT), Tatsu (bass, electronics) and Norihide Saji (drums, laptop, electronics) in their 3rd release, an alternative dub album, or music created by poly-rhythm and sound effects. ... Click to View


Chaman Chomeur : Chaman Chomeur (BeCoq)

A direct translation of this band's name is "unemployed shaman", the trio of Leo Ratherius (guitar), Marc-Antonie Moercant (drums) and Thomas Cockerel (bass) use trance-like rhythms to build sonic progressions like cathartic rituals, alongside open-minded improvisations. ... Click to View


Mats Gustafsson : Piano Mating [VINYL] (Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records)

When Blue Tapes asked Gustafsson to compose an album using an instrument he'd never recorded with before he chose the Dubreq Pianomate, an electronic instrument from the 60s intended to be used with a piano; Gustafsson used it sans-piano, and the results are these 2 beautiful drones. ... Click to View


Keiji Haino / Jim O'Rourke / Oren Ambarchi: I Wonder If You Noticed... [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

The trio of Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke and Oren Ambarchi continues with this double LP of the band performing live at SuperDeluxe in Tokyo in 2014, for a journey in improvised rock and electronics with the shamanistic vocals of Haino guiding their unique and powerful playing. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece : Awareness About (Another Timbre)

Four recent pieces by Berlin-based instrumentalist, composer and improviser, Lucio Capece, all focusing on the process of listening, one performed by Konzert Minimal, the other solo performances including a work for hanging speakers and helium balloons. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey (performed by Cristian Alvear): Guitarist, Alone (Another Timbre)

A double CD featuring all of Wandelweiser composer Jurg Frey's music for solo acoustic guitar, beautifully interpreted by the Chilean guitarist Cristian Alvear, including a new piece written specially for Cristian Alvear; beautifully unfolding, concentrative music. ... Click to View


Angharad Davies / Rhodri Davies / Michael Duch / Lina Lapelyte / John Lely & John Tilbury: Goldsmiths (Another Timbre)

An extended group improvisation and compositions by Lely, Sarah Hughes, and Jurg Frey, subtle and beautiful performances by Angharad Davies (violin), Rhodri Davies (electric harp), Michael Duch (bass), Lina Lapelyte (violin), John Lely (objects & electronics) & John Tilbury (piano). ... Click to View


Marek Poliks : Hull Treader (Another Timbre)

Referencing sci-fi, C.S. Lewis, and alien worlds, the compositions of Marek Poliks each have a central metaphor like alien environment and warmth, spaceship and cradling, performed by ensembles using traditional and electronic instruments and objects. ... Click to View


Michael Bisio / Kirk Knuffke Duo: Row for William O. (Relative Pitch)

New York bassist Michael Bisio pays tribute to his teacher William O. Smith in this tremendous duo with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, in a beautiful mix of lyrical playing and heavy technical skills made to sound remarkably simply; a joyful and profound jazz album. ... Click to View


Ingrid Laubrock / Tom Rainey: Buoyancy (Relative Pitch)

Drawing on several years and many shared projects, the duo of Ingrid Laubrock (sax) and Tom Rainey (drums) recorded this excellent album of sophisticated improvisation at the end of a 17-date tour, performing for a studio audience at Audio for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. ... Click to View


Audio One (Vandermark/Adasiewicz/Berman/Bishop/Rempis/Williams/Mazzarrella/Daisy/Macri/Paulson): The Midwest School (Audiographic Records)

With a quartet of reeds (Nick Mazzarella, Dave Rempis, Ken Vandermark, Mars Williams), Jeb Bishop on trombone, Josh Berman on cornet, plus Jen Paulson on viola, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, Nick Macri on bass and Tim Daisy on drums, this Chicago band burns with amazing free playing! ... 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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