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Biliana Voutchkova / Michael Thieke: Blurred Music (elsewhere)

Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

The second collaboration between sounds artist Vanessa Rossetto and writer and sound artist Matthew Revert is a monumental work that studies the evolution of communication through fragments of spoken words, and a rich tapestry of sound from acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and perplexing and dramatic sources of sound. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

Two electroacoustic improvisers and composers--Lucio Capece on reeds, analog synths, effects, field recordings, drums machines, speakers in motion, and Marc Baron on field recordings and analog devices--developed these 6 extraordinary recordings that blend motion, perspective, sound and noise, and concrete references in a mystifying and mesmerizing journey in sound. ... Click to View


Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

Inspired by the work of Hungarian-born French media artist Vera Molnar, and by the vicissitudes of natural phenomena, French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert developed algorithmic procedures to compose this work, translating to "Music for the Daybreak", as an illusory "endless piece" of meditative layered, resonant music in the mode of Morton Feldman. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

An intensively diverse and thrilling game of "cat and dog" between Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, performing live at Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia in 2016 for two extended improvisations that exemplify incredible technical skills, reflective and introspective dialog, and cathartic release; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Marker (w/ Ken Vandermark): Wired For Sound (Audiographic Records)

The debut from this Chicago band merging strong grooves with free playing, with 2 guitarists--Andrew Clinkman & Steve Marquette, plus Macie Stewart on keys & violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and Ken Vandermark on reeds, each of the 3 tracks dedicated to an artist: Belgian movie director Chantal Akerman; German choreographer Pina Bausch; and Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

Celebrating bassist and composer William Parker's 65th birthday at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia in a band led by Bobby Zankel on alto saxophone, Muhammad Ali on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Steve Swell on trombone, Diane Monroe on violin, and William Parker himself on bass, in a 4-part suite of beautifully turbulent and masterful free jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

French double bassist Fred Marty joins Creative Sources core performers, violist Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and electronic artist Carlos Santos for an extensive improvisation exploring both lyrical and pointillistic improvisation, themed loosely around a garden quartet or frame, the music detailed, active and formidably sophisticated. ... Click to View


Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

Using Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" as his muse, German cellist living in Portugal, Ulrich Mitzlaff, presents 10 acoustic miniatures from just over a minute to 4 1/2 minutes in length, including wildly interactive moments of delirium to darkly melodic bowed passages, using his impressive technique to create vivid depictions of Munch's work. ... Click to View


4! (Patrizia Oliva / Carlo Mascolo / Domenico Saccente / Felice Furioso): Factorial (Creative Sources)

Free electroacoustic improvisation from the Italian quartet of Patrizia Oliva on voice, electronics, bawu, objects, Carlo Mascolo on prepared trombone, Domenico Saccente on accordion and prepared piano, and Felice Furioso on drums, cupa cupa, contrabbassa, sounded objects, using voice and unusual instrumentation to guide unusual and forward-thinking improv. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot's first solo album takes the viola into unusual territory, using an acousmatic approach to create music and sounds with no visual reference by transforming the sound of the viola through preparations and remarkable extended techniques, layering and assembling his works to create concrete statements of movement. ... Click to View


Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

New York composer and drummer Carlo Costa assembled this accomplished ensemble of NY improvisers for a live performance at IBeam in Brooklyn, capturing his piece "Strata" that evolves layers of sound from very sparse to densely yet accesibly stacked sound, varying recurring material to change perspectives in the aural space as the piece progresses; impressive. ... Click to View


Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

Many years after Pere Ubu and his work as a pilot, one of the world's most unique synth players, Allen Ravenstine, releases an album of composed works, 18 discrete hybrid miniature sound worlds that blend acoustic, real-world and synthetic sounds in unorthodox ways that elusively twist conventional approaches with unexpected elements and narrative twists. ... Click to View


Lance Olsen Austin : Dark Heart (Another Timbre)

Four fascinating and detailed compositions from Canadian composer and painter Lance Austin Olsen, each work giving the performers space to collaborate on the results, using graphic scores and Cage-like elements from recordings; performers include Terje Paulsen, Gil Sanson, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Patrick Farmer and Apartment House. ... Click to View


Alex Jang : Momentary Encounters (Another Timbre)

Four fragile and mostly minimal works by Victoria-based composer Alex Jang, performed by the Apartment House ensemble, with solo pieces by Heather Roche on clarinet + field recordings, one with Cristian Alvear on guitar, an acoustic quintet, and "any three players" designed for any mix of instrumentation, here on melodica, vibraphone & cello. ... Click to View


Linda Smith Catlin: Wanderer (Another Timbre)

Eight sophisticated chamber pieces composed by Linda Catlin Smith and realized by the Canadian Apartment House ensemble, including a solo piano performed by Philip Thomas, a piano duo with Thomas and Mark Knoop, and works for percussion & cello, 2 quintet pieces for strings, percussion and winds, and two 7-piece conducted works with two percussionists, strings and brass. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : O Zomer! (Another Timbre)

Two ensemble works and two solo pieces by Christian Wolff's favourite contemporary composer, Cassandra Miller, who is blazing a very personal trail through the experimental music world, with brilliant performances by Apartment House, Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, and Charles Curtis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : Just So (Another Timbre)

A disc of extraordinary string works by Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, presenting four string quartets superbly played by the Quatuor Bozzini quartet of Clemens Merkel on violin, Alissa Cheung on violin, Stephanie Bozzini on viola, and Isabelle Bozzini on cello, including the large work "About Bach", awarded the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman (w/ Simon Tan / Isla Antinero): Extremely Live in Manila (ChapChap Records)

A live concert in Quezon City from the Manila based duo of Rich Countryman on alto saxophone and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, who are joined on one track by acoustic bassist Simon Tan and trombonist Isla Antinero. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Adam Pultz Melbye / kriton b.: The Distant Sound Within (Creative Sources)

Three strings--cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, double bass from Adam Pultz Melbye, and viola from Ernesto Rodrigues--plus harmonium and objects from Kriton Beyer, in a live performance at Kuhlspot Social Club in Berlin, each of the 9 movements a concentrative work named with a three-letter onomatopoeia, as the players draw sound from a mysterious dark distance. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Engel (Machinefabriek)

Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, expanded the existing score for Marta Alstadsaeter & Kim-Jomi Fischer's dance piece "Engel", which is a contemporary piece combining dance and circus acrobatics, the new soundtrack a large work combining rich mirages of electronica, ambient sound, assertive noise, and even a section of Paal Nilessen-Love's drumwork. ... Click to View


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The Best Kept Secret in the East

Tom Rainey Sits Behind the Kit for Tim Berne, Mark Helias and Tony Malaby. Surely You've Noticed

By Matt Rand


Drummer Tom Rainey and saxophonist Tony Malaby looked like opposites performing at Brooklyn's Barbes with bassist Mark Helias' Open Loose. Malaby was turning back and forth at his waist, letting the bell of his horn project its sound waves left and right and left again. He shook his left elbow on occasion, showing his excitement at the notes he was fingering. Sometimes, his eyes opened wide, either exasperated or surprised.

But Rainey was another story entirely. His facial muscles seemed deadened, and his limbs only moved to play the drums. His movements looked heavy and deliberate. His overall affect seemed one almost of boredom. ("Don't take it personally," joked Tim Berne, a saxophonist and composer with whom Rainey has worked in various ensembles since the early 1980s, of Rainey's flat facial expression.)

And yet, with improvised music, the appearance of exertion is generally important. If music is being played for the first (and only) time, is not just a reordering of memorized licks, then we expect that we will see musicians stretching to the edge of their abilities. And, stretching to the edge of one's abilities usually inspires telltale visual cues: pained or rapturous expressions, sweat, oddly-timed laughs, uncontrolled body movements.

That's what we've come to expect at improvised shows, in addition, of course, to great music. Rainey doesn't make strange facial expressions when he plays. He doesn't grunt or shake. He just plays great music.

"He's gotta be the most underrated musician I've ever seen," said Berne. "I don't know anybody who's on as many records, plays with as many different, really great people, who doesn't get any attention."

Berne is a bandleader who has his own record label, Screwgun Records, and he knows a thing or two about getting attention. But, he said, Rainey doesn't have the instinct for it. "I think it's 'cause he doesn't have any aspirations as a bandleader. And he doesn't come off the bandstand and start selling his shit; he's just really into the gig and that's it. He doesn't have that much patience for the bullshit that you have to do to get attention."

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Rainey said he started playing the drums before he can remember. In junior high and high school, he studied standard school percussion instruments like timpani, marimba and vibraphone, but he also played drums to rock music.

"My first professional experience was playing with a dance band," Rainey said. "At the time I loved it. Top 40 music at that time was very interesting. There was such a variety of stuff that was musically at the risk of sounding like some old fogey a lot more interesting than the stuff they're dancing to today. They were real bands; now I guess you'd have to go out and do, I don't know, Britney Spears covers or something. But back then you were playing Steely Dan, Chicago, Santana; it was really a variety of bands, some of which I still really like."

In 1975, he headed east for Boston to go to the Berklee College of Music. He was eager to get better at playing the drums, but "dropped out after my first semester. The drum teacher I had I think he was probably just out of Berklee himself he had me play for him, and he said, 'Yeah that sounds good; we'll come in once a week and talk about drumming.' I thought, 'I don't need to pay tuition for this; I mean, I do that with my friends.'"

When Rainey finally ended up in New York, he was just in time for the loft scene to end. His first gig in New York was with Mike Nock, which Rainey said impressed him because "he had an album out." He also played with Ratzo Harris and Tom Harrell, and then Kenny Werner. In the early '90s, he started doing gigs with Fred Hersch.

By the mid '90s, Rainey was playing steadily with the two bandleaders that would come to be his most valuable musical associations, Tim Berne and Mark Helias.

Berne said that, "With Paraphrase in 1995, I think, that was the first time that [Rainey] really had an equal part in what was going on musically. And from that point on, I think his playing really grew amazingly. He became a lot more confident about imposing his ideas on the situation, even when we were playing written music, and he stopped acting like a sideman."

As a sideman, Rainey said he can get bored. No matter how good a soloist is, if he feels like it's the third solo in a row after two other solos, Rainey said, he's lost interest. "I hate being on a gig and thinking this tune should have ended 5 minutes ago."

Both Berne and Helias, instead, offer Rainey opportunities for his ideas to become integral parts of the music when it is performed or recorded. Plus there's a great deal of comfort involved for Rainey. "All those bands, they're all my best friends. It's a lot more than just playing music; we've got our rapport on the bandstand but also socially," he said. "As a creative improvising musician, I couldn't be in a better situation in the world. If I'm going to get bored with these guys, then I should look for another line of work."

In Berne's and Helias' bands, sections of a song are composed and sections are improvised. But even with the composed sections, Berne and Helias generally leave the drum part blank, letting Rainey develop his own part. Helias said that Rainey is "great at processing a piece, sometimes a very complex piece, and just orchestrating his playing. And as we learn it and get more deeply involved in it, then we can start deconstructing it, and really superimposing he really gets oblique after a while."

Berne described the process similarly. "In the beginning, it's the densest because he's playing everything, because he's such a good reader. Then he'll strip it away. Once he internalizes it and finds an approach, he really varies it."

Berne added that he felt that Rainey's playing on 2003's The sublime and. (Thirsty Ear) was as good as he's ever heard Rainey recorded. The disc is a live recording of Berne's Science Friction band, which includes longtime collaborators Craig Taborn on keyboards and Marc Ducret on guitar. On it, among several other tracks, is a song called "The Shell Game," which was the title of Berne's previous release (with Taborn and Rainey), though not the title of any of the tracks on that release.

The piece incorporates elements from a few of the songs on The Shell Game (most closely approximating "Twisted/Straight Jacket"), but there's a lot more going on explicitly in terms of harmony than there was on the disc of the same name, mainly because of the addition of another harmonic instrument in the guitar. But Rainey's reactions to the differences could have been simplistic. He could have just sat back and outlined where the music was going, or went on its original versions, trying not to crowd out the sound with too much playing. And at some points this is what he does. He lets Taborn and Ducret play off of Berne's melodies with only the slightest of rhythmic accents behind them. But then Ducret takes off on a pyrotechnic solo and Rainey grooves hard with Taborn behind it. As the solo evolves, Rainey takes a more active role, varying his beats to keep Ducret's playing sounding like it's unfolding, as opposed to stagnating, as it might have had Rainey just sat in the same groove.

And then Rainey's solo, which follows a return, more or less, to the head, accomplishes in its evolution precisely what Berne said makes Rainey's solos so good: "His solos are always very transitional, from what's happening before to what's happening next. It sounds easy, but with most people, the solo's the shit and maybe the last ten seconds or so are setting up what's happening next."

Taking that one step further, Rainey doesn't just have a mastery of transitions of time; he also is adept at transitioning between any one part of the drum set and another. On Tony Malaby's recent release Apparitions (Songlines, 2003), Rainey is one of two drummers. Rather than antagonizing each other or getting bogged down in headcutting, however, he and Michael Sarin begin to sound like one drumset. A shared solo finds them following each other around their two drum sets, moving with a rare sympathy, even though Rainey said that he was at first skeptical about the idea of doing an album with two drummers.

It is this kind of adaptability that makes Rainey so good. He can internalize a piece of music in any situation and leave his mark on it.

"Everybody I've ever worked with, there's been areas that I've avoided just 'cause it wasn't the best situation for that person or for the combination or whatever," Berne said. "But I can't say with Tom that there's anything I really avoid."






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