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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo attempts bring new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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[Photo: Peter Gannushkin]


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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