The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Frode Gjerstad Trio + Steve Swell: Bop Stop (Clean Feed)

The indefatigable Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad invites trombonist Steve Swell, with whom he collaborated in 2011 on the live album "At Constellation", to join his trio with Jon Rune Strom on double bass and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, at Cleveland's Bop stop during their 2017 tour, recording this impressive concert of exemplary collective free jazz. ... Click to View

Matt Piet & His Disorganization (w / Berman / Mazzarella / Daisy): Rummage Out (Clean Feed)

A young and fresh voice in the creative Chicago improv scene, pianist and composer Matt Piet who leads his own trio and the band Four Letter Words, and one third of Rempis/Piet/Daisy, introduces a new quartet with saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, cornet player Josh Berman, and drummer Tim Daisy, a superb example of the energetic and active Chicago scene. ... Click to View

Benoit Delbecq 4 (w / Turner / Hebert / Cleaver): Spots On Stripes (Clean Feed)

French pianist Benoit Delbecq brings together frequent collaborators from New York--Mark Turner on tenor saxophone and drummer Gerald Cleaver--and from Paris--Delbecq himself and double bassist John Hebert--for an album of refined and inventive contemporary jazz, the work of masterful players with years of experience and collaborations dating back to 2003. ... Click to View

Samo Salamon / Tony Malaby / Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (Clean Feed)

A peer of Tim Berne, David Binney, Sabir Mateen, Mark Helias, &c., Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon presents an album of original compositions and one collective improvisation from his ever-changing Bassless Trio, here with drummer Roberto Dani and saxophonist Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano, in an introspective album of profound technique and lyrical playing. ... Click to View

Sara Serpa (w / Laubrock / Fiedlander): Close Up (Clean Feed)

Lisbon, Portugal native, singer and composer Sara Serpa in a trio with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and cellist Erik Friedlander, recording live at Pete's House, in Brooklyn, for an album of unusual and creative vocals inspired by experimentation and changing identities, bringing a unique approach to improvised vocals in the company of accomplished players. ... Click to View

Turbamulta (Raon / Sao / Ferreira / Martins / Aroso): Turbamulta (Clean Feed)

With orchestration of harp, daxophone, idiophones, piano, cello, guitar, percussion, sampling & electronics, the Portuguese quintet Turbamulta (roughly translates to "rowdy mob", though clearly a very sophisticated mob) was born from the band Powertrio of Eduardo Raon, Joana Sa and Luis Martins, expanded to blend compositional, EA and improv approaches into something unique and beautiful. ... Click to View

Jonas Cambien Trio (w / Roligheten / Wildhagen): We Must Mustn't We (Clean Feed)

Leveraging influences in improvisation and contemporary compositional music, Belgian/Oslo pianist Jonas Cambien, a member of Simiskina and Platform, extends his own trio of saxophonist Andre Rolighete and drummer Andreas Wildhagen with trumpeter Torstein Lavik Larsen on 2 tracks, as they balance jazz, avant, free improv and other hybrid forms in a compellingly creative album. ... Click to View

Mattias Risberg : Stamps (Clean Feed)

Swedish pianist Mattias Risberg demonstrates the passion he dedicates to vintage instruments like mellotron, Hammond organ, analog synthesizers, clavichord and even pipe organs in a solo album of piano, with some light preparations, and the pedals of a Moog Taurus, an inventive album of improvisations inspired by the vivid images of postage stamps. ... Click to View

Maria da Rocha: Beetroot & Other Stories (Shhpuma)

Using violin, viola, synth and effect pedals, Portuguese string player Maria da Rocha creates rich environments of sound and unusual rhythmic structures over which she plays with subtlety and transcendence, in her first solo album, using her unique language as she tells the story of a beet and a witch, inspired by Odyssey Ulysses and Circe from Cortazar. ... Click to View

Tyler Higgins (w / Stevens / Higgins): Blue Mood (Shhpuma)

Hailing from Atlanta, GA, guitarist Tyler Higgins is also a multi-instrumentalist and composer who merges genres of moody, cinematic music based around folk, blues, and jazz and twisted with unusual approaches, aided in his endeavors by drummer Paul Steven and wordless vocalist Ellen Higgins, producing a alluring set of musical narratives. ... Click to View

Roscoe Mitchell / Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra: Ride The Wind (NESSA)

Reedist and composer Roscoe Mitchell in a collaboration with the Montreal - Toronto Art Orchestra, an extraordinary group of improvising musicians comprised of 6 woodwind, piano, vibraphone, tuba, 2 each of trumpet, trombone, viola, string bass and drums plus Mitchell on sopranino saxophone, a profoundly elaborate and absorbing work for a large improvising ensemble. ... Click to View

Barre Phillips / Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (NoBusiness)

Two bass players--European free improv legend Barre Phillips and Japanese master Motoharu Yoshizawa--met at Cafe Amores in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1994, with Phillips on an amplified acoustic upright and Yoshizawa using an electric vertical 5-string bass of his own design, as the two weave and merge their unique sounds and approaches in a brilliant concert. ... Click to View

Barre Phillips / Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Two bass players--European free improv legend Barre Phillips and Japanese master Motoharu Yoshizawa--met at Cafe Amores in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1994, with Phillips on an amplified acoustic upright and Yoshizawa using an electric vertical 5-string bass of his own design, as the two weave and merge their unique sounds and approaches in a brilliant concert. ... Click to View

Samuel Blaser / Gerry Hemingway: Oostum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A fantastic album of free improvisation between two creative and versatile players captured live at Kerkje van Oostum, Groningen, The Netherlands in 2015--percussionist Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Samuel Blaser--both using immense talent and unorthodox approaches to their instruments as they shift from unexpected atmospheres to lyrical richness. ... Click to View

Martin Blume / Tobias Delius / Achim Kaufmann / Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A great example of collective free improvisation from the quartet of drummer/percussionist Martin Blue, tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Tobias Delius, pianist Achim Kaufmann, and double bassist Dieter Manderscheid, performing live at the LOFT in Cologne, Germnay in 2016 for two extended intricate, melodic, and commanding performances of expressive and passionate free jazz. ... Click to View

Grant Weston Calvin : Improv Messenger [CD + DOWNLOAD] (577)

Performing on drums, trumpet, guitar, bass, moog bass, and keyboards, Philadelphia born and West Coast drummer/multi-instrumentalist Grant Calvin Weston, a member of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time Band, presents an album or fierce drumming and powerful electronic sources balanced with beautifully paced sonic environments, 16 tracks of diverse and gripping music. ... Click to View

Elio Amberg / Christoph Baumann: Life In A Pond (Creative Sources)

Nine freely improvised introspections as "enlightening spots on different forms of life in a rather muddy environment" from Lucerne, Switzerland based tenor saxophonist Elio Amberg and pianist Christoph Baumann, wonderful miniatures of great style and skill, a diverse exploration of their fictional pond that's quite spellbinding and exciting. ... Click to View

Paul Morgan Khimasia : peoplegrowold (Confront)

Paul Khimasia Morgan is a British guitarist and sound artist who performs on a prepared acoustic guitar body and zither, using objects and electronics to create works of tones, interventions and transitions, here in four rich pieces of well-chosen sound delivered with patient pacing, keeping each piece active while exploring the potential of his instruments and devices. ... Click to View

Giacomo Salis / Paolo Sanna: Humyth (Confront)

Creative uses of percussion from Italian drummers Giacomo Salis and Paolo Sanna, who explore gesture, movement, listening, and the investigation of natural materials and found objects, in five studio tracks that present the results of their research in both rhythmic sections and sections of abstract sound, honed from concerts, studio albums, and a collaboration with Jeph Jerman. ... Click to View

Ame Zek: First Bow (Creative Sources)

Croatian guitarist and electroacoustic musician Ame Zek in an album of electroacoustic improvisation using prepared guitars, acoustic percussions, self made objects, contact microphones, analog modular synthesizer, amplified feedback speakers, magnetic field microphones and digital midi machines; an album of raw, raspy, dark and dissonant sound. ... Click to View

Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker [2 CDs] (Confront)

Derek Bailey's Company in recordings from 2000 at The Klinker in London, with four performers--Bailey on guitar, Simon H. Fell on double bass, Mark Wastell on violincello, and Will Gaines tap dancing--the concert presenting various permutations of these musicians improvising, with narrations from Bailey, Fell, Wastell and Gaines punctuating the recordings. ... Click to View

Phil Maguire / James L. Malone: Working Title (Confront)

Phil Maguire (Verz label) exchanges abstract electronics from a variety of lo-fi devices with glitch and aberrant guitarist James L. Malone, a London improviser who has worked with Eddie Prevost, Phil Durrant, Steve Beresford and Adam Bohman, as the two trade strange sonic disruptions, avoiding pandemonium, instead using noise in pointed discourse. ... Click to View

Phil Minton / Roger Turner: Scraps Of Heard (Confront)

London Free Improv Scene long-standing members, vocalist Phil Minton and drummer/percussionist Roger Turner's first album together, "Ammo", was released in 1984; the two have continued to record together, and this live recording from 2016 in Hanover, Germany shows the two continuing to create distinctly bizarre and wonderfully personal dialog unlike any other. ... Click to View

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole (BeCoq)

Rough and ready, angular instrumental rock from this Stavanger, Norway-based instrumental duo of Kristoffer Riis on guitar and Thore Warland on drums, two parts of the power-trio Staer, here creating a massive dose of momentum as they push heavy rhythmic riffs with odd tonality and a great sheen of prickly effect layers, in a compelling and muscular album. ... Click to View

Loubatiere / Warnecke: Couleurs Chimeriques (BeCoq)

An album of rich aural environments contrasted with clamorous action and disintegrating sound from the duo of French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere performing on snare drum and Berlin-based sound sculptor Pierce Warnecke, their second album as a duo presenting a sophisticated and diverse set of compositions that both entrance and disrupt their listeners. ... Click to View

IKB: Apteryx Mantelli (Creative Sources)

IKB continue their series of albums graced with taxonomic latin names for animals, here with the North Island brown kiwi bird, as the string- and wind-heavy electroacoustic ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues present this extended improvisation of subtle motion and understated complexity live at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017. ... Click to View

Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calalv : Snow Country (Creative Sources)

A duo between Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo (Fire! Orchestra) and bass clarinetist Erik Blennow Calalv, in a low-key, moody and tranquil album of improvisations with titles implying their unhurried approach to their dialog--"Clouds", "Moving, Dancing", and "Ryoanji"-- making a beautiful album of nearly ambient but decidedly determined music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae : Live at Cafe Amores (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae: Live at Cafe Amores [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Jeph Jerman : The Bray Harp (White Centipede Noise)

Aural explorer Jeph Jerman reworks 20 years of source material into this large work of recurring sound, obscuring sources in a rugged mill that turns its sonic grist into a mesmerizing flow of ringing tones and resolute grit, constructed from Jerman's own recordings and tapes from Eric La Casa and Oskar Burmmel, and metal & wood from Ben Brucato. ... Click to View

  •  •  •    Join Our Mailing List!

The Squid's Ear
Squidco Sales

[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."

To discuss this article click here

The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at
written by
independent writers.


Recent Selections @ Squidco:

Matt Piet &
His Disorganization
(w /
Berman /
Mazzarella /
Rummage Out
(Clean Feed)

Frode Gjerstad Trio
+ Steve Swell:
Bop Stop
(Clean Feed)

Kidd Jordan /
Alvin Fielder /
Joel Futterman /
Steve Swell:
Masters Of

Roscoe Mitchell /
Art Orchestra:
Ride The Wind

Paul Morgan Khimasia:

Barre Phillips /
Motoharu Yoshizawa:
Oh My,
Those Boys!

Martin Blume /
Tobias Delius /
Achim Kaufmann /
Dieter Manderscheid:
Frames & Terrains

Derek Bailey &
[2 CDs]

Barre Phillips /
Motoharu Yoshizawa:
Oh My,
Those Boys!

Matthew Shipp Quartet:
Sonic Fiction

Max Eastley /
Steve Beresford /
Paul Burwell /
David Toop:
Whirled Music
(Black Truffle)

Stephen O'Malley /
Anthony Pateras:
Reve Noir

William Hooker
(Feat. Ava Mendoza /
Damon Smith):
(Astral Spirits)

Quin Kirchner:
The Other Side
Of Time
(Astral Spirits)

Anthony Braxton :
(Parker) 1993
(New Braxton House)

John Zorn:
The Urmuz

Lehn Schmickler
(Thomas Lehn /
Marcus Schmickler):
Neue Bilder
(Mikroton Recordings)

Veryan Weston:
The Make Project

Silke Eberhard Trio:
Being Inn

Taylor Bynum Ho :
Enter the Plustet
(Firehouse 12 Records)

Click here to
advertise with
The Squid's Ear

The Squid's Ear pays its writers.
Interested in becoming a reviewer?

The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !

  Copyright © 2016 Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (120076)