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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

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The Squid's Ear
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The Bottom Shelf is where artists keep the records in their collections that they might not want you to see. Revealing early influences, unusual appetites or just guilty pleasures, we offer a peek at the shelves of some of our favorite musicians.

  Our Own Bottom Shelves  

Over the last year, we've asked musicians Ron Anderson, Anthony Coleman and Gary Lucas to come clean about their private predilections, to reveal for our readers the records they might try to hide when company comes over. For The Squid's Ear's First Or So Anniversary issue, publisher Phil Zampino and editor Kurt Gottschalk belly up to the bar, revealing some of the deep embarrassment of questionable riches in their own collections.

Phil Zampino's Bottom Shelf  

I take a lot of grief from certain friends regarding my love of progressive chestnuts like Van Der Graaf Generator, Gong, Jethro Tull and (early) Genesis.  Certain time-bound predilections simply refuse to fade. But last summer I revisited something from the beginning of my listening days: Steppenwolf, in particular, the Live album.  Anyone who gives me grief for this one needs to be ready for an earful.

I re-approached Steppenwolf Live with great trepidation.  This album sat alongside Iron Butterfly's In a Gadda Da Vida in my early listening habits.  Persistent memory dictates that it can't be uncoupled from visions of a spastic me, flailing around the living room and enthusing about how "cool" this music was.  At the age of 8 I really didn't understand anything clearly about the political and world crises of the day.  I knew there was unrest and criticism.  Steppenwolf became an unfocused focal point of that turbulent era for me.  I know as a child that I thought the song "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam" actually had to do with "Keep Off the Grass" signs, and how oppressive our government was for forcing us onto the path.  I didn't get any of the cocaine or sex references.  Hey, I was a kid!

The gatefold copy with the big Wolf's head on the cover that impressed me so belonged to my older brother.  I think in the end I listened to it as much as he did, and maybe a bit more.  I don't still listen to his Kiss albums.  But when Steppenwolf crept back into my head I at last bought my own copy on cd, of course, a tiny booklet with a picture that couldn't rival the power of that 12" wolf's head threatening you from the gatefold.  And I gave it a spin.

In reflection perhaps I just filed the memory of this album away until I needed it.  Maybe I knew that I shouldn't be burnt out on it when the message applied again.  Steppenwolf's songs express outrage and criticism of government practices that apply to our current situation.  Along with, of course, a lot of '60s 'turn on tune in, smokin' the grass' sentiment.  It talks about the war on drugs (Don't Step on the Grass, Sam, criticizes the using community at the same time (The Pusher) and, boldest of all, it takes on the government (Monster) with commentary that's clear and direct and every bit as vital today as it was then.  Between songs John Kay talk about working together with the government to preserve what's good in our great land.  It's uplifting, patriotic and challenging to the status quo all at the same time, while extolling the virtues of sex and pills and having a good old Magic Carpet Ride.  And it played on FM before Clear Channel owned the air.

Sadly Steppenwolf made a deliberate decision to shift away from their characteristic culturally charged spiel late in their career, a decision that resulted in some decent records that don't distinguish themselves from other rock blands of the time.  To these ears the music already sounds a bit out of step with the ever-changing rock scene they once carried such a strong voice in. Steppenwolf has remained a surprisingly tenacious band, and in their current incarnation they have a stiff schedule of biker shows, city fests and casino's planned for 2004.  I don't know if they still play Monster, but their message has never had a more appropriate time.  That it's not in heavy rotation on every classic rock radio station now is a sad statement of the time.

Zacherley, the "Cool Ghoul," was a '50s television movie prompter, a demonic figure who introduced monster movies to a New York area punctuated with ghastly sketches and creative comedic "break-ins" during the movies. John Zacherle was born in Pennsylvania, 1918 (the character he went on to create is spelled as "Zacherley"). He went on to make a splash with his song "Dinner with Drac" on the Parkway label, which ran to #6 on Billboard and garnered appearances on American Bandstand.  He put out a book, 3 lps, several singles, a few videos, even Transylvannian Passports. The personae of Zacherley lays itself out in an insinuated Charles Addams world of vampires, mummies, werewolves, monster monkeys, monster mothers-in-law and body snatchers.  He snorted with a characteristic condescendence while asking Igor for this or that assistance in his macabre machinations.  Zacherle was sardonic and, er, bitingly witty.  It was all in good fun, and to this day Zacherle plays to a small cult following.

I never watched Zacherley on TV.  My father did.  My father reveled in scary stories and in spooking his children.  He still tells with guilty amusement how he made my older brother, then a toddler, fly out of the bedroom as he tricked him into thinking there was a ghost in the room. Nightly he threatened us that while we slept the "liver snatcher" was going to sneak in and remove our livers through our noses using a pair of needle-nose pliers.

One day my father brought home a peculiar orange and black record on the Parkway label: Zacherley's Scary Tales: a collection of "scary" songs and stories, narratives in pop genres - surf, jazzy pop, doo-wop, pop rock, done with capable studio musicians, good arrangements and decent production.  All the songs are sung by the ghastly Zacherley, who's Transylvanian laugh punctuated the music in a way that paid homage to and laughed at the idea of B horror.  I had no idea who he was, but I took to it immediately.  

For the next few years my family quoted the songs from that record, and many an afternoon my brother and I "surfed" our beds to "Surf Board 109" as the mummy took yet another a dive: "first bath he's had since 10 BC."  It was a good pop record, right up there with The Archies, and that's high praise coming from an 8-year-old boy (remembering how he cut out an Archies 7" single from the back of a Super Sugar Crisp cereal box...)  To top it off, the first track on the second side had three parallel grooves, so depending upon where you dropped the needle you got different lyrics.  How cool is that?...

Last year it struck me to find out what other releases were available, and to try to find a less destructed copy of the lp than my brother and I had left my father. I searched eBay - the melting pot of all unusual and cul-de-sac culture - and found that the "Spook Along with Zacherly" lp had been rereleased on cd; relieving, as I'd seen the original lp at a record collector's show priced at more than $200!  I "bought-it-now," and successfully bid on the "Monster Mash" LP as well.  Sadly "Scary Tales itself has been less forthcoming.  Of the 3 releases I now have access to I still mostly listen to a cassette tape of our very crackly copy of "Scary Tales."  I'm sure that's pushed on by my inner 8-year-old's devilish grin, part of the frightening amount of happiness that tape brings me.

Kurt Gottschalk's Bottom Shelf  

The Beatles ruined pop. Before the Fab Four took over the western world, there was a suitable division of labor. You had singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. Nobody was expected to do it all. But in the epoch after John, Paul, George and Ringo, rock bands were expected to do it all and look good too.

In the course of seven short years, The Beatles led a wave that made teenybopper music into art and created an undying catalogue that would come to represent saccharine sentiments and overblown pop craft. Bad jazz singers and boring cover bands have made gallons of schlock from their songbook.

There have been good covers, of course, and tributes worth owning. Aki Takahashi has recorded great solo piano arrangements by the likes of John Cage, Frederic Rzewski, Carl Stone and Alvin Curran. Laibach bent Let it Be into an industrial dirge. Big City Orkestraw looped and mutated the boys on beatlerape. The Knitting Factory collected covers by Lydia Lunch, Eugene Chadbourne, Samm Bennett, King Missle and others on Downtown does The Beatles. Mike Westbrook's Off Abbey Road (Enja, 1990), with Phil Minton singing on half the tracks, has it's moments, and Sarah Vaughan's Songs of The Beatles is notable, if only for the chance to hear her warble "Come Together."

My collection, unfortunately, isn't limited to interpretations of merit. I have a regrettable tendency to horde the worst Beatles tributes I can find, which are generally available in the $2 bin.

Liverpool 1962 is an odd name for a 1990s mariachi record, but it leaves little doubt about the group's impetus. The 13-piece Mariachi Mexico de Pepa Villa make some frightfully lush detritus of the usual picks for sappy rendition ("Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "Michelle," "The Long and Winding Road," - yup, McCartney comps all), and stretch out to include a couple from the solo years (Lennon's "Woman" and McCartney's "No More Lonely Nights"). It's remarkable how trumpets and strings can sound like a cheap synthesizer in the right hands. The title track is an original composition that evokes the working class English like Bugs Bunny playing Napoleon.

When I was a teenager, a distant and senile relative invited me over to listen to his record of The Canadian Brass playing The Beatles. Polite Midwestern punk that I was, I said I'd like to and promptly fled. In later years, I regretted passing up the surreal opportunity, so I was excited when I later found their 1998 All You Need is Love. It's livelier than the mariachi tribute, which makes it even harder to listen to. The liner notes point out that "no one knows exactly when pop music crosses from its world into the classical domain," suggesting that somehow the quintet have bridged the gap. Maybe I should have stuck with punk.

The hallmark for insipid interpretation is of course Muzak, so I was stoked to find an actual Muzak cd in the cut-out bin at Tower Records. Surprisingly, it seems closer to the spirit of The Beatles than the preceding titles, if only for the presence of electric guitars. Instrumentally Yours was released in 1999, around the time the corporation was trying to update its image and began switching from elevator music to feeds of actual songs. The musician credits shed little light on the culprits of this watered-down apple martini (at least to me), but they do point out that proceeds from the disc go to the Heart & Soul Foundation. Muzak probably should have been a grant recipient rather than a benefactor.

Not in need of a heart transplant is David Peel, who had a counterculture hit with Have a Marijuana in 1968 and worked hard as hell to weave gold from the short straw of having met, and apparently been complimented by, John Lennon. Bring Back the Beatles, from 1977, is a stoner declaration of, uh, what was I talking about? Tracks include covers of "With a Little Help from my Friends" and "Imagine," adapted to the three chords Peel knew, and no end up tracks written for the subjects of his adoration ("The Beatles Pledge of Allegiance," "The Wonderful World of Abbey Road," "Apple Beatle Foursome," "The Ballad of James Paul McCartney," "Keep John Lennon in America" and, of course "B-E-A-T-L-E-S"). This is your brain. This is your brain in a skillet.


Previous Bottom Shelf Articles:
Anthony Coleman's Bottom Shelf
Gary Lucas
Ron Anderson

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)

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