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Improvising guitarist/bassist, writer, and educator Joe Morris spent four months as visiting scholar at the University of Calgary, during which time he recorded with University of Calgary professor and double bassist Rob Oxoby, this freely improvised album with Morris on electric guitar, a great confluence of strings in 6 concentrated and adept dialogs. ... Click to View


Joe Morris / Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilcke: Rural Optimism (Bug Incision Records)

During guitarist Joe Morris' stay as a visiting scholar at University of Calgary, Morris joined the Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilkes duo, first on stage and then in the studio to record this first-rate album of collective improvisation, merging idiosyncratic percussive activity, abstract and lyrical sax declarations, and profound and pointillistic guitar work. ... Click to View


Bent Spoon Trio: Nine Year Itch (Bug Incision Records)

Formed in 2002 as a quartet, then in 2005 as the trio of Chris Dadge (percussion, trumpet, bass), David Laing (bass & trombone), and Scott Munro (sax, melodica, &c), then as the duo of Dadge & Monro in 2008; 2016 found the trio together again in Calgary for the closing of the Emmedia performance space, their entire set of unique collective improv captured for this CD. ... Click to View


Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilcke: Three Live Pieces (Bug Incision Records)

With a 15 year history of collaboration, Bug Incision label leader Chris Dadge joins with fellow Calgary free improviser Jonathon Wilcke on saxophone for an album of live performances in their home city, two performances from Parlour and one at Local 510, showing strong rapport in their duo of uniquely unconventional percussion and lyrically quirky sax. ... Click to View


Obnox (Lamont Thomas): Templo del Sonido [RED VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

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Signe Dahlgreen : Kunki Snuk [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

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PCRV: Mobility [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

Thick fuzzy sound with subliminal interventions and a subsumed squiggly lead line makes the first side of this cassette release from American sound artist Matt Taggart, AKA PCRV, balanced by a ringing work piece of ambient harmonics that creates a beautiful hypnotic tone texture that shifts slowly with illusional transitions. ... Click to View


Pregnant Spore: I Am in Love with My Own Sins [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

Pregnant Sport is Justin Marc Lloyd, Chicago-based experimental noise artist who performs under a variety of monikers, here as Pregnant Spore in a rapid-paced album of rich and ruptured sound, unusual rhythmic sources, reverse phonetics, quickly changing pace and direction while maintaining an odd sense of cohesion; fascinating and perplexing. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Mizu (Long Song Records)

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Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) [2 CDs] (Pi Recordings)

With his earliest and most current performance history tied to the enduring Manhattan jazz club The Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman records his Five Elements in a 2017 live show with Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Anthony Tidd on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums for a fiery, exuberant and masterful concert of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi Recordings)

Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse brings together 9 musicians in a chamber jazz setting without a drum set--Jonathan Finlays(trumpet), Jen Shyu (vocals), Matt Mitchell (piano), Mara Grand (tenor sax), Rane Moore (clarinet), Kristin Lee (violin), Greg Chudzik (bass), and Neeraj Mehta (percussion)--performing 9 of Coleman's sophisticated original compositions. ... Click to View


Barker Trio: Avert Your I [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

After releasing drummer Andrew Barker's duo with Daniel Carter, "Polyhedron", Astral Spirits takes on Barker's trio album with sidemen Michael Foster on tenor & soprano sax, plus electronics, and Tim Dahl on bass, Barker also adding synth & electronics, for an album of ruggedly intense, propulsive playing with a probing inquisitiveness. ... Click to View


Charles Barabe : De la Fragilite [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Victoriaville, Quebec electronic composer Charles Barbare creates abstract electroacoustic works, here in an impressive 6-movement work that covers a wide ground from minimalistic rhythmic sections to time-stretched voices and electronics to musique mystery, his inquisitive approach allowing his scores to unfold in decipherable, dramatic and coherent ways. ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition [CASSETTE] (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Hal Hutchinson: Factory Metal Sound [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

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Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Musaeum Clausum: Musaeum Clausum (Umlaut Records)

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Sebastien Beliah : Nocturnes (Umlaut Records)

Sebastien Beliah is a Paris-based double bass player, a member of Umlaut Big Band, The Coquettes, Un poco loco, &c., here in a solo album of bass noir, dark and resonant tones evoked through strong bowing, finding harmonics between the strings and from the instrument itself, creating beautiful passages in a mirage of engulfing deep timbre. ... Click to View


Charles Noyes K. / Owen Maercks w/ Henry Kaiser / Greg Goodman: Free Mammals [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

A great example of open-minded West Coast free improvisation around the late 70s from the quartet of Charles K. Noyes on percussion & saxophone, Owen Maercks on guitar, Henry Kaiser on guitar, and Greg Goodman on piano & percussion, side A from a live concert in Berkeley recorded by guitarist Henry Kaiser, side B from sutdio sessions in San Francisco. ... Click to View


Toshimaru Nakamura : Re-Verbed (No-Input Mixing Board 9) (Room40)

Tokyo-based electronics artist Toshimaru Nakamura's 9th album of No-Input Mixing Board music, elucidating sound from the mixing board without any audio sources, showing the amazing evolution of his approach as he turns this "empty" "instrument" into an amazing source of rhythmic and assertive sound that's both surprising and wonderfully musical. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano: The Hated Music [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

Gary Panter's artwork is updated and the format is vinyl this time for this welcome reissue of the 2000 Ecstatic Yod CD from the now long-running duo of tenor & alto saxophonist Paul Flaherty and drummer Chris Corsano, a superb free jazz album of great invention and seriously deep playing, from hard attacks to introspective musing, truly impressive! ... Click to View


Sidsel Endresen / Jan Bang: Hum (Confront)

Using sampler, dictaphone, and voice, the duo of Sidsel Endresen and Jan Bang improvise and interact to create unorthodox hybrids of fractured electronics and articulated word, as edgy and engaging as it is unusual, captured live at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, in Oslo, Norway in 2016, a great followup to Bang's "And Poppies From Kandahar" Samadhi album. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out [VINYL 2 LPs] (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


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Ellery Eskelin's Trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black Marks 10 Years Together


By Kurt Gottschalk 2004-05-10

Greatness isn't measured on the clock. The Beatles recorded for a scant six years, and - depending on how you slice it - were together for about nine. John Coltrane's "classic quartet" coalesced in 1961 with a line-up that lasted until 1965. And the Sex Pistols changed the world in less than two years.

Marking their tenth anniversary, then, isn't what makes Ellery Eskelin's trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black great. But it's a milestone worth marking, and an event the group is celebrating with a new cd (their ninth for the Swiss label HatHut) which finds the trio joined by guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Melvin Gibbs. Eskelin also shot, edited and released a dvd documenting the band's 2003 European tour. Another tour this year is taking them across the US, to Portugal and then to Quebec, where they'll open the 21st annual Victoriaville festival. If simple longevity didn't make them great, hard work, regular recording and annual trips across America and Europe did.

Ellery Eskelin with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black (as they are properly billed - "I really think 'Ellery Eskelin Trio' is way too polite for this band," Eskelin said) made its first public appearance on March 20, 1994, at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street in lower Manhattan. On the heels of a more traditional line-up with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, Eskelin had a particular new sound for which he was searching.

"When I put my band together, I was really looking for an accordionist," he said. At the time, he was intrigued with some European players - including Hans Hassler and Jean-Louis Matinier - but was interested in finding someone in the States. He drew up a list, he said, but Andrea Parkins kept coming up as he talked to other musicians.

He was already playing with Black ("Jim I had met somewhat before that time," he said - "We got together in late '93 and I just dug the sound immediately."), when he went to hear Parkins play with Ikue Mori at New York City's Roulette. In adding her to the line-up, he got someone who was already versed in keyboards, sampler, organ and piano as well. "I decided to use that because it was obviously a strong part of her thing," he said. "Her approach is not idiomatically jazz-oriented, so to get her to play things that go in that direction, you get some really interesting results."

From the beginning, he said, he had in mind forming a working unit.

"I was thinking of it as a band for sure," Eskelin said. "I knew it was going to be more than just a one-time project. Given the instrumentation, I think it surprised people when we did more than a couple of gigs and made more than one record. In the beginning, I might have seen three records as a reasonable achievement."

Parkins recalled approaching that first performance with apprehension and excitement.

"I remember the night," she said. "It was packed. I don't know if it was packed because of us or because John Zorn played after us. I wasn't sure what he was after, and I wasn't sure I could make it work. In order to make Ellery's music work, there's something tranformational that happens, there's a kind of sense of the moment. I remember thinking, 'I think this is good, but I'm not sure.'"

The trio soon reached Eskelin's three-record "reasonable achievement" and went well beyond. Their first release, Jazz Trash, issued by Songlines in 1994, was interesting for the instrumentation, but showed little of what the band would become.

"I've gone back and listened to that and thought, 'Yeah, that's definitely a first record by a band with a concept," Eskelin said. "It's not like the band got better; it changed. But I don't think I could go back and improve on Jazz Trash. I'm thrilled with that record. I think all the records are different enough to warrant having made them. It's more about documenting the changes and not a trajectory of getting better and better and better. Jazz Trash had a certain charm to it. It was kind of rickety in some ways, but I love that sound."

Soon after, they began a fruitful relationship with Hat Hut, and perhaps there is the argument for what makes a band thrive for a decade. With funding initially from the Swiss Bank Corporation and then private sponsorship from the furniture company Vitra and its chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, the band was able to work with some promise of a future, essentially a five-year recording and touring contract starting in 1998 - something unusual in the current jazz market. While such a relationship undoubtedly helped the band create and work toward a vision, securing that relationship, according to drummer Black, was another part of Eskelin's talent.

"He is really good at getting people to do handshakes and getting things done," Black said. "It's been very good for the band."

At first, the band was trying to find the sound Eskelin heard, something based on his love of old gutsy saxophone and organ trios but with challenging arrangements and mutations.

"It was a question of what exactly was this music we were playing," said Black. "I mean, it sounded good on paper, it made sense right away, but I was like 'OK, how can we do this?' There's a combination of elements that you've not quite heard before, and that's exciting."

For Parkins, the energy and overt emotions, the jazziness of the heads in Eskelin's compositions, were a surprise.

"He has charts that reek of majorness," she said. "I remember being really freaked out about it. I thought, 'Is this good?' It felt like too much flavor, corny.

"Right now, I think we're a great pop band," she added. "There's a lot of heartfelt, thematic, uncynical chord progressions that happen with a sense of rhythm. It is a tension and it works really well."

As they've grown into their sound, the band has worked backwards in a sense, from working through charts to employing more improvisation. 12 + (1) Imaginary Views, released in 2001, was the group's first all-improv outing. A new record, with guitarist Marc Ribot and bassist Melvin Gibbs, is due out later this year.

"Each idea [on Imaginary Views] was real simple: OK we're gonna start an improv, but during that improvisation I want this to happen," Eskelin said. "Like "Middle C," it's just a middle C on the staff. I think when I showed it to them, they laughed at me. It was the first time I said, 'Here's the material and I'm not going to arrange it.'"

"Middle C" might epitomize the trio's sympatico. The track opens with Eskelin's soulful playing, some scattered percussion and a sort of synthesized gong from Parkins. A drum roll and a swell of sound from the keyboard, a moment of organ and in about 90 seconds they find the piece, a nervously building trichotomy. Parkins overlays accordion, Black gets busier, drops out and returns. Just before the four-minute mark, they settle into a succinct, logical ending.

"We're thinking about middle C and we drop in and out," said Black. "I think it's a really good piece. The simplest idea could be a whole world in itself, given to the right people."

The piece is a tight piece of music, almost - as Parkins might put it - a pop song. It sounds as if it could have been a full score, but it's really just the work of a band that knows how to play together.

"I do admire the whole idea of having a band," he said. "I like one-offs - the first time I played with Han Bennink we shook hands five minutes before we hit the stage."

But that kind of spontaneity, he said, is a very different thing than the relationships built over years of playing together. He cites as an example NRBQ, the wide-ranging countrified blues and jazz group formed by Terry Adams in 1967. Eskelin had the chance to play with them recently at Brooklyn's Northsix.

"From the first few notes of the soundcheck, the feel was just awesome," he said. I thought this was the real thing. There's no other way to get that except for just being on the road constantly. And it was just as loose as any jazz gig I've been involved in. I realized that's a band, and what a wonderful thing to have bands out there."

Eskelin was raised in a musical household, listening to Gene Ammons (to whom he later paid tribute on the excellent The Sun Died with Marc Ribot and Kenny Wollesen), Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt as a child. Later, he discovered Coltrane's Giant Steps, and then Interstellar Space, which he described as a "revelation." But the music in the house wasn't just coming from the record player.

"I grew up listening to my mother play Hammond B-3 organ," he said. "When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to play saxophone and be a jazz musician."

But when Eskelin moved to New York in 1983, he found the old-school approach of woodshedding and auditioning for heroes was disappearing.

"You don't have apprenticeships anymore," he said. "I remember going to sit in with Art Blakely and trying to get noticed, and I just had to go and do my own thing. I got pieces of that, but I realized things were different. The 10-year-old kid who wanted to play jazz and had his idols never really got satisfaction. By the time I was on the scene, a lot of those people were dead and there were lots and lots of young saxophone players."

Instead he built his own house, playing with his contemporaries (notably with Joey Baron's Baron Down with Steve Swell) and started making tracks as a leader. He was named one of "25 for the Future" by Downbeat in 1999 and the trio was described in the British newspaper The Guardian as a band that "knows how to play simultaneously from the head and the heart, and for whom musical risk-taking has become a way of life."

The group brings in guests occasionally, as with the new project with Ribot and Gibbs or their ongoing collaboration with vocalist Jessica Constable. But they never uses substitute members, ensuring a consistency in sound. Still, that sound always has its origins in Eskelin's pen. They've recorded pieces by Monk, John McLaughlin, Lennie Tristano, Charlie Haden, Coltrane, Gershwin and even Eugene Chadbourne, but even with two other composers in the band, the songbook is written by the leader.

"I haven't thought about that really" Black said, when asked about bringing his own compositions to the group. "Ellery's never asked and I've never suggested. We're already bringing our music in every time. We don't need to mess it up with more charts."

Parkins concurred. "I think Ellery would be open to it, but [Jim and I] both have our own outlets," she said. "It's really been about Ellery's vision, but he gives us so much room.

"It's engaging on every level, and what could be better than that?" she added. "I think it's really rare that you get to do that in your professional life. The only thing that's not challenging is how we get along, and that's good."

It's a chemistry that would seem to ensure if not another decade at least plenty of time on the road in the years to come.

"I don't take it for granted that it's going to last forever," he said. "Every year that it goes on, I say, 'Hey, great!'

"It's still challenging, it's still developing," he added. "There's a lot more there than you would think given that instrumentation. I has more to do with the people than the instruments."

And it's a safe guess those people will be along for the ride.

""I'm not in a rush to stop," Parkins said. "So far he seems excited about continuing. If he's there, I'm there."






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