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Thumbscrew (Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara / Mary Halvorson): Ours (Cuneiform Records)

The New York free improvising jazz trio Thumbscrew with long-time collaborators guitarist Mary Halvorson, double bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara in the 1st of 2 albums on the reborn Cuneiform label, here presenting creative original compositions from each of the three musicians in 9 virtuosic, sometimes quirky, and always warmly adventurous tunes. ... Click to View


Thumbscrew (Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara / Mary Halvorson): Theirs (Cuneiform Records)

The second of two albums from the reborn Cuneiform label by New York free improvising jazz trio Thumbscrew with long-time collaborators guitarist Mary Halvorson, double bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, here presenting compositions from jazz greats Benny Golson, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Nichols, Stanley Cowell, Misha Mengelberg, &c. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe / Ashley John Long : Seascapes (FMR)

Long-time collaborators, saxophonist Paul Dunmall and guitar Philip Gibbs are joined by Neil Metcalfe on flute and Ashley-John Long on bass for a concert at the Victoria Rooms, in Bristol, England in 2017, six collective improvisation of spectacular technique and inventive playing, often at very fast tempos, but always resolving to an inner calm and beauty. ... Click to View


Frode Gjerstad / John Stevens / Johnny Mbizio Dyani: Detail 83 (FMR)

A significant release from the history of the Detail trio of Frode Gjerstad on reeds, John Stevens on drums, and Johnny Dyani on bass, recorded at the Red Seahouses in Norway in 1938 during Detail's first trio tour, a smoking set of free jazz showing the power of these innovative players around the time of their first album, "Backwards and Forwards". ... Click to View


Fake Humans (Fisher / Didur): Exegesis [ VINYL] (Shhpuma)

The Toronto-based duo of Colin Fisher on woodwinds and percussion and Carl Didur on keyboards and bass bridge acoustic and electronic improv with science fiction sensibilities in their four part "Exegesis", a critical exposition of un-genred music that borrows from global sources in service to their unusual and exotic tale; a wonderfully perplexing album. ... Click to View


Jaap Blonk : Irrelevant Comments (Kontrans)

As he delves further into electronics, Netherlands vocal improviser and experimental artists Jaap Blonk finds an ever-increasing array of approaches to modify his voice and set it into alien and astounding environments, here in 16 tracks of musique concrete, sound poetry, pulse based electronics, soundscapes, and inexplicable hybrids of the same. ... Click to View


Tomomi Adachi / Jaap Blonk: Asemic Dialogues (Kontrans)

Performing together since 2004 between Tokyo and Amsterdam, Dutch vocal improviser, innovator and electronicist Jaap Blonk meets Japanese vocal improviser and fellow electronics artists Tomomi Adachi at Lettretage in Berlin in 2017, recording this, the 5th in Kontrans Electronic Improvisation, for two extended and energetic dialogs of unique creative interplay. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn : Voice and Sky [BOOK + CD] (Editions)

Sound experimenter and electroacoustic organizer Jason Kahn revisits previous works and expands on them with the book and CD release, with an essay on his approach towards public space interventions and text / sound installations, a track listing, photographs from the locations of his field recordings, and texts and prose poems to accompany the listener. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn : Space Text Sound [BOOK] (Editions)

A 244 page book documenting text material used in three of sound experimenter Jason Kahn's recent installations: "An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Hong Kong (After Perec)" (2016), "Drifting" (2016) and "Other Ghosts" (2015), emphasizing how words can convey the sense of place sounds can and how these words impart a feeling for inner spaces. ... Click to View


Sean Conly : Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)

The history of bassist Sean Conly's collaborations and releases shows a strong love of the jazz tradition and a perceptive writing style that references that tradition, heard here in free and lyrical original Conly compositions performed in the studio in a trio setting with fellow New York musicians Satoshi Takeishi on drums and Michael Attias on alto saxophone. ... Click to View


Caterina Palazzi Sudoku Killer: Asperger (Clean Feed)

A wicked hybrid of jazz, avant rock and cinematic elements, bassist Caterina Palazzi's quintet Sudoku Killer takes on the music of Disney in a suite where each track is dedicated to an antagonist from movies like "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty", performed with Giacomo Ancillotto (guitar), Maurizio Chiavaro (drums), Sergio Pomante (sax) and Antonio Raia (sax). ... Click to View


Alberto: Pinton Noi Siamo: Opus Facere (Clean Feed)

Multi-reedist and wind player Alberto Pinton's quartet Noi Siamo ("We Are") with Niklas Barno on trumpet, Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass and Konrad Agnas on drums, are caught at the Swedish Glenn Miller Cafe in Stockholm for this exciting album of knowledgable and passionate free jazz, a dynamic concert referencing Eric Dolphy, Freddy Hubbard, and Ornette Coleman. ... Click to View


Jemeel Moondoc Quartet: The Astral Revelations (RogueArt)

Saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc takes his masterful NY quartet of pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Hilliard Green, and drummer Newman Taylor Baker to perform live at Bimhuis in Amsterdam in 2016, capturing four remarkable improvisations of Moondoc compositions including an extended rendering of "Cosmic Nickelodeon", the band balancing lyricism with intensely creative playing. ... Click to View


North Of North (Pateras / Tinkler / Veltheim): North Of North (Offcompass)

The first release on pianist Anthony Pateras' new label OffCompass intended to explore a more diverse set of projects is from the North Of North trio of Anthony Pateras on piano, Scott Tinkler no trumpet, Erkki Veltheim on electric violin, using improvisation, Carnatic music, 20th and 21st century compositional strategies, mathematical theories and open forms of jazz. ... Click to View


Will Guthrie : 6 Days into 8 [CASSETTE] (Careful Catalog)

The sixth set performed during an 8-day tour of Japan in 2018 by Australian drummer / percussionist Will Guthrie (Ames Room, The Sommes Ensemble) took place at 0g in Osaka, captured here as a 32 minute set of vigorous playing tempered with introspective passages, using powerful technique and unorthodox approaches to his kit; cathartic and captivating. ... Click to View


Karl Berger: In A Moment - Music For Piano And Strings (Tzadik)

Pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger is also a professor of composition, having won numerous awards and commissions for his work, here presenting the final part of a trilogy written Tzadik, a beautiful 14-part suite for piano and string realized with Berger himself at the keys in a septet of well known NY performers including Ken Filiano, Tomas Ulrich, Jason Kao Hwang. ... Click to View


Dave Holland Feat. Evan Parker / Craig Taborn / Ches Smith: Uncharted Territories [2 CDs] (Dare2 Records)

Reuniting late bassist Dave Holland with saxophonist Evan Parker, a longtime friend from their early days in London, and joined by Craig Taborn on piano and electronics, and Ches Smith on percussion, as the group performs as a quartet and also in a variety of permutations of duo and trio configurations, for a set of rich and informed dialogs of masterful skill. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Fuck Chuck (Chadula)

An unsual album even by Chadbourne's standards, this reissue and remaster of material recorded in the 80s and 90s from his cassette series brings recordings from his noise group Chuck with Murray Reams and David Nikias together with recordings with Ut Gret (Joee Conroy and David Stilley) to create a hybrid of live experimental improv and found sounds. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : Lets Get Weird But Comfortable (Chadula)

Named for an audience comment that their music was "weird but comfortable", guitarist Eugene Chadbourne's band with Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jorrit Dijkstra on saxophone, Nate McBride on bass, and Curt Newton on bass are caught live in Boston covering the music of Thelonius Monk, Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy, Duke Ellington, Doc Chad, Willie Nelson and The James Gang. ... Click to View


Omelette: Live At The JazzLab (FMR)

Australia's performing trio Omelette of Jordan Murray on trombone, Ronny Fereller on drums, and Luke Howard on piano follow up their 2014 album on Jazzhead with this live album, the trio joined by Chilean percussionist working in Melbourne Javier Fredes, for a lyrical and rhythmically rich live performance at Melbourne's JazzLab in 2017. ... Click to View


Implicate Order, The : At Seixal (Clean Feed)

The very first album from Portugal's impressive Clean Feed Records is this live album at Auditorio do Forum Cultural do Seixal from the trio of Steve Swell on trombone, Ken Filiano on bass and Lou Grassi on drums, joined by Paulo Curado on alto sax and Rodrigo Amado on baritone sax, a significant concert merging free players from two nations with profound influence on jazz music. ... Click to View


Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage: Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars: Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers: Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, and essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Seymour Wright. ... Click to View


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Op-Ed (Opinions and Editorials)


  Ground-Zero's Early Releases Reviewed  
   review by Phil Zampino
  2007-06-09

Ground-Zero was Otomo Yoshihide's 1990's amazing collission band, devised to allow and perhaps prefer a changeable lineup. The basic orchestration was sax, bass and drums, playing a rapid combination of improvised rock and free jazz, over which Yoshihide would play guitar and turntable. As a guitarist Yoshihide deals mostly in the world of distortion and psychedelic sound; as a turntablist his scratching, drop-ins and collection of outrageously odd records is somewhat mind-boggling, as is his ability to attack the machine itself to find noise, sound and beauty. Ground-Zero's music is thematic and, particularly in the early, shorter works, dementedly deliberate, while later constructing longer and elegant self-propelled virtual soundtracks. The band also incorporated many unusual, electronic, vocal, sampling (and sampled) artists, including Yamataka Eye, Jon Rose, Steve Beresford, Tenko, Tony Buck, Alfred 23 Harth, Sachiko M, Sergey Kuryokhin, and Christian Marclay. Regular members include guitarist Uchihashi Kazuhisu who added his personal pyrotechnics into the lot; Kato Hideki on bass, who eventually transplanted to New York City; and Ruins bassist Kimoto Kazuyoshi. Ground-Zero was an amazing weave and clash of styles that walked a weird path.

Ground-Zero's first album on Japan's God Mountain label is simply titled "Ground-Zero." It's a series of short and weird experiments, with names that nod to other like-minded artists, such as "Topography of the Black Lungs" or "Massacring". An intelligent and bizarre album of incredible strength, using turntables, spoken word drop ins, and a rock-oriented approach to playing otherwise improvised music. It's a freestyle affair in many ways, but over thick grooves primarily thanks to Kato Hideki's rock solid bass work, while Yamataka screams and Otomo scratches. The quick screaming sax work of Hirose Junji eventually settles in for some aching and lyrical playing - a distinctive voice who's versatility and attitude reminds a bit of Zorn. Meanwhile Yoshihide is dropping in and punctuating the music with concise and really odd sources. Everything has a drive and determination and it's incredibly well put together, a concise and crazy album.


Ground Zero: Null and Void
(Tzadik)
Null and Void is a meatier and more brutal affair, but also shows a more elegant and refined Ground-Zero, if controlled chaos can be as such. The band was well received in New York's Downtown scene. Falling in with like-minded improvisers, Yoshihide was able to release several albums on John Zorn's Tzadik label, which includes this second Ground-Zero release in 1995. Two years after the first release, Null and Void's pieces feel more refined, and are often longer and thematically based, with languorous sections contrasting the tendency towards full-on propulsion. Hideki Kato plays sampled double bass on two of the larger works, "Movie 1" and "International 2" and Jon Rose provides a shopping list on "International 1." The album cover conveys a sense of foreboding, and with the look of the packaging one might believe that this was some off-shoot of Painkiller or Naked City. An easy comparison, as the bands work the same area of oft-frantic, genre-bending and technically superb improvisation. Ground-Zero, howevers, speaks in their own twisted tongue, and on this album tell some very strange stories. A well sequenced album, Null and Void is an impressive achievement.


Ground Zero: Revolutionary Pekinese Opera (Ver 1.28)
(Recommended Records)
Revolutionary Pekinese Opera expands upon the concept considerably. Existing in four official versions, (this review applies to Version 1.28 on Recommended Records), the palette is broad, using found sounds and recordings in, well, an operatic approach. Yoshihide leads the longer works with his increasingly confident turntable drop ins - the action is rarely slow, and the music itself factors more prominently than the bizarre punctuation and bedlam. The album is designed as a remix of Peking Opera by Heiner Goebbels and Alfred 23 Harth, a complex multi-instrumental work of live improvisation following a pre-recorded tape. Guitar wizard Uchihashi Kazuhisu now factors in the front line, with a number of guest musicians either playing live or sampled - violinist Jon Rose is one of the latter, as is fellow turntablist Christian Marclay, along with Goebbels and Harth themselves. This is an amazing album by any account, with so much motion and so many ideas that work together in an amazing mesh of sound. It's dynamic in pacing and timbre, has no caution for mixing styles, and takes off in many directions, often at the same time. There are layered spoken words, marches, Henry Cow like guitar progressions, mash-up's of music and soundtracks, and other indescribable sound. Yoshihide builds up and releases tension using a variety of approaches, generally yielding to lyrical and gorgeously lush sections. Even those passages use unlikely tools to accomplish their means, and it's that sort of fractured beauty that defines this version of Ground-Zero.

1997's Plays Standards, is the most digestible of this set, and is in fact an album of standards reflecting Yoshihide's personal relationship with music and sound - he explains that a childhood passion for Japanese music, with its straightforward power, affects his relationship with writing songs and in developing sound track work. Ground-Zero songs are, not surprisingly, odd interpretations of the originals, technically wonderful but taking the melodies in unexpected directions using a wide array of sonic beauty and assault.

The first piece, Chile's "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz" (Jara/Sosa) was introduced to Yoshihide by Lijma Akira, the noise guitarist in Takayanagi Masayuki's New Direction. "Ultra Q" reinforces his soundtrack interest by recreating the theme show to the Japanese TV show of the same name, a piece of music which Yoshihide explains both frightened and enticed him as a child, and still affected him at the writing of this piece. Perhaps one of the best examples on the release is the old chestnut, "Those Were the Days," an infectious pop song. A version of the song was covered by the great Russian players Sergey Kuryokhin and Keshavan Maslak, which is sampled in this version. Ground-Zero's interpretations starts out very straight, introducing the melody, until about 3 minutes in when a motorcycle starts. Saxophonist Kikuchi Naruyoshi then starts a quick series of riffs, and the piece begins to fall apart, or come together, depending on your preference. A wonderful and fun chaos follows, which samples, smashes and scatters the melody along with traffic sounds and an unidentifiable maelstrom of interjections. The melody picks up again, but is continually beaten down and resurrected in incredible ways.

Other pieces includes an interpretation of the Massacre piece "Bones" (Frith/Laswell/Maher), which is hard to recognize until the end when the stacatto signature of the piece becomes apparent. This follows by a cover of Misha Mengelberg & Steve Beresford's "The Bath of Surprise," including real bath samples over it's loping melody. The album ends with Burt Bacharach's "A Better Tomorrow" combined with Joseph Koo's "I Say a Little Prayer." The concept here was to work from the Roland Kirk version of the Bacharach song, but to load the song with mountains of Coltrane riffs, crossed with fragments from 80's Hong Kong films. It's an ebullient and uplifting interpretation, ending the album on a joyful and somewhat crazy note. Talk about a well-informed record!


Ground-Zero: Consume Red
(Recommended Records)
1996's Consume Red is one of the odder of the set, a single long track that starts out with the cry of a hojok, an eastern double reed, which calls and responds in a singular cry. This continues for about 6 minutes until the band starts breaking in, fragmenting the work with strange punctuations, and manipulating and layering the reed sound. the piece gets heavier and heavier as it goes, until taking up a drum beat marking out a heavy rhythm. With its sometimes rigid repetitions the piece borders on arduous, but the complexity of the sound texture keeps it fascinating in a Painkiller kind of way. The piece further devolves into a chaotic and desctructive soup, with signal noises, reeds, guitars, submerged bass riffs and perhaps a few kitchen sinks. In many ways an unsettling release and suited to those interested in Yoshihide's other experimental solo releases.


Ground-Zero: Live 1992 +
(Doubtmusic)
The latest Ground-Zero release is actually the earliest, Live 1992 +. Yoshihide explains that he had been rummaging around in his closet for lost and unused recordings, and found two recordings that stood out from the rest. The first 11 tracks of Live 1992 + are from a live recording in Tokyo, 1992, before the release of their first album. The band performs a series of short, bombastic and intense pieces. The sounds quality is a bit rough, but the cry of Yamataka Eye that starts the album off tells you that you're in for something unusual, born out of the intensity of this young version of the band. The second half of the release is taken from the recording of their first self-titled release on God Mountain, Ground-Zero. According to Yoshihide, there was a great deal more material to the recording sessions for the first self-titled release, all of which were destroyed in a fire at GOK Studio. Yoshihide discovered a DAT of some of that material which had been dubbed. The last two tracks of this album are taken from those recordings, giving the listener a longer look at Ground-Zero's early studio efforts.



Here is a list of the official Ground-Zero releases releases released after those listed above, from the JapanImprov.com site

Ground-Zero. Conflagration. Sank-ohso /Creativeman, CMDD-00047. 1997.

Cassiber. Live in Tokyo. off note, ON-25, 1997.

Ground-Zero. Consummation. Sank-ohso / Creativeman, CMDD-00048, 1998.

Ground-Zero. Last Concert. Valve / Amoebic, AMO-VA-02, 1999 (Japan); Alcohol, ALGZ1CD, 1999 (UK).

Ground-Zero. Live 1992 +. doubtmusic, dmh-114, 2007.





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