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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

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Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

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Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... Click to View


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  Destruction and Creativity  

Fred Frith in Montreal


By Michael Chamberlain 2003-03-21
:  ()

Fred Frith has been involved with the musicians in Montreal's Ambiances Magnetiques collective for some twenty years, and it was to launch a CD with AM founding member Jean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguay that he came to Montreal once again in mid-December.

In addition to performing with Derome and Tanguay on Friday and Saturday night (the 13th and 14th), Frith met with the members of le Nouvel Ensemble Modern to explore the possibility of a collaboration at Victoriaville this May and did a workshop for McGill professor Eric Lewis's Project Improvisation. He managed to find time on a cold Monday morning for an interview over a pot of green tea in the dining area of a small bed-and-breakfast in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, the actual and spiritual home of Ambiances Magnetiques.

He didn't seem to hold the fact that I was a bit late for our appointment against me. Frith opened up quickly and laughed often and heartily during the conversation, which covered the collaboration with Derome and Tanguay, improvising and compositional practices, teaching, the nature of the artist, and Quebec cultural politics.

It was clear from the workshop that he gave at La Sala Rossa on Friday afternoon that Frith, who is in his fourth year at Oakland's Mills College, is very passionate about teaching. I asked how his teaching had informed his music.

"I think one thing that's been really useful for me at Mills is that I've been forced to think an awful lot about the kind of things we've been talking about," he said. "So I'm in the process of sorting out my ideas all the time. Students tend not to just take bullshit from you, so you can't just have a line and spin it, you have to actually be really, uh, thinking about issues like this on a pretty deep level on a daily basis. So it's definitely clarified certain ideas for me. I'm learning a lot from the process. Whether it's had a specific and direct impa ct on how I write music, I don't think I could really tell you at this point. I might be able to tell you looking back at it in five years. I'm writing a lot of music, and it's developing, and inevitably the context I'm living in must be having an effect on it, though I couldn't tell you what it is."

Frith was pleased with the concerts. The first, at La Sala Rossa, had been the actual launch of Frith, Derome, and Tanguay's album with sound engineer Myles Boisen, All is Bright, But It is Not Day(Ambiances Magnetiques 106). The trio performed with live mixing by engineer Bernard Grenon, replacing Boisen for the Montreal gig. The music was less layered and displayed fewer effects than the recording, sounding more exotic-Grenon's looped sample of Tanguay's thumb piano and Derome's soprano playing were a highlight-and less eerie than the album.

While Frith thought that Grenon, who started out mainly by employing delay and gradually added layers and texture by sampling what the musicians were playing, had been a bit too restrained, he did acknowledge the psychological difficulty of mixing in real time in front of a live audience. Saturday night's performance, with Frith on acoustic guitar, was more folk-oriented than that of the previous evening. Frith employed a lot of finger picking and blues modes, Tanguay explored the possibilities of the groove, and Derome dug all the way to the bottom of his bag of tricks-alto and soprano saxes, a trumpet fitted with a saxophone mouthpiece, various hand percussion instruments.

For Frith, it is of utmost importance to know what the musicians he plays with can do. "I don't write a part for a bassoon, I write a part for a bassoonist," he said. He holds Derome and Tanguay in the highest regard.

"One of the things that I really enjoy about working with Pierre is that he's got such a great groove-at any volume and in any style," he said. "You can take him pretty much anyw h ere you'd like to go, and he'll be there. That's something that he has in common with Joey Baron [the drummer with whom Frith played in John Zorn's seminal Naked City, among other projects]. They are so responsive and they have such big ears that you can really set anything up. I like that quality, and I like exploring groove with him. Get a groove happening, and you've got a monster."

Derome is a musician I admire for his wit. Frith talked about Derome's passion:

"The humor is an organic part of him, along with the passion," Frith said. "His playing is incredibly passionate. So he can produce this tension between intensity, which is really shamanistic at times, and this really kind of playful sides. I think those are two opposite sides of his personality, which are kind of fun. Because when he puts it down, it's really deep."

This trio works quite in line with what Frith describes as his "pathological dislike" for something that is finished.

"I'm obviously very interested in process," he said. "But what's more important than that, I think, is what the process signifies. What's interesting about process is being open to it. It's become almost a clich/ of mine to say that if you end up a process with what you thought you would have when you began, you've failed. That's actually true of just about any kind of creative work. What happens when you're working on it will necessarily have an impact on how you think about it, and it might lead you somewhere else than where you thought you were going.

"I was always fascinated by Francis Bacon saying he'd destroyed all his best work. What he meant by that was that when he has a particularly stunning piece of work, he always wants to go that one step further and make it the best thing he's ever done. And that would always spoil it," he added, laughing. "In other words, finishing something would always destroy it, as it were. And that always struc k m e as pretty interesting. I like things being unfinished, I like things being not definitive, I like things being dirty instead of clean, and that's part of who I am, I guess."

Which raises the question: "Have you ever done a psychological analysis as to why you feel that way?"

Frith explodes in laughter: "I'd better steer clear of that one!"

Less mysteriously, the question of Quebec's cultural politics is one that has interested Frith since he became involved with the Ambiances Magnetiques collective a quarter-century ago.

Saturday's performance took place at le Va-et-Vient, a bistro in the French working-class district of Saint-Henri, an area that is undergoing the same process of gentrification that the Plateau has experienced over the last twenty-five years.

"People were telling me that the crowd on Saturday night would be different," he said. "The unspoken subtext was that there wouldn't be many English-speaking people there."

The prediction was correct, as the ambiance was similar to what might have been found in the heady days of Quebec nationalism in the late 1970s, after the election of the first separatist Parti-Quebecois government in 1976.

The circumstances surrounding the workshop and the Friday night concert gave Frith cause to consider the French-English situation in Montreal. As an outsider who has been involved more or less exclusively with francophone musicians in Montreal over the years, Frith provides an antidote to the views of those, such as myself, who might tend to view French-English relations in the Montreal creative music community a little less problematically.

"My impression of the Casa [the parent club of La Sala Rossa, which has become the crucible for an incredibly productive improvised music scene in Montreal since it opened in the summer of 2000] is that it is more or less an anglophone kind of a place," Frith said. " The fact that Jean and Pierre weren't mentioned at all in the advertising for the gig-it was only my name with guests-told me something about the politics. It could have been just incompetence, which is fine.

"Nevertheless, there's also the question of perception, and I think if you talked to francophone musicians about how hip the Casa del Popolo is, you might get a different reaction than from the others. On the other hand, the possibility for something bigger than both building out of it is definitely there, and that could be very interesting. Nevertheless, it's hard for me to avoid thinking about cultural/political issues in a situation like that. I mean, Eric Lewis stopped to tell me about Malcolm Goldstein and how important it would be if he could get McGill to recognize Malcolm Goldstein [Texas-born, Montreal resident improvising violinist, composer, and theoretician] as somebody who's important in improvised music. What he says about Goldstein is all true, but I didn't hear the same kind of talk about, say, Jean Derome, who has also written things about improvised music and has been a pioneer in the form for a long time, etc., etc. So there's definitely a cultural divide here. As an outsider, that's sometimes a little strange.

"But for such a long time, Ambiances Magnetiques were out on a limb, and it obviously also had very much to do with French identity. I think that's in flux now. But for some francophones, there's a certain nostalgia for the time when, you know, people were defending their culture, as it were."

The good news is that despite certain misgivings of Frith's regarding the anglocentricity of the Project Improvisation workshop, he, Derome, and Tanguay did give two exhilarating performances, and his meeting with le Nouvel Ensemble Modern, which took place the day after our interview, apparently went well enough that they and Frith will be presenting a work at Victoriaville this May. Frith's root s wit h Quebecois musicians runs deep: the so-called "Patron Saint of Victoriaville" will also be performing with Rene Lussier's Tombola Rasa orchestra at Victo this year.



See Len 37 Siegfried's Fred Frith picks.



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