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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo attempts bring new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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  Sound in the Balance  

Amplify 2003: Elemental


By Nirav Soni (photo credit: Nirav Soni) 2003-03-25
:  () Why it has taken so long for me to write this review:

1. Naming

The very first problem for the sort of music that was played at the AMPLIFY festival is what to call it. Many have proposed names to encompass the range of approaches that musicians as diverse as Toshimaru Nakamura, Jason Lescalleet and Tim Barnes take to their instruments, but as of now, none really satisfy me. The one that I hear most often is "Electro-Acoustic Improv"; it is likely the most commonly used because of the discussion list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Electroacoustic/) of the same name. Jon Abbey, founder of Erstwhile Records at one time called what he releases "dangerous improv." He now prefers to use "balanced improv" to describe his curatorial decisions. Electroacoustic-improv doesn't apply to everything that it covers; during this festival the first set was entirely acoustic, with the musicians forgoing all electronics, even amplification. The acronym "EAI" also refers to the organization Electronic Arts Intermix, who are a group of people devoted to preserving the legacy of video and multimedia art. I'm tired of confusing the two. "Balanced improv" makes a little more sense to me about the means of producing of this music, and more about what happens to the space.

Maybe one could call this "room improv. " In his essay, "Towards an Ethic of Improvisation" (found in Treatise Handbook, London: Edition Peters, 1971) Cornelius Cardew says, "it is impossible to record with any fidelity a kind of music that is actually derived in some sense from the room in which it is taking place- it's shape, acoustical properties, even the view from the windows.....The natural context provides a score which the players are unconsciously interpreting in their playing."

When I read this quote, I understood why it seemed to me like the set that Greg Kelley and Bhob Rainey ( collectively comprising the band nmperign) played with Le Quan Ninh sounded like it could have been composed. The form that I heard in the playing was not that of a pre-determined score, but a conforming,RWD, TK an adaptation of personal style to circumstance, in this case the venue Tonic, on a frosty winter evening, with a very respectful audience. That one could detect this form within the music speaks volumes about the maturity of the players, and their immense discipline, focus and concentration

2. Profundity:

Amplify 2003: Elemental

Wednesday, Feb: 6th (Diapason Gallery)
Tim Barnes/Okkyung Lee/Toshio Kajiwara
Toshimaru Nakamura/Tetuzi Akiyama/Ben Watson

Thursday: Feb 7th (Tonic):
Lê Quan Ninh/Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey
Günter Müller/Keith Rowe
Tim Barnes/I-Sound
Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura

Friday: Feb 8th (Tonic):
Keith Rowe/ Lê Quan Ninh
Günter Müller/Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey
Toshimaru Nakamura/Tim Barnes/Tetuzi Akiyama
Günter Müller/Lê Quan Ninh

Saturday: Feb. 9th (Engine 27):
Günter Müller /Tetuzi Akiyama
Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey/Jason Lescalleet
Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura
On the Tuesday before the festival, Keith Rowe held a discussion at Columbia. Rowe introduced the talk with an excerpt from a work by Jean Cassanea de Mondonville, a French composer from the baroque period. After playing the music on a small stereo that betrayed the size of the music, he asked whether or not electronic music can approach the level of profundity that the piece by Mondonville did. During the discussion, I was the only person who mentioned religion (being a non-musician, I have a tendency to talk about other thing s in the way of my talking about music). It seemed to me that profundity is not a quality that music (or for that matter, anything, really) can possess; one instead has a relationship that is profound, with a piece of music, a painting, a cat, or a dish that only mom cooks just so.

Rowe mentioned Mark Rothko during the discussion, which got me to thinking about the relationship of the abstract and the profound. What strikes me upon reflection on all of the artwork I've come across by Rowe (which can be seen on a number of album covers, including his discs with AMM and on Erstwhile) is how so little of it is entirely abstract. His paintings certainly aren't, and one can easily look at his use of the radio as a way of distancing the listener from the sensual surface of the music. Rowe's radio brings the music towards the exterior, towards the social, but always in a tangential, distant, often fleeting way. He seems to be, both in his words and in his music, alluding to the ethical, to the engaged.


3. Performance

I was eagerly awaiting the Keith Rowe/Le Quan Ninh performance on the 8th after seeing such intense performances by both of them the night before. Upon reflection, it makes sense that the collaboration was less than harmonious. Where Rowe's sound-image recalls for me the moral and the conscientious, Ninh's style is very different. His performances were more about the erotics of the "surrounded bass drum". His playing is supremely graceful, precise, delicate, and extraordinarily sensual. One cannot help but reference the libidinal when you watch him rubbing his thumb across the skin of the drum.

It is entirely appropriate that it was Ninh who was touring with butoh dancer Yukiko Nakamura. Nakamura performed onstage during the during the first and last sets of the Tonic nights. I would comment about her role during the first show, with Ninh, Kelley and Rainey, but she spent the vas t majority very low to the stage, and thus obscured to me by a friend's head. I do recall that somewhere around a third of the way into the set, she dramatically rolled onto the floor, whereupon I completely lost sight of her. During the Müller/Ninh performance, she was completely visible. She went through a series of very, very slow movements, which made it seem like she was crumpling to the ground in slow motion. It was, however, bristling with tension and intensity, entirely in key with the tenor of the music.

I am generally critical of visual accompaniments to music, and, possibly because of that, my favorite person to watch play during the festival was Tim Barnes. Barnes is the perfect foil to Ninh. Where the latter is classical grace and fluidity, eminently measured and controlled, the former's gestures are more intently muscular, more about the grain of the kit; coarseness. Watching him slowly scrape the cymbals across his kit was pure pleasure, it had the same visual rhythm as a turnstile.

4.Günter Müller

I do not understand how this man is completely capable of making almost every situation I've heard him play in work. I've been worrying about how to write about what he does for weeks, and I give up now.


Instead of attempting to describe the music played, I ask you to accept this list of adjectives that I will append to the bottom of this review, in correspondence with the performance they apply to:

Lê Quan Ninh/Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey - open
Günter Müller/Keith Rowe- earthy
Tim Barnes/I-Sound- split
Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura- still

Keith Rowe/ Lê Quan Ninh- discordant
Günter Müller/Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey- near
Toshimaru Nakamura/Tim Barnes/Tetuzi Akiyama- spare
Günter Müller/Lê Quan Ninh- thick

Günter Müller /Tetuzi Akiyama- long
Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey/Jason Lescalleet- wide
Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura- de e p

Relevant links:
http://www.l-m-c.org.uk/texts/rowe.html
http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem1751.html



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