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The long-running trio of Joe McPhee on sax and pocket trumpet, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello & electronics and Michael Zerang on drums, performing live at Jazzhouse Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013 for a classic Survival Unit set of open-ended and cathartic creative jazz.

Survival Unit III
Straylight (Live at Jazzhouse Copenhagen) [CASSETTE with download code]

Survival Unit III: Straylight (Live at Jazzhouse Copenhagen) [CASSETTE with download code] (Astral Spirits)

Label: Astral Spirits    
Released in: USA    

"Joe McPhee, Fred Lonberg-Holm & Michael Zerang have been playing together as SUIII for well over 2 decades now and continue to refine and expand their horizons.

Straylight is light in an optical system, which was not intended in the design. The light may be from the intended source, but follow paths other than intended, or it may be from a source other than the intended source. This light will often set a working limit on the dynamic range of the system; it limits the signal-to-noise ratio or contrast ratio, by limiting how dark the system can be.

This definition of Straylight applies here due to a slight mixup during production. You may find similarities with another SUIII release called "Straylight" on Zerang's own Pink Palace Records, which was recorded 9 months after this tape. Turns out that with both releases in production at the same time there was an accidental mixup and the same titles were sent for both of these releases. However in the beautiful words of Joe McPhee himself:

"It looks like in the fog of war, signals got crossed. I think honesty is the best policy here. In our fly by the seat of your pants world, sometimes our balls hang out. As Cecil Taylor's solo Hat Hut recording proclaims, "IT IS IN THE BREWING LUMINOUS." The music will tell the story, making the whole project all the more a collector's item."

Indeed we certainly believe this to be true. And from the definition of Straylight itself although this may not have been the intended final design, don't be afraid to follow each Straylight to it's end...the reality of each release is in the ear of the beholder, unique to each person that hears it."-Astral Spirits

"[...] For the Copenhagen gig the band used percussion, cello, electronics and tenor, which were their usual instruments for European tours (McPhee sometimes also played the pocket trumpet). "Blood of a Poet (for Steve Dalachinsky)", the A-side of the tape, is an almost classic Survival Unit III piece, on which the band uses all the typical elements that make them such an outstanding formation: McPhee's Ayleresque style, Lonberg-Holm's extensive cello arcos, his brutal electronic attacks, Zerang's elegant drive, the great timing of all the musicians (everybody exactly knows when to contribute), the marvelous solo parts etc. "If Not Now ..." starts almost tenderly with a very long and intimate duo of tenor (McPhee includes some voicing as well) and cello before there's a break at the five minute mark. It sounds as if the band was starting a new piece (maybe there were actually four pieces). It's almost a classic trio performance, at the beginning you can hardly tell Lonberg-Holm's cello from a bass. It takes about five minutes before the band gains momentum again when McPhee throws in a blues melody heading towards New Orleans jazz, but Lonberg-Holm and Zerang resist the temptation to follow. You can recognize cross-album similarities here and there however, especially in "When?", the last track, which also opens with a drum solo and in some respects its structure and atmosphere are similar to the Straylight version. McPhee plays tenor on both, which gives the music a feel of being gloomy yet beautiful. The focus is clearly on jazz, compared to new classical music on Starlight. Although the production of this album seems a bit confusing, the music is unquestionably top-notch. And it might become an object of desire for collectors as well. If you want a physical copy you better bequick."-Martin Schray,

"Joe McPhee, born November 3,1939 in Miami, Florida, USA, is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, conceptualist and theoretician. He began playing the trumpet at age eight, taught by his father, himself a trumpet player. He continued on that instrument through his formative school years and later in a U.S. Army band stationed in Germany, at which time he was introduced to performing traditional jazz. Clifford Thornton's Freedom and Unity, released in 1969 on the Third World label, is the first recording on which he appears as a side man. In 1968, inspired by the music of Albert Ayler, he took up the saxophone and began an active involvement in both acoustic and electronic music.

His first recordings as leader appeared on the CJ Records label, founded in 1969 by painter Craig Johnson. These include Underground Railroad by the Joe McPhee Quartet (1969), Nation Time (1970), Trinity (1971) and Pieces of Light (1974). In 1975, Swiss entrepreneur Werner X. Uehlinger release Black Magic Man by McPhee, on what was to become Hat Hut Records.

In 1981, he met composer, accordionist, performer, and educator Pauline Oliveros, whose theories of "deep listening" strengthened his interests in extended instrumental and electronic techniques. he also discovered Edward de Bono's book Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity, which presents concepts for solving problems by "disrupting an apparent sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle." de Bono's theories inspired McPhee to apply this "sideways thinking" to his own work in creative improvisation, resulting in the concept of "Po Music." McPhee describes "Po Music" as a "process of provocation" (Po is a language indicator to show that provocation is being used) to "move from one fixed set of ideas in an attempt to discover new ones." He concludes, "It is a Positive, Possible, Poetic Hypothesis." The results of this application of Po principles to creative improvisation can be heard on several Hat Art recordings, including Topology, Linear B, and Oleo & a Future Retrospective.

In 1997, McPhee discovered two like-minded improvisers in bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. The trio premiered at the Vision Jazz Festival in 1998 but the concert went unnoticed by the press. McPhee, Duval, and Rosen therefore decided that an apt title for the group would be Trio X. In 2004 he created Survival Unit III with Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang to expand his musical horizons and with a career spanning nearly 50 years and over 100 recordings, he continues to tour internationally, forge new connections while reaching for music's outer limits."

-Joe McPhee Website (

"Michael Zerang was born in Chicago, Illinois, and is a first-generation American of Assyrian decent. He has been a professional musician, composer, and producer since 1976, focusing extensively on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms.

Michael has collaborated with contemporary theater, dance, and other multidisciplinary forms and has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards for Original Music Composition in Theater, in collaboration with Redmoon Theater, in 1996, 1998, and 2000.

As a percussionist and composer, Michael has over eighty titles in his discography and has toured nationally and internationally to 34 countries since 1981, and works with and ever-widening pool of collaborators.

Michael founded and was the artistic director of the Link's Hall Performance Series in Chicago from 1985-1989 where he produced over 300 concerts of jazz, traditional ethnic folk music, electronic music, and other forms of forward thinking music. Michael has been a Board Member of Links Hall Since 1989. He continued to produce concerts at Cafe Urbus Orbis from 1994-1996, and at his own space, The Candlestick Maker in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, from 2001 - 2005.

Michael has taught as a guest artist at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in performance technique, sound design, and sound/music as it relates to puppetry; rhythmic analysis for dancers at The Dance Center of Columbia College, Northwestern University, and MoMing Dance and Arts Center; courses in Composer/Choreographer Collaborations at Northwestern University; music to children at The Jane Adams Hull House.

Michael currently tours and holds workshops in improvisational music, and teaches private lessons in rhythmic analysis, music composition, and percussion technique.

-Michael Zerang Website (

See all items in the Cassette category

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Product Information:

Label: Astral Spirits
Catalog ID: MF109/AS024
Squidco Product Code: 21474

Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: USA
Packaging: Cassette
Recorded live at Jazzhouse Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 15th, 2013 by Gordan Comstick.


Joe McPhee-reeds, brass

Fred Lonberg-Holm-cello, electronics

Michael Zerang-drums

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Track Listing:


1. Blood Of A Poet


1. If Not Now?

2. When?