The Squid's Ear Magazine


Alcorn, Susan / Septeto del Sur: Canto (Relative Pitch)

Recording in Maria Pinto, Chile, steel guitarist Susan Alcorn combines Chilean folk and nueva cancion with free improvisation and contemporary classical in an expansive set of 5 original compositions and a group arrangement of the Victor Jara's "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz", the achingly beautiful themes paying tribute to the victims of Augusto Pinochet's regime.
 

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Personnel:



Susan Alcorn-pedal steel guitar

Luis 'ToTo' Alvarez-guitar

Claudio 'Pajaro' Araya-drums, cuatro

Francisco 'Pancho' Araya-charango

Rodrigo Bobadilla-flute, quena, zampona, vocals

Amanda Irarrazabal-double bass, vocals

Danka Villanueva-violin, vocals


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UPC: 5904224872069

Label: Relative Pitch
Catalog ID: RPR1170
Squidco Product Code: 34140

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Estudios Del Sur, at Maria Pinto, Chile, on November 19th and 20th, 2022, by Ron Saint Germain.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The pedal steel guitar's molten silver lilt has long been associated with the sentimental side of country music, or provided a horn-like voice in western swing's jazz-with-cowboy-hats. In this century, though, under the hands of players like sax titan Peter Brotzmann's longtime duet partner Heather Leigh and Baltimore-based Susan Alcorn (whose new album we shall consider today), it's occupied other sonic spaces.

Alcorn's musical odyssey has been circuitous and multifaceted. Taking up pedal steel in the late '70s, she paid her dues in Chicago country bands before moving to Houston, where she made her mark on a highly competitive country/western swing scene, while studying jazz improvisation and essaying her own dissonant compositions, influenced by 20th century classical music. A 1990 encounter with the composer and musical thinker Pauline Oliveros and her ideas of Deep Listening was an important influence on Alcorn's developing concept.

A 1997 invitation from trombonist/Nameless Sound founder Dave Dove inspired Alcorn to attempt freely improvised solo performance, which became her main focus. (Dove played on her first album, 2000's Uma, which was engineered by Tom Carter of Charalambides fame, another regular collaborator.) She's also performed with improvisers of the caliber of Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, and Joe McPhee. The Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla is another key influence; Alcorn recorded an album of his works for Relative Pitch in 2015.

I first heard Alcorn as a side musician on guitarist Mary Halvorson's Away With You (2016) and bassist Max Johnson's In the West (2017). (Halvorson returned the favor with her appearance of Alcorn's 2020 quintet album Pedernal.) More recently, Alcorn made an incandescent appearance on this year's Manifesto, an improv trio with saxophonist Jose Lencastre and bassist Hernani Faustino. But I'd never heard any of her compositions until her new album, Canto -- out November 10 on Relative Pitch -- came my way.

Since relocating to Baltimore in 2007, Alcorn has been a regular visitor to Europe and South America. She first visited Chile even earlier, in 2003, and that country's folk and nueva cancion musics are the foundation on which Canto is built. The socially conscious nueva cancion style was outlawed and brutally targeted during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), with instruments banned and performers murdered or driven into exile.

The material on Canto pays tribute to the victims of Pinochet's regime. In theme and spirit, the album recalls Charlie Haden's The Ballad of the Fallen, with his Liberation Music Orchestra. But Canto is both more authentically folkloric and boldly improvisational than its precursor -- a reflection of the musicians Alcorn recruited for her Septeto del Sur. Guitarist Luis "Toto" Alvarez and bassist Amanda Irrazabal are veteran improvisers. Brothers Claudio "Pajaro" Araya (who plays drums and cuatro -- a small guitar) and Francisco "Pancho" Araya (who plays charango -- a small lute -- and quena, or Andean flute) are folk musicians from northern Chile. Flutist/guitarist Rodrigo Bobadilla and violinist Danka Villanueva have worked extensively within the nueva cancion idiom.

The opening "Suite Para Todos" alternates languorous melody with episodes of improvisation that first evoke birdsong, then cries of alarm before a military attack. The heart of the matter here is Alcorn's tripartite "Canto" suite. The first part, "Donde Estan?," laments the fate of the opponents of Pinochet -- up to 30,000 in all -- who were "disappeared" by the dictator's security forces. A gentle folk melody contrasts with a martial pulse that could represent the forces of repression or the heartbeats of their victims. The second, "Presente: Sueno de Luna Azul," is a 13-minute piece, cinematic in its scope, that draws inspiration from both the work of indigenous Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf and Olivier Messiaen's "Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum" (which Alcorn previously referred to on her album And I Await the Resurrection of the Pedal Steel Guitar).

The suite's third section, "Lukax," dedicated to the improviser and former political prisoner Lukax Santana, is a ballad which gives way to episodes of turbulent improvisation. Alcorn and the Septeto del Sur also dust off her composition "Mercedes Sosa," dedicated to the late Argentine folksinger and previously recorded on Alcorn's debut album. The album closes with a version of the murdered activist-singer Victor Jara's "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz," sung by bassist Irrazabal and sounding a note of hope after great pain and sorrow. A worthwhile listen for a moment when freedom remains at hazard throughout our troubled world."-Stashdauber Blogspot



This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

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Artist Biographies

"Susan Alcorn (born 1953) is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist. Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersed herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar. By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.

Soon, she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist "deep listening" philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.

Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Caroline Kraabel, Earl Howard, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek, George Burt, Janel Leppin, Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Evan Parker, Johanna Varner, Zane Campbell and Mary Halvorson."

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Alcorn)
2/28/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Amanda Irarrazabal was born in Santiago de Chile in 1982, currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina; is a bassist, bassist, singer, improviser and composer. in 2002 he began his musical career, going through different genres (classical, experimental, jazz, rock, tango and Latin American music); and choosing free improvisation and original music as what most identifies her. has been part of projects such as Inciertario, Jorge Campos Grupo, Cardias, Arre!, Dactilar, Cátodo Dúo, De Escamas, Eriza, Entre Otros. among others."

-Pany Rosas Discos (http://www.panyrosasdiscos.net/amanda-irarrazabal/)
2/28/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Danka Villanueva is a Mexican violinist, a member of Golosa La Orquesta.

-Danka Villanueva Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/dankavillanuevabono/?hl=en)
2/28/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. Suite Para Todos 6:16

2. Cantos. I. Donde Estan 6:52

3. Cantos. II. Presente: Sueno De Luna Azul 12:46

4. Cantos. III. Lukax 7:33

5. Mercedes Sosa 5:52

6. El Derecho De Vivir En Paz 4:19

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Compositional Forms
Chamber Jazz
Guitarists, &c.
Mexico, Central & South Americas + Islands
Septet recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music

Search for other titles on the label:
Relative Pitch.


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