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Judson Trio (Leandre / Maneri / Cleaver):
Light And Dance [2 CDs] (RogueArt)

A live recording at Instants Chavire's, in Montreuil, France in 2020, and a studio recording 5 days later in Malakoff, France, in the 2nd album from the Judson Trio of Joelle Leandre on double bass, Mat Maneri on viola, Gerald Cleaver on drums & small percussion, the entwining of viola and bass strings propelled with assertive restraint and accent from Cleaver. ... Click to View


All Set (Laubrock / Payen / Tordini / Rainey):
All Set (RogueArt)

Distinctive for the dual reed front line of French saxophonist Stephane Payen on straight alto sax and New York tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, with the spirited rhythm section of double bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Tom Rainey, formed in 2002 through the collectives HASK and F-IRE, finally realized in recordings with this 2019 studio encounter in Pernes-les-Fontaines, France. ... Click to View


Natural Information Society w/ Evan Parker:
Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (AGUIRRE RECORDS)

The first live album from Chicago bassist and guimbri player Joshua Abrams is the 6th Natural Information Society album, captured live in the summer of 2019 at Cafe Oto in London, the core quartet with Lisa Alvarado on harmonium, Mikel Patrick on drums and Jason Stein on bass clarinet joined by UK legend Evan Parker on soprano saxophone for four ecstatic improvisations. ... Click to View


Matthew Shipp / William Parker:
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The kind of conversation only two profoundly accomplished jazz artists such as pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker could have, steeped in the history of the creative form and founded on a long history of collaborations between the two, here in four engaging extended dialogs recorded in the studio Sextan in La Fonderie, Malakoff, France. ... Click to View


Evan Parker:
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Big Bad Brotzmann Quintet :
Karacho! (Euphorium)

A superb example of European Free Jazz tradition, modern and amazingly creative, from the quintet of pianist Oliver Schwerdt and reedist Peter Brotzmann performing on tenor sax, tarogato & clarinet, with Christian Lillinger on drums & percussion and dual double bassists in John Edwards and John Eckhardt, performing a 50+ minute free masterpiece at club naTo in Liepzig, 2017. ... Click to View


Susan Alcorn Quintet:
Pedernal [VINYL] (Very Good)

An innovator in integrating pedal steel guitar into modern improvised music, Cleveland-born, Baltimore-based pedal steel guitar player Susan Alcorn's quintet enlists a superb set of New York players--Mark Feldman on violin, Michael Formanek on double bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Ryan Sawyer on drums--taking on a diverse set of Alcorn compositions. ... Click to View


Susan Alcorn / Phillip Greenlief:
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A beautifully balanced encounter between Baltimore pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn and Bay Area reedist Phillip Greenlief, performing on tenor saxophone & B-flat clarinet, improvising four "colors" as the two span the spectrum from rapid interaction of weaving and pointillistic playing into deeply introspective and ruminating discourse, each the perfect complement for the other. ... Click to View


Fred Frith:
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The first of three sturdy box sets from innovative guitarist, composer and improviser Fred Frith, here with 8 CDs from the Recommended Records label plus a bonus CD, a thick booklet of artwork, photographs & extensive notes from Frith; albums included are Guitar Solos, Gravity, Cheap at Half the Price, Killing Time, Impur , Middle of the Moment, Keep the Dog; Dropera. ... Click to View


Fred Frith:
Crossing Borders (Volume 2 Of The Fred Records Story, 2001-2020) [BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

The second of three sturdy box sets from innovative guitarist, composer and improviser Fred Frith, here with 8 CDs from the Recommended Records label plus a bonus CD, a thick booklet of artwork, photographs & extensive notes from Frith; albums included are Live in Japan, Speechless, Prints, Step Across the Border, Impur 2, Art of Memory II, Skeleton Crew, Helter Skelter. ... Click to View


Fred Frith:
Stepping Out (Volume 3 Of The Fred Records Story, 2001-2020) [BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

The third of three sturdy box sets from innovative guitarist, composer and improviser Fred Frith, here with 8 CDs from the Recommended Records label plus a bonus CD, a thick booklet of artwork, photographs & extensive notes from Frith; albums included are Technology of Tears, Propaganda, Allies, Accidental, The Previous Evening, Happy End Problem, Nowhere, Sideshow, Field Days; Inimitable (previously unreleased). ... Click to View


Roy Campbell / John Dikeman / Raoul van der Weide / Peter Jacquemyn / Klaus Kugel:
When The Time Is Right (577 Records)

Performing at Bimhuis in 2013, the trans-Atlantic quintet of Roy Campbell on trumpet, flugelhorn & flute, John Dikeman on saxophone, Raoul van der Weide on cello & percussion, Peter Jacquemyn on bass & voice and Klaus Kugel on drums, perform an extended, energetic and dynamic set of free improvisation, with intricate melodies and beautifully rich transitions. ... Click to View


Elliott Sharp:
IrRational Music [BOOK] (TerraNova Press)

An insightful look at the history of New York composer, saxophonist and guitarist Elliott Sharp, "Sixteen Pieces in the Shape of a Memoir" as Sharp looks back at his musical influences and approach to playing and composing, with observations on music, art, politics and technology, a fascinating set of essays from a vanguard artist's point of view. ... Click to View


Charles Noyes K. :
Crimes In High Places, Part 1 (zOaR Records)

Known as a percussionist, Bay Area improviser Charles K. Noyes' first part of his Crimes In High Places is performed on electric & resonator guitars plus amplified guqin, expanding on the innovations of Derek Bailey in free-form non-idiomatic playing as he works to create a personal language on the instrument, presenting a dark and creatively foreboding vision. ... Click to View


Gerald Cleaver / Devin Gray:
27 Licks (Rataplan Records)

Drummer Gerald Cleaver's significance in NY free jazz can't be understated, and his influence and work with younger generation drummer Devin Gray as a teacher, friend and associate has shaped Gray's work, as heard here in this monumental encounter between the two drummers, a duet that started many years before, playing in the streets of NYC, and now properly captured in the studio. ... Click to View


Devin Gray / Ralph Alessi / Angelica Sanchez:
Melt all the Guns (Rataplan Records)

Recorded in the fall of 2019 as a statement to help expand awareness and work for a future free from gun violence, composed in response to several gun violence incidents, performed at Douglass Recording in Brooklyn with the trio of Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Angelica Sanchez on piano, and Devin Gray on drums and providing the compositions, each title expressing his concern. ... Click to View


Devin Gray / Ingrid Laubrock / Cory Smythe :
Cloudsounds Trio (Rataplan Records)

NY drummer Devin Gray provides the compositions for this EP with his Cloudsounds trio of Ingrid Laubrock performing on tenor and soprano saxophones and Corey Smythe on piano, the sophisticated structures leading the improvisers into almost chamber jazz territory, with a light playfulness and warm interaction, Gray's intriguing rhythms shifting and propelling their music. ... Click to View


The Selva + Machinefabriek (Jacinto / Almeida / Morao + Zuydervelt):
Barbatrama (Shhpuma)

The Selva trio of Ricardo Jacinto on cello, Goncalo Almeida on double bass and Nuno Morao on drums join with Rutger Zuydervelt of Machinefabriek who adds unique electroacoustic transformations to their fusion of free improvisation and hydrid world elements, resulting in this wonderfully dark venture inside a virtual jungle of contrasting darkness and refined acoustic beauty. ... Click to View


Giovanni Di Domenico :
Decay Music n. 4: Downtown Ethnic Music [VINYL] (Die Schachtel)

The fourth release in Die Schachtel's Decay Music series is Italian composer Giovanni Di Domenico's Downtown Ethnic Music, a tapestry of synthetic and acoustic sources in a 4th world/Jon Hassell mode, with rhythms from drummer João Lobo, vocals by Pak Yan Lau and Patshiva CIE women choir, the horns of Ananta Roosens and Jordi Grognard; a gorgeous album of detailed ambience and atmosphere. ... Click to View


Adrian Knight:
Fly By Night [2 CDs] (thanatosis produktion)

A "travelogue" of Swedish composer and songwriter Adrian Knight's guitar explorations, works originally released on his digital-only and now dormant label Pink Pamphlet, drawing from work recorded in his home studio that developed from sketches and experimentation, along with new recordings including one with saxophonist David Lackner; beautifully moody and elegant music. ... Click to View


J/L Duo + Adrian Knight and Frew Elfineh Taha:
Ismalfa [VINYL] (thanatosis produktion)

A cohesive suite in eight parts on dynamics, tone and vocal narration in acoustic jazz from the joining of the 20+ year Swedish duo project J/L Duo of saxophonist Johan Jutterstrom and drummer/percussionist Andreas Hiroui Larsson, Brooklyn-based pianist Adrian Knight and vocalist/lyricist Frew Elfineh Taha (also known under the moniker Black Fist). ... Click to View


Marta Forsberg:
TKAĆ [VINYL] (thanatosis produktion)

Tkać means to weave, as Swedish electroacoustic sound artist Marta Forsberg interwines drones, first through a work of sound and light using frozen and processed violin sounds that slowly shift in minimal repetition; then in a synthetic work exploring darkness, light and colour by means of LED light, fabric, sequins, and minimalistic drone-based electronic music. ... Click to View


OTONN :
Two Crumbling Shapes [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (esc.rec.)

The electroacoustic duo of singer Andrea Silvia Giordano and drummer Nicholas Remondino, working with Pierre Bastien, E-cor Ensemble, Gianluca Verlingieri, Maria Dybbroe and Torstein Lavik Larsen, create uniquely motioned works of decay, deconstruction and destruction, percussion and voice weaving amid unusual sonic sources both abstract and rhythmic. ... Click to View


Yoshio Machida / Cal Lyall:
Premeditation [VINYL 2 10-inch records] (By the Bluest of Seas)

Both members of the Tokyo band SuperDeluxe, drummer Yoshio Mashida performing on steelpan, gamelan and metal-slit drums, and 5-string banjo player Cal Lyall, performing largely on a tabletop guitar setup augmented with electronics, have developed a lovely and relaxed, compelling language of improvisational forms using structural ideas-based on minimal scalar patterns. ... Click to View


Fred Frith:
Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire (Graphic Scores 1986-96)(2CDs) (Angelica)

RESTOCKED: Fred Frith's 1999 box set, presenting a large, flexible ensemble project using marked photographs and rules as scores while Frith directs and conducts as well as performing; permanent members are Ikue Mori and Zeena Parkins, otherwise the balance of the 44 strong ensemble changes; recordings here are taken from 5 concerts, including the first in 1992 at AngelicA. ... Click to View


Robbie Avenaim / Chris Abrahams / Jim Denley:
Weft (Relative Pitch)

The Australian trio of percussionist Robbie Avenaim, keyboard player Chris Abrahams performing on a Waldorf Q+ Synthesiser and bass flutist Jim Denley, all compatriots in a variety of groupings, in an extended studio improvisation of spacious textures and rapidly understated percussive elements, aptly titled for the weaving and cris-crossing threads on a loom. ... Click to View


Sergio Armaroli / Fritz Hauser:
Angelica (Leo Records)

Performed at the Angelica Contemporary Music Festival in Bologna, Italy in 2019 and recorded with superb fidelity, drummer/percussionist Fritz Hauser joined with xylophonist Sergio Armaroli for an enthralling performance that balances chamber jazz forms with fully free exploration, avant yet embraceable as two interact in exquisite and authoritatively unhurried ways. ... Click to View


John Brennan Wolf:
Nitty Gritty Ditties (Leo Records)

33 songs & instrumentals in 74 minutes performed by Dublin composer, performer, improvisor, pianist and organist John Wolf Brennan, covering an eclectic and vast cross-section of styles and genres, from composers including Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, The Rolling Stones, Lars Hollmer, Tom Waits, Cornelius Cardew, Bela Bartok, Paul McCartney, John McLaughlin, &c. ... Click to View


Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey:
Zip (Leo Records)

Naming each track for the teeth of a different type of zip-fastener (curved, triangular, saggitate, &c) Swiss double bassists Daniel Studer and Peter K. Frey improvise a fascinating set of interlocking and intersecting abstractions, recorded live at at Kronen Galerie, in Zurich as the two celebrated their 20th anniversary as a duo through a series of 10 half-hour concerts. ... Click to View


Christer Bothen :
Ambrosia [3 CD BOX SET] (thanatosis produktion)

Swedish contrabass clarinetist Christ Bothen in six extended works, the first and third disks a series of solo works using incredible technique and concentration, the 2nd disc a large work in an ensemble with fellow deep reedists Hans Koch & Per Texas Johansson, double bassist Vilhelm Bromander, pianists Kristine Scholz & Tisha Mukarji, and a spectral narrative from Sofia Jernberg. ... Click to View



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  Carl Testa 
  Sway Prototypes Volumes 1 and 2  
  (Sway) 


  
   review by Nick Ostrum
  2020-02-03
Carl Testa: Sway Prototypes Volumes 1 and 2 (Sway)

Carl Testa might be most well-known for his work with Anthony Braxton over the last decade. The school of Braxton (Wesleyan and beyond) has, of course, produced some of the most exciting and inventive musicians of our time. That said, many also struggle to break free from Braxton’s shadow and style. A series of two volumes (with a third on the way), Sway Prototypes may just be Testa’s early, definitive statement of independence.

The name Sway comes from an “interactive live processing environment” generated in SuperCollider. Rather than simply providing more “electronics” to play, however, Sway functions autonomously in reaction to changes in the “amplitude, density, and pitch clarity” of each instrument. When a musician strays on any of these metrics from their average over the previous second(!), the program steps in not to “correct” the tone, but to modulate it. (For more, see Testa’s fascinating description here.) Although this is a really unique and compelling processor, it is, in a sense, another instrument, albeit independent from any one player. What I am in interested in here is not just the novelty of the process, but also the product. And although the computer manipulations add depth and variation (and a lot of those), Testa the composer and bandleader is the critical element here.

In part because of the density added by Sway’s modulations, Sway Prototypes sounds like a band much bigger than it actually is. The ensemble consists of a core six members (Erica Dicker on violin, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Louis Guarino Jr. on trumpet, Andria Nicodemou on vibes, and Testa on bass and electronics) on two tracks with an additional seventh (Anne Rhodes on vocals) on one. The outlier is the “Bloom,” the second track on Volume 2, which is Testa’s solo contribution. The overall effect lies somewhere between free blowing sessions and the more composed free jazz big bands of, for instance, Steve Peck, William Parker, or Anthony Braxton. That, however, might just be this listener’s attempt to put recognizable constraints on it. The Sway Prototypes do not actually sound like Peck, Parker, or Braxton music. Rather, this is undoubtably bears the imprint of Testa, as well as the gathered improvisors and interpreters.

Although these albums are titled Sway, the music is more disorienting and bleaker than that name suggests. Rather than the breeziness implied by the title, the first track on Volume 1, “Three Sections,” evokes a squall. Gusts of sound blow from all directions. Waves of brass bleed into crackly electronics and trembling strings. A final fade points just to a temporary abatement rather than a cathartic conclusion. This track is a marked contrast to its successor, “Quadrants,” presumably referencing the format of the Sway interface. This is the first track that includes Rhodes on vocals. The result is something quite different from what I expected after hearing “Three Sections.” Classical- and folk-inspired motifs pop in and out of perception, as do cacophonous modern compositional elements. Rhodes explores a range of modern vocal techniques, frequently quite delicately and, sometimes, manipulated electronically. As noted above, there is a system to these real-time electronic interventions. That said, they seem to appear almost randomly, if also seamlessly, and push the music to the boundaries between acoustic and electronic soundworlds, and even between human and machine intentionality. As much as this is a full ensemble effort and a Testa-driven piece, Rhodes’ contribution is singular.

The same holds for “Emergence,” the first track on Volume 2. Over the course of 45 minutes, the music shatters, swirls, reconstructs, and decomposes in a refreshingly understated manner. At numerous points, Guarino’s trumpet or numerous configurations of strings threaten to break out of the wreathing morass of sounds, but never quite break the surface. This is to the piece’s credit. In its balanced and restricted dynamism, the piece evokes a gradual appearance rather than a sudden break through. Rhodes’ voice offers a magical, almost elvish ambiance to roiling whorls of the rest of the ensemble. Things begin to simmer 14 minutes into the track, only to settle just a minute later over the bubbling textures of Nicodemou’s vibes, Testa’s electronics, and an entanglement of rumbling and scratching violin, cello, and bass. Apart from a few instances of controlled boil, the strength of “Emergence” comes from its layers of sound that are at times muddily, at others ethereally pastoral.

The second track on Volume 2 is a solo piece for bass and electronics. This piece is definitively darker than the others as Testa’s bass quavers (or his Sway program quavers the bass strings?) in alternating slow and punctuated bow strokes. Testa employs similar techniques on the previous pieces, but too often his bass work is buried within the ensemble. Here, one can discern the slightest creaks, knocks, and clatter and the shimmer of the sharpest cuts (and electronic crackle). And, in isolation, one can almost feel the reverberations of the layers of pulsing chords and the wandering pizzicato.

All in all, these Sway Prototypes are two deeply enthralling albums and together form a compelling testimonial to Testa’s vision, creativity, and sheer talent as a composer and bandleader. I look forward excitedly to where he takes this Sway project next.

Testa, Carl : Sway Prototypes - Volume 1 (Sway)

1st volume of bassist Carl Testa's Sway electroacoustic interactive software, taking the individual playing of Erica Dicker on violin, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Louis Guarino Jr. on trumpet, Andria Nicodemou on vibraphone, Carl Testa on bass & electronics, and Anne Rhodes on voice, Testa's software generating responses that push and pull the musician in unique directions.



Testa, Carl : Sway Prototypes - Volume 2 (Sway)

2nd volume of bassist Carl Testa's Sway electroacoustic interactive software, taking the individual playing of Erica Dicker on violin, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Louis Guarino Jr. on trumpet, Andria Nicodemou on vibraphone, Carl Testa on bass & electronics, and Anne Rhodes on voice, Testa's software generating responses that push and pull the musician in unique directions.







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