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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 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 after several gun violence incidents took place as a statement to help expand awareness and work for a future free from gun violence, 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


New Old Luten Quintet:
Tumult! (Euphorium)

A tumultuously wonderful free jazz epic recorded in Leipzig in 2013 from original New Old Luten founders, saxophonist & clarinetist Enrst-Ludwig Petrowsky and drummer Christian Lillinger, the band configured as a quintet with Elan Pauer taking on the piano role plus percussives, and the dual and powerful double bassists John Edwards and Robert Landfermann. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner / Elan Pauer / Christian Lillinger:
Dirn Bridge (Euphorium)

Four impressive free improvisations of tremendous mastery and advanced and unusual technical skill from the trio of Axel Dorner on trumpet, Elan Pauer on piano & percussion and Christian Lillinger on drums & percussion, performing at naTo, in Leipzig, Germany in 2013, augmented on one track by John Edwards knocking on the venue door. ... Click to View


Tibor Prettschnoder / Neues Leipziger Streichquartett :
The Largo And The Lame (Euphorium)

Ominous and dense with layers of strata intended for nighttime listening, the German quartet of Axel Dorner on trumpet & electronics, Matthias Lorenz on cello, and both Robert Landfermann and John Edwards on double bass recorded these four tremendous electroacoustic improvisations at their live performance at naTo in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. ... Click to View


Jason Kahn:
Days Falling [VINYL 2 LPs] (Editions)

After riding through his city of Zurich to the Kunstraum Walcheturm studio in 2020, Jason Kahn was struck by the quiet aspects of the usually busy city, now quelled by pandemic; entering the studio feeling the desolation and strange sense of peacefulness in the midst of so much tragedy and suffering, he recorded these "songs" of passionate free vocal improvisations and acoustic guitar. ... Click to View


Jean Jones Claude (JC) :
Drones - 5th And Tibetan Bowls For Barre (Kadima)

Jean Claude "JC" Jones seamlessly merges two violins from Ariel Lanyi & Ilan Volkov, bass from Hagai Bilitzky and his own performance on bass, lap style spanish plugged-in guitar and tibetan bowls, creating 13 beautifully contemplative drones that weave distinctive tones, timbres and rich resonance; dedicated to Barre Phillips & Francois Lagarde. ... Click to View


Jean Jones Claude (JC):
Give It Your All - Wild Guitar Musings 2 (Kadima)

Active and informed improvisations on acoustic guitar from Jean Claude "JC" Jones, label leader of the Kadima Collective and also known as a double bassist, though his roots are in the guitar, which he has returned to with vigor since 2016, performing on lap-style prepared acoustic and prepared Spanish guitar, heard here in 13 concise pieces titled by single words. ... Click to View


Jos Smolders:
Bagatellen [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (esc.rec.)

Inspired by Jeroen Diepenmaat's Xerox collage art book, "co//age co//py", sound artist Jos Smolders developed these tracks as a response through 9 brief works and one larger construction, intersecting voice, synth, sax, piano and field recordings in a mix of oddly and abruptly sliced sound offset with periods of beauty; a compellingly curious album. ... Click to View


Alexey Kruglov / Carolyn Hume / Paul May / Oleg Yudanov:
Last Train From Narvskaya (Leo Records)

Ganelin Trio saxophonist joins with the UK improvising duo of pianist Carolyn Hume & drummer Paul May, with percussionist Oleg Yudanov rounding out this sophisticated quartet of chamber-oriented collective free improvisation, their studio debut alternating three concise conversations with two extended works, each unfolding in great detail through expressive technique. ... Click to View


Sergio Armaroli / Giancarlo Schiaffini / Harri Sjostrom:
Duos & Trios (Leo Records)

A series of trios and duos between Italian vibraphonist Sergio Armaroli, trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini and saxophonist Harri Sjöström performing on soprano and sopranino, the three developing a compositional language based around phrases and propositions applied toward the creation of events through notes and timbre intended to create moods and sensations. ... Click to View


Gregg Belisle-Chi :
KOI - performing the music of Tim Berne (Relative Pitch)

After hearing Matt Mitchell's solo piano album performing the music of saxophonist Tim Berne, Brooklyn-based acoustic guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi asked himself how Berne's compositions would sound on his own instrument, reaching out to the composer for guidance as he went into the studio to interpret and record these 10 Berne compositions. ... Click to View


Robert Dick / Nicola L. Hein:
Structures of Unreason (Shhpuma)

Taking guitar and flute into very strange territory informed by vast experience and technical skill, NY flutist Robert Dick and electric guitarist Nicola L. Hein create truly unique and dramatic sound worlds, sometimes tense, sometimes beautiful, but always fascinating in momentum and expression; unique musical structures that refuse to be easily categorized: extraordinary! ... Click to View


Colonna / Miranda / Spera:
N-EST (Fundacja Sluchaj!)

Ten collective improvisations and Steve Lacy's "Blues for Alda" from the Italian trio of Marco Colonna, who typically performs on clarinet but here also on bass clarinet, alto saxophone and flute, with the rhythm section of Dario Miranda on double bass and Fabrizio Spera on drums, in a wonderfully astute album of highly cultivated and sincere discourse. ... Click to View


Francisco Mela feat. Matthew Shipp / William Parker:
Music Frees Our Souls, Vol. 1 (577 Records)

A member of pianist McCoy Tyner's Trio and Joe Lavano's Quartet, New York drummer Francisco Mela's own career as a leader is heard in this energetic trio album with two of NY's finest--pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker--recording in the studio in Brooklyn in 2020 for two extended and powerful collective improvisations and a brief "Dark Light". ... Click to View


Jessica Ackerley / Daniel Carter:
Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel (577 Records)

Developed over outdoor sessions performed during the summer of 2020 around NYC, this is the first release from the duo of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter and acoustic guitarist Jessica Ackerley, their warm collaboration heard in effortless interactions inspired by the dream-like, meditative approach in both improviser's playing; lovely. ... Click to View



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  Ballister 
  Znacki Stilyag  
  (Aerophonic Records) 


  
   review by Thomas Mellish
  2021-02-25
Ballister: Znacki Stilyag (Aerophonic Records)

Ballister — "a freewheeling" trio — lend their talents to the genres of improvisational and free jazz. Due to the broadness and aleatoric nature of free and improvisational jazz, however, it can be particularly difficult to differentiate improvisational jazz groups from each other. There is a paradox within the genre in that, despite its lack of concrete boundaries, many still manage to tread the same musical ground. However, in my mind, Znachki Stilyag does not suffer from this paradox. The album presents a compelling study of rhythm and texture. The album is a dialectic between instruments, where rhythmic and textural 'topics' are mused and conversed over until the next one arises.

"Fuck the Money Changers" is perhaps the clearest example of this rhythmic and textural conversation between instruments. The track begins with Rempis' virulent alto saxophone blurting and spluttering into the fore, with dissonant squeals and cries only adding to its atavism. Lonberg-Holm's cello then begins conversing with the saxophone, trading insults and jabs through the wall of dissonance. As the track develops, harmony and discernable vibrato scales become ever-more apparent. Perhaps a middle-ground has been met during this rhythmic conversation. This musical agreement, however, is undermined by the alto saxophone. Much like that particularly domineering friend, it plunges the conversation back into disarray through polyrhythmic ascensions and nadirs. The cello strives to stave off this collapse; the slightest semblance of structure is provided, which Nilssen-Love's drums attempt to uphold with equal ferocity. Eventually, the saxophone — perhaps reading the room — drops off and allows the cello and drums to familiarize themselves with each other. Ghost notes and muted rhythms signify the musings of the two instruments; the mood is convivial. After this denouement, the saxophone makes a return. However, this return is a beleaguered one. Maybe to ingratiate itself, and forget the previous conversation's chaos, the saxophone becomes a harmonious instrument once again. The cello begins to dictate the flow of the conversation; rhythms metastasize, and groves grow. The three are friends once again. This comradery becomes overtly apparent when the alto saxophone, tremor saxophone and cello all harmonize into one cohesive voice; they are unified. However, this theme does not continue until the track's conclusion because the boisterous saxophone returns. It usurps the cello and takes the conversation by the scruff of the neck. The track is plunged into that all-too-familiar rhythmic abyss. As such, the conversation fades out, and the song is over.

If "Fuck the Money Changers" is a conversation, albeit it a complex and impassioned one, then "Hotel Mary Poppins" is an out-and-out bar fight. The saxophone instigates the conflict. Initially, words and unpleasantries are thrown. Cutting cymbals and high hats intersperse with the saxophone flurries, with one attempting to gain primacy and dominion over the other. The cello joins the scrap, and the saxophone becomes more and more angered, almost atavistic. Individual textures vie against each other; fists and chairs are now being thrown. Drum bass notes and dissonant cello chords envelop the saxophone, which begins to splutter and falter under the pressure. Reverberated electronic cello notes signify the apotheosis. Each instrument, bloody-nosed and fatigued, crawls back to their respective domains.

"Old Worms" follows the path paved by "Hotel Mary Poppins". However, whereas before the conflict developed organically and progressively, in this track, the listener is not afforded such a musical context. The track immediately begins with rhythmic and harmonic vicissitudes. Crying saxophone notes become enmeshed with an equally potent cello. The drums egg on this animosity, with both instruments seemingly on the verge of collapse.

As an improvisational work, Ballister manage to cut themselves from the rest through Znacki Stilyag. Each instrument has its own personality, which only adds to the listenability of the album. Rempis' saxophone is a bruiser, Lonberg-Holm's cello is the natural antithesis to Rempis' saxophone, and Nilssen-Love's drums acts as both a peacekeeper and an encourager. Due to the personalities contained in the album, it flows and appears as if the instruments are conversing. The flow, in my mind, is what allows Ballister to so adeptly explore of texture and rhythm. If Znacki Stilyag is indeed a conversation, then it is one worth eavesdropping onto.



Ballister: Znacki Stilyag
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