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Ernesto Rodrigues / Jose Lencastre / Miguel Mira / Hernani Faustino / Joao Lencastre:
Affinity Suite (Creative Sources)

A chamber jazz quintet orchestrated for three strings, saxophone and percussion from Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Jose Lencastre on alto saxophone, Miguel Mira on cello, Hernani Faustino on double bass and Joao Lencastre on drums, technically advanced collective playing that simmers with an underlying jazz fire unique to many of Rodrigues' groupings. ... Click to View

Akira Sakata / Takeo Moriyama:
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An absolutely intense sax & drum duo recorded in Chiba Prefecture, Japan at Kashiwa Church in 1986 between free improvising saxophonist Akira Sakata and drummer Takeo Moriyama, two influential performers whose work began in the Yosuke Yamashita Trio in the early 70's, here in concentrated form for 18 improvisations, including a burning version of Albert Ayler's "Ghosts". ... Click to View

Mark Wastell:
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Beginning in February 2022 on the 1st Saturday of the month Mark Wastell would bring his cello to the Hundred Years Gallery in London with the grace of gallery owners Graham MacKeachan and Montse Gallego and play, not as a performance, not as a rehearsal, just to play and record his improvisations as he expands his reach on the instrument, heard here in 17 fascinating excerpts. ... Click to View

Trevor Dunn's Trio (w/ Halvorson / Smith) Convulsant avec Folie a Quatre:
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A series of powerful "séances" from the Trio-Convulsant of Trevor Dunn on bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Ches Smith on drums & percussion, imagining through improv the 18th century French sect of Convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard, assisted by the Folie à Quatre of Carla Kihlstedt (volin), Oscar Noriega (clarinet), Mariel Roberts (cell) and Anna Webber (flute). ... Click to View

Patricia Brennan (w/ Herrera / Cass / Gilmore):
More Touch (Pyroclastic Records)

Three drummer/percussionists and bass make up vibraphonist, marimbist, improviser and composer Patricia Brennan's sophomore album, reimagining the percussion quartet through jazz, new music and latin influences including Mexican folkloric roots, working with deceptively relaxed, highly interactive grooves that turn angular melodies into warmly irresistible music. ... Click to View

Mats Gustafsson / Nu Ensemble:
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A conduction of an absolutely impressive ensemble of free and ea- improvisers on a powerfully diverse journey, from Anna Högberg & Gustafsson on sax, Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Per-Åke Holmlander on tuba, Hedvig Mollestad on guitar, Dieb13 on turntables, Christof Kurzmann on lloopp & voice, Massimo Pupillo on bass, Gert-Jan Prins on drums & electronics, and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums. ... Click to View

Mats Gustafsson / Nu Ensemble:
Hidros 8 Heal [VINYL] (Trost Records)

A conduction of an absolutely impressive ensemble of free and ea- improvisers on a powerfully diverse journey, from Anna Högberg & Gustafsson on sax, Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Per-Åke Holmlander on tuba, Hedvig Mollestad on guitar, Dieb13 on turntables, Christof Kurzmann on lloopp & voice, Massimo Pupillo on bass, Gert-Jan Prins on drums & electronics, and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums. ... Click to View

Marc Copland Quartet (w/ Gress / Verheyen / Ferber):
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Bringing together veteran bassist Drew Gress with younger generation players, Belgian-American saxophonist Robin Verheyen (Bram De Looze) and drummer Mark Ferber (Gary Peacock, Ralph Alessi), pianist Marc Copland's new quartet presents a lyrical album of original compositions and standards; virtuosic, energetic and sensitively interpreted works of modern jazz. ... Click to View

Yves Charuest / Michel Ratte / Peter Kowald:
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During a 1985 stay in Montreal, iconic German double bassist Peter Kowald asked alto saxophonist Yves Charuest to perform a series of duos with him, after which Charuest invited Michel Ratté to perform as a trio live at Le Bruit Court, recording in their studio these solid free jazz recordings that remained in storage for 37 years prior to this release! ... Click to View

Brulez les meubles (Beaudoin / Normand / Derome / Hollenbeck):
Tardiff [VINYL] (Tour de Bras / Ramble)

The Quebec project Brulez Les Meubles (Burn the Furniture) was conceived by long-time friends and contemporary jazz fans, bassist Eric Normand and guitarist Louis Beaudoin-de la Sablonniere, each collaboration inviting other musicians to join their warm & relaxed approach to modern jazz, here with Jean Derome on saxophone & flute and John Hollenbeck on drums. ... Click to View

Vanessa Rossetto :
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An unusual narrative of field recordings, electronics and chamber instrumentation from composer Vanessa Rossetto, through two CDs weaving an abstracted and detailed story of recurring motifs, indescribably intertwined with spoken word, equestrian moments, environmental recordings, and melodic progressions of strings and harps; a momentous work of collaged composition. ... Click to View

Clara de Asis / Ryoko Akama:
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Engrossing interactions of electronic sound, abstract percussion, static, metallic ringing and other ephemeral sonic assertions, from French-based Spanish sound artist Clara de Asís and UK-based Japanese-Korean installation & sound artist Ryoko Akama: three tracks of live electroacoustic improvisation, and three compositions extracted from those sessions. ... Click to View

String Theory:
Musica Povera (Creative Sources)

The 8-piece String Theory ensemble directed by violist Ernesto Rodrigues in a live performance at O'Culto da Ajuda in Lisbon of a beautiful and subtle work inspired by a poem written by Rodrigues, ".. dans cette immensité ", realized through viola, violin, cellos, viola de gamba, double bass, piano, zither and objects, a deceptively tranquil work of detail and dexterous execution. ... Click to View

Steve Lehman / Selebeyone:
Xaybu: The Unseen (Pi Recordings)

An urgent album of modern jazz, underground urban and electronic music, from the international collective of MCs HPrizm (NYC) & Gaston Bandimic (Dakar), saxophonists Steve Lehman (Los Angeles) & Maciek Lasserre (Paris) and drummer Damon Reid, exploring Islamic mysticism of al-Ghaib with the voices of Billy Higgins and Jackie McLean heard throughout the album. ... Click to View

Duck Baker:
Contra Costa Dance (Confront)

In 1980 Duck Baker's first label deal had expired and the label changed direction, as did Baker himself from arranging traditional tunes into compositions for improvisation; still, these well-recorded demos from 1982 held an appeal through song selection and a uniquely edgy yet lyrical approach to his playing, now finally released to the public 40 years later. ... Click to View

Owlman (Sama / Taubenfeld / Jan Willem van der Ham / Petruccelli / Sola / van Es / Ferreira / Govaert / Chientaroli):
Owlman (Creative Sources)

Pianist Nico Chientaroli leads this 9-piece Dutch ensemble, based around free improvisation but merging rock & experimental music from funky to abstract, in generally energetic and slightly unhinged music in a Dutch improv kind of way, incorporating spoken word with texts from Jorge Luis Borges, William Burroughs, Martin Calegari, &c.; wonderfully embraceable and eclectic. ... Click to View

Peter Brotzmann / Fred Van Hove / Han Bennink:
Jazz in der Kammer Nr.71 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Trost Records)

Recorded for radio for the series Jazz in der Kammer Nr 71, this 1974 concert was the first in East Germany for Peter Brötzmann, Fred Van Hove, and Han Bennink, bridging the divided German states through an energetic set of improvisations that extended traditional jazz with outrageous approaches to improv in an exciting, quirky and profoundly masterful set of European Free Jazz. ... Click to View

Frank Wright:
Your Prayer [VINYL] (ESP-Disk)

A much-referenced album on the ESP label, tenor saxophonist Frank Wright's 2nd release brought together New York alto saxophonist Arthur Jones with French trumpeter Jacques Coursil, then living in NY, and the rhythm section of bassist Steve Tintweiss and drummer Muhammad Ali, for a passionate, well-balanced, and often burning free jazz album that still sounds modern today. ... Click to View

Kjetil Mulelid Trio:
Who Do You Love The Most? [VINYL] (Rune Grammofon)

The 3rd album from this young Norwegian piano trio led by composer Kjetil A Mulelid with double bassist Bjørn Marius Hegge and drummer Andreas Skår Winther, presenting ten lyrical compositions of strong melodies and solid and expressive rhythmic foundations, a thoughtfully beautiful and sophisticated album of exquisite modern jazz. ... Click to View

Spaces Unfolding (Metcalfe / Wachsmann / Karlsen):
The Way We Speak (Bead)

All three having met in the London Improvisers Orchestra, Neil Metcalfe on flute and violinist Philipp Wachsmann each worked with drummer Emil Karlsen in separate projects including Tern, and then at Karlsen's suggestion creating this new Spaces Unfolding trio, heard in their first album, recording in the natural resonance of St. Mary's Old Church in Stoke Newington. ... Click to View

Imaginary String Trio, The (Wachsmann / Guastalla / Lash):
Imaginary Trio (Bead)

Formed from the merging of violinist Philipp Wachsmann's 2005 solo performance in Oxford in a concert that also included the duo of cellist Bruno Guastalla and bassist Dominic Lash, the trio then took that union into the studio under the name The Imaginary String Trio, producing this fascinatingly diverse and dexterous album of collective spontaneous improvisation. ... Click to View

Lih Kadim (Jaka Berger / Marko Jenic / Jure Borsic / Andre Bost Ruda / Jost Drasler / Vid Drasler):
Sunday Sextet (FMR)

With shared background in Slovik groups and ensembles including work with Szilárd Mezei and the Olfamoštvo ensemble, the Lih Kadim sextet of electroacoustic improvisers is heard in an exceptional 2021 concert of innovative and exploratory interaction, each recording taken from a successive night performing at the Cultural Centre, Bistrica Ob Sotli in Slovenia. ... Click to View

Weston Olencki:
Old Time Music [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Tripticks Tapes)

Multi-instrumentalist & experimental composer Weston Olencki in three historically-driven sound works, recording with saxophonist Anna Webber as they explore the tenor sax in jazz and recording studio technology; the banjo with bluegrass and the mechanized modernism of the Carolinas; and a pump organ with Sacred Harp hymnody and the aging marble industries of Vermont. ... Click to View

David Boyce / Phillip Greenlief:
Mystery School (Creative Sources)

A confluence of reeds from Bay Area saxophonists David Boyce and Phillip Greenlief, both performing on and professing an open love letter to the tenor saxophone, the positioning of each clear through stereo placement as they improvise seven dialogs of intent listening and tremendous technique, from high speed intertwining to introspective contemplation. ... Click to View

John Berndt:
New Logic For Old Saxophones (Creative Sources)

Using extended techniques, Baltimore-based saxophonist John Berndt--director of Multiphonic Choir ensemble, a member of the Red Room collective and curator of their experimental performance series, and creator of the "Relabi" style of arrhythmic pulse--presents 15 succinct improvisations pushing his reed instruments to their outer edges in astonishing ways. ... Click to View

Kelsey Mines:
Look Like (Relative Pitch)

The first complete solo release from Seattle, Washington bassist and vocalist Kelsey Mines, active in both classical music as a member of Yakima Symphony, Symphony Tacoma and the Paramount Orchestra, and as an improviser, here presenting a series of improvised solo-duets that explore how listening to our on-going internal dialogue helps us conjure honest, outward expressions. ... Click to View

Sean Meehan:
Magazine (Sacred Realism)

Working only with a cowbell from a charity shop in NYC, percussionist Sean Meehan, whose performances often take place in locations of unique resonant properties, discovered the Fort Jay powder magazine at Governor's Island--a compartment once used to store ammunition and explosives--using its sonic properties to capture these two recordings reflecting the original purpose of that space. ... Click to View

Samuel Blaser / Consort In Motion:
A Mirror To Madchaut (Songlines)

The Consort in Motion ensemble of Samuel Blaser on trombone, Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, clarinet & tenor saxophone, Drew Gress on double bass, Russ Lossing on piano, Rhodes & Wulitzer and Gerry Hemingway on drums & percussion adapt the late medieval court music of Guillaume de Machaut and Guillaume Dufay into arrangements for modern creative improvisation. ... Click to View

Paul Bley Trios:
Play Annette Peacock, Revisited (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Annette Peacock's response to the free-blowing loft scene was to compose using spacious intervals, allowing great harmonic and rhythmic freedom, inspiring pianist Paul Bley and his trio as heard in two unique interpretations of the same pieces from two exceptional working bands: one with bassist & drummer Mark Levinson & Barry Altschul, the other with Gary Peacock & Billy Elgart. ... Click to View

Miles Davis Quintet:
2nd Sessions 1956, Revisited (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Recorded in the same October 1956 Rudy Van Gelder sessions that are heard on Miles Davis' Cookin' and Steamin' albums, these alternate takes with his quintet of John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on double bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums give us a unique view on the consistency and strength of the famous and foundational hard bop band. ... Click to View

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  Block Ensemble 
  Hugs and Bugs  
  (Clean Feed) 

   review by Nick Ostrum
Block Ensemble: Hugs and Bugs (Clean Feed)

Block Ensemble is a big unit with some big names: Maja S.K. Ratkje and Stine Janvin Joh on vocals, Britt Pernille Frøholm on hardanger fiddle, Didrik Ingvaldsen on trumpet, Mette Rasmussen on alto saxophone, Lene Grenager and Tanja Orning on cello, Jasper Stadhouders guitar, kologo and mandolin, Mats Äleklint on trombone, Nils Henrik Asheim on organ, Frode Haltli on accordion, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on double bass, Per Zanussi on double bass and Dag Erik Knedal Andersen on drums. If you are privy to the Scandinavian scene, at least a few of those musicians — Ratkje, Stadhouders, Zanussi, Flaten — will likely stick out to you.

Despite this, Block Ensemble has a surprisingly small sound. Or, maybe it is just not a loud sound. There are no stentorian declarations or grandstanding. Rather, the horns tend back as the strings and percussion drift forward to achieve a surprisingly consistent sonic balance. Each instrument, or what seem to be clusters of instruments, gets it moment, but these moments are ripe with potential energy that crackles beneath the surface but never fully ignites. The vocals stand out at points, but even then, unintelligibly, in gurgles, cicada buzzing, and slobbery scatting. And, they rarely intrude on the subtle spaces carved by the rest of the collective.

Hugs and Bugs is the brainchild of saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts, who does not actually perform on the album. During the Covid quarantines, Alberts reached out to some of Scandinavia's finest, who recorded improvisations in isolation from each other. Each track was then combined with the others and mixed by noise-god Lasse Marhaug. This is a curious process, and the result is a curious album. Although the album's two tracks — "Hugs and Bugs" and "Bugs and Hugs" — are improvisations, they sound much too coherent for that. The liner-notes stop short of claiming Alberts "composed" anything, but there must have been some direction or visual or something that guided these discrete elements toward balance.

Even with this type of slow-burn, understated ensemble work, however, balance does not imply some sort of staid symmetry or monotony. Much of the power of the album comes from its juxtapositions: friction combined with ghosts of folk melodies; creaks and jarble combined with winding string contortions; buzzsaw strings and insectile scatting; acoustic motor sounds and glittering but torqued strings; swarming clatter collapsing into somber bucolic phrases. The normative state of both tracks seems to be disarray, sometimes soft and sometimes abrasive. Elements of warmth nevertheless slip through the discord from time to time, making for some pensive and even plaintive moments. Hugs and Bugs achieves a strange arrangement of sounds and an intriguing but relatively restrained (though hardly conservative or conventional) product, especially considering the more confrontational work that many of these musicians have produced in the past. Then again, maybe this is confrontational in a way different from louder and more aggressive sessions. This is a sizeable ensemble that produces a harnessed yet unvarnished sound that is much, much more (and more compelling) than its detached origins might suggest. This is an interesting work, that might take a couple of listens to get. Once the listener does cross that aural threshold, however, Hugs and Bugs is grating and gripping and delightfully perplexing.

Block Ensemble: Hugs and Bugs
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Recent Selections @ Squidco:

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