The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Binker Golding / John Edwards / Steve Noble:
Moon Day [VINYL - Limited Edition] (Byrd Out)

UK saxophonist Binker Golding (Binker & Moses) in a new trio with the powerful rhythm section of frequent collaborators, double bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble, in a powerful album of free playing with titles referencing Coltrane, conveying a strong sense of both 60s and modern free playing throughout, propelled by tight and near-telepathic interaction. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake (feat Tatsu Aoki / Thymme Jones):
Ourania [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (Feeding Tube Records)

The core of Chicago's Mako Sica--Brent Fuscaldo (electric bass, voice, harmonica & percussion) and Przemyslaw Krys Drazek (electric trumpet, electric guitar & mandolin)--join forces with Hamid Drake on drums & percussion, Tatsu Aoki on upright bass & shamisen and Cheer-Accident's Thymme Jones on keyboardsm trumpet, balloon and voice for a warmly spiritual album. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock:
NuDaf (XI Records)

An extended electroacoustic composition from composer Phil Niblock based on recordings captured at Marcus Schmickler's Piethopraxis studio in Koln of bassoonist Dafne Vicente-Sandoval, layering her playing and using multiphonics to create beautifully rich textures that slowly evolve, shifting in hypnotic ways as the pieces arches and descends through harmonic interaction. ... Click to View


Beatriz Ferreyra :
Canto+ [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (Room40)

GRM alumnus and collaborator with Pierre Schaeffer & Francois Bayle, French electroacoustic, acousmatic and musique concrete composer Beatriz Ferreyra is heard in five works from 40 years of compositions, astonishing works of embraceable, radical, strange and inspired sound, including the amazing "Mad Man's Song" and works dedicated to Bayle & Bernard Bashet. ... Click to View


Bruno Duplant:
Deux Songes (Les Jours Sont Faits Pour Expliquer Les Nuits) (Meenna)

Two beautifully subtle works for an ensemble of strings and electric piano from French composer Bruno Duplant, realized by the Boston-based Ordinary Affects ensemble or Jordan Dykstra, Morgan Evans-Weiler, JPA Falzone, Luke Martin and Ashley Frith, the first a quintet and the second a string quartet, creating illusory affects of motion and space through abstraction. ... Click to View


David Birchall / Adam Fairhall / Michael Perrett / Yoni Silver / Otto Willberg:
Aggregate Glows In The Cold (Creative Sources)

Three fully free studio improvisations recorded in Manchester from the quintet of David Birchall on electric guitar, Adam Fairhall on accordion, Michael Perrett on bass clarinet, Yoni Silver on bass clarinet and Otto Willberg on double bass, all masterful performers using a wealth of creative approaches to create unusual motion in rich sonic interaction. ... Click to View


Mara Kolibri / Fredi Proll:
Primus 17 (Creative Sources)

A diverse set of conversations between Austrian improvisers, drummer/percussionist Fredi Pröll (Trio Now!, Lull) and free vocalist Mara Kolibri, recording in the studio for seven concise and far-ranging dialogs, from cantankerous interactions to controlled incoherence of absurdly implied vocalization punctuated with creative percussive reaction, often returning to lyrical jazz-influenced moments. ... Click to View


Fluke-Mogul / Liberatore / Mattrey / Mendoza :
Death In the Gilded Age [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD (Tripticks Tapes)

Brought together by violinist Joanna Mattrey during the dark period of COVID lockdown, four NY free improvisers (Gabby Fluke on Mogul on violin, Matteo Liberatore on acoustic guitar, Joanna Mattrey on viola and Ava Mendoza on electric guitar) explore the implications of the pandemic through separation, loss and new life in 10 succinct and dynamic explorations. ... Click to View


Brainhack Musicbox (Bobrytsky / Lisovsky / Boldenko):
Brownarium (Brainhack Musicbox)

Each track named after a mythical Scottish character, the Ukrainian trio of Stanislav Bobrytsky on modular synth, Pavlo Lisovsky on tenor saxophone and Anton Boldenko on viola create a music merging free jazz principles with modular synthetic drone, creating an orchestral sound that still elucidates the detail of their uniquely orchestrated, rich sonic explorations. ... Click to View


Amalgamated (Bengsten / Newell / Klampe / Richards):
To (Aubjects)

Crossing experimental sound and rhythmic approaches that blend elements of electronic music, krautrock, noise, electronica and indescribable sonic environments, the quartet of Cory Bengtsen, Bob Newell, Phillip Klampe and Mike Richards are heard in their 6th full-length release, an embraceable and well-paced album of compelling beats and sonic surprises. ... Click to View


John Butcher / Dominic Lash / John Russell / Mark Sanders:
Discernment (Spoonhunt)

An album of perceptive free improvisation recorded live at London's Cafe OTO from the quartet of John Butcher on tenor & soprano saxophones, Dominic Lash on double bass, John Russell on guitar and Mark Sanders on drums & percussion, three "discerning" and one "discerned" dialogs of discriminating sophistication that only four such masterful and experienced musicians can convey. ... Click to View


Dominic Lash Quartet (w / Carmona / Tejero / Ward):
Limulus (Spoonhunt)

Honing their conversation in their third release as a band, British double bassist Dominic Lash's Quartet with Javier Carmona on drums & percussion, Ricardo Tejero on alto saxophone and Alex Ward on electric guitar are heard live at Cafe OTO in London, Lash providing all compositions and arrangements over six wide-ranging, edgy and innovative improvisations; outstanding! ... Click to View


Consorts:
Distinctions (Spoonhunt)

Composer Dominic Lash's Consort ensemble explores the possibilities of combining sustained-tone music, guided & free improvisation, and the relationship between acoustic and amplified sound, heard in this evolving, extended concert at Café Oto on Lash's 40th birthday, in a unique mix of acoustic & electronic instruments that even includes an amplified kitchen sink! ... Click to View


Mototeru Takagi Quartet:
Live At Little John, Yokohama 1999 (NoBusiness)

Three reed & wind players and a drummer from Japanese saxophonist Mototeru Takagi's collective free improvising quartet with fellow saxophonist Susumu Kongo, Nao Takeuchi on tenor sax plus flute & bass clarinet, and drummer Shota Koyama, recorded live in 1999 at Little John in Yokohama, Japan for three well-paced conversations of weaving winds and rhythmic intervention. ... Click to View


Itaru Oki Quartet:
Live At Jazz Spot Combo 1975 (NoBusiness)

Late Japanese free jazz trumpeter and flute player Itaru Oki, one of the significant and early free jazz players in Japan in the 1970s, moving to France in the mid-70s to seek more opportunities to play, recorded this concert at Jazz Spot Combon as part of his farewell tour, performing with winds player Yoshiaki Fujikawa, bassist Keiki Midorikawa ad drummer Hozumi Tanaka. ... Click to View


Bob Bellerue (feat. Brandon Lopez / Luke Stewart / Jessica Pavone):
Radioactive Desire [2 CDs] (Elevator Bath)

A fascinating work for free chamber music in feedback environments devised by sound artist Bob Bellerue and employing the talents of improvisers Brandon Lopez & Luke Stewart (double bass), Jessica Pavone (viola), Gabby Fluke-Mogul (violin) and Ed Bear (baritone sax), Bellerue performing on electronics, unattended instruments, feedback, suling gambuh, junk metal & cymbals. ... Click to View


Christian Ronn / Bob Bellerue :
Intoku Inversions (Anarchy Moon Recordings/Nishe)

Beautiful long-form drones and harmonic interactions develop and are then shaken up with sonic deformations and collisions, returning to beautiful environments and then reversed once again, from the duo of sonic explorers Bob Bellerue and Christian Ronn, recording in Copenhagen using organs, electronics, winds, and feedback to create these wonderfully alien domains. ... Click to View


David Myers Lee:
Reduced to a Geometrical Point (Cronica)

Using feedback matrices, oscillator banks and multi-processing, NYC sound and feedback artist David Lee Myers, A.K.A. Arcane Device, references the quote from metaphysics scholar Frithjof Schuon--"You must detach your life from an awareness of the multiple and reduce it to a geometrical point before God"--which he manifests in four focused works of rich, slowly evolving sound. ... Click to View


PEK Solo:
Completeness for Flutes and Double Reeds (Evil Clown)

Boston improviser and multi-instrumentalist David Peck (PEK) in a solo album using his Quartet of PEKs formats, improvising in the studio through four layers, presenting the final installment of a triptych of albums constrained to one or two woodwind instrument families - this one for flutes and double reeds, along with nadaswaram, shenai, goat horn, dizi, bass tromboon, &c &c. ... Click to View


PEK Solo:
Complex and Real Dimensions (Evil Clown)

Before initiating the live improvisation that makes up Complex & Real Dimensions, reedist and multi-instrumentalist David Peck built a foundation track including electro-acoustic instruments created by Tim Kaiser, particularly the loop-capable "Large Spring Box", creating tone, timbre and interludes over which PEK passionately performs. ... Click to View


Evan Parker Electroacoustic Quartet:
Concert in Iwaki (Uchimizu Records)

Requested to organize a Japanese tour focused on the electroacoustic aspects of Evan Parker's work, the saxophonist distilled his larger Electracoustic Ensemble to the quartet of himself, Paul Lytton on percussion & live electronics, Joel Ryan on computer and Lawrence Casserley on signal processing, heard here in the resonant space of the Iwaki City Art Museum in Fukushima. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii:
Piano Music (Libra)

A stunning sound collage made from recorded fragments of Fujii's studio piano, captured inside and out using traditional piano sonorities and preparations that often microscopically detail the instrument, then edited into two electroacoustic compositions of startling and unexpected expansiveness and wonder; a unique and fascinating release in Fujii's large oeuvre. ... Click to View


Flying Luttenbachers, The:
Negative Infinity [VINYL] (ugEXPLODE / GOD Records)

Adhering to the tenets of "Dissonance, Speed, Aggression, Weirdness, and Singularity", Weasel Walter leads his Flying Luttenbachers in their 15th album of no wave, punk jazz & brutal prog, Weasel switching to guitar and yielding the drum chair to Sam Ospovat, as the band rips through ridiculously complex twists and turns, even taking on Albert Ayler's strange '66/'67 musical suites. ... Click to View


Forbes / Young / Walter:
Hard Living (ugEXPLODE)

Merging Tiger Hatchery's tenor saxophonist Michael Forbes and bassist Andrew Scott Young and newly arrived to NYC Flying Luttenbacher leader & drummer Weasel Walter, for classic hardcore free jazz of articulate and demanding improvisation; this a recently unearthed studio recording from 2010, captured two years after their first encounter in a quartet with Jeb Bishop. ... Click to View


Rodrigues / Carvalho / Rodrigues / Valinho:
Eclipse (Creative Sources)

Emulating a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse in two evolving improvised chamber works that take the quartet of Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Mariana Carvalho on piano, Joao Valinho on percussion and Ernesto Rodrigues (switching from viola to harp & deploying electronics) through mysterious soundwork that move from darkness to light in detailed and subtle ways. ... Click to View


Four Letter Words (Piet / Wark / Harris):
Pinch Point (Amalgam)

The first fully improvised album from the Chicago trio of Jake Wark on tenor saxophone, Matt Piet on piano and Bill Harris on drums, recording at Experimental Sound Studios in 2018 for seven numbered and concise improvisations, running the gamut from rapidly active yet controlled interaction and investigatory conversations of confident expression and creative drive. ... Click to View


Yoon-Ji Lee :
Padong (zOaR Records)

Five compositions from Yoon-Ji Lee, whose work employs unconventional and nonlinear structures that focus on quick transformations of language, noise, texture, and tonal color, here with five works, one performed by JACK Quartet & Mivos Quaret, a work for solo Saenghwang, a solo piano work, a string quartet, and a mixed chamber ensemble. ... Click to View


Ciao Ciao Cello:
Quiero Ver A Ese Monstruo (zOaR Records)

The Berlin-based trio of guitarist Beat Keller performing on feedbacker electric guitar & acoustic guitar, innovative tuba improviser Jack Adler-McKean and Spanish vocalist & performance artist Lorena Izquierdo Aparicio take on their monsters in five unique and disturbing improvisations recorded in the studio, as they "dance on the fine line between terror and joy". ... Click to View


Elliot Sharp :
Binibon (Henceforth)

A modern spoken opera by NY composer Elliott Sharp and librettist/narrator Jack Womack (Terraplane) with several narrators, reflecting the events surrounding a 1981 killing in New York's East Village, set in a darkly instrumental soundtrack developed by Sharp using guitars, saxophones, clarinets, synthesizers, bass, percussion, drums programming and samples. ... Click to View


GPS Trio (Chris Pitsiokos / Luke Stewart / Devin Gray):
Blast Beat Blues (Rataplan Records)

Hard-edged NYC free jazz in a limited EP CD release from the trio of alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos, bassist Luke Stewart and drummer & composer Devin Gray, who explains that the music reflects "the modern world we're all trying to live in, with that odd mix of the comfortable and uncomfortable", as heard in the edgy and dynamic power of his group. ... Click to View



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The Squid's Ear
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A Month of Zorndays
John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration at Tonic

Updated througout the month

John Zorn







John Zorn Improv Night  (Tonic) 

September 29, 2003

With Derek Bailey unable to make it to town for his scheduled night in the monthlong Zornfest, John Zorn pulled together an old-fashioned improv night (although having drummer Joey Baron still in town certainly made it something more than an ordinary night). It was the first nonevent of the month, which almost carried with it a tinge of relief.

Two opening pieces by Baron, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and cellist Erik Friedlander achieved the often-claimed-but-usually boring improvised classical. Violinest Mark Feldman and laptop percussionist Ikue Mori followed in a similar vein, Feldman playing bold, heavy notes, leaving Mori's laptop as the melody instrument. Their second piece took a very different path, with Feldman playing fast lines and scratches over Mori's busy backing. Feldman and Friedlander also carried the high-art torch for a piece, and were joined by Courvoiser (making the group into Courvoisier's Abaton trio) for an equally stunning piece.

Baron and Zorn had of course already shared the stage during the month - two weeks prior had been the Masada quartet's first gig in over a year - but seeing them in duet was just good. Starting and stopping, completing each other's sentences until they built to a roar, only Baron to stop and play a quiet, slowly metered rim roll while Zorn carried on full throttle. Later Baron backed Zorn with licked-finger drum-head rubs, not just for effect but really playing with Zorn's saxophone.

Better yet was Baron sitting in the Susie Ibarra seat with the Mephista line-up. He's a faster, busier player than Ibarra, it's not really fair to call it Mephista at all, but they played wonderfully, although he ultimately overpowered Courvoisier and Mori. A second, quieter piece where Baron rode cymbals worked better. The piano, drums and laptop created torrents of rhythm together, and Courvoisier and Mori now have the shared pleasure of playing with the two happiest drummers in the world.

The final group piece opened with Baron, Friedlander and Mori, then Zorn coming in, suggesting combinations that hadn't been heard, and built slowly to a gorgeous sextet, Zorn blowing a slow lament, Feldman complementing him while Friedlander carried a deep bass, the rest melding into a beautiful, thick blanket.

Perhaps it wasn't quite like old times, not just in Zorn's calling consecutive pieces by the same ensembles, but in the near-formal virtuosity exhibited throughout. Certainly it was a different sort of Improv Nite than he would have presented 10 years ago. And if anything really stands as a testament to the growth of John Zorn and the scene he embraces, it's what they do for fun.

- Kurt Gottschalk






Bezique  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

Bezique is the last game piece Zorn conceived, and by his own admission in introducing the piece, "it's very strange." It differs from other pieces in that the players - the musicians involved - create the settings ahead of time rather than while they are playing. As a result, more coherent musical statements are made without losing the structured improvisations that can make the game pieces so rewarding.

The game pieces in general are interesting not just because of the music that's made, the characters they bring out or the mystery in which they're kept. They predate what could be called Zorn's "index card" period, and seem to have informed it. After creating a series of situations where he could hear styles, genres and moods crashing into each other, he began to use it as a formula for composing and arranging, most notably on the album The Big Gundown and the piece Spillane. Beziques was written in 1989, just two years before Spillane was recorded, and combines the tools of the game pieces with a compositional approach.

Each of the 11 players (Trevor Dunn, 5-string electric bass; Anthony Coleman, Farfisa organ; Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Marc Ribot, guitar; Jim Publiese and William Winant, percussion; Jim Staley, trombone; Mark Dresser, bass; Okkyung Lee, cello; Mark Feldman, violin; and Jamie Saft, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer and effects) got a turn creating a piece, calling out a series of directives ("EP1, Ribot; M7, Courvoisier, Lee, Winant; EP3-1...") while a "gaffer" played interlude music. It was reminiscent of Duke Ellington's idea that he writes for individual musicians, except purely that, without scores. Zorn would write down the directives that he would then guide them through by holding up his familiar cue cards, and reminding the arranger of rules and trying to keep an overall cohesion between pieces. "The hardest thing is coming out of Ts," he reminded the group more than once. "You can't just write a whole piece and think it's gonna work," he told them later. "You gotta think about the piece that came before it. You gotta think about the pieces in order."

While pieces like Cobra show player's proclivities in what they want to hear at the moment, it was fascinating to watch entire pieces borne of one player's musical sense. Dresser created a beautiful suite. Lee jumped back and forth between styles, relying heavily on a Ribot/Saft/Dunn trio. Coleman injected humor, which in itself is impressive when you're only able to suggest with genre, tempo and volume. But "M4 and 9 for Dresser and Sylvie" got a good laugh from the bandstand. (When they got to that point in the piece, Zorn showed the two cards "Quiet" and "Rock" to the audience.) Likewise, it was interesting to watch players run the pieces through their heads as they were being called.

The performance lasted 80 minutes, and it's a shame that Bezique has been forgotten over the years. While the other game pieces make for great theater and a fun night of in-the-moment creation, Bezique resulted in some truly memorable music.

- Kurt Gottschalk






John Zorn's Lacrosse, Hockey, Rugby  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

In the progression of game pieces that led John Zorn to create the magnificent Cobra and Xu Feng structures, several earlier games were devised. Lacrosse was developed in 1977, originally performed in the days of Studio Henry in lower Manhattan where, as Zorn recalled at the beginning of the performace, the music competed with the sounds of crickets in the building. This rendering of the game had Anthony Coleman on keys, Marc Ribot on guitar, William Winant and Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on alto. The game was very interactive, the players motioning amongst themselves and using a sparse set of rules, each calling segments and directing the game while in motion - unlike most of Zorn's game pieces there was no prompter. They used extended techniques on their instruments, and the piece was enjoyable if for no other reason than the mastery each showed: Zorn and Ribot played off each other, Coleman working inside the grand piano, and both Pugliese and Winant seeming to utilize every inch of their percussive sources. The ensuing music was not particularly coherent, a series of stop-starting quotations that were often punctuated but rarely lyrical.

Following was Hockey, a piece from 1978 that Zorn described as "exotic aquatics." He displayed the score for the game, explaining that at the time of its writing he believed that "all you really needed for an evening of music is one sheet of paper." Hockey limits each player's language to five sounds, which are carried out through a series of solos, duos and trios. Two versions of Hockey were presented, the first which Zorn referred to as the "dry version" with Okkyung Lee on cello, Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on duck calls. This version was tremendous fun, particularly in seeing Zorn playing the duck calls again, a fistful of varying bird and buzzer sounds that are clearly enjoyable to play. Lee provided an excellent foil to Zorn as she scraped, sawed and zipped around her cello while Pugliese provided often rollicking outbursts. The music frequently shifted, Zorn sometimes calling off directives to change the rhythm. More sophisticated than Lacrosse, the piece still paled to later game pieces in its sometimes spastic results. The second rendering of Hockey was presented by Anthony Coleman, Marc Ribot and Mark Dresser on bass. Zorn described this as the "wet version,", and the difference between the two renditions was remarkable. Coleman here stuck to his heavily effected Farfisa organ. Ribot as well played heavily effected and downright alien guitar, while Dresser was a monster on the bass, sometimes playing with a stick, plucking around the neck or bowing below the bridge. Zorn prompted from the front as the three played with clear enjoyment. The results were, once again, fun to watch, somewhat dubious in their music results, but inspiring and important in their ability present new possiblities in improvisational playing.

The last piece, Rugby, was written several years later, in 1983, and was more like his later pieces. Sylvie Courvoisier was on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, Mark Feldman on vioin, Jim Staley on trombone, William Winant on percussion, with Zorn prompting using a card system. The interplay this time was much more obvious, players pointing to each other to suggest musical direction to Zorn. The cards instructed the players with phrases like "Intercut," "Trans," "1 Clock Changes" or "4 Trades," and the piece seemed to work at time similar to Butch Morris' conductions. A series of escapades and interludes, the structure provided much more lyric and expressive opportunities to the musicians, adding a quirky and playful air to the resulting music. Zorn once again showed the single sheet that defined the game, but this time it was clear that the direction he was to take game pieces in 20 years ago held great potential for making excellent and unpredictable music.

- Phil Zampino






September 12, 18, 25 2003

Bar Kokhba - (Tonic) September 12, 2003, 8:00 set
Masada - (Tonic) September 18, 2003, 8:00 set
Electric Masada - (Tonic)September 25, 2003, 8:00 set

One of the wonderful things about Zorn's 50th birthday month was the opportunity it presented to hear the various Masada permutations on successive or nearly-successive nights, the chance to compare the way the different voicings and personnel shaped the music (sometimes even the same charts), and the air around us, the actual feel of the world, or as much of it as you can fit inside the little Tonic warehouse. This is evocative music, music that reaches down into the limbic system and plants fleeting images of places that, for a few moments, I have a terrible longing to visit.

The strongest voice in the run was Marc Ribot's. His playing during these weeks was spectacular, full of unpredictable but seamless jumps between subtlety and lunacy, riffs dropped in behind the beat at just the right spots and pared down in a way that suggested single notes plucked out and silenced at the moment of creation. Even in a short solo, he had a way of creating a bubble, a little musical world with its own harmonics, rhythm, and atmosphere, a thing that was internally perfectly consistent, and yet he'd still surprise you on multiple levels from one moment to the next. He could do this by himself, but when the whole band was together in creating that bubble world, he had a lot more room to play, and when he has room, he takes incredible flights. With this cast of characters, of course, so does everyone else.

Before the event, the two most exciting casts were Bar Kokhba and the Masada quartet, but in the middles of solos on those nights it was impossible not to think about related and contrasting performances by the Masada String Trio, Masada Guitars, and Electric Masada, not to mention The Gift performance, the Zorn String Quartets, and even the Frith and Zorn improv session. And about the fact that it's unlikely all of this will ever be offered in one short month again. Perhaps the most poignant thing about it has been the way these musicians have gotten back together in these groupings and churned up all the old chemistry, with more brilliance in these performances than ever.

The night before the Bar Kokhba show Ribot had been on fire during the performance of The Gift, so my first impression was of the mellowness of the "chamber Masada" music. Joey Baron took a drum solo that was a treat, and the slow, minor bowed string chords that opened another piece brought out an abstract, contemplative side of the material. Mark Feldman's solo was beautiful - he can make a violin sound like a wooden flute when he wants to. Percussionist Cyro Baptista came in with a jingly child's wheely toy behind him, followed by what looked like a twisted flexible brake line that he managed to get a lot of high notes out of; this morphed into the bird calls and jungle noises he used during The Gift, and of course it all worked. There followed a quicker, tighter piece reminiscent of the precision and cleanness of the Masada String Trio. The craftsmanship on this one was lovely, from the open-voiced duet work of Feldman and Friedlander to Ribot's Postizo-reminiscent sound.

The seventh chart started with some nice bass from Greg Cohen, Ribot playing over it. This was purely evocative - there were elements of surf guitar and some lounginess, but without the self-conscious irony you might expect from others; the evocations were kept at arm's length. Greg Cohen's solo work on this one was a treat - in fact, throughout the month he's been consistently marvellous. The minimalism of their work together on this piece was the jewel of the set, although the finale wasn't anything to scoff at: a fast 6/8 over drums and a repeating bass figure, in which Feldman and Friedlander spazzed off each other before Baron demonstrated, with his inimitable precision, how to go through drum skins. The guy can hit.

One of my most cherished downtown memories is of a night some years back at the Knit, sitting on one of their terrible chairs down in the front row, literally toe-to-toe with Dave Douglas when he took a solo during a Masada show that was staged on the floor. Good solos have a way of building on themselves for a while, but even the best of them tend either to lose their steam or to get sewn up with a resolution before they have a chance to. This solo didn't do that - it just took off from its deceptively mellow, warbling beginning and kept building and building, carrying its themes to the next level and the next, and Zorn recognized what was going on and let it ride. I held my breath for a lot of it, unable to believe that this could go on much longer. But it went on a long time, and by the end of it Douglas was grinning around his mouthpiece, and he kept grinning for pretty much the rest of the night.

Something similar happened to Greg Cohen during one of the quartet sets, the only substantive difference being that I don't know if Zorn had planned to let him ride all along. When he started a solo during their fifth piece, I found myself hoping he'd play on - extended bass solos arent' heard often enough - and he did, a long excursion with impressive thematic unity, great force, and enormous creativity. He grinned, too. I expect this one will hang in my memory next to the Douglas solo.

There were, of course, other musical biscuits during the night. The set opened with Zorn blowing a smooth, lyrical solo that for the longest time was entirely lacking in squawks and his other trademark elements, so much so that I might not have have recognized the player if I'd had a blindfold on (though I couldn't have missed the composer) - or so I thought, until he broke loose and Zorned, just in time to be joined by a screaming Dave Douglas. Their playing was as dynamic and give-and-take as ever, full of the way-too-late-20th-Century counterpoint peculiar to these two. The kind of stuff we'd be tempted to trot Bach out to see if he were to reappear, just to get his take, though I suppose if he did come back he'd be worn ragged by all the demands of cliché-prone reviewers who wanted to bring him along - but still, he should hear this stuff.

The whole group was in similar top form, guiding a warm full sound through the songbook: a tight, driven, whaling Baron/Cohen exchange before the head chart of the second tune; a nice Baron brush solo in the third (one that the String Trio had also done); free-form, all-out Zorn and Douglas solos in the fourth. The sixth was all about the drums, and there was another excellent sax solo in the improvisational seventh. We even clapped an encore out of them, an atmospheric tune that grew out of dirge-like opening chords.

I would have liked to review Electric Masada, but the sound knocked the pen out of my hand. All that percussion: Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Kenny Wolleson, plus Ikue Mori on electronics. Just watching Baptista was worth the price of admission. Everything he picks up, in his disarming way, he turns out to be a master of. You could hand the guy two packets of sugar and a Dixie cup and he'd outperform most musicians on their chosen instruments. The comparable night had been The Gift, with Joey, Cyro, and Roberto Rodriguez. That material is much more repetitive, but repetition is sometimes a big part of what percussionists do, and if you listened to any of the musicians in either of these combos playing over one rhythm all night long - or one chord, for that matter - you'd never get bored. Electric Masada charts are more rhythmically and harmonically complex, of course, and Zorn and Ribot, along with Jamie Saft and the apparently-born-with-an-electric-bass-in-his-hands Trevor Dunn, delivered a musical Cuchulainn's Warp Spasm, a full-spectrum exploding train wreck of sound. Wish I could have held on to my pen.



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Kristallnacht  (Tonic) 

Tonic September 23, 2003

Kristallnacht was "the night of broken glass," November 9, 1938, when German troops unleashed a wave of pogroms against Germany's Jews. In a matter of hours they destroyed thousands of synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes. Kristallnacht takes its name from the smashed windows of Jewish storefronts throughout Germany, and is generally considered the start of the Jewish holocaust. It was a brutal act of terror and opression that stands in the memory of the Jewish people.

John Zorn credits the writing of this piece as one of many ways he began his particular Jewish odyssey, and much of the radical jewish culture that is associated with him and his Tzadik label begins around this period. Zorn doesn't perform this piece often, perhaps most recently ten years ago at his 40th birthday celebration at the Knitting Factory. His reticence to present this work is understandable as it's a gut wrenching, terrifying work, physically and emotionally demanding. It also requires a Jewish ensemble of musicians, this evening faithfully reassembled from the 1992 recording with Mark Feldman on violin, Marc Ribot on guitar, David Krackuaer on reeds, Anthony Coleman on keyboard and sampler, Mark Dresser on bass, William Winant on percussion and Frank London on trumpet, with Zorn conducting.

The premier of this piece at the Knitting Factory in 1992 was an experience this writer will not soon forget. The room was blackened, all chairs and tables had been removed and the crowd stood sweating and shoved together as though they were in a cattle car on their way to a concentration camp. The presentation at Tonic was somewhat less physically intense. The audience was asked to stand due to the full house, and the lights and air were shut off as Coleman's recording of a train began its long journey, but with windows admitting dim light and in a more spacious room the claustrophobic sense was lessened, allowing more focus on the music.



continued...




The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
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written by
independent writers.

Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


David Lee Myers:
Reduced to a
Geometrical Point
(Cronica)



Dominic Lash Quartet (
w /
Carmona /
Tejero /
Ward):
Limulus
(Spoonhunt)



John Butcher /
Dominic Lash /
John Russell /
Mark Sanders:
Discernment
(Spoonhunt)



Yoon-Ji Lee :
Padong
(zOaR Records)



Satoko Fujii:
Piano Music
(Libra)



Evan Parker
Electroacoustic Quartet:
Concert in Iwaki
(Uchimizu Records)



Elliott Sharp's
Terraplane:
Century
(zOaR Records)



John Coltrane:
Chasin The Trane,
Revisited
(ezz-thetics by
Hat Hut Records Ltd)



Ongon:
Exuvia
[WHITE VINYL]
(Loup editions)



The Flying Luttenbachers:
Negative Infinity
(ugEXPLODE)



Rodrigo Amado
Motion Trio /
Alexander von Schlippenbach:
The Field
(NoBusiness)



Joel Futterman:
Creation Series
[5CD BOX SET]
(NoBusiness)



John Cage /
Apartment House:
Number Pieces
[4-CD BOX SET]
(Another Timbre)



Daniel Carter /
Tobias Wilner /
Djibril Toure /
Federico Ughi:
New York United Volume 2
(577 Records)



Joseph Branciforte /
Theo Bleckmann :
LP1
[VINYL]
(Greyfade)



Kenneth Kirschner /
Joseph Branciforte:
From the Machine: Volume 1
[VINYL]
(Greyfade)



Kuzu (
Rempis /
Dorji /
Damon):
All Your Ghosts
in One Corner
(Aerophonic)



Sam Rivers Quartet (
feat. Jerry Byrd /
Rael Wesley Grant /
Steve Ellington) :
Archive series.
Volume 5 -
Undulation
(NoBusiness)



Werner Puntigam /
Beat Keller /
Georg Wilbertz:
UND JA, AND YES
(zOaR Records)



The J. & F. Band (
Fonda /
Tononi /
Durante /
Grissom /
Irabagon /
Parrini /
Rodgers /
Sharrard)N:
Me and the Devil
(Long Song Records)







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