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Grdina, Gordon / Jim Black: Martian Kitties (Astral Spirits)

Thirteen succinct improvisations pitting Gordon Grdina's swinging middle-eastern flavors on the oud offset by gritty, experimental guitar work against drummer Jim Black's well-chosen and rock-solid grooves, an engaging album that shifts and explores a tremendous range of ideas and adventurous attitudes that span jazz, rock and experimental genres with ease.

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product information:

Label: Astral Spirits
Catalog ID: AS152CD
Squidco Product Code: 31273

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: Cassette
Recorded at Afterlife Studios by John Raham


Gordon Grdina-guitar, Oud

Jim Black-drums, electronics

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Artist Biographies:

"Gordon Grdina (born 18 February 1977 ) is a Canadian jazz guitarist and oud player.

Grdina worked in the 2000s in Vancouver with his own formations; In 2002 he recorded his debut album The Grdina Trio (with James Danderfer and Simon Fisk). On his album Unlearn: Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter was also co-produced by Fran¨ois Houle. In 2006, Grdina presented the album Think Like the Waves in the trio with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, which combined elements of Arab music and jazz genres. In the field of jazz, he was involved in 14 recording sessions between 2001 and 2012.

Grdina works with his own trio (from Tommy Babin, bass, and Kenton Loewen, drums) as well as his ten-piece Haram ensemble, Mats Gustafsson, Tony Malaby, Mark Helias, Kent Kessler and Jeb Bishop. "

-Wikipedia (translated by Google) (

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Jim Black is at the forefront of a new generation of musicians bringing jazz into the 21st century. In addition to being one of the most influential drummers of our time, he is also the leader of one of the world's most forward-thinking bands, AlasNoAxis, featuring his longtime collaborators Chris Speed, Hilmar Jensson and Skúli Sverrisson. Based on the foundation of his virtuosic but highly personal approach to jazz drumming, Black's aesthetic has expanded to include Balkan rhythms, rock songcraft and laptop soundscapes. Though he is revered worldwide for his limitless technique and futuristic concepts, what many listeners treasure in most Jim Black's work is the relentless feeling of joy and invention he brings to his performances. Jim Black's smiling, kinetic, unpredictable presence has enthralled and inspired audiences worldwide for over twenty-five years.

Since the mid-90's, Black has played a major role in the incorporation of new sounds and techniques into the jazz/creative music context. As a member of the collective group Pachora (with Speed, Sverrisson, and guitarist Brad Shepik) Black was one of the leaders in the study and adaptation of Balkan music into jazz-based music. His advanced techniques abstracted the odd time signatures of the Balkans into a new polyrhythmic language equally informed by modern jazz, drum&bass and the dumbeks of the Balkans. Black has also been an innovator in the use of electronics in improvisation, bridging the gap between electro-acoustic improv and more jazz-based traditions. Today, Black's performances are just as likely to feature his laptop-based electronic textures as his drumming.

Born in 1967, Jim Black grew up in Seattle alongside future colleagues Chris Speed, Andrew D'Angelo and Cuong Vu. After cementing their personal and artistic relationships in Seattle's various youth jazz ensembles, in 1985 they moved to Boston, where Black entered the Berklee School of Music. In Boston, Black, Speed and D'Angelo formed Human Feel with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, which rapidly attracted the attention of the jazz cognoscenti in Boston, New York and beyond.

By 1991, Black and the other members of Human Feel had moved to New York City, where they electrified the Downtown music scene then centered around the Knitting Factory and rapidly became among the city's busiest sidemen. Black's early years in New York saw him take featured roles in some of the most critically acclaimed bands of the time, like Tim Berne's Bloodcount, Ellery Eskelin's trio, and Dave Douglas's Tiny Bell Trio. Thus began fifteen years of near-constant touring and recording, with the above bands as well as artists like Uri Caine, Dave Liebman, Nels Cline, Steve Coleman, Tomasz Stanko, and Laurie Anderson.

-Jim Black Website (

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track listing:


1. Martian Kitties 04:11

2. A Monkey Could Do It 03:47

3. Buggy Whip 03:55

4. Black Lodge 01:32

5. Weird Funk 01:24

6. Short Scale 01:35

7. Social Scene 1 01:10


1. Brushes With Death 06:29

2. Social Scene 2 01:28

3. Conservative Conservation 03:21

4. Fuzzy Goats 01:30

5. Abercrombie 05:02 6. Bear Handler 02:18
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"This outstanding set of improvised pieces by the guitarist/oud player Gordon Grdina and the drummer Jim Black, bristles with multi-genre paradoxes and incredible articulations. Recording together for the second time (after Grdina's Nomad Trio's debut album), these lads bring lots to the table with their faultless synergy and love for the avant-jazz, prog-rock, indie electronic and world music.

Things get down to business immediately with "Martian Kitties", the track that gave the album its title, which pairs down an incisive krautrock rhythm with noise-rock, two ingredients that always go well together. The density is momentarily decongested through spacious effects before the reinstatement of the zest via torqued high-pitched ostinatos and walloping drumming.

The next piece, "A Monkey Could Do It", changes dialects into an avant-fusion where an extraordinary oud rhythm functions properly over the mutating abrasions of wood on metal and skin provided by Black, an authentic guru of the rhythm.

"Buggy Whip" is dark and sinister, with heavy electric guitar and taut drum in a confluence that seems to join the doom metal of Paradise Lost and the noise-rock of Lightning Bolt. Totally different is "Conservative Conservation", which takes us into a journey crystallized by beauty and tension alike. This is created by Black's unpredictable and highly syncopated fluxes and Grdina's full-of-feeling oud peregrination.

Pieces that are short in duration (clocking in at less than two minutes) provide a panoply of otherworldly atmospheres - "Black Lodge" exudes a classical-inspired etherealness; "Weird Funk" is made of unhinged smears of odd beat, crushing guitar and sampling; "Social Scene 1 and 2" trench on ambient electronic while adding some wistful tones; "Short Scale" has visceral oud playing laid atop a muscular rhythm; and "Fuzzy Goats" takes you to a psychedelic trip.

The creativity of both is discernible, and "Abercrombie" exemplifies that in perfection during its two phases - firstly, by sporting bowed cries over a dark, noisy electronic texture, and then by underscoring the narrative with a menacing rumble that comes from offbeat drum gushes and cyclic guitar lines.

This is adventurous music by two idiosyncratic players who have excellent results by joining their own visions."-Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail

Also available on cassette tape with download code.
Get additional information at Jazz Trail
Related Categories of Interest:

Physical Releases that include Download Codes
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Duo Recordings
Guitarists, &c.
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Canadian Composition & Improvisation
New in Improvised Music
New in Experimental & Electronic Music
New in Rock Forms
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

Search for other titles on the label:
Astral Spirits.

Other Releases With These Artists:
Recommended & Related Releases:
Perelman, Ivo / Gordon Grdina / Hamin Honari Trio
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Nomad Trio (feat Gordon Grdina / Matt Mitchell / Jim Black)
Boiling Point
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Meadow of Dreams [VINYL]
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Grdina, Gordon / Jim Black
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Gallo, Danilo Dark Dry Tears (Gallo / Milesi / Bigoni / Black / feat: Lorenzo Corti)
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