The Squid's Ear Magazine

Baczkowski / Lopez / Corsano: Old Smoke (Relative Pitch)

This smoking album of free jazz leads the New York trio of Steve Baczkowski on saxophone, Brandon Lopez on bass, and Chris Corsano on drums to fiery playing as they burn up the stage at Hallwall, in Buffalo, New York in 2018, over seven concise collective conversations expressing both passion, restraint, and profoundly masterful skill.

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product information:

UPC: 5902249001440

Label: Relative Pitch
Catalog ID: RPR1087
Squidco Product Code: 27420

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Hallwalls, in Buffalo, New York, on March 7th, 2018, by Bill SAck.


Steve Baczkowski-saxophone

Brandon Lopez-bass

Chris Corsano-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The image on the cover says it all, a blast furnace exploding with elemental energy and heat. And it doesn't take long for the music on Old Smoke, a live release that represents the first recorded collaboration between saxophonist Steve Baczkowski, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Chris Corsano, to reach astonishing peaks of fiery intensity. This is a trio not to be trifled with, on a single=minded pursuit of powerful free improvisation in its most uncompromising form.

Of the three musicians, Corsano is the unquestioned veteran, having released dozens of albums just since 2010, although his recording career began in earnest in the 1990s with frequent collaborations with saxophonist Paul Flaherty. He represents a bridge of sorts between the free jazz tradition and avant=garde and experimental rock, being just as comfortable working with Thurston Moore or Bill Orcutt as he is playing alongside Joe McPhee or Evan Parker. His partners on this release are quickly establishing their own reputations; Lopez has teamed with musicians such as Ivo Perelman, Dave Rempis and Peter Evans, while Baczkowski is a Buffalo-based multi-instrumentalist whose specialty is the baritone sax and whose previous work with Corsano has often included the like on minded iconoclastic guitarist Bill Nace.

As for the music here: it's definitely not for the faint-hearted. With seemingly limitless stamina, Baczkowski is intent on extracting every available ounce of energy from each note he plays, and on tracks like "Steel Wind" and "Smoke Creek" he pushes his torrid phrases to the brink with manic abandon. He will take a fragment of an idea, or even a single note, and attack it repeatedly, eventually breaking it down to its core before seizing on another one and doing the same all over again. Sometimes he takes a drone-like approach, as on "Blast Furnace," where he merges with Lopez's swelling arco and Corsano's steady pulse to create a hypnotic wall of sound. He uses a number of saxophones on the album, with his pile-driving baritone on "Iron Ore" and "Blast Furnace," his keening soprano on "Open Hearth," and what sounds to be his formidable tenor on "Steel Wind" and "Smoke Creek." Regardless of the particular horn, however, Baczkowski wrestles mightily with his demons on each, looking for some possibility of redemption, or at least release, by the end of each cut.

Lopez and Corsano certainly keep pace with and complement Baczkowski's relentless ferocity. Lopez's deep, thunderous sound fuses well with Corsano's waves of percussive power, providing the inexorable momentum needed to sustain Baczkowski's most tempestuous bursts. There are brief respites here and there where things settle into temporary calm, before once again reaching incendiary fervor. It's during these moments, interestingly, that Lopez and Corsano coax Baczkowski into a somewhat more jazz-inflected spirit. The tail end of "Bend in the Shore" is a case in point, with some soft-hued bluesy licks emerging from Baczkowski's baritone; and "Steel Wind" allows Baczkowski to go into bop mode for a minute while Lopez and Corsano tease out a swinging rhythm behind him. But fleeting moments of tranquility are not what will draw fans of this music to this record. Unbridled, unyielding fury is what matters here; and there is more than enough of it to satisfy even the most demanding free-music enthusiasts." on Troy Dostert, All About Jazz

Get additional information at All About Jazz

Artist Biographies

"Steve Baczkowski is an improviser, saxophonist, and multi-wind instrumentalist. Baczkowski began playing alto saxophone at age eight and switched to baritone by the time he was twelve. He studied music in high school at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and went on to studies in music, saxophone performance, literature, and ethnomusicology at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1994 to 1999. In 1999, Baczkowski became the music director of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, N.Y, where he has since produced and presented hundreds of concerts of contemporary music as well as numerous community-based artist residencies.

In addition to organizing multiple ensembles, such as the Buffalo Improvisers Orchestra, and the Buffalo Suicide Prevention Unit, Baczkowski also performs with the 12/8 Path Band, Genkin Philharmonic, Ubudis Quartet, Rey Scott's Unusually Different, in duos with percussionists Ravi Padmanabha and John Bacon and guitarists Bill Nace, Omar Tamez, and Bill Sack and in numerous other ensembles as well as solo. He has collaborated with many renowned musicians and has appeared at festivals in North America, Mexico, and Europe."

-Burchfield Penney Art Center (SUNY Buffalo) (

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"[..] Composer/bassist, Brandon A. Lopez, deemed "The Ubiquitous Free Improv Bass Ace" by the Village Voice and said to play with a "Bruising Physicality" by the Chicago reader.

He was born and raised in the splendors of Northwestern New Jersey, in the shadow of the (New York) city. It was there that he cultivated a taste for the left of center musics and subsequently, dug graves.

He's had the pleasures of working with many of the world's luminary weirdos. Here's a list: Nate Wooley, William Parker, Chris Corsano, Justice Yeldham, Weasel Walter, Peter Evans, Tyshawn Sorey, Gerald Cleaver, Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, Tony Malaby, Paul Lytton, Mette Rasmussen, Jooklo Duo, Michael Foster, Leila Bordreuil, Jaimie Branch, Joe Morris, Brandon Seabrook, Cactus Truck, John Dykeman, Daniel Carter, and many others.

He's currently leads a trio dubbed "The Mess", another one called the Brandon Lopez Trio, works as a soloist and is formerly/currently/latterly writing more and more music. He may play some it sometime soon (see "gigs").

He attended New England Conservatory."

-Brandon Lopez Website (

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"First spellbound by freely improvised music in the mid-1990s after witnessing performances by TEST, William Parker, Cecil Taylor, and others, Chris Corsano began a long-standing, high-energy partnership with Paul Flaherty in 1998. A move from western Massachusetts to the UK in 2005 led Corsano to develop an expanded solo music of his own, incorporating sax reeds, violin strings and bows, pot lids, and other everyday household items into his drum kit. In February 2006 he released his first solo recording, The Young Cricketer, and toured extensively throughout Europe, USA, and Japan. He spent 2007 and '08 as the drummer on Björk's Volta world tour, all the while weaving in shows and recordings on his days off with the likes of Evan Parker, Virginia Genta, and C. Spencer Yeh. Moving back to the U.S. in 2009, Corsano returned focus to his own projects, most notably a duo with Michael Flower, Rangda (with Sir Richard Bishop and Ben Chasny) and solo work, now revamped to include synthesizers and contact microphones in addition to his drum set and home-made acoustic instruments.

In addition to the those mentioned above, he's also worked with, among others: John Edwards (released by: Clean Feed/Dancing Wayang), Jim O'Rourke & Akira Sakata (Drag City/Family Vineyard), Paul Dunmall (ESP-Disk), Nels Cline (Strange Attractors), Jessica Rylan (Load Records), Jandek (Corwood), Sunburned Hand Of Man (Manhand), MV&EE (Eclipse/Time-Lag), Vampire Belt (Open Mouth), Joe McPhee (Roaratorio), and Wally Shoup (Leo/Columbia Japan)."

-Chris Corsano Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Iron Ore 6:40

2. Blast Furnace 7:59

3. Bend In The Shore 7:50

4. Open Hearth 8:08

5. Slag Heap 9:04

6. Steel Wind 13:16

7. Smoke Creek 3:44

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Trio Recordings
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