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Cleaver, Gerald: Signs (577)

Taking his cues from the electronic music of his Detroit roots, free jazz drummer Gerald Cleaver presents an album of synthetic rhythms and sonic landscape, each piece composed in detailed arrangements of compelling and adventurous structures, from propulsive grooves to sinuous soundscapes, a surprising and exciting twist showing Cleaver's strong compositional skills.

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product information:

Label: 577
Catalog ID: 5838
Squidco Product Code: 29355

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded in Brooklyn, New York, in 2017 - 2019.


Gerald Cleaver-electronics

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Artist Biographies:

"Gerald Cleaver (born May 4, 1963) is an African-American jazz drummer from Detroit, Michigan. Cleaver's father is drummer John Cleaver Jr., originally from Springfield, Ohio, and his mother was from Greenwood, Mississippi. Gerald had six older siblings. Cleaver joined the jazz faculty at the University of Michigan in 1995. He has performed or recorded with Joe Morris, Mat Maneri, Roscoe Mitchell, Miroslav Vitous, Michael Formanek, Tomasz Sta ko, Franck Amsallem and others.

Under the name Veil of Names, Cleaver released an album called Adjust on the Fresh Sounds New Talent label in 2001. It featured Maneri, Ben Monder, Andrew Bishop, Craig Taborn and Reid Anderson and was a Best Debut Recording Nominee by the Jazz Journalists Association. Cleaver currently leads the groups Uncle June, Black Host, Violet Hour and NiMbNl as well as working as a sideman with many different artists."

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:

1. Jackie's Smiles 4:32

2. Amidst Curses 6:49

3. Blown 9:42

4. Tomasz 3:10

5. Signs I 3:45

6. Signs II 6:59

7. Signs III 4:48

8. Ferrous Past 4:35

9. Radiator 7:29

10. Photic Plains 6:24

11. Day Red 4:02
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Gerald Cleaver is best known for his career as a top jazz drummer, however, his memories of growing up in Detroit inspired him to create his latest project Signs. This debut as an electronic musician and composer came about in his Brooklyn studio through a long process of looking to translate what he heard, into a new language. Cleaver was born and spent most of his life in Detroit, where he experienced, and was influenced by, the legendary development and blossoming of the Motor City electronic music scene. On each of the seven tracks from the vinyl (plus four bonus tracks), the master percussionist turns his creativity and craft onto the realm of a forward-thinking electronic dimension. Listen to one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in this new way to express himself and discover how the palette has expanded through dream-like, transcendent electronic manipulations."-577

"Gerald Cleaver's made a name for himself in the realm of contemporary free jazz, his catalog comprising a lengthy list of collaborations with the likes of jazz icons such as Roscoe Mitchell and Charles Gayle, as well as contemporaries Nels Cline, Craig Taborn, Matthew Shipp and William Parker. His drumming technique is powerful and fluid, and his repertoire versatile, frequently veering toward the most free-form improvisation with the occasional foray into ECM-style jazz grace. Signs, his 27th album (depending on how you're counting), resembles none of his prior records and sounds almost nothing like it was made by the same artist. In fact, his signature instrument-the drumkit-is nowhere to be found on this curious and otherworldly set of music made entirely on synths. It's not a different side of a familiar artist so much as a step into an entirely different world.

Signs takes its cues not from Cleaver's own jazz background or inspirations, but by the signature sound of his home city: Detroit. Its innovative history in pioneering techno is infused into the album's DNA, but its sonic makeup is something different entirely. It's not an album of traditional techno or anything so straightforward. There's a pulse, and at its most thrilling moments, yeah, you could probably dance to it (probably?), but true to the outside-the-box thinking of an innovator, Cleaver's take on electronic music isn't bound by BPM or even traditional scales. It is, however, uniformly wondrous and breathtaking.

On its face the conceit might sound limiting; an album entirely made with synths and samplers as opposed to the more physical presence of live instruments would tend to remove a crucial element of Cleaver's sound. The truth is that while it's functionally different, it's still endlessly fascinating, emotionally challenging and texturally rich music that's built on a similar sense of imagination. The rusty, warbling bleeps that open "Jackie's Smiles" might initially resemble the fiery mbira performances of Konono No. 1, but the track in time opens up into a warm symphony of synthesized majesty. There's a frantic rush of tones on "Amidst Curses" that feels more connected to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume 2, and there's a similar sense of digitized microtonal horror dissonance to oddball epic "Blown." So, no, this isn't a jazz record by any stretch of the imagination, but the abandonment of strict adherence to simple, recognizable structures puts it in a similar creative space.

Though every track here shares some commonalities in terms of how they were made, their tones or otherwise, each piece has its own character and unique sense of direction. While it's one of the shortest tracks, "Tomasz" is one of the most climactic, rising up from bubbling synth tones into an almost orchestral ambience, while the title track trio threads a needle through chaotic techno dystopia ("I"), bluesy loops ("II") and what sounds like the album's most straightforward dancefloor banger, of sorts ("III"). It's an interesting tack that Cleaver takes, putting away the instrument he's studied and dedicated himself to for decades in order to find new inspiration and unexpectedly revelatory moments. It's also one that pays off brilliantly, a jazz musician's unorthodox take on electronic music that feels both fresh and strangely fun."-Jeff Terich, Treble

Also available on vinyl LP.
Related Categories of Interest:

Electroacoustic Composition
Percussion & Drums
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Solo Artist Recordings
New in Experimental & Electronic Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

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