The Squid's Ear Magazine

Nagano, Sana: Anime Mundi (577 Records)

A superb chamber jazz trio from NY improviser and violinist Sana Nagano, with Karl Berger on piano & vibraphone and Billy Martin on drums & percussion, Nagano having a long history with each through Berger's Improvisers Orchestra and with Martin through Creative Music Studio, their connections evident in their articulately energetic and confident collective conversations.

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product information:

UPC: 755491243411

Label: 577 Records
Catalog ID: CD-577R-5919-1
Squidco Product Code: 32155

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Applehead Recording, in Saugeries, New York, on August 16th, 2020, by Chris Bittner.


Sana Nagano-violin, effects

Karl Berger-piano, vibraphone

Billy Martin-drums, percussion

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"If life is about how we react to what is thrown at us, Sana Nagano chose wisely in the summer of 2020. After nearly half a year of anguished isolation, the violinist made an album of honest, graceful free improvisations with two of her mentors. Anime Mundi, pairs her with pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger and drummer Billy Martin, veteran players at home in the unknown. And though recorded during the stressful first year of Covid, there is joy and curiosity in the music. It's just mixed in with sorrow.

"I wanted to document how rough I felt internally and how much I cared about people, that I always had before the Covid," says Nagano. "But then all of a sudden, friends and people became such a very precious thing. It was always precious, but I just never knew that there was a time that I can't see them for such a long time."

The leader of her punk-jazz improvising unit Smashing Humans, as well as Go: Organic Orchestra, led by Adam Rudolph, and VEER Quartet, led by fellow violinist Sarah Bernstein, Nagano approaches things with sincerity and openness. The Brooklyn-based string player joined Berger's Improvisers Orchestra after a brief introduction at the Jazz Gallery in 2011. An instrument was mentioned and an invitation was offered.

"I saw the show and I talked to Karl and it was just the easiest process, actually," recalls Nagano. "I just said, 'I play violin,' and then he was like, 'Oh, then bring it the next time.' With a smile and twinkle in his eyes."

A co-founder of the famed Creative Music Studio, Berger, according to Nagano, specializes in the moments surrounding the music. The deep breaths before diving in.

"That space he has between the sounds, before he plays and right after he plays each note, I just think that it sounds more like he's aware of those spaces than many other performers," says Nagano. "And that's something that I look for when I play with him, and that's something that I want to pay attention to when I play. And I feel like I am trying to seek it or learn it whenever I see him playing."

Nagano connected with Martin, of Medeski Martin & Wood, through Creative Music Studio, of which Martin is now Executive Director. She appreciates the double-sided nature of his concept, which blurs the line between form and shapelessness.

"Whenever I hear Billy playing in a recording, each sound was beyond the styles or genre, or what kind of grooves he's playing," says Nagano. "Is he grooving or is he playing improv-y stuff? I don't know, but it doesn't matter. It's just that he is playing the sound. Which is Billy's sound. I appreciate it, because then groovy music is free music, and free music is groove music, or jazz standards. They're all kind of connected."

Before entering the studio, Nagano intended to compose for the trio. But considering the state of the world at that time, it made sense to go in a more instinctual direction.

"I wanted to make a little plan, or write some songs and stuff, but I think it just felt like it was right to do free improv," says Nagano. "And also I think Billy thanked me because there were no songs, so we could just play. It felt like we just needed to play and see what happens. I don't like to use the word 'see what happens' when I improvise normally, but this time it just felt right."

The album's lengthiest exploration, "Apocalypso," builds higher and higher before landing on a tranquil acoustic piano vamp. Nagano hears the pain in the piece, but also the spirit.

"I thought that we sounded like we were crying," explains Nagano. "Especially the stuff like track two, 'Apocalypso.' Every time I hear it, I'm surprised with how rough and crazy it sounds. It just feels like the world is going down, and then we're very sad about it, and how sad it sounds, and how destructive it sounds here and there. I find it to be strange, but it's beautiful. And I'm proud of that kind of sound that we were able to execute."

Anime Mundi closes with "The Empty Ocean," which dips its toes into an eerie sparseness. But the unsettling sounds are merely a path. Follow it long enough and you'll find the light.

"It felt kind of like we're going down the rabbit hole, some kind of dark hell kind of idea, but then the sounds always had some element of kindness," says Nagano. "Some kind of beauty in the way it sounded. It's dark, but it's not the end-of-the-world kind of darkness. It's more like, there's some kind of reason why this is happening. The reason is that we're going through this so that we can heal and make the world better." "-577 Records

Also available on vinyl LP.

Artist Biographies

"Sana Nagano, violonist: Ever since she moved in New York City (2010), violinist and composer Sana Nagano has been performing actively in NY jazz, classical and underground music scenes. Her latest collaborations include with Karl Berger, Adam Rudolph, William Parker, Daniel Carter, the Manhattan Symphonie, Nioka Workman, John Ehlis, Federico Ughi, Harvey Valdes, Marius Duboule, Brittany Anjou, Jeffrey Shurdut and others.

Nagano holds MA degree from Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College, BA degree from Berklee College of Music, both in jazz performance/composition major. She had studied with Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Mat Maneri, Dave Fiuczynski, Mark Feldman, Antonio Hart, Chris Howes, Hal Crook, Darren Barrett, Jeff Galindo, Rob Thomas, Matt Glaser, David Berkman and others."

-New York Jazz Workshop (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Karl Berger is a six time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, recipient of numerous Composition Awards ( commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, European Radio and Television: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy. SWF-Prize 1994 ). Professor of Composition, Artist-in-Residence at universities, schools and festivals worldwide; PhD in Music Esthetics.

Karl Berger became noted for his innovative arrangements for recordings by Jeff Buckley ("Grace"), Natalie Merchant ("Ophelia"), Better Than Ezra, The Cardigans, Jonatha Brooke, Buckethead, Bootsie Collins, The Swans, Sly + Robbie, Angelique Kidjo a.o.; and for his collaborations with producers Bill Laswell, Alan Douglas ("Operazone"), Peter Collins, Andy Wallace, Craig Street, Alain Mallet, Malcolm Burn, Bob Marlett a.m.o. in Woodstock, NY. New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris, Rome.

He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts in the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Phillippines, Japan, Mexico, Brazil.

His recordings and arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Columbia Double Moon, Douglas Music, Elektra , EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, In&Out, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, Pye , RCA, SONY, Stockholm, Vogue a.o.

Founder and director of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., dba The Creative Music Studio, a not-for-profit corporation, dedicated to the research of the power of music and sound and the elements common to all of the world's music forms; and to educational presentations through workshops, concerts, recordings, with a growing network of artists and CMS members worldwide.Conducted CMS Residencies worldwide. In the 90s, Dr. Berger was Professor of Composition and Dean of Music Education at the Hochschule fuer Musik, Frankfurt / Germany. Chairman of the Music Department at UMass Dartmouth till 2006.Now re-establishing CMS programming in collaboration with producer Rob Saffer, directing the CMS Archive Project, recording and producing. Performing internationally with the Allstar Ensemble "In the Spirit of Don Cherry" and with numerous projects, collaborating with vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso ( contact ). Recording a Trlogy of Piano Music for Tzadik Records. Collaborating with bassist Ken Filiano, vocalist Ingrid Sertso (KIK) + guitarist Kenny Wessel (KIKK). The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra, completed 75 performances in New York since the Spring of 2011 (see BLOG at New collaboration in Europe with drummer Baby Sommer, bassist Antonio Borghini, guitarist Carsten Radtke, vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso (DIFFERENT STANDARDS). Collaborating with cornetist Ken Knuffke, violinist Jason Hwang, saxophonists Ivo Perelman, Peter Apfelbaum, Mercedes Figueras, drummers Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Warren Smith, Tyshawn Sorey. bassists Joe Fonda, Mark Helias, Max Johnson, William Parker, trumpeter Steven Bernstein and others for recordings and performances."

-Karl Berger Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Billy Martin was born in NYC in 1963 to a Radio City Rockette and a concert violinist. At age 17, he devoted himself to music and dove into Manhattan's thriving, eclectic musical landscape. In the years to follow, he honed his craft everywhere from Broadway orchestra pits to Brazilian nightclubs and burgeoning underground performance spaces.

From the roots of the downtown scene he emerged with Medeski Martin and Wood, bridging the harmonic complexity of jazz, the conversational fluency of free improvisation, and the groove and swagger of classic R&B and funk. A series of albums and high-profile collaborations with John Scofield, John Zorn, iggy Pop, Natalie Merchant, and others, brought the band international acclaim.

Martin has relentlessly pursued diverse musical contexts, from free improvisation to chamber compositions to film scores. Much of his work is available via his Amulet Records label, which recently released the Road to Jajouka-a series of collaborations (produced by Martin) between the Master Musicians of Jajouka and such artists as Ornette Coleman, Flea, Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Lee Ranaldo, Bill Laswell, Mickey Hart, MMW and more.

Martin is also an accomplished filmmaker and visual artist, whose work has been exhibited in solo and group installations around the world including 2014's Cartegena de indias Bienal in Colombia and the Drawing Sound series at The Drawing Center in NYC (2015)

What began for Martin as tireless enthusiasm for music, percussion, and improvisation evolved into a wide ranging search for the roots of inspiration. Among the most valuable undertakings in this ongoing exploration is teaching. "When I teach," he explains, "I learn and discover methods to build my vocabulary and style, and I love to help others do the same"

His experiences as a teacher, student, and musician led him to create and direct Life on Drums, a cinematic exploration of percussion and the creative process with his childhood drum instructor, Allen Herman.

Billy is currently Executive Artistic Director and CEO of the legendary Creative Music Studio

He also owns and manages his own record label Amulet Records."

-Billy Martin Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. Timeless Eyes 5:28

2. Apocalypso 10:36

3. Planet Kintsugi 6:05

4. Tears 5:37

5. Siamese World 3:36

6. Zoomies 5:42

7. The Empty Ocean 5:13

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
Chamber Jazz
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Trio Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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