The Squid's Ear Magazine


Baker, Jim / Brandon Lopez / Bill Harris: Dura (Amalgam)

Recorded while double bassist Brandon Lopez was in Chicago, frequent collaborators from two generations--keyboardist Jim Baker on piano and Arp Synth and drummer/percussionist Bill Harris--joined together to record this live-in-the-studio album of highly interactive, explorative, propulsive and often cathartic free improvisation.
 

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Personnel:



Jim Baker-piano, synthesizer

Brandon Lopez-double bass

Bill Harris-drums


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Label: Amalgam
Catalog ID: AMA034
Squidco Product Code: 32190

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded live at Bel Air Sound Studio, in Chicago, Illinois, on June 27th, 2018, by Todd Carter.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"To improvise music with other musicians is to deal with processes of consciousness and unconsciousness that are mediated by the nervous system. It is also to face the possibility that things can go from right to very wrong or vice versa in a moment, often as the result of conscious choice or unconscious assumption. The Dura mater is the outermost of three layers of membrane known collectively as the meninges. It wraps around the brain and spinal column, and if anything goes wrong with it, you're in trouble.

Dura is the first offering by Jim Baker (born 1950; piano and synthesizer), Brandon Lopez (born 1988; double bass), and Bill Harris (born 1987; drums and percussion). The album and its constituent tracks were named after a trip that Harris took down an internet rabbit hole to investigate Kuru, a fatal neurological condition that for decades afflicted the Fore tribes of Papua New Guinea. The illness was transmitted by the practice of funereal cannibalism, in which the deceased were eaten by their family in order to release their life force back to the village. Says Harris, "At first glance it may seem grotesque, but there's something strangely affectionate and perhaps adoring about ingesting the body of a loved one. I think as creative people, we tend to do this with the things we learn and the people we learn from, perhaps in a more abstract realm, and in ways we may not be fully aware of. These things become part of us and can have both positive and negative effects on us."

Since Harris instigated this session, and his label is releasing the record, it fell to him to name the tracks. But that doesn't mean he's the session's boss; he's in the company of two musicians known for going their own way. Jim Baker is a member of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, one of Chicago's longest-running free improv ensembles, and musicians as disparate as Fred Anderson, Michael Zerang, Urs Leimgruber, and Janet Beveridge Bean have invited him to channel the unexpected; you may not know what he's going to do, but you can be sure it'll be worth the challenge to deal with it. Baker had played in Harris' band, Bowlcut, and Harris is on the list of EPD's alternates when their regular drummer, Steve Hunt, is out of town.

Baker and Harris had been kicking around the idea of a trio together, and they recruited Brandon Lopez when he came to Chicago for a gig with Dave Rempis and Ryan Packard. "I was blown away by his sound," Harris recalls. "It's rare that I see someone have that much control and mastery over their instrument and their sound." Adds Baker, "When Bill asked if I was interested in doing a session with him, I was definitely interested." Lopez was game. "As a fan of regional dialects and cultural mechanics, I will say there's nothing like that Chicago sound and both of these guys are original examples of it." A confirmed oenophile, he describes that Chicago sound as "Big bold America, like a California Cab."

But the album's opening gambit, "Kuru," doesn't rush to overpower. Bass, brushes, and piano probe, each restrained and inquisitive, before Baker goes his own way, undeterred by the other players' sideway nudges. It feels a bit like someone put an ESP-era Paul Bley tune in the soup pot, stirred it up, and amplified the swirl of its meltdown. Is that creative cannibalism? No, more like an inherited behavior, like a man whose walk closely resembles his grandfather's gate, as seen in old home movies. Another piano-based performance (there are three), "Anthropophagi," reveals the trio's particular balance of support and challenge. Early on, Harris' fractured surges chip at the mass of Baker's florid runs. When cracks start to appear in the pianist's wall of sound, Harris and Lopez locks right into a short-lived but monumental bit of swagger; the bassist's observation about Midwestern burliness proves on target after all. But this isn't a game of two on one; alliances and approaches shift in a moment. The three pieces where Baker plays Arp synthesizer are especially mercurial. His glimmering tones and Lopez' arco bass flash colors at each other, like differently shaded flares of lightning illuminating opposing cloud banks. Harris' brief, subsiding snare strikes sound like an effort to build a bridge between them. Before the tune's out, Lopez plays some fading repetitions of his own; transferred to a lower register, the sounds of construction turn into a hint of dub.

Despite the album's titular references to the brain's wrapping, the music's action feels like it occurs deeper in the brain's interior. Simultaneously chemical and electrical, the flashes of change and connection are synaptic. This nervous system is firing, connected, and fully functional."-Bill Meyer, Chicago, 2021


Artist Biographies

"Jim Baker was born in Chicago a number of years ago and has been playing in and around Chicago and elsewhere in the world for a few decades, mostly on piano and analog synthesizer; mostly in improvisational contexts; in situations involving, amongst others, Fred Anderson, Ken Vandermark, Michael Zerang, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt, Edward WIlkerson Jr, David Boykin, Rob Mazurek, Guillermo Gregorio, Nicole Mitchell, Vincent Davis, the Thing XXL, Tortoise, Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Hartsaw, Janet Bean, Damon Short, and numerous others.

For a number of years, Mr Baker was the house pianist at the weekly jam sessions at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge; and for most of the past decade, has played weekly with the improvising quartet Extraordinary Popular Delusions (the other three Delusions: Messrs. Williams, Sandstrom, & Hunt) , who currently play nearly every monday night at Beat Kitchen in Chicago."

-Milk Factory Productions (http://www.milkfactoryproductions.com/Jim_Baker.html)
6/19/2024

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

"[..] 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 (http://www.brandonlopez.nyc/)
6/19/2024

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

"Bill Harris is a percussionist, composer, improviser, and audio engineer from Pittsburgh currently based in Chicago. He also operates and produces for Amalgam, a Chicago-based collective.

(B. 1987, Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill has been active in Chicago's music communities since 2011, working at the intersection of free improvisation, jazz, noise, rock, and country. His music has been presented at Constellation, Elastic Arts, The Bop Stop, The Hungry Brain, The Hideout, Experimental Sound Studios, Spot Tavern, Beat Kitchen, Empty Bottle, and Comfort Station.

Bill is humbled to have played or recorded with Jim Baker, Dave Rempis, Kent Kessler, Brian Sandstrom, Ed Wilkerson, Carol Genetti, Angel Bat Dawid, Jeb Bishop, Peter Maunu, Josh Berman, Brandon Lopez, Keefe Jackson, and Jason Roebke, among many other experimental and improvisatory musicians and artists.

Bill is constantly inspired by and thankful to work with his frequent collaborators: Ishmael Ali, Jake Wark, Timothee Quost, PT Bell, Gerrit Hatcher, Eli Namay, Matt Piet, Brianna Tong, Wills McKenna, David Fletcher, Jess McIntosh, Aaron Smith, Jeff Kimmel, Adam Shead, Molly Jones, Jakob Heinemann, and many others...

In 2015 he started Amalgam, a 100% artist-run collective and label dedicated to showcasing works of improvised and experimental music in Chicago. Bill is also an audio engineer working in both studio and live situations, and operates an independent studio in Chicago with engineering, mixing, mastering, and production credits on labels such as Amalgam, Astral Spirits, No Index, 577 Records and Ears&Eyes."

-Bill Harris Website (http://www.billyharris.net/bio)
6/19/2024

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


Track Listing:



1. Kuru 6:37

2. Chagas 10:21

3. Anthropophagi 6:02

4. Sclerosis 8:53

5. Prion 5:50

6. Wasting 7:35

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
Electro-Acoustic
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Trio Recordings
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

Search for other titles on the label:
Amalgam.


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