The Squid's Ear Magazine

Blum, John: Nine Rivers (ESP-Disk)

An outrageously powerful improvised exposition of nine rivers from New York pianist John Blum, performing live in a solo concert as part of the 2013 Crosscurrent Festival in Pecara, Italy, Blum's commanding technique and density making clear his influence by former mentors Cecil Taylor and Borah Bergman, as he rolls and roars rapidly through each torrent.

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product information:

UPC: 825481506229

Label: ESP-Disk
Catalog ID: ESPDISK 5062CD
Squidco Product Code: 33601

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded live at the Crosscurrent Festival, in Pecara, Italy, on September 14th, 2013.


John Blum-piano

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The most well-informed aficionados of NYC's jazz avant-garde speak of pianist John Blum with reverential respect, yet his discography is shockingly small for someone with a three-decade career: five albums as a leader, four as a sideman.

Blum studied piano with seminal avant-gardist Cecil Taylor and ambidextrous master Borah Bergman, and it shows, yet his style at its most intense is more thickly textured than even theirs, and fully individualistic. Blum's left hand recalls James P. Johnson: energy, power, rock-solid rhythm driver of the improvisation's engine. And speaking of engines, some of Jimmy Yancey's locomotive motion is there as well. Blum is actually a very melodic player, but the melodies are short and fast and may not be repeated more than once, so that's not the quality that the average listener might take away from the experience.

Nonetheless, in a 20-minute solo improvisation, he creates enough catchy motivic material that a dozen or more songs could be woven from it. Another of Blum's teachers was Milford Graves; they share the sense of music as a journey to a higher understanding and a life-altering and life-enhancing practice. Blum looks more like an athlete than a musician, but then, the way he plays piano is athletic and requires a lot of muscle and stamina. The power of the concert performance on this album (performed collaboratively with video) is a revelation."-ESP Disk

Artist Biographies

"John Blum was born April 15, 1968 in New York City. While an undergraduate from 1987-1991 Blum received a degree in Biological Science at Bennington College and also received a BFA in Music through his studies with Bill Dixon and Milford Graves. After college he continued his musical studies with pianists Borah Bergman and Cecil Taylor, and later received a MFA in Jazz Composition and Performance.

While in Europe in 1992, he worked with Han Bennink (Drums), Antonio Grippi (Sax), Demian Richardson (Trumpet), Tristan Honsinger (Cello), and the legendary Tony Scott on Clarinet.

Upon returning to New York City, Blum became a member of the Improvisers Collective (1993-1995) and also initiated projects as a soloist and a group leader. By early 1998 he joined together with Antonio Grippi on Saxophone, William Parker on Bass, and Denis Charles on Drums to form The" Astrogeny Quartet". A CD of this group was released on Eremite records in 2005. In 2001 Blum recorded a solo piano CD for Drimala Records entitled "Naked Mirror", and was also featured on Butch Morris' "Conduction 117" released on JumpArts Records. In 2003, Blum recorded with Sunny Murray's trio and is featured on his CD Perles Noires Volume 2 on Eremite Records. Blum joined the Steve Swell Quintet in 2005 and a CD was released on NotTwo Records of their 2006 Vision Festival performance in NYC. He performed with Han Bennink (Drums) and Peter Brotzmann (Sax) in 2006 and also played duets with Hamid Drake (Drums) and Marco Eneidi (Sax). In 2007 he played with Jackson Krall (Drums) at the Sage Gateshead New Music Festival in Newcastle England. Blum was featured with The Daniel Carter Quintet in 2008 at the Ponta Delgada Jazz Festival in Portugal.

He recorded a trio CD in 2008 entitled "In The Shade Of Sun" with William Parker and Sunny Murray released on Ecstatic Peace Records. That same year he also recorded a solo piano CD "Who begat Eye" released on Konnex Records in 2009. Blum returned to the Ponta Delgada Jazz Festival in 2010 and also played at the Abrantes Musicam Festival in Portugal as a soloist. In 2011 Blum played a series of solo concerts in Portugal on the islands of Pico, Faial. and Sao Miguel; and at Circol Malda in Barcelona. That year he also played at the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival in Montreal, Canada. In 2012 Blum performed regularly in NYC and was featured in several music festivals, including the High Zero Festival in Baltimore and the Jazzores Festival in Portugal, where he performed on the island of Santa Maria. He returned to Barcelona in 2012 to play at Robadors with Bassist Masa Kamaguchi.

In 2013 Blum performed in Mexico in the cities of Guanajuato at Casa Cuatro, and in Merida at the Chaakab Paaxil Free Jazz Festival. He also played as a soloist and with a trio in at the Crossover Festival in Italy, the Jazz and More Festival in Romania, and the Musicam Festival in Portugal."

-John Blum Website (

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Track Listing:

1. First River (4:29)

2. Second River (4:00)

3. Third River (6:24)

4. Fourth River (3:56)

5. Fifth River (8:22)

6. Sixth River (6:39)

7. Seventh River (3:35)

8. Eighth River (3:39)

9. Ninth River (6:23)

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Piano & Keyboards
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Solo Artist Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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