Thursday, March 28, 2013

DIE LIKE A DOG QUARTET – Little Birds Have Fast Hearts - No. 1 (1998)

Label: FMP – FMP CD 97 
Format: CD, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 1998 
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded during the "30th TOTAL MUSIC MEETING" on November 7/8, 1997 at the "Podewil" in Berlin
Design – Brötzmann
Photography By – Dagmar Gebers, Tony Getsug
Producer – Jost Gebers, Peter Brötzmann
Recorded By – Holger Scheuermann, Jonas Bergler

The Die Like a Dog Quartet came together four years after recording their first album for the 30th Total Music Meeting festival in Berlin that took place in November 1997. The sets that the quartet performed over the course of the three day festival were subsequently released by the FMP label in two volumes entitled Little Birds Have Fast Hearts. Peter Brötzmann plays tenor, of course, as well as some tarogato and clarinet, and he is joined by bassist Wiliam Parker, drummer Hamid Drake, and trumpeter Toshinori Kondo who occasionally utilizes electronic effects. On this first volume, the quartet is in it for the long run; there are just two parts, totaling over an hours' worth of music. They go long, but not without pause, for there are definite let-ups over the course of "Part 1" (which remains engaging and varied throughout its 45 minutes), and "Part 2" is a relatively low-key piece. But "calm" and "low- key" for this group are still strongly out; there is no "casual" mode, there is no collapsing into old forms, this is a work-out, and all four musicians give 100 percent as they are known to do. This is not music for people wanting to hear some nice jazz, some hum-along-able standards; this is music for listeners who want to take a journey and are willing to let this quartet steer. The Die Like a Dog Quartet is not improvising for an audience, they are improvising because. Because that is how you find music. Little Birds Have Fast Hearts, No. 1 is a great example of why that is important.

_ By JOSLYN LAYNE, All Nusic Guide

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DIE LIKE A DOG QUARTET – Little Birds Have Fast Hearts - No. 2 (1999)

Label: FMP – FMP CD 101
Format: CD, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 1999
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation 
Recorded during the "30th TOTAL MUSIC MEETING" on November 7/8, 1997 at the "Podewil" in Berlin
Design [Cover Design] – Brötzmann
Photography By – Dagmar Gebers
Producer – Jost Gebers, Peter Brötzmann
Recorded By – Holger Scheuermann, Jonas Bergler

This second installment of the Die Like a Dog Quartet's live performances at the 30th Total Music Meeting in Berlin picks up right where the first volume (with two long cuts, "Part 1" and "Part 2") left off, with a first track entitled "Part 3." Leader Peter Brotzmann signals the beginning with a clarinet call, soon answered by trumpeter Toshinori Kondo (who often utilizes electronic effects), and it's not too long before bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake come rolling in. The quartet warms up slowly during this opening number, giving themselves plenty of space between the colors and shading for the first many minutes before things start to heat up and really get going for a few minutes until the quartet drops back into an unhurried, exploratory mode. The second half of this 20-minute improvisation finds them intensifying, with solos from both Kondo and Brotzmann (still on clarinet) during the tail end. "Part 4" matches the first track in both length and dynamics, finds Brotzmann on tarogato and tenor sax, and includes two brief sections where Parker and Drake go it alone. "Part 5" actually opens with a fragment of a bluesy melody from Kondo and Parker has his bow in hand for this number that stays, for the most part, whispery and abstract. The short "Part 6" is a finale during which the quartet plays full force. Little Birds Have Fast Hearts, No. 2 complements the first volume, including more of this quartet's excellent interplay and self-feeding energy.

_ By JOSLYN LAYNE, All Music Guide

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Label: Les Disques Victo – VICTO CD 093
Format: CD, Album; Country: Canada - Released: 2004
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded live at the 20 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, 19 / 5 / 2003.
Graphics – François Bienvenue
Liner Notes – John Corbett
Painting [Cover Paintings] – Tania Girard-Savoie
Photography By – Caroline Forbes
Producer – Joanne Vézina, Michel Levasseur

Festival organizers are always searching for meetings that have a killer combination of artistic cachet and audience draw. Victoriaville artistic director Michel Levasseur has mastered this over the years, coming up with some spectacular combinations amongst the expected fizzles. When he found out that Evan Parker ’ s trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton and Peter Brötzmann ’ s Die Like a Dog trio with William Parker and Hamid Drake would both be touring during the spring of 2003, he arranged a one-off meeting of the two at the tail end of their tours. Things took an intriguing twist when pianist Alex von Schlippenbach was recruited as a last-minute replacement for Guy, who was unable to make the tour.

Parker, Brötzmann, and Schlippenbach ’ s history goes back decades, but they had not played together in quite some time. With little practice time together, there was a question as to whether this would become simply a clash of titans, or if the sextet would find its way to more provocative collective heights. Over the course of a continuous 80-minute set, they managed to work at both extremes.

The buzz was high when the sextet hit the stage and the group seemed to feed off of it. Sections by the two trios serve as bookends for this continuous set. After an initial salvo where the twin tenors laid out bellowing torrents in full assault over stabbing piano clusters and roiling pulse, Parker ’ s trio was left to negotiate their snaking labyrinths. Those looking for a document of the trio at the height of that spring tour should be steered to America 2003, the two-disc document on Parker ’ s Psi label. That said, the Parker trio ’ s segment shows the group ’ s ability to move from muscular intensity to circuitous detail.

But it is other sub-groupings that provide the real highlights. After Die Like a Dog joins in, the reed players and W. Parker break off to leave Schlippenbach and the two drummers for a long central section. Here, the pianist ’ s Monk-like clusters and percussive prepared abstractions jostle against the coursing waves of Drake ’ s polyrhythmic pulse and Lytton ’ s free textures. When W. Parker joins in on bass and E. Parker dives in on soprano, the fractals fly with ever-mounting dramatic tension.

Oddly it is when the ensemble opens way for Brötzmann ’ s trio that things begin to flag. The reed player starts on tarogato but can ’ t seem to settle in, relying more on bluster and burly force than his usual molten barrage. When the trio breaks way for an extended bass/frame drum duo, then a bit later for a bass solo, it feels out of place with what had preceded.

When the full group finally convenes to finish things out, the energy is regained for an incendiary final blast. (Missing on the CD is the full-on five-minute encore with the whole group storming with an intensity gathered over the set.) Though a wildly uneven meeting, this is still one of those summits that was an intriguing reunion of masters and well worth checking out.

_ By MICHAEL ROSENSTEIN, 23 December 2004 (One Final Note)

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

GUSH: (GUSTAFSSON / SANDELL / STRID) – Norrköping (2005)

Label: Atavistic – ALP161CD
Format: CD, Album; Country: US - Released: Jul 2005
Style: Free Improvisation
Recorded on 5 May 2003 at Crescendo, Norrköping (Östergötland), Sweden
Mastered march 2004 at Alibi Studios, Gustafsberg by – Niklas Billström
Design – House Of ATA
New Design (pages 2,3,4,5,6,7) by ART&JAZZ Studio Salvarica
Designer by – VITKO - 2013
Photography By – Cato Lein; Producer – GUSH
Recorded By – Olof Madsen

After more than seventeen years together, the members of the Swedish-based Gush trio now operate as three interlocking parts of one perpetual motion machine. Occupied enough with other projects, the three players—reedist Mats Gustafsson, pianist Sten Sandell and drummer Raymond Strid—bring a complementary desire for melded invention when they unite, as they did in Norrköping in 2003, for this, the band's first-ever domestic release in North America.

Fully in command of all elements of its instruments, the trio elaborates its thoughts over the course of three long selections of about 19, 13, and 26 minutes each. The best known of the three musicians is now Gustafsson, who plays soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones and fluteophone, alto fluteophone and French flageolet here. A veteran of large groups led by Peter Brötzmann and Barry Guy, as well as smaller bands with Joe McPhee and Ken Vandermark, Gustafsson is as easily at home in the United States as Europe.

Inventive timekeeper Raymond Strid also works in Guy's large groups, as well as smaller bands. Sandell, not only improvises with Scandinavian players like Fredrik Ljungkvist, but as a graduate of Stockholm's Academy of Music nurtures a fascination for electro-acoustic and contemporary so-called serious music. You can hear this most clearly during the 26 minutes of "Rhomb," as his voicing and touch vibrates from low to high frequencies and all stations in-between.

Affecting the outlines of a fantasia that notwithstanding its freedom mingles comfortably with the others' output, he's the master of low-key—literally—variations, whereas the remaining two use volume to pump up their solos. Starting with strummed piano chords, Sandell sensitively works his way from light plinks, to near toy-piano timbres, than finally to gentling harmonies that pull together Gustafsson's and Strid's strident outbursts. Meanwhile the saxophonist uses flattement, tongue-stopping, snorts and vocalized yelps to make his point— finally escalating to glossolalia.

Midway in vociferousness between the others, the drummer sticks to rim shots and wood- block ratcheting to make his points. Both other tunes function with similar strategy modifications. Gustafsson may unpack his fluteophones for unvarying intense single tones, yet he doesn't miss a chance to alternate near-silences with cat-like screams, bubbling split tones or rolling tongue stops. Sandell introduces lower-case arpeggios, highly syncopated right-handed actions or contrasting dynamics, as one set of fingers creates tremolo patterns and the other a contrapuntal line. Meanwhile Strid shakes his drum tree, fondles his smaller drum tops suggestively or batters them with full force as the occasion demands.

Familiarity has made Gush the perfect three-headed improv machine over the past few years, and Norrköping gives North Americans a chance to catch up with the rest of the free music world.

_ By KEN WAXMAN (March 27, 2006)

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Thursday, March 21, 2013


Label: Scissors – SCISSORS-002
Format: CD, Album; Country: Japan - Released: 1997
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation, Experimental
Recorded 20 & 21 November 1995 in the studios of "Talvera" in Cordes-sur-Ciel, France
Produced by Wataru Matsumoto, Tetsu Saitoh, Michel Doneda, OUIE-DIRE, and Ensemble Passage
Cover art by Hyokichi Ohnari
Cover design by Les Requins Marteaux
Japanese translation by Michiyo Besombes

Tetsu Saitoh: bass (1-4)
Alain Joule: percussion (2-4)
Michel Doneda: soprano sax and sopranino (1-3)
Antonella Talamonti: voice (2)

Japanese bassist Tetsu Saitoh stands out as a new hope from across the ocean. He's the new ray in the sea of bodies that play the same standard fare. These two recordings, released on his own Scissors label, outline the here and now in his present body of work. On "M'uoaz", Tetsu is surrounded by an all-star cast, which includes saxophonist Michel Doneda and percussionist Alain Joule. [Vocalist Antonella Talamonti joins the trio on one track.] The music is rather sparse. Joule implicates the use of his brushes against the cymbals. More often than not, we witness gorgeous duo passages between percussionist Alain Joule and Michel Doneda on the soprano. In fact, Michel Doneda provides some of the ferocious moments on this record. Whether blowing on his soprano or his sopranino, his technique is recognizable articulate blowing that doesn't overpower the rest of the trio, but enhances its colours. Finally, Tetsu Saitoh provides a number of rather solid solos both plucking and bowing on his double bass. These moments are especially enhanced when Michel Doneda takes leave for extended periods of time, which is most apparent during the longer tracks. It is then that we get to hear the dueling between Saitoh's both tender and powerful bass playing and Joule's delicate brush strokes. Overall, "M'uoaz" is a record any serious fan of collective improvisation should seek out.

_ By Tom Sekowsk

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Label: Slam Productions – SLAMCD 318 
Format: CD, Album; Country: UK - Released: 1 March 2004
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Studio set of uncompromising improvised music by the "Mahout" trio recorded June 2003, together with solo tracks by the three members.
Tracks 1, 4, 7 on 12 June 2003 at SRT Studios, St Ives, England
Track 2 on 23 October 2003 at Bullpen Studio, Oxfordshire
Tracks 3, 6 on 4, 10 and 15 September 2003 at Harvestworks Studio, NYC
Track 5 on 15 October 2003 at Pendle Hawk Studio, Colne, Lancashire
The CD was compiled and mastered in November and December 2003 by Eric Smith at Bullpen Studio, Oxfordshire, England.

The 7 tracks on this new album include 3 trio pieces and solo tracks by each member, the intention being to give each individual more space outside the hectic free improvisation of the trio.
The trio tracks were recorded (June 2003) on the first occasion the three musicians played together – each eager to play but at the same time wanting very much to hear what the others had to say. The studio session was a high-energy affair, both mentally and physically draining, leaving the solo tracks to be recorded at later dates. In a much calmer environment the 3 musicians later took advantage of the space and freedom of the unaccompanied solo to make their own statements – creating a short gallery of self-portraits.


Energy Jazz is alive and kicking! Slam label boss George Haslam has long had a knack for creating challenging situations for himself, and this robust threeway encounter proves a success. He’s a restless player, whose avid search for new groupings and apparent mania for diving into seemingly inhospitable idioms recalls Herr Brötzmann (whose current instrumental druthers Haslam shares). Hession’s long tenure with the British avant-garde has found him playing mostly in the circle surrounding his colleague Simon H. Fell, with whom Hession has recorded some seriously hair-raising sessions. His fierce, frequently busy playing can often be mistaken for lacking detail and subtlety; in fact, Hession’s imagination (and hands, of course) simply move faster than most listener’s ears (hear this in his excellent solo piece, "The Varmint"). His partnership with Haslam was cemented on their 2002 duo album Pendle Hawk Carapace. Given the stylistic proclivities of two of these players, the fleet- fingered Bergman naturally fits in well with these fellows. The tart-toned tarogato dominates the rambunctious opener, which only occasionally gives you room to breathe. These guys simply launch themselves forward as soon as the tape is rolling, constructing and destroying ideas and exchanges with insane speed. The velocity and relentlessness of this music isn’t too far off from Death Metal, believe it or not. But despite this intensity, the lugubrious baritone opening to "M. E. W." gives a clue to the emotional heart of this music (although when Haslam blows both his horns at once it’s certainly an abstracted emotionalism). This proves only a brief interlude as Bergman comes crashing out to begin "Streams." The density and complexity of his phrasing, and the rapidity with which his ideas are pursued, are matched on this solo track only by the quality of his construction (since there is a clear, if unorthodox logic to this creation; it’s easier to sense this on the reflective "Dusk," which is almost like listening to one of Bergman’s knuckle-busters slowed down to 16rpm). When the trio reconvenes for the following track, there is a considerable clarity to the piece, with each musician pursuing a different and contrasting tempo which overlap and dissolve.
An invigorating recording.

_ By JASON BIVINS, Cadence, August 2004

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Jazz Masters Cooler Theater - 2008 – Poster – No.1

Graphic Design:
Poster – No.1
Jazz Masters Cooler Theater – RECREATIONAL CHEMISTRY 
"The Absurd"
At The MAD FROG – London, 2008
Artwork and Complete Design by VITKO Salvarica

The idea of the absurd is a common theme in many existentialist works, particularly in Albert Camus. Absurdity is the notion of contrast between two things. As Camus explains it in The Myth of Sisyphus:

The absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.

It's easy to highlight the absurdity of the human quest for purpose. It's common to assume that everything must have a purpose, a higher reason for existence. However, if one thing has a higher purpose, what is the reason for that purpose? Each new height must then be validated by a higher one.

Well, although the purpose of life may not be apparent, that does not confirm that it does not exist.

So, enjoy it in every new day, my good friends.


'The Theatre of the Absurd' is a term coined by the critic Martin Esslin for the work of a number of playwrights, mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s. The term is derived from an essay by the French philosopher Albert Camus. In his 'Myth of Sisyphus', written in 1942, he first defined the human situation as basically meaningless and absurd. The 'absurd' plays by Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter and others all share the view that man is inhabiting a universe with which he is out of key. Its meaning is indecipherable and his place within it is without purpose. He is bewildered, troubled and obscurely threatened.

The Absurd Theatre is a theatre of situation, as against the more conventional theatre of sequential events. It presents a pattern of poetic images. In doing this, it uses visual elements, movement, light. Unlike conventional theatre, where language rules supreme, in the Absurd Theatre language is only one of many components of its multidimensional poetic imagery... ... It owes a debt to European pre-war surrealism: its literary influences include the work of Franz Kafka. The Theatre of the Absurd is aiming to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams...

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Friday, March 15, 2013

EVAN PARKER / JOHN EDWARDS / CHRIS CORSANO – A Glancing Blow (2006) - Live At The Vortex

Label: Clean Feed – CF085CD
Format: CD, Album; Country: Portugal - Released: Sep 2007
Style: Free Improvisation, Free Jazz
Recorded at the New Vortex, London, 24 August 2006.
Design – Rui Garrido; Photography By [Photographs] – Caroline Forbes
Re-Design (pages 2, 3, 4, 5) by ART&JAZZ Studio; Design by VITKO
Executive-producer – Trem Azul; Producer – Evan Parker
Liner Notes – Brian Morton; Mastered By – Luís Delgado
Recorded By, Mixed By – Steve Lowe


The music of saxophonist Evan Parker is an acquired taste. Like all the great jazz players he has created his own language. Think of Louis Armstrong calling Dizzy Gillespie's sound "Chinese music or that Ornette Coleman's music once caused a riot. It might be difficult to step back in time to understand the confusion over Ornette's music or that of Thelonious Monk, whose vision is now accepted into the jazz canon. Evan Parker holds that most sacrosanct title today. Listeners idolized his sound or reject it as Armstrong once did of Gillespie, or as folks once thought of Armstrong himself.

Parker's is the music of extended technique, the language of chirps, multiphonics, and circular breathing. Immediately identifiable, his sound is perhaps the next progression of the spirit of John Coltrane's final hours.

Parker has worked solo, but has also produced some fine trio sessions with Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens or perhaps his most famous with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton. Here he is matched with a longtime collaborator, bassist John Edwards from the London Improvisers Orchestra and many an Emamen recording, and newcomer/percussionist Chris Corsano. Corsano, born in the US is most known for his collaborations with saxophonist Paul Flaherty and most recently in their band Cold Bleak Heat.

A Glancing Blow is a live recording from 2006 at London's New Vortex. The trio plays two lengthy tracks of twenty-eight and nearly forty-eight minutes. Its nontraditional compositions are suite-like improvisations, as the tempo and rhythms shift in and out and the players contribute, sit out, and play off an idea or the energy of their partners.

Theirs is a music of no beginnings and endings that appears out of thin air. The language spoken is both energetic and meditative. Corsano can play the colorist role or, when enabled, the provocateur. His highlights are the subtle shadings of tom-tom and cymbal, the completion of a remark made by his partners. The music changes directions, not like a traditional composition, but with a flow of energy. The quiet intensity of Parker's saxophone can be like syrup, making it's way from a high spot to a lower one. With a trio he has less of a burden to carry (as he does with his solo performances) and his thoughts come unhurried and with much deference to Edwards.

For his part, Edwards doesn't so much keep time as he spreads it. His performance on bass is that of slaps, plucks, bowing, knocks, and all other physical manipulation of his instrument.

Together, the trio molds these two extended performances into an abstract, but consistently satisfying presentation of very thoughtful free jazz.

_ By MARK CORROTO, Published: September 15, 2007 (AAJ)

A Glancing Blow, with free pioneer Evan Parker joined by veteran bassist John Edwards and up-and-coming percussionist Chris Corsano for a live concert, would seem to be a classic free-form blowout. And certainly it has its moments of saxophone wailing over free time. On the opening title track, Parker, on tenor—the horn he features most on this disc—twists out lines that ring out the upper extensions of unstated harmonies. Underneath Corsano rolls out wave after wave of ametric time while Edwards grounds the musical melee with a few deeply planted notes. Later in the track, with Parker on soprano issuing tumbling, anxious lines, the band leaps forward over Corsano ’ s barline-melting ride patterns. Here Edwards plants a two-beat figure that leans back against the rhythmic current. But the most arresting moment comes midway through the half-hour long first track when Corsano and Edwards both take up bows and creating an eerie spectral curtain of sound that ’ s electric without being plugged in. The even longer second selection is all Parker tenor with interludes for solo bass and drums. Parker builds three solos, starting with the first two with ballad statements that grow increasingly gnarled as they progress. On the last he worries a fragment that sounds cribbed from Wayne Shorter. Each time Parker seems to be approaching a climatic explosion, he backs off, with the track drifting to the end with some more textural play.

_ By David Dupont (Cadence Magazine)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Label : Jazzwerkstatt – JW126
Format: CD, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 2012
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at the Loft in Cologne, June 13th, 2011, Germany
Tracking and Mixing by Stefan Deistler
Mastering by Marcus Schmickler
Artwork: Jorgo Schäfer; Design: K. Untiet, B. Göbe
Executive Producer: Ulli Blobel

Future Drone is a raw and brisk trio album with Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone, Achim Tang on bass and Joe Hertenstein on drums. Dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian, the music is spirited, beginning with “ Future Drone ” which has an exciting angular improvisation. Jon Irabagon develops a very deep and full saxophone tone and Tang and Hertenstein are continually inventive and propulsive. Raw saxophone and thick bass usher in “ Seven for Nothing ” with the music developing a thrilling caustic tone moving to bowed bass and powerful drums. Everything is free of pretense and consists of in the moment mindful creativity. “ Rotten Strawberry ” is the highlight of the album with rough hewn saxophone, bass and drums advancing a stumbling funky groove. Irabagon is particularly powerful here, deep and darkly potent over the open ended bass and drums allowing for for three way conversation with subtle humor and a wildly thrilling collective collective improvisation. The music on this album blends the talent of three unique musicians in dramatic fashion, showcasing their captivating and climactic music.
_ by Tim Niland

Joe Hertenstein
Jon Irabagon
Achim Tang


Featuring Jon Irabagon on tenor sax, Achim Tang on upright bass and Joe Hertenstein on drums. This disc was recorded at the Loft in Cologne, Germany and it is dedicated to Paul Motian. Since moving to New York, Joe Hertenstein has been working with a handful of other transplated musicians like Thomas Heberer and Joachim Badenhorst. Hats off to saxist Jon Irabagon who plays with Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mary Halvorson Quintet, the RIDD Quartet! He won the prestigious Monk award a couple
of years back and has recorded several of his own discs. I recognize Achim Tang from his work with Max Nagl, Dave Tronzo and Guy Klucevsek.
This is a mostly improvised date with a couple of songs written by Mr. Hertenstein. The sprawling, intense and crafty drums of Joe Hertenstein are at the center of these pieces. Joe whips up a cascade of whirlwind drums while Mr. Irabagon screeches massive tenor blasts and Mr. Tang bows with centrifugal force. "Panicballad" is an appropriate name for a piece in which the sax plays slowly while the bass and drums speed up, going in two directions at once yet remaining together. Although Hertenstein organized this session, all three members get a chance to stretch out, listen and interact on several levels. Each member also kicks off or leads the direction of several different pieces. It is interesting to hear Mr. Irabagon playing those bent, extended technique tenor sax sounds rather than blowing long and hard like he does for the entire trio session with Barry Altschul on the 'Doxy' CD released last year (2011) or his playing with MOPDTK. This is a most formidable, tight and spirited trio. They even do some sort of bent blues thing on "Rotten Strawberry" and that fits as well.

_ by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

...What you get is still entirely different from what you can expect. The music is intimate, raw, fresh, creative, with a range that goes from cautious explorations - of which some are truly magnificent - over some hard intensity to the soulful moments of "Ballad For Paul and Poo", yet all tracks form one very coherent and varied whole.
The intimacy is equalled by the intensity of the playing, which has a sense of supressed urgency, or controlled expressivity, which never actually explodes but remains full of expectations and held-back anticipation. The result is incredibly crisp and emotional. It hurts and it comforts.
Three incredible players, technically masterful, musically inventive and with deep emotional powers.
_ by Stef (FreeJazz)

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

MAT MANERI featuring JOE McPHEE – Sustain (2002)

Label: Thirsty Ear – THI57122.2
Series: The Blue Series
Format: CD, Album;  Country: US - Released: 2002
Executive Producer: Peter Gordon
Engineered by Jamie Saft; Recorded at Frank Booth
Mastered by FLAM at Mindswerve Studio, NYC
Artistic Director for Blue Series: Matthew Shipp
Design and Photography: Cynthia Fetty,
Re-design (inside) by ART & JAZZ Studio SALVARICA; Designer: VITKO


In the last couple of years, Mat Maneri has been incredibly prolific. His versatility and range, especially on the viola, have facilitated work within widely different musical contexts. On Sustain he joins a quartet of active NYC musicians, plus special guest Joe McPhee on soprano saxophone. These players have built strong intuitive relationships over time in various collaborations, enabling them to make musical statements in an unforced, natural way. Sustain offers deliberate, open individual and collective improvisation.

The tracks on Sustain alternate between the "Alone" series (solo performances by each musician) and group improvisations. The contrast afforded through this arrangement allows the listener to appreciate each individual voice both on its own and in combination with the other players, making for a nice overall sound because everyone has something different to say. Maneri opens the disc with round, resonant notes rich with harmonics, hinting more than he actually states. (That leads quite nicely into the group tune "In Peace," a sort of psychedelic trip through outer sound.) William Parker's take on "Alone (Unravel)" strays from his usual intensity to a more open, spacious aura. And when he goes out on his own, drummer Gerald Cleaver coaxes texture and color from his kit, suggesting rub more than hit, stroke more than punch.

The four quintet pieces span a wide range of moods without sounding contrived or scattered. "Nerve" has a frantic, bubbly energy that hurries ahead, rarely pausing to gather steam. Both Craig Taborn and Maneri use effects to alter their sound, bringing it perilously close to a primal scream; meanwhile, the rhythm section stops and starts, eventually heading toward a insistent groove and then off into the wild beyond. On the other hand, the title track showcases Maneri's ability to say more with less. Gentle, undulating viola lines intertwine with McPhee's floating voice on the soprano sax, lending an ethereal atmosphere through generous use of space and time.

As might be expected from a group of this caliber, Sustain is a fine disc. Its inventiveness and range most emphatically reflect Maneri's own approach to improvisation.

_ By NILS JACOBSON, Published: October 10, 2002 (AAJ)

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