Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WEIGHTLESS: John BUTCHER / Alberto BRAIDA / John EDWARDS / Fabrizio SPERA – A Brush With Dignity (2009)

Label: Clean Feed – CF154CD
Format: CD, Album; Country: Portugal - Released: 2009
Style: Free Jazz
Recorded live in Germany, 3rd and 5th October 2008 Loft-Köln (1-3) and C.U.B.A.- Münster (4)
Photography By – Alessandro Carpentieri
Design – Travassos
New Design by ART&JAZZ Studio Salvarica, by VITKO
Produced by John Rottlers; Executive-producer – Trem Azul
Edited and Mastered by John Butcher

British artists and intellectuals have an old fascination for the Italian culture, and Italians like the way they, and their history and classical art, are envisioned by English writers, poets, painters and filmmakers. That's, inevitably, the context of this cooperative effort between John Butcher and John Edwards, from one side, and Alberto Braida and Fabrizio Spera, from the other. It demands your full attention, not because it's difficult (it may be, at times, but who wants real good music to be "easy"?), but because it's intense and needs your open ear and time . First of all, the music is totally improvised, even if it seems meticulously composed. No contradiction here: that's what the improvising masters do, and all the four of them are specially gifted in that aspect. Then, you'll notice there's no leader or hierarchical organization, everything happening through a collective flow, and that's why the credits go to a band name, Weightless. No-one even tries to start an ego-trip: this is a society of equals. Finally, you'll find yourself in a state of bliss, because the resulting music couldn't be more surprising. ~ Clean Feed

Alberto Braida /  John Edwards
Fabrizio Spera / John Butcher

Atonal, audacious and admirable, Weightless is an irregularly constituted quartet made up of four top-flight improvisers: two from England and two from Italy. Recorded during two German gigs, the polyphonic expression is the result of the almost familial musical relations between bassist John Edwards and saxophonist John Butcher on one side and pianist Alberto Braida and drummer Fabrizio Spera on the other.

Over the past few decades Butcher has sonically matched wits with everyone from British guitarist Derek Bailey to French clarinetist Xavier Charles. Edwards, one of London improv’s go-to bassists, has played with personalities as different as British saxophonist Evan Parker and American drummer Sunny Murray, while Lodi-based Braida and Spera have separately or individual linked up with stylists such as Canadian bassist Lisle Ellis and German synth master Thomas Lehn.

Although there are intimations of electricity here, no instrument is plugged into a socket. Instead the pulsating wave forms come from Braida’s internal piano string- exciting, Butcher’s multiphonics and overblowing plus the panoply of tones and textures the other two extract from their instruments. Furthermore, while perfectly balanced throughout, this group interaction doesn’t mean that any of the players sacrifice their individuality.

Case in point: “ Termo ” . Inaugurated full force with sul tasto bass string bowing, snapping and rebounding drum pressure, reversible cascading piano chords and the saxophone emitting fierce bird-like cawing, antithetical roles evolve by the mid-section. While Butcher’s frenetic wide vibrato, spetrofluctuation and flutter tonguing work into an interlude of circular breathing that is both harsh and airy, Braida’s confined comping and near-meditative chording suggest unruffled continuity. Meanwhile Spera’s cymbal resonation and Edwards’ powerful thumps are tonal enough to keep the time measured. Nonetheless, tonality is also in the ear of the listener. Throughout, it’s not that others don't accelerate to tension-laden, stop-time interpolations, or that the saxophonist limits his solos to smeared chirps, growls and tongue stops or echoes partial tone extensions.

“ Centri ” for instance, which unrolls for more than 29½ minutes, demonstrates all sorts of improvisational strategies. The exposition works its way from bass string pings and drumstick squeaks on cymbal tops to a chromatic narrative that mixes aviary pitch variations from the reedist, snare ruffs, near legato bass string bowing and a dramatic two-handed, piano key- pumping that is as much prepared as poramento. Diffuse, wide-bore reed patterns exhibited with the caution tourists use to cross Italian streets, precede an extended pause where Jekyll- and-Hyde-like Butcher appears to split into two saxophonists: one playing straight-ahead and the other sounding buzzing split tones.

As the two sides of his reed personality meld, the tune almost become a rondo, with Braida producing dynamic harmonies, Spera press rolls and pops, and Edwards picking and slapping his strings. By the time the saxophonist has progressed to guttural intensity and overblowing, the pianist’s staccato chording sounds as if he’s playing a pressurized version of “ Chop Sticks ” . A sudden cymbal smack unites this melody to the invention’s final section following a further protracted pause. As the saxophonist rolls unexpected phrases in his mouth as if savoring a sweet treat, the pianist strums and counters with dynamic note clusters. Hesitant nerve beats and ruffs from Spera underline Butcher’s irregular flattement and vibrated ghost notes as the others’ contribution to the final variant, collapses the theme into an overriding segmented buzz.

Inventive and perfectly balanced whether legato or staccato, with solo tones or with layered timbres, the communication among the four isn’t weightless, but weighty is a good sense. Hopefully an encore CD is in the offing.

_ By KEN WAXMAN, August 22, 2010

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Sunday, October 27, 2013



SABA LP cover (1967)

Label: SABA – SB 15 095
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 1967
(CD issue - Promising Music/MPS, 2008)
Style: Free Jazz
Recorded at SABA Studio Villingen, Black Forest, May 2nd, 1967.
Producer – Joachim Ernst Berendt
Recorded By – Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer
Layout [Graphic] – Gigi Berendt
Painting [Cover Painting "free Action"] – Wolfgang Dauner
Photography By – Paul Gerhard Deker

Bass – Jürgen Karg
Cello – Eberhard Weber
Drums – Fred Braceful
Drums, Percussion [Tabla] – Mani Neumeier
Piano, Piano [Prepared], Composed By – Wolfgang Dauner
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet – Gerd Dudek
Violin – Jean-Luc Ponty

1. Sketch Up And Dauner (8:58)
2. Disguise (6:58)
3. Free Action Shot (6:13)
4. My Spanish Disguise (12:46)
5. Collage (6:27)

Without any doubt Wolfgang Dauner is one of the world’s most versatile piano and keyboard players who has touched on literally every musical genre and – as a “ holistic artist ” - even stepped out beyond sound. From the very start of his curriculum musicae Dauner had a strong interest in overcoming clichés of standard jazz and, in every respect, developing new forms of composing and making music. At the same time he always was a down-to-earth man: He worked for TV and film, sketching soundtracks and creating music programs for children. Isolation and elite attitude was the last thing on his mind as he was always striving to mediate between jazz, rock and classical music. In the 1960s Bill Evans ’ vocabulary was a starting point for his own language and stories. ” Free Action ” , released in 1967, stands as an early and powerful manifest of some of his important ideas and until today ranges among the centrepieces of his discography. At that time Dauner was searching for a new possibility of collective composition and improvisation. He built a septet around his early trio mates Eberhard Weber (vcl) and Fred Braceful (dr): Jürgen Karg from the city of Saarbrücken is on bass whereas Krautrock legend Mani Neumeier functions as an energetic counterpart to the rather subtle playing of Braceful. The most prominent jazz violinist of that period, Jean-Luc Ponty, takes part as does tenor sax and clarinet player Gerd Dudek, also firmly anchored in the German free jazz scene. Thus, with two drummers and a bass as well as a cello player, he assembled a very unusual line-up, which allowed the musicians to focus on duos and dialogues in rarely heard constellations within the group. Before the recording session he manufactured a score for every one to enable new forms of direct interaction without the need of a band leader - interactions that also comprise spontaneity and the principle of coincidence. The five pieces on “ Free Action ” reflect different stages of unchaining from conventional forms: “ Sketch Up And Downer ” still grows out of a blues scheme, encouraging different dialogues among the musicians, “ My Spanish Disguise ” shows its origin in Iberian colours and rhythms, but than is alienated and makes use of micro-tonality. Most consequently Dauner realizes his concept of “ free action ” in “ Disguise ” and, certainly, “ Free Action Shot ” : The first one presents an Indian atmosphere at the beginning but then steers into “ free waters ” around Dauner’s prepared piano. In the latter he experiences with a new sign language conducting the musicians. Already 40 years ago Wolfgang Dauner proved to be the big explorer he remained until the present day. The original cover artwork being painted by himself this work comes as a very stimulating synthesis of the arts.

Wolfgang Dauner

From JOHN KELMAN for AAJ occasion of the release of the CD (Promising Music/MPS, 2008):

Wolfgang Dauner is yet another case of an artist who's achieved a considerable reputation in Europe, but for whom greater exposure in North America has remained elusive. The multidisciplinary keyboardist has done everything from free jazz to opera, and can be heard in fine jazz/rock form on Don "Sugar Cane" Harris' recently released 1972 MPS disc, Sugar Cane's Got the Blues (Promising Music/MPS, 2008). First released in 1967, Free Action is another MPS recording that's been long overdue for CD issue and, thanks to Promising Music, it's now possible to hear what was going on in Europe at the time, while largely unbeknownst to North American jazz fans.

Dauner's septet features three artists who have gone on to varying degrees of international recognition: reedman Gerd Dudek, bassist Eberhard Weber (heard here on cello) and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. For those only familiar with Ponty's later fusion work, his playing on Free Action will come as a surprise; it's also enlightening to hear Weber in a freer context, since his own ECM discography, while providing room for improvisation, is far more structured than the more extreme freedom of Dauner's music.

That's not to say there isn't structure to Free Action's five Dauner compositions. "Sketch Up and Downer" begins with a free exchange between Weber and bassist Jürgen Karg, with the rest of the septet—including drummers Mani Neumeier and Fred Brace—gradually joining in, leading to Dauner's knotty theme that establishes a harmonic center. Ponty's energetic solo takes place over a fiery swing, despite retaining a turbulent undercurrent. Dudek's tenor solo is more tempestuous still, as both drummers create a maelstrom with a pulse while Dauner accompanies with staggered block chords. Even as Weber becomes more unfettered and spirals further outward, Dauner's solo leads into a section that combines spontaneity with cued figures before reiterating the opening theme.

"Disguise" reflects a pervasive interest in East Indian music that began with jazz musicians in the 1960s. Neumeir switches to tabla and the group adopts a more linear approach, but freedom still reigns, with Dauner's prepared piano a jagged backdrop for in tandem soloing by Karg and Weber. The abstruse "Free Action Shot" uses graphic, rather than conventional, notation (reprinted in the CD booklet), allowing the musicians maximum liberty within a set of predefined textural parameters independent of time, pitch and tone. With a group of improvisers less concerned about personal contribution than the collective whole, Ponty still stands out, if only because it's so surprising to hear him in the context of Dauner's unconventional settings.

Dauner would go on to record a trio album with Weber and Brace for ECM (1970's Output), but the majority of his 1960s-1970s output as a leader was for MPS. A challenging record that's not for the faint-at-heart, Free Action is nevertheless a fine introduction for those unfamiliar with the pianist's work, and a welcome release for those who've been patiently waiting for its issue on CD.

(AAJ, Published: March 25, 2008)

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Friday, October 25, 2013


Label: BVHAAST Records – BVHAAST 9906 
Format: CD, Album; Country: Netherlands - Released: 1999
Style: Free Improvisation, Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz
Tracks 1, 2 - Recorded live, 5.4.1998 at Lokaal 01 in Breda 
Tracks 3, 5 - Recorded live, 2.4.1998 at BIM-huis, Amsterdam 
Track 4 - Recorded live, 3.4.1998 at Paradox in Tilburg
Mastered By, Edited By – Gilius Van Bergeijk (tracks: 4), Klaas Hekman (tracks: 1 to 5), Marc Schots (tracks: 1 to 5)
Recorded By – Daan Van West (tracks: 1, 2), Guus Hoevenaars (tracks: 3, 4, 5), Marc Schots (tracks: 1 to 5)

Yes, this is art. No, it's not for everybody, but it is for those who think they have heard all there is to hear when it comes to improvisation.

Bass Saxophone – Klaas Hekman
Double Bass – Hideji Taninaka, Wilbert De Joode, William Parker
Guitar – Derek Bailey (tracks: 3, 4, 5)
Piano – Chris Burn (tracks: 1, 2)
Conductor — Gilius van Bergeijk

Intermission is the unit consisting of double bassists William Parker, Wilbert de Joode, and Hideji Taninaka and bass saxophonist Klaas Hekman. The five improvisations here, all recorded in 1998, are based on the assumption of the non-directionality of the bass -- in strong or reed -- an instrument that normally calls for no response. It is non-directional because its lower frequency acts differently, in that its upper register and partials, therefore spreading across the music spectrum instead of lying at one and or the other. These three bassists and Hekman have employed improvisers Derek Bailey and Chris Burn, and conductor Gilius van Bergeijk, to help them explore the notion that the bass, when it calls, goes unanswered in tonal space. Is this a hypothesis or is it simply musical fact? The music on this disc then, comes from the mouth(s) of the questioner(s). Their voices, though not unheard, would go unheeded if this were true. What proves to be the case is that the assumption is fiction. It is the questioner who sets in motion not only what will be answered but how. In this manner, Intermission is as much a linguistic construct as a musical one. The resultant music, no matter the guest, is under the ground music, absent of light, full of dense darkness and blind passageways that lead ever further into the conical center of a modal apparatus so unnerving that it's almost unbearable to listen to. Yes, this is art. No, it's not for everybody, but it is for those who think they have heard all there is to hear when it comes to improvisation. There is nothing like this in the world. Go ahead, listen to it for days and weeks and months, then sell your car and your house for more money to have the time to spend in a hotel room and listen some more. Memorize its every nuance and bowed note. No matter how long you probe this dark lovely monster, you will never fathom its question, let alone its answer. (By Thom Jurek)

Klaas Hekman
Derek Bailey
Chris Burn
Gilius Van Bergeijk

The quartet Intermission is conceptually severe: three contrabasses and organizer Klaas Hekman's bass saxophone. They get as low to the ground as any band anywhere. Rumbling underground moans unfold without haste, like a tape of Ligeti strings played at the wrong speed.
"Intermission" "pauze" was Duke Ellington's deprecatory slang for "bass solo," but the band avoids jazzy gestures: no 4/4 bass walking tonight. By conscious choice, it's a music of texture more than form, a risky business.
Sometimes pieces start frenetically and then drain of energy, musical entropy.
For their third Dutch tourneé, dubbed "Unanswered Questions," Intermission wrecks its own conceptual purity by inviting in polar opposites: English guitarist Derek Bailey, crusader for totally unfettered improvisation, and Hague composer Gilius van Bergeijk, in whose pieces each moment may address an ultimate goal. Both were excellent choices.
Bailey, guest on most of the program, is even more committed to free improvisation than they are. The "compositions" Intermission's members contribute are less thematic material than points of departure, setting them loose in one or another sonic area.
One piece started with three arco basses, another all pizzicato, to give a simple example; on another, Hekman blew into bass sax with trumpet embouchure, without reed or mouthpiece, getting a wistful sound like Israeli shofar or bass flute.
But even such rudimentary structure is too much for Bailey, who prefers to wing it. On first hearing, he sounds like he's splintering his amplified hollow body guitar into bits. He likes small sounds: ringing harmonics shaped with a volume pedal, rude chords swept away as soon as they're voiced. (Rejecting conventional style, Bailey in effect created a new style, imitated by guitarists around the world.) His sparse, spiky, sometimes high pitched pointillism is ready made contrast to what Intermission plays, but he is instinctive contrapuntist in any setting. Confronted with Intermission's own avoidance of form, at one point in Dodorama this anti composer fell into a rising and falling two chord sequence, just to go against the grain. (In Dordrecht and Breda, he'll be replaced by English pianist Chris Burn, an interpreter turned improviser, said to favour a Bailey like approach.)
For all his unorthodox sounds, in ensemble Bailey is often an incisive rhythm guitarist, booting the other players along. Playing duos with Han Bennink for 30 years hasn't hurt his timing. Indeed, he often favors a percussive attack, as do Zaans bassist Wilbert de Joode and his New York alter ego William Parker. For that matter, Hekman gets brushes on snare drum effects, blowing air through his mouthpiece in rhythm, a Ben Webster technique used to very different effect. (Bassist Hideji Taninaka, another New Yorker, is the band's least assertive presence.)
As composer, Gilius van Bergeijk is a sardonic deconstructionist by inclination, but his Omaggio a Pasolini inspired by the filmmaker's use of montage, the composer says put him at the service of the basic quartet, presenting them with a series of taped, distortion laden episodes they might improvise with, or against, or leave to sound on their own. The players let a loud noisy sequence drown them out, entered into quasi dialogue with the more spare passages, and blended bowed harmonics with high whirly or low grumbly bits, till you can't tell if a sound was live or taped.
The shifting focus of Pasolini 's montage led them from one strategy or textural area to another faster than they go on their own, giving them a sense of direction the open improvising sometimes lacks. The benefits were immediate.
The following, final quintet improvisation was the briskest, most finely detailed, most attractively shaped of the evening the fullest realization of the unit's capabilities with even Bailey consciously or unconsciously echoing sounds from van Bergeijk's tape.

(Dodorama, Rotterdam, April 1998)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

WHAT WE LIVE with WADADA LEO SMITH and DAVE DOUGLAS – Trumpets (1999) - Live recordings 1996/1998

Label: Black Saint – 120189-2 
Format: CD, Album; Country: Italy Released: 1999 
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Tracks 1 & 2 recorded live at The Outpost, Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 21, 1998 
Tracks 3,4,5 recorded live at Western Front, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on November 1, 1996
Engineers – Paul Blakemore (1-2), Peter Courteanche (3-5)
Mastered – by Aldo Borelli
Design – by Tania Kac
What We Live, with bass player Lisle Ellis and drummer Donald Robinson, has worked its way into the top ranks of free jazz and improvised music ensembles with four strong previous albums. Trumpets is the second to present Wadada Leo Smith and Dave Douglas as guest artists; but unlike Quintet for a Day (New World Counter Currents), on which both trumpeters performed on all tracks, Trumpets combines two sessions, each featuring one horn player. The less crowded bandstands yield more satisfying results, as Ellis and Robinson, one of the best bass-drums tag teams on the scene, are more prominent in these wide-open exchanges. Smith and Douglas benefit as well, as their respective nuance-filled styles are more fully explicated with the keenly responsive Ochs as their single front-line foil.
_ By Bill Shoemaker (JazzTimes)

Lawrence Ochs - sopranino & tenor saxophones
Lisle Ellis - bass
Donald Robinson – drums
Wadada Leo Smith - trumpet on tracks 1 & 2
Dave Douglas - trumpet on tracks 3, 4, 5

Trumpets, is the latest from “ What We Live ” and features trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith performing with the trio of saxophonist Larry Ochs, bassist Lisle Ellis and drummer Donald Robinson during a live date recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whereas trumpeter Dave Douglas – who has been lighting up the jazz world these days with a string of dazzling recordings, joins the band on tracks culled from a live set recorded in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.

The core constituents of “ What We Live ” : Ochs, Ellis and Robinson frequently collaborate with other artists yet the bottom line or overall chemistry indicates that this band is an – improvising/modern music/jazz machine – of the highest order. On the composition, “ Second Breath ” , drummer Donald Robinson commences the proceedings with a series of melodic tom-tom fills and articulations, as Ochs’ corpulent tenor sax tone and fleet fingered phrasing along with Smith’s brawny and brassy lines initiate a rite of passage or perhaps an opening of the floodgates.... An air of exotic mysticism prevails or perhaps some semblance of a tribal ritual is unveiling as the Quartet ruminate through various phases and motifs along with a substantial amount of engaging dialogue and interplay. We hear quiet or subdued dynamics on “ The Stone Heated Dance ” , while Smith utilizes his mute which segues into a series of extended movements and an altogether brilliant exposition by bassist Lisle Ellis as the tempo picks up steam and the band pursue extroverted and authoritative choruses.

Dave Douglas provides a contrasting alternative to Smith as the listener is afforded the opportunity to hear two gifted trumpeters who respectively possess distinctive styles and techniques. With, “ Orbital ” , Douglas is a buzzsaw as the band partakes in a moderate swing motif along with shifting meter and rapid movement. Here Douglas and Ochs performing on tenor sax engage in passionate dialogue as they occasionally cavort while deriving inspiration from one another as Robinson and Ellis execute the rhythms with all the discipline of a small militia who have just received their battle plan. Robinson’s expert brushwork behind the kit surfaces on the delicate burner titled, “ Soft City ” as Ochs’ fervid and piquant phrasing on “ Song of Roland ” is a thing of beauty. Again, the saxophonist and Douglas speak loud and clear via festive exchanges while embarking on a sinuous path as the story continues to unfold!

The Trumpets shall boldly pronounce the advent of a new and seemingly eventful year in jazz as “ What We Live ” continue to astound and render intelligible music that defies any rigid sense of categorization. Recommended.

(AAJ, Published: March 1, 2000)

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

AIR – Live In Moers, Germany (May 29, 1977)

Label: Private recording / DP-0766
Format: CD, Album - Released: 1977
Style: Free Improvisation
Recorded live in Moers Jazz Festival, Germany on May 29, 1977.
Design by ART&JAZZ Studio Salvarica 
Artwork and Complete Design by VITKO
All compositions by Henry Threadgill

In front of you is another very, very rare recording of the original lineup AIR, not released on any record label, but played in Moers International Jazz Festival on May 29 in 1977.

01. Announcement (0:23)
02. Celebration (29:12)
03. No.2 (12:41)
04. Great Body of the Riddle or Where were the Dodge Boys when my Clay started to Slide (15:46)
05. Angel Sun (8:28)

HENRY THREADGILL – alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, flute
STEVE McCALL – drums

The sound is great, enjoy!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

HENRY THREADGILL TRIO – New AIR In Rankweil, Austria (Live-1986)

Label: Private recording / DP-0775 [bootleg]
Format: CD, Album - Released: 1986 
Style: Free Improvisation
Recording live at Rankweil, March 19, 1986, Austria
Design by ART&JAZZ Studio, by VITKO
Henry Threadgill presents his fellow group members after 3 and 5

1. Unidentified title [15:20] 
2. Unidentified rag [11:08] 
3. G.v.E. (Hopkins) [17:22] 
4. Unidentified title [10:58] 
5. Through a Keyhole Darkly (Threadgill) [15:28] 
6. The Traveller (Threadgill) [11:02] 
7. Sir Simpleton (Threadgill) [9:08]

Henry Threadgill - alto sax; flute (1)
Fred Hopkins - bass
Andrew Cyrille - drums

New drummer Andrew Cyrille brought a fresh approach and crackling edge to the trio Air on this 1986 live date, recorded at the Rankweil, Austria. 

From Air via New Air to Flute Force Four, Threadgill growing in confidence as a composer. By the time of the later disc by Threadgill’s Very Very Circus ensemble his capability as an organiser of human resources in the pursuit of a steely personal vision is fully formed. Everything that has come since is a refinement of that very personal means of expression. Where Air is an extension of Threadgill’s involvement with AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). 

„NEW AIR in Rankweil “ represent the complete recorded legacy of New Air, a trio in which Andrew Cyrille took over from Pheeroan akLaff on the Air drum stool. It’s interesting how much more direct the music becomes, and it’s not clear whether that’s down to Cyrille, or Threadgill assuming for the first time the role of band leader and sole composer. 

This is certainly one of the more interesting Threadgill performances in Europe with the new setting Air. 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

IMPROVISORS POOL featuring A. von SCHLIPPENBACH & S. RIVERS – Backgrounds For Improvisors (1996)

Label: FMP – FMP CD 75 
Format: CD, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 1996 
Style: Free Improvisation
Recorded on 5 April 1995 at 'Podewil', Berlin.
Photography By – Dagmar Gebers
New Cover Design by ART&JAZZ Studio, by VITKO
Producer – Johannes Bockholt-Dams
Producer, Recorded By [Live] – Jost Gebers
Recorded By [Live] – Holger Scheuermann

For those who've long admired Sam Rivers or Alexander von Schlippenbach, this set, recorded live in 1995, is one of those "grail"-like recordings. While both men have been rooted in large settings for improvisation over the past 40 years -- Rivers with his wonderful Winds of Manhattan group and von Schlippenbach with the Globe Unity Orchestra, they'd never met, much less played together, before the rehearsals for this date. FMP has done a stellar job of capturing a gig so charged and spirited, where the goodwill and encouragement inspired every member of this nonet to perform as both a soloist and a contributor to the unit - - perhaps beyond their own conception of potential. The members of this group, besides the two headliners, were well-known in Europe if not on the American improv and free jazz scenes: Tina Wrase on soprano saxophone, Axel Dörner on trumpet, Felix Wahnschaffe on alto saxophone, Tilman Denhard on flute and tenor, and Claas Willecke on baritone, with Horst Nonnenmacher on bass and drummer Johannes Bockholt-Dams rounding out the band. This comes out of the gate swinging with von Schlippenbach's "If You Say," with piano, bass, and drum kit ushering in a two- and then four-chord vamp, before the horns come in playing knotty and true as Rivers and Wrase engage in call and response above the chart. Rivers then gets big and takes the first solo with von Schlippenbach answering contrapuntally, alternating lines of his theme and playing tough blocky chords for the soloist to jump from. But it's rhythmically so engaging, it just swings like mad. Rivers' "Terrain" is next. Though it is more angular from the jump, it too is rooted in the melodic interpolation of Ornette Coleman and the edgier post-bop of Eric Dolphy. But truly, this one is all Rivers -- and one can hear the same composer of "Fuschia Swing Song" here as well as the arranger for the Winds of Manhattan. As the section engages with the rhythm players, the horn interplay here is just stunning -- it's so playful and whimsical. There is some seriously out playing in the middle where Rivers, Wrase, and Dörner engage in some counterpoint improvisation without the rest of the band.

The sparse "Top Dogs Double Hop," by von Schlippenbach, is actually a wonderful exercise for the arco playing of Nonnenmacher, Rivers' flute, and the intricate chromaticism of the composer. Most everyone gets in on the act for a bit, but it is so halting and deliberate that the listener is captivated by the multi-threaded melodic work for the flutes. "Background," by Rivers, is the longest piece here, and though it begins with his solo tenor, it is the hinge on which the rest of this date opens and closes. Here, the "background" is the rhythm section, charging furiously through a series of taut, dense patterns and vamps as Rivers solos furiously on top of them. When the horns enter full bore on one of the "choruses," it is like a window opening: an entirely new textural ground is laid, and a brilliant array of sonorities and colors presents itself anew as Dörner, Willecke, Rivers, Wrase, and Denhard dig in, playing through and around one another. While there are some dynamic changes and spatial interludes, for the most part this is an exhilarating ride and itself worth the price of admission. It makes the utterly meditative flute duet "Encounter" possible -- a breather for the listener -- before von Schlippenbach's closer, "The Forge." Here is where the "free" in free jazz comes from, stacked atop an opening theme that is knotty, at right angles, and full of thematics from European theater music, but it too approaches jazz's edgiest "swing." The brief spaces where one or two instruments wander are merely interludes as the next set of ideas is revved up for the go and von Schlippenbach conducts it all with mischievous glee. This is one of the true wonders -- of many -- in the FMP catalog, and a high point for both of the set's leaders.


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Sunday, October 13, 2013

ALEXANDER von SCHLIPPENBACH TRIO – Pakistani Pomade (1973) - 2003

Label: Atavistic – UMS/ALP240CD
Series: Unheard Music Series – , Archive FMP Edition –
Format: CD, Album, Reissue; Country: US - Released: 2003
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded: November 1972, Bremen, Germany. 
Originally issued in 1973 on FMP 0110.
Mastered at AirWave Studio. Tracks 9 to 12 not on original LP
Artwork By – Benjamin von Schlippenbach
Cover design (reproduced above) by Peter Brötzmann
Engineer – Dietram Köster; Mastered By – Kyle White
Reissue Producer – John Corbett

Alexander von Schlippenbach
                                                                                                                  Evan Parker
Paul Lovens

Essential Free Jazz 

One of the truly legendary recordings from the early period of European free improvisation, and the opening statement from a band that – improbably – continues to exist, 1972’s Pakistani Pomade is essential music. The three players heard here on their maiden recording voyage – pianist/leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, saxophonist Evan Parker, and percussionist Paul Lovens – met through the activities of the important Globe Unity Orchestra, a roving collective wherein all the future luminaries of European free music first began to associate in the late 1960s (Atavistic has issued some early recordings, and there are some beauties still available on FMP). But beginning with this session, they have gone on to stake out their own patch of the music; and with over 10 recordings (some of which are currently available, though hopefully Atavistic will get around to reissuing beauties like Anticlockwise and The Hidden Peak) and several decades of work together, this trio now seems like one of the central workshops for each player’s individual and group music.

Schlippenbach, for example, has really benefited from this continuous improvisational vehicle. Though he works in occasionally quite aggressive areas – making uses of clustered chords and very fast fractured runs of notes – it would be misleading to say he’s more than customarily influenced by American players like Cecil Taylor. The space and formal sense in his playing is probably more akin to pianists like Ran Blake or Paul Bley who, though they don’t actually come through in the sound of Schlippenbach’s playing, were probably formative influences on his approach to the music (along with his avowed love for bop players Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols). Listen to the opening dialogues with Lovens on "Sun-Luck Night-Rain" or to the killer title track for evidence. Parker’s relationship to jazz saxophone – his early inspiration in Rollins and late period Trane, from which he subsequently launched his playing into the harmonic and textural stratosphere – is fairly familiar. On this recording he combines the delightfully quirky pops and burbles for which he is renowned with a harsher, more shriek-filled voice that is less well-documented. It’s still defined by the same concerns – duration, tonal micro-management, overtones, and false fingerings – but represents a side of his playing that Parker has largely left behind. Lovens, a superbly gifted colorist, has the incredible talent for combining the sheer momentum of classic jazz rhythms with little to no overt reference to them, filling the tone field with thuds, scrapes, rustles, and thwacks that create their own rhythmic syntax. Listen to his superb duet with Parker, which opens "Butaki Sisters." "Ein Husten für Karl Valentin" and the multiple miniatures on this recording tend to be very sparse and pointillistic, showcasing the range these fellows had even early on. As if the reissue alone weren’t glorious enough, there are four "Pakistani Alternates" which comprise an extra 20 minutes of heady listening. Rawer and more edgy than their later recordings, Pakistani Pomade is still defined by the listening and generosity of these players.  
A must have recording.

(Dusted Reviews, date: Aug.11, 2003)

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

PARKER / GUY / LYTTON – Imaginary Values - Nine Improvisations (1994)

Label: Maya Recordings – MCD9401
Format: CD, Album; Country: Switzerland - Released: 1994
Style: Free Improvisation, Free Jazz
Recorded on 22 March 1993 live at the Red Rose Club, London
Performer: Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton
Liner Notes By – Francesco Martinelli (English), Bert Noglik (German)
Producer By – Barry Guy, Maya Homburger

TRIO Parker/Guy/Lytton
... twenty years later

"Imaginary Values by the trio – nominally Parker's but in practice collective – that gave us 1990's fiery Atlanta set on Impulse. The nine improvisations here are more compact but no less high-voltage: bright sonic canvasses on which texture, tone-colour and dynamic flow are major parts of the interactive mix. The players' scrupulous respect for nuance plus their incredible speed of response bespeak a group sensibility that has matured over time and is celebrated here in a space alive with joyful interplay. Free jazz at its highly-evolved best."

"... This is a group that in many ways, represents the epitome of European collective free improvisation. The three players are each masters of their instruments and, more importantly, astute listeners. Lytton's crackling, multi-hued percussion; Guy's currents of resonant wood and scraped, plucked, bowed and beaten strings; and Parker's micro tonal, snaking reed reverberations meld into a unified whole. These three have refined the sax, bass, drums trio into an organic unit where all three are truly equals, their collective lines intricately enmeshed and coiled around each other in a skein of thrilling complexity ..."

This could be interesting to know:

TRIO Parker/Guy/Lytton 
Technical rider 

1 small table for bows, brushes, sticks (Barry Guy)

Amplifier: one bass amp and 15" speaker (or combo) of very good quality e.g. Hartke or Gallien Krüger, SWP or Trace Elliott.

1 Jazz Drum kit (important: NOT rock & roll kit) for Paul Lytton

Snare drum and stand, 12" small tom tom, 14" large tom tom, 18" Bass Drum (with front head), 3 cymbal stands, hi-hat, drum stool, bass drum pedal. Drums must have Remo Ambassador Heads or similar NOT oil filled heads.

If the venue is supportive of acoustic music, the trio will only need amplification for the bass. Otherwise PA system with monitors for the three musicians plus microphone for Parker etc.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Label: Bleu Regard – Bleuregard 1953
Format: CD, Album; Country: France - Released:1997
Style: avant-garde, Free Improvisation, Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz
Recorded at Pernes-les-Fontaines, Studios la Buissonne 10/1995
Re-Design by ART&JAZZ Studio, by VITKO
Performer: Christian Brazier, Sunny Murray, Rasul Siddik, Sophie Agnel

Christian Brazier - double bass

Bassist Christian Brazier is much or more of a composer than he is a bandleader. His quartet here with Sunny Murray (drums), Sophie Agnel (piano), and Rassu Siddik (trumpet) certainly matches Brazier's flair for the dramatic side of the vanguard. On 11 compositions ranging over the new jazz terrain, Brazier creates a series of soundscapes where the roles get blurred and the surfaces are washed over with a dynamic that is less familiar than it should be. Brazier, for one, is not afraid of 20th century European classical music, and its figures and dynamics weigh heavily in his compositions. His reliance, like Butch Morris, on controlling the atmosphere for improvisation — as on "The Long Route," "Dilemma," and "Portrait Africain" — is as much MO as it is a compositional device. Brazier knows what he looks to get from the this group of players in particular, and he does, even from the freest and hardest- to-control of his bandmates, the indomitable Sunny Murray. Murray, on all of the aforementioned compositions and a couple of others, pushes the notions of tempo and time to their outer limits, dragging the soloists to the very line Brazier has written for them and once in a while across it. His own drumming careens and clashes with Brazier's mannered bassing so thoroughly, it's as if they were born to play counterpoint with one another. This is an incredible record of dialogue, argument, refutation, and often resolve that carries the new jazz firmly into the realm of classical motifs and then leaves them both panting in the dust. Recommended.

_ Review by THOM JUREK

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Friday, October 4, 2013


Label: Arista – AL 1037, Freedom – AL 1037
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album; Country: US - Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Experimental
"Crossing" recorded live in concert on June 10, 1976 at the Creative Music Festival, Mt. Temper, New York and mixed at Sound Ideas, New York City. 
"Behemoth Dreams" recorded on September 16, 1976 at Bearsville Sound, Woodstock, New York.
Art Direction – Bob Heimall
Artwork [Cover Art] – Dennis Luzak
Design – Howard Fritzson
Photography By – Raymond Ross
Producer – Michael Cuscuna, Richard Teitelbaum
Vinyl Rip

A - Crossing
Engineer [Mixing] – Jay Borden Engineer [Recording] – Bill Warrell 23:58
B - Behemoth Dreams
Engineer – Thomas Mark 21:20

Anthony Braxton – Sopranino Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet [Contrabass Clarinet]
Richard Teitelbaum – Synthesizer [Modular Moog, Micromoog], Liner Notes, Composed

... Now for Braxton and Teitelbaum. The only way I think you'll be put off is if you hate the sound of the contra bass clarinet, which I think has a wonderful sound. It actually has a much richer sound than the contra bass sax, which is an instrument that Braxton drags out now and again these days. I've heard that on some occasions Braxton will play this instrument with notes not too far apart in range and also in rapid succession. When he does this, the notes get blurred together because at this extremely deep range, it's just hard to distinguish the variations. But for the most part, Braxton is pretty deft on this unusual instrument. And I treasure this recording and would have paid 4 times as much just to get the two tracks because of not only Braxton's stellar performance on a scarcely heard instrument, but the very masterful performance on synthesyzers by Teitelbaum. I don't really know how the man procuces the sounds or what equipment he uses, but I know he and Braxton really get into some heavy meditations. Braxton is for the most part good about playing notes with sufficient intervals to be distinquishable, but he is just about as deft as he would be on his alto. Mainly what you notice is he can't go on and on. I mean he's got to empty his lungs to get notes out of that thing. It's really out there. I mean this stuff is not like anything I've heard. And as much as I like Braxton, I tend to think he could use a little innovation when he improvises. But here is something I've never heard from him or anyone else. If you're not sure, there are youtube videos of Braxton and Teitelbuam playing some of this stuff. That will give you an idea and incidentally sent me on a massive search to see if I could find any of the tracks upon which I was amazed that the album was less than four bucks. But I won't complain. Anyway, I think nuff said.


"With Anthony Braxton" was a credit printed on this album's front and back cover in a typeface only a notch smaller than Richard Teitelbaum's name. Braxton is everywhere here, and has everything to do with this album. He plays in duo with Teitelbaum the electronics maestro on the entire album, and surely engineered the deal to make it possible for his buddy to release the record on Arista, which at that point held an exclusive contract with Braxton himself. It was also Braxton who basically promoted Teitelbaum within the confines of the avant-garde free jazz scene, talking him up in interviews and fitting pieces involving him into several different recording projects. There are tastes of the duos these artists have created splashed through the Braxton discography like ice cream stains on a rumpus room rug. This album combines a summer's evening live concert with a studio session cut the following fall, and is quite an accurate document of their work together in the '70s, complete with Braxton's usual dedications, this time to Roscoe Mitchell and Maryanne Amacher. This duo was one of the great instrumental combinations of the '70s, the reed arsenal of Braxton and seemingly unlimited sonic arsenal of Teitelbaum coming together like two great French chefs with a hall full of guests to feed. Each man never seems to stop listening, not only to each other but to a greater force as well, as if in complete understanding of the ramifications of each development. This album should satisfy a listener's desire to hear truly imaginative and successful improvisation involving both electronic and acoustic instruments. The album was later reissued, under Braxton's name, as part of a Black Lion package.

_ By Eugene Chadbourne

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

RUTHERFORD / WACHSMANN / GUY - ISKRA 1903 – Live At The Western Front 1992, Vancouver (1995)

Label: Maya Recordings – MCD9502 
Format: CD, Album; Country: Switzerland - Released: 1995 
Style: Free Improvisation
Recorded on 5 October 1992 live at the Western Front, Vancouver, Canada
Cover art: Empress, 1982 by Albert Irvin (courtesy of the Tate Gallery, London)
Digital mastering by Tony Bridge at Finesplice, London

Iskra is a free music trio comprised of trombonist Paul Rutherford, violinist Phil Wachsmann, and bassist Barry Guy. The word "iskra" is Russian for "spark." The band named themselves after the first Bolshevik newspaper that came after Lenin led the split from the Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903 — hence the title of the album. The performances here, four sections of one concert, were recorded at Western Front in Vancouver in 1992. Labeled "903," the concert reveals itself as a study in complete communication rather than of phrases half-parsed or ideas partially realized among two of the three players. Here, as Rutherford  offers tonal variations on the trombone's chromatic body of timbres, Wachsmann extrapolates from them and Guy underscores them for a full, three-dimensional sound effect. Lines are long, longer, and even longest, offering a view not of free improvisation as anarchy, but of free music as a system of disclosures and articulations along tonal, harmonic, dynamic, and even in places chromodal grounds. There are numerous interpolations around diminished sixths and minor fourths, creating an almost intervallic sense of play and exchange, but these give way to open fields of timbral exploration and microphonic phrasing on Rutherford's part, which are articulated across the spectrum by Wachsmann, who will do everything from bow a series of drone strings to pizzicato his way onto the platform with Rutherford. But it is Barry Guy who is the man to listen for here, with his wealth of arco techniques and his deep wood plectrum pizzicato, carrying octave striations where they have no regular business going. This is exciting as process-oriented improvisation since the order of things is established but the result is completely up in the air and down in the instruments. We're lucky to have had this one captured on tape.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013


for Steve

Label: Silkheart – SHCD 112
Format: CD, Album; Country: Germany - Released: 1988
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz
Tracks 4,5 are CD bonuses.
Recorded February 12 and February 11 (DEBENGE-DEBENGE), 1988, at Omega Audio, Dallas, Texas and (DEBENGE-DEBENGE) at D'Art Gallery, Dallas, Texas.
Engineer – Paul Christensen
Executive Producer [For Silkheart Records] – Keith Knox, Mellifer AB

Henry Franklin, Malachi Favors – bass
Alvin Fielder, W.A. Richardson – drums
Edward 'Kidd' Jordan – sopranino saxophone, alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Charles Brackeen – tenor saxophone
Marlon Jordan – trumpet
Dennis González – trumpet, trumpet [C trumpet, pocket trumpet]

"It really is very hard (in the sense of unfair) to pick individuals from the evidently collective inspiration. However, Charles Brackeen is superb – as well he might be on his own charts. Dennis Gonzalez's Debenge-Debenge has a masterly coherence and an impressive consistency. It's a powerful and convincing statement from one of the most committed and interesting of contemporary players and bids fair to become one of the more important – as well as enjoyable – albums of the year."

_ Brian Morton, The Wire, March 1989

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