Friday, October 31, 2014

ANTHONY DAVIS – Epistēmē (LP-1981 / Gramavision)

Label: Gramavision – GR-8101
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1981
Style: Free Jazz, Avant-garde Jazz, Modern
Recorded at Mixed at Vanguard Studios, 1981.
Album Design By – Neal Pozner
Engineer – John Kilgore
Producer – Jonathan F. P. Rose

I probably first heard Anthony Davis on Leo Smith's "Reflectativity" album on Kabell and shortly thereafter, in the waning days of the loft jazz era ('78-'79), caught him live around town a bunch., sometimes with Chico Freeman's band and one memorable occasion in duo with vibist Jay Hoggard (I think on the same NYU bill as the Jarman/Moye duo). iirc, it was on that date that Davis played several compositions of his, including his beautiful "A Walk through the Shadow", that he'd return to often over the next decade.

Still, "Episteme" came as a shock. I think it had to do somewhat with the sheer precision of the band, that overlay of a classical approach (via minimalism, Lou Harrison, etc.) that you rarely if ever heard among the jazz avant-garde...
_ By Brian Olewnick

A1 - Wayang No. II (Shadowdance) . . . 7:40
A2 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) I - Opening – Dance . . . 8:04
A2 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) II - Sustained Tones . . . 4:39
B1 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) III . . . 16:23
        a) Variations
        b) Pulse
        c) Trombone Solo
        d) Flute Interlude
        e) Kecak (Repeated Clusters)
        f) Return
B2 - A Walk Through The Shadow . . . 5:03

Anthony Davis – piano, composed
Dwight Andrews – flute, piccolo flute, bass clarinet
Warren Smith – marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel,
                          timpani, bass drum, gong [Chinese], cymbal
Jay Hoggard – vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel
Shem Guibbory – violin
George Lewis – trombone
Abdul Wadud – cello
Rick Rozie – bass (track A1)
Pheeroan Aklaff – drums, gong, cymbal
Mark Helias – conductor

As a composer, Anthony Davis sensed the limitations of free jazz improvisation while coming up through the music's hotbed in the '70s. While seeing the benefits of wide open solo and ensemble playing, he also pushed for something akin to thoroughly composed music with improvisation as its lifeblood. Davis' ideas would eventually find full scope in his opera X (a chronicle of Malcolm X) and through various teaching stints, but maybe the purest setting for his compositional approach can be found in his Episteme ensemble. That's also the title of this 1981 album for Gramavision, which includes multiple sections of Davis' extended piece "Wayang" and the short piano meditation "A Walk Through the Shadow." The Episteme group features fellow travelers of the New York free jazz scene like bassist Mark Helias (who takes up conducting duties here), drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, cellist Abdul Wadud, percussionists Jay Hoggard and Warren Smith, and trombonist George Lewis, among others. The players ably wend their way through Davis' Balinese gamelan-inspired "Wayang," adding their own spin to the pianist's mix of fast and repetitive tempos, furtive horn arrangements, and dramatic atmospherics. Like the work of similarly disposed artists such as Henry Threadgill and Muhal Richard Abrams, Davis' pieces require effort to understand and appreciate. It's definitely knotty and cerebral stuff, but repeated exposure will bring its own rewards.
_ Review by Stephen Cook

If you find it, buy this album!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANTHONY DAVIS / JAMES NEWTON / ABDUL WADUD – I've Known Rivers (LP-1982, Gramavision)

Label: Gramavision – GR-8201
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1982
Style: Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz
Recorded and mixed at Vanguard Studios, New York April 1982.
Artwork [Front Cover] – William Pajaud
Design – Neal Pozner
Engineer – John Kilgore
Mastered By – Bob Ludwig
Photography By – Deborah Feingold
Producer – Jonathan F. P. Rose

A1 - Juneteenth (Newton) . . . 5:09
A2 - Still Waters (Davis) . . . 18:12
B1 - After You Said Yes (Newton) . . . 9:47
B2 - Tawaafa (Wadud) . . . 9:15

Anthony Davis – piano
James Newton – flute
Adbul Wadud – drums, percussion

All songs written by Anthony Davis, James Newton or Abdul Wadud. Contains the poem "I've Known River" by Langston Hughes. This combination of musicians works very well. The trio of pianist Anthony Davis, flutist James Newton, and cellist Abdul Wadud are all grounded in the jazz tradition, yet are very adventurous players who are quite versatile. Although the four originals are often complex (and sometimes tightly structured), the players sound quite spontaneous and inspired. Recommended.
_ Review by Scott Yanow

If you find it, buy this album!

JAMES NEWTON – Water Mystery (LP-1985, Gramavision)

Label: Gramavision – 18-8407-1
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1986
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation, Avant-garde Jazz
Recorded at Mad Hatter Studios, Hollywood, California, January 1985.
Design – Neal Pozner
Engineer – Bernie Kirsch
Produced By – James Newton
Cover Art: St. Prosper – by Catharine Warren courtesy of the LIGHT Gallery

A1 - Star Crossed Lovers . . . 3:33
A2 - Lone Hill . . . 10:41
A3 - The Crips . . . 7:58
B1 - Water Mystery . . . 8:56
B2 - One For Strayhorn . . . 5:18
B3 - Dance Steps . . . 5:24

James Newton - flute
Charles Owens - English horn, soprano sax
John Carter – clarinet
April Aoki – harp
Allan Iwohara - koto
Red Callender - tuba
Greg Martin - oboe
John Nunez - bassoon
Roberto Miranda - bass
Anthony Brown – percussion

The five musicians of James Newton's wind ensemble featured on The Mystery School in 1982 (flutist Newton, bassoonist John Nunez, Charles Owens on English horn and soprano, clarinetist John Carter and Red Callender on tuba) are joined by oboist Greg Martin, bassist Roberto Miranda, percussionist Anthony Brown, April Aoki on harp and Allan Iwohara on koto for a rather colorful set. There are two tributes to Billy Strayhorn (including a version of "Star Crossed Lovers"), one for George Russell, a remake of "The Crips" and a pair of features for the koto. A very interesting program of adventurous yet quite logical explorations.
_ Review by Scott Yanow

If you find it, buy this album!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LUTHER THOMAS HUMAN ARTS ENSEMBLE – Funky Donkey - Vols. 1/2 (Berea Presbyterian Church, 1973)

Label: Atavistic – UMS/ALP215CD
Series: Unheard Music Series –
Format: CD, Album, Reissue / Country: US / Released: 2001
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at Berea Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri in the fall of 1973.
Photography By – Jacki Ochs
Cover Design By – Luther Thomas
Recorded By – Steve Fuller
Reissue Producer – John Corbett

01 - Funky Donkey . . . . . . 20:02
        (Written-By – Lester Bowie, Luther Thomas)
02 - Una New York . . . . . . 18:10
         (Written-By – Charles Bobo Shaw)
03 - Intensity . . . . . . 26:11
         (Written-By – Oliver Lake)

alto saxophone – Luther Thomas
bass (fender) – Eric Foreman
drums (trap) – Charles Bobo Shaw
guitar – Marvin Horne
percussion – Abdella Ya Kum, Rocky Washington
reeds – J.D. Parran
trombone – Joseph Bowie
trumpet – Floyd LeFlore, Harold Pudgey Atterbury, Lester Bowie

At the risk of over-simplification, I think it is possible to detect two distinct trajectories within the Free Jazz movement from its beginnings at the turn of the 1960s. One involved the journey of the solo instrument—exploratory, cerebral and often introspective. The other was a more collective project, expressive, energetic and concerned with the dynamics of group sound. The critics tended to prefer the former, the general public was not much interested in either. In recent times interest in the collective sounds—best exemplified by Sun Ra or the Art Ensemble of Chicago—has risen, so this release, which falls firmly in the latter camp, might gain an audience that it undoubtedly did not have at the time of its initial release.

The late sixties saw a number of musicians, writers and artists respond both to the political climate and the various cultural nationalist manifestoes of the period by setting up collaborative projects. A Black Arts Group was established, in emulation of the better known Chicago based AACM, in St.Louis and featured the likes of Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill. Within that body the Human Arts Ensemble developed, built around drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, saxophonist Luther Thomas and teenage trumpeter Joseph Bowie—younger brother of Lester. This grouping toured Europe and recorded (for Black Lion) under the leadership of Shaw but this 1973 session was led by Thomas and a vinyl copy will set you back $125 or so. For this CD is a re-issue of a rare recording of a concert held in the Berea Presbyterian Church in St. Louis before a small and subdued (cowed into submission?) audience.

Funky Donkey is not smooth jazz. In fact the easiest way to describe it is to think of all the adjectives that stand as polar opposites to that term. Noisy, brash, angry, discordant, uninhibited, imaginative, unhinged, rough, raw. Got the picture? Energy is the keyword and easy listening it is not. However, it is not rarefied in the way a lot of free jazz can be and its gutbucket blowing over rocky beats should not sound so strange to today’s less genre-bound listeners. Should rather than will, I stress.

The two Bowies (trumpet and trombone), Lester already famous for his Chicago connections, Shaw (trap drums) and Thomas (alto) are joined by J.D. Parran (various reeds) and a backing group of two trumpets, two percussionists, guitar and bass. The horns fire about all over the place while the rhythm section lays down a solid funk-rock foundation. This will lead to a lot of nonsense being written about the JBs meet Ornette but it is not like that at all. The funk here is bar-room rhythm and blues rather than the tightness of Fred Wesley’s men. The solos are also less individuated than you would get with Coleman, Shepp or Cherry. It is the whole band sound that is the essence—like one multi-voiced brass instrument that roars and shrieks across the whole album. There is a fierce muscularity about the endeavour and the effect can be somewhat exhausting. Most of the time though, it is invigorating and repeated listening brings out a variety of textures not apparent on confronting the first onslaught. An onslaught it is, be in no doubt, and those of a nervous disposition might well wish to leave the room fairly early on.

There are just three (lengthy) pieces—“Funky Donkey”, “Una New York” and “Intensity”. The first, by Thomas, is the rockiest. The third, an Oliver Lake composition, is the most conventionally avant-garde (if that makes sense). Track two bears Shaw’s name and is a mixture of both. It has a strong melodic sense (in a suitably loose sense of the term) and has a freshness that just about makes it the pick of the three. The guitars and backing horns have a greater fluidity than on the other tracks and a swirling three way conversation develops between rhythm, brass backing and solo ventures. With some strong repeated choruses, it is almost catchy at times.

“Funky Donkey” itself is hard and heavy. Atonal squawking leads into a chugging guitar riff that does not let up for the entire 20 minutes of the piece. Over that trumpets, trombones and saxes fight it out with gusto and an unmelodious glee. If one wanted to cite an example of the much-discussed relationship between free jazz and black militant anger then this would do very well. A left-field rock audience might appreciate this more than many jazz ones as there is a certain common ground here with the work of Zappa or even Sonic Youth. Joseph Bowie, of course, went on to form Defunkt, whose jazz-rock experimental funk found some favour with both audiences in the 1980s. This is where he started.

The Oliver Lake piece is for jazz progressives only, I would guess. It was not part of the initial release and is a long extended improvisation—slightly more meditative than the earlier tracks but still pretty robust. The various reeds and horns range far and wide, making this a very representative example of free form blowing. The electric rhythm is less to the fore here which removes some of the distinctive quality of this particular line-up but may make it more amenable to purists. Purity is however not a word that really suits this type of music, it suggests a formal coherence that was not being attempted.

There is a coherence at the level of mood and emotional register and in its political aesthetics. The historical context is important to understanding that. Yet this is no museum piece. For all its uncompromising “difficulty” and its less than perfect sound quality, it remains a vibrant and oddly joyful experience. If you like exuberance in your music, if you are prepared to give something a little different a second listen and if the words free and jazz don’t give you nightmares then you might find this forgotten concert quite satisfying. There is much to be said for music that avoids the obvious. When it comes in such determinedly visceral guise as this, it literally demands that we take notice.

Some of the musicians here achieved fame elsewhere. Some of them were never heard of again. Both facts are beside the point here, which was to produce an African-American sound that stressed Freedom and a distinct cultural identity. Valuable, therefore, as a little snapshot of some heady times, it is more valuable in that it still sounds daring and dynamic. The unremitting power of the playing is curiously cathartic, if you give it a chance. It deserves that chance.

_ By Maurice Bottomley, 19 March 2001

Buy this album!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TAKEHIRO HONDA – Salaam Salaam (LP-1974)

Label: East Wind – EW-7005
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Japan / Released: 1974
Style: Hard Bop, Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz
Recorded June 16, 1974 at Victor Stuudio, Tokyo
Art Direction – Johsuke Kubo
Design [Album] – Mitsuo Hosokawa
Engineer [Record, Re-mix] – Toshio Kobayashi
Photography By [Cover] – Hiroshi Satoh
Photography By [Liner] – Toshinari Koinuma, Yukio Ichikawa
Producer – Toshinari Koinuma

A1 - Minors Only . . . . 13:25
A2 - Natural Tranquility . . . . 10:29
B  -  Salaam Salaam . . . . 18:28

Takehiro Honda – piano, composed
Juni Booth – bass
Eric Gravatt – drums, percussion

Takehiro Honda's most complex and challenging LP, Salaam Salaam pairs the pianist with bassist Junie Booth and drummer Eric Gravatt to explore the kind of creative reaches typically reserved for larger ensembles. If anything, the record is that much more remarkable for achieving its epic scope from so few core elements. Honda's adherence to austerity contrasts sharply with the bold, multi-dimensional sensibilities that signify the vast majority of post-Coltrane excursions into spiritual expression, yet the sheer soulfulness and abandon of his performance nevertheless vaults Salaam Salaam into the same physical and metaphysical planes. No less vital is the record's unusual warmth and tonal purity, which further underscore the humanity at the root of even its most abstract expressions.
_ Review by Jason ANKENY

If you find it, buy this album!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

KAMIKO KASAI with KOSUKE MINE QUARTET – Yellow Carcass In The Blue (LP-1975)

Label: Three Blind Mice – TBM-34
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Japan / Released: 1975
Style: Bop, Modal, Free Jazz
Recorded July 11 & 13, 1971 at AOI Studio, Tokyo
Liner Notes – Akie Shimizu
Art Direction – Ben Nishizawa
Producer – Takeshi Fujii
Recorded By – Yoshihiko Kannari

A1 - Alone Together . . . 3:15
         (Written-By – A. Schwartz - H. Dietz)
A2 - Blues In C Minor . . . 6:02
         (Written-By – Kimiko Kasai)
A3 - River Dry . . . 13:01
         (Written-By – Kosuke Mine)
B1 - Round Midnight . . . 9:10
         (Written-By – B. Hanighen, C. Williams, T. Monk)
B2 - Yellow Carcass In The Blue . . . 7:39
         (Written-By – A. Shimizu, K. Kasai, M. Kikuchi)
B3 - Be Still, My Soul . . . 7:30
         (Written-By – Yoshio Suzuki)

Performed by:           
Kimiko Kasai - vocal
Kosuke Mine - alto/soprano saxophone
Masahiro Kikuchi - piano
Yoshio "Chin" Suzuki - bass
Hiroshi Murakami - drums, percussion

A record that's far more beautiful than you'd guess from the "carcass" in the title – a strong set of vocal work from singer Kimiko Kasai – easily one of the hippest Japanese singers of the 70s! Although Kasai's sometimes straight on the album, she also stretches out in freer, more expressive modes – at a level that's quite similar to some of the more experimental modes used by Karin Krog during the same period – although with a slightly unique feel as well. Backings are from the quartet of reedman Kosuke Mine – whose lines on soprano and alto sax are almost worth the price of the album alone – and all tracks are long...

 photo by Akihiro Takayama

Yellow Carcass in the Blue is considered an important album by talented singer Kimiko Kasai in which she really began to show her original qualities. At the same time, as the "double bill" credit suggests, it was also a showcase for the Kosuke Mine Quartet, which plays two tunes on their own.

Kasai's slightly husky, soulful voice swings in the surprisingly fast opener, "Alone Together." She also wrote the lyrics on two songs: "Blues in C Minor" and "Yellow Carcass in the Blue." The latter was an instrumental composition by Masabumi Kikuchi, the talented, free-leaning pianist, to which Kasai wrote Japanese lyrics. They were ultimately translated into English and that was the version Kasai sang here.

On the two instrumental numbers, Kosuke Mine and his young cohorts (virtual all-stars) take off to great heights and challenge the listener, showing that they had digested everything from bop, modal playing and free jazz.

If you find it, buy this album!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

YOSUKE YAMASHITA / YASUTAKA TSUTSUI – Ie / 筒井康隆 - 山下洋輔 ‎– 家 (LP-1976)

Label: Frasco Records – FRASCO FS-7007
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Japan
Released Year: 1976
Style: Experimental, Avantgarde, Free Jazz, Psychedelic Rock
Recorded at Phonogram Studio, Victor Studio, 28 July 1975 to 24 January 1976.
Produced by Yosuke Yamashita

A1 -   Umi . . . . .14'37"
A2 -   Tsuki . . . . .6'20"
B1 -   Arashi . . . 11'30"
B2 -   Ie . . . . . . . 7'02"

山下洋輔   Yosuke Yamashita : piano, el-piano, synth, etc
筒井康隆   Yasutaka Tsutsui : narration
タモリ         Tamori : narration
伊勢昌之   Masayuki Ise : guitar
坂田明       Akira Sakata : alto sax
向井滋春   Shigeharu Mukai : trombone
高橋知己   Tomoki Takahashi : tenor sax
近藤等則   Toshinori Kondo : trumpet
国吉征之   Masayuki Kuniyoshi : flute
望月英明   Hideaki Mochizuki : bass
大貫妙子   Taeko Ohnuki : vocal
寺尾次郎   Jiro Terao : el-bass
村松邦男   Kunio Muramatsu : guitar
山川恵子   Keiko Yamakawa : harp

One of the strangest LPs I have, it’s rather rare, I’m told and is a joint effort by Yosuke Yamashita (legendary free jazz pianist and famed soundtrack composer) and the Ballard-ian SF-author, Tsutsui Yasutaka (who wrote the lyrics and, I think, an original book or play which this LP sonically adapts). Although, I’m not sure if this piece was ever adapted for theatre – it would seem likely, given the Japanese tradition for such fare - but, aesthetically, it sits comfortably within the remit of Julian’s Japrocksampler. If ever Julian adds a new appendix of extra works in a second edition – this one is in real need of consideration.

It’s an incredibly mysterious sounding record, and, at times, mesmerising and atmospheric in a cinematic sort of way. Pitched somewhere between People’s Ceremony – Buddha Meet Rock, Miles Davis’s mellow, late-night elegiac pieces, Terry Riley’s mystic, trance-inducing minimalism, Stomu Yamashita’s early 70s theatrical LPS (particularly Man From the East), abstract sound collage, and more realistic radio drama. It also boasts moments of Canterbury-like progressive fullness - Robert Wyatt’s ‘under-watery’ Rock Bottom comes to mind, as does the mellow-but-muscular Hatfield and the North’s first LP) - (proto-)post-modern inter-textual playfulness and some rather extreme sonic experimentation.

Someone on the ever reliable MUTANT SOUNDS blog describes it thusly: “like a combination of Franco Battiato, Mike Oldfield, Igor Wakhevitch, Urban Sax, Stomu Yamashta and Keith Tippett.”

Released in 1976 on the Frasco label it features a whole host of musicians playing what amounts to a small orchestra and a small cast of actors/narrator – Yamashita plays an arsenal of keyboards, including warm-sounding Rhodes, icy grand piano (possibly his forte?), Hammond, and both Korg and Arp synthesisers. As well as the nominal strings and brass of a small orchestra set-up, there are harpists, chorales, upright bass, traditional ethnic Japanese instruments (particularly percussion) and synthesized guitar (played by Ise Masayuki).

As to the story, I’ve no idea – it seems rather dark and gothic – the 6 page insert featuring some rather disturbing gothic-surrealist ink drawings (Mervyn Peake by way of Paul Delvaux). An odd house situated in the middle of a becalmed sea, there’s a dark and obscured figure in a boat (not noticeable at first), about to board the house maybe? Inside the booklet features the same house in a montage amidst skeletons, oversized heads, shooting stars, blood veins or bodily entrails and owls and butterflies that do little to lighten the mood created. Suffice to say, it’s obvious this tale has its ‘down and dark’ moments!

“Umi” (14:37) A nebulous Korg 700 series ushers in a tumbling, fumbling melody – that sounds like its falling from the inky blue night right into the ocean depths – like some small sea anemone skittering around the ocean floor as gamelan-like percussion and low-key synthesiser rumbles begin to tremble underneath. The whole atmosphere is remarkably aquatic to begin with – or as if we’re somehow inside the veins and arteries of a body, traversing inner space.

Odd string instruments are plucked and stroked, as the narrator sounds like he’s chewing on some gravel. He begins to cough and stutter as if the clearing of his throat figures as a musical component. The trance-like vibe, however, remains, as kotos and other loose-stringed things coax out some very sinuous sounds. The ‘deep sea’ synthesiser line disappears to be replaced with thrummed percussion and trance-like drones of electronic mush. The narrator begins to introduce the tale. As the drone gets more assertive a Terry Riley like piano line begins – repeated over and over - and warm electric guitars unfold, with rich warm notes peeled off. The piano line is like a bizarre sonic Moebius curve of notes, pitched in some nether region situated between all the various modes.

Over this a warn Rhodes is added and the late night Miles trumpet wails mournfully, a perfect soundtrack for a 3am drive through some neon mega-city – a perfectly posed blend of People’s Ceremony - Buddha Meets Rock and Bark Psychosis immense Hex LP. Suddenly, a resounding bass undertow heralds a wonderful female vocal chorus who half whisper/ half sing (over and over): “Japanese, Japanese / Sight Breeze, Slight Breeze…” The repeated piano riff gets stronger and out of the blue Yamashita pays homage to the Tubular Bells riff from, well, Tubular Bells(1973) and more rigorous as free jazz flutes skit across its surface to be joined by rampant piano (of the like Yamashita is famed for). Upwards and upwards this circular prayer travels until it suddenly cuts off – leaving behind a pale, pastel electronic sequence.

This sequence is the introduction for “Tsuki” a slowly moving, slowly gestating, late night stroll of a track – the narrator continuing the tale as walking upright bass and candle pale string washes on the synthesiser create a very cinematic noir-ish feel. Pastel strings and quivering guitar chords tremble and gradually wither away into the overall mix. Its very meditative and certainly has the same repetitive mantra-like patience as the People LP. The narrator continues as only the sequence behind him continues. After this remarkable drop out the body of sound thickens to introduce Ornette Coleman-like Saxophone (half-blues cliché/half free-jazz speaking in tongues) and Hermman-like string synthesisers which gradually, and insidiously, begin to devour the track, their tonal manoeuvres getting more and more sinister, growing like vines chocking the atmosphere, as saxophone cries out – a tremolo effect washes over the strings, which climb and climb. Each new interval seemingly more discordant and creepy than the last - It’s incredibly cinematic (of course, Yamashita sound-tracked many Japanese films). Upwards and upwards the strings dive, the sax more and more frenetic until… silence, and its left to the narrator to utter some final compelling epitaph that I don’t understand (and could well be – “Continued on Side Two!!”

Side Two’s “Arasi” is much more abstract and obviously moves the narrative on considerably, with the narrator battling for the first 5 minutes against huge, phosphorescent synthesiser swells, distant atonal piano dribble, Africana percussion, sounds effects of gunfire, wind (lots and lots of synthesised wind), and baby cries. This track grows into a huge sonic collage – the narrator seemingly infected by the musical madness that is occurring all around him as he himself begins to rant, other demonic voices swelling up with him, and it’s as if we’ve entered an Igor Wakhevitch nightmare in the Land of the Rising Sun.

With the keyboards still fizzing and farting away, distant free jazz piano dribbling in and out of the cracks left in the sound of synthesised wind, a bizarre Latin guitar strum begins as the narrator whistles along. Yet more odd characters appear, talking, whispering, ranting, and growling. Buddhist chants appear out of this sonic stew briefly, as the dialogue returns at arbitrary moments. Things get increasingly more bizarre for the next 8 minutes – it makes Revolution No 9 sound like a “Story for Bedtime,” until the whole thing ends up blasted apart by a bomb of Nagasaki-like proportions.

Ice slithers of piano are the first thing to emerge out of the destruction – clear as a bell, cool, cool shards of brittle sound and then another slow bass march and maudlin accordions and synthesisers begin a calming Debussy-like waltz through this futuristic mindscape of sound and energy – replete with cascading harps, seagulls, waves (synthesised!) crashing on the shore, cosmic washes of synthesiser – until all is eventually bundled together in one big miasma of sound and heads off into the galaxy - a huge supernova of sound. After what seems like some audio-verite studio discussion with the narrator, some woman, and various technicians, the last track begins

“IE” begins on a drone – backwards guitar and cymbal hits sucks sound and life into the track, a weird synthesiser tone that merges in and out of a variation on the repeated riff of Side One; gentle guitars and harps are plucked, as more narration begins to close (what surely must be) a hugely strange tale. The effect is almost like a psychedelic Musical box, but the arrangement builds beautifully again – as heavenly trumpets and strings orchestrate the piece – a Japanese “Sketches of Spain” maybe, it’s quite, quite moving.

Yamashta’s orchestral jazz spirit really pervades here in this closing movement – as phat Korgs join in on the accompanying lines of brass. As largely reverberating vibes are stroked – stunning stuff – there’s an almost aqueous, oceanic affect - similarities (and distinct ones at that) with Talk Talk’s mighty Spirit of Eden are evident. Wonder if Mark Hollis and (Bark Psychosis’) Graham Sutton know this monster – it certainly sounds like it, hearing their own work. A gorgeously ethereal (as only the Japanese can do) spiritual jazz aesthetic brings these bizarre musings to a close, here we could be right at the bottom of Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, a strangely innocent and humble quality. The ever-repeated mantra goes on and on and on….into everlastingness! Or, alternatively (and as it sounds on here) until the batteries run out!

One of the most mysterious records I own. Enjoy!

Reviewed by aether, 16/01/2012

If you find it, buy this album!

Monday, October 13, 2014


Label: Black Saint – BSR 0008
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1976
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded on March 11 and 14, 1976 at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.
Engineer – Tony May
Painting [Cover Paintings] – Kenneth Noland
Photography By – Nina Melis
Producer – Giocomo Pelliciotti

Steve Lacy / soprano saxophone, composed
Roswell Rudd / trombone, chimes on B2
Kent Carter / bass
Beaver Harris / drums, percussion

... ''For me it was a chance to explore some great music, specifically that of Thelonious Monk. Steve was further down the road, having already released recordings of Monk's music. He even played in Monk's band. So the shared passion for this music became a special focus for us. There was not a week that went by that we didn't rehearse. Steve and I would play regardless of whether bass or drums would show up. This devotion, happening as it did in our early 20s, was to become a fulcrum into the future for us, a permanent musical, even emotional, bond.

The joy of the sound that we got stemming from Monk's high musical intelligence was enough for me. However Steve's vision included more; for him it was also about realizing the commercial potential of this sound. Thankfully there was an entrepreneurial side to him that would serve him abundantly in the years ahead - and many other performers, myself included, would also benefit from this. But here in NYC in the early '60s, that commercial breakthrough never quite happened. For instance, when Steve found a flea-ridden, dark basement beneath Harut's Restaurant in the West Village, I went home, got my hammer, nails and saw. We cleaned up the space and built a platform out of scrap lumber to play on. This was where we first played out in 1961. We passed the hat for six months before moving on to better venues. Finally it was our poet friend Paul Haines who recorded us on a borrowed tape machine in a coffee shop that was released on Emanem Records a few years later as School Days, with Henry Grimes (bass) and Denis Charles (drums). This went through several re-releases in different formats and it has become a favorite collector's item. When Steve pulled up stakes and went to Europe in 1963 he hit the ground running and eventually attracted American musicians residing in Europe as well as European musicians who were drawn into the Monk mystique and Steve's passion for the music. From this point on he would develop the shank of a career spanning the next 40 years. In fact, all and more of the opportunities denied to him in NYC in the early '60s, he would realize in Europe and other parts of the planet, including NYC and America. His musical spirit would produce many remarkable solo performances as well as unique ensembles including his wife, violinist/vocalist Irene Aebi. There is a formidable body of original music that came out of all this.

Thus during the years 1964-2004 I followed his career and although we were living and pursuing whatever we could on two different continents, there were occasional opportunities to touch base or do things together here or in Europe. Over there in 1965 he told me “I'm free now. I'm playing free,” and he was now writing and recording his own material for the first time. In 1976 a little known album called Blown Bone was recorded in NYC, featuring all my compositions. And Trickles (Soul Note) featured music by Steve with Beaver Harris (drums) and Kent Carter (bass). This was actually the first time I played Steve's music. It had a similar deliberate quality to it reminiscent of Monk''...


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Sunday, October 12, 2014


Label: Ramboy Recordings – Ramboy #16
Format: CD, Album / Country: Netherlands / Released:2001
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded on January 30, 2001 at Gateway Studios, London, England
Art – Han Bennink
Design – Isabelle Vigier
Recorded By – Steve Howe

Michael Moore / alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Alex Maguire / piano 
Mark Helias / bass 
Han Bennink / drums, percussion

''From the opening notes of "Moffat," White Widow is a powerful, moving musical experience that is restless in its free spirit and soulful in its unassuming conviction."

"White Widow splendidly showcases Moore's charms. With a mix of original compositions, free improvisation and a single standard (Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy"), the quartet designs an eminently appealing disc. Of course, these men's musical lives have intersected for years. English pianist Alex Maguire, who recently joined Moore in duo (Mount Olympus), is a kinsman: Like Moore, he's a purveyor of grace, even in the rough. American Mark Helias fills his bass lines with strength and intelligence-a rich, engaging sound that sets off Moore and Maguire's flights. Dutch percussionist Bennink, however, is remarkably restrained here. Still, he is smart and sharp and demonstrates an uncanny and delightful sense of swing, whether he's tied-up or thrown into the mosh pit. The quartet itself swings softly or in convulsions, dynamics breathe and shift easily. In a number of cases-Moore's "Manuel's Party" and "Coyote", as well as in parts of Maguire's "Parma Suite"- there are superior melodies and elegant improvisations stirred into a fetching brew. "Peabody", a bouncing, wisp of a line bubbles with energy. As Moore's alto winds through a taut, brisk accompaniment, the band pick up steam before closing with Helias soloing over a severe piano-saxophone coda. It's another instance of White Widow's attractions, where a muscular sense of motion feeds moment of genuine lyrical beauty."
_ By Greg BUIUM, Downbeat, November 2001

Ramboy Recordings:

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T. DELIUS, H. JEFFERY, W. De JOODE, S.C.M. GUEYE – Apa Ini (2003)

Label: DATA Records – DATA:033
Format: CD, Album / Country: Netherlands / Released: 2003
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at BIMhuis Amsterdam, November 29, 2002
Cover art by Han Bennink
Recorded by Dick Lucas
Produced by Tobias Delius / Dick Lucas

Tobias Delius - tenorsax, clarinet
Hilary Jeffery - trombone
Wilbert de Joode - bass
Serigne C.M. Gueye - bugarabu, calabas, djembe & sawrouba

Tobias Delius was born on 15 July 1964 in Oxford, England. He began playing saxophone in 1980 in the German Ruhr region. In 1983/84 he lived in Mexico City.
Delius moved to Amsterdam in 1984 and studied for a short while at the Sweelinck Conservatorium. He quickly became involved with Amsterdam improvisers and dropped his studies to immerse himself in the improvised music scene.

He has worked in Europe and overseas with such musicians as Steve Lacy (October Meeting ’91), Louis Moholo’s Viva-la-black (South Africa ’93), Bill Frisell, Mark Feldman and Trio Clusone (Clusone Jazz ’93), Misha Mengelberg (“Pollo de Mare”, Angelica ’96 in Bologna), Steve Beresford (“Signals for Tea”, Vancouver ’98), Jeb Bishop, Kent Kessler & Hamid Drake (Chicago 2001) and Ray Anderson (Rotterdam, ’01).
Tobias Delius leads his own quartet with Tristan Honsinger (cello), Joe Williamson (double bass) and Han Bennink (drums) and Delius also has a duo with bassist Wilbert de Joode, a trio with keyboard player Cor Fuhler and various drummers (Louis Moholo and Paul Lovens to name two), and initiated the Trio San Francisco with reed players Sean Bergin and Daniele D’Agaro. He has recently formed apa ini, a group with Wilbert de Joode, Hilary Jeffery (trombone) and Serigne Gueye (djembe).

Tobias Delius is known (to the extent he is known -- despite a decent output he seems, unfortunately, to appear below the radar screen) for his innovative small groups that plug away at the margins where the fringes of melodies fade into abstraction. At his best, the saxophonist's disjointed phrasing, off-balance thrusts, and short though solid repetitions attractively straddle the line between the real and the ephemeral. While Delius often uses the same musicians, he enjoys mixing his players. The piano-less quartet on this album and recorded at the famed Bimhaus keeps longtime colleague Wilbert de Joode on bass while adding the appealingly grungy-sounding Hilary Jeffery on trombone and the mystical machinations of Serigne C.M. Gueye on percussion. The group appears well-rehearsed, as it has to be to perform these difficult freestyle improvisations. On the stunning "Pok," for example, which incidentally closes the set, the trombone and sax converse rapidly, with the percussionist listening in, after which de Joode launches into a wild excursion with the percussionist eavesdropping, followed by a few pedal notes on the trombone and a barely audible clarinet waxing lyrically. A word about Jeffrey: the trombonist has absorbed much of the vocabulary of Roswell Rudd without aping him, stamping an individual persona by using mutes, sharp jabs, and a powerful legato tongue. Gueye contributes unorthodox though bright sounds and exciting rhythms, all recorded flawlessly. Influences as diverse as Ornette Coleman and the British school of free improvisation are evident, but to Delius' credit the album retains a freshness and each track its own identity.
_ Review by Steve LOEWY

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

TOBIAS DELIUS 4TET – Toby's Mloby (BIMhuis-1999)

Label: Instant Composers Pool – ICP 034
Format: CD, Album / Country: Netherlands / Released: 2000
Style: Free Jazz, Post Bop, Free Improvisation
Recorded at Amsterdam jazz club Bimhuis, September 6, 1999.
Cover – Han Bennink
Design [Cover] – Leugenachtig Lekker
Photography By – Francesca Patella
Recorded By – Dick Lucas

“This group moves seemingly effortlessly between passages of great complexity and pure abstraction, and does so on a dime. This recording, like its predecessor solidifies my theory that there isn’t a better working band in creative music today.”
(Coda Magazine, january/february 2001)

 01   Brrrrt / Toby's Mloby 3 / TWR . . . 8:09
       (Composed By – T. Delius, T. Delius, T. Honsinger)
02   Wink No. 50 / Toby's Mloby 2 / Wink No. 50 . . . 5:03
       (Composed By – T. Delius, T. Delius, T. Honsinger)
03   Salmon + Bear Suite . . . 10:50
       (Composed By – T. Honsinger)
04   Television . . . 2:09
       (Composed By – T. Delius)
05   Shrinkage / ¿Whither? . . . 3:38
       (Composed By – J. Williamson, T. Delius)
06   Toby's Mloby 1 / Wireless / Antonelli's Night Out . . . 7:42
       (Composed By – J. Williamson, T. Delius, T. Honsinger)
07   Faultier . . . 1:58
       (Composed By – J. Williamson)
08   Dut . . . 2:59
       (Composed By – T. Delius)
09   Beehive . . . 10:43
       (Composed By – T. Honsinger)
10   Toby's Mloby 4 & 5 . . . 2:07
       (Composed By – T. Honsinger)
11   Schijf / Romy . . . 5:03
       (Composed By – T. Delius, T. Honsinger)

Tobias Delius – tenor saxophone
Tristan Honsinger – cello
Joe Williamson – double bass
Han Bennink – drums, percussion


Before even discussing the terrific music on this disc, praise should be lavished on the packaging. Because of both the look of the slightly oversize front cover and the die-cut cardboard square that is supposed to hold the disc in place, one could get the impression of owning a homemade work of art by the extremely creative Han Bennink, who is one of the world's great drummers as well as quite an active visual artist in many mediums. The fact that he plays drums for this group is a definite plus, as well. The other members of this quartet are equally talented. The sympathetic combination of these musical abilities applied to a perfectly realized concept of improvisation and composition make this one of the best small jazz groups of the new millennium. Bennink might have a reputation for loud, bombastic playing and he certainly deserves this, although it must be said the quality of his sound and beauty of his tone and technique on the drums never wavers no matter how loudly he might bash away. Yet in this group he is dealing with some extremely subtle players who work together very melodically, and this brings out another side to his playing that gets much less attention than his surrealistic antics or show-stopping drum solos. He is a totally sensitive member of the group whose control of dynamics and once again tone are a big part of the success the ensemble achieves. Not to give him all the credit, of course. Tenorman Delius has a versatile, beautiful sound and has a great foil in cellist Tristan Honsinger, a stalwart of the European improvising scene. Of all the groups the latter musician has been in, this is maybe the one in which his abilities are most obvious, especially his wonderful lyricism and distinctive personal sound. Filling out the group is bassist Joe Williamson, working excellently throughout. He has a way of playing down the dynamics while simultaneously increasing the intensity. For this CD the group sometimes plays in what has become its normal manner, blending together several themes into little suites. Often these pieces combine compositions by several group members. There are also tracks focusing on a single composition, some of them short and precise, others stretching out. The music was recorded at the famous Amsterdam jazz club Bimhuis but does not sound like a live concert recording unless the audience members were bound and gagged. Recording quality is crystal clear and ensemble playing simply sparkles. This is a disc listeners will want to return to again and again, which may show up a flaw in the lovely little package, as the more one removes the CD from the cardboard holder, the less it is likely to hold the disc in place. The solution is perhaps to keep this disc on the CD player all the time.
_ Review by Eugene CHADBOURNE

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