samedi 5 décembre 2009

Peter Herbert + David Tronzo : "Segmente"

(Aziza Music, 1999)

New York has quite a number of enabled improvising musicians, indeed it is a place of strong live interaction, where artistic participation seems to be the given. Yet within artistic dynamics there remains a fundamental interaction which enables an exciting setup of musicians to tick. It is the simple matter of chemistry. Peter Herbert and David Tronzo recognized this key element within the music they created together, allowing this "chemistry" and their unique perspectives to be present from the first session they did together more than 10 years ago in NYC's East Village, where they both reside.
Their backgrounds and influences are diverse -- Tronzo's re-invention of the slide guitar encompasses world folk, modern classical and free jazz forms; Herbert has courted two enormously rich careers simultaneously: one as a classical composer and performer, the other as a modern jazz bassist of great demand. This duo differs from others. Each voice is un-mistakenly recognizable, containing its own distinctly personal sound and language, which both musicians have developed on their own over the years. A quality, that is not necessarily a given anymore. Together, they create an entirely fresh sound. Their concept of using mostly acoustic sound altering devices (tools and toys), extends the acoustic playing capacities of their instruments, tickling sounds from their instruments from head to toe. These "extended techniques" distinguishes them from other, more elaborate "tech" setups. Besides, a duo is the most intimate setup for improvised music, which requires a maximum of trust, including being able to stay silent and listen, if the music calls for it.
Best described perhaps as acoustic ambient music, the Tronzo/Herbert duo walks a highly energized tightrope which draws the audience into the visceral 'experience' of great live music making.


jeudi 3 décembre 2009

Frances-Marie Uitti + Elliott Sharp : "Improvisations"

(JDK, 1997)

First Sharp's musical movement : like a blacksmith he strikes and creates a sound module, uneven, and brutal which he then catapults in an accelerated net of transformations and evil modifications. Looking for the perpetual movement. The initial formula gives birth to another, each formula goes forth, recycles the magical fuel, the energy of the next formula, like one would tune the energy of a star in the far distance. Music full of radiations. Whether he plays very expansive or reserved he builds on ramifications, tentacular variations which go very fast. And this is very masculine in its attempt to explain-express a total and original conception of his proper musical movement.
Frances-Marie Uitti is not very often playing with Sharp. She is rather uncessantly cutting his trajectories. She plays between sharpian ramifications. The dynamic comes from always trying not to be swallowed by the net. As if she was taking on the task to fill, inhabit the spaces he only goes accross and leaves behind. Her strings find the time and space to sing where Sharp dazzles with his ephemerous formulae. Even if sometimes she has to become a fury, play with a consuming physical commitment, in order to preserve her autonomy. She seems also more receptive to what the other is doing, sensibly developing themes he drew only the cabalistic sketches of. So doing she brings out emotional paths barely touched upon by the sharpian conquest for the perpetual movement. She takes all the risks for these emotional conflicts. There their routes are imbricated. Moreover, in the improvised engagements of Uitti can be heard an in-depth work on the relationships between the works written for her by the classical composers and the research for a personal language that no score will ever capture. A space of freedom, breathing, research necessary for her to keep personality in the interpretation when she goes back to the universe of the classical.

Pierre Hemptinne (Médiathèque de Mons, Belgique)

Combining the occasional extreme brutality of Elliot Sharp's non traditional double-necked guitar with the equally non-traditional, double bowed cello playing of Frances Marie-Uitti surely creates an explosive device waiting to detonate. Never quite playing together, they instead each take turns interjecting fragments and filling spaces with improvised textures. Uitti's cello at times seems to take the role of the sweet submissive vocalist as Sharp's guitar strong-arms other parts of the pieces. The dynamic between the two players allows for Uitti to elaborate on the roughly-hewn sketches that Sharp tosses into the work.



Rob Schwimmer + Uri Caine + Mark Feldman : "Theremin noir"

(November, 2000)

So many years after its invention, the theremin (an electromagnetic instrument triggered by hand gestures) remains cruelly underexposed, but consequently has kept its aura of mystery. This session involving theremin virtuoso Rob Schwimmer, pianist Uri Caine, and violinist Mark Feldman is therefore a highly unusual one. Most of the material was written by Schwimmer or arranged by him from Bernard Herrmann's film scores. A few tracks were collectively written or improvised. The instrument's innate ability for eerie glissandos secured it a recurring role in horror/suspense movies. Herrmann was one of the first to understand its potential and used it in his soundtracks for Alfred Hitchcock, especially in Vertigo. Schwimmer picked the best moments ("Carlotta's Portrait/Farewell," "The Nightmare/The Tower"), reaching the CD's highlight in his arrangement of "Scene d'Amour," a gripping number where all three musicians showcase their talents, building to an irresistible climax. The theremin's wail can mimic the human voice (a ghostly, haunting one) or string instruments (either violin, viola, or cello, depending on the register used). Many times the listener isn't quite sure who is playing the melody. To complement the theremin's range of expression, the leader occasionally uses effects or turns to the harsher daxophone. The music varies from foggy cabaret jazz numbers (Uri Caine's personal touch) to cinematic music crossed with contemporary classical. Highly lyrical, always firmly tonal and melodic, even though the instrumentation makes it feel off-the-wall and avant-gardist, Theremin Noir is inhabited by an uncanny beauty. A moody, delicate, and highly original album. Strongly recommended.

François Couture (All Music)


jeudi 26 novembre 2009

Briggan Krauss : "300"

(Knitting Factory, 1998)

Immerse head in big bucket of New York downtown saxophone skronk. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That's kind of what listening to Briggan Krauss' 300 is like. Krauss is a bit of a madman on the alto saxophone, even by the standards of the downtown scene, which — after all — is not populated by a bunch of shrinking violets. Leading this two-session recording with keyboardist Wayne Horvitz and drummer Kenny Wollesen, Krauss is positively unhinged a good deal of the time; most of his work with groups like Babkas, Pigpen, Sex Mob, and even the Andrea Parkins Trio (which also features Wollesen) is comparably restrained. He cuts loose with scalar runs that permute into screams, wails, and gravel-voiced roars — as well as mews, sputters, flutters, and burrs that seem to mimic a variety of fantasy forest creatures (or bizarro aquatic denizens, as in "Sea Monster"). On the DX-7, Horvitz unleashes his own assault of funkified synth distortion, while the always inventive Wollesen contributes everything from wild thrashings to subtle colorations to spot-on delivery of the rhythmic pulse. 300 moves through sometimes wrenching mood shifts from one piece to the next: Horvitz's "Bingo," an understated piano and saxophone duet with a lovely melody, is followed by the sheer hysteria of "Some Woman's Strange Laugh," with its flurry of low-register sax notes followed by a high-pitched downward glissing squeal, over and over again (that's some laugh all right). Most of the tunes are improvised by the band, and a third are composed by either Krauss or Horvitz. Scored or not, many of the pieces are like sonic snapshots rather than extended-form cinematic excursions; Krauss and his bandmates don't usually roam far afield from the beginning to the end of a tune, choosing instead to discover and fool around a while with particular (sometimes lunatic) ideas that will either tickle or drill into your ears, and then abandon them before they've worn out their welcome. Krauss does actually display a sensible streak, at least knowing how long to push his repetitions before they get too bonkers, unless of course getting bonkers is the point. Then after working up a thick lather, Krauss will rinse it all away with a touch of simplicity and beauty — before dumping the crazy stuff all over your head again. And when you step out of his shower of saxophone squeals, your ears will be squeaky clean.

Dave Lynch (All Music)


Andrea Parkins : "Slippage"

(Knitting Factory, 1996)

Multi-Instrumentalist/composer Andrea Parkins plays a significant role within the adventurous, often cutting edge New York City Downtown scene. Here, along with fellow New York Downtown constituents, Kenny Wolleson (d) and Briggan Krauss (saxes), Parkins continues her unique conceptual approaches with the follow up to her previous Knitting Factory release “Cast Iron Fact”.
On “Slippage”, Parkins pays a bit more attention to compositional and thematic development in contrast to “Cast Iron Fact” which dealt more with “free” improvisation and placed more emphasis on abstractions, disparate sounds and unorthodox voicings. An interesting approach, which worked well; however, Parkins and company seem to convey a bit more self-assurance and focus on this new release. “Slippage” does not forgo the exploratory dialogue and improvisational techniques utilized in “Cast Iron Fact”; however, the compositions are slightly more structured and attain a richer balance of continuity and direction. Ultimately, the overall flow fares well on this project.
The opener, “Remarkable Spectacle of a Frozen Cataract” features Ms. Parkins on sampler and piano. The music is fitting for such a bizarre notion of witnessing a frozen cataract and sounds menacing or perhaps even scientific. “Local Cosmography” is at times surrealistic as Parkins utilizes her sampler to invoke circus-like themes. The title cut “Slippage” is a free jazz piece where Parkins’ piano work treads waters that touch on Cecil Taylor and features creative and spunky dialogue with saxophonist Briggan Krauss. Kenny Wolleson’s drumming fills in the gaps and generates off meter tempos to offset the conversational motifs between Parkins and Krauss. “Beautiful Animal” features Krauss’ furious clarinet work as he paints a vivid picture to coincide with Parkins’ brief fragmented statements on the piano. The overall tone of this composition appears to mimic a chamber-esque like environment as the recurring theme provides the foundation for otherworldly forays into meaningful yet rampant dialogue. On “Early TV”, Parkins picks up the accordion as this tune summons imagery of TV pioneer and funnyman Milton Berle’s goofy slapstick routines or the comedic banter of Sid Caesar. “Early TV” is a gas! The playful nature hints at comedic TV in the 1950’s as Parkins explodes with gobs of imagery and clearly engages her innermost thoughts and creative wherewithal. Here, the movements segue into a fantastic ambient-electronic interlude, which could draw some comparisons to some of the well-known Germanic gods of electronica ala Cluster or Peter Namlook. Here, the band deterministically portray the increasing presence of Television in our lives, as Wolleson moves forward with a straight-four style backbeat. The main theme resurfaces and serves as the finale or coda. “Lost Lure” is a hard-edged rocker as Krauss shows commanding presence with his baritone sax. Parkins goes it alone on the solo piano piece titled “Capture” complete with huge block chords, thematic developments that hit you in spurts and an overall inquisitive style of play as detected by the linear voicings in her compositional evolution. The final track, “Story Of An Eye” (you have to love these titles) features more sampler articulations that once again straddle a quasi ambient-electronic feel, complete with firm backbeats and Parkins subtle accordion maneuvers which adds a dash of nuance.
Andrea Parkins hits the mark with Slippage as she mirrors concepts and styles that may seem familiar yet her patented artistic voice serves as the focal point and the results are imminently rewarding. Also, Ms. Parkins reaps numerous benefits from her equally gifted peers, Briggan Krauss and Kenny Wollesen.

Glenn Astarita (All Music)


lundi 23 novembre 2009

"Secular steel"

(Gaff Music, 2004)

In the late '90s Arhoolie Records' Sacred Steel series finally exposed the joyous gospel tradition of steel guitar to a wider audience, proving that country and Hawaiian music were not the exclusive domain of pedal and lap steel guitars. Inspired by that series, Elliott Sharp decided to join in the fun and asked a bunch of steel players to contribute to Secular Steel, a fascinating and freewheeling demonstration of just how far these instruments can be taken. In fact, there are tracks where the listener would be hard-pressed to correctly identify the instrument being played, as on "Leslie the Alien" or "Slow Lights." Eugene Chadbourne plays a traditional (?) tune on what sounds like a prepared lap steel, while Bob Hoffnar summons droning howls, surpassed in terms of menace only by Mark Dagley's powerful and almost frightening "Steel Guitar Moan." "Orion on the Horizon" is also built on a drone and has a slightly Middle Eastern sound, which is more pronounced on Andy Marshall's "East by Southwest," where he adds dumbek, saz, and oud to his lap steel to great effect. Henry Kaiser plays a sly double tribute with "Ahoy Sonny," a tip of the hat to Sonny Sharrock's deranged slide playing where Kaiser uses the same freaky guitar effect as Frank Zappa on "Ship Ahoy." Oddly enough, Lucky Oceans, steel player for Western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel, turns in one of the most "out there" pieces, while that of guitar maverick and curator Elliott Sharp is among the most conventional sounding. Despite being dedicated to the undersung bluesman Earl Hooker, David Toop's track is another one of the more avant-garde-sounding pieces, while Joe Goldmark and Stephen Ulrich contribute what one might first expect from a steel guitar compilation. Secular Steel has a little something for everyone interested in steel guitar, from pretty straight-up country to completely avant-garde free improv and a healthy dose of good humor that runs throughout. The pacing of the album is excellent, such that the outer limits never gang up on more timid listeners, but there are more than enough risks taken so that listeners coming at this from the Sharp camp won't be disappointed. Steel guitar fans really ought to check this one out.

Sean Westergaard (All Music)


John Hollenbeck : "The Claudia quintet"

(CRI, 2001)

... In the Claudia Quintet's drum chair, John Hollenbeck often locks into a rhythm and gradually builds the intensity of his attack, taking his own sweet time to reach the dynamic peak in a piece of music. He also propels the music forward with a crisp and clean style that doesn't overwhelm his bandmates, including Chris Speed, the noted N.Y.C. reedman who tends to prefer subtle expressiveness over displays of high-volume bluster. On this debut CD by the band, Claudia pursues a cool after-hours chillout vibe much of the time, and the instrumentation should suggest what Hollenbeck is after: aside from Speed (contributing a bit of tenor sax in addition to clarinet), the quintet features vibraphonist Matt Moran, accordionist Ted Reichman, and ubiquitous upright bassist Drew Gress.
This lineup doesn't require listeners to stuff cotton in their ears to prevent hearing damage. The inclination is rather to pull out the cotton in order to best appreciate the clarity and nuance of this ensemble — the round tones of the clarinet, shimmer of the vibes, earthiness of the accordion, and deep resonance of the bass. All the instruments are afforded room to breath, as unembellished melodic lines and shifting harmonics are drawn out across the sure and steady pulse and gathering rhythmic energy of "Meinetwegen" and the first and third of the album's "Thursday" compositions. Modalism and momentum are traded for spacy atmospherics on the second "Thursday" piece, with its ringing and sustained tones courtesy of Moran's bowed and struck vibes. But don't think The Claudia Quintet is entirely a space cruise, as the album includes the lovely downtempo ballad "Love Song for Kate," the swinging tenor-driven "Burt and Ken," the nearly cacophonous riot of voices during the improvised middle section of "a-b-s-t-i-n-e-n-c-e," and the angular stop-and-start "No D," in which Reichman fires off a solo on accordion that sounds about as wild as one could get without breaking the thing. Auspicious debut, indeed. One senses that a new and important voice has emerged on the New York creative music scene.

Dave Lynch (All Music)


"New York guitars"

(CRI, 1995)

The electric guitar was born into a hostile climate… When the first amplified guitars were put on the market in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the first significant public campaigns against ever-increasing city noise were also taking place. Among the anti-cacophony mottos: “The silence of each assures rest for us all.” Thus, from its inception, the electric guitar was a symbol of noise, imprecision and rebellion. Its weapon: amplification, the enemy of restful sleep. Though the New York composers and improvisers on this record coax everything from dissonance and drones to blues and jazz out of their guitars, they all have one thing in common: they are by nature defiant, undermining so-called serious music by making it on an electric guitar.
Playing avant-garde music on an electric guitar is nothing new. The tradition in New York goes back at least to minimalist composer La Monte Young writing For Guitar in 1958 (which was later transposed to electric guitar) and Sonny Sharrock making a name for himself as a free-jazz guitarist in the 1960s. What sets the composers here apart is that they grew up in an era of rock and roll. Some of them were even playing in rock bands before finding other outlets for their musical experimentation. With all the baggage of rock history now attached to the electric guitar, separating it from the tradition of rock (or blues or jazz) has become not an act of appropriation but subversion. So when Mark Howell flips through sixty-five years of guitar styles and techniques in nine minutes and Judy Dunaway composes with the noise inherent in the technology of amplification, they are not celebrating the history of guitar music and technology but exploring its limits.
Is there a “New York Guitar” school of style? Some would like to think so. After all, New York became a melting pot of influential experimental guitarists in the late 1970s, with guitar symphonists Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, noise makers Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of the acclaimed underground rock band Sonic Youth, mathematically-based composer and improviser Elliot Sharp, and no-wave cacophonists Arto Lindsay and Pat Place, all circulating in the same scene. But here, you’ll find no discernible line linking John Kings’s blues, David First’s microtonal play and Loren MazzaCane Connor’s abstractions.
If there is anything these New York composer/guitarists have in common it is the environment they live in, not the musical terrain they’re mapping. The noise of the city—which continues unhindered despite the noise-pollution fighters of the 1920s and 1930s—has a significant effect on the psyche of musicians. It raises their threshold for extreme sounds while exacerbating their need to avoid them. The result is that composers either incorporate the cacophony of the city into their pieces or try to escape from it altogether. Examples of the former are Ken Valitsky merging guitar, typewriter, ringing phones, sirens, and other computer-modified sounds in Meaning-Less, Phil Kline evoking the Doppler effect created by passing car horns in A Fantasy on One Note, and Nick Didkovsky building a distorted, pointillist collage in Flykiller. Examples of the latter are Carolyn Master retreating into the colors of the inner world that is En Masse and Brandon Ross meditating on the purity of the jazz saxophone in O, People. As the lyrics to one anonymous blues tune go:

You can take the guitar outside,
You can take the guitar inside
Jes don’t take it no place, young man,
Where there ain’t no ear open wide.

Neil Strauss


Lesli Dalaba : "Core samples"

(Ear-Rational, 1991)

One of the most distinctive trumpet players in improvised music, Lesli Dalaba combines a mastery of unorthodox playing techniques with a delicate, moving lyricism. Lesli began performing in California in the 1970’s with Wayne Horvitz. In 1978 she moved to New York, where she formed her own quartet and performed for 10 years as both a soloist and ensemble player, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. Lesli was a member of Wayne Horvitz’ and Robin Holcomb’s New York Composers Orchestra, Elliott Sharp’s Carbon, and the Balkan brass band Zlatne Ustne, which was twice invited to perform in Yugoslavia. Other musicians Lesli has worked with include Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne, Fred Frith, George Lewis, and LaMonte Young. Lesli’s final New York project was Core Sample, a CD of her own compositions.
Lesli has been living in Seattle since 1989. She has been a steady member of Jeff Greinke’s LAND since its inception in 1994. LAND’s tour of China in 1996 inspired the formation of Radio Chongching, her other current project is a looping, electronic trio with Greg Gilmore and Fred Chalenor. Lesli is also a member of Fred Frith’s quintet, Tense Serenity, which toured Europe in ’98 and ’99. In addition to her musical activities, Lesli works as an acupunturist and practitioner of Chinese Medicine.


David Moss Dense band : "Live in Europe"

(Ear-Rational, 1988)

In 1985, David Moss released ''Dense Band,'' an album that distilled downtown noise improvisation into song-length chunks and added a funk beat now and then. It was a showcase for Mr. Moss's precise, clattery drumming and his peculiar specialty: improvised vocal gibberish that can evoke anything from a newscast in Lithuanian to a soprano wrestling a hyena.
Two years later, he is touring with a group called Dense Band; the group made its American debut Wednesday at the Whitney Annex.
The current Dense Band includes Wayne Horvitz on keyboard, Jean Chaine on electric bass, Christian Marclay on turntables and John King on guitar. It was a showcase for both Mr. Moss and Mr. Chaine, who made an impressive New York debut with ultra-fast funk patterns, whizzing melodies and strummed and plucked chords that took the innovations of the late Jaco Pastorius a step further.
Nearly a dozen concise, varied pieces used stop-start patterns, rock and funk riffs, bursts of loud noise and relative quiet, and Mr. Moss's own sense of timing and timbre -part funk, part slapstick. He uses a drum kit that features bent-up, clanking cymbals as well as conventional ones, so a steady beat can sound like it suddenly collided with a garbage truck.
Mr. Horvitz's bell-like keyboard sounds, Mr. King's guitar twangs and Mr. Marclay's selections from records - mostly swelling orchestral chords and operatic voices, rendered silly by their context - also contributed to the poised, cheerful cacophony. The only problem was the Whitney Annex's acoustics; the echoing concrete-and-glass room muddied the music.

Jon Pareles (New York Times, 1987)


Frigg : "Dust diary"

(99 records, 1997)


note : other great Frigg albums on Lucky blog : HERE

"The tapes"

(Katahdin, 1998)

the story :

In 1995, I had just moved to East 3rd Street and was thrilled by the East Village’s then vital music scene, but I was still spending a great deal of time working with Anthony Braxton and various other people from his community. I loved working with Braxton, but I also was on the lookout for some people who were closer to me in age (21) and in aesthetic.
The first time I played with Reuben Radding and John Hollenbeck at John’s rehearsal space near Times Square I was utterly unprepared to meet two musicians who fit the bill so perfectly. Reuben, who I met at my first and only concert at the old Knitting Factory (a duo with Anthony Coleman in the Knot Room), shared my musical obsessions, which at the time were free jazz, field recordings of traditional world musics, and post-punk of the Minutemen/Hüsker Dü type. I had never even heard Hollenbeck before. Of course, he was and is a unique virtuoso, and before he discovered yoga, meditation, and Meredith Monk, he was rather intimidating as a player and as a person. His fiery, unpredictable playing combined with his implacable demeanor gave a mysterious first impression. I wanted to work with them, and Reuben seemed amenable to the concept, but John’s reaction was unreadable. As Reuben and I headed to the F train, I asked him, “Do you think John liked it?” Reuben seemed confident that he did.
So we had a band, but we needed a gig. I also had recently met a couple of young go-getters named John Scott and Melissa Caruso. John was exploring an amazing new technology called “the internet.” He was convinced that it was going to be big. Melissa, a native Lower East Sider (I have often thought of the Fugs song “Slum Goddess” when around her), observed that the rapidly gentrifying East Village needed a low-key, comfortable space where students, drifters, writers, musicians and stray celebrities could lounge for hours on flea market sofas. So they rented a vacant dentist’s office on Avenue A between 9th Street and St. Mark’s Place, installed some T1 lines and an espresso machine and created Defying logic, John and Melissa decided that what they really needed to attract a sexy young clientele was some avant-garde accordion music. They asked me if I’d be interested in playing there once a week.
It is not hard to get gigs in New York. There are plenty of venues that book unknown musicians who are willing play for the door, for tips, or for no money at all. In the hardscrabble New York jazz world, many artists struggle for years to develop a musical concept playing random one-off gigs with ad-hoc groups of freelance musicians. While this can be a rewarding experience on some (mostly non-monetary) levels, the only way to coalesce a band’s musical identity, start to develop a devoted audience, and maybe even generate some much-needed buzz in one fell swoop is a regular gig with the same people in the same place for an extended period of time. Many of the artists and groups who dominate creative music started with the assistance of regular gigs (Medeski Martin & Wood = Village Gate, Masada = Mission Café & Mogador, Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio = Bell Caffe). Having only been in town for a few months, I didn’t realize what a rare and special opportunity John and Melissa were offering me, but Reuben and John, crusty veterans that they were, knew all too well. When I called and pitched them the idea, they jumped at it.
Soon enough, one fine Monday night I was rousing people in varying degrees of stupor from their thrift store sofas, a process which was to be dubbed “harshing mellows.” After pushing aside the larger pieces of furniture and setting up the drums right in front of the window, we looked out onto Tompkins Square Park and Avenue A’s endless stream of humanity. It was clear that this would not be a normal gig. Unlike most jazz clubs where the band is snugly ensconced in the most isolated, cloistered area of the building, so that the pristine listening environment will not be disturbed by ambient noise, we were pushed right up against the street. Our mise-en-scene was permeable to both outside noise and outside people. Everyone passing by heard us, and thanks to free admission, our audience often included random passers-by who would not normally be encountered in the sheltered environment of the jazz club. As one elder musician commented after a particularly disturbing encounter with the outside world (a pair of East Village lunatics came in to provide some thoroughly whacked-out criticism), “I’ve played for the door, but I’ve never played near the door.”
Then, a truly remarkable thing happened. Week by week, more and more people started coming to the gigs- and not just random street maniacs. By the winter of 1996, Monday night at felt… happening! It must have been rather shocking to stumble into a slightly grungy café where three nerdy-looking guys were playing spunky versions of Sun Ra grooves and Turkish folk songs to a rapt (or maybe just nodded-out) crowd of East-Villagers, plus a bunch of oblivious ‘net surfers. Some press coverage followed, and Monday night at became an institution. Even a few uptowners began showing up: clarinetist David Krakauer started sitting in, becoming a regular featured guest and drawing in many more people with his pied-piper-like Klezmer wail.
But as all “Behind the Music” viewers know, success in the music business, even on our stratospheric level, is always accompanied by crushing interpersonal strains leading to an inevitable implosion, after which some band members carry on, in a pathetic attempt to salvage their careers. For Reuben, the stress of leading his Sun Ra tribute band Myth-Science through its rather problematic Knitting Factory-booked tour of European jazz festivals, combined with his crushing schedule of free jazz gigs and his budding career as a freelance porn scribe, led him to a logical and understandable decision: move to Montana. John, knowing that the situation at was too good to lose, formed the Claudia Quintet with Drew Gress, Matt Moran, Chris Speed and me. Since the members of the CQ were too busy to perform every Monday, I transformed Monday night at into a normal concerts series. Our friends like Matt and Theo Bleckmann started playing, as did elder statesmen of the East Village like Tim Berne, Anthony Coleman and Eugene Chadbourne.
As the cachet of a gig at altdot increased, so did the traffic on my answering machine. I became burned out from an endless stream of phone calls from my fellow musicians seeking gigs. John and Melissa started to work on new ventures and spend less time at altdot, and the new staff was less sympathetic to our music. I have a vivid memory of the night when one of the greatest improv performances I have ever witnessed (by John, Matt, Theo, and Skuli Sverrisson), was given the hook by a clueless counterperson. The band seamlessly continued its performance while breaking down its gear, maintaining the same level of intensity until the last drumstick was put away. In some ways I feel like that music never really ended...
Of course, the “new ventures” John and Melissa were working on proved to be more important than we could have imagined. Inspired by’s success, John and Melissa rented the former Kedem kosher winery on then desolate Norfolk street and opened Tonic. In the beginning, Tonic featured a beauty salon in front and a rotating schedule of entertainment including a Wednesday night music series curated by yours truly, an expansion of the booking policy. The first gig at Tonic was Mark Stewart of the Bang on a Can All Stars, Polygraph Lounge, and Paul Simon’s band, playing the daxophone to the horror of a chihuahua. But the Tonic story is one for another day.
Thankfully, the music of survives on this CD, which I produced in an optimistic moment in 1998. Flush with cash from a part-time job at an Internet company (are you feeling the waves of nostalgia yet?), I printed up these CD’s, which sold approximately… bupkis. But now, thanks to the world-wide blockbuster success of my record “Emigré” and those of the Claudia Quintet, maybe the world finally is ready for the music we made on those Monday nights.

Ted Reichman


dimanche 22 novembre 2009

Wayne Horvitz-Butch Morris-Bobby Previte : "Nine below zero"

(Sound Aspects, 1987)

Nine Below Zero is a relatively early recorded example of all three of the players involved and, interestingly, one of their freest and most rewarding. Horvitz and Previte, in particular, would go on to much more thematic music, drawing heavily from rock, jazz, and fusion, though hints of those borrowings certainly show up here. These pieces are somewhat closer, in miniature form, to the "conductions" which Butch Morris would champion in oncoming years, striking a delicate balance between composition and free improvisation. The general mood is subdued and introspective, Horvitz' signature keyboard sound playing very nicely off Morris' lovely, melancholy cornet. The pieces, with the exception of two typically gorgeous numbers by Robin Holcomb, are all by Horvitz and, when the melody eventually surfaces, have his sense of off-kilter, slightly poppy feel to them, as though rescuing the lone delicious kernels from an otherwise forgettable Top 40 ditty. A couple of tracks feature the unfortunate sound of mid-'80s drum machines, prevalent at the time among with a number of musicians experimenting with new technology, but sounding shallow and trite 15 years hence. Still, as Horvitz and Previte especially have garnered larger followings in the ensuing years, Nine Below Zero is a very worthwhile picture of one aspect of the roots and a fine recording in general.

Brian Olewnick (All Music)


Jim Staley : "Northern dancer"

(Einstein, 1996)

Jim Staley occupies a unique position among trombonists, crossing genres freely between post-modern classical music and avant-garde jazz. He boasts spectacular technique, including the ability to spit forth clusters of notes at rapid speed. Usually concentrating in the mid-to-lower registers of the trombone, his big, gruff tone hearkens to an earlier era, though his wondrous abilities and style plant him firmly in the free music world. Raised in Illinois, Staley served in the armed forces as a member of a U.S. Army Band in Berlin, before receiving Bachelor and Masters degrees in music from the University of Illinois in the late 1970s. Since 1978, Staley has lived in lower Manhattan, where he has actively performed and recorded with many cutting edge innovators.

Recorded nearly a decade after the epochal Mumbo Jumbo, and using some of the same musicians, Jim Staley continues to effectively utilize the trio format, although he adds an effective duo piece with John Zorn (again on alto sax) and a deliberative solo statement on trombone. Every one of the nine tracks has its moments, but the emphasis on longer pieces and greater atmosphere mitigates the edge that made the earlier release so compelling. Still, admirers of Staley's gorgeously subversive trombone will not be disappointed, as he continues to impress with knotty runs, fat, globular splats, and riveting, muted jabs. The two tracks with electric harpist Zeena Parkins take awhile to get moving, but the attractive work of Ikue Mori on drum machines and Davey Williams on guitar adds nicely to the mix.

Steve Loewy (All Music)


Zeena Parkins : "The opium war"


This fascinating radio play about the opium trade in New York at the turn of the 20th century is such a confounding, brilliant assortment of fragmented narrative — that tracks wonderfully for those who pay attention — and instrumental prowess it's a wonder of the soundscape form. Zeena Parkins has enlisted the aid of some of Downtown's finest to help realize Ana Maria Simò's text, produced the record, and turned over the entire project to Linda Chapman to direct. Centering on one family in transition in New York, the Parkins/Simò collaboration uses seven cast members to tell a conflicting tale of love, race relations, commerce, and the shifting perception of the narcotics trade in early-20th century New York. Parkins scripted sections for each of the instrumentalists here to play in tandem with one another or solo as an accompaniment to the narrative. DJ Olive, Margaret Parkins, Ikue Mori, Tenko, Chris Cochrane, David Shea, Jo Trump, D.D. Dorveillier, and Jonathan Bepler all lend hands toward creating a non-instructive, yet instrumentally and sonically compelling, musical narrative that suggests the narrative forward. Different sounds become associated with different characters; they appear whenever the character speaks. The play itself is a study in narrative brokenness, with the entire tale being revealed without a narrator. Tensions become nearly unbearable as they reflect the separation and brokenness in human relationships when economics becomes an equation for power within a household, within a neighborhood, within a city. This is arresting stuff. It may not be for everybody, but for those who are patient enough to take it in, it offers great rewards.

Thom Jurek (All Music)


NB : one fabulous (out of print) album by Zeena Parkins (with Christian Marclay, Tom Cora, Samm Bennett, Iku Mori, Wayne Horvitz...) on LAFOLIEDUJOUR blog : HERE

Aki Onda : "Beautiful contradiction"

(All Access, 1998)

... If anyone who deserves to inherit Ryuichi Sakamoto's role as rootless cosmopolitan, it's Onda. 1998's Beautiful Contradiction CD shares Sakamoto's aesthetic delicacy and networking capacity, with a cast list that includes Brixa Bargeld, French Improv guitarist Noël Akchoté, soundtrack composer Simon Fisher Turner, and on the extraordinary "Do You Remember?", singer Linda Sharrock, wife of the late electric jazz guitarist Sonny. "I was inspired by her voice for a long time," rhapsodies Onda. "It consists of strength and weakness, a fever and ice cold sadness - I thought her voice was a 'beautiful contradiction' in itself. Perfect voice for me. Normally it's not difficult to find someone to work with. If I listen to their sound carefully, I can know them immediately. I just follow my intuition. I saw Noël Akchoté in 1996 or 97, his music was so brilliant and I assumed this guy has a sense that is very close to mine. He knows how to reflect himself in music - he's not just a guitarist."
Onda's project sure clock up the air miles: he records in London, Tokyo, Paris, New York. Does he need be on the move to make music? "My imagination is developed in an imaginary space," he muses, "not in a physically existing city such as Tokyo, London, or Paris. Somewhere between two cities. A place maybe existing in a film. Milan Kundera, a Czech writer who now lives in France, his books gave me a good suggestion on this."
Escaping into an aesthetic universe revealed to him by his painter mother, and mindful of the hardships he witnessed in Nara's Buraku ghetto of displaced ethnic folk, he bypassed the plasticity 80s New Wave by taking refuge in the free jazz of Albert Ayler, Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Don Cherry. After a few years in London he moved to Osaka, had his mind blown by seeing Otomo Yoshihide's Ground Zero ("The furious sound was so desperate!"), and fell in with screaming singer Yamatsuka Eye (whose group, Boredoms, Onda had once photographed as a teenager) and electronics expert Nobukazu Takemura, forming Audio Sports in 1990. "The mood in Osaka was completely different from Tokyo's: more lively and crazy," he says. "It was a small society and everyone knew each other."
Audio Sports grew from the skewed HipHop of their 1992 debut Era Of Glittering Gas, to the psychotropic brew on 1996's mini-album Strange Emotion, which featured Otomo, rapper D-zine, saxophonist Greg Osby and gender-bending synth player Hoppy Kamiyama. By 1998 onda was ready to strike out on his own; his solo work opens out a space where musicians can spool their contributions into a sound pool. "When I work with musicians in the studio," he says, "I always bring a master plan and try to fix it with them. But sometimes the others have a better idea. And if it's better than mine, I definitely take it. i don't have an interest in a world where everyone has the same idea. I'm not an egoistic tyrant."
"The most important thing in my music," he continues, "[is that] I'm always describing 'personal politics' between individuals. My music exists where their gaze and my gaze cross. When it happens in a studio, I catch it quickly and record it onto a tape. I collect such fragments that really connect to our experience. I try to create a space where voices mingle and overlap. So I think I'm just describing our daily life. I'm always watching for something 'behind the sound'".
If the content of so much electronica refers back only to the tools that constructed it, Onda's poetic sensibility suggests a new expressive range. "I've been questioning whether music evolves from music itself. I stopped thinking about this possibility in 1996. That's why I stopped using the project name Audio Sports. I was playing musical experience and eclectic styles anonymously: a sound game, I think. But what I'm doing now is a mind game."

Rob Young (excerpts from an article in The Wire, September 1999)


samedi 14 novembre 2009

Michael Shrieve : "Fascination" + "Flying Polly"

(Cmp, 1994)

Progressing with guitarist Carlos Santana from his early Afro-Cuban rock and pop-based successes to his experimentation with jazz fusion, drummer Michael Shrieve subsequently released a string of fine solo recordings of his own. These two features guitar hero Bill Frisell and the ever-inventive organist Wayne Horvitz for a rather divergent set featuring ethereal soundscapes, loose grooves, and crunching opuses. Here, Shrieve provides sturdy backbeats to coincide with some nicely placed fills and his acute implementations of the dynamic. This effort highlights Frisell's wily and rather slithery guitar work, enhanced by the glowing sonic characteristics of the production, when viewed upon as a whole. The band is apt to soar skyward via climactic overtures in concert with a crash-and-burn methodology. Needless to say, this affair represents a potent concoction of jazz fusion melded with folksy themes and an avant-garde-type swing vamp, evidenced on "The Glass Tent." Yet, after a string of enterprising solo outings, Shrieve's solo career quieted down to a near whisper during the late '90s and into the new millennium.

Glenn Astarita (All Music)

disc 1 : HERE

disc 2 : HERE

jeudi 1 octobre 2009

Swami LatePlate : "Doom Jazz"

(Veal, 2007)

Although Jamie Saft is best known as a jazz pianist, especially for his work with various Masada projects, he's a rocker at heart who lists ZZ Top among his favorite bands. Swami LatePlate—his duo with drummer Bobby Previte—seeks to a degree to cross the divide. In one sense a piano trio, with Saft doubling on electric bass, the project borrows as much from heavy rock sensibilities. Their debut album and the first on Saft's new label Veal, falls closer to the jazz side, but the title indicates the process that got them there.
Using doom—a slow, foreboding style of heavy metal—as a template, the duo crafts a set of songs that creeps along powerfully. The themes are simple, generally carried by subdued bass lines and ornamented by the piano like salt on a glacier. What jumps out most is Previte's drumming. Every cymbal vibration and snare snap leaps to the foreground and, with rare exception, decays before the next strike, as much a testament to Previte's assured playing as Saft's engineering. The sound throughout is bright and super present.
Ultimately, the record bears more than a little resemblance to the great and longstanding Australian trio The Necks. Each moment is its own event, each note frozen in amber. Regardless of the rock modeling, the disc is likely to satisfy Saft and Previte's audiences; and given the elegiac, actually beautiful work of some doom bands (the solo piano on Corrupted's "Llenandose de Gusanos," for example), it could appeal to fans of the fringes of metal as well.

Kurt Gottschalk (All About Jazz)


mercredi 30 septembre 2009

The Bang : "Omonimo"

(Nueva, 1991)


Pigpen : "Daylight"

(Tim/Kerr, 1997)

I had been living in Seattle a short time when Jerry Granelli, the great drummer, who was teaching at Cornish at the time, called me up. He was making a record with Anthony Cox, Bill Frisell, Robben Ford and Kenny Garrett and he wanted me to write an arrangement or two. He was thinking about the book Coming Through Slaughter, the great novel about Buddy Bolden, so I wrote a tune for him called In That Number. The tune was a bit tricky, so Jerry asked if he could come over with a couple of local guys and rehearse it ahead of time, since the “real” band wouldn’t be arriving until the day of the recording. He arrived with Phil Sparks, a Seattle bass player I have worked with many times since, and Briggan Krauss, who arrived with blue hair as I recall. Briggan and I became fast friends. I was and still am a huge fan of his alto playing, and I think that he may have the most original concept on the alto of anyone of his generation. Through Briggan, I met a whole crew of folks that were going to Cornish at the time, all of whom became musical partners in time…Tim Young, Geoff Harper, Mike Stone, Eyvind Kang, Reggie Watts and more.
I met Fred Chalenor through Fred Frith and Amy Denio, and he was floating between Portland and Seattle. He had been the last bass player in The President, and I was ready to put that band to rest and start something based in my new hometown. Briggan recommended Mke Stone. Musically, Pigpen was influenced by my tenure in Naked City, and my long time association with John Zorn more than any other project I have ever had. Actually I take that back – it was Naked City, and not my long time association with John. I played piano in jazz and blues bands, but keyboards and organ for me were mostly instruments I had come to use in more open situations. I had developed a language that I was very comfortable with, but in Naked City I was called upon to play keys on all styles of music, often following some stellar solo by Frisell, and on a DX-7 to boot. By the time the band broke up I felt I was just getting the hang of it. Also we had so many tunes that we often didn’t get a chance to dig into any of them, which was a blast, but also very challenging. So when I started writing for Pigpen I wanted to keep working on these challenges, and I also had in mind the aesthetic of the other guys in the band, and especially Mike and Briggan who were very young.
I found this generation curious (they were all about 15 years my junior) because they were very literate about jazz through Coltrane, and familiar with current trends at the time, including my own work and other “downtown scene” types, but they tended not to know a lot about the AACM, Art Ensemble, Cecil Taylor, or for that matter all the important Dutch, English and other international improvisers. Also we came from two very different eras of rock music, so I was suddenly surrounded by Black Sabbath and AC/DC fans. Mike Stone was particularly well versed in this milieu, having grown up in Bremerton WA, home to the naval base. When he conjured up the spirits of what he so eloquently termed “butt-rock” it rang true in a way that many similar attempts by various jazz drummers sometimes didn’t.
We made an EP, 2 full length CDs and a live CD for Tim Kerr – Halfrack, Miss Ann, Daylight, and Live in Poland. We also did a 7 inch for Tim Kerr, and V as in Victim for the AVANT label. Pigpen performed a few European tours, and some gigs on the East Coast, but mostly we played in the Northwest and down into California.
Over time the Naked City influence seemed to wear away and I think both Miss Ann and Daylight really represent my favorite work the band did, although a lot of fans are especially fond of Live In Poland. My daughter’s favorite track is Kind of Dead which is the A side of the 7”. The piece used a sample from the first Grateful Dead album and some chords from Kind of Blue…hence the title.
And yes, PIGPEN was named for the keyboard player in the Grateful Dead.

by Wayne Horvitz himself on his blog.


mardi 29 septembre 2009

Elliott Sharp + Bobby Previte : "The prisoner's dilemma"

(Grob, 2002)

They have known each other since 1973 and since then have played together in numerous groups and ad-hoc combination, there have been countless recordings and still they have never made a duo record together. We're taking about Elliott Sharp-guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer-and Bobby Previte-drummer and percussionist.
That is reason why The Prisoner's Dilemma sounds like a conversation between old friends about plans for the future and stories from yesterday, but at the same time sound new and unheard-of. It is a conversation that has never been carried out in public before in this breadth and with this love of details.
Of course, neither Previte nor Sharp care about trends or hip attitudes, they know each other too well to do that. And moreover, they draw their music from an extremely rich history. Both are influential figures of the New York Down Town scene-from the very beginning. They haven't just played with the greats (John Zorn, Bill Laswell ...), but they themselves count among these musicians, without exception. In addition they have proven themselves as band leaders, label makers and composers, they helped make The Knitting Factory what it now is, and now, where they have passed their 50th year in the best health, they have enough energy to take on new large project.
The Prisoner's Dilemma is such a project. In the foreground is the groove. No, in the foreground is the layering and condensation of rhythms and sounds. Or does one have to speak of sublime flow that they celebrate and that reminds one of Can or on the abstract projects of the SST family?
The Prisoner's Dilemma cannot simply be typecast; too much happens, too much rocks at the same time. Never does the music, however, at any point in time, take on an arbitrary character. Seldom has one heard a grooving improvising duo play so resolutely. They don't make any false compromises. If the consequence out of their interaction means "noise," then they take it up and the music is exactly that: an outbreak of energy, a first-class power play. Bobby Previte and Elliott Sharp can also let the things run, laid back, they can allow themselves to cite musical-historical references without seeming so obvious or eclectic. As said, both have a lot to tell. The Prisoner's Dilemma presents the highlights of their conversation.

(from GROB site)


lundi 28 septembre 2009

Steven Bernstein + Marcus Rojas + Kresten Osgood : "Tatoos & mushrooms"

(Ilk Music, 2008)

Featuring Steven Bernstein on trumpet & slide trumpets, Marcus Rojas on tuba and Kresten Osgood on drums. Multi-bandleader, arranger and trumpet hero Steve Bernstein never seems to rest. Besides running Sex Mob and the Millennial Territory Orchestra, he has four fabulous discs on Tzadik and has worked with Lounge Lizards, Kamikaze Ground Crew, Max Nagl's Big Four, Satoko Fujii and Mario Pavone. He was also a member of an early downtown trio called Spanish Fly with Dave Tronzo and Marcus Rojas, who still get together on occasion when Tronzo is in town. Since Mr. Tronzo has relocated to the Boston area, Spanish Fly plays gigs with guest members like Ned Rothenberg. Hence this new trio with Marcus Rojas and Danish drum wiz Kresten Osgood, who seems to get around and appears on more discs than I can count. It is Kresten who is the main composer on this disc.
The very first sound you hear on this disc is Marcus playing his tuba like a dijeradoo, making this spooky hum/growl. Besides four originals by Kresten, there are a few select and diverse covers by Charles Brackeen, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus and Hank Williams. Charles Brackeen's "Prince of Night" starts things off and is a perfect opening piece. It has a peaceful, spiritual vibe and a delicate, somber melody. Kresten's skeletal yet seductive "Hope for Denmark" shows how to set the scene with a minimum of notes. It reminds me of how the blues works best with a handful of select notes, where each one counts. Marcus Rojas is a master tuba player with his own distinctive sound and approach. He starts Monk's "Thelonius" by rubbing and tapping on his tuba while he hums of just plays a certain eerie notes. When he switches to the bass line, he sounds totally old school and filled with friendly swagger. "Scaramanga" is an eerie, spacy improvised trio that floats freely and thoughtfully. Kresten's drums are recorded with breathtaking care and are at the center of "Abington". His mallet use is sublime and works well with Steve's haunting muted trumpet and Marcus cosmic droning tuba. Initially I thought that there is nothing that connects Mingus' "Eastcoasting" with Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Both were written in the fifties and played next to each other, they both evoke a certain timeless quality, especially the way the trio turn Hank's song inside out and sent it to the outer space. The feeling that I get from this gem is that it is Kresten that called the shots and organized to session. This is indeed a wonderful job from all three members of this phenomenal trio.

Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)


Michael Moore trio : "Holocene"

(Ramboy, 2008)

As a member of Amsterdam's venerable ICP Orchestra, saxophonist Michael Moore's musicianship and playfulness can be assumed, a part of the raconteur spirit that unites the members of Misha Mengelberg's ensemble. Outside the ICP, Moore is involved in a number of projects, as diverse as they are satisfyingly, realized. From the Bob Dylan interpretations of Jewels & Binoculars to the offbeat Available Jelly and his longstanding Clusone Trio with Han Bennink and Ernst Reijiseger, Moore's wide-ranging interests never lack a sense of full commitment to the project.Moore seems to enjoy three-piece settings. Along with Clusone and Jewels & Binoculars, Moore has released two records (on his Ramboy label) with Fred Hersch and Mark Helias, and now premieres a great triad with Guy Klusevcek and Erik Friedlander. The title, Holocene, comes from the Greek word meaning "entirely new," but as Moore explains in the brief liner notes refers here to the holocene epoch, the geological period between the last ice age and the current day. It's a lot of temporal ground to cover, but the 13 tunes here, all composed by Moore, are sweepingly romantic. The rich, wet midrange of clarinet, accordion and cello can't help but evoke rainy afternoons and red-wine dinners, melancholy and nostalgia, and Moore is deft enough to hide his sentiments inside the music, rather than smearing them across its face. Moments of abstraction are mirrored by segments of sheer loveliness.

Kurt Gottschalk (All About Jazz)


The Fell Clutch


The Fell Clutch feature Ned Rothenberg on bass & regular clarinets & alto sax, Stomu Takeishi on fretless electric bass, Tony Buck on drums and Dave Tronzo on slide guitar (3 tracks only). There was rave review of this quartet playing live in Brooklyn last year by Andre Henkin in All About Jazz, so I've been eagerly awaiting this disc to arrive. And what an amazing and unlikely downtown all-star quartet this is. I recall Ned Rothenberg sitting in with Spanish Fly (Tronzo, Steve Bernstein & Marcus Rojas) in the recent past and fretless bass god, Stomu Takeishi (Threadgill's Make a Move & Myra Melford) has been a longtime partner with Tronzo in his trios/duo throughout the years, so that's where these connections were made. Australian drum wiz, Tony Buck (The Necks), has been coming to town pretty often in the last few years and has played at a couple of Zorn's monthly improv sessions at The Stone, which is where this quartet first played together. Enough history. Which brings us to this colossal trio and quartet date.
The Fell Clutch love to twist its grooves inside-out. Ned establishes the groove on the opening piece, "moment of reloading" on his bass clarinet with Tony playing skeletal drums, Stomu throbbing those cool bass swirls and Dave playing his fractured slide sounds. Stomu's sly, distinctive fretless bass sound starts off "life in your years" with Ned's sumptuous clarinet and Dave's haunting slide slowly swirling around one another, a superb gem. What is most wonderful about this disc is that although it is mostly improvised, this trio or quartet sound as if they are playing mainly charted pieces, so focused is the overall sound. On "food for a rambling", Ned sets up an odd groove with a bent sax -line that he repeats and twists into odd shapes as he circular breathes with the bass and drums punctuate his groove. It's always great to hear Tronzo make his guitar talk, which he does on a number of these pieces with his wah-wah slide playing. I dig the way the guitar, bass & drums often set up these great little grooves, sometimes a bit bent but always infectious in one way or another. "epic in difference" is in fact an epic-length piece that begins with immense suspense, floats eerily with Ned playing dijeradoo-like bass clarinet. The bass and guitar sound like mutant ghosts as Tony plays alarm clock-like cymbals. It builds in intensity as it develops, feeling like some sort of ritualistic dance of the spirits. This is a most mesmerizing journey through some dark lands. An awesome endeavor from a fine quartet downtown's best.

Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)


vendredi 25 septembre 2009

Joey Baron + Elliott Sharp + Roberto Zorzi : "Beyond"

(Auditorium, 2001)

Recorded in New York in 2000, this trio perform some exceptional avant-garde improvised music, using electronics and loops, featuring both electric and acoustic moments. The trio features two of downtown N.Y.C.'s finest avant-garde musicians of the '80s and '90s; composer and multi instrumentalist Elliott Sharp is a ubiquitous "downtown" player, and John Zorn's favored drummer, Joey Baron, is outstanding on this candid session. The trio is completed with Italian guitarist Roberto Zorzi, who is a unique and distinctive musician, seemingly unlimited by string instruments. With Joey Baron providing angular beats and electronic rhythms, Elliott Sharp and Roberto Zorzi exchange between sundry instruments — eight-string bass and acoustic guitar, soprano sax, and loops, dobro, and electric bass. Recorded and mixed by Sharp, the ten tracks on this CD exhibit some highly inventive music that sits on the improvised/post rock/experimental axis.

Skip Jansen (All Music)


jeudi 24 septembre 2009

Elliott Sharp : "Beneath the valley of the ultra-yahoos"

(Silent, 1992)

"Melding shards of avant garde, jazz, mainstream pop, etc., Elliott Sharp has concocted a visceral combination between Russ Meyer's phobic visions of American sexuality and violence with 'Gulliver's Travels' in the land of the savage yahoos, resulting in a humorous and excoriating soundtrack to the American landscape. Features Samm Bennett, Eugene Chadbourne and Anthony Coleman".

1/ Music Of Amrka (2:15)
2/ Biblebelt In The Mouth (2:00)
3/ Blinders (3:05)
4/ Pornshards (3:04)
5/ Iced (2:42)
6/ Splatter Dub (2:42)
7/ Triumph Of The Won't (2:52)
8/ Return Of The Pharm Boys (2:38)
9/ Obedience School (2:39)
10/ X-plicit (5:06)
11/ Top Ten (2:37)
12/ Semtex (letter to the court) (3:27)
13/ Golfgames (2:01)
14/ Late Capitalism Sexual Practices (2:42)
15/ Soylent Verde (1:23)
16/ Silenced (2:41)
17/ Fax or Fiction (1:51)
18/ The Pledge (3:26)

musicians :

Elliott Sharp : guitars, bass, sampler, voice, alto sax, computer
Samm Bennett : drums (1,2,3,4,6,11,12)
Anthony Coleman : organ (3,9,18)
Eugene Chadbourne : voice, piano (8), dobro (18)
Alva Rogers : voice (3)
Poison-Tete : voice (5,11)
Sussan Deihim : voices (10)
Shelley Hirsch : voice (12)
Barbara Barg : voices (13)
KJ Grant : voices (16)
Lee Ann Brown : voice (18)


mercredi 23 septembre 2009

Elliott Sharp orchestra Carbon : "Radiolaria"


This is E#'s fourth self-produced Orchestra Carbon release and it features an all-star downtown cast with Ned Rothenberg, Andy Laster, Evan Spritzer & Tim Smith on reeds; Steve Swell & Julie Kalu on trombones; Brian McWhorter & Eric Shanfield on trumpets; Zeena Parkins, David Weinstein & Luke Dubois on samplers, Jim Pugliese on percussion and Elliott Sharp on soprano sax, computer, composition and direction. It was recorded live at Tonic in March of 2001 by yours truly, DMG founder (and NY Downtown scene archivist) Bruce Gallanter! 'Radiolaria' begins with Elliott's snaking charming soprano sax which introduces that sly undercurrent of things to come. Elliott's highly idiosyncratic music has unique rhythmic sense, as well as some bizarre, alien harmonies which seem to push the saxes and horns in waves which both collide and connect as they slide through some strange exotic scale. Each part of this seven section work, seems to deal with different textures and combinations of difficult harmonic layers. I dig how on the third section, what sounds like the random rhythmic placement buzzing fragments, begins to evolve into a recognized pattern before it ends. There segments which I could quite get the first few times I heard this, but which are finally beginning to make more sense as I dig deeper into the undercurrent of connection. The fourth part features those morse code-like staccato horn parts that I find fascinating in the works of Xenakis or Penderecki. Part five reminds me of the Mothers when they start stretching those notes in a twisted, yet humorous way. The final section is the most startling, the shimmering, somewhat scary mass of shifting horns and saxes radiates a breath-taking wall of dense textures which create a challenging environment of refracted images like a twisted mirror or lens. If I played it too loud, my next door neighbors might freak-out, but at a more tolerable volume, it becomes a kaleidoscope or swirling colors. A must for the scientists and true explorers among us.

Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)


mardi 22 septembre 2009

Yeah No : "Swell Henry"

(Squealer, 2004)

There goes Chris Speed again, hogging the spotlight and never giving his bandmates any opportunities to shine. The preceding remark is intended as a joke. In actuality, Speed might be one of the least ego-driven jazzers around today, and if one measure of greatness in a creative musician is a demonstrated ability to bring out the best in his or her collaborators and unite them in a singular artistic conception, then Speed is indeed one helluva great creative musician. In fact, on Swell Henry, Speed's fourth CD leading his yeah NO quartet, the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist seems to have been fully absorbed into the band as a member equal to the others, although he wrote or co-wrote all but one of the recording's ten tracks. His name doesn't even appear on the outside of the CD booklet or back tray card; Swell Henry is presented as a recording by a group called yeah NO. And yet Speed's artistic persona comes through with full force, strength, and assurance on this release, even as the reedman steadfastly refuses to relegate his sidemen to the role of, well, mere sidemen. Speed's yeah NO bandmates — bassist Skuli Sverrisson, drummer Jim Black, and trumpeter Cuong Vu — are more akin to full partners in sculpting the group's overall sound, and are as committed to that sound as Speed himself. In fact, these days the likeminded musicians of yeah NO seem to be moving a bit closer to the sonics and spirit of Pachora, the Balkan/Mediterranean-themed quartet that also features Speed, Black, and Sverrisson. Pachora has no "leader" per se, and has continued to twist its traditional-inspired music into more forward-thinking shapes with each successive release. Meanwhile, the more open-formatted yeah NO appears to be headed in Pachora's direction, on Swell Henry often drawing inspiration from Balkan and Eastern European modes and combining the talents of all the participating musicians into a truly collaborative sound.
Given the uniformly high quality of the material here, it's nearly meaningless to single out highlights, but certainly deserving mention are "Last Beginning"'s slow and dramatic build to an anthemic, rockish bridge and solo tenor break; the freewheeling clarinet that dances over Black's crisply driving rhythm in "Born in the Air"; and the Speed/Vu spirited interplay over "Camper Giorno"'s mid-tempo vamp. Reminiscent of "Drifting" from Pachora's Astereotypical, the virtuosic Sverrisson's moody neo-classical "Cloud Stopper" further proves the bassist's skill as a composer of strikingly beautiful music. And the fiery quasi-fusion of "Flanked" and skittering free jazz of "He Has a Pair of Dice" are full-bodied demonstrations of the chops these guys possess. Throughout the disc, the plaintive and melancholy qualities of Speed's tenor phrasing and tone add both subtlety and emotional depth to even the most groove-oriented tunes, while Vu continues to perfect his explosive, distortion-laden crescendos. And adding warmth to the proceedings is the lovely accordion of guest Rob Burger on five tracks, while additional guest Jamie Saft contributes some Mellotron here and there that might have listeners of a certain age flashing back to Starless and Bible Black-era King Crimson, of all things.

Dave Lynch (All About Jazz)


Roy Nathanson : "Fire at Keaton's bar & grill"

(Six Degrees, 2000)

Roy Nathanson has always been a storyteller. In the late 1980s, his band with Curtis Fowlkes, called the Jazz Passengers, echoed the voices he heard from his New York streets. Deranged and Decomposed and Broken Night/Red Light, both nearly impossible to find recordings, spoke of multi-ethnic ramblings, preachers, and strange drugs. Nathanson also wrote music for performance artist David Cale, accenting his tales. Later work with the Lounge Lizards and the nineties reincarnation of the Jazz Passengers with vocalist Debbie Harry of Blondie fame, further broadened Nathanson's musical palate. He is a showman with an inclination for burlesque, a joke and a good time.
Fire is the full realization of his storytelling. He constructs an imaginary tavern, with an assemblage of patrons and odd characters that include Deborah Harry as Cups, the bartender everyone lusts for, Elvis Costello the narrator, Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs as the would be arsonist, and various patrons that include a micro and a macro physicist. Not since The Who's Tommy or, well...The Van Trapp families exploits has musical theatre captured my imagination. Nathanson's theater is all about the bar's characters. Scored with tangos, a saxophone quartet, funk, organ grease, and Jazz Passengers circus music, the musical vignettes shed light on the tragic night of the fire, hint at relationships and turmoil, before disappearing into the smoke.
Nancy King and Kenny Washington sing/scat "Bar Stool Paradise" ala' "Moody's Mood For Love" at true lush life where a few drinks create eternal love, at least for tonight.
Nathanson casts his musical theatre with top musicians and eclectic styles. Where else can a B3, as if in a make believe jazz night, play opposite a cello and Dobro "kid song" next to a love song between two gay particle physicists? Somehow Elvis Costello's voice has become the narration of our times and Harry's graduation from Blondie signals a collective call for all of us to grow up already. Nathanson has given us the postmodern-Cheers, then burned it to the ground. See, jazz can be fun music, it can be theatre, and it can tell stories.

Mark Corroto (All About Jazz)

1- Fire suite 1
2- Fire suite 2
3- Fire suite 3
4- Bar stool paradise
5- Last call
6- Jazz night at Keaton's
7- A bend in the night
8- Carol Ann
9- Toast quartet
10- Loss
11- Cups
12- Fire suite reprise

musicians :

Roy Nathanson : alto, tenor & soprano sax (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12)
Bill Ware : vibes, piano, hammond B3 (3,8,11,12)
Brad Jones : bass (1,3,5,8,12)
EJ Rodriguez : drums, percussion (1,3,5,11,12)
Marc Ribot : guitar (3,4,11)
Erik Friedlander : cello (1,10)
Jay Rodriguez : tenor sax (2,3,6,9)
Curtis Fowlkes : trombone (5,6,11)
Ben Perowsky : drums (3,6,8)
Anthony Coleman : piano (7)
Sam Furnace : baritone sax (2,3,9)
Ned Rothenberg : alto sax (2,3,9)
Rob Thomas : violin (5,6)
Charles Earland : hammond B3 (4,6)
Marcus Rojas : tuba (11)
Deidre Rodman : piano (5)
Cyrus Chestnut : piano (1)
David Gilmore : guitar (8)
Hector Del Curto : bandonion (5)
Danny Blume & Chris kelly : programming (8)
Mike Marshall : dobro (10)
Rob Johnson : trumpet (6,11)
David Driver & Darius de Haas : vocals (7)
Nancy King : vocal (4)
Kenny Washington : vocal (4)
Juan "Coco" de Jesus : vocal (10)
Corey Harris : vocal (8)
Deborah Harry : vocal (11)
Richard Butler : vocal (5)
Elvis Costello : vocal (1,3, 12)


samedi 19 septembre 2009

Auktyon (АукцЫон) : "Girls sing" ("Девушки поют")

(Geometriya, 2007)

Veteran russian rockers Auktyon have enlisted the help of several notable american musicians on their latest release, so the music may well reach a wider audience than usual. But augmented or not, Auktyon's sound remains as curious and kinetic as ever.
Guitarist Marc Ribot, who appears on "Girls Sing" with fellow recruits John Medeski on keyboards, Frank London on trumpet and Ned Rothenberg on alto sax and flute, recently called Auktyon "punk rockers with a surrealist edge." Although that description sums up the eight-piece band's temperament and theatricality as well as any, "Girls Sing" is label-defying.
"Profukal" kicks off the album with frenzied Slavic funk: Ribot lays down chunky chordal riffs, Medeski scribbles away on a hammond organ and drummer Boris Shaveinikov vigorously assumes the role of pile driver until the atonal fade. In sharp contrast, the eight-minute-plus "Tam-dam" unfolds slowly and hauntingly, accented by Japanese flute and rustling percussion.
The remaining performances tend to fall somewhere between those sonic strategies, though the energy level never flags for long. Eastern European dance music, Gypsy guitar traditions and fusion jazz tints play a role in the mix, as does Auktyon's trademark (and frequently unhinged) blend of brass, reeds, percussion, vocals, strings and showmanship.

Mike Joyce (The Washington Post)

1. Profukal
2. Padal
3. Zhdat
4. Rogan Born
5. Tam-dam
6. Slova
7. Debil
8. Vozle menya
9. Dolgi
10. Devushki poyut

musicians :

Маrс Ribot -Harmony Stratatone, Аuditiоп (electric), Silveгtone
John Medeski - Hammond, Piano, Melodica, Chamberlin, Faгfisa
Ned Rothenberg - alto sax, Shakuhachi
Frank London - trumpet
Vladimir Volkov - double-bass, percussion
Victor Bondarik - bass
Boris Shaveinikov - drums
Nikolai Rubanov - bass clarinet, bass sax, soprano sax
Mikhail Kolovskiy - tuba
Dmitriy Ozerskiy - keyboard, vocal
Leonid Fedorov - vocal, guitar, percussion
Oleg Garkusha - vocal, percussion


Jacek Kochan : "Double life of a chair"

(Gowi, 2002)

Polish drum wiz, groove-king and multi-bandleader has upwards of a dozen discs out, each with different personnel from around the world, as well as some of downtown's best (Tronzo & Krauss here). Jacek seems to dig trumpet players and has worked with Kenny Wheeler, Cuong Vu, Eric Vloeimans, Franz Hautzinger and here he uses ECM great Palle Mikkelborg. This disc features a fine seven-piece band, the largest assemblage Jacek has recorded so far. Jacek works his wonders setting up sly, spacey, somewhat funky grooves that players can add their tones and colors to and solo on occasion. Often these slamming grooves push the soloists to come up with something different than what they are use to in their own situations. With so many fine musicians Jacek often selects melodic patterns that violin and accordion or the guitar and sax can add their harmonies to. Both Tronzo and Briggan Krause contribute one short piece each, mainly a solo interlude. On a couple of tracks Jacek sets up a quiet, spacious, slow groove so that Palle's muted trumpet and Tronzo's ultra subtle guitar can float on top. Rather than just set up some all-star jam sessions, Jacek works out each piece in advance so that the groove and background textures or loops provide a different challenge on each piece. I find Jacek Kochan to be more consistently successful than Nils Petter Molvaer who often provides a similar set-up, yet his results I find often less-than-engaging.

Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)

"Double life of a chair" is certainly one of the more interesting disks of the last years.... Jacek Kochan ...(has)... an obvious inclination to the leadership that agrees to put him in field with a project of large beauty... The attractive music of this album is not easily classifiable...

Maurizio Comandini (All About Jazz)


jeudi 17 septembre 2009

Jim Staley : "Mumbo Jumbo"

(Einstein, 1993)

Jim Staley is one of the best trombonists you've never heard. His playing combines the technique of George Lewis with the playfulness of Jack Teagarden to produce wonders on his instrument. This recording is a series of four trio groupings with elite members of New York's downtown crowd in the mid-'80s, and fairly represents some of the state-of-the-art performances at the time. Among Staley's partners are John Zorn (alto saxophone), Bill Frisell (guitar), Shelley Hirsch (vocals), and Elliott Sharp (double-neck guitar/bass and soprano saxophone). While the novelty of these unions has paled somewhat over time, the playing is first-rate, and the self-effacing, under-recorded Staley is featured throughout. Most of the pieces sound like snippets, without melody or linear development. Still, they are fascinating structures, both for the quality of improvisation and for capturing a slice of an important freestyle genre.

Steve Loewy (All Music)


lundi 14 septembre 2009

Tim Berne + Hank Roberts : "Cause & reflect"

(Level Green)

What would you make of a 1998 meeting between longtime vanguard jazz buddies like saxophonist Time Berne and cellist Hank Roberts? It'd be a skronk-fest, right? Wrong. This gorgeous duet album between Berne and Roberts explores improvisation to be sure, but more than that it picks up where their phenomenal collaboration left off in the early '90s. Cause & Effect explores the limits of compositional structure, as well as exploring their expansion via dynamics, phrasing, tonal equations, harmonic extrapolations, modular architectures, and intervallic episodes. Is it jazz? Yes, and much more; this is a dialogue, so symbiotic as to be almost uncomfortable. This pair can delve into the instinctual vibe so deeply that they surprise one another by predicting what the other will play. These written-out sketches offer the framework for one tonal or modal idea that can be expressed in numerous ways before being drafted out and stretched to the contrapuntal and harmonic limits before they have to give way to something else, which is as anguishing as it is breathtaking. The notion is that neither man wants to exhausts the inherent improvising capabilities inside a particular architecture. The absolutely wrenching "More Than One Dance" is one example, and "In Other Worlds" is another. That's not to say there isn't humor here. Berne's too loopy to leave it totally out: "Showdown!," with its striking western motif, and "Invasion of the Freudian Shrimp," with its nod to Wagner at the circus, is another. In all, this is a pure delight, and leaves listeners wanting to hear as much of this fruitful collaboration in the future as we have in the past.

Thom Jurek (All Music)


Hank Roberts trio : "I'll always remember"

(Level Green)

A trio outing recorded with bassist Peter Chwazik and drummer Bill King, "I'll Always Remember" is another worthwhile addition to the Hank Roberts catalog; intuitively fusing jazz, prog-rock, classical and avant-garde sounds, the music defies easy categorization, with Roberts' original compositions (like the excellent "Living Bicycles/Jersey Devil") as well as the group's improvisational pieces infused with real energy.

Jason Ankeny (All Music)


Hilmar Jensson : "Dofinn"

(Jazzis, 1995)



(Loosegroove, 1999)

Entirely improvised from start to finish, this collection of what were essentially jam sessions (both live and in the studio) captures some moments of extremely heavy jazz. On Ponga, fusion giants Wayne Horvitz (keyboards) and Bobby Previte (drums) are joined by two relatively upstart Seattle musicians Skerik (sax) and Dave Palmer (keyboards). All four players had credible resumés when Ponga was assembled in the late '90s, but nothing they had done (especially recently) suggested the power and rare musicality of this eponymous debut. The music is difficult to describe and the word fusion comes to mind most often, but with so much wrongheaded jazz and barely salient prog titles often listed under the lowly rubric, well, it wouldn't be a fair description. The minimal "Awesome Wells" is a standout only for its spacious, bluesy texture that effectively gives the listener a break from the full-tilt progressive and noisy jazz that comes before and after. Cacophonous but utterly musical, Ponga is first-rate funk, experimental racket, and free jazz combined into one righteous package.

Vincent Jeffries (All Music)


dimanche 13 septembre 2009

Alessio Riccio + David Shea + Ellery Eskelin : "Drawing - Opus 2, Paul Klee"

(Unorthodox recordings, 2003)

On this extraordinary trio effort Ellery Eskelin plays tenor sax, David Shea plays samples & other keyboards and Alessio plays drums, loops, a wide variety of odd percussion (gong sculptures, water drums and metals, etc.) and tapes. Nice to hear something new from former downtown sampler wiz David Shea, who seemed to have disappeared from this scene in recent years. I know that he spent time in Italy a few years back recording for Sub Rosa, but even those discs have disappeared as well. Alessio's fabulous drumming is at the center of this trio, spinning and weaving his layers of rhythmic schemes as Ellery plays marvelously on top and David swirls mysterious samples and keyboard sounds around the mesmerizing blend. The artwork of Paul Klee graces the CD cover and booklet and was an inspiration for the great disc. About 69 minutes long and completely fascinating throughout !

Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)


jeudi 10 septembre 2009

Nicolas Collins : "It was a dark and stormy night"

(Trace Elements, 1992)

A former student of Alvin Lucier, composer Nicolas Collins has been at the forefront of electronic music innovation since the mid-'80s. This disc contains three outstanding examples of his distinct and innovative approach. The first piece, "Broken Light" for string quartet and "hot-wired CD player," places the Soldier String Quartet in the position of interacting with skipping and otherwise damaged CDs containing the music of Corelli, Locatelli, and Torelli. The music is alternately frenetic and stasis-filled and, as Collins mentions in his liner notes, a nod toward Terry Riley's landmark composition "In C." "Broken Light" also displays an eerie sense of synchronicity between the players and the discs. "Tobabo Fonio" features Collins in the role for which he's achieved the most renown, that of the player of a trombone from which no trombone sounds emerge. His trombone contains a CD player and other electronics so that, when he puts lips to mouthpiece, one might hear a vocalist, an orchestra, a rock group or, in this case, a Peruvian brass band. By altering his breath pressure and manipulating his slide (and who knows what other machinations), Collins is able to widely vary the sounds emitted, so much so that the actual source may be only intermittently apparent. Here, he takes minute slices of original material and splays them out into fascinating drone patterns, only allowing the brass band to bloom in full force toward the end of the composition. The title track revolves around campfire stories nested into one another, beginning with and eventually reintroducing the title words as part of each embedded story. The voice triggers various electronic sounds wherein the words might disappear under an oddly syntactic rush of drumbeats or metallic pings. Collins uses some of the same music as in "Tobabo Fonio," both as a tape source and played live by the ensemble. The texts utilized generally have something to do with the themes of fraud (the art forger Van Megeren), misinterpretation, and appropriation, making ironic reference to Collins' own subversive use of found material. Its unusual combination of extreme and surprising sonic events with an underlying sense of Americana (storytelling around the campfire) make for a wonderfully rewarding and unique listening experience. Very highly recommended for adventurous listeners.

Brian Olewnick (All Music)