jeudi 21 octobre 2010

Dejan Terzic' Underground : "Continuum"

(Gramofon, 2008)

This is the second CD of my work with "Underground" and its inspiration and interpretation of Balkan Folk music.
Wheras the first CD - Underground - deals more with interpreting folk songs and melodies, now this new piece of work is focused on original material. Apart from "Somborska", which has the original title "U tem Somboru" and is an old folk song that I have rearranged, I have written all the music on this CD.
By doing so, I was trying to capture the mood, the atmosphere and the "melos" of old folk songs, since this is the realm I am mostly occupied with. ("melos" in the sense of return to Romanticism, and "occupation" in the sense of Passion).
But what exactly is "melos" in the context of folk songs ? Most of the traditional folk songs are written in a minor key - people from the south region mostly prefer sad songs in minor keys,even if its out of pure joy and happiness.
Neither in folk dances nor in in wedding songs, the minor key - with its intonation of gravity and severity -seems to be inevitable. Even without grief there is always grief,even without wailing the mood is always elegic. Its emotional impact - chastity,joy,cry,laugh,desperation,hate,love - it all seems to be combined in those songs .
By using original material I was trying to present my own musical point of view. Continuum expresses my ongoing obsession and belonging to these musical roots, without its inspiration and impact, no creative activity would ever arise. Sombor was chosen out of pure love to the song - melody,rhythm,structure,lyrics - and without any national or geographical preference whatsoever.

Dejan Terzic


jeudi 7 octobre 2010

John Zorn as guest with his warrior soul and game calls

A few years ago, John Zorn was used to play with many musicians worldwide : in eighties, he could experiment with his horn inventing new musical forms ("Locus Solus" period and his first "file cards" use for example). Perhaps, he was looking his way multiplying meetings everywhere with everyone.
In nineties, he founded a communauty of musicians (such a downtown "all-stars"), one label (Tzadik) and a not-for-profit performance space (The Stone). Actually, it looks like a (very) close environment where it focuses more on personal compositions a bit similar each time, refining them continuously (Masada stuff, Moonchild project, The Dreamers group). Anyway, we can be much less surprised and/or confused today and sometimes, boredom can arise... This playlist suggests to listen John Zorn armed with his saxophone serving others when his attack playing was not yet a... gimmick.

1- "Art Thieves"/Wayne Horvitz
2- "No place fast"/Wayne Horvitz
3- "Augury"/Charles K. Noyes
4- "Bleed for the mind"*/Toy Killers
5- "Improvisation"/Toy Killers
6- "Hand tech"/David Moss
7- "Husk when time"/David Moss
8- "Shuffle boil"/Hal Willner
9- "Happy end"/Hall Willner
10- "Give it to me"/Rochester/Veasley band
11- "Purged specimen"/Blind Idiot God
12- "Koseinenkin Hall II"/Valentina Ponomareva
13- "Rictus"/Slan
14- "Zog"/Slan
15- "Blood sucking freaks"/Torture Garden
16- "JZ/BK"/Buckethead
17- "E.S.T."/Hoppy Kamiyama
18- "Au naturel"**/Hoppy Kamiyama
19- "Improv 1"/Duck Baker
20- "Improv 5"/Duck Baker
21- "I don't like myself"/Sion
22- "I do love you a little"/Seigen Ono
23- "Reached Moon Tower"/Seigen Ono
24- "Law"/Music Revelation Ensemble
25- "Devotion"/Music Revelation Ensemble
26- "Proof"/Music Revelation Ensemble
27- "Backbeat"/Music Revelation Ensemble
28 & 29- "Adon Olom"(instr./vocal)/Gary Lucas
30- "Sandman"/Gary Lucas
31- "The reanimator 1.0"/Raz Mesinai
32- "Macunaima"/Cyro Baptista

notes :

1), 2) from "Simple facts" with Wayne Horvitz, Geordie Gillespie, Joe Gallant, David Sewelson (Theatre For Your Mother, 1980)
3) from "The world and the raw people" with Charles K. Noyes (Zoar, 1982)
4), 5) from "The Unlistenable years" with Toy Killers : Charles K. Noyes & M.E. Miller (guests* : Bill Laswell & Elliott Sharp) (UgExplode, 1982)
6), 7) from "Full House" with David Moss (Moers, 1984)
8) from "That's the way I feel now : a tribute to Thelonious Monk" with Arto Lindsay, Wayne Horvitz & M.E. Miller (A&M, 1984)
9) from "Lost in the stars : the music of Kurt Weill" with Luli Shioi, Bobby Previte, Jim Staley, Guy Klucevsek, Carol Emmanuel & Fred Frith (A&M, 1985)
10) from "One minute of love" with Gerald Veasley, Cornell Rochester, Willie Williams, Uri Caine & Gene Terramani (Gramavision, 1985)
11) from "Undertow" with Blind Idiot God (Enemy, 1988)
12) from "Live in Japan" with Valentina Ponomareva (Leo, 1989)
13), 14) from "Live at the Knitting Factory, vol. 3" with Elliott Sharp & Ted Epstein (Knitting Factory, 1990)
15) from "Devil from the East : a decade of Yoshida Tatsuya" with Torture Garden (Bloody Butterfly, 1991)
16) from "Company91" with Buckethead (Incus, 1991)
17), 18) from "Welcome to forbidden paradise" with Hoppy Kamiyama, Marc Ribot, Sebastian Steinberg, Dougie Bowne, E.J. Rodriguez & Steve Eto (plus Otomo Yoshihide**) (Toshiba Emi, 1992)
19), 20) from "The Ducks Palace" with Duck Baker & Cyro Baptista (Incus, 1993)
21) from "I don't like myself" by Sion with Marc Ribot, Robert Quine, Sebastian Steinberg, Michael Blair & Charles Giodano (Baidis, 1993)
22), 23) from "Bar del Mattatoio" with Bob Stewart, Bobby Previte, Marc Ribot, Jill Jaffe & Maxine Neuman (first track) ; with Hirotaka Izumi & Seigen Ono (second track) (Saidera, 1995)
24), 25), 26), 27) from "Cross Fire" with James Blood Ulmer, Calvin Jones & Cornell Rochester (Diw, 1997)
28), 29), 30) from "Busy being born" with Gary Lucas, Greg Cohen & Jonathan Kane (Tzadik, 1998)
31) from "Cyborg acoustics" with Raz Mesinai, Shelley Hirsch & Tim Barnes (Tzadik, 2004)
32) from "Banquet of the spirits" with Cyro Baptista, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, Brian Marsella & Tim Keiper (Tzadik, 2008)


NB : This playlist is dedicated to marvelous E-Mile blog. Thank you for the inspiration.

samedi 28 août 2010

Pierre Audétat : "Iota Horologi"

(Tadeo, 2003)

Pierre Audétat is a swiss musician born in Lausanne in 1968. Pianist-keyboardist, composer and remixer, he has developed a game based on the instrumental sound-sampling in general assigned to studio productions but used in concert as an instrument itself.
At age 6, Pierre is already a self taught pianist. At 11, Gerard Lecoat gave him his first insight of Jazz. He then studied at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern. He played with numerous jazz formations and at age 24, he's a member of the prestigious Piano Seven Ensemble. Surprisingly in 1988, Pierre is more and more attracted by electronic music, specifically by the sampler... In 1991, Pierre joined with rappers to form the group Silent Majority : their sound was a blend of instrumental, sampler, rap, and rhythm. In addition to Pierre, Silent Majority consisted of Marcello Giuliani (Bass), Christophe Calpini (Drums), and regular guest Erik Truffaz (Trumpet). He developed then a very personal way of composing using the sampler as a live instrument like Mark De Gli Antoni (Soul Coughing) or Peter Scherer (Ambitious Lovers). Since then, Pierre is a very thought after musician and he's featured in many projects such as Sens Unik, Nils Petter Molvaer, LTJ Bukem... After a New York trip during six months, he recorded with two fine musicians from downtown scene : Brad Shepik & Mark Feldman. Most recently, he create Stade, a freewheeling electronic duo. In 2008, he write a magnificent soundtrack for the « La vraie vie est ailleurs », a magnetic film by Frédéric Choffat.

nb : this is his commentary about his NYC stay but in french only, sorry !

« Si tu es musulman, tu vas faire ton pélerinage à La Mecque. Quand tu t’intéresse au jazz, c’est tout de même intéressant de faire un pélerinage à New York. Je ne dirais pas que c’est le top, parce que je vois plutôt mon avenir en Europe qu’aux Etats-Unis. Mais j’avais envie de m’imprégner de
l’énergie qu’il y a là-bas, parce que ce n’est pas un mythe. Il faut bien voir que la plupart des musiciens qui vivent à New York sont des individualistes qui bossent énormément et atteignent souvent un niveau musical impressionnant. Il y a aussi un fort sens du partage, ce qui est naturel vu la taille de la ville et le foisonnement de musiques. Il y a trop de gens à rencontrer et d’expériences à faire pour rester chez soi. Les musiciens ont ces deux côtés prononcés: d’une part un énorme travail de pratique individuelle, et d’autre part la faculté de se lancer à l’eau sans problème quand ils rencontrent des collègues. J’ai fait une excellente expérience à New York, où j’ai pu aussi travailler un peu en studio, afin de gagner quelques sous pour payer l’appartement. Les responsables du studio étaient contents d’avoir trouvé quelqu’un qui joue du sampler. Il était intéressant de constater que tous ces studios ont une collection luxueuse d’échantillons sonores. Tout est pré-produit, mais c’est embêtant à utiliser parce que ce n’est pas spontané, alors que dans ma petite boîte personnelle, il y avait peu de choses, mais plus de sons utilisables. Je me suis rendu compte que même à New York, le travail personnel sur l’échantillonnage ne court pas les rues. La norme reste les collections d’échantillons industriels: une section de cuivre bon marché, un batteur bon marché pour remplacer les musiciens. Je n’ai pas rencontré beaucoup de musiciens qui jouent vraiment du sampler. Et le seul avec qui j’ai collaboré m’a confirmé qu’il y avait peu de ressources dans ce domaine ».


mercredi 4 août 2010

Power Tools : "Strange meeting"

(Island/Antilles, 1987)

What do Power Tools sound like ? Jazz ? Rock ? Maybe like Tipper Gore on acid inside yo momma's microwave. Or like a thinking person' metal band. A polyrhythmic mélange of modern electronic soul that sorts out and supercharges the multitudinous musical sign-posts and insights of the past 25 years. The way guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Melvin Gibbs & drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson improvise collectively recalls the more innocent, inquisitive days of the late 60's, when fledgling bands like the Tony Williams Lifetime tried (artistically) and failed (commercially) to suggest that John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix could hear ear to ear-were talking the same language. « Well, there's all this music in the air », Bill Frisell opines softly. « It's not even a question of trying to play in a style anymore- I'd like to play them all at once. With Melvin & Shannon, They have a way of modulating through rhythms where all this tonality and movement comes right out of the drum-I can play anything next to that. Some people seem to think I only play in one style based on a lot of the records I've been involved with : « you're an ECM guitarist ». You know, like is that supposed to be an insult or something ? » he giggles. « Power Tools is the first time I've experienced a sense of hearing the way I really play on record ».
Strange meeting contrasts Frisell's elusive, off-speed lyricism, gigantic echoing waves of chords, tolling bell tones, fervent blues cries, with the physicality of Gibbs's alligator-wrestling earth moans and Jackson's fisti-cuffian left-right combos. « Because Bill's sound and concept takes the edge off of a power-trio format, he puts the edge back on », Gibbs smiles. « He brings out the rhythm section, and returns the focus to the drum like in music from Chad and the Cameroon, where the melodicism comes directly out of the rhythm. We're a little like the africans, in that we try to modulate the rhythm, rather than simply modulating the strict meter. Playing like this you really have to listen in a holistic way, be conscious of the democracy of music, It's not about majority rules.
« We're trying to extend phrases rhythmically », Jackson emphasizes, « so, it's not about a 4/4 beat or a ¾ beat, but a compound beat. The Power Tools are orchestrating each other continuously ; if you play rhythms you don't have to be so concerned with strict time. People have told us we sound like Cream or Hendrix. I had to go back to find their music and discover what people were talking about, and I discovered that we all grew up listening to a lot of blues and jazz. But for me, coming from Texas like I do, and having had the experience of working with musicians like Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and James Blood Ulmer, I developed in a different direction. The way melvin and I play together is forceful, but we stay out of your way ».
« It's funny how a lot of my ballad and pop compositions end up in a country mood », Gibbs notes. « Bill's too. But there's that country element in african music as well. That's where the banjo comes from. George Jones is really popular in Africa. « Wadmalaw island » is for my father and it's about where he grew up off the coast of south Carolina. He said it sounds just like home, and people used to listen Jimmie Rodgers there. The first cash-money gig I ever had was at O'Lunney's, a country bar on Second Avenue. I played all my Chuck Rainey and and Jerry Jemmott licks : there was this chick singing and playing autoharp, all fit », he laughs.
Gibbs pauses and reflects slowly on the contrasting intensity of feelings depicted cinematically in his composition « Howar Beach memoirs », the album's anthemic centerpiece.
There's a lot of things going on in New York city that people don't like to talk about, and the violence of that incident brought it to the surface. You're minding your own business and people choose to see you in a certain light which has nothing to do with who you are. And you don't want to react, but you either fight or run or die. « It shouldn't be about hatred. It's about truth. It works both ways on both sides because they're just trying to live their lives too. They haven't deciphered their feelings, though ; having this need to negate your nobility-maybe for no reason other than the nagging suspicion that maybe they haven't got any ».

Chip Stern (Spin magazine, nov-dec. 1987)


mardi 3 août 2010

David Torn + Mick Karn + Terry Bozzio = Polytown

(Cmp, 1994)

Let's talk about the initial seeds of Polytown.

DT : Mick was originally in the Cloud About Mercury band, but he didn't record with it. He did tour with me though. The star of the show for me at the very beginning was Mick, because I had been just absolutely blown away with his playing in Japan—just knocked out. Harmonically, the lines he was playing inside of music that would be considered pop was so in tune with music that I was writing. So, I found these guys [Karn, Bill Bruford and Mark Isham] and paid them massive amounts of almost no money at all. [laughs] My relationship with Bill continues. We're really good friends. We played together in January at a NAMM show. It was me, Bill, Tony Levin and Chris Botti playing trumpet. We did four tunes and it was great fun. That got the record company all kind of weird about Polytown. They said "You've got to do this! This is the band!" [laughs] They thought it was Cloud About Mercury 2 or whatever. My relationship with Mick has turned into one of the great friendships of my life. I guess it was real obvious that there was great chemistry in that band. The original Cloud band with Mick, Bill, Mark and me had fantastic, fantastic chemistry. The other chemistry with Tony was pretty magical too.
Cloud was certainly the seeding ground for everything that came afterwards. Mark started getting all of this filmwork—I was functionally spending half my time in L.A. working with him. Mark found himself a record deal and decided to put a band together. He had played with Terry [Bozzio] in the past with Group 87. He basically took me, Mick, Terry, Kurt Wortman and David Goldblattt and that was Mark's touring band. Those gigs with Mark involved a pretty controlled set of playing a lot of film music—and playing to the film crowd. But there were two or three spots in the set where Terry and I kind of exploded. [laughs] There were also a couple of spots that were functionally a trio—just me, Mick and Terry. And we started talking at that time and thinking "This is just fantastic! This needs to happen! This needs to be a band!" It just took many years before it came together.

Was there a concept or methodology behind creating Polytown’s music ?

DT : From my side, the concept going into the recording was "Okay. We’re in a remote location, separate from everybody's personal lives. Nobody knows anybody there. We have limited amounts of time in the studio—two weeks to record, one week to mix and nobody comes prepared." [laughs] That was my concept. No preparation at all. None whatsoever. It was "We write together. It's a real band. Everything is split evenly three ways. And that will be that."

Polytown’s album art was spectacular.

DT : It was done by all of us, but I think that the focus for the work side of Polytown was me or me and Mick. The artwork was skewed more towards Mick because the artists were in London. But I came and went a couple of times. They're really great people. Mick and I wanted snake skins and maps. [laughs] We wanted something that at least appeared textural. And Stylorouge [the design studio behind the art] are really fantastic. They came up with 27 different packages. We sat at a table for the last time and rejected all of the packages, except for approving certain concepts. Then Rob [O'Connor]and Stuart [Mackenzie] at Stylorouge completed it. They worked real hard on the Tripping package too. But CMP basically changed the package without telling anyone at the last minute because they needed to get them out to the stores. They couldn't wait for the digipaks to come out. The digipak of Tripping was gorgeous. And it had two more pages of artwork. It was quite different, actually. But the manufacturer wasn't willing to deliver them on time. I doubt you’ll see it unless the record does so incredibly well that I can say "Hey guys? Now, let's put out 10,000 of the original thing that I approved of." [laughs]

Can you elaborate on what you meant by "the work side of Polytown was me or me and Mick ?"

DT : It's supposed to be a band. Functionally, you'll get different stories from different people. But if you talk to Kurt, the engineer or Mick, they'll tell you that I produced the record in every way. [laughs] When it comes to things like organizing the band, getting it together and getting it to be at a certain place at a certain time, it kind of falls to me. For instance, playing this Polytown gig we did in Germany—it was like being whipped constantly. Terry wanted to do it, then he didn’t want to do it. Either it wasn’t enough responsibility or it was too much responsibility. I kind of went fucking crazy. It was a big festival thing and we were interacting with a lot of different musicians over the course of it. Mick had trepidations about it. He has reservations about playing with educated or highly-skilled players.

What’s your take on why he has that tendency ?

DT : It’s background. It’s British schooling and the historical effect of being a star when you're young and unskilled. It's that sometimes very affected British musician attitude that goes "I don't need the skill. I just need the uniqueness." Whereas in America you get "I don't know what uniqueness is. I just need some heavy-duty skills, so I can compete." [laughs] So, when it comes to playing what he views as a formatted idiom like jazz in which people say things like "Okay, you've got four bars, Gm7#11, two bars of..." and have to read charts, he naturally backs down. It's a little bit scary to him. He's a real, honest, self-educated, totally unique player. And Terry was just like that too. I don't know if Terry was just scared to go and play with all of these people or what. So, it's a little bit difficult getting that band together. It's a bit on the hard side for me. There is some personality clash in that band that is really wonderful from a musical perspective. I often find myself in a mediator-type role in a lot of different situations. I think that's one of the reasons why I feel good as a producer of records. I tend to get a pretty good overview of what's going on socially and kind of help people get through it. I think that tension in Polytown is really kind of a cool thing. It doesn't detract from the fact that everybody in the band is quite good friends with one another. But sometimes you have conflicts with your friends. And in music, sometimes that can be really a great thing. It's that push-pull thing. I hope it continues. I would like to do something else with Polytown and not think that it was a one-off project. But it was a lot of work.


Your most recent band project was Polytown—a group with a different kind of tension.

MK : Yeah, it was very difficult. It was quite a strain. It was very, very hard going—maybe the hardest album I've ever had to work on. Bruce, our engineer, had a very hard time too. I think a lot of it was because it was the first solo album, I guess, that Terry's really worked on. It's like three solo albums in one. And I think it was irresistible for him to try and take control to a certain extent. Whereas, for David and myself, we'd made albums before and we were a lot more easy-going. So it did make things quite tense. There wasn't a lot of room for experimentation because of the time limit as well. Things may have been very different if we'd had more time. I think it's quite an odd album, but I'm really happy with it—really happy with it. The only thing I wish we'd had was a little bit more time for the mixing. I think that could have been improved on. But, the actual writing, I think, was a real feat of strength looking back on it. The fact that we actually managed to do that in three weeks is unbelievable. I really like putting limitations on myself when I work and the Polytown experience was full of limitations.
Polytown really was a big influence on me too. Working with Terry and David in a three-piece band meant that I really was pushed even more into the position of being the main melody. And David really had to concentrate on the looping, with the odd solo here and there, but basically creating the atmosphere of the pieces. So, I really was left as being the main melody which was a complete revelation to me. It was the complete opposite of what I'd always been led to believe. And the fact that it was done in such a short space of time really gave me the confidence to then go on and do Tooth Mother—not in quite such radical circumstances—but with the same kind of ethics.

Will Polytown record again ?

MK : I would really like to see another Polytown album happen, with a little bit more time. Its sounds as if I'm really masochistic, doesn't it? I like these tense situations all of a sudden. I'd also like to see it happen with a different line-up. I'd really like to see another album with myself, David and guest musicians. But I don't think it would be fair to keep the name Polytown if Terry was not there. But David and I have lots of ideas for albums together.

excerpts from David Torn (DT) and Mick Karn (MK) interviews (


Bernie Worrell : "The other side"

(Cmp, 1993)

dimanche 1 août 2010

James Blood Ulmer : "Wings"

(Jazz File)

This is a live version of « America, do you remember the love ? » album printed on Blue Note in 1987. Here is one review about the studio record :

An odd but very effective album, this release under Ulmer's name could almost have been issued under Bill Laswell's, so strong is the producer's (and bassist's) presence. With Ronald Shannon Jackson in tow alongside Laswell stable regular Nicky Skopelitis, this sounds more than a little like several of Laswell's late-'80s multicultural discs. The gorgeous pre-chorus line in "Show Me Your Love, America," for instance, sounds like nothing previously written by Ulmer and makes one wonder. Although one would think that this would play against Ulmer's strengths (his rawness and irregularity, for two), it makes for a strangely satisfying effort, corralling the guitarist into a somewhat more relaxed mode where the concentration is more on his vocals and song structure than on his guitar work. His singing here is perhaps the best its ever been, still very indebted to Hendrix in both the soft texture of his voice and, especially, in the casualness of his phrasing, but he injects more than enough of his own persona to create a perfect match to his harsh guitar. Jackson and Laswell are both in fine form throughout, providing a rich, varied underpinning for Ulmer's excursions, even if those excursions are a bit more reined-in than listeners had come to expect. The album ends up sounding polished but not slick, each composition standing solidly and offering varied pleasures. Different from Odyssey but situated alongside it as one of Ulmer's best.

Brian Olewnick (Allmusic)


Nicky Skopelitis : "Next to nothing"

(Virgin/Venture, 1989)

"Next to Nothing" was the first solo album by guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, long a member of Bill Laswell's "stable" of musicians and one who contributed a great deal to the unique sound that Laswell developed during the late '80s. The disc, in fact, is somewhat indistinguishable from any number of Laswell-produced albums from around that time, including those of drummer Ginger Baker and guitarist Robert Musso. Which isn't to say that the recording doesn't have its own charms. The wonderful violin and oud virtuoso Simon Shaheen is onboard, giving the Middle Eastern-tinged pieces some solid authenticity. His violin is offset by that of Fred Frith, who takes the lead on pieces that are more blues- and folk-oriented. That divide between Mediterranean exotica and down-home country and blues is the main territory here and makes for some very attractive listening. Skopelitis disdains pyrotechnics, preferring to submerge himself in the music, but wields a remarkably sure hand, providing rich color and accents. Baker's typically heavy drumming may seem leaden to some, but provides both a compelling thrust and enough bedrock to anchor compositions that might otherwise appear a bit on the fluffy side. There's a general laid-back atmosphere here (though the final cut, "Omens," has a nice, edgy undertone) that can draw dangerously near a kind of new agey sensibility, but by and large Skopelitis avoids this pitfall. Fans of Laswell's Hear No Evil will find similar enjoyment here.

Brian Olewnick (Allmusic)


Last Exit : "Iron Path"

(Virgin/Venture, 1989)

Elemental, fiery, loud, head-on... Last exit has some power. It has music and sound, dimensions of sound. It's so rare for a listener to hear something that really affects him physically, spiritually, emotionally. Something that can sustain him today, tomorrow, next year, always with the pleasure of hearing something new in it. This band has those qualities. It's virtually the only contemporary band that's really happenin'. I was going to say this, but Ronald Shannon Jackson got in there first. There's no false modesty in Last Exit, no false anything. The group is important precisely because its rush of sound is a heartfelt force. It sweeps away all the fakery that proliferates on both sides of the highbrow/lowbrow cultural divide. Bracing, energizing, sanxtifying, clarifying, Last Exit's emotional range (its « passion & violence » as Brötzmann says) shows what can still be done with a little love, courage and nose-thumbing impudence. By comparison with Last Exit's achievement, most modern music idioms are exposed as etiolated and anaemic. The exhausted terrain of jazz and pop, for example, is cluttered with exhausted professionals playing exhausted nothings, to the mock-delight of exhausted critics. And even improvised music, once a zone you could depend upon, is vitiated by the arrival of a « new generation » of baton-wielding « auteurs » who « compose » by appropriating others' talents. Against this trend, Last Exit righteously rages. The quartet reaffirms the potential, validity and bloody glory of collective music-making. They are improvisers, then ? Yes, in a big way, and have much to improvise on and out of. Shannon stresses the point : « music comes out of life ». Write it in huge block capitals. Last Exit's players have lived to the awashbuckling hilt. They have an enormous wealth of experience and madcap adventure. It's the diversity of their backgrounds and the desire to play together (rare in world of cynically assembled festival all-star groups and manipulated production projects) that makes their music so very special. Half black, half white, three quarters american, one quarter european, the group's ethnic make-up could be seen to be fairly faithfully symbolic of creative music's history. But this would be too glib an overview ; it's as independent, fiercely idiosyncratic intelligences that these players have already made a profound impact on several genres.

Steve Lake (from the liner notes)


mercredi 21 juillet 2010

Roger Kleier : "Klangenbang"


Born in 1958, Roger Kleier is a composer, guitarist, and improviser who began playing electric guitar at age thirteen after discovering Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix on the radio airwaves of Los Angeles. He studied composition at North Texas State University and the University of Southern California, and has developed an unique style that draws equally from improvisation, contemporary classical music, and the American guitar traditions of blues, jazz, and rock. Much of his compositional work involves the development of a broader vocabulary for the electric guitar through the use of extended techniques and creating new works with digital technology.
Roger has performed and/or recorded with Annie Gosfield, Marc Ribot’s Shrek, Elliott Sharp, Fred Frith, Joan Jeanrenaud, Davey Williams, Ikue Mori, Carl Stone, Phil Niblock, Alan Licht, Samm Bennett, Tom Cora, David Moss, Kato Hideki, Chris Cutler, David Krakauer, Chris Brown, Sim Cain, Jim Pugliese and many others.

Yes, a number of these compositions have a NY–underground feel, that combination of jazzy technicality and No Wave or rock–inspired intensity. But others, like Only the Dust Moans are unusual: that one is an ambient piece constructed of overlapping guitar tones and chimings, with minimal keyboards supplied by Annie Gosfield. Kato Hideki's bass guesting on Crabmeat Shag makes a highlight here, as do Christine Bard's strong drumming and Kleier's intricate guitar breaks. Take a Picture––It'll Last Longer is the final track, a sprawling fourteen minute piece that's the only truly solo performance on the CD. Recorded live, it moves from a fairly harsh opening to calmer plucking and scraping sounds, then through strumming into nicely interwoven feedback tones, and odd, ultra–vibratoed notes. An impressive work to conclude an intriguing CD.

Mason Jones


The Same : "Doing the don't"

(Rift, 1993)

About Chris Cochrane

Chris Cochrane is a guitarist, singer, songwriter, improvisor and producer. He has performed regularly in bands and improvised with hundreds of players. In addition to his rare solo recordings and work with a number of bands, including the legendary groundbreaking unit No Safety (which he co-founded with harpist Zeena Parkins) and Curlew (alongside George Cartwright), he has played live and/or recorded with an array of musicians : Tom Cora, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Mike Patton, Marc Ribot, Eszter Balint, Kato Hideki, Ikue Mori… and visual artists or choreographers.
Chris and Paul Hoskin did guitar/bass clarinet duos, NYC in 1983. Then, they formed a trio with Zeena Parkins--doing improvisation land. Later that decade, Cochrane and Hoskin join with Ruth Peyser and Evan Gallagher to create The Same--a beyond-tune-improv quartet...

About Evan Gallagher

Evan is born in Jackson, Mississippi, long, long ago in a much less free (music) period. Went to school at University of Southern Mississippi. He met George Cartwright, Bruce Golden, Jeb Stuart with whom he'd work on freeing up Jackson's music scene. Evan did meet the MEV at this time, as he continued his Jackson "freeing-up" project. Travelled to New York City with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith, met Eugene Chadbourne and John Zorn to record The English Channel. Evan decides that NYC is "more free" musically. In 1987/8, he falls into the Amica Bunker (a NYC improvised music space...weekly performances. Booked by Doug Henderson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, & Paul Hoskin--in its early stages). He falls quite hard. Later, he meets Cochrane, Hoskin and Ruth Peyser--and The Same is formed. A seminal noise/jazz unit. And Evan continues to improvise...

About Paul Hoskin

Paul Hoskin began his musical work with a program of self-education, playing the bass clarinet exclusively. A native of Seattle, Paul lived on both coasts and traveled globally. An accomplished solo performer, Hoskin extends the form both in terms of duration and sonority. Performances take place in venues ranging from jazz festivals in Czechoslovakia to oyster bars in Jackson, Mississippi.
As a New Yorker (1987-1995), Hoskin worked in innumerable ensemble settings as well as developing his skills as a solo performer. This work included the ensemble The Same (Chris Cochrane, Evan Gallagher, Ruth Peyser) and trio Trigger (Fred Lonberg-Holm-cello, Leslie Ross-bassoon). Though improvisation informs the work of these ensembles, compositional form (“language”) is an explicit element.
Returning to Seattle, Paul involved himself with ensembles as well as countless ad hoc formations. After moving to rurality (Clallam Bay and the Olympic Peninsula), Paul “vacates” from urban music life, as he re/hears to re/begin, from 2002 till July 2005. Then, he relocates to Astoria : re/enters land of organizing and presenting exciting music as his own playing develops.
And, Seattle perfomance life also returns...

About Ruth Peyser

Born in Sydney, Australia, Ruth Peyser works as a graphic designer and illustrator in New York City where she has lived since 1978. In her early years, she designed record covers, theater programs, catalogues, logos and more (she's realized cover design and illustration on this disc). And she has been making animated films since her arrival in The Big Apple : her award-winning films have been screened on public television and at hundreds of festivals in the United States and throughout the world.
Ruth Peyser also played guitar in New York's downtown music scene, but after the birth of her second child, she decided something had to give. She now devotes most of her energies to her children and her artwork...


Phil Haynes : "4 horns & what ?"

(Open Minds, 1991)

When I first considered forming a second band in late 1986, I was trying to reconcile an interesting set of aesthetics: I wanted a band that could play most situations without amplification, a band that would whisper one moment and raise the roof the next, an ensemble built around the intimate dialogue of a good duet, a small group with wide instrumental color, a big band inspired contrapuntal ability, and a format where I would be challenged to assume equality with the front line. The prospect of combining two brass players with two saxophonists and drums became the irresistible solution.
4 Horns & What? utilizes the African concept of direct conversational interplay between rhythm and melody. By excluding other rhythm section players, the intimacy of the drum/horn dialogue becomes the norm. In this format, harmony returns to its polyphonic roots as an extension of the collective blowing. The result is a wide-open, acoustic, improviser's band, where everyone shares equal responsibility for solos, accompaniment, and time keeping.

Phil Haynes


mercredi 30 juin 2010

Sergey Kuryokhin & David Moss : "2 for tea"

(Long Arms, 1998)

By 1983, I'd heard his name for several years. We in the New York Improvising scene were always looking for soul-mates, musical partners, & sound-information from other countries. The rumors began trickling in to Morton St. (in the Village) that a pianist named Sergey Kuryokhin was playing wild music and organizing even wilder projects. But it wasn't until 1986 when I came to Berlin to play duos with drummer Peter Hollinger that we first met. It was just after the concert when I saw a guy with very black hair and shining eyes, wearing some kind of military-style jacket walk toward me. "David? David Moss?", he said. "I very happy to meet!" When I found out it was Sergey, we both laughed like crazy - to finally meet here, in Berlin, trying to communicate with his 20 words of English and my faded Russian from university days. But somehow we managed to talk - to share the idea that we wanted to learn about each other and somehow play together.In September 1987, we met again in Berlin and he asked me to sing in his Berlin premiere of Pop Mechanika at the Tempodrome. "Just wear a black jacket and sun-glasses, and I'll tell you when to go onstage and sing", he told me. I arrived backstage at the Tempodrome (a semi-outdoor tent famous for rock music) the next night, ready for anything, and found a huge throng of musicians, Russian & German. There was Africa, Sergey's friend and performance artist, many people dressed in odd costumes, 10 saxophonist, heavy-metal guitarists (quite a few!) and god-knows who else. Sergey seemed nervous or full of intense energy, but that turned out to be quite normal for him. The music began. Pounding drum beats, screaming saxophones, and rhythmic unisons and riffs from the guitarists. Africa tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Go" - I ran onstage and, standing in front of several thousand excited and confused Berliners, began to scream in 10 languages.
As I sang, a parade of Russian performance artists surrounded me with bouquets of flowers and live pigs cradled in their arms. I was in Sergey's world now. I sang until Sergey started a new section on the piano, then I walked off-stage, exhilarated. That was the first time.I saw Sergey 2 or 3 times at different festivals after that, but our next musical meeting (out of which came this CD) was in Dec. 1988 in Miami, Florida at the New Music America Festival. Rumor had reached me that Sergey would be touring the US in December, so I called the Festival director and told him we had a unique opportunity to feature Sergey in a NMA festival. After a little arm-twisting, he agreed. I got the telephone # of Sergey's American tour manager from John Zorn, and called to arrange a solo for Sergey in Miami. That autumn, I spoke to Sergey, and he suggested that we also play a duo as part of his gig. I asked him if he would like to play with other American improvisers in the Festival; he wasn't too excited about the idea, but said "maybe OK I think about it". Sergey arrived in Miami with Alexander Kahn (producer, manager, translator). Our duo was scheduled in an intimate club that seated maybe 150. Meanwhile, the director of the festival was furious when he heard that Sergey wanted to play duo with me. Well, there was a lot of music-politics going on in those days, and to shorten a long story, the director thought I was getting too much exposure if I played a duo with Sergey in addition to my regular gig. Even though Sergey had invited me to play with him, the director was completely, irrationally oppose to the duo, and even threatened to close the club and cancel Sergey's concert. When I told this to Sergey and offered to drop the duo, Sergey refused, saying that either we play together (he didn't want to play with other musicians), or he would cancel. After many calls, threats, & demands from the director, the concert went on as originally planned. I remember just before the show, when tension was at its highest and the director threatened to call the police to pull us off the stage, Sergey said to me, "You know David, it's funny that there is more censorship and problems here in USA to play a concert than normally I have in Russia!" Yes, a funny & prophetic statement about the American culture scene.Well, about the concert (the one you can hear oh this CD). We rehearsed a bit in the afternoon. Sergey had very strong ideas about what he wanted to play. I told him there were several things I could do well, several I couldn't do, and made a few suggestions about energy levels, speed, intensity and the interaction of our voices. We spent the rest of the radio sound-check practicing the piece that grew out of his ideas. All concerts for the festival were being either broadcast live or recorded by Miami Public Radio, and in charge was Steve Malagodi (the radio producer of this recording). We spent quite a while getting a non-distorted level for my voice and electronics, but as you can hear, the sound-quality is generally better on the rehearsal segments. I think the engineers were afraid of getting too "hot" (or uncontrollable) a sound for the performance, and so they reduced the overall levels and lost some of the power that is audible in the rehearsals. As I mention on the rehearsal tapes, this was the only time I played with brushes for any music after 1975. It's surely the only time I was asked to lift a pianist's legs off the ground while he was playing and pull him away from the piano while we sang. Sergey wanted me to play various musical genres, from waltz to pseudo hip-hop, from operatic to lounge music, and so we did. I hadn't played these recognizable styles for years - but if Sergey wanted it, I was happy to do it. In the rehearsal segments, Sergey's commentes show the clarity of his thinking process and ideas.
Then came the concert. Sergey played a long solo that was beyond astonishing in its wealth of ideas and super-virtuosity. I remember thinking, as I was standing there in the back of the club, that Sergeysucceeded in surprising the audience by doing nothing that they expected or desired - none of the spatial attacks, fractured rock, or simplistic minimalism of American new music. It was pure Kuryokhin - intense, non-stop, overflowing with fantasy, referential to Russian folk music and European classical music, and definitely virtuoso Russian piano playing.
Then came our duo. The 12 minutes went by in a flash. Everything worked exactly as we'd planned and rehearsed (with a few surprises of course'). It was an incredible pleasure to play drums with Sergey - both of us had such power, and it felt great to mix it all together in downtown Miami, just a few weeks before Christmas, 1988. After the gig we hugged, and I told Sergey that it had been a dream of mine to play in Russia (my grandparents came from there, so I've always felt a pull), and I would love to do it with him. He said that was a wonderful idea and he hoped to find a way to make it happen.1990, I was practicing in the basement of my house in Vermont when the telephone rang. It was Sergey calling from "Leningrad" inviting me to perform in the St. Petersburg Renaissance Festival - a marathon 24-hour benefit concert (including a 6 hour section of avant-garde performance) to be broadcast 'live' on Soviet television.
As I was about to take off from Kennedy Airport, my Russian contact handed me a package wrapped in plain brown paper to bring along. As I was told that the large parcel was a painting by Robert Rauschenberg - his gift and donation to the festival for the city of St. Petersburg, I must admit, it made me pretty nervous to be carrying a work by such a famous artist - but c'est la Russian vie - aand away I went on Aeroflot. Of course, I had asked how to get this thing through Customs and I was told to say simply, "to kartina", "this is a picture". And IT WORKED no problem, Moss and kartina into Russia. But then at the hotel I got a call from Sergey: "David, the avant-garde part of the festival has been canceled!" My god. I'm in Russia with nothing to do and nowhere to go!! But very quickly Sergey called back and said "Don't worry - you will play - the organizers of this festival have no idea what's going on I told them you will play in the ETHNIC section because you are really a very famous African Folk singer!!!!!" OK let's give it a try.So we went to the Kirov theater where hundreds of costumed performers were milling around backstage (ps. I presented the Rauschenberg to the Mayor of St.Petersburg - Mr. Sobchak). Then after a classic baritone sang Russian songs, I was introduced as the famous African Folk Singer - and I began to sing: a 4-minute vocal solo filled with the intensity, power, and personal songs that are part of my voice - much to the consternation and surprise of the glitterati audience, who clearly had no idea what I was doing, or why. That was my premiere In Russia.
Meanwhile, Alexander Kahn had arranged a concert in a small theater where I played a solo section, and then a duo with Sergey. (I remember other musicians joining in, and a young child singing happily with us). This was a very emotional moment for me. I finally was able to sing my songs and melodies to an interested Russian audience and feel their strong response. Sergey played a small synthesizer keyboard, and we improvised together without any plans or words. I don't think any tape of this concert exists, but if there is one somewhere in St. Petersburg, I would love to hear it - because I'm sure we did some unexpected things together. Then, just before i left, Sergey invited me to sing, and to play some "found" percussion, on a sound-track he was making for a film. We met at a large well-equipped professional studio. Sergey played some tracks, I sang some melodies and noises, and overdubbed rhythm tracks on metal percussion (if anyone knows about this film, or can give me any information, I would appreciate it!). And that was the last time we played together.
In Oct. 1991 I moved to Berlin, and over the next few years met Sergey several times: at a CD shop, at the Akademie der Künste to talk about one of his pieces, at Natan Fedorovsky's Avant Garde Gallery. Each time he was full of ideas, and planning new projects, concerts, films.
Then in October 1995 I was playing at the LaMama club in Tokyo. Just before the gig I walked outside to relax and saw a line of people waiting to get in, and suddenly I heard that familiar voice say, "David!", and there was Sergey, standing with Keshavan Maslak (they were in the middle of a duo tour). I hustled them through the line and into the club and laughed in delight that Sergey and I were together again in another strange city. It was a great feeling to sing and drum with Sergey sitting in the audience. That was the last time I saw him.

David Moss


lundi 28 juin 2010

David Watson's The Wax : "Wax & wane"

(Dr Jim's records, 1997)

Bagpipes ? Not known for their prominence in modern music, some may see Wax and Wane by David Watson's The Wax as an attempt to place bagpipes back into a context where they are entirely unwelcome.
The disc could be seen as the imposition of an artefact of imperial Britain onto a worldly improvised scene where its symbolism could clash with the listener's preconceptions of the preoccupations of the other instrument players. On the other hand a lover of bagpipes may see this CD as mockery.
The use of bagpipes in this context has nothing to do with symbols. David Watson may be trying to chart some weird progression from the highlands (via AC/DC?) but his primary concern is sound.
Bagpipes make a lovely sound. The way we listen to them needs freshening up. The essence of their beauty still lies with the drones. Droning's modern tradition began with La Monte Young and has extended through to Sonic Boom and beyond to the point where drone aficianados, exhausted, have now looked back to the ancient world's sources of the original drones: bagpipes, Tuvan throat singing, etc. The other players on this recording contribute beats, bass and noises : Otomo Yoshihide and Kato Hideki are known to Australians through their recording and tours in Peril (with Tony Buck). Ikue Mori, Andrea Parkins and Evan Gallagher are familiar faces in every downtown venue in New York.


samedi 26 juin 2010

Bob Hoffnar " New music for pedalsteel guitar"


Judy Dunaway

(Lost, 1990)

Judy Dunaway is best known in New York new music circles as being the world's foremost player of the balloon — yes, the common latex rubber balloon, which she uses to make any number of unique and amazingly expressive sounds. Before becoming a full-time balloon virtuoso, however, she was a punk-ish guitarist and writer of some unbelievably funny songs. Accompanied by a group of musicians that populated the downtown free improv scene at the time (Rick Brown, David Shea, Michael Lytle, Evan Gallagher), Judy Dunaway went into the studio and made one for the ages. This « lost » album presents a brilliantly unorthodox songwriter at peak form. Dunaway's no mere jokester, either; her deeply felt lyrics reveal an artist of great perception between avant-garde folk songs and free-improvisations.


vendredi 25 juin 2010

Peter Scherer : "Very neon pet"

(Metro Blue, 1995)

Peter Scherer is a New York based composer and producer with a multifaceted career encompassing music for film and dance, producing, arranging and playing with other artists from across the spectrum of contemporary music.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, he studied piano, composition, theory and orchestration, among others with György Ligeti and Terry Riley. Shortly after arriving in New York in the early 80's, he connected with key figures of the New York downtown scene such as Kip Hanrahan, Bill Frisell and John Zorn, collaborating on numerous recording projects and performances. With Arto Lindsay, he founded the Ambitious Lovers, mixing elements of brazilian, experimental, funk and other popular styles resulting in the release of three albums.
In the early nineties, Peter Scherer started to further develop his unique style of sonic arrangements, exploring the potentialities of digital innovation combined with diversified musical traditions and sensibilities.
At the same time, he began working as a producer with such artists as Caetano Veloso, World Saxophone Quartet, Corin Curschellas, Ute Lemper and Nana Vasconcelos. And, as a keyboard player, he has frequently appeared in concert and recordings with Laurie Anderson and has lent his personal sonic fabric to numerous recordings by such artists as Marc Ribot, David Byrne, Marisa Monte, Waldemar Bastos, Cyro Baptista, Seigen Ono, Jun Miyake, Vinicius Cantuaria, Etienne Daho and many others.

"VERY NEON PET is a fascinating excursion through a multicultural dream-state. Building up from pulsating beats, Scherer adds layers of intricate detail with trumpet, sampled voices, spare keyboard figures, guitars, violins and occasional bursts of noise".
(Down Beat)


jeudi 24 juin 2010

Jack Walrath & the Masters of Suspense : "Hip gnosis"

(Tob, 1995)

Walrath is a bit of a character, no doubt about it. That he so successfully collaborated with the crazed Mingus, is the first clue having titled songs on previous albums "Village Of The Darned", "Revenge Of The Fat People" and "Beer!" further steers him off the shoulder of mainstream jazz. And to this he brought Willie Nelson in to record Hank Williams" "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" during his two-album career with Blue Note --- unfortunately, a shot at the Big Time that never gathered enough listeners to keep him on the label.
Well, he has hardly tempered his direction to gather larger crowds,. Walrath continues to point the middle finger in the direction of those who find him too erratic for their tastes. The trumpeter is incorporating more influences than ever and creatively maneuvering them into stylistic train wrecks that will attract the musically prurient.
"Philosopher Stone" is bass-heavy funk-jazz reminiscent of the Joseph Bowie-led band, Defunkt. The wonderful "Blues Sinistra" offers a minor key theme borrowed from Duke Ellington's moodiest jungle music, then shifts into passionate '70s soul sermonizing by Bowman a la The Last Poets. Speaking of that decade, "Love Enough For Everybody", is soul-rock that could have been, should have been, cut during those years by War. Fiuzcynski's obnoxiously distorted guitar sound on the calypso-is "Mingus' Piano" couples with the equally fuzzy vocal soapboxing by Walrath himself on issues like tap water, food poisoning and Godzilla --- you know the pertinent stuff. "The Games" ends up sounding like one of John Zorn's cut-and-paste stylistic exercised moving from heavy Chicago blues to bebop to psycho country. There's reggae jazz on the disc somewhere too --- I can't find it again, but I know I heard it. The guy's a carnival funhouse presenting a dropping sidewalk on a spinning barrel at every turn. Some will yank the disc out of the carriage due to notions sickness, other will get in line again come the last cut. You'll probably find yourself experiencing one extreme or the other.

Dave McElfresh (Cadence)


jeudi 18 mars 2010

Timothy Young with very special people

(Endless, 1997)

Guitarist Timothy Young has performed in Seattle rock bands The Scabs, Scallywags and Devilhead. He also plays with great local musicians like Robin Holcomb, Eyvind Kang, Bill Frisell, Julian Priester and Michael White. He collaborates closely with Wayne Horvitz's bands called « Sweeter Than The Day » and « Zony Mash ». And he spent five years touring with Cambodian master musician Dr. Sam Ang Sam performing traditional Pin Peat repertoire.
Here, it's his first solo album and he leads a huge cast in creating a fascinating and kaleidoscopic album somewhere between « Sgt. Pepper’s » and Mister Bungle !


Napoli 23 = Eyvind Kang + Hilmar Jensson + Skuli Sverrisson + Matthias MD Hemstock

(Smekkleysa, 2002)


Eyvind Kang + Tucker Martine : "Orchestra dim bridges"

(Conduit, 2004)

Orchestra Dim Bridges is the long awaited and much anticipated collaboration between creative minds Eyvind Kang and Tucker Martine. This beautifully crafted recording covers lots of musical ground, from fluid and melodic songwriting to deep and subtle avant-garde sonic explorations. Filled with both delicate and aggressive surprises, each listen of this unique and subtle record reveals something fresh and new.
Violinist, composer, and conceptualist Eyvind Kang is a member of Bill Frisell's Quartet, Secret Chiefs 3, Wayne Horvitz's 4+1 Ensemble, and has worked with John Zorn, Beck, Marc Ribot, Arto Lindsay and Ikue Mori. He also has 3 groundbreaking recordings of his own out on the Tzadik label, and is one of today's most unique voices in creative and experimental music.
Producer/Sound Alchemist Tucker Martine is also a member of Wayne Horvitz's 4+1 Ensemble. His own group is called Mount Analog, plenty of atmospheric sound scapes, and he participates with avant-piano man Wayne Horvitz in Mylab project. An accomplished producer and sonic visionary, Tucker's collaborators include artists such as Bill Frisell, Laura Veirs, Robin Holcomb, Jim White and Jesse Sykes. In addition, several records of his field recordings have been released on Sublime Frequencies label, including Bush Taxi Mali and Moroccan Reveries.


Lesli Dalaba + Fred Frith + Eric Glick Rieman + Carla Kihlstedt

(Accretions, 2003)

This improv project is a first-time session by three Bay area musicians: composer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Glick Rieman, who initiated this meeting, plays prepared and extended Fender Rhodes electric piano; celebrated guitarist and composer Fred Frith, who had worked Glick Rieman at the Mills College; Tin Hat Trio and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum violinist Carla Kihlstedt: and former New York downtown player, now Seattle-based trumpeter Lesli Dalaba.
All four musicians demonstrate their inimitable attitudes and sensibilities towards their instruments, as if they are not playing in the most conservative sense of this concept but preferring to put their instruments through strange and unpredictable treatments, manipulations and effects, a kind of very free and experimental playful playing. Such an attitude might result in a very serious, academic exercise, but with their shared sense of adventure, idiosyncratic languages and high level of focused interaction, the end result is quite fascinating.
There is no leader on the session. All four musicians work to make form from improvisation, most of the time leaving the pieces without a specific shape until they have exhausted their ideas. Frith, as one might expect, plays all over the guitar, using its strings as a kind of percussion instrument, scratching them and producing sometimes distorted, bluesy lines. Dalaba explores her extended breath control technique, blowing otherworldly long chords and adding her "maniacal laughter" to "Lucy Has A New Pet Kitty." Glick Rieman produces ambient, drone-like sounds from his Rhodes piano, and Kihlstedt proves that she is one of the most promising improvisers to emerge from the Bay area, pushing the range of her violin through high pitch pizzicato plucking as if it were a strange transformation of a Japanese koto, then moving into folk-style playing. Fifty-five minutes of unusual, challenging, exceptional and strange sounds, but most of the time beautiful music.

Andrey Henkin (All About Jazz)


John King + Electric World

(Ear Rational, 1989)

John King, composer and guitarist, has presented his unique style of composed and improvisational music in many major festivals worldwide. John King has composed for orchestra, chamber ensembles, rock bands, dance, film and theater. He has written three operas to texts by Heiner Müller, Robbe-Grillet and Mallarmé, and worked closely with Merce Cunningham for many years.
He has had many working bands over the last 5 years including ELECTRIC WORLD (with Jean Chaine, David Moss and/or Abe Speller), VIBROVERB (with Nioka Workman and Michael Wimberly), and KING KORTETTE (Jonathan Kane, Nicki Parrott and Christopher McIntyre), all blues/funk/jazz based. He plays lead guitar with the avant-blues group Deep Blue Sea, led by French avant-noise guitarist Jean-Francois Pauvros and art rock drummer extraordinaire Jonathan Kane; and also performed with : William Parker's "Little Huey Creative Orchestra", Butch Morris' "Conduction" Orchestra, Guy Klucevsek's "Ain't Nothin' But A Polka" band and Rhys Chatham's 6-guitar band.
His commissions and collaborations include those for the Kronos Quartet, Bang On A Can All-Stars, the string quartet ETHEL and many other famous classical orchestras.
Recently, a new album is available on Tzadik : « He again embraces rock, jazz, blues and other popular styles in an energetic and colorful program for string quartet. Featuring passionate and inspiring performances by the remarkable quartet Crucible with King himself on viola, Mark Feldman & Cornelius Duffalo on violin and Alex Waterman on cello : the music jumps from moment to moment with lightening speed and an organic sense of form ».


dimanche 7 mars 2010

Expanding boundaries : universal conversations in eight acts...

1) Derek Bailey + Min Xiao-Fen : "Viper" (Avant, 1998) :

I still remember when I was ten years old, my father, Min Ji-Qian - a professor, educator and pipa* master at Nanjing Normal University in China - was teaching one of my classmates. He lent one of his pipas to her, and I immediately got so jealous. Ever since then, I wanted to learn pipa from my father. Seven years later, I passed an important audition with more than 60 other competitors and got a job with the Nanjing Traditional Music Orchestra. The orchestra sent me to music school to continue strict, full-time training with my father and other pipa masters. Mostly I learned traditional solo tunes and orchestral repertoire. Four years later, at 21, I became the principle pipa soloist. My life was simple - music, music, and more music. Then in 1993, looking for a new challenge, I moved to San Francisco.
My first experience with improvisation occurred during a concert with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in San Francisco. I had just finished playing "Lake Biwa A Full Moon Pure Water Gold", his composition for solo pipa, and was in the middle of playing an ensemble piece with five other musicians including Wadada. Suddenly he nodded, indicating that he wanted me to jam with him. I had never really improvised before, and I didn't know how. I only remember that moment - my hands got stuck and my heart seemed to stop beating. I was completely lost.
I moved to New York City in 1996. Five months later, I played a solo set at the Knitting Factory's Alterknit Room. John Zorn was there. After the performance, he asked me if I might be interested in making a record for his label. He suggested a first recording of duet improvisations with Derek Bailey. Improvisation was a new thing for me, and I didn't really know much about it. I told John I wasn't comfortable improvising - I was afraid. But John encouraged me and gave me a few of Derek's CDs so I could listen and study.
I started listening to Derek's music. I heard sounds that I had never imagined before. In his hands, the guitar sounds metal and abstract. When I listened more closely, I felt sparks and colors in his music - like a Dali or Picasso painting. I even practiced by improvising along with his records. A week later, I called John and told him I would do it.
I met Derek at Clinton Studio and we started recording. I remember that my playing felt stiff at first, but I told myself to watch, listen and try to a have dialog with him and most importantly to follow my feelings. I still remember, during the middle of one track, Derek broke a string. I thought he might stop, but he continued playing, using the broken string to scratch on the frets. The results sounded incredible. Incredibly, our CD, Viper (Avant), was named one of The Wire magazine's "1998 Albums of the Year". Derek and I went on tour playing concerts in Berlin, Graz and other European cities. I learned so much from him. We released a second recording of duets called Flying Dragon (Incus) and Coda magazine listed it as "2003 Album of the Year".
As a traditional musician I was trained not to make changes or play extra notes. It is only now that I play freely, but it takes a lot of experience and practice. I've been lucky to do so many jazz projects and to work so closely with improvisers like Jane Ira Bloom, Ned Rothenberg, Steve Coleman, Billy Martin, Butch Morris, Jason Kao Hwang, Christian Marclay and many others. When I improvise, I feel like I'm creating my own language and music, I'm alive and in touch with my feelings. I still have a lot to learn, but I enjoy being in New York. The freedom here makes my music more creative and colorful.

Min Xiao-Fen (from an AllAboutJazz article)


2) Jason Kao Hwang + Sang Won Park : "Local Lingo" (Euonymus, 2007) :

« Looking back, I also recognized how I responded to various life events emotionally, like one or both my parents. It is this mass of “micro-learning” ingrained into my personality, not Asian scholarship, that defines my cultural self. These realizations generated insights about the shape, sound and phrase of my violin improvisations and compositions. In my sound was evidence of who I am. What defines “non-Western” is complex and nuanced, far beyond simple markers of musicology, like pentatonic scale.
This perspective inspires my collaboration with Sang Won Park, who plays the kayagum, ajeng (Korean zithers) and also, sings in the pansori (Korean opera) style. In 2006 we released our duo CD, Local Lingo (Euonymus), a strong document of the empathic listening we cultivated throughout performances over the past 16 years. Sang Won is an amazing improviser. The spectacular timbres that emanate from both his plucked kayagum and bowed ajeng (with a resined stick), inspired alternate approaches to my violin. I found colors produced by extreme changes in bow pressure and sounding points created bridges to his sound. Corresponding to his deep “vertical” vibrato, I broadened my violin’s vibrato using a full range of wide arm/hand movements to narrow/rapid finger fluctuations, with a rapidity and combination that spoke in our lingo. This allowed the inflections of our phrases to resonate as one. Through expressive intent and intuition, that is our “vibe,” we also developed our own system of intonation. Though not of Western temperament, we stay “in tune.” For my compositions, the notational elements for Local Lingo are distilled to initiate a full and detailed improvisational development ."

Jason Kao Hwang (from an interview with Mike Heffley)

Through the 1990s, violinist Jason Kao Hwang mined an exploration of East Asian music filtered through the improvisatory language of downtown New York. Primarily with his Far East Band—with Sang Won Park on the stringed ajeng and kayagum and Yukio Tsuji on the flutelike shakuhachi, later augmented by Joe Daley's tuba—Hwang created an avant-garde take on the immigrant experience, representing the so-called melting pot of New York City with ingredients that still retain their individual flavors.
Hwang and Park are now continuing their exploration of Eastern improv as a duo, having performed at the 2007 Vision Festival and now with their first duo CD. But where the Far East Band had a cross-cultural feel, Local Lingo is distinctly Asiatic and with more of a smear of abstraction. The opening piece, "Listen, is built around a call-and-response, with Hwang stating a slow melody line and Park repeating it, bowing his strings down to a detuned growl.
"Ari Rang is a traditional Korean song (a populist movement is even pushing for it to be made the national anthem) plaintively sung by Park and used as a springboard for delicate variation. Over the course of the five tracks, the duo displays a beautiful restraint, slowly engaging (and disengaging) themes with a remarkable compatibility. While the different tunings and scales of traditional Eastern music can sound alien to Western ears, here the increasingly global language of joint improvisation bridges the divide.

Kurt Gottschalk (AllAboutJazz)


3) Michihiro Sato + John Zorn : "Ganryu Island" (Tzadik, 1998) :

In 1983 Sato decided to break out of the shamisen milieu and operate more freely when it came to performances and collaborative work, much the same way his mentor Yamada had done. Appearing on jazz and rock circuits he also toured abroad. John Zorn invited him to record an album and they recorded "Ganryu Island" during one day. The recording is an unexpected joy for those who appreciate extended instrumental techniques. Zorn blows forth a near-comprehensive sampling of his outrageous sound vocabulary -- bird calls, pattering, thwacking, and more -- in conjunction with the plucking and strumming of shamisen master. Recorded in 1984, just after Michihiro left the traditional shamisen music community to focus more on using the instrument in improvisational settings, Ganryu Island was originally made available as a limited edition release on the Yukon label. This session of bemused wonderment was out of print until Zorn's label, Tzadik, rereleased it in 1998, with the addition of five outtakes. The great, no-holds-barred improvisation is by no means an inchoate whirl -- indeed, the shamisen's rhythmic presence often provides a steady, but flexible structure for the duo's truly imaginative interaction.

Joslyn Layne (Allmusic)

nb : named after a small island off the coast of Japan where legendary samurai master Miyamoto Musashi defeated Sasaki Kojiro in a duel long ago...


4) Wu Fei : "A distant youth" (Forrest Hill, 2007) :

Wu Fei is a master player of the guzheng, a Chinese string instrument that is more than two thousand years old, and known today mostly as the parent instrument of the Japanese koto. Fei began her musical studies at the age of six in Beijing, later studied composition in Mills College in California, and now splits her time between Beijing and New York. She has collaborated with composers and improvisers such as Alvin Curran, Joelle Leandre, Elliot Sharp, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Ikue Mori, Cecil Taylor and Fred Frith, who featured her in his recordings Eye to Ear II (Tzadik, 2004) and The Happy End Problem (ReR, 2007).
Her debut recording features her original compositions for guzheng and vocal, rooted in the Chinese musical tradition, as well as her contemporary improvisational approach with fellow master improvisers: Fred Frith, violinist Carla Kihlstedt and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken. The latter improvisations are the most striking ones, as they feature the swift and subtle reflexes of Fei and her collaborators, especially Kihlstedt and Frith, who succeed in expanding and abstracting the arsenal of sounds of the guzheng.
Kihlstedt does so beautifully on the opening track "Cloud of Birds," where her sustained touch of the strings triggers a gentle counterpoint approach by Fei. Kihlstedt's wise plucking of the violin strings is a perfect accompaniment for the short vocal piece "Ping Tan." Frith and Kihlstedt begin "Diao Chan" with an unstructured, open improvisation that forces Fei to adapt to Frith's fast, phrase-based percussive approach. Frith leads "Dawn" with economic, evocative guitar lines; and his subtle interaction with Fei and Kihlstedt offers a mysterious cinematic atmosphere. All three are featured on the beautifully nuanced improvisation of "Mukamu."
Frith's affinity for patient and abstract improvisation, his rich vocabulary of guitar sounds, and his adaptability to almost any musical genre are best featured on "Yu Yin" and "For Yuxi," where his guitar sounds like a distorted ancient Chinese instrument. "Nothingness" is a non-idiomatic and thought-provoking improvisation between Fei and Frith, and it's almost impossible to know who produces what sound, as their language has become so close. "Mad Season" features a playful abstraction of a traditional Chinese theme, and Frith challenges Fei for a fast improvisation that leaves behind the original theme. Frith's percussive playing on "Break Away" is answered cleverly by an imaginative Fei. Norbakken, who is featured on one track only, "Hunan," rubs the skins and alternates between rhythms in a way that challenges Fei for a balancing textural answer.
Fei's solo compositions for the guzheng incorporate elements from her Western studies, in the way that she slides and rubs the strings, jumping between what sound like traditional themes to a more adventurous plucking of the strings, or introducing an almost distorted sound of the strings. This is a most original recording by a daring composer and improviser that deserve a wider recognition.

Eyal Hareuveni (AllAboutJazz)


5) Yumiko Tanaka + Ivar Grydeland : "Continental crust" (Sofa, 2005) :

This music was composed and recorded at the venue Bridge in Osaka on April 17th 2004. Bridge is located high above the ground in the middle of the amusement park called Festival Gate - right between slot machines and the big roller coaster. I don't think Festival Gate is Osaka's hot spot, the park is nearly empty, but Bridge is a nice and spacious venue. With relatively small acoustic instruments we tried to fill Bridge with sound and music that we find interesting. Meanwhile, we could see the roller coaster passing by every now and then - we could also hear it, and feel it. The whole building would shake each time it passed by, like a small earthquake. Maybe this wasn't the perfect recording situation, but listening to the music now I feel it gained an identity of it's own. The music on this CD somehow made me think of plate tectonics.

Ivar Grydeland, Oslo, November 2004 (liner notes)

This is a very successful duo improvisation record – lively communication between the musicians, but enough distance between their approaches to generate healthy tension, so that they achieve unanimity it's worth a lot. Norwegian guitarist Ivar Grydeland wields a steel-strung acoustic with a strong ring to it; Japanese Yumiko Tanaka plays her Gidayu shamisen, the ‘fat-neck' lute traditionally accompanying narrators in the puppet theatre. They recorded last year in Osaka , alongside the slot machines and rollercoaster of the Festival Gate amusement park.
Tanaka is very good at patient exploration of a small musical area. She works hard at one idea, refusing to rush off in search of another one, slowly kindling excitement. Often she seems to challenge Grydeland to play less. Grydeland, a fairly busy player, in fact leaves plenty of space and deals out clear musical statements. Both players occasionally prepare their instruments with sticks, bows, etc, and Grydeland introduces basic electronics, maybe and E-bow, into the picture. By “Young Oceanic Crust”, they are both trading bitter-sweet, almost Baroque tones, and when the energy overflows it sounds like a bull in a Chinese music-box shop. Then they settle in to several minutes of bottlenecked rhythm. When it stops, we hear the amusement park in the distance. Several times the rollercoaster adds its menacing rumble to the mix. The last piece starts with a scrabbling of sweeps and harsh scrapes, and suddenly Tanaka's voice launches into a full-blooded Gidayu narration. Whether Grydeland has seen the puppet theatre or not, he reacts well to the passion and drama in Tanaka's delivery.
So, a fresh and intelligent album, and encouraging to anyone who suspects improvisation might be languishing in a rut. These musicians were even enjoying themselves so much in the soundcheck, they tacked it on as a secret track.

Clive Bell (The Wire)


6) Kiku Day + Henry Kaiser : "Zen Kaiju" (Balance Point Acoustics, 2007) :

Berkeley-based experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser has gained a justified reputation for his eclectic tastes and the way that he fuses his influences into an idiosyncratic guitar style. He began playing the guitar after listening to seminal free-improv guitarist Derek Bailey and has a deep knowledge of the Grateful Dead's musical journeys, as well as the 1970s electric-era of Miles Davis, as documented in the three volumes of his Yo Miles! band with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. He also has a keen interest in musical traditions from around the world, as his musical tours to Madagascar and Norway with fellow-guitarist David Lindley testify. Tokyo-born and Copenhagen-based, Kiku Day studied the ji-nashi shakuhachi—the bamboo flute that is so identified with Zen Buddhism in Japan---and later improvisation with Joëlle Léandre and Fred Frith, with whom she recorded his dance piece The Happy End Problem (Fred Records, 2007). She first collaborated with Kaiser on Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei! (Balance Point Acoustics, 2006), his heartfelt tribute to the late Bailey.
The title of this stunning meeting of minds supposedly represents what Day and Kaiser bring to the table. It defines a clash between the meditative, serene and introspective side of Zen, and the reckless, vocal, violent mutation of the Kaiju—which translates to strange beast in Japanese and refers to the generic name for Gojira, the famous Godzilla and extended family of mutated/strange creatures that starred in a 1960s wave of monster films. It is clear that Kaiser is also an expert in that field; all twelve pieces portray vivid meetings of extremes between all sorts of Kaiju in times when they are called to reflect upon their deeds, in a kind of spin on the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic concept.
The most amazing thing about this recording is that both Day and Kaiser are able create a new common ground, one that references the disciplined shakuhachi tradition, but moves onto another plain. In their tight and intimate timbral explorations, Day uses the shakuhachi as a drone instrument, while Kaiser bends and sustains notes indefinitely on guitar. When she slurs or shouts on the bamboo flute, he lightly distorts the sound and squeezes the strings as a metallic percussion instrument. While she investigates microtones and multiphonics he caresses and gently rubs the strings, and when he tries to dictate a vague rhythm she offers sympathetic and subtle dance-like sentences. Kaiser plays in a much more restrained manner than usual, opting for more a precise and subtle extension of Day's language; but such a nuanced approach pays off, since it leaves much more room for the colorful and suggestive sounds of both to linger on.
Day and Kaiser are powerful improvisers with a wealth of ideas and an endless need to open new sonic vistas. This unique recording suggests a new way towards a sonic enlightenment—unconventional, selfless and compassionate as Zen enlightenment, but also a liberating one from our sonic or life conventions and costumes, just as Bailey suggested.

Eyal Hareuveni (All About Jazz)


7) Jin Hi Kim with Elliott Sharp & Henry Kaiser : "Sargeng" (Ear-Rational, 1990) :

Jin Hi Kim is internationally acclaimed as both an innovative komungo (Korean fourth century fretted board zither) virtuoso and for her cross-cultural compositions. Kim has introduced the Korean indigenous komungo for the first time into Western contemporary music scene with her wide array of pioneering compositions for chamber ensemble, orchestra, avant-garde jazz improvisations and multicultural ensembles. She has co-designed the world's only electric komungo : « The literal meaning of sargeng is articulation of attack in reference to the komungo. The komungo is a fourth-century, korean six string board zither played by striking the strings with a bamboo stick. It has six, heavy silk strings and sixteen frets. The variety of playing techniques produce sounds of a very vocal quality with extensive play on microtones and timbres. In the context of this music, Sargeng also means the articulation of an approach to cross-cultural composition and improvisation ».


8) Miya Masaoka + George Lewis : "The usual turmoil and other duets" (Music & Arts, 1998) :
George Lewis records so infrequently as a leader that any new release featuring him on trombone is itself an event. Here, he is featured on trombone in a series of duets with kotoist Miya Masaoka. (Masaoka's koto is a sort of modified Japanese zither.) The results, as expected, are superb, as Lewis and Masaoka negotiate twelve improvised pieces, swerving, interacting, bouncing, and complementing each other in spectacular ways. Lewis is up to his usual bag of tricks, totally dominating his horn with rapid displays of notes bursting forth like shooting stars, extremely precise phrasing, and extended range. Masaoka is a fine dueling partner, stroking her koto in different avenues, jabbing here and there with atonal forays. While the sound quality suffers a bit on the two lengthy live numbers, Lewis fans will nonetheless savor the extended 'bone solos, not to mention the outstanding koto work of Masaoka.

Steve Loewy (Allmusic)


samedi 6 mars 2010

Takashi Kazamaki : "143 Ludlow st. NYC"

(Dossier, 1988)

143 Ludlow St. was the address of the Lower East Side (Manhattan) apartment of Japanese drummer Takashi Kazamaki during one of his extended residencies in New York. (It was also, I think, previously the domicile of Downtown Scene drummer, Katie O'Looney, who now lives in Southern France.)
On this LP, recorded in 1988, he works in two duos. Side one has Takashi playing with percussionist / electronic percussionist extraordinaire Samm Bennett. This series of brief highly focused duos treads a fine balance between Kazamaki's insistent, mostly acoustic drumming, and Samm's characteristic sampler-voiced playing. Sometimes Samm expands sonically and absorbs Takashi's rhythmic drive into his own more lyrical style; at other times Bennett gets underneath T.K.'s axle and pushes him out front, into some really hot stick-work.
Side two finds Takashi in duo with electric/acoustic harpist Zeena Parkins, who plays accordion on the final track. Here the pieces are generally longer, allowing Zeena to let fly with penetrating blasts and saw-edge staccatos from her wildly transformed harp (It's got a wang-bar on it!). This stands up against Takashi's convulsive snare drum for a music that is elegantly tenacious and virtuostic. Bumped and prodded, the harp speaks in a web of voices, a remarkable complexity of timbres that sound almost wrenched from the instrument with a crowbar at times, with a feather at other times.

(TAKASHIKAZAMAKI / « The improvisor »)


NB : an other great album called "Return to Street Level" (with Elliott Sharp, Tom Cora, Christian Marclay...) on LUCKYPSYCHICHUT blog : HERE

lundi 1 mars 2010

The Lounge Lizards : "Queen of all ears"

(Strange & Beautiful Music, 1998)

John Lurie's so-called "non-jazz" approach is in full flower on this fascinating record. The ever-growing (nine-piece at this point) band builds layers of rhythm and melody with unique effect throughout. On "The Birds Near Her House," a serpentine melodic line weaves through a steady rhythmic bed, building to a frenetic climax. "Scary Children" is a foreboding dirge that still manages to exude true humor. Perhaps that is the most significant aspect of this music: it has real character and life. It doesn't just groove — it starts a conversation.

Tim Sheridan (Allmusic)


mercredi 24 février 2010

Billy Martin & Socket : "January 14 & 15 2005"


"With raging distortion, polyphonic-cacophony and speaking in tongues, NYC’s downtown luminaries led by Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin & Wood), channel the “mad” spirits in front of a live audience at NYC’s legendary experimental nightclub, Tonic. Two nights distilled and concentrated into one seriously potent mix of heaven and hell. May these sonic witchdoctors heal the ailing, chase the dragons and cast spells on your world".