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)