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Drone Trio (Davis / Frith / Greenlief): Lantskap Logic (Clean Feed)

Recording in the Bay Area at the Mills College Chapel in Oakland, the Drone Trio of Fred Frith on electric guitar, Phillip Greenlief using extended techniques on alto & tenor saxophones, and Evelyn Davis on the Chapel's pipe organ, use the natural resonance of the chapel and their masterful skills as improvisors to evolve fervid and powerfully sonorous environments. ... Click to View


Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa: Born Baby Born (Clean Feed)

Italian trumpeter Falvio Zanuttini (Arbe Garbe) leads his bassless trio with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto sax and Marco D'Orlando on drums through 8 Zanuttini compositions, exciting free jazz with a lyrical bent and a playful attitude, the unique orchestration driving the players into post-bop territory with great parallel interaction in the horns and swinging drums - impressive! ... Click to View


The Way Ahead (Roligheten / Alberts / Barno / Aleklint / Stahl / Hoyer / Ostvang): Bells, Ghosts And Other Saints (Clean Feed)

An incredibly informed and modern album of free jazz drawing on an Albert Ayler influence from the Norwegian and Swedish septet of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone, clarinet, Kristoffer Alberts on alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, Niklas Barno on trumpet, Mats Aleklint on trombone, Mattias Stahl on vibraphone, Ola Hoyer on double bass, and Tollef Ostvang on drums. ... Click to View


Francesco Cusa & The Assassins Meets Duccio Bertini: Black Poker (Clean Feed)

The Italian free improv quartet The Assassins (Francesco Cusa, drums; Giulio Stermieri, piano; Flavio Zanuttini, trumpet; Giovanni Benvenuti, sax) joins toget with the classical chamber string ensemble, Florence Art Quartet (Daniele Iannaccone, violin; Lorenzo Borneo violin; Agostino Mattioni, viola; Cristiano Sacchi, cello) in a wonderful hybrid of both approaches. ... Click to View


Zack Clarke: Mesophase (Clean Feed)

Mesophase: matter that is neither liquid or solid, sharing properties of both; pianist and electronic artistZack Clarke's inspired album shares properties of improvisation, experimental/ea and through-composed music, performed with fellow NY-ers Chris Irvine (cello), Charlotte Greve (winds), Nick Dunston (double bass), and Leonid Galaganov ( percussion, waterphone & shakuhachi). ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot / Christian Wolfarth: The Call [VINYL] (Shhpuma)

Two unconventional and experimenting improvisers--French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot and Swiss percussionist Christian Wolfarth--in a deceptive album of acoustic improvisation that elusively takes on electric qualities in the hands of these two innovators, seducing the listener through unusual twists and turns of perfectly paced interactions. ... Click to View


Ricardo Toscano Quartet : Feat. Joao Pedro Coelho, Romeu Tristao & Joao Lopes Pereira (Clean Feed)

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Hamar Trio (Holm / Faustino / Morao): Yesterday Is Here (Clean Feed)

Drawing from two live performances, one at Salao Brazil in Coimbra, the other at SMUP Parede in Portugal, from the trio of Norwegian multi-reedist Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (Ballrog), and Portuguese double bassist Hernani Faustino (Red Trio) and drummer/percussionist Nuno Morao (The Selva), for four spontaneous improvisations of great depth and mastery. ... Click to View


Antonio Raia : Asylum (Clean Feed)

Naples tenor saxophonist Antonio Raia's album of solo saxophone improvisations employs a mix of traditional and unusual techniques in 12 concise pieces that fragment "scraps" of melody into a diverse ruminating streams, recorded at the city's Filangeri Asylum by sound artist Renato Fiorito, using ten microphones to capture the unique qualities of the space. ... Click to View


Antonio Raia : Asylum [VINYL] (Clean Feed)

Naples tenor saxophonist Antonio Raia's album of solo saxophone improvisations employs a mix of traditional and unusual techniques in 12 concise pieces that fragment "scraps" of melody into a diverse ruminating streams, recorded at the city's Filangeri Asylum by sound artist Renato Fiorito, using ten microphones to capture the unique qualities of the space. ... Click to View


Chicago Edge Ensemble (Phillips / Drake / Williams / Bishop / Pablan): Insidious Anthem (Trost Records)

Drawing together some of Chicago's finest improvisers--leader Dan Phillips on guitar, Mars Williams on saxophones, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Krzysztof Pabian on double bass, and Hamid Drake on drums--for their second album, a balance set of creative jazz tunes with solid compositions that lend themsevles to exultant soloing, unusual sonic moments, and great collective playing. ... Click to View


Simon Nabatov String Trio: Situations (Leo)

As much a composed work as a work of improvisation, pianist and composer Simon Nabatov's String Trio with Garteh Lubbe on viola and Ben Davis perform six Nabatov compositions, chamber jazz works that express in both buyouantly intricate and languourosly beautiful abstraction, each piece leaving room for each player to improvise and express themselves. ... Click to View


Heath Watts / M.J. Williams / Nancy Owens / Blue Armstrong : Sensoria (Leo)

Saxophonist Heath Watts' 3rd Leo release is an album of free improvisation with three Montana jazz mavens--Blue Armstrong on double bass, MJ Williams on trombone, piano & melodica, and Nancy Owens on violin--in nine recordings of sophisticated and intelligent interaction that naturally evolves new directions of irrepressibly enjoyable and diverse conversation. ... Click to View


Ikui Doki (Bernado / Mayot / Rinaudo): Ikui Doki (Ayler)

Winners of the Jazz Migration and tour JMF 2018, the chamber jazz trio of Sophie Bernado (bassoon), Hugues Mayot (saxophone & clarinet) and Rafaelle Rinaudo (harp & effects) share their passion for creative music that embraces composition and improvisation, springboarding off composers like Debussy while transferring warmth and vision into free jazz; magnificent. ... Click to View


Szilard Mezei Tul A Tiszan Innen Ensemble: Citromfa [2CDS] (FMR)

Violist Szilard Mezei's Serbian jazz-folk group Tul a Tiszan Innen Ensemble is a twelve-piece band that functions as a small orchestra playing a range from complex to spacious compositions and arrangements from Mezei, using themes from Hungarian folk songs from Vojvodina to create expansive compositions over which the adept members of his ensemble improvise. ... Click to View


Les Surruralists (Bull / Normand / Grossman / Jacques / Berirau): La Way Qu'a Do (Tour de Bras)

Slyly crossing modern improv and EAI approaches in a surreal take on early bottleneck, banjo and slide blues styles from the Quebec quintet of Arthur Bull on harmonica, voice, guitar, electronics, Eric Normand on banjo, voice, bass, Ben Grossman on "old wheel", Anne-Francoise Jacques on engines, and Gabriel Rochette on trombone; sincere and eccentric. ... Click to View


Plant (Jim Denley / Eric Normand): II (Tour de Bras)

Separated by 1,000 KMs and speaking a different language, the collaboration of Quebec bassist Eric Normand and Australian saxophonist Jim Denley, both dedicated experimenters, share a common aesthetic in free improvisation as they release their third album: five dialogs using reeds, electric bass, drums, objects and tools to create unusual sonic conversations. ... Click to View


Weasel Walter : Curses (Ugexplode)

Drummer/percussionist and electronic artist Weasel Walter's solo album presents 99 tracks that represent 4 large movements of "detailed abstract madness", titled "Curse Against Humanity", "Casting Destruction", "Ode To The Death Of Enemies", and "Cursed in Eternity", each a vicious and intensely captivating set of elusive movement in accord and discord; fascinating. ... Click to View


Sabu Toyozumi / Rick Countryman / Simon Tan: Preludes And Prepositions (ChapChap Records)

Three extended free improvisations recorded in 2017 in Cubao Quezon City from the trio of Rick Countryman on alto saxophone, Simon Tan on acoustic bass, and Japense first generation free improviser Sabu Toyozumi on drums & Erhu (a 2-stringed Chinese instrument), as the trio take their listeners on a marathon session of inspired and playing. ... Click to View


Derek Bailey / Vertrek Ensemble ‎: Departures (Volatile Records)

After only their first album as a duo, the Edmonton, Canada duo Vertrek Ensemble of Vadim Budman on electric and acoustic guitar & cornet and Ron de Jong on percussion, travelled to London in 1998 to record a session with legendary free improviser Derek Bailey, this album of open-minded, uniquely voiced and beautifully captured improvisation the result. ... Click to View


Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp: Oneness [3 CDs] (Leo)

A significant release culminating the partnership of saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, a distillation of their work after 8 duo recordings and dozens of collaborative albums, this 3 CD presents their work together in nearly telepathic terms: sympathetic and intimate without irascibility, a beautiful and introspective reflection of a shared ethic. ... Click to View


Aine O'Dwyer / Graham Lambkin: Green Ways [2 CDs] (erstwhile)

A unique sound document originally envisioned as a sound map of Ireland, collecting and composing with live recordings from performances in Doon, Dungarvan, Plaistow, Shoreditch, Singo & Stratford, using song, sound, spoken word, extraneous, ambient recordings and abstract and unidentifiable elements, making for an absolutely fascinating and somewhat bizarre album; recommended. ... Click to View


Dustin Carlson (w/ Mitchell / Gentile / Hopkins / Morgan / Trudel / Gouker): Air Ceremony (Out Of Your Head Records)

A strong album of modern creative jazz from New York guitarist Dustin Carlson, in a septet with Matt Mitchell on synth, Kate Gentile on drums, Adam Hopkins on bass, Nathaniel Morgan on alto saxophone, Eric Trudel on baritone saxophone, Danny Gouker on trumpet, sophisticated, intricate, lyrical and compelling compositions driving the enthusiasm and exuberance of their "ceremony"! ... Click to View


Jurg Frey : 120 Pieces of Sound (elsewhere)

Two distinct works by Swiss composer and bass clarinetist Jurg Frey: the 1st, recorded in Connecticut, a quintet composition from 2009 for bass clarinet, cello, violin, keyboard and electric guitar, Frey's harmonies creating an open instrumentation for the clarinet and cello; the second a 1997 composition for multitimbral field recordings and bass clarinet. ... Click to View


Clara de Asis : Without (elsewhere)

French composer and guitarist Clara De Asis composed the extended soundwork "Without" for the duo of Erik Carlson (violin) and Greg Stuart (percussion), defining a precise framework for the position and duration of each sound section and silence, with outlines for texture, volume, use of tone or noise, and percussive materials, but leaving space for many of the performers' choices. ... Click to View


Stefan Thut : about (elsewhere)

Composer & cellist Stefan Thut performs his composition with Ryoko Akama (electronics), Stephen Chase (guitar), Eleanor Cully (piano), Patrick Farmer (metal percussion), and lo wie (tingsha), where half of the group allow single percussive, ringing or electronic sounds to decay, as the other half play high register pitches, in between walking "about" and uttering monosyllabic words. ... Click to View


Insect-ions (Pascal Landry / Mick Barr): out.over.forever (Tour de Bras)

Acoustic guitar intermeshes with electric guitar as Canadian guitarist Pascal Landry and New York guitarist Mick Barr, both of whom play in heavy rock and free improvisation settings, meet in Queens, NY to record this intense album of free playing using a diverse set of approaches, intertwining their strings in an insectile swarm of notes and timbres. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne / Vertek Ensemble: Dimsum, Dodgers, And Dangerous Nights (Volatile Records)

Documenting the meeting of guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, also singing on "If I Were a Bell", with the Edmonton, CA-based Vertrek Ensemble of Ron de Jong on percussion and Vadim Budman on guitars and trumpet, in a city Chadbourne lived in 25 years prior, as he returns for a serious and well recorded album of informed free improv, plus one solo Chad track from a concert during his visit. ... Click to View


John Zorn: In A Convex Mirror (Tzadik)

Three pieces of "sonic voodoo" with John Zorn improvising on saxophone over the hypnotic Hatian influenced drumming of Ches Smith, while Downtown NY experimenter Ikue Mori provides swirls of sound and other aural additions, Zorn's incredible technique, lyrical skills and unusual twists and turns keeping the listener captivated over compelling and rich rhythm. ... Click to View


BROM (Lapshin / Ponomarev / Kurilo): Sunstroke (Trost Records)

Super heavy free jazz with a rock sensibility that also quotes and references the greats, including a track dedicated to Charles Mingus, from the Moscow trio of Dmitry Lapshin on double bass, Anton Ponomarev on saxophone, and Yaroslav Kurilo on drums, founded in 2008 but only now gaining global acknowledgement of their informed and ferocious brand of improv. ... Click to View


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  When They Write the Book  

Pianist Lewis Porter's Creates an Encyclopedia of Jazz


By Matt Rand 2003-03-28

There's a fundamental difference for documentarians between exploring the past and organizing the present. The historian who mines the past is a detective, searching for ways to expand the scope and the cohesion of information that has been dwindling. Lewis Porter Clues abound, but they aren't growing. With each year, the potential for errors magnifies, and the uninspected moments recede into quiet solitude. The chronicler who gives order to the present, however, has to make sense of more information than he could sift through in a lifetime. The present is everywhere, is ever changing, and so the historian has to pick and choose, define general movements and trends. Sometimes, though, a historian comes along and wants to catalog everything, to leave no stone unturned. More power to him, the rest of us think. Let him be our Sisyphus.

For much of his career as a jazz historian (as well as a jazz pianist), Lewis Porter, the director of the Masters Program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University, has focused on the past. In one of his better known works, John Coltrane: His Life and Music, Porter investigated a life already much written about. But he took on the subject by starting at the beginning and taking nothing for granted. One example is the discrepancy he noticed between Coltrane's previously reported years of military service (December, 1945 - June, 1946) and the actual way in which military service generally plays out. How could he have started in the Navy band, as was previously reported, when he first started in the Navy? What about basic training? As it turns out, the date most biographers had used came from an interview where Coltrane said he was in the band from December, 1945 to June, 1946, not that he was in the military from December, 1945 to June, 1946.Military service records are publicly available, so Porter checked on it. Sure enough, the earlier figure was wrong, and Coltrane actually served from July, 1945 to August, 1946.

So what, right? We care about Coltrane the musician, not Coltrane the short-term soldier. But Porter insists, and makes a very convincing case, that this is exactly what is important. First, it gives fluidity and cohesion to a musician's life. Musicians are people, after all, with birthdays, anniversaries, family and sometimes also military service. Porter explains that "one thing that's missing in all the other reference works and a lot of what's written about jazz is any sense that jazz musicians have families. Look at a biography of anyone who's not a jazz musician: the first thing they go into is the family history. Whether you're looking at Edward R. Murrow, or any book about any president, or about James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway, the first thing they do is say his father was named this, his mother was named that and this is where he came from. So you have a sense that they didn't just land on this planet - Miles Davis didn't just land on the planet in 1926."

The second reason that comprehensive (and accurate) information is important is a little less direct, but is just as compelling. Jazz has always been an also-ran for historians, and even, more specifically, for musicologists. The discourse on Bach is very different from the discourse on John Coltrane. Keeping the history, then, becomes a struggle for the validity of jazz and its musicians. Huge institutional strides have been made of late, but we still look at its past with the kind of wonder that we usually save for mythology, or for things we don't know much about. Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker are colossal figures who could pick up rail cars with their bare hands and bend street signs with their minds.

For Porter, jazz musicians are real people living in real places, and that they are part of a community of musicians that they both affect and are affected by. This has brought him headlong out of the past and into the present. He is presently working on a jazz encyclopedia, but it won't be like the ones that came before it. Porter is aiming to include all living jazz musicians in his encyclopedia. Yes, all of them.

"It's great to have the Grove [New Grove Dictionary of Jazz] and the one that Leonard Feather did that was revised by Ira Gitler [The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz]," he said, "but they do a lot of picking and choosing of who quote-unquote 'deserves' to be in an encyclopedia. What I'd like to see out there is not to have anybody deciding whether you deserve to be in there or not, just a place to find anybody that you may hear on a recording or go see out in the club... The only bottom line is they have to be performing on a professional level."

Though don't take that to mean that a musician has to earn all of his money playing jazz, just that he plays actual gigs. Sisyphus, indeed, is in the building. ("Oh, no question about that," Portet said. "This rock is going to roll right over me.")

As biographical information goes, the encyclopedia is going to have everything. It'll have information on the musicians' parents, siblings, spouses and children; on radio, film and TV broadcasts and appearances; on unissued recordings; newspaper and magazine articles; awards; websites; contact information, and photos. There will be indexes based on last name, birth year and instrument. And, "because I'm a jazz historian, I have files on probably about 5,000 jazz musicians, of things that are in the news, things that I've observed myself and things that they've told me." Those will find their way into the book, as well.

There are a couple caveats (that the mam moth task requires superhuman patience is merely an aside). "The day it comes out, two things are going to happen," Porter said. "One is I'm going to have dozens of emails from musicians saying 'Oh, I changed my website or my phone number,' or 'I forgot to tell you something.' And the other thing that's going to happen is there'll be a whole new group. I'm sure there are going to be dozens of musicians a day saying, 'I didn't know about this - how did I not know about this? How come I'm not in there?'" But of course, he added, "that'll be the impetus for a new edition."

Another issue that will come up is that some musicians will pass away during the process of putting the book together. "I'm being a little bit flexible about that, because some cats have passed away in the last year or so. In some cases I'm in touch with the family. For instance, I know the widow of Ken McIntyre, and she says, 'you know I can give you a biography; I'm his widow; I know stuff that nobody knows.' And he just passed away, so why not?"

Porter understands that, for the encyclopedia to be a valuable reference tool, it must develop a context for the musicians. And so he aims to capture the essence of the jazz scene at this particular point in time. But he won't be writing articles on the music, like those that appear in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. What he will be doing to foster this context is letting the musicians write their own entries, which he says about a third of them have done so far (with Porter acting as fact-checker). Porter hopes that by encouraging musicians to write their own entries, they'll be able to share their stories as they see them, and in so doing, will create a collection of accurate representations of what's actually going on in jazz.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this system. Porter had initially intended to collect all of the information by January 1 of thi s year, but that hasn't happened yet. He's not drastically off-schedule, but he is certainly knee-deep in a lot more information than he expected. "It's been hours a day, getting my email, sorting it into files, making an index of who's responded so far," he said.

And the entries keep coming in. Porter said he's been surprised by the number of international submissions he's received from musicians he hadn't heard of, but who are very well-known in their home countries. They've been rolling in from the Netherlands, from Poland, from Finland. He's also been surprised by some of the big names who have personally sent him submissions, players such as Joe McPhee, Jane Ira Bloom and Roy Campbell. Initially, he thought he'd be doing most of the work for the musicians he knows of. ("Wynton Marsalis and Joshua Redman won't be sending me submissions.") So it's hard to step away from it all, although he knows he'll eventually have to. "There's going to be a point where I just have to call it quits. I'll just have to say, 'Okay, that's how big the book's going to be,' because it certainly could go on forever."

Until then, the pile of submissions grows, and the unturned stones are becoming harder to spot. It seems Dr. Porter might almost be getting this rock to the top of the hill. He comes back to explaining the value of contact information for the musicians, which Leonard Feather's encyclopedia had included, as well. Porter laughs and then says, "It's kind of fun, actually. You browse through it and it'll say 'Thelonius Monk,' and it'll have his address at West 64 Street." Time has a funny way of making history.

Lewis Porter is accepting entries for his jazz encyclopedia through May 15, 2003. He can be contacted at lrpjazz@aol.com



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