The Squid's Ear
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Biliana Voutchkova / Michael Thieke: Blurred Music (elsewhere)

Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

The second collaboration between sounds artist Vanessa Rossetto and writer and sound artist Matthew Revert is a monumental work that studies the evolution of communication through fragments of spoken words, and a rich tapestry of sound from acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and perplexing and dramatic sources of sound. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

Two electroacoustic improvisers and composers--Lucio Capece on reeds, analog synths, effects, field recordings, drums machines, speakers in motion, and Marc Baron on field recordings and analog devices--developed these 6 extraordinary recordings that blend motion, perspective, sound and noise, and concrete references in a mystifying and mesmerizing journey in sound. ... Click to View


Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

Inspired by the work of Hungarian-born French media artist Vera Molnar, and by the vicissitudes of natural phenomena, French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert developed algorithmic procedures to compose this work, translating to "Music for the Daybreak", as an illusory "endless piece" of meditative layered, resonant music in the mode of Morton Feldman. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

An intensively diverse and thrilling game of "cat and dog" between Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, performing live at Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia in 2016 for two extended improvisations that exemplify incredible technical skills, reflective and introspective dialog, and cathartic release; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Marker (w/ Ken Vandermark): Wired For Sound (Audiographic Records)

The debut from this Chicago band merging strong grooves with free playing, with 2 guitarists--Andrew Clinkman & Steve Marquette, plus Macie Stewart on keys & violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and Ken Vandermark on reeds, each of the 3 tracks dedicated to an artist: Belgian movie director Chantal Akerman; German choreographer Pina Bausch; and Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

Celebrating bassist and composer William Parker's 65th birthday at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia in a band led by Bobby Zankel on alto saxophone, Muhammad Ali on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Steve Swell on trombone, Diane Monroe on violin, and William Parker himself on bass, in a 4-part suite of beautifully turbulent and masterful free jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

French double bassist Fred Marty joins Creative Sources core performers, violist Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and electronic artist Carlos Santos for an extensive improvisation exploring both lyrical and pointillistic improvisation, themed loosely around a garden quartet or frame, the music detailed, active and formidably sophisticated. ... Click to View


Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

Using Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" as his muse, German cellist living in Portugal, Ulrich Mitzlaff, presents 10 acoustic miniatures from just over a minute to 4 1/2 minutes in length, including wildly interactive moments of delirium to darkly melodic bowed passages, using his impressive technique to create vivid depictions of Munch's work. ... Click to View


4! (Patrizia Oliva / Carlo Mascolo / Domenico Saccente / Felice Furioso): Factorial (Creative Sources)

Free electroacoustic improvisation from the Italian quartet of Patrizia Oliva on voice, electronics, bawu, objects, Carlo Mascolo on prepared trombone, Domenico Saccente on accordion and prepared piano, and Felice Furioso on drums, cupa cupa, contrabbassa, sounded objects, using voice and unusual instrumentation to guide unusual and forward-thinking improv. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot's first solo album takes the viola into unusual territory, using an acousmatic approach to create music and sounds with no visual reference by transforming the sound of the viola through preparations and remarkable extended techniques, layering and assembling his works to create concrete statements of movement. ... Click to View


Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

New York composer and drummer Carlo Costa assembled this accomplished ensemble of NY improvisers for a live performance at IBeam in Brooklyn, capturing his piece "Strata" that evolves layers of sound from very sparse to densely yet accesibly stacked sound, varying recurring material to change perspectives in the aural space as the piece progresses; impressive. ... Click to View


Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

Many years after Pere Ubu and his work as a pilot, one of the world's most unique synth players, Allen Ravenstine, releases an album of composed works, 18 discrete hybrid miniature sound worlds that blend acoustic, real-world and synthetic sounds in unorthodox ways that elusively twist conventional approaches with unexpected elements and narrative twists. ... Click to View


Lance Olsen Austin : Dark Heart (Another Timbre)

Four fascinating and detailed compositions from Canadian composer and painter Lance Austin Olsen, each work giving the performers space to collaborate on the results, using graphic scores and Cage-like elements from recordings; performers include Terje Paulsen, Gil Sanson, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Patrick Farmer and Apartment House. ... Click to View


Alex Jang : Momentary Encounters (Another Timbre)

Four fragile and mostly minimal works by Victoria-based composer Alex Jang, performed by the Apartment House ensemble, with solo pieces by Heather Roche on clarinet + field recordings, one with Cristian Alvear on guitar, an acoustic quintet, and "any three players" designed for any mix of instrumentation, here on melodica, vibraphone & cello. ... Click to View


Linda Smith Catlin: Wanderer (Another Timbre)

Eight sophisticated chamber pieces composed by Linda Catlin Smith and realized by the Canadian Apartment House ensemble, including a solo piano performed by Philip Thomas, a piano duo with Thomas and Mark Knoop, and works for percussion & cello, 2 quintet pieces for strings, percussion and winds, and two 7-piece conducted works with two percussionists, strings and brass. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : O Zomer! (Another Timbre)

Two ensemble works and two solo pieces by Christian Wolff's favourite contemporary composer, Cassandra Miller, who is blazing a very personal trail through the experimental music world, with brilliant performances by Apartment House, Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, and Charles Curtis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov. ... Click to View


Cassandra Miller : Just So (Another Timbre)

A disc of extraordinary string works by Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, presenting four string quartets superbly played by the Quatuor Bozzini quartet of Clemens Merkel on violin, Alissa Cheung on violin, Stephanie Bozzini on viola, and Isabelle Bozzini on cello, including the large work "About Bach", awarded the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. ... Click to View


Bucher / Countryman (w/ Simon Tan / Isla Antinero): Extremely Live in Manila (ChapChap Records)

A live concert in Quezon City from the Manila based duo of Rich Countryman on alto saxophone and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher, who are joined on one track by acoustic bassist Simon Tan and trombonist Isla Antinero. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Adam Pultz Melbye / kriton b.: The Distant Sound Within (Creative Sources)

Three strings--cello from Guilherme Rodrigues, double bass from Adam Pultz Melbye, and viola from Ernesto Rodrigues--plus harmonium and objects from Kriton Beyer, in a live performance at Kuhlspot Social Club in Berlin, each of the 9 movements a concentrative work named with a three-letter onomatopoeia, as the players draw sound from a mysterious dark distance. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Akmee (Pedersen / Jerve / Albertsend / Wildhagen): Neptun [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Debut album from this Oslo collective quartet of free improvisers led by drummer Andreas Wildhagen (Nilssen-Love Large Unit) with Erik Kimestad Pedersen on trumpet, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Erlend Olderskog Albertsen on double bass, a thoroughly modern band that balances more experimental playing with improv in the European tradition; a strong start. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Nakama: Worst Generation [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Freely improvised and unusual collective improv from the quintet of Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums), Ayumi Nataka (piano), Adrian Loseth Waade (violin) and Agness Hvizdalek (voice), an abstract yet energetic album with Hvizdalek's voice adding an exotic edge to extended techniques based in free jazz strategies. ... Click to View


Machinefabriek: Engel (Machinefabriek)

Rutger Zuydervelt, AKA Machinefabriek, expanded the existing score for Marta Alstadsaeter & Kim-Jomi Fischer's dance piece "Engel", which is a contemporary piece combining dance and circus acrobatics, the new soundtrack a large work combining rich mirages of electronica, ambient sound, assertive noise, and even a section of Paal Nilessen-Love's drumwork. ... Click to View


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  Charming the Cobra  

A first-hand account of organizing a performance of John Zorn's most famous game


By Eyal Hareuveni 2003-08-20

John Zorn, in the liner notes to the latest recorded version of Cobra, on Tzadik, said of his most popular game-piece that "at its worst it can become psychodrama", but "at its best it's like magic." As it happened, the first official Israeli Cobra was almost doomed to become a kind of political psychodrama. Seventy-two hours before the concert, Zorn, who was supposed to be on hand as the conductor/prompter, decided to cancel his visit to Israel because of the shaky and troublesome situation in the Middle East. Luckily, due to the most creative and wise conduction by the Israeli viola player Nori Jacoby, the Israeli Cobra turned out with many magical moments.

The Israeli Cobra was being planning by Zorn and the Israeli Artistic Director, bass player Jean-Claude Jones, who jammed with Zorn during his 1994 visit to Israel with the Masada quartet (and was thanked on the liner notes of Masada in Jerusalem double disc on Tzadik), for the Israel Festival at Henry Crown Hall on June 7, 2003. For eight months prior to the performance, Jones and I had been assembling the players according to Zorn's suggestions - i.e. at least two female players, two Israeli-Arab players (one of them cancelled a month before the concert), a DJ and players from diverse backgrounds - jazz, improv, classical music, electronics. Zorn wanted playful, adventurous players, and emphasized that he does not care at all about virtuosity.

As we began to look for the players, we found out that most of them have heard of Zorn; vocal artist Maya Dunietz had even played with him an improv nights at Tonic in New York City. Only few of them owned any of his recordings, however, and none knew what the hell Cobra is. The sole exception was Jacoby, who was drafted a month before the concert. Jacobly learned Cobra from a Canadian musician and even conducted and played in some underground performances of the piece. None of the players really understood the rules Zorn sent, and even Jacoby needed a hour-long talk with Zorn, a day before the concert, to fully realize the key dynamics of a successful Cobra. Zorn last word of advise to Jacoby, an hour before the concert were quite short: "Have fun!"

After much preparation, the 13 players met for the first time nine hours before the performance for a quick sound check and a long rehearsal. Some had played with each other before, but not in such a large formation. Some had tried to rehearse the piece a few weeks before the concert. None of the players canceled after hearing that Zorn had decided to stay home. The players were: Jones, one of the best known jazz player in Israel, on bass and electronics; Dunietz on vocals, toys, shoes, percussion and synth; Taiseer Elias, who played in world music ensembles such as Bustan Abraham and Ziryab Trio, on oud; Dana Waxman, a member of the Israeli improv group Tel Aviv Art Ensemble, on cello; Ofer Ganor and Nadav Remez on electric guitars; multi instrumentalist Adam Scheflan on dobro, mini-vibes and kazoo; Daniel Ran on piano; Jeffrey Kowalsky, lead percussion player in the Beer Sheba Symphonietta, and long time collaborator of Steven Horenstein, on vibes, steel drums and darbouka; Hagai Freshtman, a long time collaborator with Assif Tsahar and Ori Kaplan (two Israeli saxophonists living in New York) on drums; video artist Ran Slavin on lap-top; Yoav Bernstein as DJ and special guest Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (who played in the festival with Daniel Zamir's Satlah) on bass. The youngest player was Remez, only 19 years old. The oldest, at 53, was Kowalsky.

The first characteristic of the Israeli Cobra players that our conductor Jacoby tackled was their insistence on playing all the time. Every time that Jacoby signed 'pool' (as he explained it, the cue means that every player can jump into the pool, but not all players have to jump at the same time) everybody began playing, seeming to enjoy the overall chaos. Then all the players tried to check out how fun the guerilla tactics are, but all was done in a very playful way. Slowly, but in a very confident way, Jacoby turned the rehearsal from a psychotherapeutic workshop for suppressed musicians into a really creative process. It began to seem that Zorn's absence would not hinder the concert.

Cobra was scheduled to open the festival, a free performance that filled the 700-seat hall. More than half the attendees did not know what to expect, believing they had come to see a jazz concert led by a well known Jewish musician (but only a few dozen left during the performance). The beginning of the first piece was hesitant, the players seemed to have lost some of their self-confidence since the last rehearsal, but it quickly evolved into a game of duos and Jacoby kept signing the players almost randomly, sometimes surprising them.

The real magic happened halfway into the concert, during the third piece. Jacoby created an event, selecting Elias on oud, Blumenkranz on bass and Kowalsky on the hand drum darbouka, and the three of them improvised beautifully on a Middle-Eastern scale with Elias leading, while the rest of the players tried to catch up. Jacoby used a lot of jump cuts between the three players and the other musicians and you could feel the kaleidoscopic musical vision of Zorn comes alive with a beautiful cello solo by Waxman, strange e-bow playing on the dobro by Scheflan, gibberish vocals from Dunietz and funny LP selections from Bernstein. The last section focused on the outer worldly laptop playing of Slavin and the piano outbursts of Ran, while the other players improvised in and out of the setting that Slavin and Ran created. Really beautiful music.

After more than 70 minutes the players were exhausted, physically, emotionally, but all of them felt so high, thanking anyone around, from the great sound engineer Uri Barak, to the festival officials, each other, me. All the tension was released. It was a unique experience for all of them, for the spectators, for the festival. The recording of this Cobra will soon be sent to Zorn to let him know what he was missing, and most of the players are planning to stage more Cobras in Israel in the near future.



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