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Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage : Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars : Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers : Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, an essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Lou Gare. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [2 CDs] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [VINYL] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


Moholo-Moholo's, Louis Five Blokes: Uplift The People (Ogun)

Drummer Moholo-Moholo, a member of Blue Notes, Elton Dean's Ninesene, Foxes Fox, London Improvisers Orchestra, a sideman for Brotzmann, Keith Tippets sideman and drummer and most importantly, band leader in a rich, lyrical and spiritual album recorded live at Cafe Oto in 2017 with Alexander Hawkins (piano), John Edwards (bass), Shabaka Hutchings (sax) and Jason Yard (sax). ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (Live At Tufts University) (Aum Fidelity)

A long-form 3-part work of collective improvisation from 3 masterful New York free jazz legends--Daniel Carter on flute, trumpet, clarinet, and saxophones, William Parker on bass, and Matthew Shipp on piano--performing live at Tufts University in 2017 in a beautifully thoughtful and lyrical concert presented after a screening of the '59 film "The Cry of Jazz". ... Click to View


Ceramic Dog (Ribot / Ches Smith / Shahzad Ismaily): Y R U Still Here? [VINYL] (Northern Spy)

... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports [VINYL] (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


Mette Rasmussen / Tashi Dorji: (Feeding Tube Records)

Captured live, the excitingly assertive improvisation of Danish saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and Bhutan electric guitarist Tashi Dorji on the stage at Hotel2Tango in Montreal, Quebec in 2016, and at La Sala Rosa, each pushing the limits on their instruments while retaining control of their conversation, a taught balancing act of extraordinary playing. ... Click to View


Elisabeth Harnik / Joelle Leandre: Tender Music (Trost Records)

Two like-minded musicians with a history in compositional and improvised music, pianist and prepared pianist Elisabeth Harnik and double bassist and vocalist Joelle Leandre met at WIST, in Graz, Austria in 2016 to perform and record this live album of insightful and compelling dialog between two masterful musicians full of creativity and virtuosic skill. ... Click to View


Zu / Mats Gustafsson: How To Raise An Ox [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The first vinyl edition of the 2004 collaboration of Italian power trio Zu of Luca Tommaso Mai on baritone sax, Massimo Pupillo on bass, and Jacopo Battaglia on drums, with Swedish baritone sax phenomenon Mats Gustafsson, what Atavistic calls a "hypno-skronk implosion" of dueling baritones sax over wonderfully intense and skronky free improvisation; a classic! ... Click to View


Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (Clean Feed)

With a history of playing together in the Andrew Hill Sextet, Marty Ehrlich immediately chose bassist John Hebert and drummer Nasheet Waits to join Ehrlich in his new trio endeavor, the multi-wind & reed player on alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and wooden flutes as they perform 9 lyrical and sophisticated Ehrlich compositions, plus one by Andrew Hill. ... Click to View


Chrome Hill: The Explorer (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quartet formerly known as "Damp" with baritone guitarist Asbjorn Lerheim, tenor saxophonist Atle Nymo, drummer Torstein Lofthus, and double bassist Roger Arntzen, blend expressive forms of jazz with blues and rock in an expansive and rich set of tunes that both pay homage and look to new and inclusive formations of emotional and effusive music. ... Click to View


Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg: Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian experimental collective improvising group of Henrik Munkeby Norstebo on trombone, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Andreas Wildhagen on drums & percussion are the core trio here, presenting their third release by adding free improvising vocalist Sofia Jernberg, bringing a sense of unpredictability to a finely controlled chaos of technical mastery. ... Click to View


Rafael Toral / Hugo Antunes / Joao Pais Filipe / Ricardo Webbens: Space Quartet (Clean Feed)

Composer, engineer and electronic artist Rafael Toral has completed his Space Program series and now launches his "Space Quartet" with double bassist Hugo Antunes, drummer/percussionist Joao Pais Filipe, synth player Ricardo Webbens, and Toral himself on modular feedback, blending solid acoustic rhythms with interstellar and abstract sound; singular. ... Click to View


Kirk Knuffke / Ben Goldberg: Uncompahgre (Relative Pitch)

Two extraordinary players from two coasts--clarinetist Ben Goldberg from the West and cornetist Kirk Knuffke from the East--in an exuberant duo of lyrical and virtuosic free jazz that astonishes the listener with the ease of their interactions in both parallel and contrasting lines, supporting the other as they express themselves uniquely; an impressive achievement! ... Click to View


Tomeka Reid / Kyoko Kitamura / Taylor Ho Bynum / Joe Morris: Geometry of Caves (Relative Pitch)

Bringing New York and Chicago performers together, the quartet of cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Joe Morris, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and free vocalist Kyoko Kitamura present an album of expressive and creative collective improvisation, bridging chamber forms and free jazz with a captivatingly eccentric appeal from Kitamura's wordless vocalese. ... Click to View


Tatakai Trio (Kuchen / Lindsjo / Strid): HappI (Relative Pitch)

A trio of well-versed Swedish free improvisers--Martin Kuchen on soprano & sopranino saxophones, Raymond Strid on drums, and Anders Lijndsjo on guitar--in 8 studio improvisations of unusual and highly rhythmic and upbeat interplay, titled with happy adjectives, an apt description of the joy these three find in unconventional approaches to improvisation. ... Click to View


Stephanie Richards : Full Moon (Relative Pitch)

An extremely interesting experimental record of free improvisation and electronics from the duo of Dino J.A. Deane and trumpeter Stephanie Richards, whose work with Henry Threadgill and Butch Morris is felt in these pieces where Richards explores resonance in brass and percussion as Deane samples and manipulates her playing live; an inventive and effusive album. ... Click to View


Fujii / Fonda / Mimmo: Triad (Long Song Records)

An album recorded on the 59th birthday of pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, the second recorded with bassist Joe Fonda on the Long Song imprint, this time in a trio with soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, the focus of the album the 42 minute monumental improvisation "Birthday Girl", a sophisticated and engaging dialog of lyrical playing and great beauty. ... 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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