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Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

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Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

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Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

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Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

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John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

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Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza: Azioni/Reazioni 1967-1969 [4CD + DVD BOX] (Die Schachtel)

Box set CD reissue of the 2007 release of this seminal Italian free improvising group's complete recordings from 1967-69, in a deluxe box with 4 CDs, a DVD containing the original film "Nuova Consonanza" shot by Theo Gallher of their 1967 concert, and a 64 page LP-size book in English and Italian with essays, group commentary, collected reviews, &c. ... Click to View


Cilantro (Angelica Castello / Billy Roisz): Borderland (Mikroton Recordings)

Cilantro is the duo of multi-instrumentalists Angelica Castello on paetzold, ukulele, organ, tapes, & electronics, and Billy Roisz on electric bass, organ, tv, piezzo, computer & electronics, scrutinizing the activity in bordering areas between noise and silence, tenderness and rudeness, beat and drone, inner consciousness and outer awareness, control and freedom. ... Click to View


Burkhard Beins / Lucio Capece / Martin Kuchen / Paul Vogel: Fracture Mechanics (Mikroton Recordings)

"Fracture Mechanics" is the scientific study of cracks in any material, an apt title from these European experimental innovators--Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Martin Kuchen, and Paul Vogel--pulling back the curtain on process and creating an impressive album crossing acoustic and electronic improv, organized sound, and inexplicable interaction; recommended. ... Click to View


The Holy Quintet (Change / Drouin / Lash / Lazardiou / Ryan): Borough (Mikroton Recordings)

The meeting of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular synth), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga(zither, and David Ryan (bass clarinet) recording at Bourough welsh Congregational Chapel, in London in 2013, recorded by Another Timbre label leader Simon Reynell, for a unique merging of disparate approaches to ea-improv. ... Click to View


Kurt Liedwart / Andrey Popovskiy / Martin Taxt: Hjem (Mikroton Recordings)

A live concert at Dom Cultural Center in Moscow, Russia in 2015 from Norwegian tuba player Martin Taxt, Saint Petersburg violinist and object player Andrey Popovskiy, and ppool performer Kurt Liedwart focusing on sinewaves and noise, in an extended lowercase improvisation exploring harmonic and microtonal sounds. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Ayumi Tanaka / Johan Lindvall / Christian Wallumrod: 3 Pianos [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

This trio joins 3 disparate approaches to composition and improvisation--Japanese improviser Ayumi Tanaka, Oslo composer Johan Lindvall, and ECM artist Christian Wallumrod-developing the engaging material on this album by focusing on elements like tuning, register, intervals and dynamics, for an absorbing album of compatible and concentrative playing. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Christian Svendsen Meaas : Avin [VINYL LP] (Nakama Records)

Known more for his double bass work, Christian Meaas Svendsen releases a stunningly beautiful album of unusually orchestrated pop songs with an 8-piece band of Nordic improvisers and performers, a dramatic album of tension and release which, despite lyrics in Norwegian, draws all listeners in through inventive and innovative musical structures. ... Click to View


Tipple (Frode Gjerstad / Kevin Norton / David Watson): Live at Elastic Arts (FMR)

Tipple, the trio of Frode Gjerstad on alto sax and clarinet, Kevin Norton on percussion, and David Watson on electric guitar, are captured live for an energetic and masterly concert at Elastic Arts, in Chicago, Illinois in 2015, four "Elastic" improvisations of intense interaction, from collective conversation to stunning solo statements; jaw dropping. ... Click to View


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  Peter Kowald and the New York Unity Village  


By Mike Heffley
Photo by Enid Farber 2002-12-20

In the months before Peter Kowald's death on September 21, 2002, at 58, the master bassist and dedicated organizer was in the process of relocating to New York City. He had taken an apartment in Harlem and was heavily involved in that year's Vision Festival, even working the concession stand any time he wasn't playing, methodically cutting bread and cheese and selling sandwiches.

Kowald was no stranger to New York, of course. He had helped to organize the Sound Unity Festival, the precursor to the Vision Festival, in 1984, and had a long-standing relationship with fellow bassist William Parker and his wife, dancer Patricia Nicholson, the driving force behind the Vision festival.

Just as he organized musical groups and festivals, Kowald was a builder of communities. And while no one can say what a life cut short might otherwise have brought, one thing seems certain: had he lived just five more years, the free music scene in New York would have been dramatically different.

The following selections show Kowald's interest in New York and in American jazz. They are excerpted from a remarkable 1,200 page manuscript on the history of FMP records and German jazz by Mike Heffley an English Professor at Rutgers University and author of The Music of Anthony Braxton and the forthcoming Northern Sun, Southern Moon: Europe's Reinvention of Jazz, due out in the Spring and based on his dissertation.

Thanks to Mike Heffley for allowing us to reprint sections of his work, and to Harold Meiselman for pointing us to this important document.

"I first met Peter Kowald in New York, when he performed at the Vision Festival in 1996. He was totally receptive to my desire to write a book about European improvisers centralizing him and his FMP colleagues. He invited me into his home in Wuppertal for several days while I interviewed him and his neighbor Peter Brtzmann. His opennessa nd generosity of intellect and soul opened the doors to other musicians in his circles from around the world, both for me and my project and for the music itself. More than anyone, it was he who put a face to what Western music might look like as just one flower, well placed, in the bouquet of the world's musics. I am grateful to have known him..." ?Mike Heffley, November, 2002

Kowald's impromptu summary of his history with groups paints him as the perfect personality type for the oft-noted European organizational preference for collective bands, in contrast to the individualistic leader-sideman constructs more typical of American groups (to say nothing of the fit such a personality is with the traditionally supportive role of the bassist in jazz).

Peter Kowald

"The trio with Pierre"?Favre?"and Irčne"?Schweizer, from 1968-69?"was more of a collective group," he says, "but I have to say that again I was the youngest in that group. Then I started playing with [Alexander] von Schlippenbach in both Globe Unity projects and in the quartet"?1973-78?"but still I felt more or less like a sideman. The quintet I led"?1970-72?"was an exception to the norm, and I gave it up largely because it was too early to do my own projects; they still lacked conviction.

"The first of my own projects was the trio with Leo Smith and Baby Sommer in '79. It was my choice of people; it was still basically a collective group, and we gave it a collective name. So I guess I'm not so much of a bandleader type anyway, to this day, even though I've had my own groups for a long time."

A glance at Kowald's resumé nonetheless reveals the strength and maturity that can issue from such a personality: collaborations with a vast network of well-known players, poets, painters a n d dancers from America, Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, Russia, and Europe; recording projects such as Duos (1992 FMP, a 3-LP/1-CDset of short impromptu duets with thirty different instrumentalists/vocalists from Europe, Japan, and the U.S.); ongoing collaborations with a few of these combinations, including the Siberian singer Sainkho Namtchylak, the Global Village group of improvisers from Asia, America, and Europe; and a pattern of art activism that results in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural formations and organizations devoted to presenting and promoting their products, such as the Sound Unity Festival and Musicians Coop he set up in New York with fellow bassist (often Cecil Taylor's) and friend, William Parker. By comparison, the approach of a strong leader always forming groups and statements around his own personality and concept would conceivably miss a lot of ground Kowald has covered, even broken, for the music.

I ask him about a trip to Africa he had mentioned. It was an exchange of mostly visual artists organized by an African painter who had come to Wuppertal to study with German painter Joseph Beuys. Kowald was the only musician, with four German artists, who lived in a West African village for two-and-a-half months in 1992 to work with five artists there; the following year, the five came to Wuppertal.

"I draw a little bit, so I did some drawings there too, but I played with different people, a kora player and two drummers, and a singer regularly. They tried to teach me all these rhythms, and I couldn't learn them," he laughs, "but I didn't say no. It took awhile for us to get to a point of trust, after which we arrived where I wanted to arrive, which was for me to be able to do my thing and let them do theirs, and organize it only in terms of when to start and stop and roughly what to do-and it worked, in the end; we did a concert or two, and it worked out. I didn't have to leave my material and they di d n' t have to leave theirs...

"I have a group called the Global Village, after the Marshall MacLuhan term. Sainkho is one of the best examples from that group of this co-creative concept. There are different people from Japan too, and from Greece, and from anywhere, in the theory that people grow up in their tradition-but Sainkho is an interesting example because you can see it so obviously in her life. Her grandparents were still nomads. Both of her parents were already teachers, so she grew up with the music there in Mongolia, then she studied and learned some other things?but her early life, in her twenties, she was singing Tuvan folk songs, going on tour with four other women. Then at a point she went to Moscow and met other people and left the folk song. But now when she improvises with us?she's now part of the family, okay? She left the folk song, but she brought all the stuff she learned in it, except for that local form, to our improvised music.

"It's the same with the Japanese shakuhachi player who starts to improvise: he leaves the local folk song but brings the techniques and vocabulary. Or an African drummer, or a bandoneon player from Argentina?they all leave the traditional local forms behind and come into the open situation of free improvisation, basically, and then they make the step into modernity?die Moderne, we say?they make the step into the twentieth century, somehow.

"I mean, I don't mind folk songs, they're fine; let's just say that if you leave the folk song?what Sainkho brought, all the throat singing, the shamanistic breathing, all that is still there, but not in its original context. She plays with Butch Morris on this record we did [When the Sun is Out you Don't See the Stars, FMP 1990]; the first night they played together she did her stuff and Butch did his, and it works. This is wonderful to me, this is really wonderful. That's how I believe it works. It's a method that could be so m et hin g of a model, of how people can come from different cultures, different areas, with different characters, with all of that, and they bring what they bring,and it's okay?just throw it together with the other stuff, and it works. After just a little bit of figuring out how it works together, then it does."



But if New York was to be Kowald's next village, it was a very different one than his Wuppertal home And Kowald had a very different relationship with what might be called American folk music than he did with European and Asian traditional musics.

The relationship with American jazz has been as problematic in its own way as that with Western civilization as a whole, in terms of achieving healthy individuation. Kowald is a good source for this phase from FMP's first hour Emanzipation, because he is the one who articulated it with phrases such as Kaputtspielphase and "father-killing." The "fathers" in America's case included both European- and African-American aspects of the music and culture: the white side was the same Western diatonic tradition the FMP players were leaving behind in their own European culture, plus whatever particular musicians had been emulated for their mastery of that tradition in jazz terms; and the black side was whatever was peculiarly African in the American mix, an identity that could only be learned from, not drawn directly out of German musical/cultural soil.

"I remember in the studio we did a lot of things we'd never done, like playing with knives on the table, tapping," Kowald says. "So in this way I thought we did something of our own; but at the same time I remember thinking myself?I don't know if everyone else thought this?that I wondered if it would fulfill American standards... I think many of us wouldn't say that out loud; there was a point when we said we didn't want to be beholden to America?'father-killing,' as they say in psychology?so at that time it was sti ll no t cl ear....I remember when we played in Donaueschinger in '66 or '67 with Globe Unity: [Archie] Shepp was there, with Beaver Harris, a very good band, two trombones, Roswell Rudd and Grachan Monchur, Jimmy Garrison; they played after us. I think everybody admired Shepp in a way we wouldn't do now. I mean, we were still the young Europeans looking up to them, even if we didn't admit it, we did... I guess it's really normalized now. But those were phases of emancipation; you have to kill your father for awhile, or tell him to leave you alone. In the late '60s, early '70s, step by step we did that."

Of course, that is the same thing black Americans did with white musical culture to come up with jazz itself, and with advances in it all along the way.

"Let me go back for a minute to Machine Gun and that period," I say. "You gave me a good explanation of the GUO experience. For the smaller groups, and the records that came from them that have become classics, was there a feeling in you at the time of the kill-the-American-father thing, of leaving America aside for something better?"

"I remember when we played with Machine Gun, that band played live first," he says. "So we played in Frankfurt in the festival. And I think Jeanne Lee played with Gunter there, and she liked us, I remember that; and Lee Konitz was sitting in the audience, and he came up after the concert, and he liked it. So I wouldn't say we... it was more the feeling that we got respect from established Americans somehow, like Lee Konitz was. We didn't expect him to like Machine Gun, but he did. Maybe he was just being nice, but I think he was really interested in the movement of the late '60s and stuff, so he was open."

"So maybe you had a connection. Once you stepped out on a limb and killed the father, if the father says, yeah, it's okay, then maybe it's..."

"Well, it was two things at once. You still admired the American musici an s, b ut yo u also were saying you didn't need them. Very normal father relationship."



continued...




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