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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)

Saxophonist Ricardo Toscano's Quartet with Joao Pedro Coelho on piano, Romeu Tristao on bass, and Joao Lopes Pereira on drums, a great example of modern Portuguese mainstream jazz that pays homage to the masters of bop and the Blue Note era, in a lyrical album of Toscano original compositions, alongside a rendering of Herbie Hancock's "The Sorcerer". ... Click to View


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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The Squid's Ear
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A Month of Zorndays
John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration at Tonic

Updated througout the month

John Zorn







John Zorn Improv Night  (Tonic) 

September 29, 2003

With Derek Bailey unable to make it to town for his scheduled night in the monthlong Zornfest, John Zorn pulled together an old-fashioned improv night (although having drummer Joey Baron still in town certainly made it something more than an ordinary night). It was the first nonevent of the month, which almost carried with it a tinge of relief.

Two opening pieces by Baron, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and cellist Erik Friedlander achieved the often-claimed-but-usually boring improvised classical. Violinest Mark Feldman and laptop percussionist Ikue Mori followed in a similar vein, Feldman playing bold, heavy notes, leaving Mori's laptop as the melody instrument. Their second piece took a very different path, with Feldman playing fast lines and scratches over Mori's busy backing. Feldman and Friedlander also carried the high-art torch for a piece, and were joined by Courvoiser (making the group into Courvoisier's Abaton trio) for an equally stunning piece.

Baron and Zorn had of course already shared the stage during the month - two weeks prior had been the Masada quartet's first gig in over a year - but seeing them in duet was just good. Starting and stopping, completing each other's sentences until they built to a roar, only Baron to stop and play a quiet, slowly metered rim roll while Zorn carried on full throttle. Later Baron backed Zorn with licked-finger drum-head rubs, not just for effect but really playing with Zorn's saxophone.

Better yet was Baron sitting in the Susie Ibarra seat with the Mephista line-up. He's a faster, busier player than Ibarra, it's not really fair to call it Mephista at all, but they played wonderfully, although he ultimately overpowered Courvoisier and Mori. A second, quieter piece where Baron rode cymbals worked better. The piano, drums and laptop created torrents of rhythm together, and Courvoisier and Mori now have the shared pleasure of playing with the two happiest drummers in the world.

The final group piece opened with Baron, Friedlander and Mori, then Zorn coming in, suggesting combinations that hadn't been heard, and built slowly to a gorgeous sextet, Zorn blowing a slow lament, Feldman complementing him while Friedlander carried a deep bass, the rest melding into a beautiful, thick blanket.

Perhaps it wasn't quite like old times, not just in Zorn's calling consecutive pieces by the same ensembles, but in the near-formal virtuosity exhibited throughout. Certainly it was a different sort of Improv Nite than he would have presented 10 years ago. And if anything really stands as a testament to the growth of John Zorn and the scene he embraces, it's what they do for fun.

- Kurt Gottschalk






Bezique  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

Bezique is the last game piece Zorn conceived, and by his own admission in introducing the piece, "it's very strange." It differs from other pieces in that the players - the musicians involved - create the settings ahead of time rather than while they are playing. As a result, more coherent musical statements are made without losing the structured improvisations that can make the game pieces so rewarding.

The game pieces in general are interesting not just because of the music that's made, the characters they bring out or the mystery in which they're kept. They predate what could be called Zorn's "index card" period, and seem to have informed it. After creating a series of situations where he could hear styles, genres and moods crashing into each other, he began to use it as a formula for composing and arranging, most notably on the album The Big Gundown and the piece Spillane. Beziques was written in 1989, just two years before Spillane was recorded, and combines the tools of the game pieces with a compositional approach.

Each of the 11 players (Trevor Dunn, 5-string electric bass; Anthony Coleman, Farfisa organ; Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Marc Ribot, guitar; Jim Publiese and William Winant, percussion; Jim Staley, trombone; Mark Dresser, bass; Okkyung Lee, cello; Mark Feldman, violin; and Jamie Saft, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer and effects) got a turn creating a piece, calling out a series of directives ("EP1, Ribot; M7, Courvoisier, Lee, Winant; EP3-1...") while a "gaffer" played interlude music. It was reminiscent of Duke Ellington's idea that he writes for individual musicians, except purely that, without scores. Zorn would write down the directives that he would then guide them through by holding up his familiar cue cards, and reminding the arranger of rules and trying to keep an overall cohesion between pieces. "The hardest thing is coming out of Ts," he reminded the group more than once. "You can't just write a whole piece and think it's gonna work," he told them later. "You gotta think about the piece that came before it. You gotta think about the pieces in order."

While pieces like Cobra show player's proclivities in what they want to hear at the moment, it was fascinating to watch entire pieces borne of one player's musical sense. Dresser created a beautiful suite. Lee jumped back and forth between styles, relying heavily on a Ribot/Saft/Dunn trio. Coleman injected humor, which in itself is impressive when you're only able to suggest with genre, tempo and volume. But "M4 and 9 for Dresser and Sylvie" got a good laugh from the bandstand. (When they got to that point in the piece, Zorn showed the two cards "Quiet" and "Rock" to the audience.) Likewise, it was interesting to watch players run the pieces through their heads as they were being called.

The performance lasted 80 minutes, and it's a shame that Bezique has been forgotten over the years. While the other game pieces make for great theater and a fun night of in-the-moment creation, Bezique resulted in some truly memorable music.

- Kurt Gottschalk






John Zorn's Lacrosse, Hockey, Rugby  (Tonic) 

September 24, 2003

In the progression of game pieces that led John Zorn to create the magnificent Cobra and Xu Feng structures, several earlier games were devised. Lacrosse was developed in 1977, originally performed in the days of Studio Henry in lower Manhattan where, as Zorn recalled at the beginning of the performace, the music competed with the sounds of crickets in the building. This rendering of the game had Anthony Coleman on keys, Marc Ribot on guitar, William Winant and Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on alto. The game was very interactive, the players motioning amongst themselves and using a sparse set of rules, each calling segments and directing the game while in motion - unlike most of Zorn's game pieces there was no prompter. They used extended techniques on their instruments, and the piece was enjoyable if for no other reason than the mastery each showed: Zorn and Ribot played off each other, Coleman working inside the grand piano, and both Pugliese and Winant seeming to utilize every inch of their percussive sources. The ensuing music was not particularly coherent, a series of stop-starting quotations that were often punctuated but rarely lyrical.

Following was Hockey, a piece from 1978 that Zorn described as "exotic aquatics." He displayed the score for the game, explaining that at the time of its writing he believed that "all you really needed for an evening of music is one sheet of paper." Hockey limits each player's language to five sounds, which are carried out through a series of solos, duos and trios. Two versions of Hockey were presented, the first which Zorn referred to as the "dry version" with Okkyung Lee on cello, Jim Pugliese on percussion and Zorn on duck calls. This version was tremendous fun, particularly in seeing Zorn playing the duck calls again, a fistful of varying bird and buzzer sounds that are clearly enjoyable to play. Lee provided an excellent foil to Zorn as she scraped, sawed and zipped around her cello while Pugliese provided often rollicking outbursts. The music frequently shifted, Zorn sometimes calling off directives to change the rhythm. More sophisticated than Lacrosse, the piece still paled to later game pieces in its sometimes spastic results. The second rendering of Hockey was presented by Anthony Coleman, Marc Ribot and Mark Dresser on bass. Zorn described this as the "wet version,", and the difference between the two renditions was remarkable. Coleman here stuck to his heavily effected Farfisa organ. Ribot as well played heavily effected and downright alien guitar, while Dresser was a monster on the bass, sometimes playing with a stick, plucking around the neck or bowing below the bridge. Zorn prompted from the front as the three played with clear enjoyment. The results were, once again, fun to watch, somewhat dubious in their music results, but inspiring and important in their ability present new possiblities in improvisational playing.

The last piece, Rugby, was written several years later, in 1983, and was more like his later pieces. Sylvie Courvoisier was on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, Mark Feldman on vioin, Jim Staley on trombone, William Winant on percussion, with Zorn prompting using a card system. The interplay this time was much more obvious, players pointing to each other to suggest musical direction to Zorn. The cards instructed the players with phrases like "Intercut," "Trans," "1 Clock Changes" or "4 Trades," and the piece seemed to work at time similar to Butch Morris' conductions. A series of escapades and interludes, the structure provided much more lyric and expressive opportunities to the musicians, adding a quirky and playful air to the resulting music. Zorn once again showed the single sheet that defined the game, but this time it was clear that the direction he was to take game pieces in 20 years ago held great potential for making excellent and unpredictable music.

- Phil Zampino






September 12, 18, 25 2003

Bar Kokhba - (Tonic) September 12, 2003, 8:00 set
Masada - (Tonic) September 18, 2003, 8:00 set
Electric Masada - (Tonic)September 25, 2003, 8:00 set

One of the wonderful things about Zorn's 50th birthday month was the opportunity it presented to hear the various Masada permutations on successive or nearly-successive nights, the chance to compare the way the different voicings and personnel shaped the music (sometimes even the same charts), and the air around us, the actual feel of the world, or as much of it as you can fit inside the little Tonic warehouse. This is evocative music, music that reaches down into the limbic system and plants fleeting images of places that, for a few moments, I have a terrible longing to visit.



continued...




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reviews about releases
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Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa:
Born Baby Born
(Clean Feed)



The Way Ahead
(Roligheten /
Alberts /
Barno /
Aleklint /
Stahl /
Hoyer /
Ostvang):
Bells, Ghosts
And Other Saints
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Drone Trio
(Davis /
Frith /
Greenlief):
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Simon Nabatov String Trio:
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Chicago Edge Ensemble
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Ivo Perelman /
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Aine O'Dwyer /
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Dustin Carlson
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Trudel /
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Francesco Massaro:
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Mary Halvorson /
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Rene Lussier :
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The J. & F. Band
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Mars Williams presents:
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