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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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  Ameri-chord: Johnny Cash Remembered  

Amer-chord - Johnny Cash & June Carter
By Skip Heller

In 1964, Johnny Cash recorded the Bitter Tears album, which made known his feelings about Native Americans. Its centerpiece was his hit version of Peter LaFarge's "Ballad Of Ira Hayes," a brilliant, accusatory song about the Pima Indian who was one of the five men to raise the flag at Iwo Jima, came home to less than fanfare, and died drunk in 1955 at the age of 33.

The Pima tribe inhabited a piece of Arizona not far outside Tuscon. They were a peaceful tribe who farmed well enough to sustain their food needs, until their water rights were taken from them and everything they worked for was either killed off by dry heat or was taken from them outright. But Ira Hayes felt a duty to his country, enlisted, went to fight for the good old USA, and became a decorated American hero. You can guess how glorious his life was upon returning. One night Ira Hayes fell drunk into an irrigation ditch and froze to death in cold water.

I saw that land had a gig in Tuscon in May 2002, driving southeast from Los Angeles on the way to a gig in Tuscon.

Los Angeles in spring is paradise. The sky is visible and wide, the mountains pose for postcards, freeways open and you realize how vast our country is. It is beautiful as long as you don't go too far east. That's when the oasis turns back into the desert from which it was carved. LA to Tuscon is about eight hours of driving, and the first four or five are gorgeous.

Arizona comes on the heels of a fairly ugly piece of southeastern California, and has nothing to recommend it upon entry. As you drive in a little more, the Indian reservation stores - with tax-free cigarettes - pop up. Past Phoenix towards Tuscon, you see a rest stop with wall displays that tell the story of Ira Hayes and the Pima tribe. Sort of.

The tale they tell is some "see Dick run" shit and says nothing about the kind of man Ira Hayes was - to forgive what had been done to his tribe and enlist in the Marines. And they certainly said nothing of his death and who helped that tragic process along. The Pima Indians, in recent years, are noted for diabetes (studies have shown that one out of two adults suffers from Type II) and morbid obesity. It seems that, when their right to water was stolen and they could no longer grown their own crops, they had to adopt a "western" diet, which did egregious things to their bodies.

I have a thing about Cash. Maybe it's because the only actual day he spent in jail was the very day I was born, October 4, 1965. Cash was popped at the El Paso border checkpoint. He was trying to smuggle several thousand amphetamine capsules across the border from Mexico.

If you've ever brought contraband through a Mexican border crossing, you know the drill. I got pulled out of the car once, holding a hundred 600 mg Ibuprofen capsules, sold over the counter in the local farmacia but illegal without a presciption in the USA. Fortunately, the border cops didn't look far inside a gym bag of clean clothes (although they were very thorough with the dirty clothes, the guitar case, and the glove compartment).

Mexico was wide open in '65, so Johnny - then no stranger to intense amphetamine procurement - probably thought nothing of it until they slapped the cuffs on.

June Carter - who he married and who died May 15th of post-operatory complications - got him cleaned up, helped him find religion, and helped him realize certain dreams that were not in reach for most country singers in the sixties. June was born into the Carter Family - a major American Music dynasty if there ever was one - but had enough brains and ability to keep herself from being defined by her legendary mother, Maybelle Carter. She had a viable career in country music, then chucked it and went to New York, where she joined the Actor's Studio (director Elia Kazan - who died just 16 days after Cash - sponsored her enrollment), and finally returned to the Carter Family. They became part of Johnny Cash's touring show in 1961; by '63 June was in love enough with Cash - then totally out of control on pills - to write a song, "Ring Of Fire" about it.

Johnny Cash burst onto the scene in 1955 with "Cry Cry Cry." He came not from a Nashville major but that most venerable of indie labels, Sun, the Memphis label that had at about the same time sold Elvis' contract to RCA for an unprecedented $30,000. RCA would soon enough begin trying to make sister Anita Carter into a rock'n'roll star as part of a trio called Nita, Rita, and Lita. June was at the time married to country star Carl Smith, whose "You Are The One" is a classic of the period. They would have a daughter, Carlene, who later married British pop singer Nick Lowe.

If you can find photos of country singers of the period, you notice that 1950s Nashville had nobody like Johnny Cash. Look at George Morgan, Webb Pierce, Porter Wagoner or the great Lefty Frizzell. They're colorful, extroverted. Cash was hard-looking, introverted, and dressed in black.

Similarly, listen to the typical male country singers of the period. The biggest was Eddy Arnold, a human Hallmark card. Singers like him and Marty Robbins forecasted the "countrypolitan" movement to come and paved the middle of the road for Nashville easy listening artists like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and Floyd Cramer.

Honky-tonk, on the other hand, was nowhere near so repulsive. This was a harder Southern urban sound, with walking electric bass, and a cracking drumbeat that cut through the din in bars and dancehalls. All the guitars were electric, too. Webb Pierce's fantastic "Honky Tonk Song" was not hill music, although his voice stayed in close touch with the high lonesome sound. "Honky Tonk Song" was a 12-bar blues streamlined in Nashville, and it's not wussy music.

To my ear, Cash was most influenced by Ernest Tubb. Both made unpolished, minimalist records. Tubb was from Texas, and sang in a low, craggy voice. His records of the '40s are very proto-Cash, with sparse electric guitar up front. Cash covered Tubb's "Thanks A Lot" while he was still on Sun, and you can hear how close to Tubb Cash really was.

Cash was not immediately invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, but Louisiana Hayride, which was more at home than the Opry with mavericks, like Elvis Presley, Jimmy Martin, and a few others who were a little dangerous.

The more famous Cash got, the more rebellious he seemed. He left Sun because he wanted a higher royalty and to make thematic LPs. The subject of royalties is always dangerous, and LPs were then a novelty for country singers. In 1957, Cash became the first artist to have an LP on Sun. The following year, Cash had a new album out - on Columbia.

As his success elevated, Cash became a speed freak. This was common in country music back then. Lots of driving, being on the road 250+ days a year, often having to drive back from wherever you were to be back in Nashville to do the Opry or Shreveport, LA to do Hayride. Early morning broadcasts after playing 'til midnight or later 300 miles away from where you did your morning broadcast were common. It was a rough life, and the pay wasn't great. But it was the job, and benzedrine helped many get it done.

In those days, tour buses were a rarity. Bands traveled by car. If they were lucky, they had a station wagon and a little trailer. You'd strap the upright bass to the roof. Cash and his band made about $150 per week each on the 1961 package tour. June Carter fell in love with Johnny Cash under these conditions, which speaks volumes about his appeal and her intestinal fortitude. It sure wasn't about the money.

Very few artists can achieve some of their highest achievements in their art while being up to their eyeballs in chemicals. But Cash was on an artistic roll through the 1960s, before, during, and after the period of his El Paso arrest, with groundbreaking thematic LPs. He also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, where he finally met Bob Dylan, whose "It Ain't Me Babe" Cash had been performing for some time.

In 1968, he recorded the Live In Folsom Prison album, followed shortly after by Live At San Quentin, which contained "A Boy Named Sue", his biggest hit of the decade. He was not new to playing prisons - Merle Haggard was a member of the captive audience when Cash performed at Quentin in 1959, and said afterwards that the sheer force of Cash's performance turned his life around. By 1968, largely because of June carter, Cash had turned his own life around, trading drugs for fundamentalist Christianity. Whatever works.

Around that time, Cash got his own network TV show, pretty much unheard of for country artists at that time. Unlike other music shows of the time, his show was often a showcase for cutting edge music of the time. His guests included Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and even Bob Dylan, who at that point was largely allergic to TV cameras. But Cash was held in such high artistic regard that someone like a Dylan or a Joni would do TV if he asked.

Because of his celebrity at that point, June Carter's contributions are usually reduced to her appearances on records like "Jackson" and "If I Were Carpenter". But it was she who first told Johnny about a janitor at the Columbia recording studio who was writing songs. His name was Kristoffer Kristofferson.

People don't recognize it now, but Kristofferson was a threat to Nashville's status quo. Cash was tough enough for the local establishment to deal with, but he came from nothing, and Nashville always likes a Cinderella story.

Through the 1950s, Nashville's GNP was not music but insurance. It's nickname (self-imposed, I'm sure) was "the Athens of the South." Nashville has Vanderbilt University and a full-scale replica of the Parthenon.

Kris Kristofferson was a former Air Force pilot, Golden Gloves boxer, and a Rhodes Scholar. And he chucked it all to go starve in Nashville. I'm sure the attitude towards Kristofferson in Nashville was that local society would be better off with less songwriters and more Rhodes Scholars.

Kristofferson was a longhair from Texas, and his songs were a little raw by the standards of the time, which were getting a too loose for the locals anyway. Texans had always been a problem, ever since Bob Wills brought drums to the Opry stage and Floyd Tillman wrote unapologetically about cheating. Kristofferson lines like "the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad so I had one more for desert" did not fit the image makeover Nashville was going for, which was typified by the string-drenched records of former honky tonk great Ray Price. But Cash was all-powerful. And June Carter was the power behind him.

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" was a remarkable song, and Cash turned in a performance that came from hard-won field research, and it was a hit. Cash started doing tunes like "Cocaine Blues."

Cash was definitely the only '50s country performer who could fit in with the 60's songwriters. June Carter, who was a very intelligent woman but who was also duty bound to country music tradition because of her family, was likely the key to his ability to expand so gracefully while never forgetting who Johnny Cash was.

The '70s were scattershot for Cash. The hits didn't dry up completely, but he was no longer a constant on the country charts. He became something of an actor, and made The Gospel Road, a documentary about him in the Holy Land. There was a Christian comic book chronicling his fight with pills. He played a great many benefits for Native Americans, especially in Arizona.

Johnny Cash and June Carter had come into that Louis Armstrong place where they were genre symbols about as much as they were musicians who still occasionally had hits. By the 80s, Cash had been dropped by Columbia, who refused to grant him the respect they gave Miles Davis. So Cash went to Mercury, and, for the first time, put out a few shitty records. He also teamed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kristofferson for a group called The Highwaymen, who had a few hits but nothing all that memorable.



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