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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 Magic I.D. 
  till my breath gives out  
  (erstwhile records) 

   review by Phil Zampino
  2008-03-02
The Magic I.D.: till my breath gives out (erstwhile records)

Erstwhile Record's first foray into "pop" music won't strike many as being in a pop mold, but it does extend the understated forms of electro-acoustic music into more embraceable yet still abstract song territory. lowercase song forms, you think? Not completely, but there are so many tonal and minimal aspects to this album that the comparison has to be made. It's probably more accurate to say that this blends the sensibility of minimal ea-improvisation with the avant/minimal compositional world, adding a song sensibility that understands and plays with popular form. The pieces have a strong use of dynamics and harmonics, with unconventional repetition and rhythm, a detached but clear vocal style, wielded with a subtle hand that implies the concentrative interaction of improvised music in conjunction with strong compositional skills.

Michael Thieke is perhaps best known for his work with on the Creative Sources label, alone and in a quartet with label leader Ernesto Rodrigues; he's also a part of The International Nothing, another fascinating minimalist recording group which, not surprisingly, has all of the players on The Magic I.D. at one point or another. Clarinetist Kai Fagaschinksi has worked with vocalist and electronics artist Christof Kurzmann on their excellent duo record under the name Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, covering the Roberta Flack number of the same name, along with other songs of delicacy and a hint of space's massive vacuum. Kurzmann has also recorded with John Butcher on The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz. Margareth Kammerer is also heard as a vocalist on Otomo Yoshihide's ONJO New Jazz Live Series 1 & 2.

"True Holiday" opens till my breath gives out with a Kafka-esque quality of distant despair in the dual tonal clarinet work of Thieke and Fagaschinski. They practically birth the album in long coloured tones that suddenly break into Kammerer's impassive vocal, telling us that she can prove that we've met before. In fact, in an over-the-shoulder way, one almost shivers to feel that they've been listening to this song for years without ever noticing it. That implication is prominent, a distantly familiar soundscape and subdued words, ideational tales that carry an isolable openness; they simply make sense when you finally hear them.

"Martin Fierro" is the most song-like of the album, backed by the strumming guitar of Margareth Kammerer. It's a pretty piece in its way, and acts as a bit of relief from the remote intensity of the balance of the songs. "Loopstuck" shows the stylistic border for this band, coming close to silliness in its plaintive sing-song quality, ultimately brought back by Kammerer's entrance with the warmly pale abstraction that makes these pieces work. "Wintersong" is an extraordinary example of what this band is capable of, Kurzmann's voice carrying a European pathos in a song that parallels the starkness of winter with the colourless march of nation states. The song evokes an Art Bears sensibility while only needing a hint of their instrumentation. The intensity of tones and their intersection makes a sort of pure tension that hunches your shoulders as though something were about to drop out of the sky, using urgent siren-like dissonance, disturbed thumping sounds, and electronically pulsing panic buttons. When the music breaks free of the instrumental section for the final lyric it leaves you expecting winter to wrap its frozen arms around you, a superb example of how less can be so much more.



The Magic I.D.: till my breath gives out
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