The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

PNY Quintet (Swell / Brown / Edelin / Giron / Betsch):
Over The Wall (RogueArt)

While NY trombonist Steve Swell and alto saxophonist Rob Brown were in Paris, flutist Michel Edelin, who has recorded and performed with Swell over more than a decade, organized this session with Paris-based American ex-pats, drummer John Betsch and bassist Peter Giron, recording three Swell compositions, two by Brown, one from Edelin and four collective improvisations; magnifique! ... Click to View

Friends & Neighbors (Roligheten / Johansson / Gronberg / Strom / Ostvang):
Circles (Clean Feed)

An exuberant album of modern jazz from the Norwegian quintet of Andre Roligheten on tenor saxophone, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Oscar Gronberg on piano, Jon Rune Strom on double bass and Tollef Ostvang on drums & percussion, their 6th full album of lyrically rich, energetic free jazz taking the 60's & 70s New Thing movement into new modern directions; excellent! ... Click to View

Old Mountain (feat Tony Malaby):
Another State of Rhythm (Clean Feed)

Old Mountain is the Portuguese duo of pianist Pedro Branco and drummer João Sousa, drawing on melodic jazz of the past with a venturous twist, here in their 3rd album, dedicated to Misha Mengelberg, Masabumi Kikuchi, Thelonious Monk and Paul Motian, extended as a quintet with double bassists João Hasselberg & Hernani Faustino and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. ... Click to View

The Easter Quartet (Weissenfels / Filliano / Grassi / Capp):
Light End (Not Two)

From subtle dynamics to invigorating free exchanges, the collective improvising band Easter Quartet brings together New York luminaries Ken Filiano on bass with two drummer/percussionists--Lou Grassi and Todd Capp--and Leipzig, German pianist Simone Weissenfels, performing in the studio for three extended, forcefully confident, evolving improvisations. ... Click to View

Szilard Mezei:
Always The Same (Not Two)

In September of 2002, Szilard Mezei performed a series of 5 consecutive, unaccompanied solo concerts in Hungary improvising on viola, this album presenting two of these captivating and magnificent performances, balancing impressive technique with his ability to captivate through stunning passages of exquisite lyricism and thematic development, an incredible achievement. ... Click to View

Elliott Sharp:
SysOrk: Occam's Machete (zOaR Records)

Assembling a world-class ensemble of 24 string players drawing from the Quartets JACK, Sirius, Flux, and Bergamot, here performing as SysOrk, Elliott Sharp's large-scale algorithmic composition provides simple instructions to the participants, creating a seething sonic tapestry of shifting, swirling tones and acoustic drones, exceptionally immersive and detailed. ... Click to View

Mars Williams / Hamid Drake:
I Know You Are But What Am I? (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

The second of three archival albums from late saxophonist Mars Williams' vaults, this 1996 recording is a rare duet with Chicago drummer Hamid Drake, and is also one of the first concerts of the Empty Bottle Jazz and Improvised Music series, a diverse set of four improvisations marked by energetic enthusiasm, doubling of reeds, and wild playing from both. ... Click to View

NRG Ensemble (directed by Mars Williams):
Hold That Thought (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

The 1st of three archival albums from saxophonist Mars Williams' vaults, this 1996 concert in Utrecht with the NRG Ensemble--the band that Williams' carried forward after Hal Russell's passing in 1992--in an unrestrained concert of original material from Williams and fellow saxophonist Ken Vandermark, with Kent Kessler on bass, Steve Hunt on drums, and Brian Sandstrom on bass, guitar & trumpet. ... Click to View

Williams / Gray / Corsano:
Elastic (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

The 3rd of three archival albums from saxophonist Mars Williams' vaults, in an impressive 2012 concert of collective improvisation that brings forward both lyrical and interactive free playing from the masterful trio of Mars Williams on reeds & toys, Darin Gray on bass and Chris Corsano on drums, originally released in part digitally and here expanded to both sets from the evening. ... Click to View

Eva Novoa:
Novoa / Gress / Gray Trio Vol.1 [VINYL] (577 Records)

Spanish pianist Eva Novoa leads the trio of Drew Gress on bass and Devon Gray on drums in her second 577 album, and the first of two volumes with this trio, in a solid and lyrical traditional piano trio album of melodic themes, masterly trio interplay, swinging touches and strong grooves, augmented at times with a subtle electronic tapestry of modular synthesis provided by Gress. ... Click to View

Eva Novoa:
Novoa / Gress / Gray Trio Vol.1 (577 Records)

Spanish pianist Eva Novoa leads the trio of Drew Gress on bass and Devon Gray on drums in her second 577 album, and the first of two volumes with this trio, in a solid and lyrical traditional piano trio album of melodic themes, masterly trio interplay, swinging touches and strong grooves, augmented at times with a subtle electronic tapestry of modular synthesis provided by Gress. ... Click to View

dis/con/sent (Petzold / Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Bauer):
Munchen (Creative Sources)

A double opus of improvised String Quartets in four movements each, using impressive technique and exquisite pacing in this live recording captured at the Offene Ohren, in Munich, Germany, 2023 by Dietrich Petzold on violin, tenor violin, clavichord & bowed metal, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Guilherme Rodrigues on cello and Matthias Bauer on double bass. ... Click to View

Dorner / Rodrigues / Kim / Flinn:
Chess Music (Creative Sources)

A profoundly patient extended improvisation referencing the pensive and strategic decisions made in a game of chess, creating a dynamic interplay of sounds through unconvential technique in this live recording at Werkhalle Wiesenburg, Berlin from the quartet of trumpeter Axel Dorner, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, tenor saxophonist Jung-Jae Kim and percussionist Stephen Flinn. ... Click to View

Variable Geometry Orchestra:
There's Always Someone Who Says No (Creative Sources)

One of the largest ensembles associated with Creative Sources, merging acoustic and electronic improvisers, this conduction by violist Ernesto Rodrigues at Torre Do Tombo in Lisbon in 2023 was the opening for an exhibition about the struggle of college students against the Portuguese dictatorship during the years 1970-74, leading to the Carnation Revolution. ... Click to View

Taylor / Serries:
Obsidian (Creative Sources)

Their familiarity honed from work together in the Impetus Group and in Tonus, viola improviser Benedict Taylor and archtop guitarist Dirk Serries (Vidna Obmana) are heard in seven free improvisations recorded in 2023 at the Kapel Oude Klooster in Brecht, Belgium, their strings in plucked, bowed and curious consonance through unusual technique and expression. ... Click to View

Rodrigues / Parrinha / Flak / Levine:
Quadruple Quadrature Questions (Creative Sources)

While theremin & synth specialist Andrew Levine was on a 2023 tour of Portugal he met with a core trio of Creative Sources improvisers--Ernesto Rodrigues on viola & Crackle Box, Bruno Parrinha on bass clarinet & objects, Flak on electric guitar & effects--meeting in Flak's countryside studio for one detailed, extensive improvisation and 6 short works of differing sonic characters and colour. ... Click to View

Rodrigues / Lonberg-Holm / Hencleeday / Oliveira:
Uncommon Statement (Creative Sources)

Two unique string players--Lisbon's Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and Chicago's Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello--with pianist Andre Hencleeday and percussionist Jose Oliveira, in an exhilarating concert of dynamic free improvisation captured live in 2023 at Lisboa Incomum in Lisbon, presented as two "Statements", an apt description of their confident and declarative interplay. ... Click to View

Guionnet / La Casa / Samartzis / Warburton:
Parking (Collection Paris) (Swarming)

Two improvisations by saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet & violinist Dan Warburton recorded in Paris & Melbourne parking garages 14 years apart, registering the behavior and characteristics of environmental and instrumental sound within these unique spaces, edited by Eric La Casa and Philip Samartzis as a 4-channel master by synchronizing two sets of independent stereo recordings. ... Click to View

Sylvie Courvoisier (feat. Wadada Leo Smith / Christian Fennesz / Nate Wooley / Drew Gress / Kenny Wollesen):
Chimaera [2 CDs] (Intakt)

Chimaera is the ensemble of Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, her core trio with Drew Gress on bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums & vibraphone, expanded by two trumpeters--Wadada Leo Smith & Nate Wooley--and affected by Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz who provides sonic backdrops for the improvisations over Courvoisier's compositions, focusing on aura over pyrotechnics; absolutely sublime. ... Click to View

James Lewis Brandon Quartet :
Transfiguration (Intakt)

With a rare ability to play hard-hitting jazz while maintaining a lyrical sense to his compositions, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis' new studio album from his quartet of Aruan Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums is the fourth album from this working band, demonstrating their strong group affinity that invokes impressive soloing from all four. ... Click to View

Ingrid Laubrock (w/ Jon Irabagon / Zeena Parkins / Tom Rainey):
Monochromes (Intakt)

Saxophonist & composer Ingrid Laubrock's quartet with Jon Irabagon on sopranino sax, Zeena Parkins on electric harp and Tom Rainey on drums, in a work of conventional and graphic notation with text instructions, accompanied by fixed media tape pieces (monochromes), from Nate Wooley, Adam Matlock, Tom Rainey, and by JD Allen, David Breskin & Ingrid Laubrock manipulating Harry Bertoia sculptures. ... Click to View

Anna Webber (O'Farrill / Roberts / Stemeseder / Mok):
Shimmer Wince (Intakt)

Anna Webber's explorations of just intonation in a quintet of New York improvisers, with Webber herself on tenor sax & flutes, Adam O'Farrill on trumpet, Mariel Roberts on cello, Elias Stemeseder on synthesizer and Lesley Mok on drums, her approachable compositions blurring the lines between tuning systems while focusing on fascinatingly exotic tonal combinations. ... Click to View

Ches Smith:
Laugh Ash (Pyroclastic Records)

A stunning album that effortlessly blends styles from jazz, electronics, minimalism and contemporary forms, rendered by an eclectic group of primarily NY artists including Nate Wooley, Jennifer Choi, James Brandin Lews, Oscar Noriega, Anna Webber, Shahzad Ismaily and Smith himself, in an exhilarating and well-balanced set of Smith compositions that inform and groove spectacularly! ... Click to View

Catherine Sikora / Susan Alcorn:
Filament (Relative Pitch)

The first meeting of tenor saxophonist Catherine Sikora and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn was at the Zurcher Gallery in New York City in 2022, an inventive dialog of free improvisation split between three "Filaments", their interaction ranging from delicate dialog to asservite discourse in a wonderfully expressive concert of sincere affinity. ... Click to View

Spiral/Athletics (Love Earth Music)

The third album from the collaboration of sound artists Howard Seltzer, who typically works with consumer grade tape players, and Brian Grainger, head of the Milieu Music mailorder label, in an extended work of textural cassette sound, field recordings, drone music and modular synthesis, a journey through rich and well-controlled sound. ... Click to View

L'eclipse Nue:
Degradation Bliss [VINYL] (Love Earth Music)

Daniel Sine, aka L'eclipse Nue, in his third releases on Love Earth Music and his first on vinyl, the title evoking the sense of joyful noise and ritual aspects to his work through eight pieces of divergent sonic experiments, recalling the work he participated in Japan through bands with Le Chien Nu and SHROUD OF VAPOUR. ... Click to View

Fred Frith:
Guitar Solos/Fifty [VINYL 2 LPs] (Week-End Records)

While still a member of Henry Cow, guitarist Fred Frith released his first solo album simply titled Guitar Solos in 1974, a remarkable album of expression through preparations, treatments and effects; 50 years later Frith expands on that album with new compositions using a similar setup as the original, paired in this 2-LP release with the remastered original album. ... Click to View

Phil Durrant / Daniel Thompson:
Live / Studio (Bead)

The improvising string duo of stalwart London improvisers, Daniel Thompson on acoustic guitar and Phil Durrant on the octave mandola, are heard in two settings of texturally rich, intricate interactions, first at Cafe OTO in 2022 for an extended improvisation, then at Cable Street Studios two months later for six succint, impressively diverse dialogs. ... Click to View

Impetus Group (Serries / Webster / Verbruggen / Verhoeven / Jackson)):
Density Dots (Klanggalerie)

Their impetus motivated by the 60's & 70's London improv scene, epitomized by Derek Bailey's Company group, guitarist Dirk Serries leads this assemblage of quick-witted improviser as they challenge each other through pointillistic and sublime passages; from Tom Jackson (clarinet), Colin Webster (sax), Martina Verhoeven (piano), Dirk Serries (guitar) & Teun Verbruggen (drums). ... Click to View

The Cassiber Box redux [6 CDs, 1 DVD and Book] (Recommended Records)

Reissuing the 2013 box set of the 1980s UK/Euro improvising rock band Cassiber, including their 4 remastered studio albums + 2 additional CDs, a 2 hour DVD, and a 32-page color book, revealing an amazing band merging experimental rock, fringe jazz, punk, pop, plunderphonics, improvisation, & musique concrete with an energetic and complex form of studio composition - superb! ... Click to View

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The Squid's Ear
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The Bottom Shelf is where artists keep the records in their collections that they might not want you to see. Revealing early influences, unusual appetites or just guilty pleasures, we offer a peek at the shelves of some of our favorite musicians.

Gary Lucas' Bottom Shelf

credit: André Grossmann
One record I used to listen to frequently (well, semi-regularly) on acid whilst in high school I only recently found out was by the one and only Raymond Scott--it's a 78 rpm kiddie record entitled Rocket to the Moon, and it is the most delightful sort of demented take on '50s sci-fi, with narration, a vocal chorus, and honest-to-God actual lyrics like "Rocket Awaaaay! Rocket Awaaay! By Rocket to the Moon! In just 6 minutes, the Earth behind us, looks like a giant ballooooon!". Plus a tootling saxophone that reminds me of some of John Zorn's contributions on my Jewish kiddie album Busy Being Born. Fantastic stuff, I still laugh my ass off at the thought of this record and have been pestering Raymond Scott/outsider music maven Irwin Chusid for a cdr of it to play for Rockette Morton at the upcoming Magic Band reunion rehearsals/recording out in the Mojave Desert.

Also in this vein, here's one I gave to Zorn as a gift after he invited me and Walter Horn to play The Golem at his first Radical Jewish Culture fest in Munich in summer 1992 - the one and only Beat of the Traps, that collection of "Send us your money and we'll put your lyrics to music" studio demos compilation that one of the guys from NRBQ put together, featuring the golden pipes and way-off-the-wall arrangement sensibilities of Rod Keith (Ellery Eskelin's dad!). Zorn later put out more of this stuff out on Tzadik on a thing called "I Died Today"; let us just say, I was the first to inflict this shit on him. "Do You Know the Difference between Big Wood and Brush?" is my fave cut and boasts one of the greatoff-the-cuff anti-Semitic throwaway lyrics ever ("Jew came along /got into the house/got his clothes and was g one") describing a cheating Jewish adulterer (ahem...). The most p otent remedy for depression I know.

The coolest electronica album I've ever heard was the Electrosoniks Electronic Music album on Phillips from 1960 or thereabouts. It's actually by a sadly deceased Dutch avant composer named Tom Dissevelt and his partner Kid Balkan (actually Dick Rajmakkers), and is an extremely dense, erotic, tuneful, avant/pop mixture of tape-manipulated musique concréte, some normal instrumentation (Willem Breuker told me he did an arrangement for jazz band and electronic tape on this; probably "Twilight Ozone"), ring modulators and electronic keyboards. Bits and pieces floated up for years as background music on various '60s regional and national TV programs (Chiller Theater- type shows - and I even once heard a cue from this album on Red Skelton's program!). Fantastic action-painting album cover, probably by Karl Appel. If you loved the "White Noise" album (David Voorhaus), you'll adore this. I used it for years on Halloween mix tapes, which Walter Horn and I played back hiding over the front doorstep of my house in Syracuse to astonish trick or treaters. Best cut: "The Ray Makers". Basta are supposed to be releasing a Tom Dissevelt compilation album later this year, and it's about fucking time.

Arch Oboler's Drop Dead album (Capitol) was the source of Bill Cosby's "Chicken Heart" routine, herein not played for laughs. A collection of eldritch and horrific spoken word tales, done in Oboler's infamous "Lights Out!" radio-play style (think Suspense - anyone here old enough to remember that one? Was on the Mutual Broadcasting System for years through the mid-60's.). Arch Oboler invented 3-D (check out "Bwana Devil"). He schooled and employed fabulous voices in his radio productions like Mercedes McCa mbridge (the voice of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist") and Hal Peary ("The Great Gilder slee ve"-- here featured in the role of an avenging cuckolded dentis t who drills a hole in the head of a patient he knows has been cheating on his wife). Another good 'un for Halloween (or Walpurgisnacht).

< p> Alfred E. Neumann's "She Got a Nose Job" is a cardboard flexi-disc that was included as a free Mad Magazine giveaway around 1962. Later compiled on the Mad vinyl album compilation they put out a year later ("Mad 'Twists' Rock 'n Roll"), to capitalize on the dance craze 'o the day with more cheesy greasy rock 50's rock-type filler and snide lyrics (sample: "She got a nose job/She got a nose job/ It's now turned up/ instead of hangin' down/ She got a nose job/ She got a nose job/ and now she's the prettiest gal in town!"). In a vocal arrangement reminiscent of The Ravens, with a great basso profundo intoning "Nose Job!" ever now and then. But most likely, an Italian doo-wop group. Righteous, Retro, and Retroussee...

Another Side of Jonathan Winters (Verve) is quite possibly the funniest comedy album of all time (well, "The Weird, Wide World of Shorty Peterstein" comes close...) He still cracks me up (he must be about 70 or so today), and he's still certifiably out there. "Broadway Musical" puts that genre in a blender and the result is corn puree ("We'll put that STAMP on the aluminum!/ send that plane up in the blue!"- try humming this one while we bomb Baghdad). "Prison Movie" roasts that genre to a fine crispy crust. Winters' improv routines are the height of the airiest wit, like the best jazz. Jonathan Winters - and Don Van Vliet as well, also a superb humorist - both make me really glad to be alive in this world.

Gary Lucas Items on Sale at Squid co!

Previous Bottom Shelf Articles:
Our Own Bottom Shelves
Anthony Coleman's Bottom Shelf
Ron Anderson

The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at
written by
independent writers.


Recent Selections @ Squidco:

PNY Quintet (
Swell /
Brown /
Edelin /
Giron /
Over The Wall

Friends & Neighbors (
Roligheten /
Johansson /
Gronberg /
Strom /
(Clean Feed)

Mars Williams /
Hamid Drake:
I Know You Are
But What Am I?
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)

NRG Ensemble (
directed by
Mars Williams):
Hold That Thought
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Williams /
Gray /
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Elliott Sharp:
Occam's Machete
(zOaR Records)

Rodrigues /
Parrinha /
Flak /
Quadruple Quadrature
(Creative Sources)

Rodrigues /
Lonberg-Holm /
Hencleeday /
Uncommon Statement
(Creative Sources)

Ingrid Laubrock (
w/ Jon Irabagon /
Zeena Parkins /
Tom Rainey):

Sylvie Courvoisier (
feat. Wadada Leo Smith /
Christian Fennesz /
Nate Wooley /
Drew Gress /
Kenny Wollesen):
[2 CDs]

Ches Smith:
Laugh Ash
(Pyroclastic Records)

James Lewis Brandon
Quartet :

(Love Earth Music)

The Cassiber Box
[6 CDs, 1 DVD and Book]
(Recommended Records)

Surplus 1980:
Illusion of Consistency
(Surplus Industries)

Impetus Group (
Serries /
Webster /
Verbruggen /
Verhoeven /
Density Dots

Fred Frith:
Guitar Solos/Fifty
(Week-End Records)

[ism] (
Pat Thomas /
Joel Grip /
Aontonin Gerbal):
(577 Records)

Frank Denyer /
Octandre Ensemble:
(Another Timbre)

Fully Celebrated Orchestra (
Hobbs /
Bynum /
Ayers /
Gray /
Sob Story
(Relative Pitch)

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