The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Ivo Perelman / Nate Wooley:
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Tight interaction in an incredible weaving of creative ideas and technical prowess from the duo of tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpeter Nate Wooley, the two New York-based improvisers recording in the studio in Brooklyn in 2020 for ten dialogs, a perfect distillation of their work together after four CDs in larger group efforts; captivating. ... Click to View


Courvoisier / Rothenberg / Sartorius:
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Recording in the studio in Switzerland, the trio of Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Ned Rothenberg on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet & Shakuhachi, and Julian Sartorius on drums & percussion perform a mix of compositions, with 3 from Courvoisier and 1 by Rothenberg, and 4 collective improvisations; a unified and accomplished album of diverse approaches to free improv. ... Click to View


Cortex (Hoyer / Nilssen / Alberts / Johansson):
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Dominique Pifarely Quartet (w/ Rayon / Chevillon / Merville):
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Following his ECM album Trace Provisoire, violinist Dominique Pifarély's new album with his quartet of Antonin Rayon on piano, Bruno Chevillon on double bass and Francois Merville on drums, expands on the merging of compositional and improvisational form in this set of Pifarély compositions, alongside two co-written with Bruno Chevillon and two with Antonin Rayon. ... Click to View


Jonas Cambien Trio (w / Roligheten / Wildhagen):
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Cleverly complex yet melodically embraceable, the trio of Beligan pianist residing in Norway, Jonas Cambien's trio with Andre Rolighete on tenor and soprano saxophone and drummer Andreas Wildhagen perform eleven original Cambien compositions, a mix of astute, joyful and irrepressibly creative approaches to jazz and free improvisation. ... Click to View


Hearth (Silva / Rasmussen / Rave / Draksler):
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Meeting for the 1st time at the 2016 October Meeting in Holland, the quartet performance there of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Mette Rasmussen on alto sax, Ada Rave on tenor sax & clarinet and Kaja Draksler on piano, inspired the formation of Hearth to develop soundscapes focusing on moods and textures, as heard in these six rich explorative collective improvisations. ... Click to View


Andre Fernandes (w/ Sambeat / Campos / Heliodoro / Pereira):
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Active Lisbon guitarist and producer André Fernandes formed the band Kinetic to perform the lyrically upbeat and sophisticated works of composers he admires--David Binney, Ohad Talmor, Akiko Pavolka, Sara Serpa, Perico Sambeat and Xan Campos--in a band that includes saxophonist Sambeat and pianist Campos, along with bassist Frederico Heliodoro and drummer João Pereira. ... Click to View


Oker (Larsen / Myhr / Rasten / Gismervik):
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Oker (Larsen / Myhr / Rasten / Gismervik):
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Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble:
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Chrome Hill (Lerheim / Nymo / Lofthus / Arntzen):
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Aki Onda / Nao Nishihara:
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String Theory:
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The 8-piece String Theory ensemble directed by violist Ernesto Rodrigues performs a beautiful and subtle work inspired by a poem written by Rodrigues, "Une Ombre Du Bonheur", realized through viola, violin, cellos, viola de gamba, double bass, piano, zither and objects, a stunningly beautiful and deceptively tranquil work of exceptional detail and dexterous execution. ... Click to View


Lucio Miele:
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Youjin Sung / Simon Rose:
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Interested in exploring open form improvisation and pairing Western and Korean musical instruments & tradition, baritone saxophonist Simon Rose met gayageum player Youjin Sung, a member of the AsianArt Ensemble playing contemporary music, at the Berlin club Sowieso in 2019 to record these eight exotic and informed dialogs of unique timbral voicing and authoritative skill. ... Click to View


Taku Sugimoto:
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Three concisely plain compositions for guitar, two solo and one trio, are played only with open strings or natural harmonics, where all the tunings are respectively irregular, written by Tokyo-based guitarist and composer Taku Sugimoto and performed and recorded in St. Petersburg, Russia by guitarists Andrey Popovsky, Denis Sorokin and Alexander Markvart. ... Click to View


Fraufraulein (Billy Gomberg / Anne Guthrie):
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Using a handful of improvisations from French horn, bass guitar, voice, electronics and objects collaged with field recordings made separately, Ann Guthrie and Billy Gomberg reflect on their enforced domesticity during the 2020 lockdowns, using the time to expand on the balance of electronics & objects in relation to acoustic instruments, creating detailed abstractions. ... Click to View


Max Hamel:
First Snow [CASSETTE] (Notice Recordings)

A live solo recording made using the amplified and processed sounds of snow, hail, and wind, captured by sound artist Max Hamel using a piezoelectric disc taped to a metal plate stuck out his window during the first snow storm of 2019, processed in real time using resonant filters, delay lines, and chaotic processors, the whole edited for these two compositions. ... Click to View


Peter Strieff:
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Exploring the difference between the two Greek concepts of time--chronos (measurable) and kairos (qualitative moments)--Bern composer Urs Peter Schneider's 1973 composition uses synthesizers to measure, divide, experience, forget, free from, and embody time; plus a 1968 composition with Ensemble Nueue Horizon Bern, and two recent works with Ensemble Montaigne. ... Click to View


Natural Information Society w/ Evan Parker:
Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) [VINYL 2 LPs] (Eremite)

The first live album from Chicago bassist and guimbri player Joshua Abrams is the 6th Natural Information Society album, captured live in the summer of 2019 at Cafe Oto in London, the core quartet with Lisa Alvarado on harmonium, Mikel Patrick on drums and Jason Stein on bass clarinet joined by UK legend Evan Parker on soprano saxophone for four ecstatic improvisations. ... Click to View


Treesearch (GoGwilt / Motl / Kuester):
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The 2nd album from the trio of Keir GoGwilt on violin, Kyle Motl on bass and Nicolee Kuester on horn, the pieces combining original poems written by GoGwilt and Kuester with precise musical arrangement and poetic structures, around which the trio improvise with melodic and unexpected approaches, fascinating their listeners with peculiar insight and superb playing. ... Click to View


Iain Sinclair / London Experimental Ensemble:
Dark Before Dark (577)

Writer Iain Sinclair joins The London Experimental Ensemble to perform his narrative work, a sequel to Living With Buildings: And Walking With Ghosts, telling a surreal story of the imaginary 25-year journey of a whalebone box, told in detailed images and incredible sonic support through keys, strings, brass, winds, guitar, electronics and voice; profoundly powerful. ... Click to View


Roberto Miranda Home Music Ensemble (Bradford / Carter / Newton / Tapscott / &c):
Live At Bing Theatre: Los Angeles, 1985 (Dark Tree Records)

Dark Tree's Roots series continues to unearth hidden masterworks from the West Coast scene, here with bassist Roberto Miranda's Home Music ensemble in 1985, an 11-piece large band performing Miranda's lyrically rhythmic compositions, with an all-star cast including flutist James Newton, clarinetist John Carter, pianist Horace Tapscott, trumpeter Bobby Bradford, &c. ... Click to View


Gerard Grisey / Iancu Dumitrescu / Niels Christian Rasmussen / Thanos Chrysakis / Salvatore Sciarrino / Lori Freedman / Tim Hodgkinson:
Music for Violas, Bass Clarinets & Flutes (Aural Terrains)

Compositions for violas, bass clarinets and flutes performed by Vincent Royer, Jill Valentine, Jason Alder, Chris Cundy, Tim Hodgkinson, Yoni Silver, Lori Freedman, Carla Rees, Karin de Fleyt, Thanos Chrysakis, Katrina Lauder, with compositions from Gerard Grisey, Iancu Dumitrescu, Thanos Chrysakis, Niels Rasmussen, Salvatore Sciarrino, Lori Freedman, and Tim Hodgkinson. ... Click to View


Various Artists (curated by Nick Vander):
Walk My Way, Volume Five (Orbit577)

The final of five volumes from this series curated by Nick Vander, a testament to the incredible musical range of the guitar and the imaginative possibility of guitarists around the world, with tracks from Harvey Valdes, Antonio Guillen, Boris Belica, Sandy Ewen, Denis Sorokin, Arvind Ganga, Pengboon Don, Josue Amador, Todd Clouser, and Mohammed Ashraf. ... Click to View


Chris Abrahams / Mark Wastell:
A Thousand Sacred Steps (Confront)

Drenched in beautiful ambiance, this inspired and spiritual meeting between Necks pianist Chris Abrahams and percussionist Mark Wastell performing on tam-tam and cymbals, was recorded while The Necks were in residence at Cafe Oto in London, the empathy between the two immediately evident in their graceful approach to these four evolving improvisations. ... Click to View


Bob Drake:
Planets & Animals (Recommended Records)

Bob Drake continues to tug on the heart-strings of prog in short but smart songs that reference the best of the last few decades of prog/psych/avant rock forms, Drake as always handling all parts in a great balance of guitar, electronic & acoustic instruments, including some newly invented instruments; includes a fold-out poster in Bob Drake style from Joe Mruk. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner / Toshimaru Nakamura:
In Cotton and Wool (Ftarri)

Meeting in sound artist and vocalist Yan Jun's studio in Berlin in 2017, trumpeter Axel Dörner and no-input mixer artist Toshimaru Nakamura recorded these four active and bristling improvisations, Dörner using every inch of his instrument and treating it with electronics to create the controlled chaos and richly jarring recordings that make up this, their 2nd album together. ... Click to View


Greg Davis:
Throughline (Autumn Records)

Taking modular synths into unusual territory, Autumn Records label leader and relentless audio explorer Greg Davis spent years using a computer controlled modular synthesizer system to generate an obsessive set of synthetic and electronic sounds -- swooping, burbling, chattering, &c. -- assembled into this quick witted and energetic set of compositions. ... Click to View


Microfiche (Alduca / Calligeros / Conner / Gill / Manojlovic / Murphy-Haste / Schack-Arnott):
Everything and Other Infinities (Creative Sources)

The 2nd release from this Sydney, Austrlian acoustic sextet, creating subtle yet dynamic improvisations influenced by the musical concepts of John Cage and Morton Feldman, balancing contemplative sections with building surges, these works developed on their 2019 Europe tour, which included performances at Copenhagen Jazz Festival as well as shows in Berlin and Stockholm. ... Click to View



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  Susie's Aria  

Drummer Susie Ibarra Premieres her First Opera


By Steve Smith
Photos by Kurt Gottschalk 2003-06-20

Susie Ibarra Ever since Susie Ibarra burst onto the international jazz scene in the early 1990s, the versatile young percussionist and composer has made it eminently clear that there is no boundary to her artistic vision, nor any assumption she was content to leave unchallenged. As a member of groups led by David S. Ware, William Parker and Matthew Shipp, Ibarra held her own among decidedly heavyweight company in a field still largely dominated by male performers. The ferocious energy and sinuous grace of her drumming cast aside any considerations of gender, as she quickly became a much-demanded collaborator for such leading maverick artists as Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Pauline Oliveros.

Ibarra stepped out on her own as a bandleader in 1999, asserting her growing confidence as a composer. Her fresh, original musical voice bears the influence of jazz, blues, contemporary composition, gamelan and the traditional music of her Philippine heritage. That voice has been manifested in a chamber music-influenced trio, a fiery mainstream jazz quartet and the hypnotically grooving Electric Kulintang project. At the same time, Ibarra has also been active in the free-improv trio Mephista, alongside pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and electronics performer Ikue Mori.

For most performers, the furious pace at which Ibarra's calendar fills up would prove more than sufficient. But for the last year, she was also hard at work on a project that any composer might find daunting, and one that most jazz-related artists would never consider tackling in the course of a career: The 32-year-old composer has just completed her first opera.

Based on a libretto by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Shangri-La received its world premiere on June 14 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, New Jersey, produced by Passage Theater Company. Despite its bucolic title, Shangri-La is a challenging work, taking as its subject matter three Western businessmen drawn into the sex trade in Thailand, and their inability to escape the situation in which they find themselves.

The two-hour chamber opera featured a nine-member cast with a traditional Thai vocalist, two sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, two tenors, a baritone and a bass-baritone. Noted composer Tania Leon led an ensemble that included regular Ibarra collaborators Craig Taborn on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Roberto J. Rodriguez on percussion, alongside flutist Thea Reynolds, violinists Meg Okura and Joyce Hammon, violist Carol Cook and cellist Egil Rostad. Ibarra herself did not perform in the piece, for which she supplied a through-composed score that still provides for a degree of improvisatory freedom from the soloists.

Perhaps the most obvious question is why Ibarra would be interested in composing an opera at all. Blame it on her youth: Opera played an important role in Ibarra's childhood. "My mother took me to the opera when I was a kid," she said, her voice animated by a breathless ebullience that colors a conversation generously punctuated by laughter. "She had season tickets. My father's not an opera fan, and my brothers and sisters didn't want to go. I was the youngest, so I would be the one going with her."

For Ibarra, who grew up in Seabrook, Texas, a small town located between Houston and Galveston, this meant seeing first-class performances at Houston Grand Opera, one of the nation's most renowned and ambitious companies. "I grew up seeing incredible productions at Houston Grand Opera. In a way, this project takes me back to my childhood, because I have all these memories of different classical operas."

It was partially that childhood familiarity that led Ibarra to sign onto the current project when Komunyakaa, who conceived Shangri-La, proposed it to her. A Trenton resident and Princeton University professor, Komunyakaa is widely revered for his rhythmic, almost reportorial style. Many of his works have touched on musical themes; one, the epic-length Testimony, based on the life and art of Charlie Parker, was adapted as an opera by Australian jazz composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans for broadcast by the Australian Radio Company in 1999, and staged by the Melbourne Festival at the Sydney Opera House in January of this year.

Ibarra first met Komunyakaa in 1997, and felt an immediate affinity with the Louisiana-born poet. She accompanied him in several readings, and played behind him on Herido, a vibrant, bluesy session Komunyakaa co-led with Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, which was issued by 8th Harmonic Breakdown in 2001. Despite her youthful passion for mainstream operatic lore, however, what attracted Ibarra most to Komunyakaa's project was its thoroughly contemporary subject matter - a refreshing anomaly in a contemporary opera scene still predominately mired in the reheated verismo of recent pieces like Therese Raquin, Little Women and A View from the Bridge.

"Yusef originally had the idea [for the opera] from a magazine article he came upon," Ibarra said. "It mentioned how British and European businessmen were going over to Thailand on sex tours, and how they were committing suicide and never coming back. It's set in Bangkok, but it touches on things that happen in a lot of countries, not just Southeast Asia. This stuff goes on in Cuba, it goes on in Eastern Europe, it happens pretty much everywhere. It's a story about paradise and hell-and how paradise can turn into hell-and it also touches on the AIDS epidemic, which is out of control in the sex trade."

The main character in Shangri-La is John Wong, "a Chinese-American metaphysical detective from San Francisco who is hired to go to Bangkok to investigate an embezzlement scheme," according to Ibarra. The three western businessman are Paul, a middle-aged African-American Vietnam veteran, Eddie, a troubled younger man, and David, the sleazy drug smuggler who is actually guilty of the crime Wong is investigating. Alee is a waitress who has a sideline in translating letters into English. Other characters include three women, Noe, Mana and Pidang, and the Barker, who runs the club. The cast may be unconventional, but the drama that results from their intersection is certainly operatic in scope.

"As musicians, we live with music and sound," Ibarra said. "We write songs, not characters. But writers live with these characters. So I've been living with these characters, and it's been really cool to experience that. Living with these characters for such a long time, they become real, like they're right behind you. It really is fun."

Though it may initially seem far-fetched to imagine an opera written by an avant-garde jazz drummer, for anyone who knows Ibarra's own recordings, it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to understand why Komunyakaa sensed that she might be up to the challenge. Much of the music she has composed for her trio - particularly the current lineup that features Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi - combines the rigor and transparency of chamber music with an unmistakable sense of narrative drama.

Increasingly recognized for her work as a composer, Ibarra was recently commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to compose Lakbay, an extended suite for her trio that was premiered in December at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, in conjunction with an exhibition of photography by Filipino American artist Ricardo Alvarado. Ibarra has been tapped to write two new works for the Kronos Quartet (she will also perform in one of them), and she is also scoring two forthcoming documentariesby Chinese filmmaker Yan Jin.

Still, while Ibarra is not the first jazz composer to take a crack at opera,there have been few predecessors to whom she could turn for inspiration. The best known, of course, is pianist Anthony Davis, whose first opera, X, based on the life of Malcolm X, was produced to widespread acclaim in Philadelphia and New York in 1986. (It's notable, perhaps, that Davis-like his fellow improvisor Ibarra-was drawn to a contemporary subject for operatic treatment.) Davis has since composed three further operas: Under the Double Moon, a science fiction work; Tania, based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; and Amistad, detailing the historic slave-ship revolt and subsequent trial.

Other jazz composers have turned to more archetypal allegories for their operatic subjects, such as Leroy Jenkins's Mother of Three Sons, successfully staged by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Houston Grand Opera and elsewhere, and Anthony Braxton's Trillium R: Shala Fears for the Poor, critically lambasted after its New York premiere. Julius Hemphill employed a still more idiosyncratic approach in his Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera, abstaining from using singers altogether. The one thing that unites all of these disparate works, unfortunately, is that none has found a place in the standard repertoire and only three (X, Tania, Trillium R) have been recorded, making it nearly impossible for a young artist like Ibarra to hear and learn from them.

Instead, Ibarra immersed herself in contemporary opera scores and recordings. She cites György Ligeti's dark, surreal Le Grande Macabre as a particular favorite, owing in part to its near-improvisatory freedom of expression. Ibarra admits to having been a bit overwhelmed initially by the notion of composing a work of such scale, particularly in light of her own daunting schedule. "I was intimidated by the fact that it could be quite long!" she said. "To me, time was of the essence. But you just have to break it down, and you just do it-like anything, you just begin.The libretto was written pretty quickly, and I find Yusef's words very musical, so it was really easy for me to write with them."

When she finally began to compose Shangri-La in earnest, the music that poured forth reflected her own personality and that of her collaborator, rather than slavishly imitating any particular past master. "Whatever you do, it's going to sound like you," Ibarra says. "There's an influence of Thai music, both traditional percussion and the classical court style. There's some gong music. And there's definitely a blues influence, because I feel that Yusef's writing is so heavily influenced by the blues. It's really kind of an interpretation of his words."

Given the difficulties and expense involved in mounting operatic productions, it's far too soon to tell what the ultimate fate of Shangri-La will be. Ibarra's prognosis is upbeat, however; Passage Theatre hopes to mount a full-scale production of the work, and presenters in New York City and elsewhere have indicated their interest. Meanwhile, emboldened by the experience of creating the work, Ibarra eagerly envisions an ongoing working relationship with Komunyakaa.

"In an age of specialization, people just concentrate in their own medium," she says. "It used to be that artists were collaborating all the time. We've developed this great collaboration, and we have a lot of other ideas. We work well in this medium, and we get the chance to talk about a lot of important things that I think need to be talked about."



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


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Nate Wooley:
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(Burning Ambulance Music)



Cortex
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