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Full text of "eartrip_magazine"

eartrip 

issue 3, march 2009 



Graham collier 



improu in Berlin 



Reuiews 



Articles 



Criticism 




eanriit Gomitilattoni na 1 




Free download 



with this issue: 



the first eartrip 



MP3 compilation 



foihiriig: alninior hiwkiiis, antkoiy 
whltefim, lomlnliMisl, l-c-E, llla 
helinikn. skarilne. stat lah. aid mare 



alhum 



CONTENTS 



Editorial 1 

By David Grundy. 

Sound Journey: eartrip compilation number one 3 

A first for the magazine, this MP3 compilation collects pieces by a diverse range of improvising musicians. The 
performers are: Alexander Hawkins, Anthony Whiteford, David Curington, Dominic Lash, Graham Mackeachen, 
The Improvising Clarinet Ensemble (I-C-E), Ilia Belorukov, Styles Kauphmann, Skarabee, Stet Lab, and The 
Cambridge Free Improvisation Society. Performances were recorded in England, Ireland, and Russia. 

Paul Desmond (Part One) 4 

The first in a series of data scream-streams, in a grass skirt, with wind chimes and cardigans, in the brain-fried melt 
of aural honey flowing from an alto sax. If this is Take Five, I stram to believe what Take One could have been like, 
or if it could even have existed. By Dr Martin Luther Blisset. 

Answered Instantly 10 

Words on the page, on and in the moment. By David Grundy. 

Thoughts on Pharoah Sanders' Tauhid 11 

A detailed examination of Pharoah Sanders' somewhat overlooked first major album as a leader, as well as some 
thought on the development of Sanders' music over the years. By David Grundy 

Sane Hysteria: The Music of Ghedalia Tazartes 16 

Thanks to a recent profile in The Wire magazine, there's been a resurgence of interest in the work of Ghedalia 
Tazartes. Well, it may be no more than a sporadic perking up of ears - I'm not sure it's big enough to justify the 
'resurgence' tag, and I'm not sure there was ever that much interest in the first place. But at least people are now 
starting to hear about this musical experimentalist and world unto himself, and so it seems appropriate to give him a 
more in-depth profile in these pages. By David Grundy 

Berlin November 2008: Visions Sounds Meetings 28 

Berlin, in November of last year, was a 'happening' place for those with an interest in freely improvised music: 
most notably, it saw the occurrence of the fortieth FMP Total Music Meeting, with additional concerts providing 
further sights and sounds. But this report refuses to remain simply celebratory: important questions are raised as to 
strategies, inclusions and exclusions, of a relevance which are both historical and of pressing present concern. 
By Mark Anthony Whiteford. 

An interview with Graham Collier 30 

One of the most important, if undervalued of British jazzmen. Collier has produced a body of work which includes 
class recordings such as 'Song for My Father' and 'Darius'. His work reflects an interest in the visual arts, in the 
relation between composition and improvisation, and in what he calls the 'jazz continuum' - from the earliest 
instances of the music to the most 'progressive' tendencies and in between. Interview by David Grundy. 

You Tube Watch 36 

Another selection of jazz and improv videos, from Mingus, Abe, Barkingside and Brotzmann. 

CD/ Book/ DVD Reviews 39 

Including: Bill Dixon, Stephen O' Malley, Henry Grimes' poetry, and an important Roscoe Mitchell re-issue. 
Reviewers include David Grundy, Aaron Hicks, Sandy Kindness and Ian Thumwood. 

Gig Reviews 78 

Including: The Sun Ra Arkestra in the UK; Toot's 10* Anniversary Tour; Evan Parker Quartet at the Vortex. 

List of Contributors 86 




EDITORIAL 

In Memory of Frederick Dewayne Hubbard, T^ April 1938 - 29"' December 2008. 

Of course the prominent voice of the generation, the leading 
jazz trumpeter, the plaudit-soaked virtuoso building 
adventurous hard-bop's nicely wobbling cliff-edge edifice; of 
course that. But still, what might be the best way to approach 
the legacy of someone like Freddie Hubbard - the best way 
in? Listening to 'Some Trees', the 2006 album on 
hatOLOGY by the group of Daniel Levin/Nate Wooley/Matt 
Moran/Joe Morris might not seem the most obvious first 
attempt; but they do cover the titular composition from Eric 
Dolphy's 'Out to Lunch', on which Hubbard appeared in 
rather a good light, and in very fine company. (This makes it 
sound like Dolphy & co. were out for a dinner party, rather 
than a manic quick bite round the comer. A fantastic scenario scurries across my brain, in which 
Dolphy's bass clarinet caught hiccups on the fine wine and Bobby Hutcherson played the wine 
glasses, while Richard Davis strummed a table leg. Tony Williams on the finest kitchen 
equipment kept the whole thing bubbling over nicely. What did the customers say? Speechless 
by speechified yawp-elegance, the dinner reached up beyond gratifying your own desires only to 
slurp from a different stream of sounds.) 

Anyway, Nate Wooley's playing might seem to specifically point up a difference with 
Hubbard's own. It's more obviously 'out', and harks back past bop's quick-silver cleanness to 
the earlier 'vulgarity' of a trumpeter like Bubber Miley: full of buzzing rasps and high squeals, it 
seems shocking precisely because Hubbard's playing seemed so natural to the original - that it 
fitted so well into the sound of that record. Just as one can't imagine 'Kind of Blue' without Bill 
Evans or John Coltrane, it is the group that make that record. Or we might even note how 
Wooley's use of a repeated clarion motto, a low blast followed by an upwards step to a pungent 
high peak, sounds similar to some of the things that Hubbard was doing on his avant-garde dates 
in the early and mid 60s. 

Hubbard may receive some flak from free jazz fans for not going quite far enough 'out' 
as he might have done on such dates as Ornette's 'Free Jazz' or Coltrane's 'Ascension', but the 
fact remains that some of the most progressive musicians of the time found him a fine musician 
to worth with (and it's not as if label imperatives forced him onto them - these sessions come on 
different labels, neither of them being Blue Note, the label with which Hubbard was most often 
associated). 

And then there' s the 1971 album ' Sing me a Song of Songmy ' : in itself perhaps not that 
successful an album, but an indication of the experimentalism of the times, even as Hubbard was 
about to move towards increased CTI slickness. Yes, the work on 'Songmy' may mostly be that 
of Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroglu, who patched everything together (Hubbard's playing is 
mostly acoustic, accompanied by his current jazz group, and Mimaroglu mixes it in with various 
electronic treatments, vocal recitations, and orchestral drama). But if the musical 
experimentation and political thematising (this is often crisis music) aren't so much Hubbard's 
work - and if they don't always come off - there are moments of intense, stabbing pain and 
realisation which on their own would be enough to win me over to Hubbard, even if the rest of 
his career somehow had not happened. 'Monodrama' stabs and slurs the void, the pit of hunger 
and hopelessness; is drained mourning, mourning for mourning itself, in a world without the 
promise of a morning sun that does not stain the sky red with its rising tide of blood, does not 
offer a prospect on landscapes made of corpse-mounds. And then all that voiced up in grave 
register, Hubbard's ensuing recitation of the anti-Vietnam poem 'Black Soldier': "You, black 
man, U.S. army private first class: for freedom you shoot down your own freedom. Your body 
lies crucified on a still cross: the cross has profit and forced labour at each end." 

Better an interesting and crushingly wounded failure than something so polished within 
the terms it has set itself that it ends up saying nothing at all to anyone beyond those who know 



exactly what they are looking for: thus the difference in quality between even the later fusion pap 
and even the earlier work on the CTI record label. 'Red Clay', a critical and fan favourite, is a lot 
less 'fusiony' than one might expect - listen to Hubbard and Joe Henderson dig into some 
serious Coltrane spiritual-type vibes in the intro, then stretch out over the Rhodes and rhythm. 

But above all, listen to Hubbard on Herbie Hancock's 'Maiden Voyage' and 'Empyrean 
Isles'. Hubbard and Hancock's artistic paths diverged since that date when so much seemed 
possible, when Hancock's conception encompassed both 'Cantaloupe Island' and 'Watermelon 
Man' funkiness and the long-form abstraction of 'The Egg' or the quick-fire brutality of 'Eye of 
the Hurricane'. Hancock is still a respected, Grammy-award winning performer, who's retained 
his phenomenal acoustic chops, and sporadically deploys them to fine effect, alongside some of 
his more questionable fusion moves ('Rockit', anyone?); by contrast, Hubbard blew out his lip 
and arguably made little music of lasting value for at least the past 15 years (despite valiant 
attempts like 'New Colors' from 2001). 

This narrative verges on a useless nostalgia, whereby that one moment, or those few 
moments, in past time, become that which we have now lost and can only think on with wistful 
regret as we move from past time to pastime: leaving the work we should have done its 
documentation in a couple of records, deferring what should be our desires and ambitions to 
those of others to ventriloquize us. Of course there is loss - nostalgia registers that loss in a 
manner that suggests it could be more than regressive avoidance of the present moment - but 
such loss is the condition of our living and can't be made the false idol of our sorrow- 
worshipping immobility. For then we'd ignore that Hancock's album sounds in and through and 
with us still not because it is a product of its time (though of course it is that) but because it is 
still the burning flame, inner mounting or otherwise, that lights some way. 

I hope you'll get some sense of that flame still burning in the writing and the music 
written about in this third issue of eartrip. Why not flip the page and find out. 

David Grundy 

As always, the contact address is dmgrundy @hotmail .co.uk . Pop me a mail if you're interested in writing 
for the magazine (please do get in touch!), or have any comments you'd like to make. I should point out 
that I'll be leaving university in a few months, so it would be best to send physical things to the following 
address: 

17 Avenue Road 
Old Town 

Swindon 

Wiltshire 

SNl 4BZ 

(United Kingdom) 

Thanks once again to all those who have sent CDs for review; if you don't see them reviewed in this 
issue, they are more than likely to be written about in the future. 



SOUND JOURNEY: eartrip compilation no. 1 




Fm sure many readers have a fairly substantial collection of free CDs collected from years of magazine 
subscriptions: some rare and rather exciting in their zany selection of tracks, some containing 
performances of genuine and lasting worth. Well here's another: the first eartrip compilation album. Of 
course, as eartrip is internet-based, this makes it a little different from the usual free CD: 'sound journey' 
is available as an MPS release rather than a physical object, although artwork and additional information 
is provided along with the MP3s, so that you can bum your own copy, if you so desire. In any case, rather 
than a mere supplement or add-on to this issue, I'd like to consider this an integral part of the magazine. 
The album, and further information, can be downloaded from the following locations: 

http://sharebee.com/69bfac56 ; http://www.archive.org/details/sound_journey 146 ; 

http://www.mediafire.com/download.php7t4ntyzzmgtl . The frack-list is as follows: 



(1) The Cambridge Free Improvisation Society - Michaelhouse (9:22) 

(2) David Curington - Cambridge Improvisation No. 2c (30/1/09) (3:21) 

(3) I-C-E (The Improvising Clarinet Ensemble) - Green Tea and Acid (3:26) 

(4) Skarabee- Ghostly (3:53) 

(5) Graham Mackeachan - ghosts before breakfast (2:18) 

(6) Stet Fab - Has 'It' Happened? (9:44) 

(7) Ilia Belorukov - Alto Sax Improvisation (6:10) 

(8) Dominic Fash - Hatch (5:56) 

(9) Mark Anthony Whiteford - radio breath (10:00) 

(10) Styles J. Kauphmann - acoustic improvisation: solo voice (excerpt) (9:58) 

(11) Alexander Hawkins - Isfahan (9:07) 



PAUL DESMOND (Part One) 



By Dr Martin Luther Blisset 



In The Beginning 




It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo, Colorado... Paul Desmond 
lovingly packed his gleaming alto into its brushed velvet case and hurried home to 
his little white wooden house in the leafy suburb. The late afternoon sun flickered 
through the pale leaves, dappling the slow moving cab as it drifted along the 
shady boulevards, leaving behind the downtown dust. 

Paul hummed a jaunty 5/4 tune and tapped his foot. His argyle socks 
twinkled in the afternoon light. 'Honey I'm home' he called, pushing open the 
screen door to the familiar scent of apple pie & warm puppies... 

Kissing each other on the cheek, they gave each other a short resume of 
their day, before sitting at the kitchen table, Paul, patting the frisky pups and 
sipping on freshly made coffee. He gazed out of his kitchen windows taking in the 
trellis and the fruit laden vines. On finishing his coffee, he gathered up the coffee 
cups from the table and gave them a rinse with a squirt of washing up liquid. 
"Time for a spot of practise before tea?" he asked. "Sure honey, you go ahead, I 
was wanting to run the carpet sweeper over the lounge anyway." 

For the next half hour their abode was full of the golden sound of Paul's 
horn, spilling out scales and chords and tricky little runs in 11/4 whilst the sound of 
the carpet sweeper, followed by the gentle clinking of kitchen dishes and pots and 
pans played a gentle accompaniment. Paul smiled at the symphony of blissful 
sounds as he packed his horn away. He remembered a little joke he'd shared with 
Dave at the rehearsals today. "God, I love that man like a brother," he said to himself. 

At first they had seemed an unlikely pair, the gentle altoist and the 
bombastic Brubeck. For the critics it was a strange musical relationship. Some 
found Brubeck's playing heavy-handed. Like it said in Downbeat, "Brubeck was oft- 
times loud and pounding and seemingly at a loss for melodic ideas..." Paul always 
felt hurt when he read those kind of comments, and was ill at ease to find his own 
playing so highly praised by comparison. 

"There's certainly nobody else with whom I would have stuck around this long" he mused, moving over to 
the waikiki-style drinks cabinet to fix a dry Martini... when the telephone let out it's ear-shattering ring that seemed 
to rebound off every shining surface in thier immaculate home. He had time for a moment's thought on the 
contentment he felt sitting in his favourite armchair with a good book and a martini, once all the rehearsals and 
practise were done. 

"Honey, there's a mister Baker on the line for you." "Thanks sweetie," he replied putting his glass down on a 
cork coaster and making his way in his tartan slippers across the parquet flooring. He hoped to goodness that it 
wasn't a certain Chet Baker on the line. He'd been hearing a lot about this character listening in on the stories the 
other musicians told on the road. Gripes, he was glad to be off the touring bus again and back with his wife and the 
pups. 

"hello? Yes this is Paul Desmond," he said into the black handset. 



meanwiiile in some dreadful basement... 



Fuck it! Braxton fumbled with the record player, removed a dustball from the needle and put it back to the 
start, 'sad eyed lady of the lowlands', over and over again. Christ, the guy was driving me nuts. Like, get over it man. 

And all the while he's drawing these crazy diagrams on a sheet of paper. Arrows and zigzags and squiggles. 
None of it makes any goddamn sense, and he'd drag out his old beatup horn and start playin off of this shit, blats 
and skronks and trills fit to bust yr eardrum, jesus, and if it ain't Dylan he's playin over and over its Brubeck for 
godssakes, Paul Desmond's alto solos, worn down so the black plastic's all scuffed and white-lookin' 

Paul Desmond, the slowest alto player in the world. I dive back under the bed clothes and run some of 
those crazy Bird riffs through my head and think about that Lorretta chick I met last night. Jeez, what a doll. That's 
it, I'll get across town and check her out. She's a ball, that kid. Who the fuck needs sad eyes when you've got 
Lorretta's breasts to play with. 

I pull my jeans on. "See you man." "What? Oh. Yes." Braxton the slowest fuckin mind in the west. Dive out 
the door just before he gets that horn back into his mouth. Lorretta, you better be ready, cos here I come. 

But on the bus there's this old guy all wrapped in a thick checkered duffel coat and cap pulled down so that 
sprigs of his grey old hair are sticking out like straw and I start to thinking about that old Paul D. Had a mate down 
south, who knew the old stick in the mud. Next thing I know I'm thinking about what his house must be like and I'm 
concentrating hard on hating the bourgoise bastard and his goddam hip music for the essentially straight student but 
I'm not exactly pulling it off. That wife of his sure is pretty, from the pictures I've seen. Maybe I should call up this 
old aquaintance, get on down there. Christ yeah, I could give that little squirt a peice of my mind for sure. 



I start to snooze and rest my head against the cold glass of the bus window, the thrumming of the engine 
sending a nice vibration through my sl<ull, driving out the endless Dylan moan. Why doesn't he just get the fuck on 
with it. There's plenty more fish in the sea as my old grandmother would have said. There's that Marilyn chick for 
starters, causing yet another scene out in the lobby last night with her bang bang bang echoing down the corridors. 
That crazy broad's gonna get us evicted. I swear I could hear her whimpering and whispering his name everytime 
she banged on the door. 

I crawl out from my nap and go whisper in his ear, "Come on Braxie, let her in. She's not a bad looking girl, 
and anyways you're all alone now and for chrissakes, she's crazy about you." I don't mention it'd be nice because 
maybe then he could stop with the fuckin Dylan. 

"No" he says, "she ought to stay away. It's all such a mess. I'm lost here. She's best off out of it." He sure 
as hell sounds very lost, looking down at his graphs and equations of so-called music. 

Eventually she goes. I wake up. Missed my stop. 

Braxton prods another plug of herbal tobacco down into the bell of his pipe and fires up, reclining back into 
the folds of the ratty armchair, stretching his legs, ploughing up the layers of takeaway cartons and biscuit wrappers 
that surround him. Plumes of blue smoke drift through filtered sunlight. Camera-obscura of dustsheet curtains. 

It's no good. Up again and pacing the room. Fractals and parabolic curves, chevrons of vermillion joined to 
dotted green circles, PURE ALGEBRA crashing through his mind. Liminal sluice-gates burst wide, floods of symbols 
racing faster than Sonny Stiffs flashing fingers. 

Jeez, it's not even his apartment, that brooding sonofabitch been crashing here for six months now and 
don't look any nearer leaving than when he first arrived 

i stayed on the the bus, giving the driver my hammiest 'I'm a hippy doing a trip so don't disturb me' act, 
which worked, these straitniks don't like getting involved with anybody that's tripping, even the fuzz won't take you 
in if you're tripping, best thing is to tell em you're jesus or something, the driver's looking relieved as he pulls into 
the bus station, he's looking out at the fellow drones all dressed up in the same nazi outfits. 

ok I'm out of here, going down south, gonna check out mr and mrs desmond. at the ticket line i fish around 
in the junk in my jacket and there it is- the screwed up piece of paper with thier number on it. jeez it'll be good to 
get outta town again, get me a tan. sort this friggin desmond fella out. meet the missus, swell vacation, this'll be for 
sure. 

nodding off on the bus, i got to thinking about all these cool young guys, chet baker, gerry mulligan and 
that crazy young brubeck cat. they were all pretty hip to the trip and yet they were lined up round the block waiting 
for an opportunity to play with this old grandad desmond, or even just catch a whisper from his horn, i mean this old 
straitnik's gotta be 70 if he's a day. Christ he's even on those old kid ory records, he's been around so long, it was a 
long goddam ride. 

"hi, mrs desmond? my name's raul. i phoned earlier, yeah thanks for seeing me at such short notice." "why, 
of course not, it's nothing young man. please, come in. I'm afraid mr desmond isn't in, but please, please, yes. can i 
make you a drink? coffee or tea maybe?" tea for chrissakes. I'm checking out this doll's ass, not bad for an older 
dame, what is is this desmond's got that they all go for? 



The Troublesome Telephone Call 



Later, in plaid dressing gown and carpet slippers, Paul gazed fondly for a moment at his sleeping wife, and 
with held breath tiptoed past the basket of softly snoring puppies, careful to avoid the creaking floorboard. 

In the kitchenette Paul quietly fixed a midnight snack of warm milk and chocolate cookies, and, careful not 
to spill on the pristine parqet floor, eased open the cellar door and crept down the wooden stair to the den. Here 
he'd be able to think about that disturbing telephone call... 

Chet Baker, the hollow eyed golden boy, the hep chick's jazzmag pin-up, and as everyone in the business 
knew, a dangerous cat to know. The row of silvery downbeat poll-winners awards glimmered in the light of the 
reading lamp, giving off a soft reassuring glow. "Gee, I mean, I like his playing, the silken cobweb tone of his 
trumpet, and I admire artistry wherever it's concerned with truth and beauty, ...it's just I have such a bad feeling 
about this Baker fellow". 

A pattering sound, punctuated by almost imperceptible bumping and ticking, grew slowly louder, followed 
by rapid whimpering and scratching, and the door creaked open. "Atta-boy Spot," Paul patted the couch beside him 
and the runt dachshund pup padded over to his masters slippered foot, snuffled his ankle with a wet nose. "You 
know. Spot, sometimes I get the feeling that there are orgies going on all over New York City, and somebody says, 
' Let's call Desmond,' and somebody else says, 'Why bother? He's probably home reading the Encyclopedia 
Britannica." 



Archive Transcription: 



...Chet baker was a mess for part of his life. But his cheeks were already sunken even before the heroin 
kicked in, which all the girls and boys found attractive, so it's understandable if he chose to take drugs & accentuate 
the look. 

Long afternoons he would spend at Paul Desmond's house sipping English tea and pleading with paul to talk 
to Gerry and ask him to let Chet back in the band, and Paul forbade him to use the loo because his wife would not 
tolerate the blood splats from him injecting himself in there. Indeed it was during these afternoons that Chet 
manipulated the innocent and open mind of Paul Desmond. 

"Excuse me Chet, but i must get on with my practice now" Paul would say, and then set to with his scales 
and odd time-signature exercises. His wife would uncharacteristically stick her head round the door: 'Everything 
alright dear? she'd ask whilst checking the corners of the room, "and did that nice Mr Baker leave?" 



Then she would go look out the kitchen window and open it and listen for maybe a strange bird or 
something that might explain the chirping she could have sworn she'd heard coming from the practice room. 

Within a few weeks Paul had fallen out with Dave Brubeck, having begun making uncharacteristically caustic 
remarks at rehearsals, saying things like "what the heck is the ongoing obsession with 5, 7, 11-four time? What the 
hell's wrong with four-four or a good ol' waltz? 

Pretty soon he was cutting rehearsals altogether, taking the train to Pittsburgh and frequenting a small 
Cocktail bar with a jazz pianist playing pretty standards and earning a comfortable living at it. 

After a few weeks of being unsettled by the man in the cardigan who now sat at the front of the seating 
area, the pianist found she was losing her concentration, & could not find her singing voice in the formerly 
comfortable way she had. On his last visit he slipped a note onto the piano lidas he left. She read the note between 
playing 'My Funny valentine' and 'Autumn Leaves'. The creased and greasy paper contained an endless system of 
peculiarchord sequences and runs of notes, all of which kept jumping into her mind as she tried to play 'Autumn 
Leaves' 

That night at home, at 3.30 in the morning she played the sequence straight off the paper and didn't stop 
until 7.30, at which point she collapsed upon her dusty wooden floorboards in tears. From this point on, all notation 
wavered before her vision & took on the form of algebraic equations. By the end of that same month the customers 
at the Cocktail bar were jeering at her and complaining to the Management, who were forced to take her to one side 
one evening, halfway through her usual set. "I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go, Marilyn. I mean, I love you 
babe, but, you know, I gotta make a living here". 

The Green Weed Like Angel Hair In The Silver Water 

"Fish ain't biting, Paul..." Stooping under willows, legs and arms too long for his crumpled tweeds, Brubeck 
begins to dismantle his fishing pole. A burr of bindweed clings to his mustard-colored plus-fours. Size twelve brogues 
trampling the coarse grasses as he heads up the bank towards the car. He pauses, turns back. "Listen Paul, I'd like 
you to reconsider... I've been talking to the guys and they agree, we can't do it without you - 1 mean I could always 
go out with the trio, back to playing the cocktail joints and burlesques, but hey, what-say we get rid of Morello, 
dump the time signature stuff like you say.. I've got this idea for a kinda Vegas-themed album, music to play the 
slots by, maybe take it in a more.. I dunno, Avant Garde kinda direction even.." 

grasping at straws Brubeck makes an involuntary grimace. 

"Oh heck Dave, it's just that this cool jazz schtick is so old hat, not even the frat guys and jocks dig it 
anymore. The college circuit is dead... & Vegas sounds like a bad idea... Black Power's the thing now, Freedom with 
a capital F, thats what the kids want. It's time for me to be moving on..." 

Dave had packed such a nice picnic lunch and had had high hopes for the day. It would be like the old days, 
Paul and Dave and Eugene and Joe in the old Mustang, travelling from gig to gig, neat sports jackets and shades, 
drums and bass strapped to the roof rack, flecks of amber straw in the hot afternoon air, driving between fields of 
corn, tooting the horn at the chicks as they drove into town. 

And now look at them: Eugene Wright strung out on corn liquor, Morello a fucking maniac guzzling 
benzedrine to play longer and more and more complex solos. Brubeck lost in gloom watching his world fall apart, so 
dependant on Desmond's alto... 

He'd packed Paul's favourite cucumber sandwiches and a flask of English tea, Graham crackers and 
pastrami, and ... 

This was HELL. It wasn't working. Paul Desmond could be as stubborn as a mule. 

Ill 

"Don't you know who I am. I AM DAVE BRUBECK AND I STUDIED WITH DARIUS FUCKING 
MILHAUD, GODDAMMIT. NOW, I WANT TO SEETHE MANAGER!!!" 

"I'm sorry. Sir, but your name's not down here, and Mister Desmond has made it expressly 
clear..." The rain saturated Brubeck's hat and started to trickle down his grimacing face. "What the fuck is 
this all about Moreno?" He took in the streets, the down and outs huddled in the abandoned shop 
doorway opposite, one oh them with a needle hanging out of his arm. The light from the car headlamps 
bounced off the wet tarmac and seared straight into the centre of his headache. The tail lights and 
indicators lit up the gutters. "Walk don't fucking walk," he cursed. "You what boss?" Moreno shrugged. 
He was soaking wet too and would sooner be eyeing up the women from some stage, playing with the 
band they had, instead of pursuing this crazy little alto player. "Where is this hell?" Brubeck swept his 
arm upwards at the graffiti painted sign above the club doorway. "Klub Musika Sic." Well it sure is sick 
alright. 

He winced again as he heard the screeching noises emanating from the club doors. He couldn't 
believe this was the sound of that lovely old alto saxophone. "Might just as well be somebody screaming 
down a sewerage pipe," he cussed. He pictured his old buddy standing in that rediculous grass skirt 
under the infamouis banner that stretched above his stage, "Women and Blak men only." 

"So which one are you old pal?" 

He turned to Moreno who was leching over the women leaning into the crawling car windows, 
their blouses translucent in the rain. 

"Moreno, let's go eat. I think I have a plan." 



"Sure boss, we don't need to take five on that plan. Har har." 
Sound filtered out into street: 

Paul Desnnond blew on his milk-white horn 

on his milk-white horn blew he 

and every note he sung stung old brubump there 

as it crashed on his ears & his eyes filled with tears 

and his shoulders slumped 

and his plaid coat humped & he wished he could be free of the whole darn business.. 

but that Las Vegas date was looming, 'Jackpot', the concept album, and here he was with no 
band "just this banjo player and me i guess, but, shit on it man, that's where the music started, with 
those old banjos and tubas and the real music of the people." He reached down and picked up the 
bamboo chimes from the floor between his feet. A moments hesitation. A sudden flashback to the old 
days and the dancing-in-the-seats students. "No man, this is the music now. The only music." He caught 
sight of his nobbly knees and hairy legs protruding from his grass skirt and doubted again. But as he 
lifted the chimes, releasing the free fall of stuttering clatter he regained his resolve. In his jacket pocket 
he had the notes that Brubeck kept leaving eith the doorman. He straightened his tie and jangled the 
chimes. The banjo player skreeled his sound through the marshall amps. 

mimosa blossoms fell from the trees as brubeck trudged from the limo to his door, this all means 
nothing, the house, the cars, the leggy dames in every city, brubeck SOUR OLD GUYS IN SPANGLED 
JACKETS, HAS-BEENS GONE BACK TO THE BARS, trying to put a false-teeth grin on it, the cheese & 
glamour of the gaming houses vegas-style... playing quiet while the coins jangle, while the wheels rattle 
round, bone teeth dead eyes dice on green felt... eyes turned inward, all the women on someother guy's 
arm. 'JACKPOT 'for godssakes... add a couple of exclamation marks to that, brubeck mansion on the hill... 
decor: scottish-baronial after the fifties fashion, but now its 1966. everything moves on, everyone moves 
on. flash your teeth for the tourists, mirror-ball, star-spangled rictus, go back &. play the hits, or the hit 
rather, thats all they want to hear... 'honey, i'm home', dave called up the stairs. ..'christ, i'm turning into 
paul desmond' he thought, '.. and desmond's turned into a monster.... now, where's my cocoa?' 

REVIEW FROM 'downbeat' 27 July, 1967: 

"The New Paul Desmond Trio opened Tuseday at the famed Blackhawk Nitespot, San Francisco, 
to an ecstatic reception from what is by jazz terms a new & younger audience. The 'Hippies' were out in 
force to rattle their beads and gyrate in the fumes of incence. It's the new Desmond these kids 'dig', dad. 
The one time prince of cool has turned up the heat and gone psychedelic, along with his all-new rhythm 
section featuring new faces Norris Jones on the bass and Milford Graves occupying the drum chair. 

Together, they realize a trio of dynamics in human proportions. Nothing is constructed or certain, 
nothing is deliberate or denied. Form, an area of agreement however tacit, is once again the extension of 
content. In consort, point equals counterpoint. The key is that they need not adjust. There is no room for 
reconciliation; each event creates its own identity, its own space. Activity invents understanding, 
meaning: clear, dry polyphony is a transparent argument - vibrant, messy, serene - Everything is melody. 
Everything is in order. 

I feel the trio is an excellent example of a post-nuclear, tri-metric unit that demonstrates stable 
logic information, mutable logic information, and synthesis logic information in one time-space, where 
there is one individual having extended open improvisation and in that same space there is a logic 
containing three musicians working together - maybe in a pulse-track or whatever - and at the same time 
a stable logic component involving totally notated music. All these kind of interrelated partials now 
operate freely in the trio, to create another context for experiencing and exploration... structures that 
satisfy the urgency of the moment." 

Braxton Muses... 

"I was going to say that I was deeply indebted to Stockhausen but I changed my mind. I 
changed my mind because I am sitting on this desk trying to think of valid ideas to write on the back of a 
record but the whole scene is a drag ... right now my leg is itching but I am not afraid ... anyway I had 
planned to write about the different approaches to the music on this record but I feel so ridiculous 
because it's so stupid to try and explain anything especially since you don't know where it is anyway that 
even as Lynn types this I become more and more frustrated and yet I do want the money for writing 
liner notes so I must continue, especially since I've already been paid. 

"This is a very nice room that I'm in right now but since I've decided not to mention Lynn's name 
I'll merely confine my remarks to the scenery as such (whatever that means). If this record doesn't sell a 
million copies I will be very disappointed. Already I am making room on my mantle for a gold record and 
I am going to have parties and I am preparing an acceptance speech. 

"About my saxophone, I've had Lucy for six years and while she has been repaired several times 
I love her very much (until I can get some money to get her traded in) I am really surprised about that 



Dear John letter ... I mean there must be other ways. 

" I just wish I could get to write a few more reviews for Downbeat... besides you get to hear the 
bands for free.." 

" Besides, nobody's using pianos in tlie rhythm section these days." 

'How'd it go, Hon?' - Lauretta never went to the gigs, she hated nightclubs, all that smoke and 
noise, all the drunks and showgirls or whatever you'd call them... but that wasn't Paul's familiar footstep 
on the stairs... the scent of patchouli, and something else sharp and feral, a figure in silhouette in the 
doorway... 

"Oh, Mister Vaneigem, what on earth are you doing back here?" 

"Hey, call me Raoul baby, it's not like we're strangers, huh?" 

he dreams of leaves... 

F7 Bb7 F7 F7 

Bb7 Bb7 F7 D7 

Gm7 C7 F7 F7 

blue monk yeah, but he's playin' it in the two whole-tone scales 

'MUNK?? Whut is this MUNK bizniss??' 

Fuck, who is this guy, this fucken Vaneigem, with his scary black notebooks all full of coffee 

stains, sitting in the front row. No relation I hope to that fuckin Ken Vandereigemark, the paul 

whiteman white-man of jazz? Another fucking VAMPIRE. 

■ Anyway, I'm not thinking about Vaneigem right now, I'm lookin' at the spectacle that's going on 
onstage. 

■ This solo's been going on for about 45 minutes now, everyone's either nodding out over their 
untouched drinks or split & caught a cab; the old janitor's lurking with his mop & bucket, tinkling 
up the broken glasses, swabbing at the sticky bar-top. The few that are left are sweating & 
swaying like in ghost trance, mostly chicks i gotta say - mesmerised by the way he gets dirty 
sounds outta that ax, the way it curves up in a suggestive arc from his belly. 

■ Flashing thru my head, WHOA haul up bud, this is fucken PAUL DESMOND here on the stage, 
though you couldn't tell from the publicity 8 x 12's tacked to the billboard outside. This guy's got 
long sweat-drenched shaggy locks, combed sideways over his shiny dome, ratty beard, grass- 
skirt swooshing in the black light, & shells and beads rattling on his bony chest. 

■ Ghost Trance Music hmmm. 

■ rattles and bells and the light of the sun 

■ Paul Desmond dreams of golden leaves falling through splintered sunlight, eyes turning upwards and 
inwards behind closed lids ... 

paul desmond waits 

he waits in his motel bedroom with all the mail he's collected from his mailbox, messages full of 
love and missing him and won't he come back and cant we talk this over, "to me this all sounds like the 
crappiest soul music ever written," he says to the woman in his bed. "every word logically follows the 
previous one, just like the notes in a friggin brubeck solo, if these people really care about love and 
communication each word would be a word at random, a note from the spectrum of infinity played on a 
piece of hollowed bamboo; that's the only truth." 

"yeah sure baby, what ever you say," says the woman from under the covers," you finished with 
that bottle, only it's been a little vertical for a bit of a long time, you ask me." he wondered how his wife 
was and guessed the pups must be growing big without him. "get the fuck out of the bed now. get down 
on your fuckin knees." he rammed it to her thinking of the little fellows as they used to slide around on 
the parquet floor, as he came he tasted warm horlicks in his throat."what would she be doing now?" 

"who baby?" 
he thought of his wife. 

she was entertaining this strange new visitor as best she could. But she was very unsure of her 
footing lately, what with Paul being away so much and life being so utterly changed. This visit was 
another manisfestation of the challenges she was facing. "Well I'm really not sure when Mr Desmond 
might return." Tears swelled in her eyes which had a direct affect on Raoul's groin area. "He's, my 
husband's been rather erratic in his habits of late." 

"what am i doing in this place?" he asked himself looking at the threadbare carpet he'd pulled out 
of a skip and brought back to this abandoned signal box which was now his home. 

" i am seeking the soul of the new music and i must never give up." he began again hack sawing 



lengths of the bamboo sticks he'd found on the beach, he picked up the saxophone which, amazingly, no 
one had stolen despite the fact that he had no lock on the door, he clicked it into place on his saxophone 
sling, which he never removed any more. Forty five minutes he still stood with his embouchure closed 
around the mouthpiece, having blown not one sound, entranced by the tinkle of the tiny wind chime that 
was dangling from the bell of his horn, he cackled to himself, " yes, yes, the music of the fuckin spheres." 

IBEWARE OF FLASHBACKS, DREAM SEQUENCES and VISIONS! 

i think its time to set the goldfish free.. 

braxton looked around the room, it was time to be leaving, dust on the skirting, bottles piled up 
between the bed and the dresser, ankle deep in candy bar wrappers, jamjars of pipe tobacco ashes, dust, 
debris, manuscript shreds like dandruff, somewhere under there a layer of split reeds, splintered 
floorboards, spilt drinks, spores of old alto spit. 

quickly riffling thru the laundry pile for a re-wearable cardigan, cool, this one's not too mouldy, 
what's on there will brush off. autumn day. this calls for patched corduroy jacket, okay, not so bad, 
crumpled maybe, and blotched with ink but what the hell, everything else is scooped into a hastily 
repaired duffel bag. 

i'm gonna be late for marilyn ... braxton squirrels away the following items in the moth-eaten 
pockets of his tan cotton corduroy leisure jacket: briar pipe, wad of coltsfoot herbal tobacco, fountain 
pen, a length of string, compass, some barley-sugars, afro-comb, a selection of different sized small 
leather-bound notebooks, and, in a moment of forlorn hope's fancy, one old and battered-looking foil- 
wrapped rubber (long past its use-by date), carefully he counted out the back-rent he owed & stuffed it 
in an envelope taped to the ice-box door where raoul would maybe find it if he wasn't too stoned. 

'bye babies', braxton tilts the fishbowl into the toilet & flushes, saying a tiny silent prayer, then 
out thru the screen door, lucy in her case slung across his back bumping off the lumpy duffel bag. 
braxton stepping out just like bob dylan on the cover of his second album (the freewheelin' bob dylan, 
Columbia cll986, released may 27, 1963) the one where he has the girl on his arm... 

(To be Continued) 



ANSWERED INSTANTLY 

"Play a sound/ with the certainty/ that you have an infinite amount of time and space" 
(Karlheinz Stoclchausen - UNBEGRENZT, 'Aus den sieben Tagen') 

In that instant 

you 

are. 

being wise for shameful momentary surrender. 

not looking on but in. 

think one way of making life still exist, not suspended as you play. 

being the moment and in it and with it. 

forced the silence to breathe, the earth to slender surrender through the pause. 

not coercion in the moment. 

on the high-hoping land there is no space for looking back, forward that's forgotten, in 

this space. 

not that pre-supposed carnival, whipped up desire and for it: 
the little touch inside brings out your self and it 
dissipates, anticipate 
corollary based on the felt, unproven. 
the felt is smooth to the touch, it touches the air 
around, someone's heart is moved, the joined sens- 
itivities, the rumble of an earth moving, trembling in the base and root, 
shattering 
in microscopic existence the utter being, 

and then: 

reality (in situ) as possibility, as those planes 
out-flowing, the connection 
out 

only deductions, reason as it occurs, par- 
taken as essences of existence 

like when yr hair stands up 

in for the quivering mass of particles that, 

at that moment, you feel yourself to be 

that they never can bottle up or take away and sell 
back to you, in disguised form; 
is this the mess 
ages won't obscure. 

(David Grundy) 



THOUGHTS ON PHARAOH SANDERS' TAUHID 

By David Grundy 




A/ The Evolution of Pharaoh 

"What... even those resistant to the new jazz... cannot escape is the emotional energy in the new 

music. By contrast, nearly every jazz breakthrough in the past has been challenged as being too 

'intellectual', too 'European', not 'hot' enough. These days, the opponents of what's happening 

now seem to be charging that too much emotion is erupting in this music. And that is exploding 

without form. But too much emotion for whom? And what are the notions of form?" 

Nat Hentoff, liner notes to 'Tauhid' 

This is not 'Pharoah's First' - that's a strange album on ESP disk, with Mr Sanders trying 
to uproot himself from a conventional rhythm section, making them sound leaden as he tries to 
blaze apart their jazz preconceptions - but I guess you could consider it his debut proper, 
marking a continuation of the work with Coltrane, but, perhaps more importantly, a departure 
into his own way of expressing a spiritual quest (indeed, of enacting it through music). It's 
important to note that this was actually recorded in 1966, when Sanders was still working with 
Coltrane, but I think the point still stands. 

Over time, it would become more and more obvious that there was less of a sense of 
struggle, of 'working through' in Sanders' music, than in his mentor's - it was as if he took a step 
back from the brink on which Coltrane was constantly teetering, instead choosing to locate 
himself a little further from the edge, with brief forays back to that edge that were conducted 
almost in nostalgic reminiscence. Though I realize this does injustice to Pharoah's undoubted and 
utter sincerity, one has to wonder at the musical gap between 'Live in Japan' (1966) and 'Love 
will Find a Way' (1978). In just over ten years Pharoah's preoccupations have switched from 
emotion stretched to the limit, outside the confines of traditional modes of jazz expression (or 
indeed, of almost any pre-existing mode of musical expression at all), to a more easily pre- 
packaged emotionalism that exists within the admittedly pleasant strictures of 'smooth' strings, 
finger-popping electric basslines, and creamy backing vocals. His saxophone sound is still 
undoubtedly there - it's not as if he lost his voice (shouted himself hoarse?!) in whatever process 
occurred in that 12-year period - but it's been reduced in impact. There's less overblowing, and 
when it does come, it's as an unambiguously joyful sound without the history of struggle behind 
it that would make it resonate so much more. This reduction of the personal touch at the same 



time causes the voice to lose its universality, its appeal to the primal instincts, the very roots of 
human emotional perception and response/ responsiveness to sound. 

But at the time 'Tauhid' was released, no one was to know that in ten years they'd be 
hearing Pharoah playing what essentially amounts to a slightly classier variant of smooth jazz 
(OK, they didn't really know what smooth jazz was at all - 1 suppose the nearest equivalent 
would be Bobby Hackett's 'muzak' of the 1950s, though that was probably a little more of a niche 
market than smooth jazz would turn out to be). Pharoah had his reputation (or infamy) as being 
probably the most 'out there' it got - along with Ayler, let's say, though his own music had been 
noticeably toned down in those last few years, through collaborations with Mary Maria and Cal 
Cobbs. 

Yet on 'Tauhid' the 'young lion' proved to be, if not quite a vegetarian, less of the 
marauding predator pulling chunks off jazz's fleshy carcass than might have been expected. In 
the liner notes, Nat Hentoff stresses the lyricism of what he calls the 'New Jazz', which had 
previously been far less prominent in Sanders' work (the searching solo that follow Coltrane on 
'Peace on Earth' or the Village Vanguard 'Naima' are in marked contrast to Coltrane's own 
relative calm in stating the melodies, and, notably, Sanders does not play on 'Serenity' from 
'Meditations'). While Hentoff puts it that Sanders' range was "continually expanding" (with the 
increased lyricism presumably evidence of this), in hindsight we can see that this expansion 
eventually turned into limitation - the interest in beautiful, singable melodies and in African and 
Indian percussion and instrumentation ended up being little more than an exotic colouring for the 
comfort of repeating chord alternations, to which the solos on top sometimes seemed even to be 
subordinated. 

Lyricism in 'Tauhid', then: a reviewer on Amazon.com describes the music as 
"otherworldly but familiar", and notes the paradoxical mixture of the harsh and the gentle for 
what is ultimately a serene effect. I'd argue that, while things may remain in the realms of 
paradox here, as Sanders' work became more groove-based, the fearsome overblowing ended up 
becoming almost (almost) a trick effect with which to spice up otherwise mellow grooves - that 
complex mixing of emotions, the refusal to be defined, indeed, by terms such as 'harsh' and 
'gentle', abandoned for more conventional and repetitive structures and harmonies. It's hard to 
draw a line marking where exactly this happened - and I do still have a great affection even for 
Sanders' 'easier' work - but the enjoyment I get from listening to the albums shouldn't blind me 
to the fact that much of Sanders' work is seriously flawed. 

How can this be? If you, the listener, enjoy the music, if it has an effect on you, that 
should surely be the judge, rather than by some false 'objective standard' of 'musical quality' - 
right? Well, as you can see, I can formulate my own counter-arguments to what I've just said, 
and this sort of line of reasoning often comes up when discussing free jazz. But I must admit 
that, despite the elation and peace I feel when listening to Pharoah on llmpulse!, there is always 
a slight feeling of disquiet there too - the suspicion that the music *encourages* one to switch 
off, to let it 'wash over' one as generalized vibe rather than as body-mind engagement / 
experience - and this is a long way from the *enhanced* consciousness offered by free jazz. 

Maybe it's a question of 'Balance', to take the title of one of Sanders' compositions: you 
have to take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth. Thus, 'The Creator has a Master 
Plan' ends up repeating itself, as does 'Hum-Allah', while 'Izipho Zam' is a little episodic, but 
'Live at the East' makes effective use of vocals and 'Enlightenment' is an infectious listen. 'Black 
Unity' is over-long, but the front-line of Sanders, Gary Bartz and Carlos Gamett ensures a degree 
of friction, and the double bass-line is indeed hypnotic; the title track of 'Summun Bukmun 
Umyun' is another so-so African-tinged groover with free patches, but the following 'Let us Go 
Into the House of the Lord' is genuinely inspired, with some absolutely sublime playing from 
Cecil McBee (who's turning into one of my favourite bassists at the moment). Let's put that 
bad/good formulation the other way other way round: while 'To John' on the rare, Japan-only 
'Love in Us All' contains some of the most effective 'fire music' Sanders' recorded under his own 
name (genuine free jazz rather than the hybrid styles he tended to play in at this period), 'Love is 
Everywhere' takes a small idea, attractive enough in itself, and stretches it to ridiculous lengths. 
There's only so much chugging piano, willowy soprano sax, and sing-a-long vocals I can take. 
So, Sanders' legacy is one I have a complex relation to; while I listen to his music a lot (more so 



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than Coltrane these days, though that doesn't mean I think he's 'better' than Trane at all), I still 
find it very problematic. 

B/ TAUHID 



• Pharoah Sanders - alto 

and tenor sax, piccolo, voice 

• Sonny Sharrock - guitar 

• Dave Burrell - piano 

• Henry Grimes - bass 

• Roger Blank - drums 

• Nat Bettis - percussion 

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, 
Engelwood Cliffs, New Jersey, 
15"" November 1966. 



(1) 'Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt' 

The album opens with a collective meditation. Tympani(?), cymbal smashes, Sharrock's 
new approach to post-Coltrane ballad guitar, twangy and shuddering, Burrell as chordal colourist 

- a group *sound* and *feel*, not the soloist as fi'ee individual striving to be the lone voice of 
truth (this sort of collectivism is perhaps what people disliked so much about late Coltrane - the 
ensemble passages on 'Ascension', the infamous Philharmonic Hall concert where people 
expected to see the 'Classic Quartet' and instead got an 1 1 -piece group with the Ayler Brothers, 
Pharoah, Alice, etc). 

A brief Henry Grimes bass solo - again concerned with textures and sounds, with the 
bass's properties as means of producing sound, with timbre and quality, with woozy arco rather 
than the melodic, horn-like role of La Faro or Gomez with Bill Evans. 

Now Sanders enters for the first time. His delayed entry could be said to either downplay 
or enhance the individual leader role I hinted at in the first paragraph: by waiting so long, his 
entry becomes more expected ("this album is under his name - where is he?"), more hoped for, 
perhaps - but at the same time the delay is a way of saying "you don't *need* to hear me 
straightaway - these other guys are important too." Playing piccolo, rather than sax, he vocalizes 
through the instrument while playing, as he does on 'To Be', the flute/piccolo duet with Coltrane 
on 'Expression'. An 'exotic' and still striking sound, it could have become a novelty effect if 
Sanders had chosen to over-deploy it, but this and 'To Be' are the only recorded instances, I 
think. Needless to say, its effect is a little different to Roland Kirk's use of similar techniques... 

Drum ritual, low-toned. Almost nine minutes in, and Grimes is about to solo again - no, 
instead he locks in and begins to build the famous groove that will underpin the rest of the track 
(I guess we've reached 'Lower Egypt'). In the 'pre-amble', I hinted at the role this emphasis on the 
groove played in the diminishing quality of Sanders' music, but this particular groove, as they 
say, still 'does it for me' every time. In itself, with the emphasis on rhythm (the players' truly 
functioning as 'rhythm section' here!), this could be seen as part of the 'back to Africa' movement 

- although (I speak from a position of relative ignorance), with a simplified, totalizing effect that 
downplays the complexities of actual African tribal music (to me, 'Bailophone Dance' on 
'Thembi' sounds more 'authentic', and certainly freer). Still, Nat Bettis, from the little I managed 
to find it via an internet search, was an ethnomusicologist, so presumably he wouldn't have been 



happy slotting in to provide a merely facile sense of exotic colouring. 

And *Pharoah's solo*, though brief, has such impact. For reasons of context perhaps: it's 
the first time he's let rip on sax, indeed, the first time we've heard him play sax at all on the 
album. Once again, the employment of the delaying/ waiting tactic - "that groove's been going on 
for *three minutes* now - what the hell is going on?" You're about to find out - Pharoah, first, 
echoing the groove line, three times playing the riff, then some repeated figure, now a note, first 
clean, now overblown - then, suddenly, WHAAARGH! WHAAARGH! WHAAARGH! I find it 
hard to restrain a physical reaction to those overblown whorfs of sound when I hear them. They 
seem so inevitable, so right - so truly the sound of a man as himself, as one with his instrument, 
as looking at his true centre, his true self From the liner notes, his quotes resonate: "I don't really 
see the horn anymore. I'm trying to see myself And similarly, as to the sounds I get, it's not that 
I'm trying to scream on my horn, I'm just trying to put all my feelings into the horn. And when 
you do that, the notes go away[...] Why [do] I want clusters [of notes]? So that I [can] get more 
feeling, more of me, into every note I play. You see, everything you do has to *mean* 
something, has to be more than just notes. That's behind everything I do - trying to get more 
ways of getting feeling out." 

The subdued vocals that follow, might be a little underwhelming on their own, but are 
perhaps a necessary coming down, back to earth, back to the groove, to melody, after that solo. 

(2) 'Japan' 

At just over three minutes, this is quite clearly an 'interlude' between the two long tracks 
that bookend it. Chugging bells and a stately promenade beat. Grimes mixing things up a little by 
alternating affirmative on-the-beat plucks with melodic counterpoint that goes in a slightly 
different direction. Sanders then sings the melody a few times. Grimes takes what I suppose one 
might call a short solo, then it ends. It's really all about the melody though, which could strike 
one as gorgeous and elegant, though to me it's always seemed a little twee, a Hollywoodized idea 
of Japan rather than the deeper engagement with world musics that Hentoff s liners claim for it. 

Sanders' vocal shows him embracing not the need to be 'correct' or 'traditional' (though he 
claims he was trying to impersonate an amalgamation of various different singers), but to be 
*yourselP. Certainly a different way of doing that to the 'Lower Egypt' solo, and few will argue 
that it's as successful, but it has a pleasing, unaffected simplicity about it. From this track, one 
could say that Burrell and Sharrock are rather under-used on the record - or that this is just part 
of the collective conception. Certainly, Grimes is the most prominent solo voice after Sanders, 
which is somewhat unusual. Pretty much impossible to tell what Burrell's personal voice is from 
'Tauhid' (Sharrock has it easier because no one else played the guitar like him, so, even if it's just 
a few seconds' space he gets, you're going to know it's him!) 

(3) (A) 'Aum' 

Pharoah had been here before, participating in Coltrane's 'OM' from 1965 (about which, 
see 'Circling Om', Simon Weill's superb article, available on the All About Jazz website). Things 
aren't nearly as terrifying here, though this is probably the freest section of the album. Lick-spit- 
riddling cymbals and hit-hat keep the sound tight. Grimes' immediately perplexing it with fast 
free walking, Burrell adds boxy ominous chords, then Sanders comes in, scribbling away on alto 
while Roger Blank switches to the more forceful toms. Off-mike for a moment, we might 
suppose Pharoah to be in an eye-closed calisthenics of ecstasy; he roils up and down, his tone 
vocal and gruff (though not as powerful as on tenor). Sawing, see-sawing up and down in 
motions that lead to a *strain* for volume and air, at the end, of those long notes held before the 
next darting rally. Highest in the mix behind the sax are the drums - the recording isn't great 
(they really should release a new mix of the album), but your ear can just about pick up Sonny 
Sharrock raging behind the Pharoah. Imagine the sonic experience if this had been better 
recorded! These guys truly had power behind their sound, it was *frightening* to the jazz 
establishment, to the critics, the guardians of 'good taste' and Jim Crow 'get in line Nigger' 
custodianship of a music they didn't really understand. 



(B) 'Venus' 

Sounds like they suddenly turned Sharrock up in the mix because they thought he was 
going to solo - as it is, Pharoah comes back in almost immediately, on tenor, but we do get to 
hear a precious few seconds of that guitar squall. Sanders' tone just *radiates* spirituality - later 
on, perhaps he traded on that a bit too much (by playing even just melodies he could convince), 
but here the utter sincerity is captivating, the vitality of being and the living of life in sound. 
Shakers and cymbals, strummed repeated bass notes and finally piano runs that prefigure Lonnie 
Liston Smith's harp-like arpeggios on 'Hum- Allah'. One might also note that 
'Aum/Venus/Capricorn Rising' has the concision 'Hum-Allah' lacks. The three-part structure 
focuses things, prevents over-reliance on just one groove, one vibe. Sanders' playing of the 
melody, and variants on it, are the main focus here; either Sharrock's not playing, or he's just 
really undermiked - 1 guess guitar in avant-jazz wasn't really too common at the time; maybe 
producer Bob Theile just didn't know how to deal with it. 

(C) 'Capricorn Rising' 

'Capricorn Rising' seems to be a variation on the melody of 'Venus', no less sublime. It's 
as if Pharoah taps into this stream of melody which is that of the universe - he takes a little 
fragment, puts it in bar lines, turns it into a melody of its own - self-sufficient, but part of a 
greater whole. And I guess that's the essence of jazz improvisation too - endless variation, and 
sometimes that reality can include what we'd term noise, fearsome sounds of overblown shrieks - 
all part of Pharoah's 'Journey to the One'. Earth-bound for transcendence, Pharoah's playing here 
acknowledges difficulty and struggle; indeed, it *incorporates* them into lyricism, rather than 
retreating into the slightly drippy peace-and-love sentiment, as with 'The Creator Has a 
Masterplan.' 

So, where does that love 'Tauhid' as a whole? Well, it shows that, for all their reputations, 
free jazzers wrote damn good tunes, often better than the mainstream guys' - check out Frank 
Wright's 'Kevin My Dear Son' or 'Shouting the Blues' for other examples. It also ends too soon - 
an incomplete record. Obvious highlights - the 'Lower Egypt' solo, the melodic rhapsody of 
'Venus' and 'Capricorn Rising' - remain flashes that never quite develop, and the lack of any real 
extended free jazz purification /catharsis feels like a missed opportunity (in particular, I can't 
help wishing we'd heard more of Sonny Sharrock). It was this uncertainty with *form* that was 
the major problem in Sanders' career, I think - not that I'm suggesting he should have tethered 
himself down more to the sort of structures/strictures the critics accused him of abandoning, but 
the solutions he came up with were often rather simplistic, aiming for coherence and instead 
getting a too broad-brush approach that tended to emphasize mood and vibe over detail and 
engagement. 

Originally published at http://streamsofexpression.blogspot.com/2008/10/pharoah-sanders- 
tauhid-1967.html 



SANE HYSTERIA: THE MUSIC OF GHEDALIA TAZARTES 

By David Grundy 

Ghedalia Tazartes' music comes from everywhere, and nowhere. One would thus be 
tempted to call it a kind of sonic Utopia, the imaginary concoction of a place of diverse accents 
and melodies, a Pangaea-like state. One would be thus tempted, if the music was not so 
profoundly concerned with, and related to, the material realities of the now - in its use of cheesy 
keyboard sounds, modern recording technologies, and the most ancient and, conversely, the most 
immediately accessible of all sounds - the human voice, in all its guises and disguises: high, low, 
fast, slow, amused and despairing. Ghedalia Tazartes: voice-box, juke-box, ventriloquist, 
mouthpiece. 

His music, then, runs the gamut: no Utopia, no idealisation, but the gamut of human 
emotion and invention traversed, even if only dipped into by the faintest touch of the toes; a 
manic but scatty musical encyclopaedism which shows up the absurdity of its own project and 
revels in this, at the same time realising it as part of a flawed human condition, where relation is 
unclear and where leaps in logic and association are just part of the helter-skelter tapestry of 
thought and life, at once exhilarating and terrifyingly tipping to the abyss, spinning out of control 
into who knows what void. 

I said that Tazartes' music comes from everywhere and nowhere. But of course I should 
have said that it comes from himself As the liner notes to one of his records put it, "Ghedalia is 
the orchestra and a pop group all in one person: the solitary opera explodes himself into an 
infinity of characters." He is indeed a one-man orchestra, generating almost all of the sounds on 
his records and patching them together by overdubbing, though of course his use of sampled 
sounds and interactions with traditions, however warped and barely-recognisable, lets something 
else speak through him. What that something that speaks is, is what constitutes the compelling 
individuality of his sound, even as it seems to come from something beyond individuality. To 
adopt the title of one of his pieces, the music of Ghedalia Tazartes might also be 'Le Dernier 
Concert' : the last music in the world, the only thing that is left but which contains within itself 
every other kind of music there has been; so utterly singular as to sound like very little else, in its 
totality, yet so peppered with reference and sonic similarity that it almost overburdens itself to 
the point where chaos sinks to noise, or to silence. Poised on that edge, dancing crazily all the 
while, one finds the enigmatic figure of Ghedalia Tazartes. 

Who, though, is this man? Paris resident, he was born to Turkish parents in 1947 (making 
him just over 60 at the time of writing, though it's hard to tell his age from the available 
photographs, given the ever-present Trilby which covers the upper part of his head). There's not 
really that much detailed information to go on, although the recent interview in 'The Wire' 
magazine has prompted him out of the obscurity in which he was immersed for so many years, 
since the recording of his first album in 1979. We can even view images of the apartment in 
which he has lived since 1967. It's not so much cluttered as packed full oi things: a mirror ball 
hangs from the ceiling and a set of pan-pipes hangs on the wall above a hat, next to which a 
globe perches precariously on the top of a very large speaker, both leaning at rather lop-sided 
angles, while a pair of rather antiquated-looking keyboards are wrapped in plastic as if they 
haven't been touched since purchase. Such diversity, of course, makes its way into the music, 
and it's therefore possible to see how the man's life is connected with his output (he goes as far 
as to say that he doesn't know if he would be a musician without his apartment). But I'd want to 
be cautious about biographizing things too much, as that would lose us the wonderful singularity 
which these works of art so obviously gift us. 

If the man's biography is obscure, the music trail he's left isn't much better-known. 
Between his 1979 debut, 'Diasporas', and his latest album, 'Hysteric Off Musique' (reviewed in 
the previous issue of 'eartrip'), he's released a total often albums, not all of them full-length, on 
various labels. Not the largest corpus over a thirty-year period, and not the most easily- 
accessible, either: many of the albums are either out-of-print or extremely hard to get hold of, 
despite a number of re-issues, meaning that few people actually have the chance to listen to the 
music, even if they have heard of its elusive producer. 




I came across Tazartes quite by chance: browsing a 'sharity' blog under the 
'experimental' tag, I came across a download link for an album entitled 'Tazartes Tansports.' I 
knew nothing about the artist or any other recording details - even the date of release - but the 
music was utterly captivating and I listened to the album repeatedly over the next few days. 
Utterly disregarding any generic conventions, any categorisation, I found 'Transports' to unfold 
in a manner that was both hypnotic and disorienting, full of what seemed to be echoes of other 
musics, but ending up sounding like nothing else I'd heard. Vocal samples wove their way in and 
out of the music: often, these were gravely beautiful, Arabic-sounding melodies, sometimes 
played normally in the midst of much complex electronic trickery, sometimes speeded up, 
sometimes slowing down, sometimes simply allowed to unfold in a quietly meditative haze. The 
same samples re-appeared on different tracks, a woman's laughter sounding light and airy on one 
piece, sinister and nightmarish on another, dissonant noise building up underneath until, just at 
the climactic moment, the music unexpectedly switched direction for a moody, vaguely Oriental 
soundscape full of high-pitched electronic speaks and sqanks and something that sounded like a 
bird. ..or a cicada. Screams of "All animals have personalities" added a comedic touch to the fifth 
piece, and at another point, Tazartes produced something which, for a few seconds, seemed 
strangely like an Evan Parker saxophone solo. 'Transports' was intriguing not just for the sheer 
variety of sounds, but for the way it merged the human and the machine, the emotional and the 
robotic, cutting-edge electronic sounds with the simplicity of ancient melody. 

Before popping Tazartes' name into google (as one does), I thought that this must be 
contemporary electronic music, of the Autechre/Aphex Twin variety (though a lot stranger) - my 
evidence being the dirty groove of 'Transports 10', and the squelchy, watery sounds heard on 
'Transports 8', which are familiar effects in clubs today (though what Tazartes does with them 
this isn't exactly what I'd call dance-able).Unbelievably, though, I discovered that it had been 
recorded back in the 1980s (with three more recent, slightly less adventurous bonus tracks). Such 
a historical disjunct, such an apparent impossibility, seems even more extreme than Miles Davis' 
anticipation of so many developments in contemporary dance and electronic music on 'On the 
Corner'. Stranger still because, whereas Miles' album sprang to fame (or, to put it more 
accurately, to infamy), Tazartes work simply never appeared in the entire official story of 
musical development, even in accounts which pride themselves on delving into the most obscure 
corners, investigating the dustiest and most untouched nooks and crannies. 

This might actually be a good thing, as well as a manifest injustice. The fact that this is 
not a 'known' music (let alone 'well-known') allows one to focus solely on the sound, shatters a 



reliance on knowing 'background detail', on explaining what one hears as the manifestation of 
some extra-musical trend. And that is surely the best way to approach any music, not just 
Tazartes' perplexions. In the rest of the article, then, I'll explore in detail some of the man's 
recorded output and see what I can make of it, with as little resource to biography or background 
as I can (although I'll also try to avoid presenting it as something hermetically sealed off from 
the rest of the world). 



To begin, then, with the first record, 'Diasporas', released in 1979 on the Cobalt label. A 
pair of pieces which are, respectively, the fourth and fifth tracks on the album, succinctly 
demonstrate the mixture of more traditional sounding, acoustic work and more experimental 
electronics. 'Quasimodo Tango', a fairly straight tango piece by French electroacoustic 
composer Michel Chi on, is nonetheless made odd both by its subject (the odd/grotesque pairing 
of Hugo's hunchback of Notre Dame with tango), and the way Tazartes' voice comes in and out 
of the mix. 'Reviens', meanwhile, is off in entirely stranger territory, and has to be heard to be 
believed. 

Of course, there's much more on the record than just these two short tracks, and it's 
worth considering the 'thematic backdrop' to the whole. A diaspora is the dispersion of people 
from their original homeland, and so one could hear the music as reflecting some of this (often 
deeply distressing) sense of loss and change; but at the same time Tazartes' diasporas create their 
own new homeland through music, a geographically unspecific region drawing on many cultures 
- a kind of cultural home. This is a new flexibility of nationhood and being, belonging. The 
Utopian ideal realised in music! Babel vanquished! Or maybe more something closer to the 
imaginative visions of Rimbaud in 'Illuminations', pushed to the brink of meaning in an 
aesthetic experience which, perhaps, realises what can, or does not exist in the 'other' world, the 
'real', the 'physical one'. 

There might be a fair share of worry (even guilt) behind this, as well as celebration, and 
we find this a few years later with 'Transports'. As Jan Opdebeeck puts it, "Transports is a dark, 
jagged record which maybe even stages a social reality; a feeling which is evoked by the (trying, 
aggressive, shying. . . ) way of speaking and singing, and the diversity of contexts (which are 
provided with a social charge) and manipulations." 




That's not to say that there's oppressive doom and gloom: indeed, the previously- 
mentioned 'Transports 5' adds a broadly comedic touch, with Tazartes screaming "all animals 
have personalities" in completely whacked-out fashion. Nonetheless, there are definite moments 
of melancholy: 'Transports 6' sounds like it's a vocal with instrumental accompaniment (a 
dulcimer, a piano?) being played backwards, giving it that trippy effect familiar from the 
Beatles' work after their return from India, but with a more introverted, mournful quality, as a 



second vocal strand is overdubbed at the end and the voices gracefully entwine, before an abrupt 
cut into the harsh chanting and grunts of the next piece. Meanwhile, 'Transports 2' which piles 
up a thicket of electronic sounds, clanging church bells overlaid with various whines and 
buzzings, before a pensive clarinet lays a melody over the top. 

What's intriguing about these last two pieces, and the album as a whole, is the way they 
merge the human and the machine, the emotional and the robotic, cutting-edge electronic sounds 
with the simplicity of an ancient melody. It' s the sort of concept that could easily overwhelm the 
work, or just come across as crude, but, as it is, Tazartes pulls it off magnificently. 

'Tazartes' (1987) finds the artist using his new keyboard to create drones and weird 
multi-tracked figures that repeat round themselves in filigree swirls, all underneath his vocals, 
whether declaimed as on 'Merci Stephane', or leading a dance on 'Yama Yama'. Signs of the 
times (the taint of the 80s) are also the repeating beats, though the majority of these might as 
well have come from any time - the repeating guitar loop and percussion sounds on 'Merci 
Stephane' could have come from a 70s jazz-funk record. And that's why Tazartes' music is like 
'counterf actual' history: a vision of what music might have been, the creation of an impossible 
fantasy whose impossibility is nonetheless challenged because it is perfectly audible on these 
records. 

At this stage, it might be worth quoting Matt Ingram, a.k.a. Woebot, whose blog contains 
some thoughts on Mr Tazartes which seem particularly apposite to our lines of enquiry at this 
point. "Key to the proceedings is the character Tazartes presents to us. His is a profoundly 
Burroughsian vision. Like Burroughs's story 'the talking arsehole', concerning the boundary 
between matter, fiesh and character, Tazartes poses uncomfortable questions about the Western 
conception of "the human". Distorting his voice into a cretinous rasp, ululating like an animal, 
wailing like a child, smearing the boundaries between Arabic and French pronunciations and 
languages he is always engrossing to listen to. In some senses the accompanying electronics, 
which form the score to his voice, would be of secondary interest were the concrete pile-up of 
found sound and prehistoric mantra-onics not so equally fascinating. Tazartes adopted the pose 
of Tibetan Bedroom Buddha decades before the likes of The Aphex Twin and his ilk, and it's a 
cruel shame that his work isn't more widely admired." 

There's a lot to unpack, and admire, in this account; most of all, I think that Ingram's 
emphasis on Tazartes' self-presentation, as character, is an instructive one. To a certain extent, 
there's a really explicit sense that Tazartes is creating this identity called 'Ghedalia Tazartes', 
whether it be real or fictive, or a mixture of both. Either way, it's the weird case of an identity 
created solely through music (only in recent years has Tazartes' visage become visible, through 
photos in the scattered available interviews - most recently, that in The Wire - and through the 
concert appearances, perhaps sparked by that Wire coverage). Due to this fact, and due to the 
magpie, polymorphous nature of the musical identity itself, one could argue that Tazartes is 
enacting some sort of an escape from a fixed identity - or, to put it another way, is multiplying 
his identities out, constructing a hosts of selves which refuse a compartmentalisation of self off 
from experience, from tradition and from the world. Both more honest and more whimsically 
fictive than something more stable, it teases out certain philosophical profundities through its 
playful teasing; labour disguised as play, thoughtfulness disguised as wild, mischievous 
anarchism. Maybe more than this - the breakdown of such simple oppositional categorisation, so 
that labour and play, thoughtfulness and the mischievous, seriousness and humour, collapse into 
each other, in almost dialectical resolution, which one would hesitate to call a resolution at all. 

'Un Ivrogne Sur Le Mont Blanc' - 'A Drunkard on Mont Blanc' : the title suggests a 
deliciously absurd and rather precarious situation whose whimsical conception seems typical of 
the way that Tazartes mind works. His shivery vocals hint at the mountainous chill; underneath, 
the processed keyboard sounds remind one of Indian tablas, though this reminiscent is 
conditional on a realisation that they are an imitation. The very falsity of this imitation is 
highlighted - one realises that these are not tablas almost straightaway - so that these see more 
like the idea of tablas, the reconstructed dream, the treated reminiscence of the quality of sound 
present in tablas (perhaps arising from the hazy fog in the mind of the titular drunkard). Tablas, 
then, function as a kind of spiritual presence: abstracted from their environment (the music 



Tazartes spins round them has little in common with the Indian classical music where the 
instruments are normally found) and from themselves (these are not actually tablas), there is 
nevertheless a kind of affinity which one might call the 'spirit' of tablas. 

'Elle Eut Des Etouffement Aux Premieres Chaleurs Quand Les Poiriers Fleurirent' is a 
line from Flaubert's Madam Bovary: "With the first warm weather, when the pear trees began to 
blossom, she suffered from shortness of breath." It would be foolish to go so far as to seeing the 
piece as an explicit illustration of that line - particular as it is completely ripped from the context 
of the novel's narrative, so that it suggests its own, separate narrative, becoming poeticised into a 
statement whose propositionality is made to suggest a hovering, non-propositional sense which 
surrounds it like an aura. Rather, the piece relates to its title in the same way that the non- 
propositional aura relates to the statement it surrounds, in a mysterious fashion which one cannot 
identify precisely - and which one could easily discard completely. Yet the desire is to retain it, 
to cling to the mystery at the same time as wishing to probe it - a conflicted urge which 
somehow re-imagines conflict as pleasure (and thus, might it not be too fanciful to say, attempts 
to negate conflict's divisive and destructive force). 

Tazartes' declamatory, multi-tracked vocals are faintly reminiscent of a Turkish 
muezzin's call to Friday prayers, before a startling jump cut creates the impression that his voice 
has morphed into that of a woman singing a-quasi operatic aria. I call that moment a jump cut, 
and I think it has the same disorienting effect as the filmic technique pioneered by Jean-Luc 
Godard in 'A Bout de Souffle' : the violation of the 360-degree rule whereby two shots shown in 
succession must be 360-degrees apart; the result of breaking this rule is that the eyes perceives a 
jump, a leap between the two shots, disrupting the smooth continuity of perception that we 
expect from the moving image. The impression is one of simultaneous disruption and an odd 
merging - where what seem like two unrelated images are at the same time revealed to in fact be 
very nearly the same shot, and thus create a puzzling near-simultaneous conjunction and 
disjunction, literally in the blinking of an eye - a process too fast to be fully comprehended by 
the human brain before it has gone. Tazartes' sudden switch from his own voice to that of the 
female singer has a similar quality, although its process is essentially a reversal of that I have 
described: what initially seems to be the same voice (Tazartes cuts himself off at a point when he 
is singing in quite a high register) is revealed to be that of a different person: what the ear, the 
mind perceives as the same voice is actually a different one, an odd merging which is actually 
illusory but which suggests a continuum of voices that once more refuses to create polite 
boundaries, this time between singers. The woman's aria is at first accompanied, then slowly 
interrupted by short samples of applause triggered by drum taps which at first sound like 
firework; the background having dissolved the song, Tazartes re-enters, his gentle and tender 
multi-tracked song over a quiet, almost inaudible keyboard accompaniment abruptly cutting into 
Middle-Eastern style declamations (again, multi -tracked) over looped percussion. Appropriately 
enough, the track cuts off in peremptory fashion, this final section forcibly concluded by the 
sound of something crashing over - perhaps the singer falling off a chair. 

'Check Point Charlie' (1990) extends the technique of 'Elle Eut. . . ', bringing together a 
number of short fragments into one continuous piece in suite-like fashion. 'Traces des Coups', 
the 15-minute long opening track ends with a quasi-medieval instrumental passage whose 
strangeness is amplified by being played on a rather tacky 1980s keyboard. It is as if Tazartes 
simultaneously realises the absurdity of the sounds but mitigates this by treating the instrument 
completely seriously, playing beautiful music on an un-beautiful instrument. Yet this is the 
opposite of the po-faced seriousness and ersatz grandeur of Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre; 
rather, it is a seriousness which is simultaneously absolutely genuine and completely absurd and 
hilarious. And that is frequently Tazartes' secret. He makes 'funny' vocal sounds, sings in a 
high-pitched shriek of a low croaky groan, enacts little dramas and dances, references styles in a 
manner that defies common sense, that hints at narrative but refuses to be linear, that suggests 
unity but only through dislocation. 

The second track, 'Charlie's Retire', makes use of more varied spoken word. Tazartes 
uses snippets and loops from an absurd English dialogue he recorded with a young woman, 
peppering the final cut with "bloopers," thus playing on both levels (the fiction and the creation 



of the fiction) at the same time. The dialogue also seems to contain some sort of political 
comment, though one which emerges from associations which seem deliberately randomized, in 
an almost improvisatory fashion, rather than from absolute specificity of intention. What one is 
presented with, then, is a patchwork of voices in which one 'reads' or 'listens' to the words with 
new meanings in different contexts - there is talk about officers, about liking where one is, 
which is not here, which cannot help but suggest displacement the imprisonment, enforcement 
and exclusion created by the Berlin Wall, at the same time as the fantasies it might generate (the 
desire not to be trapped where one is, to be 'not here', or nowhere), all undercut by a sexual, 
vaguely sado-masochistic edge. 

Six years later comes 'Voyage a L'Ombre' (1996). The first seven tracks form a suite of 
short, linked pieces, the longest being 4 minutes long, the shortest only 40 seconds. 'Voyage a 
L'Ombre 1' comes across like some demented distortion of Kurt Weill, Tazartes' high-pitched 
singing accompanied by the muffled, crackly sounds of what appears to be a looped recording of 
old-fashioned danced music. The following piece finds him again in a high-pitched register, his 
voice quavering in patterns that twist around opening and closing held notes, the sung phrases of 
similar lengths over a keyboard-loop and occasional bursts of a drum machine creating a 
repetitive, locked-in structure. Switching to a gruff growl, he sings over the unconventional 
rhythmic backdrop created from a loop of clapping hands and a child's laughter, before his own 
voice drops out for a short burst of a soprano singing what sounds like an unaccompanied opera 
aria. This is then electronically distorted, fading in and out of the texture as if it were trying to 
push itself back into the pure clarity of its initial manifestation, quickly reaching complete failure 
as a new keyboard loop begins and establishes itself as the backdrop for the next few minutes. 
Over this, Tazartes once more comes in, deploying laughter as a musical device, in a hysterical 
and fairly disturbing way which is nonetheless near to being absolutely hilarious, especially as he 
adopts a ridiculous, hectoring high-pitched speech-sung register full of rolling 'r's and yawning 
vowels. The keyboard loop, with its faint delay setting, is left to its own devices for the next few 
minutes, and the suite ends with another brief fragment of song, Tazartes quietly spinning 
variations on simple melodic shapes, as if singing to himself, the faintest traces of electronic 
accompaniment (reminiscent of a whirring fan) and the slightest sounds of distant human activity 
suggesting that the setting is his apartment, the window open at a quiet and contemplative time 
of day. 

As indicated by this account, a significant characteristic of the album is the way in which 
several voices are juxtaposed: one voice or a group of voices sing out a melody or variations, 
which are then looped alongside a speaking voice - or a voice making sounds somewhere 
between music and speech, such as the gurgling baby and the nonsense syllable soothings of the 
parent in 'Berceuse'. The latter is an instance which also questions notions of what constitutes a 
conversation - for, though neither can really understand what the other is saying, in a 
propositional, semantic sense, meaning is nevertheless communicated in a different way - a kind 
of communication poised between the meaning-based sounds of language and the less obviously 
significatory sounds of music, which collapses the boundaries between the two. As Jan 
Opdebeeck puts it, "speech, singing, and music lose their identity as it were, only to become 
absorbed in the abstract, choral composition." 

Such resistance of categorisation is paralleled in the piece's other ambiguities: what 
sounds like a flute setting on a keyboard plays unquiet, rather unsettling chromatic lines 
underneath the baby's happy gurgles and Tazartes' own lullaby whisperings, ending with just the 
voice and faint traffic rumble. It's not your conventionally peaceful lullaby, but manages an 
intimacy arguably far greater than in such a convention - a deeply loving and tender urge to 
sleep which encompasses the fears that yet lurk within this act - whether they be the fears of the 
child, unwilling to cease its wide-eyed wondering gaze at the world, or the fears and worries of 
the parent whose own experience tempers his enjoyment of such an innocent vision of the world. 
As such, it's probably the most convincing musical exploration of parenthood in existence - and 
yet it is far from being simply this. That one interpretation, I'm sure, is just one of many that 
could be made, and which it would do an injustice to the piece to ascribe as the sole 'meaning'. 



The French word 'ombre' means shadow or shade, darkness or obscurity, and the disc's 
title thus translates as something like 'Voyage to the Shadows'. But I think it might not be too 
fanciful to pick up on the sonic similarity between 'Ombre' and 'Homme', man - this is a 
journey of man, or of a man, in and around the shadows which he inhabits and which are at the 
unreachable, the undecipherable parts of his actual existence - which could mean a kind of 
interior journey into the heart of the self, an examination of the very nature of one's being, of the 
aspects of one's being which one still knows so little about. 




It could also be one of those journeys of development - the life of man, the different 
stages of life, though not in the traditional linear fashion. Rather, I'd see it as being an interaction 
between different stages, merging the perceptions and perspectives with which experience is 
viewed: child-like but knowing, infantile but wise - a kind of dramatisation of the relation 
between different generations (most specifically, as we heard in 'Berceuse', between parent and 
child) which simultaneously takes the role of all its main actors, both assuming the perspective of 
none and the perspective of all. 

That interpretation, I think, is supported by the front cover - or, if not supported, 
prompted by it. A photograph shows a baby looking at the camera. Sunlight would be streaming 
onto his face, blinding him, were it not for the protective hand held up by the woman who 
cradles him in her arms - her gesture gives more than a hint of religious iconography, the 
photograph echoing a serene painting of Madonna and Child. The baby's look is as ambiguous as 
baby's expressions so often are: between the smile into which it will probably evolve, simple 
drop-jawed wonder and surprise, and an almost vacant uncertainty. It's exactly the same kind of 
hovering enacted by the 'Berceuse' piece. 

One might also reflect that the shadow which the mother's hand places over the child's 
face is a protective one. This would mitigate against the way we might be tempted to read the 
'Ombre' in 'Voyage aL'Ombre' as having negative connotations - death, shades of hell, 
uncertainty, the unknown, the echo of originating objects which are absent or unseen (as 
shadows are the echo of the objects which cast them). Rather, the shadow is a protection from 
the blinding sunlight which would, paradoxically, not enable one to see (the opposite of light's 
usual function). 

"Human kind cannot bear very much reality", as Eliot put it: this shielding off is thus a 
necessary reaction to an overabundance of sensory experience, that kind of overwhelming 
volume of data which one might expect to be a baby's initial impression of the world and which 
must soon coalesce into more organised impressions, impressions which shut off certain data as 
irrelevant in a selection of what is relevant at that particular moment. This development might 
not be unambiguously celebrated - it involves the narrowing off of perception as well as its 
clarification, the hardening into set ways and modes of viewing the world, the development of 
prejudice and blinkered version. 



And one might now feel tempted into another interpretation of the album: that in its 
gleeful refusal of boundaries and-deliberately un-categorisable, un-placeable strangeness, it 
reconstructs the infant state. Yet I would argue that there is by no means a regressive desire for 
the naively innocent over-abundance of the initial child-like perception; rather, knowingness 
exists alongside unknowingness in a way that is both fertile and exists as the worrisome reminder 
of processes that are more complex than we would like them to be: simultaneous loss and gain, a 
Hegelian inseparability of progress and decline. 

There is more, much more, but for now, let's content ourselves with Tazartes' latest 
album, 'Hysteric Off Musi que' (2007). Individual tracks are named after particular genres (Soul, 
Country, etc), but this is clearly ironic, for the artist encompasses and moves beyond so many 
genres that to limit himself to one would be not merely undesirable, but, one suspects, virtually 
impossible. 'Soul' is 'soul' in the sense of passion, emotion, more than the sense of a particular 
genre of twentieth-century African- American music. Tazartes, it seems, is more interested in the 
emotions and significations behind genres than in their explicit content or even form. 

Perhaps no better concluding words can be found than Tazartes' own, from The Wire 
Interview: "My music is like human nature, which is paradoxical. If somebody falls over, you 
laugh. But he has to fall over for real. If he's pretending to fall over, nobody laughs. When it's 
completely serious, then it's funny." And that is frequently Tazartes' secret. He makes 'funny' 
vocal sounds, sings in a high-pitched shriek of a low croaky groan, enacts little dramas and 
dances, references styles in a manner that defies common sense, that hints at narrative but refuses 
to be linear, that suggests unity but only through dislocation. It verges on the 'hysteria' 
referenced in the title to this latest album, but, the more you think about it, the more you realise 
it's the sanest hysteria you've heard. 




t 



V^ 




Apologies: I don't know the original provenance of these images, so haven't been able to credit them or ask 
permission for their use in this article. 



berlin november 2008: visions sounds meetings 

Berlin Jazz Festival / FMP Total Music Meeting (40* Anniversary) 
by mark anthony whiteford 

i met a woman on the train, we talked about the east and west and what it meant that it 
was gone, and what it meant that once we had a dream of socialism, a nd she lived in the horror 
whilst i grew up far away wishing it could all be the dream and inequality would get wiped out. 
'it's over now' she said and my daughters are living lives i could never have hoped for. 'and i'm 
glad i'm not in that any more, but now life is not quite right, it's only about money and nothing 
else now here in the west.' she still lives in her same house in what once was the east. 

the revolution? it happened, things changed, capitalism now reigns like some self- 
obsessed monarch/patriarch [the west is the best/victorious, the rest of the world can suck on a 
gun barrel/a broken coke bottle/nothing, the fmp is alive [and kicking?] all the men are still here 
in their blazers and shoes and shirts, all with slightly podgy bellies, still playing[the same 
stuff40years on?] THE FMP IS 40YEARS OLD. i met a man who remembered the first gig he 
saw with peter brotzmann 40 years or so ago. 'yes' he said 'we believed everything is different 
from now on.' 

is it? 

Wertmiiller Project w/ Brotzmann & Pliakas 
feat. Keiji Haino, Peter Evans, Mars Williams 

Michael Wertmiiller • drums 
Marino Pliakas • bass 
Peter Brotzmann • saxes 
Mars Williams • tenor sax 
Keiji Haino • electronics, guitar, voice 
Peter Evans • trumpet 
Quasimodo, 6/11/08 (Berlin Jazz Festival) 

peter brotzmann played in a jazz club [a very standard jazz club-tables waitresses <yep 
waitresses only, no waiters in a jazz club man> all the people on stage were men. it was very 
macho and loud and dense, brotzmann played some very lyrical stuff at times, [maybe trying to a 
force a wedge of something else against/within the loud dense noise onslaught?]] i enjoyed it. 
it was ceaselessly loud and dense and full tilt and it made me laugh or feel exhilarated or both, 
keijo haino was there and he was refreshingly something else, like a wild cat let loose in the 
circus of macho men in his frilly black lace and long hair and screaming wailing fumbling guitar 
and voice and pedals, there was some very heavy unrelenting bass and drums and some other 
guy on saxophones screaming and snarling, and then peter evans who kind of seems to be 
following in the wake of axel domer but seems to me to also have some of that more traditional 
male^erlin/free improv bluster in that he sweats and tussles and clearly shows how much he's 
wrestling with the trumpet forcing it to do things by feats of heroic muscular force, by the time 
he's done his shirt is wet and testifies to his male heroic struggle even though his sound world is 
more out and unconventional than the likes of brotzmann and the other fmp horn players i 
witness on this trip. 

Clayton thomas/peter evans/axel dorner/henry grimes 
ausland, 3/11/08 

on my way into berlin i rush from the airport [yep goodbye trees and planet-the western 
male pursues his desire whilst the asians drown, hello easyjet and the riches of the western world 
stolen from the rest of the non-human 'other' people [not quite people]] to get to an abandoned 
church [the white male god has vacated and the white male anarchists have taken 
residence. <some things change maybe?> for the [better?]] 



i arrive in time to catch peter evans storming away with de rigeur free improv [free jazz?] 
double bass slogging it out with him. they're both going all over the place with some physical 
force, peter evans is sweating, i'm a bit thrown by this all. i've got evans down as a quiet 
noisemaker in the vein of dorner. but this is quite full blast and muscular [that word again] soon 
it's over somehow, i only get about a five mins of it. 

i try to pay someone but the man who takes the money has gone home so there's no one i 
can pay. which is neat and refreshingly uncommercial, 'i'll buy a cd' i say to the soundman but i 
dont actually, i'm wondering what i've missed, what i really wanna catch is axel dorner with 
peter evans since i've never heard either of them live and i love what i've heard on my hifi so i'm 
keen to see what they'll be like live and together. 

then a familar looking man comes shuffling into the hall with a violin case under his 
arm. people seem to have been not expecting him. and it seems an impromptu duo set is got 
underway involving him and one of the bassists, he has his violin out and is rustling scrappy old 
bits of paper about on a table, i'm tryin to figure out who he is. but i guess the context of berlin 
blocks me fathoming it out. he reads some poetry that's full of de rigeur black american 
references/ phrases/melody, redolent of ntozake shange/maya angel ou/william parker. lots of 
references to skyscrapers being like cliff faces and lots of references to infinity freedom 
alienation, i'm trying to remember who he is. the closest i can get is william parker who he aint. 
the poetry is very badly delivered, faltering and stumbling, barely audible above the accoustic 
bass, it's highly impromptu and the bassist and the poet dont seem to know what form the thing is 
gonna take, when to stop when to keep going, which i like a lot. when the stranger picks up the 
violin things flow much more freely and there's a drive and a searingness to the violin whilst the 
bass is now more comfortably in the 'supporting' role it seems to me. 

at some point i write on a little flyer 'who is he?' and pass it to the woman at my side[no 
women on stage but women in the audience] there is no stage, i'm not completely enjoying the 
music, i'm enjoying the violin and bass fine but the man keeps returning to poetry and i keep 
thinking 'this is displacing the quartet music' which i believe is gonna ensue for the rest of the 
set. 

i get my piece of paper on which the woman's male partner has written 'henry grimes' 
and i'm beside myself with incredulity, i am amazed to find myself in this abandoned church off 
my plane face to face with henry grimes, i'm thinking this man has played with albert ayler and 
this man has survived the vile racist oppression of vile capitalist america and is still here and so 
am i with him. i am privileged, i'm still not digging the poetry though. 

and i still want dorner and evans. 

eventually dorner evans and the 2 bassists get to play, and one of the bassists invites 
grimes to sit in. so we get a quintet, it's cool, i'm happy, dorner and evans blend nicely, the 
bassists and mr grimes keep up a more straight forward thing than dorner and evans jumps about 
between the string players and dorner's soundscapes fairly undriven by dominant rhj^thm and 
thrusting dynamics, i like what dorner does best, i like his slabs of rebellious sounds, he quietly 
and with little outward show of physical exertion pushes some incredible sounds out into and 
under the quintet music. 

i see evans three more times. 

• once with brotzman and company as above. 

• once solo. 

• once with evan parker richard barrett and another bassist 

solo he's quite incredible, totally pyrothechnics totally in the tradition of pushing the instrument 
beyond what it wants to do. but very quiet unlike the old guys, he plays a long set solo. 
35minutes, maybe more, what i will say in favour of the fmp guys is they dont kowtow to the 
current 'audience freindly' strategy of presenting bite size chunks, they allow a lot of very long 
sets to take place during this week long festival. 



• keith and Julie [tippetts] 

• evan parker quartet 

• John Edwards 

• wachsmann turner kirchmann eckel 

all play very long uninterupted sets in the good old noncompromise freeimprov no 
concession to capitalism's bite size endless consumerist fandango, [roll up roll up get some more 
of these unsatisfying little things and make it all start up and go round again put your money in 
the slot it's the cumshot it's the cumshot slot.] 

so yeah, he plays a long set. i'm fairly absorbed, i'm slightly caught up in that old jazz trip 
of marveling at his technique, but i think there's a sound piece that unfolds too and it's not just 
technique. [?] there's a fair bit of quiet and space in the piece, a fair bit of contemplation and 
wonder, he also does a short 'encore' and his shirt is soaked in sweat by the end. he has to do a 
very big warm up, before he plays, i hear him in the dressing room, which is obviously 
absolutely essential due to the extreme pressure he puts him self under when playing. 

TIPPETT/KELLERS/TIPPETT 

• Julie Tippett voice 

• Willi Kellers dr, perc 

• Keith Tippett piano 
Berlinische gallery, 6/11/08. 

a set by keith and julie tippett in trio with a drummer, i love this set. i feel it's totally 
sweet, it is what it is. it is what it's always been with keith and julie. keith does his thing, it's the 
long 45minute keith solo style, he does the thing at the very top of the piano and of course the 
thing at the very bottom of the piano, with some delicate and jazzy piano in and around it all. he 
seems to be accommodating julie at times, he shakes his rattle too. julie does her voice thing 
which to me seems so unassuming, so delicate and unsure and thin, and she seems self assured 
enough as to allow this offering of hers to be enough for us for her for keith and the drummer, 
she leaves a lot of space too. she seems to fit in with what's ensuing, sometimes you feel she's 
taken the lead and the 2 men follow her. she plays some little instruments, a tibetan singing bowl 
a recorder an mbira that she plays with a little mallet, and between them they weave a delicate 
quiet slow unforced/unforceful mesh, it's very quiet, the drummer does very delicate things, he 
waves his brushes in the air. he's still and quiet, i love them all and i feel grateful and blessed 
that such people and such music can still exist in a vile epoch which would have preferred to 
crush such entities as this if only it even knew they were there. 

when it's over they bow and say thankyou and they go. hell, it'll be a poorer place to exist on, this 
planet, when mr grimes and these people all bow out. 

what else was there? 

John edwards bass solo 
Berlinische gallery, 6/11/08. 

again another long no concessions timewise set. up until recently i'd not seen a lot of John 
edwards live, and lately i've seen too much of him. seems like everytime the cube cinema put on 
any improvised music John edwards will be the default musician, he plays very loud[via amps] 
and very muscular, he has a set of things he does, and he throws himself about a fair bit when he 
gets going, which he invariably does, seeing him play is a bit like watching hearing a standard 
jazz musician in that he kind of visits various places and will always 'peak'[ie a moment of 
loudness or speed that would like to imply some kind of frenzy] at some point he will reach some 
kind of 'resolution' at 'the end.' in berlin he did 1 this, there are times when he seems to be 
delighting in the sound he is creating as if he's surprised himself yet whenever i see him he does 
these certain things - 



1 bows with great physical force breaking strings as he goes 

2 goes very quiet and hesitant at times 

3 smacks the body of the bass 

4 rubs the body of the bass with a wettened finger 

5 sticks things in the strings and smacks them about 

6 plucks the strings above where he's fingering 

7 bows the bass below the bridge 

he often visits each of these places at almost the same point in any given piece he's 
playing, and rarely misses one of these certain actions within any performance i've seen, he's a 
seemingly 'very nice chap and very unassuming and polite.' at the venue in berlin i saw him met 
and recieved by some very well behaved middle class berlinische galleryafficianados who 
seemed very pleased to be met by him in this very nice and unassuming way. 

i also saw him play during my most hated moment of the whole festival. 

• Manfred Schoof trumpet 

• Gerd Dudek tenor & soprano saxophones 

• John Edwards double bass 

• Giinter 'Baby' Sommer dr, perc 
Berlinscher Gallery, 7/11/08. 

i hated this set immensely and found myself diametrically opposed to the modus operandi 
of performance presented, a group of elder statesmen who call themselves improvisers who for 
some inexplicable [to me] reason chose to present us with some very sloppily arranged and 
executed 'tunes' and structures, all of them except edwards wore the fimp male blazer and shirt 
and de rigeur 1950s male haircuts, the absolute low point of despair for me was when the 
drummer entered into a standard jazz style 'cutting contest' goading and challenging edwards to 
play louder/faster and keep up with the barrage/charade of pushes and shoves that the drummer 
put before him whilst sending gestures and smiles to the other older guy compatriots seeming to 
say 'hey do you think he can cut it and hang in there with me/us?' and when it was all over he 
gave edwards the nod of approval like some ridiculous scorcese 'gangster' [middle class white 
male actor in fact] who indicates to the assembled macho men that 'the boy is ok' once he's killed 
a man. 

• Evan Parker tenor & soprano saxophones 

• Peter Evans trumpet 

• Adam Linson double bass 

• Richard Barrett sampling keyboard, live electronics 
Berlinscher Gallery, 8/11/08. 

oh fuck, i'm so sorry but i have this ongoing problem with evan parker's current output 
and stance, i'm really sorry, i love evan parker and he started up this thing we all care so much 
about and live and breathe didnt he? but what is going on with mr parker at the moment? i just 
wanna cry to be honest, i've seen him several times over the last couple of years and i've heard 
him on the radio several times. [once on radio 3 playing a monk tune. hell. help, get me outta 
here] and i just feel so badly that mr parker has stagnated, he just does the things he does, he 
takes little breaks and then he picks up his saxophone and you know what's gonna come out and i 
even have a strong sense of how long he's gonna play for before laying out again, and i 
experience his playing as 'saxophone solos' laid over the top of what's going on instead of being 
integrally woven into the music fabric. 

tonight he's up there with peter evans and this is the first time i've heard them together, so 
i'm intrigued how this is gonna work out since i currently feel that evans has taken up the mantle 
along with the likes of axel dorner and gone on a mission to see where we might push the music 



next, [into more purely abstract sound away from form\format\?] and i usually enjoy richard 
barrett. indeed i'd rank him amongst my favorite free improvisors of the moment, [check out 
forch; spin networks] i've also seen evans playing with fokt replacing John butcher to some effect 
at a gig in london a while back at spittalfields which worked ok was a great gig apart from the 
dire sound in the echoing church hall. 

but for this gig i couldnt get my head into it. i felt there was so much potential for parker 
and evans to interlock and get into something and you've even got the circular breathing thing 
they both do. but it didnt seem to come together at all. the sound was dire fmp free jazz mix so 
the saxophone and trumpet were way up front so no mesh could be heard, not that there was one. 
seems evan parker wanted richard barrett to take on the drummer role which seems a bit sad; 
what i always loved about european free improv was its ability to forego the classic jazz line up 
and consider itself a chamber music, anyways, they played a long set. i've listened to it several 
times since, but i cannot make anything happen in my head, nothing seems to come together, if 
you treat it like a free jazz concert maybe it works, i couldnt feel parker and evans meeting, and 
evans didnt seem able or willing to bend to meet the very differant soundscape evans was 
bringing to the horn music, and poor old richard barrett and linson were left bubbling away in the 
background like some jazz rhythm section mixed right down by the soundman. 

enough. 

what else did i see and hear? 

something that felt like nothing 

• Anthony Pateras prepared piano 

• Le Quan Ninh percussion. 
Berlinische gallery, 7/11/08. 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts 
funding and advisory body [say no more, say no more, yes indeed government funded eh?] 

this was weird, all i experienced was a couple of men coaxing a series of fairly interesting 
unorthodox and treated sounds from their respective instruments, a piano with treated and 
dampened strings so that the sound was distorted but nonetheless full of predictable 
neo/quasi/cheap replicas of cheap simple rythms. clunk clank foursquare and repetitious, 
meanwhile the man with the drum and percussion instruments again coaxed some very 
extraordinary sounds from the skin of his upturned bass drum, but all to what effect? i ask myself 
a question here, how come sometimes when i listen to improvised music i feel all i've heard is an 
unsatisfacory series of random sounds whilst at other times i feel i'm experiencing something 
meanigfull. surely it's all just a random series of sounds innit? maybe i just like julie and keith 
tippets and i know them a bit so create meaning and spirit out of what they do? not that i need 
spirit to make music meaningful for me. i dont consider John buthcher's music spiritual but i hear 
or feel something going on when he plays, what a lark what a plunge it all is. what nonsense and 
made-upness. 

ha ha. 

i cant keep going on about these gigs ad infinitum nauseum. so lets focus on something 1 
liked, which i think is the last of the things i saw anyway, i missed some stuff i really wanted to 
see. i missed these things because i left to catch the brotzmann gig. i left the 
schoof/dudek/Edwards/sommer gig and had an early night cos i hated it so much. 

this one i missed cos i went to see brotzmann instead elsewhere 

• Tomek Choloniewski dr, perc 

• Miho Iwata performance 
Berlinische gallery, 6/11/08. 

shame i'd've liked to see some performance, whatever happenned to performance? i thought it 
was going somewhere, but then the great white british tate/govemment sponsored art-fund- 



fiickover got hold of it and nailed it into the coffin of capitalism/ entertainment/ fakeculture. 
so- ok, something i liked? 



*& 



RONIT KIRCHMAN/ PHILIPP WACHSMANN/ PAUL LYTTON TRIO 
Joined by the artist SARAH B. ECKEL 

• Ronit Kirchman violin, live electronics 

• Philipp Wachsmann violin, live electronics 

• Paul Lytton dr, perc, live electronics 

• Sarah B. Eckel action painting . 
Berlinische gallery, 8/11/08. 

yep this was up there with the julie and keith set for me. it was so quiet and so slight, so 
slow and 'unclimatic' it was a weave of delicate slight occurrences with lots of space gentle 
interweaving no one getting all 'worked up.' everyone quiet and attentive, it was so quiet and 
slight that at one point the painter drowned out the musicians with her paint brushes, she was 
quiet and seemed absorbed in her world yet seeming to respond/interact with the musicians, she 
padded about at the back for the most part slapping some paint boldly onto card at moments, 
ripping the cardboard the next, and at one point hammering it with a hammer, there were some 
bold black lines almost like calligraphics. the whole painting was quite mimimal and spacious 
considering they were on stage for 45 minutes, she wandered about the stage at times and 
physically interacted with the musicians, there was even a staged fake 'shock' moment where she 
took kirchman's violin and then hung it on the painting and action painted, did i mention she did 
some action painting, needless to say it wasnt really kirchman's real violin but a body double, it 
was grand to see some action painting, or any painting taking place on stage with live music, it 
took me back to the good old days of revolution and straight ahead rebellion in the western world 
back before the capitalists nailed us into the coffin of noncaring and irony/postmodern nihilism. 

so here we are. 2009 or so it would appear. 40years of fmp and where's it got us. the 
modernist men still rule imagining they're engaged in something radical in their suit 
jackets/blazers pouring out free jazz de rigeur with no mind or space for wondering what's 
coming next, the streets are not on fire, everybody says capitalism can only do good, the square 
building called the berlinische gallery sits close and comfortable alongside the holocaust 
museum and it's all on the tourist map. all the arabs live in poverty just around the corner, i asked 
some street kids playing outside their block of fiats 'where's the berlinischer gallery' they had a 
great laugh at my german and hilariously told me 'yes it's the building with the coloured letters 
outside of it. yes look there, there it is.' 

c — a 




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6-9 NOVEMBER 2008 // BERLINISCHE QALERIE 

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An Interview with Graham Collier 




The following interview was conducted by e-mail in October 2008. 
Interviewer - David Grundy 

DG: The development of big band music after the Swing era tends, I think, to be something that 's 
rather overlooked in much jazz criticism, and by jazz fans as well. Apart from exceptions like the 
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and Kenny Clark/Francy Boland bands, or the Gil Evans Orchestra, 
small groups seem to have become the dominant form in the last 50 years. You 're in an excellent 
position to talk about this because you played, for a time, in the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra, but 
your own bands are obviously part of a much more 'modern ' tradition, so the scope of your 
experience is very wide. Do you have any thoughts on the changing status of the jazz big band? 

GC: I'm not sure that big bands have vanished. Economics have led them to be less 
visible, and the small group has become as you say the dominant form, but big bands exist when 
and where they can. Ron Atkins made an interesting point when he said that the long-term 
existence of a band such as Ellington's would have made his working with such as Eric Dolphy 
or Roland Kirk difficult. I think he has a point, but perhaps Ellington didn't want to work with 
those people? But the more important point is that the ad-hoc nature of bands such as mine can 
lead to the inclusion of people for one project (be it a short tour or a one-off) who the leader 
might admire, without the commitment on either side to 'join a band'. When I've worked 
recently there are some core people I always want to have around me - John Marshall, Art 
Themen, Steve Waterman to name three - but, for example, I had the chance to ask Karlheinz 
Miklin from Austria for the Third Colour gigs, James Allsopp for the 2004 concert, which is due 
out on CD next year, and the mass of people (trumpets: Wheeler, Lowther, Curson, Stanko, 
Schoof! ! !) who were involved in the Hoarded Dreams project. 

I think - and say in my new book, the jazz composer, moving music off the paper, that 
there are various kinds of big bands - although I prefer the term large ensemble. There are the 
recreators, ever popular, but in essence repeating with small variations what Don Redman laid 
down all those years ago - what I call grey music! Then there are the orchestrators, such as the 
early Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan, who do something different with more or less the basic big 
band set up, what I've called 'advanced arranging'. Then there are those, such as Mingus and 
myself at times, who are 'painting new pictures', such as The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 
and finally those who I say are 'taking a chance'. This includes late Gil Evans, Mingus again, 
and myself again, as well as groups like Globe Unity and the Italian Instabile Orchestra. 

That's a quick gallop through what takes four chapters in the book, but it lays out areas 
where, except for the first, creative large ensemble music is happening, and is largely unsung. 
Have you heard Paul Grabowsky's 'We'll Meet Again'? Or Christian Muhlbacher's 'Over the 
Rainbow'? Both magnificent and largely unknown. 



(Point of fact: I was only with the Jimmy Dorsey Ghost Band for a very short time). 

DG: One thing that you are clearly passionate about is jazz education, as evidenced by your 
work at the Royal Academy of Music. I wonder if you could perhaps talk a little bit about what it 
means to you, and why you think it's such apriority in the current climate. 

GC: I think the proof is in the pudding - in that James Allsopp, who I consider to be a 
great find - was at the Academy, through that he met Tim Giles, and Fraud was the result, Tom 
Cawley was at the Academy and met his drummer Josh Blackmore a few years later when Tom 
was teaching and Josh a student. And there are many more examples. Not that these kind of 
musicians wouldn't have made it anyway - my generation did, without most of us having a jazz 
education qualification (which means nothing on the bandstand anjrway!) But education 
quickens the process, allows musicians to learn from the teachers' mistakes as well as their 
knowledge, and to meet and play with others of their age without hunting around for largely non- 
existent jam sessions (who are probably calling Blue Bossa anyway!). 

Tom Cawley was part of a group of beboppers throughout his time at the Academy - the 
Fishwick twins to name but two - and no matter how hard we as teachers tried they wouldn't 
seem to budge into more creative music. The Fishwicks are doing well - good luck to them - but 
they are still in the same groove. Tom is doing well also, and is, rightly, being hailed as a 
creative find. He had the grace to tell me recently that he hadn't listened to me in college, but it 
had somehow sunk in beneath the surface and he now knows what I was trying to say. Which is 
one for the old man I reckon! 

DG: In a discussion with saxophonist Janne Murto, you talk about your perception of an 
emerging jazz aesthetic which is specifically European. Now I often feel that the idea that there 
can be particular 'national' sounds in music is sometimes rather unhelpful and stereotypical - 
for example, commentators might talk about Peter Brotzmann 's 'blitzkrieg ' approach. But, on 
the other hand, I think there might be something in what you say. You were the first British 
musician to graduate from Berklee, and you 've taught all over the world- so, in that sense, you 
have some familiarity with American, British and European perspectives, all of which can differ. 
Perhaps you could expand on this idea of the European jazz aesthetic, and how it differs from 
the American? 

GC: The essential, very broad brush difference is decided by influences. If the Fishwicks 
listen to bebop all the while they'll never get away from that aesthetic, but if they are exposed, as 
James Allsopp was, to Charles Gayle at an early age then a different kind of American jazz 
comes into play, one that has been influenced by the free jazz movement in Europe. I write in the 
book that Americans have a whole load of baggage to shed before they can be free. We in 
Europe learnt from Miles and Ornette who had shed that bebop baggage on their own. 

Short extract from Chapter 10, 'On not being an American' [in the forthcoming book, the 
jazz composer]: "Writing about the rise of abstract expressionism in America at a time when art 
was seen as European, critic David Sylvester wrote, 'In the search for the absolute and 
commitment to the new, it was advantageous not to be a European, not to be steeped in a tired 
culture.' He quotes Bamett Newman, one of the great painters in that style, as saying, 'I believe 
that here in America, some of us, free from the weight of European culture ... are creating 
images whose reality is self-evident . . . We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, 
association, nostalgia, legend, myth ... we are making [art] out of ourselves, out of our own 
feelings.' " 

"This point is nicely developed by Sylvester, who says that Newman was influenced by 
Europeans such as Matisse and Giacometti but 'it was they who had to deal with "the weight of 
European culture" . . . [I]t was because Newman was free of that weight that he could deal with 
Matisse and Giacometti and go on from there." 

Jazz may be seen as a broader church outside of America, but some of those involved 
have also been defensive about their approach to the music. Although their roots were in jazz, 
free improvisers such as Derek Bailey eschewed the style, and the word. Others tried to erect 



artificial barriers, proposing that American jazz is primarily note oriented, and European jazz is 
more interested in concepts of space, with Michael Brecker and Jan Garbarek presented as 
opposing examples. There is some truth in this, but if we look at John McLaughlin, European but 
very notey, and Bill Frisell, American but super-spacey, we soon realise that there are too many 
exceptions to posit any cast-iron rule. It might be safer to repeat what critic Bill Shoemaker said, 
when he got involved in a spat with British journalist Stuart Nicholson, an uncritical booster of 
most things European. 'The argument/discussion is not so much America versus Europe, as real 
jazz versus pap'. 

DG: I'd like to get your perspective on something I previously discussed with Mike Westbrook, 
because you, like him, are a prominent British bandleader /composer, although your careers 
have obviously developed in different ways. What do you think is the relationship of jazz to more 
avant-garde forms -free improvisation, free jazz - which often emerged from it, but which 
mainstream jazzers often seem to look down on? Perhaps we could talk about how your perceive 
this in your own work -as tension, or otherwise - and, then, how you think this relationship 
stands in the current musical climate, in Britain and elsewhere. 

GC: In some ways I don't understand the question. Jazz is jazz and, for me can contain 
free improvisation, free jazz and much else besides. Perhaps it's time for a definition of what 
jazz is to me. Here's an attempt, again culled from my new book. 

Kip Hanrahan's wonderful quote about Jack Bruce sums up jazz's reliance on the soloist: 
"[WJhat the hell does "conducted" mean anyway? . . . sometimes it doesn't mean anything more 
than handing rolled steel to Jack Bruce and watching as he turns it into gold in front of thousands 
of people." 

Following that I wrote that a friend of a friend who described my work as 'directing 14 
Jackson Pollocks' intuitively realised that I try to live the two truths of jazz: that it is about 
individuals, a lesson demonstrated long ago by Duke Ellington, and that it happens in real time, 
once, as Miles Davis and many others constantly show. 

If the individuals you use, as bandleader or composer, are into freer playing (as many of 
my regulars are) then it will come in where the player feels it's appropriate. Roger Dean did a 
wonderfully far out synthesiser solo in part of my new CD, which was one of the reasons cited as 
to why it wasn't acceptable to one label I sent it to. (It's due out on my own jazzcontinuum label 
next spring.) 

It's horses for courses - in one's listening choices as well. I find I have less and less time 
for the freak-out bands, all seemingly making as much noise as possible, and most of it reminds 
me of the 60s and 70s free jazz scene (no names but they know who I mean!). I have time for 
older jazz, like Sydney Bechet, who in some ways I would like to have had in one of my bands. I 
did write a suite for the great Scottish clarinettist Sandy Brown because I saw his style of playing 
could match in some ways with my band (because we had both missed out the bebop period in 
our influences). He admitted to being confused by some time-signatures, and, at times, John 
Marshall's drumming, but the end result was great. 

Another quote from the jazz composer book: "This individualisation by the performers of 
what is written, whether it is a full melody or a single note, a scale, or a chord progression, is 
arguably the most important strength for a jazz composer, and developing this line of thinking 
has been a strong part of my development." 

DG: Your book 'The Jazz Composer, moving music off the paper ' is going to be released in early 
2009, and will obviously deal with these issues in quite some detail, but maybe I could gather a 
few of your views on the subject of jazz composition here, as well 

GC: I've touched on jazz composition above, but I believe the term is generally 
misunderstood. I can't express it better than I do in the book: "But, simple though it is, 'C-Jam 
Blues' has inspired many great jazz performances. In fact it could be argued that 'C-Jam Blues' 
is the epitome of the perfect jazz composition. It suggests and fulfils the main purpose of the 
genre: the provision of a strong and memorable framework which reflects the composer's 



thinking, while stimulating and informing the improviser, who, ideally, is inspired without being 
inhibited. That statement, with one important proviso, is as relevant to a long complex piece as it 
is to a very simple blues." 

"The proviso is, that even though the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic material of the 
tune stay essentially the same, and even though the structure of the long complex piece may 
remain, the performances will have been, and should continue to be, essentially different." 

"This openness to change is the common ground of most jazz compositions. And their 
reason for being." 

DG: You recorded an album based around the work of author Malcolm Lowry ('The Day of the 
Dead'), and have also written pieces relating to the painters Paid Klee and Jackson Pollock 
perhaps you could talk a bit about the relation you perceive between music and the other arts. 

GC: The Australian composer Don Burrows said that as composers we 'get our 
inspiration from anywhere which seems apt at the time' . Much of my work has been abstract - 
inspired by a particular occasion {Three Simple Pieces, written for my 60th birthday concert at 
the Academy), or perhaps a phrase which appealed {The Third Colour, from art critic Clement 
Greenberg, which I applied to my wish to find the third colour when you put something 
composed in front of some improvisers), or a physical thing {Winter Oranges, which were 
growing in our first winter in Spain, which inspired the idea of a loose biographical suite). It's 
often the title that comes first and sets the creative juices flowing. 

The 'pictorial' pieces such as the ones you mention are much the same, although in these 
cases there's the obligation to acknowledge your sources in some way (especially the Lowry). 
The Klee and Pollock pieces were illustrated in their performances in Switzerland by projections 
of the actual paintings but that isn't essential. With the Pollock I read up a lot and found phrases 
that summed up the painting for me, and which helped the inspiration, with the idea that those 
phrases, not the titles of the paintings, would be the main title and help the audience get into the 
work without necessarily seeing it. For example the piece inspired by Alchemy (which I saw in 
Venice recently and it's staggering in its depth) has the title Reverberations in and Beyond, a 
phrase I took from this comment 'Pollock's [work]... has continued to produce reverberations in 
and beyond painting ever since.' {Kirk Varnedoe from the MOMA 1998 exhibition catalogue.) 
The music I wrote was further out than the others in the suite and used freer elements. 

I'm not sure that fully answers your point about 'the relationship I perceive between 
music and other arts' but I think they're all different, but feed off each other as I have tried to 
show above. It was Anthony Caro who said 'it was better to go to painting than to old sculpture 
because painting gave one ideas of what to do but no direct instructions on how to do it'. I listen 
to other jazz composers, and, to be honest, am not impressed too often. (One who has turned me 
on lately has been the Italian Roberto Bonati - see Recommnedations on my jazzcontinuum site). 

I think one of the problems that young jazzers make is not getting into other arts, 
including of course literature. Some - young and old have got into 'other arts', often with mixed 
results. Writing a 12 bar blues theme, followed by solos, and adding a title which implies that it's 
been inspired by part or all of a literary work, or a painting, is a joke. But it's happened often. 
(Suggestions on a postcard, but again they know, or should know, who they are!). 

DG: Td like to return to the avant-garde question now, though from a slightly different angle. 
Free jazz is seen by some as an aberration, a radical break from tradition, but I'd argue that it 
was actually a truer engagement with tradition than merely preserving certain styles in aspic. In 
relation to this, I found some interesting comments you made in the lAJE panel discussion from 
2001 ( http:/,WM>M'.jazzcontimmm.com/page3 page! page2.html} . where you point out the 
connection between early jazz and free jazz - both aspects of the music that tend to get rather 
overlooked by the jazz mainstream, fads like the Dixieland revival bands aside. Perhaps you 
could expand on this connection. 

GC: I've touched on this above and if I may I'll include the next point you raise: In that 
lAJE discussion, you argue that we must get students "to realise that there is a continuum in the 



music. " In addition, your M>ebsite is called Jazz continuum - this idea of an ongoing heritage is 
clearly important to you. I wonder if you could expand on this. 

The connection is the regard for the individual, which in a way got forgotten about in the 
bebop period as everyone tried to play like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was also 
forgotten about in the swing big bands where a trumpet-player is a trumpet-player. Two 
paraphrases from quotes in the book. Bob Brookmeyer speaks of people such as Roy Eldridge 
virtually going out of business when bebop took over, and Fred Stone, speaks of Ellington hiring 
individuals, not someone just to fill a trumpet chair. Ellington often carried two drummers or two 
bassists because he like their playing and wanted them in the band. Which is very much the way 
that the freer jazz groups operate. As jazz musicians we need to recognise that it's a music made 
up (pun almost intended) by a group of individuals, who in their playing touch us in a magical 
way, but who, in the best groups, are able to put their egos aside and make themselves into a 
well-functioning group. 




Graham Collier with trumpeter Harry Beckett. 

DG: One final question arising from the lAJE discussion. You say that "collective improvisation 
[...] has come back into jazz from the early days, but that is still not properly recognized. " This 
mention of collective improvisation struck me as particularly interesting in relation to your own 
big handwork. There 's a sense that the whole band is involved while a particular musician, 
probably a reed player, will be standing upfront and taking the main solo, taking the applause, 
what 'sjiist as important as this individual display is the interaction between the soloist and the 
rhythm section, who, through what you call 'textural improvisation, 'provide afiexible and 
supportive base. This relation between the individual and the collective is something George 
Lewis has talked about in his recent book on the AACMin Chicago, and, throughout jazz 
history, there seems to have been a complex relation betweefi the two modes. Returning to the 
idea of the big band, Ellington wrote for individuals (Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Sam 
Nanton), yet the band had a collective sound as well which to some extent could be said to 
transcend individuality. After this very roundabout introduction, I'll finally get to the point: what 
are your views on the relation between the individual and the collective in jazz tradition, and in 
your own work? 

GC: I think I've covered this in some of the answers above, but I could add that one of 
my eureka moments was discovering that there are three kinds of improvising in jazz. Not that 
it's a new concept, it's /w jazz throughout its history, but it's rarely recognized as such and acted 
upon in the way people write and create jazz. Realising this and articulating it was a big break 



through for me. 

The three kinds are the solo, when someone stands up in front and improvises. The 
second is what, as you say above, I call textural improvising - what the rhythm section do, what 
a good jazz singer does: in simple terms, play around with the time, with the melody. I've 
applied that to band backings where instead of playing parts specifically written for them I ask 
them to improvise around a chord sequence, or with a given motif I was praised for being a good 
orchestrator in one track on the Winter Oranges CD but, as the liner notes said, and another 
version of the tune proved, I simply supplied a method and the musicians ran with it. In some 
ways I'm beginning to think this is why I'm misunderstood by many critics, who think, 
following precedents, that it's all written down. If they were to see a concert of mine - or listen 
to alternate versions of the same track - they would see how it works, like the woman who said 
that I was 'directing 14 Jackson Pollocks', or the musician in Canada who said he 'felt like a 
colour in a paint box'. 

The third kind of improvising (after that rant) is structural improvising, what happens in a 
jam session where nothing is predetermined. I've applied that to large-scale pieces such as The 
Third Colour and The Vonetta Factor. (The latter, and an alternate version of the first, will be 
out on a double CD next year, to coincide with the publication of the jazz composer book.) 

DG: Finally, what are your plans for the future? 

GC: To try to keep busy, and to try to make my ideas about jazz better known. Which is one 
reason for doing this interview, and for expanding my websites. And to enjoy the view from my 
study in Greece while reading Lowry or listening to Ellington! 




Graham Collier's websites are: 

http://www.grahamcolliermusiC.com . which includes news, biog and a page with MSS 
and audio from each of the recordings. 

http://www.iazzcontinuum.com . a blog, with some earlier writings and some 
recommendations of who I like and what to listen to. 

http://www.thejazzcomposer.com . a teaser for the book, containing the synopsis and 
chapter breakdown, with space for expansion once the book is published and reviewed. 



YOUTUBE WATCH 

Charles Mingus Quintet - 'Flowers for a Lady' 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkTEfrmqxws 




There are a number of fine Mingus videos available on the internet, including a complete 1964 
concert fi'om Oslo featuring Byard, Dolphy, Curson, and Jordan: a band which was arguably one 
of his finest (witness the recently re-issued Cornell Concert, or the superb 'Mingus at Antibes', 
with Bud Powell's lovely guest appearance on Til Remember April', of which a very grainy 
video also exists). With this video, though, we've moved forward 10 years, towards a more 
critically under-appreciated period in the great man's career. Recorded at the Umbria Jazz 
Festival in 1974, 'Flowers for a Lady' really shows the strengths of Mingus' 70s groups. 
Saxophonists Adams and Bluiett are at their barnstorming best, and the whole band deliver a 
series of solos not so much tempestuous as beside themselves with joy: the expected passionate 
engagement from George Adams (complete with a brief 'Surrey With a Fringe on Top' 
reference), a be-hatted Don Pullen dancing in the doorway between the inside and the outside 
with his usual ease, and, to top it all, Hamiet Bluiett (also be-hatted) blowing well up into 
soprano range and making the hefty baritone scream for all its worth. Gerry Mulligan this ain't. 
A nonchalant looking Mingus keeps it all swinging alongside the ever-reliable Dannie 
Richmond. The piece has an irrepressible energy and verve about it, a magnanimity of spirit that 
was always there in Mingus' music. Did I mention that it was also tremendously exciting? Go 
click, go watch. 




Kaoru Abe Solo 

Live at Fukushima, 24/9/1977 - 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCqlI75xdfo 
Jusan-nin renzoku bokoma (excerpt) - 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6gyIHldJyg 

There are a couple of videos here. The first one is 
a live recording: Abe in what looks like a pretty 
confined space, standing in front of an upright 
piano with the front taken off (at one point he 
steps backwards and inadvertently touches one of 
the keys). Moving on a lyrical, subdued basis here 
- tender and quiet melodies, trills, swells, 
repetitions occasionally rising to altissimo 



squeals. Perhaps the whole conceit was recorded: the video ends by cutting to a group of people 
who are listening to the clip in a TV studio. 

Upon digging, it turns out that the second clip is actually from a horror film called 
directed by maverick Japanese film-maker Koji Wakamatsu. Wakamtsu specialized in 'the pink 
film' (pinku eiga), a 60s/70s 'genre' which married softcore porn with radical politics. A 
particularly notable example, 'Ecstasy of the Angels' (1972), features a performance by the 
Yosuke Yamashita trio: footage of the musicians playing is intercut with a rape/ orgasm and 
anarchist bombing activities. Wakamtsu also directed 'Endless Waltz' (1995), a film about Abe's 
life described by Jonathan Crow as a "Sid and Nancy for the free jazz generation." 
The Abe clip is from 'Jusan-nin renzoku bokoma' (1978), a title which translates as 'The Violent 
Man Who Attacked 13 People': a dispassionate, clinical description reflected in the film's 
English title, 'Serial Rapist.' I haven't seen the film, and I'm not sure I could stomach it, from 
the reviews I've read - in any case, it's pretty obscure and doesn't seem to be readily available. 
Here's a sample: "this has to be one of the most nihilistic violent pink movies I have ever seen. 
Its tone is utterly bleak and hopeless and the scenes of murder, rape and sexual violence are 
uncompromising. The film chronicles few days of life of cycling serial rapist and murderer. The 
howling saxophone of Kaoru Abe replaced the voice of the young killer-rapist bringing an 
inventive contrast to the dumbness of the young man. The loneliness of his lost character is 
simply overwhelming. The film is cold, bitter and full of despair." 

It's hard to view the clip in the same way when one realizes that the titular character is 
the man with the motorbike who wanders into shot about thirty seconds after Abe's started 
playing. Still, it's wonderful to see Abe playing out in the open - so often (as you can see from 
the other video) this music is confined to dingy little clubs and back-rooms, when one feels that 
in some ways the open air is the perfect space for its emotional range - space to breathe. I find it 
an incredibly evocative clip - not so much for evoking a particular time or place, for re-creating 
the moment of filming, but for all those imaginative spaces which it brings into existence with 
such ease. 

Barkingside at Mopomoso 

http ://uk.youtube. com/watch?v=0iyLnk9XEEc 




Filmed by the estimable Helen Petts at the Vortex Jazz Club: the quartet, Barkingside (Alex 
Ward, Alex Hawkins, Dom Lash, Paul May), the occasion, a Mopomoso Evening in July 2008. 
This clip is so absolutely beautiful, if beauty has that absolute sense which this music affirms and 
denies then it can go on being itself and only then actually breathe. It is real, and true in the 
moment(s); fairy-dust is liberally applied and runs off because it is really air, flowing through 
and out of Alex Ward's clarinet note-throw in motor frenzy with pianistic key-chase. Fairy-dust 



could scare, easily: and the real magic is when the group's muscle falls away to Paul May's 
percussion, solo, as he concentrates on one sound, not even 'drumming', stick-scratching against 
cymbal-holder's rough handle, a scrape-growl howl of purest quiet loneliness and concord; then 
introduces his second hand, as air-hockey mallet surface- skimming, rubbing on snare and hitting 
the sides as the accident that becomes texture's crucial layer; clarinet mouth-moan and so 
unexpected in little sounds' forest, piano assumes the air of lush romanticism, chords to break 
hearts, until the first phrase digests and you realize it's acerbic lyric, it's love-song as grave as the 
most delicate morbid imaginings, a death-ode, desolate as Tristano's Requiem. May's solo is 
about control as leads to most abandon; is one sound, or two, so obsessive rather than every-inch 
flailed in search of the racket... Self-limitation is self-license if you issue out the permits, to 
yourself Restraint and discipline not as the patriarchy hands down but yourself from study and 
feel and mind. Maybe that's what Sun Ra could have meant. 

Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love - Tokyo, 27/09/2008 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSI4mHyflSrZA 




Non-fury, or melancholy, as it manifests itself in Brotzmann' s current work, is so often 
described as 'lyricism' in journalists' reviews, my own included: mea culpa. That is not right 
because it implies a clinging to words (the child grasps the mother tongue) which I would have 
thought was precisely not what is being done in musical free improvisation. But it is also not 
right because too often it is seized on as Brotzmann 'varying' himself- a 'welcome touch of 
lyricism' to off-set all that sound and fury, signifying nothing. And then, perhaps, his music as 
variegated plant, his persona as chimera, bearded and gruff but souled. If you screech too long 
people forget what you screech about and you are emptied. I don't believe this. The dying animal 
does not decide that its first howl was enough to express its pain and then fall silent. Yet the 
following is a seductive concept: 'lyricism' as the re-affirmation of meaning after the force of 
expression has emptied itself out, has carried itself on for too long. Probably one thinks of this 
impulse, this 'lyricism', not as the salve to the wound that led to the screech, but as its more 
muted whimper, its exhausted expression reconfiguring into a new authority. Perhaps there is 
something in that - but that whimpering does not necessarily equal quality, or if it does that is 
because it has captured something beyond our words' delimiting. For, yes, we do delimit: 
whatever our intentions, we are marking out our territory in something (a music) that belongs to 
us (though not as possession in the sense of paid ownership). Because it is our possession in that 
way - a possession free and shared, genuinely Common in a most uncommon manner - our lack 



of care towards it is so much injustice. Because of us, the openings are closed-off; at least, we 
close them off to ourselves, but you can squeeze through without a 'key' (that would just break 
in the lock) if you push your listening back on itself 

'Lyricism' is not the right term because the music exists in a too-delicate balance that 
won't, or can't, shudder that readily to song - to song, that is, understood as stricture (whether 
that understanding is intended or not). This melody posed on breath, treading the wavering line, 
eggs itself on into life at that moment where life is most aware of its fragility. Perhaps not even 
the musicians, or not all of the musicians, are aware of that, it is more a function of the music 
that in flowing out of them will not freeze on the air they make sing, that allows them to sing, 
that place of shaping, a sincerity of environment: environs meant as much as Brotzmann or 
Vandermark mean, or don't mean what they don't quite sing or say: instrumental, the point pivots 
the most terrible notions round its axis, Brotzmann's machine gun firing no rounds, laid aside or 
converted to a stung remembrance of its non-melody, its chatter and bellow. Vandermark's 
saxophone is the most eerie accompanying, tracing itself out of, or as, a dampened bassoon - and 
the fact that he's not seen in the video makes him even more the ghost-presence of Brotzmann's 
clarinet. 

For yes, there are ghosts here, and even if they are not Ayler's ditty, they are certainly the 
ever-present howl of absence that was at the centre of his terrified energies, life at its strongest at 
moment of most weakness, the best Brotzmann I see at his most vulnerable, for at that time I see 
all of him become all of us, and none of these things. 

Nilsson-Love: the drums' martial residue; their 'new music' patina; the flutter of the heart, the 
hearth that calls from home in a music that makes its own un-returnable home. A temporary 
resting place, even a place of dwelling for as long as it is being built. Then the wolfs applause 
will huff and will puff and will blow down the breath still hanging, disperse the notes still 
ringing through charged air. Electricity turns negative, now the performance can be reproduced 
in photographs but that negative itself will always be inadequate in its fixed glimpse. Thus too 
the video, the moving images. But perhaps there is a haunting there not even present at the live 
performance; one set of ghosts replaced for another. This can re-create itself every time we say 
goodbye to our tired notions in this music of utmost exhausted insistence, this priceless value. 

CD REVIEWS INDEX 




'"'' Criticism is always the easiest art. " 
- Cornelius Cardew 



BELORUKOV/ STOLYAR/ POPOVSKIY - Dots and Lines 

SEVAN/ CORSANO/ LASH - Monster Club 

BLEY, CARLA (& HER REMARKABLE BIG BAND) - Appearing Nightly 

CADAVRE ESQUIS - Imperfect Silence: Cadavre Esquis Compilation One 

DIXON, BILL - 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur 

FLAHERTY/ COLBOURNE - Bridge Out! 

GINNUNGAGAP - Crashed Like Wretched Moth 

GOLIA/ JOSEPHSON/ KAISER/ KENEALLY/ MORRIS / SMITH/ WALTER 

Healing Force: The Songs of Albert Ayler 

HERBERT, MATTHEW (BIG BAND) - There's Me and There's You 

JENSEN, RICK (QUARTET) - The Mosaicist 

KHOURY/ SODERBERG - Volumen Drei 

LEIBIG, STEUART/ TEE-TOT QUARTET - Always Outnumbered 

McCASLIN, DONNY - Recommended Tools 

O' MALLEY/ CSIHAR- 6"F Skyquake 

PARKER, WILLIAM - Double Sunrise Over Neptune 

PETERS, STEVE - The Webster Cycles 

SONIC YOUTH/ MATS GUSTAFFSON/ MERZBOW - Andre Sider af Sonic 

Youth 

PETERS, STEVE - The Webster Cycles 

VANDERMARK FIVE - Beat Rider 

Historical/ Re-issues 

BIRIGWA - Birigwa 

BLEY, PAUL (Quintet) - Barrage 

DAVIDSON, LOWELL - Trio 

HYDER, KEN/ TALISKER - Dreaming of Gienisia 

ISOTOPE - Golden Section 

LEVITTS - We are the Levitts 

MITCHELL, ROSCOE - Nonaah 

SARMANTO, HEIKKI/ SERIOUS MUSIC ENSEMBLE - A Boston Date 

DVDs 

• OTOMO YOSHIHIDE - Music(s) 
Books 

• HENRY GRIMES - Signs Along the Road 

Reviewers: Andrew Forbes, David Grundy, Aaron Hicks, Sandy Kindness, Ian Thumwood 



ILIA BELORUKOV/ ROMAN STOLYAR/ ANDREY POPOVSKIY/ ALEXANDER 
FUNTIKOV - DOTS AND LINES 

Label: Ennantell Records 

Release Date: 2007 

Trackiist: Allegro espressivo; Interlude 1; Adagio cantabile; 
Interlude II; Scherzo; Interlude III; Finale. Poco morendo. 

Personnel: Ilia Berlorukov - alto & baritone sax; Roman Stolyar - 
piano, melodica, soprano & alto recorders; Andre Popovskiy - 
acoustic guitar, deychk-pondr; Alexander Funtikov - trumpet, 
ocarina, flute, percussion. 




It's extremely refreshing to hear music this good coming from somewhere outside the 
UK-USA axis that so often predominates in coverage of free jazz/improv. Of the players on this 
album, saxophonist Ilia Belorukov is the only one I was aware of previously. As documented on 
a slew of recent CD-R and internet releases, Belorukov is a great talent, giving his all whenever 
he plays, in contexts varying from the free-jazz/rock stylings of 'Wozzeck' to the more 
inquisitive pokings and scratchings of the 'Totalitarian Music Sect' (their album 'Warm Things 
Vol. 2' was reviewed in the previous issue of eartrip). His presence alone seems to guarantee that 
something interesting will result, and his collaborators on this album are also well up to the 
mark. 

The album takes its name from a passage of Wassily Kandinsky, quoted on the back of 
the album sleeve. Kandinsky defines the roles of 'dots and lines' : a dot is a rest and a line is 
"internally mobile tension". Through these two figures, the artist can create a series of 
connections and 'crossings' which result in an internal language, at times deliberately obscured 
by obvious 'obstacles'. Could that be said to describe what goes on in the music? 

For me, it seems to invite a more linear approach than Kandinsky' s large compositional 
fields, but, despite the specificity of his artistic prescriptions, I doubt the musicians envisage 
anything so schematic anyway. Kandinsky or no Kandinsky, it's an unusual listen, particularly 
for the instrumentation and the way this constantly shifts: none of the four players stick to just 
one instrument. 

'Allegro Espressivo', the disc opener, starts out as a particularly dark-sounding piece of 
free jazz brawn (Belorukov blowing baritone sax over Stolyar' s pounding piano), but the sounds 
descend into something more elusive, everyone switching instruments and gliding into a more 
meshed texture, a oneness. Four minutes in and Stolyar is playing left-hand piano figures full of 
tension, leaving spaces in between to be filled by slow drifting sax and muffled yelping trumpet, 
with the scrapings of (presumably) Andrey Popovskiy' s deychk-pondr. An intriguing instrument, 
it comes across, in Popovskiy' s hands, as somewhere between a guitar and a stringed percussion 
instrument. Thus, we have a sound that can occupy at once the scratchy high registers of a Barry 
Guy or John Edwards (and thus occupy the function of the date's absent double bass), while also 
gravitating towards the role of a 'front-line' instrument. 

Ilia Belorukov' s playing in other contexts tends to be in a free jazz mould (though he is 
nothing if not diverse). Here, the music tends to have more of the spaces associated with free 
improve; the tension and complex texture building and twittering rather than the all-out no- 
holds-barred screamfest. Check 'Interlude 1' for the delicious way the saxophone's held-in 
breath barfs (at one point bursting out to a cut-short scream) prevent release, before the guitar, 
suddenly, seamlessly, finds it way into a series of Tal Farlow-style jazz chords, over which hangs 
singing sax, and the performance ends with a period of silence. 

'Adagio Cantabile' finds Stolyar' s sustain-pedal giving his mysterious harmonic 
investigations an aural halo, a shine and shimmer to the sound that only enhances its ghostliness. 



sax and guitar stretching their melodic spirals over the constantly, gently motoring piano line in 
worried languor. 

The second interlude is again a duet, Stolyar now on recorder, with Popovskiy on guitar. 
The piece swirls round the atmosphere of folk-tunes, alternating between more melodic passages 
where recorder shrills out over undulating guitar strums, and passages of chattering breathiness 
and spiky guitar. 

' Scherzo' is far from rumbustious, beginning with inside-piano and low-toned guitar 
rummaging, with barfs from the saxophone functioning more as rhythmic disturber than 'lead 
instrument'. Stolyar' s move from strings to keys brings in Belorukov for more linear playing (on 
baritone), and the music becomes more skittish, filled with the tension that characterises this 
disc, but with a dancing quality to it. Soon, however, the dancing turns lumpen and heavy, 
baritone and piano in a Bartokian motor-run which drowns under its own momentum as the 
music slides into Belorukov blowing over a watery piano backdrop, still constantly-sounding but 
this time more flowing, ending as the last few sounds hang by a thread over impending silence. 

The third and final interlude finds the baritone sax intent on unfolding a slow, linear 
discourse, at first supported by Stolyar' s swelling melodica note hums, then resisted, with fierce 
squeaks. Stolyar moves to piano, again insisting on sprightly rhythmic figures that break up the 
sax's course, as they both once more stride into the area of jazz/Bartok-tinged motorism; 
Belorukov changes tack, to chattering high yawping, while Stolyar pounds out a serious parody 
o^ Sturm iind drang xorsidMticism. Melody drifts back even while the piano's rumble still dies 
away, Belorukov returning to the opening course, chastened, ending just at the right point on a 
melodica phrase that sounds initially playful, but mocking when it stops. 

The final piece on the disc begins with saxophone screech-hold over (once more) the 
dying rumble of piano chords, then moves down the 'mysterioso' line with some odd, trembling 
'Clangers' sounds on ocarina -just one example of the group's desire to maintain a consistent 
variety, to make the unusual (but by no means spuriously 'weird' or 'kooky') their domain, even 
their raison d'aitre. 

Overall, despite the formal constraints implied by the naming of individual tracks after 
classical tempo markings (Allegro; Scherzo; Adagio, etc), the music has a definite freedom about 
it, roaming over much emotional and colouristic territory, but with something avowedly 
introspective underlying even the most energetic passages. Watch out for more from these young 
players in the near future, which for them should be bright indeed. 

(Review by David Grundy) 

TONY BEVAN/ CHRIS CORSANO/ DOMINIC l^XSB^- MONSTER CLUB 

Label: Foghorn Records 
Release Date: December 2008 

Tracklist: I thmk that'll be ok....; Monster Club; This is Murder; 

You're tellmg me! 

Personnel: Tony Bevan: soprano, tenor & bass saxophones; Chris 

Corsano: drums and percussion; 

Dominic Lash: double bass . 

Additional Information: Recorded live at "The Wheatsheaf , 

Oxford, England by Chris Trent on the 6* July 2008. CD available 

from the Foghorn Records site, at 

http://www.foghomrecords.co.uk/ . 

Brief mention only for this, as it was recorded at a gig on which I gave a fairly detailed 
report last issue. Not that I want to imply that gig and album are interchangeable - of course 
there's a subtle difference (at times I think the CD sounds even more intense than the gig itself!), 
and this could be the space to comment on the disparities between live performances and 
recordings, which is still a big area of debate. It could he the space, but maybe it's not, not 
without due consideration of all the salient points and details and points of view. As things stand, 
then, the intense trio gig I witnessed six months ago has now become the CD I have in my hands. 




The audience for the 'product' will presumably be much bigger than for the live flesh moment of 
creation, which is a shame, if you look at it a certain way - but maybe that's just a fact we can't 
afford to get all mopey about- 'comment c 'est.' 

What about the music? The gig represented the first encounter for this particular trio, and 
retains the freshness of that, while perhaps sacrificing a certain tightness which a little more fine- 
tuning, through subsequent performances, could have created. Reservations aside, there are 
plenty of fine things to listen out for, but I'm going to resist the temptation to tell you what they 
are (though I will note that Sevan's soprano is extremely direct and forceful on the 2-minute 
opening track, giving the disc an immediately arresting impact). Yes, folks, this may be a 
monster's club, but the beasts within are well able to speak for themselves, and with some 
eloquence. Dig what they have to say. 

(Review by David Grundy) 

CARLA BLEY & HER REMARKABLE BIG BAND - APPEARING NIGHTLY 

Label: WATT 

Release Date: September 2008 
^^ ( IdI'^ , P '^^^B Tracklist: Greasy Gravy; Awful Coffee; Appearing Nightly At The 
, „^ r|fl '^ 1, « 'a [ g I Black Orchid; Someone To Watch; I Hadn't Anyone Till You. 

a h^rS ma n^ im^ E « ^ Personnel: Eari Gardner: trumpet; Lew Soloff: trumpet; Florian Esch: 
jj5 I B-7 Bj;!^^^^ ^J) ^ trumpet; Beppe Calamosca: trombone; Gary Valente: trombone; Gigi 
' "^ Grata: trombone; Richard Henry: trombone; Roger Jannotta: alto 

■ saxophone, flute; Wolfgang Puschnig: alto saxophone, flute; Andy 
Sheppard: tenor saxophone; Christophe Panzani: tenor saxophone; 
Julian Argilelles: baritone saxophone; Carla Bley: piano, conductor; 
Karen Mantler: organ; Steve Swallow: bass; Billy Drummond: drums. 





o 



LIVING STEREO 




This disc consists of much of the repertoire played at the Vienne Jazz Festival in 2006 
when Carla Bley's big band was one of the highlights of that year's event. It is great to now hear 
this music again, this time recorded in the New Morning Club in Paris. The only disappointment 
is that the re-arrangement of material from her epic "Escalator over the hill" that formed a 
substantial percentage of the set hasn't made it to this release. However, this is not to distract 
from a very good CD indeed. 

As the cover and liner illustrations clearly suggest, this record plugs in more than any 
other of her releases into the earlier traditions of big band jazz. As a consequence, this has to be 
one of her strongest efforts with a larger ensemble. This is not to say that this record is anything 
but contemporary, but although all but the arrangement of Ray Noble's "I hadn't anyone till you" 
are originals, there is a knowing wink and nod to material from the Swing Era. Indeed, the 
wonderful "Greasy Gravy" (a feature for Wolfgang Pushchnig's alto) ends on a quote from Tony 
Jackson's "Pretty Baby" that some may recognise from the Jelly Roll Morton Library of 
Congress recordings and was a hit in the teens of the last century. In fact, the alluding of other 
compositions is very much a feature of this album, the "Appearing Nightly at the Black Orchid" 
suite is an attempt to depict a mythical jazz club from yesteryear and opens with Bley's piano 
quoting "My foolish heart", "Night & Day and "Here's that rainy day" before a quote from 
Monk's version of "Sweet and lovely" introduces Steve Swallow's bass and, ultimately, the rest 
of the band. As opposed to being hackneyed, this is executed with Carla' s typical sense of irony 
and the composition eventually develops into a minor key with the theme picked up by Gary 
Valente' s trombone, sounding like a refugee from a much earlier Duke Ellington band. 
Throughout the record, the Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond provide a wonderfully sprung 
rhythm section with Karen Mantler' s organ occasionally adding a bit of extra colour. As usual. 
Lew Soloff handles all the trumpet solos. 

Elsewhere, "Awful coffee" is a brisk bop-ish theme and opens with a baritone solo by 
Julian Arguelles. The writing for the brass in this arrangement is edgy and dissonant, recalling 
somewhat the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra of the late forties. A harmonically distorted quote from 



"Tea for two" appears as a riff behind Andy Sheppard's tenor before culminating on an eccentric 
combination of "Salt peanuts" , "You're the cream in my coffee", "Watermelon man" and "Hey, 
Pete, let's eat mo' meaf that somehow manages to sound entirely natural. The penultimate track, 
"Someone to watch" starts off with more tenor from Andy Sheppard under-pinned by Steve 
Swallows springy bass lines and once again comparisons with earlier vintages of jazz writing are 
apparent. Puschnig also get a chance to stretch out on what seems like a contrafact - no prizes 
for guessing which upon tune though. To conclude, Carla Bley has arranged "I hadn't anyone to 
you" but much of the theme is paraphrased in her unique style and the writing so idiosyncratic 
that this is, to all intents and purposes, very much her own work. This track epitomises her skill 
at creating something wholly original and interesting whilst working within a tried and test 
milieu. 

All told, Carla Bley may have come a long way since the late 60' s and early 70' s when 
she seemed to be at the very cutting edge of jazz but a record such a "Appearing Nightly" 
demonstrates just how she has matured to become one of the most readily recognisable voices in 
the history of big band writing. That she now seems capable of equally satisfying the curiosity of 
more adventurous listeners and those from a more orthodox big band tradition simultaneously is 
testament to her talent as a composer. This is a hugely enjoyable record and I have no 
reservations about thoroughly recommending it. 

(Review by Ian Thumwood) 

CADAVRE Y.SQVIS - IMPERFECT SILENCE: CADAVRE ESQUIS COMPILATION! 



imperfect silence 




P' 





cadavre esqitis compilation one 



Label: Whi-Music 

Tracldist: Imperfect Silence 

Personnel: Gosia Bazinska, Barry Chabala, Paolo Cruciam, Bruno Duplant, David Grundy, phil hargreaves, Bret 

Hart, Massimo Magee, Lee Noyes, Matt Sekel, Glenn Smith, Glenn Weyant 



Additional Information: Access the Cadavre Esquis project at http://www.cadavreesquis.whi-music.co.uky . 
Download the album from http://www.imperfectsilence.whi-music.co.uk/ . 

Once again, Mr Phil Hargreaves has come up with an ingenious and intriguing idea for a 
musical project, dealing with ideas of communication in the information age and more besides. I 
think he's best placed to introduce this record, so I'll leave the first two paragraphs of this review 
to him: "Cadavre Esquis is an online collaboration of musicians from the online community. 
Here are the rules of the game: A track is seeded by a musician providing a starting track. 
Someone else will then download that track, add a further layer and then post the result. 
Overlayers are not confined to the most recent track, and can reach back into the history of the 
track to fork it." 

"Born out of the discussion site freejazz.org, nearly 1Gb of MPS files (and a number of 
other postal and real-life collaborations). This disk pulls together some of those moments: not a 
'greatest hits' or even a 'finest moments', it's merely my personal journey through the material 
that is there." 

Cadavre Esquis, as readers I'm sure will know, was a Surrealist technique, somewhat 
similar to the parlour-game 'Consequences', in which single segments (a drawing, a word, a 
phrase) from individuals are put together to make a strange new creation. Indeed, it's not 
unprecedented for this to be applied to music, with composers including Virgil Thomson, John 
Cage and Lou Harrison apparently collaborating on 'Exquisite Corpse' pieces, where each 
composer would only be privy to one measure of music. Of course, things become easier when 
dealing with improvised music, which one might argue goes through something of the same 
process in its 'normal' form; where one has to second-guess, to react instantaneously to the 
sudden appearance of fresh and surprising material with whatever mental and physical resources 
are to hand at that particular moment. 

The dangers that arise from such situations are perhaps, for many musicians, their 
principal joys -failure could be embraced as success, change and mutability as fundamental facts 
and thus not to be decried from a stood-still position. 'Imperfect Silence' (flawed noise?) 
suggests such failure. There are certainly plenty of strange overlapping sounds here, the joins 
sometimes showing awlcwardly (read: interestingly). I very much doubt that any of the material 
here is as its creators originally envisioned it, for things are at a further remove on the CD than 
even on the website, as Hargreaves is keen to stress that this is his "personal experience" of the 
material - but it never feels as though he's acting as composer, shaping the work of others into 
his own vision. Instead, he's more like the curator of this living museum, allowing the sonic 
exhibits to merge into each other: 'remixing' them, if you will. As someone who's had some 
involvement with the Cadavre Esquis project myself (and as any visitor to the website could tell 
you), what's started off with often becomes completely transformed once several new layers have 
been added. Electronics will warp, new instruments will reveal and add different shadings and 
contrasts, to original pieces: the subjective intentions of individual soloists are submerged into a 
kind of odd collectivity, a miasma of soloistic off-unison. 

Given the diversity of the line-up, it's not surprise that there's a wide variety of playing 
styles - in the first piece, the more avant-improv you might expect (squawking sopranos, hard- 
toned tenors, exploratory trumpet) exists alongside a whimsical vocal reminiscent of Bjork, and, 
at times, the acoustic and electric guitar material that drifts in and out (probably that of Barry 
Chabala, though Hargreaves has left open the question of who's playing what, when, ambiguous) 
adds a lyrical, dreamy, almost nostalgic touch. 

Quite a few different pieces seem to have coalesced into one during this opening portion 
of the disc, to provide a 25-minute suite. Track two is longer: several seconds of silence, and we 
begin again with trumpet and sax over boxy percussion, twanging spirals of acoustic guitar, and 
a bass providing an underlying pulse that sets no limits because it exists on a different level to 
the furious activity overhead, and thus adds a fruitful tension - it's felt more as a contradictory 
pulse than as dictatorial beat. At some point, the bass imperceptibly merges into an electronic 
drone, the trumpet becoming mournful and introverted and electronics rising in pitch and 
intensity as a new piece emerges, chunky bowed cello in duet with guitar, with a queasy 
electronic backdrop; a distant, echoing piano joins the fray. The electronics start to feel more and 



more haunted, ghostly, clashing with and questioning the guitars' impersonation of finger- 
picking virtuosity and the cello's exploration of the slow wail and grave sonorities of Modern 
Classical (for want of a better generic tag). 

In another truly masterful transition, raucous trumpet and sax come in for another of 
those moments where perception of which instrument melts and sound alone is what there is -as 
the ear starts to pick out what's going on, this time it's free jazz over an electronic layer 
(involving backwards sounds, perhaps a remix of existent material) - there also seems to be 
walking bass somewhere down in the lower reaches of the music, creating the same uneasy 
familiarity as the previous guitar. And suddenly we're back to the vocals with which we opened 
the disc, on a parallel lyrical flight with trumpet, guitar plucking a gentle pathway underneath. 
Words start to drift in. . ."Even in his youth he was afraid... wrapped in a cloth and protected." 
Playing with the words, with notes, with the silences that surround the halting song. Moments of 
fragile delicacy that would seem out of place, conceptually, if they didn't fit in so well with the 
album's flow. 

Radio voices bring things back to the exploratory terror, growling bass clarinet and 
plucked cello. Drums will play a part in this next, almost acerbic, exploration, too. Then a 
spoken voice, English-accented; one imagines the speaker exhibiting the same kind of actorish, 
sinister demeanor as Vincent Price. "I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. . . 
From the day he was born, he was troubled." The words connect to the song from before, but this 
time it's the cue for a strange instrumental march, trilling recorder fading in and out of the 
textural forefront, a fairground rhythm, barely audible, adding an air of perceptible menace. 
Rhythm is abandoned for a slow, grinding electronic background wash, all sorts of sounds 
emerging from within: slowed-down and backwards fragments of voices, snivelling laughter, 
whooshes, whispers, like escaping steam. 

Words again: "from the day that I was born." If there are themes here, they emerge 
organically from the collective consciousness. Bad beginnings. Portents of doom, nevertheless 
exerting a powerful pull on helpless victims. "I just had to see it. I just had to see it." Curiosity 
killed the cat. The texture thins as recorder comes back in, then voices build up and it's the 
pulling, chugging cello, tenor sax over the increasingly splintered and fractured electronic 
backdrop, before things, fairly quickly, grind to a halt. One more voice has the last word: "Well 
you never can tell ... perfect sounds." The semantic ambiguity typical of the enterprises' 
collective creative chaos. 

And so I could round things off nicely with that favourite reviewer's trick, the rhetorical 
question: how else could it end, but in such an appropriate manner? And then of course I would 
have to pull myself up by realising that it could in end in about a million other, different ways. . . . 

(Review by David Grundy) 

BILL DIXON - 17 MUSICIANS IN SEARCH OF A SOUND: DARFUR 

Label: AUM Fidelity 

Release Date: June 2008 

Tracklist: Prelude; Intrados; In Search Of A Sound; Contour One; Contour Two; Scattering Of The Following; 

Darfur; Contour Three; Sinopia; Pentimento I; Pentimento II; Pentimento III; Pentimento IV 

Personnel: Bill Dixon: trumpet, composer, conductor; Graham Haynes: comet, flugelhom; Stephen Haynescomet, 

flugelhom; Taylor Ho Bynum: comet, flugelhom; Dick Griffin: tenor trombone; Steve Swell: tenor trombone; 

Joseph Daly: tuba; Karen Borca: bassoon; Will Connell: bass clarinet; Michel Cote: Bb contrabass clarinet; Andrew 

Raffo Dewar: soprano sax; John Hagen: tenor sax, baritone sax; J.D.Parran: bass saxophone, bamboo flute; Glynis 

Loman: cello; Andrew Lafkas: bass; Jackson Krall: drams, percussion; Warren Smith: vibes, tympani, drums. 

Additional Information: Recorded live on June 20*, 2007, at Vision Festival XII, New York City. 




In Conttrt at ^'ision F«sth-al Xll 



Dixon's discography is sparse, and consists mainly of stripped-down settings, such as the 
solo 'Odyssey' box set or duets with Tony Oxley; '17 Musicians in Search of a Sound', then, is a 
welcome chance to hear his orchestral conception on a wider stage (last year's fine disc with the 
Exploding Star Orchestra found him in an orchestral setting, to be sure, but as guest rather than 
leader). I say 'orchestral conception' because, throughout his career, Dixon's control of colour, 
dynamics and timbre has shown a concern with a particular richness and range of structure and 
texture: in a sense, Dixon has always thought in orchestral tenns, even when playing alone. 

For me, probably more so than in previous recordings, ' 17 Musicians' is not really 'jazz' 
per se (though of course avant-jazz sensibilities are manifested in the improvised solos by the 
likes of Taylor Ho Bynum). For one thing, there's no 'rhythm section' - you're more likely to hear 
tympani or vibraphone than a drum set - and the pace is often slow, with massive blocks of 
sound looming up into crescendos in a way that reminds me of the approaching monolith in 
Kubrick's '2001'. 

The mood is generally quite bleak, as befits the 'Darfur' appendage, although there appear 
to be no specific political/programmatic elements to the work. The first few pieces concentrate 
on composed material, with solo voices occasionally emerging to make pithy statements. 
Particularly powerful are 'Contour Three' and 'Darfur'. These lead up to the central movement, 
'Sinopia', a near 25-minute work which contains the most impressive music on the disk, rising to 
massive climaxes in which multiple soloing has tremendous visceral force (yet still, perhaps 
because of the context, with a different feel to the free jazz 'freakout' that is its nearest aural 
cousin). Check out the three trumpets blowing separate lines, with Karen Borca's bassoon 
snaking around underneath. It's great to hear Borca get a chance to shine - though best known 
for playing with husband Jimmy Lyons and on a few Cecil Taylor sides back in the 80s, she is, 
for my money, one of the most interesting voices around, on any instrument, mingling a slightly 
rough lyricism with a piercing sense of investigation into possibilities and pathways in sound. 

After 'Sinopia', a wind-down of a sort: four short 'Pentimentos' - a term borrowed from 
the terminology of visual art (one of Dixon's impressive abstract acrylic-on-paper paintings takes 
its places on the front cover), referring to an artists' layering of a new painting over an original, 
abandoned conception. Thus, these pieces reprise the 'monoliths' of the opening movements. 



changed not so much in terms of the sounds in themselves, but by the cataclysmic context of 
following 'Sinopia': reflection following the storm. Though Dixon as a trumpet player is 
generally subsumed into the ensemble, with soloing left in the capable hands of the other band 
members, this is undoubtedly his conception through and through - the work of a major 
composer. (Review by David Grundy) 

PAUL FLAHERTY/RANDALL COI.BOVRNE - BRIDGE OUT! 




# "^^1^ 







Label: Family Vineyard Release Date: June 2008 

Tracldist: Scorched Onslaught; Maraudmg Toxic Fungus; Ice Spike; Rhubarb; Gilded Plague; Thirsty Thorns; 

More Lasting than Bronze; Spiders In Her Hair 

Personnel: Paul Flaherty: alto and tenor sax; Randall Colboume: drums. 

'Bridge Out' - "You play the bridge and take it ouf - a title scoffing at any such 
formalistic concerns as the duo travel by means of improvisational freedom instead, ignoring the 
bridge's easy route over the gorge of musical danger. That's one way of taking it, anyway; 
'lyricism' means a lot in this context, a hell of a lot, but more as a particular way of feeling, an 
echo or ghost in Flaherty's voice, the sense of wounded-in-face-of-the-world despair - more this 
than the structural concerns that 'lyric' would imply, as we trade in 'song' for 'scream'. 

Things begin with the eight minutes of ' Scorched Onslaught' : the familiar application of 
war metaphors to free jazz which I find at once appropriate and troubling - lurking behind it a 
kind of rather unsavoury machismo, the idea of the (invariably male) saxophonist's gun-weapon 
(the free jazz equivalent of cock-rock). There are political implications, obviously (which is what 
made me think of the 'gun' idea in the first place - Shepp's famous idea about using his sax as a 



machine-gun for the Vitecong) - and in that sense the title 'freedom fighter' would be extremely 
appropriate. 

In this particular case, anyway, the idea of war and conflict is most definitely being 
deplored: an evocation of horror rather than a call to arms. Flaherty is off into extreme altissimo 
register within the first thirty seconds, and what is impressive is not just that he does this (many 
do, in this field) but how long he stays doing it - he will sustain a note of extremely high pitch 
for quite a while. So it is in 'Scorched Onslaught'; he holds a note, and Colboume's drums seem 
to gain an extra bass boost, to become more sonorous than the 'melody instrument' they 
'accompany'. And then once sax has swooped down for lowbarks, unexpectedly a solo. Mid to 
low register, then vocals (a sort of humming) underlining (or smearing) the line and the sounds 
of struck sax-keys giving all a bodily thrust, an intimacy. If this was a movie, imagine the camera 
to pull in from its wide-angle shots of widespread devastation to focus on a human instance, a 
human detail, then to pull out again as Colbourne's drums thrust Flaherty back to scream-woof- 
land. 

I think Flaherty may be the most despairing player in free jazz. Whereas Brotzmann gives 
off a sense of sheer energy that is as much exciting as draining (and there's that slightly manic 
sense of humour as well, particularly when he's playing with Bennink), while Ayler and Frank 
Wright may come from a folk-tradition of African- American joyshouts, and Zom has an anarchic 
spirit unlikely to remain too long mired in despair, the places Flaherty goes are much darker. 
Perhaps most nakedly on 'Whirl of Nothingness', he is, to borrow the title of a track from the 
Archie Shepp/Philly Joe Jones duo record, 'Howling in the Silence'. 

In that sense, Colbourne's presence is perhaps necessary to ease the torment, as 
something with which to measure the dose (even though he also seems to be driving Flaherty 
on). The drummer's playing always has a sterner, less desperate feel, a sense of ritual, and as on 
the solo from 'Marauding Toxic Fungus', a momentum and rolling pace which pursues a 
different trajectory to Flaherty's essentially static wails. That said, the bowed cymbals of the 
short solo 'Ice Spike' are as grinding and direct as Flaherty's upper register, frequencies to set 
the teeth on edge. Colbourne is by all means along for the ride. 

But I'd venture to suggest that the most despairing parts are often those which seem the 
most melodic, the most 'lyrical' -their desolation, their essential im-adoniment that necessarily 
arises at the moment of realisation: that you have no place to go. Where do all the multiphonics 
and flying fingers and flying wails, hoarse barks lead? Nowhere but to such a "still, small voice," 
the most terrifying of all. (Review by David Grundy) 

GINNUNGAGAP - CRASHED LIKE WRETCHED MOTH (EP) 




Label: Conspiracy Records 

Release Date: October 2006 

Tracldist: Crashed like Wretched Moth 

Personnel: Stephen O' Malley: piano 

Additional Information: Single-sided LP, available in a limited edition of 500 copies. 



'Ginnungagap', on this outing, is Stephen O' Malley solo (when previously used, on the 
Indian-flavoured album 'Remeindre', the alias referred to a drone super-group of sorts). Using 
overdubbed piano rather than guitar gives a different sound and a slightly different feel to his 
work with Sunn O))); though of course the music is similarly dark and low-toned, there's greater 
textural variety. There are important structural differences, too, and perhaps I can best explain 
how these work by way of an analogy. Sunn's music is pretty much a wall of sound, and 'Moth', 
while not nearly so loud or overpowering, does build something of an edifice itself, but it's an 
edifice where you can picture the individual bricks being used to construct the wall. It evolves 
into its final shape, whereas Sunn begin with the shape fully formed, and the evolutions in their 
music occur on the level of slightly morphing the contours of said shape, while retaining its basic 
structure and character. I wouldn't see it as necessary to expand this into an evaluation of the 
relative merits of O'Malley with Sunn or O'Malley on his own - he's trying to do different 
things in the two contexts, but both are valid parts of his artistic conception. 

Well, I say that, but one caveat I do have with regards to this release is just how seriously 
it seems to take itself Let's look up the word 'Ginnunungagap': ah yes, "in Norse mythology, 
Ginnungagap ("seeming emptiness" or "gaping gap") was a vast windy emptiness that existed 
before the ordering of the world." That's weighty stuff indeed (or 'weightless stuff, ha ha), and, 
probably, the music wants to aim for the same sort of atmosphere - but, for me. Sunn O))) are 
interesting because they simultaneously take themselves dead seriously and see the funny side of 
the situation (their performances may be 'rituals', but they also involve consuming a bottle of 
wine each on-stage, and thus getting (presumably) quite sloshed - and drunkenness doesn't carry 
with it quite the same mystique as blowing your mind on LSD). Hell, I don't mean to suggest 
that no one should take music seriously - 1 just happen to rather like the almost comedic edge to 
some of Sunn's work (an element of self-parody is always lurking when Julian Cope gets 
involved, as on 'My Wall' from 'White 1'). Then again, I also like (or am at least impressed by) 
the tremolo hell of 'It Took the Night to Believe', or the sounds of Malefic groaning from inside 
his coffin. I guess you can have it both ways. 

Anyway, enough about Sunn, and let's take 'Crashed Like Wretched Moth' on its own 
terms. Sure, it may not challenge the man who seems its obvious inspiration - Charlemagne 
Palestine - in the hypnotic/disturbing stakes, but when heard in the right context and in the right 
mood, it can mess with the head in the same bizarre way - like being punched repeatedly over 
the head by a hand made solely out of water. And, if you get bored, you could always try to spot 
the fleeting jazz allusion at 16:13 (blink and you'll miss it) - it's probably completely 
coincidental, but I can't help associating one of the upper-register phrases O'Malley plays with 
the opening phrase of Mingus' 'Sues Changes.' 

Arguably more beautiful than the music itself is the sleeve-art by Seldon Hunt. 
(Incidentally, Hunt wrote the liner notes that accompanied the 2005 re-issue of Sunn 0)))'s 
'Grimm Robe Demos'- well, not exactly traditional liner notes; let's call them pagan 
meditations. During April 2006, he also held a week-long joint exhibition with O' Malley at the 
Domino Festival in Brussels, for which 'Crashed Like Wretched Moths' served as the 
soundtrack). Hunt's contribution to CLWM is a silver etching on the second side of the LP, and, 
perhaps more importantly, a couple of photos on the front and back covers. There's some 
wonderfully rich colour and great depth to these images of a bushy expanse in front of a 
particularly glorious gold/ochre hinterland haze, and a woodland clearing touched by the faintest 
fringes of that haze. The first of these seems to hinge on the contrast between dark woods and 
bright sky (fading to white at the top, hinting at a mushroom-cloud and suggesting that things 
aren't as serene as they seem), yet things aren't that simple - the sunset seems to inhabit the 
bushes, to invade ground level even though the shot composition ostensibly suggests otherwise. 
It's not just that the sky reflects in the pools of water seen in the foreground, but something more 
mysterious. I can't put my finger on any specific tweaks that Hunt has given the image: I think, 
more than anything, it's the combination of the two photos that gives them their strange power. 

One might draw a parallel to the way that O' Malley builds up layers in the music, 
obscuring the original piano motif until eventually it is so absorbed into the overall texture that it 
seems not be there at all - though its presence still inhabits the music in much the same ways as 
the sunset inhabits the bushes and woods in Hunt's images, as a constant quasi-drone. Of course. 



being more cynical, one might say that this record was more about the product than the music 
itself- the vinyl LP as aesthetic object, beautifully packaged and making a virtue of its 
incompleteness (could the single-sided pressing be an attempt to latch onto the mystique 
surrounding Ayler's 'Bells'?). It's a strategy notably employed by the Brothers Opalio, of 'My 
Cat Is An Alien' - though some of the musical quality in their many releases is arguably very 
variable (I still feel a little queasy recalling the awful Thurston Moore piano piece, 'American 
Coffin,' on one of the volumes in their series 'From the Earth to the Spheres'), Roberto Opalio' s 
artwork at least makes sure that the albums will look nice on your shelves (maybe you could 
frame them and put them up on your wall). 

In itself, I quite like that fusion of visual art and music - and, of course, it's one that's 
always been there, in jazz and other genres (not that O' Malley is anywhere near jazz, or wants to 
be, ' Sue's Changes' allusion or no) - think Blue Note Records, ESP, CTI, or [Impulse! . This sort 
of 'lovingly-assembled' package obviously foregrounds the amount of thought that's gone into it 
a lot more than the lo-fi/lo-budget ethos of something like Tiger Asylum records, some of whose 
releases are reviewed in both this and the previous issue of 'eartrip' - but it's arguable that equal 
care has been taken in both cases, as to what sort of feeling the listener has about the release, 
even before they've actually listened to it. For me, that goes beyond just marketing and into 
craftsmanship; why shouldn't musicians care about that side of things? 

O' Malley (or the people at Conspiracy Records) haven't just thought about the design 
aspect, though; one feels that the distribution is limited not so much because of the difficulties of 
making the album (though pressing those single-sided white wax LPs and printing the art- 
work/etchings must be a pain in the ass/labour of love (whichever way you want to look at it!)) - 
but to give the album an added mystique. O'Malley, after all, is something of a superstar in the 
admittedly very 'underground' world of drone music (probably because of the metal connection). 
So is the whole 'limited edition' aspect just a way to get more people to buy the album by 
paradoxically limiting the audience? Maybe it is, though I give O' Malley enough credit 
artistically for that not to matter. 'Crashed Like Wretched Moth' remains an interesting, if not 
essential item in his discography. 
(Review by David Grundy) 

GOLIA/ JOSEPHSON/ KAISER/ KENEALLY/ MORRIS / SMITH/ WALTER - 
HEALING FORCE: THE SONGS OF ALBERT AYLER 




VrNTJV GOLBT^AfRCiRA JO5EPHS0N HENRY KAfSER 
UKEKENEAULY JOE MORRIS DAMON SMITH WEA.SEl. WALTER. 

HEALING FORCE 

THE SONGS OF ALBERT AYLER 





Label: Cuneiform 
Release Date: 2007 

Track listing: New New Grass / Message From Albert; Music is the Healing Force of the Universe; 
Japan/Universal Indians; A Man is Like a Tree; Oh! Love of Life; Thank God for Women; Heart Love; New 
Generation; New Ghosts / New Message. 

Personnel: Vinny Golia: reeds; Aurora Josephson: voice; Henry Kaiser: guitar; Mike Keneally: piano, guitar, voice; 
Joe Morris: guitar, bass; Damon Smith: bass; Weasle Walter: drums. 

We might note that the record is titled 'the songs of Albert Ayler'. (Although, truth be 
told, 'Japan' is by Pharoah Sanders, a short track which appears on 'Tauhid'. Its simple and 
gentle melody sits well alongside some of the other tracks though, and, for my money, it goes 
more interesting places than Sanders' version, which was content simply to let the melody play 
out as an interlude between the 'meatier', longer tracks on the album.) So, as I said - songs. 
There is an accent on melody, and that was the problem people always had with Ayler' s late 
work - yes, there had always been melody, catchy melody, repetitive melody, but the form didn't 
feel as constrained as when he fitted his burning flights into strange vocals, backing choruses, 
backbeats, 60s hippie/religious lyrics. What this release does so successfully is to merge the two 
Aylers - the late-period songster with the one struggling to get out in tracks like 'Masonic 
Inborn' (a rambling, overdubbed bag-pipe duet). 

But it is reconciled within the form. It helps that years have passed, perhaps, and avant- 
garde and popular musics have, in some spheres, moved closer together, as well as drifting ever 
further apart in others in terms of sales, audiences, reception. The two best-known players on this 
record provide good examples of this: Weasel Walter has worked with no-wave and free-jazz 
musicians alike, and Henry Kaiser too has moved from playing with Derek Bailey to tackling the 
legacy of Miles Davis' 70s work (itself a fusion of elements of rock with more 'out' forms of 
jazz) in the Yo Miles! project, also released on cuneiform. The two spheres can thus move side 
by side without seeming forced together, in order to create something which feels a lot more like 
a natural whole than Ayler' s experiments. 

Apart from one misplaced Kaiser solo on 'Music is the Healing Force', the album stays 
on the side of good taste, its very sincere treatment of Ayler' s religious protestations fitting into 
the unlikely filtering of the radical hopes of the 60s through the petulance and aggression of the 
80s and 90s - thus 'New Generation' seems equal parts punk, no-wave and hippie (in attitude, 
anyway). The musicians know when to take things straight - a lot of these are cracking tunes, 
after all, let's not forget, whatever you think of Maria's lyrics - but the tone is generally more 
experimental than on the originals, so that the dissonant delivery of 'Oh Love Of Life' surpasses 
even the oddness of Ayler' s own original vocal. 

Singer Aurora Jospehson avoids such lapses in judgement as the 'naive' vocals of Mary 
Maria on 'Island Harvest' and goes for straight sincerity - with the ability to keep up with the 
other musician's improvisational flights once things get heated. Listen to her control on the final 
song, testifying about the holy ghost: one phrases repeats itself utterly. Also worth a mention is 
Vinny Gollia on a variety of reeds (including, somewhat surprisingly, flute (on 'Heart Love'), as 
well as New-Orleans tinged clarinet). The collective chanting which occasionally surfaces 
mostly avoids 60s hippiedom - it's almost thuggish on 'New Grass', giving it a frightening force 
which contrasts with the child-like flute/sung melody. And, even though the ensemble chanting 
of Ayler' s own words as the opening track does have a rather sickly sentimental guitar backing 
and might best be skipped on a second playback, as an opening statement it does at least go to 
show that this group of musicians is willing to take Ayler seriously, as he deserves. 

(Review by David Grundy) 



MATTHEW HERBERT BIG BAND - THERE'S ME AND THERE'S YOU 



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Label: !K7 

Release Date: October 2008 

Tracklist: The Story, Pontificate, Waiting, The Yesness, Battery, Regina, The Rich Man's Prayer, Breathe, 

Knowing, Nonsound, One Life, Just Swing 

Personnel: Eska Mtungwazi: vocals; Peter Fumess: clarinet (tracks 6, 7 & 9); Andy Findon: flute (tracks 6, 7 & 9); 

Adain Linsley, Andrew Cook, Graham Russell, Stuart Brooks: trumpets; Ashley Iforton, Gordon Campbell, John 

Ehgginbotham: trombones; Chris Coles: trombone (track 2); Ben Castle, Bob Mackay, Dave O'Higgins, Howard 

McGill: saxophones; Martin Williams: saxophone (track 2); Rebecca Gibson: saxophone (track 10); Matthew 

Herbert: keyboards, piano, arrangements; Phil Pamell: piano; Dave Okumu: guitar (track 1), Torben Bjoemskov: 

bass; Espen Laub: drums 

As President-Elect Barack Obama is preparing to take office on Tuesday, January 19* 
one might choose to reflect on the Bush Administration's previous eight years of power. Yes, 
there have been countless blunders, large and small, as well as immeasurable damage done to not 
just American citizens, but to people all over the globe. However, amid this catastrophe, W. and 
his cohorts have managed to inspire a group of people who are driven by something other than 
bloodlust and greed: musicians. From Green Day to the Dixie Chicks, American musicians came 
out strong to oppose the President, but there didn't seem to be much foreign output on the 
subject. With There's Me and There's You, The Matthew Herbert Big Band takes the protest 
album to new heights in terms of symbolism, intelligence, and artistic execution. 

The music itself is moving at times, but requires some research to alleviate the 
uncertainty associated with its frequently ambiguous lyrics. The album's liner notes and artist 
website ( matthewherbertbigband.com ) reveal the source of every sound used on each 
track. This information makes the music very interesting because it allows the listener to explore 
social commentaries, intended or contrived, embedded within the songs. For example, "Battery" 
features noises from one McDonald's Filet O'Fish, one snap of a soda can, and one plastic garden 
chair. Are these objects referring to increased laziness and the obesity epidemic? There are also 



sounds from one airplane and a battery charger. How odd?! In an online interview Herbert says 
the song is based on information gathered by David Rose of The Observer newspaper about a 
detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Bisher al-Rawi, who was flown around the globe for possession of 
a battery charger, which they believed could be used to manufacture an I.E.D. After a closer 
listen, the pops of electric shock crackling behind a computerized voice chanting lyrics like 
"Blindfold goggles/In the hamess/Shackled/Handcuffed" and "Tell me all the people/Tell me all 
of their names/The names of the people/ All of the people that you've ever met/That you've never 
met/That you've wanted to meet" become mildly more decipherable and it's apparent that Herbert 
is recreating an interrogation. The song is certainly off-putting, but its intended message could 
easily go over the head of a casual listener who didn't have the time or patience to perform due 
diligence. 

Symbolism is at the core of this album. The majority of sounds used have a far deeper 
meaning than what can be perceived aurally. "Waiting," for example, contains the noise of 
rattling matches recorded in the corridors below The House of Parliament, where each match 
represents 100,000 people dead in Iraq. "Nonsound" starts out as a beautifully peaceful tune 
with the Brass section playing over a somber piano and brushed drums. Eventually nonmusical 
sounds, something like an open-air market, are layered in. What follows is an outbreak of 
gunshots and shouting. According to matthewherbertbigband.com the sounds are of "Israeli 
I.D.F. soldiers shooting protestors (Palestinian and internationals) against the wall." It's eerie 
and extraordinarily sad to hear music accompany the loss of human life. An argument for 
indecency and disrespect could be made against this song, but this is a form of protest and I 
firmly believe the intent is to bring awareness to the dead and not to capitalize on this tragedy for 
dramatic effect. 

"One Life," on the other hand, is fantastic on its own and the hidden meaning actually 
enhances repeated listenings. On the surface it's about living life for the moment. Eska 
Mtungwaz's voice is comforting, mature, and urgent, which gives seemingly elementary lyrics 
like "Simpleness gets harder when you're older" and "Grip the hands of someone you're in love 
with/There's your answer" a sage-like wisdom. Similarly, the funeral-ready piano playing and 
nearly triumphant trumpet create an unexpected emotional synergy that keeps the song from 
entering the realm of 1980's cheese-anthems like Van Hal en's "Right Now." Keeping time is a 
rapid-fire drum machine that seems to simulate life's quick passing by cranking out 32"'' and 
possibly 64* notes (if I could count that fast I'd be sure). In reality each beat represents 100 
people killed in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to October 2006 and serves as the most 
sobering and most subtle form of protest on the album. 

Being an artist is not easy. For one, it requires an immense amount of talent, which 
Herbert certainly has. It also requires the ability to use that talent to create a cohesive work that 
stimulates the minds of its observers, which There's Me and There's You accomplishes. But, I 
don't believe this work reaches its full potential. Music, as the sole medium, limits what an artist 
can convey, and this piece would benefit from visual accompaniment. It's like going to 2001: A 
Space Odyssey with your eyes closed. When I hear this album I feel like I'm missing out on 
something grander. There is just too much symbolism in the items used to create this music that 
the listener can easily miss out on. However, this piece would make an excellent stage 
performance. Certain sounds, like the cutting up of 70 credit cards ("The Rich Man's Prayer") 
and 70 simultaneous text messages ("Knowing") could be recreated live and projection screens 
could be utilized to flash the slogan "We are empowered and inspired to make a world that is 
desired by the next generation and admired right now" used in "Pontificate." The piece could 
even be presented in the form of an actual protest considering the large number of people it took 
to record: 18 musicians, a choir of 27, and a 70 member "orchestra of noise." 

This is not an easy album to listen to. It's confusing, vague, and dense. But art should 
not always be easy and should never be looked down upon for challenging those who witness it. 
The Matthew Herbert Big Band has created a commendable work of art. It is highly cerebral and 
requires a great amount of attention, research, and open-minded thought to fully grasp its 
intentions. Any artist with the ability to organize and execute such a well thought out and 
passionate work deserves to be heard and, at the very least, deserves our respect. 
(Review by Aaron Hicks) 



RICK JENSEN QUARTET - THE MOSAICIST 



Label: Clinical Archives 
Release Date: November 2008 





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Personnel: Rick Jensen: Tenor Sax/Alto Clarinet; 

Phil Somervell: Piano; Colin Somervell: Bass; 

Paul May: Drums/Percussion 

Additional Information: Recorded live at The Vortex, London, UK by Helen 

Petts 15/6/08. Download release, available from 

http : //www . clmic al archives . spy w . com . 



Recorded on one of John Russell's 'Mopomoso' nights at the Vortex Jazz Club, this 
performance is all about relentlessness. Even during the quieter, slower sections, one never feels 
much sense of rest or calm: the gorgeous series of piano chords in the final few minutes seem 
about to lead into a jazz ballad, but Paul May's twitching drums ensure something much spikier. 
The closing chord could just as well be about to lead onto a fresh set of improvisations as to 
create any sort of conclusion; in fact, it is this very uncertainty that makes it such a fine, none- 
too-obvious closing moment, poised as it is between cessation and continuation. As a jazz 
performance, it might come across as something of a damp squib - 'you're going to let the music 
fizzle out like thatl' - but, in this instance, it feels more appropriate than, say, the Brotzmann 
device of suddenly stopping while seemingly still in the middle of things, signalling the end of 
the piece by leaping four feet into the air. Of course, different groups and different players 
develop different strategies to cope with the problem of knowing when and how to stop, but 
these often remain unspoken, emerging from what might call a subconscious musical intelligence 
that has developed through successive performances. So you can never be quite sure what you're 
going to get - and that's why even the more hesitant examples, such as this one, are so valuable; 
they reveal just how far out on a limb these players go, every time they play. It's what I love 
about freely improvised music - sure, all sorts of structural problems can be raised, which may 
be very tricky to negotiate, but it is in that negotiation that the most interesting things tend to 
emerge. 

New-Zealand bom but London-based, Jensen has a very individual tone on tenor sax. 
Though the music's impact is totally different, perhaps David S. Ware is the closest equivalent I 
can think of This is evident most readily in terms of tone - both Ware and Jensen have a 
particular propensity for low barks, rather than the 'screeching' altissimo passages that 
characterise a lot of free jazz - but it's also true of phrasing: there's a tendency to work round a 
figure, to repeat a phase with slightly altered phrasing or to play a succession of different phrases 
with the same rhythmic content. Sounds emerge in sharp bursts, twirling round in tight, compact 
jabs, while short pauses allow the assault to maintain a consistent momentum (breathing points, 
the slightest rest to develop new directions or ideas). And because there's a constant dialogue 
going on underneath as well, the music feels continuous - choppy piano chords or linear patterns 
add a rhythmic emphasis sometimes also taken up by bass and drums, sometimes abandoned for 
scraps and blurts of sound more in the vein of 'English improv' . In this way the group avoid the 
problems which might arise from the sax + rhythm section line-up - namely, a lack of textural 
variety. 

And it's not all hard-edged free jazz either (though things tend to remain on the bleak and 
aggressive side): about twenty-three minutes in, Jensen breaks out his alto clarinet over the 
piano's ominous low tread, unobtrusively underlined by arco bass and sympathetically groaning 
percussive scrapes and screeches. A subsequent return to tenor leads, perhaps inevitably, to 
eventual echoes of the opening mood (this time with some fine high saxophone whoops) - and 
then to that fascinating conclusion, as just piano and drums find their way to silence, like 
someone squeezing through a narrow gap, slinking off down a narrow alley into the darkness. 

(Review by David Grundy) 



MIKE KHOURY/ WILL SODERBERG- VOLUMEN DREI 

Label: Tiger Asylum Release Date: 2008 Tracklist: Untitled tracks Personnel: Mike Khoury: violin; Will 
Soderberg: electronics Additional Information: Recordings from mid-2007. CD-R release available from 
http : //www . ti gerasy lum. com . 

Shoots the demented pinball set up full of holes in future deserted arcade. Glass broken 
underfoot crunches calamitous triggering kaleidoscope flurries, in the comer of your eye. 
Violin's low lonely howl seems human in the now slow-whirr of electronic cold chamber; but 
the violence of stretched animal gut over shaped wood is an acknowledged paradox as string 
scrape's delay-pedal near drowns in feedback fuzz. Noise could not be white here, the blinding 
happened before in this post-holocaust world where sound equals noise equals sight, or its lack: 
sounds there to guide conjure the mind-picture of echo factory, empty while violinman squats in 
corner, sometimes stands scarecrow-dark, the Paganini devil whose energy is all spent. Did he 
find this battered instrument by chance, or is it that he has been wandering the rounds, prophet of 
reverberation triggers deep bell, echo distorts and bounces in endless circles round the four wall 
prison which won't keep out the demons. Merges to howl, emerges to be lost forever; human 
voices would be hauntings here. 
('Review' by David Grundy) 

STEUART LEIBIG/ TEE-TOT QV X^T¥.T - ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED 



Label: ptMENTUM 

Release Date: 

Tracklist: 07-04-00; serenade; wrong how long; stutterstep; fearless; clean, 

shaved and sober; bobtail; cooked and chopped; chucktown; mercy kitchen; 

sunshine candy; barrelfoot grind; lonewoolf 

Personnel: Dan Clucas: comet; Scot Ray: dobro; Steuart Leibig: 

contrabassguitar; Joseph Berardi: drums, percussion 



I guess whether you will enjoy the album or not depends very much on what you think of 
leader Steuart Leibig' s compositions. For me, and this will seem strange, they are just a little too 
polished - and I know that the music's charm comes partly from the less-than-polished sounds of 
twanging electric dobro and growling cornet. But the tunes themselves feel just a little too expert 
in their careful balance of consonance and dissonance (or 'consonant dissonance', which is 
maybe a term closer to the sort of thing that's happening here); every piece is constructed in 
virtually the same manner ('mercy kitchen' being something of an exception), with a unison 
statement of the theme from trumpet and dobro, drums usually playing a fairly steady beat and 
bass either accentuating this with an insistently repeated riff (on the more rockish pieces, such as 
the opening track), or playing counter-lines, often somewhat stop-start in nature. The melodies 
reappear in between solos as well as in opening and closing statements, and the solos thus feel 
rather crammed in between the melodic expository stuff 

Interesting things are happening in these solos, however: Clucas in particular has an 
attractive voice on comet, full of the sort of smears and growls that one might associate with 
Taylor Ho Bynum, on the same instrument, and which indicate a growing interest in 'vintage' 
players such as Buber Miley (although arguably this was an important lineage with the free jazz 
players of the 60s also). The electrified dobro' s sound gives a nicely unusual texture, somewhat 
appropriate to the cover photograph of a wide, ochre-lit stretching road: and Ray's solos can be 
quite exciting, in a way that almost comes to resemble the fmger-fiying excitement of superior 
jazz fusion, and at other times is nearer a distorted version of twangy, slide-guitar bluegrass. But 
he does tend to rely on the same tricks in several solos - for instance, sliding up and down a 
string for a see-saw effect which feels more like an 'interesting' flourish than something which 
really contributes to the emotional/logical development of the piece, or the solo. 




There are basically two species of tune on display here: the crisp, fast, 'cool' edginess of 
the faster numbers (which take up much of the album), and tracks like 'serenade', which are 
slower, more 'open' and melancholy- sounding (though there's always a sense of hidden 
menace). In the end, thirteen pieces comes to seem like overkill, particularly given the 
similarities in construction and execution which I've outlined: one can't help wishing that more 
space could have been given to showcasing these players' soloistic voices, or to the group 
interplay (double soloing by trumpet and guitar on 'cooked and chopped'), rather than reverting 
so schematically to the predictable tread of similar compositions. In this case, longer tunes would 
undoubtedly have meant more, not less variety. 

But I always feel churlish giving negative reviews: for a more positive (and perhaps, 
more perceptive) analysis of the music. Bill Barrett's liner note is exemplary, pointing out the 
Quartet's transfiguration of 'roots music' (a result of instrumentation as much of anything, I'd 
suggest). Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting angle. For my money, a more interesting 
example of this sort of 'left-field Americana' would be Erik Friedlander's recent solo cello disc, 
'Block Ice and Propane.' (Review by David Grundy) 

DONNY McCASLIN - RECOMMENDED TOOLS 




Label: Greenleaf Music 

Release Date: August 2008 

Tracklist: Recommended Tools; Eventuah Late Night Gospel; 

Excursion; Isfahan; The Champion; Margins of Solitude; 3 Signs; 2nd 

Hour Revisited; Fast Brazil. 

Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor sax; Hans Glawischinig: bass; 

Jonathan Blake: drums 



Such is the history of tenor plus bass and drum trios that any saxophonist willing to work 
in this format is, however unwittingly, making a statement about his ability as an improviser. 
Any results will, by necessity, be compared with the sterling work of such past masters as John 
Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. As a consequence, many musicians have left the 
tenor trio well alone at least until they have reached what they hold to be the requisite level of 
maturity. 

Having just turned forty, Donny McCaslin has released this disc with companions Hans 
Glawischinig on bass and Jonathan Blake of drums stating in interviews that he now feels totally 
prepared to meet this challenge. The year 2008 saw a lot of critical praise being heaped on 
McCaslin - no doubt due to some impressive performances in bands as diverse as "Steps 
Ahead", Dave Douglas' quintet and Maria Schneider's big band. Is "Recommended Tools" 
therefore, evidence then that McCaslin has now evolved into the fully mature jazz soloist? I 
would suggest that the answer must be an unreserved "yes" and demonstrative that, since the 
untimely passing of the great Mike Brecker, he is clearly his heir apparent. 

Caught somewhere between Brecker' s convoluted and sophisticated approach to 
improvisation and the more wayward style of Joe Lovano, this is an impressive performance by 
anyone's standards. However, the album is largely made up of originals that do not quite match 
the quality of his writing on the previous latin-inspired record "In pursuif and the one non- 
original, a version of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" is unlikely to replace Johnny Hodges' lyrical 
approach in fan's affections. The imbalance of truly memorable themes is, perhaps, the one 
weakness in this disc but this is countered by some wonderful flights of improvisation. Certainly, 
his writing on "In pursuif seemed to hit pay dirt with every track seemingly a great tune 
whereas the first half of this latter record is not quite of the same calibre. Throughout the CD, 



McCaslin is clearly the star of the performance as the bassist and drummer seem to lack the 
personality to match the leader although they provide more than adequate support and some 
sympathetic accompaniment too on the more introspective compositions such as "Margins of 
solitude." The better material occurs in the second half of the record with the track "The 
Champion" the clear pick of the bunch. At one stage, he performs entirely solo and yet the shear 
swing with which he launches in make the absence of the bass and drums barely noticeable. On 
"3 signs", there is a degree of rhythmic interplay where the trio really starts to open up and close 
attention to McCaslin' s improvised lines reveals just how inventive he is with his use of time. If 
anything, these ideas are taken even further on the following "2nd hour revisited" with Blake 
being allowed to stretch out even more behind his kit and the tenor saxophonist almost seeming 
to evoke Sonny Rollins in his approach with motifs continually chewed over and reinvented. 
Like the elder musician, McCaslin can make the potential for these permutations seem endless. 
The disc concludes with a romp through "Fast Brazil", a number that has also appeared on his 
previous release. On this version, the gloves have come off and the trio abandons itself to some 
of the most uninhibited and knotty playing on the whole session. 

Possessing a readily recognisable tone and an intelligent approach to the improvised line, 
this is a hugely impressive record. However, had the whole record been quite as good as the 
exuberant closing three tracks or "The Champion", we would have been talking about an 
exceptional tenor trio - a potential classic. As it stands, it is sufficient to say from the evidence 
of "Recommended Tools" that Donny McCaslin has now arrived as one of the most significant 
tenor saxophonists of our generation and produced a very worthy addition to the canon of the 
tenor trio. (Review by Ian Thumwood) 

STEPHEN O' MALLEY/ ATTILA CSIHAR- dTskyquake 

Label: Editions Mego 

Release Date: January 2008 

Tracldist: 6°Fsky quake 

Personnel: Stephen O'Malley: HP 200CD & Travis Bean /Fender Twin 

Reverb; Attila Csihar: Vocals 

Additional Information: Room recording at TEAM Gallery, NYC 10th, 1 1th 

& 12th June 2007. Vocals recorded at Chateau Csihar, Budapest June 2007 




Like the other Stephen O' Malley release reviewed in this issue ('Crashed Like Wretched 
Moth', released under the Ginnungagap moniker), ' 6°Fskyqiiake ' was originally designed to 
accompany an art gallery exhibition - in this case, two simultaneous solo shows by sculptor 
Banks Violette, during summer 2007. 

One senses that some of the work's original impact may have been lost - not just because 
it is no longer in situ, alongside Violette' s sculptures (the only residue of these being the cover 
art photo), but because the original 8 and a half hour duration of the piece has been reduced to a 
mere 33 minutes. This recording then, is only a fragment, an example, a sampling. One wonders 
why a longer portion could not have been released: given the capacities of even a single CD, 
which will held 80 minutes of music, just over half an hour seems like a very small slice of the 
pudding. 

However, upon listening, one realises that this is probably as adequate a representation as 
any. The album release is inevitably going to be a different beast to the installation, and what 
might seem legitimated by its gallery context cannot be so excused during home listening. 
Presumably, no one stayed during the entire 8 hour plus show, and it is even less likely that 
anyone will sit in front of their stereo for over half a day (this is hardly 'stoner music'). 

As on Sunn 0)))'s most recent release, the marvellous 'Domkirke', O'Malley is joined 
by Norwegian vocalist Attila Csihar, who, in probably his 'artiest' context yet, proves once again 
his skill as a singer of operatic power, with an ability for conjuring (often oppressive) 
atmospheres. On 'Domkirke', Csihar' s delay-treated bass rumblings provided the perfect peg for 



reviewers looking for a way into the latest drone odyssey: much could be made of the live 
concert recording's location in Bergen Cathedral, a reconciliation of sorts between Black Metal 
and the Church, in which the singing could be described as Gregorian, particularly when placed 
over the tectonic progress of Steve Moore's organ playing on the first track, 'Why Dost Thou 
Hide Thyself in the Clouds'. On 'Skyquake', singing his own texts based around "journeys 
inside imperial Tokyo," it seems that Csihar was brought in to impose a more human element 
over O'Malley's unwavering electronic drones. 

With Domkirke's handy historical peg removed, one is forced to concentrate on the voice 
itself, on its qualities as sound, rather than just skipping straight onto its qualities as signifier. 
Even if Csihar is singing texts, you'll be hard pressed to make out words; it seems instead that 
one is presented with the idea of words, with the sound of word-like constructions being formed, 
constructions which nevertheless don't exist to 'mean' as much as to simply exist, inaccessible 
and abstract. This voice as sound opens up cavernous depths which forever conflict with the 
constant high sine pitches overhead; or rather, which enact not so much a conflict as a state of 
being. By this I mean that they are never going to come into resolution, a condition which has 
been accepted as the basis for their existence from the start - and perhaps it is the listener's 
realisation, and acceptance, of this fact, that is the true resolution. Resolution only comes once 
one stops looking for a resolution; conclusion when one realises that there is no conclusion 
(hence the sudden cut-off at the end of the CD). 

O' Malleys drones are not continuous: instead, the work unfolds sectionally, often in 
fairly short bursts which last for maybe two minutes at a time. Nevertheless, the fact that there is 
little structural and sonic difference between these sections, and that they are so slow-moving, 
makes the work seem more continuous than it actually is. Csihar' s vocals stay in the same range, 
generally accompanied by O'Malley's drones, which are at either extremely high or extremely 
low pitches (and often both at once). In between the vocal/drone meat of the piece are sounds 
which can less easily be traced back to their sources, such as the flutterings at 19:20, which 
sound like a giant paper bag being continuously rustled, or the various whispers/breathing sounds 
which occasionally replace vocal rumbling. Even more occasionally, short, organ-like bursts 
occur, vaguely reminiscent of that opening track from 'Domkirke.' 

The 'ritual' tag applies well here, ritual being sectional and repetitive in the manner that 
this music is sectional and repetitive. 'Skyquake', though this, lacks the essentially progressive 
nature of ritual, the sense of movement towards a goal. There is no equivalent to the mystical act 
at the heart of the ritual performance (the taking of Communion, let's say) - that act which 
ensures that there is always a movement towards something, however slow. What we have here, 
then, is the enaction of a ritual experience without the underlying purposefulness: ritual for its 
own sake which renders its usefulness and purpose as ritual questionable. In that sense it would 
not be stretching things too far to claim that, even if the piece itself is not religious, its concerns 
are religious ones, or ones connected with religion: how to deal with the religious impulse when 
one no longer believes. 

The press release, when discussing the shared themes of O'Malley's sound installation 
and Banks Violette's sculptures, raises the idea of a "lost evocative experience." One might 
argue that this experience itself is evocative - but of something which one can't quite place, an 
evocation not of nothing, nor or something, but of a realm in-between. Csihar' s vocals may seem 
to explicitly reference Gregorian Chant, but are prevented from accomplishing the same 
function: placed in an art gallery, they are enclosed in a space similar to a Church in its sense of 
scale and reverence, but, all white light and bright lights, far removed from the Gothic darkness 
of Gregorianism. The only other specific references, or at least, associations (provided one 
cannot decipher Csihar' s texts) are to other electronic musics (drone, no-input) which are 
themselves challenging and disturbing because of their lack of overt referentiality. In that sense, 
there is a sharp contrast to the 60s work of La Monte Young or Terry Riley, with its very deflnite 
intention to evoke/create the conditions for another lifestyle, one associated with the drones of 
Indian music ('The Tambouras of Pandit Pran Nath') and in some sense with the countercultural 
movement (ancient traditions filtered through a very historically specific climate - that of 1960s 
America). O'Malley and Csihar' s drone-world is far more disturbing, and, arguably, far more 
engaged with the problems of existence in the modern world. (Review by David Grundy) 



WILLIAM PARKER - DOUBLE SUNRISE OVER NEPTUNE 



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Label: AUM Fidelity 

Release Date: August 2008 

Tracklist: Morning Mantra; Lights of Lake George; O'Neal's 

Bridge; Neptune's Mirror 

Personnel: William Parker: double reeds, doson'ngoni, 

conductor; Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Rob Brown: alto sax; Bill 

Cole: double reeds; Sabir Mateen: tenor sax, clarinet; Dave 

Sewelson: baritone sax; Jason Kao Hwang: violm; Mazz Swift: 

violin; Jessica Pavone: viola; Shiau-Shu Yu: cello; Joe Morris: 

guitar, banjo; Brahim Frigbane: oud; Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay: 

voice; Shayna Dulberger: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Hamid 

Drake: drums. 

Additional Information: Recorded live June 19 & 20, 2007 at 

Vision Festival XII by Stefan Heger 



I'll let William Parker introduce the concepts behind this record in his own words. In his 
liner notes, he writes: Double Sunrise was born of a concept I call universal tonality, which is 
based off of the idea that all sounds like human beings come from the same place. All sound has 
a heartbeat and breathes the same as each human being. Some sounds are born in Africa; others 
are born in Asia, Europe, Australia or America. These sounds pass through certain human 
beings. We don't invent sounds, we are allowed to encounter them; we don't own them, they 
existed before we were bom and will be here after we are gone." 

For me, Parker's faith in music, that of a true, devout believer, ultimately remains too 
simplistic to fulfill its own promises. That's not to say that I don't believe music has a power, but 
I'm not sure the project lives up to the immense claims made for it. Parker's notion is of a 
genuine 'world music' (more than that, a 'universe music'): a force that unifies all human beings, 
no matter what social/racial/political barriers seem to make them unalterably divided. Trouble is, 
no music could really live up to that description - like it or not, the sounds we here and the 
context we here them in are invariably socially, culturally and politically defined. Most of the 
theories around free jazz and improvisation rest ultimately on their status as oppositional musics 
(Derek Bailey's opposition to composition and the European classical system, the New Thing 
artists' opposition to racism and American foreign policies, etc). Parker's goal, though it is in 
opposition (to war, killing, racism, and other ills - all things that would presumably also be 
opposed by the artists just mentioned), ultimately seeks a state of utter transcendence, where 
there is no need for opposition - a Utopia realized, (though exactly how is never very well 
defined), through music. 

Conceptually, then, I'm not really convinced by Parker's argument. Will the sonic 
material win me over any more? Discarding for a moment the claims Parker makes for it, and 
taking it simply as sound on its own terms, it's a pleasant listen, though too often it fails to reach 
the heights of which he is capable. Structurally, the approach is a little unvaried: a bass-line will 
be repeated over and over again, providing an easy groove for various long, rhapsodic solos to 
unfold over. (These bass-lines are played by Shayna Dulberger rather than Parker, who sticks to 
dousson'gossi and double-reeds). At its best this repetitive riff effect can be hypnotic, if laidback 
(none of the rhythmical pounding of Miles Davis' 70s ensembles here), but fairly soon the music 
has fallen into the Pharoah Sanders 'Karma' syndrome: an attractive bass figure, repeated over 
and over, which tend to encourage noodling more than focussed improvisation. 

Nonetheless, Parker's ensemble sounds more 'authentically' non-western than Sanders, 
even if the rhetoric surrounding it breathes that same rather naive air of 60s idealism. Some of 
the most compelling moments on the album result from the unusual timbres of Parker and Bill 
Cole's double-reeds, duetting in swirling ecstasies of note-cycles. Indian singer Sangeeta 
Bandyopadhyay also entrances with her melismatic, wordless improvisations, though the 
sections where she sings Parker's lyrics have less force. Here, there is a similar problem to 
2007' s 'Cornmeal Dance': the lyrics are very worthy in intent, but feel too vague, too New- 




Agey, to construct any real opposition or alternative to the current modes of life and living which 
they try to stand against. (Review by David Grundy) 

STEVE PETERS - THE WEBSTER CYCLES 

Label: Cold Blue Music 
Release Date: 2008 
Tracklist: The Webster Cycles 
Personnel: J.A. Deane: trombones 

Additional Information: Recorded in 1997 

The CD itself comes with minimal packaging: no explanatory booklet (recording details 
are printed in small gold type on the inside cover), leaving the album art to do the job of 
somehow representing the music, or capturing some of its particular flavour. Thus we have a 
dark, sombre cover with a faint yellowing glow light round about the middle of the image, and a 
swirling smoke haze, just caught by light, on the back. And that's perhaps the treatment this 
music requires. 

However, though there is no liner note to speak of. Cold Blue Music have released 
further information on their website, as has Peters on his own blog, and it might be worthwhile to 
consider what the knowledge of the mode of composition could add to the listening experience. 
"A single 30-minute piece that straddles the fence of structure and improvisation: all of the 
words in the dictionary that use only the letters A-G, arranged in alphabetical order. Each word is 
played for the length of one long breath, and within that the letters/notes are played 
spontaneously, as are dynamics, timbre, etc." 

In some way this seems to relate to what, for me, is the particular sadness of this work. 
Not in that it's reflected programmatically, but more as a meditation on the fundamental 
abstraction of music, and perhaps of words, in a certain climate. The Webster Cycles, as if 
revolving round and round, but without the resolution. The schematics of letters tied to notes 
adding to this cycling, as notes re-cycle (but without the growth that implies). The six 
overdubbed layers more often than not separated, the extremely heavy reverb itself another layer 
underlying it all like insistent massive fridgehum. At some points all six rise to mournful 
utterance, high and low. And there are occasionally other sounds, a breath parp or unidentified 
electronic ticking, but mostly it is the 'pureness' of it that dominates. 

Partly, I suspect, this music's virtue will be its openness, and you have to be in the right 
frame of mind - somewhere where total concentration merges with that 'ambient music' state 
whereby one's consciousness is dimly aware of the music as presence, rather than registering its 
details. 

On his blog, Peters describes this particular version as 'lush' : for me, it has far more of a 
'chill' to it than that description would allow. But, on second thoughts, I can see what he means: 
some quality to Deane' s tone, his swelling slurs, the rounded fatness of his desolation. Indeed it 
would be perfectly possible to listen to this as ambient music, taken in the sense which Eno 
defined for it in his 'Music for Airports' liner notes, but I'd argue that it's full impact only occurs 
with this other type of listening I've just defined - perhaps one could call it liminal. 

In any case, the multi-tracked layerings create effects of distance, giving the music a real 
spatial dimension, something explored very much in Webster's more recent works (such as a 
'Chamber Music' series, based on field recordings of the frequencies in empty rooms). This was 
clearly something that preoccupied him as far back as 1980: Deane' s trombone begins close-up a 
far-off calling horn, between a distance and unreachable call to a mournfulness more close-up, 
breaking down the boundaries between the distant and the intimate, as the occasional bite sends 
ripples through the endless (be)calm(edness) of the sonic ocean. 

(Review by David Grundy) 

SONIC YOUTH/ MATS GUSTAFFSON/ MERZBOW - 



ANDRE SIDER AF SONIC YOUTH 




Label: SYR (Some Youth Records) 
Release Date: July 2008 

Tracklist: Andre Sider af Sonic Youth 
Personnel: Mats Gustaffson: saxophone; Merzbow: 
electronics; Thurston Moore: guitar; Lee Ranaldo: guitar, 
kraaklebox, bells; Kim Gordon: guitar, trumpet, voice; Jim O' 
Rourke: guitar, keyboard, measuring tape, mixing; Steve 
Shelley: drums, percussion 

Additional Information: Recorded live at the Roskilde 
Festival, 1/7/2005 by Barok Films. 



Here's the blurb: "This installment of Sonic Youth's series of experimental and mostly 
instrumental releases is available in a CD-only edition on the band's own SYR label. Andre 
Sider af Sonic Youth presents the complete "Other Sidesof Sonic Youth" improvised live 
performance from the 2005 Roskilde Festival in Denmark, featuring Sonic Youth (with Jim 
O'Rourke) and guests Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Japanese sound artist Masami 
Akita (a.k.a. Merzbow). The single piece performed was a structured [???] improvisation which 
for 60 minutes added and subtracted musicians one by one until only Akita was left onstage. 
Black Sabbath followed." [Did they seem tame after the last feedback wail and electronic 
grinding had died into tinnitus?] 

Sonic Youth's own ramblings, which cover the first 15 minutes or so, are made to seem 
tame when, first Merzbow, then Mats Gustafson enter. Immediately, things come into purpose, 
have a point to them, as Gustafson' s wails - no other adjective I can think to put to it that is more 
appropriate than soulfully - over Merzbow' s machine-thrash and interlocks shreds of guitar 
feedback and hum-strum. 

Wailing trumpet and electronic moans join with Kim Gordon's flatly desperate voice as the 
unleashed machine chaos meshes with a very human desperation - the two can't be separated. 
Everything blends into one amorphous sound mass, electronic malfunctioning siren piss-cry and 
derange-tuned guitars. We might compare another collaboration between Merzbow and an 
experimental rock group - Japanese doomers Boris - for the effect that he has, thrusting them 
out of conventionality into new realsm, while at the same time their presence give some more 
easily identifiable 'direction' to his pure thickets of noise. 

But how subversive really is 'noise music'? How much is it a cathartic experience in the 
sense that it expresses a sense of disillusionment with the world, of pain and all its negative 
emotions, and then allows you back to yr existence having wallowed in the misery artistically? 
How far does it rely on the misery of that existence to exist itself? What alternative does it posit? 
Is it nihilistic? What the hell is Jim O' Rourke doing thrashing around with measuring tape on 
his guitar (see the video on the Sonic Youth website)? Why does Merzbow always look so calm? 
How do you talk about such completely 'music-less' music, its lack of referentiality, without 
falling into the trap of metaphorical description, of trying to give it a referentiality it doesn't 
have? Does it bludgeon words to death? Does it even bludgeon music to death? Does this remind 
you of anything? 

kill yr. idols 

some death 

it's the end of the world 

and confusion is sex 

In this sexualised space of noise, a death-orgasm howl, a 'death rattle' without Leone's 
stateliness, a howl. Dissolved. You don't just kill yr idols, you destroy all idols, all ideals, all 



ideology, in feedback howl. Nothing feed backs, positive feedback, negative, it's just there. Just 
fucking there. 

Gustafson is barking against terror. As he is lung-blowing-blast at top-voice Merzbow 
quite casually just flicks his wrist and taps home his mouse and elephant-roar just kills it, just 
shreds everything into that one drunk scream. It's tempting to see it as some sort of ritual 
sacrifice, free jazz at the altar of noise music, noise music killing free jazz, with all that 
movement's spiritual hope implications, for just sheer utter nihilism and wail. Wail. Wail. Wail. 
Gustafson' s last sounds are the dying bleats of the sacrifice, as he leaves Merzbow alone. 

(Review by David Grundy) 

VANDERMARK FIVE - BEAT READER 




VAHDERMARH S. 



Beat Reader 



Label: Atavistic 

Release Date: January 2008 

Tracklist: Friction (for Gyorgy Ligeti); New Acrylic (for Andreas 

Gursky); Any Given Number (for Bemd and Hilla Becher); 

Signposts (for Lee Friedlander); Speedplay (for Max Roach); 

Compass Shatters Magnet (for Paul Rutherford); Further From The 

Truth (for Walker Evans); Desireless (for Daido Moriyama). 

Personnel: Ken Vandermark: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, 

clarinet; Dave Rempis, alto and tenor saxophone; Fred Lonberg- 

Holm: cello and electronics; Kent Kessler: bass; Tim Daisy: drums. 



Ken Vandermark' s mugshot ought to accompany the definition of "restless" in your 
Colliers or your OED. In jazz terms, he's as promiscuous as they come, leaping from project to 
project, starting new bands, resurrecting old ones. - one-offs, touring ensembles, tributes, film 
music, intriguing collaborations. . . If it's adventurous, he's game. Once the tally is complete, I 
expect he'll have released hundreds of recordings. But for better than a decade, he's always 
returned to the Vandermark 5. That any working jazz unit has endured today's climate for eleven 
years is truly remarkable; that it has managed to hold Vandermark' s interest is miraculous. 

There have been lineup changes, of course, but the core dictum of pushing free music in 
all directions has remained undisturbed. The V5, as it currently stands, is the exciting Dave 
Rempis on alto and tenor saxophone, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics, Kent Kessler 
on bass, Tim Daisy on drums, and Vandermark, who here sticks to the low end of the register, 
playing baritone sax and clarinet. It's a good choice, because he spends much of Beat Reader' s 
69 minutes exploiting the guttural qualities of the baritone to an effect similar to his work on 
Bridge 61 's (excellent) 2006 release Journal, which is to say that a lot of the time the thing flat- 
out rocks. 

Vandermark' s gift is his combinatory approach; simply, his palette is larger that most. 
Punk, rock and funk are as ripe for pillaging as are blues, jazz, classical, what have you. This 
inclusiveness is what has always marked the great Vandermark 5 releases (Single Piece Flow, 
Target or Flag, A Discontinuous Line), and here it means that the quintet veer from spastic 
energy to containment and austerity in the blink of an eye. They are simultaneously controlled 
and unhinged; propulsive and passive, as appropriate. Lonberg-Holm' s cello is capable of 
centering the proceedings in a way that Jeb Bishop's guitar could not. Similarly, Rempis' tenor 
pushes things further into the funk realm. All in all, it is what we have come to expect from the 
V5: more of everything, the world in an hour. I wouldn't dare slight Ken Vandermark for his 
restlessness and his creative hyperactivity. It simply results in too much incredible music. But I 
do hope he always calls the Vandermark 5 home. 
(Review by Andrew Forbes) 



RE-ISSUES/HISTORICAL 



BIRIGWA - BIRIGWA 




Label: Porter Records 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Okusosola Mukuleke; Uganda; Kanemu-Kanabili; Lule Lule; Njabala; 
Obugumba; Yelewa 

Personnel: Birigwa: voices and guitar; Stan Strickland: flute and tenor sax; Arthur 
Brooks: fleugelhom; Mait Edey: piano and misc. percussion; Phil Morrison: bass; 
Yusef Crowder: shiko drum and misc. percussion; Vmnie Johnson: drums 
Additional Information: Originally released in 1 972 by Seeds. 



Birigwa, a Ugandan vocalist who came to Boston in his early twenties to study at the 
New England Conservatory, doesn't seem to have recorded anything subsequent to this self- 
titled album, though his liner note promises that "soon more will be on the way!" Does that 
promise to make it one of those 'curiosities' that vinyl-hoarders and diggers so treasure? Maybe, 
but that it's something more than just nicely obscure is indicated by the care which Luke 
Mosling has lavished on the re-issue (something which could be said of all the releases on the 
increasingly burgeoning Porter Records): the carefully constructed foldout CD case manages to 
look neat but not buttoned-up, its ochre tones and minimal cover design giving the feeling of 
unwrapping a parcel, the interior contents not quite certain - though the attached sticker seems 
more keen to pin down some generic reference points: "Jaw-dropping Afro- Jazz with wild, 
soaring vocals and strong rhythms." 

I'm not sure that description quite gives a fair impression of what you'll hear when you 
put this on: it strikes me as a lot more laid-back. Though the liner notes, by pianist Mait Edy, 
who ran the 'Seeds' label on which the album was first released, and who organised the session, 
tout this as a meeting between jazz and traditional African music, the gentle, folk-like sounds 
which one must assume to have been Birigwa' s speciality are very much the focus here; only on 
'Yelewa (Mosquito Song)', does the album really get anywhere near the Leon Thomas territory 
that is claimed for it, as Birigwa' s clicks and shrill trills simulate insects and birds, in a more 
directly mimetic way than Thomas' ecstatic yodel. I'd say that the jazz players function strictly 
as a back-up band, perhaps to provide a little colouristic variety under the singing and guitar 
playing (and one might argue that they almost serve as a distraction, at times, from the solo 
material). Whatever the case, Birigwa' s voice is very pleasant, in an unusually nasal way, and 
the aforementioned 'Yelewa' makes an appropriately rousing conclusion. 
(Review by David Grundy) 



PAUL BLEY QUINTET - BARRAGE 




PAUL BLEY QUINTET 



Label: ESP-Disk 

Release Date: November 2008 

Tracklist: Batterie; Ictus; And Now the Queen; Around 
Again; Walking Woman; Barrage 

Personnel: Marshall Allen: alto sax; Dewey Johnson: 
trumpet; Paul Bley: piano; Eddie Gomez: bass; Milford 
Graves: drums. 

Additional Information: Recorded on October 1 5*, 
1964, NYC. All compositions (and "tape assemblage' on 
'Barrage') by Carla Bley. 



When looking at the line-up - and, indeed, the album-title - for 'Barrage', which includes 
that old fire-breather Marshall Allen and trumpeter Dewey Johnson, of 'Ascension' fame, one 
might be forgiven for expecting something a little more obviously 'out there' than one ends up 
hearing. Perhaps the cover art provides a more suitable guide, with its multiply-duplicated use of 
the Michael Snow 'Walking Woman' motif (the silhouette of Carla Bley) appearing alongside 
photos of a sunglasses-clad Bley, who is demonstrating an almost Belmondo-esque mix of stand- 
offish but sensual cool, serious yet unpredictable - with an explosion into inverted colours in the 
centre hinting at the molten tensions which might sometimes boil up from beneath and within 
this veneer, lava-like. In any case, the 'cool' surfaces are almost always illusions: 'Ictus' opens 
and closes with a fairly frantic race through the melodic material, and, as the piano solo takes its 
turn in the roster, it's particularly noticeable how Bley's spindly lines are both undercut and 
reinforced by Eddie Gomez' busily resonant bass. Indeed, the Puerto Rican Gomez' playing on a 
number of ESP dates from this period is an important, if sometimes overlooked part of the their 
success - the 'rhythm section's' fluidity and tense, crab wise-motions impart a real sense of 
urgency even to ballads as lovely as 'And Now the Queen' - a bit like those moments in 
conversation when someone leans forward to earnestly make their point, hands momentarily 
freezing in gestures of tensed emphasis. 

That said (and the more I listen to the album the more I feel its internal dynamics really 
rippling through and catching hold in an almost muscular fashion), the trajectory of 'Barrage' as 
a whole may be somewhat different. It unfolds its tensions in contained units, in a series of what 
feel almost like miniatures, revolving around the beautifully poised elegance of Carla Bley's 
compositions. Tracks tend to last for an average of five minutes, meaning that solos are kept 
brief: though of course the likes of Marshall Allen only need a few seconds to make an impact - 
his alto tone is somehow incredibly coarse, exhibiting a particularly kind of sound that only John 
Zorn really dares to match. I'm in two minds about this brevity: given the individual skills of the 
quintet members, I can't help wishing that they'd recorded more than thirty-three minutes of 
music. On the other hand, perhaps that's a contrast to the occasional flabbiness of the lengthy 
(never-ending?) ecstasy (flabbiness?) of the prototypical free jazz blow-out: here, instead, Bley's 
Quintet provide us with bite-size chunks, not just in the sense that they are small and thus easily 
consumable, but that - inverting the phrase as the cover designers inverted their photos - they 
also have sharp teeth. (Review by David Grundy) 

LOWELL DAVIDSON - TMO 




Label: ESP -Disk Release Date: September 2008 Tracklist: "L"; Stately 1; Dunce; Ad Hoc; Strong Tears 
Personnel: Lowell Davidson: piano; Gary Peacock: bass; Milford Graves: drums 
Additional Information: Recorded July 27*, 1965 



From the beginning of Trio', it's clear that this is no fire-and-brimstone ESP date. I guess 
the nearest equivalent on the label would be Paul Bley, whose piano style, like Davidson's, could 
be construed as almost dry, in comparison to the manic energies of much free piano playing (or, 
what many people expect from free piano playing - in practice, the instrument, or its tradition, 
encourage something very different). 

Davidson is clearly a consummate craftsman, with a very particular idea of where he 
wants the tune to go; this by no means precludes the spontaneity of improvisation, but there's 
always the feel of a delicately formal mind, rather than of someone over-egging the emotional 
pudding. There's clearly a lot oi thought going on as the music moves in time (which presumably 
happened before the record date as well -of course, artists are thinking through their music when 
they're not playing, all the time, but this feels as if specifics and plans of campaign have been 
laid, though apparently it was an un-auditioned recording). 

The melody of 'L' (standing for 'Lowell'?) has a strange and alluring charm to it; 
repetitive and with a certain feel of being locked into itself Fragments recur throughout the 
piano solo, and, indeed the idea of the melody and its construction seem to influence the whole 
unfolding of the improvisation: individual phrases respond to each other in a continuous 
expounding of ideas, yet all seem to dance on and off the initial thematic material as well. 

Davidson's touch is almost Ellingtonian on 'Stately 1', the rippling, slightly exotic piano 
over rumbling (as well as the slightly boxy sound) reminding me of the particular aesthetic of 
'Money Jungle' (particularly 'Fleurette Africaine'). While Davidson sounds a more consciously 
'avant-garde' than Ellington (there are far more sprinkles of notes quite far up the keyboard), his 
tendency to make pithy statements, and to think two-handedly (tending to alternate chords with 
virtuosic right-hand runs), as well as the wonderful shiver of his occasional trilled octave chords, 
is very similar. The playing is often very elegant, swirling round on itself in hundred of miniature 
arabesques. Though it's a ballad, it's rhythmically sharp: Peacock and Graves, like Mingus and 
Roach, are a rather provocative rhythm section - very sympathique, absolutely serving the needs 
of the music and fitting very well with Davidson, but not conventionally subservient or even 
'supportive'. Graves in particular keeps up a skittish commentary underneath, rumbling low with 
toms, prodding with cymbal taps and letting hang the occasionally sustained shimmering wash of 
sound, Rashied All's carpet under Coltrane. 

The album makes me feel slightly heady, though not in the sense that a free screech-fest 
will make the blood rush and heart pound and pulse the neck to spontaneous affirmation; instead, 
it spiders its way to the throb of body and mind, and even it's most beautiful melodicism (the end 
of 'Stately 1') is sharp and piquant rather than expansive. Phrased as if each note half-stumbles 
to the next, splashily tripping a kind of melancholy that's too polite, and too wise, to declare 
itself as 'blue'. The tender shudder of the 'Dunce', the hand stroked over black and white ivory 
in compassion. (Review by David Grundy) 

KEN HYDER'S TALISKER - DREAMING OF GLENISLA 



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Label: Reel Recordings 
Release Date: 2007 

Tracklist: Dreaming of Glenisla; Diddlin' for the 
Baims & Lament for Dairmid; Drum Salute & 
Lament for Mai Dean; Mrs Macleod Raasay & 
Soldier's Song; Ca' the Yows; Mngulay Boat Song; 
Heel an' Toe, Foot an' Moo'; Homeward; He Mandu; 
That Cu Ban Againn; The Black Bear 
Personnel: Davie Webster: alto sax; John 
Rangecroft: tenor sax/clarinet; Lindsay Cooper & 
Marc Meggido: bass; Ken Hyder: drums 
Additional Information: Recorded June 14-15* 
1975, Worthing (1-8), and February 24"', 1976, 
London (9-11). 



This is very special: first released in 1975 on Virgin Records, and, after being lovingly 
remastered from an audiophile vinyl transfer, re-issued by the rather fine Canadian label Reel 
Recordings, it fmds Scottish drummer Ken Hyder fronting what one might call a free jazz quintet 
in an exploration of traditional Scottish music, and music which displays such influences. In a 
brief note, Hyder explains that the group arose partly in reaction to the way in which American 
jazz had so dominated the playing of Scottish musicians that they were overlooking their own 
heritage. But this wasn't just a sudden burst of reactionary nationalism, for, though the aim was 
to "get back to these roots, and [to] play off the emotion of Scottish music, that feeling isn't 
exclusive to the Celtic people. It's there in the blues, in African music, jazz, street funk, and 
people's music throughout the universe." Hyder' s right, of course: on the first piece, the glorious 
dual lyrical fiights of Davie Webster's alto sax, and, in particular, John Rangecroft's clarinet, 
build to a particularly rousing climax that, while certainly a lot 'folkier' than much British jazz, 
has definite African-American inflections. After all, I suppose, jazz is as much a 'folk music', an 
indigenous music as anything else - and free jazz arguably moved it even closer (or back) to 
these roots: just think of the New Orleans marching-band ethos in Albert Ayler's work. 

Maybe I'm just being a sentimental simpleton, a propagandist-softie, but I can't help 
flnding something immensely refreshing about the way in which this group's free jazz doesn't 
seem so much to be reacting to the various constraints of be- and post-bop (which were, of 
course, particularly pronounced in the rather conservative British scene), as to be bypassing them 
entirely, as if that's just the way things are done, as if there is a folk tradition just waiting there to 
be re-connected with, a 'universal song' of the kind Ayler was talking about. 

That just fills me with hope and a sense of possibility; yes, it is easy to sneer at, and yes, 
of course, it could be the excuse for some rather bad music - particularly of the 'new- 
age'/' world' variety. But Hyder knows this danger too, when (on his website), he talks about the 
"upbeat - or happy-milkmaid tastes of World-Music. Or worse, the ironed-out echo-saturated 
cosmic bliss appetites of the New Age." And his own music challenges both those silly 
pigeonholes: the music is 'new age' in that maybe it evinces a belief that a new age could be 
entered, one which doesn't simply wallow in misery and grime and gore, but is built on a 
changing yet resolved sense of community; and it is 'world' in that it is music made in the world, 
as all music it is, is open to the sounds coming through the window and heard across the bay and 
across the ocean, blaring and beseeching over the water and over the mountaintops. 

It helps that it's all just so well played. Take, for example, the double (double)-bowed 
basses of Lindsay Cooper and Marc Meggido, holding drones and imparting a particular kind of 
1960s/70s free jazz solemnity over which the saxes can intone and incantate: a prime example is 
'Diddlin' for the Bairns & Lament for Dairmid' (one of several tracks in which the band re- 
interpret traditional pieces). Hyder himself provides an overpowering 'drum salute' which leads 
onto the wonderfully sonorous, measured moumfulness of the 'Lament for Mai Dean', in which 
the way the saxophone is played over the drone conjures the effect of a giant jazz bagpipe. 

And by no means insignificant is the role of that most ancient medium of human 
expression: the voice. All five players occasionally add their voices to the collective cauldron, to 
stirring effect: on 'Diddlin' it sounds almost like Native American chanting, which reminds me 
of the similar, and extraordinary effects generated by on Kalaparusha Maurice Mclntyre's 1969 
'Humility in the Light of the Creator' by the obscure George Hines. Elsewhere, the celebratory 
shouts of joy and screams verging on terror enter the collective swarm in a manner that feels 
entirely appropriate: it is clear that at those moments the players could not do other than give 
further strength to their instrumental utterances through the rising to sound from lung to throat to air. 

As the track titles indicate, there's quite a strong sense of lament and of yearning, as well 
as of (communal) celebration - but that's only one side of the coin, as whip up to the frenzied 
celebrations of 'Mrs Macleod Raasay & Soldiers' Song', Davie Webster's 'straight' penny 
whistle melody already prodded into more adventurous territory by Hyder' s relentlessly fast 
drumming before John Rangecroft roars in truly ecstatic form. While there's a sense of the manic 
about such sections, more often, the experience is intensely joyful, or intensely mournful, or 
intensely powerful in some incommunicable mixture of the two (is that not one of the great 
strengths of both 'folk music' and of 'jazz'?). What I'm trying to say, I think, is that one 
frequently gets the impression of things being pushed into extremes which seem genuinely risen 



from a compulsion to create and express that which must be created and expressed - a 
compulsion, a necessity. And the reason for this - the reason Talisker's playing feels as deeply 
felt as it does - is because it is informed by whole worlds of tradition and of communal feeling, 
not just from Scotland but from America and beyond. 'Dreaming of Glenisla': these 'dreams' are 
as real as they come. 

(Review by David Grundy) 

ISOTOPE - GOLDEN SECTION 

Label: Cuneifomi 

Tracklist: Illusion, Rangoon Creeper, Atilla, Spanish Sun, Crunch Cake, Mr. M's Picture, Frog, Atilla, Spanish Sun, 

Lily Kong, Edorian, Golden Section, Illusion 

Personnel: Guitar: Gary Boyle, Percussion: Aureo de Souza, Bass: Hugh Hopper, Drums: Nigel Morris, Keyboards: 

Laurence Scott 

Additional Information: Previously unreleased recordings. Tracks 1-6 recorded live in Bremen, 20/5/1975. Tracks 

7-8 recorded m NYC, April 1975. Tracks 9-13 recorded m London, 23/7/1974. 

I've always been torn on Jazz-Rock Fusion. It has never really quenched my thirst for 
anything Jazz or Rock. Their fuzzy, futuristic sounding keyboards feel like a sci-fi nerd's fantasy 
compared to the crisp, cool, and forever swingin' piano styles of people like Duke Ellington and 
Herbie Hancock. But Herb more than put the funk in Fusion with "Head Hunters." The guitars 
never did much for me either, but then there's John McLaughlin's work with Miles that never 
sounded as cheesy or as dated as some of his 80's counterparts. "Golden Section" by Isotope 
keeps me on the fence about Fusion, but it's got enough to keep me from bailing on it all 
together. 

Again, my biggest beef with this album is the guitar playing of Gary Boyle. It's virtuosic, 
but he could hardly be more self-centered. Boyle's persistent riffing is quite annoying, and when 
he gets tired of playing the same line over and over and over again he wails like an under-sexed 
show-off, which is a real shame because his band is quite good. Laurence Scott, keyboards, 
shows some killer chops on "Rangoon Creeper" and "Spanish Sun" while Nigel Morris on 
Drums and Auereo de Souza on Percussion try their best to keep it funky throughout. 

Surprisingly though, there's plenty on "Golden Section" to get the mouths of hip-hop 
heads and beat-diggers watering. "Lily Kong" is one of the best breaks I've heard in a long time. 
I find it very hard to believe (and don't believe it yet) that after some research, it appears to have 
never been sampled. Hugh Hopper and his fuzz-bass take a very funky walk down the block 
while Scott drops some tasty Keyboard vamps for us to drool over. This one is just begging to 
be looped! Although, there aren't any other clean breaks, a sawier producer could have plenty 
of fun with this album thanks to Morris's and Souza's percussion. 

Isotope is a band of talented musicians. Their style of music has never been fully 
embraced by critics and who knows if it every will be. But at this point I'll respectfully leave 
them with a firm handshake rather than a "call me later" or the ever-dreaded snub. 

(Review by Aaron Hicks) 

LEVITTS - WE ARE THE LEVITTS 

Label: ESP-Disk 

Release Date: November 2008 

Tracklist: The Saints of My City Are Children; Notes So High; Fun City; Then Was Then; Springtime (Primavera); 

Candy; Once I Had a Little Duck; Departed Hymn; O Amor Em Paz; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; 

We're All Through (Theme Song) 

Personnel: Chick Corea: Piano, Cymbals; Don Heller: Vocals; Teddy Kotick: Bass; Bob Leeman: Piano; Al Levitt: 

Drums; Michele Levitt: Vocals; Minou Levitt: Vocals; Sean Levitt: Guitar; Stella Levitt: Vocals; Teresa Levitt: 

Vocals; Ronnie Cuber: Baritone Sax; Lou Orensteen: Flute; Larry Provost: Guitar; Eddie Shu: Harmonica; Evaline 

Stembock: Cello; Pete Yellin: Flute, Alto Sax 




Legend has it that 13-year-old guitarist, Sean Levitt, was auditioning for ESP when he 
mentioned his family's exceptional musical talent. His 3 sisters and mother, Stella, were 
wonderful vocalists and Sean's father, Al, had drummed with the likes of Paul Bley, Stan Getz, 
and Charles Mingus. 

So, put the family in the studio with Chick Corea and Toddy Kotick for some biting 
musicianship. Get a little spice from a Bossa tune by Jobim and Gilberto. And toss in a liberal 
dose of drug references for an album with more potency, skill, and unity than any recording by 
the "families" of David Cassiday and Barry Williams. The result: "We are the Levitts." 

"Notes So High" is all about the musicians. Pete Yellin with his Alto Sax starts tearing it 
up from the get-go. Soloing behind and throughout Stella Levitt's singing, he picks off enough 
of her notes to avoid taking the focus away from her voice. Yellin and Stella drop out after two 
verses making room for Teddy Kotick to stretch out his fingers on a slightly-swinging bass solo 
that is quickly overlapped and overtaken by a much more powerful round of improvised notes 
from Chick Corea on piano. Corea speeds it up and darkens things down to set the mood for 
Yellin to re-enter and simultaneously solo with Ronnie Cuber on Baritone Sax. The duo swaps 
notes and swirl around each other in a violent, cyclonic exchange which Al Levitt savagely 
accents with a hailstorm of drumming acuity. Stella returns to the mix to re-sing the verses from 
before, but with the musical foray still fresh in their minds everyone's playing is much more 
dramatic, giving lyrics like "Winter's here/ And the womb soon will burstAVinter' s here/Little 
child soon will thirsf a sense of prenatal panic that didn't sound quite as urgent the first time 
around. 

For a less heavy, but nevertheless somber, tune there's "Departed Hymn." During the 
announcement Robin Levitt obliquely describes it as "a tribute to two brothers;" however, it's 
worth presuming that the brothers are John and Robert Kennedy considering the proximity of 
Robert's assassination to the album's release date. Although it isn't a terribly emotionally 
stirring song because of George Levitt's apathetic recitation of uninspired prose and downright 
boring musical accompaniment, it is worth a listen to hear the Kennedies reduced to humble, 
unnamed brothers preaching hope and peace. 



From there, the family enters into more psychedelic territory. "The Saints of My City Are 
Children" talks about "tasting the colors and touching the lighf while children search for the 
"key that opens the door to the sky." "Fun City" recommends that you "get yourself a token 
(toke in?) and give your mind a ride" while "Candy" has its share of sugar-coated drug 
references like "Mmm chocolate drip kiss/Mmm butterscotch bliss/Vanish in the haze/Of Mary 
Jane days." 

However, the song isn't only about the family's favorite muchies; it gives Sean Levitt a 
chance to show off the guitar chops that scored them a record deal in the first place. He gives a 
simple, heart- warming solo that's skillful, but indicative of his youth. And Eddie Shu's 
harmonica playing brings to mind scenes straight from an old Western. 

"Once I Had a Little Duck" is as endearing as your spouse's baby pictures. Teresa Levitt, 
with her 11 -year-old voice and her possibly-had-a-few-lessons-but-probably-grew-up-with-a- 
piano-in-the-house playing style, gets the spotlight for a 37 second song that sounds like a twee- 
pop outtake from the Juno soundtrack. Essentially it is a child singing about a duck, yet it's 
always entertaining to hear music that sounds contemporary, but is far from it. 

After that small stretch of bizarreness, "O Amor em Paz" is a refreshing bit of normalcy. 
Stella's voice takes on a surprising sensuality when singing in Portuguese. Who knows whether 
it's the proposition of foreign romance or simply a language of tremendous beauty, but she does 
an exceptional j ob interpreting this classic by Jobim and Gilberto. Corea puts forth a sweep-you- 
off-your-feet piano solo with a dancer's delicacy and the tender touch of true love. Pete Yellin 
also provides some fluttering flute work giving the song an extra sense of sentimentality. 

The Levitts are a very talented musical family. They exist in a world where any style is 
fair-game and no lyric is too abstract. They are superbly creative with their original material 
and still very much themselves on standards like "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most." 
Listening to "We Are the Levitts" is like watching a stranger's home movies: everyone is a part 
of an obvious whole, but each family member has their own nuance. All of their personalities 
are right on the surface without any fear of judgment or limitation. This is an unmistakably 
charming album which stands as an example of why record companies need to reissue any and 
all unreleased material. (Review by Aaron Hicks) 

ROSCOE MITCHELL - NONAAH 



^^mm^m 




WITH 

MUHAL ftlCHAflO ABRAMS AHTHOWY BFtAXTON 

MALACHI FAVORS JOSEPH JAflMAN G£ORGE LEWIS 

WALLACE McMillan HENRVTHREftOGILL 



Label: Nessa Records 

Release Date: September 2008 

Tracklist: CDl: Nonaah; Ericka; Nonaah; Off Five Dark Six; Al TAL 2LA; Tahquemenon. 

CD2: Improvisation 1; Ballad; Nonaah; Sing; Improvisation 2; Sing; Chant; Off Five Dark Six. 



Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: alto saxophone; Anthony Braxton: sopranino saxophone; Wallace McMillan: alto 
saxophone; Henry Threadgill: alto saxophone; Joseph Jarman: alto saxophone; George Lewis: trombone; Muhal 
Richard Abrams: piano; Malachi Favors: bass. 
Additional Information: Recorded 1976-1977 in Willisau, Chicago and Mapenzi. 

This marks a welcome return to the catalogue of what might be called an AACM classic. 
The title, enigmatically, refers not to a fixed composition even in the sense of a written score or a 
head but, as the liner note tells us, 'not to be regarded as static forms, but as working, evolving 
structures' and to quote the composer 'when I do it solo I do it many different ways'. The first 
recorded version was on 'Fanfare for the warriors' by the Art ensemble of Chicago; at the other 
extreme is a chamber version for flute, bassoon and piano. ' This of course is all in keeping with 
the AACM ideal of non-duality between performance and composition. 

But it is the opening 'Nonaah' that has given this album much of its fame, or notoriety. 
The Willisau audience, already annoyed at not seeing Anthony Braxton as advertised, but Roscoe 
Mitchell as a substitute, voice further discontent as the unaccompanied alto repeats a nine-note 
phrase over and over, not that the repetition is literal; the long note that ends each phrase is 
slightly different each time, either in duration, in dynamics or timbre. (The liner note mentions a 
struggle: to quote Mitchell '...building tensions... and when I did finally release it my alto had just 
given in to me (it said "OK you can play me now")'). Around the 5.30 mark this difference 
becomes more marked with extreme timbral distortions caused by singing thru the horn, and 
probably holding the bell close to the microphone, blending with microtones and increased 
fragmentation to suggest more of a resemblance to the staccato interval leaps of the original. By 
the nine minute mark the dynamic level has dropped and something like a slow movement, still 
on the staccato side, begins. Before too long this builds into a call and response pattern with 
phrases in the upper register being echoed non-literally in the lower register. Around the 13.25 
mark this comes to an abrupt end. The volume rises again, and stays loud. The prevailing 
language from now on is wide interval leaps, staccato phrasing, a shifting pulse and an array of 
extended techniques that has almost certainly influenced later saxophonists of the 'paint-peeling' 
school like Jeffrey Morgan or Mats Gustafsson. A pause about two minutes before the end elicits 
applause; the heckling of course has ended. After this more legato, if not jazzy, lines take it to the 
end, and the audience's accolade. 

Space and the reader's patience would prevent me from giving this kind of attention to 
every track, but this is the longest on the album, and I hope you have some idea by now what 
kind of tour deforce it is. 

After a relatively straight-ahead (or at least free jazz) version of Joseph Jarman's 'Ericka' 
there's a short reprise of 'Nonaah', possibly even more intense than what went before. 

The rest of the set comes from 1977, and it's worth comparing a totally different version 
of 'Nonaah' by an alto saxophone quartet in which Mitchell is joined by Joeph Jarman, Wallace 
McMillan and Henry Threadgill, all on alto. Again a slow middle part is sandwiched between 
two faster movements, but, while a sophisticated sense of form is at work here, the thematic 
developments and recapitulations associated with classical sonata form should not be expected. It 
opens with a fortissimo contrapuntal passage lasting about four minutes, in its ostinato repetition 
with slight variations maybe reminiscent of 'minimalists' like Steve Reich (I prefer the French 
term la musique repetitive ), but without any trappings of 'new age' or trance music. The slower 
part that follows also has a fixed pulse and consists of short phrases with plenty of space between 
them, with the horns coming together now and then to produce shifting harmonies, or 
dissonances. It ends with another fortissimo passge, more like a hocket in the strict sense than the 
opening movement, bearing a recognizable remblance to the original art ensemble 'Nonaah'. The 
staccato attack becomes gradually more legato, the single-note phrases become looser and before 
long there is mayhem of the kind even WSQ in their wild early days never quite achieved. 
Startlingly original. 

The other pieces for more than one musician are all briefer 'Off five dark six' is played as 
a duo with Anthony Braxton's sopranino. The opening thematic material is based on very short 
high-pitched notes, sometimes sounded in pairs, always with space surrounding them. (These 
polarities of sound and space were to be enduring concerns in Mitchell's music.) The liner note is 



not quite accurate in stating that here one saxophone is an extension in pitch terms of the other, 
as the alto can be heard at a few points playing higher than the sopranino. The only other 
recording I know that Braxton and Mitchell did as a duo is a rare LP on Sackville ', not available 
on CD at the time of writing; this makes the duo on 'Nonaah' a valuable glimpse into the way 
they interacted. 

The solo version of this number shows that it is a more stable compositional form than 
'Nonaah', being broadly recognizable. The lack of a second saxophone is compensated by the use 
of multiphonics (sounding more than one note at a time by unorthodox fingering or 
embouchure.) 

The duo with Malachi Favors brings into the spotlight a duo that received little enough 
exposure with the Art ensemble. There is a studied avoidance of legato playing; even when 
Favors picks up the bow, his playing is not continuous, but full of rests. 

Something similar could be said for the trio with Muhal Richard Abrams and George 
Lewis, where all tend to steer clear of lines^ except for the dotted kind. The interface between 
composition and improvisation, where one ends and the other begins, as so often in Mitchell's 
music, remains tantalizing, and inscrutable. Of course these three have returned this century with 
the more freely improvised 'Streaming' ^ and some acclaimed festival appearances in Europe. 

The bonus tracks previously unreleased were recorded at both US sessions on the album, 
a concert at Berkeley in January 1977 and a studio session the following month. The version of 
'Off five dark six' has been discussed already. Listeners to the 'Wildflowers' sessions made at 
Sam Rivers' loft may recognize 'Chant' here rendered in a much shorter version with variations 
not really bearing much resemblance to jazz improvisation in the usual sense. Listeners also have 
a chance to compare studio and live versions of 'Sing', an expedition into timbral distortions. The 
live version is much more 'in your face' and contains some of the rare passages on this album that 
might just about be called 'free jazz.' A piece called 'Improvisation 2' contains enough repetition 
of motivic material to give the impression that it might be pre-composed. 

If you have an active interest in the music of the AACM, this recording is an essential 
statement and example of working methods in the early days of consolidation. If you've been 
attracted by the Art ensemble of Chicago's work, and would like to check members' work away 
from the band, this might be a good place to start, bearing in mind that this music can be 
challenging, but bracing, and ultimately rewarding. 

Personally, the more I listen to Roscoe Mitchell's music, the more I'm convinced he is a 
master musician of a high order. 

REFERENCES 

1 Roscoe Mitchell- Four compositions {Lovely music LCD 2021) 1987 

2 Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton- Duets {Sackville 3016) 1977 (LP only) 

3 Muhal Richard Abrams, George E.Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell- Streaming {Pi 22) 2006 



(Review by Sandy Kindness) 

HEIKKI SARMANTO/ SERIOUS MUSIC ENSEMBLE -A BOSTON DATE 

Label: Porter Records 

Release Date: 2008 

Tracldist: Top of the Prude; A Different Kind of Smile; Ibiza; Grass 
Dream; Run; MC 

Personnel: .Tuhani Aaltonen: saxophone; Heikki Sarmanto: piano; 
Lance Gunderson: guitar; George Mraz: bass; Craig Hemdon: drums. 

Additional Information: Boston, 1970. 




Juhani Aaltonen's saxophone is what really elevates the date, giving a slightly rougher- 
edged tone that is often seems lacking in the more polished playing of the rest of the group. 
Nonetheless, there are other, interesting things going on, particular in the interaction between the 
leader's piano and Lance Gunderson's guitar. It's not the most frequently used instrumental 
combination, and the players exploit this, the timbral overlap between guitar and the piano's 
higher range creating some almost shimmering textures which hover between soloistic interplay 
and more abstract colourism. At these points, the musicians are content to let the music just 
wander in a less obviously soloistic, purpose-driven way, and that, for me, is more interesting 
than the solos per se, which probably provide more focus, but also suffer from taking the more 
predictable route. 

Mraz is one of those fine, undersung bass-players, always sure to provide firm support 
and really shine when asked to - one of those generation of players, Cecil McBee and NHOP 
included, who really add a melodic freshness, perhaps less woody than Mingus, interested in 
exploring much higher registers with liberal use of harmonics and arco playing. Drummer Craig 
Herndon, though he tends to assume much more of a background role, injects some nice tension 
into the quieter moments with well-placed cymbal blasts and knocks, ensuring that everyone 
stays on their toes. 

But Aaltonen is the star performer here, imparting a Shepp-like breathiness and 
burnished, swooning lyricism to 'A Different Kind of Smile' (he's less successful on the other 
ballad track, disc closer 'MC, where his soprano sax comes near Jan Garbarek's shrill pipiness), 
and really quite burning flurries on faster numbers - the energy noticeably increases when he 
begins soloing on 'Top of the Prude', swirls of multiphonic notes breaking up the linear focus for 
a more directly emotional approach. At times it feels like he's played ahead of himself - as if the 
emotion of the moment has carried him forward into a place which slightly surprises him, as he 
draws back into some more jazz-like flurries. 

A mention, too, for Saarmanto's compositions - while approaching blandness in the more 
solemn moments ('A Different Kind of Smile' might suffer without Aaltonen's directness and 
burr), the knotty, maybe more 'European' sound of a tune like 'Top of the Prude' establishes a 
nicely energetic, nearly frantic atmosphere for the improvisations to build on. 'I'm Late, I'm 
Late', Eddie Sauter's Bartok arrangement for Stan Getz on 'Focus', springs to mind. 
(Review by David Grundy) 

DVD 

OTOMO YOSHIHIDE - MUSIC(S) 



OTOMO YOSHIHIDE 
MUSIC(S) 



Label: La Huit 
Release Date: 2006 

Tracklist: DVD 1 : Orange was the Color of Her Dress/Tails Out; 

Turntable; Hat and Beard; Theme from Canary; Eureka. DVD 2: Song for 

Che; Orange was the Color of Her Derss/Tails out; Soft Stuff; Loud Stuff; 

Gomen; Misty; Lonely Woman. 

Personnel: Otomo Yoshihide: solo guitar and turntable, and with Otomo 

Yoshihide New Jazz Ensemble (ONJE) - Kenta Tsugami: alto saxophone; 

Alfred Harth: tenor saxophone, trumpet; Sachiko M: sinewaves; Kumiko 

Takara: vibraphone; Hiroaki Mizutani: contrabass; Yasuhiro Yoshigaki: 

drums, trumpet. 

Additional Information: DVD 1 : Interview and in-concert excerpts; 

DVD 2: Concerts. Available from lahuit.com (DVD-R, Region-Free). 



A riLu BY 9UIUJUjr<« Dbi^O 



This double-DVD-R release came out on the Parisian La Huit label a couple of years ago 
now, but I've only just discovered it, and very fine it is too. These are the same people who put 
out the recent Wadada Leo Smith Golden Quartet DVD, which Fve heard many fine things 
about, and they clearly know what their doing. Like the Smith disc, this is part of La Huit's 
'Freedom Now' series. 

The first DVD consists of the film itself: 'Music(s)', directed by Guillaume Dero. This is 
mostly taken up by performances from Yoshihide's New Jazz Ensemble, recorded in France in 
2005, interspersed with interview excerpts and solo performances on guitar and turntable from 
two different Tolcyo concerts, also given in 2005. And the second disc has very much more fine 
extra footage from the same concerts, adding more than an hour of extra music to the fairly short 
original running time of 49 minutes. 

What I particularly like about this is that the music is very much to the fore, with just the 
right amount of interview clips to give you something to think about theoretically, to give you 
some sort of background as to what Yoshihide is out to achieve. This challenges the idea that a 
'proper' film (not just a concert document) has to be clipped up short, with talking heads 
everywhere and the merest snippets of music to illustrate what they are saying. Recent offenders 
would include Alan Roth's fascinating 'Inside Out in the Open', which yet infuriated because its 
approach to the subject came across as so scattershot. 

So let the pure music flow - and this is well-shot too, camera angles and movement being 
inventive but not intrusive. There are none of the weird 'psychadelic' visual effects, for example, 
that mar the recent Soft Machine DVD ('Alive in Paris') or footage of Miles Davis' 70s concerts. 
And there's rather attractive colour filtering too - almost with a soft focus haze over it, adding a 
slightly dreamy touch that sits perfectly, for example, with the New Jazz Ensemble's version of 
Mingus' 'Orange was the Color', all passionate nonchalant saxophones spaced out over Sachiko 
M's prickly flowing carpet of sinewaves, with guitar strums even adding a touch of surf music, 
so blissed-out of itself that it survives only as disembodied fragments. 
(Review by David Grundy) 

BOOKS 

HENRY GRIMES - SIGNS ALONG THE ROAD: POEMS 




nenry grimes 

signs along the road 

poems 



Publisher: buddy's knife jazzedition 
Publishing Date: 2007 
Number of Pages: 129 

Contents: signs along the road being put there; the march; eastemal mysticism, 
virtue, and calm; sed; the arch stairwells; the walk in the dark that was heard at 
night; ortherama the king; of europe; untitled; untitled; the rivers run into the sea; 
amazed heart, all ponderous eye; the infant of attention; the luckbill; death; ghost 
and spirit; the place; the world our society, society our world; the chime around 
above time; lilith; the feeling of ahaz; that was the quip lib; as oceans - head; 
coasts; at any; a pre-revolutionary cabin; moments; egregious grows the light of 
dawn; adama and pourquory; hieroglyphics; to adopt a child; grenth; prose 
lefthand; m the day; the river end; peace; monk music; friend; apologia pro vita 
sua; water wax; back to down along spring street; m case the place should change; 
the ground; gage's pick-ups; two; metabites; against the shadow of the moon; a 
chart of heart a chart of mmd; the last chord 
Additional Information: Available from http://buddysknife.de/ 



The facts are well known. Henry Grimes, established as absolutely one of the leading 
figures in the new music of the 1960s, through his work with Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Don 
Cherry and Pharoah Sanders, disappeared in 1968. Presumed dead ever since, he was discovered 
in 2003, subsequently remaining in demand around the world, playing with many different 
groups and in many different contexts, creating anew the wonderment of the 1960s' fervent 
ferment, with that same energy and ear for the serene howl of uncouth beauty. In the thirty-year 
gap, he did not touch a bass once. But neither did he suffer from the ills that forced so many jazz 
musicians off their paths of brilliant creation - drink and drugs. And thus his mind still roamed. 



seeking other avenues down which to travel, apart from the music which it sustained and which 
sustained it. It was to words that he turned, and though Marc Ribot claims in his introduction to 
this book that Grimes is "a man who almost never speaks," through writing he was able to 
exercise his mind, to make that transference from thought to art. Filling thousands of pages with 
his thoughts, with diary entries and with poetry, he had no audience but himself (how different to 
the glass-clinking, cash-register-ringing, conversation-ringing atmospheres of the jazz-clubs in 
which he had played!). 

Yet writing with this freedom imposed more discipline, not less - one should not expect 
anything otherwise, given the beautiful freedom of the bass playing. What emerges out of this 
selection from Grimes' notebooks is that he was truly was using poetry to think, deeply and 
seriously. As he treated music as a philosophical and spiritual activity, so he understood that 
poetry can be fundamental to an understanding of where and what one really is. It could be 
argued that this absolute concentration of faculties emerged from necessity, but it was also self- 
imposed: no one told Grimes to write, it was his own compulsion to do so. In the thirty silent 
years during which he remained virtually alone, poetry was a way of reaching deep into his own 
innermost recesses, but also of engaging with the world from which he had cut himself off - 
whether this be through the use of history and mythology ('a pre-revolutionary cabin', 
'ortherama the king'), religion ('easternal mysticism, virtue, and calm') or consideration of the 
surrounding urban environment ('the arch stairwells'). 

Paradoxically, it may have only been by cutting himself off in this way that he could 
manage to so deeply engage, with the world and with himself- although it is worth noting that 
quite a few of these poems were written after Grimes' re-emergence. Nevertheless, it was 
arguably that extreme cut-off which presented the conditions in which this poetry could be 
brought into existence (though one must be careful not to romanticise solitude, 'dropping-out', as 
one might be tempted to in the cases of Sonny Simmons, Charles Gayle, or Guiseppi Logan 
(himself perhaps on the verge of a return)). 

Part of the poetry's beauty is its individuality. Not for the sake of wackiness or trying to 
seem/appear anything. Compare these lines to your standard jazz poetry: "Distance was spatial/ 
and the time drew/fathomless,/ in quire to condescend/in the mystic measures/overlapping" ('the 
walk in the dark that was heard at night'). This is difficult stuff -not just because of the use of 
obscure words like 'quire', 'mien' or 'zygocity,' but because of the whole construction and 
content of the poems' almost every line. Grimes' phrasing is genuinely knotty; he is genuinely 
attempting to say things that cannot be said any other way. Prose paraphrase will really not do. 
Recently I've been thinking about how it would be possible to develop a new vocabulary, or set 
of vocabularies, to deal with the intense demands that music like Grimes' makes on the 
traditional resources of music criticism/journalism. I think that 'Signs along the Road' is the 
closest that anyone has so far come to doing this, the trade off being that it is so much di poetic 
conception that I'm not sure it would, or could desirably, be fitted into the confines of criticism. 

In any case, music is far from Grimes' only theme. "Events are the polarizing of urban 
waves in spiritual displacemenf : this is a poetry that addresses that great theme of Frank O' 
Hara -the contradictions of living in the modern urban world, and specifically, in the modern 
American city. Admittedly, Grimes' methods and results are very different to O' Hara's, his city 
poetry being interior and private-public. By this I mean that the initially inward meditations 
reach outward to encompass the public (most often in its facade as architecture and constructed 
living space - hotels, roads, churches, parks) rather than starting out and moving in. This is a 
more complex process than I allow, in fact, for an observed image tends to be the initial trigger 
('signs along the road', 'the arch stairwells'), and the inward/outward relation often exists, as far 
as that is possible, in a simultaneous relation. Yet still I think there is a difference to O' Hara's 
predominantly social and public-private sphere - by which I mean that even though one is alone, 
one always writes about one's friends, about lunches and parties and boat trips and sexual 
couplings, that even one's deepest fears are considered in terms of others, and probably could not 
exist without them ("when anyone reads this but you it begins/to be losf cements the very 
personal address of 'A Letter to Bunny'). Grimes' scope is both wider and narrower: 'the world 
our society, society our world' - this 'world' feels much more abstract than that of O' Hara, 
which is constructed almost entirely out of those that people it. 



Considering one's environment so deeply inevitably leads one to question how one is 
placed within it. The poem just cited does this, to be sure, but perhaps the most direct 
engagement is in 'the place', found on pages 52 and 53. By its final lines ("and i was right: i 
knew/ just where i was"), one knows without a doubt that the piece's journey is genuine. It 
begins: "The place was always - a thing/ to wonder, and/ always it seemed like/ it had 
propensity/ to outright." This seems relatively straightforward, compared to some of Grimes' 
other contortions of syntax, but read those lines again. "The place was always - a thing/to 
wonder:" the dash placed between the first four and last two words of the first line, importantly 
adding an extra dimension of meaning. Not just "the place was always [somejthing/ to wonder 
[marvel at]", but "the place was always [in existence]," as well as "a thing/to wonder." Why 
would this be? Because 'place' is not just the realisation of where one is at any one particular 
moment ('I am standing on Fifth Avenue/ 1 am standing on 52""^ street'), but of where one is 
placed as a human being within the world at large - beyond that, within the cosmos. "Going to 
the ritual,/ grown in time and beyond the gate. . .to the indoor place" ('eastern mysticism, virtue, 
and calm') - this awareness of the very largest context within which one is placed is the very 
truest way of understanding the very smallest context - one's self, one's body and soul. This 
mystic background forms an unspoken, but to my mind crucial part of 'the place's argument. 

That should not imply any sort of shallow mysticism - rather, much of the poem is 
concerned with observations of thing seen, with sense-data - "a place, a hotel room. . . 
architectural archetype sameness. . .roadside slides". But these things are always more than 
single, solid concepts, leading instead to trains of thought and association; in this highly charged 
context words assume more than themselves, have the ghosts of other words behind them - so 
that the beautifully assonant "roadside slides" conjures the phrase "roadside dives", and makes 
one ponder the use of metaphors of movement ('slides', 'dives') to talk of places, buildings 
which do not move - and this ties back to the road ('roadside'), to the way that cars slide or dive 
(in rain) along its surface, or that people slide from their cars out to these 'low dives', dive out 
(while never escaping) the cold comfort, the "couching ambiguity/ of modern life". And then 
those roads connect to those "signs along the road" which make the subject matter of the titular 
first poem. Grimes is not necessarily thinking about these connections explicitly - they are not 
necessarily 'there' in the surface linearity of the poem's observations, but, because of his depth 
as a thinker and artist, they enter his words anyhow, as if oozing from the fibres of his being. 

In the poem discussed above. Grimes notes that "the place has. . .propensity to outright." 
One can clearly not take 'outright' as meaning any bald, factual, common-sensical statement. 
The sense of Grimes' poetry, so much a product of his senses (sensual attune-ment to, at-one- 
ment with the world), is far from common, if 'common' means 'repeated into triviality'. Yet the 
humanity it translates to words could, potentially, be common to us all - it's just that there are 
only some people who are willing to confront themselves and their environment with as much as 
honesty as to be able to access it. 

Based on all this, one should be able to class Grimes, along with Cecil Taylor, as the jazz 
musician-poet />«/' excellence - or, like Taylor, as more than this: as a poet whose conception is 
undoubtedly musically informed, displaying the same resources, reflexes, turns and emotions as 
his music-making, but whose writing stands alone, independent of the music. Grimes captures 
this best himself, in one of the few poems explicitly about music, 'monk music': "Music 
functions in a pattern./Patterns." That line-broken, end-(full)-stopped ambiguity is something to 
be savoured, as it teases out this meaning: that music is both patterned and patterning, the 
patterns created by the musicians in some mysterious way turning round to pattern them. In that 
sense. Grimes goes some way towards allowing us a glimpse into just what people mean when 
they talk about the 'magic' of free improvisation - the sense of being both in and out of control, 
of controlling the music's flow while also not knowing what is going to happen next. Grimes is 
also saying that music cannot be limited to just one pattern (the full-stop and line-break act as a 
pause, a hesitation before a correction - "Music functions in a pattern - no, wait, that's not quite 
right, it functions m patterns'') If we apply these insights to the poetry, I think we gain 
something useful: Grimes' poems use patterns, but not so much the traditional patterns of strict 
metre and regulated stanzaic shapes, coming nearest to such a tradition only insofar as the 'open 
field' of Charles Olson hovers somewhere in the structure of 'signs along the road being put 



there' (Olson's conception obviously a reaction against those older patterns, anyhow). Instead, 
these patterns tend, perhaps, to emerge more from a way of thinking and speaking unique to 
Grimes (just as reading J.H. Prynne's prose helps one understand some of the characteristic 
twists of phrasing that contribute so much to the strangeness of his poems). 

Perhaps they emerge from the patterns of jazz also- the sense of placement and timing in 
'monk music' does become a lot more comprehensible if one thinks of Thelonious Monk's 
playing. This is a poetry with an intensely oral/aural effect (as indicated by the fact that Grimes 
now recites his words as well as playing bass and violin), but the intricacy of its many effects is 
very textual - not in terms of numerous allusions requiring hoards of footnotes to decipher 
(though the range of reference is very wide), but the way in which many of the twists of meaning 
simply cannot be understood by hearing the poem read aloud - line breaks, punctuation, differing 
implied emphases which occur simultaneously. It is perhaps for this reason that 'signs along the 
road' seems to read itself aloud inside one's head as one reads. It's a phenomenon that I don't 
recall ever happening to me with any other kind of poetry - the voice that plays itself out in my 
head is not that of Henry Grimes, nor is it mine, and perhaps it is not even fully a voice, but it 
does exist in some capacity. This sounds fanciful, but one could describe it as the voice of the 
poem itself, speaking independently of writer and reader but emerging only from the encounter 
between them. I hope, and I don't think, that such philosophical considerations are something I 
am imposing on the poetry; rather, they arise from the conditions which it creates - it makes one 
think in this way. It forces one's experience to become enriched, with the gentlest and most 
studious of touches. 

It's a shame that the book doesn't seem to have received much coverage, either from the 
jazz critics (who might not be quite sure what to make of it), nor from the literary critics (for 
whom this is off their usual radar - 'what does a free jazz bassist from America have to tell us 
about poetry?'). There are ways of writing about it intelligently, though, as Marc Ribot's 
introduction shows. Thankfully, he doesn't try to grasp for too many literary parallels - but he 
does mention Celan, which I think is appropriate, given the stress that both place on individual 
words and phrases, the way they force language to say things that one almost feels it doesn't 
want to - the way that their poetry is wrenched into being from the very depths of their self Such 
poetry is incredibly honest, and incredibly generous; it is what is meant by being aware, awake, 
and alive. 

(Review by David Grundy) 



GIG REVIEWS 

• SUN RA ARKESTRA 
The Croft, Bristol (November 2008) 

• TOOT 

The Cube, Bristol (November 2008) 

• PARKER/ HAWKINS/ EDWARDS/ MARSH 
The Vortex, London (December 2008) 

• FLOWER/ CORSANO DUO 

The Portland Arms, Cambridge (February 2009) 

• MIXED RECEPTIONS 
Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (March 2009) 

SUN RA ARKESTRA/ SPACEWAYS 

The Croft, Bristol. Monday November 10'" 2008 




THE SUN RA ARKESTRA 

Under the direction of Marshall Allen 

Marshall Allen (joined 1958): alto sax, flute, EVI / Charles Davis (joined 1955): tenor sax/ Knoel Scott 
(joined 1979): alto sax, vocals, percussion/ Rey Scott (joined 1988): baritone sax/ Cecil Brooks (joined 
1988): trumpet/ Dave Davis (joined 1997): trombone/ Farid Abdul-Bari Barron: keyboard/ Dave Hotep: 
guitar/ Juni Booth (joined 1967): bass/ Luquman Ali (joined 1964): drums/ Wayne Anthony Smith Jr.: 
drums/ Elson Nascimento (joined 1988): percussion 

Marshall Allen is incredible. The oldest member of the Arkestra, he was nevertheless the 
only one of the reed section who remained standing throughout; at 85-years old he was clearly a 
little shaky on his feet, but still willing to execute a little dance during a particularly rocking 
number. And his saxophone solos were intense, bodily and loud. He stood there, knees slightly 
bent, in his glittering sequined red 'space costume', throwing his fingers on and off the 
saxophone keys to create extraordinarily visceral bursts of sound, shredding shrawks from his 
white-heat alto melting the air around and illuminating the cosmic particles dancing within. 

Meanwhile, the 'space sounds' of his sparingly-employed EVI (Electronic Valve 
Instrument) could be said to take the place of Sun Ra's atonal electronic keyboard freakouts. 
Operating four keys, while twisting a circular dial at the base of the squat black instrument, he 
moved from floor-shaking low frequencies and swooped to ear-piercing electronic shriek. 

And that was only his soloing. Allen is clearly very much the musical director of the 
Arkestra, though he's not the complete centre of the band in the sense that Sun Ra was. 
(Saxophonist/vocalist Knoel Scott shouted out the announcements of tune titles and band 
members). Lifting and raising his hands to cue the band in from massive sound slabs to riffed 
backgrounds to solos, his role as 'conductor' relied on simple, yet effective gestures, as with Sun 
Ra himself. 



The other musicians were up to the mark too. Charles Davis was the only man on stage 
who had played with Ra as early as Allen; he seemed subdued in himself, almost withdrawn, but 
played superbly. Juni Booth plugged away on bass, the instrument's acoustic sound not really 
favoured by the live sound setup, but heard to good effect for a brief solo on a blues number. 
Keyboard-player Farid Barron's instrument sounded a little tinny at times, but what he was 
playing on it was fine enough: what started off as straight blues solos ended up in pounding 
dissonance, keeping up the stomping beat, and retaining the basic blues harmonic structure, 
while subverting expectations through dense textures and unexpected chordal juxtapositions. 
Knoel Scott was the showman of the band; as well as saxophone, he busied himself by pounding 
hand drums, his lips pursed out, to give added rhythmic impetus, and wailing blues vocals 
(including Lou Donaldson's 'Whisky-Drinking Woman') alongside the more familiar 'space 
chants' . 

The concert opened and ended with Arkestra members threading their way through the 
crowd (and having to force their way through the audience in the jammed space of the pub's 
back-room), singing the jubilant 'We Travel the Spaceways.' In between, there was a wide 
variety of material, from some crowd-pleasing and infectious, but musically fairly conventional 
blues numbers, to the familiar space chants ('Rocket Number Nine', 'Space is the Place', etc) 
and Fletcher Henderson numbers. 'Angels and Demons' at play was cued up in a heavier version 
than the delicate album version from the 1960s, with Allen reprising his flute solo before wailing 
out on alto. 

With only eleven members (only four of whom are from the original Arkestra - vocalist 
Art Jenkins was recovering from illness), it's obviously not the same as one of Ra's massive 60s 
or 70s Arkestras, but they play with soul and guts for double their number. It is of course a show 
- there were no lights shows, and no dancers, but there were shiny 'space' costumes, singalongs/ 
chants, dramatic dynamic contrasts, and such technical feats as a fluent saxophone duet from a 
transcription of an improvised John Gilmore solo. Like the original Arkestra, in its various 
incarnations, this was clearly a tightly-drilled band (perhaps to be expected, given Sun Ra's 
emphasis on discipline), but one with a fluidity to it that could be very exciting. In fact, for me, 
the best thing about the evening was the way that everything seemed so loose - Allen would cue 
the next tune by singing a musical phrase to a band member, sparking half the band to rustle 
through reams of sheet music to flnd the right piece as the other musicians launched in; problems 
with microphones only added to the feeling of improvisational alchemy. 

Opening act Spaceways, a Bristol group apparently influenced by Ra, were entertaining 
enough, doing no more than required - obviously people were waiting for the 'main course'. 
Some rasping saxophone and Roland-Kirkish flute solos could have gone on for longer, feeling a 
little bit constrained within the rifflng big-band framework, and the electric-bass grooves felt a 
little nu-jazzy, but it was worth for the final moments of the final tune, 'Cairo', in which the 
band erupted into a crescendo of ragged vocalisation before a brief burst of ridiculously fast 
tempo wailing. This was unashamedly playing to the crowd, but it was hard not to get excited by. 
Meanwhile, the Arkestra's live experience was not just exciting, but intensely joyous and 
involving. "England is the home of theatre" declaimed a grinning Knoel Scott after the gig, still 
dressed in his space regalia, and brandishing a gold 'Egyptian staff which appeared more than a 
little out of place on the greyness of a Bristol street. 

Jazz journalists, in their typically snooty way, would have us believe that the whole space 
trappings were a load of nonsense, and get in the way of the music, but this gig showed how 
much they part of the whole experience. 'Great black music, ancient to the future', couldn't be a 
better tag, even if Sun Ra didn't think of it himself I'd rather Ra's outer space 'gobbledeygook' 
than whatever po-faced dullard piano trio gets the seal of approval these days. Space is still very 
much the place. 



TOOT (Dorner/Lehn/Minton) 

The Cube, Bristol, The Cube, Bristol, 28/11/2008 

This, one of the gigs in a five-date UK tour to celebrate the 10* anniversary of this fine 
trio, was a lesson in how to improvise well. As Toot told us that night, through their music, it's 
about control, about not going for the climax (that comes, but it comes naturally and thus feels 
like the result of an actual journey, not just something you think you have to put in there because 
it will make the punters happy or will make you happy, or both), and above all about letting the 
sounds be sounds. That sounds mystical. Toot is far from mystical, but there is a patience to it, 
and that in fact takes great skill -just to concentrate on one sound, or one set of sounds, for a 
minute or more. And that concentration, demanded of audience too, and so hard for the players 
sitting there in front - perhaps harder with a big audience, so the Cube's tiny crowd could get 
drawn in: witness the one-minute silence at the end, staring at the purple-red lightshow on the 
floor. 

Domer, purple- suited, immobile on the left, his concentration, staring ahead, sliding 
valve on the trumpet or just blowing in, adjusting amplifier controls on his left (though 
apparently the sounds he made were all acoustic). Lehn in the middle, black T-shirt, glasses, no 
shoes, foot on pedal, his analogue synth enclosed in some sort of carry-case which obscured 
one's vision of what exactly he was doing, and gave it that much more of an alchemical feel: he 
seemed to discover the sounds as he went along (though of course he knows the instrument 
inside out), hands flicking on and off, as loudness built at certain points slapping the side with 
his hand, twitching energised wired. Minton, on the left, was just as animated (as is his wont), his 
mode of producing sound unutterably tied to the theatrics of his posture, as he possesses the 
sounds or they possess him, flopping his hand, wrinkling his nose and emitting high bird- 
whistles, a baby's cry, a herd of frustrated improvising hippos. 

We have much to learn from people like these, in their very different approaches, about 
control, discipline, humility, sensitivity. It is in the making of the thing the thing exists at all. 

EVAN PARKER/ ALEXANDER HAWKINS/ JOHN EDWARDS/ TONY MARSH 

The Vortex, London, 18'" December 2008. 

First Set: Band straight in, Parker's tenor blowing down hard low honks following 
highflung cries. Straight away I notice the visual aspect of Marsh's drumming (which is very 
much connected to how it sounds): eyes closed, head moving, wired to the music's mainframe, 
his whole body rhythmic - quite a contrast to the virtual immobility of Tony Oxley, where only 
the hands flash out from left to right in furious motion. Marsh's playing tonight has a hardness to 
it, like Parker's: this is a hard set, not so much in that it's 'difficult' music (of course it is that, 
but it's by no means the most intellectually ramped-up free improvisation Fve heard), more in 
the sense of sheer solid impact, steely momentum. Hawkins is for the most part Parker's shadow, 
laying down chords, playing a certain figure which he keeps referring to, as if it's something he 
just can't get out of his head and which keeps running out from under his fingers, almost beyond 
his control. Occasionally he breaks out for brilliant flashes high up the keyboard, quickly 
scampering back down to return to the middle register. Parker is clearly the dominant force in the 
group, at this early stage, the 'lead voice' - perhaps down to the acoustics of the room and of the 
microphones as much as to anything else - and perhaps that's why he takes a breather, sensing a 
certain endangering of the collective, contributory group dynamic. And so we get Hawkins solo, 
high register crabhand scuttlings and then a little delicate wave in to John Edwards, whose breath 
you hear breathed in rhythm to his playing. It goes quiet, then a sudden sound like a ropesnap; 
Parker smiles wisely into his beard, and the solo ends hard. 

Applause and Parker comes back in, mysterioso now. Edwards and Marsh hit/pluck the 
rhythm- for under it all there is a rhythm, but it's one of swaying and evasion rather than of strict 
timekeeping, and indeed, now I think about, it's to be found Parker's playing almost more than 
in that of the 'rhythm instruments.' Hawkins is locked into a particular split up-roll, the effect at 
once jerky and flowing, as near-mellifluous phrases are jaggedly juxtaposed, spliced-up and 
made to leap on their toes. Now mysterious, more delicate, less broken; Hawkins is playing 



single lines more than chords at this stage, freed up, perhaps, from the accompanying and 
shading role he played at the start, limbered up to interact in quick linear flashes. He and Parker 
come closer and closer in their interaction, not from echo or imitation but from independent 
parallel trajectories - the lines converge and briefly they're locked into a melody, could get ready 
to ride it over the rhythm but no - it cuts off and the momentum's still there, the joining moment 
forgotten as musical data keeps punching on and out and all around. 

Suddenly you're aware that such a buzz of energy is being generated - headshaking, 
floorshaking - but that this has happened incrementally, evolved in such a way that the process is 
felt not thought, so that at one moment one's aware of the 'mysterioso' passage and at the next 
things have hotted up by quite a few degrees. Like those moments of sleep when one nods off 
without realising it, that disjunct in time. What happened? What did I miss? Was I asleep hours 
or minutes or even just seconds? Except in this case almost the opposite has happened - one's 
become so sucked into the music that the effect reached is maybe close to sleep - some kind of 
trance, of concentration so high and so focussed that it becomes the full force of thought and 
cannot be viewed 'from the outside' as some process happening to myself, but is a process 
simply filling the whole field of the mind for however long it lasts. And then you just snap out of 
that, and the point of the music is vibratory to a deeper pulse hitting hard, in the gut, such force 
that these acoustic instruments come near to an amped-up, cranked-up electric guitar - a near- 
simultaneous Parker tenor scream with a particularly vicious Marsh cymbal hit make the two 
very different instruments (sax and drums) sound almost as one. Parker's eyes are closed, his 
face always with a slightly red flush to offset the white beard, but with that characteristic refusal 
to leap into acrobatics or callisthenics indicative of the great effort he's making. The other three, 
though, clearly indicate that this is a music which involves immense physicality: Edwards gnat 
twitching up and down and back to move music out of his bass, to force its sound out as 
movement. Marsh's circling head, Hawkins' hands bouncing up and down on the piano keys, 
shifting round on the piano stool like Cecil Taylor. 

Things have turned into a circling near-nightmare, Parker's Coltrane upshrieks crying 
some sort of pain: these men have something to say and saying it is what makes it exist. The 
saying and what's said are the same. And if that might even be malicious - Parker's tenor bark 
and a flicker of snarl as he thrusts up notes into the air - then that's in it too; is not beauty fraught 
and the violence done to it makes it what it is? It makes me twitch all over - so it makes you 
know the truth of what Cardew says in 'Towards an Ethic of Improvisation' - you do have to be 
there, in that room and at that time, it is in the moment the music makes itself and makes the 
moment, recordings are the after-image, the ghost, the not-quite-presence of what's gone. You 
knew you 'get it' when you hear the recordings, but you know you don't really - not quite, not 
quite this - and in front of it, in front of the performance, it's harder to look away or drift off, and 
you are now the one put under the microscope: the musicians have become your critics, when 
you thought you were the one going in safely to watch their exhibit from your nicely candle-lit 
table. 

'Modern jazz' turns up as someone's (burning) old hat, tossed on the piano, onto the bass, 
tangled up in gut strings, stretched on a snare and beaten until all that's left is shredded in the 
bell of the saxophone, to be sent off back to the jazz police. A drum 'solo' slams out scattered 
gunshots, with purpose - and Edwards is buzzing, his eyes closing up and his mouth hanging 
slightly open. Even Marsh's never-changing face is shaded by something of destructive elfish 
glee. Once more I notice the way that the sounds he makes are the audible manifestations of his 
physical movements: that he really strikes and hits his kit, sticks his sticks to it, that most basic 
instinct of the child to hit things hard, with wicked joy. Still I'm a little uneasy with the 
continuing sense that Parker is the 'leader' (he earned it, ne c 'est-pasl), and that he's almost too 
much a motor - wind him and he's off whatever Hawkins happens to scrabble underneath the 
crests of his saxophone waves. 

From what Hawkins is scrabbling it's clear that the piano player's getting more and more 
into his 'own territory' - not that he's just 'doing his own thing' regardless, but that he's in a 
place where his playing emerges out of his genuine creative intelligence and to the height of his 
capabilities rather than anxiously shading what the 'living legend' might choose to play. Boxy 
but delirious chords, then under the lightglare sweaty hands slide up the keyboard sideways: like 



shunting a tmck, pushing hard, the same desire to beat and to force the instrument to break point 
as Marsh. And from that extreme to some very jazzy phrasing, strongly reminiscent of McCoy 
Tyner, so that for a moment the group sounds like the Coltrane Quartet without Elvin Jones 
(Marsh is too much into his own thing to toss of any Elvin Jones polyrhythms). Given Parker's 
increasing Coltrane influence that's not too much of a surprise, but the level of explicitness is 
still somewhat unexpected - not that that's a bad thing, in the small and surprising dose to which 
we're treated here. And those Tyner-esque stacked fourths are wonderfully chunky and less 
rhythmically stolid than McCoy's tended to be. Piano phrases keep dancing round 'A Love 
Supreme' - the 1965 live version, not the tamer studio recording - and it's that 1965 period I 
keep hearing in Parker's playing. All this is very nice but risks a loss of interest if it carries on 
too long and becomes default mode - and of course that won't happen. 

Dimming sax, bowed bass, trembling bass; just a trio now, minimal drums and piano, 
frightened lyric from bass, saw-song-sound. This never feels like an obviously signposted 
transition, though transition was what was needed - it wasn't as if Edwards decided 'I'll go for 
the bow now because we need a change' but that it emerged from what went before as unforced 
necessity. Up to this point Hawkins has tended to absorb Parker's style of phrasing, but now he 
trusts his own - shivery chords and shrill, speed-freak runs - no temptation for the rhythmic 
regularity of Tyneresque left-hand chord-comping, not really too much Cecil in there, despite the 
Cecil-style licks and runs, but a distinctive stream of melody flowing over the whole keyboard, 
barely room for any pauses at all. I say that, but yet it also feels like some odd cutup of Tyner 
and Cecil - the two particularly obvious influences that night - simultaneously channelling their 
spirits through his fingers - and that's the first time I've heard that combination. But, again, as 
with Edwards, it doesn't come from a too-obvious desire: it's not 'I know, let's jumble McCoy's 
fourths with Cecil's arpeggiated runs' - it comes from, in, and of, the moment, that mysterious 
interface between intention and whatever occurs, seemingly outside the bounds of intention, at 
that particular point. Yes, 'channelling' would be the appropriate metaphor - diverting off the 
main river - or rather, the opposite of what that implies - the McCoy/Cecil 'channels' flow into 
the Hawkins 'river', the keyboard- stream. And it strikes me that that's just a superb example of 
how 'influence' works its way into one's playing, of the vacuum-less-ness of music. This has 
philosophical implications: all these things, these influences, are there di^ potential , always - does 
that mean that, always, they somehow both are (they exist) and are not (they do not exist)? 
Maybe I need to brush up on my phenomenology. . . 

As Parker comes back in, hacking sound from the shadows, a more febrile touch 
displaced by lowhom spasms, you can /ee/ Hawkins' sound even if it's not heard, hands in 
constant, blurred tremble-chords, left hand in violent low-down hits then high-up runs, sliding 
glisses with the back of the hand. His physical study of Cecil is really evident in his playing, 
more so than when I last saw him perform (reviewed in the previous issue of 'eartrip') - so that, 
for instance, chords are played with the palm of the hands rather than with the fingers, for added 
force - and music that strong has to end, can only be sustained so long (though of course Cecil 
stretches that out beyond the limits of what seems to most people to be the possible). 

Parker's knack for an ending comes into play - for sensing that perfect moment when 
everything should just stop, even then it could carry on - and things end with what seems like a 
bang, though in reality things had quieted for a few seconds. But the 'bang' is what is felt, and I 
realise that what happens and what is heard - or, I should say, what is experienced, in the totality 
of action and audibility - are two different things, in a way that I can't understand, but which 
might teach us something rather interesting about the way the brain functions. And I say 
'Parker's knack for an ending', but that knack does seem also to be independent of the musicians 
themselves - or, let's say, almost beyond their control. When you have that heightened a group 
experience it just gets to that point where things happen of their own accord and the music itself 
lives. If, for Adomo, "Works of art do not say what their words say," then in this case the work 
of art says more than the musicians play. Not in the way that Adomo means - not as sedimented 
historical knowledge - but as something altogether more mysterious. Even the pragmatic Derek 
Bailey ended up talking about the 'magic' of group improvisation, and, until we can find a way 
of 'objectively' analysing the complexity of these phenomena which manifest themselves in 



musical performances of this kind - and I'm not at all certain that's even desirable, or gets the 
terms of the argument right - that's what we critics will have to do too. 

FLOWER/ CORSANO DUO 

The Portland Arms, Cambridge, Tuesday 17* February 2009 




According to Nietzsche, we are "fools for rhythm." Is that such a bad thing? The Flower- 
Corsano Duo are all about that relentless rhythmic surge, that urge to pound and strike a drum-kit 
until it gives off a million sharded beams of hard light, a near-mystical beam with an aura 
enhanced by twanging plucked scales. It's a beam that emerges with such clarity only out of a 
sheer single-mindedness, as opposed to diffuse hippy mysticism, messing around with weirdness. 
These guys know what they are doing, and do it - they go straight for the peaks, even if, on this 
occasion, it took a while to get going (this was by no means the best Flower-Corsano 
performance I've heard). 

I hate to say it, but it's hard not to avoid terminology like 'consciousness altering'. This 
music offers an alternative of some sort, to the packaged and the satisfied. In its desire to always 
maintain that state of yearning on which its power to move the body and mind is based, this 
music refuses a satisfaction and a comfort with 'how things are' - the desire to prolong that sheer 
enhanced experience is inherently a desire that acts against the diurnal jackboot tread, or what 
poet Sean Bonney calls "that shameful but essentially boring public murder." And yet I'd hesitate 
to make this too political - not only because I know nothing of Chris Corsano and Mike Flower's 
political views, but because what they create too is a commodity, aimed at a particular crowd. 
They provide a vaguely 'spiritual' experience for an 'experimental' scene which doesn't believe 
in the spiritual but wants to get those same kicks in a 'justified' left-field setting. 

That's the too-cynical reduction; swing to the other extreme, and they offer a hope of 
some sort, or a burning desire; or, hell, I like it anyway, even if its 'spirituality' is actually just 
constant rise to climax (masturbatory or coupling, take your pick), even if all it is is repetition to 
orgasm and serene aftermath of that jerking trance. 

And fuck the sexual analogies, it must be said that Corsano is an excellent drummer. 
Some drummers play something for a while, then stop and move on because it's too much effort, 
but he can stay in the zone, in the pocket, stopping only when the music dictates a new tack; his 
arms moving at pummelling speed, his dexterity is that of a boxer as he consistently rains down 
blows on his kit, plays very loud and very fast. It's not polyrhythmic complexity so much as 
single-minded determination and drive, building to the inexorable bodily mysticism that the duo 
pull off so well: a hard-hitting prayer, a religious punch to the gut. 

The structure is not so much about note choice but about the creation of a continuous 
sound stream which retains its interest through a control of dynamics which is actually quite 
subtle. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow. Both Corsano and Flower vary the loudness in a manner that 
could be quite instructive for certain bands 'on the scene'. Flower's 'Japan Banjo' is laid 
horizontal on an ironing board, of all things; his somewhat decrepit face hidden by straggly hair. 



his jeaned legs kicking it to ecstasy shudder, his quivering body and bobbing head in electric 
shock at the electricity of his peri^ormance and of his own electric instmment. 

The sincerity embodied in that drugged-up trance (where music is, as far as I can tell, the 
only drug, at that particular point in time) - that sincerity is a belief in sound or 'vibrations' as 
Albert Ayler would have it. And that doesn't seem like a hippy catchword when one senses the 
drum-pound tremble the floor slightly, undulation/ underlation, over and over, constant motion. 
It's waves, ebbs and flows; it's mostly that inexorable rhythm lull, some ex-hippy's eastern-tinged 
vision in a temple where they all take pot; though it emerges from and back into drone sunrises, a 
sitar-sounding drone which must have been playing throughout the performance but which one 
only notices when Corsano calls it a day and Flower switches off his amp. 

Such a matter-of-fact conclusion indicates that, for all one might talk about the 
'spirituality' of the Flower/ Corsano experience, in reality what happens is that one is shuddered 
into an instructive awareness of one's own body, an awareness that might make one value the 
unclean thing, rather than evading it in a quest for clean perfection. This is a messy mysticism, 
the dirtied but still utterly valuable legacy of some kind of psychedelic hippiedom that never 
really existed in the 60s when that sort of thing was most conceivable; but it exists now, beats 
into broken dreams its brilliancy. 

MIXED RECEPTIONS [Kettle's Yard New Music Mornings] 
Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, Sunday 15* March 2009 

"Featuring works for radio reception and transmission, with pioneering works by Cage 
alongside new composition and site-specific soundworks from artists in Cambridge and beyond." 
Thinking outside the box, this sort of programming, and all the better for it. What was so 
refreshing about the concert was its lack of boundaries. Yes, that phrase and its attendant concept 
is so often paid lip or pen service to when really nothing of the sort occurs; rather, the uneasy 
forcing together of two seemingly opposed strains only serves to reinforce that opposition and 
ensure that a real understanding is forever forestalled for the glittering surfaces of actual bad 
construction. But here there seemed a more genuine openness, if I can say that with any 
certainty. 

Cage provided the supposedly 'classical' element to the programming, allowing it to be 
classed as officially-viable 'new music', to hang in the air around the surrounding 'serious art- 
works' by the likes of Ben Nicholson and Gaudier-Breszka, while really opening up a far less 
officially-defined (and constricted?) space. For the Cage pieces performed were the 1956 'Radio 
Music' and 'Variations IV', which was not performed in a self-contained manner, but swarmed 
outwards to occupy the entire concert-ritual-process. At least, I think that's what was supposed to 
be happening: the programme notes were a little unclear as to how exactly the 'Variations' were 
realized: "Today's performance encompasses the whole running time of the concert and shorter 
performances," one reads, yet this seems to cross over with the 'experimental PA' performance 
by Jo Brook, entitled 'Local Radio', in which she moved around the space with a portable PA, 
setting off various streams of microphone feedback or radio static. Not so much because of this 
uncertainty - after all, it becomes somewhat absurd when one begins to debate whether random 
radio noise is the 'work' of John Cage or of another performer - but because of the somewhat 
frustrating character of the perambulatory acoustic element itself, this felt like the least 
successful part of the concert; as Brook prowled the area dangling various microphones in the air 
or on upper gallery walls, she seemed oblivious to the musicians' intensely focussed activities, 
her drifting presence an ail-too distracting visual element which could have prevented the tightly 
concentrated listening which the music demanded. 

But that may be to quibble - and if experimentation causes an artist's spoken 
introductions to his songs to compete with feedback, perhaps it's not too high a price to pay. One 
must not forget, either. Brook's role in putting together this concert: as a member of LEAP (Live 
Experimental Arts Performance Society), the curators of this particular occasion, she's providing 
a valuable service to the Cambridge community, too often starved of opportunities and audiences 
for new and innovative musics. 



To unfold the events in order: the Cage radio piece began proceedings, assembled 
participants intently squinting at (presumably) copies of the score in front of them, its detailed 
instructions nonetheless completely open to the whim of chance at the same time. Listening to 
the sounds produced, it was hard not to think of what has come since - industrial and noise 
music for one - and it was hard not to wonder if this had influenced the supposedly influence- 
less sound for which Cage was aiming. Nonetheless, it was hardly 'Cage Redux', and it's hard to 
know quite how the piece could have been realised any better. 

Stepping out of the radio ensemble, Cambridge fmgerpicking guitarist C. Joynes was then 
given a brief showcase. Introducing four selections, he sketched out the way in which his wide 
listening history has influenced the more overtly folky sound of his playing. Thus, a 'prepared 
guitar' piece (well, one object shoved between the strings, as opposed to the abundance of Keith 
Rowe's set-up) brought out not only the influence of John Cage's prepared piano works but of 
the similarities in timbre between the heavy thumb attack of finger-picking and the timbres found 
in certain sub-Saharan instruments. Shot through all this was a clear love of melody and line - 
even though line would periodically be obscured by ringing harmonics, it would always re-assert 
itself with added force when it next poked up its head - legitimising Joyne's claim that he is a 
'folk musician' influenced by the avant-garde, rather than vice-versa. Not quite 'free folk' then, 
but an intriguing mixture of the two which also carries on over into the American jazz tradition: 
firstly, a piece inspired by the likes of Omette Coleman and Alice Coltrane, all solemn 
sonorities, for which Joynes was joined by bowed cello, and, to conclude, a version of 'Autumn 
Leaves' which took only the chord changes as it basis, dispensing with the melody in favour of 
more abstract explorations. At times phrases which might have come from a sweet jazz cover of 
the tune entwined themselves round the often unresolving chords around, and the feel was oddly 
like the Derek Bailey of the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, as documented on the rehearsal recording of 
Coltrane's 'Impressions', in which an extremely odd balance between jazz and free 
improvisation emerges. 

A lot of ground covered in barely twenty minutes then, and more still to be traversed as 
Joynes made way for a freely improvising duo. Cos Chapman's duet with an un-named cellist, a 
series of short improvised pieces, represented the first time these two performers had even 
played together, let alone in front of an audience, but the collaboration seems likely to yield 
future rewards, if continued. Chapman's loops of thudding guitar runs found their equivalent in 
scrabbling and vicious cello, while at other times he treated his guitar strings with various 
metallic implements (including a saw) and e-bow, to produce more sweeping (occasionally 
shrieking) high resonances, again matched by scrape-bowed cello harmonics. The use of 
electronic attachments by both artists undoubtedly expanded the sonic palette (though their use 
on the cello was very subtle, perhaps hard to hear at all if one did not realise that various pedals 
were being used), and the intensity of scuttling scattering, /orce^/ notes briefiy summoned up a 
whirlpool effect, sucking into its unstoppable rush and momentum - particularly as Chapman's 
guitar and electric bass loops built up and on in the final piece. The performance did feel as if it 
could have benefited from a longer time-frame - although, given the amount that was fitted into 
one hour, such constraint is understandable, the sudden endings were nonetheless still a little 
unsatisfactory. But in the spirit of experimentation and discovery, this was a first-rate set of 
improvised music. 

(All Gig Reviews by David Grundy) 



List of Contributors 

Aaron Hicks makes his reviewing debut for 'eartrip' in this issue. 

Stef Gijssels can still be found at 'Stef s Free Jazz reviews' (http://steffreejazz. 

blogspot.com), from where his contributions to 'eartrip' are taken. 

David Grundy studies English at Cambridge University (not for much longer!) 

Sandy Kindness is a musician. Among other improvisational activities, he is a member of I-C-E 

(the Improvising Clarinet Ensemble) and the trio Kindness/May/Lash. 

Ian Thumwood is an amateur pianist with an extensive knowledge of the history and 

practise of jazz. His other enthusiasms include football and birdwatching. 

Mark Anthony Whiteford, a saxophonist, has been involved in improvised music in the Bristol 

area for a number of years. 

Musicians and Groups Featured on 'sound journey' 

Ilia Belorukov is a saxophonist and flautist from Saint-Petersburg, Russia, working in the 
realms of free improvisation, free-jazz, noise and electroacoustic music. Many of his recordings, 
solo and as a member of the Totalitarian Musical Sect (TMS), Dots & Lines, DaDazu & 
Wozzeck, are freely available online, http://www.myspace.com/belorukov 

The Cambridge Free Improvisation Society (CFIS) is a collective of freely improvising 
musicians (mainly students at Cambridge University) who have been meeting for private 
sessions and concert performances during the past three years. Recordings of most sessions are 
available at http://cambridgeimprovisation.wordpress.com . 

Stuart Chalmers (Skarabee) works with guitar loops/ electronics/ preparations/ glockenspiel/ 
kalimba/ sansula to create hesitant, delicate improvised soundscapes. Having become involved 
with the Bristol free improvisation scene, he is now based in Warwick. The EP 'Guitar Works' 1 
is available for download from http://www.ivo-multimedia.com/mp3/skarabee/ guitar%20works 
%201/ . 

David Curington plays oboe, cor-anglais, and piano. As an undergraduate, he has been active on 
the Cambridge music scene, and a number of his compositions have been performed in concerts 
there. His website is http ://www. davidcurington. com/ 

Alexander Hawkins is emerging as one of the most interesting young pianists in the UK jazz 
and free improvisation scene. Highlights of his career so far include recordings with the groups 
Barkingside and The Convergence Quartet, performances with Evan Parker and Lol Coxhill, and 
continuing involvement in the Oxford Improvisers. www.alexanderhawkins.com 

I-C-E (Improvising Clarinet Ensemble) is a quintet of London-based improvisers (Sandy 
Kindness, Noel Taylor, Jerry Wigens, Tara Stuckley, and Rick Jensen), originally deriving from 
the improbable number of clarinet players who attend Eddie Prevost's workshop at the Welsh 
Chapel, Southwark, London. All of its members are active with other bands and projects within 
the London improvisation scene, http://www.myspace.com/icesounds 

Dominic Lash is one of the busiest bass on the improv scene, in the UK and beyond. Recent 
highlights include playing with Tony Conrad, touring with Steve Reid, and an ensemble 
performance of the composition/ improvisation 'Representations' at the Huddersfield 
Contemporary Music Festival, http://www.dominiclash.co.uk 

Styles J. Kauphmann is a clarinettist, vocalist and violinist. Since 2006, he has performed a 
series of solo 'acoustic improvisations' in, among other places, Cambridge, Oxford, London and 



Norwich. The series comes to an end with a concert in Berhn in May 2009. More infonnation is 
provided at: http : //styl esj kauphmann . org 

Stet Lab is a monthly series of improvisational experimentation taking place in Cork, Ireland, 
curated by Han-Earl Park. Visiting musicians have included saxophonists Bruce Coates and Paul 
Dunmall, pianist Mike Hurley, and drummer Mark Sanders, http : //ww w .busterandfriends . com/stet 

Graham Mackeachan is a bass-player who has been involved in the Bristol improvised scene 
and now lives in London. More solo material can be heard at http://2009solos.multiply.com 

Mark Anthony Whiteford, who also writes for this magazine, has been part of the Bristol free 
improvisation scene for a number of years. He has recently initiated the '2009 solos project', 
which can be found at http://2009solos.multiply.com 

Special thanks to all the above musicians who invested their time in providing recordings for 
this compilation album. 

With thanks to: 

Graham Collier, Cuneiform, Drip Audio, ESP Disk, Hi4Head Records, Hugh Hopper, Nate 
Dorward, Jordon Schrantz/Tiger Asylum Records, Phil Hargreaves, Reel Recordings, Luke 
Mosling (Porter Records).