The Theme of This Week is Spiritual Jazz so Let’s Begin with some PHAROAH SANDERS
PHAROAH SANDERS / FLOATING POINTS & THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - Promises (Luaka Bop; USA) “When Pharoah Sanders first heard “Elaenia,” the stewy and transporting debut album by the British electronic musician and composer Sam Shepherd, who performs as Floating Points, he was rapt. It had been almost two decades since Sanders, the tenor saxophonist and American jazz eminence, had released a major new album, but he said he would like to try working with Shepherd.
The natural affinity between the now 80-year-old Sanders and the 34-year-old Shepherd makes sense. Despite the generational differences, they’re united by an impulse toward constant expanse, and both see healing as central to the role of music. And each of them is interested in how duration works as a kind of artistic medium in itself.
On “Crush,” his most recent solo album, Shepherd treated techno and house beats as a laboratory for experiments into the possibilities of disarray, while incorporating sophisticated orchestral arrangements. He recorded the album quickly at his home studio after a long tour, where he had honed his new creative direction in front of audiences while opening for the British band the xx. It meant that even as his composing delved more deeply into classical inspirations, he was in conversation with dance music.
But “Promises,” his new collaboration with Sanders that will be released Friday, came about in a different way, over a week together in the studio in 2019, and rather than techno its deepest grounding is in a kind of minimalism. It’s basically one continuous 46-minute piece of music, written by Shepherd, though it is broken up into nine separate tracks, labeled “movements.” For the majority of the piece, a simple motif repeats — a twisty phrase of just a few notes, played on harpsichord and piano and synth, rising and disappearing at the rate of an enormous person’s sleeping breath — as a two-chord harmonic progression recurs around it.
Shepherd adorned this with sometimes-spare, sometimes-soaring string arrangements, which the London Symphony Orchestra plays in conversation with his aerial synthesizer lines. Not until the latter half of the album does the orchestra fully come alive, with a rich and immersive passage on Track 6 — sometimes regal, sometimes bluesy — that almost eclipses the motif, but not quite.
And then there is Sanders’s tenor saxophone, a glistening and peaceful sound, deployed mindfully throughout the album. He shows little of the throttling power that used to come bursting so naturally from his horn, but every note seems carefully selected — not only to state his own case, but to funnel the soundscape around him into a precise, single-note line.
Like some of Shepherd’s synth phrases, Sanders’s saxophone sometimes announces itself faintly: You’ll just hear him breathing softly through the mouthpiece, or tapping it with his tongue, before he passes a full note through the instrument. When he plays his final notes of the album, at the end of Track 7, he does not so much disappear as become one with Shepherd’s web of humming synthesizers.
Sanders is known for pioneering a manifestly spiritual approach to jazz, having taken the mantle from John Coltrane, his former boss, after Coltrane’s death in 1967. But before joining him Sanders had also worked in the mid-1960s with Sun Ra, the visionary bandleader, who converted Sanders’s given name, Ferrell, into Pharoah, and taught him by example how to reimagine the possibilities of a large ensemble. From his first release on Impulse! Records, “Tauhid” (1967), Sanders made suite-length pieces with medium-to-big ensembles that spanned multiple sections and hovered at various registers, as if traversing the layers of the atmosphere.” Giovanni Russonello, NY Times
DARK MATTER HALO Featuring BILL LASWELL with MONTE CIMINO / CHRIS SNEERINGER / CHRIS WITLEY - Caravan to the Stars (MODT 1003; USA) “On "Caravan To the Stars", Dark Matter Halo (a.k.a. Monte Cimino) teams up with legendary bassist/producer Bill Laswell to create a landscape of warm low-end dub and dark ethereal textures that float towards the heavens. Laswell's signature bass sound is organically interwoven with Cimino and Sneeringer's analog and digital textures, ominous droning violins conjured up by Whitley and pulsating beats created by Laswell and Cimino; resulting in the sparse, yet dynamic interplay of acoustic and digital synthesis that ebbs and flows between tension, release and the unknown. Meticulously crafted from infinite possibilities of sound and feeling. Improvised texture music. Disintegration. Deconstruction. Nods to the past. Primordial memory. Focused energy towards the future. Clairvoyance. Time is that which ends.”
JOSH WERNER - Mode for Titan (MODT Reloaded 105; USA) “Mode for Titan proves that the bass is a melodic and ambient force in its own right. Writing on — and exclusively for — the bass, Josh Werner explores new dimensions of composition and improvisation, effortlessly moving through varying sonic textures, all without a conventional rhythm section. Producer Bill Laswell helps steer seasoned composer and performer (and abstract painter) Werner through novel instrumental territory, including the sitar bass, seven-string bass and fretless bass. The wide array of influences on Mode for Titan reflects Werner's vast experience and diverse skill set, yet the music maintains an introspective focus and understated minimalist beauty. Laswell's production endows this sonic journey with a vast sense of space, painted in an array of colors as boundless as the producer's own palette.”
“Straight off, what we have with Josh Werner’s Mode For Titan album is the artist’s effort to come up with an ambient album with bass as the most prominent on the album. Actually, it could be the only instrument you hear on the album. Frankly, it is a very risky proposition that, before you’ve heard a single note, could sound also as a very boring proposition.
Sure, the album is produced by Bill Laswell, another legendary bass player and it is released on his brand spanking new label. And Werner himself has impeccable playing references that include the likes of Lee “Scratch” Perry, Cibo Matto, James Brandon Lewis, Wu-Tang Clan, Marc Ribot, Ghostface Killah, Vybz Kartel, Sly and Robbie, Nels Cline, and Popcaan. But is that a reason enough to take a listen?
You certainly should. Because, to put it briefly, Werner delivers on his promise. He has come up with an ambient album where the bass dominates and you still don’t have one weary moment. Part of it lies in the fact that Werner’s playing capabilities are stretched here to include a number of instrument variations, like the sitar bass, seven-string, and fretless bass.
But the key lies in the fact that nowhere on Mode For Titan does Werner go into extensive bass soloing or trying to show-off his instrumental prowess by endless soloing. The key is in creating a certain mood, an ambient if you will stick to the genre title. All of it is helped by Laswell’s intentionally understated production that just gives another touch to the atmosphere Werner creates.
Essentially, Mode For Titan could have potentially been a bass-dominated disaster, but actually turns into its promise – ambient bass music you can enjoy.” - Ljubinko Zivkovic, Echoesanddust.com
NATSUKI TAMURA / SATOKO FUJII - Keshin (Libra Records 102-064; Japan) Featuring Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and Satoko Fujii on piano. Recorded at home in Kobe City, Japan in November of 2020. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii are longtime married and music partners, having worked in each other’s varied projects for some three decades. Although they’ve recorded quite a bit of trios, quartets and large ensemble discs, their duo discs are relatively rare. Mr. Tamura and Ms. Fujii are also fine composers as well as gifted musicians, so instead of doing a fully improvised CD, each one wrote songs for this session. “Busy day” opens is pretty busy with some shrewd complex writing each note played tightly together by both musicians. Each between the tight duo sections are a series of unaccompanied solo sections with some astonishing results, both musicians reaching for the stars with their short intense solos, gradually erupting together in the second half. “Donten” is a slow, mysterious ballad with Ms. Fujii letting those dark notes resonate slowly, the pedal being held down for some cosmic suspense. Mr. Tamura plays a stellar, haunting solo over a cushion of stunning silence. The overall vibe here is one of great suspense so we must lay back and absorb the refreshing subtly. “Dreamer” is a moderately paced dream-like piece, where time is slowed down so that we can feel a more calming view of life. “Three Scenes” sounds like an episode taken from an old series, with both instruments providing coalescing shadows, one scene at a time. The thing I notice about this session is that we can that these two musicians have been working together for a long while, since we can hear them creating rich harmonies together, answering each others lines with a sympathetic connection. The final piece, “Sparrow Dance” is a great closing work since it is so rich righteous organic material, thoughtful, dramatic and stirring. I know that this music was written and performed at the home of Natsuki & Satoko and it succeeds at capturing the fleeting feelings of being held captive yet still reaching out to inspire the world with some Hope. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
ROBERTO MIRANDA’S HOME MUSIC ENSEMBLE with HORACE TAPSCOTT / JOHN CARTER / BOBBY BRADFORD / JAMES NEWTON / et al - Live At Bing Theatre: Los Angeles, 1985 (Dark Tree 14; France) The Home Music Ensemble is an 11-piece unit from L.A. which was led by contrabassist/composer Roberto Miranda and includes Horace Tapscott on piano, John Carter on clarinet, Bobby Bradford on cornet & trumpet, James Newton on flute, Thom David Mason on alto & tenor sax & bass clarinet, David Bottenbley on guitar & el plus 4 percussionists. I know of L.A. bassist Roberto Miranda from him work with Vinny Golia, Horace Tapscott, John Carter and Bobby Bradford. Mr. Miranda’s records as a leader are pretty rare although he does have two early ones on the Nimbus West label, which I have never seen and are long out of print. Mr. Miranda got a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in September of 1984 so he was able to organize a strong ensemble with an all-star frontline.
Right from the opening of “Platform for Freedom”, piano legend, Horace Tapscott, is soloing like a man possessed, taking the first of a number of colossal solos with a strong, pumping, propulsive bass& multi-drum rhythm team. As Mr. Tapscott takes his long solo, the four-strong horns spin wildly on top. Since there are two drummers here & three percussionists, I am not sure who is playing what, this piece ends with a spirited drums/percussion solo. “Faith” features some majestic writing for the entire ensemble, like the dawn of a day with the sun coming up over the horizon. One at a time, we hear some extraordinary solos from James Newton (on flute)and John Carter (clarinet). On “Agony in the Garden”, Miranda has all of the percussionists playing together with dense interlocking parts with James Newton’s flute and the other horns dance like dervishes on top. The Latin-jazz groove at the center is most infectious. “Prayer #1” is the longest and deepest piece here, with a soft, throbbing pulse at the center and dazzling interplay between Mr. Tapscott’s piano with Newton’s soaring flute, Bradford’s dazzling trumpet and swirling reeds connecting the various waves. “Deborah Tasmin” is a lush, sort of blues with sublime tenor sax by Thom David Mason (a fine musician with whom I hadn’t heard of). Aside from the impressive percussion section, the one player here who is at the center of each piece and in great form is the leader, contrabassist supreme, Robert Miranda, someone who rarely seems to get the recognition he righteously deserves. Mr. Miranda does take a fine bass solo on the next to the last piece, another gem amongst the various treasures found on this fabulous disc. The final piece, “Dance of Blessing, Happiness & Peace”, features some tasty chanting vocals over another a fine, enchanting gospel-like groove. A perfect ending for a wonderful concert. So glad that this long, lost gem is finally released. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
CD $16 [In stock sometime next week]
JEFF PARKER / ROB MAZUREK - Some Jellyfish Live Forever (Rogue Art 0110; France) Featuring Jeff parker on guitar & effects and Rob Mazurek on cornet, horns & mutes. Holding guitarist Jeff Parker and Cornetist Rob Mazurek's originally vinyl only (just released on CD) ‘Some Jellyfish Live Forever’, I have the gatefold open in my hands and am reading Alain Drouot's no-nonsense liner notes. Referencing the duo's associations through the years in several Chicago based groups and then delving into the subject of immortal jellyfish, it is pure joy.
I had first heard about this recording last year from Mazurek and had been looking forward to it since. And, I'm not disappointed. Mazurek is all acoustic, leaving behind the electronics that have permeated a significant body of his work, and while Parker's guitar is fed through various effects, his sound and approach never overpower. The two blend nicely, creating a series of soundscapes in which the guitar lays the ground work while Mazurek delivers lovely austere melodies.
What a pleasure to stop and listen to this album - the sound so organic and textural. It moves slowly, slyly, without hurry. The duo's music still tingles in my ear as the record runs out and the non-automatic tone arm of my record player delivers a pop as sure as a breath. As I put down the big white album jacket, after reading the liner notes and checking out the photos, a small download card tumbles out. I look at it - is it worth it?” - Paul Acquaro, FreeJazzBlog
JAC BERROCAL / JASON WILLETT / DAVID FENECH - Xmas In March (Megaphone/Knock ‘em Dead 037; USA) “Jac Berrocal and David Fenech have been recording music together for more than ten years now... After albums with Ghédalia Tazartès (RIP) and Vincent Epplay, they shared the stage with musicians such as Felix Kubin, Jean-Hervé Peron, Jean Noel Cognard, and Thierry Müller (Illitch)... Now they are now joined by the American improviser Jason Willett (Half Japanese) for their first album as a trio. Built around a recording session in Paris, the three musicians created Xmas In March, an album of seven new peppermint-striped favorites. The tracks are like smoldering embers, mixed with the excitement and anticipation of Santa's arrival. Jac Berrocal's sound has never been so smooth since the Hotel Hotel album -- his trumpet like a sleigh in a jet stream. Willett plays bass with a rubber band and creates an impossibly huge sound from such a tiny "instrument" (like Charlie Haden played from a matchbox). He also plays this rare wooden synthesizer called Cocoquantus. Fenech sings, plays electric guitar, turntables, and is responsible for the recording as well as mixing all the tracks. With special guest Vincent Epplay on the closing track. This is the album you will want under the tree... skirt. Joyeux Noël!”
EVE RISSER / BENJAMIN DUBOC / EDWARD PERRAUD - En Corps Generation (Dark Tree 07; France) “The eponymous debut En Corps (Dark Tree, 2012) by the French triumvirate of pianist Eve Risser, bassist Benjamin Duboc and drummer Edward Perraud made several year-end lists, and Génération belongs in the same category. Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (Clean Feed, 2016) by Risser's White Desert Orchestra revealed her as a composer of note, as well as an innovative pianist, who resides in a line of explorers who have furthered John Cage's preparations for piano, such as Benoit Delbecq and Sophie Agnel. In addition to leading his own unit, Synaesthetic Trip, Perraud like Duboc remains a mainstay of the French improvising scene.
Risser may be one of the most percussive of pianists, operating habitually with a palette which evokes variously a gamelan, marimba, xylophone, and music box. Perraud convinces as an inventive purveyor of timbral variety, his efforts replete with well-reasoned embellishments and tight miniature figures which emerge unexpectedly and disappear again just as quickly. But it's Duboc who keeps the show on the road, his resonant plucks, strummed flurries and humming bow work ensures that there's movement when needed and imaginative stasis when not.
As a group their collective ethos places them firmly in a lineage which stretches from the trios of Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Howard Riley, through to the Portuguese RED Trio, Australia's The Necks, and the NYC-based Dawn of Midi. The three like-minded principals spontaneously develop two extended cuts which make a virtue of careful judgment, restraint and sensitivity, while at the same time juddering on the launch pad, but never shooting for the stars. Why this stands out is the concentration in the moment which meticulously positions each sound both for its intrinsic value but also for its relation to others. While not quite consonant, the dissonances feel just right and the end result is mesmerizing.
"Des Corps" begins with a minimalist sonic painting of prepared piano, cymbal scrapes and arco murmurs which congeals into a pointillist portrait of great beauty. Exquisite and slow moving, bursts of unmodified piano suddenly sharpen into focus from modulated sonorities. Momentum gradually builds from the weight of individual components, with fleetingly reiterated patterns giving the sense an internal logic. At one point Duboc lends a Charlie Haden-esque gravitas and curdled lyricism, before becoming subsumed back into the flow. "Des Âmes" possesses more of an ominous undertow amid the thunder, as explosive drum outbursts, then Risser's attacks hint at pent up energy before a prancing climactic flourish. Many attempt to inhabit such terrain, but few can sustain it as well as these three.” - John Sharpe, AllAboutJazz.com
NEW “SOLO” SERIES BEGINS ON THE KAIROS LABEL with 5 Releases: These albums are part of Klangforum Wiens Solo 5-CD series of recordings of pieces for one performer, which is the ensembles response to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.
OLGA NEUWIRTH // KLANGFORUM WIEN - Solo (Kairos 1509; Austria) This wonderful disc features six solo performances by musicians drawn from the Klangforum Wien, a 23 piece New Music ensemble founded by Beat Furrer in 1985 and which includes musicians from around the world. This disc is part of a new 5 CD series for solos performances written during the pandemic. I’ve been a big fan of Ms. Neuwirth for a while, checking out her dozen plus discs on various labels, hearing her music live at the Miller Theatre and even talking with her once at DMG when she ventured her way to our 1st store. A most striking woman with her radiant wide-eyed stair, wild hair and illuminating conversation.
“CoronAtion I” for percussion and sample is first. There are samples of eerie drones (distant voices?) or tones floating while the percussionist plays varied orchestral cymbals, gongs & hand percussion. Wow! “Weariness Heals Wounds” is for solo viola. The viola here sounds like a character in a play talking to oneself, reflecting on life. The sound of the viola keeps changing throughout this piece as the musician explorers different ways of coaxing sounds. Right from the first note, “Torsion for Bassoon” is most engaging. It sounds as if there are some effects added to the bassoon but I think it is just the way it was recorded and the way Ms. Neuwirth’s writing pushed the barriers of what we think comes from the usually more majestic double reed instrument. The selective use of reverb gives each instrument varying degrees of depth or spaciousness. I can hear some sounds in the distance (sample or stretched space?), not sure what they are but they add a quiet yet disorienting vibe to this music. “Magic Flu-idity” is for flute & Olivetti typewriter. There is a combination you don’t see/hear very often. It is odd to hear an old typewriter used a percussion instrument but this is what we have here and it does work quite well. The flute part is pretty demanding, the typewriter used more for punctuation. I like the way old typewriters ring when you get to end of a line. I am reminded of hearing my mother type when I was younger, something about that sound rings true in my memory. “Fumbling and Tumbling” for trumpet and it is a tour-de-force, pushing the trumpeter to work his way through varied terrain. “Incendo/Fluido” for piano & CD is again most demanding. The piano sounds prepared, some of the strings muted and/or slightly bent. Are certain notes are stretched out or is it the CD? The piano part is episodic, with several short stories or scenes drifting by. I found this entire disc to be transformative. Each piece will take you on a journey, set the scene, giving you a place to consider the world. A perfect pandemic soundtrack. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
HARRY PARTCH - The Bewitched (A Ballet Satire)(Neuma 126; USA) Featuring the Harry Partch Ensemble, directed by Danlee Mitchell and recorded binaurally in Berlin in 1980. I recall seeing the name Harry Partch for the first time on the lengthy list of musicians/composers/authors that Frank Zappa listed in the liner notes for the first Mothers album, ‘Freak Out!’. I bought that album in the early summer of 1967 (I was 13) and the Mothers of Invention soon became my favorite rock band. That list was very influential for many of young freaks, as it was the first time I had heard of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen… It took a while find out about each of 100 names, but it did open my mind to many new possibilities. I bought a couple of Harry Partch albums in the mid-seventies, one of which was called, ‘The World of Harry Partch’. Mr. Partch has a completely unique artist/composer who created his own musical world. Instead of dealing with the barriers of tempered (or “normal” for some) music, he worked with his own scales or system by inventing and building his own instruments and composing his own distinctive music for these instruments. Thus, his music doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. Partch composed “The Bewitched” in 1959. The piece is immensely complex and has been performed live on rare occasion. This was the first time that this work was performed in Europe (Berlin & Cologne in 1980) and it took six months of intensive rehearsals & exercises. The eight pages of the inside booklet cover the many layers of ideas/directions/exercises that were involved. The first time I listened to this disc, I wore headphones as the liner notes suggest. But, that was in my listening room and now I am in my kitchen where I do reviews. Most of the musicians/characters are named after the invented instruments that they are playing here. The “Prologue” opening with layers of percussive instruments, rather marimba-like in sound and somewhat ritualistic as well. There is another element going on during the original performance: a cast of singers/instrumentalists/actors all a part of the work. So we must use our imaginations, the liner notes do give us an idea of what was/is happening. After reading through the lengthy notes, I put the booklet away and just listened. Fascinating! I have starting to listen to some opera more closely for the last few years, trying to get a better appreciation. I’ve checked out mostly 20th contemporary composers like Alban Berg (Woyzeck’ & ‘Lulu’), Stockhausen, Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht… The vocals are used sparsely at first, a bit strange but everything fits just right. Eventually one gets used to this other world. When I wore the headphones last time, I was completely immersed. Either way, I do feel at home in this world, much better than the current disorienting influence of Actual Fake News. Sometimes you just got to escape The Now. This disc is 80 minutes long and a most impressive document on many levels. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
KEN FIELD - Transmitter (Neuma 141; USA) Ken Field has been a vital source occupying the jazz & rock underground for some time, most notably via his membership in the long-lived Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, both outfits well-versed in blasting genre confines to smithereens. Some years have passed since Field’s released solo material, so with both groups on hiatus, and no desire to simply lay fallow, his new missive finds him circumscribing a whole new arc of ideas via his trusty saxophone, aided and abetted by oodles of live looping, echo, and myriad other wonders of digital processing. Shepherding the recording through its coordinated reams of circuitry is producer, musician, and sound designer Erdem Helvacioglu, whose own sonic explorations over the decades remain some of the more forthright explorations conjoining electronica, experimentalism, and post-classical musics. Field’s multi-tracked, multi-blended self-accompaniments herein ultimately become their own art form, née their own genre, neither ‘jazz’ nor avant, trucking in similar flavors but unyielding to their requisite aural histories, more a series of varied treatises on fiber and texture that make for some genuinely atmospheric experiences. In contrast to someone like fellow reeds mutator Evan Parker, Field’s musings aren’t interested in awry eardrum distortion but instead worship the saxophone's lustrous tubular dynamics and how such dynamics can be subtly shaped into attractive, welcoming figures. This is beautifully rendered soundscaping, Field and Helvacioglu applying just the right touches to make the whole affair seem slightly off and faintly alien but never to the degree that the listener is left adrift in some hazy, ambient no-man’s-land. Cast any doubts you have to the side, discard the notion that this is yet another characterless solo sax album, and allow yourself to fully explore the finely-etched cartography of these Field recordings. - Darren Bergstein, DMG
JOHNNY BUTLER - Thirteen Dances (Hi 4 Head HFHCD001; UK) There are solo sax albums, and then there are solo sax albums, the type that mitigate easy pigeonholing and leave the listener well-dumbfounded to what they’re imbibing. Butler’s work for the always distinctive and far-reaching Hi 4 Head label is one of those rare animals, a recording that defies you to clearly grasp it, the veritable square peg in a round hole. Though created to accompany a (nameless) dance group, one would be hard-pressed to imagine anyone but the most lithe, nimble, and double-jointed of dancers to stage the wiry choreography necessary to compliment Butler’s wayward themes. Even more remarkable is the fact that the saxophonist used only a bare minimum of tools to achieve his ends: a small collection of mysterious electronic devices, plus the aforementioned horn, and the entirety apparently fomented in real-time without samplers, overdubs, loopers, or any prerecorded material. Checking out the spacey drones and birdcalls on “No Ice Cream” casts doubt on Butler’s claim of sonic origins, but with all the best art, it’s often ideal to simply let it flow over you, mechanics be damned. And Butler does indeed run the tonal gamut throughout, interrupting said flow with sharp timbral variations, cloaks of gregarious distortion and abrasive callbacks, industrial-ized fluctuations and the like, making for some truly ragged tone dialing where he surrenders to his horn’s natural tendency to go big. There’s an enormous amount of sound and vision to get lost in here, from the time-stretched elongated strands of “Sunday Stars” to the more sedate and probing hymnal ‘choirs’ of “Seventeen”, possibly the closest that Butler comes to straight, ‘traditional' jazz outlay. Tough to pin this one down, and all the better for it. - Darren Bergstein, DMG
ALICE COLTRANE with CHARLIE HADEN / BEN RILEY / et al - Spiritual Eternal - The Complete Warner Bros. Studio Recordings (Real Gone Music 0692; EEC) “In 2017, Luaka Bop released World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, a compilation derived from privately pressed cassette recordings the artist made for members of her Sai Antaram Ashram between 1982 and 1995. It set the stage for the re-emergence of the three studio albums Coltrane recorded in 1976 and 1977 for Warner Bros. (An excellent double live set entitled Transfiguration was released in 1978.) The albums included in this set from Real Gone Music were produced by Ed Michel; they bridge her Impulse period and the devotional cassette recordings. Commercially, Eternity (1976), Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana (1976), and Transcendence (1977) were mostly ignored. Real Gone presents them in a double-disc package, fully remastered by Mike Milchner, with a handsome 24-page booklet containing a historical liner essay from author and critic Ashley Khan. He features extensive quotes from the artist herself, Warner executives, engineers, and her biographer Franya Berkman. The set also contains liner notes from the original albums.
Eternity is a direct evolution from Coltrane's Impulse years. It features stellar jazzmen in bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Ben Riley, with a large cast of veteran studio musicians -- including percussionist Armando Peraza -- on reeds, brass, woodwinds and strings. Opening track "Spiritual Eternal" introduces listeners to Coltrane's groundbreaking use of the Wurlitzer organ (paired with an analog synth adorned with a pitch bender). She employs blues and gospel inside Eastern modes to bring her full-circle from her early Detroit years. Coltrane also plays harp and Fender Rhodes piano in composed tunes that are juxtaposed with canny improvisation. The album's centerpiece is the glorious "Los Caballos," a funkified Latin blues scorcher. Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana all but leaves jazz behind in a blissed-out, celebratory selection of traditional Hindu hymns she (often radically) rearranged. Coltrane plays Wurlitzer, electric piano, and harp, accompanied on all but one tune by a choir of clapping singers. The lone exception is "Om Nama Shivayah" a hard-grooving 19-minute duo with the late John Coltrane Jr. on drums. Ultimately, it's a preview for the later cassette recordings. Transcendence strikes a balance. On two songs, "Radhe-Shyam" and the title track, Coltrane plays harp accompanied only by a string quartet in impressionistic meditations on Carnatic themes. She performs solo on harp, bells, and various Indian percussion instruments on the haunting "Vrendavana Sanchara." On the remainder, her organ and electric piano front a chorus of soulful singers in jazzy yet R&B-drenched interpretations of sacred Hindu songs. Of these, the sweeping soul in "Shinaya" and the trance-like gospelized funk of closer "Sri Nrsimha," are clear standouts. After the Luaka Bop compilation and the re-appearance of her Impulse albums, this set completes Coltrane's artistic evolution and presents her as an utterly accessible creative visionary and technical virtuoso. Decades ahead of jazz's "world fusion" movement, these albums display the deliberate externalization of her profoundly individualized musical process as a direct extension of her spiritual practice. Essential.” - Thom Jurek, AllMusicGuide
2 CD Set $24
ALICE COLTRANE - World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Turiya Alice Coltrane (Luaka Bop 0087; USA) “Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotion to spirituality was the central purpose of the final four decades of her life, an often-overlooked awakening that largely took shape during her four-year marriage to John Coltrane and after his 1967 death. By 1983, Alice had established the 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram outside of Los Angeles. She quietly began recording music from the ashram, releasing it within her spiritual community in the form of private press cassette tapes. On May 5, Luaka Bop will release the first-ever compilation of recordings from this period, making these songs available to the wider public for the first time. Entitled ‘World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda,’ the release is the first installment in a planned series of spiritual music from around the globe; curated, compiled and distributed by Luaka Bop. This powerful, largely unheard body of work finds Alice singing for the first time in her recorded catalog, which dates back to 1963 and includes appearances on six John Coltrane albums, alongside Charlie Haden and McCoy Tyner, and 14 albums as bandleader starting with her Impulse! debut in 1967 with ‘A Monastic Trio.’ The songs featured on the Luaka Bop release have been culled from the four cassettes that Alice recorded and released between 1982 and 1995: ‘Turiya Sings,’ ‘Divine Songs,’ ‘Infinite Chants,’ and ‘Glorious Chants.’ The digital, cassette and CD release will feature eight songs. The double-vinyl edition features two additional songs, “Krishna Japaye” from 1990’s ‘Infinite Chants, and the previously unreleased “Rama Katha” from a separate ‘Turiya Sings’ recording session. Luaka Bop teamed with Alice’s children to find the original master tapes in the Coltrane archive. The recordings were prepared for re-mastering by the legendary engineer Baker Bigsby (Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, John Coltrane), who had overseen the original sessions in the 80s and 90s. The compilation showcases a diverse array of recordings in addition to Alice’s first vocal work: solo performances on her harp, small ensembles, and a 24-piece vocal choir. The release is dotted with eastern percussion, synthesizers, organs and strings, making for a mesmerizing, even otherworldly, listen. Alice was inspired by Vedic devotional songs from India and Nepal, adding her own music sensibility to the mix with original melodies and sophisticated song structures. She never lost her ability to draw from the bebop, blues and old-time spirituals of her Detroit youth, fusing a Western upbringing with Eastern classicism. In all, these recordings amount to a largely untold chapter in the life story of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. In addition to the recordings, GRAMMY-winning music historian Ashley Kahn has written extensive liner notes on the collection. The package also includes a series of interviews with those who knew Alice best, conducted by Dublab’s Mark “Frosty” McNeill, and an as-told-to interview between musician Surya Botofasina (who was raised on Alice’s ashram) and journalist Andy Beta. 2017 marks what would have been Alice’s 80th year of life, as well as the 10th anniversary of her passing. Alice will be celebrated at events throughout the United States, Europe and South America in the coming year. With this in mind, the time is right to bring this meaningful piece of Turiyasangitananda’s legacy into focus."
THREE AMAZING RECENT BOX SETS FINALLY BACK IN STOCK:
JULIUS HEMPHILL with ABDUL WADUD / JOHN CARTER / BAIKIDA CARROLL / OLU DARA / MARTY EHRLICH / RAY ANDERSON / NELS CLINE / DAVE HOLLAND / URSULA OPPENS / ALEX CLINE / JACK DeJOHNETTE / MALINKE EELIOTT / K. CURTIS LYLE / ALAN JAFFE / MICHAEL CARVIN / et al - The Boye Multi-National Crusade for Harmony - Archival Recordings [1977-2007](New World Records 80825-2; USA) “Somehow I discovered I could write this music and play the saxophone. All that stumbling around and stuff, I ended up finally being able to play it a little bit. I ain’t the greatest by any means, not even close—but I think I’ve got depth, a broadness of my musical sensibility, that a lot of soloists don’t have, because they focus on that one thing, soloing. I want to develop the whole backdrop, the scenery. Once I found out that was possible, that I could collaborate with people, I came alive musically.” — Julius Hemphill “In response to the arguably self-righteous pronouncements made in the 1990s as to what jazz is and isn’t, Julius Hemphill (1938–1995) spoke up as he had done throughout his career. “Well, you often hear people nowadays talking about the tradition, tradition, tradition. But they have tunnel vision in this tradition. Because tradition in African-American music is wide as all outdoors.” This collection of music, this celebration of artistic collaborations that engaged Julius Hemphill throughout his life, adds much to what we know of his creativity in exploring the implications in that wide space. His work, done in what was not much more than twenty-five years, illuminated so many byways of that protean tradition, created in America against the direst of odds. Equally vital, Julius claimed, with great passion, his space to be expressive. He worked inward as much as he looked outward, in his artistic creativity and cultural engagements. This box set contains musical compositions and performances that have come to light from the Julius Hemphill Archive at the Fales Library of New York University. These performances present thirty-five Hemphill compositions culled from close to 180 audio and visual documents of his work. Twenty-five of these works did not receive a commercial recording in his lifetime. Also represented in this box set are ensemble contexts Julius formed which did not receive substantial, or in some cases, any public documentation. These performances put Julius’s improvisational work as a saxophonist and flutist to the fore, from solo to quintet contexts. (The one exception being Disc 4, where we hear pieces Julius wrote for others to interpret.) Equally important, these performances deepen our experience of Julius’s long associations in artistic collaboration. — Marty Ehrlich from the liner notes.
7 CD Set $100
WILLIAM PARKER with JASON KAO HWANG / MARA ROSENBLOOM / ERI YAMAMOTO / HAMID DRAKE / COOPER-MOORE / JEMEEL MOONDOC / MATT MORAN / BEN STAPP / et al - The Music of William Parker - Migration of Silence / into and Out of The Tone World (Centering Records 1020-1029; USA) This is a most ambitious project that Downtown Composer/Contrabassist/Multi-Instrumentalist/Multi-Bandleader/Poet/Visionary William Parker, has undertaken so far. A massive ten CD set in which each disc has different personnel, concept and sonic flavor. Most of it was recorded over the past 2 years (2018-2020) and all but 1 piece is/are new songs to take in. CD1 is called, “Blue Limelight” and it features a fine a nine piece unit with Jason Hwang on violin, Mara Rosenbloom on piano, three more strings, oboe, bass, two drummers and Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez on vocals. “Cosmic funk will save the world”! she sings I do believe that this is true. Not Burnt Sugar???!?! Nope, WP! This octet plus J Hwang sounds mighty fine! Vocalist Raina is the daughter of Lisa Sokolov, who has worked with William Parker for many years and who Raina sounds like. WP called this piece “Cosmic Funk”, which he says was inspired by the stanky smell on a subway car late one night. But when I hear that term, “Cosmic Funk”, I think of going to see Funkadelic play for 3 plus hours at the Apollo in Harlem in 1979! Anyway. The words here are so sweet, inspiring, positive, real, touching, soulful, jeeeez, so fine..! Laura Nyro, Rickie Lee Jones, Jeanne Lee, hmmmmm… now Raina. All amazing singers and somehow connected here. Another standout here is the oboe playing by Jim Ferraiuolo (someone I don’t know yet) who weaves his way around around the voice, adding some classical spice & mystery. The coolest of all is “Bennie’s Tune”, about a legendary (fictitious?) trumpet player named Bennie Bishop, who “abducted by the jazz police and…, this is all too much! Disc 2 is called, ‘Child of Sound’ and it features solo piano from Eri Yamamoto, a fine Downtown jazz pianist, whose trio has been playing in the West Village for many years and with whom William Parker has collaborated several times. Mr. Parker composed the 14 songs here, only two of which have been previously recorded. The music is dedicated to the two million Indigenous people who live on reservations in the USA and have been marginalized throughout our history. The playing by Ms. Yamamoto and the music itself is filled with beauty, compassion, pride, passion, communion with Great Spirits, tenderness, strength, resolve and many other useful emotions and feelings. Mr. Parker explains in the liner notes what inspired each piece. Disc 3 is called “The Majesty of Jah” and it features the voice of Ellen Christie (also providing samples) with Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson on trumpet and William Parker on bass, doson ngoni & percussion with the help of Jemeel Moondoc, Kid Jordan & Dave Burrell on one track. I met Ms. Christie in the late seventies when she came to a jam session I had with Tom Bruno & Steve Buchanan. Although she is under-recorded and rarely gets the recognition she well deserves, she has been a longtime favorite singer of mine. William Parker is one of the few bandleaders/composers who has utilized her talents time and again. Ms. Christie is in fine form here, her voice at the center with just superb trumpet, acoustic bass, dosun ngoni (African string instrument) and select vocal samples. Another highlight here is the trumpet playing of Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, who appeared on an earlier WP 2 CD set called, ‘Meditation/Resurrection’. CD 4 is called, ‘Cheops’ and features Kyoko Kitamura on voice, Matt Moran on vibes, Ben Stapp on tuba, Kayla Milmine-Abbott on soprano sax, Rachel Housle on drums and WP on bass, duduk & fujara overtone flute. I do recognize the names of Ms. Kitamura, Mr. Moran and Mr. Stapp from a variety of previous discs and in-store performances, while Kayla & Rachel are new names for me. Ms. Kitamura, who works with Anthony Braxton & Ras Moshe, is another old friend and favorite vocalist of mine. Mr. Parker calls Kyoko a one woman choir and I must agree with this. “Entire Universe” is an extraordinary piece for cosmic, swirling vocals, vibes, tuba, soprano sax, powerful bowed contrabass and drums. Ms. Kitamura sounds wonderful here stretching out her voice in a variety of ways, with strong spirited vibes, tuba, soprano sax, bass & drums swirling around her. There is a great deal to consider here as we read the lengthy liner notes about each disc, each composition. I’ve listened to 5 of the 10 discs so far and each one is a masterwork in its own way. Hope to finish listening to the rest of the box this coming weekend. No matter what, this entire 10 CD set will be one of the most talked about, studied and revered boxes of the year. Get yours now and start to dig in. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
10 CD Set $85
JOHN ZORN // BAGATELLES BOX SET: MARY HALVORSON QUARTET / ERIK FRIEDLANDER & MICHAEL NICOLAS / TRIGGER / IKUE MORI - Set One (Tzadik; USA) From March to May 2015, John Zorn composed 300 new tunes that were eventually collected into a book of music he called The Bagatelles. After 5 years of performances around the world in venues large and small, the choicest ensembles have gone into the studio and the recordings are finally being made available in a series of limited edition 4-CD BOX sets. Each set will present four ensembles performing a unique program of Zorn's The Bagatelles. This first Box-set features a varied collection including: Jazz (Mary Halvorson Quartet with Miles Okazaki, Drew Gress & Tomas Fujiwara), Chamber Music (Erik Friedlander-Michael Nicolas Duo) Noise Rock (Trigger with Will Greene, Simon Hanes & Aaron Edgcomb) and Electronic Music (Ikue Mori).
4 CD Box Set $95 [Limited Edition / Deluxe Cover]
NATURAL INFORMATION SOCIETY with EVAN PARKER /JASON STEIN / JOSHUA ABRAMS / et al - Descension (Out of Our Constrictions)(Eremite 074-75; USA) “Rich in musical associations yet utterly singular in its voice, joyous with an inner tranquility, the music of Natural Information Society is unlike any other being made today. Their sixth album in eleven years for eremite records, descension (Out of Our Constrictions) is the first to be recorded live, featuring a set from London's Cafe OTO with veteran English free-improv great Evan Parker, & the first to feature just one extended composition. The 75-minute performance, inspired by the galvanizing presence of Parker, is a sustained bacchanalia of collective ecstasy. You could call it their party album.
This was the second time Parker played with NIS. Joshua Abrams: "Both times we played compositions with Evan in mind. I don't tell Evan anything. He's a free agent."
The music is focused & malleable, energized & even-keeled, drawing on concepts of ensemble playing common to musics from many locations & eras without any one specific aesthetic realization completely defining it.
"The rhythms that Mikel plays are not an exact reference to Chicago house, but that's in there," Abrams says. "I like to take a cyclic view of music history, can we take that four-on-the-floor, & consider how it connects to swing-era music? Can we articulate a through line? I dee-jayed for years in Chicago & lessons I learned from playing records for dancing inform how I think about the group's music. The listener can make connections to aspects of soul music, electronic music, minimalism, traditional folk musics, & other musics of the diaspora as well. It's about these aspects coming together. I don't need to mimic something, I need to embody it to get to the spirit, to get to the living thing."
For jazz fans, the sound of Parker's soprano & Jason Stein's bass clarinet might evoke Coltrane & Dolphy, even though they didn't necessarily set out to do that & they play with complete individuality. Abrams sees a bridge to the historical precedent, too. "Since we first met in the 1990s, one of the things that Evan and I connected on was Coltrane's music," he says. "I hoped that we would tap into that sound world intuitively. In this case, I think that level of evocation adds another layer of depth, versus a layer of reference."
Indeed, this is a performance in which the connections among the ensemble & the creative tension between improvisation and composition build into a complex mesh of associations & interactions. While the band confines itself to the territory mapped out by Abrams' composition, they are remarkably attentive & responsive, making adjustments to Parker's improvisations. When Parker's intricate patterns of notes interweave with the band, the parts reinforce one another & the music rockets upward. Sometimes, Parker's lines are cradled by the group's gentle pulse & an unearthly lyrical balance is struck.
Drummer Mikel Patrick Avery is locked-in, playing with hellacious long-form discipline, feel & responsiveness. Jason Stein's animated, vocalized bass clarinet weaves in & out with Lisa Alvarado's harmonium to state the piece's thematic material; the pulsing tremolo on the harmonium brings a Spacemen 3 vibe to the party. Abrams ties together melody & rhythm on guimbri, a presence that leads without seeming to. Like his bandmates, he shifts modes of playing frequently, improvising & then returning to the composed structure.
"As specific as the composition is, the goal is to internalize it & mix it up," Abrams says. "The idea is to get so comfortable that we can make spontaneous changes, find new routes of activity, stasis & byways every gig. It's like a web we're spinning. If someone makes a move, we all aim to be aware of it, make room for it. Experiencing & listening is what it's about, & Evan supercharges that."
“Supercharged" is the word for this album. With Parker further opening up their music, descension (Out of Our Constrictions) is the sound of Natural Information Society growing both more disciplined and freer, one of the great bands of its time on a deep run.”
2 LP Set $36
OWEN MAERCKS with HENRY KAISER / JOHN OSWALD / LARRY OCHS / JOHN GRUNTFEST / et al - Teenage Sex Therapist (Blue Vinyl)(Feeding Tube Records 153-3; USA) "Owen Maercks's Teenage Sex Therapist LP is one of the forgotten twisted pop masterpieces of the Twentieth Century. Owen had been in Monster Island with Henry Kaiser, who proposed he do a solo album or his songs. Henry had moved back west by this time, so Owen went out and recorded this album there. Henry produced, and added amazing horn parts by Jon Oswald, Larry Ochs, and John Gruntfest. In 1978, the album was mixed, pressed, and distributed exclusively to radio stations, record labels, and the like, in hopes of getting Owen signed. The music didn't fit any extant pigeonhole, however, so no deal was in the offing. About the only note of its passing was made by an A&R guy at Elektra, who swiped the arrangement (and lyric rearrangement) of 'Little Black Egg' (originally by The Nightcrawlers) for use by his protégées, The Cars. Well, f*ck them. Teenage Sex Therapist is ripe with jaw-drop moves. Flashes of Eno, Beefheart, Lou Reed, The Bonzos, and various of Owen's other obsessions fight each other for air time. And everyone goes away a winner. If this one doesn't make your teeth wiggle, you need a new jaw." - Byron Coley, 2014
ROBERTO MUSCI/GIOVANNI VENOSTA - A Noise, A Sound (Soave 019-20; Italy) New restock, reduced pricing. Soave present a reissue of Roberto Musci and Giovanni Venosta's A Noise, A Sound, originally released in 1992. The third episode of the alchemical association between Roberto Musci and Giovanni Venosta, reprinted for the first time. This work seems to be even more enigmatic than the previous ones. The "plunderphonics" style of the compositional process, significant to allowing a technical experimentalism of inexhaustible variety of materials used (compendium of sounds, harmonies, ethnic timbres) and the infinite possibilities of assembly between non-sense and provocation, still remains. You might be almost stimulated to guess -- in the articulated sound architectures of the tracks -- every single fragment of popular or cultured music from every part of the world (Asia, Africa, Middle East, South America) related to the ad hoc inserts of polyphonic instrumentation distorted and dazed. The music expressed is basically a polyhedral pataphysical gaze on the complexity of the existing, an immersion in the contradictory forces of reality; the attentive listener will be able to recognize the tortuous and magical lines of a free and imaginative artistic creation, which is absolutely counter-current and unconventional. Comes in gatefold sleeve.”
2 LP Set $24
ATTENTION ALL CREATIVE MUSICIANS OUT THERE, Around the world.
If you have a link, for some music that you are working on and want to share it with the folks who read the DMG Newsletter, please send the link to DMG at DMG@Downtownmusicgallery.com. Many of us are going stir crazy staying at home so if you want to inspire us and help us get through these difficult times, please show us what you got. I listed some these last week but have also a few more.
MORE THINGS TO DO WHILE YOU ARE WAITING AROUND FOR THE WORLD TO END OR GET BETTER: STILL STIR CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!
THIS IS FROM MY GOOD FRIEND JESSICA HALLOCK,
This is from Jessica Hallock, please do check it out, there is so much to explore here and I know some of you are bored and need some inspiration/distraction:
Livestreams are obviously no replacement for live shows, but they're all the community we have right now––so experimental music calendar NYC-Noise.com now provides links to livestreams (with artist / curator donation info); a roundup of local musicians' releases; COVID-19-related resources, including links to grants, petitions, & a local venue donation list; & an Instagram account (@NYC_Noise) promoting artists and releases. Please let me know about your livestreams &/or new records at www.nyc-noise.com/submit.
KEN WEISS interviews JAAP BLONK for the new Cadence magazine:
From the Ever-Amazing Violin Goddess - JENNY SCHEINMAN:
From Longtime DMG Customer Beni Fuchs:
Calvin Weston & Umbum Soundsystem
from Kaleidoscope, released March 7, 2021:
stephan wiedenbach -lead guitar
serge beck -rhythm guitar
martin 'smily' schmid -electric bass
sam bovey -percussion
beni fuchs (ben i sabbah) - electric phin, fx, ableton push
grant calvin weston -drums
recorded 2 feb /2021 at paradise underground, schaffhausen
drum lines by g calvin weston, philadelphia 2018
with kind permission (24bit 48000khz wav recording)
This comes from Multi-Instrumentalist/Composer/Futurist SCOTT ROBINSON:
https://youtu.be/amsOS00qieQ - This is the best music video I’ve seen in recent memory.
Here is a new SEAN ALI / MEGHAN DESMOND Music Video Collaboration:
Here is the video: https://vimeo.com/516694455
Here is just the audio:
Sean Ali plays acoustic bass and has played a number of solo & duo sets here at DMG. His bass playing is unlike anyone else I’ve heard and each set was fascinating. Meghan Desmond is one of my best friends and gig-going buddies. She was saved from a normal life by Downtown Music Scene Weirdness. Inspired by the music she heard, she picked up a camera and started to experiment. She has come a long way in the last few years, doing record covers, and photo/video collaborations with assorted Downtown Artists. Check out this new one, I think she and Sean Ali have really hit their stride! The video is in black & white and both the sounds and images are quite haunting so beware! - BLG/DMG
This comes from CHRIS CUTLER (Henry Cow, Art Bears & REcommended Records)
Chris has a podcast called Probes and this is Episode #29
During the earlier part of the pandemic/lockdown when I started going back to work at DMG in June, I listened to all of the Probes podcast series and on the train coming and going to NYC. Each one is fascinating as Mr. Cutler Probes the many aspects of Creative Music, unique instrumentation, the history of recordings and lots more. Please take some time and listen to these, they are most enlightening.
From INGRID LAUBROCK & TOM RAINEY:
Every Week for the entirety of this pandemic/lockdown INGRID LAUBROCK & TOM RAINEY have been posting a new duo offering. I have listened to every one of these as they were sent out and am much impressed by the way this duo continues to evolve and work their way through many ideas. You can check out each one here:
HENRY KAISER Continues with his Weekly Solo Series on Cuneiform’s Youtube page:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHUc8FYsWxg - new interview with Mr. Kaiser
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0-qbKTem9o - Tribute to Milford Graves
My good friend & guitar master GARY LUCAS is playing half hour sets at his apartment in the West village every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 3pm EST on Facebook. Different songs on each episode. Here is the link: https://www.facebook