Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SLAMFEST 1999 - Live At The Premises, London - (2CD-2000)

Label: Slam Productions – SLAMCD 405
Format: 2 × CD, Album; Country: UK - Released: 2000
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded live at the Premises, London, England, 10 and 11 July 1999.
Design, Producer – George Haslam
Recorded By, Edited By, Mastered By – Dill Katz

This first SLAM CD release for 2000 is a live recording of the two nights of music played at The Premises, London, July 1999 to celebrate the tenth year of SLAM CDs. The line up presents an impressive array of musicians prominent on the British improvising scene - most of which have appeared on previous SLAM releases. The recording is another example of the impressive abilities of soundman Dill Katz. The music by five different groups fills two CDs; the double CD package is offered at the same price as a SLAM single CD.

ARTISTS: Brian Abrahams, Roberto Bellatalla, Jeremy Brown, Lol Coxhill, Gary Curson, Elton Dean, Jim Dvorak, Nick Evans, George Haslam, Jim LeBaigue, Phil Minton, Liam Noble, Howard Riley, Paul Rutherford, Harrison Smith, Keith Tippett.

The artists who participate on this two-CD set, recorded live at the Premises, London July 10 and 11, 1999, read like a who's who of British modern jazz/improvising superstars. Here, legendary saxophonists Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill, trombonist Paul Rutherford, pianist Keith Tippett, vocalist Phil Minton, and others of note perform within various aggregations or subgroups on this rather multifarious affair. Basically, these performances should whet one's musical appetite, whether they are Tippett's sweeping arpeggios and fervent right-hand leads on the piece titled "Careful Driver," or Coxhill, Rutherford, and baritone saxophonist George Haslam's frisky interplay and converging statements on the 19-minute work "CHAR I." Other highlights include: a spirited duet, marked by counterbalancing themes between pianist Howard Riley and alto saxophonist Elton Dean, while "Tuna Up" features trumpeter Jim Dvorak and Phil Minton embarking upon an often humorous journey, thanks in part to Minton's frantic, scat-like vocalise and the twosome's altogether enticing exchanges. Ultimately, there's quite a bit to digest here, as the musicians toggle between modern jazz- style interplay and cunning improvisational tactics, atop richly thematic lyricism and blues- drenched choruses.


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Saturday, December 28, 2013

TERUMASA HINO – Taro's Mood (1973) [Recorded live at the Domicile] - Re-2006

Label: Enja Records – ENJ 2104 2
Series: Enja · 24bit Master Edition –
Format: 2 × CD, Album, Remastered, Digipack; Country: Germany - Released: 2006
Style: Hard Bop, Free Improvisation
Recorded live at the jazzclub Domicile in Münich, June 29th 1973
Design – David Winckelmann
Photography By – Josef Werkmeister, Mathias Rissi
Producer – Matthias Winckelmann
Recorded By – Jürgen Koppers
Remastered At – Organic Music Studio, By – Thorsten Scheffner

Recorded in 1973. Remastered from analog source. 1 bonus track plus 1 bonus CD (tracks 5- 7)

Born in 1942 in Tokyo, Terumasa Hino made his professional debut in 1955. After the great success of his album "Hi-nology" (1969) he performed at the Berliner Jazztage in 1971 and at many other festivals before moving to New York in 1975. Today Hino is a lving legend and the most famous national jazz musician in Japan. Once an editor of Miles Davis transcriptions, his powerful playing in the 70s and his "large, brilliant tone" (Grove Dictionary) have often been compared to Miles Davis' 60s style. "Taro's Mood" is a fiery, high-energy live document of freestyle hardbop that also allows moments of surprising lyricism. Including four bonus tracks, this edition gives a much broader picture of Hino's music than the original LP vinyl could.

LP cover (1973)
Terumasa Hino

One of the first great non-Japanese recordings by trumpeter Terumasa Hino – a smoking little live set from Germany, done at a time when Hino was working at the height of his youthful powers! The mode here is stretched out and open – never too outside, but very exploratory – in the direction that Hino took quite strongly on his Japanese albums as the 70s approached, but performed here in a style that's even more organic than those records. The group is all Japanese – with Motohiko Hino on drums and Mikio Masuda on piano – and added conga at the bottom of the backings almost gives the record an early 70s Impulse Records sort of feel – nice and spiritual, and plenty soulful! Titles include "Alone Alone & Alone", "Taro's Mood", "Black Daffodil", and "Predawn". CD also features a bonus CD of unreleased material – the tracks "Stella By Starlight", "Cycle Circle", and "Lullaby".

Very beautiful recording.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Label: FMP – SAJ-28
Format: Vinyl, LP; Country: Germany - Released: 1982
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded by Thomas Funk on March 20th & 23rd, 1980, during the Workshop Freie Musik at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
Music edited by – Harry Millerand and Jost Gebers
Produced by – Jost Gebers
Cover photographs and cover design by – Dagmar and Jost Gebers

"No Gossip"... An outstanding pairing of percussion and melody from the British pianist Tippett and South African drummer Moholo. What’s surprising is that Moholo provides much of the melodic material, while Tippett handles the beat. An intense record that demands attention.

This LP was originally released in 1982 (and recorded in 1980); it has never been on CD. The pair have continued to perform as No Gossip, most recently 2010 in London, on the occasion of Moholo’s 70th birthday. The last surviving member of the Blue Notes, Moholo is a towering figure of the music, a bridge that links South Africa to the European scene, and beyond. Tippett brings a huge imagination and aggressively heterodox approach to his instrument. Together, they form a timeless couple.

This is simply one of the best free improvisation jazz albums around. Tippett is a woefully overlooked pianist whose technical abilities and musical sensibilities are vast. Coupled with the energetic drummer Louis Moholo, these two have created a fiery, frenetic, but thoroughly captivating music. Rather than being simply a flurry of notes, this music is exciting, invigorating and demands attention. “ Black and White Unite ” is a nearly continuous onslaught of sound that leaves the listener drained, but blissfully so. “ Dedicated to Mandela, Biko, Sobukwe ” is a more varied work. Over Moholo’s perpetual motion drumming, Tippett works with a variety of textures and ideas, with passages that make reference to more conventional jazz, some lyrical and beautiful arpeggios, as well as some pull out all the stops jamming. Side two begins with the most extreme piece, which includes bird calls, guttural utterances, Tippett damping the strings with his hand inside the piano, and other unidentified sounds, not to mention some absolutely stunning playing by Tippett. Finally, “ All People…God’s People…Don’t Worry ” is a very interesting piece which finds Tippett exploring the lower, oft neglected, register of the piano. This is an album that must be heard.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

KEES HAZEVOET QUARTET – Pleasure (1970) Re-2004

Label: Atavistic – UMS/ALP234CD
Series: Unheard Music Series –
Format: CD, Album, Reissue; Country: US - Released: 2004
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded on September 6, 1970 in the auditorium of Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Design [Cover] – Fred R. Willemse
Engineer – Alwin Mulder
Photography By – Andries L. Hazevoet
Producer – Kees Hazevoet, Tony Schreuder
Reissue Producer, Liner Notes – John Corbett

It's no surprise that most free jazz fans haven't heard Pleasure. The 1970 debut from pianist/clarinetist Kees Hazevoet and his quartet was originally released in the Netherlands as a tiny edition of 250 copies replete with silk-screened covers. It may have been the first offering from Hazevoet under his own name, but by the time of Pleasure's release he was already deeply entrenched in the European free improvisation scene. On Pleasure he's joined by two fellow countrymen: alto saxophonist Kris Wanders and bassist Arjen Gorter, both of whom had been playing with Hazevoet as part of his working group. Joining them here is legendary South African drummer Louis Moholo, best known for his work with fellow South African ex-pat Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath. The album starts with "Moving Lady," with its humble bass intro soon joined by clarinet and alto for a melancholy melody that is quickly swept away by Moholo's stuttering toms and crashing cymbals. "What Happens" is a more tentative dialog that finds its foundation in Hazevoet's enigmatic piano riffs -- tiny patterns that swirl around the other players before fading away, only to return with heavy chord clusters. It's a brooding style that serves the quartet well, and while there are remarkable solos here, it's the group interaction that makes Pleasure stand out. "All There," the 20-minute album closer, is centered on the spiraling interplay between Hazevoet on piano and Wanders on sax. Toward the end of the piece, Hazevoet switches to clarinet for a frantic mantra that drives Wanders' alto to higher heights before easing the proceedings back to a reverent earthbound finish. This is the second Hazevoet date to be reissued by Atavistic (the first was the excellent Unlawful Noise by Haazz & Company) and a third, Calling Down the Flevo Spirit with Han Bennink, is already planned. Hazevoet may not have the name recognition of his Dutch peers, largely due to his retirement from music just as the Netherlands scene was getting some of its due, but Pleasure's reappearance after such a lengthy stay in obscurity proves that you can't keep a good record down. Here's to more albums like Pleasure and players like Kees Hazevoet getting the attention they deserve.

_ Review by WADE KERGAN

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Sunday, December 22, 2013


Label: FMP – FMP CD 116
Format: CD, Album Country: Germany - Released: 2001
Style: Free Improvisation, Free Jazz
Recorded during the "Total Music Meeting" on November 5th and 6th, 1999 at the "Podewil" in Berlin
Design, Layout, Photography By – Dagmar Gebers
Liner Notes – Steve Lake
Liner Notes [Translation] – Caroline Lake
Mixed By, Mastered By – Jonas Bergler
Producer – Jost Gebers
Recorded By – Holger Scheuermann, Jonas Bergler

There are two – really three – distinct groups represented here. The first track, taking up more than thirty-five minutes, is an invigorating duo between Paul Dunmall and John Edwards. Evidently, Dunmall was scheduled to perform with bassist Paul Rogers, who was ill at the last moment, and Edwards took his place. The second is a powerful duo between John Butcher and Edwards, lasting just a tad longer, and the final short track features all three musicians. You might consider this is a welcome opportunity to compare Dunmall and Butcher close up, but their styles are so different that that is not really the point at all. All three tracks have their high points, and stand alone as significant pieces of music. It is unclear why the recording is listed under Dunmall ’ s name “ with ” Edwards and Butcher, since Edwards plays his heart out (even if he is a replacement), and is the only player found on all three tracks, and since the two saxophonists would seem to be equal participants. The Dunmall duo is important for his bagpipe work, which if you have never heard it before, is revelatory. It boasts at least as broad a range as the soprano or tenor, and allows the player to perform separate notes simultaneously, giving the impression of a trio or quartet. It has elements of the keyboard, too, in its fingering. Dunmall is the dominant figure on “ Gaulstones ” , in which he performs ecstatically, producing some of the best free bagpipe work on record – a long way from Rufus Harley. Edwards gets plenty of solo space, during and after which Dunmall switches to soprano. There are outstanding interactions, quick changes in tempo and, at least on soprano, some attractively mellifluous sections. “ Rhymes ” , the piece in which Butcher performs with Edwards, is divided into four distinct sections, which add a dash of diversity. The set with Butcher does not break any new ground, but as with so many of his performances, it offers glimpses of new sounds and directions. While Dunmall relies on over-blowing as an important technique on bagpipes, Butcher focuses more on a range of advanced techniques, including split tones, multi-phonics, flutter tonguing, and others to create a palette of sound. You might call Dunmall ’ s approach the macro-sound, as opposed to the micro-sounds of Butcher – but that is probably too great to generalization as each incorporates varied complexities and overlapping strategies. The promising though short closing piece, “ Hit and Run ” , in which Butcher, Edwards, and Dunmall improvise simultaneously, almost lives up to expectations. Its only downside is its short length, and its somewhat abrupt ending, leaving the listener wishing for more, and hoping for a follow-up performance and recording.

Cadence Magazine # 6, June, 2002

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Thursday, December 19, 2013


Label: Blueprint (Voiceprint) – BP339CD
Format: CD, Album Country: UK - Released: 2000
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Tracks 1, 2, 4, 7 recorded 20.01.00 at Eddie Mander's studio in Stoke Newington, London 
Tracks 3, 5, 6 recorded 17/18/21.01.00 at the Red Rose Club, as part of the 'Wireless' Festival
Artwork by – John Gardiner (Abstract Flight')
Design by – L-Space Design
Mastered by – Dave Bernez

QED features saxophonist Elton Dean in various contexts, from a duet with bassist Paul Rogers to trios, quartets, and a quintet with Jim Dvorak (trumpet), Nick Evans (trombone), Rogers, and Mark Sanders (drums). Other players include Alex Maguire (Hammond organ and piano), Tony Bianco (drums), Paul Dunmall (tenor sax), Simon Picard (tenor sax), and Robert Bellatalla (bass). The seven improvisations were recorded during one studio session and three live dates, all in January 2000. Even though collaborators and configurations change from one track to the next, this set forms a more cohesive (and interesting) whole than Moorsong, another Dean hodgepodge released around the same time on Cuneiform. These are all free improvisations with jazz roots. Highlights include the opening and closing numbers, two energy-filled trios with Maguire and Bianco on which Dean also plays electric piano (a wink to his Soft Machine days?). Bianco's Rashied Ali-inspired drumming and Maguire's funky Hammond playing turn these two tunes into exciting free-form fusion numbers. The horribly titled "Sax.com" is a nice sax quartet with Dean, Dunmall, Picard, and Jason Yarde. It makes a great contrast with "Sheepdogs," the aforementioned duet, where Dean reminds us how soulful his playing can be. The longest track is the quintet improv, "Deep Crease," the most textural of all. QED is a healthy dose of Elton Dean and a release his fans will not want to pass on.

_ by François COUTURE

Elton Dean’s recent associations with Hammond organ specialist Alex Maguire (as heard on HUX’s excellent release Psychic Warrior) have been gradually building over time. QED is one of the first recording dates with Maguire and drummer Tony Bianco that capture a return of sorts to the inspired signpost of Dean’s Soft Machine days. This trio gets two cuts on the recording: the first song, “ Hammond X ” is informed by the ghost of Tony Williams Lifetime as Dean spends time on Fender Rhodes against Maguire’s pensive but effective tones. The trio’s other piece ends the disc, “ New Roads ” which is perhaps a bit more into Brian Auger territory but the trio are playing at breakneck speed to end the recording on a substantial high note. Maguire is retained on piano for two freer excursions with Roberto Bellatalla and Mark Sanders handling the rhythm duties. Their first performance, “ Quartered, ” is a loosely structured piece with Maguire comping against Sander ’ s loose tempo and Bellatalla’s adept anchoring. The latter piece, “ Altored Saint, ” is a saner improvisation with Dean and Maguire introducing an intuitive dialog before the upright bass enters with a few careful brush strokes on the snare. On “ Sax.com ” Dean is joined by three fellow sax men (Paul Dunmall, Simon Picard and Jason Yarde) for a somber English take on San Francisco’s Rova sax quartet. Jim Dvorak and Nick Evans join Dean and Sanders on the longest improv, “ Deep Crease, ” which is the definitive performance on the disc. In summary Dean has rarely delivered anything but high quality collaborations between various configurations across the years.

_ By JEFF MELTON, Published 2005-09-01

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Monday, December 16, 2013

MIKE OSBORNE: TRIO / QUINTET – Border Crossing (1974) + Marcel's Muse (1977) – CD-2004

Label: Ogun – OGCD 015
Format: CD, Compilation, Digipack; Country: UK - Released: 2004
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
"Border Crossing" recorded live at the Peanuts Club, held at the "Kings Arms", Bishopsgate, London, E.C.2 on 28 September 1974.
"Marcel's Muse" recorded in London on 31 May 1977
Executive-Producer – Hazel Miller
Mastered By – Martin Davidson
Mixed By, Edited By – Keith Beal (tracks: 1 to 4)
Producer – Keith Beal (tracks: 1 to 4), Ron Barron (tracks: 5 to 8)
Recorded By – Ron Eve (tracks: 5 to 18)

The saxophonist Mike Osborne is pungent, sweet-and-sour, occasionally anguished tone might twinge some teeth, and almost all the material here represents a spiky, free-jazz exploration of idiosyncratic originals.

In his heyday from the late 1960s to the end of the 70s, alto saxophonist Mike Osborne was one of the most distinctive saxophone voices in Brit-jazz (and when you are talking about a school that included Elton Dean, Evan Parker, Dudu Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, etc., that is really saying something). This is two of his five albums as a leader for Ogun together and complete on one CD. "Although having retired from the music scene for well-documented health-related reasons over 20 years ago*, Osborne is still the greatest alto saxophonist ever to come out of Britain (that of course being separate and distinct from all the great alto players who came into Britain, such as Bertie King, Joe Harriott, Dudu Pukwana, Bernie Living, Ray Warleigh and Ntshuks Bonga) and this album of highlights from one of the trio ’ s many continuous performances at Stockwell ’ s Peanuts Club of the early-to-mid ‘ 70s is the unassailable proof of that assertion. He came out of Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy via Ornette, but Osborne quickly found and established his own level of intensity, never better documented than here. As the three musicians move from tune to tune, the intensity of the music is stoked up to such a degree that side two of this album in particular is an emotionally exhausting adrenalin rush of music, easily up there with Ornette at the Golden Circle, Osborne, Miller and Moholo existing in absolute and blissful telepathy as they threaten to break all manner of sound and space barriers. This record, more than most in the Ogun catalogue, is urgently in need of reissue.
– (Text is from 2004)

*Note: Illness prevented him working from 1982. He died on 19 September 2007.

...Despite his illness and an increasing spiral of drinking and drug-taking, Ossie was able to hold things together for periods, largely due to the emotional, and financial, support of the ever-loyal Louise. Schizophrenia is perhaps the most destructive of any mental illness. Over time, the personality and the individual’s capacity to function deteriorates usually to the point where long-term care is required. That would prove the case with Mike Osborne. And yet, from 1975 even into the early-80s, Ossie produced some of his most remarkable work. Working with Hazel and Harry Miller and their Ogun record label resulted in Border Crossing with his trio with Harry and Louis and three years later in the quintet album, Marcel’s Muse, featuring Marc Charig on trumpet and the highly talented Jeff Green on guitar. There were also two albums with Stan Tracey, at the time in his most experimental phase. Both Tandem and Live at Bracknell are exceptional pieces of work and better yet are planned for reissue soon...
_ By Duncan Heining

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

HARRY MILLER'S ISIPINGO – Which Way Now (1975, Re-2006)

Label: Cuneiform Records – Rune 233
Format: CD, Album; Country: US - Released: 2006
Style: Free Jazz,  Free Improvisation, Contemporary Jazz
Recorded at Post-Aula, Bremen, Germany on November 20, 1975.
Coordinator [Release Coordination] – Steven Feigenbaum
Design [Cd Package] – Bill Ellsworth
Painting [Cover Painting] – Ellie Payne; Photography By – Jak Kilby
Producer [Concert] – Gisela Steppat, Volker Steppat
Recorded By – Dietram Köster, Jürgen Kuntze, Klaus Schumacher, Peter Schulze
Remastered By [Tube] – Michael King, Miki Dandy
Technician [Transfer From The Original Tapes] – Christoph Romanowski

Which Way Now features over 70 minutes of music from a beautifully recorded radio concert from November 20, 1975; it sounds as if you are in the room right with the band!
Since Isipingo only released one album during their lifetime, this release dramatically extends their legacy and like Cuneiform's important and historical work with the Brotherhood of Breath, brings this important, hugely enjoyable, nearly-forgotten music to a new audience.

The remarkably large and intersecting jazz and progressive rock community of late-'60s and early-'70s England is enough to give any discographer nightmares. But within that group a few key players came together more often than most, including a contingent which had escaped South Africa's apartheid. Harry Miller was one such artist, an in-demand bassist who appeared on albums by King Crimson, saxophonist Elton Dean's Ninesence and pianist Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. Miller is underrepresented as a leader, so Which Way Now is a particularly welcome rescued archival live recording, highlighting Miller's considerable skills as composer and bandleader.

Recorded for Radio Bremen in 1975, Which Way Now features Miller's Isipingo sextet. It's a refreshingly vibrant acoustic jazz album, recorded at a time when most of his peers were pursuing the carrot of fusion. Combining traces of his African roots with a more open-ended improvisational aesthetic, it also strongly reflects the influence of jazz icon John Coltrane. Four extended pieces ranging from 15 to 21 minutes show Miller's ability to provide maximum freedom and avoid compromise. Pervasive rhythms that only occasionally dissolve into total freedom also keep them completely accessible.

The performance was recorded less than a month before another South African ex-pat, trumpeter Mongezi Feza, passed away in December, 1975 at only 30. A sharp-toned player who left a small but fine body of work, Feza is perhaps best known for his work on singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt's early records. Here he's at his best on the mid-tempo, modal "Eli's Song, where his own sense of construction combines with a certain abandon. He's matched by Mike Osborne, who may be an altoist, but is clearly informed by Coltrane's assertive stance.

The spirit of Coltrane may loom over this session, but the presence of pianist Keith Tippett takes it to a different place entirely. The best-known and certainly the most prolific player of the bunch, Tippett has always leaned towards more complete freedom. Here he isn't exactly reined in, but he remains within a sphere of smaller diameter, creating an outré space underneath the soloists that, oddly enough, meshes perfectly with Miller and South African drummer Louis Moholo's insistent pulse.

Trombonist Nick Evans' solo on the fiery title track interacts boldly with Tippett's sparse accompaniment, manifesting the kind of chemistry that's honed from years of working together. This shared chemistry amongst the entire sextet is, in fact, what makes Which Way Now so exciting from beginning to end. Whether acting as a tag-team rhythm section partner with Moholo and Tippett or delivering provocative solos, Miller clearly had the makings of a musical giant—which makes it all the more sad then that, like Feza, Miller's life was cut short prematurely in 1983 at the age of 42. Still, Which Way Now is a welcome reminder of just how vibrant the UK improvising scene was—and continues to be.

_ By JOHN KELMAN, Published: August 12, 2006

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Thursday, December 12, 2013


Label: JDF – NDEJJ-3
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album; Country: US - Released: 1984 
Style: Free Jazz,  Free Improvisation
Recorded At – Mastersound, New York, release date: 1/1/1984
Engineer – Stephen Peppos
Painting – Joseph Schwarzbaum
Photography By – Linda Wood

Very rare vinyl record. Great free jazz musicians with the legendary alto of Jimmy Lyons.

A  -  Inneraction Part 1 ............................................................ 20:02
B1 - Inneraction Part 1 Cont. .................................................. 13:25
B2 - Inneraction Part 2 .............................................................. 6:32

JIMMY LYONS - alto sax

Futterman, a Chicago native who now resides in the East, is one of the few pianists who has the mental and physical equipment to be usefully influenced by Cecil Taylor.

His group here (alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, bassist Ricard Davis, drummer Robert Adkins) mirrors the basic sound of the many Taylor units that have had Lyons as their horn voice, and Futterman also strives for Taylor`s aura of near-unrelieved, breakneck intensity.

It`s much to the leader`s credit, though, that the results sound more personal than one might expect--perhaps because the challenge of playing in this manner is so extreme that, amid the blizzard of Taylor-esque patterns, Futterman`s own vision eventually has to emerge.

Completely new FLAC rip. I think you'll be satisfied.

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If you find it, buy this album!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HEINER STADLER – Brains On Fire (2CD-2012) - [2LPs-1973/’74 + previously unreleased tapes]

Label: Labor Records – LAB 7069
Format: 2 × CD, Album - Released: 02/28/2012
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at Nola Penthouse Sound Studio, NYC 1966 & recorded at O' Brien's Studio, Teaneck, NJ 1971/1973
Artwork [Illustration] By – Johann Feindt
Design By – Conni Lechner; Photography By – M. De Chiara
Engineer – Orville O'Brien / Tony May
Producer, Composed By – Heiner Stadler

Music that stretches boundaries and, yes, might sizzle the brain pan a bit.

Jimmy OWENS – trumpet (CD1: track 1; CD2: track 4); Tyrone WASHINGTON – tenor saxophone, flute (CD1: tracks 1-3; CD2: tracks 2-3); Garnett BROWN – trombone (CD1: track 1; CD2: track 4); Heiner STADLER – piano (CD1: tracks 1-3; CD2: tracks 2-3); Reggie WORKMAN – bass (CD1: tracks 1-3; CD2: track 1); Brian BRAKE – drums (CD1: track 1); The Big Band of the North German Radio Station: Manfred SCHOOF, Gerd DUDEK, Albert MANGELSDORFF, Wolfgang DAUNER, Lucas LINDHOLM, Tony INZALACO (CD1: track 4); Dee Dee BRIDGEWATER – vocals (CD2: track 1); Joe FARRELL – tenor saxophone (CD2: track 4); Don FRIEDMAN – piano (CD2: track 4); Barre PHILLIPS – bass (CD2: track 4); Joe CHAMBERS – drums (CD2: track 4)

Some recordings should come with a sticker which states: for those willing to be challenged. German-American composer, producer, pianist, arranger and bandleader Heiner Stadler’s reissued, remastered, restructured and expanded release, Brains on Fire (which initially came out as two separate vinyl volumes in 1967, which are often rare to find), certainly qualifies for such a caveat emptor. For some, Stadler is known as an interpreter of other musicians’ material, due in part to last year’s remixed reissue of his 1978 outing, A Tribute to Monk and Bird, which was also put out on Stadler’s Labor label. Stadler has also reissued other titles from his back catalog, including 1976’s Jazz Alchemy (which came out in 2000) and the 1996 compilation Retrospection (reissued in 2010). This year it is time to reevaluate one Stadler’s most original efforts, Brains on Fire. This CD version contains three tunes never before heard and marks the first CD presentation of five other works.

One reason to listen to the two-disc Brains on Fire is to hear then-current and up-and-coming jazz luminaries dig deeply into material which spans the perceived gap between avant-garde, post-bop, tone-row experiments and European serialist composition. The eight long pieces (four per disc) were recorded between 1966 and 1974 and feature 17 artists (as well as an orchestra), including trumpeter Jimmy Owens (who worked with Miles Davis in the '50s and was a founding member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), bassist Reggie Workman (notable for his work with John Coltrane, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Yusef Lateef), and future stars such as saxophonist/flutist Joe Farrell (who subsequently had crossover success on the CTI roster) and a young Dee Dee Bridgewater (a few years before fame found her, when she was still singing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra).

Stadler uses several ensemble configurations ranging from a bass/vocals duet to a quartet (on four tracks) to a big band. The first CD’s opener, “ No Exercise ” (taken from a 1973 session but making its debut here) features a sextet with a three-horn frontline (Owens on trumpet, Tyrone Washington on tenor sax and Garnett Brown on trombone) with a three-piece rhythm section (Stadler on piano, Brian Brake on drums and Workman). The 12-minute workout starts with Workman’s arco bass, followed by Owens’ warm trumpet and then the rest of the group steps up to help present Stadler’s avant-garde blues which is shaped by a 12-tone row. Workman’s astute bass is a highlight during this spontaneously-surging piece, but so is Washington’s unfettered sax. Since Washington later left music because of a religious conversion, Brains on Fire is one of the few places listeners can hear the obscure sax player display the width of his skills. Washington is also heard to great effect on three other tracks. The post-Coltrane “ Three Problems ” (a 1971 performance never before released) crosses the lines between hard bop and free jazz, and is an often-chaotic construction with Washington’s lacerating sax leading the charge. Workman adds a transcendent bass solo, which temporarily ebbs the high-energy level, but for the most part “ Three Problems ” is almost 13 minutes of roaring density. “ Heidi ” has a slower, spiritual treatment and listeners initially may find this to be the most coherent cut, although “ Heidi ” also eventually edges to a tumultuous portion where written and improvised sections are fused to the point where it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other commences. The other quartet tunes, “ U.C.S ” and “ All Tones ” (both on CD2), are parallel explorative compositions which delve into variations on texture, phrasing and theme akin to Coltrane’s brilliant free recitations such as Interstellar Space or Ornette Coleman’s vitality-fueled Free Jazz, where the music is elaborately extemporized and not easily absorbed in a single listen. Howard Mandel’s liner notes advise listeners to let “ U.C.S ” and “ All Tones ” sweep the listener along and it’s a good recommendation.

Two of the longer compositions employ very different approaches. The 24-minute Russ Freeman-penned “ Bea’s Flat ” (a 1974 recording offered here for the first time) is a striking, customized blues given over entirely to The Big Band of the North German Radio Station, conducted by Dieter Glawischnig. Several band members are spotlighted as soloists (sax and piano in particular) and the full ensemble actually steps away at times, emphasizing single instruments. The result is somewhat like a meeting between Duke Ellington’s and Sun Ra’s groups. Reggie Workman and Dee Dee Bridgewater’s 20-minute bass/voice pairing, “ Love in the Middle of the Air ” (a shorter take can be found on Retrospection) is nearly as remarkable in a wholly dissimilar way. Bridgewater stretches, undulates and heightens beat poet Lenore Kandel’s minimal lines, phrases and words while Workman glides and rolls on his bass with perfect sympathy: his meticulous arco work in particular is an emotional standout.

Despite recordings from four studios and engineers, there is observable and high quality engineering and audio constancy over the course of the two-hour, eight-track project. Even during the most intense moments instruments rise out from the mix rather than getting washed aside, and when the heady musical concoction is confined to just a few instruments (like bass or vocals) the sound is wonderfully expressive.

_ By Doug Simpson 
 (February 22, 2012, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION)

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Saturday, December 7, 2013


Label: BV Haast Records – BVHAAST 041/042
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album; Country: Netherlands - Released: 1981
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at M.C.R. Studio Amersfoort, Holland, April 21th, 22th and May 6th 1981
Composed By – Henk de Jonge (tracks: C2), Unico Wilhelm graaf van Wassenaer (tracks: D1a-d), Willem Breuker (tracks: A1 to B5, D2), Willem van Manen (tracks: C1)
Cover Draving By – Ariane Gscheidle

Simply put, this is the finest album ever released by the Willem Breuker Kollektief as a jazz tentet (as opposed to the repertory ensemble they later became). In Holland contains the most creative orchestrations, and the most thrilling solo work by the Kollektief, and ranks among the best jazz albums of the '80s. Two of the songs here ("Tango Superior/Interruptie" and "To Be With Louis P.") were released on the compilation disk The Parrot, but the remainder were only available on vinyl as of 2001. 

The first record of this two-LP set is essentially designed as a suite, beginning with a powerful overture, and continuing on through an uproarious tango featuring a comically frustrated Breuker on alto, a drunkenly careening showcase for the brilliant trumpeter Boy Raaymakers, a loving homage to Prokofiev, and a fleeting reference to Wagner. Altoist Bob Driessen soloing never sounded better, and the driving bass work of the invaluable Arjen Gorter causes one's jaw to drop. Next comes "To Be With Louis P.," a surging R&B number with Breuker in the hilarious role of sleazy lounge singer who nonetheless matches Maarten van Norden's wondrous tenor sax shouting note for note. 

The second LP consists of four compositions, including a concertino by an obscure 17th century Swiss composer, and a ferocious reel called "Hopsa, Hopsa" that builds up, morphs, and goes bananas. It's an album highlight, featuring a breathtaking performance by WBK, and composed by the newcomer (who'd stick around) pianist Henk de Jonge. Also included is one of Breuker's most beautiful and moving compositions, "Marche Funèbre" (from his musical production De Vuyle Wasch, or 'Dirty Laundry'), whose themes are at once rich, somber, romantic, and inspired. Though the group lost quite a bit of freshness after the mid-'80s, In Holland qualifies as an extraordinary record by one of the most creative and enjoyable jazz ensembles to have emerged from Europe.


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