Thursday, 22 December 2011


words: gian paolo galasi
photos and videos: the internet

... and Merry Xmas
I have to say that I never really trusted in Marc Augé and his radical-chic 'non lieux' anthropology. 

The first thing that strikes me is that at the moment science is developing very quickly and, on the other hand, the inequality between those who are close to the poles of knowledge and those who are disconnected, those who are even unable to read or write, this difference is growing more quickly than the difference between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. If we project these changes into the future, we may fear a world in which, rather than generalised democracy, there develops an aristocracy around the poles where knowledge, money and power concentrate, and a mass of consumers, and an even larger mass of non-consumers, those who are excluded from both consumption and knowledge. In the end, it may be that this competition between cities has some connection, more or less conscious, with this hypothetical future. It is possible to imagine that the smaller cities are further ahead in this competition than the other, larger and more powerful cities. And all this, this competing between cities to carve out a niche for themselves, is made evident in architecture: there are some ten or twenty well-known architects whose buildings the cities of the world want to have, because having them, having one of their iconic works, means making a place for yourself on this international network. It seems clear that Barcelona might be one of these cities in competition.

The real problem Augé seems to avoid, is the fact that the times of the 'symbolic=connection', or the times of 'connection=symbolic', are finally over and, possibly, forever. And that this is a truth that concerns power (whatever that word means today) so much as 'the poor'. 

Augé talks about places and circulation, and about architrecture as far as rationalizing spaces and communications. Performance art dealt in the last decades so much with the virtual, the symbolic, the connection, the place, the inside, the outside. At the point that, since art is always a way to approach and reflect reality, now we know that such words are completely meaningless. 

It was different at the times of psychoanalisis, the last of the western - materialistic as far as western - religions. Sigmund Freud and his fellows - Carl G. Jung, Mélanie Klein, Wilhelm Reich - and the subsequent surrealistic movement - from André Breton and Louis Aragon to Joan Mirò, Louis Bunuel and Antonin Artaud - were all looking for a connection  almost in the same way. Possibly only Jacques Lacan was really looking far ahead - in the west. The video of the Italian actor Carmelo Bene, from his Macbeth Horror Suite, seem to be the completion of Lacan's reflections on the voice, so people interested in this blog as a vehicle for music are not far from their own commitment here - but not even compelled to. 

The really interesting thing in Jacques Lacan idea - a Freudian concept passed through Saussure's linguistic studies - of the relationship between the self and the other - the other that gives shape to the self, as in every western conception of reality, projective and divided as it is every western idea of the self - is that it is the voice to represent the symbolic liaison, the law, and to be a guarantee for the subject, for the self, that the law will be respectful of its reality, that the self will never be disrupted, distroyed.

If psychosis, schizofrenia, paranoia, is so the result of a lack of guarantee that the other - the mother, the father, society, the law, the power - is respectful of the unity of the self, every artistic representation involving such concepts in reality has gone thus far. Art in some way is kind of affected from a borderline personality disorder: is to push directly the listener, or the seer, or the reader, to elaborate questions about the law, to the order, the symbolic, the self.

That's why since almost a couple of centuries, in which the explosion of codes and rules in every art field was nothing more than a way to break through the aestetics as a matter of consoling - the refusal to be 'bourgeois' - passed through the attempt to give back - over the stage, over the frame, over the lines - to the absence of mediations. 

Do you remember the 'motto': art is antisocial? You got it. But in some way the effort of every creative urge is so totalitarian - think about the attempt of every artist to create its own personal language in order to communicate new contents through new forms and to be recognizable as such, as unique - that can also be considered violent, and so at the opposite of a revolution - at least of a democratic one. Art is fascist? Some artist was accused of that. Glenn Branca, as an example - and by the like of John Cage, nonetheless. Art deals with love, and death is part of it. Think to be able of getting rid of the contradiction? You aren't. Because you are in the middle. As art. So, you got to dance.

I know how risky is to get through similar items and so go ahead with such a discussion, but the whole point is, if big concepts are the same, and we want to avoid to talk in vain about unreal things, what's really, so to speak, real, or true? And, more, are we so sure to really been able to avoid abstraction nowadays? Are we sure that the world of the non-idiomatic is really or, at least, always the world of the essential, of the in-between? 

In a discussion with a famous avant garde trumpet player I had some months ago in Italy, we were at a certain point discussing about the idea that no one now is dealing with creating anything new for a lack of courage in going outside the mainstream. The day after - it was an intensive interview sessions - another musician, famous as such, a saxophone player, told me about his non believing in 'new forms in art'. But it is a fact that, when he started to play, what he was doing sounded really new. And it is new even today, if you approach it for the first time. 

Nine months after, and I'm sometimes so frightented about how much new stuff I'm discovering, and about how much I feel the need to have more informations and skills about even the old stuff I love and I want to write about, that I'm still grateful for not living only with my writing about music, and to have the opportunity to take my time. Possibly, the most interesting and - as far as me - truthful concept elaborated by a living artist in depicting the situation, is Anthony Braxton 'tri-centric vibrational dynamics'. 

The idea that we are dealing everyday with informations in order to manage with our own lives, that art and music is part of that and that creativity can be dangerous for every wrong circulation of informations: Braxton states that usually establishment gives informations about the 'lower partials' - e.g.: 'Charlie Parker was a genius and a drug addicted' - without any regard for the 'upper partials' - the social conditions and the artistic background of every Charlie Parker - diffusing so an idea of 'revolution' - even of 'artistic revolution' that is mutilated and an idea of artistic personality mediated through romanticism and psychologicism.

That's what probably, outside of the psychoanalitic mythology, Lacan was referring to with the term 'manque' ('lack', in English). The same Diamanda Galàs was referring to when talking about the 'plague' of the AIDS as provoked by mass media. The same Amiri Baraka was referring to when talking about the lack of a sociological study on the 'negro music' in the USA. But what about today, in 2011, in London?

Since my first three months here, it seems to me that there's no such an artistic movement or artist nowadays able to express the contradictions I'm beginning to see there. After three months living in the Zone 2, I relocated at the borders of the Zone 3, in East Ham. Not that far there is Canary Wharf, one of the most important financial districts of the city, while at the border of my block there is a building used as a mosque. 

I'm so happy, at least for the moment, to be able to pass through all those different environments, since I really fear every definite form of steadiness. As far as my own experience, when you get to a point in which you staunch it all forever, you really begin to die. And to vanish. Back to London as a topic, no. There is no artistic form that try to condensate, to express, all the complexity of what you can see. 

Improvised music, the one you can find here, is different than in the USA. Not different musically: avant-garde jazz in the US is really an interesting and almost complete expression of the American society at its best - you can check my alter blog Complete Communion for that, though I have never been personally in the USA. Here in the UK instead, improvised and avant-garde music is, in a typical English style, a 'particular' that want to avoid by definition to reach a wider landscape. 

Sabo Toyozumi and Adam Lindson at the Oto Club - my photo
It has interesting aspect reflecting totality as every particular, but in a manner not always conscious of its contradictions, sometimes even at his best, showing itself as disconnected. Skim through my past reviews and you'll see at what extent, and with what risks. 

Same is for the myriads of ethnic related and non ethnic related music: East-Europe folk, reggae, afrobeat, house, metal. The two vectors are: respect of a tradition and sometimes the direct presence of a legacy in the shape of lieutenants of the prime movers - but rarely this get to a pure and void cult of personality, usually the promises are maintained - and on the other hand every crosspollination possible - but inside the boundary of given coordinates: you can listen to Algerian afrobeat mixed with a balkan tinge played onstage by musicians coming from Italy - horns players moslty, Egypt and Nigeria together, or to an entire night of 'noise' music that is mostly mutant heavy metal, with bands composed by two drumsets, a bass and a singer, or two guitars and drums, or a sigle guitar, but you will never meet - at least, i still didn't meet - a crossover in the proper sense of the world. 

Go to the Southbank Centre, and there is a place for jazz, ethnoworld and contemporary music, but it is the same - and again, you'll hear Ornette Coleman or Toumani Diabate, but not Stephen O' Malley and Sunn O))). The effect so, is sometimes - mostly on the European side, to tell you the truth - the one of an orde of illegitimate Lovercraft sons. And that's why I completely disagree with Augé analysis of society - even if in the quote he's talking about Barcelona, and not London. Everyone of us seem to have access to communication and to express ourselves and realize ourselves (vertical relationships).

What's really missing here is the ability - for reasons still unknown to me: since my arrival here I communicated with few Italians, and mostly, and for my precise will, with English, French, Romanian, Brazilian, Bangladesi and African-American people - to build horizontal relationships. Artistically, there is not such. You know what that mean, socially speaking. That's why I was quoting Lacan: as far as it seems, we here are all (over?)protected, but not communicating between us. 

And this is the - unconsciously but precisely expressed - judgement we have on the symbolic: we all don't believe in it nor in ourselves, but we try to relate first and foremost with it and each other through it. And the art here, at least music, is a pure and clear reflection of it all. As always.

Friday, 16 December 2011

mauro sambo @ london_resonance

words _ gian paolo galasi

Mauro Sambo, "Raw Materials and Residuals", 2009
Strange relationships can come to your mind if you open your chackras while listening to music. As far as Mauro Sambo (Venice, Italy, 1954), one of the many possible references are Ives Klein paintings. That bright, vivid blue. 

Strange as it can seems, since Sambo's attitude is in some way at the opposite pole of Klein's. For sure Sambo's not that much a surrealist. Not only as a multi-instrumentalist (electric and acoustic bass, alto sax, bass clarinet, percussions, samplers, wind controller, Akai S3000XL), but also as a video artist and as a photographer he is really far from the kitsch, so often a (collateral?) product of what Bréton and his followers were planning when dealing with their own creativity (Ives Klein is a different topic, though ... I strongly suspect his negative attitude towards psychoanalisis preserved him, in some way).

It is a matter of fact, if you go and see some of the most celebrated movies made by Louis Bunuel ('Un Chien Andalou' above all), some of the most famous Salvador Dalì paintings; they all have in common (with some notable exceptions) an attitude towards movement that is at the opposite of the mainstream avant garde (since Charles Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal"), going along in the XXth Century artistic expressions, with Artaud's 'theatre de la cruauté' and avant-garde music (post-serialism, improvisation, minimalism, electroacoustics, sound art), while the body art movement was a strange, sometimes impossible but real melting of the two tendencies. 

The art of Mauro Sambo in some way creates a field of immanence in which movement, standing still, music, visuals, sculpture, painting, photograph, are not clashing again but, instead, synthesizing by a tactile quality of the space coming out of the cage of sounds. This is clearly reflected by his videos, photos and sculptures.

Mauro Sambo, "Conversazioni" (2004)
Sambo is tracing a trip right in between stagnation and movement. If you're finding it all so boring, call it 'time' and I think you can get it anyway - if you know for sure what time is, that is not that obvious.

Take for instance "Il perdono purifica l'offeso" ('forgiveness purify the offended party'), his June 9th, 2011 performance with Matilde Sambo on oboe for the exhibition 'Sconfini 2011' in the Archeological Museum of Modena. 

It begins with a reference to the zen concept of Mu ('the void'), while the superimposed images of Sambo's nude torso and of ancient Roman tablets gave space to a site for extracting marble and the process of the extraction itself. Matilde and Mauro Sambo were improvising over the images in real time with wind controller and then manipulating a piece of marble, amplified with a contact microphone. 

"I don't take myself as a musician, but as a visual artist. I deal with sounds the same way I do with materials related to my visions. Maybe in another life I've been a musician: in my family I was listening to Frank Sinatra, Claudio Villa, while from 16 on, with no one teaching, I was putting an ear to John Coltrane, Stockhausen, Van Der Graaf Generator, Anthony Braxton -- I don't know music in any way, I can't read it, all I do is coming from my passion and my insight".

Pleased and displaced at the same time by the growing attention of music journalists for his music, also since his last outputs with the Turkish label re:konstruKt, Mauro Sambo - as younger artist Sabrina Siegel possibly - is here to show us an alternative to the cristallization of improvised music in a pure style while on the other hand it really attempt as a result to put the video/sound art movement away from the dialectics 'becoming minor' (=staying of the subject of the molecular) vs 'becoming major' (=absorbing structures from contemporary music or popular electronics). Precious hints for future developments? I strongly believe so. 

In "Conversazioni" ('conversations'), his live performance I loved the most (I suspect because the nearest to a free jazz concert, as far as the urgency coming out of the music) Sambo and his mates are playing while people is building around them cages. The 'percussion cage' Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman were building more than 40 years ago is no more (exclusively) a rhythmyc/coloristic issue, but a true hint to visualize and open (instead of caging) music itself. 

Mauro Sambo, without title, 
I'd wish to have enough time and space to narrate his entire video and audio production, but an article on a blog is not the right place, unluckily. But putting his videos under a radar, it is possible to notice many particles resonating part of the  alternative culture of the Sixties and Seventies.

One video is entitled 'Inner Mountain Flames', while 'Polaroid' can call to mind a similar work by Mario Schifano, and the first part of the time Mauro Sambo and I spent since September exchanging audio and video material of all sorts, was dedicated to both historic bands from the Industrial music scene in Russia, and to ethnic music from all over the world.

All this snapshots, metaforically speaking, are far from being re-sistematized. The best way to describe Sambo's way of dealing with sounds and materials is referring to Jorge Louis Borges 'Transmutations', epigraphising Sambo "Apparente controllo del tempo" ('Apparently controlled time'). 

It is impossible to control the ageing of an artwork, but at the same time the oxidization on the metal plates is representing the individual scream, the revolt of the artwork itself against death; oxyde, rust, as the fire of the ancient myths, is constantly changing the way the artwork looks like, and so, through ageing, it comes really to life. It's almost the same with water in two of Sambo's most touching video: the long, merciful "The Long Hello (a Virginia mia madre)" and "My father, my job, my life". 

It is not impossible now to understand why the brightness of Sambo's creativity can be compared with Ives Klein: both are jumping into life, and both are in some way giving shape to an art that is more than one form of art, but that let materials and styles pass through life itself. 

Mauro Sambo on Soundcloud:

"quel mutamento era il primo di una serie infinita" (self-produced, 2010)
"... di origine oscura" (re:konstruKt, 2010)
"presto (dicono) giungerà la neve" (self-produced, 2011)

"Mauro Sambo video & musica" (ossido video, 2008)
"Sconfini 2011" (self produced)

"Un lungo viaggio immobile" (Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus, Venice, 2002)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

best of 2011 @ london _ resonance

selections + live photos _ gian paolo galasi


Live Acts: 

Peter Broetzmann / Masaiko Satoh
Henie Onstadt Art Center, Hovidokken (NO), Jan. 16

Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith / Gunther Baby Soemmer
Cinema Teatro Torresino (IT), Padova, May 12

Sainko Namtchylak / Arto Lindsay
Teatro dell'Arte, Milano (IT), May 31

Rogelio Sousa - Cafe OTO, London (UK), Sep. 30

Havard Skaset - Cafe OTO, London (UK), Sep. 30

Sunday, 4 December 2011

reviewing @ london _ resonance [pt. 7]

Wilhelm Matthies is a composer, videoartist and photographer living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He builds and performs his original instruments - have a look at his own Kokeka, developed after years spent preparing guitars "in order to maximize the 'prepared' aspect of playing guitar".

Listening to the eight tracks composing "RiverFoot-RealityRubs" (Field Noise Records, 2011), just released four days ago, the first impression is that of a record staying at the crossroads of different streams of contemporary music. There is a noble tradition on the American side in projecting new instruments, while at the same time Matthies' Kokeka comes also from his studies on Japanese koto, Indian vina, Persian rebab and Chinese erhu.

But there are also influences from John Cage's preparations and Iannis Xenakis' dry quality of microtones. A record full of nuances revealing a richness in approaching music that is near to a state of grace. This record possibly is one of the best outputs you would be able to find out in this 2011. From the link in this post it is possible to download an mp3 version of the album, and also to buy HQ sound files of it.

Amirani Records is an Italian label whose owner is soprano player Gianni Mimmo. The first issue was in 2005, while with this "Sylvano Bussotti Brutto, Ignudo" is opening Amirani Contemporary. Sylvano Bussotti is an Italian composer, who debuted in 1958 in Germany with David Tudor playing some of his first compositions.

Attracted more by John Cage than by the structuralist wave dominating from Darmstadt the world of European composition of his time, Bussotti most peculiar aspect is his recurring relationship with theatre, and his reshaping of music according to it.

Interestingly enough, while one of his first theatre works is based on Alfred De Musset's 'Lorenzaccio' - rewritten it the same years by actor/writer Carmelo Bene, that quite often teamed with Bussotti's fellow Sandro Luporini later on, his music is an attempt to give life to a sensual approach to the sound avoiding both decadent tendencies and the disrupting eroticism that from Antonin Artaud and Jerzy Grotowski on was part of the avant-garde theatre heritage.

The four pieces for piano and clarinet collected here are performed by Gianni Lenoci and Rocco Parisi (a long time Bussotti collaborator) and interspersed with excerpts from interviews with the composer made by Gianni Mimmo himself.

Steve Dalachinsky is a poet and performer born in Brooklyn, NY, 1946. A kind and gentle descendant of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, he performed over the years with players as diverse as pianist Matthew Shipp, guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors, experimental musician/producer/composer Jim O' Rourke and drummer Federico Ughi.

Bambalam Records, a French label devoted to 'krautrocksamples', has released this August a collaboration between Dalachinsky and the french duo The Snobs titled "Massive Liquidity - An Unsurreal Post-Apocalyptic Anti-Opera in Two Acts". Coordinates of the music are in the lineage of Miles Davis at the height of 'On The Corner', Can's attempt to enlarge the boundaries of contemporary music with instruments and semantycs taken from the rock world, and the Brian Eno/David Byrne African/Asian movie titled 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts'.

It is difficult to approach a music clearly derivative from one of the most creative period of the seventies and that, from the end of the '90s through the middle of the last decade, was finally acknowledged and widely reissued to a larger audience of people than that following it at its creative peak; the real problem anyway is that the excellent and imaginative poetic vein of Dalachinsky suffers a little bit once boxed with a music that most of the time results as a kind of juxtaposed landscape. It remains an experiment in dealing with forms of music not related to the impro world, even if pertaining.

Steve Dalachinsky and The Snobs - Massive Liquidity (2011)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

retrospecting (just a little bit): françois carrier @ london _resonance

words _ gian paolo galasi

François Carrier is a prolific   altoist/sopranist/flutist now living in London at the Quebec Artist Residency from the CALQ. 

30 years of activity playing with Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Bobo Stenson, Tomasz Stanko, Uri Caine and Mat Maneri and his own music passed, and on December 6th, 2011 Carrier will be hosted at The Vortex Jazz Club with double bassist John Edwards and drummer Michel Lambert, to celebrate Leo Records' new "In Motion", featuring the Montréal-born multi-reedist and his more recent trio with Lambert and pianist Alexey Lapin.

Final chapter of this year tryptich, to which you can add Ayler Records release of "Entrance 3" with Bobo Stenson on piano, again Lambert on drums and Pierre Coté on double bass, Carrier most enduring collaboration under his own name. It can be embarrassing being in charge to testify about such prolfierating creative renditions, but after pushing "Inner Spire" (Leo Records, 2011), recorded during a tour in Moscow last december, on the player, the feeling of the music let you forget how much insanely such a small business as improvised and avant garde music is filled with so many records every months. 

True as it can be how easy a musician involved in public funding can become so prolific, and obviously starting with no point in blaming Carrier for that - real problem is, how much it is difficult usually for a musician sponsoring such projects - the urge to document this relatively new trio is more than comprehensible. 

What's more, the compositions on this record are so different in mood and substance - 'Inner Square' is a sweet and intense struggle for squeaking horns, lyrical piano chords and drumming barrage, 'Square away' is built on piano heavy clusters, tightroped horns and swirling brushes, 'Tribe' a more meditative weaving, with 'Round Trip' perfectly coupling and preparing while climaxing in order to introduce the last, openly meditative 'Sacred Flow', with almost impressionistic piano statements and more dissonant breaks - that one wonders if, even if being Carrier music more defining that suggesting, it can be correct to put him between two of his most famous partners, Uri Caine, post-modern but straight, and Mat Maneri, less melodically defined but equally committed with stretching sound into space.

The companion CD "All Out" (FMR Records, 2011) recorded during the same tour but in St. Petersburg two days later, is completely different: More relaxed, gentle, in some way less adventurous, but, let's put it as it is. 

I would say a little bit 'manieristic', but in writing so - knowing there's no more subjective statement than that - I'm compelled to specify that this is the risk for every musician who try to deal with a pre-defined musical shape - even such as 'improvised music slash free jazz'. 

I'm just listening again to the record and so the last composition 'Of Breath', my favorite, get me to the point to judge Carrier trio so much good in dealing with the strain of dissonance and its melodic - not harmonic - resolution through the interplay, to seem full of honest, humanistic faith in the aesthetics (of improvised music). The only thing is, you need 75 minutes to get the whole point. 

While waiting to hear the new record so to complete the puzzle, I'd like to add something about François Carrier collaboration with Swiss singer and performer Véronique Dubois on "Being With" (Leo Records, 2010). Conceived as an effort to mix sax and human voice conveying them into one, the good part of it is the widening of Carrier palette so to include flute, voice and objects as percussions/added colors; the interplay so is augmented with an onomathopeic quality that push me, after listening to a record not perfectly on focus, but at least coherent, to ask to Mr Carrier and his closest collaborators, to dare more. 

François Carrier performing @ The Vortex Jazz Club on December 6th 2011 - h. 8.30 pm - Free

Sunday, 20 November 2011

ornette coleman @ royal albert hall 11/20/2011

words _ gian paolo galasi

The Royal Albert Hall is famous mostly to rock amateurs since in 1965 hosted one of the most controversial performances in the music history: Bob Dylan with its 'Hawks' - not 'The Band' yet, switching from acoustic folk to electric music; but tonight the packed audience attended to a likewise brilliant concert by the Ornette Coleman quartet. 

No one called for 'Judas', though, as happened with Mr. Zimmermann: since his 2009 residency and artistic direction at the Meltdown Festival, featuring two performances - with Charlie Haden and Flea, and again with the Master Musicians of Jajouka - and also a couple of movies on him. 

Ornette Coleman needs surely no introduction, being well known both to music lovers and to avant garde readers since his many liaisons with cinema and literature. His soundtrack for the "Chappaqua" movie, the one for David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch" on William Seward Burroughs creative process misleading paranoia and drug addiction - misleading fixity, and it is probably of help to track a parallel between Borroughs' cut-up and fold-in writing techniques and Coleman harmolodic idea of music.

What we heard tonight is a quartet composed by Ornette at alto, violin and trumpet, with his son Denardo on drums, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass and Al McDowell at the electric bass. Coleman music is uncatchable as it always was. You listen to "Something Else" and you feel that this music is related to bebop, oops, no more related to beebop. Then you go into "The Shape of Jazz to Come" and you feel that a piece like 'Lonely Woman' can be directly related to the blues, but it is not (only?) blues. 

Then you go on listening, and you find that his collaboration with Bachir Attar and the MMOJ was in some way prepared by what he did on 'Broken Shadows', that is somewhere between '"Free Jazz" double quartet and "Dancing in your Head" but you can't tell if it is something like an expansion or a contraction, and that some compositions presented again through different records are more oblique and more straight at the same time under different focuses.

Like tonight, while the second piece was introduced by Denardo playing some maybe funky configuration that actually had the idea of a groove but heavier than funk usually is, just to loose it and generate anarchy in the interplay; but after quite a while you feel that there was nothing wrong in that, nothing really lost. And so, after 'Lonely Woman', 'Focus on Sanity' and other compositions taken here and there in his entire career, you are certain that Ornette music is always driven by instinct and at the same time highly structured, but that it is not a matter of dialectics, as if different pulses, pushes and pieces were finally mixed together on a new, compelling, sound grammar.

henry threadgill and zooid @ queen elisabeth hall 11/19/2011

words _ gian paolo galasi

Everytime I think about Henry Threadgill, the other name that comes to my mind is Eric Dolphy. Both multi-instrumentalists - and both flutists and alto players, both on a fertile middle ground between composition and improvisation, both responsibles for some of the finest music put on record - what about 'Out to Lunch!', 'Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket', 'Iron Man', or 'Too Much Sugar for a Dime'?

The fact is that as far as Eric Dolphy was ahead of his time - he studied flute and composition at Darmstadt in the '50s with Italian contemporary musician Federico Gazzelloni, but more than that, his practice of harmonic resolution was so wider than Charlie Parker's that his faster playing was resulting in fact so slow ... and one really understand why some of his best playing can be heard on his pieces for cello, vibes and bass clarinet, while his approach to group composing as heard on Ornette's 'Free Jazz' was so oblique and spacey that, compared to many big free jazz bands today, you really hear what the sense of instantaneous composition can be - so Henry Threadgill can be considered today one of the best composers you'll ever meet both on record and on concert. 

Few names can be put at his level: Anthony Braxton, Lawrence D. 'Butch' Morris (the only younger composer to reach the peak of this previous generation) for sure. Cecil Taylor. And such undeservedly underestimated composers/improvisers as Anthony Davis and George Lewis. Julius Hemphill, if he were alive and well. Not by chance many young players, the most interesting nowadays - I wrote directly and with great pleasure about them on this blog: skim through it to find them, then enjoy their own music - were working with many of the names I put down there.

And more, there are the musicians on the stage. Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar) came in the US in 1983 as a koto player (an instrument now well known in the avant garde / improvised milieu also thanks to the post-modern efforts of the second 'loft-era' generation, but at that time almost unknown as Japanese music in general), then deeply involved in studying and performing fretless bass guitar so to become one of the most sensitive performers on that instrument as far as sound and timbre - check out Myra Melford's Crush trio on records. 

Christopher Liberty Ellman was born in London in 1971 but studied and started playing guitar in San Francisco, listening to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and jamming after seeing people like Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson and, while in NY, playing with Trevor Dunn, Vijay Iyer and Steve Coleman, just to name a few. José Davila played trombone and tuba with Ray Charles and Tito Puente. Christopher Hoffman is a multi-instrumentalist - he plays cello with Zooid - and his range of collaborations deals with Marc Ribot, Marianne Faithfull, Bebel Gilberto, Willie Nile, John Zorn. Elliott Kavee has in his roster Myra Melford, Omar Sosa and Rudresh Mahanthappa. 

If you want an idea of what Zooid sounds like, think first about what the word means - 'an organic cell or organized body that has independent movement within a living organism' - and then imagine the music as made by six musicians dealing with all the sound dynamics involved with the timbre and grain of their instruments and their possible nuances, giving life to a slightly suspended groove coming from the same tradition Threadgill was involved since his first steps as a composer - that is, Scott Joplin and dance music - in which the listener can find suggestions coming from the blues, latin rhythms and flamenco, even if none of them is univocally defined. 

There is no single, leading voice in the compositions, even if sometimes Threadgill's alto can work as a collector of energies with its synthetic statements, but there's no dramatic call up, only a sense of suspended and gentle tenderness and a predilection for dialogue   - guitar and bass, or cello and bass - instead of soloing. Zooid is the more delicate incarnation of Threadgill soul, coming rightly after the extroverted Very Very Circus and  his meditative compositions on 1993 'Song Out of my Trees' and the four cellos and four acoustic guitars 'Making a Move' in 1995. The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for a radio broadcast next saturday.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

reviewing @ london _ resonance [pt. 6]

words _ gian paolo galasi

One thinks about New York and 'the melting pot' is something that truly comes to mind. One of the souls of the Big Apple in the Seventies was Latin for sure: Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Arsenio Rodriguez and Joe Bataan are truly some of the most famous Nuyoricans. 

But poet, performer and writer Miguel Algarin, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a multi-cultural artistic venue on the Lower East Side, author of the book of poetries 'Love is a Hard Work' - dedicated to his relationship with HIV+, and the sole translator of Pablo Neruda's 'Songs of Protests' in the United States - in 1976, is truly a preeminent figure - and 'always provocative', as far as Amiri Imamu Baraka. 

In this "Soul to Sol" (Ruby Flower Records), Algarin and Albey Balgochian, a virtuoso bass player committed with the likes of Cecil Taylor - Big Band and Trio, BasseyJane - a duo with poet and storyteller Jane Grenier B. - and Bassentric - an evolving organic involving bassists François Grillot, Hill Green, Lisle Hellis and Ken Filiano, saxophonist Chales Gayle,  and poet and performer Steve Dalachinsky, show how the mix of spoken poetry, performance and music - that is to say, art without boundaries - is far from being a practice of the past. Who knows how much important were for the following developments the efforts of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets, and miss in the present the unique mix of warm human feelings as you could find in Allen Ginsberg and John Giorno, and in their use of music and words, won't miss some careful listening.

Let's move to Italy again, but staying on a similar subject. Alessandro Fedrigo is one of the few specialist on the acoustic fretless bass guitar, an instrument played by few bassists in the past as Dave Holland, Anders Jormin, Miroslav Vitous and Jaco Pastorius. 

The original compositions on "Solitario" ( have been developed following a series of polyphonic techniques, then driven harmonically in three different directions (tonal, modal and serial) trying to give coherence to the dynamics of written music and improvisation, while some standards ('All of Me', 'Autumn Leaves', 'My One and Only Love', 'Blue Monk') are re-enacted following polyphonal procedures. There are also some free improvisations on the record, but don't exspect free blowing, non-idiomatic statements: Fedrigo's music - in the past involved with clarinetist Tony Scott, avant guitarist and composer Elliott Sharp, and featured on Robert Wyatt "Comicopera" (Domino/Self, 2008) - is all coherent with his stylistic choices, and they make sense. 

I regret the days in which the musicians themselves were explaining directly to the listeners their own - but not only their own - music as in the old Resonance Magazine. Many of them, such as David Toop, Alan Licht and Clive Bell, are still using articles and books as devices to portray a wider landscape adding the value of perspective to what they do as musicians. 

I was skimming to the British Library last month, and I found out some of John Butcher's writings right after his performance at Sottovoce with Martin Brandlmayr, during which I also picked up a copy of his last issue on Weight of Wax

A previously unissued session with guitarist Derek Bailey and percussionist Gino Robair, the eight tracks on "Scrutables" give life to an intense set of improvised music, the one that can get rid of the image of Bailey as an ascetic anchorite - how about his collaborations with artists such diverse as singer David Sylvian, guitarist Keiji Haino, bassist Bill Laswell, pipa player Min Xhao Fen? Joy, and a still fresh approach to the interplay after UK improv first wails on 1968 SME's "Karyobin" is what comes out even of a piec of cold methacrylate, another proof of how what was developed out of the idea of 'spontanteous playing' is of vital importance still nowadays.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

reviewing @ london resonance [part 5]

words _ gian paolo galasi

Italy is still a fantastic place if you want to find new music. Nicola Guazzaloca (piano) and Francesco Guerri (cello)'s "Nestor Makhno" (Stella Nera) is a good place to start.

Both teachers at the Scuola popolare di musica Ivan Illich in Bologna and active contributors to the contemporary music / avant garde scene nowadays, they have recorded this album during a series of concerts at the St. Petersburg's Apositsia Art Forum. 

Issued by a label devoted to anarchist ideals, and dedicated to Nestor Makhno (1889-1935), a Russian revolutionary that fought against the Bolsheviks in Moscow and Ukraina strieving for freedom, this duo record is higly recommended to all those who love the music of John Tilbury and Marylin Crispell, just to give a few tips. A record at risk of being highly underrated, that deserves more that one close listening.

Same for Roberto Dani's "Lontano" (Stella Nera), and while the label is growing as far as my consideration - nothing to do with my Italian roots, it is a pure matter of the high quality of the music - and will be highly praised at the end of that year in my playlist, this solo drums record is a perfect balance of sound and silence, aimed at a coherent logic in which Dani's different colors reveal a musician such careful and refined that it is no surprise he played with cellist Erik Friedlander ("Schio - Duemilaquattro", Stella Nera, 2006), and the likes of Michel Godard, Norma Winstone, Annette Peacock and Giorgio Gaslini. 

Intense, meditative, dramatic, quiet, urgent at the same time, this record is another step on a path leading to a relationship with the idea of shape that, after the previous "Drama" (Stella Nera, 2009), shows how the difference between acoustic and electronic music can be thin.

Splasc(H) Records published just last week "Panorami"; Rome-born guitarist Lanfranco Malaguti - between his influences, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and the underestimated Warne Marsh - dedicates his new effort to the paintings of Renato Maurizio. All the compositions, played by Malaguti with Nicola Fazzini (alto sax), Massimo De Mattia (flute) and Luca Colussi (drums) are inspired by his canvas, reproduced in the booklet.

Not an avant/improv musician, Malaguti guitar playing is an attempt to release melody from chords, without juxtaposing to the harmony. The same attempt of the free jazz but with other means, in some ways, trying to connect music, Benoit Mandelbrot mathematics and a statistic approach related to gaussian curves, while Massimo de Mattia, author of a couple of astonishing records this year ("Atto di Dolore" e "Mikiri 3", released by Setola di Maiale) can be considered one of the most intersting musicians now working in Italy both for his tymbrical research on flute and his constructive/deconstructive approach to music. Saxophonist Nicola Fazzini, disciple of Joe Lovano and Bob Brookmeyer and collaborator of Enrico Rava and Peter Erskine, and young drummer Luca Colussi, influenced by Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Fred Hersh and Elvin Jones help in creating a music feeding on different visions, heterogeneous and rich. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

michael garrick @ london resonance

British pianist and composer Michael Garrick died on 11 November 2011, after being admitted to hospital with heart problems last week.

All Music on Michael Garrick
"From straight lines we make curves" - Michael Garrick on Jazzscript.
The Wire on Michael Garrick
Galactic Ramble on Michael Garrick
London Jazz on Michael Garrick
A review of one of Garrick's last concerts on The Telegraph
Dusted Magazine on Michael Garrick Trio "Moonscape"