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" (nusica.org) 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.