Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Various - 2016 - New Jazz Festival Balver Höhle (New Jazz 1974 & 1975)

New Jazz Festival Balver Höhle (New Jazz 1974 & 1975)

Saturday, July 27, 1974
101. Contact Trio Improvisation 26:52
102. Brötzmann - van Hove - Bennink Improvisation 1 4:33
103. Brötzmann - van Hove - Bennink Improvisation 2 25:47
104. Brötzmann - van Hove - Bennink Improvisation 3 8:18
105. Brötzmann - van Hove - Bennink Improvisation 4 6:32

201. Jasper van't Hof - Pork Pie Improvisation 1 40:16
202. Jasper van't Hof - Pork Pie Improvisation 2 16:34

301. SOS (Surman - Osborne - Skidmore) Improvisation 1 26:56
302. SOS (Surman - Osborne - Skidmore) Improvisation 2 23:59
303. SOS (Surman - Osborne - Skidmore) Improvisation 3 14:18
304. SOS (Surman - Osborne - Skidmore) Improvisation 4 4:29

Sunday, July 28, 1974
401. Dieter Scherf Trio Improvisation 28:34
402. Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet Flaps 10:29
403. Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet Der Vogel Opium 9:20
404. Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet Wünschelrute 9:04
405. Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet Weanerisch Dearn 12:25
406. Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet Life On Its Way 5:10

501. Misha Mengelberg - Han Bennink - Duo Suite 26:07
502. Misha Mengelberg - Han Bennink - Duo Impro One 27:15
503. Unknown Artist Announcement 0:57
504. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 1 6:56
505. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 2 15:17
506. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 3 9:25
507. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 4 10:19
508. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 5 17:33

601. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 1 19:45
602. Jazzcrew Stuttgart Improvisation 2 17:34
603. Polish Jazz Summit Improvisation 29:25

701. Gary Burton Quintet Improvisation 1 23:40
702. Gary Burton Quintet Improvisation 2 31:25
703. Gary Burton Quintet Improvisation 3 19:11

Saturday, May 31, 1975
801. Jan Wallgren Orkester Love Chant 39:57
802. Jan Wallgren Orkester Drone Piece 12:06
803. Jan Wallgren Orkester Wallgren Et Sueco 5:54
804. Unknown Artist– Announcement 0:37
805. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 1 11:43
806. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 2 6:03

901. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 1 8:21
902. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 2 8:43
903. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 3 9:37
904. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 4 4:34
905. Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem Improvisation 5 7:43
906. Unknown Artist– Announcement 1:00
907. Krzysztof Zgraja - Barre Phillips - Duo Improvisation 1 10:19

1001. Krzysztof Zgraja - Barre Phillips - Duo Improvisation 1 27:56

Sunday, June 1, 1975
1002. Unknown Artist Announcement 0:07
1003. Brom Gustav Big Band Blues 7:53
1004. Unknown Artist Announcement 0:57
1005. Brom Gustav Big Band Semper Ignotus 11:17
1006. Unknown Artist Announcement 1:55
1007. Brom Gustav Big Band D-E-F-G-A-H-C 5:23
1008. Unknown Artist Announcement 0:59
1009. Brom Gustav Big Band Suite For Gustav Brom 13:54
1010. Brom Gustav Big Band Calling Up The Rain 8:54
1011. Unknown Artist– Announcement 0:11
1012. Brom Gustav Big Band Colored Space 4:38
1013. Eero Koivistoinen Quartet Clear Dream 5:58
1014. Eero Koivistoinen Quartet Spanish Dance 16:19
1015. Emil Viklicky Trio Choral 4:56
1016. Emil Viklicky Trio For My Sister 6:51

Contact Trio
Bass – Alois Kott
Drums – Michael Jüllich
Guitar – Evert Brettschneider

Brötzmann - van Hove - Bennink
Drums – Han Bennink
Piano – Fred Van Hove
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Bass Saxophone, Clarinet – Peter Brötzmann

Jasper van't Hof - Pork Pie
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Nadaswaram, Soprano Saxophone – Charlie Mariano
Bass – John Lee
Drums – Aldo Romano
Guitar – Philip Catherine
Keyboards – Jasper van't Hof

SOS (Surman - Osborne - Skidmore)
Alto Saxophone [Alto Sax] – Mike Osborne
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Electronics – John Surman
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone Sax], Drums – Alan Skidmore

Dieter Scherf Trio
Bass – Jacek Bednarek
Drums – Bulent Ates
Saxophone – Dieter Scherf

Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet
Bass – Toni Michlmayr
Computer, Electronics – Gerd Geier
Drums, Soprano Saxophone – Muhammad Malli
Soprano Saxophone – Steve Lacy
Trumpet – Franz Koglmann

Misha Mengelberg - Han Bennink - Duo
Drums – Han Bennink
Piano – Misha Mengelberg

Jazzcrew Stuttgart
Bass – Jan Jankeje
Bass Saxophone – Bernd Konrad
Drums – Martin Bues
Keyboards – Paul Schwarz
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Walter Hüber
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Frederic Rabold, Herbert Joos

Polish Jazz Summit
Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone – Tomasz Szukalski
Bass – John Lee
Drums – Cees See
Saxophone, Cello, Piano – Zbigniew Namyslowski
Trumpet – Tomasz Stanko
Violin – Zbigniew Seifert

Gary Burton Quintet
Bass – Steve Swallow
Drums – Bob Moses
Guitar – Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny
Vibraphone – Gary Burton

Jan Wallgren Orkester
Bass – Ivar Lindell
Drums – Ivan Oscarsson
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Hakan Nyqvist
Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Tommy Koverhult
Piano – Jan Wallgren

Jiri Stivin - Rudolf Dasek - System Tandem
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Piccolo Flute – Jiri Stivin
Guitar – Rudolf Dasek

Brom Gustav Big Band
Alto Saxophone – Frantisek Navratil
Baritone Saxophone – Josef Audes
Composer – Karel Blatny
Flute – Zdenek Novak
Leader – Gustav Brom
Piano – Milan Vidlak
Trombone – Mojmir Bartek
Trumpet – Jaromir Hnilicka

Eero Koivistoinen Quartet
Bass – Pekka Sarmanto
Drums – Raino Laine
Piano – Olli Ahvenlahti
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eero Koivistoinen

Emil Viklicky Trio
Bass – František Uhlir
Drums – Milan Vitoch
Piano – Emil Viklicky

Music recorded live at Jazzfestival Balver Höhle 1974 & 1975 in Balve, West Germany.
Excerpts were [previously] released on the 4-LP set Jazzfestival Balver Höhle Ausschnitte Vom New Jazz Programm 1974 & 75.

Thanks to Udo Sawinski for help and forwarding stuff from his collection.
Special thanks to Lutz Klüter for rights and tapes.

Box includes a 32-page booklet with press clippings and reviews originally published in local newspapers.

Some artists mentioned in the articles, on posters and flyers are not included in thís set because they didn't perform or the tapes didn't survive.

The musicians of the Polish Jazz Summit differ from those listed in the booklet. According to the announcer on the recording, Adam Makowicz couldn't make it to the festival, Cees See replaces Janusz Stefanski, and Tomasz Szukalski and John Lee ("from America") were added to the group. No pianist is announced but there clearly is a piano (though not electric). Best guess is that Zbigniew Namyslowski plays the piano himself.

In 1974, at short notice, Karlheinz Klüter organised a jazz festival in the unlikely setting of the Balve Cave in the Hönne valley of the Sauerland. A great success, it was repeated in following years. On this mammoth 11 CD box set we have much of the music performed at the first and second festivals, which each ran from Friday to Sunday. The first day was reserved for Hot (trad) Jazz (omitted from the collection) and the weekend for New Jazz, encompassing a broad range of contemporary jazz from Germany and further afield. The resonant but not cavernous, acoustic was vividly captured by Cologne’s WDR – European radio recording engineers are some of the finest in the world. A selection from the festivals was previously available on a 4 LP set (JG-Records, 1975). A handsome booklet is included, with photographs of performers and audience, and press cuttings from the time, some with English translations.

Most of the pieces are named “Improvisation”, and although there are many different kinds of improvisation to be heard, I suspect this is simply the default title where none has been supplied, or it is unknown. There are some errors and quirks: for CD5, what are listed as tracks 6 to 8 are in fact tracks 1 and 2 on CD6; The Contact Trio’s set is a single track, but is clearly five separate pieces, and the several numbers that made up the Gary Burton Quintet’s performance are arbitrarily divided into three tracks. Some, though not all, of the spoken introductions to each set are separately banded, and the booklet contains a photo of a bald vibes player, named as Gary Burton but I’m sceptical, unless his toupee had fallen off.

Presented chronologically by day (though not in the original batting order) and musically, of a high standard throughout, the collection offers a snapshot of sorts, and a reminder of the healthy scene which had developed in West Germany at the time. The audiences are large and enthusiastic, sounding more like a rock gig than the usual smatter of polite handclaps which greet performers of free jazz. For obvious reasons, German youth had rejected anything associated with the culture of their parents in more definitive terms than elsewhere in Europe, resulting in a surge of interest in alternative music, much of which they were able to enjoy due to their parents’ post-war prosperity.

We open with the Contact Trio – Evert Brettschneider (electric guitar), Alois Kott (double bass), Michael Jüllich (drums) – a reminder that at this point in the Seventies, Jazz-Rock was still a potent force. They differ from a number of the fusion bands of the era however, being more loosely knit. The nimble guitar work and dexterous bass are virtuosic, but lack the frantic pyrotechnics and showboating others indulged in. This is an ensemble which sounds more fluid and satisfying.

Also from the fusion end of the scale is the Dutch keyboardist Jasper van’t Hof’s Pork Pie, a multinational band which also includes Americans Charlie Mariano (reeds, woodwind) and John Lee (electric bass), the Belgian Philip Catherine (electric guitar) and Italian Aldo Romano (drums). This is fusion made up from a wide range of ingredients, as can be heard on the forty minute main track, a succession of contrasting compositions which merge one into the next. Highlights include Mariano’s beautiful soprano saxophone over lush synthesizer and when he picks up the Nadaswaram, a huge Tamil wind instrument (there’s a photo in the booklet). There are some Mahavishnu moments: mid-tempo and melodic rather than speed of light blurs. The set ends with a cod-march, and generous applause which eventually brings the band back for a bluesy encore.

Gary Burton’s Quintet has Mick Goodrick and a very young Pat Metheny sharing guitar duties, and they open with Metheny’s ‘Phase Dance’, an early sign of the sweetly drawn vistas of Americana that would become his speciality. As often with live performances, there’s plenty of drive and bite but this doesn’t always benefit the music. There’s an out of place fuzz-bass solo from Steve Swallow, and at times it feels somewhat crowded, music better suited to a quartet – there’s no need for an extra guitar. The full melodic range of Burton’s vibraphone, with his subtle inflections and embellishments, is heard most clearly in his solo pieces during the set, a reminder that his music worked best in more intimate surroundings and without a drummer, such as his chamber pieces and duos with Chick Corea.

Jazzcrew Stuttgart provide an outstanding set, exhibiting an ability to move seamlessly between various points on the jazz compass. The Septet consists of Herbert Joos and Frederic Rabold (flugelhorn, trumpet), Walter Hüber (soprano and tenor saxophones), Bernd Konrad (bass saxophone), Paul Schwarz (keyboards), Jan Jankeje (double bass) and Martin Bues (drums). In the second improvisation there’s a delicate brass chorus which alternates with weightless free passages The third and fourth pieces blend punchy rhythms, big band unisons, free jazz blowouts and blues hollers, and there’s a blistering bass sax solo. The electric piano, an instrument often reduced to textured tinkles, is nuanced and expressive, and even the drum solo bears repeated listening.

From Britain, we have SOS, three master saxophonists: John Surman, Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore, sounding like nothing the audience would have heard before. In addition to spanning the whole choral range (soprano, alto, tenor and bass saxophones) there’s also Surman’s then innovative use of an EMS synthesizer which contained a small sequencer allowing loops to be stored, repeated and transposed, a method he explored further on his later albums for the ECM label. Surman had learnt this technique while working with Groupe de Recherche Choregraphique de l'Opera de Paris, writing contemporary dance music. These cyclic repetitions still sound startling as they fade in at the outset and are used to great effect in the first few numbers. They clearly inspired the structure of the trio’s music, a dense contrapuntal weave of expanding and contracting patterns, in unison and overlapping, which owe more to Renaissance polyphony than standard jazz, and take as their starting point material as diverse as a folk jig and a calypso melody. There is room for jazz however, including a scorching passage on alto from Osborne, backed by Skidmore’s surprisingly adept drumming and Surman’s fuzzy keyboards. Fittingly, though listed as “Improvisation 4’ the encore’s an arrangement of the Contrapunctus from Bach’s ‘Die Kunst der Fuge’ (The Art of Fugue). The trio recorded its eponymous and only album the following year (Ogun, 1975) with Surman laying down his electronics at an earlier session (recommended).

Moving on to the free jazz side of things, there’s the combustible mix of Peter Brötzmann (reeds), Fred van Hove (piano) and Han Bennink (drums, bits and bobs). Proceedings are announced with Bennink’s military march rolls, sounding like he’s approaching the stage from the audience, turning deviant with van Hove’s pounding chords and Brötzmann’s shrieking clarinet. Bizarrely, Bennink begins the second piece in the same way but Brötzmann puts a stop to this with his angry tenor, and we move into the skewed universe the trio seemed to occupy, the only connecting thread being the kinetic energy with which they blasted through everything in sight – van Hove’s cluster runs, Brötzmann’s out of range reeds, Bennink on howling hosepipe (one of his favourite devices) and clattering drums – a mixture of standard trap kit and more exotic percussion – which booms round the Cave, to the approval of the audience. Amongst this mayhem, Bennink never misplaces a beat. There’s plenty of parody: bar room songs, flatulent and fragmented ballads on bass saxophone, etc. but the problem is, quite intentionally, a lot of this can’t be taken seriously, it no longer shocks, and it’s difficult to laugh. The spectacle of three very talented men spending most of their time on stage fucking about is something you really had to be there for. The raucous crowd certainly enjoyed it.

The set by the Dieter Scherf Trio – Scherf (saxophone), Jacek Bednarek (double bass), Bulent Ates (drums) – is a gem, again consisting of two improvisations but banded as one. Scherf had been a member of Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden, which had recorded the two legendary Frictions albums, and who appeared at the 12th German Jazz Festival in 1970 (reviewed by Paul yesterday). This trio hums with carefully modulated energy and sounds so fresh it could have been recorded last week. There are traces of Coltrane in Scherf’s treatment of melody but he’s a good example of a musician who’s absorbed his influences in order to develop something new. Bednarek plays mostly bowed bass, and his contributions are telling. The trio (with Paul Lovens replacing Ates on drums) recorded Inside-Outside Reflections (LST, 1974) that year, a set of focussed studies and also outstanding. It’s a great pity we don’t have more of Scherf’s work on record.

From Holland, there’s ICP’s Misha Mengelberg (piano) and Han Bennink (drums, anything else to hand). The duo specialised in anarchic dramas juxtaposing often incongruous genres (the Dutch have always had a thing about Dada). In the aptly titled ‘Suite’ motifs are rendered in the style of ragtime, silent cinema, Kurt Weill, atonal clusters, free jazz, and points between. It’s obvious from the applause and laughter that Bennink’s up to his usual tricks, but deprived of a visual element the cabaret routine loses its sense of irreverent fun. Both musicians are technically outstanding and full of invention but there are times when the music sounds like a succession of skilfully executed caricatures, contrived rather than organic. To contemporary ears, now familiar with this kind of post-modernist pastiche, trying on different headgear can seem rather old hat. As one would expect, their live performances were a bit hit and miss, but the studio recordings are well worth seeking out.

The Polish Jazz Summit is listed in the booklet as comprising Tomasz Stanko (trumpet), Zbigniew Namyslowski (saxophone, cello), Zbigniew Seifert (violin), Adam Makowicz (electric piano) and Janusz Stefanski (drums), though it’s clear that the piano’s not electric but the, by now, rather out of tune festival piano, and I’m sure I can hear an unidentified bass player. Their performance starts well with one of Stanko’s mournful dirges, dissolving into excellent solos from piano, saxophone and trumpet. Things become disappointing when Namyslowski switches to cello and there’s a string duet. Both instruments are poorly amplified (the violin with wah-wah pedal) and sound hollow and scratchy, losing their distinctive timbres, and the occasional folksy turns are insufficient to retain any real interest as the piece loses its flow and wanders vaguely to a conclusion.

What is billed as the “Franz Koglmann Quintet - Steve Lacy Quintet” is in fact, one quintet, which had recorded the fine Flaps (Pipe Records, 1973) the previous year, and they open with that Lacy composition. From the outset, Lacy (soprano saxophone) and Koglmann (trumpet) dissect and reconfigure tiny melodic cells, their incisions set against a counterfoil of tumbling bass (Toni Michlmayr) and drums (Muhammad Malli), and blurts, whooshes and swirls from Gerd Geier’s computer and electronics. During the central free form pieces, what resembles the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet forms a contrast to Koglmann and Lacy’s multiple refractions, but elsewhere, such as the opening chorale to ‘Der Vogel, Opium’, the electronics sound intrusive. The Quintet closes with Lacy’s ‘Life on its Way”, a hypnotic repetition of a descending four note figure, fading into electrostatic spluttering.

The collection from the second festival weekend doesn’t contain any German musicians. It would seem that some performed but there were contractual wrangles and late cancellations, and the Howard Johnson Tuba Ensemble didn’t appear as the money for their flight from America didn’t arrive on time. Although good, 1975 is not of the same standard as the previous festival.

From Czechoslovakia, there’s System Tandem, the duo of Jiri Stivin (reeds and woodwind) and Rudolf Dasek (guitar) who play a varied set of seven ‘improvisations’ with Stivin switching between soprano and alto saxophones, flute and piccolo, in a mixture of folk, jazz and rock. Clearly buoyed by the festival crowd, there are times when Dasek’s choppy guitar can get a little wearing.

Also from Czechoslovakia is the Gustav Brom Big Band (for some reason, labelled “The Brom Gustav Big Band” in the booklet) which might seem out of context in these surroundings, but if you couldn’t get to see Count Basie this would definitely do, and the audience laps it up. In fairness, there’s more to the band than that and ‘Suite for Gustav Brom’ is nicely varied, a colourful piece of orchestration with even occasional interspersions of free jazz.

The final Slavic contribution is from the Emil Viklický Trio, a piano trio which plays a short set, possibly in protest at the piano which sounds like it’s been borrowed from the local village hall, and is unimproved from the previous festival. This is unfortunate as the Bill Evansish ‘Choral’ is a lovely piece and František Uhlíř displays some delightful bass work.

The Krzysztof Zgraja - Barre Phillips duo is the unusual combination of flute and double bass, instruments from the top and bottom of the range, a format with which Zgraja was familiar having recorded an album of bass duets with a different bassist in Warsaw the previous year: Alter Ego (Polskie Nagrania Muza, 1974).Their improvisations are sectional, marked by changes of pace and texture, each focussing on particular techniques and timbres, juxtaposed and merging. As ingenious as the duo are, there’s not quite enough to support two half-hour improvisations.

Turning to Scandinavia, from Sweden there’s the Jan Wallgren Orkester, a quintet of Wallgren (piano), Tommy Koverhult (soprano and tenor saxophones, flute), Hakan Nyqvist (flugelhorn), Ivar Lindell (bass) and Ivan Oscarsson (drums). They play what might be described as polished and extremely accomplished post-bop, and nothing wrong with that. The main work is ‘Love Chant’, a piece the quintet had recorded two years earlier and which Wallgren was to subsequently re-record with a different line-up. Even at forty minutes and with extensive solos, including Wallgren’s exhilarating flourishes, this performance sustains interest throughout and is probably the version to have.

Finally, from distant Finland, there’s the Eero Koivistonen Quartet, who travelled a long way to play another short set of just over twenty minutes, assuming the collection contains everything they played. Again, I’d like to have heard more. This is the kind of sparse Euro-Jazz ECM specialised in at the time. ‘Clear Dream’ sets the scene with an opening duet for Olli Ahvenlahti’s rhapsodic piano and Koivistonen’s lean soprano saxophone, and there’s a pensive double bass solo from Pekka Sarmanto.

Apparently, though there were further jazz festivals at the Cave, the quality could not be maintained, so it’s especially valuable to have this extensive record of just how good things got.

Naked City - 2002 - Live Volume 1 - Knitting Factory 1989

Naked City 
Live Volume 1 - Knitting Factory 1989

01. Batman (2:07)
02. Latin Quarter (4:05)
03. You Will Be Shot (1:23)
04. Shot in the Dark (3:31)
05. Skatekey (1:05)
06. Erotico (5:24)
07. Snagglepuss (2:11)
08. I Want to Live (1:58)
09. N.Y. Flat Top Box (0:43)
10. Inside Straight (8:13)
11. Chinatown (6:04)
12. Igneous Ejaculation (0:22)
13. Ujaku (0:30)
14. Blood Duster (0:17)
15. Hammerhead (0:11)
16. Speedball (0:44)
17. Obeah Man (0:18)
18. Den of Sins (1:19)
19. Demon Sanctuary (0:55)
20. The Way I Feel (10:37)

Bill Frisell / guitars
Joey Baron / drums
Wayne Korvitz / keyboards
John Zorn / alto saxophone
Fred Frith / bass

Recorded live at the Knitting Factory in 1989.

It's almost inconceivable to believe that Naked City, the vanguard supergroup comprised of John Zorn, ill Frisell, Fred Frith, Wayne Horvitz, and Joey Baron, never recorded a live album during their tenure. This wonderfully recorded document from the dawn of the Knitting Factory provides ample evidence that Naked City was even more astonishing live than on their albums. The material comes mainly from the band's debut -- which was recorded some months later -- and has all the punch and sheer adrenaline-gushing verve that a new project brings out of its participants. From the stomping psychedelic lounge of "Batman" to the strolling, edgy R&B in "Latin Quarter," to the hardcore punk and roll of "You Will Be Shot" and the freewheeling improvisation that gives way to Addams Family-style surf music at the heart of "Shot in the Dark," in these first four selections, Naked City lays out a territorial map of the ground that they will stake as their own. But it's not enough to be wide-ranging and experimental and humorous: You have to be able to pull it off in style, and Naked City reveals beyond doubt that inside the grain of their collective voice as a unit, the sense of swing and movement is paramount -- check "Blood Duster," "Chinatown," "Den of Sins," etc., over 20 selections. The other magnificent thing about this live date juxtaposed with the band's studio outings is how different the solo impulses are. No two are the same from any member, and none of them made their way onto tape later. The stop- and start-on-a-dime histrionics of their hardcore attitude and Ornette Coleman-inspired improvisation is an open field against the tighter arrangements of the shimmering jazz noir and warped, blues-laden post-bop. This is not only essential for fans, but proves to be an accessible and wondrous introduction to a truly awesome, if short-lived, band.

One of the most funnies live albums I've ever hear. A masterpiece of jazz, fucking dancing, happy and mad.

The moments that offer the most deviation - an 8 minute work out of "Inside Straight" or a particularly fierce run through of 8 Torture Garden pieces - are the ones that offer the most joy. The rest is about as good as you'd expect Naked City to be at this point, even without Eye on hand to scream his head off over it (Zorn's sax always did this just fine so he's not missed.)

Naked City - 1993 - Absinthe

Naked City

01. Val De Travers (6:13)
02. Une Correspondance (5:04)
03. La Fée Verte (5:10)
04. Fleurs Du Mal (4:06)
05. Artemisia Absinthium (4:30)
06. Notre Dame De L'oubli (For Olivier Messiaen) (4:47)
07. Verlaine, Pt. 1: Un Midi Moins Dix (4:23)
08. Verlaine, Pt. 2: La Bleue (6:01)
09. ...Rend Fou (6:03)

John Zorn / alto saxophone, vocals
Fred Frith / bass
Joey Baron / drums
Bill Frisell / guitar
Wayne Horvitz / keyboards

'Absinthe' is the last, & by far the strangest album of Naked City's catalogue. Rather than returning to their trademark genre-blending jazz core sound, for 'Absinthe' Zorn opted to do something entirely different. The members traded in their instruments for microtonal & prepared guitars (Frisell & Frith), bags of trash (Baron), & samplers & synths (Horvitz & Zorn). The result is a very atmoshpheric & haunting ambience highly reminiscent of the late sixties British free improv group AMM. The titles of the tracks, keeping in style with the title of the album, are inspired by icons of the Decadent Movement of late 19th century France, with titles like 'Fleurs du Mal', named after the book of the same name by the amazingly influential poet Charles Baudelaire, & the 'Verlaine' pieces, named after Paul-Marie Verlaine, both of which were avid drinkers of Absinthe. The album's artwork is equally dark, featuring disturbing sculptures by surrealist Hans Bellmer that accent the music to great effect. Though I really enjoy this album, it is probably my least favorite recording of the Naked City catalogue. It lacks nearly all of what I would normally listen for in them, but if one is able to meet the album on its own terms & hear it as it is (as opposed to how it could be) then it can still be a very interesting & rewarding listen.

y's final album is by far its most puzzling and enigmatic. Downtown maverick John Zorn's compositional workshop for a rock band completed its run of seven albums with this quiet, almost ambient, collection. Some of the pieces, such as "Une Correspondance" and "Artemesia Absintheium," get somewhat noisy, with industrial clattering, insect-like whines, feedback, and complex noises in layers. The closing piece, "...Rend Fou," is atonal electronic rattles, a precursor to the glitch electronics of Mego artists Pita and General Magic rather than representative of any group member's background at the time. However, the bulk of the album is more like Val deTravers, composed of Bill Frisell's detuned guitar over a tranquil bass and Joey Baron's bowed cymbals. The tribute to French composer Olivier Messaien, one of the few mystical visionaries in 20th century music, is quietly beautiful sustained guitar notes over a simple heartbeat-like rhythm. Baron's percussion work is often very subtle, a quiet crackling like a fire on La Feé Verte and the first Verlaine (where Zorn himself takes care of the only vocals on the album). The titles reflect the artist's continued interest in the avant-garde of the 19th century, where the green liqueur absinthe (known as the Green Fairy, La Feé Verte) was a favorite among artists and poets, including Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire (author of the controversial collection Les Fleurs du Mal). Nothing in Naked City's previous oeuvre prepares the listener for this collection, a complete reversal from the hardcore and thrash, but looking forward to Zorn's interest in minimalist pieces like Redbird and Duras.

In all my life I've never heard something as inhuman, cold, unsympathetic, mysterious, violent, black and devoid of light as "Absinthe". Someone commented that it "borders on insane". It is BEYOND insane. It is a reflection of the distorted, utterly solitary world only the insane could perceive. "Absinthe" is the terror of the worst dream you've ever had emerging as an unapologetic cloud from your speakers. The more you focus, the more clearly you can see how each piece fits into some sort of monolithic space that completely dwarfs you and swallows you with its hugeness. Every song is a different expression of this same vertigo, ending with the thankfully meaningless, cleansing and welcome static brainwash of "...Rend Fou" ("...Returns Insane"), bringing you back into reality.

This is often accomplished through odd, minimalistic sounds. And yet it is meaningful without question. I see the reviews here as evidence that my reaction is not unique. It's impossible to imagine "Absinthe" in the realm of ordinary music, composed by a human being, with a thinking mind and feelings. It feels like "Absinthe" is not a human creation; there is no evidence of a soul.

This is the most wicked, otherworldly album I know. And I can hardly imagine that will change anytime soon. It really has little to do with John Zorn's other work, great though it is, or the other Naked City albums, great though they are. The only possible comparison is the 17 minut title track to "Grand Guignol", a masterpiece in its own right.

Recommended to those who think I might be exaggerating. I dare you to listen to this in the dark and really let it sink in. For anyone else, you may not know what you're getting into.

There's not much that John Zorn touches that doesn't enliven the darkest soul. This CD is no exception. I once listened to this CD in the middle of the night whilst staring at the ceiling. I had to take the earphones off because it started to give me the creeps. It takes a little longer to inflict its torture, but like all good likes to take its time. I particularly like the sound of what i think are flies - buzzing on track five. I was attracted to the excellent cover art as well, which is inspired by the work of Hans Bellmer.

Naked City - 1993 - Radio

Naked City

01. Asylum (1:56)
02. Sunset Surfer (3:23)
03. Party Girl (2:34)
04. The Outsider (2:27)
05. Triggerfingers (3:31)
06. Terkmani Teepee (3:59)
07. Sex Fiend (3:31)
08. Razorwire (5:31)
09. The Bitter and the Sweet (4:52)
10. Krazy Kat (2:03)
11. The Vault (4:44)
12. Metal Tov (2:07)
13. Poisonhead (1:09)
14. Bone Orchard (3:55)
15. I Die Screaming (2:29)
16. Pistol Whipping (0:57)
17. Skatekey (1:24)
18. Shock Corridor (1:08)
19. American Psycho (6:10)

- Bill Frisell / guitars
- Joey Baron / drums
- Yamatsuka Eye / vocals
- John Zorn / alto saxophone, vocals
- Fred Frith / bass
- Wayne Horvitz / keyboards

Upon listening to "Radio" it is much evident where bands like Mr. Bungle get their influences and chops from, and that comes as no surprise, as Zorn produced the aforementioned band's first major label debut. But, anyways, if you are a fan of free jazz and are not afraid to push on the meaning of "free", this album will suit you nicely, especially when in the mood for something challenging and abstract, and if you enjoy Naked City's albums in general, don't be afraid to check out John Zorn's solo works.

I highly enjoyed "Radio". Sounds to me as the most accessible and immediate album this band has.

"Radio" is yet another about-face in direction for Naked City. At once more accessible and yet more difficult than much of their previous work, "Radio" is a chance for John Zorn, after having honed a new form with "Heretic", to experiment with his musical loves, to reflect his influences (which he enumerates in the liner notes).

Each song is presented in a different style-- much of the material borders on commercially viable (well, by Zorn standards anyway). The amazing part of this album is that the musicians prove remarkably resilient-- everything is performed at a stunningly high level, regardless of style. There's a feeling of looseness and fun with these songs, unlike the self-titled debut, there's not as much jump cut feel to this-- each song holds its style for its length.

Some of my favorites on here are early on the record, almost a Morricone meets Brian Wilson filtered through Zorn-- "Sunset Surfers" and "Tekmani Teepee" are the clearest examples of this, and the opener is a great, wailing free-jazz with wailing sax and guitar piece. Probably most important to note is the presence of Bill Frisell on guitar-- this is really some of the best playing he's ever done-- track by track, any lead he plays is just brilliant (check "Asylum", "Triggerfingers", or "Terkmani Teepee" for good evidence). Its also nice to hear Wayne Horvitz using a clean piano sound for the first seven tracks rather than organ and synth sounds-- this helps with the more open feeling of the album and, I suspect as a result of this choice, a lot of this material swings pretty hard. Even the organ used on "Sex Fiend" gives it a on Big John Patton feel, not a haze that we had on earlier albums, ditto for the Tony Williams Lifetime inspired "Razorwire", which doesn't quite swing, but has that great fusiony feel.

The album starts changing a bit with "Krazy Kat", this one is actually in the jump cut style of the debut album, but it has an almost breezy feel to it, hard to describe really.

After this, the album moves into more of a metal direction-- its not really the sort of hardcore stuff that we saw on the debut, but rather more varied. One standout track ("Metaltov") is eastern European (proto-Masada?) feels layered with electric guitars, a lot of it is pretty noisy and chaotic, but again with a lot more space in the sound and longer idea development, plus concrete melodies. Its definitely a lot more intense and more difficult than the early part of the album but still very digestable. And we still get inspired work from Frisell.

Overall, its a great album-- it may be a better place to start with Naked City, but I don't think its one of their strongest records.

Naked City - 1992 - Grand Guignol

Naked City 
Grand Guignol

01. Grand Guignol (17:40)
02. La Cathédrale Engloutie (6:24)
03. Three Preludes Op. 74: Douloureus, Déchirant (1:17)
04. Three Preludes Op. 74: Très Lent, Contemplatif (1:42)
05. Three Preludes Op. 74: Allegro Drammatico (:48)
06. Prophetiae Sybillarum (1:46)
07. The Cage (2:00)
08. Louange Á l'Éternité de Jésus (7:07)
09. Blood Is Thin (1:00)
10. Thrash Jazz Assassin (:45)
11. Dead Spot (:31)
12. Bonehead (:51)
13. Piledriver (:33)
14. Shangkuan Ling-Feng (1:14)
15. Numbskull (:29)
16. Perfume of a Critic's Burning Flesh (:24)
17. Jazz Snob Eat Shit (:24)
18. The Prestidigitator (:43)
19. No Reason to Believe (:26)
20. Hellraiser (:39)
21. Torture Garden (:35)
22. Slan (:23)
23. The Ways of Pain (:31)
24. The Noose (:10)
25. Sack of Shit (:43)
26. Blunt Instrument (:53)
27. Osaka Bondage (1:14)
28. Shallow Grave (:40)
29. Kaoru (:50)
30. Dead Dread (:45)
31. Billy Liar (:10)
32. Victims of Torture (:20)
33. Speedfreaks (:48)
34. New Jersey Scum Swamp (:41)
35. S&M Sniper (:14)
36. Pig Fucker (:23)
37. Cairo Chop Shop (:22)
38. Facelifter (:54)
39. Whiplash (:19)
40. The Blade (:35)
41. Gob of Spit (:18)

- Bill Frisell / guitars, keyboards
- Joey Baron / drums
- Bob Dorough / vocals
- Fred Frith / bass, guitars
- Yamatsuka Eye / vocals, bass
- John Zorn / alto saxophone, vocals
- Wayne Horvitz / keyboards

This album is lovingly dedicated to Jack Smith. Legendary Filmmaker. Theatrical Genius. Exotic Art Collector. Father of the New York Underground, who died a victim of the AIDS virus September 18, 1989.

Note: tracks 9-41 are also available on "Torture Garden" (1990).

This album is practically impossible to describe, but Naked City's "Grand Guignol" is a humongous and pompous mixture of jazz, classical, avant-garde, grindcore and straight-up metal. Each keeps my attention even though they range from seventeen minutes to thirty seconds, they all just have something that really makes me have this feeling that I don't want to miss any of this. It's so shrill and loud but never ceases to be hauntingly beautiful.

From Zorn torturing his sax, to Yamatzuka screaming his head off, somehow this record remains coherent the whole time. That's why this record is amazing. As far as I know, nothing like this has been accomplished before. Even though the influences are apparent, the mixture Naked City makes with them is something truly original and loveable.

This album is not for the casual listener, but for the adventurous music fan it is a total must have masterpiece.

What you expect from a 40 seconds track with more than 25 tempo changes with weird time signatures? Now, this is ridiculous! Just the way I love, just the way it should be. Well, I had a lot of feedback and critics after my 5/5 review for the unknown masterpiece Plague Soundscapes from The Locust. My retard love for the bizarre made me find a lot of great music. I was looking for eroguro and this kind of crappy gross humor, like Kago Shintaro works when I found this amazing project by John Zorn. I found it because of the japanese splatter relations at the track titles. So, this album still elevates me to the highest level of dementia, in a sweet shitful nostalgia of my darkest days, when I was almost insane dealing with some psychological issues and hunting the ultimate strange music. For some reason, last weeks I'm searching for weirdest stuff again, and I found myself listening again to this: Naked City - Grand Guignol.

Imagine a musical festival. There is a battle between a free-jazz and a grindcore/powerviolence band, and a classical orchestra making a background symphony sometimes. But a violent napalm fell in Afrika, and the elephants burning escape to the concert destroying everything and screaming like faggots dying from pain. That's how Naked City sounds. The album has more than 40 tracks and includes a 17 minutes trippy song, a classical/jazz mixed suite and a bunch of shorts, tracks during a few seconds. John Zorn screaming saxophone is brilliant! Sounds like a hurt child asking for help or an elephant falling down the hill. Well, just take a look at Speedfreak, that's my favorite track, the kind of stuff that turns me on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Naked City - 1992 - Leng Tch'e

Naked City
Leng Tch'e

01. Leng Tch'e (31:37)

John Zorn – alto sax, vocals
Bill Frisell – guitar
Wayne Horvitz – keyboards
Fred Frith – bass
Joey Baron – drums
Yamatsuka Eye – vocals

From the liner notes:
Research into the relationship between violence and the sacred led Zorn to the writings of Georges Bataille. The historical photographs used in Leng Tch'e (found in Tears of Eros) were taken circa 1905 in Beijing to document the last public execution utilizing leng tch'e (hundred pieces) which dates from the Manchu dynasty. Given opium to extend the victim's life during the arduous process, the look of ecstasy on the man's face haunted Bataille:

"This photograph had a decisive role in my life. I have never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at once ecstatic and intolerable. I wonder what the Marquis de Sade would have thought of this image, Sade who dreamed of torture, (which was inaccessible to him) but who never witnessed an actual torture session. In one way or another this image was incessantly before his eyes. But Sade would have wanted to see it in solitude, at least in relative solitude, without which the ecstatic and voluptuous effect is inconceivable. What I suddenly saw, and what imprisoned me in anguish — but which at the same time delivered me from it — was the identity of these perfect contraries, divine ecstasy and its opposite, extreme horror. And this is my inevitable conclusion to a history of eroticism."

— Georges Bataille, liner notes

The liner notes present an abridgment of Bataille's remarks on p. 206–207 of Tears of Eros.

Bataille also wrote about the photograph in Inner Experience: "In particular, I would gaze at the photographic image – or sometimes the memory which I have of it – of a Chinese man who must have been tortured in my lifetime. Of this torture, I had had in the past a series of successive representations. In the end, the patient writhed, his chest flayed, arms and legs cut off at the elbows and at the knees. His hair standing on end, hideous, hagard, striped with blood, beautiful as a wasp."

When it comes to Western definitions of music, quality is generally seen to be derived from melodies, cohesive structure, the effectiveness of harmonies, and so forth. With so much music tending to focus on melodies over anything else, the objective differences brought forth by some avant-garde artists makes for a refreshing change of pace. Most often though, the more outside music gets from the norm, the more open it is to controversy. While far from the weirdest thing I have ever heard, Naked City's 'Leng Tch'e' is indeed an album that has sparked many a heated argument, with polar opinions reaching around the board. Both the greatly supportive praise, and revolted detraction of the album has led to a certain amount of hype surrounding the album, and while my opinion of the record may tend to be more moderate than most, I can certainly see why 'Leng Tch'e' has sparked such polarity among listeners.

First hearing about the album earlier today regarding what some people considered to be among 'the worst albums ever created', I was interested in hearing what these heated opinions were all about, perhaps out of the same morbid curiosity that fueled the making of this album. As some may know already, 'Leng Tch'e' refers to a Chinese method of torture and execution that I will leave to the reader to look up; suffice to say, it does not sound like the sort of thing you would want to bring up at a dinner party, lest you want to put the guests off their meals indefinitely. The music Naked City has created here really reflects the concept of slow, painful torture through abrasive and doomy guitar textures, set to a slowly, but steadily building level of intensity that flows through the half-hour track. For someone looking for the finer points of music, there aren't any here; no melodies, or much in the way of musical arrangement. Instead, John Zorn and his crew have crafted a dark soundtrack only with some minimalistic drum work, brooding guitar distortion, and some strained saxophones that burst in as the piece hits its climax.

From that description alone, it is easy to see why so many people may be averted to the sound of this album. This is challenging music, but it is not necessarily complex in its orchestration. There are not many, if any subtle nuances to the album's arrangement. Instead, one cannot appreciate 'Leng Tch'e' through conventional standards of musical enjoyment, but instead approach it by concentrating on the meticulous way in which the guitar feedback is used to create unsettling textures. Above all, the focus of 'Leng Tche' is to create atmosphere, and if that was what Zorn set out to do here, than he damn well accomplished it.

The vibe of torture and pain makes for an uneasy listen, and things are made even more off-putting by the vocals that emerge about half way through this album. Overtop the ambient guitar sludge and ominous drums, an ear-piercing scream lets loose. This isn't the sort of scream one might typically associate with doom metal, metal, or music in general. This is the sort of scream that exemplifies fear and duress, and it becomes an integral part of the musical experience for the second half of the album. While not musical in any way, the screams add tonnes to the fearful atmosphere of the album, and it adds alot to the imagery one could probably conjure in their minds while listening to the album. The vocals do start to wear thin after fifteen minutes; it is clear that the screamer tries to change up his act as the final half streches on, but his short vocal experiments don't always work, and sometimes sound like a simian howling for bananas rather than a human being executed. The album's short length is perfect for an album like this; were it any longer, the album's rather simplistic and primal nature would have robbed the best of it, and worn thin. 'Leng Tch'e' is not the sort of album that would have done well at any normal album length. It is fairly low on ideas, but the ideas that are here are extended and developed to just the right length, although any more would have taken it to the level of boredom, which the album does teeter on at points.

So there you have it; Naked City's 'Leng Tch'e', an album rightfully disdained by many, and even coming from someone who enjoys the album, it is easy to see why. The incredibly dark subject matter and abrasive content is not the sort of thing that will appeal to everyone; in fact, even alot of progressive music fans won't find much to appreciate here. All the same, 'Leng Tch'e' is an album with a wealth of haunting atmosphere to it, and although difficult to recommend to many outside of the noise or drone music communities, it has left a positive impression on me.

Painful, abrasive stuff here. A musical companion to the torture by a thousand knives that is a notorious blemish on Chinese history, and the pain that Naked City associates with it in this 'song' is extreme. Beginning as a drone doom piece that evolves with some dynamic drum work, with feedback driven guitar and bass lines - which run through the whole 31 minute piece, then leading at its exact middle point to screams, of pain and agony, which depending on how solid your appreichiations for avant-grade are, are either in a league of their own, or the reason to turn the song off right then and there and abandon the CD to the dusty corner. It's first and foremost an endurance test, which for some, myself partially included makes it lose some of its potential. It's also quite a simplistic idea, and indeed if it had been any longer I doubt I would treat it with the positivity I do. But be warned, it is not enjoyable, but it is original. So if you're looking for something extreme that you don't intend to play often, but occasionally will indulge in the challenge, this may be for you. If not, stay away.

Naked City - 1992 - Heretic: Jeux des Dames Cruelles

Naked City
Heretic: Jeux des Dames Cruelles

01. Main Titles (1:28)
02. Sex Games (2:23)
03. Sweat, Sperm + Blood (2:05)
04. Heretic 1 (2:33)
05. Submission (4:23)
06. Heretic 2 (1:46)
07. Catacombs (2:46)
08. Heretic 3 (2:43)
09. My Master, My Slave (2:23)
10. Saint Jude (2:13)
11. The Conqueror Worm (2:32)
12. Domintatrix 5b (2:16)
13. Back Through The Looking Glass (2:39)
14. Here Come The 7,000 Frogs (1:59)
15. Slaughterhouse/Chase Sequence (2:19)
16. Castle Keep (1:49)
17. Mantra Of Resurrected Shit (1:43)
18. Trypsicore (1:46)
19. Fire And Ice [(Club Scene)] (2:37)
20. Crosstalk (1:41)
21. Copraphagist Rituals (0:53)
22. The Brood (2:49)
23. Vliet (0:50)
24. Labyrinth (5:47)

- Yamatsuka Eye / vocals
- Bill Frisell / guitar
- Wayne Horvitz / keyboards
- John Zorn / alto sax, producer
- Fred Frith / bass
- Joey Baron / drums

Soundtrack for the underground porn movie "Jeux des Dames Cruelles" starring Karen Finley.
Recorded and mixed at Shelley Palmer Studios, NYC, 1991

If you enjoyed other Naked City albums art, this one will make you happier than ever. Here, John Zorn leads an all original soundtrack for a bondage fetish/s&m erotic experimental movie, this album is totally out of the ordinary limits. Well, it can't be better than Naked City's debut or Grand Guignol (both are Magnum Opus into avant-garde), but it beats the same weirdness level. Different from the other two masterpieces of the band, this album does not sound like a demented Carl Stalling, full of quick style shifts. It focus on noise and strange musical texture. It reminds me of some of John Zorn solo albums, but hell, the Naked City line-up is perfect for a disaster, and you can't get any better into an Avant-Garde album: Zorn, Frisell, Yamatsuka Eye, Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron.

Naked City's tenure as a workshop for a rock group's compositional opportunities led to this album, which is performed mostly by subsets of the full group. Only one track of the 24 includes all six band members, the relatively anonymous "Fire and Ice (Club Scene)," where Joey Baron, Fred Frith, and Bill Frisell set up a slow funky groove for Wayne Horvitz and John Zorn's improvisations. The rest of the pieces are all performed by various duos (12 tracks) and trios (11 tracks). The exploratory nature of the groupings means that there are many fewer references to popular music styles compared to other Naked City albums, and the pieces all sound improvisional. As such, every listener will find his or her favorites, but all of the pieces are of high quality, as befits a grouping of great improvisers that form the group. The two duos by Zorn and Yamatsuka Eye (where they match each other squeal for squawk) or the ones between Zorn and Frith (who have demonstrated their close empathy in other sessions before and after Naked City) are particularly noteworthy. Although this album is credited as a soundtrack for a porn movie (scenes from which decorate the sleeve art), its music will appeal to many improv-oriented listeners who have a hard time with the thrash/hardcore atmosphere that is so characteristic of the band's first album and the Torture Garden pieces.

Naked City - 1990 - Torture Garden

Naked City 
Torture Garden

Side Sado
01. Blood Is Thin 1:03
02. Demon Sanctuary 0:42
03. Thrash Jazz Assassin 0:48
04. Dead Spot 0:35
05. Bonehead 0:56
06. Speedball 0:39
07. Blood Duster 0:17
08. Pile Driver 0:37
09. Shangkuan Ling-Feng 1:18
10. Numbskull 0:31
11. Perfume Of A Critic's Burning Flesh 0:28
12. Jazz Snob Eat Shit 0:27
13. The Prestidigitator 0:48
14. No Reason To Believe 0:27
15. Hellraiser 0:42
16. Torture Garden 0:39
17. Slan 0:26
18. Hammerhead 0:12
19. The Ways Of Pain 0:36
20. The Noose 0:12
21. Sack Of Shit 0:48

Side Maso
22. Blunt Instrument 0:56
23. Osaka Bondage 1:17
24. Igneous Ejaculation 0:24
25. Shallow Grave 0:43
26. Ujaku 0:31
27. Kaoru 0:54
28. Dead Dread 0:49
29. Billy Liar 0:15
30. Victims Of Torture 0:26
31. Speedfreaks 0:52
32. New Jersey Scum Swamp 0:43
33. S & M Sniper 0:16
34. Pigfucker 0:27
35. Cairo Chop Shop 0:26
36. Fuck The Facts 0:14
37. Obeah Man 0:20
38. Facelifter 0:59
39. N.Y. Flat Top Box 0:45
40. Whiplash 0:23
41. The Blade 0:42
42. Gob Of Spit 0:20

Alto Saxophone, Vocals – John Zorn
Bass – Fred Frith
Drums – Joey Baron
Guitar – Bill Frisell
Keyboards – Wayne Horvitz

Guest, Vocals – Yamatsuka Eye

Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC, Tokyo 1989 - 1990

I remember first hearing about this album back in my "thrash/grind/death metal" days circa '89-'90. I got into John Zorn as well through listening to this, but at the time I was pretty much a metalhead and at the time of this release bands like Sepultura, Slayer, Obituary and Nuclear Assault were among my favs. "Torture Garden" can definitely be categorized as "death metal" but it would also weirdly fit under avant garde, jazz, lounge and hardcore! I loved this album for it's sheer NOISE level, Zorn's horn is the same as a shrieking death metal vocalist, in this outing Boredom's frontman Y. Eye doing the shreds! I can't say I was too thrilled to find out that John Zorn, the man responsible for the madness here, was actually on the downtown avant garde jazz Knitting Factory that time that was not me att all, those guys were lame! I later expanded my horizens however and "got it" but in 1990 it was metal and this is a piece of work thjat deserves a listen if you at all consider yourself into "metal." Loud music is more like it as any fan of punk or hardcore or grindsore or whatever would raise an eyebrow and take notice. This is certainly an almost parody of bands like Napalm Death who started the whole 40 second blast of noise, but at the same time Zorn and Co. are dead serious with it. Zorn has gone onto to do numerous projects with former Napalm and grind alumni, and it is no secret that Zorn is a huge admirer of those bands and grind in general. For the people that just don't get it...well you probably never got Napalm Death or Slayer or even Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock for that matter. A definite must for purveyors of the strange and loud.

Incredibly neurotic arrangements - noisy, crazy, garbled Japanese vocals courtesy of Eye Yamagata, ex of the Boredoms; surgical sax riffs slicing gray matter in pulsating peels by John Zorn; and a tsunamic disaster area of a backing band with sparkling pools of serene melody to counterpoint the rabid chaos of this album. This is what Erich Zann would sound like if he played the sax. "Normals" for whom I've played this CD have despised it, calling it worse than a lawnmower vasectomy. It is indeed ear torture, yet it is so beautifully composed and precisely implemented that a work a "mad genius" is it's only fitting description. Truly a rare grotesque jewel. Cool S&M photos inside too. Don't leave for a party without it.

One of the most insane sonic outbursts you’ll ever come across, “Torture Garden” takes jazz and grindcore to their logical extremes and ejaculates all over you with molten lava. It burns. Purely amazing noise from John Zorn and his cast of merry maniacs Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Fred Frith, Joey Baron and ear splitting vocal magnificence provided by Yamataka Eye. Forty-two quick bursts with so many micro-movements contained within, your mind delightfully struggles to keep up. Probably the most directions any 26 minute album has ever gone. Oh yeah, you’ll be exhausted at the end. You won’t be able to take anymore. You’ll be glad as fuck you took that ride though. Creative perfection!

Monday, November 28, 2022

John Zorn - 1990 - Naked City

John Zorn
Naked City

01. Batman 1:58
02. The Sicilian Clan 3:27
03. You Will Be Shot 1:29
04. Latin Quarter 4:05
05. A Shot In The Dark 3:09
06. Reanimator 1:34
07. Snagglepuss 2:14
08. I Want To Live 2:08
09. Lonely Woman 2:38
10. Igneous Ejaculation 0:20
11. Blood Duster 0:13
12. Hammerhead 0:08
13. Demon Sanctuary 0:38
14. Obeah Man 0:17
15. Ujaku 0:27
16. Fuck The Facts 0:11
17. Speedball 0:37
18. Chinatown 4:23
19. Punk China Doll 3:01
20. N.Y. Flat Top Box 0:43
21. Saigon Pickup 4:46
22. The James Bond Theme 3:02
23. Inside Straight 4:10

Bass – Fred Frith
Drums – Joey Baron
Guitar – Bill Frisell
Keyboards – Wayne Horvitz
Vocals – Yamatsuka Eye

The debut album from his top-flight quintet Naked City foresaw the content overload of the Internet while paving the way for jazz-metal fusion and mash-ups.

1. This album might change your life, or at least, might change how you perceive jazz. It did for me, anyway: it opened my eyes to a new language and a whole new night-time. This album took my virginity.
2. But there's something depressing about the people who call this or Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages the best jazz album of the 1990s. They probably are, but most of the reason why people say that is because neither sound like jazz, which is both a comment about the sorry state of the genre in that sorry decade, and also a comment about the sorry state of the listeners - the same probably didn't bother with any respectable albums released by veteran jazz artists that were released that decade, of which, there are plenty (why not?). To say nothing of new-school jazz artists.
3. This is his best album, wherein Zorn reigns in his postmodern tendencies for flashes of melodies between his trademark attack. The results: a lot of humour (ie. the cartoon gunshots in "The James Bond Theme"; the way the keyboardist seems to slam his entire forearm on the keyboard in the same song); soundtracks for films never made (ie. "Contempt"); diversity (ie. "N.Y. Flat Top Box" shifts from country to freakout and back again and so on); exoticism (ie. "The Sicilian Clan"; "Latin Quarter"); etc. It's all here, sometimes all packed in the same 1-minute song.
4. There's an 8-track grindcore stretch in the dead-middle of this album broken up by a brief jazz-ambient detour on "Demon Sanctuary" where Yamatsuka Eye (of Boredoms) tests the limits of his voice. The rest of this album suggests a blender-style approach - start with "Batman" and put the rest on shuffle, so to speak - but this stretch suggests the exact opposite: play as an album.
5. John Zorn: “Compositionally the challenge I set for myself was to see how much I could come up with given the limitation of the simple sax, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums format.”

This Album is Everything.

It's exactly what the album cover and name say. Upon listening to the opening track again, it is quite funny. A lot of this album is really quite funny and/or terrifying. "I Want to Live" never fails to give me chills. I can almost imagine myself in a seedy bar regretting everything while listening to this amazing music. Everything about this album is nonsense, cool, unique, hilarious, and terrifying. Haunting especially after the first nine tracks. After that, it just devolves into a horrifying frenzy of noise and (amusing) gurgling sounds, then to some sort of demented elegy to Chinatown. "Chinatown" and "Saigon Pickup" are John Zorn's "Taxi Driver Theme". It's cool. Calm and collected, but, to me, it conveys everything but that. The further you get into the album, I think, the sadder it gets. Like I said, this album is everything. It's not just "jazz grindcore"–I mean, some tracks are like that but–, it's everything. If you don't know what kind of mood you're in.. by all means listen to this album. Depending on the day, I might be horrified throughout the entire album or laughing half the time and crying the other half or just.. y'know.. vibe the entire time. I recommend imagining yourself strutting down the streets of New York to this album. Day or night, in the middle of a big fire, superheroes flying through the sky, a man running away with a poor lady's purse, drunk man crying in the middle of the street, walking to your pitiful job, getting ice cream, going to the museum, or even reading the newspaper. It's all in this album. This album really is everything.

Long before John Zorn’s insanely versatile quintet Naked City released its eponymous debut album thirty years ago this month, the leader had already spent years experimenting with concepts that in many ways defined the band’s whiplash sound, particularly its jump-cut aesthetic. Yet Naked City was the project that elevated the notorious gadfly composer and saxophonist out of New York’s downtown ghetto and allowed to him reach a much wider and younger audience. In a sense this was his pop-rock band—albeit as uncompromising as anything he’s ever done--a nimble quintet driven by remarkable musicianship and a machine-gun spray of ideas that would seemingly make more sense in a rock club than the jazz festivals that usually programmed them.

At once a focused distillation of many of Zorn’s long-term musical concerns and interests and a highly prescient illustration of musical consumption in the Information Age, Naked City still maintains much of its power through its concision, precision, and sheer fury, even if the passage of time has taken some of the edge from its once-radical juxtapositions and nonchalant genre shuffling. As jazz critic Neil Tesser wrote in the Chicago Reader back in 1989, “Rather than shrink from the laser-optic pace at which information flies through our society, Zorn embraces it: his compositions segue rapidly from one chunk of an idea to another often unrelated one careening like a barely controlled roller coaster. In this way, the very structure of the music reflects the speed and rhythm of the late 20th century (which, depending on how you feel about the late 20th century, may or may not be a good thing).”

This conceit was laid bare on Naked City, a 26-track onslaught released by the major label Elektra-Nonesuch, that juggled and collided Zorn’s take on the hardcore sounds he’d been mainlining at the time, film themes by the likes of Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith, and Georges Delerue, and a quick-blink hodge podge of tropes purloined from country, bebop, reggae, New Orleans R&B, and more. Zorn’s top-flight band—bassist Fred Frith, guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, and drummer Joey Baron, then all active denizens of New York’s polyglot downtown scene—translated the leader’s vision brilliantly, articulating his rapid-fire shuffle of ideas with stop-on-a-dime exactitude. While Zorn’s colleague John Oswald had unleashed his mind-boggling sampling opus Plunderphonics in 1989, with its head-spinning profusion of cuts, and that same year the Beastie Boys dropped the astonishing Paul’s Boutique, with the style-splicing production of the Dust Brothers, Naked City was able to convey a similar spirit without the aid of computers. In 1989 I saw the band perform at Chicago’s Civic Opera, and its seamless performance left most of the audience with jaws agape.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Various Artists - 2000 - In His Own Sweet Way - A Tribute To Dave Brubeck

Various Artists 
In His Own Sweet Way - A Tribute To Dave Brubeck

01. Blue Shadows In The Street - Dave Slusser
02. Far More Blues - Uri Caine
03. In Your Own Sweet Way - Pachora
04. Summer Song - Bill Frisellv
05. Blue Rondo A La Turk - Ruins
06. Tokyo Traffic - Medeski, Martin & Wood
07. Duke, The - Anthony Coleman
08. Calcutta Blues - Eyvind Kang
09. Sixth Sense - Slowpoke
10. Winter Ballad - Erik Friedlander
11. Jumpin' - Sex Mob
12. Nomad - Dave Douglas
13. Three To Get Ready - Joey Baron
14. Golden Horn, The - David Krakauer

David Slusser
– David Slusser [electronics, piano]
– John Schott [guitar]
– Tom Nunn [bagpipes]
– Carla Kihlstedt [violin]
– Dan Seamans [acoustic bass]
– Chris Ackerman [drums]

Uri Caine
– Uri Caine [piano]
– Kenny Davis [bass]
– Ben Perowsky [drums]

– Brad Shepik [keyboards]
– Chris Speed [clarinet]
– Skuli Suerrison [bass]
– Jim Black [drums]

Bill Frisell
 Bill Frisell [guitar]

– Sasaki Hisashi [bass]
- Tatsuya Yoshida [drums, vocal]

Medeski Martin & Wood
– John Medeski [keyboards]
– Chris Wood [bass]
– Billy Martin [drums]

Anthony Coleman
– Anthony Coleman [piano]

– Michael Hall [sampler, drum programming]
– Eyvind Kang [viola, electric piano]

– Dave Torenzo [slide guitar]
– Michael Blake [tenor saxophone]
– Tony Scherr [bass]
– Kenny Wollesen [drums]

Erik Friedlander
– Erik Friedlander [cello]

Sex Mob
- Tony Scherr [bass]
– Kenny Wollesen [drums]
- Briggan Krauss [alto saxophone]
– Steve Bernstein [slide trumpet]

Dave Douglas
– Dave Douglas [instrumentation]

Joey Baron
– Tony Scherr [bass]
– Joey Baron [drums]

David Krakauer
- Mark Dresser [bass]
– David Krakauer [clarinet]
– Kevin Norton [drums]

Composed By – Dave Brubeck
Executive Producer – John Zor

Often diminished as the guy who introduced unusual time signatures to the mainstream jazz audience back in the '50s with his classic album Time Out, pianist Dave Brubeck, the composer, gets nicely reconsidered on this Downtown-centric tribute collection. Unsurprisingly, most of the participants leave strong stylistic stamps on the material, whether through idiomatic detours or inventive arrangements, so while Brubeck's melodies generally escape unscathed, the performances here bear little resemblance to the originals, most of which featured the great Paul Desmond.

The Japanese prog-punk duo Ruins serve up a banging, high-velocity take on "Blue Rondo a la Turk," the brash Sex Mob blitz through "Jumpin'" (nee "Everybody's Jumpin'") and drummer Joey Baron (with bassist Tony Scherr) tackle "Three to Get Ready"-here more a tribute to Brubeck skinsman Joe Morello than to the pianist-but the remaining 11 selections bypass Time Out, although the Uri Caine Trio's version of "Far More Blues" cleverly interpolates bits of "Take Five." Elsewhere, Pachora infuses "In Your Own Sweet Way" with Baltic sounds, David Slusser gives a Naked City-style sleaziness to "Blue Shadows in the Street," violinist Eyvind Kang lends some Indian spice to "Calcutta Blues," Dave Douglas applies an electronics-enhanced solo treatment to "Nomad" and an unplugged Medeski, Martin & Wood ride rickshaw-style on "Tokyo Traffic." Bill Frisell, Anthony Coleman, Erik Friedlander, Slowpoke and David Krakauer round out the line-up.

Jazz compilation / Tribute albums have a tendency to fall into stylistic ruts more often than not. Tributes to past masters of the Jazz canon usually are very traditional in scope and some what sterile. But not this one. John Zorn's all star cast contributes 14 tunes, most of them lesser know Brubeck compositions (there is no "Take 5"). Their interpretations of these tunes are as varied as the artists themselves.

There are acoustic / free- interpretations of the material by pianist Anthony Coleman and MMW. Pianist Uri Caine pounds out a swaggering performance on "Far More Blues" and Sex Mob belts out a distinctive grinding dirge on "Jumpin". Pachora and David Krakauer dig into a middle-eastern music stream for their renditions. Solo contemplative pieces are rendered by guitarist Bill Frisell and cellist Erik Friedlander. Drummer Joey Baron and bassist Tony Scherr deliver a cool swinging track and Slowpoke eases out a smokey blues groove. Dave Slusser, Eyvind Kang and Dave Douglas contribute the most experimental tracks to the tribute, with Douglas' solo-overdubbed work resembling late period electric Miles Davis as filtered through Sun Ra and modally based eastern musics. The Ruins deliver what may be the standout track of the whole disc however. Their bass and drum prog-rock workout of "Blue Rondo A La Turk" is not to be missed. Worth the price alone.

In His Own Sweet Way: A Tribute to Dave Brubeck features avant garde jazz artists playing the music of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. These musicians mix Brubeck's melodism with their own eclectic musical hybrids creating exciting listening that truly pays tribute to this composer's influence, not generically imitating him. Recommended to listeners with open ears.