Reviews that mention Barry Guy

January 20, 2018

Jahre 25-25th Anniversary

MusikKultur St, Johann in Tirol December 9 and 10

By Ken Waxman

One of Austria’s most forward-looking cultural series takes place every week in an Alpine valley market town half-way between Innsbruck and Salzburg. St. Johann in Tirol has only about 9,000 residents but for 25 years Musik Kultur St. Johann (MuKu) has hosted a variety of exceptional activities, including at least 20 concerts of improvised music each year as well as the annual Artacts Festival in March.

In early December, MuKu threw itself a two-day silver anniversary party in the Alte Gerberei, a converted tannery, a 20-minute walk from the main town square and the nearby busy ski hill. Showcased were groups featuring British bassist Barry Guy, whose influence extended serendipitously to a club in nearby Munich a few days later. MORE

September 18, 2017

Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli

Beyond
Intakt CD 277

Like army recruits moving into the front line in a crucial battle, two youngish Swiss improvisers accede to the reed and percussion roles in this trio outing which in the past have been taken by the likes of saxophonists Parker, Trevor Watts and Mats Gustafsson and drummers Paul Lytton, John Stevens and Paul Lovens. Concerned with pushing sounds forward, not looking backwards, soprano, alto and tenor saxophonist Jürg Wickihalder and drummer Lucas Niggli form a bond with veteran British double bassist Barry Guy for a personalized take on the trio tradition. As well, rather than recreating earlier skirmishes, the double bassist prodigious skill as soloist and composer means that he too can go beyond expected trio situations since reanimating that configuration has, along with solo concerts and large ensemble orchestrations, been his focus since the late 1960s. MORE

April 6, 2017

Barry Guy

The Blue Shroud
Intakt CD 266

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Withdrawal (1966/7)

Emanem 5040

By Ken Waxman

Organization and innovation are the concepts most closely associated with British bassist Barry Guy. A classically trained musician, he early on established himself as a masterful soloist in groups led by pianist Howard Riley and others. By his mid-twenties however, Guy, who turns 70 this month, had made in music the same sort of transcendental leap Woody Allen effected in film by demonstrating memorable skills as director as well as actor. Guy’s founding of and compositions for the London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra in 1972 demonstrated that precise notation and free-form improvisation could coexist. From then on, like a hyperactive Jekyll and Hyde, the bassist has enthusiastically directed and played with large ensemble while utilizing his string prowess in a dizzying number of smaller bands. MORE

April 6, 2017

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Withdrawal (1966/7)
Emanem 5040

Barry Guy

The Blue Shroud

Intakt CD 266

By Ken Waxman

Organization and innovation are the concepts most closely associated with British bassist Barry Guy. A classically trained musician, he early on established himself as a masterful soloist in groups led by pianist Howard Riley and others. By his mid-twenties however, Guy, who turns 70 this month, had made in music the same sort of transcendental leap Woody Allen effected in film by demonstrating memorable skills as director as well as actor. Guy’s founding of and compositions for the London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra in 1972 demonstrated that precise notation and free-form improvisation could coexist. From then on, like a hyperactive Jekyll and Hyde, the bassist has enthusiastically directed and played with large ensemble while utilizing his string prowess in a dizzying number of smaller bands. MORE

March 6, 2017

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton

Deep Memory
Intakt CD 273

By Ken Waxman

Suspended between expressive romanticism and energetic atonality, the fourth CD by pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, confirms not only the solidity of this sporadically assembled trio, but also its suitability as vehicle for Guy’s compositions. Like a writer whose mastery of the crystalline short story is matched by an ability to also pen complex novels, the bassist’s thoughtful compositions for the likes of the London Composers’ Orchestra (LJCO) suffer no loss of zest when played by small groups like this. Deep Memory’s seven compositions also throb with reflections of the draftsmanship and color application of selected works by British artist Hughie O'Donoghue, whose paintings provide the track titles and the cover image. MORE

November 11, 2016

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations

Tensegrity
NotTwo MW938-2

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess

Trost Records TR 140

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know

SOFA 548

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms

Weekertoft 1-4

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

November 6, 2016

Boxed Set

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations
Tensegrity NotTwo MW938-2

By Ken Waxman

Rather like viewing short films made during breaks from the larger project by participants in a feature, Tensegrity preserves small-group sets that took place in the evenings following rehearsals of Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud orchestral project. Recorded at Krakow’s Jazz Autumn in November 2014, the four CDs consist of 26 performances that confirm the adaptability of the band’s 14 members. With the exception of two tracks featuring violinist Maya Homburger, sounds are all improvised. The skill and sophistication of the players from Greece, Spain, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, France, the US and the UK, demonstrated that, cross-border musical interchange works more successfully than political alliances. MORE

July 11, 2016

Lucien Dubuis, Barry Guy & Alfred Vogel

Heavy Metal Rabbit
Boomslang No #

Joris Roelofs

Amateur Dentist

Pirouet Records PIT 3090

Although the titles of these trio CDs appear more like the elements of a nightmare than anything else, the hyperbolic images mask two fine instances of how to utilize the condensed framework of a bass clarinet-double-bass-drums ensemble. Like the discordant anthropomorphic or professional models suggested by the titles, the members of each trio come up with a particular method to best express their collective ideas. MORE

March 12, 2016

Living Room + Barry Guy

Live at Literaturhaus
Ilk 239 CD

By Ken Waxman

Demonstrating the distinction between fission and fusion, veteran British bassist Barry Guy partners the Danish Living Room trio in a timbre-suturing-like program that sounds like three improvisations from an integrated quartet rather than from a trio plus one. Sophisticated in the use of multifold string techniques, Guy has spent a half-century intersecting with improv visionaries, so the challenges advanced by reedist Torben Snekkestad, keyboardist Søren Kjægaard and drummer Thomas Strønen don’t faze him. MORE

November 11, 2015

Beyond Jazz: plink, plonk & scratch; the golden age of free music in London 1966-1972

By Trevor Barre
Compass Press

Out of Nowhere, The Uniquely Elusive Jazz of Mike Taylor

By Luca Ferrara

Gonzo Multimedia

By Ken Waxman

A succinct, personal, opinioned and ultimately insightful volume about the so-called First Generation of British Free Musicians, Beyond Jazz is first-time author Trevor Barre’s crisply-written, well-informed overview of the scene during those crucial seven years. A little too young and living elsewhere in the U.K., to have participated in most of the seminal London-based performances of that era, Barre’s turned to contemporary journalism, some academic studies and most importantly correspondence with 21 Free Music mover and shakers to fill out the story. Out Of Nowhere, the Uniquely Elusive Jazz of Mike Taylor is an exhaustive near hagiography tracing the brief career of a British pianist whose career began and ended in the 1960s and whose particular music and short life characterized all that was good and bad about the improvised and overall music scene during that representative decade. MORE

October 1, 2015

Festival Report

Météo
By Ken Waxman

Multi-media, theatricalism and electronics were the motifs that kept cropping up during the Météo Festival (August 25-29) in this Alsatian city known for its textile industry and unique German-French flair. There were also plenty of intense improvisations in its venues, confirming the continued strength of the 33-year-old festival.

Artistic mixing was most prominent during Météo’s opening concert in the Italianate 19th Century Théâtre de la Sinne as the French Surnatural Orchestra interacted with a screening of Italian director Dario D’Aregento’s 1975 slasher film Profondo Rosso. Unlike most music-with-cinema programs where live playing is subordinated to the visuals, this bloody over-the-top Hitchcock-Goddard-Fellini pastiche was frozen at various junctures for limber solos by a dancer, a speaker’s pseudo-pretentious film analysis, a scream from the stalls, cabaret style singing and a Second Line march through the audience. Still, no sonic moments stood out, and the exercise could be liked to someone decked out in full Carnaby Street fashion surmounting the outfit with a Viking helmet. MORE

March 13, 2015

Barry Guy

Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett
NoBusiness Records NBEP 2

Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble

Hidros 6 - Knockin’

Not Two MW 915

Yves Charuest and Ellwood Epps

La Passe

Small Scale Music SM 005

Pierre Yves Martel/Phillippe Lauzier

Sainct Laurens Volume 2

E-tron Records ETRC 019

Something In The Air: Unusual Formats for New Music

By Ken Waxman

Everything old is new again doesn’t go quite far enough in describing formats now available for disseminating music. Not only are downloads and streaming becoming preferred options, but CDs are still being pressed at the same time as musicians experiment with DVDs, vinyl variants and even tape cassettes. Happily the significance of the musical messages outweighs the media multiplicity. MORE

March 8, 2015

Krakow Jazz Autumn.

Krakow, Poland
November 19-22, 2014

By Ken Waxman

Slightly mangling a metaphor, the world premiere of The Blue Shroud, a major new composition by British bassist Barry Guy, performed by a specially constituted Blue Shroud Band (BSB), was a main course of the musical banquet presented during Krakow’s Jazz Autumn in November. The three nights preceding it, which showcased all 14 members of the BSB in smaller combinations, previewed the varied spices and condiments that went into concocting the final repast; while Guy’s evening of free-form improvisations with American multi-reedist Ken Vandermark – who wasn’t a band member – the following night, was the perfect digestif following the rich fare of The Blue Shroud. MORE

December 21, 2014

NPR 9th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: 2014

Ken Waxman’s ballot

NEW RELEASES

1. Yoni Kretzmer-Pascal Niggenkemper-Weasel Walter, Protest Music (OutNow)

2. Paul Giallorenzo, Force Majeure (Delmark)

3. Kyle Bruckmann, . . . Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire (SingleSpeed Music)

4. Sakata/Lonberg-Holm/Gutvik/Nilssen-Love, The Cliff of Time (PNL)

5. Alexander Hawkins, Step Wide, Step Deep (Babel)

6. François Carrier-Michel Lambert-Alexey Lapin, The Russia Concerts Volume 1/The Russia Concerts Volume 2 (FMR)

7. Rodrigo Amado & Jeb Bishop, The Flame Alphabet (NotTwo) MORE

November 11, 2014

Torben Snekkestad/Barry Guy

Slip, Slide and Collide
Maya Recordings MCD 1401

By Ken Waxman

Famous for his compositions and leadership of large ensembles, British bassist Barry Guy is also a veteran small group participant. This notable CD is the most recent example of this skill, but this time his playing partner is one of the most recent members of the Barry Guy New Orchestra, Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad.

Copenhagen-based Snekkestad, who teaches classical saxophone, works in chamber music, rock, folk music and jazz. Someone who plays soprano and tenor saxophones plus reed-trumpet, he’s particularly concerned with the creation of multiphonics. Throughout Slip, Slide and Collide’s 13 tracks that ability is demonstrated superbly but judiciously. MORE

June 25, 2014

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Amphi, Radio Rondo
Intakt CD 235

Danielle Palardy Roger

Le Caillou

Ambiances Magnetiques AM 215 CD

Modern Art Orchestra Plays the Music of Kristóf Bascó

Circular

BMC CD 204

Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit

First Blow

PNL Records PNL 021

Graham Collier

Luminosity-The Last Suites

Jazzcontinuum GCM 2014

Something In The Air: Translating a Singular Vision to a Large Ensemble

By Ken Waxman
MORE

December 8, 2013

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton

Live at Maya Recordings Festival
NoBusiness NBCD 55

Butcher/Buck/Mayas/Stangl

Plume

Unsounds 35u

Michel Doneda/Joris Rühl

Linge

Umlaut Records umfrcd 07

Lori Freedman & John Heward

On No On

Mode Avant 16

Matt Mitchell

Fiction

Pi Recordings PI50

Kidd Jordan & Hamid Drake

A Night in November Live in New Orleans

Valid Records VR-1015

Paul Bley Trio

Closer
MORE

July 20, 2013

Evan Parker Electrocacoustic Ensemble

Hasselt
psi 12.03

Continuing his rapprochement with electronic currents, British saxophonist Evan Parker has organized a 13-piece ensemble almost equally divided between acoustic and processing instruments. This disc is notable historically, showing how the philosophies of pure electronics and pure acoustics can intersect. Nonetheless the results aren’t too surprising, considering that the majority of players on both sides of the equation are comfortable in both milieus.

Pieced together from performances presented on different nights in concert in Hasselt, Belgium, the CD climaxes with a more-than-half-hour sequence featuring the entire group. However the trio of preceding selections matches players from both sides of the electro-acoustic divide – without Parker – for shorter instant compositions. “Hasselt 1” and “Hasselt 2” are most illustrative, as they aptly demonstrate how a commanding musical personality, pianist Augustí Fernández in the first case and bassist Barry Guy in the second, can dominate the proceedings despite the presence of potentially louder plugged-in instruments. For instance, the Catalan pianist’s high-frequency keyboard sweeps and tremolo string resonations from inside and outside his instrument on the first piece create a swiftly paced narrative that makes Walter Prati’s computer processing a junior improvising partner. In the same way, the subterranean textures from contrabass clarinetist Peter van Bergen and Guy’s double bass on “Hasselt 2” are more ruggedly commanding and percussively directed than the live electronics produced by the FURT duo of Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer. MORE

July 10, 2013

The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra/Barry Guy

Schweben
Maya Records MCD 1201

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Brooklyn Babylon

New Amsterdam Records NWAM 048

Maria Faust

Jazz Catastrophe

Barefoot Records BFREC025

Collectivo Bassefere

Senza Alibi

Collectivo Bassefere 85015

SITA: Sophisticated Expression From Large Improv Ensembles

By Ken Waxman

Fuelled by innovation rather than nostalgia, composers and arrangers continue to utilize the sonic parameters of larger ensembles to help tell their stories in the most expansive way possible. Whether it’s exposing individual original compositions or organizing the sessions into a thematic whole, these vital CD demonstrate why a big band of is still favored as an expressive vehicle for both free-form improvisation and tightly plotted compositions. MORE

January 11, 2013

Artist Feature

Agustí Fernández
By Ken Waxman

A complete pianist in every sense of the word who blends exquisite technique with innovative inspiration, Agustí Fernández is arguably Spain’s most accomplished contemporary improviser. This month he’s playing four nights in different configurations at the Stone, a rare series of American dates. “I like all kind of combinations, from duo to big ensembles because each one presents different challenges for a player,” he explains. “Listening, language, instruments, techniques, sound, volume, interplay, etc. will be different in every setting.” MORE

August 27, 2012

The Thing with Barry Guy

Metal!
No Business Records NBLP 47/48

With the Scandinavian trio The Thing having set itself up as improvised music’s version of the Rock power trio – albeit with a saxophone instead of a lead guitar – it’s instructive to note how well senior improvisers operate when entering into the band’s self-defined context.

Having established a mutually satisfying interchange with American saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee, The Thing now uses this two-LP set to showcase the adaptations of British bassist Barry Guy to their sound. Guy, who founded the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in the 1970s, and is known for his collaborations with most top-rank European improvisers including tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, was involved in Free playing from around the time the Thing members were born. Since the early 1990s however, Swedish saxophonist and Thing member Mats Gustafsson has been playing with Guy in larger or smaller ensembles. Meanwhile on their own the other Thingers – Norwegians, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love – have racked up a history of affiliations with a cross-section of committed improvisers ranging from saxophonist Peter Brötzmann to guitarist Raoul Björkenheim. MORE

July 11, 2012

Katharina Weber/Barry Guy/Balts Nill

Games and Improvisations
Intakt CD 203

More than mere child’s play this significant CD expands some of Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s performance pieces to evocative chamber improvisations. Taking 11 miniatures for solo piano from his eight-volume Játékok series, which translates as “Games” in English, the trio’s intuitive skills create nine exciting tracks that refer both to Kurtág (born 1926) and the wider musical world.

The high quality shouldn’t come as a surprise. Besides a career as an improviser, Bern-based pianist Katharina Weber has won many awards for interpreting notated music by contemporary composers. Swiss percussionist Balts Nill moves easily among improvised, notated and even pop music, while British bassist Barry Guy has been exploring the relationship between instantly composed and composed music for years, most notably with his London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. MORE

May 26, 2012

Iskra 1903

Goldsmiths
Emanem 5013

Without the controversy implicit in discovering relics from biblical times, Goldsmiths offers up six fascinating performances by the first edition of Iskra 1903, whose influence dwarfed its hitherto miniscule discography. Consisting of trombonist Paul Rutherford (1940- 2007), guitarist Derek Bailey (1930- 2005) and bassist Barry Guy, and named for the newspaper Lenin edited before the Russian Revolution, Iskra proclaimed not only its political radicalism, but in choice of instrumentation, a change from the larger and percussion oriented bands with which all three had been affiliated. MORE

May 6, 2012

Label Spotlight:

Maya Recordings
By Ken Waxman

As much as anything else, the birth of Maya Recordings, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, was born from impatience. Swiss violinist Maya Homburger, who operates the boutique label with her husband, British bassist/composer Barry Guy, recalls that since at that time another label was slow in putting out Arcus, a recording by Guy and bassist Barre Phillips, they decided to do so themselves. By 2012 29 Maya CDs have been released, improvised as well as baroque music.

The two were already veteran musician when Maya was created. Zürich-born Homburger, for instance, has worked with ensembles such as Trio Virtuoso and Camerata Kilkenny; while London-born Guy is part of many free jazz aggregations and is the founder/artistic director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO). Maya was envisioned as a different sort of imprint, Homburger recalls. “We wanted to create a label where music, cover art and writing were all related and on the highest level. We wanted to have control over the look as well as the sound.” MORE

October 10, 2011

Festival Report:

Météo Music Festival August 23 to August 27 2011
By Ken Waxman

Météo means weather in French, and one notable aspect of this year’s Météo Music Festival which takes place in Mulhouse, France, was the weather. It’s a testament to the high quality of the creative music there that audiences throughout the five days were without exception quiet and attentive despite temperatures in non air-conditioned concert spaces that hovered around the high 90sF. More dramatically, one afternoon a sudden freak thunderstorm created an unexpected crescendo to a hushed, spatial performance, by the Greek-Welsh Cranc trio of cellist Nikos Veliotis, harpist Rhodri Davies and violinist Angharad Davies, when winds violently blew ajar the immense wooden front door of Friche DMC, a former thread factory, causing glass to shatter and fall nosily. MORE

July 7, 2011

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory
Maya Records MCD 1001

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents

psi 11.01

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos

Multikulti Project MP 1013

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia

Riti CD11

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

June 15, 2011

Lucas Niggli Big Zoom

Polisation
Intakt CD 174

Simon Nabatov

Roundup

Leo Records CD LR 586

Probably the most interesting younger trombonist in Europe, who is affiliated neither with out-and-out Free Music or the Mainstream, is German-born Nils Wogram. Like most contemporary players he leads his own ensembles while lending his inventiveness to a variety of other groups. Paradoxically though, while his own CDs lean towards the populist, the challenge of sidemen duties often brings out a more adventurous side, as these CDs demonstrate. MORE

February 17, 2011

Diatribes & Barry Guy

Multitude
Cave 12 Orchestra 1 c12 o 01

Baron/Chevillon/Sharp/Vigroux

Venice, Dal Vivo

D’autre Cords doc 5005

With advanced rock-influenced and so-called noise musicians increasingly adding free improvisation to their programs, a new hybrid is being showcased. At the same time the amount of sonic clamor added means that any resulting interpretation has to negotiate a fine line between incoherence and inventiveness. Although the volume of these sessions is somewhat stentorian, and their coherence sometimes spotty, the cleverness of the participants involved helps avoid major pitfalls. MORE

February 7, 2011

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory
Maya Records MCD 1001

Undivided

The Passion

Multikulti MPI 011

Ozone featuring Miklós Lukács

This is C'est la Vie

BMC Records BMCCD163

Nils Ostendorf/Philip Zoubek/Philippe Lauzier

Subsurface

Schraum Records 11

Something in the Air: Global Combos

By Ken Waxman

Globalization, mass communication and travel have actually created certain situations where the standardization of everything from hamburger patties to drum beats can be experienced no matter where in the world a person is situated. Increased mobility also, for instance, allows like-minded musicians in different locations to exchange thoughts and ideas. Because of this, the 21st Century has seen the instigation of literal global ensembles; musicians who work together regularly but live in different cities, countries or even continents. MORE

September 18, 2010

Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy

Some Other Place
Maya MCD 0902

Borah Bergman & Giorgio Dini

One More Time

SILTA Records SR801

Dating from a time when intimate night clubs feared the potentially bombastic rhythms of a drum kit, piano-bass duos – often with the additional of a guitar – became the last work in sophisticated jazz. Employed memorably by piano stylists as different as Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans, a tendency towards fussiness and minimalist panache is avoided if the strength of the pianist and bassist are equally matched. MORE

March 3, 2010

Irène Schweizer/Barry Guy, London Jazz Composers Orchestra

Radio Rondo
Intakt CD 158

Sometimes the best intention – plus a collection of exceptionally talented musicians – still doesn’t guarantee a perfectly balanced performance. Both piano soloist Irène Schweizer and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) discovered this during this live concert at the 2008 Schaffhauser Jazz Festival in Switzerland. While the 30-minute “Radio Rondo” was composed by LJCO leader Barry Guy as a special feature for the Swiss pianist, the subsequent performance was patchy, with unexpected sonic peaks and valleys often held together by sheer will. MORE

February 11, 2010

Ken Vandermark/Barry Guy/Mark Sanders

Fox Fire
Maya MCD 0901

Testimony to the infinite adaptability of first-class improvisers is this two-CD live set. It captures the first-ever recorded meeting among veteran British Free Music bassist Barry Guy, peripatetic American multi-reedist Kern Vandermark and in-demand English drummer Mark Sanders, who mid-wifed the session.

Throughout the contours of 10 instant compositions from Birmingham and Leeds concerts in the United Kingdom, the three mate extended techniques, split-second timing, pitch and timbre augmentation plus subtle dips into the tradition. The result lodged firmly within the collegial spirit of Free Music, is also a wholly original variant. MORE

February 1, 2010

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid
Weight of Wax WOW 02

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy

ECM 2066

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

February 1, 2010

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy
ECM 2066

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid

Weight of Wax WOW 02

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

March 28, 2009

Jazz Brugge

Brugge, Belgium
October 2-October 5, 2008

Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s German quartet rolled through a set of Thelonious Monk compositions; Sardinians, saxophonist Sandro Satta and keyboardist Antonello Salis liberally quoted Charles Mingus lines during their incendiary set; Berlin-based pianist Aki Takase and saxophonist Silke Eberhard recast Ornette Coleman’s tunes; and the French Trio de Clarinettes ended its set with harmonies reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s writing for his reed section.

All these sounds and many more were highlighted during the fourth edition of Jazz Brugge, which takes place every second year in this tourist-favored Belgium city, about 88 kilometres from Brussels. But sonic homage and musical interpolations were only notable when part of a broader interpretation of improvised music. Other players in this four-day festival came from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Poland and Belgium. With strains of rock, New music and folklore informing the jazz presented at the festival’s three sonically impressive venues, music at the most notable concerts was completely unique or added to the tradition. The less-than-memorable sets were mired in past achievements or unworkable formulae MORE

November 20, 2008

Schaffhauser Jazzfestival

Schaffhausen, Switzerland
May 21 to 24 2008

Forty-seven years after she left her home town of Shauffchausen, Switzerland for nearby Zürich, pianist Irène Schweizer was back headlining the Schaffhauser Jazz Festival’s most ambitious program ever: performing “Radio Rondo”, a composition by bassist Barry Guy, which featured her and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).

In its 19th year of showcasing Swiss jazz and improvised music, Schaffhauser expanded its horizons in 2008 with the Schweizer/LJCO summit, which took place in front of a sell-out crowd in the city’s modernist Stadtheater. The evening, which included a solo piano showcase for Schweizer, also emphasized two of the fest’s overall themes: the majority of the most interesting sets included piano; and non-Swiss musicians and motifs adding needed variety to the performances MORE

October 8, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Guelph Jazz Festival Musicians On Their Own
Extended Play

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid

Tarfala

Maya MCD0801

Junk Box

Cloudy Then Sunny

Libra Records 203-019

John Zorn

News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 650

Matana Roberts

The Chicago Project

Central Control CC1006PR

Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet

Tabligh

Cuneiform Rune 270

AMMÜ Quartet

AMMÜ Quartet
MORE

August 15, 2008

Fernández/Parker/Guy/Lytton

Topos
Maya Records MCD 0701

Finding a role within an already existing musical partnership can be problematic. When the relationship has lasted most of three decades it’s that much riskier. Yet as the nine instant compositions on this CD demonstrate, Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández creates no fissure when he performs with the long-standing British trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton.

It helps that the pianist, along with Lytton, is a member of extended Guy and Parker ensembles. Yet he’s such an accomplished stylist, whose collaborators range from Free Jazz bassist William Parker to New music flautist Jane Rigler, that his input enhances the tracks so that each part of the paradigm seems indivisible. MORE

January 9, 2008

Jazz à Mulhouse gives a loving French kiss to Improvised music

By Ken Waxman
For CODA Issue 337

Impressive saxophone and reed displays were the focus of the 24th Edition of Jazz à Mulhouse in France in late August. Overall however, most of the 19 performances maintained a constant high quality. This may have something to do with the fact that unlike larger, flashier and more commercial festivals, Jazz à Mulhouse (JAM) is an almost folksy showcase for improvisation.

Located less than 20 minutes away by train from Basel, Switzerland, Mulhouse is a mid-sized city of 150,000 in eastern France long known as an industrial textile centre. Low-key, JAM is rather like the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV), with better restaurants. MORE

December 28, 2007

La Pieuvre

Ellipse
Helix LX 002

The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Barry Guy

Falkirk

FMR CD 168-i0706

Ever since American Butch Morris introduced the concept of using “conduction” to help improvising ensembles express musical ideas without formalistic structures, the model has been tested over the past two decades by a variety of ensembles in different parts of the world.

Although there are those who might question just how different “conduction” is from a Count Basie band head arrangement or a one of Charles Mingus’ scores that was transmitted orally to his sidemen, the theory appears to be helpful in allowing bands of 20 or so musicians to create notable semi-improvised/semi-composed structures. Falkirk and Ellipse provide two of the more impressive, recent examples of this trend, and also illustrate by their differences how nothing involved with Free Music is accepted dogma. MORE

December 28, 2007

The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Barry Guy

Falkirk
FMR CD 168-i0706

La Pieuvre

Ellipse

Helix LX 002

Ever since American Butch Morris introduced the concept of using “conduction” to help improvising ensembles express musical ideas without formalistic structures, the model has been tested over the past two decades by a variety of ensembles in different parts of the world.

Although there are those who might question just how different “conduction” is from a Count Basie band head arrangement or a one of Charles Mingus’ scores that was transmitted orally to his sidemen, the theory appears to be helpful in allowing bands of 20 or so musicians to create notable semi-improvised/semi-composed structures. Falkirk and Ellipse provide two of the more impressive, recent examples of this trend, and also illustrate by their differences how nothing involved with Free Music is accepted dogma. MORE

December 4, 2007

Carlos Bechegas/Barry Guy

Open Textures
forward.rec 06

By Ken Waxman

Adapting the triggered oscillations available from sound processing to his airy instrument, Portuguese flutist Carlos Bechegas suitably arms his miniature cross-blown woodwind for completely improvised jousts with the hulking double bass and immense musical strategies of Britain’s Barry Guy.

Adding verbal squeals, circular breathing and emphasized glissandi to alternately create vibrating cistern-deep or falsetto tones, Bechegas comes across like an amalgam of flautist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, soprano saxophonist Evan Parker and barnyard full of uncontrollable peeping fowl. Yet Guy, whose instrumental command ranges across sweeping rasgueado pulses and guitar-like arpeggios to include widely splayed shuffle bowing and rhythmic stopping, is as unruffled here as he would be playing with long-time associate Parker or pushing a large ensemble. The emphasis is on mutual transcendence not divergence. MORE

October 31, 2005

DEREK BAILEY/EVAN PARKER

The London Concert
psi 05.01

STEVENS/WATTS/GUY
Mining the seam - the rest of the Spotlite sessions
Hi 4 Head Records HFH CD003

Combining and splitting apart numerous times in various bands – ad hoc and not –during a period in the late 1960s and early 1970s now seen as the genesis of British Free Music, guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer John Stevens (1940–1994) are almost universally acknowledged as dual catalysts who nurtured the nascent scene.

Although over the years both improvised with just about anyone and mentored a large number of younger musicians, Stevens had, and Bailey still has, a fairly prickly personality. That meant that at the same time newer players were being initiated into freer sounds, one or both was usually carrying on a feud with older associates and sometimes with one other. Bailey has maintained from that time that every performance should be completely improvised with each creation a tabla rasa. Less rigid, Stevens didn’t disdain composition and wasn’t above playing jazz, Free Jazz and a touch of jazz-rock. MORE

September 12, 2005

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Oort – Entropy
Intakt

Maya Homburger & Barry Guy with Pierre Favre
Dakryon
Maya

By Ken Waxman
September 11, 2005

Established as one of FreeImprov’s most accomplished composer/bandleaders as well as a major improvising double bassist, Barry Guy continues to extend his musical range.

Having slimmed down his main compositional tool, the 17-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) to the more compact 10 piece, all-star Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGO), Oort – Entropy shows how the group reconstitutes specific sounds. The idea is to expand musical elements initially conceived for Guy’s trio with American pianist Marilyn Crispell and British drummer Paul Lytton. MORE

May 2, 2005

Surd

Live at Glenn Miller Café
Ayler Records

Sandell/Stackenäs/Parker/Guy/Lytton
Gubbröra
psi By Ken Waxman
May 2, 2005

Swedish guitarist David Stackenäs has been someone to watch every since he released his remarkable solo session, The Guitar, on Häpna five years ago. Since that time he’s extended his early promise, playing with a variety of improvisers ranging from Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson to American multi-reedist Ken Vandermark.

Recorded one month apart last summer in Stockholm and London, the most recent CDs on which he’s featured, suggest that he may be at a crossroads. Live at Glenn Miller Café, featuring local band Surd – Fredrik Nordström on alto and tenor saxophones, bassist Filip Augustsonon and drummer Thomas Strønen as well as the guitarist – in a speedy freebop romp that at points veers awfully close to fusion-like excess. Far superior is the more than 71½-minute Gubbröra, which matches Stackenäs with four veteran improvisers. Duos with fellow Swede Sten Sandell on piano, voice and electronics, make up the first two tracks; the third adds Sandell and Stackenäs to the transcendent British trio of Evan Parker on soprano and tenor saxophones, Barry Guy on bass and Paul Lytton on drums. MORE

April 18, 2005

BARRY GUY/MARILYN CRISPELL/PAUL LYTTON

Ithaca
Intakt CD 096

More of a rethinking of the spatial and dominant arrangements of a piano trio by bassist Barry Guy than a follow up to this threesome’s first CD, ITHACA gives him ample scope to outline new strategies with which to subvert the most traditional of improv groupings.

It’s no overtly radical response, but it’s done differently than how pianist Marilyn Crispell, percussionist Paul Lytton and Guy approached ODYSSEY (Intakt CD 070). Unlike that session, this disc contains no miniaturization of London Jazz Composers Orchestra themes, and almost no references to any genre outside of Free Music. Additionally, Crispell, who has a tendency towards classical delicacy – an inclination expressed on ODYSSEY and other CDs – becomes a vigorous note chopper this time out. Nine out of the 11 compositions – including three miniature shards – are Guy’s. The other two are instant compositions to which all three contribute. MORE

December 20, 2004

EVAN PARKER’S ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC ENSEMBLE

Memory/Vision
ECM 1852

Accelerating involvement in electro-acoustic creations has characterized one of British saxophonist Evan Parker’s many activities since the mid-1990s.

Parker, whose more than 35 year career has involved membership in groups ranging from massive big bands to two matchless improv trios, and who helped create the solo saxophone recital, has mastered a different genre with this CD.

In its parameters and evocation, this 70-minute plus continuous performance, commissioned by a British contemporary music festival, amplifies the reedist’s partnerships and conceptions. Performed by a nonet, two of the players -- bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton -- are Parker collaborators of decades standing and combine in one of his long constituted trios. Two others -- British/Ugandan violinist Philipp Wachsmann and Spanish pianist Augustí Fernández have worked with Parker in duo and larger group situations, both electronic an acoustic. Parker and Guy alone have recorded with Lawrence Casserley who mans the signal processing equipment here; while computer sound processor Joel Ryan has worked with Parker and French bassist Joëlle Léandre, another Parker associate. Italians Walter Prati on electronics and sound processing and Marco Vecchi on electronics have participated in the saxist’s other electro-acoustic sessions. MORE

March 8, 2004

MAYA HOMBURGER/WALTER PRATI/BARRY GUY

Celebration
Auditorium AUD 01203

Bracing as a cold shower --and just as refreshing -- this singular CD is a brusque, unforgiving take on the vaulted European string tradition, which casts aside the hackneyed prettiness blended violin, cello and double bass are usually associated with for a more profound agenda.

Not that anyone but the most hidebound traditionalists should be frightened away from this disc. The group, after all, consists of three of Europe’s paramount musicians joined for group instant compositions. MORE

June 23, 2003

EVAN PARKER/JOE MCPHEE

Chicago Tenor Duets
OkkaDisk OD 12033

BARRY GUY-EVAN PARKER
Birds and Blades
Intakt Double CD 080

Two more aural essays on the subtle art of the duo, these CDs feature three improvisers who long ago proved that they can hold their own in musical situations involving any size of band.

Connection between the two discs comes from the presence of British saxophonist Evan Parker, who with his philosophical theories and technical mastery has been producing intelligent commentary on reed advancement since the mid-1960s. On BIRDS AND BLADES, A two-CD set recorded in Zürich in 2001, he’s partnered with longtime confrere bassist Barry Guy. Another cerebral experimenter, the bassist and the sax man have worked in contexts from big bands to duos for years, with their first duo meeting taking place in 1981. MORE

May 19, 2003

TONY OXLEY/ALAN DAVIE

The Tony Oxley-Alan Davie Duo
a|l|l 005

JOHN STEVENS
Application Interaction And...
High4Head HFHCD002

Pioneering Scottish Abstract Expressionist Alan Davie had his first one-man exhibition in London in 1950, at height of the Cool Jazz era, when he was also making his name as a painter, poet and multi-instrumentalist. Keeping up with musical changes, Davie, born in 1920, eventually developed a longstanding playing partnership with percussionist Tony Oxley, born in 1938, who is one of the founders of restrained BritImprov and a painter in his own right. The improv duo sessions here were recorded in 1974 and 1975, and are reissued with two additional tracks for the first time since their appearance on LP in 1975. MORE

March 3, 2003

PARKER/GUY/LYTTON

At Les Instants Chavirés
psi 02.06

TRI-DIM
2 of 2
SOFA 510

Two expressions from the language of romance and relationships may be appropriate when discussing the music on these two CDs which feature British bassist Barry Guy.

It’s said that after they live together for some time, a married couple starts to resemble one another. Expanding that thesis, you may note on the exemplary live disc recorded in Paris, that after more than two decades of working together Guy, saxophonist Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lytton sometimes use strategies in their own improvisations that were initially developed by another member of the trio. MORE

August 26, 2002

CARLOS ZINGARO

cage of sand
sirr 2007

BARRY GUY
Symmetries
Maya MCD 0201

Of all the instrumentalists who have been impelled to record solo improv performances, violinists have always seemed to be the ones who should take to it most generically. After all, there’s a long history of solo recitals in so-called serious music, with our collective memory filled with images of animated recitalists sweeping their lank tresses into the air along with their bows.

Double bass players are more circumspect. Although solo bass literature exists in the traditional classical sphere, practitioners usually stood aside to let their higher-stringed siblings take the limelight. MORE

January 8, 2002

BARRY GUY-MARILYN CRISPELL-PAUL LYTTON

Odyssey
Intakt CD 070

Piano trios featuring bass and drums have, since at least the late 1940s, been the proving ground and identity test for jazz keyboardists. With the overhanging monuments of Oscar Peterson’s and Bill Evans’s trios at either extreme of the landscape, it seems that every mainstream pianist worth his Steinway has to stake his or her claim in that terrain.

Yet the challenge of subverting this accepted formation is such, that even iconoclastic figures like Misha Mengelberg, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols have also recorded this way. Marilyn Crispell too, along with other formations, has made a variety of piano trio discs with such partners as bassists Barry Guy, Mark Dresser and Reggie Workman, most often with drummer Gerry Hemingway. Right now, in fact, her two recent anemic outings on ECM with famed bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motion have come closer to giving her mainstream fame than anything she’s ever done before. MORE

October 22, 2001

EVAN PARKER/BARRY GUY/LAWRENCE CASSERLEY

Dividuality
Maya MCD 0101

Having explored nearly every sort of improvised music from solo to big band in their more than three decade journey, bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Evan Parker have become the Lewis and Clarke of BritImprov.

The past five years, however, have seen them, like Sir Edmund Hillary, finding another peak to investigate simply because it's there: electronics. Luckily their Sherpa on this trip is Lawrence Casserley, one of the grand old men of the field, who is a composer and performer as well as a signal processor. MORE

March 19, 2001

BARRY GUY NEW ORCHESTRA

Inscape - Tableaux
Intakt CD 066

Just as the European Union (EU) and the Euro have begun to win over Continental rivalries and local currencies, so composer, orchestra director and bass master Barry Guy has decided to put together a new international aggregation that's showcased on this exceptional disc. After 28 years leading the mostly British, usually 18-piece, London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO), the now Ireland-based Guy has organized an all-star tentet to perform this multi-faceted composition which took two years to perfect. As multinational as the EU, the Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) features only two other Englishmen, as well three Swedes, two Americans, a German and a Swiss national.

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March 5, 2001

MAYA HOMBURGER/BARRY GUY

Ceremony
ECM 1643 453 847-2

Probably something that could never have been imagined during the 1960s heyday of the Third Stream, this masterful CD doesn't try to meld classical music and jazz, as much as celebrate the congruence of both traditions.

Maya Homburger, who plays an Italian violin built by dalla Costa in 1740, is a specialist in the interpretation of Baroque music and the first track here was written by Bohemian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). The other compositions and the bass half of this duo are the products of the mind of Barry Guy -- born more than 300 years after Biber -- and best known for his membership in the Evan Parker Trio and leadership of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

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August 4, 2000

MATS GUSTAFSSON/BARRY GUY

Frogging
Maya MCD 9702

As the economics of real jazz and improvised music continue to sag, a legion of trios and duos have become the preferred form for those who would have played in larger groups a few years ago. The trouble is that few of these mini-combos work as well as the one here because their conception is essentially reductive rather than augmentative. Conversely, experienced improvisers like Gustafsson and Guy don't see this grouping as playing without a drummer or pianist, but as adding together two separate sets of sounds to create a unified whole. There's so much going on here at all times from strings, tongues, throats, bows, fingers, wood, hands, mouthpieces, reeds, mouths and yards of tubing that the sophisticated listener certainly won't miss the phantom members of the combo. The two can also play this way, because they had worked together in similar situations for at least five years prior to this recording. Veteran Briton Guy has performed in every sort of gathering from the London Jazz Composers Orchestra -- which he leads -- to duos with the likes of Evan Parker. Gustafsson, a Swede, may be a few years younger, but that hasn't stopped him from joining up with manifold European and North America sonic explorers in bands of every size and shape. With an arsenal of five horns he also has enough ammunition to take on Guy, who often creates enough string sounds for another five people.

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June 2, 2000

PAUL PLIMLEY/BARRY GUY

Sensology Maya CD 9701

The old cliché about music having no geographical boundaries is only partially true when it comes to pure improv. Getting two or more players who routinely work without the safety nets of charts or bar lines to tag team is more complicated than allaying some mainstreamers, counting off "I Got Rhythm" or "Night In Tunisia" and letting 'er rip. (Parenthetically, though, those jam sessions too are chancier than naïve record producers or promoters would have you believe).

What you need is musicians willing to listen attentively to one another and subsume their virtuosity within the greater whole. Case in point, this CD, recorded in Vancouver by a Canadian pianist, a British bassist and released by an Irish-based label.

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April 22, 2000

EVAN PARKER

Drawn Inward
ECM 1693 547 209-2

It's actually quite appropriate to employ the over-used expression "quantum leap" when talking about the music of Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. For there's an actual transformation of energy here as the explorative British saxophonist and his group tailor live electronics and sound processing to their own ends.

Parker, who has spent the years since the mid-1960s, perfecting a unique improv language for his horns, has never been one to turn away from challenging musical situations. During that time he has not only performed with the cream of jazz/improv musicians, but also with others as varied as a Tuvan throat singer, an Italian brass band and even a shoe-gazing rocker. His concept seems to be to make it different with every outing. And that's how he and his associates approach this memorable CD. But paradoxically, it works so well because of a combination of the familiar and the unusual.

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