Reviews that mention Damon Smith

June 9, 2017

Alvin Fielder & Damon Smith

Song for Chico
Balance Point Acoustics BPA-6

Just as a desk and a swivel chair together don’t necessarily make an office then the coupling of a double bass and drums doesn’t automatically become a rhythm section. This negation of presumptions is never more obvious then when listening to five improvisations that make up Song for Chico. For while bassist Damon Smith and drummer Alvin Fielder have spent much time in conventional rhythm sections, working with a wide range of musicians that include guitarist Henry Kaiser and Sandy Ewen and saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Kidd Jordan, this disc contains all that’s necessary for a clearly defined performance. A short story doesn’t have to be at novel lengths to be meaningful after all. MORE

March 11, 2017

Ewen/Smith/Walter

Live in Texas
>x<006/ Balance Point Acoustics BPALTD-608

By Ken Waxman

Set up like a rock Power Trio CD, this 73-minute extravaganza may feature the standard guitar, bass and drums line-up, but the seven extended improvisations offer a lot more than standard rhythmic formulae. Not that there isn’t musical strength expressed. Houston, Texas-based Sandy Ewen, who plays guitar and objects here, grew up in Oshawa, Ont., and seems able to transfer some of the perpetually noisy industrialization from that city’s auto plants’ assembly lines into powerful texture-bending crackles and flanges. Like an up-to-date assembly line however, despite necessarily emphatic crunches, knob-twisting and string snapping each of the tunes moves resolutely forward. MORE

April 17, 2016

Desert Sweets

A Place Meant For Birds
Balance Point Acoustics BPA-5

Analogous to the often succulent vegetation that blooms in the desert’s rugged landscape, Desert Sweets is a unique trio of improvisers, who manage to cobble together a musically seamless session, despite an unconventional line-up and a geographical separation. Recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the basement textures come via the tuba of local Mark Weaver who has played with such sound explorers as trombonist Michael Vlatkovich and drummer Dave Wayne in the past. Elevated substance for these seven tracks is via German alto saxophonist and flutist Biggi Vinkeloe, who has lived in Sweden for many years, working with musicians ranging from Swedish drummer Peeter Uuskyla to American electronic manipulator Chris Brown. Serving as the interlocutor between the two is Houston bassist Damon Smith, a polymath, who has recorded with everyone from drummer Weasel Walter to saxophonist John Butcher. MORE

August 21, 2015

Magda Mayas/Damon Smith/Tony Buck

Spill Plus
Nuscope CD 1028

Transmit

Radiation

Monotype mono081

Properly tracking Australian drummer Tony Buck’s musical trajectory as he careens from one genre to another is as difficult as discovering a consistent path for Robert DeNiro’s screen appearances. Just as the DeNiro of Meet the Fockers has little overt resemblance to the DeNiro in the Deer Hunter, it’s a difficult to associate the austere free improvising percussionist on the Spill Plus trio disc with the hard-edged drummer, guitarist and vocalist [!] on Radiation’s quartet session. MORE

September 11, 2014

Fred Van Hove/Damon Smith/Peter Jacquemyn

Burns Longer
Balance Point Acoustics BPA2

Sun Ra Arkestra

Live in Ulm 1992

Golden Years of Jazz GY 30/31

Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald

Trio and Duo in New Orleans

NoBusiness Records NBCD 64/65

Pete Robbins

Pyramid

Hate Laugh Music 003 pet

Jean Derome et Lé Quan Ninh

Fléchettes

Tour de Bras TDB 9004cd

Something In The Air: Guelph Jazz Festival Reaches A New Maturity

By Ken Waxman
MORE

April 23, 2014

Alvin Fielder/David Dove/Jason Jackson/Damon Smith

From-To-From
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 015

Old Free Jazzmen never die, they just keep playing. That adage could be applied to many Free Jazz pioneers, whose longevity seems top belie the intensity of their performances – or has music trumped exercise and medications as health aids? – and it certainly works for drummer Alvin Fielder. Fielder, 78, who pulls his full weight here, partners with three musicians about half his age.

Jackson, Mississippi-based Fielder, who recently recovered from a serious illness, has been part of the exploratory Jazz firmament since his affiliations with the nascent Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the mid-1960s. He has continued sound explorations into this century with associates such as Dallas trumpeter Dennis González and New Orleans tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan. Of the Houston-based players here, Smith, whose nimble rhythms set the pace for the six improvisations, has over the years played with musicians as different as free-form violinist Philipp Wachsmann and punk-jazz drum smasher Weasel Walter. Trombonist David Dove and Jason Jackson, who plays alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, keep the experimental music flame stoked in Texas. MORE

February 17, 2013

Sandy Ewen/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter

Sandy Ewen/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter
UgEXPLODE ug53

Die Dicken Finger

Offroad Core

Gligg Records 012

With more-or-less the same instrumental line-up as a customary Rock power trio, these ensembles nonetheless stretch the expected timbral concord into experimental territory without sacrificing the speed and power associated with Hard Rock.

Cunning in its subtle distortion of electric guitar-electric-bass-drums motifs, the German trio Die Dicken Finger (DDF) or in English “The thickness of the fingers” could likely sneak onto a bill at a Heavy Metal festival until the realization dawned that the all-instrumental band was playing riffs just a little too sophisticated for the show. Committed to interjecting unexpected improvised asides into their music, the Americans on the other CD proclaim their individuality with the miscellaneous percussion brought to the gig by New York’s Weasel Walter plus the laptop and field recordings utilized alongside his 7-string upright bass by Houston’s Damon Smith. At the same time Sandy Ewen, another Houston resident, busies herself creating the expected electric guitar riffs and distortion. MORE

February 21, 2010

Ulher/Shibolet/Snir/Brenner/Mayer/Smith/Bymel

Yclept
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 014

Günter Baby Sommer

Live in Jerusalem

Kadima Collective KCR 19

Fraught with extra-musical baggage, the idea of a co-operative session between German and Israeli improvisers seems bizarre. Yet, as these first-rate CDs demonstrate, commitment to free-form experimentation and open-minded sound extension overcomes any number of polemics. The only people who likely will be surprised, shocked or offended by such cross-cultural understanding are those whose ignorance of Middle Eastern realpolitik is likewise endemic. MORE

July 19, 2009

Lindsay/Mendoza/Smith/Walter

Jus
Balance Point Acoustics bpa013

Hartsaw/Aspelin/Smith/Bryerton

Ausfegen: Dedicated to Joseph Beuys

Balance Point Acoustics bpa012

Like most other generalities, the differences between so-called European and so-called American free music are more purported then real. Especially in the 21st Century when jet planes, the Internet and other advances have shrunk inter-continental chasms, the gulf between the two proposed by musicians like Derek Bailey – who often had an axe as well as his guitar to grind – seem fanciful. MORE

July 19, 2009

Hartsaw/Aspelin/Smith/Bryerton

Ausfegen: Dedicated to Joseph Beuys
Balance Point Acoustics bpa012

Lindsay/Mendoza/Smith/Walter

Jus

Balance Point Acoustics bpa013

Like most other generalities, the differences between so-called European and so-called American free music are more purported then real. Especially in the 21st Century when jet planes, the Internet and other advances have shrunk inter-continental chasms, the gulf between the two proposed by musicians like Derek Bailey – who often had an axe as well as his guitar to grind – seem fanciful. MORE

March 20, 2008

Slava Ganelin-Ned Rothenberg

Falling Into Place
Auris Media Aum 007

Slava Ganelin-Vladimir Volkov

Ne Slyshno

Auris Media Aum 012

Various

White Nights Festival Tel Aviv 2006

Kadima Collective KCR 11

Shibolet/Josephson/Baker/Looney/Smith

Untitled (1959)

Kadima Collective KCR 09

Secure in its position as the one true democracy in the Middle East, cosmopolitan elements in Israel have long encouraged the growth of an indigenous jazz scene. Only in the past decade-and-a-half however, have improvisers on the Israeli scene elicited more than local interest. At the same time, associations between many Israelis and musicians in other countries has meant that a Diaspora of improvisers from the Jewish state has set up shop – and garnered fulsome praise – in jazz capitals such as New York. MORE

March 20, 2008

Various

White Nights Festival Tel Aviv 2006
Kadima Collective KCR 11

Shibolet/Josephson/Baker/Looney/Smith

Untitled (1959)

Kadima Collective KCR 09

Slava Ganelin-Vladimir Volkov

Ne Slyshno

Auris Media Aum 012

Slava Ganelin-Ned Rothenberg

Falling Into Place

Auris Media Aum 007

Secure in its position as the one true democracy in the Middle East, cosmopolitan elements in Israel have long encouraged the growth of an indigenous jazz scene. Only in the past decade-and-a-half however, have improvisers on the Israeli scene elicited more than local interest. At the same time, associations between many Israelis and musicians in other countries has meant that a Diaspora of improvisers from the Jewish state has set up shop – and garnered fulsome praise – in jazz capitals such as New York. MORE

March 20, 2008

Shibolet/Josephson/Baker/Looney/Smith

Untitled (1959)
Kadima Collective KCR 09

Slava Ganelin-Vladimir Volkov

Ne Slyshno

Auris Media Aum 012

Slava Ganelin-Ned Rothenberg

Falling Into Place

Auris Media Aum 007

Various

White Nights Festival Tel Aviv 2006

Kadima Collective KCR 11

Secure in its position as the one true democracy in the Middle East, cosmopolitan elements in Israel have long encouraged the growth of an indigenous jazz scene. Only in the past decade-and-a-half however, have improvisers on the Israeli scene elicited more than local interest. At the same time, associations between many Israelis and musicians in other countries has meant that a Diaspora of improvisers from the Jewish state has set up shop – and garnered fulsome praise – in jazz capitals such as New York. MORE

March 20, 2008

Slava Ganelin-Vladimir Volkov

Ne Slyshno
Auris Media Aum 012

Slava Ganelin-Ned Rothenberg

Falling Into Place

Auris Media Aum 007

Various

White Nights Festival Tel Aviv 2006

Kadima Collective KCR 11

Shibolet/Josephson/Baker/Looney/Smith

Untitled (1959)

Kadima Collective KCR 09

Secure in its position as the one true democracy in the Middle East, cosmopolitan elements in Israel have long encouraged the growth of an indigenous jazz scene. Only in the past decade-and-a-half however, have improvisers on the Israeli scene elicited more than local interest. At the same time, associations between many Israelis and musicians in other countries has meant that a Diaspora of improvisers from the Jewish state has set up shop – and garnered fulsome praise – in jazz capitals such as New York. MORE

August 14, 2006

JOSEPHSON/LÉANDRE/SMITH/BLUME

Cruxes
Balance Point Acoustics bpa 010

By Ken Waxman

Despite appearances and personnel this isn’t an Old World-New World double bass face-off between a practiced French master and an American tyro, seconded by a representative of each continent.

Rather CRUXES is a document of Bochum, Germany-based percussionist Martin Blume’s visit to the Bay Area, where he improvised live and in-studio with one veteran of the European scene – French bassist Joëlle Léandre – plus bassist Damon Smith and Aurora Josephson’s voice. MORE

July 28, 2006

Birgit Ulher/Damon Smith/Martin Blume

Sperrgut
Balance point bpa009

Birgit Ulher/Lars Scherzberg/Michael Maierhof
Nordzucker
Creative Sources CS 052

Hamburg-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher never misses an opportunity to challenge herself with new improvisational partners – even if she has to leave the country to do so. Take these memorable CDs. Although both are nine-track discs showcasing the trumpet’s reductionist style in a trio setting, the similarities end there.

Recorded in Oakland, Calif. in October 2004, Sperrgut finds Ulher in the company of local bassist Damon Smith and percussionist Martin Blume from Bochum, Germany. The drummer of course, is an old hand at kind of stop-and-go improvisation, with partners like British violinist Philipp Wachmann, while Smith has extended his interactions past the Bay area to play with Europeans such as German reedist Frank Gratkowski and Wolfgang Fuchs. MORE

September 19, 2005

THE HAPPYMAKERS

The Happymakers
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 008

WOLFGANG FUCHS
Six Fuchs
Ratascan BRD 052

Part of the accelerating interchange between experimental musicians from Europe and the United States, multi-reedman Wolfgang Fuchs of Berlin has become a regular transatlantic commuter.

Known for his leadership of the King Übü Orchestrü and the all-reed Holz Für Europa group, these discs find Fuchs heading even further out. That’s a geographic reference – for the CDs were recorded with two different sets of associates in California’s Bay area during a productive visit by Fuchs in 2003. MORE

December 20, 2004

JOSEPHSON/WASCHSMANN/LINDSAY/SMITH/BLUME

zero plus
Balance Point bpa 007

Brimming with a sensibility that comes from both so-called serious experimental music and free improv, ZERO PLUS adds a vocal component to the work of Bay-area bassist Damon Smith, who has taking a Cook’s tour of Euro-centred improv over the past half-decade.

Adding American know-how -- and local associates -- to recorded meetings with such accomplished EuroImprov practitioners as German multi-reedman Wolfgang Fuchs and Swedish-based saxist Biggi Vinkeloe, the bassist now tours with Fuchs. Not content reaching one plateau, Smith is part of many other bands, including the triple d trio, expanded by the clarinets of young Jacob Lindsay, a member of Marco Eneidi’s American Jungle Orchestra and the wordless vocalizing of Aurora Josephson. Besides working in free improv contexts, Josephson has performed with some of the more open-minded contemporary composers such as Alvin Curran and Christian Wolff MORE

May 17, 2004

AKCHOTÉ/AUZET/FERRARI

Impro-Micro-Acoustique
Blue Chopsticks BC12

DAVE TUCKER WEST COAST PROJECT
Tenderloin
Pax PR 90264

Eventually, it seems that when a musician truly wants to express himself most freely, he must get involved with improvisation. Take these two CDs as evidence.

Englishman Dave Tucker gained his greatest fame as guitarist for the rock group The Fall in the early 1980s. Since then he’s turned to improv, playing with saxist Evan Parker and drummer Roger Turner at home and matching wits with this Bay area crew on a visit stateside. MORE

September 22, 2003

FRANK GRATKOWSKI/DAMON SMITH/JEROME BRYERTON

The Voice Imitator
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 006

GJERSTAD/EDWARDS/SANDERS
The Welsh Chapel
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1161

What do you get when you put a German and two Americans together in a small room or unite a Norwegian and two Englishmen? While those situations may sound like the set up for a joke from the Second World War, the correct answer, from the evidence of these CDs, is exemplary improvisation.

The Norwegian-British concord involves veteran Nordic alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad --who at one point led a band featuring the late British drum pioneer John Stevens -- and two players from a younger British generation. Singly and together Londoners bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders have played with many of the United Kingdom’s reed heavy hitters: John Butcher, Paul Dunmall and Evan Parker. When they connect with Gjerstad on these five instant compositions the result is superior Free Jazz. MORE

May 19, 2003

GEBBIA/GIANNETTO/NUNN/PALMA/POWELL/ROBAIR/SMITH

A Night in Palermo
Rastascan Records BRD 041/Curva Minore CM04

Distinctive and unique sounds from a variety of real and invented instruments dominate this session recorded in Palermo, Italy in 1998. Often, though, over the course of the 19 selections, it appears that the strangest instrument is also the most common: the human voice.

That voice belongs to Sicilian Miriam Palma. Initially trained to sing the folk music of Sicily’s central area, starting in the 1990s she intermingled that traditional style with the diplophonies, triplephonies, overtones, shouts and low bass that characterize improvisation. Her lyrics mix inferences from dialect poetry, religious texts, Sicilian Futurism, traditional lullabies and contemporary writing, including her own. MORE

October 14, 2002

JIM RYAN’S FORWARD ENERGY

Configurations 2002
Edgetone EDT 4009

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, are all highlighted on the more than two hours of this double-CD set by Bay area saxophonist Jim Ryan. But the nuptials being celebrated here are the successful marriage of some veteran players’ post bebop improvisations with those from a new generation of North Californian players.

That takes care of the old and new part. The blue(s) feature on a few of these tracks, while the only thing that’s really “borrowed” is jazz music itself, which some would mistakenly deny to someone like Ryan, who doesn’t conventionally swing. MORE

August 19, 2002

VINKELOE/WEAVER/SMITH

Desert Sweets
Balance Point bpa 004/plu 005

JOSCHA OETZ
Vieles Ist Eins
Accretions ALP 026CD

Back in the 1957, four-string specialist Paul Chambers put out an LP called BASS On TOP. Now while bassists Damon Smith and Joscha Oetz are definite team players on these CDs, that title could be used to describe the state of the bass -- hm, another potential title -- in 21st century California.

Smith, a native of Oakland, Calif., has already recorded a series of fine CDs, encompassing a duo with his bass mentor Peter Kowald, and in trios with different saxophonists, drummers and keyboardists. DESERT SWEETS is a souvenir of a visit to the Bay area by Swedish saxophonist/flautist Biggi Vinkeloe -- who recorded with Kowald in the past -- where she was matched with Smith and tuba player Mark Weaver from Albuquerque, N. M. MORE

July 13, 2002

CARLO ACTIS DATO

USA Tour/April 2001/Live Splasc (H) CDH 520.2

Someone once said that Benny Goodman didn’t smile that much; it was just his embouchure. In Carlos Actis Dato’s case it’s not his embouchure. As a matter of fact, if all woodwind players had as much fun improvising as he seems to have, then most sitcoms would have wacky saxophonists as next door neighbors.

Although he brings a goofy sense of fun to the proceedings, be aware that Actis Dato is no Louis Prima or Jack Sheldon who treats the music as secondary to his singing and comedy routine. He may get high spirited enough to sing at certain points of these 13 live performances, but he never debases the music in any way. Like Charles Mingus or Rahsaan Roland Kirk, vocalizing is just his way of showing how well things are going. MORE

April 26, 2002

LUC HOUTKAMP

In Chicago
Entropy Stereo Recordings 007

WOLFGANG FUCHS/JEROME BRYERTON/DAMON SMITH
Three October Meetings
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 003

Except for misguided xenophobes, no one still insists that the best improvised music is played by Americans in the United States. Yet while jazz and improv are now as universal as soft drinks and computers, a transformation still seems to take place when foreign musicians play with Yanks on their home turf.

Take these two masterful sessions for instance. Woodwind players Luc Houtkamp of Holland and Wolfgang Fuchs of Germany link up with a different set of bassists and percussionists in Chicago and the Bay area respectively and produce some uncharacteristically hard-edged sounds. Houtkamp, who revels in modulated alto sax interactions tempered with electronics, comes up with a paraphrase of a midwestern tough tenor showcase on his disc. While Fuchs, whose work in small groups and with his large King Übü Orchestrü often produce sounds so rarified and vaporous that they make other restrained players appear to be creating Death Metal riffs, is upfront and in your face on his three horns here. MORE

October 8, 2001

PETER KOWALD/DAMON SMITH

Mirrors - Broken But No Dust
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 001

TONY BEVAN/DAMON SMITH/SCOTT R. LOONEY
The sale of tickets for money was abolished
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 002

It's altogether fitting that Bay area bassist Damon Smith has put out a duet session with German bassist Peter Kowald as the first release on his own label. After all it was exposure to Kowald's DUOS: EUROPA LP in 1994 that convinced the young musician to sell the fender bass he had been playing in punk and art rock combos to concentrate on double bass and creative improvised music. MORE