Reviews that mention John Edwards

November 6, 2018

Okkyung Lee

Cheol-Kkot-Sae [Steel.Flower.Bird]
Tzadik TZ 4923

Big Bold Back Bone

In Search of the Emerging Species

Shhpuma SSH 032 CD

The Cluttertones


SnailBongBong SBB 005

Elliott Sharp’s Carbon

Transmigration at the Solar Max

Intakt CD 311

Pavillon Rouge

Solution n⸰5

LFDS Records LFDS 006

Something in the Air: Eclectic: Electronics stretches the definition of Innovative Music

By Ken Waxman

At least when it comes to exploratory music old definitions no longer apply. Only on the equivalent of a rigid Doug Ford-like populist disc will you find players insisting on one style, be it rock, noise, jazz-improv or so-called classical. Accomplished improvisers in contrast draw on many sources to create unique musical programs, with sophisticated electronics regularly and effortlessly added to the mix. MORE

July 6, 2018

New Old Luten Quintet

Letzter Rabatz!
Euphorium Records EUPH 057

Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi with Masahiko Satoh

Proton Pump

Family Vineyard FV 104

All the struggles that go into constantly remaining relevant – and inventive – as an improvising musician cause many over the years to jump ship for smoother voyages. That’s why players in their seventies and eighties still pushing themselves to the pinnacle are valued. Two who do so consistently are Japan’s Akira Sakata, 73, and Germany’s Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, a venerable 84, MORE

June 11, 2018

Jazz Cerkno 23

May 17 to 19 2018
Cerkno, Slovenia

By Ken Waxman

Forty-one kilometres west of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, the compact village of Cerkno has been host to a world-class jazz festival for almost a quarter century. Jazz Cerkno 2018 added to the illustrious tradition with three days of notable performances mostly in a specially erected canvas tent, complete with a sophisticated sound system, adjoining the darkened and homey Bar Gabrijel. What was most evident was how musicians from this country of fewer than 2¼-million people, which arguably has benefitted most economically from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, can easily hold their own in the international improvised music scene. MORE

March 28, 2018

The Remote Viewers

Last Man in Europe
Remote Viewers RV 15

Stripped down to a trio for its 15th CD since 1999, The Remote Viewers (RV) also appear to have abandoned, along with a formal rhythm section, most of the multi-instrumental detours into Rock and Funk beats and electronics that diluted some of its recent discs. Instead the RV concentrates on exploratory improvisation here. Gone too are the tropes which made some of those earlier sessions appear to be sound tracks for unmade spy thrillers. Happily though, this change in orientation means that three of the UK’s most accomplished players are able to make distinguished musical statements unfettered. Titles of the tunes, mostly composed by tenor saxophonist David Petts, still include some ambiguity though. In fact, one could almost take the CD title as a comment on Brexit. MORE

December 26, 2017


Last Dream of the Morning
Relative Pitch Records RPR 1056

Dominic Lash Quartet


Iluso Records IRCD 006

Two generations of high-quality British improvisers demonstrate on these CDs that the characteristic inventiveness of players drawn to the gene hasn’t lessened even if the country goes through political-existential crises like Brexit. Although the seven players involved are actually close in age, the British with their mania for classification have, more than improvisers from other countries, insisted on where in a chronology their improvisers fit. Thus Last Dream of the Morning by saxophonist John Butcher, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders featured five tracks from designated second generation improvisers. Extremophile recorded a three month earlier in 2016 is deemed to be by a quartet of third-generation improvisers: reedist Ricardo Tejero, bassist Dominic Lash, percussionist Javier Carmona and Alex Ward on guitar and clarinet. Although the Spanish background of two of the quartet’s players may superficially mark a change, the largest difference between the dates is Ward’s instruments. Butcher/Edwards/Sanders specialize in cerebral, close-knit micro interactions. Forthright electric guitar interchanges define Extremophile in a contrasting fashion. MORE

December 16, 2017

The Runcible Quintet

FMR CD 437-0217

Should (shudder!) the idea of there being superstars exist in Free Music, trend setters seeking them will have come to the wrong place at a gig by The Runcible Quintet (RQ). If internationally known player are the equivalent of film stars whose mere presence sells a picture, then these quintet members are like the character actors who bring verisimilitude to the celluloid situations. Particular breakthroughs may result from the actions of a few innovators, especially where music is concerned, but the genre’s continued health and dissemination depends on players like these. MORE

August 4, 2017


City Fall
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04 2CD

How do you improve on quality? Very simply by adding another element that is so accomplished in itself that it raises the achievement to a superior level. Although this could be the focus of an epistemological discussion, it’s precisely what happened when Gdańsk-based alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Mikołaj Trzaska joined tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders for this two-CD record of a live London gig. Parker who has had more playing partners then the House of Saud has royal descendents has been working on and off with the bassist and drummer since the early 1990s. Meanwhile the Polish multi-reedist has come to the fore in international aggregation alongside Americans such as tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer/percussionist Tim Daisy. MORE

June 9, 2017

Chicago/London Underground

A Night Walking Through Mirrors
Cuneiform Records RUNE 428

Like a canny car fanatic who soups up his American-made flivver by adding appropriate accelerating parts from foreign autos, this year’s Chicago Underground (CU) Ensemble model is hybrid Anglo-American. CU inventors, cornetist Rob Mazurek and percussionist Chad Taylor, append high-class British engineering from pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist John Edwards to come up with a model that speeds along with novel ferocity without losing any of the already developed unexpected sonic allusions. MORE

May 8, 2017

Festival Report

Artacts ‘17
By Ken Waxman

One of Austria’s ski resorts abutting the Alps, St. Johann in Tirol also attracts music fans during the annual artacts Festival. Attendees March 10-12 could be forgiven for being smug. While warm weather limited optimal ski conditions, music fans’ experience was elevated without using chair lifts. Case in point was the DEK trio, which opened the festival at the comfortable rustic Alte Gerberei performance space. While American tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark is wedded to jazz, Austrian drummer Didi Kern is involved with rock and Graz-based pianist Elisabeth Harnik at home in notated music, the resolution of these contradictions gave the performance its bite. Kern’s paddled beat lent veracity to Vandermark’s bar-walking sax honking, while Harnik’s pastoral patterning added emotion to abstract altissimo clarinet twists. Harnik’s attack could be brawny as well, extending her dynamic range by pounding darker phases from the lowest-pitched keys and plucking, rubbing and twanging inner piano strings. Although teaming with discordant touches, DEK’s sound never lost its sense of swing. MORE

April 21, 2017

New Old Luten Quintet

Euphorium Records EUPH 052

Harth/Seidel/Spera/Van der Plas


Plus 087

Dieter Glawischnig & Friends


Izk CD 015

Old Free Jazzers never die, they don’t even fade away. What they do, as these CDs indicate, is follow new musical paths. Like pedigreed commodities crossbred with other products, it appears that veteran improvisers can reunite with old associates to uncover variations of mutual musical concepts; demonstrate the timelessness of their conceptions by hooking up with younger improviser; or use contemporary sound language to express their ideas in a novel fashion. MORE

January 12, 2017


Creative Sources CS 340 CD

Just because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is celebrated for her role as Elaine Benes on the Seinfeld TV series didn’t means that she wasn’t accepted as Selina Meyer on the show Veep. It’s the same with Paul Lovens. Sure the German drummer may be acclaimed as one-third of the long-running – 44 years and counting – Schlippenbach Trio, but he plays just as important a part in Paul Hubweber's PaPaJo, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year.

Showcased in concerts that took place when the trio had been together a mere two years (record one) and eight years (record two), this two-CD set shows that like Louis-Dreyfus talking another role PaPaJo doesn’t have to play proverbial second fiddle to any other aggregation. Unlike the Schlippenbach Trio’s piano-saxophone-drums configuration, it’s bull fiddle played by London’s John Edwards, which is one of PaPaJo’s most characteristic features. Ironically, Edwards has a long history with BritImprovisers such as saxophonist Evan Parker, who with Lovens makes up two-thirds of the Schlippenbach trio, along with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. In contrast, the other “Pa” in PaPaJo is idiosyncratic trombonist Paul Hubweber, who shares with Lovens the home town of Aachen. MORE

November 11, 2016

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms
Weekertoft 1-4

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations


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

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

October 1, 2016

Julie Kjær 3

Clean Feed CF 361 CD

Part of the cluster of younger improvisers defining themselves within the ongoing Jazz/Free Music discourse, Danish alto saxophonist Julie Kjær is in the position of a story teller with a couple of novels in print, but who still hasn’t established a singular style. Known at this point for her on-going membership in Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s barnstorming Large Unit, Kjær, has also recorded with Django Bates and played with many other sound stylists. The audacious Dobbeltgænger or doppelganger in English is a further step towards individualism, since by playing only her own composition and limiting her accompaniment, it’s like a glimpse into an author’s notebook. MORE

July 16, 2016

Sant’Anna Quintet

Filu ‘e Ferru
MBR SA Jazz No #

Alexander Hawkins/Evan Parker

Leaps in Leicester

Clean Feed CF 362 CD

Perhaps more than any similar aggregation of players, it’s evident that London-based Free Music practitioner are more open to cross-generational fraternization that those in other countries. Of course like those who see Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a children’s story and those who read hallucinogenic experiences into it, there may be differing reasons for this phenomenon. From its earliest days, with drummer John Stevens and guitarist Derek Bailey, the British music’s elders have frequently cast themselves in pedagogical roles. Conversely there may appear to be so much cross-generational collaboration in the United Kingdom, because with their mania for classification only the British would be dead set on ascribing players to one generation or another. MORE

June 21, 2016

Mental Shake

Mental Shake
Otoroku 10

From the very first seconds of the single almost 39½-minute improvisation that makes up Mental Shake it’s obvious that this is an extraordinary session. Stretching the distinctive timbres of the tarogato as if they’re the bellows of an accordion, Peter Brötzmann conjures up the raw cry of a wolf, ferociously prowling the Hungarian countryside. Brötzmann, whose commitment to the most raucous variant of free jazz has been evident since his first recordings in 1965, is plainly invigorated by the venue – London’s Café Oto – and more so by his associates. MORE

June 16, 2016

Foils Quartet

The Jersey Lily
Creative Sources CS 270 CD

Meinrad Kneer Quintet


Jazzhaus Music JHM 238

Two of Berlin’s most accomplished younger trombonists help pilot these two exemplary sessions. But like participants in a free-for-all race, the polarized strategy each ensemble evolves to reach its goal confirms the elastic adaptability of Free Music. A vehicle for the compositions of veteran German bassist Meinrad Kneer, Oneirology – the scientific study of dreams – showcases nine instances that certify that Kneer’s nocturnal musical imagination is at the same high level as his sentient playing. Dream interpreters here are trombonist Gerhard Gschlößl, who is actually Austrian; Canadian alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel; and two fellow Germans, trumpeter Sebastian Piskorz and drummer Andreas Pichler. MORE

March 23, 2016

François Carrier/Steve Beresford/John Edwards/Michel Lambert

FMR CD 400

By Ken Waxman

Like a peripatetic Old West gunslinger, Montreal alto saxophonist François Carrier roams extensively to challenge himself alongside the planet’s best improviser and so far has gone head-to-head with among others, players from Poland, Russia, France and the United States. Now it’s the United Kingdom’s turn and this 70-minute CD captures five friendly dustups involving Carrier, Montreal percussionist Michel Lambert, invariably the Robin to Carrier’s Batman and two maverick London-based players, bassist John Edwards, with whom the two Canadians have partnered before, and on three tracks, adding pianist Steve Beresford for an inaugural meeting. MORE

January 1, 2016

NPR’s 10th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

Ken Waxman (The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


  1. Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  2. Daniel Carter-William Parker-Federico Ughi, Navajo Sunrise (Rudi)
  3. François Carrier-Michel Lambert-Rafal Mazur, Unknowable (Not Two)
  4. Anna Webber, Refraction (Pirouet)
  5. Tim Berne, You've Been Watching Me (ECM)
  6. Evan Parker, Seven (Victo)
  7. Samuel Blaser, Spring Rain (Whirlwind)
  8. Akira Sakata-Giovanni Di Domenico-John Edwards-Steve Noble, Live at Cafe Oto (Clamshell)
  9. James Falzone & the Renga Ensemble, The Room Is (Allos Documents)
  10. George Freeman & Chico Freeman, All in the Family (Southport)

November 26, 2015

New Old Luten Quintet

Booklet Notes for Euphorium Records EUPH 045

Fastening on an historical time frame in terms of age and influences when it comes to deeply felt free jazz is often a mistake. That’s because those committed to consistently inventive expression evidentially retain a perpetual youthfulness in their improvisations. Consider the slab of bellicose interaction captured here for instance. Although veteran alto saxophonist and clarinetist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky is about three to four decades older than his musical partners, the constantly challenging sounds they produce are so a part of his sonic consciousness, that he comfortably – and notably – slides his ideas into their midst. MORE

November 16, 2015

On Screen

Taking The Dog for a Walk: Conversations with British Improvisers
A film by Antoine Prum

By Ken Waxman

Part travelogue, part history, part performance and part philosophy, Taking the Dog for a Walk is the definitive portrait of British Free Improvisation. Yet from the first sequence showing drummer Mark Sanders improvising alongside a bingo caller, the genre’s sardonic humor implicit in isn’t neglected either – note the vintage clip of Lol Coxhill and other improvisers in zoot suit disguise playing at a beach resort.. Even the title references the hoary jape that three men and a dog was BritImprov’s typical audience. MORE

October 6, 2015

John Russell

Emanem 5037

By Ken Waxman

As the musicians of the so-called second generation of British improvisers move into their seventh decade, many celebratory concerts are marking their undiminished skills. One of the best, preserved on this 78-minute disc, took place last December as 60th birthday boy guitarist John Russell playing four sets with six improvisers. The result confirms the adage that Free Music keeps you young.

Measuring all four, the two shorter meetings are like extended bagatelles. On “The Second Half of the First Half” Russell matches wits with his contemporary, sound-singer Phi Minton, who has never found a noise he couldn’t duplicate. As Minton bellows, burbles, moans, whistles and hiccups, the guitarist’s folksy picking is perfect accompaniment for a bawdy verbal Punch & Judy show with the singer taking all the parts. “The Second Half of the Second Half” signals a rare return to the electric guitar for Russell to battle the psyched out, dial-twisting distortions from Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. Propelling electronic shrieks, flanges and trebly rebounds likely not heard since Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck worked together, Russell rocks out while keeping the duet chromatic and with unexpected aleatory highlights. MORE

July 21, 2015

Remote Viewers

RV 12

Living up to a promise many CDs make, The Remote Viewers septet have created a 12 track CD that legitimately could be the soundtrack of a movie. However more than being a mere collection of cues, underscoring and scene-setters for a classic Film Noir, David Petts, the band’s tenor saxophonist and chief composer has written music that can stand on its own without visuals.

Although there are points are which the sonic imagery is so strong that imagining a potential dramatic situation is almost overpowering, Pitfall’s chief pleasure is discovering how the sophisticated arrangements and instrumental balance plays out. One of the reasons this session is notable is the return of drummer Mark Sanders, who recorded with the band in 2010. Because of this the rhythm section of bassist John Edwards and Rosa Lynch-Northover on piano and tuned percussion is properly balanced with the variety of reeds played by Petts, Adrian Northover, Caroline Kraabel and Sue Lynch plus Petts. In other words, while a track such as “Hiring Hall” may only concern itself with scene setting piano chording and chomping reed tones, “D.O.A.”, composed by Northover, features a contrapuntal contrast between one saxophonist’s circular breathing and equally continuous firecracker-like sizzles and crackles from a mechanized noise generator. MORE

June 26, 2015


Soulfood Available
Clean Feed CF 316 CD

At this point in history listening to Peter Brötzmann improvise alongside two musicians a couple of decades younger than himself – a familiar activity for the past 20-odd years – is in a way analogous to hearing those 1940s sessions Sidney Bechet recorded with Bob Wilbur and Dick Wellstood. Here is a progenitor of a certain style, in the company of his acolytes who he accepts as equals since they have become conversant enough with the genre to bring their own idiosyncrasies and skills to the form. Crucially, besides not being a guru-and-disciples situation, like some other Bechet, Bunk Johnson and other instances there’s also no hint that the front man’s contributions are any less vigorous than the others’. MORE

May 12, 2015

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit

For The Blue Notes
Ogun Records OGCD 042

Neelamjit Dhillon Quartet

Komagata Maru

No Label No #

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Bird Calls

ACT 9581-2

Rez Abbasi Acoutic Quartet

Intents and Purposes

Enja Records ENJ-952-2

Something In The Air: Varying Definitions of Ethnic-oriented Improvised Music

By Ken Waxman

When it comes to welcoming immigrants to North America, Canada and the United States have long had different policies. To Americans the ideal is the melting pot with all foreigners persuaded to become true-blue Yanks. Modern Canada, once it shook off fealty to Britain, has long promoted multi-culturalism, where immigrants become Canadians without giving up their homeland identity. Generalities should be avoided, but it’s informative to see these concepts played out in improvised music. Thus Neelamjit Dhillon, born in Vancouver of Sikh background, has created a notable CD based on the infamous 1914 incident when 376 mostly Sikh immigrants were refused entry to Canada. To do so he mixes traditional Indian instruments with Western ones. In contrast American performers, who are his contemporaries, and with similar immigrant roots, have recorded sessions exclusively linked to the un-hyphenated jazz continuum. MORE

April 27, 2015

Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet

4 Blokes
Ogun OGCD 043

Rarely is there a 67-minute CD that zips by as if it actually lasts 67 nanoseconds. But such is the level of elation raised by 4 Blokes that not only does it move with supersonic velocity, but you also which there was more of it.

Such is the universality of improvised music that this first recording makes it seem as if the 4 Blokes had been playing together forever. That’s a feat history makes impossible. South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo was born in 1940 and was playing professionally by the end of the 1950s. While saxophonist Jason Yarde and bassist John Edwards may have been working with the drummer since the early 1990s and pianist Alexander Hawkins and Moholo-Moholo now play in a widely praised duo, not one of this all-British trio was born when the drummer turned professional; the pianist in fact is 41 years younger than Moholo-Moholo. MORE

August 6, 2014

New Old Luten Quintet

Big Pauer
Euphorium Records EUPH 041b


Small Pauer

Euphorium Records EUPH 041a

Gently acerbic Free Jazz which flourished intermittently alongside vital improvisation in the former East Germany appears to have a post DDR-champion in Leipzig pianist/bandleader Oliver Schwerdt. Schwerdt, whose PhD thesis was on drummer Gunter Baby Sommer, creates sounds which like the drummer’s oeuvre are both deadly serious and a whole lot of fun. These discs show how he continues to tread the fine line between comedy and profundity in his work. MORE

May 9, 2014

John Edwards/Okkyung Lee

White Cable Black Wires
Fataka 3

By Ken Waxman

Like the spools of sharp wires pictured on the inner sleeve of White Cable Black Wires, the sounds that make up this CD are industrial, utilitarian and rugged. During the course of five fully improvised tracks British double bassist John Edwards and Koran-American cellist Okkyung Lee vie with one another to expand a mini-suite of scrubs, scuffs, jangles and pumps to its furthest limits. The result is anything but melodious. But it’s never less than captivating in its power. MORE

April 27, 2014

Akira Sakata/Giovanni Di Domenico/John Edwards/Steve Noble

Live At Cafe Oto
Clamshell Records CR26

Experiencing the supersonically paced and rugged improvisations of Japanese reedist Akira Sakata is not unlike taking one of his country’s bullet trains as it makes it way from Tokyo to a far destination at about 320 kilometres an hour. Despite the speed, Hiroshima-born Sakata, like the bullet train knows exactly where he’s going and is in perfect control. As one of the pioneer Nipponese Free Jazzers, he has played with everyone from fellow saxist Peter Brötzmann to pianist Yamashita Yosuke during his four-decade career and knows how to keep sessions moving and exciting. MORE

April 13, 2014

The Apophonics

On Air
Weight of Wax Wow 05

Common Objects

Live in Morden Tower

Mikroton CD 29

John Butcher/Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann

Shortening Distances

L’innomable 2013/No #

There’s a probing consistency in British saxophonist John Butcher’s music, with the following of unexpected paths one of its chief listening pleasures. Like many other peripatetic improvisers, the London-based soprano and tenor saxophonist is involved with many other musicians, yet as these sessions demonstrate, he maintains a consistency of approach. MORE

March 8, 2014

Artist Feature

Ingrid Laubrock
By Ken Waxman

One of the many non-American musicians who have set up shop in NYC, German-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, 43, has quickly become a presence on the local scene. But the soprano and tenor saxophonist one who was already recognized for her playing and writing elsewhere – London’s highly competitive improv scene – before she crossed the ocean permanently in 2008.

Then again, the Hundewick-raised reedist has always thrived on new situations and challenges. And as someone who didn’t start playing the saxophone until her teens she declares that “I didn't really decide that I wanted to become a musician, it more or less happened … I sort of drifted into it.” MORE

February 21, 2014

Remote Viewers

Remote Viewers RV 11

The good news is that the six members of the Remote Viewers appear to have freed themselves from the deliberating funk – of the depressive variety – which characterized their last two releases. The less-than-good news is that while Crimeways is more high-spirited and energetic than those discs, the nagging suspicion remains that some of the jollity is pre-programmed, detracting from the CD’s spontaneity.

To deal with the positive first, all of the disc’s nine tracks, composed by tenor saxophonist David Petts, eventually come together as a unified program, although suggesting different moods, some of which skirt the narrow line between improvised Jazz and Rock. True to the title as well, more tracks than the first could be sound tracks to private detective dramas, with “On a Quiet Front” in particular instilled with the touch of menace that could suggest Peter Gunn is on the case. That motif deepened as the unified saxophone smears accelerate and are toughened with strong sluices from John Edwards’ bass, juddering electronics patches and processed electronic whistles and vibe pops from Rosa Lynch-Northover plus what could be programmed percussion. Throughout as well the rhythm section duo manages to assert personalities, with Edwards in particular expanding his rhythmic role to encompass programmed shrills and bass-guitar-like slaps. MORE

November 28, 2013

Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble

Clean Feed CF 272 CD

Craig Taborn Trio


ECM 2326

Satoko Fujii

Spring Storm

Libra Records 203-034

Probably the most respected of all Jazz configurations from all parts of the modern spectrum is the archetypal piano, bass and drum trio. Just because it’s the standard modus operandi for stylists ranging from Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson to Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal doesn’t means that the end product has to be the same. Especially evident in this trio of disc involving American, French, British and Japanese players is that originality results when the expected hierarchy of the piano-and-rhythm-section is shattered. In each of these discs creation is among equal partners. MORE

October 7, 2013

Various Artists

Just Not Cricket: Three Days of Improvised Music in Berlin
Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu nvnc lp001/004

Erik Carlsson & All Stars

Swedish azz Volume 1 & Volume 2

NotTwo MW 901-1A/ NotTwo MW 901-1B

Thomas Lehn, Michel F. Côté, Éric Normand


Tour de Bras DL #1

Malcolm Goldstein/Thomas Lehn


Tour de Bras DL #2

Something In the Air: Good Music Comes In Many Forms and Formats

By Ken Waxman

Standardization is a thing of the past when it comes to recorded music and listeners who get too far ahead of or behind the curve are likely to miss interesting sounds. Just as the production of movies didn’t cease with the acceptance of television, so the manufacture of LPs continued even as the CD became the format of the moment. As artisans continue to craft fine furniture despite the availability of mass-produced items, so too LPs are being created in limited quantities. This situation appears tailor-made for experimental sounds. Similarly since advanced players are often as impecunious as they are inventive, the ubiquity of the Internet means that some music is only sold through the Web. The option of not having to create a physical product is a boon for non-mainstream performers. MORE

April 6, 2013

Label Spotlight

By Ken Waxman

Although he states “jazz has always been my first love” when Mark Morris founded London-based Bo’Weavil records in 2004 it was with the conviction that “the walls between genres are coming down”. Because of that, over the years the label has released 57 different titles, on LP and CD, mixing traditional British and American folk music, with modern singer/guitarists sessions along with a hearty helping of free jazz.

“A lot of people who listen to a lot of free music also listen to a lot of traditional music, there’s a link in the authenticity of the music,” adds Morris. “If you listen to records by C Joynes & The Restless Dead for example, [represented by seven Bo’Weavil releases] some quiet different compositions are equally influenced by ethnic folk forms from let’s say Africa or the music of Albert Ayler. [Progressive composer/fiddler] Henry Flynt was certainly influenced by the wealth of avant-garde music, be that free improve, electo-acoustic composers or minimalist composers like Morton Feldman. Flynt became interested in applying minimalist principles to American folk music. MORE

December 25, 2012


Cousin It
Hopscotch Records Hop 23

Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud


Dark Tree DT02

Two explorations of the classic piano trio format shows that there’s still a lot to discover in this configuration, Nonetheless, both performances are made more viable by an avoidance of prettiness while still demonstrating complementary impulses emanating from keyboard, double bass and drums.

Cousin It was recorded in 2008, but just recently released and is seemingly no relation – and much less hirsute – than The Adams Family’s Cousin Itt. During the course of eight improvisations things get hairy only occasionally as bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble, who singly or together have recorded with everyone from Evan Parker to Derek Bailey, work out strategies to fit the often startling mercurial outbursts from Israeli pianist Maya Dunietz. Dunietz, a musical polymath, only counts improvisation as one part of her skill set. She has created sound installations, been lead singer for a couple of hard-core bands, been part of a multi-ethnic choir and composes music for theatre and formal ensembles. MORE

October 2, 2012

Foxes Fox

Live at the Vortex
psi 12.01

He now may be 82 and be best known for the dreamier ballads he often plays with his own groups, but this set proves that trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler can hold his own in any invigorating Free Jazz session. Of course it helps that the Canadian-born, London-resident Wheeler showed up as a special guest with a quartet consisting of players he has worked with for years in different contexts.

A true all-star ensemble, Foxes Fox consists of tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Steve Beresford, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo. On their own the four exhibit the depth of their interaction in the more than 38½-minute “Foxes Set 1”. Characterized by unmistakable reed slurs from Parker, his wide vibrato and boisterous tone smears are meticulously set up by Beresford’s cascading glissandi and key clicks, Edwards’ pumps and side sawing runs and Moholo-Moholo’s rattling backbeat. MORE

August 1, 2012

Remote Viewers

Nerve Cure
Remote Viewers RV 9

Perhaps the picture of score paper on this CD’s inner sleeve as well as some track titles provides clues to the conceptual thinking behind this session. Two decades along in their partnership, the music from British saxophonists Adrian Northover and David Petts is becoming more tense and formalized.

Except for Adam Bohman’s metallic objects bowed with abrasive abandon on “Long Weekend”, the personnel and instrumentation here is almost identical to the band’s previous outing. Yet a vague sense of unease seems to permeate the performance. Also bassist John Edwards’ use of harp arpeggios and Rosa Lynch-Northover’s marimba bar pops and piano key clinks suggest mid-century, so-called classical music more than the textures from breezier and more aleatoric improvised sounds. Furthermore on “Forgotten Corners” when one of the sax players sounds oboe-like tones to complete a track which previously has been divided between the bassist’s strokes and squeaking reed cries, the idea of accidentally wandering into a New music recital suggests itself again. MORE

July 6, 2012

Festival Report:

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

London saxophonist John Butcher and Chicago percussionist Tim Daisy were the MVPs during the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon at the end of April. To stretch the metaphor further, Butcher was doubly valuable, since as a pinch hitter he replaced Una Casa/Observatorio’s third member when that saxophonist was unable to perform with Buenos Aires-based trumpeter Leonel Kaplan and Viennese computer manipulator Christof Kurzmann. If Butcher’s playing was sympathetically creative with that trio, his improvising was equally spectacular with The Apophonics, a new group, otherwise consisting of British bassist John Edwards and Bay-area percussionist Gino Robair. Meanwhile the cap-sporting Daisy subtly pacing Wrack, the chamber-styled string-and-horn quintet; as well as added rhythmic heft to saxophonist Dave Rempis’ Percussion 4Tet, whose raucous free jazz closed the festival to enthusiastic audience cheers. MORE

December 25, 2011

Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

I Stepped Onto a Bee
Foghorn FGCD 014

Justly praised as a master improviser on bass saxophone – to be honest, competition is very slim – Oxford-based Tony Bevan is also a first-rate tenor saxophone soloist, something that hasn’t often been showcased in recent years. I Stepped Onto a Bee rectifies this omission with Bevan exercising his tenor chops on a six-part invention, working in tandem with London-based bassist John Edwards and legendary Free Jazz drummer Sunny Murray now domiciled in Paris.

Edwards who has played with everyone from saxophonist Evan Parker to the Stellari String Quartet adds jabs, plucks and strums to the tracks here, while Murray, whose list of associates starts with pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Albert Ayler and goes on from there, is sympathetic in his backing, ranging from martial rat-tat-tats to bounces, ruffs and slaps. Above all though, it’s Bevan’s show, as he weaves variation after variation, using legato and extended techniques. 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

April 13, 2011

The Remote Viewers

To The North

Alesandro Sacha Caiani

Effecto Ludico

Silta Records SR0904

Blending a saxophone choir plus a rhythm section has been a popular method of producing multiphonic textures ever since the Swing Era. Extending the interaction to encompass atonality and polyphony resulted when bands such as the World Saxophone Quartet and ROVA worked with rhythm sections. Effecto Ludico and To the North are notable examples of European bands adapting and altering the style. Main mover in both ensembles is a tenor saxophonist, Milan-based Alesandro Sacha Caiani on Effecto Ludico and London’s David Petts on To The North. However the end results contain as many differences as similarities. MORE

February 27, 2011

Decoy & Joe McPhee

Bo Weavil Recordings 041 CD

Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Blues Chicago Blues

NotTwo MW 841-2

Despite a recording career which stretches back to 1968, saxophonist Joe McPhee shows no signs of slowing down, even as he reaches the age of 71. If anything newly recorded CDs such as these show that his improvisational and interpretative skills are even more advanced than in the past.

Notably enough his talents are on display here in two of Jazz’s most orthodox settings: as part of an organ combo on Oto, and on a program reflecting the conventions and sensations of the Blues, on the almost too obviously titled Blues Chicago Blues. As idiomatically American as these contexts may be, it’s probably also significant that all of his associates here are European: Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on Blues Chicago Blues, and three Londoners – Hammond organ player Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Steve Noble – who make up Decoy, on Oto. MORE

January 8, 2011

Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

Boom Boom Cat
Foghorn FGCD 011

By Ken Waxman

Although Sunny Murray, the dean of American free jazz drumming, is the best-known player here, the success of Boom Boom Cat depends as much on the contributions of the other two musicians, who are more than mere sideman. Bassist John Edwards and saxophonist Tony Bevan are both an integral part of London’s free music scene, working with everyone from saxophonist Evan Parker to drummer Steve Noble.

Veterans of thrash-rock ensembles as well as low-key improv combos, the two confidently partner Murray, who now lives in Paris, every time he visits Great Britain. Despite being children when Murray redefined drumming in the mid-1960s with pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Albert Ayler, Edwards and Bevan are as confident in this context as any other. Bevan’s floor-vibrating bass saxophone gets a major workout on the shorter “Ballad for G”. But his deft manipulation of all its timbres, as well as those of the tenor and soprano saxophones, is brought into starker relief on the nearly hour-long title track. MORE

October 22, 2010

Aki Takase

A Week Went By
psi 10.03


Rolled Up

Jazz Werkstatt JW 067

Recorded less than a year apart, either of these discs by pianist Aki Takase appropriately demonstrates the distinguishing traits of her mature style. A permanent resident of Berlin since 1987, the Japanese-born Takase appears to have no traces of the Orient in her playing.

Expecting some form of Eastern sound from her however may be churlish or naïve, since Takase’s keyboard conception is completely her own. Her preference is for extended cadences and fantasia which rely more on the piano’s lower register than do most players. Plus her version of the now-standard stopping and plucking of the piano’s inner strings usually includes resting implements upon them, whose tonal asides and sometimes literal appearances create distinctive textures. Someone whose playing partners over the years her have included sound explorers such as saxophonist Evan Parker and singer Lauren Newton, she equally committed to Jazz’s ongoing tradition, evidenced by projects dedicated to Ornette Coleman and Fats Waller among others. MORE

August 22, 2010


A Brush with Dignity
Clean Feed CF154 CD

Atonal, audacious and admirable, Weightless is an irregularly constituted quartet made up of four top-flight improvisers: two from England and two from Italy. Recorded during two German gigs, the polyphonic expression is the result of the almost familial musical relationship between bassist John Edwards and saxophonist John Butcher on one side and pianist Alberto Braida and drummer Fabrizio Spera on the other.

Over the past few decades Butcher has sonically matched wits with everyone from British guitarist Derek Bailey to French clarinetist Xavier Charles. Edwards, one of London improv’s go-to bassists, has played with personalities as different as British saxophonist Evan Parker and American drummer Sunny Murray, while Lodi-based Braida and Spera have separately or alone linked up with stylists such as Canadian bassist Lisle Ellis and German synth master Thomas Lehn. MORE

July 28, 2010


The Early Years
Ping Pong 003

Calling Signals 08

From Café Oto

Loose Torque No #

Perhaps it’s an example of the dry sense of humor that those in the United Kingdom are supposed to possess, but less than five years separate the fine trio improvisations featuring saxophonist Lol Coxhill on The Early Years from the equally stirring quartet improvisations with Coxhill and Norwegian reedist Frode Gjerstad in the front line.

If earlier in this century are “early years” what about the prior career of Coxhill, which in improvised music dates from the late 1960s and professionally from the 1950s – and who sometimes seems to have played with absolutely every musician in the UK and the Continent? His associates on the disc, drummer Steve Noble, who was involved with jazz and improvised music by the early 1980s with Rip, Rag and Panic among others; and bassist John Edwards was committed to the sound at a similar juncture, at first with the Pointy Birds and B-shops for The Poor.. MORE

June 6, 2010

Festival Report:

Freedom of the City 2010
By Ken Waxman

“To Thine Self Be True” is lettered horizontally in careful script above the stage at Conway Hall in London’s Bloomsbury district, where London’s annual Freedom of the City (FOTC) festival took place May 2 and 3. Although related to the philosophy of the Ethical Society which built the edifice in 1929, the slogan can easily also be applied to five dozen or so improvisers featured at FOTC.

Organized about decade ago by saxophonist Evan Parker and AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost to showcase the city’s vibrant improvising scene, FOTC today welcomes as many tyros as veterans – and from the Continent and North America as well as the United Kingdom. Participants ranged from eccentric soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, 77 and American trumpeter Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, 67, to young participants in Prévost’s weekly improv workshop and American brassman Peter Evans. MORE

February 1, 2010

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy
ECM 2066

John Butcher Group


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

February 1, 2010

John Butcher Group

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

December 2, 2009

Tom Chant/Angharad Davies/Benedict Drew/John Edwards

Another Timbre at18

Working both sides of the fence between notated and improvised music is second nature to the four accomplished British musicians featured on this CD. The session’s powerful appeal lies in the sensitive maneuvering the quartet uses to personalize one long piece by John Cage (1912-1992) plus three short indeterminate scores by Michael Pisaro (b.1961). An added bonus is two mid-sized improvisations.

Buffalo, N.Y.-born guitarist Pisaro teaches composition at CalArts. A member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble, his harmony series translates into sound that leaves most sonic decisions to the musicians. Similarly “Four 6”, the last of Cage’s number pieces, utilizes a computer program to distribute the 12 pre-determined sounds to four musicians playing any instrument. MORE

September 26, 2009

Augustí Fernández

Un llamp que no s’acaba mai
psi 09.04

Augustí Fernández & Ingar Zach


Plasticstrip pspcd708

Barcelona-based Augustí Fernández is probably the most accomplished and readily identifiable Spanish pianist since Tete Montolieu – although both he and Montolieu would likely prefer to be known as Catalans.

Each of these high-class sessions emphasizes Fernández’ inventive versatility. As a quick rule-of-thumb, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai involves more of his on-the-keyboard skills and Germinal his explorations beneath the lid – bowing and slapping the string mechanism from soundboard to speaking length. MORE

September 26, 2009

Augustí Fernández & Ingar Zach

Plasticstrip pspcd708

Augustí Fernández

Un llamp que no s’acaba mai

psi 09.04

Barcelona-based Augustí Fernández is probably the most accomplished and readily identifiable Spanish pianist since Tete Montolieu – although both he and Montolieu would likely prefer to be known as Catalans.

Each of these high-class sessions emphasizes Fernández’ inventive versatility. As a quick rule-of-thumb, Un llamp que no s’acaba mai involves more of his on-the-keyboard skills and Germinal his explorations beneath the lid – bowing and slapping the string mechanism from soundboard to speaking length. MORE

July 30, 2008

Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

The Gearbox Explodes! Foghorn FGCD 009

Gyldene Trion

Live at Glenn Miller Café

Ayler Records aylCD-079

Stark examples of the fissure that in many cases separates younger musicians from slightly older ones, the ironic situation pinpointed in these releases is that in some cases it’s elders who are willing to try more experiments in their playing than their junior counterparts.

Both of these saxophone-bass-and-drums CDs provide interesting listening, but if one is expanding the improvised music tradition, the other is merely extending it. What’s paradoxical is that The Gearbox Explodes! includes sounds from a saxophonist in his fifties, a bassist in his forties and a drummer heading for his seventy-first birthday. Meanwhile members of the Gyldene Trion are in their twenties and thirties. MORE

July 30, 2008

Gyldene Trion

Live at Glenn Miller Café Ayler Records aylCD-079

Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

The Gearbox Explodes!

Foghorn FGCD 009

Stark examples of the fissure that in many cases separates younger musicians from slightly older ones, the ironic situation pinpointed in these releases is that in some cases it’s elders who are willing to try more experiments in their playing than their junior counterparts.

Both of these saxophone-bass-and-drums CDs provide interesting listening, but if one is expanding the improvised music tradition, the other is merely extending it. What’s paradoxical is that The Gearbox Explodes! includes sounds from a saxophonist in his fifties, a bassist in his forties and a drummer heading for his seventy-first birthday. Meanwhile members of the Gyldene Trion are in their twenties and thirties. MORE

August 11, 2006

Evan Parker Octet

Crossing the River
psi 06.02

Although there’s a numerical equivalence plus the crossover of several musicians, this octet shouldn’t be confused with the ensemble involved in tenor saxophonist Evan Parker’s electro-acoustic performances.

For a start there’s no hint of electronics here, even from violinist Philipp Wachsmann, who commonly uses wave forms as regularly as rosin. Plus while Wachsmann and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández are on board, there’s no sign of the reedist’s long-time playing partners, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. There’s no drummer at all in fact, while Wachsmann is part of a string choir of cellist Marcio Mattos, bassist John Edwards and guitarist John Russell – all of whom have played with Parker in other contexts. Most jolting is that the saxophonist is one of three horn players. John Rangecroft’s clarinet and Neil Metcalfe’s flute are the other wind instruments. Over the course of the more-than-77-minute CD, both get more space than Parker himself. MORE

July 21, 2006


With Derek Bailey
Foghorn Records FOGCD006

Perhaps the most unintentionally shocking part of this 2004 live London gig by the British Bruise band joined by guitarist Derek Bailey is its cost, reprinted on the back CD cover: “₤5/₤3 concessions”.

While a bargain for the audience, it proves once again that no matter how well-known someone like the guitarist was in the improv world, he was still doing local gigs for the equivalent of the price of a beer a little more than a year before his death at 75. Obviously no one ever got rich – or is it comfortable, in both senses – playing improv. MORE

September 26, 2005


Responses, Reproduction & Reality

Outgrowth of a Butch Morris-led conduction that took place in London a few years ago, the London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO) has evolved into a once-a-month gig where some of the British capital’s best improvisers get together to try out new ideas.

Involving a revolving cast of 30-plus players as well as different conductors and composers, the LIO has taken on an identity far beyond that of a BritImprov kicks band. However as these seven tracks, recorded at 2003’s and 2004’s Freedom of the City festivals demonstrate, the outcome is still inconsistent. MORE

August 8, 2005

Tony Bevan

Foghorn Records

Floros Floridis
F.L.O.R.O. III (Further Lines Over Rough Options)
j.n.d. re-records

By Ken Waxman
August 8, 2005

Unlike rockers, classical recitalists and even mainstream jazzers, committed improvisers have a compulsion to constantly involve themselves in novel situations with new players or new instruments. For them, repetition is the same as stasis.

Thus these two CDs find accomplished reedists who have recorded noteworthy acoustic duo and trio discs, setting up more of a challenge by welcoming more musicians and electronics. Frankly, the end products aren’t as satisfying as earlier, all-acoustic dates, but the players have to be commended for their audacity and refusal to stand pat. MORE

June 20, 2005



Comprised for the most part by musicians from British jazz-rock’s first generation, Organon tries to update a style that ossified into formula around the time Jaco Pastorius joined Weather Report.

That they succeed in part can be attributed to the musical skills of the quintet. Unfortunately though, this session, recorded in real time, can’t quite recapture the improvisational freshness that once characterized the genre, since the set routines of rock outnumber the jazz flourishes. MORE

November 22, 2004

Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

Home cooking in the UK

By Ken Waxman

November 29, 2004

Deeply felt music transcends arbitrary definitions attached to terminology, generation or nationalism. You can hear that clearly on this standout live session by three exceptional improvisers.

What could cause disquiet is that two of the players -- bassist John Edwards and saxophonist Tony Bevan -- are baby boomers and committed British Free Music players. Part of that sometimes-insular scene, they often work with guitarist Derek Bailey, major domo of that genre, who insists on Free Music’s distance from Jazz. Yet the third participant in this series of first-time meetings, recorded on tour in Britain, is 67-year-old drummer Sunny Murray. Not only is Murray, who lives in Paris, a jazzman without compromise, but he was one of the men who helped birth the so-called New Thing. He held the drum chair with both Cecil Taylor’s and Albert Ayler’s trios in the mid-1960s and afterwards led or participated in a clutch of sessions that defined so-called Energy Music. MORE

June 28, 2004


The Mahout

Mopomoso solos 2002
Emanem 4100

Solo, duo and group improvisations are the connective strands that knit together these two British CDs. Both showcase contemporary improv from musicians young and old, though THE MAHOUT comes with a wildcard -- New York-based pianist Borah Bergman.

Bergman, 77, who is older by far than any other participant -- British saxophonist Lol Coxhill, most elderly of the seven other musicians is six years his junior -- plays anything but than old age home jazz. As a matter of fact, the fire and intensity he brings to his two solos and three trios on THE MAHOUT almost overshadow the singular tinkering of most of the others. Individually, while each succeeds on his own terms, the pianist’s work still provides a dictionary definition of Energy Music. MORE

January 19, 2004


Playscape PSR#J061803

A Bright Nowhere
Matchless MRCD 55

Turning on its head the old NRA slogan of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and actually that way making a modicum of sense out of its twisted message, these bands show that instruments don’t make the music, people do.

For both these quintets consist of improvisers playing the exact same instruments and ones which make up the prototypical hard bop quintet. Yet the advanced music played by Mario Pavone’s quintet -- and trio -- is anything but typical boppish fare. Meantime the Conditions twist the sounds arising from trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums into original fare that owes more to extended free improvisation than freebop. MORE

October 20, 2003


Furniture Music
Okka Disk OD 12046

Berlin Reeds
Absinth Records 001

Parker - Haslam - Edwards

Ambiance Magnétiques AM 112 CD

Woodwind players galore in solo or duo settings are featured on these CDs, which not only replicate the stratagems reedists evolve to cope with such concentrated playing, but confirm the divisions between Continental and Anglo-Saxon interpreters. MORE

September 22, 2003


The Voice Imitator
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 006

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

July 21, 2003


Emanem 4089

Never one to shy away from a challenge, British saxophonist John Butcher has plunged into a farrago of collaborations during his career, in groups ranging from duos to biggish bands.

Recently he’s recorded two fine improvisations with percussionists -- American Gino Robair and Canadian Dylan van der Schyff. So, perhaps in the spirit of English fair play, this admirable CD was recorded at two concerts with a fellow Brit, bassist John Edwards. The result spotlights the reedist’s improv strategies, as well as the bassist’s response to them. MORE

January 27, 2003


Trio Local +
Dewdrop Recordings DDR 001

The + in the title is intentional. It’s literally a plus sign, for this CD features three of Barcelona, Spain’s most accomplished improvisers collaborating with French, German and British improvisers.

A meeting of minds -- and fingers -- this fine CD shows that Iberian improvisers can undoubtedly hold their own with players with more advanced scenes. However, it should be stressed that Trio Local, which has been together since the mid-1990s is a Catalonian rather than a Spanish group. In the northeast and near the Pyrenees, Catalonia like Quebec in Canada, sees itself as distinct from the rest of Spain. Harsher and more abrasive than their southern counterparts, Catalonians also have a history of intellectualism, organization and progressive politics. It was this area that held out against Francisco Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War and relations between Barcelona and the capital, Madrid, are always a bit distant. MORE

November 18, 2002


Thirsty Ear TH 57123.2

Note: this CD project was done by certified professionals. Kids don’t try to replicate it at home.

That fanciful slogan could be attached on a parental advisory sticker for this disc. For despite the proliferation of less expensive computer mixing and sampling equipment over the past few years, producing a CD which melds improvised music and studio-created sounds is much more difficult than your average club remix.

But Britons John Coxon and Ashley Wells, who operate as Spring Hell Jack (SHJ), know exactly what they’re doing, as this session aptly demonstrates. Many attempts by others are embarrassing, unmusical, or both. MORE

September 16, 2002


Soft Nose
Bvhaast CD 1501

Foghorn Records FOGCD03

Back when the CD first came on the market, one of its heralded advantages was longer running time. No longer would creativity have to be limited to 45-odd minutes of music, abruptly bisected when one LP side ended.

Putting aside the anomaly that many pop bands still struggle to fill CDs with 10 three-minute tracks, even improvised musicians sometimes find that inspiration runs out before the time limit. What that means is that less-than-satisfying CDs of up to 75 minutes are being released that could have been classic sessions if 10 to 20 minutes had been shaved off the playing time. MORE

January 15, 2002


The First Two Gigs

Good things often come in small packages.

A vest pocket version of the octet/nonet Ensemble, British pianist Chris Burn has been leading on-and-off since 1984, this quartet on its maiden voyages seems more focused than the larger group, perhaps because each of the musicians has to assert himself even more in a more compact situation.

Recorded in two different London clubs in sessions four months apart, to be honest, the performances here don’t sound at all like that of four musicians groping towards a common modus operandi. Perhaps it’s because each has some sort of playing experience with at least one of the others. MORE

November 12, 2001


Hit And Run
FMP CD 116

Alien Art
DUNS Limited Edition 008

Despite equal billing for all three musicians, except for its final five minutes, HIT AND RUN isn't a trio session at all. Instead it features bassist John Edwards doing yeoman service in duets with two of his British countrymen who happen to be some of the most accomplished reedists on the planet: John Butcher and Paul Dunmall.

Each of the meetings, however, is as different as the bearded, heavyset Dunmall and slimmer, clean-shaven Butcher are from one another. Dunmall's "Gaulstones" is a gaudy free-for-all featuring him on two different bagpipes and soprano saxophone; while Butcher's "Rhymes" is divided into four shorter rhymes, with him moving effortlessly from soprano and tenor saxophone and back again. What they share in common is excellence. MORE