Reviews

"BPA 015 From-To-From" — Reviewed by Craig Premo, Improvised Blog

BPA015 FromToFrom CVR BC

"BPA 015 From-To-From"

Musicians: Alvin Fielder/David Dove/Jason Jackson/Damon Smith

Reviewed by Craig Premo, Improvised Blog


Damon Smith is a bassist who in recent years has migrated from Northern California to Houston. He runs the Balance Point Acoustics label, which has several releases with a mix of American and European musicians.

From-To-From brings together three talents from the Houston area with 78-year-old drumming legend Alvin Fielder. The six tracks appear to be all freely improvised, ranging from a 3 minute blowout to an episodic 20+ minute piece.

Unlike some free improv albums, this record is not just about textures, and the frontline of trombonist David Dove and saxophonist Jason Jackson aren’t afraid to mix it up in extended periods of interaction. What is unexpected are those quieter sections where the horn players engage in some West Coast cool school counterpoint, Jackson waxing lyrically on his alto.

Smith provides a framework for the other musicians, and reminds me a little of Barry Guy in that he will let fly with some rapid phrases, and then recede into a supporting role. Fielder, for all his avant-garde credentials, has a solid foundation in all forms of jazz, so it’s refreshing to hear him create a nice gangly free-bop groove at different points, with the horns taking advantage, diving in and out of the waves of rhythm he creates.

David Dove, head of Houston’s Nameless Sound organization, acquits himself well on trombone, with a garrulous sound somewhat reminiscent of Steve Swell. Jackson’s star is seemingly on the rise, as he is now a member of Ingebrigt Haker Flaten’s Young Mothers and has made guest appearances with Dennis Gonzalez’s Yells At Eels.

The Texas jazz scene is the richer for Damon Smith’s presence, and here’s hoping it leads to more concerts and more albums

"BPA -2 Burns Longer" — Reviewed by Ken Waxman, JazzWord

BPA 2 Burns Longer BC

"BPA -2 Burns Longer"

Musicians: Fred Van Hove/Damon Smith/Peter Jacquemyn - Burns Longer

Reviewed by Ken Waxman, JazzWord


Drummer Lou Grassi partners another improv master, Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove on a GYMC double bill on September 6. Someone like Kidd Jordan, whose commitment to free expression goes back the 1960s, the pianist works in many contexts. One unusual set-up is captured on Burns Longer (Balance Point Acoustics BPA2) playing with Belgian bassist Peter Jacquemyn and American bassist Damon Smith. Grinding and goosing their eight strings the two scramble to keep up with Van Hove whose cadenza stream almost sweeps any interference out of his way. Not that this is a one man show. Both bull fiddlers hold their own, with one at a time fortifying the rhythmic pulse and the other stropping strings. Sharpened stops squeak from the highest register as often as bowed textures outline more supple textures. Although “Archiduc 2” is the most pianistic of the tracks, as Van Hove dampens his note waterfall by percussively stopping inner strings, the concluding 35½-minute “Archiduc 3” defines the narratives. Unexpectedly uncrating his accordion so that tremolo glissandi create an ostinato underpinning, the bassists’ response is close to what could be heard on a baroque recital. Back on piano, Van Hove’s kineticism increases. Yet the technical expertise of Smith and Jacquemyn allows them to not only respond with buoyant tones but also to mutate these timbres to resemble harsh blowing from saxophones or a didjeridoos. Finally just as it seems as if the mixture of splayed strings and cascading lines can’t get any more exciting, the trio reaches a crescendo of interactive polyphony as the altered chords and tremolo strokes meld.

"BPA -4 Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 19" — Reviewed by Brian Olewnick , Just Outside

a2820878596 16

"BPA -4 Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 19"

Musicians: Jaap Blonk / Damon Smith

Reviewed by Brian Olewnick , Just Outside


Jaap Blonk/Damon Smith - Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 1916 (Six Sound Poems, 1916) (Balance Point Acoustics)

This is a difficult one for me to properly consider or write about for various reasons. First, I've never really warmed to most Dadaist poetry. Not that it's by any means been an object of serious study (largely due to my not being drawn to it in the first place), but when I've encountered examples over the years, including Ball, as read by others, it simply fails to connect (ok, the Marie Osmond rendition is pretty great). My failing, I'm sure. Second, in my admittedly limited exposure to Blonk's work, both live and on disc, I've similarly been unable to make much of a connection. This is a "condition" I share with many, to be sure: a difficulty with free improvising vocalists generally, not just Blonk. It's long been a subject of discussion why this issue is so (relatively) prevalent among a decent percentage of free music fans, perhaps having to do with certain expectations that come into play when we recognize the human voice, some need for narrative, some reluctance to let it be heard as abstractly as we do a trumpet or saxophone sound. For myself (and I think this is also something commonly shared), I feel more comfortable when the vocalist goes to an extreme in that abstraction, for example Ami Yoshida or Christian Kesten; then I'm able to countenance it better. Again, my failing, no doubt, but not an uncommon one as far as I can tell. (And I absolutely love it when a free vocalist reins him or herself in, using what they've learned, as for instance when Phil Minton sings "The Cutty Wren").

I was thinking that Blonk and Ball seemed to be a natural enough pairing and see that he previously recorded some Ball pieces in 1989 with alto saxophonist Bart van der Putten and bassist Pieter Meurs, similarly titled "Six Sound Poems of Hugo Ball" (Kontrans), and presumably has performed them elsewhere, as he has with Schwitters and others. I'm curious how/if the renditions differed over the year with various collaborators. In this case, I have to say that the results more or less approximate what I expected going in, with Blonk giving excited, often manic readings, generally conveying a kind of mental imbalance or, at least, a different balance from that maintained in the everyday world, entirely appropriate to the Dada spirit, of course. Given that there are texts, it's not free improvised per se but,, obviously, he has great fun with stretching, rumbling and disemboweling the words, made up though they be. Smith, whose playing I always find very fine, including in contexts of which I'm not always too enamored, is excellent here, tending to match Blonk in freneticism, often skittering in high registers. When he lowers the pitch and digs deep into the bass, almost Hadenesque, as on "Karavane" (the piece given such a heartfelt rendering by Osmond), things work very well for this listener, Blonk's ravings given a good, strong counterweight. His arco work on "Gadji Beri Bimba" is also outstanding, again pairing well with Blonk's more full-throated warblings and trills on this piece; similarly with his harsh, dark plucking vs. Blonk's guttural growls on "Totenklage". Given these examples of compatible playing/singing, part of me would have liked to have heard the opposite, say Smith playing richly and melodically alongside Blonk's/Ball's frenzied sound poetry. But so it goes.

If, at the end, I remain not entirely convinced, I wound up appreciating the effort and certain portions of the performance far more than I would have expected. But please take my predilections with a grain of salt. Ball and Dada enthusiasts will very likely derive a great deal of pleasure from this one.

"BPA 016 North of Blanco" — Reviewed by Kurt Gottschalk, Squid's ear

BPA016 CVR BC

"BPA 016 North of Blanco"

Musicians: Jaap Blonk / Sandy Ewen / Damon Smith / Chris Cogburn

Reviewed by Kurt Gottschalk, Squid's ear


Jaap Blonk's ensemble improvisations are often his most perplexing projects. It's weird that that should be the case since what he does is essentially behave as an instrumentalist should, but with the voice voice — an actual human voice like most all of us have, even if few of us are capable of the breadth of nonverbal expression Blonk has at his disposal — it creates a bit of a forest/trees dichotomy to hear something so individually present and powerful subsume into a collective.

Which is a rather overworded way to say that in Jaap Blonk's group improvisations I often end up wanting more, overworded to mask the fact that I know my wanting more should not be a part of the equation. Such are the perils of harboring expectations. Blonk is an enormously enigmatic solo performer and an equally equitable team player. But unlike the aforementioned forest and trees, soloist and group member don't always co-exist easily.

Blonk has recorded a number of improv meetings on his travels and North of Blanco is reminiscent of a couple of past Chicago outings: a quartet with Jeb Bishop, Lou Mallozzi and Frank Rosaly (on his Kontrans label) and a trio with Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang (issued on the Dutch label Buzz-Records). Here he is found in Texas and in the company of guitarist Sandy Ewen, bassist Damon Smith and percussionist Chris Cogburn.

The 2013 studio recording is an odd mix of busy and subdued. It's not just Blonk that is immersed in the proceedings, it's the whole of the band, drowning in themselves and showing a deep, shared commitment to the group dynamic. The centerpiece is a 21-minute exploration entitled "Brewing Tools" but in point of fact the session comes off as a seamless whole. It's low and growly with clicks and static without falling to rote minimalist or EAI trappings. In a field of strange soundmaking, North of Blanco is, well, a strange record. Abandon expectations, all ye who listen here.

"Relations" — Reviewed by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

relations

"Relations"

Musicians: Henry Kaiser / Damon Smith

Reviewed by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

HENRY KAISER / DAMON SMITH - Relations (Balance Point Acoustics 505; USA) Former Bay Area bassist Damon Smith has been working with guitarist Henry Kaiser for a decade or so and have recorded more than a half dozen discs with various sized projects from their Plane Crash Trio through tributes to Albert Ayler and Derek Bailey to a recent 10-piece HK/Ray Russell with 4 saxists/2 bassists/2 drummers referred to as the Celestial Squid sessions for a Cuneiform release. Damon Smith moved to Houston, Texas a few years back so he and Mr. Kaiser don’t get a chance to play together so often.

This is their first recorded duo effort and it is an all acoustic one with splendid studio sound. Both Henry and Damon have selected a special acoustic instrument to play: Mr. Kaiser on 1998 Monteleone Radio Flyer 7-string guitar and Mr. Smith on 1934 Romanian or German flat back double bass. The music here is very focused or concentrated and intense. Without any devices or effects to use, both Mr. Kaiser and Mr. Smith deal with just extended acoustic improv: odd plucking, deep bass bowing, rubbing strings or the bodies of their respective instruments, etc. I find this music quite challenging, reminding me at times of the level of extreme improv that Derek Bailey reveled in. When I look around in the news and through my e-mail very day, I often get angry at the injustices I see. This music often remind me of the battles that are going on all the time within us and around us. Good vs. evil, light vs. dark, dissonant vs. consonance or harmony. Music seems to illustrate the common ground that holds us together whether we agree or not on ideals or just ideas. Is this disc the soundtrack to our daily lives? Something to think about indeed. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG

"BPA 016 North of Blanco" — Reviewed by MASSIMO RICCI. TOUCHING EXTREMES

BPA016 CVR BC

"BPA 016 North of Blanco"

Musicians: Jaap Blonk / Sandy Ewen / Damon Smith / Chris Cogburn

Reviewed by MASSIMO RICCI. TOUCHING EXTREMES

Jaap Blonk: voice, electronics; Sandy Ewen: guitar, objects; Damon Smith: prepared double bass; Chris Cogburn: percussion

Another gathering of stringently non-tonal, grit-textured, occasionally whispered, ever-trustworthy improvisations by Balance Point Acoustics, whose level of “wink-to-the-audience-while-pretending-to-research” has stably remained on the “zero = no bullshit” mark for years now.

Jaap Blonk has stripped the voluble blathering of the average humanoid to a deviant pharyngeal palette of gurgles, coughs, ill-tempered swines, gruff horses, (virtually) eBowed ugly ducklings and sexless hysterics. He’s still in possession of a glorious “regular” timbre whenever he resolves to use it; the man could declaim the Divine Comedy no problem, and it would surely sound more blasphemous than the original. In this set he is surrounded by an efficient unit of proven provocateurs capable of infringing the codes of foppish coalition.

Ewen, Smith and Cogburn support the needs of a self-nourishing collective entity. Each adds contributions to trigger disconcerting undertides, their sounds revealing grains and particles as if sliced open. The constitutional elements commix by nature, which helps in acquiring contents of uncertainty and, why not, danger with a wry grimace on our lips. The sonorities deriving from unstable objects, prolonged excoriations and lowercase plink-and-zing suggest a visual modality where awkward creatures meet in the damp corridors of a forlorn metal factory to organize an all-acoustic rave interspersed with ruminations about the grim fate they share. Leftovers of pitches and micro-patterns materialize from the improper conduct of instrumentalists seemingly inclined towards a dynamical occlusion. When keeping the secret becomes unfeasible, the intensity swells out of necessity: the music’s abnormal pulse and its innumerable excrescences throw a conclusive punch to the solar plexus of low-budget sentimentalism. In “Winner Kult Song” and, at various junctures, “Brewing Tools” the quartet even retrieves the corpse of reductionism from the dump, reviving it with sensible strokes of resonance.

Sometimes, the synthesis of “disheveled” and “inharmonic” translates as “healthy”. Armed with albums like this, we can wait for Armageddon without fright. Decoding the remnants of erstwhile human cognition will be a less complex task for the survivors.

"Spill Plus" — Reviewed by Stef Gijssels Freejazzblog

1028 620x620

"Spill Plus"

Musicians: Magda Mayas / Damon Smith / Tony Buck

Reviewed by Stef Gijssels Freejazzblog

 


Just below the surface of silence things are moving, yet what these things are remains a mystery, because what you hear is almost the movement itself, you feel the dynamics, the precise intent, the elegance and the sophistication of the changes, the interaction of color and form ... and even the clarity of the tones, and the physical intimacy of the acoustics are here to touch you, to envelop you, insubstantial yet profound, like the precursors of emotions sending out hazy signals, undefinable but real, enigmatic and present. And moving, in the sense of objects and in the sense of emotions, yet the question remains which objects and which emotions, because only the movement itself appears to exist.

A piano trio, with Magda Mayas on piano, Damon Smith on double bass, and Tony Buck on percussion, like you've never heard before.

Beyond the surface beauty lies hidden, now revealed in sonic shards, sharp as steel, or dark particles, sonorous and rich, sprinkling traces of calm in the nervously vibrating silence.

"Spill Plus" — Reviewed by Clifford Allen, Point of Departure

1028 620x620

"Spill Plus"

Musicians: Magda Mayas / Damon Smith / Tony Buck

Reviewed by Clifford Allen, Point of Departure


Houston improvising contrabassist Damon Smith is an “artist’s musician.” Initially known on the West Coast for his involvement in the Bay Area scene, working with players like drummer Weasel Walter, guitarist Henry Kaiser, vocalist Aurora Josephson and saxophonist Marco Eneidi, Smith has also made it a point of working to be in contact with numerous European heavyweights – such as bassist Peter Kowald, pianist/accordionist Fred Van Hove, reedist Wolfgang Fuchs and multi-instrumentalist Günter Christmann. His interest in postwar avant-garde art and music has also led to performances of work by Fluxus artist Ben Patterson, posthumous environmental collaboration with the paintings and sculptures of Cy Twombly, and his own visual art practice.

......

Spill is the long-running duo of Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and drummer Tony Buck, with three discs to their credit since 2008. In 2010, Smith joined the pair for an Oakland concert and recording session, which is now seeing its first release as Spill Plus. Mayas and Buck are a tough pair with a focused language of light, metallic nattering between them, the pianist heaping onto the strings and soundboard with clattering implements and toothy plucks, supplanted by a tensile latticework of cymbals and gongs. Smith isn’t quite as brusque here as with Blonk (though that’s a more recent disc), nevertheless choosing his own manner in which to obsessively stump and shepherd the pointillist volleys between hyper-keyboard and drums. Buck’s approach is reminiscent of John Stevens, with steadily ringing impulsions from which Mayas’ resonant whorls and jagged, dimmed chords jut. In an environment of hushed, obstinate accent and sharp diagonals, there isn’t really space for “release” but the threesome’s agitated interplay and gradual subterfuge are a bit more than mere texture. Again, it’s a very specific architecture this group presents, but it yields an array of active, colorful layers.

–Clifford Allen

"BPA -4 Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 19" — Reviewed by Clifford Allen, Point of Departure

a2820878596 16

"BPA -4 Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 19"

Musicians: Jaap Blonk / Damon Smith

Reviewed by Clifford Allen, Point of Departure


Houston improvising contrabassist Damon Smith is an “artist’s musician.” Initially known on the West Coast for his involvement in the Bay Area scene, working with players like drummer Weasel Walter, guitarist Henry Kaiser, vocalist Aurora Josephson and saxophonist Marco Eneidi, Smith has also made it a point of working to be in contact with numerous European heavyweights – such as bassist Peter Kowald, pianist/accordionist Fred Van Hove, reedist Wolfgang Fuchs and multi-instrumentalist Günter Christmann. His interest in postwar avant-garde art and music has also led to performances of work by Fluxus artist Ben Patterson, posthumous environmental collaboration with the paintings and sculptures of Cy Twombly, and his own visual art practice.

Presenting the Dada sound poetry of Hugo Ball (1886-1927) in concert with aggressively manhandled double bass seems like a logical endeavor for Smith, especially since Dutch voice artist Jaap Blonk is a somewhat regular visitor to Texas. In addition to being a highly theatrical free improviser, Blonk has performed and recorded the works of Ball, Tristan Tzara and Kurt Schwitters – including the latter’s elemental “Ursonate.” The six poems are bookended and split by three improvisations that, for the uninitiated, allow the sound poems to stand on their own. Despite their use of nonsense syllables, guttural noises, creaks and howls, the poems present as extremely specific work, even as an improvisation like “Interlude” feels comparable. Smith accompanies and goads in subtonal, brushy fiddling and hairy, stuttering masses with equal control, or plucks with grace and musculature as Blonk exhorts, cackles and ululates (the dusky “Caravan”). The presence of Smith’s detailed arco and explosive, physical harangues offsets the theatricality of the poems’ delivery to a degree, drilling their slate-cleansing absurdity into something romantic, concrete and immediate. Crisply recorded, the condensed textures of both wood and throat sound extraordinary, whether bashed about in “Dirge” or in more plaintive fragments. This set of poems and improvisations is truly a fantastic notch in both musicians’ already-deep catalogs.

"Celestial Squid / Relations" — Reviewed by Clifford Allen, NYC Jazz Record

relations

"Celestial Squid / Relations"

Musicians: Henry Kaiser / Damon Smith

Reviewed by Clifford Allen, NYC Jazz Record


It says something about the state of what we call “jazz” and improvised/creative music that a guitarist such as Henry Kaiser can be included, rightly, along figures like Grant Green, John Abercrombie and Sonny Sharrock. After all, there are just about as many ways to improvise on an electric guitar, within or without the ‘tradition’, as there are to skin a cat or juice a steak. Based in the Bay Area, Kaiser was one of the first American musicians to encourage collaboration with European free improvisers and co-founded the Metalanguage label. But he is just as likely to point out the influence of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir as Derek Bailey and Masayuki Takayanagi and his sphere of experience also includes scoring films and working as a deep-sea oceanographic diver. Kaiser has appeared on hundreds of recordings, from fractured open improvisations to large-group projects reimagining Miles Davis’ electric work or the late songs of Albert Ayler and Mary Maria Parks, as well as a slew of solo guitar discs. The Celestial Squid is the first meeting on record between Kaiser and English guitarist Ray Russell, a heavyweight whose trajectory moved from quixotic postbop in the ‘60s through free improvisation and a blistering take on jazz-rock in the ‘70s before taking a turn into the realms of sound library and soundtrack composition. This is the first Russell disc in quite some time to feature ‘open music’ as many would think of it, though it’s fair to argue that all of Russell’s music post- 1975 has necessarily stemmed from the world of free jazz. The ensemble is a double quintet: the two guitarists and a rhythm section consisting of drummers Weasel Walter and William Winant and bassists Damon Smith and Michael Manring and saxophonists Steve Adams, Aram Shelton, Phillip Greenlief and Josh Allen. Adams’ “Gukten Limpo” starts the set with a meaty, math-rock juggernaut, off of which glint jagged, tinny blues chugging and a horn chorale that quickly becomes knotty and ricocheting. Russell is first out of the gate with thick, redoubled lines, which, while economical, gradually increase in toothy, blistering intensity. Shelton’s alto is bright and choppy against a whirlwind of flaring cymbals and intertwined, electrified strings. Even as things unspool a little, the tune’s pounding, somewhat clunky center retains its glory. “The Enumeration (for Glenn Spearman)” begins with Kaiser’s acoustic guitar falling somewhere between Derek Bailey and William Ackerman in a gentle, dusky tone poem. Reeds, electric guitar and rhythm enter in shimmering, fleshy peals, hoarse tenor and baritone shouts emerging from gauzy ether as players pay their respects in soli and rugged, fuzzed- out dialogue. Coursing through the entirety of The Celestial Squid are the parallel lingoes of Kaiser and Russell, the former an applied encyclopedia of the guitar who nudges and defers to the salty constant inventions of a slightly older Englishman.

It should be no surprise that Kaiser and Damon Smith have a lengthy history—after all, the bassist was a stalwart figure on the Bay Area free music scene until relocating to Houston in 2010. Both are historians and practitioners who have mined the landscapes of obscure artists in the realms of European, Japanese and American creative music for inspiration and to encourage community. Relations is the second volume
of duets between the two players, following 2011’s Fan the Hammer (also on Balance Point Acoustics, Smith’s label). Kaiser sticks to the acoustic guitar (seven-string) on these eight improvisations, but the combined tonal resources of the two players are enough to scuttle any notion that Relations will be a standard set of guitar- bass duos. Between the subtonal, warped masses that Smith goads out of his 1934 upright, he slowly scrapes across the lower reaches of the instrument to create a split-tone platform for Kaiser’s resonant flecks, horizontal string-scrapes and bowing—the latter somewhere between a broken harmonica and a Bennink-ified Chinese violin. But the interplay’s the thing and, whether hacking out a series of apposite actions or interweaving romanticism, Kaiser and Smith build on a fascinating series of Relations.

BPA 015 From-To-From — Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg

BPA015 FromToFrom CVR BC

BPA 015 From-To-From

Musicians: Alvin Fielder/David Dove/Jason Jackson/Damon Smith

Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg


Souvenez – vous ! Alvin Fielder est un des batteurs qu’on a entendus dans les premiers enregistrements du futur Art Ensemble of Chicago alors qu’ils n’avaient pas encore rejoints Paris en 1969. Il y eut Phil Wilson, Robert Crowder et Alvin Fielder. Et puis seulement Don Moye. Fielder est un Néo Orléanais et c’est à l’aune de cette filiation qu’il faut apprécier le quartet de From-To-From. Il forme le moteur de l’ensemble et lui imprime une couleur et une impulsion rythmique Louisianaise typique même si les deux souffleurs, le tromboniste David Dove et le saxophoniste Jason Jackson s’envolent en toute liberté avec une bel expressionnisme Great Black Music secondé par la walking basse imperturbable de Damon Smith. C’est la belle impression qu’ils donnent dans le premier Ut. Dict., amplifiée par la fausse nonchalance soul funky du trombone, une voix originale et relativement voisine de celle de Roswell Rudd. Mais dès le début des vingt minutes de From To From, le swing du premier morceau se métamorphose dans une belle recherche de sons, d’ébauches, de commentaires, de rubato lyriques ou inquisiteurs où s’entrecroisent des lignes pleines d’une vraie richesse musicale. Le tempo démarre vers la septième minute et se décale pour soutenir le solo chaleureux du trombone. Il y a dans cette équipe un sens collectif, une joie de jouer décontractée dans une forme d’allégresse en mode mineur, une alternance sax/trombone et Jackson tire parti de l’alto, du ténor et du baryton en fonction de l’orientation de la pulsation. C’est avec surprise qu’on voit le temps défiler à l’aune de la rédaction de ce texte et c’est dire que la musique n’est point ennuyeuse. B,B,B x 6/8 est l’occasion d’ouvrir avec la contrebasse improvisant en avant et les souffleurs voletant en suspension dans l’espace. La configuration instrumentale est mouvante et en constante évolution et l’intelligence du jeu collectif fait de ce quartet un groupe gagnant, sans qu’il sacrifie à la démonstration – étalage technique, virtuosité et tempos d’enfer. Quand ils s’envoient en l’air à tout berzingue, c’est l’affaire de trois minutes créant la diversion parfaite. Le jazz, c’est l’art consommé du temps. On pense au New York Art Quartet (album ESP et Mohawk pour Fontana). Lyrisme, cohésion, équilibre, blues authentique. Une musique pareille ne se cote pas : Vous prenez ou vous laissez ! Moi, je prends tout cela à 100% : la musique du cœur et de la sensibilité !!

"BPA 016 North of Blanco" — Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg

BPA016 CVR BC

"BPA 016 North of Blanco"

Musicians: Jaap Blonk / Sandy Ewen / Damon Smith / Chris Cogburn

Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg


Jaap Blonk est un des rares vocalistes masculins proéminents de la scène improvisée au même titre que notre cher Phil Minton à tous et que le prodigieux Demetrio Stratos, trop tôt disparu (1978). Stratos avait d’ailleurs précédé Minton dans l’ordre d’apparition sur la scène internationale comme chanteur vocaliste expérimentateur de quelques années. Tous deux sont de vrais chanteurs avec des voix aux dimensions et à la texture exceptionnelles et une capacité phénoménale à déguiser leur organe d’attributs multiples et complètement incroyables. J'espère moi-même ne pas perdre mon temps en me produisant ici et là en qualité de chanteur improvisateur. Digne héritier de la tradition « poésie sonore » des Kurt Schwitters et Henri Chopin, Jaap Blonk ne se montre pas tel un chanteur, mais plutôt comme un formidable bruiteur de l’impossible. Un performance solo de Blonk est un pur moment de magie. D’excellents témoignages de ses capacités d’improvisateurs figurent dans les cd’s Improvisors (avec Michael Zerang et Mats Gustafsson/ kontrans) et First Meetings (avec Zerang et Fred Lonberg Holm /Buzz records) enregistrés en 1996, alors que le profil de la musique improvisée libre radicale se redressait à vive allure, vingt ans après l’explosion de 1976 / 77. Et donc vingt ans encore après, quoi de plus naturel de retrouver Jaap Blonk dans l’exercice difficile du quartet avec guitare électrique, contrebasse et percussions. Qu’à cela ne tienne, Sandy Even détient la clé de la réussite de l’entreprise, son approche étant bruitiste à souhait avec le dosage subtil nécessaire. En effet, on n’entend quasiment jamais une inflection issue de la pratique, même subliminale, du chant, dans le babil crypto-langagier, les borborygmes et bruits de bouche du Hollandais et l'option de la guitariste se meut dans une perspective idéale. Même quand sa plainte ondule au-dessus du pandémonium électronique guitare électrocutée et percussion enchevêtrée. La musique est en fait un bel hommage au Keith Rowe d’avant (le minimalisme). BPA avait déjà publié il y a un an un excellent duo « digital » de Sandy Ewen et Damon Smith, Background Information (BPA-1), un travail sonique qui allie une aspect brut avec la plus grande finesse. Ce North of Bianco en est son prolongement légitime. Toutes les possibilités sonores sont exploitées, le percussionniste Chris Cogburn bruissant à merveille (où est passée la batterie?), utilisant son instrument comme résonateur de manipulations d’objets et d’instruments détournés de leur fonction première et le vocaliste se moule et coule dans les interstices ou quand le silence point ou que le jeu s’aère, prend la relève du bruitage sans qu’on se dise qu’il y a une voix humaine. Une machine, un gros bourdon ou des monologues improbables à la diction infernale. Il y a un texte poétique de PascAli, le tandem de contrebassistes, dans les notes de pochette. J’aurais aimé y voir figurer une notice avec qui et quoi fait quoi, question instrumentation. Mais peut-être ainsi, le mystère est conservé. Les groupes documentés par Damon Smith sur son label BPA se suivent et ne se ressemblent guère. Et c’est une bonne raison de suivre l’évolution de ce label dédié à l’improvisation libre à 100% et sans oreillères.

Relations — Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg

relations

Relations

Musicians: Henry Kaiser / Damon Smith

Reviewed by Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg

Duo acoustique entre (ou avec) la contrebasse de Damon Smith et la guitare (1998 Monteleone Radio Flyer 7-String Guitar) d’Henry Kaiser. Smith est aussi le responsable du label BPA et celui-ci retrace ses aventures musicales dans différents contextes improvisationnels avec des improvisateurs incontournablescomme Phil Wachsmann, John Butcher, Frank Gratkowski, Wolfgang Fuchs, Birgit Uhler, la superbe chanteuse Aurora Josephson. A travers les disques BPA on aborde avec bonheur Il y a une dizaine d’années BPA avait publié un hommage d’Henry Kaiser à Derek Bailey (Domo Arigato Derek Sensei) suite à sa disparition et avec de multiples invités dont un intéressant duo Kaiser-Smith qui appelait un prolongement, voire un document. Kaiser est connu pour ses multiples appétits musicaux qui naviguent entre des croisements « musique du monde », le projet YoYo Miles avec Leo Smith (sorte de re-make des Bitches Brew et Agartha du Miles Davis électrique), un Wonderful World en solo quasi New Age, de l’improvisation radicale (l’excellent Acoustics avec Mari Kimura, Jim O’Rourke et Jim Oswald chez Victo). Dead Head assumé, il a joué des covers alternatives du Grateful Dead, mais aussi pastiché le Magic Band de Captain Beefheart. Son Wireforks en duo avec Derek Bailey m’est resté en travers de la gorge, alors que c’est un excellent guitariste et musicien engagé dans l’improvisation depuis des décennies. Bref, il a autant de cordes à son arc que sa collection de guitares est vaste. Dès la fin des années 70’s , il avait fait fort avec son album Protocol en duo avec le percussionniste Andrea Centazzo et le trompettiste Toshinori Kondo, deux artistes superlatifs qui avaient quitté la scène improvisée quelques années plus tard. Donc, pour moi, Kaiser est un musicien que j’apprécie et pour lequel je n’hésite pas à chroniquer avec plaisir un opus qui me touche comme son solo Requia dont vous trouverez une chronique dans une page de ce blog (août 2014). Mais ce n’est pas un artiste que je suis à la trace comme Veryan Weston, Paul Hubweber, Roger Turner, Charlotte Hug, Gunther Christmann etc... Alors bien sûr, avec cette approche spécifique à la guitare acoustique, plane ici l’ombre du grand Derek Bailey, celui des Domestic Pieces (Emanem 4001), d’Aida (Incus 40) et de Lace (Emanem), acoustique. Ou l’opiniâtreté radicale de John Russell, un de ses bons copains. Car dans cet enregistrement, Henry Kaiser joue avec les harmoniques, technique par excellence de Bailey et Russell. Il y a donc heureusement des moments superbes, sauvages, des trouvailles au niveau guitare et le duo fonctionne comme dans ce Garden Not A Garden où le contrebassiste frotte le plus lentement possible l’archet sur la corde grave en bloquant la vibration. Recherches, écarts, évidences, congruences, échappées, flottements. Au niveau guitare proprement dit, il faut vraiment écouter dans une excellente hi-fi, pour apprécier ce que Kaiser apporte de particulier à la lingua franca post-Bailey. Cette guitare convient-elle à cette technique qui utilise les harmoniques produites en bloquant subrepticement la vibration de la corde un bref instant au moment précis où le plectre tire la corde ?? Cela nécessite des cordes particulièrement tendues, accordées au plus juste à toutes les hauteurs et un instrument à la projection exceptionnelle. Comme on l’entend à merveille dans Annoyance is the Joke That Drives the Music, Kaiser dégringole des cascades d’accords abrupts et dissonants quand son acolyte fait grincer sa basse. Damon Smith a une tendance à se tenir légèrement en retrait comme s’il se mettait au service de la guitare. Parfois, j’ai le sentiment que la logique ou le charme fantaisiste de l’improvisation en cours se dissipe. Un peu trop posé. Ceux qui ont jamais écouté la demi-face de vinyle complètement folle de Derek Bailey et Maarten Altena dans Improvisors Symposium Pisa 80, tiendront là matière à disserter. Malgré ces remarques, Relations contient d’excellents moments et est un témoignage vivant de ce penchant qu’ont les improvisateurs d’essayer des choses dans l’espoir de créer un momentum qui captive l’attention. Et cela passe plutôt bien. Il y a des albums de Damon Smith qui sont quasiment parfaits, au sens improvisation, s’entend.

A Place Meant for Birds — Reviewed by Ken Waxman

BPA 5 Desert Sweets CVR BC

A Place Meant for Birds

Musicians: Biggi Vinkeloe / Damon Smith / Mark Weaver

Reviewed by Ken Waxman

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.
Not that this CD is suspended between the reductionist or clamorous extremes the last two improvisers exemplify, but like a hybrid growth that adapts to a parched environment of the southwest, Desert Sweets blooms in its own way. Drummer-less, it’s Weaver powerful but downplayed blowing which percussively propel the seven tracks. His downy intermittent textures usually reside in the growl area and are moderated and rounded. The exception is an extended passage on “Not Salt” where didjeridoo-like resounds take up space alongside Vinkeloe’s tense whistles and arco sears from Smith that could rake the soil in other circumstances.
From the start, Vinkeloe’s alto saxophone double-tonguing and righteous articulation better matches Weaver’s basso burbles and Smith’s string slaps than her trebly flute lines. However like a stage play that shifts from comedy to drama, on “Silt” the transverse instrument provides proper timbral contrast to the others’ pugnacious tones. Elsewhere the reedist’s rasping tones provide another sort of continuum. As rhythmic slaps from the bassist give tunes a communicative finality, they’re often aided by Vinkeloe’s separate high and low-pitched tremolo notes as if they were oxpecker and rhino respectively. An even more profound demonstration of her saxophone skill occurs on “Embedded in Rock”, where in her tart solo maintains equilibrium between what a melody that is reminiscent of the sentimentality of “The Anniversary Waltz” on one hand and strained crying à la “Lonely Woman” on the other. Vinkeloe impresses as she moderates both extreme to set up an accord with Smith’s formalized, almost Euopeanized string strokes.
Satisfying in its interaction, with the ad hoc trio spelled on one track by a poem recitation by Lisa Gill, the high-quality improvisations here suggest that this concert was a location for committed listeners as well as A Place Meant For Birds.
—Ken Waxman