If the style of jazz you enjoy listening to is more on the improvisational and free side of things, you will definitely love Tecniche Arcaiche: Live At Angelica (Aut), a release by pianist Nicola Guazzaloca. For me, it’s hard to compare this to someone without someone more in-the-know saying “this sounds nothing like who you’re comparing this to” but this is the best way I can do it. Some of it sounds like what Richard Wright did during his part of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, where it seems like there may be a concept of what he wants to do but plays whatever inspires him at any given moment. “Parte Prima” is more on the noisy and chaotic side while the 27 minute “Parte Seconda” is slightly more musical and melodic. This recording was taken from a 2014 live performance so the audience were into the spontaneity as much as the home listener is, which honestly makes this a joy to listen to, or at least a joy on the verge of falling off into the unknown. Again, someone more in-the-know may have a more accurate description of what they’re hearing here and why but I liked this and would definitely be more into hearing another Guazzaloca project.
My first assumption upon reading this was by the Hanam Quintet was that it might be some jazz, be it straight-forward or free. The music on Hanam At Piggotts (Aut) may feature also sax, soprano sax, and piano but straightforward this isn’t, nor would I call this jazz. The music is more along the lines of improvisational, a bit avant-garde and experimental where things aren’t structured and you’re wondering where the quintet are headed at any given time. However, there is a sense of structure in how the songs are put together but it will take some deep listens to comprehend things, but there’s a good side to it. There are three 3-part suites or movements, each one over ten minutes in length, each one not sounding like the other and the titles are mere hole pricks as hints of what they could be like: “Widening Perspective/Eine Breitere Perspektive”, “Fields”, and “Air Suite”. If one is to compare these songs to journeys, it’s similar to riding in the dark and hoping wisdom will get you to the finish line. Being improvisational, it’s about putting faith in the musicianship of Manuel Miethe (soprano sax), Alison Blunt (violin), Niko Meinhold (piano and toy piano), Anna Kaluza (alto sax), and Horst Nonnenmacher (double bass) and seeing what you hear, or envision. Hanam At Piggotts is a set of music where the unknown is a place or non-place, but getting there is part of the fun and unpredictability of hearing it.
Even though I am a fan of their individual works, I would have never thought Aaron Novik and Arrington de Dionyso would have collaborated, but here it is, their debut album together and it is a trip and a half. The songs aren’t really properly titled, there are five acoustic pieces and one gigantic “Electric Duo” piece that runs for 21-and-a-half minutes, consisting of a saxophone meditating with someone who is doing Tuvan throat singing, mixed in with someone playing around with an analog delay and making things sound more spacious, or far out. Then again considering what Novik an de Dionyso have created over the years, maybe this union was bound to happen, and I’m glad it has.
All of the sounds here are improvisational, very much of the moment and yet it sounds like they’ve decided to unite in space (or in a distant desert), open up their sounds and see what fell out. There is a third part of the equation in “Electric Duo”, and that’s Eli Crews, the one responsible for the various audio transformations of de Dionyso.
The remaining five pieces are called “Acoustic Duo”, titled as “Acoustic Duo 1”, “Acoustic Duo 2”, and so on. The first one is the both of them having a saxophone sword fight, while the second piece involves Asian percussion and the both of them singing, howling, and meditating. The third piece is more curious saxophone erotica while the fourth piece is a masterful saxophone and throat singing duet, sans special effects. The fifth and final piece is improvisational vocalizing dueting with a saxophone, before the voice fades away and is taken over with another saxophone, or is it just someone playing games by creating feedback with a microphone and amplifier? Or someone sticking a microphone in their mouth and howling with it in silence? It could be none, it could be all. It’s nice to hear these two collaborate, merging minds between Olympia, Washington and San Francisco. I hope more collaborations between these two are planned in the future.
When you name your group after a Philip K. Dick character who felt his body odor was lethal, even if said order didn’t exist, and yet the one thing you’re known for is being the official White House pianist, and that you can play the piano with your mind, you know there are some head games going on. Perhaps that was the point when Alberto Collodel, Davide Lorenzon, and Ivan Pilat came up with Kongrosian, and the sounds they came up with on their debut album, Bootstrap Paradox (my review of which can be read here). With their brand new album, it is the continuation of the mind moving forward, figuring out what to do, where to go, and allowing the mind to take you, the creator and individual, where it feels it needs to be.
The Exit Door Leads In (Aut) is based after the title of a short story Dick wrote and published in 1979, and the entire album was written and put together in his honor. The assembly of creation in free jazz is something I enjoy, errors and all, and along the way they bring in Nello Da Pont (drums), Tim Trevor Briscoe (alto saxophone/clarinet), Edoardo Marraffa (tenor saxophone), Nicola Guazzaloca (piano), and Piero Bittolo Bon (alto saxophone, alto clarinet, and kou xiang) to help them on their mission. The majority of the tracks on the album are on-the-spot improvisations, and it’s nice to hear what they come up with in the spirit of the theme of the album. Four of the tracks were written by Kongrosian’s Pilat, while Bittolo Bon also offers up the very nice (and clever) “Sahdeecoolow”. Even the songs that have form tend to sound as if they have no form or structure due to the freeform feel of the other material here, but then things begin to gel and the listener (or at least I) gets a sense that all of this is meant to be. With multiple listens, I’m sure The Exit Door Leads In will reveal new things not felt before, and maybe that’s how it was meant to be as well.
The music of Kongrosian is free jazz, or is it improvisational jazz? I think both terms will bring to mind complete freedom, which for a few may mean “lack of organization or direction”, which in their case is untrue. Bootstrap Paradox (Aut) is a collaborative effort between the trio and Oreste Sabadin, and together they make music with a small bit of foundation, but then they each have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere with what they do. In fact, the group say they are “a trio + 1”, and the role of that +1 is open to anyone who wants to join them.
I love the concept of music that is “in the making”, or at least music that sounds like it’s being assembled as you hear it. You may hear trumpets, saxophones, and a bass clarinet play an off-key melody, while another clarinet plays around and within that melody, only for another instrument to follow, which in turns follows something else. It’s like an onion unveiling new layers, and you’re not sure whether to enjoy the onion or keep peeling. That’s the joy of such pieces as “I’m A Strange Loop”, “Fractal Structure Of Revolutions”, and “No, sir, away! A papaya war is on!”, the words have no reason for being there and perhaps the sounds are the same. They don’t belong, but do because that’s how it’s combined, to create these reckless sounds that may make you want to join in and play.
Bootstrap Paradox is an album that is far from lacking any direction, the fun is trying to compile the sounds and figure out what they’ll do next. I look forward to their next destination.
Incansescent Sky are a band who haven’t released a new album in four years, but individually have created a plethora music that goes well beyond what people may know of them with this group. Together, John MacNeill (keyboards), John Orsi(drumset and percussion), Don Sullivan (guitar and guitar-to-MIDI), and Mike Marando (bass guitar) pull together all of their unique influences for Four Faradays In A Cage (it’s Twilight Time) to create a sound that sounds familiar at times, but you’re so caught up in what they’re creating that the “strangeness” (if you want to call it that) sounds like the comforts of home, or a time when new musical discoveries were the reason you looked forward to waking up in the morning.
Incandescent Sky merge together touches of jazz, rock, progressive rock, and new age to the point where they become one. It may sound like some long lost hippie scriptures from the high mountains of Bangla Desh, but those who were/are true to the improvisational music of the late 60’s and early 70’s, and those who have looked to creating spontaneity in music in the modern day, will love how each of these songs unfold from one envelope to the other. It’s tranquil when it wants to be, but then becomes complex a few minutes later, like some of the best Italian soundtrack albums. “The Byways” is a track that goes for only 4:17 but may be the one compact way to take in what they do in the shortest amount of time, in fact it is the shortest song on the album. Sullivan’s guitar work builds on itself, layer upon layer, it may bring to mind the slide guitar of David Gilmour before grooving on in a Stone Gossard-type fashion. Orsi’s drum work is an important core to the their song, it may sound simple but is consistent just as Jaki Liebezeit was to Can, and with a different perspective, one can hear how the others in the band build around Orsi. With an altered perspective, you may hear everyone building around MacNeill, and that’s the thing about Incandescent Sky, every perspective is a legitimate one.
The best songs on here are those that are over the ten minute mark, such as “Orange Ice” (10:20) and the mindblowing title track (16:25), for they truly explore the potential of sound, both in each other and what the song can provide in terms of emotion, elegance, and sheer strength. Fans of Embryo, Tangerine Dream, Supersilent, and The Necks will find this to be the kind of listening endurance test that results in the kind of satisfaction that can only come from musicians who truly know about and love the music they create. While I don’t do drugs, I can only imagine the possibilities of Four Daradays In A Cage in the proper settings, so for those who are into audio mind expansion, get ready to roll.