Ideal Bread (USA) – “Transmit: The Music of Steve Lacy – Vol. 2 “
Royal Toast is the long-awaited fifth release by this sensational NYC-based 'jazz and beyond' ensemble. Led by twice Grammy-nominated drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, who is now nominated for both Jazz Composer of the Year and Jazz Arranger of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, T he Claudia Quintet includes Drew Gress (bass), Matt Moran (vibes), Ted Reichman (accordion) and Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), all of whom are widely acclaimed players and bandleaders in their own right in addition to their work with Claudia. The quintet here is supplemented by pianist Gary Versace, a longtime collaborator of Hollenbeck’s (including the composer’s Large Ensemble and in the Refuge Trio along with vocalist Theo Bleckmann). The addition of Versace means that half of the band is now essentially playing percussive instruments, giving Hollenbeck more opportunity than ever to follow his polyrhythmic muse. The Claudia Quintet has been finding the majestic in the mundane (or vice versa) for more than a dozen years. Nowhere is that more evident than on Royal Toast , where Hollenbeck began by collecting song titles found in often unlikely sources, divorcing them from their original context, and devising music inspired by these evocative phrases.
An astonishing band with a huge range of emotional depth and range, The Claudia Quintet's appeal extends beyond strictly 'jazz' listeners. Hollenbeck’s compositions somehow conjure raucous beauty from dizzying complexity, enticing the emotions with lilting melodies or irresistible grooves while engaging the cerebral side in a surreptitious workout. The music marries jazz, new music, post-rock – but no laundry list of influences is quite sufficient to describe their iconoclastic sound. Suffice it to say, you can feel secure bringing your hipster nephew and your math professor along to a gig, and everyone will go home happy.
A Beautiful Western Saddle / The Hardwood is an extraordinary feast of cutting-edge American popular music: video documentation of Curlew , the best live band in North America during years (mid 1980-90s) when Downtown New York reigned as world capital of cutting edge music, and a reissue of Curlew’s most ambitious and critically acclaimed studio album. During the 1980s, Lower Manhattan was ground zero for creative popular music in North America and the seedbed for the most inventive and progressive popular music in the world. Young musicians of all stripes –jazz, rock, classical – flocked there from around the world. They gathered at watering holes like The Knitting Factory, where musical cultures and genres collided, cross-pollinated, and – in rare pairings of artistic perfection - struck artistic nuclear fission. The best genre-transcendent band to emerge from this fertile, primordial musical stew was Curlew, named after a common shorebird.
Curlew was founded in 1979 by George Cartwright, a saxophonist/composer who migrated from Midnight, Mississippi to NY’s lower East Side. Early members included such key figures of the NY – and international – rock and jazz avant garde scene as John Zorn , Fred Frith (Henry Cow) , Bill Laswell (Material) , and Wayne Hortvitz . But it was not until Curlew’s lineup (1985-1992) of fellow transplanted Southerners Tom Cora (cello) and Davey Williams (guitar), and Northern transplants Pippin Barnett (drums), and Ann Rupel (bass), that Cartwright had the ideal components to ignite his musical mix. Curlew packed and proceeded to burn up the floors of such Downtown clubs as CBGBs , the Mudd Club , and The Knitting Factory ; toured world wide on both the avant jazz and rock circuits, and thrilled audiences and critics alike with its infectious, Southern-cured brew of punk-jazz/Downtown sound, roadhouse blues, and a cello that conjured European folk and classical musics as easily as Appalachiana. Musician called Curlew “a Southern band inside a New York sensibility”, while others described it as an instrumental jazz ensemble with rock sensibility—or the reverse. But Curlew was also much more: a group of highly attuned musicians who understood the fundamental chemistry, the shared resonance that underlay and united all musical genres. For Curlew, chamber music rooms and country dance/ beer halls, cellos and guitars resonated from the same hardwood. A Beautiful Western Saddle, the group's fifth album, was the last album by the Cartwright / Cora / Williams / Rupel / Barnett lineup, and also a marked a radical departure from the band's previous all-instrumental works. It was an album of songs, wonderfully sung by guest vocalist Amy Denio, and composed by Cartwright and his band members around poems written by Canadian poet and video artist Paul Haines, best known for his work with Carla Bley on the landmark “jazz-opera” Escalator Over The Hill, and Tropic Appetites. Cartwright met Haines through Kip Hanrahan in the 1970s, and began writing songs around Haines’ poetry. When Curlew was invited to perform at The Knitting Factory in 1989 as part of New Music America, Cartwright enlisted Denio as guest vocalist to bring these songs to life. A year later, Curlew and Denio recorded the studio album, A Beautiful Western Saddle . A Beautiful Western Saddle brought the concept of the 'art song' into a whole new light. When originally released, it was greeted with international acclaim and was one of Cuneiform's early successes. Out of print for some time, this reissue gives new audiences a chance to discover this landmark album from the late 20th C. Downtown music scene. The second disc releases film footage of Curlew on DVD for the very first time, It includes the first-ever DVD release of Curlew’s live video, The Hardwood , which Cuneiform had long ago released on VHS. The Hardwood features an entire 80' Curlew show from March 23, 1991 at the Knitting Factory’s first, Houston Street address. Shot by a four camera crew, and both remastered from the original video master files and sonically remastered, The Hardwood may be the best-quality video document ever made in the ‘old’ Knitting Factory’s notoriously crowded performance space. Depicting Curlew performing live with its most acclaimed lineup at the original Knitting Factory, The Hardwood is an essential document of one of the most vibrant and important scenes in late 20th C. American popular music. Also included on Disc 2 of Cuneiform’s double-disc A Beautiful Western Saddle/The Hardwood is an hour of previously unreleased video footage of Curlew recorded in downtown Washington DC. Filmed at DC Space on December 9, 1991 by a local cable show, it depicts Curlew performing with Denio on their Beautiful Western Saddle tour. There are two 30 minute programs; one features Curlew and Denio doing songs from A Beautiful Western Saddle , while the second set features Curlew playing two extended instrumental works. Then located on Seventh St. NW (in a building now housing a Starbucks) and now long-gone, DC Space was the Capital City’s center for art rock and other non-punk non-mainstream music. It was the venue of choice for Knitting Factory and international avant-garde artists playing in DC. This Washington video captures the energy of Curlew live on tour, while documenting for eternity a space that held a special place in DC’s artistic heart.
Soft Machine were one of the very first groups to bring together jazz with rock. Unlike all of the other musicians who were pioneers of "jazz/rock" who had made their reputation as jazzers first (Nucleus, Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime, etc.), Soft Machine began as a psychedelic rock band and started their life in 1966 playing the same 'underground club' circuit as their early friends Pink Floyd. After two US tours with Jimi Hendrix in 1968, the group began their move towards the fusion of rock and jazz, releasing a number of albums that remain influential classics to this day. By the time this remarkable document was recorded, Soft Machine were hugely appreciated in Europe for their unique sound. This previously unreleased show was recorded for Germany's famous NDR Jazz Workshop series and it features Mike Ratledge (electric piano, organ), Karl Jenkins (oboe, baritone sax, soprano sax, electric piano), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) joined by two special guests for the majority of the performance: Art Themen (tenor and soprano sax) and Gary Boyle (electric guitar).
Cuneiform’s NDR Jazz Workshop – Live in Germany 1973 is a DVD+CD set featuring a previously unreleased Soft Machine show recorded for Germany's famous NDR Jazz Workshop series. Soft Machine had assembled a special show for this high profile appearance, with four sets and several special guests. The first set featured the Ratledge-Marshall-Jenkins-Babbington quartet; Cuneiform’s release is the first-ever live release by this line-up, which would later record Soft Machine’s Seven. For a later set, two guests – Art Themen (tenor and soprano sax) and Gary Boyle (electric guitar) – joined the quartet for a unique appearance, an exciting twist to Soft Machine’s repertoire not captured on any other recording. For another set, former member Hugh Hopper joined the band as a guest to perform “ 1983 ”, his last composition written for Soft Machine; included as an audio-only recording on Cuneiform’s DVD, this is the only known live version of “1983” . Cuneiform’s double-disc release includes a CD featuring most of the music that Soft Machine performed at the NDR Jazz Workshop, and a DVD featuring the televised performances and bonus material. Soft Machine’s televised concert at Germany’s NDR Jazz Workshop has never been seen since its original broadcast over 35 years ago. This Cuneiform release is the single best quality video document that exists of Soft Machine in any of its lineups, featuring clear and beautiful visuals and superb live stereo sound. NDR Jazz Workshop is the eighth Soft Machine CD released by Cuneiform. Each of Cuneiform’s Soft Machine releases have focused on rare and previously unreleased recordings, documenting different lineups of the band, now extending about 5 1/2 years, from Autumn, 1967 to spring, 1973. Tracing the evolution of Soft Machine’s music over personnel and time; presenting rare tapes to the public, usually for the first time; and helping to expose this legendary band to new audiences in the 21st century, Cuneiform’s Soft Machine recordings are essential for long-time Soft Machine fans and captivating introductions for those approaching the legendary band for the first time.
Singled out by iconoclastic genius Frank Zappa while youthful prodigies and invited to join Zappa’s touring band before his death, the Swedish musicians Mats Oberg (keyboards) and Morgan Agren (drums) remain today one of the longest-running (nearly 30 years) and most musically successful collaborations in the universe of fusion and jazz/rock. Their Mats/Morgan Band has released eight albums and played countless festivals and concerts, and the two have also played and recorded with other bands, including appearing on a Grammy Award winning 1994 release by Zappa’s Universe. In addition, both have successful independent careers. While most young musical prodigies hone their chops on works by Chopin, Beethoven and other European classical composers, the Swedish prodigies Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren honed theirs on the equally complex compositions of radical American rock musician and composer Frank Zappa, as well as on American jazz. Blind from birth, Mats ?berg displayed signs of musical prodigy before he could walk – including a proclivity for Miles Davis. By age three he was playing keyboards and singing, by eight he was listening to Zappa, the Mahavishnu Orchestra , and Earth Wind & Fire , and soon after he began to do public concerts. Born in 1967, fellow Swede Morgan Agren began drumming at age four and received his first drum set at age five. By the time Agren was seven, he was doing public concerts, his tastes including the Buddy Rich Big Band, Louie Bellson Big Band, Return to Forever and others. The two child prodigies met and began collaborating in 1981, when a concert organizer asked the 14-year-old Morgan to accompany Mats, then aged 10, at a concert in Umea. The youngsters selected and performed a repertoire of Zappa, Stevie Wonder and Beatles songs, and have been playing together ever since. Frank Zappa played a central role in Mats and Morgan’s early careers, as both a musical influence and mentor. In 1984, Mats and Morgan formed Zappesteetoot, a Zappa cover band that toured and played on radio shows in Sweden and Norway. During his 1988 “ Broadway the Hard Way” tour, Zappa asked Mats and Morgan to guest with his band in Stockholm and was awestruck by their performance. Zappa took them on as musical prot?g?s, but his illness interrupted plans to include them in his touring band. Mats and Morgan played in the 1991 Zappa’s Universe concerts and appear on the Verve/Polygram live CD, playing with guitarist Steve Vai on the Grammy winning instrumental song “SOFA”. In 1993, they played with Zappa’s “Orchestra of Our Time” at NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall. After Zappa’s death in 1993, Mats and Morgan continued to play his music, working and recording with related musicians, including Dweezil Zappa, Terry Bozzio, Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, and Dennis Walley . Between 1994 and 1996, Mats and Morgan played in the Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue, and in 2002 they played Zappa’s “200 Motels Suite” with the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest. In 2003, they performed with the Ed Palermo Big Band (who are also on Cuneiform) and Denny Walley’s Zappa Corner Band at the Umea Internationella Kammarmusik Festival. Morgan played Zappa’s music with the Ensemble Imaginaire (Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue) and with Lotsberg, Pajunen, Agren & Tengstrand. Mats & Morgan performed at the 2004 Zappanale festival in Bad Doberan, Germany and in September 2006 performed music by Zappa and Var?se with Ali N Askin’s MusikFabrik. Beyond Zappa’s sphere, the Swedes began to make a name for themselves through their own original music. Gradually, their music would move away from overt Zappa influences, yet they still incorporated into their style such Zappa hallmarks as compositional complexity, resistance to genre classification, iconoclasm and humor. To release their recordings, Morgan founded a label, Ultimate Audio Entertainment, which released Mats & Morgan’s first six CDs. The Music or the Money? is a reissue of their second album, originally released in 1997 and originally released only in Sweden. This new edition of this album includes over 45' of previously unreleased material. For fans of: Bruford, Allan Holdsworth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, National Health, Return To Forever and Frank Zappa.
Transmit is the second album from the Steve Lacy repertory band Ideal Bread. Formed in 2005, the quartet of expert improvisers and composers includes leader and baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Tomas Fujiwara; they adhere to Lacy’s unique vision while giving each composition new life with their unique approach. If anyone deserves such a project, it is soprano saxophone innovator Steve Lacy (1930-2004). He was an integral component of Cecil Taylor’s first unit, having emerged from the Dixieland revival of the late 1950s; he would then go on to liberate the soprano saxophone and reform the landscape of composition in improvised music. “Steve Lacy is one of the most idiosyncratic composers in what we call free jazz,” states Josh Sinton. “People who love free music may initially have a hard time coming to terms with his work, because they aren’t ready for the repetition and traditional rigor he brought to his pieces.” Sinton has first-hand experience with Lacy’s brand of disciplined freedom. He studied with the revered soprano saxophonist from 2002-2004, as he finished up a graduate degree in jazz performance at New England Conservatory. “I took lessons from him and served as his copyist, but I also would catch his shows as often as I could. Often, we would just get together and talk. I learned something from him on every occasion.” Upon moving to Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2004, Sinton would bring Lacy’s music to many of his introductory jam sessions. “Not many people were playing Lacy’s pieces in New York at that time,” states Sinton. The music is a continual source of challenge and inspiration to Sinton. “I’m still mystified by Lacy’s approach,” Sinton muses. “Some of his writing has the repetitive quality of a nursery rhyme, some of it is more akin to Webern or other atonal composers. I’d watch Steve respond to questions about his compositional method by playing the compositions, and I am also coming to terms with the music by playing it.” The group has been performing regularly since 2006. The group has performed with Lacy’s widow and long-standing collaborator, cellist and vocalist Irene Aebi, and she introduced Sinton to some of the tunes on Ideal Bread’s second release. Sinton compares Ideal Bread’s approach to Lacy’s championing of iconoclasts such as Thelonious Monk or Herbie Nichols. “I listen to multiple versions of a tune, and I treat the repeated elements as the composition; the rest is determined case by case.” Despite wishing to remain loyal to Lacy’s conceptions, the quartet’s 2008 eponymous debut (KMB) demonstrated with force that Ideal Bread is no mere group of imitators. Transmit makes the case even more clearly. Their rollicking reading of The Dumps combines elements from several versions of the tune, which Lacy performed in both solo and ensemble situations. Lacy’s trademark near-unisons stand out as Radding and Fujiwara provide angular and rhythmically varied support to Sinton and Knuffke as they blow over this freebop masterpiece. The four musicians play with the tightness and beauty of any classical music ensemble, most evidently in the Monk-ishly quirky polyphony of Flakes. Sinton calls this early 1970s piece one of Lacy’s “greatest hits” and it appears on many of his finest albums. The disc exudes vigor as a live feel is constantly palpable. A first-rate recording and mix captures each musician’s contributions in clear and present sound. Every nuance in Fujiwara’s brush work carries The Breath airily along, and Radding’s resonantly introspective solo introduction to Clich?s sings and grooves by turn before the band kicks it into high gear. It all adds up to a wonderful journey through Lacy’s startling and diverse sound-world, one which the composer most certainly would have been proud of.