RIP David S. Ware

Sad to learn of free jazz saxophonist David S. Ware’s passing. An astounding talent.

Here is video footage of DSW with several frequent collaborators, including William Parker and Matthew Shipp.

Below, check out an astonishing reworking of a treacly pop song into an avant jazz showcase of virtuosity and ingenuity.

Neneh Cherry + the Thing: “Dream Baby Dream,” Four Tet Remix (Video)

On her latest recording, vocalist Neneh Cherry joins forces with Scandinavian avant jazz outfit The Thing.  Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound) features originals, jazz tunes by Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, and covers of songs such as Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” and Martina Topley-Bird’s “Too Tough to Die.” Check out Four Tet’s remix of the Suicide cover in the video below.

Ken Thomson (CD review/concert preview)


“It Would be Easier If”

Intuition Records

Composer/alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Ken Thomson plays with a variety of ensembles, from Asphalt Orchestra to Signal. Other new music luminaries such as Bang on a Can and the American Composers Orchestra have commissioned pieces from him. But his latest recorded outing is with still another group: Slow/Fast. Joined by trumpeter Russ Johnson, guitarist Nir Felder, bassist Adam Armstrong, and drummer Fred Kennedy, Thomson presents five substantial pieces that bring together his two principal spheres of activity: jazz improvisation and contemporary composition.

On “Kleine Helmet,” Thomson (on bass clarinet) and Johnson perform long arcing melodies in octaves over judicious rhythm section activities that allow them considerable space and freedom. The same duo winds configuration takes a foreground role on “G_d D___ You, Ice Cream Truck.” But here, the musicians really cook, with the horns taking up relentless, angular, and often blistering altissimo leads. Correspondingly, the rhythm section adopts a more propulsive role, with Felder’s guitar providing an agitato ostinato counterweight to the busy melodic foreground.

Armstrong and Kennedy get a chance in the spotlight on the freewheeling slow introduction to “No, No, No.” When winds and guitar join them, they craft atmospheric, gradually evolving tone clusters. Further “out” than the CD’s previous cuts, it’s also artfully paced and evocative music-making.

The playfully titled “Wanderangst” brings a more lighthearted ambience to the proceedings. But it’s no less carefully orchestrated. Pitched percussion and a buffo-tinged bass clarinet solo engage in a sparkling colloquy, while the other participants edge their way towards a post-bop jazz palette. Johnson overlays the texture with a supple sostenuto melody, while Armstrong’s bass clarinet encroaches on his turf with dovetailing walking lines. The accumulation of strands is gradual, but the tune’s subtle buildup allows for each performer to have his own space for development. The piece dissolves just as elegantly, gradually fragmenting into a false ending, and then building back up to a stentorian tutti climax.

The CD closes with its title track: “It Would be Easier If.” A ballad, it features sinuous legato lines from Johnson underlaid with sensitive comping from Felder. This is gradually challenged by interruptive flurries from Thomson. The two winds start to cohere into an uneasy duet alliance, their independent melodies gradually morphing into a series of repeated interlocking gestures. The move from modern jazz to minimalism takes still another detour, as the rhythm section steps up and reclaims the music-making for a gentler, more swing-based, conception. The winds and rhythm section once again build to a fulsome climax, creating crashing waves of massed textures followed by a brief denouement; ending the piece in a stylistically hybridized fashion. It’s a fittingly varied statement with which to end this multifaceted yet satisfying recording.


Ken Thomson’s new Quintet “Slow/Fast”, and Lainie Fefferman’s Quartet “Phthia” will close the Fall Season of Music at First on Friday, December 3rd, 2010 at 7:30pm.
This new music series is held at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, located at 124 Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights.
Tickets are $10 at the door. Contact for more info.
Directions are at

Highly defined low end

Joe Morris Bass Quartet
High Definition
Hat Hut hatOLOGY 670

Listeners may be more familiar with Joe Morris as an ace free jazz guitarist; but since circa 2000 he’s also regularly performed and recorded as an upright bassist. Joining him on his latest CD for Hat Hut, High Definition, are trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, saxophonist Allan Chase, and drummer Luther Gray.

The quartet is capable of fulsome free jazz full frontal assaults; their collective might on “Morning Group” creates a massed swath of atonal counterpoint that is truly something to behold. Conversely, they’re an egalitarian collective; each player gets a chance to shine in extended solos; the rhythm section on equal footing with the horn players. Gray’s powerful drumming on “Topics” is a standout for the percussionist. Morris’ walking lines create melodic pathways and a propulsive, dancing groove on “Skeleton.” Later in the tune, Bynum creates a self-contained, angular dialogue between the upper and lower registers of his trumpet; two solos for the price of one! Chase adds an extra bass voice by playing baritone here; his blurting interjections are a nice contrast to Morris’ fluid, walking lines.

High Definition references more traditional jazz elements as well. “Land Mass” contains a swinging, almost West Coast style, tune, which is presented as a conventional head. Still, the players chaff at staying entirely in the pocket; Chase and Bynum distresses the tune with skronky angularity and breathy sound effects during the solo sections. Eventually, these roles take on a juxtaposed relationship; the saxophonist breaks into a Parker-esque alto solo, while the trumpeter continues to tread avant terrain. In lesser hands, this might seem like a schizophrenic duality; but the duo here play these signatures against each other with wit and musicality. “All-in-One” features a memorable head, played tutti, which could have drifted off the bandstand during the 1950s, were it not subjected to present-day permutations during the solos.

The recording ends with “The Air has Color.” Free in form and further out in style, it features adept duo interplay from the horns that’s occasionally reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s early, post-tonal melodies. Morris grounds the proceedings with emphatic underpinning down low; while Gray alternates between more assertive percussive interjections and tastefully articulating a reminder of the pulse with textural flurries around the edges of the phrase.

 Thus, containing a panoply of avant-jazz playing styles without abandoning swing or bebop as touchstones, High Definition is a stirring example of contemporary players successfully integrating tradition and innovation.

 Joe Morris Bass Quartet

Happy Earth Day: Farmers by Nature

Farmers by Nature

Gerald Cleaver – William Parker – Craig Taborn

Farmers by Nature

AUM Fidelity AUM 053


On this 2008 live date, recorded at the Stone in New York City, drummer Gerald Cleaver, bassist William Parker, and pianist Craig Taborn don’t function like your average piano trio – with a stratification of roles that often prioritizes piano with the other members accompanying. Instead, theirs is an egalitarian collaboration, with a passing of leadership at various points in the musical proceedings that allows for all three instrumentalists to have their turn center stage. In addition, their avant-jazz approach to a traditional ensemble grouping allows for unorthodox playing techniques to spice things up.

The short, meditative “Korteh Khah” begins the set in the vein of textural exploration; but it is the extended essay “Cranes” that is a standout in this regard. Here, Parker prefers bowed playing to walking lines, creates great swaths of repeated notes. Cleaver matches Taborn’s upper register lines, employing a shimmering cascade of bells.  Only partway through do things start to sound less like contemporary chamber music and more like traditional jazz. Taborn starts the shift, adding a series of sharply articulated, thickly stacked chords that steer the music back to a palpable sense of swing. Confirming the stylistic shift, Parker puts down his bow and attacks a buoyant walking line with gusto.  But there’s a coda filled with special effects – bowed bass harmonics, skittering angular piano lines, and gently-articulated textural percussion; it serves to frame “Cranes’s” trad jazz center with bookends of avant jazz mysticism.

“Fieda Mytlie” opens with an extended cadenza from Parker, whose plethora of playing techniques makes the solo double bass take on multiple roles – percussion, melody, and bass-line – simultaneously. Cleaver joins, creating a supple, polyrhythmic duet. When Taborn enters, his contributions ride this headily intricate rhythmic groove. He builds his part in terraced fashion, starting with melody lines, adding bass riffs that dovetail with Parker’s, and eventually moving to zesty postbop chord progressions. The piano thus telegraphs a subsequent crescendo by the whole trio, building to a thrilling climax. An astounding performance; dare we hope for a follow-up in the recording studio?

-Christian Carey


Record Store Day Treasures: Part One ““ Thrill Jockey

Record Toreism

With over 100 limited releases being pressed especially for Record Store Day, it’s hard to select favorites. But throughout the week, File Under ? will be listing select highlights to whet appetites.  

This from Thrill Jockey Records  

Thrill Jockey is proud to present our very own special contribution to Record Store Day (April 18th).   The deluxe “Records Toreism” LP will be limited to 900 copies and will feature on one side a drawing by Post Typography and a photo silk screen by Crosshair on the other.   The images portray record stores of the future, one if you support the community institutions and the other if you don’t.   Yes that is right, the inconvenient truth.   The printing and jacket fabrication will be done by Crosshair.    

Deluxe – all hand made, hand printed loveliness!    


1. Mountains “Windows”  

This is a new song that does not appear any place else.   It was recorded with love for the record store.  

2. Tortoise “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In”    

This is a new song.   It will also appear on their new album in June.   Released early with love for the record store.    


1. Double Dagger   “Stagger Lee”    

This is a new song that does not appear any place else.   It was recorded with love for the record store.    

2.   White Hills   “Eye to Eye”    

“Eye To Eye” was previously released on Abstractions & Mutations, a limited edition CD-R release put together for a tour in September of 2007.   Released for the first time on LP with love for the record store.    

3. Trans Am Featuring Tim Soete “Wounded Monkey”  

This is an unreleased song recorded and mixed March 28, 2005 at MAINZ in Auckland, New Zealand.   Tim Soete on lead guitar and lead vocals.   Released with love for the record store.                  

 The album will also come with two inserts:   A zine “WhatsinstORe” with contributions from Ira Robbins (Trouser Press), Stephen Pastel (Pastels, Monorail), Ian MacKaye (Dischord, Evens, Fugazi, Minor Threat), Magas (Reckless Records, Magas), Julie Cafritz (Pussy Galore), Rick Wojeck (Dusty Groove), Nigel (Rough Trade Records London), Danny Beard (DB Records, Wax N Facts), Ron (Jazz Record Mart), Andee Connors (A Minor Forest, Aquarius Records) Josh Madell (Other Music), Bill Ryan (Pier Platters), Bundy Brown (Tortoise, Pullman, Directions, Dusty Groove) and more!    

The second insert, NAY! I say the first MANIFESTO, was written by an elusive crank known to dine with those that lay claim to Futurism.      

Feel the power!   Join the movement – RECORDSTORISM!!  

 Record Toreism 2

Avant jazz writ large

William Parker

Double Sunrise over Neptune

AUM Fidelity


Avant jazz (free jazz/out jazz/ecstatic jazz – pick your flavor) often thrives in lithe groupings; but bassist William Parker has long been known for leading large ensembles in adventurous music-making; noteworthy among them: Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. While not dubbed an orchestra, sixteen musicians premiered Parker’s long form composition Double Sunrise over Neptune at the Vision XII festival, held at the Orensatz Center in New York City in 2007. Portions of this were sonically compromised; the musicians reconvened the next day and rerecorded the work. AUM’s CD compiles the latter performance and the better half of the premiere into a full length album.

Given Parker’s dual gifts – as a rhythm section player and leader – it’s not surprising that the proceedings are groove-centered. Undulating bass-lines and a plethora of percussion instruments lay down a solid foundation, over which a number of NY’s most creative jazzers unleash effusive solos. While there are a number of fine contributions, guitarist Joe Morris and saxophonists Sabir Mateen and Rob Brown are especially thrilling.

Some of the instrumentalist use ethnic instruments such as oud and doson’ngoni, giving the music a globalized flavor. The star of the show is vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, whose melismatic runs rival the fastest utterances of colleagues’ strings or winds. What’s more, Parker’s compositional organization and direction assure that the piece flows with direction and clarity. Apparently, as long as you have players like these, avant jazz works well writ large!

William Parker - Double Sunrise over Neptune