January 1999 Releases

critiques by DAN WARBURTON, Paris Editor

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio

As the ubiquitous John Corbett reminds us in his liner notes, “Lautir” was written by Ken McIntyre for his 1960 Prestige debut “Looking Ahead” (NJ 8247). Eric Dolphy gave it a thorough workout on that date (McIntyre's playing was rather weedy then compared to his later work with Cecil Taylor), but the latent potential of the tune's quirky angularity has had to wait until Pandelis Karayorgis' superb cover version here--is this the first time this piece has been covered? Karayorgis, a graduate of Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, is a muscular pianist--at times recalling Taylor, at times Misha Mengelberg, with a special fondness for the mid to low piano registers--and a fine composer (check out his originals here), ably backed by the solid no-bullshit team of Nate McBride and Randy Peterson. This is a trio well-versed in jazz: Peterson's hi-hat thwacks which open “Miss Ann” (hooray!--at last people are getting to grips with Eric Dolphy the composer) recalls Roy Haynes' work on the original 1960 “Far Cry”; McBride's full bass tone brings to mind Gary Peacock in another fine 60s piano trio, that of Paul Bley. Duke Ellington's little-known “Frustration”, the third cover on the album, receives similarly original treatment; throughout, Karayorgis deviates from the standard head-solos-head format, breaking open the structure and allowing the music to define its own space. All in all, a superb album. Highly recommended.

Daunik Lazro / Carlos "Zingaro"

Always judge a record by its cover: from its very first notes, "Haut Plateau" breathes fresh mountain air--the music of French saxophonist Daunik Lazro and Portuguese violinist Carlos "Zingaro" is as organic and subtle in its tonal shading as the rock stratum cover photograph. Zingaro's vibrato and use of the bow reveal a solid grounding in classical technique, though he also has an almost Grappellian lightness of touch, and his use of electronics (delay units, octave doublers, and some synthesized percussion) serves to embellish the polyphony rather than muddy the texture. If Eugene Chadbourne "invented" Free-improvised Country and Western Be-Bop, then Lazro and Zingaro at times here come up with what could be called Free-improvised Folk, though their music just as easily inhabits the tonal worlds of Russian-period Stravinsky ("Gravir la montagne") and baroque cadenza (the pedal-point drone which opens "Aires"). Lazro sounds especially at ease with his old playing partner--their collaboration on record goes back as far as 1983's "Sweet Zee" on Hat--and his occasional forays into extended playing techniques are a sign of exuberance rather than tension. As openly accessible and bracing as the high plateau of its title.

Michel Doneda

In stark contrast, the cover photo of soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda's "Anatomie des Clefs" shows a closed space barely furnished with a single chair, a perfect setting for these interior monologues. For those familiar with his Nato and In Situ releases, this album finds the 44 year old Frenchman setting out in a new direction: within. An intriguing improviser, Doneda has finally reached a truly original post-Parker (Evan) vocabulary of multiphonics and half-sung instrumental techniques. Here recorded in a rather dry acoustic, we are invited to journey with him inside the horn itself, exploring its inner sonic geography with clinical precision. Moments of almost Bernhard Gunter-like obsession with acoustic microdetails contrast with passages of stifled intensity, as if someone was trying to smother him in that room. Listen through headphones or in a quiet space with total concentration (don't try this one on the Walkman on public transport), and "Anatomie des Clefs" is a fascinatingly introvert though not always easy listening experience.

Fred Van Hove

Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove needs no introduction: arguably the most important European improv pianist, he has been a major player on the scene since the 1960s. In January 1998 he appeared twice at the Instants Chavirés, and the two performances included on "Flux" are the first parts of those two evenings. Both are giant gothic cathedrals of pianism, which, if transcribed, would rank as some of the most technically difficult music ever written. But that's the point--this is improvised music, music which takes those risks most composers prefer to avoid--as such, some moments are astounding, others reveal fascinating flawed insights into the creative mind of a major musician. "Dérive" to my mind is the more successful of the two, a huge Beethovenian edifice exploring the whole range of the keyboard (with a special fondness for the lower octaves), and the piano interior (I seem to remember him using pool balls in there). Van Hove's admiration for Ligeti is well-documented, and parts of "Dérive" duly recall the motoric churning of "Bewegung" or the Piano Etudes. In "Ruwe Ruimte" two other composers come to mind though: Schumann and Liszt, both creators of great sprawling Romantic piano works seemingly incapable of reining in their musical material, the result being page upon page of aimless but heroic vamping before the piece finally finds its way to a conclusion. In "Ruwe Ruimte" Van Hove sustains an extraordinary assault for nearly twenty minutes, before finally succumbing to such wandering--imagine the Keith Jarrett "Köln Concert" with pitches by Arnold Schoenberg--his final sporadic low-register hammering smacks more of petulant frenzy than Beethovenian dialectic. It's a thrilling ride, but a dangerous one. Oh, nearly forgot.. what about the album cover? Fire. Brilliant orange flames.

Rune Lindblad
POGUS 21014-2

When I was a kid I had this chemistry set--I had no idea what I was doing, but I enjoyed mixing strange substances in test tubes with intriguing and occasionally explosive results. From the sound of it, Rune Lindblad's approach to tape composition was similar--this little-known but extremely prolific (over 200 opus numbers!) Swedish pioneer of electronic music evidently took great pleasure in manipulating sound, and understood more about what he was doing than I did about chemistry. In today's unending quest to re-evaluate the past in the light of the present, many young pioneers of electronica have gone back to the founding fathers of musique concrète and turned them into unlikely pop heroes with the amusing result that composers such as Henry and Parmegiani are bemused to find themselves styled as "godfathers of techno". Lindblad would seem to be a better choice: far away from the ideological claptrap that quickly beset opposing camps (concrete vs. electronic), he was happily twiddling away in the laboratory, blissfully unconcerned, one imagines, with whether a scream should sound like a scream or not. The results of his research are fascinating; "Hølften Av Nagonting" (1970) sounds like an eye-witness tape recording made at the scene of some heinous crime; "Maskinlandskap" (1975) explores water sounds (was it recorded in his shower?) with such glee that it could pass as Pink Floyd--the psychedelic bathroom before the psychedelic breakfast); "Innan Konsert" (1985) predates ambient by several years, and the techno-funk of "Lagun I Uppror" (1987) looks ripe for a cool remix by the likes of Mouse on Mars or Autechre. The composer's anarchist liner notes ("hit the person beside you, take others' belongings, leave a blank exam paper..") complete the profile of counter-culture hero.. Forget the cheese of Henry's "Messe pour le Temps Présent" and get hip to Lindblad.