Archived CD Reviews: Leo Lab – March 1999 Releases

critiques by DAN WARBURTON, Paris Editor
Leo Lab can be reached by e-mail at or
via their website at

Horn/Kendig/Dickey - Screwdriver
Joachim Gies - Distances
Eugene Chadbourne - Worms
January Releases
February Releases

Walter Horn/Gary Kendig/Hugh Dickey
review by Dr. Dan

In his liner notes, Brian Olewnick imagines that the early King Crimson line-up (with Keith Tippett) might sound like this today had they stayed together. An intriguing thought, but the group that comes most readily to my mind is Tony Williams’ Lifetime, the first real post-jazz power trio with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. When Horn (keyboards) Kendig (drums, trumpet) and Dickey (guitar, clarinet) get going it’s a thrilling ride—Dickey’s guitar on the title track out-Bucketheads Buckethead, and Kendig’s jet-propelled drumming could well have Tony Williams tapping along in his grave.

Horn’s inventive keyboards (hard to find someone who makes synthesizers sound good in an improv context) are fresh and surprising throughout. Hats off to Leo Feigin for putting these guys on the map—the only problem being that this sort of power-improv could probably reach a wider audience if it was on a rock label; punters who are getting into Mass and Supersilent are probably unlikely to step across the border into Leo country, but those who do won’t be disappointed. A smokin’ album.

[Leo Lab CD 051]

Joachim Gies
Article by Dan Warburton

An enterprising set of short duets (the exception being “About conditions to feel time”, at 7’07”), pairing saxophonist/composer Gies with various partners to varying degrees of success. The opening track with Thomas Böhm-Christl (cello) could be an out-take by Material, while the vocal settings of Stefan George’s poetry sung by mezzo Ute Düring belong squarely to the world of contemporary composition (Gies’ multiphonics are particularly impressive).

Elsewhere he’s quite at home blowing his instrument to bits in the duets with Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, or exploring the possibilities of electronics with trombonist Thomas Wiedermann. The relative brevity of the tracks—only 7 of the 23 are over three minutes long—makes a refreshing change (since most improvisors these days have difficulty knowing when to stop), but also leaves one feeling a little dissatisfied, wishing certain ideas had had more time to develop.

[Leo Lab CD 052]

Eugene Chadbourne
Article by Dan Warburton

After the DIY lo fi (no fi) of “Insect and Western”, Dr. Chad’s back with a homage to string instruments (there’s a lot of multi-tracked guitar, dobro and banjo) and, er, fecal worms... Several tracks were recorded live at New York’s Knitting Factory (I’d dearly like to know what a “Pakistani moat-clearer” is, because Brian Ritchie’s playing one here), and “Prelude to Gromphado” is a historic recording of the final minutes of Chadbourne’s dobro before a drunken idiot marched onstage in San Francisco and stomped it to pieces (see our interview with Chadbourne for more sorry details of this sad event).

The montage is as beguilingly homemade as ever, and Dr. Chad’s political position as unambiguous as it ever was, one of the pieces “dedicated” to Jesse Helms (“I am sure most people would agree that of all the lifeforms created by nature, the fecal worm is very close to Helms in both personality and benefit to mankind”). Let’s hope Leo escapes a lawsuit for that.

[Leo CD LR 264]