Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


December 8, 2018
Ten Excellent Records of 2018
In 2018, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House continued to pursue an existence filled with music. In this review, they highlight ten exciting records containing various strains of non-idiomatic improvisation released in 2018.


Maroon Cloud - Nicole Mitchell
Label: For Practically Everyone Records
Catalog #: FPE 020
Country: United States
Release Date: August, 2018
Media: cd entry

This album features Mitchell on flute, Tomeka Reid on cello, Aruán Ortiz on piano and Fay Victor on vocals. From the very first moment, Mitchell's artistic breadth is on full display. This doesn't sound like any other Mitchell recording and yet, when the album is finished, you know that you have listened to Mitchell record. It is extraordinary and other-worldly music. Fay Victor's performance of the opening track "Warm Dark Realness" is simply amazing and is complemented perfectly by the cello, piano and occasional flute. We have listened to all the records on this top ten list numerous times, this track no less than any other.

No one can stop us!


Oneness - Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp
Label: Leo Records
Catalog #: CD LR 823/825
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: February, 2018
Media: cdx3 entry

In recent years, Leo Records has released a tremendous amount of music by Brazilian saxophonist, Ivo Perelman. Much of it is a collaboration with American pianist, Matthew Shipp. We have found something to enjoy in every recording to which we have listened, including the duo Callas, the seven duos, trios and quartets that make up "The Art of Perelman-Shipp" series (named after Saturn and six moons), as well as the other series of seven discs of duos, trios and quartets that begin with Live in Brussels (all but one of which include Shipp). Perelman and Shipp have an intuitive comfort with and understanding of each other that is undeniably pleasing to the ear. However, Oneness stands out as our favorite. We especially single out track 4 of disc 1 as capturing the essence of this duo. It is a languid and heavenly music.


End To End - Barre Phillips
Label: ECM Records
Catalog #: ECM 2575
Country: Germany
Release Date: September, 2018
Media: lp entry

This album of solo bass is presented, after fifty years, as a book end to what is regarded as the historical first solo bass record, Journal Violone, from 1968. The music is filled with the unique extended playing techniques of Phillips. Billed with this level of hype, one might expect an inevitable coming down to Earth upon listening to the album. However, we found that the music lived up to every expectation.


Pillars - Tyshawn Sorey
Label: Firehouse 12 Records
Catalog #: FH12-01-02-028 & FH12-01-08-028
Country: United States
Release Date: October, 2018
Media: cdx3 & lpx2 cdx3 entry & lpx2 entry
note: The three cds contain Pillars I, II and III. The two lps contains Pillars IV. The set of cds and the set of lps are purchased separately.

Taken together, Pillars I through IV clock in at five hours twenty-five minutes and forty-seven seconds. We, who are writing this review, do not pretend that we have yet absorbed the entirety of the message contained in this work. As such, in this brief note, we only remark that we are continuing our investigation of it. The piece possesses elements of minimalism, contemporary classical, perhaps some fleeting jazz, and a healthy does of the sparse non-idiomatic improvisation that we associate with percussionist, Lé Quan Ninh. It seems like a good thing that Sorey has garnered sufficient attention to provide him with the resources to create these monolithic manifestations of his artistic vision. We have listened to this many times in fragments. Once we attempted to lie in darkness and listen to the entire piece in a single blow, but we started too late at night and we fell asleep somewhere in the second half of the third hour, though we did wake up sporadically thereafter. If we were playing the role of prophet, we might predict that such a five-and-a-half-hour listening marathon will never come to pass. Oh well, life is multi-faceted and the experience of music is not always as the composer/improviser intended. It seems likely that Sorey is an artist who accepts that active listening is influenced by the local, dynamic environment.


Tender Music - Joëlle Léandre & Elisabeth Harnik
Label: Trost Records
Catalog #: Trost Records - TR172
Country: Austria
Release Date: March, 2018
Media: cd entry

We found the tenderness in the sympathetic playing of the bass and piano, as suggested in the title of this record. While we were very familiar with the playing of Joëlle Léandre, Elisabeth Harnik was a musician new to our ears. We enjoyed this document recording her encounter with Léandre.

We listened to a few other records released in 2018 featuring Léandre, including the duet with Marc Ducret on Ayler records and the three-cd box set Strings Garden on Fundacja Sl̷uchaj! We appreciated the fact that every disc featured Léandre experimenting with a different partner. We enjoyed all of the music; any one of the recordings could have been high-lighted in this top ten list, but we especially liked Tender Music because now-a-days there seems to be a dearth of tenderness in the world.


The Maid With The Flaxen Hair - Mary Halvorson & Bill Frisell
Label: Tzadik
Catalog #: TZ 4024
Country: United States
Release Date: August, 2018
Media: cd entry

This is an album of guitar duets, though it is advertised under Halvorson's name alone. It is a tribute to Johnny Smith. The music is deliberately lovely and no untoward attempt to the thwart the melody of the tunes with extended playing techniques is apparent. Halvorson's signature voice is present as she maintains a fidelity to the original songs. Frisell delicate contribution in the role of accompanist cannot be ignored. (We also enjoyed the pair of Thumbscrew albums that were released on Cuneiform in 2018, but this one we liked most.)


Høbama - Claus Højensgård, Emanuele Maniscalco & Nelide Bandello
Label: Gotta Let It Out
Catalog #: GLIO22
Country: Denmark
Release Date: August, 2018
Media: lp, cd & digital entry entry

From the first note that emerges from trumpeter Claus Højensgård, a listener can immediately anticipate that one is in for a musical treat. Højensgård is joined by Emanuele Maniscalco on keyboards and Nelide Bandello on drums. The trio creates an entertaining and contemplative seven tracks, blending composition and improvisation. Høbama contains its unique appeal but, for purposes of reference, what came to mind during listening was A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke by Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith. In the interplay and mutual understanding of the trumpet and keyboard, Høbama compares very favorably with A Cosmic Rhythm. The music is similarly restrained but evocative. The addition of drums on this album is welcome and opens additional possibilities. All three musicians seem intent on expressing themselves in a mode that is, at one and the same time, distinctive to this trio and easily appealing to a passing ear. This delightful record bears many repeated listenings.
[This review was originally uploaded September 16, 2018.]


Aida - Derek Bailey
Label: Honest Jon's Records
Catalog #: HJRLP206
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: June, 2018
Media: lpx2 entry
Sides A & B originally released on lp as INCUS 40 in 1980.
Sides C & D recorded solo for Charles Fox's Radio 3 programme Jazz in Britain in 1980 and previously unreleased.

There has been a recent renaissance in the interest in Bailey's music, manifesting in a variety of previously unreleased live recordings and reissues of out of print records in the past two years. Contributing labels include Honest Jon's, Otoroku, Corbett vs Dempsey, and Confront Recordings. Many of these releases are on vinyl and, delightfully, several include additional contemporary recordings. Our favorite thus far is Aida. The album of solo guitar improvisations, Aida, "Dedicated to the memory of Aida Akira 1946-1978", was first released on lp by Incus Records in 1980. Its only reissue had been on compact disc by Dexter's Cigar in 1996. This reissue represents the first reissue on vinyl and the only version to include the second album of additional improvisations.

On this record, Bailey speaks while he plays, as he sometimes did, an embellishment to his playing that appealed to many listeners. In our original review of this album, posted on July 9, 2018, we provided a transcription of his banter.


Distant Voices - Steve Lacy, Yuji Takahashi, Takehisa Kosugi
Label: Aguirre Records
Catalog #: ZORN51
Country: Belgium
Release Date: May, 2018
Media: lp entry
Originally released in 1976 by Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd.

Steve Lacy went to Japan in June of 1975 and recorded several albums at Nippon Columbia 1st Studio, Tokyo with Japanese artists of a free jazz bent. Amazingly, some of these recordings, such as The Wire, Stalks and Distant Voices have never been reissued in any format since their initial release in Japan. (Editor's note: it turns out that there was a cd compilation that included Distant Voices in Japan in 2006.) The reissue of Distant Voices is thus an opportunity to bring this music to at least two generations of new ears. Forty-two years have elapsed since its original release, but there is no mid-seventies feel to the album. The other-worldly music is not dated to any period of time. It is sometimes melodious and sometimes dissonant, sometimes dense and sometimes sparse, sometimes purposefully musical and at other times meanderingly experimental. Lacy (July 23, 1934-June 4 2004) is at home on the soprano sax, Takahashi (September 21, 1938-) is on piano and Kosugi (March 14, 1938-) plays violin, although each take turns tinkering with other instruments as well. It seems to defy belief that this music has remained inaccessible to many for so long. Who knows what mechanisms the folks at Aguirre Records had to invoke in order to bring this reissue into being. Let's hope that they can reproduce their magic with some of the other lost gems.
[This review was originally uploaded May 13, 2018.]


10 - Duet For Theremin And Lap Steel
Label: not on label; self-released
Catalog #: none
Country: United States
Release Date: 2018
Media: lp entry
This lp contains a selection of material from the compact disc of the same name, which actually does contain '10' tracks, released in 2016.

The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House recognizes that there is value in actively pursuing the music of contemporary experimentalists. While the reissues of musicians now dead have an appeal, the evolution of the making of music is, of course, a living, breathing, dynamic phenomenon. If one exclusively listens to music of the dead, one might as well just listen to Beethoven and Mozart. With this philosophy in mind, we try to (occasionally) broaden our horizons, often with great success, as in this instance. We didn't know much about this duo but they were invited to the Big Ears Festival (March, 2018) in the hometown of the Poison Pie Publishing House, Knoxville Tennessee. In fact we purchased this lp at the festival merchandise table (but it is also available on bandcamp). We had never heard a theremin and lap steel duet and, to our knowledge, this duet featuring, Frank Schultz and Scott Burland, is the only one in existence. This album is everything one could have hoped for. The unusual instrumentation already marks it as a musical experiment. There certainly are tracks to appeal to the adventurous ear. At the same time, there are lovely melodies on the album that will appeal to ears of any kind. It is a delight and a reminder why it is such a pleasure to maintain an active exploration of new musical voices.
[This review was originally uploaded May 13, 2018.]



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