Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jef Lee Johnson, Communion, (DIW Japan 1998)

Jef Lee Johnson first got my attention on Ronald Shannon Jackson's "What Spirit Say." He and James Carter lit that recording up, and he's also a major influence on James Carter's wonderful "Layin' in the Cut." Jef can play gospel, funk, blues, psychedelia, jazz and Sonic Youth noise--the guy has chops. He tours and backs names like Aretha Franklin and George Duke, but when he records under his own name, It's not the clinical work of a Berklee guitar graduate. It's like he's got his paying gig, and when he records something for himself, it's whatever he feels like playing, noise, grunge, funk. Eclectic, wonderful, powerful stuff.
Credits: Jef Lee Johnson all instruments
Track Listing
1. Face
2. Communion
3. How True Are You
4. Just Have to Be There
5. Time to Kill
6. Let It Ring
7. Tell-Tale Heart
8. Cannot Get With This
9. Giant Steps
10. Suspicious
11. Stroll On
12. You Jump'd the Gun, Again
13. Feel So Fine
14. Jungle

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Robert Quine, Ikue Mori & Marc Ribot, Painted Desert (Avant Japan 1997)

This is nominally Ikue Mori's album, but Robert Quine's fingerprints are all over it. It's an instrumental guitar and drum machine album in the style of Robert Quine's "Escape" and "Basic," if a bit mellower. Murray Cizon at writes:

"Guitarist Robert Quine has claimed that Painted Desert is his session, but it wasn't released as such "because of legalities." Ikue Mori, under whose name this album was released, views it more as a meeting between Quine and herself that was directed by producer John Zorn. Either way, Painted Desert is a stunning work of guitar and drum machine/sampler trios. Mori recorded her parts, which rely primarily on tom tom and cymbal sounds, and then gave the tapes to Quine and Marc Ribot, who improvised guitar parts. The music sometimes sounds as if the guitarists decided to record a Ennio Morricone tribute. This isn't a Big Gundown-style album, however. Quine's guitar playing is very blues-influenced, while Ribot plays with unusual sedation, providing atmospheric shades of sound that occasionally recall Bill Frisell during his "volume pedal" period. The songs range from the mid-tempo title track (sounding like a spaghetti Western version of Miles Davis' Jack Johnson) to the abrasive "Gundown," which is reminiscent of DNA. Fans looking for an album that highlights Mori and her distinctive drum sounds will be disappointed with Painted Desert. Quine and Ribot enthusiasts, however, should be very pleased."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Henry Threadgill, X-75 Volume 1 (Arista Novus, AN 3013 1979)

I've always tried to limit myself to posting recordings that aren't easily available anywhere else. This isn't the first post of Henry Threadgill's X-75, but it's my own rip of the vinyl, so it might be of interest as another example of this wonderful and long out of print recording.

Brian Olewnick at writes:
"After ten years as a member of the innovative trio Air, Henry Threadgill's first album as a leader immediately plunged into experimental waters. He utilized a nonet the likes of which had certainly never been heard before and probably not since: four reed players, four bassists, and a vocalist. The bass quartet was made up of participants in Brian Smith's Bass Violin Choir, and here they provide not only most of the rhythmic impetus but also carry a good deal of the melodic weight, as Threadgill's massive talent for mid-size band arrangements is immediately apparent. Their opening few minutes on "Celebration" presents a marvelous array of bowed, hymn-like tones as well as deeply grooving pizzicato lines. The songs are less solo vehicles than complete compositions, already prefiguring several of the directions the leader would take with his subsequent ensembles. Only "Air Song," an ethereal piece scored for four flutes and voice, meanders a bit and fails to really catch hold, though even then it presents some wonderful textures and colors. The closer, "Fe Fi Fo Fum," is the most traditionally jazzy of the pieces, allowing for something close to a theme-solos-theme format, Threadgill's alto given a moment to shine in all its acerbic glory. As of 2002, X-75, Vol. 1 was unreleased on disc and, even more disappointingly, there was never a "Vol. 2." But Threadgill fans looking for a link between Air and his Sextett owe it to themselves to search this one out."

Bass - Fred Hopkins , Leonard Jones , Rufus Reid
Bass, Bass [Piccolo] - Brian Smith (9)
Clarinet [Bass], Flute - Douglas Ewart
Piccolo Flute, Flute [Alto], Saxophone [Tenor] - Wallace McMillan
Producer - Michael Cuscuna
Saxophone [Alto], Flute, Flute [Bass] - Henry Threadgill
Saxophone [Soprano], Flute - Joseph Jarman
Vocals - Amina Claudine Myers

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Roberto Cacciapaglia, Sei Nota in Logica (Philips 1978)

A serendipitous find, I found this one in the bins at Poo-Bah's records in Pasadena back around 1980. A wonderful recording, it's as if Steve Reich and Phil Glass recorded an early collaboration with an ensemble that mixed electronic and acoustic instruments. Here's a review from the progarchives:

"After the mind blowing and epically majestic first album Sonanze, the prolific and eclectic Roberto Cacciapalia explored diverse musical aesthetics. Before to define his music in more mainstream pop territories in later albums he had a short excursion into classical-minimalist music. Sei Nota in Logica is the result of this transition. As usual it's perfectly achieved with a real sense of harmony and composition. However in term of ideas and musical creation this is not really challenging. Sei Nota in Logica only re-visit recognizable intricate sound patterns released by U.S minimalist researches (I'm notably thinking about the most asceptic parts of Steve Reich's minimal structuralism). The gamelan, the sax and the piano's intertextual moves progress into a peaceful-dreamy envinonement interrupted by suspensfully electronic scintillations. The atmosphere is intimate, percussive and full of short rythmical modules but not quite dense. Sei Nota in Logica is gently calm and decorative without growing into absorbing-lysergic droning waves. Highly recommended for fans of minimalist-arpeggiated musical impressionism (early Philip Glass, Reich and Gibson)."

Amazingly, this resurfaced briefly as a CD. This is from that briefly available CD. BTW, Sonanze is available over at Mutant Sounds.

Robert Quine & Fred Maher, Basic (EG Records, 1984)

Another all time favorite. I first became aware of Robert Quine in a Lester Bangs article on the "Punk Jazz Connection" in Musician magazine. This was back in 1979, and I'd only recently discovered Agharta and Pangaea. Lester writes:

"Finally, back home at CBGB's, original spawning ground of the late Seventies punk revolution, Richard Hell and the Voidoids are running through one of the final sets of their career. Ironically, where the group used to put on sloppy sets in front of small but adoring audiences, now they're playing incredibly tight, slashing rock 'n' roll to a packed house consisting mostly of rubbernecking tourists and suburbanite teens who have heard about all this punk stuff and finally found the courage to come down and check it out, and for whom it wouldn't make much difference which band was onstage. But for those who are there to listen, it's obvious that the Voidoids have something more than the usual punk engine-gunnings going for them: in the dense mesh of guitars are, unmistakably, quotes from and elaborations on Miles Davis lines off albums like Agharta and On the Corner; if you listen and look closely, you can tell that this incredible stylistic melding is emanating mainly from the guitarist over stage left, a quiet, balding guy in sunglasses named Robert Quine. When the Voidoids break up, he will make an album of instrumental improvisations with guitarist friend Jody Harris (ex- of the Contortions) and a rhythm machine."

Well, that got my attention. I've been on the look out for Robert Quine recordings ever since. IMHO, this one is the pick of the bunch. This is from the briefly available CD version, this one is long out of print and selling for silly money now.

BTW That awesome recording Escape by Robert Quine and Jody Harris that Lester Bangs mentions is available over at