Jazz Related Improv/Composition

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The art of improvisation in music did not begin with jazz, but the appearance of jazz in the early 20th century has certainly heightened the popularity of improvisation in all styles of contemporary music.

The artists featured in JMA's Jazz Related Improvisation genre play improvised music that has strong similarities to jazz, especially avant-garde jazz. The boundary between the Jazz Related Improvisation genre and the Avant-Garde Jazz and Fusion genres may not always be clear, but generally the JMA Avant-Garde jazz artist comes from a jazz background, while the Jazz Related Improviser may come from a more eclectic background. Also, the artists listed in this genre may include groups that mix jazz artists with other experimental artists.

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SUPERSILENT 5 Album Cover 5
SUPERSILENT
4.67 | 3 ratings
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BACK DOOR Back Door Album Cover Back Door
BACK DOOR
4.44 | 7 ratings
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THINKING PLAGUE In Extremis Album Cover In Extremis
THINKING PLAGUE
4.50 | 2 ratings
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MARC RIBOT Spiritual Unity Album Cover Spiritual Unity
MARC RIBOT
4.20 | 5 ratings
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BOBBY PREVITE The 23 Constellations of Joan Miró Album Cover The 23 Constellations of Joan Miró
BOBBY PREVITE
4.25 | 2 ratings
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FRED FRITH Speechless Album Cover Speechless
FRED FRITH
4.08 | 6 ratings
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MARC RIBOT Asmodeus: Book of Angels, Volume 7 Album Cover Asmodeus: Book of Angels, Volume 7
MARC RIBOT
4.06 | 6 ratings
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RADIATA 5TET Aurelia Aurita Album Cover Aurelia Aurita
RADIATA 5TET
4.09 | 4 ratings
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CLAUDIO MILANO Adython (with Erna Franssens) Album Cover Adython (with Erna Franssens)
CLAUDIO MILANO
4.00 | 5 ratings
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FRED FRITH Gravity Album Cover Gravity
FRED FRITH
3.98 | 6 ratings
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CLAUDIO MILANO Il gioco del silenzio (as NichelOdeon) Album Cover Il gioco del silenzio (as NichelOdeon)
CLAUDIO MILANO
4.02 | 3 ratings
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FRED FRITH Fred Frith / Marc Ribot ‎: Sounds Of A Distant Episode Album Cover Fred Frith / Marc Ribot ‎: Sounds Of A Distant Episode
FRED FRITH
4.00 | 3 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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jazz related improv/composition Music Reviews

JOHN CAGE John Cage Assisted By David Tudor : Variations IV Volume II

Album · 1965 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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js
If a group of humans improvising some music might be called a jazz combo, then what would you call a group of record players, radios and room microphones doing the same? You might call that John Cage’s “Variations IV”, because that is what this recording consists of, a collage of sounds that come from a couple of phonographs, some radios and some strategically placed microphones all ‘jamming’ together at the same time. For those unaware of the work of John Cage, he was a clever composer who tried to find ways to change people’s perceptions of what could be considered music. His infamous composition “4:33”, consisted of four and a half minutes of silence which challenged the listener to notice the sounds around them as if they were listening to a piece of music. “Variations IV” continues in that vein as we hear all of these different incongruent sounds colliding to form what might be called ‘music’ for those who want to hear it that way.

The original “Variations IV’ concert took place at an art gallery in Los Angeles. Cage, and his assistant David Tudor, manipulated the different record players and radios while microphones picked up street noise from outside the gallery, as well as laughter and conversation in the gallery bar room. The entire recorded concert lasted for six hours, so this LP, “Variations IV Volume II”, contains just a segment of the original performance. Obviously, ‘music’ like this isn’t for everybody, but if you enjoy this sort of thing, “Variations” makes for a great listen. Since this was recorded back in the mid-60s, the various music segments that appear on here reflect that time period. There is no heavy rock, rap, disco or techno, instead, you get a lot segments from classical pieces, as well as spoken word recordings, some jazz, folk and other things that are somewhat unintelligible due to all the ambient noise. Whether or not this recording is ‘music’ is probably debatable, but speaking for myself, I find listening to this to be not only interesting, but also very enjoyable, and although I don’t listen to it often, I still consider this to be one of my prize LPs.

BLUE EFFECT Conjunctio

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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siLLy puPPy
There were two great early prog rock bands that emerged in the former Czechoslavakia in the city of Prague, capital of the current Czech Republic. MODRY EFEKT (or Blue Effect) began merely as a blues rock band but displayed meagre progressive touches on their debut “Meditace (Kingdom Of Life)” whereas JAZZ Q PRAHA formed all the way back in the early 60s were predominantly inspired by the late 50s avant-garde jazz greats such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and the great Sun Ra. While MODRY EFEKT managed to release their debut album the same year, this collaborative effort between the two groups would be JAZZ Q PRAHA’s debut appearance and the album had such an impact on both bands that it would forever steer their cross-pollination efforts into entirely unforeseen musical arenas. This album is unusual in many ways.

First of all only the first and last tracks are the only collaborative efforts that feature both bands playing together. The second track is a MODRY EFEKT only affair and the same goes for JAZZ Q performing the third. Secondly, this album came out all the way back in 1970 behind the Iron Curtain where almost every aspect of an artist’s creative process was controlled by the state. It is an astounding miracle that these two bands could have created something this utterly wild and complex at this early stage of progressive rock’s history when many of these tracks remind the listener of contemporary and future acts. Most likely this is because the album is entirely instrumental with no lyrics so censorship was unneeded since there are no references to politics. This music is insanely advanced and is one of those crazy complex prog albums that will require many jazz, prog and classical appreciation classes to master any intelligible understanding on much of the album’s run.

The album is only 39 minutes and 45 seconds in length but the beginning track “Coniunctio I” swallows up 19 minutes and 15 seconds of its real estate. This is by far the most demanding track on the entire album as it begins with screeching saxes and erupting organs swirling around in a cacophonous din before it finally cools down into a bass driven groove with a 60s psychedelic rock vibe complete with echo effects and ghostly guitar licks. After a couple minutes or so it turns into a heavy rock sequence that offers a taste of heavy blues rock with a sizzling sax that spirals out of control into free jazz territory along with some kind of whistling noises and frenetic organ counterpoints. Wow! There’s nothing i can think of from this period of prog history that matches the intensity of this track and were only about five minutes in which enters i swear a louder version of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” which ironically came out the same year only half a globe away (before the internet or even legal access to American music) as a bass groove chugs along and keyboards dance Voodoo rituals around the bass driven campfire. After seven minutes it erupts into a bluesy guitar rock frenzy as Radim Hladík delivers one of the most demanding guitar solos of the era. Even Jimmy Page or Hendrix didn’t get this heavy. After eight minutes it changes abruptly to a pastoral symphonically embellished flute solo that slowly ratchets up the tension into a jazzified melody with an oscillating keyboard effect and some kind of bells. The mood remains placid and subdued for a while as a jazz bass line finally enters and eventually sounds more like hard bop but then a Thelonious Monk style piano run casually strolls into the picture and then goes plain nuts but finally at the 14 minute mark an ostinato bass line hypnotically entrances while a fluttery flute line plays over it but after a couple minutes it ventures into a segment that reminds me of that frenetic part of Pink Floyd’s “Saucerful Of Secrets” before the organ solo part begins. This track is phenomenal! At this early stage it has everything prog all rolled up into one. It has symphonic aspects, psychedelia, dissonance, heaviness, pastoral segments, blues, jazz, classical. Wow! A masterpiece of the ages.

“Návštěva u tety Markéty, vypití šálku čaje“ is performed only by MODRY EFEKT and along with the next track by JAZZ Q PRAHA provides a centrifuge effect that allows the listener to distinguish which elements of the first track were provided by each band. It also allows a break in the freneticism and over-the-top complexity with a significantly more light-hearted bluesy rocker in a psychedelic rock framework that utilizes a beautiful flute to weave a melody like a fluttering butterfly through the track’s shorter six minute time run. If you are familiar with MODRY EFEKT’s debut then you will realize that the blues rock, the melodies and the psychedelic parts of CONIUNCTIO are in their camp and this second track provides all of those musical elements and creates a beautiful flute dominated psychedelic rock track that also becomes heavy with guitar and soloing. In fact, it sounds a lot to me like many of those Focus tracks such as “Eruption” on their second album only with more erratic rocking parts.

“Asi půjdem se psem ven“ is solely performed by JAZZ Q PRAHA and like the MODRY EFEKT track gives an insight into which aspects of CONIUNCTIO belong to the band’s signature sound. This track is straight out of the jazz playbook which starts off somewhat straight forward but soon spirals out into avant-garde jazz heaven and reminds me a lot of some of the space jazz that Sun Ra & his Space Arkestra were pumping out in the mid to late 60s. The time signatures of each instrument all exist in their own musical world and the combo thereof results in a cacophonous din that apexes in a frenetic John Zorn type of saxophone frenzy a good decade or so before he was assaulting eardrums with his own similar style.

“Coniunctio II” continues the collaboration of the first track but is completely different. It begins with a sumptuous flute melody but is backed up by a jarring dissonant guitar counterpoint and quickly picks up and becomes a rather Hendrix-esque guitar jam type sound with a Tullish flute accompaniment and at this point is the most normal sounding track of the album. It remains jammy sounding but ratchets up the tempo, dynamics and finds more instruments joining in until it reaches a cacophonous crescendo but at the heart of it remains a bluesy rock jam despite all the horns whizzing away at light speed.

CONIUNCTO is one of my favorite albums ever to have emerged from the old Soviet dominated Eastern European block. This album titillates not only in a musical sense as it simultaneously pleases and assaults the senses but is fascinating to experience such a great work from the “forbidden” part of the world where the likelihood of a prog masterpiece emerging was virtually nil and only mere months after King Crimson, East Of Eden, High Tide, Marsupilami and other British prog bands were getting started. This album also shows the strong promise of collaborative efforts. Often these sorts of projects end up becoming watered down but the two bands found the right dynamic synergy to push each other further, the results of which steered MODRY EFEKT’s path more towards jazz and likewise JAZZ Q added more rock elements when they would finally release their debut three years later. This one is an absolute under the radar masterpiece. Be warned though that this is nearly a 10 on the progometer as it is dense, complex and often impenetrable especially when the JAZZ Q elements are on full steam. This album has all the elements of early prog rolled into one package. It’s heavy at times, it’s pastoral and symphonic at times, it’s psychedelic, it’s jazzy, it’s bluesy. It can be highly melodic with happiness inducing hooks or it can be dismally frightening with dissonant avant-garde jazz outbursts. One of my faves.

AMM Ammmusic

Album · 1967 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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siLLy puPPy
Stemming from the classical indeterminacy of artists like John Cage and the free jazz antics of rule breakers like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, during the 60s these influences along with other atonal sounds from the musique concrete movement culminated into the experimental noise and free improvisation sounds with the London based group AMM leading the way in divorcing themselves from any remaining melodies, rhythms or predictable musical patterns. The group started in 1965 when Keith Rowe (guitar), Lou Gare (saxophone) and Eddie Prévost (drums) found the commonality of creating free form noise from their instruments that was designed to be spontaneous embellished by unorthodox methods of adding extra touches of weirdness to the mix such as amplifying the abuse of everyday objects, using radio feedback as part of the overall flow of noise and Rowe’s deconstructed guitar techniques including untuned strings. After a heavy rotation of finding musicians who shared the same vision, the group grew to a quintet with Cornelius Cardew (piano, cell, transistor radio) and Lawrence Sheaff (cello, accordion, clarinet, transistor radio) joining the noise seeker ranks.

Because of their ambitions to sound utterly alien, their spontaneous music ensemble succeeded in scoring an opening spot with the then still free improv psychedelic band Pink Floyd at the famous UFO Club and in the fertile experimental fields of the 60s managed to ultimately score them a record deal with Elektra Records which was one of the big wig labels of the day as they were responsible for such hugely successful acts like The Doors. Unfortunately after AMMMUSIC sold virtually zilch amount of records, the band was immediately dropped leaving them to finding their own twisted way in the world, thus keeping them tethered to the deep recesses of the underground world as a cult curiosity for those who relish in the most out-there collections of sounds to be heard. Despite it all the undeterred group continues to the present day continuing their refusal to rehearse their compositions and still only perform spontaneously without previous notice.

The original LP released in 1967 contains two sprawling tracks that both clock in over the 20 minute mark and are utterly unintelligible as they consist of nothing more than constant flows of free improv sounds eschewing every aspect of “normal” music. Nothing even close to melodies, no steady rhythms and absolutely no recognizable structures whatsoever. It makes me think of the interior of the sun with random forces and explosions of sonic decibalage haphazardly punctuating the silence in aimless and arbitrary modus operandi that appear to have some hidden agenda as they swirl and swoosh about but is too removed from reality to understand it. The results of this nasty noise that celebrates chaos, atonality and the ultimate bizarre is like stepping into another reality altogether, suspending all expectations and placing the listener in a mediative state of disbelief with only the recognizable timbres of the instruments tethering consciousness to the world in which we are familiar.

More than a worthy addition to the Nurse With Wound list, AMM has persevered by carving out their own unique niche in the world of noise and improv and hides in the shadows of the popular musical world that dominates at any given moment. While original pressings are always preferred to experience first, some of the newer pressings on CD have extra tracks from the same sessions that add different takes of the two tracks as well as four completely unreleased tracks which are excellent complimentary companions to the originally intended tracks. If you’re looking for weird then look no further than AMMMUSIC. This is the type of sound collage that takes you somewhere you never knew existed and has enough going on so that it’s impossible to get bored.

TCHANGODEI Tchangodei And Steve Lacy ‎: The Wasp (Duo Live)

Live album · 1984 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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snobb
Pianist Tchangodei is a mysterious figure on French jazz scene. Born in former French colony of Dahomey (now-Benin) in late 50s,he emigrated to France.Self-taught piano player for decades, he is almost totally ignored by domestic jazz community, but regularly played with France-based expatriates like Archie Shepp,Steve Lacy,Mal Waldron or Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki.

His playing techniques is intuitive minimalism based on some repetitive drones (closest example could be a renown Waldron "drones") and fast short separate passages. Probably such ignorance of any roots (doesn't matter is it jazz techniques or so influential in Europe classic background) led to Tchangodei almost underground status in France - there are a very few local artists who ever played with him together (Louis Sclavis and Henry Texier are two names and I can hardly recall any more).

Tchangodei lived (and probably still lives) in Lyon where he ran small bar (where he played every night himself) and releasing his recorded music predominantly on his own Volcanic label. All obscurities,his albums contains piano solo music and Tchangodei collaborative musicianship with Louis Sclavis,Archie Shepp,Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron,among others.

"The Wasp" is one of such recordings - live recorded Tchangodei Steve Lacy (on soprano) duo playing behind small but enthusiastic auditory, most probably at Tchangodei's bar in Lyon. There are no credits, but most probably at least part of compositions are Lacy's. Generally music sounds as not much correlated gig of saxist and pianist. Lacy (less explosive and dynamic than usual) plays his trademark vibrato-less soprano solos without paying much attention on what happens around. Tchangodei piano is busy but produces mostly series of very short passages. Sometimes sax and piano sounds mystically click together, more often all music remind quite chaotic soloing of two musicians where each of them doesn't care much about what happens around. Still Lacy doesn't dominate here and altogether it works not so terrible as it looks on paper.At least even experienced listener can hardly remember if he ever heard such a strange duo.

Unfortunately many earlier Tchangodei recordings have been never reissued on CDs (and original vinyl versions are obscure) so it's not an easy job to find them to listen. Starting from mid 90's his new music is released on CDs,so as rule is more accessible. Not of star level, Tchangodei is an interesting example of "non-systemic" improvising pianist with his own musical face.

ANDRÉ FERTIER Clivage

Album · 1976 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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siLLy puPPy
ANDRE FERTIER’S CLIVAGE remains one of the most celebrated obscurities in the underground Indo-raga and progressive rock scene and is therefore celebrated for their unique East meets West approach that they delivered on their three albums that began with this 1977 debut REGINA ASTRIS and ended with the 1985 “Kassiopee.” While the three albums all have distinct identities, they all share a similar amalgamation of Indian raga, jazz, drone and progressive rock workouts. To this day these albums have never seen a second pressing after their initial vinyl releases yet are heralded for being some of the best examples of the Indo-raga jazz fusion scene.

REGINA ASTRIS is divided up into three long tracks clocking in over the ten minute mark and a five minute finale. The general gist of the entire album is a drone-like monotonous rhtymm that is the product of the percussion section of Armand Lemal and Indian tabla playing of Patricio Villaurel which provides the skeletal structure for the jazzy saxophone workouts of Jean Pierre de Barba, the hypnotic bass line of Claude Duhaut and the violin of Mahmoud Tabrizizadeh to play around. This is a sort of a jam session as the track’s flow is typically long, rhythmic and trance inducing with the sax and violin adding melodic accoutrements to the mix. ANDRE FERTIER adds the extra touches with acoustic guitars and keyboards but they seem to be subdued under the mix of the ethnic influences that dominate the soundscapes.

REGINA ASTRIS is much jazzier than albums like “Mixtus Orbus” that were more psychedelic and magnanimous in nature. This one has a more down-to-earth feel as it connects directly to the jazz world with the sax contributions as well as the folk world when the violin dominates. As with all CLIVAGE albums, the main gist is for a rhythmic structure to burrow into the listener’s consciousness before unfurling the tapestry of melodic sounds that dance around each other. While the track “Moving Waves” is more upbeat with howling saxophone workouts, the title track is more contemplative traditional raga oriented and certainly can remind one of a less caffeinated Shakti at times.

CLIVAGE does an excellent job at arranging the tracks so that each element has a chance to shine thus allowing all four tracks to have their own personalities. However the raga elements whether tamped down or allowed to shine always make their presence known while the sax and violin usually trade off as opposed to battling it out. “Mama Swat” actually starts out bringing chamber rock acts like Univers Zero to mind before it lifts the darkened veil and brings in lighter tones to the mix. MIXTUS ORBUS is a fairly unique sounding album that keeps the listener engaged throughout the entire run and baffles the mind as to why this has never received a proper updated release. If there are any patron saints who are seeking to release long lost gems, then by all means add ANDRE FERTIER’S CLIVAGE’s three albums to the list. They are truly well deserved prog classics that more than deserve to be rediscovered.

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