Jazz Related Improv/Composition

Jazz music community with review and forums

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.

jazz related improv/composition top albums

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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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AMM Before Driving To The Chapel We Took Coffee With Rick And Jennifer Reed Album Cover Before Driving To The Chapel We Took Coffee With Rick And Jennifer Reed
AMM
4.00 | 3 ratings
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jazz related improv/composition Music Reviews

YAGULL Yuna

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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kev rowland
I have been fortunate enough to have been living with this album for a couple of months now, and I believe that it is still going to be another couple before it is actually released, but I can’t wait anymore as I have to write about it, as this is simply one of the most beautiful and entrancing albums I have ever come across. This is the third album from Yagull, the first (‘Films’) being Sasha Markovic and some guests, while the second (‘Kai’) was Sasha (guitars, bass, percussion) and his wife Kana Kamitsubo (piano) plus assorted guests. But, although I really enjoyed that album I felt they had missed an opportunity, and said “The interplay between the two musicians in simply beautiful, there is no other word for it, and I would have preferred to have heard an album filled just with their songs, with no other musicians, as there is no need for the purity of their sound to be messed with.”

When Sasha and I made contact, he asked me if I would like to hear the new album, which had just been completed and was incredibly personal to him and Kana. How personal I only found out later, as while ‘Kai’ was named after their son, ‘Yuna’ is named after the child that would have been, as Kana suffered two miscarriages during the period of time it took to record the album, and Yuna was the name they had chosen.

Musically, Sasha and Kana decided this time to concentrate on the interplay between each other, with just a backing singer used on one song: everything else is just the two of them. As previously they have included a cover version of a classic song, but interestingly the one they have chosen this time is a new version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” which also appeared on the debut, but as Kana wasn’t in the band at that time they have re-recorded it. Apart from that, and “Fall Winter” (which is credited just to Kana), every song was a collaboration between them, sometimes with Sasha credited first and sometimes Kana. “Searching For The Moon” was apparently written when they were asked to just play something during a photo shoot, and took less than five minutes, so they consider it a gift

The delicacy and understanding between the acoustic piano and acoustic guitar, from two musicians who know each other intimately, is too hard to describe. To say that it is a thing of beauty, creating a new world just from carefully selected notes which hang in the air, seems both twee and ineffectual, while this is an album of considerable power and might. Sometimes the notes are rippling streams, while sometimes they just sit there, using space and time to bind them together. There is no desire to hurry, no need to fill the space with unnecessary adornment, everything has its place.

This is an incredibly special album, something that feels very personal indeed, and we have been fortunate enough to be given a glimpse behind the curtain. It almost feels that we are interlopers, listeners who are trespassing on some hidden and private moment which we came across by accident, but couldn’t turn away. Whenever I finish listening to this album I always feel honoured to have been let inside, but also saddened that for most of us the real world isn’t how this music makes me feel. This is truly a wonderful piece of work, and I feel enriched by having heard it.

YAGULL Kai

Album · 2014 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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kev rowland
Some years ago I was lucky enough to come across the debut album from Yagull, ‘Films’. At that point in their career the band was Sasha Markovic on guitars, bass, percussion, voice and keyboards with a few guests on some of the songs. There were a couple of co-writes, two cover versions (incredible takes on “White Room” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”) , but the rest were all written by Markovic. I was immediately taken by the acoustic “post-rock chamber soundtrack”, and likened them to Karda Estra. But when they returned with their second album, ‘Kai’, the group had doubled in size to a duo as Markovic had been joined by pianist Kana Kamitsubo, who is also his wife (they names the album and title track after their son, who was born in 2014). This time around there is only one song credited just to Markovic, and sometimes he is credited after his wife, plus there are another couple of covers.

Guests again feature on some of the songs, most notably Moojune artists Beledo and Dewa Budjana, but I found that it is the songs where it is just the two of them where they come across best. There is no need at all for anything special, just an acoustic guitar and piano, played by two people who know each other intimately and can accompany the other in perfect harmony. This is restful music, and when Budjana made his appearance on electric guitar on “Blossom” I was actually quite disappointed. I have been a fan of Budjana’s for years, but to my ears his delicate electric guitar was out of place on this acoustic album. The interplay between the two musicians in simply beautiful, there is no other word for it, and I would have preferred to have heard an album filled just with their songs, with no other musicians, as there is no need for the purity of their sound to be messed with. Again there are two cover versions of classic rock songs, but this time they don’t work quite as well. Of the two, “Wishing Well” is well worth hearing, with some wonderful guitar, but “Burn” doesn’t really gel as it should.

But overall this is still an incredible album, and if they trust themselves and record a full album of their own material, with no outside “help”, then the next one could be very, very special indeed.

YAGULL Films

Album · 2012 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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kev rowland
Yagull is an acoustic project that has been put together by Sasha Markovic (acoustic and electric guitar) together with Lori Reddy (flute), Sonia Choi (cello), Eylon Tushiner (sax) and Josh Margolis (drums). Now, I was already familiar with Yagull as they have a song on the Moonjune compilation that is available through Bandcamp, a wonderful version of “White Room” so when I was looking at the CD I checked out the the song at number 10 that completely took me by surprise.

Back when I was 11 or 12, I was around a friend’s house and we went into the den to have a look at his brother’s records. Neither of had heard of any of the names, bands like Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, Yes, Edgar Winters, Pretty Things etc. Of course back then the covers and artwork were things of beauty and based on nothing else apart from what they looked like we chose two to play. The first was ‘Free For All’ by Ted Nugent, and the second was ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. We were so enamoured with the latter that it was hard to get the title song off the player, and we even ‘borrowed’ the album to play the song in our music class at school. It is no exaggeration then to say that this one song had a huge impact on my musical enlightenment (and needless to say we then played every album his brother owned to expand our knowledge, much to his annoyance).

So, track 10, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. I was very good when I played the album first time in that I didn’t go straight to it but instead played it all the way through, but coming back to it time and again I have to say that for me it is the standout song, probably due to my own relationship to the original. The first thought I had when playing it was “I never realized that it was so beautiful”. Ozzy’s vocals have been replaced by delicate acoustic guitars as have the rest of the band – this is in reality a multi-tracked solo piece by Sasha that has to be heard to be believed. The original has been deconstructed but it is still there, instantly recognizable to the fan, but transformed into something quite different.

‘Films’ is a great title for this album, as it is very cinematic in feel and if I was to compare it to anything else it would have to be with the wonderful Karda Estra although the approach here is quite different and in many ways even more laid-back. The label describes this album as “next generation post-rock chamber music” and while I am not quite sure where they are going with that, if they mean that it is an acoustic album of depth and great beauty then they are bang on.

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.

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