Jazz Related Improvisation

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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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Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

MARC RIBOT Spiritual Unity Album Cover Spiritual Unity
MARC RIBOT
4.91 | 4 ratings
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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
4.50 | 6 ratings
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MARC RIBOT Asmodeus: Book of Angels, Volume 7 Album Cover Asmodeus: Book of Angels, Volume 7
MARC RIBOT
4.50 | 5 ratings
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FRED FRITH Sounds Of A Distant Episode (with Marc Ribot) Album Cover Sounds Of A Distant Episode (with Marc Ribot)
FRED FRITH
4.75 | 2 ratings
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FRED FRITH Skeleton Crew : The Country Of Blinds Album Cover Skeleton Crew : The Country Of Blinds
FRED FRITH
4.75 | 2 ratings
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FRED FRITH Speechless Album Cover Speechless
FRED FRITH
4.40 | 5 ratings
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FRED FRITH 50th Birthday Celebration Volume Five (with John Zorn) Album Cover 50th Birthday Celebration Volume Five (with John Zorn)
FRED FRITH
5.00 | 1 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
5.00 | 1 ratings
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FRED FRITH Nous Autres (with René Lussier) Album Cover Nous Autres (with René Lussier)
FRED FRITH
4.33 | 3 ratings
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KEITH ROWE Thumb Album Cover Thumb
KEITH ROWE
4.50 | 1 ratings
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AMM From A Strange Place Album Cover From A Strange Place
AMM
4.50 | 1 ratings
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jazz related improvisation Music Reviews

MASAHIKO TOGASHI Masahiko Togashi, Isao Suzuki : A Day Of The Sun

Album · 1979 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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snobb
"A Day Of The Sun" is two Japanese jazz greats duo's album. Percussionist Masahiko Togashi (besides of pianist Masahiko Satoh) are key figure of Japanese free jazz,played with virtually everyone of important Japanese advanced jazz musician and recorded lot of albums,some of them (especially recorded in late 60s - early 70s)are part of Japanese jazz "golden fund". Acoustic bassist Isao Suzuki is even more legendary figure - in Japan he is usually titled "Godfather of Jazz".

Born in Tokyo in 1933,he started his jazz career in 1953 playing bass with Louis Armstrong when the later to Japan that year.I have read in Isao's interview that he was in Armstrong concert and next day found out that Armstrong band is searching for bassist. Isao asked his mother to buy him a bass (he never played the instrument before) and went to rehearsal. According to Isao, bandleader hired him and showed how to play bass - that's how he started.Later he played for two or three years in US Navy base band and than joined Jun Kiyomizu band - his first Japanese band ever.He played around Japan (mostly in local cabarets) till late 60s when "Ginpary"(or "Silver Paris" - psychedelic jam sessions on very early Japanese free jazz stage) fashion pushed mainstream jazz musicians aside.Isao still participated in some gigs and even was one-time member of quartet with Sadao Watanabe,Togashi and Kikuchi(that was one of "Ginpary" session where Isao met Masahiko Togashi for the first time).In 1969 he played with Art Blakey who invited him to America where Isao stayed for two years (mostly traveling around the country and Canada in old Caddilac with Art Blakey and playing gigs mostly in black clubs).Art Blakey's band of the time included George Cables,Woody Shaw and Ramon Morris.Isao played lot of jams with Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell,Elvin Jones,Duke Pearson and Lee Morgan among others. He spent a lot of time in Rudy Van Gelder recording studio as well where Rudy tough him many secrets of good recording sound.Isao even was a bassist in Ella Fitzgerald band, but when one day in airport on their way to Canada Art Blakey got basted on cocaine,Isao same day just took the flight back to Japan.On return he made a lot introducing his experience in development of jazz in Japan.His first albums for Three Blind Mices (cult audiophile label,kind Japanese ECM but with very physical,deep and warm sound)built recordings sound and mix quality standard for decades to come.In 1980 he released "Self-Portrait" - first ever one-man recording using multilayer techniques in Japanese jazz (Isao played 22 different instruments on this album).

Main Isao's personality importance is still that that he's one among few extremely respectable Japanese jazz artists having hard-bop background.Other his generation known jazzmen come mostly from big bands (formed under US bases orchestras influence),late 60s pushed ahead new noisy and angry generation which stepped right to radical avant-garde.

With all series of strong hard-bop albums,Isao stayed innovative for decades though. His second important influence was fusion,but he released albums containing Latin jazz or even modern electronic remixes. During his long career Isao played with percussionist Masahiko Tagashi quite regularly, on Masahiko's or his own albums. "A Day of The Sun" is duo's collaboration,significant for both artists. Similarly like fusion popularity fast decrease in mid-late 70s on Western jazz scenes left lot of jazz musicians on the thin ice (and sometimes without job),in Japan that time is a time when jazz lost its importance as major part of modern musical culture. One of popular trend where many previous avant-garde and fusion artists switched to became etno-influenced improvisational (often meditative) music. "A Day Of The Sun" (percussionist and bassist duo recording,both uses some synth and other instruments though) is one good example. Fortunately differently from many of similar releases music here doesn't become endless hypnotizing noodling and successfully avoids similarities with upcoming new age. Two musicians are both too big personalities and too great masters to fade to grey zone - even if there are very free form compositions presented,them all have lot of blood and bones (deep physical bass, multilayered and complex percussion,all the time changing rhythms and grooves); probably good comparison is some ECM early proto-ambient recordings, where sound still wasn't all that liquid and super-polished.

Togashi will continue developing same formula on his later works,Suzuki will return to his more usual mainstream jazz, but "A Day Of The Sun" will stay as great evidence of two giant collaboration and excellent example of non-boring improvisational music.

OKKYUNG LEE Ghil

Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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snobb
Korea-born, New York-based, Berklee and New England Conservatory graduate/post-graduate composer and cellist Okkyung Lee owns a high position in a list of leading NY downtown innovative musicians. She has played with Laurie Anderson, Evan Parker, Wadada Leo Smith and Butch Morris, and has participated on some of John Zorn's experimental third stream albums. "Ghil" is her new turn - and it is logically rooted in her previous musical experiences.

This album contains solo cello recordings, but don't expect chamber atmosphere, warm tones and comfortable music. Okkyung's nearest influence is early Derek Bailey, but instead of guitar you hear distorted and often deconstructed cello. Likewise, instead of British humor, you get a strong classical background and Eastern brutal noise improvisations in a tradition known from Japanese avant-rockers.

This album was produced by Norwegian noise musician Lasse Marhaug. He used an old 1976 portable tape recorder, plus an odd use of mics and had the recordings take place in such unorthodox places as an abandoned hydroelectric powerplant in the Norwegian mountains, a back alley in Oslo or a cabin in the woods. Usually I don't care much about such details counting them as another marketing trick, but here on this album, the ambiance is a physical part of the music with no doubt.

This recorded material was released on the Austrian noise label Ideologic Organ, with minimal editing and without overdubs or other manipulation. The music presented is noisy, scratchy, distorted and always physical. Different from the myriad of other noise or noisy improv recordings around, this recording is well organized and you can feel some compositional background all the time. Starting from early Derek Bailey works, I can hardly remember such a successful combination of abrasive, scratchy, industrial, distortion on the outside form, while well-balanced philosophic content is maintaind inside. A very Eastern zen-like emotional statement makes for an unusual basis for almost punkish external form, though nothing sounds really punkish. In fact, Okkyung does not sound too different from her playing on Zorn's contemporary classical recordings, just the ambiance is not as chamber-like. Add her unique lyrical touch, which is obviously presented even on scratchy improvs ("art-noise improvs"?), and you have Okkyung's "Ghil", almost a masterpiece of modern noise-related improvisational music.

PAUL HORN Inside (aka Inside the Taj Mahal)

Album · 1968 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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Miler72
Paul Horn went to India in the middle of filming a documentary that was never finished, and while there, talked a guard into letting him play his flute inside the dome of the Taj Mahal and got a chance to record it. Turns out Epic Records was willing to release it, and all the better for it. It's quite a departure from the jazz albums he released before. What you get here is peaceful, tranquil flute music played in the Taj Mahal with the wonderful echo of the dome. Occasionally the Taj Mahal guard will provide his voice and one song, unsurprisingly entitled "Unity" features both Horn's flute and the guard's vocal. The music has a rather exotic feel to it, but some of that jazz influence shows up in Horn's flute playing, which is obviously no surprise. This album helped define New Age music. Way back in my late teens I used to think Enigma's MCMXC a.D. was pleasant night time music, but that album's big problem were the dance beats got in the way, but the Gregorian chanting and gloomy atmosphere was what I enjoyed of that album. Nowadays, Paul Horn's Inside is my favorite night time meditation album. If you own either the original LP on the yellow Epic label or the second pressing on the orange label, it came with pasted on book describing the Taj Mahal and how this recording was made. Unfortunately the 1980s pressing (the script Epic logo label) lacked this booklet. I remembered in the 1980s being inflicted by those Zamfir TV ads advertising just how utterly haunting and beautiful those recordings are and to my ears they just made me sick to the stomach. Paul Horn's Inside gives me the total opposite, it has that mystical, dreamy quality that I love and deserves the "beautiful and haunting" label way more than Zamfir ever deserved. Maybe not exactly a jazz album here, but a great album to meditate too.

MERZBOW Merzbow Gustafsson Pandi: Cuts

Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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js
If you are looking for a CD that can really ‘bring the noise’, then “Cuts” is for you. Merzbow, Gustafson and Pandi are an avant-garde super-group of sorts in that Merzbow (Masami Akita) is the leader of the modern electronic noise genre, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is a long time star of the free jazz scene and drummer Balazs Pandi plays in several avant-garde rock and jazz acts. Together the three raise an incredible sound that is not for the feint of heart. Once the domain of the most creative composers, during the post-punk/industrial fad the use of noise in music became common place as an indulgent expression of imagined pain and privileged complaints. Merzbow’s use of noise takes us back to the more ascetic approach as his barrages of sonic distortion and feedback carry little trace of indulgent emotion and instead seem to represent unstoppable natural forces such as a hurricane or a storm of locusts. If you are not ready for really loud intense grinding noise, then I would pass on this one.

For the first two cuts on this CD Merzbow plows ahead with a steady onslaught of feedback and natural distortion while Pandi plays along with a variety of free jazz beats and modern thrash. Generally Merzbow’s sounds are mixed a bit higher than the drums so it is not always exactly clear what is happening on the trap set. I suppose Mats is contributing electronics on these as well, but everything blends so it is hard to tell for sure. At about the ten minute mark of track two the electronics finally break down and Pandi enters with a pounding rock beat, soon the electronics began to interact sounding like an alien race attempting to rock out, there is a lot of deconstructionist humor to this section and the variety is welcome.

Track three, “the fear too: invisible.” is probably the track with the strongest resemblance to something familiar to free jazz fans. After Merzbow’s opening, Gustafsson picks up the sax for some classic 60s style free blowing while Pandi’s drums respond in kind. Merzbow’s electronics move to the background on this one as he fills in the empty spaces with odd sounds. This track might remind some of Sun Ra and John Gilmore’s most outside work and its probably the top ‘cut’ on “Cuts”. Track four continues the variety as Merzbow backs off for a bit while Gustaffson makes his horn barely recognizable with distorted electronics and turns way down for some very quiet moments. Track five opens quietly, but soon enough Merzbow is back in full force, and this time topped by Gustafsson’s shrieking saxophone. The shrill intensity of this one is incredible.

I probably don’t need to point out that this CD isn’t for everyone, a lot of this is probably too intense for even die hard free jazz fans, but if you looking for uncompromising noise mixed with modern avant-garde jazz, this is the one.

MARK O'LEARY Astral Fishing

Album · 2011 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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snobb
Irish guitarist Mark O'Leary's "Astral Fishing" isn't avant-garde jazz album as some his previous works. Recorded in Helsinki in collaboration with two Finnish musicians - bassist Teppa Hauta-aho and drummer Olavi Louhivuori - this album contains ambient music,close to Robert Fripp's soundscapes.

Conceptual work is based on Helsinki architecture and described in liner notes as "architectural atmospheric ambience". This city is a place I discovered for myself somewhere in mid-80s and in which I am returning again and again. And it's really great how during his short visit Mark caught city's atmosphere!

Founded in 15 century Helsinki is quite young town (at least comparing with really old towns surrounding it in this part of Europe). It was a tiny place,far provincial corner of Swedish Kingdom for ages, and only in 18 century (when Sweden lost a lot of kingdom's eastern territories after unsuccessful wars with Russia)Helsinki started to grow as military for-post in North-West of Russian Empire). Still town got its recent face after Finland independence from Russia in 1918. Being a typical North European town means a lot of grey stone buildings and lot of water around.Winter time lasts almost half a year, with no sun in the sky week after week. Short and cool summer,nature almost has no bright colors at all. All you see around is not colored by different colors, but by hundred of half-tones of few ascetic basic colors (grey,brown,dark-blue, green - during short summer). Life goes a bit slower than in more southern places and doesn't show emotions in public. But it's far not a sad or depressive place - not at all!

I always reach Helsinki by same way - crossing the Bay Of Finland by ferry from thousand years old Tallinn. Few hours sea-travelling brings me from remembering early ages Tallinn's old town to the heart of Helsinki - lots of small islands and high dark Jugend-style buildings,facing the sea and coming and leaving seaboats. Vibrant open air market with fresh fish and souvenirs for tourists, small square with old cafe,children playing near city's fountain. Neo-classicist quarters are changing with more modern functionalist buildings, and you feel like you're in 30's or 50's, when technical progress and functionality looked like a civilization panacea from all troubles. The world is turned around from that time and what looked like panacea then looks like placebo now. But not in Helsinki.

Atmospheric,cold,liquid,rhytmless sound very slowly flows all album long. It's not dark or depressive, but ascetic, constructionist and has its own beauty, not in hordes,but in half-tones. Album's music is like Helsinki in wintertime - rational,never showing emotions, but optimistic and looking ahead. It's great to see how during his short visit O'Leary found out the spirit of the town!Yes, no mistake - it's true soundtrack to Helsinki's life, with ducks on clear first ice on city's lake, old trams, wooden building of winter botanical garden on the hill near lake with few red tropical flowers - the only bright points around and families,drinking hot coffee from paper cups inside... Just very few years before Robert Fripp recorded great live music one hundred kilometers south from here, in small Haapsalu church on Estonian coast. Similar soundscapes,but of quite different atmosphere - sacral and coming from early ages. O'Leary did in Art Nouveau Helsinki - and it works!

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