Category Archives: Recent Arrivals

Recent Arrivals: Discus & Leo Records

Martin Archer – Storytellers (Discus): Over the years, Sheffield-based musician and composer Martin Archer has issued several albums of music with various groups of musicians but, it’s a rarity to see something come out under his own name. This recent project is certainly a fine time to toot his own horn (so to say) as it’s another one of his excellent offerings.

Over the course of two CDs spanning nearly 2 1/2 hours, six “books” are related in suite form. Each book revolves around movements around a common theme. They feature performance by the full band as well as sections designed to highlight specific soloists.

Each book weaves its own tale which winds its way from start to finish with sparkling dexterity among the musicians. What seems to make this music really gain an extra dimension of life is the fact that almost all of it was recorded live in the studio by the group. There is very little done in the way of subsequent overdubbing of parts. This process has resulted in a sound which harks back to some of the best recorded jazz works from the past. Top marks, indeed!

Sergey Kuryokhin – The Spirit Lives (Leo): As mentioned in the liner notes of this set, Leo Records was the first record company to issue the music of Russian composer/musician Sergey Kuryokhin which was smuggled out of the Soviet Union. It seems only fitting that they have decided to issue this recording of a live performance celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

Recorded in July 2015, this set contains both an audio CD and DVD. The works are performed by Alexei Aigui & Ensemble 4’33”. The sixteen works contained in this performance show the breadth and scope of Kuryokhin’s catalogue of work.

The arrangements by Aigui which incorporate jazz and classical players brings the music a powerful scope. The strings build and sweep to propel the music to wonderful sonic heights as the jazz ensemble bob and weave a tapestry of sound.

There are even moments when the music rocks out with near Status Quo guitar riffery in pieces like Tragedy, Rock Style.

This is an essential document which truly does justice to the legacy and memory of the late Sergey Kuryokhnin.


Keith Tippett on Discus

A while back, I posted about a recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a new Keith Tippett release on the Discus label. It was a quick success and now the CD is available for all to hear.

Keith Tippett has been active on the British jazz scene for over 45 years. His discography (under his own name as as a player with others) spans dozens and dozens of releases over those years.

My own introduction to his work came in the form of his sprawling double LP set called Septober Energy by the ensemble of fifty musicians that he assembled known as Centipede. This set released in 1971 (1974 on this side of the pond) was an amazing and sometimes confounding work of a massive scale. It certainly made my teenage ears perk up and listen.

Over the years, Tippett has continued to produce many works deemed important in the annals of British jazz. His latest work certainly does not veer from that standard.

The Nine Dances of Patrick O’Gonogon spans over the course of a series of nine (natch!) compositions… with an additional two works appended as codas.

Scored for his octet, the introductory work often feels like there are often twice as many players at work. The band could be as big as any Ellington or Basie ensemble at work. The piece swings but with a series of jagged edges stabbing within and around rapid-fire themes.

The second piece makes you feel like you have come out of the blistering sunlight and into the shade of a familiar tree. You can now wipe the sweat from your brow and feel some relief from the heat.

Three of the works – The Dance of the Walk with the Sun on his Back, The Dance of the Bike Ride from Shinanagh Bridge with the Wind at his Back and The Dance of the Wily Old Fox of the Ballyhoura Mountains – give off a cinematic air. These ears want to hear the sounds coming from a black and white detective film from the 1950s. They evoke a contemporary sound which harks to a monochrome age.

Following the Nine Dances are two codas. The first is a ballad sung by Julie Tippetts which seems to come out of nowhere to bring a tear to the eye like so many Irish folk songs are wont to do. It is followed by an arrangement of the traditional Irish song The Last Rose of Summer which neatly ties the whole package with a big shiny bow.

Tick the box for one more impressive addition to the discography of Keith Tippett.

Keith Tippet at Discus Music

Recent Arrivals – Innova

Innova Recording have been releasing a steady catalogue of innovative CDs for many years. Most of these feature the works of contemporary classical music composers but, also other genres. Here are a few which have arrived in the post recently.

Paula Matthusen – Pieces for People: Paula Matthusen is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University (experimental music, composition, music technology). This recent release focuses on a number of works in collaboration with other performers. Each piece presented here explores a different area of compositional styles.

Sparrows in Supermarkets is a piece for recorder (Terri Hron). It consists of various loops and drones and also explores the sounds of varying physical spaces. Limerence features the sound of the banjo (James Moore). Here, the instrument is used as a sound source to produce abstract manipulated sounds which float in an intriguing soundscape.

Two movements from AEG feature glitchy cut-up sounds including voice and real instruments. It was composed for dance. Of Architecture and Accumulation is a work for solo organ (Wil Smith) which examines the slowly increasing and decreasing dynamics of the instrument.

The CD also features works for large and small instrumental ensembles in the pieces corpo/Cage and In Absentia.

This discs presents a wide overview of the Matthusen’s compostional areas of exploration.

Gordon Beeferman – Four Parts Five: At first glance of the credits, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this was probably some straight-ahead jazz recording. Featuring piano, Hammond B3 organ, sax, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, double bass and drums, this is definitely not straight-ahead jazz.

Each of the four works included here possess their own quirky internal sonic engine. It is glitchy, funky, minimalist and dense with looping rhythms that ebb and flow but also jar and intrigue.

It is an odd blend of funky jazz meets minimalist composition. Think of Frank Zappa meeting up with Philip Glass at a strange late-night dance club where the music is not conducive to dancing. Pleasantly odd and inviting sounds abound. A challenging and rewarding listen.

Karen Gottlieb – Music for Harp: With her latest release, harpist Karen Gottlieb presents the works of four American composers. The disc is book-ended by pieces by Lou Harrison. Suite for Cello and Harp from 1949 presents a duet sound which reveals an optimistic melancholy which serves as an excellent starting point.

A series of seven other brief Harrison works dating from 1967 to 1977 conclude the disc. Music for Harp and Percussion presents a series of short works which explore the dialogue between the instruments. Each is like a vignette of sonic possibilities for duet.

John Cage’s 1949 composition In a Landscape is a solo work with a Satie-esque charm. The brief phrases loop and repeat in a hypnotic manner. This work was originally composed for dancer Louise Lippold.

The CD also contains two more recent compositions by Wayne Peterson and Dan Reiter and once again highlight Gottlieb’s feel for the works of these composers.

This is a well produced and varied selection of pieces which truly highlight her gift for interpretation of many different composers.

Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

Pianist Uwe Oberg’s latest release – Twice, At Least – is a solo outing recorded at concerts in Germany in 2012 and 2015. In addition to the self-penned compositions, he also plays works from Annette Peacock, Steve Lacy, Carla Bley and Thelonious Monk.

Throughout the performances, Oberg expands the sound of the piano by often simultaneously playing the keyboard while also reaching inside to pluck the strings. This practice adds an extra layer of detail and expressiveness to the works which are already detailed and dynamic.

Hearing these live recordings makes the listener wish that there they were in the audience to see the performance first-hand. An excellent collection of works which excite the ears with their dynamic variations.

VocColours is a quartet of poetic vocalizers who have teamed up with musician Eberhard Kranemann to produce a unique blend of voices along with double bass and electronics. Throughout their CD entitled Luxatio, the ensemble bobs and weaves through a tapestry of vocalizations with sympathetic sonic accompaniment by Kranemann.

The result is a quilt of sound full of abstract sonic imagery and highly interesting blending dynamics.

The other two most recent releases in this latest batch from Leo Records share many similar sonic traits.

14 rue Paul Fort, Paris features the trio of Joelle Leandre (bass), Benoit Delbecq (piano) and Francois Houle (clarinets). Ramble is by the quintet known as SWQ and features Sandra Weiss (sax, bassoon), Jonathan Moritz (sax), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Sean Ali (double bass) and Carlo Costa (drums).

On both recordings, the ensemble players are seeking to create a flowing and abstract sound picture. The musicians listen to the sounds emanating from around them and spontaneously react to the situation at hand. It feels more like an improvisation of sound clouds than a a musical progression.

These clouds bend and blend to create a wonderful distortion of musical reality. Two sonic excursions which provide an aural palette of curious abstract imagery.

Leo Records website 


Recent Arrivals – Discus

If there is one thing that you can anticipate from the releases on the Discus label, it’s to expect the unexpected. This is a case in point.

frostlake is Sheffield-based singer, musician Jan Todd. On this debut release (White Moon, Black Moon), she creates layers of her voice and multiple instruments alongside contributions from other fine folks from the area including Martin Archer, Charlie Collins, Terry Todd and others.

The first thing that strikes you is the reverb-drenched near-whisper vocals. These are combined with layers of dreamy instrumentation that evokes a folky, psychedelic, progressive soundscape. It almost feels like one of those unearthed rarities of what is now termed “acid folk” recorded in the late ’60s or early ’70s.

However, the sound is brought up to date with one foot in the past and another with a hold on the present and future. The music is dreamy yet never slipping into a maudlin melancholy. There is always something going on to keep the listener engaged as the background sounds blend seamlessly with the often haunting layered vocals in the foreground. Definitely an album inviting repeated late-night listens.

Martin Archer’s latest release – Echoic Enchantment – is a collaboration with poet Bo Meson. Martin goes into some detail about the project’s genesis in the liner notes of the CD.

Inspired by a performance by Bo’s poetry group, Martin was inspired to create a work written around the text. The musical portion of the disc-length range from sparse basslines to haunting string sections evoking an atmosphere not unlike Ligeti or Pendereski. These sections are juxtaposed with others based on “directed improvisation” which have been edited and collaged featuring percussion, piano etc… which incorporate text which weaves its way into the soundscape.

The work flows and glides in several directions often creating a haunting and evocative atmosphere. A lengthy sonic journey that provides multi-layered scenery for the ears.

Discus website


Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

The latest quartet of releases from Leo Records contains work from two saxophonists whose work has been very well documented by the label over the years – Ivo Perelman and Carlos Actis Dato.

Three of the four new discs feature Perelman in both duo and trio settings. Tenorhood with drummer Whit Dickey, Callas with pianist Matthew Shipp and Counterpoint with violinist Matt Maneri and guitarist Joe Morris.

All three recordings show Perelman in his element. In Tenorhood, he locks in with Dickey as they bob and weave to produce a tapestry of propulsive, percussive works.

With Matthew Shipp (on Callas), he produces a series of pieces (over two CDs) which have been inspired by the late, great opera singer Maria Callas. Each of the improvised works were subsequently named after one of the famous parts which Callas played (Aida, Norma etc…). While not specifically designed to mimic the music of any of these works, the inspiration of the serves to unify the theme in the minds of the players.

On Counterpoint, the trio which includes Morris and Maneri pull out all the proverbial stops to create an air of sonic surprises. The proceedings twist, turn and melt together to produce a cohesive picture of expansive proportions.

The Actis Dato Quartet include second sax player Beppe Di Filippo, bassist Matteo Ravizza and drummer Daniele Bertone. The context on the CD Earth is the Place focuses on compositions as opposed to improvisation. The works are up-beat and joyous in their presentation. It’s an uplifting atmosphere of a quartet locked in the moment and enjoying themselves as much as the listener.

Photos: Ivo Perelman (top), Carlo Actis Dato (bottom)

Leo Records website. 

Recent Arrivals – Discus


One of the best things about doing a radio programme featuring non-mainstream music for many years was receiving music from like-minded folks from around the globe. Such was the case back in the ’90s when I received a package of CDs from Martin Archer on his Discus label.

Martin continued to send me music and I continued to feature it on the airwaves. We also corresponded quite frequently and a musical relationship built up. In the ensuing years, we have played together live many times on my visits to the UK and we’ve also contributed to each other’s recordings.

When I visited Martin in Sheffield last June, he was in the midst of about a dozen different recording and performance ventures. At that time, he played me a number of recordings that he was working on. Many of these are now available on this latest trio of double-CD releases.

Vestigium is the latest collaboration between Martin and vocalist Julie Tippetts. Every release in their series of works seems to magically rise above the previous  set. This is no mean feat as each of their projects are quite wonderful affairs.

This latest set is no exception as the individual works often vary drastically in their sound but manage to create a bigger picture which holds all of them together. Sonic backdrops can be minimal and shimmering with the vocal lines drifting through the landscape. Other times, a steady bassline and percussion beat bring the funk to the fore.

Listening to these works, it seems like both Martin and Julie were destined to lock their creative energies together. Julie’s dexterous vocalizations meld perfectly with the music. Martin’s ear for detail and the ability to create subtle layers for the vocals makes for a tapestry of aural delights. The final work in the set – Stalking the Vision – is a fine example of this sonic synergy in action.

Bad Tidings from Slackwater Drag is by Martin’s ten-piece big band called Engine Room Favourites. From the introductory tune – Song for Alice Coltrane – you know that you are in for a good ride. Tracks range from dense and frenetic to minimal improvised structures.

At times, I was put in the mind of Soft Machine and also was reminded of Julius Hemphill’s Big Band. The latter thought was confirmed as the concluding number of the set is a cover version of Hemphill’s classic track The Hard Blues. And ERF do a most admirable job in their performance.

Inclusion Principle’s Third Opening shows even more diversity for Martin and his cohorts. This is a trio which also includes Herve Perez and Peter Fairclough.

On this set, the sounds range from environmental field recordings, computer-generated sounds, saxophones, piano and percussion. From minimal soundscapes to wild hyper-rhythms, the pieces blend and weave their way through two CDs of diverse sonic contexts.

Definitely three more highlights for the ever-expanding Discus catalogue.

Discus Music website