Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Michael Blake "Kingdom Of Champa"

Michael Blake - tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet;
Steven Bernstein - trumpet, cornet, slide trumpet;
Thomas Chapin - flute, bass flute, piccolo, baritone sax;
Marcus Rojas - tuba;
David Tronzo - slide guitar;
Tony Scherr - electric bass, acoustic bass, moonlute;
Rufus Cappadocia - cello;
Billy Martin - percussion;
Scott Neumann - drums;
Bryan Carrott - vibraphone.

Recorded at Sorcerer Studios in NYC on August 20 & 21, 1996.


01. The Champa Theme [08:05]
02. Dislocated In Natrang [07:04]
03. Folk Song [05:56]
04. Purple City [10:03]
05. Mekong [07:37]
06. Hue Is Hue? [04:06]
07. Perfume River [03:214]

"Vietnam is a mystical and strange place. After centuries of rule by Chinese, French, and Americans, the Vietnamese have become an independent nation and the people have begun to rebuild their lives. The spirit, beauty and hardship of these people would be the foundation for a suite of music I call Champa. To a certain extent this documentation of my experience living with my wife and her family in Vietnam is a metaphor of a journey into the self. In this place I encountered an infinite sadness that forced me to reevaluate many ideals I had established and conditionally accepted. It also brought great joy to me and an opportunity to realize my potential. My mind and soul were awakened by the extremes of the culture, no matter how I resisted to adapt to it."
Michael Blake (1997)

Kingdom of Champa is the debut album from saxophonist and composer Michael Blake, whose work with the Lounge Lizards has gained him recognition everywhere that band plays. He is joined on this recording, produced by master Teo Macero, by his band Free Association, augmented by several musicians with whom he has played, both in and out of the Lounge Lizards. A well-known member of what has been referred to as the second generation of Knitting Factory musicians, Blake composed all the material on Champa, basing it on his experiences in Vietnam. The permanent members of Blake's band are fellow Lizards David Tronzo (on guitar) and trumpeter Steven Bernstein and former Lizards' percussionist Billy Martin and vibraphonist Bryan Carrott. On this recording, the ensemble is rounded out with flautist Thomas Chapin, Marcus Rojas (tuba), Rufus Cappadocia on cello, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Scott Neumann. As band leader, composer, and saxophonist, Blake's talents are wonderfully showcased on this recording.

The idea for Kingdom Of Champa came to Blake while he was travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue (listening to Miles Davis's Sketches Of Spain). The emotions engendered by that journey, the music, the people, the food, the smells of Vietnam, as well as the music of his own life in the United States, all blend together on Champa to create an exciting compositional hybrid. The album is named after the Cham people, who despite their small numbers are an important part of Vietnamese history. All the compositions are Blake's, with the exception of Folksong, a traditional Vietnamese song Blake heard being played by a blind guitarist in Ho Chi Minh City, for which he did the arrangements. Champa is a very immediate and emotional musical travelogue of a country both well known and extremely foreign to North Americans.

Kingdom Of Champa is saxophonist Michael Blake's first opportunity to perform completely in an environment of his own creation; in conjunction with Free Association, producer Teo Macero, and engineer Scott Harding, he has come up with a moving and exciting debut. (

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ya-Sou featuring Tomasz Stanko & Osjan "Tribute To Don Cherry"

Ya-sou: -
Milo Kurtis - percussion, vocal
Horatio Altan - percussion
Peter Apfelbaum - saxophones, flutes, percussion, vocal
Jai Uttal - dotar, guitar, charango, percussion, vocal
Tomasz Stanko - trumpet (2,3)
Osjan: - (3)
Jacek Ostaszewski - recorders, kaya-kum, vocal, percussion
Wojtek Waglewski - guitar, vocal, percussion
Radosław Nowakowski - percussion
Milo Kurtis - percussion
Recorded: February 2nd, 1996 at Theatre "Maly", Warsaw, Poland.
Gowi Records

01. Ya-Sou Suite - Tribute To Don Cherry (Ya-Sou) [26:42]
02. Rumba Multi-Kulti (Don Cherry) [09:16]
03. Malinye (Don Cherry) [09:00]


Music belongs to all of us. Music has no borders, and the Earth should have no borders, because were made by people and not by nature.
The band Ya-sou was founded and created with these ideas in mind.
In 1973, Dimitrios Milo Kurtis formed Ya-sou to play and make music based on different cultures from all over the world. Its music is a mixture of jazz, contemporary, classical, folk and ethnic music as well as being influences by music from continents of Asia, Africa, North and South America. Indeed, a performance by Ya-sou is like a trip around the world. Many times we visit a region for a while, sometimes we pass quickly through. We meditate somewhere, dance in the mountains, get thirsty in the desert, float like a leaf on the ocean wave and arrive happily back home.
Furthermore, Ya-sou's sound is natural. The band uses only acoustic instruments including dotar, acoustic guitar, charango, mandolin, saxophones, flutes digirdu, congas, Arabic percussion, gongs, kalimbas, talking drum and many others. Some people call Ya-sou's music "ethnic jazz", some call it "avant-garde". And some simply refuse to categorize the unique sounds of this remarkable band.
Ya-sou stopped performing when Mr. Kurtis became a member of the legendary Polish band OSJAN. This band, like, Ya-sou, created the music influenced by different ethnic cultures and had already established a position within the Europe market, as well as collaborating with the famous trumpet player Don Cherry, sadly recently deceased.
Milo traveled with OSJAN allover the Europe performing with other bands and musicians and resided in Switzerland from 1985-87, than moved to the Francisco Bay Area. Deciding to come back to his musical roots, he re-established Ya-sou in 1994. Milo, on various percussion instruments and vocal is joined by fellow percussionist Horatio Altan from Guatemala, a student and researcher of Pre-Columbian and Native American people's musical forms. Horatio also performs with jazz groups and collaborates with dance and theatre companies. The other members of Ya-sou are: on saxophones, flutes, percussion and vocals, the Grammy Award nominee, Peter Apfelbaum; on dotar, guitar, charango, percussion and vocals, Jai Uyttal. Both musicians play in Jai's Pagan Love Orchestra and Peter's Hieroglyphics Ensemble, as well as having performed with Don Cherry's Multi-Kulti and one or another of Don's musical configurations. The members of Ya-sou are hoping you will be joining then soon on a musical journey. (Original line notes of this album)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don Pullen "Sacred Common Ground"

1. The Eagle Staff Is First (Auld/Pullen) 3:47
2. Common Ground (Kenmille/Pullen 10:22
3. River Song (Kenmille/Pullen 7:30
4. Reservation Blues (Kenmille/Pullen) 6:42
5. Message In Smoke (Kenmille/Pullen) 8:20
6. Resting On The Road (Kenmille/Pullen) 7:47
7. Reprise: Still Here (Kenmille/Pullen) 1:40
Don Pullen, piano
The African Brazilian Connection:
Carlos Ward, alto saxophone
J. T. Lewis, drums
Mor Thiam, African percussion

Joseph Bowie, trombone
Santi Debriano, bass
Chief Cliff Singers:
Mike Kenmille (lead)
Clifford Burke
Arleen Adams
Gina Big Beaver
Clayton Burke
Kenny Lozeau
Francis Auld
Native American songs meet African-Brazilian jazz

It is fitting that in Don Pullen's final complete recording he leaves us with a unique combination of multicultural sounds representing the culmination of his life in music. With "Sacred Common Ground", Pullen combines the African-Brazilian Connection, with whom he recorded and toured for much of the 1990s, with the Chief Cliff Singers, Kootenai Indians from Elmo, Montana. Jazz always seemed far too restrictive a term for what Don Pullen gave to the world, and in this parting contribution he demonstrates the universality of music, culture, and spiritual roots.
...The result is a rich collection of Native American chanting built upon the soft, dynamic and soothing sound of Pullen's Afro-Brazilian style of jazz. Joseph Bowie's trombone brings out a strong bluesy feel to "Reservation Blues", which starts off with the singers chanting and then abruptly switches to a more traditional twelve-bar blues. Bowie and alto saxophonist Carlos Ward weave back and fourth, then give way to Pullen's rolling, percussive playing. Throughout the CD, the combination of J.T. Lewis' Latin-tinged jazz drumming and Senegalese Mor Thiam's African percussion, combined with the indigenous Americans' steady pounding, make for a rich and soulful sound...(Mark Craemer)