Cutout is a Boston-based quintet with deep and decades-long collaborative roots in groups such as The Whammies, Breakaway, Pandelis Karayorgis’ Pools Trio and the Bathysphere big band. The band has been playing monthly concerts at the Cambridge venue The LilyPad for many years, and all members are active in the international improvisation scene as well. Original compositions are interspersed by improvisations and “instant-arranging” techniques, inspired by free-jazz forms from North America and Europe.
Boston-based quartet BOLT has been working locally since 2011, focusing solely on free improvisation. Using the distinctive timbral combination of two stringed instruments with the lyricon (an analog electronic wind synthesizer from the 1970s), saxophone, and percussion, BOLT’s group sound balances anywhere between the energy-orgies of free jazz and the sparse soundscapes of electronic minimalist improv. In the more expressive moments of a BOLT set the music hints at Boston’s influential master of microtonal improvisation Joe Maneri. In the more quiet introspective moments one could hear a modern day extension of the late 1940s experiments with free improvisation of the Tristano school. This recording was deliberately conceived to create a different listening experience from that of a live concert. The nineteen takes of this CD were carefully chosen from thirty-six improvised pieces recorded during a session in the summer of 2013. Shuffling the pieces in random order gives the listener a fresh perspective on the music every single time, adding an aleatoric and more compositional element to the music.
Matchbox is a Boston-based quartet with long and deep collaborative roots. The trio (without Jorrit) operated a decade ago under the name Mi3, with releases on Clean Feed and Hat Art. After Nate McBride’s move back to Boston from Chicago in 2012 the quartet formed and started developing a new, distinctive sound. The strong melodic, rhythmic, and structural elements presented in Karayorgis and Dijkstra’s tunes function like anchors, providing plenty of space for open improvisations and interaction.
Karayorgis’ “Shards” is about the physical gesture of a pianist’s fingers falling onto the keys, and his Ornette-inspired “Entanglement” is a juxtaposition of five phrases over a rolling rhythm section background. “Outward on Pleasant Spheres” is inspired by a poem by Sun Ra, and “Constellation” was named after the Chicago venue where the original version of the piece was performed with Chicago improvisers. Dijkstra’s intimate “Cluster Waltz” features a short open improvisation by the lyricon and bass, and his piece “Fourteen Squares” was originally written for four alto saxophones and a noisemaker, for his Reeds and Electronics project. The improvisers behave like a swarm of birds following each other. “Drooze” is switching between two contrasting moods, like being suddenly woken up from a nap. The two duet improvisations resemble this contrast as well.
In the spring of 2015 Karayorgis and Dijkstra put together a large ensemble of Boston musicians, to explore their writing for an extended group. Out-of-town guests Jeb Bishop, Tony Malaby, and Taylor Ho Bynum were added for this recording. The name Bathysphere comes from the deep-sea submersible in which scientists William Beebe and Otis Barton set diving records in 1934. The composers’ own explorations focus on the two analog synthesizers and the abundance of deep pitches in the group: two basses, two trombones, tuba, lyricon and baritone sax. The pieces were composed with the individual musicians in mind and their contributions during the rehearsal process were crucial. The CD cover is a print for the cover of National Geographic Magazine from 1934, inspired by unknown territories of the deep ocean.
Karayorgis’ “Sounding Line” and “Chip Log” take their names from nautical instruments. Each piece features different collective ensemble writing techniques -layered melodic lines and overlapping block sections, respectively- to create thick textures as backgrounds for open improvisations. Sounding line features blocks of improvisers, and solos by Pandelis Karayorgis, Jeb Bishop and Dan Rosenthal, and Chip Log is a feature for Charlie Kohlhase and Josiah Reibstein. Bathychord (Greek for “deep string”, or the double bass) is a long form piece featuring the basses, a trombone solo by Jeff Galindo and an alto solo by Jorrit Dijkstra. White Sea refers to the Turkish and Arabic name of the frothy Mediterranean. The journey takes us by two “island-themes” that appear fleetingly through a “fog” of 12-tone row based textures.
Dijkstra’s composition “Boter” (Dutch for butter) is a quirky homage to trombonist Quentin “Butter” Jackson, who was part of the deep end of Duke Ellington’s band. Tony Malaby is featured in this piece, like an updated Paul Gonzalves. In the introduction of “Funnel”, the ensemble goes through its full dynamic and instrumental range, funneling onto a unison middle C. The melody is enhanced by orchestrated snippets of the rest of the ensemble, and the improvisation resembles the dark, unknown abyss of the deep ocean. “Coelacanth” (a rare prehistoric deep sea fish) is a free blowing vehicle, with solos by Dijkstra, Seth Meicht, and Forbes Graham, culminating in a powerful drum solo by Luther Gray.