Saturday, August 5, 2017

Less Of Five – Chapter Two (Caligola Records, 2017)

Do you remember that era during the 1960s when Blue Note Records was putting on the market albums of musicians such as Sam Rivers and Bobby Hutcherson? It was a 'third wave' between classical jazz and free improvisation. Now, thanks to Caligola Record, we can breath not the same music, but the same temperatures.

Pianist Giorgio Occhipinti, born in 1969, boasts collaborations with the likes of Evan Parker, Joelle Léandre, Ernst Reijseger, Paul Rutherford, Barre Phillips, and Peter Brotzmann. He started playing piano and flute with his father's band. Occhipinti was part of one of the hystorical groups of Sicilian jazz, the December Thirty Jazz Trio (1989) and since 1992 he collaborated with the Pino Minafra Sud Ensemble.

In 1993 Occhipinti created the Festival Ibleo del Jazz becoming its artistic director. In the same year he foundet a nonet (Giorgio Occhipinti Hereo Nonetto) that took many forms in the following years: octet, orchestra, and so on. In 2000 he took part in the Banlieue Bleues Quartet with Pino Minafra, Sandro Satta and Vincenzo Mazzone.

Giorgio Occhipinti
The musician that seems to me more similar to Giorgio Occhipinti is Matthew Shipp. Not for his open, ascendent chords (Occhipinti is less mysthic an more gentle), but because of a quality in improvisation and interplay. Luckily enough his new record, 'Chapter Two' by the group Less of Five (featuring Gianpiero Fronte on alto and soprano saxophone, Giuseppe Guarrella on double bass, and Emmanuele Primavera on drums) provides us with two long compositions, 'Orange's Smell' and 'Breathing New York's air' that are more than ten minutes long, leaving us with a flavour that is connected to free improvisation, even if the music is softer.

The other six pieces, from 3 to 6 minutes long, are miniatures of melody and improvisation. The effect in listening to this record is that of a music that doesn't want to be caged in a precise definition, a music that loves to take you by the hand and wonder into new landscapes, even if quite often the flavour of blues is strong, as in the track 'Expression' . Highly recommended to all the lovers of free improvisation, but not only.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Apocalypse Trio feat. Paolo Angeli – Live at Fasano Jazz (Jazz Engine Records, 2017)

I've always been a fan of Richard Teitelbaum and of his records with the likes of Anthony Braxton. That mood, that feeling, jazz with a nocturne feeling, jazz widened through its extremes, jazz and electronics. I'm also a fan of a record, issued few years ago, featuring Evan Parker and Grutronics. So, I was happy to see Paolo Angeli, one of my Italian heroes, playing with an electro-acoustic trio as in the album “Live at Fasano Jazz”.

The Apocalypse Trio features Vincenzo Deluci (trumpet), Camillo Pace (double bass) and Giuseppe Mariani (electronics). Vincenzo Deluci (b. in Fasano) started studying trumpet as a child, and took his degree in 1992. Finalist in different contests, he won the International Contest 'Astor Piazzolla' in Castel Fidardo as Best Musician. He is author of the Lp “La Rana Dalla Bocca Larga” who sold 1000 copies in only 15 days.

After a car accident, who put him on a weelchair, he came back to the music with the live show “VianDante”. Camillo Pace (b. in Taranto) graduated as a bassist at Monopoli's 'Nino Rota' Conservatory and then he took a degree in jazz music disciplines, specializing in history and musicology. He conducted studies as ethnomusicologist in Kenya and South Africa.

Giuseppe Mariani, born in Noci, studied trumpet as a child and graduated in 1999 at the 'Nino Rota' Conservatory in Monopoli. Between 2001 and 2002 he lived in London where he worked with saxophonist A. Wilkinson, drummer S. Ritchie and bassist Bellatalla. Since 2002 he took interest in other musical forms, and the relationships between improvised and electronic music.

The Apocalypse Trio
Special guest on the record is Paolo Angeli, an extraordinary musician who plays a self-built instrument. Born in 1970, he started to play guitar at 9. He traveled up to Bologna, where he started playing with different ensembles and musician, one of whom is the great Fred Frith. His instrument, a sardinian prepared guitar, is the result of Paolo Angeli's interest in both avant-garde music and folk music.

This record start with 'Apocalypse', an original composition of the trio that sees trumpet and guitar having a conversation surrounded by electronic sounds popping by. Then is the turn of another composition, 'Impro', who is very reminiscent of glitch music, followed by 'A Child is Born' (Jones/Wilder) lunar and crepuscular. Composer Ennio Morricone has his hommage paid by the 'Morricone Suite', featuring the themes from “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso” and “Once Upon a Time in America”.

And then is the turn of 'Nature Boy' by Nat King Cole, where one can enjoy the richness of the textures provided by Paolo Angeli; the record finish with 'Procession', an original composition by Deluci where improvised music takes the foreground over electronics, dominated by the trumpet and the doodles of the cello/guitar.

I'm enthousiast to hear such young musicians expressing passion and knowledge, and the record will become for sure one of the best albums of the year 2017. Listen and enjoy this record, and then my advice is to recover the other records I mentioned at the beginning of this post, to have a wider landscape about the history of the encounters between jazz and electroacoustic music.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Remembering Misha Mengelberg (1935-2017)

Misha Mengelberg with Thomas Heberer, The Stone, 2008
Last week pianist Misha Mengelberg has died, aged 81. Mengelberg was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1935. The son of the Dutch conductor Karel Mengelberg, his family moved back to the Netherlands in the late 1930s and the young Mengelberg began learning the piano at age five. He studied architecture briefly before entering the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. There, he won the first prize of a jazz festival in Loosdrecht and became associated with the Fluxus movement.

His influences count the likes of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and John Cage. Mengelberg was one of the very first perpetrators of the revolution of the free jazz/avant garde jazz of the 1960s but from an European perspective. His first appearance on a record is on Eric Dolphy's final recording, Last Date (1964). On that record appears also drummer Han Bennink, marking the beginning of a long friendship and collaboration.

Mengelberg and Bennink founded later a quartet with saxophonist Piet Noordijk and many different bassists. The quartet played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966. In 1967 Mengelberg co-founded the Instant Composers Pool, an organization that, similarly to the AACM on the other side of the Ocean, promoted avant garde jazz performances and records, with Bennink and Willem Breuker.

Mengelberg played with a large variety of musicians: quite often he performed in duo with fellow Han Bennink; other collaborations included guitarist Derek Bailey, and saxophonists Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, and Anthony Braxton. He also wrote music for other performers (leaving some space for improvisation) and oversaw some music theatre productions. On the other hand, he made known to the public the works of pianist Herbie Nichols.

Related Links:
Misha Mengelberg discography on Discogs

An interview with Misha Mengelberg by Dan Warburton

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Umberto Tricca - Moksha Pulse (Working Label, 2016)

East meets West again. The first wailings of the encounter between jazz and Indian classical music were in 1963, the year Impulse! issued “Impressions”, a record by John Coltrane featuring Eric Dolphy with the beautiful piece “India”, in which drums and bass were imitating tabla and tempoura while the saxophonist was pushing at the boundaries his concept of modality.

Then, it was the time for Mr Anthony Braxton and his 'pulse tracks' to realize a music that was compelled in blurring the boundaries between African American music and Indian music avoiding every possible 'fusion' as it happened in the 1970s, giving life to a structure that remains between the most innovative and aesthetically accomplished.

The reason why Indian music was so interesting for innovative improvisers was well explained in a chapter of Derek Bailey's “Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music” (Da Capo Press, 1993): in facts, Indian classical music features a huge amount of improvisation. Ravi Shankar is an improviser as much as a composer, and this is the same tradition of people as Coltrane and Braxton.

Umberto Tricca
Now, is the time for the young Italian guitarist Umberto Tricca to provide the world of improvised music with a new melting of jazz and Indian music. Tricca studied guitar at CEMM in Milano, then at the Berklee School of Boston. Then, he followed the lessons of arrangement with bassist Giovanni Tommaso and other courses, such as modern harmony and jazz harmony.

Umberto Tricca collaborated with musicians coming from Florence (Italy) such as Giancarlo Boselli and Masabo Trio, deepening his own studies on harmony and rhythmic conduction of musicians as Dave Holland and Steve Coleman. While experimenting with italian music revised in jazz, bossa nova and samba and contemporary jazz repertoire, he starts studying Indian music with tabla player Francesco Gherardi.

The result of these different experiences are available in his new record “Moksha Pulse” (Working Label, 2016) featuring Achille Succi (alto sax, bass clarinet), Giacomo Petrucci (baritone sax), Nazareno Caputo (vibraphone), Gabriele Rampi Ungar (bass) and Bernardo Guerra (drums). As happened with Braxton and Coltrane, you will not find any ethnic inclination in this record.

The tracks of the album show the love Umberto Tricca has for Indian music, the counterpoints of Afro Cuban rhumbas, and contemporary music – you will hear in 'Prelude' an influence by some Iannis Xenakis compositions. The name of the project comes from the Sanskrit word 'Moksha', that means 'emancipation' underlying the choice of leaving every predetermined structure, developing the possible interactions between those traditions and musical languages.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Masao Adachi “AKA Serial Killer” (1969)

Masao Adachi
“Instead of replacing the camera with the rifle, why not have one in each hand?” – Masao Adachi

Born in 1939 in Fukoka, Japan, Masao Adachi was one of the preeminent figures in revolutionary cinema during the 1960s/1970s. He was a close collaborator of filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu, and both had the same photographer director, the legendary Hideo Ito. Masao Adachi provided the scripts for such masterpieces of Wakamatsu as The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966) and Violated Angels (1967).

After directing his own movies, dealing with left-wing political themes and sex, quite often mixed together, Adachi left cinema for revolution, joining the Japanese Red Army to organize terror attack. But the reason we remember Adachi here at Complete Communion is one film, titled AKA Serial Killer, we saw yesterday night for the first time, even if the movie was released in 1969.

Masahiko Togashi - Mototeru Takagi "Isolation"
AKA Serial Killer was the film that defined the 'landscape theory' for which he is credited as one of the founders, but that has many followers in Europe – the most famous are Jean Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet: it is a radical Marxist theory stating that the landscape is a pure expression of the dominand political power. In showing the landscape, we show different degrees of alienation.

To demonstrate this theory, Adachi focuses on the story of Norio Nagayama, a 19 year old boy convicted for the murders of four people in four different Japanese cities. Adachi narrates with his own voice the life of Nagayama, while the images show landscapes of the places in which the killer lived.

This way, the movie is an act of accusation of the alienation that forced Nagayama to become an assassin. To help this, the movie is provided of a beautiful, sharp soundtrack of free jazz. The musicians involved are Masahiko Togashi (drums, vibraphone, marimba, timpani, percussions) and Mototeru Takagi (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet).

The music from the movie was collected in 1969 in a record titled Isolation (Take One Records), reissued in 2000 by Columbia and in 2005 by Bridge. There's lot of space in it, a meditative atmosphere broken by the saxophones and their cries. But it's the mix of images and music in the film by Adachi that creates a fascinating documentary of an era, an era in which the arts were all at the service of the revolution, of social change, and it is this era that we want to celebrate with this post, inviting all of you to enjoy both the music and the movie.  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Žiga Koritnik's “JAZZY-GA!”

Žiga Koritnik's “JAZZY-GA!”
In Der Schillerstrasse 106
10625 Berlin – Charlottenbourg
Vernissage: Monday 31.10.2016 H. 7.00 PM

Paul Lovens photographed by Ziga Koritnik

Žiga Koritnik has been capturing images of musicians since 1987. He lives and works in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he is a regular guest on the music scene and documents the Ljubljana jazz festival, the Druga godba festival, concerts in Cankarjev dom and various other events across Europe, both large and small, including Saalfelden jazz festival, Konrontationen in Nickelsdorf, Vienna jazz festival in Austria, Musique Mettisses in Angouleme, France, Womad in Reading, England and the Talos Festival in Ruvo di Puglia, Musica Sulle Bocche, Sardegna-Italy, and the Vision festival in New York. Since 1996 he has been a resident photographer of the Skopje jazz festival in Macedonia, where each year a calendar with his photos is published. In 2001 he held a major exhibition at the Skopje City Museum to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival, which was accompanied by a book predominantly featuring Koritnik's photographs. In 2001 he spent seven weeks in New York, where he documented the Vision Festival and became acquainted with the musical and artistic events in the city. He was afforded the opportunity to exhibit in the Kavehaz Gallery in Soho. In June 2006 he was invited back to New York to exhibit his work at the Vision jazz festival, at the Angel Orensanz Center. His photographs are regularly published in Slovene newspapers and magazines (including Delo, Mladina, Muska, and Fotografija) as well as in international publications (Time Out, Jazz Times, Jazziz, Signal to Noise, Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, Ballett Internationale, Village Voice, All About Jazz, Downbeat, Jazznyt, etc.). 

He is also involved in theater photography and has regularly collaborated with Mladinsko gledališče Ljubljana. He has worked with Iztok's Kovač's En-Knap dance company, documenting performances, and shooting an accompanying film of their performance Daleč od spečih psov (Far from Sleeping Dogs), as well as a film about composer Vinko Globokar, Krotilci časa (The Time Tamers) and Metod Pevec’s film Beneath Her Window, which got many awards at the Slovenian Film Festival and was the Slovenian candidate for the Academy Awards in 2005. From 1989 until August of 2006 he has been employed by the Slovenia’s national television station, Televizija Slovenija, as a TV and film cameraman, and has worked with directors Maja Weiss, Peter Braatz, Amir Muratović, Sašo Podgoršek and Michael Benson, and others. In 2001 he documented the making of Peter Greenaway's Map to Paradise exhibition in Ljubljana, which was later that year followed by the publication of a book with extracts from his documentation of Greenaway's film, the creation of which is still underway. In 1996 he self-published a book of photographs entitled Jazzyga! (Jazz-It!). To mark the occasion, he held an exhibition at a major European jazz festival in Saalfelden, Austria. He was invited back to the festival in 2003. 

His photos have also appeared in many books by other authors, including a book on the sculptor Jakov Brdar, whose sculpting of general Rudolf Meister he documented, and Colours of Music, published on the 20th anniversary of the Saalfelden Jazz Festival. Žiga Koritnik also created the cover of the Slovene translation of Miles Davis’ autobiography. He invited photographers Mauro D'Agati, Raffaella Cavalieri, Matthiass Creutziger, Manfred Rinderspacher, Jak Kilby, Luca D'Agostino and Enid Farber to exhibit at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Slovenia. In 2004 he made a joint photography exhibition featuring the works of Slovenian music photographers. He has collaborated with the publishers of Mladinska knjiga magazines, and the company Hit Nova Gorica. He is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. His photographs were included with CDs released by labels such as Tzadik, Intuition Music, Nika Records, Trost Records, The Thing Records and Leo Records. In 1997 the Italian photo magazine Zoom featured a presentation article on Žiga Koritnik. In 2005, his work was presented on 16 pages in Jazznin, a Japanese jazz magazine. He held more than 60 solo and 40 group exhibitions at home and abroad (Slovenia, Italy, USA, Austria, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Monte Negro, Ireland, Japan...). Since 2005, he is a regular visitor of Sardinia, Italy, where he documented the Musica Sulle Bocche Festival, Ai Confini tra Sardegna E Jazz Festival, and the Isola delle Storie Festival of Literature several times. In collaboration with Tumbarinos di Gavoi and Jana Project, he published their book about the Sardinian carnival in 2009. He still documents the carnival every year. In 2009 he published a book of black and white photo impressions of Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. He regularly organizes music and landscape photography workshops at home and abroad. He has received the Special Recognition Award at the Olympus photo competition in Japan, and the Zlata diploma (Golden diploma) award for the annual report by HIT Nova Gorica. The internet edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica has an entry on Koritnik’s first website, created in 1996 (, under The Web's Best Sites.

The Exibition will be held from October 31 to November 6

See also:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Is the Avant-Garde sexist?

Matana Roberts
My reflection about this problem started quite some years ago. I was going to a concert with a friend, a trumpet player, who told me that 'women cannot play saxophone because their rib cage is smaller than that of a man'. Curiously enough, in that period a woman saxophone player was emerging, Matana Roberts, and the media dedicated to improvised music were praising her for the freshness of her sound and vision.

The result was that I started asking myself: 'is the avant-garde sexist?'. After all, what we needed was Peter Brotzmann heavy blowing, Cecil Taylor strumming, Han Bennink hammering. What about hues and shades? Obviously there was Marylin Crispell playng piano in many records by the Anthony Braxton quartet, there was Susie Ibarra playing drums with William Parker band 'In Order To Survive', and the concert me and my friend trumpet player were attending to was that of Joelle Leandre.

But that assertion about women's rib cage was so impressed in my mind that I started aking myself if the seed of mysoginy was in some way present in my environment. After all, when I was in London for six months, I attended many gigs and festivals and I noticed only few women. To be honest, I remember four of them – and only one from outside the Eu/US. And only few titles in my CD collection were attributed to women.

At a certain point, I started searching the web for articles about the subject. I read that women were mostly hired by the music business in jazz as pianists or singers, while all the other instruments were taken as instruments for male performers, as an example. This is mostly true also for improvised music. Then, I found a dissertation by Dana Reason Myers titled “The Myth of Absence: Representation, Reception and the Music of Experimental Women Improvisors” (2002).

Pauline Oliveros
I will talk about this thesis for all the lenght of this article, since it's really interesting if you want to deepen the problem of women musicians in a male-dominated world as the one of jazz and particularly the avant-garde scene of improvised music. The thesis of D.R. Myers starts with drawing the life and art of seven women improvisors: Pauline Oliveros, Marylin Crispell, Maggie Nichols, Joelle Leandre, Miya Masaoka and Susie Ibarra.

Since all these women are very well acknowledged nowadays and are well known to my readers, I will omit their achievements and I'll pass to the rest of the discussion. D.R. Myers starts analyzing how Down Beat magazine covers women in jazz from 1960 to 2000. Down Beat doesn't cover free jazz or avant garde music in general, and his columns are seen more as an opportunity to sell records of the concerned styles of music (bebop, fusion, classical jazz, etc.) more than discussing about issues of interest from the musicians themselves.

Nonetheless, Down Beat sometimes pays hommage to the masters of free jazz and avant garde music, favoring male participants: Cecil Taylor, Julius Hemphill, Anthony Braxton, Anthony Davis, and Ornette Coleman among others. Occasionally a review of a CD by Marylin Crispell appears. In addition, some journalists, such as John Corbett, have written about male and female improvisors. Despite his contributions, prominent American women improvisors has been very limited.

While the magazine tends to profile American musicians, on occasion European improvisors appear, including Barry Guy, Evan Parker, Han Bennink and Alex Von Schlippenbach. European women from the same generation and field are not featured: only three have been featured in articles and only five have received reviews in Down Beat. We obtain similar results consulting the database of the magazine Cadence, where, from 1976 to 2000, there are 686 articles about male musicians and only 30 featuring women musicians.

Myra Melford
As far as the magazine Jazziz, a special number was issued in 2000 dedicated to women artists. Only two women, Myra Melford and Carla Bley, are involved in both creative music and jazz music. Women instrumentalists remain marginalized, and experimental women remain even more marginalized. Things don't get better if we consider books. D.R. Myers analyzes the following titles: Robert Walser's Keeping Time (1999), Ingrid Monson's Saying Something (1996), Krin Gabbard's Jazz Among The Discourses (1995), Paul Berliner's Thinking in Jazz (1994), John Corbett's Extended Play (1994) and the famous book by Derek Bailey Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music (revised 1992).

All these books provide little mention of the contributions of women improvisors, and even less on cross-cultural aspects of the role of women in music. In contrast, Val Wilmer's As Serious As Your Life (1977) dedicates an entire chapter titled “You sound Good – For a Woman” in which Wilmer discusses attitudes towards women musicians and how creative women improvisors have helped support the male musicians they maintained personal relationship with (Alice and John Coltrane, Fontella Bass and Lester Bowie, Linda and Sonny Sharrock).

At this point D.R. Myers ask to herself if the statement “sound good for a woman” necessarily imply the notion of a woman who plays like a man, or if the comparison of creative women's abilities to creative men's abilities engender notions of the women being understudies of 'big brother' either directly of indirectly.

Amina Claudine Myers answers in an interview: “I don't recall actually hearing that statement [“sound good for a woman”] in reference to me, but I have heard it … years back when I was playing organ with Gene Ammons, I heard someone saying 'she plays like a man'. One time I was referred to as a female Mc Coy Tyner, or Cecil Taylor”. Amina Claudine Myers believes that statements like “'she plays like a man' means being strong and aggressive on the piano, but it's been proven that women have done heavy work and stood up under it.”

Susie Ibarra
It is perhaps safe to assume that the most valued physical standard would be gendered masculine. In an article issued on Times, a newspaper from New York, of May 30, 1999, David Yaffe describes the music of drummer Susie Ibarra depicting her as an 'exceptional' woman. Susie Ibarra can surely physically handle the drums differently from what many critics of the past were thinking about women – as my friend trumpet player – but the discussion of physicality leads readers to assume that there is a standard by which physical qualities are to be measured and compared in order to play the drums.

Yaffe discussion of Susie Ibarra creates distance between her and other women drummers or women improvisors. Allan G. Johnson makes an additional claim suggesting that what makes some women exceptional “is their ability to embody values culturally defined as masculine” (1997). In addition, many reviews of women musicians call attention to personal traits, physical attributes, or compare their music to other male musicians obscuring why these women's voices are important to be heard.

Coverage by media is not the only problem women approach through their journey in music. Joelle Leandre recalls that “as a woman, it is certainly more difficult to enter the musical 'machine'. We are the minority and it is therefore difficult to find one's language as an artist while remaining faithful to ourselves”. Other women have experienced a mixed reaction to their work, as it happened to Miya Masaoka and her piece Ritual.

Ikue Mori talks about the feeling of being displaced in both the improvised music field and technology: “They see the technology and they don't really consider me a musician playing an instrument. So I feel that they don't understand. But then I go to electronic music people's concerts. It's all male dominated. My music made by machine is not electronic enough, like I am too female for them”.

Maggie Nichols
Public criticism made by other musicians or participating colleagues can also alienate women improvisors. Maggie Nichols and Irene Schweizer, from the Feminist Improvising Group, recount how they were ostracized at one of the early important performances at the Total Music Meeting in Berlin in the late 1970s. Perhaps the discontent expressed by other musicians towards the ability of the musicians in the Feminist Improvising Group indicates not only gender bias, but also latent gendered conceptions of how music ought to sound or be created.

“We could be very iconoclastic and very surreal, or very silly – recalls cellist Georgina Born – I am sure there were good moments of music and moments of real hilarity. Only video would do justice to the character of what we did”. Born elaborates on how this use of humor could have led other musicians to perceive the Feminist Improvising Group to be not a serious band. “I am sure that humor is always a weapon from the margins. We were also using parody and probably the grotesque”.

It's time to have a look at various festivals of improvised music and its policies. Total Music Meeting (Berlin) has hired only a small number of women since 1968. Peter Brotzmann has appeared fifteen times, Evan Parker thirteen times, and Alex Von Schlippenback twelve. Twenty-eight different women performed at TMM. No African-American women were presented, and only three Asians have performed (Aki Takase, Jin Hi Kim and Sainkho Namchylak). The most women ever presented during a single festival was in 1979 with the Feminist Improvising Group (seven members).

At the Vancouver Jazz Festival, the number of creative improvisors, both male and female, totaled 45 on 1600 artists represented from 1986, equaling 2.8%. Creative women improvisors made up only 0.37% (six on 1600). Compared with other festivals, Taklos (Zurich) includes a large number of women who are not pianists and singers. This is important, since the festival more accurately represents the diversity of creative women improvisors. The number of women presented at this festival ranges from a minimum of three out of thirty-tree (9%) in 2000, to a maximum of ten out of thirty-four (29%) in 1996.

Jin Hi Kim
The festival has featured six Asian performers and two African American women. The programming demonstrates that there are more women who are not just pianists and singers which should be hired. The Guelph Jazz Festival (Guelph, Ontario) began in 1994 run by Dr. Ajay Heble, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Guelph specializing in post-colonial studies, and he has been the festival's founder and artistic director.

Up until 2000, the festival has concentrated on bringing women improvisors from Canada or the United States and has presented a handful of women improvisers that were not presented at the Vancouver festival, including Maggie Nichols, Amina Claudine Myers, Pauline Olveros and percussionist Gayle Young. The Festival de Musique Actuelle Victoriaville has programmed a variety of Asian women improvisors and European women improvisors. The percentage of creative women improvisors varies from 15.7% in 1985 to 7.8% in 1990, to 5.5% in 2000.

A close examination of the number of women hired to perform at all those festivals reveals that women are hired substantially less than their male colleagues. The attention placed on singers and pianists in festivals and the media over other istruments may be examined in terms of historical notions of women in music. In her study of girls' musical education in British schools, Lucy Green points that teachers tended to identify particular istruments with girls.

Recent musicological studies address the history of women pianists and singers in Western classical music, a tradition that still has enormous influence on music industry and social practices. During the 19th century the piano was associated with the bourgeoisie and was almost exclusively an instrument for females of amateur rank. Many artists used women pianists as subjects for their paintings and drawings, capturing many of the dominant culture attitudes towards women.

Mary Lou Williams
“The piano served as an object to be looked at besides being heard or played … the looking was insistently gendered, driven by the instrument's extra-musical function within the home as the visual-sonoric simulacrum of family, wife and mother” (Leppert, 1993). The notion of women as pianists and singers is widespread even in contemporary jazz music. The most famous women in jazz before the 1960s were pianists (Lil Harding, Mary Lou Williams, Dorothy Donegan, Marian McPartland, Hazel Scott).

The prominence of women pianists still dominates women's contribution in jazz today. But if a girl is conditioned and trained on one instrument from elementary school, it may be difficult to switch instruments once a certain proficiency is achieved on one instrument. And certainly a visit to any Western music conservatory will clearly reveal that the majority of women tend to major in piano and voice. Many traditional music programs foster the continuation of this kind of gendered construction in their students and curricula.

One way for women artists to counter some of the dominant hiring practices at festivals is to produce their own festivals. Festivals such the Canaille Festival (Frankfurt) co founded by trombonist Annemarie Roeflos and Irene Schweizer has created a space for many women improviors. Joelle Leandre, Elvira Plenar, Maggie Nichols, violinist Maartje Ten Hoorn and Marylin Mazur have played there.

City of Women, a festival held in Ljubljana, was started in 1995 with the specific goal of providing space for women artists, musicians and theorists. The 2001 call for artists posted by the organizers is especially telling: “City of Women's main theme for the first edition of the new millennium is inspired by an in 1989 written, unpublished poem by Audre Lord: 'Most people in the world are Yellow, Black, Brown, Poor, Female, Non-Christian and do not speak English.

Joelle Leandre
By the year 2000 the 20 largest cities in the world will have one thing in common: none of them will be in Europe none in the United States'. In addition to this we also want to stress that a large percentage of the European and North-American population is not 'white'. 'Western society' is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. In this new global contest it is not surprising that the main creative centers, the contemporary art talent is less and less to be found in 'white' cultural fortresses.

With this in mind we have decided to call the 7th edition: YEAR ONE, and select only artists and theoreticians 'of colors'”. However, the women programmed by the festival still legitimizes the most famous women (Marylin Crispell, Lindsay Cooper, Ikue Mori, Tenko, Meredith Monk and Zeena Parkins) and is not committed to the younger generation of improvisors.

Another festival, Kosmos Frauenraum, is held in Vienna. There, in 1997 a group of women formed LINK. Part of its mission was to raise awereness for the need of women-centered performance space in Austria. They obtained from the governement a space, a cinema called 'Rondell' as their homebase. After a while, the governement retracted their promise and so LINK squatted the 'Rondell' for the next months.

Performances, readings, concerts as well as actions of protest took place not only at the 'Rondell' but all over Vienna. Finally LINK found the cinema 'Kosmos' suitable to substitute the 'Rondell' and the space was named 'frauen.raum' and opened in 2000. In 2002 Kosmos presented an international festival of music entitled 'Here I am': artists invited included trombone player and violinist Annemarie Roelofs, The United Women's Orchestra, Joelle Leandre, sound artist Gabriele Proy, Susie Ibarra, trombonist Abbie Conant and Sylvie Courvoisier.

Another example of a festival open to women is the Vision Festival, based in New York and founded by bassist William Parker and her wife Patricia Nicholson. The 2002 Vision Festival reveals a much stronger commitment to African-American improvisors and featured women include Joelle Leandre, bassoonist Karen Borca, and the vocalists Ellen Christi and Jayne Cortez.

Ellen Christi
In March 2002 the San Francisco Jazz Festival presented “Women and Jazz: A Panel Discussion” featuring writer and activist Angela Davis, musicologist Sherri Tucker, composer Maria Schneider, pianist Mary Watkins and Susie Ibarra. One would argue that in the near future things will go better for women improvisors, but the path is still long and full of obstacles.

The lesson we can learn is that the world of art is not ripped apart from society, and that it reflects the same dynamics. This means that the music we all listen to reflects the dynamics of power we all live through our society and that a music that reflects change and committment is still far from us. This is also an explanation to the problem I raised up with my last reviews.

The records I reviewed, all by male musicians, are records of 'post avant garde' music. A music that takes improvisation mixing it with other styles of music from the 20th century. A music that has its reference in the past, that doesn't look at the future. A music that reflects a period of stagnation. Maybe if in the future men and women will collaborate together, there will be a new music, reflecting new values and new musical ideas – think about the Feminist Improvising Group as an example.

Until that moment, I expect to encounter music that reflects the past and the status quo, as the records I reviewed in the past months. It is necessary to include different genders and races in our culture if we want it to be renewed. If we fail this target, we will listen to music created following old schemes and old dreams, a music that is far from being near to us, a music that will be conservative.

If you want to read Dana Reason Myers dissertation in its entirety, follow this link.