Reviews RBK2160

Although this informative checklist of free jazz and improvisation recordings looks innocent enough, this is a potentially dangerous book. If you are remotely interested in the subject, the infomation it contains might be enough to send you jetting off to European record fairs in search of expensive rare vinyl. Johannes Rød´s guide stands as a comprehensive history of the independent labels that passionately released this music during its golden period, at a time when disillusioned players were leaving the US for Europe in order to record and perform to audiences who were more receptive to the avant garde jazz they wanted to play... Rød gives brief but detailed biographies of these and other influential labels, cataloguing each release within a tabular design and illuminating the text with a separate full colour section og photographed covers taken from his personal collection. In his epilogue, he cites the labels that (presumably for space reasons) didn´t make it into the main section and reflects on how some mainstream UK labels felt obliged to sign up free jazz musicians in order to avoid missing out on what might have been the next big thing. Of course, it was not to be. Many albums listed here all but disappeared into oblivion, occasionally surfacing on rare records lists but otherwise remaining unheard by the masses. Rød´s elegantly slim volume tells the story of these lost artefacts and serves as an appreciation of the labels whose vision caused them to exist.
The Wire (UK)

This book is a rich repository of information on a largely marginal area of musical activity. The author has been selective in his approach, so we don´t get Ornette Coleman´s "Free Jazz", as it was released on Atlantic. Other independent labels not generally associated with this kind of music - like Prestige and Blue Note - are left for appraisal elsewhere, and discretion is needed with a 1200-plus release catalogue like ECM. But with Rød´s enormous knowledge of the area you get a fascinating, if fairly brief, details of independent labels from ESP-Disk down to CJR - which only put out four releases, by saxophonist Joe McPhee, each considered to be important. The sleeve artwork is high quality. Much of it is fittingly stark and some of it is naïve, but the French Actuel label presented its uncompromising music in a coolly stylish way. 4/5.
Mojo (UK)

It´s a trainspotter´s dream come true. But, peer underneath the dry stats and you find stories of passion, conviction and commitment. Tellingly, just about all of these independent labels were set up by determined individuals with a burning love of experimental jazz. Many - like Sun Ra´s groundbreaking El Saturn label - were initiated by musicians themselves, in a bid to sidestep the indifference of mainstream labels and their music out to the people. Many others were the labours of avant-jazz fanatics - such as ESP-Disk´s Bernard Stollman - who often had considerably more knowledge of music than they did of business. What emerges is a fascinating snapshot of the DIY spirit in action, a decade before punk made it fashionable.
Jazzwise (UK)

The book serves as a valuable documentation of the extent and variety of free jazz and improv recordings for the period covered and as a useful check list for vinyl collectors. The inclusion of high quality colour reproductions of 64 LP covers, including classic designs for ESP-Disk, Hat Hut/Art, Ogun, Rift, etc, are a considerable bonus. Indeed, all aspects of the book´s design, layout, paper and binding are exemplary.
Jazz Journal (UK)

Perfect timing. The revival of interest in black plastic discs running at 33rpm makes this small but smartly presented compendium a welcome addition to the very specialist field of guides to record companies... and the array of beautiful sleeves also says a great deal about thes cultural and political territory marked out by the likes of Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Evan Parker and Al Shorter.
Echoes (UK)

Over the years the fantastic, genre-defying Norwegian label Rune Grammofon has published a few books mostly celebrating its own snazzy design aesthetic and rich history, but a gorgeous new volume by art historian Johannes Rød focuses more on the music and artifacts that have influenced label owner Rune Kristofferson, who penned one of the forwards for Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985 (there's a second one by notorious "discaholic" and reedist Mats Gustaffson). Rød delivers an important disclaimer: "This might not be a definitive overview for the hardcore know-it-all collectors, but more of a guide for the 'normal' collectors and for those looking to expand their musical horizon and take a dive into the wonderful world of free jazz, improvisation, and generally speaking jazz outside of the mainstream." The book concludes with a conversation between Kristoffersen and music writer (and former Wire editor) Rob Young in which the former says the starting point for this particular project was ESP-Disk, which he calls "the first 'serious' independent label with a mission to record what you could call free music." The 128-page hardbound book features stunning design by Kim Hiorthøy, the man responsible for Rune Grammofon's distinctive graphic sensibilities, with each profile of 60 independent labels from Europe and North America spilled out on ledgers. The listed discographies for labels like Bead, Emanem, CJR, Nessa, Sackville, and El Saturn, among many others, aren't complete. Nessa, for example, has released terrific straight-ahead records by the likes of Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan, and Eddie Johnson, but Rød omits those because they certainly don't fall into the terrain mapped out by the book's title. Each label profile includes a concise history and description. The book also includes 18 color pages featuring 60 album covers, including eight of the stunning records Dutch artist Marte Röling designed for Fontana Records in the 60s. What this book essentially salutes is some of the people behind the scenes—label owners, producers, and designers—but if wasn't for the music itself none of that would matter too much. Rød and Kristofferson have made a beautiful object that offers tribute to the entire enterprise of music and record making, in effect a high-end love letter.
Chicago Reader (US)

This slim and rather elegant hardback presents art historian-turned-compiler Rød´s personal perspective of what constitutes the key free-jazz record labels spanning a 30-year period. It´s not a history or or chronicle of the avant-garde jazz scene, but rather a compendium with accompanying discographies documenting the myriad record companies that committed themselves to releasing music that was far removed from mainstream tastes... Some if the imprints listed (Strata East, Flying Dutchman and Sun Ra´s El Saturn) will be familiar to non-avant-gardists, but there are others (Palm, Kharma, Ak-Ba, Sackville and Po Torch) that probably only the most ardent of free-jazz buffs will recognise. Though the price is a tad prohibitive, it´s nevertheless a handy mine of information that should appeal to the serious collector.
Record Collector (UK)

A welcome, beautifully designed guide concentrating on a 20-year period beginning from the founding of ESP Disk' (the first independent label to give priority to free jazz) and ending with the year the CD began to take over as the genre's format of choice, Johannes Rød's elegantly designed book offers a welcome and necessary guide to jazz's enfant terrible. At its core is a selection of 60 of the small scale, independent US and European labels that gave the genre its autonomous, anti-establishment flavour. A potted history and synopsis of each imprint (sometimes detailed and informative, at others frustrating brief), paints a picture of a fiercely independent scene run chiefly by the artists themselves or wealthy fans. Discographies (many being author-picked highlights) accompany each entry while a selection of plates show the attention to design and aesthetics that accompanied many of the releases. As in any book tackling such a knotty subject as free jazz there will be controversy surrounding its inclusions and omissions. The lack of any major label releases for instance, robs the book of many of the genre's most important releases. Similarly, an attempt to document a few important Japanese releases would have been welcome. But it's hard to be too critical of a work that offers such a wealth of information or so many excellent starting points. 4/5.
Record Collector (UK) 2

Temaet er smalt, men entusiasmen uimotståelig i boka "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985". Nå finnes det få absolutter om hva som er og ikke er frijazz, abstrakt jazz, avantgardejazz, friimprovisasjon etc, og det presiseres i boka at den skal oppfattes som en subjektiv veiviser og oversikt. Noe forsøk på en encyclopedisk anlagt framstiling av den hele, fulle og objektive sannhet om frijazz i 20-årsperioden får vi forståelig nok ikke, men du skal lese boka svært overfladisk om du ikke har et betraktelig bedre forståelsesgrunnlag for å mene noe om frijazz etter endt lesning. I tillegg til listene har boka interessante presentasjoner av hvert enkelt plateselskap, og ditto drøftende forord av både Rune Kristoffersen, saksofonist Mats Gustafsson og Rød selv. Likeledes er en samtale mellom Kristoffersen og The Wires Rob Young om forholdet frijazz - platebransjen informativ lesning, sammen med en epilog der Rød redegjør for sine utvalg og skriver om relevante, men ikke nevnte plater utgitt på både uavhengige og ikke-uavhengige selskap. Boka berører også, om enn mer indirekte, spørsmål om definisjoner av og grenser for frijazz. Det som ved første øyekast kan synes som en prosaisk katalog, trer dermed etter hvert fram som et både opplysende og tankevekkende verk om en musikkform som gjennomgikk en svær utvikling på 60- og 70-tallet, og som i dag lever i spennet mellom jazz, rock, samtidsmusikk og støy, stadig søkende nye, friske uttrykk i den evige kampen om omverdenens øre, og den like krevende kampen mot frijazzens egne, gjennom seks tiår utviklede klisjeer.
Dagbladet (NO)

I morgen står den tyske Peter Brötzmann, britiske Evan Parker og amerikanske Joe McPhee sammen på scenen under Kongsberg jazzfestival, i trioformat for første gang. Men deres veier har krysset i mange tiår, og de er til stadighet å treffe i en ny, flott bok, laget av den norske kunsthistorikeren og frijazz-samleren Johannes Rød. Som saksofonist Mats Gustafsson skriver i sitt sedvanlig utropstegntunge forord, er det ikke mange slike bøker i omløp ennå. Post-Coltrane utviklet den frie jazzen seg i ekspressfart, gjerne på bittesmå, uavhengige selskap, og spredde seg kjapt til Europa. Rød presenterer de seksti viktigste av disse selskapene med kompakte tekster, og lister opp katalogene, om enn ikke komplett. Det er blitt en merkelig blanding oppslagsverk, kunstbok og notisbok. Personlig hadde jeg ønsket mer informasjon om besetning på hver enkelt plate, med langt flere bilder og gjerne baksiden av omslagene også. Litt grådig bør man kunne føle seg. Men det kommer vel. Og om man er interessert i slik musikk (og jeg ser ingen grunn til at man ikke skal være det) er anskaffelse av denne boken likevel en no-brainer.
Dagens Næringsliv (NO)

JOHANNES RØD hat als Konservator, Kunsthistoriker und Experte für Fälschungen den perfekten Background, um Gutes zu schätzen und Wahres zu bewahren. Sein Innerstes entzündet sich jedoch an Fire Music, da ist er passionierter Kenner und Sammler. Und als solcher der Autor von Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985 (RBK 2160, Book), einem sehr schön als Notizbuch aufgemachten Führer zu 60 Independent Labels. Es enthält ein ABC jener DIY-Klitschen (abseits von Atlantic, Blue Note und Impulse), auf denen die Musiker selbst oder begeisterte Fans den Stoff verlegten, auf dem das Free Jazz Revival in Skandinavien (und Chicago) ba­siert, wie es mit allem Dreck, Speck und Gloria Mats Gustafsson verkörpert. Der be­treibt die Kunst des Erbens als entflammter Saxophonist und als angefixter Vinyl­junkie (siehe seine Website: Hier steuert er sein Wissen und ein begeistertes Vorwort bei, in dem der nicht endende Rausch widerhallt, den die Kick-Ass-Music von Ayler, Braxton und Brötz­mann bis Sun Ra und Taylor, von Cherry, Dean und Chekasin bis Pukwana und Windo, vom Art Ensemble of Chicago, Globe Unity, dem Revolu­tionary Ensemble oder dem Spontaneous Music Ensemble auslöst. All die Scheiben, die einen Vorschuss auszahlen auf ein reicheres Leben. Die einen durchschütteln und umhauen und darin bestärken, sich die Verhältnisse anders zu wün­schen. Wer von uns kennt sie nicht, die Schmerz­lust, dass einen schon das weit Bessere durch­schauert, während man sich an der herrschen­den Banalität des Gierigen, Gleichgültigen und Bösen dumm und dämlich stößt? Umso existenzieller die Freude und der Trost mit den Kicks, den besseren Argumenten, den Grooves auf ARC, ARTISTS HOUSE, BEAD, BLACK SAINT, BYG ACTUEL, CLAXON, EMANEM, ESP-DISK', FREEDOM, FMP, HAT HUT, INCUS, INDIA NAVIGATION, LEO, MATCHLESS, METALANGUAGE, MOERS MUSIC, OGUN, PO TORCH, RIFT, EL SATURN, SOUL NOTE und vielen wei­teren Foren. Rob Young von The Wire diskutiert im Gespräch mit Rune Kristoffersen, dem Rune Gram­mofon-Macher und Herausgeber, die Eckdaten von Røds teils vollständiger, teils auch etwas konster­nierend selektiver Listung und richtet dabei das Au­genmerk auch auf die Coverästhetik, die in 64 Bei­spielen demonstriert ist. Gelistet ist ausschließlich Vinyl, mit dem Beginn des CD-Zeitalters als Zeit­mauer. Diese gewisse Fetischisierung findet ihre Analogie in der Buchförmigkeit der Liste, eine Qualität, für die hoffentlich nicht nur ich eine Schwäche habe. Es versteht sich aber von selbst, dass Røds Diskographien dazu anregen, online weiter zu stöbern (wobei nicht der Weisheit letzter Schluss ist). Für mich, ich geb's verschämt zu, war und ist das, was die Musik selber transportiert, entscheidender als der Tonträger. Seit ich den heißen Scheiß kenne, angefangen mit Shepps Blasé und The Jazz Composer's Orchestra, bin ich davon angezogen wie ich es selbst als Teenager nie von einem Superstar war, keinem Jimi, keiner Janis, keinem Ozzy. Aber Blasmusik muss es sein, kein Plinkplonk. Warum diese eigentliche Volksmusik so marginalisiert ist, wird mir nie einleuchten. Für mich geht sie, wie ja auch Gus­tafsson nicht müde wird zu erinnern, einher mit Vorstellungen und Standards, die heute nicht weniger maßgebend sein sollten fürs Denken und fürs Handeln als in den 1960ern, 70ern oder 80ern.
Bad Alchemy (DE)