Tag Archives: Raoul Björkenheim

Revue & Corrigee review by Pierre Durr

Compilation – Free classical guitars (ff hhhff hhh)
Compilation – I Never Metaguitar (CFG 005)
A travers ces deux compilations dédiées à la guitare, chacune proposée par un praticien de l’instrument (le Belge Grégory Duby d’une part, Elliott Sharp d’autre part), l’auditeur côtoie diverses approches de l’instrument. Des approches complémentaires. La première peut sembler plus expérimentale, plus ouverte dans la mesure où elle s’inscrit moins dans un environnement identifiable, d’autant plus que ses praticiens (européens) sont moins connus, presque plus anonymes si l’on excepte Nicolas Desmarchelier, Olaf Rupp ou peut-être Roger Smith, alors que les invités de l’enregistrement portugais (européens, américains, voire asiatique avec Kazuhisa Uchihashi…) ont déjà une notoriété certaine, confirmée par plusieurs décennies de pratique, sous leur nom pour une majorité d’entre eux (Elliott Sharp, Jean-François Pauvros, Noël Akchoté, Scott Fields, Mike Cooper, Henry Kaiser…) ou en tant que partenaires d’autres instrumentistes liés au jazz improvisée (Mary Halvorson, Jeff Parker…). Par ailleurs les premiers usent d’une guitare classique dans leur pratique de l’improvisation, tandis que la guitare électrique reste l’instrument de prédilection pour les seconds, même si l’un ou l’autre des officiants use d’une viole de gambe électrifiée (le Suédois Raoul Björkenheim), d’effets divers (Jeff Parker), voire de plusieurs guitares jouées simultanément (Henry Kaiser)… Entre nappes sonores, approches à la power trio, pratique d’arpèges, jeux aux phrasés tantôt plus jazz, tantôt plus rock expérimental, parsemés de séquences improvisées déjantés, “I never metaguitar” reste assez familier tout en cultivant la diversité, alors que “Free Classical Guitars” offre majoritairement des pratiques assez proches les unes des autres dans la mesure où pour la plupart des officiants et au-delà de leur sensibilité personnelle, des détournements sonores qu’ils opèrent ou de la mise en situation de l’instrument , Derek Bailey semble être l’inspirateur principal.

The New York City Record review by Kurt Gottschalk

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar: Solo Guitars for the XXI Century (CFG 005)
There are many adjectives that could be put on the right hand side of the slash, just after “guitarist/” that precedes Elliott Sharp’s name. He is a slash-composer, slash-inventor and something of a slash-ambassador. But despite his variety of projects, his reputation as a guitarist of remarkable precision and innovation will no doubt remain for what he’s most known.
Sharp is also something of an advocate for musical experimentation, as seen through the four State of the Union records he compiled and produced in the ‘80s-90s. Those records began as a who’s-who of Downtown music and expanded to a valuable international compendium. On I Never Meta Guitar, Sharp curates astate of the union of adventurous guitarists of different nations and generations and in so doing programs a listenable and enjoyable collection. The disc opens with an excellent solo piece by Mary Halvorson, swelling from finger-pattern to overdrive and goes onto include Jeff Parker multi-tracking and filtering himself into an appealing glitchdom, Henry Kaiser apparently playing six guitars simultaneously and Mike Cooper covering Ornette Coleman, along with tracks by Noël Akchoté, Nels Cline, Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Mick Barr. (Apparently, as in Keith Rowe’s guitar quartet, the guitarists don’t necessarily need to play guitar: Raoul Björkenheim is heard on electric viol de gamba and Brandon Ross picks a six-string banjo.)
Sharp himself gets the last word, on his eight-string guitarbass with delay, which seems appropriate enough. Even with all his work here as composer, producer and saxophonist, he is in the end a guitarist’s guitarist.

All About Jazz-Italy review by Maurizio Comandini

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar (CFG 005)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
L’etichetta portoghese Clean Feed ha chiesto al chitarrista newyorkese Elliott Sharp di curare una antologia di brani dedicati alla chitarra contemporanea e ha raccolto il risultato in questo ottimo album: sedici brani affidati a sedici diversi interpreti. Sedici storie che si compenetrano e che riescono a raccontare le mille sfaccettature legate alle illimitate possibilità dello strumento. Tutti gli interpreti hanno scelto di muoversi in solo ad eccezione di Michael Gregory che invece ha deciso di farsi affiancare da basso e batteria nel blues stralunato “Blue Blue”.
Viaggiare da soli non necessariamente significa viaggiare con un solo strumento: infatti in alcuni casi le chitarre si sono moltiplicate a sovrapposte, alla ricerca di un irrobustimento del suono, di un ispessimento della memoria. Le manipolazioni sono il segno più costante, la dimostrazione di una flessibilità che si fa benedetta se affidata alle mani giuste.

Si parte con la giustamente celebrata Mary Halvorson per giungere al curatore Elliott Sharp, dopo un lunghissimo viaggio che tocca lande pietrificate e assolate, per poi piombare in valli oscure che si specchiano nella luce della luna. Il testimone passa di mano fra chitarristi molto noti (Jeff Parker, Henry Kaiser, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Noel Akchotè, Nels Cline, Brandon Ross, Scott Fields) senza tralasciare quelli meno noti ma altrettanto bravi a dipingere bozzetti affascinanti e colmi di magia.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Various Artists – I NEVER META GUITAR (CFG 005)
I get a kick out of how deceptive this disc’s title is. The invocation of the qualifier “meta” suggests that this compilation of brief solo pieces might be fairly self-reflective, self-questioning, even self-regarding. And indeed, many of the post-Bailey developments in guitar (thinking here of all the Rowe-inspired players) have focused on problematizing not just the instrumental associations the guitar has but on problematizing instrumentalism full stop. How interesting then that the vast majority of these pieces – many of which are multi-tracked, electronically supplemented, or occasionally “interrupted” by a tape or similar production move – are sentimental and quite lyrical. Gloriously so, I might add. Not all of the sixteen tracks are equally successful, but the level of accomplishment is so high (and the way it works as an album so surprising, given how often such compilations fall flat) that it’s easy to overlook the minor missteps and focus on the fab.
Mary Halvorson’s “In Two Parts Missing” is one of the most harmonically dense pieces here, with fragments of bop phraseology strung together but regularly upended by spring-loaded moments where it sounds as if something has snapped internally, leading to a massive electronic quaver, a “sproing!” that’s quite excellent. Jeff Parker’s fully formed “Act As If Nothing Ever Happened” is gorgeously, gauzily melancholy. Henry Kaiser’s “Blame it on the Tonkori” is built around chiming 12-string, with lovely ebowed feedback that sounds like a whistle (which I couldn’t help hearing as a nod to Robbie Basho). Only two players are relatively new to me: Jean-Francois Pauvros’ bowing isn’t quite my thing, but I love Janet Feder’s raw strumming. Raoul Bjorkenheim’s rhythmic language is distinctive even in solo context (“I Told You So”), and he comfortably occupies the disc’s middle section along with a series of stunners from Noël Akchoté (I’m a sucker for his sweetly lyrical “Joanna”), Nels Cline (his distinctive lyrical language is so emphatic on “Study for a Hairpin and Hatbox”), Brandon Ross, and a heart-stopping slide showcase from Mike Cooper. After that run, the next few pieces don’t quite win me over as much: Michael Gregory actually plays trio blues, Scott Fields and Kazuhisa Uchihashi fuss and scrabble a bit, and Mick Barr does his solo Orthrelm thing. But the disc closes strongly, with a visit to Gunnar Geisse’s spectral drone world on “The Day Rauschenberg Met De Kooning” and a goodnight kiss of fractal madness from E#. Quibble if you will about who’s not here (Joe Morris, anyone?) but this is top shelf stuff.

Village Voice review by Francis Davis

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar (CFG 005)
I Never Meta Guitar (Clean Feed), an anthology on which 16 individual performers—including Halvorson, Cline, Brandon Ross, Jeff Parker, Scott Fields, Henry Kaiser, Noël Akchoté, Sharp himself, and a number of Europeans whose names are new to me—are given free reign. My own taste is for the few relatively conventional tracks here, like Cline’s soft-spoken “Study for Hairpin and Hatbox” and Michael Gregory’s roaring “Blue Blue.” But those of you more captivated by noise than I can rest assured of hearing sounds undreamed of by Gene Autry, Elvis, or even Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar (CFG 005)
Based on Elliott Sharp’s wide-ranging and intelligent webcasts on MOMA’s PS1 website, I gained an appreciation for Mr. Sharp’s keen ear for the contemporary and its roots. That appreciation has continued to grow after repeated listens to the anthology of modern solo guitar apty dubbed I Never Meta Guitar (Cleanfeed CFG 005) that Elliott curated and produced and that has been hitting the distribution avenues in the last several months. It’s a selection of some of the brightest lights on the guitar scene today, as defined by the idea that they are doing new work, some avant garde, some just ahead of the pack in some less specifically formulizable way, some simply excellent purveyors of imaginative guitar playing.

There are 16 relatively brief pieces on the disk, some electric, some acoustic, some with a “prepared” guitar. Many are unaccompanied solo works; others include others. Either way it’s a very cogent summing up of the present and perhaps some of the future directions that will branch from current practice.

Every cut is worth hearing. The list of guitarists is impressive: Mary Halverson, Jeff Parker, Henry Kaiser, Nels Cline, Brandon Ross, Michael Gregory, and Elliott himself are some of the more well-known participants. There’s even a little banjo to be heard. Most of this could go under the rubric “improvisation,” though some pieces sound worked out pretty thoroughly.

There’s acoustic picking, slide, hammering-on, electric shredding, sound sculpture, soundscapes and much in between. The disk ends with Elliott Sharpe’s rather incredible hammer guitar send-off, “Telemetry.”

This is it. It’s the dope on what is new in the world of the guitar and its currency as a solo vehicle unto itself.

No self-respecting guitarist or guitar fan should miss this one, seriously. It puts a frame around where we are so we can study, admire, and gain from it. That’s very important and Elliott shows he’s just the one to put it together.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Various Artists – I Never Metaguitar (CFG 005)
I Never Metaguitar es una novedad en el catálogo de Clean Feed. El quinto volumen de su Guitar Series es una recopilación dirigida por Elliott Sharp, consistente en temas inéditos de 16 guitarristas que trabajan en la escena del jazz de vanguardia y la libre improvisación.
Por supuesto que allí no están ni Pat Metheny, ni John Scofield, ni Bill Frisell. Resulta extraña la ausencia de Joe Morris, aunque esa carencia es muy bien cubierta por las formas de entender la guitarra que tienen primeras figuras del instrumento como Mary Halvorson, Nels Cline, Scott Fields, Jeff Parker, Raoul Björkenheim (aquí a la viola de gamba eléctrica), Elliott Sharp, Mick Barr, Henry Kaiser o Noel Akchoté. Tal y como reza el subtítulo, son guitarristas para el siglo XXI.

The Montreal Mirror review by Lawrence Joseph

VARIOUS – I Never Meta Guitar (Solo Guitars for the 21st Century) (CFG 005)
What’s happening with the guitar these days? Here are 16 answers from 14 guitarists, one six-string banjo player and an electric viola da gambist. Despite the guitar’s thousand-year history, there’s still abundant room for innovation, evidenced by the diversity of approaches taken here: acoustic, electric, laptop, clean, distorted, delayed and ring-modulated, modern jazz to avant noise. Janet Feder and Nels Cline contribute full-bodied melodic picking, contrasting the frantic rushes from Scott Fields and Mick Barr. Creative fret fun curated by Elliott Sharp, who contributes one frenzied track. 9/10

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar (CFG 005)
There are no fans of the guitar in today’s creative music—they are better described as fanatics, or devotees. But then the guitar has always caused listeners to choose sides. I’m a fan of Jimmy Page and you, Pete Townshend—or do you prefer Wes Montgomery to my Jim Hall. John McLaughlin or Pete Cosey? Some of these debates have, thankfully, carried on for years.

With a new century comes new names, and allegiances are redrawn as new techniques are introduced and thankfully new sounds created. Clean Feed Records asked avant-guitar legend Elliott Sharp to curate an album of today’s guitar improvisers and technicians, some familiar names like Nels Cline, Henry Kaiser, and Noel Akchote, and others that are less well-known.

The hottest name in jazz guitar circles these days is Mary Halvorson—featured in bands led by Anthony Braxton, Tom Rainey, Taylor Ho Bynum and Tomas Fujiwara, her Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12, 2008) has been heavily celebrated by critics. Her rapid-fire note twisting has become a signature, and can be heard on “In Two Parts Missing.” The word “slippery” also applies to Finnish/American guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, perhaps known best for his Scorch Trio sound, which blends the intensity of rock with flights of free jazz. Here, he hints at the stratosphere, but contains his rock with a rolling electric viola.

Michael Gregory is the only musician here who doesn’t perform solo, his Danish trio performing a swinging blues piece. Other players add overdubs and effects to create the sense of multiple players. Chicago Underground guitarist Jeff Parker, for example, utilizes three guitars and varying effects and delays, to develop an understated and cerebral delivery of notes. Others also work with multiple instruments, such as Henry Kaiser’s five acoustic and one electric amalgamation, and Jean-François Pauvros’ extended technique for two guitars.

Then there are the simple, no-effects guitarist Scott Fields and Janet Feder, and the pure sound of Brandon Ross, with his banjo.

With I Never Meta Guitar , there are plenty of sounds to discover, from old and new favorite guitarists.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Various Artists – I Never Met A Guitar (solo guitars for the XXI Century) (CFG 005)
The album consists of sixteen pieces, by the following musicians : Brandon Ross, Elliott Sharp, Gunnar Geisse, Henry Kaiser, Janet Feder, Jean-François Pauvros, Jeff Parker, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Mary Halvorson, Michael Gregory, Mick Barr, Mike Cooper, Nels Cline, Noel Akchote, Raoul Björkenheim, Scott Fields.

The great thing about the album is the breadth of material that Sharp put together, and the quality and variety of the pieces.

There are some real discoveries here for me : Jean-François Pauvros is absolutely brilliant, demonstrating the beauty of slowness and emotional depth of his extended techniques; Mike Cooper playing on acoustic guitar, very bluesy and sensitive,

And my favorite guitar players of the moment are excellent too on the album : Noël Akchoté playing a crisp and sweet ballad, so does Nels Cline with possibly the most jazzy piece on the album, Raoul Björkenheim showing how subtlety and rawness can be combined, Brandon Ross on his six-string banjo.

Then there are of course the guys who have barely anything to tell, or at least they play stuff that we’ve heard so often before, and that leave me quite indifferent : either the blues (Michael Gregory), avant-garde emptiness (Kazuhisa Uchihashi), high speed emptiness (Mick Barr).

For the guitar freaks, some technical detail is given too about the mics and amps and guitar-builders, but it’s all within the boundaries of acceptability.

That being said, most of the tunes are not jazz at all. Lots of new ideas and insights into modern guitar playing. Not everything works though, and that’s possibly as well.