Tag Archives: Will Guthrie

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

CF 231THE AMES ROOM – Bird Dies (CF 231)
This record from 2011 is definitely suitable for allegorizing the concept of “getting lost”. You can attempt to fine-tune the ears a bit, and start analyzing the kind of technical contribution by a single instrumentalist. But the guess here is that after about 15/20 minutes (at best) of the circa 48 that incorporate the performance the brain will be stabilized on “blurry standby” mode, and the physical essence – most preferably, the limbs – will be doing the hard work. Basically, Bird Dies is made of diminutive rhythmic and melodic follicles that keep revolving around themselves with rambunctious vehemence, interlinking parts producing a sort of agglomerative acoustic frenzy. Yet there is no primitivism involved, as Guionnet, Thomas and Guthrie are three outstanding instrumentalists who do not need highbrowed deceptions to stymie the probity of their quest. Their success in this context depends on a congenital ability in originating driving stoutness substantiated by decipherable configurations. Try as one might to put some distance from the resulting exhilaration, it’s very probable that these ferociously half-broken orbits will defeat the resistance to insistent foot tapping and autistic head nodding. Nimble acridness, sinewy muscle and polymorphic pulse: nothing is missing. Just add the punch-drunk syndrome granted by a loud playback.

Jazz Word review by Ken Waxman

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver – Family Ties
Free Jazz has no geography or language as these two CDs of outstanding trio improvisation prove. Seemingly any musician(s) from anywhere can organize an exceptional session just as long as the spirit is there. But that’s the key caveat. For unless the performance includes an indefinable helping of inspiration and cooperation, the results is endless blowing.

The younger group of players who make up the Ames Group understand this and, perhaps pointedly don’t make free expression their only methods of expression. Paris-based alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet for instance, is not only is involved with electro-acoustic compositions and pieces for organ but he’s one-fifth of Hubbub, France’s most recognizable reductionist band. Confirming the geographic separation, The Ames Room’s other members are Australians who have expatriated to different parts of Europe. Nantes, France-based Will Guthrie, is a percussionist who moves between Rock, Electronica and experimental solo expression; Berlin resident, bassist Clayton Thomas is as likely be found as part of an experimental duo as a big band playing complex arrangements.

There’s no sign of that versatility on Bird Dies, which in essence is 46 minutes of unstoppable, balls-to-the-wall improvisation, with no explanation of whether the deceased bird in question is a fowl or Charlie Parker. Guionnet sticks the horn in his mouth at the beginning, and almost never stops stretching sequences of staccato segmented split tones, slurs, screams and siren-like squeaks throughout. Meanwhile Thomas keeps things together with resonating thumps while Guthrie matches the saxman’s extended glossolalia and tongue jujitsu with cross-sticking counterpoint expressed in ruffs, rolls and bounces.

Building his solos with pointillist intensity so that partials and extensions of individual notes are apparent along with the roots, Guionnet’s altissimo screams and basso honks are anything but out of control. Marking time with repeated phrasing and hooks, his output cunningly mingles with Thomas’ and Guthrie’s pressures and vibrations until the intermingled lines come to a satisfactory end. One would expect that “Bird” Parker would have been impressed with the trio members’ audacity, if not all their methods.

There are similar circumstances in place on Family Ties. But here the slightly older improvisers keep the free-form intensity going for almost 75½ -minutes, albeit among six tracks. Another dual country situation, in this case bassist Joe Morris and drummer Gerald Cleaver are Americans while saxophonist Ivo Perelman is Brazilian. Each has worked with a cross section of advanced stylists in the past, most prominently bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp.

Cleaver who straddles supposed contemporary and so-called avant-garde Jazz gigs most of the time uses blunt accents throughout; while Morris, equally proficient as a guitarist, has an expected tendency to mix arpeggiated licks with steadying string pops. As for Perelman, his supposed avant-gardism doesn’t preclude involvement in the song form at various junctures. Especially in this classic configuration of saxophone-bass-and-drums, his pacing and timbre intersections often reflect decisions Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins made in corresponding situations. Get an idea of this on “The Buffalo”, the only creature memorialized here.

In effect there are sections in “Love”, the album’s nearly 25-minute climatic showpiece that Perelman’s supposedly irregular reed variations take on lyrical inferences in the Stan Getz-Gerry Mulligan tradition. Bird may figure in too. Mid-range and moderato, Perelman’s sputtering textures are backing by Cleaver’s ratamacues. Soon afterwards though bugle-like spetrofluctuation, pressurized honks and repeated tongue slaps are the order of the day, with the saxophonist blowing several choruses through his mouthpiece alone. The drummer responds with shattering ruffs and cross patterning, while the bassist sprints up and down the strings to introduce the saxophonist`s tongue-stopping and shrilling. As a climax within a climax, Perelman eventually produces two streams of sounds; one which piles shrieks upon shrieks; the other accommodating and mid-range. The later connects to the pseudo-ballad which launched the sequence and appropriately completes it.

Throughout the rest of the session the three engage in more cat-and-mouse-like games and chases, with multiphonics as prominent as American songbook inferences and, in the saxophonist’s case, bitten-off tones and vamping cries that go beyond Rollins-like strategies without being offensive. Tessitura broadening to insinuate lyrical underpinning even lurks in a piece such as the title track. Although Perelman begins his improvisations on kazoo [!], there are still references to simpler pop melodies in the midst of the instrument’s nasal whines. When he switches back to tenor saxophone, his output is initially paced and mellow, until he deconstructs what melody there is with staccato snorts and bell-muting slurs. As Cleaver ruffs and rattles alongside Morris’ stentorian bumps, Perelman uses thick reed pressure to rappel from nephritic sound dislocation to grating altissimo tongue flutters before locking into a chromatic summation punctuated by guitar-like twangs and a concluding thump from the bassist.

Protracted or segmented explorations of the polyphonic limits of concentrated improvisations, both of these Brazilian-American and French-Australian trios offer uncompromising but satisfying CDs.

The Wire review by Stuart Broomer

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
There’s an intriguing contradiction offered in the slim verbal materials that accompany this CD. The band name “Ames Room” refers to the asymmetrical room with a horizon line often used in film to create optical illusions, making two things of the same size appear very different in scale or creating the effect of a ball rolling uphill. Contrary to those illusions, the title Bird Dies is grim contradiction to the old jazz sentiment, “Bird Lives.” Put them together and you may sense the different perspective that the trio of alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet, bassist Clayton Thomas and drummer Will Guthrie bring to jazz—insistently in the moment, time-loaded and  (almost) history-free, a music with few allusions in which the group has left illusions in its name. This is among the most consistently intense performances I can recall hearing, consistent in the sense that a sauce might be, intense in the sense of a beating. The single track—yes, Bird Dies—is 46 minutes long and it begins with Guionnet chewing up and spitting out short phrases, varying them incrementally, repeating the same process with another phrase, and doing it with the efficiency and timbre (and sometimes the pitch range) of a circular saw or wood chipper, while Clayton pumps out an insistent pulse and Guthrie creates an endless rebar knit-work of shifting and broken drum rhythms. The phrases and the rhythms change and sometimes the sound thins out—Guthrie goes down to a light rattle or moves around his kit or mounts a particularly violent barrage, Guionnet reduces the line to one or two squawks and actually stops playing for about forty seconds around the half-hour mark whether to regroup or highlight Clayton playing a scale in polyrythmic lock-step with Guthrie. However, the sense of a single extraordinary utterance remains, exhausting and also liberating, its time experienced both insistently and microscopically.

All About Jazz Italy review by Stefano Merighi

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Ecco un disco radicale. Se intendiamo con questo aggettivo l’attitudine a ritornare agli elementi di base dell’espressione musicale, ad esaminarli al microscopio, senza voler elaborarli né evolverli verso una narrazione. Il trio in questione prende di petto una serie di patterns ritmico-melodici e li ribadisce con tetragona aggressività, passando sottilmente dalla loro ripetizione a piccole ma significative variazioni, stordendo l’ascoltatore con un cumulo di assalti sonori, che mantengono una cifra stiistica compatta e unitaria.

La performance è senza pause ed è arduo pensare che qualcuno possa star seduto (o in piedi) per quarantotto minuti filati ad ascoltare. Meglio suddividere la seduta in sequenze separate. La monotonia ha un contrappeso nella sicura padronanza tecnica dei tre improvvisatori. Jean-Luc Guionnet, francese di Lione, è protagonista di una carriera nel jazz d’avanguardia ma anche nella musica elettronica-concreta, oltre ad essere filosofo e produttore radiofonico. Bassista e batterista sono australiani: Clayton Thomas è già piuttosto quotato, così come Will Guthrie. Si ha la sensazione che solisti così possano suonare in uno spettro di soluzioni molto più ampio, ma l’interesse per l’ossessione accumulativa domina in questo caso il trio.

Soluzioni di questo tipo sono state esperite ad esempio da Roscoe Mitchell già qualche decennio fa, dunque niente di trascendentale. Però forza, determinazione, precisione esecutiva sono di pregio.

Improve Sphere review by Julien Héraud

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Ces dernières années, The Ames Room a écumé les festivals et salles de concerts, notamment en Europe où ils ont eu de nombreuses fois l’occasion de (re)présenter leur musique. Je ne vous apprendrai certainement pas grand chose en vous disant que ce trio est constitué de Jean-Luc Guionnet (saxophone alto), Clayton Thomas (contrebasse) et Will Guthrie (batterie) et qu’il a déjà eu l’occasion de se faire remarquer l’année dernière avec un (très bon) LP publié par Monotype; mais sait-on jamais, peut-être une âme égarée lira-t-elle cette chronique…

Pour Bird Dies, le trio Guionnet/Thomas/Guthrie propose un enregistrement live d’une longue pièce de 45 minutes. Du free jazz, The Ames Room en a conservé l’énergie et la virulence peut-être, mais le trio évolue sur une forme beaucoup plus personnelle. Il s’agit bien plus de l’imbrication de cellules et de motifs souvent répétitifs et obsessionnels, trois modules sont simultanément exploités jusqu’à l’épuisement, trois modules qui s’enchevêtrent, se superposent et dialoguent en même temps. Il ne s’agit pas de monter le volume, d’augmenter la densité ou l’intensité, pas de crescendo ni d’accélération; il s’agit avant tout de puiser toute l’énergie possible d’une formule donnée, que ce soit une note, un motif, une rythmique, une pulsation. Il ne s’agit pas non plus de transe, The Ames Room exploite la musique de manière musicale et non rituelle, si un motif s’épuise, le trio n’attend pas non plus l’épuisement du spectateur, mais renouvelle constamment sa formule et l’énergie transmise et exploitée.

Répétitif? Bird Dies l’est à première vue peut-être, mais les lignes tracées par chaque musicien évoluent continuellement. L’impression de répétition est similaire à celle d’un cœur ou de n’importe quel organe, chaque partie suit un mouvement qui paraît répétitif, mais qui s’adapte constamment au tout dans lequel elle s’insère, les motifs organiques et répétitifs évoluent au gré du corps que représente The Ames Room. Un corps solide et sans âme supérieure et directive, un corps où chaque partie est intimement connectée à chaque autre, où les organes sont reliés par une écoute extrêmement sensible, plus une énergie et une volonté communes. Et c’est certainement cette profonde connexion entre Guionnet, Thomas et Guthrie qui permet une précision dans les réponses apportées à chaque situation ainsi que dans l’évolution énergique et dynamique de chaque partie qui compose cette pièce.

Mais ce qui me semble le plus incroyable dans ce nouvel opus, c’est cette tension toujours maximale, cette énergie inépuisable. The Ames Room ne s’arrête jamais sur Bird Dies, le trio ne se repose pas et évolue toujours dans la même dynamique ultra énergique, mais jamais fatigante. Une pulsation massive, bétonnée, des phrases mélodiques puissantes et intenses, des ostinatos véhéments, autant d’éléments qui plongent l’auditeur dans un maelstrom sonore incendiaire d’une rare puissance et d’une rare intensité.

Un rare chef d’oeuvre, exceptionnellement marquant!

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Bird Dies is a rather cheeky name for a 45-minute continuous improvisation by the alto sax-bass-drums trio The Ames Room. But it does give notice that the music contained on this CD is most definitely beyond bop. Jean Luc Guionnet, Clayton Thomas and Will Guthrie on alto, bass and drums, respectively, from the beginning lock into a tumbling, jabbing, continuously heated improvisation that has something of the phrasing of Trane’s “Sunship” to it. The trio manages to do that with their own personalities to the forefront however.   Guionnet’s alto is unrelenting in its continual short burst of phrases. working through and developing his solo through repetition, variation and change. The rhythm team follow each their own rolling and thrusting variations. Combine the three over time and you have the interplay that puts this performance in its own special place. The overall dynamic is freedom within a straight-eighth note feel, rather than a triplet-oriented swing implication.   It’s very intense. It might drive grandma out of the room. If you are up for that you’ll get plenty of it on Bird Dies!

Paris Transatlantic review by Dan Warburton

The Ames Room – BIRD DIES (CF 231)
As I think I mentioned when I reviewed The Ames Room’s debut LP on Monotype a couple of years ago, Jean-Luc Guionnet’s website sorts his considerable discography into various categories – Acousmatique, Dispositifs, Improvisations, Compilations and “jazz”. Yes, that’s “jazz”, lowercase, in inverted commas. Those quotation marks might indicate his reluctance to be labelled as just another jazz saxophonist (though he knows his jazz history as well as anyone I’ve ever met, and I’d argue that Shepp, Lacy and Coleman – two Colemans, in fact, Ornette and Steve – have had a great influence on his playing), but they are certainly appropriate when it comes to discussing his work with Clayton Thomas and Will Guthrie in The Ames Room. For, despite its appearance on a jazz label, Clean Feed, the 46 minutes of Bird Dies (more on the title later) have more in common with noise. It’s worth remembering that one of Guionnet’s first albums under his own name, Axène, inaugurated the Californian noise label Ground Fault, and on a personal note, I recall his near boundless enthusiasm for the Sickness album I Have Become The Disease That Made Me on that late, lamented imprint. Noise, even Wall Noise, is always the same (noisy) and never the same, and there’s the same relentless death drive in the music of The Ames Room. Sure, there’s no shortage of “material”, ideas chewed up and spat out with unbridled intensity, and there are moments where the texture thins slightly, but there’s nothing resembling jazz’s head-solos-head structure, nor the climactic ebb and flow of “traditional” free improv. It’s the aural equivalent of a Pollock action painting or the excremental jouissance of Céline. Is the Bird of the title is a sly reference to Charlie Parker? Maybe. But, if so, more interesting is the tense of the verb that follows: this is no “Bird Is Dead” punky middle finger to Jazz Tradition, but a simple present tense. And despite its hyperactivity, Bird Dies is brutally simple. And present. And tense.

The Squid´s Ear review by Brian Olewnick

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
How do they do it? How does the Ames Room continue to wring substantial blood from that ancient stone? The stone in question being the moldering carcass of no-holds-barred free jazz, a lamented beast that has regularly suffered indignities these past couple of decades by well-meaning folk who insist on CPR maneuvers long after the entity has flat-lined. At least part of the answer has to do with discerning musicians who have wide experience in other genres honing in on the seriously vital sources of the music and dealing with the essences found there, not the superficialities. I recall talking with drummer Will Guthrie several years ago, exchanging our deep enthusiasm and love for the music of Roscoe Mitchell and this is certainly one of the foundation points in the music of the Ames Room.

This single track (46 minute) live performance from March, 2010 owes a good portion of its success to Guthrie, who creates waves of relentless rhythm, sounding liked an updated version of Ed Blackwell (perhaps with a trace of Ronald Shannon Jackson as well), never randomly thrashing always dead on point, not just prodding his band mates but thwacking them. His compatriots, Jean-Luc Guionnet on alto and Clayton Thomas on bass, are superb as well. Guionnet has also investigated that nexus between contemporary noise and free jazz (when he’s not conjuring unearthly sounds from old organs) and here just lays into the music in a manner reminiscent of Mitchell at his most ferocious (“Tkhke”, anyone?). The trio rages virtually non-stop, rarely flagging, seldom reiterating ideas, winging from one notion to another. Well, there are a few minutes about halfway in when one suspects they’re about to collapse from exhaustion but they soon enough pick things up and return with renewed vigor.

As fine a free jazz album as I can imagine being produced this second decade of the 21st century.

Music and More review by Tim Niland

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
The Ames Room is a collective improvising jazz group consisting of Clayton Thomas on bass, Jean-Luc Guionnet on alto saxophone and Will Guthrie on drums. On this album they craft a wildly exciting 42 minute continuous live improvisation that morphs, evolves, dreams and cries like a living creature. The liner notes name-check Sonny Rollins trio recordings and classic AACM experiments, and while those influences are certainly there, what I hear most from the single improvisational blowout “Bird Dies” is the monstrous lung power of Rahsaan Roland Kirk from his ‘Saxophone Contcerto” on the album Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle and the epic trio improvisation that saxophonist Jon Irabagon recorded last year on the album Foxy. Recorded at the end of a two week tour, the band launches into “Bird Dies” with reckless abandon, worrying less about solo statements than collective improvisation: creating music that warps the very fabric of space and time itself. The trio is consistently excellent and plays with an empathic grace bordering on the paranormal. Whether you choose to read this album as a commentary on modern jazz since the death of Charlie Parker or as up to the moment modern jazz, anyone interested in exciting high powered music will certainly want to check this out.

All Music Guide review by Glenn Astarita

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
Encompassed by the 48-minute marathon title track, the live performance captured on Bird Dies is irrefutably exhilarating. Featuring French alto saxophonist Jean Luc Guionnet’s lead voice, The Ames Room embarks on a splintered approach to free-bop, propelled by drummer Will Guthrie’s penetrating beats and bassist Clayton Thomas’ pumping bottom.

Perhaps the album title serves as an antithesis to the “Bird Lives” maxim ascribed to bop’s troubled genius Charlie Parker, where the hustling, pawning of saxophones, and recurring substance abuse led to his passing. This fast-paced memorial is conceivably exercised on a broad plane via the trio’s loose, but pummeling ostinatos, nestled within a fractured loop of concepts.

Guionnet’s rough-hewn tone is built on animated and staggered phrasings. Throughout the band’s relentless momentum, he carves out a tumultuous soundscape, filtered through the buoyant rhythmic element. Repetitive to some extent, the in-your-face gait offers a forum for extensive improvisation; nonetheless, it’s a high-impact endeavor that must have kept the audience on the edge of its seats.

The musicians exude angst, chaos and a locomotive-like cyclical impetus, tinted with a guttural underpinning via blistering choruses and understated variations. A relatively young band, the artists stay on target by engineering a consistent foundation, and do not simply waver into a free-form abyss during the course of the proceedings. The Ames Room provides a tensely articulated mosaic of sound, transposed into a blueprint for originality, which is a commendable attribute when considering these avant-garde-based endeavors.