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Various Artists
Creative Music Studio: Archive Selection Vol. I
Innova (www.innova.mu)

The idea of a unique creative performance may have little meaning to casual consumers in the age of download-me-now. But uneasy listening has been the province of the nonprofit Creative Music Studio (CMS) in Woodstock, New York ever since founders Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman began in 1971. Drawing in the likes of John Cage, Don Cherry, Gil Evans, Buckminster Fuller, George Russell, Gunther Schuller and many others, the artistic and philosophical objective was to foster improvisatory musical performance as a universal mode of human communication. The accumulated experimental fruits, 400–plus hours, are now in the process of digitization in the CMS Archive Project, which results, together with the original analog tapes, photographs and memorabilia, will be conserved for all time at Columbia University Library.

The initial three-CD selection from the CMS Archives, released by Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum, spans the period 1977–1981. It offers an idiosyncratic cross-section of impromptu period jazz composition and improvisation. The first disc, “Small Groups,” features Ed Blackwell (drums) and Charles Brackeen (saxes); bassist David Izenson and his trio with singer Ingrid Sertso and pianist-composer Karl Berger; the piano duo of Frederic Rzewski and Ursula Oppens; and violinist Leroy Jenkins with guitarist James Emery.

David Izenson Trio

The second disc samples the orchestral compositions and performances of cornet player, guitarist and singer Olu Dara; Oliver Lake (alto sax, flute) with Michael Gregory (guitar) and James Harvey (trombone); and Roscoe Mitchell (saxes) and Garrett List (trombone).

Olu Dara

The final disc, titled “World Music” (long before the term came into common parlance), features Turkish composer, saxophonist, flutist and ney player Ismet Siral, with Steve Gorn on bansuri, in a prescient crossing of Middle Eastern and East Indian influences. It also includes Brazilian composer-singer-berimbau player Nana Vasconcelos, along with Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso (kora, percussion, vocals) and the Mandingo Griot Society, comprising John Marsh (electric bass), Hamid Drake (drums) and Adam Rudolph (percussion).

Foday Suso and the Mandingo Griot Society

Ismet Siral and Friends

Nana Vasconcelos

These selections convey the forward-looking spirit of CMS and its ever-changing cast of perpetrators, conveying the experiment's irascible sense of performance grounded in a particular time and space, a unique channeling of the historical moment in which its players conjure the music's inimitable unfolding. With 397 hours to go, the Creative Music Foundation digitization project offers vital testimony to an avant-garde spirit that quite plainly anticipated the sonic shape of things to come. - Michael Stone

You can get a copy of this 3 CD set with a contribution to RootsWorld.

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