(HB CD 1)
Henry Kuntz / tenor saxophone, Chinese musette, Nepalese bamboo flute, Bolivian & Balinese bamboo flutes; Ben Lindgren / doublebass, Balinese gamelan; Brian Godchaux / viola, Balinese gamelan “selunding,” percussion; Esten Lindgren / trombone, trumpet, Hawaiian conch shell, steel guitar, ukulele, percussion; John Kuntz / steel guitar, mandolin, ukulele, Javanese gamelan, wind-up toy xylophone, percussion. Recorded September 22, 23, 1995
Highlights the formal advances possible in group playing when free improvisation is approached in its most natural manner. The uniqueness and complexity of each player’s part is expanded to the farthest extent possible while maintaining a recognizable group entity and musical identity.
“Intelligent, dynamically rich free improvisation” – Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal “The closest sonic corollaries might be found in the freest playing of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, although there is no single precedent for OPEYE’s kaleidoscopic instrumental textures.” – Derk Richardson, SF Bay Guardian
ONE: CIRCLE-CYCLE (CD 2)
ONE & ONE: 12 PATHS TO KNOWLEDGE (CD 3)
(HB CDs 2 & 3)
Henry Kuntz / solo tenor saxophone (Recorded January 27 1998 & June 9, 1997)
The Nature of Form in Time /The Spirit of Sounded Space /The Sound of 1 as The Sound of One
Don Marvel / time machine, prophet sampler, old turntable, live signal processing and mixing; Henry Kuntz / tenor saxophone, Chinese musette and Nepalese bamboo flute. (Recorded April 18, 1998)
Illusion and Reality With Allusion To Reality /To Seek is To Find, But Not Always What is Sought
“HENRY KUNTZ has reinvented himself on this amazing 2-CD set, his most challenging and best release. He and DON MARVEL explode the boundaries of the improvisational idiom, transcending all conventional concepts. Truly something new.” – Henry Kaiser
For Saxophone with Card Reed and Gated Amplification / Camptown Races 1
Organised Sound Recordings / no number
James Fei (reeds)
New CD label Hummingbird offers opportunities for non-Californians to discover the unique Henry Kuntz; on the other coast, fellow saxophonist Fei releases a tantalising mini-CD, also on his own label. Listening to musicians’ releases on their own labels is often a wonderful way to encounter them, providing direct access to the performer’s conception with no intermediation.
Avant-Shamanic Trace Jazz is vaguely reminiscent of the experiments by Archie Shepp and others involving playing along with raucous reed groups like the Master Musicians of Joujouka. The difference is that Opeye find themselves very much in a postmodern frame. Thus, the quest for ethnic and cultural “authenticity” (a snark if ever there was one) is replaced by, well, rampant fusion, appropriation, even fakery.
This is no bad thing, of course, and Opeye make a joyous riot of a record. “Fancy Dancing Jaguar” is a case in point, with the Chinese Musette playing something sounding like a Middle-Eastern Coltrane whklel the group free-improvises; John Kuntz does wild, scrawling violence to a steel guitar, Esten Lindgren’s trombone occasionally making the sound um-pah, a moment later laying down a mournful ballad solo. Everything into the melting pot at once: that seems to be the recipe here. Often the results of such a thing are ugly, but here they’re a pleasure to listen to. One of those records where you wish you were in the band when they made it.
One One & One is quite a contrast, a double CD featuring Kuntz solo on tenor sax on the first disk, then in duet with Don Marvel on the second.Unfortunately, the latter’s grasp of improvising electronics extends little further than sampling and looping the things Kuntz plays. The results aren’t terrible, just a little dull. If you wish improvising musicians played everything five times, this is for you.
The solo disk, however, is well worth the admission price on its own. Kuntz reveals himself as a powerful presence on the sax, and how disciplined of his to stick to tenor, in these days of everybody playing ten different horns. Instead of falling back on changes of instrumentation for variety, he has to make music.
This he does with a sound which combines impressively-controlled ultra-high-register squeaks and whistles with the tenor’s more conventional voice. One is strongly reminded of Evan Parker’s way of playing with John Stevens — it’s logical, timbrally adventurous, often percussive and always full of ideas. Not that Kuntz sunds like Parker, as his voice is too jazzy and American for that. Fantastic stuff. More about Henry Kuntz here
New Yorker James Fei is another reedsman who likes to play solo, but there the similarities come to an end. Although not academically trained in music, he’s attracted to the classical avant garde, and although an improviser his pieces often involve a conceptual compositional element. This self-released CD-R, if it’s still available to buy (numbered copies…) offers twelve minutes of truly intriguing music from a relentless experimenter. The main piece inserts a cardboard reed into the sax and amplifies it, resulting in a ten-minute evolution from tiny, semi-random clicks into a wall of feedback. Truly inventive stuff, much closer to electroacoustic composition than to jazz or improv. Let’s hope Fei records more an often. Richard Cochrane