Gapplegate Music Review

Merida Encuentro,

"Songs of Deception",

with Blaise Siwula

Merida Encuentro is Blaise Siwula's cooperative trio from

down Mexico way. Their new one, Songs of Deception (Setola

di Maiale 2016) gives us a special open, freely improvised

moodiness that wears well and projects nicely. It is Blaise

sounding quite fit and exploratory on clarinet (a treat to hear

him at length on this), alto clarinet, soprano and alto sax and

wooden flutes, plus Armando Merid Martin, here on acoustic

guitar throughout, and Edgar Caamal on drums and


There is a special sort of laid-back introspection to this set.

Not that it doesn't have energy at times, but it also has a

kind of mutual reflectiveness, an avant freedom that explores

possibilities more than it insists on performative presence,

though that is there. But there is a threesome of searching

for its own sake, experimental ways to get to where they

want to go that make for a understated yet mutually

reinforcing kind of three-way.

And I just love what Blaise is doing on the clarinet. Armando

and Edgar give us some well conceived dialoging that does

much to make this session so mood-open.

It's the sort of music where you need to get on the plane of

the trio to fully engage with it. Once you do there is much to

fascinate and appreciate.

Another good one! A different one! A worthy one!

Gapplegate Music Review

monday, may 9, 2016

Blaise Siwula / Eric Plaks, Time In,

Spontaneous Compositions


It makes perfect sense that avant saxophone virtuoso Blaise

Siwula and relatively new-coming piano firebrand Eric Plaks

would team up for a mutually rewarding encounter, Time In

(No Frills Music 0010). I've of course been covering many of

Blaise's expressively beautiful albums over the years on this

page, and I have recently covered Eric Plaks on several

exemplary outings here (type their names in the search box

above for reviews).

Eric's richly sensory-motored scatter piano virtuosity is on full

display, extraordinary noteful and unrelenting in its torrential

excitement. It spurs Blaise on to do some of his most

energetic, blazingly forceful and eloquent improvising,

whether on alto, tenor or soprano. He is on fire and manages

to find once again his own special space where the history of

the music gets channeled into his own special avant space.


There are seven freely improvised segments that vary the

pace, density and mood quite well. Blaise responds brilliantly

to Plaks' urgent, energetic, driven piano with some very

abstract counterlines, hugely satisfying timbral sculpting

(depending on the sax at hand) and brilliantly in-and-out of

tonality streams that respond to the well-conceived

modulatory tonal-pan-tonal piano outbursts. Eric now and

again responds to Blaise's historical channeling with a little

stride outness but there is never a question of the stateof-

the-art avantness of the encounter. This is 2016 and we

never feel otherwise.


It is a wonderful album on many levels, like a stiff belt before

your day in court, so to speak, it anticipates the future while

also ignoring it for the elation of the moment, the shouting

forth of out abundance with a preparatory act that is wholly

right in itself.

I've never heard either sound quite so good! It is Eric at his

most concentrated and Blaise at his most extroverted. It is

both attaining a freedom of ecstasy! Many stars of

appreciation, if I gave out stars. If I did this it would get all

the stars possible. If I don't give stars it is because I want to

avoid the praise/condemnation machine that sometimes can

result from such efforts. Quantifying something qualitative is

a mistake, to me. But if you must, think of this as a five-star



Grego Applegate Edwards

Gapplegate Music Review

friday, october 9, 2015

Blaise Siwula, Carsten Radtke, Joe Hertenstein, Past the Future

I have been listening to and appreciating saxophonist Blaise Siwula for a pretty long time now. He is a central figure in the avant free jazz realm in New York City. I don't recall hearing him more inspired in recordings as he is on the new disk Past the Future (No Frills Music NFM 0008).

It is a three-way cooperative improvisational meeting of Blaise on alto, tenor and soprano, the electric guitar of Carsten Radtke, and the drums of Joe Hertenstein. And a fine confluence is made out of the excellent chemistry the three generate together.

Joe Hertenstein is a drummer of great sound color and smarts. He unleashes his timbre-ally diverse kit and puts it to the service of creating cohesive and moving panoramas of percussive logic. His playing lays an important foundation for  what the trio freely creates.

Carsten Radtke gives us some very inventive guitar work that is as unpredictable as it is diversely astute. Chordal inventiveness goes with single-lining dexterity and sound manipulation for an impressive voice in the proceedings. And what he does stays in the mind and catapults the others to overtop the norm, launch into creative overdrive.

And Blaise Siwula? He is extraordinarily articulate, blazing with a big sound on tenor, plying equally well his agilely inventive alto and his puckish soprano. This trio gathering seems to especially inspire him to go beyond to the highest realm of creative saxophony. He invokes all of his avant chops for an expressive tour de force on this one. And you can hear in his playing here as elsewhere the entire history of jazz and avant as sonic reference points on the way to his own considerable immediacy and originality. If you want to know what Blaise is about, why he is an important stylist and innovator, seek no further. You can hear it in concentrated and explosive form on this, Past the Future. His tenor playing is not often in the limelight. He sounds very much at home on it here! So that is a welcome added bonus to it all.

Ultimately the point of it all is the threesomeness that is achieved in all glory on this session. Each member carves out of his creative and preparatory actions over the years a special trio sonance, an interactive virtuosity that really puts a burn in the retro-rockets to propel them to the musical heavens.

For a jazz-rooted avant freedom this is one of the finest sessions I've heard this year. Needless to say I do strongly recommend that you grab this album.

Downtown Music Gallery - Mérida Encuentro

Title: "Merida Swings" (In 7 Parts)

Description: Featuring Blaise Siwula on clarinet & alto sax, Armando Martin on acoustic & electric guitars and Edgar Caamal on drums & percussion plus Alvar Canto Torres on electric guitar (1 track). Once again Blaise Siwula hooks up with little known musicians, this time from Mexico where this disc was recorded. As time goes on I become that music is the universal language which speaks to anyone who listens intently. Improvised music, even moreso, seems to cross all borders or barriers so that musicians who can speak the same verbal (word oriented) language can still communicate to those who can speak through their instruments. The title of this disc and project is Merida, which is also the name of the town where it was recorded. The music here is an immensely focused trio of (mostly) acoustic guitar, clarinet or alto sax and percussion. The guitarist at times sounds like Dr. Chadbourne but not as frenetic or silly. This disc is cleanly recorded with warm, well-balanced sound. One of the thing I like about this disc is it is not too far out, very few weird noises or extended technique weirdness. Eventually, Mr. Martin switches to electric guitar and the trio do go a bit further out and free yet remain focused. Eventually, the playing gets more animated, like a spirited conversation. Ideas flow back and forth and things get even more interesting. It almost gets brutal towards the end when a second guitarist adds to the darker currents. This is indeed a strong way to conclude this consistently fascinating improv session. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG

All About Jazz

Three Shots from Siwula: Blaise Siwula & NoFrillsMusic

By Published: August 18, 2015 | 2,301 views
The emergence of free jazz in the 1950s and 1960s pioneered a new way of thinking about music that not only affected the way music sounded, but also the way it was shared and distributed. In many ways, free jazz was a movement away from mainstream and mass-distribution and the rediscovery of music as art, but also as folk music, meaning a more direct and less commercial communication with the audience. This also meant that many musicians took the matter in their own hands when it came to where and when they were releasing their music. Independent, musician-owned labels were started and this legacy is thankfully kept alive today.

Saxophonist Blaise Siwula is one of the musicians who has picked up the baton of independent recording. The following three releases are all released through Siwula's own NoFrillsMusic label and recorded at Wombat Studios in Brooklyn. Together, they give a nuanced portrait, not only of Siwula, but also of free jazz. Here is dissonance, polyphony and rhythmic explosions, but also gentle lyricism, melody and swing.

Blaise Siwula / Shiro Onuma
Songs for Albert

The oldest and most mind-blowing release, Songs for Albert, was recorded in 2009 and released in 2014. The recording pairs Siwula with the Japanese drummer Shiro Onuma.

The title is a reference to the legendary free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, but as it is explained in a note: "there wasn't a preconceived direction to play like or sound like Albert Ayler, but there was definitely a feeling that spoke clearly to both musicians."

It is a feeling of wild beauty where organic patterns evolve through an intense dialogue of changing tempi and exploding silence. Siwula plays with the throaty growls of the master, but he can also be as soft spoken and elegant as Lester Young. The opening of "Songs for Albert" will be able to satisfy any traditionalist and connoisseur of melodic and lucid improvisation.

Onuma is a tireless bundle of energy, crashing the drums and whipping them into a hurricane, but he can also be understated and almost invisible. Simply put, there are moments of meditation and intense catharsis. Like the best dialogues between a saxophonist and a drummer, the conversations between Fred Anderson and Steve McCall and John Coltrane and Rashied Ali come to mind, Songs for Albert takes the listener on a musical rollercoaster of the human soul.

Siwula / Troja /
Beneath the Ritual

Beneath the Ritual changes the format from a duo with drums to a drummer-less trio with bassist John Murchison and pianist Luciano Troja. Naturally, this means that there is less focus on rhythm and more attention paid to chordal space, but the music also swings sometimes. A clear case in point is "Shadow Dance (if there is one)" where Murchison introduces an irresistible walking bass line while Troja's poetic piano is in a dialogue with Siwula, who plays all kinds of horns on this album: tenor, alto and soprano saxophone and clarinet.

The real strength of the album is its lyricism. "Softly Into the Night" is exactly what the title says, very soft, with Siwula's soliloquy introducing a nocturnal mood before the rest of the musicians enter.

Another composition on the album is called "When the Song is Home" and the musicians sound as if they are in zone where they can push each other without pushing anyone away. There is not any estrangement here. The lyrical chamber-jazz on the album feels like a welcoming home that should also be attractive to those usually scared away by free jazz.

Siwula / Radtke / Hertenstein
Past the Future

Another trio constellation is documented on Past the Future where Siwula plays with drummer Joe Hertenstein and guitarist Carsten Radtke. Siwula has previously worked with guitarist Dom Minasi. They released the excellent The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing together on Nacht records in 2015.

Like Minasi, Carsten Radtke is a guitarist capable of going in many different musical directions and together with Siwula and Hertenstein, he takes many twists and turns, playing everything from classic jazz chords, little funky riffs and abstract soundscapes. The music ebbs and flows on the seven different improvisations and there is a lot of musical information to digest. However, as all these releases show, Siwula and his fellow musicians are highly skilled improvisers who understand how to navigate in complex musical landscapes that show the wide scope and endless possibilities of free music.

Tracks and Personnel

Songs for Albert

Tracks: Thinking of One; Songs for Albert; Solar Alignment; Albert's Ladder.

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: tenor & alto saxophone; Shiro Onuma: drums.

Beneath the Ritual

Tracks: Softly Into the Night; Shadow Dance (If there is one); When the Song is Home; The Challenge is in the Absolute; A Garden for Delights Played Again; Beneath the Ritual; We of the Universal in Tempo; Migration; Loop of Distinction; Light in Ascension; Challenges; If it Wasn't You.

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: alto, tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet; Luciano Troja: piano; John Murchison: bass.

Past the Future

Tracks: Past the Future; Sand Steps; Are Caught in a Moment; Of a Shadow; To Signal; On One Beat; Beginning an Omelet.

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: alto & tenor saxophone; Carsten Radtke: guitar; Joe Hertenstein: drums.

All About Jazz

Blasie Siwula/Luciano Troja/John Murchison: Beneath the Ritual (2015)

By Published: August 19, 2015 | 2,011 views

Blasie Siwula/Luciano Troja/John Murchison: Beneath the Ritual

The biggest slice of the free jazz stew is cooked up with—going back to the beginnings of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's artistry—a horn or two stirred in with bass and drums. The chording instrument—guitar or piano—is generally optional. But when a piano sits in, the potential for sweetening the sound bounces up big time. Consider Coleman's rare outings with the piano: Colors: Live From Liepzig (Harmolodic/Verve, 1996) and the simultaneously-released Sound Museum Hidden Man and Sound Museum Three Women (Harmolodic, 1996), three of the free jazz pioneer's finest recordings (a minority opinion, perhaps, but there it is), featuring pianist Joachim Kuhn, with his deep classical background on the first disc, and the always deft and dynamic Geri Allen sitting in on the 88s on the "Sound Museum" outings.

Multiple reedman Blaise Siwula, with a background of working with the no frills, free improvisation labels, CIMP and Cadence Records, has started his own label, fittingly called No Frills Records, and on Beneath the Ritual he employs pianist Luciano Troja and bassist John Murchison to lay down a unfailingly melodic set that harkens back, in approach and mood, to 1996 Ornette Coleman. His use of clarinet, as well as the tenor and alto saxophones, adds another dimension to the sound.

The music is joyful on "Wee of the Universal Tempo" and "Shadow Dance." It is occasionally eerie: "Migration," "Softly Into the Night." And it can be quite prickly and free, but still very approachable: "When the Song Is Home" and the title tune; as well as introspective and spacious (The Challenge of the Absolute"), and it is always organically democratic as the responsive and adroit trio works out the mesmerizing, in-the-moment musical landscapes.

Track Listing: Softly Into The Night; Shadow Dance (if there is one); When The Song Is Home;The Challenge Is Absolute; A Garden For Delights Played Again; Beneath The Ritual; We Of The Universal Tempo: Migration; Loop Of Distinction; Light In Ascension; Challenges; If It Wasn't You.

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Luciano Trja: piano; John Murchison: bass.

Downtown Music Gallery

BLAISE SIWULA/HARVEY VALDES/GIAN LUIGI DIANA - Tesla Coils (Setola Di Maiale 2620; Italy) Featuring Blaise Siwula on soprano, alto & tenor saxes, Harvey Valdes on electric guitar and Gian Liugi Diana on laptop & sound manipulation. All three members of this locally-based trio have played here at DMG on different occasions. Mr. Diana has played here numerous times players like Ben Gerstein & Frederika Krier. Mr. Valdes was part of a large/free unit organized by Jeff Shurdut in the past year or so. Mr. Siwula has long run the ABC-No Rio free improv Sunday Series as well as working with a large number of international players: Alan Wilkinson, Nobu Stowe and Luther Thomas. This disc was recorded in a studio in Brooklyn almost a year ago on August 15th of 2013. The first piece is quiet and slowly evolves with playful soprano sax, spacious yet free-flowing guitar and selectively used laptop to sample certain sounds and manipulate them subtly. The sax and electric guitar do a swell job of weaving tightly around one another as some minimal electronic swirls float in the either. Things finally get intense later on with dense layers erupting together. What I find most interesting about this is that with most great improv, it draws from many genres or falls in between any regular categories. There is a great deal of quick and/or intense interaction between the guitar and the saxes with selective electronics adding different shades or manipulating the sounds of either or both of the other two instruments. The music often balances well between more somber and more eruptive sections. Consistently engaging no matter what direction they choose. Harvey Valdes will bring two different trios here to DMG to perform on Sunday, August 17th at 8pm. One of those trios is the one from this fine disc, so come on down and support free music for free. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG CD $10

Percorsi Musicali

This is the English translation...the original Italian is on the website.

Tesla Coils - English translation

As before mentioned, empirical examples that develop elements of musical futurism can be acquired even with indirect methods that normally undertake always the process of improvisation: as many Italian musicians forcibly exported to New York, Gian Luigi Diana stands out for having already found its musical character and to have recorded in Setola (among others) a great job on digital signal processing , called Cristalli Sonori . Now the focus shifts to a trio with two other New Yorkers, the saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Harvey Valdes. "Tesla coils"(referring to the coils created by Nikola Tesla in 1891) is on the highest levels; it expects the maximum of creativity by the three musicians and it got it. I didn't know anything about Valdes, while Siwula was one of the representatives of the free jazz scene during the nineties. With a style between Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman, Siwula is a master of the intersection between melody and abstract expressionism, often build in blocks with moments of relaxation and powerful eccentric playing (the only Live in London is broadly representative). In Tesla coils everything works perfectly with convulsive parts and an extraordinarily effective sound: in Primary coil, from the eleventh minute on, the improvisation whirls around the tension created by the instruments, with Diana that creeps with sounds and arrangements reminiscent of magnetic storms and / or maintenance of electric circuits, to finish with a few notes of the sax and a surreal calm. Despite the apparent disparity, the music is highly enjoyable and a lot embroiled in a representation that lies between the jam and the emptying of electricity frequency circuits of Tesla; Discharge Terminal is built magnificently on the "shock" but also presenting very particular combinations of sound and effects that involve our feelings in a descriptive way. Siwula never stop blowing in his instruments, he is never tired; Valdes drag the listening to the mellifluous worlds of atonality and Diana carves this patchwork with his laptop and search for sounds in what can be considered a modern treatise on the sources to High-frequency simulations of circuit bending and resonance in front of the jazz of Coleman and Bailey and Primary tank capacitor is a compendium of those principles that look very forward in time, as well as this project that propels us into one of the best products of Improvisation of this year.


Tesla Coils
Tesla Coils
Setola di Maiale

Blaise Siwula - Soprano, Alto, Tenor Saxophones
Harvey Valdes - Electric Guitar
Gian Luigi Diana - Laptop/Real-time Sampling , Sound Manipulation

This is the final installation in my four-part series on new Italian jazz from Stefano Giust’s Setola Di Maiale label. Previous reviews can be found here, here and here.

Tesla Coils is a trio exploring “real-time electronic orchestration.” My experience with records featuring real-time sampling/signal processing is mixed. At times I think it works really well, such as on Evan Parker & his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble’s The Moment’s Energy, and at times it’s used in an overly harsh way, putting a heavy layer on top of the music. Tesla Coils is one of the best examples of this type of digital manipulation that I’ve yet heard. The sampling adds to the dialogue and never seems arbitrary or random.

Valdes has a spikey approach to his guitar that at certain points reminded me of Mary Halvorson, but he also mixes in other tactics including a crunching, metal-influenced component. He’s a good listener too.

When I first encountered this CD my thought was, “Oh yeah Blaise Siwula, I see his name around, I’ve heard him on a couple of things.” At the end of the first track I was thinking, “Wow, I had no idea this guy was such a great soprano sax player!” And as it turns out, he’s not too shabby on alto or tenor either.

Siwula plays his reeds “straight” for the most part, with a full tone on soprano and an at times luxurious, almost Hodges-ian tone on alto. Unlike a lot of these types of records, things never get to the point where you can’t tell who’s playing what, and that’s actually refreshing. The tension between the jazz-influenced saxophone and the edgy contributions from the other two musicians ends up being fertile ground to explore.

This is my sleeper album of the year so far; don’t sleep on it.

Gapplegate Music Reviews

The world of improvised music continues to evolve. There are those ensembles that favor an acoustic "purity" and there are those that incorporate electronics. Today we have a great example of the latter, Tesla Coils (Setola di Maiale).
It is a potent threesome of Blaise Siwula on soprano-alto-tenor sax, Harvey Valdes on electric guitar, and Gian Luigi Diana on laptop doing real-time sampling and sound manipulation. The advantage to this set up is that the electronics are integral and part of the live performance/improvisation.
Blaise and Harvey lay down a carpet of vivid improvisations and Gian transforms the sounds in various ways, adding a third instrument which is a direct consequence of the other two sound generations.
Anybody who reads this column knows I cover Blaise Siwula and his smart yet torching reedwork. He sounds excellent as ever here. Harvey Valdes plays in an out, fragmented and sometimes psychedelically inspired guitar style that works well in the ensemble. Gian Luigi Diana adds varied textures and densities that form an organic part of the proceedings.
In short, it all comes together. This is first-tier experimental music that once again shows the way to Brooklyn, a world hotbed for new music.
If you like well-executed, fertile-free soundmaking, this one is for you. Now if they used me on drums/, just kidding. This is the dope.

Gapplegate Music Reviews

Blaise Siwula, reed master of free music. . . we've usually associated
him with New York City in years past. He has however been spending sometime down in Merida, Mexico and has hooked up with some good players there. /Merida Encuentro/ (nfm 004) gives us a CD of free encounters of the ear-enriching kind, a rewarding result of the confluence of new and culturally diverse combinations that can happen when everybody opens up and listens.

The first several cuts feature Blaise on clarinet and alto and Armando
Martin on acoustic guitar. "Para Django" starts things off with a kind
of swing extension of outness, of course paying tribute to Django
Reinhardt in the process. More abstracted duets follow, with "Sin
Tiempo" giving us a first climax via prepared and unprepared guitar that
goes from Bailey-esque flights to Latin classical to jazz chording to
sung-played expressive lining while Blaise makes a cohesive statement on

Armando switches to electric guitar for "Disenos" and drummer Edgar
Caamal joins the group to make it a trio for the rest of the set. The
dynamic remains free and open form. Edgar's brushed drums make us feel a little more like we are back in New York, but Armando on electric
quickly turns up and gets us into a more watted avant abstraction that
has an exploded free-rock feel as Edgar switches to sticks. Blaise turns
up the intensity on alto and gets the max out of the two-lined
simultaneous soloing.

The mood continues with Armando back on acoustic and Blaise catching
alto fire. A longer, softer "Suave" brings back clarinet, brushes and
acoustic for what starts out as a kind of free ballad with a lazy
bluesiness in there as Blaise channels some tradition into his own world
with smooth ease but pointed strength. It comes to climax, then gets
quiet and moody again.

The finale, "Fuera", substitutes Alvar Canto Torres on electric guitar.
He is more into a metallic, psychedelic, high-voltage sound with guitar
feedback, power drones and edgy lines that give Blaise something else to
work against. Blaise glides and slithers along with it while Edgar
continues free drum barrages but also interjects intermittent pauses to
change the texture of the momentum.

In the end we get another way free can roll. Blaise is in great form and
his fellow travellers add dimensions and dynamics that keep it all
interesting. This is a successful first outing with lots of modes and
moods. I look forward to what else they will do in future.

New York City Jazz Record Review


Giancarlo Mazzu/Blaise Siwula/Luciano Troja (SLAM)

by Ken Waxman


After five years of intercontinental music making,

Italian pianist Luciano Troja and guitarist/drummer

Giancarlo Mazzù, plus New York multi-reedist Blaise

Siwula, have finally recorded their co-operative trio.

The wait was worth it. With interactive familiarity

engendered by time, the three easily enmesh unique

textures and timbres into a satisfying whole. Siwula is

an improviser never inhibited by fashion or genre.

That makes him a perfect foil for the other two, whose

musical explorations flow equally from so-called

classical music and folkloric suggestions as well as the

liberation implicit in free music.

As an added bonus, d’istantes3’s seven tracks are

divided in such a way that two unique trios could be

on hand. One, more jazz-oriented, usually features

Siwula playing alto or tenor saxophone in a tart,

impassioned manner while Mazzù demonstrates his

talent as a time-keeping drummer with a fondness for

shuffle beats. Here Troja’s command of blues

progressions and other swing conventions is on display

as well. With a style more akin to contemporary New

music, the pianist helps define the second trio,

alongside Mazzù’s harsh rasgueado and slurred

fingering on the guitar plus Siwula’s extended

techniques, usually expressed in the chalumeau

register of the clarinet or bass clarinet.

For instance, with Mazzù’s slaps and ruffs and

Troja’s metronomic pulsing propelling the tune

forward, “Istantes 2” finds Siwula’s saxophone lines

evolving from hesitant flutters to multiphonic, circular

smears. In contrast, “Istantes 1” could have been

through-composed in early 20th century Vienna. As

low-pitched clarinet puffs eventually sharpen, reed

lines are accompanied by harp-like strums from the

guitarist and busy piano patterns.

Divisions aren’t hard and fast, however, since

many tracks exhibit both recital- and dance-hall

characteristics. “Istantes 2” for example, has a blues

progression and drum rolls and shuffles suggesting

‘30s Swing while heavily vibrated bass clarinet slurs

are strictly modern. By the final selection the three

have managed to forge inimitable sequences, which

can call on the characteristics of other musics while

maintaining an interface strictly the band’s own.

For more information, visit Siwula is at

Spectrum Jan. 3rd and ABC No-Rio Jan. 20th. See Calendar.




Downtown Music Gallery

 Gianccarlo Mazzu' on guitar & drums, Blaise Siwula on alto & tenor sax, bass & regular clarinets and Luciano Troja on piano. Mr. Mazzu' and Mr. Troja were/are part of a trio (Mahanada) and duo who have a couple of discs out on Splasch. Here they work with the ubiquitous NY improviser Blaise Siwula, who has recorded on more than fifty discs with many musicians from around the world. Mr. Siwula has the C.O.M.A. series at ABC-No-Rio for many years which is where he first met these two Italian musicians. Since improvisation in an international language which musicians from around the world share, this trio combines forces with solid results. They are not bound by styles or genres so we hear a variety of directions from straight swinging clarinet to freer explorations. What I dig about this is that there is a playful and somewhat melodic quality to this even though it is fully improvised. A rarity for most free music. At times it sounds as if they are playing fragments of standards yet will organically change direction when anything becomes almost familiar. From time to time, the trio will weave into some further out regions but never go too far. Where as some improv gets too dense or difficult, this never does and sounds fine just the way it is. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery


New York Encuentro

Katsuyuki Itakura/Blaise Siwula/

Richard Gilman-Opalsky (No Frills Music)

by Ken Waxman


Named for the idea-exchanging “encounters” Mexican

Zapatista guerillas organized following the 1994

Chiapas uprising, the only concepts espoused on this

outing are purely musical. Yet the unfettered tonal

expressions demonstrated by this trio of veteran improvisers

are as radical in their way as the Zapatistas’ libertarian socialist

ideas were in theirs.


That’s radical, not confrontational. For no matter

how atonal New York Encuentro’s eight tracks appear,

they never fail to communicate. Upfront are the key

clipping and sly, note-patterning of Japanese pianist

Katsuyuki Itakura plus the reed prestidigitation of

saxophonist Blaise Siwula. Keeping the rhythm linear

is drummer Richard Gilman-Opalsky, who also

possesses degrees in political philosophy.


Considering his few brief solos are mostly

involved with cymbal clanking and press roll

reverberating, it’s obvious that Gilman-Opalsky’s

musical philosophy adheres to the Zapatistas’ low-key

(r)evolution. In their playing, the other musicians are

as similarly sympathetic as the Mexican movement’s

rural base is to wealth-distribution ideas. But like a

minority of Zapatistas who turned to direct action, the

trio here plays vociferously enough to get their ideas



Especially animated is Siwula, who on a piece such as “Toy Box” opens the container to reveal staccato tongue slaps, balanced reed bites and overblowing into every corner of the package. At the

same time he isn’t averse to ending a series of irregularly accented stutters with a joking quote from “Heart and Soul”. While the pianist is capable of kinetic jumps, his playing is economical, with singlekey

shading like early Cecil Taylor or mature Thelonious Monk.

The sprightly “Great Incept” could be an updated Monk tune,

with Itakura plinking broken-octave lines, shaded with

stride echoes andSiwula on tenor saxophone harmonizing

in ballad tempo like Charlie Rouse.


Although the trio’s intensity is often expressed in

reed triple-tonguing and splayed, keyboard leaps, in

2011 this progressive encounter should be no more

revolutionary than the Zapatistas’ ideas about nonviolent


Ni Kantu

Live in London
(No Frills Music)

Saxophonist and clarinetist Blaise Siwula is an acolyte of the fire-and-brimstone school of reed playing, abstracted to the sonic sources that have welled up over the years in musicians like Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and Shoji Ukaji. Live in London is just that, a series of eight solo tenor and clarinet pieces recorded in December 2008 on a visit to England, along with one duet featuring Alan Wilkinson on baritone saxophone. As much as Siwula pulls from the sandblasted reaches of energy music – and the closing “Time’s Up” with Wilkinson is a joyous shout of hard-bitten, screaming multiphonics and wind shear reminiscent of messengers McPhee and Gustafsson – there’s a lot of variability in his playing. “Stutter’s Waltz” is a three-minute slice of whittled resonance that plays a tense game with the possibility of breaking off into whoops and hollers, yet far exceeds any sense of “exercise.” The connection with McPhee isn’t too implausible, although perhaps Siwula is a little more interested in garishness in his wide-vibrato, wall-shaking preach. That’s notable with “On the Plains of Brooklyn,” which calls up both Rust Belt river silt and the music of the Scottish highlands, somehow mincing a penny-whistle with blustery tenor skronk. It’s a lot to fit into a short piece, but Siwula does it.

“Old Friends” takes a well-worn melodic fragment and ramps up the swagger into athletic curls, blats and paint-peeling sharp masses, though at the piece’s center is an awareness of the instrument’s stately history even as the saxophonist tears through it with winking abandon. Lest one forget Siwula has worked with melody hounds like pianist Nobu Stowe and guitarist Dom Minasi, “Time One Down” is an approximation of a pre-bop chestnut, sweetly closing the disc’s first third. Although that first third is also a bit more lo-fi, the music isn’t harmed, and the following thirty-minutes recorded at Ryan’s FlimFlam grants longer pieces (including the aforementioned duet) that, while mostly not as hell-bent, nevertheless provide a window into Siwula’s quick wit, massive tone, and love for his forebears. “Ryan’s Shuffle” is a fine example of this fact, toying with and building on some arcane melody much as a free mid-60s Rollins, albeit with a little of the non-idiomatic sandblasting school thrown in. Even when he’s taking it the distance, Siwula knows how to bring the music home to an almost hokey-sounding prewar vibe before stretching into high-pitched screams. If you really want a slice of Blaise Siwula’s world, Live in London comes highly recommended.

Clifford Allen

Gapplegate Music Review

Friday, July 22, 2011

New York Encuentro: Blaise Siwula in Excellent Form with K. Itakura and R. Gilman-Opalsky

Now that what was once called the "new thing" is nearly 50 years young, we have a chance to assess what has gone on so far. Not today, however, since as I write this New Jersey is headed toward 100-plus-degree weather and my office is rapidly becoming an oven with yours truly as the tuna casserole. Nevertheless there are substyles in "free" improv that are well marked out and players working within the various parameters with increasing economy of expression and a kind of certainty years of experimentation and musically genetic drift have made possible.

The trio of Katsuyuki Itakura, piano, Blaise Siwula, alto and tenor saxes, and Richard Gilman-Opalsky on drums serves as a good example. New York Encuentro (No Frills Music 002) finds them in a free-blowing set that has the consistency of music by players who know where they are coming from, know where they want to be, and then get there.

Itakura comes out of the Cecil Taylor school of pianistic all-overness. He's quite good at keeping the lines and clusters coming. Gilman-Opalsky has the Sunny Murray-and-after freetime drumming down and interacts well with the others. Then there is Blaise Siwula. He has a way of his own that relates to what has gone before but does so in ways that are endlessly inventive. It's not so much a timbral sound sculpting that goes on with Blaise on this set, though he does of course have a sound. It's the way he keeps coming up with lines of interest, setting up a dialog especially with the piano, laying out line after line of musical improvisation with a lucidity of someone who knows what he is about...that is what makes New York Encuentro music well worth hearing.

ZZaj Productions

Blaise Siwula – LIVE IN LONDON: You must be a dedicated improv fan to completely enjoy what Blaise is doing here.  His solo tenor sax work is both penetrating and forward moving!  “On The Plains of Brooklyn” will grab your ears and hold on to them for the entire 4:07.  “Transparent Dialogue” uses little “punctuation marks” to guide you through the conversation.  Those of us who are able to let ourselves go & get immersed in the moment will understand what’s being said immediately.  I’ve heard other players like Jack Wright and Jeffrey Morgan perform such antics many times, but Blaise manages to captivate your mind even though it’s a recording.  This is a great performance that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me (especially for listeners who can’t do without some freestyle), with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96.  Get more information at Rotcod Zzaj

Gapplegate Music Review

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Blaise Siwula, Solo Tenor Sax, "Live in London"

How many solo saxophone records have I heard? A good many. Are they all wonderful? No. If the player is not imspired or comes to the date unprepared, it can be slow going for the listener. Happily that is not the case with Blaise Siwula's Live in London (No Frills Music 001).

It's from two separate live appearances in 2008. He switches to clarinet on one track and Alan Wilkinson joins him on the baritone for the final number.

What I find excellent is how Blaise creates differing spontaneous compositions (free playing, if you like) by concentrating on the rich possibilities that the tenor offers. Siwula channels the big, timbrally complex sound worlds. Like Ayler and the Texas tenors, Blaise Siwula gets a sound that has wide expressive impact. Yet he doesn't really sound like those players because he has worked through his own take on the sounds.

It's free saxology from the nether regions of the land of Wail. And it's about as good an example as I've heard in a few years. Just as Blaise and Alan Wilkerson go out with a madcap flourish on the final number, you should do the same. Go out and get this--or Google Blaise and find a way to order it. But don't expect toe tapping. Do expect to set your MIND tapping.

Grego Applegate Edwards


"Blaise Siwula Live in London"
Human beings spend their lives trying not to be alone. Once they find company, they begin the
elusive search to rediscover their initial solitude. In music, the solorecording reflects this
contradictory quest. In many ways it is the most intriguing form, both for fan andartist, and once finally attempted, it is charged with a discernible aspiration to retrieve the ensemble format.
First to come to mind on the first track of tenor saxophonist Blaise Siwula’s Live in London,

“Stutter’s Waltz”, is Peter Brötzmann in the stammering orgies of deep tones and harmonics. Siwula invokes Albert Ayler on the second track, “On the Plains of Brooklyn”, with a simple, folk-like melody that slowly deconstructs into darker, earthier tones, closing, as Ayler often did, anthemically. “Transparent Dialogue” is a paradigm of what Siwula does all along: he attacks the problem inherent in a single-instrument excursus by engaging in dialogue with himself. Often, as suggested, this involves the play of lighter and darker, of higher and lower tones; but also, as in this tune, short staccato bursts contrasted with longer, legato lopes.
Siwula is a master duettist and he has no trouble transposing this knack to a self-on-self context. Again, melody and barrages of sound walls stack up against one another swimmingly, as Siwula always hints at harmony even in his noisiest squawks and his tunefulness is ever tempered by a robust, muscular delivery.

Downtown Music Gallery "Sometimes The Journey Is A Vision"


Title: Sometimes The Journey is a Vision

Description: Featuring Blaise Siwula on alto & tenor sax & clarinet, Luciano Troja on piano and Giancarlo Mazzu on guitar, drums and vocals. One of the things I've most admired about Blaise Siwula is his long journey of improvising with hundreds of musicians from around the world due to his continued weekly series at ABC NoRIO on Rivington St, just one subway stop (on the F train) at Delancey St., very far from DMG. Besides this series, Blaise has done some touring and playing with a wealth of improvisers from around the world. This is the second disc from D'istante3 and the other tow Italian musicians have previous discs on the Splasch and Slam labels. The first piece is a low key one for subdued tenor sax, somber piano and occasional bluesy slide guitar. Both Italians seem to bring out a more melodic, playful side to Mr. Siwula's improv. His clarinet sound especially charming on a few of these pieces. Even the freer parts here have a more relaxed vibe which sounds quietly engaging. Here's an obscure reference point for you geezers: the title of the second track, "Ginger is Her Name" comes from the theme song to 'Gilligan's Island', a sixties TV show that many of us seniors remember fondly. Each of these pieces unfold organically and this trio does work together splendidly, always telling a story. There are a few times when they sound as if they about to break into a jazz standard of some sort but rarely actually get there. This is improv at it most charming. Strange but true. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG

Flutes and Gong for Julian

"Songs of Deception" Mérida Encuentro

Released on Setola di Maiale available through nofrillsmusic

now 15.00 domestic 20.00 intnl with shipping via paypal

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"Time In" Siwula/Plaks

The latest release from NoFrillsMusic. Avaiable from

NoFrillsMusic $15.00 (shipping incl) domestic and $20.00 (shipping incl) international.(paypal) Also

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"Beneath the Ritual"

"Beneath the Ritual" is available on CDBaby as a download and digipak. Also at NoFrillsMusic for 15.00 domestic 20.00 intnl (with shipping) paypalBTR Cover

"Past the Future" Radtke/Siwula/Hertenstein

From NoFrillsMusic for 15.00 domestic 20.00 intnl (ship incl) Available as a download and digipak from cdbaby.

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Just Released: "Songs for Albert"

"Sometimes The Journey Is A Vision"

"Mérida Encuentro - Mérida Swings"

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"The Sun Don't Mind My Singing"

Available Now : "The Sun Don't Mind My Singing" on NachtRecords

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D'ISTANTE3 - available from SLAM productions and CD Baby

Solo Sax at Cross Kings Dec 10 2008

Blaise Siwula & Dom Minasi at the Intar Festival

Recent and distant tracks

Creative Spontaneously Composed Music

Blaise Siwula

"Short Day Short Solos" Solstice 2014

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