Free Jazz for a Fee on the Web | Bleader

Free Jazz for a Fee on the Web



Wadada Leo Smith-Peter Kowald-Gunter Baby Sommer
There are few music blogs as consistently compelling as Destination: Out, which, as its name suggests, focuses on the more exploratory side of jazz and improvised music. Sometimes the blog discusses current work, but more often than not it adopts a historical mindset, covering great artistic seekers both familiar and obscure; a recent post on Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi is a perfect example.

Each post features a couple of MP3s, usually rare and almost always chosen to illustrate the points made in the accompanying text, which is usually erudite and observant. Some posts are inspired by a current event (the death of a musician, a new release, an upcoming show), while others are the product of nothing more than advocacy—here's some good stuff you might not know about. Destination: Out doesn't post full albums—rather it chooses a handful of tracks, usually from a few different records, and the MP3s it does offer are generally available only for a limited time—a decision that shows respect for both the artists and labels, especially considering how little money there is in avant-garde jazz to begin with. That goodwill modus operandi has yielded results, and some imprints now provide the blog with exclusive material for free—such as a recent track by bassist William Parker only available on the vinyl version of his terrific new album, I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (Aum Fidelity). Alas, it's no longer available for download, or I'd link to it.

A couple of weeks ago Destination: Out took a big step by launching a retail function. It's now selling downloads of select items from the catalog of FMP, one of the most important labels for European improvised music. FMP is still active, releasing new music on compact disc, but astonishingly it has never previously made anything from its awesome catalog available digitally—and since so much of that catalog is out of print in all formats, this arrangement with D:O is a pretty big deal.

The blog is starting slow; the September 20 launch featured just two albums, and additions will come a handful at a time every few weeks. Both of those initial titles are bona fide classics, though: Elf Bagatellen by the Schlippenbach Trio and Touch the Earth—Break the Shells, a bundle of two landmark 1981 albums by AACM trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith with Germans Peter Kowald (bass) and Günter "Baby" Sommer (drums). Kowald died in 2002, but earlier this year Smith and Sommer reunited as Touch the Earth II at New York's Vision Festival to great acclaim. Chicago drummer Mike Reed was among those knocked out by the performance, and he's bringing the duo to this year's Umbrella Music Festival—they'll play the closing night at the Hungry Brain on November 7.

Today's playlist:

Richard Barrett, Adrift (Psi)
Norberto Lobo, Pata Lenta (Mbari Música)
Sevval Sam, Has Arabesk (Kalan)
Julia Wolfe, Dark Full Ride (Cantaloupe)
Ray Barretto, El "Ray" Criollo (West Side Latino/Fania)