Because John Corbett and Jim Dempsey stay busy running one of the most respected art galleries in the U.S., the good works of their Corbett vs. Dempsey record label rarely get the attention they deserve. But their scrappy little operation, which carries on the invaluable work Corbett started in 2000 with the Unheard Music Series imprint of Atavistic Records, provides a wonderful service—particularly in making some of the most electric, exciting, and overlooked sounds in the history of improvised music available to new audiences. CvsD recently released five fascinating titles, and the one that’s kept me riveted is King Alcohol, the latest in a superb string of reissues from the catalog of German free-jazz label FMP. (The other four are two reissued albums by radical guitarist Hans Reichel, a solo record by violinist Billy Bang, and a collection of work by Wendy Gondeln, a sound-art alias of German painter Albert Oehlen.)
King Alcohol is a scorching trio date, led by tenor saxophonist Rüdiger Carl with trombonist Günter Christmann and drummer Detlef Schönenberg. Recorded in 1972 and released the following year, it vividly connects European styles of improvised music with the probing free jazz of late-60s New York. The febrile rapport of the horn players feels like an extrapolation of the most adventurous interactions between saxophonist Archie Shepp and trombonist Roswell Rudd, who worked together on a handful of albums in the late 60s. More often than not they play together, ferociously but carefully communicating, teasing, responding, and blending ideas in real time. Schönenberg's frantic drumming never abandons the pulse despite its wonderfully spasmodic intensity, and he clambers all over his kit as if holding on for dear life—he makes it clear that this isn't music from America.
The packaging of the reissue adds nothing to the beautifully sparse original artwork. Its liner notes contained little more than credits and a poetic message: "This record is dedicated to all drinker friends, enemies + to all dead musicians. King Alcohol—a hymn on him, the last mighty confederate against cold, soberness, hunger, sleeplessness, and a special kind of ghosts." What the reissue does add is a full disc of previously unreleased material cut during the same session—70 minutes of bracing improvisation to complement the LP's 40 minutes. A digital version of the original album has been available for some time thanks to the folks at Destination: Out, which has administered the FMP catalog online for years, but the chance to own a physical version—and all the extra music—is still a great treat. Below you can check out one of the previously unissued tracks, "KA ALT #4."