Ab Baars

An Inspiring Thought

"How much notated material do you need to have musicians feel comfortable and play with an open mind?" -Ab Baars

Ab Baars

An Inspiring Thought

“a good arrangement should fit on the back of an envelope” Count Basie.

An inspiring thought.

I guess Count Basie most of all wanted his musicians to play and improvise spontaneously. As little written information as possible to give way to the spontaneous act of playing and improvising with an open mind. The spirit free.

Indeed, I think to stare at a piece of paper on the music stand can get in the way of an unstrained expression of thoughts. Listening and reacting are inhibited.

How much notated material do you need to have musicians feel comfortable and play with an open mind?

Historically in jazz, short catchy themes were used as an invitation to improvising. The musicians were expected to come up with variations on a theme, a new line, a second voice, backgrounds, riffs: they were composers on the spot.

Jazz music developed -- new forms and perspectives emerged. Compositions became more extensive, more paper appeared on the music stand and improvisations were more often encapsulated in strict or extensive forms. But the opposite happened too: completely free improvisations without any appointment or sheet music. And all variations in between with just as many wonderful results.

I am strongly influenced by pianist, composer, bandleader Misha Mengelberg. A great thinker and free spirit: a maverick. Many of his compositions fit on the back of an envelope.

For Misha Mengelberg, the contribution of a musician was an essential part of making music together. As no other, he could summarize short, concise ideas or starting points into a composition and thus invite or stimulate musicians to comment in a playful and improvisational way. A dialogue.

From Misha I learned the importance of practicing counterpoint; lessons in a 16th-century compositional style in which composing - note against note - is done according to strict rules. A technique, said Misha, that can also provide a foothold in free improvisation, learning to think about the steps you take.

And yes, I am very fond of the backs of envelopes.

- Ab Baars

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Joe Morris

Arcade Guitars

"I am quite proud to say that in all these years, I have never had two guitar students who sounded the same. I like to teach by improvising with my students. Considering I am doing that to help them expand their own voice, this process often results in a unique musical dialog."

For the past few months, I’ve been recording a number of guitar duos that will be released on my Glacial Erratic Bandcamp label starting in September 2018. The series will be called Arcade Guitars. All of the recordings feature yours truly teamed with a great, young guitarist you may or may not yet know about. I can say without hesitation that these players are unique, skilled and artistic. These duos are only a sample of the range of music and potential they are capable of. As a faculty member at New England Conservatory and New School, I get to work with amazing young guitarists every year. All of the guitarists on the Arcade Guitars series were students of mine. While I proudly call them my students, they are all much more than that.

The common thinking about students in schools like these is that they learn everything about music, playing, composing, and improvising from their teachers. Nothing could be further from the truth. These schools are hard to get into. The auditions are very competitive. It takes a high degree of skill just to get in. Most students are already playing some professional gigs in high school. Many are skilled improvisers when they arrive, but they want to attend college to learn more. My job is to help them add to what they know -- to do everything I can to not damage their ideas, their choices, their possibilities in the process. I see them as talented young artists already with the same potential as anyone else who has ever tried to play. Most of them are not used to being asked about what they find interesting, or how they think they ought to play. And so I start there. I listen to them and do all I can to hear them so that I can help them to hear themselves and find the voice that is trying to emerge. I am quite proud to say that in all these years, I have never had two guitar students who sounded the same. I like to teach by improvising with my students. Considering I am doing that to help them expand their own voice, this process often results in a unique musical dialog.

Free Music is a platform that encourages free thinking expressed in music, and these amazing young guitarists—like the players of other instruments that I work with—either already understand that or arrive at a personal understanding of it over the course of our time together. Many become great imaginative interpreters, and/or inventors; or I should say, many engage in the process of attempting to do as much as possible with any and all of it. One example of this is the guitarist Andrew Clinkman who, along with another great young guitarist Steve Marquette, performs in the group Marker led by Ken Vandermark. Andrew, whom I know from his years at NEC, has performed beautiful and unique solo interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s compositions and also done great work playing the music of Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, and Anthony Braxton. His original music is diverse, challenging, and frankly beyond a narrow, limited description. He’s on my list for a duo recording in the near future, I hope.

Over the years I’ve arranged a number of performances and recordings with musicians I came to know in my role as a teacher, including a multi-city series called Arcade. But it’s been harder for some reason to include all of the guitarists I know. I still hope to do a series of performances with just guitarists, but so far the plans I’ve made for that have fallen through, so I decided to do these recordings of duos—and I couldn’t be more excited about the results.

To date, I have duo recordings for this series with Wendy Eisenberg, Will Greene, Christian Cahill, Drew Wesely and Robert Murphy. Soon there will be recordings with Andres Abenante, Luca Ferrara, Aaron Rubenstein, and more. All of the music is completely improvised. The playing, ranges from completely acoustic, to electric guitar with no effects, to heavily effected loud electric. It’s melodic, dynamic, expressive, noisy, intense, and often inexplicable, as it should be.

All of these guitarists are already busy working making original music. These duos are a way for me to document our playing together and to do a bit to show that there are great exciting things happening on the instrument. The new music being made on guitar is as strong and as daring now as it’s ever been. While I am called the teacher, I can say with great pleasure that I learn something from each and every one of these musicians

In case you are interested, there are already two-guitar duo recordings on Glacial Erratic on entitled Storms, the other entitled Swath featuring me, and the amazing Chris Cretella, also a former student. In November 2018 Rogue Art will release a CD of duos I made with another former student Mary Halvorson. Those CDs will be available on Catalytic Sound.

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Ig Henneman

Unknown Terrain

Although, certainly in the course of history, there have been dedicated to the perfection of a certain ‘jazz tradition’, for me jazz is a living art form that ventures into unknown territory. In this, the composers are also the performers, developments happen on the spot.

an adaption of the estafette column written for the Dutch Jazz Bulletin in 2016

Jazz is a living music that has developed into art music. She moves constantly and absorbs what presents itself. To me this is essential. Every musician contributes to the creation of the music. In order to get further in this, one must constantly venture in unknown terrain.


In a beautiful interview with pianist Dave Burrell, he articulates this idea as 'playing inside and outside the music' with the danger of being accused of 'going rogue'. He describes his experiences as a young pianist in the development of jazz from the sixties. Although my background was classical, jazz has an essential influence on who I am now; through this interview with Dave Burrell and the conversation I had with him after our short duet in the Bimhuis, I realized all the better why this is so.

Two years later Ab Baars and I would play and record with Dave to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our label Wig. This culminated in the CD Duo Baars-Henneman & Dave Burrell 'Trandans'. The word 'trandans' meaning 'dance of the cranes' brought back memories of our stay in Sweden in Dave's studio where we got to know each other musically by playing for hours.

1984 was the end of a seven year period working in pop music. The period in which I started composing, simply because we needed songs. And here I discovered my passion for creating. I have kept writing ever since. At that time I also played regularly with the group 'Several Singers and a Horn' led by jazz trumpet player, pianist, composer Nedly Elstak. The program he arranged for his Boy Edgar prize ceremony showed, in all his glory, how he mixed the world of traditional jazz with everything he encountered from Japanese scales to the Second Viennese School. It was very inspiring to work with Nedly.

Jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Jimmy Giuffre, Myra Melford, Roswell Rudd, Misha Mengelberg have made an indelible impression on me and have shown me the way to a music that's alive, with an open attitude, full of adventure. As Paul Bley advised 'only go on stage if you do not know what will happen'.

Although, certainly in the course of history, there have been musicians dedicated to the perfection of a certain ‘jazz tradition’, for me jazz is a living art form that ventures into unknown territory. In this, the composers are also the performers, developments happen on the spot.

Festivals now regularly program improvised music fraternally alongside fully-notated contemporary music and everything that moves in between. At the Jazz Happening Festival in Tampere, Finland we played a set with Perch Hen Brock & Rain: Ab Baars, Ig Henneman, Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey. This freely improvising quartet is a beautiful example of how related souls from different worlds move 'inside and outside the music', and take the stage not knowing what is going to happen: one great adventure.

An adventure that still continues. Last week we recorded our second CD, four years after 'Live @ The Jazz Happening Tampere' that has also been the very first time we played together since.

'Shapes Lines and Layers' for the 25 piece DKBB, the David Kweksilber BigBand, was composed in 2015. A structured piece written with sparse material, different short and long solo's, tone color, improvised tutti's, a solo by pianist Guus Janssen, shapes lines and layers... It felt like harvesting to me. The unknown terrain that I am exploring has produced a Henneman language that inspired these wonderful musicians to create the music together in the Bimhuis Amsterdam 25 September 2015

To both the old jazz masters and the following generation which I grew up with, I owe a debt of gratitude.

Ig Henneman - September 2018 (adaption of 2016)

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Terrie Hessels

The Ex Cassettes Distributed in the Congo

It is 1996. Emma and I are driving around Africa. One year. Long story. At one point, unexpected, we are on the N-1 in Northern Congo. The only road to make it south, but not useable at all. We are the first car in six years! Rotten bridges, hundreds of trees fallen over the road and millions of sweat-bees. Anyway, we make it. Exhausted. We and the car take a break to recover for a week.

Then we decide to move on. It rains and just outside the village called Owando, we arrive on a newly built bit of road, a kind of dike. With hundreds of people next to it. We don't understand what is going on. But it's very slippery, we slide down and right away dozens of people start pushing the car back up the dike.

Chaos. Then we slowly begin to understand the completely bizarre coincidence, when we see a convoy of 4-wheel drives approaching us.

It is the President of the Congo visiting his village of birth! They flew in the cars with helicopters and specially built this 500 meters of road. And exactly when he arrives, we are standing at the other end!

We don't want to go down the dike again to make way. Slowly they approach, sliding and slipping. Surrounded by nervous soldiers with machine-guns and mud-throwing kids we are a little worried. The president comes past, 20 centimeters from our car. Nervously waving to us. We wave back a bit and slowly all 15 cars go past. Phew!

But then... All the guys who helped push our car back on the road start shouting: "L'Argent!! L'Argent!! L'Argent!! (Money!!! Money!!! Money!!!). Not a good moment to draw out your wallet, of course. "Emma! These Ex Cassettes!!" (We brought a box of The Ex ‘Ample’ compilation to give away on the trip). I get outside the car and she hands me some 10 cassettes. Guys are jumping on me and they're gone in a sec. '"Em! 10 more!" Again a kind of wrestling and more cassettes gone. But slowly after some 40-50 cassettes, wrestling, grabbing, pushing, laughing, things start to slow down. Phew (again)!

So, this village in the middle of Congo has many Ex cassettes, distributed in no time. If it had effect on the local scene is another question...

-Terrie Hessels

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Andy Moor


Photography by Andy Moor

1 Ape and skeleton, UK

2 Barrel room sugar maple Milwaukee, USA

3 Heating system Neuchatel, Switzerland

4 Engine cloud

5 Keep Arlington, West Virginia

6 Trampoline fan and slo mo Camera media lab Amsterdam, Netherlands

7 Please control your children DSS Chicago, USA

8 Virtual Reality Kids media Lab cinekid festival Amsterdam, Netherlands

9 Pigeon at Dam Square Amsterdam, Netherlands


Mats Gustafsson




Vinyls. Collectable vinyls.

For information. For inspiration.

Archival research.

Archival ecstasies.

Archival finds.

Archival happiness.

To go deeper. To go up. To go down. To go left. To go right.

To go outside. To go inside.

To go deeper.

To feel good.

Trades. The best thing you can do with your clothes on?

To go deeper.

To feel good.


To smile at and fight all the injustices surrounding us. The unbalance. The total stupidness of political shortsightedness.

The compact ignorance. The mass hypnotized ultra-commercialisms.

The infantile happiness of easily recognized symbols and values.



Vinyls to fight it all.

To fight it all back to where it belongs.

I do not think that Trump and Erdogan and their buddies and babes have interesting record collections.

I do not think they wanna go deeper.

To feel good.


Paal Nilssen-Love

Possible to Find, Impossible to be Without

"Also, I am continually surprised that almost every Brazilian knows their musical heritage. Music is such a strong part of their culture and it continues to bring people together. With music, we´re all equal."

Paal Nilssen-Love

Possible to Find, Impossible to be Without


The first time I was in Chicago was maybe 15 years ago, and I remember coming back home with a ton of albums recommended by Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop and John Corbett. The Meters, Jackie Mitto, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Shellac, Mission of Burma, R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, The Dirtbombs, Minutemen, King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry and more… at least 25 CDs or more in my suitcase going back home…I spent the next weeks listening to all of these on a kind of extended trip vacation, and, still, the music on these albums create the ‘vibe’ of my first visit to Chicago.

When I go somewhere I have not been before, I tend to seek out the local record store and buy local music or whatever new music I´m introduced to. My first trip to Ethiopia made a big impact on me. I came home with boxes and boxes of cassettes, CDs and some worn out 7” singles. The trip again continued on my record player so to speak. The same for South Korea, when I was there for the first time in 2004. My first trip to Brazil was about 5 years ago and it´s music, culture, dance, food, drink, people, and nature left an impression on me rivaled only perhaps by the aforementioned Ethiopia. Brazil is perhaps unique in having such a rich history of music over an incredibly short span of time. You could fill an entire record shop with quality releases from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. Musicians, singers, song writers, lyric writers, producers and labels were all key factors of the musical development and there´s no doubt that political and cultural movements also defined the musical changes.

Also, I am continually surprised that almost every Brazilian knows their musical heritage. Music is such a strong part of their culture and it continues to bring people together. With music, we´re all equal.

Since my first visit, I´ve been to Brazil at least twice a year to do concerts and workshops, visit friends, now some very close friends and also spend lots of time (and money) in the local record shops. More and more people know now it´s a gold mine of vinyl. It´s getting more and more expensive and you see the rare records go for thousands of dollars. But there are represses and some more obscure and not so well-known albums that are still possible to find. I am currently working on a list of Brazilian titles I see as ‘essential.’ As I am working through my collection, I realize this list could easily come to span 100 titles, but I will try, for your sake and mine, to get it under 50!

Look forward to Paal’s list in the January 2019 Catalytic Quarterly!

MORE from Paal Nilssen-Love:

Special Request

Who has any of the following Sun Ra EPs for trade or for sale - to make me go deeper – to feel good?

  • Cosmo Extensions (Saturn 51879)
  • Great Balls of Fire / Hours After (Saturn J08W0245/J08W0246)
  • Love in Outer Space/ Mayan Temple (Saturn 256)
  • Message to Earthman/ The Sun One (Saturn 1502)
  • A Blue one/ Orbitration in Blue (Saturn SRA – 999)
  • The Bridge/ Rocket # 9 (Saturn 3066)
  • October (Saturn 874-A)

Who has any of the following Sun Ra LPs for trade or for sale - to make me go deeper – to feel good?

  • Jazz by Sun Ra (Transition LP 10) with booklet of course....
  • Super Sonic jazz (Saturn 216)
  • Song of the Stargazers (Saturn 487)
  • Discipline 99 (Saturn 61674)
  • Angels and Demons at Play (Saturn 407)
  • Visits planet Earth (Saturn 207)

Email me: mats@matsgus.com and hit me with your best offers!