Year in Review:
A list of Cuneiform's 2011 releases

[JUMP TO: Jazz & Jazz-Rock: New Recordings | Jazz: Archival/Historical Recordings
Avant-Rock | Obtaining 2011 Promos]

Jazz & Jazz-Rock: New Recordings

The Claudia Quintet +1 featuring Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann
What Is the Beautiful?

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD

"Job" (mp3)
[featuring Kurt Elling]

“Soon it will/Be showtime again,” recites Kurt Elling at the outset of the Claudia Quintet’s sixth CD, What Is the Beautiful? “Somebody will paint beautiful faces all over the sky.”

The sentiment expressed by those lines, penned by poet/visual artist Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972), captures something of the anticipation proffered by the release of a new Claudia album. Bandleader/percussionist John Hollenbeck’s evocative, richly luminescent compositions definitely possess the suggestive power to encourage listeners to look heavenward, searching for those faces in the sky.

Hollenbeck immediately thought of singer Kurt Elling to give voice to these poems – wholly unaware that Elling is something of a Patchen aficionado. Vocalist Theo Bleckmann, probably Hollenbeck’s most frequent collaborator, was also enlisted to lend a dreamier, more song-like atmosphere to several of the poems.

Bill Laswell, Raoul Björkenheim, Morgan Ågren: Blixt

Genre: Jazz / Metal-Jazz
Format: CD

"Moon Tune" (mp3)

Bassist Bill Laswell has been a major figure in creative music for 3 decades as a performer as well as a producer. The list of major names in jazz and rock he has worked with is voluminous. His stamp is on literally hundreds of albums; the majority of them characterized by a sound fusing the energy of punk with the bone-rattling rhythms of dub and funk. Guitarist Raoul Björkenheim emerged from Finland in the 1980s with Edward Vesala then recorded two albums for ECM. A major if under-appreciated guitar hero, he has kept an active profile most recently with Scorch Trio, with whom he has released 4 albums. Drummer Morgan Ågren was voted the #1 best fusion drummer in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll of 2010! He has worked with keyboardist Mats Öberg as Mats/Morgan for over 30 years (since he was 14 and Mats was 10!) and they have released 8 albums. Blixt is the first release by this electric jazz power trio supergroup; think the Jimi Hendrix Experience mixed with outjazz/improvisation.

São Paulo Underground
Três Cabeças Loucuras

Genre: Jazz / World Music
Format: CD / LP

"Jagoda's Dream" (mp3)

The São Paulo Underground sound dares you to define it, knowing that even when -- not if -- you fail to do so, you’ll still be so deliriously immersed in the group’s dizzying swirl of styles that you’ll simply be happy to surrender to its unnamable charms. Along the way, you’ll reach for such sonic signifiers as “jazz,” “Brazilian music,” “avant-garde,” and “electro-acoustic” in an attempt to tag Três Cabeças Loucuras, the ensemble’s third album and first for Cuneiform. Sure, when American cornetist Rob Mazurek gets together with his Brazilian buddies Guilherme Granado (keyboards, electronics), Mauricio Takara (drums, percussion, cavaquinho, electronics) and “fourth member” Richard Ribeiro (drums), all of the aforementioned flavors are on the musical menu, but ultimately, it’s best to just term the end result a kind of joyful “chef’s surprise” that gleefully upends expectations.

Note: Três Cabeças Loucuras is also available in a high-quality, limited edition (Only 500 copies!) vinyl pressing that includes a download code for the digital version of the album.

Dead Cat Bounce
Chance Episodes

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD

 "Tourvan Confessin'" (mp3)

The term dead cat bounce denotes a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock, but to composer and saxophonist Matt Steckler it means more; Dead Cat Bounce, both in name and as a group, evokes an artistic vision. “It signifies one’s dedication to creative rebirth and renewal even as time, tradition, and masters move on,” says the Boston-based Steckler, who founded DCB in 1997 to explore new sounds within the classic confines of jazz. Bolstered by bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Bill Carbone, DCB features an interactive and inventive frontline quartet of saxophonists: Steckler, Charlie Kohlhase, Terry Goss, and Jared Sims. Drawing inspiration from blues and funk, as well as Caribbean, Brazilian, and West African traditions, DCB’s fourth studio album, Chance Episodes, presents a cosmopolitan and international sound, all in a stunning interpretation of Steckler’s original arrangements. Chance Episodes is Dead Cat Bounce’s first release on Cuneiform Records.

Chance Episodes is awash in the voices of the past, but synthesizes them into a dynamic voice of its own. Fundamentally, it asks the listener to appreciate the foundations and history of jazz, but simultaneously embrace all that is new. Steckler, himself, defines the ideal listener and frame of mind for Chance Episodes, imploring listeners to experience the album “free from distraction and with an ear toward positive experience and renewal.”

Wadada Leo Smith's Organic
Heart's Reflections

Genre: Jazz / Improv / Fusion
Format: CDx2

"Certainty" (mp3)

Lauded by Coda as "one of the most vital musicians on the planet," Wadada Leo Smith is a highly regarded trumpeter who has, over the course of five decades in jazz and free music, seldom slackened his prolific pace. If anything, he's been experiencing a creative renaissance of late. Smith’s latest CD and fifth release for Cuneiform, Heart’s Reflections, is a bold double-disc set that features Wadada Leo Smith's Organic, a predominately electric, fourteen-piece group that is both active and performing at festivals worldwide. In fact, Organic, a band most notable for a lineup marked by four guitarists, just performed a late-March concert in Milano, Italy. In talking about this shred-heavy band with All About Jazz, Smith said, “I wanted to create this ensemble with this fantastic horizontal and vertical mash of sound. … And [I wanted] the music to be experimental and have a beat to it and to have those qualities that young people are interested in.”

This co-ed outfit sizzles and stomps its way through 14 genre-bending tracks Though longtime listeners might be surprised by the fierceness of Organic’s rhythm section, Heart’s Reflections is nonetheless marked by the trumpeter’s usual touchstones: long sustained notes, occasional clipped phrases, and a tough-to-define playfulness that infuses all of his work.

Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade
Brain Dance

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD

"For Otto" (mp3)

Proficient, creative, clearly an in demand bassist, Carlo De Rosa has earned a reputation of very high standards. Carlo has work with the likes of: Ravi Coltrane, John Faddis, Yo-Yo Ma, Jack DeJohnette, Hilton Ruiz, Steve Turre, John Scofield, The Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Tyshawn Sorey, Ed Thigpen, Brad Shepik, Ralph Alessi, Nick Brignola, Mickey Roker, Warren Bernhardt, Miguel Zenon and Jason Moran. As a composer and band-leader of the quartet Cross-Fade, he also has very high standards.

Cross-Fade is a band of top-drawer musicians.  Pianist Vijay Iyer is one of the hottest names in jazz right now, and he is featured heavily with Cross-Fade on both acoustic and electric piano. In 2010, Iyer was named Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards,  and his album, Historicity was nominated for a Grammy. Saxist Mark Shim, whose unique deep timbre and chops range from swinging bop, uncut funk, to avant-garde, has recorded three albums for Blue Note. Drummer Justin Brown, the youngest member of the group, is a powerful, potent player who is beginning to make a major name for himself. He has peformed with Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Peter Apfelbaum, Gerald Clayton and Rudresh Mahanthappa

The music constantly moves between the modern, avant-garde and electric Jazz worlds, never standing still, but taking the most interesting and attractive elements of these worlds and combining them into a new whole.


Genre: Jazz / Avant-Rock
Format: CD

"4 9 8" (mp3)

What happens when you take four highly opinionated, strong-willed and creative composer/musicians and put them in a band together?  You might have a volatile problem on your hands…or else you have Gutbucket. From the beginning Gutbucket has had no single bandleader; the result has been an expansive yet unified and recognizable group sound. With Flock, the group's fifth release, the twelve year-old Brooklyn-based quartet pushes their composer-driven, art-rock-tainted chamber jazz into new terrain.

Along the way, Gutbucket has brought its “impressive balance of passionate lyricism and pummeling angularity” (Time Out-New York) to festivals, clubs and concert halls in 33 US states and 19 countries, including the London Jazz Festival, Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival, Jazz A Vienne, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days, Köln Triennale, San Sebastian Jazz Festival, Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, Saalfelden Jazz Festival, NY’s Bang on a Can Marathon, Celebrate Brooklyn, NYC Winter Jazzfest, Belgrade Jazz Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and more.  Destroying walls between musical styles, Gutbucket is not only equally comfortable playing in front of 900 sweatily pogo-ing teenage skate-punks, at world-wide jazz festivals, or on an anarchist German art collective’s houseboat, but most importantly, their music fits right in ALL of these contexts.

Led Bib
Bring Your Own
Genre: Jazz
Format: CD

"Is That a Woodblock?" (mp3)

Rock? Jazz? The sound made by the clattering of a band's worth of plugged-in instruments falling down the stairs? UK skronk-jazz-rock-punk-whatever quintet Led Bib release their fifth album, Bring Your Own and bring all of these influences to the table. A tremendously popular act at home in the UK, their last album, Sensible Shoes (their first with Cuneiform) was a 2009 'Album of the Year' winner with the prestigious Mercury Prize. They regularly play large-scale festivals and concert halls in the UK as well as festivals and shows elsewhere in Europe.

So, in the wake of the huge press attention lavished on them due to the Mercury, and having appeared on UK's Channel 4 News, performing their version of the theme music to millions in front of the telly, did the mighty Bib decide to tone it down? Turn it back a notch? Definitely not. If anything, Bring Your Own contains some of their hardest rocking material to date, mixing the full throated cry of the dual saxes over loudly amplified Fender Rhodes and heavy bass and drums. 

Planeta Imaginario
Optical Delusions

Genre: Jazz / Jazz-Rock / Fusion
Format: CD

"Collective Action" (mp3)

Planeta Imaginario (Imaginary Planet) are an extraordinarily creative 6 piece (+ guests) jazz-rock band that come from the Catalan region of Spain. Founded in 1999 by keyboardist and leader Marc Capel, Planeta Imaginario originally performed psychedelic rock music. As the band grew in size and new musicians brought in jazz and jazz-rock elements, the band's sound evolved into its current jazz-rock fusion, interlaced with psychedelia and progressive rock. A fantastically imaginative, evocative and uplifting musical brew, infused with a strong Mediterranean aesthetic, Planeta Imaginario's music blends influences from the English Canterbury School (National Health, Gilgamesh, Hatfield and the North, Soft Machine) with numerous other elements.

Optical Delusions, Planeta Imaginario's newest release, was recorded, mixed and mastered by noted engineer Bob Drake at his studio in the French Pyrenees. A recording with a very 'live' sound, it showcases the group interplay of this fine ensemble.  Musically, Optical Delusions takes listeners on a magical sonic journey through four decades of jazz and rock, visiting beloved neighborhoods and creating new musical fusions.  Fans of Steve Coleman, Chick Corea's Spanish-tinged fusion works, Gilgamesh, Hatfield and the North, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious, Soft Machine, Weather Report and Frank Zappa will enjoy Planeta Imaginario's new release.

Jazz: Archival/Historical Recordings

John Surman
Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April 1969

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD+DVD

"Mayflower" (mp3)

John Surman is one of England's most reknowned modern jazz musicians, with a career that stretches across nearly 45 years. He began his professional music career in the late 60s as both a sideman and a leader, working with such notable greats as Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Terje Rypdal and many others.  In the late 1970s he began working with the well-known ECM label, who have released a steady stream of fine Surman recordings across the years, including his most recent new recording, Brewster's Rooster.  Every period of Surman's career is marked by excellence, filled with musical highlights and landmark albums. Cuneiform is exceedingly proud to release – for the first time ever – this amazing DVD and CD recording from Surman's early career. Filmed and recorded in 1969 at Germany's NDR Jazz Workshop and featuring Surman leading a 10-piece group, it is an essential document not only of Surman's early years, but of the late 60s 'Brit-jazz' scene.

Captured in crisp, clear black and white footage and in excellent mono sound, this release is an astonishing rarity. High quality archival audio recordings of these musicians from this period are extremely scarce. Video footage is basically unknown. FLASHPOINT: NDR JAZZ WORKSHOP – APRIL '69 is a rare and hugely important document.


Mats/Morgan Band

Genre: Progressive Rock / Fusion
Format: CD

"En Schizofrens Dagbok" (mp3)

As much as we all love recordings, the experience of LIVE music is what separates the wheat from the chaff, the Rodney Dangerfields from the Tom Greens. While touring Sweden, Frank Zappa—one of progressive music’s prime movers from the mid-1960s until his death in 1993 and one of the most exacting bandleaders EVER—was SO taken with the acumen and energy of acolytes Mats Öberg and Morgan Ågren in performance that he asked them to play with his band! Cuneiform Records founder Steve Feigenbaum, whose Wayside imprint distributed discs by Mats/Morgan Band in the US, caught them live in Paris (with members of Magma in the audience too!) and was so impressed he caught up with them backstage and asked them to be on his label. The proof’s in the pudding: Live is that rare CD that encapsulates a band at the peak of their powers, with dazzling creativity and immediacy in full flower. Live was remastered for this Cuneiform reissue.

Fans of old and new progressive rock, math-rock, jazz-rock fusion, funky fusion, post-rock and the Rock In Opposition (RIO) axis of bands—you’ve got one band of Swedes to unite you: the Mats/Morgan Band.

Highly Publicized Digital Boxing Match

Genre: Rock
Format: CD

"Danice Marino" (mp3)
[featuring Merrill Garbus aka tUnE yArDs)

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Afuche is a young band whose high-octane, cross-continent, post-rock/avant-progressive/math-rock music defies easy description and generates immediate appeal. Flavorpill called Afuche’s music: "unhinged Afro-Cuban experimental jazz and funk... kinda like Frank Zappa meets Yes, with extra group screaming and handclaps." Afuche’s music is aligned with a new wave of 21st Century rock music that draws influences from world music (African, Middle Eastern, Latin) and from progressive rock, which it melds into a hybrid of contemporary rock and pop composition. Other bands creating unique hybrids from similar disparate musical sources include Dirty Projectors (Domino Records), Skeletons (Tomlab/Crammed Discs) and tUnE-yArDs (4AD).  But the strength of its compositions and intensity of its live performances sets Afuche apart. The band’s live performances are not to be missed; the members’ group dynamic on stage is mesmerizing. Creating a catchy cacophony that’s truly its own, Afuche’s music will have you dancing in ways you never thought possible.

No Ifs, Ands or Dogs

Genre: Rock
Format: CD

"Sleep" (mp3)

No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs, Cheer-Accident’s 17th album and second for Cuneiform Records, is a kaleidoscopic, inclusive trip into a musical madhouse that you’ll want to stay lost within.

The songs on No Ifs… run the gamut of everything that makes Cheer-Accident an exceptional band: prickly, lurching psychedelia with honeyed singing (“Drag You Down”), quizzical Steve Reich-meets-King Crimson rockers (“Sleep”), and sweetly peculiar soft-pop a la Beach Boys and Free Design (“Drug You Down,” “Cynical Girl”). This sweet harmoniousness segues into a rocking mash-up that suggests Yes arguing with neighbors Killing Joke just before John Surman stops by (“Salad Dies”) to put in his two cents. This diversity does not denote dilettantism, however-Cheer Accident empowers and devotes itself to whatever style, mode, or genre it absorbs. Even after a few listens, regardless of stylistic diversity displayed during No Ifs, Ands or Dogs is the commitment to primo performance of the album/music/concept as a whole-songs often lead into one another like the second side (that’s “record talk”) of the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Göstas Berlings Saga
Glue Works
Genre: Rock
Format: CD

"354" (mp3)

Amidst the resurgeance of all-instrumental bands on the international rock scene over the past decade, Swedish progressive rock / post-rock group Gösta Berlings Saga is one of the most exceptional groups.  Able to create myriad musical statements that are memorable despite the absence of lyrics, its music proves that words can indeed sometimes get in the way. Gösta Berlings Saga’s music evokes the expansive, filmic potential of ‘70s instrumental music without repeating the past. Without retro affectation, the foursome Gösta Berlings Saga combine the cool sleekness of the Ventures and Shadows, the jazz-informed psychedelia of Gong, the wry humor of fellow Scandinavian Laika & the Cosmonauts, the textured knottiness of Yes (in their early ‘70s prime), the exotic evocations of film music (Howard Shore’s scores for Naked Lunch and Ed Wood), the eclectic whimsy of the Canterbury school, and the droll menace of MogwaiGlue Works is Gösta Berlings Saga’s third album, its first recording released outside Sweden, and its first on Cuneiform. It is one of the most breathtaking instrumental albums to come out in recent years, capable of sending shivers down your spine one minute and making you wonder…what’s next?

Richard Pinhas & Merzbow

Genre: Rock / Electronic / Noise
Format: CD+DVD

"Rhizome 4" (mp3)

The particular blend of sensual derangement and delight Pinhas & Mezrbow's musical conspiracy creates simply demanded another full-fledged duo recording. So when the pair headlined at Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Sonic Circuits Festival at La Maison Francaise on September 24, 2010, capturing their improvisations in all their senses-shattering glory seemed like an obvious choice. Rhizome is the product of that recording, an album that swoops, shimmers, rattles, and roars, as Pinhas employs his guitar and loop system to dive over, under, and sometimes even through the post-industrial laptop machinations of Merzbow, whose lofty tower of sound transcends the conventional tonal vocabulary. Pinhas has been perfecting his Robert Fripp-influenced six-string sea of sustain and delay since his days helming Heldon, and when his aggressive-but-aqueous sound meshes with Merzbow’s carefully crafted cacophony, the two have a transformative effect on each other. Merzbow brings out the most visceral elements of Pinhas’s approach, and Pinhas bathes Merzbow’s daring dissonance in a more melodic, (relatively) accessible stream of sound.

Richard Pinhas & Merzbow
Paris 2008

Format: LP
Genre: Rock / Electronic / Noise

"Paris One" (mp3)

In 2007, guitarist and rock electronics innovator Richard Pinhas performed in Tokyo and then performed a duo concert with notorious 'noise' artist Merzbow. Both men were so excited by the duo concert, they immediately booked studio time to make the recordings that became their first duo release Keio Line. The duo continued to perform together; this concert performance and recording was their first meeting together after Keio Line. It was recorded at Les Instants Chavirés in Paris on November 12, 2008. Even though they had only worked together for a very short time the year before, the duo had already established a recognizable sound with Richard's metronic and spacey guitar figures being worked over by Merzbow's electronic mayhem in a glorious, psychedelic death spiral.

Paris 2008 is a vinyl-only release; the first vinyl released by Cuneiform in over 20 years! There are only 500 copies made and there will not be a repress; this lp edition is the only way to buy this in a physical format. The lp comes with a digital download card for the music, and if you buy it from Cuneiform, your copy will be on beautiful blue vinyl.


Dear colleagues in Press & Radio;

While many of you have received whatever 2011 Cuneiform releases you need for either potential review or inclusion in your best-of-year lists, others are missing releases.  Please let Javier and I know what you need,  and we'll send you digital promos IMMEDIATELY or promo CDs ASAP.

To request promos:

Please contact Javier if you need copies of any 2011 titles IMMEDIATELY for potential review at, and he will send you a DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the requested album(s). Downloads include artwork and press releases.

- CD PROMOS: Please contact Joyce if you would like PHYSICAL copies of any 2011 titles for potential review at and we will send you a package as soon as we can.

Please contact Javier if you need copies of any 2011 titles at


best regards,
director of publicity & promotion
cuneiform records
tel. 301-589-8894 
washington, d.c.  [silver spring, md]

November 2011: Cuneiforms' multi-city  label showcases!!!

Nov. 15-30, 2011 in NYC at The Stone
A wonderful time was had by all at Cuneifest in Baltimore (Nov.19+20, 2011), thanks to EVERYone for their amazing support!

“You go your own way, and – eventually – people will catch up to you.” 
– Thelonious Monk, as quoted by Steve Lacy  [from Lacy interview in Coda]