Jazz fusion-y avant-garde goodness! Like if the Mahavishnu Orchestra did a bunch of acid and just jammed freely (and replaced the fiddle with saxes). The progression of the music is a trip in itself.
"...The Celestial Squid is so special... Here are two of the greats....no, the greatest." – Jim O'Rourke
Guitar summits don't ascend higher than when legendary British free-jazz pioneer and longtime session ace Ray Russell meets the brilliant California avant-improv overachiever and Antarctic diver Henry Kaiser in the realm of The Celestial Squid. With more than countless session and soundtrack performances to his credit, including the early James Bond film scores, Russell is returning to his bone-rattling, noise-rocking roots for the first time since the very early 70s. You'll be shaken and stirred as Kaiser, Russell and eight super friends deliver a no-holds-barred, free-range sonic cage match.
Russell created some of the early '70s' most outrageously outside music, releasing hallmark works of guitar shock-and-awe. Russell's "stabbing, singing notes and psychotic runs up the fretboard have nothing to do with scalular architecture," wrote All Music's Thom Jurek, "but rather with viscera and tonal exploration." Russell anticipated the wildest and most intrepid vibrations of Terje Rypdal, Dave Fuzinski, Sonic Youth, Keiji Haino, Tisziji Muñoz and their boundary-dissolving ilk. Russell is hardly a niche performer, though. Untold millions of music and film fans have actually, if unknowingly, already enjoyed Russell's riffs – at least if they saw any of the James Bond films that John Barry scored, beginning with Dr. No in 1962.
For over 40 years, Russell would not make such exploratory music until West Coast guitar experimentalist Henry Kaiser called him out of the blue and asked if he would be interested in co-leading an ensemble in the style of his '71 masterpiece, Live at the ICA: June 11th 1971. Russell was surprised and delighted by the offer, and readily accepted. Why had he waited so long to once again explore the free-jazz spaceways you might well wonder? Simple – no one had asked him to do so!
So on April 12, 2014, Henry Kaiser and Ray Russell – along with drummers Weasel Walter and William Winant, bassists Michael Manring (electric) and Damon Smith (acoustic), and saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, and Aram Shelton – entered Berkeley, California's Fantasy Studios for a day-long session that resulted in The Celestial Squid, a nearly eighty-minute embryonic journey through the deepest waters and most cosmic heights of improvised music. Except for melodic heads and compositional structures, everything on The Celestial Squid is improvised, down to some astonishing extemporaneous horn arrangements. While The Celestial Squid echoes the raw energy and youthful bravado of Russell's earliest achievements, this music synergizes the combined power and imagination of all ten of these musical masters into a force to be reckoned with.
"The Celestial Squid pairs guitarist/improviser Henry Kaiser with one of his earliest idols, British guitarist, producer, arranger, and composer Ray Russell. Kaiser has a long history of recording with players he admires and has been influenced by, including John Abercrombie, Derek Bailey, David Lindley, and Fred Frith. Russell may be somewhat of a cipher to non-guitar heads. He released a series of influential, fiery free jazz-rock sets in the late '60s and early '70s: Dragon Hill, Rites & Rituals, Live at the ICA 1971: Retrospective, and Secret Asylum. Since then, he's cut many more records (including 2006's Goodbye Svengali and 2013's Now, More Than Ever), produced, arranged, and been a sideman on funk, folk, jazz dates, and even sound library albums. Though always active, he hasn't exclusively revisited the incendiary improvisational terrain of his earliest recordings until now.
Kaiser assembled a killer set of players for this: Electric bassist Michael Manring; Damon Smith on upright; drummers Weasel Walter and William Winant; and saxophonists Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, and Aram Shelton. They recorded live at Fantasy Studios, armed with only basic head charts; the rest unfolded as the music dictated. There are seven long pieces here; the shortest is nearly nine minutes....
Given the nature of this proceeding, a large band playing live with scant arrangements, deep listening was required by all participants. The disaster quotient was high, but The Celestial Squid delivers the opposite in spades. It is a welcome return to the athletic fringes for Russell and one of the most inspired and striking of Kaiser's two-guitar encounters to date." – AllMusic / Thom Jurek
released February 3, 2015
guitars: Henry Kaiser, Ray Russell
saxophones: Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, Aram Shelton
electric bass: Michael Manring
acoustic bass: Damon Smith
drums: Weasel Walter, William Winant
recorded live by Adam Munoz at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA on April 12, 2014
mixed by Henry Kaiser, Adam Munoz, Weasel Walter at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
mastered by Paul Stubblebine
artwork and art direction by Brandy Gale
production by Henry Kaiser