unsettled on an old sense of place

Henceforth Records

(read the liner notes)

(read a review from The Wire)
Gustavo Aguilar Get Libre Collective: Destinations

Circumvention(Circ 040). Released 2004. Produced by Gustavo Aguilar. Music by Gustavo Aguilar, Todd Sickafoose, Eric Crystal, Chris Garcia, Robert Reigle.

Gustavo Aguilar is a California based percussionist (credited with "sobor" drum kit) who has performed all over the globe with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Nels Cline, Charlie Haden and many others. On Destinations he is joined by Todd Sickafoose on bass, Eric Crystal on saxophones, flax (not sure what that is) and melodica, Chris Garcia on udu and tabla and Robert Reigle on tenor saxophone.

The Collective grabbed me right away with the opening track, "Different Paths, Same Destinations". A steady seductive sax melody leads the way, backed by busy varied percussion and thudding bass notes. The contrast between the almost lounge styled saxophone and energetic percussion works a charm, with the cool horn melody offsetting, but working cooperatively with the percussion. "Legends" begins as a much more sparse piece with a whining and droning chamber ensemble feel. But after a few minutes it transitions to a cool jazz groove with low key but passionately expressive playing. The pace gradually picks up to the point where we experience a gorgeous frenzied sax duel and intense performances from all. "Concepts In Travel Comfort" is a percussion fest with warbling sax and droning bass acting as a background guiding light, and the second sax creating the melody. It's got a great jazzy tribal feel and I sensed the spirit of Sun Ra looming overhead. And, like "Legends", it builds in pace and intensity as the piece develops, creating a wonderful mixture of cool jazz and avant-garde elements to create powerfully compelling music.

There are a handful of shorter tracks on the album, "Along The Red Lines" being an excellent example of controlled chaos with a determined narrative flow. Overall an excellent set of exciting improvisational jazz with much to challenge the adventurous listener, but never straying far from accessible sounds and styles.

Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations: January 2004

soNu: Sounds From the Source

Ninewinds(NWCD0234). Released 2004. Produced by soNusound. Music by Alan Lechusza, Gustavo Aguilar, Nina Eidsheim, Phil Curtis, Vinny Golia, Arash Haile.

The new Nine Winds release by soNu presents the eclectic band as a cultural database that, through group improvisation and subtle compositional cues, manages to incorporate serialism, post-serialism, Mexican folkloric music, non-Western classical music, Norwegian folk song, Native American music, rock, future electronics, and hip hop into its musings. Nina Sun Eidsheim sings and interjects electronics; Phil Curtis also contributes electronics. Alan Lechusza plays woodwinds, and Gustavo Aguilar handles percussion. All four compose and have extensive resumes in and out of academia and free jazz.

The recording opens with the first of three covers of AACM members compositions, Wadada Leo Smiths The Lady of the Dark Sonnets/Mississippi Delta. Curtis sends electro bolts squealing through the studio, soon joined by Lechusza on bass sax. The thick earthy tone contrasts nicely with the shifty synth smears. Eidsheim sings the tricky melody operatically, Curtis’s shimmery environment around her. Aguilar adds soft clatterings. Nine Winds CEO Vinny Golia joins the ensemble for Rebound. Lechusza plays Native American flute with Aguilars subtle wind chimes. Eidshem improvises processed vocals over metallic electric rumblings, and Aguilars loose drumset stampedes with the dark synthesizer tones. After Lechuszas vivid trips on wood flute, Golia sweeps through on C-flute.

Anthony Braxtons Composition Nr.287+98a sends Lechusza flying on alto, slowing for the composed duet with Eidshem. Curtis handles the aviation from his keyboard, Aguilar dropping lag time beats. Eidshem treats her vocals with Curtis sci-fi sounds throbbing.

Industrial sounds and held tone vocals announce George Lewis Players. Throughout the piece, players speak to one another, announcing the next segment (Gustavo, play me, Nina, sing something nice Ensemble, please join me in a very very loud and furious improvisation). Lechusza goes long on clarinet as someone effectively riffs on toy piano. Aguilar and Lechusza play a brief duet, before processed vocals and sampled noise take over. The bass sax holds a tone while quick synth spray hits a serene kalimba. Lechusza returns to clarinet, this time solo. Sound On Sound for Roscoe Mitchell could be a remix dance hit for Nine Winds. Arash Hailes hip hop-inspired vocal finds a niche in the bands ability to face the funk, and deconstruct the funk. Curtis continues flooding the track with roiling sound; Eidshem improvises and occasionally returns to Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Lechusza brings back the rhythm on bass sax, with Aguilar following.

With each member of the quartet bringing a wealth of aural information, SoNu have realized a multi-culti vision rich in texture and imagination.

Rex Butters, All About Jazz

Gustavo Aguilar: Looking for Aztlan

Acoustic Levitation(AL1006). Released July 2001. Produced by Gustavo Aguilar. Music by Gustavo Aguilar, John Bergamo, Phil Curtis, Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Jonathon Grasse, David Johnson.

Aguilar has played with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Here he's heard alone on a decidedly superior solo percussion record. The Latin outlook is prominent and Aguilar uses voice and rhythmic acoustic guitar at times to that effect, but the album is also testimony to his deep immersion in percussive zones mapped out by the likes of John Cage, Steve Reich, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago. He plays and interprets composed music, including pieces by John Bergamo, a percussionist whose playing credentials span from Charles Gayle to George Crumb and who was also a member of the group with Smith. One piece, written by Jonathan Grasse, incorporates some fine gargling. Overall, there's never a dull moment.

-Julian Cowley, The Wire


Gustavo Aguilar: Dreaming With Serpents

Acoustic Levitation(AL1001). Released 1999. Produced by Gustavo Aguilar and Chad Hammil. Music by Gustavo Aguilar, John Bergamo, Todd Sickafoose, Wadada Leo Smith.

What a lovely CD and what a surprise! Aguilar plays, as he calls it, "pre-composed" music by Wadada Leo Smith (Zamzam, A Ki-River Spring), percussionist John Bergamo ("Tulumbaz for Solo Timpani') and L.A. Bassist Todd Sickafoose ("Magic Tree" for vibraphone and log drum). He also includes "present-composed (improvised)" duets with the same three composers. Despite the spare, almost exclusively percussive instrumentation, the effect is surprisingly lush. The various compositions have the mystery, inscrutability and power of ancient Mayan glyphs. Max Roach's percussion ensemble M'Boom came to mind as Aguilar deploys a variety of tuned and indeterminate-pitch percussion on this session. Wadada's trumpet is a welcome shot of color through "Apa" a duet for trumpet, congas, voice, ankle bells and slit drum that has the vibrancy of Diego Rivera canvas.
The CD concludes with Aguilar's "Bamboo Blue Static" a meditation on the recent shootings in schools. It is a thoughtful way to end a thought-provoking and thoroughly fresh session. For those of us in the east who wonder what sort of scene could survive in entertainment-rich and culture-poor L.A. this CD will provide a surprising and ear-opening answer.

-John Chacona, Signal to Noise 16/45
Surrealestate: Contrafactum

Acoustic Levitation(AL1004). Released 2000. Produced by Surrealestate. Music by Gustavo Aguilar, Jonathon Grasse, Charles Ives, Robert Reigle, Surrealestate.

A poetic debut recording from Los Angeles free improv group Surrealestate led by music erudite composer/saxophonist Robert Reigle, featuring stellar performances by percussionist Gustavo Aguilar, saxophonist David Borgo, electric guitarist Jonathon Grasse, percussionist Kaye Lubach, drummer David Martinelli and bassist Todd Sickafosse. Contrafactum is a fine conglomerate of improv stylings, and free sonic experimentation. References to Giancito Scelsi, Alfred Schnittke and The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Surrealestate explores a wide spectrum of free structured improvisation to the focused compositions of Aguilar, Reigle, Grasse and Borgo. A well thought out and resonant effort! Recommended for the eclectic improv listener.

-Gary Lopez, New Creative Music
Other Select Recordings
Thomas Buckner: Contexts
(Mutable Music) 2005
David Borgo: Reverence for Uncertainty
(Circumvention Music) 2004
Iancu Dumitrescu: In Tokyo
(Edition Modern-ED.MN.1019) 2003
Ana-Maria Avram
(Edition Modern-ED.MN.1018) 2003
Phil Curtis: Slutskya
(Acoustic Levitation) 2002
Park Je Chun: Mol-e mori II
(Sang-Joong-Ha Music {SJHCD-001})
Robert Reigle: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth (AL1002)
Steve Koeing: El Sueno (AL1005R)
Bananafish Compilation CD #14 (Tedium House BF 14)
RedFishBlueFish: The Percussion Music of Iannis Xenakis (Mode Records) 2006
Tim Hodgkinson: Sketch of Now (Mode Records) 2006
Ana-Maria Avram: Spectral Collection XXI (Edition Modern 1020) 2006