Dr. John, the Night Tripper (1968) Gris-Gris (LP) Atco 33-234

Dr. John, the Night Tripper



Atco 33-234

Produced by Harold Battiste

**** recommended

Debut long player from the Doctor, the Night Tripper, produced and partially written by the legendary New Orleans native Harold Battiste, acid R&B, slow-crawling psychedelic nightmares, creeping from the swamps of Louisiana, cooked up in the Gold Star kitchens of the City of Angels, pots and pan acid batch bubbling voodoo, American as gumbo stew, jumping up on second-line hind legs for the “Jump Sturdy” strut down the street…tribal and influential, essential.

Almost not released by Atlantic and mostly ignored by the public (but likely noticed by the avant-garde element of LA who likely had influenced the Nighttripper), this recording eventually went on to take its rightful place in the annals of American music.

Even if you end up not digging it for days, everybody should at least give it a listen…sit in the dark and let your head spin around Jupiter…take a night trip through American history.

— winch (author of

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Jay Clayton (1980) All-Out (LP) Anima Productions 1J35

Jay Clayton



Anima Productions 1J35

*** noteworthy

Clayton’s debut set as a leader, featuring interesting avant-garde vocals from Clayton, making musical sounds rather than singing lyrics, but turning that idea around when she sings a poem story into a version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” that selection just Jay and her husband Frank Clayton on drums…the other cuts featuring the pair with Jane Ira Bloom on sax, Harvie Swartz on bass, Larry Karush on piano.

While listeners may find various cuts more interesting, the centerpiece and most enjoyable selection is the 11-minute “7/8 Thing,” a Clayton original that features four vocalists and kalimba by Bill Buchen. Most fans of jazz or avant-garde music will find something to enjoy on this unique outing.

– winch (author of the two-part novel Junk Like That and Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

Crass (1977 – 1984) Best Before (LP) Crass Records 5 (1984)

Best Before
Crass Records (5)
Material: 1977 – 1984
Recorded 1977 – 1984, released July 1984 (UK only)

This double LP collects singles and unreleased material, a nice gesture, saving fans from having to collect all the singles, and packaging the material with killer artwork.  While this might have been better served up as a more concise two-sider, it certainly provides an overview of their history, moving from fairly straight-forward punk to abrasive avant garde. 

For fans, this is essential.  It also serves as a good intro.

— winch




Fred Frith (1988) “The Technology of Tears” and Other Music For Dance and Theatre (SST 172)

Fred Frith
“The Technology of Tears” and Other Music For Dance and Theatre
SST 172


Noteworthy ***

Avant-garde rhythms from Frith, three pieces commissioned by various dance and theatre companies, most of the sounds created by Frith, with Jim Staley contributing trombone on one cut; John Zorn (sax), Tenko (voice), and Christian Marclay (turntables) assisting with the title track.

The music was obviously inspired by exotic sounds from around the globe, but Frith mixes these influences until they are barely recognizable.  He mixes electric guitars and other electronic wizardy with drums and voices, uses multitracking and back tracking to create a mostly frantic sound, cramming a lot of noises into most cuts, some space on a few.  It’s a mixed bag, but certainly has highlights for fans of avant garde.

— winch

Jean Chaine & his Ulterior Lux (1985) Distant Sun (LP) Keta Music KM-269

Jean Chaine
& his Ulterior Lux
Distant Sun
Keta Music KM-269
recorded September – October 1984

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Enjoyable set of avant-garde jazz, or as the sleeve calls it: avant-classic, Chaine’s electric bass dominating the selections but plenty of other sounds, cello and percussion, Rob Schuh contributing drums on one selection, Dimthings offering his drumming to another, most cuts featuring only Chaine, the leader using electric guitar on one selection, recorder, tube horn, and voice on another.

While this clearly fits into the avant garde category, Chaine keeps a bassline running through most of the album, surrounds the avant-garde rhythms with electric and acoustic sounds, most of the rhythms showing third-world influences but stirring the improvisations until the influences are unrecognizable, almost like mixing the free-flowing style of Oregon with the instrumental ramblings of the Residents.

Definitely worthwhile for fans of avant garde, and even folks who find that style too much to swallow might dig some of these selections.

— winch


Lol Coxhill and Fred Frith (1982) French Gigs (LP) A.A.A. (A02)

Lol Coxhill and Fred Frith

French Gigs

A.A.A A02
Recorded 1981 and 1978

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)

Avant garde improvisation, Coxhill squeaking out sounds on his soprano sax, Frith scratching and beating on the strings of his electric guitars, the pair occasionally offering some space but mostly claustrophobic madness–like a mouse, a bird and an elephant crammed into a small cage. 

Side One is filled with one noisy live performance titled “Reims,” recorded in 1981.  Three shorter selections from 1978 fill the second side, these slightly more conventional, relatively speaking, some of Coxhill’s contributions clearly coming from the jazz world, and Frith’s contributions sometimes identifiable as he strums his instrument and plays with feedback, sometimes offering hints of rhythm, using the electric guitar as a percussion instrument.

A worthwhile listen for fans of avant garde, the first side mostly for fans of claustrophobic noise, the flipside just as interesting and for most folks likely more enjoyable–the music full of madness and emotion and even possessing moments of beauty. 

— winch

Don Pullen (LP) Tomorrow’s Promises (1977) Atlantic 1699

Don Pullen
Tomorrow’s Promises
Atlantic 1699
Produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Offering healthy doses of the avant garde but grounded in a blend of hard bop and R&B (60s groove and 70s funk), this set opens with a hard-driving 10+ minute Pullen original called “Big Alice,” George Adams on alto, Michael Urbaniak on electric violin, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Pullen on piano, each getting time for solos as the rhythm section (bass plus three percussionists) keeps the sound powering along, a fairly funky freight train bouncing down the line.  After the reflective post bop of “Autumn Song,” the side picks up the pace again, closing with “Poodie Pie” (Pullen, Morgan Burton, Sterling ” Satan” Magee), Mr. Satan’s guitar work more pronounced and helping carve out the groove, the cut featuring Pullen on clavinet, producer Mimaroglu with electronic tracks. While the groove moves through various tempos and moods, it never completely forgets where it started.

The second side opens with another stand-out Pullen original called “Kadji,” this number featuring an almost hip-shaking tempo but sounding like it owes something to Coltrane’s explorations of the African continent.  After a free-form duet with Pullen and Adams, the set closes with a vocal cut, a reflective message song called “Let’s Be Friends” featuring the pipes of Rita DaCosta.  While this set doesn’t end as strong as it opens, it remains interesting and enjoyable, moving through moods and tempos to create a totality of effect.  There’s certainly enough solid material to make this recommended listening.

— winch


David Moss / Baird Hersey (LP) Coessential (1977) Bent Records BRS 2

David Moss / Baird Hersey
Bent Records BRS 2
recorded in Maine, April 4-5, 1977

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Avant garde with elements of jazz and rock, tribal percussion and the sounds of the natural world, Moss on 28 instruments and Hersey on electric guitar.

On part of the first cut, Hersey offers a sound perhaps influenced by the late-60s fusion of Larry Coryell, the 1970s work of Terje Rypdal, and Electric Ladyland-era Jimi Hendrix, but for the most part, Hersey focuses on feedback, bowing, scratches and such, returning to a Rypdal style for the final cut, meanwhile Moss mostly offering frantic fits of percussion throughout the set, the pair conversing with improvisation, pushing and pulling at each other like two animals battling for territory, backing up and charging forward into each other, rolling the animals together, Moss sometimes going semi-reflective to fuse his sounds with the electric musings of Hersey.

This is one of the more successful outings in the avant garde category.  Fans of experimental head rock should also enjoy at least some of the cuts

— winch