1/ Send                                        (Frith,Laswell,Hayward)       19.49
  2/ Step                                        (Frith,Laswell,Hayward)       5.11
  3/ In                                          (Frith,Laswell,Hayward)       7.40
  4/ Gracias a la Vida                           (Frith,Laswell,Hayward)       18.31
  5/ Return                                      (Frith,Laswell,Hayward)       6.58

          Recorded January 25, 2003 at Festival Sons d'Hiver, Paris and June 26,
            2003 at Roskilde Festival, Denmark
          Live Mix/Recording: Oz Fritz
          Assembled at Fabrik, Esslingen by Peter Hardt, July 2005
          Produced by Fred Frith 
          Executive Producer: John Zorn 
          Associate Producer: Kazunori Sugiyama
          Pre-Mastering: Myles Boisen at Headless Buddha, Oakland, June 2006
          Mastered by Scott Hull
Fred Frith: electric guitar; Bill Laswell: electric bass; Charles Hayward: drums, melodica.

          2007 - Tzadik, (USA), TZ 7619 (CD)


As far as I’m concerned, Fred Frith’s musicianship is beyond reproach. Similarly, the musicians with whom he surrounds himself are some of the best in the business. Why, then, did this project need to be called Massacre? My complaint has nothing to do with quality, as the playing and recording are superb. The name’s the thing: To me, Massacre symbolized an era. Their single masterpiece, Killing Time, sewed up the various musical threads of the New York experimental music scene with power and conviction. Why give the name to a band that’s only two-thirds Massacre and only on the periphery of the ballpark in sound and intent?

This is the reformed Massacre’s third album, so the likelihood is that the name will stick. My rather ideological complaint aside, this is a fine live trio set. The dynamic and extraordinarily versatile Charles Hayward fills the drum chair with inventiveness and precision, a perfect compliment to Bill Laswell and Fred Frith’s transcultural bass and guitar explorations. The mammoth “Send” finds the trio stretching out in a suite of connected short-forms, Frith laying down some honest-to-goodness rock and roll guitar work as he’s not done in years. Even his occasional ventures into the avant-garde seem to fall under the “rock” rubric - high-register distortions and screaming slides forming their brew. Laswell’s dub preoccupations are on display, not to mention some bubbly bass work. While some of Hayward's beats can sound dated, he changes things up often enough to keep the 20-minute piece moving.

“Step” shows Laswell even more firmly entrenched in reggae, his syncopated bassline bobbing and weaving around Hayward’s slightly plodding groove. "In” sees the band picking up speed again, Hayward and Frith timbre-shifting from moment to moment, finding that energy I associate with Massacre at its best.

Frith emerges as the hero, and maybe this is by design. His arsenal of sounds is immense while still clinging to the raw timbres of rock, and the others fall more and more under his spell as the disc proceeds. Ultimately, it’s a testament to three top-drawer improvisers, men who can inhabit any world associated with post-punk in a way that’s convincing and musically rewarding. Ultimately, though, Lonely Heart does not look forward. Every genre and style invoked has a well-worn path behind it. That separates this disc once and for all from Massacre’s best work.

Marc Medwin (courtesy of the Dusted website)


The rock-improv band Massacre was formed in 1980 by bassist Bill Laswell, founder of the funk/post-punk group Material, drummer Charles Hayward [correction, Fred Maher of Material was the original drummer, replaced by Hayward when the group reformed at the end of the '90s - SW], from This Heat, and Frith. It was a jamband before anyone had thought of the term.

This disc was recorded live (the only way to capture the band) in 2003 in Paris and Denmark, when it was the opening act for Metallica. Playing for 10,000 metal fans certainly added to the energy here. The disc follows Funny Valentine (Tzadik, 1998) and Meltdown (Tzadik, 2001). Frith is freed up—maybe "unleashed" is a better description. He applies the noise, the power guitar lines, tossing rock cliches onto Derek Bailey quotations. Yes, this is one of the loudest records you'll hear this year.

Why this works for the adventurous jazz fan is the creativity displayed. Laswell and Hayward change rhythms and styles often throughout the multi-paced 20 minute opener. It isn't until the almost non-violent closing track that things cool off.

Mark Corroto (courtesy of the All About Jazz website)