1/  Black Data II                              (Phantom City)               13.59
  2/  Black Data I                               (Phantom City)               38.48

          Recorded at Tampere Jazz Happening, November 3, 1996 in Pakkahuone,
          Engineer: Tage Ylitalo
          Mixed and edited by Alex Buess
          Produced by Paul Schutze
Paul Schutze: keyboards, tapes; Raoul Bjorkenheim: guitar; Toshinori Kondo: trumpet; Alex Buess: bass clarinet; Bill Laswell: bass; Dirk Wachtelaer: drums.

          1997 - Virgin (UK), 7243 8 44060 2 8 (AMBT 21) (CD)


A live concert in Finland, with Schutze on keyboards and tapes, and an international cast of band members, including the ubiquitous Bill Laswell on bass, Dirk Wachtelaer on drums, Alex Buess on bass clarinet, Raoul Bjorkenheim on guitar and Toshinori Kondo on trumpet. The presence of bass clarinet and trumpet, in particular, evokes the Miles Davis groups circa In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, the latter of which featured the fine bass clarinet work of Bennie Maupin. Schutze makes no secret of his love of avant-garde fusion jazz (before it became a formula), and rather than producing a pale, retro-imitation of the electric Miles, Schutze's band manages to capture the mystery and visceral impact of the original group, while at the same time asserting its own musical personality. This is true collaborative, interactive music, with no one and everyone soloing all at once, but bass and drums maintain a punchy, authoritative and very funky foundation, with the other four musicians moving from delicate figures to a powerful, squalling wall of shrieks and feedback howls, where the sounds of the various instruments are sometimes almost indistinguishable one from another. At other times, Schutze's shimmering, ethereal keyboard drones serve as a very effective foil for the wilder, more emotional statements on guitar and bass clarinet. There are only two pieces on the program, the almost forty minute "Black Data I," and a somewhat shorter "Black Data II." They both begin impressionistically with treated trumpet bobbing serenely on a sea of crashing cymbals, lazy bass riffs and coloristic filigrees by other group members and then shift into rhythmic high gear, with Wachtelaer's relentless percussion leading the way. Structurally, most of the shorter piece is little more than creatively cacophonous collective improvisation over a funky beat, but the longer "Black Data I" allows for more ebb and flow, and a greater range of dynamics. Lovers of the Bitches Brew-era Davis (and beyond) should be more than pleased with Phantom City's live effort.

4 1/2 stars out of 5

William Tilland (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)