Bruce Eisenbeil – guitar | Klaus Kugel – drums | Perry Robinson – clarinet | Peter Evans – trumpet, piccolo trumpet | Hilliard Greene– double bass
Recorded april 2005 at Leon Lee Dorsey Studio and mixed at Avatar Studio by Anthony Ruotolo in NYC. Mastered by Ulrich Seipel, USM Produktions, Darmstadt/Germany. Produced by Bruce Eisenbeil & Klaus Kugel
Many thanks to: Marc Lambrechts [www.marclambrechts.com] for allowing us to use his work “Melodies” for our cover, Peter Gannushkin (www.downtownmusic.net) for the photos of Perry Robinson and Peter Evans, Matthias Creutziger (www.jazzphotos.de] for the photo of Klaus Kugel, Yukio Fukushima (www.ekip.net/ef) for Bruce Eisenbeil’s photo, Eleanor Gillers for the second photo of Peter Evans. Special thanks to Ulrich Seipel and Vittorio LoConte! Bruce Eisenbeil would like to thank Danielle George, Steve Hayden, John and Nancy Eisenbeil, Daniel and Mary George, Michael and Sharon Cirello, Leroy Aiello, Fender Musical Instruments, Martin guitars and strings, Ibanez guitars, Mesa Boogie, J. D’Addario and Co. Graphic design by Christiane Resch. Linernotes by Bill Shoemaker.
Tracklist: 1. Journey to Strange [7:19] 2. Monster [7:46] 3. Iono [11:57] 4. Bobosong [ 12:19] 5. Diagonal People [9:28] 6. Carnival Skin [4:21] Total Time: [53:13]
The band’s mission has been to explore their passion for improvisation and musical exploration and to develop a unique musical cohesion through extended performances. The focus is on the art form itself, despite the current trend of image-driven music on the scene today. This band aims to develop cutting-edge jazz and contemporary improvisation to re-establish substance over hype. Following is a brief history of the band, and the diverse background of the musicians that make up CARNIVAL SKIN.
Artists who work with viscous materials
like clay and glass are acutely aware of turbulence, and how it may turn a potentially bold form into a worthless heap. They push the material right up to the line, allowing a smoothly flowing centrifugal force to do its thing without compromising the integrity of the material. It takes years for these artists to learn how to ride the brink and to stay there long enough to make art.
Improvisers deal with similar processes. They learn how to put ideas into motion and let them unfold without falling apart. Their empirical knowledge of these processes boils down essentially to articulations of risk. Art in improvised music is measured in direct relationship to the risks that are taken to create it. Often, the experience of an improviser is discernable by the rigor, if not the zeal, with which they assume, even welcome the risk of failure. For them, that’s the brink they want to ride until the last note decays.
You get a sense of that when Carnival Skin guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil says he “likes to keep one foot in the abyss.” Proximity to doom is a perversely life-affirming state. Just ask anyone who has ridden out a hurricane or walked away from what by all rights should have been a fatal car crash. There’s a resulting acuity of soul and senses that’s very similar to how improvisers describe their state when the moment jells, the music takes form and it is moved along by a force to which they can contribute, but cannot control.
That bracing, bristling sensation permeates the music of Carnival Skin on their eponymous debut. This is particularly remarkable given the musicians’ diverse backgrounds and the short time they have played together as a quintet. Carnival Skin began to take shape in 2004 when Eisenbeil, the leader of three previous CDs, began working with drummer Klaus Kugel, who is perhaps best known for his work with Theo Jörgensmann. As is often the case in the improvised music community, they know many of the same musicians; in this instance, both valued bassist Hilliard Greene, who˙s played with everyone from Jimmy Scott to Cecil Taylor. Eisenbeil and Greene were already shedding with Peter Evans, who also performs contemporary classical and electro-acoustic music; Kugel joined them and subsequently brought on the legendary clarinetist Perry Robinson, with whom he had occasionally played for 20 years.
Throughout the album, there’s a palpable unified force with which Carnival Skin pushes materials to points just shy of disintegrating turbulence. Whether the material at hand is Robinson’s jauntily swinging “Journey To Strange,” “Iono”, Greene’s wailing dirge, or a mercurial collective improvisation like “Carnival Skin”, there is an urgency, a sense that even a moment’s lapse of concentration on anyone’s part will cause the music to slump into slag. This suggests Evans, Greene, Kugel and Robinson all have a foot in the same abyss as Eisenbeil. — by Bill Shoemaker, November 2005
The most creative music that I have recently heard. –Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez, JAZZREVIEW.COM
passionately concocted free jazz played with a strong, but never stolid, consensus of purpose. / This is definitely a group were variance of experience and style work as core virtues. / sharp-toothed collective improvisation / dynamic shifts that stretch from passages of somber quiet to flareups of explosive jangling catharsis. — by Derek Taylor, ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM
extraordinary downtown all-star quintet — by Bruce Gallanter, DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY
Carnival Skin blurs the lines between free jazz, improvisation, and modern composition. — by BALTIMORE CITY PAPER
Huge sounds in close quarters. — by NY PRESS
music of rare quality / The feeling of doing something fresh creates a special atmosphere in this session. — by MUSIC BOOM
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
Strong starts do not always ensure steady recording schedules. Jersey-based guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil experienced just such a surcease after a trio of laudable releases for CIMP. This new collective quintet recording on drummer Klaus Kugel’s Nemu imprint puts him back in the record shop racks after a hiatus of several years. The band’s name is something of a cipher. Its music is less cryptic—passionately concocted free jazz played with a strong, but never stolid, consensus of purpose.
Veteran bassist Hill Greene joins Kugel in providing the ensemble’s engine. His stout strings, swollen by amplification, gird the sound floor like trunks of tall timber. Kugel is a mercurial stimulus behind his kit, deploying the same degree of focused energy he applied recently to the bands of saxophonist James Finn, whether by building walls of frothing rhythm or by easing back into a colorful accent mode. The front line of Perry Robinson and Peter Evans, the latter doubling on piccolo trumpet, an instrument new to me, further diversifies the proceedings. This is definitely a group were variance of experience and style work as core virtues.
Reflective of the shared leadership, the program includes a composition apiece from each player and concludes with the sharp-toothed collective improvisation of the title cut. Robinson’s “Journey to the Strange weaves slivers of Ornette and Monk into a playfully spun free bop braid that runs from prickly and frayed to strenuously swinging. Eisenbeil fills the space between Evans and Robinson solos with one of his signature arpeggiated blizkriegs, bent smoking notes raining in droves. Evans’ “Monster opens as a slowly loping blues only to erupt at periodic points with blasts of communal dissonance.
Greene’s “Iono belongs to a improvisatory lineage that includes Coltrane’s “Spiritual and Sonny Sharrock’s “Many Mansions, a power dirge steeped in pathos-driven overtones. Eisenbeil again steals the spotlight, his jagged hammering blues chords echoing the sort of controlled chaos pioneered by Sharrock, while the others build a swirling funnel of sound that builds to a crescendoing climax. Kugel’s “Bobosong and Eisenbeil’s “Diagonal People progress through dynamic shifts that stretch from passages of somber quiet to flareups of explosive jangling catharsis.
It’s unclear whether this group will be an ongoing outlet for these players’ creative energies, but based on the merits of their union, future albums seem like requisite ventures. Either way, it’s good to have Eisenbeil back on disc—though, as he’ll probably be the first to admit, he never really left.