Port Huron Picnic
Recorded May 17, 1999, in Chicago. A flickering evanescent set featuring Swedish reed maestro Mats Gustaffson with the promising young Canadian duo of Gennaro and Newman also known as Wrist Error. The latter give credence to the reality of a new improvisation scene in Toronto. There is an appreciation of space and listening that belies the relative youth of this trio. Despite it being the meeting of a veteran improviser and two newcomers, the music is realized as though the three were already a long standing group.
What the critics are saying:
"Port Huron Picnic sounds very like an edition of Spontaneous Music Ensemble, built around momentous, even furious scrabblings which teem with tiny incidents." ***(*) —Penguin Guide to Jazz on cd Seventh Edition
"This is music existing in a relatively steady state of density. It is leaning forward music. Its energy level somehow resists translation into volume of textual surliness. ... This isn't a narrative or telling. It's a sequence of events you can narrate if you so desire."
"For those who favor Derek Bailey, the amplified sound of insects rustling through leaves, and other events sped up or manipulated, there is Mats Gustafsson, Kurt Newman, Mike Gennaro. Their Port Huron Picnic has them grabbing a sound, shaking it around for what it's worth, and moving on to more of the same. P.H.P. makes sound, not music -- this is the nature of their sound explorations. Kurt Newman's guitar, for instance, becomes a percussion instrument and a tonal one only in that it produces harmonics, overtones and the occasional, tempered, scalar utterance. This is well executed with great attention to detail and will appeal to a certain contingent which champions small group, spontaneous sound events."
—Charles Winokoor, Cadence
"Newman and Gennaro may not be breaking new ground with each improvisation, but they give facility a good name, and they pose some real challenges to Gustafsson. Deprived for the most part of his power tools in this relatively low volume context, Gustafsson responds well, deftly deploying his baritone saxophone, flute and fluteophone (a flute fitted with a saxophone mouthpiece), particularly in mid-programme, to vary the timbral palette. Restraint is not always Gustafsson's strong suit, but here he is acutely deliberate in his interactions with Newman and Gennaro, who often have the scene well established by the time he makes his entrance."
—Bill Shoemaker, The Wire
"Gustafsson has produced so many high quality releases that the dilemmas for the critical listener are merely where to start and what to buy. Here he is featured in the trio format with two highly compatible musicians, Kurt Newman on electric guitar and Mike Gennaro on percussion. As with most releases by the saxophonist, the results are esoteric, unique, and even enthralling, though at times an entire CD can be a big bite at one sitting. Little sounds -- pops, squeaks, yelps, and grunts, all translated by creative instrumentalists -- predominate, yet there is a coherency to the whole that encapsulates all eight tracks. As with his other releases, there is no melody or even hints at any melodic line, yet there is logic to Gustafsson's blowing that defies rational analysis. In the end, he must be judged by his originality and his ability to evoke emotions, both of which he accomplishes successfully if sparingly. Newman is one of the few guitarists clearly influenced by Derek Bailey, while Gennaro's unusual flitting style on drums separates him from the mainstream. "
—Steve Loewy, All Music Guide
"Coaxing an expression dry and fragile as rare mosses (music) growing on a riverbank, speaking silently as the wilderness night sounds. From a hollow bodied electric, Kurt Newman coaxes a variety of sounds in hammering, stroking, rubbing, fingerings and placements, creating a contrapuntal deluge of simultaneous musical noise, harmonics, and sound events. One of the most interesting new stylists I've heard in a long time "
—La Donna Smith, The Improvisor