signal to noise
Published from 1997 to 2013


For a number of years this was the website for signal to noise a paper-and-ink journal of improvised & experimental music, concentrating on the overlapping worlds of avant-garde jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation and modern rock. It was published from 1997 to 2013. During that time the magazine also had another site:
The new owners of have chosen to used content from the sites' archived pages as a means of keeping a truncated version of what this magazine offered its readership. Some actual issues of the magazine are available on ebay, if you are interested.
Content is from the sites' 200-2013 archived pages.
Enjoy the nostalgic trip back....



The SEO gurus at TNG/Earthing have a unique bond with this website in that they started their company as a recording facitility in NYC long before they got into search engine optimization. Head honcho Bob Sakayama has been a professional multi-instrumentalist for over 30 years and continues his connection to music even as the tech side of the business has taken over. He has been exploring the use of sounds as instruments - he is well known for his NBA themes using basketball bounces as drums - and has scored numerous tv programs featuring unusual instruments created from found sounds. His next innovation is the exploration of artificial intelligence as a creative component of SEO to optimize the optimization process. Read this recent article on his team's efforts entitled TNG/Earthling, Inc. - AI enabled SEO.



  issue 36 :: winter 2000 

Contents - Issue #17, May/June 2000


Logical Conclusions:
DJ Logic turns the tables and mixes jazz and jam, hip-hop and electronica. Story by Greg Corrao. Photos by Mike McNamara.

Continental Drift:
German pianist Georg Graewe swims against prevailing currents and wins the support of stateside listeners. Story by Jon C. Morgan. Photos by Bruce Carnevale.

Lifetime Achievement:
Yusef Lateef has charted a singular route through 20th century music, from big band and bop to funk, fusion, symphonic orchestration and his own Å‚autophysiopsychic music.Ë› Story by Pete Gershon with Adam Rudolph. Photos by Thomas Prutisto.


back issues

#13, Oct '99
Issue #13 (September / October 99)



Jason Gross and photographer Susannah Sheppard spend a day at the dojo with former Art Ensemble of Chicago reedsman JOSEPH JARMAN



TEST is taking free jazz to the streets -- and subways -- of New York City. Story by Scott Hreha, photos by Michael Wilderman and Michael Galinsky
  Guitarist BILL HARKLEROAD (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) looks back on his tour of duty with Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band. Interview by Dave McElfresh.
  Allman Brothers band, Chick Corea & Origin, Montreal Jazzfest, KVHW, Vandermark 5 caught live
  dozens of new releases spanning the best in independant, progressive jazz
  Keith Raether looks back at JOHN COLTRANE's 1965 visit to Seattle.
#14, Nov '99

Marshall Allen/Sun Ra
Charlie Haden
Ben Watson
Talos Festival

The House That RA Built

by Larry Alexander, photos by Karl Billerts

"Happy Space Age," came the greeting from the other end of the line, in a voice which sounded like that of alto saxophonist Noel Scott. What else should you have expected when placing a call "long distance in more ways than one" to the fantastically whimsical otherworld of the Sun Ra Arkestra?

Six years after the departure of their namesake and leader, the Arkestra carries forth under the direction of alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, who has steered its forward evolution in the context of his own compositional prolificacy.

In the annals of music, there are few locations as steeped in legend for housing creativity (as opposed to mere fame and debauchery) as the three-story Morton Street residence of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Never mind Graceland; you are now entering Space Land.

Such a pilgrimage brings to mind the essence of Sun Ra's speculative vision - Ra, ruminating poetically on the if and when of things: If you live in fables; When angels speak; When the world was in darkness; If you find earth boring. His remains an aesthetic of infinite possibility, underscoring the true role of art: to ask the questions which bear the seeds of human potentiality.

Step inside the Green Door and you behold a monument to wondrous out-trospection which begins to unfold in the large living room to the left;
once the site of so many rehearsals of lore, it now houses many artifacts of the Arkestraís voyages ñ paintings, photographs, sculptures, exotic stage decor, instruments, performance advertisements. And in a central location sits a shrine to the late bassoonist James Jacson, prominently featuring one of his trademark hats.

It's a traditional Philadelphia row-house, if you've ever seen one: tall and thin, reflective of the city's almost singular colonial physical make-up. It's contents imbue the ascendancy up it's sculpted staircase with a regal bearing, as if one is traversing levels of awareness, or at least divine mystery. Graduate to the second floor and you see bedroom doors of various colors nestled among dazzlingly adorned hallway walls; the one in the rear leads to the room which once housed the late tenor saxophonist, John Gilmore, who immediately succeeded Sun Ra as leader in 1993. Transcend to the third floor and there, in the rear bedroom, you find the current baton-bearer in the Arkestra's existential relay race, Marshall Allen; there is something fittingly poetic about the fact that he sits astride one of Sonny's keyboards, banging out chord progressions to demonstrate the melody of one of his new compositions to tenor saxophonist Ya Ya Abdul-Majid.

Looking at Marshall - who radiates warmth and charm, while embracing each day's challenge with an exuberance unmatched by people half his age -you almost have to wonder: is there some unwritten cosmic bylaw that in the Creator's band, the leader is the one with the orange beard?

The walls of the room are adorned with paintings of Sun Ra, one of them a striking juxtaposition of black and white and color renderings. There are various plaques and awards on display as well, offering a subtle timeline of Arkestral achievements. Jacsonís workbench, from which he used to create jewelry and other handcrafts, sits off to the side, and one wall is festooned with books, many of them extremely rare and covering an eclectic range of philosophical and aesthetic topics.           

Assorted instruments, including exotic percussion pieces, rest about the room, and there is a box of old vinyl that ranges in content from Fletcher Henderson albums to an original copy of the 1971 Arkestra release Nidhamu to a slew of unsheathed plain white label Saturn albums whose collective anonymity only serves to fire the imagination and quicken the pulse.

Ya Ya departs with his horn and his space is filled by Scott and trombonist Tyrone Hill. As you settle in for a fireside chat about the goings-on of the Arkestra, it is difficult not to notice the simple white cardboard Delta Airlines packing box which sits behind Marshall, forming a make-shift utility table to hold his coffee and cigarettes (which he would jokingly describe as his "diet"). So rampant is the spirit of creativity here that he has taken to drawing in and around the series of coffee stains left by the many cups that have rested there in the days since he brought the box home from a recent road trip, his pencilled doodlings suggesting some aberrant strain of Andromedal cartography.

What is most engaging about these men is the pure spirit of discipline and dedication which radiates from them. At one point, there is talk of
business-related negativity and your rhetorical suggestion of a Machiavellian counter-move is summarily and dispassionately dismissed as "not even in the karma for this Arkestra." Pure and simple. They have clearly done all that Sun Ra has asked of them and benefited greatly from his teachings, which they carry on with sincerity and humility. They have taken to heart Sun Ra's observation that most people want only to beg something from the Creator, whereas few actually endeavor to present the Creator with something.

Just before you depart, you are granted the honor of seeing Jacson's huge, legendary hand-carved drum, which he forged from the remains of a huge tree felled by lightning just across the street many years ago. Standing easily over five feet in height, its majestic placement adjacent to the shrine which features his hat evokes a powerful feeling of Jac's ebullient presence. Standing in this Morton Street structure, one realizes that at some point it must be formally registered as an historical landmark; but even that eventuality can represent little more than a belated bureaucratic technicality. Can natural beauty be subject to human sanction? And just who in the omniverse do we think we are to presume such authority in the first place? Time and activity, after all, have already bestowed landmark status on this house. (Although such notions of sanction reiterate legitimate questions of Sun Ra's place in jazz history vis-a-vis those of more celebrated luminaries such as Duke Ellington - particularly when their songbooks are compared along lines of stylistic range, quantity and complexity.)

In the end, though, it's just a house - and yet it's not. And this is most likely the point of the matter; any house, be it ever so humble, holds the same potential for such a creative approach to living. One has but to tap into it with the spirit of joy. It's a conclusion potent enough to send one home eager to reconsider, with fresh eyes, the if and when of things.

Read Larry Alexander & Thomas Stanley's interview with Marshall Allen, Noel Scott and Tyrone Hill in its entirety in the new SIGNAL to NOISE.


CD Reviews...       11/99

Walt Dickerson
Impressions Of A Patch Of Blue
(Verve Records)

But for a casting quirk, this album would surely never have escaped from the cut-out limbo into which it descended almost as soon as it was released in 1966. But it has been collector-scum bait for years because it is one of the rare occasions when Sun Ra played as a sideman. But that's not the only reason to check out this lavishly packaged cd reissue; it's an intriguing piece of chamber jazz that takes the Modern Jazz Quartet's instrumental line-up (vibes-piano-drums-bass) and concept (swinging jazz meets classical refinement) into places John Lewis and Milt Jackson probably never dreamed. Vibraphonist Dickerson approaches the admittedly slender material (themes from a then-popular Sidney Poitier vehicle) with such a brisk, ahead-of-tempo attack that the performances win me over even when the tunes do not. Drummer Roger Blank and bassist Bob Cunningham handle the shifts from bluesy comping to texturally oriented coloration with aplomb. And Ra? He's not as out here as he was on Arkestral recordings of the same period, but his dissonant clusters on Part 2 of the title tune, his behind-the-beat percussive solo on "Bacon and Eggs," and his spidery harpsichord lines on three tracks still push the proceedings into a more distant and eliptical orbit than one might expect such a project to attain. -Bill Meyer

Joe Morris
Racket Club
(About Time)

Joe Morris is known for recordings which ignore any remotely hum-able rhythmic or melodic device in favor of raw, exploitative adventuring. His latest records, Like Rays (with Hans Poppel) and ìA Cloud of Black Birdsî, bear this out, with the Connecticut axeman digging into collective performance guided by nothing but the whim of its creators. There was a time though (1993 apparently) when Morris demanded more from his sidemen than just improvisational savvy. Racket Club documents a period of structure-seeking, spotlighting more than a few arrangements, horn charts, and honest-to-goodness soloing in a package that - though compelling in moments - rarely sparks the spontaneous implosions of Morris' recent work. Despite the presence of a snazzy sextet including two drummers (longtime Morris man Jerome Dupree and Curt Newton) and Nate McBride playing a wicked electric bass, the ensemble gets bogged down to often. Stagnating in the lengthy wrote sections of tunes like "Rumble Strip" and "Instinct", they forego collective spelunking for brief, often pointless soloing. While it's slick, at first, to hear Morris' familiar bleeps and blurps eel-ing through slapping bass grooves and good, old fashioned funk (thatís right, funk) McBride and co. keep the low-end locked too tight, refusing to follow the soloists into the wild blue even when the situation clearly calls for it. When the jamming does, at last, get thick on barn burners ìInstinctî and ìSlipshodî itís enough to make you wish Morris had loosened the reins on the group more often before moving away from this intriguing, almost big-band style format. -Greg Corrao

Sam Rivers

By any reasonable standard, 77-year-old saxophonist Sam Rivers should be resting on his laurels as a semi-legendary jazz iconoclast. Instead, his latest album is one of his most ambitious undertakings ever, with Rivers leading a jaw-dropping assembly of jazz brass (no pun intended) through a lengthy and energetic program of his own tightly orchestrated compositions. The esteem in which Rivers is held can be assessed just by eyeballing the roster of his Rivbea All-Star Orchestra, which includes notables like Steve Coleman, Hamiet Bluiett, Chico Freeman, Gary Thomas, Art Baron, Bob Stewart and Greg Osby. The compositions are essentially unconventional, admittedly none-too-memorable frameworks for jazz improvisation, and it takes soloists of an especially high caliber -- not least of which is Rivers himself -- to pull it off. Unfortunately, even repeated listenings fail to dispel the impression that a number of the pieces, to put it as bluntly, sound the same. (Can anyone tell "Vines," "Inspiration" and "Whirlwind" apart?) One factor that could prove controversial among Rivers' longtime fans is his incorporation of a rock/funk-derived backbeat in much of this work. To my ears, the combination of Rivers' dense, dissonant orchestrations and that clunky backbeat proves more oppressive than exciting, though others might well disagree. It should be noted that as far as his prowess as a soloist goes, Rivers is still going strong, with intricate melodic lines weaving around harmonic barriers with the agility of a sea serpent on the prowl. (The only exceptions might be his occasional jumps to flute, which are competent but unremarkable.) The other soloists maintain a consistently high level of inspiration that makes it difficult to single anyone out, assuming one can identify which chorus is taken by whom in the first place. (The liner notes are silent on this point, which is a miserable oversight.) The closing track, "Rejuvenation," contains some especially notable solos from various trumpeters and trombonists, whose instruments never lent themselves to the jazz avant-garde as easily as the various saxophones. -- Dave Reitzes



#15, Dec '99
Dave McElfresh talks with Kip Hanrahan: lover, fighter, musical visionary...
Complex, adventurous and nothing like their peers, Providence jazz / jam trio The Slip are sweeping young listeners off their feet. Story by Jesse Jarnow, photos by Matthew Thorsen
Drummer Gerry Hemingway's percussive sleight of hand is as carefully crafted as sculpture; as precise as punctuation. Article and original photographs by Laurence Svirchev
John Kruth looks at Roland Kirk's (r)evolution in sound in an excerpt from his forthcoming book Bright Moments: the Life & Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk


NEWS, VIEWS & ERRATA: Boston's Zeitgeist Gallery; sound bites in brief
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: The Jeff Robinson Trio's musical poetics
LIVE REVIEWS: Bill Cole :: Autumn Uprising :: Naftule's Dream :: Widespread Panic
CD REVIEWS: More than 50 recent releases covered this issue!

SOUND OFF: Don Byron: the thinking man's Wynton? by Harvey Pekar

#16, Mar/Apr 2000

John Scofield
John Tchicai
Loren MazzaCane Connors
Brion Gysin

Rub Out The Word:
Steve Lacy recalls friend and collaborator Brion Gysin. Interview by John Kruth, Photograph by Charles Gatewood.
The Invisible Man:
Guitarist Loren MazzaCane Connors, ready to transcend forced obscurity? Interview by Tom Pratt, Photograph by Michael Wilderman.
The Real Quietstorm
Saxophonist John Tchicai rose to prominence as one of the New Thingšs prime movers. Now hešs back with variety of new projects. Story by Chris Iacono, Photographs by Tony Getsug.
The Kids Are All Right
John Scofield introduces himself to a new audience with an open groove and an open mind. Story by Jesse Jarnow, Photographs by Mike Mac and Susannah Sheppard.


Highly Recommended : newsonic, James Merenda
Live Reviews : Sublingual Holiday Party, Mercurial Visions, David Fiuczynski
CD Reviews : Over 100 new releases profiled...


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issue 36

  issue 36 :: winter 2004 

Signal to Noise is the quarterly journal of improvised & experimental music, documenting the confluence of avant-garde jazz, electro-acoustics and experimental, modern rock.

SIGNAL to NOISE is distributed by Ingram Periodicals (where we're affectionately known as #99399), Tower Records, Desert Moon and Small Changes Distribution. We also sell the magazine directly to Newbury Comics (Boston, MA area), Other Music (NYC), Downtown Music Galley (NYC), Pure Pop Records (Burlington, VT), 33 Degrees (Austin, TX), Sound Exchange (Houston, TX), Bulldog Records (Seattle, WA), Jazz Record Mart (Chicago, IL), Dusty Groove America (Chicago, IL), Squidco (NYC), the Bop Shop (Rochester, NY) Amoeba Music (San Francisco, CA), and Sound 323 (London UK). If you'd like to carry us in your store, please contact one of our primary distributors, or if you¹d prefer to order direct from us (minimum order 10 copies / no returns), drop us a line.

EDITOR / PUBLISHER  pete gershon
ART DIRECTION  the hockey stick factory
larry alexander :: bill barton :: james beaudreau :: jason bivins :: marcus boon :: john chacona :: eugene chadbourne :: byron coley :: jay collins :: ethan covey :: jon dale :: christopher delaurenti :: michael galinsky :: pete gershon :: david greenberger :: kurt gottschalk :: ed hazell :: mike heffley :: scott hreha :: walter horn :: jesse jarnow ::  howard mandel :: francesco martinelli :: scott menhinick :: bill meyer :: jon c. morgan :: daniel piotrowski :: david reitzes :: michael rosenstein :: elise ryerson :: philip sherburne :: bill smith :: thomas stanley :: ben sterling :: martin turenne :: dan warburton :: alan waters :: ben watson :: david wild :: michael wilderman :: mike zimbouski

POB 585
Winooski VT 05404 USA



  issue 37 :: spring 2005 







SIGNAL to NOISE is a nationally distributed annual publication focusing on the confluence of avant-garde jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation and left-of-center modern rock, with an emphasis on independent production and promotion. Featuring a vibrant mix of seasoned music writers and new, previously unpublished voices, we have been nominated by UTNE Magazine for “Best Arts And Creativity Coverage” in their 2004 Independent Press Awards, as “Zine of the Year” at 2007’s Plug Independent Music Awards, and four years running as “Best Periodical Covering Jazz” by the Jazz Journalists Association. Each issue of STN mixes in-depth features on the most significant and cutting-edge creative musicians with original, exclusive photography and hundreds of reviews of the season’s key concerts, books, and recorded music in all formats from CD to DVD to LP to MP3. 


The summer 2011 issue of Signal to Noise will be our last as a quarterly publication. We'll take a brief hiatus before returning with our first annual edition in May of 2012, just ahead of the summer festival season. By consolidating our resources into a single blockbuster issue each year, we look forward to continuing our work for a long time to come. We're no longer offering subscriptions but we'll continue to sell inpidual issues here at the website and through our pre-existing network of chain and indy stores. Thank you for your support over these past 14 years!

"The most respected journal of experimental, improvised and otherwise interesting music."

"Essential reading and resource for any underground connoisseur." Forced Exposure

"STN is subversive!" Nat Hentoff

"Cutting edge ... it's the best!" Tom Waits




issue #64 | fall 2012
available 09.15.2012
featuring ...
story: chad radford  photos: robert wright
story: adam krause  
story: william gibson 
live reviews:
FIMAV in Victoriaville by Mike Chamberlain
Suoni per il Popolo in Montreal by Lawrence Joseph
Contact! in New York City by Christian Carey
Opera Days in Ostrava, Czech Republic by Kurt Gottschalk
Robert Ashley in New York City by George Grella
reviews of over 150 of the season's key releases and reissues in CD / DVD / LP / download format










bill barton :: caroline bell :: jason bivins :: jennifer brown :: marcus boon :: colin buttimer :: pat buzby :: joel calahan :: christian carey :: john chacona :: mike chamberlain :: cindy chen :: andrew choate :: jay collins :: dennis cook :: larry cosentino :: david cotner :: ethan covey :: michael crumsho :: raymond cummings :: jonathan dale :: christopher delaurenti ::  nate dorward :: lawrence english :: gerard futrick :: michael galinsky :: pete gershon :: david greenberger :: kurt gottschalk :: spencer grady :: kory grow :: jennifer hale :: carl hanni :: ed hazell ::  nate hogan :: jesse jarnow ::  mark keresman :: j. edward keyes :: howard mandel :: libby mclinn :: bill meyer :: sean molnar :: richard moule :: larry nai :: kyle oddson :: chris pacifico :: michael rosenstein :: elise ryerson :: ron schepper :: steve smith :: ion sokhos :: thomas stanley :: mark tucker :: nathan turk :: dan warburton :: alan waters ::


Signal to Noise is distributed by Ingram Periodicals, Source Interlink, Ubiquity Distribution and Small Changes. STN is available in many Borders and Barnes & Nobles outlets, and we sell directly to Other Music (NYC), Downtown Music Gallery (NYC), End of an Ear (Austin), Sound Exchange (Houston), Domy Books (Houston); Newbury Comics (Boston area), Bulldog Records (Seattle),  Jackpot Records (Portand), Jazz Record Mart (Chicago), Dusty Groove (Chicago), Lunchbox Records (Charlotte NC), Horizon Records (Greenville SC), (NYC), Bop Shop (Rochester), Armageddon Shop (Providence), Aquarius Records (San Francisco), Amoeba Music (Hollywood / San Francisco) and Volcanic Tongue (Scotland). We encourage you to support your local, independently-owned retailers. If you’d like to carry us in your store, please contact one of our distributors, or if you’d prefer to order direct from us (min. order 5 copies / no returns), STN is available at a wholesale rate of $3.50 (5 - 20 copies), $3 (21 - 40), $2.50 (41 +). Write us for more info.


You are welcome and encouraged to submit review materials to the address above. However, please understand that we’re sent so much music that we’re able to review only a tiny portion of what we receive.  Inevitably, some important and interesting music will fail to be covered, but if you continue to keep in touch with us and let us know what you're doing, it’s probably only a matter of time before we’re able to help bring your music to the attention of our readers. Unfortunately due to the huge amount of material we receive, we are not always able to acknowledge receipt of inpidual packages or give feedback on a case by case basis. However, if you enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope, we will return any unused materials to you. Otherwise, we will offer them to the radio station at Rice University for potential airplay.