Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante: Pith Balls and Inclined Planes (PFMCD005)


Jeff Kaiser: trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, electronics

Ernesto Diaz Infante: acoustic guitar, voice

A mix of electro-acoustic, prepared acoustic guitar, horns and voices

Ernesto and Jeff



SKU: PFMCD005 Category:

2 reviews for Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante: Pith Balls and Inclined Planes (PFMCD005)

  1. 0 out of 5

    Pith Balls is being played on CFLX, CFMU, CIUT, CJAM, CKDU, CKMS, CJSR, CJSW, KAMU, KASU, KBGA, KBOO, KDVS, KEOS, KLSU, KNTU, KPFA, KSER, KRBD, KRCL, KTRU, KUAZ, KUNM, KWVA, KXCI, KXLU, KZSU, WAER, WBRS, WCBN, WCSB, WEFT, WFHB, WFMU, WGDR, WHFR, WHUS, WMUA, WMUC, WMUH, WMSE, WNCW, WOMR, WORT, WRCT, WRMC, WRUV, WRUW, WSUM, WTJU, WUVT, WVKR, WXDU, WZBC, EARWAVES NETWORK, Kalvos & Damian’s New Music Bazaar. International airplay on Greg Fisher’s show Esoteric Circle (cutting Edge jazz) in Adelaide, AUSTRALIA; EPSILONIA Radio Libertaire FRANCE; La Rebelion de los Antioxidantes on Radio Barcelona, SPAIN; Razvan Radu’s Underground Show on RADIO SKY CONSTANTA, ROMANIA; wReck thiS meSS on Radio Patapoe 97.2 in AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands; SANS TAMBOUR NI TROMPETTE Fanzine & Radio Show from France; and Patrick Pincot’s La Nuit Des Sauriens broadcasts (90.1 FM) from France (an eclectic selection of musical styles: ambient, industrial, noise, improvised, unusual, new, independent, electroacoustic….)

    “Pith BallsÉ sounds, among other things, as an object lesson of tremendous technique put in excellent service of artistic expression.

    “Over the course of eight tracks, the duo’s combined vocal and instrumental recourses (trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics; Diaz Infante’s acoustic guitar) yield consistently engaging results. Kaiser’s trumpet (flugelhorn on “The Unreasonable Power Of The Diagrams”) blazes with mouthpiece fireworks, casts cool languid spells and enunciates poignant elegies; the electronic treatments, including speeded-up piano snatches from Diaz-Infante’s Solus, embrace the serene as well as the sinister.

    “On the six pieces Diaz-Infante contributes to, his acoustic guitar really is prepared (half-pun intended, wholeheartedly) to search the breadth of several extended techniques: from the restrained rub-a-scrub-creak of “Puny Demigods On Stilts” to the percussive rainforest busy-ness & flamenco-on-hyper-speed rattle-and-flurry on the album’s closer, the synthscape-bookended “Suppose A Black Thread”.

    “To simply say that Pith BallsÉ deserves repeated listening would be a bit of an understatement. These three-quarters of an hour need, and amply reward, numerous re- and re-replays.”

    – Tiit Kusnets,, 23.02.2001

    “Acoustic guitar vs. trumpet, flugelhorn and electronics. This improvisational confrontation could have gone a number of ways. It could have capitalized on the almost inherent melodicism of the brass and guitar, with the two making sweet, sticky love across the stereo field. Maybe it could have been a fiery duel of strings and breath; barbed wire against a hurricane, with my ears as the casualty. Thankfully, it’s neither. Neither musician is afraid of melody, but they’re never tied to it. ‘Outside, Three Tennis Courts’ has Jeff Kaiser playing a short melodic fragment that sits upright against a barrage of Ernesto Diaz-Infante’s string maelstrom. ‘She Surreptitiously Introduced Colored Shirts’ sees Kaiser electronically treating Diaz-Infante’s guitar and introducing hazy synth textures. ‘Once (And it Was Not Yesterday)’ takes samples of ‘Solus’ and turns them into an electroacoustic maelstrom. The interplay between the two is always interesting; there are constant associations to be made with every listen. Each tracks sounds like an exploration of possibility, scanning and hurtling through barrels of ideas. Creative music, fully realized.”

    – Nirav Soni, Ink Nineteen Magazine, Florida, September 2000

    “This CD has a citation, taking on the shape of a motto, on its sleeve: “You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers, which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs… but I’m not absolutely sure of anything…” (Richard Feynman)

    This is a well-suited motto for this new CD from the duo Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante from California. The CD has eight tracks, and they all differ immensely, and change around, even within the same piece. It’s a good old adventure to seep through this mix, or let it seep through you… If you have some experience with different aspects of music, you will recognize many influences, from jazz, improvised jazz, electronic music, avant-garde Rumanian spectral music, Cageian chance operations and so forth. If you’re not that much of an aficionado, just relax and enjoy the stew! These guys are at the forefront of what they’re doing, and it’s a pleasure to spin this piece of plastic through the laser box! The sound world that materializes in your listening room is full of ins and outs, dizzying labyrinths and exhausting trails through the mountains of Lapland, but also with penthouse views of the city, ruler-straight highways across the Texan prairies and visions straight out of the myths of the Hopi Indians. Let the music take the upper hand, and let your mind free. These pathfinders won’t mislead you!

    The CD starts off with sounds that might have come out of John Cage’s “Cartridge Music” (for amplified small objects) or his “But What About the Noise of Crumpling Paper…” , but later it changes over to some kind of free-form jazz that you might find on a series of CDs from the FMP (Free Music Production) label in Berlin. Yes, here are sounds reminiscent of productions from Wolfgang Fuchs (Don’t miss his “So – und? So!”) and Georg Katzer, especially when the electronics of Jeff Kaiser dig in! Kaiser’s implementation of electronic treatment is barehanded, right on, with an uncanny feel for the medium. He never over-does it, but always hits it right on the nail, in a perfect co-existence with the traditional instruments.

    When the musicians start expressing themselves through their voices yet another layer of sounds and associations appear, leaning a bit towards the sound-poetry of the likes of Valeri Scherstjanoi and Paul Dutton. Magnificent! In track no 6 – “She Surreptitiously Introduced Colored Shirts” – some of the percussive sounds at times give way to associations to the highlands of Tibet and the monks gathering in their temples. Later on in that same piece, and elsewhere too, these guys pay homage to the Rumanian spectral avant-garde and the music of people like Horatiu Radulsescu and Iancu Dumitrescu, with the hands on manipulation of the guitar strings and whatnot!

    Sometimes the slow screeches bring eerie sights of crashing airplanes to view, but they might also instigate memories of dark nights on shuddering glaciers, when the ice shrugs and shifts under you, opening dangerous new cracks all around. Then suddenly a jolly street band from New Orleans appears for a short instance, before something else happens!

    So – exciting music from Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante, making you long for more adventures from the same duo!”

    -Ingvar Loco Nordin,, September 2000

    “A lot of artists call themselves ‘unique,’ but most rarely live up to the description. This is certainly THE exception–it would be hard to find anything quite as “unique” as Pith Balls and Inclined Planes, an experiment in noise and rhythm from Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante. It’s a surreal adventure, filled with an abundance of experimentation and improvisation, musical modern art that deconstructs the structure and form of contemporary music. Beneath the noise of a horn or the squeal of fingers on a guitar string lies subtle nuances of control; a hidden underlying current of patterned thoughts and ideas. They lead you into one direction to simply turn you into a completey different one, always opting for the unexpected.

    The bubbling, non-human electronic noises of Once (And It Was Not Yesterday) drift into the beastly squeals and grunts of the trumpet and guitar of Puny Demigods On Stilts. These two are contrasted with the bizarre jazzy ramblings of The Unreasonable Power of the Diagrams, which has a slight semblance of structure, but never quite settles into anything concrete. The instruments aren’t so much played as abused, strained and stretched beyond their general use. Kaiser’s solo trumpet squeals and speaks in a confused wah-wah on Fearful of Contagion, setting the stage for the long-winded rattling of She Surreptitiously Introduced Colored Shirts, a highly dynamic piece that centers on the abstract percussive sounds one can get out of a guitar. From the sound of it, it’s doubtful that this particular guitar will ever be played in standard fashion again.

    Pith Balls… is a bold move, and made for even bolder listeners. It’s a level of music that rarely gets visited; a one-time shot that bends backwards to reach something new, something no one has heard before.

    MISH MASH Mandate: Bring the Noise”, Featured Artists, Issue 22, September, 2000

    “Pith Balls and Inclined Planes is mostly Jeff Kaiser’s project (he’s even responsible for the CD’s design). The Californian trumpeter teamed up with Ernesto Diaz-Infante to improvise the material he later manipulated in studio. Diaz-Infante performs on prepared acoustic guitar (which takes him far away from his solo piano albums such as Ucross Journal). The eight pieces presented on this CD use any or all of the following: trumpet, guitar, electronics. All three are used on the opener “My Machines Came from Too Far Away”: after an electro-acoustic introduction, the guitar lays down some flooring for Kaiser’s Miles Davis-like cool jazz melody on heavily-treated muted trumpet. Very nice. “Once (And It Was Not Yesterday)” (dedicated to Conlon Nancarrow) is an interesting piece of musique concrete using as a sound source sped-up samples from Diaz-Infante’s solo piano recording Solus. A couple of tracks let the two musicians improvise without electronics, so the listener can hear how they actually interact with each other – the maniacal “Outside, Three Tennis Courts” is very conclusive for that matter. Each musician has a solo spot (although Diaz-Infante’s has electronics added). The closing number “Suppose a Black Thread” makes a beautiful finale with backward guitar notes, prepared guitar overtones and another cool jazz-inspired muted trumpet line which takes us back where we started.

    The synthesis of improvised versus manipulated and electronic versus acoustic (the trumpet and the guitar are never heard “naturally”, they are always diverted from their original “intended” sound) works perfectly. The level of artistry is admirable, making Pith Balls and Inclined Planes a highly recommendable record and a rewarding listening experience.”

    -Francois Couture, All-Music Guide,

    “Many years ago I read where NASA, during one of it’s rocket launches, sent a time capsule up to the heavens which included recordings of Elvis or The Beatles, artifacts, books and mementos that provided a snap shot of mankind’s earthly existence. Of course, this was all intended for the alien’s up above who could possibly figure out what we earthlings had been up to for the last several thousand years. Well, as I listened to this new release titled, Pith Balls and Inclined Planes by trumpeter, electronics ace Jeff Kaiser and acoustic guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante, the aforementioned thoughts ran through my mind.

    Jeff Kaiser’s muted trumpet, loops, animalistic noises, creaky sounds and expressionistic persona depicts a strange yet quite intriguing language, which of course is only enhanced by Diaz-Infante’s very percussive approach to the acoustic guitar. On “The Unreasonable Power Of The Diagrams”, Kaiser performs rapid flurries amid multiphonics, grunts and groans whereas, his blazing leads on “She Surreptitiously Introduced Colored Shirts” along with Diaz-Infante’s subtle manhandling of his acoustic guitar presents an odd yet curiously interesting portraiture. The piece titled, “Suppose A Black Thread” features loops, more sinewy yet well developed phrasing by Kaiser and sounds of perhaps infants crying out for attention. Yet it’s all about improvisation and compositions that reside on a higher and somewhat previously unexplored horizon as the musicians find new ways to convey a theme where music is sound and sound is music.

    While it might be difficult to recommend this recording even to the most ardent admirers of modernistic musings, I found this to be a rather fascinating and at times hallucinatory outing. And like those aliens in deep space, interpretations are seemingly open-ended, as time, place and matter are rendered expendable or irrelevant, which partly signifies the beauty of it all. * * * * 1/2 (out of * * * * *)”

    -Glenn Astarita,, 3 August 2000

    Kaiser’s straight melodic horn playing puts me in a Chicago Underground Duo mood. The electronics are subtle laptop/sample hijinks, but beyond that this is intense improv with lots of silences in-between the delicate carefully enunciated sounds. Track 5 is a bit on the freaky side, with the breathy trumpet getting a bit too ecstatic for my taste. Diaz-Infante’s guitar playing is supremely abstract and difficult to pin-down – his quest for evading any sort of groove is worthy of Derek Bailey. Beyond that, and perhaps obliquely related to Bailey, I kept being reminded of the humor and virtuosity of an old Mothers of Invention record. In a recent Wire mag Bailey was told that, when played a record of Bailey improvising with other musicians, Frank Zappa said he could play everything those musicians were playing with one hand. Perhaps. This music is difficult to listen to in that the concentration and effort the players are putting into their music isn’t (on the surface) entirely apparent to the listener. Getting back to Bailey, in that same Wire piece he wondered how people could listen to imrpov records without devoting them their undivided attention. Well, I certainly can’t do it – my mind eventually wanders. My favorite piece on here is track 8, where Kaiser gurgles horn lines like a sleep-drunk jazzman at a turn of the century New Orleans cathouse while Diaz-Infante tries to prevent 50 cats from chewing up his guitar strings.

    –Carlos M. Pozo,

    “…Kaiser recently released a strong, definitively free-wheeling duet with guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante called ‘Pith Balls and Inclined Planes.’ The pair explore varied terrain, calling successfully on the muse of free improvisation, from a generally nonidiomatic perspective. In other words, don’t expect much that sounds like jazz here (although there are wisps of swing phrases on ‘Puny Demigods on Stilts’).

    Diaz-Infante is a composer and performer with an instinctive way of creating ‘sound paintings’ that stress mood and feelings. His atonal adventures here sometimes recall the work of British free guitar icon Derek Bailey, while Kaiser’s trumpet gestures often achieve a kind of mumbling eloquence, as on ‘Fearful of Contagion’ and ‘Outside: Three Tennis Courts.’

    Kaiser also shows his refined skill with computer-manipulated electronic sounds, as on the mesmerizing piece ‘Once (and It Was Not Yesterday),’ dedicated to the late great Conlon Nancarrow. For several decades, Nancarrow, exiled to Mexico City, created wild etudes for player piano, unplayable by humans. Kaiser pays tribute with a similar effect derived with the help of his computer, with rapid skittering lines over a drone.

    The CD is another good example of the pfMentum label’s mandate, mostly about engaging improvisational statements, or otherwise pushing the envelope of musical possibilities.”

    –Josef Woodard, LA Times, 25 August 00

    “I’ve heard quite a bit of Diaz-Infante’s music, and have liked a lot of it, so I was exited when a new CD of his showed up in the mail. I’m not disappointed. This time out it’s Jeff Kaiser on trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics and voice, and Diaz-Infante on acoustic guitar and voice. Kaiser is very active in the Southern California new music scene, and has played with people like Eugene Chadbourne, Brad Dutz and Vinnie Golia.

    The music on Pith Balls and Inclined Planes is thoroughly improvised and has the kind of nervous, excited energy that is often found when accomplished players manage to let go and have fun together. Much of the music exists in that interesting space where it’s not entirely clear what’s acoustic and what’s electronic, what’s an accident and what was carefully planned, or at least imagined.

    There are seven tracks on Pith Balls and Inclined Planes, all sharing a hyper, busy vibe. Some of them, like “Outside, Three Tennis Courts” sound like they were recorded live, while others clearly went through a fair amount of post-production sampling, manipulation and mixing. That hasn’t dulled their effect, though, and Kaiser (who did all of the computer work) has managed to sustain the music’s energy throughout the album.

    This sort of non-jazz improvised music scares some people off, probably because it often ends up being a lot more interesting for the performers than it is for the listeners. Thankfully that’s not a problem here — the music is consistently engaging, evocative and just plain fun.”

    — irving bellemead,, 8.14.00

    “This 2000 collaboration between Jeff Kaiser and Ernesto Diaz-Infante is a truly unique listening experience. The record is a major departure from Diaz-Infante’s piano style and instead shows a new artistic direction. On this recording Kaiser and Diaz-Infante utilize a whole array of different instruments. Kaiser primarily plays the trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, and works electronics, where Diaz-Infante plays no piano, but instead focuses on the prepared acoustic guitar and voice. This is an Avant-Garde record that’s as far out as it is interesting. On the most fundamental level of organized sound this record is spacious and colorful. While the record does become a bit disharmonious at times, when the pieces come together, it’s truly magical. Great compositional techniques and great production!”

    –Matt Borgh,, 8.7.00

    “…Pith Balls and Inclined Planes, where Diaz-Infante is otherwise playing unorthodox acoustic guitar. Jeff Kaiser plays reverberant trumpet and flugelhorn, and performs technical manipulations generating passages of burbling fermented electronics. This is music of boldly contrasting elements, although the flow of small, rapidly occurring events–particles streams within each distinctive voice–conveys conceptual coherence and fundamental continuity of approach between the players.”

    –Julian Cowley, THE WIRE (issue 198/August 2000)

    “Ernesto Diaz-Infante takes care of the acoustic guitar and some vague vocal work, and Jeff Kaiser does the rest, including manipulating samples from Diaz-Infante’s Solus album. When I say guitar, by the way, that’s the whole guitar. Not just strings resonating. There’s tightening and untightening the strings, rubbing the neck, thumping the body … just about every noise that can be made with a guitar. Kaiser does the same thing with his trumpet and flugelhorn. Yeah, sometimes they’re “played” in a traditional sense. But there’s a lot of “other” going on as well. The pieces themselves come together in the mind of the listener. They have to be assembled. Part of the experience is finding your own meaning. I know, most folks find such exercises tiring. Not me. There’s such exuberance, such a sense of serendipity here that I just can’t put it down. Does it make sense? Not all the time. Not yet. But this puppy is primed for many more listens down the road.”

    –Aiding and Abetting, Vol. 201, 26 June 2000,

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