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

Bill Shoemaker, November 2005

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.

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.”


“extraordinary downtown all-star quintet”

“Carnival Skin blurs the lines between free jazz, improvisation, and modern composition.”

“Huge sounds in close quarters.”

“music of rare quality” “The feeling of doing something fresh creates a special atmosphere in this session.”

more information about Carnival Skin and the artists are available under the following links:

Carnival Skin

Klaus Kugel

Bruce Eisenbeil

Perry Robinson

Hilliard Green

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.