Curlew Discography



Samm Bennett • Pippin Barnett • Rick Brown • George Cartwright • Fred Chalenor • Chris Cochrane • Tom Cora • Amy Denio • Anton Fier • Fred Frith • Bruce Golden • Dean Granros • Wayne Horvitz • Mark Howell • Chris Parker • Ann Rupel • Nicky Skopelitis • Davey Williams • Otto Williams • Kenny Wollesen

Cover art and high res images available below for download

For about five years in the mid 80s/early 90s, not enough people seemed to realize that the best live band in the USA was Curlew. Their heyday featured the classic line-up of leader George Cartwright (saxes), Tom Cora (cello) (who also played with Holland's legendary art-punk band, The Ex, as well as being half of Skeleton Crew, with Fred Frith), Davey Williams (guitar), Ann Rupel (bass) and Pippin Barnett (drums). Curlew were one of the groups that defined ''the Knitting Factory sound', along with Naked City, Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, James Blood Ulmer, Last Exit, etc. They packed the clubs (CBGBs, Mudd Club, The Knitting Factory), toured hard throughout the world, and thrilled audiences and critics alike with their unique, infectious blend of punk-jazz/downtown sound, roadhouse blues & a distinctly Southern esthetic.


A Beautiful Western Saddle

Curlew’s A Beautiful Western Saddle is one of those New York genre-bending records that’s ridiculous to categorize. Whatever you call it, it’s the most delightful hour of music I’ve heard all year. To start with, the melodies are gorgeous.... The record is full of brilliant performances too...magnificent" – The Boston Phoenix

This package brings together two great releases which have been unavailable for a very long time and adds unreleased material as well, all at single disc price!

A Beautiful Western Saddle was the last album by the classic lineup, and it differs from all of their other works in that it's an album of songs, with lyrics by Paul Haines (Escalator Over the Hill, Tropic Appetites, etc) and with wonderful singing by Amy Denio. For me, this is the best-ever musical usage of Paul's words (yes, even better than his great work with Carla Bley). ABWS brings the concept of the "art song" into a whole new light. The second disc releases on DVD for the very first time, the group's live video, The Hardwood. It has been remastered from the original video master files and sonically remastered as well. This is a valuable document of a amazing, long-gone scene and this is a good of a time as any for this to be rediscovered and appreciated as the best quality video that exists of the great music that came out of the early punk/jazz cauldron of NYC and the Knitting Factory in the mid-80s. Featuring an entire 80' show, The Hardwood was shot by a four camera crew on March 23, 1991 and is about as good looking of a program as was possible to get in the sweaty, unbelievably crowded, old Knitting Factory. Also included is an hour of previously unreleased footage, recorded by a local Wasington DC cable show on December 9, 1991 during the 'Saddle' tour. You get two 30' programs; one features Amy and the other is by the quintet.

"An example of how reissues should be done, this CD/DVD set includes the long out of print fifth album...from experimental and highly regarded outfit Curlew, plus vintage live shows a vital, vibrant and phenomenal band in its prime." – Michael Popke/Progression



In the words of Option, "Curlew is the best and most obstinately committed band to emerge from New York's Knitting Factory-based alternative music scene...". Curlew was formed in 1979 by George Cartwright, the group's leader, saxophonist, and main composer. Cartwright's compositions are at once direct and mysterious, possessing a clarity and focus that show both Ellington and Ornette assimilated in a most unique way. Backed by the hard-rocking unit of Chris Parker-electric keyboards and piano, Dean Granros-guitar, Fred Chalenor-bass and Bruce Golden-drums, Curlew somehow manage to combine r’n’b swagger and groove with free jazz and wild soloing into a whole that is immediately identifiable as nothing other than Curlew! Curlew are well known and well respected for almost 25 years of exciting work. Mercury is their 10th release; may they rock for another 25!

"As a unit Curlew is focused and structured...(they are) a finely tuned machine with a sparkling identity." – All About Jazz


North America

North America reissues their obscure 2nd album, which was recorded in 1984-85 and originally released only in Germany. It features the band in transition from it's original line-up into the band that helped to define the "Knitting Factory Sound" in the mid/late 1980's, and who the New York Times, called, "the best of the unsigned, genre-busting downtown groups". North America is an unusual album in the band's oeuvre, as it's their one album that is the most obviously a product of the studio, and it's also their most overtly 'avant-progressive' release. Like all the band's work, it is a unique synthesis of gritty Southern r 'n' b, harmolodics, finger-popping grooves and the avant-garde. The band who perform on North America is pretty much an all-star ensemble of the emerging 'downtown' scene: Appearing as always are saxist/leader George Cartwright and cellist Tom Cora. Fred Frith appears in the role of bassist (& 2nd guitarist), which might seem a little suprising until one remembers that for many years he held down the bass chair in Naked City. The guitarist is Mark Howell. Drum duties are split between Rick Brown and Pippin Barnett. Pippin would become Curlew's drummer for the next six years. In addition to the personnel on the original album, there is 30' of never-heard bonus live material included which was recorded a year before the recording of the album, and which features Cartwright, Cora, guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, drummer Anton Fier and bassist Otto Williams. We remastered it for better sound than the original issue, and repackaged it as well, with great liner notes by Michael Decapite.

"Curlew was always a fascinating group and I was delighted to be involved with it, however briefly. Producing this record was a lot of fun, and I think George and Tom definitely had some composing chemistry going on. They always sounded best when their "Southern" roots were most obvious, and I think that shines through on North America more than ever. Maybe that was the point of the title? Plus I wrote Person to Person for George and it's one of my favorite compositions, and actually the first time I played with the idea of a sax quartet, which proved to be rich territory for me over the years. So I've always had a soft spot for this record!" – Fred Frith