"Billed as a 25-Year Anniversary Box Set, Ut Gret's (rhymes with toot sweet) Recent Fossils is a three-disc exploration of the boundlessness of improvisational music while demonstrating how it can all still fit within the structure of composition. In packaging as handsome as a new pastor's first Bible, the selections in Fossils range from pieces built around gamelan music (disc one, "Compositions for Experimental Gamelan") to a variety of improvisational works (disc two, "Idiomatic and Non-idiomatic Improvisations") and finally to their interpretation of an iconic modern work (disc three, "In C by Terry Riley"). The core members of Ut Gret - Joee Conroy, Gregory Acker, Steve Good, Gary Pahler and Stephen Roberts - are joined by an all-star team of improvisational and jazz musicians, including Louisville's Todd Hildreth and Misha Fegin, along with David Stilley, Dr. Eugene Chadbourne, Dean Zigoris, Henry Kaiser and several others. What they all accomplish together is simply astonishing for anyone with ears willing to open and minds ready to receive. In the first disc, the pieces are based around a gamelan (chime-y instruments that have the ring of a glockenspiel with the low sound textures of a marimba) and underlying each piece is a soothing tone, like background music for a massage session, while any overlaying melodies sometimes crash together like cars in a dirt track race. Selections on the second disc are heavily rooted in jazz and fusion with some touches of folk and rock. The third disc, Ut Gret's rendition of Terry Riley's In C, was recorded live at the long-gone Tewligan's Tavern, the only place in Louisville where an audience could hear something like Ut Gret one night then slam dance to punk rock the next. Riley's lengthy work is considered a masterpiece of modern music, ranked with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Of Ut Gret's performance, the curious will understand. Others might just hear discomforting noise. And that's OK. The other two discs (along with the scholarly liner note booklet) themselves are worth the investment in the set. Ut Gret takes its name from two concepts: Ut, a German term to indicate the lowest tone on an organ (also called the base tone) and Gret, taken from the name of the mischievous nomadic people from thousands of years ago who would roam from village to village and alter artifacts, leave behind others from different places and just generally screw around with cultures. In the improvisational music brought to us by Ut Gret in Recent Fossils, we get a foundation (a hint of a composition, if you will), which is the ut of their music and the sometimes zany exploration of improvisation, which is their gretness. In the three-disk set, Recent Fossils gives us a deeper structure of music: the tones behind the notes you hear and the rumblings under the rhythms you feel. Like In C or Picasso's Guernica or William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, it's a grand experiment in an art."
- Tim Roberts