Marcel Duchamp Memorial Players - MDMP

Adventurous jazz / classical experiments from the heart

  • Label: Self Released
  • Catalog Number: 94745
  • Year: 1985

I discovered this record as I have so many others: sitting in the New Arrivals bin at Amoeba (bound in 3 layers of packaging tape, naturally). The instrumentation caught my eye right away (Cup gongs? Log drum? DX7? Yes, please), and the self-released aspect just ratcheted up the weirdo potential. Whoever priced the thing was probably just as in the dark as I was, so they went for the "who knows / seems rare" price of $20. In a moment of extra zestiness, I decided to roll the dice without a Youtube rip or online review to speak of. 

MDMP back cover

Marcel Duchamp Memorial Players was a quartet of composers and improvisors (and at one point a registered nonprofit) based in Chicago. MDMP (or self-titled, depending) is their only recorded output, self-released in 1985. The LP comprises 8 tracks recorded in various configurations between '79 and '84, pulling from a dazzling array of experimental traditions. Free improv, concréte collage, New Music ensemble playing, and instrument-building to name just a few. 

This variety is the album's strongest suit. "4 Hands, 2 Sax" features bombastic post-serialist jazz virtuosity for piano, alto, and tenor, while "Babylon Gammalon" is a slow, looping composition of meditative pointillism performed exclusively on cup gongs. "Living Waters" evokes Marion Brown's Afternoon of a Georgia Faun in its mysterious blending of autoharp, ocarina, and concréte splashes into a 10-minute slow-burn epic. Meanwhile, "French Indian Dance", an especially charming melodic miniature for soprano sax, log drum, and synthesizer, hardly breaks the 3-minute mark. 

Across all the album's stylistic innovations, the music retains a warmth and playfulness that is extra compelling, considering the formal nature of the compositions. Even in its most atonal moments, the ensembles steers well clear of dour abstraction or sadistic complexity. There's a restrained spaciousness and lyrical sentiment to every track that makes the record feel wonderfully human, and eminently re-listenable.

This might be the first Grippers' Tip shared from the RARE / OOP / PRIVATE PRESS multiverse, but the record's charmingly offbeat character and total lack of internet coverage made it a shoe-in. A few copies have started appearing on Discogs in the last few years, but like most things of this ilk, speculators are having a go. If you don't mind a bit of surface noise, the full LP can be downloaded here


  1. A1. 4 Hands, 2 Sax - 7:05
  2. A2. Babylon Gammalon - 3:53
  3. A3. Drie Ons Boter - 6:35
  4. A4. French Indian Dance - 3:09
  5. B1. Flutes Accord - 2:38
  6. B2. Living Waters - 10:40
  7. B3. Carnival - 3:32
  8. B4. 6th of Seven Veils - 3:56