Keep the Dog

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Keep the Dog
Origin New York City,
United States
Genres Avant-rock, experimental, free improvisation
Years active 1989–1991
Labels Fred
Past members Jean Derome
Fred Frith
René Lussier
Kevin Norton
Bob Ostertag
Zeena Parkins
Charles Hayward

Keep the Dog was a United States-based experimental rock touring band from New York City formed in 1989 by English multi-instrumentalist, composer and improvisor Fred Frith. The sextet was conceived as a review band for performing selections of Frith's extensive repertoire of compositions from the previous 15 years.

The band lineup was Frith, René Lussier, Jean Derome, Zeena Parkins, Bob Ostertag and Kevin Norton. Later Charles Hayward replaced Norton. The group existed until mid-1991, performing live in Europe, North America and the former Soviet Union. A double CD, That House We Lived In, from their final 1991 European tour, was released in 2003.


Keep the Dog began purely as a review band, performing Fred Frith compositions from his solo albums, from some of the groups he belonged to (Henry Cow, Massacre, Skeleton Crew and French Frith Kaiser Thompson), and from his many collaborations with other musicians. But as the group grew in stature it started extending itself. Instead of simply covering Frith's compositions, they began to adapt them and improvise around them. Frith remarked in an interview at the time: "The group is constantly evolving into things we don't expect."[1] By 1991, Keep the Dog had become largely an improvising band, very different from what they started out as in 1989.

During the band's three-year existence they toured extensively, performing in the United States, Canada, mainland Europe and the former Soviet Union. They also played at a number of festivals, including the 7th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada in October 1989.[2] Every concert was different: Frith often juggled the material around and in some cases re-arranged it, for example if a venue provided a piano. While remaining a sextet throughout, they were occasionally joined on stage by guest musicians, including Tom Cora, John Zorn and Tenko Ueno.

Being a touring band, Keep the Dog never went to the studio, but every concert they performed was recorded on DAT. While bootleg recordings of some of the concerts soon began circulating, Frith never considered officially releasing their work until a decade after the band stopped performing. In a 2003 interview, Frith said:[3]

Leidecker sifted though about 20 DAT recordings from the band's final performances in Austria, Germany and Italy in May and June 1991, and built a montage which he passed on to Frith for further editing.[4] The result was a double CD, That House We Lived In, which was released on Frith's own Fred Records in 2003. Frith remarked in the album's liner notes:



Live albums
Other album appearances
  • 1992 Various artists: Angelica 91 (CD CAICAI Music Italy) – Includes two Keep the Dog tracks recorded live at the Angelica Italian jazz festival, 12 May 1991.


  1. ^ Wolff, Sander R. "Defining The Edge: The Musical World Of Fred Frith". The Long Beach Union Newspaper. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  2. ^ "7th Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville". International Festival Musique Actuelle Victoriaville. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ Sękowski, Tom (October 2003). "Fred Frith interview". Archived from the original on June 12, 2006. Retrieved June 13, 2007. 
  4. ^ Jon Leidecker homepage News archive.

External links[edit]