Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ok, found one.

Amazing painting, imho. Sergio, in a comment below, referenced Zorn and the sort of photos he used (does he still? haven't kept up) as album covers since around 1990, beginning with the Weegee photo on the first Naked City disc. I always gave him a lot of credit for having a discerning eye in this regard, for choosing images that resonated far beyond the merely grisly. The photo used for Leng T'Che, for instance (btw, probably my favorite Zorn recording) is just astonishing in a complicated/horrific way:

The sheer gruesomeness of the scene is uncomfortably offset by the transcendent look in the eyes of the individual being tortured. iirc, when discussion of this came up on the zorn-list, mention was made of the victims having possibly been heavily drugged; one would hope so. But there's also the stolid looks on the observers there, just going about their business. It affects on many levels even, one is embarrassed to say, formally. Not so surprising, I guess, that this photo (this image is cropped from a somewhat wider view in the original) doesn't appear in collections of "great" documentary photogrpahy of the 20th century. Too close to the bone. For those who can stomach it, there's a page documenting another instance of this form of torutre/execution here

I was also always very taken by this photo, from the second Painkiller disc. Great implied narrative here (why the handcuffs? who is the skull?) as well as being a purely beautiful image, with the bend of the hands and wrists, the cuffs, the dark around the skull, etc.

OK, enough morbidity for one afternoon.....

Did a small experiment at Record Club last night. By Tuesday, I was still having a tough time trying to choose my selections. I generally want to include at least one piece from my current listening but there hadn't been anything that really grabbed me (and which I thought could be reasonably, to some extent, latched onto by innocent observers in a single listen) that wasn't way to long to bring. Length is always an issue for me in this regard just due to practicality and to a degree, courtesy. When 7-8 people are playing two tracks each, probably averaging 4-5 minutes per, it can be a little overbearing to bring a half-hour long piece. The Rowe/Beins I brought once, at 28 minutes the record holder for this group, worked well but there were only 6 people there; still, that was pushing it.

Anyway, I was sitting there with five or six possibilities, not too happy with any of them. That afternoon in the mail, I'd received two discs from Ingar Zach, his trio with Thomas Lehn and Ivar Grydeland as well as the Sedimental release, "Flore de Cataclysmo" with Giuseppe Ielasi and Michel Doneda. I put on the latter just to give it an initial spin. Often, unless it's a recording I was very eagerly looking forward to, the first time I play it I'll sort of half-listen, getting the"feel" of it as it were, before giving more concentrated listens. So I was at the PC with this on in the background. I had the impression that the first piece was a bit dry, the second much better. About midway through the third and final track, my ears perked up and I said to myself, "Hey, this is very nice stuff here." The I said, what the hell, I'll play this piece tomorrow at Record Club, which is what I did. (My other selection was "The Animal Speaks" from the second Golden Palominos record, with John Lydon singing and belching)

It was an experiment for me since I'd only heard the piece once and even then, not so thoroughly at all, but I thought it might be interesting to trust my instincts and go with it. Worked very well. For my part, the music was as good and fascinating as I'd thought and the rest of the group dug it a bunch, asking a number of good questions. Thanks, Ingar!

Other musical highlights form last night: Derrick brought a fun Negativland cut-up of Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things", Nina a fine Meat Puppets instrumental, Dan a wonderful quirky cut by some Dutch guy called Benny who channels Shuggie Otis, Julia a wild Ute Lemper rendition of a Scott Walker piece and guest Priscilla a surprisingly (to me) fine Roy Harper track as well as an early 60s, enjoyably loose, quasi-reggae song from one of the Soul Jazz releases.

Newly purchased, not yet heard:

Joe Harriott - Free Form
Phill Niblock - Touch Food

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thinking about Gericault this afternoon. As before, I thought of the amazing, harrowing series of still lifes (nature mortes, to be sure) he produced as studies for The Raft of the Medusa. They were pretty meaningful to me when I first encountered them in black and white reproduction while at Vassar in a book, iirc, devoted to a complete analysis of the Raft. Not due to their inherent gruesomeness at all but to the very unflinching way he used them as objects, as things equivalent to cantaloupes or vases. Of course, you can't help but see them as former parts of human bodies and are reluctant to re-view them as hunks of meat and bone but this is precisely the great service Gericault does for you. The hubris is stripped away; the core reality remains. The viewer is obliged to deal with it.

In the past few years, when I've thought of these works, I've been somewhat surprised at the absence of images available on the net. Aside from the one above, which I guess has amassed a bit of notoriety as representative of the group (and it's a fantastic painting, imho), which includes piled hands, feet and heads, I'm unable to locate any. This is strange in one respect but may speak to the power of the images, how repellant their message is found to be, even now. I mean, Gericault is a fairly major artist and these paintings were, to the best of my knowledge, unique in their time and remain extremely powerful today. Yet they seem to be by and large ignored.

I note a book on the subject was published in 1999 by Jason Dewinetz, an edition of a couple hundred copies. Otherwise, they seem too hot to handle, an impressive achievement for works pushing 200 years old.

I don't have the above-pictured album but I hope to one day. It's one of several hundred issued (I think beginning in the late 80s, running through the mid 90s) by King World Music Library, a bland sounding name for an amazing record company. I don't recall how I first stumbled across them or which was my first purchase (maybe the Kim Sinh disc?) but their batting average is astonishingly high. In fact, I've yet to come upon anything on their label less than "very good". And their are tons of them from all over the world, from Turkish military bands to Korean Sinawi music to Central Chinese Islamic music to Peruvian brass bands.

However, I believe they closed up shop several years back and the discs became very, very difficult to find. I stumbled across a British site a couple years back, Far Side Music (for some reason this site isn't allowing the link--it's when our finances precluded such extravagances, that carried a goodly stock of WML releases. Steve Smith just reminded me of its existence and, since I can now afford a splurge here and there, I plan to make regular visits and order what I can. They don't come cheap at 15.99 pounds per disc, but as far as I'm aware, it's the only source. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

As is my wont, I'll probably just make my way from geographical are to geographical area, filling in what I don't have. So I began with two Korean discs, one byAn Bichwi and one from Chukp'a and Tong Jun Kim. We shall see.

[edit: I should probably have a firmer grasp on exchange rates before pulling the trigger on things like this...I only now realized that, postage included, these babies'll cost me about $35 each. Better be some damn good Korean stuff on 'em!]

Newly arrived:

Michel Doneda/Giuseppe Ielasi/Ingar Zach - Flore de Cataclysmo (Sedimental)
Ingar Zach/Thomas Lehn/Ivar Grydeland - szc zcz zec eci cin (Musica Genera)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Listened to "The Room" a bunch of times yesterday. Very dark, very, very dark, claustrophobic at many points. Shifts around a lot for me on relistens, pick up new things here, wonder what happened to things I thought I heard before there. More thoughts later on after many more hearings. The cover design works excellently, btw, especially, for me, when the "outside" and "inside" vistas are seen side by side, one panel each.

Also acquired:

Nicholas Bussman/Toshi Nakamura - Alles 3 - I know how you frown (Kwan Yin) (tough to get through, even once)

Tomas Korber/Christian Weber/Katsura Yamauchi - Signal to Noise, Vol. 2 (For4Ears)

Jason Kahn/Gunter Muller/Norbert Mosgang - Signal to Noise, Vol. 3 (For4Ears)

Ground-Zero - Live 1992 + (DoubtMusic)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A month or more ago, the good folks at Destination Out asked me to contribute a Jazz in the 90s Top 10 list for their site. They've been running various folks' lists all week; mine appeared today. It's a salient cutoff date for me as it was just around 1990 that I began to realize that there was less and less contemporary jazz being produced that excited me, that the feeling of "treading water" I was getting from new jazz releases grew strong enough that I could no longer ignore it.

I included Derek Bailey's "Guitar Solos, Vol. 2", pictured above, on the list for two reasons: One, of course, I think it's a fantastic recording. But second, it was the one that really made me reconsider what was going on in improvised music at the time. I'd first heard Bailey very early on in my listening experience, on the Music Improvisation Company album released on ECM and subsequently on the other "Guitar Solos, Vol, 2", the compilation with Frith, Reichel and Fitzgerald from '75. While I'd always retained a certain amount of interest and affection for those dates, I turned away from Euro-improv in general in the late 70s, going full-bore for AACM and related jazz. Part of this, as I may have mentioned before, derived from several lackluster (at least I thought so at the time--I may have been wrong) performances at Environ by some European luminaries, music that struck me as effete when compared with the AEC, Braxton, Cecil, etc.

By '90 or so, however, your average AEC album had become a pretty predictable affair, and if Brax and Cecil still put out the occasional great CD, there were few jazz musicians below whatever my age was at a given time (36 in 1990) producing anything vital, anything that didn't smack of simply a reworking of already arid ideas. A reintroduction to Bailey's music, then, came at precisely the right time and carried with it an extraordinary sense of freshness and invention. So I delved into all these musicians who I'd pretty much avoided for 15 years at the same time as I tried to maintain (and succeeded for a while) interest in the downtown NYC scene. By mid-decade, it shifted to AMM, post-AMM, etc.......

So, when asked for a Top 10 favorite jazz releases from the 90s, I find myself thinking of a few from older US musicians (Braxton, Taylor, Dixon) and more from, as it turns out, older Brits (Bailey, Guy, Parker, Prevost, Rogers).

I'm sure that's the last such I'll ever be able to produce as I'm pretty certain I couldn't come up with 10 from this decade with gun to head. Braxton's "Composition 247", though calling that "jazz" is a stretch. Cecil at to think.....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So, Keith's "The Room" is available as of today. Very much looking forward, of course, to hearing the final version even having heard the "original" when Keith was here in March. I only experienced it one time and there were clearly multiple layers to sift through, but my impression was of a singularly deep work. One thing that struck me was how the first 10 or so minutes sounded very "Rowe-ian", very recognizable as his music and hence, in a way (not that it wasn't excellent), a little "eh". But then it blooms out into entirely different, surprising and amazing territory. Shoulda known better...As with his work in general, you have to be conscious of the whole thing, the entire structure, not just this or that segment.

Think I'll give Sergio a two-day headstart on this one, though, and not pick up a copy 'til Friday so I have more leisure time to listen over the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I was thinking about Rolf Schulte today. On the way to work, I read a review in the Times of an Ursula Oppens performance (of works by Tobias Picker) and remembered Rolf. In the mid-90s, when we were still living on West 105th St., I used to run into this guy while walking Nanook, himself taking his Bijon (I think it was a Bijon) for a stroll. He was very pleasant to chat with, sporting a slight German accent; we'd run into each other for about a year. I think once he was carrying a violin case and mentioned that he was off to a concert. I asked who he was performing with and he responded, I'm sure expecting a look of incomprehension, "Ursula Oppens". "Hey," says I, "I know Oppens' work; in fact I've seen her play a few times, including when I was a student at Vassar. " He was plainly surprised. He says, "Cool. I play with her often and have recorded with her." "Hmmm, I have several recordings of hers. What's your name?" "Rolf Schulte." "Hey! I have at least a couple of records with you, how about that? In fact, I have this Rzewski/John Harbison split LP on Nonesuch from around '78 that you're on." He was pretty amazed.

Ah, only in NY.

Hey, Rolf!

Newly arrived listening:

Pablo Rega/Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Neumatica (Creative Sources)
Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Z=78 (pt:195.09) (audiobot)
Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Allotropie (Bourbaki)

Monday, May 21, 2007

I recall this album, recorded in '75, released the following year, causing a bit of a stir simply because it was released on Muse, pretty much a mainstream label and despite a cover of "St. Louis Blues" (Chicago Style), there aren't many concessions to form here. The band here is Bowie, brother Joseph (pretty sure the first time I heard him), Favors (also fairly sure it was the first I'd seen him use his honorific, here rendered as "Megistus" as opposed to Maghostut or other variations), Raymund Cheng on violin (who I've unforgivably confused with Jason Kao Hwang recently), Charles Bobo Shaw (first sporter of dreads on the loft scene) and Don Moye.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I owned Bowie's previous release, "Fast Last" as well, though if so it's disappeared. This one's an OK, not great album, "St Louis Blus" getting a fun workout, mock serious, though they briefly develop a mighty groove toward the end. The title track's the strange one, an, erm, musical rendition of the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire. The structure is alternating passages of musical "boxing" (rough and tumble improv and the members of the band intoning, in very drawn out fashion, "Rooope - Ahhhhhhh - Dooooooope". Hmmm....

My only other Bowie vinyl is "All the Magic" (ECM, 1983), a double LP consisting of one disc of solo work, one with a gospel/free band with Ari Brown (tenor, soprano), Art Matthews (piano), Fred Williams (bass), Philip Wilson and Fontella Bass and David Pearson singing. They cover "Ghosts" and "Let the Good Times Roll"; neither set is that interesting, unfortunately. Bowie does his fine "Charlie M"on the solo one, though.

The back cover, however, presents a photo from an event that I, to this day, kick myself for missing. I'm not sure of the exact year, maybe '79, but there was this massive event at Symphony Space, an orchestra made up of a Who's Who of NYC avant jazz under Bowie's conduction. Don't know the band size but I'm guessing over 40 musicians. I specifically recall thinking, "This has a huge chance of turning out to be a humongous mess" and didn't go. Well, for all I know I may have been right, but every report I've since encountered cites it as one amazing, stupendous concert. Dammit. In the photo, you can pick out Blythe, Braxton, George Lewis, Hemphill, Frank Lowe, Threadgill, Vincent Chauncy, many others I should probably recognize. Ah well...


Grundik Kasyansky - Floating Point (Topheth Prophet)
Lietterschpich - ....yeah, that one
Lucio Capece/Axel Dorner/Robin Hayward - Kammerlarm (Azul Discografica)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Just a quick note to say that there are certain releases whose very title gives me great trepidation about pushing "Play".

Lietterschpich's "I Cum Blood in the Think Tank", newly arrived from Topheth Prophet adequately satisfies that condition.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I had a chance to look over Jason Kahn's graphic score for his 2-hour "Timelines" after the show last evening. Five "staves" with exact time demarcations filled with five or six sets of patterns--dashes, circles; basically images not so different from the excellent covers he creates for his Cut label. The variation was mostly in vertical density. ie, a series of 1/8" dashes might begin with one or two atop each other and, over the course of several inches, swell to a depth of 20 or so, then drift back down or abruptly stop. (I could be oversimplifying the graphic nature but we're in the ballpark). In any case, density or lack of same seemed to be the larger concern, the musicians segueing in and out of the mix (Kahn actually at a computer mixing board, presumably adjusting the output of the three electronicists--Korber, Muller and Moslang--though I couldn't pick up any clear changes resulting from his actions), ranging from sparseness to a thick stew.

I wasn't too keen on the piece in its entirety, though I have to say the two hours went by more quickly than I would have thought. There was a kind of constraint in play that bothered me a bit. I had the impression that a given musician's interpretation of the score was kept in a fairly narrow area. Additionally, there wasn't (to me) much sense of the piece as a whole, more just moving from section to section. Admittedly, I've been "spoiled" from my discussions with Keith about "Treatise". One of his main concerns with renditions of that score is that, even if a group of musicians is performing ovly a handful of pages, they should understand those pages' relationship to the entire score. A subtle thing, of course, but something I didn't pick up here.

To be sure, there were passages that worked perfectly well on their own, though it was most often in situations where the volume level rose which, unfairly in a way, creates physical patterns and sensations that are automatically fascinating by their very nature. (This is something that annoys me a bit--that loudness in this end of music is almost always "interesting"; sort of like large abstract paintings acquiring levels of "interest" simply by virtue of being large and enabling one to see things at a different level)

I'd positioned my self near the opposite side of the circular room from the ensemble, within close range of an open window. It was a breezy evening and the sound of the wind through the cluster of trees along the Gowanus Canal as well as the occasional passing car over the bridge, provided fine counterpoint during the work's quieter moments.

I also should cite Tim once again, whose gong playing throughout was unfailingly sensitive.


Bade Ghulam Ali Khan - Gunkali/Malkauns (thanks, Nirav!)
Ellen Fullman/Sean Meehan - s/t (Cut)
Signal Quintet - Yamaguchi (Cut)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First night of SwissQuake last evening, a gorgeous day at the Issue Project Room site along the Gowanus Canal; cool, breezy, clear. Odd thing after the show was that the musical MVP turned out to be the sole American, the above-pictured Tim Barnes.

Four sets. The first a lovely, delicate trio with Barnes, Jason Kahn and Christian Weber, some 20 minutes of sustained quiet tension, very well handled. Next was the biggest disappointment of the night, a duo with Gunter Muller and Norbert Moslang. It was exactly like what one could have heard from the two five years ago except sapped of any vigor, of anything but going through the motions. I've enjoyed Gunter's recent solo work more than some (not saying that it's up to snuff with his best music by any means but I think it has its own virtues) and while I can't say the same of Moslang, I'm told he's done excellent solo sets in the recent past. Hard to say whether last night's music from the two is par for the current course or an anomaly.

After a short break came the highlight of the set, a fantastic duo with Tim Barnes and Tomas Korber. Miles apart from the set they did at ErstQuake in 2005, this was a quiet, super-intense performance, Barnes restricting himself to a large-ish (24" or so) gong, Korber in ultra-restrained mode on his electonics and guitar. In two sections, the first drone-y with soft scrapes and taps on the gong, the second, itchily active (though still quiet), with small rattles, rustles, bangs and clatter. Tough to describe otherwise except that it absolutely stood out as some seriously good music. Lastly was the Signal Quintet made up of the five Swiss musicians, a set that had its peaks and valleys but was ultimately unsatisfying; nice work throughout from Kahn, though.

Some grief was dealt a while back at Bags for the notion, put forth nonchalantly by myself and others, that there was any sort of "Swiss-style" eai that could be so conveniently encapsulated. Well, while that's of course a generalization, there's more than a little truth in it. These guys are fairly well funded by Swiss arts councils and one has the gnawing suspicion that, in some cases at least, this may have led to a certain amount of relaxedness and loss of acuity in the music.

Tonight, the Signal Quintet will perform a 2-hour work by Jason Kahn, "Timelines". Talking with Korber about it last evening, it sounds fairly loose in structure, with broad areas sketched in for the players as to length, volume, general sonic character, etc., within which a good amount of improvisation takes place. We shall see.


Axel Dorner/Toshi Nakamura - Vorhernach (ftarri)
Klaus Filip/Toshi Nakamura - Aluk (IMJ)
Tarab (Eamon Sprod) - wind keeps even dust away (23five)
Tim Catlin - Radio Ghosts (23five)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yet another LP for which I can't find an image...Bosho's "Chop Socky" on the always intriguing, not always good Dossier label from 1987. Samm Bennett, pictured above in a more recent photo, was ubiquitous downtown for a few years, mid 80s. He had, for me, an initially intriguing, crisp sound but one that paled the more you heard it, not varying much from situation to situation. There was always a rockish rhytmic aspect that tended to drag things down. Bosho combined percussionists from three traditions with Bennett, Kumiko Kimoto and Yuval Gabay, joined here (invaluably) by guitarist/violinist Hahn Rowe. There was a time when Rowe was one of the more intriguing, difficult-to-pinpoint musicians in NY, someone I wanted to find out more about though, checking around now, it seems he abandoned improv for the club scene sometime in the 90s.

The album's OK as far as it goes and, I admit, is holding up better than I thought it would, but a certain sameness creeps in over the course of the disc something not helped by the presence of drum machines that nail the date as being from '86-'87. They were pretty rampant on a number of Dossier releases, actually. This fits in comfortably with the Bisi-engineered and produced stuff from the time--slightly "exotic", rock rhythm-driven, after all's said and done, slightly forgettable. The concluding track, "Boy Yaca" is the keeper if anything is.

I know Bennett's still very active in Japan and some of his work has shown up on those IMJ samplers, though nothing that's made my ears prick up.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

There was a time in the early 80s when I thought William Bolcom's "Graceful Ghost" might be one of the most beautiful pieces of music I'd ever heard. Well, it is pretty nice, essentially a mid-tempo, romantic rag about three times removed from its source (maybe only once removed from work like Barber's "Excursions") and does retain something special about it although today I pick up a naivete I was likely deaf to then.

The album I have came out on Nonesuch in '83, featuring Bolcom on piano with Sergiu Luca on violin, performing the former's Second Sonata, Duo Fantasy and Graceful Ghost. The sonata blends genteel blues elements with neo-neo-romantic lushness and lassitude. I take it (I haven't kept up at all so I'm unsure) that Bolcom became something of a favorite among certain sectors (what I think of as the NPR crowd), kind of a John Adams without the minimalism (or a Bill Frisell?), dealing in a "classy" Americana that didn't quite shed its more blue-nosed Europeanisms, nodding politely to native forms while carefully avoiding actually getting his hands dirty. The fantasy refers back to antebellum parlor songs as well as ditties like "Turkey in the Straw" and the like, even more distasteful in a sense, though packaged very prettily.

"Graceful Ghost" (I think there's a version for solo piano, actually, that I like much more) has a nice lilt to it, a dreamy, summer riverbank feel that's intensely nostalgic, I have to admit. It's killer element is the sudden shift to a secondary melody in its closing minute (it's only a five-minute piece). ... but wait. Typing this as I'm listening, that last element is absent! I'm wondering now if I'm confusing this with another work or if that piano version (does that exist? I think so) contains the coda but this one doesn't? Hmmm...not sure if I'm entirely misremembering or not, though I can hear what I expected to hear in my head quite clearly andf I'm fairly sure I'm not composer enough to make it up myself. I guess Mr. Bolcom loses a few points for the time being.

I found myself thinking of Howard Skempton a bit while listening, wondering if, one day, I'll feel about Skempton's piano work ("Well, Well Cornelius", etc.) the same as I do about Bolcom now. I don't think so and certainly hope not, but you never know.


Through the first 50 or so pages of George McKay's "Circular Breathing"; very good reading thus far, among other things giving me more context for the background of jazz in Britain than I'd previously had.

Is it a fair question to ask why there haven't been, let's be conservative and say over the last 15 years, any avant-mainstream albums as strong as Blythe's "Lenox Avenue Breakdown" (1979)? Oh, I'm sure there have been some contenders and if I wanted to sit dowen and think of a few I could probably toss out a handful of possibilities. But this one stands up so well. If I knew there would be music of this calibre at, say, the Vision Festival, I'd be there every night.

Blythe (still referred to in Stanley Crouch's liners as "Black Arthur" at this point), Blood Ulmer, James Newton (also at or near the height of his powers), Cecil McBee, Jack DeJohnette, Bob Steart and Guillermo Franco form as fine an avant mainstream group as you could ask for around that time. There's a vague rock-like feel to the session, maybe as a result of DeJohnette's propulsive drumming (you can pick up echoes of Miles' late 60s bands) and it certainly energizes matters. The pieces are all surging as well, no concession to balladry or (for these players) excessive free playing. Plus, it came out on Columbia, of all places. That was a major coup at that time. I think Blythe was the first musician to come out of the "loft scene" to sign with this major a company. Stayed with them until '87, longer than one might have guessed.

This group of musicians, for my bucks, are emblematic of a certain breed who do far better in more melodic, "straighter" settings than they do in free ones. Here, they manage to beautifully balance on that knife's edge between form and pure energy, really one of the best examples of that tightrope walking that I'm aware of. Some 28 years later, it reads as absolutely contemporary, more so (for example) than your average Viz Fest performance which almost inevitably sounds dated even as it's being created.

The only other Blythe album I own is "Blythe Spirit" (I suppose the title was inevitable somewhere along the line--awful cover I'll do you a favor and not reproduce here) from a couple years later. It's listenable, I guess, but the fire is largely gone, Blythe well down the path toward the blandness he'd achieve in subsequent years, at least when I've had the occasion to hear his music. I think the last time I saw him perform was as a sub witht he World Sax Quartet in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, more than ten years ago. Nice bunch of musicians assembled, deployed in various groupings: Abdul Wadud, the late John Hicks, Hopkins, McCall, Bob Stewart once again. But the only track (well, "Reverence" is OK too) that really comes together for me is his trio with Stewart and Amina Claudine Myers (on organ), the spiritual "Just Another Walk with Thee". Wonderful organ work from Ms. Myers. She's another one that, in my experience, is miles better the less free she plays.

I note in passing that the back cover portrait photo is by William Coupon. Back in October 1979, returning from our honeymoon at Block Island, Linda and I shared an Amtrak compartment with Mr. Coupon, then an aspiring photographer. As I recall, we found a common interest in the downtown loft jazz scene and spent an enjoyable few hours talking; very nice guy. I was pleased since then to find his work pop up all over the place, including things like TIME magazine covers. He has, and appears to have largely maintained, a fairly singular conception, his subjects often placed against a grainy background (hung burlap or linen, maybe?) lit with a single, low intensity light. He has a site with many images available for perusal here. Well done, William!

Just in:

Burkhard Beins - Disco Prova (absinth)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Three interesting items popped up yesterday:

Muta (Rhodri Davies, Alessandra Rombola/Ingar Zach) - Yesterday Night You Were Sleeping at My Place (Sofa) - a flute/harp/percussion trio that produces some surprisingly intense, loud music.

Annette Krebs/David Lacey/Keith Rowe/Paul Vogel - s/t (Homefront) - Excellent live set in Dublin from October, 2006.

James Saunders - #[unassigned] (Confront) - Two discs with 65 or 66 more or less 1-minute tracks, one disc for cello (Anton Lukoszevieze), one for clarinet (Andrew Sperling), designed to be played (if one wishes) simultaneously on two systems, not necessarily in sync, as presented or randomly shuffled. Pretty fascinating.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

When a fledgling performance space opens a five-minute walk away from one's home, you're kind of obliged to go and lend support even if you have a pretty good idea that the music offered isn't going to be your smear of marmite. Such occurred last night with the inaugural concert at Homefield Advantage which is presenting four Saturday evening shows in a second floor gallery (Lex Leonard) here in Jersey City. From the look of things, this series is going to concentrate on the avant-to-ecstatic jazz end of the spectrum with shows by Jason Kao Hwang, Tony Malaby and others.

Last evening's set featured Daniel Carter with a guitarist and drummer. Admittedly, I wasn't expecting much of anything, but that's indeed what we got. Carter is obviously a good player (I'd seen him previously in the Astor Place subway station as a member of Test) and I can imagine moderately enjoying a solo set from him, especially when he plays it relatively straight. He rotated from flute to trumpet to tenor to clarinet to alto, doing some nice tonal playing on the first two. But it was all in the context of a typical Viz Fest-y formless, would-be-ecstatic set. The drummer was one of those thousands who brings a few dozen accoutrements, toying with each one for 20 seconds or so, checking them off some mental list then proceeding to the next (btw, I thought there'd been a law enacted against the use of bullroarers, no?). Were I his daddy, I'd lock him up in a room for a few months with a snare and a single stick. The guitarist included a Midi set-up, recording and altering his own and other's tones in pedestrian fashion, something that was irritating 20 years, much less today. I'm given to understand he was once a disciple in Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists.

Sounded like it.

Ah well, did my civic duty to support any remotely interesting venture in the neighborhood. Be tough to drag me back there, though.

New listening:

Alvin Lucier - Nothing Is Real (Wergo)
Alvin Lucier - Ever Present (Mode)
"Blue" Gene Tyranny - Out of the Blue (Unseen Worlds)
Lubomyr Melnyk - KMH (Unseen Worlds)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

One of the first times I ever ventured up to Environ, maybe the first time, a month or so before I began working there, was to see the Hamiet Bluiett Big Band. I can't for the life of me remember who was in the band, though I imagine it probably included David Murray, Philip Wilson, Fred Hopkins, Olu Dara, Amina; there were 18 or 20 musicians.

There were four of us in the audience. After each number, we tried to applaud very loudly.

Bluiett actually lived right next door to me at the time, on West 24th St. I think he did--his wife certainly did and he was around a bit, though I was never quite sure if he actually resided there or not. He wasn't the easiest person to talk with or to deal with when it came to setting up performances. He had, not unjustifiably perhaps, a very skeptical view of white-owned jazz lofts and Fischer was pretty white. Around that time (1977), I caught Bluiett playing at Jazzmania on East 23rd St. After the set, he announced some future dates of his, including one at "Plantation Environ". Gee, thanks. fwiw, Environ's policy was that the musicians rented the room for the evening (about $30, iirc, which was simply the monthly rented divided by 30) . They then kept 100% of the gate up to a certain figure, maybe $200 or $250. Any monies in excess of that were split 50-50 between Environ and the musicians. Needless to say, more often than not that ceiling didn't come close to being reached.

So the sort of disgruntlement evinced by Bluiett towards Environ was a little irritating. Nonetheless, he was welcome to play and did so on occasion, including one particularly memorable event. It was a solo performance, just baritone. Except that Bluiett divided his time in about five minute chunks between furious, impressive blowing and extraordinary and frightening vocal screeds, giving full vent to the range of his complaints against the world, the jazz establishment, the lofts and anything else that came to mind. It was one of the scarier things I've ever witnessed, not the least because I (and everyone else there, I'm sure) wasn't at all sure that he hadn't really lost it. I'm still not. You seriously considered that he might start whaling on the audience, scything through them with his baritone.

His "Clarinet Family" from 1984 is the only thing under Bluiett's name I have on vinyl. I think John Carter had already created a similar ensemble under the nom Clarinet Summit. Those were the days when every instrument seemed to have its "summit", right? By '84 all the WSQ variants had gotten somewhat tired and this isn't really an exception. By the way, I don't see it mentioned often enough that the genesis of the WSQ was as a result of a track on Braxton's great "New York, Fall, 1974" album for Arista, where he teamed up with Bluiett, Hemphill and Lake. Another little factoid: When they first formed (late '76 or early '77 I think), the original working name was The New York Saxophone Quartet. I have a publicity photo to that effect. Unfortunately for them, there was already a group by that name (!), a classical ensemble. D'oh!

Anyway, this album features a still very young Don Byron, Dwight Andrews, the eminent Buddy Collette, John Purcell, Gene Ghee, JD Parran and Kidd Jordan (I'd forgotten he was here! Really never liked his playing) on various shapes and flavors of licorice with Hopkins and Ronnie Burrage in the rhythm section. It's OK, I guess, but aside from the predominence of clarinetry, it's not too distinguishable from any other 100 records of the time. Byron's dedication to Machito, "For Macho", is pretty nice, though.

New listening:

Candlesnuffer - Wakool (Room 40)
Eagle Keys (Francisco Meirino/Tim Olive) - Eagle Keys (Even Stilte)