Archive for February, 2012

Saturday Swarm

Karl Evangelista and Rei Scampavia of Grex are debuting a new, poppy band tonight (Sat. Feb. 25) called Swarm Intelligence.

Appropriately, they’re playing at the Swarm Gallery in downtown Oakland. (Details of my one visit are posted here.)

The band includes the Grex duo (guitar, vocals, keyboards, violin?) along with Jordan Glenn and Cory Wright of Wiener Kids and Phillip Greenlief and Dan Seamans of The Lost Trio. Evangelista describes it as:

… part weird, poppy song structures and part improvising ensemble… Rei says it sounds like the Drive soundtrack, and I dug into my recent absorption of ambient free jazz (Marion Brown, Bennie Maupin) and out fusion (Selim Sivad-era Miles & Herbie’s Mwandishi) for inspiration. Trust me–hearing this killer front line solo over Jordan and Dan’s unbelievable hookup (oddly Motian/Hadenesque), mixed up with these impressionist piano interludes and rubber band guitar parts–it’s terra nova for everyone involved.

I particularly liked this part:

I’ve been writing my hand off trying to come up with the imaginary music that’s missing from my record collection, and this looks like it’s in the right ballpark.

The opening act sounds awesome, too. It’s guitarist Ross Hammond in a quartet populated by some longtime L.A. free-jazzers: Vinny Golia (sax), Steuart Liebig (bass), and Alex Cline (drums). They’ve got a new album that you can sample by clicking on the Hammond link or by going to Bandcamp.

It’s all being broadcast on KALX, too. But if you can make it out to be part of the live experience, I’m sure the bands would love to see you.

(More about Wiener Kids here and Lost Trio here.)

February 25, 2012 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

Jim Ryan’s New Things

Jim Ryan has Bay Area shows on Feb. 19, March 15, and April 1.  See below.

Jim RyanThe Awakening (Edgetone, 2012)

Saxophonist Jim Ryan has a couple of new things going on. He’s reactivated the free-jazz band Forward Energy for a new CD and a couple of shows, and he’s got an entirely new group, Green Alembic, that might be described as a mini chamber orchestra.

Forward Energy is playing tonight (Sun. Feb. 19) to mark the release of that new CD, The Awakening. Forward Energy can get as edgy as any improvised group, but it tends to stick to a jazz vein, often aided by the choices Scott Looney makes on piano.

The Awakening is a brightly jazzy album, with Rent Romus on additional sax and C.J. Borosque on trumpet, creating a substantial front line. The general structures are jazz-oriented. “The Opening” feels very much like a composition; you almost wonder when it’s going to coalesce into a single line. (It doesn’t.) And “Freestyle,” while as wide-open as its name implies, has a moment when one sax hands off to the other (probably Ryan to Romus), as they would do in a “normal” jazz context. But underneath, Eric Marshall on bass and Timothy Orr an drums are cooking away at whatever space they’ve decided to create, rather than dictating the rhythm.

Most of the album operates that way, as the group creates agile jazz pieces built of a group-crafted direction. All-out noise explosions are rare — “Float and Jolt” has a couple, but that’s part of what appears to be a planned structure (or an inside joke that developed as the piece was forming).

Mostly, there’s an attention to creating cohesive pieces. “Talk Talk” includes a chirpy dialogue between the saxes, over nothing but a brisk walking bassline — a nice span, and it sounds great when the rest of the band jumps in at once. “Lost Leprechaun” is like a ballad, starting out with melodic muted trumpet and working its way into a careful group construction.

Green Alembic is Ryan’s newest idea, a group similar to a mini chamber orchestra — I can’t recall if that’s Ryan’s own description or just my impression after he explained it to me. It includes oboe, trumpet, and violin, and projected images — which might include instructions to the band followed by images to play off of (landscapes and the like). Ryan himself will be playing kalimba and flute, and it sounds like he’ll be adding spoken word, in the form of poetry (improvised or otherwise; he’s done this with many other ensembles in the past).

The images, aside from contributing a visual mood, can also include instructions to the band, followed by images to play off of (landscapes and the like). It’s a way for Ryan to free himself from the duties of conducting his chamber group. As far as the instrumentation, I think he mentioned that he wants to try different things — an April 1 show, in particular, might feature two versions of the ensemble, the second one using bassoon and trombone, among other instruments. It would be a good chance to see how the concept manifests itself in different sets of hands.

Here’s at least part of the Ryan itinerary:

  • Sun. Feb. 19Forward Energy‘s CD release show at Musicians Union Hall (111 9th St., San Francisco), 7:30 p.m. Emily Hay and Motoko Honda are also on the bill — more about them here.
  • Thursday March 15Forward Energy and Green Alembic both play at El Valenciano (1153 Valencia St., San Francisco), 8:30 p.m. Also on the bill: Tri-Cornered Tent Show; more about them here.
  • Sunday, April 1 — Green Alembic plays at Musicians Union Hall (111 9th St., San Francisco), 7:30 p.m.

February 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

On Air: Sunday, Feb. 19

I’ll be subbing on KZSU on Sunday morning, February 19, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Yeah, that’s kind of late notice. But in case you’re seeing this in time, feel free to tune in at 90.1 FM in the Bay Area, or kzsulive.stanford.edu elsewhere.

Not sure what I’m going to play yet. I’ve subbed on early Sundays before and tend to go easy on the audience, staying with a less strident vibe. It’s still going to be free jazz. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil will certainly make an appearance.

February 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Day of Noise Is Done (aka Photos)

Figured I should do a blog post with that title, just to confirm that the Day of Noise did in fact complete.

Photos of mine can be seen on Flickr. A few samples are below; they all link to the Flickr versions. (More detail about the Day of Noise is in the previous posting.)

More pics can be had at the Flickr streams of KZSU DJs Fo and Decca.

Frank Rothkamm
Frank Rothkamm plays K5, a new work for computer electronics.

Bill Orcutt
Bill Orcutt chills out before his solo guitar set.

Thomas DiMuzio
The many pedals of Thomas DiMuzio.

David Leikam and the Day of Noise T-Shirt
David Leikam signs the Day of Noise T-Shirt.

John Ingle, Matt Ingalls, Matt Davignon, and Abode (Caroline Pugh and Paul Stapeleton)
The green room — and yes, we had one. From left: John Ingle, Matt Ingalls, Matt Davignon, and Abode (Caroline Pugh and Paul Stapeleton).

February 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Day of Noise Has Not Yet Ended

UPDATE: I’ve now got a set of photos posted to Flickr. Other KZSUers will be posting photos there and elsewhere, I’m sure, and plenty are on Twitter (like this one). I’ll add photos to the blog somehow — either this entry or another one — in the coming days as the Day Job permits.

I’m in the Green Room for KZSU’s Day of Noise. Yes, there is a thing; we’re borrowing the Stanford Drama Department’s green room, just upstairs from the station.

Abode, the duo of Caroline Pugh and Paul Stapleton, are about to start their set; I’m watching the Ustream feed and seeing them setting up. Megabats, from Seattle, just got done performing; this is one of the few breaks during the day when we’re spinning CD music between acts. We’re managing to fill more than 90 percent of the 24 hours with live performance.

I haven’t been at the station all 24 hours, although some have (some with no sleep at all, it seems). Here’s some of what I’ve caught so far (and photos will be coming later):

* Brian B. James and crew started the day with a performance piece (as noted last night), the “score” of which was available on fliers at the station. It culminated in the performers literally preparing a meal — making sushi, specifically, with contact mics on every feasible tool and implement.

* One part I actually didn’t see: Voice of Doom playing his Machinery of Doom, at about 4:00 a.m. Doom was a KZSU DJ in the ’90s, the one who organized the first several Days of Noise, back when. Great to have him involved in this one.

* David Leikam and Joe Straub attacked a bass and a guitar with bows and random objects for a partly-toneful barrage of sounds.

* Leikam later brought his z_bug free-psych band into the studio for a good heavy set that culminated with a strong actual rhythm (oh no!) on drums. It was a well timed, soaring coda to the whole set, actually.

* Bill Orcutt, of Harry Pussy, attacked a four-stringed acoustic guitar with precision and abandon. A peg on one of the strings has been malfunctioning, so it became three-stringed guitar after a while.

* I was not able to hear much of Jessica Rylan‘s set, as I was attending to other duties around the station, but I’ll note that she has a pink mixing board.

* Frank Rothkamm played the world debut of his newest song set, titled K5, to be released later on his Flux record label. We had a fun interview as well, where he talked about his love for older technologies: vinyl records, analog synths. He’s got one of the very first (if not the first) Hewlett-Packard oscillators in his possession, it seems. And on his way out of the station, he was intent on visiting the Computer History Museum, which seemed fitting.

* Matt Ingalls and John Ingle played a terrific duo set that I heard in the car, with woodwinds playing off one another, sometimes in scribbly quick sounds, sometimes savoring the dissonant beats arising from simultaneous long tones. They got joined by Matt Davignon and Abode for a terrific second set. Paul Stapleton brought an array of insruments, including percussion; Caroline Pugh does a lot of inventive vocalizing, sometimes enhanced with props (an electric toothbrush, e.g.), sometimes in odd texts (a recitation of a recent dream). She has a lot of personality in her vocalizing; it’s not too over-the-top serious.

* Megabats turned in a couple of good electronic improvisations, the last one being heavy on tone and melody. (Again: oh no! But seriously, we don’t mind a touch of those qualities during Day of Noise.) Right now, they’re in the Green Room with a stack of CDs they brought, and DJ Adam (who led the coordination of the whole Day) and others are geeking out with them over bands and CDs. It’s pretty cool, and it’s the kind of vibe that college radio should be all about: sharing common joys and new discoveries.

Photos later, as I noted. I’ll tack some onto this post and/or put them into a separate post, and I might add annotations and links (and proofreading) to this post as well. The bands White Pee, The Lickets, and Vulcanus 68 — KZSU favorites all, especially among noise-minded students — are yet to perform tonight, and Thea Farhadian is due to be up right now. It’s been a tremendously successful Day of Noise. Big props to the staffers, especially the students, who did most of the organizing, and of course a big thank you to all the artists for coming down to perform.

February 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

Day of Noise Has Begun

KZSU’s Day of Noise is now on the air.

It’s just past midnight on the west coast, and Brian B. James and crew (one of whom is pictured above) have taken over the studio, kicking off 24 hours of live, on-air performances of noise, electronics, and improv. Also interviews, band introductions, and the like — but the core idea is that we’ll be switching from one noise act to the next all day long.

The link above has the full schedule, and further links to hear and watch the whole spectacle. Note that “watch” means a stationary laptop streaming to Ustream; it’s not hi-def and you’ll have to stream the audio separately.

See previous blog entry for more info. I would have loved to have been there for this first act (the setup for which might extend out the hallway and out the front door, based on what I was told earlier)… but I need my beauty sleep to report to the station for duty tomorrow morning. I’ll be doing behind-the-scenes helping, then interviewing Frank Rothkamm at 12:00 noon.

UPDATE: KZSU’s Facebook page has a much cooler photo.

February 12, 2012 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

Brace for Impact: KZSU Day of Noise

The Day of Noise comes to KZSU on Sunday, Feb. 12.

It’s 24 hours of noise music, experimental music, and free improv, with live performances taking up most of every hour. We will be pausing for musician introductions, interviews, etc. — but the idea will be to pack as much live performance into the time as possible. We’ve even set up an ersatz second studio for some of the performances, so we don’t have to wait for setup time.

The whole program is available at the link above. Three things to note:

First — The opening act, Brian B. James, is apparently promising to do something visually spectacular. They’re not telling me what it is. But it’s so compelling that there’s talk of putting up a screen in White Plaza on the Stanford campus just to expose passers-by to it. (Yes, this would be after midnight on a Saturday night, essentially — apparently there’s quite a bit of foot traffic at that time.)

If all goes well, you’ll be able to watch the video stream from the comfort of wherever-your-broadband-is, by watching the Ustream feed. (I don’t think that feed will have audio, though; you’ll have to get that from the usual on-air feed: kzsulive.stanford.edu.)

Second — “NegativWobblyland,” originally listed as “Wobbly Black Hair People” is the combination of Peter Conheim (of Negativland) and Wobbly. They did a few live shows together in Europe in November. Expect greatness, or at least madness. They’re due on at 2:00 p.m.

Third — It looks like I’ll be interviewing Frank Rothkamm for about 20 minutes, preparatory to his performance, which (I’m told) is designed to last 33 minutes and 33 seconds. This’ll start at noon on Sunday. Rothkamm’s work includes electronics and modern-classical piano; I’ve mentioned his Spongebob Variations before.

February 6, 2012 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Snakeoil

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil plays at Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Monday, Feb. 27, and at Yoshi’s Oakland on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Tim BerneSnakeoil (ECM, 2012)

It’s not as though being on the ECM record label was going to change Tim Berne’s music, but I had to wonder. ECM has a sound, a particular aura that’s built Manfred Eicher a worldwide fan base, even though ECM’s range is wider than some realize. (Would you have submitted Prezens to the label that did a CD of Bach viola da gamba songs?)

Even when Eicher doesn’t produce a recording — as on Michael Formanek’s The Rub and Spare Change (reviewed here), he takes control of the final mixing. You don’t escape the sound.

So, while a track like “Not Sure” kicks off with those driving, bouncing composed lines that Berne is famous for, you’ve also got “Simple City,” which opens the album with Matt Mitchell on careful piano, letting the notes absorb into the resonant air. It’s like slowly crackling ice, with tiny dissonances here and there for color. Ches Smith starts adding some percussion (timpani, whoa) and Berne finally enters on sax — and the feeling has changed from that icy ECM specialty to the warm-and-comforting (but somehow still icy) ECM specialty.

Tim Berne. Source: Kuumbwa Jazz; click to go there. Photo by Robert Lewis.

Eicher is particularly good at recording drums. I can really savor Smith’s work all over this album, especially the cymbals, whether it’s him splashing about or that clean tapping of wood-on-metal. The resonant room plays well with Oscar Noriega‘s clarinet, too, especially early in “Yield.” He’s going crazy while the band plays a gentle, pulsing rhythm, and the little resonances of the room crop up when Noriega takes a breath or delivers a long, keening note — nice studio-provided touches.

The composing is Berne all over; the first instants of “Scanners” will tell you that, with its quick-paced theme stacking interlocked parts on top of each other. Snakeoil is full of those rock-out moments juxtaposed with loose improvisation or slow, contemplative stretches. The ending of “Simple City” is slow and drawn-out, reminding me of the cooldown endings to some of Berne’s half-hour Bloodcount suites.

None of the tracks is blazingly fast, but “Scanners” moves at a good clip. We’ll call that the hit single (at 7:21, it’s also the shortest song). And “Spectacle” builds to a big, stormy finish. On the prettier side, “Spare Parts” includes a gentle stretch while Berne solos warmly over a calm piano-and-clarinet line. It’s Berne-like and ECM-like, and it’s got a cozy feeling that plays well with the album’s rainy-day cover.

“Scanners” and part of “Spectacle” can be heard via the Screwgun Records page, where you can also order Snakeoil. And if you’re wondering whatever happened to that Los Totopos album Berne recorded — this is it; they just changed the band name.

February 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm 3 comments

Where Everyone’s a Drummer

In the fine “echo chamber” tradition of blogging, I point out that someone else wrote up the last night’s Trio M show in La Jolla, near San Diego.

Robert Bush does a good job reviewing the show for the San Diego Reader, where the headline says the trio “astonished” the audience. Two things that stood out to me:

1. A great description: “On this night, everyone became the drummer, at some point.” Meaning each band member: Mark Dresser (bass), Myra Melford (piano), and of course Matt Wilson (actual drums). It’s an observation you can make about a lot of outside-jazz shows, but it seems particularly pertinent here, where Melford digs into prepared-piano sounds and Dresser explores the percussive side of his instrument. I liked it.

2. Dresser apparently played that Trio M show on Feb. 2 and a Los Angeles date on Feb. 3, flew to Anchorage for a show Feb. 4, and is returning to California for Trio M’s Feb. 6 gig at Yoshi’s San Francisco. That’s hardcore.

Trio M will indeed play in San Francisco on Monday, Feb. 6, ending a quickie California tour to support the new release, The Guest House (Enja, 2012). It should be a great show, but if I can get out on Monday, I might opt instead for the monthly jazz show at The Makeout Room in SF. It’s been too long since I’ve attended one of those, and I know I can’t make it to the March edition.

February 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

Bassoon and Bass Clarinet (but Mostly Bassoon)

It’s tempting to say Leslie Ross and Katherine Young have cornered the market on bassoon multiphonics. They haven’t, of course, but how many people do you think are out there making a name for themselves in that field?

I’ve written before about Young’s solo bassoon album, Further Secret Origins. Now I’m discovering Ross’ music, since she’s making an appearance at Meridian Gallery (San Francisco) on Friday, Feb. 17.

Ross is a scholar of bassoon multiphonics. She’s also a bassoon builder by trade, working out of a studio in New York, but a highlight of her web site is a painstakingly thorough multiphonics catalog, with charts, musical notation and sound samples.

The Meridian concert will be a chance to get inside the bassoon. According to the description, Ross’ bassoon will be outfitted with microphones on every key, dissecting the sound and possibly throwing the components to different speakers around the room. I’m very curious what it’s going to be like. If I can clear time for the show, maybe I’ll give Young’s Further Secret Origins another study as a point of comparison; it’s not the same thing but does feature long drones of multiphonics.

I decided to hunt down some of Ross’ recordings and came up with the late-1990s trio Trigger, with Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and Paul Hoskin on bass clarinet. It’s one of the earliest releases on the Pogus label, Al Margolis’ sanctuary for experimental music. The album All These Things is full of spirited improv (and some spirited composing, too), in mostly short tracks that are often jumpy, with all three players bouncing upbeat, abstract sounds off each other. It’s novel to hear the bassoon’s voice in here, alongside the wide range of bass clarinet sounds — lots of low end is possible with this mix.

There are multiphonics here and there, although I can’t always tell which reed is producing them. It’s not a primary focus of the music, but it does produce some nice moments where one reed is droning away at a multiphonic while the other two players keep chugging forward at a fast clip. It’s as if they’re taking turns swinging one another’s weight forward in order to keep the assembly moving in one direction.

“Bang 448-2345″ is a good 9-minute piece that has it all: uptempo classical composing (shades of Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music, just for a moment); a quieter phase where Lonberg-Holm explores bowed cello sounds and Ross chugs along with rapid, popping bassoon notes; and frenzied group improvising.

Moment of kismet: Hoskin, who’s from Seattle, has a Bay Area show coming up as well. He’ll be at Studio 1510, playing solo and in duets with Scott Looney, on Friday, Feb. 3.

February 2, 2012 at 12:37 am 1 comment


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