Posts filed under ‘Bay Area music’

Meridian Gallery Searches for a New Home

535 Powell St. Source: Joe Lasqo's blog.

535 Powell St. Source: Joe Lasqo’s blog.

I suppose it’s true that all things must pass, but it’s still sad whenever a music venue gets uprooted for economic reasons. The latest example being Meridian Gallery, which left its Union Square home in San Francisco last week.

The gallery’s landlord gave an advance warning of sorts, demanding $100,000 to cover upcoming rent. In pure business terms, Meridian got a fair shake — the gallery could have stayed if it could raise the kind of money that San Francisco’s hyperbolic spiral of rents commands. Of course, it couldn’t.

As unfortunate as this is for the visual artists and the musicians whom Meridian supported, the real tragedy might be the loss of a space for its youth arts program, which served the city’s at-risk high schoolers. Meridian, which spent seven years on Powell Street, has moved before and will now move again, but of course, relocation isn’t free. It’s another example of how it costs money to not have money.

Many thanks to proprietors Anne Brodzky and Anthony Williams for providing a home for creative music. Some results of those efforts can be heard on the compilation album Earth Music, released in 2011 on the Innova label.

Meridian’s home page still shows a “Donate” button, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind the help.

September 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm 3 comments

Bass Clarinet Quartet: Late Classic Era

We are witnessing the Late Classic Period of Edmund Welles: The Bass Clarinet Quartet, apparently. You can bear witness to the last days of this period on Sept. 12 when the quartet plays in a bass-clarinet-heavy concert at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.

The show includes the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk and a performance of a bass clarinet nonet by Jonathan Russell. If you don’t like the sound of the bass clarinet, this will not be the place to be.

As for Edmund Welles’ different eras, bandleader Cornelius Boots lays out the whole chronology on his blog. This wasn’t a decades-long master plan; it’s more that, with benefit of hindsight, he sees the phases of his musical development. He’s been nurturing the idea of a heavy bass-clarinet band since the late ’90s (the Inspirational Era), developing some songs as part of hard-rock band Magnesium. I got turned on to Edmund Welles during the band’s Early Classic Era, as the album Agrippa’s 3 Books came out, and what I’ve written on this blog has covered the Classic Era and beyond.

Boots’ other foci have included teaching — the Edmund Welles album Tooth and Claw now has a companion book that teaches you how to play the songs — and the shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. He recently recorded a shakuhachi album, Mountain Hermit’s Secret Wisdom, in a cave, exploiting the acoustics to produce meditative pieces such as “Banshiki” — listenable on Bandcamp.

But he’s also playing metal on the shakuhachi, making clever use of athletic tongue-trilling and the instrument’s ability to bend notes. Here’s his cover of “Run to the Hills.”

September 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm 1 comment

Fred Ho Memorial Concert, Sunday in Oakland

The world had better damn well miss Fred Ho. Radical, revolutionary, bandleader, writer, philosophizer — he was a brash, larger-than-life character, the type who doesn’t come into jazz’s orbit much any more. He championed the baritone sax specifically for its loud, unyielding sound.

His fight with colorectal cancer, which ended early this year, drew generous platitudes from the media, not for the tragedy of the story but for his inspirational energy and determination. He released CDs and was awarded a Harvard Arts Medal, and he managed to get one final master work onto the stage.

The ROVA Saxophone Quartet commissioned a work from Ho, back when. “Beyond Columbus and Capitalism” appeared on The Works (Volume 2) in 1996, and they’ll be revisiting it for a concert Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

The piece plays like a big-band suite, with those same tight horn harmonies and some aggressive swinging rhythms. Like most of Ho’s work, it’s a fun ride — and it includes a burly, unaccompanied solo for the baritone sax, of course.

For more about Ho, check out his Big Red Media web site (which automatically launches a music player, so be forewarned); an early 2014 NPR interview; a detailed, pre-cancer, 2005 interview for Harvard Magazine, and his elegant obituary in The New York Times.

Here’s the info about the concert, cut-and-pasted from ROVA’s mailer.

STRUGGLE FOR A NEW WORLD: Fred Ho Memorial

Sunday, September 7, 2:00 – 4:30 PM

Oakland Asian Cultural Center
9th Street #290
Oakland 94607

The memorial will feature performance by many of the forward-thinking artists touched by Fred Hos significant cultural contribution. Rova will perform Hos 1992 composition, Beyond Columbus and Capitalism, a work commissioned by Rova through The Meet the Composer / Readers Digest Commissioning Program.

Other performers include: Ben Barson, Royal Hartigan, Mark Izu, Jon Jang, Masaru Koga, Genny Lim, Hafez Modirzadeh, John Carlos Perea, Akira Tana, Marty Wehner, Francis Wong, Brenda Wong Aoki, with speaker/emcees: Diane Fujino and Matef Harmachis.

September 3, 2014 at 9:34 pm 1 comment

Grex Brings Monster Music on Tour

GrexMonster Music (Brux, 2014)

grex-monsterGrex has already toured a little big around Monster Music, hitting some shows on the east coast in July. They’re now in the middle of a west-coast swing:

August 4, Sacramento, CA, 7:30pm at Luna’s Cafe (Nebraska Mondays, w/Luis Clifford Childers

August 5, Sacramento, CA, 8pm at The Witch Room (w/Practice, The Lurk)

August 6, Sacramento, CA, (Grex at 10pm), Live Broadcast on v103, at Marilyn’s on K (w/Devon Galley, Ken Koenig)

August 7, Portland, OR, 9pm, at Slabtown (w/U SCO, The Sarcastic Dharma Society, Drunk Dads)

August 8, Seattle, WA, 8pm, at The Woodshed (w/Insistent Caterpillars, Honey Noble)

August 10, Seattle, WA, 7:30pm, at Cafe Racer (at Racer Sessions)

August 15, Long Beach, CA, 8pm, 4th Street Vine (w/Don’t Trip)

August 16, Los Angeles, CA, 8:30pm, at Curve Line Space (w/Dead Air Trio feat. Joe Berardi)


Monster Music, which came out in February, is a nifty package of pop/prog characterized by bubbly and dreamy electric piano, swinging chords, and regular doses of fiery guitar. Rei Scampavia and Karl Evangelista, the wife/husband team who both contribute vocals, augment the Grex duo with other instruments, but this time, drummer Robert Lopez is a fixture on every track, which somehow makes the songs feel more, well, songlike.

grex-yellowmouseI think of Grex as a prog band, but really it crumples musical styles into one multicolored mix, willfully dropping jazz melody, experimental improv, or rock attitude. A track like “Romancing Stone” reminds me a lot of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong with that pleasant, floating keyboard sound, although here it gets augmented with the more tangly, grumpy free improv that’s also a Grex ingredient. “Christmas Song” is a quirkier brand of prog, with a stringy melody spelled out on warbly keys and/or guitar to introduce Scampavia’s smooth, airy vocal.

Rock elements show up on “Hurdles,” a swirling, jamming piece that pairs fuzzed-out guitar and weighty electric piano, and on the psych jam “Guinea,” with its towering piano-chord theme.

This is the kind of album that’s easy to digest but has a lot going on under the surface, making for multiple rewarding listens. It probably makes for a good show, too, so if you’re on the west coast, don’t sleep on this one.

You can download Monster Music on Bandcamp.

August 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

Taylor Ho Bynum Is Biking to Your Town

Taylor Ho Bynum and bike.… if you’re on the left coast, that is. He’s starting in Vancouver on Aug. 28 and ending just over the Mexican border with a solo sunrise concert on Oct. 1.

He calls it the West Coast Acoustic Bicycle Tour. He’s done it before, touring the six New England states by bike, with his trumpet presumably included in his bags. (Good thing he’s not a bassist.)

One highlight of the tour is his septet performance at Los Angeles’ Angel City Jazz Festival on Sept. 27 and 28. But he’ll also be making a swing through the Bay Area, Sept. 16-19. His itinerary here includes the improvising group Orchesperry, a Braxton-blowing quartet with James Fei, and a duo with Myra Melford.

The full itinerary is at the front page of Bynum’s web site. Hopefully he’ll find time to record the experience in a blog entry or two.

 

July 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm 1 comment

Happy 80th, Jim Ryan

Jim Ryan's 80thIt was good to see Jim Ryan in high spirits for his 80th birthday concert last Sunday. The time slot competed with a few other good events, but the SIMM series at San Francisco’s Musicians Union Hall draws a good turnout. The room was nicely crowded and full of conversation between sets, fueled by cake and melting ice cream (the Union Hall’s performance space gets warm quickly).

Ryan handed out glow bracelets and laser rings that everyone had to wear, and he put on a good show in two sets of flute, sax, and poetry.

Beyond being a performer, Ryan has been an organizer and instigator on the scene. In the late ’90s and early ’00s, he ran a local zine, back when there were such things and most people didn’t have web sites. He also curated a few different weekly series, including one at the Starry Plough in Berkeley — a venue where the ownership and bookers are friendly to creative music, but the crowds sometimes aren’t.

I remember one show there with a group called Mosthumbz — out-there, jazzy stuff with a heavy improv component. The bar was full of regulars that night for some reason, and they were grumbling about the music. But one of their compatriots — a guy with an Irish accent, even — stood up for the music. “This is what I love about the ‘Plough. You never know what you’re going to get,” he said, and he meant it. And he enthusiastically applauded every number.

Organizing creative-music shows certainly has its frustrations. Hopefully, little moments like that enhance the rewards.

View from the door: Jordan Glenn's Mindless Thing

View from the door: Jordan Glenn’s Mindless Thing

Ryan’s birthday concert opened with Jordan Glenn’s Mindless Thing. The band played drummer Glenn’s thoughtful, chamber-like compositions, which seemed to be built around Ryan’s poems, with music and words serving one another as accents and punctuation. Ryan’s poems were a gradual tumble of thoughts, introspective scenes cut with surreal changes of direction and a sense of humor.

The band was heavy in tuned, percussive instruments — vibraphone (Rob Lopez), hammered dulcimer (Damon Waitkus), piano (Michael Coleman), and guitar (Karl Evangelista) for sounds that could be placid like deep water or rustling and restless like a mountain stream. Evangelista kept the guitar volume turned down, but still shredded madly in places, creating an oddly pleasant background fuzz — it was a nice effect. Their closing piece had everyone playing homemade can-and-string instruments, gently banging and plucking away.

For the second set, Ryan led a quartet with Scott Looney (piano), Jason Hoopes (bass), and Jordan Glenn (drums) in a long, jazzy improvisation that kicked off as a fast and heavy post-bop bounce. They kept that jazz vibe going for a second piece featuring Rent Romus (sax) and C.J. Borosque (trumpet), who along with Looney had been members of Forward Energy, a Ryan-led improv band. That piece took off like a screaming rocket and kept the energy going for the most part, a good upbeat way to close out the birthday celebration.

From left: Scott R. Looney (in the shadows), Jim Ryan, Jason Hoopes, Jordan Glenn

From left: Scott R. Looney (in shadow), Jim Ryan, Jason Hoopes, Jordan Glenn

July 5, 2014 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

Rabbit Rabbit, Back Visiting in Berkeley

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 12.00.59 AMNow in their third year of monthly song releases, the Rabbit Rabbit duo of Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi are building up quite a catalog. Their second album of songs, Swallow Me Whole, is due out on July 8, and they’ll be coming to the Bay Area with a show at the Freight & Salvage on Thursday, July 10, augmented by Myles Boisen on guitar and George Ban-Weiss on bass.

The songs on come from the Rabbit Rabbit Radio web site, a kind of online multimedia magazine that showcases a new song each month, with an accompanying video, photographs from the couple’s life adventures (including their ever-growing children), and some user-generated input.

And the songs are something else, drawing from pop and Americana but also laced with the edgy experimentalism that’s defined much of Kihlstedt and Bossi’s careers. The styles range from delicate piano ballads to raw-nerve rock. They’ve been getting some deserved notice, too; “After the Storm,” from Year 1 of Rabbit Rabbit Radio, won in the “eclectic” category at this year’s Independent Music Awards.

You can sample the Rabbit Rabbit catalogue on YouTube. They haven’t yet posted this month’s knockout punch (“Nameless,” featuring Shahzad Izmaily on guitar) but here’s a video for “Falling Awake,” with guitarist Joel Hamilton, issued a few months ago.

Rabbit Rabbit is trying out a couple of new ideas. For this year’s songs, they’ve been working with a guitarist each month, and Kihlstedt has set aside her trademark violin, which helped make her name in groups like Tin Hat and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Here’s something even more different: In lieu of being a CD, Rabbit Rabbit, Volume 2 — Swallow Me Whole is being sold as a limited-edition poster featuring all the lyrics and credits, and a download code for the songs themselves.

It’s an interesting idea. I’ve been thinking that people buy CDs at shows more as souvenirs than anything else. Even in a digital age, it’s nice to walk away carrying something — so, why not a poster instead of a CD?

Rupa, of local world-music faves Rupa & The April Fishes, will be opening the Freight & Salvage show. The full Rabbit Rabbit itinerary looks like this:

July 4, 2014 at 12:17 am 2 comments

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