Posts filed under ‘Bay Area music’

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

Outsound Festival: One Weekend Left to Contribute

Source: Outsound; click to go thereIf you want to donate to the Outsound New Music Summit, you might want to do it before Sunday night.

I assume they’d take your contribution no matter what the date. But Sunday night is the deadline to contribute via Indiegogo and, for $100 or more, get a ticket to the dinner held each year for organizers and donors. Held at Berkeley Arts Festival, the dinner will include a set of music by percussionist William Winant and another set by Thea Farhadian (violin) and Amy X. Neuburg (vocals, loops, maybe electronics).

No, I don’t know what’s on the menu. But I do know it’s all for a good cause, a locally produced festival for creative music. Rent Romus has kept the fire burning going on 13 years now.

The Outsound Summit runs July 29 through August 2 at San Francisco’s Community Music Center.

Here’s the lineup:

July 27- August 2, 2014, Co-Presented with KFJC 89.7FM
Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street San Francisco, CA
Advance Tickets:  Brown Paper Tickets
The Bay Area’s New Sound Festival Features Underground and 
Experimental Jazz, Electronics, Noise Art, Spoken Word, Poetry, 
Workshops, and Hands-onInteractive “Touch the Gear” Expo.

Sunday July 27th 1:00 PM
Pianist, composer, and educator Thollem McDonas will lead a
collaboration/improvisation workshop for musicians and non-
musicians alike. 

Monday, July 28th 8:00 PM
Thollem McDonas and participants from the Sunday improvisation 
workshop will perform a set of structured and free improvi-
sation.  This event is free to the public.

Wednesday, July 30th 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
PoetryFreqs, a night of spoken word and poetry with electro-
acoustic music.
* Pitta of the Mind (Maw Shein Win – poetry and Amanda 
Chaudhary – electronics)
* Original jazz beat poet Ruth Weiss with electronic pioneer 
Doug Lynner – Buchla Synth,  Hal Davis -  hollow log
* Watkins/Trammel/McZeal (Zachary James Watkins - 
electronics,  Marshall Trammell – drums  with award winning 
poet Amber McZeal)

Thursday, July 31st 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm 
Guitars, a night showcasing seven talented and provocative 
guitarists Henry Kaiser; Amy Reed & Ross Hammond; Noah 
Phillips & John Finkbeiner; Sandy Ewen & Jakob Pek

Friday, August 1st 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
Constructions will bring two extremes together
* Teddy Rankin-Parker/Daniel Pearce Duo,
premiering new works by renowned composer Renee Baker 
* The Deconstruction Orchestra, a mass ensemble of 25 leading 
Bay Area improvising musicians led by tenor saxophonist and 
composer Joshua Allen, who will perform the debut of The 
Structure of Sound and Space, an original deconstructivist-
inspired suite of cell structure game compositions, melding 
together post-modern, free jazz and non-idiomatic improvisa-
tion. Saxophones: Aaron Bennett-as, Sam Flores-ts, John 
Ingle-bs, Matt Ingalls-as/c, Josh Marshall-ts, Dan Plonsey-bs, 
Dave Slusser-ts, Rory Snyder-as, Rent Romus-as, Cory Wright-bs 
Brass: Peter Bonos-trpt, Collete McCaslin-coronet, Matt 
Gaspar-Flugel, Ron Heglin-tuba, Jeff Hobbs-trpt, George 
Moore-trpt, Matt Streich-trombone Rhythm: Henry Kaiser-guitar, 
John Finkbeiner-guitar Timothy Orr-drums, William Winant-drums, 
Lisa Mezzacappa-bass, Matt Montgomery-bass

Saturday, August 2nd 1:00pm
Transformational Voice, an afternoon vocal workshop with 
bodywork/energywork master Jill Burton.
Register at the door or Pre-Register @ Brownpaper Tickets

Saturday, August 2 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
Improvisations, featuring three different
groups of improvisers exploring the language of the unknown.
* Obstreperous Doves (Karl Evangelista – guitar, Bill Noertker - 
bass, Nava Dunkelman - percussion, Christina Stanley - violin, 
and Jordan Glenn - drums)
* The Emergency String (X)tet (violins: Mia Bella D'Augelli, 
Jeff  Hobbs, Christina Stanley; lap steel guitar: David 
Michalak; cello: Doug Carroll; bass koto: Kanoko Nishi-Smith; 
and cello/director: Bob Marsh); who will premiere a new work 
in celebration of Bob Marsh’s 70th birthday
* Jill Burton Trio (Jill Burton - voice, Tim Perkis - 
electronics, and Doug Carroll - cello) debuting their 
first-time collaboration

… and here’s what I wrote about last year’s Summit:

June 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Maxine Gets an Album

Maxine concert: Thursday, June 26, 2014Maxine, the artificial-intelligence musician that’s been has reached a milestone: her debut CD.

Ritwik Banerji has been developing (I think he would prefer to say “raising”) Maxine for several years now, posting the results on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. They’re mostly duets between Maxine and Banerji’s own saxophone playing, the idea being that Maxine learns and progresses as she plays more.

The Maxine/Banerji duet is now called Maxine and the Astromusicologist, and their album is Palmer Square, on Jeff Kaiser’s pfMentum record label.

To celebrate, Maxine and a gathering of local friends will perform Thursday, June 26, at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) in Berkeley. It starts at 5:00 p.m. with an art installation featuring Maxine and some graphical computer programs called Maxineans. (Banerji has posted two representatives to Vimeo: Antoine and Bart.) Visitors are encouraged to bring an instrument and interact with Maxine and her friends.

A concert will follow, with Kaiser playing an opening set, followed by Maxine performing in varying improvising ensembles.

I first came across Maxine in the context of a concert with Maxxareddu, a similar artificial intelligence developed by Joe Lasqo. Here’s more about that:

June 26, 2014 at 8:20 am Leave a comment

Favorite Street: Steve Lacy Remembered

ROVAIt’s hard to believe Steve Lacy passed away 10 years ago this week. Doesn’t seem that long ago.

For many musicians in the Bay Area, Lacy was a contemporary, a peer, a mentor, a correspondent, and even a fan. They knew him and admired his work, and his passing at the age of 70 was like a color dropping from the spectrum.

So when the members of ROVA Saxophone Quartet arranged a commemorative concert, it also served as a 10-year wake and a community catharsis. Held at the Community Music Center in San Francisco, back on June 6, the show was a celebration of Lacy’s music, a chance to share memories, and a repainting of Favorite Street, ROVA’s 1984 album of Lacy compositions. (The CD is even back in print, part of a re-emergence of the Black Saint record label, although ROVA noted it might be hard to find in stores.)

Steve Lacy and Don Cherry: EvidenceI wanted to see the show not just for the music, but to learn a little more about Lacy and his influence.

Bruce Ackley did a lot of the talking for ROVA, explaining how Lacy’s influence had crept into their musical lives. ROVA members would attend many a Lacy show — and he would attend theirs in turn. (Lacy, a native New Yorker, spent most of his career in Paris and was a frequent Bay Area visitor. ROVA probably encountered him in both places.)

Ben Goldberg talked about the album Evidence, which he and ROVA both mentioned as a key influence. It’s got Steve Lacy and Don Cherry, but more importantly, it came out in 1961, when Lacy wasn’t as well known. His records weren’t numerous and were hard to come by. Evidence was a portal into a new sound world and a revelation, to hear the musicians tell it.

Ben Goldberg: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The FactYears later, Goldberg received the news of Lacy’s death just days before a previously booked studio date. That album — which would become The Door, the Hat, the Chair, the Fact — was meant to be an homage, songs Goldberg assembled upon hearing Lacy had cancer. It turned into an emotional therapy session, as the whole community was rocked by Lacy’s passing. One track is a brief, classically styled song, “Cortege,” where the lyrics are the text of a fax Lacy sent Goldberg. The concluding line is a casual comment by Lacy that becomes poetic in its new context: “I am hardly here these days.”

Darren Johnston, Doug Stewart, Kjell Nordeson, Aram Shelton

The Concert

The first act was a variation of the quartet Cylinder, with bassist Doug Stewart sitting in for the traveling Lisa Mezzacappa. They started with a thundering take on “Trickles,” a fast-moving free-jazz rendition propelled by Kjell Nordesson’s drums and percussion. Aram Shelton (sax) and Darren Johnston (trumpet) took the lead voices, spelling out Lacy’s melodies — which have always struck me as simple and playful, but bent with a foreign accent of a country only Lacy’s mind could inhabit — and spiraling into solos inspired by the music. Johnston, in particular, seemed to be working the Monk-like strategy of using the melody to overtly build a solo (Monk being a fascination of Lacy’s, of course).

Michael Coleman and Ben Goldberg, ready for their close-upWhere the Cylinder group presented Lacy in a jazz context, the duo of Michael Coleman (piano) and Ben Goldberg (clarinet) showed off a more classical-oriented side, more akin to a recital-plus-improvisation. It turns out they were, in fact, playing Lacy’s etudes, a book of intentionally difficult exercises called Hocus Pocus. For much of the set, Coleman and Goldberg played the melodies in unison, the piano following the same fractally linear paths as the clarinet. Coleman expertly darted and dodged his way through, sometimes tripping up but always able to jump back in within a couple of sixteenth notes; it was all very impressive.

On a few occasions, Coleman had arranged chords to go along with the themes, adding unexpected and dramatic effects. “Herky Jerky” took on a deep ocean-waves color; it didn’t remind me of McCoy Tyner but it was that same monumental spirit. “Hustles,” dedicated to Niccolo Paganini, got a brief passage of insane circus music (at least, I’m pretty sure it was the Paganini piece and not the one dedicated to Karl Wallenda).

Bruce Ackley and Jon Raskin of ROVADuring ROVA’s set, I found myself suddenly paying attention to rhythms. This might have been because they opened with the funky bassline of “The Throes,” with Jon Raskin chugging away at the baritone sax. Several pieces also broke the group into a 2×2 format, with duets playing counterbalancing themes — again, tickling the ear’s sense of rhythm. While they played the songs from Favorite Street, some of them got new interpretations. (I know that not because I’m a brilliant Lacy-ologist, but because Steve Adams contributed some arrangements, and he wasn’t in ROVA in 1984.) It was a joyous set that ended with a new arrangement of “Cliches,” a track that’s not on the album.

It was a concert, a remembrance, and an education. I’m glad I was able to be there.

June 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm 12 comments

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