Posts filed under ‘Bay Area music’
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.
It 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.
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.
Now 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:
- Thur. July 10 — Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
- Sat. July 12 — The Mint, Los Angeles
- Thur. July 31 — Union Hall, Brooklyn.
If 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.
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:
- Outsound: The Axiom
- Outsound: Vibration Hackers
- Bringing “Lords of Outland” to Outsound
- Outsound Summit: When the Machines Take Over
- Kyle Bruckmann Brings Pynchon to Outsound
- Outsound 2013
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.
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:
- Outsound: Vibration Hackers
- Outsound Summit: When the Machines Take Over
- Improv — Human and Otherwise
It’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.)
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.
Years 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.”
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).
Where 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).
During 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.
When Fred Frith re-created the album Gravity for a live show in August 2012, the hope was to take the act on the road by putting up the same band at festivals.
The band did get to play a couple of shows in New York, and now they’ve taking to the festival stage as well, having appeared at the Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) in Quebec in May. They’re included in Avant Music News’ review of FIMAV Day 4.
The Gravity Band will also be performing twice in Europe: June 7 in the city of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and June 8 at the Moers Festival in Germany.
If you want to find out more about the process of (and reasons for) building a concert around the Gravity album, you can listen to the 2012 radio special I put together for KZSU. I’ve stored it here, in downloadable form. It includes interviews with Frith and with Bay Area musicians Aaron Novik and Dominique Leone, whose bands combined to form the 11-piece Gravity Band, and it all came out quite niftily, if I may say so.
I also reviewed that 2012 show, which was great fun.
A former pickup band that, frankly, I thought I’d never see again, the Klaxon Mutant Allstars have not only stuck together but have also produced an album — a slice of enjoyable modern jazz with clean horn lines, pop sensibility, and layered writing that sends the five-piece group in unexpected directions of syncopation.
There’s definitely a “new musical terrain between jazz, electronica, pop, and indie rock,” as the Klaxons’ web site proclaims. It’s a quasi-genre I loosely called “indie jazz” in the early ’00s. I had aggressive bands like the DIY trio, Birth, in mind, but others have emerged with a stronger nod to the jazz tradition, and with electronica more deeply embedded in their psyches. Kneebody occupies this space.
So do the Klaxons, now, with Henry Hung’s trumpet and Kasey Knudsen’s sax up front, putting up the jazz lines that might have been transported from a ’60s combo but presenting music that those audiences would consider alien. On a track line “Klaxon Tom Bomb,” the “jazz” gets put behind a heavy, infectious pulsing. It’s aggressive and fun.
“Desaparecere” starts out with a grooving, relaxing bass solo from George Ban-Weiss, gracefully backed with Colin Hogan’s electric piano. But later, Knudsen ignites the band into a fiery groove fueled by twisting, growling sax solo.
This kind of idea-mixing is all over the album. The almost too-smiley funk of “Riled Up” makes you tap your toes, but it gives way to a stretch of free improvisation against a skipping beat that all the players ignore. “Dear 70% (We Are Being Ruled by the 15%),” which features a deceptively simple, poppy theme that builds into some nice syncopation and, eventually, another searing Knudsen solo.
There’s one near-straightahead track, “Taxi Driver Blues,” that’s heavy with swing and funk, replete with walking bass and very — I don’t know the term, but Eric Garland sticks to conventionally jazzy drumming. It’s plain jazz, in a sense, but it’s fun.
I’m happy to see that Robot Invasion includes the Klaxons’ most memorable song, “Jamie Moyer,” an initially pretty tune that — like its namesake baseball pitcher — messes with your mind by changing speeds. Stretched here to a glorious 12 minutes, the song was a highlight (for me, anyway) of their appearance at the SF Offside Festival back in 2012; here, it becomes a showcase for Garland as the band “trades fours” between normal speed and way-too-slow speed.
He’ll be performing with a Bay Area version of the octet on Friday, May 16, at Le Qui Vive (1525 Webster St., Oakland), a show starting at 9:00 p.m. You can preview the music by listening to “Octet” and a companion piece, “Spring Time,” on Bandcamp. (You can also buy them there; just $5 for a 43-minute digital album.)
“Octet” is framed in minimalist tones, patient and bright. It builds on small, repeated motifs that gradually shift during the course of about 27 minutes. The steady cadence gets a break about midway, when it shifts into slower, looser playing — then it picks up the thread again, bouncing and bobbing its way along.
Minimalist pieces are meant to be a bit hypnotic (that’s always been my impression, anyway) and part of the magic is in zooming in on the details. In this case, you’ve got eight players to provide plenty of counterpoint, like lots of side conversations adding up to a whole. I’m reminded of a ROVA piece where many players were spread around a large room, and the audience was invited to sit in the middle. “Octet” would sound really good that way, with small sounds patiently prodding at you from all directions.
“Summer Time” carries a similar mood but eases up on the strict rhythm. The horns, in particular, play breathy jazz motifs that might even be improvised (or composed but with a more casual sense of rhythm applied). It’s an airy 17-minute piece that breezes past more quickly than you realize.
I’d recommend checking out the Octet at Le Qui Vive. It’s not an act that seems likely to be repeated much in the future. (And the opening act, featuring longtime jazzman Idris Ackamoor of The Pyramids, should be a treat, too.)
And if you’re more inclined to check out Shelton’s jazz work, Ton Trio II is playing at Duende (Oakland) on the following Friday, May 23.
A laptop ensemble seems novel but not all that impossible these days. Last year, I even wrote about the laptop orchestra that’s a college course at Santa Clara.
But laptops used to be relatively expensive and exotic little beasts, back when personal computers’ capabilities were much more limited. And computer networking was even more primitive — in fact, the very act of “networking” your computer wasn’t something to take for granted.
That was the environment in the late 1980s when The Hub pioneered the idea of a computerized music ensemble, not only performing with the machines but networking them together as well.
It’s fascinating to read Tim Perkis‘ notes about The Hub’s operation back in the day. Some of the technological limitations actually sound more intriguing than frustrating.
At first, they used a home-built networking hub. Later, they used MIDI, which was indeed intended to connect computerized machines to musical instruments but didn’t have the flexibility we’d take for granted today. For example, MIDI expected information in the form of musical notes. The metallic screeching and shattered-glass sounds we expect in laptop music today wouldn’t be so easy to convey.
The Hub rose to the challenge by composing for these limitations. Perkis describes a sparse composition of his titled “Waxlips:”
Each player is requested to make his program have the following simple behavior: he had to be able to receive requests to play one note. When the request was received he should play the note, and then send a request to someone else in the group to play one note. This outgoing request must be computed from the incoming one in such a way that the same request in always generates the same request out. For example, any time I asked John Bischoff to play a C#, that would always cause him to issue a request to Chris Brown, say, to play an Ab. The mapping must be deterministic, and static. Every now and then I would send out another special message that meant “change your mapping”, along with a pitch set of allowable pitches to request. I would also start the process off, and jump start it again when necessary by spraying new notes into the network.
This piece always came out very different each time it was played: usually we would end the piece when it fell into a simple loop of some kind; sometimes, if one of the players wasn’t working properly there would be a leak and all the notes would keep dribbling out.
That’s part of a detailed 1999 article Perkis wrote for Electronic Musician magazine. You can read the article on his web site and get a lot of insight not only into how The Hub’s technology but into some of its strategies for composing. Those strategies would still be valid under today’s richer forms of computer networking — although I’d be interested to see how The Hub might be stretching its boundaries. It’s worth a look Tuesday night.