Posts filed under ‘Bay Area music’
The SF Offside jazz festival is back for a second year, gracing three different Bay Area venues at the end of May.
But first, a taste: A video snippet of the Wiener Kids Family Band, which currently tops the Wiener Kids video page.
Here’s the full lineup:
NIGHT 1 – “STREAMS” – THURSDAY, MAY 23, 8-11PM
Awaken Café, 1429 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
New collaborations, new directions
Aram Shelton – alto sax
Jason Gillenwater - tenor sax
Alex Pinto – guitar
Doug Stuart – bass
Shaun Lowecki – drums
Jaz Sawyer – drums
Asonic Garcia – sampler, synth, electronics
Mike Boo – turntable, sampler, electronics
WIENER KIDS FAMILY BAND
Jordan Glenn – conductor
Cory Wright – clarinet
Aaron Bennett – soprano sax
Christina Stanley – violin
Kate McLoughlin – bassoon
Rob Ewing – trombone
Damon Waitkus – banjo
Karl Evangelista – guitar
Dominique Leone – synth
Kevin Thaxton – bass
Jon Arkin – drums
NIGHT 2 – “CURRENTS” – FRIDAY, MAY 24, 9pm-midnight
Duende, 468 19th Street, Oakland, CA 94618
Leading-edge local jazz
MADS TOLLING QUARTET
Mads Tolling – violin
Dave MacNab – guitar
George Ban-Weiss – bass
Eric Garland – drums
HOWARD WILEY TRIO
Howard Wiley – sax
Marcus Shelby – bass
Sly Randolph – drums
NIGHT 3 - “TIDES” – SATURDAY, MAY 25, 8-11pm
Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street, SF, CA 94110
“The traveler hastens toward the town…”
LISA MEZZACAPPA-STEVE ADAMS DUO
Lisa Mezzacappa – bass
Steve Adams – saxophones
SHELDON BROWN GROUP
Sheldon Brown – soprano & tenor saxophones, clarinet
Dave MacNab – guitar
Jonathan Alford – piano
Michael Wilcox – bass
Alan Hall – drums
DAVE MIHALY & THE SHIMMERING LEAVES ENSEMBLE
Dave Mihaly – drums, guitar, voice
Ara Anderson – trumpet, percussion
David Boyce – saxophones, bass clarinet, percussion
Michael Cavaseno – guitar
Charith Premawardhana – viola
What does John Coltrane’s “Ascension” mean to you? A pinnacle of his attempt to communicate spirituality in music? A joyous escape from the tyranny of chord changes? An ambitious, marathon version of a modally structured song? An excuse to make a lot of noise?
I’m leaning towards the first answer, but I’m sure all those elements will be explored on May 9 during KFJC-FM‘s six-hour special about the piece.
Titled “Ascension Day,” the show is part of KFJC’s Month of Mayhem, a tradition where they pepper the May schedule with ambitious, well researched specials. These are programs not to be missed — and considering this one runs from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time, there aren’t a lot of excuses for missing the whole thing.
The special will pay particular attention to the reworkings of “Ascension” by the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, who are producing a DVD video of their most recent “Electric Ascension” concert. The latest updates about that are available on their Kickstarter page.
Check the KFJC site for the full Mayhem schedule.
More about “Ascension:”
- Electric Ascension Went Well
- ROVA’s Ascension
- Coltrane, R.E.M., Beginnings, Endings
- Freddie Hubbard Playlist, Dec. 30
(Photo source: The Vinyl Records Shelf, which doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2004, but here’s a link anyway.)
Ian Carey Quintet + 1 will perform Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2013 at Chez Hanny (San Francisco) ….. Carey’s Takoyaki 3, a subset of the band, plays free at Yoshi’s Lounge (San Francisco) May 30 and July 11 ….. Carey performs as a duo with Ben Stolorow at the Garden Gate Creative Center (Berkeley) May 9.
Ian Carey Quintet + 1 — Roads & Codes (Kabocha, 2013)
I think she meant “lovely but intense,” but at any rate, she liked the music.
Ian Carey is like that. Roads and Codes presents more of his jazz composing with that comforting post-bop feel that also includes attractive quirks in the composing and a leeway for sneaky, free/outside moments. He’s not trying to create a purely free-blowing session, and neither is he doing cocktail jazz. I like it.
At the same time, I’d written before about the marketability of such music. “Too edgy for California, not edgy enough for NYC” is the comment he relays on the album’s graphic-novel cover, like an anti-testimonial. My daughter was saying the same thing, I think, but meaning it as a double-compliment. Carey has produced some pretty tunes based on challenging compositional footwork, and he’s got a band that leaps from that platform into some intense exploration.
The music is not a Steve Coleman dimensional vortex or a Naked City frontal assault, but you can get a cerebral fix out of the 5/4 rhythms supporting “Rain Tune” and Neil Young’s “Dead Man.” Carey perks up the listener’s intellect while putting his puzzles in a comfortable jazz setting.
That’s where the most interesting modern jazz goes. It can present such a calm demeanor yet have a bubbling intensity underneath. It doesn’t take a trained ear to find it, either, just a willingness to follow the sound.
“Dead Man” is particularly ingenious, expanding on the simple stillness of Young’s theme for the Jim Jarmusch film. Carey adds a chord sequence that’s like a blooming sunrise, a cinematic touch from a whole different movie.
Not to dwell too much on a composition that isn’t Carey’s, but later on “Dead Man,” I do love the way he overdubs a ghost trumpet to accompany what I think is his own flugelhorn solo:
The album does get into charged, bop-oriented music on “Count Up” and “Nemuri Kyoshiro,” but it’s actually “Rain Tune” that caught my daughter’s ear. It’s airy and brisk, making good use of Evan Francis’s flute to set the mood.
One more sample: From “Nemuri Kyoshiro,” part of the sax battle between Kasey Knudsen (tenor) and Evan Francis (alto) that winds up the piece.
And of course, there’s the graphic-novel art that’s all over the CD package, including the fold-out liner notes. That’s a story in itself.
KZSU is doing its 24-plus-hour Day of Noise again, starting just a couple of hours before Sunday, April 14.
You can see the whole schedule, and descriptions of the artists, at that link above.
It’s an impressive undertaking managed by some very motivated students who are into drone, electronics, laptop improv, and … well, noise! I love that they’ve filled the entire day with music, including some afternoon hours that will apparently be broadcast at Stanford’s White Plaza.
Do tune in, starting midnight tonight — 90.1FM if you’re within range in the Bay Area, or kzsulive.stanford.edu/ if you’re not. As my kids said last year: “It’s just noise!“
The 840-cycle piece started at Berkeley Arts in the afternoon of March 23 and is continuing until noon Sunday, March 24. It’s organized by Joe Lasqo, who organizes a previous “Vexations” in September that was “straight,” with musicians at the piano reading notes on paper — but even that had its twists and variations, he says. This time, the artists are playing a variety of instruments, including some that don’t play musical notes. (Berkeley Arts: 2133 University Ave., Berkeley.)
There’s also a fundraiser for the SF Offside festival. The show should be starting right about now — it’s the Sonny Sharrock Experience, a quartet that includes Offside co-organizer Alex Pinto playing the all-important guitar part as they cover Sharrock’s music (and McCoy Tyner’s, and Alice & John Coltrane’s). So, you could catch that show (Revolution Cafe: 3248 22nd St., San Francisco) then cross the Bay to camp at Berkeley Arts for a night of “Vexations.”
Then, there’s the Switchboard Music Festival — an eight-hour celebration of creative, modern, quasi-classical music presented with a dynamic, almost indie-rock vibe. That starts at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, at Brava Theater (2781 24th St., San Francisco).
If you got restless just before 4:00, you could leave that venue (possibly missing part of Ava Mendoza’s Unnatural Ways’ set, which would be a tough call) to see martha & monica, the piano/cello duet, perform the world premiere of a piece by Matt Ingalls (of the sfSound troupe) and pieces by Elliott Carter and Dmitri Shostakovich. (Old First Church: 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco).
Then you could head back to the Brava Theater for the concluding hours of the Switchboard Festival. Could you take the bus there and back! Sure! I think. (My Muni mojo is about a decade old.)
Someday, someone is going to look back at this as one hell of a musical weekend. Why should it be you?
The good news is that I got a chance to go to Barcelona and took it.
The bad news is that I missed these shows while I was gone: Surplus 1980 and ReCardiacs Fly; Craig Taborn, Amy X. Neuburg and Pamela Z at Other Minds; Other Minds in general; Emily Hay visiting from L.A.; Lotte Anker visiting from Europe; a couple of rare Tin Hat group appearances; Miya Masaoka (another rare in-town appearance) in a show that also included Lisa Mezzacappa’s new strings band; the ROVA Saxophone Quartet performing with a guitar quartet; The Residents’ anniversary show at Bimbos; and Chris Potter, whose new ECM album is quite compelling. In Barcelona also missed a chance to see Spanish pianist Agusti Fernandez, due to evening work commitments.
Sure, there’s no way I would have seen all those shows, since many of them conflicted. Chris Potter probably would have been outa luck, going up against The Residents. I’m just complaining on principle.
Meanwhile, it’s a really busy week of music coming up, with too many things to mention. I’ll list a few, but I’m unfairly leaving out so much — take a look at Bayimproviser.com to see what I mean.
- William Parker is in town at the end of the week, starting Friday, March 8, doing a lot at Stanford’s Bing Hall and a Sunday afternoon performance at San Francisco’s Center for New Music. The latter is a solo show followed by a set from Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch.
- Mills College is running its annual Signal Flow series (concerts of new works by students) starting Thursday, March 7 through the weekend.
- Great lineup for the Monday, March 4 installment of monthly jazz at The Makeout Room (San Francisco): Karl Evangelista’s Ai Ai, Dave Slusser’s new quartet, and Aram Shelton’s Ton Trio II.
- Larry Ochs has some new composing for quintet that debuts on Friday, March 8 at the Center for New Music; he’ll have trumpeter Nate Wooley in his band, who’s also appearing Weds. March 6 at Berkeley Arts Festival.
I didn’t get a chance to do any serious record shopping in Barcelona, but luckily, there are four CD stores along Calle dels Tallers [Street of Workshops, in Catalan, I think]. Mostly, they specialize in American/British rock — i.e., they look just like CD stores here, but with a lot more metal and a lot of classic rock. Revolver Records had a section set aside for Spanish and Catalonian bands, so that’s where I concentrated my time. Using the principle of judging a CD by its cover, I picked up some poppy, mellow electronica from a Catalan trio called Lasers and an indie rock album from a Spanish indie-pop band that looks like it’s been around for a while, Los Planetas. Pretty happy with both of them, but I’m hoping to dig a little deeper if I ever make it back.
Cool avant-rock show happening Sat. Feb. 23 at The Starry Plough in Berkeley:
They’ve done a good job using Facebook as a promo hub for the show. Check it out here.
It’s a chance to experience new Surplus 1980 songs and rarely heard Cardiacs complexities, and to rock the Starry Plough (which happens with some regularity, admittedly, but is still a good cause).
Previous posts about the two bands, which have shared a bill before:
Ian Carey performs at The Sound Room (2147 Broadway, Oakland) on Thursday, Feb. 21, and anybody who pays the admission gets a free copy of the new CD.
Ian Carey‘s newest album, Roads and Codes, is going to get a lot of attention just for its cover, partly because its cover tells the story of how hard it is for a new jazz album to get attention.
Bay Area jazz fans know Carey as a trumpeter and bandleader, assuming they know him at all. But he’s also a graphic designer. So, in toying with drawings to go with Roads and Codes, he developed the idea of making the cover a self-referential story about how to connect good music with an audience.
And Carey’s music is good. It’s got a cozy modern-jazz sound with a lot of tricks under the surface; it’s stuff that would get airplay on a station like KCSM. Listen to the alternate take of a very Joe Henderson-like song, “Nemuri Kyoshiro,” on his blog — a lot of people would enjoy that tune. But how does one get the music into their ears?
I’ve never had to struggle with that question. I’ve only been on the other end, as part of the problem.
As late as 2008, KZSU was still getting hundreds of CDs per week, and while some of that volume has shifted to MP3s, I doubt it’s decreased. We do listen to it all, at least a few seconds of every album. Some of it gets easily rejected outright. Other candidates go straight to the review shelf, destined for airplay.
The agonizing cases are the middle ones, and they make up the majority. Especially in jazz, where getting to the mainstream takes a particular level of dedication and ability. But to add it all means each individual CD gets less attention. Add too much, and it defeats the purpose of even having an airplay rotation (that purpose being attention).
Moreover, my philosophy as jazz director was to tilt the station towards the edgier stuff. Occasional mainstream releases were welcome, but I didn’t want them overwhelming the rotation.
Bottom line: Every week, some reasonably good music had to go.
I’m not asking you to shed tears for my plight or anything, but I have to admit, I found it damn depressing on occasion. Especially at the end of a hard work week, when I was tired and frayed, and suddenly staring at a stack of music that didn’t make the cut. I would know I’d made the right decisions, and I’d still feel bad about it. All these artists fighting to bob above the waves just long enough to be seen — and so many little bits of luck, tiny pushes at the right or wrong times, would make the difference.
Maybe they just lost at the numbers game, or maybe they’d arrived after I’d been overly generous for too many weeks in a row and had to cull the field. Maybe theirs was the sixth album in two weeks to make heavy use of a string quartet, and it was just too much. (Something like that really did happen once.)
I don’t know the full text of the graphic-novel page that comprises the Roads and Codes cover, but I know this: It’s visually catchy. It’s not something that’s been overdone (yet). And based on the hints Carey has dropped on his web page, the story told is actually interesting, topical, and relatable — and a little bit funny. It’s good storytelling that you’d think would click with any jazz fan. On top of that, it will carry a spark of recognition with radio DJs: Ah, yes. I know where he’s coming from. It’s a tough road, trying to get an audience to discover music.
He got my attention, and I have it on good authority that he got KZSU’s as well.
Now, can he get listeners?
It’s been a couple of weeks since I took in this show at Berkeley Arts Festival: Joe Lasqo playing piano against a computerized improviser, and the improv quartet Gestaltish.
Lasqo’s digital partner was his artificial-intelligence program called Maxxareddu, and there’s a really interesting side-story to that. In July, Maxxareddu will perform in a duet with Maxine, an AI created by Ritwik Banerji of UC Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT). Two machines conversing musically, without human intervention.
That’ll be part of the Outsound New Music Summit (exact schedule still TBA). Lasqo said he’ll be putting a lot of work into Maxxareddu during the next few months.
For the performance I saw, Lasqo let Maxxareddu wander, adding his own piano to the mix. All improv is unpredictable, but the AI element, from a performer’s point of view, seems to be unpredictable in a different way. “Sometimes I find I’m learning from this thing I was trying to teach,” he said, introducing the show.
There’s certainly something myserious about the self-recursive nature of Maxxareddu’s learning process. The images Lasqo chose for previewing the show on his blog included a clock curling in on itself and the space-warping, mirrored installations of Kasuma Yayoi.
Being the human in the duo, Lasqo held the right to decided when phase or a piece should end, but that did require the push of a button (removing one hand from the piano keyboard, although he could pretty easily do that without harming the music). Each new set of sounds can take a bit of setup, although that’s not much different from a string player adjusting to a different tuning, as Lasqo pointed out — but it did mean Maxxareddu stuck to one type of sound per piece.
The set started with what might have been the most difficult of the pieces with Maxxareddu’s spouting bubbly, cartoony voices, altered and pitched and mangled. Against that, Lasqo laid down calm piano bits, a zen response. Next, he changed Maxxareddu to a more metallic set of sounds, sometimes like coins being shuffled like cards. The more active setting made it more natural for Lasqo to add occasional bursts of speed and even a fist bump or two on the piano, but his playing always kept a layer of tonality in mind, like a musical grounding for the electronics.
The final piece felt the most natural to my ears, probably because Maxxareddu was holding to calm, chiming notes, providing a tonality for the first time. Eventually, that gave way to a thin electronic hum.
I sometimes had trouble linking the piano and electronics directions in my mind, something that’s often a problem for me in acoustic + laptop situations. And I’m not sure if it’s possible for the audience to “hear” how Maxxareddu makes its decisions. Still, it was a very enjoyable performance, and the whole idea of AI in music intrigues me.
Gestaltish is a quartet that brings a kitchen sink of sonic possibilities to the stage — a fistful of reeds; prepared piano and guitar; vocals; and percussion everywhere.
They tended towards the quieter side of abstract improv but were willing to ride the snatches of melody or rhythm that would evolve, particularly out of the guitar. (Jacob Peck overtly spun some soft jazzy chords at a couple of points.)
Jennifer Wilsey on piano added some melodic structure — or some additional percussion, if it was prepared piano. She also got a lot of mileage and variety out of her snare drum, sometimes filling the drum head with a cymbal for a muted sound that made me think of falling sand.
Most of the focus fell to clarinetist Rachel Condry (also of the SF Chamber Composers Orchestra — see here) and vocalist Gretchen Jude. They would frequently stumble onto dissonant harmonies that they would ride out, letting the long notes hold and vibrate.
Gestaltish’s set took a little while to warm up. On earlier pieces, they seemed to be waiting for each other to start. But the group soon found its groove and settled into some good communication. The second-to-last piece was particularly nice, as they built up an elegy, a soft melodic space starting with slow piano lines. They’d done well with the jumps and swoops of improvising in the rest of the set, but this was an interesting change of pace, one that sprang up organically.
This year’s San Francisco Tape Music Festival will include an evening-long celebration of acousmatic composer Bernard Parmegiani. The festival runs Jan. 25-27 at ODC Theater (3153 17th St., San Francisco).
“Acousmatic” is a word I learned just this week, and it seems to be a more accurate (but less fun) description of “tape music.” Either way, the concept is: sounds that are set down in recorded form and meant to be performed by playing the recording.
But it’s not like playing a record at home. The performance involves 16 or more speakers situated around the room, usually played in the dark to heighten the auditory experience. The sounds scatter about you with remarkable clarity — bells, liquids and thunders dancing about the room. Cinema for the ears, as they say. (See the Bruno Ruvario review, the 2012 Tape Music Festival review, and notes about the festival from 2012 and 2009.)
Here’s what else is happening during the festival:
- Recent pieces by Bay Area composers including Pamela Z (a 2008 piece called “Spangled”) and sfSound’s Matt Ingalls
- “Classic” works by folks like Luciano Berio (from 1961) and Hugh Le Caine (from 1955)
- A new realization of John Cage’s “Williams Mix,” which also got presented last year. The piece instructs the “performer” to record various urban sounds, so it’s a completely different piece every time.
- A 1980 piece by Jonathan Harvey, who passed away in December.
Given that last bit, it’s nice to note that Parmegiani is still alive at age 85. His evening of the Festival — Sunday, Jan. 27 — will feature pieces from the ’60s and one from 2004, followed by the 45-minute “De Natura Sonotorum,” created in 1975.
Parmegiani studied under one of the pioneers of this music, Pierre Schaeffer, and he’s considered a huge influence in the acousmatic music world. He was around when these sounds were just being pioneered, and his career has been voluminous. (If you’re curious and have some coin to spare, there’s a 12-CD collection of his work available on eMusic.)
Of course, there are study materials lying around the Web as well, albeit of YouTube audio fidelity.
Here’s a full reading of “De Natura Sonotorum:”
A small piece of “De Natura Sonotorum:”
A neat piece called dance, based on one sound source (voice):