Posts filed under ‘upcoming shows’

Grex: Typhoon Relief Concert (and New CD)

MonsterMusicReleasesmallGrex is playing a CD-release concert tonight (Feb. 15) that doubles as a typhoon relief concert.

It’s a Berkeley Arts (2133 University Ave, Berkeley). There’s no cover, and all proceeds, including album sales, will go to the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan relief. It’s a nice chance to experience some new music and donate to a good cause.

The bill includes:

  • Grex, the free jazz/chamber rock trio of Karl Evangelista (guitar), Rei Scampavia (piano), and Robert Lopez (drums)
  • Michael Coleman’s Enjoyer, a quartet (or more) led by keyboardist Coleman
  • Jordan Glenn Chamber Ensemble, debuting a new long-form piece composed by Glenn

The new Grex album, titled Monster Music, features the new trio format (the band has been Evangelista and Scampavia, joined sporadically by friends) and should be available on Bandcamp soon.

February 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Aram Shelton’s Art of the (Next) Trio

Aram Shelton‘s Ton Trio II plays Sat. Feb. 1, at Duende (Oakland), with the Cory Wright Outfit.

Ton Trio IIOn and On (Singlespeed, 2014)

Source: Singlespeed Music; click to go thereThis is the second version of Aram Shelton‘s sax/bass/drums unit, exploring Shelton’s compositions with a healthy respect for the jazz tradition and an appetite for the freedom of direction offered by free jazz.

Shelton founded Ton Trio shortly after coming to the Bay Area from Chicago. The second edition, with new rhythm section Scott Brown on bass and Alex Vittum on drums, was created late in 2012 and built itself into shape through regular gigs at The Layover for the first part of last year. Now they’ve put out their first album, on Shelton’s Singlespeed label.

The trio is very much a jazz exercise, presenting melodic heads followed by some robust jazz improvising. In tracks like “Turncoats,” there’s a touch of Ayler-style marching, something I thought I’d heard in the first Ton Trio album, The Way.

“Freshly Pressed” is one of the faster tracks (and the longest, at eight minutes), with Shelton digging hard in to post-bebop soloing but also adding small touches of swing or traditional melody. This is a track where Shelton goes particularly far outside the lines, egged on by Vittum, who also turns in a snappy drum solo.

I think my favorite track is the speedy “Orange Poppies,” which opens with a theme that harkens back to maybe early ’60s jazz, followed by a terrific, rolling jam where Shelton savors one cascading run of notes after another.

I’m writing this one up a bit late — the band’s show at Duende starts in just a few hours — but hopefully the band will get plenty of other chances to perform live and continue pushing this music forward.

February 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

How Much Brötzmann Can You Take?

Saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love are coming to the Bay Area, and you can’t stop them. But you can go see them:

Brotzmann & Nilssen-Love. Photo by Ziga Koritnik.

Brotzmann & Nilssen-Love. Photo by Ziga Koritnik. Lifted from the Center for New Music.

Each venue promises a cozy, intimate setting for getting your eardrums blasted out. Brötzmann can certainly play quietly and sensitively, but it’s the biggest sounds that are his signature. This is a guy who told The Wire his overexpansive playing has expanded his lungs to the point of damage. Raise your hand if you didn’t realize that was even possible.

The condition doesn’t affect Brötzmann’s playing, however. So, as late as 2011 at the Musique Actuelle Festival in Victoriaville, he was able to do things like this:

Trio Roma (Victo, 2012).That’s Brötzmann and Nilssen-Love in trio with Massimo Pupillo playing an electric bass set on “kill.” They’ve obviously decided they’ll all amp it up, so to speak, to match Pupillo’s “11″ setting. They do have pauses and quiet patches, but it’s a mostly sweaty and sprinting workout that makes up one of the two CDs in Solo + Trio Roma (Victo, 2012). It qualifies as a Sound of 4 experience.

That excerpt comes from only about 1 minute into a 70-minute track, by the way.

Regarding those quiet patches, here’s a segment where Pupillo sits out, and Brötzmann gets to display some delicate gruffness.

Concentric (Clean Feed, 2006)How about Nilssen-Love, who’s less familiar to most listeners? Here he is with a different saxophonist: John Butcher, whose aesthetic often tends toward the introspective — airy sounds and high-tone, slow-motion squeals. Concentric (Clean Feed, 2006) is a much different setting from Trio Roma, with Nilssen-Love going for a more sculpted sound even during the busier segments.

Sticks and Stones (Sofa, 2001)Nilssen-Love also has a solo album where he favors subtlety over bombast. Sticks & Stones (Sofa, 2001) isn’t exactly quiet — maybe “close-miked” is a better term? He solos on a rich array of percussion, making small noises that are amplified straight into your ear, as if you’re in a warm, small room with your head hovering right above the drums. He’s chosen his drums and implements so that the taps and bounces produce rich, almost liquid sounds, and you can savor every nuance, like sips of wine.

Sticks & Stones admittedly gets a little repetitious, but any one of the fairly short tracks is a treat, packed with delicious sounds and fast, rattling drumstick work.

Of course, these two gentlemen will spontaneously decide which colors to flash at these upcoming concerts. I would guess you’ll hear a little bit of all of it. Just come prepared for some big sounds.

(Each album-cover image links to eMusic, where you can sample more of the music. There is no commercial arrangement here; eMusic has no idea that I do this.)

November 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Jack o’ the Clock Update

Band photo by Carly Hoopes. Source:

Band photo by Carly Hoopes. Source:

Jack o’ the Clock, the terrific Bay Area prog/pop/art-song band, has another performance coming up on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Starry Plough, with Inner Ear Brigade and guitar man Chuck Johnson (who opened for Fred Frith’s Gravity show last year).

It’s been great to see a band like this multiple times, hearing them add new songs with each set. I’m thankful they’ve managed to stick together this long and develop a following.

They’ve attracted one notable fan in particular: Mike, who runs the Avant Music News site. He recently published a lengthy interview with the band’s singer and principal songwriter, Damon Waitkus, talking about the compositional process, the influences behind the new album (All My Friends), and the possibility of a 2014 release. Read it all here.

Below is a video the band’s recently posted — a new song called “Twenty-Two, or, Denny Takes One for the Team,” performed live at Viracocha.

October 24, 2013 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Bringing ‘Lords of Outland’ to Outsound

Rent Romus’ Lords of OutlandThee Unhip (Edgetone, 2012)

The Outsound New Music Summit is a labor of love for all volunteers but especially for Rent Romus, who not only runs the whole shebang but does an aces job raising funds and gathering sponsors. It’s been a while since he’s booked himself to play at the festival, though.

Lords of Outland will be part of the final night’s performance, Saturday, July 27, a show subtitled “The Axiom” and running with the theme of blended composition and improvisation. (It will include Kyle Bruckmann’s large-scale, Pynchon-influenced piece, as previously mentioned.)

Originally a jazz band with Romus channeling late-era Coltrane on his sax, Lords of Outland has developed a dark side in the past several years, delving into electronics and sound-experimentation for a more ghoulish atmosphere. Ray Schaeffer’s down-in-the-mud electric bass certainly helps on that front, but outright electronics and the occasional ferocious free-for-all make for a more overtly ghoulish atmosphere.

Jazz is not dead in these tracks. “If Ornette Grew Cacti” opens up with an appropriately prickly take on what could have been one of Ornette’s danceable themes. From there, it goes into a speedy free-jazz attack — Philip Everett’s drumming fills the air with joyous cymbal clashing, and Schaeffer jams madly on bass. There’s also the tuneful and almost traditional “Temple of Dolphy, which shows off Romus’ sax soloing in a relatively light and uncluttered setting.

Throughout the album, C.J. Borosque shows some great work on trumpet. She’s positively screaming on “If Ornette Grew Cacti” and opens up “Planet of the Plutarchs” with some terrific improv, starting with vocalized growls and moving into bright, quick riffs. That track blooms into a bright free-jazz jam, with the bass adding a touch of psych here and there.

The free jazz and noise sides converge all over the place but are used to particularly good effect on “Dedicated to Lord Kraken off Titan off the Shores of Saturn,” where Romus cuts through thick electronics with somber, reverent sax in long tones, a ceremony of respect. In the end, it all explodes into a free-jazz celebration.

This final concert of the Summit should be a doozy. In addition to the Lords and Kyle Bruckmann, the bill includes Lewis Jordan’s Music at Large, a quintet bolstered by guitarist Karl Evangelista and violinist India Cooke. Here’s the Outsound “In the Field” video introducing Jordan, a veteran of the Bay Area jazz scene.

(See also: Vinny Golia Meets Lords of Outland.)

July 27, 2013 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Outsound Summit: When the Machines Take Over


Lasqo at the Meridian Gallery, SF. Source: Outsound

One of the performances I’ve been most anticipating at the Outsound New Music Summit comes Thursday night, July 25, when two artificial intelligence programs improvise together.

Joe Lasqo and Ritwik Banerji have each been working on electronic-music software that reacts to the surroundings. I wrote a bit about their efforts, and a performance of Lasqo’s, back in February.

They’ve spent a good part of this year refining their music-improvising software in advance of this performance — where one goal is to have the two musicbots play off of each other, to see where they’ll go without human intervention. Lasqo told me the idea was inspired by a Cornell experiment that squared two chatbots off each other; you can see those results here (and it’s embedded on the Outsound schedule page as well — nice touch).

The music here will be of the computer/laptop variety — meaning lots of interesting sounds and effects, as opposed to actual notes and chord changes, most likely.  Banerji’s research at the University of California does involve a jazz-improvising program, so the possibilities are lurking in the background.

He and Lasqo will be adding music to the performance as well — sax and piano, respectively — so some part of their set will have an acoustic influence. Video artist Warren Stringer will be accompanying them as well.

06_maxine in delhi_1

Banerji performing in Delhi. Source: Outsound

Strange results can occur when machines are left to think for themselves. One early experiment in genetic semiconductors — that is, chips that program themselves, tweaking the program over time — yielded a chip that had an unconnected bit of circuitry in the corner. Theoretically, this was extra baggage that could be cut, but when it was, the chip stopped working. I find myself wondering what the musical equivalent of that would be, and whether it’s anything we’d be able to spot aurally in Thursday’s performance.

The Banerji/Lasqo performance is one of five on Thursday night, a program titled “Vibration Hackers” and filled with computerized and synthesized sounds. Other performers include the CCRMA Ensemble, Ilya Rostovtsev, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano, and the ensemble #Max.

Some resources to prep you for the show:

July 25, 2013 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

Kyle Bruckmann Brings Pynchon to Outsound


From Kyle Bruckmann’s web site; click to go there.

The 2013 Outsound New Music Summit will conclude with a roughly hour-long piece by Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack, on Sat., July 27.

“…Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire” is a concert-length “free jazz phantasmagoria” inspired by the early novels of Thomas Pynchon, scored for a septet of oboe, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, viola, bass and percussion. The title comes from the group W.A.S.T.E. in The Crying of Lot 49, and the piece incorporates some of them made-up songs in Pynchon’s texts.

I think of Wrack as an out-jazz group with chamber-music leanings, and while they’ve played a variety of styles, “Awaits” is different due to its size, if nothing else. Considering the work it entails, it’s nice to see the piece getting three performances next weekend — full schedule at the bottom of this post.

For a deep dive into the Pynchon aspect and the compositional process, read this interview with Bruckmann by Chamber Music America, which funded the project.

There’s also a half-hour video interview produced as part of the “In the Field” series filmed for the festival.

Finally, I had a few basic questions that had been itching at me, and Bruckmann was kind enough to take a few minutes to email some responses…

Q: What made you decide to write a long piece in the first place?

Bruckmann: I wanted to challenge myself to attempt a longer form. To date, Wrack compositions have always been self-contained entities — 5- to 10-ish minute forms (I suspect a holdover from “rock band” mindframe) that could extend as far as 15 minutes or so when the improvisations really took off. But my experience stretching things out to a half hour with On Procedural Grounds inspired me to see if I could go further and keep it coherent and cohesive.

That intention evolved in tandem with the Pynchon concept, and that material really seemed to demand a sprawling, kaleidoscopic sort of treatment — something that could ideally feel as intricate and exhausting as the novels themselves. In the end, the composition has wound up being quite a collage, and as such maybe is only just barely more of a “long form” than a carefully sequenced album — I’m also struck by how much it was informed by my history as a college radio DJ!

Q: When writing a large piece, is there pressure to make the themes/ideas “bigger?” I’ve always wondered about that.

Bruckmann: Interesting question — probably, but I think at least in this instance there’s a chicken/egg problem. Pynchon’s novels – like so much “encyclopedic” postmodernism — definitely have a way of containing the universe, or at least tangentially hinting at its presence within the bloody mess. But so does a Mahler symphony, for that matter. And while I tremendously respect restraint and concision in art, I think I’ve always tended to resonate more naturally with audaciousness — extremity, proliferation, OCPD, and the delicious stew of megalomania and self-loathing that both those two gentlemen, for instance, appear to have.


Photo by Peter Gannushkin

I don’t know that the music I’ve written can be said to have much profundity – or even “thematic” content at all, for that matter — but I was repeatedly surprised at how much (somewhat embarrassingly 19th-century) autobiographical psychoanalysis seemed to keep bubbling up. I suspect that was all internal, and a listener wouldn’t necessarily know or care.

And that’s just fine with me, as long as it at least comes across as having some heart — I do not intend for this to be an arch and snarky joke.

Q: Wrack is a pretty unusual combination of instruments (oboe, viola, trombone) … when you started the group, were you going out of your way to pick less common instruments?

Bruckmann: Absolutely. I was choosing specific people in the Chicago scene as much as instruments, but there was definitely resonance for me with picking black sheep of both the orchestra and jazz combos. In Wrack’s first phase, I was also particularly interested in a dark, woody timbre, with all the contrapuntal possibilities inherent to having two winds and two strings with staggered and overlapping ranges. When Jeb Bishop had to step out, a bass clarinet worked perfectly in the trombone’s place, while making some balance issues even easier. Now I get them BOTH, plus Darren Johnston! The trumpet definitely suggests “jazziness” more emphatically, but that’s fairly crucial for this piece. And the pairs of woodwind, strings, and brass make the options practically orchestral.

Upcoming performances of “Awaits”:

27 Jul 2013 Wrack | premiere of …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire, made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through Chamber Music America‘s New Jazz Works program | Outsound New Music Summit | Community Music Center, 544 Capp St SF | 8:00

28 Jul 2013 Wrack | …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire, made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through Chamber Music America‘s New Jazz Works program | AD HOC #8, presented by SASSAS and the City of West Hollywood | WEHO Library, 625 N San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood | 8:00

29 Jul 2013 Wrack | …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire, made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through Chamber Music America‘s New Jazz Works program | Nebraska Mondays Creative Music & Jazz Series | Luna’s Cafe, 1414 16th St, Sacramento | 7:30

July 21, 2013 at 8:46 am 1 comment

Outsound 2013

The 12th annual Outsound New Music Summit comes to San Francisco’s Community Music Center next week.

The annual Touch the Gear expo, featuring hands-on demonstrations of electronic instruments and effects, takes place Sunday, July 21, followed by four concerts later in the week — not to mention special events such as a composers’ discussion.

You’ll find the schedule at the Outsound site. I’ve been meaning to crank out a couple of related posts, which will hopefully emerge soon — and I’ve put a summary at the bottom of this post.

In the meantime, you can learn about the artists in detail through a series of video interviews conducted by Rent Romus.  Titled “In the Field,” the series is something he’s put together for the past few summits, and he’s got quite a lot of them in the can for this year.

Embedded below is the interview with Jordan Glenn of Wiener Kids. You can explore more of these videos on the Outsoundpresents channel on YouTube.

And now for that summary of the Summit. As with last year’s slate, they’ve organized the shows into themes… click the titles to see a listing of artists. (Sorry, but there’s so many, even by cut-and-paste standards…)

Weds. July 24 — “Drift Flow Swing” — three takes on composition and improvisation, with nods to classical and jazz.

Thurs. July 25 — “Vibration Hackers” — computers and AI, a very digital evening.

Fri. July 26 — “Emanation and Artifacts” — found objects and electronics, showcasing some very non-traditional musical ideas.

Sat. July 27 — “The Axiom” — world premieres of jazz and new-music pieces, including an hour-long piece by Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack.

All parts of the Summit take place at the Community Music Center: 544 Capp St. near 20th in San Francisco’s Mission District.

July 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

Sun Ra Arkestra


Marshall Allen. Source:
Click to go there.

Not to be morbid, but we’re living in a time when many of the jazz masters — the greats whose works have defined the genre — are leaving us. It’s wise to catch their shows while you can.

Then you’ve got the Sun Ra Arkestra, whose shows carry the same ominous weight (band director Marshall Allen is 89), but with extra baggage: It’s an avant-jazz big band, sort of a double whammy for promoters trying to book shows. Despite the band’s fame, a California trip can’t be easy.

But they’re making the effort in August:

  • Fri., Aug. 2 — Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz
  • Sat., Aug. 3 — Victoria Theatre, San Francisco
  • Sun., Aug. 4 — Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. Yes, the freakin’ Hollywood Bowl!

It sounds like the Arkestra will play one set per show, preceded by an opening act or two. In San Francisco, that’s going to be the sfSound ensemble, playing Penderecki’s composition for Don Cherry’s Jazz Orchestra, and Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet, which is …. you know, it’s better if you just see for yourself.

For the San Francisco show, tickets are $25 for regular admission, or $50 for “gold circle” status that includes a T-shirt, an autographed poster, a keychain, and, of course, special seating. The Kuumbwa arrangement is similar, with slightly lower prices.

SF tickets are available online or at a few venues including Aquarius Records.



July 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

When Oliver Lake Comes to Town

It’s been encouraging to see Oakland’s Duende restaurant keep up its support of creative music, and they’re kicking it up a notch with a four-night residency for saxophonist Oliver Lake, July 5 through 8.


Source: Sampsonia Way; click to go there.

It’s at least the second time Duende has done this in just a few months, after Nels Cline’s multiple-night, grand-opening performances. I don’t know how the economics work out, but it seems to be a good way to make a Bay Area stop worthwhile for an out-of-town artist. (Granted, Cline is from L.A., so a trip up here is relatively common for him.)

Duende has doggedly kept up support for avant-garde and creative music.  Marco Eneidi’s trio played on June 27. Jon Raskin and Larry Ochs of ROVA have shows coming up in July. Positive Knowledge, the long-standing sax/poetry group with a rich mystical/spiritual vibe, has a Saturday night gig on July 20.

Mixed in there are plenty of more conventional jazz acts, which do seem like a better fit for Duende’s crowd and atmosphere. I don’t know how long Duende can keep up its musical chops, but I hope to savor the experience whenever I can.

Oh, right, Oliver Lake
But back to the original point.  Lake is coming to California for two solo performance at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts on June 29, at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.  He’s accompanying a visual art exhibit called “Flying Home: Inspired by Jazz,” which apparently includes some of his own artwork.

olake-sig-bigSamples of Oliver Lake’s paintings and mixed-media work are on his web site, and you know what — they’re quite good and have a strong personality: colorful, slightly whimsical.

Healdsburg is well north of the Bay Area, up Highway 101. After that show, he’ll stay at the same latitude to play in Sacramento. He’ll be doing the July 1 installment of Nebraska Mondays, the series at Luna’s Cafe, performing with Ross Hammond (guitar), Dax Compise, and Mike Palmer.

After that, it’s off to Oakland and Duende:
* Fri., July 5 — Duo w/ Myra Melford
* Sat., July 6 — Trio w/ Phillip Greenlief & Ross Hammond
* Sun., July 7 — Duo w/ Roscoe Mitchell (They’re charging $25 for this one, rather than $15.)
* Mon., July 8 — Trio w/ Scott Amendola & Todd Sickafoose

June 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

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