Playlist: Feb. 27, 2009

(Update: You don’t need to know much French to appreciate the tour photos on Lê Quan Ninh‘s blog. He and Doneda had quite the day going from Berkeley to Stanford up to San Francisco — he’s posted pictures of all three cities and the belowmentioned sfSound event. Cool stuff.)

KZSU playlist for Friday, Feb. 27, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Highlight: Lê Quan Ninh and Michel Doneda performing live!

le-quan-ninhAnd they were loud! I’d heard both of them in a variety of contexts, but maybe because I’d just been sampling the CD from The International Nothing, I was in the mind of expecting quiet, calm interplay. Nope.

Quan used a bass drum as a platform, creating sounds with an army of objects — a rolled-around pine cone, or the ends of drumsticks rubbed along the top, or a rock lightly scraped against the tuning pegs. He started the set by blowing viciously through a cymbal hole onto the drum surface, a big stormy sound.

Doneda got into some subtle long tones here and there but also used his saxes for brash, raspy declarations. A lot of listeners probably had trouble placing the saxophone amid the din. It was cool.

The first hour of the show was devoted to the sfSound Microfestival of New and Experimenal Music, a three-day set of shows that includes some visitors from Europe and from elsewhere in the U.S. It starts tonight, as noted here.

In addition to the live set, we played CDs from other artists at the festival, interspersed with Kyle Bruckmann explaining the whole concept. Doneda and Lê also talked about how they met up musically in communist Poland in 1986, noting that the cheesecake there was so much better than what one can find elsewhere. Doneda declared their second, shorter improv to be titled “Cheesecake Forever,” and so it was.

Continue reading “Playlist: Feb. 27, 2009”

Live Music Friday: Lê Quan Ninh, Michel Doneda

It looks like we’re on track to have Lê Quan Ninh (percussion) and Michel Doneda (sax) down to the station tomorrow, to play a set of what I’d assume would be improvised music.

We’ll try to get their live set started around 3:00 p.m., on KZSU at 90.1 FM in the Bay Area, or at

Both men are in town from France to participate in the sfSound Microfestival of new and experimental music, comprising mostly composed pieces but also some improvisation. Shows will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at OCD Dance Commons.

Check the sfSound site for details on those shows.

Marco’s Return


Marco Eneidi is back in town for one show, this Thursday, Feb. 26 at the Luggage Store Gallery. He’ll be playing solo saxophone for one set.

Eneidi was an integral part of the local scene, but he moved away to Vienna about four years ago, partly out of disillusionment with the musical opportunities in this country. His playing is like a springboard with a fast-forward button, carving out long chains of notes in a style often compared with Jimmy Lyons. Like Lyons, Eneidi’s resume includes some studying under Cecil Taylor.

“The way he attacks and resolves what he plays is always felt in a very passionate, almost crying way,” drummer Donald Robinson wrote in the liner notes to his 2000 album, Straight Lines Skewed.  “In ballads he is beautiful and strong, in large improvised music ensembles he cuts through with a clear, distinctive voice.”

I don’t know why Eneidi has just the one show scheduled (his MySpace calendar listed about a two-week stay here). I hope people — by which I mean me, especially — make the most of it by showing up.

Arbitrary snippets from the Eneidi catalogue:

* Marco Eneidi, William Parker, Donald Robinson — Cherry Box (Eremite) … An energetic trio outing and a nice showcase not just for Eneidi, but for Robinson’s drumming.

* Peter Brotzmann, Lisle Ellis, Macro Eneidi, Jackson Krall — Live at Spruce Street Forum (Botticelli) … nice loud stuff, recorded in 2002. The last CD so far on Eneidi’s own label, to my knowledge

* Glenn Spearman — Free Worlds (Black Saint) … A posthumous compilation featuring Bay Area tenor saxophonist Spearman, a close friend and musical partner of Eneidi’s, in a variety of contexts. Spearman died in 1998, and Eneidi organized a few memorial festivals in his honor. Spearman is on Wikipedia, but his impact on the local scene goes far beyond that bare-bones entry.

* Marco Eneidi, Lisle Ellis, Peter Valsamis — American Roadworks (CIMP) … This trio toured as Sound on Survival, and for this particular recording, they seemed to concentrate on a laid-back, bluesy style.  IIRC, it’s a chance to hear a different side of Eneidi.  Sound on Survival also recorded for Henceforth Records.

* Donald Robinson Trio — Straight Lines Skewed (CIMP) … As noted above.  Robinson’s drums team with Eneidi on sax and Lisle Ellis on bass.

Gutbucket: The Outpouring

Gutbucket — A Modest Proposal (Cuneiform, 2009)

Ken Thomson, photographed by Cees Van de VenA Gutbucket live show brims over with intensity. You don’t get that soothing ballad to calm your nerves and rest your eardrums. (You did bring earplugs, right?)

Twice, I’ve seen this quartet live and been hacked to pieces. Saxophonist Ken Thomson looks so unassuming as he warms up before the show, but he splatters, hacks, and chainsaws his way through breakneck compositions and merciless solos.  Once it’s all over, he’s as sweat-drenched as any NFL player on Dallas astroturf in the dead of August, and possibly just as exhausted. Ty Citerman on guitar can dish jazzy complex lines, but he also clicks the pedals to turn into a metal hero and blast the audience with fuzz and distortion.

Make no mistake, there’s jazz to be had on their new album, A Modest Proposal. The Klezmer passages of “Lucy Ferment?” could match with any number of jazz bands, if you took away the rapidly speeding-up playing, the visceral, screaming outro, and the mind-blenderizing riff in Usain Bolt-fast 7/16 (I think?) time.

OK, bad example.

Source: Gutweb.comHow about the sax soloing in the clear-headed, melodic “C’mon It’s Just a Dollar?” It’s a chirpy and downright jazzy atmosphere, backed by fuzzed-out rock guitar chords, but it’s overall pleasant. Just don’t try it at the Village Vanguard.

“Side Effects May Include” starts with an out-and-out jazz head, in a very modern, Tim Berne mode. And it stays there, albeit with a couple of angular, offbeat guitar jabs written into the fabric, before flipping into a slower, sad composition that sounds like a completely different song. Then the ending comes back to punch you in the face.

Some songs you have to love just for their titles. “More More Bigger Better Faster with Cheese” delivers like you’d expect, with a snappy/happy, fast beat. It’s on the last track, “Brain Born Outside of Its Head,” that things finally slow down, but only in terms of tempo; it’s still an intense, towering composition.

New York bands don’t get out to the West Coast often; the audience is more sparse, as are the cities. It’s great that Gutbucket managed to visit a few years ago, playing at the Hemlock Tavern, and it’s lucky that I was in NYC to catch a set at The Stone. Maybe if I hang out in enough dark alleys, I’ll be lucky enough to be assaulted and beat up by these guys again.

Playlist: Feb. 20, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, Feb. 20, 3:00 to 5:15 p.m.

The upcoming week is jam-packed with promising live-music shows, including a few very cool ones outside the normal purview of my show. (I’m thinking of the Scatterbrain Jamboree, a benefit for the SF AIDS Foundation that’s being put on at Thee Parkside tonight and tomorrow.)

I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing Marco Eneidi, who’s back in town from Vienna for one show, Feb. 26, at the Luggage Store Gallery.  UPDATE: More info here.

Also setting up plans to host Le Quan Ninh and Michel Doneda next week — two musicians from France who will be in town to perform some modern classical stuff in the sfSound Microfestival (details at

Other highlights:

  • The Club Foot Orchestra, a ’90s Bay Area phenomenon, is reconvening at Amnesia on Sunday night as “Orchestra Nostalgico,” playing Nino Rota music. It’s a show I’d mentioned briefly here.
  • Opus Spongebobicum got mentioned here, and I’ve played it quite a bit on-air. This time, I borrowed a trick from fellow DJ Red West and played a few tracks in succession, to give people a chance to hunt out the Spongebob theme in the variations. Whether this counts as “fun” is an exercise left to the reader.

Continue reading “Playlist: Feb. 20, 2009”

When Frank Comes To Town

Gratkowski/Looney/Smith/Nordeson — Mimetic Holds (Balance Point Acoustics, 2008 )

Mimetic Holds, from Balance Point Acoustics (Source: emusic)Frank Gratkowski (clarinet/sax) seems to get over to the Bay Area quite a lot. (In fact, he’ll be here again around April 4 for, among other things, Philip Gelb’s food/music series.) Point is, Gratkowski doesn’t seem like a stranger, and maybe that’s why the rapport on this improv album flows so well.

This is abstract improvised music, as is usual for Damon Smith‘s Balance Point Acoustics label. Many tracks follow a pattern of slow, thoughful improvising that builds to a nice, loud frenzy. It’s not at all formulaic. It’s more that when you’re jamming with friends, and the moods and ideas click, it’s probably easy for the pace and volume to pick up. The result is a nice ride for the listener.

Take the 15-minute “Indexes Provolones.” It starts with relatively slow moving spaces and an airy, flutelike sound to Gratkowski’s careful clarinet notes. A quiet bass solo shows off some of Smith’s tricks, with the bow glancing and gliding across the strings. The second half opens up into some jazzlike group work, with bright clarinet and piano (Scott R. Looney) lines backed with some dense percussion (Kjell Nordeson), before turning fierce. Twice in the late minutes, you can hear the whole band surge forth, as if cranking the dials all at once.

“Mimetic Holds” is perhaps the most extreme track in exploring thoughtful silences and quiet, creeping progress. But it, too, develops into hard-clacking percussion with bass and clarinet doing faroff wailing sounds and ends with a more celebratory free-for-all. Overall, it’s a rewarding 13-minute journey.

You don’t always have to wait that long. “Any Icon Melody” has plenty of action from the get-go. “Badger Interlocks Kiwi” starts restlessly, with toneful sax improvising over a piano cascade and rustling bass/drums that quickly builds into faster playing and a fiery blast.

I should also point out that these titles, by themselves, are pretty darn cool. “Diverse Xenon Loops” and “Crablike Editing Works,” which really does start out crablike, are just scrumptious phrases.

Playlist: Feb. 13, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, Feb. 13, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Some highlights:

Continue reading “Playlist: Feb. 13, 2009”