Culture Mashup

Source: NemuTrio Hot — Jink (Nemu, 2008 )

You know that “hot club” music, the old-timey jazz stuff that’s all toe-tapping and upbeat and Django Reinhardt-y? That’s not this stuff. You can draw some aural parallels, though. It’s a trio of clarinet (Theo Jorgensmann), violin (Albrecht Maurer), and bass (Peter Jacquemyn), and on the opening tracks, each instrument gets played with the verve and swing you’d associate with the Hot Club of {insert city here} . But they’re playing in abstract, free-improv mode, so there’s no “key” and no set rhythm.

It’s an interesting effect, because you get abstract music that hints at swinging. It’s also quite a bustle. Longer tracks like “Zoo on the Road” can get exhausting from the sheer air traffic of colliding notes. There’s also a 14-minute “‘Round Midnight” that moves through patient, slow improvising before dealing out those lines near the end.

I liked “Dax Dance,” with its cool jungle-like hand drumming and an abrasive, screeching clarinet. “Zbiggery,” near the end of the album, is an interesting depature dominated by violin double-stops.

Playlist: March 27, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, March 27, 2009, 3:00 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.

Items of note:

….. Saxophonist Frank Gratkowski will be in town next week for, among other things, a CD release concert for Mimetic Holds, a quartet acoustic improv offering on Balance Point Acoustics, Damon Smith’s record label. Quick review of Mimetic Holds here.

….. Two items from the San Diego haul made the playlist: MMW‘s Book of Angels entry, and Asobi Seksu, which turns out to be in rotation here at KZSU (meaning it’s on the list of stuff we’re encouraged to play repeatedly).

….. Interesting start to the show. MMW was going to be my opener, but Ben, who did the show before mine today, closed things out with “Rod Poole’s Gradual Ascent to Heaven,” a long, heartfelt piece from Nels Cline‘s latest album, Coward. The mood (dark but not too heavy) and the elements of creeping dissonance, made the Robert Moran all-percussion piece a more ideal starting point.

Continue reading “Playlist: March 27, 2009”

M-Theory Pulls My Strings

M-Theory, in the lovely Mission Hills neighborhoodI’m in San Diego for the next several days — on business, not pleasure, so there’ll be no time for music shows.

But I did arrive early enough for a trek to the Mission Hills area to visit M-Theory Music, though. It’s a nifty little CD store with some nice, obscure, used jazz vinyl (which I never dare purchase — it’d be too much burden in addition to the computer bag I lug around). I love to spend an hour or so at the listening stations, trying to find new stuff. Who needs Sea World when you’ve got this?

Even with a dearth of avant-garde stuff at the store, it’s hard keeping the haul as minor as possible. Here’s the damage this time:

1. Los Campesinos!We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. A find at the listening station. Crazed, manic pop, dense with instruments and sounds and energy. A latter-day New Pornographers, maybe, with a British accent in the lead vocal and — suddenly! — an American-accented female vocal. I’ve been in the mood for big-energy pop lately.

2. Asobi SeksuHush. The other listening-station find, a Japanese pop band apparently fronted by some classical-piano child prodigy. High energy here, too. Big, airy guitar sounds and forceful vocals, and some nice sheens of emotion. Apparently they were just in San Diego a week ago.

3. Medeski, Martin & WoodZaebos. The trio plays selections from John Zorn’s Masada Book Two, the cluster of 300 or so songs that came from an outpouring of inspiration a few years ago and is being documented on the Book of Angels CD series on Tzadik. I’ve heard mixed things about this one, and I’ve had mixed feelings about MMW, but I’ll give it a shot, to show M-Theory that people do buy this stuff sometimes (plus, it was sold at a price uncharacteristic for a Tzadik…)

4. Archie Shepp & Roswell RuddLive in New York. Replacing a copy I’d lost and never got a good listen to. A 2000 session of veterans that includes Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille, Grachan Moncur III, and a bit of Amiri Baraka.

5. Hugh MasekelaPhola. This one’s kind of for the kids, actually; they’re showing an open spirit when it comes to music, and when I spied this one filed in the wrong place, it suddenly seemed like a good direction to try out with them.

So much for play time. It’s off to work.

Playlist: March 20, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, March 6, 2009, 3:00 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Items of note:

….. I got the new Buffalo Collision CD, featuring Tim Berne along with two members of The Bad Plus. Haven’t given it a thorough listen. I found a segment of the first track that I thought would work well on-air, but it turned out to have fewer fireworks than I’d heard at first. The segment had a good, strong flow to it, but I don’t think I let the band put their best foot forward. I’ll do them proper later on; meanwhile have a look at what Stef thinks.

"Farmers By Nature" - source: AUM Fidelity….. The trio CD from Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, and Craig Taborn is a winner. I wish the sound fidelity was stronger (recorded live at The Stone) but the playing is undeniable. Reviews from Stef and All About Jazz.

….. Found a Mario Pavone/Anthony Braxton CD, a combination of Braxton’s abstractions and some of Pavone’s more wide-open compositions, and even a couple of standards. I’ve known of Pavone as a solid inside/out bandleader but was surprised to see him on something this far out. Released in 1993 on the Music & Arts label.

….. All those Cryptogramophone CDs were in anticipation of a two-night “Cryptonight” series at Yoshi’s next week.

….. Blues pianist and singer Eddie Bo died Wednesday, and word was just hitting the major media outlets as my show was progressing. (I can thank the sharp eyes of @siebert on Twitter.) We’ve got a couple dozen Eddie Bo tracks spread out among various blues compilations, so I had to delve into that stash.

Continue reading “Playlist: March 20, 2009”

Zorn and The Dreamers

John Zorn: The Dreamers (Source: Tzadik)

Here’s how busy my week was: It isn’t until a full five days later that I bother to blog about the coolness of my lone John Zorn show at Yoshi’s.

DJ Mike and I went to the Saturday show, featuring Zorn’s band The Dreamers. This is pop Zorn. Very accessible, jazzy melodies — accessible in a Bacharach sense, almost verging on corniness at points. One song had the happy, dippy air of a 1950s department store commercial.

But this is a band that burns, and the sizzling jams that come out of these songs meld bluesy guitar; loud surf guitar (both by Mark Ribot, of course); South American themes and percussions; Cyro Baptista making as many noises as possible; and Joey Baron just tearing it up on drums, smiling all the way of course. The stage was packed with instruments. Zorn, sitting, conducted everything with satisfied glee.

Jamie Saft got to play three keyboards, alternating piano, organ, and electric piano. (I’m guessing all three keyboards were Yoshi’s own.) Trevor Dunn, a welcome face from the Bay Area scene of the past, was digging down hard on electric bass. Kenny Wolleson, another former local, played vibraphone throughout, adding that sunny touch to a lot of the melodies. Baptista, as mentioned, just played all sorts of stuff — drums, noisemakers, whitles, clangy metal spirals. I picture him going through security with these fat sacks of stuff, trying to explain that it’s for his job.

The crowd ate it up. Many of these songs, though instrumental, have the right rhythm, melody, and guitar elements to fit on rock radio, IMHO; a relatively progressive station like KFOG could easily sneak this music into a playlist. (The lamented KKCY of the late ’80s would have been all over this album.) People didn’t clap for most of the solos, but the band got thick standing ovations for the set and the encore (which appeared to consist of two Masada tunes.) Amoeba Records had a table in the lobby to sell Zorn’s Tzadik wares, and copies of The Dreamers got snatched up like candy-coated popcorn.

The Dreamers is quite “nice,” but there’s an attitude to it. Don’t picture black-and-white suburban smiles; think instead of those little cartoon guys on the album cover, and the connection to Japanese pop culture. It’s Zorn’s nod to jazz and pop, viewed not from a retro lens, but with a hipster’s eye. (You can get the cartoon guys on a T-shirt at Tzadik, by the way. Pricey, but potentially irresistable. By the way, I haven’t seen the inside of the CD package; be reminded that Zorn sometimes employs artwork that you wouldn’t take home to mom.)

Good News Regarding David S. Ware

I’m late in noting this (stick to Love, Gloom, Cash, Love for a more up-to-date viewpoint), but AUM Fidelity is reporting terrific news regarding David S. Ware’s search for a new kidney: They found a donor, and an operation date has been set.

It’s a terrific story. You can read it all on the AUM Fidelity site (click on “Artists,” then “David S. Ware”) or by jumping directly to this page … or by reading what’s cutted-and-pasted below.

Dear friends, fans and extended family of the AUM Community:

It is with much happiness to report some great news on David’s journey. The first of the beautiful people who came forward in response to the call for help – this particular beautiful person being Laura Mehr – has passed the screening process with flying colors, and a date – May 5th – has been scheduled for the kidney transplant operation.

In the 8 weeks leading up to this date, David will of course continue his intensive daily dialysis regimen, and following the operation he will have at least a 3 month recuperation period.

In response to our initial email, a number of folks inquired about sending donations to David to help cover expenses during this period of time in which he has not been and will not be able to work. Though David has Medicare coverage for the operation, there are also other related expenses which Medicare does not cover, such as flying Laura up from her residence in Florida for the screening process and then again for the coming operation itself. Any such donations would be greatly appreciated. If you would like to do so:

You can PayPal to this address/account:
in which case, please include a simple note, “for David S. Ware support”
You can also send check or money orders made out to David S. Ware to:

……..AUM Fidelity
……..PO Box 170147
……..Brooklyn, NY 11217

To all who forwarded and posted our original email with the critical news of his search, please do the same with this notice and this URL:, in order that the good news be spread as well!

A note from donor Laura Mehr:

Over 30 years ago, my husband and David shared time and spiritual understanding. During Maurice’s lifetime as a spiritual aspirant and transcendent artist, Maurice talked affectionately about David and the mutual artistic understandings and spiritual connections they shared.

“When Maurice passed on almost two years ago, I contacted David to let him know that Maurice had passed. About a year after that, a friend of mine was in need of a kidney transplant, and I volunteered to be tested. Before I could be tested, my friend received a kidney from the UNOS transplant list. This was a great happy surprise to both of us, and he is now home and his new kidney is functioning well. Less than 48 hours after I got the news that my friend had received his transplant, Steven sent out the appeal about David’s situation. My stunned reaction that this could be happening so quickly, gave way to the even greater surprise that as with my friend, David and I were the same blood type. I did not hesitate to volunteer, as I knew that this was not simply happenstance, but divine intervention. As David later said “Life is truly stranger than fiction”.

“Things have moved quickly from that point, and all tests have come back as a match, and we are ready, on May 5th, to cross that bright line where giving and receiving are actually one and the same.”
–Laura Mehr

And a link to Laura’s website:

Thank you Laura(!) and to all once again for your emails and energy of support; here’s to full-on success on May 5th and forward!

Steven Joerg
AUM Fidelity

Playlist: March 13, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, March 6, 2009, 3:00 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Items of note:

  • The Dolmen Orchestra is some great Euro-fare from Leo Records, with a big orchestral sound, Italian soprano singing, and (for this track) a tuba solo from guest Michel Godard. Very theatrical with a good amount of crazy-jazz soloing.
  • The Jon Jang track is part of his “Reparations Suite.” Great modern big-band work.
  • Ended the show with a 17-minute Sun Ra archival track. Go Sun Ra!

Continue reading “Playlist: March 13, 2009”

Zorn Has Landed

I’m not going until Saturday. But the SF Chronicle gives you an idea what to expect from John Zorn’s six-night residency at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.

Here’s an overview of the music, and a review of Tuesday night’s Secret Chiefs 3 performance.

The review says the show sold out — score one for the good guys. It’s worth noting, though, that that $20 show was the cheapest ticket of the week, with prices as high as $50 for the weekenders.

Zorn has brought an all-star team from New York to play these shows, so he probably commanded quite a premium for being here. I can understand how Yoshi’s arrived at the prices it did, but then again, I know I probably would have bought one more ticket for a little less skin. Considering they’re already having trouble attracting jazz fans to the venue, this might turn out to be a gamble that backfires — which would be a shame. There’s certainly some hubris to be accounted for here, and yes I complained about the ticket prices earlier, but I’d still hate to see Yoshi’s get punished for trying something this bold.

UPDATE: Wow, Zorn gave a long and gracious interview to KTVU — check it out here. I especially like his explanation of what he’s trying to accomplish with The Stone. Thanks to Siebert on Twitter for pointing it out.

Being the Music

(UPDATE:  This show ended up being canceled due to budget constraints.  Alas.)

Apparently KZSU‘s own broadcast will be part of a performance on May 23.

It will be a multimedia concert by composer Luciano Chessa that will include collaborators in Bologna, Italy. We, the radio station, will play a Chessa composition for 12 minutes, which will be broadcast on stage by four FM-tuned radios. Something in our broadcast will cue the Bologna team to do … something. (They’ll be listening via the web.)

That’s all I know so far. It sounds pretty damn cool.

The show is being put on by groups including Stanford’s Music Department and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. I’ll update with details as I find them.

Getting Smudged and Liking It

Tom Djll — Smudge (Soul on Rice, 2006)

This one’s part of a stack of recent music recently given to the station by Tom Djll, a trumpeter, electronics dabbler, and the brains behind the ambitious Mockracy music/theater production.

Smudge has Djll in electronics mode, often using the trumpet as a sound source. Most tracks feature a variety of metallic swooshes and drones, but the altered trumpet comes through clearly in some tracks, like the buzzy fanfare of “Schizy.”

A couple of tracks stick to a dronelike consistency, but more often, Djll features a sequence of different sounds. It’s not a Jackson Pollack splatterfest; more a set of Mark Rothkos overlaid irregularly to form a new collage, made of individual parts reflecting stillness but combining into a dynamic jumble.

The 15-minute “Split” is the pinnacle of that metaphor, featuring a raspy slow burn, a deep metallic pulse, and sparse stretches of modified trumpet groans. I also like the closing track, “Patina,” which moves from slow doom chimes into the high-pitched tones of a UFO taking off, then rounds things out with blobular, pulsing sounds. That’s the track that KZSU DJs seem to be latching onto.

There’s a pleasing variety here. I’ve highlighted some of the more active tracks, but there are rewards in the quiet, pensive rides, too.