Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival

source:matthewsperry.orgThe 7th annual Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival happens this week. This is a gathering of local musicians from free improv circles, plus special guests from out of town (trombonist Gail Brand from the U.K., in this case). All proceeds go to Matthew’s memorial fund, which helps support the wife and daughter he left behind — which is why the prices are set the way they are.

Details are available at (and were cribbed from) The shows are:

* Tuesday June 2 | 8pm | $6 – $100 sliding scale (pay what you want within that range)
Studio 1510, 1510 8th Street, Oakland
Lesli Dalaba
Trio with Fred Frith and Jason Hoopes, and duo with Gail Brand (UK)

* Thursday June 4 | 8pm | $6 – $100 sliding scale
Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market Street, San Francisco
Co-presented by Full Moon Concerts
Orchesperry and Treasure Mouth — [the latter being a kind of improv karaoke with singers reacting to lyrics handed them on the spot… click here to get to some sound samples.]

* Friday, June 5 | 8pm | $15
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley
Gail Brand: Solo, duos, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets with: Gino Robair, Morgan Guberman, John Shiurba, Tim Perkis and Tom Djll

source:, via

… To repeat the tale: Matthew was killed in a traffic accident in 2003, when his bicycle was hit by a car. The incident was a shock to the local music community, especially given how young Matthew was, and how well his life was going. He’d gotten work with Tom Waits, and he was in the band for the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And he had a 2-year-old daughter to treasure.

I didn’t know Matthew personally. Probably never introduced myself to him at any point. But I got to see him play multiple times. His acoustic bass was augmented with a fifth string, clearly a homemade addition, with a tuning peg several inches above the others. He was prolific when it came to live shows with varying ensembles, but he left behind relatively few recordings, some of which have only been surfacing in recent years. The Sonarchy album that was reviewed here would be one example, and John Shiurba released a CDR series to benefit Matthew’s family.

As I write this, I’m home after a long day trip with my own children, one of whom is almost exactly the age of Matthew’s daughter, and I reflect again on how lucky I’ve been in this life. I’m looking forward to seeing at least one of the shows this coming week — but if I miss them all in order to spend time with my family, I’m sure Matthew would understand.

Playlist: May 29, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, May 29, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Things of note:

….. The Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival is on next week; I’ll post more later, but you can learn all about it at Supermodel Supermodel is a band that included him and UK trombonist Gail Brand, who will be a guest at the festival.….. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society is a “steampunk” big band, which is a cool concept, but most of the steampunk aspect is in the album artwork, photography, and (possibly?) costumes on stage. It didn’t translate well on radio. Then again, if I’d played the 11-minute “Phobos,” listeners would have heard a nice steampunky rhythm, like train wheels, starting and ending the piece. I opted instead for “Transit,” partly because it’s got an Ingrid Jensen solo.

….. “Thelonious,” taken from a 1994 live album, is a straight blues with some nice overblowing in Hamiett Bluiett‘s sax solo.

….. Don Ross and Andy McKee are a couple of acoustic-guitar wizards in an instrumental folky vein (think Michael Hedges). “Hoover” is a snappy, fast piece, ear-catching.….. Hal Galper‘s Art-Work is a straight piano trio. Well, maybe not that straight. “Take the Coltrane” opens up with a kaleidoscope of piano splashing before settling into that nice piano-trio mode. He’s got Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali behind him, so it’s not lightweight stuff.

….. I’m not familiar with contemporary composer Yehudi Wyner, but the daunting, dramatic opening to his “Lyric Harmony” symphony seemed a good exit from the insanity of Jarrod Fowler (noted back on May 15). “Lyric Harmony” is a modern classical piece, dark and challenging but still very classical sounding, making it difficult to mesh with other musical types. Maybe it worked; maybe I was trying too hard.

….. The Wooden Birds are an indie-pop band who are headlining a Sunday night (May 31) show at The Rickshaw Stop, organized by our own DJ Canuck.

Continue reading “Playlist: May 29, 2009”


source:mirthkon.comI just got done playing miRthkon on the air — which, combined with this writing, makes me a liveblogger, I suppose. Taste the excitement.

They’re a local band that augments two-guitar prog rock with a saxophone and bass clarinet, and they make good use of all the pieces available to them. The horns bring in some credible free-jazz jamming and soloing, while the guitars shred forth with odd time signature melodies.

I played “Zhagunk” from an EP, The Illusion of Joy, that came out in 2006; they’re finally releasing a full-length CD and doing a show at the Starry Plough tomorrow night, May 30, to celebrate. I can’t make it to that show, but considering how I’ve been blown away by them two times previous, I’m thinking it’s going to be great.

All Hail The Dorf

The Dorf — The Dorf (Leo, 2009)

source: janklare.deWe got this CD from Leo Records with no explanation (in fact, if anyone’s got the names of the tracks, we could use them). So, what do you do? You drop the disc in the player and expect … well, in my case, I expected one or two players, doing acoustic experimental improv, or maybe a thick-blanket of electronics/synth sounds.

Nope. The Dorf is an avant-garde party band!

Once you get into the second track, you’re exposed to electric guitar jitters with a hint of punk, followed by a danceably jazz-fusion middle. The fourth track goes outright disco, with that pulsing “one-one-one” beat and some funky ’70s horn charts. Touches of “regular” big band charts touch a couple of tracks, and you do have some Euro-experimental songs too — one track is a shimmering drone, another full of fragments of tunefulness with lots of white space.

The explanation, provided on the Leo site, is that The Dorf is a monthly happening at a jazz club in Germany, led by Jan Klare. You do get the sense that this is well practiced music played with gusto, a band that’s doing more than just a one-off set of tunes.  The band certainly has its artsy side, but I’m thinking this picture describes them pretty well.

Playlist: May 22, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, May 22, 3:00 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.

A trainee named Leigh was helping me out with this show, doing much of the engineering and planning one full set on her own (that’s the pop grouping with Belle and Sebastian in it).

Steve Adams of ROVA Sax Quartet fame is doing a CD release show this weekend for his trio disk. ROVA themselves are also having two performances at Kanbar Hall in San Francisco. We played some tracks to note those shows, as well as little nods to Sun Ra’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz To Come (the album with “Lonely Woman” on it, although I opted to play a lesser known track).

Continue reading “Playlist: May 22, 2009”

BBC Invasion

This looks like it was a hell of a show:…

It’s “The BBC,” consisting of Tim Berne, Jim Black, and Nels Cline. That page is a set of photos posted by blogger and better-photographer-than-me Laki Sideris, from the Melbourne Jazz Festival.

A full description of the festivities published by The Age uses the phrase “noise jazz” (hey, there’s a shock). The BBC was part of a larger set of performances; The Age namedrops Ethan Iverson, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Scott Tinkler (cool Aussie trumpeter), and a saxophonist I haven’t heard of named Julien Wilson. Whoever he is, he hired Jim Black for his band, and that’s a good sign.

John Zorn (Was) on WNYC

Being not from NYC, I’m slow to catch up on things like the “Ear to Ear” show on WYNC. But the interviews they’ve got archived are fantastic.

Case in point: the John Zorn discussion from Feb. 1, which I’ve just now heard. It’s an engaging 75 minutes with lots and lots of insights into Zorn’s philosophies and work process. He’s basically always working in some form. He notes how the songwriting can’t be forced; as you’d expect, it happens when it happens, as in the 300-song burst that became Masada Book II.

They spend a good amount of time talking about his movie soundtracks. He avoids the normal give-and-take process with the director and instead just puts a package of music together, then walks away. He also doesn’t take payment for this — his compensation is from the CD that’s produced, I guess.

His reasoning is that music writing is something he’s done since he was a kid, and it seems to demean the act if he gets paid for it. I sympathize, and I might do the same in his shoes, but for different reasons. I’ve found that once a passion becomes work, it loses some of the “passion” quality. To be precise: I enjoyed writing show reviews for the Bay Guardian, and I’d be glad to do it again if I could find the time and energy — but no matter how much I enjoyed the music, it was work.

Zorn also expresses a love of Bert Kaempfert’s music, noting Kaempfert’s pioneering use of acoustic and electric bass in the ’60s. I’d never been aware of Kaempfert, but the bass thing gets mentioned elsewhere, too, so it’s something to look out for.

They play lots of Zorn’s music, too, including soundtrack work; a selection from The Dreamers, the project I got to see at Yoshi’s in March; and the opening of “Astronome,” the ear-blasting opera Zorn did with Richard Foreman. It’s a really good interview. Zorn is more than accommodating and shows a good sense of humor. Listen to the end, where he starts going “Spock…! Spock…!”