Playlist: June 12, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, June 12, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.….. David Binney does impressive work, but the ambitiously soaring intensity on Third Occasion gets to be a bit much for me. You can’t call it ECM stuff; Binney’s sax solos have a good rawness in them that maybe draws back to bebop (or maybe that’s just how it sounds to me on this particular listen). Nice, in any event.

….. That Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black album is quite good. I want to write something more detailed later.

….. The Splatter Trio were a seminal part of the early ’90s golden age of Bay Area free jazz, improv, and generally out-there music. I ought to play their stuff more.….. “Regardless” is Gail Brand‘s new record label, and its inaugural release is a duet of Brand on trombone and Mark Sanders on drums, spinning organic, abstract improvsations. It’s a nice performance and comes in an elegant little package, too. Don’t know how widely available it is; I purchased a copy from Brand directly at the recent Matthew Sperry festival, noted here.

source:….. Fly is the impressive trio of Jeff Ballard (drums), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Mark Turner (sax). All three can be found in adventurous and relatively mainstream contexts; Ballard and Grenadier play in Brad Mehldau‘s trio, for instance. As a trio, they loosen up the music for an open-aired feeling heavy on group improv but still ear-pleasing enough for a Mehldau kind of crowd. They’re not out of place on ECM, but they’ve got a warm, earthly sound that’s a little uncharacteristic for the label. At first glance, it doesn’t appear ECM tweaked the group’s sound. I just wish I’d found out in time to catch their show at Yoshi’s.

….. Grooving, jazzy, and yet silly — that’s Roswell Rudd‘s home turf. The phrase “Suh Blah Blah Buh Sibi” gets sung throughout this nine-minute track, by Sheila Jordon as well as by Rudd, and Rudd turns in a bopping solo in the middle of it all.….. Joelle Leandre and Quentin Sirjacq put together a good abstract set of bass/piano duets, often exploring quieter and squeaky spaces (Sirjacq often plays prepared piano for a good sound-explarotion mode).

….. Pure Horsehair is the duo of Garrett Devoe and Shahzad Ismaily doing folky guitar-based songs. Ismaily, separately, plays drums and sundry in 2 Foot Yard, a different kind of band that’s worth checking out.

….. The Kevin Tkacz Trio comes across like a regular piano trio, with that cooled-down late-night sound, but their album includes a few improvisations that open up some interesting abstract spaces. I’ll have to give this one a better listen.

….. Hiromi is more than technically proficient, with CDs featuring explosive piano and an explosive hairstyle. Beyond the inital bombast, though, she settles into straight jazz piano — expertly done, for sure, but not as radical as some people might think. That’s fine. She’s had a good career so far, it seems, and her style makes a good pairing with Chick Corea on their Duet album.….. I haven’t said enough about the compelling Ultimate Frog album by Jim McAuley, a guitarist who’s buddies with Nels Cline and draws some cues from Jim Fahey. The 2-CD set pairs McAuley with a variety of musicians, producing a varied set of songs that struck me as having an overcast tone, a weaving of sadness throughout. When I found out the album was done in memory of McAuley’s deceased wife, the pieces clicked. Great stuff from someone who hasn’t recorded often.

….. The late Leroy Jenkins, on violin, is one of the five duet partners on The Ultimate Frog, and he also happens to be part of the Revolutionary Ensemble, a trio that played its last gig in 2005. That show was released on CD by the Mutable label recently. We’ve had both CDs for a while; I finally managed to put them together for a mini-tribute to honor Jenkins, as I’d said I might do so long ago. Continue reading “Playlist: June 12, 2009”

SperryFest Day 3

Brand/Djll/Perkis/Shiurba/Robair, June 2009

Friday night’s closing of the Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival turned out to be a knockout, with some brilliant improvisations from a quintet and due both featuring Gail Brand.

The evening started with the quintet pictured above: Brand (trombone) on the far left; Tom Djll on trumpet, sort of visible to the naked eye; Tim Perkis (electronics), obscured by mic stands; John Shiurba (guitar); and Gino Robair (drums), who in this picture has become a being of pure energy.

It was a strong set, bristling with energy from the get-go. The first piece, of medium length, was a nicely rolling crackle of sound, winding up to a satisfying ending. The second piece was even faster and louder, a bustling group piece that ended quickly when everybody stopped on a dime. It took them a second to realize it, too; the band got a good laugh out of it.

The third and longest piece was the most varied, featuring some of the slower, textured passages that can make an improv session stand out. This one nearly ended quickly, too, but Brand held one insistent note long after the others had wound down to a halt. Robair eventually took the suggestion and started up a light percussion patter, and the piece re-ignited for a strong second half.

I’ve found there is a game element to live improvised music, namely: When do you stop? Each piece winds through its course and approaches many possible ending points, but whether the “right” one gets taken depends on whether the players are hearing the same thing you are. This particular quintet seemed to really be “on,” in that respect.

But it’s not just the ending that counts. The interplay, the mood, the overall flow — all these elements came together nicely. The session was recorded (hence the multiple microphones in that picture), so hopefully the world will get to hear it eventually.

The Hillside Club, BerkeleyThe Hillside Club, by the way, turns out to be a wonderful place for music. It’s a social club north of the U.C. Berkeley campus, housed in an old wooden building (this picture was taken long before the show started, by the way; the audience wasn’t this absent). Robair noted that the acoustics of the room are solid, and it’s a rare thing for such a comfortable, good-sounding venue to be willing to host such experimental music. They host music every week — normally chamber music or mainstream jazz — so I’ll have to come by again sometime soon.

Source:EmanemDisc.comBack to Friday’s show: It concluded with the duo of Brand on trombone and Morgan Guberman on vocals. They’ve recorded one CD, on Emanem, and have a second one in the can, apparently.

They’re a great musical team and a good slapstick duo as well. Guberman puts forth a combination of singing (with good operatic tones), strange noises, and crazy-old-guy shtick, often making up syllables but sometimes reverting to normal language for a spell. He’s often spastic and loud, and was never in danger of getting out-shouted by the trombone.

Duo improvisation can work well when the players are in opposition (one playing fast, the other slow) but these pieces really shone when Brand and Guberman worked in concert — both quieting down, or both going on the attack. Guberman also brought an enormous drum head that he shook like a kite for some great, low tones. (No pictures; the camera ran out of battery.)

Their set ended with Guberman sticking his shaved head into the trombone’s bell as a mute, in a silly and almost sensual intertwining.

This show was attended by Matthew Sperry’s wife and daughter, and several of her daughter’s friends and parents, although they all stayed in a back room, for the most part. Understandably so — the kids are old enough to know when they’re not having fun! Hopefully they come away from these concerts with some appreciation of the music, some fragment of it that will lock away in their minds and click into awareness years later.

Playlist: June 5, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, June 5, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

….. Should I mention the Matthew Sperry concerts again? See earlier entry.

Source: Limited Sedition….. Actually I will mention this: As the festival has evolved from year to year, the local Limited Sedition label has been releasing CD-Rs of Matthew Sperry performances, mastered from live tapes. The first was a set of solo bass performances; the most recent is a second all-solo, all-bass disk. Matthew’s playing included a lot of extended technique: sticking objects into the strings, scraping the bass body with mallets, etc., so the results are a percussive exploration of sound.

Source: AUM Fidelity….. Fully Celebrated, formerly the Fully Celebrated Orchestra (even though they were always three or four people), puts up catchy, even funky heads followed by chaotic, free-jazz soloing. Loads of fun.

….. Forgas Band Phenomena is new stuff played in the old ’70s prog vein: long suites, searing guitar, woodwinds in the band. Cuneiform always puts out nice stuff, but at first glance, this is a standout.

Source:Pi Recordings….. Corey Wilkes‘ Abstrakt Pulse puts up hard-bop composing spread against free-jazz soloing — stuff that’s way out there when it breaks orbit. It’s not strictly head-solo-head patterns, either; “SICK JJ,” played here, pretty much stays in improv/free mode, while “Visionary of an Abstrakt” uses a recurring theme to punctuate a variety of exploratory, off-topic solos. On the way, the album sports one-minute free-improv interludes. Wilkes is only turning 30, but he’s the one who was picked to fill Lester Bowie’s chair in the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Continue reading “Playlist: June 5, 2009”

SperryFest Day 2

As noted below, it’s really called the Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival. Only I call it SperryFest, and only in my mind.

Whatever, it was fun. I knew I couldn’t make the first concert, on Tuesday night, but I’d made arrangements to be free tonight, and made the drive up to San Francisco to catch the show at the Luggage Store Gallery. (Tenderloin moment: clean-cut 30’ish woman getting hoots and hollers from the local hangers-out. Her irate response: “When will you guys remember that I live on this block?”)

The band sets up
The band sets up

Action shot

The evening began with a large-group conducted improvisation, a band called OrcheSperry. Gino Robair conducted, bringing instruments in and out of the mix to form sublime moods — spiky, relaxed, silly, dramatic. He also sometimes called for a player to work in opposition to whatever was going on — “be an a**hole,” in other words — which led to some hilarious results, especially when John Ingle‘s sax obliterated was was building into a serene, melodic flow.

Treasure Mouth, June 2009Treasure Mouth followed: an improvised karaoke experiment that Matthew had conceived. This was the “rock” version, which might have made things relatively easy. Conductor John Shiurba picked the chords, letting the band jam on each chord for several “verses.” It was grooving, and cooking, and you could tell they were having a lot of fun with it.

Lyrics were posted via overhead projector by writer Beth Lisick, who sent the singers (three women with great voices, doing a lot of harmonizing) through monologues about a 93-year old tai chi master, a lover obsessed with drowning into the muck, and a rad skateboard dude being watched by the clouds.

Treasure Mouth, June '09The horn section was particularly fun, consisting of Phillip Greenlief and Dan Plonsey (local players I’ve seen in a wide range of contexts, but never this straight) along with Gail Brand, the U.K.-based improvising trombonist who is the Festival’s special guest this time around.

The gating factor in Treasure Mouth is the speed at which the lyricist can write down the material. That’s not a knock on Beth Lisick, who did a great job, but a human being can only write (or even type) so quickly. Now, the vocalists do have the option of hanging onto the last line and repeating it several times — that’s what happens in normal rock, after all — but sometimes that effect lasted a bit too long. The singers would sometimes go back and vamp on previously written lines from the same song, which was a good idea.

Overall, I’m not sure I’d want to listen to a recording of the results, but it was fun to witness live. Treasure Mouth is an idea worth keeping alive.

Treasure Mouth, June 2009

Playlist and Interview: June 3, 2009

Playlist for Wednesday, June 3, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Thanks to Red West for letting me use his time slot to interview Gino Robair, so we could fill in listeners about the Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival and the shows happening June 4 and 5. Details are in a previous post.

source:rastascan.comThe show’s opening set, including the Tom Waits songs, is built of pieces with Sperry’s bass playing in the mix. The Six Fuchs album, teaming German clarinetist Wolfgang Fuchs with five local musicians, was a particular highlight. It’s a strong album. Gino noted that an improv album is usually distilled from a couple of hours of recordings, but Six Fuchs presents pretty much what was played that day, in the order it was played. The group just really clicked that day; it was a moment to savor. Sperry died two weeks later.

The rest of the show is my weak approximation of Red West’s own show. Actually, he presents music from all over the map; I went for a mostly pop format that devolved into darker noisier forms later. Notes:

….. Mimi Dye is a local violist (yes, viola) who presents a Latin jazz side on River in the Sun. It’s very mainstream stuff, but well done — upbeat and snappy. I’d expected something softer and new-agey, since my only exposure to Dye’s playing is on her solo viola interpretations of Hildegard of Bingen‘s 12th-century songs.

….. “Oh Daddy,” dating back to 1991, is the closest Adrian Belew has gotten to having a radio hit. He and his daughter (who sings on the chorus) even got a photo and a brief mention in People magazine.

….. I picked a snappy, rocking pop tune from The Postmarks, but their album also sports a lush cover of “You Only Live Twice.”

Continue reading “Playlist and Interview: June 3, 2009”