Archive for August, 2009

Joe Maneri

I was sorry to hear Joe Maneri died this week, and even sorrier to note that I don’t know his music well. His 72-tone scale was evident all over his recordings, with the soured, squashed, off-key sound characteristic of microtones. That he recorded so often with his son Mat (violin, 6-string electric violin, and/or viola) is especially heartwarming.

I devoted a big chunk of the show to Maneri’s music. (Full playlist here.) Like I said, I’d never studied his catalog deeply, but I was grateful for the lightning tour through his late-blossoming career. Through releases on Leo, Hat, and ECM, Maneri became a strong presence in the avant-jazz community.

Maneri’s own Web site provides a good overview of his releases through 2005. I’ll subjectively supplement that notes from my own lightning tour. (Most of the photos link into Maneri’s discography page; click the label names for more specific info.)

maneri-paniots

….. Paniots Nine (Avant, 1998; recorded 1963) is a free-jazz date with heavy Klezmer influence and some gutsy, joyous soloing from Maneri. He hadn’t gone the 72-tone route yet, but you can hear that he was willing to buck the status quo with his solos.

It was Maneri’s demo tape for Atlantic, which turned him down for a recording contract. He wouldn’t record again for something like 20 years, having both rejected the music business and embraced the academic life at the New England Conservatory.

Source: joe maneri.com….. Kalavinka (Cochlea, 1989) is a trio set with Mat Maneri on electric violin (looking very ’80s glam in the sleeve photo) and Masashi Harada on percussion and voice. It’s a session that was recorded in one four-hour chunk and left on CD in the order of the performances. “Number One” shows off the squeaky, whining (in a good way) quality of the Maneris’ microtonal approach, in a calmly building improv. “Number Three” slowly builds in a reverent sort of peacefulness, a side of Maneri’s that I didn’t explore much during the show. To wit: I chickened out and played the active, radio-friendly “Number Four.”

….. Get Ready To Receive Yourself (Leo, 1995). This album was apparently KZSU DJ Klee’s first exposure to Maneri, and his review for the staff starts with, “Jeez! Where have they been hiding this guy?” The reaction wasn’t unique to Klee; because Maneri’s recording career began so late, he didn’t receive international attention until the mid-’90s and albums like this one.

Source: joe maneri.com….. The title track of Let the Horse Go (Leo, 1996) is a sturdy, meaty, 13-minute improvisation (Mat on violin, Randy Peterson on drums, John Lockwood on bass) that I didn’t think I’d have time to include. But “Is It Naughty Enough?” at half the length, provided the same kind of atmosphere, maybe a tad less intense.

source: ECM records.com….. Angles of Repose (ECM, 2004) puts Maneri into that echoey ECM sheen, and it works really well, especially with Mat’s viola putting up strong, resonating lines. The great European improviser Barre Phillips rounds out the trio, making for a strong set of improvisations (and standards, like “What’s New.”) I also played a track from Three Men Walking, the ECM album that teams the Maneris with Joe Morris playing delicate guitar.

Source: Jazz Times….. Because its songs all exceed 13 minutes, I saved The Trio Concerts (Leo, 2001) for later in the show, for a tour de force kind of moment. “Of Any Three” starts off haltingly, actually, but you later get to hear Joe Maneri bash away on the piano, which is something unique compared with the other CDs in our collection. The two discs represent separate sessions recorded a year apart, packaged together as a 2-CD set.

source: joe maneri.com….. Tenderly (Hatology, 1999) closed out the Maneri segments. Maneri never turned his back on his jazz roots and often included standards on his albums, even if the rest of the material was improvised. It’s interesting to hear the microtonal playing applied to a jazz standard like this, bringing out new harmonies while still keeping the same velvety feel. Takes some getting used to, but it makes for some nice listening.

(I couldn’t link directly to this entry in the Hat catalog, but click here and search for “Tenderly” to find it.)

source: thirsty ear.com

As a bonus, I played a couple of Mat Maneri’s own tracks. He was practiced in his father’s 72-tone scale, but he’s also well known for some interesting projects of his own.

….. Sustain (Thirsty Ear, 2002) was a particularly impressive album, where Maneri and an all-star cast, led by Joe McPhee on sax, blaze through some dense, energetic psych-influenced pieces. Mat’s viola gets the electric-guitar distortion treatment for some rocking sounds, and Craig Taborn‘s electric keyboards infuse a modern-day sound. Every other track is an unaccompanied solo featuring one of the five band members.

….. Fever Bed (Leo, 1996) is a trio date with Randy Peterson (drums) and Ed Schuller (bass). Both those musicians are certainly capable of keeping up with the whole microtonal thing (Peterson is on the Trio Concerts date noted above), but their role here, particularly on Schuller’s side, is to provide a jazzy backing to Mat’s violin soloing. It’s an intriguing mix of harmonies, and a rich sound.

August 30, 2009 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

Playlist: Aug. 28, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, Aug. 28, 3:00 to 7:10 p.m.

Full playlist is viewable here. I actually stayed on the air until 9:00 p.m., but the last two hours were rock and whatnot; if you’re dying to know what was played, click here.

Most of the program was built around Joe Maneri tracks, to note his passing. I’ll put up a more thorough explanation of those later. A couple of other noteworthy spins:

….. Amy X. Neuburg and the Cello ChiXtet have released the long-awaited Secret Language of Subways, and I finally managed to give it a spin. It deserves its own entry, but you can see what I think here.

….. The Ted Daniel Quintet LP, Tapestry, got reissued by Porter Records a couple of years ago. Great loft-jazz work chracterized by vibes, electric piano, and electric bass — very much a product of 1974. The session was recorded from a show at Ornette Coleman’s loft back then, and while the sound fidelity is wanting, there’s no denying the free-jazz intensity of the music.

I haven’t been updating the blog much during the dog days of summer, partly due to work, partly due to play. I’m managing to keep on top of the radio shift, at least.

August 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

Playlist: Aug. 21, 2009

KZSU playlist for my usual timeslot, Friday 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Full playlist is viewable here, and it followed a 6:00 a.m. shift I’d done today to sub for DJ Fo again.

….. Homecoming is a 1985 album by Eddie Harris and Ellis Marsalis, recently re-released on CD. It consists source: jazz.comof mostly full-band tracks with Harris (sax) and Marsalis (piano) taking the lead. Lots of sunny, bop-oriented tunes… and then there’s “Ethereal Moments 1 & 2,” which is a good 7-minute slab of free improvisation. They don’t go to John Zorn/Evan Parker kinds of extremities, but they color outside the lines quite a bit, with Harris taking advantage of reverb on his sax to paint some interesting scribbles and runs. I can appreciate why cats like this don’t prefer to just improvise all the time, but at the same time, it’s rewarding to hear what they can do in this milieu. I’m so glad they included this on the record — and it’s the third track, which implies it was on Side 1 of the original vinyl!

source: johnmclaughlin.com….. Every now and again, I like to rock out, or prog out, on the show. The new Chick Corea/John McLaughlin Five Peace Band gave me a chance to “fusion” out, with a good 20-minute track called “Señor CS.” Five Peace is an all-star band that includes Kenny Garrett on sax, Christian McBride on bass, and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and they really got cooking on their 2008 tour, as you can hear here. “Señor CS” ends with n awesome, fast segment that has Garrett, Corea, and McLaughlin trading very short (two-bar?) solos. Fusion isn’t always my bag, but you can’t deny some of the excellent playing it offers.

….. The Ryan Meagher album, Atroefy (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2009), reminds me a lot of Jim Black’s Alas No Axis. It’s a guitar-and-woodwind band that’s doing what could be considered instrumental indie rock. More on Black’s newest here.

….. Matt Wilson Quartet — “Shooshabuster” — That’s Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto, 2009) ….. Wilson has Andrew D’Angelo in his band, which truly will leave a mark. D’Angelo’s rough, slashing approach on sax sounds like a great complement to Wilson’s band.

….. University Of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble — “Infernal Ride” — Out of Nowhere (Innova, 2008) ….. Traditional classical music, like metal and most hip-hop, is too distinctive to work well in a blended, everything-goes show. It stands up and screams, “Look at me! I’m the classical one! Oooooh!!” So it’s been weeks since my first inkling to play “Infernal Ride” by composer Ken Hesketh, a rollicking roller-coaster of a piece that’s got a big, cinematic, high-drama classical sound. I just couldn’t get it to fit. I finally found a spot after the frog-croaking fadeout of a Francesco Giannico piece. It sort of worked. After “Infernal Ride’s” big conclusion, the happy-go-lucky piano tapping of “Backtrackin'” (by Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project) slid into place nicely.

August 23, 2009 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Playlist: Aug. 18, 2009, Special Tuesday

KZSU Playlist for Tuesday, Aug. 18, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Subbing for Ben W., whose Jena & Gomorrah show covers a lot of the same ground as my regular show, but with a deeper memory bank of musicians and a keener appreciation for avant-rock acts like This Heat. Which I played. Other highlights:

….. Buffalo Collision finally got its due with the 22-minute “3rd of 5” track. Everyone gets a solo on here, and Tim Berne and Ethan Iverson particularly shine.

….. Noisy punk attack: Japan’s Ground Zero got abuted by Chicago’s Lozenge.

….. Lowbelly is a Boise, Idaho instrumental band worth noting, like indie-rock played by jazz musicians. More on them later.

….. Water Shed, also called Water Shed 5tet, hailed from Pittsburgh. I saw saxophonist Ben Opie perform solo out in Berkeley, and it intrigued me enough to buy the Water Shed CD that was out on Rastascan. It’s good stuff with an occasional groove and some Naked City-like style changes, not as extreme but enough that the KZSU DJ who originally reviewed the Duck Bill Hammer CD gave it a thumbs-down for being too copycat. I can understand, although more than a decade later, that Naked City phase-shifting seems like a trend of the times — copycatted, sure, but no more than other trends.

….. Quattro Mani is a classical-piano duo who’ve put out a few CDs together. “Kindred Spirits” ends with a 3.5-minute movement inspiried by rock music — Limp Bizkit in particular, sadly enough. It’s still a good piece, with a heavy beat, an unsubtle approach, and outright hammering on the low keys as a coda. It’s pretty cool, actually. They’ve also been spotted doing a Frank Zappa premiere.

The complete playlist can be viewed here.

August 18, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Sax-Free Zone

Do other jazz DJs experience this? Every now and again, I get sax overload. I find myself scrambling to find something, anything, that doesn’t have a saxophone in it.

What’s funny is that when these moments come, my mind blanks out. Like, what other instruments are there? And who plays them? Suddenly I can’t think of a pianist or guitarist. I figure it out, obviously, but it just shows how sax-dominated the jazz repertoire is.

I had a great time playing Friday’s 90 minutes of Rashied Ali music. But it was so sax-heavy, and most of it in aggressive, late-Coltrane-mode sax. I needed a break. And so came together this set, where I took a break not just from sax, but from conventional jazz.

* Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone — “Barber” — Thin Air (Thirsty Ear, 2009) ….. As noted here. This track’s an instrumental, and not one of the sweet ones. It opens with jarring guitar grunts and gets into soaring viola work from Pavone. Kind of a declaration that we’re moving into “something else.”

source: peacock-records.com* Jessica Pavone — “Quartet VI” — 27 Epigrams (Peacock, 2003) ….. Pavone was sending music to KZSU long before the Halvorson/Pavone duo was on the radar, and I haven’t given it enough air time. This CD, in particular, is a cluster of vignettes that would fit the show nicely, sketches of strings and woodwinds in an angular, new-classical mode.

* Fabio Orsi and Gianluca Becuzzi (Etre) — “Act III” — So Far (Porter, 2009) ….. It’s basically one tone, played on a couple of electronic instruments. Each one starts and stops, so there’s a feeling of motion, but… yeah, it’s one tone. Here’s the deal: This CD’s other two tracks, each 16 minutes 16 seconds long, have been getting airplay for their mix of ambient loops and field recordings. This one, at 3 minutes, hasn’t been played at all. How could I resist? (It’s supposed to be 16:16 long and downloads as such on eMusic, but came up as 3 and change on the CD player, and seemed “complete.” So, I dunno.)

* Patti Littlefield & Mark Weaver — “Perfect Blues” — Resonance (Plutonium, 2009) ….. Back into jazz now, sort of. This is a duet of vocals and tuba/didjeridoo, which is unusual enough, but Littlefield sometimes stretches or squashes her voice to create an odd, heavy sound that would wrinkle foreheads at your Friendly Summer Jazz Festival. They play it straight sometimes (they do “Caravan,” because it’s the law), and they go spacey and poetic sometimes (as in the groany, mildly disturbing take on “House of the Rising Sun”). I went for an original track that has a jazzy air and a lyric about not being listened to.

You can see the full playlist in KZSU’s Zookeeper database.

August 15, 2009 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

Playlists: Aug. 14, 2009, for Rashied Ali

At The 20th Annual Clifford Brown Jazz Fest, source: rashiedali.comI had the privilege of paying tribute to Rashied Ali on the air twice today. He died Wednesday at the age of 76.

Seventy-six wasn’t so old to Ali. Take a listen to his new Live in Europe album, recorded very recently with his working quintet. Two of the tracks burn hard for more than 25 minutes, and his drum solo early in “Theme for Captain Black” shows he could still positively shred.

source: rashiedali.orgThat quintet builds off compositions brighter in mood and lighter in spirit than the late-phase Coltrane works that have come to define Ali’s career. Lawrence Clarke on sax blazes through his solos, keeping up the energy level propelled by Ali’s continual whirlwind.

And we’re definitely talking about compositions, a departure from the freely improvised jazz I’d come to know Ali for. The unchallenging nature of the quintet’s two Judgment Day studio CDs left me scratching my head a bit, but the live album’s got me converted. It’s not like Ali was using this band to take a breather.

Dig around this page of CD reviews on Ali’s Web site, and you’ll see him mention comparisons to Art Blakey, the drummer/bandleader who surrounded himself with younger players, to keep his mind sharp. That seems to be the MO with the quintet.

Getting to the playlists, though:

First, I subbed for DJ Fo‘s “No Cover No Minimum” (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.), an excellent show that embraces a more mainstream stripe of jazz than my show does. That seemed a good venue for putting some Judgment Day tracks out there, and I aired the full 30-minute version of “Thing for Joe” that’s on the live album. Ali’s solo comes towards the end, so latecomers had plenty of time to catch it. Click here for the full playlist.

Then came my regular show (3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), where I chose to pack a Rashied Ali tribute into the middle “hour.” (The final tally was 90 minutes.) Worth it. Here’s the box score:

source: mog* Rashied Ali, Louie Belogenis — “Takedawitcha” — Rings of Saturn (Knitting Factory, 1998) ….. A 10-minute opener that culminates in a terrific Ali solo. Ali recorded a few albums with Belogenis around the turn of the century, pursuing aggressive free jazz with no small nod to Coltrane.

* Rashied Ali, Louie Belogenis, Wilbur Morris — “Norfolk Street Run Down” (DIW, 2001) ….. I’d picked this one just for the flavor of active group work, expecting to fade it early, but ended up running nearly all its 13-minute length. Same concept as above, but with the late Morris adding bass depth. Ali takes the type of solo that source: squidcoconsists of a rhythmic pounding, a fast and difficult pounding that makes you sweat just listening to it.

* Rashied Ali, Peter Kowald, Assif Tsahar — “Deals, Ideas & Ideals” ….. Deals, Ideas & Ideals (Hopscotch, 2000) ….. Another sax/bass trio, but taking one big step sideways away from ‘Trane, into more abstract stylings, particularly on Kowald’s part. We were still in Fast Saxophone Land here, but the shift in styles was a welcome change of pace.

source: wikipedia* Henry Rollins — [Tracks 7 & 8] — Everything (2.13.61, 1996) ….. This is a 2-CD set of Rollins reading a prepared work: the same bile you’re used to, but delivered less recklessly. Ali and Charles Gayle provide the “score” for parts of the piece, and the final, eighth, track of the album is just the two of them, no Henry, for 15 minutes of free blowing. To avoid the CD’s minefield of swear words, I excerpted Rollins’ final two minutes, which get stoically mournful and despairing (culminating in a weary, defeated voice: “and then there was nothing”) before giving way to that 15-minute ending.

source: jazz.com* John Coltrane — “Leo” — Interstellar Space (Impluse, 1967; reissued 1994) ….. It’s fast and choppy, but once you’re picked up in its momentum, you can hear “Leo” as an exercise in precision and discipline. With the disruptive opening, I can see why they left it off the original LP. But it’s an excellent track, with fluid drumming by Ali in his prime.

* John Coltrane — “To Be” — Expressions (Impulse, 1967) ….. A quiet 16 minutes, with ‘Trane on flute and Pharoah Sanders on piccolo. I considered this a palette cleanser. Ali works with brushes most of the time, filling space with fast scribbles on the snare and on cymbals. It’s the kind of track where the drummer, though source: jazz.comproviding a high percentage of the sound, is pushed to the background. It wasn’t easy trying to concentrate my ears on Ali, and I’m not sure I “learned” anything doing so, but I was glad to have included this one in the program.

* Rashied Ali Quintet — “Theme for Captain Black” [excerpt] — Live in Europe (Survival, 2009) ….. Played this one up through that shredding solo I mentioned up top. He avoids the cymbals for so long at one point, concentrating on marvelous rolling tom and snare work. The lack of cymbals feels unflashy, but the speed and showmanship just wrap you up. We should all be so lucky at 76. It leaves me feeling like Ali had a lot more work to do.

Click here for the full 3:00-6:00 p.m. playlist.

August 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm Leave a comment

Nonaah Bloodlines

Jason Robinson — Cerebus Rising (Circumvention, 2009)

Source: CircumventionMusic.comIt’s not the first solo saxophone album by far, and it won’t be the last, and Jason Robinson is aware of that. In the liner notes to Cerebus Rising, he credits the solo performances on Roscoe Mitchell’s double album Nonaah as a major influence: “I was mesermized by Mitchell’s use of repetition and the unpredictable psychology of performing improvised solo saxophone.”

The use of repetition as a tool is evident all over this album. Robinson hovers near conventional sax methods most of the time, but his focus here is on sound exploration rather than “tunes.” He takes an idea and works it until it begins to spiral outward. Tracks focus on what can be built one breath at a time; he doesn’t go for the circular breathing that can produce uninterrupted sound for minutes on end.

The result is jazzy, but when I say “near-conventional playing,” it’s not normal conventional playing. Each track sparkles with extended ideas: multiphonic buzzes, trills, air-through-horn, etc.

Tracks like “Nonaah Variation” and “Three Sphinxes of Bikini” have the white space to be classified as meditative, but Robinson is rarely in quiet mode for a full track. He sticks to bold statements. His sidewalk chalk produces more than skinny lines; he’s drawing regions, artfully traced and thoughtfully shaded.

That backbone is evident even on the lyrical, borderline romantic passages within “After the Rain” and “Creator Variation 1,” or the slower “Dura Mater.”

One track that’s a particular treat is “Arachnoid,” a slower piece that has the gimmick of a rough rasp, a dry fluidity as if the air is scraping the sides of the horn.

There’s so much to say about solo saxophone as a subgenre. You’ve got Evan Parker‘s extensive catalogue, of course. Julius Hemphill‘s resurrected Blue Boyé on Screwgun. And I was pleasantly surprised to see Robinson’s notes mention Gianni Gebbia, a deeply creative Italian saxophonist whom I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the Bay Area a few times.

To justify adding to the pile, it seems reasonable for an artist to aim for a statement of style, a declaration. I think Robinson has accomplished that here. Next, I ought to look up Nonaah to brush up on my own saxophone roots, to get an even deeper understanding of where he’s coming from.

August 13, 2009 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

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