KZSU playlist for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
* Taylor Ho Bynum & Spidermonkey Strings — Madeleine Dreams (Firehouse 12, 2009) … An eerie and surreal suite with sung text taken from a novel by Bynum’s sister, backed by a slow, ethereal string quartet augmented by Bynum’s cornet and a tuba. Very dreamlike in its movements, slow and gossamer with lots of sour harmonies and quiet patches. The album wraps up with the band doing a few jazz covers: Ornette Coleman (chipper, dry), Duke Ellington (old-timey strings), and Marshall Allen/Sun Ra (particularly cool, with its marching beat and Kyoko Kitamura getting spacey/free with the vocals.)
* Jacam Manricks — “Rothko” — Labyrinth (Manricks Music, 2009) … A forward-thinking album of contemporary jazz, a bit too cerebral to call “mainstream,” with Ben Monder‘s guitar adding a comforting yet brainy element. It’s also got Tyshawn Sorey on drums, always a good sign. Most of the tracks will come across as “nice” to the average listener, but there are also two pieces with a small chamber orchestra, adding the drama and pull of strings and horns for some good depth. The track I picked, “Rothko,” is none of the above, a very sparse, icy piece that just floats in front of your eyes. There’s apparently a slow, slow 12-tone row going on in there, but really the piece is about atmosphere and stillness.
* Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq — “Ice Storm” — Where Is Pannonica? (Songlines, 2009) … I remember Milne as an M-Base/Steve Coleman disciple, spinning complex 21st-century jazz (in the late ’80s) wrapped in brainy funk patterns. I’m familiar with Delbecq as a more avant-garde improviser, and as the pianist on the terrific free-jazz album Y? (Leo, 1999) by Bertrand Denzler. Not the pairing I’d expect, but they pull it off here. These are piano duet tracks, artsy but with some rhythmic flair, as on this track (one of Milne’s compositions).
* Not the Wind Not the Flag — Tintinabulum (Barnyard, 2009) … Varying between niceness, jazziness, and harsh noise, this is a single 38-minute track by Colin Fisher on guitar and Brandon Valdivia on drums. The piece starts in slowness and silence with one acoustic chord struck at long intervals, moves forwards through some more active work, and ends with a pile of electric-guitar distortion and feedback alongside crashing cymbals. Just before the loud part starts, they seem to reprise the lonely chord that started it all.
* Rent Romus‘ Lords of Outland are celebrating their 15th anniversary with a limited-edition 2-CD set combining old tracks, unreleased tracks from the past 15 years, and a newly recorded full-length album. The band has played only sporadically (such is the nature of the free jazz world, especially on the west coast) and has had a varying cast over the years, so the sound has varied quite a bit. You’ll Never Be the Same (Gert Rude, 1995) is mostly straight-up acoustic free jazz with lots of fast playing and Romus doing the two-sax trick occasionally. There’s a buzzy fierceness in there, though, which is a common tie with the newer You Can Sleep When You’re Dead (Edgetone, 2007), which is full of electronics and echoey evil vocal babble.
Some permutation of Lords of Outland will be doing a CD release show on Thursday, Oct. 29, at downtown San Francisco’s Luggage Store Gallery. Also on the bill are Eddie the Rat (cool!) and electronics/noise outfit Headboggle.