Ches Smith at the Helm

Ches Smith, the drummer who’s become a downtown NYC fixture (and who earlier made his Bay Area name as co-leader of Good for Cows and founder of the one-man Congs for Brums) is coming out with his first album leading a band-sized band. It’s called Finally Out of My Hands, and it’s due to arrive on Skirl on Nov. 16.

It’s a document of These Arches, Smith’s first band-sized band.  And you can tell what pull he has by the people he’s gotten to play for him: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tony Malaby (sax), and Andrea Parkins (accordion, maybe keyboards).

Some reactions: Check out Parkins on accordion, really getting into it … That’s an interesting composition; good to see that side of Smith reflected in this band … and from the “Well, duh” department: Oh, so that’s what Tony Malaby looks like.

It appears you can pre-order Finally Out of My Hands at Squidco, and I’d wager they’ll take a pre-order at Downtown Music Gallery if you call ’em.

4 thoughts on “Ches Smith at the Helm

  1. Have you heard about the new Nina Simone tribute project produced by Ches and the Arches but released under the name Xiu Xiu, featuring Jamie Stewart who I believe was a KZSU contributor at one point — he also had a band Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto (IBOPA) that I first heard of from KZSU’s Glenn Smith??

  2. Hi Mark — Yes, I’ve heard parts of that. Didn’t realize Jamie Stewart was related to IBOPA — I recall the band name but not the music, it was so long ago …

    I’ve been debating whether to do a blog entry on that album. I’ve never been able to get past Stewart’s vocals on Xiu Xiu albums in general, and this one’s no exception. Very cool that Ches brought in Tim Berne and Tony Malaby (among others) for the project, though.

  3. Maybe they should have released it as a Ches Smith and These Arches, listing Jamie Stewart as a guest vocalist and left Xiu Xiu out of the equation.

    I think the thinking is that a indie rock album has 10 times the potential audience of a jazz record, with the exception of Norah Jones first album.

    I was not familiar enough with the project to realize that Ches brought in his entire unit intact and not just happened to recruit an A-list of New York players, that he had led them in other previous sessions and tours.

    You should write about from the perspective of Tim Berne’s performances therein…

    A European jazz agent lists a window for potential shows overseas for this group. Meanwhile Xiu Xiu has a new cd of originals coming out which must be a priority for them.

    It’s still not clear to me what Jamie’s connection to Palo Alto, Stanford and KZSU are. His father was a famous producer in the LA music scene, something I didn’t know about for most of the time that I knew and followed (and booked twice into my concert series) Jamie. The article about IBOPA mentioned that Jamie’s dad sometimes was a member on bass, that I thought either odd or quaint. Jamie’s uncle was John Stewart of Kingston Trio, who was a Stanford alum.

    Jamie has the tortured artist’s soul which I think roughly qualifies him to do a tribute to Nina Simone. He cannot possibly please all of her followers, but maybe she would have approved of this. (She supposedly told Eric Burden “you’re the honky who stole my song”; she supposed shot with an air pistol some other person allegedly encroaching on her artistic domain.

    My Earthwise Productions had the opportunity to be the first presenter in many years to work with Nina, thanks to local agent Eric Hanson (who later joined the more established Ted Kurland Agency back east), but I thought it was too risky — it was 10 times more upfront costs that anything else I had produced in Palo Alto. Eric was basically talking her out of a retirement and struggling at first to find presenters. She did eventually do about 10 or shows he arranged, starting with Newark, N.J.

    One of my first music scene contacts, Lisa Fay Beatty of the Mudwimin and 7 Year Bitch had a great story about being Nina’s go-fer during her show at Portland (produced by Thrasher Productions, known more for rock that jazz shows). I was trying to help Lisa develop that story into a one-woman show / monologue about Nina’s legacy or influence, when Lisa died, in a motorcycle crash.

    I also had one discussion about booking Meshell Ndegeocello into the JCC in Palo Alto, to inaugurate a new music series there — Meshell has a Nina tribute out.

    Maybe some of these things will actually happen some day. I respect Nina and am intrigued by it and just happened to have met or worked with this cluster of people truly moved by and shaped by her.

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