Oakland Active Turns 1

The Oakland Active Orchestra will celebrate 1 year together on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in their monthly concert at The Uptown. And Henry Grimes, who happens to be passing through town, will be performing with them.

Normally a rock club alongside a polished, dark-wood bar, The Uptown has been opening its doors to a more avant-garde crowd at least once a month for a couple of years now, hosting the likes of Weasel Walter and Moe! Staiano. (Round of applause.)

For the past year, the Uptown’s jazz/improv nod has gone to the OAO with a free Tuesday concert. To celebrate, the group will perform 12 short pieces by different members.

Saxophonist Aram Shelton convened the OAO after coming to the Bay Area from Chicago. The idea, as he told me during a radio interview, was to provide a way to present composers’ works for a large group. The whole effort, though, hinges on a large group that’s willing to show up, rehearse, and stick to it after the novelty is gone.  The OAO certainly seems to have done all that.

Shelton uses the “Active Music” banner for a variety of shows done in different milieus (is that a word?)  More about all that, and the OAO anniversary show, at activemusic.wordpress.com.

This might be good sly moment to note that Grimes and Roscoe Mitchell are playing in Berkeley on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT).  Grimes turns 75 this month, so a packed hall would be a nice way to help him celebrate.

The Cooper-Moore Files

Cooper-Moore is a captivating performer. When his 2008 solo tour brought him to California, the show inspired me enough to wish I had … well, a blog, basically.

I never did write that entry, but suffice to say: Cooper-Moore’s musicianship was superb, playing bluesy and roots-driven pieces on his homemade instruments. But the highlight was his storytelling. His voice, his stage presence, and his fascinating family history — it’s a rich brew. If he ever does this solo trek again, you really have to see it.

My memories of that show got triggered upon reading this review of a duo show with Cooper-Moore and William Parker. (Hat tip: Avant Music News.)

Two more links of note:

His autobiographical blurb on the Hopscotch Records site is a terrific read. It’s in plain text, well written (albeit with some unpolished grammar), and conveys the heart of his storytelling. It also doesn’t give away any of the best stories he’d told us, about his grandfather’s life during the depression, or his childhood encounter with well-meant racism.

And at FreeMusicArchive.org, Cooper-Moore has posted a clutch of unreleased recordings for free downloading. Lots of solo stuff, especially on flute and the diddley-bow (homemade, one-stringed bass). Lots of duets (including one with Elliott Sharp). Some compositions for theatrical or dance productions. Great stuff. You can conveniently get to the whole archive and the track notes at this link.  Big thanks to WFMU for hosting/posting the archive.

Cooper-Moore is still active; he’s on the William Parker Organ Quartet album recently out on AUM Fidelity, for instance. He’s worth seeking out.

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.