Shows: Dec. 16 to Dec. 22

Blood Wedding/Chuck Johnson @ Berkeley Arts Festival (Berkeley), Fri. Dec. 16, 8:00 p.m.
….. It says: Come if you dig: just intonation, noise, heterodyning, doom, hyperobjects, duende, difference tone synthesis. OK, then. Two solo acts: Blood Wedding involves vocals with digital processing; Johnson plays steel guitar and modular synth. I’m guessing loudness is involved here, but that’s a blind guess.

Aram Shelton, Corey Wright, Mark Clifford, Jordan Glenn & Anton Hatwich @ Berkeley Arts Festival (Berkeley), Sat. Dec. 17, 8:00 p.m.
….. Free jazz convened by Shelton (sax, clarinet) and featuring Chicago compatriot Hatwich (bass). Wright adds a second reeds voice, and Clifford and Glenn provide the percussion.

Maya Kronfeld Group/The Holly Martins @ Actual Cafe (Oakland), Sun. Dec. 18, 5:00 p.m.
….. The Actual Jazz Series is curated by saxophonist Kasey Knudsen this month. Kronfeld is a keyboardist who works frequently with vocalists; The Holly Martins are a trio with a strong jazz sound and an improvisational bent, featuring sax, guitar, and Lorin Benedict’s wordless vocals.
        * About the Actual Cafe/Series
        * About The Holly Martins’ CD

Tri-Cornered Tent Show & Libertas @ Musicians Union Hall (San Francisco), Sun. Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m.
….. A “skronk solstice special.”
        * Tri-Cornered, previous mention
        * Libertas, blogged in August

Jack o’ the Clock @ Subterranean Art House (Berkeley), Sun. Dec. 18, 9:00 p.m.
….. Really cool proggy/folky band with jazzy/chamber-music elements and an overall pop feel. They’ve played a few shows this year, which is nice to see. Oakland-based composer Andrew Weathers is on the bill, and Aymeric Hainaux, who sounds like a human beatbox performer with eclectic and glitchy variety, is headlining.
        * My writeup about the band
        * Jack o the Clock’s Web site
        * Aymeric Hainaux in action (video)

Music in Motion @ Luggage Store Gallery (San Francisco), Thur. Dec. 22, 8:00 p.m.
….. Three acts with solo musical voices: Laurie Amat (voice); Rent Romus and Vitali Kononov (sax and movement); and The X Factor, consisting solely of Bob Marsh (accordion, voice, tap shoes). As the program’s title says, the idea is to combine music and motion.
        * Video interview with Marsh about music, motion, and other stuff.

As always, you can find listings of upcoming shows at or

Shows: Dec. 12 to Dec. 15

The reason I’m suddenly doing all these listings, by the way, is not only the preponderance of shows, but the fact that live music options usually dry up pretty severely in the weeks before Christmas. (Classical music is particularly depressing, because every show has to be a holiday show.) It gives me an itching to stock up on music shows before the drought. Luckily, there’s no treacly candy-cane lacing to be found in these entries:

Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola @ Kuumbwa Jazz Center (Santa Cruz), Mon. Dec. 12, 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
….. See here.  Show up early, because Kuumbwa does serve food and because parking can be difficult.

Squid Inc. @ Freight & Salvage (2020 Addison St., Berkeley), Mon. Dec. 12, 8:00 p.m.
….. It’s “classical night” at The Freight, although you could say Squid Inc. is only nominally classical, since they essentially play pop songs. Part of the idea is to become a gateway drug to classical, which I can appreciate. Also note that cellist Beth Vandervennet does some of the craziest solos for Amy X. Neuburg and the Cello ChiXtet. About a dozen things on the Web call themselves Squid Inc., some of them music-related, even; to learn more about this Squid Inc. link, try:

Citta di Vitti, Aram Shelton Quartet @ Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), Tues. Dec. 13, 9:00 p.m.
….. A couple of strong jazz entries for this month’s edition of Shelton’s Active Music Series at The Uptown. Citta di Vitti plays the music Phillip Greenlief composed while watching the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, creating his own soundtracks to the movies. The group has tended to be a trio, but they’ll be adding special guests for this show, where they’ll play the music while the film L’Avventura plays behind them. Preview the music here. Saxophonist Aram Shelton will bring a quartet with Mark Clifford (vibes), Anton Hatwich (bass), and Vijay Anderson (drums) for a free-jazz set with some chamber-music tendencies.

Tom Bickley and Adria Otte @ Meridian Gallery (535 Powell St., San Francisco), Wed. Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.
….. With recorder, violin, and both players adding electronics, this show will debut an hour-long piece “combining Gray Code and Fibonacci sequencing structures with improvisation.” The show is listed as 90 minutes, so they’ll probably add some smaller-scale improvising as well.

The Tiptons Sax Quartet/Real Vocal String Quartet @ Subterranean Art House (Berkeley), Thur. Dec. 15, 8:00 p.m.
….. Formerly the Billy Tipton Memorial Sax Quartet, the all-female Tiptons play spirited, melody-driven jazz — not free jazz, but still inventive stuff with elements of blues, gospel, rock … I think I even hear techno in “I Klaxon Della Norte.” Real Vocal is a string quartet with a folky bent, stuff that fits with the modern-folk movement (you know, stuff like Christine Lavin).

Shows: Dec. 10 and 11 (The Weekend!)

It’s a busy weekend, in terms of Bay Area music. Hard to go wrong with any of these:

Old Friends Festival at Berkeley Arts Festival (2133 University Ave., Berkeley), Sat. Dec. 10, 8:00 p.m.
….. See here. Tonight’s show includes Pamela Z, Dan Plonsey’s New Monsters (an evolution of The Manufacturing of Humidifiers, a nifty early-’90s oddball-jazz band), and ROVA, playing tribute to the late Glenn Spearman.

Ensemble Épouser performs “Les Noches” at Viracocha (998 Valencia St., San Francisco), Sat. Dec. 10, 8:00 p.m.
….. The ambitious, Dominique Leone-led project to re-create the Igor Stravinsky piece, originally written for four pianos, percussion, four vocal soloists, and a chorus. They’ll be using fewer people than that: Leone’s Ensemble Épouser uses five voices and two pianos. Pitch-shifters and rewritten piano parts help flesh out the sound. On her Fenderhardt blog in July, Laura wrote up a terrific article about the project’s origins. This is also a nice opportunity to check out the music series she’s been running at Viracocha. Also on the bill are the Real Vocal String Quartet (nice to see them in action again), and Seldamuse, a duo of cellist/vocalist Theresa Wong, who’s got a new album out on Tzadik, and Dohee Lee, a vocalist some of us know through Larry Ochs’ group, Kihnoua.

Droneshift at The Lab (2948 16th St., San Francisco), Sat. Dec. 10, 8:00 p.m.
….. About once a year, some local musicians get together for Droneshift. The idea is to keep one long drone going, in this case for three hours. Musicians swap in and out with their different instruments, leading to changes in the overall sound — but the drone lives on. The session was organized by Matt Davignon and will feature more than 40 musicians. Here’s a list.

Charming Hostess at Subterranean Art House (2179 Bancroft Way, Berkeley), Sat. Dec. 10, 9:00 p.m.
….. It’s Eastern European night at the Art House, as a band called Zoyres will also be performing. Jewlia Eisenberg creates Charming Hostess’ music by fusing Klezmer, Eastern European folk, blues, and whatever else is lying around. It’s vocal-driven, with the group often appearing as a vocal trio, but the albums are backed by a variety of musicians and a very modern sound overall. Coincidentally, the six-person version of Charming Hostess (a full band including a couple of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum folks) would have fit in with the OFF festival mentioned above.

Noertker’s Moxie at Cafe Royale, Sun. Dec. 11, 6:00 p.m.
….. Bassist Bill Noertker has several years of performing and several albums to show for his modern jazz band. Featuring original compositions, Noertker’s Moxie doesn’t adhere to post-bop or modal jazz forms but has enough “jazz” in it to please fans of those subgenres. Noertker’s Moxie is a regular at the SIMM series on Sunday nights, but this time, the quintet gets an evening gig at a restaurant that favors “normal” jazz. Nice change of pace for them.

Efft Up/Joe Lasqo at Musicians Union Hall (111 9th St., San Francisco), Sun. Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.
….. Latest show in the SIMM series mentioned above. Efft Up is the duo of Bob Marsh on piano and Rent Romus on sax; the name probably aptly describes what they’ll do to the music.  Joe Lasqo performs solo piano that’s influenced by the long-form drones of Indian ragas. His set celebrates the release of his CD, Turquoise Sessions.

Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola at The Independent (San Francisco), Sun. Dec. 11, 8:00 p.m.
….. This one’s more mainstream, with Hunter spinning his funky breed of jazz guitar with built-in bassline, backed by the snap of Amendola’s drums. Bhi Bhiman opens (think classic rock singer/songwriter stuff, done pretty well.) You can also see Hunter and Amendola on the 12th at Kuumbwa Jazz Center.

Phillip Greenlief & Jon Raskin’s 3+3 at Berkeley Arts Festival, Sun. Dec. 11, 8:00 p.m.
….. Raskin and Greenlief’s “2+2” presented varying improvising duos featuring the two of them with different guests. This time, they’ll work in trios with violin, koto, and electronics. Some of the pieces will be improvisations based on experimental notation systems.

Old Friends Festival

On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10, some of the Bay Area’s longest-term creative music performers will get together for a night of new music and old memories.

Oh, and there’ll be video games.

They’re calling it the Old Friends Festival (OFF), and it’s meant to celebrate the late ’90s, a time when the Bay Area creative music scene was vibrant and seemed poised for national attention. Charlie Hunter and Peter Apfelbaum had just emerged from the local jazz scene; Beanbender’s was presenting a steady stream of local and out-of-town stars, including European musicians; and the relatively recent rise of indie/DIY CD pressing was opening up possibilities for musicians of all stripes.

Me, I came in at the tail end of that period. Olive Oil’s was defunct and the Dark Circle Lounge (a Tuesday night series at The Hotel Utah) was about to be, but I caught a lot of great shows at Beanbender’s, Venue 9, and New Langton Arts.

The scene is still active, but so much around it has changed. That’s fodder for a more depressing post. This is supposed to be a happy one.

So: Ralph Carney, Dan Plonsey, Pamela Z — they’re all going to be performing at OFF. The reunited band Pluto (now called Lost Planet) will be there. Gino Robair plans to lead a massive conducted-improvisation set. ROVA will do a tribute to tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman. And The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment — a video-game museum starting up in Oakland — is a sponsor, and yes, they’re bringing some games from the ’90s.

It’s being hosted by the Berkeley Arts Festival (which seems to be running indefinitely until they’re kicked out of 2133 University Ave. or until organizer Bonnie Hughes and friends run out of energy).

Find out all the details at the Berkeley Arts Festival’s OFF page, and don’t miss Derk Richardson’s radio interview with some of the musicians, including head organizer Steve Horowitz.

Surplus 1980

Surplus 1980 [Moe! Staiano] — Relapse in Response (Dephine Knormal, 2011)

If you know Moe’s solo percussion act — relentless energy, loud and fast but high-precision — you have an idea where this music is coming from.

The word that comes to mind is “manic.” Even when the tempo isn’t that fast, Moe F-I-L-L-L-L-S the space with drums. Fast, loud, madcap drums. He also packs the room with guitar blasts and some evil, rubbery bass.

As mentioned before (see links below), Surplus 1980 is a rock band, the second coming of the instrumental punk band Mute Socialite. Surplus 1980 is a thicker brew, this time with vocals, horns, and strings added here and there, courtesy of a host of Bay Area talents. It puts an out-jazz touch on the punk ferocity, but this is still a high-energy rock band at heart.

That he hangs out with these folks shows in the composing, too — complicated single-note guitar riffs or repeated odd-time-signature blasts. Much of this is played by Moe himself, but he does enlist other guitarists and bassists to flesh out the sound, or just to provide another point of view.

Some of the lead vocals consist of overdubbed Moes, barking out the words. Self-deprecation is a common theme. “M.E.S. Shoe Contact” is basically about the awkwardness of trying to write lyrics; “Trying to Succeed, Waiting With Little to No Results” is pretty self-explanatory. “Let’s Put Another One There” is a good piece of satire about overbuilding and anti-environmentalism, told in aggressive punky blasts.

Relapse includes some covers that seem worth researching. “The Gooseneck” is one I know, from Amy X. Neuburg, here turned into a buzzing and raw fast-forward dance. I’m not familiar with the spiky no-wave sound of Diagram Brothers (“Aggravation”) or the almost ska-sounding Bogshed (“Excellent Girl”).

As far as the music writing goes, the pinnacle might be “The Mechanics of Mathematical Courtings,” a madcap clockwork with lots of interlocking parts. Strings and horns pop up in tiny blips  among the guitar, the percussion, and yes, those drums (maybe less so than on other tracks).  I also liked a middle segment of “Ed Saad” where thick pulsing bass (Vicky Grossi) becomes the backdrop for some cool guitar effects from Ava Mendoza. It’s a nice little departure.

The album appears to be buyable through Moe! at, and you can hear many of the tracks on Soundcloud.

See Also:

Cardiacs Fly Again

I forgot to bring my camera to the ReCardiacs Fly show at The Starry Plough last Friday. Dang.

Luckily, Michael Zelner has posted some photos. Hooray!  There was video filmed as well, so hopefully some of that will get posted eventually.

It was a great time, with the band tightly charging through some fast, complex Cardiacs songs. Highlights included “R.E.S.” — which tops a lot of Cardiacs fans’ lists, I think — and “Tarred and Feathered,” which I don’t think they played at their first concert.  (Links go, respectively, to videos of the previous concert and the original Cardiacs.)

Polly Moller hammed it up on stage, playing the role of quirky, aggressive Tim Smith. Moe! Staiano did a sharp job on drums; it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him play on a drum kit before, not in a rock setting, anyway.

Lots of people were asking if they’d be doing more shows — which I think they’d like to do, but of course, they’ve got other musical projects to concentrate on as well. That includes Reconnaissance Fly, the band that’s the core of ReCardiacs Fly.

A couple of people said they’d be interested if the band were to make a CD. But I think the band would prefer that you go to iTunes and just buy the original Cardiacs albums. It’s a way to send a few extra dimes to Tim Smith, Cardiacs’ leader.

Apologies to Wiener Kids and Dominique Leone, who’d played earlier in the evening and probably did some Cardiacs covering of their own.

(What’s the big deal about Cardiacs? Read here.)

UPDATE 12/11: Videos from the show are up. Find them on ReCardiacs Fly’s YouTube channel. “A Wooden Fish on Wheels” came out really well, but I can’t help embedding “R.E.S.” yet again. They’ve gotten quite good at that one.

Shows: Dec. 4 to Dec. 8

The first half of this month is replete with good live music in the Bay Area. Here’s what’s coming up through Thursday.

Myra Melford & friends at Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, Sunday Dec. 4, 8:00 p.m.
….. “& friends” kind of sells short the rest of this big-deal quartet: Ben Goldberg (clarinet), John Shifflet (bass), and Scott Amendola (drums). Should be a terrific evening of jazz in the comfortable new Freight theater. Ticket holders will be entitled to a download of the concert recording, too.
        * Myra, Ben, John, and Scott.
        * Myra + Ben + The Freight, Jan. 2010.

Monday Makeout: Jazz night at The Make-Out Room (San Francisco), Monday Dec. 5, 8:00 p.m.
….. I don’t mention it enough, but jazz takes over this bar on the first Monday of every month. December’s lineup will feature Eric Glick Rieman (solo prepared electric piano), Bollywood Sax (Aaron Bennett, Cory Wright, and TBA, all on sax/clarinet), and the trio Autonomous Rogers (Mike Abraham, guitar; George Ban-Weiss, bass; Eric Garland, drums).
        * More on Eric Glick Rieman.
        * Explanation of “prepared electric piano.”
        * Pics of Bollywood sax; more about Aaron Bennett and Cory Wright.
        * Youtube video featuring Autonomous Rogers as 3/4 of a quartet.

Machine Shop at Tom’s Place (3111 Deakin Street, Berkeley), Tuesday Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.
….. “Tom’s Place” is a literal description; these are house concerts for a close-knit audience. It sounds cozy. Then again, “Machine Shop” is a duet of Karen Stackpole’s gongs and percussion with electronic processing by Die Elektrischen: picture slow, forceful waves of sound. They’ve got a CD out on Dielectric Records.
        * Dielectric Records, with a sound sample.
        * Karen Stackpole on Myspace.

Bristle at Berkeley Arts Festival (Berkeley), Weds. Dec. 7, 8:00 p.m.
….. Squeaky jazz, sometimes crazed and sometimes playfully complex, from the quartet of Randy McKean (sax), Cory Wright (sax/clarinet), Murray Campbell (violin/oboe), and Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) plays at the downtown storefront that’s been hosting an open-ended series of jazz shows.
        * Bristle’s site, including sound samples and video embeds.

Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola at Dana Street Roasting (Mountain View), Thurs. Dec. 8
….. This one’s sold out, so, like, never mind.
        * Amendola’s Calendar, listing shows on the 10th (Sacto), 11th, and 12th.
        * The importance of Dana Street.

Long Night’s Moon concert (improv quartets) at Luggage Store Gallery (San Francisco), Thurs. Dec. 8, 8:00 p.m.
….. “An evening of space music,” the description reads — and “space” refers to spacey, psych-influenced sound., not quiet empty space. Expect lots of electronics and some loudness, especially when members of z_bug take the stage for the second set.
        * Full lineup of players, from
        * Blog entry on the z_bug experience.

You can find out more about these shows and others at or

Azar Lawrence Is Still Out There

Azar LawrenceMystic Journey (Furthermore, 2010)

Azar Lawrence is doing a live recording for his next album on Dec. 13-14 at the Jazz Standard in New York. He’s launched a Kickstarter fund for the costs of organizing the gig and producing the recording… although time is running out and he’s well short of the ambitious goal.

Does the name not ring a bell? Lawrence is a saxophonist based in Southern California who’s very much in the late-period-Coltrane mold. He was on Miles’ Dark Magus and worked with Earth, Wind and Fire — but I know him through his 1970s work with McCoy Tyner, specifically his towering sax on Tyner’s double album, Atlantis. It’s an album filled with that stormy-sea piano that was actually what first caught my ear about the 1964-and-beyond Coltrane albums, more so than Coltrane himself.

Lawrence has continued along similar lines. His most recent album, Mystic Journey, has a lot of that Coltrane-ish sound, particularly in the title track and “Summer Solstice,” both written by Lawrence. Pianist Benito Gonzalez’s channeling of Tyner is an appropriately big part of the sound. Other tracks take a rather straight-jazz approach, including the ballad “Say It Over Again” and Rashied Ali’s tropical tune, “Adrees.”

It doesn’t necessarily cut new ground, but I find I’m OK with that. That might sound odd considering I devote this blog’s energy to edgier music, the Steve Coleman and Tim Berne vectors of jazz. But it’s what I expected when I picked up the album, and maybe I’m also just glad to learn that Lawrence is alive and well.

There’s another thing: Just before going to New York recently, I’d read Ethan Iverson’s Do the Math blog, specifically his thoughts on Hank Jones and Mulgrew Miller. The lesson I took from that is that a musician doesn’t have to do “interview music” to be saying something worth hearing.  And then, at Downtown Music Gallery, I happened to spy Mystic Journey, and I’d always wondered if Azar Lawrence had continued his career — and the sum of it all was one very pleasant CD listening where I could revel in the lessons Lawrence was passing down from the Coltrane/Tyner era.

Maybe I’m also just glad that some artists are keeping that period alive. So much jazz energy is spent on preserving ragtime or (modernized) swing, or cocktail jazz. Having some spokespeople for the more freedom-seeking forms of “straight” jazz isn’t so bad a thing. And when the album shifts into gently nostalgic bebop mode for “Say It Over Again,” it’s actually quite nice.

Lawrence might not be saying anything wholly new, but I’m glad to hear him show off that he can say it.