Ben Goldberg Goes Low

If you’re bored of the New York installments I’ve been running, take heart. The next one has tons of pictures and a real narrative (maybe). If that doesn’t float your boat, just consider that it’ll all be over soon.

In the meantime: a bit of news that happens to involve Bay Area clarinet hero Ben Goldberg … and the city of New York.

His new superband, Unfold Ordinary Mind, debuts at The Stone on Dec. 5 and will release an album on Goldberg’s label, BAG Productions, in January.

It’s all about the low, low contra-alto clarinet. Here’s the blurb you can see on Goldberg’s site and The Stone’s calendar:

I have been developing my abilities on the E-flat contra-alto clarinet (a weird member of the family, pitched below the bass clarinet) for some years, mostly in my work with the group Tin Hat. Somehow it occurred to me to have a band where I was the bass player, on this instrument.

Of course the group would need two of my tenor saxophone heroes (Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth), a guitar genius (and now certifiable rock star) (Nels Cline), and the deeply tumultuous drummer Ches Smith.

So after finishing up the premiere of my latest giant project, Orphic Machine, in March of 2012, I wrote a bunch of songs and assembled this crew at the Bunker studio in Williamsburg one day in May. We learned the tunes, rehearsed, and recorded them all in just a few hours, and the results are extraordinary—raw, dire, and to the point.

The record will be released by my label, BAG Production Records, in January. The record is called Unfold Ordinary Mind, which is also the name of the band for a few East Coast shows I am happy we will be playing in December.

In addition to the New York visit, Unfold Ordinary Mind will be in Baltimore on Dec. 8 (at The Windup Space) and Philadelphia on Dec. 9 (at Johnny Brenda’s, presented by Ars Nova Workshop).

I think I’ve seen Goldberg perform on the contra-alto; if so, it’s the curled thing with the long stand that’s in the photo, upper left. It certainly does pack a bass wallop.

Here’s a taste of what it can do as a lead instrument, snapping out some deliciously low notes on the track “Epilogue – Bongoloid Lens,” from the album Speech Communication (Tzadik, 2009). Greg Cohen is on bass, Kenny Wolleson on drums:

UPDATE 11/26:  And here’s an Unfold Ordinary Mind track that’s been on Soundcloud a while. Thanks to Ben for pointing it out!

UPDATE 2/1/13:  That particular track got removed, but here’s a different one: