Archive for June, 2014

Outsound Festival: One Weekend Left to Contribute

Source: Outsound; click to go thereIf you want to donate to the Outsound New Music Summit, you might want to do it before Sunday night.

I assume they’d take your contribution no matter what the date. But Sunday night is the deadline to contribute via Indiegogo and, for $100 or more, get a ticket to the dinner held each year for organizers and donors. Held at Berkeley Arts Festival, the dinner will include a set of music by percussionist William Winant and another set by Thea Farhadian (violin) and Amy X. Neuburg (vocals, loops, maybe electronics).

No, I don’t know what’s on the menu. But I do know it’s all for a good cause, a locally produced festival for creative music. Rent Romus has kept the fire burning going on 13 years now.

The Outsound Summit runs July 29 through August 2 at San Francisco’s Community Music Center.

Here’s the lineup:

July 27- August 2, 2014, Co-Presented with KFJC 89.7FM
Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street San Francisco, CA
Advance Tickets:  Brown Paper Tickets
The Bay Area’s New Sound Festival Features Underground and 
Experimental Jazz, Electronics, Noise Art, Spoken Word, Poetry, 
Workshops, and Hands-onInteractive “Touch the Gear” Expo.

Sunday July 27th 1:00 PM
Pianist, composer, and educator Thollem McDonas will lead a
collaboration/improvisation workshop for musicians and non-
musicians alike. 

Monday, July 28th 8:00 PM
Thollem McDonas and participants from the Sunday improvisation 
workshop will perform a set of structured and free improvi-
sation.  This event is free to the public.

Wednesday, July 30th 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
PoetryFreqs, a night of spoken word and poetry with electro-
acoustic music.
* Pitta of the Mind (Maw Shein Win – poetry and Amanda 
Chaudhary – electronics)
* Original jazz beat poet Ruth Weiss with electronic pioneer 
Doug Lynner – Buchla Synth,  Hal Davis -  hollow log
* Watkins/Trammel/McZeal (Zachary James Watkins - 
electronics,  Marshall Trammell – drums  with award winning 
poet Amber McZeal)

Thursday, July 31st 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm 
Guitars, a night showcasing seven talented and provocative 
guitarists Henry Kaiser; Amy Reed & Ross Hammond; Noah 
Phillips & John Finkbeiner; Sandy Ewen & Jakob Pek

Friday, August 1st 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
Constructions will bring two extremes together
* Teddy Rankin-Parker/Daniel Pearce Duo,
premiering new works by renowned composer Renee Baker 
* The Deconstruction Orchestra, a mass ensemble of 25 leading 
Bay Area improvising musicians led by tenor saxophonist and 
composer Joshua Allen, who will perform the debut of The 
Structure of Sound and Space, an original deconstructivist-
inspired suite of cell structure game compositions, melding 
together post-modern, free jazz and non-idiomatic improvisa-
tion. Saxophones: Aaron Bennett-as, Sam Flores-ts, John 
Ingle-bs, Matt Ingalls-as/c, Josh Marshall-ts, Dan Plonsey-bs, 
Dave Slusser-ts, Rory Snyder-as, Rent Romus-as, Cory Wright-bs 
Brass: Peter Bonos-trpt, Collete McCaslin-coronet, Matt 
Gaspar-Flugel, Ron Heglin-tuba, Jeff Hobbs-trpt, George 
Moore-trpt, Matt Streich-trombone Rhythm: Henry Kaiser-guitar, 
John Finkbeiner-guitar Timothy Orr-drums, William Winant-drums, 
Lisa Mezzacappa-bass, Matt Montgomery-bass

Saturday, August 2nd 1:00pm
Transformational Voice, an afternoon vocal workshop with 
bodywork/energywork master Jill Burton.
Register at the door or Pre-Register @ Brownpaper Tickets

Saturday, August 2 
Q&A Sessions 7:30 pm, Performance 8:15 pm
Improvisations, featuring three different
groups of improvisers exploring the language of the unknown.
* Obstreperous Doves (Karl Evangelista – guitar, Bill Noertker - 
bass, Nava Dunkelman - percussion, Christina Stanley - violin, 
and Jordan Glenn - drums)
* The Emergency String (X)tet (violins: Mia Bella D'Augelli, 
Jeff  Hobbs, Christina Stanley; lap steel guitar: David 
Michalak; cello: Doug Carroll; bass koto: Kanoko Nishi-Smith; 
and cello/director: Bob Marsh); who will premiere a new work 
in celebration of Bob Marsh’s 70th birthday
* Jill Burton Trio (Jill Burton - voice, Tim Perkis - 
electronics, and Doug Carroll - cello) debuting their 
first-time collaboration

… and here’s what I wrote about last year’s Summit:

June 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Maxine Gets an Album

Maxine concert: Thursday, June 26, 2014Maxine, the artificial-intelligence musician that’s been has reached a milestone: her debut CD.

Ritwik Banerji has been developing (I think he would prefer to say “raising”) Maxine for several years now, posting the results on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. They’re mostly duets between Maxine and Banerji’s own saxophone playing, the idea being that Maxine learns and progresses as she plays more.

The Maxine/Banerji duet is now called Maxine and the Astromusicologist, and their album is Palmer Square, on Jeff Kaiser’s pfMentum record label.

To celebrate, Maxine and a gathering of local friends will perform Thursday, June 26, at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) in Berkeley. It starts at 5:00 p.m. with an art installation featuring Maxine and some graphical computer programs called Maxineans. (Banerji has posted two representatives to Vimeo: Antoine and Bart.) Visitors are encouraged to bring an instrument and interact with Maxine and her friends.

A concert will follow, with Kaiser playing an opening set, followed by Maxine performing in varying improvising ensembles.

I first came across Maxine in the context of a concert with Maxxareddu, a similar artificial intelligence developed by Joe Lasqo. Here’s more about that:

June 26, 2014 at 8:20 am Leave a comment

Human Feel and the Magic of Discovery

Human Feel: Rosenwinkel, D'Angelo, Black, SpeedSeeing that Human Feel has tour dates here in the Bay Area makes me nostalgic —  not just for the band, but for the bygone era they represent to me.

Thursday, June 26, the band is playing at Yoshi’s Oakland, and Monday, June 30, they’ll be at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz — their only Bay Area appearances that I’m aware of since about 1997. They’re touring in advance of a new album, coming out in June.

Which is awesome news. All four members — Andrew D’Angelo, Jim Black, Chris Speed, and Kurt Rosenwinkel — have careers of their own, so it takes an alignment of planets to get Human Feel back in the studio, let alone on the road.

But here’s what’s really on my mind.

Tim Berne’s Bloodcount is the band that got me into the whole avant-jazz thing in the first place, an interest that eventually fueled the radio show that eventually fueled this blog.

Human Feel 2014 tour poster, from FacebookThat was around 1997, and I was in New York, visiting the Knitting Factory (which still supported avant-jazz big-time, for a few final, glorious years). I’d gotten to see Tim Berne play, and I’d picked up a free music magazine called M3 or something like that. In the back were CD reviews, including one for Human Feel’s second album, Speak to It.

That’s how I found out that Black and Speed, both from Bloodcount, had been in another band. I wanted to hear that band.

Understand this: The Internet in 1997 was not what it is today. You didn’t just look up a band’s web site — web sites literally hadn’t existed five years earlier — and digitizing music, let alone downloading it, was barely even a dream for most of us.

No — back then, you had to rely on magazines and real word-of-mouth. The blind faith of mail-order was always an option, but it was more exciting to stalk the record-store bins, bypassing the big names (Pat Metheny, Gary Burton) to go straight for the alphabetical dividers, where the more obscure “M” and “B” artists — or the ones the store’s clerks hadn’t heard of — were hiding.

At the time, I didn’t know any New York records stores other than Tower, and I didn’t have time to shop anyway. So the next time I was in Berkeley, I sped over to Amoeba Records and scanned the “H” bin, with little hope.

Human Feel: Welcome to MalpestaBut there it was. A CD that, weeks ago, I would have bypassed: Human Feel’s Welcome to Malpesta. It had that same Steve Byram-looking cover that Tim Berne’s albums did, chaotic and scribbled, promising a mind-bending experience.

Listening to the album was a joy. Andrew D’Angelo’s “Sich Reped” opens it — a catchy, maddening 7/4 theme like a nursery rhyme gone bad (“Three Blind Mice” in a blender, I think a friend called it), hitting all the crazy angles my ears were hoping for. It’s followed by Chris Speed’s “Iceaquay,” the kind of drifting, improv-heavy piece I was just starting to appreciate.

That’s what it used to be like to find music. The hard work of panning for gold, and the sweet victory of discovery.

Today, I scan the bins, and the delight has faded. Some of that has to do with volunteering at KZSU, where I got exposed to a lot of new releases, but mostly it’s the Internet. I don’t get to hear every Clean Feed or Firehouse 12 release that comes out — but I do know that it’s come out. Little surprises are harder and harder to find.

That’s why Human Feel, in addition to being a good band, has a special place in my heart. They were one of my few great New York finds before the Internet brought New York to my doorstep. Don’t get me wrong; I love being able to follow musicians on the Internet, keeping up with their recordings and their careers. But, as old people will always say to young people, it’s not the same.


See also:

 

June 25, 2014 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

Favorite Street: Steve Lacy Remembered

ROVAIt’s hard to believe Steve Lacy passed away 10 years ago this week. Doesn’t seem that long ago.

For many musicians in the Bay Area, Lacy was a contemporary, a peer, a mentor, a correspondent, and even a fan. They knew him and admired his work, and his passing at the age of 70 was like a color dropping from the spectrum.

So when the members of ROVA Saxophone Quartet arranged a commemorative concert, it also served as a 10-year wake and a community catharsis. Held at the Community Music Center in San Francisco, back on June 6, the show was a celebration of Lacy’s music, a chance to share memories, and a repainting of Favorite Street, ROVA’s 1984 album of Lacy compositions. (The CD is even back in print, part of a re-emergence of the Black Saint record label, although ROVA noted it might be hard to find in stores.)

Steve Lacy and Don Cherry: EvidenceI wanted to see the show not just for the music, but to learn a little more about Lacy and his influence.

Bruce Ackley did a lot of the talking for ROVA, explaining how Lacy’s influence had crept into their musical lives. ROVA members would attend many a Lacy show — and he would attend theirs in turn. (Lacy, a native New Yorker, spent most of his career in Paris and was a frequent Bay Area visitor. ROVA probably encountered him in both places.)

Ben Goldberg talked about the album Evidence, which he and ROVA both mentioned as a key influence. It’s got Steve Lacy and Don Cherry, but more importantly, it came out in 1961, when Lacy wasn’t as well known. His records weren’t numerous and were hard to come by. Evidence was a portal into a new sound world and a revelation, to hear the musicians tell it.

Ben Goldberg: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The FactYears later, Goldberg received the news of Lacy’s death just days before a previously booked studio date. That album — which would become The Door, the Hat, the Chair, the Fact — was meant to be an homage, songs Goldberg assembled upon hearing Lacy had cancer. It turned into an emotional therapy session, as the whole community was rocked by Lacy’s passing. One track is a brief, classically styled song, “Cortege,” where the lyrics are the text of a fax Lacy sent Goldberg. The concluding line is a casual comment by Lacy that becomes poetic in its new context: “I am hardly here these days.”

Darren Johnston, Doug Stewart, Kjell Nordeson, Aram Shelton

The Concert

The first act was a variation of the quartet Cylinder, with bassist Doug Stewart sitting in for the traveling Lisa Mezzacappa. They started with a thundering take on “Trickles,” a fast-moving free-jazz rendition propelled by Kjell Nordesson’s drums and percussion. Aram Shelton (sax) and Darren Johnston (trumpet) took the lead voices, spelling out Lacy’s melodies — which have always struck me as simple and playful, but bent with a foreign accent of a country only Lacy’s mind could inhabit — and spiraling into solos inspired by the music. Johnston, in particular, seemed to be working the Monk-like strategy of using the melody to overtly build a solo (Monk being a fascination of Lacy’s, of course).

Michael Coleman and Ben Goldberg, ready for their close-upWhere the Cylinder group presented Lacy in a jazz context, the duo of Michael Coleman (piano) and Ben Goldberg (clarinet) showed off a more classical-oriented side, more akin to a recital-plus-improvisation. It turns out they were, in fact, playing Lacy’s etudes, a book of intentionally difficult exercises called Hocus Pocus. For much of the set, Coleman and Goldberg played the melodies in unison, the piano following the same fractally linear paths as the clarinet. Coleman expertly darted and dodged his way through, sometimes tripping up but always able to jump back in within a couple of sixteenth notes; it was all very impressive.

On a few occasions, Coleman had arranged chords to go along with the themes, adding unexpected and dramatic effects. “Herky Jerky” took on a deep ocean-waves color; it didn’t remind me of McCoy Tyner but it was that same monumental spirit. “Hustles,” dedicated to Niccolo Paganini, got a brief passage of insane circus music (at least, I’m pretty sure it was the Paganini piece and not the one dedicated to Karl Wallenda).

Bruce Ackley and Jon Raskin of ROVADuring ROVA’s set, I found myself suddenly paying attention to rhythms. This might have been because they opened with the funky bassline of “The Throes,” with Jon Raskin chugging away at the baritone sax. Several pieces also broke the group into a 2×2 format, with duets playing counterbalancing themes — again, tickling the ear’s sense of rhythm. While they played the songs from Favorite Street, some of them got new interpretations. (I know that not because I’m a brilliant Lacy-ologist, but because Steve Adams contributed some arrangements, and he wasn’t in ROVA in 1984.) It was a joyous set that ended with a new arrangement of “Cliches,” a track that’s not on the album.

It was a concert, a remembrance, and an education. I’m glad I was able to be there.

June 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm 12 comments

Fred Frith’s Gravity, Re-Revisited

Fred Frith's Gravity: A Cosmological Constant Revisited

Source: Dominique Leone’s blog; click to go there.

When Fred Frith re-created the album Gravity for a live show in August 2012, the hope was to take the act on the road by putting up the same band at festivals.

The band did get to play a couple of shows in New York, and now they’ve taking to the festival stage as well, having appeared at the Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) in Quebec in May. They’re included in Avant Music News’ review of FIMAV Day 4.

The Gravity Band will also be performing twice in Europe: June 7 in the city of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and June 8 at the Moers Festival in Germany.

Fred Frith's GravityIf you want to find out more about the process of (and reasons for) building a concert around the Gravity album, you can listen to the 2012 radio special I put together for KZSU. I’ve stored it here, in downloadable form. It includes interviews with Frith and with Bay Area musicians Aaron Novik and Dominique Leone, whose bands combined to form the 11-piece Gravity Band, and it all came out quite niftily, if I may say so.

I also reviewed that 2012 show, which was great fun.

June 3, 2014 at 12:57 am Leave a comment

Santa Clara’s Laptop Orchestra, Version 2.0

SCLork at work, 2013

SCLork at work, 2013

A year ago, Bruno Ruviaro was kind enough to let me sit in on one session of his laptop orchestra course at Santa Clara University. It was fun watching the students hone and rehearse the pieces for their upcoming end-of-quarter performance.

Ruviaro taught the class again, during this past spring session — and again, SCLork (the Santa Clara Laptop Orchestra) will perform an end-of-year concert. It’s Wednesday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Santa Clara’s Music Recital Hall. (It’s in the Music and Dance building, corner of Lafayette and Franklin.) This year, Santa Clara’s performing arts group has even listed the program and the players for your perusal.

As I wrote last year, the course consists of weekly rehearsals in anticipation of the concert. Classes are held on the very stage where the students will perform. They’re given identical laptops on Day One (ensuring consistency of tools), and from there, Ruviaro helps shape the performance while guiding the class through the backroads of performance-software packages such as SuperCollider. He and the students build the concert program, consisting of their own pieces and some Santa Clara faculty contributions. In fact, Professor Alex Christie’s “What Happened in Salt Lake City,” which was part of the rehearsal I saw, appears on this year’s bill as well.

I’d intented to ask Ruviaro for permission to watch Day One of the class this time around, just to get a flavor for what it’s like. I’d seen the culmination of the process, with the students working as a team, comfortable improvising around a framework, well versed in the vocabulary of their instruments. I’d like to contrast that with the beginning. The difference might actually be slim. The students aren’t blind amateurs; many are musicians, so they’ve got ensemble experience, and I got the impression that a few had already run a few laps around the noise-improv track.

There’s a SLOrk at Stanford University as well, but it’s nice to see a project like this down in the South Bay. The course certainly seems to be a success — this time, admission is not free, and the concert is getting a regular evening slot rather than the late afternoon. SCU takes SCLork seriously, as they should; there’s some cool stuff happening here.

June 1, 2014 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment


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