Posts filed under ‘news’

Gordon Beeferman: Tunnel Visions, for Viola & Piano

Stumbled upon: A world premiere performance of a Gordon Beeferman composition for viola and piano:

“Raucous, rhythmic, spicy and microtonal” is how violist Stephanie Griffin, in her YouTube “liner notes,” describes Beeferman’s jazz-related music, and you get a taste of all that in the opening moments of Tunnel Visions, the pressure-packed first movement. It slows immensely for the middle movement then surges back with sweeping drama. Really good stuff.

The jazz band she’s referring to is Other Life Forms, a quartet with Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Andrew Drury on drums. They’re pretty interesting.

August 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

Save Roscoe Mitchell

UPDATE!


rmitchell-1000

Source: Wikimedia commons, by Oliver Abels

I couldn’t tell you if Roscoe Mitchell is a good professor. But I do know that the movement to preserve his job is not just the case of people standing up for a guy whose music they like.

Mitchell teaches at Mills College, occupying the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition — the same post previously held by Pauline Oliveros. His job, and the Milhaud position in general, are now threatened by budget cuts.

Word got out quickly. Mills professor Chris Brown has written a call to action that includes administrator addresses to write to. Someone has started an online petition, and musician Marc Hannaford (weirdly, the same guy who’s music I just discovered) has penned an open letter that anyone is invited to sign. He’ll be sending that tomorrow — Monday, June 12.

Mitchell’s presence at Mills is important because he represents the source. He was a key part of a musical movement that informs jazz, “classical” composition, and improvisation today. Contemporary creativity can trace its heritage to the music fostered by the AACM, and here’s a man who was there. He is one of the creators.

If you were running a music program, wouldn’t it be grand to have this man available as a resource for your students? What would that mean to the prestige of your college?

It’s a shame that liberal arts programs nationwide are under such fire, victims of the market-worshipping dogma that has caused the United States so much harm. Mills has a shortfall and has to make it up somewhere. That’s going to require some self-inflicted wounds, necessarily, but some cuts go deeper than others.

June 11, 2017 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Bern Nix, 1947-2017

nix-lowWith my mind on guitarists, it seems fitting to reflect for a few minutes on Bern Nix, who passed away recently at the age of 69. I’m no Nix expert; I’m not even that well versed in Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time years. But I appreciate the music and what Nix brought to it.

Former New York Times reporter Nate Chinen, now working at WGBO-FM, produced a fantastic obit, as usual, with the added detail that Nix was rehearsing regularly with Denardo Coleman’s band for an Ornette Coleman Festival. That festival is happening next month.

I like Chinen’s description of Nix playing a “subtle yet central” role in Prime Time, alongside the flashier Charles Ellerbee. And I like his choice of this live clip from 1987. During moments when Nix is on camera, such as the few seconds after 7:07, you can correlate his hand motions to what he’s playing. When I did that, I discovered he was creating ongoing threads of melody and calm riffs — a trail that I wouldn’t have noticed amid the whole band, but which became vital once I was aware of it. Nix fleshes out mood and color, doing his own thing but in a way that adds depth to the overall group sound.

 
Chinen also calls out Nix’s solo acoustic album Low Barometer (Tompkins Square, 2006), noting that the results “warrant comparison with analogous recordings by Derek Bailey, John Fahey and Marc Ribot.” Derek Bailey is a particularly interesting inclusion there, because Nix’s acoustic guitar shares that same curt sound, almost as if he’s taking advantage of the instrument’s lack of sustain.

But Chinen is talking about a mixture of Bailey with more melodic players. On Low Barometer, Nix traces recognizable and even pleasant routes — melodies, projected onto a tilted harmelodic plane. I’m actually reminded of Joe Pass’ self-titled solo album. Tracks like “Generic Ballad” and “Love’s Enigma” drift by, patiently, like a slow river in summer, and I realize that with this music, Nix is delivering his own fitting elegy.

June 8, 2017 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw

On the heels of the news about Hamiett Bluiett’s health issues comes the passing of his St. Louis compatriot, Charles “Bobo” Shaw.

Both were involved in St. Louis’ Black Artists Group. Shaw’s was more directly connected with one of Bluiett’s World Saxophone Quartet compatriots, Oliver Lake, whose quartet, including Shaw, worked in Europe. If you’re looking for a Bluiett connection, though, he and Shaw were together as late as 2015, when Bluiett’s Telepathic Orchestra played New York’s Vision Festival.

Shaw is one of the many blank spots in my jazz knowledge, maybe because he’s more connected with funky jazz (such as the band DeFunkt) than with the “free” stuff. I’ve been checking out the Human Arts Ensemble, a group that he ended up leading in the late ’70s, which has been a blast.

I love the rough edges on Junk Trap (Black Saint, 1978), the raspy horn tones and the jumbly, not-quite-synched unison lines. The album features a crack band — Shaw (drums), Joseph Bowie (trombone), John Lindberg (bass), Luther Thomas (sax), James Emery (guitar) — so the rawness isn’t a lack of ability; it has more to do with the pure joy being poured into the music. On “Night Dreamer,” Emery even starts channeling Sonny Sharrock; I’m not sure it completely fits that particular tune, but it sure is fun.

But it’s the 1973 album Funky Donkey that shows the Human Arts Ensemble really pushing the needle. The title track is a funk fireball, and “Una New York,” composed by Shaw, has a more mellow vibe but is no less earnest.

I’m sorry I didn’t catch up with Shaw during his lifetime, but I’m grateful for the history lesson.

(Plate o’ Shrimp moment: Another of Shaw’s bands, Solidarity Unit Inc., gets a shout-out by Bryon Coley and Thurston Moore in this 2009 Arthur magazine article. Just above that is a mention of pianist François Tusques — someone else I only recently discovered — performing on Sonny Murray’s Big Chief album.)

January 24, 2017 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

More Words for Marco Eneidi

57_eneidi

©2016 Michael Wilderman

The December issue of online magazine Point of Departure includes a deeply researched bio of Marco Eneidi, the alto saxophonist who passed away earlier this year.

Written by Pierre Crépon, the article, titled “Contrary Motion,” draws upon a wealth of sources, including interviews (some unpublished) and magazine articles. He also taps a few postgraduate theses, including Eneidi’s own Mills College master’s thesis, “Aeneidio Phonics.” And a couple of films are listed as well — one of them being Stanley J. Zappa’s “Get Out,” footage for which can be seen on YouTube.

In Crépon’s words, the article is “an attempt, by no means exhaustive, to retrieve something of the forward motion which seemed to propel Eneidi’s creative work.” It’s a fine remembrance for an artist who was so often overlooked by the music world. Thanks, Pierre.

This calls for another shot of Marco’s more recent work. Here he is in a 2012 trio with William Parker (bass), and Joe Morris (guitar).

January 13, 2017 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Celebrating Pauline Oliveros

oliveros-tape

Source: wongbear on Pixabay.

The annual San Francisco Tape Music Festival, which begins tonight at the Victoria Theater, cleared out its Sunday night calendar to devote the evening to Pauline Oliveros. That’s pretty cool.

The Festival will present four other full sets of music across three evenings, including an 11:00 p.m. set on Saturday. But Sunday, Jan. 8, will be a retrospective of Oliveros’ tape-music works.

The Tape Music Festival presents what we nowadays call electronic music — experimental and computerized stuff, but pre-recorded rather than performed live. Back in the 1950s, this stuff would be presented by playing reel-to-reel tapes, hence the festival’s name.

What sets the SF festival apart is that the music is played in the dark and the sound setup surrounds the audience with speakers. So it’s better than sitting at home tracking down these pieces on YouTube — and it would also be a nice shared experience as a way to commemorate Oliveros’ life and career.

Here’s the program for Sunday night:

  • Time Perspectives (1961)
  • Bye Bye Butterfly (1965)
  • Rock Symphony (excerpted) (1965)
  • Big Mother Is Watching You (1966)
  • Alien Bog (1967)
  • Lion’s Tale (excerpted) (1989)
  • Sayonara Sirenade 20/21 (2000)

There will be another Oliveros celebration on Friday, Jan. 27, this time at the Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). That could be interesting, because it will pit Oliveros’ quiet aesthetic against a bar atmosphere. The Uptown has hosted creative music for years, so they must have an inkling what they’re getting into. It’s a pleasant surprise to see them give a Friday night to this kind of music.

For the dedicated fan, Important Records packaged 12 CDs’ worth of Oliveros’ early electronic works. It’s available in physical and digital forms.

January 6, 2017 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

Funds for Hamiet Bluiett

bluiett

Source: St. Louis Magazine on Vimeo

Hamiet Bluiett, a giant of the baritone saxophone, is facing the end of his career, and his daughter has set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.

Her goal of $10,000 was surpassed within a week or so. But that seems a modest sum, considering Bluiett suffered a series of strokes and will be relocating back to St. Louis. If his music ever touched your heart, it’s not too late to give back.

He’s been battling for a couple of years. Two strokes in 2014 weren’t enough to stop him, as a profile in The New York Times explained. That article also notes that Bluiett suffered financial losses after a fire in 2002 and had not recovered even by 2014.

Bluiett needs no introduction. I first encountered him as part of the World Saxophone Quartet, but of course, all four WSQ members had prolific solo careers. I’m still in the process of exploring them. Much as I associate Bluiett with free jazz, he seems to have a love for traditional forms and tender songs.

I’m thinking particularly of an album called Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues (Soul Note, 1997), where he paces the baritone through warmly nostalgic tunes and gentle but hardy blues workouts, in a quartet featuring Ted Dunbar on guitar. It’s inside stuff, but Bluiett does add some edgy touches. Check out the ending of “Rain Forest Ripples,” where he plays around with multiphonics, making the whistling screeches sound downright sensitive.

 
(Side note: Clint Houston‘s bass solo on “Darian” is another moment to cherish on that album.)

For Bluiett’s scrappy free-jazz side, I’ve been giving fresh listens to Saying Something for All (Just a Memory, 1998), a duo album with Richard Muhal Abrams. It includes a couple of meaty baritone solos, some explosive duet work, and a quiet piece featuring Bluiett’s flute. (More about that album here, and you can hear samples on Soundcloud.)

The transition away from playing music must be painful, but hopefully Bluiett can take solace in knowing he played for as long as he could. Just last year, he came through the Bay Area with Kahil El’Zabar‘s Ritual Trio. In October, he rejoined Abrams for a concert in New York.

Here’s a set-long piece from early 2016, with William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums). You get to hear Bluiett’s poetry and his flute — and, of course, his trademark baritone sax.

And here’s a treat: a public television segment from St. Louis, where they profile Bluiett as a local hero of the arts.

 
To contribute to Bluiett’s recovery fund, visit https://www.gofundme.com/hamiet-bluietts-recovery.

January 2, 2017 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

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