Posts filed under ‘news’

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


©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by Pierre Crépon, the article, titled “Contrary Motion,” draws upon a wealth of sources, including interviews (some unpublished) and magazine articles.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


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


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

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

A Pauline Oliveros Walkabout

It wasn’t until days after the fact that I learned Pauline Oliveros had passed. So, I spent part of the past week absorbing random samples of her work.

Oliveros will be remembered as a pioneer of electronic music, a director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (now succeeded by the New SFTMC and sfSound’s annual tape music festival), an improviser who crafted the philosophy of Deep Listening, and a female composer and crusader against sexism in classical and new music.

NPR had a nice obituary covering those points. The New York Times ran a good piece as well, penned by Steve Smith, a longtime arts writer with deep roots in jazz, classical, and metal.

I started my Oliveros walkabout by listening to “Bye Bye Butterfly,” her seminal 1965 electronics work, for the first time. Its source material includes a recording of Madama Butterfly, the opera, spun on a turntable and run through “oscillators and a tape delay,” as Smith describes it.

For a dose of Oliveros’ accordion playing, Roulette TV has a 20-minute performance followed by a brief interview. The music is a droney sheen, drawing you in to hear the buzzing harmonies.

Here’s something out of the ordinary: Circa 1993, Oliveros scored a dance-performance piece called “Ghostdance.” Created by Paula Josa-Jones, it’s meant to be performed in an area such as a park, so that the location becomes part of the piece. Oliveros’ score is as ethereal as you’d expect. There’s a lot more info on Josa-Jones’ website.

I also picked up The Roots of the Moment, the 1988 Hatology album, rereleased in 2006, that situates Oliveros’ accordian in the “interactive electronic environment” created by Peter Ward. He adds electronic touches, turning the accordion’s sound into endless shimmering planes of music. At first, I assumed Ward’s contributions were pre-recorded — tape music to guide Oliveros — but it blends together so nicely, I wonder if he was recording and playing back samples, like Robert Fripp does with Frippertronics.

For a deeper “deep listening” experience, I devoted some time to the album that’s actually titled Deep Listening (New Albion, 1989). Oliveros, trombonist Stuart Dempster, and vocalist Panaiotis, along with engineerAlbert Swanson and a didjeridu that one of them played, recorded it in an army cistern 186 feet in diameter, letting the reverberations layer over one another. Gentle waves of sound overlap and dissolve; it’s a different kind of “ambient” music.

December 6, 2016 at 8:19 am Leave a comment

Kris Davis’ New Symmetry

Maybe it’s because I was a math major, but I do love to geek out about things like this:

Pianist Kris Davis‘ new album — Duopoly, due out on Sept. 30 — consists of duets with eight different musicians. Sixteen tracks: one apiece with each partner, followed by eight more with the same players in reverse order. It’s a palindrome.

The album’s front cover helps you visualize it all. The tracks start with guitarist Bill Frisell (upper left) and, I’m guessing, work their way “down” the left column, through Craig Taborn, Billy Drummond and Tim Berne. Then they go back up the right-hand column to guitarist Julian Lage. The next eight tracks reverse that sequence.


Oh, but it gets better. The first eight tracks are based on compositions, while the last eight are improvisations. And you might notice that the the eight duo partners consist of two players representing each of four instruments: guitar (Frisell, Lage), Other Piano (Taborn, Angelica Sanchez), drums (Drummond, Marcus Gilmore), and woodwinds (Berne, Don Byron). It’s symmetries upon symmetries.

There are times when I’ll buy the physical form of an album — vinyl or CD — because it feels like the packaging is part of the whole experience. In this case, I’m counting geeking out on the overall concept as part of the experience. It’s a good one so far.

To top it all off, they filmed these sessions, so Duopoly is a DVD as well.

To help promote the album, Davis and Taborn are hitting the road for a series of two-piano showcases, including a stop in Los Angeles for the Angel City Jazz Festival and a show at Oakland’s Mills College. I’ve reviewed solo albums from each of them (here and here), and a duet performance seems like it would be something to savor.

Here’s the itinerary for those duo shows:

September 30 — Firehouse 12 – New Haven, CT
October 1 — Music Center at Washington University – St. Louis, MO
October 2 — Roulette – Brooklyn, NY
October 3 — Kennedy Center – Washington DC
October 5 — Constellation – Chicago, IL
October 6 — Britton Recital Hall – Ann Arbor, MI
October 7 — Wexner Center – Columbus, OH
October 8 — Zipper Hall presented by Angel City Jazz Festival – Los Angeles, CA
October 9 — Mills College – Oakland, CA
October 10 — UC San Diego – San Diego, CA
October 11 — Poncho Concert Hall presented by Earshot Jazz Festival – Seattle, WA
October 13 — Bucknell University – Lewisburg, PA

August 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Chambers

With Bobby Hutcherson having passed away at age 75, jazz fans everywhere might be spinning Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch or turning toward Hutcherson’s 2014 Blue Note swan song, Enjoy the View. Me, I’m remembering his first Blue Note album and, coincidentally, the first Hutcherson album I ever bought: 1965’s Dialogue.

This was early in my explorations of the freer side of jazz, when I was hesitantly dipping my toe in Cecil Taylor waters. Hutcherson seemed like an alternative that was safer but still deep enough, but Dialogue‘s title track, written by Joe Chambers, turned out to be a full-on plunge into highly improvised jazz. It’s composed, but in a way that allows free association among the players, with no particular lead instrument, something that was new to me.

(Actually, there is a notable lead-instrument moment. Around 7:14, bassist Richard Davis moves from avant-garde twanging into a robust little duet with Andrew Hill’s ocean-waves piano behind him. Very nice.)

While we’re at it, though, let’s pay some respects to a living musician as well: Chambers, who was a consistent presence on Hutcherson’s late-’60s Blue Note records.

As a composer, Chambers was quite interested in this kind of openness and freedom, and he got to display his ideas on Hutcherson’s next album, Components. Every song on Side 2 is a Chambers composition, starting with “Movement,” which is “like a six-part theme constantly in motion, held together by a pulse,” as Chambers told liner-notist Nat Hentoff.

“Air” is the most adventurous of the pieces, almost entirely improvised. And “Juba Dance” has a catchy, 22-bar theme but also slides into a long stretch of spare, untethered improv.

Chambers would go on to release albums such as New World (Finite, 1976; rereleased by Porter, 2008), a mostly fusion-based date that also includes prog-like experimentalism (“Chung Dynasty”) and a pretty Wayne Shorter tune (“Rio”).

chambers-landscapesNot only is Chambers still with us, but he’s even released a new album: Landscapes, on the Savant label. It’s a faux-quartet date, with Chambers overdubbing drums and vibraphone, supported by Rick Germanson (piano) and Ira Coleman (bass). The overdubbing is eye-opening on tracks like “Samba de Maracatu,” with its rapidly tumbling drums and the tight unison of the piano/vibes lead. Neither part sounds like an easy after-the-fact addition.

Landscapes might not be particularly avant-garde, but who said it had to be? It’s a fine album and a nice display of Chambers’ skills, and it’s great that he’s still swinging at age 74.

Yes, I just morphed a Hutcherson obit into a Chambers celebration. Living musicians matter. We expend so much energy, rightfully so, on the jazz masters who are departing this world one by one, marking the passing of a great era. But the cats who are still around deserve their due, too. I think Bobby would understand.

August 17, 2016 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

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