Playlist: September 7, 2011

Full playlist is on file here. Some notes:

Wooley/Looney/Smith/Walter — “Anglewise Blind” — Scowl (ugExplode, 2011) ….. Recorded in 2008, when Weasel Walter (drums) and Damon Smith (bass) were still in the Bay Area (along with Looney), this is a nice slice of free improv, with Walter showing off some of the agile, restrained jazz-influenced drumming that he’s so good at. This one reminds me: I keep meaning to give air time to Scott Looney (piano), maybe his Urban Ruminations album with Oliver Lake, Paul Smoker, and Lisle Ellis.

Sir Roland Hanna — “20th Century Rag” — Colors from a Giant’s Kit (Ipo, 2011) ….. This album features solo piano recordings from a few sessions in the years before Hanna’s death. It ranges from poignant ballads to jovial standards. This is one of the Hanna originals, a ragtime tune with some chromatic colorings and a classical-recital air. It’s playful and modern — not avant-garde-angular modern, but still modern.

Matana Roberts — “Rise” — Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres (Constellation, 2011) ….. In listening to snippets of this one, it struck me as emotionally uneven, often raw. Which isn’t bad; it just makes for an awkward fit in some sets. This week, I paid attention and realized it’s an album about slavery — about the injustice, the heartache, the anger, and the stain that remains on the present as well as the past. That explains the keening cry at the start of this song, rough yet soulful and with a touch of blues. Actually, it’s a wonderfully emotive start to the album — a cathartic sax blast at first glance, but with subtle shadings and depth. Almost a product of acting more so than musicianship. This track ends with a quieter, gentle mood, maybe a thankful mental pause after the struggle. For a nifty writeup with more background, see Pop Matters.

Bela Fleck — “Life in Eleven” — Rocket Science (Entertainment One, 2011) ….. I admire Fleck’s music, but his smooth jazzy sympathies don’t blend well with my show. Still, it was fun to give this a spin — I mean, come on, it’s called “Life in Eleven,” and it’s so fast that you can’t immediately count out the elevens. I might also play “The Secret Drawer,” which is a 2-minute track of Futureman‘s Drumitar.

Ornette Coleman — “Sounds and Forms for Wind Quintet” — The Great London Concert (Arista, 1975) ….. A 24-minute piece that almost resembles a take on minimalism, or maybe Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music (which I don’t think existed in 1975). The winds play in little pulses, with occasional long pauses as if they’ve come to the end of a sentence. And so it goes… for quite a long time. I used this one as the sound bed during mic breaks, but the long pauses made it awkward. I also played the final 7 minutes or so, which wrap up with some quickly spun phrases, a very jazzy coda that got the audience hollering.

Playlist: August 31, 2011

Full playlist is viewable here. A few notes:

Donnie McCaslin — “Mick Gee” — Seen from Above (Arabesque, 2000) ….. Blast from the past. I remember this album didn’t make me a McCaslin convert; some of the melodic tracks and soaring, dramatic swells were too much for me. But he’d assembled a crack band: Ben Monder (guitar), Jim Black (drums), and Scott Colley (bass).  They don’t push boundaries on many of the tracks, but this one’s a cooker, and it opens with some of Black’s trademark drum propulsion. Overall, I do prefer McCaslin’s more recent stuff (such as Perpetual Motion on Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf label). McCaslin’s playing at Yoshi’s Oakland on Sept. 12, so I might be spinning him next week in conjunction with a ticket giveaway.

Danielle Roger — “India Which Is Not India”/”Deception… and Melancholy” — Pinta, Nina & Maria (Ambiances Magnetiques, 2008) ….. Interesting brew of classical music, electronics, and improvisation. This pairing, which ends the album, starts with a crinkly electronics sound but then bursts into a full-on chamber composition, with jumpy brass criss-crossing against madrigal woodwinds. Ren Faire plus modern classical plus abstract electronics.

James “Blood” Ulmer — “High Yellow” — Forbidden Blues (DIW, 1998) ….. I blew it here.  A caller raved about the loud, chaotic Joe Morris track I’d played last week and mentioned that he was into Ulmer as well.  So, into the library I went.  But I decided to go with this track for its catchy opening rather than with the searing, cosmic-ocean-wave sound of “What Is.”  The result worked well as far as radio transitions go (especially going from this track to the steady Klez-funk of Ben Goldberg’s Go Home), but I got bored of the track quickly. Good stuff, just not what I was looking for at the moment.

Evan Parker & John Wiese — “No Shoes” — C-Section (Second Layer, 2011) ….. Evan Parker is Evan Parker: saxophone sounds that flutter and continually change, like a flame. He’s teamed with electronics, tapes, and computer patches by Wiese. I’m having a hard time getting into this one; the electronics seem abrupt and disruptive. The session is meant to have a loud aesthetic, which is great. I’m just not sure the blend works for me.

Playlist: August 24, 2011

A consciously “jazzier” show this time. It’s just the mood I was in.

Full playlist can be seen here. Some highlights:

* Steve Coleman & Five Elements — “Formation 1” — The Mancy of Sound (Pi, 2011) ….. KZSU’s own DJ Fo finds this “more cohesive and successful than 2010’s Harvesting Semblances and Affinities.”  I haven’t given it a full listen yet, so I’ll be interested to see if I get the same impression.

* Nathan Clevenger Group — “Fossil Strategies” — The Evening Earth (Evander) ….. Always good to give a little love to local musicians. I discussed this album in January. I wonder if the title has anything to do with the swingy, old-fashioned elements of the composed head.

* Cecil Taylor — “Enter Evening (Soft Line Structure)” — Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966) ….. I was going to go with “Steps,” the album opener, which goes more for the jugular. But it felt too aggressive after the swingy Clevenger piece. I’ve always liked this track, which is soft but not actually slow, when you concentrate on it. Hope listeners had the patience to drift with it for 11 minutes.

* Monoswezi — “Xai Xai” — Monoswezi (Parallell [yes, with four ‘L’s] 2011) ….. African music augmented by sax and clarinet. The African part comes from the Shona people of Zimbabwe — very percussion-heavy stuff, as you’d imagine. A liquid and serious sound, and the horn additions don’t try to turn it into soupy jazz.

I’ll be on every Wednesday through Sept. 21, with a possible gap on Sept. 14 (I’ll let you know more as I know more). Please tune in — 9:00 a.m. to noon at 90.1-FM in the Bay Area, or

Playlist: August 17, 2011

It’s strange and yet not-strange to be back on the air. Normally it would be like riding a bike, but we’ve had some equipment changes in the past year, so my fingers, hands, and eyes can’t rely on a decade of muscle memory.  Obviously, I’m also out of touch with what we’ve got in rotation, so I’ll need to study up. But it’s good to be back.

Click here for the full playlist, or read below for notable bits and pieces:

* Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade — “Regard de L’etoile” — Cosmic Rift (Leo, 2011) ….. I saw Nightshade’s recent concert and got a copy of this CD from Lisa. It’s hot off the presses: so new, it’s not mentioned on Leo’s web site yet. So new, the only way to get one is through Lisa (or Leo, if you’re in the U.K.). And we played it on KZSU! That felt good. I’m intending to write up more about the show and the album (and to blog the four or five music shows I got to see recently). Suffice to say, the album crosses jazz and chamber-music lines, using vibraphone and subtle electronics alongside guitar, reeds, and bass.

* Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay — “Raga Puriya Dhanashree” — Puja (Felmay, 2008) ….. My show started 1/2-hour early, as the preceding DJ had to leave early. Sri plays Bollywood and Indian pop music as part of his talk show, “It’s Diff.”  Bandyopadhyay, by contrast, is closer to classical Indian music; this is a relaxed, extended raga that shows off her powerful voice. I picked it partly because (confession time) it gave me more time to set up future sets — but also because she’s a key character on:

* William Parker — “Morning Mantra” — Double Sunrise Over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008) ….. As noted in 2008, this is a powerful CD with a large ensemble, featuring Bandyopadhyay’s voice as a powerful addition to the mix. This track is based on a simple bass rifthat becomes a springboard for blooming improvisations, including one by Bandyopadhyay.

* Eric Hofbauer & the Infrared Band — “Pocket Chops” — Level (Creative Nation, 2011) ….. A song I remember from a Boston show two years ago. Playful, inside-swingy jazz lines that cave in as the avant-garde pauses and quietness creep in. The title was made up by a friend of Hofbauer’s, referring to the ability to flip between inside and outside jazz styles. Appropriate phrase for my show.

* Eco D’Alberi — “Up Toward the Sun” — s/t (Porter, 2011) ….. Italian improv-jazz quartet fronted by Edoardo Marraffa on sax. A big, burly tenor sound in aggressive gulps.

* Floored by Four — “Dougie” — s/t (Chimera, 2010) ….. Swampy psych played by Mike Watt, Nels Cline, Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne. I didn’t go for the snappy beat/jam of the track “Nels,” but rather for the slower, more contemplative “Dougie,” with its sparse cymbal crashes at the start, crisp bass, and lots of gloopy guitar/keyboard layers.

* Andy Akiho — “No One to Know One” — No One To Know One (Innova, 2011) ….. He plays steel drums. Yes, the instrument of cruise-ship cheesiness. But he does it in a context serious enough to be on Innova, building a classical/jazz framework that doesn’t reflect the islands one bit.  “Kiiro” is a very pretty, Metheny-like jazz instrumental, something that would go very well with a Chardonnay-and-brie festival audience. This particular pieces is more like Bang on a Can classical, with a small chamber ensemble backing Akiho and a manic percussive feel from the prepared steel drums. (He seems to have stuck wood blocks into them, as pianists do.)  Add to that some perky singing by soprano Fay Wang, a very Amy X. Neuburg-like touch. This track blew me away. You’d never guess it had a steel drum in it.

* Rhys Chatham — “The Magician” — Outdoor Spell (Northern Spy, 2011) ….. Maybe I’m the last to know, but Chatham swapped his guitar for trumpet. This album, then, is full of overdubbed trumpet, with lots of airy raspberries and curled-up squeaks. Regular trumpet notes appear, too, occasionally forming brassy drones. This 12-minute piece sets up Chatham’s trumpet overdubs with drums (Kevin Shea of Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and electric guitar (Jean-Marc Montera).

Back on the Air

… In small, temporary spurts, at least. Did my first KZSU shift in six months.

I did an impromptu sub spot for DJ Fo this morning, sticking mostly to jazz that wasn’t too extremely out there. Towards the end of the show I made room for the blues and world music Fo also plays.

You’ll find the playlist here in Stanford’s Zookeeper database.

It looks like I’ll also be on during prime time Saturday night, March 26 (9:00 p.m. to midnight, Pacific time). I’m hoping to play some Cardiacs music to plug the upcoming benefit show for Tim Smith (May 8 at Cafe Du Nord, San Francisco, as noted in the previous blog post). And the rest would be the usual adventurous jazz, improv, noise, and whatnot. Please tune in!

Radio Show: Thursday Morning Wake-Up Call

My KZSU-FM radio show is being moved this week, to Thursday mornings, 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Pacific.  Set alarm clocks accordingly.

There is every chance I’ll be taking a month or more off this quarter, but I’ll keep doing the blog. So, basically, you get fewer chances to actually hear the music but the same number of chances to read my blather.  What a deal.

Photo nicked from Flickr user EureekasWindow.

Switchboard Festival, Aaron Novik

Gubbish and Kipple are two sides of the Aaron Novik coin.  (A coin that has about six sides, if you want to take the analogy literally.)

On the grand org chart of jazz, Gubbish draws a dotted line to Patrick Cress’ Telepathy (see here and here), mixing energetic small-group jazz with dashes of Klezmer, a love of odd time signatures, and a touch of snarkiness at the bottom of it all.

Kipple was an improvisational project of Novik’s, leaning towards grooves with funky bass and electric piano.  A comparison to Electric Miles would be too easy and too far off the mark;  I like the description of “retro future,” drawing a futuristic sound out of the space jams of the psychedelic past. Kipple doesn’t go too heavily for the synthesizers or the loops, but it does have repeated riffs that make for some good beats.

Why bring this up, considering both albums are so old? Partly because I played them on the air today (so, consider this a preview offshoot of the March 26 playlist posting).

And I did that because Novik’s Thorny Brocky — another band with a sound I’d guess is apart from these two — is the opener at Sunday’s Switchboard Music Festival in San Francisco.

Switchboard sounds like an eclectic good time: eight hours’ worth of bands from multiple stripes of the spectrum.

Of the other bands I know: The Real Vocal String Quartet brings a classical air to new-folky instrumental music; their new album isn’t at all “avant-jazz” but once I give it a listen, I might still write it up here, so there.  And the festival ends sometime after 10:00 p.m. with miRthkon, a local prog band that I geeked out about here and here.