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.

Playlist: March 12, 2010

Click here for the complete KZSU playlist for Friday, March 12, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.  A few notes:

* Ornette Coleman — “Song X” — Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar, 2006) ….. In celebration of Ornette’s 80th birthday earlier this week.  A fast-and-crazy song (most of the album is in that vein) that includes a drum solo and a violin solo.

* Biréli Lagrène — “Lullaby of Birdland” — Gipsy Trio (Dreyfuss, 2009) ….. I do like spinning the gypsy jazz once in a while. And OMG, does he ever shred on the acoustic guitar solo here. Insane.

* Eri Yamamoto — “I Was Born” — In Each Day, Something Good (AUM Fidelity, 2009) ….. Yamamoto’s piano playing has a gossamer touch that’s sometimes difficult to integrate into my show.  Hers is a piano style that wins you over slowly, rather than clubbing you over the head a la Cecil Taylor.  But she’s got some avant-garde cred, having played with William Parker both as a side musician and as a leader. This is one of the more brisk, upbeat tracks on her new album.

Playlist: March 5, 2010/Other Minds

Click here for the full playlist for Friday, March 5, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

I started with the intention of playing just a little bit of Other Minds-related music.  (See here and here.)  I wanted to show off the new ROVA/Nels Cline and something from Carla Kihlstedt, and figured I’d wrap it up with Kidd Jordan.

But upon searching our awesome KZSU music database (, or better yet, try this out), I was able to about double the amount of stuff I had to play.  Here’s the rundown.

* ROVA & Nels Cline Singers — “Trouble Ticket” — The Celestial Septet (New World, 2010)
… Album comes out March 15, but ROVA had early copies on sale at the show. They’ll be there tonight as well, I’d assume. More on this later.

* Minamo [Carla Kihlstedt/Satoko Fujii] — “Kuroi Kawa – Black River” — Kuroi Kawa – Black River (Tzadik, 2009)
… More on this one later, when I’ve given it a full listen. Chamber-like duets of violin and piano, with occasional bouts of violence.

* Kidd Jordan, Hamid Drake, William Parker — “Living Peace” — Palm Of Soul (AUM Fidelity, 2006)
… Ecstatic jazz. Jordan doesn’t just blow fast; the opening is a keening, moaning lament; then things heat up over the next 14 minutes.

* Gyan Riley — “Yubalation” — Food for the Bearded (New Albion, 2002)
… Hadn’t encountered Riley before. His classical guitar has the density of John Fahey and the beauty of Spanish guitar. I picked a track that teams him up with viola and percussion, but he’s fascinating solo as well.

* Tom Johnson — “The 1287 Five-Note Chords [excerpt]” — The Chord Catalogue (XI, 1999)
* Tom Johnson — “The 78 Eleven-Note Chords” — The Chord Catalogue (XI, 1999)
… Couldn’t resist. Johnson is big on using combinatorics as a compositional tool. For instance, his “Combinations” for string quartet, one of the pieces being performed tonight, assigns notes so that each member plays one of four notes, and they cycle through all possible combinations. The Chord Catalogue is of similar mind, but quite extreme: It’s every possible chord in one octave. Played in order. I recall a review in an avant-garde-friendly magazine, and even they had a hard time dealing with this one! I love the idea — seriously love it, and if someone pitched it to me, I’d be all in favor of it. And to play the piece perfectly requires intense concentration on the player’s part. But I don’t know if I have the stuff to listen start to finish.

Luckily, Johnson adds pauses (assigned at mathematically chosen spots) but it’s still monotonous. And written, when you consider the pauses are pre-planned. What’s amusing, when you play the 11-note chords right after the five-noters, is that Johnson had to slow down markedly in order to play them.

* Tom Johnson — “Eighty-Eights” — Music for 88 (XI, 1991)
… A combinatorics piece that’s easier to take: Solo piano, where each of the 88 keys is used exactly once. But Johnson divides the keyboard into sections and patterns, so that you get melody, tempo, and mood variations as the piece progresses.

Playlist: February 12, 2010

Click here for the full KZSU playlist for Friday, Feb. 12, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

The first half hour was dominated by free improv from Grosse Abfahrt (more info in a post to come, or read the review in the East Bay Express, *or* go see them live on Wednesday at 21 Grand).

Other notes:

* Jerry Granelli V16 — “Unnamed” — Vancouver ’08 (Songlines, 2009) … Had to play something from Vancouver to commemorate the Olympics opening, and this one did the trick nicely.  The album is another set of what you might call avant-blues, a rock-influenced jazz with rock/blues guitars up front but a penchant for jazzlike composing.  Some tracks, like this one, even get pretty far out there in terms of free soloing, but the guitars stick to blues-club sounds, as opposed to jazz guitar. It’s got punch. Plenty of grooves and sweat involved here.

* Matthew Welch — “Bagpipe Quintet” — Luminosity (Porter, 2009) As threatened, I played the five-bagpipe composition from Welch, warning listeners ahead of time that the sound can get shrill.  See, when we, the DJs,  preview the next sets of music we’re going to play, we can listen to it on “cue” speakers — which, in our case, happen to be cheap but resilient little things. The sound is tinny. When you’ve got five bagpipes hitting those high notes, it’s really tinny.  Anyway, the piece is only four minutes long and turns out to be less grating when heard through decent speakers.  It’s in a droney mode, with some interesting slow ostinato patterns that crop up.

* Helmut Lachemann — “Grido” [excerpt] — Streichquartette (Kairos, 2009) … I followed Welch with some harshness from the Arditti String Quartet, although this piece quickly settles into a busy and low-volume level of activity. Lachemann, we’re told, is very highly for his post-tonal work.  The CD consists of three quartet pieces, all about 20 minutes long.

Playlist: February 5, 2010

(I haven’t been putting “2009” in these headlines, have I…?)

Click here for the full KZSU playlist for Friday, Feb. 5, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

* Alex Jenkins Sound Immersion — “All Them Cows” — Generosity (Prescott, 2009)Out of Sacramento, a quartet fronted by two horns and led by drummer Jenkins.  They do some great hard-bop grooving but also color outside the lines quite a bit — as on this track, which is an etheral improvisation.  But it’s great when they turn up the straight-jazz heat as well, as on “Power Outage,” a track that opens with a bright, aggressive drum solo.  Hope to catch them live someday.

* Aperiodic — “Louder” [7″] (Generate, 2009)The last of the three seven-inches that we got from Generate, this time a trio of guitar, bass, and (piano or drums).  Side A, “Air Below Mountains,” is actually the louder track, a noisy and inorganic brew of electronically tweaked sounds.  “Louder” starts off quieter and includes some uncomfortable pauses before shifting into some busy group work. Nice stuff.

They’ve got a full-length in the works, their first in 11 years of playing together, according to drummer Matt Schulz.

* Aarktica — The album is called In Sea, and I’m not sure whether that’s an “In C” play on words or not.  It could be.  These are electric-guitar washes, heavy in amplified treatment to create walls of ambient sound, loud but cushy. On the title track, you can hear the pick slow-strumming the opening chord that triggers a big, Eno-like wave of sound, a pretty effect.  Given the harmonic statsis of this kind of music, an “In C” reference wouldn’t be surprising.

Playlist: January 29, 2010

Click here for the complete KZSU playlist for Friday, Jan. 29, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.


* Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens — “Big News” — Two Cities (Delmark, 2009)A band that used to be fronted by drummer reeds player Keefe Jackson but is now considered to be of rotating leadership, according to the CD cover. Shelton’s turn, at first glance, adds more abstraction to the mix, but it’s still a good free-jazz band with a rich late-’60s influence and a penchant for crazy solos, especially when it’s Fred Lonberg-Holm’s turn (cello).  Looking forward to giving this one a close listen later on.

* Noah Creshevsky — “Red Carpet” — To Know and Not To Know (Tzadik, 2007) … I’m not familiar with Creshevsky’s modern-classical work. This particular piece is a manic jumble, apparently built of spliced-up segments from a chamber ensemble.  The music sounds like it was active and jumpy in the first place and becomes even more so after Creshevsky’s edit.  Big three-minute fun, and it even ends on a traditional, classical-sounding final note.

* Gordon Beeferman — “No Meat” — Music for an Imaginary Band [7″] (Generate, 2009) … One of the three aforementioned 7″ vinyl releases we got from Generate. This one’s a jazz septet that puts the emphasis on the horns in a post-’60s setting. I may end up spinning both sides quite a lot.

* Komeda Project — “Ballad for Bernt” — Requiem (WM, 2009)I don’t know the music of Krzysztof Komeda. I do know the name, and that he’s a Polish film composer and jazz musician. So, I don’t know how typical this set of Komeda compositions is. As with the Herbie Nichols Project, the Komeda Project bears the goal of presenting its namesake composer’s music. This album doesn’t have the heaviness that I’d assumed Komeda would bear (that’s prejudice about Eastern European moods on my part); songs I’ve sampled have had the strong, traditional air of a midsized jazz ensemble. Even this one, which evokes a bit of a sad mood but doesn’t get despairing.

* Zevious — “Glass Tables” — After the Air Raid (Cuneiform, 2009) … Prog with a touch of menace in the guitar. A fairly heavy trio that favors the loud. Made for a very good pairing with the new Henry Threadgill album.

POP NOTES: Chloe Makes Music makes pretty solo guitar-and-vocal songs, bright and with a not-too-introspective vocal outlook. (“You have been stuck like a penny for months in the couch…”) ….. Greyboy Allstars aren’t really pop; they’re funky groove jazz that happens to feel poppy in the context of my shows.  They’re tied to the acid-jazz ’90s but presented music with more depth than most acid jazz had. We had tickets to give away to a show of theirs, so I gave ’em a spin.

Playlist: January 22, 2010

Click here to see the full KZSU playlist for Friday, Jan. 22, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.


* Matthew Welch — “Self/Non-Self And Luminosity In The Bardo” — Luminosity (Porter, 2009)You gotta love bagpipes.  That is, if you’re going to make it through most of this album, you have got to love bagpipes.  That’s Welch’s instrument, and this album compiles some of his compositions … for solo bagpipe … for three bagpipes … for five bagpipes.  It gets shrill; if I ever play the five-pipe track, I’ll warn the audience to turn down the radio first.

The plus side: With dronescapes being a perfectly acceptable form of experimental music, Welch’s work has an obvious home. (Think about it: bagpipes are the original drone instrument.)  Also, there are two 20-minute pieces for large ensemble.  “Symphony of Drones #1,” ironically, doesn’t drone; it’s a spritely, bustling group improv with some agile bagpipes thrown in the mix. “Self/Non-Self” is a different animal, a 20-minute concerto for harp and bagpipeless ensemble that does drone in parts, albeit against some nicely scattery harp plucking by Zeena Parkins.

* Ernesto Diaz-Infante & Jeff Arnal — “Brooklyn Mantra” (Generate, 2009)It’s a 7″, one of three such disks we got from Arnal recently.  Experimental jazz singles!  I love it.  The A and B sides here make up all of “Brooklyn Mantra.”  I wussed out of playing the A side, in favor of the noisier B side, which is dominated by a one-chord guitar rhythm from Diaz-Infante, over which Arnal plays various percussion. Energetic, abstract, and a bit lo-fi. I liked it a lot, and I’ll be anxious to hear the other two 7″ disks when I get time.

* Tim Berne — “Quicksand” — The Sevens (New World, 2002) … Just in a modern-classical mood today, I suppose. This album compiles pieces Berne wrote for guitarist Marc Ducret and/or the ARTE Quartet (a sax quartet).  “Quicksand” is a 25-minute piece that combines all three (Berne, Ducret, ARTE) for some lively improvisation and galloping composed segments. I skimmed off the first 10 minutes for radio purposes, but the entire piece would be worthwhile someday, even in a radio environment where most listeners aren’t paying full attention.

* Bruce Friedman — “MCT-4 with Duos” — O.P.T.I.O.N.S. (pfMentum, 2009)It stands for Optional Parameters To Improvise Organized Nascent Sounds, and it’s a graphical-score piece intended to be stretched into an improvisatory framework.  The CD starts with a 3-minute run-through of the piece by itself: a scattery, disjoint, group jumble that reminds me of Rich Woodson’s Ellipsis (which performs through-composed pieces of dense complexity, full of sharp precision corners).

That’s followed by three longer takes, extended to include solos (or, in this case, duos).  They all tend to be calmer than the first track, and each of the longer tracks has its own personality. There’s apparently a sense of form that can develop from the original piece. No wonder it’s being used in the music curriculum at a Vancouver college.  Read more about O.P.T.I.O.N.S. here.

….. Notice how everything this week was “pieces,” not “songs.”  Not intentional.  Either I was in a modern-classical mood today, or I’m just getting all fru-fru with how I describe the music. Maybe I’ll remedy that by dragging out some Gutbucket next week.