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.