Posts tagged ‘ava mendoza’

It Was Half of 20 Years Ago Today

Recently I found this: a promo bookmark from the Hotel Utah, a cool little bar and music venue in San Francisco’s SoMa district:

dscn3549-hotelutah

I believe it’s from 2007. Click here for a full view. Then take a closer look at this entry:

hotel-utah-death-jazz

Search my blog, and you’ll find references to three of those four bands. This would have been one amazing show: punk energy (Mute Socialite, led by Moe Staiano and featuring Ava Mendoza), tangly free jazz (Go-Go Fightmaster, who are the same people as Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch), fast-and-fluid prog (miRthkon). I’ll give Mezzkill the benefit of the doubt and assume they were awesome, too.

Don’t take my word for it. Check them out on Bandcamp! Mute Socialite, Go-Go Fightmaster, miRthkon.

Hell of a show. Wish I’d gone.


mutesocialite2007 predates this blog, so this seems like a good time to mention I had an older, primitive site — basic HTML text — where I used to recap my KZSU radio playlists. You’ll find, for example, a short writeup about Mute Socialite, complete with a ghastly formatting error.

In fact you can look up these bands on my old KZSU playlists by using the Find It! utility on Zookeeper, our music database. Type a word or phrase, and it will call up lists of artists, albums, and songs from the KZSU library, as well as relevant playlists. Give it a whirl.

Lastly — Special shoutout to Aaron Novik’s Kipple, who can be seen at the top of the bookmark. They’re on Bandcamp, too.

February 8, 2017 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

Surplus 1980

Surplus 1980 [Moe! Staiano] — Relapse in Response (Dephine Knormal, 2011)

If you know Moe’s solo percussion act — relentless energy, loud and fast but high-precision — you have an idea where this music is coming from.

The word that comes to mind is “manic.” Even when the tempo isn’t that fast, Moe F-I-L-L-L-L-S the space with drums. Fast, loud, madcap drums. He also packs the room with guitar blasts and some evil, rubbery bass.

As mentioned before (see links below), Surplus 1980 is a rock band, the second coming of the instrumental punk band Mute Socialite. Surplus 1980 is a thicker brew, this time with vocals, horns, and strings added here and there, courtesy of a host of Bay Area talents. It puts an out-jazz touch on the punk ferocity, but this is still a high-energy rock band at heart.

That he hangs out with these folks shows in the composing, too — complicated single-note guitar riffs or repeated odd-time-signature blasts. Much of this is played by Moe himself, but he does enlist other guitarists and bassists to flesh out the sound, or just to provide another point of view.

Some of the lead vocals consist of overdubbed Moes, barking out the words. Self-deprecation is a common theme. “M.E.S. Shoe Contact” is basically about the awkwardness of trying to write lyrics; “Trying to Succeed, Waiting With Little to No Results” is pretty self-explanatory. “Let’s Put Another One There” is a good piece of satire about overbuilding and anti-environmentalism, told in aggressive punky blasts.

Relapse includes some covers that seem worth researching. “The Gooseneck” is one I know, from Amy X. Neuburg, here turned into a buzzing and raw fast-forward dance. I’m not familiar with the spiky no-wave sound of Diagram Brothers (“Aggravation”) or the almost ska-sounding Bogshed (“Excellent Girl”).

As far as the music writing goes, the pinnacle might be “The Mechanics of Mathematical Courtings,” a madcap clockwork with lots of interlocking parts. Strings and horns pop up in tiny blips  among the guitar, the percussion, and yes, those drums (maybe less so than on other tracks).  I also liked a middle segment of “Ed Saad” where thick pulsing bass (Vicky Grossi) becomes the backdrop for some cool guitar effects from Ava Mendoza. It’s a nice little departure.

The album appears to be buyable through Moe! at Discogs.com, and you can hear many of the tracks on Soundcloud.

See Also:

December 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Vijay Anderson

Vijay Anderson’s sextet performs Monday, Feb. 7, at the Make-Out Room, San Francisco.

Vijay AndersonHard-Boiled Wonderland (Not Two, 2010)

As a drummer, Anderson has a nice free-jazz resume that includes Marco Eneidi, sax screamer Lynn Johnston, and the highly acclaimed bands of Adam Lane. More recently, he’s been part of the four-person axis that forms both Go-Go Fightmaster and Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait and Switch. His style can be fleet and explosive.

But Hard-Boiled Wonderland, like a lot of good improvised CDs, is more about process. Anderson sits more in the background or is even absent (as on the tracks “Nix” and “Dilation”).

It’s improvised jazz in a group setting, a sextet of equal parts where the two horns or the two guitars could be spinning virtuoso lines or providing the backdrop for the scene.  The predominant sound is the vibraphone played by Smith Dobson V, presenting a cooled sound even on the title track — where the guitars, played by Ava Mendoza and John Finkbeiner, chug away continually, sometimes heavily distorted. It’s a drifting piece full of peaks and valleys, using long tones and guitar effects to build the music to its heights.

For much of the album, Anderson uses subsets of the band. “Skittering” drops the vibes in favor of letting one guitar and Ben Goldberg’s clarinet take the lead. As if to show what a group effort this is, I’m not sure Anderson and Dobson play at all on “Dilation,” a slow piece with rubbery clarinet sounds, carefully springy guitar, and some continual bubbling from Sheldon Brown’s sax.

“Swimming in a Black Well” is an Anderson/Dobson duet and one of the more directly jazzy pieces on here. Anderson lays down a jazz-aimed cymbal-tapping rhythm, and Dobson solos accordingly on the vibes. That’s followed by one of the least jazzy pieces, the choppy, all-out abstraction of “Nix.”

On “A Widow’s Last Penny,” the two horns flit among a shimmering backdrop created by Anderson’s rolls on the toms and the occasional splash from Dobson. Long, stretched guitar wails complete the picture.

A lot of attention is going to go to the title track that starts the album, but it’s the finale, “March at the End of the World,” that really shows off what the band can do. It’s also the one track that feels like it might be composed, or at least pre-planned. Military drums lead to shrill horn calls, a military declaration drawn in jazzy cartoons. After some loose improvising, Anderson starts into a drunken swing beat, surrounded by mildly chaotic group sounds.

Anderson’s Touch and Go band, part of the Make-Out Room’s monthly jazz installment, will be a different breed: four horns and a bass. A different sound, probably, with an intriguing lineup that includes Brown, Goldberg, and 3/4 of Byte and Switch/Go-Go Fightmaster.

Further reading: There’s a brief review of Hard-Boiled Wonderland in the East Bay Express and a longer one at Stef’s Free Jazz blog.

February 7, 2011 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Ava Mendoza Swings

Ava MendozaShadow Stories (Resipiscent, 2010)

Performing solo guitar: Sunday June 27, 10:30 a.m., live on KUSF 90.3; Monday, June 28, at Luna’s Cafe (Sacramento); and Tuesday, June 29, at Amnesia (San Francisco) as part of a guitar-compilation release party by the Tomkins Square label.  And non-solo-guitar dates listed here.

Bay Area music fans who know guitarist Ava Mendoza from the punk attack of Mute Socialite, from her noisy guitar experiments on compilations like Women Take Back the Noise, from her noisy work with Weasel Walter — is going to be surprised to hear a straight-up reading of “The Tennessee Waltz” and “I’m So Glad” opening this album. I was.

So, the jazz references in interviews and bios turn out to be for real, and not too distant from what Mendoza’s still into. “The Tennessee Waltz” gets into some unconventional ad-libbing but sticks to its country/blues mood, with a bright and rough-edged guitar sound that evokes a stage in a dusty bar graced with long afternoon shadows.

And you know what? That’s how the whole first half of the album goes!

Yes, this dark gray package that I was taking for a noisefest turns out to be a celebration of roots guitar in a western-swing style.

But only at first, because if you’re on the Resipiscent label, home to guys like this, the noise is sure to come. “The Furious Harpy” lists into some relaxing, distorted ambiance — backwards notes, guitar tones sampled into bouncing-pebble tapping — that gradually turns dark and steely, with stomping guitar from a very non-jazz place. It’s a 12-minute turning point.

That sets us up for two more unsettling tracks. “Penumbra: The Age of Almost Li” returns to a regular musical structure, but now it’s dark, slow, and slightly twisted, like evil biker music. “In My Dreams” puts fragments of guitar melody into an echoey, plinky environment, a dream that’s not a nightmare but still not quite right.

Then, abruptly, the album switches back to friendly jazz for its closing tracks. “Goodnight Irene” gets a particularly nice, expansive treatment.

Getting back to the subject of Mendoza’s jazz/swing playing — it’s terrific. “Shadowtrapping” is upbeat, combining some old-timey tricks with newer improvising ideas that break the mold but not the mood. With a second overdubbed guitar laying down the rhythm, Mendoza shows off some playfully fancy lead lines. “Kiss of Fire” has a darker mood, like an ancestor of rockabilly, but the same snappy jazz rhythm and great creative soloing. They’re tracks you can really sink your teeth into.

Mendoza gets to show multiple sides of her personality on this album. It’s a release to be proud of.

May 26, 2010 at 12:06 am Leave a comment

Upcoming Live Shows: Early August

Some upcoming Bay Area shows of note. Always check the Transbay Calendar or Bay Area Improvisers’ Network first! Most of this info was cribbed from there.

Tuesday, August 4 — Mary Halvorson is coming to Yoshi’s Oakland with the same trio that performed on Dragon’s Head, the CD that garnered her so much attention last year. I’d noted this here. There’ll be only one set, at 8:00 p.m. So sad that they can’t put up two sets.

Corn moon. Source: space.fmi.fiThursday, August 6 — At the Luggage Store Gallery, Polly Moller is curating a monthly series of 12 shows, each celebrating the monthly full moon and dedicated to a particular type of full moon from folklore. This month, it’s the Corn Moon. First on the bill is the duo of Karl A.D. Evangelista (guitar, vox, misc.) and Margaret Rei Scampavia (piano/keys, accordion, flute, saxophone, vox, misc.), performing as Grex. They’ll be followed by Phillip Greenlief and David Boyce, a tenor sax duet, who will “explore the identity of corn in Native American Mythology and everyday life.”

Thursday, August 6 — Uh-oh, a conflicting, yet also terrific, show: Vinny Golia will be up from L.A. for a performance that happens to be titled “Up from L.A.” He’ll be performing his compositions with a local troupe that includes strings and a jazz grouping, so you might get to hear a mix of his free-jazz work and his more classical/abstract composing. At Flux 53.

Friday, August 7 — The Best of the East Bay party includes music from a few Bay Area standouts, including David Slusser and Damon Smith. You’ll also get to hear Phillip Greenlief again, this time with his trio Citta Di Vitti, which plays swingy jazz inspired by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. This time they’ll perform alongside projections of the films, apparently. At the Oakland Museum of California.

Saturday, August 8 — I don’t know much about Ideal Bread, but they’re from New York, they play Steve Lacy music, and they’re at the Jazzschool this night. And Phillip Greenlief will be there, again. He’s on a roll (again).

source: sfsound.orgSunday, August 9 — Any sfSound concert is a treat. Modern classical music treated with respect, both from the performers and the audience. (You know: applauding the performers as they come out, holding applause between movements of a piece, that sort of thing.) Sunday night’s show includes Karlheinz Stockhausen’s creeping “Kreuzspiel,” Anthony Braxton’s “Composition No. 75,” two premiere works, one very recent composition, and improvisation(s) by the group. At ODC Dance Commons.

Monday, August 10 — Now comes the honesty: I won’t be able to make it to any of the shows listed here. And this one might be the most painful miss, because I really want to see Go-Go Fightmaster in action. They’ll be the first act at the Ivy Room tonight, for free! (See here.) Second on the bill is Ava Mendoza‘s Thrash Jazz Band; she’s done terrific, noisy stuff on her own and with Mute Socialite. The improvised jazz trio The Spirit Moves Us closes things out, shifting gears to a mostly acoustic grouping that’s probably less in-your-face but not necessarily quiet.

August 4, 2009 at 10:09 am Leave a comment


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