Graham Connah Rides Again

Adm. Ted Brinkley’s Hornblower Cruise plays the Jazzschool (Berkeley) Sunday, Jan. 2, at 8:30 p.m. No cover; $5-$15 donation suggested.

To most of you, Trevor Dunn (now part of The Nels Cline Singers) will always be the guy who played bass for Mr. Bungle.

To me, he’ll always be the guy who did this:

That’s the intro to “More of the Same but Not So Different,” a track on the 1994 album Snaps Erupt at Pure Spans by the Graham Connah Group. It’s not just that the solo is cool, inventive, and arresting (which it is). It’s the snappy, jazzy riff that starts and ends it, becoming the backing rhythm for the piano theme. That bass part made this tune one of my favorites from any Connah album.

Connah, a keyboardist and composer, has been a fixture in Bay Area jazz ever since those early ’90s days. He’s less visible these days — “assiduously avoiding publicity” is how Andrew Gilbert puts it in this SFGate calendar item — but he’s still around, performing rather regularly at Revolution Cafe in the Mission District under the name Admiral Ted Brinkley (semi-ret.).

He’s playing at Berkeley’s Jazzschool on Sunday night, Jan. 2 — a free show, technically, though they’re welcoming donations at the door. Gilbert’s writeup indicates this is a bimonthly happening, which would be great news. Assuming he also keeps up the Revolution Cafe appearances, Connah’s band(s) might be on stage at least once a month.

His music’s evolved considerably. Around 1994, he was fronting small combos playing twisty, smart-alecky jazz — it was like being handed a road map drawn on a mobius strip, and yet, it was still jazzy enough to envision being played by guys in suits at Yoshi’s. (They didn’t actually wear suits, but they did play at Yoshi’s.) In subsequent years, the formula mutated: larger bands; complicated female vocal parts; occasional electric piano or organ creating a bubbly psych/fusion stew. By 2000, Connah’s music was spilling heavily into the space between jazz and rock.

Around that time, Connah’s groups were playing weekly at Bruno’s, a Mission District restaurant that saw potential in out-jazz. Those sessions led to a terrific 3-CD recording, Because of Wayne/The Only Song We Know (Evander Music). My recollection is that Connah gave it away to basically anybody who asked.

Based on the Jazzschool writeup and the Evander blurb for Adm. Ted Brinkley’s CD (you’ll find it here), the Brinkley bands expands the vocal parts to a chorus, promising an even grander punch. I’ve been remiss about keeping up with Connah’s music, and that’s a shame; he’s been a treasure of local jazz. The Revolution Cafe is nice enough, but a chance to see this band in the comfort of the Jazzschool theater sounds awfully enticing.

A Further Word About Adm. Ted Brinkley

I could have appended this to the last entry, but I was wary of getting into unfocused blog blathering mode…

… but apparently, Admiral Ted Brinkley (semi-ret.) is going through an active phase. He’s got some gigs lined up at places like the Revolution Cafe (nice but cramped open-aired booze-and-dessert spot in San Francisco’s Mission District) and El Valenciano (Spanish/Basque restaurant also in the Mission, Yelp page here). These include something called the “ULTRA-Large Ensemble” at El Valenciano on Feb. 3.

As of this writing, the dates are all listed on Lisa Mezzacappa’s MySpace page. (Obviously, your results will differ if you’re checking this in, say, April 2010.)

(And because I don’t say it enough here, I’ll add that anybody looking for this kind of music in the SF Bay Area should be checking the Bay Area Improvisers’ Network or the Transbay Calendar often — and “often” means OFTEN, not in the sense that you “often” floss or clean the garage. They use the same data source, so take your pick.)

Mezzacappa’s calendar also lists a couple of upcoming dates for Marco Eneidi, who’s coming back this way in late February. He’s got a more dates lined up than he did during last year’s visit.

Which reminds me.  It’s apparently been a year since I started this blog.  Doesn’t seem that long, and it’s nice to see I managed to post at an average rate of nearly every other day. And I can feel another blather phase coming on, so I’d better stop there.

Playlist: July 3, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, July 3, 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. Marathon session to start my long weekend. It’s been a long

John Zorn‘s The Dreamers was the band I saw live at Yoshi’s, playing pretty much this whole album. Nice stuff, surprisingly accessible.

source: rastascan.comThe Splatter Trio‘s Clear the Club is an improv album at heart, but a surprisingly catchy one, with touches of reggae in some tracks, a hint of dark, evil rock in others. The group (Dave Barrett on sax, Myles Boisen on guitar or bass, Gino Robair on drums) did some great albums in the ’90s, now available on eMusic. The Splatter 3+N refers to the fact that the album uses recordings made with varying numbers of friends. They dipped into a couple year’s worth of jams and strung them together to create the album. Very cool.

….. Rigil is an indie songwriter type — really, a 20-year-old Brit named Robert Slade. He favors lots of synths and big, soaring, epic sounds. It’s overdramatic and often soundtrack-like, but he seems like a likeable chap.

source: roswellrudd.com….. Trombone Tribe is a Roswell Rudd grab bag o’ fun. You’ve got tracks with a three-trombone jazz sextet (Henry Grimes on bass), songs with a six-trombone band, and a small suite with the Gangbé Brass Band of Benin.

….. 15 Degrees Below Zero comes across more hardline electronics/noise on this album than on their previous one — or, at least that’s what I remember my ears hearing. No matter; it’s still good stuff, and the icy expansive sound I’d noted before is present on the 24-minute “2.5,” from which I took a patient six-minute excerpt. They’ll be on the air at KZSU on July 29.

Pianist Graham Connah has been performing under the name Admiral Ted Brinkley for some time now, popping up for the occasional show. Beth Lisick wrote one up back in 2004. Connah has been a longtime favorite of mine, playing heavily twisted cocktail jazz that, in more recent years, gets augmented with electric guitars and oddball vocals. He’s also got an album on Evander that, come to think of it, I really need to seek out. The next Adm. Ted installment comes Monday night, July 6, at the monthly Make-Out Room jazz session.

source: devinhoffplatform.comTwo solo bass tracks! I’d planned to throw in a track from the really nice Solo Bass from local musician Devin Hoff. (I still remember being blown away by his instrumental chamber-pop band, The Redressers.) Meanwhile, the vinyl album I’d randomly pulled as my sound bed for mic breaks was a Gary Peacock album that includes a few tracks of solo bass. I do like to give a “complete” spin to the album that provided the sound bed, so what the heck. Hoff’s track was arco (bowed), a lyrically wandering improvisation. Peacock’s was pizzacato, a galloping composition.

I stayed on the air for a couple of hours after this, spinning more of a rock show. That playlist is located here; for the “proper” show’s playlist, look below the fold.

Continue reading “Playlist: July 3, 2009”