Tuesday, October 17, 2006
the new lineup of the Melvins proved itself a smashing success w/ the recently dropped "(A) Senile Animal," but they sealed the deal big time at Warsaw tonight. the show simply kicked total ass.
openers were weak to piss poor. i'm a huge fan of Joe Lally's bass playing in Fugazi, but his solo stuff doesn't do much for me--basically very chill songs built around bass vamps and Lally's speak-singing. the songs he sang on the last three Fugazi records were awesome, but these just feel half-baked. it was interesting to hear him backed by Dale Crover and Coady Willis of the 'Vins and (of all folks) Melvin Gibbs on "lead" bass, but the set was pretty much a snooze.
Ghostigital (i think one of the dudes from the Sugarcubes) just totally blew. boring arty dance music w/ rambling poetry over top.
then was Big Business who played a really solid set of mostly new stuff. this was the first time i heard them live where the mix was just right. their music is straightforward and relentless and, it must be said, very Melvins-like, but they've got a really strong identity, owing to what awesome players Jared and Coady both are. the notsosecret weapon is Jared's voice, a hugely powerful and melodic instrument. Dale joined in on guitar on a few tracks including "Easter Romantic" from "Head for the Shallow" ("White Pizzazz" was also played, after Dale exited), which i thought was probably the best heavy record of '05.
set segued right into the 'Vins set. the two drummers started up this intricate marchy-type vamp, which led into (i think i'm remembering this right) "The Talking Horse," the first track from the new record (which weirdly was the last track on the promo disc i got; entire record was reversed from actual track order and i'm not sure if that was a mistake or just the Melvins messing around). a good deal of "Animal" was played and the stuff simply sounded flawless (didn't hurt that Warsaw is an excellent room with near-perfect sound). usually the drummers would sort of jam out at the end of the songs and launch right into the next one. pacing and setlist were amazing; i heard songs i never expected to hear live, such as "Revolve," "Sky Pup," "Set Me Straight" and..."Oven," which is perhaps the heaviest song ever written and was like a moment of communion for me and my Stay Fucked bros--we opted to attend this show together instead of practicing--b/c we cover that song live. then there were the staples, such as "Let It All Be," "The Bloated Pope" (totally badass track from the very spotty "Pigs of the Roman Empire" record), "The Bit" (which sounded completely massive and benefited from a creepy drawn-out intro), "The Lovely Butterfly" and "Hooch."
it's true that there are certain songs that are in every Melvins set (no "Night Goat" tonight, though), but they play all the material with absolute conviction; they simply do not phone shit in. you might be wondering why i hadn't mentioned how the new lineup (Jared and Coady from Big Business are now in the band if that wasn't already clear) affects the sound and i think the reason is that the new guys fit in so seamlessly. the new songs already sound like classics and the old ones sound pretty much the same but with the added punch of an extra drummer. i really think this new record is one of the best of the band's career and this live show was a whole lot better than the other two i've seen. special props again to Jared's voice: check his performance on "A History of Bad Men" on the record and you'll see what i mean. like Buzz, he can be ferocious and melodic at the same time.
don't miss this band if they come back! hail Melvins! can't believe how long they've been around and how they keep kicking ass completely outside of the spotlight. who else even comes close to this kind of longevity and consistency let alone constant renewal. damn, these guys are just...
so i wanted to sort of revisit something from the last post. was trying to home in a certain period of jazz and i cast too wide a net. what i'm really talking about are the more avant-garde-leaning records on Blue Note from the early to mid '60s. i think this music is unparalleled in jazz--total virtuosity and control but with an experimental streak. but CONTROLLED, formal, TOGETHER. not free jazz. free jazz lives but it doesn't have the depth of this music. i'm talking about (partial list):
Andrew Hill - Point of Departure (3.21.64)
Andrew Hill - Andrew!!! (6.25.64)
Grachan Moncur III - Evolution (11.21.63--> day before Kennedy assassination! i
interviewed Grachan and he said he got chills listening to the funeral broadcast the next day because the horns playing taps reminded him of the dirgey title track of "Evolution" recorded one day prior.)
Jackie McLean - One Step Beyond (3.1.63)
Sam Rivers - Fuschia Swing Song (12.11.64--> one day prior to Tony Williams's 19th birthday)
Don Cherry - Complete Communion (12.24.65)
Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch (2.25.64)
you'll notice that Tony Williams appears on many of these. i feel that he is the best jazz percussionist who ever lived, and one of the finest musicians period that i've ever been exposed to. he played music, not drums. utter finesse and conviction in every note. few things feel more sublime to me than the above-mentioned music and especially Tony's part in making it. this was such a special time.
uniformly strong WRITING on these discs. every piece hummable--never just heads. structural fascinations--Cherry's suite formats, Hill's episodic "Spectrum"--solos to melt your heart and brain (think of Jackie McLean on title track of "Evolution"). real improvisation and composition perfectly balanced. it's dumb that Blue Note lets these things waver in and out of print--as much as i love Coltrane and Miles and Duke and a ton of more well known things, these--and a bunch of related sessions from around the same time and with a lot of the same players--are really the essential records for me, my gold standard for jazz.
[a HUGE thanks needs to be given here to Andrew, Joe and Russell, dudes who first helped me cultivate my love of the aforementioned jazz regions and to Schaumann and Jeff, who understand exactly what i'm talking about when i gush about this vital realm of art.]
Monday, October 16, 2006
COMPLETE COMMUNION / STEVE SMITH
Don Cherry's "Where Is Brooklyn?" (recorded 11.11.66) is a breathtaking small-group inside-out jazz session. but what Blue Note record from this period and general category isn't? these sessions are just too much for me sometimes: how is it that every one of these players--here it's Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Henry Grimes and Ed Blackwell--have such a strong identity and concept, that it's Cherry's session, but everyone contributes such a unique sound. this is living jazz. Grimes gets a lot of solo space and he sounds amazing--really extreme dexterity and outness of concept. my favorite piece i think is "The Thing," which is this awesome bluesy piece--supercatchy, like so many of Cherry's pieces. Pharoah digs into this one so hard. he does a lot of screaming/overblowing, what have you on this disc, but on this one, he just grooves. Ed Blackwell is a true great--his blinding speed and just sense of hurtling along is basically unparalleled. when you wanted the music to just move/cook/etc., you called this guy.
i'm so stuck on this period of music. basically all of my favorite jazz albums date to around this time: all the great Andrew Hill's, the Sam Rivers's, "Out to Lunch," the early Miles quintets, "Interstellar Space." Booker Little's "Out Front" and the Five Spot sessions w/ Dolphy are a few years earlier, but it's really like '59-67 or something. shit was just ridiculous during this time.
hey, a quick thanks to my friend and colleague Steve Smith for linking here from his blog, Night After Night, which is a really cool and diverse resource for opinions on all kinds of music. link is way up there to the right where the links begin ("Steve Smith's blog")-->
kinda nervous to be connected from there b/c that blog and many of the other ones that Steve links to are pretty serious, pro-type endeavours. not really sure what this one is. been very irregular about posting and also, everyone should know that this is really in theory the news page for my band, Stay Fucked [ED: this post was originally on the Stay FKD page, but actually, you're now reading this on the Hank alone blog.] though a lot of the posts end up being about shows i've seen or records i'm listening to. basically it's just about me as someone who makes and listens to music a lot. ok--again, thanks Steve.
strange record to think about: Van Morrison - "Veedon Fleece"
Sunday, October 15, 2006
had the good fortune of seeing Evan Parker play solo saxophone for the second time in my life tonight. this was at the tiny Stone. this was, not surprisingly, completely awesome. some quick thoughts:
a) i think about Parker's sound as consisting of a main sound and a residual sound, the latter coming across to me like sonic exhaust, like it sort of shoots out the back as he's playing the main line.
2) his tenor sound has an amazing bite to it, just very gruff and scratchy. in such a small room as the Stone, it had a huge impact.
d) four pieces were played, plus a tiny encore of "Played Twice" by Monk, which i took as a nod to the recently deceased Steve Lacy, who performed that tune on his 1960 (is that right?) LP, The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy. Lacy obviously being a fellow soprano master--the two played together on that Chirps disc which i honestly haven't heard but need to.
H) Parker showed an awesome sense of pacing. the pieces were long, but they ended when they needed to. an interesting contrast with the Cecil show earlier in the week was that Parker seemed to end pieces in a very deliberate manner, like bringing them down dynamically, whereas Cecil would stop very abruptly. both players give the sense though of dipping into this infinite stream, like it's just a constant flow that you're hearing part of--nothing really begins or ends. both can sound repetitive and constantly fresh at the same time--bringing to mind that idea that i heard quoted once that "Cecil Taylor has been playing the same piece of music since the '70s." it's at once dead on and totally false. Parker's the same way--the music is unmistakable and the basic materials are the same but each piece has it's own logic and the really great ones seem totally unique. for example, one of the tenor pieces tonight had this really key melodic element; Parker jumped between registers and created a nice contrast, something almost hummable. strange b/c i don't think of Parker as being about melodies, but about like liquid pitch changes. the sound is like mercury, constantly burbling or gurgling or flowing in this slippery quicksilver way.
1) listening to the sort of "exhaust" pitches described above is a really cool experience. at times, i detected these very regular rhythms happening "behind" the main note flow, like pulses of 5 or 6 beats. it makes me wonder if there's a limit to how much of each level of sound he can control when doing multiphonics, like if it's the sort of thing where when one layer is shifting, the other must remain constant. sorta like a Heisenberg type of thing.
there is endless mystery in these sounds. time spent communing with Evan Parker is like brain floss, totally bracing and wondrous.
thinking about a lineage about such obsessive musicians, who pursue this one ultraspecific sound--though as stated above, with marvelous microcosmic variation--over an entire career. saw two of these types, Evan and Cecil this week. i believe that Mick Barr of Orthrelm, etc. is this type of player as well. you always know it's him and even though his works are very diverse (especially the Ocrilim record), it's still all pointing toward this basic vibe--laser focus. who else? ... are there artists in other mediums? like Rothko or Mondrian or something? something to think about...
Friday, October 13, 2006
CECIL TAYLOR / XIU XIU
got to see...
at Merkin Hall.
i guess you could say this was one of those check-that-off-the-list-of-things-to-do-in-this-lifetime kind of shows. the best thing about it, for me, was the chance just to do my best to home in and listen really really hard to him for over an hour. obviously i have like 100s of hours of his music on CD, but when you're at a concert, that's all you're doing. sounds obvious, but i was thinking about how that's the best thing about live music, not that it's live, but that it gets your undivided attention--insofar as anything ever does. maybe i just have ADD, but it's just special to me to be able to focus so much.
anyway, he played i think four pieces, interrupted by very brief breaks, during which he turned the pages of what i guess was some sort of score resting on the piano, though it could have been poetry. he recited a short poem before playing which was really awesome, one of the more coherent texts i've heard from him. it was printed inside the program notes and contained stuff about "coefficient of viscosity" and "coriolis" and stuff like that. sounds absurd, but it started w/ (get this) the names of five drummers: Chick Webb, Sunny Murray, Andrew Cyrille, Max Roach and Tony Oxley. so to me, the whole poem was about rhythm. really fascinating.
anyway, the music. i'm avoiding trying to describe this b/c it's so hard. ok, Cecil's music is instantly recognizable b/c you have these sort of musings in really short units where the fingers of his right and left hands will mirror each other. those are the connective tissue of his recent solo music. and then there are obviously the percussive parts, where he'll use either the side of his hand, his fists, or his fingers in kind of a rapid-fire downward stabbing motion. and there's also the really dramatic, usually low-end chords that he often slams on in between the aforementioned spasms.
last night was generally in keeping w/ the Cecil solo i know. in the first piece, he seemed to take a bit to build momentum and toggle somewhat predictably between the modes described above. the second piece was fascinating though b/c at one point, he was clearly playing a written figure--he stared at the "sheet music" and repeated this flowery subtle melody three or four times. there were these strange moments throughout the show where he dropped just the slightest hint of a beautiful, consonant melody and then pulled back. at one point, he paused and i actually felt him hesitate: his fingers were shaking above the keys before he plunged back in. also, he was wheezing audibly throughout--a reminder that he is in fact 77 (!!!!) years old.
dammit, i lost my train of thought, but i was going to comment on some interesting features of the fourth piece. i think some similar stuff was going on in terms of these isolated moments of more conventional beauty than i'm used to hearing from him. this is not to say that i'm one of those people who characterizes him as some basher and is surprised to hear something beautiful from him--far from it. but there was some really delicate, quiet playing in this set. during those parts you could really admire how athletic his hands are. he seems to put as much bodily thrust into his quiet attack as to his loud one. the fingers really dance.
this is the way to experience Cecil. just a beautiful thing to be able to witness. can't imagine ever not being completely awed by this man's music.
ran down to the Mercury Lounge to catch Xiu Xiu afterward. this is the band responsible for what is, i think, definitely one of the best albums released in '06, that being The Air Force. the live show was really, really intense, though i'm not sure i prefer it to the records--really it was a totally different thing. on the album, the music envelops Jamie Stewart's voice, but never overwhelms it; the timbre and lyrics are always right up front. live, unless you know how the vocals go already, you might have a hard time making out just what he's up to b/c this was LOUD stuff with the instrumental interplay taking center stage. and awesomely rhythmic i might add. lineup was: Stewart on vocals, percussion, lap steel, etc.; Caralee McElroy on vox, melodica, samples and probably a whole lot of other stuff; and Ches Smith on drums, percussion and vibes. they played over backing tracks, but got into some really heavy syncopations and rhythmic workouts that reminded me (duh!) of Aa a little bit. Ches did a great job of working with the drum machine and playing what sounded like really powerful, fucked up versions of those crazy 32nd-note dance beats you hear in Destiny's Child and shit like that. Stewart is pretty awesome to watch; he's obviously digging pretty deep and he shuts his eyes tight the whole time. a great show, definitely. it's cool that they're sort of interpreting the album rather than reproducing it.
like i was saying, "The Air Force" is definitely something to hear.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
CANNIBAL CORPSE/JIMMY LYONS/BROTZ and BENNINK/JOHN FEINSTEIN/THE DEPARTED/
in the All Music Guide's review of the new Cannibal Corpse disc, "Kill," the writer refers to them as a black metal band. ouch.
that album is pretty savage, though it gets totally old after three songs. all the players have gotten a lot better than the last time i really checked them out, which was in like eighth grade, around the time of "The Bleeding" (as you can see, they've really got this album titling thing down to a science). i remember my mom said she would buy me an album if i went on a Sunday school retreat and the one i wanted was fucking Cannibal Corpse. thanks, mom!
also in the middle of this alto thing. been enjoying disc 1 of the Jimmy Lyons box set (thanks Scofield for the burn) immensely. it features this drummer Sydney Smart who may be one of the most cooking freetime pulse players i've ever heard--just complete frenzy, but at a simmering temperature. he sounds like he must have been a pretty crazy dude. or maybe really well-adjusted and he just had this crazy side to him. anyway, where are you Sydney Smart? the first track is a boiled-down burner of ridiculously fast and potent freeness, sort of a la Ornette, but sometimes i like listening to Jimmy even more. Raphe Malik is killing too. Lyons's control is scary, obviously translating those superfast liquidy runs a la Bird to the free thing. but that's really the truth. he is that good. also digging Burnt Offering, recommended to me by my free jazz source Russ Baker. [ed: intended to add that i'm now moving on to "Porto Novo," which pairs one of my other alto heroes, Marion Brown, with Han Bennink, mentioned below.]
who, like me, attended one of the Brotzmann/Bennink sets the other night at Clemente Soto Velez. they really cooked. "track" lengths were a little skimpy, but Bennink's chops made me wanna barf. Brotzmann's tarogato was like an annoying little kid wailing. i love the burr of his tone. made me go back and check out "Reserve," this great FMP disc w/ Barre Phillips and Gunter Sommer. basically i feel that Brotzmann is just a texture--you can turn him on or off and he will go and sound really awesome. not so interactive though. don't know how much that matters when all is said and done. though there are some nice quiet bass clarinet passages on "Reserve" that kind of debunk all that. it's not an absolute thing.
"The Departed" was great. i like Matt Damon's Boston accent and boyish macho thing so much. look out for the scene where he picks up the lady shrink in the elevator. he says something like he'd get stabbed in the heart with an icepick if he could go out w/ her. and then the actual date scene is amazing, with both him and her commenting on this weird architectural dessert. most will comment on Nicholson, but it's the painful scenes between Damon and the girl that got me. plot is SO confusing, like "Miller's Crossing" but worse. very brash and audacious, if at times predictably so. whatever, you'll love it.
reading John Feinstein. i love his books about sports. i could give a shit about the Baltimore Ravens, but he writes characters so goddamn well. i love the narratives. proves my point about nonfiction: any documentary work is interesting if it's well told. the subject is totally irrelevant.
Cheer-Accident is coming to town. hail this band. listen to "Learning How to Fly" from "The Why Album" or "Find" or "Smile" from "Introducing Lemon." their drummer/pianist/vocalist/trumpeter Thymme Jones is an utter progpop genius. he plays these sick funky oddtime beats and sings in this beautiful sort of neutered whine. that's not a good description. it's just a pretty high croon sans drama. melodies are something like Beatles meets Yes. hail hail hail this fucking band.
enjoyed Cosmos at ErstQuake. tiny sounds. people laughed at me when i described it. Ami Yoshida is a poet of the throat and a very sad performer to watch--sad as in full of pathos. amazingly austere yet fragile. don't wanna get into stupid cliches re: her gender and ethnicity. listen to Cosmos.
looking forward to: Peter Luger, Cecil Taylor, Xiu Xiu (AMAZING new album), playing the new Stay Fucked song live--it's called "Naked from the Waist Up" and we've had some of the riffs kicking around for several years.
other things of note:
Ocrilim - Anoint
Point Break on DVD - Ultimate Adrenaline Edition
Steely Dan - Making of Aja DVD
The Band - Making of "The Band" DVD
some people that i have encountered recently, both for good and for bad...