Monday, March 31, 2008

More from Planet Cleve

hopefully, visitors to this site have not grown weary of Cleve Pozar news. yesterday's WKCR radio profile was a blast and i want to thank Ben Young and the other station folks for their support of the project, Laal Shams and Russell Baker for their technical expertise, and of course, Cleve himself for five hours of his time and all the wonderful music. (not to mention thanks to anyone who tuned in!) i hope to post excerpts of the show in MP3 soon.

in the meantime, my piece on Pozar has just been published at Perfect Sound Forever. read it here. (thanks much to Jason Gross for overseeing the article.) it represents my best efforts to distill a six-plus-hour interview into a digestible primer on the man and his music. am working hard on perfecting my Pozar discography; in the meantime, some fascinating MP3s of Pozar, Bob James and Ron Brooks performing with Eric Dolphy in March of '64 can be found here. the entries are chronological, so you need to scroll down to 3/64.

finally, some very exciting news: Cleve will be reuniting with his old pal Cooper-Moore (the two worked together in Boston in the late '60s and early '70s when C-M was known as Gene Ashton) for a no-cover gig at Zebulon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on April 13 at 7:30pm. also in the band are saxist Darius Jones (of the savage Little Women) and keyboardist Michael Hardin.


lastly, Stay Fucked is now called... STATS!

and do check out my new project Blouse!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Unlike father?

Joe and i were fortunate to catch the Ornette Coleman show at Town Hall tonight. not a momentous show but a fun one, marred--or maybe just defined?--by idiosyncrasy.

Town Hall is a beautiful old theater on 43rd. hadn't been there before--would definitely be happy to go again. the music felt weirdly modest (unambitious?) for such a luxurious room. Ornette has been working lately with his son, Denardo, on drums, plus either two or three bassists. tonight he went with dos: Tony Falanga on upright and Al MacDowell (a 20-or-so-year veteran of Coleman groups) on electric. the quartet played for a little over an hour, probably about ten or 12 shortish pieces--averaging about five minutes--including some Ornette favorites like "Song X" and "School Work" (a.k.a. "Theme from a Symphony") and a few others i recognized but can't name (i'm bad with titles), some bluesy, funky pieces and one that sounded like a riff on a familiar classical theme. Ornette played short bits on violin and trumpet, but pretty much stuck to alto.

Ornette's tone remains a gorgeously free thing, soaring, crying, playfully sour; and his cometlike speed and facility are there too. it's not like hearing Bob Dylan now, his voice some husk of what it was: Ornette still sounds exactly as he did. (though he looks quite a bit more dapper: tonight he had a pretty slick plaid suit with a hat, and a nice white sax.) and as with all aging masters, he should be caught while he's here.

i don't want to come down on his band, but there's a sense in which they keep him earthbound, or perhaps dull the potency of his perfect sound. Denardo is, simply put, one of the strangest drummers i've ever heard live--strange in the sense that he can sound either shockingly clunky or scorchingly kinetic. during the slower pieces in the set, he usually resorted to a--sorry but it's true--godawful backbeat sort of thing; it just seemed like a default and it was a real deadweight to the group's sound.

on the uptempo tunes, though, you see how he's actually intensely locked in to his dad's concept (which makes sense, since he's been playing with him since he was a child). his approach is basically to stomp bombastically through the heads and then once the solo section starts, he kicks up this absolutely manic, harried ride pulse--it can barely be called swing. it's almost closer to a death-metal blast beat in that it's this barrage of eighth notes, both on the ride and, crazily, with his right foot on the hi-hat. it's intensely precarious and kind of unsettling--you feel like he's holding on for dear life. it's hard to imagine a player with less finesse, but there's something exhilarating about the way this sprinting, reckless pulse aligns with Ornette's zigzagging lines. after all, Ornette at his best often sounds like he's on fast-forward--he loves that high-velocity squiggly mercurial vibe, and Denardo can certainly summon that when needed.

so it was hard to keep your attention off Denardo, really, because he was quite loud and obtrusive. Falanga seemed to have his eye on him the whole time, almost like he was checking in to make sure he didn't fly off the rails. meanwhile, Falanga was keeping up these absolutely demonic tempos, walking lines that were just about as fast and smooth as any i've ever heard. MacDowell, meanwhile, just straight up sounded like a guitarist. Joe and i were trying to figure out if he was using a pedal or something, but whatever the setup was, the end result would have been pretty hard to ID as a bass in a blindfold test. lots of intricate chords, very busy; the walking was left up to Falanga and MacDowell was scampering around with Ornette, sort of soloing alongside him and offering what sounded very much like comping and nimble allusions to the melodies and such. it made for a very busy sound but it was pretty effective.

the briefness of most of the pieces made the set feel kind of choppy. you kind of wanted them to dig in a little more. but things came together nicely in the inevitable "Lonely Woman" encore. maybe it was just the core weightiness of the tune (it really is exquisite; i never get sick of it), but Denardo really found the right dynamic space on this one, easing up on that manic energy and keeping a nice midvolume pulse. what can i say? it's one of the great melodies and i was really happy to be able to check it out live.

that was my overall feeling on this one: sorta baffled by the band and the presentation at times, but excited i was there. in terms of legends appearing with subpar bands, i've certainly seen worse. i don't want to come down too hard on Denardo--i really like his playing on Sound Grammar and several other records--but live it was just kind of startling and spotlight-hogging. still there's something intriguing in the weird synergy he's got with Dad, a sense of fervent devotion to an aesthetic he was born into that i admire.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Paying Paul

don't wanna overshadow the Cleve Pozar post below, but here are some thoughts on Paul Simon's ever-increasing cachet, over at the Time Out site. in addition to me. you'll hear from David Byrne, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen (check out the latter's peculiar but cool spin on "Graceland" here). this is in advance of Simon's upcoming month of retrospective shows at BAM, for which i'm extremely psyched!

Cleve Pozar on WKCR, this Sunday

i've blabbed quite a bit on here about the brilliant drummer-percussionist-composer-inventor-raconteur Cleve (formerly Robert Frank) Pozar (go here to catch up via MP3s), and i'm proud to announce that this Sunday, 3/30, i'll be hosting a five-hour (!) radio profile of the man on WKCR, from 2-7 EST, hearable via the web here (you'll need Real Audio or iTunes or any other MP3 player, really) or at 89.9FM in NYC. i'll be interviewing Cleve (now 66) live on air and playing as much of his music as i can.

just to catch you up if you don't know what the hell i'm talking about, Pozar appeared on several important '60s free-jazz records, including Bill Dixon's Intents and Purposes and Bob James's Explosions; he's also worked with avant-oddballs such as Peter Ivers and Bobby Naughton, self-released a much-fussed-over (justifiably so) solo percussion LP in the '70s (pictured above), mastered Cuban batá drumming and devised various mind-boggling electronic percussion setups. he's a hell of a storyteller and a really fun guy to hang with. i look forward to giving him some long overdue exposure.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Consolation prize

i've never been the timeliest of bloggers, but i got into the spirit today with a day-of-release review of the new Raconteurs disc for the Time Out blog.

as you'll read, i was kinda let down by this one, but damn, their first album was basically perfect, like for real. here is a most-sick performance of the most-sick title track to that one, Broken Boy Soldier:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fixed link

hey folks. real quick: i put up a bum link to the Ornette mp3 in the previous post. it's fixed now. thanks to Jake for the heads up.

saw awesome shows by BBoyz and The Octagon this weekend. check 'em out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Blackwell push-pull

nothing too heavy tonight, just an mp3 and a few thoughts. here--apropos of absolutely nothing, as is the DFSBP norm--is a wonderful performance by the Ornette Coleman Quartet:

Revolving Doors
(7.19.60 / Ornette - alto sax, Don Cherry - cornet, Charlie Haden - bass, Ed Blackwell - drums)

Ethan Iverson's fantastically thorough interview with Mr. Haden got me thinking about the development of the early Ornette Coleman band--Haden speaks of a "big evolution" starting with the This Is Our Music album, some of which was recorded at the same session as the track above. ("Revolving Doors" appears to be an outtake; i got it from the Ornette Atlantic box set.) he seems to be talking about harmonic progress and whatnot, but the addition of Blackwell (stepping for the awesome but very different Billy Higgins) was its own kind of leap.

i just wanted to quickly draw attention to a feature of Blackwell's drumming that's illustrated particularly well in the above track. Iverson hints at it in the interview when he mentions how Blackwell would "stop the ride cymbal beat much more than Billy Higgins would." an extremely astute observation. one of the most crucial things that makes Blackwell sound like Blackwell, though, isn't just that he stops the ride cymbal, it's what he does to fill that space.

basically Blackwell often plays behind a soloist as though he's trading fours with himself. he'll swing really hard on the ride for a few bars and then move off the cymbal onto the toms and snare, offering this little sort of aside or commentary. he sort of sets up a call-and-response with himself, like "lay down the time, muse a little, lay down the time, muse a little." you can hear this throughout "Revolving Doors," but check out in particular the little tom-tom aside he throws in there at about 2:06. it's like a little mini rudimental drum solo, and then he's back to swinging for a second, and then at about 2:13, he goes off on another little jaunty tom-tom excursion. check out this push-pull throughout the track. there's a really tasty aside at 3:19, for one thing.

you can hear the Blackwell push-pull on tons of awesome records, but don't sleep on the Don Cherry Blue Notes. i remember noting a lot of the push-pull on Complete Communion, a completely outstanding record for like 80 million reasons.

anyway, Blackwell--hell yeah, and rest in peace.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

X Factor // Paranoid Park

greetings, all. 'tis late Friday night. got a few things on my mind. anyone who checks this site out with any regularity may sorta get a sense of how my music intake works, which is in these very concentrated phases: i'll get obsessed with one artist or area and then burrow real deep into it and then move on when the time seems right; usually the book ain't closed, just tabled for the time being. i never really know how or why a new phase begins, but i'm usually pretty happy just to go along with the impulse.

after some heavy Cecil listening and then a week or so of marveling at Tim Berne, i'm on to Pat Metheny. this one came about after i caught a few tracks from his 1986 Ornette Coleman collaboration--that's them two pictured above--Song X, on WKCR's Ornette b-day broadcast last week. i had checked out the 20th-anniversary reissue of this one when it came out in '06, but i had never really gotten to know the full record. over the past few days, i dove in and i'm extremely psyched about this one; it's a very major jazz record and also, it seems to me, a very accessible one. i feel like you don't have to be a fan of either artist in particular to get into the ecstatic lyricism of this record. it just projects a sense of having been a joy to make.

i feel some strange need to sort of "explain" the whole Metheny factor. basically in many hip jazz circles he's considered a cheeseball (though in many other jazz circles, just a few aesthetic degrees away, he's considered a god). i can see both viewpoints. his solo music, or at least what i know of it, is often precarious balanced between being the most ingeniously, purely pleasant, catchy and melodic thing you've ever heard and sounding like an '80s prime-time TV theme you just can't place. but i'm fascinated by the unabashed positivity of his sound. he seems to genuninely want EVERYONE to be able to dig his music and honestly, at times, i'm convinced he's got this formula figured out.

granted i know only a very limited amount of his work. am basing much of my commentary on The Way Up, the latest release by his eponymous Group, which has been active in various forms since the late '70s. The Way Up is an album-long suite. haven't made it all the way through yet, but there's this flashy, heartstring-yanking theme in Part One--the perfect aural counterpart to a pained guitar face--that depending on my frame of mind is either supremely cheesy or sublime. when you're listening to Pat, those words come to seem like synonyms. looking forward to rocking the rest of this disc. the suite's intro too could be either slickest most badass prog-fusion-minimalist overture you've ever heard or like some kind of NPR theme. Pat Metheny--the kind of longhair that plays well in the boardroom or the jam session; or maybe he's too damn happy for either.

basically i'd classify him as what smooth jazz would be if it ruled--it often goes down that stupefyingly easy but depending on the track, it also has a pretty serious element of compositional and improvisational validity.

looking forward to investigating more. sometimes i can only take the dude in small doses, b/c the stuff can get cloying/glossy/etc., but it's worth it. title track from his 1976 debut, Bright Size Life, which you can hear below (no offense, but, uh, i'd go ahead and motor past that bass solo), is just insanely gorgeous--it feels so complete and inevitable, sprung from Zeus's forehead simply to be moving and pleasing:

as for Song X, what a record. mentioned before the almost crazed exuberance of the date, which is btw, rendered in outstandingly crisp and vibrant fidelity (makes you wish that more avant-garde jazz records came out on major labels). amazing variety of tunes, incredible sidefolks (Charlie Haden on bass--dig, btw this absolutely remarkable and erudite Haden interview by Ethan Iverson, who if he put his mind to it, could easily put all of us wannabe jazz scholars out of a job--Jack DeJohnette on drums and Denardo Coleman on drums and percussion), a really risky but actually awesome element of electronic drumpads and very of-the-era synth intrusion courtesy of Metheny, and absolutely burning Ornette contributions. it's a stunner, truly crackling and maybe the single finest example of '80s jazz i've heard?

anyway, i heard some grumbles a few years ago when the Song X reissue came out w/ six bonus tracks, all of which were stacked at the beginning of the track sequence rather than the end. well, let me tell you, i think a few of these are honestly the highlights of the album. not having ever been acquainted w/ the disc in its original form, i honestly can say that i can only imagine it feeling like a weaker release sans these tracks, including the obscenely catchy and playful Police People, the kinda-goofy but majorly fun Latin-ish number The Good Life (on which Ornette gets all calypso) and The Veil, which seems to be the same tune as Mothers of the Veil, a piece that (i'm pretty sure) originally came out on the 1987 Ornette record In All Languages. anyway this version of The Veil has to be one of the most poignant Ornette performances i've ever heard, with the head partaking of that same unreal heart-tugging pathos as Lonely Woman.

now the original record ain't a slouch either, though the highlights seem slightly buried in the track sequence (i'll never understand why the overlong, monotonous blowout Endangered Species made the cut at all, let alone why it was placed third). the incredibly singing, sweetly lyrical, floating ballad Kathelin Gray (cocredited to Metheny and Coleman) attains Stevie Wonder-like levels of sunny, candylike bittersweetness, and the title track (heard in full-band and duo versions) is one of those brief, thorny, burning Ornette heads in the classic mold.

but maybe the highlight of the original batch is Video Games, a frenetic tune that almost reminds me of Steve Lacy in its mad repetiveness. after that there's this crazy sort of sci-fi, robo-jazz interlude with Metheny wigging out on drum machine and guitar-synth, and Ornette's sax sounding like it's being run through effects or somesuch. this is one of the places where you hear the pervasive '80s-ness of the record; it's at once powerfully dated and immensely endearing and stylish. then around 1:50, all that fuss fades away and gives way to the most sublime, pure acoustic freebop via Ornette, Haden and DeJohnette. the fresh musical air you feel during that FX-to-pure-acoustic switch is super bracing. the mad FX come swirling back from time to time and they can seem a bit goofy, but overall i'm really impressed with the risk factor of this track.

i'm sure tons of purist types were bummed by this sort of electronic monkey biz when the record originally dropped but i stand by it completely. there's plenty of great all-acoustic stuff on the record and when the FX come in, they're almost always enjoyable and well-integrated, only adding to the immense SMILE factor of this outstanding record.


coda: saw Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park tonight and would recommend it highly. very wonderful dark, rainy, dreamy mood factor happening. sort of predictable reliance on whole inscrutable-adolescent mystique, but the lead actor, Gabe Nevins, does a great job of projecting bewilderment, fear, apathy and all of the other kaleidescopic teenage emotions. maybe, as Laal pointed out, overly reliant on trippy non-narrative moodsetting material, but it's a subtle and intoxicating movie that refuses to make its central moral dilemma seem neatly solvable. (note very obvious recycling of Elliott Smith's tune "Angeles," which Van Sant also used to great effect in Good Will Hunting; hey, i don't mind--what a goddamn amazing song...)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Last night with "Last Night"

James Salter might be my favorite author right now. had been having some trouble finding time/space/motivation to read books recently, but i just stormed through his '05 short-story collection, Last Night--a v. thoughtful recent gift from Laal--in like two days.

one thing that occurred to me as i finished the title story--which presents an awesomely fucked-up scenario that i'd rather not spoil by delineating--is that in a lot of ways Salter is a horror writer. his subject is basically relationships, or maybe the fucked-up messiness thereof, usually among affluent, intellectual couples, kind of like a more modern John Cheever. his scenarios are often predictable--basically once you're introduced to a marriage, you can pretty much just start the adultery countdown--but the emotions he describes are just breathtakingly sad and in the case of a story like "Last Night," downright terrifying and brutal, as much so as anything in a slasher flick.

there's some sense of morbid voyeurism, just gawking as people royally fuck up their lives in the name of pleasure, freedom, etc. (Spitzer could be a Salter character, for sure) but there are also moments where he describes blissful happiness in a very pure way. he's a skeptic, but it's not that he doesn't believe in love. it's more like he doesn't believe in faith or loyalty. or maybe monogamy?

and did i mention his absolutely exquisite sentencecraft? it's very much like reading Cormac McCarthy. you read and pause, read and pause, marveling at the audible poetics.

read A Sport and a Pastime while on tour and Light Years (also a gift, from an old friend/bandmate) a while back and was floored by both, but these stories manage to give you a whole lot of that effect in very tiny packages. i really really really recommend this one.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Keep on your altos

i rejoiced today to find WKCR being its awesome self and spinning Ornette Coleman all day in honor of his 78th birthday. many delights, including some of the 1958 Hillcrest sessions (was very intrigued to hear how recognizable his sound was at this point, though in the scheme of things "The Shape of Jazz to Come" was only a year later), the mighty aforementioned, ever-incredible "Shape," what i'm pretty sure was "The Empty Foxhole" and two others that really hit me hard: "Skies of America" and "Song X," the latter of which is actually spinning as i write this.

had never really given "Skies," Ornette's most well-known orchestral work, a try before, but i really enjoyed what i heard. the symphonic stuff comes across as a little heavy-handed, but Ornette's alto soars bravely over everything, concerto-style. the best parts are his frequent a cappella interludes, showing off that marvelous round, tart, wailing, singsongy concept of his. Ornette's musical signature on sax is one of the most potent and unmistakable there is, for sure.

and then "Song X," Ornette's collabo w/ Pat Metheny. this one sounds like nothing else. it's one of the most vibrant, alive recordings i can think of. the shit absolutely crackles with joy--it's got this very modern, frenetic quality but also a very big, friendly, sweet melodic aspect too. i guess one word for it would be "unabashed"--you imagine all the players grinning ear-to-ear as they play. intense speed and happy, positive vibes. one of the most inviting avant-garde jazz releases of all, no doubt. i think Metheny is a real good match for Ornette, just in terms of that pervasive sense of celebration in his playing. sure he can get cheesy sometimes, but this is a really beautiful team-up.


speaking of altoists and team-ups, have also been listening to tons of Tim Berne, marveling once again at the guy's consistency, prolificness, sturdiness of concept, sincerity, etc. am really into the idea that he's got all these bands working simultaneously, all with almost the same personnel, but each with a totally different identity, e.g.

Hard Cell - w/ Craig Taborn and Tom Rainey
(the latter of whom is always on, always unassumingly badass. one of the few drummers whose name i'm never not psyched to see on the back of a CD.)
Big Satan - w/ Marc Ducret and Rainey
Science Friction - w/ Taborn, Ducret and Rainey
Paraphrase - w/ Drew Gress and Rainey

Hard Cell in particular really excites me. it's built around these extremely intricate yet burly vamps that to me have a very proggy, hypnotic character to them. as is so often the case in Berne's music, these patterns seem to just spring up from out of nowhere during the improvisations and all of the sudden the band will be grooving in this crazy lockstep. i definitely think all math-rock fans should take a listen to the latest Hard Cell disc, "Feign." some serious rhythm workouts happening there.

also really digging "Fulton Street Maul," a really gritty, fun and potent session from 1987 that actually came out on Columbia Records. awesome lineup of Hank Roberts on cello (playing Abdul Wadud to Berne's Julius Hemphill and serving up really intense vamp action), Bill Frisell on guitar (he can get too FX-happy for me sometimes, but he does give the record a lot of atmosphere) and Nels Cline's bro Alex on drums.

this one shows you how long Berne's been on top of his game. for my money, he's perhaps the most honest, ungimmicky voice in downtown music--unlike some of the more famous folks in this scene, all his core concepts are musical. he's got no use for buzzwords or fanciful looks-cool-on-paper type stuff. just a seriously funky, gritty player/writer who's intensely committed to digging in and finishing the job, improv-wise.

really dig the Screwgun operation, Berne's homegrown label. check out the website for a handy mp3 shop, where i recently picked up "Maul" for a mere 6 clams.

and check out this excellent example of the Berne/Rainey mindmeld. brutally delicate split-second funk:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

DFSBP '08 Nods #s 1 and 2

it felt like the right time to resurrect the DFSBP Nod. here's to latent obsessions that never really go away...

1) Squash. have just rediscovered this glorious game and it feels like floss for the spirit.

2) "How the Gods Kill." whatever one thinks of so-called "gothic" music, this is as gorgeous a piece of aural moodmaking as you're likely to find. perhaps Danzig's finest hour? (by Danzig, i mean the band, not the man. if we were talking about the latter notion, we'd be here all night.) the camp occasionally overwhelmed the beauty with that band, but not here--this is real. and even though it's a ballad, you can still dig how much Chuck Biscuits straight-up RIPS on the drums. check out how swinging his beat is in the kicked-in "Would you let it go?" verse that starts around 3:35... (i can take or leave the video, but it's the handiest way to present the song to you.)