Friday, March 02, 2007

Catching (post-tour) Zs // Gpoint gala // Cough syrup // Sonny pleases

Zs: ultra-slaying show at the Stone last night. they are back from tour and now diamond hard. easily the most savage and wired show i've ever seen them do. Ian on drums looked and sounded murderous. "the long song" featured the new addition of noise-blast guitar and intermittent screaming. scary stuff. Extra Life: frozen chunks of mangled blues. kill-you focus. missed Moth and Regattas which i'm bummed about. all is accessible from Zs. many new Zs-related releases afoot.


heretofore, i haven't really used this space self-promotionally--it was kind of a (non-)habit that became a rule. but there's no good reason for any of that, so here goes. if you live in the area, you might want to, you know...

this Saturday, 3/3

Saturday, 3/3
9pm - FREE

Yukon - Baltimore precision
Stay Fucked - three approachable local musicians
Animal - Bklyn math/majesty
From Cocaine to Rogaine - new lionhearted trio feat. Phil Kennedy, ex-Timber!

@ Tommy's Tavern
1041 Manhattan Ave at Freeman St - Greenpoint
(the G train to Greenpoint Ave or the B61 bus will put you right there)


now that you have that info, i offer a little auxiliary treat, which is a classic mp3 by Timber, the sadly defunct math-rock unit that Phil Kennedy, now of From Cocaine to Rogaine, used to drum for. they were part of the super small scene of nonpop music at a certain uptown university that also birthed Stay Fucked, and damn were they good. started off as bass bass drums, then it was just bass drums, then it was bass guitar and drums. all the lineups were great, but that last one--w/Mike Friedrich, now of Rahim, on guitar--was most killer.

Nick KJ on bass had a very solid and visionary compositional sense. i always envied how logical and holistic his songwriting was. Phil's drumming was sort of the same way. it was meticulous w/out being fussy; in the grand tradition of Neil Peart, his parts were 99.9% written. he left basically nothing to chance and it was awesome to hear the little nuances repeat themselves from verse to verse or performance to performance or what have you. basically as a drummer, i strive to plan out every note, but i leave a lot of blurry edges to chance. i got the sense that Phil never did. i love that kind of commitment. anyway...

Timber - Yars' Revenge


a few Misfit ends to tie up. i kept thinking of all the gorgeous idiosyncrasies i had left out of my survey of lyrical weirdness. some stuff i forgot...

ok, remember that thing in "Horror Hotel" i quoted re: "down the hall with my vampire girlfriend"? well, there's also this line in that song that goes "And a little vampira wrapped on my neck, said, 'Say something, say something--you wanna start something with me?'" i love how the vampira is "wrapped on [his] neck." and are we to assume that this vampira is the same entity as the vampire girlfriend he's down the hall with? and how are these creatures related to the "Vampira" Glenn is serenading in the song of the same name on "Walk Among Us"? pressing inquiries to be sure.

the other thing is "Cough/Cool." now what in the flying fuck is up with this song? insanely weird and noirish. insanely fucking GORGEOUS. i had this one on today at work and started freaking out. what in God's name is this?!? there's no musical precedent; i've never heard anything like it (ok, maaaaaybe the Doors, but that doesn't cut it). it's got this amazingly slinky, jazzy drumming--totally syncopated and nonobvious--played by this dude named Manny. Glenn's vocal is ghostly and Jim Morrison-esque; he croons in a low voice but occasionally really belts it. structure is very abstract. Jerry Only is throbbing away on (i think) bass while Manny cuts loose underneath. prominent electric piano. this is severely spooky, but not in a horror-movie way or even in the later gothy Samhain way. it's this weird, psycho Doors-punk. what exceedingly strange music.

and the lyrics?!? wtf is this about? i must quote them all:

This street we walk upon
This corner full of piss and fear

This street won't bear it long
It slants, it tilts, it's brought outside

Cover your face when you walk by
Drench your visions in darkness

Spit up blood when you cough
Cool, cool, cool
Cough, cool, cool, cool

We dine on visions with new eyes
Creep, creep, creep, creep
We cut our visions with two eyes
Cool, cool, cool, cool

This street we walk upon
This corner full of fear
This street we walk upon
This corner full of piss and fear


gorgeous, ghostly, ominous. Glenn really starts to cook on the "Cover your face when you walk by / Drench your visions in darkness," then simmers way down into this wraithlike moaning on "Creep, creep, creep, creep." it's a hugely powerful two minutes. i found it incomprehensible as a teenager; now i think it might be the coolest, deepest Misfits song there is. AND get this: it's the very first Misfits recording! yep, June 1977, baby. here it is...

The Misfits - Cough/Cool

and here is something else you need to see. it's perhaps the coolest thing that Pitchfork has ever run, a set of two essays on Glenn Danzig: one by Jon DeRosa of the band Aarktica, whose parents grew up in Glenn's hometown of Lodi, NJ, and one by none other than Will Oldham, who shares some great reminiscences about his childhood obsession with the man. i love the part about how he sends Glenn this crazy collage of morbid imagery and gets a Samhain T-shirt in return. it reminds me of the line in "All Hell Breaks Loose" where Glenn says (ahem), "I send my murdergrams to all these monster kids." that there is a pretty blatant reference to the infamous Misfits Fiend Club barter system: "Send us yr skulls and we'll send you ???"

and because i'm so nice, here's a related superawesome gem that i found while strolling around Soulseek...

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Die, Die My Darling

(note the line "Your future is in an oblong box.")


all this leaves me little time/energy to talk about my current jazz obsession, Sonny Simmons, but i gotta say a few things.

to me, Sonny Simmons is one of the two most stellar altoists of the first wave of free jazz. Dolphy is of course the king, the link from Bird to parts unknown, but Jimmy Lyons and Sonny, both of whom came into their own after Dolphy died (though Simmons did record alongside Dolphy) entered an even more supersonic realm.

for such an obscure figure, Simmons actually has a shitload of product out there. i enjoy his recent work with the collaborative band the Cosmosamatics, and i like his '90s trio stuff (the record "Ancient Ritual" marked Simmons's comeback after many years of homelessness and destitution), but i gots to say that like so many other of the free heavies, his best work is his ESP stuff.

i had had some hang-ups about "Staying on the Watch" and "Music From the Spheres" in the past. ok, i'll just say it: sometimes piano in free jazz bothers the crap out of me unless it's Cecil. everyone knows the story: Ornette blew the door open and after that piano comping sounded like a cage. these records both have pianists (John Hicks on the former and Michael Cohen on the latter) and both players are generally on board to get nasty but pretty busily conventional at times too. a little bit of a drawback. but...

i've just been revisiting these sessions and i don't mind the keyboard so much. mainly b/c the music just fucking cooks, boils, snap-crackle-pops, what have you. seriously, when people say "burnin'" in regards to jazz, they are--well, they're sounding kind of silly for one--but seriously, they are talking 'bout intensely blazing and poised and hyperenergetic shit like this. the key is the way Simmons, who's got it all--nasty free-soul stuff, reed-shredding freak-outs, dizzying Birdlike runs, you name it--locks in with his wife Barbara Donald on trumpet.

this woman absolutely shreds. i cannot believe that she is not more renowned, even based on only these two sessions. AllMusic pulls a bullshit hedge and calls her "one of the top female trumpeters all-time," but no one who has spent serious time with these sessions would damn her with such faint praise. i've got to say, i think she is one of the most powerful trumpeters of the '60s, and of the free-jazz movement in general. Don Cherry, Don Ayler, guys like that--hey, i love them to pieces, but Donald smokes them here. her playing is just incredibly bold and fat and smart and exuberant. she just bursts out of the gate with each solo. and on the heads, she and Sonny are just frickin' glued together--insane tightness.

that feature, not to mention Simmons's elaborate compositions, makes these some of the most intricate and well-plotted sessions ever to be released by ESP. admittedly i even used to think that was a shortcoming, i.e., that they were too meticulous. the arrangements can get a little baroque at times--i.e., the heads usually have like five parts and one of those parts will be repeated after each solo and then the concluding head will be some permutation of the original--but overall, the architecture and level of musical communication is stunning. this is NOTHING like your typical ESP "brief, squiggily obligatory intro head leads into total freakout leads into brief, squiggily obligatory out head" thing (that's hyperbole of course; i love me some brief, squiggly heads just as much as the next guy)--it almost has a Blue Note level of tightness and togetherness.

and who is this cat James Zitro? he drums furiously on these two discs. don't know much about him other than that he's got his own ESP session in addition to these Simmons discs.

all the tracks on these records are long so i'm just going to give you one. it's from "Staying on the Watch," which i think edges out "Spheres" slightly as the better of the sessions. (though they're really of a piece; they were recorded just a few months apart in late 1966.) this is a great example of how Simmons and Donald spur each other on. she takes the first solo and absolutely scorches, playing with amazing clarity and boldness; Sonny bats clean-up and kills it as well.

Sonny Simmons feat. Barbara Donald - City of David

i reckon you'll need both sessions upon hearing this, so head to Downtown Music Gallery for the remastered set of both records, which also includes audio interviews w/ Simmons. ESP is up and running again, and they've got a cool site w/ audio clips and the like, but they've sold out of this set for now, so DMG is where you want to go.

while you're there, you might want to pick up a new ultra-limited-edition repressing of the already extremely scarce "Out Into the Andromeda," a really intense Simmons solo alto session from a few years back. it was on Parallactic, a great but now defunct label run by reedist-composer Brandon Evans. i guess Evans has resurfaced w/ a few copies of this disc, but only DMG has 'em. the session is basically the exact opposite of the ESP recordings. it's all improv and instead of feeling fiery it's almost lazy in spots; it's sort of like the anti-"For Alto." instead of being really meticulous and concept-driven, it's completely stream-of-consciousness. the looooong, meandering pieces can grow a little wearisome, but it's awesome to just be in such intimate proximity to Simmons's gorgeous sax concept; the tone is heavenly and the logic is still totally unique. extremely tart playing with an odd, slow flow. would post one of those tracks, but they're all superlong. if anyone really wants to hear one, email me and i'm sure we can make an arrangement.

Brandon Evans also made a wonderful interview-based documentary about Sonny Simmons, called "The Multiple X-Rated Truth" or something like that. i know you used to be able to buy the DVD at DMG, but it's not listed on the site. maybe drop by and ask about it, b/c it's a killer film.

in conclusion, i know Sonny's been very active of late w/ Cosmosamatics and others, but does anyone know what's become of Barbara Donald? or has anyone heard either of the Cadence albums she recorded in the early '80s? scant info is here. any info whatsoever on BD would be greatly appreciated. wait, there's actually a ton of great material here, on Sonny Simmons's own page (which, overall, is kinda goofy but really informative).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Hank-

Nice to have a Barbara Donald appreciation, she's one of the shamefully under-recognized greats, an absolute bad-ass. First time I heard her I was stunned not to have heard her name before, a wholly original take on post 60s trumpet improvisation. You should get Simmons' Manhattan Egos, an amazing record (without any troublesome pianists) from 1969. Best -THB