Monday, April 30, 2007

What is up: docs

first, some congratulations...

to Aa on the release of their first full-length, "gAame," on Gigantic Music. it sounds and looks amazing, as you can see above. yes, i am biased, but so are most people.

to Birthday Boyz, Animal and the Fugue for putting on a deadly triple bill last night. inspiring and bar-raising performances all 'round.


second, a few recommendations.

the man you see above embarrassed me in front of my mother and extended family on Saturday night... and i loved it!!! no, but seriously folks, this guy, Simon Lovell, puts on a hell of a show (Simon Lovell's Strange and Unusual Hobbies).

how i ended up there is a long and convoluted tale, but suffice it to say that me, my mom, my uncle, my cousin, my aunt and some of her friends were on this behind-the-scenes theater tour for my aunt's b-day and the owner of the Soho Playhouse told us about this show that goes on every Saturday in the basement (called the Huron Club). i may be getting some of the facts wrong, but essentially Simon Lovell is a sleight-of-hand expert--apparently one of the most fearsome cardsharps in the world. the guy at the theater told us that legerdemain dudes from all over the world frequently show up and sit in the front row to observe this guy's technique. so this show is basically just a demonstration of his techniques, with a huge dose of sarcastic comedy.

so the club is really tiny and Lovell's right there in front of you. he's incredibly lewd--i recall a crack about my aunt's pubic hair; uh, awkward!--and sarcastic. there's a lot of ribbing of and interaction with the audience and you're pretty much on edge the entire time b/c you're worried Lovell's going to pick on you. (he told me my sideburns looked like hamsters on the sides of my face.) but it's all in good fun and the show is riveting. he demonstrated various methods of trick dealing, including one where he can deal out six poker hands and stack all the aces in whichever hand he wants.

there was also an amazing trick where he had these four wooden coasters, one of which had a sharp metal spike sticking out of it. he asked my aunt to cover each of them with styrofoam cups and mix them up while he told us a story about how this game had been used to punish cheaters at the Huron Club when it was a Tammany Hall hangout. basically the cheater could either have one of his fingers cut off or he could take his chances slamming his hand down on one of the cups, having a one in four chance of skewering himself and ending his card-playing career.

so anyway, Lovell's talking as my aunt is arranging the coasters and when she's done he turns around and slams his hand down on one of the cups. this happens thrice and of course he doesn't skewer himself (were the coasters marked or something? i really dunno) but it was some seriously harrowing shit. the precariousness of the whole night was heightened by the fact that this guy is performing with a cast on one arm.

there's a bunch of other stuff as well, including Lovell reading silly newspaper clips and discussing his former career as a con man (apparently he's gone straight and now works as a criminal profiler for the CIA). it was amazing to me how this guy could hold a stage all by himself for 90 minutes. his personality is hilarious: he's this lanky British dude w/ glasses and he just drips with sarcasm; but there's a weird warmth behind it all. he's not simply a dick. i read on his website that he does corporate performances and it makes me wonder how much he tones his act down for that sort of thing.

at any rate, this is simply a fun, unusual diversion and i'd recommend it to anyone. link is way up there. show is on Saturday nights in that sort of nether-region between the West Village, Soho and Tribeca.


two documentaries viewed recently w/ Laal that i'd recommend...

first is My Best Fiend (i'm going to experiment w/ not putting quotes around titles; it's not like you can't tell when something is one...), made by Werner Herzog a few years back. Herzog is very easily one of my favorite filmmakers, maybe in my top three next to Altman and Ross McElwee (hail). i haven't seen anywhere near all his films, but one thing i've determined is that i'm much more into his documentaries than his fiction films.

i'm not exactly sure why this is. i think as a fiction filmmaker he's much more into mood-setting than storytelling. for me, Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser are all very interesting, but not spectacularly so. they're like these mood pieces, character studies what have you. they're all sort of a bunch of different variations on a single theme. there's a narrative arc in all those movies but it's secondary to the minute psychological progress of the character.

in the docs, you get to see behind the scenes of that analytical process. basically you can tell from watching the fiction films that Herzog is a really smart guy, but when you listen to him narrate--as he does in all the docs of his i've seen--you really feel his genius in a very immediate way. i guess to me his greatest quality is his fascination with huge variety of subjects and his willingness to take even the most esoteric situations seriously and to give them the care and research they deserve. Grizzly Man is an obvious masterpiece, as is Herdsmen of the Sun, which is about this unbelievably strange tribal ritual in Africa where the men dress up and primp for the women. there's a Herzog doc fest coming to Film Forum, and i strongly encourage you to see Herdsmen there.

anyway, My Best Fiend is about Herzog's love/hate relationship w/ the notoriously insane actor Klaus Kinski. it charts their collaboration through Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo, Woyzeck, Nosferatu and Cobra Verde. a lot of the movie is Herzog revisiting the remote jungle locations where those first two were filmed. he'll just sit there and reminisce but it's very deep and poignant. basically you come away with this idea that their relationship was really a kind of art project. they fought and fought and even tried to murder each other, but they had some sort of tacit understanding that the films were more important than their personal beefs.

Kinski was clearly a force of nature and it's obvious that his tirades have left a big impression on Herzog. he visits an old apartment where they lived together and recalls Kinski throwing a baked potato in the face of a visiting theater critic. when Herzog visits actors who once worked with Kinski they too are still shaken up by shoots that happened decades ago. many of the women recall Kinski as a tender man while one of the extras from Aguirre recalls Kinski denting his head with a rifle butt. so, a pretty complex character.

one thing that fascinated me in particular was the footage of Kinski's so-called "Jesus tours," where apparently he would simply get up on stage (looking like an unhinged glam-rocker) and command the audience to worship him, berating them when they'd disobey. some completely insane shit. here's the clip for your viewing pleasure:

and here is a really fun clip of Henry Rollins (!) interviewing Herzog. i love how totally studious and serious Rollins is on his TV show. he's actually really good at striking up camaraderie, from what i've see. anyway, this is a great intro to what a warm, smart guy Herzog is:


the other doc we watched is Keep the River on the Right. it was subtitled a "modern cannibal tale," but this turned out to be really sensationalistic. basically what it was was a portrait of a really wonderful old dude named Tobias Schneebaum, whom you see above. basically he grew up in NYC and became a painter. in the '50s, he won a Fulbright scholarship and decided to go to Peru and seek out a primitive tribe, just for his own edification. he didn't really know where he was going but he ended up immersing himself in a cannibal society (i.e., he did indeed partake) for many months. he spent much of his life engaged in adventures of this sort and developed a deep bond not only w/ the Peruvian tribe but with a similar one in New Guinea. basically the film is about him revisiting these remote places after many decades.

Schneebaum is a really sensitive, intelligent dude and though the film is sort of scatter-brained and not totally pro-seeming in all spots, this dude is riveting to watch throughout. he's really open about his homosexuality--he revisits a New Guinea tribesman who was his lover years ago--and is remarkably sincere about his reasons for doing this sort of traveling. it's weird b/c his current job is giving tours of these remote regions for rich people, and it's just really crazy to see someone who was engaged with these cultures on such a deep level having to dumb down all the info for a bunch of tourists. you can see that one of the great struggles of his life has been to convince people that the tribes he lived with weren't savage brutes. there's crazy footage of TV interviews (one memorable one w/ Charlie Rose) where the hosts are getting on his case for forming sexual relationships with the tribesmen and engaging in cannibalism. he doesn't apologize for anything; his philosophy is that he was simply following the customs of the societies where he was living.

the reunion scenes are devastating. he goes back to these remote places where he hasn't been in decades and there are still tribesmen who recognize him. it's just incredibly intense to see him reunited with these people who he'd never thought he'd see again and whom he almost certainly will not see again. you can tell that he feels like he really belongs in these places but that New York is his home for better or for worse. watch this one but not for the sensational aspect. it's touching rather than shocking.


Andrew Hill recommendation: you have to hear the big-band disc A Beautiful Day if you haven't. beautiful, sweeping stuff. this is truly one of the deepest discs he ever released. completely smokes Passing Ships, which IMHO is pretty overrated.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

thx 'KCR // J.D. Tenenbaum // The Gaahl of some people...

hail eternally to WKCR. was at work today and yesterday, so i couldn't dig into the Andrew broadcast like i wanted to but every time i tuned in i caught something i'd been wanting to hear forever (like the little heard "Nefertiti" record from the '70s) or an old favorite (heard a great Phil Schaap spiel on "Point of Departure"). sometimes i think that instead of taking albums of my choice to a desert island, i'd just ask that WKCR be accessible all the time...

anyway, a wonderful memorial for sure.


re: Salinger's "Franny and Zooey," surely someone somewhere has remarked on the similarities of the Glass family to Wes Anderson's Tenenbaum clan. this (amazing) book is a catalog of exaggerated Waspy eccentricity. all the Glass kids are extra-precocious and even appeared on this "Kids Say the Darndest Things"-type quiz show; all of them are literary and one isolates himself on a boat when he grows older, just like Richie Tenenbaum. you can practically hear Alec Baldwin narrating this book. anyway, just a thought. i love the book. a bit ashamed to say that Laal and i put down "Madame Bovary" for it, but hey, i'm a lot happier on the subway now...


would strongly recommend going to VBS.TV, clicking on the "Music" channel, clicking on the "Music World" tab and then watching the documentary on Norwegian black metal, featuring a multipart interview with Gorgoroth's mainman Gaahl. (sorry for the convoluted instructions on accessing that material but the direct links they provide to the video don't seem to work.)

i have a complex relationship to black metal. on one hand i grow really tired of the hype over how extreme it is and struggle with often being underwhelmed by the monotony of the music itself. i fall for the image just as much as the next guy but i don't really feel for any black metal album the way i adore my favorite, say, Morbid Angel discs. i know i need to do more listening, but i've always been more enthralled by the mythos than by the music.

so i feel kind of guilty from approaching the genre via all the sensationalism, with a tabloid mentality, but you've got to admit that it's fascinating. i guess it's the same part of me that loves to watch serial killer docs on YouTube. anyhow, this is a really fascinating series of videos. the first two parts get the hype on Gorgoroth out of the way: super extreme and satanic band, graphic sexual and anti-Christian imagery at concerts, "evil" frontman Gaahl who was convicted of torture (!).

but then part three gets really heavy. the VBS folk were the first journalists ever granted access to the remote village where Gaahl lives. apparently his family members are the only ones who live anywhere near him. the town (though it looks more like a group of huts) is miles from the nearest city. there's a tiny schoolhouse in the village where Gaahl went from kindergarten to age 18 and apparently there was only ***one other student*** besides him in the school. and apparently that guy killed himself upon graduating. crazy.

but there's this really interesting camaraderie that develops between Gaahl and the producers. there's just as many interviews with them as with him, and they all express this sort of awe about what a penetrating and insightful guy he is. they all relate that he sort of broke down their personalities and gave recommendations as to how they could improve their lives. it's almost as if they've visited a shaman or something. Gaahl seems like a fairly personable dude, handing wine around and making heartfelt toasts.

haven't listened to Gorgoroth much and thus i know i'm feeding the superficial cult of black-metal ambulance chasers. but this is a fascinating profile nonetheless. let me know if you have trouble accessing it via my instructions.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Goodbye, Andrew

news flash: listen to Andrew all day on WKCR! mp3 webstream available. also, typical on-the-ball-ness from Ethan Iverson here.

RIP, Mr. Andrew Hill. regular readers of this blog know how much his music means to me, and i won't attempt a formal eulogy. here's a lengthy Hill reflection i wrote in February that still applies (scroll down past the unrelated commentary on Rich Shapero, pleez)--there are a few mp3s there i believe.

just want to say a few things and offer a few links, though. here is a proper obit from Howard Mandel at All About Jazz and one from Ben Ratliff at the Times. and here are some thoughts i wrote on the Time Out New York blog upon hearing the news on Friday.

and here--and this is really something--is a archived edition of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz w/ Hill. the playing on this is absolutely gorgeous and the camaraderie between the two is remarkably natural. what a gracious man he was. i don't know how long these shows are available so grab this while you can.

also, i've got to say that i'm kind of blown away that in the eight or so years that i've been a Hill fan, all of the CDs in the rightfully legendary 1963-66 box set are now in print individually. that shows you how much Hill's reputation has grown over the past decade. "Point of Departure" was my first Hill purchase and it's where i'd point any newcomer, but it makes me really happy that "Andrew!!!," "Judgment," "Compulsion" (just reissued), "Black Fire" and the rest are all readily available. as i discussed in the aforementioned post, maybe my favorite latter-day Hill record is the big-band disc from Palmetto, "A Beautiful Day"; it's a really lush realization of his writing.

don't know what else to say. Hill was hugely special to me. please listen. here's an mp3 to start. i can't even begin to describe my feelings for this one. it's from "Point of Departure." the trumpeter on the date, Kenny Dorham, told Andrew that it brought tears to his eyes. enjoy, please, and go check out more Hill if you're so inclined.


(3/21/64; w/ Joe Henderson, Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Richard Davis, Tony Williams)

i always go for the ballads, yes, indeedy. is this even jazz? it's floating music, fantasy music...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Foreign affairs

get thee w/ immediacy to Church Number 9 and download Michel Pilz's "Celeste." gorgeous bass-clarinetism from this German veteran who's totally new to me. this guy shreds w/ gusto. love that he plays the bass cl only and not as a secondary horn. that's a rare thing.


just finished Whit Stillman's Barcelona. like "Metropolitan," the whole thing hinges on the incredible chemistry between actors Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman. the latter's got this endlessly appealing dry, smart, cynical thing and the former is hopelessly neurotic and straight-laced and dogmatic. the way they antogonize each other (like when Eigeman insists on spreading the rumor that Nichols wears S&M leather under his clothes) is priceless and hilarious.

it's a worldlier movie than "Metropolitan," which is i guess somewhat obvious given that it's set in Europe whereas "Metro" takes place almost entirely in stuffy Upper West Side drawing rooms. and in some ways deeper. you see the characters moving about in the world more--Nichols plays an accountant, Eigeman a navy officer. there's actually some pretty heavy political stuff involving anti-American bombings and the like.

but the funny thing is that the characters are essentially fighting the same wars they are in Barcelona, namely waging combat against asshole lothario types. in "Metropolitan" it's Rick Von Sloneker and here it's this sleazy journalist named Ramon. there's also Stillman's fascination w/ these sort of motley groupings of defeated lonely men wandering around overanalyzing their plight. that's how "Metropolitan" ends and here there's some great existential barhopping scenes w/ Nichols and Eigeman, and this totally scene where they're mourning a dead colleague of Eigeman's in a warehouse drinking cheap whiskey.

the women are great too, giving off a totally different vibe than in "Metro." but in a way it's the same: they all sort of look down on the men, but humor them occasionally. they definitely hold the cards and Stillman seems to enjoy this theme, the idea of men just constantly getting their heads spun around by women who could really care less.

anyway, i wish Whit Stillman would get back to filmmaking. and it's too damn bad that Taylor Nichols isn't more well known (maybe he is to a greater degree than i know; he's done a lot of TV lately apparently). he really stakes out new territory in the stuttery, pacing, neurotic realm, which is saying a lot given how played out that stuff is.

as for Eigeman, he's in this new romantic comedy, The Treatment. dunno what to think about this one, but i'll watch him in anything.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Silly me... have not dropped in on the omnivorous Mapsadaisical in forever. this is a really committed, diverse, state-of-the-art blog that hacks machete-like through hype. interesting recent thoughts on Wilco, Hebden/Reid, Oldham and many more.

Little tenderness

another mini-hiatus. too cold. been sick. hard to motivate.

proud to say that Joe (of Stay Fucked) kicked ass w/ Hexa tonight at Webster Hall.


been meaning forever to discuss the gorgeousness of Booker Little. i don't even know where to start with this one. don't know if folks saw that piece on Andrew Hill that Nels Cline wrote for one of the biggie jazz magazines. can't find the link, but if memory serves, he was comparing the eccentricity and weird beauty of Hill to that of Booker Little and i gave that a hell of an amen. these two are probably my two favorite jazz composers and they both tap into the same sort of idiosyncratic poignancy.

am listening to Little's "Out Front" from 1961 right now, which in my opinion is an absolute masterpiece, one of the literal very best jazz records i've ever heard. i came to Little through the marvelous Five Spot sessions of July '61 w/ Dolphy and co. those are mindblowing records, for sure, but they don't have the compositional weightiness of "Out Front," which is a seriously sculpted date. if you've not heard this one, you are missing out on one of the most sophisticated, deep, wrenching and creative sessions there is.

am listening to the first tune, "We Speak," right now and Dolphy is tearing it up. Little and he made a formidable pair. both just drilled right through to the point. Dolphy was the more extroverted player of course. but Little just has this incredible clear-eyed, efficient poignance, always spiked with uneasiness and struggle. his poise is incredible. first of all his tone is just impeccable, but it still has a vulnerability about it. it's never shrill, always fluid. Little famously advocated for dissonance, sharp notes, flat notes, saying those were all devices for getting at a purer level of emotion (read the quote at this helpful discography page). i'm not hip to all that really, but i do hear Little conveying this certain kind of imperfection, blurriness, straining beyond the notes. he really takes flight when he solos, sometimes achieving this remarkably sorrowful vocal type sound.

it's hard not to overdramatize Little, who died at age 23 of kidney failure in October of '61. a lot of his music has a really serious and even grave tone, but none more than a few of the tunes on "Out Front." i need in particular to pass on the following two, some of my very favorite jazz performances:

Moods in Free Time

Man of Words

these were both done at the second of the two dates that produced "Out Front," on April 4th of '61. the personnel is
Booker Little (tpt); Julian Priester (tbn); Eric Dolphy (as,fl,bcl); Don Friedman (pno); Ron Carter (bass); Max Roach (dr,tympani).

i guess "Man of Words" is the easier piece to describe. it's a dirge, basically--a cloudy, mournful dirge that has an almost unbearable weight and focus and potency and haziness. i don't want to burden this music with anecdotal baggage, but i've got to share a story once told to me by the great jazz scholar Phil Schaap, a mentor of mine at WKCR back in the day. i hope to god i'm not misremembering this, but i'm almost certain he told me that Little actually found out he was terminally ill in between the two "Out Front" sessions. it's hard not to go back to the later session, at which the two above pieces were done, and hear some really accordingly dark shit happening.

so this "Man of Words" is a deep one. very reminiscent for me of another cherished piece, Grachan Moncur III's "Evolution" from the album of the same name. it's basically this cloud of horns in the background intoning this sort of dejected drone and Little solos over it. he just sounds to me like he has everything to say in the world, like he has a lot of business to take care of re: this drone. the background part is almost like this pulpit for him, this pedal point. i could throw out a million tiresome extramusical theories about what that fixed dirge represents to him, but just listen to the playing. this man is digging, searching, what have you in a really profound way here. this is gut music as filtered through an inimitable instrumental voice and logic. there are these amazing trills, ornaments, but they never sound flashy in Little's hands. is it possible for a tone to be honest? his is.

there's an awful/transcendent moment right near the end where Little lets out these spurts, what sound almost like little gasps and the band falls silent beneath him. i tell you it's like an abyss opening up. this happens around 3:45. check in on that b/c it's deep.

"Moods in Free Time" is an episodic piece, with some very abrupt scene-changing. in the beginning you can hear Little's totally unique horn harmonies. this is some very thick, hazy sounding shit. he talked of dissonance making things sound "bigger" and i think that's exactly what's going on here. there's a big band feel, but it's kind of an "off" sound--very controlled and intricate but w/ this tinge of malaise. just a sophisticated sound and Max moves it right along.

then comes a very curious tempo shift and this odd, scary fanfare at around 1:10 and then we're back in the land of dirge and the band starts moaning and Max moves to the tympani where he does these rolls that sound like the wailing wind. it's like Little keeps getting sucked back into this vortex of swirling unease. i know i'm being heavy-handed but it's a scary, bewitched vibe. i've never heard any other jazz that sounds this straight-up haunted before.

and Dolphy is all over it. his solo is downright terrifying. he's basically wailing, doing some serious vocalization and tremolo and vibrato and what have you. it's tongue-speech. Ayler would have dug this to pieces. could any other sax player just straight-up *speak* this way through the horn? Dolphy is easy to take for granted b/c he's *always* this amazing, this visceral. but here it's driven home b/c the dirgey setting is so not what you're used to hearing him play off of. he really wrestles with the tune, confronts it head on.

at the end of that solo is a super quizzical moment: this extremely neat, tidy, ultrapocket Max Roach solo that i learned to play a while back and haven't been able to get out of my head for like a decade. it's so weirdly incongruous to the mourning stuff that's come before though. just this really weird abrupt transition. a gorgeously odd juxtaposition.

enjoy these. need to dig back into "Victory and Sorrow" (or "Booker Little and Friend," as it's sometimes called, with the "friend" being, i believe, his trumpet) which was Little's only leader date after "Out Front." but i can tell you it ain't as good or as deep as this. few records are. this is a masterpiece plain and simple and yes it's all as good as what i posted above.

god, he was 23!


please check out the following:

J. Hoberman's wonderful analysis of Elliott Gould's inimitable '70s appeal. or in other words, an account of how he surfed the Jew Wave. any Gould freak, such as myself, knew that someone someday had to nail down this guy's persona and all its psychosocial ramifications and Hoberman has done it, by gum. not all of the thoughts are his but he knows how to pull them together into a dead-on portrait. how's this for a summation of latter-day Jewish wit:

"Analyzing their humor, Professor Goldman [Lenny Bruce's biographer] noted that while Jews imagined themselves 'clever and knowing, scorning the goyim as dumb and slow-witted,' they also identified themselves with 'weakness, suffering, and disaster,' attributing 'health, physical strength, and normality to the gentiles.'"

read that piece and then go to Film Forum and see "The Long Goodbye." godDAMN that movie rules.

also, please invest time if you dare in "Jonestown," a riveting and horrific PBS doc on the infamous Kool-Aid-drinking Peoples Temple of the late '70s. Laal and i checked this out last night and were pretty blown away by how twisted this whole thing got. film is a little glossy w/ the facts at times, but footage of cult leader Jim Jones at the pulpit and accounts from survivors are stunning. mark my words, you will come away wondering, How in the living fuck did this happen?

Thursday, April 12, 2007


when my friends from back home in Kansas City and i were in high school, we were all ominvorous when it came to artistic media. each of us would devour Rimbaud, Morbid Angel, Altman, Paul Klee, etc. with equal vigor. somehow we found the time and energy to study up on all the arts. over the years, you sometimes have to choose though. it's not a bad thing, but now, instead of all of us being experts on music, film, art, books, etc., we've kind of divided things up. these days i classify my KC friends as the books and movies crowd, and i, as you can probably guess, hold down the music fort.

anyway, this is all by way of introducing my thoughts on a poetry reading i attended last night at St. Marks Church w/ my friend Kyle W. from KC. i used to read a lot of poetry, but i've kind of fallen off over the years. whatever i've checked out in this latest phase of living has almost always been on Kyle's recommendation. he's turned me on to a ton of stuff ("lifer" DFSBP readers might remember this post on the poet Ben Lerner, one of his most sterling tips), much of centered around the Black Mountain school--folks like Charles Olson, Robert Creeley and Ed Dorn.

Kyle's got a special connection with this stuff b/c for years he's been studying at the University of Kansas with the poet Kenneth Irby. i'm not sure if Irby actually did time at Black Mountain College, but he was tight with the aforementioned folk and a ton of other important avant-garde artists. so Kyle's been researching Dorn--best known for "The Gunslinger," which from the little i've read i take to be a sort of existential Western (that just reminded me of the book "Existential Sheriff" that pops up in Thomas Pynchon's "V"; i read that book like a decade ago and remember pretty much nothing other than that detail)--or more specifically he's looking into the time Dorn spent in Lawrence, KS, where KU is located.

Lawrence is a really awesome town and i have a lot of history there. not only did i attend several summers' worth of Roy Williams basketball camp there, but my friends and i made countless pilgrimages to KC from there (the drive is about 40 minutes) to see bands at the Bottleneck, the Granada and other awesome venues. i remember a particularly awe-inspiring triple bill of June of 44, Rex and Boys Life at the Bottleneck, where Doug Scharin drummed for both Jo44 and Rex. Scharin probably inspired me to want to play more than any drummer back in the day.

anyway, but i digress. so Kyle's studying Dorn and his time in Lawrence. Kyle and his family have always had a lot of Midwest pride. his family owns this plot of land way out in the country in an area called the Flint Hills. i think i may have only been out there once but it was pretty amazing. i'm not much of a camper, but this ruled: singing Clutch songs around the fire and towing Kyle's Jeep out of the mud.

ANYWAY (i promise for real this time), so Kyle's Midwest pride became even stronger when he met Irby b/c the latter was able to connect the former's twin loves of poetry and the Midwest and was able to teach him about the strong tradition of poets living in and writing about the Midwest. everyone knows that William Burroughs lived in Lawrence, but the town still has a really strong poetry scene, spearheaded by Irby and this journal called First Intensity.

so anyway, yes, the reading... it was great! a lot of it blew right by me, as is often the case with encountering unfamiliar poetry aurally, but some things stuck, especially the personas of the various readers, many of them poets in their own right who knew Dorn. the reading was commemorating the new Dorn collection, Way More West, and people were sharing selections from that. Anne Waldman gave a really sassy and vigorous reading of some Gunslinger excerpts; Rosalie Sorrels teared up as she discussed Dorn's last days and read from Chemo Sabe, Dorn's meditation on battling cancer and chemo; George Kimball read from Dorn's famous "-cide" poem (a litany of puns, inluding: "death by the ocean = seaside"), as well as another piece written about Lawrence's famous Rock Chalk Saloon (i think i'm getting that name right; it was some play on the KU fight song "Rock, Chalk Jayhawk") and the dogs that used to hang out there; ex-Fug Ed Sanders spoke of Dorn's fascination with the cross shape made by the major north-south and east-west highways. all the readers (including Dorn's widow Jennifer Dorn) were pretty much great.

but as expected, the highlight was Amiri Baraka. he was up there for maybe five minutes, but he really made an impression. short and hunched over, he strode fiercely up to the podium and dropped his leather bag with a thump and immediately he started tearing up and just sort of almost pleading with the audience to understand the immense significance Dorn had to him. Baraka spoke of the long letters they used to write back and forth (he stipulated that they were "s=mail," rather than "e-mail") and about how more than ever "we need [Dorn's] voice," in the midst of so much "lugubrious, lying, meretricious" talk. he talked about how Dorn discussed America in "a real funky kind of way" (yeah, i wrote a bunch of this stuff down; it was all too awesome to let slide) and then started to read from one of Dorn's super-incisive anti-government screeds.

he'd stop every few lines to marvel at the directness of Dorn's language, especially a line where Dorn speaks of "never having enough paper" to express what he was trying to get across. Baraka stopped and confronted the audience, saying something like, "do you understand how deep that is? he's saying that it would take more paper than i'll ever have to you tell you how much i hate you fuckers." it was a pretty amazing moment. Baraka also discussed race and how he wasn't used to encountering a white poet with such an honest voice and one that he could relate to so directly. eventually he got so choked up that he just had to walk off. the evening concluded with a DVD snippet of Dorn reading, but Baraka had pretty much stolen the show.

anyway, i've rambled long enough, but i wanted to leave you with this:


this is a reading by Baraka. i wish i knew the date, but i don't; does anyone? this is absolutely one of the most intense pieces of music i've ever heard. it's absolutely ecstatic with rage. you could say it's not music, only spoken word, but check out how dynamic and rhythmic it is. it's more musical than most music in fact. anyway, appropriately, i was turned on to this by Kyle. thanks, man, for that and everything else.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wild Bill

have Bill Dixon on the brain, yes siree. i need to share with you a piece from "Vade Mecum," a Soul Note disc recorded in August of '93. having checked this one out a few years back and then revisited over the past few days, i'm gonna just say that it's one of the strongest documents of free improv that i've ever had the pleasure to hear.

to my ears, this is a near-perfect convergence of a) four veteran players with absolutely huge ears and inimitable technique (Dixon, with William Parker and Barry Guy both on bass and Tony Oxley on drums) and b) a daringly foregrounded production strategy. simply put, the record is bathed in reverb. normally this would be a turn-off for me, but for some reason, the effect serves here to catapult this one into sublime territory.

in Dixon and Oxley, you're obviously dealing with some supersubtle players. Dixon's head-spinning blurbly lip effects and smeary zips and ripping sounds on trumpet (spotlighted at the beginning and end of mp3 below) are just so killer and with all the reverb, they come to sound hugely deep and full and cavernous and enveloping. Dixon's sound even distorts and blurs at the edges when he gets especially aggressive [for some amazing BD thoughts on why distortion is a good thing--and for a million other insights, check this seriously thorough 2002 interview from the excellent and underappreciated One Final Note.]

the recording allows you to hear Oxley as never before too; his clicks and plops and flutters are impeccably captured. not to mention the bassists, beautifully stereo-separated, one in each ear. this record is an awsome antidote to the improv-gig-as-record record. i love how "Vade Mecum" is so clearly a project rather than a chance encounter masquerading as such, as so many free-improv discs are; it brims with intent and refinement.

it's truly a sonic playground, this one. i imagine the reverb will turn some folks off, but i encourage you to embrace it, since it's obviously a balls-out aesthetic choice on Dixon's part. i must admit that his heavy use of delay in recent years can be a little trying to these ears, but this reverb is just like a heavenly bath for the trumpet. and i gotta say that however awesome Parker and Oxley sound with Cecil, they sound better with Dixon. this is impeccably deep-listening participatory music that shatters free-jazz cliches at every turn. it's alive and kinetic but it makes you do a lot of work as a listener. no cheap stuff--spacious, warm, searching, lush, surprising, virtuosic. just everything you want it to be really, given the caliber of these players.

so here's Anamorphosis to check out.

more on Bill:

the man's own site.

that fascinating Dixon Society page i linked to in the last post.

sonically defunct but textually solid Destination Out post from a while back.

awesome and heartfelt Taylor Ho Bynum appreciation.

an appreciation of Dixon's solo gargantua box "Odyssey" by none other than Lance Hahn of the killer San Fran intellectual pop-punk group J Church. you'll find the piece via here.

and finally the infamous Bagatellen brouhaha--featuring dollops of cantankerous, gloves-off punditry--re: "is Dixon bullshit?" seems ludicrous to me, but a lot of people don't buy into what he's doing. to me he's an iconoclast who resoundingly explodes the paradigm of ecstatic free jazz. re: that debate, i'll just say this: name another free-jazz trumpeter who's readily identifiable in ten seconds. Dixon is as unmistakable as Albert Ayler or Eric Dolphy, and in my experience that kind of immediate ID stamp is very rare in free brass.

i expect more awesomeness from the Dixon/Oxley duos (two volumes of "Papyrus"), which i'm just now digging into.

also, dig the news that this year's Vision Festival (coming up in June) is all about our man Dixon.


just wanted to say right quick that you should check out Outer Space Gamelan, a real cool blog covering the noise underground. i frankly like reading this dude's constanly updated assessments of all these ultra-limited CD-Rs and tapes more than i like a lot of music currently being produced under the noise aegis.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Moer Carter

as an addendum to the John Carter powwow, i just wanted to throw out a few words on (and mp3s from) a record of his that i haven't seen too much written about, namely "Variations" (sometimes extended to "Variations on Selected Themes for Jazz Quintet"), recorded in August of '77 and released on Moers Music. i could be sorely mistaken, but it appears to me that you can actually order the CD reissue direct from the Moers homepage.

this record is impressively focused, but sorta skewed more towards lengthy, incisive improv than "Dauwhe." the lineup is sick--Carter, Bobby Bradford on trumpet, James Newton on flute, Bob Stewart on tuba and Philip Wilson on drums--and everyone shows up ready to listen and play really really hard. the lack of a bass gives the improvs a really appealing sparseness. the players dig really deep into extended techniques and abstract tangents, but with musicians this accomplished, you rarely feel like things are meandering. whereas on "Dauwhe" you're sort of struck with the compositional architecture of the whole thing, here you just constantly marvel at how deep the interplay goes, again and again.

i'm checking out the first track, "B.L.'s Delight," right now, and that's a lengthy suite of several melodies bridged by long improv passages. everyone has some pretty heavy statements to make, and the group is wonderfully atomized: Wilson and Bradford play a lengthy duo, Wilson and Stewart fly free as the other winds unite in a tight unison theme--the center shifts constantly. the melodies are really tricky and involved, and the improvs are really searching and open-ended--just as it should be.

there ain't many weak spots on the record. Carter's arrangements are ingenious. he's always splitting up the group into smaller units, like on "Echoes from Harlem," which is a telepathic and microdetailed duo for the leader and Newton. Carter's warbling flights are just wild on this one and the two get into some really piercing super-high-register stuff that's pretty intense. "And She Speaks" is just Bradford and Carter, and it's a patient, beautiful piece of work. is anyone very familiar with the Carter/Bradford duo canon, i.e., those Emanem records? i'm curious.

having a hard time deciding which tracks to post, but i gotta choose b/c i'm pretty sure this thing is still in print. try these for now; they should keep you plenty busy. overall, "Variations" acts as a nice sort of prologue for Carter's masterful cycle of records which began four years later with "Dauwhe"...

B.L.'s Delight

Echoes from Harlem

for more on "Variations," check out this really thorough 1981 New York Times article by Robert Palmer, which mentions the session.


also, check this out. it is basically a semi-official blog for Bill Dixon-related happenings. very cool. there's a great interview w/ Taylor Ho Bynum up there now, where THB talks about BD's specific influences on him as a player. i sense that Dixon is going to be my next major phase. i'm really not up on his discography like i should be. the '80s stuff on Black Saint (or is it Soul Note?) is especially intriguing to me, so i think i'm going to start there. lately, "Vade Mecum" has been kickin' total ass for me...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Get Carter // Two Lost Masters: Robert F. Pozar and Ken McIntyre

hear hear to the goshdang John Carter renaissance. Destination Out has two clips from the stupefyingly great 1982 sesh "Dauwhe" here, and of course they make reference to Steve Smith's handy recap of Carter's whole "Roots and Folklore" cycle. have yet to listen beyond "Dauwhe," but am psyched to do so.

re: "Dauwhe," gotta say that one of the things killing me most, besides the awesomely well-plotted compositional scope of the thing and the ever-lucid soloing of Carter and the Bobby Bradford, is the rhythm section, none of whom i'd ever heard before this disc. Roberto Miguel Miranda, bass; William Jeffrey, drums; Luis Peralta, percussion. anyone know really who the sam heck these cats are? the interplay between the three on the third track (which ain't up on DO, unfortunately) is dazzling, and i'm especially blown away by all the crazy percussive effects employed by Jeffrey and Peralta. maybe these are just your average West Coast geniuses; as proved by Carter and Bradford themselves, it ain't always easy to gain the respect of the jazz world while kicking it out there. anyway, great freaking record.


in other other-people's-sites news...

you need to swing by Swami-Hermitus-Solus (don't ask me; i ain't never seen this 'un before either) and pick up the April 4th posting of Bill Dixon's spectacularly cool and spectacularly out-of-print large-ensemble work "Intents and Purposes" from (i think '66). if you only know Bill for his enigmatic puffs-of-sound improvs, you'll be shocked to hear how lush and orchestral this one is. wow, whatta record.

personnel on that sesh is outta sight, esp. the reedmen. there are two alto players listed, but i believe the solo on the first track is by Robin Kenyatta and it severely smokes. an underrated player for sure. just downloaded the Roswell Rudd record "Everywhere" that he's on and i need to revisit.

other members of the ensemble remind me of the crazy series of records that Bill Dixon produced for Savoy around the same time. Marc Levin, who plays percussion on "Intents," and Robert F. Pozar, who plays drums, each had a leader record out on Savoy thanks to Dixon. (more info on all this can be found by searching within Ben Young's invaluable "Dixonia" tome on Google Books.) don't think i've ever heard the Levin one, "Dragon Suite," but the Pozar is a real oddball curiosity and definitely worth investigating. i need to post some tracks from that soon methinks... actually, why not tonight?

the tracks i'm going to post are both from "Good Golly Miss Nancy," credited to the Robert F. Pozar Ensemble. this is a fascinating record--just a total eccentric curiosity of the sort that reissue geeks would faint over. again, it was part of this Savoy series produced by Bill Dixon in the late '60s. i wish really really much that i could find a scan online of the album cover b/c it's priceless: it's a sketch of Pozar, posed--i think--with hand on chin a la "The Thinker," and his head is neatly sliced open so you can get a view into his brain.

i guess that image is appropriate b/c this is a pretty eccentric, personal, whimsical record. the first tune is called--get this--"The Mechanical Answering Service of Chris and Marta White," and it was inspired by just that, an answering machine that his friends had set up. the personnel/instrumentation is super odd: Kathy Norris on cello, Jimmy Garrison (!) on bass, Mike Zwerin ("Birth of the Cool" trombonist turned expatriate journalist) on bass trombone (!) and Pozar himself on drums. he's a really swinging, incisive drummer and as weird as the ensemble sounds, they have a great group rapport. really sparse and droll, but awesome nonetheless.

here's Keying in Your Bank [this is an LP transfer i did from the copy at WKCR]

i really like this one. it's built around this strange, somewhat alarmed-sounding seven-note figure from the trombone and the other instruments kind of solo over and play off of that. it's a very creepy, sparse and mournful track in spots. incredibly unique stuff.

speaking of that, check this shit out...

here's the title track, Good Golly Miss Nancy

this is a serious, serious WTFx1000 track. you know how George Lewis designed that Voyager software that would sorta improvise alongside him? well i believe that this is a similar thing from like three decades earlier. it's drums and incredibly primitive electronics. for some reason, i remember reading in the liners that the computer/synth was in some way responding to Pozar's live playing and wasn't overdubbed. i could TOTALLY be making that up though. either way, it's like some "2001" type of shit--really dated-sounding, but really fun and adventurous too. dig it!

there's another Pozar record in the WKCR catalog that i also made a dub of, and it's a solo percussion release credited to "Cleve" Pozar, which i guess was Robert's nickname. according to my notes, there's no label or date listed on that one, so maybe it was private press? i haven't listened to that in ages, so i'll try to check it out and report back and perhaps post from it. the tiny pic above is a scan of the cover i found.

i'd very much like to know what became of Pozar but i really couldn't tell you. he was on a few Dixon albums from the late-'60s, including the aforementioned "Intents," and he also recorded w/ Bob James (yes, the one who later became a smooth-jazz kingpin). the last i heard of him was a strange little disc from 1999 given to me by my WKCR brother-in-jazz Ben Young (also the author of the aforementioned "Dixonia" and mastermind of the Ayler box on Revenant, among many other heavy archival projects) called "Let's Try It Again," and subtitled "Bata and 'Bones by Cleve Pozar."

just like it sounds, this is a fairly tame self-released effort pairing Latin drumming with trombones. the tunes are either traditional or standards. very weird stuff, i tell you, but not out-there weird like "Good Golly," for sure.

on the getting-in-touch-with-Pozar front, i emailed Bill Dixon years ago, trying to reach him, but Dixon said he hadn't talked to him in years. strangely, the web address on the "Let's Try It Again" disc, is now active; i remember trying it years ago and turning up nothing. just dropped a line to ask if i could get in touch with Cleve himself, so we'll see what happens! damn, i'm sure glad i decided to delve back into that mystery tonight.


would like to leave you with a little mix-tape of music by Makanda Ken McIntyre, a really overlooked and underrecorded multi-instrumentalist who died in 2001. i started thinking of him when i was writing about Beaver Harris over the weekend. McIntyre was a key member of Beaver's 360 Music Experience family, and appears on Beaver's fairly straightforward but still really deep 1979 Soul Note disc "Beautiful Africa." here's a track from that

Baby Suite
(McIntyre, as; Grachan Moncur III, tb; Ron Burton, p; Cameron Brown, b; Beaver Harris, d)

this one takes a bit to build, but Beaver really starts cooking after a few minutes. just an incredibly fleet and subtle free-time pulse that he and Cameron Brown get happening. McIntyre and Moncur duet for a bit, but once Moncur drops out, McIntyre is just off, completely smoking over the bass and drums. he has a really piercing, singing tone and amazing speed. loves to go way up into the tip-top of the register, a la Sonny Simmons. it's a blazing solo for sure. Moncur's no slouch either, even though he takes his solo at a more midtempo range.

the year prior, McIntyre cut a really cool leader record for Steeplechase, "Chasing the Sun," w/ Beaver on drums and Hakim Jami on bass. here's a track from that one that i ripped from the vinyl last night:

Got My Mind Set on Freedom

McIntyre plays bassoon here and gets a great sound out of the thing. there's some great agitated free jazz at the beginning and then they go into this subtle, simmering, melodic type of thing. McIntyre seems totally comfortable w/ this ax and sounds free and rad. Beaver is, as always, ultrasubtle. his solo is masterful and methodical

[DFSBP note: the section below contains many passages from both the "Chasing the Sun" liner notes and an essay on the recording of the earlier date "Looking Ahead" w/ Eric Dolphy, both penned by McIntyre. before diligently transcribing the lengthy excerpts below, i forgot to check if these texts were online. afterward, i found that they--and tons of other McIntyre writings---are reproduced in their entirety on McIntyre's site. i feel dumb for wasting time, but am very glad that you can read them both b/c there's some pretty deep shit happening in each: "Chasing the Sun" liners, "Looking Ahead" reissue liners.]

am very intrigued by the liner notes of this record, which are written by McIntyre and reveal him to be a very politically minded dude. it's basically an essay about African-American identity vis a vis music. he calls for black businessmen to invest in jazz in order to break the "master-slave" relationship that white labels have to black musicians. considering that these are liner notes, the piece goes into a ton of detail, even delving into how black investors should view funding of avant-garde (and therefore destined to fail financially) artists as a handy tax write-off. overall, it's a somewhat angry piece, but it's also very poignant. consider this excerpt:

"Contradictions abound in our lives. Musicians in other societies at other times have been in the forefront. They were the their societies and/or communities...But the African-American continues to wear the yoke of slavery."

from here, he moves on to a very technical explanation of each piece, detailing time signatures and forms and such. this guy is a very serious composer, no doubt. in the interview that appears in the liners to Beaver's "Negcaumongus" LP on Cadence (i just received this in the mail from Cadence yesterday; it's good but not quite as good as you'd think given that Don Pullen, Hamiet Bluiett, McIntyre and Francis Haynes--the steel-drummer from "In:Sanity"--are all on it), Harris alludes to McIntyre's studious demeanor, even revealing that it caused problems in the band:

"Ken had problems communicating with Don, because Don is a straightforward person. Don is the type of player that would perform and ask questions later, rather than ask ones in the midst of performing. That's another pressure to put on yourself. That's like analyzing each note to the extent of getting everything perfect and there just isn't any such thing as your music being perfect. It's just music, you know. So he and Don had a little conflict and I can hear the difference between the personalities."

man, that's some pretty insider shit, no?

i've got another McIntyre essay, which appears in a twofer reissue on Prestige that contains two sessions featuring Eric Dolphy that were led by other players: McIntyre's "Looking Ahead" from 1960 and Mal Waldron's "The Quest" from '61. the reissue is from '78 and i believe that's when the notes date from. McIntyre expresses a lot of admiration for Dolphy and you can see where the latter influenced the former, both in terms of multi-instrumentalism ("I had heard [Dolphy] on record with the Chico Hamilton group and was impressed with his mastery of instruments--alto saxophone, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet...") and in terms of socioeconomic awareness ("Like one of his employers--John Coltrane--[Dolphy] was very much aware of how a segment of society controlled the music to be exposed to the public. He never belabored this point, but did talk about the possibility of leaving the country in order to earn a decent living some time in the future."). interesante, no?

there's a lot of praise of Dolphy as well: "Eric's musicianship was awesome... Anyone who heard Eric in person should have realized his strong commitment to total communication through his instruments." on the 1960 date, there are a lot of pieces where both McIntyre and Dolphy both play alto, which makes for a really cool contrast. [an interesting fact that McIntyre reveals is that Prestige A&R dude Esmond Edward's only stipulation when booking the date was that Dolphy had to appear on it. McIntyre on playing with Dolphy: "Although the date went well for me, personally, I could not at times help feeling a bit left out of all the qualitative nuances that I felt while Eric and the rhythm section were playing."] that contrast is not in evidence on the track i'm posting, b/c Dolphy solos on flute, but it's a really cool piece nonetheless, written by McIntyre. here ya go:


(Walter Bishop Jr. is on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Art Taylor on drums)

the head is really strange and mazelike and cylical. almost reminds me of an Andrew Hill enigma like "Grass Roots" or something. i love McIntyre's sound. it's very round but with some strange hiccups in places and occasionally this odd sort of "hardy-har-har" laughing effect, like around 1:45. the whole thing is kind of methodical and slow-burning and droll and eccentric. you'd never in a million years mistake him for the volcanic Dolphy.

anyway, cool stuff for sure, but check out a bit more of the essay. McIntyre goes on to discuss how Dolphy's great critical success did little for his actual career, and then he delves into the critical reaction to "Looking Ahead" itself. this is really fascinating. McIntyre writes:

"a reviewer for Down Beat wrote: 'don't listen to this record if you have the slightest hint of headache.' later in the review he wrote about our 'libido,' called us the 'terrible twins,' and finally stated 'all in all this is not a bad album.' he rated it at 2 1/2 out of a possible 5 stars. how much influence this had on both our careers i do not really know, but it obviously did not help, because Eric subsequently left the country, and in October 1961 i started my public school teaching career at P.S. 171 in Manhattan."

that's some deep and fairly dark stuff there i tell you. looking over McIntyre's discography, you can see that he did struggle to release his music; there's only ten leader records over a 40-plus year career. has anyone heard these United Artist sessions from the early '60s? there are some tracks with Jaki Byard on there that look very promising (as does anything w/ Jaki Byard). i'm also intrigued by some of the later stuff, including "A New Beginning", released the year of his death.

don't know how to tie all this stuff up other than to say that, as you may have noticed, i'm always interested in the stories--like McIntyre's, like Beaver Harris's, like Robert F. Pozar's, like Charles Brackeen's, like Barbara Donald's, like Walt Dickerson's, like Charles Tyler's, like Booker Little's (who i REALLY need to post about soon), like Grachan Moncur's, even like Andrew Hill's--at the margins of jazz. these are the figures i tend to fall in love with. maybe it a fetishization of rarity, but i'm cool w/ that. i love unearthing the info, poring over the scant discographies, tracking down AWOL artists. yeah, this probably came from WKCR's "Lost Masters" festival too... shit, i owe a lot to that place.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend update: Nels, Braxton, Ramirez // Brackeen sense // Free jazz on the telly

please check out Steve Smith's weekend blogging frenzy, which includes a very thorough recap of the Thursday night Nels-Cline-and-friends-play-Andrew-Hill show that he and i both attended. that was definitely a hot one--very much in line with the "New Monastery" disc released last year. two things in particular made me super happy: first, the band opened w/ "Dedication," the last tune from Hill's "Point of Departure" and one of the saddest, yet also most colorful and strange, pieces of music i know. check the liner notes to the "P.o.D." reissue for a tale of how the melody brought Kenny Dorham to tears during the original session. Bobby Bradford stepped into that role awesomely. he really sounded great throughout the the set. the second thing that got me was Ben Goldberg, who is an absolutely sick soloist. he took one uptempo solo that had me all like, "Jesus, man!" he definitely shreds and is worth checking out whenever possible.


ok, so i really enjoyed the Nels, but neither it nor the other show i went to (Anthony Braxton and his septet on Saturday night) eclipsed the incredible Dirty Projectors set described in the previous post. they swept the weekend, no doubt.

but the Braxton set was awesome. he had a stripped down band from the "12+1tet" he brought to Iridium last year, but the style was very similar: Ghost Trance stuff w/ a lot of freedom for all. (please see my recent "Time Out" piece, written in advance of this Iridium run, for a further discussion of this methodology. i interviewed Braxton and did my best to explain in 700 or so words what makes him such a genius.) gotta put it out there that i have friends in this band, so i might be biased, but all the sidepersons (or whatever you call them) played awesomeley. i can remember a really kick-ass conducted trilly "language-type" duet between Braxton and brass wizard Taylor Ho Bynum, some spacey, head-spinning glissando viola from Jess Pavone, some tense, squealing effects from Mary Halvorson and a whole bunch of other nice collage-style occurences, with multiple factions of the band blasting off in different directions.

the whole set was very sparse and almost creepy in parts, very tense and almost angry at others. Braxton took a lot of really, really, really sick solos, especially on sopranino and alto, demonstrating that awesome growly, howly, hoarse thing that he does so well. one particular oddity and awesomeness was watching him maneuver the contrabass sax (see above) which is, uh, fucking huge. it looks like a saxophone shot with a nuclear ray or something--just goddamn gigantic. he spent like probably five minutes total maneuvering the thing around and got barely like 20 notes out of it, but it sounded awesome. just like a comically deep tone. glad there's someone out there who's creatively committed enough to tote this thing around. most would just say, "fuck it." anyway, i hope Brax at Iridium becomes a yearly thing.


before that, Laal and i hit up the Martin Ramirez exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum. Ramirez was schizophrenic and made illustrations for something like 30 years in an institution. very intense and beautiful stuff. he has this obsessive use of curved lines and weird patterns and strange motifs, like cars or horsemen or the Madonna, etc. just really wondrous aesthetics going on and something y'all should all check out before the show closes on in mid-May. saw some Darger stuff while there too and goddamn, that stuff is something to see as well...


will leave you with a few recommendations and some media, namely this track...

Charles Brackeen Quartet - Worshippers Come Nigh

Charles Brackeen is defintely an overlooked dude in the '80s jazz pantheon. tenor and soprano player, originally from Oklahoma, but who spent some time in Texas and out west as well. worked w/ Paul Motian and Shannon Jackson and Dennis Gonzalez and also recorded a record called "Rhythm X" for Strata-East which features Ornette's inner-sanctum band. most of what i know comes from here, which is Silkheart's album page for "Bannar," one of three discs Brackeen made for the label. the track above is from the second of those, "Worshippers Come Nigh," which is a very sick record from (i think) '87.

you got Olu Dara on trumpet, Fred Hopkins on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums, so basically: hell yeah. i hadn't heard too much Olu Dara before checking this out and i was really impressed by how bright and clear and funky and virtuosic his playing is. speaking of virtuosic, Fred Hopkins blows my fucking mind every single time i hear him on a session. Jesus Christ, he's just owns the bass, straight up. he just makes it sound so rubbery and sproingy; he really has the instrument doing his bidding. what a great, great player. anyway, the writing is, though, really what grabs me. the title track which is for the taking above is a really catchy, exuberant and deep piece. the two horns sound like about ten and the melody is really catchy but has all these subtle nooks and crannies.

Brackeen is a badass, powerful soloist. kind of in the Dewey Redman vein of superbluesy and soulful free tenors. his solo on this track is burly and mightily swinging. imagine if Fred Anderson were a lot more extroverted and brash and you might get something like this. he's just got a really warm, muscular sound but he's also comfortable with the high-range vibrato thing, as you hear right at the end of the solo. the rhythm section totally cooks under him, and Olu Dara is definitely feeling the vibe as well.

anyway, does anyone know what became of Mr. Brackeen? as far as i know, he's still alive, but no word on any recordings since the Silkhearts in the late '80s. too bad, b/c on the basis of his awesome writing and punchy soloing, this guy seems like he was on his way to becoming a legend at the time of this recording.


ok, has everyone who's into free jazz seen "Imagine the Sound"? if you haven't, for God's sake, watch this clip:

yes, i know. this is definitey a where-have-you-been-all-my-life doc! it was made in 1981 by Bill Smith, who's the Canadian journalist and musician behind "Coda" magazine and the Sackville label. it focuses on four cats: Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp, offering extensive interview and performance footage of each. as you can see above, the performances are fucking awesome (Dixon absolutely smokes in that trio w/ bassist Art Davis--trivia: he was a practicing psychologist!--and drummer Freddie Waits). the interviews are really crazy and loopy too; all such huge and weird personalities. Shepp speaks of having to come to terms with the fact that he was never going to have Coltrane's perfect golden tone; Bill Dixon talks about beating people up if they didn't listen to Trane; Bley reminisces about the rough early days playing w/ Ornette; and Cecil is just totally out, reciting poetry and saying cryptic stuff like "It seems to me that the music is everything that one does." (at one point, Cecil's talking about how all the arts are sort of interrelated (a pet topic of his, no doubt) and how one should generally be soaking up aesthetic info at all times, and he's like, "So when one walks down the street and one looks and if there is a fuchsia-colored awning sticking out on the 30th floor, one says, 'oh, wow!'" damn, man, Cecil rules indeed.)

and so does this flick. i'm annoyed b/c it's sitting on my hard drive as a Windows Media file, but i don't know how to edit it down so as to post clips here. anyone know any easy-to-use free video editing software for PC? don't think it's on DVD either, but VHS copies can seemingly be ordered here. someone put this damn thing out on DVD!


i leave you with a plug: if anyone in NYC is interested, Stay Fucked is playing tomorrow night, Monday, 4/2, at Lit Lounge, which is at 95 Second Ave between 5th and 6th Sts. we'll go on around 10pm. it is part of a weekly metal gala called Precious Metal. Stay Fucked isn't really metal, but we're certainly metal sympathizers.

as always, thx for stopping by...