Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DFSBP archives: Grachan Moncur III


NOTE (July 24, 2021): I've re-upped the links to the Grachan Moncur III WKCR interview below. If you have trouble accessing them, drop me a line at hank [dot] shteamer [at] rollingstone [dot] com, and I'll send them to you directly.

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts and online audio interviews recently. I highly recommend Jeremiah Cymerman's 5049 Podcast (I've checked out about ten of these so far, and I've loved pretty much every one), Aisha Tyler's Girl on Guy interview with Clutch's Neil Fallon, the Luc Lemay (Gorguts) and Bill Steer (Carcass) episodes of the MetalSucks Podcast, and the Lemay appearance on the Invisible Oranges East Village Radio show (click on September 3 here). While I'm not equipped to put together snazzy-sounding, nicely edited content à la what's linked above, I do have a fairly extensive archive of audio interviews, some recorded live on air. Since most of these radio shows are interspersed with music, they play like readymade podcasts. As time permits, I'll be going back through and digitizing various programs from the vaults, e.g., the 2000 Steve Lacy show I posted back in February.

Next up is an installment of the WKCR Musician's Show, featuring trombonist-composer Grachan Moncur III, that dates from less than a month after the Lacy Q&A. This has to be one of my most treasured interview tapes. As with the late, great Walt Dickerson, Moncur was an artist who existed in a kind of mythical state in my mind before I was lucky enough to be able to meet him. (I made the connection via a wonderful woman named Glo Harris—the widow of the drummer Beaver Harris—my collaborator on a memorial show concerning Beaver, which featured in-studio appearances from Moncur, Rashied Ali and Wade Barnes, and call-ins from Andrew Cyrille and Jack DeJohnette; maybe that'll be my next post from the archives!) I didn't know Moncur's story; I only knew his records, and at that time I was completely obsessed with them, especially the 1963 Blue Note set Evolution, which I still regard as one of the masterpieces of the period, and of jazz in general. Grachan (for the record, it's pronounced "GRAY-shun") and I sat down for three solid hours of talk, music and off-mic reminiscing. It was a really special experience—for one thing, I'll never forget Grachan discussing how his experience of the Kennedy assassination related to the title track of Evolution, one of my favorite pieces of music ever. I was just a kid at the time of this interview—a month shy of my 22nd birthday—but Mr. Moncur treated me like a peer. I hope you enjoy the show. Here it is, in four installments:

WKCR Musician's Show with Grachan Moncur III: 7.19.2000 - Part I

WKCR Musician's Show with Grachan Moncur III: 7.19.2000 - Part II

WKCR Musician's Show with Grachan Moncur III: 7.19.2000 - Part III

WKCR Musician's Show with Grachan Moncur III: 7.19.2000 - Part IV


1) The easiest way to stream these files is by clicking the Streampad link (the blue bar) you see at the bottom of the page. You can also download them as MP3s.

2) The level on the title track to Aco Dei de Madrugada (played at about the 24-minute mark in Part III) was too high, so I cut that piece from the MP3. You can hear it here. The same goes for Echoes of Prayer (featured on Destination: Out back in 2010), announced right at the end of Part III and continuing into the beginning of Part IV; I'm pretty sure we played the majority of the LP, which you can hear in five parts here: I, II, III, IV, V.

P.S. I want to thank my Aa bandmate Mike Colin for reminding me of the existence of this tape. I have a fond memory of he and I going to see Grachan Moncur III play at Iridum in a band that included Moncur's old Blue Note comrades Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson. They played the classic "Love and Hate" that night and Moncur took a solo for the ages. (Judging by this review, this must've been 2004.)

P.P.S. Steve Lehman's 2000 interview with McLean, recently posted at Do the Math, is well worth your time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The ecstasy of the present: Gorguts and Carcass return

For sheer big-event-ness, no metal comeback record this year can compete with 13. But for those of us obsessed with death metal and related styles, Colored Sands and Surgical Steel—the respective new ones by Gorguts and Carcass—are each pretty damn momentous as well. My Pitchfork reviews of these titles are linked above.

As I did in my reflection on the experience of reviewing 13, I'll take off my ill-fitting critic's hat here. From a fan perspective—really the most important one, in the end, especially when the subjects are two legacy acts in an especially fan-driven subgenre such as death metal—I'm ecstatic about these records. The respective trajectories (not to mention aesthetic priorities) of Gorguts and Carcass vary, but one thing these two bands have in common is that, as of roughly the mid-aughts, we had no reason to believe that we'd ever hear from either again. And yet even stacked up against each band's classic back catalog, these records are outstanding—they're statements not just of sustained proficiency but of sustained excellence.

Each in its own way, Colored Sands and Surgical Steel—and, now that I think about it, 13 too—is about coming to terms with the weight of history, then shrugging it off and embracing the ecstasy of the present moment. These LPs are meaty statements: dense, info-packed, loud, wild, weird, fucking fun records, and also ceremonies of communion between first-generation extreme-metal practitioners (Luc Lemay of Gorguts, Bill Steer and Jeff Walker of Carcass) and younger virtuosos (Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel and John Longstreth on Colored Sands; Daniel Wilding on Surgical Steel). In short, any quibbles I've aired aside, they're exactly what they should be. These are the kinds of albums that reaffirm fandom as a lifelong pact: "As long as you keep making music, I'll keep caring." I love them.