Sunday, December 15, 2019

2019/2010s in review

*2019 all-genres-in-play list, plus runners-up, songs and shows.

*2019 jazz list.

*2010s all-genres-in-play list, plus runners-up and songs.

*2010s jazz list.

I've also updated the two archives of prior top 10 lists:

*All-genres-in-play lists, 2005 through the present.

*Jazz lists, 2008 through the present.


This year, I released 10 episodes of the Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast, featuring interviews with Black Sabbath's Bill Ward, Living Colour's Vernon Reid, Jan Hammer, Dave King and more. Please check them out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean if you haven't already. More to come in 2020!

And thanks to these and other music/etc. podcasts that have enriched and inspired me; I strongly encourage you to give them all a look/listen:

-The 5049 Podcast
-The Trap Set
-Kreative Kontrol
-The Heavy Hole
-Dean Delray's Let There Be Talk
-Radical Research
-Crash Bang Boom Drumming Podcast
-Burning Ambulance
-Washed Up Emo
-Everything Went Black
-You Don't Know Mojack
-Henry & Heidi

I wrote a lot this year, but the pieces I'm most proud of were the King Crimson–related stories, namely:

*A Robert Fripp interview.

*A two-part deep dive into the history and influence of "21st Century Schizoid Man."

*And a career-spanning interview with Bill Bruford.

And thank you to anyone still making their way to this webspace! It's less active than it has been in years past as more of my work appears elsewhere, but it's still meaningful to me as a personal archive and occasional writing outlet.

Best of 2019: Overall top 10 + songs + shows

Here are my 10 favorite records of 2019, with corresponding links to prior coverage where applicable. (ICYMI, here's the jazz-only list.)

1. Moon Tooth, Crux
2. Tomb Mold, Planetary Clairvoyance
3. Arch/Matheos, Winter Ethereal
4. Sheer Mag, A Distant Call
5. Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle
6. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You [she owned the culture this year, and rightfully so]
7. The Messthetics, Anthropocosmic Nest
8. Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
9. Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains [this record made me realize just how much I'd overlooked w.r.t. the late, great David Berman. R.I.P.]
10. Hole Dweller, Flies the Coop [stumbled across this one only a few weeks ago; it's just fantastic — transporting lo-fi synthscapes inspired by The Hobbit!]

Here are some others that came close to making the cut:
-La Dispute, Panorama
-Bob Mould, Sunshine Rock [he just keeps making solid, no-nonsense rock records]
-Jeromes Dream, LP
-Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won't Hold [such a bummer that the band basically imploded during the making of this, but there are good songs here]
-Darkthrone, Old Star

Here are a couple more that I just really liked and look forward to spending more time with:
-Giants Chair, Prefabylon
-Liturgy, H.A.Q.Q. [this is visionary music, plain and simple]

Here is a reissue that absolutely floored me:
Santa Lucia, Perse Palaa

Here are 15 miscellaneous songs I loved this year:

Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"
Luke Combs, "Even Though I'm Leaving"
Haunt, "Mosaic Vision"
Lizzo, "Juice"
Vampire Weekend, "Harmony Hall"
Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, "Old Town Road"
Sheer Mag, "Chopping Block"
Moon Tooth, "Crux"
Lizzo, "Jerome"
Mannequin Pussy, "Drunk II"
Lizzo, "Truth Hurts"
Haunt, "Callouses"
Billie Eilish, "Bury a Friend"
Orville Peck, "Hope to Die"
Sam Fender, "Hypersonic Missiles"

And here are 20 particularly memorable shows I saw:

Jan 25/26 - Black Flags Over Brooklyn at Brooklyn Bazaar
Mar 7 - Cannibal Corpse + Morbid Angel + Blood Incantation at Playstation Theater
May 9 - Feast of the Epiphany at Vital Joint
May 12 - Eyehategod + Sheer Terror at Kingsland
June 1 - Bikini Kill at Terminal 5
June 11 - Andrew Cyrille "Lifetime Achievement" concert at Vision Fest
June 15 - Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison at Central Park SummerStage
June 22 - Jawbox at Brooklyn Steel
June 29 - Moon Tooth at Amityville Music Hall
July 26 - Jeromes Dream at Saint Vitus
July 27 - Iron Maiden at Barclays
Aug 10 - Cheer-Accident at Ceremony
Sept 13 - Pat Metheny Side-Eye (w/ James Francies and Marcus Gilmore) at Sony Hall
Sept 21 - King Crimson at Radio City Music Hall
Oct 9 - Sheer Mag at Elsewhere
Oct 10 - Melvins + Redd Kross at Warsaw
Oct 18 - Battles at Max Fish
Nov 2 - Mike Watt and the Missingmen at the Echo (L.A.)
Nov 3 - John Zorn Masada (w/ Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder and Kenny Wollesen) at Village Vanguard
Nov 29 - Giants Chair at the Brick (KC)

Best of the 2010s

Rolling Stone recently compiled a list of the 100 best albums of the 2010s. Here, with some minor tweaks and additions, is the ballot I submitted to the staff vote. Where applicable, I've linked to a past DFSBP post where I discussed the album in question. (There's a jazz-only 2010s list here and individual all-genres-in-play lists for every year from 2010 through 2019 here.)

1. RVIVR, The Beauty Between (2013)
2. La Dispute, Rooms of the House (2014)
3. Francis and the Lights, It'll Be Better (2010)
4. Christian Mistress, Possession (2012)
5. Sheer Mag, Need to Feel Your Love (2017)
6. Future Islands, Singles (2014)
7. 40 Watt Sun, Wider Than the Sky (2016)
8. Freeman, Freeman (2014)
9. Rush, Clockwork Angels (2012)
10. Antemasque, Antemasque (2014)
11. Deftones, Koi No Yokan (2012) [no prior coverage here; I'm a late Deftones convert but I've come to adore both this record and its 2016 follow-up, Gore]
12. Moon Tooth, Crux (2019)
13. Mitski, Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014)
14. Haim, Days Are Gone (2013)
15. Diarrhea Planet, I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams (2013)
16. Metallica, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (2016)
17. The Bad Plus, Never Stop (2010)
18. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra (2011)
19. The Hotelier, Goodness (2016)
20. Carcass, Surgical Steel (2013)
21. Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (2016)
22. Alvvays, Alvvays (2014)
23. Meshuggah, The Violent Sleep of Reason (2016)
24. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (2017)
25. Krallice, Ygg Huur (2015)

+10 runners-up

Clutch, Earth Rocker (2013)
Voivod, The Wake (2018)
Loincloth, Iron Balls of Steel (2012) 
Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork (2013)
The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (2018)
Esperanza Spalding, 12 Little Spells (2018)
Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (2011)
The Men, New Moon (2013)
Dan Weiss Trio, Timshel (2011)
Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction (2012)

Update, 12/27/19: I now realize I was remiss not to shout out Gorguts’ 2013 masterpiece Colored Sands above. Just re-spun, and, man, does it smoke. Same goes for Kvelertak's Meir!


Rolling Stone also counted down the 100 best songs of the 2010s. Here are 60 of my favorites from the decade that's about to end. Some from the aforementioned albums, but many more are "radio songs" or just loose tracks from various other releases. The order is pretty arbitrary.

RVIVR, "Spidersong"
Francis and the Lights, "Betting on Us"
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, "Shallow"
CHVRCHES, "The Mother We Share"
Adele, "Someone Like You"
Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball"
Julian Casablancas, "11th Dimension"
Alvvays, "Marry Me Archie"
Katy Perry, "California Gurls"
Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass"

Luke Combs, "Even Though I'm Leaving"
Maroon 5, "Moves Like Jagger"
Alessia Cara, "Here"
Drake, "Hotline Bling"
Haim, "The Wire"
Tobias Jesso Jr., "How Could You Babe"
Haim, "Don't Save Me"
The Weeknd, "Starboy"
Justin Bieber, "Sorry"
Metallica, "Moth Into Flame"

Code Orange, "Bleeding in the Blur"
Bob Mould, "I Don't Know You Anymore"
Haunt, "Mosaic Vision"
Sheer Mag, "Just Can't Get Enough"
Ariana Grande, "Thank U Next"
Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"
Lil Uzi Vert, "XO Tour Llif3"
Daft Punk, "Get Lucky"
Drake, "Marvins Room"

Nude Beach, "Walkin' Down My Street"
Sheer Mag, "Fan the Flames"
Beach Slang, "Punks in a Disco Bar"
Queens of the Stone Age, "I Sat by the Ocean"
Antemasque, "50,000 Kilowatts"
Ghost, "Ritual"
Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"
Adele, "Hello"
Frank Ocean, "Thinkin' 'Bout You"
Killing Joke, "The Great Cull"

The Strokes, "Gratisfaction"
The War on Drugs, "Red Eyes"
Rihanna, "Only Girl in the World"
Lizzo, "Truth Hurts"
Mastodon, "The Motherload"
PSY, "Gangnam Style"
Bob Mould, "The Descent"
Black Sabbath, "The Age of Reason"
Usher, "OMG"
Sia, "Eye of the Needle"

Magic!, "Rude"
fun., "Some Nights"
Kanye West, "Monster"
Robyn, "Dancing on My Own"
Frank Ocean, "Novocane"
Turnstile, "Real Thing"
Justin Bieber, "Let Me Love You"
Lady Gaga, "Perfect Illusion"
The Strokes, "Under Cover of Darkness"
Metallica, "Spit Out the Bone"

Best of the 2010s: jazz

Here's a list of my 20 favorite jazz albums of the 2010s. (Individual lists for each year can be found here.)

1. The Bad Plus, Never Stop (E1) [2010]
2. Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music) [2011]
3. Dan Weiss Trio, Timshel (Sunnyside) [2010]
4. New Zion Trio, Fight Against Babylon (Veal) [2011]
5. Billy Hart, All Our Reasons (ECM) [2012]
6. The Cookers, Warriors (Jazz Legacy Productions) [2010]
7. Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Deluxe (Clean Feed) [2010]
8. Jack DeJohnette / Matt Garrison/ Ravi Coltrane, In Movement (ECM) [2016]
9. The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker) [2018]
10. Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle (International Anthem) [2019]
11. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi) [2018]
12. Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM) [2011]
13. Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note) [2010]
14. Mark Turner, Lathe of Heaven (ECM) [2014]
15. Joshua Redman and the Bad Plus, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch) [2015]
16. Black Host, Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy) [2013]
17. Billy Mintz, Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note) [2017]
18. Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh, Sparrow Nights (Trost) [2018]
19. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens (Blue Note) [2018]
20. Vijay Iyer Sextet, Far From Over (ECM) [2017]

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Best of 2019: Jazz

Here, via Rolling Stone, is a rundown of some of the 2019 jazz releases I enjoyed most. I'm not remotely able to keep up with everything these days, so I'm grateful to The New York City Jazz Record; Downbeat; Jazz Times; The Wire; Phil Freeman's monthly Ugly Beauty column at Stereogum; Giovanni Russonello's regular coverage at The Times; the work of writers such as Seth Colter Walls, Piotr Orlov, Andy Beta, Marcus J. Moore, Matthew Kassel and Mark Richardson at Pitchfork and other outlets; some of the same writers and others at Bandcamp Daily; and The Free Jazz Collective; as well as the artists and publicists who send me music directly, for helping me keep up.

The 2019 top 10 I submitted to Francis Davis' annual critics' poll, the results of which should be online before too long, is as follows. Each of these titles is discussed at least briefly in the RS piece; there are also links there to my prior coverage of some of the artists/albums, and links to hear/buy the music via Bandcamp, where applicable. Two notes on the selections:

1) Categories ultimately mean very little to me, but yes, I do think the Messthetics album could reasonably be called a jazz record; I argue the case a bit in the aforementioned article.

2) The 10³²K album did in fact come out in 2018, but it emerged late in the year, and I was not really aware of it till this year. Regardless, I think it's fantastic, and I stand by its inclusion here. This process remains very much an inexact science!

New Releases

1. Angel Bat Dawid, The Oracle (International Anthem)
2. Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh)
3. The Messthetics, Anthropocosmic Nest (Dischord)
4. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, To Whom Who Buys a Record (Odin)
5. 10³²K, The Law of Vibration (self-released)
6. Joel Ross, KingMaker (Blue Note)
7. Chris Lightcap, SuperBigmouth (Pyroclastic)
8. Blacks' Myths, Blacks' Myths II (Atlantic Rhythms)
9. Steve Lehman Trio & Craig Taborn, The People I Love (Pi)
10. JD Allen, Barracoon (Savant)


1. Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance)
2. Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA, Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (Dark Tree)
3. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit, April Is the Cruellest Month (Blank Forms Editions)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #10: Bill Ward

Hard to put into words how meaningful it was for me to sit down with one fourth of the original Black Sabbath. Bill's warmth and sincerity are disarming. He's just an absolute joy to speak with. I hope you enjoy this interview.

You can listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or the Podbean player below:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Modern drummers

It would be hard to overstate how much of a thrill it was to speak at length with one of my musical heroes, Bill Bruford, or to be in the room while Dave Grohl and Ringo Starr — two icons I admire hugely — conversed for an hour-plus about drums and life. I hope you enjoy the results!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #9: Pyrrhon

A really fun interview with a truly avant-garde band, and a great bunch of guys, to boot.

Please check out their music here.

Fun fact: Pyrrhon vocalist Doug Moore is also an excellent writer. Check out his take on the resurrection of craw here. He also wrote the bio for the recently released Skryptor album; scroll to the bottom here to read. And if you've ever been a death-metal fan, you need to read his classic 2013 treatise on Death Metal English.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

"Schizoid Man" at 50 // Goodbye, GB

*A deep dive into the history and legacy of King Crimson's avant-rock landmark "21st Century Schizoid Man," in two parts:

-Inside Prog's Big Bang
-50 Years in the Life of a Gamechanging Song

I'm proud of this one and hope that you will give it a read. It's saying something about the reach of this song that there easily could have been a part III.

*A quick round-up, merely scratching the surface, of tracks showing the range of the late, great Ginger Baker. His playing fascinates me more and more over time. I feel fortunate that I got to see him in person some years back. Don't miss tributes at RS by Jay Bulger, director of the definitive GB doc Beware of Mr. Baker, and Bill Frisell, a key '90s collaborator of Baker's.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany's 'Practicing Loss': An invitation

The below are some thoughts I put down last year regarding Practicing Loss, a then in-progress album by Feast of the Epiphany, one of the many musical outlets of my good friend and sometime collaborator Nick Podgurski. The album is out now, and I encourage you to explore and enjoy. (A vinyl edition is also available via Kincsem Records, a label founded by members of the excellent Couch Slut; for ordering info, write to KincsemRecs [at] gmail [dot] com.) See also this older piece, written after experiencing Practicing Loss live in 2015. -HS


Blissful incomprehension: Listening to Feast of the Epiphany's 'Practicing Loss'

I don't pretend to know the meaning behind Practicing Loss, or to be able to comprehend its methods and materials. On the contrary, spending time with this music — as with much of the music my friend Nick Podgurski makes and has made under the names Feast of the Epiphany and New Firmament — is for me a process of coming to terms with its otherness. We have all these tactics of reckoning with art, and a lot of times, we grasp for the "next closest thing," drawing what it is we're hearing nearer to what we already know.

In the case of Practicing Loss, the more time I spend with it, the more I feel I would be doing it a disservice by likening it to anything else. I don't hear it as a difficult work. In fact, the less I try to bring it into some kind of familiar orbit, the more it draws me in. What at first seemed alien and impenetrable now feels serene, sturdy, utterly at ease with its own structure and presentation.

What I can say, in a very general way is that I hear roughly three extended "movements" in the work. The first is a kind of ambient ballad, in which an insistent, incandescent synth drone sort of beams itself through the center of the music, as gently unfurling "riffs," played by keyboard or guitar, move in their slow orbits. Soulful, patient vocals center the piece, orient you in its fundamental song-ness. I picture an intricate mobile, suspended from the ceiling, with four or five components each spinning on their own axes, at their own speed, the whole creation moving in exacting multifarious harmony.

The piece begins to build into a kind of refrain around the 15-minute mark ("Light and darkness both shall be burned"), leading to a brief pause and what is to me the climax and highlight of Practicing Loss. The patiently unfolding quality of the first section gives way to a brisk, dancing feel, what sounds to me like a song opening up and tumbling ahead with its own momentum. There is this gorgeous repeated refrain ("We are burned! We evaporate!) that drew me in like an efficient pop hook the first time I heard it, and still gets my fist pumping every time I put the record on. The combination of catchiness and vast, elusive complexity in this second section to me gets at the heart of the Feast of the Epiphany listening experience. I don't pretend to "understand" its order, and in fact, during any given listen, I often feel like more of its details are eluding me than not, but I feel absolutely sure of its own sturdiness within itself. I hear an inspired onrushing of ideas, a steady stream of marvelously choreographed events (for one, a totally unexpected and brilliantly situated guitar solo) that may take years to fully grasp.

The third section is to me the most "difficult," the most other — the least, for me, relatable to anything else I've heard. Again, the twisting, interlocking rhythmic feel of the first two sections, but sort of slowed and blurred, with an almost perverse play between disparate harmonic feels. Sometimes, the synth chords that underlie the piece feel curdled, almost queasy, then twisting into sudden beauty.

Practicing Loss ends with a sort of high-density coda, an echo of the more "uptempo" feel of the second part. The music glinting and rising into this sort of marchlike riff. The whole thing sounds like some sort of extended fanfare or annunciation, phrases dancing and intertwining in sublime tribute.  And then a final refrain — "Lust for loss / Die trying, there is nothing else" — building in its final minute to a brief and thrilling vocal eruption, with Podgurski digging deep into his guts and testing the harsh limits of his remarkable range.

I write the above not as a roadmap but as an invitation. It's possible that the less you take in with you — preconception, will to classify or "understand" — the richer your experience with this work will be. I still couldn't tell you what Practicing Loss is on any fundamental level, but I feel confident in deeming it a marvelously rich soundwork that only seems to bloom further with each listen. You, the listener, are in good hands.

Hank Shteamer, May 2018

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #8: Jan Hammer

Very proud to present two hours of conversation with the great Jan Hammer:

I found his genuine, unabashed excitement re: the music he's made over the years to be deeply charming, and I hope that comes across in this interview. Absolutely one of my favorite entries in the HMB series so far. No Miami Vice talk here, since that's covered in just about every other interview he's done; just pure jazz, rock and jazz-rock the whole way through!

You can also listen via Apple Podcasts. If you're enjoying these episodes, I'd be so grateful if you could leave a rating and/or review, and help spread the word via social media. More to come.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #7: Wendy Eisenberg

Episode 7 features an in-depth conversation with guitarist-singer-songwriter Wendy Eisenberg:

I had a blast speaking with Wendy and I hope you enjoy this episode! Listen via the player above, the HMB Podbean page or Apple Podcasts. Learn more about Wendy here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #6: Ches Smith

The latest installment of the Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast is now live. Episode 6 features an in-depth conversation with drummer/composer Ches Smith:

We touch on his work with everyone from Mr. Bungle and Theory of Ruin to Tim Berne and Marc Ribot.

I hope you enjoy! If that is the case, I would be very grateful if you would consider subscribing to the show in Apple Podcasts, and/or leaving a rating or review. Any kind of social-media or word-of-mouth shout-outs are also of course hugely appreciated.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

He Did the Number: Cleve Pozar, 1941-2019

Cleve Pozar: "I Did the Number"

In July of 2008, Cleve Pozar was driving around his tiny hometown of Eveleth, Minnesota, smoking a cigarette and contemplating mortality. He wasn't sick at the time, just reflective, recounting the strange, improbable life's journey that had taken him far from this city of just under 4,000 — first, in the early '60s, to the contemporary-classical hotbed of Ann Arbor, Michigan, then home to future legends such as Robert Ashley; then to New York, where musicians like Bill Dixon were busy realizing new and unprecedented visions of what jazz could be; then to Boston, where he plotted and produced a personal masterwork, the private-press early-'70s LP known simply as Cleve Solo Percussion; and eventually back to NYC, where, for decades, he would align his consuming interest in Afro-Cuban percussion (specifically, late in life, the Batà tradition) with his expertise as a master builder and engineer, forging a sort of DIY musical laboratory that few who did not visit him at home would ever get to behold.

He concluded with this statement:

"When I'm lying there dying, I can say, well, what the hell, man… I did the number."

There was nothing morbid about the observation — on the contrary, Cleve seemed, as he pretty much always did, totally at peace, punctuating his mini monologue on the idea of doggedly pursuing one's personal life's mission to the fullest, from day to day, decade to decade, until the very end, with a quintessentially Cleve-ian conspiratorial grin. Having just heard the sad news of Cleve's recent passing from my friend Will Glass — a musicians' advocate at the Jazz Foundation of America, which aided Cleve greatly in his later years, as well as an accomplished percussionist himself, who studied extensively with Cleve — I can take a little solace in hoping, and having every reason to believe, that the above turned out to be true.

The video at the top of the post — drawn from many hours of footage that I and my former wife Laal Shams shot of Cleve around that time for a prospective documentary, and edited by my friend Dan Scofield — captures not just Cleve's "I did the number" speech, which starts around the 3:20 mark, but also, more importantly, his signature combination of childlike enthusiasm and dead-serious commitment ("If I have to go through a concrete wall, I don't care; I'm going there."). Please watch in full-screen for best results.

We see him putting the finishing touches on a wooden drum he built himself; demonstrating one of his ingenious electronic-percussion set-ups; improvising with saxophonist Darius Jones (a brilliant musician 30 years his junior); bantering good-naturedly with his extremely supportive mother, Fran (who was kind enough to invite a curious stranger in her home for a couple days so that he could get a sense of the environment that could have produced an individual as sui generis as Cleve); and sitting beside his longtime friend and collaborator Cooper-Moore, a kindred spirit who characterizes Cleve as "an improviser in life" who "understands tools and materials." (The video also features commentary from key early Pozar collaborators such as Bob James — with whom Cleve performed extensively in Ann Arbor, including once with Eric Dolphy, and with whom he made the fascinating, daringly abstract ESP album Explosions — David Horowitz and Ed Curran, as well as his son, Mingus, and cousin Janice.)

I first came to know Cleve's work via the record library at WKCR, where I came across two of his LPs, Cleve Solo Percussion and Good Golly Miss Nancy, an utterly remarkable Bill Dixon–produced Savoy set (released under Cleve's birth name of Robert F. Pozar and featuring none other than Jimmy Garrison on bass) that combined nimble, intensely interactive avant-chamber-jazz with cutting-edge electro-acoustics. Encouraged by my friend and mentor Ben Young, who provided me with a copy of Let's Try It Again, a CD of Batà-infused jazz that Cleve self-released in the late '90s, I continued to research and later write about Cleve, including in one fateful 2007 post on this very blog, where I inquired as to Pozar's current whereabouts.

Several months after posting that query, I received a brief e-mail:

>From: Cleve Pozar
>To: Hank Shteamer
>Subject: Cleve
>Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 17:31:11 -0700 (PDT)
>Cleve pozar is Bob pozar.I am Cleve.

It couldn't have been more than a week or two later that I was sitting in a coffee shop in Fort Greene with Cleve, listening with amazement as he recounted the entire tale of his extraordinary life and, to my delight, still very much ongoing work. He soon gave me a tour of his makeshift home studio, in the unfinished basement of a friend's nearby brownstone, where he kept not only his drum kit, but his ingenious electronic Batà set-up, which you can see him playing here, and in many other YouTube videos that he would later self-produce and post intermittently, as he subsequently moved all over the country to stay with family in his later years.

Cleve generously allowed me to trail him to and from gigs, shadow him as he practiced, and eventually follow him all the way to Eveleth, where he showed me around, pointing out the world's largest free-standing hockey stick (which you'll see in the first video above) and taking me to the mines where his father, an accomplished engineer, used to work. He even helped me salvage a couple of cracked cymbals, sawing thin holes in them to prevent further damage, a process that's also documented in the video up top.

Cleve would eventually leave New York for good. I believe the last time I saw him was in 2011, after he gave a stunning solo concert at Brooklyn's Firehouse Space, a new live interpretation of Cleve Solo Percussion — a suite of enveloping, evocative electroacoustic pieces realized via live looping, which he had ingeniously adapted to contemporary instruments. You can watch the full video the performance here, with huge gratitude again to Dan Scofield, who was on hand to document the night:

Cleve Pozar - Live @ The Firehouse Space - March 11, 2012

As with pretty much everything Cleve did, the Cleve Solo Percussion revival was a marvel not just of creativity but of will — as Cleve himself noted, no earthly barrier or limitation of practical reality was ever going to stop him from fulfilling his wildest sonic fantasies. If ever there was a man who, at that moment of reckoning, had earned the right to say he had accomplished everything he intended, forged his own path without compromise, explored his passions to the fullest — in short, "did the number" during his time on Earth — that man was Cleve Pozar. I am honored to have known him.


*Of all those who loved, assisted and collaborated with Cleve during the time that I knew him, none had his back more consistently than Adam Lore, the tirelessly devoted label owner and scholar behind 50 Miles of Elbow Room. Adam's interview with Cleve on the subject of Cleve Solo Percussion, complete with a bonus excerpt from a contemporaneous live performance by Cleve and Cooper-Moore (then known as Gene Ashton) is essential reading.

*As is my friend Clifford Allen's typically comprehensive 2009 Pozar piece for All About Jazz.

*You can download a couple excerpts of Cleve's work, including a track from the long-out-of-print, generally impossible-to-find Miss Nancy LP, here, via a post by WFMU's Scott McDowell.

*Finally, here, with gratitude to Jason Gross at Perfect Sound Forever, is a series of excerpts from my original conversations with Cleve, covering various aspects of his life and work.

As might be apparent from the above, I have much more on file, including hours of interview and performance video, as well as audio of an afternoon-long WKCR radio program that Cleve and I collaborated on in 2008. The documentary project itself has been on hold for some time, due to the mundane realities of time and budgetary constraints, but I hope to be able to share some of this material in the future. In the meantime, I hope that the videos above stand as a fitting memorial to this man's ebullient genius. I miss you already, Cleve — so long, and thank you for everything.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Lately (6/19/19)

*An interview with Anthony Braxton, with a bit of input from Nels Cline, on his new improv album with Cline, Taylor Ho Bynum and Deerhoof's Greg Saunier. This was my second time interviewing Anthony, with more than a decade in between, and he remains a joy to speak with.

*Also a joy, witnessing Andrew Cyrille play eight inspired sets on opening night of this year's Vision Fest.

*A recap of the new Blue Note doc, which I really enjoyed.

*An interview with current King Crimson singer-guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, ahead of their ongoing 50th anniversary tour.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #5: Vernon Reid

The fifth episode of the HMB Podcast — featuring an in-depth conversation with guitar virtuoso and Living Colour founder Vernon Reid — is now live! Go here to listen/subscribe via Apple Podcasts and here to listen/subscribe via Podbean, or check out the episode via the player below.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Goodbye, Roky

He was a visionary, and The Evil One in particular is a genre-transcendent treasure. David Fricke's in-depth tribute and Josh Homme's Instagram hat-tip are both spot-on.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #4: Tyshawn Sorey

The fourth episode of the HMB Podcast — featuring an in-depth conversation with multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey — is now live. Go here to listen/subscribe via Apple Podcasts and here to listen subscribe via Podbean, or check out the episode via the player below.

Friday, May 03, 2019

'Trips,' then and now

Until a couple months ago, I had no idea Trips existed. I am grateful to Mr. Jeff Golick, formerly of the exemplary jazz blog Destination Out, and now an editor at Dover, for cluing me in to a new edition of the book, Ellen Sander's 1973 chronicle of life at the epicenter(s) of the '60s rock explosion. Simply put, Ellen was everywhere during that time, from Greenwich Village and Laurel Canyon to Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Altamont, and her lucid, passionate, zealous-yet-clear-eyed prose preserves the spirit of the era better than pretty much anything else I've read.

I feel like I've been using this phrase a lot lately, but I mean it, so what the hell: It was an honor and a pleasure to speak with Ellen for Rolling Stone. Please pick up Trips — you will not be disappointed.

Monday, April 15, 2019

In the court of the Crimson king

Hard to really express what an honor and pleasure it was to travel to London to interview Robert Fripp. Also, here is a report from a daylong Fripp press event that took place the day before the sitdown.

I feel like I'm just now finally getting my head around the entirety of the King Crimson output to date. Just a stunning body of work. Aside from the obvious classics, if you have not spend good time with Three of a Perfect Pair (an album I'd overlooked before) or the recent live albums Live in Chicago or Meltdown: Live in Mexico, I'd highly recommend doing so.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #3: Kenny Grohowski

The third installment of the HMB Podcast, featuring a long-form interview with drummer Kenny Grohowski — of Imperial Triumphant, John Zorn's Simulacrum and many other projects — is now live. You can listen/subscribe in iTunes or stream/download via the player below.

Photo: Petra Cvelbar

A sincere thanks to anyone who has checked out the podcast so far. I hope you're enjoying this new format for the HMB series as much as I am. And for those who might be wondering: Yes, non-drummers will be featured on future episodes! Please stay tuned.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast #2: Kate Gentile

The second installment of the HMB Podcast, featuring a long-form interview with drummer-composer Kate Gentile, is now live. You can listen/subscribe in iTunes or stream/download via the player below.

To everyone who has listened or sent feedback on the podcast so far, thank you so much for your support. If you like what you hear and are inclined to rate or review the show in iTunes, that would be sincerely appreciated.

More great conversations have already been recorded for the coming months, so please stay tuned!

Lately (3/17/19)

*A review of an awesome four-band death-metal bill, featuring DFSBP faves Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel.

*A write-up of an excellent new oral history of the band King's X, with whom I've become fairly obsessed within the past year or so.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Heavy Metal Bebop Podcast

Some reading this may be familiar with Heavy Metal Bebop, the online interview series I launched back in 2011 dealing with the intersections of jazz and metal. I'm happy to announce that Heavy Metal Bebop is now a podcast. Go here to learn more and to stream or download the first episode, which features a conversation with Bad Plus drummer Dave King. Or just hit play below:

I've had more fun conducting these interviews than I have in just about any other journalistic endeavor to date, so I'm enormously happy to unveil this latest chapter of HMB. The other HMB Podcast episodes I've recorded so far have been a blast, and I can't wait for you to hear them.

Hope you enjoy! And stay tuned for episode 2 sometime in March.

Update: You can now hear and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Lately (2/12/19)

*An interview with La Dispute's Jordan Dreyer about the band's history and new LP. To my ears, this band made one of the best rock albums of the past decade or so with 2014's Rooms of the House, which I discussed a bit here. Their other albums are also excellent, and that includes Panorama, out next month. LD are one of those bands who are already legendary in their niche ("post-hardcore," "emo," what have you), but anyone who appreciates intense, well-crafted, thought-/feeling-provoking rock really needs to check in with them.

*A review of January's Black Flags Over Brooklyn fest. Kim Kelly put together something really special with this one. Caught some extraordinary sets that weekend and tried to do 'em justice.

*Wrote up a couple new tracks by James Brandon Lewis and Angel Bat Dawid, respectively, both very much worth your time.

More soon…

Monday, January 14, 2019

Lately (1/14/19)

Happy New Year, and welcome once again to this little corner of the internet. As ever, if you're reading this, I appreciate your kind attention and do not take it for granted. Cheers to you. Onward!

Here are:

*A rundown of my 2019 Winter Jazzfest faves. I only caught a tiny fraction of what went down at the fest, but still managed to hear a broad array of world-class groups. I'm happy that WJF is now a firmly entrenched annual staple of the NYC concert calendar, and I look forward to many more.

*A piece on the Jawbox reunion, with commentary from three of the four members. I'm a huge fan of this band, and have been for around 25 years, so this was simply an honor and a pleasure to put together. See also an older DFSBP piece in which I delve into some of the reasons I find their music so inspired/inspiring.

*A brief write-up on the latest from Krallice, which I would not hesitate to name one of New York's, and the world's, premier avant-garde ensembles, regardless of genre. More on them, and what they mean to me, here.