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Everything posted by ep1str0phy

  1. See, these premises are faulty--you're basically debasing an entire genre of music and performance practice because it can't replicate Beethoven on the spot. You may be right, but in the process of rendering this assessment you're missing the point of jazz and improvised music entirely--i.e., you're de-contextualizing the music from the very conceptual and practical pressures that it is predicated on. You could flip this around and say, "Well, Beethoven isn't as great as Charlie Parker, because he was allowed to take his time--also, Beethoven just doesn't swing, so he's lame." This is of course nonsense, because one artist lived in midcentury America and the other lived at the turn of the 19th century. If you want to get into real, contextualized comparative analysis, you have to assess things like how a lot of Bird's prime coincided with a wartime recording ban and how Beethoven had the benefit of a system of sponsors and patrons that was virtually nonexistent inside of midcentury jazz; hell, the Bird that we have on record is mostly shunted into these 4-5 minute chunks of time, so we're talking about hyper-compressed musical development performed in an interactive/reactive fashion vs. solo piano sonatas that have the consistent benefit of 15-30 minutes of motivic development. If you want to just talk about "notes and sounds," you have to define your terms--are you evaluating Beethoven by Bird's terms, or the other way around? Institutional musicology would suggest that we evaluate Bird's grasp of harmony and melodic development inside of Beethoven's, but this disregards the fact that the bebop that Parker co-invented (and that had such a significant mark on virtually all subsequent jazz) had an internal rhythmic matrix that is completely alien to 18th/19th century art music. In short, this entire exercise is freaking nonsense, and if you want to enjoy any of it you have to confront the notion that beyond any de-contextualized commonalities that can be identified most value judgements in the way of western art musics vs. jazz will boil down to preference.
  2. If you like Beethoven, that's cool. If you want to measure against Schubert, for example, there are grounds for comparison in the way of methodologies, time period, performance practice, etc. That's a discussion grounded in any number of (theoretical, critical, historical) realities. Granted, I appreciate a provocative discussion, but this feels like a bit of rhetorical table flipping--i.e., let's evaluate one canon by the standards of another just because--and, while I'm at it, let's shunt value judgments into the conversation, because why not. It's like cutting someone off in traffic just to see how they'll respond. It's a fun academic exercise but it strikes at some very real historical phenomena in the way of establishing genre-practice hierarchies. These hierarchies are in turn tied up in some big, messy things like nationalism, classism, racism, etc.--the kind of stuff that contorts civil discussion into 2019 discussion which is--yes, we should all have the presence of mind to not get offended by civil discussion, but if we're going to dig into the meat of this kind of comparison we're ultimately forced to confront a series of messy underpinnings. Bummer. I actually appreciated Clifford's note about Silent Tongues to the degree that I, too, instinctively went to prime solo Cecil. The "why" of that is, I think, tied into my own auditory prejudices. I liked this note from a Gary Giddens thing: "Taylor is almost like a tabula rasa in the sense that listeners read into him whatever they happen to know about music. People with a classical background will hear everything from Ravel to Messiaen or Mozart to Brahms, and those with a jazz background tend to talk about Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Horace Silver or Dave Brubeck, and so forth. While people always seem to hear references to the music that they know, at the same time, whether you love Taylor or not, he doesn’t really sound like anybody else. That is the great paradox, that he is so much an original, yet he calls to mind so much of western music and so much of piano music." I guess the core of what I'm getting at here is that a lot of the illusion of artistic holism has to do with the limited spectra through which we perceive others' contributions. At the stage in my life that I'm at I'd rather listen to Death Grips or the Adventure Time soundtrack or Babi Music than Beethoven's piano sonatas--and I mean that--but that has everything to do with my own state of mind and absolutely nothing to do with the radioactive objectivity that so much music theory, both brilliant and terrible, seems preoccupied with.
  3. Previously unreleased Sam Rivers live recordings

    I've been on a Sam Rivers kick lately and so am thrilled to hear about this. As someone who is a relative novice in the ways of collecting the surprisingly voluminous amount of circulating "unofficial" SR material that is bouncing around online, I'm thrilled to hear that some vintage material will be getting this sort of treatment. Obviously the AAJ article is a summary press release-type deal, but I'm a little bummed to see no mention of any Holland-Altschul trio material. I've heard scarce few recordings of this trio in its prime playing in the sort of long-form, free associative format that Rivers more or less pioneered. The Pi reunion album is indispensable, yes, and Paragon and The Quest are wonderful documents in the way of more or less digesting that trio at its most focused and combustible, but the unedited live stuff is bananas. I'm of the mind that Rivers's trio material is really best heard without filter--full of languors and dead-ends, yes, but also a kind of grind and ecstasy of discovery. This is the thing I admire the most about Sam's work--his phrase construction, sense of development, time sensibility, etc. sound like someone who has studied formalism, exploded past liberation, and arrived at a kind of constructivist abstraction. Even his more expressionist episodes have a kind of refinement and clarity of gesture that is just extraordinary. Holland and Atschul were a monster of a rhythm section going into the 70's, and every time I hear vintage recordings of that trio it sounds like three different people working and trying to bend a terminal point in expression--like listening to an event horizon in all these threads of inside-outside jazz (energy free jazz, minimalist proto-AACM-type stuff, Miles Quintet pseudo-math, Blue Note post-bop, Ornette-ish freebop, etc.)--brilliant and catastrophic and reaching for the ineffable. Knowing, again, only a small piece of this group's oeuvre, the stuff is have is by and large in crappy audio quality, with the exception of an incomplete concert from (IIRC) '72 that sound a bit like the Pi album on steroids. As an aside, if that trio with Holland and Steve Ellington is the Foggia date that was put up on youtube a while back, then I'm all in. That band comes the closest, I think, to the dynamic of the Holland-Altschul trio, but with a lot more linear momentum--i.e., a lot of post-bop fireworks, not as much pure abstraction.
  4. Branford slams Miles

    I agree with the dint of what you're saying--and this is the crux of what I'm saying: the fundamental economic value of something like revivalist/young lion jazz is tied up in broader social and cultural mechanics. As Jim sort of said (much more pithily) like five or six pages ago, a guy like Branford serves as a kind of cultural role player/placeholder--but as such it's impossible to disassociate that music from its historical location. Revivalist jazz was expedient in an era confronting the question and scope of American cultural hegemony--a question that kind of resolved itself center-right. I take no joy in saying that none of this, apropos of what some of the others on here are saying, necessarily applies to the value of the music as artistic content--but then we're never going to talk about, say, Archie Shepp independent of the nationalist rhetoric that he so overtly tied himself up in, so when the artist is thus preoccupied, why bother otherwise? And lest it go unsaid, I absolutely get where some of you are coming from in terms of this discussion about avant-garde music and its mainstream appeal--but I get the distinct sense that setting up this distinction between avant-garde musics vs. mainstream stuff is itself an expedient way of ghettoizing music that we feel is subjectively inaccessible--as if economic failure, rather than any particular practical attribute, were a marker of what constitutes experimental or avant-garde music. I recognize that this is a bit of a truism, but weren't a lot of what we now consider to be mainstream musics considered avant-garde at some point? Did they cease to be "avant-garde" the minute the mainstream caught up with them--in which case where do we leave something like late Coltrane (respectably integrated into a healthy bit of the jazz mainstream at this point)? These distinctions seem arbitrary to me, especially when the second best selling jazz album of 2018 was Both Directions at Once--music that was called anti-jazz over a half-century ago. To put it another way, I know from reliable sources (who I can't quote here because I can't speak on their behalf(s)--I swear it's not because I'm being dorkishly cryptic) that there are certain musicians who would very easily be considered part of jazz's historical avant-garde whose asking prices eclipse those of some very mainstream artists (and I'm not talking straightahead guys--I mean Diana Krall and whatnot). If such individuals have been able to persevere for decades in an economy unresponsive to their artistic approaches--and wind up on the other side, in 2019, with better financial prospects--I can't imagine we're looking at a full, real picture of what it means to be viable, sellable product in 2019.
  5. Branford slams Miles

    Apologies for the cross-talk this deep into a conversation that I seem to have missed most of, but I felt compelled to touch on this- Dispensing for one moment the impact that Wynton or Branford had as ideologues, if we're going into the role of investors in the supplanting of one genre for or by another, then it's important to recognize the fact that profit-maximizing entities are often neither equipped nor inclined to make artistic value judgments. As you make clear here, financial decisions on the part of people like promoters and record companies usually track market appeal as opposed to perceived artistic value. Where I find issue with this general line of argumentation is that there are a variety of factors--social, artistic, contextual, etc.--that determine something like market appeal. Real case in point (related to me anecdotally, fwiw): Nirvana would sometimes play to empty rooms after the release of Bleach. The album didn't even chart until it was re-released after Nevermind. That early post-punk aesthetic had its moments of lucidity before the grunge explosion but was noisy, harsh, and often alienating; the music ascended to something like mainstream appeal by virtue of its synergy with a generation of disaffected youth looking for something reflecting itself. You can't honestly believe that music preoccupied with tuneless screaming and squalls of feedback--they're still there, very late into the band's existence--has something in its basic makeup that makes it more accessible than the pop/hair metal that preceded it. Yes, Nirvana is marketable--but it's marketable for 1991, defined and elevated by its context. Another example: Kendrick's Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly was the third best selling hip-hop album of 2015. If you follow contemporary hip-hop, this isn't an insignificant statistic--it beat out a lot of diehard mainstream fare, and it did so saturated with uninflected passages of jazz, atonal horn scribbles, extended (a-metric) spoken word episodes, and a lot of might elsewhere be described as alternative or avant-garde production. Why? Probably it was championed by press, examined social issues with candor and relevance, and crossed over into an urbane mainstream audience. Keep in mind I'm not arguing that something like Babi Music has equivalent market value to something like Black Codes--I'm only saying that to make these sweeping statements about the inherent economic value of one or the other presupposes that artistic content is more economically relevant than market considerations. To say that you (I mean the universal "you" here, of course) can define these considerations for all time is dangerously devoid of nuance. And what determined market value in the mid-1980's? I (literally) have a degree tracking improvised music inside of 20th century sociopolitical context and I wouldn't presume to know with any certitude. What is plain is that guys like Wynton and Crouch were making dismissive comments toward "progressive" strains of music emanating out of the mid-60's onward. The Marsalis brothers were making music that traded in then-contemporary trends in technical achievement wrapped inside of traditionalist aesthetics. The Marsalis brothers sold records. Sure, what happened to avant-garde practitioners in the wake of the young lion movement was not a hit job masterminded by the Marsalis brothers, but I honestly cannot understand how you can hold them separate from a broader machine designed to elevate traditionalist aesthetics at the expense, by comparison, of things like free jazz and fusion. Wouldn't these things work in consort? In terms of speaking more constructively to the topic at hand, I'll hazard this: people in the wake of the preeminence of the young lion movement did avoid certain genres because Wynton told them to, but the effect was convoluted. I can speak speculatively and only from experience as someone who was in institutional "jazz school" in the early 2000s, but the deep-set tension between the technocratic, often Marsalis/post-Coltrane/post-2nd Quintet-informed mechanics of this era's jazz pedagogy and freer choices in expression may have fostered a rubber-band effect in community aesthetics that led to the effective destabilization of traditionalist hegemony. Whatever your take on the Marsalises, their vice-grip on the music ended--as it always does--when something younger and less forbidding provided an alternative option. The irony in this case (vis-a-vis this longwinded thing about economics and aesthetics) is that the thing that may have supplanted retrogressive traditionalism is at least literate in the kind of abstraction that the young lion movement more or less displaced.
  6. Branford slams Miles

    Dude, where is this hostility coming from? And what's with this straw man fallacy about the marketability of experimental music? As far as I can tell, no one is directly claiming that the only credible distinction between the Marsalises and their contemporaries in free jazz is a matter of marketing. As per normal, Jim cut to the meat of what I was trying to get at in only a handful of sentences. (And keep in mind that Scott, I really don't intend to persecute you, personally, for your point of view-) To suggest that the Marsalis brothers were more successful because their music was more accessible--and that the notion that their success impeded in some fashion the careers of other musicians is an agenda'd myth and/or sour grapes--is simplistic. A musician's career can be affected in ways that don't just have to do with record sales. It can be affected in the way of job offers, level of compensation, public visibility, perception of risk, institutional opportunity (thanks for the post on the Pulitzer, Larry), and so on. Look at this through the lens of something I'd assume many of us are far less passionate about--would you disagree with the notion that the onset of grunge music and the mainstreaming of indie rock in the early 1990's altered the market for heavily produced, high-gloss hair metal that prevailed in the 1980's? Would you then argue that Nirvana was more marketable in a fundamental sense than, say, Def Leppard? Would you argue anything other than that the onset of gangsta rap in the late 1980's/1990's altered the trajectory of mainstream hip-hop, opening up commercial avenues for some and limiting opportunities for those who did not fit the mold? Do you think that someone like Vanilla Ice would have gotten anywhere near as popular post-Biggie/Tupac rivalry, and would you argue that Vanilla Ice's intrinsic market appeal is inferior to, say, NWA's? What about A Tribe Called Quest vs. NWA? The point of this is not to shift the field goals of this conversation--it's to illustrate a point. This is 7pm on VH1-type stuff--i.e., really straightforward, hard to argue--and people in other genres of music don't seem to be as preoccupied with grinding each others' gears over these crisis points in the music as we are. Shit happened, we acknowledge the complexity of the reality, and we move on.
  7. Branford slams Miles

    The persistence of this debate defies comprehension, especially insofar as the jazz world in a broader sense seems to have moved on from the thing. If you're look for an accurate post-mortem of the situation (i.e., the Marsalises and their impact on jazz in the last century), I don't know how you're going to find someone on this board of sounder and more relevant experience than Chuck. He knows these guys and runs a record label that corresponds to the timeline in question. I recognize that a lot of this debate is kind of rhetorical/for the sake of discussion, but in my admittedly incomplete understanding of the situation, my sense is that if you follow the dint of the jazz economy in the 1980s, it will more or less confirm what folks like Chuck and Jim have been saying. Determining market success for a jazz artist in this era is a function of a lot more than just record sales--as has been noted here, we're also talking about bookings, publicity, funding, grant and commission viability, asking prices, and so on. I'd love to be made aware of a market or policy analysis from after this era that looked into these issues in some kind of comprehensive way--our evidence otherwise is anecdotal or speculative at best. Or let me put this another way: I've had in-person conversations with some of the musicians we're discussing here, as have (I assume) many of you. The ascension of the Marsalis brothers did, at least in some cases, limit economic opportunities for musicians who operated under different artistic pretenses. This is not to say that a lot of the opportunities that Wynton and Branford were able to take advantage of would have somehow been made available to some other entity in the Marsalis brothers' absence--i.e., it's not (necessarily) as if Julius Hemphill would have gotten that press. Rather, it's important to consider the complexity of the jazz economy and how altering the overarching narrative of the mainstream can alter the music's internal mechanics. Really ponder this: what effect did Marsalis's later-flowering preoccupation with serious/art music have on the less commercial jazz-adjacent music that, by the mid-1980's, was relying on the European market, independent (often non-US-based) labels, and the US's grant infrastructure to survive? Blood on the Fields won the Pulitzer in 1997. As far as I can tell, the next time a jazz musician won the Pulitzer was in 2007, when Ornette won for Sound Grammar. (Zorn won not long after Wynton, but that's a completely different and much more complex issue.) A short list of some of the other US based jazz-adjacent people writing visible art music inside of that ten year window: Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Davis, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Jon Jang, Carla Bley, Wayne Shorter, Amina Claudine Myers, Vinny Golia, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, Jack DeJohnette, Alice Coltrane, etc. etc. I'm taking a very specific case and using it as a basis for a broader line of argumentation, but lest this seem disingenuous, I'm talking about America's premier prize in music--an honor that is intertwined with this nation's legacy of art music and institutionalized composition. Do you really mean to tell me that Wynton's histrionic, widely-publicized traditionalism had nothing to do with Blood on the Fields's Pulitzer? That Wynton's peddling of his very specific and exclusionist jazz narrative had no effect on his victory in the same arena that guys like Braxton live and sleep in?
  8. Hey, folks- I know there's likely an open thread on Roscoe somewhere on this board--and out of deference and respect to the admins, please feel free to move as necessary. This issue is fairly urgent/critical, so I thought it necessary to grant it as much exposure as possible. As many of you may know, I'm a Mills College alum--I was in the performance MFA, and I had the privilege of studying with and among the likes of William Winant, Chris Brown, Maggi Payne, Zeena Parkins, and many others. I worked very closely with Fred Frith and Roscoe Mitchell, and the time I spent with those two has greatly informed a lot of my subsequent endeavors. Mills is undergoing some pretty severe financial troubles--a lot of this, honestly, tied to some terrible and very public business decisions and gross mismanagement dating back to my time and possibly earlier. All that being said, there have always been some tremendous people and minds working at the college, and since they're in such dire straits, it's basically open season on longterm faculty. Roscoe is apparently being targeted for dismissal. I know that Roscoe must mean a lot to many of you here (for musical and/or personal reasons), and many of his recent creative endeavors have been tied to resources and relationships fostered at the school. Roscoe has been a big part of the prestige of the institution the past decade or so--not, obviously, the other way around. Roscoe would be Roscoe either way; Mills College without Mr. Mitchell would not mean the same thing to its student body or faculty. Please spread the word and consider the words of Chris Brown (added below, for reference). -- Subject: Roscoe Mitchell targeted for dismissal at Mills College I am hoping to reach everyone who has studied with Roscoe Mitchell at Mills College, or who has otherwise been positively affected by his presence at Mills and in the Bay Area, to inform that as part of its Financial Stabilization Plan Mills has targeted his postion as well as the jobs of 10 other ranked and/or tenured faculty for elimination, effective this July. I am requesting that letters of protest for this action, and support for Roscoe in his position at Mills be sent to the following administrators as soon as possible: Beth Hillman, President of Mills College email: ebeth@mills.edu Chinyere Oparah, Dean of Faculty email: jcoparah@mills.edu Katie Sanborn, Chair of the Board of Trustees email: ksanborn@mills.edu Please address the importance of Roscoe Mitchell to your education at Mills, and describe how you feel his dismissal will affect the interest of other potential students in studying music at Mills. Including your personal experiences of Roscoe at Mills will be very valuable. The history of financial problems at Mills is a long one, but this proposed solution radically strikes at the heart of its reputation for innovation and excellence in the arts. Roscoe has been a leading composer, performer, and teacher since the 1960s when he was a founding member of the AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. His influence on contemporary music has been strong and deep, both nationally and internationally. Most recently his works for symphony orchestra have been performed by BBC sponsored concerts in Scotland, in Iceland, New York, Bologna, and more. It has been an absolute gift to have him as a colleague in the Music Department. Please help us to appeal the plan to dismiss him from our community! Sincerely, Chris Brown Professor of Music and Co-Director of the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM)
  9. "South African Jazz"

    ...in quotation marks to account for the semantic nightmare. As contentious as the phrase is, there's little doubt that there is and has been a flourishing South African improvised music scene for decades--even now, after apartheid, when the caprices of nation building "do and don't" provide an environment conducive to the survival of the music (certain parallels exist between the circumstances of the contemporary SA improviser and the indignities our fellas suffer over in the States). One salient commonality: there's little information available over here--even insofar as regards their nominal and effective legends (Kippie Moeketsi, Chris Columbus "Mra" Ngcukana, Nick Moyake... or even the more widely recorded, like Louis Moholo-Moholo)--regarding discographical, biographical (etc.) specifics. It's a sorry state of things, especially because there's a tremendously rich heritage there, and (for the marginally more self-interested) one intertwined with the progress of various improvised/jazz musics abroad. Duke, Don Cherry, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus, Evan Parker, Joe McPhee, Keith Tippett, Mal Waldron, John Tchicai, Alan Skidmore, Harry Beckett, Elton Dean, Blue Mitchell, Harold Land, Marc Charig, Nick Evans, Gary Windo, Peter Brotzmann, Frank Wright, Mike Osborne, Billy Hart, Archie Shepp, Radu Malfatti, Kenny Wheeler, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (particularly Lester Bowie), and Miles Davis are just a few of the musicians who have interacted with and, often times, developed from their interactions with SA improvisers (and that list involves acquaintance with members of the Jazz Epistles and Blue Notes alone). We have interested parties on this board--so (having not managed to locate a thread along these lines, tho we should bump one in the event...) recommendations, thoughts, hagiography goes here. To start: the Sheer Sound label, started up by SA entrepreneur Damon Forbes, has long (over a decade) provided a nurturing environment for modern, adventurous creative music. Among the faces on its roster are Pops Mohamed, an associate of Abdullah Ibrahim's (Pops's recent Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is a fine showcase for the contemporary flourishes that are now transforming the mbaqanga and marabi music of yesteryear), and Zim Ngqawana, one of Louis Moholo-Moholo's younger running partners and a master of both SA and American free music traditions. Check it out.
  10. Difficult week

    Hey, Chuck--really, my condolences. There's little to say that embellishes that other than that I thought of you (and Roscoe, too, in particular) amidst all this news. I'm really thankful for the tremendous work that is there--things we'll be unraveling and enjoying for as long as we're here.
  11. Joseph Jarman - RIP

    Heard the news last night. Listening to Sunbound and Together Alone to remember and commemorate. I've been forced to consider mortality a lot these past few years, and a big lesson for me throughout all of this is that it's often hard to detect the size of one's fingerprint until or unless you look at the earth moved around it. I never had a chance to meet him, but JJ worked and/or befriended a large number of people who are very important to me--a fact that I had not considered until just today. His music has changed my life in many ways--not just the immediate stuff of transforming my listening habits or the broader shifts in understanding that the Art Ensemble induced in my cultural perspective, but also in the way of being a part of a world that has felt more real to me even as it has grown (physically) smaller.
  12. Yes--that's absolutely it. And to go one step further, I'm not certain that these are questions that are keeping working musicians awake at night so much as they are considerations that have too long consumed jazz as a social process. "Jazz is dead" diagnoses/post-mortems/prognostications are their own industry--that is a narrative made of convenience, and one that feeds few mouths and silences multitudes of others. The thing you say about virtuosity is true, and if there's a fundamental problem to be solved in this post-whatever/whomever milieu, it's that marrying a panoptic consciousness of, as you say, a "clear macro-understanding" to lucid technical accomplishment is very, very hard. I think back to some conversations on here years ago about Coltrane vs. Ayler--i.e., two individuals arriving at a similar aesthetic conclusion having confronted two very different maths. The unspoken but (I think) deeply felt reality of Coltrane is that he was able to do the paradoxical work of mathing his way into spiritual consciousness, and he had the tools and drive to solve another step beyond--he just ran out of time and we're left with the aspirational challenge of imagining what the next thing would be. The Ayler route, by contrast, is an easier solve--it's just more elusive--one of those "you have it or you don't"-type things, and the Coltranes of the world can't go that direction because their minds and bodies just don't work that way. This is all one long-winded way of saying that I think the challenge of solving is itself more interesting to me than arriving at the big, heroic solution that may very well never come. (Or said solution may, like Ayler, come by semi-accident/artistic exigency--who knows. You can program a Max patch that sounds, by accident, like a full Morton Feldman String Quartet or improvise a piano trio that sounds more-or-less like Nancarrow. I've heard some liberal treatments of Cage's Branches that sound suspiciously similar to early Art Ensemble. All this may speak more to my limited knowledge as a listener than any reality--again, who knows.) I read guys like Braxton or Roscoe proceeding from this notion, and a deep inquiry into their respective methods and realities--if you were really able to read into all that music and do the theory homework and research--would yield the impression that yes, a lot of the method involves dead-ends, incomplete reads, and even some fumbling around in the dark. Is this not as or more worthwhile than "saving the music"? This is a big reason why I support this Makaya album--especially in theory. The Teo Macero-ness of editing a live improvisation into something new is, well, not new at all, but the basic premise of rearranging the mechanics of free improvisation post-hoc is a methodology that, I think, too few improvisers are willing to explore for fear of corrupting the process. You know that whole thing about how Barre Phillips originally recorded Journal Violone as something that was to be electronically manipulated after the fact? This is a reversal of that--it's taking physical practice and limiting its parameters because to do would mean confronting inconvenient macro-realities. I mean, Universal Beings isn't itself very different in principle than some of the Blue Series recordings from several years ago, Madlib's more esoteric jazz stuff (Slave Riot being the best example), or even Terry Riley's Music for the Gift. There is a superficiality to Makaya's music that masks, as we say, the underlying math--but the math there is real and in its own way confrontational. This isn't "way ahead" stuff--it's about addressing the world "as it is."
  13. I mean, please don't take my statements to mean that proficiency is in any way a substitute for vision or identity--and that's precisely my point. The root resources for strong statements are if anything more widely available now than they were in jazz's (maybe partly misremembered) heyday. What I'm saying is that something in the intersection between hagiography, ennui, and the myriad economic and philosophical considerations discussed above has elided the fact that jazz has had a crisis of vision and identity since (at least) the 1960s--or, rather, a kind of crisis-state that is permanent and impossible to argue out of. I'm poking at a beehive a bit with this, since I know there are people on this board far better equipped to tackle this topic than I, but the general dint of jazz musical practice post-1970 or so (and as might be affirmed by the discombobulated ethos of 21st century jazz critical theory) feels a lot like unresolved postmodernity--a plurality of voices that the broader community has struggled, time and time again, to shunt into installed hierarchies that no longer have any real relevance to either the players or the listeners. Post-Coltrane, what need have we for virtuosos?--and I'm not talking about great technicians per se, I'm asking why heroic virtuosity is still a standard by which we discuss this music when that archetype came, went, and blew his own iconology apart in a definitive, sadly final way. Remember that Kurt Rosenwinkel debacle where he called out people for (I'm paraphrasing) not practicing or working hard enough? Consider how almost every documentary on or involving Coltrane pauses right before late Coltrane and starts talking about metaphysics without addressing the implications of that music to Trane's own ethos of virtuosity. Like I said: not only are we placing unnecessary burden on our young musicians, but we're also stuck in a Groundhog Day of reliving jazz's great Jesus moment and trying to reclaim the last sure time that everything actually made sense. This is what I mean when I say that a lot of the most meaningful and resonant material being made right now issues from music that fails to resolve its own existential dilemma. None of this is to say "don't practice"--quite the opposite: stock up on Move Free in your 30s and get your 3+ hours in a day, please--but I would argue that transcendent meaning is a more "real" artistic consideration now than whatever it is that jazz is so preoccupied with every few months. Steve, you mention John Edwards--my constant invocation of Louis (who works with John frequently) is related to this--his is an example of the kind of passion, intensity, and risk that has both visceral impact and undeniable purpose. Speaking of Louis--how many here have given a real listen to his duo album with Cecil Taylor (Remembrance)? We embrace passion before practiced ideologies, but I wonder how many players have been able to elicit that kind of performance alongside Cecil after the heady explosion of the 60s. The folks on here who are players will know this. Real improvisation vs. practiced improvisation are very different things. I'm sure Louis would attest that not everything that he plays lands to his satisfaction, but I would argue that everything that he plays on Remembrance, at least, is really and truly improvised. That's enough reason to get me to listen.
  14. Thanks to all for the very reasoned and even-tempered replies to the always incendiary topic of "jazz is dead vs. I could care less." In a way I feel like we've reached a juncture in the music when it's ok to have these conversations in a casual, low-stakes way, though I don't know if that says more about the failing health of genre economics than it does speak to, as I said, a growing meta-consciousness about jazz's lack of macro narrative. In terms of the "perverse desires" thing--yes, I think it's absolutely the case that this music's now-intrinsic existential problems are tied into broader social trends regarding some kind of epigonal, maybe imagined sense of purpose and structure. Without getting explicitly political, we've been confronting these issues in world religion, political structure, and broader art worlds for well over a century at this point. It's only that jazz experienced it's big conservative/retrogressive movement in the 1980s, and now that that's said and done, we're left with the awful truth that nothing has really changed in any definitive sense (jazz education and certain monied institutions notwithstanding). Nothing got "saved"--things just happened: good music, average music, and some of the third kind. In my conversations with veteran musicians, the substantive changes were largely economic--i.e., diminished professional opportunities for certain genres and practices at the onset of the young lions--and many of the parallel transformations in the economic structure of the jazz industry were induced by outside forces, many of them unpredictable. More has been done "to" jazz by the rise of the internet, the collapse of traditional label structures, digital media, and rampant inflation than absolutely anything Wynton Marsalis or even the broader category of jazz education might be responsible for. To put things in a different, maybe more nebulous way--one of my all-time favorite records is Peter Brotzmann's Opened, But Hardly Touched (with the Harry Miller/Louis Moholo-Moholo rhythm team). I love me some Michael Mantler/No Answer, but in terms of translating the utter feeling of post-everything, "the party's over" nothingness that emerged in the wake of the mid-20th century into an improvised context, that record is it. It engages with a lot of sometimes contradictory jazz dogmas--the vestiges of swing music (via Brotzmann's expressive but lumbering saxophone and Moholo-Moholo's Sid Catlett on psychedelics drum sound), post-Mingus rhythmic mobility and bebop rhythm logics in the bass/drums, hard bop heaviness and rock/soul-inflected backbeats, elements of revolutionary folk motives ala Liberation Music Orchestra, the expected EFI/South African jazz inflections, and so on--in an almost passive way. I mean this as a complement in that that rhythm section is maybe my favorite ever, but that record has absolutely everything and nothing happening all at once. Whenever I'm in the very Western mindset of trying to figure out what happened to position me in the music world of 2018, I listen to that record and remember that some time before 1981, at least three musicians figured out that everything that was going to be said had been said and decided to play something new anyway. In a very real way, this is maybe the best era in the history of jazz to play music. There's a Threadgill interview where he says something similar. I'm not saying that we have most or even more than a few of our great innovators left, and we're not getting regular features in Esquire on our wardrobes or watch ads or anything like that, but you can walk into almost any major city in the world right now and assemble an affordable band that is technically proficient, good to great at sight reading, literate in any number of major genres (jazz or otherwise), and not a bad hang. Not just in New York. The problem I see now is less in the doing or even the making and more in the impetus--the reasoning, the saying. Some of the best music being made right now either declines or refuses to address these issues. I think the most meaningful and resonant material being made in 2018 is at least attempting to confront the existential problems in question--and often failing, nobly, to arrive at some kind of resolution.
  15. Before I go off on this short-form rant, I wanted to say that I'm not directing this to anyone in particular--least of all Allen (whom I have the privilege of knowing in a non-internet way and whose thoughtfulness and profound understanding of the music I've never called into question). I just got a copy of Universal Beings, and I enjoy it quite a bit. I also question why we're again seeing jazz criticism pushing a macro narrative--e.g., "X Isn't Interested in Saving Jazz," "X Gives Jazz A New Groove," "X Pulls Jazz Back from the Brink,"--when there is absolutely none to be found. The basic answer is sort of self-evident--i.e., to sell records--but the "deeper" why has something to do with this music's enduring, paradoxically self-destructive preoccupation with death, survival, messiah figures, and continuity. To put it another way, we live in a post-Coltrane world that has a perverse desire to invent Coltrane over and over and over again. Anyone who is playing music now can tell you that the micro narrative of jazz remains fluid and very vibrant. The 21st century critical and historical theory on this music is a fucking mess. What this does is impose unrealistic expectations on both every young working musician with a story to tell and every seasoned listener who wakes to a Groundhog Day of jazz attempting to relive its past value. Somewhere in the middle of that is the sad truth that we reward both youth and imminent death with little real regard, either economically or philosophically, for the long period in-between. I've often wondered why the tremendous volume of really happening music I hear out in the world never gets discussed on here, and I think it's because the infrastructure that we've built to share experiences--jazz criticism being a big part of that--is in the midst of a kind of protracted existential crisis. We're roughly 50 years removed from the first recordings of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the SME, ICP, and the Blue Notes, the final recordings of Coltrane, the initial stages of fusion, and the beginnings of the Last Poets. What has happened in this music since 1968? The answer is everything and nothing, and the tools we've long used to evaluate the music probably stopped working half a century ago. So while I can't blame any of the older guard cats who are often saying this like "Coltrane did X back in the 60's" or "X is all marketing hype," that's also very much besides the point. The working reality of this music has survived decades of meaning everything and nothing, and so I feel now more than ever that jazz as an embodied system of rules and hierarchies has no real value. Speaking more to Makaya's record--I wouldn't turn my nose up at this music completely before listening to the Chicago Side of Universal Beings. The band is legit--Tomeka Reid and Junius Paul (two of Roscoe's people, lest it go unsaid) and Shabaka Hutchings (who has worked with both board great Alexander Hawkins and personal hero Louis Moholo-Moholo). The Madlib-cum-Eremite vibe of this project is maybe most fully realized on those tracks. Makaya does some stuff with the production--looped, atonal hocketing, some bizarre spatialization stuff with the panning, blending of what sound like live spontaneous sections with these very syncretic, chopped up sound environments--that I honestly don't think I've heard done in quite this way. I haven't heard much discussion of Shabaka's playing on here, but his surreal, tenorized version of Busta Rhymes's cadence is one of the few legitimately new sounding things I think I've heard on record in a while. It's like Gary Windo's hyper altissimo thing in that the conceit is so straightforward that you wonder why no one else really did it that way before.
  16. Stan Lee R.I.P.

    I'm paraphrasing and possibly even misattributing, but I recall Archie Shepp saying something to the effect that you cannot understate the value of comic books in teaching the underprivileged and communities of color how to read. I'd do one better and say that my early love of comic books gave a kind of anchor in the way of personhood that neither traditional literature nor even music were able to offer. I have very vivid memories of spending Christmas in the Philippines and reading a holiday themed issue of Superman that helped contextualize my sort of mixed heritage--Superman being, of course, a kind of paradigmatic immigrant. I was always more of a DC guy, but I think Stan Lee's mark on his medium cannot be understated. The idea that these mythical figures were at heart deeply human had a profound impact on both comic books as a narrative artform and popular fiction in general. Despite his outsize celebrity, I think it's his contributions as a writer and conceptualist that will persevere. Huge, incalculable thanks from me.
  17. Chiming in--this has been pretty worrying. As a lifelong Californian, the peril feels very real and, if it makes sense, real like never before. The 2017 fires got close to my family both down in LA and up in Plumas County; the 2018 fires are also very close but coming from different directions. I have very vivid memories of a miserable holiday season spent jogging in desperate, ashen weather and mainlining Joe McPhee albums like they were the only thing alleviating the strangling touch of the LA air. BFrank is not underselling things. The air in the Bay area is really, really bad--maybe worse than last year. I hopped out of an elevator at the hospital the other day only to find an elderly lady wearing a full-on gas mask. Activities are more or less limited to indoor stuff (not so hard for music work), but a week into this air quality and I'm feeling the effects both inside and out. Underreported (due to lesser significance) is that we had fires out in the East Bay the other week--they were contained with immediacy, but with the climate this time of year I'd advise any fellow locals to assemble something resembling an emergency plan.
  18. Wow, that's a huge one that I forgot about--I knew there was at least one more version with Dudu. Thanks for the journey. For the longest time I'd just thought of this tune as a kind of leitmotif stringing itself across Dyani's discography--I'd never really connected the dots before. FWIW I know a few bass players who swear by the Song for Biko version. I don't know if it was omitted for time or what, but it's a really heavy performance--both energy-wise and in a literal sense, in that the bass is so forward and dominant. The hookup with Ntshoko in interesting in that Dyani seems to be the anchor point; though I wouldn't necessarily call Ntshoko a light drummer, he's not allergic to either eliding the beat or spreading the time--and the cymbal-dominant afro-latin feel on this particular performance changes the shape of the groove a ton. It's an interesting point of comparison with the more-or-less contemporaneous Blue Notes performances, since Louis Moholo-Moholo is a lot more unpredictable. Sometimes, as on Blue Notes for Mongezi, Moholo-Moholo is content to let a minimalist beat ride, and Dyani's tempo/meter/groove shifts dictate the flow of the rhythm. There's also a live recording from '79 called Before the Wind Changes on which "I Wish You Sunshine" appears, and it's kind of disarming just how different the tune feels with Moholo-Moholo's obstinate pseudo-martial cadence underpinning the form. Elsewhere, as on Blue Notes in Concert, Moholo-Moholo's drumming is pure maverick abstraction--full of aggressive double-time and chaotic expansion/contraction of the beat--and (as on "Lonely Flower") it's Dyani who is providing a sense of stasis and cohesion. This isn't the sample (below) I would have chosen (can't find the album's version of "Now," which is really fucked up in the best possible way), but it goes a long way toward demonstrating just how liquid that band was--in and out of grooves, tonality, etc. with maximum freedom. The Song for Biko band is almost there--and that album has a ton of really beautiful features and compositions, no question--but it's lacking the mercurial, often contrarian push-and-pull that underpins the Blue Notes. I think it goes unnoticed that both Dyani and Moholo-Moholo were both exceptional time players and surpassing free improvisers--Dyani playing this wild post-prog stuff with Witchdoctor's Son, Moholo-Moholo participating in some wild art rock/prog in the cohort of Keith Tippett and Julie Tippetts--and still getting sampled for the intro to "Telephone Girl," etc. etc. The breadth of those guys was unreal.
  19. This tune appears a lot throughout Dyani's discography--this version and the version on Together (which features Dudu Pukwana) came to mind first. The piece is credited to Dyani on both albums, fwiw.
  20. It's Finally Out! Grex: Electric Ghost Parade

    Yes and no--the touring iteration is a duo, since the Skeleton Crew-y two kick drum formation made a kind of aesthetic sense. It's more idiosyncratic, though it suits the performance needs of this repertoire well. We're trio or larger for special projects. Drummer Robert Lopez is on the most recent record, and the great LA trumpeter Dan Clucas joined for our iteration of A Love Supreme. I'm of the mind that the studio, at least insofar as concerns this stylistically liminal music, is a different enough animal that all bets are off in the way of instrumentation and arrangement.
  21. Hey, all- Not so much jazz as "jazz adjacent", but I'm deeply excited about this and wish to share--after several years of blood, sweat, and the other things, my project Grex has released its brand new album, entitled Electric Ghost Parade. I've never worked on anything as hard as I've worked on this record, so if you have the time and ears, this is the one. It's an unpredictable but incendiary and exhilarating paean to the epic psychedelic albums of the 1960's, traversing the cutting edge of modern indie rock, noise, and free jazz. It summarizes lessons I've learned from the likes of (former teachers) Fred Frith and Roscoe Mitchell, and it captures, I think, a lot of the character of the Bay Area avant rock scene as it's existed in the past decade. You can purchase the album, and listen to a few choice tracks, here: https://grex.bandcamp.com/album/electric-ghost-parade Some early reviews: “Grex strikes an interesting balance between the exploratory tendencies of psychedelic rock and free jazz with a more modern indie-pop sensibility.” - The Los Angeles Beat (Ted Kane) “a wide-ranging and excitingly unpredictable sound” - The Bay Bridged (Ben Van Houten) “I haven’t heard such varying psych sounds in more recent times since The Fiery Furnaces went their separate ways some nine years ago. An excellent release.” - Echoes and Dust (Ljubinko Zivkovic) “Coming from a free-jazz, improvisational background, creating spontaneous art was Evangelista's general methodology with Grex…The resulting songs are dynamic and at times quirky and jubilant, like something Bay Area avant-pop band Deerhoof might play.” - East Bay Express (Aaron Carnes) “these Bay Area brainiacs trip out on a chilled-out yet complex attack of math-rock heroics, free-improvisational freak-outs, and psych-rock weirdness as they channel Henry Kaiser and Hendrix.” - The Brooklyn Rail (Brad Cohan) “It’s a sardonically noisy psychedelic rock record with a little free jazz thrown in to keep you guessing. And it’s an awful lot of fun.” - New York Music Daily (Alan Young) Here's a video of our two piece in action: You can hear more about us here: http://www.grexsounds.com More music here: http://grex.bandcamp.com And we're on Spotify and Tidal, if that suits your fancy. Thanks for listening, folks!
  22. It's Finally Out! Grex: Electric Ghost Parade

    One more re-up, if you'll please indulge me! A couple more reviews in: "Evangelista wields a swell grouchy guitar tone, Scampavia’s pipes are sweet, and when they freak out, they freak out good." - The Vinyl District (Joseph Neff) "...as far as quirky, avant-garde original music goes, I give them loads of credit for putting together something this far out and miles removed from anything commercial sounding. Go in with an open mind and see what you think." - Sea of Tranquility (Pete Pardo) Apropos of all that, here's one more video. This piece has evolved over the course of several albums, dedicated to our pet rats. It's weird, but it's our earnest (though irony-conscious) attempt at connecting the extremes of pointillistic improv and flashy skronkism:
  23. It's Finally Out! Grex: Electric Ghost Parade

    Right on, sir! It's deeply appreciated--that back catalog stuff is some of the deeper cut material (the album with Francis Wong is very old, but I'm very proud of everyone's contributions on there). Hope you enjoy!
  24. It's Finally Out! Grex: Electric Ghost Parade

    Forgot to add--I was a guest on Mike Watt's podcast a couple of weeks back. The audio (intimidatingly) starts with Miles/Coltrane, which I found hilarious but at least tonally appropriate. We talk about our musical origins, the design of the band, and some misremembered (on my part) pieces of the West Coast jazz legacy. Mike is of course the bassist/co-founder of the Minutemen, but he's worked with a large volume of wonderful improvisers, and his musical literacy is nuts. Here: The Watt from Pedro Show, On-Air Guest Karl Evangelista
  25. It's Finally Out! Grex: Electric Ghost Parade

    Hey--thank you, Chuck, for lending your support!