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Everything posted by ep1str0phy

  1. Bay Area local and active performer. Bebop's recommendations are legit, and if you're looking for a more comprehensive listing that hews closer to pure improv/free jazz, check out this listing: http://www.bayimproviser.com/ I'll shamelessly plug my own stuff and say that I'm playing the Starry Plough in Berkeley this Friday (9/29) with my primary project Grex and two very interesting groups (torch song project Qualia and the the unbelievable Sacramento-based avant prog band Gentleman Surfer). Monday 10/2 I play the Make-Out Room in San Francisco with Scott Amendola (TJ Kirk, Nels Cline Singers) and bassist Jason Hoopes (the bassist in Fred Frith's current trio), Thursday 10/5 I play Berkeley Art Museum with Scott's ridiculous big band (featuring Ben Goldberg, Fred Frith, members of ROVA, and more). Not sure when you're leaving, but I play the aforementioned Bird and Beckett on Sunday, 10/15 with Lewis Jordan and Music at Large (Lewis was in the band United Front with Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, and George Sams). Other general places to check out--and where the "meat" of the scene is, as far as genre intersection and the really innovative stuff is concerned--include the Luggage Store Gallery in SF, Studio Grand in Oakland, and Octopus Salon in Oakland. A lot of the medium-sized rock clubs are also pretty good hubs for interesting music--e.g., the Elbo Room, Hemlock Tavern, the Night Light. Bebop's list of jazz clubs covers a lot of the big ones, but I'll also add Woods Bar and Brewery. FWIW, Duende no longer exists, and Cafe Van Kleef is pretty unreliable these days.
  2. Lester Bowie's Sho' Nuff Orchestra

    Did anyone here ever catch Lester's 59-piece Sho' Nuff orchestra in action? (one of the legendary ensembles that, it seems, is lost to lore--featuring many of the major AACM and BAG saxes, plus guys like Frank Lowe, Frank Wright, Charles Tyler...)
  3. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    Hey, guys- Sorry for the radio silence on this--I've been on tour and there's been a great deal of vagueness on this issue in the past few days. That being said, it looks like Roscoe is safe! Here's an email I just received (an open letter--many of my colleagues got the same one): Dear All:Mills College has decided not to terminate my current three-year contract. I would like to take this time to thank everyone for all your letters and words of support. I am honored and humbled by the time and effort each of you have taken to stand with me, and I’m truly inspired by your impassioned, coordinated efforts to loudly proclaim your respect for the work being done by myself and my colleagues at Mills. My hope is that your actions will pave a way for us all to move forward with increasing focus, during this ever-crucial period for music, art, and other creative endeavors. I feel that all of you have demonstrated how powerful we can be when we contribute our efforts towards a common goal, and I encourage each of you to seek out and seize opportunities generated in this important era we are now living in.I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the support of teachers, students, musicians, music lovers, and all others who spoke out to defend the value of creative music and the arts at-large. That said, I would like to acknowledge those of my fellow professors who Mills chose to let go, in spite of the outpouring of support for them and alternate plans proposed by dedicated individuals seeking a more favorable outcome. A great number of you put so much work into trying to persuade the college that firings were not a necessary component of their Financial Stabilization plan. Again, I want to express how grateful I am to you for taking the time to write on our behalf and/or show your support at public hearings held at Mills. I truly wish the outcome had not left anyone who worked for the college by the wayside.Though this has proven to be a disruptive period of time for me, I am glad to put it behind me and look forward to resuming my work as a composer, performer, and pedagogue. I thank all of you for helping to provide me with secure footing, so that I may now devote my time to practicing, writing, preparing for next year’s classes, and coordinating exciting events like the upcoming concert of my new orchestral works at the De Young Museum in September. I’m thrilled to see my music performed and enjoyed by people like you, who wrote in to make known your passion, curiosity, and creativity. I cannot thank each of you enough.All the best,Roscoe Mitchell
  4. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    In all seriousness, it's a matter of rousing discontent and getting the word out. If anyone has a line on a news outlet in the Bay or elsewhere, getting an article published helps (I've been working on this). Emailing the parties in my first post is very useful if you're an alum, but outside pressure from others (whether it be press or fellow musicians or fans) can't hurt. Most of the dialogue has been on Facebook, but communicating about this on Twitter, Instagram, and so on is useful. This is in many ways a PR battle. As for what you say, Jim--yes, I agree that the world does not share our outlook on life, but Mills has proven in many ways that it is a hospitable environment for that kind of outlook. It's astonishing just how many world class musicians have occupied Roscoe's chair over the years--Braxton, Xenakis, Lou Harrison, Pauline Oliveros, Curran, and so on. The systematic disassembling of that kind of positive atmosphere is troubling, since so few outlets are left.
  5. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    Here's an article that clarifies a bit of Chris's statements (above): https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2017/06/07/jazz-pioneer-roscoe-mitchell-marked-for-dismissal-at-mills-college/ Lest it go unsaid, the issue has nothing to do with retirement and something to do with whether or not a musician of Roscoe's caliber should have the right to dictate the terms of his own continued employment and exit. As the article mentions, this would effectively end the Milhaud Chair--a position started in 1978 that has brought a series of prestige hires to the institution. These individuals have been hugely important to the musical legacy of the department--Roscoe, Anthony Braxton, Pauline Oliveros, Lou Harrison, Xenakis, Alvin Curran, and Joelle Leandre among them. These are hands on teachers who have made an invaluable impact on the dynamics of the department. A lot of the value of the department--the graduate program in particular--is predicated on students having the opportunity to work with these musicians. There is reason to be concerned for what Roscoe's possible dismissal means for both the quality of education in the department as well as the appeal for potential enrollees and the viability of future hires. Less immediately relevant but true: as one of my fellow alums pointed out, Roscoe is one of the most prestigious educators of color on the entire Mills payroll--and there's already a fraught history with this dating back to before he was hired. Two things to keep in mind: (1) mass outcry stands to make a difference in this instance, as it has in the past, and (2) this doesn't just have to do with Roscoe, whose legacy is unimpeachable regardless of the outcome of this debacle. This is in many ways the outcome of a long-waged war over the soul of both this school and the broader Bay Area. I'm an LA kid at heart but I consider myself an actual local, having arrived well over a decade ago and before the recent tech boom enveloped SF. Trust me, there has been tension with the school over overpaid admin positions and crappy business decisions for the entirety of my relationship with Mills. It seems with every passing year that those in a position of influence out in these institutions are more and more oblivious to the content of culture and more preoccupied with keeping pace with the playground of gentrification that so much of the Bay has morphed into as of late.
  6. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    I'm glad to hear that he's hopeful about it--I can't believe he found out about this on tour. All of the faculty has been pushing pretty hard for letter writing--and the extended community is pretty up in arms about it.
  7. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    Maybe you guys have read the James Newton interview posted on Do the Math--among other things, he parallels the conservative turn in the politics of the 80's with the "conservative" turn in the music. I do think that in a financially conservative environment all sorts of art--including less demanding/historical fare--is imperiled, but there's something to be said for the notion that music that is particularly "strange" or "challenging" is often the first on the chopping block when this kind of stuff happens. Bebop hits the nail on the head when mentioning the institutional importance of the college, and it's also worth noting that the balance of the arts programs at the school is very delicate. It's one of only a handful of national institutions where music that is (sometimes) self-consciously esoteric is given an environment to flourish. I cannot understate the value of spending one hour free improvising, the next running tonal analysis of Brahms, and the next woodshedding Nonaah with Roscoe giving me tips in person. That's insane--and it's also the sort of thing that helps develop craft, rigor, and discipline. It's also helped me develop the tools to sustain life as a working musician, and I would not hesitate to send another burgeoning professional in this music to that same school. These programs--here, at Cal Arts, at Wesleyan--are rare, and they're worth protecting as both institutions of rare fabric and infrastructural viability.
  8. Roscoe Mitchell Targeted for Dismissal at Mills College

    (Clearly) I speak on no one's behalf other than my own, but this mayhem comes on the heels of a series of deeply perplexing and questionable logistical and financial decisions on the part of the administration. This cost cutting is nothing new--the most public of these measures being the undergraduate dance department, which was saved by the raised ire of many alums and compassionate/interested parties--but it comes on the heels of years of questionable financial allocations with regard to both failed enterprises (the business school) and upper administration salaries. The tactical mishaps are manifold and extend far outside of the realm of these capital letter issues. The idea to make the school co-ed is really strange--and I say this as a man who was only granted admission into the school because the graduate music department is, well, co-ed. Stuff like this and the business school reflect the administration's extreme obliviousness to what makes the school unique--i.e., that it has long been a bastion for a certain kind of liberal arts education and (literal) psychology. Turning it into just another community college might not even save the school--it runs the risk of driving off both enrollees and faculty who have an interest in the intimacy and overriding philosophy of the institution. The long and short of it is that efficiently functioning entities like the music department have been saddled with the shit situation of the larger school's financial woes. The secret history of the place is that Mills College (and folks like Roscoe and Fred and Braxton and Zeena and so on) have been feeding the domestic creative music community for freaking years now. The broader list of Mills music grads both on the West Coast and elsewhere (NY in particular) is actually pretty mind-boggling--comparable to Wesleyan, for perspective.
  9. Hey, all- I haven't posted with great avidity lately--and late notice, I know--but it occurs to me now that this project may be of interest to some of you. My art rock trio Grex, alongside LA trumpeter Dan Clucas, is rearranging A Love Supreme. Why A Love Supreme? We're taking the opportunity to reassess what it means to play a tribute--to take something impossibly universal and iconic and make it new and personal. It's a challenge masquerading as a Catch-22--i.e., you either try to make a personal statement of of music that is already, itself, deeply personal, or you make impersonal music that compromises the integrity of the composition. Mostly Other People Do the Killing ran headfirst into oncoming traffic by taking semi-sacred music (Kind of Blue) and doing absolutely nothing with it--the end result being that they both solved the Catch-22 (above) and satisfied absolutely no one. My alternate solution was to not solve the problem at all--that is, to reduce the music to what I perceived to be the germ of itself and write something completely new. Sitting in the volcanic aftermath of this music is absolutely everything that is impregnable 50+ years after the fact--stuff like basic structure, harmonic mechanics, and, yes, sincerity. I've called it a "non-tribute" before, and I hold to this--in a culture that often treats original music with suspicion and canonical music with almost scientific distance, this is neither of those things. A Love Supreme/Not A Love Supreme. Details: Grex Plays A Love Supreme feat. Song & Dance Trio Saturday May 27, 8:00pm (7pm doors) @ California Jazz Conservatory (2087 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94704) $15 cover Tickets: https://cjc.edu/concerts/?eid=20122 Grex Plays A Love Supreme w/Byron Colborn, Kyle Motl (SD) Sunday, May 28, 7pm @ Gold Lion Arts (2773 Riverside Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95818 $10 Grex: http://grex.bandcamp.com Song & Dance Trio: https://karlevangelista.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-kingmans-ivy-room Byron Colborn: https://www.soundcloud.com/byron-colborn Kyle Motl: http://kylemotl.com
  10. Final word: it is, indeed, on record (well, not record--yet, or tape--but it was documented). Went into the studio on Monday with the great Myles Boisen, in and out in five hours (including lunch break). Legitimately the smoothest session I've ever participated in. Hopefully it's out in the world before too long!
  11. Thanks for the kind wishes, guys! Rumor has it that some of this may make it on tape. For now, looking forward to doing some summoning this weekend!
  12. The Bad Plus

    I may in fact be looking at this through a more contemporary lens (i.e., applying modern standards to "premodern" sentiments), but I also think that that's instructive with regard to this particular conversation. Part of the reason that this Glasper incident exploded so horrifically is that Iverson was reluctant to editorialize the interview. He even invoked Notes and Tones in one of the response posts ("That's the tradition I want to be in, and frankly the tradition I most respect: "Warts and all."), the implication being that honesty affords is its own sort of accolade. That's fair and well, and I think that a music entrenched in complicated racial, political, sexual, etc. dynamics benefits from a degree of candor--but, and I'm sure many will agree, contextualization has always been important. I mean, that Art Blakey quote about Buddy Rich ("The only way he can swing is from a rope.") is absolutely incendiary, but it sounds far less militant--natural, even--within the framework of the actual interview. Apropos of that--and to add some actual nuance to my initial criticism--Joe Henderson, like Blakey, gets a pass, sure. Henderson's music emanates from a historical and social continuum, a time period, and performance practice that necessitates that one address gender equality as exceptional rather than obvious. In terms of what Joe actually says within the context of that conversation--quizzical at best, at least for 2017. Martin was prompting Henderson, so the weirdness is dialogic--but the fact that the conversation shifted so quickly to softness vs. hardness, manhood vs. womanhood, delicacy vs. indelicacy, etc. is unfortunate. When he talks about the pianist who would assert the "Yang" part of herself to the degree that she was "neglecting" her own delicacy as a woman--he's basically saying she's a basher, yes? I can't imagine him saying that J.C. Moses, or Beaver Harris, or Bobby Battle, etc. "brought too much manhood to the table"--he'd probably just say that that dude was heavy-handed or something. My problem isn't with Joe, who is comes across as presciently progressive within the context of his hiring practices--it's more the tenor of the conversation, and the notion that, again, unrepentant honesty is its own biblical fact/is its own virtue, which is bullshit.
  13. The Bad Plus

    FWIW, I think the issue isn't so much that there are too few women participating in the music as with the lack of recognition and perspective accorded the tremendous number of women who are actively performing jazz and improvised music in the modern day. I'd say a solid 75% of projects I've participated in as of late have featured at least one woman on the bandstand, and that's often incidental rather than deliberate. If I had to guess--and I could be wrong here--but a lot of this maybe/probably has to do with the dint of jazz scholarship and and the vestiges of jazz hypermasculinity in and among performers, critics, and promoters. If we're in the business of fetishizing midcentury music, the traces of midcentury values are not far behind. We'd like to live in the 21st century and say that people are hired without regard to gender or race or creed or whatever, but, well... The "women are delicate" thing is also super weird and archaic sounding to me--i.e., women aren't bass players or drummers, they're usually piano players, and so on. That phenomenon itself is embedded in extant social prejudices regarding what it is or isn't proper for a woman to do in this society. Try telling Myra Melford or Joanne Brackeen that they should be playing delicately, jesus. Also--also--lest this devolve into a "white males have had their day"-type thing--as a (male) POC, I recognize that "social justice railroading" often contravenes fair and efficient dialogue, and that discussions that devolve into accusation and retaliation do not equate to amelioration or positive change. In this instance, it's not about fairness per se so much as accuracy and representing the world as it is. 21st century jazz is often way more diverse, equal, and colorful than these kinds of debates--and, for that matter, the "dominant jazz narrative"--would suggest.
  14. The Bad Plus

    Agreed. Though I'm really bothered by the fact that someone stopped to photograph an actual dead horse, probably for this very purpose.
  15. The Bad Plus

    Well, right--and I should probably clarify what I mean. Yes, there was a significant volume of women penning think pieces and responses in the wake of the Glasper drama, but the public visibility of these responses was relatively low. To compound this, the level of discourse across the board was pretty abstract and often messy. The Michelle Mercer piece was pretty widely traded, but the women in the article were random Facebook commentators, of all things--Iyer, meanwhile, was quoted in name and written about at (sort-of) length. Sarah Deming's made the rounds, but that was a woman addressing her husband's very public crisis--and not some sort of comprehensive essay meant to balance the volume of responses from male musicians and writers (nor did it mean to be). This take is probably pretty reductionist, I admit--but this debacle says as much about the state of 21st century jazz journalism as it does remind us of some of the embedded gender inequities in the music. It was like that BAM episode all over again. The course of this broader discussion was way more about public reprisal than ameliorating any social inequities or righting the imbalanced coverage of women in the music. Please tell me I'm wrong, because I'd love to think that this discussion led to the start of a new jazz festival centered on women composers, or that the next time a prominent interviewer who receives Glasper's awkward thoughts on the place of women in jazz, he or she sees fit to follow-up by interviewing an actual woman in jazz. Or maybe, you know, glass houses and all that, we can talk about why people having discussions about feminism and progressivism tend to record almost exclusively with male musicians, and so on.
  16. The Bad Plus

    I feel like this is 100% correct--I don't have much to add, I just wanted to say that. What began as a quizzical and kind of off-color interview exploded downward into hole digging and a bunch of ill-conceived apologies. Again, Iverson wasn't under any mandate to cover woman musicians in the first place, but the Williams post just seemed to reinforce the fact that that realm was kind of a social and critical blind spot for the Do the Math blog. I'd love to hear responses from some women in the community--I felt like most of the discussion was, in the most circular of senses, just a bunch of men yelling at each other about feminism.
  17. The Bad Plus

    This is kind of worth some discussion, but not just here--it demands a degree of scrutiny from the actual performing music community in New York and elsewhere. I stayed very, very far away from this part of the issue when the debate was at its most raging, because heated accusations and developing meaningful, dialogic relationships with other musicians do not mix. The sad, practical reality of personal comportment in professional jazz music is often just that--kind of whack, sanctimonious, and unreflective. There's a bunch of stuff about glass houses and looking like a fool that--and I'll only speak for myself here--I'm not interested in participating in. I hope that others, many more esteemed than I, can operate on the same frequency. There as a useful point that Iverson has classically only real been interested in documenting and discussing a particular locus of jazz performance, and so nurturing some sort of panoptic scholarship isn't really his responsibility. On the other hand, Iverson has developed a critical voice in this music that in some way outsizes his instrumental contributions, so a degree of self-awareness would be kind of neat. I saw some very well-respected musicians (people for whom I harbor deep personal respect) piling on Iverson in some pretty unfair ways. I heard the accusation that he never recorded with a female musician, which is patently untrue:
  18. The Bad Plus

    It bears some notice that every time I run into a group of <30 year old jazz musicians, they invariably know who the Bad Plus is. I admit that my sample size may not be large enough, of course, but it's always "yes" to the Bad Plus, Glasper, Badbadnotgood, Kneebody, and a handful of other bands in that age/peer group--and "no" to ranking critical fare like Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, or Myra Melford. Every time. Bill Frisell gets an "oh yeah, I know who that is" if you're lucky. That's absolutely not a knock on either that sub 30 age group or any of the musicians identified here, only a stray observation that, whether we like it or not, people like the Bad Plus are shaping the perceptions of the next wave(s) of young jazz musicians in a very direct fashion. On a personal creative level, I think that it's all neither here nor there--practical knowledge of Julius Hemphill's music was always going to be a fringe thing regardless of era--but it has made me sit up and pay attention to a lot of this populist, kind-of trendy jazz that prevails now.
  19. The Bad Plus

    I was very pleasantly surprised to see this board avoid the Glasper quagmire--it was embarrassing for everyone involved, and the only positive to come of it was an earnest discussion about the visibility of women in jazz. Glasper said some dumb stuff that he probably didn't and/or doesn't care to reflect too much on, and Iverson may have gotten a little too entrenched in his attempt to refrain from editorializing the interview. It looked for a moment like Iverson was making excuses for Glasper--and maybe he was, to a degree--but it just exploded out of hand. The fact that the tenor of the discussion shifted quickly from analytical discussion into the realm of hysterical remonstration and hamfisted non-apology says a lot about the ludicrous state of dialogue that has consumed so much of jazz culture as of late. Glasper was never going to care--and will never care--about this dialogue as much as his critics did and do. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't call bullshit on it, only that (maybe) our passions and intellectual resources would have been better spent doing any number of things--like, for example, investing some bandwidth in conducting the interviews with female musicians that Iverson is for some reason failing to book, or maybe promoting the scores of female led or female inclusive projects that seem to get buried under perpetual coverage of Glapser and the Bad Plus. A few people got it right: "Deeds, not words." On the other hand, I'll never understand the factional warfare that surrounds the Bad Plus--even a cursory listen to their recordings will convey the fact that the music has a degree of ambition and technical sophistication that is closer in character to jazz school Young Lionisms or the oversized acoustic jazz of the 70's than it does the Yellowjackets. I dig that the objections are aesthetic, but I just can't see how the music is any more offensive in its space than Ramsey Lewis, Vince Guaraldi, or Brad Mehldau's more treacly moments. I do, however, understand the objection about how music like this tends to consume the broader conversation in a very black hole-like fashion. In the spirit of the Glasper imbroglio, you could (instead) listen to: Carla Bley, Myra Melford, Alice Coltrane, Mary Halvorson, Joanne Brackeen, Geri Allen, Renee Rosnes, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Marilyn Crispell, Amina Claudie Myers, Tomeka Reid, Jane Ira Bloom, Lisa Mezzacappa, Ingrid Laubrock, Beth Custer, Zeena Parkins, Ava Mendoza, Mary Lou Williams, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Terri Lyne Carrington, Regina Carter, Susie Ibarra, Joelle Leandre, and so on. (I think I limited myself to instrumentalists, and I'm sure others can fill in some blanks.)
  20. I mean, I hope that's something we can all agree on. This kind of blew me away when I first heard it--nothing particularly special or innovative from a "jazz technical perspective," but definitely unexpected: Glasper is playing these very idiomatic quartal harmonies, and the horns are on this young lion/80's Marsalis brothers kick. The excitement isn't so much with the content as with the fact that it's the second track on an enormous hip-hop record--and Kendrick asked for it. So much of the lexicon of jazz/hip-hop collaboration is this boring, self-conscious beast, and and it's kind of breathtaking hearing a cutting-edge MC dig into the backwaters of jazz with intention and excitement. I'd heard that Lamar's next album was supposed to be a left turn into less esoteric "hardcore" fare, and both the jazz fan and the hip-hop fan in me got hit with a wave of disappointment. To put things another way, the part of me that would like nothing better than to play a casual gig or spin Grant Green records all day is still very much happy that I could hit virtually any rehearsal or session and call for a Dilla shuffle feel without being met with blank stares. But, you know, I like Art Blakey, too.
  21. Sgcim, thanks for that--that I can wrap my head around. I admit that the implications of automization are way more convoluted than the practice of automization, and I'd imagine that most self-respecting musicians would rankle at the idea that we'd one day be replaced, wholesale, by the materials with which we're supposed to be creating. I do question the degree to which electronic instrumentation has consumed the landscape, since on an experiential and observational level I can't see live performers going anywhere any time soon. Wasn't this the fear provoked by the inception of the synthesizer? And yet I can't imagine that the historical use of mellotron is for anything other than the specific effect of synthetic strings--e.g., "Strawberry Fields Forever" or even something as esoteric as "Water Torture" on the second Mwandishi album. Even the use of the Moog by Dick Hyman or Wendy Carlos is meant to be stylized in character--those sounds posit an alternative to the piano or harpsichord rather than an outright replacement. The other big fear of mechanization is the economic issue I mention above, and I have no idea how to quantify the lasting effects of synthesizers or drum machines on the business of making music. Setting aside the other relevant factors (gentrification, streaming, etc.), isn't it true (as stated in that video that rostasi posted) that we need people to program the robots? I see an expansion in the repertoire of musical skills that are both offered and asked for across the board--people to play the synthesizers, to man the trigger pads, to program their own interfaces, and so on. And then we're back in the realm of talking about automization as a tool rather than a dictate. If folks are left cold by hip-hop--yeah, I hear that--and as a fan of a lot of hip-hop, I recognize the historical limitations of the genre and the many ways (not just musical, but also social, political, aesthetic, and soon) that it can be perceived as objectionable. The idea of the "cold steady beat," though, is fraught. The sort of icy drum sounds characterized by the 808 are still there--in trap music, electro pop, IDM, and even the more creatively nuanced, hugely theatrical alternative hip-hop that has prevailed in the past several years. That being said, even the mainstream has had a taste for and fetishization of organic drum sounds and classic R&B for a while. G-Funk was a big deal in the 90's and I don't think that much of that music has aged well outside of attitude and social relevance--the Parliament lifts on The Chronic border on cover act schlock and are more important for what they managed to do than for how they actually sound. But--and returning to the theme of instruments as tools--sampled content can sound pretty fresh and nuanced in skilled hands. I'm sure there are people here who won't dig this and/or don't get it, but J Dilla is largely responsible for disassociating beat music from quantization, and he had a panoptic knowledge of the mechanics of multiple genres--sampling at this level is as much about developing coherent, living collage as it is about providing a canvas for miscellaneous lyrical content. You can be sure that the drum feel here is thoroughly developed and calculated--from the timbres to the envelopes of the transients to the shuffle of the eighth notes to the actual drum pattern and intensity of attack: And speaking of P-Funk rips, this is what happens after Dilla's logics are thoroughly digested and reanimated in a hybrid synthetic/live context. George Clinton even shows up. The producer, fwiw, is Alice Coltrane's grand-nephew:
  22. This is the crux of this discussion. If electronic instruments (like samplers) are tools, they can be used as well or as poorly as anything else. I happen to think that the original recording of "I Just Called..." does hame some sort of musical value, but that's absolutely down to taste. The rigidity of the rhythm, the syntheticness of the production, all of those cheesy arpeggios and synthesized strings--it's absolutely overstylized. It's also horribly dated and hugely square compared to a lot of Stevie's other music. At the same time, I can appreciate the fact that it's a deliberate and assertive exercise in a particular sonic terrain. This isn't "Superstition" or "Golden Lady"--it's as overtly and intentionally stylized as the stuff on McCartney II or Let's Dance. It's fair to find the musical result repulsive while appreciating the craft, intention, and nuance behind the work. Turd it may be, but it's the kind of turd one arrives at after a substantial amount of conceptual digestion. Bad music remains bad music, good music remains good music--with allowances for taste, of course. The issue arises when condemnation of a few desultory examples of a particular conceptual practice results in a blanket dismissal of all exercises in said practice. If you want to say "I hate that stuff" or "that music isn't for me"--please, by all means. All day. At the same time, I'm deeply suspicious of sweeping statements like "all hip-hop sucks" or "the use of samplers in contemporary pop music is bad" or, yes, "The drum machine has destroyed the beauty of Black Music forever" when I find no evidence of critical engagement or dialogic nuance. For example: when I hear Sonny Simmons shit all over contemporary free jazz players, I respect that--he was there--in the trenches--for the earliest waves of free jazz and engaged firsthand with many of the practices he is on the record as having found objectionable. Other people who have gone on the record against early free jazz--guys like Roy Eldridge, for example--I wouldn't go to those folks for informed, intelligent, evenhanded opinions on the financial, social, and conceptual viability of that music. Roy may have sat in with Ornette, but there's no evidence that he took the time to study that stuff with an earnest and unbiased interest. Roy also didn't record with Marion Brown or sit in the recording booth for Ascension. That's not a knock on Roy, who was of course a legend--it's only a knock on Roy talking bigger than his frame of reference should have allowed. For what it's worth, I wouldn't go to Ornette for opinions about swing music, either.
  23. Come on, man. For real? So we're not going to address the fact that a gigantic proportion of musicians whose music might be considered "live" have worked with electronic instrumentation--and vice-versa? And we're not going to talk about how many of these musicians on both sides of the divide have moved freely between artificial studio environments and live performance (and live documentation)? No discussion about how Miles overdubbed on Miles Ahead or the studio artifice on Mingus Ah Um? Is the difference that they used live musicians? Because live musicians alone did not play the edit of Better Get Hit In Your Soul. Are we going to talk about the use of drum programming on Tutu? Bullshit, right? Because there's a sizable roster of live performers on that album. Billy Hart is on that album, for chrissakes. That record could not have been made without the cooperation of both parties. Are we going to talk about how Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the musician you dismissively refer to as "some hip-hop 'genius'", is a champion of live instrumentation in hip-hop contexts? It was Ali's idea to perform the music of Luke Cage live--he apparently wanted to do it since the project's inception: Are we going to talk about the sheer volume of albums recorded by hip-hop musicians--many of them producers who make frequent use of samplers--that rely on the integration of live performance from various genres? I'm sure you've heard a lot of these records from 16 years of listening to HOT 97. Examples: virtually everything Ali's bandmate Q-Tip has done since the end of A Tribe Called Quest--including assembling a band that featured Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gary Thomas, and Kenny Garrett--Outkast's The Love Below, everything by The Roots, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, J Dilla's Welcome 2 Detroit, almost all Beastie Boys records, Madlib's Yesterdays New Quintet albums, Flying Lotus's Cosmogramma (w/Ravi Coltrane), Chuck D and B Real with Prophets of Rage, Ice-T's Body Count records, Kanye West's use of a live orchestra on numerous recordings, Run the Jewels 2, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and so on. Is the problem that the inflection of electronic music is wrong? That any playing that is either informed by or committed to the rhythmic mechanics of electronic music is somehow stiff, unswinging, or unfunky? Well cool, dude. Take it up with, again, James Brown, who bothered to work with Afrika Bambaataa on Unity--but of course that's late stage James Brown, and he'd lost his "edge" or was merely doing it for the money. In that case, let's talk about Prince, who we seem to be upholding as some gold standard of musicianship in the 1980s onward. Was drum programming too good for When Doves Cry? The minute we dispense with 1999 as a valid piece of 20th century art is the minute that a lot of people get off the boat with the "electronic music is bad" thing. If Prince is somehow--inexplicably--too archaic for this conversation, we can talk about the multitude of 21st century drummers who borrow from or are informed by the mechanics of electronic music and hip-hop. A small set of examples: Chris Dave, Tyshawn Sorey, Ronald Bruner Jr., Karriem Riggins, Dave King, Rudy Royston, Gene Lake, Zach Hill, Questlove, Damion Reid, Guillermo E. Brown. Many of these guys trade in vastly different genres of music. If you argue that all of these guys suck, you're either fooling yourself or are far too moldy for the fig tree you're on. Is the argument that all popular music after 1980 or so sucks? If so, fantastic--we've left the world of empiricism and fact and entered the realm of opinion. You're welcome to it. Alternately, if you want to get into a hyper-technical discussion about the nuances of quantization, syncopation, and feel in the hip-hop area, let's go. I have Sibelius cued up and would love to spend my weekend transcribing. If we're getting all technophobe, I can do it by hand, but I have to warn you--my notation handwriting is pretty awful. Is the argument that sampling has robbed working musicians of real jobs? That gets into dicier territory. All the same, I can think of at least half a dozen other factors that have been way more detrimental to the mechanics of being a working musician in the 21st century--including gentrification and the seemingly systematic destruction of live performance spaces in major cities, the death of the record industry and the inability to properly monetize streaming, the emergence of internet piracy and sharing, the dilution of listening options emergent to the inception of the digital age, the rise of music education as a necessary precursor to professional status (and the entry barriers at the point of enrollment), and yes--the emergence of DJs as an alternative to "live music." Keep in mind that being a DJ does not necessarily equate to playing, producing, or recording electronic music with a sampler--we're talking about a subcategory of live performance with its own specific genres and practices. Any one of these issues could easily take up a whole thread and is probably best addressed elsewhere. What is the ultimate argument here? That every time live instruments show up it's good, but every time electronic instruments show up it's bad? This is an unwinnable argument, because the universe that divides these two extremes does not exist. Again, with all due respect, please dispense with the pod people bullshit. The idea that there is no way that trained musicians can develop an appreciation for electronic sounds--not without the intervention of alien mind control--is deeply condescending and the worst kind of straw man argument.
  24. Thank you, Rostasi. A thousand times yes. I don't know why the majority of threads about music that does not emanate from a specific continuum of experience seem to end in excoriating screeds about such and such thing being ruined forever. I'm not trying to shit on anyone's opinions because--hey, opinions and feelings and experiences are very real things--but the sheer otherness of newness has a great deal of nuance if you're willing to take the time. Miles guitarist Reggie Lucas produced on Madonna's debut. Leon Ndugu Chancler played drums on Billie Jean and a bunch of really histrionic and experimental WC jazz. Arthur Blythe did the admittedly not good Put Sunshine In It but then tried to integrate that music into his concept--to some success--with Da-Da. As detailed elsewhere, David Sanborn came up around a bunch of loft jazz greats but elected to play smooth jazz. Ethan Iverson recorded with Dewey Redman almost a decade before the first Bad Plus record. Kamasi Washington comes from the same lineage of black LA jazz that Horace Tapscott once cultivated (and we could, or couldn't/shouldn't, get into the history of black jazz in LA here). Madlib's dad is a jazz singer and his uncle is Jon Faddis. Nas's dad is Olu Dara. All love to the hardened veterans who like to call bullshit on stuff, and I recognize that there is history there that is beyond me--but I haven't found much to refute that this hardline shit exists only on forums and in private debate and has minimal practical application in reality.
  25. I sense that we're getting off on parallel tracks, but a couple of notes for consideration- (1) I question both the utility and the reality of hard distinctions between the "tradition of black music" and "goose-stepping dance music." I think you'd be hard pressed to find an example of the latter that doesn't have some tangible relationship to the former. Afrika Bambaataaa and James Brown collaborated with one another. Virtually everyone Ken mentions in the above post recorded with a live band at some point or another. (2) Not all music that is aided by drum machines and other programming mechanisms operates under the kind of mechanical fixity that Bambaataa's (very important but also deeply archaic) music does. A drum machine is not "just" a tool that you program and press play on--producers dispensed with quantization as a necessary tool decades ago at this point. Samples are often performed in the studio rather than automated. Studio production that invokes sampling is not mutually exclusive from either live instrumentation or musical literacy, and the literature of this music is littered with people who are have coherent understanding of both worlds. This issue is twice as old as I am and I trust that no one on either side of this entrenchment is going to change his or her opinion at this point, but it needed to be said.