ep1str0phy

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  1. San Francisco / Bay Area Record Stores

    Have fun, Eric! BTW--last time I checked, Groove Merchant still exists, though it's one of the places I never hit (for some reason). Amoeba has been having a lot of ups and downs in the past few years. The last I heard, the LA store was the one doing the "best," and through various means the others have been able to stay afloat. There's been some diversification into books, collectibles, and so on, but the fact that those three shops have been able to retain such sizable and diverse stocks of both LPs and CDs is remarkable. The three Amoeba stores have the only jazz sections in close proximity that don't make me feel like I've been "cheated" by poor/rote selection. On that note, there truly are scarce few "big" CD outlets left. I could run down the literal handful (maybe 3-4 shops) in the San Fernando Valley (we're talking So Cal now) that still carry anything resembling a worthwhile CD selection. Meanwhile, there is still a brick and mortar Wherehouse Music closer to Palos Verdes--how this place survived (maybe it got franchised out?) is beyond me.
  2. San Francisco / Bay Area Record Stores

    Those guys are great--I'm actually playing there in September, just did a hit last month. Not an enormous record selection, but a great supporter of the music--we definitely need more places like that.
  3. San Francisco / Bay Area Record Stores

    Stranded is cool. It's a bit smaller than most of the others, but they do get some interesting new stock in fairly often. In LP terms, Grooveyard has all of them beat. It has an insanely fast stock turnover rate and manages to bring in rare stuff that I don't see anywhere else. It's not the best place if you're just looking to pick up an LP copy of a well known title (I'd say that the Rasputin in Berkeley is best for that), but it's the one that a visiting collector might want to check out. Grooves (in SF) is similar, just less extreme in how much crazy stuff comes in.
  4. Your Favorite AACM Recordings (no limit now)

    Just a tangential note to give props to the Trio Records album Kalaparusha, which features the eponymous saxophonist, Karl Berger, Ingrid Berger, Tom Schmidt, and mostly Jack DeJohnette on drums (w/Jumma Santons on one track). I think that Humility in the Light of the Creator is Kalaparusha's "moment," but Kalaparusha is just so good and unjustly obscure--it touches on many of the same beats as Humility but adds a degree of open-endedness that serves the music very well.
  5. Your Favorite AACM Recordings (no limit now)

    I just got that Kahil album in the mail (it's been reissued on CD on what looks like a "below board" label, but it could just be a budget/DIY-type situation on the part of whomever owns the rights). It's really great, with some ripping Lester and Malachi. That Braxton Antilles is indeed a major stretch, especially considering there's only one actual AACM member onboard (though I guess this could be said of most of Braxton's music?). The wild card is Ed Blackwell, who digs into this music with a pocket so deep--but organically integrated--that it's simultaneously a testament to the flexibility of Braxton's music and an essay on how to make absolutely anything groove.
  6. San Francisco / Bay Area Record Stores

    Bay Area guy here. These are (in my estimation) the best ones: Grooveyard (Rockridge/Oakland) Amoeba (Berkeley) Amoeba (San Francisco) Everything else is a "Your Mileage May Vary"-type situation. These shops are all worthwhile in different ways: Rasputin (Berkeley) Rasputin (San Francisco/Union Square) Grooves (San Francisco) Recycled Records (San Francisco) Aquarius Records (San Francisco)
  7. Your Favorite AACM Recordings (no limit now)

    Ha! This is impossible. I feel like you can't take a fraction of the Art Ensemble back catalog (especially the early stuff) without taking all of it--it's so tightly packed chronologically, and there's such seamless conceptual continuity between all of those records. I feel this way about all of the "great AACM bands"--Air with Steve McCall, Braxton with Crispell/Dresser/Hemingway, and so on. I can't rightly stick with three, but these are most of my favorites. Some of these probably don't even rightly "count" as proper AACM albums (in terms of personnel), but whatever. Muhal Richard Abrams: Young At Heart/Wise in Time AEC: Congliptious AEC: Phase One AEC: Les Stances a Sophie AEC: People in Sorrow AEC: Nice Guys Air: Air Time Lester Bowie/Brass Fantasy: Twilight Dreams Anthony Braxton: New York, Fall 1974 Anthony Braxton: Dortmund (Quartet) 1976 Anthony Braxton/Max Roach: Birth and Rebirth Anthony Braxton: Six Compositions: Quartet (Antilles) Roscoe Mitchell: Sound Roscoe Mitchell: Nonaah Roscoe Mitchell: Snurdy McGurdy and Her Dancin' Shoes Revolutionary Ensemble (this is really stretching it): Vietnam Wadada Leo Smith: Songs of Humanity Henry Threadgill: Where's Your Cup? (w/special mention to Marion Brown's Afternoon of a Georgia Faun, since there are so many AACM guys involved) If I absolutely had to choose 3 (based on play volume), I would go with Phase One, Les Stances a Sophie, and People in Sorrow. There's enough music between those three to keep anyone occupied for a stretch.
  8. Jack DeJohnette, Made in Chicago (ECM)

    I've been listening to this one nonstop since Wednesday. It's interesting to me that Uppercase historical legacy of the AACM will have much to do with the braided legacies of innovation and civil rights in jazz, because this sort of belies the fact that a lot of their operative contribution to the modern musical landscape has been multidirectional rather than strictly progressive. To put it another way, unlike, say, the music of Mingus, which was deeply social conscious but firmly embedded in the sonic iconology of its idiom--or, for that matter, the music of Albert Ayler, which takes the music to its formal breaking point even as it's intended to be socially visionary--I've understood the AACM's uniquest gift to be the way in which it expanded the possibilities of what can be done, where, and with whom. When I listen to Roscoe, Muhal, Threadgill, etc., I don't hear either terminal points or new beginnings--I see a lateral redefinition of what things are at a given point in time. You cannot understate the social value of this. Guys like Braxton and Roscoe have reconfigured what it means to be a Black American Musician--and, in turn, they have blown the doors completely away for many in subsequent generations. When I first "got" to the Art Ensemble, and when I began interacting with musicians who had come of age in the post-AACM climate of jazz, it actually kind of gave me (as a Filipino-American preoccupied with abstract improvisation) back to myself, whole. I imagine that my experience is not necessarily rare. I've listened to Made in Chicago a number of times in the past couple of days, and what sticks out to me the most is that this--in the broad strokes, at least--is what we need more of. Not necessarily by and from these musicians, who have given so much and will hopefully continue to do so, but by musicians and artists in a general sense. If the AACM is like NASA, we need more space explorers. None of this is to say that this is the greatest album of the year, month, or day--it's in fact alternately breathtaking and weirdly halting (the WSJ article is pretty close to my initial impressions). What really got to me, though, is just how deeply individualistic all of the voices on this record are. It is a real live document. Although many of the ensemble passages are ragged, you actually get to hear these august explorers negotiate their musical relationships in real time, and it's an essay in both musical risk taking and the boldness of exploded expectations. The closest comparison I can think of is Braxton's Ensemble (Victoriaville) 1998--similarly all-star, but also kind of unpolished and discursive--but this one is on another level. I'd love for someone to tell me about a recent album by a vetted and/or relatively mainstream musician (jazz or otherwise) that is so demonstratively searching. And then I'd love for someone to tell me why there aren't more examples. One illustrative moment really springs to mind, and that's right in the middle of the opening track ("Chant")--Roscoe is in the midst of this phenomenal circular breathing enterprise, with Muhal, Gray, and DeJohnette playing very coloristically behind (it's reminiscent, in the inverted rhythmic momentum of powerhouse saxophone + more textural rhythm section, of The Flow of Things), and then Threadgill jumps in for a sort-of solo. What do you do on top of this? And then Threadgill plays this deeply funky, Robert McCollough-cum-Albert Ayler shit (similar to his playing with Zooid), and it, again, recontextualizes the whole thing. Now it's not strictly what you expected--it's both a clashing and melding of identities, Roscoe +/vs Threadgill. That's a real collaboration, a real band hit. These guys, I hope they're here forever--if not here physically, then definitely here spiritually. I hope that Roscoe knows what he's done for me on a really high musical and personal level, though our personal conversations have always been either deeply casual or just nuts-and-bolts mechanical. This band DeJohnette put together--in the best possible way, it reminds me of both why I can and that I should create, and that's not a small thing.
  9. Damn- I wish I'd gotten to this topic when more lucid. Daylight savings time and endless hours of rehearsal have completely sapped my sense of rhetorical cogency. As with any of us, I can only give a personalized "man on the street" perspective as to why jazz's recorded financial unpopularity may be the case, and I see a couple of notable issues- (A) Despite the subsistence of the artform and the continued vitality of younger jazz musicians, it's clear that (as many have stated above) the common wisdom posits musicians from a bygone era as the paragons of excellence. This has reinforced a secondhand buying culture (e.g., old records, burns, digital sharing, used CDs) that, if I understand correctly, is not properly tracked by Nielsen. If you compound this by the fact that many younger people listening to jazz are actual musicians, and that many musicians are broke, it only reinforces the notion that jazz operates more on the fringes of buying culture. (B) Much of the most vital jazz I've heard in the past few years issues from independent, artist-run labels with limited distribution and/or limited penetration into avenues that are tracked by Nielsen (e.g., in-person sales at gigs). These sales tend to account for the majority of "buys" from people at my local level. © The most creatively viable and genuinely original music I've heard as of late comes from musicians who are operating outside of the fringes of what is commonly understood as jazz (with a lot of overlap with avenues in indie rock, experimental hip-hop, etc.). What unifies this music is a certain degree of jazz literacy. In a "large scale" sense, if you filed Flying Lotus in the jazz section, you'd be forced to file a lot of other experimental electronic music there, too. This is not the case, but Flying Lotus's most recent album (You're Dead) actually has much sonic jazz cred and relevant personnel (Herbie Hancock, post-UGMAA guys) as your average Robert Glasper album--probably a lot more on certain levels. (If you're interested in this strain of thought at all, there is plenty of deeply creative music by thoroughly schooled jazz musicians that does not much sound like archetypal jazz. Naming a few names--all friends of mine, but a few of them reasonably successful in underground circles--Beep, Naytronix, Ava Mendoza, Jack O' the Clock, Black Spirituals, Bells Atlas, Gentleman Surfer... full disclosure-my own group, Grex, issues from this scene.) (D) I feel like everyone here is way ahead of me on this, but ultimately, this does not matter. I'm not even sure if this affects the relative toxicity of the genre--the upper echelons of jazz have penetrated the sanctum of funded art music, and the lowercase terrain of clubs and casual gigs is more rightly threatened by the relative cheapness of DJs--not by other genres. The creative fringes will, as they always have, persevere, and a lot of it will infiltrate more popular avenues in unexpected guises--certain indie rock bands with an intense amount of jazz/new music cred, like Deerhoof, Tune-Yards, or even Nels Cline, come to mind. I think the bigger question is whether we, as the intended audience, are still game for the sometimes bitter work of listening to and engaging with the increasingly volatile modern musical landscape, but I would imagine the answers to that one are diverse and often deeply complex.
  10. Marsalis plays Monk

    OK, to at least a certain degree, this is getting to the meat of the matter w/regard to tension between originality and repertory performance. Dumb but real question: what is it that dictates a successful performance v. an unsuccessful performance? If we're dealing with a set of generic chord changes with infinitely variable pieces--e.g., 12 bar blues or rhythm changes--then maybe can say that we're dealing with a formal cipher--the "reality" of it resides within what we actually do within that formal context (e.g., the Flintstones theme is not the same thing as Oleo). If we're talking about something more idiosyncratic, like a really bizarre set of Monk changes that are used as vehicle for improvisation, then it's harder to say what constitutes a "legit" performance--because this isn't Brilliant Corners, but it also totally is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHDnF3Lf7xM A lot of the key structural markers are present, it's in the proper key, the basic shape of the melody is there, and so on--but for Monk, who was not down with the Miles "Well You Needn't" changes and was known to criticize alternates to his harmonies, this is probably a "wrong" performance--way more wrong than a jazz ensemble playing a relatively rote/faithful iteration of Monk's music. We're not even talking if it's "good" or not--we're talking about it being successful/"real." I totally agree with you in that no one really has the privilege of saying what constitutes "understanding" of that tune and what does not--we can talk about what a Monk rendition of that tune would be, but we are in the end just dealing with notes and tones. People flipped out about that Mostly Other People Do the Killing Blue album a few months back but, ultimately, as a grotesque sort of artifact, it has a rationale and as much a right to exist as anything else. The relative value of said project gets into some Jasper Johns/"According to What" standards-type territory. What spurred the discussion of the Ornette thing was my initial distaste for what Christian McBride played under Ornette on that Sonny Rollins Road Show performance of "Sonnymoon for Two"--I've since walked back on this, because I can't really hear that much of it on the actual recording, but back when we only had youtube clips of the event, I thought he was going into some very overt Haden-isms (that slushy octave/double stop thing that he did from the 70's on) and found this kind of distasteful. If we're dealing with music that's supposed to be about free expression, why are you just wearing the skin of the guy who went out on a limb to try something new? I got sort of excoriated by a friend of mine, because the argument was that the harmolodic ethos should allow you to do whatever you feel and, incidentally, McBride was just feeling the Haden thing. This struck me as a little circular, because wouldn't you want to try to sound as original as possible? I honestly don't know if there's a clear answer to this question, and I go back and forth on it now and again--and maybe, and I guess this is the point, there is absolutely no way of knowing if there are answers to any of these questions, and it's ultimately best to just play whatever you're going to play and sort it out afterward. Or, to paraphrase Monk in what is probably a totally meaningless way, Who Knows?
  11. Marsalis plays Monk

    Basically this. In a pragmatic sense, one of the key issues with performing Monk as Contemporary Jazz Repertoire is that it often sits outside of the parameters of Contemporary Jazz Performance. It's not simply that Monk tunes are challenging vehicles for improvisation--they are, but they're also largely incompatible with a lot of the improvisational habits that have emerged in jazz in Marsalis's wake--i.e., vertiginous, hypertechnical blowing, extreme rhythmic interplay, etc. The number of players on record that could slouch into a Monk tune, engage with non/later than Monk (I hesitate to say "post") aesthetics, and come out creatively unscathed is pretty small--they've been named in this thread, and that's either because of years of study with the music (Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd) and/or a fundamental compatibility in personal approach (Don Cherry, Misha Mengelberg, Motian). It's tough to step into this music with your battery of Coltrane changes, tritone subsitutions, metric superimpositions, and so on without encountering and confronting a language barrier--as it should be with any deeply personal music. (As an aside, I've had debates about whether or not Ornette's music can be appropriately played in a non-Ornette setting, and you run into the same basic considerations. On the one hand (and these were points made by a one-time intimate of Ornette's), that music is built to be an open, endlessly compatible framework for combining and juxtaposing seemingly contrary operating procedures--and, thereby, finding commonality between those procedures. On the other hand, you're dealing with the nuts and bolts of a harmonic and melodic language that is deeply singular and regarding which a handful of performance approaches--e.g., Haden on bass, Blackwell as timekeeper/participant, etc.--have been canonized as "more successful than others." Can you play this music wrong, better, or badly? If so, you rub up against the fact a supposedly open system does, like Monk's, require some personal give.) As for the comping debate--has there been a consensus on what comping is sense the advent of Herbie Hancock? Yes, it's a concept fundamentally and etymologically tied to accompaniment, but the piano player has been an interactive and often equal voice behind the soloist since (at least) the 2nd Miles Quintet. Monk is neither playing in this much later Hancockian mode nor in the strictly supportive sense, but I'd imagine that the definition is wide enough to encompass the orchestrational colorist (of which Monk isn't necessarily the only important voice in jazz). One more thing--there are a lot of cats who don't like Ethan Iverson's playing or writing, and he's come on this board to debate points I've made, and far be it from anyone--especially at this epoch in music--to say something like "ignore X at your own peril." That being said, I think that there's something that he's tapped into that is iconic to the present milieu--whatever your thoughts on that may be--and he is, for that reason, one of this era's most relevant voices. People still give The Bad Plus a lot of shit for their first couple of albums, but we're dealing with concepts of repertoire, study, and conceptual broadness that have been influencing the current crop of musicians for well over a decade now. There isn't much philosphical territory here that wasn't already being dealt with by the AACM, BAG, ICP, and so on years and years ago, but what the Bad Plus have done (through iconology, status, and yes, touchy issues like demographics) is redirect the energies of the Whiplash infected jazz scholar into earnest study of the broader jazz and creative music canon, and that definitely counts for something. Musically, they get a little arid and overwrought at times, and this is what makes it tougher to handle than, say, a Mengelberg piano trio or especially a Muhal Richard Abrams combo, but there's an earnestness under that technical precision that is worthy in the same way it's worthy to get inside of Brubeck or Jarrett.
  12. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    No bullshit detected--that's some real truth--words I've been mulling over for the past day or two. As an aside, I'm deeply grateful for the positive feedback and reinforcement bouncing across this forum. No two tastes are alike, and there is a hefty and healthy amount of disagreement on here, but I think that this board is united in that every person seems to be trying to "get" to the music in a different way--and, in a microcosm of what Jim is talking about, that's a pretty deep thing. Since the doors have been blown wide open, I hope some abstract and hopefully not wrongheaded philosophizing is acceptable: As someone who has taken an active role in street level creative music these past several years, the reasoning and meaning behind creative music/free improvisation/etc. can lose me. I can only imagine what it's like for people who have been doing this for decades. If you can get past the alienation, danger of marginalization, and financial ruin, you're still looking at a continual process of invention and dogged creativity, which is itself unrelentingly draining and both mentally and emotionally taxing. You can't really feel the "As Serious As Your Life" thing unless you've lived it, even if peripherally. Digging into these Bowie and Lowe albums reminded me a bit of why I got into this, and weirdly helped validate a lot of musical directions and personal interactions I've had as of late. The notion of "an experimental music" as creative, active, free, and other such suggestive descriptors has no intrinsic value in an idiomatic sense--what you're essentially dealing with is music that expands the limits of what can be felt or, yeah, understood as meaningful and/or beautiful and/or personally resonant. I'm reminded a bit of Mal Waldron's liner notes to Free at Last, wherein he defines music as "organized sound." This is contestable and digs into some truly abstract rhetorical territory, but the point is that, to Waldron, coming to terms with free jazz was as much about stricture as it was about "opening up"--his free music is proscriptive, expanding its breadth while further defining its conceptual parameters. In Sun Ra terms, "freedom is an illusion"--or, rather, some of even the most scatterbrained music is in fact organized as shit. This is why Jim's words are so intense to me. A "popular understanding" of this music entails so much work and change, and this effort can have a reciprocal affect on people and communities that is truly beautiful. Getting to the multi-idiomatic music Frank Lowe, or listening to the bizarre treatment of "Hello Dolly," Hemphill's 70's soul jazz breakdowns, and Bowie's perverse march concepts on Fast Last!--that's listening to creativity that is reaching for a broader definition of music, people, and art, and it's both worthwhile and truly deep for even going there and suggesting that, again, there is a "there" there. This isn't to say that music needs to be as broad as possible, as dissonant as possible, as futuristic or anachronistic as possible, etc.--and in practice (and speaking for myself, of course), "extreme" music that operates on the unrelenting fringes is often alienating because of how parochial it is, rather than how open. That being said, the process of negotiating "understanding" is itself as worthy as lot of art that is digested and canonized, and for some people, that's just about enough reason to get up in the morning.
  13. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    FWIW, Clifford, that AEC + Frank Lowe (and Braxton, too, is on that session) is "around" and accessible. Something that Clifford said in passing in the midst of a discussion of Mal Waldron really reignited my interest in music of this vintage--something about having some attachment (?) to these years/this era. It's interesting in that albums like Fresh, Rope-a-Dope, Fast Last!, etc. are simultaneously indications of the music in transition and "sites" of their own. There's a sound to these recordings that is definitely more concrete than the cataclysmic music of early free jazz but not yet set in the way that a lot of 80's creative music was. The version of "Lonely Woman" on Fast Last!, for example, is something that could have only happened around that time--the arrangement is just too diffuse and deconstructed to be read as an earnest Ornettian artifact, and there's a detachment there as a result. The closest "thing" to Ornette is Hemphill's alto, but it's relegated to these ghostlike obbligatos. At the same time, the orchestration is juxtaposed against these prototypical, immeasurably deep Bowie vocalisms, and it's clear that you're listening to music that is once primordially serious and profoundly conversational (both literally and figuratively). In pithier terms, I can't remember the last time I heard something like this that wasn't overtly referencing the AACM ethos in some way--in a (sloppy) quantum sense, it's like the minute like this music happened, it became an edifice that had to be scaled in some way. Returning to some thoughts above, I don't think it would be possible to look at The Music in this way without the benefit of historical distance. The dominant historical narrative is that there wasn't much "there" there when it came to jazz in the post-60's/pre-Marsalis area--this is bullshit, as many here know, but I feel like there wasn't a large scale change in the popular understanding of this period until relatively recently.
  14. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    LOL--Jim has seniority and the chops- In terms of the Fresh/Bowie Muse discussion, this does raise the most interesting boring question in the world--i.e., how does the availability of documentation affect the reception of an artist's work, and (pt. 2) isn't availability a two-sided thing? Naturally, guys who got to this music decades after the fact have the benefit of "calling" these huge evolutionary arcs that may or may not have been evident in real time, but (in a recursive sort of way) the nature of this analysis hinges on whatever documentation the listener has in his or her possession at a given time. I wonder if something like Fast Last! gets "marginalized" because, naturally, we now have the conceptually related The Great Pretender more widely available and in better fidelity (though I'm not sure if one album is better than the other), not to mention easy access to the staggeringly important early Art Ensemble discs. My favorite Brass Fantasy disc is Twilight Dreams, which completely changed my perspective on how creative and exciting that project could be--but I wouldn't have even heard about it had I not found it in a cutout bin a few years back. Now you can buy it on Amazon for $10. Fresh was the first Frank Lowe disc I got my hands on, but it was hard for me to "get to" that one first with Black Beings and Duo Exchange readily available back when I was getting into Lowe's music. That being said, was Fresh actually recorded for Freedom? And, if so, since Freedom had an actual distribution system in place, was Lowe thinking that Fresh would get to more people? I wonder if that might something to do with the wider conceptual breadth of that record, though I might just be spinning my wheels. As a musician, it behooves me to lean on primary resources as a learning tool, but in a much nerdier/academic sense, secondary resource analysis is really interesting. This sort of salvaged the Ratliff Coltrane book for me, in that it's one thing to listen to late Trane with the comfort of time, but it's another thing to read the contemporaneous reactions to that music and be reminded that this was (and still is) a holy war for some people. Charles Moore telling Don Ellis that he "must die" captures a specific race/conceptual divide that I can only understand with cool, objective distance. Also, Clifford--I take your recommendations 100% seriously, though I have the same reservation as most when it comes to something like Out Loud--I have a hard time rationalizing a purchase like that. It's the same reason I'll never get that NYAQ box, and the same reason why a lot of people didn't get the Ayler box (though I did, but I had more disposable income back then). I'm sure listening to the Cecil trio track w/Albert Ayler would go a long way toward explaining the development of both of those artists, but it's buried amidst what was <$100 worth of live recordings with the Beaver Harris band, and I know a lot of people couldn't get to that. But then here comes youtube, and it's a whole new world.
  15. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    Just curious, Jim--had you followed Lowe up to that point (live or on record)? It sounds like such an abrupt turn to me. With the exception of episodes of Noah Howard's Live at the Village Vanguard, Lowe doesn't really sound like he does on Fresh before '74. It's different than, say, Marion Brown or Archie Shepp, both of whom sort of transitioned into more melodic (but also, for the most part, more subdued) playing after the fire music heyday--Lowe plays more melodically after the early 70's, but with this sort of blotchy abandon that is more akin to Braxton or Roscoe than an Ellingtonian horn. For all suggestions that the music went into severe crisis mode after the unleashing of Ayler and late Coltrane, I definitely feel this vibe that "something's happening" on a lot of early 70's free music--and it's all at once geographical, generational, and conceptual. Even on supposedly marginal stuff like Fresh or, again, the Bowie Muse albums, there's this sense that doors once blown open raise a lot of interesting questions about residence, property, and sanctuary.
  16. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    Fresh is weird, and I hadn't listened to it for ages until I dug up my copy a few weeks ago. IIRC, it's the first Frank Lowe album that isn't a nonstop essay in firebreathing, and this turned me off a bit on first listen. Having (now) come to terms with a lot of the self-conscious inside/outside music of this period (and having developed a taste for later, more melody/rhythm-oriented Lowe), it makes a lot more sense. I read it as a post-AACM album that doesn't make any profound statements about the structural or conceptual possibilities of a post-free landscape; it's an album about what you do do in the post-free epoch, rather than what you can do. It's fascinating because it's one of the few documents of a definitive second/third wave energy player coming to terms with the ethoses of jazz postmodernism and Great Black Music (as opposed to a document of a player "born" into one or the other--e.g., Jarman, Kalaparusha, Windo, Glenn Spearman, sort-of David Murray, etc.)--it's a sonic pivot point between diehard loft post-Coltraneisms and the "later stuff," and it's suitably messy, conceptually scattered, and imbalanced. It's sort of a "freer" album than Black Beings in this way--it's not shackled to any particular MO, and so these previously obscured attributes of Lowe's playing are coming to the fore--"OK, let's play some Monk. Let's play some straight R&B (etc.)." The Art Ensemble, for example, always walks a fine line between irony and deathly seriousness when it participates in these sort of idiomatic conceits--with Lowe, I only hear seriousness. If the actual meat of the ensemble work and the playing still sound like they're being worked out, it's OK--it's the first album with Lowe as leader that really "sounds" like prototypical, inimitable Lowe, and as such it's kind of a stealth bellwether for so much wonderful but stylistically scattered 80's creative music. Now The Flam--that sounds much more "together." The quartet stuff with Butch Morris--much more together. And of course, as people say religiously on these boards, the recordings tell only part of the story. Fresh--much like these Lester Bowie Muse sides--is cool because it sounds like we're listening in on a marginal point in history--not the unbelievable capital letter stuff, but the nuts and bolts of music transitioning from one psychology to the next. Sometimes this music is the most telling, because I don't think the painful work of figuring out what to do post-Coltrane/post-Cage is really done. These days, I feel like it's more about personal solutions than either catastrophic change or definitive innovation.
  17. Mirage--Lester Bowie

    African Children is pretty good--a lot more roving than The 5th Power. I think that giving this particular ensemble space to stretch enlivens the proceedings, since the group is ultimately "just" a first rate blowing band. The music is (in relation to most Art Ensemble stuff and even a lot of Bowie music) sort of formally conventional, and it has that kind of lopsided groove that characterizes a lot of loft-era inside/outside jazz--but it's Bowie in a too-seldom-documented extended ass-kicking mode, which makes it worthwhile. FWIW, I like both of the Muse sessions--Fast Last! a little more because of the sublime Julius Hemphill contributions. Bowie and Hemphill share a raw funkiness that is simultaneously deeply earthy and surreal, so it's interesting to hear them together. Bowie's playing on Frank Lowe's Fresh is similarly facinating--pranksterish and kind of perverse, but also very direct and punchy. I've always felt that this was something to aspire to as both a soloist and ensemble voice--the character of being deeply self-aware and cognizant of one's surroundings, allowing this sort of intelligence to direct and not limit your power, energy, or ingenuity.
  18. Can Musicians Play Quietly Anymore?

    Wonderful word, never heard it before. May I ask what was the occasion for you to have learned it? Deeply uninteresting story, but I had a pretty long discussion with a bandmate about the proper spelling of ouroboros (v. uroboros or oroborous, etc.) and its many derivatives.
  19. Can Musicians Play Quietly Anymore?

    On a purely practical level, this is a key point--and maybe it reinforces what TTK was suggesting. The aural skill set necessary to operate in a contemporary professional musical context is just different from what was probably demanded from musicians in a pre-electric era. Not only do your ears have to conform to the whims of louder instrumentation, shitty rooms, and inconsistent sound engineering, but you are also saddled with the gear (and commensurate technical demands) necessary to operate in inconsistent environments. 99% of my gigs are as an electric guitarist, though (like many electric guitarists I know) I was trained as an acoustic guitarist first. Obviously, although some of the fundamental mechanics are the same, electric and acoustic guitar are different beasts--in the former case, you're dealing with (most importantly) a multitude of incrementally sensitive volume and EQ settings and absurdly directional sound that is completely different from room to room. I guess you're expected to finesse these issues when gigging on a regular basis, but transitioning from playing with an acoustic instrument--with its consistent internal frequency response and projection--is a pain in the ass. Granted this, in an ouroboric sort of way, many guys I've encountered have been forced to adapt to instruments that can operate in both "loud" and "soft" contexts to similar success. Most of the "acoustic" jazz I play is like this--even in casual contexts, where you're nominally playing background music. An acoustic bassist is expected to be amplification ready, and (as noted earlier on the thread) the setup job for this kind of instrument is different from that of an instrument that might be used in early jazz. We then reach this bizarre historical juncture where you're playing a soft drummerless casual gig with electric guitar, amplified acoustic bass, and electric piano. I will add this--there's nothing fundamentally loud about electric instrumentation. On many electric instruments, it's not about volume at all--it's more the fact that certain technical options (such as pedal manipulation, EQing, the relative volume of certain things--like the quieter harmonics) are only available when run through an amplifier. The tier of punishing volume levels will only invariably come into play when dealing with the combined interaction between electric instrumentation, loud drum kits and percussion, and abysmal house sound.
  20. Dunlop and Ore

    I've been thinking a ton about Dunlop since this thread + Ethan Iverson's post made me reconsider the battery of quartet recordings I had up until now regarded as relatively marginal. I think it's plain that a positive aspect of the rise of the blogsphere and (educated) armchair criticism among jazz musicians and fans is the reevaluation of music that was/is by near critical consensus lesser in quality. As far as the Columbias are concerned (and as Jim mentioned in a different thread), Underground is really the indispensable one--but if you listen past the multitude of criticisms (redundant repertoire, overlong solos, etc.), there is plenty of meat throughout that part of the discography. What Clifford said above resonates, because it speaks to a (pseudo) phenomenon among genius improvisers--i.e., first rate experimentalists (though not all or even most of them classified as "avant-garde" per se) settling with "lesser" accompanists for large periods of time. Sometimes this music is abysmal, but in some truly special cases, music of this nature can be seriously revealing--e.g., Ornette with Denardo (rather than with Higgins or Blackwell), Ayler with Beaver Harris (rather than Murray or Graves), Miles with Al Foster, and so on. With regard to Ornette (for example), I'm firmly of the mind that the later multi-bass band with Denardo was closer in respects to the "spontaneous delta blues" thing that Ornette was always trying to get to than the otherwise more epochal Atlantic quartets. Denardo is a truly idiosyncratic drummer with a ton of ideas and personality, but he doesn't have the bursting feel of Higgins or the deep fluidity of Blackwell. What he does have is a profound and intuitive knowledge of his father's music, and when I saw that multi-bass band in SF a couple of years ago (my last time seeing Ornette), the general band concept completely subsumed the the individual contributions--Ornette's included. Their penultimate version of Turnaround, complete with these mystifying and seemingly improvised rhythmic conceits (collectively adding and dropping beats but somehow retaining a consistent metrical unity), was in many respects deeper than any of the Atlantic stuff. The Columbia Monk music is kind of like this, and I feel that way even with the (more derided) Riley material. Straight, No Chaser is essentially an album worth of retreads, but some of the capital letter Feel stuff on that album is insane. Yes, the music is overlong and both canonically and internally redundant, but on stuff like "Locomotive" the quartet reaches this level of lumbering, monolithic heaviness that is not quite evident elsewhere--even on the music with Blakey. I really love Iverson's characterizing of Dunlop as surreal and Motian-esque, because I would not have dug into this had someone not brought it up first. That '63 Japan material, Criss-Cross, Monk's Dream--it's crackling with rhythmic obliqueness that is on the surface almost parody but at its heart (truly) as serious as your life. Maybe that music, too, is more about how it reframes Monk than how it makes any profound statements regarding jazz in a macroscopic sense.
  21. Jack Bruce

    There are a ton of bootlegs circulating of Bruce playing more straightforward jazz/improv material--not just stuff by Lifetime, but also a quartet with John McLaughlin, Stu Goldberg, and Billy Cobham, a trio with John Surman and Jon Hiseman, and a band called "Head" (a group with both Heckstall-Smith and Surman). My favorite of Bruce's "jazz" releases is This That (Bruce w/Dick Heckstall-Smith & John Stevens). You'd think that the presence of John Stevens would head things off into total abstraction, but the music has the character of a classic hard bop date collapsing in on itself. Stevens is playing more "traditional" free jazz kit here, and Heckstall-Smith has a sound reminiscent of doom-y, post-Bridge Rollins. The most important detail, however, is that Jack actually plays electric bass on the album. There is a ton of nuance and character to Bruce on electric bass, and this is often lost in the cathartic thrash of his power trio-y music--there is nothing like This That elsewhere in his discography, and it's surely one of the loveliest albums I've ever heard in terms of treating the electric bass as a principally melodic, rather than rhythmic or contrapuntal, instrument.
  22. Jack Bruce

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVXNg5QdEt0 Speaking a bit with regard to Bruce's jazz roots--I'm consistently astounded by the dynamic interaction between the three principals on Harmony Row (Bruce, Chris Spedding, and John Marshall--the later two alumni of the Mike Westbrook bands and very notable players in the nascent British jazz-rock). There is a dirtiness to much of this early British jazz rock (Soft Machine, Nucleus, etc.) that is more akin to Lifetime or electric Miles than the chops heavy fusion of Mahavishnu or the overt funk inflections of Headhunters and later Weather Report--Bruce tapped into the jazz-rock continuum in a very notable, decidedly un-proggy way. The Spedding iterations of the Bruce band are really idiosyncratic in that the bass is the more forward soloistic instrument, even though it's ostensibly playing improvised counterpoint--it gives the ensembles a decidedly bottom-heavy feel that is nonetheless very fluid and complex. It's sort of the rock equivalent of the Evans-LaFaro-Motian trio, and I can't think of anything quite like it. (The Who operated similarly at times, but Townsend was way more forward than Spedding ever was--Spedding is a "rhythm guitarist" in the truest sense.) For this innovation alone, Bruce earns a place in the vanguard of rock bassists--but as often as he was criticized for business and bluster, he is an astonishingly un-noodle-y bassist. His jazz playing points to this--he's definitely loud and tough on Things We Like, but he's not a "shredder" in the post-LaFaro continuum--he's much more akin to Wilbur Ware or Garrison (or Harry Miller, for that matter), just really thick and present. He may have been complex for the rock bass of the time, but in retrospect, he's remarkably tasty and deeply compositional in a way that just surpasses his peer group.
  23. Jack Bruce

    I'm in mild shock, in part because I hadn't (in some time) evaluated precisely how much Jack's music meant to me. Nothing in the continuity of my career or the development of my musicianship within the realm of jazz would have happened had it not been for Jack and Cream. I recall Bruce referring to Clapton as "sort of our Ornette Coleman," referring to the nature of Creams rhythm section/frontline dynamic, and things took off from there. When I took the leap and found myself engrossed by the likes of Messrs. Coleman, Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Sharrock, and so on, I continued listening to Bruce's music--everything he did under his own name had a sort of weird creative purity that is more akin to, naturally, a jazz musician than a jobbing pop musician. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLtrg-3ahrU Songs for a Tailor and Harmony Row are still two of my favorite albums, and they most certainly rank among the more ambitious works by musicians emanating from the continuum of 60's blues rock. On a different level, they are baldly uncategorizable; like the greatest works of the Beatles, The Beach Boys, Dylan, Hendrix, etc. etc., these two albums simultaneously define the artist and transcend the milieu of the music. Tailor and Row have shades of Graham Bond-ian R&B, Who-influenced pop chaos, listless 70's singer-songwriterisms, angular proto-prog/fusion, florid, mock-operatic gestures ("Morning Story" on Harmony Row is a favorite), and, of course, shades of the aggressive free jazz that Bruce would often intersect with (the insane Chris Spedding/Jon Hiseman/Bruce freakout at the end of "To Isengard" is one of the earliest and most fully realized integrations of free music and power trio dynamics on record). Even if these two albums are the most iconic, I'm still astounded by how creatively focused Bruce's discography is. He essayed an important document in British freebop with Things We Like (drawing from a cast of Colosseum members + a still nascent John McLaughlin), and collaborated with both Dick Heckstall-Smith and John Stevens (of SME fame) on a later, deeply abstract album of songs and improvisations (This That). Bruce's work with Tony Williams's Lifetime (very scarce on record, though Bill Laswell's recreation of Turn It Over gives us a better picture of his Cream-inflected contributions), Michael Mantler (on the amazing No Answer, Don Cherry in tow), and Carla Bley comprises some of the most vital and valuable crossover work by someone ostensibly regarded as a "rock" artist. Bruce's own contributions to Cream, West, Bruce, and Laing, and his remarkable post-80's body of work--the piano/organ duo Monkjack, the truly strange "comeback" album Somethin Els, and the later victory Shadows in the Air--were diverse and never less than deeply committed. Although he often revisited the now well-trodden well of Cream-y blues rock, the bulk of his discography now reads like something more akin to a Canterbury artist's--seemingly dissatisfied with a career retreading his most popular work, Bruce has left us with one of the richest back catalogs among pop musicians of his generation. On a personal level, the fact that I haven’t deeply engaged with this music for some time serves as a bit of a reminder that Bruce’s very individual and dedicated evasion of genre conventions is something I’ve seen very much inherited by later scads of enterprising songwriters. I’ll always remember catching the Shadows in the Air band in person, standing right in front of Bruce and close to Bernie Worrell and Vernon Reid--I was still pretty young then, and he spent the concert playing not to the fans calling for “Fat Gut” (a Bruce/Trower tune), not to the women who were literally hurling $20 bills at Vernon Reid with requests for “White Room” (Reid took this in stride), but to my sister and me, marveling at his still dextrous bass playing, engrossed by music made by the sort of artist/warrior that I can still admire and appreciate as a much older and much more cynical professional. Thinking of Bruce keeps me optimistic, and I imagine that there are great works from those still “to come” that will bear the mark of Bruce’s strange but bold legacy.
  24. Kind of Blue - Mostly Other People Do the Killing

    Watching this furor unfold from the sidelines has been astonishing--I've counted multiple Facebook posts on this topic whose comment sections exceed a count of 300, and I think the last time this happened with regard to a topic "in jazz" is when the New Yorker published it's incredibly short-sighted Sonny Rollins "satire" a few months back. Tangential but very much related: I've been preoccupied with rediscovering the work of Jimi Hendrix lately, and after my efforts dovetailed at obsessive listening to Electric Ladyland, I began to get excited about the prospect of conceptualizing the sort of music Hendrix would have made had he lasted past '70--it was nothing more than an inspirational thought experiment, albeit a very fruitful one. That being said, this is a similar line of thought to what got us Valleys of Neptune, which was a supposedly "new" album of unearthed Hendrix recordings that really only repackaged demos, remixes, and run-throughs of tertiary importance. This is a double-edged sword of heralding genius: (1) it can inspire you, while at the same time (2) tethering you to the psychology of hero worship. A few things seem very clear to me: (a) this is not a malicious or self-consciously crass attempt at riling up press for MOPDTK--like many (particularly Iverson) have noted, it's an attempt at conceptual art. To be fair, you can't record something like Blue without full cognizance of how audacious and infuriating the very idea of it is, but this is that band's wheelhouse--and I'll admit that (however much I admire all four of the band members) MOPDTK's aggressive leanings toward irony are not my taste. But like Jimmy Cobb said, "If these guys took the time to do this, the music must have meant something to them." You can't sit through hours of transcription, listening, practice, and rehearsal for what is merely a crass joke--the nuances on the posted version of "All Blues" are way too finely drawn for that. You'd either have to be an artist or a psychopath to do this. (b) The notion that a project like this will engender deeper listening to the original Kind of Blue is nonsense and self-defeating. The very fact that MOPDTK attempted to even do this is a testament to the fact that listening to music in this way is already a part of the modern technician's toolkit--they're using the same basic transcriptional skills that every trained jazz musician has foisted upon them at the outset of learning. Moreover, it strike me as preaching to the choir--the only people who would be willing to listen to the differences between KoB and Blue are the very people who have listened to Kind of Blue hundreds of time already, so there you go. © There is a really important "take away" from this, and it isn't so much that we are "not discussing new music" when the discussion of Blue takes up pages upon pages of text. This is the reason I thought to add my voice to this overstuffed conversation at all- The issue isn't that the modern jazz audiences isn't willing to listen to new music--this is itself a highly condescending way of thinking. I'd wager that the majority of the posters on this thread could name any number of artists who have emerged in the past 5-10 years who are making interesting, legitimately thrilling music, much of it an extension of the ostensible jazz tradition. There are many posts on this very forum confirming that fact. The problem is not with our listening habits as with the critical preoccupation with jazz as a closed form--we only get shit shows like this when someone is offended by how some aspect of this music rubs up against tradition. Remember Badbadnotgood? That entire conversation was predicated on how the technical ability of a trio of music students stacked up against their more thoroughly schooled "seniors," and how the relatively minute amount of positive press they'd accrued had somehow distracted from less-gimmicky, more qualified artists. The same thing happened with the Bad Plus, though they had very clear jazz chops, and the conversation was more about the validity of utilizing pop music as an inroads to a new listener base (somehow this was supposed to "corrupt" the music). As for Iverson--does anyone remember when he shat on Steve McCall's drumming on Air Lore? It was essentially because McCall's drumming was outside of the pocket of early jazz tradition. And unlike Blue, Air Lore was supposed to be a fucked up free jazz take on tradition. The greater issue at stake is not whether new music can be appreciated by the appropriate listener base, but why it is so difficult for a project of new jazz/creative music to get any publicity. If jazz were defined by its clickbait and viral discussions, it would most certainly seem stuffy, self-invested, obsessed with only a dozen or so musicians, and deeply conservative--this is not the "reality" of most musicians and listeners I know, but it most certainly is the "reality" that MOPDTK are engaging with via Blue. There's plenty of new and innovative music out there, but it's drowned out by the noise of bullshit. Depressingly, most people, even enterprising listeners, still communicative and absorb information through our well-trodden media outlets--this makes it no easier to get publicity for music that is against the grain. The only thing left to do is hustle, create, and (like the good people on this board) let people know when you hear something cool.
  25. "Last Albums" or appearances you can recommend

    One more: Rahsaan's Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real is a tough album, in part because the man's musical identity was so closely interwoven with with his mercurial virtuosity--it's almost an intellectual test--what is Rahsaan about if you take the Rahsaan-ness out of it? That album gave me a greater appreciation of the fact that Rahsaan had a direct line to the creaky, maudlin heart of jazz. This sort of romanticism is all over Rahsaan's discography, especially when he performs in overt Ellingtonian modes, but Kirk's virtuosity sometimes renders the music with this sort of ironic sheen that I know makes it difficult for people to get close to the music. There's no way, though, that you can listen to Rahsaan fighting through the strings on the title track, or nearly whispering these extremely bruised versions of "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Summertime," without knowing that there was something very deep and very human about a musician who sometimes seemed like an entertainer first and foremost.