In my biggest coup in booking my own bands, I managed to get my band in 2003, Five Second Flat, an opening slot for Shipping News, one of my favorite bands of the time. I saw their tour dates and called up the venue, Little Brothers, in Columbus, OH and asked if we could get on the show and they guy said, “sure.” It was too easy. It was a great show, too, and the guys in Shipping News were super nice to us and very supportive. During their set they thanked us for playing and told the crowd to buy our CD. It was more than we could have asked for. Lyndon, Jeff, and I were ecstatic.
Coincidentally, that was 11 years ago, today.
â€œFile Cabinet Archivesâ€ is stuff I am finding in my file cabinet as I go through it and throw away a lot of old stuff, scan some of it, and save even less of it. Iâ€™m posting some of what I find interesting here.
I was joined at the Keith Jarrett concert last night by Tony and I thought it was very, very good. I hoped, irrationally, that the first piece would extend into a long-form piece from the old days, but it was not to be. However, that was one of my most favorite pieces from the evening. I thought that it was more “song-oriented,” by which I mean it sounded like Keith was composing songs in many of the pieces. They could have been standards/ballads or bluesy songs at times. There were few “out” pieces and few, if any completely unstructured pieces.
Here are my own, albeit silly, notes on the evening’s pieces:
Dark Intervals(reminded me of 1st track) Song(the most song-like, imo) Ballad(could have been a standard-type ballad) Rio(pointillist, abstract, short; stopped it short and told a story about a review of “Rio”) Cure(reminded me of “The Cure”) Ballad(another that could have been a standard-type ballad) Pretty Clouds(very beautiful, evoking flight) Military Waltz(not a very accurate description but I’m sticking with it)
Rainbowlike(sounded in similar vein of Somewhere Over The Rainbow) Romp Song(Keith’s signature left-hand-type-romp) Dramatic Beauty(very beautiful) More Dramatic BeautyÂ (very beautiful) Break Bluesy(a bluesy KJ signature with a break in the middle to tell story about playing one note vamps with Charles Lloyd) One Note Beauty(keeping the theme of the story, a beautiful, ballad-like tune that focused on one note throughout, probably an “E”)
Fever Song(was this a standard?) There is Power in Dark Beauty(not a real title) Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Last night I attended night two of four nights of performances at the newly reopened Roulette performance space. Roulette has a long history dating back to a Soho loft in the 80’s and beyond and has recently relocated to Brooklyn. It’s a great space with a nice, big stage and a wrap-around balcony. I’ll definitely be going back there from time to time.
I leapt at the chance to see Anthony Braxton perform. I’d never seen him perform before and, from what I know, he performs fairly rarely within my reach. I’ve been listening to his music for many years now, and admittedly, it took me a while to get into it. It’s firmly in the avant-garde of jazz and can take a bit of getting used to. I still don’t even come close to understanding how it always works but I do like what I hear.
I chose to attend night two because of the format of the evening. He’s done some music for dance as well as some choral music, both of which are being presented on other nights of the run, but I am primarily interested in the instrumental type, which really makes up the bulk of his oeuvre. The program for the night was in two parts. The first set was a performance by the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio and the second set was a performance by the Tri-Centric Orchestra.
The Diamond Curtain Wall Trio is comprised of Anthony Braxton playing reeds of all sorts (last night he played five saxes: alto, soprano, sopranino, baritone, and bass), Taylor Ho Bynum playing brass of all sorts (I couldn’t identify everything but included were cornet, flugelhorn, trombone, and other sizes of trumpet-type things, one of which was gigantic), and Mary Halvorson on guitar (she played only one guitar).
The performance was basically an extended improvisation over the course of 45-50 minutes, timed by an hourglass which was ritually overturned at the start of the performance. They were, in fact, most likely playing a composition entitled “Composition 323c.” Â A similar composition is pictured here:
Composition 323c is described by Taylor as such:
In the DCW Music, Braxton combines intuitive improvisation with interactive electronics. The musicians in the ensemble respond both to the evocative graphic notation of his Falling River Music, and the unique and responsive electronic patches the composer designed using the SuperCollider programming software. Both the rich graphics of the Falling River Music and the complex algorithms of DCW Music’s SuperCollider patches are extraordinary examples of how Braxton has continued evolving into his fifth decade of music-making.
What this meant in practice, as I saw it last night, was a long and interesting improvisation. At times all three performers were playing and each subset of two played together at times, and each person had his or her own solo time. This wasn’t set up and planned, but flowed more or less organically as the performance unfolded. Anthony would, at times, decide to change the electronic music’s program and turn it up or off entirely. Some highlights for me were: Anthony on bass sax engaging in a one-sided argument, simultaneously screaming through and playing the beast of a saxophone; Taylor blowing water into his flugelhorn; Anthony on his soprano sax in a fit of circular breathing, emitting waves of rising notes over Mary’s support; Mary’s solo sections were also quite great. It’s hard to describe it past this. You can download a recent performance by the trio here. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The second set saw the Tri-Centric Orchestra, which consisted ofÂ Jason Hwang, Sarah Bernstein (violins), Renee Baker (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello); Nate Wooley, Chris DiMeglio (trumpets), Mark Taylor (French horn), Dan Blacksburg, Chris McIntyre (trombones), Anthony Braxton, Daniel Blake, Dan Voss, Matt Bauder, Salim Washington, Josh Sinton (reeds), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (percussion), Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Aaron Siegel (conductors).
It was a large ensemble capable of creating some great noise.
You may notice that there are three conductors in the group. This is where it gets interesting.Â The orchestra was separated into sections: the strings and piano were the territory of Jessica Pavone; Aaron Siegel mostly manned half of the woodwinds and some brass as well as the drummer and guitar. Taylor was the “main” conductor who had control of the whole orchestra.
The program consisted of a few compositions (including 100, 134, and 92) along with “GTM” and “language music improvisations” (GTM stands for Ghost Trance Music). This is how it worked: Taylor started the set by the ritual overturning of the hourglass and started with what I think was language music improvisations. He made an “O” shape with his two hands together, showed it to the ensemble, then in a series of instructions, showed a number of fingers to the ensemble to indicate what I’m guessing was a type of language improvisation, like 1, 4, 7, etc. After showing the number, say 1, he’d then count off and conduct the group to play. 1, for example, was aÂ staccatoÂ note that was to be played on his cue. 4 was a legato note, also to be played on cue. It seemed as if the note could be any note the player chose. He also would section off the ensemble and instruct just a section in a certain way. He could, say, section off the strings, have them do something, then have the woodwinds do something else. He could also set sections off on their own, for example, he had the trumpets playing staccato notes the motioned to continue that as he moved to instruct another section. So, after a few language improvisation instructions, he then would take up a small dry-erase board, write a composition and section, say “100 G1,” show it to the group (or subset of the group) and count of for that section of that composition to be played. Again, he could conduct subsections in different ways, having the brass play one section and the strings another.
After some of this, the other conductors took charge of their own destinies. Jessica Pavone, put down her violin, rose, and turned to face her string section and proceeded to conduct them in an entirely different composition. Aaron Siegel would also do the same. In this way, there were multiple compositions and improvisations occurring at the same time. The conductors would work in such a way to not make it too messy, and it somehow would make sense. There were some parts that also seemed a bit like John Zorn’s “Cobra” game piece, where players could be instructed to follow the cues of another player, basically imitating them. To further the confusion, some sections could sometime autonomously break off and play some composition or improvisation, as often did happen. Taylor had the power to call an end to any of this activity, as his instructions seemed to takeÂ precedenceÂ over anything that was happening at the time. If this sounds like a giant mess, you could be right. I know a lot of people would not really tolerate the sounds that were emanating from the stage, but I was enthralled. It was beautiful, challenging, grating, inspiring, soothing, exciting, and happy all at different times or at the same time.
Anthony Braxton is an amazing musician and composer. I’m glad I was there last night.
Last night I went to see Tame Impala at Webster Hall. It was the first time in a long while that I’d been to Webster Hall for a show. Hillary and I were discussing before the show what we’d seen there and I remembered Modest Mouse and The Shins and I’m not even sure about those. In any case, last night’s show was great! A friend working the dorr got our crew VIP badges so we had access to the section on the balcony (Thanks!).
A band called Yawn opened the show and we caught the last two or three notes, so I can’t comment on them. Yuck was the second opener. I had heard good things about them so I wanted to get there to check it out.
I had listened to some of their songs on Hype Machine earlier in the day so I recognized some of their music at the show. The lead singer had a curly mop on his head and sang out of the corner of his mouth. The rest of the band consisted of a male lead guitarist/backup singer (who sang lead on one song), a female bass player (playing an Ampeg microstack, which was super cute and sounded great), and a male drummer with a magnificent fro. The songs were song-y and catchy at times. They had a good vibration, sometimes getting a but 90’s alt-rock. I commented that one of the songs could have been played in the credits of a Dawson’s Creek episode, had they existed then. I give them a solid 6 out of 10.
Tame Impala was altogether a different story. They are also a four-piece with one lead singer/lead guitar, bass, drums, and a rhythm guitar/keyboard player. The singer, Kevin Parker, is squarely in charge of the whole affair; it’s clear he’s running the show.
They play music that is self-described as “psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock music,” which is pretty apt, except for the “hypno” part. They are in my group of bands I keep in an iTunes playlist called “psych-today,” contemporary bands that are playing psychedelic-type music. Their style is more polished, tighter, and less gritty than some of the other bands doing that sort of thing (like Dead Meadow, Black Mountain, White Hills) and have a more happy-tinged mood as well. They have a tendency to jam and stretch things out but they never really get lost or messy. Some of their best songs, “It’s Not Meant To Be” and “Desire Be Desire Go” got live-show embellishments that were welcome in my book. They took the form of a new, semi-related coda riff or an extended section to provide for slight improvisation. They didn’t really jam in the way that a jam band like Phish would, but they did extend parts of songs longer than their recorded versions. I was into it. Many of the songs featuredÂ segue-waysÂ between them, some of which seemed like they could have even been mini-compositions in themselves. I’m a big fan of that kind of thing. Song, song, song, without stopping is a good way to keep the energy up.
The elliptical pattern on the backdrop was actually a camera facing the screen of anÂ oscilloscopeÂ which was being fed by various instruments at different times. Sometimes it was the guitar, other times the bass or snare drum. I thought that was a good effect. There was a time when Kevin just sat on the stage playing random guitar notes in en effort to evoke different patterns on the screen. That was interesting for about 30 seconds and could have lasted longer had he played something more interesting than a scale. So, they were a but self-indulgent at times, but, on the whole, it didn’t detract from their performance.
A final aspect that served to keep them good in my book (and especially Martin’s) is the no-encore policy. Before the last “suite” of songs Kevin announced the policy and said that after the next group of songs they would stop and leave the stage and not come back. Here is a good article about how silly encores are. Tame Impala gets an 8 out of 10 for me.
On the urging of a friend, Brad, I went to Union Pool last night with a soon-to-be-married friend, Hank, for the third night of a three night stand of Harvey Milk. I wasn’t disappointed.
Harvey Milk, and heavy, metal-ish music is not something I am all that familiar with. Lately, the closest thing to metal that I can claim honest appreciation and love for is the band called Earth. Brad had given me some of Harvey Milk’s music a couple years back and it sat, unlistened-to, in my iTunes until the announcement of these three shows. They’ve been around since the early 90s and I really didn’t know much about them other than some kind of cult-like following and Brad’s recommendation. I decided it was a thrice in a lifetime opportunity that I should take.
The opener was Luke Roberts. He played West Virginia Front Porch style music with an acoustic guitar and voice. His songs consisted of one progression repeated on the guitar and his singing. There was only ever one guitar part to the songs but the vocals and lyrics created verse and chorus. He was pretty good and at the end of his set had H.M. as his backing band for about three songs.
Harvey Milk was loud and quiet, angry and sweet, up and down. There were metal riffs, classic rock riffs, guitar solos,Â gutturalÂ vocals, and as-sweet-as-he-can-manage vocals. There even was a quiet period with an orchestral backing track. The ride was unpredictable and great. I was surprised at all turns. I was exhausted with jet-lag and was planning to leave early but after each episode of the show I was intrigued enough to stay for the next. The “Lord of the Strings” tee shirt was a clincher for me, too. All in all I like Harvey Milk.
So there you go, the second metal-ish band that I like. (That doesn’t count listening to Metallica while mowing the lawn at age 13.)
Last night Martin joined me at Le Poisson Rouge to see a performance by Nik BÃ¤rtsch’s Ronin. It was awesome.
I took a photo of the stage before they began. This is over the drum set towards the percussion setup. the band consists of Nik BÃ¤rtsch on piano, Kaspar Rast on drums, BjÃ¶rn Meyer on electric bass, Andi Pupato on percussion, and Sha on bass clarinet and alto sax (yes, “Sha”). Four of the guys are from Switzerland and BjÃ¶rn is Swedish.
The music is self-described “Ritual Groove Music” and is sometimes called “zen-funk.” All the compositions are “modules” titled Modul 48, Modul 52, Modul 27, etc.I choose to ignore these names and descriptions and focus on the sound of the music. Â To me, it’s a bit of jazz instrumentation and style combined with the repetitive rhythms of Steve Reich with a lot of mathyness in the way of polyrhythms and odd time signatures. It’s right up my alley. I discovered this music though a route I can’t remember anymore in September 2009 (thanks, last.fm, for keeping track for me) and was amazed as what I’d found. It seemed to be the perfect mesh for my sensibilities and I was instantly hooked. I’ve been waiting for the band to come to New York ever since.
The band was extremely tight and played perfectly. They weren’t reading music and had the music internalized. Live, the music is much like it is on record, but it was fascinating to watch it being created live. The percussionist and the drummer were so connected that they seemed to be two people playing one part. There were so many times that their parts complemented each other perfectly. They showed restraint when it was called for and went all-out when that was called for. Andi, the percussionist played a lot of different instruments and it was a lot of fun to watch him.
Here is a good photo (aside from the annoying watermark) of Andi at his setup. The thing hanging on the left is, I think, a waterharp or a waterphone. It must have water inside as well as a microphone. He would hit the ball part with a stick or his hand, and sometimes he’d rake a stick over the vertical things sticking up from it. It had an echoey, etherial sound that would add a cool tention to the music at times. The UFO-looking thing in front is a drum of sorts. He’d play it with a stick or his hands. Once, he rigged up a mallet on a fulcrum so that he could set it bouncing while playing other instruments. It would bounce progressively faster like a super ball dropped on the floor. that was a cool effect too. He played shakers of many kinds and chimes and the large frame-drum behind him, which was very bassy.
BjÃ¶rn played some extremely fast and busy basslines at times and at other times hung back and supported the groove. Sha would alternate between melodic passages and repetitive lines, sometimes laying out altogether. Nik, the composer and bandleader, played piano. Often, one or both of his hands would be inside the piano flicking or muting strings to good effect. His parts were arpeggiated and fast and sometimes just harmonic support. Each instrument had its role at any particular point in the music but those roles would change quickly and often. It was easy to zone out and just let the music wash over me.
Nik is inspired by the idea of a ronin, the name of this band. On his site, it says “There are two paths a samurai can walk: that of a clan member, and that of a ronin, a lonely warrior.” I guess Nik sees himself as that lonely warrior going into territory where nobody else has gone. He wore Japanese-style clothing at the concert.
They are also a perfect fit for the label that has put out their last three records, ECM. The production values of Manfred Eicher work well for this music.
I would highly recommend this music to anyone who has an inclination towards anything I’ve mentioned above (mathyness, jazziness, Steve Reichyness). I will most definitely see them next time they come to New York.
A couple of weeks ago (Dec. 4) I met my friend Ben at Winter Garden at the World Financial Center to watch and listen to Robert Fripp do his thing. First of all, I was excited to see Robert Fripp at all, because he’s an amazing musician and guitarist. He is the backbone of the prog rock band that’s been around since 1969, King Crimson. He has also made some amazing music with Brian Eno as “Fripp & Eno.” The latter is closer to the kind of music he makes by himself: Frippertronics. This is the name for a method involving tape loops that he and Eno developed in the seventies to create atmospheric, ambient, beautiful music. At Winter Garden, he created more beautiful music with just his guitar and that hugely tall rack of electronics. I think these days he is calling it simply: Soundscapes. It was wonderful.