Friday, July 13, 2007

Duology Two Links

Canned improv available here, with me on piano on all tracks:

rosS Hamlin
guitar, invisible hand puppets

Molly Sturges
voice, effects

Carlos Santistevan

JSA Lowe

JA Deane
samples, live samples

Milton Villarrubia III

Recorded live at The College of Santa Fe, Friday, July 6, by Fly On The Wall Productions. (Thanks again, Stephen Schmidt).

Much gratitude to the performers for bringing so much to this second Duology. Some performers bringing what they brought despite recovery from serious illness, impending marriage, moving 500 miles away, leaving for Verona the following day, having just returned from a two week tour, etc.

Many thanks, also, to a certain indispensable person for hosting on her server (you know who you are). It took forever due to the file size, transitional internet unavailability, the downloading of Fetch, etc. A long time that could otherwise have been spent on packing, wrangling with utility companies, etc. My gratitude is suffused with sheepish guilt.

The technology thing had me in its jaws also much of yesterday, doing the regular radio show and then back in the studio at 6:30 to produce the Sonny Rollins interview, not done until 11:30. It's actually still not done: the segment of East Broadway Rundown came out too hot, with distorted peaks during the opening head, and I would like to put a Lester Young mix behind Sonny's comments during a brief section. Don't know if I'll have time before the interview airs on KSFR, Thursday, July 26, from 1-3 Mountain Time. I did get a condensed text version into the Santa Fe Reporter for publication on July 25, a record 13 days in advance.

Mr. Rollins is a very thoughtful man who does not jump immediately into responses to questions, at least not on the phone. The first go through the interview involved a painstaking edit of the plain voice file, tightening up the pauses, removing both his and my own ums and so on. Splicing musical selections, both on their own and as backgrounds, took the rest of the time. The total time with music ends up at 63 minutes, so I'll have to broadcast it in two sections during the 1-3 time slot. (remarkably, the total time of the raw voice recording is 60 minutes, and I added perhaps 12 minutes of music yesterday, which means I edited out roughly 9 minutes of ums and pauses.....)

Enjoy the above *free music* and let me know what you feel about it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Excavation/Two by Shepp

Going through vinyl in preparation for the move to Tempe, I found a couple of Archie Shepp albums I haven't heard in a long time. One, Pitchin' Can, on America records, contains an extended blowing piece called Uhuru (Dawn of Freedom) with Shepp, Bobby Few, Bob Reid, Clifford Thornton, Mohamed Ali, Al Shorter, Djibrill, Ostaine Blue Warner and Lester Bowie. The other piece on the record is the title track, with Shepp, Sunny Murray, Clifford Thornton, Julio Finn, Noah Howard, Leroy Jenkins, Dave Burrell, Earl Freeman and Chicago Beau. Apparently recorded in Paris in 1969 and 1970, the album is yet another outgrowth of the exodus (whether temporary or more long term) of creative musicians to France near the end of the '60s.

The other record unearthed is simply titled Archie Shepp/Philly Joe Jones, and has Anthony Braxton, Chicago Beau, Shepp, Julio Finn, Leroy Jenkins, Earl Freeman and Philly Joe Jones. This one is from the same brief period; Paris 1970. (I notice some of the other vital extended sessions Shepp participated in from this time, including Alan Silva's Luna Surface and Sunny Murray's BYG sessions and work with Grachan Moncur III). The two performances recorded here: Lowlands and Howling in the Silence. Apparently, Philly Joe Jones was teaching at a school in London from 1967-1969, although he was prevented from working there because of the British musician union rules.

I can't hear much Braxton on this recording, with Shepp very hot in the mix and Chicago Beau's vocals an urgent and also overly hot scream. There's a lot of Leroy Jenkins though, which is a pleasure. Philly Joe Jones brings some serious muscle to the loose 6/8 of much of Lowlands. His approach is completely different from Max Roach's ferocious fluidity on the duets with Cecil Taylor from 1979; much more metrical and articulated. The overall effect is free jazz blues tinged with hard bop and not particularly integrated. It's a mad swirl of chaos, especially when Julio Finn's (or Chicago Beau's?) harmonica comes through. Braxton's soprano sax sounds more like a Middle Eastern reed instrument than a sax.

Howlin' in the Silence starts with some piano from Shepp (sounding very influenced by another of his collaborators of the time, Dave Burrell). Leroy Jenkins states a sweet, minor theme and Braxton finally gets some angular, sere time on alto that quickly morphs into screams and guttural shards, with Philly Joe dancing on the brushes. The spoken word seems to work better here. (The consensus among Vision Festival attendees this year seems to be that free players should dispense with spoken word, but I usually find it an affecting mix. There's something about language brought to the swirl that has always seemed a fitting contrast to me). Leroy Jenkins gets some stretching time on this piece, and this may be why I had avoided spinning the disc much when I was younger. It took me a long while to get next to free jazz strings in general; I guess I was assisted mostly by Ramsey Ameen's work with Cecil Taylor's late '70s Unit. Now Philly Joe Jones has launched into a melodic excursion in 6, brushes mixing snare and toms in his trademark way. Now we're back in the blues, well a sort of cubist blues. Shepp is also back on tenor; Braxton in flights on alto as well. It's great to hear Braxton with Philly Joe Jones behind him. Surreal, but lovely.

Pitchin' Can bears some resemblance to the above recording, except that the approach of Uhuru is nonmetrical, roiling and shimmering in the archetypal "energy music" style. Shepp gets more of his signature full-toned blowing time, and Clifford Thornton is particularly effective on valve trombone , coming in and out. Some of Shepp's phrases here are reminiscent of one of my favorite recordings of all time, The Magic of Ju-Ju. Thornton gets some butt-kicking solo time. He's one of the players from this time by whom I am always surprised, and when I hear some of what he did, I always want to hear more. Alan Shorter takes an all-too-short solo on flugelhorn. Sadly, stepped on by the ululation of the word "Uhuru" by Shepp. Burrell's playing is full and dramatic, awash with chords and sparkling lines. Oddly, yet again, as I'm just getting next to what Burrell is doing, it's overpowered by more shouting.

The title track comes as a surprise after the ferocity of Uhuru. It's a sort of uptempo All Blues riff, that stays in the tonic. Sunny Murray keeps impeccable time. I would have liked to hear more Noah Howard . In general, on both recordings, I want to hear more from the remarkable personnel. Not that I am not always inspired to hear Shepp.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Inside Out

Interesting conversation at Settled in Shipping spurred by Dave Douglas and his reflections on Ethan Iverson's '90s post. Interesting to me anyway. I could examine the question of "inside" versus "outside" endlessly, and seem to have been doing just that for many months now.

The whole conversation originates from the wonderful Jazz in the '90s series of posts at Destination: Out. Here's an interesting quote from Ethan Iverson's blog:

"There was very little Branford in D:O!'s final tabulation: in fact, the only mention was Crazy People Music on Nate Chinen's list. This was only to be expected, since the wonderful D:O! site focuses on free jazz, and its readers would probably be generally not interested in the music of the Marsalises and other players who made such a point of bringing back earlier styles of jazz. Further, Branford is a loudmouth who has said dismissive words about Cecil Taylor and 70's jazz. If you love the kind of music that is hosted at D:O!, it is only natural to be skeptical of him, his brother Wynton, and other musicians associated with that circle."

I'd like to write at some length about this so-called "skepticism," eventually offering some other far more appropriate (for me) terms.

I think, for me, I'm actually "skeptical" of the music itself. You know, Miles Davis was a loudmouth who said dismissive things about more than a few of my other heroes, but that hasn't prevented me from holding almost everything he ever did in very high esteem. Musically. If Davis had been unable to make unbelievably compelling and ridiculously innovative music for 50 straight years, then I'd be skeptical. Who cares, really, what who says about Archie Shepp or Ornette or Cecil Taylor or Eric Dolphy? When I get right down to where my resistance comes from, it has absolutely nothing to do with these politics, nor does it have to do with "bringing back earlier styles of jazz." I think Sonny Rollins playing Mack the Knife on Saxophone Colossus is just fine, thank you (for example).

More on this later. Probably more than most people will care to read.............

Sunday, July 01, 2007

work in progress

Sonny Rollins on the phone yesterday: "I'm still learning. I'm still trying to find the way to express myself. I'm still a work in progress." 77 years old, a monumental figure, a nearly 60 year recording career, a resume that stretches from Harlem to the outer reaches of the galaxy. A work in progress.

Many other memorable quotes which will be distilled in a 550 word piece in the Santa Fe Reporter Wednesday, July 25. The entire interview (after some serious editing) on KSFR Thursday, July 26, 1:30 MT.

My own experience one of enormous stress, a state of fairly high anxiety. I only realized this after the interview was over. I'm such a noob at this, having only interviewed Jane Ira Bloom, Roscoe Mitchell and Sonny Rollins for the radio. (Print interviews with the somewhat less intimidating, for a variety of reasons, Peter Nero, Quincy Troupe and JA Deane). I imagine what it would be like to interview an artist and not know anything at all about him or her. Actually, it's not knowing about the career or the work or whatever, it's the personal hero factor. It came up also when meeting and spending a few hours with Cecil Taylor a couple of years ago in Albuquerque. The feeling for me is the surreal collision of a formerly exclusively private, personal universe with the outside world. It's an experience of meeting or conversing with an archetype. As if one of the major arcana from the tarot, or one of the planet gods, were to have a phone number. Significant figures who have not been introjected so thoroughly would not lead to such discomfort. Like who? Cormac McCarthy, Derek Walcott, Yo Yo Ma, for a few examples. Or the ease and "no big deal" experiences I had when I would meet celebrities who were parents of students when I worked at the swanky school in Los Angeles. Admittedly, it was still surreal when, for example, Bruce Willis would come to a parent-teacher conference, but just humorously or curiously so, not (for me) intimidating or paradigm shifting.

Where this collision is heightened says a lot about my spiritual values, about my experience of "art." About a belief system that ascribes great power to authorship, to the individual person "behind" the work itself. "Hero worship" in a variety of forms, lending great energy to the belief that certain artists are more than human, or have a mythical power of some kind. Interestingly, I think a part of this is the co-existing belief that I lack that power myself. Maybe waking up to some of these dynamics is just another in a huge tidal wave of opportunities lately to gain some perspective and proportion.