Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Steve is not happy




"Charlie Rose" By Samuel Beckett

Click the link for the 3 minute video. This is an independent film written and edited through Charlie Rose's famous interview show, that has Charlie Rose interviewing himself in the style of the great Irish minimalist writer Samuel Beckett. I read somewhere that whereas James Joyce would contintually add words and ideas to his pieces, Beckett would take away and chip away giving you less than the minimum amount. I would like to compose a piece based on the formal ideas of this short video, much like composers have done in the 20th century with Beckett's plays. Here's a transcript of the video, Charlie Rose on the Left, and Charlie Rose on the Right:

TEXT:

R): Welcome to the broadcast tonight, a conversation about the future of technology and the internet and mobile devices and all that, we talk to Charlie Rose for the first time, welcome. The future of technology coming up.

(Music introduction)

R): What will the web due to content, in terms of high cost, expensive, uh, time consuming cunt?

L): My perception is, eh-uh, bu-, ... (Pause) You would know this much more than I do. (Pause) Okay, tell me four or five of those that we ought to take a look at that are start ups that have a brilliant idea.

R): Microsoft and yahoo.

L): Microsoft ... yahoo.

R): Microsoft and yahoo.

L): Microsoft ... yahoo.

R): Microsoft.

L): Microsoft.

R): Yahoo.

L): Yahoo.

R): Micro-

L): -soft.

R): Ya-

L): -hoo.

R): Microsoft and yahoo.

L): (Pause) ehb ... Microsoft yahoo.

R): Why wasn't yahoo?

L): Yahoo. (Pause) Steve is not happy, with the process so far.

R): Microsoft-

L): Don't do that.

R): -and yahoo.

L): (Pause) Google? (Pause) Google? (Pause) Google?

R): No, we're not going to do that. I can never get, uh, Craig to talk to me about his economic model.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): No.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): No.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): No, we're not going to do that.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): Radiohead.

L): Blogs.

R): Google.

L): (Pause) Google? (Pause) Google? (Pause) Google?

R): Microsoft and yahoo.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): Microsoft and yahoo.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): Microsoft.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): Yahoo.

L): (Pause) Google?

R): Google. Yahoo.

L): Yahoo.

R): We're making all this money and our stock prices are going through the roof, and how can we use this advantage to enter new markets, to expand our market share to beat the hell out of everybody.

L): Steve is not happy.

R): What's going to happen?

(Long Pause)

(Outro Music)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bass Players (What I know) Part 3


The stunning conclusion of Bass players, which might not be a conclusion, because I may decide later on in the coming months on Reid Anderson, or Ben Street, or another bassist that comes to mind, but today we have two more!

Michael Formanek

I have had the good fortune to meet Mr. Formanek at Peabody when I was looking for graduate schools. I unfortunately did not set up a lesson with him, but several friends of mine have studied with him and said that he is a really great teacher! I very much trust that opinion, but as a musician, I think he's one of the best on the jazz/improvised music scene today. I probably first heard him in Uri Caine's orchestra music transcription projects, especially some of the Mahler works, played by an ensemble with drum set, electronics, turntables, saxophones, etc... playing various pieces by Mahler, like excerpts from his symphonies. Michael Formanek is also a Tim Berne bassist, like I am just now noticing most of the bass players mentioned have played with Berne coincidentally enough. Formanek was in Tim Berne's group Bloodcount, featuring Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor, and Jim Black on drums. They formed soon after Chris Speed and Jim Black moved from Boston to NYC, and on recommendation from Jim Black, Chris Speed joined the group. I have read somewhere (review, blog, liner notes, something of that nature) that a good descriptor of the band would be "Gradual Coalescence." Taking these really tight hypertension heads with phat pocked grooves, that melt and transform into bowed long tones on the bass, quarter tone squeals with Berne and Speed in their highest registers, and Jim Black's cymbal colors, and all of a sudden are playing a unison melody again. I would like to purchase some of Tim Berne's charts for this band, to get a sense of where the form starts and stops, and the improvised sections begin and end. Formanek has played with a plethora of other musicians like Dave Ballou, to Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, and Fred Hersch, to name a sample of performers. One last musician I would like to hit that he has recorded with is Tony Malaby. From what little I know about both of their teaching styles from friends, it seems like Malaby and Formanek would be pretty similar players. Both seem really great at taking very small cellular ideas, and manipulating them rhythmically to get the most out of them as possible, before trying to add any new information into the improvisations. There is a great record titled "Mirror me" with both of these players on it, under Angelica Sanchez's name...look it up!!

I have this Bloodcount DVD, and musically it is amazing, but I cannot take the weird seizure inducing editing of it...but here's a good example of Formanek with this Tim Berne group.

Skuli Sverrison

Skuli to me is one of the downtown NYC electric bass players. There are countless groups that I hear and think, wow another great Skuli album! I used to listen to nothing but electric bass players, and have shied away from that over the years, but never feel tired/bored by this guy's innovations on the instrument. One of the first group's that come to mind, is his playing on Chris Speed's Pachora group, a NYC band playing balkan/eastern european music. They have a great myspace page here, and check out the list of influences...I found so much great music I would have never heard about otherwise, very intense sounding ensemble! Skuli is on a few records with Brad Shepik, another member of Pachora, and the albums have the same balkan sound, but through different filters. Chris Speed's "Yeah No" is another group of Cuong Vu and Jim Black...mostly Seattle guys originally, that all moved to Boston and NYC together and kept playing music, very incredible unique ensemble! Skuli seems to be a first pick for a lot of guitarists, as he has also recorded with Guitar MONSTER Ben Monder, as well as playing with Hilmar Jensson, another icelandic music such as himself. Skuli was in the first version of the Jensson band "TYFT" which no longer records with bass, instead favoring guitar with octave pedals, and saxophone players...another group with Jim Black drumming. One of my favorite records with Sverrisson's influence is John Hollenbeck's Quartet Lucy, a group that had the goal to make a record about Americana songs, and have an ECM-esque sound. They succeeded, and the musicality of the band make it sound like there are a lot more members than four, at multiple times during the recordings. Lastly, check out Jim Black's Alasnoaxis, a grunge rock band, that has a saxophone/clarinet (Chris Speed) as the vocalist, and Hilmar Jensson and Skuli on the guitar and bass...beautiful and minimal sound, and they just came out with a new record, so go out and BUY IT!!!

This is a video link of Skuli Sverrisson with Wadada Leo Smith, enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bass Players (What I know) Part 2


More on the Bass player update today, and I will work on upgrading the last post as well.

Trevor Dunn

This is a bassist I have been checking out more seriously in the past few years. He's a killing electric bass player, coming from the band Mr. Bungle, a band whose first record was produced by John Zorn, featuring the vocals of Mike Patton. His electric bass has landed him maybe recording sessions with Zorn, as well as his tight focused double bass sound on film works of Zorn, and his own projects On electric bass he is the mainstay bassist for the John Zorn group Electric Masada, and has performed cobra on the same instrument. A newer version of Naked City (oversimplification) is the Astronome/Moonchild group that is Mike Patton, Dunn, and Joey Baron, less of the five second quick cuts and more longer duration esoteric metal compositions. I have fortunate enough to see him in a version of Masada, but with him subbing for Greg Cohen, and Ben Perowsky for Joey Baron...still a crazy group! Also, thanks to Chris Speed's label Skirl, I saw a record party where he played prepared bass duets with harpist Shelley Burgon. Trevor Dunn has a quartet that I REALLY want to hear titled the "Proofreaders," a quartet that plays all Ornette Coleman compositions, and is named after one of the tracks on the Ornette Atlantic boxed set. His own Trio Convulsant is a great trio with Ches Smith and Mary Halvorson, featuring Dunn's arrangements and compositions. He has a great arrangement of "Single Petal of a Rose" by Duke Ellington, that I will be stealing some ideas from for a recital later this year, combining Shelley Burgon's harp to the trio. I was inspired to check out his website, and see how much he helps others in answering his questions over the years, which you can find here. There's also some wonderfully abstract short videos on the site, and eerie Hunter S. Thompson-esque music. I still have yet to hear another trio he is in with Erik Friedlander titled the "Broken Arm trio" with Michael Sarin, and Friedlander playing pizz cello...soon though, so much to still check out and give a listen to! I forgot to mention, Trevor Dunn is also the resident bass player seemingly on Skirl records, recording on both New Mellow Edwards albums, his own Baltimore duo, Andrew D'angelo's Skadra Degis (or Gay Disco trio), and is slated for more on the way! Trevor Dunn with Zorn's Cobra here, and with Moonchild, Tribute to Andew D'Angelo here, and an early video with Dunn playing a Tim Berne composition here.

Mark Dresser

Mark Dresser is still a bassist that blows my mind, and yet I feel like I haven't heard enough of him. Recently I heard a free improvisation record of Ellery Eskelin called "Vanishing Points" with Matt Moran on vibes, and Friedlander on cello that he was killing on. There are some early Dave Douglas string ensemble records with him, as well as the Arcana String Trio. Mark Dresser studied with contemporary bass legend Bertram Turetsky, Italian virtuoso Franco Petracchi as well as Ray Brown. I haven't heard the Italian bassist, but I think he brings the pizzacato sound of Ray Brown and the extending techniques of the others, along with complete precision in sound, to every situation. He has recorded on several Tim Berne records, a favorite of mine being "Sanctified Dreams." He was also Anthony Braxton's bass player during the 1980s with, again in my opinion, one of the top Braxton groups, with Marilyn Crispell on piano and Gerry Hemingway on drums. This group just kept help expand Braxton's language, and brought it to a new level of composition/improvisation...a sound to behold! Here's a video of Dresser playing with ethnomusicologist, avantgardist great Roswell Rudd in a duo. There is a pretty wild record with Denman Maroney, where Dresser really shines, and Maroney's inside the piano work is a really unique soundscape in it, titled "Force Green."
With trumpeter Edwin Harkins here, and with Lawrence Ochs and Vladimir Tarasov here.


That does it for now, Hopefully I'll have some Michael Formanek and Skuli Sversson reviews soon, and try to update these posts to include some more video links... Give me some time and you'll be be in bass heaven!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bass Players (What I know) Part 1


Apologies for slacking off on posting. When I first started this blog I was fresh with ideas, and feel like I'm spending a lot of time with long term projects (probably for the best) and havent' had a lot of fresh ideas of late. So I would use this time right now to update on who I think are some of the most happenin' bass players, being one myself, that are out there today, and have some links to share.

Charlie Haden

I think I gave this guy a lot of face time in an earlier post on this blog about his politics in relationship to music, but on a personal level it wasn't until I heard this guy, that my concept of what music is and can be changed completely. Before listening to Haden, I was more of an electric bass player, really into the idea of virtuosity, via Victor Wooten, Jaco, and Oteil Burbridge, all people who's playing I still love, and get more out of than the technical end. Anywho, I heard Charlie Haden on the record with Joe Henderson and Al Foster called "The Montreal Tapes" and was incredibly enthralled by it. During one of Haden's solos he plays these simple major scale passages, and these motivic ideas that are so simple, but so beautiful and full of vocal phrasing. I was so blown away, that when I started diving deeper I found the music of Ornette Coleman, and his playing is so complementary of Ornette's free melodocism, that the harmony's and counterpoint of the two is on a level of musical genius. Check here out for some of that interaction.

Drew Gress

As Charlie Haden is one of the oldest bass players in the tradition, he's the one I respect and hear in myself more than anyone, and so the rest of the bass players will all be of a younger generation, because to me, no one from Haden's generation can touch him. (Ron Carter is still around, Butch Warren, Eddie Gomez and a plethora of other guys, but all making completely different music in my opinion). Drew Gress has the best sound of the bass, of the younger school of bass players, and plays some of the best creative music to be heard. Originally more of a side man, he has released multiple records out of his own compositions, and is just as killin' of a writer, as he is player. The Claudia Quintet is a group that came to my university, twice, and features the compositions of John Hollenbeck, that I also wrote a lengthy article about a while back, but any improvisation/jazz/creative music enthusiast MUST HEAR THIS GROUP. Also of note, Tim Berne has a free improv trio called the Paraphrase Trio with Gress and drummer Tom Rainey, which I still am looking for recordings of. Ellery Eskelin is an amazing tenor saxophonist that went to college with Drew Gress, and played in a group with him, Paul Smoker on trumpet, Phil Haynes on drums titled "Joint Venture," another band I am voraciously trying to seek out recordings of. They recorded a few records as a tenor saxophone trio, that still is blowing my mind, before Ellery formed his consistant trio today of Jim Black on drums and Andrea Parkins on accordion/electronics/sampler/keyboards. The Fred Hersch trio is another great place to find Drew Gress's playing in more of a standard jazz environment, with incredible open and freeness, similar but not too similar to the Keith Jarrett Trio's concept.


That's all I will post for today, but look for more bass player updates, and more links with these guys I have already mentioned in the coming week... Going to feature Trevor Dunn, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, and hopefully an electric bassist or two.... COMING SOON!