Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alice Coltrane Quote

The library at UNC got this book in recently, and I'm reading a chapter a day. It reads a bit like a dissertation (it may be just that) and has a wealth of incredible information about Alice Coltrane's life, music, impact. I'm about halfway through the book and found this incredible quote from her that I felt I needed to save here, because it is a perfect description of playing free music:

"Avant-Garde music to be is like journeying across the country until you come to as beautiful park. You say, "We'll stop here for just a moment." After a while you decide to go onward because you know of a nice area ahead, but before you leave, you see a lake that you didn't notice before, and you decide to stay and experience that for a while. Sometimes your moment is there like an eternity. This type of thing is quite prevalent in my music."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to Billings (Montana Trip!)

EDIT: (While writing this post I am currently listening to the Tim Berne Empire box set, featuring his early recordings, which I have a few LPs of)

I got back a week or so ago from playing some shows in Billings Montana with my good friend Alex Nauman. We were there a year ago with the Reid Poole trio with Britt Ciampa and did some shows with Alex and Erik Olson on saxophone. Alex invited Britt and myself to come up and play, but unfortunately Britt couldn't do it, so I went up myself.

The first show was a jazz duo set at Bones Brewery, kind of wicked with all these pictures of dinosaurs all over, and Montana gambling machines (keno and the like), and a psuedo-sports bar vibe with tvs all over. As soon as we set up we were playing "Lonely Woman" and I knew that my time in Montana would be great. Our night of music consisted of Ornette, Tears for Tears, some funk tunes, Hendrix, Zepplin, Zappa and I think at one point we might have even played a standard or two. We closed with a blues, which Alex suggested we play as fast as possible. I need to check out the recording, but it was probably 20+ clicks too fast for either of us, just silly fast (and all over the place on my part).

After this we had some down time for a few days, played some batchy ball, had a few rehearsals, and in general hung out waiting for the next gig. There was a short trip to Bozeman, in which I dropped $100+ dollars on records finding an old Ashish Khan LP (I can't believe I played with him several years ago), some Oscar Peterson, Sam Rivers, Yusef Lateef, Bill Evans, Steve Lacy, Bob Dylan, Charles Ives, Erik Satie, and more. The Steve Lacy LP was his first release as a leader, with a strange group of Dennis Charles on drums, Buell Neidlinger on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, playing a variety of tunes. What was strange was that the rhythm section was Cecil Taylor's rhythm section, but with swingin' Wynton Kelly on the keys!

The next gig was at an experimental venue called simply "Pat's Place." It was a shed/workshop kind of small building right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, that you could fit maybe 20 some people in if you're lucky. Pat Epley ran the place, with (I think) Alex Nauman and Matt Taggart. It was a very supportive environment, and had an small but very enthusiastic crowd there to see us play and hang. The way it worked was the act performing would provide beer (PBR!) and charge a 5 dollar cover, to pay for the beer but also so that the people paying cover would get more than just the music. I thought it was a genius idea and am still looking around in Colorado for a place to try out like this (more on that as I work on it). They expressed that it worked so well because there really weren't any rules, or anyone to tell them what to do, how to run it. Also they were starting to get more bands/acts from all over playing there while on a tour.

Our music for Pat's Place consisted of solo sets with Alex Nauman playing first a piece he had written that day using guitar "bends," followed by me doing improvisations with my cassette players, tapes, radio, microphone, junk percussion, hand fan, and voice, and then Brad Edwards playing Coltrane's "India" using a loop station with pre-recorded music and drum set. Brad is an incredible drummer that has been making music for years, playing with people like Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Ray Brown, just to name a few. After our solo sets, we took a break, and came back to play Christian Wolff's "Edges" and an original piece by Alex Nauman, originally written for two basses and percussion, and from the first note I destroyed the hair on my german bow (accidentally!). I figured out different ways to make it work, because I still wanted to bow different things in both pieces, so it was a great "experiment." The recording came out great, and someone was video-recording as well, which I hope to get a copy of.

The next night the same trio played a standards gig at Walker's, a nice restaurant in town, and we got to play standards, but in a louder/freer way than I am used to. We played several tunes from the duo gig at Bones Brewery, but also the Theme from Mash, Four Winds from Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds, Coltrane's India, and just a lot of fun music. I didn't record this night, and am kicking myself, because it turned out great, and I really wish I could go back and hear some of the things we did. After the gig we hung for a bit, gambled at some keno machines, and Alex won $70+ bucks!

All in all it was a really fun trip, Alex and his wife Jill were such great hosts, it was fun playing with their daughter Sami and their dog Molly, and so great to get out of Colorado to play some totally different music. I was really inspired, especially by the experimental venue and the people I met there that I want to start up something like it here. Also, from playing "four winds" I want to bring Nauman to Colorado for a handful of gigs, and do a gig at Dazzle playing a "Conference of the Birds" tribute show, arranged for a sextet of bass, drums, two guitars, and two saxophones. More on both of these projects to come!

Dawn of Midi - Live (Review)

EDIT: (Fix a few things, like that all the music is freely improvised and not composed, although their next album will be a larger through composed piece. Also changed some of the tune names, and added a little bit more to the post)

Dawn of Midi - LIVE (the album review!)

1 Fields

Great piano sounds, muted fast passages with spurts of drums and bass coming in and out of the texture. The drums have a groovy free feel, similar to the sound Tom Rainey gets in his freer ensembles. The bass player is starting to build a motif and become more active, while the piano is pursuing a melody. The music is improvised, but it’s built so organically that it could be composed, especially as the rhythm sections drops out and comes back in. It’s a dense groove that feels light and airy.

2. Surround

More muted piano string sounds, and quick spotty noises coming from everyone, that seems to slowly meld into a groove. The timbre of this group seems to be one of the first elements that separates this group from most piano/bass/drum trios. In a way this piece sounds like a ballad, but mixed with elements of Steve Reich and minimalist repetitive rhythmic structures. The sense of song and melody is more apparent in this live concert than in the studio album (which seemed more timbre and sound focused). These pieces are free, and they have a strong compositional element, and I believe could be transcribed and arranged into composed pieces. I really dig the interplay of this trio, and it seems like the connection is even stronger from their studio album. The tune winds down with a beautiful coda in the piano.

3. The Black Danger

Great improvisation from the start, freer than the first two pieces, repeating the same note on the piano hyper rhythmically, energetic drumming, and bass drones pseudo ala Charlie Haden. The low end rumble really makes this cut for me, just from the start. I really like how the trio as individuals starts with an idea, or quickly comes into an idea, and sticks with it for the duration of the tune. It is easy in free music to jump around from one idea to another, but the taste and aesthetic that they use is incredibly musical. The drums are accenting more of the phrases of the trio now, with crashes breaking up the landscape of the music. The end of the tune starts to change course almost as if it could go into a new direction (one that could last much longer). I would love to hear how that improvisation could have continued into new territory.

4. While

I like this from the start, sounds almost like electronic music, but isn’t, nice bass drones and fifths, metal noise, muted string piano playing, with a simple held out melody. Sounds both in time and out of time, free and composed, yet played always as a trio, as a unit of music. This could even be a pop tune if it wanted to be. I really like this piece, a lot, it would be meditative, but it’s almost too disjunctive to be so. Winds down like an old metronome.

5. Lapse

Timbre based soft punctuations, like a string of hyphens and commas. This is the sound of murky silver and tin waters. A heart beat like thump of the bass drum, the pulsation of the double bass pattern, the little sounds coming out from the edges. A few chords resound with prepared piano, a spot of melody, a low bass note, some arco bass, all integrated pieces in this complex aural mosaic. The music gradually transitions into a repeating piano figure, with light high pitch bass accompaniment, and little to no percussion, a very sustained texture. I really dig this piano player and the direction they are taking the music. There is always a sense listening to this trio of a composition (tune) rhythm (pulse) and timbre (the great cornucopia!). Seemingly diatonic phrases, that suddenly twist into another world, Paul Bley-ishness. More morphology, the bass takes up with a beautiful melody, with metal factory percussion and inside of the piano machinery and a solemn bass chord to end the journey with.

6. Gravity

Bass harmonics pulsed with an arpeggiated changing piano line that is reminiscent of Steve Reich or Philip Glass’ minimalist piano music. The sparse beginnings build with toms vamping, arco playing that sounds in a cello range, and a developed piano phrase coming out of the earlier start. If it’s free it’s incredible, and if it’s not it should be a composition! It has build ups going throughout giving it a triumphant feel and at the end almost seems to be going into a new direction, but fades out.

7. Leads

Looking at the title I wonder if it means lead as in, the band leads your ear in different direction, or as in a lead pipe, because either way works, the metallic sounds mixed in with the searching journey of the music. There is a sense of “buying the ticket and taking the ride.” Somehow again this sounds like electronic music, but with acoustic instruments. I can tell everyone is listening really intently to one another. Beautiful piano playing, complimentary bowed bass sounds, and subtle cymbal sounds. The punctuations sound like there is a war almost with trying to break out of the music into chaos, but the piano is determined to ride out with beauty. The bass is pulsating a drone in a high register pizz, while the piano goes into a low frequency post-romantic flourishes, building from the bottom up. Great ticks and tocks and ringing percussion give the piece a clock like sound. The piano plays a nice coda to fade out the piece, with the acoustic bass ending a great live record.

If you are interested in checking out this recording of this great band go to HERE for a free download. DO IT!!