Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kenneth Patchen and the Journal of Albion Moonlight


I finished while home for Christmas in Virginia Kenneth Patchen's "The Journal of Albion Moonlight." The closest thing that I can say it reminds me of is some of Jack Kerouac's work mixed with James Joyce. There are points in the novel that are telling a story, parts of sheer poetry and imagery, parts of madness and of surrealities, and a complete stretching of form to the point of breaking. I think there is a lot to learn from this novel, and I'm thinking about trying to put some of it through a musical filter. Here's a couple of passages I found intriguing, before we get into the musical talk:

p. 156.

“Chapter II

He quiet and unseeing leave nothing to its fate. The useful dimension of the apple-bird-star-saloon-motorboat-naked cannibal-shadow-safety razor-arcade-jewelbox-baby’s ass-green cloak.

A. An owl in a wasp’s nest.

B. The next step is 1917.

C. Why can’t painting be done from inside the canvas?

D. Put this book on a glass-topped table and fire a bullet through it: it will drop a woman’s face in its own blood.

E. Advance the probably question now. Who put the used postage stamp on the milkyway . . . was it Friar Pierre?

F. The marvelous is in the seaweed’s milk: in the hastily devoured washing machine: in the fragile shudder of the bull dreamwolf.

G. It is all-important to know how you hold your hands in sleep.

H. A shoe made of alligator hid eating a poached egg while whistling to a one-lipped junior high school girl. I am jealous of the tent.

I. What crisis do you speak of? The gesture of fruit is not timid.

J. Keep your swaybacked rowboat. The hurricane lamp shall plaster from this explosive house.

Be quick and unseemly learns what he knows before his head gets around to it. Darling girl! Washed all away by the nasty rain . . . “

p. 162

“In future, men will write as though language were their only dull tool – Which is quite true.”

“When the book is finished, then will be the time to write.”

“The experience that is not impossible is no experience at all.”

“In sculpture the artist must learn the ancient law of his stone.”

“Music can only advance when every known instrument has been destroyed.”

“The painter will strive to exclude all living images from his canvases. He will paint only that which cannot be seen.”


I was thinking about doing a narration project with the first section, and adding some music to it, but I found two longer, more Walt Whitman meets Allen Ginsberg list sections that I want to combine and add music to. The first list is "an answer to my critics," and features a lot of "I am, I will, I may have..." all the while there is another text that is more prose based, that follows the list on the side, as if they are two thoughts going on simultaneously. The next list starts with "So it is the duty of the artist to..." and continues with all the duties of the artist, again with a prose that follows it along down the line.

I have a few ideas of how I want this to work, and with what instrumentation, and will be getting to it in the coming week. I will put it up in a misc. album on bandcamp and link it on a future blog post for anyone that is interested in checking it out. I would post the text from both sections, but they're too long (not that long) for me to re-write out, so you'll have to listen to my narration to hear it. For now, here is Kenneth Patchen reciting some excerpts from the Journal of Albion Moonlight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grant Gordy Album Review

My apologies for these long overdue album reviews, been busy running around with gigs, holiday traveling, trying to organize some future gigs, and all sorts of other mess of stuff. Without further ado, here is one of the CD reviews that I promised:

Grant Gordy: Self-titled

Before I launch into this, Grant is an incredible guitarist from the Colorado area that I have been fortunate enough to play some gigs with, and this album has been a blast to listen to, because of hearing a different side of him, that I don’t get to hear as much with playing straight ahead jazz music at bars and restaurants.

1. Pterodactyl

The album starts off very intriguing, with some mysterious chord progressions, and lines building into a faster groove with a beautifully lined long melody. The band from the down beat sounds incredibly tight, and works as solid unity. I haven’t listened to a lot of bluegrass (newgrass?) in recent years, so this sound is very fresh in my ears this morning as I write this. Grant has some many great ideas, and you can hear it in his compositions and his improvising lines, a real inventive creativity. I’m trying to picture the flight of the Pterodactyl as we’re getting into a bowed bass section with violin soloing overtop. Really great repetitive ending, reminiscence to my ear to some of the Flecktones music I used to listen to growing up.

2. Channel One

Woah, right out of the gate, there are some really ear-catching rhythms and harmonies. Those are the kind of harmonies that make me twist my head, as they sound out, but have logical structure so it all works out formally! I can’t tell if those are some Coltrane changes, or what, but the violinist is navigating them in his solo effortlessly, and then right into the short interlude/pass off to the mandolinist. I’m only a few tracks through listening to the album as I’m reviewing it, and really want to hear this band play live! There is a breakdown at the start of the guitar solo, really digging into new territory with this composition. Woah again, wasn’t expecting this spacey, timbre-focused interlude into the rhythmic out section of the piece. Killer!

3. Little Grapes

The bass and violin blend beautiful with their arco accompaniment, to this slower pretty melody. As the first melodic statement ends, it picks up again faster, with more active banjo accompaniment, and takes off. I dig this catchy melody! There is a killer mandolin breakdown, into these quick sendoffs and Grant starting his solo. There is nice interaction between the band accompanying him, and the space left by here and there with the guitar solo, and effortless transition into the next solo. I’d be really curious to see how this music is written out, having never played anything like this before, and how quick the trading is going on right now between some of the instruments. I don’t know why, but the lines leading into the out head reminded me of a river scene, and maybe this restatement of the melody could be being on the boat.

4. Interlude

This reminds me more of 20th century classical music, a little bit like Morton Feldman, or Penderecki, definitely stretching out, almost getting to a breaking point, before the final resolution.

5. Motif for Leif

This from the start gives me a gypsy music vibe. I am very curious as to whom Leif is, to get more context on the tune. Yeah, just a nice swinging jazzy tune that the violinist so far is running away with on his solo. Time for the guitar solo, and really interested rhythmic activity, and variation of range, tasty and unique! Short bass solo with some breaks, into a mandolin solo (or trading with the bass?), nice way to break up things. What a cool tune, with a well thought out arrangement!

6. Mansa Sissoko

Having a great violinist and bassist really help with what you can do with these tunes. This opening arco section is a treat, as now the band is kicking in adding to the fray. I’m still trying to feel how the time and groove sit as the mandolin is coming in. The bass arco sound is huge, and reminding somewhat of Edgar Meyer with Bela Fleck and Mike Marshall. As I’m sitting almost halfway through the record, I’m amazed at the variety of music I’ve heard so far, and the different ways Grant uses the same band in different ways and combinations. I don’t know what the title of the tune means, but I dig the low end kinda funky groove and lilt that this tune has.

7. Blues to Dawg

This track features David Grisman on mandolin, and is written for the “Dawg.” Some of the first jazz stuff I heard from back in the day, the acoustic records with Grisman and Jerry Garcia playing some Miles Davis tunes like “Milestones” and “So What,” so this is a real treat for me to hear! It’s a real nice down tempo slow bluesy tune that has a lot of soul. Grant’s guitar is floating over the top, while inspiring some traditional blues flavor. It might be because of the instrumentation, but this melody coming in right after the solos is giving me a Parisian jazz vibe, of sitting in the cafĂ© and watching the French folk go by. What a great tribute tune to Grisman!

8. Digging Hargreaves

This is the first time I’m really reminded that there is no drums and/or percussionist on the album. It doesn’t need it at all, but hearing all that space in the beginning of the tune, I automatically hear a ghost drum groove filling in the space. Man, the guitar is really stretching out on this solo, and the rhythmic accompaniment is blowing my mind! Anyways, there is no need of drums in this band, the groove are so tight from start to finish, that it is not lacking rhythmically by any means. I just realized I think this is a rhythm changes kind of tune, cool beans! Oleo quote by the bassist, solid Jackson! Man, I’d love to transcribe that tune and play it on a jazz gig!

9. The Desert, The Ocean

This tune is composed by most of the band, and the only tune on the record like that. I’m curious as to what direction the tune is going into with that in mind. I’m writing too much on this so far, because I am loving hearing the tune unfold so much, that I don’t want to waste the listening moment with words. It’s definitely taking an aural journey in a new uncharted way. The piece is floating in a foggy sea of memories…. And out of the fog and into the tight unison lines and breaks, that this band is so great at nailing.

10. Goodbye Liza Jane

This is the only tune on album that is a traditional, and the title to me sounds familiar, but I don’t know if I remember the melody. This sounds the most traditional so far, but the introduction to it was still custom tailored for this band, and you wouldn’t hear in a pickup bluegrass jam. This tune expressed the joy of playing this kind of music, and the buoyant feel of being able to show the creative spirit to the world. Peter Kowert, the bassist, is really nailing that deep and heavy Edger Meyer arco sound, more than any other bass player I’ve ever heard, I wonder if he has spent some time studying with him.

11. Lauren’s Waltz

This seems to be the first ballad styled tune on the album, a slow melodic waltz. This is the kind of track that I want to put on repeat, and dig into the emotion that it brings. It’s very beautiful, and very spacious, like a sunset over a plain. I don’t have a lot to say for this, just buy the album, and it really will speak for itself. Again, I don’t want to ruin the moment and the feeling of this piece, you’ll have to check it out yourself as a listener to dive into this sound world.

12. Lila

This seems a two part work, coming out of the waltz, and slowly building into this simmer boil of “Lila.” Quiet intensity, it’s a hard concept to get, but this piece has it. This opening reminds me of Philip Glass a little with the repetitive eighth note accompaniment to the melody. Speaking on the two-part aspect of this piece and the one before it, this album is really well thought out. The pacing, the variety, the tune selection and ordering, it really feels like a well-constructed record, and not just an album of isolated music. The interlude in the middle, and the conclusion coming up give me that feeling of a total full product. There is a storm a brewing with this, like a heavy weighted feeling, not of dread, but a certain somber tone that gives it a different emotional feel from the other compositions. Yet again, Grant is able to surprise the listener by the range and wealth of his musical abilities and ideas.

13. Conclusion

This last minute long statement is solo guitar, that is a hopeful, and mysterious, almost unresolved idea of what is to come. It’s a feeling of closure, but that there is more to come down the line from this musician.

That’s all for this album review, be on the lookout for another album review (long overdue, again, my apologies) of Sam Trapchak’s “Lollipopocalypse.” Check out Grant Gordy’s record though, and if you’re in the Colorado area lookout for his gigs, and be on the lookout for David Grisman’s band when they’re touring for Grant’s guitar wizardy with that band. BUY THIS ALBUM, you won’t regret it, dive into his musical mind, you know you want to!!