Sunday, December 2, 2012

Matt Smiley, the man, the post, the update

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, seems I’m lucky if I got one in a month these days.  I thought I’d do a general update.  Yes, I am behind on posting 3-4 CD reviews that people have graciously sent me, so hopefully over the next month I’ll get through them!  Life in general as a musician has been great though recently.  Projects are as followed:

I had a great performance of John Coltrane’s “Ascension” last October, and slew of fun straight ahead jazz gigs with David Pope in Colorado.  Coming up soon in December I’m playing a new music gig at a Unitarian Church in Boulder, CO, with my quartet, “Mad Ranks.”  Mad Ranks started up last summer to play contemporary music, similar to my trio MTM, playing improvised based new music, via John Cage, Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew, Frederick Rzewski, etc…  Mad Ranks’ instrumentation is accordion/voice, bass, violin/viola, and piano, with good friends of mine.  Also, I contacted the Clyfford Still Museum about doing a performance there with this ensemble, and hope it works out eventually down the road. 

On the jazz front of things, I’ve been playing at Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins for over two and a half years now.  It started 2-3 nights a week, and now I’m all the way up to playing 5 nights a week.  Wednesdays feature Kelsey Shiba and I, as a piano/vocals and bass duo.  When Kelsey can’t make it, it’s usually Ben Haugland, and we play instrumental standards/arrangements.  My roommate Tony Saccomanno comes by and plays drums with us for fun, and hopefully we can get him paid on the gig, and perform as a trio.  Thursday nights at Ace feature Andrew Vogt on saxophone, with Ben Markley on piano and John Olson on drums.  Friday and Saturday night are a quartet with rotating soloists from some of Colorado’s finest, with the rhythm section of Ben Haugland, John Olson and myself.  Sundays are new and started up last September, and feature Raincheck, with Steve Kovalcheck on guitar, Ben Markley on piano, Chris Smith and drums, and myself filling in for bassist Marty Kenney, who is the original member, and living in NYC going to school at Manhattan.

University of Northern Colorado’s “Open Space Music Festival” is coming up soon, March 2013, and I’ve been working with Dr. Paul Elwood to help program/perform on it.  The guest composer this year is Alvin Lucier, and we’ll be performing mostly works by him (possibly a Christian Wolff piece dedicated to him).  I’ll be playing Lucier’s “Composition for pianist and mother” which is a theatrical fluxus style piece, involving aDanielle Kimbelnd and I performing various actions as the “mother” and her “son” the pianist.  Also playing Lucier’s “Homage to James Tenney” for double bass and two oscillators, which involves slow frequency sweeps and bowed long tone harmonics.  We’re doing a chamber piece called “Shadow Lines,” my friend Ben Haugland will be performing “Nothing is real” based on the Beatles Strawberry Fields, involving an amplified tea pot and piano.  I’m most excited about (Hartford) memory space, an open text piece involving translating outside sounds to an inside performance space for an indeterminate ensemble.  The Open Space Festival this year involves a composition contest/performance that I applied for with an arrangement of my Morton Feldman gestural piece, that I hope will be picked, and if so performed by either a string quartet, or some other ensemble with flute, clarinets and piano.  It’ll be a really great performance weekend and I am excited to meet Alvin Lucier and play his music for him.

Also, I’m very much looking forward to being involved in Fort Collins’ Streetmosphere again this summer, 2013.  It’s paid street performance, with an openness that lets the performance play what they like.  I want to perform concerts of Masada/Ornette, which I’ve got a lot of charts of, free improv, Cardew’s Treatise performances, and some with my group Mad Ranks playing contemporary music.  I want to get away from doing any “straight ahead” jazz on these, as with my Ace Gillett’s gig I do that five nights a week already.  They advertised me as “Matt Smiley Jazz” last year, and this time I hope to simply be “Matt Smiley,” and have the performances be more of a reflection of the multifacets of my musical life.

I have a conceptual piece that I may try out this summer at one of these Streetmosphere gigs.  I checked out two books on Anthony Braxton’s music, and put all of the musical examples into finale.  My goal is go through them meticulously, and arrange them into my own miniature pieces, as a kind of “gesture” to Braxton’s music.  With the musical fragments I have I want to figure out how to create my own bass lines, melodies, forms, chord changes, etc… and perform them like the model of Tim Berne’s music.   

I started to record John Zorn’s guitar etudes last summer, and I really would like to continue on this project learning an etude, and doing audio/video recording to re-post on my bandcamp site and on youtube.  The “Smiley Series” could use some new updates too, but it’s such a silly project (me wearing a speedo playing random instruments for 1-2 minutes).  I still have a back of the mind idea of doing more with poetry/music, but I don’t know how yet.   

I am hoping to move out of the apartment complex I am in now, with my roommate and girlfriend, to a house in Fort Collins, and if I can make this work and find a place, I want to play music more and devote myself more.  The place we’re hoping to get has a two-car garage, and I’m already thinking about buying materials to section off half of the garage into a rehearsal/practice space.  It’s be fun to set up my microphones in the space, and record multi-track free improv projects, laying down bass, guitar, keyboard and drum tracks, and reacting in the moment to what I heard myself play on an earlier track.  I obtained a drum kit from a friend that moved a few months back, and having a space to play drums again would be exhilarating!  I played drums in middle and high school and would like to work certain things up again, knowing what I know, and being involved with free music.   

As far as I know, that’s as big an update as I can muster.  I feel sucked dry of all the musical ideas rattling in my head these days, and it’s great to write them down, and get them on “paper,” to go back to and work out the concepts.  I don’t know when I’ll blog again, but next one should be 1-2 CD reviews that I’ve been meaning to do.  That’s all I got, and with that “two fingas and split em!”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

John Coltrane's "Ascension" at Dazzle (this week!)

EDIT *The show was last week and went great, go HERE to stream/download the audio for free*

I'm about to perform John Coltrane’s Ascension at Dazzle, in Denver, CO, Sunday October 21st at 7pm with a really great band featuring:

David Pope - saxophone
Peter Sommer - saxophone
Aakash Mittal - saxophone
Wil Swindler - saxophone
Josh Quinlan - saxophone
Ben Haugland - piano
Bard Hoff - guitar
Paul Elwood - banjo
Ryan Fourt - guitar
Matt Smiley - bass
Tony Saccomanno - drums
Britt Ciampa – drums

I arranged the music similar to when I did Ornette Coleman’s “Free Jazz” at Dazzle almost 2 years ago, which you can check out here:
I read as many articles as I could find on the piece, found charts from different sources, found different recordings, and did a fair amount of transcribing.  The end result was freer than when I did “Free Jazz” but it worked great.  I transcribed the inhead off of one of the versions, as close as possible with all the individual parts, except for the piano and drums, and then tried to figure out the pitch sets used in the collective improv before Coltrane’s solo, which is the first one.  Other than that I have the pitch sets written out for all the musicians to use in their interludes or solos if they want, and then improvised solos/backgrounds/interludes. I am worried that it has too much freedom and should’ve been more arranged, but I wanted to keep in intact to the original. My version has two drummers on it, because originally Coltrane wanted Rashied Ali to be on it with Elvin Jones, but Rashied Ali said no.  I listed all the different versions I could find of the piece below, and didn’t find much.  I’m sure there are other recordings out there, but all the “new age” album search results keep gumming up the works.

Thinking about the original recording, there are still a few original musicians alive.  McCoy Tyner is still recording and touring, which I got to see him perform with an all-star septet in Montreal at the Jazzfest the summer or 2007.  Pharoah Sanders is still alive and playing, I also saw him at the same Jazzfest that summer, playing mostly ballads and Coltrane tunes, with a really beautiful sound.  I didn’t realize Archie Shepp was still alive, and tours some according to his website, and puts out recordings with various European groups.  I’m not sure about the trumpet players Dewey Johnson.  He’s a mysterious trumpet player that seemingly was on the scene and then disappeared, or at least quit music.  He’s on Ascension, a Paul Bley record, and that’s all I found listed. 

Sadly saxophonist John Tchicai just passed away earlier this week, he was one of the alto saxophonists on Ascension.  He was some famous early free jazz recordings like the Coltrane large ensemble record, The New York Contemporary Five records with Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Don Moore and J.C. Moses, The New York Art Quartet with Roswell Rudd, Milford Graves and Reggie Workman albums, Albert Ayler’s “New York Eye and Ear Control” with Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray, and collaborations with MEV, along with his own records.  He was an incredible player and will surely be missed. 

Before I depart this blog post, I have some stuff coming up.  I want to put together a Zorn tribute project, a one time concert of Masada, Naked City and COBRA, with maybe even a few of the guitar etudes.  Alongside this I’m starting to do a little writing and organizing of some free improv pieces, and want to put together a large collage piece based on Anthony Braxton music.  Also still looking into a Tim Berne project, but the music is very difficult, and it would take some dedicated players to play it.  My group Mad Ranks has some gigs coming up, playing 20th century contemporary music, and looking for more gigs to keep that group going.  Other than that, a possible recording project of some more avant music with MTM this summer (2013), hopefully!  These are all very exciting projects while hammering away at the straight ahead jazz.  COME TO ASCENSION!!


John Coltrane – “Ascension”

two separate takes with”

John Coltrane: tenor sax
Archie Shepp: tenor sax
Pharaoh Sanders: tenor sax
John Tchicai: alto sax
Marion Brown: alto sax
Dewey Johnson: trumpet
Freddie Hubbard: trumpet
Elvin Jones: drums
Art Davis: bass
Jimmy Garrison: bass
Mccoy Tyner: piano

Recorded June 28th 1965

*rashied ali (asked to  be on it, refused)

John Coltrane – “Live in Antibes 1965”

John Coltrane: tenor sax
Mccoy Tyner: piano
Jimmy Garrison: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

Recorded July 27th 1965

Rova Sax Quartet – “John Coltrane’s Ascension”

Jon Raskin: alto sax
Steve Adams: alto sax
George Cremaschi: bass
Lisle Ellis: bass
Donald Robinson: drums
Chris Brown: piano
Bruce Ackley: tenor sax
Glenn Spearman: tenor sax
Larry Ochs: tenor sax
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Raphe Malik: trumpet

Recorded December 6th 1995

Rova Orkestrova – “Electric Ascension”

Jon Raskin: bari sax
Steve Adams: alto sax
Fred Frith: bass
Ikue Mori: drum machines, sampler
Donald Robinson: drums
Chris Brown: electronics
Nels Cline: guitar
Bruce Ackley: soprano sax
Larry Ochs: tenor sax
Otomo Yoshide: turntables electronics
Jenny Scheinman: violin
Carla Kihlstedt: violin, effects

Recorded February 8th 2003

Harriet Tubman double trio  - “Ascension”

Brandon Ross: guitar
Melvin Gibbs: electric bass
Jt Lewis: drums
Ron Miles: trumpet
Dj Logic: turntables
Dj Single: turntables

Recorded April 29th 2011

Friday, September 28, 2012

Properties of Free Music

A friend of mine in Colorado, David Thomas Bailey, sent me a questionnaire a few days ago based off this new book by Joe Morris.  I haven't read this, but it's on my list of books to get, seemingly similar lines of Derek Bailey's book on improvisation, and the John Zorn Arcana series (which there is a new edition coming out soon!)  I did my best to answer it, so below is the questionnaire and then my responses.

1. A.) Cite some influential materials that you have synthesized, and/or interpreted in whole or in parts in your work. B.) Describe how when combined with your imagination those processes resulted in invented parts of your work.
2. A.) Describe your consideration of spirituality, intuition, concept, logic, aesthetic philosophy,history, politics, technique, any other similar thing, or a combination of these things in your work. B.) How does this inform your methodology?
3. A.) In what ways are the individuals in your community of collaborators important to your work? B.) How do you adapt your methodology in consideration of what they bring?
4. What are the particular musical material or materials (i.e. melody, rhythm, sound, timbre, etc.) that you choose to rely on to inform the improvised content of your work?
5. Please describe the way or ways you consider pulse in your music.
6. How have you addressed the notion of interaction in your work?
7. A.) What are the ways you display the form in your individual pieces and in a complete performance? B.) Do you compose a form, let a form emerge, or both?

Operational Methodology
A way approaching improvised music that deals explains, in whole or in part, your approach, platform, melodic structure, pulse, interaction, and form. This explains your process of synthesis, interpretation and invention. Example operational methodologies are Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodics, and Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Axum Theory.

My Response:

1.      I spent time working on a show of Dave Holland’s “Conference of the Birds” and after transcribing the music, playing along with the album I started to figure out these cells, motives, and fragments of the melodies and incorporate them into the free form tunes (soloing/accompanying).  This method, along with transcribing group free improvisations (that I’ve been involved in) out into new compositions, has helped me find new materials, new structures for playing and for composition.  Along with this I have spent a lot of time forming project based bands to dig deeper into the music of john zorn and ornette coleman (separately) and time with 20th century composition involving graphic, text, and improvisational based scores. 

2.     I used to think more in spiritual terms but don’t anymore (or as much) as I’ve become more jaded with religion.  Intuition is a big part of it, and I find the intuition is partially there based on past experiences, not only in playing situations, but in listening situations (live or on my stereo).  I am a big picture thinker, so I rely heavily on in the moment intuition with playing freely.  Concept is used from time to time, more compositionally than anything.  I’ll have an idea for a specific sound, and will write it out as a text piece, or a graphic piece and have people play it.  I think compositionally with concept related material.  I don’t use logic as much as I should, more free/experimental openness, and even with a well defined concept, sometimes it isn’t carried out logically (like writing something out in a non-traditional way, verses a through composed chart with the standard form/chord changes).  I don’t think I have any aesthetics per se, other than playing stylistically correct, as in not playing jazz language while playing free, or rock riffs, but leaving that open if free music turns into a certain genre of sound (like free to free jazz).  I think a lot about history and tradition, and have spent a lot of time studying contemporary compositional approaches, the history of free jazz/free music, and most of my free playing are based on historical projects, like John Coltrane’s Ascension coming up in Denver, one of the first free jazz large ensemble records.  My trio MTM is an open improv and contemporary music trio, loosely in my mind based off of AMM with Rowe, Prevost, Cardew, etc….  I also have to find recordings of this music, and of specific pieces and hear them for comparison of how I will approach a piece (even if it’s a very free piece, like Christian Wolff’s “Edges” or Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.”)   I have studied politics and it’s influence on Charlie Haden’s music, but politics doesn’t affect my own music.  My consideration for technique is in sounds more than anything.  With studying history, I have tried to study extended techniques in contemporary classical music via Bertram Turetsky, Mark Dresser, Joelle Leandre, etc….  I have a word document somewhere than lists close to 200 different sounds or combinations of sounds for playing the bass (in example, stomping my feet while playing a harmonic drone and throat singing, or prepared strings with aluminum pizz)  I think writing out all your sound options is a good way to build technique, and one could practice that and try to work it all out within those parameters new parameters.  From answering the first part of the question I already answered the second half partially, like showing how history affects technique, which affects your concept and approach.  It’s all inter-related, unless it’s not a consideration (like religion and politics aren’t, or are at a very small level).  Everything is connected, and usually more through history, experience, and research of these materials.

3.     The individuals I play with are very important to my work.  There are a lot of them, who now live all over the country, and have them categorized in certain ways of people who would be good for free jazz playing, versus totally free playing, verses more inside jazz, or more inside contemporary classical music.  I recently put a group together for contemporary classical music (to play Cage, Cardew, Wolff, Rzweski, Feldman pieces) and have already learned a lot dealing with the various personalties, their own backgrounds, their own preferences, and it’s a unique group, with a unique sound and repertoire.  I learned a lot from putting together John Zorn’s Cobra 4 years ago, about how to lead a large ensemble, and how to deal with the diverse personalities of a 10-20 person group (playing open improv).  Whenever I have free projects I spend more time getting the ensemble together than I do for a straight ahead jazz gig, more time weighing the people, the instruments, how they play their instruments and what different people will bring to the table together.   I’ve learned technique oriented material from various players, especially in guitar extended technique and in electronics.  Because the projects are mine I feel like I spend more time having the other player adapt to whatever situation I’m putting them in.  Most musicians I use, at some point when I started playing with them, free playing was completely new to them, so I had to coach, teach, or prod in a certain way, usually more suggestions than forceful.  I adapt mostly by just laying out and not playing and listening, or maybe by mimicking an idea, or realizing if it’s free jazz vs. free improv, or the sound of that moment with those musicians playing.

4.     I think I like to rely on non musical materials to relate to my work.  I still am working out research with abstract expressionist painting and music, and various poety and literature and involving that somehow into the music.  I spent a lot of time with Cardew’s graphic score Treatise, so really just looking at abstract symbols on a page, and trying to come up with a logical interpretation.  I think when I get thrown out of the musical realm, and have to relate nonmusical ideas musically is when a certain creative element comes out.  Other than that, I do think about timbre, and the world of sounds maybe more than other elements like melody or harmony.

5.     Pulse depends again on what is being played.  Most of my trio MTM’s music was not pulse based, and if it was was a loose pulse.  Most free jazz music, to me, is pulse based, like having a fast broken swing beat, or free bop, with walking bass and swing drums, just no set changes (and a swing feel).  When pulse arises in totally free playing it can be a fun anchor to play with, not play with, or play against.  I have a text piece where I come upon certain parts of it, and imitate the ticking of a clock by knocking my bow against the tail piece.  I think I prefer no pulse, so sounds can be sounds, and not something I can imagine a person putting a beat behind, or drum groove behind…maybe comes out of more my Cage/Cardew sensibilities, the sound of modern contemporary classical music, more so than free jazz.

6.     Interaction depends on the group or the music played.  There is Wolff’s “Edges” which performers can choose to stay in their own world and just play while others are playing, or the opposite and be totally focused on all the other players informing when they do or don’t come in.  John Zorn’s “Cobra” has addressed it with an improv game based on personalities, people taking charge, or people sitting back and playing when they are called on to play.  With free jazz settings I think I use more eye contact and visual cues in the experience, but other free playing is more meditative to me, and sitting there in a dark room (sometimes) playing off of the sounds, and focusing more on each individual sound and it’s source, and sometimes getting lost as to what is sounding what.

7.     I like form based pieces, or concept based pieces, even if it’s an open idea.  Sometimes I can tell people I’m playing with are frustrated because they’d rather play totally free and open, but I will have some musical cells, or short melodies, or chords, or some kind of material that eventually gets played.  I like the idea of a form that doesn’t sound like there is a form, which is something I’ve studied in Tony Malaby, Tim Berne and John Hollenbeck’s music.  Like the idea that you play this very composed thing, and then play very free right after, and make them sound as similar as possible….or everything is free, but there is a specific long tone bass line, or the melody instruments are playing a composed thing, and everything is free underneath that.  Even if it’s a simple/bare bones form, I do like having formal ideas, to study how they can differ, or how much form/how little form you can get away with to achieve certain sounds, situations, or effects.  I do a lot of composing forms (more than pieces, just forms), and then when I can and am getting together with people, it’s fun to just play free, to find each other.  

Monday, September 10, 2012


I recently released that I am developing a professional discography!  I have some releases on Bandcamp via my MTM site and my Matt Smiley site, but most of these are amateur recordings (not to say they aren’t worth checking out).  All of the ones listed below are recorded in a professional studio.  There is a diversity of jazz records and a rock album.  Unfortunately most of these aren’t released yet, but give it 6-8 months and I think most of these will be commercially available.  More information on the big band record to come I hope, I’ll be recorded it this weekend.

Matt Smiley’s Discography:

Matt Smiley – Quartet Art

David Pope – tenor sax
Ryan Fourt – guitar
Matt Coyle – drums/percussion
Josh D Reed – trumpet
Matt Smiley – bass

Compositions by Matt Smiley and Charlie Haden
Genre: Avant/Modern/Free Jazz
Status:  Available for purchase, CD and iTunes

Alex Nauman Organ Trio + 3 – Too Damn Tight!

Alex Nauman – guitar
Erik Olson – organ/piano
Brad Edwards – drums
Ben Johns – saxophones
Gy Moody – percussion
Matt Smiley – bass

Compositions by Alex Nauman and Erik Olson
Genre: Bluesy/Groovy/Soul Jazz
Status:  Will be available for purchase in the fall of 2012, Vinyl and iTunes

GoodRattle – (no title yet)

Wil Swindler – alto and bari saxophone
Gabe Mervine – trumpet
Chris Smith – drums
Ben Markley – piano
Matt Smiley – bass

Compositions by Wil Swindler, Ben Markley, Matt Smiley, and Tommy Flanagan
Genre:  Hardbop/Modern Jazz
Status:  Hope to be available within the next 6 months, CD and iTunes

Ryan Fourt – Stone Cricket

Ryan Fourt – guitars
Ben Waters – drums
Kelsey Shiba – voice and keys
Marty Kenney – bass
Kate Skinner - keyboards
Matt Smiley – bass

Compositions by Ryan Fourt
Genre:  Rock
Status:  Hope to be available within the next 6 months, CD and iTunes

Shilo Stroman – Square Peg

Shilo Stroman – drums
Gabe Mervine – trumpet
Ryan Fourt – guitar
Matt Smiley – bass

Compositions by Shilo Stroman, Brian Wilson, and Anthony Kiedis
Genre: Adventure Jazz
Status:  Hope to be available within the next 6 months, CD and iTunes

Adam Bartczak Big Band – (no title yet)

Not sure of all the players yet, but I will be playing bass on it.

Compositions by Adam Bartczak
Genre:  Modern Big Band Jazz
Status:  Will be recorded this week (September 2012)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bogdo Ula Album Reviews

guitarist Samuli Kristian
drummer Ivan Horder
bassist Jean Ruin

Bogdo Ula – Charge

For starters this record begins with giving me a vibe of Bill Frisell’s “Powertools” band, mixed with Vernon Reid’s “Living Colour.”  The music fits in the middle of many genres, which would make it great to be in a touring circuit along the same lines that Medeski Martin and Wood or The Bad Plus have opened up doors for more jazz (ish) groups to be heard by non-jazz listeners.   I’m still only in on the first track, and am reminded of Shawn Lane, Jeff Sipe and Jonas Hellborg’s rockish and raucous power trio. 

The guitar sound is laden with effects, used to perfectly compliment the music, and the mix has a reminiscent sound of great rock records (possible older 80s/90s ones, but cleaner).  This music is high energy, and has that simmering intensity in its sound, even in the slower and more meditative numbers like the opening of “Omnogovi Zone.”

This music to me has some direct roots in the 1960s psychedelic, but through more modern filters, and more free veins.  There are moments of open rubato that would sound like pure avant garde, but the tonality keeps it inside for the listener to grab onto.  I’m curious what guitar players Kristian checks out and derives his own influence from while listening to this. 

The trio is very much in the tradition of the guitar trios, with possibly more group interplay than some rhythm sections backing a lead guitar player.  On “Stratosphere” there is some open trading between the bass and guitar, giving the bassist Jean Ruin more room to shine.  The title is maybe an homage to Jeff Beck?

I’m pursuing their website while listening to this record “Charge” (with some rocking Amethyst rock!)  The drummer Ivan Horder has listed some of his poetry on the site to check out, while the guitarist Samuli Kristian has some of his paintings uploaded.  Already this makes me give the band “mad props” so to speak, on being multi-media aristists.  With some of my research recently into art and music, I believe musicians who are conscious and influenced by more things outside of music (like poetry, art, movies, theatre, literature, math, science, etc…) the more they have to bring to the table and develop.  It’s a really great website overall which you can check out at the top of the page. 

Thinking about how the freeness of the group comes mostly from the waves of rhythmic pulses and drives, whereas the pitch material seems very tonal, and in the blues/rock vein (but more advanced harmonically, like jazz), giving it a unique sound.  I’m almost curious what this band would sound like with like a kick ass, 1970s styled rock vocalist (like a Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, ie…), real potential for more weirdness!! 

There is a certain underwater feeling of this, like the waves from before, it’s like an undersea rock trio, and the pulsations you here are varied due to the physics of how sound moves underwater.  The drums could be tremors from nearby plate movements, the bass some animal low end sonar, and the guitar the dolphin sounds.  I’m not letting the tune title “Nautical Twilight” influence this, nor that I watched “The Cove” last night, no influence at all (sarcasm). 

I’m paying attention to the rhythmic structures, and I’m curious how things are written/mapped out, and if there is sheet music, or is it taught by ear.  I always wonder just how free certain things are, or are not.  There is great listening across the board, as musicians are filling in the gaps and leaving space for one another, or teams of duos (say like drums and bass playing a groove together, and guitar floating over the top) versus the other member.  Really great trio communication!!

As I get to the tune “Jade” I’m starting to hear more noises, more feedback, more enjoying the sounds of the noise, then necessarily playing in a tonality, it’s getting more, while staying in, but going out. 


I’m onto the second disc, and already it seems a little freer than Charge, and it opens with a bang!  The drums are incredibly active on this first track, as the guitar plays more sustained lines and the bass fills in the rest.  It must be a powerful act to see live!  Quirky start to a second track, funky primus-y, with a disjunct dance groove (think Zappa’s live dance contests).  This track, “sounds from the moonbog”  has more cries and more emotive guitaristry, that could be the alien shouting for help in his foreign tongue (if they have tongues?) while stuck in the bog. 

This record sounds more diverse, at least upon hearing the first few cuts, how on “from now on we move only at night” starts with harmonics and shimmering chorus, going into a film noir sound world, and giving the listener space to relax and come down before the tune builds up into a rock fury. 

I don’t know if this record is more politically themed or charged, but looking at the song titles, and the song of the recording, it does seem to have more drive, more emotion, and in general more desperation to create and to be.  I’m digging the ragged energy of this group giving it their all. 

I like the funkiness and freeness of “my heart is on my sleeve” the way the bass and guitar are hooking up it sounds more composed that some of the other music I’ve heard.  High levels of communication, and that uptempo ornette’s drum beat going through out.  “Towards the Star” has a slow spacey bluesy vibe, like muddy waters being sent to the moon with extra delay and chorus.  “Dolphian Scale” has more disjunct pick sweeps, frantic bass, broken drumming, that is seemingly coming out of more of a free jazz vibe.  It starts to groove, but breaks apart again, and comes in and out of it.  As the album progresses the tunes are more varied, leading the listener in several directions, sometimes at once.  I highly recommend both these records, and please check out the band!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Peter Kowald (is the man!)

I finished up listening through in the last month the complete collection of Peter Kowald Duos, from the FMP label, which you can purchase VERY cheaply from Destination Out right here.  Peter Kowald was a German free improv bassist who played with everyone in the scene:  Bill Dixon, Peter Brotzmann, Joe McPhee, Abbey Lincoln, Wadada Leo Smith, The Globe Unity Orchestra, Karl Berger, Julius Hemphill, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Joelle Leandre, William Parker and many more (which you hear some of these in the duos)!

He unfortunately died of a heart attack in 2002, but in his 58 years on this planet gave us a lot of incredible recordings and sounds, while helping spearhead many tours and festivals, getting this freer musics out there to the world.  His goal was to create international ensembles of musicians from all over, to create extraordinary musics (which some of the larger ensembles he was in could achieve).  He had a huge amount of technique, a a big ear for musicality, and a bag of extended technique that gave him access to sounds most bass players have never heard of (unless maybe you're Joelle Leandre or William Parker).  I can't emphasize enough about how beautiful this musician was, giving his all and more for the music.  There is a documentary on that scene I watched a while ago (blanking on the name of it), where it shows he would sometimes tour in europe on a bicycle, with bass on his back and everything, ready to go.

You can check him out in action here:
DUO VIDEO with Ken Vandermark

Friday, June 8, 2012

Too Tight! Kickstarter

Dear Family, Friends and Fellow Musicians,
        A few weeks ago I made the trek from Colorado to Wyoming and Montana to record an album.  This project features myself of bass, Alex Nauman on guitar, Erik Olson on piano and organ, Gy Moody on percussion, Brad Edwards on drums and Ben Johns on saxophones.  The album is made up of all original compositions by Alex and Erik, written in the style of 1960s vintage Blue Note soul jazz.  We plan to make this a VINYL only release (That means no CDs, but digital downloads will be available on iTunes).
              Our group has set up a Kickstarter to help raise funds to press the vinyl. Depending on your level of contribution to the project you will receive a digital download of the album, a copy of the vinyl, bonus tracks, and more!  We need your help to make this record a reality.  The more money we raise the better the graphic design, the higher quality the vinyl and the more records we can press.  We also hope to book a small tour for the album release.  Please check out our Kickstarter website and watch our short promo video to preview the music here:

Thank you all for your generous support!

(Photo by Jill Nauman)

Monday, May 7, 2012

New York schools of music and art notes

The following are notes that I have taken from a recent book "The New York schools of music and visual arts" edited by Steven Johnson.  I'm working on the possibility of presenting music in art galleries, and having a proposal together to do that.  These notes are the beginnings of the information I'll be using to tie together contemporary music and art.

"New York school of music and visual arts book notes:


Wolpe -> Klee

Wolpe was friends with abstract painters, and that’s how Feldman met these artists

Varese and Wolpe were the pioneers of the composer/abstract painter connection

Wolpe was connected to Paul Klee, and both Wolpe and Varese come from Busoni, who music ideas came from the art world.

Picasso’s “Guernia” was like Wolpe’s “Battlepiece,” especially performed by David Tudor.

p. 87  “Wolpe indentifies both strands of music not with a  “theme” but rather by abstract qualities of gesture and behavior.  The dialectic between opposed actions, which breaks the music into nonhomogeneous space, could easily remind one of the similar dialectics in the visual worlds of Franz Kline and Mark Rothko.”


Varese was a painter, and friends with painters, worked with jazz musicians

Varese was radical, he fathered forth “noise” as john cage puts it

If Varese was stuck working on a music score, he would take a break, paint, and then return to the score

Varese’ electronic pieces were like having an artist’s painting hanging on a wall.  There is a direct access to the public, and is fixed.

p. 57:

“It is many years now since painting freed itself from the constraints of pure representation and description and from academic rules.  Painters responded to the world-the complete different world-in which they found themselves, while music was still fitting itself into arbitrary patterns, called forms and following obsolete rules.”  -Edgard Varese (1963), quoted in L Alcopley, “Edgard Varese on Music and Art”

Varese was friends with Rodin, Duchamp, Man Ray, Joan Miro, and part of the early Dada scene.

“Music is the most abstract of the arts and also the most physical.” –Edgard Varese

Varese’ early pieces and electronic pieces were presented at a Michel Cadoret exhibition with Duchamp on December 10th, 1960.


Morton Feldman “The intellectual weather was just right”

Morton Feldman composed the soundtrack to the Pollock bio film

p. 11:

Morton Feldman:  “I realize now how much the musical ideas I had in 1951 paralleled his mode of working.  Pollock placed his canvas on the ground and painted as he walked around it.  I put sheets of graph paper on the wall; each sheet framed the same time duration and was, in effect, a visual rhythmic structure.  What resembled Pollock was my ‘all-over’ approach to the time-canvas.” 

p. 26:

Morton Feldman:  “The new painting made me desirous of a sound world more direct, more immediate, more physical than anything that had existed heretofore.  Varese had elements of this.  But he was too ‘Varese.’  Webern had glimpses of it, but his work was too involved with the disciplines of the tweleve’tone system.  The new structure requiread a concentration more demanthing than if the technique were that of still photography, wchi for me is what precise notation had come to imply.” 


p.  179
“I prefer to think of my work as between categories.  Between Time and Space.  Between painting and music.  Between music’s construction, and its surface.”  -Morton Feldman

p.  183
“It would be very much like taking a look at any of your paintings here in the changing light, you see.  The person that did not take the time would be involved with the light of the moment, as they’re looking at it; but the person that did could not help but be distracted by the changes…how the painting looks through the day, and has a very different eye than the person who didn’t take time.”  -Morton Feldman

Art’s surface and depth = Feldman’s avoidance of attack, decay emphasis

The notation and look of Feldman’s scores were very important, like hanging up the graph scores on his walls

Compare the instrumentation of Morton Feldman’s Marginal Intersection for orchestra, piano, electric guitar, oscillators, many percussionist to Jackson Pollock and his sticks, trowels, knives, dripping fluid paint, sand, glass and other foreign material.

Feldman said he used a melody in Rothko Chapel that he wrote when he was 14 (having a “tune” for Feldman is out of place) is like Robert Rauschenberg’s photos on some of his canvases.

Jasper John’s paintings 1970s works influenced late Feldman works, in the patterns and the rugs, like “Why Patterns?”  CHECK OUT “Usuyuki” and “Scent” by Jasper Johns.  “Why Patterns” is the first piece to use this idea.

Feldman got the idea of “shape” from Wolpe, which comes from art.

“The collision with the instant…this is the first step to the abstract experience.”  - Morton Feldman

Feldman’s graphic scores look visually like Piet Mondrian’s paintings.

“Music is not painting, but it can learn from this more perceptive temperament that waits and observes the inherent mystery of its materials as opposed to the composer’s vested interest in his craft…  The painter achieves mastery by allowing what he is doing to be itself.  In a way, he must step aside in order to be in control.  The composer is just learning to do this.”  -Morton Feldman

“Painters seemed to believe in infinite options”  - Morton Feldman

Morton Feldman and Turkish rugs -> slight variations of repetitions and patterns, not precisely symmetrical but close, like an illusion.

Feldman strove for an “in betweeness confusion of construction and material, like Cezanne’s surface and what it has developed from. 


Cage -> Duchamp

Earle Brown ->  Mobiles

Earle Brown -> Jazz improvisation

Both NY schools were “unfixing” traditional parameters (like in music the rhythm, pitch and duration)  John Cage’s “Carillon no. 1” or “water music” is like Rauschenberg’s work.  It challenges the convention of the medium.

New York School musician/composers:  Feldman, Wolff, Cage, Brown and Tudor

4’33 -> Rauschenberg’s all white and all black canvases

Cage helped Feldman see music as an ART form, not just a MUSIC form.


New York School painters:  Pollock, De Kooning, Motherwell, Rothko, Newman, Still, Kline, Gusto and then a little later Jaspher Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (abstract expressionists)

Artists and musicians were striving for something new, something that was not based on tradition

Abstraction and physicality were the goals of the artists/painters

“What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”  -Harold Rosenberg

Composers who were painters:  Schoenberg, Ruggles, Earle Brown, Gershwin, John Cage, Hindemith, Varese

Titles of pieces are similar:
Feldman’s “Projection,” Clyfford Still’s “1947-Y,” Franz Kline’s “Painting number 7,”  Pollock’s “Untitled (1946)

There were art exhibitions where both art and music scores were shown at the same time

Early 8th st. art and composer meetings were made up of Cage, Varese, Wolpe and Feldman

Graphic notation was coming out of the art school, and they kind of looked like Mondrian works

1949 to 1962 was the organization “The Club” The club treasurer was Philip Pavia, club for artists and composers.  There was also the 8th st. club and the Cedar Tavern. 

Schoenberg -> Kandinsky

Painting was ahead of music and composition

Improvisation = Pollock, Hans Hoffman, Miro




I didn’t see Clyfford Still on the list at the Cedar Tavern, 8th st. club or “The Club,” but he probably was there some, have to research this in his own bio."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New records out on the Dazzle Jazz Label!

The restaurant and lounge, "Dazzle" in Denver has a great jazz record label, which you can check out here. Several of my friends and fellow Colorado musicians have put out new records on the label.

*EDIT* (Adding Dazzle Jazzfest)

Dazzle Recordings will be hosting a two day festival in April, 2012 that will feature the amazing recording artists that record under the Dazzle Recordings record label name. The Festival will take place at Dazzle Jazz (930 Lincoln in Denver, CO).

Saturday, April 21

1:45 - 2:30 - East High School Jazz Combo (Dining Room)

2:30 – 3:05 – Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts Messengers (Lounge)

3:15 – 4:05 – Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra (Dining Room)

4:10 – 5 – Shawn Costantino Quintet (Lounge)

5:05 – 5:55 – Julie Monley (Dining Room)

6:05 – 6:55 – Denver School of the Arts Workshop Orchestra (Lounge)

7:00 – 7:50 – John Lake and Shirley (Dining Room)

7:55 – 8:45 – The Teaching (Dining Room)

8:55 – 9:45 – Josh Quinlan "Mountain Time Standards" Quintet (Dining Room)

9:55 – 10:45 – Greg Harris Vibe Quintet (Dining Room)

After party in the Lounge with the Funky Fresh Trio (11 – 1:30)


Sunday, April 22

1:45 – 2:35 - Carmen Sandim Sextet (Dining Room)

2:40 – 3:30 – Steve Denny Trio (Lounge)

3:35 – 4:25 – Adam Revell and Essence Rider (Dining Room)

4:30 – 5:20 – Ben Haughland Sextet (Lounge)

5:25 – 6:15 – Peter Sommer Quartet (Dining Room)

6:20 – 7:30 – Matt Smiley Quartet Art (Lounge)

7:40 – 8:30 – Dave Devine Relay (Lounge)

8:35 – 9:50 – Ninth and Lincoln (Dining Room)

After party in the lounge with Manuel Lopez Latin Jazz Trio (10 pm)

You can check out more details at either here or here.


Steve Kovalcheck on guitar
Ben Markley on piano
Marty Kenney on bass
Chris Smith on drums

From the cdbaby website:

"For fans of well-played guitar, piano, bass and drums quartet, the new release from Raincheck will indeed be in heavy rotation! This fine ensemble - led by guitarist Steve Kovalcheck and pianist Ben Markley - will delight the listener with their solid and exciting brand of straight-ahead jazz. This group has garnered much attention for their tight group interplay and consistent sound, and this record attests the continuance of the group in their endeavor. The band swings hard out of the gate on Markley's composition "Right There." The energy level and band communication remain high - as noticed immediately on the track "M.O." - which features the fine writing and incredible guitar playing of Kovalcheck. Besides the high energy, a well-balanced program contributes to the success of this album. Markley's lyrical piano introduction on his composition "My Home" is not only beautiful, but a wonderful change of pace after his inspired playing on "Shadow Valley." Throughout the entire album, the musical connection of bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Chris Smith creates an undercurrent of energy that results in some enthralling moments of interaction that never take away from the feel and swing of the band. These musicians are preservers of the swinging hard bop music of the 1960s. Of course they bring their own compositions and interpretations to the fold, but the fire of their musical heroes burns bright! This is a swinging, musical album that is sure to please.

I personally finished listening to the album today, after starting it yesterday. I highly recommend it, there are great compositions, varied grooves and feels, incredible solos, all with a real sense of a group cohesion and unique sound. BUY THIS RECORD!

Josh Quinlan on saxophones
John Lake on trumpet
Ben Markley on piano
Kells Nollenberger on bass
Ed Breazeale on drums

You can go to Josh's website here. The cdbaby site has the simple quote that "The music of Mountain Time Standards reflects on the beauty of living in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States."

This record I listened to when it first came out, and I really enjoyed it! The interplay between the two horns immediately hit my ear, the great interaction with the rhythm section also, and some really great compositions! Not like the typical jazz record of "inhead" solos and "outhead," the compositions really take the listener to different places, and different moods. This is a beautiful record, so BUY THE MUSIC!!

Josh has played on my CD release concert for Quartet Art, helped me get on the Dazzle label, and plays as one of the rotating soloists at "Ace Gillett's" my house jazz gig in Fort Collins, CO. He's a killer player, and will be playing on another Quartet Art gig at Dazzle, for a recording artist weekend coming up, April 21st and 22nd.

Ben Haugland on piano
Dick Oatts on alto saxophone
Greg Johnson on tenor saxophone
Adam Bartczak on trombone
Jay Anderson on bass
Chris Smith on drums

This record just came out this week. I haven't heard it yet, but Jay Anderson borrowed my bass for the session, so I was in the studio when they recorded it. The band sounded incredible, the saxophones really had a great blend and interplay. I play with Ben every week at my house jazz gig, so I know his charts are impeccable, and the arranging and writing is really top notch. There is also the mix of older established musicians like Oatts and Anderson, with these younger virtuosic musicians who really stepped up to the plate on this. I can't wait to listen to the record, and am very happy for all involved, it's awesome. BUY THE MUSIC, DO IT!!!

John Lake on trumpet
Serafin Sanchez on saxophones and abelton live
Andrew Moorehead on keyboards
Paul McDaniel on electric bass
Ed Breazeale on drums

I haven't heard this record yet, and am not 100 percent sure if it is out yet, but I think it is coming out soon, if not already available. John is a great trumpet player, he's on the Josh Quinlan record mentioned above, and this group sounds like it'd be amazing! I'll have to edit this post when I get a hold of the record and hear it, but I guarantee it is one bad ass album, so go out there, contact John Lake, and BUY IT ASAP!!!! I'll put more info in here once I've heard it.

EDIT: (adding this record to the list)
Steve Denny on piano
Marty Kenney on bass
Ben Waters on drums

Steve gave me a copy of the record last weekend whilest both on a straight ahead jazz gig at Ace Gillett's. I have listened to it twice already, and it is a GREAT record of a trio of folks I've had the pleasure to know since I moved to Colorado. All these guys are incredible in their own right, and together they form this powerful triforce of jazz individuals that are taking over! Steve's compositions on the record go through a real transformation from the melon collie "Finn's Sick" to the upbeat "Stacie," and running through humor, swing, and few quirks along the way. You're in for a great musical ride with these guys, BUY THE ALBUM!!!

That's all the promo for now with my posts. I've got two album reviews coming up soon to be on the lookout for, and more Malaby posts, so stayed tuned to the blog!