Loren Connors The Departing of a Dream
Family Vineyard : 2013 (orig. 2002)
Borbetomagus and Friends Industrial Strength
Leo : 1981
Don Dietrich, Jim Sauter, saxes; Toshinori Kondo, trumpet; Donald Miller, guitar; Milo Fine, piano; Tristan Honsinger, cello; Peter Kowald, bass.
HIGH ABOVE A GREY GREEN SEA
Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Constellation : 2013
This site, from its inception, has always been a collaborative enterprise. Of the hundreds of posts here, there are maybe a handful that didn’t at least get looked at by both proprietors. (A reminder: those proprietors are Jeff G., aka @drewledrew, and Jeff J., aka @deathoflit.) This post, however, is a bit of an exception, and it will be me, Jeff G., talking at you from here on out.
While we are both writers of a sort, Jeff and I, only one of us is a true creative writer, and that is Jeff Jackson. As some of you may have learned, Jeff’s first novel, Mira Corpora, was published this fall by indie press Two Dollar Radio. If you generally dig the overall aesthetic that’s been on display over the years here at D:O, you should read it. But don’t take my word for it: others that have commented on how they’ve enjoyed it are authors Don DeLillo, Dennis Cooper, and David Gates. Publications as varied as Publishers Weekly, Bookforum,The Rumpus, and HTML Giant have sung its praises. Though perhaps the best review, in terms of grokking just what Jeff is up to, appeared recently at Trop.
Click the book cover to buy a copy from Powell’s Books
Still not convinced? Maybe you’d like to read an excerpt first — there’s one over at Dzanc’s Books’ Collagist; there’s another one over at Guernica. If you’re more into the author’s intentions, influences, and whatnot, there are several interviews, too: see Tin House; Charlotte’s Creative Loafing; or HTML Giant.
But perhaps you’re more of an audio/visual learner? Got you covered: anyone who’s anyone these days has a Largehearted Boy playlist/Book Notes column; see here for Jeff’s. Fancy a book trailer? Here’s for you:
And then there’s the music above. While it’d be impossible to capture the many worlds, moods, and emotional states conjured by Mira Corpora in a few tunes, the selections here felt appropriate to me in capturing some of the dislocated vibe; some of the starkness; the creepiness; the noise and the off-kilter humor of the thing.
Mtume Umoja Ensemble Alkebu-Lan – Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East)
Strata-East : 1972
Mtume, congas, tonette horn; Gary Bartz, alto and soprano sax; Carlos Garnett, tenor sax, flute; Leroy Jenkins, violin; Stanley Cowell, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Billy Hart, drums; Ndugu, drums; Andy Bey, Eddie Micheaux, and Joe Lee Wilson, vocals; Weusi Kuumba and Yusef Iman, spoken poetry.
We’ve got to talk about your new boyfriend. Something about that man just isn’t right and it’s up to friends to call out each other on this business. And we’re not just talking about the fact that he didn’t like that Mtume record. Though seriously, what was up with him clamping his hands over his ears and saying he’d outgrown screaming jungle music? We don’t care if he lived in Nigeria, that’s still fucked up. And to say it about Alkebu-Lan in specific, well, that should be classified in the DSM-IV as some kind of mental disorder.
You can’t tell us it didn’t bother you. After all, you’re the one who selected the album to soundtrack a perfectly pleasant brunch. We barely got through the early track “Baba Hengates” before he started carrying on about sloppy playing, ridiculous shouting, and unrefined musical concepts, imagining he was making some sort of point. Really, now. Personally, we’ve always considered that tune a genuine jazz epic, a propulsive widescreen musical panorama, like an Afrocentric Lawrence of Arabia — but on fast-forward!
The way Mtume combines spoken word, comping piano, percolating polyrhythms, surging horns, testifying backing vocals, and even the interjections from the audience at Brooklyn’s The East is totally immersive. It practically feels four-dimensional! And then there’s the heavy-hitting personnel listed on the back of the record. Just reciting those names is a sort of music all by itself.
The 18 minutes go by in a flash. Well, usually. When there’s not some fool carping at your record player every couple of minutes. It reminds us of McCoy Tyner’s “Sahara,”how the different movements fit together in ways that are equally elegant and visceral. But then we guess your new beau was too so-called sophisticated to appreciate the rawness. No doubt he even missed the nuances of Mtume’s rejection of the word jazz (“or some other irrelevant term”) on the album’s opening invocation.
Okay, so maybe we are just talking about the Mtume record. But do you really want to date someone with such terrible taste? Someone who can’t appreciate brilliant and soulful music? The guy is plainly lacking something fundamental. It reminds us of that John Waters quote: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!”
It sounds corny, but you can do better. And if you don’t believe us, just give this track another spin and hear the plain truth for yourself.
Sun Ra etc. Astro Black
Impulse! : 1973
Ra, Moog synth; Danny Davis, Marshall Allen, alto sax; Danny Thompson, baritone sax; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Charles Stephens, trombone; Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb, trumpet; Eloe Omoe, bass clarinet; Pat Patrick, clarinet; Alzo Wright, violin; Ronnie Boykins, bass; Tommy Hunter, drums; Atakatun, Chiea, Odun, congas; Ruth Wright, “space ethnic voice”; June Tyson, “word melody vocal.”
Sorry we called so late last night. We didn’t mean to wake you and throw a fright into your slumber. The skies were so unusually clear that we spent the entire evening laying on the roof, cataloging the constellations, and blasting vintage Sun Ra sides. We became obsessed with his 1970s Impulse! album Astro Black and put the title track on repeat and soon enough we started receiving some serious wisdom from the combination of decaying starlight and Saturnian tones.
Now, of course, we can’t quite reconstruct it. The particulars have slipped through our fingers along with the smoggy dawn. And to address the question you were too groggy to ask last night, we stopped taking mushrooms (of all kinds — we won’t even look sideways at a portabello) years ago. Though we have to admit there’s something about the flow of “Astro Black” that transports us to, let’s say, another plane of there.
You could say that about many Sun Ra tracks, but this tune captures the man’s many moods in a scant 10 minutes. There’s June Tyson singing about strolling through outer space with the vamping big band behind her; the way the track decays and morphs into abrasive bass solos, skittering percussion, Ruth Wright’s otherworldly “space voice,” and gonzo swirling synth passages; and how the singing finally returns, couched in an utterly alien soundscape, June singing as if she has finally reached home, perhaps a little worse for wear.
There’s some deeper meaning in all that, we’re sure of it. The next clear night, we’ll be up on the roof with a blanket trying to recreate the experience and reclaim our lost revelations. You’re more than welcome to join us.
John Tchicai died a year ago last week; October 8th, to be exact. We were reminded of this sad fact by drummer Ches Smith, who submitted the following guest post reflecting on Tchicai’s influence, and Smith’s own time playing with the tall Congolese Dane in his later days. We thank Ches for allowing us to post his words, and the sweet tune above. Thanks, too, to Stephen Buono for facilitating. By the way, for those in the NYC area, there is a memorial concert tonight (Friday, 18 Oct) honoring Tchicai, taking place at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn, at 7pm.
Take it away, Mr. Smith…
When I was 17 or 18 and living in Eugene, Oregon, my metal friends and I decided to hear John Tchicai play a concert at the local hall. Our curiosity was piqued because his association with John Coltrane was advertised. After a solo set by Derek Bailey, Tchicai took the stage, playing duo with a Bay Area-based drummer named Spirit. A few minutes into the set my friends were at the door, frantically motioning for me to leave with them; worn out by the Bailey set (no metal riffs there), they couldn’t deal with this at all.
I decided to stay. It sounded much different from the only reference point I had that was even close to what I was hearing — John Coltrane’s Om. Tchicai would accentuate the multi-directional rhythms of Spirit in a simple and direct way; often diatonically or even pentatonically, picking out elements of the storm of rhythm to match up with, or creating riffs. It stood apart from a cathartic “energy music” approach.
Perhaps this is what makes him so identifiable on seminal recordings in creative music. On both John Coltrane’s Ascension and the Albert Ayler-led New York Eye and Ear Control, Tchicai employs a sparse, melodic approach (not without humor) that stands in sharp relief to Coltrane and Ayler’s religious fervor, and the visceral noise-sonic textures of Sanders, Shepp, and Brown. The recent Triple Point box set, Call it Art, which contains largely unreleased material of the New York Art Quartet, shows the powerful alliance of Tchicai and Roswell Rudd: together they show what a succinct approach such as Tchicai’s can mean for an ensemble if developed by like-minded musicians dedicated to a unified aesthetic.
Tchicai insisted on fully exploring the options of the moment. At that Eugene, Oregon, concert described above, he noticed someone dancing in the audience, and spent the next 5 minutes of his set exclusively accompanying her. When I played with him for the first time, in a trio with Mary Halvorson, he walked over and, in a whisper, asked Mary if she sang. He then asked me, in front of the audience, if I spoke French. At the end of the great recording Willi the Pig (a 1975 Willisau date co-led with Irène Schweizer), Tchicai, seemingly in a state of great alarm, instructs the audience to refrain from clapping — it is clear they really want to. He then humorously berates them in German for a minute, finally allowing them to applaud — which they do, vigorously. Exploration of possibilities could even mean recalling his own history: on a gig by his working NYC-based sextet Six Points, he and I slipped into a sax/drums duo, and I immediately felt the historic weight of a sound-energy that was coming directly from an original source — given my previous experiences listening, I was surprised to find he also possessed a firebrand tenor sax player’s intensity that would rival the energy music of the best of the 60’s “new thing.”
When Tchicai formed what I think was his last working group, Five Points (with Alex Weiss, Garrison Fewell, Dmitry Ishenko, and myself, soon to be Six Points with the inclusion of Rosi Herlein), he chose a diverse group of improvisers without an abundance of renown, who were open and friendly as people and players. Each member was encouraged to bring in compositions, giving us insight into each other as musical thinkers, and also fostering a sense that the group belonged to us all. Many compositions of John’s stood out. The tune above was written as a drum feature, but I like how it works as a melody — it’s a good example of his melodic sense. And this is the score for a quite economical piece of John’s called “One of Those” (copyright 2010 John Tchicai):
1. Fast (tutti) pp
2. Slow (tutti) mf
3. Solo/s: _______
4. Fast (tutti) + main soloist ________
5. Solo/s: _________
6. Slow (tutti) decrescendo
In rehearsal he specified that we should loop material in the “tutti” sections, leaving the pitch and rhythm content up to us. After 45-plus years of Tchicai composing plenty of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic material, this piece stands out for its open-endedness. It is also notable that you can immediately identify it in a set, given how little is on the page. Coming as I was out of the early 2000’s SF Bay Area noise scene that placed a premium on cathartic repetition, this was, to me, what music was supposed to sound like. This late piece in his repertoire makes me wonder what was to come next for John Tchicai.
We recently came into a huge cache of adventurous Japanese jazz recordings from the 1970s. We thought we had a pretty good handle on this whole out jazz thing, but now our apartment is stacked with old records featuring strange covers and unfamiliar personnel. We feel like we’re 16 again, but not always in a good way. It’s been exciting but baffling. How do all these musicians relate to one another? What was the cultural context?
In the meantime, we’ve been listening back to the big acts on the scene — you know, everyday household names like saxophonist Kaoru Abe and our main man, guitarist Masayuki “Jojo” Takayanagi. We knew him more for his abstract noise constructions, but we recently broke out one of his earlier recordings, Free Form Suite, and were surprised that it opens with a fairly straight blues and cover of “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” So it must be true: everything comes from somewhere.
The album gets progressive weirder from there and you know we’re always jonesing for the freaky shit. “Sun in the East” offers gorgeous, soaring, Coltrane-inspired action, filtered through Takayanagi’s insistent six string strum and made entirely his own. The album is considered super-rare collector’s bait, but we swear this tune could be a jazz standard in another context — or maybe better yet, on another continent. Play it for your deaf nephew and see for yourself!
“Free Form Suite” is, as advertised, a probing selection that shows off Takayanagi’s ensemble in exploratory mode. It’s a gaseous shape of things to come, a scrawl in the margins writ large. Its wild spirit evokes those heaping piles of Japanese LPs that we really ought to move so we can properly vacuum.
So darling, if you don’t mind, hit your rolodex and send some of your Japan-o-phile jazz friends our way to help us decode our beautiful mess. We’ll welcome them with open arms.
DO YOU WANNA BE SAVED? CHRISTINE
Amina Claudine Myers The Circle of Time
Black Saint : 1984
ACM, piano, organ, vocals; Don Pate, bass; Thurman Barker, drums.
For a while now, you’ve been scolding us, exhorting us to spend some serious time in the soundworld of Amina Claudine Myers. But even in this day and age, her solo work is damn hard to track down. Like you said, she’s a triple threat — jazz musician, African American, and a woman. Plus it’s clear that her multifaceted music doesn’t comfortably fit into any one genre. Like her AACM compatriots, she draws her own damn musical map.
The past few weeks we’ve been spinning her Black Saint album The Circle of Time and thinking about you. The whole thing is impressive, but we keep coming back to “Christine.” Maybe it’s because the bright tones and major chords initially seemed slightly cloying to us, a bit lightweight. But the deeper we got into Myers’ incantatory rhythms and sly pianistic attack, we realized how much emotion was packed into her repeating motifs and how much balm it provided. We’d underestimated both the tune and the artist. We’re sure we’re not the first.
Then there’s “Do You Wanna Be Saved?” with Myers on organ and vocals, putting her own stomp [sic] on a combination of gospelized soul and funky jazz. It’s fantastic and full of yearning. Amina keeps asking if we want to be saved. But from what exactly? If she means from this this apartment full of half-digested records, books, and films, from a high rent that’s devouring every loose dollar, and from the nagging sense that we’re operating a site that’s slowly become a ghost of itself, then… yeah, maybe, maybe so.
It makes us think about Cynthia Carr’s essay about artist David Wojnarowicz: “No one person can create the gesture that changes everything for everybody. And unfortunately, the only life art can save is your own.” Maybe so, but Myers’ music suggests you can light the passage for those who might care to follow. However badly they stumble after you.
VI, piano; Stephan Crump, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums.
We’re thrilled that longtime friend of the site Vijay Iyer just won a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grant! To mark this incredible honor, we’re re-upping one of his guest posts where he shared two exclusive live tracks from his trio. We were bowled over by these pieces at the time and they still startle. They show his trio stretching out and transforming two older tunes. A small taste of why Vijay’s a deserving winner.
Your hosts invited me back for a guest post, and in celebration of our album release I am pleased to offer some exclusive live tracks of my trio with longtime colleagues Marcus Gilmore and Stephan Crump.
Roscoe Mitchell once observed that one’s music should contain opposites. Somewhere between that observation and James Brown’s infinitely extensible “bridges,” I was inspired to compose diptychs like the two pieces offered here.
“Questions of Agency” and “Cardio” were both composed early in this decade. “Questions” appeared in quartet format on Blood Sutra (2003) and is featured on a 2007 Youtube clip as well. The piece was written after Henry Threadgill had shown me some parts of his toolkit: first you permute a seed chord or cluster to produce a closed family of chords; then you enumerate the intervals that appear in this family, yielding an “intervallic mode,” a set of intervals that form the basis of improvisation. This piece is my misreading of those tactics. I built a bridge section around a cycling bass line as a moment of relief, but in this version that bridge engulfs about half of the track, almost gaining its own autonomy.
“Cardio” first appeared on Reimagining (2005). I’ve never really been able to play it right. In fact, we tried to record it for Blood Sutra (hence the title) but I just couldn’t master that recurring odd cellular run. I still get it wrong most of the time. But this piece lets us achieve other things: a contrast between a light diatonic space and a murky chromatic one, a velocity of cross-rhythms, an arc of intensity finally coming to a boil.
These versions were recorded during the group’s pivotal European tour last February. I won’t call it the birth of this trio; that would put a too-sharp point on a development that had already been in process for years. However, I think it is evident that we are arriving at something in these versions, some newfound understanding of the ground rules: the use of extremes, the awareness of texture and dynamics, the abrupt shifts and systematic expansions – the containing of opposites.
I hope this music gives you something you can use. Thanks for listening.
As the tunes above attest, Vijay’s trio has recently hit its stride. They continue that hot streak with Historicity, which includes reworked originals alongside stirring covers of “Galang” by M.I.A., “Smokestack” by Andrew Hill, “Dogon A.D.” by Julius Hemphill, and “Big Brother” by Stevie Wonder. For more info on the album, check out this YouTube clip.
The cover art for Historicity is Anish Kapoor’s model for “Memory” (above). It’s a fitting image for music that both stops you in your tracks, and encourages looking both forward and back.
An mp-free jazz blog focusing on rare or out-of-print music. We generally publish once a week. Songs will be available for a limited time, and are for evaluation purposes only.
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Chilly Jay Chill (aka Jeff Jackson) and Prof. Drew LeDrew (aka Jeff Golick).
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