Did you ever listen to a new record and want to tell everyone about it? That’s how lot’s of writers get started including this one. Influences can be what people I know exposed me to or maybe a band I stumbled onto that had something to say. Bands from the central coast to the bay are writing new music, evolving and taking us in new directions and sometimes familiar ones. Today I’m taking a look at 3 new local releases.
Check out the song Mumbles or Refrigerator to get a sense of their sound. Mumbles is very much in the vein of bands like the Entrance Band or Ty Segall while Refrigerator shows a Rockabilly influence that can sound like Flat Duo Jets. Definitely a band making waves the Shoobies demo also features a pretty solid cover of the Sonic’s Have Love Will Travel.
One thing that’s for sure is there isn’t a shortage of bands playing Garage, Surf and Rockabilly, but guitarist/singer Jacob Ellzey, drummer Evan Hildebrand and bassist Alex Varelijian have carved out their space in the hullabaloo with their release. They will be performing at the Catalyst atrium on Friday, December 1st as openers for SF based Stone Foxes. Check them out!
Also from Santa Cruz, Loos Leaf is a band formed by Elliot Kay and Lucas Heinel. Taking a nod from deep grooves, their first S/T release shows quite alot of promise. Check out Full Moon Dub for a chance to hear some of their deepest instrumental sound. Utilizing a series of loops this song showcases their big sound with heavy horns filling out the Dub synthesizer piping out keys sounding much like a melodica.
The song Nicaragua is the first single from the record and features the vocals of Samantha Stone and Barbora Buzinskaite. The song Boketto has some hooks similar to some of the pioneers of Neo Soul like the Brand New Heavies.
Weaving a blend of vocal and instrumental songs heavily drenched in jazz, soul, hip hop and fusion Loos Leaf is sure to take you on a journey of some more mellow up tempo jams that can help you better appreciate all of the talent budding from local artists. Loos Leaf have two upcoming gigs at the Crepe Place, on November 15th and December 6th. More chances to see a great new band.
From Hollister comes a tall songwriter who is a talented musician and a friend. Zack has released several recordings over the past few years and has shown little signs of slowing down as he has performed across the central coast and as far away as Holland.
Freitas’ newest record is entitled Desolation Animals, a title that is loosely connected to the Jack Kerouac book Desolation Angels according to the artist. A record that goes in some new directions, Desolation Angels features songs like Dragonfly, one of the faster songs with Freitas pulling off some of his best vocals on the record.
Two to Tango, like many songs by Freitas sound influenced by the 90’s and while having vocal characteristics of some of the more popular artists of that era like Oasis, his songwriting can at times be a bit more expansive with nods to bands like Teenage Fanclub or The Lemonheads.
Zack also tackles the theme song from Charlie and the Chocolate factory with his cover of Pure imagination. His version is acoustic and fairly straight up.
ABBEY ROAD, FAT MIKE AND THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK: AN INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA SILBERMAN
In early November Vanessa Silberman was in San Francisco to record some tracks for an upcoming ep and for a concert at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. I got the opportunity to sit down with her and talk with her about some of her experiences, favorite vegan hangs, and her upcoming ep.
SB: I learned that you’re vegan during your last tour. Have you ever been to Crossroads?
VS: I haven’t. I tried to go once, I had heard about it for a few years and it was closed. Me and a few of my friends we went to try to get some food there but that evening we got there it was closed for the night already. But, I’ve heard its amazing.
VS: What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants? I love Café Gratitude, which, they have that in LA and here. There’s a place, I think it’s called Millennium, and it’s in Berkeley, I think it used to be in SF, and the owners re-opened it, I think its Oakland/Berkeley on College and it’s amazing. Some other places I eat a lot, especially on the road are Whole Foods and if you’re on the road, I don’t know, I tend to go to a lot of grocery stores, because then you can make salads and stuff like that. Let’s see there also a few other grocery type stores that have really good healthy food. I guess in LA there’s one called Lassens. It a grocery store, kind of similar to Whole Foods and they do a lot of different vegan options, sandwiches and wraps and smoothies and pre-made stuff, raw food. There’s also another place I like that’s called Erewhon, which I really like a lot. If you’re a band on a budget and looking for something and there’s only fast food places I tend to eat at Chipotle or I’ve done Subway a couple of times. How about you, do you have any favorite places?
SB: Um, well there is a new place that just opened in Santa Cruz, it’s called Veg on the Edge, it’s West African.
VS: OMG, I love Ethiopian, is that similar?
SB: It’s a little different, One of the guys that owns the place is Nigerian. They (will soon) have Jallof rice, it’s a really spicy rice, and he (the owner) was saying that West African meals are easier make vegan than Ethiopian meals because they don’t use milk, whereas Ethiopian meals use dairy. It’s a really great restaurant. The next time you’re in Santa Cruz you should check it out.
VS: I’d love to, you know the last time when we were in Santa Cruz we ate at the Saturn Cafe. We liked it. Actually all of us went. Carissa, Mikel, Reed.
SB: You grew up in Berkeley?
VS: Yeah, Partly close to Berkeley. I was born in Berkeley, actually.
SB: What were some of you favorite clubs to go to see live music growing up?
VS: Growing up, I went to the Gilman a couple of times, like when I was in high school. But mainly, when I was going to school here it was a lot of punk shows at community centers or at school or at kind of random places. Just being younger and under age, you know I had friends and they kind of tended to pull it together you know more community center all age shows. But, like I mentioned I did go to the Gilman a couple of times and to some of the larger concerts. When the radio station Kamp KOME used to be around you know they had what now is the substitution for what they have now, the BFD from Live 105. One of those big festivals, you know Shoreline Amphitheater kinda thing.
‘I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people.’
SB: Why did you move to LA?
VS: For music. Yeah, I always, since I was pretty young knew I wanted to be in and go to LA. I just knew that it was going to kinda be part of my path and I just felt kind of drawn to it, and the entertainment world. Actually I ended up going to school in Sedona, you know my last year in high school but I didn’t really complete it. So, I got my GED and got into a music school in LA, and part of like you know growing up with parents and you know what parents might suggest to their kid about having some kind of backup path or plan, and I was just like I’m just going to go and do music and go there but at least do some form of school to get yourself kind of figured out and do some form of constructive stuff without just aimlessly going there you know. I went to a school there called Musician’s Institute and I did some guitar for a few months and then ‘intro to the music business’ and artist development kind of program and to me it was like, “alright you know if I’m going to make the money until I’m a successful musician I’ll just get a job in the music business”, so that was my whole concept of going to LA.
SB: Can you talk a little about the work you’re doing now in the studio?
VS: Sure, myself and Reed Mullin from Corrosion of Conformity and Mikel Ross, they recently kind of started backing me under the last year as the Vanessa Silberman band and so we started touring together. They were fans of my music and what I’d been doing and we all actually met when I was a recording in-house assistant at 606, so I kinda knew them for a while and we toured on some of these songs and some of these songs we really knew and so right now we’re recording some songs and we’ve been working on the drums and they’re pretty rock and raw and I feel from what some people have said some of the best songwriting material that I’ve probably put together so far. It’s really cool to have these guys. They’re a real solid rhythm section, super supportive you know with my music and they’re also fun to collaborate and I think that’s part of why I’m doing solo music, because you know I had a band for about 12 or 13 years before but with solo music you know it kind of allows you to do a lot of different things and a lot of flexibility you know to work with different people and to try different things out you know and I just really wanted that you know and right now we’re just trying to get the songs as best as possible. I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people. I really want to bring a lot of positivity and hope through the songs you know the songs are pretty personal.
SB: Do you plan on performing more states together as a group in 2018?
VS: Oh, definitely yeah. You know, we’ve been talking and we have some plans in the works for SXSW, and I think we all want to do more shows so (we’re) indefinitely planning it out and just continuing to discuss it. But, I think for right now we’ve got some stuff in the works, there will be a single and music video coming out which actually is a song we actually recorded on an off day on our first tour that we did together in March. The song is called OK, and we’re going to be putting that out soon so people will kind of get a feel or an introduction to what that will be. But right now we’re just trying to focus on trying to get the best songs we can recorded and quickly after we’ll solidify our plans.
SB: When do you expect the new record to come out? What label are you currently with?
VS: I have my current artist development label you know that I’ve released my own music on and worked with other bands. I’m also an independent A & R. So, thus far I’ve put out my own music. But, I’m definitely looking and we’ve been talking and I want to team up with some other label for the release so I think we’ll be trying to figure that out for early 2018. No exact date yet, but definitely early 2018 for the ep.
SB: Can you talk about the women’s songwriting workshop (Girls Rock Santa Barbara) where you were a participant in Santa Barbara this year?
VS: Yeah, actually myself and Carissa Johnson, who opened up for us on our West Coast tour, we did that workshop (where) we played few songs and then we did Q&A, but actually with the whole artist development thing and my label that I do (A Diamond Heart Production) in addition to recording and being an artist, Carissa kind of does some of the same stuff. She has a company called Fuel Heart Productions and so A Diamond Heart and Fuel Heart kind of came together to offer a workshop for not just women, but everyone and all ages where it covers everything. I do consulting and sometimes with my label, (I) help bands come up with release plans or you know sometimes people don’t know their next step and its so helpful to have, say an artist or someone who has a hand in the business but has both views to help figure out what the next step is or it could literally be anything. I’ve worn every hat as far as releasing. Sometimes people don’t know if ‘I’m supposed to tour?’ or ‘am I supposed to release my music first?’ or ‘how do you go about booking?’. The fact is, a little over two years ago I completely started from scratch with all of my experience, I started touring solo and I played somewhere around 330 shows or something, so I can tell someone, ‘Ok, this is the experience I’ve had’. Carissa’s been touring a lot she’s also really big in her scene on the east coast. So we have two views, one view from the west coast, one view from the east coast. Someone who’s a little bit younger, someone who’s been around in the business a bit longer and maybe had different jobs but we both can give each other a fresh perspective for the audience to see and hear about, especially building from a beginning artist stage and up. Also (it’s about) building a team. Carissa helps beginning bands on the east coast. That’s pretty much what we’re doing and we’ll be doing that more and building that more. I think it’s really cool, you know, when I was an artist just starting out I’d have someone who had experience, (and) who’s already doing stuff to have some ideas to help to know where to go next. That whole thing was really helpful for me whenever someone helped me so to be able to offer that I think that is something valuable for a lot of artists.
‘After I’d had this conversation with him (Fat Mike) I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing’
SB: Can you talk about the song ‘American Folk Rock’?
VS: There’s a lot of interesting back stories for that song. One, was that the song was inspired by when I was working as an Assistant Engineer, there was a period of about 3 months where I was working every single day and I’d been trying to go to Joshua Tree for a long time, through the desert and I just hadn’t had the chance and randomly one weekend we had a session where we were going to record that day. A week before I was assisting on a session with Fat Mike who started Fat Wreck Chords and we were talking about female bands and success and stuff and he was mentioning why there weren’t more female bands that were successful and he was like ‘Every female musician should go and buy Abbey Road’. After I’d had this conversation with him I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing and so the first line in American Folk Rock I mention Abbey Road and that was one part of the thought, but the rest of the song is extremely personal and (was about) times when I was feeling lonely. The other back story about that song is that it was recorded in South Africa when I did a producing label project with this recording studio called BOP Recording Studios and it was this old label connected to this big studio out there in northern South Africa in this region previously known as Bopa Botswana in this place called Mafikeng and I basically went out there to find an artist, group or band to do a singles project and I ended up finding a hip hop group and writing with a bunch of artists from that region and when I was there on the last day I had the chance to record this song and I did it in a live room with one microphone and it was kind of like a nod to old country blues artists where you can have the most expensive studio in the whole world and just use one microphone with the hopes that it would capture a song in a simple form and where I wanted to do stuff like that with my most recent ep. You know, I’ve got this incredible studio where American Folk Rock was done with just one mic and another song for example like Shine you know where I did some recording of the vocals in a bathroom and recorded everything pretty much in a box. So, I just wanted to show a bunch of diversity and American Folk Rock was different from anything I’d put out before in my prior material.
‘If you find earth boring, just the same old same thing. Come on sign up with outer space ways incorporated‘-Le Sony’r Ra
It’s hard to imagine the year is already in the back stretch. There have been quite a few good concerts in the bay area this year, including the Sun Ra Arkestra on August 6th at the SF Jazz center. The concert we caught was the final night of a 4 night stretch which boasted different compositions each night. Led by longtime alum and maestro, Marshall Allen the Arkestra once again made good on their word to take every member of the audience to outer space.
Maestro Allen has transcended above any doubts fans might have had of whether he and the Arkestra would be able to adapt to a world without Sun Ra himself still in it. In fact, Sun Ra‘s very presence seems to be now somehow channeled through Allen as their compositions continue to inspire and evoke communication and the culture from some distant planet. Throughout history, many musicians and cultures have longed for an extraplanetary connection only to seem destined to fall short of such communications. The Arkestra has quite a track record for such a connection, not unlike the Dogon tribe in Mali.
Sun Ra was well known for his compositions and improvisations as well as his ability to draw the Arkestra‘s talented and devoted group members. It does appear that Maestro Allen also serves as an inspirational musician who plays alto saxophone, flute and EVI. The EVI is an electronic wind instrument which Allen uses in a way not dissimilar to the way Sun Ra utilized synthesizers to explore sounds that enter our auditory realm from outer space while the band rhythmically swings and bops and paints auditory landscapes. Joined by saxophone, bassoon and flutist Danny Ray Thompson, alto saxophonist and singer Knoel Scott the group performed a wonderful version of the Sun Ra classic ‘Dreams come true’.
Michael Ray is also a longtime trumpet player and member of the Arkestra is also know for his work in Kool and the Gang, his own group Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe and other groups as well. The band also included singer Tara Middleton, percussionist ElSon Nacimento, Cellist Kash Killion and guitarist DM Hotep. Pianist Farid Abdul-Bari Barron plays in a wonderful barrel house style that fits in so well with the Arkestra and he is a wonderful spirit to have in the group.
For another take on the Arkestra and on Sun Ra, please have a look at my first vlog here.
On Tuesday, July 25th L.A. based guitarist songwriter Vanessa Silberman brought her tour to the Blue Lagoon in downtown Santa Cruz. Her band included Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity, Reed Mullin Music) on drums and Mikel Ross (Dreamstar Productions, Lucky Recording, Inc.) on bass. Playing a short but blistering set the trio played loud and fast, supporting her 2016 self titled EP. The edgy rock written by Berkeley born Silberman likens back to post punk era 90s such as Scrawl and Nirvana. Those folks put on an amazing set and brought along Boston singer songwriter Carissa Johnson as an opener.
On Monday June 19th the one and only Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry performed at the Catalyst atrium in Santa Cruz with NST & the Soul Sauce from South Korea. It was one of two bay area shows, performing at the Mezzanine in SF and at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Performing alongside the dub pioneer was Subatomic Sound System, a Brooklyn based band who toured exclusively with Mr. Perry around the US performing the classic Upsetters record Super Ape, from 1976.
This year’s incarnation with Noah Tha Riddum Doktor and Subatomic performed the single they cut with Scratch entitled ‘Black Ark Vampires‘ as well as well know including ‘Zion’s Blood‘ and ‘I am a madman‘. Perry tours extensively and the 81 year old singer, producer and inventor of Dub music has a storied career with his years at Studio One, the Black Ark, with producer/engineers Adrian Sherwood, the Mad Professor and others.
Originally born in Kendal, Jamaica, Perry‘s mother was of Nigerian ancestry. He now lives in Switzerland and tours Europe extensively performing with Sherwood and Mad Professor in England, Pura Vida from Belgium, and has a new release with Cookie the Herbalist from Switzerland entitled Ease! The master of dub proves that he is still a force to be reckoned with his quirky style and energetic shows. Wonderful sets from Perry and NST & the Soul Sauce.
On Sunday, April 30th, Adam Carter AKA A-Plus from Souls of Mischiefand Hieroglyphics brought his Spring Cleaning tour from Oakland to the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. With a set that included Hiero classics such ‘You never knew‘ as well as the Souls of Mischief hit ‘93 til Infinity‘, and music from his solo career including Patna Please.
Joined by Producer Jerome Foster AKA Knobody, A-Plus performed with DJ Nocturnal and refers to this group as Grow Theory. Their anxiously awaited record is in the works and will be yet another group coming from the Hiero Emporium record label from the sunny side of the bay. Nothing but fun times every time I make it out to see any Hiero member and certainly they make the bay an exciting mecca for fans of old school hip hop.
The night prior to that stellar night of Hip Hop was Saturday, April 29th and we had a wonderful opportunity to see Oakland saxophone legend David Murray performing with Chicago native and AACM member Kahil El’Zabar at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall in Felton, Ca.
In addition to being a band leader and session artist Murray is well known for being a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. He has received many awards including the Village Voice magazine’s ‘Musician of the Decade’ in 1980 as well as winning a Grammy in 1989 for his band’s recording ‘Blues for Coltrane‘.
Kahil El’Zabar performed with many legendary musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder. El’Zabar is known for his bands including the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Ritual Trio, TriFactor, JUBA Collective as well as being the recipient of the 2012 International Ambassador’s award in the Arts from former President Barack Obama.
Soulful and rhythmic with infusions of dance, spoken word are some of the memories this wonderful concert left on me. The Duo has three recording out together and they played efforts ‘We Is‘ and a number of other repertoire songs that captivated fans and audience members.
1 Rusconi + Fred Frith– Live In Europe-Qilin
2 Fred Frith Trio-Another Day in Fucking Paradise-Intakt Records
3 Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilburry, Wadada Leo Smith-Nessuno-I Dischi Di Angelica
4 Joe McPhee, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten-Bricktop-Trost Records
5 Rova Channeling Coltrane– Electric Ascension Live- Rogue Art
6 Rangda-The Heritic’s Bargain-Drag City
7 Dwarfs Of East Agouza-Bes- Nawa recordings
8 Unnatural Ways-We Aliens-Tzadic
9 David Bowie-Black Star-Columbia records
10 A Tribe Called Quest– We Got It From Here-thank you for your service-Epic records
11 Leonard Cohen-You Want It Darker-Columbia
12 Lin-Manuel Miranda-Hamilton (OST)-Atlantic
13 Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, Hamid-Drake- Song Sentimentale-Otoroku
14 Various Artists- This is Kologo Power(A Bolgatanga Ghana Collection)-Makkum Records
15 King Champion Sounds-To Awake In That Heaven Of Freedom Excelsior Records
16 ICP Orchestra– Restless In Pieces-Instant Composers Pool
17 Terry Riley-The 3 Generations Trio-I Dischi Di Angelica
18 Childish Gambino-Awaken My Love-Glassnote
19 Solange– A Seat At The Table-Columbia
20 Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry– Must Be Free-Megawave
21 Tortoise-The Catastrophist- Thrill Jockey
22 Konono no.1– Meets Batida- Crammed Discs
23 The Dead C.– Trouble- Bada bing
24 The Avalanches– Wildflower- Astralwerks
25 Jeff Parker-The New Breed-International Anthem Recording Company
For 2 nights, September 15th and 16th, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic played the east bay at the Fox Theater in Oakland. His presence allowed many old and new fans the chance to visit Funkalelica and join in on his party with other Funkateers as they performed ‘One Nation Under a Groove’. Uncle Jam officially joined the Brainfeeder records ranks opening for electronic and hip hop legend Flying Lotus aka. Captain Murphy. Flying Lotus is also known for incorporating projection mapping onstage with the assistance of Strangeloop and Timeboy, his visual designers weave 3D images throughout the concert creating a visual impact that virtually. Another Brainfeeder artist performing was Thundercat, who works with Flying Lotus and released the song ‘Them changes’, a song that had all of us singing along last year and in Thursday’s concert too. Early sets by Shabazz Palaces and Gaslamp Killer, the qwirky dj who bobbed around like Animal from the Muppets, and had alot of folks bobbing too.
Although the entire night was really quite amazing, my personal favorite parts of night took place when Thundercat played. He performed the hit, along with the opening two songs ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Song for the Dead’ from his 2105 EP ‘The Beyond/Where Giants Roam’ and ‘The Lotus and the Jondy’ from his 2013 ‘Apocolypse’ release. ‘The Lotus and the Jondy’ is a song written about the late pianist Austin Peralta and Flying Lotus. The former Suicidal Tendencies bass player has shown how varied his talents are as his new musical recordings show much more influence to 70’s fusion jazz such as Weather Report than to the thrash metal he became know for during his days with S.T. For people who haven’t heard this incredible new direction from Stephen Bruner, is as prolific when working on his own music as he is when he’s working with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus and other Brainfeeder artists.
Steven FlyLo Ellison has really been turning alot of heads since the release of his 2012 recording ‘Until the quiet comes’ and the title song short film that won the Sundance Film Festival’s Short film special jury award in 2013. FlyLo’s music and visual design on many media fronts take us to other worlds and often times other dimensions as one of his most utilized stage media is a tesseract. The soundscapes are often eerie and macabre, at times even telling violent or futuristic tales where mutations and electronic beats flow like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman recreated into one person. Ellison performs with a long list of who’s who also including Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington. Kendrick Lamar’s vocals were present in the closer of the night ‘Never going to catch me now’. Ellison’s alter ego Captain Murphy made an appearance on Dead Man’s Tetris, a song also from the 2014 realease ‘You’re Dead’. FlyLo also gave the audience a glimpse of the upcoming Thundercat song and it was one of the highlights of his set, bringing us back from the rapid fire beats and visuals like returning to one’s sense after a dream or psychedelic experience.
While Dr. Funkenstein himself may have not headlined the event, George Clinton really did the most with the audience of anyone on stage that night. Parliament Funkadelic concerts are typically greater than 2 hours with an extended group and performance that includes Sir Nose D’voidoffunk and no Funkadelic concert would be complete without Starchild’s anthem ‘Flashlight’ in which Sir Nose is hit with the bop gun and starts to dance. Last year, Clinton released the memoir, ‘Brothers be, Yo like George, ain’t that funkin’ kinda hard on you?’ The book coincided with a song bearing the latter half of the phrase by Funkadelic that finishes the title with ‘I was hard when I started and I’ll be hard when I get through.’ The song features Kendrick Lamar with Ice Cube. With the time constraints of having so many artists one song that was noticeably absent from the set of recent years was ‘Maggot Brain’, but maybe the switched it up night two and added it back in. The crowd favorite ‘Atomic Dog’ was certainly not overlooked and it was clear that was one of strongest songs of the night for N. Carolina born Clinton and P-Funk. Concerts by the undisputed Godfather of Funk meld a multitude of hits from over the years and Thursday included the 1975 hit ‘Get off your ass and jam’ as incentive to the crowd to dance.
Opening acts Shabazz Palaces and Gaslamp Killer had the crowd grooving early at the start of the show. Shabazz Palaces combine hip hop with the Kalimba and add some loops to this chill vibe. The Gaslamp Killer is a dj with some really far out records to spin and invite you in. With all of those acts performing on the same stage, they made us aware that ‘There ain’t no party like a P-Funk party cause a P-Funk party don’t stop!”
One thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is the unprecedented amount of reissues or first issues of Joe McPhee recordings from the vaults. For decades Mr. McPhee has released countless releases with a multitude of extremely talented improvisers to say the least. Now, there seems to be a certain popularity with vinyl records among collectors that coincides with where the consumer is on improv music. Which in short, means when I go to a record store and see a record that says Joe McPhee Lost Tapes, I want it in my collection and I’m certain a lot of other people do too.
Roaratorio records is a great label to look for such vinyl released by McPhee. I picked up my copy of Solos:The Lost Tapes last year and have been listening to it along with the 4 reissues of CJR records on Bo-Weavil and other recordings from this early era McPhee for some perspective. This recording does absolutely everything one could hope it would. Side one begins with ‘Wind Cycles’ an exploration of the depths of the breath within the saxophone and transitions nicely from what seem to be electronic manipulations of wind and tones. The opening key tapping segment almost seems reminiscent of John Snyder’s electronic manipulations on their work together.
The Redwood Rag is very rich melody that according to the liner notes (written by the artist) is dedicated to the of town, Redwood, NY where the famous Cadence Jazz Record label is located. The song is 3:50 of pure bliss! McPhee puts so much into each note and there is a resounding wow being generated by my ears and brain when listening to this song. I recall buying a CD years called the Redwood Sessions by Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton mainly because it had Joe McPhee as a guest on the Cadence Label (CIMP records). To imagine this song was written about 16 years earlier makes it more impacting.
Opening side two is Ice Blue, is also a strong improvised piece, this time showing the depth of McPhee’s ability to make his alto saxophone roar. This recording, as well as The Redwood Rag are credited to the Loft Jazz period in NYC, where McPhee laid many of his early roots.
The closing song, Voices is hauting melody that was originally released on The Willsau Concert (Hat Hut records). Willisau is a small town in Switzerland, referred to as ‘The Mekka of Creative Music in Europe’ according to the album cover. The original version was from a concert that featured John Snyder on synthesizer and Makaya Ntshoko on drums. The solo version transitions from the opening melody to point where the song shifts and takes flight as if its undulating and navigating some cross currents before again landing and closing on the refrain of the opening melody. Voices was recorded at a benefit for the New Music Distribution Service, a record distributor who, along with Cadence provide some context on how listeners of creative music gained access to new recordings in the 70’s and 80’s. Founded by Michael Mantler and Carla Bley, their catalogs contained releases of musicians ranging from electronic to free jazz. Many years ago I owned a copy that was handed down to me by a friend, but it was sadly lifted from me at a record store I was working at in the early 90’s.
With many recordings being available through streaming and CD only, it’s great to have this opportunity to have access to some of the early recordings found on Solos: The Lost Tapes on a vinyl format. Material worthy not only of documenting, but including in regular rotation as well.
Los Angeles based guitarist Jeff Parker‘s new release grabs your attention on track 1 and captivates the listener throughout the entire record. The opening track ‘Executive Life’ starts out like a some wild combo of hip-hop jazz sound mixed with Lounge Lizards-esque composing woven together. That’s the first moment you know this band in this session is special.
Parker plays Electric Piano next in the quirky ‘Para Ha Tay’, then it’s back to showing off some of his laid back and amazing songwriting in Here Comes Ezra, which also is in a way adding more Parker touches in with his electronic beats as well as the guitar style he’s known for.
Jrifted starts off the second side and immediately we’re starting to wonder if we’re listening to enchanting melody with Gil Evans or Butch Morris and then you notice the orchestral sound is following the guitar. The guitar part is one of several loops included in the recording that really work. The saxophone of Josh Johnson is great on this song too. Mr Johnson has some nice solo and collaboative playing in Jrifted and as well on many songs in the New Breed.
The new release for the Tortoise guitarist has some great directions including some old school funk in ‘Get Dressed’. Drummer Jamire Williams and Vocalist Ruby Williams draw you into the only vocal track ‘Cliche’. This song has some elements of a vocal track one might find on a Henry Threadgill record. When comparisons are made, they’re mainly made on style as this record really captures it’s own brilliance.
Some of the best musical collaborations occur during summer music festivals. A wonderful collaboration occured at the Respect Festival this year.The Respect Festival in Prague is now in its 19th year of existence. A music festival based on diversity and non-violence, Respect Festival draws international artists who perform both traditional and improvised styles of music.
Independently, both Iva Bittova and Paolo Angeli are well known for leaving audiences spellbound by the energy and beauty of their music. Bittova, from the Czech Republic and Angeli, from Italy recently performed together at Palac Akropolis in support of the Respect Festival in Prague.
Iva Bittova is a renowned singer and violin player who has recorded and performed extensively with artists such as Fred Frith, Pavel Fajt and Vladimir Vaclavek. She has recorded and performed traditional Czech and Moravian songs, music by composer Leos Janacek and a large library of her own compositions.
Paolo Angeli has also recorded with many of today’s best known improvisors and both Angeli and Bittova have independently worked with jazz percussionist Hamid Drake. Angeli performs on a Sardinian guitsr that he has modified to add new dimensions to its sound. The modifications include foot pedals used to make movable mallets tap the strings at the base of the guitar thus making a percussive sound. He also has added an electric turning device that spins on the strings sound a bit like a cross between a dulcimer and hurdy gurdy. These, and other modifications allow him simultaneous playing of both a lead and backup part to his songs either by picking or use of a cello bow.
On Monday night’s performace the duo played several songs from Iva Bittova’s Bile inferno and Ne nehledej. From Bile inferno Sto let and Zelini Vinececk. The two also performed a variety of improvised songs as well as a traditional Czech song and a traditional Sardinian song. The audience was excited to see this rare collaboration of two great musical minds.