Roaratorio brings an Irish Circus to the music

A small batch record company from Minneapolis has been quietly making its mark on the creative new musical world for 18 years. Founded by James Lindbloom, the label draws its name from a musical piece by late composer John Cage by the same name. The composition by Cage sought to bring literature (Namely that of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake) to performance. The record label has released 46 recordings to date featuring Sun Ra, Joe McPhee, Steve Lacy, Pauline Oliveros and Daniel Carter to name a few.

James Lindbloom and the late Pauline Oliveros

According to Lindbloom, most of the label’s releases are limited to around 500 copies while the titles for Sun Ra and a few other titles had as many as 1000 to 1500 copies. To date, Roaratorio has released 3 recordings by late accordionist Pauline Oliveros, who developed the musical vocabulary referred to as Deep Listening and taught at UCSD and Mills College.  The most recent release featuring Oliveros was as a member of the Thollem Cline trio, entitled Molecular Affinity. Thollem/Cline trio is conceptually like drummer Samm Bennett and late Cellist Tom Cora’s band Third Person, a “trio” that included the third artist as a guest in performances.  Pianist Thollem McDonas and Guitarist Nels Cline’s (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers) previous collaborations as a trio include the Gowanus Session featuring William Parker on Bass and Radical Empathy featuring Michael Wimberly on drums.

On Roaratorio, Oliveros can be heard with Argentinian electronic group Reynols on the 2003 release, The Minexcio Connection: Live at the Rosendale Cafe and on her 2011 release To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe In Recognition of their Desperation.  The latter contains 3 recordings from 1970 and 1977 with a large ensemble.

Cover art for Molecular Affinity includes Coleochaete green algae, by Fernán Federici

Released one month after Ms. Oliveros passing, Molecular Affinity contains two improvised compositions, each approximately 19 minutes in length. Each of the pieces are works showcasing the trio’s breadth of talents, with all 3 musicians drawing both distinction and commonality. Oliveros can make her instument sound electronic as it entwines with piano and electronic effects, including guitar and dobro making the giving the recording the feeling of a soundtrack. The recording has moments sounding like a work out of time, Molecular Affinity also has an air reminscent of recordings from contemporary composers on the Nonesuch record label back in it’s heyday of the late sixties and seventies. For fans of Oliveros or improvised music in general this recording isn’t to be missed. LP/Digital copies of Molecular Affinity are available individually from Roaratorio Records. The 3 Thollem/Cline trio recordings were also released this year as part of a digital only format compilation earlier in 2018.

Argentenian Composer Nelson Gastaldi recorded cassette symphonies

Argentenian composer Nelson Gastaldi (1932-2009) has what is known to be a treasure trove of recordings, however to date Symphony #3: Siddhartha Gautama O El Poder De La Nada is the only recording to be officially released. The recording was discussed on the podcast #37 for Free Form Freakout. Interestingly, in the podcast, Lindbloom discusses how he did “these home recordings, symphonies as he called them–, were made through a crude overdubbing setup– He would record them on a boom box, play them back on a separate deck while recording another layer of the piece, then play back the new cassette while playing along to it once again, and so on until the piece was complete.” It’s really surprising to imagine someone merging musical expression and composition in such a manner and having a result that is so indescribable. The recording was composed and recorded between 1972 and 1997. This is an essential recording for collectors of contemporary electronic composition.

“A” Trio Live at Nickelsdorf album cover

Another direction of musical exploration on Roaratorio is Lebanese based The A Trio, who have a number of recordings including a 2018 release with the UK based renowned experimental band AMM. Their music is fairly indescribable as on listens to the 40+ minute improvisation and would likely have difficulty in knowing what instruments were being played (without looking at the cover). The group has also collaborated with Alan Bishop from the Sun City Girls on their 2015 recording Burj Al Imam. Trumpet player Mazen Kerbaj utilizes his instrument not for melodic means, but instead at times it sounds like a new form of sound has been created, in a way like the first time one hears Tuvan throat singing and ponders that it really is vocals. Their style on Live at Nickelsdorf can be at times percussive, sounding like springs and whirligigs bouncing with a motor puttering along while high pitches overtake the moment sounding like a violin bow is being used on a cymbal.

Roaratorio is much more than the label that releases vinyl artifacts by Sun Ra and Joe McPhee’s awesomeness. But, don’t forget that they’re that too. Lindbloom has created one of the strongest labels in existence today and if you haven’t already done so,  you should challenge your ears to check a few of their releases out.

Space is the place and other concert reviews

‘If you find earth boring, just the same old same thing. Come on sign up with outer space ways incorporated‘-Le Sony’r Ra

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center's summer festival

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center’s summer festival

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.

 

SFJazzCenter

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.

 

 

 

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

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’.

 

 

 

 

Farid Baron, Tara Middleton, Marshall Allen,  James Stewart, Knoel Scott and Danny Ray Thompson

Baron, Middleton, Allen,Stewart,Scott and Thompson

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.

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Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Lee 'Scratch" Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee ‘Scratch” Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

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.

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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.

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar Duo

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray Duo

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar at Don Quixote's International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray at Don Quixote’s International Dancehall 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‘.

 

 

 

 

 

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

 

 

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.

 

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My brush with fame

Sun Ra 1989 release Blue Delight on A&M Records

Sun Ra 1989 release Blue Delight on A&M Records

A few years ago I needed to clear out some of my cd collection and I started selling cds at the usual spots to sell music online. Some of the cds had been in my collection for 20 years and I thought it best to looking into replacing them on vinyl anyway. I sold a lot of great recordings by Fela Kuti, Ornette Coleman, and Last Poets to name a few. One day I looked in the account and noticed an order from Penn Jillette. It was for the Sun Ra title ‘Blue Delight‘.
I remember thinking how that made selling records online fun for a while. Thanks Penn and as I remember writing in a note with the sale- you have good taste in music.