Bob Burnett: This morning gave me pause to wonder if the shuffle feature on my iPOD really is random. Check out these segues:
"That's How I Feel"
Cul De Sac
Now, not for a minute would I think these three songs would work together--nor would I have specifically gone to any one of these selections and said "yep--that's what I wanna hear!"...but...they came together seamlessly and made me look around the Metro subway during my commute and almost say out loud "is anyone else hearing this?". Anyway--all three of these albums are interesting in their own way. Hearing them together this morning gave me a fresh perspective and took them to a new place for me.
Does this ever happen to you?
Bob Burnett: For you regular c60 readers you probably know us for offering cd/music selections. Well, I figured why not offer something related, engaging and in the spirit of c60?
ChrisComerRadio.com is the web-based archive of radio interviewer Chris Comer. Since the late '80s Chris has been interviewing people on the radio from the wide spectrum of music--musicians such as Fred Frith, David Sylvian, Bootsy Collins, John Zorn, Bill Bruford and Derek Bailey to name just a smattering. His web page is a terrific collection and one well worth exploring. For example, I've read books by the late Derek Bailey and have heard him mumbling about people named George in his family on some of his releases, but I've never had the chance to hear him speaking off the cuff about his work, his collaborations and generally what made him tick.
I appreciate Chris' ability to "stay real" with his questions--he's doesn't pitch five dollar words around in hopes of prodding a musician into a big word jousting match. Chris is obviously "a fan" but his laid-back style comes across clearly as a way to expose musicians he appreciates to a broader audience.
I recently met Chris in person over lunch in DC and we had a fun time talking about all kinds of music and gigs we've seen over the years. I think you'll enjoy his archives and getting a chance to meet him via his program and the wide range of talented people he has interviewed.
Bob Burnett: I frequently think back to New York City's Sweet Basil night club 25 years ago.
It was a jazz club just up the street from the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. One night I went with two friends, Brad and John, to see David Murray's Octet play. I knew of David Murray at that point from his work on Jack DeJohnette's phenomenal 1980 ECM album Special Edition so I was excited to see what he offered as a bandleader. Well, that night was one that I'll never forget. That group was made up of some of the generation's greatest players, such as Steve McCall, Fred Hopkins and Henry Threadgill. And out front was David Murray, playing tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, launching into extended solos, his shoulders bouncing and shuttering, bending at the the waist, eyes rolling up into his head as he pushed the upper registers. A powerful example of the magic of live music. One composition in particular stuck with me, "Last of the Hipmen", with its beautiful melody line, solos and nod to the past players who influenced and pushed Murray's own playing.
I recall all this nostalgic live reflection as a way to praise what's just happened on emusic.com. They've re-issued a bunch of Murray's work from the years when he was putting out albums on the Black Saint label. There are many wonderful albums to choose from and I suggest you dip into the selections. For this write-up I'll somewhat focus on Home, a recording by the David Murray Octet, which features the studio version of "Last of the Hipmen".
The Octet always seemed to me like a natural fit for Murray. His big band recordings always had a hint of chaos whereas the octet environment seemed to offer a better opportunity to explore the nuance the compositions offered the group. It's hard to imagine that Murray was leading this cutting edge group as a young man in his twenties during the early '80s however by that point he was wise beyond his years. He came to New York in the mid seventies where he caught the ear of critic Stanley Crouch (in a time when he still wrote glowingly of free playing) where the two of them created a loft space called Studio Infinity where Murray frequently played open music in a trio with the likes of a rotation of players including Mark Dresser, Steve Mc Call, Fred Hopkins and Phillip Wilson.
In 1976 he became a founding member of the fabled World Saxophone Quartet along with Hamiett Bluiett, Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill. Joseph Papp, famous as founder of the Public Theater, commissioned Murray to form a big band--which led to the octet format heard on "Home".
Nothing on album quite captures the intensity of the octet as experienced live, however "Home" is a great example of the variety of compositional directions Murray was pursuing at that time. He's occasionally called the natural progression of Eric Dolphy--I suppose because both are know mostly for tenor sax and bass clarinet. I can see that to some degree in the fact that he pursues a wide canvas of directions--a touch of open-ended improvisational playing as well as a smattering of traditional composition and head arrangements. As mentioned earlier, one of his shining moments to me is "Last of the Hipmen", an homage to those "classy cats" of be-bop. Home is a blowing session-- within the great melodies and overall quality compositions exists strong individual efforts and group interaction with the likes of cohorts such as altoist Henry Threadgill, trumpeter Olu Dara, cornetist/arranger Butch Morris, trombonist George Lewis, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist Wilber Morris and drummer Steve McCall.
David Murray went on from Home to record a wide array of albums--he even is known to cover Grateful Dead songs as well as push the envelope later in the '80s with James "Blood" Ulmer.
I enthusiastically support checking out Home as well as using your emusic downloads to explore David Murray's Black Saint, DIW and India Navigation releases--they are richly rewarding.
Rob Green: Let’s see now, raw? Yes. Dirty? Uh huh. Fun? check! Yep, Victor Bravo has it all. These New York kids are putting the Pow! back in Power Trio. Reminiscent of early 90’s SubPop (Nope, not Grunge- Grunge was a bland "product" concept of some record executive designed to relieve the ever-present bored, angry, suburbanite youth of America of their hard earned Burger King money - No, I’m talking about real bands like Mudhoney or Tad), VB does what all good Rock n’ Roll does- it makes you want to drink beer, jump around and have fun.
It’s a turbulent time in Music Land these days. With plunging CD sales, the landscape is evolving faster than the gassy, bloated, overindulged music industry can keep up with. All the blood sucking lawyers and sycophantic parasites who have over the years convinced themselves, and the artists they exploit, that they are not only necessary, but vitally indispensable, are now finding themselves more and more filling out applications at Starbucks and Kinkos. If I had a dime for every “Barista” with a Bachelor’s in Communications, I could buy my own coffee shop. The pendulum is steadily swinging back in the right direction, thanks in no small part to the web. Hang on to your hats and glasses kids, the My Space revolution is in full swing! The up side: finally the artists and the fans are in charge of their own destiny. The days of the company constructed mega star being jammed down our throats via lame radio monopolies and MTV are numbered. The down side: Ironically, thanks to a handful of super successful trailblazers, the competition is as fierce as ever. Every Tom, Dick or Harry with a laptop wants to be the next Arctic Monkeys. This is where Victor Bravo has a leg up.
It’s not enough to be a great band anymore. Having a good website is an imperative in today’s topsy turvey world of broadband rock n’ roll. Check out www.victorbravo.com. Like the music, VB’s site is competent and easy to get into. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most net savvy dude, and that being said, after about 30 seconds, I was reading about the origins of the band while rockin’ out to the latest EP, Shut Out The Sky.
The songs from the EP on the site are great. The first song, "Dallas", starts soft and then kicks into a rollicking crusher with a bit of a funky beat. Simple, yet totally effective. The second song, "Binge" (my personal favorite), starts off reminding me a bit of the Replacements, then hooks a left turn into Husker Du territory before I know what to do with myself. The third song, "Sarbanes-Oxley" (named after the corporate accounting reform bill), is kind of a mid-tempo romp through the land of Enron, politics and fraud. Although a bit fluffy, it’s not just the subject matter that’s important. Like all good rock, it’s the feeling man!
Even better than the cuts off the EP, there is a link to Victor Bravo’s Myspace page(which, by the way, has even more band info and songs you can’t get off the home site), which in turn sent me to an awesome clip on youtube of the band rockin out live in some tiny dive, completely living the dream. Thanks to all the web-based technology Victor Bravo uses, I was drawn into the world of a band that, although great, may not have grabbed my attention had I stumbled upon them the traditional way back in the dark ages (read: a label-less cassette tape laying on the rusted out floor of my friend Steve’s ’74 Duster amongst the piles of empty cigarette boxes and HoHo wrappers). Progress is important, and this is a fast world we’re living in all of a sudden. I think the beauty of the new system that’s emerging is the Darwinian quality it contains. Those who try harder, innovate, and stay on top of the web stuff will ultimately thrive. There are a million good bands out there, but Victor Bravo is great.
Write it down somewhere--on a cigarette box or HoHo wrapper if ya have to-- these guys are going to be huge.
Write it down somewhere--on a cigarette box or HoHo wrapper if ya have to-- these guys are going to be huge.
Bob Burnett: I figured it was time to try a new approach--write about a group's previous release (Absencen-2005) in anticipation of hearing their new release. (Jinx--just released in late May 2007) Kammerflimmer Kollektief have put out seven albums to this point. (including a re-mix project from last year) Their work brings together an interesting mix of jazz, electronica, film scores and improvisation. "Kammerflimmer Kollectief" translates in English to "shimmering collective" and that name fits them well. Their sound has a float to it--at times featuring harmonium and vibraphone, other times violin and keyboard drones and layers augmented with Evan Parker-like circular breathing "out" saxophone sounds intermingled with pedal steel guitar and bass.
The mainstay of the group is multi-instrumentalist Thomas Weber, credited on Absencen as the creator of the drones and songs, who started the Kollektief in the late '90s as a one man band who at that time focused more on ambient soundscapes inspired by his record collection. On this album they expanded upwards to five members including Heike Aumuller (harmonium), Johannes Frisch (bass), D. Wurm (sax) and Trapist's Martin Siewert on pedal steel. Helmut Dinkel, Marco Preitschopf, and Pirmin Ullrich are also credited as participants. The group creates a cohesive sound given the unusual array of instrumentation. In addition to the previously mentioned Evan Parker-like moments, I'm reminded of inspired ECM label albums by people like Charles Lloyd, Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal. The working basis of Absencen is to take Weber's initial structure of a composition and improvise on top of it. German writer Markus Hablizel succinctly summed up Absencen in this very German language translated to English way:
"Absencen is a tapestry woven from many and diverse translucent threads. The side that we behold is shimmering in a holy manifoldness, while from beholding it we can anticipate and construct the averted side. After all, we are not only endowed with the ability to hear, but also to think."
I enjoy Kammerflimmer Kollektief in many ways--they are inventive, spontaneous and tight. Although a group rooted in electronic drones they sound very live and natural. They create elegant and curious spaces and weave together a variety of textures. They also risk it all by approaching free improvisation but use keen restraint to keep the tempest in the teapot from boiling over completely.
The current trio in a baked potato homage moment.
I look forward to hearing how their new album Jinx works--I'll add onto to this review when I can offer something more. They've approached it as a trio this time so no doubt something different will be out there for us to hear.
Bob Burnett: What usually happens when a popular sitcom actor or stand up comedian makes a music album? Nothing that earth shattering, right?
I’ve discovered a wonderfully creative option to that trend—Juana Molina. Molina is best known in her native Argentina and throughout Latin America for her comedic role on a TV program called Juana y sus hermanas. Although comedy paved the way to her success, her first love has always been music—and thank goodness she returned to it given work like her album, Segundo.
Molina claims the inspiration for Segundo was that spot when
you are approaching slumber—a musical interpretation of the space when you are practically asleep but your mind is active and inventive. In fact, I’m writing this review while on an airplane, with Segundo on my iPOD, and just drifted to sleep for about three or four songs. What a pleasant nap enhancement it makes! It just kept hypnotically ambling about in my dreams.
I also dug around and found an interview where she was asked about her ability to create not just songs but atmospheric spaces. This is what she said:
"Larks Tongues in Aspic" by King Crimson was a huge influence. I was 9 when my father brought the record to me, and it blew out my mind, totally. I put a speaker here, another speaker there, lay down on the floor and played it over and over. I also listened to "Led Zeppelin II". They are very soundscaping records. I didn’t listen saying, Oh what a wonderful guitar! Oh that keyboard, my god! It was just a whole thing, a song.
(I don't know about you but it's been quite awhile since I read about someone attributing Lark's Tongue era King Crimson as an influence; I guess I relate to that a bit because I was the teenaged version of Juana laying down between the speakers listening to that album--in many ways it was the Rosetta stone for me. Lark's Tongue percussionist Jamie Muir led me to Derek Bailey which led me to Anthony Braxton which led me to improvisation which led me to....eventually writing about Juana Molina on this blog.....)
Molina’s voice is soft, calming, and easy to listen to. She sings mostly in Spanish with occasional English lyrics added. The melodies throughout are consistently warm and open. The music brings together piano, acoustic guitar and electronica/sound collage layering. Occasionally there are spacey background effects—a dog barking, drifting breezes, street sounds, deep bass tones. Amazingly, collaborator/producer Alejandro Franov’s guiding hand made everything come together so that nothing in the varied mix is distracting or seems out of place. Segundo plays very well as an album—a body of interwoven songs that paint an overall picture. She mixes very pop-like but quirky song structures with ebb and flow instrumentals—at times I’m reminded of what I like so much about what Robert Wyatt does; marvelously creative albums that succinctly layer several octaves of his unique voice with warm but simple electronic sounds and understated percussion to create a landscape of sound colors.
I’ve discovered Molina has several other albums—most recently Son in 2006 and Tres Cosas before in 2003. When this plane I’m on lands in Los Angeles in a few hours I’m heading directly over to Amoeba Music on Sunset Blvd. for several hours of that joyous clickity-clack sound of fingers flipping CDs in bins. Hopefully I’ll come across some more Juana Molina. Stay tuned.
(BB: Post Amoeba Music visit update. I picked-up two more Juana Molina discs—Tres Cosas and Son. I listened to Tres Cosas in the car while driving to Santa Barbara and it is great. I also got the re-issue of Betty Davis’ first release--she was Miles Davis' wife and an inspiring influence to Miles' Bitches Brew era of music, Tied and Tickled Trio, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tin Hat Trio’s Helium release and a re-master of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. I’m sure some of these will roll across c60 during the summer.)