Gerald Cleaver's Detroit

Bob Burnett:  This morning is a case where, for once, MOG's "Just For You" selection process worked.  It told me since I listened to Tim Berne's Snakeoil I'd like Gerald Cleaver's Detroit.  I didn't know anything about this album before this listen.  I think Tom Greenland's review from All About Jazz makes a great point when he says:

Simultaneously mainstream and forward-thinking, self-contained yet open-ended, "Detroit" embodies the currency and vitality of its namesake's hard bop legacy in today's creative music scene.

Since I'm listening on MOG, I'm not getting the benefit of the album
packaging. Apparently there's a photo essay in the liner notes showing dilapidated buildings
and former neighborhoods now shells and ghosts of a time gone by which (as said in Greenland's review) "strikes a melancholy tone, but the music is
anything but."
I'm finding the music reflective.  The ballad "Henry" feels like a Detroit version of John Coltrane's New York City reflection "Central Park West".  There's plenty of post hard-bop driving, pulsing and interesting music here too.  
All and all a nice discovery.  Here's hoping MOG's "Just For You" scores a few more for me.


Charles Gayle Trio: Streets

Bob Burnett: There's an excellent article by Dan Spicer in this month's The Wire magazine about saxophonist-pianist Charles Gayle. Charles was part of the '60s music movement called "The New Thing" or "free jazz".   For years Gayle took on a variety of odd jobs to help support his life as a musician.  At one point sometime between 15-20 years ago (he doesn't recall for sure) something changed in his mind.  He quit trying to scrape by with jobs and, as he puts it, changed.

"I have to change...and that was it.  I gave my duffel bag to a friend because it's all I had, and I just went to the streets. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know what it was going to be like to be homeless and for how long." 
"(Homelessness) absolutely changed me. And it's still in me. You don't think the same as you think when you're living like I'm living now, like regular people live. You haven't time to think like that. Something else takes over. Your dreams are different in terms of what you think about the future. You're living from day to day so you can't think, "Oh, next year I'll go to Hawaii". You can forget about that. With no heat all those years...you're a different person.  it's about surviving. It can break you, I'll tell you that. It can break you for life." 

After years of the street, Gayle now has a modest apartment near Tompkins Square in New York City.  The term "street" now means something different to him.  He's taken on the persona of "Streets The Clown" and plays gigs as Streets and still goes out on the streets, in costume, and plays.  In addition to The Wire article, The Village Voice recently had a Q&A article with Gayle.  It goes into details about his life as a homeless person and how Streets The Clown came about through the combination of being homeless and continuing a life dedicated to playing music .

He's recently released an album titled Streets.  He's in his full clown costume on the cover but  there's nothing but raw, intense music happening inside.  The Wire also linked to a video of Streets the Clown playing in the streets in New York City. 


Ollie Halsall

Bob Burnett: Ollie Halsall, the most interesting guitarist you probably never heard, had a birthday on March 14.  Unfortunately, Ollie died due to a heroin overdose in May of 1992 so while he didn't recognize his own birthday several facebook friends posted Ollie Halsall birthday tribute reminders.

Ollie was probably best known for his multi-instrumental work in the faux-Beatles film and soundtrack The Rutles. He was also a member of semi-progressive rock bands Patto, Matchbox and Boxer. (note: old friend Marc just chimed in that Ollie replaced Alan Holdsworth in Tempest when they covered The Beatles' "Paperback Writer")

I was reminded of the Patto song "The Man" this past week (thanks to Brendan Canty) where Ollie shines.  In addition to playing nice guitar, he adds vibes to a great off-rhythm rock song that has a Tortoise-like ring to it.  Patto has it's moments as an early '70s rock album but I can't quite see past lead singer Mike Patto's "rock guy" approach.  It's worth a run-through since the album is available on MOG.I've also popped in a youtube version here.

Ollie's single greatest moment for me was the guitar solo he played on Kevin Ayers' "May I" from the June 1, 1974 album.  The album comes from a live gig that took place at the Rainbow Theater in London.  Featured performers along with Kevin Ayers include John Cale, Nico, Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield and our focus--Ollie Halsall. I probably owned and sold this album 3 or 4 times.  It's very spotty.  I'm pretty certain I was first led to it because of Eno's participation. As mentioned, the Eno focus was deflected by Ollie Halsall's solo.  It floats, always seems on the verge of being just a little off but tightropes it's way elegantly through several hoops and ladders until it lands beautifully allowing Kevin Ayer's to return to his Burgundy-soaked vocals. After hearing this solo I always kept Ollie Halsall's name around in my mind as someone to look for in record shops. It seems he stayed with Ayer's pretty much from 1976 on.  Somewhere in some record company vault there sits a solo album that was produced by Robert Fripp.

I lost track of Ollie and hadn't thought about him for awhile until the birthday greetings popped up.  I looked around and found an archive/tribute webpage to him that offers more information as well as a detailed Ollie's Guitar Techniques page.


The Berlin Philharmonic: Inside Instruments

 A little visual something to share that's been floating around on design and advertising blogs.

This print campaign for the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra uses macro photographs taken inside the cramped spaces of instruments making the inner workings of a violin, cello, flute, and pipe organ appear vast and spacious, almost as if you could walk around inside them. Art directed by photographer Bjoern Ewers. 

While this concept strikes home, I keep imagining and wanting to see macro photographs of a prepared piano set up for John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.  Or better still, Fred Frith's alligator clip manipulations on a guitar from his Guitar Solos album.  Still pushing a bit more, a series of macro photographs of Keith Rowe's table top guitar.

All and all, the Berlin Philharmonic series is a nice visual approach.  I can't say I have instant recollection of the Philharmonic's work, but I can speak supportive volumes for their neighbors, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra Berliner, who just performed beautifully on an album titled Feldman:Orchestra, a release of four previously unreleased Morton Feldman scoresThe Mode Records webpage says that The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin was founded in 1946 in the American sector of Berlin as the RIAS-Symphonie-Orchester. As its first principal conductor, from 1948, Ferenc Fricsay established the orchestra’s future course: commitment to contemporary and stylish interpretation of the traditional repertoire.

Mode describes Orchestra as "a walk through the orchestral landscape. Patterns come and go of their own accord as the music moves into unexplored territories. An important bridge between Feldman’s middle and late works."

Just like the photos from the Berlin Philharmonic campaign, sometimes a little unexplored territory goes a long and rewarding way. 


Within (and now) Without You

Bob Burnett: I sold what remained of my Beatles CDs this weekend. For the first time since 1973 I'm completely without any Beatles media.  I started with the Yellow Submarine soundtrack and ended with Magical Mystery Tour. So it goes.

The big issue isn't having physical possession of Beatles music as much as the internal debate I've had about ownership of items: shelves and rows of music, books, anything collectable.  After decades of acquiring I've spent the last few years liquidating.  The motivating factor is to take the Robert Fripp concept of "intellegent mobile unit" to eliminating the anchor-like physical drag-down of ownership as well as to take advantage of the availability and access of so many things I'm interested in electronically.  Plus, I just don't enjoy having "stuff" anymore.  Granted, there was a time when I was content spending hours perusing row after row of my album collection or thumbing through scads of books in my various library spaces. I still maintain a solid selection of books but I'm now keeping an on-going discard box that gets donated to our local public library.

I'm discovering a like for the iBook concept via iPad.  I'm currently reading John Updike's Rabbit Run via a download purchase of $11.  I've also become quite pleased with the public domain resources available thanks to Project Gutenberg.  Project Gutenberg offers over 38,000 free ebooks: free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. They carry high quality ebooks previously published by bona fide publishers.  They digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers. So far in 2012 I've read or re-visited Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Kafka's Metamorphosis, Ulysses Grant's diaries, Conrad's Heart of Darkness as well as Tolstoy, Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford and others.

All that said, there's still an emotional attachment to perusing bins in record shops or book stores as well as the bittersweet regret of seeing so many independent retailers shuttering up shop. Here in DC, Melody Records closed down recently.  They were a ten minute walk from my office but I confess it had been years since I'd been there.   When traveling, I tend to seek out independent record and book stores but I usually curtail a large amount of purchases. Occasionally  I'll get a tingle to possess something.  Recently there was a fleeting moment when it seemed like it would be a good thing to physically own the Bob Dylan mono releases. I also spent a weekend contemplating spending money on high quality vinyl releases of Ornette Coleman's early releases.  I got over both and have returned to either streaming them online or sticking with what I already have.   I'm not completely a shut-in.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I recently made a fairly substantial purchase of music on the Erstwhile label.  The only way to get this exciting and vital music is via CD.  I'm happy to own such nicely designed CDs that contain such special moments. 


While Walking in Austin with Drape

I just spent a few days in Austin, Texas. 

I'd never been to Austin before this week and was fortunate to discover it at the neighborhood level where local taco shacks, quaint homes and nice transitions from roads to small businesses make it very walkable .

My hotel was downtown and I enjoyed an early evening walk in clear, low humidity mid 70s weather. I began by looping through 6th St.  where the live music happens. I lasted a few blocks.  Just too much party atmosphere for me. There's less and less I find interesting about most live music venues much less blocks of them. These days, the only thing less interesting than most anything about live music is most anything about recorded music. 

I'm always skeptical of places known for music. New Orleans and Memphis come to mind. I found a want to get away and change directions and scenery so I veered off 6th St. at  South  Congress and soon found a river trail at what is called the "bat bridge". The trail was wonderful. My iPhone was streaming MOG with Gareth  Davis' Drape, another positive notch in the Davis- Machinefabriek  (Rutger Zuydervelt duets.  The layers of floating tones, drifting, breathy bass clarinet, woody clucks blended beautifully with the environment--a  river with sun, waterfowl, passersby on bikes, runners, walkers, fishers, crew teams on the shore getting coaching lectures. It seemed a much more appropriate and fulfilling musical pulse than that of the 6th St.scene.  I've been enjoying two releases in the Gareth Davis- Machinefabriek efforts: Drape and Ghost Roads. There's a spontaneous/ improvisational feel to what they do together. While having a slight non-rhythmic specific groove they manage to float along in textural layers. The sound takes me at times to the drift of Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. The bass clarinet has always been a favorite instrument. It goes back with me to Bennie Maupin on Davis' Bitches Brew and further formed by David Murray on Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. Davis extends the context even further, eliminates the notes and goes to the texture. I particularly enjoy his sense of timbre and atmosphere.

Austin at night took me up South Congress to what seems like the heart of "weird" Austin. Shops, restaurants, places that seem to embody to vibe of the place. In addition to the brand "weird" there seemed to be another layer of non-weird throughout the city.  Weird derivative established retail in the form of Urban Outfitters-like places.

The city seems to be doing quite well financially. I was surprised by the amount of general construction, high end condos and offices. 

It was a nice few days. It was really good to get out before the "music people" got here for SXSW.


ECM Records I'd Own (If I Owned Records) for Kim

Bob Burnett:  I got a text from my C60 friend Kim the other day. "Hey-if it crosses your mind please sendme ECM recordings you would own. (if you did such)".  The (if you did such) comment is in reference to the fact that he's been hearing a lot from me about MOG having practically the entire ECM Records catalog.  The reason I find that exciting is because I pretty much gave up on ECM after too many expensive mistakes with music that made me miserable in a "I'm listening to formulaic sound" kind of way.  I'm certain Kim departed sooner than I did, having been a solid listener to the mid '70s releases. The spate of lackluster mid '80s recordings made me drift away and, like Kim, kind of made me lose touch with a lot of the music that originally drew me to the label.  If you aren't familiar with ECM I suggest checking out the wikipedia page.  Here's how it starts:
 ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) is a record label founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by Manfred Eicher. While ECM is best known for jazz music, the label has released a wide variety of recordings, and ECM's artists often refuse to acknowledge boundaries between genres. ECM's motto is "the Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence" taken from a 1971 review of ECM releases in CODA, a Canadian jazz magazine.

I appreciate Kim not pegging me with the "please send me a list of essential ECM albums" which would have had me spinning for awhile. I decided instead of dwelling on possibilities to just put some titles down quickly. I texted Kim a few suggestions and thought "why not share them with everyone?".  If you have MOG you too can jump in on the fun.These albums are all part of their catalog.

Here's my off the top of my head starter list:

Old and New Dreams: "Playing" (a live recording by the Ornette Coleman tribute band made up of Ornette cohorts)
Ricardo Villalobos: "Re-ECM" (an interesting recent release that uses the ECM catalog as samples to re-invent compositions)
Don Cherry-Ed Blackwell: "El Corazon" (a nice, quiet, pleasing duet that always puts a smile on my face)
Jack DeJohnette: "Pictures" (an early album that features a series of drum and keyboard compositions played by Jack and sometimes joined by John Abercombie's guitar)
Jack DeJohnette: "Special Edition" (a post-Coltrane tribute with a special nod to Eric Dolphy)

Dave Holland: "Conference of the Birds" (One of my favorite albums of all time-Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers together. If you don't believe me listen to "Four Winds" and decide for yourself)
Marion Brown: "Afternoon of a Georgia Fawn" (the first ECM album I ever bought-abstract, thought expanding, remains fresh after all these years)
Leo Smith: "Divine Love" (pre-Wadada open music: improvisational, spare, engaging)
Paul Motian: "Conception Vessel" (there's so many to like by the maestro so why not start here)
Terje Rypdal: "Odyssey" (always liked the spaciness of this one)
Terje Rypdal: "What Come After" (One of the finds I've recently come back to. More groove and shred here.)
John Abercrombie: "Gateway" (driving, intense)
Jan Garbarek: "Witchi Tai To" (maybe…..this one's teetering on the edge...there are moments of greatness but it's a roadmap to how annoying Garbarek was going to get) 
Kenny Wheeler: "Gnu High" (just added it..some of my favorite Keith Jarrett moments)  
Barre Phillips: "Mountainscapes" (another early one for me that always stuck around) 
Egberto Gismonti: "Soli" (this was a high school favorite..hasn't weathered quite as well and get noodly but I'll keep it around)
Jimmy Giuffre 3: "1961" (I believe this was a re-release or possibly a first time release of an archival production.  Either way it's excellent.) 

I'm sure there are others (like The Music Improvisation Company and Bill Connors, Codona, Ralph Towner,Nana Vasconcelos) and by no means is this meant to cover everything.  Kim asked specifically about David Darling albums; I think we both came very late to him. I tend to stick to the spare, floating solo releases. I was tempted to put Chick Corea vehicles "Circle" or "ARC" on the list but I can't say I find myself returning to them too often.  When I do, the Daevid Allen lyric "Chick Corea gives me diarrhea"  comes to mind and throws them off track. I could also add some Eberhard Weber, Rainer BrĂ¼ninghaus and "Rejoicing" a Pat Metheny trio album he did with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins.  I guess by mentioning I've kind of done that.

ECM Now Playing: "Snakeoil" by Tim Berne.  I had no idea about this release.

"After compelling contributions to ECM discs by David Torn and Michael Formanek, here is Tim Berne’s first leader date for the label. “Snakeoil” introduces a fascinating ensemble, a “chamber-like group” in Berne’s words, albeit one that packs some power. Tim’s tough alto is heard with Oscar Noriega’s earthy clarinets, Mat Mitchell’s cryptic piano, and Ches Smith’s tone-conscious drums, tympani, gongs and congas. Berne: “I'd decided on this very transparent instrumentation to try and avoid obvious stylistic references and to focus the listener on the musical ideas being presented.” Two years of wood-shedding preceded the recording of “Snakeoil” at New York’s Avatar Studios early in 2011, and the band was ready to roar. The disc is issued on the eve of a tour that takes in dates on both sides of the Atlantic."