Saturday, March 31, 2007

DOS - 28/03/2007@Le comptoir des étoiles

Ann Eyserman - b
Ivo Sans - d
Clément Nourry - g

I last saw Clément perform a memorable solo concert during which he ranged from abrasive noise to sweet lyricism and smartly explored gently twisted forms of bebop, folk, blues, etc. I was surprised by how much sincerity he invested, regardless of style: there were no pastiches or send-ups, even though nothing was straight-ahead. So I was curious to see how this would work in a band setting. Unfortunately, I only got to see the first half-hour, which was more appetizer than main course.

A quiet classical solo piano recording played over the PA for several minutes before they went into a slow "Softy, As In A Morning Sunrise." I'm not sure of the relationship between the two, but it was rather odd, listening for an extended period of time to a CD at a concert taking place in a bar. That feeling - a slight oddness - pervaded much of the trio's music. Monk's "Pannonica" followed, and Clément's guitar tone obliquely recalled the composer's use of celeste on Brilliant Corners. The trio played loosely, but Ivo Sans's Blakey-like explosions somehow fit the ballad mood. A brief noise interlude led to Ann Eyserman playing a famous, child-like classical air (by Bach?), while Sans rumbled all around her. The last thing I heard was, apparently, a David Bowie cover. A cute, folksy melody was repeatedly tossed on the agitated seas of late-60s underground rock-style flare-ups.

Andrew Hill health update, Compulsion!!!!!

Frank Kimbrough has posted a description of Andrew Hill's current health status. Those who passed on his recent New York solo concert may regret it (but at least we can all still stream it):

Andrew's been battling lung cancer for some time now - it's terminal, so the prognosis is not good, and he resigned himself to that some time ago........he's been undergoing experimental treatments from what I understand, but I don't know much......we speak pretty regularly, but we don't talk about his illness very much, at least in terms of details - I think he prefers to concentrate on more positive things, and tries to look forward to whatever he's able to do in terms of composing, performing and recording. He definitely doesn't want anyone's pity. If I ask how he's doing, he tells me that if I don't ask, he won't tell. His sense of humor is intact, but communication is rather difficult - his vocal cords collapsed a few months back, and all he's able to manage is a high-pitched whisper. He's very weak, and frighteningly thin. He's been incredibly brave through all this, and that is truly inspiring....... he just keeps soldiering on with an absolutely amazing spirit and will to live. As sick as he's been, he composed a new suite especially for yesterday's concert.
Hopefully, he'll be able to make it to the trio recording session to take place in a month's time.


Andrew Hill Compulsion!!!!! (Blue Note)
Destination: Out called this one "Hill’s free-est, most out-there session of the time." I'm not sure I agree: the percussion is heavy, but very steady, so it's easy to focus on the fiery, boldly-stated and clearly-delimited solos. Andrew shares much of the personnel, but is far more intricate and subtle, I find, and Roy Haynes's playing on Black Fire is more traditional, but rhythmically far wilder than Compulsion!!!!!.

That's the great thing about Hill's Blue Note discography: there are no rote albums, the music is substantially different every time. It's not about linear development - refinement of craft - but a kind of exploration of the peripheries of a landscape of his own design. That's a risky approach, and Hill's albums suffered when he lost access to the very best players (anyone know why that happened? Maybe Blue Note's change of ownership?), but it's also led him to create an unusually varied catalogue.

Also, in the Compulsion!!!!! booklet, there's a photo of young Cecil McBee looking very "cool, cute and sophisticated."

The album is an RVG, and Tim Niland has interesting commentary on Concord's Orrin Keepnews series:
Are record labels shifting the attention from the black musicians who made the music (now mostly dead and unable to defend themselves) to the white producers and engineers whose role in the music has heretofore been somewhat invisible? Keepnews and Van Gelder certainly deserve their place in jazz history, but giving them equal billing with the musicians on classic albums seems a little bit much.

Friday, March 30, 2007

losing tone

Ted Reichmann and Mike Wolf [via Steve Smith] bring news of Tonic's closing. One less place for me to go when I go back to New York, eventually. Ted's account is also useful if you have no idea what a daxophone is.


Improvising Guitar probes the "gestural alienation" of laptop music with characteristic insight.

much of the visual art cited [as an equivalent to EAI] leaves intact the methods, techniques and media—paint, brush and canvas. The shock of the new, in this context, is in the form, the encoding, the process. A gallery goer will have no difficulty trying to figure out the hows or whats of artistic practice. What EAI does, in a sense, is the opposite.
If, having learned the sound of a saxophones via the official Berkelee team, you hear a saxophonist sound like a hair-dryer there’s a possibility of a terrible / unpleasant / joyous / mind-expanding / life-changing surprise... On the other hand, someone moves a MIDI slider, hits a QWERTY key, taps on a trackpad, or any number of gestures, you have no (low-level mechanical) expectations, so how can you be surprised.
He's also quite right to say that the piano has "an idiot’s interface."


Kyle Gann laments the way pop-influenced New Music is received. Is timbre (pop) vs. execution (classical) all there is to it?


Some left-field jazz clips on YouTube (Ellington meets Miró?) dug up by the Telegraph's Martin Gayford. [via Arts Journal]


Straight No Chaser has a podcast primer on hip hop/jazz fusion.


Un nouveau converti au culte de Médéric Collignon. [via Pierre-Alain Goualch]


Just Outside recounts a highly amusing (though perhaps apocryphal) Morton Feldman anecdote.


Pat Metheny speaks the truth [via St. Louis Jazz Notes]:
We [ie. he and Brad Mehldau] are recording. At this point, it's pretty easy to record everything... But both Brad and I probably have too many records out anyway (laughs).

In his Artist Playlist, John Scofield says of Miles Davis's Sorceror:
I think that this album is the culmination of the evolution of swinging jazz. The history that started in the '20s ends here.

Monastery is a gallery for the music/painting/writing of Vanita and Joe Monk. [via Jean-Philippe Burg]


I recently played a friend's Nintendo's Wii for the first time. It's such great fun that, from my lay standpoint, it feels like the first qualitative advance in gaming since the first PlayStation. So I'm not surprised even the aged are joining the bandwagon.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

the harmonious metropolis

Hank Shteamer on Braxton: in Time Out NY, on his blog, in several places.

Also in TONY, a Robert Glasper feature. I'm not particularly taken with his previous album, but he gives a pragmatic answer to my question:

"Can you name another black jazz pianist under 30?" he asks. "There are so few, because the money is either in gospel or making beats. In my mind, those things aren't as separate as they're perceived to be nowadays; they all have roots in the blues."

NewMusicBox has an interesting 3-part series on New Music Economics (a.k.a. the other NME).


Off Minor reviews a Tim Berne extravaganza, but loses all credibility at the finish line. "I think even Tom Rainey cracked a smile..." Come on, who's going to believe that?


Salon asks: is Joss Stone the new Tom Jones? [via visionsong]

"the lilt of coastal England never surfaces" = "the desolate sound of the fjords is wholly absent" ?


Friends and foes of Bill Dixon alike may want to check out The Dixon Society. Is it just me, or is Dixon far more loved in the blogosphere than anywhere else? For years, I'd never come across his name with any frequency or urgency, and all of a sudden he's everywhere. I'm not complaining and maybe I'm just projecting my own blindness, but it's a little odd. [via SpiderMonkey Stories]


Friends and foes of the ukulele should be informed or warned of the Ukelele Club de Paris. [Vibrations Music]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

song listing

Armen Nalbandian has put up an interesting list that chooses one jazz song/performance per year from 1957 to 2006. It's a very hip selection.


Will Friedwald isn't exactly the most graceful jazz writer around, but "I can almost hear a pair of lovers whispering to each other, 'Oh darling, they're playing "26A" — our song!'" is a funny line.


Hans Groiner (remember him?) unmasked as Larry Goldings! [via Casa Valdez]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Why am I only now learning of Traneumentary? [via Will Layman].

Traneumentary is a series of podcasts that layer commentary and Coltrane's music. Interventions by Coltrane himself, acolytes such as McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Cobb, current musicians like Terence Blanchard, Karrin Allyson and Jason Moran and producers Michael Cuscuna, Joel Dorn, among others.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Jacky Terrasson Trio - 25/03/2007@Pathé Palace, Bruxelles

Jacky Terrasson - p
Ugonna Okegwo - b
Leon Parker - d

It's been a pretty exceptional week for piano trios: Jason Moran, Bojan Z, Susie Ibarra (if that counts as a piano trio) and now Jacky Terrasson (let's not forget McCoy Tyner before them). It's been the kind of happy week that makes you breathe deeply, smile and think that jazz is alive, well and fragrant. While Terrasson's was the most traditional of the week's trios, his appropriation of the standards repertoire was just as personal as, say, Ibarra's compositions.

An example of Terrasson's personalisation came early, as the concert started with a 5/4 version of "Smile" augmented by a Jarrett-ian pop-gospel-blues riff. Ugonna Okegwo played a syncopated almost-vamp that implied another meter, creating a rich polyrhythmic groove. The bassist didn't have an amp, but played directly into the microphone, which gave him a pleasantly non-juiced-up sound, like organic food to the bass amp's industrially inflated produce. They reached a euphoric climax when the added riff was repeated emphatically over and over, before dissipating in an Impressionistic haze. A conceptually similar approach to "St. Thomas" closed the concert, this time with Leon Parker playing half-time funk under Terrasson's sunny calypso.

Terrasson is an easy-to-love crowd pleaser. Not because he indulges in showy effects (though there were a few - and why shouldn't there be, anyway?), but because his superb pacing gives his playing a real dramatic arc and a sense of humour. He allows himself, and us, time to think and breathe. So, an improbably long, densely chromatic line will land comfortably on the tonic and the one, the demands of form will be casually set aside for moments of percussive joy, and just as easily returned to.

"Caravan" was sly and slinky, with a playfully provocative piano solo, to which Parker gave understated replies. The drummer then took his own solo, magnificently full of dynamic, rhythmic and timbral contrasts. On "Crepuscule With Nellie," there was far less formal recreation than in Moran's version, but the minimalist swing was powerful.

This concert was part of a full day of free concerts entitled Jazz in Europe Now. Earlier, I attempted to go see young Hungarian saxophonist Gabor Bolla at the Music Village, but it was overflowing. I got no further than the sidewalk. What I did manage to hear sounded like athletic, Michael Brecker/Branford Marsalis post-bop.

I'd never been to the Pathé Palace before: it's a movie theater with unexpectedly great sound that put the Ancienne Belgique's handling of Moran's trio to shame. All the concerts were packed - 100 people were reportedly turned away from the Terrasson gig - which is partly why I didn't go to any of the other events. The other reason was competition.

do poster and music coincide? you decide!

There were two concerts at the Archiduc the same day: the young improv duo Sparks (myspace) and the Lew Tabackin Trio (seen at the Archiduc 3.5 years ago). By the time I got there, Sparks was long over, but I had a great Chimay-fuelled chat with bassist Tom Blancarte (myspace) and trumpeter Peter Evans (myspace) about life in NYC, Geneva's bizarre ghost town quality, the popularity of Belgian beer in America, salsa and the heaping of much praise on Taylor Ho Bynum ("that's how he talks!"), among other things.

Lew Tabackin, Boris Kozlov, Mark Taylor

I actually stayed just long enough to catch Tabackin's first solo, which exuded a wonderful, deep, powerful swing. Once again, I couldn't help but feel that if talented people simply continued to make the music that was real to them, then jazz would be fine, even in this moment of jazzblogosphere doubt.

musician questionnaire: toine thys

Toine Thys is a saxophonist. He leads Rackham (myspace) and Take The Duck (myspace). His latest album is Rackham's excellent Juanita K.


1. Movie score. Midnight Cowboy
2. TV theme. Chips
3. Melody. "Greensleaves"
4. Harmonic language. Bartok
5. Rhythmic feel. Gnawa music
6. Hip-hop track. The Roots (but i can't name any)
7. Classical piece. String Quartet Shostakovitch
8. Smash hit. "A man's world" - James Brown
9. Jazz album. Chris Cheek - I wish I knew
10. Non-American folkloric group. Tarafs de Haidouks
11. Book on music The Listening book - WA Mathieu.


A) Name an surprising album (or albums) you loved when you were
developing as a musician: something that really informs your sound but
that we would never guess in a million years:
David Bowie : Space Oddity, David Sanborn Straight to the Heart

B) Name a practitioner (or a few) who play your instrument that you
think is underrated:
Bill McHenry, John Ellis

C) Name a rock or pop album that you wish had been a smash commercial
hit (but wasn't, not really):

D) Name a favorite drummer, and an album to hear why you love that
Paul Motian Holiday for Strings
Roy Haynes on Pat Metheny's Q & A or Coltrane's Dear Old

Sunday, March 25, 2007

André Francis's Jazz: preface

Wanting to read a jazz book, I randomly picked up Boris Vian's Chroniques de Jazz and André Francis's Jazz in a second-hand bookshop. The former is a collection of Vian's writings for magazines between 1948 and 1958. Vian is often cited as one of the great French jazz writers, but I've yet to read his work. The latter is a jazz history written by the guy who does the announcements on Coltrane's live version of A Love Supreme. The preface and first chapter of this 1982 revised edition (original published in 1960s) are so infuriating that I'll probably be discussing the book piecemeal as I get further into it.


Francis makes his grand opening statements. It's chock full of bombshells, I underlined almost everything. From the preface alone, it's hard to know where he stands.

The sacred theory of swing, the engine and morality of all jazz from Louis Armstrong to Louis Armstrong is almost absent from the major free jazz works.
But in other places he doesn't appear opposed to free jazz. He does deplore the uniformity of the "screams, formless facility, destructive disorder, blind force" of then-recent radical jazz, but is optimistic that these "salutary elements" will be integrated and that "the adventure will continue, with more courage and means." A brutal proto-CEF, in short.

Ambiguity extends even to how Francis expresses his view of jazz in general:
It is not even close to being a music that can compete with or replace the true, classical, art of music. It is a middle path between popular and learned musics. It is also in much closer contact with the current experiences of the literary and visual arts than contemporary classical, which is weighed down by difficult techniques. (...) Jazz is passion and screams, the culture of the primitive eros. It is trance and ectasy.
His haughtiness knows no bounds, though he would probably like to think of it as winkingly fraternal. Take, for example, his description of the typical jazz fan:
Most of the time, he likes music without knowing music... Looking for strength rather than swing, preferring shiny effects to transcendant invention, he first responded to the rock and roll tenor saxophone's direct call or the showman's frenetic drumming.

He divides the evolution of jazz into three areas: by the people (dixieland, blues, gospel), for the people (elaborate, bourgeois; Swing, rhythm and blues, soul jazz, JATP and MJQ) and without the people (bop at one time, free and post-free today; music for "cultural and political marginals" and the musicians themselves). Francis himself would probably rather have nothing at all to do with "the people" of any kind, though.

Francis ends a nutshell summation of the origins of jazz with the affirmation that it draws upon "a particular kind of physical inaptitude of the first Blacks (sic) to speak English correctly. Unable to articulate it (like a Latin language), they deformed and syncopated it." I'll assume that by "first Blacks" he means the first Black Americans and that he believes that the people of Scotland, Birmingham, Texas or India are afflicted with a similar "physical inaptitude."

There are a few good points. On the difficulty of renewing the critical language: "Vocabulary evolving slowly, how can we say that Louis Armstrong's music was very original, when the same adjective suits the very different musics of John Coltrane or Ran Blake?"

More anecdotally, he spells out one aspect of the Romantic view of the artist that has been deeply challenged in the current DIY era: "When you are talented, you have no time to lose organising your profession or your art."

In chapter one, we shall move on to the Mythical Negro.

Fred Delplancq Quartet - 24/03/2007@Jazz Station, Bruxelles

Fred Delplancq - ts (myspace)
Jef Neve - p
Gus Bakker - b
Kris Duerinckx - d

Fred Delplancq is a solid contemporary post-bop player, with an even sound and a predilection for rolling, muscular rhythms. We walked in mid-way through the first set and, maybe I was tired or irritated, but it took me a very long time to get into the music. The last two songs of the second set, in fact. The turning point came with a sublimely slow introduction: Delplancq intoned a plaintive melody, accompanied by droning arco bass and thunder-clap piano string strumming. Kris Duerinckx progressively grew agitated, in complementary contrast to the stretched-out mood. Jef's solo was magnificently spare, with chiming chords left to hang in space.

This was followed by a very different kind of tune, as Delplancq and Gus Bakker exchanged raunchy blues phrases before leading into funky four-to-the-floor hard bop with a tricky, harmonically elaborate tag. Here, the saxophonist started with long, sweeping lines and ended with bluesy wails. On the encore ballad, Jef gave a most intriguing form of accompaniment to the bass solo, finding cristalline resolutions to unexpectedly dissonant chords.

There's currently a Chet Baker exhibit at the Jazz Station, with photography, LPs, newspaper and magazine articles and other memorabilia. Some gig-in-the-basement photos made me think of the difficulty of performance photography, too many of which are just "here is X, playing instrument Y." Including mine, which is why I generally avoid posting concert photos (though I've been indulging recently, human weakness...). I think Jean-Philippe's from the Susie Ibarra concert go beneath the surface and comment on the music itself. I especially love the minimalist Craig Taborn photo.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Susie Ibarra Trio - 23/03/2007@Beursschouwburg, Brussel

[All photography by Jean-Philippe Burg. Click to enlarge.]

Susie Ibarra - d
Jennifer Choi - vln
Craig Taborn - p

I'd long read many glowing words about Susie Ibarra without ever hearing her. Even though she didn't seem to actually play all that much, every single note she did play fully justified the praise. Her movements, even when issuing conduction-style hand signals rather than playing drums, exuded a tai chi grace.

The concert started with a great rhythm piece called "Left Hand Right Hand Song" that attributed a tight percussive pattern to each player. The violin would briefly break away for some melodic rhapsodising and the piano would occasionally elaborate on the pattern, but it generally stayed focused, without becoming overly fussy.

"Black And White" was a violin solo set against a backdrop of birdsong, bells and a pair of female voices, one speaking in English and the other I guess in Chinese (though, who am I to say? All my Chinese comes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero). Things took a really strange turn when the backdrop became someone playing and singing Flamenco. I was puzzled.

This was followed by the afore-mentioned conduction, a dry pointillistic piano-violin affair. By now, Ibarra hadn't played in maybe fifteen minutes, but when she did pick up her sticks, things instantly became a lot better. There's something ancient and calming about her playing, but with a firm, immediately bracing undercurrent.

"Dance Steps" was a series of vignettes that could be seen as illustrating various ways of dancing, from romantic to rhythmic to intimate. It started with a long section featuring Craig Taborn alone. I've seen him three times now (in Tim Berne's trio with Tom Rainey and with Chris Potter) and every time he amazes me, not least with his rhythmic abilities. When a dampened string allowed him to use a key percussively, drummer Yves Peeters, sitting next to me, broke out into a huge smile. Eventually, drums and violin joined in to create a quiet, floating, eerie atmosphere.

The next three pieces were in almost shocking contrast to what had gone before, as each instrument returned to its traditional role. A swinging cabaret waltz with an exotic melody was followed by a lovely, sad tune. Then Ibarra and Taborn struck up a sunny, layered groove, over which Choi improvised, a little clumsily until the other two started letting go of the groove. When they finally returned to it, Taborn and Ibarra started shifting it around in really subtle ways, which kept things dancey and made them delightfully not-quite-right at the same time.

jazz and blogs #15

While Darcy's on hiatus, you'll need some new reading:

Tie a Bow Not a Knot
Guitarist Drummer Harris Eisenstadt. Really interesting reports and videos from his trip to West Africa. [via SoundSlope]

Occasional Jazz Conjectures
The very poetic drummer/writer Tim DuRoche. Cf. his Whitney Balliett rememberance and "The Real Birth Of The Cool", a story set in 1927.

Guitarist Mike Baggetta

Jazz writer Larry Blumenfeld, currently in New Orleans, which prompts him to say:

New York's thriving jazz scene and the jazz-CD marketplace exist as entertainment industry and aesthetic construct. The only true jazz culture -- where the music evolves while maintaining its social function -- is in New Orleans. Ideas that we love to invest in as abstractions -- the commingling of joy and pain embodied by blues, the spirit of improvisation as applied life's challenges, the relationship between jazz-band organization and images of democracy -- are being lived out in real time through hard times.
Also, good things on Thomas Chapin.

See! Hear!
Ex-longtime Cadence writer Richard Kamins's blog for the Hartford Courant. Lots of local coverage, but see also review of Taylor Ho Bynum's True Events.

USF Jazz
Happenings at the University of South Florida Jazz Department

100 Greatest Jazz Albums

musician questionnaire: yves peeters

Yves Peeters is a drummer. He plays with Jazzisfaction and Kaat Hellings (concert), among many others, and leads Le Petit Cirque.


1. Movie score

The Straight Story (Angelo Badalamenti)
Les Triplettes de Belleville (Ben Charest)

2. TV theme: The Simpsons; Twin Peaks

3. Melody: "I'll be seeing you," "Blackbird" (The Beatles)

4. Harmonic language: Bach; Monk; Beatles

5. Rhythmic feel:
samba, played by Brasilian percussion groups
buleria (flamenco rhythm)
Elvin Jones playing "Wise One" (Crescent)
Billy Higgins playing boogaloo stuff
Al Foster playing calypso

6. Hip-hop track.
"The Seed 2.0" - The Roots feat. Cody Chestnutt
"Mr Wendal" - Arrested Development

7. Classical piece.
Adagio for Strings - Samuel Barber
Piano Concerto °3 - Rachmaninov
"O let me weep, forever weep" - Henry Purcell

8. Smash hit.
"One" (U2 - I also love the version of Johnny Cash!)
"Roxanne" (The Police)
"You can call me Al" (Paul Simon)

9. Jazz album.
Kind Of Blue (of course!)
The Real McCoy (McCoy Tyner)
Charlie Haden and the L.M.O - Ballad of the Fallen
Bill Frisell with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland

10. Non-American folkloric group:
groups: Taraf de Haïdouks; Ladysmith Black Mambazo
singers: Camaron de la Isla; João Gilberto; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

11. Book on music: But Beautiful - Geoff Dyer


A) Name an surprising album (or albums) you loved when you were
developing as a musician: something that really informs your sound but
that we would never guess in a million years:

Afghan Wigs - Gentlemen
Tool - Undertow
Wizards of Ooze - The Dipster

B) Name a practitioner (or a few) who play your instrument that you
think is underrated:

Dré Pallemaerts (he's definitely world class!)

C) Name a rock or pop album that you wish had been a smash commercial
hit (but wasn't, not really):

Shine - Daniel Lanois
Bitter - Meshell Ndegéocello
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris

D) Name a favorite drummer, and an album to hear why you love that

you shouldn't ask this to a drummer! this is what you get:

Billy Higgins and Elvin Jones - anything they play on!
Tony Williams - especially all the Miles Davis 60's Quintet albums
Paul Motian - Bill Evans Trio Live at the Village Vanguard + all the trio
recordings with Lovano and Frisell
Al Foster - So Near So Far (Joe Henderson)
Billy Hart - Joe Lovano Quartet live at the Village Vanguard
Joey Baron - If (Myriam Alter)
Brian Blade - Fellowship albums, Wayne Shorter Quartet live albums, Shine (Daniel Lanois)
Dré Pallemaerts - Eleven (Erwin Vann), Vive les Etrangers (Christoph

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bojan Z Trio - 22/03/2007@Beursschouwburg, Brussel

Bojan Z - p, Fender Rhodes, Xenophone (website)
Daryl Hall - b
Ari Hoenig - d

Bojan Z's Xenophonia was one of my favourite CDs of 2006. He draws on his Yugoslav roots without sounding retro, in the same way American jazz musicians draw on the Blues. A good example of this is "The Joker," his theme song, a bright and bouncy melody that moves to Balkan rhythms and lodges its hook deep into your memory upon first hearing. In his own music at least, Bojan Z doesn't make use of free jazz in the way, say, Jason Moran does, so in that respect at least, his music is perhaps more accessible, though certainly no less progressive and challenging of traditional formulae. It was hard to come away from this concert not feeling happy.

His compositions mostly aren't made up of cycles through harmonic schemes, but tend to sprawl, sprouting new sections through shifts in texture, changes in rhythm or the addition of new melodies. I often wonder if this kind of semi-through composed small group approach makes improvisation more focused by acting as a guard-rail, but doesn't also strap it down somewhat. But the standard solo-over-a-32-bar-form has its own fallbacks, so I guess the degree of freedom depends on the state of mind with which the material is approached (and maybe some of the sections are themselves spontaneously improvised)? Comments from performers of such material would be welcome.

One of the most interesting aspects of Xenophonia was how tactically piano, Fender and xenophone (in essence, a junkyard Fender) were deployed. The blend was less elaborate live, but there was the added bonus of occasional Sci-Fi FX, such as on "Biggus D," logically on its drum 'n' bass sections and in more unexpected fashion during the solo piano passages. The xenophone got one mighty workout, I think on David Bowie's "Ashes." Over a slow, heavy back-beat, Z's big, anthemic soloing and the xenophone's crunchy sound created a vintage psych-rock feel. Later, on what started as an uptempo swinger with an oriental head and grew into a multi-faceted behemoth, Z used a pedal to modify his Fender's sound and ended up some sort of heir to Alice Coltrane's unbridled organ whoops on "Leo" from Transfiguration. To say nothing of Bojan Z's piano playing, which is fantastic even when he's jokingly quoting "Feelings."

It was my first time seeing Ari Hoenig, and what can you say about him apart that he's totally amazing? Perhaps the most obvious example of his supreme musicality was the precision with which drew pitches from the snare drum on the last tune before the encore (you can hear him do more of that on his album The Painter), but right from the start, a piano-drums duet, the way he tailored his playing to the composition's contours had left no doubt.

Shadows of a People

I linked to it yesterday, but I'd like to do it again:

Shadows of a People

What Matana Roberts is writing there is very powerful.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Charles Tolliver - With Love

My review went up on Citizen Jazz last Monday. It's a steam-roller big band (the phrase "Victor Lewis's punching ball" makes an appearance), which is ultimately tiring: beautiful intimate moments like the wind choir on "Mournin' Variations" get razed, the trumpet-piano dialogue section of "'Round Midnight" gives way to a fast, pounding arrangement that Francis Davis calls "novel" but that I call absurd.

I generally enjoy Tolliver's solos: whether slow or fast, he always sounds like he's on knife's edge. Robert Glasper shows that he isn't always as sleepy as he is on Canvas. Ched Tolliver's guitar solo is a favourite moment: he hangs back and builds an understated in a refreshing way. And, generally speaking, a fair amount of excitement and activity is generated, even if it's not exactly inspiring.

Since Cecil McBee is in involved, I can't resist reminding you of the greatest assessment of a jazz musician ever pronounced:

"Cecil McBee is cool, cute and sophisticated," [Saori Horikiri, a 17-year-old high-school student from just outside Tokyo] said, wearing a pink sweater with "Cecil McBee" across the chest.

Jason Moran and the Bandwagon - 21/03/2007@Ancienne Belgique, Brussel

Jason Moran - p
Tarus Mateen - el b
Nasheet Waits - d

From time to time, I wonder: is it the Blue Note hype? the hat? the (I must admit, super-cool) way Tarus Mateen slouches in his chair like a lackadaisical B. B. King? I was rapidly reassured that it was the music, creativity and imagination that get to me. And the hat rocked, too.

The brief recorded sound collage that began the concert was expected, but the sudden, prolonged drop into silence wasn't. The maelstrom that followed made for a satisfyingly uncompromising beginning. Even though a few tolling piano chords deftly cued the slight, gospel-tinged groove of "Gangsterism on the Rise," there was never anything merely functional or teleologically climactic about the Bandwagon's free playing: they do it for real (elasticity and unpredictability are maintained), but not forever (it's set within a wider framework), while letting something of the tune lurk in the depths.

in several places at once

Some of the material was taken from Artist In Residence (review). The lovely "Milestone" prompted a bit of self-congratulation: "That shit was inspired" was Moran's assessment. "He Puts On His Coat And Leaves" placed the hypnotic piano surface of the album's solo version on top of the Mateen-Waits bustle and was as close as the Bandwagon got to the likes of E.S.T. I think I heard the slow, thick, tremulous chords of "Lift Ev'ry Voice" at some point. "Artists Ought To Be Writing" and "Breakdown" were logically performed as a medley.

While not really a highlight (without Marvin Sewell, "Breakdown" lacked the snap of the album version), but the AOTBW's voice-as-score approach was interesting to watch live. It put the voice on two levels at once: on top, sonically, as it boomed from the speakers, but also at the bottom, since the whole composition emerged from it. My favourite part of Dave Douglas's Keystone: Live In Sweden (I don't have the studio Keystone album) is part 4 (if I'm not mistaken) of the "Fatty and Mabel Adrift Suite" when Dave interacts with a manipulated sample of Arbuckle's voice. For a brief moment, his lines and the voice come together in a really fascinating way, one unique to that particular instrumentation.

A few other recurring Moran themes were explored: the blues with "Jump Up" and "Let Me Play The Blues For You", a Jaki Byard tune with a de rigueur stride section that thankfully melted into a more personal, less didactic take on the idiom and, as encore, an elastic-tempo swinger that liberally quoted (sampled?) from tunes already played.

The real standout, though, was "Crepuscule With Nellie," totally reconfigured yet totally Monk. For example, thematic material (some belonging to the tune, some written by Moran) was organically looped in the piano introduction in a way that related to Monk's occasional anti-solo solos, the ones that were little more than slightly adjusted restatements of the theme. Moran said that he was currently exploring, among other things, "the sexual aspects" of Monk's music, which explained why they played "Crepuscule With Nellie" as "an r'n'b tune."

Parker on recording, Coin Coin blog, tasteless women

Soundslope has a very interesting excerpt from a William Parker interview, but something else caught my eye (emphasis mine):

I think ideally, if you were going to record in a studio, you'd rehearse there every day, and then, at the end of the week, possibly turn on some mics. It should be done the way rock albums are done, but the budgets for jazz recordings usually only allow for one or two days, while a rock group could take a month or much more. I mean, people make great CDs, and of course something comes out that's beautiful, but imagine what it would be like if these same guys had a chance to relax in the studio.

Matana Roberts announces a new, "temporary" blog about her Coin Coin project: Shadows of a People


Memorable sentences from the LCD Soundsystem guy: "I've been in bands since '82. I mean, I was in new-wave bands when new wave was a new wave;" "It seemed more reasonable and respectable to be a drummer; it's like being a rock plumber"


Let's face it: men just have better taste in music, right?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

don't say it too loud... (postscript)

part one
part two

Settled In Shipping has a rejoinder that brings up several good questions.

Godoggo adds a comment about his Los Angeles observations.

In another comment, Primus Luta brings electronica into the picture.

Daniel Melnick points to another very interesting (aren't they all?) George Lewis essay: "Gittin' To Know Y'all: Improvised Music, Interculturalism, and the Racial Imagination."

On Darcy's post linking to my essay, commenter Andrea quotes and links to a Leroy Jenkins interview.

A little addendum about what I find most amusingly bizarre about "blipster" (Styledash has a link round-up and Rob Harvilla gleefully tore into the neologism). It implies that blacks can't be part of the mainstream of hipness, but hip, or hep, is originally an Afro-American term. So, if anything (and it should probably be nothing), we should be talking about whipsters (but that's probably too kinky-sounding and reminds me of a great line in Naked Lunch (emphasis and capitalisation in original): My Whippets Are Dying...). Or perhaps the snatching away of the term is a kind of hidden commentary on the supposed "whiting out" of rock? (Somehow I doubt it)

We Feed The World

"According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation, we currently produce enough food to feed 12 billion people. So every child who dies of hunger today has been murdered." Jean Ziegler's statement is at the heart of We Feed The World, Erwin Wagenhofer's agro-industry documentary. Through a series of examples, the film points out some of the absurdities, inequalities, biases and injustices of the global food industry.

Wagenhofer does away with any lingering Malthusianism: in Vienna, we see enough bread being thrown away to feed Graz, Austria's second city, while in Brazil, a massive agricultural producer and exporter, up to 25% of the population suffers from endemic undernourishment.

There are ecological issues, when vast tracts of the Amazon are razed to grow soja to be exported and fed to European farm animals, social issues, as in the (probably illegal) African migrant workers who live in squalor while tending to the vast greenhouses of Almería, Spain, economic issues, such as the well-known example of subsidised European produce being sold in Dakar, Senegal at half the local prices, quality issues in the limp, damaged fish resulting from industrial deep-sea fishing. There are a few others, and there could be many more.

WFTW culminates with an interview with the Nestlé CEO, who is allowed to simply state his company's outlook. It's edifying to learn that, for him, considering access to water a fundamental human right rather than just another food commodity is an "extremist position."

I think the film could have been just a little punchier, but the section focusing on a chicken farm makes for an arresting series of images. We see the chicken life-cycle from conception, incubation, hatching, dispatching (imagine Modern Times but with thousands of chicks instead of one Charlie Chaplin), raising and slaughter. The slaughter machine is both Rube Goldberg-esque and ruthlessly efficient. It is actually made somewhat more sinister by the in-built "humane" component. It's far removed from the travails of human slaughter by an avant-classical musician. There's nothing quite "wrong" with the whole process, but it does illustrate how disconnected we are from agricultural processes and how they themselves are increasingly divorced from nature.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

audioOne, Roach, Shteamer

Ken Vandermark has sent out the second issue of his AudioOne e-zine. I didn't get the first issue, but this one interestingly deals with Vandermark's view of jazz, which I call the "historical toolbox" view and which is close to my own, but explained far better than I could probably ever manage.

If you've read my interview with him, and even if you haven't, you won't be surprised that he says that "Jazz is usually considered as a style of music. To my way of thinking it is not a style, however, it is a methodology." In the first part, he starts by pointing to a common analytical problem: content being considered more important than form. Then he sets up the evolution of jazz as an "ongoing dialectic that takes place between improvisation and composition," leading to the conclusion that "the improviser/composer dialectic created formal issues which then affected content issues, not the other way around. Lasting art is motivated by ideas and the need to articulate them, not by meeting the aesthetic requirements of a certain style."

It's in its second part, entitled "IMPROVISATION, COMPOSITION, AND HISTORY" and led off with a - steady yourselves - CEF-ish Steve Lacy quote, that the essay really takes off, though.

Jazz can be described as a series of overlapping arcs. And unlike in a concept of style, these arcs do not describe progress and improvement; they describe the change and innovation of ideas (...) The changes in content and construction that have occurred over the last century are not steps in the same direction, towards the same goal. Ideas move in many directions at once. Frequently concepts that appear to be a dead end during their initial exposure become a creative spark for a later generation, or peripheral components become the line that leads to a new set of vocabulary; perhaps the ideas don’t develop into a language until they leapfrog to another time and place. Considered in this way, Jazz becomes a complex of musical thought built by artists whose work can stand side by side in greatness, no matter what time and place.

Coincidentally, the first few photos in the issue are sort of more serious-minded cousins to the ones I put in the interview (I hope the connection between the photos and the interview was clear, but if not, the photos, especially the third one, modular elements placed on a grid, echoing Vandermark's methodology, while the materials used evoked the roughness of the music. Also, they were taken at deSingel the same day).


Tom Myron's memorable master-class encounter with Max Roach.


Hank Shteamer's memorable interview-cum-lesson with Chico Hamilton (the photo of Hamilton makes him look like a wax statue, doesn't it?).

Hank's blog continues to be great. I particularly liked the capsule summaries of various national flavours of free jazz found in a post on Japanese musical extremists:
[ps--isn't it crazy how every region has its own free jazz vibe? American stuff, like Ayler, is connected real heavily to elemental blues and gospel, just super emotional and heartrending; British stuff, like early Spontaneous Music Ensemble, is as extreme, but totally controlled and pointillistic; German stuff, like Brotzmann, is gruff, cacophonous, gritty and relentless; Dutch stuff, like Bennink and Mengelberg, is whimsical and pastiche-oriented; and here we have the Japanese stuff, which is just ends-of-the-earth material--real endurance-test-ish. interesante]
Okay, but what about Italy, France, the Scandinavian countries, etc.?

Monday, March 19, 2007

don't say it too loud... (part 2)

[See part one]

On Matana Roberts's blog, a post titled "Hello black folks? can you hear me?" delves quite deeply into the web of feelings invested in this community/isolation tension. She starts from an overjoyed observation of the "wall to wall blackness in the audience" at an Alice Coltrane concert, but then gets depressed because "we are struggling cause not only are there not a lot of black folks in the experimental jazz realm that I am a passenger in, but there are rarely any black folks in the damn audience." The comments to the post are interesting too, as other young black American jazz musicians like Corey Wilkes and Jaleel Shaw chip in. Shaw's and Roberts's early educational experiences are really depressing and strange to me, and make this initiative seem particularly relevant.

Echoing Roberts, even Greg Tate, who can't be accused of wishing to minimise black American cultural contributions, finds the scene lacking and points to causes within the Afro-American community: the rejection of its own avant-garde and a lack of pedagogical structure.

It's taken 20 years for people to hear how prophetic [Miles Davis's 70s music] was and predictive it was. For me, the first hip-hop album was (1972's) On the Corner. Miles basically built that whole record around the notion of the break beat and his own version of rhythmically cutting and scratching with a real percussive kind of sound. We haven't really heard any younger players that have been able to synthesize so much of what's going (on) in all music into their own electric acoustic sound.

I think that we're at a real crossroads in terms of black people in jazz culture, because a lot of people worldwide have been studying the tradition and trying to get a hold on all these different creative trends that came about: Miles, Weather Report, Anthony Braxton, Art Ensemble of Chicago. All this music that is eschewed by the black jazz community in America has been picked up by everybody else working in music, whether its in hip hop or Norwegian jazz. One of the questions I pose is whether from a creative standpoint is it even necessary for black people to play jazz for the tradition to extend through this century?

STAR: Aren't the majority of jazz musicians still black?

Because of the dwindling talent pool and opportunities for learning about jazz culture in black communities now, there really aren't that many black jazz musicians under the age of 50 who have international stature. Beyond that, it's are they bringing anything to the language of jazz? Also, if the audience for jazz has almost become predominately not black, is it necessary for black people to even listen to jazz? I'm throwing those out in a real rhetorical kind of way, because if we do a reverse anthropology we know that the music exists because of the ethnological circumstances that produced it.
His questions are vexing, but pointed and difficult to ignore. The names that spring immediately to my mind as post-80s creators and/or scene-builders are indeed around 50 years old (Steve Coleman, William Parker, Hamid Drake, David Murray) or getting there (Greg Osby, Matthew Shipp). Off the top of my head, some who might follow those guys up: Craig Taborn, Mark Turner, Matana Roberts, Jason Moran. The last is fairly well-known, but the others much less so, despite, for examle, Turner's surprisingly large influence on the generation after him (the crowd at the Fly concert in October 2006 was sparse and consisted mostly of student musicians).

So those are the two issues that I can see. On the one hand there is the essentially white[1] jazz media's generally liberal, universalist view, one that wishes to be inclusive, progressive and transparent. For example, Down Beat editor Jason Koransky (as quoted in Willard Jenkins's Is Racism Still an Issue in Jazz?) wrote in an editorial "Forget race, sex, religion and so forth. It's 2003, and we've progressed beyond such backwards thinking."

On the other hand, there is the sense of navigating the fertile but contradictory impulses evoked by Mitchell. The elements that Koransky would wish to "forget" are the very ones Mitchell and Roberts must and/or wish to grapple with. Those categories are constitutive of culture and identity, they cannot be forgotten. Indeed, without them, Roberts would not be able to conceive of a work as powerful as Coin Coin reportedly is. This gap between the positions Kornansky and Mitchell occupy may be what causes a bias towards seeing black musicians as representing continuities ("rooted") and white ones as introducing rifts ("avant-garde").

Have you ever heard a white jazz musician say that they're trying not to be estranged from their white audience, as Mitchell does? Or that they're struggling to represent their roots while expanding upon them? If they do point to roots, it will be to things that are external to (Italian, Jewish or some other immigrant descent) or transgressive of (free jazz, punk, hip hop) the mainstream.

I doubt that any would say something equivalent to Roberts's declaration that "My 'blackness' if you will, and my conciousness of it is at the core of every creative step that I make." Because "whiteness" is generally reduced to either white power rhetoric or a bad joke, all remains is a euphemism: "life experience." For example, Ethan Iverson uses the term in his interview with Stanley Crouch to justify The Bad Plus (Ethan, I hasten to add, is also willing to go beyond the euphemism). Because of the different cultural weights of "blackness" and "life experience," rifts and avant-gardism once more come to seem more inherent in white musicians, while the black community is "absorbed in neo-bop conservatism," to quote "Echos d'un jazz libre d'Amérique" again.

Perhaps making the debate less Americanocentric could help to illuminate what is actually going on, in a couple of ways. First, setting black American jazz in a wider African and African diaspora context could show how the ways West Africans like Lionel Loueke and Hervé Samb, or Guadeloupeans like Franck Nicolas and Christian Laviso are appropriating jazz relate to what black Americans are doing or not doing.

Second, rather than focus again and again on the ever-tense Europe/America fault-line, how about discussing the ways in which Europe and Africa interact musically? The South Africa-London axis is perhaps the most known in avant-jazz circles, but much of Europe (well, at least the major colonial powers) maintains strong links with Africa, both positive and negative. For example, Belgium remains a choice destination for Congolese, influencing Belgian musicians. Players such as Pierre Van Dormael and Fabrizio Cassol remain profoundly impacted by the time they spent in Senegal and with the Aka pygmies, respectively. The best-selling series of albums by the French Sclavis/Texier/Romano trio, is the result of their own African trip. In taking this different view of the problems of tradition, culture and integration, perhaps a fuller image can emerge.

One of Greg Tate's questions, perhaps the most important, remains: why does it matter? why should we care that young black Americans might be disappearing from avant-jazz? After all, "Miles, Weather Report, Anthony Braxton, Art Ensemble of Chicago... [have] been picked up by everybody else working in music, whether its in hip hop or Norwegian jazz," jazz may well no longer have an avant-garde anyway and black American creativity is being expressed in other forms of music.

I care because the forms of music that I am most attracted to, popular or arty, old or new, come from black American culture. There's a feeling, I should say a range of feelings, there that's not found anywhere else, no matter how deeply ingrained the music has become in music around the world. To pick on the same example, could Coin Coin have emerged from anywhere else? Since jazz is my favourite kind of music, I'd like for it to continue participating in that culture and those feelings, and not only in an old-fashioned way, hence the need for an avant-garde approach.

[1] Take a look at the photo spread in this Vanity Fair article from the time of Blue Note's '80s relaunch. The difference between those who make music and those who make money is starkly laid out. Did it really take hip-hop to change the picture?

don't say it too loud... (part 1)

[I started writing this back in August of 2006 as a follow-up to molten... but apart. It's a difficult issue, so I dropped the post and picked it up again a number of times, slowly accumulating reference points. Now seems as good a time as any to publish it, as it fits in with the various jazzblog debates on the state of jazz currently going on. It's not meant to sound definitive, hopefully others with more knowledge of this issue can take the discussion further. Many thanks to Nate and Ethan for their help.]

Reading about jazz, collecting albums and seeing who I and others think of as avant-garde/cutting-edge/innovative, I sometimes find myself wondering if young black musicians haven't disappeared almost totally from that category. Maybe they have - or maybe avant-garde jazz has become an oxymoron (for some reason, recent Ben Ratliff articles have been implying this) - but there are two elements that contribute to this feeling: media selectivity and the strong conciousness of tradition/history/lineage that's both felt within black America and also imposed upon it.

"Echos d'un jazz libre d'Amérique" rather bluntly sets up a racially-divided view of American jazz (translation mine):

These diverse musicians [Tim Berne, Jim Black, Amy Denio, Ellery Eskelin, Gerry Hemingway, Ken Vandermark] work in parallel, but without much contact with the mainstream clubs and radio stations traditionally identified with jazz and the black community - clubs and radios absorbed in neo-bop conservatism. Therefore, they do not cover "the" reality of "the" American jazz scene, but a micro-community (mainly white, especially on the listeners' side) that has been, over the last fifteen years, the site of the most fertile inventions.
This - a white avant-garde apart from a black mainstream - is something that is often stated, explicitly or implicitly. Apart from Don Byron, everyone mentioned in the article quoted above and Will Layman's on fusion is white. Nate Chinen's "Brooklyn Jazz Renaissance" is slightly more balanced, but still prompted heated replies from trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah that, as far as I am aware, went largely unnoticed (perhaps because Abdullah was rather long-winded). Also, the only young black jazz musician prominently cited by Chinen is Robert Glasper, which kind of reinforces the "black jazz is stuck in the mainstream and/or past" sentiment.

In "Experimental Music in Black and White: The AACM in New York, 1970-1985," George Lewis gives historical background on the ways the media have minimised Afro-American avant-gardism:
it may fairly be said that the AACM has received far less credit for [its] role in challenging borders of genre, practice, and cultural reference than members of subsequently emerging experimental music art worlds. In particular, the so-called "downtown" improvisors and the "totalist" composers, two loosely-structured musical communities largely framed and coded as white by press reception, articulated similar discourses of mobility, extending them to an alliance with rock
Of course, the AACM's and the AEC's roles and importance are well-recognised, now. But, without going to "Putting The White Man In Charge" extremes, articles such as the ones cited above (and, tangentially, the infamous blipster débâcle) make me wonder if the same process isn't continuing. Lewis quotes Greg Osby: "I played with all the Downtown cats but nobody called me a Downtown cat."

In the standard jazz history narrative, it's as if black American participation in the avant-garde (in the contextual sense, ie. those who lead into new territory, rather than a style created in the 60s) stopped with the AACM and Cecil Taylor. After that, the story ceases to be about progress and becomes about a clash of aesthetics, retrenchment vs. expansion, Wynton Marsalis vs. John Zorn, or whatever (though sites like Destination: Out and Ear of the Behearer are attempting to redress the balance). Flutist Nicole Mitchell evokes a possible reason why this might be the case:
She went on to articulate the obvious Catch-22 that black composers versed in jazz feel when addressing pan-European art music composition. "I find myself caught in a complex situation of definers," Mitchell acknowledges. "On one hand, I embrace the idea that I am of the continuum of the 'jazz legacy.' I connect with African American people and am intent on being relevant and not estranged from a black audience. Yet and still, I understand the limitations that the name causes. (Willard Jenkins "Racism: On the Notated Page As Well?")
Speaking about black people in rock, Nelson George makes a very valid comment that points to a familiar instance of internal cultural boundary policing:
Black kids do not want to go out with bummy clothes and dirty sneakers. There is a psychological subtext to that, about being in a culture where you are not valued and so you have to value yourself.
I remember watching the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at age 13 and loving it, but being conflicted as to whether I "could" or "should" feel that way. I also remember speeches from my parents about how and, most importantly, why one should always look one's best, which echoed George's statements.

[on to part two]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

veterans hazed like rookies

Margaret Davis (Henry Grimes's manager) has written a damning comment to Taylor Ho Bynum's Cecil Taylor/John Zorn double-bill review. She accuses the J@LC staff of treating the musicians scandolously poorly, on purpose.

How dare somebody say that the "avant-garde" doesn’t need to play at Lincoln Center? (...) There’s a castle on the hill for King Wynton and his cronies, and there are huts in the valley for those (literally / figuratively) on the outside.

(...) I was there throughout the whole experience, and the place was very unwelcoming if not outright hostile to the musicians. Could ample foods and refreshing juices and herb teas and fresh coffee and maybe a bottle of wine here and be found by the musicians backstage? None of the above. (...) A hot dinner was brought into the Green Room in aluminum trays the first evening after the CT trio had already been backstage for four hours, along with the announcement that there would be no such dinner the second night. Why? Well, um... (...) It was bitter cold backstage; could the heat possibly be turned on? Of course, they were working on that right now, it would be on any minute now, and it never was. Is it good for 77-year-old and 71-year-old musicians to be freezing cold for hours on end, even with their coats on? Could they possibly get sick from this, even get pneumonia and die? (Now, dear…) Did the sound crew, at least a dozen in number milling about all over the hall with a huge array of state-of-the-art equipment at its disposal, manage to deliver good, clear, balanced sound for a mere three musicians in a supposedly acoustically perfect new hall? As we say in New York, fuhgeddaboudit

More light-heartedly, the widely-linked Cecil Taylor radio interview is notable for befuddling the interviewer, but much more for the part where Taylor tells the story about his first piano lessons with his mother. You could transcribe it and publish it almost verbatim. Maybe he's told that story a million times before, but I'd never heard him speak before. The sort-of-posh accent reminded me of Duke Ellington.

(A)Live At Etna - 17/03/2007@Steiner School, Antwerpen

When I was in high school, I never went to see the high school bands some of my friends/acquaintances were in. I never had the chance to hear something like "Zusammen Gekomen," the result of running The Beatles' "Come Together" through an automatic translator, being dedicated to the German teacher - with the dedicatee present. So I had a lot of catching up to do. But why was I here in the first place? Well, the event was taking place at IVN's little sister's school and her trombonist boyfriend was in the second of the three bands. So, even though I could have seen an Anthony Braxton/Joëlle Léandre duo up in Bruges, I wasn't. I'm too lazy to go to Bruges more than once every six months, anyway.

3, 2, 1... Explosion went on first, thrashing out wooly, shambolic but not unambitious 70's rock. Memorably, the first lyrics the singer (who, strangely, was the dorkiest band member) sang were "Go, go, Power Rangers!" I was surprised kids still know them.

Darpoeka (pronounced darpooka, rhythm section and saxophone-trumpet-trombone) bill themselves as ska-funk-jazz and did what it says on the tin. It's always fun to see youngsters enjoying upbeat, unfussy and, importantly, concise versions of "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon."

Still, the best band was undoubtedly the last, Leafpeople (and the only ones to be found on myspace), of "Zusammen Gekomen" fame. They started with a few originals, during which singer/guitarist/keyboardist Johannes Genard showed a surprising knack for lyrics, especially as I assume english isn't his native language. For example, "Herzeloyde"'s description of a girlfriend in the same terms generally used to describe an underground band: "She's the kind of girl the rest of the world would call 'experimentally pretty'/She's the kind of girl no-one else knows about except me." Then there was the funny, well-crafted stage show, which included a recreation, flash cards and backing dancers included, of the "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" and a drum solo interrupted by the drummer's dash to the front of the stage to perform a brief Macarena. During Darpoeka's set, he had led a conga line through the crowd, so maybe this was to be expected.

musician questionnaire: nicolas kummert

Nicolas Kummert is a saxophonist who moved to Paris roughly a year ago. Guess which answer is tongue-in-cheek.

Jazz album: The Next Step, Kurt Rosenwinkel; Coltrane Sun ship, especially "Dearly Beloved." I love the tunes like "Alabma," where he just speaks through his horn.

Melody: "Canon à la septième," from Bach's Goldberg Variations. Question for Ethan: it's for three voices, so does it count as a melody?

Classical piece: "Art of the Fugue." Bach is the classical composer who most touches me.

Soundtrack: Saxo, with Archie Shepp. It's a French film I watched over and over when I was twelve and only playing classical saxophone.

A favourite drummer, and album: Brian Blade on Wayne Shorter's Beyond The Sound Barrier; Ed Blackwell with Ornette Coleman

Underrated practioner of your instrument: Mark Turner five years ago; Fabrizio Cassol, even in Belgium

Smash hit: "Let's Dance," David Bowie; Michael Jackson is a hit in and of himself; Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," the modulations at the end are great [rapturously sings them]

A pop/rock album that should have been a hit: David Bowie's recent albums.

Rhythmic feel: 12/8, or the African 6/8. I've worked with African musicians and I feel that many jazz musicians haven't really worked on it.

Harmonic language: Improvised counterpoint, harmony through melody and interaction. It's something that goes beyond the standard rules, which all the great musicians do.

Voice: I only hear one voice: God's.

A track you can't stop yourself from dancing to: "Yamore," Salif Keita with Cesaria Evora

Hidden Influence: Stevie Wonder, Natural Wonder

vibrate higher

The only magazine I subscribe to (I'm not quite sure why I like it, as I often find it superficial, they never sent me the two gift CDs they promised and my ideal music magazine is the almost diametrically-opposed Sextant), Vibrations, has a new look and a new web site. It's essentially a well-furnished blog with news, downloads, videos, concert reviews, brief articles and more.

The CD sampler has been dematerialised into an MP3 download that you have to buy the magazine to get. My two favourite tracks are somewhat similar, building culture-hopping patchworks on top of insistent polyrhythmic bases.

Tumi and the Volume "Afrique": a short burst of tense, rapid-fire hip hop-era Afrobeat from South Africa. <

Roberto Fonseca "Ishmael": maybe I'm still in a Cuban mood, but I love the sleek, slightly sinister Afro-Cuban beat, and the arrangement which includes Eastern-ish melodies, blooms of warm Cuban piano splattered with disrupting crashes and a mosquito buzz double-reed (a ney?).

Most of the rest of tracks on the sampler, even when pretty good, sounds a lot more forced and insincere than these two, with Balkan Beat Box (whose 2005 concert I really liked) being the worst offenders.

since eye been gone

As soon as I left, Do The Math interviewed Stanley Crouch and drew responses and an interesting tangent.

Sarah Deming suggested a way for Ethan to learn the clave. Here are some Cuban sombreros of mine (and IVN's) that might help him get started:

Darcy posted a new Secret Society concert.

Bill Shoemaker published a new issue of Point Of Departure. I have a particular fondness for POD's layout: its minimalism (not even a navigation menu!) contrasts strongly with most sites and creates a relaxed, distraction-free atmosphere more conducive to reading than the cluttered look of, say, AAJ.

Le Monde said that "the shelf space allocated to records dropped by 15 to 25% in 2006. But without reducing the amount of titles." The first sentence concords with what I've seen here in Brussels, the second doesn't.

Various aspects of the state of jazz were discussed:
- Taylor Ho Bynum persuasively disputed J@LC's economic hegemony (cf. the Ratliff review that sparked it, Darcy's take and Jeff Albert's conundrum) and gave a great account of the first chapter of Matana Roberts's Coin Coin.
- Vijay Iyer made an incisive statement (responses: Soundslope, Improvising Guitar) and another, but on Rifftides.
- Doug Ramsey (see comments), visionsong and Settled In Shipping on jazz education, which James Hale's anecdote relates to.
- Stochasticachtus spun his own series of thoughts.

And, of course, Destination: Out was as sensational as ever. Re: John Gilmore, his work on Andrew Hill's Andrew!!! (an album perhaps a little less known than some of Hill's other Blue Notes, but stands up to any of them) is great. He meshes so well with Hill for some of the reasons Oliver Trager cites, capturing ambiguities that a number of Hill sidemen, even in the early Blue Note halcyon years, don't really get to (which is one of the reasons I find Time Lines so brilliant):

What is it about Gilmore’s sound that is so gripping? It swings and yet it is so out –- simultaneously tormented and lovely, dusky and bright, experienced and naive, grounded and airborne, primitive and modern –- an angel/demon glad to be unhappy.
Speaking of Hill and Gilmore, Compulsion!!!!! (Blue Note) is being reissued! as!! a!!! single!!!! disc!!!!!

I'm saddened to hear of the dramatic robbery and kidnapping Tom Hull and his wife were victims of.