|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Joseph Jarman
A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
By George E. Lewis
University of Chicago Press
Home from his studies at Yale University in 1971, trombonist George Lewis was walking to his parents’ home on Chicago’s South Side when he heard unusual sounds coming from a nearby brick building. Peering inside he saw a group practicing what he calls “fascinating” music. Asking if he could attend future rehearsals, Lewis was grudgingly welcomed into what he soon found out was the disciplined but inventive milieu of the Association of the Advancement Musicians (AACM).
Shortly afterwards he became a member, and subsequently an official of the organization, founded by a group of Chicago’s most accomplished, jazz-directed improvisers in 1965. Forty-three years later the AACM – which one European critic describes as “a guarantee of quality” for improvised music – is recognized world-wide as “the first [successful] avant-garde co-operative in the United States”. A music professor at New York’s Columbia University, Lewis uses his insider’s perspective to write this comprehensive history of the organization. Knitting together 92 interviews and extensive research, A Power Stronger Than Itself stands out as exemplary jazz scholarship that also appeals to the non-academic.
Basically, the reason why the AACM has managed to survive into its fifth decade, while similar organizations have disappeared, is because as Lewis writes, “the collective conception that dominated the AACM both institutionally and artistically challenged the commodification of individuality itself – the ‘star system’ with its sharp division between ‘leader’ and ‘sideman’ that has been authoratively written into the discursive cannon of jazz”.
That doesn’t mean that some AACM members aren’t internationally renowned – reedists Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams come to mind. It’s just that the association’s growth has always been predicated on its collegial connection with the working class Black community of Chicago’s south side where it spawned. AACM members still promote its original nine-point program from 1965 that promises to stimulate cultural tradition, increase employment opportunities for creative musicians, provide composers’ workshops, like the one that impressed Lewis, and operate a school for aspiring musicians. AACM bands such as reedist Ed Wilkerson’s 8 Bold Souls and flautist Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble are still a constant Chicago presence.
However Lewis also notes that as significant for the ACCM’s survival, and its influence – which has gone past jazz’s boundaries to affect what he calls “whiteness-based” musics such as rock and so-called classical – is the decision from the beginning to emphasis the primacy of original music and the composer. Many first-generation AACMers – including, Lewis, Abrams, Braxton, violinist Leroy Jenkins, reedists Henry Threadgill, Joseph Jarman and others who left Chicago and formed a New York chapter in 1982 – deal with idioms that move across genres. Involved with theatre, poetry, sound collage and multi-media, the post-modern art music composed by these individuals is as likely to include references to minimalism and neo-classicism as the jazz tradition. As Lewis writes: “AACM musicians felt that experimentation in music need not be bound to particular ideologies, methods or slogans.” Musically, the AACM’s paramount contribution to experimental improvised music is a sense of dynamics. Unlike the New York-based New Thing of the 1960s, “the Chicago people got intense, but they also got soft and they were also incorporating other sounds into their music,” Lewis quotes Mitchell saying.
Describing the parallel development between the self-described “more conservative” Chicago-based AACM and the experimental New York wing is another way in which this volume supersedes earlier studies of the association. Lewis does situate the AACM in relation to other avant-garde collectives such as New York’s Jazz Composers Guild, St. Louis’ Black Artists Group and Los Angeles’ Underground Musicians Association (see Musicworks #96). He outlines how a supportive group of writers, music presenters and record labels allowed the collective to become better know. Braxton, Jenkins and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEOC) – which included Jarman and Mitchell – gained greater recognition during a two-year, late-1960s relocation to France.
However the French romanticizing a link between the association and radical Black Nationalism was discursive. These players’ intra-musical experiences plus resentment from Chicagoans, who felt that the AEOC was monopolizing the AACM, necessitated a separate New York chapter.
A Power Stronger Than Itself is also universal enough to deal with topics usually ignored by others. Lewis’ penultimate chapter itemizes how the ACCM has finally evolved from being a literal “old boy’s club” into addressing its gender imbalance. From first-hand accounts, he doesn’t sugar-coat the situation that initially any female musician had a hard time being accepted into the AACM, and that it wasn’t until 1992 that Samia, become the association’s first all-woman band. Even today female AACM members are more the exception than the rule, although Nicole Mitchell is the association’s co-chair
Recalling his experience and those of his AACM peers such as Braxton he also exposes the barriers that Black composers like themselves face when they write music outside the codified jazz tradition. Neither fish nor fowl, their creations are rejected by jazz purists for not swinging or being blues based, and by the classical establishment for being African-American, even he says, in the so-called downtown New music world. Such aids to experimental composers as university professorships, endowed chairs, performance ensembles and electronic music studios are monopolized by musicians hostile to improvisation and African American music.
Although he was only one of three African American composers affiliated with important experimental efforts such as 1992’s New Music, New York, since then the subsidy situation has improved, with several AACM composers are beneficiaries of major fellowships. Slightly beyond this volume’s purview, grant politics should be examined in the context of post-modern music in 21st Century. However readers of A Power Stronger Than Itself discover how the AACM, a grass roots association, evolved to participate in these discussions.
Considering that an AACM-organized, 50-member ensemble was available to play Abrams’ orchestral composition as part of the association’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Chicago, composers and performers from the ACCM will sure to be involved in whatever constitutes modern music for decades to come.
-- Ken Waxman
In MusicWorks Issue #101
July 2, 2008
Guelph Jazz Festival:
Improv On The Move
Taking the concept of free-flowing improvisation a step further, one morning at this years Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), 15 musicians performed simultaneously in four different whitewashed rooms of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.
The workshop developed this way, according to Ajay Heble, GJF artistic director, because so many musicians wanted to participate. Some American alto saxophonist Marshall Allan, British pianist Veryan Weston, Québécois guitarist René Lussier and American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne rooted on a spot and collaborated with whoever came along. Others moved from place to place and up and down the staircase as they played.
Trumpeter Gordon Allen from Montreal added fanfares to understated percussive taps from Guelph drummer Jesse Stewart in the main space and later combined with Lussier for showier work in an upstairs room. New York-based alto saxophonist Matana Roberts, wearing a dress festooned with razor blades and safety pins, and tenor saxophonist Jason Robinson from San Diego acted like traveling minstrels. At one point the two and altoist Allen blended for spicy multiphonic runs. At another, Roberts played a feathery obbligato behind a simple blues Chadbourne was chording.
Toronto bassist Rob Clutton constantly schlepped his ungainly instrument. In one space he sympathetically backed Chadbournes avant-folk, before that he combined in a staircase duet with Halifax clarinetist Paul Cram. Interesting juxtapositions occurred as faint sonic timbres bled into the textures produced by the visible performers.
At Sticks & Stones afternoon gig, Roberts, wearing face paint and a flowing gown, proved herself equally facile on clarinet and saxophone. With drummer Chad Taylors polyrhythms and bassist Josh Abrams powerful plucking as anchors, her solos encompassed wide vibratos as well as piercing note pecks.
Sharing the bill, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujiis quartet worked from more of a composerly base. The keyboardists contrapuntal styling was seconded by the understated inventiveness of percussionist Jim Black and thick col legno swoops and windmill motions of bassist Mark Dresser, so the energy level built throughout. When Fujii reached inside the piano to liberate quivering pulsations, the drummer sawed on his cymbals for daxophone-like squeals.
In a set that echoed Fujiis recorded work with Japanese noise rockers, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura spun out muted staccato lines, reminiscent of 1970s Miles Davis. That sound served as a sub-motif for the Festival. It was echoed in interludes from drummer/trumpeter Arve Henriksen, whose Norwegian band Supersilent, late at night brought synthesizer and computer-processed noises to an enclosed downtown mall with post-rock soundscapes that promised more than they delivered.
Quicksilver grace notes were showcased more impressively by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in the all-star Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) ensemble that opened the showcase concert in the soft-seated River Run Centre. Smiths sprints and spits made common cause with the bassoon, flute, didjerido, shaker and miscellaneous little instruments of Douglas Ewart, Hamid Drakes percussion and Jeff Parkers guitar. A last-minute addition Parkers twangy fills never really jelled with the others work. Episodic rather than cohesive, the best audience response came with Ewarts anti-George Bush recitation.
Headliners, The Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) fared much better, hitting a groove with its opening number and keeping the time steady, no matter what detours into hokum, faux primitivism, blues, post-bop dissonance or pseudo-swing were evident. Based around the durable bass work of Jaribu Shahid and the solid beat of percussionist Famoudu Don Moye, this underpinning allowed the front line its freedom.
Playing trumpet and flugelhorn singly or together Corey Wilkes, combined fiery execution with sophisticated note placement. His musical personality was strong enough to hold his own with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, who between them play most members of the reed and flute families. Theatrical in his face paint and ceremonial robes, Jarman frequently honked two saxes simultaneously and interspaced his solos one of which he played on his back like a 1950s R&B saxophonist with shouts and a shuffling dance. Resplendent in a well-cut business suit, Mitchell belied his appearance with fierce polyphonic reed responses to Jarmans japes and notable solos on both saxophones and piccolo. Mitchells parody blues, Big Red Peaches was the shows finger-snapping climax, with Wilkes playing Cootie Williams-like plunger tones and the AEC confirming its commitment to all forms of improv from the simplest to the most complex.
The AEC concert was the capper to the GJFs celebration of the AACMs 40th anniversary as well as five days of impressive music. The concurrent improvised music colloquium provides an academic cachet lacking in other festivals. Internationalism was represented by Israeli pianist Yitzhak Yedid and the European musicians, while a group of Quebecs Musique Actuelle heavy hitters such as saxophonist Jean Derome and bassist Pierre Cartier celebrated another concentrated scene in shows throughout the fest.
More pop-oriented performers were presented in the licensed tent in front of city hall, so the casual as well as the committed could sample the music. Furthermore, with workshops, free and open to the public, the uncommitted could discover a showcase like Montreal clarinetist Lori Freedmans intense solo concert that used the rooms acoustics as well as extended techniques,
Solidly established at 12, with attendance growing, international jazz fans follow the GJFs progress as it heads into its teen years.
November 15, 2005
ERNEST DAWKINS NEW HORIZONS ENSEMBLE
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
Pi Records Pi 11
An organizations influence is reflected in how well it continues to evolve after it becomes old enough to become established. So it is with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. Heading into its fifth decade, its membership has dispersed away from Chicago -- though the majority of AACMers, young and old, continue to reside in the Windy City -- and some of its more prominent members are starting to die.
Particularly affected is the band that could be called the AACMs flagship, if the non-hierarchical organization had one: the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC). Over the past decade the AEC has survived the defection of Joseph Jarman, one of its saxophonists, the death of trumpeter Lester Bowie in 1999, and finally the death of bassist Malachi Favors early in 2004. SIRIUS CALLING is Favors final AEC session that took place after Jarman decided to rejoin the band after an absence of eight years. Thankfully throughout the CDs 14 tracks the players -- sometimes divided into duo and trios -- prove that the AECs sum is greater than its parts -- even when one part is missing.
A much younger band than the AEC, Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble faced a shattering setback in 2003 when its most colorful soloist and member since 1979, trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, died of a heart attack at 48. The Ensemble has soldiered on with MEAN AMEEN, the bands first post-Muhammad CD, designed as a musical tribute to Dawkins friend since childhood.
Imbued with more bluesy swing then the AEC date, like other more recent Chicago-based AACM discs -- only AEC drummer Don Moye still lives in Chi-Town -- the CD features young trumpeter Maurice Brown taking the brass parts. An Illinois-native who now lives in New Orleans, Brown studied at Southern University in Baton Rouge and played with heavyweights such as pianist Mulgrew Miller. In contrast the present day AEC soldiers on with Detroit bassist Jaribu Shahid, a member of Roscoe Mitchells Note Factory, filling in for Favors, and other players joining the front line.
In a way, its easier to deal with MEAN AMEEN, since Brown fits seamlessly into the band. More of a technician than Muhammad was, his preference is for showy triplets and ozone grazing jumps and wiggles that often head into Maynard Ferguson territory. This is apparent as early as the title track, where Brown works his way up to what seem to be the trumpets highest notes, then surpasses even that, mixing bugle calls and dog whistles, until he finally concludes in comfortable moderato range. Dawkins adds a rhythmically exciting tenor solo, Darius Savage contributes some woody slap bass and Isaiah Spencer offers fine-tipped ruffs and flams.
Even more impressive is trombonist Steve Berrys more-than-15-minute tribute to Muhammads own band, 3-D. Sort of a contrapuntal round, its highlight is a buzzing and hollering rubato section from the composer that spreads a brassy resonance. Emotional, tenor saxophonist Dawkins uses a wide vibrato for slurred, irregularly pitched work, breaking his solo up into growly multiphonics, bellowing through his horn, then sliding from upper partials to wet, baritone-like honks and snorts. Until Brown ends the piece with spiraling triplets à la Ameen, both brassmen provide counter harmonies and the drummer lays into claves, cowbells and other off beat percussion.
Other tributes, including a balls-to-the-wall The Messenger which seems equal parts Art Blakley-like press rolls and Benny Golson style melody, dont impress that much. Even with Brown using what sounds like a bucket mute, its merely yet another tributes to Bu. Dawkins overlong (nearly-16½ minute) Buster and the Search for the Human Genome is similarly weakened by round robin solos.
Still the tune does feature a generous collection of wiggled and irregularly vibrated slurs and split tones that leap so quickly that you get a mental picture of Berry and Dawkins jumping in the air to follow them. Soon the ever-shifting horn ostinato breaks up into pinched alto saxophone lines, slide trombone triplets and a racetrack fanfare from Brown. Deplorably, after theme variations that seem to move from Klezmer to Frankie and Johnny, space is made for Savages speedy, mainstream solo and one from Spencers that spends too much time on the sock cymbals, bass drum and snare.
Brief interludes on slide whistle, police whistle and rattling tambourines appear on that track, with more so-called little instruments in earshot on Haiti. Along with the bird calls and concussion drums, plush toy squeaks, conch shell blows and berimbau resonation are echoes of what the AEC was doing in the 1960s and 1970s. This impression is confirmed when the track ends with a simple harmonica line -- a Favors specialty -- wooden flute textures and a concluding drum pop.
If AACM descendents, New Horizons Ensemble can sound like the AEC circa 1973, SIRIUS CALLING showcases the band itself 30 years later working out new strategies. Fourteen tracks and the 35 instruments they play among them allow the group to mixnmatch themes and personnel. Of course the versatility of the members has always been such that at times you cant tell how many musicians are represented.
Till Autumn, a call-and-response groove piece written by Mitchell is one of those instances. Spurred by Favors walking bass and Moyes shuffle and sand dance drumming, it revolves on the stentorian timbres of the composer bass saxophone. Although hes usually an altoist, its then likely Jarman who takes the loping southwestern-style push-and-pull tenor solo. But is it he or Mitchell who shines on the smooth, leisurely Lester Young-like tenor solo on Slow Tenor and Bass?
With its Sun Ra-like title He Took a Cab to Neptune features both saxmen wailing and vamping. Then after a low-pitched, double-stopping bass excursion, Mitchell contributes the echoing mountain-top bass flute line and wide echoes from the bass recorder, bookending a frenzied, slurry alto solo -- from Jarman? -- that circles into itself with a tone thats half-folksy Ornette Coleman and half-rating Jackie McLean.
Considering another piece is entitled Cruising with JJ, it could be Jarman who plays both the buoyant flute cadences and dissonant Eric Dolphy-like sax licks. That would leave the snorting tenor saxophone split tones to Mitchell. Whoever it is, he has fun sneaking up and down the scale in polyphonic unison with Favors bass after the bull fiddler introduces the tune with rumbling sluicing stops.
Then theres Taiko, the longest track, which relates back to the AECs percussion-intensive past. During the course of its nine minutes plus, it appears as if any manner of little instruments are being resonated from within and without a percussion cage. Echoing waveforms take in timbres from wooden marimbas, metallic xylophones, ringing bells and concussed gongs as well as more exotic tones -- for North Americans --that could come from the balophone. All four participate in this percussive group grope, yet you can also assume that its Jarman who sounds the melancholy flute line.
Favors himself titled the CD just before his death with an expression from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Sirius is the brightest star in the universe where the soul goes after leaving the body. Thus its almost certain that the bassist, who had been ill for a couple of years before this, was thinking of his impending demise as he improvised. That makes the penultimate piece, Voyage that much more poignant.
Written and performed by the bassist and Mitchell, its a pensive track built around rock-solid stops by Favors, with the saxists sopraninos double-tongued altissimo with moderated vibrations played in counterpoint. As well as a first-class exhibition of close cooperation between musicians, the composition offers a real sense of motion, perhaps from this plane to a higher one.
Both discs serve as more examples of the AACMs ongoing legacy and proof that the performance of the music overcomes the loss of any one -- or two -- players.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Ameen: 1. Mean Ameen 2. 3-D 3. Jeff to the Left 4. The Messenger 5. Haiti 6. Buster and the Search for the Human Genome
Personnel: Ameen: Maurice Brown (trumpet); Steve Berry (trombone); Ernest Dawkins (alto and tenor saxophones); Darius Savage (bass); Isaiah Spencer (drums)
Track Listing: Sirius: 1. Sirius Calling 2. Come On Yall 3. Two-Twenty 4. He Took a Cab to Neptune 5. Everydays a Perfect Day 6. Till Autumn 7. Dance of Circles 8. Cruising with JJ 9. You Cant Get Away 10. Taiko 11. Theres a Message for You 12. Slow Tenor and Bass 13. Voyage 14. The Council
Personnel: Sirius: Joseph Jarman (wooden flutes, C flute, Eb flute, flute and bass flute, Eb sopranino clarinet, sopranino, alto and tenor saxophones, percussion, wooden stand drum, bells, gongs, table vibraphone and whistles); Roscoe Mitchell (piccolo, flute, bass and great bass recorders, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor and bass saxophones, percussion cage); Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass and percussion); Famoudou Don Moye (drums, congas, bongo and counsel drums, bells, gongs, chimes and whistles)
March 7, 2005
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
Tribute to Lester
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
PI Recordings PI07
Could the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) continue performing after the November 1999 death of Lester Bowie following 30 years of close collaboration? Sure, each members had his own side projects over the years and the band had survived the defection of reedman Joseph Jarman in 1993, but going on without the flamboyant presence of the lab-coat wearing trumpeter appeared impossible.
As Bowie once famously replied to another question: Well, I guess it all depends on what you know, and chuckled evilly. Not only did the three remaining members regroup to turn out TRIBUTE TO LESTER, but then the unexpected happened. Jarman brought his collection of reeds to mesh with the sounds from fellow reedist Roscoe Mitchell, plus bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye on THE MEETING, although the title may suggest a non-permanent hook-up.
Unfortunately since these CDs were recorded Favors too has passed on. An unshowy tower of strength in this band and with Kahil El Zabars Ritual Trio, his death from pancreatic cancer in February may finally make perpetuating the AEC impossible.
Perhaps this was already suggested by the music here. As a three-piece and/or four-piece configuration, the band already seemed to be in a weakened state, at least in contrast with its earlier, more muscular work. On the evidence of the two CDs, the groups more precious, microtonal tendencies, appear to have been reinforced at the expense of the outrageous humor Bowie sometimes brought to the bandstand. Furthermore the preternatural, stillness Jarman apparently exhibits as a teacher of Buddhism makes its way into the quartet session as well, making it too low-key when more exuberance would have brought forth more musical contrasts.
Perhaps reflecting the ascendancy of drummer Famoudou Don Moye, percussive sounds predominate on the discs, with more of a rhythmic drive exhibited on the Chicago-recorded TRIBUTE TO LESTER than the other CD. Both bassist Favors and multi-reedist Mitchell play percussion as well here, but at least the harder pulse gives more vitality to the proceedings, something a memorial to a fallen comrade should have. Conversely, some respite from these showcases for AEC-described little instruments is provided by Mitchells sax wizardry.
During the course of the nearly 14-minute He Speaks to Me Often in Dreams for example, it appears as if the three are wandering around the studio hitting and banging percussion tools by chance. Theyre not, of course, and the textures created by shaking Mitchells percussion cage as well as Moyes congas and what results from others pealing bells, buzzing door-bells, shaking maracas and hitting xylophones sums up one part of the AECs appeal. Intermittent, panpipe-style sounding from flute finally turns this final track into a threnody, though.
Mitchells bass saxophone drones go up against the mix of percussion on Sangaredi, while Moyes ruffs, rolls thumps and flams are pierced by circularly breathed tones from the saxman on As Clear as the Sun.
That breathing exercise may put the reedist in the company of Euro improvisers like Evan Parker, but, on the other hand, some of the other tunes are pure Afro-American funk. Zero/Alternate Line is a hard and heavy line that features a gentle shuffle beat, a walking bass and Mitchell fielding multiphonics that manage to suggest both New Thing frenzy and Gene Ammons-like South Side jumps. Tutankhamun is a honking version of an AEC classic from the 1960s. As Favors fingering keeps the beat going, Mitchell, on tenor, scoops out lower tones from his bell, then creates a ney-like sound from his sopranino growling out double tongued excitement.
THE MEETING could have benefited from a bit of this excitement. Although Jarmans reed and percussion arsenal is added to Mitchells, the overriding feel of the session is so reductionist that the listener may feel as if he has wondered into a microtonal recital. Adding another member to the band still doesnt make this disc, recorded in different sessions at Madison, Wisc., sound like a full-fledged AEC disc.
Tech Ritter and the Megabytes and Hail We Now Sing Joy are the two atypical tracks, but together they barely add up to 11 minutes. The first is a Mitchell-created funky march that may or may not honor Bowies brass band proselytizing. At least with the composer huffing away on bass sax and Jarmans clarinet lines spanning the others beats, it moves at an energetic pace. The former has a catchy melody, with the words of praise sung in a pleasant, off-key fashion by Jarman. His alto solo seems to relate more to pre-AEC Eric Dolphy-Ornette Coleman style than the bands individual take on the tradition, with only Favors on-the-money bass work holding everything together.
Most of the other pieces take the unobtrusive experimentation in the percussion lab concept to an immeasurable extreme. Except for some ethereal flute tones, odd whinnying sax lines and indistinct whispers on the penultimate track, every other sound seems to involve low-key percussion expelled at a languid pace. Bells ring and jingle, a toy vibraphone resonates, gongs boom minutely, finger cymbals shake, triangles are hit and hand drums struck.
Perhaps the most egregious -- and certainly, at nearly 19 minutes -- most extended example of this appear on Its The Sign of the Times. Although supposedly divided into four solos and an ensemble section, the entire track seems to be one of a piece, and a lowercase excursion at that. On and off sounds such as scrapes, crackles, reed buzzes and kazoo-like whistles predominate, with pitches coursing forward for a coupe of minutes at a time then vanishing. At one point you hear a serene flute line upfront, with gongs being manipulated in background, at another drum rolls followed by a serpentine alto or soprano saxophone portion that opens up into bowed bass motion and some shaking percussion hits. The overall effect is eerily metallic, like electronic collages but -- obviously -- without the surge of electricity.
Dispassionately listening to both CDs, make you hope that events prove otherwise and these wont be the AECs less-than-stellar swansongs. But even before Favors passing, its evident that neither 1+1+1 nor 1+1+1+1 adds up to five.
- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Tribute: 1. Sangaredi 2. Suite for Lester 3. Zero/Alternate Line 4. Tutankhamun 5. As Clear as the Sun 6. He Speaks to Me Often in Dreams
Personnel: Tribute: Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino, alto, tenor and bass saxophones, flute, whistles, percussion cage); Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass, bells, whistles, gongs); Famoudou Don Moye (drums, congas, bongos, counsel drum, bells, whistles, gongs, chimes)
Track Listing: Meeting: 1. Hail We Now Sing Joy 2. Its The Sign of the Times A. Malachi Favors (solo) B. Roscoe Mitchell (solo) C. Joseph Jarman (solo) D. Don Moye (solo) E. Ensemble 3. Tech Ritter and the Megabytes 4. Win and Drum 5. The Meeting 6. Amin Bidness 7. The Trian to lo
Personnel: Meeting: Joseph Jarman (wooden flute, C flute, flute and bass flute, Eb sopranino clarinet, clarinet, sopranino, alto and tenor saxophones, percussion, wooden stand, drum, bells, whistles, gongs and table vibraphone); Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino, alto, tenor and bass saxophones, piccolo, flute, bass and great bass recorders, whistles, percussion cage); Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass, percussion); Famoudou Don Moye (drums, African drums, congas, bongos)
March 8, 2004
Live from the Vision Festival
Thirsty Ear THI 57131.2
The next best thing to being there, this combination CD and DVD package offers a distillation of some of the outstanding performances from last years Vision Festival in New Yorks Lower East Side. Lacking the name recognition of Newport, Montreux, or any other capitalist entity-associated international star festival, in its less than 10 year existence, Vision has still promulgated a unique artistic vision.
Built around the vision of bassist William Parker, its a place where pioneering avant gardists from the 1960s mix it up with younger players who are carrying on experimental ideals. Its cross-cultural, national and international as well, with the musicians showcased on this session arriving from Germany, Korea, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Valencia, Calif., New Orleans
Substantiating his ubiquity, Parker holds down the bass chair on five of the nine tracks --in five different bands, Fellow bull fiddle masters Tyrone Brown, Reggie Workman and the late Peter Kowald are represented as well.
Longest performance, at more than 11 minutes, is Crepuscule IV in Powderhorn Park, which reunites three founding members of Chicagos Association for the Advancement of Creative Music who now reside in different parts of the country. Minneapolis-based Douglas Ewart shows up with his reed collection -- some of which are homemade -- to improvise with the woodwinds of Brooklyns Joseph Jarman. From California, Wadada Leo Smith adds his trumpet to the duo, and the three members of the front line are backed by the unbeatable rhythm section of Chicagos Hamid Drake and Parker.
Perhaps its the strength of the go-for-broke rhythm of the bassist and drummer, but the performance is more convincing than some recent CDs by each of the front line partners. Expelling a mixture of gritty bluesiness and elegant, brassy grace notes, Smith states the theme, which is then elaborated by Jarmans soprano saxophone. Using whistles and straining his notes sharply to make a point, the saxman turns rubato with a brief stop-time section, which is then echoed by Ewarts tenor sax undertow and Parkers perfectly proportioned bass line. Finally the three horns conclude triple forte, with Drakes rolling roughs giving them enough leverage on which to soar.
The same rhythm team backs up tenor veterans Kidd Jordan from New Orleans and Chicagos Fred Anderson. Each pushing 70, the extended multiphonics they propel from their horns often mix with a primeval funkiness, hinting at how Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis might have handled Free Jazz. At a little more then four minutes though, Spirits Came In is barely long enough to let everyone feel the spirit.
Almost double in length, but flashing by at supersonic speeds is Bangart 100, performed by unconventional fiddler Billy Bang, World Saxophone Quartet anchor, baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, and contemporary composer Jin Hi Kim on Korean komungo. With his unaccompanied attack as reminiscent of hoedown as Heifetz, here Bangs technique keeps up with his emotionalism. Working the opposite end of his horns palate, Bluiett ignites basement tones, altissimo wild pig squeals and growling feline feints. Keeping this all-together fingerpicking on her multi-stringed traditional instrument is Kim.
Other highlights include the definition of Existence provided by the duo of Dave Burrell on piano and bassist Brown. Cognizant of jazz history, like the late Jaki Byard, Phillys piano pride mixes several of the musics key streams on his keyboard. Initially he outputs high frequency, percussive cadenzas that are as far out as anything practiced by the New Thing, which counted Burrell as a member for his work with Archie Shepp. Later, providing fills behind Browns ringing tones, he shows off his lyric side that characterized him as a song man when he played with David Murray.
Then theres Kowalds stinging, more then 10½-minute solo Improvisation. Sometimes appearing to make his bass talk in several voices, the German maestro wraps together pizzicato buzzing strings, vocal drone and some grating, yet impressive arco thrusts into a characteristic show-stopping display.
Running down the outstanding merits of every track would be pointless, since each offers a different perspective on modern free sounds. The weakest piece, in fact, is also the first: Truth Is Marching In. Not the Albert Ayler standard, this reunion tune by alto saxophonist Jameel Moondocs Muntu quartet, featuring trumpeter Roy Campbell, drummer Rashid Bakr and bassist Parker seems, like the compositions title, to be more caught up in New Thing revivalism than inventing the music anew. But isnt nostalgia one construct of reunions?
Couple the more than 70½-minutes of music with the images available on the DVD and youll yearn to be in attendance at the Fest next time it takes place. Making light of geography, this VISION package means you can experience some of festival highlights at home.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing:1. Truth is Marching In 2. Existence 3. Bangart 100 4. Crepuscule IV in Powderhorn Park 5. Speech of Form 6. 45 Hours 7. Synchronicity 8. Sprits Came In 9. Improvisation
Personnel: 1. Muntu: Roy Campbell (trumpet); Jameel Moondoc (alto saxophone); William Parker (bass); Rashid Bakr (drums) 2. Dave Burrell (piano); Tyrone Brown (bass) 3. Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone); Billy Bang (violin); Jin Hi Kim (komungo) 4. Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet); Douglas Ewart (bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor saxophone); Joseph Jarman (alto clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, bass flute, alto saxophone); William Parker (bass); Hamid Drake (drums) 5. Mathew Shipp (piano); Mat Manner (viola); William Parker (bass) 6. Rob Brown (alto saxophone); Karen Borca (bassoon); Reggie Workman (bass); Newman Taylor Baker (drums) 7. Ellen Christi (vocals); Rolf Strum (guitar); William Parker (bass); Hamid Drake (drums) 8. Kidd Jordan; Fred Anderson (tenor saxophones); William Parker (bass); Hamid Drake (drums) 9. Peter Kowald (bass)
June 16, 2003
Melungeon Records MR-0003
Constituting an improvising trio with the double bass the only real rhythmic instrument can be a dangerous strategy. Yet its a testimony to aptitude of the players involved in these two discs that neither seems to suffer from this approach.
More pointedly, the American Aoki-Hunsinger-Jarman group and the French Triolid couldnt be more dissimilar. With personnel that includes two multi-woodwind players plus a bassist, the Yanks end up with a sound that is organic, naturalistic and has non-Western echoes. The Gallic creations are, on the other hand, reserved, mechanized and futuristic. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the second trio is made up of a bassist, a clarinetist and a third musician who moves between theremin and computer.
Both CDs have much to recommend them, but neither is completely satisfying.
Described as very representative of the French improv scene, Triolid members have mixed musical histories. Clarinetist Isabelle Duthoit, for instance, has a background in chamber music and opera orchestras, as well as extensive improv experience with the likes of countrymen saxist Michael Doneda and clarinetist Xavier Charles as well as Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies. Self-taught, bassist David Chiesa evolved from playing in rock bands to improvisations with Doneda, Charles, German dancer Fine Kwiatkowski and the Spanish group, Trio Local. Theremin and computer manipulator Laurent Dailleau also began his career with bands such as Pink-Punk. But since then he has played contemporary classical music with a dance company and in improvised settings.
A mini-symphony of elongated tones and drones UR LAMENTO is made-up of nine tunes, most of which revolve around the constant pulse of Chiesas bass line. Arco swoops, frontal string attacks with his bow, wood-rendering sounds and the bump and grind of finger burlesque characterize his work. When he appears to be rattling finger cymbals and chains in the final number that almost seems extraneous, since rhythmic properties are impaled on the sounds with his bow.
Mistress of the augmented note and false register whistles and sighs, Duthoit can produce piercing squeaks at one point and what sounds like shes blowing into a hollow tube at another. Her clarinet hisses for effect on longer pieces and she uses triple tonguing, split tones and flattement to draw out its range. Extended vibrato is also no problem. Despite this, she seems to be making a concerted effort to use vibrations or pure, singular breaths to blend with what the other two produce.
Reed biting and squeaking contralto tones are almost expected in the French improv scene and elsewhere, but the reedist indulges in another sonic attack which may be more of an acquired taste. She vocalizes in a manner that ranges between growling, orgasmic moans and screams to piglet-like squeaks. This throat opening style can be related to American ESP-Disk pioneer Patty Waters or perhaps Englishmans Phil Mintons sound deconstruction. But Duthoits nearest parallel would seem to be Sicilian Miriam Palma of the Terra Arsa trio, whose Wicket Witch of the West vocal eruptions sometimes suggest both horror flicks and dementia. At times appearing to replication the sounds of a small child being abused, Duthoit sounds as if shes trying to copy with human vocal chords the buzzing tone disconnects computers can produce.
Those articulated squeals and rumbles are the most obvious manifestations from Dailleaus computer, as are the occasional extraterrestrial sounds that arise from his theremin. Otherwise his contributions are less audible and more elusive. Shape shifting crackles, murmurs and drones courtesy of software come to the foreground than retreat once again. Yet, as well, throughout the disc you sense that that his machines are doubling and extending the acoustic sound, undulating and transforming it in distinctive ways to alter the sound picture.
No electronic manipulation is used on TRIO though, and theres a lot more breathing room left in the 10 instant compositions. At the same time, both woodwind players show up with a band room full of instruments to fulfill their musical ideas.
Best known of the group is Joseph Jarman, who here plays alto clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, bass flute, alto saxophone, thumb piano, percussion rattle, small Chinese cymbals and handheld cymbal. A founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, he left the band to concentrate on his duties with the Brooklyn Buddhist Association in the early 1990s. Since then, his playing has been more closely aligned with serene, Oriental-oriented music than jazz, free or otherwise, most notably in the Equal Interest Trio he with violinist Leroy Jenkins and keyboardist Myra Melford.
Robbie Lynn Hunsinger, who plays soprano and alto saxophones, silver clarinet, oboe, English horn, shenai (Indian oboe) and sona (Chinese oboe) has a background that encompasses symphony work, electronic sound installation and improv. A Chicago resident like Hunsinger, Japanese-born bassist Tatsu Aoki has played traditional Oriental music, collaborated with jazzmen like saxophonists Fred Anderson and Mwata Bowden and written and performed experimental works like the Miyumi Project which combined both the Asian and improvised traditions.
Here, though, jazz influences are kept to a minimum. About the only time they appear are on Hornswoggled, the longest track and Procession. On the former Hunsingers squealing sona tones backed by the clatter of Jarmans handheld cymbals give way when she switches to her main axe, oboe, and produces some swaying jazz-like trills. Aoki responds with a full press roll bass part that has him echoing her phrases, then working up and down the strings. By accident, or likely design, his effects are more limited when compared to what Chiesa plays with Triolid. Meanwhile the oboist has produced a reverberating, loose-jointed tone that twists with triple-tongued excitement as she resonates notes. At the same time, Jarman is coloring the proceedings with a percussion rattle that sounds like a bolo bat.
Despite the title, Jarmans bass clarinet and the bassist combine for a jazzy vamp on the later tune that sounds less like a solemn Procession and more like a bouncy Second Line. On top Hunsinger creates squeaks from the sona, whose melodic auto horn tone allows her to play more than one tone at a time. Switching to the shenai, which appears to be a bit off key -- at least to Western ears -- allows her and the others to come to a climax, snapping out simultaneous notes in three pitches and tones. However Powerhouse, which features both reedists on alto saxophones, merely rambles along until the bassist steps in with a solo to centre the piece.
Elsewhere, the improvisations unfold like a brush stroke painting, gradually penciling in detail with different ethnic instruments when needed. If necessary, Aoki can create elevated tones that could make you think he was playing the Biwa, or Japanese lute, while the other trio members provide the percussive bottom. Jarmans bass clarinet is particular effective this way, though most the time he seems to emphasize its ethereal, legato qualities rather than its accompanist role. On one tune he hums along with the instrument, creating two tones and multiple overtones for additional color.
Other times, when the somewhat uncomfortable sounding non-Western horns are brought into play youre not sure whether the pitch should be heard as Carnatic or comb-and-tissue paper. Completely innocently, as well, it appears that when played in a certain way the tone of the oboe takes on a snake charmers sound. This suggests the worst clichés of Occidental appropriation of non-Western music. Jarmans introduction of finger cymbals and thumb piano can conjure up the same unpalatable ghosts.
In short, both these trios can be commended for their willingness to experiment -- albeit in a completely antithetical manner. Triolid should appeal to Euro experimenters, especially those with a fondness for electronics, and TRIO to those who like their World music mixed with improv.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Ur: 1. Leixample 2. Rose 3. Uccelli 4. Falaises 5. Ghibli 6. Etherfield 7. Lock 8. Coda 2000
Personnel: UR: Isabelle Duthoit (clarinet, voice); David Chiesa (bass, small percussion); Laurent Dailleau (theremin, computer)
Track Listing: Trio: 1. Consequences 2. Larsen B. 3. Cape of Needles 4. Powerhouse 5. LD50 6. Dryad 7. Hornswoggled 8. eye to eye 9. Procession 10. Requiem
Personnel: Trio: Robbie Lynn Hunsinger (soprano and alto saxophones, silver clarinet, oboe, English horn, shenai, sona); Joseph Jarman (alto clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, bass flute, alto saxophone, thumb piano, percussion rattle, small Chinese cymbals, handheld cymbal vocal); Tatsu Aoki (bass)
April 14, 2003