Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

The Digital Box 200 Series
Overview Notes by Ken Waxman

If any one musician arguably epitomizes cooperative total improvisation in the 21st Century, then it’s New York-based guitarist and keyboardist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut. As this set of CDs demonstrates, the 40-year-old Long Island-native is totally enveloped by music, and each session here is one variant in his long-standing attempt to capture the sound of his city… and the cosmos.

\x09“Community is the most important thing about this entire exchange,” Shurdut says about his performances, “and anyone who has played with me knows they’re welcome to bring friends.” More than 70 improvisers have recorded with the multi-instrumentalist over the years, ranging from neophytes to veteran free jazzers such as reedman and trumpeter Daniel Carter, who often plays with bassist William Parker; saxophonist Blaise Siwula; and former Cecil Taylor drummer Marc Edwards.

\x09Fully conversant with the “by any means necessary” ethos which characterizes many New York musicians, performances by Shurdut and associates take place in nightclubs and coffee houses in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens plus, as he recalls “on top of buildings, out on terraces, in churches, old movie theaters, and in off the street in some of New York’s music stores.”

\x09At the same time, while the go-for-broke group improvisations that characterize the recorded instant compositions here may superficially relate to 1960s-1970s Energy Music, there are no retreads in hearing range. Instead the reverberations reflected are those of the city itself. An autodidact, who as a child took “half of a piano lesson” and one year of guitar lessons until he stopped because “I obsessed over writing my own notation”; Shurdut sets out to capture the “vibration, sound, and light” of his existence. “There has been no bigger influence on me than living on Third Avenue, right across from the mirror and glass store that has nightly pick ups at 4 a.m. and being kept awake all night by the sounds of New York City,” he states.

\x09One feature of Shurdut’s playing which sets him apart is his concept of guitar “etuning”. Developed around 2002, following some time spent living in Scandinavia and Continental Europe, it haunted him throughout his thirties. “Like broken images of a television that receives a clear picture for a brief moment, I vividly remember dreams, sounds and smells that leaked in while I was doing other things,” he muses “Finally everything became revealed in an all-out storm of the world communicating through me as its receptor.”

\x09He also returned to Manhattan “opened my window, and there it was.” Today, he adds, his guitar reflects the sonic of everyday life: “the shower, the shower head, heater, wind howling underneath my door and more. I tune my guitar to those sounds around me. If you look carefully you would see that there are very inspirational things waiting in the ordinary.”

\x09Furthermore, Shurdut is always listed as playing both the guitar and the guitar amp, which is deliberate. “The electric guitar is somewhat dependent on its amplification. And while we are all in the community of sound, including the instruments, I think the amplifier deserves its own credit,” he explains.

\x09A similar strategy exists with the piano, since he plays not only the keys but “pedal” as well. “At times I don't touch the piano keys at all, rather I pump and release the pedals as a means of vibration and letting the piano play itself,” he elucidates. “As with the guitar, there are moments when you need to just let the guitar be a guitar. And it will play itself to the vibration of the world.”

\x09Instrumentation, individual musicianship and notated composition are secondary to community, Shurdut elaborates. “Written music doesn’t mean anything unless it is played. Playing is about communication. Communication is about listening and responding. And there can’t be any of that if you are playing to a page.”

\x09Instead, what’s most germane to him is building an association of totally communicating musicians who could ideally play in a location where everyone is inspired 24 hours a day. “None of us could exist without interdependence,” he avers “Our culture has misguided us into believing that the greatest reward is being celebrated as an individual. Rather, as Einstein said, it’s through the community where the individual gains greatest strength.”

\x09This series of downloadable-only CDs – that can be also collected into a digital box – is designed to aurally illustrate this sense of community involvement and cooperation, expressed in the exceptional music created by Shurdut’s different ensembles. Since he and his friends are continuously immersed in total improvisation, each CD is a valuable document of his – and their – evolving sound and vision. “To experience art, just leave yourself open,” the guitarist/pianist insists.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

This Is The Music Of Life Vol. 2, Live at Zebulon

aylDB-200/001

An octet of accomplished improvisers help guitarist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut reflect “the effects of city living” on this CD, a brief, yet heartfelt example of New York Free Jazz. Recorded in a Brooklyn club in 2005, the single improvisation is partially shaped around the snaking FreeBop cry of veteran alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons, who would recall this sort of absolute music session from the mid-1960s. At the same time the hocketing, polyphonic explosion heard epitomizes today’s Big Apple. It includes pinpointed contributions from the trumpet rasps, alto saxophone slurs and clarinet slithers of Daniel Carter – who is as satisfied busking as recording, provided he can play his own way – plus the concentrated overblowing of tenor saxophonist Blaise Siwula, who organizes the weekly COMA jam sessions. Also added to the mix are rubato asides from younger players, such as the double-stopping and sul ponticello lines of fiddler Robyn Siwula and bassist Adam Lane, with the entire performance grounded by a nucleus of thick beats and cymbal slaps from drummer Mike Fortune. Reflecting on the sound, Shurdut, who displays his characteristic ringing guitar riffs here, says: “If you look carefully you would see that there are very inspirational things waiting in the ordinary.” Surviving in the big city may be ordinary but the sounds produced by the ordeal are extraordinary.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

The Emergency Broadcast System

aylDB-200/002

Times of challenge and crises depend on an emergency broadcast system to convey unfiltered information to the population, and that’s exactly what this quartet of accomplished improvisers provides on this CD. With the United States continually lurching from challenge to crisis, this CD, recorded in a Brooklyn coffee house in 2005, demonstrates musically the end product of mutual cooperation – an aural emergency broadcast system. “None of us could exist without interdependence,” says guitarist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, who organized the session, “I think we’re all really helping each other in the music.” Building up to a dense mass of multi-hued tones, the creation bubbles and shifts according to no logic but its own, driven and expanded by the glossolalia of the two saxophonist: the cavernous staccato tones of tenorist Ras Moshe, fully committed to the free-form; and the cries and squeals of altoist Blaise Siwula, who organizes the weekly COMA jam sessions. With the electronic pulsations from Shurdut’s guitar and guitar amp – “I think the amplifier deserves its own credit,” he insists –providing the thread that holds the entity together, the tune reaches its climax with the spectacular double thumping, cross sticking and distinctive press rolls of drummer Marc Edwards, a former associate of pianist Cecil Taylor.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

Trance Jazz

aylDB-200/003

Put aside any trendy associations with “trance” when hearing this music. For rather than aping fashion, this interactive mix of vibrating strings, horns and percussion is more personal and enduring. It captures an improvisation taking place on New York’s Lower East Side one Sunday night in 2006, part of a series organized by alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula. Not only does the intense, multi-faceted session preserve Free Jazz’s true underground sounds, but it also showcases veteran and neophyte improvisers, together committed more to experimentation than instrumentation. Case in point is Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut, who is actually a guitarist, but who contributes connective keyboard clusters here (“There was a piano there, so I played it,” he explains); Brian Osborne, usually a drummer, who on this gig “plays” contact mics; and Andrew Barker, normally the Gold Sparkle Band’s drummer, whose cello work joins the sawing spiccato from the string section. “I’m glad we got him out that day to play cello,” says Shurdut. “I say to everyone that first they’re artists then they’re musicians.” But accomplished musicians are here, and the thick, dense and vocalized sound is propelled by Siwula’s expansive vibrato squeals; the taunt, anvil-hard pounding of veteran drummer Marc Edwards, plus the contrapuntal jagged and pulsed string thrusts that also involve cellist Chris Welcome, violinist Robyn Siwula and bassist Shayna Dulberger, who is part of saxophonist Ras Moshe’s band. While only an occasional tinkle from Shurdut peeps from among the opaque dissonance that characterizes the piece, ironically when the strings play pizzicato, the results actually resemble his unique guitar etuning.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

Ayler Records Celebration

aylDB-200/005

An anomaly among Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut’s CDs in this collection, this nearly 70-minute session, recorded in New York’s now-defunct Tonic club in 2006, is distinctive in many respects. For a start, the idiosyncratic guitarist doesn’t play his usual instrument, but turns out high-frequency, irregularly shaped piano lines. The CD also features Ed Chang on computer, though whatever wave-form pulsations the instrument emits are obscured by the continuous, multi-layered energy of the six other musicians’ playing. Even rarer, despite lacking a bass player, the performance takes place within a neo- Bebop atmosphere, with raunchy alto saxophonist Luther Thomas not only rapping about Charlie Parker’s legacy, but also frequently instrumentally riffing some of Bird’s classic lines. The CD innovates as well as celebrates however, with the other hornmen, including long-standing Shurdut associates alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula and tenor saxophonist Ras Moshe, squealing and squawking; baritone saxophonist Nick Gianni snorting in response; while veteran drummer Marc Edwards produces flams, ruffs, bounces and bangs that meld the tradition of Free Jazz with a martial beat fillip. Eventually as the layers of foghorn swells, altissimo screams and reed vocalization pile on top of one another, the polyphonic phenomenon of many separate and jagged melodies expelled simultaneously is exposed, and the surface vibrates exponentially. Expanding and mutating from the Parker celebration, the septet members follow Shurdut’s dictate: “We can all be free and make things work together.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

Etuning

aylDB-200/006

Guitarist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut defines his idiosyncratic style of etuning both laconically as “awareness” and poetically as “an all-out storm of the world communicating through me as its receptor”. Listening to these 2007 Brooklyn sessions clarifies the concept. Encompassing interactions with items as familiar as a shower head or as abstract as “the wind underneath my door”, this series of cameos is as notable musically as it is instructive, as he tunes “my guitar to those sounds around me.” Adding his rhythmic input on seven of the eight tracks is Brian Osborne, who studied with drum master Milford Graves. “…Shower Head”, for instance features Osborne’s percussive pops matching open-handed string patting and vamping from the guitarist, while alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula chirps and trills. In contrast, “Wood Rattling Against the Heater”, with ingenious tenor saxophonist Daniel Carter and Osborne, could be a miniature John Coltrane session. Masticating slurs, narrowed reed pitches and moaning onomatopoeia blends into a unique homage that involve Carter’s saxophone from bell to ligature. Meantime Carter’s exposition is balanced by the drummer’s blunt ruffs and struts and Shurdut outputting thick Jimmy Garrison-like plucks from his bass strings. Community-minded above all, the guitarist angles his dissonant frailing and slurred fingering to also showcase the undulating lines and metallic squeaks of alto saxophonists Enrico Oliva and Mario Rechtern on the properly watery sounding “…From the Bathroom Tub”. Careful listening to this CD demonstrates how the other players, including Bonnie Kane on tenor saxophone, flute and live electronics, react and fit their improvisations to Shurdut’s ideas.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

Humanity

aylDB-200/007

“I’ve always had an open door policy; anyone who has played with me knows they’re welcome to bring friends,” explains idiosyncratic keyboardist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut about the genesis of kinetic live dates like this one. “I try my best so that everyone has something to be a part of. Whoever wants to play, plays.” Welcoming all comers means that the players represented here goes beyond the expected improvisers. Latino/reggae drummer Boppa “King” Carre adds conga-like concussion to the tune, that also floats on the scraped and rattling string loosening or tautness from cellist Chris Welcome and bassist Shayna Dulberger, who often play together when the bassist’s isn’t part of saxophonist Ras Moshe’s groups. Undulating above this string thumping are cries and screams from three saxophones improvising at top strength and volume. United in yelping intensity or operating in congruent counterpoint are Munich-native alto saxophonist Welf Dorr and New York baritone saxophonist Nick Gianni, who together make up the Underground Horns, plus veteran Berlin-born reedist/artist Mario Rechtern – whose philosophical experiments with open harmonies that here include wooden mouthpiece slurs and Orientalized timbres – initially took place in the 1980s with groups like Reform Art Unit. Bridging the spurting, staccato contributions are Shurdut’s unique keyboard and pedal tinctures and runs that finally guide the entire ensemble into a crashing, polyphonic Ascension-like climax.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

New Text

aylDB-200/008

Unexpected and diverse aspects of the music of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut are exposed through this set of download-only releases, characterized by his concept of etuning that informs the sonic strategies of his bands. Although completely improvised the three “new texts” performed here vibrate and pulse with the attributes of repetitive minimalism guided by the ostinato chords of Shurdut’s piano. Yet true to his non-hierarchical musical policy, this nearly 76½-minute session recorded at a Queens, N.Y. nightclub, also contains players echoing Freebop, Afro-Cuban rhythm and even comb-and-tissue paper-like buzzing. Coloring their responses to Shurdut’s prodding is their mixed musical experience. Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, who produces unabashed jazzy obbligatos from his muted trumpet or jagged riffs from his saxes, busks outdoors as frequently as he plays with avant-garde avatars like bassist William Parker; Underground Horns member Nick Gianni snorts out rumbling, punky baritone saxophone runs; while alto saxophonist Enrico Olivia, who studied with David Murray, adds vibrated split tones to two tracks and a march-tempo – on drums [!] – to the third. In contrast Boppa “King” Carre’s slinky, concussive percussion maintains a Latin mood, and, when he isn’t rhythmically cross-pounding his strings, Shurdut himself introduces a sprightly waterfall of spidery treble notes. By the time the theme is resolved through super-quick clanging and tingling piano runs and bifurcated horn vamps in triple counterpoint, the “new text” mutates into a climax that may not be New music, but is definitely New York.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut

City Living

aylDB-200/012

Similarities and differences involving the performance and the performers are both unclear and obvious on the three slices of city living recorded by this edition of Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut’s ensemble at a Brooklyn club in 2007. Since he maintains that “my music is your music is everybody's music is all music” his sessions welcome old friends as well as newbies, so this CD is the only chapter of the digital box which features ruffs and rolls from Jesse Wallace, who usually plays in rock bands; and adjusts the sound for the serpentine, Middle Eastern-styled trills of soprano saxophonist, Briton Marcus Cummins, who spent almost a decade in Trevor Watts’ Celebration Band. It’s also the CD where Shurdut’s idiosyncratic etuning is adapted to the chugging pulsation of electric piano. “City Living was actually supposed to be titled Tuning In,” he admits. But the cacophonous palindromes heard here more appropriately fit the present title since the city is New York. Similarities arise as the performance expands with unison polyphony, rippling vamps and the hints of bagpipe chanter burr from tenor saxophonists Blaise Siwula and Ras Moshe, plus alto saxophonist Enrico Oliva, who studied with David Murray. Siwula, who often works with Shurdut, and Moshe both run similar all-encompassing Free Music sessions elsewhere. Mixing the drummer’s fortissimo rumbles, pops and bangs together with squeaky altissimo cries, scatter-shot split tones and reed bites from the horns and widely spaced, throbbing piano comping, the CD encompasses just about every electronically vibrated sound and emotion that can be musically replicated by top-flight, Big Apple improvisers.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Ken Waxman www.jazzword.com Toronto January 2008

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————