|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Eugene Chadbourne
Featuring Eugene Chadbourne
Konnex KCD 5250
Asaf Sirkis Trio
Stonebird Productions SBPT 002
Unique and somewhat freaky glimpses into music that usually percolates a little outside as what can only be described as mainstream avant garde is provided by these CDs. While that term may be an oxymoron, how often is British-Israeli Jazz-Rock or Improv-Country-Rock played by a Turkish American combo on the musical front burner?
In truth, Letting Go, consisting of seven compositions by London-based, Petah Tikva-born drummer Asaf Sirkis is high-class Fusion that ignores neither the inventive Jazz nor the rhythmic Rock thrust of that particular hybrid. Besides Sirkis’ inventive – and most importantly never overpowering – percussion work, the CD features solidly reflective electric bass fills from Tel Aviv-born Yaron Stavi and roistering lead-guitar licks from Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos.
Distinctively enough many of Spiliotopoulos’ solos are invested with Country & Western-styled licks, although whether by tradition or idiosyncratic concept is unclear. But a similar trope on the other CD fits perfectly with the sounds created by a combo from Greece’s long-time friendly enemy, Turkey, especially when the Istanbul-based foursome is working with Yank banjoist/guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. Peripatetic Chadbourne, whose influences stretch through Avant-Garde Jazz, Pop-Rock, Comedy and Country Music, certainly put his stamp on the five tracks here. Even ignoring his one full-fledged vocal performance, much of the other music appears to be an almost undigested meal of Psychedelic Rock and Hard Country. The members of Dead Country – guitarists Sevket Akinci and Umut Çağlar, electric bassist Demirhan Byalan and drummer Kerem Öktem – follow gamely along. But considering that Çağlar for one, has worked with Free Improv saxophones such as Jürg Solothurnmann, Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann, the suspicion remains that there’s probably other sounds lurking below the surface that the foursome would also like to play.
Weather Report’s spectre seems to hang over Letting Go, at least in some of the band’s melodic quirks. But Sirkis is canny enough to restrict his composing to the contours of a basic power trio, although in the past he had made room for a saxophone and even a church organ [!] in his bands. A subtle intermezzo such as “Other Stars and Planets” does receive additional sound layering from Patrick Bettison’s harmonica. But even here the harpist’s chromatic pitch-sliding isn’t allowed to upset the tune’s cohesion. While downward chiming guitar licks and Stavi’s organ-like sluices retain their power, the drummer’s slapping and tapping accompaniment is subtle enough to balance both the tough and the tender side of the tune. It’s the same with “Waltz for Rehovot”. As Spiliotopoulos sticks to finger-styled chording, Sirkis’ drags and slides manage the difficult task of making the tune both a foot-tapper and a tender ballad.
Elsewhere he maintains the beat and extends the musical drama no matter the tempo with double ruffs, cymbal swishes, upturned paradiddles plus cowbell and snare rebounds. Stavi’s steady bass stopping solidifies the performance as do the guitarist’s runs – when Spiliotopoulos concentrates on atmospheric coloring rather than crunches and slurred fingering.
With three plectrumists on the loose – four if you count the electric bassist – a wider variety of string licks appear on the other CD. However the program is more solid when everyone moves away from the sort of electric pulsations and distortions that almost replicate an acid-drenched freak-out at San Francisco’s Fillmore auditorium circa 1967 and concentrate on more original ideas. It’s probably Chadbourne whose half-heard yells and asides on the final two tracks drag the performance towards later Fugs territory. But elsewhere, when intermittent, motor-driven amp buzzes and his claw-hammer banjo licks are more upfront something unique seems to happen. With the drummer socking a steady 4/4, the pieces are rhythmic enough. And when the guitarists put aside gimmickry to concentrate on chromatic rasgueado and fills, it’s as if Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics experiments are being played by an out-and-out Rock band.
As superior and restrained Fusion, Letting Go reaches many more of its goals than does the program on the other CD. But with all the talent on display, one wishes Sirkis et. al would have extended their cerebral talents just a little bit more. On the other hand, Dead Country and Chadbourne appear to have tried on a few more stylistic costumes for size than the other group. But, by the same token, if the five had directed their efforts more towards pure improv, the end product would have been more impressive.
Although Chadbourne completists will probably be satisfied with this CD, a set of higher-grade improvisations is needed from Çağlar and his associates to show what they really can do.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Featuring: 1. Black Hole 2. Mole in the Ground 3. Dead Country Blues 4. Intro/Sooner or Later 5. One Way Out
Personnel: Featuring: Eugene Chadbourne (guitar, banjo and vocals); Sevket Akinci and Umut Çağlar (guitars); Demirhan Byalan (electric bass) and Kerem Öktem (drums)
Track Listing: Letting: 1. Chennai Dream 2. Letting Go 3. Other Stars and Planets* 4. Lady of the Lake 5. Full Moon 6. Ima* 7. Waltz for Rehovot
Personnel: Letting: Patrick Bettison (harmonica)*; Tassos Spiliotopoulos (guitar); Yaron Stavi (electric bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums)
December 24, 2010
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
ZU+ EUGENE CHADBOURNE
Newtone Records fy 7021 cd
Looking for a CD that combines music by Charles Mingus, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Iron Maiden, Sky Saxon and James Brown among others and also comes with a parental advisory warning about the explicit recipe for preparing gnocchi printed on the label?
Well, look no farther. Here it is, almost 52 minutes of musical mayhem, a match up between American improv madman/guitarist/vocalist (sic) Doctor Eugene Chadborne with the four members of Zu, the Italian punk-metal-improv-jazz group, playing a program of their favor cover versions.
Over the top like most -- all? -- of Chabournes work, it seem that hes finally found the proper framework for his muse in the land of opera buffa, frantic quiz shows and revolving door governments. The results are often hilarious, but somewhat reflective at the same time.
Right now, some younger improvisers, turned off by mainstream jazzs dependence on Tin Pan Alley standards have attempted to claim pop and rock songs as a new repertoire. But, in truth, listening to most young lions performing quiet balladic versions of Nirvana hits sound little different than what came from studio jazz cats forced to do version of Beatle ballads in the 1960s and 1970s.
Chadbourne sees things differently. By not treating the rock standards here with any more reverence than he brings to such jazz tunes like Mingus Boogie Stop Shuffle and Jobims Corcovado, he manages to keep some of the irreverence of the originals intact. After all, doesnt this surf-metal run through of the Mingus classic, make it as tough and menacing as what the five tone scientists do with their take on Saxon and the Seeds garage-rock anthem Pushin Too Hard?
With the guitarist adding some feedback and wah wah petal tricks to his folksy campfire guitar picking, he has electric bassist Massimo Pupillo and drummer Jacopo Battaglia to give these tunes enough bottom to sneak them through the consciousness of any metal fan. But the real subversiveness comes from the front line. Theres saxman Luca Mai, whose playing seems to hint at James Chances fake-jazz, John Zorns cut ups and Fausto Papettis syrupy Mediterranean love ballads in equal measures, and trumpeter Roy Paci, who seems as if hes auditioning for TSOP, the Tijuana Brass and the Italian Instabile Orchestra on different tracks.
You realize as well that the horn men are often putting on their out-of-tune passages throughout. At least Paci shows hes able to nail the Pink Panther theme, but then again, it does come in the middle of a version of James Browns Sex Machine.
Some folks, of course, may be turned off by Chadbournes cracked throat attempts at singing, which are made disturbingly obvious when he isnt screaming Black Sabbath anthems, but trying to croon as on the tender Corcovado. The result may appear as off putting as a Big Mac dunked into some pasta al brodo, but in truth his voice isnt that much worse than Chet Bakers. And anyways, for all the years trumpeter Baker lived on-and-off in Italy -- including LP encounters In Bologna, In Milan and with 50 Italian strings -- did he ever think to release a version of Sex Machine naming Roma, Torina and other local cities where you could take it to the bridge?
Should you admit to the guilty pleasure of listening to your old heavy metal eight tracks as well as other music, than this session is for you. Its also for anyone with a sense of humor. While it isnt historically important, exposure to it could probably bring more rockers to improv than any number of TV appearances by Wynton Marsalis.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Iron Man 2. The Robots 3. Chain of Fools 4. Boogie Stop Shuffle 5. Corcovado 6. Pushin Too Hard 7. Sex Machine 8. Sacrifice
Personnel: Roy Paci (trumpet); Luca Mai (tenor or alto saxophone); Eugene Chadbourne (guitar, electric rake); Massimo Pupillo (electric bass); Jacopo Battaglia (drums)
December 17, 2001