Monday, November 27, 2006

I want you to believe every word I say

A long week ahead, in the midst of applying for my Master's at various different schools. I have an overnight session booked on Wednesday for the pre-screening tapes. Yeehaw. I'll be elated when all the apps are in and December 1 has passed.

Also: I'm playing with the boys at the Brutopia Bistro (i.e. the basement, also accessible by 1215 Crescent) jam tonight, as I have for most of November. Tonight's lineup will be sax superhero Colin Power on alto; myself on keyboards; Jim Bennett, returned to us from BC, on bass; and our gracious host, Dennis Lee on drums.


In my Monday haze, I introduced World Skip the Beat as Jazz Euphorium. Playlist:
Bembeya Jazz - "Sanfaran" (Bembeya)
Ali Farka Touré - "Mahini Me" (The Source)
Richard Bona - "Dina Lam (Incantation)" (Munia/The Tale)
Daara J - "Si la vie n'est pas belle" (Boomerang)
Ihashi Elimhlophe - "Kulukhuni" (A Taste of the Indestructible Beat of Soweto compilation)
Oumou Sangare - "Ya La" (Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali compilation)
Carlinhos Brown - "Bog la Bag" (Alfagamabetizado)
Trio Mocoto - "Kibe Cru" (Samba Rock)
Manito - "Na Baixa da Sapateiro" (Black Rio compilation)
*Moksha Ensemble - "Paan-masala" (Lady Sun)
Zakir Hussain/John McLaughlin - "You and Me" (Making Music)
Kumar Sanu - "Ed Ladki Ko Dekha" (Bollywood compilation)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - "Mera Sonha Sajan" (The Rough Guide to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)
Taraf de Haïdouks - "Duba, Duba...Si Hora" (Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses & Evil Eye)
Señor Coconut vs. Koçani Orkestar - "Usti, Usti Baba" (Electric Gypsyland compilation)
*Jeszcze Raz - "Ostatni Dzien (la dernière valse)" (Balagane)
*Luck Mervil
- "Ti Peyi A" (Ti Peyi A)
Amadou et Mariam - "Artistiya" (Dimanche à Bamako)
Felix Baloy - "Baila Mi Son" (Baila Mi Son)
*Roberto Lopez Project - "Oye Latino" (Qué Pasa?)
Cheikh Lô - "Bambay Gueej" (Bambay Gueej)
*Roberto Lopez Project - "Resistencia" (Qué Pasa?) [under talk]
Mariza - "Por Ti" (Fado: Exquisite Passion compilation)
Orchestra Baobab - "Sutukun" (Specialist in All Styles)
Toots and the Maytals - "Funky Kingston" (The Very Best of Toots and the Maytals)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Reflections on Toronto

First, the setlist of the Tranzac gig:

Set I:
As of Now (David Ryshpan)
Dupla Traição (Djavan)
First Mentor (Michael Herring)
Solar (Miles Davis)
Transit Memory (David Ryshpan)

Set II:
Way to Blue (Nick Drake)
Kwela P'Kwana (Misha Mengelberg)
Settled in Shipping (David Ryshpan)

Thanks to the small few who came out, including Nate. It was a pleasure to play with Michael and Nick. The Tranzac is an intimate room, with a sectioned layout that reminds me vaguely of Café L'Utopik here. I can see why many improvising musicians gravitate towards the space.

I will say my ambivalence in the previous post has faded. Driving through the city, especially Thornhill (the suburb I grew up in), had a very foreign air about it. I mean, I haven't been away that long, yet it seems every open space that once existed now has or will have a building or many. And what the hell are they doing to the Royal Conservatory of Music, on Bloor? On the drive back from Tranzac, we passed Remenyi's piano store on the left, and the atrocity on my right appalled me. Gone is the majestic church whose doors I passed through every Saturday for four years, and transformed into some sort of modern black-and-white spiky vomit - the excremental crossing of Frank Gehry with a molecular model.

Yes, there's lots of great musicians there that I wish I got to play with and hear more often, and I truly do miss the Rex jam sessions and Jim McBirnie's Saturday living room hang. But unless I was going to return to playing rock with guys like Muzo or Derek and live in Kensington Market or on College Street, there's really not much there for me to return to. And if Toronto insists on aping NYC, with its attempt to turn the Eaton's Centre into Times Square North, I'd much rather live in NYC. All the theatre ads in the Star proclaim the departures of shows, and the runs of the newcomers aren't as long as they once were. Nate said that the one-two punch of 9/11 and SARS really hit the city hard, and the cultural environment hasn't recovered; but there seems to be a complete sea change away from live music, across the board. In New York, Detour has changed hands, and I've heard rumours of other venues there either temporarily suspending music or rumbles of worse news. Maybe one of the NYC bloggers can expand on this.

But riding the 80 up Parc (and it will damn well remain Avenue du Parc, no matter how much posturing our municipal politicos put up) with Alex and Ben today, post-rehearsal, on the way for some Indian food, I realized just how much I love this city.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A homecoming... of sorts

In a matter of hours, I'll be heading to Toronto, mainly for a family event but also to play a gig at Tranzac Friday evening at 7:30, with my friends and accomplished musicians Michael Herring and Nick Fraser. It's an evening of firsts: my first time at Tranzac (as an attendee or performer); my first time ever playing with Nick, though I've seen him play so frequently these past few months I feel as though I have; the first time a lot of this music is going to be played in my "hometown."

It'll be an interesting visit, as I haven't been back in about two and a half years, a rather tumultuous time period in the city's cultural agenda. Toronto has its own indie-rock boom going on, thanks to, among others, the Broken Social Scene, and finally musicians like Herring, Fraser, and Joe Sorbara's Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto are gaining a foothold in the arts circles. There's also this whole buzzword of "Torontopia" which sounds nice, but I don't really understand what it's about. Yet two of the legendary jazz institutions have shut their doors, for better or for worse (and there's valid arguments on both sides), and I've heard off-and-on reports of artistic stagnation.

I've always felt that Toronto is a city far more accommodating of insularity than Montreal -- it's possible to function in a bubble. In Montreal, I'm not a film buff, but the Film Festival shuts down the city. Jazz Fest in Toronto was limited to Nathan Phillips Square and a handful of other venues, and it really was possible to ignore its presence. (I use the past tense because I haven't really been paying attention since I've lived here in Montreal.) On the other hand, Toronto always seemed to have a more consistent, if smaller, audience for creative music, whereas Montreal composer Charles Papasoff can rightly proffer the song title "You Only Love Me Two Weeks a Year."

I harbour ambivalence about Toronto - Kensington Market's cool, and there are some wonderful musicians there, a list of friends and colleagues too long to enumerate here. But, as of my last visit, I still find it overbearing, cold, and sterile a lot of the time. Maybe on this visit, that will change.

Monday, November 13, 2006

World Skip the Beat playlist - November 13, 2006

Curumin (feat. Lino Crizz) - "Vem Menina" (Achados e Perdidos)
Susana Baca y Gilberto Gil - "Estrela" (Travesiás)
Tribalistas - "Passe em Casa" (Tribalistas)
Daara J (feat. Rokia Traoré) - "Le Cycle" (Boomerang)
Soweto Gospel Choir - "Vuma" (Voices From Heaven)
*Alpha Yaya Diallo - "Politik" (Djama)
King Sunny Ade - "Afai Bowon" (The Best of the Classic Years)
Hossam Ramzy - "El-Hawzi" (Egyptian Raï)
Le Mystère des voix bulgares - "Mur Stho Sme Se Razigrali" (Ritual)
Kálmán Balogh and the Gypsy Cimbalom Band - "Hora de la Bim-Bim" (And the Gypsy Cimbalom Band)
Balkan Beat Box - "Ya Man" (Balkan Beat Box)
Tabla Beat Science - "Sacred Channel" (Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove)
*Afrodizz - "Face" (Kif Kif)
*autorickshaw - "Ganamurthy" (Four Higher)
Orlando Cachaito Lopez - "Tumbanga" (Orlando Cachaito Lopez)
Gilberto Gil - "Zumbi" (Z300 Anos de Zumbi)
Spanish Harlem Orchestra - "Un Gran Dia En El Barrio" (Across 110th Street)
*Galitcha - "Chuk Dhay" (Blé d'Inde: Celebration)
Interview with Kuljit Sodhi of Galitcha
*Galitcha - "Blé d'Inde" (Blé d'Inde: Celebration)
*Galitcha - "Ik Mela" (Blé d'Inde: Celebration)

* = Canadian content

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jazz Amuck playlist - November 10, 2006

I had some issues with the mic mixer, which accounted for the super-long opening set. No one likes to hear that much talking, anyway...

Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack - "The System Cannot Withstand Close Scrutiny" (Intents and Purposes - 482 Music)
Mark Feldman - "Father Demo Square" (What Exit - ECM)
Farina/Gray/McBride - "Heart of Mica" (Out Trios Vol. 4: Almanac - Atavistic)
*Ken Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble - "A Refreshing Night/A Union Theme" (The Great Divide - Trio Records)
Sun Ra - "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Springtime in Chicago - Leo)
Rudresh Mahanthappa - "The Decider" (Codebook - Pi)
*Quinsin Nachoff - "There and Back" (Magic Numbers - Songlines)
*Thom Gossage Other Voices - "February" (5 - Effendi)
Chick Corea - "Matrix" (Now He Sings, Now He Sobs - Blue Note)
Thomas Chapin Trio - "Ticket to Ride" (Ride - Playscape)
Whit Dickey - "Vortex" (Sacred Ground - Clean Feed)
Skidmore/Osborne/Surman - "Where's Junior?" (SOS - Ogun/Disk Union)
Vandermark 5 - "Aperture" (A Discontinuous Line - Atavistic)
*Lina Allemano Four - "Concentric" (Concentric - Lumo)
Art Ensemble of Chicago - "Odwalla" (Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at Iridium - Pi)
Jane Ira Bloom - "Monk's Rec Room" (The Red Quartets - Arabesque)

* = Canadian content

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hosting duties

Here's my on-air schedule from now 'til the end of 2006 (all times EST):

Friday, November 10 (i.e. tomorrow) - Jazz Amuck (9-11 am)
Monday, November 13 - World Skip the Beat (12 noon-2 pm)
Wednesday, November 15 - Jazz Euphorium (8-10 pm)
Monday, November 27 - World Skip the Beat (12 noon-2 pm)
Wednesday, November 29 - Jazz Euphorium (8-10 pm)
Wednesday, December 5 - Jazz Euphorium (8-10 pm)

Playlists will appear here, except for JE playlists which will be posted on the blog, linked above. And of course, feel free to tune into all these shows when I'm not hosting, as well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Talking points

I've finally tracked down Graham Lock's book Forces in Motion, which I suppose is generally regarded as an easier entry into Braxton's universe than the Tri-Axium Writings or the Composition Notes. I'm about halfway through the book at this point, and while I appreciate Braxton's work (at least, the little I've heard), I'm not really finding anything I want to take away from it and incorporate into my own music. I do admire his honesty and diplomacy, though I find he, much like Ornette, couches his processes behind dense terminology. The book reinforces my belief that, regardless of whether you like Braxton's music (and this applies to other neglected masters like Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, Sun Ra and others), his importance cannot be swept under the rug, and to come to terms with creative music, as it stands now, is to come to terms with his contributions to the continuum. Braxton's also vastly grown in the intervening twenty years; I'm curious to read newer texts, should they exist.

Having recently read Howard Mandel's Future Jazz as well, it seems like neither the AACM and its offspring (the Art Ensemble, Threadgill, Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith) nor its satellites (St. Louis' Black Artists Group, Horace Tapscott's efforts out west) have really influenced anyone outside direct contact with it, and I wonder why it hasn't affected a larger scope. Braxton seems to hint at some controversial attitudes within the AACM which may have been a factor here.

Zoilus points out that the newly elected governor of Massachusetts is the son of Arkestra vet, Pat Patrick. It's after the end of the world... don't you know that yet?


I'll be filling in for john b on CKUT's Jazz Amuck Friday (11/10) morning, 9 am EST. As always, you can tune in online or download from the archives later. I'll also be hosting World Skip the Beat (Mondays, 12 noon-2) and Jazz Euphorium (Wednesdays, 8-10 pm) this month as well. Dates to come shortly.


About to run out and check out the Lina Allemano Four (Lina - tpt; Brodie West - alto; Andrew Downing - bass; Nick Fraser - drums) at Casa tonight. My friend and colleague Gordon Allen (who, like Lina, also appeared at FONT this year) is debuting a new project, wherein he plays pocket trumpet and duets with soundscape artist Esther B. I've never heard Lina live, so this should be an eventful evening.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BMI/NY travel journals: episode 5

...or, Bang on a Cantaloupe.

Monday was notable, not only for the longest and most confusing US customs stop to date, but also for Dr. Eddie Henderson's appearance at the Smoke jam session. I made it in time for the majority of the opening set, and had the honour of hearing Henderson weave his way through "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" on crisp, Miles-ian harmon muted trumpet, marvelous flugelhorn on Larry Willis' "To Wisdom the Prize" and his ballad feature (I forget which tune it was), closing with a relatively obscure Wayne Shorter tune, "Edda." Jeremy Pelt was there, once again, and was obviously appreciative of Henderson's playing. The jam was populated mostly by singers - I was one of three or four piano players in the house. It was cool that I got to play a lot - and to an extent I miss playing with singers, as I've done it with decreasing frequency over the past few years - but I was totally fried by the trip down.

Tuesday's meeting was spent looking at Jim McNeely's music from some recent records, and him talking about his background and development. As he tells it, composition was a secondary pursuit for him and he only really started taking it seriously after working with Brookmeyer in Mel Lewis' band. That inspired me, as a pianist-composer still a little unsure of the order and emphasis of that hyphenate.

I then headed down to the Cantaloupe Music showcase as part of CMJ. R. Luke DuBois opened the show with a "DJ set" that alternated spacious waves of processed piano and keyboards with more electro-based rhythmic work. His mini-sets were interspersed throughout the night, almost as intermission music, I suppose. I found it so captivating that the soundchecks for the upcoming artists irritated me, to a degree. The first band up was Gutbucket, a four-piece band featuring outgoing Cantaloupe honcho Ken Thomson on alto. It sounded very Zorn-influenced to me, with its mix of punk, metal, screech-and-squeal, and Balkan dances gone awry. It was unrelenting, almost to the point of being monotonous, and Ken's spaz-dancing appeared to get in the way of his sound; the ballad of the set, a really great piece, was marred by an overly squawky tone and intonation issues that may have been avoided if he moved around less. Then again, I couldn't get into Keith Jarrett for a long time due to the duck-calling vocalizations and the body movements. There was a fair amount of rock-star posturing involved - maybe I missed the irony, but it didn't always mesh with the music. Visiting the Gutbucket MySpace, I liked the tunes there.

Gutbucket were followed by guitarist/composer Dominic Frasca. The "virtuoso" label applies here - utilizing tapping and other techniques associated, in my mind anyway, with Stanley Jordan, Michael Hedges and Kaki King, Frasca performed hypnotic pieces that grew in a minimalist way, and were entirely musical. I'm not sure what purpose the Roland gear and the laptop served - and that's a compliment, for the technology to be that transparent. The first piece (of two) ended in an uncharacteristically violent slapping of the guitar, but the sound was still pure and relatively calm - just louder than what had preceded it.

The centerpiece of the show were "special guests" Ethel, a string quartet initially known to me through their collaborations with Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren. They epitomized the idea(l) of rhythmic authority, laying back on the bluesy phrases, attacking the Celtic/bluegrass sections with gusto, and just in general being one of the groovier string quartets I've heard. The pieces composed and/or arranged by members of the quartet demonstrated their intimate and idiomatic knowledge of not only their instruments, but their ensemble, and their familiarity with genres outside of classical music aids their musical sense tremendously. Don Byron's "Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye" was also a highlight, with its second movement not hiding its debt to "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

So Percussion (who I missed when they were here as part of Pop Montreal) played music from their new album, Amid the Noise. I was taken by the way they seamlessly incorporated electronics into their setup, their stage and sonic presence. They mentioned one piece was referred to as "drum-tronic," with its out-of-phase d'n'b beat, but the idea of percussion-tronic sums up the aesthetic they presented quite well. There were some instrumental combinations providing effects I'd never thought of before - the mixture of triangles and vibes sounding like a glockenspiel's big brother, for instance.

Due to my early train and lack of sleep, I skipped out on 1-Bit Music. I'm sure it was fascinating - it sounds like an intriguing concept, one that can be hit-or-miss in a live setting. Besides, the argument that broke out on the 2 express train, post-Halloween parade, was a lot more humourous. There seems to be a need for a Miss Manners for the MTA (or métro, or other alliterative public transit system).

I'm not back in NYC until December; while I'll miss the creative music that gets presented there, I welcome the chance to re-appraise my Montreal cohorts with new perspectives and fresh ears.