Matana Roberts and the Balcony of Crystal Excellence.

12 06 2008

For the past week, I have been threatening to download Matana Roberts’ Chicago Project album from iTunes. After listening to all of the song samples, the exercise in futility became tougher, and then finally last night I bit the bullet and downloaded it. It really does help that the album is amazing.

The group consists of Matana on alto sax, Jeff Parker on guitar, Josh Abrams on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums. There are also three duos between Roberts and tireless Chicago stalwart Fred Anderson (tenor) that are amazing. The songs are great, and the improvising is great, and the group dynamic is solid. It has been awhile since I’ve heard a jazz album like this. I love the interplay during the improvisations. It’s never about just one person, but the whole group shines. Even the writing brings out the individual talents of everyone involved, and the level of listening going on in the band is incredible on every track.

Roberts has a great sound that seems to be all her own, and it’s been built out of the jazz tradition. It’s great to hear that in creative/experimental jazz, there is still great new music coming out of the tradition. It’s not that the music sounds old (not at all), it’s just that you can tell Matana didn’t reject or ignore the old stuff (something awesome but unusual these days).

Also, it’s great to hear drummer Frank Rosaly. I met him on a trip to Chicago in ’04 with my brother. We went to the legendary Jazz Record Mart, and spent a long time looking through their massive collection of jazz, avant, classical, CDs and DVDs. On our way out, he quickly introduced himself to us when he noticed our purchases. He was cool as shit, and told us (even wrote down) all the cool stuff that was going on in the city that week. He told us about Jeff Parker’s trio gig with Jason Ajemian and Nori Tanaka, Tony Malaby’s gig at the Chicago Cultural Arts Center, and a jam at Myopic Books Basement with Josh Berman that he also played in, and we saw him out at almost all the gigs he told us about. It was that friendly vibe that we really loved about Chicago, and thats the feeling I get from the Matana Roberts Chicago Project album.

Also this album makes me want to grab my Real Book and jump back into the shed!

Now we are gearing up for the CD Release show on Saturday as the first concert in the Thompson/Grace Balcony Series. This show is FREE and ALL AGES, and will feature us playing an hour of music from 2:30 to 3:30pm. It will also feature a lawn for hanging, and lemonade for the masses! The series, started by Reggie Pace and Larri Branch, is all about creating a laid back party vibe for new creative music. B.Y.O.Picnic Basket and come hang out!

Also, our debut CD Music to Listen to Glows in the Dark By will be there for $10 a pop!


First YouTube Link!!!

14 05 2008

That’s right, in doing research for what will probably be my next big Glows project, I came across an amazing Curtis Mayfield performance that I had to share! Enjoy!  The lameness of WordPress is forcing me to post a link and not just embed the video.  Oh well, here’s the deal:

Freddie’s Dead Live

Feeling Free – Barney Kessel

24 03 2008

So at the risk of sounding like some sort of square, I can say that Barney Kessel is one of my favorite guitar players. His album Workin Out got me into jazz guitar in the first place, and I always enjoy putting one of his albums on. His approach to chords has had a great effect on me, and I’ve always loved his complex-yet-sloppy style to single note stuff. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at a record that I think might be one of jazz music’s great accidents.

Feeling Free (1969)

Barney Kessel-guitar, Bobby Hutcherson-vibes, Chuck Domanico-bass, Elvin Jones-drums

This is one album that I really didn’t understand on first listening, but further study has led me to consider this one of Kessel’s best efforts–no matter what the circumstances. Basically, this was Barney’s first album after leaving the comfort and safety of Hollywood studio playing (where he played with everyone from Elvis to The Beach Boys) and his stepping back into the jazz scene. Kessel has always had an old school sound-a product of the 50’s West Coast scene-and on this album he takes that sound and puts it into a very unfamiliar context. He brings in two players that were both heavily steeped in the free jazz/avant-garde scene of the times (Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones) and brings in a VERY forceful and strong anchor (Chuck Domanico). What this adds up to is a very interesting mix of styles that is very exciting to listen to because it’s never comfortable. Most of the album seems to belong to Elvin. He plays a constantly sliding time against Domanico’s anchor and Kessel and Hutcherson’s rhythmic stabbing. This has the effect of what sounds like everyone getting lost, and Elvin taking a drum solo to try and get the band back on track. Domanico’s forceful bass is so at odds with Jones’ give and take feel, that it often sounds like Domanico starts with a solid “1” and midway through the song just picks another “1.”

It’s a really dramatic record because at times the songs sound like they’re literally on the verge of falling apart-but they always hold together somehow. I wish Barney had made a few more album’s in this vane, though it’s possible that some of the drama was real and Barney wasn’t happy with the results. To me, the music opens up another way of thinking about playing “free,” one thats less about typical dark atonal intensity, and more about truly daring unpredictable melodies framed in a very tradition way. Good Times! I’d love to know what other people think of this one-this is just my analysis (or, shit I think about when listening to it).

Check out the opening track Moving Up

Scott Clark=The Man

18 03 2008

For anyone thats taking notes, here is the evidence of our drummer’s ongoing heroism and creativity. This is page 2 from his “written” part for the song Security Lock. We have a few versions of the song in the Archive, and it’s pretty obvious that if he wasn’t the shit, it wouldn’t work out so well (or at all).

His other band, the amazing Ilad is featured as part of the RVANews Eight Track Competition. Go vote for them!

Shape of Good Hip Hop

4 02 2008

One album I’ve been listening to a whole lot lately is “Craft of the Lost Art” by new hip hop group Shape of Broad Minds. My friend Chris turned me onto this record calling it”The Best Album of 2007,” so my expectations were very high, but I have also learned over the years to trust his judgment, so I picked it up. I have been out of the game in terms of keeping up with underground hip-hop lately, so the first thing that was apparent for me was the influence of Madlib on this record. Madlib is an amazing producer, and after the shock of hearing something that sounded so “Madlib-ish” wore off, I was able to really dig it. Another obstacle was the opening, which features a sample from some version of the theme song from the old Peter Gunn TV show from the 50’s. This was difficult for me to take, being that that theme was the FIRST thing I ever learned on guitar, and given that I recently have been checking out drummer Shelly Manne’s version of the same music. An extreme coincidence that I quickly got over, given the nature of the whole thing. After the opening, the album really gets going, and doesn’t stop for a LONG time. The record clocks in at over an hour, and in that time there are an amazing number of ideas that are thrown at the listener. These ideas all make the songs better, and merit repeat listening to find all the witty and amazing sound design stuff going on under the surface. Another thing that I really like is that there are good song choruses, and beyond that the way the rhyming interacts with these choruses is always unique.

The group was started by Philly based Producer Jneiro Jarel, and like Madlib, is made up of his many persona’s, plus some guests along the way like MF Doom and the always great Count Bass D. I can’t stop listening to this thing, and it’s really been giving many a ton of ideas lately, so check it out (or not).

The Complete On the Corner Doth Rock My Face Off

14 01 2008

It’s true. Ever since I first checked out Miles Davis’ “On the Corner” album, I have been totally wrapped up in his electric period. It’s a bit strange since I was only familiar with the second quintet, and as a jazz musician I’m apparently not even supposed to like it, but “On the Corner” just blew me away.

Playing jazz for a pretty long time, I had somehow always managed to stay away from Miles. Maybe it’s my rebellious nature about conventions, but I always figured people gave too much love to Miles, and so I just never got into it. Sure, I went through the whole “ex-Phish head discovering the transcendence of Bitches Brew” thing, but for some reason it didn’t last long. I even burned “Kind of Blue” from the college library, and still couldn’t get into it. Then, after hearing lots of great West Coast and avant-garde stuff, I had a growing frustration that Miles got all the attention, and Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne never got the same love. Being a mass communications major, I quickly deduced that the press had a lot to do with Miles’ success, and just lost interest in trying to like him for awhile. Until…

I think it was my good friend Larri playing me “Miles Smiles” that first got me to take notice. Also, my drummer friend Shareef got me into Nefertiti because he was transcribing Tony Williams’ solo for school. Something about Miles second quintet really got to me. The flexibility of the group, and Wayne Shorter’s amazing writing really hit me hard, and I immediately bought ESP and Nefertiti.

So now I was way into the second quintet, and Shorter’s solo albums of the time (especially Night Dreamer), but I had a clear understanding that the Miles electric stuff wasn’t real jazz, and that I should stay away. I didn’t go through music school, but my understanding from conversations with music school veterans was that the second quintet was the greatest, and was the last group Miles played good music with. It baffles me now that I never questioned these opinions, but these were people that I played with at the time so I knew they had to be right, and besides, I never went to music school so obviously I had to rely on these “educated” people for solid perspective on good and bad Miles.

Anyway, 3 years later and my friend Matt White got me to listen to “On the Corner.” It blew my mind, and being a fan of underground hip hop, profoundly effected me. There’s a solid amazing groove that just doesn’t quick, and the minimalism of the whole thing mixed with the constantly subtle shifts of the percussion just opened my eyes to a whole new approach. Oddly enough, Miles’ electric period really solidified an approach that I’d been threatening to put in my own music even before I heard his. More on that in time, but needless to say, when I got “The Complete On the Corner Sessions” for Christmas it also blew my face off, and keeps doing so because there is just so much music there to digest. I will be doing more in depth analysis of these recordings, but for now just know that in my mind Miles’ electric period was clearly a huge leap forward for his music, and not the step back that so many people would have you believe. But geez, where’s the melody on those things?