Category Archives: Avant-Garde Jazz

Sun Ra and His Arkestra – Thunder of the Gods

Whenever I think of Sun Ra I feel his soul traveling the cosmos, connecting with the planets and solar systems he was always in direct transmission with in his time on Earth.

Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s Thunder of the Gods the new Sun Ra LP touches ground in the earthly bins, 50 years after its creation!

Sun Ra is still trying to get our attention 50 years after dispatching this transmission. Humanity’s path since then makes his message even more urgent today. Years after Herman Poole “LeSony’r Ra” Blount “left the planet” he’s still trying to reach us, to wake us up and to change our destiny.

Sun Ra and the Arkestra weren’t a traditional studio band, and every star in the vast galaxy of their discography reflects this. The origins of these records can be hard to pinpoint at times, but when it comes to Thunder Of The Gods, it’s a bit easier. “Calling Planet Earth – We’ll Wait For You” was discovered on tapes from Ra’s, Universe In Blue, believed to be recorded in ’71. The raucous title track and “Moonshots Across the Sky” are unearthed from the ’66 Strange Strings sessions. Modern Harmonic has once again paired Ra’s sonic art with the visual art of “The Father of Modern Space Art,” Chesley Bonestell, whose 1952 work ”Formation of the Earth’s Continents” sprawls across the front and back covers.

“Thanks to Modern Harmonic, in partnership with Sun Ra LLC, soon you will be holding an album of unreleased Sun Ra music 50 years after it was recorded! That this music survived to reach our ears after all of this time is quite a miraculous gift. It sounds as though it could have come from either the ancient past or the distant future, yet most perfectly, it’s the music of right now.” — Christopher Eddy (Sun Ra Arkive)

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John Cage Meets Sun Ra – The Complete Concert

If you were going to envision the ultimate avant-garde meeting-of-the-minds jam session, who would you pick? Even the most hopeful fan of strange and innovative music couldn’t have seen this one coming: on one afternoon in 1986, at Coney Island’s dilapidated freak show, space-age avant-jazz genius Sun Ra met avant-garde “serious music” composer John Cage in an unforgettable performance.

You couldn’t imagine two figures more opposite. Cage was known for his unusual approach to composition, using objects such as radios and television sets, as well as pure silence, as instruments, often encouraging his musicians to do other things at their whim on stage. Sun Ra, on the other hand, was a jazz arranger known for his “space-age” approach to jazz, adding free-jazz and surrealist elements into a musical form that Cage often disdained — improvisational music. And yet, for one afternoon, they pooled their talents — Ra playing keyboards, leading his small group and reading his unusual poetry; Cage “performing” vocal readings and passages of vocal sound — plus his trademark silence — designed to baffle and disorient. The combination is breathtaking, both organic and mechanical, free-form and totally composed.

For the very first time, Modern Harmonic presents the full and unexpurgated concert from 1986, stretched out across two LPs. In addition to never-before-heard songs and musical passages, this album at last presents the long-rumored co-performance between the two musical giants, all lovingly packaged in new artwork that captures the stark brilliance of the music. Take yourself back to 1986 and a once-in-a-lifetime performance that you can finally hear as it was intended. Double LP on clear vinyl!!

Also available on compact disc!

Darcy James Argue’s ‘Real Enemies’

My wife and I have discussed the possibility of selling our home, downsizing what we own and getting an apartment in New York City. We would love nothing more than to retire to the life of great food, art, music, and museums that is New York City.

Speaking of great performing arts, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has the 2015 Next Wave Festival  underway (Sept 16-Dec 20).

The work that has caught my interest is ‘Real Enemies‘ which has its last performance today at 3 p.m. at the BAM Harvey on 651 Fulton Street.  Darcy James Argue has a depth and music vision that is unparalleled.

‘Real Enemies’ is a mammoth, thought-provoking production. I love the timeliness of the subject and I hope one day to see a multimedia 3D production of this performance available on video and high-resolution audio.

Bandleader and composer Darcy James Argue’s 18-piece big band Secret Society melds minds with filmmaker Peter Nigrini, writer/director Isaac Butler, and designer Maruti Evans to investigate  America’s fascination with conspiracy theories. On projection surfaces teeming with found footage, live video, and historical texts, the narratives behind the Red Scare, the Illuminati, Edward Snowden, and alien sightings are meticulously examined and interrogated. Musical motifs from Argue’s exuberant score mimic the byzantine “everything is connected” inner workings of mass collusion to plumb the grassy knoll and give paranoia itself the probe.

Read the NY Times Review here.

Made in Chicago – Jack Dejohnette, Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill

I purchased this audio CD recording through an Amazon secondary supplier. It is an amazing concert with many unique textures of sound that envelop the listener.

The 50th anniversary celebration of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians continues to flourish with Made In Chicago, an exhilarating live album.

Henry Threadgill: alto saxophone, bass flute
Roscoe Mitchell: alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, baroque flute
Muhal Richard Abrams: piano
Larry Gray: double bass, cello
Jack DeJohnette: drums

Jack DeJohnette celebrates a reunion with old friends. In 1962, DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill were all classmates at Wilson Junior College on Chicago’s Southside, pooling energies and enthusiasms in jam sessions. Shortly thereafter Jack joined Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band, and Roscoe and Henry soon followed him. When Abrams cofounded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1965, DeJohnette, Mitchell and Threadgill were all deeply involved from the outset, presenting concerts and contributing to each other’s work under the AACM umbrella.

Jack brought them together again for a very special concert at Chicago’s Millenium Park in August 2013, completing the group with the addition of bassist/cellist Larry Gray. The concert recording featuring compositions by Roscoe, Henry, Muhal and Jack, plus group improvising was mixed by Manfred Eicher and Jack DeJohnette at New York’s Avatar Studio.

AACM 50th Anniversary Celebration

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year.

The AACM is preparing for a worldwide celebration of musical presentations, installations, exhibitions and more as the organization reaches a half century in 2015. This year-long celebration will honor, show and advance the organization’s contributions to the world’s musical landscape.

AACM50

The first initiative in AACM’s 50th Anniversary takes place Monday January 19th marking the official opening of the AACM exhibit at DuSable Museum of African American History! In time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“FREE AT FIRST: The Audacious Journey of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians”

The phrase “Free At First” is meant to reflect the very birth of this organization was inclusive of the members of AACM, who were unfettered by convention and tradition and adopted a “free” style that recognized no boundaries and defied categorization. The AACM had the audacity to compose, perform, publish, own, and institutionalize their own music and to prepare future exponents of their genre-bending, experimental form. Further, their collective, rather than confining the individual, actually made room for individual freedom of expression.

“Free At First” is also a reference to the sense of freedom the founders and early members approached musical compositions, organizational concepts and institution building – especially with the AACM School of Music. The scope of the exhibition is intended to provide the social framework, political climate, cultural milieu and the philosophical underpinnings within which this musician’s collective has thrived and survived – the only musicians’ collective still standing!

The only time I’m happy’s when I play my guitar

Jack Bruce is a natural craftsman. He continues to hone the craft of the bass guitar finding creative ways to play and use the 12 notes we have available.

I flash upon the Cream song from Fresh Cream (1966), N.S.U. that has the line, “The only time I’m happy’s when I play my guitar”. I can feel that sentiment running across the smile of Jack Bruce.

Bass Guitar Magazine celebrated their 100th issue with Jack Bruce on the cover recently (There’s that smile again). I downloaded the back issue on to my Apple iPad Air. The article “Just Jack” contains a chat about his new album.

Silver Rails – Drops on March 24, 2014, Label: Esoteric Antenna

The Special Edition features two disk Audio CDs and a DVD that shows the recording of Silver Rails at Abbey Road Studios. Silver Rails is available for preorder here.

Silver Rails is a warm collection of carefully crafted songs written in partnership with lyricists Pete Brown, Kip Hanrahan and Margrit Seyffer.

Jack Bruce collaborates with the following musicians on this album: Phil Manzanera, Robin Trower, Bernie Marsden, Uli Jon Roth, John Medeski, Malcolm Bruce and Cindy Blackman Santana.

Tracklisting:

Candlelight
Reach for the Night
Fields of Forever
Hidden Cities
Don’t Look Now
Rusty Lady
Industrial Child
Drone
Keep it Down
No Surrender

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Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – Shadow Man

Last year my wife Rosemary and I saw Tim Berne‘s Snakeoil at the Rubin Museum of Art in the Chelsea section of New York City. It was a delightful evening in a beautiful setting. We had one of those classic stress filled drives from upper Connecticut down into New York City wondering if we would get there on time. As luck would have it that evening we got a free parking space right in front of the building, walked in and managed to get two front row seats, just before the band started to play. Talk about luck and timing 😉

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil album was 10 days old when we saw that concert on February 17, 2012.

Once again the synchronicity of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil releasing a new album Shadow Man (It drops on Monday September 30th), then witnessing a live performance within 10 days+ time (this time at a closer venue see below).  I conclude that hearing and owning Tim Berne Snakeoil’s music is a fait accompli  😉

I suggest an insightful article about Tim Berne’s Snakeoil Shadow Man by S. Victor Aaron from Something Else! Reviews, click here.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – Firehouse 12, New Haven, Ct., Friday October 11, 2013 – 8:30 & 10 p.m. shows

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Tim Berne’s Snakeoil “Shadow Man” ECM Video

Collaboration: Pat Metheny and John Zorn

The latest Pat Metheny collaboration with John Zorn,  Tap: The Book of Angels Vol. 20 is available for purchase and digital download. The recording is available both on Pat Metheny’ s Nonesuch label and John Zorn’s Tadzik label. I chose the Tzadik iTunes download based on cover design and format (AAC = MP4 vs. MP3).

Ever curious, courageous and endlessly creative, virtuoso guitarist and musical mastermind Pat Metheny takes on John Zorn’s Masada songbook to create some of the most soulful and adventurous sounds yet heard in the Book of Angels series. Turn up the volume and revel in the breadth of imagination in these remarkable arrangements featuring Pat on a huge arsenal of instruments, and the powerful Antonio Sanchez on drums. Pat Metheny continues to surprise and experiment with new musical frontiers well into the 21st century. Released in coordination with Nonesuch, this is a match made in Heaven—essential!

Personnel:
Willow Metheny: Vocals (Pat Metheny’s daughter)
Pat Metheny: Orchestra Bells, Orchestrionic Marimba, Keyboards, Piano, Bass, Tiples, Sitar Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Acoustic And Electric Guitars, Bandoneon, Percussion, Electronics, Flugelhorn
Antonio Sanchez: Drums

(Album description and personnel listing courtesy of Tzadik)

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The back cover image

Jazz

Orchestrion (Pat Metheny album)
Orchestrion (Pat Metheny album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Widening Horizon – Olga Spiegel

My favorite musical genre the past decade has been jazz. I enjoy jazz for the improvisation and inventiveness of the musicians, the instruments that they master and the nature of the compositions.

Jazz appeals to my intellect. It is the most stimulating of all the music genres I listen to and that I absorb into my consciousness.

I love jazz because I encounter it a technical person as cerebral. Jazz takes me on profound and satisfying journeys.

The jazz musician I journey with most innately is Pat Metheny. I have seen Pat Metheny in concert several times live. He has taken me on some memorable, breath-taking excursions. Give a listen to Orchestrion or We Live Here and you will understand why I make such claims. I trust you will be transported.

pat-metheny-music-robots

Performance Spaces

Yesterday I wrote about Pi Recordings and the importance of their role with avant-garde jazz music. (see Related articles link) Time did not let me write more in-depth about the focused two-week event that Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang are curating at The Stone. The Stone is a non-profit performance space in New York City, dedicated to experimental and avant-garde, in the East Village.

The events planned  by Seth, Yulun and Pi Recordings at The Stone show a cornucopia of avant-garde talent. If we can get it together we want to attend one of the events 8/29-8/31…

Performance Space Events in 2011

Five of the 23 music experiences we attended in 2011 have taken place in performance space settings. Our association with intimate, well designed acoustic spaces commenced in January. My wife and I attended a winter concert at Wesleyan University by The Charles Lloyd Quartet.

We followed that event with the first of two performance space concerts at Stage One Theatre in Fairfield, Ct with Joe Sample on piano in April (we just saw Jimmy Webb in late July at this space).

The next avant-garde performance space event featured the Anthony Braxton Septet at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT in May.

Then just last week we enjoyed the swampadellic music of 7 Walkers at the Nancy Marine Studio in Torrington.

Fingers crossed we can add to the repertoire of performance space and avant-garde jazz  events we saw with what Pi Recordings is curating at The Stone!