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April 9, 2014

April Jazz in Oregon / Plus new things from Northern Spy Records

Couple of show announcements ...

Wednesday, 4/16, at Mississippi Studios you can catch the Chris Speed Trio, featuring Dave King of The Bad Plus and Chris Tordini, with the Blue Cranes also on the bill for the night.

Northern Spy recording duo, Jooklo Duo, will be hitting three locations throughout Oregon.  Thursday, 4/17, at Interzone in Corvallis, OR as part of their The Red Room: Improvised Music Series, along with two dates in Portland: Friday, 4/18 at Valentines, and Easter Sunday, 4/20, at Reed College.

... Speaking of Northern Spy artists, I've been really into Locus by the Chicago Underground Duo.  This amalgamation of genres feels like a love child between The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Aphex Twin, and Thurston Moore. 

We hear processed sounds that are pulled from analog and digital sources, and derive anywhere between a synthesizer and a Game Boy. Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor take us on an adventurous sound experiment across the realms of music.  Heavily rhythmic within its melodies, Locus creates a sense of eagerness from one cut to another.  Each track is like a layer revealing a next step onward into uncharted territory.  Through every listen I find myself wanting to re-cue this record once the last note hits.

April 19 is Record Store Day.  Northern Spy has an exciting lineup of RSD only releases.  So check in with your local haunt for some shiny new wax from J. Spaceman & Kid Millions, or a Deerhoof + Marc Ribot / Ceramic Dog split 7".

March 23, 2014

Cloud Becomes Your Hand - Portland Show Announcement

Off the heels of their new album, Rocks or Cakes, Brooklyn based band Cloud Becomes Your Hand will be performing at Valentine's in Old Town Portland.

Cloud Becomes Your Hand joins ambient themes along with well arranged electronics and harmonies. Staggering from Post Punk-esq noise, to whimsical melodies reminiscent of carnival or marching band music, to tracks that create an old school, spacey Sci-Fi feel.

About Northern Spy Records - Weather it be jazz, noise, prog, minimalist, electronic, etc., Northern Spy's portfolio stretches to the far edges of the avant-garde universe. Including the latest release from the Chicago Underground Duo, entitled Locus; dropping this week.

232 SW Ankeny
All Ages

November 17, 2013

Peter Brötzmann / Paal Nilssen-Love Duo Tonight in Portland

Wood Cuts by Peter Brötzmann & Paal Nilssen-Love on Grooveshark
This show is one for the books and a must see for any experimental music fan.  Peter Brötzmann and Paal Nilssen's Love Duo will be performing tonight at the Secret Society thanks to Portland's Creative Music Guild.  There's isn't anything I can say about Brötzmann that hasn't already be said.  So this post is strictly to promote the event.  See you tonight.

October 10, 2013

Chicago Underground Quartet

 Welcome by Chicago Underground Quartet on Grooveshark

I only recently discovered this album this year and it has been in regular rotation for me. I am only somewhat familiar with the musings of Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor's successful Chicago Underground Duo and Trio with Noel Kupersmith, but when I learned that Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker joined the the collective I sought this out.

Chicago Underground Quartet is a near flawless listen which is partially owed to its stylized production. With a nice amplifier and good set of speakers you're treated with lush low ends complimented by bright highs, and the warmth of acoustic meets electric happenings in between. This is particularly observed in Four in the Evening where a simple theme is tooled between Kupersmith's bass and Mazurek on cornet. It's a short spacey piece that leads right into my favorite track, A Re-occurring Dream. Another minimalist themed composition that highlights licks over a simple blues line. For me, I can't help but think of "Audrey's Dance" from Twin Peaks.

Those two slow paced tracks are the perfect setup for the fast tempoed, free-form movement, Welcome. Which begins with a burst of cymbal splashes and an intriguing guitar melody. The melody is repetitively emphasized here before the formation of the Quartet's improvisation skills kick in.  It may seem abrasive at times but everything is weighted nicely here.

Total Recovery mixes it up with a tight groove that offers a platform for Parker and Mazurek. It's the perfect piece before the next improve cut, Sing, ChargeFixture. Where, different from Welcome, the spacing and silence is as much a part of the composition as the instruments being played. Nostalgia, the concluding track, sounds as if it would fit perfectly over an obscure Science Fiction movie with the galactic sounding moog. It's the perfect segue out the album's atmospheric setting. But even afterwards, there is a short Easter Egg for those who are patient enough.

The self-titled Chicago Underground Quartet is a strong album. I would imagine that anyone who is interested in the Chicago Underground Duo probably already owns it, but if you are fan of contemporary jazz and experimental music this is a must for your library. 

2001 - Thrill Jocky.
Noel Kupersmith - Bass; Rob Mazurek - Cornet, Electronics; Jeff Parker - Guitar; Chad Taylor - Percussion, Vibraphone.  

"... isn't it too dreamy?"

August 22, 2013

Creative Music Guild Outset Series

Last night the Creative Music Guild hosted their twice-monthly Outset Series at Revival Drum Shop.  Before the show it was announced that German, free-improv icon Peter Brötzmann will be playing Portland on November, 17.

Playing as a duo Joe Cunningham and Reed Wallsmith (of Blue Cranes, and Battle Hymns & Gardens) performed a set that contained an ocarina, utilized plastic wrappers as percussion pieces, and the bells of their saxophones placed together during their fiery conclusion (pictured above).  

Following Cunningham and Wallsmith was the project Ifsh by Ryan Steuwe of Eat.  Offering a droned-out, spontaneously combustible set of sounds and samples; his work felt as much analog as it did electronic.

August 15, 2013

ESP-Disk' Findings and Burton Green in Portland

Couple of recent vinyl purchases from Burton Greene and Gato Barbieri.  Both ESP-Disk' titles.  Each of them fierce in their own way.  Greene offering a physical enduring adventuring while Barbieri drives your spiritual sensations.  

I have had digital versions of both albums for years, but I love the opportunity to rediscover records on vinyl.  It's all about the surface noise.

Burton Greene visited Portland back in April for two live performances.  I caught one of them at the Camellia Lounge in NW Portland.  Greene is a legiy improver and seeing him at work was electrifying and immersive.  It's refreshing to see players like Burton Greene continue to push musical boundaries in person.

June 17, 2013

"Life In The Sugar Candle Mines" - Black Host

The new Northern Spy release from Black Host, Life In The Sugar Candle Mines, is textured and far out.  Cooper-Moore (piano, synthesizer), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Darius Jones (alto sax), and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass) join drummer Gerald Cleaver here.  Much like Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, leader Gerald Cleaver allows Black Host to act as catapult for the collective endeavor of his bandmates. Yet each individual identity from this quintet acts as their own appendage within this improvising ensemble.

Life In The Sugar Candle Mines is a collective romp that certainly stands out within Avant-Garde Jazz.  And each cut seems to be more exciting than the next.  The first two pieces, "Hover," and "Ayler Children" present a fierce momentum early on in the record, but later tracks such as "Test-Sunday," and "Wrestling" still anchor my attention with their building intensities.  While numbers such as "Citizen Rose" and "Amsterdam / Frames" offer spacey explorations reminiscent of prog/psychedelic and thrash rock.  I bet Thurston Moore listens to this album on repeat.

Still, there are melodic parts along with creative ensemble bits that inspire a conceptual motive here; much like succussful visual, abstract artists.  If you're into experimental music but are searching for the right diving off point for the Jazzier side then Life In The Sugar Candle Mines will hit the sweet spot.  With its forward-looking approach and strong roots in the NYC Avant-Garde scene experienced listeners have an album worth checking out as well. 

May 23, 2013

A Moonship Journey with Sun Ra

Yesterday was Sun Ra's birthday.  99 years ago he arrived on this minuscule rock in our universe.  And with his arrival Jazz was changed forever.  Sun Ra oozed creativity, diversity, and change during an era of Jazz that needed all of the above.  His discography is deep and eclectic offering a magnitude of atmospheric music for any mood. 

I like to think Carl Sagan listened to Sun Ra. [Image Source]
With the advent of his birthday, I am making an excuse to dive into his discog for a few days.  I have been listening to Sun Ra for years, and still only feel like I am at the surface of his enormous catalog.  But there's one album I continue to return to, Cosmos.  A mid 1970s recording issued on the Cobra label; I am reminded of Pharoah Sanders' Impulse cuts from the decade earlier.  Perfect ambient tones along with exciting ensemble sections.  

Solo and ensemble wise, the horn parts are immaculate here.  And the warm buzz of the low ends of electric bass amalgamates with Sun Ra's Rocksichord playing.  My favorite track is "Moonship Journey."  It starts off with a 45 second melodic solo by Mr. Ra before he kicks into a rhythmic groove setting a precident for the Arkestra as they begin chanting, "Prepare for the Moonship journey... Journey on the Moonship."  Which is exactly what you need to do for Cosmos.
1976 - Cobra.
Sun Ra - Keyboards [Rocksichord]; Danny Davis, Marshall Allen - Alto Saxophone, Flute; Danny Ray Thompson - Baritone Saxophone, Flute; Eloe Omoe - Bass Clarinet, Flute; Jac Jackson - Bassoon, Flute; Larry Bright - Drums; R. Anthony Bunn - Electric Bass; Vincent Chancey - French Horn; John Gilmore - Tenor Saxophone; Craig Harris - Trombone; Ahmed Abdullah - Trumpet.

Other This Shape of Jazz posts on Sun Ra here.
My friend Devan Cook wrote this feature from the April 2011 issue of Propeller.

April 25, 2013

PDX Jazz brings The Bad Plus to Portland this Sunday

The Bad Plus.  I started listening to The Bad Plus when I was 19.  Mainly because at the time I was into a lot of noise and math rock and these guys brought a new style of music to the table.  They have a rocky, angular vibe and I love their time signature changes and rhythms.  And their Rock covers?  Yes please.

Jazz has always been a about progression.  It's a syle that has developed a vast array of sub genres since the early 20th Century.  And The Bad Plus sheds new light on what Jazz is, how it can evolve, and how it can glance towards the future.  Much like the Pixies, when Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Dave King play in this formation, they create unique music that cannot be replicated elsewhere.  With both technique and composition, each of them bring an individuality to the table that amalgamates Jazz, Rock, Classical, and the Avant-Garde.

On the heels of their newest album, Made Possible, PDX Jazz is bringing The Bad Plus to the Mission Theater this Sunday with a 3pm set and a 7pm set.   If memory serves right, I believe the last time TBP came to Portland was 2009.  Making Sunday all the more special for fans.

April 17, 2013

More exciting Jazz performances for JazzApril!

Burton Greene Ensemble: From "Out of Bartok" by Various on Grooveshark
Since it's #JazzApril I'm not sure this is intentional, or some sort of chaotic order is happening, but it's shaping up to be a stellar month for live Jazz in Portland, Ore.  I have already posted about these shows, but there's more...

Avant-Garde icon Burton Greene is playing two shows in Portland this week.  His US appearances are rare enough so it's an honor that he will be playing in town twice.  First show is tonight at the Camellia Lounge at 7pm, $7 to get in. He will also be at the Piano Fort in Sellwood this Friday at 8pm, $15.  The Piano Fort show is co-sponsored by PDX Jazz and The Creative Music Guild and is coupled with a film screening of Moldavian Blues: A film of Burton Greene.   Greene will be accompanied by one of Portland's leading jazz bassists, Andrew St. James, along with virtuosic drummer Tim DuRoche, and Seattle's Marc Smason on trombone.  Get to one these shows!

Speaking of Tim DuRoche, The Kin Trio (featuring Sunjae Lee and Andre St. James) will be having a CD release party this Saturday at Ford Food and Drink from 7-9pm.  This show is free, but you can give off good vibes by purchasing a CD to support the cause.  This release is part of an exciting series of Jazz albums by local players as part of the Portland Jazz Composers' Ensemble new record label.