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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-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 once I learned Tortoise guitarist, Jeff Parker, is a long time collaborator with Chicago Underground I was happy to stumble across this CD. 

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.

April 8, 2013

"Omens & Talismans" - Farthest South

Farthest South is an electric/electronic group from Israel that focuses on individual and group improvisation.  "Omens & Talismans" brings jazz improviser Albert Beger into the recording studio as they bring us new, uncharted territory to conquer.
I can't help but think I am listening to a David Lynch soundtrack here.  In the opening cut, A Lesson Learned - Part I - Creating Transformation, a contrast of pulsating and ambient tones along with thrashing guitar licks and flowing cries of a tenor sax offer an intense listen.  A Lesson Learned - Part II - Lecture instantly grabs your attention with a hard hitting electric beat that still gives evidence to a non-existent narrative that I want to insert into this music.  

The second half of the record brings Concrete - Part I - Godshall and Concrete - Part II - Mantram.  Part I - Godshall is the most ambient and atmospheric song in this album.  An exploration that certainly highlights Beger's saxophone over dissonant and jagged electronics.  And even though there is a strong Eastern sensibility in this whole record, Part II - Mantram emphasizes this even more creating a reasonable exit to the suite.

You can listen to "Omens & Talismans" on their Bandcamp page, where it is also available for digital download.
2013 - Fairsouth West Records.
Yair Etziony - electronics, bass; Barry Berko - guitar; Yair Yona - bass guitar, effects; Alber beger - saxophone. 

April 3, 2013

PDX Jazz delivers with Spring Programming

On the heels of the 2013 Portland Jazz Festival, PDX Jazz has been putting together an eclectic schedule of concerts for this spring.  Here are a few dates to note:
The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra presented by The Creative Music Guild.
April 5, 8pm at Redeemer Lutheran Church. 
The Bad Plus 
April 28, two shows at 3pm and 7pm at The Mission Theater. 
Classic Coltrane: 1964-65. The Azar Lawrence Quintet featuring Devin Phillips with George Colligan, Alan Jones and Eric Gruber
May 30 and May 31 at Jimmy Maks.
Three great shows.  Unfortunately I can't make it The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, but I would imagine it will be a memorable night of avant-garde music.  The Bad Plus continues to astound me with some of the most innovative music in modern days.  Their live shows are among the best one can see.  And I am fan of local icon Devin Phillips, and he has the chops to play Coltrane's music.  The Azar Lawrence Quintet will be a promising night of intimate Jazz.

More on The Bad Plus as we get closer to that show...

March 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Cecil Taylor

Another March birthday for an Avant-Garde legend.  Cecil Taylor turned 84 today.
I remember the moment when I first heard Taylor. I was listening to Jazz Advance on Blue Note Records. It has been a rollercoaster of awesome ever since.  

What's invigorating about Taylor's work is that he'll never break from his concepts.  During an era when so many musicians in the scene started to move towards more commercial aesthetics, Taylor would rather wash dishes than de-evolve his music.  It was this uncompromising mentality that has paid off for listeners.

One of my favorite Cecil Taylor albums is Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!.  Put out by the German label MPS in 1980, samples of this record are hard to come by on the internet.  But a few cuts from this solo release do exist on Youtube (and here, and here).  

Alternatively, I am leaving you with a solo piece that works in the same vein.  This  excerpt hails from Ron Mann's 1981 documentary "Imagine the Sound."

March 9, 2013

Happy 83rd Birthday, Ornette!

It's the day after my birthday and I am nursing my birthday hangover with a 24 hour broadcast of Ornette Coleman thanks to WKCR.  Tune in to celebrate Mr. Coleman's birthday. 

Image Credit: Ian Johnson
Kaleidescope - Ornette Coleman Quartette

February 27, 2013

Jazz Message Received

So this happened last Friday...
PDX Jazz's 2013 Portland Jazz Festival brought our modest city a collective of Jazz Messenger alumni.  With musical direction by Javon Jackson, The Jazz Message: Celebrating Art Blakey performed swinging hard bop classics from the historical repertoire that Art Blakey blessed Jazz fans with since the mid-twentieth century. We gazed, clapped, tapped our toes, and danced in our seats to the chops of Javon Jackson (ts), Eddie Henderson (tr), Bobby Watson (as), George Cables (p), Buster Williams (b), Lewis Nash (d), and long time veteran Curtis Fuller (tb).

These are tunes that allowed me fall in love with Jazz, and these guys f***in nailed it!  Their soloing was spot in, timing was impeccable, and the ensemble parts were powerful.  Art Blakey, wherever he might be, would be delighted to know that this music lives on.  Set list highlights were Fuller's "À la Mode," Benny Golson compositions "Along Came Betty" & "Blues March,"  Wayne Shorter's "One by One," Bobby Timmons' "Moanin," and an encore performance of Dizzy Gillespie's bebop classic "A Night in Tunisia."  Like any great Jazz musician, these guys pulled from the past while still making it their own.  This was particularly evident in "Moanin" where we heard licks and phrasing appropriated from the original recording.  Still, their decisions during those moments in time were unique to that evening.

Lewis Nash was powerful on the drums and had no problem filling the big shoes of Art Blakey.  His backing licks at the end of measures and phrases complemented each soloist with ease, and his solo right before kicking it into "Blues March" left me wanting more.  Needless to say, he crushed it on stage.  Another soloist highlight for me was Bobby Watson.  His range extended to every nook and cranny of that alto sax.  He shined on fast tempoed, swinging tunes as well as his soulful playing on a ballad number.

This is the music that made me fall in love with Jazz.  The album Moanin' is one of most important pieces of mid-twentieth century music (not just Jazz), it laid that groundwork for hard bop in the 1960s, and is probably one of the most recognized Blue Note releases. The fact that I was able to witness 3/6s, or one half, of the music from Moanin' by musicians who have graduated from Art Blakey's Hard Bop Academy was a special occurrence for me.  A memory that won't be forgotten. 

February 21, 2013

The Jazz Message

Free For All by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers on Grooveshark
"If nobody has anything to say about the departed, I'd like to say a few words about Jazz!" - Art Blakey*
The 2013 Portland Jazz Festival is in full swing with the closing headliners this weekend.  If you've been following PDX Jazz on Facebook then you've seen the excellent coverage of events.  Each show having significant turnouts. Tickets still remain for tomorrow night's The Jazz Message; Tribute to Art Blakey featuring Musical Director Javon Jackson (ts), Bobby Watson (as), Curtis Fuller (tb), Eddie Henderson (tr), George Cables (p), Buster Williams (b), Lewis Nash (d).  Which can be purchased here.

Immediately I wanted to jump on this show.  Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers we're the third tier that really had me taking Jazz seriously.  First it was Mingus, then Monk, and third was the Messengers.  In fact, the very first book on Jazz I read cover to cover was Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen of Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers by Alan Goldsher.  This book is a journey that profiles the greats that went in and out of The Jazz Messengers.  Containing stories and anecdotes that brought enlightenment to many of their recordings or performances through nearly a half century on the scene.
That's what I have going on tomorrow night and if you haven't gotten out to any Portland Jazz Festival events then this is the one for you.  Following the Jazz Message I'll be continuing my Jazz journey with a nightcap at The Blue Monk to catch Battle Hymns and Gardens.


*Quoted from Visions of Jazz by Gary Giddens.  p. 368, c. 40, Art Blakey (Jazz Messenger).  Which further sited the quote from Jazz Anecdotes by Bill Crow. 

February 7, 2013

2013 Portland Jazz Fest

It's almost that time...  Almost that time where the city of Portland dedicates nearly half a month to Jazz music.  The 2013 U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival Presented by Alaska Airlines kicks off in one week.  You can take part in a city wide celebration of America's great musical art form.  There are plenty of free events along with ticketed ones, as well as educational and outreach programs.  You can view a full schedule here.

Now in its tenth year, the Portland Jazz Festival has continued to bring worthy headliners and local musicians together in the name of Jazz.  An eclectic showcase of Jazz happenings around Portland keep it exciting year after year.   You can find many events taking place in restaurants or pubs, smaller venues, and larger concert halls. 

Also take note that Battle Hymns and Gardens will be performing February 22 at The Blue Monk.  I'll be there for a nightcap after The Jazz Message event (Curtis Fuller, Bobby Watson, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Buster Williams, Lewis Nash, and Javon Jackson) at the Newmark Theater.  And it's worth noting that you can sample a handful of unmastered takes for BHaG's upcoming debut album on their website

January 31, 2013

The Sight of Sound

Anthony Braxton Composition Figures
I've been spinning a lot of Anthony Braxton lately.  To me his music is quite physical to the point that it can be visual.  I have a background in art which lends me to be a visual person for the most part.  I originally gravitated to Jazz because it seemed to contain a visual aesthetic to me.  Which makes sense because one of the first Jazz albums I ever listened to was Charles Mingus' The Clown.  It contained "these greens and yellows, and all of these oranges."

It's not just in The Clown, but I have always connected Avant-Garde Jazz with Post War / Post Modern Art.  Conceptually and metaphysically this makes sense.  Musicians like Steve Lacy and Ornette Coleman have always made a big visual presence in my imagination.  Lacy, for example, seems to construct shapes with every lick he plays on the Soprano.  And obviously the name of this blog is derived from Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, but along with musical notes I hear shapes too.  

Can sound be seen?  Can sight be heard?

Here are a few Jazz pieces that create colors, lines, and shapes in my mind.  Some are mathematical and controlled, while some are chaotic and organic.  You can decided for yourself.