We strike again from what is rapidly becoming our unofficial base of operations. Details are hush-hush for the moment, but rest assured that updates will be forthcoming -- just keep your ear to the ground and your nose to the flat-panel display.
You guys opened for Wilco not too long ago. What was that experience like?
That was a new thing for us. We played in venues much bigger and fancier than anything we ever played in before. For us, it was a challenge to try to communicate our music in that sort of environment. Have you ever seen that Led Zeppelin DVD that came out a couple of years ago? It's quite incredible -- here was a band coming of age playing in stadiums. It wasn't an accident that they sounded that good. Just through trial and error, they learned how to have their music come across in that kind of environment, which is kind of a rarity and difficult to pull off. They were able to respond to their environment and made music that worked like that. I think we sound better in places that aren't super-tiny or huge.
Do you think that's a sound issue, or do you think it's because you don't play epic, grand-sounding songs?
Well, I think there's a lot of detail in our songs, and that kind of detail, in a huge environment, gets lost. Through all the reverberation happening, one sound gets confused with the next. If we're playing in a big place, we try to play a little bit slower. It helps give a sense of the articulation. Whereas if you are playing it fast, it can end up sounding like mush.
Did your previous experience impact how Deerhoof's sound has evolved since you joined?
I think the band was already in the midst of some sort of shift before I joined. I was coming from a group where most of what we did was free improvisation. If we did play songs, it was very abstract. When the possibility of joining Deerhoof came up, it was extremely exciting, especially to work in the framework of Satomi's voice. I was also really attracted to the way melody was used in the band. I had been in a band with a singer before, but a lot of the singing wasn't very melodic -- let's put it that way.
Yooni has the details on this gig. I concur -- Quinsin is killing. We originally met at the Banff Jazz Workshop, and he played in my quintet at the 2000 Montreal Jazz Festival. A prior commitment prevents me from making his hit tonight, but dammit, that's no reason for anyone else to deprive themselves.
I notice that the career-spanning Brookmeyer medley Maria Schneider compiled for her interview with Bob at The Madness is now up at Brookmeyer's ArtistShare site. Click here for the breakdown, and here (then click on the bottom picture) to listen.
While you're there, now would be a good time to preorder Spirit Music, Bob's upcoming New Art Orchestra recording.
I'm having a hard time understanding the insane buzz surrounding these kids (I believe the lead is 19, thanks Rolling Stone). I like them, but their road to glory is mad redic. For instance, WPSIA,TWIN is the fastest-selling debut in British chart history, with sales of more than 360,000 copies during its first week on the charts (CBS News). And with chart success comes celebrity: two months after the album's release, lead vocalist Alex Turner was declared The Coolest Man On The Planet by NME magazine. Sure, I heard (on NPR of all places) all about how they built buzz for their first release by giving away mp3s, but tell me what "unknown" band isn't doing that? Free mp3s + catchy hooks + "honest lyrics" don't add up to tickets for their upcoming NYC show going for over $150 a piece! Should I mention again that their album was just released in Manhattan yesterday?
I still neither like nor dislike the music enough to advocate anything more than trying it yourself, but I do find it interesting that a band making relatively similar and not distinctively (to me) superior music to a whole passel of bands working the same lineage is generating a press buzz aimed at superstarring the band. Almost every review I've read compares the AMs to the same bands and mentions their Sheffield background, which means that reviewers around the world are hearing some superlative quality in the music of The AMs that elevates their music above those bands to which they're compared, but also means that the fact that the AMs come from an urban-poor economic background somehow more deeply authenticates their sound. My guess, and it's a guess only, is that the latter has more oomph, if for no other reason than it grants weight to the genre as a whole - it's not a bunch of upper-middle class college kids playing at angst and anger.
Mwanji is right -- this is a very good interview with Ben Monder. In addition to his detailed and insightful commentary on the new record, Ben is disarmingly candid, unaffected, and self-effacing throughout:
AAJ: You talked about the magic of digital editing—I take it this song isn’t one long take.
BM: We tried [laughing], but no. No. It was a really tough record to make; I try to forget about that, but it was. I booked three days in the studio in, let’s see, January of 2004. It was right after the IAJE where I had like four gigs, something like that. So I was there every night, during, I think, the coldest week in fifty years. Something like that. Not that that’s relevant, but I was really distracted by playing with all these different bands.
And then Sunday was the first day of my recording, so I’d played Wednesday through Saturday and that was really a bad idea—because I was not there for my own music. I didn’t have the mental energy left to really deal with it, and I didn’t have the time to put in for the preparation. So we tried that piece, and I just couldn’t play it. It was pathetic, really terrible. So I went through this agonizing process of trying to figure out if I could salvage it, and just decided to book another day about two, three weeks later. And so we did it and it went a lot better. But even so, we recorded take after take, section after section, and just pieced it together.
AAJ: Is a tune like this particularly difficult for you to perform?
BM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know, at this point it’s not too bad. I’ve done it so much, although I don’t have it worked up at this point. But I attempted to record that, I think, three times and failed. I finally got it on the fourth try. Even if I am able to play it, all the conditions [laughing] have to be perfect. It has to the exact right time of day where my hands are going to feel like they’re able to do it at the right speed or whatever.
If I prepare too much, then I’m burned out and I can’t play it—and if I don’t warm up enough, I can’t play it. It’s kind of tricky! That was the hardest tune to record in a way; I don’t know if it had anything to do with it, but I tried to do it around the time of some really serious health problems I encountered about a year and ahalf ago.
AAJ: Do you think the health problems you experienced in any way color the tune itself? The mood of it?
BM: Well, the tune was written before anything happened—whether it had anything to do with the performance, I don’t know. I think with the performance, if anything comes through, it’s just desperation: “please, god let this one be it! I can’t try to record this again!” When I finally did it, I’d gotten no sleep the night before, so I got up thinking, “great, I’m totally unprepared again.” I got to the studio and my hands felt terrible—I did a few takes and just wasn’t warmed up. Then I remember drinking like six cups of coffee and saying, “Okay, well, this is it.” And I did it. And it turned out okay, I guess.
Also, Ben elucidates his approach to metametrics (paging Kyle Gann...)
BM: Yeah. This one was an attempt to experiment with polyrhythms—superimposed so that the effect would be of two different tempos played simultaneously. The main polyrhythm of the piece is five against three. I kind of divide it up into three strings and three strings, so the five is on the top three strings and the three is on the bottom. Both parts are in cycles of four, which hopefully disguises what it is.
BM: The origin was an idea of how to divide a bar of six, or two bars of three. I kind of stole this idea from Guillermo Klein—I informed him I was stealing it, so it was okay. He has a series of pieces based on this seven-seven-three clave. So if you think of them in sixteenth notes, you’re going to end up with six beats. On the last record we did with him [Los Guachos III , 2002, Sunnyside], there are at least two or three pieces that are based on that rhythmic idea.
AAJ: I think I found myself counting to six through this tune and being completely confused by that.
BM: Yeah, you can do that do a degree but—well, I’ll explain how the piece evolved. I took the idea of this three groups of seven and one group of three, and I put the three in all the places in relation to the seven it could be, so one complete pattern was basically four bars of 6/4. And then I added a little three at the end, just to confuse that—it seemed like it needed it. So that’s why if you tried to count in six, it wouldn’t exactly work out.
Dave Douglas & Keystone @ Zankel Hall: If you buy the record, watch the included DVD first. It took seeing band play live in counterpoint to the projected film to drive that lesson home for me -- I kept putting off watching the included version of Fatty and Mabel Adrift, much to my own detriment. Also, keyboardist Adam Benjamin was apparently suffering from severe food poisoning and barely made the gig. Maybe he should buy all of his meals from street vendors at 4 AM from now on, because he played the standout solo of the night.
A short Arbuckle film scored by Douglas (not included on the Keystone DVD) is available here.
John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet + Kneebody @ Tonic: Kneebody trumpet player Shane Endsley calls the Claudia Quintet
"the coolest band in New York." He's right. Hypnotic through-composed
works with surging breakbeat/postrock grooves and an expansive, almost
orchestral sonic palette. Impossible to single out any one player for
praise, but: Matt. Moran. Damn.
Kneebody's new material is surprisingly spacious, patient, subtle, and interactive. Many in the crowd were jonesing for the heavy, prog-jam influenced electrojazz (like the tracks on MySpace), and the band eventually obliged, but it's good to see that the popular LA+NYC supergroup hasn't stopped expanding their horizons. Great gig.
Secret Society co-conspirator Peter Van Huffel hits Brooklyn's Galapagos tonight, with guitarist Scott DuBois, pianist Jesse Stacken, bassist Michael Bates and drummer Jeff Davis in tow. Van Huffel is part of a triple-bill that also features groups led by Nate Smith and Andrew Bain.
7:30 PM -- no cover. Check it out.
Tonight will be the last NYC gig for Centric before hitting the road in March -- leader Pete Robbins is joined by Secret Society co-conspirator Sam Sadigursky (reeds), Ryan Blotnick and Mike Gamble (guitars), Eliot Cardinaux (keyboards), Eivid Opsvik (bass), and Fieldwork's Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Centric is one of my favorite up-and-coming New York bands -- check them out on MySpace. They are on a double-bill with Mike Gamble's own band, The In-Betweens -- you all remember Mike Gamble from Nate Chinen's jazz+indie article, right?
10 PM at the Bowery Poetry Club -- 2 bands, $8.
Alex Ross brings word of a soon-to-become essential new service -- Burnt Toast's Operagrams. Want to make a booty call but afraid of ruining your chances with an inadvertant faux pas? Or perhaps you lack the courage to break off a bad relationship face-to-face, but can't bear the thought of leaving a "Dear John" letter either? Leave the drama in your life to the experts -- opera singers.
Remember that PopMatters piece on Rudresh Mahanthappa we linked to a while back? The one that included the painfully accurate description of his post-Berklee summer as a cruise ship musician? Well, what do you do if necessicity forces you to take a ship gig? How do you keep your focus and your sanity?
For some bizarre reason, Theodor Adorno's name seems to be coming up a lot in conversation lately. Stranger still, he seems to have a lot of unlikely defenders, including Robin Varghese of 3 Quarks Daily and saxophonist Josh Rutner.
My position on Adorno is pretty simple -- I think he's an insufferable wanker whose toxic influence on music and music cricitism lingers still. I highly recommend this very sharp, entertaining piece by Alex Ross (originally published 2003). Ross harbors considerably more sympathy for the guy than I do, but nevertheless cuts to to the heart of the matter.
[xposted at Pulse]
Jerry Bowles of Sequenza21 has a great writeup of the Thursday night Alarm Will Sound gig. His focus is on how their presentation of the music makes what they play more comprehensible for a younger audience, one that is often turned off by the ritualistic Temple of Art pretentions of classical concertgoing:
We have had lengthy discussions in the Composers Forum about the importance of venue in attracting audiences for postclassic music, especially the relative merits of clubs versus concert halls, but neither is exactly perfect. Most young people find the notion of going to sit quietly for two hours in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers staring at people in black outfits blowing into horns and hacking away at fiddles to be not only some kind of archaic ritual, but downright punitive. This is SERIOUS MUSIC, children. Pay attention.
What Alan Pierson and his talented Alarm Will Sound crew proved on Friday was that it is possible to reach a concert hall audience on both a visceral as well as intellectual level and to tap into some of the strengths of both worlds. In the process, they offered some valuable insights into how to stage a compelling new music concert.
[Jerry also very kindly links to my own review of the AWS gig.]
This also reminds me of some of Greg Sandow's excellent posts on the Youth Problem in classical music:
Younger people are critical, and prone to irony. They see through hype and bullshit. Which, I'm afraid, in classical music means that they'll have no patience with pious talk about great masterpieces. They want to know what's really going on.
They may not respond to romantic music. Though of course some of them will. But the sweep and passion of 19th century classical music, which some people might assume to be a selling point, will make many younger people think they're hearing a cheesy movie score. The movie score, of course, is very likely a knockoff of romantic classical works, but this new, younger audience doesn't know that, and "cheesy movie score" may well be their first association when they hear Tchaikovsky.
They don't plan their lives around what I might call "appointment events," adapting that term from a marvelous expression I ran across in discussions of new trends in television: "appointment TV." Appointment TV is the old watch-it-when-they-broadcast it paradigm, according to which you're stuck watching shows when the networks put them on. Thanks to TIVO, and now video downloads from iTunes and other sites, you can watch many shows whenever you like. The parallel development for the performing arts is that people don't leave work at 5 PM, go home, have dinner, and then head out the door for an 8 PM concert. They leave work at 3 PM or 8:30, make time for the gym or rides on their mountain bikes, and may well head out of the house at 9. Then they might well look for something going on in a neighborhood full of clubs and other street-level places that you can walk in and out of ad lib. The classical concert hall, most obviously, doesn't work like that at all, which from a younger person's point of view might well make it too rigid to be an attractive night-life option.
Greg also posts some on-point criticism from a young music student in Missouri:
May I just add to the list that a lot of younger people find the whole classical music scene hugely pretentious, in ways that those of us inside the circle may not even think about? I took my sister, who is really just a huge music fan and goes to a TON of non-classical concerts, to a SLSO [St. Louis Symphony] concert not too long ago. At the end of the concert, the conductor and soloists came took their bows, left, and came back to take another bow. She leaned over to me and said, "Cool -- are they going to play some more?" I told her no, orchestras being practically forbidden to do encores by union rules. And she said, "Oh, so they're just coming back out because they're full of themselves." And, honestly, I was a little shocked by the comment, because, of course, in Classical Music World, we see the bow in a completely different light -- a gesture of appreciation to the audience, respect for the music we've played, etc. I hadn't even considered how pretentious it might look!
[xposted at Pulse]
Just back from John Hollenbeck's debut at The Kitchen... I will be brief, as I'm hoping to entice JC to blog a little about his experience conducting this band. But I definintely recommend checking it out tonight if you missed it on Friday (especially since tickets are a mere $10) -- lots of enticing new material, including a (suprisingly) lyrical, chorale-like opening work, and the usual array of superb players, including vibraphonist Matt Moran, pianist Kris Davis, and trumpeter Shane Endsley. (At the post-gig hang, Shane also demonstrated his unstoppable hot-wax fighting style, incurring only minor property damage.)
[xposted at Pulse]
Alarm Will Sound is a 20-piece
chamber orchestra new music ensemble band
which boasts an enviable critical and popular reputation -- the New
York Times called them "the future of classical music," fercrissakes. As you can tell from my sidebar, I'm a fan -- and Joe is too, in fact they were one of the bands he had in mind when he first proposed our merry composers' federation.
Last night, they made their (sold-out) debut at Carnegie's Zankel Hall with a program called "Odd Couples," which paired works by composers who share a personal connection but represent very different styles:
Edgar Varèse - Frank Zappa
John Cage - John Cale
Bernard Woma - Derek Bermel
Wolfgang Rihm - John Adams
All of the music was accompanied by projections on the screen behind the band, announcing the pieces and occasionally supplying quotes, photographs, graphics, etc. Purists will no doubt cringe, but I thought these were mostly -- with one notable exception (see below) -- effective and unobtrusive.
The gig kicked off with Zappa's Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat, in a similar arrangement to the one used on the Ensemble Moderne's The Yellow Shark. Performers walked on stage only as required, and the brass made their initial entrances from opposite sides of Zankel's two-tiered balcony, giving a very effective antiphonal (3D surround-sound) effect. Dog/Meat features a lot of brief solos and solis, which gave most of the members of ALS a chance to introduce themselves -- in fact, the players were in constant circulation throughout the piece, moving to center stage when needed, and retreating as necessary. Of course, this meant everyone had to play from memory. Definitely a dramatic, engaging set-opener.
Next was Cage's 0'00" -- a followup to the infamous 4'33", written ten years prior. The score for 0'00" (which actually lasts for an undetermined length of time) consists of the following sentence:
"In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action."
As it turned out, the "disciplined action" consisted of the members of AWS reconfiguring the stage for the next piece -- a parodically stylized and choreographed moving of instruments, chairs, music stands, etc, the sounds amplified out of all proportion by the floor mics. The piece's end was signaled by a sudden change in lighting.
Next, Ghanian gyil master Bernard Woma contributed a Brazillian-inflected piece called Gyil Mambo, in a colorful and effective arrangement by one of Woma's students and collaborators, David Rogers. As you might imagine, this piece featured AWS's killing percussion section -- Dennis DeSantis, Payton MacDonald, and Peter Wise -- offering up a credible, hard-grooving Brazillian mambo. I did wish the winds could have played a bit less on top of the beat, but that's a relatively minor quibble -- this was an infectiously joyful rendition of Woma's work, and the composer himself seemed quite pleased with how it turned out.
The one premiere last night came courtesy of German composer Wolfgang Rihm, who was quoted (in the projected slides) as saying "I am very excited to write for your crazy ensemble." Will Sound is an expressionist sound-painting via Jackson Pollack, a showcase for AWS's cohesive ensemble sound and Alan Pierson's amazing conducting chops. (Man, I gotta get a lesson with this guy... )
AWS closed the first set with a piece by another Woma student/collaborator, Derek Bermel. Three Rivers is a metametric-influenced piece which incorporates three distinct rhythmic currents -- sometimes discretely, and sometimes in combination. It's a very attractive composition, beginning with swing brushes on the drum kit and syncopated grungy Mingusian figures in the low winds and strings. I liked this piece a lot, and the performance was impressive.
But... well, okay, please indluge me in a little digression:
There are actually a lot of classically-trained musicians who have a deep and sincere love of jazz, but nonetheless can't swing from a rope. This is understandable. Swing is hard enough to grok for jazz players of my generation, who didn't grow up with Basie and Lunceford and Henderson on the radio every night, didn't come of age in an era where all popular music was saturated with swing figures, have no intuitive understanding of the hugely significant regional differences in swing feels -- Kansas City swing vs. Detroit swing, and so on.
Now, plenty of professional jazz musicians -- including a number of big names, coming soon to a jazz festival near you -- have no concept of swing to speak of. So it's a bit much to expect most classically-trained musicians to master an elusive time feel that isn't anywhere near as central to their repertoire as it is to ours.
On the other hand, I still have nightmares about some of the nauseatingly misguided performances I've heard of pieces like Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue and Riffs or (more seriously), Kleiner blauer Teufel from Gunther Schuller's Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee. Now, I certainly don't mean to suggest that the AWS rendition of Three Rivers was anything like the cringe-inducing performances of which I speak. Far from it -- in fact, Dennis DeSantis's drumming and Miles Brown's pizz bass playing are both eminently credible. I would even say that AWS swings harder than any classical ensemble I've heard (and I apologize if that sounds like damning with faint praise).
However... look, I know there's nothing cheaper than free advice, but allow me to tender a suggestion that comes straight from Bob Brookmeyer, who, uh, knows whereof he speaks. The trick to swing phrasing in a large ensemble is to understand the difference between anticipations (i.e., offbeat eighth notes tied over, or followed by a rest) and consecutive eighth notes. Anticipations are always played late, on the back side of the third triplet. AWS are actually pretty good on the anticipations. Where they fall down is on the consecutive eighth notes, which are much straighter than you'd think. In fact, why not try playing them perfectly straight, but with a slight tongue (/bow) accent on the offbeats? There are worse places to start.
[Obviously, this maxim doesn't apply to skip beats on the ride cymbal or in bass lines -- that's an entirely different thing.]
Moving on... the second set opened with Varèse's Intégrales, done in an even more aggressively antiphonal style -- the performers circulated up and down the aisles, took up strategic positions on the balconies, and were constantly reconfiguring themselves even while on stage. By necessity, Alan Pierson conducted from the middle of the audience -- and, like the first-set opener, this work was done almost entirely from memory.
All of this might have seemed a wee bit mannered and pretentious if the performance fell short in any way... but it didn't. In fact, this was, hands-down, the most astonishing rendition of Varèse I have ever heard.
Integrales was definitely the highlight of the evening -- it was the piece everyone kept gushing about after the gig -- so it seems almost churlish for me to mention the projection of a stupid, casually misogynistic Zappa quote during the piece (something to the effect of "I'd put a piece by Varèse on and it would drive away all the girls and the stupid boys -- the rest, you could have a conversation with"). But sorry, it pissed me off and took me momentarily out of the piece -- especially since there are plenty of non-idiotic Zappa-on-Varèse quotes that could have gone in its place.
The second Cage piece on the program, Variations III, was another furniture-moving piece, this time with more improvisatory choreography. As the program says, "the score consists simply of a series of transparencies with markings on them, which are then dropped onto a blank sheet of paper by potential performers, who interpret the resulting marks whichever way they desire." There was a cute bit with Alan Pierson (still seated in the audience at this point, remember), asking his neighbors if he might borrow their program, using any word order except the normal one -- and then reading every nth word from the program notes. However, the collective stagehands-with-OCD routine evntually wore thin -- and honestly, with all the kabuki-hubub on stage, I found it very difficult to even try to perceive this as a work in and of itself.
Next up was Dennis DeSantis's arrangement of John Cale's 1994 soundtrack for Andy Warhol's 1963 short film Kiss -- which, for those of you who haven't seen it, is exactly what you would expect if someone told you Andy Warhol made a film called Kiss. The music was stripped-down and minimal, with beautiful wordless vocals by Courtney Orlando, and a searing improvised violin solo at the end from Caleb Burhans.
Burhans also arranged the last piece on the program, John Adams's "Coast," from the composer's 1993 synth record Hoodoo Zephyr. Despite some sound problems with the electric bass and keyboards, this was a hugely satisfying and energetic finale, a cascade of accumulated cross-rhythms and asynchronous bliss.
The crowd insisted on an encore, which turned out to be Cock/Ver10, the first track from AWS's latest record, Acoustica -- a curious collection of Aphex Twin covers. Alarm Will Sound is the rare classical group with the rhythmic authority to credibly tackle the breakbeat canon, and it was immensely satisfying to hear the live version of this track. Acoustica might sound like a bit of a gimmick -- and, to be fair, it is, kinda -- but the inventive arrangements and aggressive recontextualization suggest subtle and musically meaningful parallels between recent trends in Downtown metametricism and the 1990's English ambient scene.
Bottom line: a inspired and inspiring night from a brilliant group. I can't wait for the next one.
[xposted at Pulse]
UPDATE: Arthur S. Leonard comments as well.
Reviews forthcoming, of course.
Amongst the dead-tree spam I received today was a flier from Sprint promoting their new "Power Vision Network," which allows you to watch TV on your phone.
Guess what image they chose for the flier's cover?
Yes, that's Fox News hack Shepard Smith. (N.B. this is the online version of the flier -- the Fox News badge is even more prominent in the print version.)
Do Sprint really want to brand themselves as the official cell phone of authoritarian cultists (to use Glenn Greenwald's phrase)?
Two new interweb pamphleteers on the blogroll -- Boston-based St. Botolph's Town and San Fransisco's own Standing Room Only. Some great stuff from both bloggers, but allow me to draw your attention to M.C-'s haiku reviews and SBT's somewhat skeptical view of Gollijov's Ayre.
Lage Lund has a classically clean and mellow guitar sound, prodigious but understated technical facility, and a sequential, motivic approach to line construction that allows him to burn long and build up to soaring, cathartic releases -- like the one you hear when you visit his embryonic website. Last night, he brought a quintet to the Jazz Gallery made up of fellow Monk competition winner Seamus Blake, bassist Orlando Le Fleming, drummer Kendrick Scott, and one of my favorite young pianists, Aaron Parks -- all players very much in demand. The music, as others have remarked, is often reminiscent of Brian Blade's Fellowship -- acoustic post-ECM jazz, with understated pop inflections that occasionally bubble to the surface, as in Aaron's rhapsodic Mike Garson-esque finish to Lage's new 12/8 tune, or Kendrick's supple breakbeat-influenced playing on the epic "Vonnegut" (which Lage, with his usual self-deprecation, described to me as "just a couple of vamps"). They closed their first set with Kendrick's "#20" -- "Great tune, bad title," Lage deadpanned, a knowing wink at his own "Incredibly Profound Song" -- where everything came to a head during the vamp out, with both Lage and Seamus telegraphing syncopated short-long-short pulses over the surging rhythm section.
I split for Cornelia Street just in time to catch the last few tunes of singer Monika Heidemann's set. Guitarist Khabu Doug Young was in mid-shred as I walked in -- his gritty sound was the perfect contrast to Lage's pristine clarity. Monika's band is flush with some of the stars of the Barbès scene -- in addition to Khabu, there's vibraphonist Matt Moran (of John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet), Derek Layes on bass, and Take Toriyama. I loved the loose, quirky grooves from Derek and Take, and Matt's relentless creativity as both accompanist and soloist is dizzying. The band seems perfectly attuned to the indie vibe of Monika's tunes, which have more affinity to Animal Collective and The Magnetic Fields than than they do to the Great American Songbook. While I sometimes missed the multilayered vocals from the record, Monika's musical concept is strong, highly personal, and practically unique -- I can't think of any other jazz-trained singers mining this territory. Check her out on MySpace and don't miss her March 19 gig at Galapagos.
From Reuters (via the WaPo):
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kelly Clarkson beat out singers including Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow and Paul McCartney to become the first contestant from "American Idol" to win a Grammy on Wednesday but she failed to thank the wildly popular reality TV show that made her famous.
Clarkson thanked Jesus, God, the radio, her fans and her mother when she picked up Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Album and for Best Female Pop Vocal performance, but in two speeches she omitted any mention of "American Idol," which aired on Fox against the 48th annual Grammy Awards (CBS) for part of the night.
Apparently the fact that the show's producers own, in perpetuity, the unconditional rights to her "name, likeness (whether photographic or otherwise), voice, singing voice, personality, personal identification or personal experiences, my life story, biographical data, incidents, situations and events which heretofore occurred or hereafter occur" throughout the universe isn't enough for them. Apparently, Clarkson also has to get up there at the Grammys and thank her lifelong masters for all the money she's made for them.
Okay, I know I promised to stop reading Pitchfork, but I had a relapse. Surely I can remain untainted so long as I confine myself to their news section and don't delve into the actual reviews? Or mabye I can spin this as a public service -- "Darcy reads Pitchfork so you don't have to." Yeah, that's the ticket...
Anyway, the Hipster News Network brings word of the new Calexico record. Lots of interesting stuff there, but this bit from the final paragraph caught my eye:
"I really want to tour with Broken Social Scene," Burns said. "I love the fact that there's this kind of element of chaos where neither the band nor the audience knows exactly what's going to happen."
Due respect to Sam Beam, but that -- that is a double-bill I could get excited about.
[Also, this one -- surely Neko's planning a tour with Burns, Convertino & co?]
At OpinionJournal, of all places.
But while the vocals in early death metal are low, raspy and aggressive, not unlike the vocals by, say, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, that extreme degree of Cookieness is missing.
To be a true Cookie Monster vocal, said Mr. Conner, who signed some of the subgenre's biggest bands, including Sepultura and Fear Factory, "it's got to be really, really guttural. It should sound like they're gargling glass."
Caught Avishai Cohen's first set at The Jazz Gallery last night. No, not that Avishai Cohen (although he's great too). This Avishai Cohen -- the trumpet-playing guy. He led an impressive quintet featuring Mark Turner, Jason Lindner, Omer Avital, and Greg Hutchinson.
Avishai is a firebrand with chops to burn, able to pull off sudden shifts of register and blistering high chromatic flurries with ease. But he's also an intelligent and methodical player with a good head for motivic construction and long-term pacing. On one tune last night, he made subtle but effective use of electronics (wah-wah and digital delay). The highlight of the set was Omer Avital's head on "Giant Steps" changes, called (I think) "Flow" (a tune I'd heard Avital's own group play earlier in the week at Fat Cat). Avital kicked things off with a nice fat bass groove, followed by an agile solo. Jason Lindner set himself up on synthesizer before digging in on acoustic piano. Mark Turner danced around and over the chord progression, playing with a lyricism you don't often get when you sic a tenor player on "Giant Steps." Avishai, picking up on something Mark played, spent his first chorus working through increasingly abstracted variations on the opening of The Rite of Spring, as the rhythm section came down and almost dispersed beneath him, before Greg Hutchinson gradually brought up the heat again for the explosive finish.
Avishai is at the Jazz Gallery again tonight for two sets (9 PM & 10:30 PM). $15 cover ($10 for Gallery members).
… or, how Rudresh Mahanthappa pays the bills.
Some choice quotes:
"The dream is that in the future I spend more time playing music. Right now, I spend most of my time hustling: emailing, on the phone, applying for grants. I don't have a manager or an agent. I have 12 students who I teach for about ten hours each week."
"The summer after my first year at Berklee, I got a cruise ship gig that was a big eye-opener. Almost every musician on the ship had forgotten the reason they started playing," Mahanthappa tells me. "No one cared about music any more. They were just drinking, living the life on the ship. And I thought, if that's what making a living as a musician is about, then I want no part of it."
The musicians, as it turns out, make little or nothing from their records. Jazz recordings, for the most part, are calling cards; demo recordings to get you into a club and advertisements so the small but dedicated batch of jazz nuts knows what you're about. The money — for Mahanthappa or Rollins or even Keith Jarrett — is mainly in the fee the musician can charge for his hardest work: playing gigs. Still, even if your disc is only going to sell a thousand copies, tops, you need a record label to get your name into the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Tower, Virgin, even the Downtown Music Gallery.
"Younger people are the market for this music," he says. "I don't really identify with labels — and my music isn't 'free jazz'. It's very structured. But I'm not interested in selling out at all." At the same time, Mahanthappa would love to have the chance to record for a major label jazz imprint, like Blue Note. "I know a deal like that wouldn't last, but the promotion would boost my future career away from a major label." In jazz, even dreams of success are leavened with hard reality.
Three (suitably soi-distant) cheers for the return of Amanda's Ask an Insufferable Music Snob feature.
I won't spoil all the good bits, but here's an appertif of sublime IMS-ery:
The kids on this rock list I’m on have totally left me in the dust with their taste. They all talk about albums and artists no one listened to back when I was an IMS: Orange Juice, The Band, The Raincoats, and everyone but everyone loves Neil Young and CCR now. Now, I’ve started listening to Neil Young, ‘On the Beach,’ and a little CCR, and I like it. Are the kids all right, or are they ruining me?—Karl the Idiot
Facetious question. You know you still got a leg up on kids these days. But CCR is definitely cool now, though Neil Young is someone I wouldn’t admit liking unless my only other option was sex with a warblogger.
[With apologies to Scott, who on Monday threatened to revoke my Candian citizenship if I didn't admit to at least some residual affection for Neil's oeuvre. I'll grant that I'd much rather listen to Neil Young (provided Crosby, Stills, and Nash are far, far away) than Leonard Cohen, since at least Neil actually writes, you know, songs. And I thought Neil's score to Dead Man was effective. But that's about as far as I'm willing to go.]
I just got word that the Director's Cuts segment on this Sunday's Weekend Edition will feature a look at the "more obscure" (their words) nominees for this year's Grammy awards, including John Hollenbeck's A Blessing.
Keeners can tune in Sunday morning on your local NPR affliate. Slackers can catch the audio archive here sometime after the segement has aired.
Now I have nothing but admiration for full-throated efforts to rope kids into the concert hall. There can never be too many discount tickets for students. Singles night at the symphony sounds a little painful but harmless. But as soon as come-ons to the pre-gray crowd take the form of specialized programming, the results often wind up looking positively geriatric. (Marvin Hamlisch is the illest!) I may not belong to the 18-34 club any more, but I didn't renounce my membership that long ago, and I don't recall liking lame, slurpy concerts any more then than I do now. Focus groups notwithstanding, the artistic tastes of the young are unpredictable. The 33-year old, musically inexperienced friend whom I took to hear Thomas Ades' hard-hitting Asyla and a Mozart Piano Concerto played by the Berlin Philharmonic last weekend had this to say: "That first piece was fantastic! And the Mozart was OK, too." It wasn't youth-oriented programming that got my friend to the concert (although, as a matter of fact, both pieces were by composers in their 20s). It was that irresistible opiate to which the callow and the ancient alike are addicted: a free ticket.
Attention Carnegie Hall management -- you want to know why I wasn't at that gig? (Of course you do. I'm an influential thought leader in your target demographic.)
Ethan Iverson says it all:
I saw the NY premiere of Thomas Adès' Asyla from the third-to last row in the rear balcony of Carnegie Hall. (Tix for two were still $155.)
In three of the four movements, tiny events happen before a crash, and I couldn’t really hear any of the tiny events well enough, even though all are marked “as loud as possible” in the score. Being so high up must have been the problem--perhaps in the $300 seats I would have heard the details better.
There was a recent discussion of ticket prices on the Finale users' listserv, especially the cost of seeing classical gigs versus rock or jazz gigs. Contributor Owain Sutton wrote:
At the South Bank Centre, you can see the Alban Berg Qt or the London Sinfonietta for £8, and the LPO for £6. And Figaro at the Royal Opera for £7.
Is the situation in America really that much different from this?
Goddammit. If I lived in London (like my brother), I'd be at The Barbican every week. (Especially for stuff like this.) But I haven't been to an orchestral concert since moving to NYC and barring some miraculous windfall, I don't see that changing anytime soon.
By contrast, Alarm Will Sound at Zankel Hall is a (relative) steal at $28-33. But when $30 is the low end of the price scale, it's not terribly mysterious why even people like me, who would have have loved to have caught this Met Orchestra gig (having yet to experience a truly killing live version of the Rite) tend to stay away.
And yes, I know, MySpace is part of the world's worst media baron's evil empire and is mostly populated by hipsters with terrible hair, and there's nothing there you can't get here (in fact, my MySpace audio clips are all tuncated due to the 6 MB file limit), but I'm told that "if you have a band, you just have to be on MySpace," so um... here I am.
[How's that for infectiously enthusiastic self-promotion?]