Sonny Sharrock. Thanks for reminding me Stephen Buono.
Here's a great article about the amazing Sonny. I saw him with the quartet Last Exit (Bill Laswell, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Peter Brotzman) around 1990 at a tiny supper club in Somerville Massachusetts called Johnny D's. They melted my face off.
I'll be performing with Aimee Mann and Billy Collins this next week…
4/22 Broadway Center for the Performing Arts: Tacoma WA 4/24 Cal Perfomances- Zellerbach Hall: Berkeley CA 4/25 Mondavi Center- UC Davis: Davis CA 4/26 John Van Duzer Theatre, Humboldt State University: Arcata CA
Playing with drummer/composer Dylan Ryan and Tim Young in the prog-trio Sand. This picture is EXACTLY what the music sounds like. You will diggit. Opening for Karen, reggie Watts great band full of tremendous musicians. 9pm show…
Here is an incredibly interesting interview and wonderful discussion on the consequences of belief between author/neuroscientist Sam Harris and Megan Phelps-Roper formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg put it succinctly: "With or without (religion) you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things it takes religion."
With skills ranging from piano prodigy to boxing manager and fight fixer, Charles Farrell is simply a fascinating character.
'The fix is in!' is a familiar cry in the movies. This always dramatic arc is usually portrayed by the fighter being told to take a dive in a particular round by a seedy manager, usually sacrificing his own ethics and career in the process. Farrell lays out how while not a fiction, fight-fixing in practice takes a more subtle route to the closing bell. He also makes a case for the practice as an ethical move in perhaps one of the dirtiest, most dangerous sports there is: one where arguably in the end every fighter loses.
Playing with Susanna Hoffs for her monthly residency. The Section 4tet rounds out the night with a set and Fred Armisen comes to do… what he does. Also Q and A with Film director Jay Roach and actor Malcom McDowell. 830 PM show @ The Coronet Theatre.
I was recently very lucky to hear the new My Brightest Diamond record in it’s entirety. It is just DYNAMITE. Shara Worden is one of my favorite newer artists and is so fantastically talented. Maybe it is more common these days to find musicians doing it themselves: writing, recording, arranging, producing? Certainly everyone tries to... or has to, often out of necessity, but I am rarely convinced it couldn’t have been better served by help, especially in the recording, arranging dept. This is not a dis to anyone, It’s just that I am just a big believer in the musical gene pool. You just can’t plan for people’s instincts; they are just too weird and unpredictable... and every side-job is very much an art. Thankfully.
Anyway, all to say: Shara delivers in those arenas all by herself. She is a wonderful assured writer, a very creative, thoughtful composer of string and wind parts and what an instrument is her voice. It’s feels nice to be completely blown away by new music. Not to say she doesn’t ask for and get help from the best on this record: Undersung hero Chris Bruce on bass and guitar, Zach Rae-keys and the great Earl Harvin on drums. Mixed and mastered by iconoclast Husky Huskolds.
I’ll be playing electric bass with the Jeff Parker quarter next week for this show. Jeff’s last trio record, A Bright Light In Winter, was on my turntable for a while and really inspiring. Chris Lopes on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. These guys really speak as a group. Beautiful. See below for a track... In addition to his work as a leader, Jeff has been a part of many great bands and project including Tortoise, Isotope 217, The Chicago Underground, and Joey DeFrancesco’s trio with George Flaudas.
Alto-ist Josh Johnson and drummer Jamire Williams round out the band for this upcoming show. Such good company, I am really psyched to play with these guys...
A beautiful and understated duo performance from Jeff and Rob Mazurek.
I have always loved Steve Swallow’s bass playing. He is just one for those players whose voice is unmistakable from note one. He is a ridiculous improvisor, an important composer and historically very connected to many important jazz-evolutionary threads of the past 50 years.
I am by no means a completist here or an authority on his output or playing. In fact, I can’t say that I have directly stolen ideas or approaches to the instrument from him in the same way I have stripped parts off of others… but when I think about jazz music and bass guitarists who are real stylists, he is the first to my mind (other than of course Jaco Pastorius.) His genius on the instrument and unparalleled support harmonically are obvious but I think that it was his unapologetic use of the bass GUITAR in jazz that moved me first as a younger player. Something to hold onto in the Wynton-era when I was initially learning to play and unsure of myself.
This blog entry at The Folks Who Feel Jazz blogspot really covers him well in a way I am unqualified to do. It is a REALLY great post. Check it out HERE.
His work in the early 1980’s with The John Scofield Trio was where I initially dug in. Especially the records Shinola and Out Like A Light. They were playing jazz with a real punk abandon at a time when Miles-y funk and smooth jazz was pretty locked in. My friend, the great guitarist Mike Castellana introduced me to those records with the fervor that only a 20 year old Berklee student could have and I was immediately hooked. Swallow was hammering away at the music with a pick and low voiced power chords and soloing very beautifully and deliberately. It is still influential music to me; I listen to those records often. This cut Holidays gets to the ideas and power pretty quick... (I really just initially wanted to post this track- there is so much about it that I love.)
There are many other places to dig deep: his early work with the sadly overlooked Jimmy Giufree, the beautiful records with Carla Bley, the continuing trio work he does with Sco, his own group and most recently a record with the wonderful pianist/organist Jamie Saft and the great Bobby Previte called The New Standard. (Check it HERE.)
I know that this post ( and many others) are probably too obvious for many of my muso friends, but I feel like shouting out about this hero.
Recent Steve Swallow with his own group of amazing players: Jorge Rossy, Chris Cheek, Steve Cardenas and the great Carla Bley.
His great composition for string quintet, bass (Scott LaFaro) and guitar. This Third Stream moment from when chamber music and jazz crossed paths brought to you by John Lewis. That style from the early 60’s has really been catching my ear lately; Gary McFarland’s idiosyncratic arranging work with John Lewis on Essence and the odd records he arranged for both Steve Kuhn and Bill Evans especially included.
Strings: Charles Libove, Roland Vamos (violins), Harry Zaratzian, Alfred Brown (violas), Joseph Tekula (cello). Conducted by Gunther Schuller.
And just because I am thinking about Jim Hall right now, this humbling bit of kick-assery w/ Sonny Rollins, Bob Cranshaw and Ben Riley on what looks to be a 60’s show wildly mistitled ‘Jazz Casual’.
Like so many others, I'm still thinking about Charlie Haden and what a huge loss his death leaves us with.
I really like what Keith Jarrett says about him in this clip- "Charlie stays within his abilities. So many people take so many risks that they wind up losing it in the middle..."
That statement struck me as almost perfunctory or even dismissive at first, but when I thought more about it, I understood it to be the ultimate compliment and the very definition of being a master: sitting in absolute authenticity and widening the circle to completely encompass, lift and compel everyone around you. In that rarest of spaces there simply are no risks to take. Charlie Haden in a nutshell.
The American Psychiatric Association awarded Irvin Yalom the 2000 Oscar Pfister Prize for important contributions to religion and psychology. His acceptance speech is definitely worth a read. (CLICK HERE.)
Yes, he seems to be styled by Alastair Crowley. Or maybe an extra in Rosemary’s Baby, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover- even if that book looks at first glance to be The Necronomicon.
Dr. Yalom is an American existential psychiatrist at Stanford University where he is a professor emeritus. I don’t know that much about him past his speech that I have linked to above... and his Wiki entry. The speech is one I have read many times over the years and find very inspiring. The reference to Nikos Kazantakis is right on time, every time. The inscription on his (Niko’s) tombstone reads: “ I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
To achieve that kind of present in real time even for a moment may be too much for me to hope for, but I am equally inspired by another Nikos quote referenced in Yalom’s speech. “Leave nothing for life but a burnt out castle.” That seems within all of our grasp.
Never had I heard more stylistic diversity in one set than I’d heard from Meshell Ndegeocello at World Cafe Live this past Friday night. Accompanied by seasoned players including Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboard, Abraham Brown on drums, and Paul Bryan on bass, Ndegeocello started by playing songs from a handful of her albums that preceded Comet, Come to Me. As such, practically each song showcased a different genre, but what else would you expect from such a prolific and accomplished musician?
The first set consisted of songs from Plantation Lullabies, Bitter, and Devil’s Halo, including “Soul Record”, “Fool”, “Love You Down” and “Berry Farms”. A fairly sexy drum and bass groove served as the rhythmic backbone of the latter, all too appropriate for the saucy story of the song. Bryan showcased his chops with some seriously funk-driven bass licks.
Ndegeocello more or less alternated between playing bass and singing without being constrained by an instrument. The second set, dedicated to tunes from Comet, Come to Me, allowed for more hands-free vocal work. A dissonant build up gave way to the title track, which sported down-tempo reggae, contemporary jazz and a bit of pop- quite a stylistic one-eighty compared to her usual approaches to songwriting.
“Conviction”, which Ndegeocello described as a friendship breakup song, was probably one of the most rock-forward tunes in the second set. She imparted some pre-song insight by saying, “You can’t judge other people for their choices, but you can choose whether to be around it.” The crowd seemed to have gotten a little sprightly at the start of this one.
According to my bassist concert companion, the light strumming work from both the lady of the hour and her accompanying bass player made for rich, warm tones. Their right hand plucking style for this performance ran contrary to the common strumming theory: the more force, the better the sound.
Other highlights included “Folie a Deux” which, according to Ndegeocello, is French for “Two people involved in craziness,” a notion that basically sums up how she feels about marriage, so she said. And who could forget the encore, a cover of “Friends” by ‘80s hip-hop group Whodini. It’s pretty rare for a musician to cover a rap song, so Ndegeocello said in our interview, but this rendition of hip-hop-gone-funk proved more than unique, and perhaps even more bad-ass than the original.
Meshell N'degeocello Tour early June 2014 I'll be playing with the tremendously gifted Meshell N'degeocello and her band this summer. We will be touring behind her great new record, Comet Comet To Me, out June 3rd.
This is a beautiful recording, captured and mixed by Pete Minh. Longtime band mates Chris Bruce, Jebin Bruni and drummer Earl Harvin all contribute mightily. Also on board are guest vocalist Shara Worden aka My Brightest Diamond and guest bassist (and writer of Conviction,) Kaveh Rastegar of Kneebody fame.
A few East Coast Dates below: Come out and see us! Friday May 30: Santa Monica CA Tues June 03: NYC, NY, Poisson Rouge Wed June 04: Baltimore MD, Soundstage Thurs June 05: Alexandria VA, The Birchmere Friday June 06: Philadelpha, PA, World Cafe Live Saturday June 07: Cambridge MA, The Sinclair
Speaking of sci-fi and Sturgeon’s Law.. here is some of the 10 per-cent: BIOPERVERSITY “In her towering and intrepid new novel, “Oryx and Crake”, Atwood, who is the daughter of a biologist, vividly imagines a late-twenty-first-century world ravaged by innovations in biological science.” -The New Yorker
I like to turn my brain off as much as the next guy. My main tools for thinking until very recently have been (personal) classics like: “Ignore it and maybe it will go away”, or “Time for a glass of scotch”. Daniel Dennett’s book, Intuition Pumps strongly makes the case for thinking as a fun activity. It’s a shame that it is a big heavy hardcover or I would just keep it in my bag and carry it around constantly to chew on.
(Click on Einstein)
Intuition pumps are tools to analyze the logic of an argument or as Dennett calls them- ‘handy prosthetic imagination extenders’. “All really serious thinking is interpersonal; we think by challenging each other with our ideas,” he says. These ‘candidates for fixed points’ give you a focus on a topic that is very useful.
Each device is described in short one or two page chapters (sometimes longer for the trippier ideas- and there are deeply trippyideas.) Simple, proven devices like the classic ‘Occam’s Razor’ share the page with examples of bad tools such as ‘Boom Crutches’: props for misguided thinking that eventually explode and leave one flat on his back. Anyone who has a passing acquaintance with Deepak Chopra’s particular brand of blarney will laugh having finished the ‘Deepities’ chapter, a term invented by the teenage daughter of a colleague: “A deepity is a proposition that seems to be profound because it is logically ill-formed. It has at least two meanings and balances precariously between the them. One reading is false and on the other it would be earth-shattering if true.”
“Love is just a word.” Yes, “love” is just a word. True and trivial. As Dennett puts it, “Cheeseburger” is also just a word. Minus the quotations, love is just a word is false. As Dennett writes, “Whatever love is, it isn’t just a word. Love may an emotion, it may be the most wonderful phenomenon in human psychology or it may be just an illusion… but it isn’t a just a word.”
(Relatedly, I love this Random computer-generated Depak quote machine someone linked to on Facebook: http://www.wisdomofchopra.com)
Sturgeon’s Law is fun too and immediately applicable to music. With the tremendous amount of musical and artistic static out there these days, Sturgeon’s Law has been popping into my head much more frequently. Thankfully. “When people talk about the mystery novel, they mention The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. When they talk about the western, they say there’s The Way West and Shane. But when they talk about science fiction, they call it “Buck Rogers stuff,” and they say “ninety percent of science fiction is crud.” Well, they’re right. Ninety percent of science fiction is crud. But then ninety percent of everything is crud, and it’s the ten percent that isn’t crud that is important, and the ten percent of science fiction that isn’t crud is as good or better than anything being written anywhere.” -writer Robert Sturgeon
Dennett observes: “A good moral to draw from this observation is that when you want to criticize a field, a genre, a discipline, an art form,… don’t waste your time and ours hooting at the crap! Go after the good stuff, or leave it alone. This advice is often ignored by idealogues intent on destroying the reputation of analytic philosophy, evolutionary psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, macroeconomics, plastic surgery, improvisational theater, television sitcoms, philosophical theology, massage therapy, you name it. Let’s stipulate at the outset that there is a great deal of deplorable, stupid, second-rate stuff out there, of all sorts. Now, in order not to waste your time and try our patiences, make sure you concentrate on the best stuff you can find, the flagship examples extolled by the leaders in the field, the prize-winning entries, not the dregs.”
Maybe more simply: Don’t waste your time on garbage, or “If it isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well.”
A really captivating Joni documentary. I have a large handful of her records but missed a few eras. This kind of put the timeline into perspective. And she really seemed to come out of the gate fully formed.
Even though I am exclusively an electric bass player, I don’t really listen to electric bassists all that much. There is of course a huge list of electric bassists who I love and are a deep part of my playing, it’s just not all that often that I hear a electric noise downstairs that makes me get out of bed to go investigate to see if someone has broken into the house.
I do listen to tons of music, both new and old. Nowadays the things that draw my ear are more often ‘the other’: a song form, drums, piano, the harmony, mysterious sonics of one kind or another, a great mix. If I think about bass it’s more likely to be how electric bass playing (my electric bass playing specifically) might work within whatever music I am hearing. I practice. I work with my sound. I scheme to get what’s in my head to come out of the speaker cabinet. I am just busy with my own thing and by now I suppose the die is cast in that department.
However, I do zero in quite often on the acoustic bass. A sizable majority of the music I listen to has upright bass as it’s anchor. This has always been a bit of a personal paradox as I am an electric player who loves to play improvised music. So why not play upright? I have always felt that you kind of have to choose one or the other, acoustic or electric- or it chooses you. The sheer amount of time that it takes to really develop your own voice kind of makes this choice a necessity. And there are few bassists if any that I can think of whose playing on both instruments I care about equally.
It seems that Ron Carter feels this same way about doubling to some degree:
He only briefly dabbled on electric in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, approaching it in a way that I absolutely love (including improvising using harmonics with Joe Henderson on Power To The People as early as 1969- Jaco fans step back!) While everyone knows what a master musician he is and the stunning breadth of his work on acoustic bass, I have only recently come to really love his brief turn around the room with the red-headed stepchild of jazz music. Earthy and elegant, just like his upright playing.
I have been doing some great gigs the past few days with Aimee Mann and former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins. Aimee and I met Billy at The White House Poetry night in 2012 (yes, that White House as pretentious as it sounds,) where we were all performing for The Obamas (along with Common and Steve Martin among others.)
Yesterday in the Pepperdine University green room, Billy made a comment about the tune I had just been running minutes earlier during soundcheck. I had been playing through the changes to Thelonius Monk’s Evidence which he recognized. We fell into a rangy conversation about jazz, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, NYC in the 80’s, and madman Charles Manson. Both Monk and Horace Silver came up in the same sentence during the jazz portion of the discussion. I scrambled through my iPhone to try and find the version I have of Mysterioso that they play on together (on a session with Sonny Rollins.) I misfired and played the wrong Rollins cut: his version of The Way You Look Tonight.
To my surprise, Billy impressively named all the musicians on the record date. And after it finished, he got up and ran to his dressing room, returning moments later with an earmarked book of poetry. It was open to this poem:
This is not bad --
ambling along 44th Street
with Sonny Rollins for company,
his music flowing through the soft calipers
of these earphones,
as if he were right beside me
on this clear day in March,
the pavement sparkling with sunlight,
pigeons fluttering off the curb,
nodding over a profusion of bread crumbs.
In fact, I would say
my delight at being suffused
with phrases from his saxophone --
some like honey, some like vinegar --
is surpassed only by my gratitude
to Tommy Potter for taking the time
to join us on this breezy afternoon
with his most unwieldy bass
and to the esteemed Arthur Taylor
who is somehow managing to navigate
this crowd with his cumbersome drums.
And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk
for figuring out a way
to motorize -- or whatever -- his huge piano
so he could be with us today.
This music is loud yet so confidential.
I cannot help feeling even more
like the center of the universe
than usual as I walk along to a rapid
little version of "The Way You Look Tonight,"
and all I can say to my fellow pedestrians,
to the woman in the white sweater,
the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses,
who mistake themselves for the center of the universe --
all I can say is watch your step,
because the five of us, instruments and all,
are about to angle over
to the south side of the street
and then, in our own tightly knit way,
turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.
And if any of you are curious
about where this aggregation,
this whole battery-powered crew,
is headed, let us just say
that the real center of the universe,
the only true point of view,
is full of hope that he,
the hub of the cosmos
with his hair blown sideways,
will eventually make it all the way downtown.
Yeah, I am shilling a product right now, but this program is truly great. I am constantly having to learn music, this makes it so much easier. I have tried a few others over the years, (one being Transcribe which is also very good,) but this one seems to have it all. Very intuitive. There is both a desktop and smartphone platform.