As we wind down, in our own slow fashion, we are thrilled to be able to go out with a bang: we are giving away a copy of the limited run FMP box set, Im Rückblick - In Retrospect. This massive set includes 12 CDs, including many previously unreleased recordings, plus a beautifully produced large-format book that illustrates and elucidates the FMP journey in words and pictures. The book includes a complete discography, tons of amazing photographs by Dagmar Gebers, and contributions from Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark, Alexander von Schlippenbach, and many others. It’s Out-of-Print and fetches hundreds of dollars on Ebay.
In order to make sure that this set goes to a good home, we are raising the bar for entry. Here’s the rundown:
Anyone who purchases at least *TWO* FMP releases from the D:O Download store from today (March 17th) onward is eligible for the drawing. And the more you buy from the store, the more chances you have of winning! (We would also ask that, given the limited nature of this prize, if you already have one, it would be sporting if you refrained from entering at this time.) The closing date for purchases to enter the contest is April 1st.
To make shopping a little easier, we’ve added a number of outstanding releases to the FMP Bandcamp store. Plus there are a number of landmark titles queued up and almost ready to go. You can also now send downloads of albums as gifts. Happy hunting and good luck!
A SLOW FADE-OUT
In the coming months, we’re going to be pulling the plug on Destination: Out. It’s been a great run – almost eight years! We’re extremely proud of the site and thankful for the many musicians, critics, and fans who’ve generously contributed guest posts, rare music, and timely advice over the years. All the comments and emails from readers have meant more than we can properly say. Rather than announce an abrupt ending, we wanted to give you a heads-up that the end is nigh. There will be a few more new posts, a farewell contest, and then a refocusing of energies. The site will continue to exist online as an archive, but it won’t be active.
RADIO ATE THE INTERNET STAR
Why are we ending the site? Truthfully, we simply don’t have enough time to do it justice. We’ve struggled to keep the site active, but increasingly our energies have been pulled elsewhere. Jeff J. has been focusing on promoting his debut novel Mira Corpora and launching a fiction career. Jeff G. has been working on creating a three-hour radio show every single week for the Give the Drummer Radio stream on WFMU. We had to make some hard choices. One thing we really didn’t want to oversee was D:O’s slow slide into irrelevance, as it became a repository for broken links and comment spam.
Rather than continue to let our energies flow in different directions, we’ve decided to combine them once again — and focus on making the radio show a true joint venture. The program already features the sort of rare and adventurous jazz we’ve showcased here — and we plan to add a lot more surprising left-turns to the mix. If you’re not already a listener of the show and you’ve enjoyed the site, we promise you’ll want to tune in!
A PARTING GIFT FOR YOU
Next week, look for details of the biggest giveaway we’ve ever done on the site. We have a copy of the massive FMP Box Set — 12 CDs of material, much of it previously unreleased, and a deluxe book with articles, color photos, and documentation. This limited edition set — from a run of 1,000 copies — is OUT OF PRINT and easily worth hundreds of dollars. And we’ve got a copy to give to one of you. Stay tuned for more details about this and the FMP Bandcamp store.
RE-UPPING OLD POSTS
In the meantime, are there any old posts you want to see re-upped? Scroll through the archives to check out the many offerings. Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to accommodate as many requests as we can.
Jeff Jackson (Chilly Jay Chill) & Jeff Golick (Prof. Drew LeDrew)
The boys from D:O
The bad-ass cover is the first clue that this isn’t your typical solo percussion recital. Drummer Detlef Schönenberg has crafted a compelling industrial soundscape of rattling beats, hissing metal, and chiming tones. It offers sculpted noise and subtle beat science and remains musical in unexpected ways. Fans of early Einstürzende Neubauten should especially take note!
A gorgeous outlier in the FMP catalog, this solo piano album by Curtis Clark traffics in blues and ballads. Clark – who plays with David Murray – mines the African American jazz tradition for his own purposes, unfurling pieces of voluptuous melancholy, sly dissonance, and spiky blues. From an inventive take on Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” to the keening hesitations of “Self Trait,” this understated gem offers many moments of unadulterated pleasure.
Here’s the *REAL* Santana! A lost classic of European jazz, this early recording by the potent trio of Pierre Favre, Irène Schweizer, and Peter Kowald was waxed in 1968, before Carlos started gigging under his own name. This churning music may contain echoes of Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley, but mainly it’s forging a new sonic vocabulary that would inspire European players over the coming decade. Volatile and vital, unpredictable and gorgeous, it’s been buried for far too long.
Another valuable rarity rescued from the vaults! This solo piano album by Urs Voerkel has a stellar reputation among the few lucky enough to hear it. The album has earned comparisons to Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, and even Professor Longhair while clearly forging its own distinct musical path. Intrepid and addictive, it’s a compelling combination of American and European idioms that still sounds fresh.
This exceptionally rare trio date led by pianist Urs Voerkel is full of racheting tensions and blissful dissipations. Percussionist Lovens and bassist Frey deliver sympathetic accompaniment, knowing when to underpin the melodic motifs and when to undermine them. There’s an impressive sense of percolating momentum and tumult that never lets up. As Melody Maker wrote on its release: “Really, you should hear this album!”
David S. Ware
AUM Fidelity : 2011
David S. Ware, saxophones; Cooper-Moore, piano; William Parker, bass; Muhammed Ali, drums.
We are thrilled to present the next installment of our Five Spot series, selected and described by bassist/composer/bandleader William Parker. Parker, who often references other musicians in his work, writes about five inspiring performances of significant importance to him. In Parker’s monumental new box set Wood Flute Songs, there are major compositions dedicated to several of the people discussed below (Ware; Kalaparusha; and Bang). Wood Flute Songs was recently named “#1 Archival Release of the Year” by The Wire. We highly recommend it as well!
1) Kalaparusha Ahra Difda AKA Maurice McIntyre, “Behold! God’s Sunshine!” (Forces and Feelings, Delmark, 1972). The late Kalaparusha Ahra Difda AKA Maurice McIntyre was one of the most important musicians who came out of the AACM. He had a New York sensibility and in his heyday was a major force in the music. This is from his second recording under his own name. The song expresses a wide range of spiritual messages, as does the entire recording — seven compositions (prayers) that, when listened to repeatedly, echo the sentiment and power of God’s Sunshine.
This is a special late sixties, early seventies music that served as a source of inspiration for the black community and all communities who could hear and feel the energy. This was part of the New Black Music in America. Kalaparusha’s saxophone playing was powerful, bright, and filed with Light. Fred Hopkins is shining throughout. In fact, all the musicians shine.
Personnel: Kalaparusha, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Sarnie Garrett, guitar; Fred Hopkins, bass; Wesley Tyrus, drums; Rita Omolokun (Worford), vocals.
2) David S. Ware, “Shift” (Planetary Unknown, AUM Fidelity, 2011).
All the music on this album falls in the category of beautifully generous sound; it flows moment to moment. I was in the David S. Ware groups since 1981. I rarely listen to recordings once they are done; listening to this music was a surprise and revelation to me. These sounds are in the realm of true Soul music because they travel through many moods and dimensions taking us on a journey that goes directly into the soul. It is also a cathartic blues-based music that is being played in the moment without a predictable outcome.
Personnel: David S. Ware, saxophones; Cooper-Moore, piano; William Parker, bass; Muhammed Ali, drums.
3) Bill Dixon, “Velvet” (November 1981, Soul Note, 1982).
This recording is very important to me as it was recorded the same day — November 8, 1981 — I recorded an album with Cecil Taylor called Calling It the Eighth. Bill Dixon played first at the festival in Zurich, then the New Cecil Taylor unit played. Bill graciously introduced us. The music Bill played that afternoon was breathtakingly beautiful. I was convinced if the wind were to blow through a trumpet, you would have Bill Dixon.
Personnel: Bill Dixon, trumpet; Alan Silva, bass; Mario Pavone, bass; Lawrence Cook, bass.
Joe Morris/Mat Maneri
AUM Fidelity: 2000
4) The language Joe Morris and Mat Maneri are using expresses still another kind of landscape, and this music is beautiful in an entirely different way. They make quick changes and within each sound there is a complete musical universe.
Nothing is missing; they are transforming sound into tone. The tone changes and is held together with rhythms and melodic fragments. Listen to how it trances around itself creating a web that captures and frees at the same time.
Personnel: Joe Morris, electric guitar; Mat Maneri, electric violin.
5) Billy Bang, “Reconciliation” (Vietnam: Reflections, Justin Time, 2005).
The music on this recording meant a lot to Billy Bang. I know he put a tremendous amount of work into its preparation. Going to the Vietnam War ripped his life apart. Playing the violin helped to reconnect him with the light and the living. Billy was a great composer and visionary; his music was always emotional, spiritual, and political. He knew how to reach people. When he played the violin, he touched the core of a human being. One’s spirit could not resist being uplifted, even with the sadness expressed in the music.
Personnel: Billy Bang, violin; James Spaulding, flute, alto sax; Henry Threadgill, flute; Ted Daniel, trumpet; Butch Morris, conductor; John Hicks, piano; Curtis Lundy, bass; Michael Carvin, drums; Ron Brown, percussion; Co Boi Nguyen, vocalist; Nhan Thanh Ngo, dan tranh.
Oliver Lake Quartet
Clevont Fitzhubert (A Good Friend of Mine)
Black Saint : 1981
PA, drums; Oliver Lake, alto sax; Baikida Carroll, trumpet; Donald Smith, piano.
3 IN 1
House of Spirit – “Mirth”
Passin’ Thru : 1979
Live at Montreal International Jazz Fest
Black Saint : 1984
PA, drums; Henry Threadgill, alto sax; Fred Hopkins, bass.
We at D:O were delighted to recently receive an email from Jake Nussbaum and Alex Lewis, of Expandable Sound, a documentary project that seeks to record knowledge associated with improvised music, and the performers thereof. They had interviewed drummer/composer Pheeroan akLaff, and wanted to know if we’d like to host it. This is what’s known in the blogging community as a no-brainer. Herewith, in mildly edited form, the words of akLaff, Nussbaum, and Lewis. (You might also be interested in checking out the interview Nussbaum & Lewis did with Oliver Lake, which you can find at Ethan Iverson’s Do the Math.)
This interview took place backstage at Flushing Town Hall, before Pheeroan’s performance with the Don Byron New Gospel Quintet, 9/27/2013.
Jake Nussbaum: Maybe we could start by introducing yourself and talking a little bit about Detroit.
Pheeroan akLaff: My name is Pheeroan akLaff and I would like to be forgiven for every place I have walked and crushed flowers, and for every place that I may have thought a bad thought. One of my biggest joys is that I came from a great family who enjoyed music and thought that we should all have music lessons. It started out with my elder brother (I am the second in seven), who took to the pianoforte like the fury of the heavens was unleashed. It was a very high bar for my involvement in music, and it took me a long time to talk my father into getting me a drum set. But my Uncle Harry forced his hand and I did get going with the drums. I took the usual lessons and played music in Junior High.
Then High School came and I had to decide whether to be in the band or on the football team. Well considering my size, I should have chosen the band. But the band director was a bad guy, and I thought I could actually go from Little Catholic League to High School League and still play middle linebacker. Well… that didn’t work out. The middle linebacker was as big as the coach himself. So, they told me to run the ball, but I ran over people instead of hitting the hole. They thought I was sarcastic.
Then I discovered tennis and said forget this! The tennis coach was very cool… He said, “Do you know who Arthur Ashe is? Do you know how fast the ball is traveling when Jimmy Connors hits it?” So I was like, wait a minute. This is something different.
All along, playing drums was for fun and at home. I would play for my friends, but I never thought I could really be professional. I’d seen the motown bands, they’d play Detroit every Christmas. I’d seen people in churches play. My friend and I would go see Alice Coltrane, Horace Silver… We were only 14 but we’d get on the bus and go downtown and see jazz.
So, somewhere along the line I just decided, OK, I should keep doing this. I took my drums into my room at Eastern Michigan University. Then I run into Travis Biggs, my brother’s colleague, who said, “You got your drums?” I said, “Yeah, but I don’t think you want me to play with you.”
Well he said, “Bring ‘em over!”
So basically I learned how to play drums from an arranger, conductor, producer, singer, violinist. saxophonist, pianoplayer guy named Travis. He taught me the most significant things about the drumset and its accompaniment role. Learning that helped me a lot, I even got on a record. I made a 45 when I was sixteen of a pretty popular bluesy R&B singer named Major Lasky. Lansky? Lasky? I can’t remember. He’s on those classic “whateverhappenedto” lists.
Alex Lewis: How did you meet Travis?
PA: I’d known him since I was 10. We were in the neighborhood together, and he had a younger brother my age. So there were the two genius guys, my brother and Travis, and then there were their younger brothers. So he was 18 when I was 15, and he’s already arranged and produced a 45 for this singer Major Lasky. And we went and recorded it, and then I heard it on the radio! So that was an inspiration…
But, I went in other directions thinking I could do something more in service or in communication. I thought I could do something in news or something like that, but once I started playing music I just kept going.
But I have to tell you I ran into a brick wall. Because I played with a band called The Last Days. I quit a band that was workshopping in the basement of a former Motown studio writer. This woman was a songwriter and had written for Stevie Wonder even. We were rehearsing in her basement, but the keyboardist and I quit and went to The Last Days.
It really was the last days… At one point the organ player, the leader, looked at me said, “What’s wrong with you??”
I said, “What do you mean?”
“How old are you?!”
“Do you realize you’re playing in a band with 30-year-old junkies?! What are you going to do with your life?!”
So that was the end of that. I said I guess I’m not going to be doing this…
Between that and wanting to start a band like Weather Report, I said, it’s time to go. So I thought I’d go to New York.
I’d been there once when I was 15 years old to visit my aunt, and to protest the Vietnam War with the Church Bus. That was 1971. And there I heard the most memorable speech, by Julian Bond, to impeach Richard Nixon. That was the one that did it.
So I said I got to go back to that New York place. I hopped on a friend of mine’s back and I go to New Haven with him because he’s going to Yale Divinity School… So we started a band there, and I’m going around trying to make it work. It was a band with semi-professionals and students.
Well, talk about spiritually connected to music! There was a 1970s feel that cannot be described when it came to a reverence in music. And music presentation. I would say that, from my personal work, it revolved around trying to do as well as other great men had done in their fields. So I’m here on Yale campus and I’m looking at great men like Charles T. Davis who started the African-American studies department at Yale? Robert Thompson who is the most significant African Art professor at Yale and an ethomusicological genius and practitioner of spiritual work. All these great people that I’m performing music for and around.
The way I met Wadada Leo Smith was my band (called Deja Vu!!) played on the Yale Campus for students who were organizing a rally, against a speaking engagement given to William Shockley. He was known for his racist steering of gene technology. So this whole thing about having music be useful to bring about change, not immediately seen but maybe immediately felt, maybe not immediately felt or maybe the light bulb does come on, whatever the rate of vibration is that gets utilized, it’s just important to know that it’s there and we can direct it with our positive energies and transformative perspectives.
I learned that in a practical way by seeing simple beauties and resonances in church settings. But then there was this other more pungent kind of resonance that would happen in jazz that would give much more challenge to the moment. Are you going to start crying or are you going to run out of the room screaming? Which one are you going to do? You may as well feel melted.
So that was my beginnings in terms of Detroit to the East Coast.
JN: Was it in New Haven that you fell in with the AACM guys?
PA: Yeah. Wadada himself was an AACM guy, the first I was to know. 1975. So by working with him and the New Delta Akri Group (which involved Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Wes Brown), I began to get active in New York, where other people like Henry Threadgill and Amina Claudine Myers also hired me. It was more than a hiring, actually, it was more of an adoption. I have been told by Muhal Richard Abrams that I’m an honorary member of the AACM, even though I’m not from Chicago!
AL: Did they take you under their wing?
PA: Well, I also had a group of people who were like them in Detroit, but I wasn’t playing music at the time. This organization was called Strata West. They produced shows, so I went to see the Elvin Jones experience when I was not yet 20. Needless to say that made a big impression on my cranium.
JN: So what was the political dimension to the music of that time? When you were performing, was that present in your mind?
PA: Well, there are two ways to do what you want to do in music and performance. They both have to do with intention.
One, you don’t have anything to do with it. You’re part of a whole and you’re a fluent vessel for all these things to come through you.
And then there’s the other one, when you go into meditation with Quest. As opposed to being just a blade of grass waving in the wind, you’re a blade of grass looking in a particular focused direction in order for the wind to blow you that way!
Or, blades of grass grow toward the sun. So how are we going to draw forward the best that we can, to become manifest? And that’s a completely different way to perform.
One of my newest references is thinking of current and voltage. Transmitting voltage, you want to understand what the reception level of the current is! Sometimes that happens with energy, people, sounds, references, cliches, bombastics… And sometimes it happens in acoustics. What does it remind you of if you keep letting your voice resonate?
So there are all these ways of deciding what’s important for the sound environment over time… Over time you feel like you can see into the 5th dimension… Did I say 5th? I meant the 4th… Maybe I meant 5th! Since I’m so used to the 4th. [laughs]
That’s one of my favorite things, just to be able to visualize the past (where we are) and take us to someplace that exists already and is full of glee.
AL: Do you think about that when you’re composing?
PA: Lately, my composing happens because of a deadline… So I’d like to say I compose from the drums more. And I’m not really trying to be visual and project when I’m composing, I’m trying to interpret stuff that’s coming to me. That’s a little different than what I’m doing in performance when I’m measuring how to emote. So that’s pretty strenuous… Sometimes I do say, I need the orange song, a deep minor groove. That’s about as technical as I’ll get.
JN: When did the east come in?
PA: The far east came in in 1977. That period in New Haven, there was so much magic in the air, it’s hard to describe… It was as if the age of aquarius had come! I mentioned the 5th dimension earlier, so now I’ll round it out with Aquarius. My first trip to Europe was in 1977, too.
That’s when I changed my name. I changed my name because of my spiritual parents that I met right there in New Haven. They were a couple, the man an Egyptologist, the woman an Astrologist. Brother Ade and Sister Akouah. They were both ministers, they were both psychic.
Most people didn’t want to hang out with them, but I would sit there and listen to them a lot. They used to call me all these wonderful things, and I thought it might be cool to take that on. But I also thought I would need to live up to it as best I could, so I never really talked about it. People asked me for years why I changed my name and what it means, but it wasn’t because I found a religion like many guys did in the jazz tradition (or Muhammad Ali). It really was because all these people starting calling me that name.
So Brother Ade kept saying, “I keep seeing Asia in your future.” And I’m thinking, I’m 20 years old, I don’t know what this guy is talking about! “Yeah sure Brother Ade whatever!” I mean that’s not what I said, I was probably quiet and we were probably meditating on concepts of Ptah the El Dauod…
They both had a huge influence on me. They allowed me to believe that it was okay to do all the weird things and think all the weird thoughts, and in addition study a lot of different things that had to do with history, and the physical evolution of mankind, and the metaphysical evolution of angelkind. So we were constantly going up and down the scale of different states of beings. They were my precursor to the quantum theory, folks!
AL: Was it stuff you felt you couldn’t learn from other musicians? Did you reach outside the musical community?
PA: That’s exactly it. It started early. I knew there was something more. I needed to keep in touch with the values of why I was doing it. When I first moved to New York, I went to museums and talked to painters. I didn’t go to jazz clubs. I had a couple little jobs and I’d run back and forth to New Haven to teach and I had a job in Anthony and Oliver [Lake]’s band, and by ‘76 with Threadgill. So I had enough musicians! I wanted to expose myself to other arts, the languages that they used, and the philosophies that they took on. So I was an early member of The Studio Museum of Harlem for that reason, and I got to meet some really interesting people. Great painters and sculptors.
JN: In our lessons we were always talking about the past. Ancient tradition and modern tradition. You’ve played with Cecil Taylor. I think about the way he pushes forward with new language but is also very much rooted in tradition. What do you feel like that relationship is? How do you push the language forward and honor tradition?
PA: I have one huge prayer that I start with, purely Forgiveness. I start with Forgiveness. First of all, I can’t be and do and give if I’m stinking. So I must first ask for Forgiveness (and Gratitude!) to just be in a position to be this messenger.
That puts me in a position of not even knowing where I might fit in the lineage, but it does make me smile… The fact that I played with Andrew Hill, I mean, I couldn’t even remember to tell him all the important things I’d heard of his music when I was younger! Because he himself was so humble and always thinking about the moment, that just made me feel so comfortable. I was only thinking about now, what are we doing now? And he wouldn’t always be the one who wanted to define it. He was so curious about his environment, as brilliant of a mind as he was.
So let’s put it this way. Let’s get bibliographical. Let’s get biblical. I’m from Detroit and there’s nobody around 50 or 60 playing drums in New York that’s from Detroit is there? I dunno. I might be the only one around from my area that’s 60… Doug Hammond is in Germany. I came right after him. He used to play with Kirk Lightsey and James Blood Ulmer. Ricky Lawson went to LA, we’re the same age. I took his place in the Ebony Set when he left actually.
So after Ricky moved to LA to become a star, I got the gig. I go to New York, Ricky goes to LA. I get to play with Cecil Taylor, he gets to play with Michael Jackson! So that’s where I fit in the genealogy [laughing]. How do you like that?? I was listening to Sun Ra when he was listening to Diana Ross.
AL: I’m curious about coming to New York and joining all these bands, Threadgill, Oliver Lake, Cecil. Do you consider the guys from that scene to be your mentors and your community? Or just a period of time?
PA: Well, it’s definitely the latter. It is not my immediate community, because I’ve expanded. Those guys sort of catapulted me out into the world. When they look at me they’re looking at a kaleidoscope. They put me in a position of being able to be hopefully as inspirational as they were to me. I can see in each of them’s eyes right now, the most important things they’ve said to me, and how that’s helped me stay the course. Which is not easy in the performance world with all the traps and holes you can fall into…
They’re like the beginning planets, and now I’m busting around the universe with all these other satellites, meteorites, and asteroids. But I must speak their language, because every now and then people want to know, “What did you just say? What does that mean?” And then I realize I have to explain all the layers of this to other people.
AL: Is that why you wanted to be a band leader?
PA: No, I only want to do that because no one else is going to let me do the weird things that I like to do! For example, the latest band I have is called Dear Freedom Suite. So I have all these weird ways of talking about freedom, honor, and closeness, all in one title. With this band I can play like I’m in nature, or in a jazz or fusion band. There are different genre-based elements that can pop up from time to time, and there’s also just the all-out emoting about the way you feel for the instrument and the company.
I did a solo concert once in Nagano in a temple. And I realized there was a pretty wide range of things on the program, including my vocalizing, and saying my poetry that nobody understood, but it was an opportunity for me to express myself. That was in 2005, the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For me it was a significant day and peace concert, for that particular energy.
So there are reasons that I want to do accompaniment, or be a leader, or do things as a solo artist. When I did my solo oratorio it was inspired by Bush’s declaration of war in 2003. I did it for that reason. I called it “W Can’t Win.” I said, I wonder what W stands for?
So by incorporating many of these ways of discussing the emotional truths we have to face as humans on the planet and how we treat each other, the political element does pop up. Or what is called political, or what is lived as political, or what we accept as political. I’m not sure what those parameters are, but I’m not in the box! I might be on the box, but I’m not in it.
JN: Could you talk about Japan and how that happened?
PA: Well it started because of Brother Ade’s predictions, but it didn’t officially happen until 1988. It only took 10 years for his prediction to come through! He was probably working on it from the heavens.
I started working with Yosuke Yamashita in ‘88, and this is our 25th anniversary tour coming up. I’d go back with other people too, I did a tour there with Mal Waldron, one with my own band. Each time there’s so much history built up, because Yamashita is a magnanimous artist and a national treasure, so the people I met were all great, both in stature and goodness.
That’s how I started the book I’m working on now. I thought, somebody needs to know about these guys. It’s a very interesting group of people. Most of us think that jazz in Japan only goes back to the war, but it goes back way deeper.
So I probably have about as many unusual stories as you can imagine. To take it up a notch, I’d been going to Japan a few years. A buddy of mine, a director, starts doing a film on doubles, kids born during the war. They don’t call them half and half, they call them doubles because they have both cultures. So he’s doing this film and he asks Yamashita to do the score.
Then I have a gig in Toronto and I take my dad. We’re sitting in the hotel room and I tell him that we’re doing the film score about mixed children born in Japan during the war. He says oh yea? Well you know your Uncle George… I said, what do you mean? You never told me about my Uncle George having a child in Japan! Am I supposed to be angry with him? Then he tries to scrape together a story, maybe my mother has a picture of the kid in the house… And I’m freaking out! Do you know how many times I could have passed this guy related to me? My first cousin? It’s kind of out to lunch…
That story put in me in a state. So I was over in Yokohama, poking around historical records, and Yamashita put an ad in the local newspaper… So that’s been an interesting thing to think about in addition to everything else.
We played at the Chicken George in Kobei, and the next year the earthquake came. And I was looking around for people then, too. There’s only one or two guys I haven’t heard from since then… So there are some ups and downs, but mostly ups.
JN: You just got back from tour there…
PA: Believe it or not, the best performance was probably the one where the typhoon stopped everyone from coming. I was playing some strange drum set that wasn’t mine. But, fortunately, we were in a temple. It was my first time coming into this temple. Something that was more unique about this temple not only were my drums set up at the altar, so going to the drumset I’m facing the Buddha and have to make my necessary humility get utilized again (sometimes I do it with a bow). But as the priest was leaving, he left from a certain line, which I followed coming in. It’s kind of a small thing, but it’s a very large thing too. I’m trying to find my way into the sacred geometry of the space. That’s what I’m challenged with, in addition to coming up with a good concert.
But the other thing about this particular temple is that the priest himself does a little drum and metal stuff. And they all have different ways of opening the evening. It was very interesting to hear what he was doing.
So we get set up, we know many people are not coming. So we had 1,520 people where there could have been 150. But it was really special. And a lot of the reason why is because we focused more on who’s there, not who’s not there, and if the who’s there is small they’re getting a huge concentration of stuff. So it can be really personal. So that was really compelling, in addition to having to start out on your knees and end up on your knees at the same time. Plus I had to play with no shoes on!
The two temples we played were a real blessing.
JN: Tonight you’ll be playing in another sacred space, the Flushing Town Hall. They have a poster for Frederick Douglass’ speech here right on the sidewalk. Often you find yourself playing in these sacred spaces… How do you communicate sacred things by playing drums?
PA: I’ll take you back to when I was your age . I had a gig with Wadada Leo Smith in a Church on 12th street and 5th Ave. Right down there in the older part of Manhattan. An old Church. I was playing in the sanctuary area of the church with Wadada. After the performance a woman came up to me and said, you know, that was a great performance. But I have to tell you whenever you play that drum [points toward the floor tom], I had this incredible terrifying feeling in my stomach…
So I took it to mean, as I did many things in that time, that somehow the vibration of that drum triggered something in this being. Because of the space, not me necessarily, though she could’ve been scared as hell of me! The fact that it happened and she told me, set the whole thing in motion again.
That is, it reinforced whatever ghost that was, it reinforced my belief that I’m reaching people in some way, whatever way that may be, maybe it was my one time to be Lakota and speak through the drum, maybe one of the ancient Arawaks was standing in that same spot 400 years ago and saying Let this woman know what I think about this subject!! I don’t know. But that gave me a kind of confidence and an exclamation point. Yes, this does go beyond you, which is why you can’t think of yourself as the generator. You can tap in and take your ride, move mountains if you have to, or get rolled over by the train, whichever way it is, but it’s all in service of a bigger thing. Especially using the vibrations of music.
The thing about the concert tonight, you’ll hear music from the 1920s and 30s. So we’re young people trying to give a strong vibration of those elders who did their thing. So we’re trying to translate that message and give our own presentation of it.
JN: My first connection to you was the student/teacher relationship. In our lessons we often talked about technique, posture, and breathing. Those were some of my most memorable lessons with you. In other lessons we would just sit, talking like this, and those are also some of the most memorable! When you’re approaching teaching music and the drums, what are those ideas that aren’t specific to rudiments, or being an expert? What are those values that you’re bringing to the table?
PA: I focus on those other things primarily because I’m teaching the person in front of me. I’m not methodical in teaching. I’m methodical only in that I want you to have a balanced diet. That comes from more than just playing the instrument, it comes from many places.
It would make us better if we begin by listening. Listening is the most important thing, that’s difficult to teach. Getting someone to hear what is possible to be heard. And I say possible not preferred, which is an important distinction… Sometimes discussions can bring that out.
But what I don’t want to end up saying is, “you want to do this in order to get to this.” There’s nothing wrong with saying that. You want to keep time in order to keep your job! So sometimes you have to bear down and deal with a very fundamental bit of fundamentals. But the reason I enjoy teaching is because I enjoy teaching the individual. I didn’t talk to other people about the same things that you and I talked about. Everyone has their own plate.
Our teaching situation is most rare because we’re in a room for an hour together. It’s not a like a lecture. So it’s unbelievably exposing. Not everyone can handle that. All kinds of things can rise up to get in the way of the person learning to be themselves around the instrument, find music in the instrument, and find enjoyment enough to work and practice things.
Every now and again I find myself in a unique situation, and that makes it necessary to be unconventional in my teaching style. From where we are now, undergraduate music instrument learning is one of the best things people can do.
Alex Lewis is an independent radio producer and musician living in Philadelphia.
Jake Nussbaum is a musician and writer. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT.
Expandable Sound is a documentary project by Nussbaum and Lewis, exploring the ways knowledge is produced and communicated through jazz and improvisational music.
In many ways, this is a lost John Tchicai album. It’s a showcase for his formidable talents as a big band leader and arranger – not much seen since his days with Candentia Nova Danica – featuring an impressive group of second-generation German jazz musicians. Tchicai puts the emphasis on ensemble interplay and compositional prowess, creating a remarkable album that deserves a much-wider audience.
This highly sought-after live album features two of Europe’s finest improvisers. It’s a terrific showcase for the talents of pianist Schweizer and bassist Léandre, highlighting their musical range in a series of taut and concise tunes. Their vivid interactions unleash delicate minimalism, percussive call-and-response, lyrical interludes, and much more. Recommended!
Powered by the drummer from Krautrock legends Guru Guru, this quartet offers sci-fi inspired soundscapes that remix the vocabulary of free jazz and improv. From sinister ambiance to skittering blow-outs, the tunes are potent and sharply honed. Trumpeter Mich Gerber adds some moments of breathtaking lyricism to this under-appreciated excursion. Not so far from Bill Frisell and Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Powertools band.
Humor often gets short shrift in improvised music, but Misha Mengelberg knows that it can be more profound than sturm und drang. Impromptus is an inspired and inventive solo piano romp through various short song forms. It’s filled with hairpin turns and unexpected musical jokes, as well as passages that are touching and lyrical. Unfettered fun that’s as serious as your laugh.
An overlooked gem in the FMP catalog, this confusingly-titled album features saxophonist Lol Coxhill, guitarist Mike Cooper, and pianist David Holland, who’s not to be confused with the bassist who shares his name. It’s a jaunty and folk-tinged excursion into the rondo form, full of gorgeous melodies, playful interactions, and unbridled improvisations. Sample a tune — we predict you’ll be hooked!
SONG FOR LAUREN, alt 2
Nation Time: The Complete Recordings (1969-70)
Corbett vs. Dempsey : 2013
JM, tenor sax; Mike Kull, piano; Tyrone Crabb, bass; Bruce Thompson, drums.
As noted here two weeks ago, the fine folks at the Chicago-based label Corbett vs. Dempsey were kind enough to allow us to give away a copy of their extremely fine new expanded reissue of Joe McPhee’s Nation Time. Entry was based on purchases at the D:O FMP download store, and we have tallied those orders, drawing one customer at random from the pile.
And the winner is: Mihaly Balogh, of Ridgewood! Congratulations, Mihaly, and many thanks to all who participated.
We are planning an even more massive giveaway for early 2014, so watch this space for an additional chance to win some astounding music. If you can’t wait that long, perhaps you’ll want to drown your sorrows in the offerings on display at the D:O store….
SONG FOR LAUREN, alt 2
Nation Time: The Complete Recordings (1969-70)
Corbett vs. Dempsey : 2013
JM, tenor sax; Mike Kull, piano; Tyrone Crabb, bass; Bruce Thompson, drums.
The recent appearance of a 4-CD set containing remastered and unreleased classic work from Joe McPhee is cause for celebration around these parts. Nation Time is a favorite album and this set offers a treasure trove of new material around that landmark release. We were overjoyed when the Chicago label responsible for this musical windfall, Corbett vs. Dempsey, was kind enough to provide D:O with a copy of the set to give away!
Unlike previous giveaways, winning this set requires more than just guessing a number. This time, it’s closer to a raffle.
1) You enter by buying something from the FMP Download Store. For each item you buy, you’re entered one time into the drawing. The more you buy, you more you increase your chances of winning! There’s a huge range of music to choose from: FMP classics to brilliant rarities that’ve been out of print for 30+ years. It’s win-win!
2) You can buy music for yourself — or as a gift for somebody else! Bandcamp now allows you to buy songs and albums to send as gifts. Show off your good taste. What better holiday present than some exceptional music?
3) Any purchases made starting November 25th are automatically entered in the drawing. We’ve also added a bunch of new titles to the store over the past week – including albums by John Tchicai, Misha Mengelberg, Irene Schweizer, and more!
CONTEST ENDS SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14 @ 11:59 PM EST.
* 1 CD of “Nation Time,” the original LP, complete as issued & re-mastered
* 1 CD of “Black Magic Man,” the original LP, complete with two alternate takes of “Song for Lauren”
* 1 CD of “The Vassar Sessions, 1970,” six unreleased tracks from the Nation Time recording sessions
* 1 CD of “Nation Time Preview, 1969,” two concert recordings in the run-up to Nation Time
* 60-page liner booklet, full-color, stocked with never-published vintage photos
* Definitive “Nation Time” interview with Joe McPhee by John Corbett
* Hardshell case, separate cardboard sleeves for all 4 discs
* Luxurious design by Sonnenzimmer
“In 1970, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee waxed one of the landmark free-funk records: Nation Time. Recorded in concert at Vassar College and originally released on McPhee’s own CjR label, Nation Time culled elements of post-Coltrane spiritual jazz, greasy organ funk, and expressive R&B into a previously unknown brand of Poughkeepsie stew. When it was reissued on CD a dozen years ago, it became an instant hit, drawing fans from the British soul scene and denizens of free jazz alike, introducing a new generation to McPhee’s powerful statement.
“After working on it for five years, Corbett vs. Dempsey is proud to release Nation Time: The Complete Recordings, a deluxe 4-disc box set featuring all the music leading up to and around the seminal LP. With 17 previously unreleased tracks, the set provides an expansive picture of the vibrant up-state NY free jazz/new thing scene, centered as it was on Joe McPhee. It also presents tracks recorded during the original 2-day performances in December 1970, including a version of James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” as well as the full LP Black Magic Man, which was released on vinyl as the very first issue of the fledgling Hat Hut record label in 1975, but has never been reissued on CD.
“This box set cuts direct to the heart of 1970s jazz-funk expression, with all the passion, intrigue, and tenderness the world has come to expect from Joe McPhee. Here it is in all its germinal, previously unheard glory. What time is it? You know what time it is. Once again, it’s Nation Time.”
The Departing of a Dream
Family Vineyard : 2013 (orig. 2002)
Borbetomagus and Friends
Leo : 1981
Don Dietrich, Jim Sauter, saxes; Toshinori Kondo, trumpet; Donald Miller, guitar; Milo Fine, piano; Tristan Honsinger, cello; Peter Kowald, bass.
HIGH ABOVE A GREY GREEN SEA
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Constellation : 2013
This site, from its inception, has always been a collaborative enterprise. Of the hundreds of posts here, there are maybe a handful that didn’t at least get looked at by both proprietors. (A reminder: those proprietors are Jeff G., aka @drewledrew, and Jeff J., aka @deathoflit.) This post, however, is a bit of an exception, and it will be me, Jeff G., talking at you from here on out.
While we are both writers of a sort, Jeff and I, only one of us is a true creative writer, and that is Jeff Jackson. As some of you may have learned, Jeff’s first novel, Mira Corpora, was published this fall by indie press Two Dollar Radio. If you generally dig the overall aesthetic that’s been on display over the years here at D:O, you should read it. But don’t take my word for it: others that have commented on how they’ve enjoyed it are authors Don DeLillo, Dennis Cooper, and David Gates. Publications as varied as Publishers Weekly, Bookforum, The Rumpus, and HTML Giant have sung its praises. Though perhaps the best review, in terms of grokking just what Jeff is up to, appeared recently at Trop.
Click the book cover to buy a copy from Powell’s Books
Still not convinced? Maybe you’d like to read an excerpt first — there’s one over at Dzanc’s Books’ Collagist; there’s another one over at Guernica. If you’re more into the author’s intentions, influences, and whatnot, there are several interviews, too: see Tin House; Charlotte’s Creative Loafing; or HTML Giant.
But perhaps you’re more of an audio/visual learner? Got you covered: anyone who’s anyone these days has a Largehearted Boy playlist/Book Notes column; see here for Jeff’s. Fancy a book trailer? Here’s for you:
And then there’s the music above. While it’d be impossible to capture the many worlds, moods, and emotional states conjured by Mira Corpora in a few tunes, the selections here felt appropriate to me in capturing some of the dislocated vibe; some of the starkness; the creepiness; the noise and the off-kilter humor of the thing.
Thanks to Family Vineyard for allowing us to post the Loren Connors song. Learn more/buy it here.
Thanks to Constellation Records for allowing us to post the Colin Stetson song. Learn more/buy it here.
Mtume Umoja Ensemble
Alkebu-Lan – Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East)
Strata-East : 1972
Mtume, congas, tonette horn; Gary Bartz, alto and soprano sax; Carlos Garnett, tenor sax, flute; Leroy Jenkins, violin; Stanley Cowell, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Billy Hart, drums; Ndugu, drums; Andy Bey, Eddie Micheaux, and Joe Lee Wilson, vocals; Weusi Kuumba and Yusef Iman, spoken poetry.
We’ve got to talk about your new boyfriend. Something about that man just isn’t right and it’s up to friends to call out each other on this business. And we’re not just talking about the fact that he didn’t like that Mtume record. Though seriously, what was up with him clamping his hands over his ears and saying he’d outgrown screaming jungle music? We don’t care if he lived in Nigeria, that’s still fucked up. And to say it about Alkebu-Lan in specific, well, that should be classified in the DSM-IV as some kind of mental disorder.
You can’t tell us it didn’t bother you. After all, you’re the one who selected the album to soundtrack a perfectly pleasant brunch. We barely got through the early track “Baba Hengates” before he started carrying on about sloppy playing, ridiculous shouting, and unrefined musical concepts, imagining he was making some sort of point. Really, now. Personally, we’ve always considered that tune a genuine jazz epic, a propulsive widescreen musical panorama, like an Afrocentric Lawrence of Arabia — but on fast-forward!
The way Mtume combines spoken word, comping piano, percolating polyrhythms, surging horns, testifying backing vocals, and even the interjections from the audience at Brooklyn’s The East is totally immersive. It practically feels four-dimensional! And then there’s the heavy-hitting personnel listed on the back of the record. Just reciting those names is a sort of music all by itself.
The 18 minutes go by in a flash. Well, usually. When there’s not some fool carping at your record player every couple of minutes. It reminds us of McCoy Tyner’s “Sahara,” how the different movements fit together in ways that are equally elegant and visceral. But then we guess your new beau was too so-called sophisticated to appreciate the rawness. No doubt he even missed the nuances of Mtume’s rejection of the word jazz (“or some other irrelevant term”) on the album’s opening invocation.
Okay, so maybe we are just talking about the Mtume record. But do you really want to date someone with such terrible taste? Someone who can’t appreciate brilliant and soulful music? The guy is plainly lacking something fundamental. It reminds us of that John Waters quote: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!”
It sounds corny, but you can do better. And if you don’t believe us, just give this track another spin and hear the plain truth for yourself.
The boys from D:O
Sun Ra etc.
Impulse! : 1973
Ra, Moog synth; Danny Davis, Marshall Allen, alto sax; Danny Thompson, baritone sax; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Charles Stephens, trombone; Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb, trumpet; Eloe Omoe, bass clarinet; Pat Patrick, clarinet; Alzo Wright, violin; Ronnie Boykins, bass; Tommy Hunter, drums; Atakatun, Chiea, Odun, congas; Ruth Wright, “space ethnic voice”; June Tyson, “word melody vocal.”
Sorry we called so late last night. We didn’t mean to wake you and throw a fright into your slumber. The skies were so unusually clear that we spent the entire evening laying on the roof, cataloging the constellations, and blasting vintage Sun Ra sides. We became obsessed with his 1970s Impulse! album Astro Black and put the title track on repeat and soon enough we started receiving some serious wisdom from the combination of decaying starlight and Saturnian tones.
Now, of course, we can’t quite reconstruct it. The particulars have slipped through our fingers along with the smoggy dawn. And to address the question you were too groggy to ask last night, we stopped taking mushrooms (of all kinds — we won’t even look sideways at a portabello) years ago. Though we have to admit there’s something about the flow of “Astro Black” that transports us to, let’s say, another plane of there.
You could say that about many Sun Ra tracks, but this tune captures the man’s many moods in a scant 10 minutes. There’s June Tyson singing about strolling through outer space with the vamping big band behind her; the way the track decays and morphs into abrasive bass solos, skittering percussion, Ruth Wright’s otherworldly “space voice,” and gonzo swirling synth passages; and how the singing finally returns, couched in an utterly alien soundscape, June singing as if she has finally reached home, perhaps a little worse for wear.
There’s some deeper meaning in all that, we’re sure of it. The next clear night, we’ll be up on the roof with a blanket trying to recreate the experience and reclaim our lost revelations. You’re more than welcome to join us.
The boys from D:O