"Rock And Roll Doctor"
By Little Feat from ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ LP (rel 1974)
There was a woman in Georgia, didn't feel just right
She had the fever all day and chills at night
Now things got worse, yes a serious bind
At times like this it takes a man with a style I cannot often find
A doctor of the heart and a doctor of mind.
If you like country with a boogie beat, he's the man to meet
If you like the sound of shufflin' feet, he can't be beat
If you wanna feel real nice, just ask the rock and roll doctor's advice.
It's just a country town but patients come
From Mobile to Moline from miles around
Nagodoches to New Orleans
In beat-up old cars or in limousines
To meet the doctor of soul, he's got his very own thing.
Two degrees in be-bop, a PHD in swing
He's the master of rhythm, he's a rock and roll king, yeah.
If you like country with a boogie beat, he's the man to meet (he's the man to meet)
If you like the sound of shufflin' feet, he can't be beat (I say he can't be beat)
If you... if you wanna... if you wanna feel real nice, just ask the rock and roll doctor's advice.
Little Feat! Yessiree! Sometime in the Spring of 1975, while I was in my third year at Glassboro State College in south Jersey, I was invited to a big party on a farm several miles off campus. The party was organized by two friendly drug dealers who also attended GSC at the same time as yours truly. As soon as my roommates and myself arrived, the two organizers stood out front and gave some frozen psychedelic mushrooms to anyone who wanted them to injest and practically everyone there did. The vibe there was super-friendly with everyone smiling, singing, talking & dancing together. One big happy family of 100 freaks! It was that sixties spirit that many of us had that brought everyone closer together, sharing in the fun/love vibe. There a bowl of joints (marijuana cigarettes) on the kitchen table for anyone to smoke and a stereo system with speakers all around the house and outside as well. It was a perfect day weatherwise, sunny, breezy, perfect in many way. I remember dancing to the Dead and other seventies bands that I still liked at the time. A record came on which I didn’t recognize and seemed to get everyone up & dancing together. It was the fourth Little Feat album, called ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’. I already owned the first two Little Feat albums, which I dug but had forgotten about as I was becoming a jazz & prog(ressive) snob during my college years (1972-1976). Something about that Little Feat record really rang true. I bought my own copy of that record and soon became a Little Feat fan-addict. I started to re-listen to their early records and realized that ‘Dixie Chicken’, their third LP, was almost as good and so was their next record, ‘The Last Record Album’. I also caught them live on several occasions and was knocked out by them at each concert. Little Feat started in 1970 with former members of the Mothers of Invention and Fraternity of Man. Their leader was Lowell George, an incredible singer/songwriter/slide guitarist & the sparkplug that kept Little Feat moving & groovin’! Although they started out as a quartet, by their third LP they added a second guitarist (Paul Barrere), new bassist (Kenny Gradney) and a percussionist (Sam Clayton). This was the best version of the band and that version made seven great albums from 1973 - 1981. At their best, Little Feat are/were the best of many worlds combining rock/funk/r&B, jazz with New Orleans influences. Although they were from L.A., many folks thought they were from New Orleans due to their sound and the southern locals mentioned in their lyrics. Lowell George and the rest of the band eventually evolved in different directions, some members leaning towards funky fusion/prog and Lowell wanting to keep things more funky, greasy and dance-inducing (music for the heart & soul!). Check out the song, “A Day at the Dog Races” from their album, ’Times Loves a Hero’ (released in 1977) which shows the band to be better at fusion then they other fusion bands that had turned predictable/boring by this time. Lowell George left the band in 1978, recorded his first & only solo effort in 1979, called ‘Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here’, another soulful gem from the funkiest white dude alive. Little Feat continued without Lowell George and have continued to tour & release albums up until recently, with two original members passing away in the last few years. Although they did lose something special when Mr. George left, they continued to sound great to my ears, each record a gem! Lowell George was touring for his first album in early 1979 and died during that tour, a victim of substance abuse, over-eating and partying too much. Very sad! I had tickets to check out Lowell George at the Bottom Line for that tour but he passed before he got to NY. I still listen to Little Feat when I want to get in a better mood. So bubbies, why not listen to a version of “Rock and Roll Doctor” right now and read the words up top. I think we all need some of that Rock & Roll Doctor’s advice and get some of his good medicine. - MC Bruce Lee
TWO NEW DISCS FROM INTAKT IN STOCK EARLY NEXT WEEK:
TIM BERNE / GREGG BELISLE-CHI - Mars (Intakt 374; Switzerland) With his extensive artistic biography, Tim Berne is one of the most outstanding figures in American jazz. Rising star Gregg Belisle-Chi, a connoisseur of Berne's music, has this year released the acclaimed album Koi, featuring interpretations of Tim Berne's compositions on solo acoustic guitar. With his extensive skills and immense sonic potential, he is earning a central place in the landscape of contemporary acoustic guitar.
With Mars, these two exceptional musicians present their first duo album. All songs are penned by Tim Berne and enchant the listener with an intense interplay that is playful, poetic and sonically stunning. David Torn, who is responsible for the grandiose sound, writes in the liner notes: "Space Music? no, nope: Earth Music? well, yeah. Folk Music? well… I dunno, could be, but these songs on Mars are written by Tim & reimagined in-real-time by he & Gregg: them 2 being edified by, appreciative & respectful of those who've come before, & especially those ones who stayed lit and busted their own asses & spirits in order to continue initiating the kinds of flames that push us all to strive to express & to feel things of life & lives that may otherwise be functionally inexplicable, and may even be ineffable, somehow."
ALEXANDER HAWKINS MIRROR CANON with SHABAKA HUTCHINGS / RICHARD OLATUNDE BAKER / OTTO FISCHER / NEIL CHARLES / STEPHEN DAVIS - Break a Vase (Intakt 373; Switzerland) After the album "Togetherness Music", British pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins presents another musical panorama: An ensemble in which his trio with bassist Neil Charles and drummer Stephen Davis meets saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, guitarist Otto Fischer, and drummer Richard Olátúndé Baker. For anybody who has followed Hawkins' work since his emergence on the British improvised music scene in the mid 2000's this is a fresh band full of familiar musicians with whom Hawkins has played in a wide variety of formations. The new pieces that "Break a Vase" presents emerge from Hawkins' own imagination, but they also capture the thrust of energy in collaborating with these outstanding musicians.
“"Hawkins gives one of his most complete performances to date," writes Kevin Le Gendre in the liner notes. "Nothing is perhaps more majestic than the title track, which comes from Derek Walcott's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. 'Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.' Enjoy then all these wily bits and pieces that come together in the kind of daring, courageous construction that is made to last."
JESSICA PAVONE - When No One Around You is There but Nowhere to be Found (Relative Pitch 1128; USA) Featuring Jessica Pavone on viola, voice, effects & compositions. In order to be a successful Downtown or just a Creative Musician, one must keep busy and stay focused on your next project, no matter whatever distractions happen in our lives. Aside from her diverse collaborations with Devin Gray, Bob Bellerue and Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone has also had a number of different projects that she works on, from solos to group projects, all documented on different labels. I’ve caught Ms. Pavone String Ensemble both live and on record (on the Astral Spirits & Birdwatcher Records labels) and was much impressed by what they do. Ms. Pavone has also had an ongoing series of solo discs/performances throughout the past decade, this disc is her third solo offering for the ever-challenging Relative Pitch label. Another thing that I noticed about Ms. Pavone’s music is that she has obviously spent time considering the way stretching out certain notes effect us on different levels. For the opening piece here, “Performance Novels”, Ms. Pavone plays a series of seesawing or droning notes, carefully bending them, letting certain notes/sounds/harmonics resonate. The effect is unnerving at times, like trying to stand up in a boat that is constantly rocking back & forth. I am also reminded of the way someone squeezes notes out of a wheezing accordion. For the title track, Ms. Pavone sample or perhaps adds some echo effects to her viola, looping a soft throbbing string sound and then adding other several more acoustic lines on top and then by themselves. I feels as if we are starting slightly off-balance and then end up in a more familiar (folky?) string tone range/style. On “Only in Dreamz”, Ms. Pavone samples & chops up her quirky yet charming voice, punctuating it with some pizzicato low notes. It sounds as if Pavone telling a story or making an observation, got to listen more closely to hear the message within somber haze. The melody of this piece reminds me of “Dedicated to You but You Weren’t Listening”, which was first found on Soft Machine, Volume Two from 1969. “Aednat” is the last piece here and it also has a somewhat skewered bent-note drone at the center. The question that passes through my mind is that, is that center note an artificial drone created with some effects or has Ms. Pavone taken an acoustic note and then stretched it out with some effects. No matter since the overall effect is still stunning in its own way. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
KAZUTOKI UMEZU / GRANT CALVIN WESTON - Face Off (ZOTT Records 101; Earth) Featuring Kazutoki Umezu on alto & soprano saxes & bass clarinet and Grant Calvin Weston on drums. I am a longtime friend & fan of Japanese reeds wizard Kazutoki Umezu. I invited Umezu to play at The Old Stone in December of 2006 when DMG curated a month of gigs there. I later found out that Mr. Umezu lived in NY in the seventies and played in a group with William Parker (who still refers to him as “Koppo”). I caught Umezu live on several occasions in the eighties and nineties, often playing with different Downtowners like Marc Ribot & Kenny Wollesen. The last time I caught Umezu live was in December of 2006 and it seems as if he has recorded infrequently since that time, just three discs since the turn of the millenium that I know about: solo bass clarinet CD on Doubt, duo with Carlo Actis Dato and a more recent disc with Liudas Mockunas. Philly-based drummer, G Calvin Weston, is also someone I know and admire. Mr. Weston is well-known for his work with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time and the last version of the Lounge Lizards. Over the past couple of decades, Mr. Weston has been recording with a host of Philly’s finest creative musicians both well known & not so well-known: Derek Bailey, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Blood Ulmer, Elliott Levin, Todd Rundgren, Bob Musso and Ross Hammond. Calvin Weston has been running his own label for while now, documenting a variety of projects for download & limited edition CD releases.
This sounds like a match made in heaven since both musicians are so diverse in the many genres that they play. Umezu has played quite a bit of free/jazz, led a klezmer orchestra (in the nineties) and a great prog/jazz/rock quartet called the Kiki Band. Mr. Weston had play both free and composed modern jazz was well as varied jazz/rock/fusion, funk and other more progressive strains. Right from the gitgo, the duo are whipping up an intense storm. Mr. Weston likes to push hard with those intense, jazz/rock/funk power grooves while Umezu matches wits with his own throttling energy/playing. Umezu plays bass clarinet on “The Bubbler”, pushing the pedal to the store with a flurry of notes, a rare excursion for an instrument which was made popular by Eric Dolphy more than 50 years ago. Umezu even plays two reeds at the same time at the end of this piece, a trick that very few saxists do anymore. This music is extremely tight and well-played, a frenzy of controlled energy at it most intense. There is a tradition of mostly Indian tabla players who do vocal drum workouts. Mr. Weston kicks of “Harmless Lovers” with some his own vocal drum sounds and does a fine job of getting the rhythmic energy soaring nicely. On occasion, Weston will break into one of his superfine Philly funk grooves, giving Umezu a different groove to work with and with which he gets down to the nitty gritty just right. Each piece has a different rhythmic groove, beat or flow which keeps Umezu on his toes, working his was through different rhythmic soundscapes. There is something joyous and liberating about this music that really makes me smile. Both musicians sound like they are having fun and creative great music simultaneously. It doesn’t get much better than that! - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
CD $15 [Limited edition]
G CALVIN WESTON / RICHARD HILL / COLTON WEATHERSTON - Hydrogen 77 (Soundscape Recording Lab; USA) Featuring G Calvin Weston on drums, Richard Hill on bass guitar and Colton Weatherston on electric guitar. Former drum wizard for Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, the Lounge Lizards and a Blood Ulmer power trio w/ Jamaaladeen Tacuma, G Calvin Weston still lives in Philly where he records frequently with a wide variety of Philly’s finest musicians. Over the past decade, Mr. Weston has produced a half dozen of his own discs with assorted Philly-based musicians, both well-known (J. Tacuma, Todd Rundgren & Marc Ribot) and not so well-known. Each release I’ve heard is strong/inspired no matter who he plays with. We just got this new power trio CD from Mr. Weston earlier this week (January of 2022), the guitarist (Colton Weatherston) and bassist (Richard Hill), are both new names for me. “Renegade” opens with a strong, hypnotic, heaving, pumping jazz/rock/funk groove. While Weston whips up a powerful rhythmic storm at the center, the guitarist solos on top while the bassist fires off a stream of quick bubbling notes. Although the music here do sound like it was improvised in the studio, the results have quite a bit more going on as each piece evolves. On “Passions”, bassist Hill keeps a flurry of different lines flowing throughout. I hear bits of Stevie Wonder bass lines at one point followed by some super quick bass calisthenics in the next section. It sounds as if the bass and drums have worked together for a long while since they play in a variety of locked/interwoven grooves or lines, no matter which direction they go, speeding up and slowing down together. It is rare to hear a series of jams each on which has some substance as they unfold. Yo, our friends out there in the City of Brotherly Love, do not miss an opportunity to hear these musicians live if you get the chance. Non-Philly folks, grab this disc to brighten up (y)our lives. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
SIX FABULOUS NEWER DISCS from VANCOUVER-BASED GUITARIST & OUDIST GORDON GRDINA, Two reviewed per week:
I’ve long admired guitarist/oudist/composer/bandleader, Gordon Grdina, for his diverse catalogue of varied projects, each one with different personnel. Recently I received a couple of Grdina’s promos in the mail so I contact him to get copies to sell. After some back & forth info from Mr. Grdina, we figured out that he had six (!?!) newer discs that we haven’t listed until now. Grdina just sent us copies of each of his new discs so we will list and review 3 for this week and three for next week. Although Mr. Grdina is based in Vancouver, BC, he often uses musicians from other scenes.
GORDON GRDINA SEPTET with JON IRABAGON / JESSE ZUBOT / EYVIND KANG / PEGGY LEE / et al - Resist (Irabbagast Records 012; USA) Featuring Gordon Grdina on guitar & oud, Jon Irabagon on tenor & sopranino saxes, Jesse Zubot on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Peggy Lee on cello, Tommy Babin on bass and Kenton Loewen on drums. For this sextet, Mr. Grdina chose fellow Vancouver-based musicians: Jesse Zubot, Peggy Lee, Tommu Babin & Kenton Loewen plus 2 American players: Jon Irabagon & Eyvind Kang. The first piece here is called “Resist” and it is the title track, epic length at 23 & 1/2 minutes. It begins with just a lone cello, playing a solemn reverie. Slowly, the other strings enter as well as Grdina’s guitar, the tension building. The guitar, bass & drums play a central (written) theme while the strings & sax add some tart harmonies. The piece has sections which are written or partially written with freer sections as well. On “Varscona”, Mr. Irabagon plays a strong tenor solo while the rest of the groups swirls tightly around him. Suddenly, everything goes free for a bit while several players solo or erupt simultaneously. Although certain sections sound free, there is often more going on if you listen closely. Mr. Grdina’s electric guitar often rises above the din, adding a solo or at least a direction or change in direction. During a later section, it sounds as if Mr. Irabagon’s sopranino is crying, playing a tender, sad melody on top of the swirling waves below. On the last piece, Mr. Grdina switches to his oud, an acoustic instrument with a most distinctive sound. Although the sound of the oud gives the music a middle-eastern sound, the rest of the sextet sounds closer of a chamber ground which balances a theme with some fuzzy freer parts interwoven within. I get the feeling that the more I listen to this disc, the more I will see or here a certain linear flow that runs throughout but is not so easy to deduce without hearing this work in its entirety. Please remember that “resistance is not futile” as the Borg would have us believe. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
GORDON GRDINA & JIM BLACK - Martian Kitties (Astral Spirits 152; USA) Featuring Gordon Grdina on guitar & oud and Jim Black on drums & electronics. Vancouver-based guitarist & oudist, Gordon Grdina, is consistently juggling numerous projects with varying personnel from solos to a sextet. In 2019, Mr. Grdina recorded a trio with two of Downtown’s best: Matt Mitchell on keyboards & Jim Black on drums for the Skirl label. For this new disc, Mr. Grdina is working with Downtown drummer Jim Black, who used to play with Bloodcount, Pachora, a trio with Ellery Eskelin & Andrea Parkins and has own band Alasnoaxis. Like a younger version of the late Paul Motian, Jim Black has always had his own sound on the drums. Mr. Black has also long used minimal electronics as well as small percussion utensils on top of his drums. Mr. Black’s distinctive somewhat Beefheart-like bent rhythmic approach provides a strong undertow/groove to Mr. Grdina’s own spiky playing. On “A Monkey Could Do It”, Grdina overdubs to lines for his oud, one which is locked into the rhythmic lines by Mr. Black, the other soloing furiously on top. One of the things that I’ve long dug about Jim Black is his ability to add rock-oriented rhythms/grooves to his music (jazz sobs beware!). His old quartet, Alasnoaxis, could rock hard at times, perhaps wearing his love of Radiohead on his sleeve. On “Buggy Whip”, the duo whip up a free hard rockin’ storm, frenzied and full of life! Grdina and Black appear to many aces up their sleeves, as each piece deals with a different sound, genre or strategy. Each of the thirteen pieces are relatively short and show a different side to what the duo can do. On “Brushes with Death”, Mr. Black does play with brushes while Mr. Grdina plays a stream of low-key jazz lines which keeps ascending higher as the piece evolves. Mr. Black has a unique way of utilizing electronics, often adding subtle sonic seasoning, echoes or other effects, making it hard to tell exactly what is going on at times. No matter what direction the duo go, they play consistently well together since they can draw from a wealth of difference experiences. Hence, there are quite a bit surprises sounds and directions in store. Gordon Grdina just sent us 6 newer releases this past week, all very different and all fabulous in their own way(s). - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
CHEER-ACCIDENT - Hong Kong (Shameless Records SH14; USA) Featuring Thymme Jones & D(udley) Bayne on pianos, Cory Bengsten on bari sax & electronics, Jeff Libersher on tenor & soprano trombones and Ross Feller on soprano, tenor & bari saxes. Cheer-Accident are a Chicago area-based progressive band that started in 1981 and have some 20 recordings released since they began. They are still led by keyboardist Thymme Jones and have been on a variety of labels like: Complacency, Pravda and Cuneiform. I’ve only heard a few discs of their large back catalogue and had pretty much forgotten about them until this new discs arrived in the mail. Thanks to their other keyboardist, Dudley Bayne for sending us copies of this new release. The last time I heard from Mr. Bayne was when he was running his own Luminescence label around 2001, twenty years.
This new Cheer-Accident disc is sonic exploration of the history of Hong Kong. These compositions are based on field recordings made in Hong Kong in 2005. Each of the 19 pieces here are relatively short and we do hear the field recordings underneath whatever is happening on top. Both the field recordings and the music which was added, work well together and sound like a soundtrack of sorts. As the liner notes indicate, Hong Kong, as had a long, diverse and controversial history. At times, the music takes off and rises above the sonic flow/fabric below and then fades back down to the silence between the pieces. I get the feeling that this music would do well to accompany filmed scenes from Hong Kong since we do get the feeling a being in a certain place when listening to this music. Perhaps I will try to find some footage of daily life in Hong Kong via G**gle maps. Although Cheer-Accident no longer sound like a progressive band, this disc still works to evoke a wealth of feelings and images. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
NICK DIDKOVSKY / MARK HOWELL - Screaming into the Yawning Vacuum of Victory (Punos Music; USA) Featuring Nick Didkovsky and Mark Howell on Gibson Les Paul guitars, Marshall amps, no effects & occasional vocals. Early Downtown music historians should recognize these two guitarists from their time with the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet or the Fred Frith/Mark Howell duo from the same era. No doubt you recognize Nick Didkovsky, guitarist & composer for Dr. Nerve and Vomit Fist. I recall Mark Howell from a variety of bands on the late eighties/early nineties like Better Than Death, Timber and Zero Pop. I hadn’t heard anything from Mr. Howell in many years, so I was pleased to see & hear that he is still active and creative. All of the 21 pieces here are pretty short, under 2 minutes. All of these piece were composed by Mr. Didkovsky or Mr. Howell, aside from one cover by Fred Frith. The main influences here seem to be the Captain Beefheart angular, bent guitar school and the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet. The music is no doubt challenging to play, ever twisted and essential tight, and it takes some time to get used to since those fractured lines are not normal sounding rock but something rather unique. I recall the first few time I listened to Beefheart’s classic ‘Trout Mask Replica’ album: it made little sense to me and din’t sound like any other rock music I had heard. It took a while to get used to, to discover how shrewd and unique it really was. This music also takes some getting used to. The more I listen, the more I am impressed since there is nothing quite like this combination of guitars or sounds presently. Starting in the late sixties/early seventies, most rock (and some jazz) guitarists were using a variety of effects pedals like wah wah, distortion and echo devices. Many guitarists were dependent on these pedals to help define their own unique sound. For this disc both Nick and Mark have decided against using effects so that they have to inventive with just their guitars & amps only. They have done a marvelous job nonetheless as each track has it’s own sound, strategy or collection of ideas. I want to give a shout out to Mark Howell, who I haven’t seen in some 30 years and to Nick Didkovsky, an old friend with whom we still bond, talk about and celebrate the longevity & necessity of Creative Music. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
NUBDUG ENSEMBLE with STEVE ADAMS / MYLES BOISEN / JASON BERRY / AMANDA CHAUDHARY / JILL ROGERS / G CALVIN WESTON / et al - Volume 2: Blame (Pest Colors Music 42.NE2; USA) Featuring Jason Berry on keyboards, electronics & compositions, Steve Adams on soprano, tenor & bari saxes, Myles Boisen on electric & lap steel guitars, Amanda Chaudary on keyboards, synths & electronics, Chris Grady on trumpet, Brett Warren on fretted & fretless bass guitars & Chapman stick, G Calvin Weston drums & Jill Rogers on voice. Every couple of years, Bay area keyboardist sends us discs from his ongoing band called Vacuum Tree Head. Sometimes I recognize the revolving personnel like Ron Anderson (from the Molecules & Pak) or Gino Robair (from the Splatter Trio). Many of their discs are short (around 20 minutes) and unpredictable in direction. We just got two new discs from Mr. Berry last week with similar personnel although the band name here is the Nudbug Ensemble. Hmmmmm. Again, I recognize a few of the musicians here: Steve Adams (from Rova), Myles Boisen (from the Splatter Trio) and G Calvin Weston (Philly based drum great who has worked with Ornette Coleman, Blood Ulmer & Marc Ribot).
Four of the seven songs here have vocals by Jill Rogers. The opening song is called “Blues” and it has a melody which is similar to the blues standard, “Sitting on the the World” (covered by Cream & the Dead). The lyrics sound like they were written by someone from an older (Renaissance?) era. A tongue-in cheek blues?!? Rova saxist Steve Adams takes a swell, sort of inside solo. The music on “Bluff” is rather progish without any showing off, the lyrics are odd yet sound like they were written by a computer program. “Bloom” is a cool, Zappa-like instrumental which doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Bleep” was co-written by keyboardist Amanda Chaudhary, who also has a new disc with shared personnel to this disc and who favors seventies sounding keyboards like electric piano & ancient synths. “Blood” is another nifty prog-like song, rather charming in a Canterburyesque way. “Blaze” features a strong trio of two electric keyboards with Calvin Weston’s drumming interspersed between several righteous synth sections. What year was this recorded? Mid-seventies, before fusion & prog turned sour & predictable. The last piece here, “Block”, has a rather funky bass groove at the center with some great greasy guitar and funky horns. If your sense of humor isn’t buried too deep your sarcastic soul, then you should add some of this silly but cool medicine to your diet. Ya dig?!? - MC BruceLee, DMG
AMANDA CHAUDHARY - Meow Meow Band (CatSynth Records ACHS 6174; USA) Featuring Amanda Chaudhary on synths, keyboards, electronics, production & direction, Steve Adams on alto & tenor saxes, Myles Boisen on electric guitar, Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass guitar, G Calvin Weston on drums & Amy X Neuburg & Serena Toxicat on voices. Every few years, we get a couple of discs in the mail from former bay-area based keyboardist Jason Berry, leader of Vacuum Tree Head. I am always eager to hear another batch since this project is always unpredictable, creative and often involves a number of great west coast musicians, some I know and some I don’t. We just got 2 new discs in the mail earlier this week (January of 2022) from Jason Berry, neither of which are/were titled under Vacuum Tree Head but did include some of the same musicians. For this disc, the leader is Amanda Chaudhary, a mighty fine keyboardist, composer & producer. The known players include Rova saxist Steve Adams, guitarist Myles Boisen (from Splatter Trio), experimental vocalist Amy X. Neuburg and longtime Philly rhythm team Jamaaladeen Tacuma & G Calvin Weston (who’ve worked together with Prime Time, Marc Ribot & Blood Ulmer). The opening piece, “Invocation”, features a mesmerizing haze of synths, warm seductive voice of Serena Toxicat and a swirling rhythm team. “White Wine” features the charming voice of Amy X Neuburg, sly electric piano and more inside playing than one might expect from Rova man Steve Adams on sax. One of the things I like most about Ms. Chaudhary is that she favors those seventies sounding keyboards, both electric piano and ancient synths, knowing how to use them without any of the dumb fusion cliches. “Cables and Carafes” sounds like early prog without being too chops oriented, more fun than too difficult to enjoy. “North Berkeley BART” sounds like the theme to a seventies sitcom that we all used to dig (like ‘All in the Family’ or ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’). Slightly cheesy yet somehow quite charming. Ms. Chaudhary plays a totally groovy synth solo here, as well as some fine simmering, somewhat funky electric piano. I really dig the way Ms. Chaudhary writes for both reeds on “Under the Ceiling Fan”, quirky yet hypnotic harmonies for the sax & bass clarinet plus more nifty electric piano comping underneath. “Donershtik” actually has a somewhat disco/funk-oriented groove (aerobics anyone?!?) at the center, a slamming rhythm team, wah-wah bass (or synth?) and a sense of fun that exudes. If someone like say Bill Laswell remixed this for a 12” single, this could be a hit. No sh*t! Here’s my advice to Amanda Chaudhary, you should get a gig writing theme music for sitcoms that have that nifty seventies sound. Otherwise, just keep putting out fun music like this to lighten all of our lives. - MC BruceLee at DMG
PYGMIES MBENZELE / PYGMIES AKA - Days Full Of Sound - Life In The Rainforest (I Dischi de Angelica 047; Italy) “The Mbenzélé and Aka Pygmy Populations: "The territory inhabited by the Mbenzélé and Aka Pygmies is situated in the extreme North of the Democratic Republic of Congo, over the Equator, in the northeastern (Mbenzélé) and north western (Aka) rain forests of Ouésso in the Shanga region, near the borders with the Central African Republic and Cameroon. The Pygmies still live according to their hunters-gatherers traditions, even though the ever-increasing amount of contact they have with other Congolese ethnic groups and European visitors (like myself) are increasingly threatening their culture and survival. The welcoming I received in these two communities, both made up of approximately a hundred individuals between adults and children (many children), always touched and moved me. I stayed with them for seven days, and the recordings were carried out over five days: on the 18th and 19th February (Mbenzélé) and 23rd, 24th and 25th of February 2014 (Aka). For these people, music is an extraordinary, joyful and everyday experience that they share collectively. It is achieved through very simple instruments (vocals, hand clapping and a few other percussions), and through collective improvisation they manage to create a rhythmic and harmonic complexity which can truly amaze..." --Roberto Monari (Vignola, January 26th, 2021).
Birth & Nature: "When Roberto entrusted me with these recordings I thought back to approximately 40 years earlier, when we first met, like something that comes back. With him, a fundamental door onto the music realm opened, he passed on to me so much varied music. His home was like a little paradise (of listening) for a very young boy like me who was searching for and researching new worlds, both musical and artistic, and like a medicine music responded and nourished. Together we listened to music of all kinds and provenance: all the music forms we could find (we traveled to buy records and attend concerts), or that just presented themselves, and that had a certain peculiarity and originality provided an excuse for discovery, and ethnic music and Pygmies were also part of these worlds. The list would be longer than 40 years of life, and of listening . . . These field recordings that he offered me arrived like a present, a reflection of my youth, but I think also of his, and our shared growth and it seems like centuries ago but it feels like now, and while listening and experiencing the Pygmies this becomes even clearer. After listening and re-listening (and working) so much (on) these recordings it was like being there with them and listening to these sounds, dialogues and music was like continually witnessing the birth of something..." --Massimo Simonini (Vignola, February/April 2021).
2 CD Set $40
KNIGHTS OF THE REALM - Knights Of The Realm (Playground Music 151CD; Sweden) “ Every once in a while, a band emerges ready to take on the world. Sweden's own Knights Of The Realm bring the thunder and deliver the goods (pun intended). From the first note of the intro, to the last on the outro, they deliver their own lovingly crafted blend of classic '80s metal. Knights Of The Realm is many years of heavy metal experience combined into a pure vicious heavy metal machine. Larry "The Hammer" Shield (Lars Sköld) has toured the globe and recorded with legendary band Tiamat for as long as he can remember, and is without a shadow of a doubt the band's backbone. Megalomagnus (Magnus Henriksson) has been making history with his band Eclipse since the end of the '90s and is a bonafide guitar hero, who's both capable of some heavy duty riffage as well as delivering gorgeous melodies. Mean Machine (Marcus Von Boisman) has been working in the shadows of metal for many years, and played with Swedish bands Windupdeads and Stormen. And as far as the Mean Machine goes, well, the name says it all! He delivers the soaring rock vocals we all love, with attitude and feeling. The love for classic heavy metal is the driving force behind this band. The aim from the beginning was to write heavy metal hits that should, or could, have been on the albums they grew up listening to. When the songwriting process began, it was like opening Pandora's box. The overall feeling was that those songs were calling out to be written and to be played, and the band's collective ideas, dreams and experiences merged into something new, something that can hopefully lure a new generation of rockers into that metal club we all love. Knights Of The Realm is a Swedish heavy metal band, and their aim is to spread their music to as many metal heads as possible, all the while having a blast doing it. They are getting ready to go on a crusade, and to take their true place on the metal throne as Knights Of The Realm.”
AUFGANG - Broad Ways (Narada West 001CD; Germany) Aufgang is back with its third album, Broad Ways. With this third album, the Franco-Lebanese duo perpetuates its winning alchemy by drawing on the psychic and collective traumas of recent history at the crossroads between European and Middle Eastern cultures. What more was there to prove for the Aufgang duo since their re-invention of US techno a few years ago through the means of organic instruments like piano and drums, and releases on Infiné and BlueNote/Decca. Maybe that they would from now on independently take onto themselves, the full conception and distribution of their body of work, supported by a collective of visual-arts creators, dancers, and emerging talent-incubators. Broad Ways could be translated as "in many ways" in the sense that there are many ways of seeing the world, and that everything is not binary and that on the contrary, our lives are shaped by the each other's own paradigms... In this clever mix of experimental techno, lyrical prowess and melodies in the Arab tradition, can one imagine a future that would solve the world's current contradictions in a boiling magma so complex of which Edgar Morin would be proud... Following this unique trademark, this art of mixing influences and cultures, along the New York, Paris, Lebanon and now Sydney axis... how far will they go? According to Pitchfork, Aufgang "blends piano, drums and electronic music with virtuosity, with one foot in the club and the other in the conservatory." Rami Khalifé, composer and pianist, transcends the classical heritage of his years studying at the Juilliard School in NYC and the Middle Eastern origins of his masterful family: his father Marcel Khalifé is a major composer and musician in the Arab world. The drummer and producer Aymeric Westrich has an instinctive DIY approach and infuses his music with his knowledge of urban and electronic cultures, developed with Kery James, Cassius, Phoenix, and more recently Lomepal. Taking their inspiration from multiple artistic movements and currents, from the disco of the mythical Larry Levan to the poetry of Oum Kalthoum, these two free electrons have created their sound between Paris, Beirut and New York, in reaction to the frenetic energy of big cities, as if in an effort to prevent this energy from corroding their freedom. It's a unique experience born from the sublime diversity of these two masterful approaches.
THE MEKONS - Exquisite (Glitterbeat 118LP; Germany) “Hunkered down and unable to record together, in 2020 the Mekons created a glorious digital chain letter of an album. Exquisite is a sprawling manifesto of connection and defiance that deftly slides through fiddle tunes, digi-dub, fireside ballads and urgent rock n' roll. And that's just side A. The original recording plan was to have been a whole-band-in-a-room session in Valencia, Spain. When the pandemic rendered that impossible the process took a sharp swerve. This legendary group from Leeds, have written contemporary music history for the last 40 years as radical innovators of both first generation punk and insurgent roots music, and Exquisite is another powerful vector of that legacy.
"In Paris, in 1925, Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp invented a game they called 'cadavre exquis,' derived from a phrase that came up when they first played: 'le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau' ('the exquisite corpse will drink the new wine'). Basically each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. During the plague years of the early 21st Century, the Mekons adopted this method as a means of collectively assembling lyrics and tunes and recording their new albums. Scattered in various locations from the West Coast of California to the East End of London, they sang and played into their mobile phones and emailed, uploaded and messaged their wailings, beatings, scratchings and strummings around the globe through the billions of interconnected nodes of our networked panopticon. Mike Hagler assembles the results in Chicago and sends them to be mixed by The Baron at Chateau Trumfio. While the world goes hyper-speed to NetNever avidly acting out the crazy jags of meltdown capitalism electrified dancing corpses and waves of virus plunge into burning oil seas of ancient systemic racism ravaging and squawking out of this nightmare sleep of reason, come chlorinated chickens home to roost in nests of hypocrisy, impunity and conspiracy. We put on our goggles and look to the Madderworse, scanning our eyes towards the acid horizon of annihilation, take virtual joy if you can. And, well, you just might be tired from having to take to the streets: what better time to settle down with a fancy cocktail of medical drugs and dig the Mekons' new surrealist sounds?" --Colin Stewart, Bridlington
THE BAND WHOSE NAME IS A SYMBOL - Ensemble 8/3/2016 (Feeding Tube Records/Cardinal Fuzz 635LP; USA) “Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube Records bring your way The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol's Ensemble 8/3/2016. Recorded of the floor in August 2016 in the spiritual setting of Birdman Sound -- eight players made up the iteration of the always mutating ensemble cast, who were as follows -- John Westhaver, Nathaniel Hurlow, Bill Guerrero, Jason Vaughan, Dave Reford, Scott Thompson, Mark McIntyre, and Eric Larock. The session for Ensemble went down at their spiritual home of Birdman Sound in Ottawa in August 2016 where what you hear on record was recorded direct from the floor (and mastered/tweaked by Chris Hardman). The whole session (and note this is an edit to fit the constraints of vinyl) flies by with a reckless, organic abandon, as at times eight players fly off in different dynamic directions of abstract playing and improvisation with trumpet player Scott Thompson much to the fore and blowing wild. At times the feel of this recording is like a collision between some out there '70s German avant rock band who have been transported to a San Franciscan Ballroom is '68 where the whole audience are peaking on "Orange Sunshine" as ensemble finishes up like a beautiful trip, well taken.”
ATTENTION ALL CREATIVE MUSICIANS OUT THERE, Around the world.
If you have a link for some music that you are working on and want to share it with the folks who read the DMG Newsletter, please send the link to DMG at DMG@Downtownmusicgallery.com.
The Independent Promoters Alliance Presents:
The NuBand @ Michiko Featuring:
THOMAS HEBERER / KENNY WESSEL / JOE FONDA / LOU GRASSI!
Friday, January 21 at 7 pm $20 (suggested donation)
Machiko - 149 West 46th Street (Manhattan), Stage 2
Proof of vaccination and ID are required by the venue.
$20 (suggested donation)
SOUP & SOUND AROUND BROOKLYN:
1/23 special Soup & Sound & Sauna! Double bill featuring JR RHODES THE FOREST (percussion ensemble) and soup and (yes) a SAUNA at Orchard Hill Farm in East Alstead, New Hampshire
4/15 JULIAN PRIESTER
Soup & Sound Around Brooklyn 2021, is a program of Continuum Culture & Arts, Inc.,
And non-profit 501(C)(3) organization. www.continuumculture.org
Soup & Sound
292 Lefferts Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11225-4115
This one is from CHRIS CUTLER, original member of Henry Cow, Art Bears, News from Babel, respected author and founder of Recommended Records. This is Chris’ wonderful podcast and I urge you all to give it a listen…
Guitarist and DMG-pal HENRY KAISER has a monthly Video Solo Series on Cuneiform’s Youtube page:
1990 video from WETLANDS in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfs5OuBfNxs
My good friend & guitar master GARY LUCAS is playing half hour sets at his apartment in the West village every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 3pm EST on Facebook. Different songs & improvisations on each episode. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/gary.lucas.5836/
This clip just arrived in my email from British Sax Colossus PAUL DUNMALL:
THE GAUCI-MUSIC SERIES CONTINUES WITH:
Monday March 7th
7pm Vinnie Sperrazza- drums
Caleb Curtis- alto sax
Noah Garabedian- bass
8pm Dafna Naphtali - vocals/synth
Ras Moshe - saxophones/flute - TBD
9pm Bushwick Series House Band
w/ Stephen Gauci - tenor sax
Adam Lane - bass
Kevin Shea - drums
10pm Santiago Leibson - keyboard
Michael Attias - alto saxophone
Tom Rainey - drums
11pm Patrick Golden - drums
Dave Sewelson - bari saxophone
Aron Namenwirth - guitar
Live at the Downtown Music Gallery
Saturday March 12th, 2022
6:30pm CD Release Performance for "Pandemic Duets, Eli Wallace/Stephen Gauci"
Eli Wallace - synth / Stephen Gauci - tenor saxophone
7:15pm CD Release Performance for "Pandemic Duets, Kevin Shea/Stephen Gauci"
Kevin Shea - drums / Stephen Gauci - tenor saxophone
8pm CD Release Performance for "Stephen Gauci/Eli Wallace/Kevin Shea, Live at the Bushwick Series"
Stephen Gauci - tenor sax / Eli Wallace - synth / Kevin Shea - drums
At the Downtown Music Gallery
13 Monroe St, New York, NY
Live at Scholes Street Studio
Saturday March 19th, 8pm & 9:15pm sets
Live recording/Live audience!
Noa Fort - vocals
Sam Newsome - soprano saxophone
Sean Conly - bass
$15 at the door, cash/venmo
@Scholes Street Studio - 718-964-8763
375 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY (near Lorimer J/M, Montrose L)