experimental


I recently went to the record release show for Glenn Branca’s The Ascension: The Sequel at Le Poisson Rouge. First, the show. It was loud. And it was kind of awesome. 4 guitars, bass, and drums with Branca conducting. The man himself was in full curmudgeonly form–for one past example, see his op-ed for the Times on “The End of Music“–but it was clear he was in fact enjoying himself. As was the packed house. Some kind soul–who, incidentally, must have been standing more or less directly behind me–put some clips on youtube, including this one. It’s pretty far away and the first 1:30 or so is spoken introduction and chatter (including Branca’s above-quoted suggestion regarding earplugs, which thankfully I ignored) but the sound is good:


And last week I was back at LPR for a great mixed bill: first, Sam Amidon made me remember that I do like some folk/americana-type music after all, then Daniel Bjarnason hit the stage with a 16-piece orchestra for a too-short set, and finally, the Danish band Efterklang played a set that kind of blew me away. Partly that’s because I had only heard a handful of their songs in relatively low fidelity versions online–a sure way to miss the richness and fullness of their sound. And partly it’s because they are a phenomenal live band–musicians periodically jump over to a mic to add unexpected vocal harmonies, drummers pick up trumpets mid-song to blow dramatic lead lines, gurgling electronic loops and squawks weave seamlessly in and out of lush acoustic arrangements, and everyone just generally dances and roams around the stage with tons of energy. There are some pics up at Brooklyn Vegan, and there are a couple of vids of the LPR show on youtube but I’d say this one, from Swedish TV, is pretty representative:


So why the frequent visits to Poisson Rouge? I’m glad you asked. It turns out that one can purchase a membership for a year or two at a time and, among various other perks, can attend certain shows–Branca and Efterklang, for example–for free. With a guest no less. Just another way the folks at this venue are thinking outside the box. And I dig it.

Advertisements

I wrote my last post, about my rediscovery of Henry Threadgill, on Friday. Later that afternoon I sat down to look up some music listings for the weekend and, lo and behold, who was playing just two days later? Henry Threadgill and his current group, Zooid. That sort of thing never gets old to me.

So Sunday, after a day of apartment hunting and a tasty dinner at No.7 in Fort Greene, the lady and I headed to Roulette in Soho. Roulette is a pretty awesome, if surprisingly tiny (and, at least the other night, hot!), art and performance space that has been around for about thirty years putting on shows of, as they put it, “Experimental and Adventurous Music.” For the first set, the group played what I assume were largely songs from their new CD, This Brings Us To, Vol. 1. The second set was a longer-form piece commissioned specifically by Roulette, where Zooid, normally a drums-bass-guitar-tuba-reeds combo, was supplemented by a cellist.

The music is “free” in the sense that it’s hard to discern many static harmonic patterns in any give tune, and there’s a good amount of collective improvisation going on. But for the most part the feel is more hypnotic and angular than it is intense or chaotic. There’s a common rhythmic theme that runs throughout the tunes. Basically, the songs often have a strong groove, almost even a funk feel, to them, but the beats are disjointed and jerky–it’s as if one musician is playing a 4/4 groove, the next is playing the same beat but his 1 is on the other guy’s 2, another is playing a similar groove but in 5/4, etc. Everything matches up to create a loopy, head-bobbing feel, but trying to count out the rhythm is essentially a futile exercise. You could probably dance to it, but anyone watching might question your neurological well-being.

The show was recorded for Roulette TV, which already has probably a few dozen performances from Roulette’s archives available for viewing online. Check ’em out.

If there’s any single factor most likely to contribute to my eventual bankruptcy, it has to be the continuing existence of Mosaic Records. It’s SO worth it though! Mosaic is a jazz label–part of the Blue Note Label Group–that specializes in reissuing tastefully packaged, obsessively annotated, impressively comprehensive limited edition box sets of hard to find, often out of print, records. Every so often, I splurge and buy one or two (or ask others to splurge and buy one or two for me as a gift!), sometimes of their 3-CD “Select” Sets (the Charles Tolliver and Bobby Hutcherson sets are a couple of faves) and, when I’m feeling particularly flush, their full box sets (the Oliver Nelson and now out of print Elvin Jones sets are pretty amazing).

Last October, Mosaic strayed from its usual, more traditional jazz-oriented approach, and released the phenomenal 8-CD Anthony Braxton box set. I listened to it several times over in the few days after my pre-order arrived, and many, many times since. It basically ushered in a full year (so far!) of me revisiting my more “out” musical tendencies (I did once have a radio show here that focused on avant-garde music, after all), much to the chagrin of my wonderfully patient ladyfriend. One of my recent re-discoveries has been Henry Threadgill, former member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the group Air, and several of his own awesome combos.

And lo and behold, a recent email from Mosaic lands in my inbox announcing…wait for it…the Henry Threadgill Complete Novus and Columbia Recordings box set to be released in early 2010, featuring Air, X-75 (a nonet with 4 reeds, 4 basses, and a vocalist), and the “Sextett” (actually a septet with Threadgill, trumpet, trombone, cello, bass, and two drummers). Definitely pre-order material (when the time comes). Until then, though, there’s always youtube, which has this pretty awesome big band recording from 1988:

« Previous Page