Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On second thought, stop the carnival.

Francis Davis in the Voice on Sonny Rollins' latest, a live recording made a week after 9/11, in Boston. Davis notes, "When Rollins goes first, everything else is anticlimactic, and when he goes last, as is more often the case, the wait seems forever—you wish he'd give trombone and piano their own features and grab the spotlight. Why have Bob Cranshaw play electric bass if all you ask him to do is walk? The constant buzz is a distraction, and an upright would blend more handsomely with the wood in Rollins's cello-like lower register. Adding Kimati Dinizulu's hand percussion to Perry Wilson's traps doesn't intensify the groove: With both of them going at it, the rhythm section just sounds busy. And Rollins's opening head arrangements of four standards, including 'Why Was I Born?' and 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square', are superfluous time killers." Davis' verdict? Rollins' best since Don't Stop the Carnival, close to thirty years ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Semi-mellow jazz docent (teaches the jazz kids how to indie).

Proving yet again that jazz's salvation will be at the hands of someone other than jazz fans, avant jazz has been popping up on the indie MP3 blog axis lately, perhaps in response to a slow release month. Anyway, The Pop View posted some semi-successful electro-jazz from Matthew Shipp last week; and Eddie Gale, fresh from a furious Vision Fest appearance (he was furious with the sound guy), and a primo spot on Soul Jazz' New Thing! comp., has popped up twice at Orbis Quintus, and once at Fluxblog, a while ago. And then there's that Gold Sounds album, twelve jazz covers of Pavement songs, finally due September 27, from Brown Brothers. (This is a cool idea, and should get lots of attention, but the lead up to this release has been so protracted they're running the risk of sapping all of the native enthusiasm they've engendered. Right, Fiona?) The Brown Bros. site is now streaming "My Own Mine," which appeared most recently on the deluxe Slanted & Enchanted.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

ECM for dummies.

Remember that book proposal we were always going on about? Well, we're just about at the point where our agent has done all she can, a termination letter is a few weeks away, and we will soon send the thing out to some farther-flung houses under our own steam. We have even suffered the ignomy of a reject from a U press that had gone out of its way to request the proposal. (Thanks, man. Good luck with that Elvis retread.) On the occasion of the Julian Priester reissue, and in celebration of the diminished likelihood that anyone other than you will read these words, here's our sidebar on ECM Records, one of a planned dozen or so capsule label histories:

ECM Records

The record label ECM—Edition of Contemporary Music—was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in 1969. At the time, free jazz was rapidly emerging in Europe, as American ex-pats spread the gospel in England and on the Continent, and European players embraced a new freedom developed in-country. Eicher remains president of the label today, which in part explains the tremendous consistency in output, design, and overall aesthetic that ECM albums have maintained since its first release, pianist Mal Waldron’s Free at Last (1969). Nine hundred albums later, ECM continues to be one of the leading sources of experimental jazz with a European flavor.

Certain performers have come to be associated with ECM, including saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Dave Holland, and especially pianist Keith Jarrett, who has recorded for ECM exclusively for the past 25 years. Jarrett’s diverse output—solo concerts, jazz groups, classical compositions—mirrors that of ECM as a whole. His solo Koln Concert (1975) has sold over four million copies, a remarkable feat for any jazz performance, let alone an improvised and unaccompanied concert.

ECM’s main trademark has been its production style. Eicher is a classically trained double-bassist and it may be this background that led him pursue an austere, big-room sound on just about every ECM release. Along with the spare sleeve designs, it is this crystalline tone, with almost tangible silences, that defines ECM output—for better or worse. The varied critical responses to this signature sound might explain why Eicher refuses to grant interviews. The music is consistently challenging, unafraid of lyricism and beauty—not to mention quiet—and embraces its European roots.

It’s worth noting that ECM’s very earliest records, from 1969 to the early 1970s, were recorded without Eicher at the controls. These recordings were brought in by the artists and only distributed by ECM. The lovely Dave Holland album Conference of the Birds (1973) is one notable example. Fans put off by the sterilized tang of current ECM output would do well to search out these first releases.

Terje Rypdal, Terje Rypdal (1971)
Dave Holland, Conference of the Birds (1973)
Jan Garbarek, Witchi-Tai-To (1973)
Art Ensemble of Chicago, Nice Guys (1978)
Art Ensemble of Chicago, Urban Bushmen (1980)
Jack DeJohnette, Album Album (1984)
Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, Toward the Margins (1996)
Nils Petter Molaever, Solid Ether (2000)

Thanks for reading.

What's next b/w What's old.

Had your fill of leaked tracks by [yr fave artist with upcoming disk here]? Not sure where to turn next, and not willing to wait for Pitchfork/Fluxblog/TMFTML to tell you? Bill Berger's eclectic song dump at the 'fmu blog might be just the ticket. Heavy on selections from the "infamous" Nurse With Wound list, you get everything from Amon Duul II to 70s reggae to Cheap Trick; the real find for me is The Trees, 70s Brit-folk akin to Fairport fronted by a more annoying Sandy Denny. No, it's good.

The 'fmu blog also has the lowdown on the rather nutty Lydon-Jimmy Pursey (Sham 69) set-to, as witnessed by the Proclaimers. Perhaps this was a scene from some new reality show: Old & Punk'd? Hard not to see Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau cast in the recreation (except for the being dead part).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dribs, DRABS.

-- Thom Yorke has a blog, Dead Air Space. Brings to mind the Kid A booklet, awash in artless art, gnomic in-jokes, and wasted real estate. But he seems to be warming to it.

-- ECM has reissued trombonist Julian Priester's 1974 free funk-fest Love, Love. Priester was fresh from Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band at the time, which took Miles Davis' electronic skronk and Mooged it out; Priester's group gets back to the beat. This track was ear-marked for the rumored second volume in Virgin UK's Jazz Satellites series.

-- I want to take this time to send out a special, special dedication to the girl standing to my left at the Killers concert last night at Stubb's.... So begins an amusing rant at Craigslist/Austin. But really dude, why not just move?

-- So the Village Voice music blogs now? We are unfazed (as we are unread), even in the face of Tom Breihan's rather funny write up of Heinekin's AmsterJam (really), held last weekend at Randall's Island, "an apocalyptically ugly venue." Check Diddy's wordless cameo.

-- Lit blogger Ed Champion rips Klosterman a new one while coining a new one: Klosterfuck. People really seem to enjoy trashing this guy, seemingly for good reason. I didn't mind Fargo Rock City, though that was given to me and probably all that I'll ever read by him. But like the enraged fan at the Killers show (see above), who seems to have enjoyed being so put out, it's weird that people enjoy hammering hammering hammering hammering on the Kloster-man, to the point where any impartial observer can see there's a puddle where his head used to be. It goes above and beyond. That's all I'm sayin. Oooo, you stepped right in it....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Well, truth be told, not all of them were my friends....

Apropos of nothing, an old, short squib by Jonathan Lethem about an even older song, my response to which echoes that of the author, even if I heard it first some ten years later. Promptly bought the LP, which may as well have been a single with nine flip sides, so far above and beyond was "People Who Died." I could never understand why that track came at the end of side 1, but it now strikes me as a desperate attempt to get people to listen to the rest of the album, or at least that side. The song is ridiculously over the top, and Carroll sells it, fully committed, with the slightest acknowledgment of the goofiness that is "They were all my friends, and they died." While the music brooks no such wink.

This is the second remembrance I've recently read of a song being played twice in a row on the radio --- the other was "Walk on the Wild Side" [link sadly lost], on black radio no less --- and when was the last time that happened? Though Jack and his lookalikes may play whatever the hell they like, I doubt that includes playing anything two times, 4 your mind. Though maybe this happens all the time on stations I'm simply unaware of (i.e., most of the dial).

Anyway, the Lethem site has some good stuff and is worth a look-see in general, in the glove compartment, and don't look now, but is that Eliot Winterpenis?

Monday, August 22, 2005

RIP Mr. Moog

Robert Moog has died.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tomorrow is a long time.

EP by Johnson

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Son of splatter: blood on our hands.

Bird lives downtown, and uptown, too. The 13th annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is set for the weekend of August 27/28 in NYC --- Marcus Garvey Park on Saturday, Tompkins Square Park on Sunday. Geri Allen, John Hicks, Fathead Newman, Cindy Blackman: the Sunday bill looks solid. We have fond memories of attending the first annual fest, which had the sweetest neighborhoody feel and a bracing lack of commercialization (i.e., it's free, and no Verizon banner). And the music cooked.

July indoors. Bronwyn C, over at the WFMU blog, has been on a tear of late, with some posts chronicling her recent bout of skin cancer that are as moving as they are entertaining, skipping maudlin all together. The July indoors entry presents her notes on books she's read while stuck inside for weeks on end; everything from Carnivorous Nights to Happy Kitty Bunny Pony. It's great. Actually, the collected Bronwyn C posts make for pretty excellent reading all down the line, though at this point I'd probably read her take on microcephalic dwarves---o wait, I have already.

High water coming. John Darnielle is ready for the CocoRosie throwdown, even though their sophomore effort, Noah's Ark, isn't due for another month. It's a preemtive strike, an attempt to get the good word out before the bad news starts flowing to such a degree that a positive review then becomes some kind of radical, tide-stemming stand. (wha?) So now we're trying to game the spin cycle on CocoRosie? CocoRosie? It's enough to make a person rave Let's hear about something old, for crying out loud. (And we actually like the new CocoRosie, having randomly found the thing for sale in a Brooklyn music hole.) [This via the OQ.]

Monday, August 08, 2005


--Hungry like the Chuck: Carl Wilson not digging on Chuck Klosterman.

--Tangled up in polka dots: Clothesline Saga, a dotty Dylan photo gallery.

--Democracy now: Francis Davis, in the Village Voice, reviews the latest liberation project from Charlie Haden. Also the recently released Bird/Diz rediscovery. Also Billy Bang's Vietman: Reflections.

--Future days: A long feature at Pop Matters on Can's second wave, and Mute's re-release of Future Days, Soon over Babaluma, Landed, and Unlimited Edition.

--Music blogs that you will soon read instead of this one: The Pop View, which today notes the passing of Buena Vista vocalist Ibrihim Ferrer (see also snappy, sample-related posts on Sade and De La with Lou Rawls); Hallmonitor, formerly The Rub, indier-than-thou but in the nicest way possible, and we don't hold his GBV fixation against him; and free jazz reviewer Nate Dorward, whose reasonable tips for music reviewing are hard to argue with, and whose blog appears to be updated fairly regularly now (don't let the sabremetrics stuff fool you).

--Scraping the barrel: A column at Stylus from Ned Raggett seemingly devoted to pillorying whatever's lying around Stylus's offices on any given week, unclaimed. It's actually called Scraping the Barrel. So for barrel scrapings, thoughts on discs no one else even bothered to pick up, reflections on the forgotten, unforgiveable, unremarkable, and otherwise unavailable, go to, and have fun.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Silkworm drummer killed in car crash.

This sad news is already a few weeks old, but we just came across it today, via Cosloy's 12XU site, of all places:
Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist was killed in an automobile accident on July 14, in Chicago. The band's official site has a wonderfully full and touching obit at the top of the page, along with a link to a great Steve Albini appreciation that appeared in the Chicago Reader. To hear what's been lost, if only in part, go to the Touch & Go download page, which has three great Silkworm songs up [scroll down]; "(I Hope U) Don't Survive," despite the unfortunate name, showcases some typically great work from Dalquist.
Further: the T&G site has a stream of Silkworm's 2004 disk It'll Be Cool here [scroll down].

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, David Byrne is floating in space.

Radio Byrne-man has updated his monthly stream, and, in celebration of the IRA cease fire in No. Ireland, is featuring three hours of "nonstop psychedelic beauty." Not sure I see the connection, and once again there's too much Donovan (and no Van Morrison?), but it's great to hear mildly trippy chestnuts like Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" replace the nonstop Italian parade that was running in July. Though, again, how is "Only Living Boy in NY" psychedelic?

The Cream tracks call to mind the recent FMU post that highlighted free-market ticket prices for their reunion tour. Druggy nostalgia don't come cheap.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Every day is Fela Day.

Tomorrow, August 2d, marks the eighth anniversary of Fela's death, due to AIDS. To honor the day, African Shrine Entertainment Productions & The Foundation for Democracy in Africa, in collaboration with C.O.U.M.B.A. Foundation, Inc., will present the second annual African AIDS Awareness Concert in honor of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: ten hours of live music at Kalakuta Rebublic, Lagos. For those who can't make it to Nigeria, there will also be a Fela Day celebration in Brooklyn this Saturday, the 6th, at Cadman Plaza, from noon until 8pm. Among the scheduled performers: Kaleta; Wonderland Afrobeat Orchestra; Dead Prez' M1; Sandra Isidore; Randy Weston; Talib Kweli; Mos Def; Roy Ayers. (No Antibalas seems a little weird, though they appear to be in France.) It is FREE. And for those closer to DC, there will be another day-long Afrobeat extravaganza on Fela's birthday, October 15th --- location and lineup to be announced. (Though one hopes, certainly, for an appearance by the Baltimore Afrobeat Society.)