For anyone new to Arthur Russell, the record you have to hear is the posthumous compilation Calling Out of Context. The music exists at the crossroads where New York disco, hip hop, spaced out electronica and pure, perfect melody meet.
Oh, and cello. You hear this sound popularised and done more modern these days, but when I heard it, I thought that they had done the best rendition. This whole album is an homage to a Kerouac novel. With great care, Farrar and Gibbard lifted original text from the novel and placed it on top of their music. I have read that there was a lot of controversy around this at the time. Pop Levi could have gone either way: the biggest superstar the world has ever seen, or a fringe cult oddity. No prizes for guessing which way the tight pants split.
The alter ego of a little bloke from Liverpool who used to be in Ladytron, Pop Levi is a fantasy glam-rock star of awesome abilities, combining the puckish strut of Marc Bolan, the enigmatic swagger of Bowie, and the erotic slyness of Prince. I was looking for my identity as a singer and I really admired the way Billy Mackenzie used and manipulated his voice on that record.
He was an incredibly spontaneous and intuitive singer, raw and dangerous. At the same time, he always sounded like he was really plugged into nature. But to me, they are rougher than that. Her use of tone in the Adnos piece creates a frequency I often hear in my own head, among the silence of an empty room.
There is no movement, no sound, no other bodies, but it is so loud. The mind is running; thoughts are taking form and slowly growing into a firestorm of anxiety, question, fear, hope, desire, fantasy, worry, critique. This band put out a few records in the 90s. I think they were from Portland, Oregon. I first heard of them when we were on our first tour and there was this other band and one of them had that record, even at that point it was old. It was sort of a precursor to the early s and electroclash, it had that use of synth and that darkness but also those bellowing, Paul Banks-from-Interpol-style vocals.
But I guess they missed their window. We were going to play it on the last UK tour, but we found out that band Titus Andronicus had already released a cover of it, so they beat us to it. Not that it matters, really, we should have done it anyway. It all made sense. I guess you could call the whole album psychedelic-country. It makes me feel warm and safe. It holds up really good, especially for something that was probably done by a year-old. I have never ever, ever, ever, ever seen a band do anything even close to what Bad Brains used to do live.
They made me absolutely determined to become a musician, they basically changed my life, and changed the lives of everyone who saw them. Felt are one of those bands about whom there sometimes seem to be more good tales than there are tunes. But this strict order did not always extend to the music itself. At which LP, Lawrence delivered his masterpiece, comprised of wall-to-wall melodic classics. This truly, truly is pure pop music, from start to finish. I heard this one live song — a Carpenters song, maybe?
The Shaggs are another archetypal K band. So I turn up the speakers really loud and pretend it was blasting through the speaker on the malls. The first two were totally classic, and influenced the Melvins and all other punks rock bands.
Their songs are so good. Greg Sage was pretty much the romantic, quiet, visionary kind of guy. What more can I say about them? They started Seattle grunge rock in Portland, The drum machine has to be the cheesiest sound ever.
At the time, I was just painting and doing art stuff. The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever remains one of the biggest albums of all time. With it, the Bee Gees became synonymous with disco. And then came the backlash. But the documentary also suggests the disco backlash may be understood as anti-Black and anti-gay, because the music had emerged from Black and gay nightclub scenes.
It makes you look at the turning points of the culture in a new way. The association with disco arguably still keeps the Bee Gees from being properly appreciated. Not surprisingly, his repertoire and guitar and vocal styles were heavily influenced by Johnson.
At the time of the Charters recordings, Shines had not been working in music, but he must have been practicing or playing for fun because he is in great form. This is probably as close as we will ever get to hearing Robert Johnson playing with a band in a juke joint.
We are fortunate that Charters preserved it in such excellent recording quality. Walter Horton b. LPs as a set in a Record Store Day edition limited to copies worldwide. Unlike the original records, which were released individually with matching covers, the Craft set comes in a three pocket gatefold with the records inserted in individual flimsy cardboard jackets with scanned duplication of the original covers. The records are not in sleeves inside the jackets.
No sleeves at all seems to me to show little respect for the product and the customer. The three pocket gatefold is not of the quality that the top rank audiophile labels are producing.
The cover scans are not well done, the color is off and the evocative elevated subway photos are blurred. Craft made an attempt to duplicate the original Vanguard record labels but failed miserably. The print is all wrong and the color is too. A short update piece, in my opinion, should have been included.
Charters and three of the musicians have died since and the place of the Blues in Chicago and our culture has changed dramatically in the last twenty-two years. Pressing at MPO was worth mentioning but not worth bragging about. Maybe that someone at Craft had listened to the records or looked at them before they wrote the copy on the sticker, because the pressings are indeed nothing to brag about it's kind of unfair to ask Craft to inspect every pressing of these records, don't you think?
Side 1 of Volume 1, when inspected upon opening the set, had two moderately sized, clearly visible, pressing dimples. They each caused a few thumps. The record was also moderately warped and the stylus would not track the run in groove. There was also a small mark running with the grooves that caused a few ticks. All three LPs played throughout with light surface noise especially audible between tracks and during quiet passages of the music.
There were also occasional random ticks. It is possible that I have been spoiled by the ultra clean, ultra quiet pressings that the admired audiophile labels are producing, but I must say that these records fall very far short of that standard. They sounded quite a bit different.
The original recordings, by uncredited engineers at RCA in Chicago are very well done, in a minimalistic, just the musicians playing in the room style. Immediately obvious is that the Craft LPs have much more bass than the Vanguard Album). The result is a deeper, more dynamic rhythm groove which makes the music feel more aggressive and is a good thing for rocking, shouting Blues.
The recordings were made without overdubbing and the vocals were recorded at the same time as the instruments. I wonder if there was some leakage from the drums into the vocal mike because the mix on the Vanguard LPs is not ideal. It is propulsive and joyous and I fell for it immediately. This is free music that can move inside or outside with extraordinary ease.
Nothing is quite what it seems and the river of sound flows over a cushion of compelling beats. There is often an ostinato bass line as in The Magic of 3.
The melodic lines avoid the obvious and there is almost no repetition of phrases. In the right musical hands, following such principles opens up huge possibilities. This is a killing band and it is unmistakably a drummers band. Since completing his studies in New York, Louloudis has moved among like-minded improvisers and attracted favourable attention.
Although the artist was previously unknown to me my badhe has certainly come to the notice of important musicians and commentators Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Reggie Workman, Oliver Lake, Jeff Ballard, to mention just a few. Opening to soft brush beats, it morphs into a dreamy slow-moving rendition of Over the Rainbow, which in turn Album) the reflectively cutting poem, recited by Rosdeli Marte.
In this post, I have deviated from my usual practice of reviewing only albums from Aotearoa, New Zealand or those offshore who maintain connections to our rohe. Many writers were unable to engage, and in my country, we had freedoms others did not. No rule is worth having if it cannot be broken for a good cause. The genesis of DOG goes back a long way as I first reviewed them in Over that period they have gained various accolades and awards.
They are Dr Lonnie Smith in reverse because the group began their journey as Dr DOG but then ditched the title to better accord with their egalitarian street-dog ethos. Their reputation extends well beyond New Zealand shores and their second album was recorded with guest Australian guitarist James Muller. They have two albums out on Rattle and both are exceptional. Their first album featured the core group, and each of them contributed compositions: Roger Manins, Kevin Field, Oli Holland and Ron Samsom, The second album followed the same pattern, but with James Muller contributing as well.
These are all exceptional players and the albums have allowed them to place a deeper focus on their writing skills. When musicians of this ability come together they are better able to push past arbitrary limits. Ten years on there is a new guest in the lineup and as always there are new compositions from everyone.
I hope that this recent gig is the prelude to a third album because together this iteration is crackling hot. With guitarist Keith Price on board, they moved into fresh territory and alongside the burners, there were touches of big-vista Americana.
No wonder the gig was billed as the New Extra Strength Dog. At times it was Industrial strength. Although the group is co-led, Roger Manins is the compare. Any gig that he fronts will have X-factor and this was no exception. The first set opened with a tune by Price and it was blistering. From the front row, it was like being in a jet-stream but it was not just bluster. Price is a terrific composer and this tune rode a freight train of tension and breathtaking harmonic shifts.
That set the pace. With one exception the encorethese were all new tunes and each complemented the other. This was a feast of good writing, tunes played and written by musicians at the top of their game. In spite of their long association, it is obvious that these guys enjoy playing together.
The respect and warmth shine through the music. They are in sync because they respect the music and each other. The large club audience picked up on that, thus completing the virtuous circle. I have posted the first and last gig tunes as YouTube clips. Both of the DOG albums remain popular and they are available from stores or directly from Rattle and on Bandcamp.
We are lucky to have artists of this calibre in Auckland and if we show our support, more albums will surely follow. One was Ben Lerner, a saxophonist who had utilised his time in lockdown to write some new music.
While he played only one set, it was satisfying and complete in itself. Lerner left New Zealand a while ago and his time in Sydney has seen him further mature as an artist. His sojourn there has been productive as he has performed alongside some well-known musicians such as Mike Nock and Steve Barry.
His sound is distinctive, even and beautiful, and can convey a variety of moods with his carefully controlled modulation.
Perhaps this is a thing that alto players focus on more than tenor players? The approach served his compositions well, for his ability as a musician extends beyond performance. I have posted part four of that suite in a YouTube clip. All are superb readers and each contributed something of themselves to the project.
A recent graduate of the UoA Jazz School and at present completing his postgraduate studies there. It is unusual to see such a polished performance in an emerging artists gig. He plays well, very well, and he writes well also; but perhaps the most surprising thing to witness is how comfortable he looks while performing.
A first-time leaders gig before a large discriminating Jazz audience must be daunting. I have seen students perform who have an abundance of good ideas and the ability to carry them out but they sometimes lack the confidence to commit to them fully. I suspect that is the norm. Pipes gig was the counterfactual. They were melodic and engaging. Certain phrases reminded me of middle-eastern rhythms and whether intentional or not, enterprising. Improvisation like poetry is the fine art of appropriation and above all, it is stealing from and modifying your own best ideas.
And to do this and not sound derivative is laudable. Exciting to hear. The other ingredient, a solid and sympathetic line-up. Like Pipes, he is relaxed and confident on stage. On one gig he will play fusion, on another, straight ahead, or he will dial it down as an accompanist. Upfront, alongside Pipes, was saxophonist Daniel McKenzie. An emerging player and a strong improviser. The flow of his ideas revealing a narrative quality. Bass player Wil Goodinson has appeared many times at the club.
He has a solid reputation and he never disappoints. Lastly was drummer Rhohil Kishore. While the older drum styles are implicit, he always reaches for a fresh modern sound.
The two art forms have complemented each other since the early twentieth century. Even before the talkies, a pianist would sit watching a flickering screen while he or she would churn out improvised music. It is not always obvious that a Jazz musician has composed a movie soundtrack but a surprising number of films can lay claim to this connection.
We have Jazz musicians in our own community who often appear in the credits Crayford, Langabeer etc. In the case of Ennio Morricone, the reverse is true. He was never a Jazz pianist but his compositions have become jazz standards. Price has turned the concept on its head and created something vital and new, and in this case, drawing on the film images to blaze a new trail.
Here, the images are subordinate or equal to the music and there is no incidental music to enhance the segments of dialogue. And because there is no spoken narrative something extraordinary occurs. We feel the music and absorb the images in new ways.
It comes to us through many senses, through ears, body and eyes. This is a through-composed work, but with space and opportunity for the musicians to react to the images and to each other.
It features group improvisation, but there is nothing aimless about the work. Each segment is built on what proceeds it with the charts guiding the ensemble forwards as they interact. The ensemble was a double quartet and this doubling up of instruments required skilful playing and very good writing. Luckily we got both, and although the gig was loud, the intensity never tumbled into chaos. Each musician took on agreed roles, resulting in a heady, textural mix. There were two keyboards piano and digitaltwo drummers, two basses one upright, the other electrica tenor saxophone and a guitar.
Price was on guitar and guiding the music with prompts. An unexpected plus for me was having the cinematography of Sergio Leone untethered from the screenplay.
A new piece of music to a timeless movie. He was a towering genius of the cinema and it was nice to be reminded of that as we appreciated the preternatural framing of each shot. Leone drew on Samurai tales for his Dollar Trilogy and in doing so he reached beyond genre. The function of archetypes is to live on through reinterpretation and thanks to Keith Price, this story lives on. It was a quartet devoid of chordal instruments. It was Coleman, not Mulligan.
It was original music and an example of Coleman induced Lockdown creativity. He drums musically and tells stories at every turn. His tune titles, his solos and his announcements are tales from a true raconteur. He is a storyteller with an open vocabulary. I am always enthusiastic about a Lockett gig and with Lucien Johnson in the line-up, it was a sinch. Like Lockett, he is adventurous and his musical fearlessness was an asset here. While Lockett composed the tunes excepting two Monk tunesJohnson was the principal arranger.
The resulting gig was a tribute to freedom. Colman never abandoned the rules, he just invented new ones. I think that he would have enjoyed this gig as he never wanted followers.
What he wanted, was fellow travellers and he found that with this band. Everyone took solos and the notes they blew added something worthwhile. Behind them and pounding out meaty basslines was Umar Zakaria. We saw Zakaria recently when he fronted his own gig. Here, he was at his best, a Mingus like figure powering the music to greater heights.
He was just the right anchor and the others benefitted from his solid earthy cushion. There had been much anticipation as the band is popular, and when the gig finally happened, everyone was excited.
The Martyniuk Trio whether playing alongside Kiwi or Polish musiciansalways manages to capture a piece of that northern vibe for us. I have previously reviewed Martyniuk gigs and they never disappoint.
I like them because they are uplifting. I like them for their melodic and harmonic richness. Martyniuk is a gifted pianist, but his compositions and arrangements are real standouts. His tunes feel like modern standards and I never tire of hearing them interpreted afresh. A case in question was a soulful tribute to Lyle Mays For Lyle. A reflective ballad, celebrating a creative giant now lost to us. The tune, captured the essence of Mays the musician while evoking sadness at his untimely passing.
When tours stopped I recall wondering; when will I ever hear live music again? I listened to both Metheny and Martyniuk over the turbulent months that followed and recaptured the joy of those events.
We are lucky to have live music again, and LP when so many others are deprived of it. Another obvious reason for adding Metheny tunes to a programme of originals was the inclusion of Dixon Nacey in the band. During recent gigs, he has introduced many of these into his repertoire and to much acclaim. He was very much on form last week and his soaring smooth as silk delivery filled the room. His warm sound also complimented the richness of the Martyniuk compositions.
Videoing this gig proved extremely difficult, as the room was dark and the sightlines impossible. It was also a packed house and so capturing the sound from a suitable location was compromised Those who want to hear more of the group should buy an album or go see them live. While he remains here, do check his band out.
First off, was that wonderfully evocative title and accompanying postersuggesting a balm to ease our way through troubled times. For a lover of forests and explorative sounds, it was irresistible. During that time he has been associated with some diverse and interesting bands. This was his second CJC gig as a leader and the proof was to be in the pudding.
The gig title suggested an elemental offering and in many ways it was. While it referenced many ideas and styles, all were distilled to their essence. Out of this, Gianan had forged a clear vision. It was a surprisingly mature offering and his strength as a leader became apparent as the sets progressed. He knew exactly what he wanted from the musicians and he signalled his intentions as the tunes progressed.
The compositions, while structured, did not confine the musicians. They were pieces written with the ensemble in mind. It was particularly evident in the head arrangements, which were anchors for the developments which arose from them. Brief exchanges between guitar and saxophone, momentarily broke free of the structure, and this contrasted with the steady bass lines and drum pulses.
There were burners and ballads, and every twist and tune seemed to balance what had preceded it. His comping is supportive while the flurry of exchanges with the other musicians are to the point. His alto lines tight in the heads, and stretching during exchanges. His lines are often elided and I like that, he can say a lot with what he leaves out. Knowing when to leave space is important and again this says something about the quality of the compositions.
Completing the line up were two experienced musicians, Bass player Mostyn Cole and drummer Ron Samsom. There were fragments of vibrato-tinged melody, played in unison; at other times a pumping groove. He was a late addition to the lineup and a good choice. We expect much from Samsom and we are never disappointed. He seemed to relish playing alongside his former pupil.
He was on fire. Unfortunately, the battery on my Rode mic gave out, so the filming relied on the camera mic. It is not ideal, but the music shines through. The tune titles were intriguing and added something to the vibe. Enigmatic titles can add value and these felt like they belonged to the tunes. It is noticeable when a gig flows naturally.
Afterwards, something remains with you, an essence, not just a tune, but a sense of what the musician is communicating. At times, this gig evoked a wistful feel, but it mostly suggested what could be. I for one will wait for what comes next with interest. The Album) is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Some of these posts appear on other sites by arrangement. Happenstance is the midwife to surprise and in the musical universe, random events occur often.
They appear unheralded, bringing chaos or joy and for seasoned improvisers, they are welcome visitors. So it was with Hot Foot, a band cobbled together in haste; a sonic singularity, a concentration of energy.
The advertised gig was an organ trio, but at the last minute, that event was rescheduled, so with hours to spare, Roger Manins revived Hot Foot and how fortuitous that turned out to be. There is provenance to Hot Foot, but the details remain sketchy. Leader Manins hinted that they had once played at a village market but a long time ago. He introduced the trio with a story about a Sydney band of similar configuration. For him, that had been a formative experience, a chance to play without the safety net of a chordal instrument.
A chance to cut his musical teeth alongside more experienced players and to road test the Sonny Rollins Way Out West trio thing. On Wednesday, the spirit of Rollins hung over the proceedings, the way Manins gnawed away at a tune and tugged at its fabric without losing the form. We were treated to long intros where a familiar melody was hinted at, then abandoned to a flurry of arpeggios. It was riveting to watch and to hear. There were clear signals and subtle hints as the intros unfolded; sometimes accompanied by verbal exclamations or questions directed at the audience or to Jazz School students.
The solos were extracted from the tunes by paring them back and then exposing the naked ideas; sometimes stopping at the brink of freedom. If this sounds chaotic it was not. It was a masterclass for Jazz lovers and it was realised in a spirit of joy and levity. A saxophone trio reveals the melodic lines unadorned, but in doing so there are specific responses required from a bass player and a drummer.
In this instrumental configuration, it is important that a bass player holds the form, and McArthur did so admirably. This not only gave the saxophonist the room he needed but opened up opportunities for the drummer.
Drummer Ron Samsom made the most of his space and his musical intelligence came to the fore. His was a modulated voice as there was nothing that intruded or jarred, there was a pulse but it was mainly implied.
He explored the kits melodic possibilities and added flashes of colour. Improvisers function best in a high trust environment and that was what we saw last week. It is here where experience counts and where a band manifests personality. The gig also unleashed Manins alter ego, Comedian Roger.
There are often flashes of humour in his musical performances and it is especially evident when he introduces tunes. He never takes himself too seriously and this balances his serious commitment to his art form. His humour is unplanned and you never know what is coming next. The CJC audiences love to see this side of him. This is a favourite of mine and judging by the whoops of delight when the coda morphed into the tune, it is an audience favourite also.
Ask Me Now is a question I am happy to answer. Yes, this was a very good night. For those unfamiliar with its history, the club was set up over a decade ago, as a place to bring original improvised music to discriminating listening audiences. A secondary function was to ensure that emerging artists were given a shot on select gig nights. Frater is an undergraduate at the UoA Jazz School and for an emerging performer, his drum-work shows surprising maturity.
In common with many up-and-coming performers, his approach is not confined to any particular style and this openness has informed his approach. The gig was billed as swing influenced, but leaning towards fusion, and the descriptor was accurate. Frater is a compelling drummer and he will further enrich the local scene. The leader enrolled former and current students for this gig and in consequence, a shared vision was evident.
CJC audiences are by now quite familiar with guitarist Michael Gianan and with keyboard wiz Joe Kaptein; both have featured often during the last year. The other band members were Jimmy Olsen on electric bass, Andrew Isdale on tenor saxophone and Jack Thirtle on trumpet. Olson was a powerhouse with those urgent pumping bass-lines; the sounds of Jazz-fusion deserve slippery grooves like that. And Kaptein impressed as he always does, his calm demeanour belying what was flowing from his fingertips.
He backed into the pieces like a pro and established grooves on top of grooves; then he reached underneath the bonnet and messed with the sound in a good way. The groove tunes took a bold step in the direction of improvised Jazz electronica; the direction of Eivind Aaset in particular. I hope that Frater takes us further down that road. It has until now been a Nordic sound and it is extremely popular in the northern regions. This band gave it a Kiwi flavour, and I for one am ready for more.
Clarke had assembled some formidable firepower. Clarke is a recent graduate from the UoA Jazz Programme and I first heard her when she was called on at short notice to replace Caitlin Smith at a live gig, just days before the first lockdown.
Many of the tunes were sung in Portuguese. Again, it is a credit to the Auckland University Jazz School that they nurture such diversity within their programme structure. Out of this diversity, an Auckland sound is being forged.
It can be daunting to find yourself in front of a large discriminating Jazz audience, but Clarke demonstrated her ability to win an audience over.
She has a fine voice and she mastered the rhythmic complexities of her Latin tunes with ease. Alex Pipes also nailed the rhythms, with Olsen, Samsom and Frater adding counter pulse and texture. Nathan Haines provided perfect fills and a gorgeous solo or two. His Latin Flute chops are legendary. I write from a warm Pacific Island. We have had two short sharp lockdowns this year and as we emerged from each of them, the music venues filled up with enthusiastic punters; so what better way to exit the last lockdown but with joyful noise.
Ruckus is a genre defying, assemblage of anarchic improvisers under the guidance of David Ward. Last week saw the inclusion of saxophonist J. Lee in the Ruckus lineup and his bold delivery added piquancy. There were three Monk tunes performed, and on these, Lee played Baritone saxophone.
Ruckus is one of several local groups which invariably include Monk tunes in their repertoire. There were folksy ballads and a tango referencing tune I have posted the latter.
This time, there was less Americana influence but it was still evident. As always, Neil Watson alternated between pedal steel guitar and standard electric guitar. He and Ward are old hands at this material and they play off each other well. Eamon Edmundson Wells upright bass work stood out on this gig. He sounded great. This is the type of band where he is at his best, the type of band where a degree of freedom is afforded him.
Tristan Deck again proved his worth as a multi-faceted and capable drummer. I loved the stick work on the tango-esque number. Some of the posts also appear on other sites. It will flow through the cracks until it has found its own level. The recent Kiwi lockdown was mercifully short, and in random and serendipitous ways new music found me.
As always, I was happy when it did. Below are three very different albums — check them out. During our recent lockdown I received an album in the post from Lionsharecords. Having recently travelled to New Orleans, I detected those influences in this band immediately. Everything from swing to soulful gator-funk, from Sun Ra to the various free jazz offshoots.
Guess Whos Back - Domo Genesis - Under The Influence (File, MP3, Album), Recitativo « O Lobenswerter Sinn! » - Mozart* - Oratorios, Cantatas, Masonic Music (CD), You Are Beautiful - Gab Logan - Think Before It Is Too Late (File, MP3, Album), A Cocky Cowboy - Cliff Ferré - Cafe Society (Vinyl, LP, Album), Setta Iration Dub, A Friend Of Mine, Jimmy... - Zappacosta - Quick!...Ask Any Questions... An Open-Ended Interview Disc, Sonata In G Major - Frescobaldi* - Merula*, Pasquini*, Rossi*, D. Scarlatti*, Trabaci*, Zipoli* / Lu, Balance, Credit Squeeze - Clancy Eccles - Freedom (The Anthology 67-73) (CD), Marvin Gaye - Whats Going On (Vinyl, LP, Album), Rock Island Line