Friday, March 24th, 2006
... 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. ...
KZSU, 90.1 FM
Paul Motian's 75th birthday is tomorrow, so I thought I'd play lots
of his stuff -- including his current CD -- and talk him up a bit.
He's been through a fantastic career including sideman work for
Keith Jarrett, and he's still in demand as a drummer -- even though
he refuses to leave NYC! That's right, if you want him on your
album, you gotta come to New York -- not that New York is an unusual stop for
jazz guys, but still. It shows what kind of draw he has.
Big regret: Forgot to bring in the album where Motian played for a
young Tim Berne.
I got my chronology mixed up and thought we had that album in the
library -- but it dates from way before KZSU was hip to avant-jazz
from New York.
No, wait -- I've got a bigger regret. It's listed below.
ARTIST -- "TRACK TITLE" -- ALBUM TITLE (LABEL, YEAR)
# Paul Motian -- "Congestion" -- Trioism (JMT, 1993; currently available on Winter & Winter)
One difficulty with the Motian theme: As much as I enjoy his music,
it's got a floaty, pleasant quality that doesn't jibe well with the
spiky avant stuff I tend to prefer. Early on, I realized I'd have to
prevent the Motian tracks from being like "commercials," pauses in the
middle of the normal flow. (Whatever "normal" flow there is, that is.)
* Hard Cell with Tim Berne -- "I Do It" -- Feign (Screwgun, 2005)
So, two things: 1) I spread out the Motian pieces and 2) tended to
use them at the start of a set rather than the end. That way they
had the benefit of what was already a break in the action -- my
back-announcing -- and I could talk a bit about Paul and his music
along the way. Seemed to work.
* Sondre Lerche and the Faces Down Quartet -- "Human Hands" -- Duper Sessions (EMI, 2006)
Lerche is a Norweigan singer/songwriter type who's done a couple of
indie rock albums with breezy/jazzy chords to the songs. Here he goes
all-out jazz hipster on us, kind of like an indie Harry Connick but with
more creative ideas. About half the album is solidly in the jazz camp,
including this track (a very nice take on an old Elvis Costello tune);
others could qualify as regular indie-pop with a jazz sheen. I liked this
album a lot more than I expected, with this track and a Prefab Sprout (!)
cover being particularly nice surprises. Lerche's originals, which make
up the bulk of the album, aren't bad either and feature some nice
* Zu and Mats Gustafsson -- "The King Devours His Sons" -- How to Raise an Ox (Atavistic, 2006)
*# Paul Motian -- "Mumbo Jumbo" -- Garden of Eden (ECM, 2006)
Motian's current CD, featuring two saxophones (Chris Cheek, Tony
Malaby) and three guitarists (Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder,
Jakob Bro), with Jerome Harris on bass and Motian on drums. It's like an
extension of his Electric Bebop Band (two guitars and two saxes).
The CD is full of pretty, floaty, dreamy work, lots of gentle chiming
from the guitars, some sweet melodies. A nice relaxed space.
* Assif Tsahar -- "Sand Between a Toe" -- Solitude (Hopscotch, 2005)
* Zimbabwe Nkenya -- "Ornience" -- Zimbabwe Nkenya and the New Jazz (High Mayhem, 2005)
Nice stuff out of New Mexico. A little more than half of the CD is
a band fronted by bassist Nkenya, playing Ornette-like jazz with the
occasional free breakdown or pensive improv pause. Well done, and the
overtly jazzy segments get cooking. The rest of the CD are solo bass
tracks, ear-catching stuff. I'm impressed. The sound fidelity is
a bit lacking, but considering High Mayhem is a cool festival in the
DIY mode, we should forgive them for not having the snazziest
equipment at their fingertips. Hoping to hear lots more from Zimbabwe
* Badland -- "Reeds in the Western World" -- The Society of the Spectacle (Emanem, 2005)
* Decision Dream -- "Steamroom Variations, Part 1" [excerpt] -- Steamroom Variations (Red Toucan, 2005)
-- 4:00 p.m. --
# Paul Motian Electric Bebop Band -- "We See" -- Monk and Powell (Winter & Winter, 1999)
The EBEB, as Motian likes to call it, graces traditional bebop with
a light touch, despite having two saxes and two guitars in the lead line
(see above). This CD was all covers of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell,
this particular track being a nice bright reading of "We See."
* Daniel Panasenko and Mark Wyman -- "El Kohno" -- Untitled (self-released, 2005)
Classical guitar plus accordion, an often pastoral sounding disk.
Panasenko is also a jazz guitarist and sent us quite an adventurous
CD along those lines. This one's heavier on the classical/serious
* Edmund Welles: The Bass Clarinet Quartet -- "Big Bottom" -- Agrippa's 3 Books (Zeroth Law, 2005)
EW leader Cornelius Boots will probably be ready to strangle me when
he sees how often I played this one. It's a great way to snare listeners
in, you have to admit.
* Cosmologic -- "Blacon (Beyond the Divide)" -- III (Circumvention, 2005)
Doesn't that title just make you brace yourself for a flood of
Hawkwind/ELP pretentiousness? The guitar riffs in the opening kind of
suggest a prog direction, but the song doesn't prog out totally, instead
reverting to the horn-led modern jazz that makes up most of this CD.
Good track that includes a blazing sax solo from Jason Robinson.
* Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey -- "Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland" -- The Sameness of Difference (Hyena, 2005)
* Transit -- "Red Hook" -- Transit (Clean Feed, 2005)
A fierce jam that stays under control. This is a very nice
jazz/improv quartet, with Seth Misterka (alto sax, played gutterally),
Jeff Arnal (drums), Reuben Radding (bass), and Nate Wooley (trumpet).
Glad they got a CD out; from the sound of it, they're onto something
special with this group. Here's hoping they keep it going.
!? Sparks -- "Perfume" -- Hello Young Lovers (In the Red, 2006)
Baaa- HAHAHAHAHA!! That's an evil laugh, if you didn't know. Back in
1982, Sparks appeared on Saturday Night Live with two bouncy, overly poppy
songs: "Mickey Mouse" and "I Predict." I was hooked, and I spent
the next several years tormenting friends by insisting Sparks was good.
They are! If you're not aware, the band consists mainly of Ron and Russell
Mael, from L.A. Staring around 1972 they pioneered the glam-rock sound
that Queen would eventually make famous (Queen once opened for them).
In the late '70s, they were among the first non-disco bands to get take disco beats
a la Giorgio Moroder, creating an early version of '80s synth-pop. And by
1982, they'd gone back to guitars for the sound that caught my ear. Never
big in the U.S., except for the "Cool Places" single with Jane Wiedlin,
they've had enough hits in Europe to be fondly remembered over there.
Fieldwork -- "Gaudi" -- Simulated Progress (Pi Recordings, 2005)
Imagine my delight at discovering Sparks is still around! They never stopped
making records, and their 20th, Hello Young Lovers, came out
just this week in the U.S. I've been reading all kinds of U.K. news
about it (the U.K. release was in February, with a small tour) and
had heard the first two tracks over the Web. Their current sound is
more serious than in 1982, with lots of synths doing pretty good
imitations of stringed instruments -- it's like pop infused with
chamber music. The lyrical repetition gets a bit maddening -- maybe it
just stands out more in a less pop-sounding setting -- but the
creativity and sly humor are all there.
Best track on the CD is the opener, "Dick Around," which starts in
operatic/chamber mode and eventually adds hard chunky guitar courtesy
of Dean Menta (Faith No More (no, seriously, he's been on their last
two albums)). But the FCC is *really* sensitive these days, and
even an innocuous phrase like "dick around" is an unwise choice for
Friday afternoon airplay. So, I settled on this one, the first single
from the album. It rattles off 30 women's names and 30 perfume
brands, and has a jazzy keyboard riff cutting through. A less
ambitious song than "Dick Around," but so catchy that I haven't gotten
it out of my head for weeks.
Best of luck to Sparks on the new
release. I saw a nice stack of them in the store on Tuesday, so
the interest is there.
All week long, I envisioned playing a fast-driven tenor-sax
post-bop to follow up Sparks. A band with sparkly fast piano in it, too.
When the time came, nothing suitable
was at hand -- the combination just didn't work as well as I'd thought.
What did work was this track, which opens with a hard-driven
blast from the piano, sax, and drums that make up this trio. Vijay Iyer
is the pianist, and I've written
about how impressed I am with him and with the two Fieldwork CDs so far.
ICP Orchestra -- "Jubilee Varia" [part 3 of 3] -- Jubilee Varia (Hatology, 1999)
Played this one because these guys will be in San Francisco this
weekend, a rare appearance. ICP = "Instant Composers' Pool," it's a Dutch
outfit that's featured some of Amsterdam's star players including
Misha Mengelberg (sax) and Han Bennik (drums). The band improvises
everything but grounds itself in the American jazz tradition.
Lots of Dutch musicians have followed that tactic to great success
(artistically; I hope they've made money on it, but this is jazz,
after all). Try out Willem Breuker or the aforementioned Mengelberg
and Bennik; you'll be opening yourself to an enormous catalogue of
great stuff, often played with a sense of humor.
-- 5:00 p.m. --
# Keith Jarrett -- "Mushi Mushi" -- Bop-Be (ABC Impulse, 1978)
To exemplify Motian's sideman work, I picked the Jarrett quartet
from the late '70s: Jarrett (piano), Motian (drums), Charlie Haden
(bass) and Dewey Redman (sax). Man, they cranked out some great
albums back then, stuff nearly forgotten but thankfully released in
box-set CD form, IIRC. Many of their tracks, like this one, are just
flat-out great bebop, lots of energy, crisp rhythms. But...
# Keith Jarrett -- "Yahllah" -- Byablue (ABC Impulse, 1977)
... most of the albums include one or two weirdly experimental
tracks, usually with lots of percussion and a Space Odyssey feel.
Here's one such track -- it's got some "normal" piano interludes but
is led mostly by rustly percussion played by two or three of the
band members. Redman uses an African reed instrument with a thin,
very oboe-like sound. Dr. D., our resident mentor, called me up
to point out Redman's lines sounded a lot like Renaissance court
music -- and as usual, he was right.
*# Paul Motian -- "Etude" -- Garden of Eden (ECM, 2006)
This track is one of four Motian compositions on this album, the
others being more in his usual dreamy-jazz motif.
This quartet, by the way, put out a fantastic experimental album
called "The Survivors Suite." My favorite Jarrett album -- yes, more
than the Koln thing. It's one long track, bleak and a bit despairing,
great late-night listening. The opening segment is a haunting 5/4
melody on recorder (Jarrett) and sax together, in a slow processional
mood. Motian takes a fiery solo near the start of side 2. Anyway...
we don't have this one. I wanted to spin that Motian solo as part of
today's theme, but, as with the Berne CD, I spaced on it. Someday
I'll spin this whole album, probably during a graveyard shift --
it's an appropriate sound and would be wonderful to share.
John Raskin Quartet -- "Third Path to No Where" -- The Bass and the Bird Pond (New World, 1999)
Raskin, of the ROVA
Saxophone Quartet, did several gigs of his own stuff in the late '90s.
Awesome stuff. The one that got recorded featured Tim Berne on sax
and Michael Formanek on bass -- they were visiting from New York -- and
then-local drummer Elliott Kavee. I was lucky enough to see one performance,
my first time seeing Tim Berne live. This CD is the other performance
they did that week. Ah, well.
* Bill Frisell -- "858-1" -- 858 Richter (Songlines, 2005)
The music includes Raskin originals and one Berne piece ("Bloodcount").
They're all long suites with lots of energetic soloing and a tasty
modern jazz feel. Well worth seeking out.
This one opens with a big, messy, attack of strings. Great way
to start an album. I wrote another quick note on this one here.
* Jessica Williams -- "Paul's Pal" -- Live at Yoshi's Volume Two (Maxjazz, 2005)
* = Item in KZSU rotation
! = Pop anomaly
? = Item not in KZSU library
# = Track with Paul Motian on drums
-- Go back to Memory Select playlists.
-- Bay Area free/improv music calendar: http://www.bayimproviser.com.