Interesting hip-hop from Buck 65
ARTIST -- "TRACK TITLE" -- ALBUM TITLE (LABEL, YEAR)
Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.
Denys Baptiste -- "With This Faith" -- Let Freedom Ring! (Dune, 2003)
From an album-length jazz suite inspired by Martin Luther King,
played on the 40th anniversary of his assassination. It's a joyous
track, with New Orleans horns and some spoken word about black
*! Buck 65 -- "Way Back When" -- Situation (Warner Bros., 2007)
Kind of related to the MLK theme: A hip-hop track about allegedly good old
days, with a touch of old-time radio melodrama from the guy singing the chorus. It's from a concept
album that celebrates 1957 -- fifty years later -- as a crucial year of
social upheaval, in good ways and bad. Now, I'd been attuned to media that
pinpoints 1968 as the crux, but Buck 65 (a.k.a. Ricardo Terfry) puts up a
good case for '57 being the source:
"Howl" banned, On the Road published, rock 'n' roll 1.0 arriving,
and the Situationist
International being formed. And, of course, you had the racial
friction that would lead to the civil rights movement. Check out the short film on the subject.
* Keefe Jackson's Project Project -- "Just Like This" -- Just Like This (Delmark, 2007)
Things I prefer in a hip-hop
track: clever wordplay, strong delivery, jazzy samples more soulful
than smooth, and an intelligent sense of social or political purpose. Terfry
deals it all here.
I really dug Jackson's last album,
and this one didn't disappoint. It's a big band this time, with energetic
and modern writing superimposed with aggressive free-jazz solos and
some doses of quiet improv. Great stuff, infectious energy,
good sense of adventure, and a reasonably accessible package, so you
can trick your friends into seeing them live. There's just so much
exciting music going on in Chicago.
* Lucien Dubuis Trio -- "Sansara" -- Le Retour (Unit, 2007)
* Dr. Mint -- "Duel in the Deep" -- Visions and Nightmares (pfMentum, 2007)
* Tom Heasley and Toss Panos -- "98% Pure" -- Passages (Full Bleed, 2007)
* Peter Brotzmann and Peeter Uuskyla -- "Dead and Useless" [excerpt] -- Born Broke (Atavistic, 2008)
Sax/drums duets, two CDs' worth. "Dead and Useless" is a 38-minute
track that comprises all of CD 2; I excerpted the first sax solo, which
gets gruff and aggressive, as Brotzmann often does, and lands in a
cooldown phase that includes some soulful melody. Uuskyla gets a pretty
good drum solo in after that, which I'll have to spin another time.
* Loren Connors -- "Moonyean No. 7" -- As Roses Bow: Collected Airs, 1992-2002 (Family Vineyard, 2007; recorded 1994)
More than 40 guitar airs, mostly 1 or 2 minutes each, collected
on two CDs. The music is melodic and light, soft (you know, airs),
sometimes getting so greeting-card placid as to sound like some of the
touristy guitar music you hear in Hawaii. Still, you have to respect
Connors for carving a career out of his guitar music for so long.
* Rent Romus' Lords of Outland -- "How To Be a Good Citizen in 3 Easy Steps" -- You Can Sleep When You're Dead (Edgetone, 2007)
Romus' free-jazz group is back but with a darker, sinister sound.
Previously, the Lords were a more directly jazz-oriented outfit, with
some free blowing, some mugging with Romus playing two saxes at once,
and guests like John Tchicai. That was 10 years ago, though, and the band
has folded electronics and some evil babbling vocals to the mix. Romus
used to wear crazy makeup sometimes with the Lords, and this sound is
more fitting for that look.
It's not that surprising a change, considering how many noisy electronics-laden
projects have found their way onto Romus' Edgetone label. I'm thinking
particularly of The Abstractions, a very Naked City-like group of varying
members (Romus one of them) replicating the punk spazzouts and sudden
cutovers of the first N.C. album, but in a more extended and more vicious
way. Lords of Outland isn't that chaotic but it's got some of the
same aesthetic going. Interesting direction. I think I like it.
Miguel Zenon -- "Chorreao" -- Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005)
* Elliott Sharp's Terraplane -- "Katrina Blues/How the Crescent City Got Bleached" -- Forgery (Intuition, 2007)
I love that Elliott Sharp does pop and blues albums.
I think Terraplane started as a stripped-down blues instrumental trio, but
in this incarnation it's a full band with horns and vocals: straight
blues stuff. Well, OK, there's at least one track with some freaky
avant-garde guitar babble, but for the most part, this is a big
Chicago blues sound. Sharp likes his lyrics political, so an anti-war
screed called "Tell Me Why" provides some of the most booming moments
on here. Looking at the track I played, you can guess what it's about.
This isn't that delicious Mississippi feeling-sorry-for-yourself blues.
This is "I'm mad as hell and about to kick your ass" blues.
Elliott Sharp -- "Spring and Neap" [excerpt] -- Spring and Neap (zOaR, 1997)
For the sake of contrast, some of Sharp's more "normal" stuff,
this time in the form of a long composition for his Carbon outfit, including
a string quartet and other instruments. The first several minutes are a
haze of pointillistic swishes and swipes, adding up to an ear-pleasing
tapestry. (For contrast, try "Larynx," which is blazing, sour-toned,
joyous and percussive.)
* Jacob Koller -- "Nello" -- Music for Bowlers (Tangram, 2007)
It's like piano played by a robot -- one with swing, taste, and
dexterity, that is. Koller uses a heavy left hand, pounding mechanical rhythms
that can get complicated, while the right hand trickles and splashes
along the high notes. It's an odd combination, a unique sound.
Fo is right when he likens it
to The Bad Plus or Lafayette Gilchrest. It's got the same hammering
approach. But Koller is more light -- even delicate -- on the upper
registers, which separates him from the exciting and heavyhanded
stuff Vijay Iyer
does with the bassless trio Fieldwork. And then you've got the
standout track "Qing," which sort of combines
the halves, opening with a fast, intricate, semi-robotic tinkling of
the high notes. Koller doesn't fall on the Cecil Taylor side of the
spectrum, and he's closer to traditional piano-trio stuff than
Fieldwork, but his stuff would sure annoy a lot of people in the clubs.
* Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures -- "Helix" -- Dream Garden
(Justin Time, 2008)
A rain forest on a cool day. Rudolph is big on the idea of percussion-heavy large ensembles, and this album is no exception. The focus isn't on drumming aggression, but on a gentle "world" sound. Virtuoso hand-drumming is an element, but so are South American flutes, exotic African reeds, or, on tracks like "Oshogbo," deep '60s-sounding jazz horns that would fit nicely in a classic Blue Note lineup.
* 15 Degrees Below Zero -- "Westward" -- New Travel (Edgetone, 2007)
"Helix" is a particular highlight for me. It's got slow-moving horn lines over a manic background of drums (including drum kit), with a subtle guitar solo going on above it all. Not as immediately catchy as the rest of the album, but a real treat nonetheless.
This one will be big with world-music fans.
Soundscapes often using treated guitar or synth for a toneful base.
The band name is apt -- a few tracks have a whooshing sound that recalls wind
kicking up snow on some desolate Antarctic plain. Heard about these guys on
Last.fm, through a fellow
Tim Berne fan --
which was pleasantly surprising, because I never expected to get that kind of
utility out of the site.
? Terry Riley -- "Music for The Gift [part 3]" -- Music for The Gift (Elision Fields, 2007; recorded 1963)
This CD collects four of Riley's 1960s pieces, providing a peek into these formative days of tape-looping.
"The Gift" is the centerpiece, a 1963 play by Ken Dewey performed in Paris with Chet Baker's Italy-based quartet (yes, Chet Baker) doing the music and standing in as actors, too. Riley recorded the band in the studio, playing "So What" and an original blues piece, and used snippets of the solos to create tape loops that became the play's soundtrack. Baker and the band soloed over the loops, creating an echoey effect that was probably quite a trip to a 1963 audience. If you're thinking Frippertronics, you're on the right track.
The tape-looping mechanism created for the show came in handy later for Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, Riley says. (Have a listen to Poppy Nogood on Riley's Web site; it's got a densely hypnotic static-melody that's precursor to the likes of Tangerine Dream.)
The other three pieces, recorded at Riley's home or at U.C. Berkeley's Hertz Hall, consist mostly of tape loops and manipulations, trance-inducing sound fields. "Bird of Paradise" creates rhythmic patterns from little bursts of sound, turning white noise into percussion. "Mescalin Mix" is a slow mind-journey with manipulated human voices and a touch of piano; apparently its sound comes in part from having dragged the tape on the ground.
The CD ends with the "Concert for Two Pianos and Five Tape Recorders," with La Monte Young on the other piano. It includes an amusing and informative introduction by Glenn Glasow, then music director of KPFA, using calm, professional, academic-sounding tones to describe the nature of the piece and giving a bit of description of how they've set up the pianos. The piece itself includes lots of terrific crunching, crashing sounds, like a junk percussion orchestra. The pianos show up in splashes of bombast, but it was easy for my ears to miss them entirely on a first listen.
Apparently, this CD was originally recorded as part of the Organ of Conti archive series.
Francois Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, Leonzio Cherubini -- "Wide" -- Framework (Altri Suoni, 2000)
Trio pieces of sax/bass/drums (in the order of personnel above).
An organic, acoustic feel, as opposed to the synth madness that would
come next. Most of these tracks are compositions by the drummer,
Cherubini, although they've got an improvised feel in a Euro/chamber
sense. Very enjoyable stuff.
Tim Crowther, Steve Franklin, Tony Marsh -- "Amherst Dislodged" -- Amherst Dislodged (Slam, 2005)
Intense and sprawling improv from a trio of guitar/guitar synth,
keyboards, and thundering drums. It's a steely metallic brew,
the science-fiction evil side of fusion. Some acoustic piano shows
up, and some recognizable guitar too, but the most memorable moments
for me are teeming waves of synths washing by, propelled by those
Pulsoptional -- "'stain" -- Pulsoptional (Fugu Fish, 2007)
This seems to be a new-music chamber ensemble along the lines of
Alarm Will Sound, with a modern, Philip Glassian touch but a rocking
attitude. The six- (or seven-? can't recall) member group includes bassoon, marimba, and two electric
Nels Cline -- "Not Sa No Sa" -- New Monastery: A View into the Music of Andrew Hill (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
I usually eat this kind of stuff up, and I did enjoy my first listen to
this CD. I like the brashness and youthful attitude, but the composing
didn't always grab me. Ironically, the "pulse" in the name gets less
optional on a couple of tracks, where a "bap, bap, bap, bap, bap" monochrome
rhythm gets hard to take. It's not a Philip Glass-like
repetition, and there's actually more going on that just the surface
beat, but it's still a bit tiresome. Even so, I'll be happy to give
this one some more spins.
* Jason Kao Hwang and EDGE -- "Walking Pictures" -- Stories Before Within (Innova, 2008)
* Moutin Reunion Quartet -- "A Good Move" -- Sharp Turns (Blujazz, 2007)
I loved this group's off-kilter contribution on a French
compilation we received in 2006, but
this album seems to be more mainstream-grounded, an energetic piano date
that has that mellow club-jazz sheen over it. Not bad, just not as
adventurous as expected. Fo says they're much better live.
* = Item in KZSU rotation
! = Pop anomaly
? = Item not in KZSU library
-- Go back to Memory Select playlists.
-- Bay Area free/improv music calendar: http://www.bayimproviser.com.