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Great music shows are always happening around the Bay Area, but there's a particularly rich slate to be had this coming week:
On the one hand, it makes sense that you wouldn't cover Keith Jarrett's "The Survivors' Suite" shot for shot. If it sounded exactly like the original, you'd go listen to the original. (Coltrane-covering bands, take note.) On the other hand, it wasn't the combination of notes and chords that made the album-length "Survivors' Suite" special. It was the setting: the mood of the music, yes, but also the sense of strength amid bleakness, and the overhanging nuclear fears of the cold war. Even the album cover, with its simple yet fading, despairing tones, contributed.
In other words, "Survivors' Suite" doesn't seem replicable. It's no wonder that Jarrett never produced any work similar, and possibly never wanted to.
But drummer George Schuller gives "The Survivors' Suite" a shot on Like Before, Somewhat After. He comes close -- the opening guitar scratches from Brad Shepik evoke the proper loneliness and emptiness, and Donnie McCaslin tries his fiery best with a sax solo at the end of part one. If I hadn't heard the original, I'd consider it an intriguing track with an innovative base concept. Big ups to Schuller, then, for trying it, but I think the effort was a bit doomed. Leaving vibraphone off the menu might have helped, I think; those comforting strains might work well in the more placid opening to Part 2 but just pillow-smother the sense of dread that should be the source of strength in Part 1.
The album is a noble cause, though. Going beyond "Survivors' Suite," it's a revival of several compositions from Jarrett's fertile 1970s period, when he ran a powerful, graceful quartet with Dewey Redman (sax), Charlie Haden (bass), and Paul Motian (drums). I've had an amazing trek through used record stores discovering one album after another from this group -- Bop-Be, Backhand, Mysteries, The Judgement. All are filled with the lush, soulful piano sound that drew so many listeners to Jarrett -- I think of it as a "Harlem stroll" sound, although that's a random and probably ignorant description -- but each album also has one Weird Song. It might be Jarrett and Redman screeching away on recorders, or one long low mysterious blur. The catalog, which I think was mostly on ABC/Impluse!, did finally get documented with a CD box set; before that, I don't think any of the albums had been rereleased on CDs easily available in the United States. They're all worth seeking out -- especially Survivors' Suite, which, as I was saying, is a real departure.
Schuller, then, is doing good work by bringing a handful of these compositions back to life. For most of the tracks, Tom Beckham's vibraphone sound is a welcome splash, taking in the piano parts and giving them a new voice. McCaslin was already in this band, but based on his solo work, his sax seems a decent choice for this kind of project. Shepik's guitar adds some nice depth -- I don't think Jarrett ever used a For a serious listener/collector, the thing to do is probably to chase down the old Jarrett albums. But Schuller's CD is going to be easier to find -- possibly cheaper, if you don't want to seek out Jarrett on vinyl. And I'd assume he's done some live shows in support of the album. If he can spark some renewed appreciation for the old Jarrett quartet, he'll have done some excellent work.
Cooper-Moore is undergoing a solo tour of America; click on his name, there, to go to his Web page, which has the schedule. The tour consists of just the man and his homemade instruments, travelling town-to-town via bus or train. Given how difficult it is, financially, for east-coast free-jazzers to travel out this way, I'm thankful for the chance to see him. (Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Mama Colizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission St. near 11th, San Francisco.)
Cooper-Moore -- "America" -- America (Hopscotch, 2004)
America, you have reached your peak at last.He accompanies himself on the homemade diddly-bo, which sounds to me like a twangy, funky cousin to the washboard bass.
America, the time for you has passed.
America, all the lies that you have told.
America, do you think about the lives that you have stolen?
America, we're gonna turn your course around.
America, we're gonna put you on the homeward bound train.
On the homeward bound train.
? Cooper-Moore Quartet -- "Paradox" -- V/A: Vision One: Vision Festival 1997 Compiled (AUM Fidelity, 1998)
This CD was the first in what's become a strong series for AUM Fidelity: limited-edition disks capturing sounds of the annual Vision Festival, a triumphant creative-music gathering that NYC artists have kept going for 13 years now.
Cooper-Moore -- "Blues for Jacki Byard" -- Deep in the Neighborhood of History and Influence (Hopscotch, 2000)
The combined song/horn sound comes across a bit like Tuvan throat singing, all buzzy and growly. Baker lists the Tuvans as an inspiration, alongside Gregorian chants, of all things. It's a slow-moving music she's created, purposeful tones meant to stretch out time and let the mind breathe.
The effect is particularly interesting when the sung tones and the trombone notes go in opposite directions, creating some interesting criss-crossing double-melodies. The opening minute of the slowish and dramatic "Floor Fuzzy" seems to do that; I also thought I heard it in "Connection Made," but I can't tell on a second listen. That's part of what makes the CD interesting -- trying to fuse the voice and trombone sounds together in my head, but also trying to pick out what's being done on the horn itself.
"Going Up, Chairs Optional" follows in eerie, mysterious tracks that seem appropriate for the sounds Baker's producing, but then you've got a track like "Pip Squeak," which closes the album on an almost danceable note with a didjeridoo-like hoedown sound.
There's a bit of a sameness problem here -- if you don't enjoy the Lyrical Vibrations sound, you'll have trouble lasting all 39 minutes -- but that's not much different from the Tuvan and Gregorian examples, isn't it?
Dilapidated Barns is Baker's own label, but it's also a concept she's fascinated with, having grown up in a rural setting. Check out her non-MySpace Web site for a photo tour of, well, dilapidated barns.
* George Schuller's Circle Wide -- "Survivors' Suite, Part 1" -- Like Before, Somewhat After (Playscape,2008)
Billy Bang -- "Contrary Motion" -- Big Bang Theory (Justin Time, 2000)
Matt Davignon -- "Dpvrb K" -- Bwoo (Edgetone, 2005)
Part sound experiment and part oral history, the CD is probably going to find an audience among folks who just enjoy the stories and the European flavor. It's yet another vector for Lockwood to dabble in the wonder of pure sound. I'd noted a bit more about that here, and for a detailed review of the Danube project in particular, check out this blog entry by Jez Riley French, a field-recording fan and expert.
The rest of the album is solid acoustic rock, 25 short songs coming at you in moods agitated, relaxed, mournful, and joyous, delivered in a deliciously polished sound with some great harmony singing. "Words Can Save Us" even opens with a soaring choir effect, if I recall correctly.
"Waiting for the Bus" is a heartbreaker, starting off about a Louisiana boy innocently waiting for the bus, ending with him framed for a murder and left languishing in prison, still "waiting for the bus."
By the way -- when it comes to their one big hit song, Chumbawamba has a refreshing and perfectly sensible attitude. They're not playing it any more, but only because they couldn't get it to work in the new acoustic format. It's explained here. The more I learn about these guys, the more I like them.
* William Parker -- "O'Neal's Bridge" -- Double Sunrise over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
* William Parker -- "Morning Mantra" [excerpt] -- Double Sunrise over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
* Etran Finatawa -- "Saghmar N Nanna" -- Desert Crossroads (Riverboat, 2007)
It's a brand of jazz that draws from European folk and classical traditions, creating a sidewalk-cafe feel. The trio gets to goof around sometimes, with the occasional free-jazz touch, or the spaghetti Western guitar that opens their track "Saya Terkesan," but mostly they produce a polite and reasonably adventurous front. The Boompetit album adds cellist Ernst Reijseger for an extra dose of culture and some fun avant-garde scribbling on "Guano."
I was going to play either this track or "Summersault," which starts like a straightforward children's tune but then goes all akilter in the harmonies, then adds dashes of calypso and/or psych-surf guitar and some low-hammered bass piano for some fun.
Vloeimans and Fugimundi will apparently be recording their next CD at Yoshi's (Oakland) on Oct. 13. That's also just a $5 cover -- but it's offset by the parking (if you use the nearby garage) and Yoshi's two-drink minimum. Both can be avoided by going to the show at Santa Cruz's Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Oct. 16, although tickets there will probably cost about $18.
This kind of music was a staple of KZSU's jazz session when I arrived, thanks to the hard work of DJ Klee. Alas, the realities of a crumbling music market, including a dearth in America of CD stores (or of audience) willing to take chances, has dried up a lot of those tributaries for us. Sigh.
Evan Parker -- "Line 2" [excerpt] -- Lines Burnt in Light (Psi,2001)
If only I could catch the Oct. 17 show of Parker and Greg Goodman (piano) at Woody Woodman's Finger Palace. Can't. Not only would it be possibly my only chance to see Evan Parker, but it's also a rare chance to see the Finger Palace (Goodman's home, basically), which got profiled in Tim Perkis' excellent Noisy People documentary -- which I was lucky enough to catch last year.
Gino Robair -- "Free Use of the Halving Principle" -- Singular Pleasures (Rastascan, 1997)
Check out this sfSound program for Oct. 12. Robair is going to do his Potluck Percussion: you bring it, he'll play it, guaranteed. Naturally, people see this as a chance to totally mess with him. Jello. Water. The sky's the limit. (Sky! Hm...)
The program also includes Robair's improv opera, I, Norton. I don't know if that means the entire opera, which I would assume has to be at least medium length, or just a snippet -- or, if by nature, there's no distinction. The opera has been performed multiple times before, and Rastascan appears to be readying a CD release. I want to experience the live thing first before hearing it on disk.
The show is rounded out by a couple of proper modern-classical pieces, including a premiere of an Erik Ulman composition. (Ulman is apparently teaching at Stanford, coincidentally.) Oct. 12, 8:00 p.m., ODC Dance Commons.
* = 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.