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It's been a couple of weeks now, but I recently had a free Sunday to make the trip to San Francisco's De Young Museum to see Kihnoua, the yet-unrecorded quartet led by Larry Ochs of ROVA. The concept seems to be a trio highlighting Dohee Lee on wordless vocals with Scott Amendola on drums -- plus a fourth components that varies. I've seen the band before with Okkyung Lee on cello, and this time it was Joan Jeanreneaud in that place. The music is largely improvised, with some kind of score used to create a loose structure.
During the past year, the De Young has been holding these outdoor concerts on its cafe patio. This day happened to be wet and rainy, but an enormous tent had been erected around the patio -- don't know if that's always there or just up for the winter. The concerts are a fantastic idea, being free (you don't even need to pay museum admission) with fast, easy access to food and refreshments. The problem is that the Academy of Sciences (or something with that kind of name) has started up a Sunday rock-show series in the nearby bandshell. Not only is it loud, but the parabolic ceiling to the bandshell means the sound gets projected 'way downtown, so to speak.
That was bad news for Kinhoua, as the rock music leaked into the tent, unstoppable (there's no proper door, to keep an outdoorsy feel). Being largely improvised, Kinhoua's music relies on periods of silence and a momentum of pacing that the musicians have to develop from thin air and convey to one another -- basically, it sucks to have to play it with someone blaring the radio next door. They forged on, though, and the sound system turned out to be strong enough to wipe out most of the rock band's noise. By the end of the first set, it was as if the distraction wasn't even there -- but the band might have been playing a little louder than usual to compensate.
The music worked. One piece featured tense waves of cello and vocals, kind of a duet with Dohee Lee tossing out abstract near-spoken declarations and fragments of improvised chanting, mixing African ideas with Korean traditional forms (I'm stealing that description from Ochs' promo material, so it's not just me who's hearing that). That passage, in the middle of a longer piece, got spotaneous applause from the audience -- folks were listening. Similar chanting elements came up from the band as a whole when the second set started; it's a very compelling element of this music.
I seem to remember Okkyung Lee going for a droney, hovering presence during the last Kinhoua show I saw, but Jeanreneaud was more deliberate, instigating the pieces with small classical-sounding fragments tossed about frequently. I found myself paying attention to the cello for long spans.
The second set would have been a treat but wouldn't have left me enough time to catch the Maya Lin exhibition (which includes that thing at right) and a varied exhibition of Asian artists who'd worked in America. The latter included lots of Japanese-Americans interred during WWII, and I was glad to see some of their more abstract works -- folks like Sabura Hasegawa, Ralph Iwamoto, Isamu Noguchi, and (on a less abstract note) Mine Okubo, whose Citizen 13660 is now on my reading list. On the crazier side of things, I got exposed to the dotty world of Yayoi Kusama and the painting "Beachcomber" by Alfonso Ossorio, as seen here.
ARTIST -- "TRACK TITLE" -- ALBUM TITLE (LABEL, YEAR)
Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.
* Peter Evans Quartet -- "Tag" -- Peter Evans Quartet (Firehouse 12, 2008)
* Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble -- "No One Knows the Paths in a Graden Better Than the Gardener; A Follower Should Always Allow His Guide to Lead" [excerpt] -- Proverbs for Sam (Boxholder, 2008)
As with the previous Untempered Ensemble album, Seasoning the Greens, these pieces are grooving jams packed with free soloing, an open style that's still loose, funky, and danceable, with exotic world-music touches all over the place. Cole plays a variety of instruments I don't immediately recognize, reeds from around the world. William Parker on bass gets some gleeful solos in there. The whole thing is dedicated to the late soul-jazz saxophonist Sam Furnace, an original member of the band.
The Jimmy and Jack Show [Eugene Chadbourne and Jimmy Carl Black] -- "Buggy Boogie Woogie" -- Pachuco Cadaver (Fire Ant, 1995)
This album has the two of them covering Captain Beefheart tunes in
a loose, goofing-off manner. The music doesn't suffer for it; what you
get are some neat little dialogue exchanges, kind of like the
"Uh-huhs" and "You know it" snippets that blues bands kick around during
the solos. Not that Zappa can't be loads of fun, too, but maybe because
there are only two people here, Black's spirit seems to shine through
a lot more strongly.
This was no one-off project. The Jack and Jim show was on the road even
last year, as you can see in this September 2007
With the passing of Jimmy Carl Black at age 70 this past week,
I could have played any number of old Frank Zappa tunes, it's true.
But there's something special -- and particularly appropriate to college
radio -- about the sessions the old drummer did with guitar gonzo Eugene Chadbourne.
* Pulga -- "Still It Rides Me" [excerpt] -- Pulga Loves You (Fire Museum, 2007)
This album has the two of them covering Captain Beefheart tunes in a loose, goofing-off manner. The music doesn't suffer for it; what you get are some neat little dialogue exchanges, kind of like the "Uh-huhs" and "You know it" snippets that blues bands kick around during the solos. Not that Zappa can't be loads of fun, too, but maybe because there are only two people here, Black's spirit seems to shine through a lot more strongly.
This was no one-off project. The Jack and Jim show was on the road even last year, as you can see in this September 2007 interview.
* Roberto Sierra -- "2x3: Armonias de Medioldia" -- Turner (New Albion, 2007)
The "Trio" for strings and piano is an active, searching piece, with lots of criss-crossing, wandering lines. Sierra's "Sonata" starts out strong, keeping to a classical feel while giving the cello lots of chances for fast, hard sawing -- driven stuff that leaves 'em on an "up" note.
Carla Kihlstedt -- "50 Miles" -- 2 Foot Yard (Tzadik, 2005)
* Neil Welch -- "Neptune" -- Narmada (Belle, 2007)
Georg Graewe, Marcio Mattos, Michael Vatcher -- "Trinkle Trinkle" -- Impressions of Monk (Nuscope, 1999)
Myra Melford/Be Bread -- "Fear Slips Behind" -- The Image of Your Body (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
* Carla Kihlstedt, Gino Robair, Matthew Sperry -- "Sonarchy One" [excerpt] -- Sonarchy 1998 (Majmua, 2008)
AMM III -- "Radio Activity" [excerpt] -- It Had Been An Ordinary Enough Day In Pueblo, Colorado (ECM,1980)
This piece is the longest on the album, and it's a fine improvisation that at one point includes Rowe simply switching on a transistor radio to some talk show or something. What's really surprising is the passage near the end when Rowe starts playing some hammer-on chords that are downright nice, line he's suddenly gone placid and linear on us. I'm not sure I was happy with that, but it did help the track jibe with "that" ECM sound.
* = 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.