trouble trouble till trouble troubles you."
- fortune cookie
Many years ago
I asked a famous New York Times critic and a well-known "jazz" musician
advice on what I should do if I decided to write even what remotely passed
as criticism. The former said, "Don't make friends with any musicians."
The latter intoned, "always try to teach someone something." Well
sadly I screwed up on both accounts. I already had too many musicians as friends
including the one whose advice I had asked and I wasn't smart enough to teach
anyone anything (that's why I asked my wife to ghost write part of this article).
So why do I do this every chance I get? Because I love it? No. Because I value
my own opinion? Sometimes. Because it helps me get into gigs free? Yup
and now I will rant about some of those gigs.
I happened to
experience 3 dance works by 3 major choreographers one after another recently.
The Dean Moss/Yoon Jin Kim collaboration: Kisaeng Becomes You (at Dance
Theater Workshop), Think Punk! by Karole Armitage (at the Kitchen)
& Yessified! by Sally Silvers (at PS122).
It was interesting
to see how these 3 choreographers dealt with & related to "music"
within the context of the choreography. I saw some distinguishable differences
& some shared equivalences. In "Kiesaeng," the cellist/composer
Okkyung Lee composed a piece providing the foundation/landscape for the post
modern deconstructed story/plot to proceed. In Armitage's work, the music
was used more in a classical sense in correspondence to the dance or vice-versa,
one on one, contrasting the radical choice of song/music such as Rhys Chatham's
score for Drastic-Classicism and David Lynton's Watteau Duets
(brilliantly "played" live by the avante duo Talibam).
was the most abstract, using a non-stop parallel threading of a brilliant
collage of text and sound put together by Bruce Andrews with additional music
by composer/musician Michael Schumacher. Interestingly, what the three shared
was music from the '60s! Kisaeng explosively opened with an intense
Janis Joplin tune, "I Need A Man To Love." Think Punk! opened
with Jimmy Hendrix's "Wild Thing," Yessified! sparkled throughout
with plenty of vintage '60s soul music by such greats as Percy Sledge, Otis
Redding and Aretha.
Where they differed
was in their content, though in some respects all 3 tried to deal, through
movement and music, with the presence of social interaction and clashes between
cultures and just plain clubbing as in the Armitage-Chatham piece, which says
it all about Armitage's work. It seems to be a constant push-pull / interaction
between conventional ballet and right-in-your-face rock which was best expressed
in the Lynton piece.
The Moss piece
used an all-female Korean ensemble that at one point got very drunk on stage
and invited folks from the audience to participate. Armitage's troupe was
comprised of male and female dancers of many ethnic and racial backgrounds,
as was Silvers', here the main difference being that Armitage used them primarily
for their skills and role playing but not as with Silvers' more direct socio-political
statement. Silvers wanted a diverse racial mix to show how white and black
both intermingle socially and how in some levels white yearns to be, in both
mannerism, speech and musical taste, possibly even blacker than black. The
Silvers and Moss events were new pieces comprised of single hour-long "vignettes,"
whereas the Armitage was an overview of her work since the '80s. For the most
part the music worked exceptionally well for the settings of all 3 artists
and their concepts.
I spent the past
couple of months in and out of Merkin Hall where I sat through a dreary, near
empty, over-priced concert by Sarah Cahill, who performed anti-war works by
Rzewski, Riley, Kline and the Residents with cluttered and distracting video
by her husband, to such luminescent moments as Cecil Taylor doing a spoken
word and solo piano gig for his 80th birthday to a sold out crowd (a new double
lp will be out soon of 2 duets he did recently with drummer Tony Oxley which
will include a booklet of Taylor's poetry and Oxley's paintings. It will be
a very pricey limited edition), to a wild Bang-on-a-Can All-Stars presentation
with commissioned pieces by the likes of Fred Frith, Lee Renaldo (of Sonic
Youth) and 2 young female composers, one of which I loved, the other which
I loathed, to a bill shared by flautist Jamie Baum, whose centerpiece was
the Ives Suite based on, amongst other Ives pieces, The Unanswered
Question, a set that left me lukewarm, and the never-tiring Polish trumpeter
Tomas Stanko with Craig Taborn and Jim Black sharing what was a truly haunting
set of high esthetics. From that set I ran down to the Village Vanguard to
hear the master Lee Konitz with his quartet which included a fresh young pianist
and the almight Joey Baron. Konitz was is top form in both the humor department
and playing department. One of his best gigs in years.
the poet Sparrow, Violet Snow (Sparrow's wife), Sylvia Gorelick (his daughter)
and Lawrence Fishberg, appeared at the Bowery Poetry Club giving us their
usual post-Fugs hilarity and deep philo-political wittiness, singing such
tunes as "I like Heroin," "I was Reincarnated Too Many Times,"
"Prozac/Balzac," "John Quincy Adams" and another weird
one about a strange unidentifiable white powder and its less than magical
Comeback of the
year on a par with the return of Henry Grimes is altoist Giuseppe Logan who
had been M.I.A. for almost 40 years. Though Logan only made 2 lps as a leader
for ESP records and appeared on 3 others, he is a legend. Now, at 77, with
the help of trumpeter Matt Lavelle (who like Logan doubles on bass clarinet)
he has made 4 appearances and is slowly regaining his chops.
Another too rarely
heard treat was Enrico Rava and his quartet at Birdland with amazing drummer
Paul Motian. The 70 year old Rava, who apologized for being jet-lagged telling
me not to expect much proved why he was and still is one of the cleanest,
most articulate and advanced trumpeters of the past 40 plus years.
days of music at a wonderful new space in Brooklyn, the Irondale Center inside
the Presbyterian Church on S. Oxford St., showcased the Walter Thompson Orchestra
and Walter's conducting system known as Sound Painting, with special guest
Anthony Braxton sitting in.
And keep an ear
out for the ongoing RUCMA events every Monday night now at Local 269, a bar
at Houston and Suffolk, which has featured some terrific music by the likes
of Rob Brown, Cooper-Moore, Louie Belogenis, Joe Morris, Charles Downs and
Billy Bang, Burton Greene, Perry Robinson, and the aforementioned Logan, to
name a few. And of course there's its affiliate the Vision Festival in early
June which will highlight some of these and many more great artists. This
year's tribute will be to the indefatigable Marshall Allen.
memorable musical moment for me took place at the Ensemble Pi's Fourth Annual
Concert for Peace in Cooper Union's Great Hall when they pulled out all stops
on one of my favorite pieces of music, Benjamin Britten's Canticle #3, which
was composed around the moving Edith Sitwell poem "Still Falls the Rain."
A wonderful CD
I recommend for anyone who loves poesie, chanson, cooking and great bass playing
is the serious yet playful recording Whisk! Don't Churn! (TA'WIL 02NP09)
by Nicole Peyrafitte with bassist Michael Bisio. It contains, aside from Nicole
actually whipping up some real cream on stage (I've witnessed this myself
along with her astounding head stands), words by Frida Kahlo, Pierre Joris,
Henri Michaux and Saadi Youssef, among others. Buy it and your appetite will
Also in the spoken
word/music department, there is the powerful new cd by Eve Packer called Now
Playing featuring famed alto saxist and ongoing collaborator Noah Howard,
on Howard's long-time label Altsax, which includes appearances by such legends
as Bobby Kapp and Bobby Few. Standout is the "Katrina Suite," a
dance between Packer and Howard.
release in conjunction with a concert at Roulette is the self-produced cd
"Don't Know Who I Am" by composer Vito Ricci, which consists of
his string quartets superbly played by the Flux String Quartet.
In the vocals
department check out Scott Matthew's melting-butter voice on his new self-titled
cd on Defend Music, and Norman Savitt's folk based contemporary acoustic guitar
on Balkan Samba Records, with a guest appearance by David Amram
And for your
continued shopping pleasure, visit Downtown Music Gallery at their new location
at 13 Monroe St. off Catherine. Around the corner from Juan de Grocery and
surrounded by housing projects, a sleep disorder clinic, Chinese temples and
take out joints, Downtown offers even more great selections to choose from.
They kicked off with a great inaugural concert by Tim Berne and Herb Robertson
to give us a small taste of things to come.
So pack up your
troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. And while you're smiling
at least try your best to keep Listening.