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OUTTAKES 4 - May 2009
by Steve Dalachinsky

"Never 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).

Silvers' case 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.

Foamola, with 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 effects.

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.

Three outstanding 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.

An especially 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 be sated.

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.

Another recent 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.

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