Monday, October 23, 2006

Eyvind Kang's Dying Groud & Other Options

This weekend I didn't really go out except for Friday night when I went to see the violinist/guitarist Eyvind Kang at the Community Education Center in West Philly (Lancaster Ave. @ N 34th St.)

Unfortunately the turnout for the avant-garde show by this former Tzadik DIY artist was less than satisfactory. Including myself there were about 10 people. I'm not entirely sure why this was as I'd heard there was a HUGE turnout to the Dave Burell show the previous weekend (which I believe I noted that I slept through). Some of it had to do with lack of name recognition. (Sorry not sure whom to give credit for this photo. If it's yours please let me know).

But before I harp on why people didn't show up, lemme try to approximate the reason I showed up and stayed. The sounds I heard from Kang (whose bio is here) and his band, Dying Ground were entirely heavy and righteous but lacked something to keep me interested the whole time. A surprisingly impressive drummer, G. Calvin Weston (apparently a local stringer), smashed away while (electric) bassist Kato Hideki both violently and calmly strummed away and bowed his thick bass strings.

Weston and Kato sensitively freaked out in response to Kang's insanely loud amplified guitar with numerous effects applied to it. Kang also played amplified violin, the instrument for which he is more known (especially as a member of John Zorn's Cobra). On drums, while maintaining the music's essence, (one of rather simple melodic loudness with immense rhythmic variation), Weston played with a checked intensity. He had the ears of a Chad Taylor or Hamid Drake with the insanely clean yet powerful execution of a Bennink or Blackwell. Something he repeated a couple times through the performance which totally blew my mind was this move where he would be thrashing away at the toms and then all of a sudden whack the sh-t out of the snare and then instantaneously hit both crash cymbals, creating a shocking effect on the ears and the soul. You had to see it to understand what the hell I'm talking about. Perhaps we can get some video up from my new buddy Mark, who took video footage of this show as well as the DeJohnette show I disliked below.

As far as Kang and Kato are concerned, I seem to have lost my notes on their playing but what I recall in the melodies that Kang wrote was a very deliberate chromaticism coupled with strange rhythms that existed independent of the drummer's beat - a deliberate effort to cast off expectability. I felt that we heard too little in the hour and a half Dying Ground played to learn if we were hearing the group at its best but I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed on the whole. Perhaps I'm not into noise and kitsh as much as I used to be. Despite their unique build-up and release of tension and thorough musicality, I just wasn't totally feeling it.

Perhaps Friday's poor turnout had something to do with a slew of other shows competing for my and other people's money the same night or weekend (especially young professionals and students who don't have much cash to spend in the first place.) That night there was also a rather rare performance by Vijay Iyer's quartet at Princeton University (only a 45 minute drive from Center City Philadelphia).

This was the same exciting quartet which the pianist had assembled for his stellar 2005 release Reimagining, (which you can buy CD Universe).(I am going to recommend CD Universe from now on as they consistently seem to have lower prices than Amazon and offer a wider selection of jazz - especially obscure imports).

On the other hand, there had been another Ars Nova show the night before by what I understand was a terrific group called Tone Collector (w/ Eivind Opsvik and Tony Malaby). So if 40 or so people came out to that, perhaps they felt they were doing their part for the week to support creative music or couldn't bring themselves to come out again the following night.

Perhaps it had something to do with the Polish trumpeter and ECM recording artist Tomasz Stanko who was making a very rare US appearance as part of his current East Coast tour in support of Lontano, his latest album on ECM Records. The following night (Saturday 10/21), Stanko would still be at Chris' and Willie Rodriguez and the Bronx All Stars would be playing at the Painted Bride Arts Center in Old City which would be attracting any residual XPN listeners who might otherwise check out some "trippy" music rather than drinking box wine and dancing with their bland partners to salsa music. I shouldn't hate on the Bronx All Stars because the players are cats I respect, but I really feel no remorse in hating on the XPN crowd.

The fragmentation the music community is a lamentable thing but you can't really blame people for differences in aesthetic taste. It's just difficult to program anything when you've got competition on the same night.

Oh well. Comments? I want to see them. I know you're looking at this blog.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

attempt to make posts more coherent

I have noticed that I've posted a lot of entries with grammatical errors, run-on sentences and other stupid ramblings. I guess I'd like my loyal readership to know that I am sorry.

From now on, I will be trying to post more coherent entries so that your ready.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I never thought I'd see Jack DeJohnette at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia but when you unleash the powers of Bill Frisell's booking agent, The Rosebud Agency (possibly one of the oldest websites I've ever seen), anything is possible.

It was sort of an abbreviated set for me, as I awoke from a nap which prevented me from going to the Ars Nova concert I had really wanted to go to at I-House (Dave Burrell, Reggie Workman, Rashied Ali, Muhammad Ali).

Anyways, Frisell was bluesy and generally OK, DeJohnette sounded disturbingly uninspired on the drums (or perhaps simplistic) except when he sang the blues on the encore , Harris the quiet but powerful melodist (is that a word?). An unlikely highlight, seeing Jerome Harris for the first time was the best part for me. Sure it's Harris entered my consciousness fairly recently as the bassist of a recent Paul Motian record called Garden of Eden. His McFerrin-like vocalizations over DeJohnette's emotive Korg piano on which he played endless alterations on two basic arpeggios.

Really underwhelming on the whole. Wish I'd gone to see Burrell/Workman/Ali/Ali. Maybe once I hear the bootleg I'll change my mind.

Monday, October 09, 2006

troubled by Branford & things to come

As many of you probably saw, the New York Times' Ben Ratliff published what I've heard may very well be the last of his "Listening With..." series. This time around the focus was less on listening to records and more about spreading the pedantic generalizations the outspoken saxophonist Branford Marsalis rattled off to Ratliff at an intimate interview at the saxophonist's North Caroline home.
From the caption: Branford Marsalis has enjoyed great productivity as an alto saxophonist and bandleader since moving to Durham, N.C., five years ago. “I just want to play,” he said. “I don’t want to be in magazines.”

Marsalis said some very harsh things and only chose to listen to recordings pre-1955 and no real bebop or post-bop at that, let alone the Coltrane he is clearly trying to approximate on his latest album, Braggtown. Unfortunately, I tended to agree with most of the "damaging" comments Marsalis uttered.

Soon to come, a multi-show review of this week's shows put on by local Philly avant-garde concert presenter Ars Nova Workshop. Last night was Brotzmann-Bennink playing duo. Tonight George Lewis & Matana Roberts play Houston Hall, which I believe is the Student Union at UPenn. The week continues with a performance by a band being billed as The Philadelphia Four: Dave Burrell, Reggie Workman, Rashied Ali, and Muhammad Ali (yes, the drummer with the same Arabic name as Cassius Clay is apparently still alive).

Look forward to some great shots courtesy of Cadence/Jazz Improv Magazine freelancer Ken Weiss, along with my reviews.

Now listening to Donald Harrison - The Survivor (Nagel Heyer 2068). Buy this album at iTunes by clicking the iTunes link below. Donald Harrison featuring Mulgrew Miller & Christian Scott - The Survivor

Thursday, October 05, 2006

current reading

Check out the Bag's tribute to Bill Dixon on his birthday. Very timely Marc and Derek. For some killer photographs that seem to be copy-protected, check out DMG.
Also, see Mwanji's concert review of Soweto Kinch playing in Belgique as well as his slightly more recent rebuttal of Darius Brubeck's scathing appraisal of Ornette Coleman.

Finally, from the land of 10,000 lakes, a hilarious
situation from the boys at Do The Math.