Category: Listening

Tour Blog 3

By , May 4, 2014 11:18 am

photo1 (1)

San Diego:  Our San Diego show was in the beach town of Ocean Beach, at Winston’s, where we’d played once before and had a really successful show.  Unlike last time, I went to the beach for a little while before we started, which was gorgeous!  A nice last look before we turned East.  Then I talked to my sis and got the recommendation for fish tacos (she lived in San Diego for a couple of years).  I also found a record store and got a Grant Green vinyl, Solid, with James Spaulding and Joe Henderson, two saxophonists I like.  Our gig was with a local band that I was familiar with through Twitter, Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, and they sounded awesome too; interesting tunes, cool sounds, and nice and supportive people to boot!  I made sure to grab one of their 45s!

photo2 (1)

Then we took the left turn to head towards the middle.  First on that route was Phoenix, at Last Exit Live.  The building was kind of on the edge of town and the “green room” was an old airstream trailer; not a lot to look at on the outside.  But, sure enough, the inside was stylish and clean, and they had a fence that was hiding a big patio with nice tables and chairs everywhere.  Their sound system and staff was top notch (several of them from the well-known Recording Institute they have in Phoenix, where my friends Matt and Adam went), and the inside of the trailer was hip too!

photo3 (1)

Our local connection there was the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and they tore it up!  Lots of energy, commitment to the Fela Kuti sound, and what looked like a community that was really into creative music; several of the audience members had just seen Kneebody in Phoenix the week before, after they played with Hardcoretet in Seattle, and they had listened to some of the Polyrhythmics before we got there and were really excited about us.

Around this time I was really becoming aware of how quickly I fell in love with all of the places we play.  I understand that I’m getting an unbalanced view, being somewhere one night, maybe two, and only encountering locals at the show, where obviously everyone is going to have similar personalities, but I can’t help but be fascinated with what it’s like living somewhere else and being immersed in music somewhere other than Seattle.  After all, I’ve never lived anywhere else.  It would be a long time before I ever moved – I have too many connections with friends, family, and musicians that would be too difficult to leave right now – but this tour in particular really got me thinking, and this is before the real kicker:  a week in New Orleans.

BUT FIRST:  An overnight detour to Telluride and a Lucky Brown reunion in Santa Fe!  All that and more in my next post.

Tour Post #2

By , April 28, 2014 6:26 pm

Writing this in the backyard of Scott’s friend Josh, a saxophonist in New Orleans who is nice enough to put us up for the week.  There is a warm breeze and it is a sticky but beautiful 80 degrees, although it is kicking up a bit and there are some storm warnings.

Some carryovers from S.F.:  Grant trying on a handmade tie-dye coat at Jamming on Haight, and my favorite photo on the Boom Boom Room Wall, Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band.

photo1

photo2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SO…after San Francisco we had a show at Harlow’s, in Sacramento.  We played with Big Sticky Mess, a funkadelic trio from Davis.  They were a lot of fun, a little bit of Bootsy Collins, Cameo, and 70’s funk guitar and bass; it was impossible not to dance!  We stayed at their house in Davis, a musician’s house with 11 people, jam/recording space, and a friendly house dog.  Many of them work at the Trader Joe’s down the street from their house part time, which gives them time to work on music too.  Davis seemed like a cool, mellow college town, although I didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore.

We then headed to Nevada City to another favorite spot, the Crazy Horse.  The Horse has a small apartment unit above the bar that we were able to stay in (any time we have the opportunity to stay somewhere with a kitchen is a great thing because we can save money by cooking.  Of course, avoiding hotel room rentals is a huge cash saver too.)  We had a day to rest, stretch the legs and play frisbee, and wander around a town a bit.  I found a bookstore and bought a copy of Tolkien’s the Silmarillion, which I’m hoping to get through in the van rides and plane ride home.

The Tuesday show at the Crazy Horse was pretty intimate, with plenty of supportive local folks.  Some are here for Jazzfest too!

photo3

Thursday was time for Southern California, in Hollywood.  We swooped in to load and soundcheck, and I had just enough time to go to the big Amoeba Music store there, where I picked up a used Zero 7 CD, the Garden, which I’ve checked out from the library and played beginning to end several times over the years, so I figured it was time I buy it.  I also went to dinner with my dear friend Sarah; I wish there had been more time, but as always it felt good to catch up and hear her thoughts on things.

Although our show at the King King Theater there in Hollywood was kind of sparsely attended, the stage was really nice and the sound was awesome.  We also made a few new fans and signed some albums, something I don’t think I’ll ever get used to!

Right after the show we loaded up and left for San Juan Capistrano; Sam’s parents hosted us that night and the next day and treated us to lunch.  As is the case with everyone who puts us up, they were extremely warm and hospitable, and very curious about the touring life, which I honestly have fun discussing (obviously).

Every once in a while I deal with some anxiety about making a music career work.  Scheduling performance and teaching commitments efficiently can be really tricky, and I worry about shortchanging students by being away too often or for too long, and although it is tremendously exciting for me to have these chances to travel, I am always trying to be aware of my responsibilities back in Seattle, and it looks like these travel opportunities are going to come up more often in the future.  For now, the best I can do is be honest and give as much notice and accommodation as possible, and hope for the best; I’ve seen more than a few examples of how people make music work professionally on this trip, so I know it can be done.

photo4

That’s all for now, next post I will cover San Diego and the Southwest!

 

Happy Holidays!

By , December 4, 2013 10:17 am

One of the many Love’s Truck Stops in the great state of Idaho:

unnamed

The end of this year has been punctuated with tours to Los Angeles and Montana, as well as working with new recordings and new musical ideas.

I’m still trying to find a sound and approach that I can consistently use in all musical situations, rather than change the way I play from group to group. Maybe it isn’t possible, maybe it’s supposed to be a neverending search, but I feel like my playing would be even more rewarding that way (if that’s possible!)

Regardless, the opportunities to travel and take in the moods and social climates of other cities have been really fun; it has been interesting to think about how my musical tastes are affected and defined by my Seattle background, and how that compares to other towns and areas.

Getting close now to the end of the year, and the traditional New Year’s Post.  My plan this year is to compile a Dog Blog post, a collection of pictures of all the dogs I’ve come across while travelling and playing music this year.  The original Dog Blog was a short-lived page on the original Polyrhythmics website, which has now gone away, but there are plenty of pictures worth putting up, so stay tuned for that soon!

Lastly, a bit of listening.  Before I heard this song, I had heard of Dianne Schuur, but wasn’t really familiar with her.  Her voice on this blew me away, as did the song, which totally struck me as well.  With a little bit of research, I found out it was written by a famous Brazilian composer Ivan Lins, who I hope to check out more.

 

New Listening

By , January 15, 2013 3:06 pm

WARNING:  EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

I love that movie.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed a real boost in new stuff to listen to.

When I heard that Easy Street Records in Lower Queen Anne was going away, I headed over to Sonic Boom in Ballard.  I hope to make it a monthly trip.  I bought “Oblique”, by drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey.

I’ve also been rocking the library quite a bit, which is a HUGE resource.  Between the opportunity to place holds on items at any branch and the jazz sections that I can comb through whenever I go in, I’ve found a lot of great stuff.  Checked out albums by Loren Stillman (also the saxophonist on “Oblique”), Donny McCaslin, Ike Sturm, Ben Allison, and several other jazz artists, as well as Noah and the Whale, Little Dragon, and other bands from different genres.  It feels great!

I’m really hoping this recent boom will help me find some more specific ideas and approaches to both improvising and composing, and I’m excited to see if that’s the case.

 

 

 

 

Listening

By , April 4, 2012 12:30 pm

Two tracks I can’t get enough of right now:

Claudia Quintet – Keramag, from Royal Toast

I love the melody that first shows up at 1 minute 1 second that the vibes and piano play together. It gets moved around and displaced throughout the entire song.

Christian Scott – American’t, from Yesterday You Said Tomorrow

For me, this one is all about the guitar part 32 seconds into it.

Listening

By , August 9, 2011 1:06 pm

Above: an old favorite from dogsitting not too long ago

 

 

I’m in a funk, and not the good kind.
Some tunes that have been helping me when I’m feeling down lately:

 

Homebase NYC – Sleep (featuring Coco O.)

Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You

Gretchen Parlato – Weak

Mark de Clive-Lowe at Nectar

By , January 21, 2011 11:31 am

This is a repost of my entry for my friends over at Rust and Rum:

Mcguirk met up with me to check out Mark de Clive-Lowe at Nectar in Fremont. MdCL is not necessarily a DJ as much as a beatmaker, with a bunch of drum machines and keyboards around him on stage that he uses together, and he does it really well. The music was awesome, and the vocalist who was with him, Sy Smith, was on everything perfectly, even doing some a capella dj-ing of her own.

There definitely seems to be this strand of electronica that’s jazzier and a little less driving than other linear, hypnotic trance and techno, and I definitely dig it. My main resource for it is City Soul Radio, a program on KBCS 91.3 that is put on by Sun Tzu Sound, a local DJ collective, but watching MdCL do his thing last night made me want to get more into it. Here’s a clip I got from Mcguirk that does a pretty good job of showing what we saw last night:

And here’s another song that I would put in the same genre. I heard this a long time ago and still want to buy it, but so much of this stuff is impossible to get in the U.S. I may just have to pony up the money to buy an import…

Allen Ginsberg, Steve Coleman, and Focused Study

By , November 12, 2010 5:23 pm

A couple of weeks ago Brittany and I went to see Howl, a recent film about Allen Ginsberg, his poem titled “Howl”, and the landmark obscenity trial that followed a public reading of it in San Francisco.  It really got me interested in Ginsberg’s work, so I’ve been reading “Collected Poems, 1947-1997”, an anthology Ginsberg himself compiled, adding his own notes and explaining certain passages.  It’s been really enlightening to read his work in chronological order; it allows you to trace his progression from stricter, older forms to a voice and style that’s unique and singular.  Reading Ginsberg’s poetry in this way also allows you to pick up certain symbols and references that he comes back to over and over, sometimes over a period of years, and these act as signposts and markers that make the writing easier to navigate.

I’ve really enjoyed this focus on one artist, one body of work, and I’m curious about whether that kind of focus would be as fun with the music I practice and listen to, so for the next unknown amount of time I’m going to focus my small and unworthy amount of musical study to Steve Coleman.

Coleman is a good choice for a several reasons:  He has a very clear set of musical theories and approaches, he has a lot of material available online, and I’ve wanted to get deeper in his music for a while now.  I plan on starting just as I did with Ginsberg, and move from his first recording to the present, as long as its still interesting to me, and hopefully it will have the same effect as the poetry:  picking up signposts, hearing his style progress and solidify, etc.  It should be a fun experiment!

–Art

Speak

By , February 26, 2010 11:48 am

speak

Speak is a 5-piece band that plays creative instrumental music drawing on a wide variety of influences.  Some of the members, like Chris Icasiano and Luke Bergman, I’ve mentioned in this blog before from their work with other groups like Bad Luck and Motorist, and I work with Aaron Otheim in Hardcoretet.  I’ve known saxophonist Andrew Swanson for several years, the same amount of time as the rest of the guys mentioned above. 

I realized that it was quite difficult for me to talk about the music and the band in a satisfying way, so I went to Aaron for help.  After all, if I wanted to put out a truly accurate description of Speak, why not go to the source?

As Aaron tells it:  “I think it’d be good to mention that Speak began as a straight-ahead-sounding jazz group that was originally Andrew, Chris, Luke and me, but that our sound evolved to incorporate elements of classical music and rock – the music each of us grew up playing and listening to.  This shift in sound was definitely strengthened when Cuong Vu joined the band as his musical aesthetic and playing style reflect a similar trajectory.”

Before Cuong Vu began teaching at the University of Washington and playing with the group, he had already become fairly well known in creative music circles.  The Trio had come to Seattle a couple of times, including a show at the Tractor featuring Bill Frisell that saxophonist Stuart McDonald told me was one of the best shows he had seen in a long time, and Vu had begun touring with Pat Metheny.  So it was very exciting to hear that he would be teaching in town, and then even more exciting when he started playing with Speak.  The result of the year or so that the quartet had put in combined with this later collaboration that has now been going on for longer than that has resulted in the band’s self-titled debut CD, available here.  Aaron went on to talk a little bit more specifically about the music:

“Another important component: most of the “solos sections” actually consist of collective improvisation, meaning that everyone is improvising together… no real soloists. The heads of the tunes themselves all have very specific parts worked out, however, much more akin to a classical composition or the way a rock band might rehearse. This provides a very strong structure that frames each improvisation, giving us a clear focus on where the improvisation should go, but not necessarily how it should sound.”

The CD release show and the album itself put all of these concepts on display, moving from sections of pointillistic modern classical music to free improvisation to experimentation with electronic sounds and the layering of indie-rock. 

Speak will get a chance to showcase their sound outside of the Northwest soon, at performances in Colorado, the Stone in New York and the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Salzburg, Austria.

Congratulations, guys!

Panorama Theme by Themocracy