“It’s very important to me to identify with the object I am creating…it’s what’s underneath that counts.”
—Will Barnet @ 100
“Where do you stand in a world of dead dreamers?”
—sign held at an Occupy Wall Street rally
It’s the year 5772, and a lot has been happening since the Ark set sail. We’re quickly approaching the season to be jolly, or an approximation thereof. Occupy Wall Street is in its 27th year, or at least it should be. So I will speak on events that led up to where I am now, sitting in a cold room listening alternately to Fela Kuti’s Greatest Hits and Bill Dixon’s monumental November 1981. But before I launch into my schtick, there is something I must share with you, treasured readers.
Returning from a three-day residency in Lowell, Mass., after a six-and-a-half-hour trip on a sweltering Indian summer day, I hopped off the Fung Wah bus and literally ran to a local venue to catch some violin sonatas by one of my favorite composers. When I got there the show was sold out, but by the grace of the music gods and the proprietor I was allowed in. The joint was sweltering—so much so that two people left shouting that they’d never darken its doorway again. The music was superb despite the conditions. After the first sonata the proprietor beckoned me outside. I was then told that I stunk of B.O. in front of the violinist’s bodyguard and the gal who had complained, though she shyly denied it. Waving my sweaty hanky about I sniffed my underarms, smelled nothing, explained the long bus ride, etc. What started out calmly got worse as insult upon insult was piled upon me. After the second sonata began I made my way back in, when the owner pushed me back, saying, “Get out—I have enough troubles already.” “I have to get my coat,” I implored, and grabbed it off the back of a chair as he once again vehemently intoned, “OUT!” So I split and went to catch the end of Butch Morris’s first set at Lucky Cheng’s. It was great, but I felt smelly, disheartened, and tired, so I sneaked away without saying hello to the musicians. Arriving home I told my wife what had happened but first asked her to smell me since I always value her opinion. As I expected, she said I didn’t stink, but here I am weeks later still feeling wounded, and now wherever I go I am constantly sniffing my underarms as well as other body parts.
On a happier note: The Mat Maneri Trio with bassist Ed Schuller and one of the music world’s best kept secrets, drummer Randy Peterson, played a full hour of blistering and blissful improv and tunes at the Stone, including a Joe Maneri piece called “Love Notes,” which they dedicated to Joe. The evening ended with Maneri launching into a beautiful, rustic version of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” This was a wow.
I also loved the trios of Michael T. A. Thompson with Michael Bisio and Josh Abrams with Gerald Cleaver. Both included ever-expanding saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and were part of the Arts for Art series. Thompson’s set took place in a community garden, where he made full use of his surroundings by taking his cymbals and playing them in the pond, something Ben Gerstein did a week prior with his trombone in another stellar group that showcased Laubrock’s abilities. Laubrock is a musical chameleon who can accommodate and transcend any situation—as proven in her ongoing participation in the trio Paradoxical Frog, which appeared mid-November at the Cornelia Street Café, and her appearance with Anthony Braxton’s new quintet, which premiered at the new Roulette in a four-day retrospective of Braxton’s music.
There was the rare appearance of 81-year-old Kenny Wheeler at the Jazz Standard as part of the FONT Festival, and Cornelia Street’s ongoing musical series burst forth with such giants as Dave Liebman, Sam Newsome, the Peter Evans Quartet with John Butcher (whose sets at ISSUE and Performa were beyond describable), Marilyn Crispell, Mark Elias, Barry Altschul, and Monk prize winner John Irabagon. There was a preview of English composer Pete Wyer’s new opera Numinous City at the Rubin Museum. And what I caught at Performa this year was the duo of Otomo Yoshihide and Christian Marclay, and Robert Ashley’s That Morning Thing. November was Ashley’s month. He gave two readings and had his chamber music performed as well. Butcher’s Performa set had 16 musicians, including Lukas Ligeti, Elliot Sharp, D.J. Spooky, Zeena Parkins, and Ikue Mori, all interpreting/exploring ancient Arabic music.
Dark Tree, a new label out of Paris, just released its first CD, a trio with Daunik Lazro (baritone sax), Didier Lasserre (snare drum and cymbals), and Benjamin Duboc (double bass) titled Pourtant les cimes des arbres. Intense music by three of France’s best improvisers.
In life as in art one should always think about the positive against the negative, the relationship of the foreground to the background and vice versa. So when listening to those morning birds, remember they may not be singing a happy tune. They could be arguing over a worm, discussing their mortgage payments, or complaining about the 1%, or their neighbor’s under-wing smell.