“You don’t snitch. You don’t steal. That’s what I tell everybody.”
—Middle-aged Hispanic bodega owner to a male
teenager in Bushwick
“I was looking at the ambience of the refrigerator door but then you walked away.”
—Teenager to his father on Bleecker Street
“You’ll have fun,” she told her friend, putting her arm around her. “No, I don’t think so,” the other replied, sounding scared and apprehensive. The first gleefully intoned, “You’ll see. Everything’s more fun on acid.” So it went as I walked down Thompson Street toward Zürcher Gallery to catch the Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft Duo.
It was the third reference to acid I’d heard in a month. Another, from a young “career” woman, went something like this: her colleague asks at a party how she’s been, “Oh great I had a terrific weekend. One of my best trips ever.”
“Where’d you go?”
“I took acid. Really good acid.”
I turned and naively queried, “Do folks still do that?” She laughed, “Sure. Why not?” and walked away.
Back to Zürcher. Gwénolée Zürcher and her husband have two galleries, one on Bleecker Street and one in Paris (I’ve never been). They’ve presented concerts at both since 2011, featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Grimes, Connie Crothers, Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, Joëlle Léandre, Myra Melford, Nicole Mitchell, Andrew Cyrille, Gerry Hemingway, Joe McPhee, Matthew Shipp, Jemeel Moondoc, etc. The New York space is large, relaxing, hospitable, has good sound, and holds at least one hundred—and the price is right. Check it out.
As I left the Gallery to rush to another gig, a drunk standing out front said, “I’m gonna ask you a question. Did you ever see Ginger Rogers?” I told him I hadn’t and that he should go have another drink maybe indoors somewhere.
Some recent CDs that came my way: pianist Aruán Ortiz’s Hidden Voices on Intakt; Dave Liebman & Richie Beirach’s Balladscapes on Intuition; Rhys Chatham’s Pythagorean Dream on FOOM (he played a great trio set at Poisson Rouge late spring); and Quinsin Nachoff’s FLUX on Mythology, a strange mix of jazz, classical, and otherworldly textures, creating, as the title suggests, mood shifts that leave one in a state of… Look for his CD release party in December at Cornelia Street Café.
If, like me, you play catch-up, grab Henry Threadgill’s well-deserved Pulitzer Prize winner In for a Penny, In for a Pound along with his most recent Ensemble Double Up Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, both on Pi Recordings. Pi has done outstanding work for years, and as its owners grow so does its catalogue.
Former artistic director and curator of ISSUE Project Room, Lawrence Kumpf, has started his own non-profit Blank Forms which presents work of artists not always well-represented in America. Without a fixed venue, he has or will be showcasing work by Terry Jennings, Loren Connors, François J. Bonnet, Gōzō Yoshimasu, Maryanne Amacher, Ralston Farina, the Dead, the Renderers, Susan Alcorn, and Yarn/Wire—many for me new names. Kumpf states that Blank Forms is “a [ … ] platform focused on presenting and preserving experimental performance, committed to long-term working relationships with individual artists” and hopes to create “in-depth public programs and educational materials that provide a range of perspectives on inherently ephemeral practices.”
Some Summer Treats:
An intense crazy duel between Mary Halvorson and Weasel Walter. Joe McPhee and Peter Evans in a sound exploration on trumpets and pocket trumpets, the likes of which I’ve never heard. William Parker’s ensemble held court for two sold-out nights at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola with inside/outside, hard-driving, unafraid music that I’m sure made some dizzy both figuratively and literally. The ever-versatile Kris Davis wowed me as always in trios and quartets with the likes of Stephan Crump, Tony Malaby, Eric Revis, Ken Vandermark, and Michael Formanek. She did likewise in her most recent, a duo gig with Craig Taborn at Roulette for her new CD release Duopoly. More on her next time.
Some Books I’ve Caught Recently:
Poet/filmmaker Abigail Child’s Mouth to Mouth (Eoagh Books, 2016). Child sings, “Melodrama drains ambiguity [ … ] to truncate harmony [ … ]” and “voices quilt the sky with perforations wag [ … ]” as “dissonant blossoms blur [ … ]” “tongue cadenza [ … ]” “razzamatazz [ … ]” The poems have a filmic quality as Child continually edits and jump cuts language as one would in experimental film, keeping her “butt” firmly rooted in her reality, dealing with her intimate straight and gay relationships, always allowing us to peek, like voyeurs, into a theater or through a window, while “pouring glottal id round altitudes” as “we” continuously “feel the tilt.” Her rhythms and pairings are as challenging, rough, tender, and unpredictable as any great musician’s, and like music these poems are always creating themselves.
As Todd Swindell, scholar and editor of the late Harold Norse’s selected poems, I Am Going to Fly Through Glass (Talisman House, 2014), recently told me, Norse—one of the last great Beat poets—was an opera lover who would go to the Met, stand in the galleys, and wait to be groped by “lecherous old queers.” Swindell went on to say that Norse even danced in the Met’s chorus for a while. This volume is saturated with musical references that go as far back as 1941, with “YMCA Lounge,” where “[ … ]some read[ … ]while Tchaikowsky’s Hamlet overture grieves.” The poem ends with “The grieving overture switches to Gaité Parissiene.” The references go from Verdi to Puccini, with waiters in Rome singing “Quanto sei bella, Roma,” to Ralph Vaughan Williams, to Édith Piaf, to “the music of ancient Greece,” to “O recitative of years / O Paradiso on the jukebox” at the Caffe Trieste, to “tenors singing La Bohème from rooftops,” to Norse himself, his “geranium body singing with the smudges and stains of time” or these painful, plaintive lines “tell me who i am / i am salt whistling a tune from Tosca / i am water discussing water / i am calcium singing a freedom song [ … ] feeling a firm delusion.” From “arias in railway stations” to “nite clubs gobbling and soaking up the suds” to “panpipes in fierce white moonlight,” Norse takes us on his journeys around the world with heart, guts, pathos, and love of soul and flesh.
Pamela Sneed’s Gift (Belladonna Press, 2015) is a slim volume that packs a huge wallop with its scathing indictment of inequality, injustice, racism, brutality, and all the schisms that create tensions and hatred. Calling out racial profiling and stereotyping throughout the world, Sneed takes us on a journey that is both bleak and exhilarating, from the unjust murders of Trayvon Martin and others, to the privileges of Taylor Swift and Kanye West. This is a straightforward, heart-wrenching poetic vision of human conscience.
I was never a big Zappa fan, I thought his complicated musical systems (partially derived from his love of Varèse) were innovative and immersive but I hated his silly, often socially relevant lyrics. Yet I always agreed with his politics, and now even more so after seeing Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words. I suggest any civic-minded person, or anyone for that matter, who wants to upgrade their consciousness and education, see this film.
British composer Pete Wyer has a truly promising concert and immersive sound installation at the Winter Garden. It is the premiere of a new choral work entitled Song of the Human. The concert will take place Wednesday, October 12 at 7.30 p.m. The installation will be ongoing from Saturday, October 15 through Sunday, October 23. Admission is free. There’ll be eighteen speakers installed throughout the atrium, a full choir (The Crossing from Philly), found sounds, and birdsongs from living and extinct birds. Wyer states that his interest in the human voice stems from the fact that “when we speak, we speak in music,” which, if filtered right, can remove barriers between people and help deal with various emotions and ideas. The work aims to “reproduce the restorative effects of birdsong for psychological well-being [ … ] and re-establish the relationship between human speech and birdsong.” He might be right. Sometimes the only way my wife calms down is when she feeds the sparrows on the ledge of our tiny apartment then engages them in conversation. Seriously, this is something not to be missed.
It’s been said, the more one listens, the better one will be as a musician, and that many musicians don’t listen as much as they should. The same applies to audiences. For instance, I realized while listening to Cecil at the Whitney that he allows for anarchy but not dissent, and that, like Art Blakey and Horace Silver, whether a band member is great or mediocre, once they’re in his ensemble they become his sound. So to become a better listener, listen.
I dedicate this to poet, collaborator, media artist, friend, Wilton Azevedo, to Adam Strider, who loved what he heard, to music sensei Hikaru Yamashita, who ran the Easel, a jazz café in Sasebo City, Nagasaki, and to one of my heroes of the music, Bobby Hutcherson. Buy Happenings on Blue Note and let it caress you.
Billy Cobham stated in a recent interview, “First you must do what is needed [ … ] then later on you do what you do.”
Poet/collagist STEVE DALACHINSKY was born in Brooklyn after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little ones. His book The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His most recent books are Fools Gold (Feral House, 2014), A Superintendent's Eyes (Unbearable/Autonomedia, 2013), and Flying Home (Paris Lit Up Press, 2015), a collaboration with German visual artist Sig Bang Schmidt. His latest CD is ec(H)osystem with the French art-rock group, The Snobs (Bam Balam Records, 2015). He is a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His poem "Particle Fever" was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize.His most recent books are Black Magic (New Feral Press, 2017) and Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bisonte Prods, 2017).