“Experiences comprise reason, emotions, and impulse. To draw is an essential act.”
–Geta Bratescu, visual artist
“We ought to boycott ourselves”
-Charles Bernstein, poet
So where to begin? Okay. One of the recent highlights of the new year for me was a trio set by Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey, and a new name for me, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. I’ve been told that Akinmusire is an important rising star. I found nothing unique about his playing but felt he excelled in the set. As they all did.
I didn’t run around as much this year at the Winter Jazzfest, in fact I stayed pretty much at the New School for most of it, though I did catch Ernest Dawkins’ 1 a.m. set at SubCulture and two Nicole Mitchell sets at (le) poisson rouge. There were no particular highlights for me this year and some of what I wanted to hear I didn’t get around to but I did find some new names like Anna Webber and Sarah Manning. I enjoyed Mara Rosenbloom’s set and always find delectable moments in Mitchell’s playing. I also caught two panel discussions that featured such icons as Angela Davis and Archie Shepp. There were those strong voices of the new avant generation, like Jamie Branch and James Brandon Lewis, colliding with Harriet Tubman for a new rendition of Ornette’s Free Jazz. I missed most of that to hit ISSUE Project Room to hear/see Aki Onda and Alan Licht perform Onda’s soundtrack for a new Ken Jacob’s 3D film of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The festival’s lineup, as always, was miles long as was the distance between venues, but this year the weather was warm. Ravi Coltrane’s tribute to his mother included the great harpist Brandee Younger. Though the music wasn’t much to my taste I was happy that my wife’s flu was subsiding, and that there was nothing else for me to do that night, everything kind of worked for me and was well played. The music, in its own way, contained equal parts spirit, love, and entertainment.
The Sun Ra Arkestra played a really fun set to the film Space is the Place, which is a riot. Steve Colson and Iqua Colson along with many other presenters this year had powerful social and political messages to offer up. Wadada Leo Smith held his own with the west coast rock band Deerhoof whose lead singer I sort of fell for. She danced like an off-center swan far from the lake, wandering in and out of some wild, loud, mythical world that the others have built around her, her words barely audible. The following is some poetic gibberish I wrote while listening:
There seems to them all to be a coherence within these actions, my question being that if the bell is rung too loud more often than not it distorts its own beauty. Smothers itself within an infinity of sound wherein, as in Wadada’s case, only the bell’s acoustics breathed a True Life of sound, which can travel as far as the traveler. As if there were puffs of winter stranded on the plate where I sat once the volume returned and even the eyes that contain the universe melted back into their ice sockets and dissolved into tri-color dynamics questioning their own ability of appraisal as I wonder now why that even these colors still happen though other than with the trumpeter at times they rarely approach the purity they possess.
For the encore she sang a song that contained the one word I was able to understand the entire set, “victim.” I was reminded that we are all victims and then the set was over.
The best quote I remember from one of the panels, though I forget who said it, was “There is no such thing as a single issue problem because we don’t live single issue lives.” This is definitely the time of women rising up which was a big part of the festival’s theme. Bravo.
The Stone does its first full month at its new location in the New School’s Glass Room. The curators for the month are Jonathan Finlayson, John Schott, Ben Perowsky, and Theresa Wong in what will be a very eclectic month.
I caught a terrific, informative interview with Milford Graves at the Artist’s Institute at Hunter College, conducted by John Corbett. Milford’s stories just keep getting better and better.
The Matthew Shipp trio plus Roscoe Mitchell played to a sold out crowd at Zankel Hall as part of Carnegie Hall’s “The 60’s” series, running through March, which includes art, dance, music, and film in various venues. The concert lasted about eighty minutes and began with a Shipp solo, followed by his trio with Michael Bisio and Newman Taylor Baker, after which Mitchell played a miraculous solo set. Shipp came back in as did the rest of the trio. By the end the quartet gelled perfectly in what was an intense evening of music that chased some patrons away. My preferences were the trio, Roscoe’s solo, Shipp’s solo close behind, then the quartet, which was indescribable but had moments that clashed language-wise. For those who missed this historic concert you can pick up the new Shipp-Mitchell live CD on RogueArt which is a concert in Sardinia from 2005 with informative, engaging liner notes by Yuko Otomo (my lovely, brilliant wife).
I bet you never imagined hearing me mention Burger King again but here goes: After being a guest on Dave Sewelson’s radio show I ran from South St. Seaport to Clemente Soto Velez to catch a couple of sets in Arts for Arts Winter Fest (an off shoot of the Vision Festival). When I got to Delancey Street, frozen and starving, other than the one dollar pizza place and BK there were no fast food joints left, yet another result of gentrification. I needed a quick fix on this sub zero evening before running up the street to catch a set by Weasel Walter with Michael Foster—which really warmed me up—before shivering over to the Stone for Ken Vandermark’s set. Ken was doing a week there, I caught all but one set every night. Anyway, this time, rather than the two Whoppers for $6 I had two cheese burgers, fries, and a drink for $3.98 if I remember correctly. Truly amazing.
My intention was to go to the Women’s March. Woke up too late. Then to the PEN poetry event on the steps of the 42nd Street Public Library, but by the time I got out of the house and with the usual unforeseen subway problems I managed to miss both. So while at the library I decided to watch the ice skaters, something I had never done before, and got the double treat of watching the guy resurface the ice during intermission. I really enjoyed the folks skating around, especially moms with their young ones being lead by plastic snowmen and penguins. “Enjoy motherhood while you can” one woman said to another, while Tony Bennett and others piped into the air. Bennett going from “With Plenty of Money and You,” his intro into a miserable version of “You are the Sunshine of My Life,” to “Lulu’s Back in Town.” Oops, someone belly-flopped right in front of me. Other singers intoned songs like “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead.” It was a warm winter evening and the smiles and artificial lighting all worked for me. The announcer came on and said “Thank you for skating at Bank of America’s Winter Park” and I knew it was time to leave.
From there I high tailed it to Roulette. Phil Minton and Audrey Chen approached the stage and sat. The voice fest began with oodles of gurgles, slurps, and shrieks. The sounds of crickets with migraines, incorporated empathy, duets not like Ray and Betty but like creaking doors. Like me clearing my throat right now. Tension and release all in one sitting, demons let loose, summoning always summoning from the depths of their souls. As someone posted on YouTube, “like sounds from hell,” but not really. Short hoarse breaths, wind whistles tsssssssssssss ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh cccccchhhhh, coherent but not really describable. Sadly the crowd was very small.
she moves her leg he contorts his hands and fingers. Quiet bodily jerking. Cat belching more creaking Minton’s contorting features meow Chen heating bass notes now to whistle some more together Minton intones a balladic melody hummed into night jangle chaos country road or jungle in the dark scaries. Minton blowing away an invisible spray while Chen gargles it in. This music more like a litany of near-indescribable sounds. Minton thanks the audience begins piece two with bird whistles the set gets better with every slip and flip of the tongue every faux vomiting. And as it winds down I am lost inside my own acid reflex listening to my own stomach rumbling mingling with their sounds and as the two reach a point of perfect harmony I hear Ray and Betty in my head singing “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and wonder about that incredible journey the human voice has taken.
As I left Roulette that ear worm took over again and the Beach Boys’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” corrupted my brain as I headed for the train to make my way over to the Jazz Gallery. On the platform I encountered the angriest train conductor I have ever met with a vocal range all his own.
Hey George, how about we use a photo of Burger King?