“You don’t learn from teachers. You learn from work.”
“There is the light and the surfaces.”
- Gary Winogrand
“Creating an activity is not creating art.
- Henry Flynt
Henry Flynt gave a whacky, insightful talk—after playing about seven minutes of music—at the Swiss Institute on what he felt was and wasn’t art. He also stated he had a science degree and that E=mc2 was bullshit and had never been proven (relatively speaking, it was, after all, only a theory). At the end of an exhausting hour and a half of putting everyone and everything down, he ended by talking about Marx and Engels and how they (Marx especially) got everything wrong about the working class taking over. He did, however, advise the audience to read early Marx before he was asked to CEASE and DESIST.
Recently, while I was drunk at a George Garzone concert at Cornelia Street Café where he had students sit in, I started preaching to a young guy sitting in front of me. I told him the first guy on tenor was great but played too much like Trane and Garzone (who himself plays a lot like Trane), and that all the rest, except the second guy, played really well but sounded like Trane, Bird, Garzone, and the first guy. I then told him that the second guy who played alto didn’t play very well but was the best because he actually was trying something different and that even if he was clumsy he might someday come up with something relatively NEW—if such a thing is still possible. The young guy said he understood and told me how much he liked the pianist. I said that I agreed but that he came too much out of McCoy. I then mentioned Monk and Cecil, two other singular players and he said, "Yes, he sounds like Cecil.” But of course he didn’t. So I gave up. Then the bassist hit and she sounded like Jimmy Garrison. O.K. O.K. I admit the tune was “Impressions” and it was played very well. But what do I know? I was drunk and as I once said in a poem “Get drunk and anything sounds good.” But seriously it was a great set.
Fall started off well with much that proved worthy to this listener’s EARS: Ingrid Laubrock, Brandon Lopez, and Francesco Mela in the Arts for Arts Garden Series. Daniel Carter and Whit Dickey in that same series. Michael Foster, Nate Wooley, Ben Bennett, and Lopez at The Glove. Lopez also completed his final concerts in his residencies at ISSUE Project Room and Roulette. Joe McPhee’s New Nation Time at the Blank Forms Benefit. Loren Connors and Tom Carter in conjunction with an exhibit of Connors’ ethereal flower paintings, also a Blank Forms event. Blank Forms has released a limited edition hand painted solo LP by Connors as well as a more affordable edition of said LP and there will soon be a doc on Connors in the near future by Family Vineyard.
There was a rare New York appearance by pianist Simon Nabotov with Michael Attias, and Max Johnson and Mike Pride, opposite Cooper-Moore and Steve Gauci. Gauci has been running a series at happylucky no.1 every week and one at Bushwick House, both presenting consistently good music. Then there were some superb Frisell shows including a solo one at Russ and Daughters and duos with Kenny Wollesen, Andrew Cyrille and Mary Halvorson, the last for their new Tzadik tribute CD to guitarist Johnny Smith. There was another rare appearance by French guitarist Jean Francois Pauvros at the Record Shop in a mind-blowing set that included Ernie Books, Matt Mottel, Jonathan Kane, Peter Zummo, and Peter Gordon.
Joelle Léandre, Nicole Mitchell and Myra Melford (Tiger Trio)—with one release on RougeArt and another live release in the works as part of Arts for Arts’ Race & Resistance series at Clemente Soto Velez—did an extraordinary set as part of their world tour. Myra playing like when I heard her in the ’80s, very free post-Cecil stuff, and the others as vital and inventive as ever, with some improvised text by Mitchell I will paraphrase: “AA .. I.. about the breath … seeping through your fingertips… it sucks / our life… every time we touch the keyboard… see your reflections in the screen… logging in memories… picture frames of families / lovers / the self smiling…” Léandre adding a bit of vocalese toward the end. Mixashawn Lee Rozie, as part of the same series, did an exemplary solo set. Almost unbeatable, an incredible duo at the Kitchen between Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell as part of Tyshawn’s three day residency.
The Jazz Gallery’s opened fall with groups like Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Jazztopad (Polish Jazz artists who invited Kris Davis to sit in), Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Darius Jones with Coooper-Moore, Chad Taylor and Sam Newsome, Brandon Ross Immortal Obsolescence, Michael Formanek’s Elusion Quartet featuring Tony Malaby, Kris Davis and Chess Smith, and the Peter Evans Quartet with Joel Ross.
Ninety-year old Lee Konitz played formidably with a nonet at the Jazz Standard in a program of standards. He scatted very little and as always included his signature composition, one of my all time favorites, “Kary’s Trance.”
The standout gig for me was the trio of Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, and Andrew Cyrille at Korzo. It was Berne's birthday. The place was packed for both sets with many well known musicians in attendance. I cannot believe that I never ventured out to this place which has a lovely wood and brick back room where the music is held, great food, and has been host to the Konceptions series that presented the gig and which has been presenting music there for some nine years. Steve where have you been?
Satoko Fuji issued the twelfth and final CD of a one-per-month series for her sixtieth birthday. Sixty is a special birth year in Japanese culture, when the person in question wears red. It more or less signifies a rebirth/renewal/cycle of life. She'll be doing a week at the Stone next May to further the celebration.
The standout moment for me at the Randy Weston memorial was Rodney Kendrick’s solo performance of Weston’s “Congolese Children” in what was a poignant day of praise and music.
There are those rare instances where music intersects with other art forms and the bond, though perhaps unintentional, is as strong as the strongest adhesive. So is the case with Lawrence Schwartzwald’s masterful masterpiece The Art of Reading (Steidl, 2018) with that great photo of Amy Winehouse on the cover. This is an expanded version of the original and the contents are a sheer symphony of readers from poor to rich sourcing all types of material. It is beyond a bargain at $30. Trust me on this one.
I told Billy Harper after a recent Cookers concert at Birdland, putting my hand over my heart and patting it, that his heart went right into my heart. Harper, a consistently strong but not aggressive player, has always been a favorite of mine. He is that rare one who exudes power without being pushy or loud, always maintaining warmth. I received a big smile of thanks from him.
Sonny Fortune's passing saddened me. I saw him about two months ago at Birdland. He looked and sounded great. The guy at the next table over kept talking on and on to the two women he was with and pointing toward Sonny. He got up suddenly midway through the set and on his way to the rest room after a great solo by Sonny and smack in the middle of a tune said, "Great, man. Great,” giving Sonny a thumbs up and a high five. Sonny laughed, as if to say “all these years just for this bozo” (my interpretation). Here's to the GREAT Sonny Fortune. May fortune shine upon him in music heaven and may he continue to soar like a BIRD.
Sometimes the world becomes too much of a burden for us and other times we become too much of a burden to ourselves. Sadly that was the case with Mike Panico, music lover, advocate, connoisseur, co-producer of the eclectic Relative Pitch label and archivist at Sony. He left a brief note stating that he had a good life but that his addiction and headaches just became too much for him. I dedicate this to him and to all those who have experienced emotional heartache and mental torture.
With love in the music, REST IN PEACE. And keep listening wherever you may be.
There will be a tribute to Cecil Taylor, December 5th at Clemente Soto Velez, as well as a memorial for Taylor December 11th at Roulette.