Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

WordPress Broken

Posted July 28, 2007

I have recently tried to move my blog to a new server… and upgrade the software… and now everything is broken.

Please let me know if you notice anything not working properly (comments failing, in particular). Please let me know directly, at Cheers!

Update: 28-7-2006 01:06
Now fixed: here’s some boring geekery that will hopefully show up in search engines and help others with the same problem…

» Continue Reading

Rashied Ali Quintet, at Pizza on the Park

Posted July 22, 2007

Rashied Ali

Rashied Ali Quintet at Pizza on the Park, 20/7/07 » Rashied Ali (drums), Josh Evans (Trumpet), Lawrence Clark (Tenor Sax), Greg Murphy (Piano), Joris Teepe (Bass) «

It’s been a good month for Big Historical Names; after Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor, now: Rashied Ali, with his Quintet, at the Pizza on the Park. And a bit of a change to get to see a big name american act in a much more intimate venue. Rashied Ali probably isn’t as big as Ornette or Taylor/Braxton, but Interstellar Space is one of the most important (and frequently played) records I’ve ever bought (being as it was one of the first sounds to push me into complete musical Freedom)… and like the big anticipated RFH acts earlier in the month, he didn’t let me down.

First off: a word about Pizza on the Park… My first visit to a ‘proper’ London jazz club (basement, no windows, waitress service)… Why haven’t I checked out this place before? Great atmosphere (although, also, in parts, a bit cliquey, and theme-parky). Pizza on the Park is essentially a Pizza Express gig, so the same just-slightly disappointing pizzas, but ok… However, the service itself was really chronic, which was seriously annoying for the sort of place where you can’t go and just dig it out yourself. Although probably suffering from single-diner blind-spot syndrome, would have been nice if my waiter could have actually bothered to get me at least one alchoholic beverage during the four hours I was sat there (or a desert! or a cheque at the end!). Anyway, not wanting to put too much emphasis on this point, but it was a bit of a downer, and makes me feel like it’s not really the sort of place I’d want to visit unless I knew the band was going to be great.

The music:

Rashied Ali was playing with most of the quintet off his Judgement Day record (I need clarification over the trumpeter). Fairly typical feel overall; the sort of contemporary hard-bop sourced music that most of the American Names are probably going back to, to mostly bide their time… A kind of broad Blue Note, sixties/early seventies vibe. But totally solid. The trumpeter was playing the most Inside, but with really powerful lines. Maybe it was because he was playing straight into my face, but… trumpet usually leaves me wondering why?; this was cool. Lawrence Clark was an impressive soloist, on tenor, fast runs all around his horn, overblowing at the top and at the bottom, with the odd strains of Coltrane seeping through (that’s a cliché; Clark was not, and really had his own sound). At the same time, not just going through motions, he had a solid grasp on the melodic construction (in fact, I think he was responsible for quite a few of the band’s actual charts and tunes). Towards the end of the second set (possibly on a performance of Judgement Day itself), the band pulled back for a time leaving a Clark–Ali duo, and the tumbling (and unpredictable) sheets of sound moved closest to JC territory. That little part, probably the highlight of the night. The bass was a little lacklustre, but then he was having to make do with a slightly battered electric bass, having an even more battered double bass lying in a heap somewhere on the tarmac at Heathrow airport. The pianist, Greg Murphy, played formative lines, freaking into some unexpected blast crashes every now and then, showing signs of something more free… Underpinning all this, of course, Rashied Ali. The rest of the band may have been playing on the Inside, but Ali stuck to free scattering pulses, firing out shots here and there in patterns that were only just obviously related to the group form, bringing the staid-in-principle choice of set list into something, really, Else. It was amazing how powerful his sound was hitting me, all from barely perceptible motions of the sticks; it was almost like artillery going off. Fairly unique, I can’t remember seeing any drummer play like him, and he was completely and utterly mesmerizing. Although my Rashied Ali record collection is generally far more free than this, and the traditionality of the group was slightly suprising, it all worked brilliantly, with Ali’s own freedom drive making it all that little bit more special.

Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, again…

Posted July 15, 2007

Good to be able to listen to the Taylor/Braxton gig, again, now I’ve got two working ears… (You can listen to the Jazz on 3 broadcast via the BBC listen again player, or by the direct links in my previous post… The feed is available for the next seven days.) They broadcast one of the three Taylor/Oxley duos, and then the main quartet piece with Braxton… I had been a bit so-so about the duo pieces, on the night, but, being able to hear it properly, Taylor’s stuff sounded even better… The delicateness of his lines, much brighter. Although, at the same time, the clear recording seemed to make Oxley’s contribution less worthwhile, and, faintly distracting… I don’t know which of the three duo pieces they actually broadcast, but it was also interesting to realise that he was playing the same piece as formed the basis of his last performance, at the RFH, three years ago!…

Ornette Coleman, at the Royal Festival Hall

Posted July 11, 2007

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman quintet, at the Royal Festival Hall, 9/7/07 » Ornette Coleman (alto sax, violin, trumpet); Charnett Moffett (bass); Denardo Coleman (drums); Tony Falanga (bass); Al MacDowell (electric bass) «

Hmm… Not a lot that can be said, really… Back to the Royal Festival Hall, twice in two days, having caved in, and scraped the money together, just at the last minute (to think! that close to missing it, all through my own free will!)… Ornette Coleman, with his son Denardo on drums, and then the bass-trio backing of Charnett Moffett, Tony Falanga, and Al McDowell.

An hour long set with tunes mostly from the recent Sound Grammar recording, I think… Jordan and Sleep Talking were definitely there, with Denardo Coleman and Tony Falanga both direct from that disc.

Ornette was as piercingly rich as my first exposure to him on The Shape of Jazz to Come, even though, now, clearly quite frail. (Even his trumpet and violin managed to sound complete…) His son played full, rocking drum beats that established a strong propulsion… The three bassists mixing around the roles, and sounding great; the block sustained the sound, leaving it more solid than it would have been as just a jazz trio, perhaps, but maintaining that same slightly stripped-down immediacy. With slightly duff hearing, and a cost-saving rear-stalls eye view, it was hard to distinguish between the individual bass roles, so I’ll have to leave the specifics to others elsewhere

A contrast to the cerebral performance from the previous night; it was like getting slapped in the face by a slab of pure melody, and I just felt fully on air, really… Probably not pushing the boundaries, this Sound Grammar a traditional Atlantic-era-sounding Coleman project, but not that that left anything missing… After the standing ovation, Denardo seemed to tactfully suggest that they should play something else… And ‘Lonely Woman’ was really something else… Ornette Coleman was such a strong, formative influence on my earliest forays into jazz music, thankfully he didn’t let me down!… Outstanding, and just one of the happiest gigs I’ve ever been to… ;)

Pity that many of the seats remained unsold… £45 starting price is, in a practical sense, probably asking a little bit too much… The extra 75mm of leg room is all very nice, and the new hall looks very, very pretty, but… how much cash are they short of?

Byron Wallen Trio
A conference presentation on the Dirac equation, and its modelling of the zero-bandgap energy states of graphene, left me running to the Festival Hall just in time to miss the first few minutes of this warm-up trio… They were alright but not really on the same level… This Evening Standard review seems to be quite confused…

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall

Posted July 9, 2007

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton

Cecil Taylor & Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall, 8/7/07 » Cecil Taylor (piano); Anthony Braxton (soprano, sopranino, alto saxes; contrabass-clarinet); William Parker (bass); Tony Oxley (drums) «

My first visit to the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall, this Sunday… A bit of a hash-up with the seating, after a ‘raised stage’ that hadn’t been put down again left everyone in the front two rows scattered across the remaining front fifteen, just to give us a chance to see… Would also have been nice if it hadn’t taken until the eighth steward to find out what was going on… But at least it’s not a double-booking, and at least they made up for it by springing on a surprise (to me!) Polar Bear support act… Not quite as cool as at Taylor John’s, but only through a lack of intimacy; a capable, restrained, half hour set, making their upcoming CD even more tantalising…

A quick break, enjoying the hall’s nice new palatial bars and Thames-overlooking balconies (but not the lack of toilets!), then back in, not quite knowing what to expect… Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton had been double-billed at the RFH before, but Braxton in a Ghost Trance quintet, and Taylor, separate, in a trio with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley. Braxton had stolen the night, while Taylor’s presence had seemed fraught, to say the least.

But! Here he was!! Disembodied, at first, off-stage, reading some poetry that I couldn’t begin to understand, while Oxley walked solemnly to his kit. Then Taylor appeared, dancing onto stage to meet the waiting drummer, finishing with a pirouette and a bow onto the piano stool — a sign of contentment, or a sarcastic ‘fuck-you’ to the paparazzo, jumping up to stick a camera lens in his face?… It seemed slightly ominous… But then the music came: nimble foraging, picking at the keys, flurries and delicate atonal crashes, beating off Oxley’s wide ranging patted-out percussion (where do they breed cows that big?). The pair feeding in and out of each other, but heavily interplay through confrontation, it seemed… Three tunes: exquisite melodic fragments, drawn out of a small moleskinne on the piano-top and then battered with the shit kicked-out on the keys. Maybe just a little bit samey, a bit like he was just beginning to go through the motions… I’m not sure, my hearing was duff on the night, and I found it a bit tricky to lock in… Beautiful, none-the-less…!

After that, the pair disappeared; William Parker took the stage for an impressive classically Down bass solo, a lot of it arco and massively impressive. Then, they all re-emerged, this time with Braxton finally in tow… A brooding, rattling, percussive start, with Braxton squeezing on contrabass-clarinet… They moved around, the inimitable Taylor lines began to break through… Braxton, investigative, trying to decide quite what to try. As he moved to different horns—soprano, sopranino and alto saxes—his style shifted through the modes, not necessarily making anything canonically ‘Braxton’. Abstract flurries then, on alto, more-like smashed melodies. Taylor’s attention seemed always on him, batting out the shapes and apparently transfixed by the prospect of what was to come… At times the group moved into definite free-jazz territory, with the almost-melodies just prised out… But then it would move into more of a noise territory; delicate noise, aggressive but easy. As for the rest of the band, Parker started off quite muted, but moved toward some great grooving lines nearer the end… Impressive, always, and a great propulsive sound. Oxley looked like his was having great fun throughout, pausing now and then to reflect on the concentrated music around him…

It burned out as a great success, I thought… When taking the applause, Braxton and Taylor seemed fairly decently elated by the whole experience… My description of the great music they made is probably well far off the mark… Was listening to Parker’s Now! Other Directions in music… record this afternoon and was thinking, well, if you take this, add some Cecil Taylor, then… you’ll get something that isn’t even close… Wordsandmusic has a better description; mapsadaisical does too (plus a nice photo that is approximately three-thousand times better than mine)… The whole thing was recorded for Jazz on 3, broadcast this Friday 13th… See my earlier post for lots of suitable links :)

Louis Moholo Unit, at the Vortex 4/7/07

Posted July 7, 2007

Louis Moholo Unit Front Line

Louis Moholo Unit, at the Vortex 4th July 2007 » Jason Yarde & Ntshuks Bonga (soprano + alto saxes); Orphy Robinson (marimba); John Edwards (bass); Louis Moholo (drums) «

I only really know Moholo (or, Moholo-Moholo, if that’s more appropriate), specifically, from his playing with the Evan Parker/Steve Beresford/John Edwards quartet Foxes Fox; he was with them at the Vortex last year, I think, playing his ‘last’ gig before moving back ‘permanently’ to his South African homeland (a performance, I notice, currently being prepared for release on Psi records). This group was something completely different, and quite a unique musical experience, a celebration of more traditional (inverted quotes, probably) free-Jazz (with a capital ‘J’) rather than free, free improvisation… Stylistically sounding like no other band or music I’ve ever actually seen, only heard, on dug-out records put out by artists either having some understated civil rights message, or a tendency to walk around on stage wearing robes of gold. Anyway, whatever, completely marvellous.

Jason Yarde and Ntshuks Bonga played soprano and alto saxophones, usually in tandem, improvising around spiralling, coruscating, abstract patterns (piling on plenty of extended technique). There were tunes, tho, with almost-heads, written scores, and everything… Orphy Robinson played great energetic marimba (watching him set the thing up, at the start of the evening, was pretty captivating by itself). It had an important role, really, I think, because Moholo’s drumming comes out like a burning, tumbling power engine, that was constantly turning over, moving, but really there creating a sense of momentum and pulse, with only barely perceptible constructive interaction (if that’s the right phrase). Well, barely perceptible to me. I mean it was brilliantly exciting, but there creating a moving pulse, rather than sculpting out a particular rhythmic line. That left Robinson’s marimba free to bring in a more structured rhythm, I think. With the saxes burning and twisting away, and the drums and mallets doing their thing, John Edwards seemed, at times, to act as the focus, or the channel, that completely meshed the two free aspects together. The second set had a few intense bass features; Edwards is great to listen to, but also inspiring to watch, lightning reactions with such a physically involving instrument. Looks like his solo spot next week will just have to get pencilled in… ;)