Thursday, May 31, 2007

Perfect Sound Forever- June/July 07 edition

Summer's here in the Western Hemisphere and another edition of Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine is out now featuring articles on Wendy Carlos, Yoko Ono, Mary Timony, Explosions in the Sky, Crime, Justin Hinds, Amalia Rodriques and many other of your obscure favorites. Check out the fun at the PSF website.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vision Festival 2007

Hopefully you already know that one of Gotham's finest music festivals is coming up soon- the Vision Festival is only a few weeks away. I've attended for the last several years and always find it to be a wonderful experience. Any jazz fan needs to be there to witness it. For details about it, see their website.

To get a taste of the great music that you'll see, I have some clips from the 2005 festival on YouTube. There's three videos of William Parker's Little Huey Creative Orchestra there including the one below featuring a mind-blowing solo from saxist extraordinaire Sabir Mateen.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Take It To the Bridge- avant NYC musicians seeking venues

I have a video channel at YouTube set up to document Take It To the Bridge's April 17, 2007 protest at NYC's City Hall regarding the lack of venues for avant musicians to play in Manhattan after the recent closing of the Tonic and other clubs. For more info, you can see this article I wrote in the Village Voice and also visit the Bridge website.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Negativland "live"- U2 video

Excerpt from Mark Hosler "Adventures in Illegal Art"- The New School, New York City, September 29, 2006. Hosler gave a history of Negativland, including their many tangles with the record industry, especially over their 1991 "U2" single. This is a minute-long excerpt from that video that the band put together to accompany the song. The band will be touring this summer- check their website for details.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anthony Braxton's 100 Tubas

Live at the World Financial Center, NYC, June, 24, 2006, Anthony Braxton's "100 Tubas" piece- two brief excerpts with the maestro/composer himself conducting. Braxton had 4-5 groups of musicians playing in the outside plaza by the water as each group would move from spot to spot (sometimes trading places) every 5-10 minutes. You can get a taste of the extraordinary booming sound that resulted and maybe even hear some of the ships in the background unintentionally answering them with their own foghorns.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

RIP Topper Price

Even many blues fans might not be familiar with the name Topper Price but after witnessing him last summer at the annual Howlin' Wolf music festival in Mississippi, I can testify to the late singer and harp player's process. He had a great band (especially guitarist Jeff Danger). See some info about TP at the All About Jazz website.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Certain General- lost post-punk history

Their press calls them the missing link between Television and Sonic Youth and that might be overstated it just a teeny bit but NYC late 70's/early 80's combo Certain General does at least deserve a note in the post-punk history books. Thanks to Easy Action records, their catalog is available again now on the double CD Invisible New York which is well worth checking out. You can find 'em on the web at their new homepage and hear some of their songs at their MySpace page too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

PSF on YouTube- Linton Kwesi Johnson

Granted that sometimes it takes me a while to put 2 + 2 but I realized that I had a small library of videos from shows and such while there happened to be a repository for such things online called YouTube (I'm guessing you've probably heard of this). There will be more to come soon but I thought that a good place to start off would be with dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. It's from October 15, 2006 at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC where he's reading from his recent collection of poems, Mi Revalueshanary Fren (Ausable Press). Right across the street during that same evening, Patti Smith was doing the very last show at CBGB's.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Elvin Jones kicks butt and then power solos

Great clip from a 70's Western featuring the legendary jazz drummer. Pretty surreal to see this but EJ does wupp on the drums pretty mightily.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lubomyr Melnyk- one man minimalism, no tricks

Minimalism is a music that produces a strange beauty. It doesn't sweep you off your feet so much as it slowly, stealthy inhabits you. Its gentle, lulling repetitions are perfect for meditation, deep thinking or just unwinding if that's what you want.

Even for music fans not familiar with the music itself, the names Terry Riley and Steve Reich are (or should be) pretty much known by now. One name you probably haven't heard or are familiar with (I definitely wasn't) is Lubomyr Melnyk, which sounds like a name that Woody Allen would give his character in one of his movies. The real Melnyk devised "KMH," a 50-minute solo piano piece in Toronto in the late 70's inspired by a dance company. This wonderful piece of music originally came out in 1979 in a limited edition and now gets a re-release courtesy of the Unseen Worlds label. While Riley used tape manipulation and Reich used ensembles to craft their magical music, Melnyk only relies on his two hands to produce a steady flow of music that's so rich and vibrant that you can't believe that one guy alone was responsible for it.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pete Townshend's Lifehouse- song of yourself

Even if you're an old Who fan like me, I completely understand why you think that by now, they're a tired old joke that refuses to go away. It's not just that Moon or Entwistle are gone or their endless series of farewell tours. Even some die-hard classic rock fans will tell you that leader/songwriter Pete Townshend's muse has dimmed a lot in the last few decades.

Even though I sympathize with those feelings, I don't agree completely. It's not just that he and Roger Daltrey (when his voice is working) can still put on an impressive live show, especially with Zak (son O' Ringo) Starkey filling in surprisingly well for Moon. In addition, he's also worked on a live series (also archived on the web) called In The Attic with girlfriend Rachel Fuller where we get to see PT in a smaller, more intimate spaces, reinterpreting his songs plus sharing the stage with some interesting guests (most notably Lou Reed, who he cited as one of his heroes). Also seeing PT at the recent SXSW festival being interviewed, it was obvious that he still has a sharp sense of humor and was, at the very least, trying to be as thoughtful as he could about his work: see the video here. And while the latest Who album isn't a classic entry in their catalog, note from the SXSW address his thoughts about Lifehouse.

To sum up, this was the project he immersed himself in after Tommy but never quite finished, with the remains of it becoming Who's Next. Many wondered if the left-overs formed the basis of a great album, what would the original project have sounded like? Much like the way that Brian Wilson picked up the pieces decades later to finally finish Smile, Townshend found that technology had finally caught up with his grand scheme and that he could finally complete Lifehouse after all these years. Beyond the (still) futuristic storyline, there was the intriguing idea that a song could be generated, suited to an individual based on their traits.

Until the end of July, Townshend decided to offer this free service that he and a team of developers have put together at the Lifehouse Method website. What happens is that you basically enter and upload some information and a customized "musical portrait" is created for you on the spot. The site's FAQ explains:

"After you've sat for your Method portraits, you can download them, play them back at your leisure, share them with your friends, compare them, noticing the similarities and differences between them, which will vary according to your input into the process. You may not like them, you may love them, you may prefer one to the other two, but, whatever your reaction, they will be authentic portraits, unique to you, based on the information gathered by your interaction with the Method software."

Out of base curiosity, it's kind of hard to resist at least looking into this. On the home page itself, there's a neat little Flash console that lets you play and mix the famous opening synth riffs from Who songs like "Baba O'Riley," "Eminence Front" and "Who Are You."

So what happens when you go in to try this? You start by filling out a form and then logging in. They ask you " What are your expectations for The Method?" I said something like "I'd like an interesting musical and social experience" (don't we all?). Next, they ask you for "a sample of your voice, a sound and a rhythm" plus a picture of yourself which you upload to the webiste. Unfortunately, the sound files have to be in WAV or AIFF format so you need to have a program to convert sound files (Goldwave is my favorite) if you don't have anything handy otherwise. They've got pictures for you to use if you don't have anything yourself and you can tap out a rhythm on your mouse if you don't have anything to upload either.

For my portrait, I found this great wooshing synth sound on my computer in the I386 directory (check it out- lots of fun sounds there). I dug up this nice noir picture of me on vacation but for the rhythm, I was disappointed that I couldn't quite get Public Enemy's "Security of the First World" (a great trip-hop beat later used by Madonna on "Justify My Love") so I had to go with a weak-ass equivalent of it by tapping it out on my mouse. I added a few seconds of my me speaking (you can also record it from a microphone hooked up to your computer) and I was all set.

After a few minutes, the end result (my "song") was an eeries synth/guitar-march that sounded like an early Residents track. Being a Residents fan, I was actually kind of proud of that. Though I didn't see it at the time, when I logged in again, I found that I could download the file to my computer. It's about 5 minutes long and you can hear a short sample of it here (MP3 format, 124MB).

Beyond your own satisfaction of creating your personalized song, what's going to happen to this material? Well, ol' Pete and the Lifehouse guys might decide to use it for their ongoing project. As they explain:

"If one of your portraits is chosen, it does not mean it is better or worse than any other portrait, just considered by the composers to be technically more suitable to be elaborated into a "bigger" piece, possibly even a song. Although your portrait is controlled by Eel Pie, should we go on to develop or elaborate it you may be invited to further engage and participate. This could lead to us creating commercial applications and if so we plan to reward you with a one-third interest in earnings from your portrait music used in this way."

Wonder what that means in terms of royalties for you if they use it? Oh well, you can go for three "sittings" for the next few weeks and then sign up for a subscription after that to continue in the program. Even if you're tired of hearing your songs, you have to wonder where Pete and his programmers decide to take this project besides the bank (surely, they can make billions off of synth doodles, right?). I'm hopeful that they have some kind of social/technological vision in mind and I can't wait to see what it is. Not exactly classic rock stuff like Who's Next but maybe something interesting and fascinating for us to chew on in this Web 2.0 world.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Booker Ervin- ebullient, sad and free

Though he's usually noted as a sideman along with Eric Dolphy in Charlie Mingus' band, saxist Booker Ervin is also one of the greatest proponents of 60's bop, tragically only making it to age 40 at his death in 1970. In his last few years, he recorded a series of "books," themed-albums including The Freedom Book from late 1963 and now recently reissued by Prestige. Here you'll find the over-the-top ebullient "A Lunar Tune" that truly does sound extraterrestrial as Ervin uses his horn to blast through scales- the way he bents notes shows that he was definitely listening to the free music (hence the title) that his old running buddy Dolphy (among others) was hep to (but which Mingus sadly dissed). And while "Grants Stand" and "Al's End" also scale such dizzying heights, it's the two low-key tunes which make this album truly magical. "Cry Me Not" is proof positive that the blues can be felt and expressed validly outside its own genre. And then there's the extraordinary nine and a half minutes of "A Day To Mourn," supposedly a tribute to the then-recently slain JFK. If you believe that there are indeed five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), then your faith is affirmed as you'll hear those full range of emotions here. Truly an extraordinary display.

Hear some sound samples at Barnes and Noble

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