September 2016Here's a piece I wrote for ROVA Saxophone Quartet's monthly email announcement...an honor and a privilege, gentlemen.
The poetics of discomfort
The invitation to write something for the ROVA communique is a rare chance for me to find language for some of the musical processes I’ve been grappling with for years; gratefully, outside the context of where most of my words about music go these days: grants and promotion. To write about what I’m trying to do musically for those contexts, I have to step outside of the making and try to sculpt a companion piece, a Cliffs Notes version, to attempt to fit all the misshapen pieces together into some tidier whole. In hopes of inviting in some sense of wonder or curiosity from the outside.
But that is not where the work comes from. It comes from a messy, unfocused, overwhelming, brilliant, seductive and terrifying pool of sensations, ideas, gut reactions, intellectual concerns, moral ambiguities. From books and movies and authors and actors and landscapes and cityscapes and card games and family stories and road trips and great journalism and trashy comedy and hope and despondency and fear and a need to connect different pasts through to the present and into the future. It is one glowing thought that stands out among the others that begs you to pick it up and listen to it. And it always bubbles up from what is surrounding me in our musical community—it would be impossible to overstate the constant inspiration and influence I draw from longtime collaborators like Jason Levis, Randy McKean, Darren Johnston, Aaron Novik, Cory Wright, Phillip Greenlief, Aaron Bennett.
I’ve been thinking about the fallacy of the idea of “extramusical influences” in terms of what goes into making my music. It comes up a lot, since my recent projects are all wrapped up in crime novels, Victorian-era adventures, Italian vintage comics, ideas. And some seem to even self-consciously be about being about music, whether it’s Bartok and the Shaggs re-appropriated for an electro-acoustic improvising group, a drums and bass duo playing a Cecil Taylor solo, or a set of original tunes built from transcriptions of free jazz records. But I don’t think I’ve ever met an idea that wasn’t musical! It’s hard to explain, how the six months of library research mining obscure primary sources, or the nightly NASA tutorials clarifying some aspect of astrophysics, are just me composing.
I don’t think I have a choice of where the next music will take root. I’m not looking for a new idea or a new topic, life is just barreling past—isn’t the goal to consume as much great, important, worthy stuff along the way? And then there are some things that stick. The things that stick to me don’t usually get unstuck, until I peel them off in the form of music. None of these projects are about anything, there is no narrative, there is no problem and no solution, there are no real issues. I do not think that there need to be, for artwork to be relevant and vital. I am just trying to pass along—continue, amplify, bend, fracture—some of the vibrations I am receiving, and pass them along through organized sounds.
It’s taken me a while, getting older, to figure out why the idea of music as self-expression has never sat well with me. At its most true, music does nothing of the sort—it is so far beyond “feeling.” It is just you vibrating authentically in the world, there is no distinction between the message and the medium. And part of your job if you keep being an artist is to keep stripping away all the rest, the trappings, the baggage, the tricks, the artifice. To be most honest, so the sound is you is the sound. This is the most fun calling in the world, but also, for me it is deadly serious.
I didn’t go to Mills, but neither did I go to Berklee, so I’ve had very little musical dogma thrown my way from either direction. Sometimes that feels like a handicap, a little isolating to not be brought up in some school or camp, but mostly I think it’s been good to figure this out on my own, over a lot of years, mistakes, so many failures!
If I take a step back from all the work I’ve produced in the past 10 years, I notice this quest for the most unimpeded vibration has often found expression through self-imposed constraints. The great thing, and the horrifically painful and scary thing, about not being formally trained as a composer is, I have to create all the rules for each piece anew at the beginning of each project. It’s gotten to the point where each body of work has a completely different internal logic for how the music is researched, discovered, structured, assembled, inscribed. It is an extraordinarily impractical way of working; never quite at ease, the ground always shifting underfoot. But this forces me to keep reinventing myself, expand what I am capable of, develop new vocabulary, find some novel way of making connections between things that previously seemed distinct.
One of my favorite things about being part of the music making in the Bay Area is that there are so many of us joyfully, rebelliously, meticulously making up our own rules.
duo B. is a collaborative ensemble with drummer Jason Levis, that has always been about wrapping our heads, ears, instruments around impossible ideas. We used to have a long, running list of Things To Do With An Idea. We didn’t want to miss any, you know? It was about finding the rigor as an improvising group, leaving no stone unturned. Even if many of the ideas were impossible to execute or to hear, that didn’t matter. It was taking that directive seriously, going the conceptual distance. Our latest effort has been learning, inhabiting, re-sculpting, a (relentless) 45-minute Cecil Taylor piano solo. Again, impossible. Again, unbelievably rewarding in terms of the compositional/structural questions it has made us consider, the kinds of material it forces us to adapt to our instruments, the enormous gift of living so deeply inside Taylor’s musical vision. And all the important questions we have considered in wanting to honor this man’s greatness without copying him, appropriating him, reducing him to a style or a set of tricks.
For a suite of pieces called avantNOIR, I decided to let the crime novels of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster instruct me on how to score them. The lean language, the almost unbearable weight of place in Hammett’s San Francisco noir stories, and Auster’s New York Trilogy, made city streets and hotel lobbies and park benches seem hyper-animate to me. More alive than living things. Auster sent me, literally, wandering over the Upper West Side of Manhattan, making field recordings and photographing small objects to later be incorporated into an improvising game piece. Anagrams were created for character names and their aliases, which became melodies; seemingly inconsequential clues all added up into strings of rhythms with asymmetrical shifts in meter and accent.
Hammett made me fixate on the sinister drabness of domestic interiors, the games people play behind closed doors, the lure of character and fate. Musical structure in these pieces can be determined by things like which direction a character took on a fateful walk through the Fillmore, the route a getaway car drove after a bank heist, or the layout of pedestrian paths in Riverside Park.
The latest experiment is called Organelle; a modular composition inspired by scientific phenomenon (cell biology, archaeology, cosmology) that again has sent me back to the drawing board, as I figure out how to create musical corollaries to natural processes like cell death, radioactive decay, and the expansion of the universe. The score is mostly non-traditionally notated, because I want any improviser to be able to play it, whether they play a de-tuned guitar or electronics or bowed Styrofoam. It is scored for any instrumentation of improvisers—the idea is, it should work as a bassoon solo or a string quartet or a big band chart, as long as everyone involved is a great improviser. This one has been a roving laboratory, and so far this year, I’ve performed it with different ensembles in Naples, Rome, Cologne, and soon, Berkeley.
It has been fascinating research, not only in how to visually represent these scientific/musical relationships and structures in the score, but also in how to keep the composition open to the kind of collective wisdom that emerges from any given musical community. I’d like to not get in the way of how my Roman musician friends already like to play together, while still inviting them into this new architecture I’ve created for them all to inhabit. I want it to sound like the same piece over different performances, but still want everyone to feel there was ample room for their personality in a given performance. Organelle, of course, gets revised, rewritten, edited, expanded each time it is played by a different ensemble. And each time a new bit of science rolls across my staff paper….(this week, I’m really freaking out about the biology of the snapping shrimp (family Alpheidae), among the loudest animals on the planet….!)
Thanks for listening.
April 2016This spring, I'm working on some new projects while in residence for three months at the Cité International des Arts in Paris.
I'll start performing ORGANELLE, a new composition for flexible improvising ensemble, in June. ORGANELLE is a “set" of pieces inspired by diverse scientific processes – some enormous and unfathomable, others impossibly microscopic – that form a whole through the insights and explorations of fantastic improvisers. The composition draws its musical ideas from the different ways that the human body, the natural world, and the cosmos mark the passing of time. The rhythms, the musical relationships, the melodies, and structures in the work are each connected to a theory of cell biology, astrophysics, paleontology, zoology, or neuroscience, exploring these otherwise-imperceptible phenomena through sound.
Charles Ferris, trumpet
Marcello Giannini, guitar
Ron Grieco, bass and electronics
Stefano Costanzo, drums
Alberto Popolla, bass clarinet
Errico De Fabritiis, saxophone
Luca Venitucci, accordion/piano
Marco Di Gasbarro, percussion
Fabrizio Spera, drums
Zusanna Leharova, violin
Angelika Sheridan, flutes
Annette Maye, clarinets
Carl Ludwig Hübsch, tuba
Philip Zoubek, piano
then later this year:
ORGANELLE: BAMPFA (US premiere)
Darren Johnston, trumpet
Kyle Bruckmann, oboes
Cory Wright, reeds
John Finkbeiner, guitar
Jordan Glenn, drums
May 2015JazzPop, the music series I have programmed for the past ten years (!) at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, continues this summer for the first three Thursdays in August. This year's lineup includes Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond's Humanity Suite (Aug 6); Oakland oboist Kyle Bruckmann's WRACK playing his epic ...Awaits Silent Trisero's Empire, inspired by the novels of Thomas Pynchon (Aug 13); and AsianImprov superhero, San Francisco saxophonist Francis Wong brings his "Unit," this time a quintet (Aug 21). The concerts are free and the Hammer is awesome.
January 2015New news, is that I'll be developing Glorious Ravage in a series of residencies this year at the Headlands Center for the Arts, one of the most stunning, inspiring places in the universe. With support from the Headlands' Alumni New Works program, I'll be hosting my filmmaker collaborators and the musicians in my ensemble to workshop musical material and dig deep into the unknown... Headlands is really the first place I learned to be an artist, during my first residency there in 2006 - it was a truly transformative experience and I'm so grateful to be returning to make this new work there.
Also - the Glorious Ravage website is up! www.gloriousravage.com. It will be cooler and cooler as the months progress, promise.
November 2014I'm thrilled to announce that, with support from the MAP Fund, I will be premiering a new large ensemble + film work in fall of 2015, called Glorious Ravage .... with premieres in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I'm currently compiling my dream band and assembling a team of truly inspiring filmmakers to collaborate with, stay tuned for more information when I launch the project website in December.
... This month, Queen Bee Records announces its second release, by the extraordinary Bay Area ensemble Bristle, led by Randy McKean. Street date for "Futures Nows" is November 17 and CD release shows are planned at the stunning Maybeck Hall in Berkeley (Dec 6) and Luna's Cafe in Sacramento (Dec 8).
... Friday, November 7 is the world premiere of avantNOIR, my new suite of compositions for six musicians inspired by the crime fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster. It has been an incredible process developing this material over the past eight months, two sets of brand-new music performed by Bait & Switch, augmented by vibes (William Winant) and electronics (Tim Perkis).
January 2014Here's a summary of news mostly recent: 2013 highlights ....!
... the release of Bait & Switch's second CD, "Comeuppance" on the NotTwo label .... and the first release by the Lisa Mezzacappa Trio with Chris Welcome and Mike Pride, "X Marks the Question," on my new label Queen Bee Records.
... just finished mixing and soon to master the debut release by my Eartheaters trio with stupendous Brooklyn vocalist Fay Victor, out this spring - we played some great shows this year at Firehouse 12, 55Bar, the Hammer Museum, Duende ...
... spent more than a month in Italy reconnecting with old musical friends and making fantastic new ones, including a new quartet co-led with Piero Bittolo Bon; a magical musical meeting spearheaded by Gianni Mimmo; a fabulous bass trio with Luca Pissavini and Michele Anelli; a far out and surprising quartet with Neapolitan superheroes Stefano Costanzo, Marcello Giannini, Charles Ferris; my first largescale conduction piece with Napoli's amazing Crossroads Improring; and unbelievable players in Rome like Marco di Gasbarro who taught me a thing or two about my own music ...
... some other Very Fun Stuff included: playing electric bass with 100 guitarists and drummer Jordan Glenn, for Rhys Chatham's epic Secret Rose presented by Other Minds ... playing Fred Frith's Gravity with the maestro himself at Roulette in Brooklyn ... premiering a new sci-fi music-film-dance work by Nicole Mitchell at U.C. Irvine ... and playing John Schott's singular music at the second annual Festivus.
December 2012Wow, this is embarrassing, looks like this vibrant "news" feature on my site is now updated only annually. Well in the past few weeks, a few things have transpired. The research I did with my visual artist collaborator Deborah Aschheim while she was artist-in-residence at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center (MAC) finally culminated in the premiere of two new video and sound works, which we screened at the MAC early this December. Watch this space for news on future exhibitions of that work, which featured re-contextualized data from experiments we did in FMRI and EEG labs, with brilliant scientists and researchers. My score features the wonderful musicianship of Indre Viskontas, Murray Campbell, Jordan Glenn and Noah Phillips.
Also in December, the Monday Makeout series, now about three and a half years old, had its first annual FESTIVUS - the "Festival of Us" - where eight bands covered the music of eight other local bands over two days. It was a pretty extraordinary taste of what makes our scene great, so much creativity and imagination and mutual respect all around. The Holly Martins' set of music by Randy McKean was transcendent, and Aaron Novik's solo set of the music of Beep was also quite memorable. Just a week before that, the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music hosted its annual Chamber Music Day at YBCA. This year, I was one of the curators/producers, and besides having the opportunity to showcase so many fantastic local artists and their ensembles, I also re-mounted the Mission Eye & Ear film series in the YBCA screening room. It was very rewarding to see those works I had commissioned last year, re-mounted in the context of this festival, and the composers once again made me very proud of our corner of the musical universe. Among my favorites, Konrad Steiner's film, with music by Matt Ingalls and sfsound, was spectacular and haunting and unsettling in all the right ways.
So, what news of 2013? A trio with Gino Robair and John Shiurba (Oro Blanco!), for one. And a new string band with Crystal Pascucci, Murray Campbell, John Finkbeiner and Tim Perkis. Continued collaborations with Noah Phillips, and some January appearances by duo B. The new Bait & Switch record has found a home on NotTwo records, available in the fall. And my trio record with Mike Pride and Chris Welcome is mixed, nearly mastered, and in search of a label with which to ride off on, ideally on a white horse. And you will be hearing more from continued projects with Fay Victor! We recorded some trio music this fall and I am very inspired to keep writing, keep developing material for her formidable talents.
I will also be part of a new Monday series in Oakland, at the Layover bar, where several of us have been asked to host monthly shows as composers-in-residence (the others are Aram Shelton, Darren Johnston, Vijay Anderson) - I play every third Monday starting in January, and hope to use that time to develop some of these new groups. And finally, in 2013 I look forward to helping launch the Center for New Music in San Francisco, as a member of the artistic/programming committee with many illustrious colleagues. This space promises to be a great new home for sonic adventurers and outcasts in the Bay Area scene and beyond, I encourage everyone to support the space's efforts by attending shows, becoming a member, or volunteering. Onward!
December 2011Lately, and continuing into the coming months, I'm performing publicly less, and getting together some recording projects behind the scenes, more. Partly it's because some of the groups I've played with very regularly over the past handful of years are either defunct or on hiatus or play very rarely for various reasons. And frankly, we have a shortage of venues in the Bay Area right now, and a dwindling supply of audience coming out to support my kind of music. So rather than let that get me down, I figure it's an opportunity to be productive in a different way.... So in the early part of 2012, expect: the long-awaited vinyl release of the new duo B. record......a really lovely new duo record with Noah Phillips recorded live this fall before a studio audience ....my appearance on a record of duos Vinny Golia recorded with bassists (egad, the others are all my heroes: Turetsky, Leandre, Phillips) on the Kadima label ... new releases on Edgetone by two of my favorite jazz composers anywhere, Randy McKean (Bristle) and Cory Wright (Green Mitchell Trio) ... Aaron Novik's epic mystical Jewish metal album, out on John Zorn's Tzadik label .... Also, Bait & Switch has been toiling away on new music I write this fall, we will be recording a new record with Myles Boisen in January. And Jason Levis is returning to town to record some new Joseph's Bones tracks in February.
(Much) later in the year, the Lithuanian label NoBusiness will release a pretty great free jazz quartet record that I recorded with Vinny Golia, Marco Eneidi and Vijay Anderson. We are pretty excited about that.
Some other special live stuff is afoot early next year, namely: Aaron Novik's Thorny Brocky performing Fred Frith's album Gravity in its entirety (Feb 26) .... a couple of nice Bait & Switch double bills (Jan 19 with Nathan Clevenger's band, Feb 29 with Harris Eisenstadt's great group from NY!) ... and Graham Connah's every-other-first-Sunday big band gig continues at the Jazzschool (Jan 1, March 4).
Also, as the year comes to an end, I want to say thank you out loud to all those folks in our scene who run music series and record labels, document our shows, make our records, write reviews and articles about us, code iphone calendar apps, and organize opportunities for us all to keep doing what we do, against all odds: RENT ROMUS, ARAM SHELTON, ROB EWING, JACOB ZIMMERMAN, SUKI O'KANE, TOM DUFF, ELI CREWS and JOHN FINKBEINER, MYLES BOISEN, MATT INGALLS, JOHN LEE, DERK RICHARDSON, CRAIG MATSUMOTO, GREG BRIDGES, KFJC, ROSS HAMMOND, ANDREW GILBERT, BONNIE HUGHES, ROCCO SOMAZZI ... and many others.
July 2011: Cherry Love
So I started transcribing Don Cherry's Complete Communion and it got me thinking,
For me, it's this perfect combination of premeditated and spontaneous; loose and tight; collective and individualistic. And just like some early Art Ensemble records, it's a great primer for the uninitiated, to the kind of music me and my friends play now.
I have found myself recently trying to help listeners make sense of the music we make - friends who are classical musicians, accomplished listeners with no free jazz reference point, curious audience members who want to understand where we are coming from. And it's funny, even though as a jazz musician, the origins and history of our music are so clear to us, the contemporary listener has less context for this music than ever - even though really, what we are doing now is so much LESS far out than what the Art Ensemble was doing 40 years ago (!), most people now have almost no tools as listeners to understand this stuff. The average listener in the 60s andd 70s, when jazz was actually a bigger part of the music sphere, had much more context and general jazz knowledge I think. Doesn't mean they liked it, but they got it!
So perhaps I will start organizing these shows every now and then, under the rubric of "Required Listening," to help expose our roots, so to speak - not just famous old dead guy music, or riding on the coattails of the masters to boost your own career. But instead, hopefully using the performances of this great music as a way to bring people into the values and aesthetics and heart of what we are doing. So maybe this is a call for a new avant-garde transparency? As any of my colleagues could attest, the live experience of this music, when it's played with integrity and honesty and backed by experience and hard work, can't help but knock people out, even the unsuspecting or as-yet-unconverted‚ I guess we'll see.
In the meantime, some delicious Cherry tidbits for your enjoyment:A nice profile by Howard Mandel, who describes Cherry's approach as "avant positivism," which I really like.
(Thanks to Margaret Davis Grimes, who pointed me towards this Francis Wolfe image of Mr. Grimes in the studio with Cherry during the Complete Communion recording session....)
January 2011Happy New Year, lots afoot. Bait & Switch was tickled to be named "Best Debut Album" in the Village Voice Jazz Critic's Poll for 2010. It was actually really nice to see so many records by friends and cohorts in everyone's "top 10" lists for the year: my old bass teacher Michael Formanek's incredible ECM release; my drummer friend Mike Pride's knockout From Bacteria to Boys record; Myra Melford's latest with her awesome band Be Bread...
This year Nightshade will release the recording we made last summer, on LP. And Cylinder's debut on Clean Feed Records is out this spring. And perhaps the Permanent Wave Ensemble will do some studio documenting if we can get Madame Bley's blessing... Also look for a record I made last fall with Marco Eneidi, Vinny Golia, and Vijay Anderson - recording that thing was one of the funnest events of 2010.
September 2010In brief: Bait & Switch had a ball playing the Monterey Jazz Festival last week. The spirit and the set-up of the festival really encourages people to move around and check out artists they may not have heard before, to be curious and experiment ... it's amazing. So many new ears on our music, and it seemed like most of them were sympathetic! Here is a very well-written and perceptve review by Forrest Dylan Bryant, posted on his Jazz Observer blog:
Monterey 2010: Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch
"On an afternoon dominated by rhythm and blues, it was a small but adventurous group that headed for the room known as the Night Club to check out San Francisco bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and her twitchy, angular quartet, Bait & Switch. A few, not knowing what they were getting into, might have even found the band’s name accurate. But for those who could hang with the band’s multiple twists and turns, it was a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride.
Marked by tense, insistent riffing in odd meters, Bait & Switch draws its inspiration from what Mezzacappa calls the “little moments” in extended stretches of free improvisation — those times when everybody in a band finds themselves on precisely the same wavelength and the clarity shines through. Taking such little moments from recordings by Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and others as her sources, Mezzacappa has blown apart and reconstructed those snippets of sound into full-blown original tunes.
Mezzacappa is one of those bassists who is as much fun to watch as she is to hear. Switching restlessly between bowed and pizzicato playing, she might rock back on her heels or lean in close to her music stand at any moment, sometimes plucking forcefully at the strings as if to flick off something nasty, at other times melodic and introspective. Her solo lines roam hither and yon, like a housefly buzzing around a room: hovering, meandering, or banging against the window trying to get out.
The band’s other main voice belongs to tenor saxophonist Aaron Bennett, whose agitated skronk quivers and shakes as if about to implode, or turns huge and open, brushing the outer edges of tone. When he gets truly heated up, his body twists in uncomfortable directions and his own gulping breaths become a part of the music, marking the time with an odd, hiccuping sound. John Finkbeiner offers a sort of wry commentary on guitar, with fractured half-grooves like miniature cubist paintings, while drummer Vijay Anderson chugs away like a runaway train, quick-paced and unswerving. Time and again Anderson would fall into a riff and worry it down to a nub, then toss it aside in the blink of an eye in favor of some new variation.
They may have been out of sync with the rest of the Festival on this day, but Bait & Switch’s little moments provided an intriguing afternoon shake-up.""
January 2010Happy new year - and more news from me than you asked for (!)
The Bait & Switch record has been picked up by the lovely people at Clean Feed Records in Portugal, the CD will be out by June of this year with much fanfare. We're excited. So save up your $12-15. The quartet took a trip south in December, where we were welcomed warmly by some folks at Cafe Metropol and also at Alex Cline and Will Salmon's excellent Sunday night series at Eagle Rock Cultural Center. At Eagle Rock, we (quite ambitiously) joined forces with old pals Vinny Golia, Charles Sharp and Anthony Shadduck to form a septet, the first edition of my new Grapevine Project which will be ongoing and based on these kinds of inter-city mash-ups and musical collisions with LA and Sacramento musicians. Stay tuned for more editions of that project.
Before that, in November, I made another trip back to New York to reconvene with some old friends and make some new ones. Had a great Bait & Switch EAST gig at Zebulon with Mary Halvorson, Ches Smith and Ellery Eskelin. And played the RUCMA series at the Local 269 with what now seems a lot like a new band, Lisa Mezzacappa's SOFT PITCH, featuring excellent humans/musicians Mike Pride on drums and Chris Welcome on guitar. We've been playing on and off for almost a year now, and get into some nice spaces, so I'm excited to see where this group goes in the future...back to New York this March to play some shows as part of a West Coast Invasion: with Cylinder, Ava Mendoza, and Aurora Josephson. Hide your pizza Brooklynites!
Also lately, though it's a bit of a secret since we don't really play gigs, have been getting together with saxophonist Bruce Ackley and percussionist Dave Mihaly for some of the most fun and free-spirited music-making I've done in a while. Don't know where it will lead, but maybe that's what is so great about it right now.
For the past few months, I've joined installation artist/sculptor Deborah Aschheim at the UCSF Memory and Aging Clinic, where she is artist in residence, for a whole bunch of exploratory research about music and art and memory and the brain. Have met some fascinating neuroscientists, patients, caregivers, and heard some incredible, often heartbreaking stories. In February we will be scanning both of our brains in EEG and fMRI trials to conduct scientific/artistic experiments based on our past artistic collaborations. We're collaborating with opera singer/neuroscientist Indre Viskontas and UCSF post-doc Jyoti Ramanathan, who are maybe some of the smartest most creative people I've ever met.
Finally, scheming with Kasey Knudsen for a band/concert we are co-leading in March at the Jazzschool - an exploration and re-imagining of the music of Carla Bley. We've assembled our band (the Permanent Wave Ensemble) and are digging through the repertoire...
September 2009Summer was a dream, maybe even an illusion, it went so fast. Germany with duo B. already seems like years ago, but we played some good music and were treated like GOLD by some exceptional people. Florian and Yoichi at Miss Hecker in Berlin are extraordinary, their love of the music truly inspired us to play the best show of our tour. Sound artists and organizers Alessandra Eramo and Wendelin Büchler, now also in Berlin, are the kind of people you'd like to clone and sprinkle all over the place to germinate. Carl Ludwig Huebsch is an incredible person besides being a transcendent tubist. And he introduced me to my now-favorite-beer-ever, Kolsch, a Cologne specialty. So I will be back in that part of the world soon enough I expect.
NIGHTSHADE made its debut in August at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; I was very pleased with our performance and now there's a page under the PROJECTS section where you can hear some live recordings of that group. You have not heard the last of us, I promise.
This fall, some promising recording projects with the inimitable and prolific Aaron Novik, and also a long-awaited record by Phillip Greenlief's trio Citta di Vitti. CYLINDER, which just returned from a super fun tour (I'm told it's actually a "trip" because it was only two cities) in Chicago and Milwaukee, also hits the studio in October to record some of the music we've been honing over the past year or so. The new CYLINDER page in the PROJECTS area has some live recordings from some recent shows in the area, and also from a double quartet set we did in Chicago with some superduper musicians.
Lastly, this month I was fortunate enough to begin a new collaboration with installation artist/sculptor Deborah Aschheim, at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. She was asked to be part of a highfallutin' group show and invited me to provide some sound and music for her installation "Nostalgia for the Future." Her new work is stunning, and besides sculptures of waxy glowing '60s-era buildings covered in clear plastic scaffolding, the installation included footage of home movies shot by some of the astronauts on the early Apollo missions. I have a terrible crush on all of them. The sound was a combination of acoustic sounds culled from NIGHTSHADE rehearsals and gigs, plus lots of textured analog sounds from extinct machines like typewriters, rotary phones, answering machines, and instructional LPs for secretaries. Soon, someday, I will find a way to exhibit some of this work with Deborah on this site.
May 2009How ambitious of me to actually update his site more than once a year! Aha friends, don't get too used to it!
Off to Germany in June for some duo B. gigs in Berlin, Stuttgart and Cologne. Jason and I have pretty much retired our old material, and are looking forward to working on some new music for our adoring and unsuspecting Deutschpublik. We'll also play quartet with German improv wizards Frank Gratkowski and Carl Ludwig Huebsch, perform our "Postmark Tokyo" film score live in a multimedia festival, and collaborate with Chilean poet Pedro Cofré ...
The Bait and Switch record is mastered and ready for the revolution ... and soon as we finish obsessing on the new duo B. record, that, too will be assembled in some fashion and released into the ether... yes it's been an expensive and expansive year already.
Very excited about a new project to premiere this summer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. They've commissioned some excellent artists to do wall drawings in their galleries for an exhibition aptly titled "Wallworks"; and have asked some local musicians to come in, perform in the galleries and respond to the visual work. My new group NIGHTSHADE (Cory Wright, clarinets; John Finkbeiner, guitar; Tim Perkis, electronics; Kjell Nordeson, percussion and yours truly, bass) will be working on a whole bunch of new music this summer for this performance on August 13. We get to bounce our sounds off drawings by artists whose work I happen to like an awful lot: Yehudit Sasportas and Edgar Arcenaux.
Also just reunited with Donovan for a geranium-scented (seriously!) concert in Monterey - always a treat to play for a rapturous audience, with a master songwriter. Don's new producer, Josep Umbria of Calma Estudis in Majorca, Spain, is doing some really nice things with Don's new music ...
Lastly, JazzPOP is back at the Hammer Museum in LA this summer - for the fourth year, I'm proud to say. It's a modest little music series I've been programming, but it has great support from the fine folks at the Hammer, who treat the musicians like gold, and every year the audience seems to be growing. This summer the lineup is the LA Jazz Collective, July 31; Mary Halvorson Trio, August 6; and Wayne Horvitz' Sweeter Than the Day, August 13. It's free and outdoors, please share with your LA friends...
Stay tuned for Cylinder in Chicago this September ... more sound and sculpture collaboration with Deborah Aschheim this fall ... Bait and Switch at SFJAZZ Summerfest in October ...
February 2009Bait and Switch just recorded a new full-length album at Myles Boisen's Guerrilla Recording in Oakland. We had a ball making it (Myles got some lovely analog sounds), and once the thing is mixed mastered this spring, then pitched around to record labels this summer, then pressed and shipped this fall, I promise I will be so over it by the time I have one in hand next winter. So stay tuned!
duo B. is wrapping up its second release this spring, too, and putting the finishing touches on the recording of a film score we co-composed for Postmark Tokyo, by Mark Wilson. Poise yourself for a possible rare Bay Area appearance by my duo-mate Jason this April, when a duo B. gig may or may not ensue.
Next month I'm off to New York to subject some very fine Brooklyn musicians to some of my music. So glad to be continuing a long-distance collaboration with pianist Kris Davis, to be able to play again with Harris Eisenstadt and Darius Jones, and also to be performing for the first time with some musicians I've admired from afar for some time: Mike Pride, Jonathan Goldberger, Chris Welcome. Also Aaron Novik's Thorny Brocky will make some NY appearances, and I'll be sitting in with the fabulous Bay Area post-pop duo Ramon and Jessica for a couple of gigs. Very fantastically, I'll also have a chance to play in a BASS TRIO (!) with the freakishly excellent Adam Lane and Reuben Radding. Whoa Nelly! Please check my myspace page for all those dates.
Lastly, I will be trying to track down the near-centenarian sculptor Louise Bourgeois while I'm in NY, to hopefully receive her blessing for a series of pieces I've been composing based on some of her engravings from the forties.... if anyone knows Louise, please tell her I'm looking for her!
April 2008Exciting things on the horizon this spring:
Jazz-in-Analogue, a new project inspired by free jazz recordings, with my absolute favoritest musicians in town/the world, debuts at Intersection for the Arts Wednesday May 7, 2008 at 8pm. More info at www.theintersection.org
More news coming soon ...
Yes, the duo B. CD is here, and available for purchase at CDBaby.com We are mighty proud of it, and plan to never ever make a record again.
The duo is playing a pretty special concert on Friday October 27 at Maybeck Studio in Berkeley. In addition to performing our usual repertoire of gnarly original compositions, improvised songs, textural soundpieces and deconstructed covers, we will premiere newly-commissioned works by Bay Area composers Heather Frasch, Darren Johnston and Jeremy Hunt, composed especially for us! We couldn't be more excited.
In other news I have been helping put together the music and performances for the Headlands Center for the Arts' annual Mystery Ball Fundraiser. It's Saturday October 28, from 7pm - midnight. Great live music, participatory tomfoolery, clever costumes, plentiful and food, stunning art installations. Tickets are steep, but you can't throw your money at a better cause. Performers include: an Artist Gameroom with Jon Brumit and Paul Zografakis! Live music by Gaucho, Lord Loves a Working Man and Katy Stephan! DJ set by Julio Morales of Club Unicornio! Info, directions etc: www.headlands.org
Also I am very proud and honored and a little scared to be one of Jon Brumit's privileged guest troublemakers at his Vendetta Retreat revenge clinic installation at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on November 11. Please come visit us, where we will help you musically exorcise your grudges and cathartically rid yourself of excess vengeful feelings. Jon's
Finally, Halloween brings another installment of the ever-popular music and movies series, quiet films/loud bands. Here's the bill for the night:
quiet films/loud bands presents:
live music + creepy films at 21 Grand, Oakland
Tuesday October 31, 2006
organized by Lisa Mezzacappa
Aaron Novik’s Crafty Apples play an episode of the anime serial, LAIN (2004) Lain, a weird, confusing, hypnotic experimental Japanese TV series, is about a teenage girl who slowly learns that she is a computer program in a Matrix-like reality. Crafty Apples is: Jason Levis, marimba and percussion / Dina Maccabee, viola / Sky Grealis, flute / Aaron Novik, bass clarinet
Slunky plays scenes from Masaki Kobayashi’s KWAI-DAN (1965) and The Brothers Quay’s STREET OF CROCODILES (1986) In the Quays’ Street of Crocodiles (1986), a museum keeper spits into the eyepiece of an ancient peep-show and sets the musty machine in motion, plunging the viewer into a nightmarish netherworld of bizarre puppet rituals among the dirt and grime. Kobayashi’s Kwaidan is a visually lavish collection of horror tales based on traditional Japanese ghost stories. SLUNKY is: Phillip Greenlief, reeds / Ava Mendoza, guitar / Lisa Mezzacappa, bass
Also: Konrad Steiner’s psychedelic video short DEVIL EGGED (2003), an anti-mob-mentality montage of famous San Francisco crowd scenes driven note for note insane by a Frank Zappa guitar solo. Gregg Biermann’s SPHERICAL COORDINATES (2005), in which a seemingly innocuous scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho is wrapped around the inside of a 3D sphere, distorting the image and original sound, and thus simulating the experience of moving your head along the screen as the film plays.
Thank you for your patience while I have intermittently slaved away at/ruthlessly neglected this site. As of 12:37am on August 28, 2006, all of the audio now works. I will do my best to keep the calendar more up-to-date this fall.
duo B. is in the final stages of completing our debut CD, these things seem natural to us. Thanks to the stunning artwork of Deborah Aschheim and the ingenious design of Stephanie Lachowicz, we are positive at this point that at the very least, it will look really good. It has been a long and often surprising process crafting a record from improvised sessions based on months and months of working together. The CD release party coincides with our concert at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco on Wednesday September 13.
This fall, Jon Brumit and I will do several test runs of our portable recording studio and improvising lab at the Laney College Sunday flea market. I will post those dates in the calendar once they're set - musician and non-musician friends are welcome to come hang out with us, jam in Jon's van, and make music with found objects and junk instruments.
Lastly, my musical shenanigans have found a new home at Studio 223 in East Oakland, home of the Milk Bar, where I share a great warehouse studio space with an illustrious crew of East Bay artists, including Mary Armentrout and Ian Winters.
Welcome to my new website - I coded the whole thing by hand! Hence the delay.
This spring, through May, I am an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, CA. Check the "In Progress" page under "Projects" for a sneak preview of some things I'm working on up here.
In other news, I am guest curating a music series at the Hammer Museum at UCLA this August. The theme is JAZZPOP, the series is free and outdoors and LA is a heck of a town, so come on down. I'll post the full bill once the booking's through.
Also, just got word that Oakland artist and troublemaker Jon Brumit and I are being funded by the City of Oakland to bring our Community Sound Project to the Laney College Flea Market this fall. We'll be setting up a super inviting public recording studio out the back of Jon's van, with guest musicians on hand to improvise with passersby.