Alan Ferber Nonet – Scenes From An Exit Row

A few weeks ago, I heard about a podcast from I randomly picked an episode to explore, and was greeted with excellent large-ish jazz ensemble writing. As an added bonus, there was a great trombone solo on the tune as well. The host back announced the track as coming from the Alan Ferber Nonet’s CD Scenes From An Exit Row. Shortly thereafter, I ordered the Cd from CD Baby.

I figured that Ferber was the composer/arranger, because it sounded like it was a writer’s CD. It turns out that he is also the trombonist. The band is made up of talented young players from the NY scene. John Ellis is featured on tenor sax, and David Smith is listed on trumpet. I am pretty sure this is the Dave Smith that I worked with in a cruise ship band some years ago. Besides being a great musician and a nice guy, Dave was one of the founding members of the Bahamian Deck Hockey League.

Scenes From An Exit Row is full of great playing and writing, and cuts a pretty wide stytlistic swath. Ferber makes compelling use of less often heard colors like wordless vocals and bass clarinet. The tunes range from modern sounding multiple meter grooves, to Mingus flavored textures, and even pretty straight up bebop. Despite the stylistic range, this recording doesn’t sound like a demo or an aural calling card. It has a nice flow as a larger unit, and is an enjoyable and rewarding listen.


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Robert Bachner – Heart Disc

I first read about Robert Bachner‘s CD Heart Disc about a year ago, I guess. It caught my attention because he was mentioned as a member of the Vienna Art Orchestra. I wasn’t really familiar with Bachner’s name, but the one VAO disc I had at the time was one of my favorite large ensemble discs. I made a mental note that I should pick up Bachner’s CD. A few months ago, I actually noted my intention to buy the disc on a computer desktop stickie note (along with a reminder about a novel I wanted to buy, and a note to call my insurance adjuster).

Well, last week, while on a CD Baby surf fest, I finally ordered it. I’m glad I did, it is a great CD. The compositions are all by Bachner. He is joined by Christian Maurer on tenor and soprano saxes, Reinhard Micko on piano, Uli Langthaler on bass, and Christian Salfellner on drums. The music is often fiery and aggressive, and it swings. It is well crafted music that seems familiar on the first listen.

Bachner’s trombone playing is marvelous. He expresses himself confidently in every tempo, and we never hear any deficit of chops, yet he doesn’t play anything simply because he can. His range and facility are used to very musical ends. He takes full advantage of the trombone’s more aggressive and raucous capabilities (check out the title track) , lets the beauty and sensitivity flow when needed, like on “For Gary,” and always maintains his spark and urgency. The rest of the quintet matches Bachner’s musicality and spirit.

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Gary Giddins on Lester Bowie

The updating josh of life, daily. » Gary Giddins on Lester

From Josh Roseman’s blog, referencing a Gary Giddins article in the Village Voice.

The line that scratched my brain was: “…suddenly everything he wrote about Goethe and Marx seemed to be about Lester. “Why should modern men, who have seen what man’s activity can bring about, passively accept the structure of their society as it is given?” A pretext for avant-garde jazz if I ever heard one.”

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Collaboration with musicians is only natural: Pound’s notion that poetry never strays far from music and Allen Ginsberg’s romantic notion of poetry’s return to its origins in chanted dramatic/choral performance; Olson’s heart-ear-breath. I always edit for reading aloud, & somebody said you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on live reading, on “performance,” because it cheapens poetry, orienting it toward show business instead of writing. But I don’t edit for show business & I’m still pretty uncomfortable with the word “performance.”

But a poem has to read well on the page as well as on stage… it has to hold up over hundreds of silent readings and over hundreds of live ones. I always edit for the voice.

Go beyond preconception—Nathaniel Mackey: “When I first started listening to improvised music in my early teens — up to that point I had mainly been listening to R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll, popular music you hear on the radio — it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I don’t know what it was about it that made me go back and give it a chance, but it was something I had to learn how to listen to. And I did learn how to listen to it, by going back and listening on repeated occasions. That was how I got into the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and others in the early sixties. I came to the outside players later and had a similar experience with them. In high school I kept reading and hearing about Ornette Coleman in places like Down Beat. There was a lot of fuss being made about what he was up to, so I wanted to check it out. I remember buying an Ornette Coleman album and it just sounded very strange and weird. I couldn’t figure it out but I kept listening to it and after a while it not only made sense to me, there was a beauty to it. It was unlike the beauty that I heard in Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but it was beauty. The ability to get into something that initially is forbidding or intimidating or just doesn’t speak to you at all is one that is tested and proven. I tend to stay with things which may, on first or second or third hearing or reading, present me with difficulties that make it seem like it isn’t going to go anywhere. (…) What any experimental art is trying to get you to do is move beyond your preconceptions and your expectations regarding what should be happening, what’s going to happen, what kinds of effects it should have, and enter a liminal state in which those things can be redefined in the way that the particular artist or piece of art is proposing.”—from an interview with Chris Funkhouser.

“the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE
the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE”

— Charles Olson.

In other words, what you hear you translate into the right syllable to record the sound; the heart provides the beat, pushed by the breath, creating the line. It isn’t a matter of formulated verse patterns but of a freely improvising dynamic pulse, with a regular feel that varies enough to keep it interesting. The difference between formal verse and free verse is like the difference between a drum machine and a live drummer.

Cecil Taylor: “A man like Monk… is concerned with growing and enriching his musical conception, and what he does comes as a living idea out of his life’s experience, not from a theory. It may or may not turn out to be atonal. Similarly, as Miles Davis’ European technical facility becomes sparser, his comment from the Negro folk tradition becomes more incisive. He’s been an important innovator in jazz, but again, not out of theory, but out of what he hears and lives.” –liner notes, The Cecil Taylor Quartet: Looking Ahead!

Language is not a virus, contrary to William Burroughs, repeated by Laurie Anderson and others. It’s a beautiful gift without which we would be immensely lonely. Poetry is a way of life, not a contest. I am not here to get ahead of anybody, but to share what I’ve got.

There has to be a little mystery built in,
or no one will read to the end
& that’s why people hate poetry,
they say it’s purposely obscure & speaks in a some fancy, foreign tongue….
just like life it defies easy explanation
just like life speaks in a language you don’t understand

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Harris Eisenstadt – The Soul and Gone

Cool titles are usually a sign of an open mind. Harris Eisenstadt’s The Soul and Gone has some cool titles, like the opening track “The Evidence of Absence is Not Necessarily the Absence of Evidence.

Canadian born percussionist and composer Eisenstadt enlisted some of Chicago’s more interesting improvisers for The Soul and Gone. He is joined by Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, trombonist Jeb Bishop, Jason Mears on alto sax and clarinet, guitarist Jeff Parker, and Jason Roebke on bass. The music is often about textures and grooves. It swings in places, gets noisy at times, and takes advantage of the available instrumentation. At times the combination of guitar and vibes yields a sounds that is evocative and absorbing. Bishop and Mears each provide memorable solos, and also do a fabulous job as ensemble players. The compositions frame and guide the improvisations successfully.

The Soul and Gone is released on 482 Music, and is available from CD Baby.

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