The peculiar pleasure of earplugs. – By Thomas Beller – Slate Magazine

The peculiar pleasure of earplugs. – By Thomas Beller – Slate Magazine

Then one day, upon arising into the quiet post-shouting hour, I left the earplugs in. I went about my morning in the apartment and then ventured outside with the earplugs still in my ears. I could hear people speaking, I could hear sounds, but it all took place at a remove. And yet I did not feel farther away from everything. I moved through the streets as though in a dream, but, as with a dream, somehow more attentive and aware than usual. Up to that point the purpose of earplugs was to keep things out. Now I perceived a new dimension to earplugs—to keep things in.

I keep a pair of earplugs in a case on my keychain. I rarely wear them in non-musical situations (well, a couple of the bands I wear them with might qualify as non-musical situations), but wear them often on loud gigs, or especially when I am an audience member and the music is loud. The remove that Beller speaks of has come in handy on some socially and musically painful, but very well paying gigs. I am trying to steer away from those sorts of gigs these days, but the earplugs are still on my keychain.

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band | Dizzy’s Business on AAJ

Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band | Dizzy’s Business

Let’s admit it: If it weren’t for the ******-up economics of jazz today, this would be called the Slide Hampton Big Band, because it’s Hampton’s sensibilities that shape the sound of this orchestra, not Dizzy’s.

I’m glad someone finally said that in print. It’s not like Slide doesn’t have a name himself. Keeping Dizzy’s name on that band seems more and more necrophilic.

Alvin Fielder Trio – A Measure of Vision

Another recent eMusic grab is Alvin Fielder Trio’s A Measure of Vision, with Chris Parker and Dennis Gonzales.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Alvin several times in New Orleans. He is always wonderfully sharing with his time and knowledge. Most of my exposure to his playing has been in groups with Kidd Jordan. He sounds great with Kidd, they have a long history and a real musical empathy. It is nice to hear Alvin in a different context however. It has let me experience other aspects of his musicianship.

The cost of free music?

WIRED Blogs: Listening Post

He said that $50 per year from every person who listens to music would “meet or exceed the current over the counter sales of the music industry at a far lower cost,” but that because of deeply-entrenched flaws in the outmoded business models used by the labels that have evolved over the years, we’re unlikely ever to see such a system put in place — despite the fact that it would increase profits while allowing people far greater access to music.

The system will either change or die. Can we push change before the old guard kills it?

Kinda Dukish and Exploding Star

ab baars kinda dukish cover

I bought Ab Baars Quartet’s Kinda Dukish some time ago, but haven’t taken the time to write about it. It is pretty abstract for big chunks of time, then comes in for some standard jazz devices that are almost old school cliche. It’s a nice mix, and scratches a bunch of different little itches.

exploding star orch

Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra’s We Are All from Somewhere Else is a new eMusic pick up for me. It is very good, and Mazurek has the excellent taste to have three of my fellow Lucky 7s on the band: Jason Adasiewicz, Josh Berman, and Jeb Bishop. Jeb sounds like those low long tones have been paying off ;). This disc is full of rich textures with cool grooves and some mesmerizing trance spaces.

The Indie Jazz Conundrum

The recent J@LC presentation of John Zorn’s Masada and the Cecil Taylor Trio has stirred up some thinkers…not to mention John Schaefer.

Dig Darcy James Argue and Taylor Ho Bynum‘s thoughts on the subject.

All of this thought eventually led DJA to write this:

While I’m obviously all for the proliferation of independent, artist-owned, do-it-yourself labels and young musicians trying to pull off ambitious projects even in the absence of institutional support, the problem is (as I have said elsewhere) if everyone’s just doing their own thing, how does a collective scene emerge from that? How do we get people excited about the vanguard of independent, creative, contemporary jazz as a movement, instead of just gravitating towards the handful of stars who somehow emerge to wider acclaim?

DJA is concerned with scene development. I am more concerned with how we are to find our audiences. I think they are similar, if not the same issue. Scenes are a way to find music that we like. I like Ken Vandermark. Jeb Bishop was in his band, I’ll probably dig Jeb. I know Jeb plays with Keefe Jackson, maybe I should check out his stuff, etc. (Ok, that is a made up example, I actually have the pleasure of working with Jeb and Keefe, so maybe that was a blantant name/link drop.) Another example might be the scene that is happening around Barbes in Brooklyn right now. There are things I will check out because of their proximity to other things I like.

Again DJA asks:

“How do we get people excited about the vanguard of independent, creative, contemporary jazz as a movement, instead of just gravitating towards the handful of stars who somehow emerge to wider acclaim?”

While many of us as artists have found our way out of the old major label model of making and distributing music, most of us as listeners have not found our way to a new model of finding good music. In the old days we knew about what we read about in music magazines or newspapers, what we heard on the radio, and we saw in the record store. Record stores barely exist now, and won’t exsist as we know them in the new system. Radio and magazines are still stuck in the old mind set. They play/write about whatever they are told to by the labels. There is a perceived legitimacy that comes from being on a label, and media outlets still depend on this perception to make decisions of taste and quality for them. This is an issue for indie DIY artists, but only if that is still our method of reaching our audiences.

When I released “One”, I did limited runs of the CD. I think I made 200 in the first run. This was purely a financial decision. It meant I could pay the band more, because I had to come up with less for the manufacturing. This meant that the discs were burned instead of pressed. Other wise the rest of the package was the same. The method of putting the 1’s and 0’s onto the disc still carries a stigma. Cadence put their review of the disc in a special ghetto called “CD Ring” that is reserved for CD-R releases. This isn’t a knock on Cadence, just an indicator of their mindset on the indie issue, and they are one of the more progressive publications out there. No one else even reviewed it. Did they listen to it and decide not to write about it, or did they look at it and make that decision? I don’t know…

What if I decide to do a free download Creative Commons licensed album? Will I be able to get it written about in DownBeat or JazzTimes? Will it be viewed as less legitimate because I am not charging for it? Will people listen to it and write about it based solely on the musical content?

I think the music blogs that are hosting these conversations are part of the answer. Individual artists and listeners can help us find new music and new scenes. Those of us that teach need to make sure that we turn our students on to The Bad Plus and Steve Coleman, as well as Trane and Bird. We have to expose the now as much as the then. As performers we need to be willing to explore new venues and ways of presenting ourselves.

Most importantly, we need to support each other and create our scenes by talking about the music we like, and telling anyone who will listen about the killer new homemade indie disc we just picked up.

It would be great if J@LC had a New Improvisers Series every Thursday, and DownBeat had dedicated space for indie/DIY CD reviews, but we better not hold our breath. We probably just need to find the new way to make it work.

Frank Gratkowski @ Chickie Wah Wah

Lately I have been getting a bit dark on New Orleans, and the creative music scene here. Tonight I was encouraged. Frank Gratkowki played the first of several nights of gigs here in New Orleans, at Chickie Wah Wah.

The place was packed, well packed for free jazz on a Monday night. The music was good, and Dale made red beans and rice. There is something about red beans and rice on a Monday night that makes it seem like everything is all right.

Here is Frank’s schedule for the rest of his stay (Thanks to Ben):


Frank with “experimental cellist” Helen Gillet, bane
of the right-wing blogosphere
at the intimate Sound Cafe for an early evening
improvisational session. Bring the kids!!!

D.B.A. 10PM

Frank Gratkowski will be a special guest at Johnny’s
weekly d.b.a. gig, joining vibes player Mike Dillon


Frank Gratkowski, reeds
Bill Hunsinger, bass
Rob Cambre, guitar
Endre Landsnes, drums

This is a double bill put together by Rob Cambre
featuring the Majik Markers, of whom I know no more
than this anonymous internet quote: “Majik Markers
girl f@#%ing guitar wild-style noise like cacophony en


Frank Gratkowski, reeds
Brian Coogan, keybords
Rick Trolsen, trombone
Dave Capello, drums

frank gratkowski

Ingrid Jensen @ Loyola

Ingrid Jensen was the guest artist at the Loyola Unversity Jazz Ensemble Festival this weekend. She did clinics and performed with the Loyola big band. I caught one of her clinics, that was aimed at trumpet players, and heard her performance with the Loyola band. I was familiar with Ingrid’s name before this weekend. I had read about her in a few magazines, and had heard a few cuts from her CDs on the radio, but I can’t say that I really knew her music or had paid much attention when her stuff was on the radio.

Ingrid Jensen

She began her clinic on Friday by playing the beginning of her recent CD At Sea. The first sound was her blowing air through the trumpet in imitation of waves crashing on the shore. What follows is a great exploration of melody and band interaction. Her clinic was great. She presented information to the students in a very open minded and music focused manner. It wasn’t about learning what you are “supposed” to learn, but about developing the skills to be musically honest. I am sure I am paraphrasing a bit, and even probably putting my own philosophy on top of it some as well. My point is, the clinic was great. Very refreshing and inspiring.

When I got home Friday, my rss reader held this added evidence of Ingrid’s slammingness.

Saturday night her performance with the Loyola big band was equally fresh and inspiring. When active performing pros play with student bands, it can be a crap shoot. It is hard to get the level of interaction out of college students that the pros are used to from their own bands. This can lead to tension bewteen the pros and the students/conductor. From what I could tell Saturday night, this was not an issue for Ingrid Jensen. She seemed to be very encouraging to the students, while still striving for great performances. She sounded great, and the band held up well under demanding music. She didn’t seem to get wigged out by some PA inconsistencies, or a drummer space out.

I picked up 2 CDs from her after the show: At Sea and Flurry, which is by a co-op called Nodic Connect. They are both Artist Share CDs. I had been wondering how Artist Share dealt with selling CDs at performances, and I found out Saturday night. Each CD comes with a sticker that has a serial number that allows you to sign in to Artist Share and get the participant offers, just like if you had ordered the CD from the website. It is very slick. I’ll write more about the Artist Share stuff soon, because I just got in on an Ed Neumeister thing too.