Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Origin Day to the Lean Griot!

[Photo by Adam Beinash]

Today would have been Horace Elva Tapscott's 81st birthday. The Beast attended the small tribute concert at Leimert Park's World Stage last Friday, which poet Kamau Daaood dubbed "our church service." One of Tapscott's last proteges Bobby West -- and whose Ellington-colliding-with-Monk piano style most closely resembles that of his late mentor -- acted as the de facto Master of Ceremonies and headed up a house trio that included Trevor "Who? What?" Ware on bass and Fritz "Von Blitz" Wise on drums.

Highlights: saxophonist Michael Session's furious skronking; Dwight Trible's bracing vocal swoops on "Mothership"; Jesse Sharps pulling a bamboo flute out of his pants to add a bookending prologue-coda for "As A Child" and "Isle of Celia"; trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Mercedes Smith joining Jai Jae's drum line on "The Dark Tree" (which earned a Standing O from Tapscott's granddaughter Raisha). The unexpected high point? Right before reading a poetic tribute (which he redubbed "Trevor Ware Standing Out on Crenshaw at 3am in a G-String"), Kamau Daaood sat down at the piano (!!) for a brief solo piece that wowed those who never knew he could play. "Horace was like smoke," Daaood told the crowd before he did this (only the third time in his life that he's played publicly played). "You could walk down the street and poke your head in and he would be playing piano by himself. You walk back down the street a minute later and look in and he's gone. Just like that." Dwight Trible added: "Horace never showed us what he was going through; he was too busy showing us that everything was OK and we were all cool. And he never, never, never, EVER told us what to play."

Go here to watch a 2014 interview with filmmaker/educator Larry Clark, who directed Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in his 1977 underground-jazz film Passing Through. Go here for NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead's review of the reissue of Tapscott's 1969 Flying Dutchman classic The Giant Is Awakened. You can buy the CD here.



Horace Tapscott was a magic wand
A musical Curandero & a harmonic Medicine Man
The Man was a priceless visionary
He had a gift
An intuitive, uncanny gift
That peeled away years of protective excuses
And saw
The most powerful creative parts of us
Parts that we were still too afraid to look at
He instinctively knew
How to make us face
The artistic beauty buried deep down inside ourselves
A forbidden creative beauty
He showed us how to grind our anxieties
Into melodic healing tonics
And dance away the demons of poverty
Because of Horace’s belief in us
We drowned our shame & the fear of our own ingenuity
Under an ocean of creativity
He wordlessly encouraged us
To play with a disciplined abandon
And share
The wealth of the jewels hidden inside our Souls
Horace forced us
To fertilize every one of the weeds in our dreams
To build on all the wreckage
Of slavery, of hunger, of racism, of less than
And because of him we bloomed
Horace Tapscott was & is an alchemist
And we are & we always be
His gift to the world
We are Tapscott’s Babies
We are the blood of his dream come true
The living realization of his harmonic vision
We are Avant-Bop in real time
The Children of Horace Tapscott

Friday, April 3, 2015

EXCLUSIVE! New Free Jazz Documentary Produced by Thurston Moore & Nels Cline

[photo courtesy of Submarine Films]

Our pal Nels Cline -- currently gearing up for a 20th anniversary tour with newly minted civil rights heroes Wilco -- can now add the title of "movie producer" to his C/V. Cline, along with friend and fellow guitar shredder Thurston Moore, is co-producing a new feature-length documentary called FIRE MUSIC, which aims to "tell the definitive history of the Free Jazz revolution." According to press materials, "Fire Music reveals the little-known story behind the irrepressible, American-born art form that has inspired generations of fans the world over, and is experiencing a new renaissance today among music lovers." The film will feature interviews with 25 leading practitioners of Free Jazz, including Peter BrotzmanGunter Hampel, Evan Parker, Ken Vandemark and Evan Parker.


The website (where you can view a 4-minute excerpt featuring Marshall Allen, pictured above) and Kickstarter campaign go live next week. Here's a little preview:

In the late 1950s, when the Abstract Expressionists took the art world by storm and the Beats forever changed the face of literature, a new radical form of Jazz erupted from New York’s Lower East Side. This new music was a far cry from the toe- tapping, post-Bebop sound of the Jazz mainstream popular at the time. This was an angry form of Jazz that mirrored the turbulent socio-political time. The young mavericks who pioneered this movement came to create some of the the most unconventional sounds ever heard. They eschewed every preconceived notion of what music was, abandoning melody, tonality, set time rhythms, the very concept of composition itself, creating new songs spontaneously.


This coming together of these like-minded artists, iconic figures such as Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy and Pharoah Sanders, was one of those remarkable phenomena that rarely occur in the course of history. Like the Dadaists, the Lost Generation and the Italian Neo-Realists before them, the early progenitors of the Free Jazz scene were initially met with skepticism and outright disdain. They were accused of being anti-Jazz, and the music they played was dismissed as being pure noise. Undeterred by their critics, they soldiered on in relative obscurity and in the process created one of the most influential bodies of work of the contemporary age.

Turned away by nightclubs and ignored by the mainstream media, these cutting edge trailblazers were driven to create their own subculture. They self-released their own albums and found unconventional places in which to perform, like coffee houses and lofts, eventually forming their own communally-run venues.


The ’60s was a politically charged era, and no music reflected the tenor of the times better than Free Jazz. The resounding cries of atonal saxophones and the spastic pounding of drums reflected the growing indignation of a youth in revolt.

As the ’70s wound down, America embarked on a new era of conservatism. As Reagan assumed power, a new breed of musician lay claim to the Jazz idiom. These young Turks denigrated the great Free Jazz innovators who had preceded them, and sought instead to champion a revisionist brand of Jazz, what fabled soprano saxophonist Steve Lacey dubbed “Re-Bop.”


With the advent of popular Jazz becoming even more mainstream, an already marginalized form became even more pushed to the outer fringe. But Avant-Garde Jazz persevered. As the ’80s progressed, a new development started to occur. The Post-Punk enthusiasts who comprised the whole Alternative Rock Nation discovered kindred souls in the sonic blasters of the Free Jazz scene. The music actually enjoys a larger audience today than it ever has. This is the story of an irrepressible art form that has inspired generations of fans the world over. The originals that bucked convention in order to forge their radical sound must have their story told, for their fire will never be extinguished.


Fire Music's producing/directing team has a good pedigree for this subject. Writer/director Tom Surgal, (pictured above, with Ornette Coleman) a teenage protégé of Brian DePalma, has directed videos for Sonic Youth and Pavement and performs in the New York experimental duo White Out and has curated new music series at John Zorn's performance space The Stone. (He also claims one the world’s largest collections of Free Jazz recordings.) Dan Braun produced the out-music documentaries Kill Your Idols and Blank City and is also involved in Miles Davis in Paris, an upcoming project from Going Clear director Alex Gibney.

[Fun fact: Gibney also co-directed a 1980 short documentary called The New Music, which profiled L.A. avant-jazz stalwarts John Carter and Bobby Bradford. The guy who did the sound recording for the film was a young kid named...Nels Cline!]

So, the pedigree is there, folks. More to come!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Report of the 1st Annual Symposium on Relaxed Improvisation


(The Nation)

(The JazzLine)
(KCET)

(Billboard)

(Revive)

(Slate)
(BoingBoing)

(L.A. Weekly)

(YouTube)

(DagBlog)
(The Daily Beast)

(The New Yorker)

(Salon)

(YouTube)

(The Pitch)

(Seattle Times)

(Chicago Tribune)

(New York Magazine)
(Pitchfork Media)

(The Onion)

(NPR)

(The Daily Beast)

(West Coast Sound)

(Cuepoint)

(YouTube)

(Pitchfork Media)

(The New Yorker)

(Detroit Metro Times)

(YouTube)

(Slate)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

NO U-TURN

[photo courtesy of Mark Weber]

Sometime in mid- or late-April, the Paris-based indie jazz label Dark Tree Records will a drop No U-Turn, a previously unreleased live performance from L.A. avant-garde godfathers Bobby Bradford and John Carter. The 5-song, 72-minute set features Carter's son Stanley Carter along with Roberto Miguel Miranda on double basses and William Jeffrey on drums. It was recorded on a 4-track reel-to-reel at Baxter Hall on Pasadena's Cal-Tech campus on November 17, 1975. The setlist: "Love’s Dream," "She," "Comin’ On," "Come Softly" and "Circle."

According to D.T. label head Bertrand Gastaut, "No U-Turn is the first and only recording by this quintet and the earliest extant recording of Bobby and John live in performance. Also, this shows that window of about five years when John was using soprano and clarinet equally. And most importantly, for historians this recording fills a void in Bobby Bradford and John Carter’s discography. If you were not in Los Angeles throughout the 70s, this is the first time you'll hear what they were doing during those years!"

This release will include a 16-page booklet with liner notes by photographer/journalist Mark Weber, who also donated rare and previously unpublished photos from his voluminous archives alongside contributions from Jak Kilby and Gérard Rouy. (Go here for audio samples from No U-Turn.)


Even better, tonight at the blue whale in Little Tokyo, you can congratulate Bob in person when he plays with his quartet (pictured below, from left of Mr. B): bassist Zephry Avalon, drummer Tina Raymond, woodwind poo-bah Vinny Golia. Golia will follow with his sextet: alto saxophonist Gavin Templeton, trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom, guitarist Alex Noice, bassist Jon Armstrong and drummer Andrew Lessman. These are good days, peeps! XO, the Beast

Thursday, March 12, 2015

REST IN TEMPO: Tom Williamson, 1937-2015


Tom Williamson was born on October 29, 1937 in Montgomery, Alabama. His family moved to Detroit in the early forties, where he was exposed to jazz music as a youngster and began playing the trumpet. Williamson attended an all-black high school but at sixteen left to enlist in the United States Air Force, and ended up stationed in Kansas. In 1958 his left the military, then moved to Los Angeles in 1961, where he took up the bass, studying with teachers Richard Taylor, John Dule and Ray Siegel. He began playing at the It Club and Adams West Theatre in Mid-City Los Angeles. During the seventies he studied business at Pasadena City College and later in 1992 obtained a B.S. in Marketing from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. His career includes working and recording with Los Angeles Jazz Quintet, the John Carter-Bobby Bradford Quartet (where he was the principal bassist), Horace Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan People's Arkestra and Curtis Peagler. He passed away on March 2, 2015.

Some examples of Tom's basswork:





Sunday, March 1, 2015

Live Music in March [UPDATED]


3/1 Onaje Murray @ Hal's (Venice)....3/1 Michael Vlatkovich Quartet + Anadis Music @ Eagle Rock Center for the Arts....3/1 Pete Christlieb Big Band @ The Lighthouse (Hermosa Beach)....3/3 Zach Brock, Sam Barsh + Mark Ferber @ the blue whale (Little Tokyo)....3/3-3/7 Roy Hargrove Quintet @ Catalina's (Hollywood)....3/3 OHM @ The Baked Potato (Studio City)....3/3 Charles Owens Big Band @ Typhoon (Santa Monica)....3/4 Peter Erskine New Trio @ the blue whale....3/5 Industrial Jazz Group @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....3/5 Brad Dutz 4tet @ REDCAT (Downtown)....3/5 Bill Frisell's Big Sur Quintet @ Valley PAC (Northridge)....3/5 Toy Shop Ghost / Julian Velard @ The Piano Kitchen (Santa Barbara)....3/6 Jean-Michel Pilc, Francois Moutin + Ari Hoening @ UCLA Schoenberg Hall....3/6 The Neptunas @ Cafe NELA....3/6 Toy Shop Ghost w/ Miguelito Leon + Grupo Maferefun @ The Piano Kitchen....3/6-3/7 Robert Hurst Group @ the blue whale....3/7 Carl Saunders Quartet @ Vibrato (Bel-Air)....3/7 Donny McCaslin, Jeff Babko, Tim Lefebvre + Nate Wood @ Zipper Hall (Downtown)....3/8 Nedra Wheeler Ensemble @ Clayton Library (Culver City)....3/8 CalJAS presents Mundell Lowe, Ron Eschete + Luther Hughes (Westminster)....3/9 Emil Richards Big Band @ Typhoon....3/10 Andrea Centazzo, Jeff Schwartz + Charles Sharp / Maksim Velichkin @ Track 16 (Culver City)....3/13 Dubowsky Ensemble presents The Golem (1920 horror film w/ live score) @ HM157 (Lincoln Heights)....3/13 B Free Quintet @ Industry Cafe + Jazz (Culver City)....3/13 JUST ADDED! Premiere Screening of The Wrecking Crew (Q&A w/ director Danny Tedesco + WC members Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn, Don Randi + Bill Pitman) @ NUART Theater (West L.A.)....3/13 Joe Potts, Rick Potts + Joseph Hammer @ Jancar Gallery (7pm, Chinatown)....3/14 20 Years of Freedom w/ Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela + Ladysmith Black Mambazo @ Disney Hall (Downtown)....3/17 Arturo Sandoval Salutes Zane Musa @ Catalina's....3/17 The Decisive Instant @ Cal State-Dominguez Hills (Carson)....3/19 Majick Bullet Theory @ Cafe NELA....3/19 Nadia Shpachenko-Gottesman @ Cal State-Dominguez Hills....3/20 SASSAS presents AD HOC #12: Coppice, Mathieu Ruhlmann & Joda Clément, Casey Anderson (West Hollywood)....3/20 Black Violin @ The Broad Stage (Santa Monica)....3/21 Dale Fielder Quartet 20th Anniversary Show @ Alva's Showroom (San Pedro)....3/21 Tribute to J.S. Bach's Tricentennial w/ Miguel Atwood-Ferguson @ Union Station (Downtown)....3/22 Max Richter @ El Rey Theatre (Mid-City)....3/22 Herbie Hancock + Chick Corea @ Disney Hall....3/22 Carl Stone, Tom Recchion + Joseph Hammer @ the blue whale....3/23 Onaje Murray @ Hal's....3/24 JUST ADDED! Bobby Bradford Quartet + Vinny Golia Sextet @ the blue whale....3/7 JUST ADDED! NotQuiteFree + B Free Quartet @ CALB (Long Beach)....3/28 Emil Richards Quartet @ Vibrato....3/28 Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet @ Kirk Douglas Theatre (Culver City)....3/28 Azar Lawrence, Juini Booth, Henry Franklin + Alphonse Mouzon @ Seabird Jazz Lounge (Long Beach)....3/29 JUST ADDED! Dwight Trible Birthday Concert @ the blue whale

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Putter Smith's 6 Levels of Getting Music Gigs

[photo courtesy of Dailey Pike]

Veteran bassist Patrick "Putter" Smith is one of the Beast's fave interviews. (The guy has literally saved every gig datebook he's had since 1958, so he is a fountain of jazz history in which one can literally frolic like Anita Ekberg.) After his heartfelt and humorous comments at the Charlie Haden Memorial last month, the Beast decided to reprint Smith's advice on how to get music gigs out of being a substitute for another musician -- a sticky wicket to be sure.

#6: THE HUMBLIST

"Man, you guys sure sound good. If you ever, like, need a sub on, uh, a rehearsal or anything, you know, let me know."

#5: THE APPLE-WAXER

"Man, it sure is great to play with you guys! I just love it. I really, really appreciate so-and-so sending me in, man. It's really nice!"

#4: THE DESIGNATED MOURNER

"Gee, I feel really bad about so-and-so. I'd like to -- you know, I'm really -- but I really love playing with you guys, but I feel really bad about so-and-so."

#3: THE SCROOGE

"Well, you know, I think the gig should pay just a little more than that."

#2: THE GRUBBER 

"Well, I think my name also should be on that poster."

#1: THE ARISTOCRAT

"Fuck you, asshole."