Tuesday, September 8, 2015


"Persistent purveyor of the nude piano that is the harp, Susie Allen has spread the gospel of new music across the world, from The Today Show to National Public Radio, Carnegie Hall and Gaudeamus Contemporary Music Week in the Netherlands. She's lectured internationally on music in general and has recorded for Brian Eno's Opal label. A snappy studio savant as well as an intuitive improviser and an initiate on the kayagum (a Korean zither), she moves birdsong moments through trilling vibrations - inverse, obverse and beautiful." David Cotner, L.A. Weekly

Thursday, September 3, 2015

9/2 Bobby West Trio @ Squashed Grapes (Ventura)....9/3 Doug Webb w/ Alphonse Mouzon @ The Baked Potato (Studio City)....9/4 Afronauts (w/ Devin Daniels, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Aaron Shaw, Jamael Dean, Nashir Janmohammed & Greg Webster) @ The World Stage (Leimert Park)....9/4 Carl Saunders Quartet @ Vibrato (Bel Air)....9/4 OHM @ The Baked Potato....9/5 Azar Lawrence Quintet @ Seabird Jazz Lounge (Long Beach)....9/5 Pete Christlieb Quartet @ Vibrato....9/5-7 7th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art + Music Festival (w/ Azar Lawrence, Michael Session, Jae Jae Kambasa, Medusa & more)....9/6 Dwight Trible, Will Salmon, Kio Griffith & Alex Cline @ Center for the Arts (Eagle Rock)....9/7 Charles Owens Big Band @ Typhoon (Santa Monica)....9/10 David Ornette Cherry & Organic Nation @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....9/11 Lorca Hart Trio w/ Kenny Washington @ the blue whale (Little Tokyo)...9/11 The Jazz Bakery presents the Jacky Terrasson Quartet @ Zipper Hall (Downtown)....9/12 Quetzal @ Levitt Pavilion (Pasadena)....9/12 David Ornette Cherry w/ Organic Nation @ The World Stage....9/12 Emil Richards Quartet @ Vibrato....9/13 Brad Dutz Quartet @ the blue whale....9/17 Ben Wendel, Harish Raghavan & Nate Wood @ the blue whale....9/18 Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band @ Catalina's (Hollywood)....JUST ADDED! 9/23 Celebrating the Birth of JOHN COLTRANE (w/ Kieff Rasadon, Darryl Moore and more) @ KRST Unity Center (Inglewood)....9/24 KCRW presents Cut Chemist + Basecamp @ Del Monte Speakeasy (Venice)....9/24 Snarky Puppy + Kneebody @ Royce Hall (UCLA)....9/25 Angel City Jazz Festival presents the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble @ LACMA (Miracle Mile)....9/25 Daniel Rosenboom Quintet @ the blue whale...9/25 Azar Lawrence Band @ The Mint (Mid-city)....9/26 Genesis P-Orridge in conversation with Simon Reynolds @ Hammer Museum (Westwood)....9/26 Angel City Jazz Festival presents the Mark Dresser Quintet + Lisa Mezzacappa's Glorious Ravage @ REDCAT....9/26 Don Randi & Quest @ The Baked Potato....JUST ADDED! 9/26-27 39th Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum/Simon Rodia Jazz Festival (w/ Michael White, Phil Ranelin, Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler, Munyungo Jackson, Bobby Rodriguez, Nedra Wheeler, Justo Almario and more) @ Watts Towers Arts Center....9/27 SASSAS presents Yoshi Wada & Toshi Wada @ Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook....9/27 Calder Quartet @ Broad Stage (Santa Monica)....9/30 Future Freedom w/ DJs Wiseacre & Jeremy Sole + Makaya McCraven Quartet @ the blue whale

Monday, August 31, 2015

Serf's Up

(The Guardian)


(The Talkhouse)


(The Atlantic)

(Code Switch)

(The Pitch)

(Digital Music News)


(Hub Pages)
(The Fader)



(Huffington Post)

(L.A. Weekly)

(Consequence of Sound)

(Pitchfork Media)
(11 Points)

(The Record)



(Electronic Beats)

(Dangerous Minds)

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Movie That Got The Fantastic Four Right (Is NOT A Superhero Movie)

The dust has settled but the body count is still being assessed over Josh Trank's Fantastic Four debacle, now currently enjoying its status as the Heaven's Gate of summer superhero blockbusters. (How positive are we that someone has already signed a book contract to write the definitive BTS account of this shitshow? PRETTY DURN SURE.)

Be advised: The Beast is not a fanboy. The Beast never really liked The Fantastic Four. (Except for Ben Grimm, who came off like a cranky Brian Dennehy, they all seemed kind of square and annoying.) But we do remember coming to a belated appreciation of Jack Kirby's dissection of the Eisenhower-era nuclear family thanks to Ang Lee's austere and enigmatic 1997 film The Ice Storm.

Actually, just like The Fantastic Four, it was a book before it was a movie. Rick Moody composed his, well, "moody" seriocomic novel in 1994 -- ironically, the year that a previous F4 movie was wisely shelved. The film stars Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Cristina Ricci, Katie Holmes and a still baby-cheeked Tobey Maguire. The plot, adapted by screenwriter James Schamus (Brokeback Mountain), centers around two white-collar suburban families in the WASP bedroom hamlet of New Canaan, Connecticut during the time of the Watergate trials. (TV images of a sweaty Nixon loom in the background.) Morality is crumbling from the top down and the confusing lessons of the 1960s -- learned and unlearned, mostly the latter -- have trickled down into genteel suburbia, with predictably damaging and embarrassing results.

The main references to F4 come via terminally virginal college student Paul Hood (Maguire). The film begins with him sitting in a gloomy frozen tomb of a railcar (the storm of the title has temporarily stopped any forward progression) reading F4 Issue #141 from November 1973. He explains the plot thusly: "Reed Richards has to use his anti-matter weapon on his own son, who Annihilus has turned into a human atom bomb. The problem is that the cosmic rays that infused Richards and the rest of the Fantastic Four on their aborted moon mission have made young Franklin a volatile mixture of matter and anti-matter." Reading this, Paul comes to a realization about his own family: "Your family is kind of like your own personal negative matter. And that's what dying is -- dying when your family takes you back, thus throwing you into negative space. So, it's like a paradox -- the further you're drawn back in, the further into the void you go."

Natch, Moody's novel goes even further: "For almost a year -- a year in real time, a year in Paul Hood's whirlpool teens, but a few days, no more, in the motionless, imperceptible time of Marvel comics -- Sue Richards, nee Storm, the Invisible Girl, had been estranged from her husband Reed Richards. With Franklin, their mysteriously equipped son, she was in seclusion in the country. She would return only when Reed learned to understand the obligations of family, those paramount bonds that lay beneath the surface of his work."

Moody sums up the subtle ways that Paul sees his own family and its drama refracted in the F4 -- as if both families and comic books have their Golden Eras: "It was a good period for readers of the F.F. Still, the magazine would never equal its first eighty issues, when its creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were at the helm. But it was pretty cool. Twelve years ago, exactly, in 1961, the first issue, with its chronicle of the battle with Mole Man, had appeared. Paul's sister, Wendy, was almost the same age as the book. Fourteen years ago, his family had arrived at its tetragonal shape. In fact, if you thought about it, it was possible that his sister, Wendy, was born during the creative gestation that led to the Fantastic Four. Where had Stan Lee been in those two years?"

Paul thinks of his dad as The Thing ("chunky, homely, self-pitying") and his mom as the Invisible Girl. "These models never worked exactly," Moody writes. "Still, the F.F., with all their mistakes and allegiances their infighting and dependability, told some true tales about family. When Paul started reading these books, the corny melodrama of New Canaan lost some of its sting."

We urge you check out the film yourself for your own interpretations, but so far the Beast picked out some lots of interesting parallels and details:
  • Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci) wears a rubber Nixon (i.e., "superhero") mask.
  • Kevin Kline's philandering husband/father is named Ben.
  • Both of the main families are families of four...the "nuclear" family. They sort of "mirror" each other a la The F4 vs. The Frightful Four.
  • The prepubescent Sandy Carver (Adam Hann-Byrd) sets fire to his tiny superhero action figures in a charcoal grill. He is terrified of his own sexuality (i.e., "energy") but entranced by it in others.
  • Combine the creepy characters of "hip" priest Philip Edwards (Michael Cumpsty) and reptilian corporate schmoozer George Clair (Henry Czerny) and you may have a pretty good roux for Dr. Doom.
  • The hair of Elena Hood (Joan Allen) looks almost as odd as Kate Mara's.
  • (Wait, cancel that. NIXON is Dr. Doom. At the very least Mole Man, or Galactus.)
  • Wendy's makeout pal Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood) plays with electricity and talks of the ice storm in mystical-scientific ways ("The molecules are not moving, so when you breathe, there's nothing in the air...it's clean."). Mikey has an existential dreaminess inherited from his visionary but sort of head-in-the-clouds father (the excellent Jamey Sheridan), who is a sort of amalgam of Reed Richards and Dr. Storm. Mikey also wears a thick red parka throughout the film, occasionally resembling the Human Torch in certain shots.
"Flame ON, asshole."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hoo Deep in the Kneepla

(The New Yorker)


(The Jake Feinberg Show)

(West Coast Sound)

(NOVA Next)


(Mass Appeal)


(Pop Matters)


(Kreative Kontrol)

(Dangerous Minds)

(Point of Departure)

(Wondering Sound)


(Pitchfork Media)


(Open Culture)

(Consequence of Sound)



(The Quietus)

(Search + Restore)


(Do the Math)

(Chicago Reader)

(Red Bull Music Academy)

Friday, June 26, 2015

TRUE DETECTIVE 2: A Summer Reading List

"I'm writing about other people's books when I really should be working on my own."

HBO's True Detective made its much-ballyhooed return this week, and sadly, the online kvetching about "the second season slump" has already proliferated like a colony of carpenter ants. Much of the criticism involves TD2 trading the moss-dipped exotica of the Gulf Coast for the overexposed contours of Los Angeles, a city so synonymous with film noir and police procedural that it passed cliche at least 50 years ago. ("We're in familiar territory here," sighed The Guardian after Sunday's premiere.) This has led critics to ooze pulp in calling up the long shadows that TD2 has to walk under: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Walter Mosely, Charles Willeford, James Ellroy and the "sunshine and noir" excavations of Ross MacDonald and Jefferson T. Parker.

But hey, comparisons aside, can you remember the last TV show that turned so many voyeurs into readers? Neither can we. And if TD's smashing debut season sent a million viewers to the bookstore, library or GoodReads -- "I couldn’t get enough from the episodes alone," confessed L.A. Review of Books critic Jacob Mikanowski, "I wanted to linger" -- the second season has prompted obsessives worldwide to reference works and conjure book lists that might have influenced series auteur Nic Pizzolatto. Now the first episode has aired, we have a good glimpse at the trademark visual bravura, allusive dialogue, disturbing industrialized musical score (to match the season's fictional SoCal city of Vinci, based in part on the L.A. industrial no-man's 'burb known as Vernon) and creepy existentialism that we hope will take a more cohesive form over the next eight episodes. Watching (and loving) the premiere, the Beast thought we'd throw out our own mix of tomes. While not exactly beach ready, they should help scratch the itch while you re-thumb your copy of Akashic's Los Angeles Noir anthologies while waiting for Los Angeles Plays Itself  to arrive from Amazon. Enjoy!

by Ginger Strand
Here's a book that actually might make you lose sleep between obsessing over the meaning of falcon masks and naked multiple-amputee dolls floating in milk. TD2's stunningly gorgeous title sequence -- which we think is superior to last season's (ditto for Leonard Cohen's proto-rap "Nevermind" over last year's creaky murder ballad) -- foreboding shots of winding freeway interchanges, its plot involving a new light-rail line and that exquisitely creepy sequence of a corpse's bizarre winding journey from L.A. to Malibu, the sinister implications of power and corruption are intertwined with the California interstate system. Author Ginger Strand takes on the psychological and social import of America's freeways, which she calls "analogs of cultural psychosis." The book is a strange mix: half history, half lurid true crime. The true crime comes courtesy of the Golden State and a cast of psychopaths who, mostly in the '60s and '70s, used California freeways as picking up and dropping off points for their grisly deeds. Believe us, the twisted garden gnome Erroll Childress has nothing on real-life fiends like Ed Kemper, Randy Kraft and Herbert Mullin. (Kemper and Kraft are particularly disturbing, their M.O.s involving castration, dismemberment, torture and necrophilia.) But it's the winding, ominous, soulless interstate that is the main character for Strand very much in the same way it is for Pizzolatto. (Fun fact: Pizzolatto's first novel was called Galveston, a city located on the south end of the I-45 highway corridor from Houston; dubbed the "Texas Killing Fields," the corridor is a popular body-dumping ground where the serial killer Henry Lee Lucas once roamed.)

by Charles P. Hobbs
The key term here is "Hidden History." Hobbs, a librarian with a termite's talent for digging into little-known corners of the city's transportation history yields this fascinating narrative about LA-LA land's obsession with building the better people-mover. There's the triumphs: The Vincent Thomas Bridge; Clarence Belinn's Los Angeles Airways (a fleet of helicopters that shuttled more than two million commuters from LAX to downtown) and Horace Dobbins' elevated California Cycleway in the San Gabriel Valley. There's also the epic fails: The numerous plots to turn the L.A. River into a massive carpool lane; the Simpsons-esque attempt at a propeller-driven monorail; the plans for an elevated people-mover on Bunker Hill, a diamond lane for the Santa Monica Freeway and a commuter rail-line between L.A. and Oxnard. There's tales of private transportation dynasties like The Carsons, The Landliers and the Kadletz Brothers, whose Pink Buses shepherded Orange County teenagers to the beach while soothing them with blasts of '70s rock. Our fave chapter is on an obscure African-American doctor named Thomas D. Matthews, who in the '60s and '70s attempted to start a Blue and White bus line that would serve the residents of Watts, who with the death of the Red Cars had been essentially abandoned in their own neighborhoods and cut off from the rest of the city.

by Thomas Pynchon
Already referenced a year ago when Pizzolatto made his famous comment about Season 2 taking on "the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system," Pynchon's breezy slapstick comedy has sinister underpinnings when the protagonist discovers a bugle-like hieroglyphic that leads to dueling secret underground versions of the U.S. postal service. A harbringer of the deep internet or even deep cable, wethinks.

by Mark Arax & Rick Wartzman
Two reporters resolve themselves to investigate one of the Central Valley's most enigmatic (i.e., "press-shy") power brokers, a rancher named James Griffin Boswell III who controls more terra firma and water rights than any land baron in the West. While there are no grotesque murders, the book seeps into your pores as a treatise on the hidden power, exploitation and human cost behind the Central Valley's multi-billion dollar agribusiness empire. After reading, you may drive up the I-5 past the cabbage and bean fields of the Central Valley and think more of giant shiny skyscrapers or soulless business parks.

by James McMichael
Whaaaaat? A book-length epic poem about real estate in Pasadena? Turns out, Nic Pizzolatto filmed a lot of scenes for TD2 in Pasadena. McMichael's widescreen lens and holistic treatment of the SoCal landscape is the next best thing to Justin Lin's helicopter shots in TD2. You can read an excerpt here.

ed. by Gayle Wattawa
ed. by Stan Yogi
These two Literary anthologies of byways and highways that lead to under-represented aspects of the California Dream, in places like Perris, Gilroy, Modesto, Riverside and Fresno. A healthy collection of diverse writers are represented including Raymond Chandler, Mike Davis, Joan Didion, Erle Stanley Gardner, Juan Felipe Herrera, Norman Mailer, Frank Norris, Richard Rodriguez, Gary Snyder, Gary Soto, William Saroyan, Eric Schlosser, John Steinbeck and Susan Straight. Not too shabby.

by Zachary Lazar
Of course, no noirish autopsy of SoCal can be complete without the cult angle. In TD2, the Malibu New Age retreat led by a remarkably unsentimental guru (David Morse) seems pretty benign -- more akin to Big Sur's Esalen Institute or Malibu's Self-Realization Fellowship. In Sway, author Lazar transports us back to the late 1960s for a terse and trippy novel about lost souls drifting down the West Coast like zombie fugitives stumbling towards the golden light. ("There was nowhere left to go...It was a dead world," one of the protagonists thinks in Rust Cohle tones, "There was no point in pretending it wasn't.") This time, the golden light comes in the shape of an elfin, quasi-hippie con artist named Charles Milles Manson.

by Paul Young
This will satisfy the salacious and bizarre aspects of your "pulp genre" jones. You want myths, urban legends and tall tales? You got 'em. Author Young (with whom, in full disclosure, the Beast used to work back in the '90s at a magazine called BUZZ) compiles some doozies: The secret Nazi compound in Malibu, the opium dens of Chinatown, the treasure buried in the Watts Towers, the underground tunnels under downtown, the lake 15 miles west of the desert town of Lancaster that allegedly contains a passageway to Hades. There's also plenty of dish for celebrity-dirt wranglers; The UFO that spoke to Dennis Hopper, the porno that Babs Streisand might have done, the penis that Jamie Lee Curtis might be hiding and the the gerbil that Richard Gere...well, let's just stop here.

by Kem Nunn
You might get a nosebleed from this one. Nunn's classic mindfuck of a novel begins as a sort of a surfing Bildungsroman and then goes way dark and way, WAY whacked out. Drug-fueled Orgies! Satanic cults! Human sacrifices by the sea! Sort of a mashup of TD1 and TD2 for those who like the setting of the latter but like the secret-cult aspect of the former. (Fun fact: With David "Deadwood" Milch, Nunn was one of the co-creators of the ill-fated HBO drama John from Cincinnati, which attempted to mix mysticism and magical realism with the SoCal surfing culture.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

How Ornette Coleman Created The L.A. Underground

Thanks to the graciousness of its editor Drew Tewksbury, the Beast just published our first story for KCET's Artbound on Ornette Coleman's influence on Los Angeles, which of course contains material from our upcoming book, Midnight Pacific Airwaves. You can read it here.

Also, check out our local colleagues' takes on the quiet, genial Texan who shook up the world: Greg Burk and Phil "Brick" Wahl.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

6/2 Alex Rodriguez Group @ the blue whale (Little Tokyo)....6/4 Yogurt (Playing the Music of Frank Zappa) @ The Baked Potato (Studio City)....6/4 Stefan Kac + Will Wulfeck @ curve line space (Eagle Rock) ....6/5 Anthony Wilson & The Curators @ the blue whale....6/6 Munyungo Jackson's Jungle Music @ the blue whale....6/6 Elliott Caine Quintet @ Lummis Day Festival (Highland Park)....6/7 SMC Jazz Ensemble presents A Tribute to Oliver Nelson @ The Broad Stage (Santa Monica)....6/7 Perry Robinson Ensemble (w/ G.E. Stinson & Alex Cline) + Mezcla Music (w/ Chris Garcia) @ Eagle Rock Center for the Arts....6/8 L.A. Jazz Orchestra w/ Kenny Burrell @ Catalina's (Hollywood)....6/10 Joni Mitchell Tribute (Victoria Williams, Rodrigo AmaranteDevendra Banhart, Kamasi Washington, Mia Doi Todd, The Haden Triplets @ The Fold (Silver Lake)....6/10 THE RETURN OF RESBOX! w/ Twin Braids, Eva Aguila + Thollem Electric @ Steve Allen Theater (Hollywood)....6/11 Tootie Heath 80th Birthday Celebration @ the blue whale....6/11 Steinway by Starlight presents Alan Pasqua Trio @ Cal State-Dominguez Hills....6/11 Jen Oikawa Trio @ curve line space....6/11 Steve Weisberg Orchestra (w/ Benn Clatworthy, Pablo Calogero, Paul Litteral, Stephanie O'Keefe, William Roper, Ken Rosser, Michael-Pierre Vlatkovich, Tracy Wannomae) @ MiMoDa Studio (Mid-City)....6/12 The Jazz Bakery presents the Dafnis Prieto Sextet @ Zipper Hall....6/12 Grex + Vinny Golia Ensemble @ Ham & Eggs Tavern (Downtown)....6/12 Cameron Clayton Sextet @ LACMA (Miracle Mile)....6/12 Double Naught Spy Car @ Viva Cantina (Burbank)....6/12 New West Guitar Group @ the blue whale....6/12 Becca Moore @ The Mint (Mid-City)....6/12 Cornel Fauler Quartet @ The World Stage (Leimert Park)....6/13 Grex w/ Steuart Liebig + Joe Berardi Duo @ Human Resources (Chinatown)....6/13 Bobby West, Steve Smith, Ishamel Hunter, Ricky Washington & Jeff Littleton @ Seabird Jazz Lounge (Long Beach)....6/13 Sinne Eeg @ the blue whale....6/13 Aloe Blacc @ Playboy Jazz Festival (Hollywood)....6/13 Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter w/ the Monk Institute Orchestra @ Playboy Jazz Festival....6/13-14 Jeff Lorber Fusion @ The Baked Potato....6/14 Blue Note 75th Anniversary w/ Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland & Ambrose Akinmusire @ Playboy Jazz Festival....6/14 Brad Dutz 4tet @ Alva's Showroom (San Pedro)....6/16 Sinne Eeg @ The G Spot (Highland Park)....6/16 Patrice Quinn Group @ the blue whale....6/17 Robert Glasper Trio @ The El Rey (Miracle Mile)....6/17 Christian Dubeau, Jordan Hang, Candy Bilyk, Dana Reason, Peter Valsamis & Jeff Schwartz @ MiMoDa Studio....6/18 Dana Reason Trio @ CALB (Long Beach)....6/19 The Gaslamp Killer @ Grand Performances (Downtown)....6/19-20 Partch: LSD/Dementia @ REDCAT (Downtown)....6/19 Otmaro Ruiz Quartet @ LACMA....6/20 Dan Schnelle Group @ the blue whale.... 6/20 The 1st Annual Asian Heritage Jazz Festival @ JACCC (Little Tokyo)....6/20 Wattstax Revisited @ Grand Performances....6/21 The Obihiro Cowboys (w/ Bobby Bradford, William Roper, Michael-Pierre Vlatkovitch & Joseph Mitchell) + Alternate Angels (w/ Dwight Trible, Maia, Shay Lynn + Carlos Nino) @ the blue whale....6/21 Dale Fielder Quartet @ Room 5 (Mid-City)....6/23 Jeff Hamilton Trio @ Bacchus Kitchen (Pasadena)....6/24 Brad Dutz 4tet @ Boston Court (Pasadena)....6/25 Slumgum + Kris Tiner & Beth Schenck @ the blue whale....6/26 Bobby West Trio @ Squashed Grapes (Ventura)....6/26 Mike Watt & the Missingmen @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 Phil Ranelin, Bobby West, John B. Williams & Don Littleton @ H.O.M.E (Beverly Hills)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 L.A. Still Rules! (w/ IGAF Sequoia, Orphan Goggles, Jack Grisham, Gitane Demone Quartet & Egrets on Ergot) @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 Brian Carmody Quartet + Mike Scott Quartet @ curve line space....6/27-28 Mark De Clive-Lowe with Strings (featuring Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) @ the blue whale....6/28 Alex Acuna's Seven Bien @ Catalina's

Thursday, April 23, 2015


(West Coast Sound)
(SF Chronicle)

(All About Jazz)

(Pitchfork Media)
(BBC Radio)

(Jazz Beyond Jazz)

(The New Yorker)





(L.A. Record)

(Burning Ambulance)

(Open Culture)

(Dangerous Minds)

(Revive Music)


(L.A. Weekly)


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)




(L.A. Weekly)


(The Daily Beast)

(The New Yorker)



(The Pitch)

(Seattle Times)

(Chicago Tribune)

(New York Magazine)
(Pitchfork Media)

(The Onion)


(The Daily Beast)

(West Coast Sound)



(Pitchfork Media)

(The New Yorker)

(Detroit Metro Times)