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)