Monday, August 16, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Keep your eyes peeled for more details about gigs, releases, websites, et al. And by the way, some of my music (including an unmixed version of a track from the aforementioned Bunker session) is now available on my SoundCloud page: soundcloud.com/moffjazz.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The group has gotten better - we have new music and are now capable of playing with a degree of reckless abandon that I sometimes crave as an audience member. Our show at Highwire in Philadelphia was, I believe, a high point for us - transitions between solos, collective improvisations, and heads were more natural; there was a consistency to the energy; there was a real sense of direction.
The voice in the back of my head is speaking, albeit in cliches: "Let's do this. Let's really go for it. I have to make a pact with myself to really promote this music. If I don't do it, no one will."
I have to start listening.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
I believe one way around this essential problem is thinking of form as an expandable and retractable medium. In this way, one is observing the power of the chord progression and yet is willfully mutating the chordal rhythm. This method certainly owes to Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary work in Harmolodics. In this case, the set form becomes “harmolodic” in that it melds to the ever-unfolding phrases and collective melodies created by the ensemble. It might also be likened to poet Charles Olson’s “projective verse,” where the form corresponds to the content of the improvisation.
This is certainly not the first time someone has approached set form with the intention of upending it in a meaningful way. But this would be “one of those times,” and I think it’s going to work.
Now for the pitch: Shylock will be playing at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn this Friday, May 7, at 9:00. A trio fronted by Noah Kaplan, will go on at 8:00. Come by, listen, and let me know what you think.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The High Life’s show at Issue Project Room was not only a great performance, but it was also an excellent example of the art of programming. They played continuously for about an hour, and it was one of those rare occasions where the longer the performance lasted, the more convincing the performance was. In the beginning of the show I was amused, if a bit skeptical. By the end, I felt like I had experienced something truly special.
The ensemble slid from one stylistic bent to another, from sea shanty to rock to free jazz, to name a few. I felt as though I were being guided through different rooms within the subconscious – mine or The High Life’s or Jason Ajemian’s – and it turns out that these “rooms” are more literal than one might expect. The musical scores are arranged like blueprints for a house, with entranceways and exits.
The most consistent thread within the group’s set was perhaps Jason Ajemian’s voice, acting as a narrator throughout the journey (his voice was occasionally joined by the voices of the entire band). He yelped and belted lyrics, and fragments of lyrics, beckoning the listener through the hallways of his music. Jason’s vocal delivery was reminiscent of Captain Beefheart. In fact, the tunes themselves occasionally reminded me of the Magic Band, with their off-kilter looping rhythms, and their oscillation from one meme to another and back.
One thing that surprised me was that the pastiche of styles never really felt ironic. It was never insular in that fashion – it led the listener in and not out, despite the fact that the soil was always shifting under one’s feet.
All of this musical surrealism would not have gone off as well as it did without the talent of The High Life’s musicians. They are all excellent instrumentalists and improvisers, and have projects of their own that are very much worth checking out.
Many bands will describe their sound by simply listing their iPod playlist and not sound like half of the artists they claim to channel. The High Life is not one of them. They perform a bizarre and wonderful collection of songs that a mere “shuffle” key can’t replicate. Don’t miss them next time they visit a performance space near you.
Jason Ajemian and The High Life is:
Jason Ajemian: bass, vox
Jacob Wick: trumpet, vox
Peter Hanson: saxophone, vox
Owen Stewart-Robertson: guitar, vox
Marc Riordan: drums, vox
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
On Sunday night, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent set by Joe Morris, Nate Wooley, and Dominic Lash at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn. Joe and Nate have been working together for a little while now, and the addition of Dominic on bass was a real treat – he traveled all the way from the U.K. for this performance.
The set of three extended improvisations was one of the most balanced and nuanced I’ve heard in a while. All three players are masters at their instruments, but there was never the feeling that any one of them was trying to be the “leader.” Moments where only one instrument was sounding did not come off as a solo but rather as the logical progression of the musical conversation – all but one of the voices in the room die down and that one voice is simply continuing its story.
The music produced was absolutely a sum of its parts. Joe Morris, whose career spans decades, continues to reinvent his own playing as well as the nature of the avant-guitar itself. Impromptu “preparations” – adding an elastic band to the neck, running brass cylinders over the strings – allowed for a widened palate of sound. And the effectiveness of these preparations was owed completely to Mr. Morris’s quick musical intuition. Dominic Lash is the rare bassist who seems completely at home both with and without the bow. An incredibly virtuosic and naturally musical player, he’s someone you must hear the next time he’s in the U.S. (or you’re in Europe). And of course, there’s Nate Wooley. From my perspective as a trumpeter and improviser, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the most in-demand performers of modern improv. The guy has prodigious technique, but he never plays as though he has something to prove (a rare thing indeed to find in a trumpet player). Probably the most impressive thing about Nate is that he can play quietly and really commit to that dynamic. He was always blending into the texture of the group, occasionally peeking out from within.
The trio’s music resembled a kind of modern folk music, with its collective spirit and an overall sound that develops directly from the “act of playing.” It was a truly engaging experience. Let’s hope they make a recording or go on tour sometime in the near future.