May 13, 2013
My friend Ian just released his first record called Glasswork. The physical copies of the CD will be here in a few weeks but for now you can stream all of the tracks and download the album if that’s your thing.
This is my first time occupying the producers chair and I have to say it was a wonderful experience. Listening as a producer is a lot different than listening as a composer/performer!! I’m really proud of the product we produced and hope you enjoy it!
I’m inspired by Ian’s determination in this process and hope to get into the studio to record some of my own music before the year is through.
I’ve been snoozing on the blog of late so hopefully I can get back in the swing of things soon. For now, I wanted to share Ian’s music. Some ideas for blog posts I have running in my head are to chronicle my experience as producer of this record, discuss the importance of having a sense of place in performance situations and to talk about some nice folks I’ve met recently through playing music.
March 11, 2013
When I used to gig with my friend Doug Hawk (www.doughawk.net) he would often tell me, in all his ever-charming grumpiness, to “just do the gig.” It became a great running joke in his band that if something was going wrong (be it with your life, the music, whatever…) you should basically suck it up and “just do the gig.”
Believe it or not, this rather innocuous joke has become a sort of mantra for me as a working, free-lancing musician. I even mentioned it in a recent interview with WXPN’s The Key! (check it out!)
I’ve often been called (or in some cases, accused) of being a “thinker.” I guess this is true…I like to meditate and ruminate on ideas and thoughts until they are really put through their paces in my brain. As a composer and perfomer, I feel like this is reflected in the music I’ve written released under my own name (see for yourself). So, accuse me of “thinking too much” about this one but Doug’s “just do the gig” to me can mean a lot of things to me.
Just do the gig
Just play the song
…serve the song
…serve the music
…honor the space in which the music is being made
…honor the audience
“Just do the gig” has come to mean all of these things to me. I mention some of these ideas in the aforementioned interview with the Key but here I can elaborate a little bit.
The three ideas that stick out the most to me are the last three listed above. Serve the song, honor the space and honor the audience. As a free-lancing musician, I need to be versatile. My versatility is something that keeps me working in numerous situations. Any given month I can be playing my own music in a jazz setting, supporting other jazz musicians on their gigs be they standards or originals, playing 20-40s songs with my own early jazz group, playing in a NOLA style brass band, playing classical music or reading through the score of a Broadway musical in a pit orchestra. That’s a lot of stuff!
Logically, I don’t bring my guitar pedals out for most of these gigs like I might for gigs playing my own music. I also try to adhere the language and musical vocabulary I use to suit the gig. To some, this might mean I’m trying to sound like someone else on these gigs. To me, I enjoy the challenge of serving the music and doing right by the song…by being able to “just do the gig.”
Furthermore, to “honor the audience” and to “honor the space” is of great importance to me. If I’m playing at a bar where people are talking and enjoying themselves, I try my best to play with creative feeling and spirit while still giving the audience something they may anticipate or expect in the given space. The best example of this is when I play one of my many local gigs with Edison’s Hot Mess at the Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem, PA. We play older songs that fit the vibe of the speakeasy era and I try to fit myself into the style as best I can…to strive for a greater understanding of the music of that time and what it means to me and my instrument. It’s a challenge that I welcome! It would be easier for me to just play as I would play on any other gig…to play “my sound” or whatever…but it would also be a diservice to the space, audience and the song. When the gig says “Mike Lorenz” on the calendar, perhaps its a different story. I feel the audience and the space may expect something different at that point. I enjoy this delineation.
Being careful and respectful of these ideas can really mean a lot to the performance and the experience of the listener. Other, more jaded, musicians might disagree with this idea but I feel even the most untrained or uninitiated audience members can see, feel, and hear when a musician is putting out energy to the listener or if they are simply playing for their own satisfaction.
March 4, 2013
With the spring approaching, the sun shining further and further into the day and flowers beginning to consider their opportunity to bloom, I have decided to pay closer attention to this blog space.
Things have been up in the air and all over the place (in many good ways!) since my last post so this first one back will be a post about reassessing, catching up and filling in.
Last post, on Sept 18th of 2012, I made some declarative statements about my ambition to do a solo recording. As it turns out, lots of guitar players, specifically jazz guitar players, are doing solo recordings/performances these days! Check out new albums by Jonathan Kreisberg, Bill Frisell and Mike Gamble or tune into the live feed at Smalls to catch a solo set by Peter Bernstein. I’m sure there are many I’m missing too! This is good AND bad I guess. This many guitarists can’t be wrong, right?! This development makes me feel like I am on the right track. However, with so many fantastic players releasing solo recordings I began to think, where would mine fit in? This, obviously, put a stall in my recording ambitions. As it stands I’m still “researching” this project and hope to have new music to share soon.
Since the turn of the calendar to 2013 I have had the good fortune of playing many trio gigs throughout the Philadelphia area. This great new trend has been brought on by bi-weekly gigs at one of my favorite places to hangout and imbibe, Tired Hands Brewing Company in Ardmore, PA. This place is truly fantastic and is making waves in the craft beer world. It is truly a great experience getting to present creative, original music that I love at a space that is full of creative, kind and generous folks. Come by this Thursday, March 7th to see everything Tired Hands has to offer. We’ll be playing music from my album, Of the Woods.
The opportunity to play trio gigs has me considering a trio recording project at some point in the near to not-so-near future. This, with the aforementioned hangups about recording a solo album, have created quite the to-do list in my head.
My goal for now is to update this thing every Monday from here on out. Lets see how long that lasts!!
September 18, 2012
Last week I wrote a new blog post introducing my idea to do a solo recording before the end of the year. I’d like to make public some ideas I’ve been working on over the past month and open up the comments for feedback. I’m not sure what direction the solo recording is going to take quite yet but I am open to all possibilities that I can discover.
Here are two versions of the Paul Motian song “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago” that I recorded in the past few weeks.
The first was recorded Sept. 17th and is a reading of the tune on classical guitar…I like the dry nature of the instrument compared to a lot of other interpretations of Motian’s music.
The second was recorded on Sept. 4th and features a wide range of effects and colors offered to the electric guitar. It is also a longer rendition and features more improvisation.
Please share your comments or email me privately…like I said, this is a work in progress.
September 10, 2012
As is quite obvious, it has been far too long since I have composed a blog entry. There has been no shortage of events in my life or things to share, write, talk and think about but the time and inspiration to do so have been short. As fall begins so does a new season with new ideas and desires. The year feels like it starts in September after years of being trained by the school year calendar and so my new fall resolution is to actively write on this page.
For my first post back I’m going to run with an idea someone suggested to me almost a year ago to date. A few of my posts will drift into my usual hobbies (obsessions) but for the most this blog will be a place where I document process and progress of a new project I am hoping to complete. Over the next few months I will be “wood shedding” or “work shopping” ideas for a solo record that I hope to record by years end. This record will then hopefully be supported by a tour in May of 2013. Nothing is planned, recorded or set in stone yet but the idea is firmly planted in my brain.
The idea for the solo album came from a desire to tour and to do so as economically as possible. Touring is something I’ve never had the opportunity to do and the idea of persuading, paying and providing for a band to go on tour seemed nearly impossible to me and my finances. But, a solo tour would be up to me and me only. I then thought that the only way I could book this tour is if I had a recording to prove my worth as an out-of-town touring artist.
But what should the recording be?
I play a number of solo gigs each month in the realm of jazz standards. These gigs have been great learning opportunities and really fun to boot! From time to time I play what I’d lazily call “creative solo gigs” where I improvise freely, stretch out on tunes by my favorite jazz composers or play my own music in a less organized fashion than I would with a band. These “creative” gigs have always been rewarding and enlightening. I learn a lot about my playing, both strengths and weaknesses. It is quite a task to keep an audience’s attention with just a guitar and a bunch of songs they don’t know. From these experiences, my idea began to take on a clearer, more defined shape.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I’ve begun “work shopping” ideas by recording myself in various solo settings. My launching points have been free improvisation and a few Paul Motian songs. This seemed like as good a place to start as any. My plan is to make a recording with a 3 tiered focus. These tiers include free improvisation, original music (both “jazz” oriented and “through composed”) and interpretations of music by my favorite jazz composers (ie Monk, Motian so far). In the coming weeks I hope to update you with some “in progress” ideas and recordings.
Also in coming weeks I will likely be soliciting touring ideas and advice from anyone who would like to offer their experiences and expertise. Thanks for reading! I look forward to updating you on my progress.
February 9, 2012
I’m returning to the world of blogging to do a small, albeit sort of late, write-up about the upcoming Philadelphia CD release party for my first full length record, Of the Woods (purchase here).
This record was recorded in the summer of 2010 at my alma mater, Moravian College, and features a set of my original compositions compiled from the time I finished college in 2007 to the first few months I lived in Philadelphia. I’m excited to finally have the opportunity to share the music we created on that day.
The release concert is at Moonstone Arts Center in center city Philadelphia on Friday, February 10th (peep the facebook event here). Moonstone is a really neat place to play in a music scene that is quickly losing safe havens for original music and jazz in general. Another neat aspect of the venue is that Moonstone is a BYOB establishment. Being that I am a huge fan of craft beer, I thought it would be fun to suggest a few beer pairings for our set on Friday.
Philadelphia Weekly’s Elliott Sharp recently called my new record “autumnal and wintry.” This is perfect for my first beer pairing! Anyone who followed my blog in its infancy knows that I am a big fan of Stillwater Artisanal Ales from Baltimore, MD. Brewer Brian Strumke’s intensely creative, delectable roster of Belgian inspired ales is full of great brews that would, in my mind, pair perfectly with my music. Specifically, Autumnal, a German influenced saison with a delightfully roasted flavor and unique Belgian inspiration and taste. Based on the name of the beer this seems like quite the obvious choice but I don’t mind recommending it and will likely be sharing a bottle with my band Friday night.
I really think the earthy, grassy qualities of Belgian saisons or pale ales relate to qualities found in my music. Try a bottle or two of Orval. a classic Belgian pale ale with a grassy flavor or a bottle from the Lost Abbey, an American brewery that has a nice roster of farmhouse style ales. Think balanced, spiced and lively instead of bitter, biting and aggressive.
Selecting a brew to play off of the “wintry” elements in my music will put us in a different flavor profile. Winter ales tend to be dark, malty, boozy and nicely spiced with seasonal flavors. When I think of beers to drink during the winter I think of Belgian dark ales, roasty imperial stouts and barleywines. Considering that the release concert is at a venue and not in your living room I’d suggest shying away from a heavy, high octane, highly alcoholic barleywine or stout (unless you plan to share with a friend or two).
If you’re into Belgian dark ales I’d look for a bottle of Three Philosopher’s from Ommegang or a perhaps one of Allagash‘s dark Belgian brews. Both of these Northeast breweries have a great roster of Belgian style ales and can be obtained quite readily at Philadelphia bottle shops and bars. For a great European dark Belgian ale I’d search out a bottle of Pannepot, an amazing fisherman’s ale from De Struise Brouwers and sip it throughout our entire set. For those that like roasty, coffee flavors in their beer a great, affordable option is a four-pack of Sixpoint‘s Diesel stout. This is a great American stout that will please the hopheads in the audience as well as the dark beer drinkers. For those that love coffee with their beer a bottle or two of Founders Breakfast Stout is a super roasty, strong imperial stout that is easily found all over Philadelphia. If you must go big with a barleywine, buy a bottle of Old Stock Ale from North Coast brewery and split with a friend or two. I recently tasted a 2011 bottle of this brew and found it to be pleasantly warming but not excessively boozy. Sweet malt and alcohol flavors help balance things out.
Since my new record is called Of the Woods I think a few beers with wood inspired flavors are appropriate. If you’ve ever had a barrel aged beer you know that a lot of interesting flavors can be imparted on the brew from various types of liquor barrels. Vinous, funky, dry and complex flavors from wine barrels, in my mind, pair better than sweet vanilla and whiskey notes from bourbon barrels. For the big spender, try any bottle of Russian River‘s wine barrel aged beers for a tart, complex brew or a bottle of Anchorage Brewing Company’s Love Buzz. Both choices can be pricey but are certainly worth finding and splitting with a few friends. If you like smoked flavors in your beer, try a bottle of Haandbrygerriet‘s Norweigan Wood, a fantastic, traditional Norweigan ale from one of my favorite breweries on the planet. If you want a little more bang for your buck search out a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Immort Ale for a boozy, smoked beer experience from one of the regions most famous and experimental breweries.
If these pairings don’t sound like your thing, check out the music on Of the Woods and come up with a pairing or two yourself. For digital versions of the record check out iTunes, CDBaby, eMusic, or almost any other digital music service. To order a copy of the CD, BandCamp is the place to go.
Once again, here are the details for Fridays show…I hope you can join us!
Friday, February 10th, 2012, 8:30pm
Mike Lorenz Quartet CD release show!
@ Moonstone Arts Center, 110 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA
also performing, Elliot Levin/Ed Watkins duo!
July 6, 2011
When my grandmother was ending her phone conversation phone with my mom after our July 4th get together she thanked her for the nice time at our picnic and said “happy new year.” Here’s some links to things I’ve been reading, watching, listening-to, and drinking to share and celebrate the new year.
Via Do the Math, I recently read through a really interesting interview from 1990 with Vernell Fournier, Ahmad Jamal’s drummer and creator of the “Poinciana-beat” among many other contributions to the trio’s sound. The interview covers a bunch of great topics involving the trio and its formation and concept.
I’m also just beginning to read Bob Spitz’s biography on the Beatles, a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. A few years ago I got through a bit of it but found it too dry. Recently reading through the prologue I was excited by the imagery and storytelling and look forward to reading through the entire book this time.
As always I pay close attention to the blogs in my “blog-roll” especially Do the Math and Beerleaguer.
I don’t really watch much television other than tuning in to Phillies games. Nor do I get into YouTube as much as some of my fellow musicians and peers but on occasion, I do find something of interesting. Here are some things I’ve watched/listened to on YouTube of late.
Fight the Big Bull - I have one of their records but decided to see what their live shows look like since I plan on seeing them perform this weekend at the Stone in NYC. They’re an awesome band from Richmond, VA that seems to do things on their own terms and, to my knowledge, haven’t made a wrong step yet. I really like that this band operates from a “satellite” home base but is still able to play shows in NYC and elsewhere and have their records released on a recognized label in improvised music.
Kurt Rosenwinkel – As with most guitarists my age I check out a lot of Kurt Rosenwinkel stuff. Considering he is a jazz guitarist playing original music to a small listening base, he is heavily documented on YouTube. There are tons of great videos but a few recent solo performances really stand out.
Peter Bernstein w/ Michael Kanan – This stuff is really swingin’ and awesome! Beautiful duo playing from one of my favorite guitarists! There’s close-up video of what seems to be an entire set at Smalls in NYC.
Here’s what’s rotated through my listening list lately as well as a few things I’m excited to finally check out…
Bill Evans Trio – 1960 Birdland Sessions - This set, although repetitive, is really interesting. It’s neat to hear “the” Bill Evans Trio before the recording of their two landmark albums. The music is loose but not quite what it is on Waltz for Debbie and Sunday at the Village Vanguard.
Skip Wilkins - I Concentrate on You & After - Skip was one of my teachers in college and before leaving the country for a year, he graciously played a gig with my band AND gave me copies of his two newest records (as well as an unreleased session with his son, saxophonist Dan Wilkins, which is awesome!). Both discs are great, taking me back to the countless times I went to see Skip play while I was in college.
Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter 1 : Gens de Couleur Libres -I own this on vinyl which I highly recommend because it comes with a CD and a poster and looks/sounds awesome! The music is powerful and emotional, something that isn’t always associated with jazz. I need to listen to this more but was really taken by the first time through.
Kurt Rosenwinkel w/ the Airmen of Note – this is from a recent NPR broadcast. My friend, saxophonist/composer/arranger Ian O’Beirne and I agree that if you combined the music from this broadcast with Kurt’s recent record, Our Secret World, with the OJM band, you’d have a much better record.
and a few things I haven’t listened to yet…
Dave King – Indelicate (just got this in the mail but am stoked to finally listen to it)
Ralph Peterson Trio feat. Geri Allen – Triangular (just bought this at Siren Records in Doylestown on the 4th of July…looking forward to checking out more 1980s Geri Allen)
Here are my most recent beer reviews for DrinkPhilly.com
June 26, 2011
This past Thursday night I had the great opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Undead jazz festival in New York City. Presented by Search and Restore and the Boom Collective, the Undead jazz festival is a summer version of the annual Winter Jazz Fest. On Thursday, three clubs off of Bleecker St in Manhattan offered a constant rotation of original, creative and improvised music performances from 7pm to about 2am.
Instead of going into great detail about each performance I’ll only offer a few choice words. I didn’t take any notes while I was there other than a few updates while attempting to “live-tweet” the festival (yes, I have a twitter account). After a long, arduous 3 hour bus ride, here is what I saw upon my arrival…
First off, Marc Ribot playing solo guitar at Le Poisson Rouge, a relatively new venue at the former location of the legendary Village Gate. I’ve seen Ribot perform solo before but it always a treat to check out someone so masterfully wield your instrument of choice. Catching the first 20-25 minutes of his set, the music transitioned freely between rootsy Americana, free explorations, exploitations and examinations of jazz standards and loose, bluesy riffing. From there, I rushed around the corner to Sullivan Hall to catch the middle of a set by the trio Paradoxical Frogs featuring Kris Davis on piano, Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. As I arrived, the group was working their way through a long form composition with extended sections for improvisation and textural pursuits. Tyshawn Sorey’s set up was a great surprise! Not seated at a traditional drum set, he painted a wide palette of colors with 4 small cymbals, a hi hat, floor tom and a snare drum set up like a bass drum pedal. The group’s music left plenty of time and space between each composed section. Abstract and beautiful.
From there I headed to the third venue for the Undead jazz fest’s Thursday line up, Kenny’s Castaways, to catch a set by David Fiuczynski’s Planet MicroJam. “Fuze,” as he is sometimes called, is a great guitarist but this music was not for me. I guess I neglected the word “jam” in the groups name. Therefore, I quickly made my way back to Le Poisson Rouge for a set by Tarbaby, a collective trio featuring Orrin Evans, Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits with guest saxophonist Oliver Lake. This groups set was the first show stopping moment I experienced at the fest. Tarbaby had the audience fully in their court by their last piece, which featured a raw, fiery swinging groove with collective hollers interjected by the rhythm section. Each member shined in each of their solo flights except for a strangely aggressive, not very melodic version of Ornette Coleman’s “Song X,” slowed down to the point of being a totally different tune.
Towards the end of Tarbaby’s set I met up with Nick Wight, a drummer with Philly roots who now lives in the New York area, who would join me for the rest of the evening’s music. After finishing up a beer we rushed over the Sullivan Hall and caught the very end of Gerald Clayton’s duet set with vibraphonist Chris Dingman. They closed with a great, interactive version of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” Their interplay sounded like an updated version of Gary Burton and Chick Corea’s duets with a great emphasis on swing. Back to Le Poisson Rouge from there to catch an all-star band of sorts assembled by pianist/keyboardist John Escreet. Here’s where the schedule started to fall behind as the group had a lot of equipment to set up for their very electric performance. The group, featuring Wayne Krantz on guitar, David Binney on alto saxophone and keyboard and Marcus Gilmore on drums, played a prog rock, groove driven music that resembled recent recordings by Chris Potter’s Underground. This music however lacked the jazz school showiness of Potter’s music and stuck more to group dynamic, composition and slow growth to get its point across. A great band I would have loved to have heard more of but I needed to rush to what would be the highlight of the night, Andrew D’angelo’s Big Band at Sullivan Hall.
Already mid-flight, the group was firing through some surprisingly idiomatic, swinging big band writing only to quickly shift into a thorny slow-jam. The group featured a five-three-three horn set up with a viola replacing a second tenor saxophone supported by a mind-bogglingly great rhythm section of Ben Monder, Reid Anderson (on electric bass!) and Dan Weiss. Performing arrangements of some of Andrew’s small group tunes, mostly from the Skirl Records catalog, the group was amazingly engaging and exciting to watch and listen to. Andrew D’angelo’s charisma as a bandleader was on display in spades during the entire set. Songs included “Meg Nem Sa,” a rocking, forceful tune of pseudo-metal quality, “Big Butt,” a angular groove tune about his friends fondness for women’s derrieres and a beautiful prayer for Matt Wilson’s wife, “Felecia.”
The energy level of the big band’s performance warranted a little breather before the following band, Dave King Trucking Company, would take the stage. Outside, I got to meet and chat with Bill McHenry for a minute, showing off my fandom by sharing my admiration for both of his bands featuring Paul Motian. He was excited to tell me that his quartet with Motian will be releasing a new record this fall! Inside, the Dave King Trucking Company jumped into a set of rock inspired small group songs (with emphasis on the word song). Featuring two tenor saxophones, electric guitar, upright bass and drums, the group showcased, to my ears, Dave King’s admiration for straight up rock music melded with Keith Jarrett’s American quartet of the 1970s. Other than Dave King and Chris Speed the other members of the group were pretty unfamiliar to me. Chris Speed was a especially great on these songs, improvising long, compositional solos that built on the energy of each piece. Great music that was only spoiled by the sound man at Sullivan Hall’s love affair with volume and reverb.
Next was one last stop at Kenny’s Castaways for a refreshing closing set from a trio featuring Michael Blake on tenor saxophone, Ben Allison on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The group performed an arrangement of a Carpenters song followed by a swinging standard tune of which I don’t know the name. Although a nice group, the sound at Kenny’s Castaways made things sound a little stiff and canned. Despite this, their set was an appropriate cleanser after the high energy sets at Sullivan Hall. Last, one more trip to Le Poisson Rouge was in order for the last set of the evening by Goldfinger, a trio of David Torn on guitar, Tim Berne playing alto saxophone and Ches Smith on drums and electronics. This was unlike anything else I heard all evening, testing limits of dynamics and sound with the vast use of processors and electronics used by Ches Smith and David Torn.
During my 6 hours at the Undead jazz fest I was tempted to buy a bunch of records. Here’s a list of everything I saw that is now on my shopping list for future purchases.
Ches Smith – Congs for Brums (Ches was awesome with David Torn)
Nels Cline – Veil (didn’t perform Thursday but Torn’s set reminded me of this recording which features Tim Berne)
If I’m feeling productive this week expect my thoughts on a jazz festival similar to Undead happening in Philly. I know it’s already happened in the past but maybe we need something to happen now.
June 20, 2011
Anyone that knows me well knows that for years I have been into buying records. Although my rate of purchase has slowed down a bit in the past few years with other expenses mounting, there are still, now less regular, bursts of complete music consumerism. This past week I managed to pull in four records that on the surface, without any planning, have quite a bit in common.
Each record features guitar, bass and drums. Two records feature a saxophone out in front of the rhythm section. It took me a minute to realize their similarities because honestly, the four records couldn’t be more different.
In chronological order…
The Paul Desmond Quartet – Live
Paul Desmond, alto saxophone w/ Ed Bickert, guitar; Don Thompson, bass; Jerry Fuller, drums
I bought this record on a late night impulse while browsing around a few jazz related message boards. The nerdy subject of “jazz played on the telecaster” came up and after a few mentions of Ted Greene and Bill Frisell a poster made a few mentions of Ed Bickert (along with this YouTube clip), one of my favorite unsung jazz guitar heroes. Ed is a Canadian guitarist that shared many gigs with the Don Thompson and Terry Clarke at a now defunct club in Toronto of which I don’t know the name. Don Thompson was into recording gear and had the wherewithal to record each gig they played which then turned into several records in the coming decades including most famously, Jim Hall Live. This record features alto saxophonist Paul Desmond playing standards with the house rhythm section. After about one-and-a-half listens I’ve realized this record is just a study piece for swinging, medium tempo playing and a great example of beautiful guitar playing on standards. Other than that , it’s pretty boring as every tune seems to sit at the metronome marking of “crusty white dude tempo.”
Ginger Baker Trio – Going Back Home
Ginger Baker, drums w/ Bill Frisell, guitar; Charlie Haden, bass
This record came to me after an unassuming search through the $1 bin outside Hideaway Music in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. I’ve been aware of this record for years but was always weary of hearing the drummer from Cream (!) play with two jazz musicians I greatly admire and love. Simply put, this record is weird! I don’t know how it works but if you see it around (especially for $1) give it a shot. They play a few original compositions, the Thelonious Monk blues “Straight, No Chaser” (which Baker nearly swings on), and “Ramblin’,” one of my favorite early Ornette Coleman tunes from Change of the Century. The album closes with a strange spoken word piece by Baker about the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
Ralph Lalama - Circle Line
Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone w/ Peter Bernstein, guitar; Peter Washington, bass; Kenny Washington, drums
Another great find from Hideaway Music’s $1 bin is this great, straight ahead date featuring first class New York musicians on Dutch label Criss Cross. This record utilizes the typical Criss Cross programming of any mid nineties record. A few original tunes with the bulk of the album filled out with standards. What the Paul Desmond record lacked in feel and variety, this record makes up in the first two tracks with an up tempo tune and a ballad duet between bass and saxophone. Peter Bernstein is one of my favorite guitarists so any chance I have to hear him play and have his music in my collection I take it. His playing on this record isn’t exactly showcased but he does take a few great turns as he always manages to do.
Tatsuya Nakatani, percussion; Mary Halvorson, guitar; Clayton Thomas, bass
After finding and listening through my $1 bin purchases, I left the house Friday night to hear a performance by Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and his Gong Orchestra. The concert was really great and featured sets by Nakatani as well as his ensemble. Having seen Nakatani play several times around my senior year of college at Connexions Art Gallery in Easton, PA, I’ve come to know what’s in store when I see him perform. Still, it’s always great to see someone perform with such vigor and focus. After the concert I browsed the selection of CDs for sale and found this record which I’ve been curious about since first reading about it several years ago. Mary Halvorson is one of my favorite guitarists playing modern music today and the chance to hear her in a completely improvised setting with musicians she doesn’t always play with really piqued my interest. From 2002, this recording is great for several reasons. Firstly, it is awesome to hear what Mary Halvorson sounded like 9 years ago. The foundation is the same but it is great to go back and listen to where her current sound came from, especially considering that she is still pretty young. Second, the improvising is great and never loses momentum. Each piece is on the short side and features great interplay and textural development. Third, the recording sounds great! When part of the music is meant to push your idea of texture and tone, sound quality is important!
Here’s a small link round-up of my beer reviews as posted on drinkphilly.com
June 14, 2011
This past Sunday I had the exceptional opportunity to spend my day listening to live, world class and local music for a mere $20. Those who read this blog might not realize but this is something that, in my mind, is only possible in our great city of Philadelphia.
My day started with the last installment of Bowerbird’s American Sublime, a festival celebrating the late works of American composer Morton Feldman. I regrettably was too busy this past week to attend any of the other shows offered as part of the festival but was happy to attend this last concert even for the simple fact that it was completely free. This concert featured the FLUX quartet performing Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2, a powerful six hour-long piece. For the performance, attendees were invited to come and go as they please, sign-in and sign-out of the concert and bring their own pillow if they liked.
I admittedly know little of Feldman’s music other than listening to and analyzing his piece Rothko Chapel for a 20th century music history course in college. Despite my lack of knowledge on the subject, I knew attending at least one event from the American Sublime festival was an important effort for me to make. I decided to attend the first several hours of the performance, signing in just before the first notes were struck at 1:58pm and signing out around 4:45pm. Walking into the sanctuary at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral I expected pews only to be surprised by a wide open room with the quartet set up in the middle, chairs spiraling out from their center. Soft lighting gave the impressions of candlelight.
Reading through the program notes gave a great guide for listening to such a patient, exploratory and beautiful piece. My favorite moments came when my attention would wrap around a motif, outlined in the program notes, and heard maybe an hour or so before. Staggered entrances by the four members of the quartet building into chords both strange and recognizable. The division of the quartet into three against one in many instances, sometimes in high, harmonic textures or in pizzicato answers to bowed clusters. The loudest moment I heard in the piece would be a normal metzoforte or average speaking voice for any average moment. Truly mesmerizing and within a beautiful space, made even more impressive. After dismissing myself around 4:45pm for a very necessary dinner break, I was struck by how harsh and loud the world outside the church sounded after listening to two-and-a-half hours of the string quartet.
After meeting up with my friend Lee for a dinner break, we headed to the Settlement Music School’s Queen Street branch to hear Roscoe Mitchell and the Sound Ensemble, part of Ars Nova Workshop’s AACM festival. Having recently read George Lewis’s A Power Stronger Than Itself, I was thrilled to hear Mitchell perform in person. The concert began with a sparse, seemingly through-composed piece for the quintet of guitar, bass, drums, trumpet and winds. Listening, I was struck by my recollection that as much as the AACM, AEC or Roscoe Mitchell are associated with improvisation, the group as a whole is entirely invested in the art of composition. The piece was beautifully orchestrated with great moments coming from each member of the group. A drum roll with soft mallets on the floor tom fills out the space at one particularly perfect moment. After this long first piece, the concert moved through an improvisation with a guest vocalist, several shorter pieces and a surprise swinger with chord changes to close out. A specifically powerful moment came when Mitchell soared over a fast tempo set up by the rhythm section, circular-breathing his way through long, fierce phrases on his alto saxophone. An encore featured a short improvisation followed by a straight-faced, authentic soul tune called “the Bad Guys,” one more surprise to close out the evening.
After the concert, Lee and I quickly ran over to Little Bar to catch the tail end of a great art rock bill featuring local band Son Step and Brooklyn based In One Wind. We caught In One Wind’s set which featured interesting metric modulations, vocal harmonies and one more surprise, a Mariah Carey cover. My fear that listening to too much music in one day can push out the good and hold onto the bad did not come to fruition on this evening. Good, diverse music in one long day prevailed.
All three performances, including world class concert music, a living legend of modern music and creative, artful rock music for $20! For one, the price seems impossible, but when you dig deeper, it is apparent that only in Philadelphia could such an event happen. We are blessed in this city to have presenters such as Bowerbird and Ars Nova Workshop. Other cities would not have the space, money, public interest or institutional support to pull off such events. In larger cities there simply isn’t enough space for so much to coexist and in smaller cities there isn’t enough to offer support. Visit their websites, sign up for their email lists and give them money if you can. Greg Matthews, Mike Boone and Mike Mahoney along with the owners of Little Bar deserve a mention too (although they need to update their website), offering a smaller, intimate space for local music that respects the creative process.
I even missed a great performance Sunday afternoon at the Christ Church Neighborhood House Theater by Bobby Zankel with a cast of visual and dance artists! Amazing! Kudos to those that attended any two of these events. It was great seeing people I knew at both the Morton Feldman and Roscoe Mitchell concert but it was an even greater thrill to see people I didn’t know, but recognized attending both events.