Arts, beer, craft beer, Jazz, Modern Music, Music, Philadelphia, Uncategorized

Of the Woods release show – Beer Pairings!

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!

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baseball, beer, craft beer, Generalized, Jazz, Modern Music, Music, Philadelphia, Uncategorized

Happy New Year link roundup

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.

Reading-

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.

Watching

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.

Listening

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)

Drinking

Here are my most recent beer reviews for DrinkPhilly.com

In addition to the beers I’ve reviewed I’ve had some amazing stuff lately including Russian River Salvation and Supplication which were only $6.50 and $11 respectively at Whole Foods!

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Arts, Jazz, Modern Music, Music

Better off Undead

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.

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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.

Marc Ribot – Silent Movies

Paradoxical Frog

Tarbaby – the End of Fear

John Escreet – the Age We Live In

Dave King Trucking Company – Good Old Light

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)

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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.

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Arts, beer, craft beer, Jazz, Modern Music, Music, Philadelphia

Consumer Record

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.

MAP – Six Improvisations for Guitar, Bass and Drums

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!

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Here’s a small link round-up of my beer reviews as posted on drinkphilly.com

Brasserie Du Dieu Ciel! – Rosee D’hibiscus

Weyerbacher – Sixteen

Dogfish Head – Hellhound on My Ale

Evil Twin – Before, During and After Christmas

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Arts, Jazz, Modern Music, Music, Philadelphia

Triple Play

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Generalized, Jazz, Music, Philadelphia

This Brings Us To…

Sunday night I had the opportunity to see Henry Threadgill’s Zooid at the Christ Church Neighborhood House Theater in Philadelphia as part of ArsNovaWorkshop’s AACM festival.  As with all great performances I get to experience it opened a floodgate of feelings, observations and ideas in my mind.

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First off, the performances was absolutely magnificent and inspiring.  It is such a wonder to see music performed that you don’t quite understand and would be hard pressed to analyze.  During the 90 minute concert my brain went between fits of nerdiness and stretches of pure joy.  The music resembled the groups recordings on Pi Recordings called This Brings Us Two vols. 1 and 2 although taking on a longer format in concert.  Improvised moments were thrilling, creative, fluid and precise.  And despite the amount of mystery behind the music the group was undoubtedly tight and together with not a single miscue.

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My second thought regarding the concert was the lack of new faces I see at such events.  Sure, there are a handful of people I don’t recognize, assumed open-minded patrons of the arts with whom I am not acquainted, but I speak of a different set.  It is rare at these concerts that I see a full house of musicians that I may associate with in other locales.  Henry Threadgill is an important figure in jazz and modern music history.  As a musician curious about composing, performing and supporting original music, seeing someone like Threadgill perform should be a necessity no matter what your taste may be.

Hearing music like Henry Threadgill’s performed live feels absolutely essential to me.  I admittedly perform a more “straight ahead” version of orignal music but find such thought-provoking and beautifully unsettling inspiration in seeing music that is “freer” than most.  I have many friends and peers that would refer to this music as “out,” dismissing the music for its overall lack in college jazz program qualities.  This deficiency, so-to-speak, has always drawn me to freer music.  I also think that, as jazz musicians (with supposed educations), we must expose our minds to all things under the guise and umbrella of jazz at least once.  Someone who studies American history isn’t expected to neglect a decade or two of time just because of taste.  Their knowledge needs to have a general grounding that then expands into a level of expertise and understanding.

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My last thought coming from this evenings concert has to do with awareness.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the reasons I was pushed into the blogosphere was to share my knowledge of concerts and other musical events with a potentially greater audience than just my close friends.  It seems, to some, that I know what’s going on around town more than others.  I’m here to tell you that learning about such concerts as Henry Threadgill’s is not a hard thing to do.  All you have to do is pay attention and be open minded.  I decided to list the bone-headed, simple things I do to make sure I don’t miss music I may appreciate.

1. Sign up for email lists

I know, no one likes spam in their inbox, but emails are a great way to stay informed of great things around town.  Even if you just read the subject line, something is bound to sink in and appear on your radar.  If you go to a show that you enjoy, sign up for the promoter/presenter’s email list as well as the performer’s email list.  This way you won’t be out of the loop.

2. Step outside of your box

I love the work that ArsNovaWorkshop does for the city of Philadelphia.  Those in the community that ignore their concert schedule are ignoring something that is truly unique to our city.  I’m fairly certain that amazing, experimental music concerts do not happen with the frequency they do in Philly anywhere else in this country outside of New York City.  That is a wonderful thing even if you don’t like “out” music.  And guess what, ArsNova is not alone.  Bowerbird is another presenter of fantastic experimental music concerts.  They are currently presenting a Morton Feldman festival throughout different venues of the city.  Reading around the internet about this festival, it is clear that both Bowerbird and ArsNova are doing amazing things that can only happen in Philadelphia due to their grand efforts.

3. Go out to hear live music (and not just for networking opportunities)

Attending concerts can feel like a dying discipline sometimes.  Too often, from my observation, the social aspect of going out to hear music takes precedent over the music itself.  Go somewhere where listening is a top priority, preferably somewhere that doesn’t serve alcohol.  I love my craft beer as much as the next guy but for me, it isn’t a necessary component of listening to music.  Nor is fraternizing, being on the “scene” and talking to my friends part of my enjoyment either.  There is lots of great music in this city but little of it happens at a venue that offers the respect and attention it deserves.  Support a respectful atmosphere for art and you will not only yearn for it yourself but help it grow around you as well.

4. (or 3a) Don’t be afraid to go alone

One time in high school I went to a movie by myself on a Friday night, choosing to forego the status quo of needing at date and just going to watch for my own enjoyment.  To most the idea could be quite frightful but the truth is, if you want to do something, especially if you want to support the arts, don’t feel like you need your friends with you to do it.  You don’t need to run in a pack to support the arts or be plugged in to a scene.

Going to a concert alone offers one an experience that I’ve found essential to listening to music.  Listening to exciting and inspiring music is made all the better by the opportunity to not feel obligated to talk about it afterwards.  Your mind is also spared the pollution offered up by others opinions and observations.  There will never be an instance when a “killing” solo perverts my thoughts and emotions listening to music.

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Some of these thoughts have given me a seed of an idea that I’ll present now and hopefully riff on at a later date.  Would Philadelphia benefit from a monthly jazz newspaper a la the New York Jazz Record?  CD and concert reviews, concert and club listings, articles about local musicians, ads from local clubs, schools, labels and institutions.  Just a thought for now but please, leave a comment if you have any ideas or opinions regarding such an idea.

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baseball, beer, craft beer, Jazz, Music, Philadelphia

Around the internets

We are officially at the unofficial beginning of summer known as Memorial Day weekend.  I hope everyone enjoys whatever they may do with the nice weather and time off.  If you are interested in some reading, here are a few things to check out.

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I’ve started writing beer reviews for a website based in Philadelphia called Drink Philly.  It’s been a really fun experience writing about an interest in which I’m still somewhat of an amateur.  On the Drink Philly site you can read my review of Dogfish Head’s Hellhound on My Ale, a beer brewed to commemorate the 100th anniversay of blues guitarist Robert Johnson’s birth, as well as my previous review of Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ Jaded.

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A big inspiration for my blogging is Ethan Iverson’s Do the Math.  If you’re a “jazz” musician and haven’t read a page on this blog you are doing yourself an immense disservice.  In the past few years Ethan has interviewed Wynton Marsalis, Keith Jarrett, Django Bates, Gunther Schuller, Stanley Crouch, Tim Berne, Charlie Haden and most recently, Henry Threadgill.  This is really only the tip of the iceberg.  There are long pieces analyzing the style of the Tristano school; a piece honoring Lester Young on what would have been his 100th birthday; and a fantastic piece about jazz records made between 1973 and 1990.  The first time I met Ethan, I told him his blog was like my graduate school education, an idea I still firmly believe.  I’ve learned about a lot of music that I wouldn’t have been curious about otherwise and have been able to gain an interesting perspective on musicians I already admire through Ethan’s great interviewing skills.

The Threadgill piece just went up in 4 different parts.  You can read it here.  It’s a great primer for Ars Nova Workshop’s AACM festival beginning in June.

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Summertime is a time for baseball.  Anyone that knows me would know that I’ve been following the Phillies closely since before the season began.  A great place to stay informed of the clubs daily actions and performance is Beerleaguer.  The comments get a little off the wall but the analysis Jason Weitzel and other contributors is always informative with a splash of wit and editorializing that isn’t present in other blogs.

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