Geometry of Caves

Geometry of Caves by Tomeka Reid / Kyoko Kitamura / Taylor Ho Bynum / Joe Morris.
Label Website: Geometry of Caves

I’m always a bit wary about Jazz and Improvised groups that include a vocalist.

In most cases, having a “Jazz Vocalist” immediately means that the rest of the band becomes accompaniment.

Rarely does a vocalist pull their own weight in an ensemble in the same way a bassist, drummer, or pianist does.

The members of the rhythm section have to know the guts of the song, inside out, starting with the chords.

The vocalist, or the saxophonist, often knows the melody, and, well, that’s about it.

Their solos are often no more than variation on the themes of the melody. I’ve known players, and sometimes done this myself, who solo just by picking notes from the melody to jump between.

However, it’s no small thing to be able to sing, or play, a melody expressively, with feeling, and honesty. And the weight that the front person carries for the band is different than the weight that the drummer or bassist carries.

Anyway, on Geometry of Caves the vocalist, Kyoko Kitamura, chooses a more interesting path.

She wields her voice, wordlessly, more as an instrument in the ensemble, than as the featured element of the band.

Not just Kitamura, but all the players, (Tomeka Reid on cello, Morris on acoustic guitar, and Ho Bynum on sundry brass instruments,) on Geometry of Caves seem to view it as a cooperative enterprise.

More often than not, the album is a sort of twirling combination and recombination of duets and trios, rather than the “everyone blows at once” style of freedom.

I once took a workshop with Ben Goldberg where he talked almost more about NOT playing, or consciously “playing” your silence with intent, rather than playing. Leaving space in the music.

I feel like this album is a particularly good representation of that sort of ethos.

And it feels completely free, yet not as overwhelming as a lot of the more “energy forward” style of freely improvised music. In that way, it is almost as much “freeing” for the listener, as it is free for the players.

#KyokoKitamura #TomekaReid #TaylorHoBynum #JoeMorris #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #GeometryOfCaves

Steeped

Steeped by Forebrace.
Label Website: Steeped

If, like me, you’re a little sad that Massacre, Last Exit, and Material (the early years), are no longer making albums, Forebrace may be the answer to your prayers.

The Quartet of Alex Ward, clarinet; Roberto Sassi, guitar; Santiago Horro, bass; and Jem Doulton, drums, are fierce and fiery in ways that eminently remind me of the above mentioned bands, without being overly slavish in their imitation.

Ward has clearly spent some time figuring out how to transpose Zorn-like horn idioms to the clarinet. Sassi has some modern digital tricks up his sleeve, but his fire would not shame Sharrock. Horro has the free floating low end funk influenced bass sound of Lasswell down pat. And Doulton splits the difference between Shannon Jackson & Maher.

I always wonder why more young bands don’t play music influenced by those tremendous albums, and I always end up deciding that doing it well, as Forebrace do, must just be too hard. To get the hard core nonchalance of those albums down, and make them sound both easy and like your life depends on it, without getting caught up in pointless displays of musicianship… Well, I guess it is an unlikely combination. Or, as people probably said when Miles Davis came out with Bitches Brew, “Why on earth would such talented musicians make such a godawful racket?” (Though, the answer to that question is probably, “Miles had seen the money rock musicians were making with a “godawful racket” and wanted a piece of it”. But, that is beside the point.) In any case, I’m glad Forebrace are doing it, especially glad they are doing it for the joy of making a “godawful racket”.

#Forebrace #Steeped #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #AlexWard #RobertoSassi #SantiagoHorro #JemDoulton

Uncompahgre

Uncompahgre by Ben Goldberg and Kirk Knuffke.
Label Website: Uncompahgre

To get the curious title out of the way, the album (and songs) are all named after places in Colorado: Uncompahgre, Leadville, Granby, Carbondale, etc.

I was curious about this album of Cornet and Clarinet duets from Goldberg and Knuffke as I’d recently listened to two duo albums from Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark, primarily Trumpet and Clarinet.

How would the Goldberg/Knuffke dynamic differ from the Wooley Vandermark dynamic?

And you would think two albums of, as we say, similar linear instruments playing duets, would be sort of similar. But the feel of the two (three, really) albums are completely different.

I guess part of it is both of the Vandermark/Wooley albums are live, while Uncompahgre is closely recorded in the studio where we can hear much more of the detail in the playing.

But most of it is Goldberg and Vandermark and Knuffke and Wooley are very different players, even though their instruments are similar.

Goldberg and Knuffke feel like they are still figuring out their relationship, while Vandermark and Wooley know what to expect from each other.

There is serious, tentative, energy in Uncompahgre, and on the whole a more serious tone, appropriate for an album theme based on a mountainous state. Goldberg leans a bit more towards classical and traditional jazz idioms than Vandermark. Knuffke, also, is a more traditional jazz player than Wooley.

There’s a little bit of New Orleans here and a fair bit of Thelonious Monk in the feel, but overall, while not that “out there”, Uncompahgre is a pretty deep record. I’ve listened a couple times and find hearing more of the little things in their individual playing and interactions is very interesting. Keeps me coming back for more.

#Uncompahgre #BenGoldeberg #KirkKnuffke #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #RelativePitchRecords

Last Dream of the Morning

Last Dream of the Morning by John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders.
Label Website: Last Dream of the Morning

John Butcher has come to be one of my favorite saxophonists recently. His ability to utilize musically the full range of sounds from the instrument is truly impressive. From breaths to clicks to squeaks, he does it all and he does it musically. As I’ve mentioned before, I especially enjoy that he seems to employ a bit of humor and whimsey in his playing. I’ve compared his sax playing in the past to The Clangers and I stand by that comparison.

His compatriots on this album, John Edwards on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums, are no slouches either in creative use of their instruments. Often I found myself leaning in and listening closely to identify which instrument was making which sound.

Lovely drone-ey bits punctuated by moments of excitement, and vice versa.

Just an all around enjoyable album for anyone who values creative artists expressing themselves through music.

#LastDreamOfTheMorning #JohnButcher #JohnEdwards #MarkSanders #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack. #RelativePitchRecords

Battle Pieces

Battle Pieces by Nate Wooley.
Artist Website: Battle Pieces

Nate Wooley, Trumpet; Ingrid Laubrock, woodwinds; Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Matt Moran, Vibrophone.

I really enjoyed “battle pieces 2”, but I figured there must be a “battle pieces 1”. Recently was browsing the Relative Pitch Records website, and, well, there it was!

An unusual band in that it doesn’t have Bass or Drums, but does have piano & vibraphone. Well, I guess some people call the piano, “88 tuned drums”. Two chordal instruments and two linear instruments.

On Wooley’s website, the construction of the pieces is described as follows, “Each piece is constructed for a single soloist, who improvises with no score. The remaining members of the group perform an ever changing kaleidoscope of short and long pieces without verbal recourse with each other or the soloist…Different than freely improvising, this structure–now each player freely chooses from over 75 distinct compositions to combine with each other under the soloist–forces these great improvisers to confront new ways of making music away and expands their personal musical language.” Wooley is a fascinating player, a lot of what he does is tied up with exploring the harmonics of his horn, particularly by vocalizing while playing. It gives him a wide variety of “effects” to use on the pitches which his horn produces. I am not as familiar with the other players here. I know Ms Laubrock is closely associated with Anthony Braxton.

Of the pieces, I thought Mr Moran’s vibraphone contributions to Battle Pieces III were particularly fine, haunting, even, and especially unusual in combination with Ms Courvoisier’s piano.

#BattlePieces #NateWooley #IngridLaubrock #SylvieCourvoisier #MattMoran

Horizontal

Horizontal by Kevin Drumm.
Bandcamp Link: Horizontal

Horizontal is a longer release from Mr Drumm, about 90 minutes. Getting through it took a couple days.

Also, unfortunately, it is Drumm in a quieter, more delicate mode, so not a particularly good commute soundtrack. The road sounds pretty much destroy it.

So, instead of being a commute soundtrack, it ended up being a System Administration Soundtrack. A waiting for things to happen soundtrack.

Things are happening continually in the music, yet it is fairly static.

I was thinking about it, and it reminded me most of spending time examining a Calder mobile. Speculating what might be influencing its motion. Is it the wind? Gravity? The Earth’s rotation?

Likewise, I wonder what Drumm is doing to create this music. Does he just set up the different samples and let them go, a sort of Rube Goldberg mechanism, and the events he launches interact on their own? Or is he involved with the processing?

You probably have to be in the right frame of mind to just put this on and dig it, but I find it is good music to think to. Think about concepts like leaving space in your music, not just for your ideas, but for your listeners’ ideas as well.

#KevinDrumm #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Horizontal

What is Tea?

For our purposes, we will say “Tea” is an infusion of the leaves and leaf buds of closely related plants in the Camellia family, Camellia sinensis.

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is native to China. It is now grown in other regions of the world, but all tea plants originated in one of several regions in China.

Most tea is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, but there are thousands of varieties and cultivars.

The Cantonese word for tea is “Ch’a” in Cantonese and written as follows:

As you can see above, the character for tea is made up of three parts, the character for “grass”, the character for “Man standing at his place on earth”, and the character for “Tree”. (And, actually, the word, “Ch’a” refers to “early picked” tea, like green tea. Later picked tea is called “Ming” or “Chuan”.)

According to this website, Tea Names:

“The original English pronunciation of the word tea was tay and it’s usage can be traced back to around 1655 when the Dutch introduced both word and beverage to England. This pronunciation can still be heard today in certain British dialects. The pronunciation tee also originated in the 1600’s but only gained predominance after the late 18th century. Both words may have come from the Malay teh or the Chinese (Amoy dialect) t’e.”

So, languages which call it something like “Tea” are derived from the Malay and Southern Chinese name for tea and those that call it something like “Cha” are derived from the Cantonese name. The Dutch, British, and Americans call it something like “tea”. The Indians and Russians call it something like “Cha”. Basically, the word your language uses for “tea” indicates the trading partner your language originally got its tea from. If you traded with the Dutch or English to get your tea, you call it something like “tea”. If you traded with the Chinese, you call it something like “Ch’a”.

In China there are 6-8 different types of tea, primarily distinguished by either their geographic production areas or their method of production.

The six primary types are:

  • Green Tea
  • Yellow Tea
  • White Tea
  • Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea (Actually called Red Tea in China.)
  • Dark Tea


  • Then there are a couple special sub-categories which are sometimes treated on their own, sometimes not:

  • Pu’er Tea
  • Flavored Tea
  • But before we get to discussing tea varieties, we’ll talk a bit more about the tea plant and tea farms.

    Not So Reluctant TEA-Totaler

    As a devout tea drinker, for a long time my default teas were either Dragonwell or Gunpowder, Chinese Green teas. But, lately, I’ve found that those two aren’t to my taste so much. Gunpowder, I find, has a kind of tobacco/ashtray taste that I never noticed before, and the buzz from Dragonwell is, well, kind of harsh. I had one of my worst ever anxiety/panic attacks after drinking a pot of very strong, oversteeped Dragonwell, and we just haven’t been in the same place since. Anyway, lately, I am finding the funky taste of Pu Erh is appealing. Not to mention, the buzz is pretty awesome, more ecstatic and heady than the harsh body buzz of Dragonwell. #teanerd

    More information to follow.