Water is Life

I live in San Francisco where our water is mostly snowmelt from the Sierras (Hetch Hetchy) or pretty neutral water from a few city wells.

SF PUC does often add a pretty heavy dose of Chloramine, so the water does need to be filtered, (and there is sometimes a bit of off flavor,) but mostly a quick trip through a britta or maytag filter is all that you need to get it ready for tea.

After a bit of filtration, the water here is very neutral and ready to let almost any tea shine without much effort.

Other areas of the world, it can be a bit more challenging. For example, I grew up in the Midwest in an area where all the water came from wells tapping into limestone aquifers. The water there was horrible for tea. I spent much of my young life trying and trying to make a good cup of tea and failing over and over.

I recently visited an area of California where the tap water comes almost exclusively from volcanic mineral hot springs. The water there is so mineral laden that the it nearly tastes like tea just coming straight out of the tap.

The hotel where we stayed even filtered it heavily through the device pictured above. I spent several days futilely trying to get a good cup of tea out of it, even with teas that I was familiar with from home.

I suppose it is interesting, as in China mountain spring water is most often highly thought of for tea brewing, the most famous, of course, being that from the “Dragon Well” in Long jing, which is said to be very heavy in texture.

But, I don’t really remember the tea there tasting like anything but tea leaves in water.

In any case, it’s always good to remember that tea is 99.99% water. If the water doesn’t taste good, the tea you make from it won’t taste good either.

Steeped Dragonwell Tea-2

Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu
Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu tea from Tong Xin She.

It was almost 80F here yesterday, so time to get out the green tea.

However, the 2021 green teas aren’t quite available yet, so I pulled one out of the cabinet from last year. This is a Gui Ding Yunwu from Guizhou province, which I got from @tong_xin_she.

“Yunwu” means literally, “Cloud and Mist”, describing the weather and climate in the tea mountains and has become a bit of a generic name for roasted green teas. Gui Ding is the county in Guizhou that this tea comes from.

In the past, the better quality versions of this tea were thought of highly enough for this sometimes be an imperial tribute tea.

The little rolled buds and leaves are said to resemble fish hooks.

It reminds me a bit of a good quality Mao Jian, light flower and perfume in the scent with a hint of medicinal character, grainy honey sweetness in the flavor, a touch of astringency, and a long lasting aftertaste.

If I were an Imperial Official, I would be happy to have this Gui Ding Yunwu in my teacup.

#Tea #Cha #TongXinShe #GuiDingYunwu #GreenTea #DrinkTea #TeaLife

2019 GC High Mountain Oolong

2019 GC High Mountain Oolong
2019 GC High Mountain Oolong

I’m gonna call this tea @mudandleaves GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2019, ‘cos I find its actual traditional name a little creepy. Mud and Leaves also suggested calling it by its Pinyin name, “Huangjin Guafei Wulong” (Link to the GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2020).

GC High Mountain Oolong is a type of Taiwanese Oolong which the growers intentionally allow/encourage to be bitten by an insect called the Tea Jassid, a type of leaf hopper. The teas are also commonly called “Bug Bitten Oolong”.

The producers of this type of tea say that the insects’ bites on the leaves cause the tea to have a sweeter character.

On a practical level, these teas do not generally have the same levels of perfume and/or types of flavors evocative of fruit that you would expect from an oolong tea. Or maybe a different type of fruit.

Instead, the primary characteristics of Bug Bitten Oolongs are more reminiscent of Fujianese white teas. Early steeps have flavor and a thicker mouthfeel a bit reminiscent of minerally dry white wine, perhaps minerally Sancerre or very dry gewurztraminer. Subtle floral scents dominate the middle steeps, which fade to sweet grain-like flavor the later steeps. A long lasting light after taste stays in your mind and palate.

The energy seems concentrated in the throat and upper chest.

As is usual with all of their teas, Mud and Leaves’ 2019 GC High Mountain Oolong is an excellent example of this style of tea. Like White Teas, Bug Bitten teas are great summer teas, sweet, with a lasting cooling effect. (For the record, I also got the cool Dragon cup and nifty Ruyao Porcelain Gaiwan in these pictures from Mud and Leaves.)

As an aside, one of the most interesting things about Taiwanese teas, which are often formed into pearl shape, is when you weigh the dry leaves, it never seems like enough tea, yet when the leaves unfurl, you are always surprised by how much they fill the gaiwan.

#Tea #Cha #TaiwaneseTea #HighMountainOolong #MudAndLeaves #DrinkTea

Pillars


Pillars by Tyshawn Sorey.
Bandcamp Links: Pillars

Stephen Haynes: trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, alto horn, small percussion
Ben Gerstein: trombone, melodica
Todd Neufeld: electric and acoustic guitar
Joe Morris: electric guitar, double bass
Carl Testa: double bass, electronics
Mark Helias: double bass
Zach Rowden: double bass
Tyshawn Sorey: conductor, drum set, dungchen, percussion, trombone

Tyshawn Sorey’s newest album is perhaps his “magnum opus”. AKA, “A large and important work of art, music, or literature, especially one regarded as the most important work of an artist or writer.”

It is composed of three parts, Pillars I, II, and III.

Each part is a single continuous piece around an hour and 20 minutes long. So, obviously, even after a week of listening to it, I’m still chewing my way through it.

Pillars I and II were released as a double CD. Pillars III was released as a double album. The whole thing is only available in its entirety in digital formats.

Ballsy.

The large slabs of continuous music initially tempted me to compare it to Cecil Taylor. But, listening, I find it has more in common with Bill Dixon’s work.

Lengthy solos evolve into group interactions, then dissolve again into solos.

The scope of the influences on the musicians spans much of contemporary music including 20th Century Classical,20th Century Pop, 21st Century Noise, and even Jazz.

Though, Mr Sorey has recently been getting some flack from Jazz Purists, so has taken to decorating his recent concert announcements on Instagram with the hilarious hash tag, #WeAreNotAJazzGroup.

This is a bold and inventive piece of work from one of the most important composers working in modern music. Outstanding.

#StephenHaynes #BenGerstein #JoeMorris #ToddNeufeld #CarlTesta #MarkHelias #ZachRowden #TyshawnSorey #Pillars #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Schizophrenic Blues

Schizophrenic Blues by Noah Howard.
Bandcamp Link: Schizophrenic Blues

Picked this up as an impulse buy from Destination: Out’s bandcamp site a while ago.

This is in the neighborhood of Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman, but, despite the title, lighter in tone than most of either of those men’s work.

Howard was born in New Orleans and grew up playing music in the Church. You can hear it in his harmonies. Great work all around, especially notable are the trumpet and alto sax interactions between trumpeter Itaru Oki and Howard.

Also, there is an ear catching double bass solo from Jean-Jacques Avenel which opens the song, “Creole Girl”. For what it is worth, both bassist Avenel and drummer Oliver Johnson would go on to play in Steve Lacy’s groups in the 1980s.

#SchizophrenicBlues #NoahHoward #ItaruOki #JeanJacquesAvenel #oliverjohnson

Year of the Snitch

Year of the Snitch by Death Grips.

I have to admit Death Grips are kind of a guilty pleasure for me.

An often offensive blend of metal, hardcore, and rap.

Year of the Snitch is their new album.

Like many of the kids, Death Grips are trying on some retro stylee.

Cheesy sounding synths, tacky beats, and leftover metal riffs that sound like they are from Whitesnake or Motley Crue b-sides.

Feels like they have travelled back in time to capture the feel of that first album the Beastie Boys did for Rick Rubin.

Anyway, the production is so grungy that I can’t really tell you what any of the songs are about, aside from to say that they use plenty of profanity. So, if you are sensitive to cursing, this isn’t the album for you. This may not be the Century for you.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack#DeathGrips #YearOfTheSnitch

Scratch, Slice, Jag

Scratch, Slice, Jag by Jeb Bishop and Dan Ruccia.
Bandcamp Link: Scratch, Slice, Jag

Trombone and Viola. Not one of those duo combinations that pops right out as an obvious choice.

In some sense, it does make sense, both are “slide” instruments (of a sort) and neither are typical “lead” instruments. Why not put them together?

This is the sort of improvised more akin to 20th Century “modern classical” music than what most people think of as “Jazz”. Both players are very good at listening and responding to each other, no matter how far out they go. And I can definitely say some of the sounds on this album surprised me, that they came out of a Viola or a Trombone.

I was initially dubious, not being much of a trombone guy, but after a couple times through, it is growing on me.

#DanRuccia #JebBishop #ScratchSliceJag #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

No Agreement

No Agreement by Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Africa 70.
Bandcamp Link: No Agreement

There’s a good story about Lester Bowie in, “Message to Our Folks: The Art Ensemble of Chicago”.

The Art Ensemble had finished up a European tour and most of the band headed back to the US.

Lester had some money left and decided, as an African American musician, instead of going home, he wanted to go to Africa and play with the biggest name in African music of the time, Fela Kuti.

So, without knowing anyone in Nigeria, he booked a flight to Lagos. He gets to the hotel, drops off his bags, grabs his trumpet. Hails a cab. He asks the cab driver to “take me to Fela”. Amazingly, the cab driver does not flinch and drives the crazy American Jazz musician right to Fela’s compound.

Bowie arrives unannounced, shows Fela his trumpet, and Fela decides to audition him right then and there. Fela pulls out a Jamey Aebersold record and tells Lester to play along. Blues in B Flat. Lester, of course, aces this audition, and stays in Nigeria for several months playing with Fela’s band and absorbing the culture.

The book says Bowie played on 5 of Fela’s albums during his stay in Nigeria from June to August of 1977, but this album is the only one I can find which credits Mr Bowie. He is a featured guest and takes a solo on both tracks. For my money, he acquits himself with more grace on the instrumental track, “Dog Eat Dog”.

Mr Bowie said about the experience, “Music life is a great time, if you just go on and trust it.” 

#FelaKuti #LesterBowie #NoAgreement #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Africa70

Proton Pump

Proton Pump by Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi with Masahiko Satoh.
Bandcamp Link: Proton Pump

Chikamorachi is the bass and drum combo of Darin Gray and Chris Corsano. They usually include a guest or two on each album. Reed player Akira Sakata is one of their more frequent collaborators. He is a Japanese woodwind player who is probably best known in the West for his appearance as a guest saxophonist on Last Exit’s “The Noise of Trouble” album.

I wasn’t familiar with keyboardist Masahiko Sato, but he brings the Cecil Taylor-esque multi handed polyphonies to keep up with way above the speed limit playing of Corsano, Gray, and Sakata. Interestingly, I also hadn’t remembered that Sakata played clarinet. For someone primarily known as a Sax player, he plays a pretty mean clarinet.

This is Energetic “Free Jazz”, with some Bebop-ish runs and the odd Jazz/Blues lick. It will get you to work faster than you usually drive.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Chikamorachi #DarinGray #ChrisCorsano #AkiraSakata #MasahikoSatoh

All Nerve

All Nerve by the Breeders.

A lot of my middle aged friends are listening to this new Breeders album, so I thought I should give it a listen.

Produced by Steve Albini, the classic “Last Splash” lineup of the Breeders has resolved (or forgotten) their differences and reunited. Kim and Kelley are both sober, and like the rest of us, middle aged.

It certainly sounds like a Breeders album, though a lot of the songs make me realize a) that the Breeders sound a bit like wire b) many of the good bits of the Pixies came from Kim Deal.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #TheBreeders #AllNerve