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.

    K.O.

    K.O. by Miss Red.
    Bandcamp Link: K.O.

    This is Miss Red’s second album. Both albums have been produced in collaboration with Kevin Martin, aka The Bug.

    I like Reggae and Dub Reggae, but I am not really up on the terminology of the modern derivatives thereof. I believe Miss Red is a sort of dancehall toaster. The vocabulary and subject matter is fairly typical of this sort of music, though, not, that I can tell, particularly vulgar or as sexually suggestive as some of it can be. Ahem, the video for the song “Dagga” IS pretty freaky.

    The songs are short, 3-5 minutes, the sonic landscapes are very dense and full of echo and pan. The music is mostly percussive samples, there’s not a lot of pitched instruments going on beyond Miss Red’s voice.

    I enjoyed the album a lot, but sort of felt like the tunes ended just as they were getting going and the environments are starting to stretch into themselves. Probably better to see live.

    #MissRed #KO #KevinMartin #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #TheBug

    Theirs

    Theirs by Thumbscrew.
    Bandcamp Link: Theirs

    Again, Thumbscrew is Michael Formanek, Bass; Tomas Fujiwara, Drums; Mary Halvorson, guitar.

    Thumbscrew released two albums on the same day earlier this year, one called “Ours” and one called “Theirs”. It wasn’t until I came to listen to “Theirs” today that I realized why they were named such. “Ours” is all original tunes by the band. “Theirs” is all tunes by other composers.

    I hesitate to call these “standards” as the songs are, as they say, “Deep Cuts” from composers like Bennie Golson, Herbie Nichols, Wayne Shorter, Stanley Cowell, and Misha Mengleberg.

    They are all mostly ballads.

    After the inventive playing and compositions on “Ours”, I find the more conservative tack of “Theirs” a tad disappointing.

    The melodies are handled by the guitar player Halvorson, occasional solos are given to bass player Formanek, and the drummer mostly sticks to brushes.

    It’s not that it is a bad record, it just feels kind of predictable. Which is odd for a group of musicians as talented and interesting as these are. But, maybe being “predictable” for these musicians is being “unpredictable”? I guess, ultimately, I’d say, if you liked the sound and interactions on “Ours”, but found it a bit too eclectic for your tastes, maybe “Theirs” is the album for you.

    #Thumbscrew #Theirs #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MaryHalvorson #TomasFujiwara #MichaelFormanek

    Ours

    Ours by Thumbscrew.
    Bandcamp Link: Ours

    Thumbscrew is Michael Formanek, Bass; Tomas Fujiwara, drums; Mary Halvorson, guitar.

    Formanek is probably best known for his work in the sphere of Tim Berne and from his own ensembles. Fujiwara and Halvorson have spent time in the circles of Anthony Braxton’s recent ensembles.

    Halvorson’s work is often prickly and angular, trad jazz folks complain it doesn’t “swing” or “rock”. She plays with largely dry tone on a big hollow body that is almost as tall as she is. Her main thing seems to be balancing between electric sound of the amplified guitar, the acoustic sound of the plucked guitar strings, and discreet use of a looper/delay.

    Formanek is a very melodic and flexible bass player, despite his involvement in Berne’s often full contact ensembles. I feel it is his often bowed sound that is the heart of this ensemble.

    Fujiwara, I would describe as a lithe and nimble drummer, one second he is playing swing time, the next he is tick-tacking along as if he were playing percussion in an orchestra, the next he is dragging the surprising sounds out if his kit, and the next he is playing a rock beat.

    Anyway, for musicians who have spent a lot of time playing “difficult” music and who play in an ensemble called “thumbscrew”, this is a very accessible and pleasant album. Even lyrical in places! No one will mistake it for a Jim Hall or John McLaughlin trio, but there is a lot of variety here and a surprising amount of swinging and rocking.

    It seems like the ensemble is very democratic, with three songs composed by each member. Certainly, everyone is pulling their weight. My favorite tunes are probably “Smoketree”, “Cruel Heartless Bastards”, and “Words That Rhyme With Spangle (angle bangle dangle jangle mangel mangle strangle tangle wangle wrangle)”. I even picked one tune from each member without knowing beforehand who had written them!

    They are all at the top of their game.

    #Thumbscrew #Ours #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MichaelFormanek #TomasFujiwara #MaryHalvorson

    sextet | quintet

    sextet | quintet by Polyorchard.
    Bandcamp Link: sextet | quintet

    Polyorchard is North Carolina bassist/composer David Menestres’ (@abstracttruth) ensemble.

    His music is, as is much of the music I listen to, improvised music heavily influenced by modern composed music. Which is to say, there aren’t a lot of traditional “Jazz” idioms or forms floating around in this music.

    From what I can tell, the musicians in Polyorchard vary from album to album and concert to concert, depending on the feels Mr Menestres is going for (and I assume which musicians are available). This edition of Polyorchard is heavy on lower pitched acoustic stringed instruments and acoustic brass instruments.

    The sextet portion is trombone, cello, trumpet, double bass, tuba, and viola. The quintet portion is trombone, cello, double bass, viola, and trumpet.

    It is a live concert, but it is recorded very well.

    OK, with all that out of the way, this is a fantastic album!

    Heartfelt, moving, adventurous, and eclectic. At this point I’m going with “0733” as my favorite tune of the bunch, but they’re all good. Sonic adventures into what sounds are possible, (and some that seem impossible,) to make with these instruments.

    And all that sounds kind of stuffy, but the music doesn’t feel academic. The album feels and it breaths, and pulls you along with the musicians.

    New favorite album of the year!

    #Polyorchard #sextetquintet #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #DavidMenestres #JebBishop #ChrisEubank #DanRuccia #JacobWick #BillMcConaghy #DavidMorris #Calandriniaspectabilis