If you want to know about contemporary British jazz or prog, you go to Downtown Music Gallery, where between them Bruce Gallanter and Manny Maris are an encyclopedic repository of knowledge and infallible taste. So when on my most recent trip there, Bruce passed me a sampler called Who Is Phil Gibbs? and told me the titular guitarist would be playing a series of shows in NYC (including his USA debut), I played said disc as soon as I got home, and was immediately intrigued.
In its listing, TONY calls Phil Gibbs "a staunch free-improviser" and goes on to compare him to Derek Bailey, but that's just one facet of his multi-stylistic habits. Drawing from a variety of contexts, with recording dates ranging from 2000 to this year, the CD's eight tracks reveal a far more versatile musician than TONY suggests. Read more »
Jazz pianist Borah Bergman died the same day as David Ware, but as he was a more obscure figure known mostly to hardcore devotees of the avant-garde, the news traveled more slowly. Famous or not, his talents and imagination were prodigious, as his peers knew. John Zorn called him "one of the greatest pianists of our time," and Peter Brötzmann declared, "Borah Bergman was my favorite pianist. One of the few pianists who can work with me at all." Chris Kelsey, both a saxophonist and a critic, proclaimed him "perhaps the most technically accomplished pianist in jazz -- and if he's not at the top, then he's certainly on a short list of two." Read more »
Saxophonist David S. (Spencer) Ware was a towering presence on the New York free jazz scene, an artist of compelling gravity and musical intensity. Even after health problems that culminated in a 2009 kidney transplant, he came back strong, his post-operation return coming in a completely solo concert that was a strong statement. This year, the kidney problems returned, and he passed away last night after being hospitalized.
As I once wrote here, Ware united two strands of free jazz: the powerfully full-toned tenor sax blower, and the intellectual craftsman. Although Ware was classified as a free jazz player, he was mentored by Sonny Rollins (who among other things taught him circular breathing), and Ware's music looked back to some earlier jazz styles, though almost always in a fully assimilated way that had no revivalism about it. Read more »
This was the bittersweet climax of Lynyrd Skynyrd's career. After a wild ride to stardom, these Southern Rock icons took a breather to craft an album more slowly than on their other four studio efforts, the last of which had seen a slip in standards. They succeeded triumphantly with Street Survivors, which shipped gold on October 17, 1977.
Three days later a plane crash killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve's sister), and road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and injured the rest of the band. MCA recalled the original LP cover [left], which depicted the seven main band members amid red-and-yellow flames, substituting a plainer, less eerily violent photo. (Most CD editions have reverted to the original cover.) Read more »
The son of a vicar (and Charles Darwin was his great-uncle), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) became one of the most popular English composers. He studied under Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry at the Royal College of Music, but also read history and music at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he palled around with the philosophers Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore. He also went to Germany for lessons with Max Bruch, but ultimately rejected the 19th century German Romantic style Friendships with fellow RCM students Gustav Holst and Leopold Stokowski later bore more fruit, in different ways: Stokowski, who moved to the United States, became RVW's biggest supporter there; Holst and Vaughan Williams critiqued each others' work and joined in the study and collection of English folk songs. "The knowledge of our folk songs did not so much discover for us something new, but uncovered something which had been hidden by foreign matter," Vaughan Williams said. Read more »
It's one of the questions artists get asked most often: how did you create such-and-such a song/painting/play/etc. Lots of them prefer not to talk about it, but Imogen Heap leads us on a tour, both literally and figuratively, in explaining the origins and process that produced a new song in connection with a film about trekking across Bhutan. Enjoy this two-part video (the second part was just released today), then head to the film's Kickstarter page. Read more »
Yoko Ono, an icon of imagination in a variety of artistic fields, declares that "inspiration, energy and elevation"are the themes that have run through all her creative activities. Her new album, YOKOKIMTHURSTON (which I reviewed for eMusic.com) is a collaboration with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore that embodies those qualities as thoroughly and provocatively as any album she's released since her classic '70s LPs. Read more »
This is DeMent's first album in eight years, and her first of all original songs since 1996. I don't know whether that's her choice or a result of the sad state of the music biz, though I'm guessing the latter. Either way, Sing the Delta is a long-overdue comeback. It doesn't seem, though, that she'd necessarily been saving up these songs for a long time; at the least, there's a thread or two running through the twelve songs here that nearly makes this a concept album -- in a loose way, but it can definitely be sensed, though it's hard to sum it up in a word or a phrase. It's more like a feeling. Read more »
I love this group for featuring Billy Harper, one of the most underrated tenor saxophonists and jazz composers on the scene. That said, it is pretty much an all-star band; the arguable exception, trumpeter David Weiss -- the youngest member -- is the arranger of all the non-Harper tracks on the band's third album, and thus puts as much of a stamp on the project as anyone. The other players are trumpeter Eddie Henderson, long a member of Harper's superb quintet; alto saxophonist Craig Handy, the second-youngest member, who used to have another band with Weiss (pop-culture aside: they also collaborated on the music for The Cosby Mysteries); and the ace rhythm section of pianist George Cables, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Billy Hart, all three of whom contribute compositions here. Read more »
Raymond Byron and the White Freighter
Little Death Shaker (Asthmatic Kitty)
Raymond Byron = Ray Raposa of Castanets. The press release goes to great lengths to differentiate this new project from Castanets, however. Some of that is justified. It often rocks more than Castanets. It includes two covers, Dan Reeder's tragicomic "You'll Never Surf Again" and folk legend Kate Wolf's "You're Not Standing Like You Used To" (no Castanets LP has any covers). There's also a little more use of clearly delineated narrative than in the past. Read more »
On Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM, Colony Music -- located on Broadway and 49th Street in New York City -- closed its doors for the last time. This venerable music store had been open for over 60 years, selling CDs, sheet music, and music-related memorabilia, including entertainment-related autographs. Its closing marks the end of an era (or maybe more than one) in New York City: after the closing of Patelson's Music House (which specialized in sheet music and scores for classical music) in 2009 after an 89-year run, Colony was nearly the last store devoted primarily to sheet music and music scores -- mostly for Broadway, jazz, pop, and rock, but also some classical music -- and by far the most visible. Read more »
Shortly after 9/11, and very definitely as a personal response to that event, I wrote an article about Requiems for CDNOW, where I worked at the time (just a few blocks away from Ground Zero; fortunately our workday started at 10 AM, so I wasn't there yet that day, but in the weeks that followed there were days where, if the wind came from the wrong direction, we would go home early, it made us so sick). In the years since, I have written about music composed in response to that tragedy, such as John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls. But now I find myself being drawn back to the Requiem idea. Here's a much-expanded take on it. Read more »
John Cage (September 5, 1912 - August 12, 1992) revolutionized music as much as anyone in the 20th century. His first important music was for percussion ensembles, utilizing both homemade and ethnic instruments as well as "found objects." He achieved a breakthrough when he moved this style of composition onto the piano by placing objects between the strings to alter the sound and achieve a more percussive effect. This "prepared piano" style caught the attention of avant-garde tastemakers, and he moved to New York, where his music shocked mainstream audiences and critics. Read more »
W.F. Bach (1710-1784) was Johann Sebastian Bach’s first son, and reputedly his favorite. Needless to say, he received a top-notch musical education. Despite his considerable talents as a composer and performer, though, he was eclipsed by all of his younger composing brothers: Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, certainly, who even now are considered more important and played more frequently, but even by Johann Christoph Friedrich, who was more successful at the time, though nowadays W.F.’s work has a better reputation than J.C.F.’s now-obscure output. The difference, apparently, was that W.F. got along with employers even worse than his dad had. Read more »
The long and acclaimed history of this fabled Lower East Side band gets a new chapter with this two-CD, nearly two-hour studio album. When leader Michael Gira revived Swans after a 13-year hiatus, the result, 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, was not a rehash of the band’s past styles -- which, summarized simplistically, would be loud, abrasive noise for its first five years, then for the next eleven, a quieter, more nuanced sound (though with equally disturbing lyrics) that emphasized female vocalist Jarboe -- but rather a combination of them. On The Seer, Swans’ sound continues to evolve. Gira states, “The Seer took 30 years to make. It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined.” Read more »