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April 2008 Archives

April 1, 2008

Crypto Goes Entirely Smooth Jazz*

[Reported by guest blogger James Ellroy]*


Crypto timed out. Crypto torqued. Crypto fought the good fight. Now its payback. Now the tea time is over. The ladies' lunch is finito. The church cake-walk has been cancelled due to acid rain. Behold the twi-night of weird space-jazz. Toss the flowers on the coffin. Play the fanfare. Close the casket lid. Dimes on the eyelids. Ash to ash. Time to move on. Time to get goin.

Why did they ask me to break the news? Why did they ask me to let you down easy? Cause I don't let anyone off easy. To me, it's a world of panty-sniffers. To me, it's a world full of company stooges with pink erasers for heads. To me, it's a world made entirely of apple-brown betty. To me, it's a world of dope-sick whores eating big sloppy deli sandwiches. Give the peeps what they want, foolio.

Crypto's neon sigh flicks off. Crypto's neon sign flicks back on. Can you read it reeeeal slow? It says "Smooooooooth."

That's right. Smooth jazz is what sells. Wait, where was I? Oh yes. Smoooth jazz. Get used to it, pelican pants. We're talking Scott Amendola in a tuxedo. We're talking Jeff Gauthier sluicing thru "Embraceable You" at the Cha-Cha Lounge at the LAX Hilton. We're talking Alan Pasqua -- also in afore'd tux -- posing next to his piano with one elbow on the keys and holding a red rose to his face. We're talking the Clines of Western Civilization -- Nels and Alex -- jamming with Bob James and Dave Koz at the Playboy Jazz Festival. We're talking new records with distincto titles. The Ben Goldberg Orchestra's The Way You Make Me Feel When You Make Me Feel That Way. Myra Melford's Harmonium in a Terrarium. Darek Oles' Impressions of a Beverly Hills Acura Dealership.

Hold it. My sentences are getting too long...

LA is one long human processional. LA is the Balkans of the West. LA is a skin flick without the skin, the dialogue or the soundtrack. Crypto is the spackle for that hole. Crypto is now smoooooth. As apple butter. As a mastiff's belly. As Hugh Hefner's pajamas. It's about time.
It is eminently do-able. It's within the realm of possibility.

Like, f'rinstance, me going this whole time without once mentioning The Black Dahlia or Johnny Stompananto. See? It can be done, you hipster hives.

*[Happy April Fools Day, from the gang at Crypto]

April 3, 2008

Desert Island Dozens: Peter Erskine

Ted Goia's Jazz.com website features an extensive list of what recordings our friend drummer Peter Erskine -- who plays tomorrow at the Swedish Jazz Celebration in dear ol' Stockholm -- would take with him to a desert island. Check it out here.


April 4, 2008

Boppin' with Maupin

Yes, we realize that the word "legendary" -- especially in jazz and blues circles -- is tossed around to the point where it nearly becomes meaningless, but it sure doesn't apply when it comes to multi-reedist/composer/bandleader Bennie Maupin.

The Maestro

For anyone who wants to see the master in action, Mr. Bennie will celebrate the release of his new recording Early Reflections on Cryptogramophone Records, Friday, April 18th at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, CA. There will be two sets, at 8:00 PM and 10:00PM.

As anyone with a modem should know by now, Bennie Maupin's "comeback" (one might argue the man never left) came in a one-two punch with the release of the critically lauded Penumbra in 2006 and the re-release of his classic 1974 album The Jewel in the Lotus last year. Early Reflections is a beautiful recording of Maupin's Polish quartet featuring Michal Tokaj on piano (Tomasz Stanko's pianist), and guest vocalist Hania Rybka on two tracks. Joining Maupin, Tokaj and Rybka for this performance will be bassist Darek Oles, drummer Michael Stephans, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson. The ensemble will also be performing in New York City at the Jazz Standard, April 26-27 as a part of Cryptonights at Jazz Standard. Early Reflections will be released April 22nd.

Continue reading "Boppin' with Maupin" »

April 8, 2008

Nels Announces New Dates/Record

(OK, he didn't announce them personally -- we got a forwarded email. But hey, the guy's busy...)

(Cool photo, Daniel Brielmaier!)

Anyhoo, barely decompressing after Wilco's Spring 2008 tour, Nels Cline will drag his "Singers"
-- bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott "Pops" Amendola -- out on the road for a brief early Summer sprint.

6/01 The Dakota (Minneapolis, MN)
6/02 High Noon Saloon (Madison, WI)
6/03 Martyr’s (Chicago, IL)
6/04 The Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis, IN)
6/05 The Ark (Ann Arbor, MI)
6/06 Paramount Theatre (Charlottesville, VA)
6/08 Suoni per II Popolo Festival (Montreal, Quebec)

Mr. Cline will go into the studio next week ("at an undisclosed location" -- hopefully not the same one Dick Cheney uses) to record his next solo Crypto drop. Tentative title: Coward. (Release date: TBA.) As if this is any surprise, he'll also be playing out in L.A. a few dates next week with Banyan.

April 11, 2008

Jazz in the Modern Era

“We take a lot for granted in Southern California. We take the weather for granted. We take the ocean for granted. And we take it for granted that in our midst we have a group of legendary musicians and artists that play a music called jazz."
-Chet Hanley

For the past six years, professor and historian Chet Hanley has been literally putting these words to music. He had hosted over 150 episodes (many of them 3 hours long) of Jazz in the Modern Era, a college curriculum course and jazz music television show broadcast from the campus of Cal-State Dominguez Hills (Locally, it airs Tuesdays, 9:00 - 10:30PM on Time-Warner Cable Channel 36, and online). And Chet's in good company: cornetist Bobby Bradford once taught at the Dominguez-Hills campus in the late-60's-early 70's.

Chet Hanley (left) with Leroy Downs

JITME viewers are encouraged to call in to speak with in-studio guests and discuss their favorite selections or artists. Chet has featured jazz musicians, club owners, photographers, promoters, writers, historians and collectors from all over the country. But what makes his show so special is its documenting of the Southern California jazz scene: the show's archives, once they are completed and available online, will amount to a massive treasure trove of local jazz history from Central Avenue to Leimert Park. (Many of the writers, collectors and historians who stop by bring along rare performances of jazz greats, which makes it a terrific window into the tributaries of the SoCal jazz underground, who trade their wares they way Dave Matthews fans trade live bootlegs.) And then there's Chet, an urbane and genial host with an encyclopedic knowledge of not just jazz history but poetry, boxing, photography and art. (Think Tavis Smiley without all that flash and flummery.) And, true to jazz, the show often goes in unexpected directions, like the time funk great Rick James made a call in to the live broadcast...

Currently, the most recent season of "Jazz in the Modern Era" is available on the Cal-Sate Dominguez Hills website. It's a bit buried in the maw, so we'll give you some quick guidelines for access to the online archives:

(1) Go to the Cal-State Dominguez Hills website: http://www.csudh.edu/

(2) On the top right-hand side of the homepage, click on the "Quick Links" and scroll down to click on "Distance Learning."

(3) You should be on a page with the title "DominguezOnline." On the left side, click on "Online-TV Archives."

(4) Click on the link: "IDS 336 Jazz in the Modern Era"

(5) A pop-up page should appear, titled "Index of /jazzS08"; below is the list of shows to watch. We'll let you know (when Chet lets us know) when all 168 episodes will be available.

Tonight at 8pm at the World Stage in Leimert Park, Chet and his compadres Jeffrey Winston and Clint Rosemond, will be hosting World Stage Stories, a live oral history interview with various luminaries and legends (oops, there's that word again) of the loCal jazz scene. Tonight, to commemorate of the birthday of pianist/bandleader Horace Tapscott (April 6 -- Happy B-Day, Aries!), fellow historian Steve Isoardi, author of the invaluable books Central Avenue Sounds, the Tapscott bio Songs of the Unsung, and The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles, will stop by for a lively chat.

April 14, 2008

David Witham Spills His Guts to AAJ

Before we get to Paul Olsen of All About Jazz's extensive (it even has a "Chapter Index"!) interview with rez Crypto ivory-man David Witham, we'd like to acknowledge the passing of L.A. jazz producer/promoter Oscar Cadena last week at the spry young age of 83. (Here's Jocelyn Stewart's obit from the LA Times.)

The Ozz-man

Our friend Kirk Silsbee recently wrote a fine 2006 profile for L.A. Citybeat of the gentleman everyone -- even those who never met him -- called "Ozzie."

by Kirk Silsbee

Jazz has always needed facilitators, people who open the channels between musicians and listeners. They’re impresarios, record producers, managers, label owners, club operators and even publicists. They carry out the nuts-and-bolts operations that bring the music to the marketplace. One of the most steadfast facilitators in Southern California jazz of the last 30 years has been Ozzie Cadena, who turns 83 in September. As he recuperates from a health crisis in a Torrance hospital, it’s worth examining Cadena’s contribution to the music.

Hermosa Beach’s current jazz profile is almost entirely due to Cadena. Ozzie brought jazz back to the Lighthouse after it had become a rock venue, first in the early ‘80s and recently since the late ‘90s. He also books the music into the nearby Sangria restaurant. Cadena spearheaded the action to have plaques that note the glorious Lighthouse history set into the pavement. (The city has ten plates that it expects to install in November.) He’s an east coaster who always acknowledged what West Coast jazz had to offer. It’s another chapter in the life of a facilitator who never could do enough for jazz.

Music took hold of Cadena at a young age. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, he shined shoes in the proximity of a street blues singer. Beginning at age twelve, Cadena took the train into Harlem every Saturday night and attended the Savoy Ballroom. The Home of Happy Feet was America’s prime laboratory and showcase for cutting edge vernacular dance. “I heard all the bands there,” he once said, in his clipped Jersey accent, “every one of ‘em.” His presence was so consistent that Cadena was known as ‘Newark’ to the other regulars. (One of them was a tall marijuana salesman known as Detroit Red, the future Malcolm X.) Every Saturday at midnight, management made sure that the underage Cadena was escorted to the nearby subway station.

Did he ever feel a racial draft? “One time some guy started to give me a bad time about dancin’ with a girl,” he relates. “He started callin’ me names and it almost got ugly. And one of the bouncers got between us. They were all ex-pugs who carried billy clubs. ‘He said, ‘This guy botherin’ you, Newark?’ I said, ‘This stupid bastard don’t like the Dodgers.’ That was the end of it.”

After serving in the Pacific in World War II, Cadena studied music, specifically, the bass. Music fundamentals would stand him well later on. After a stint as a jazz disc jockey, Cadena worked for the Newark-based Savoy Records in the ‘50s, as an A and R man and producer. He recorded swing era veterans like Coleman Hawkins and youngbloods like John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and his brother Nat. Ozzie almost single-handedly documented the explosion of young players who busted out of 1950s Detroit: Milt Jackson, Yusef Lateef, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, and Hank Jones.

Detroit provided Cadena with two sturdy and dependable pianists. “I used Hank Jones for the swing players like Hawkins,” Ozzie claimed. “For everybody else, I used Tommy Fanagan.” Cadena’s feel for black roots music served him well at Savoy. Big Maybelle, Jimmy Scott, and Nappy Brown were among Ozzie’s studio charges. Cadena earned a co-composer credit on Nappy’s “Night Time is The Right Time.” (When Ray Charles covered the tune, Cadena’s name was removed from the song and Savoy owner Herman Lubinsky’s was substituted.) Ozzie recorded blues pianist Sammy Price—whose history dated back to the 1920s, when he backed numerous blues singers—with tenor saxophonist King Curtis and guitarist Mickey Baker to make one of the greatest R&B instrumentals of all time, “Rib Joint.”

“I’m as proud of the gospel stuff I cut,” Cadena once confided, “as I am about anything else.” Gospel scholar Anthony Heilbut, in his groundbreaking study The Gospel Sound, cited Ozzie as one of the greatest of all sanctified music producers.

While Cadena had a gold card at Birdland, he also had entrée to the black churches in New Jersey. His gospel Savoys, with Ruth Davis and the Davis Sisters, among others, would make a formidable box set.

Lubinsky ran Savoy as a cut-rate operation. The artists might get less money for a recording session than what Blue Note or Prestige paid, but they had it in their hands on the way out of the studio. Junkie jazz musicians would take the short money, just so they didn’t have to wait. It was exploitation and the bad feeling that Lubinsky generated sometimes rubbed off on Cadena. “One day in the ‘50s,” he recalled, sitting at a table one night, “I was in Birdland. Billy Taylor was there, foolin’ around at the piano, and (bassist Charles) Mingus was there too. Miles Davis walked in. Mingus was always lookin’ to record, so he said, ‘Hey Ozzie—let’s find a drummer and get a record goin’.’ I said I could probably make a few calls and work it out. Miles said, ‘Who’s the record for?’ Mingus pointed to me and said, ‘It’s for his company.’” Cadena leaned forward and looked me in the eye as he continued, “Miles said: ‘Fuck you and ya mothufuckin’ record company!’” Leaning back in his seat, Cadena shrugged his rejoinder: “Hey, I’m workin’ for an asshole. You’re workin’ here, an’ you’re workin’ for an asshole.”

Birdland, the self-proclaimed “jazz corner of the world,” was probably the most important jazz club in the world at the time. Cadena had carte blanche entrée at all times. Babs Gonzales, a hustler first and a singer second, spotted Ozzie standing in a long line outside the club one night. “He said, ‘Ozzie, what are you doin’ here? Let’s you and me jump the line.’ I said, ‘No, Babs, that would be disrespecting all these people waiting to get in.’”

One day in the early ‘60s, Cadena was in a Harlem café having lunch. “Malcolm X walked in with a big group from the Nation of Islam,” Ozzie states. “This was when he was preachin’ the separation of blacks and whites. I was sittin’ in the back and after awhile, one of the lieutenants came over to my table. He said, ‘Malcolm just wants you to know that although he’s not able to break away from his work, he sends his regards to you.’”

One evening in ‘88, Cadena was at the Hyatt on Sunset Blvd. for the inaugural reception of a short-lived jazz organization. It was the kind of event that attracted everyone in jazz who was in town. Trumpeter Donald Byrd made a beeline to Cadena’s table. “Ozzie!” he almost shouted. “You makin’ any records?” Cadena smiled his lop-sided grin and shrugged. “Naw. You know how I make records: I get this guy and that guy and we go into the studio and roll the tape. They can’t use me anymore.” It was a light-hearted parry of the frustration he must have felt and it made light of the lifetime of preparation Cadena brought to the recording studio.

Ozzie’s studio philosophy was simple yet effective: pair up players from different schools and generations to stimulate a chemical reaction that will result in something new from each of them. Recording, for Cadena, was not rocket science. He was the first to bring Cannonball Adderley—then an unknown Florida schoolteacher who was on vacation in New York in ’55, into the studio. Ozzie is characteristically modest about beating the major labels to him. “If five guys tell you somebody can play,” he once offered with a shrug, “you record him. Simple as that.”

After Cannonball’s Cinderella debut—sitting in at a Greenwich Village club—veteran drummer Kenny Clarke took the Adderleys under his wing, steering them away from New York hustlers and to Cadena. Clarke was the first modern jazz drummer, who revolutionized drumming by moving the beat to his ride cymbal and accenting with sticks and bass drum “bombs.” He worked hand-in-hand with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk to redefine jazz in the bebop insurgency of the ‘40s. Cadena recorded Clarke at every possible opportunity, as he did with Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan.

The Clarke-Cadena relationship was symbiotic. In ’93, Cadena articulated it in a very informed way. “He had weaknesses in his playing, like everybody else, but he could give a band a good shim like nobody. Except Eddie Blackwell and Billy Higgins, but they came along much later. What I liked about Klook was his meter. He was not right on it with a ‘tick, tick, tick’--which could be too damn monotonous. His beat was like the ocean: sometimes it came in deeper, sometimes shorter. His beat might have varied mathematically a little but his playing just glided. The pulse was always there. When I’d walk into a club where Klook was playin’, I might not see that it was him but my ear could tell me that he was on the stand. The band was instantly loose and relaxed. He didn’t hit his cymbals as hard as a lot of guys but the sound he got was like a long ‘whoosh.’ The pulse was where he hit it but the vibrations off the cymbal were constant—like an organ with the key pressed down.”

Though Blue Note owner Alfred Lion was the producer of record on all of that label’s issues, Cadena, in fact, supervised Horace Silver’s Doin’ the Thing: Live at The Village Vanguard (Blue Note, ’61). Like Lion, Ozzie had a close working relationship with that most punctilious of jazz recording engineers, Rudy Van Gelder.

After working for Prestige Records in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Cadena relocated his family to Hermosa Beach. In ’82, Ozzie began booking jazz into the Silver Screen Lounge of the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. His efforts resulted in a little golden age for L.A. jazz. Cadena used the occasion to extend his recording modus operandi to the bandstand. He brokered first-time meetings between guitarist Tal Farlow and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, alto saxophonists Frank and Lanny Morgan, pianist Mal Wadron and Frank Morgan, guitarists John Collins and Tal Farlow, tenor saxophonists Lockjaw Davis and Joe Farrell.

Cadena also gave bandstand space to promising young players, usually in the company of veterans. Ozzie championed trumpeter Stacy Rowles, saxophonist Rickey Woodard and bassist Kristin Korb as youngsters. The excitement and the expectation that his combinations raised are something that Cadena has tried to carry through at the Lighthouse and Sangria. Of course, not all experiments yield great results. A local soloist, who prefers anonymity, has worked for Cadena a number of times. “I’ve always liked and respected Ozzie,” he stresses. “I think it’s great what’s he done in Hermosa Beach. But I don’t agree with the premise of throwing strangers in together. They do that at those jazz parties. I know the people like it but I think it’s a mish mosh. If I can bring my own band, the musicality is always at a much higher level than if I’m playing with someone for the first time.”

Still, Cadena knows the value of names on a roster, just as he knows the value of making live music available to the jazz audience. Getting the musicians into the studios and people into the clubs to hear the music is what he’s done with his life. It sounds simple and Cadena probably wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise. He’d probably just smile, and say something like: “I’m just trying to do something good for jazz.” (LA Citybeat, 8/03/06)

After a moment of silence.................................................................................................

Continue reading "David Witham Spills His Guts to AAJ" »

April 16, 2008

The Tofurky™ Sessions

"If you start it well and end it well, it doesn't matter what you do in the middle."
-Our Fearless Leader

As of Sunday night -- as far as we know -- O.C.D. ("Original Crypto Drummmer") Alex Cline's new record Continuation -- his first since 2001's The Constant Flame -- is in the can!

"Baba" Cline [Photo by Ethan Pines]

Rehearsals took place at Crypto Central on Thursday & Friday (April 10 & 11) and recording took place at the wisteria-covered Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank on Saturday & Sunday (April 12 & 13). Present for the sessions were Myra Melford on piano and harmonium, Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier on violin, Peggy Lee on cello, Scott Walton on bass and Rich Breen on the mixing board -- not to mention bassist/Buddhist John Graves (who kindly converted the charts into digitally rendered notation via Finale software) and photog Anne Fishbein, who crept with stealth around the action to snap album pics.

Continue reading "The Tofurky™ Sessions" »

April 18, 2008

L.A. Times ♥♥♥ Crypto

Local avant-garde jazz record company Cryptogramophone celebrates its milestone with a retrospective.
by Gina McIntyre, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Jeff Gauthier, president of the Culver City-based jazz factory Cryptogramophone, has spent the last 10 years releasing the work of avant-garde performers with a passion for both improvisation and melody -- people like percussionist Alex Cline, bassist Mark Dresser and bass clarinet player and saxophonist Bennie Maupin, the last of whom appeared on classic albums like Miles Davis' 1969 electric landmark Bitches Brew and popular '70s recordings with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters.

Da Crypto Boyz (photo by Anne Fishbein)

It was an unlikely turn for the former classical and studio violinist, who admits that his father had suggested he might want to study business at one point -- just in case. But Gauthier felt strongly that these artists deserved wider exposure, and after a friend, bassist Eric von Essen, who played with Gauthier in the seminal '80s chamber-jazz group Quartet Music, died from heart failure in 1997, he was determined to take action.

Continue reading "L.A. Times ♥♥♥ Crypto" »

April 22, 2008

Oh-de-Doo-da Drop Day

OK, the taxes have been paid; the checks are in the mail. Time for some enjoyment; time for YOU. As it so turns out, today's YOUR day: both Bennie Maupin's Early Reflections (review) and the Crypto 10th Anniversary comp Assemblage, 1998-2008 (review) are out-out-OUT. Why not treat yourself? I mean, we already have copies...



We caught Mr. Maupin with his awesome (as in "awe-inspiring") new band at their much-publicized gig at Catalina's last Friday. (Check out a review here.) This killer ensemble -- pianist Michal Tokaj, bassist Darek Oles, percussionist Munyungo Jackson, drummer Michael Stephans -- performed cooking versions of ER's "Escondido" and "Inner Sky." But the highlight (at least in Your Humble Blogger's ears) was when Bennie brought out the lovely and bewitching Polish folk singer Hania Chowaniec-Rybka (flown in from Warsaw!) to improvise on extended versions of "ATMA" and "Spirits of the Tatras." The proud Poles in the audience (and there were quite a few -- Solidarność!) cheered loudly and pounded their tables. One can only imagine the turnout this weekend when Mr. Maupin closes out Crypto's 10th Anniv. celebration at The Jazz Standard in New York. Unlike last year, YHB will not be attending, but I'd like to put out the call for anyone in the 5 Boroughs who plan on attending any of this week's concerts to post any of your experiences on our "Comments" board. We won't even correct the spelling. Honest!

Maestro Maupin will be busy elsewhere soon on another cool project with recently-relocated-to-UCLA Mr. James Newton, showcasing the music of L.A. native son Eric Dolphy with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, drummer Billy Hart, and our own Darek Oles. (It's pronounced "Dah-rek," not "Deh-rek" -- and don't ever make that mistake boyo.) The ensemble will play at the upcoming Heraldsburg Jazz Festival and record an album for old friend ECM. What's particularly exciting about "Celebrating Eric Allan Dolphy" -- besides the titanic talent involved, of course -- is that the group will be resurrecting music left behind by Dolphy when he embarked on his 1964 tour of Europe with the Charles Mingus sextet. (And, as we know, didn't come back.)

Last weekend, we tuned into NPR's Off Ramp with John Rabe and stumbled upon "My Teacher Alma," which profiled the great pianist/teacher Alma Hightower. It's short but sweet, and a nice intro for those interested in a bit of Black L.A. musical history.

April 24, 2008

Opening Night at Jazz Standard

Two Crypto fans showed up all the way from Louisville Kentucky for the opening night of Cryptogramophone’s 10-year celebration Cryptonights at Jazz Standard (April 23-27). So, what excuse does our erstwhile blogger Matthew Duersten have for not making the scene? It’s certainly not the weather, as Spring has definitely sprung here in New York City, with temperatures in the mid 70s. Even New Yorker’s attitudes seem sunnier this week…or maybe it’s just the afterglow of a great opening night.


As president of the “Hair Club for Creative Music,” I wear many hats. Much of my time over the last few months has been spent preparing for this week in NY, which has included booking shows, making travel arrangements, hotel accommodations, airport pickups, instrument rentals, coordinating promotion and interviews, etc. Considering all the possibilities, it must have been a small miracle that as few things went wrong as they did. However, having to play a show the same night as discovering that two musicians had been bumped from their hotel rooms, and that the instrument rental service had forgotten to deliver 3 cymbal stands and had sent a bum amp, raised the stress level a few notches.

Continue reading "Opening Night at Jazz Standard" »

April 25, 2008

Singers Raise the Standard


Last night the Nels Cline Singers invaded Jazz Standard. It was awe inspiring. We'll give a more detailed review of the band after tonight's show. For now, here's a set list that includes some old chestnuts not heard for quite a while (Thanks Brad). Don't forget to see Scott Amendola's set tonight which includes Charlie Hunter (!!!) Nels Cline, and Jenny Scheinman www.cryptonight.com:

Set I:

Dedication (Andrew Hill)
A Mug Like Mine
Blues 2
Sunken Song
"Two untitled pieces, for atmosphere and groove"

Set II:

Lullabye for Ian
Fly Fly
The Divine Homegirl
Something About David H.

April 28, 2008

Brick Kicks It

While the Crypto crew is flying home today after a week in New York -- and our Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier is being administered oxygen and B-12 shots for chronic exhaustion -- we'd thought we'd "reprint" an impassioned piece of jazz journalism from our friend Brick Wahl on the state of jazz in America in This Our Last Year of Khmer Bush. (Quite timely, given the news of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the IAJE last week.) We were working on a similar post to commemorate Jazz Appreciation Month, but Brick beat us and wrote "The Unpackaged Groove," something so searing and so passionate -- and so goddamn TRUE -- that we will defer this space to him today.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Artwork by John Heard)

by Brick Wahl
The table was so close, it abutted the stage, and when Azar blew that soprano of his you could look straight up into its innards and almost see the frantic rush of notes coming out all harmonized. It was that close. So close that you could feel the rhythm section, Lorca Hart’s pounding toms and John Heard’s thrumming bass and Nate Morgan’s jagged chords vibrating through the stage and through the table and into our bones. They had a groove going, a monster jazz groove, and it was unstoppable. Even Azar gave into it, left the stage to let the groove whirl itself senseless, turning and turning, ever widening. Morgan’s fingers were completely mad, pounding and pirouetting insanely intricate melodies out of Monk and McCoy and the blues and Chopin. Lorca, laughing, was all motion and whirring sticks. Yet things did not fall apart. Because holding down that center was Heard, just his second night back at Charlie O’s after a long, scary illness. He leaned into his instrument and laid out a perfect lattice of bass notes that held everything together as it propelled it all forward. No mere anarchy, this. This was an infinite groove. This was a happening. This was jazz in all its overwhelming power, deep black music played white hot. Nothing else mattered. Not the whole crass music business, not the manufactured pop and rock and hip-hop that passes for American culture anymore, not a music press that pompously elevates mass-produced trash into art. None of that mattered, not an iota. This was a Sufi moment, all the horrors of the world dispelled by the twirling monster groove. No one slouching nowhere. When at last it came to a stop, the audience, spent, exploded with applause and rushed the stage to congratulate the players like they’d won the Stanley Cup.

But then if you dig jazz you’ve been there. Moments like that don’t happen every time; if you see enough jazz you’ll experience them. It’s one of the very last things in America, this battered America, that can take a sick and tired you and make you feel like you touched the sun. It still does what the American music industry has destroyed in almost every other music. It remains real, unpackaged, spontaneous. It’s immune to marketing campaigns and image consultants. They may have killed rock and pop and the rest, sucked them dry, but they haven’t touched jazz. Certainly not that night at Charlie O’s ... for if there had been any A&R people in the audience that night, as Lee Ving once said, they certainly went and died...That’s jazz appreciation. (published in LA Weekly, April 25-May 1, 2008)

And, finally, In Memoriam: Jimmy Giuffre, 1921-2008. Rest In Tempo.

Reflections on the week that was


Well, CryptoNights 2008 at Jazz Standard NYC has concluded, and as a (not so) independent observer I'd have to say it was a smashing success. Every night was well attended, everyone played great, and the Crypto way was perpetrated in fine fashion. It was wonderful to see old friends in attendance (the family Bendian, Bonnie Wright, Lisle Ellis, et al), and make some new ones as well. The guys who came from Louisville, Nels' wild and interesting pals, they all made me really happy.

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Adam Rudolph Alex Cline's Band of the Moment Alex Cline; Nels Cline: Alex & Nels Cline; Downbeat; Continuation; Coward Alma Lisa Fernandez Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 1) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 2) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Photos Antonio Sanchez avant-garde Ben Goldberg Bennie Maupin Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana Bill Stewart Billy Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble Billy Corgan Billy Hart Bob Sheppard California Jazz Foundation Cameron Graves Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Carol Robbins Charles Mingus; Son of Watts Musical Caravan Project; Azar Lawrence; Nate Morgan; Henry Franklin; Alphonse Mouzon; Prayer for My Ancestors Charles Owens Chops: The Movie Chris Barton Cryptogramophone Records Cryptonight Darek Oles Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy David Anderson Pianos David Witham Denman Maroney Devin Hoff Double M Jazz Salon Downbeat 57th Annual Critics Poll Dwight Trible Eagle Rock Center for the Arts Eclipse Quartet Edward Vesala Electric Lodge Eric Dolphy Eric Von Essen First Friday Series at the Museum of Neon Art G.E. Stinson Global Village Monday with Maggie LePique Go: Organic Orchestra Gravitas Quartet Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival; Peter Erskine Greg Kot Gregg Bendian Hale Smith Hannah Rothschild Hans Fjellstad Harry Partch; L.A. Weekly; John Schneider; REDCAT Horace Tapscott; Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert; Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra; the Ark; Jazz Bakery; Ruth Price; Jesse Sharps; Austin Peralta; Isaac Smith Huffington Post Hugh Hopper Ikeda Kings Orchestra improvisation Initiate Ivan Cotton James Newton Jason Robinson Jay Bennett Jay Hoggard jazz Jazz at the Plgrimage Jazz Bakery Jazz Explosion III Jazz Journey with Eddie B. Jeff Gauthier Jeff Tweedy Jesse Sharps Jim Black Joe Zawinul John "Drumbo" French John Fumo Kamasi Washington Ken Coomer Ken Kawamura KJAZZ 88.1-FM KPFK 90.7-FM KXLU 88.9-FM Larry Goldings Larry Karush Larry Koonse Learning How To Die Leimert Park: The Roots and Branches of L.A. Jazz Les Paul Lester Bowie Lily Burk Memorial Live at the Atelier Los Angeles New Music Ensemble Los Angeles Times Luis Bonilla Maggie Parkins Marcus Rojas Mark Dresser Mark Zaleski Mel Morris Michael Davis Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Mimi Melnick Motoko Honda Museum of Neon Art Museum of Neon Art; MONA; Many Axes; Susan Rawcliffe; Scott Wilkinson; Brad Dutz music blog Myra Melford Nasheet Waits Natsuki Tamura Nels Cline Nels Cline Singers Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker Nestor Torres Nick Rosen OC Creative Music Collective Oguri Open Gate Theatre Sunday Concert Series Pannonica Rothschild Peggy Lee Peter Bernstein plays monk Rashied Ali ResBox at the Steve Allen Theater RISE with Mark Maxwell Roberto Miranda Rod Poole Ron MIles Royal/T Cafe Sara Parkins Sara Schoenbeck Sarah Thornblade SASSAS Satoko Fujii Scott Amendola Scott Colley Sky Saxon Tribute Sonship Theus Spirit Moves Spirits in the Sky Steuart Liebig Terry Riley The Gathering The Jazz Baroness The JazzCat with Leroy Downs Thelonious Monk Thomas Stones Tom McNalley Trilogy Van Morrison; Astral Weeks; Scott Foundas; Jan Steward; Music Cirle; SASSAS Vincent Chancey Wayne Horvitz Wayne Peet Wilco Wilco; Nels Cline Wilco; Wilco (The Album); Nels Cline Will Salmon