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June 2008 Archives

June 2, 2008

Our Fearless Leader "Returns" To Live Performance

OK, he never really left, but it's been a few months since Jeff Gauthier has played out in his hometown.

2/5s of the Goatette: Jeff Gauthier & David Witham

O.F.L. will celebrate the release of his new CD House of Return on Thursday evening, June 26 at 8PM at The Palmer Room (3387 Motor Ave. in West Los Angeles, behind Cucina Paradiso). Tickets will be $10 at the door for two sets. There will be a full bar and a special bar menu for concertgoers. This concert will be recorded live to video by DiMarkco Chandler. For more information please call 213-276-6461. House of Return features pianist David Witham, bassist Joel Hamilton, drummer/percussionist Alex Cline and guitarist Nels Cline and will be released June 10, 2008.


Jeff and pianist David Witham will also be playing MONA in an evening of electronic and acoustic soundscapes inspired by neon art. On Friday, June 6th at 8PM, these two wacky fellows will take inspiration from MONA's extensive collection of rare and unusual neon art, and use it as a launching pad for electronic and acoustic duo-improvisations. The concert will take place at the Museum of Neon Art (136 W. 4th St., in Downtown LA's burgeoning arts district). Parking is available on the street, and in adjacent parking lots. Tickets are $10 at the door.

June 3, 2008

The Road Runner, 1928-2008

I remember it was 1987 when my college roommate asked me straight out: "Why do you like Bo Diddley so much?" We had just smoked a few bongloads and we were engaged in one of our weekly "CD Duels," in which we would square off with five of our recent favorite albums each, playing them in entirety, back-and-forth. My roomie, God Bless Him, kept choosing records that sounded great when you were stoned: XTC's Skylarking, Peter Tosh's Legalise It, The Beatles' Revolver. I, like an idiot, actually choose records I liked regardless of one's mental state. One of them was the Original Chess Masters Twofer of Bo Diddley and Go Bo Diddley. At about thirty seconds into the first track, "Bo Diddley," my roomie looked seriously annoyed at the muffled analog recordings that -- like most of early rock 'n' roll -- sounded like it was recorded in a basement Men's Room.

"There's a whole lotta dead copycats..."

Which is why I loved it. The echo-chamber muzz. The distorted vocals and woozy tremolo. The slashing percussive guitars. The hambone beat. The weirdness. (Album titles: Bo Diddley's a Twister, Surfin' with Bo Diddley.) I loved Bo Diddley because he reminded me of Howlin' Wolf: a true primal eccentric with a strange, private sense of humor and a bawdy twinkle in his eye. His music came out in the 1950s and yet sounds so unlike anything that came out of that period. It didn't sound like Elvis or Jerry Lee or even Mr. Berry. It sounded like Africa. It was music that acted as if the stylistic gentrification represented by Elvis never happened. And who else played electric violin on his records? Who else kept Jerome Green employed for so long? Who else used his half-sister "The Duchess" as a second guitarist? Who else went after Ed Sullivan like a scrappy Chicago street fighter?

"Ed Sullivan did everything in his power to shut Bo Diddley down, because he claimed that I double-crossed him on that song. What happened was, they had my name written on a piece of paper; my name is Bo Diddley, and I had a song called "Bo Diddley." He heard me singin' "Sixteen Tons" and wanted me to sing it on the show. So I thought I was supposed to do two tunes. I went out there and sang "Bo Diddley" first — that's what I was there for, y'understand? — and he got mad. He says to me, "You're the first colored boy ever double-crossed me on a song," or a show, or somethin' like this. And I started to hit the dude, because I was a young hoodlum out of Chicago, and I thought "colored boy" was an insult. My manager at the time grabbed me and said, "That's Mr.Sullivan." I said, "Who is that?" I didn't know who the hell he was, man. Shoot."

This quote was one of many from a memorable 1987 interview in Rolling Stone (conducted by, er, Kurt Loder), where Bo Diddley sort of became the poster dude for bitter rock legends who got screwed out of royalties as well as respect from those who came after:

"Well, Bo Diddley ain't got shit. My records are sold all over the world, and I ain't got a fuckin' dime. If Chess Records gave me, in all the time that I dealt with them, if they gave me $75,000 in royalty checks, I'll eat my hat. Boil it and eat it. Somebody got some money — everybody in this business has big mansions and stuff, you know? I got a log mansion. When I left Chess Records, they said I owed them $125,000."

The whole interview reads like an acrimonious meeting between B-Diddley and his financial planner. But it was one of the first pieces I've read that tried to disentangle the claims about the early days of rock and roll and the terrible price played by young black musicians at the hands of savvy record execs. "If the musical copyright laws of the United States more accurately reflected the way American vernacular music is created and disseminated, Bo Diddley would be a wealthy man," critic Robert Palmer wrote in his classic essay that accompanied Bo Diddley: The Chess Box.

But hey, it was always about the music, wasn't it?



And last but not least: the great vibraphonist Walt Dickerson, 1928-2008.
Rest In Tempo.

June 7, 2008

OUR 100th POST: BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah (repeat as necessary)


Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors and the Jeff Gauthier Goatette's House of Return both drop this Tuesday, June 10th! Check out John Kelman's review of Tiny Resistors and Troy Collins' review of House of Return at All About Jazz. Jeff Gauthier will celebrate House of Return's release with a special night of music at the Palmer Room in West L.A. on June 26th. The performance will be filmed, so get there early to get yer mug in the frame!

On the heels of Crypto's triumphant weeklong stint at NYC's Jazz Standard, drummer Scott "Pops" Amendola has just released Live in NYC, six tracks recorded on the eve of April 25th, 2008 and featuring Jenny Scheinman, "Gnarls" Cline and special guest Charlie Hunter (whose spooky 7-string guitar is a highlight of "Buffalo Bird Woman"). It's available for download here.

Down in the heart and lungs of L.A. jazz, Leimert Park, World Stage Stories has added on an extra special night with the formidable bassoonist/bassist/accordionist Jesse Sharps, formerly of Horace Tapscott's Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. This is a rare treat: Jesse lives in Germany and rarely ever comes back to L.A., so see him while you can and bask in the man's deep wisdom and intense, sonorous voice -- not to mention his scary chops. Sharps will be sitting down to talk with hosts Jeff Winston and Chet Hanley on the night of June 13, 2008, at 8pm. Suggested donation is $10. Hella bargain! Jesse will also accompany the young bassist Nick Rosen tonight at Cafe Metropol in an esoteric ensemble that incudes Katisse Buckingham on woodwinds, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on viola and piano and Tony Austin on drums.

Jesse Sharps is also the main image on the cover of Leimert Park: The Story of A Village In South Central L.A., a recently released documentary DVD by first-time filmmaker Jeannette Lindsay. It's a terrific film (read a review of it here by an incisive and very studly young writer) and worth a place in any jazz collectors', uh, collection.

Speaking of tonight (as in: "Why didn't I find out about this sooner?"), there will be a Tribute to John and Alice Coltrane at the Coltrane Estate in Woodland Hills (7pm-12am). It's a fundraiser for the Coltrane Foundation, so be prepared to part with some dinero. But the lineup is simply unbeatable: Azar Lawrence on sax, the killer Nate Morgan on piano, Jeff Littleton on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums. Undoubtedly there will be many surprise guests; so far Ravi and Oran Coltrane have been confirmed, as well as Mr. Bennie Maupin, whose new album Early Reflections was just released on Cryptogramophone. For more details, call (818) 226-9991. (We'll be featuring another one of our "famous" Downbeast Interviews with Mr. Maupin, so we'll definitely ask him how it all went. Stay tuned!)

Next week will be Eric Dolphy's 80th Birthday. Trombonist Phil Ranelin, whose successful lobbying convinced the city and county of Los Angeles to declare June 20 Eric Dolphy Day, will be honoring the virtuoso from South L.A. at the Brasserie Lounge of the LAX Crowne Plaza Hotel (5985 W. Century Blvd.; 310-642-7500). As our pal Brick Wahl of the L.A. Weekly mused: "But they really should have a parade." Aye-men!

We were lamenting having to drive downtown to that impossible-to-park-at Laemmle Theater across from the World Trade Center to see the Ferus Gallery doc The Cool School -- but Lo, PBS's Independent Lens will be running the film (check local listings). Our interest in Ferus stems from the scholarship of Seattle University's Ken Allan, who also has been doing research into L.A.'s infamous art gallery (curated by Ed Keinholz and Walter Hopps) and how the worlds or avant-garde art and jazz intermingled with similar agendas in the late 1950s.

We were out and about last week and came across a mysterious flyer for something called Make Music Pasadena ("A Fête De La Musique Event"). We were just about to ask: "What the hell is this?" when Pitchfork Media answered our question.

We were at the Greek Theatre last night, listening to Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson dueting on a stunning version of the latter's "The Dimming of the Day", when we caught a banner for the L.A Jazz & Music Festival on July 26, 2008. We haven't been able to find any info on what this is or who is playing. Anybody out there know? Pitchfork, I'm looking in your direction...

Through the grapevine we've heard rumblings about a group photo being planned of L.A.'s jazz elite at UCLA's Royce Hall, apparently to happen on July 31 to commemorate the birthday of Kenny Burrell. It's being organized by trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez -- who like Burrell is on the UCLA faculty -- in the spirit of Art Kane's famous Great Day in Harlem photograph. Shot in 1958 for Esquire and featuring 58 jazz masters from Lester Young and Thelonius Monk to Art Blakey and Mary Lou Williams on a Harlem staircase, the photo later became the subject of a book and a documentary film. True to such Herculean endeavours -- who on Earth would brave trying to get that many jazz musicians to show up at the same time? -- there's already been some grousings and grumblings about the overall concept of the L.A. photograph. Apparently, the organizers are aiming for all-inclusiveness -- meaning, Kenny G would be standing next to Vinny G. What would those two have to say to each other? Would Vinny's nose start to bleed? Of course, This Music We Love is based on all-inclusiveness, so it is a fitting notion. But the very jagged and Balkanized tapestry of L.A. jazz virtually assures that there will be some very strange company present indeed -- unlike the 1958 photo, many may have never even met each other until the Great Day comes. Another complaint, which I overheard from a purist fan, was about the chosen location of a college campus: "Jazz belongs in the street, not the Ivory Tower!" Hopefully, the final product will be an epoch-defining mixture of both -- although we do tend favor The Street 'round these parts...

June 9, 2008

OUR 101st POST


June 10, 2008

New Releases From Cryptogramophone


On Tiny Resistors, bassist and composer Todd Sickafoose matches violinist/looper Andrew Bird and iconic singer Ani DiFranco with his 8-piece New York band (with Skerik and Adam Levy) to create a jazz record with the muscle and scope of an indie-rock orchestra. The music evokes images: the mysterious flora of a future epoch, a secret message scribbled in invisible ink, an exodus of buzzing bees, and the silent sadness of an underwater piano, drowned in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. It is these visions, and others, that inspire the 11 original compositions on Tiny Resistors, Sickafoose's third and most lushly-produced release to date.

House of Return, Jeff Gauthier's 5th recording as a leader, moves effortlessly from moody acoustic jazz to creative new music, to skronk fusion and electronic space jam. Voted a "Rising Star" as violinist and producer in the 2007 Downbeat Critics Poll, Gauthier continues his subversive plot to destroy all musical boundaries. House of Return features Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Alex Cline, pianist David Witham, and bassist Joel Hamilton.

Go to www.crypto.tv to find CDs by Bennie Maupin, Nels Cline, Alex Cline, Trio M, David Witham, Alan Pasqua, Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, Scott Amendola, Mark Dresser and others. Also check out www.indiejazz.com where you can find creative jazz from over 200 different artists.

June 13, 2008

A Rare Brief Great Day in the Park

[Per our previous post about the upcoming group photograph of L.A.'s jazz community in front of UCLA's Schoenberg Hall (the date has been changed to Sunday, Oct. 12 at 1:30pm), the following is an unpublished short piece I wrote a few years back about a group photograph of local L.A jazz and cultural luminaries from Leimert Park on Saturday, May 13, 2006. Once we track down the photo in question, we'll try to put it up. Enjoy!]

The fascinating headwear began to gather around noontime Saturday before the giant stone fountain in Leimert Park Village: tams, skull caps, straw fedoras, pork pies, Chinese coolies, top hats, fezzes. For passers-by curious enough to ask, the mélange was described as this: “Remember the ‘Great Day in Harlem’?” ?" The reactions were either that of recognition or feigned recognition. "Great Day in Harlem? What does that have to do with this?”

Jesse Sharps searches for The Oneness before the Leimert Village fountain

The reference was to Art Kane’s now-famous 1958 Esquire group photo that captured 58 jazz masters, from Lester Young and Thelonius Monk to Art Blakey and Mary Lou Williams, on a Harlem staircase and later became the subject of a book and a documentary film. What distinguished that image was that nobody—certainly not Kane or those who posed for it—really thought much of what it portended at the time; only later did filmmakers and writers seem to glean some sort of zeitgeist-defining moment.

Such group photos seem to have become cultural hallmarks in African-American life, particularly in the intersection of music and the visual arts. Thirty years after Kane's photo, Anthony Barboza’s photo of a 15-person collective helped to define the "New Black Aesthetic" in the 1980s, from George C. Wolfe and Russell Simmons to Spike Lee and Chris Rock, shot on a staircase at the Brooklyn headquarters of Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule production company and currently the subject of the documentary Smart Black People. "I use the photo here...because, for me, it captures the spirit of the time like a charm," wrote critic Nelson George. "Barboza’s photo is the future of our collective past."

But in many ways, what happened at the village fountain was quite different from those decidedly Gotham-centric scene. The Leimert Park group photo, assembled by photographer and Malcolm X festival co-organizer Torre’ Brannon-Reese, was the latest addition to a project called “cultural renaissance classic photo series.” It will be unveiled in all its sepia glory on May 18 at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center, exactly ten years to the day of the first photo of 60 local jazz legends standing, sitting and kneeling before the World Stage performance gallery.

In other words, this wasn’t just a single moment captured for posterity but an ongoing documentation of the comings and goings of generations in a city that was never a single city but a crazy quiltwork of them, each with their separate rhythms and identities, split by traffic and hamstrung by time—in many ways, a rebuke to the very idea of artistic interaction, musical or otherwise.

So, for exactly two hours, at least 84 musicians, artists, writers, dancers and poets who defined the African-American arts in South (Central) L.A. for the past half-century converged from all over the area: artist John Outterbridge and poet Kamau Daáood, graduates of the area’s first cultural flowering following the 1965 riots; trumpeter Clora Bryant, the only female to play with Charlie Parker, and Aman Kufahamu, host of the influential KUSC radio show Greg's Refresher Course; Dale Davis, co-owner of the first African-American owned business in Leimert Park, and Bob Watt, assistant principal french horn for the L.A. Philharmonic and the symphony’s first African-American; David Ornette Cherry and Harold Land Jr., pianist sons of great Los Angeles horn masters. (Louis Gossett Jr. was a no-show as was Buddy Collette, Arthur Blythe, Dr. Art Davis, Sonship Theus and Gerald Wilson.)

As usual, it was musicians who dominated the scene. Jackie Kelso arrived looking regal in a gray suit and sea-blue blouse, holding his soprano sax like a proud brass totem. Roberto Miguel Miranda showed up with his bass and jammed with the drum circle whose pulse created the backbeat for the reminiscing and joking, the raucous laughter and salty cajoling of people who haven’t seen each other in years, days or weeks. “We're dealin’ with jazz people here,” chuckled Reese. “When I said ‘arrive at twelve noon,’ they hear ‘one o clock.’” As the entire mass of people assembled itself on the lip of the fountain, or knelt before it with their instruments, homeless men crept up to the edge of this warm chaos and stare in wonderment, too taken aback to approach anybody. On the other hand, a dark-suited political hopeful materialized out of nowhere to shake hands and purr a teletype shpiel about supporting music in the schools. He was not run out on a rail.

It was a fun crowd but a prickly and self-assured one as well: They had somewhere else to be. Clora Bryant, sporting a halo of purple, pink and blue carnations in her hair, marched up and announced: “I want somebody to take my picture now!" Young bassist Nick Rosen glanced around distractedly, “This is such a great scene, but I gotta go help my mom put her dog to sleep.” Folding chairs were brought over from the World Stage and placed on two large rugs that had been laid at the south end of the fountain. ("Are we gonna have to bring these chairs back?" someone called out.) Reese pointed to a gray-bearded man who wandered by, looking both dazed and keyed up by all the familiar faces and voices. "Hey, I want you in the front of the photo ‘cause you missed it ten years ago!" A long three branch kept dipping into the corner of the shot until someone broke it off. After the photo was taken, some ventured over to a jam session at the Farmer’s Market down the street. Most, however, dispersed and melted back into the city as quickly as they came.

Reese seemed to recognize both the fleeting quality of the moment as much as the ghost trails left by those who had passed on since the original photo. (The next one, whenever it will be taken, many here will be noticeably absent.) Before he centered his subjects in the camera lens, Reese stepped up and addressed them with the exhorting musicality of a Baptist preacher: "We are standing on sacred ground, where Horace Tapscott and Billy Higgins once walked, where Richard Fulton started 5th Street Dick's and the Davis Brothers started the Brockman Gallery. We thank the Divine Creator for our lives. We thank you for the struggles of our ancestors. We thank you for being able to stand with our art in this spiritual village. We pledge to you oh God we will do all we can to make this world a better place for our children than it was for us.” He asked the crowd to repeat after him: “We are Focued! Powerful! Gifted! Tolerant! In Love!" Cheers and fists went up in the sun.


June 18, 2008

AAJ Profiles George Klabin

Well, OK, it's not exactly a profile as it is an interview culled from the website of Resonance Records, founded by local jazz producer/engineer George Klabin, who recorded many future jazz legends (Gary Burton, Bill Evans, Bob James, Keith Jarrett, Roger Kellaway) when he headed the College Radio Jazz Department at Columbia University in the mid-1960s.


Klabin is the man behind the Rising Stars Jazz Foundation, which among many other activities mounts home jazz salons that take place in the Beverly Hills estate he purchased next door to his own. He converted the estate into a sumptuous high-tech performance space and recording studio. Klabin's salons feature out of town artists not just from the U.S. but from England, Brazil, Sweden and Italy. Guests have included Gerald Clayton, Elaine Elias, Peter Erskine, Mike Garson, Anglea Hagenbach, Tamir Hendelman, Christian Howes, Christian Jacob, Kathy Kosins, Romero Lubambo, Josh Nelson, Enrico Pieranunzi, Ron Satterfield, Annie Sellick and Ernie Watts. Klabin also just released the Great Moments in Performance Volume 1, a DVD culled from the salons.

June 19, 2008

JazzTimes Gets the Skinny on Bennie

A SIX PAGE profile or Mr. Bennie Maupin!? What God did we please?


You know, I always like those lads at JazzTimes -- and apparently so does the Jazz Journalists' Association, which just last night awarded JT the honor of "Best Jazz Periodical."

June 20, 2008

T-Sick Dishes To Bass Player

On our docket is a recent interview conducted by Bass Player magazine with Todd Sickafoose, whose sublime Tiny Resistors was just released this month, along with or Fearless Leader Jeff Gauthier's House of Return.


Continue reading "T-Sick Dishes To Bass Player" »

June 24, 2008

REVIEW ROUND-UP: Assemblage, 1998-2008


Continue reading "REVIEW ROUND-UP: Assemblage, 1998-2008" »

June 26, 2008

See Jeff / Free Chip

Wow, here's a pair of odd bedfellows for your plans this weekend: Jeff Gauthier and Chip Fitzgerald.


Tonight at 8pm our Fearless Leader continues his subversive plot to destroy all musical boundaries by leading his Goatette -- keyboardist David Witham, bassist Joel Hamilton and percussionist Alex Cline (no, L.A. Times, Nels will NOT be playing) -- in the CD release party at West L.A.'s Palmer Room for the ensemble's new Crypto drop House of Return. Not to miss -- and I'm not just saying that because he's the boss...hahhhaahahhh (trailing off weakly)

Our friend Greg Burk has a cool metal/jazz blog called, you guessed, it, Metal Jazz. Read his interview with Mr. Gauthier here.


Beginning at noon on Saturday in Leimert Park, at the KAOS Network/Project Blowed space, there will what be a day-long series of events in support of Romaine "Chip" Fitzgerald, the longest incarcerated Black Panther in the United States. (38 years -- and Fitzgerald's parole hearing is set for July 2.) Documentary films will be shown, people will speak -- including former Black Panther Elaine Brown (whose Seize The Time, her 1969 collaboration with Horace Tapscott was just reissued). For more info on Fitzgerald and his case, go here. To read a compelling account of more fallout from that ugly, volatile time in American life, check out Matthew Fleischer's LA Weekly article Children of the Revolutionary.

"When the world is running down..."

Cinema du Musique PostScript: if you're not too tuckered on Sat. night, they're running a new documentary downtown on the glory days of the famed L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew (California Plaza Amphitheatre, 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn; Sat., June 28, 8 p.m. Admission free). Then, have a good sleep (after watching the rebroadcast of the very first Saturday Night Live with the recently vacated first host George Carlin), go check out an early music-film masterpiece in the comfort of an outdoor graveyard. Cinespia will be showing Steve Binder's 1964 concert doc The T.A.M.I. Show, featuring Chuck Berry, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and, of course, the showstopping, career-making performances by Ike & Tina Turner and James Brown. Then, go home and collapse and have someone put a cape over you.

June 28, 2008

The Goatette Pilfers the Palmer


Thursday night's CD release party for the Jeff Gauthier Goatette's House of Return at West L.A.'s Palmer Room was a bit of a surprise. Our fearless leader didn't just showcase tracks from the new record -- "Satellites and Sideburns" (the Nels Cline-penned tribute to Weather Report's Joe Zawinul) and Eric Von Essen's "Dissolution" were particular standouts -- but took the capacity crowd on a pocket journey through his entire five album repertoire, including "Seriously Twisted Blues" from 1994's Internal Memo and the opening song, a sparkling version of "Ephemera," from 2001's Mask, which included a muscular bass solo from Joel Hamilton and an insistent but light-on-its-feet tribal rumble from Alex Cline. Next was a supple take on Eric Von Essen's "Biko's Blues," easily the standout track on the new album as well as the first set. Keyboardist David Witham ruled on the following "Sofflicka"; his electric piano intentionally distorted to create an unsettlingly "dirty' sound, as if the keys were encrusted with sand grit. The biggest surprise was the cover of "From Gagarin's Point of View" by the recently deceased Swedish pianist Esbjörn Svensson. This in turn led into a short freefall improv (in which Mr. Cline and Mr. Gauthier really shined) that metamorphed into a rollicking "Friends of the Animals" from the new album. (During the show, Mr. Bennie Maupin strolled in, looking incognito in baseball cap and long beige jacket, ordering a cranberry and pineapple juice. Nice touch!)

Luckily, the concert was recorded live to video by our friend DiMarkco Chandler, so we'll get some footage up for you ASAP!

1. Ephemera (For Eric)
2. Biko's Blues
3. Solflicka
4. Gagarin's Point of View / Improv / Friends of the Animals

1. Heart Wisdom (for Thelma)
2. Seriously Twisted Blues (for Richard Grossman)
3. Improv / Dissolution
4. Satellites and Sideburns

(For an even more in-depth review of the show, including some terrific in-performance pics, check out Kellen Yamanaka's blog Song With Orange.)

June 30, 2008

AAJ Grills a Weary Fearless Leader

Before we get to the latest in a flurry of current interviews with Jeff Gauthier, we'd like to finally acknowledge some shitty, sad news: one of the extended Cryptogramophone clan has passed on in a most untimely fashion: bassist Dave Carpenter.


Probably best known for his trio work with pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer Peter Erskine, Carpenter suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in Burbank on June 23. Read the all-too-short L.A. Times obit here, and check out some of Mr. Carpenter's stellar work here.

Continue reading "AAJ Grills a Weary Fearless Leader" »

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