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March 2009 Archives

March 2, 2009

The Cline Boys + Elliott Sharp @ MONA

Dat's right, ffolkes. Cryptogramophone Records and Rocco In LA are hosting NYC guitar alchemist Elliott Sharp for two shows this coming weekend: Friday, March 6 at 8pm at the Museum of Neon Art (136 W. 4th St., Downtown; 213-489-9918), where Sharp will face off with Alex and Nels Cline as well as bassist Steuart Liebig; Saturday, March 7, will see a Sharp solo show at the Royal T Cafe in Culver City, where our pal Rocco Somazzi (late of the Cafe Metropol) is now booking acts.

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Incentive for both: The second night will be only $7 if you pay the $10 admission for the first night. Should be packed, so show up early!

March 9, 2009

The Silence

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Last night, the Downbeast finally met one of its heroes, cultural critic Greil Marcus, at a literary reading at Redcat. He was sitting alone at the bar, with tiny eyeglasses, Clintonesque grey hair, and a creased Mt. Rushmore visage that reminded me of Chef Gordon Ramsey. I caught him in mid-sip. Here's how the conversation played out:

DB: Uh, hello, uh, Mr. Marcus...?

GM: [unintelligible]

DB: Sorry to bother you.* I just wanted to meet you and tell you how much I enjoyed your...

[I go to shake his hand, but he demurs apologetically.]

GM: [unintelligible, something ending in "-itis"]

[I look at his hands, they are wrapped in velcro Tony Hawkish wrist guards.]

DB: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Did this occur from the many years of typing at a typewriter?

GM: I'm sorry, what?

DB: [louder] Did this occur from the many years of typing at a typewriter?

GM: No, no. There's a completely different reason [unintelligible]

DB: [beginning to sweat] Well I guess your career as a piano mover is completely shot.**

GM: [something noncommital]

DB: I think they look kind of cool, like Spider-Man's web-shooters.***

GM: I think they make me look like a reptile.

DB: [laughing too quickly, intensely] Well, I just wanted to tell you that you and I both share an edition of the Da Capo Best Music Writing...

GM: What?

DB: [more sweating, louder] I just wanted to tell you that you and I both share an edition of the Da Capo Best Music Writing...

GM: Uh-huh. What's you article?

DB: On the jazz singer Anita O'Day...

GM: What?

[And so on and so on and so on...]

DB: Anyway, I consider being anthologized with you a great honor.

GM: Oh thank you [mumbles something]

DB: Okay then! [inexplicably patting GM on back] Have a great evening!

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I suppose I should mention the reason I could barely hear Mr. Marcus and the reason he could barely hear me was I've been having terrible hearing problems over the last two months. The first incident plugged my right ear after I returned from Hawai'i and it turned out to be a lump of wax that had been pushed up against my eardrum like a slipcover. (The rainy-season humidity of the Big Island turned out to be the culprit.) Then, not two weeks later, I came down with strep throat, which quickly made its sneaky way into my LEFT ear canal and mercilessly cut off all sound. Not to gross you out with the deets, but there were a lot of bloody q-tips in my bathroom wastebin. Turns out an infection had shattered my eardrum and it is now in the process of repairing itself.

I guess why I am mentioning this is the extreme distress that is caused within a lifelong music nerd/hound/obsessive when one's own God given woofers are blown out, and the world becomes piped in Mono. First off, listening to music on headphones is intolerable. And irritating. And depressing. Having conversations in public places become a pitiable comedy: you either talk too loud or too soft; you hear virtually nothing from others and have to constantly ask, 'What? Hah? Come again? I'm sorry?' like Grandpa Simpson.

Try plugging your ears with your fingers and then speak in normal tones: your voice sounds louder when you can't hear it. Your interior voice becomes your exterior voice; or at least the two are mixed with embarrassing results. It annoys you and anyone you are talking to. Schmoozing becomes a high-wire act that inevitably ends in disaster. You wind up coming off aloof or disconnected: I went to a music concert on Saturday night and was so cowed by my hearing problems that I shied away from saying hello to at least six people I knew and hadn't seen in awhile. And it can be dangerous: Woe betide you should you walk past a deranged street person who demands change and then takes your lack of hearing as a lack of respect.

I guess this is just a long way of saying that being deaf sucks, however temporarily. Which is why it was serendipitous that I met Greil Marcus last night. On the one hand, there was the legendary writer who found it increasingly painful and difficult to write; on the other, the music geek who found it painful to listen. To quote Linus Van Pelt: "There's some lesson in there somewhere, I'm just not sure what it is."

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*public domain term to be used whenever one approaches someone important

**leads to later conversation with mirror: "'Piano mover'?! How could you be so STUPID."

***leads to later conversation with roommate: "'Spider-Man'?! How could I be so STUPID."

REST IN TEMPO:
Louis Bellson
Randy Bewley
Ian Carr
Hank Crawford
Blossom Dearie
Lukas Foss
Lux Interior
Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez
Max Neuhaus
Gerry Niewood
Henri Pousseur

March 11, 2009

Da Clines of Western Civilization

We always knew our Crypto house drummer Alex Cline was a free spirit -- now All About Jazz has made it official. Check out R.J. DeLuke's extended profile of Alex and his new mega-epic release Continuation.

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"Hey Alex. Isn't there another picture of us that people can use?"
'Yes, Nels. But ultrasounds don't make good press photos."

And lets we forget, the end of this month will see a pleth of Crypto-related concerts from the likes of the Cline Boys, our fearless leader Jeff Gauthier, and Ms. Myra Melford in what amounts to a mini-tour of California. Check out the Crypto Tour Page for deets.

Also of interest: Slate Magazine on Why It's So Hard to Play Like Thelonius Monk and the L.A. Times on The San Francisco New Music Scene.

March 13, 2009

How The West Was One

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Funny, just a week after that "No Cussing" Kid from was all over the TV box comes the opening of Ava Duvernay’s documentary This Is the Life, which chronicle's the early 1990s renaissance of L.A.'s "alternative hip hop" scene, centered around a health food store near Crenshaw & Exposition downtown called the Good Life Cafe. The GL's most distinctive innovation was the freestyle open mike nights that had one important rule: "No Cussin'" -- a sort of a rebuke to the profanity-laden gangsta scene happening in South Central and Long Beach. The Good Life gave voices to some of the most influential underground rappers of the 1990s -- Pigeon John, Abstract Rude, Medusa, Volume 10, the Black-Eyed Peas (original incarnation), Chillin Villain Empire, Rifleman Ellay Khule, Busdriver, The Pharcyde, Jurassic 5 and of course the mighty Freestyle Fellowship -- and was the precusor of sorts to the scene at the Project Blowed/KAOS network complex in Leimert Park. Read Ernest Hardy's LA Weekly preview here. This Is the Life is also available on DVD.

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To go even further back, we visited Poo-Bah Records recently (despite the firing of our dear friend/radio host/L.A. creative jazz expert Michael Davis) and caught a copy of The Watts Prophets compilation Things Gonna Get Greater, 1969-1971 put out by the terrific indie label Water Records. The Prophets [pictured above] were the grandfathers of L.A. hip hop and a vital link between the politically charged Afro-jazz happening in Watts during the late 1960s and the modern hip-hop scene. And their songs are great too: "Amerikka," "Tenements," "Black Pussy" and the immortal "Response to A Bourgeois Nigger." A must-have for any local-music geeks.

March 16, 2009

A Public Service Announcement from Nels Courtney Cline

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Having trouble with that pesky CD tray for Nels Cline's Coward? Well, Nels himself is here to help! Check out his public service announcement right HERE.

March 20, 2009

A Little Nacht Muzak

Wow. I thought these images were lost forever in my collegiate past. A late night show that was too hip for its own good, hosted by a guy who was the farthest from hip as you could get and still not be in Iowa. No, it's not the Ed Sullivan Show, nor is it The Dick Cavett Show, but Night Music with David Sanborn (with the even less hip sponsor Michelob), a aural showcase of incredible breadth and care that ran for a few seasons in the late 1980s (hence Sanborn's I-haven't-realized-the-80s-are-over-yet hairstyle) and was obviously put together by kindred music nerds who knew what they were doing.

Who was on this show? Hmmm, lessee, there was Pere Ubu, Sonic Youth, Kronos Quartet, The Pixies, Phil Woods, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, NRBQ, Bootsy Collins, Nick Cave, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Pat Metheny, Warren Zevon, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Lounge Lizards, Richard Thompson, Hank Crawford, Donald Fagen, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Christian Marclay, Tim Berne, Al Green, The Residents, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Charlie Haden, Toots Thielemans, Milton Nascimento, Diamanda Galas and Artis The Spoon Man.

Night Music was like Saturday Night Live with just the musical guests (Lorne Michaels was the producer), and not just performing solo, but in fascinating combinations. The one that stands out in my resin-corroded memory was Sonny Rollins backing Leonard "The Undertaker" Cohen on a smouldering version of "Who By Fire," with Rollins ending the song with a protean solo that pushes the boundaries of believability.

Good lord, I'm drooling all over my keyboard. At least I HOPE that's drool....

March 23, 2009

Cryptonights at Yoshi's & REDCAT

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This week, Cryptogramophone Records presents four evenings of creative jazz featuring guitarist Nels Cline, violinist Jeff Gauthier, pianist Myra Melford, and drummer-percussionist Alex Cline, each leading their own ensembles. The first two nights are at Yoshi's in Oakland and the second two will take place at the Walt Disney Concert Hall's REDCAT Theatre.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 & FRIDAY, MARCH 27
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Myra Melford presents her band Be Bread, featuring trumpeter Cuong Vu, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Matt Wilson. Melford is one of the most influential women in jazz, and her colorful music reflects both years on the Downtown Scene, as well as extensive study in India.

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Drummer/percussionist Alex Cline celebrates the release of his new CD Continuation with his Continuation Quintet featuring Myra Melford on piano, Jeff Gauthier on violin, Maggie Parkins on cello, and Scott Walton on bass. Cline's music combines subtle and breathtaking shifts in timbre, texture and mood to create compositions of transcendental beauty.

THURSDAY, MARCH 26 & SATURDAY, MARCH 28
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The evening opens with violinist Jeff Gauthier's Goatette with Nels Cline on guitar, Alex Cline on drums, David Witham on piano, and Joel Hamilton on bass. BBCi says "Gauthier and his group show how it should be done, rooting themselves solidly in the jazz tradition while at the same time extending and revitalizing it."

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Guitarist Nels Cline who has worked with everyone from Charlie Haden and Thurston Moore to his current gig with Wilco, presents The Nels Cline Singers featuring Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on drums. Nels will be celebrating the release of his new solo CD Coward.

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March 25-26 at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA
Wed March 25, 8PM & 10PM:
Alex Cline Continuation Quintet
Myra Melford and Be Bread
Thurs March 26, 8PM & 10PM:
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette
The Nels Cline Singers

March 27-28 at REDCAT in L.A., CA
Fri March 27 - 8:30 PM:
Alex Cline Continuation Quintet
Myra Melford and Be Bread
Sat March 28 - 8:30 PM:
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette
The Nels Cline Singers

Read the San Francisco Weekly's preview of the Yoshi's shows.

Read the LA Weekly's preview of the REDCAT shows.

March 28, 2009

Another Photo of Cline Bros. Surfaces!

Just when we thought we'd have to use that same goddamn photo of them in front of the blue wall, our pal Anne Fishbein caught Alex and Nels in their natural habitat. (Note the gang sign Nels is throwing up: "Westside, represent!")

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This accompanies Chris Barton's L.A. Times profile of the boys.

March 30, 2009

Bringing It/Swinging It

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The Goatette [photo by Art Granoff]

The Beast kept thinking of the one hidden thread to run through all four shows of Cryptogramphone's 10th Anniversary bash at REDCAT last Fri. & Sat.: “the bass, man, the bassmen.” On display were four prime and indispensible examples of the rock-bed of creative music ensembles: Scott Walton’s propulsive pulses; Stomu Takeishi’s ear-bending experimentation; Joel Hamilton’s yowling runs; Devin Hoff’s woozy futurisms. Not to take away from the ensembles they played with, but these guys worked freakin’ hard, attacking their instruments as if they insulted their mothers. With such generous bandleaders, it could have been called "Revenge of the Sidemen."

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The first night kicked off with an epic journey charted by Alex Cline’s Continuation Quintet, who has only performed live a spare handful (if even that) of times. The resulting set was watching seperate individuals slowly blending and joining their talents, creating a remarkable harmony that the audience could view almost as a "narrative" -- this is how it's done, this is how you connect with other humans. The first suite was the delayed one-two punch of "Nourishing Our Roots" and "Clearing Our Streams" from Alex's new CD Continuation. Much has been written about how "meditative" and "calming" and "Zen" Alex Cline’s music can be, and it does certainly have those qualities. But it also can be edgy and intense, smacking you in the face with its mood swings and unsettling you with muscians who are adept at making their instruments sound like anything other than what they are. Take the second song (and the lynchpin) of the evening, the Thomas Merton ode "On the Bones of the Homegoing Thunder": Maggie Parkins’ (subbing for the pre-booked Peggy Lee) high runs on the cello that sounded like chittering insects; Myra Melford's effortless switching between piano -- which she pilloried with furious note clusters, slamming her forearms onto the keyboard -- and harmonium, which droned like a living, breathing pulse; Jeff Gauthier's quivering hornet of an electric violin; and of course, the bandleader's [pictured above] frequent spelunks into rock-layers of soundism, particularly the eerie moans he coaxed out of his Tibetan singing bowls. "Thunder"'s bewitching coda involved all of the musicians (save for Gauthier) abandoning their instruments to alight on large metal Noah bells, manifesting ancient tones that made the theatre feel like a wall-less Buddhist temple. The ensemble crescendoed with a closing medley of "A Blue Robe in the Distance" (from Alex's first CD as a bandleader, 1987's The Lamp and The Star) and the newer "Steadfast," a song that builds and builds and then ends so abruptly it gave us an aural nosebleed. Someone near us was even moved to say "Wow!"

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The second set saw the Be Bread ensemble, led by Ms. Melford [pictured above], who in Alex's words was "the semi-featured performer" of the night. Melford doesn't play L.A. often, which is a pity because she is one of the most galvanizing pianists we've ever seen. There were no "easy moments" of cheap transcendence here; Melford's music is challenging in the most rewarding sense of the word, a whirlygig of competing sounds from different parts of the globe. (It could be called "the soundtrack for Obama's New World.") What's more, NONE of the songs were from Be Bread's debut CD The Image of Your Body. And you know what? We liked that. It was bravest set of the two nights, beginning with "I See A Horizon," which featured Ben Goldberg's ornery clarinet and Cuong Vu's ghostly film-noir trumpet. Dancer Oguri (a last-minute surprise guest) came out to add some frozen-in-time visual flair to "On the Lip of Insanity" and "The Whole Tree Gone" (from Be Bread's new CD to be released this Fall). "Night" from Melford's recent duet album with Marty Ehrlich, was cemeted by a solo showcase from a barefoot Takeishi's fretless bass, onto which he spilled what looked like coins through his strings, creating such an alarming sound (like he was tearing them off his fingerboard) that Melford actually stood up and looked over her piano to see what he was up to.

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The Singers [photo by Art Granoff]

The second night was marked by the announcement that all seats were SOLD OUT! which led to the following exchange by two gents sitting in front of us:

Gent #1: "'Sold out'?! Maybe we're not gonna like it!"
Gent #2: "Hey, it's only 20 bucks!"
[mutual laughter]

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The Goatette: The Soundcheck em>[photo by Art Granoff]

Which, if you think about it, was an appropriate timbre for the evening: all this great music for so gol'darned cheap! Any doubts? Try the first ensemble of the night, the Jeff Gauthier Goatette, a powerhouse quintet of players who just happen to be longtime friends. Their mutual sensitivity and connectedness with each other kicked in almost immediately with the lyrical "Ephemera," dedicated to the sixth invisible-yet-always-present member, the late Eric Von Essen. (Two of the sets's songs "Biko's Blues" and "This Illusion" were Von Essen compositions, and bassist Hamilton gamely rose to the challenge.) Then came the harder-edged "Friends of the Animals" from House of Return, the tenderly whimiscal "Ahfufat" (dedicated to Alex Cline's daughter Naomi) and the incredibly aggressive take on guitarist Nels Cline's Joe Zawinul shout-out "Satellites and Sideburns," where David Witham’s sci-fi glurks on the Fender Rhodes/KAOSS pad and Cline’s pigsqealing guitar flameouts seem to be dueling for dominance. Gauthier, who can be a bit shy onstage, even quieted the audience so they could hear the strange feedback "coming out of my foot pedal."

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The Singing Brakeman [photo by Art Granoff]

Next up was the Nels Cline Singers, who were celebrating eight years (to the night) of existence and whose fame for never involving singing in their sets was broken by a new untitled original, where Nels sang a nonsensical "ba-baaaaa-ba-baaa!" over and over again while covering said vocals in pitched guitar groans. This came after a mammoth opening version of "Caved-in Heart Blues," a foreboding funeral march anchored by Cline's Spaghetti-western lead melody. After a squall of white noize came the quiet, loungey environs of "Blues, Too" from 2004's The Giant Pin, where Nels switched to a delicate Joe Pass/Jim Hall vibe that was such a total 180 from the previous song that it nearly made us car sick. This was followed by "Attempted" from 2008's Draw Breath (where Devin Hoff really shined) and yet-another untitled new song where Cline and Amendola battered each other with their effects boxes and Nels hit his strings while changing the chord each time, creating a dizzying channel-surfing effect. Easily the highlight (for us, at least) was the new song that actually had a title, "King Queen," where David Witham and Alex Cline returned to join for what Nels referred to as a "dance party," a funkified maggot-brainy workout that was so much fun it begged the question: "Where are the Solid Gold dancers when you need them?" The tune demanded that the audience demand an encore, which they got, Nels-style: another new song with at least three tentative titles ("0 Miles / Vamp / Yer Fuse"), a serrated-edged semi-punk rocker that saw Nels spazzing out like an electrocuted marionette. The man was obviously having the time of his life, and his offhand remark that his late father was "born and raised in tenement housing right here on Bunker Hill" conjured up the image of the old man smiling down at the spectacle of his sons returning to the old 'hood to make such a holy racket.

MORE PHOTOS WILL GO UP AS WE RECEIVE THEM!

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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 Andrew Hill 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 Bard Hoff Ben Goldberg Bennie Maupin Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana Bill Stewart Billy Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble Billy Corgan Billy Hart Black Metal Bob Sheppard Bobby English Brent Hoff California Jazz Foundation Cameron Graves Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Carla Bozulich Carol Robbins Charles Mingus; Son of Watts Musical Caravan Project; Azar Lawrence; Nate Morgan; Henry Franklin; Alphonse Mouzon; Prayer for My Ancestors Charles Owens Charlie Hunter Chops: The Movie Chris Barton Cryptogramophone Cryptogramophone Records Cryptogramophonr Records Cryptonight Darek Oles Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy David Anderson Pianos David Breskin David Witham Denman Maroney Dennis Callaci Devin Hoff Dirty Baby Double M Jazz Salon Downbeat 57th Annual Critics Poll draw breath Dwight Trible Eagle Rock Center for the Arts Eclipse Quartet Ed Ruscha Edward Vesala Electric Lodge Eric Dolphy Eric Von Essen First Friday Series at the Museum of Neon Art G.E. Stinson Geraldine Fibbers Glenn Kotche Global Village Monday with Maggie LePique Go: Organic Orchestra Gravitas Quartet Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival; Peter Erskine Greg Kot Gregg Bendian Guy Klucevsek Hale Smith Hannah Rothschild Hans Fjellstad Harry Partch; L.A. Weekly; John Schneider; REDCAT Henry Grimes Horace Tapscott Horace Tapscott; Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert; Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra; the Ark; Jazz Bakery; Ruth Price; Jesse Sharps; Austin Peralta; Isaac Smith Howard Roberts Huffington Post Hugh Hopper Ikeda Kings Orchestra improvisation Initiate Instrumentals 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 L. Stinkbug 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 Linkous Mark Zaleski Matt Ritvo Matthew Duersten Mel Morris Michael Davis Michael Session 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 New Monastery Nick Rosen OC Creative Music Collective Oguri Open Gate Theatre Sunday Concert Series Pannonica Rothschild Peggy Lee Peter Bernstein Phil Ranelin Phillip Greenlief plays monk Rahmlee Michael Davis Rashied Ali ResBox at the Steve Allen Theater RIch Breen Rich Breen RISE with Mark Maxwell Roberto Miguel Miranda Roberto Miranda Rod Poole Ron MIles Ron Saint Germain Royal/T Cafe Ruth Price Sara Parkins Sara Schoenbeck Sarah Thornblade SASSAS Satoko Fujii Scott Amendola Scott Colley Shrimper Records Sky Saxon Tribute Sonship Theus Soul Jazz Records Sparklehorse Spirit Moves Spirits in the Sky Steuart Liebig Steven Isoardi Terry Riley The Gathering The Giant Pin The Jazz Bakery The Jazz Baroness The JazzCat with Leroy Downs The Nels Cline Singers The Nels Cline Trio Thelonious Monk Thomas Stones Tom McNalley Tony Allen Tribe Records 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 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot