5 - Crypto News Archives

June 5, 2007

Welcome to

Hey there, welcome to Downbeast. Check in for the latest in avant-garde, improvisational jazz music rants, musings, reviews, and more. From Cryptogramophone Records, is a new music blog concept we hope you enjoy.

June 11, 2007

Exclusive Preview of "The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath"

We can finally see the horizon on Cryptogramophone's upcoming Summer 2007 releases: Spinning the Circle from pianist/Goatettee David Witham and The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath from...oh, you know. The drop date for both is JUNE 26th.

With barely two weeks left, we've already pre-released tracks from the new Nels Cline CD -- "Caved-in Heart Blues," "Mixed Message," "Recognize II" and "Confection" -- on Nels' MySpace page and the Crypto homesite. We also decided to get a jump on the reviewers and offer "pre-reviews" of both for your dining and dancing pleasure. [WARNING: Mixed metaphors will be used]

Continue reading "Exclusive Preview of "The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath"" »

June 13, 2007

Exclusive Preview of David Witham's "Spinning The Circle"

With just fifteen -- no, make that FOURTEEN -- days to go before we double-drop our twin Crypto summer releases The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath and David Witham's Spinning the Circle, we're offering a little preview of each for your audiophilic interest.


Continue reading "Exclusive Preview of David Witham's "Spinning The Circle"" »

June 25, 2007

“LIGHT AT NIGHT”: An Exclusive Crypto Interview with David Witham, Pt. 2


Spinning The Circle, David Witham’s second solo album since 1988’s self-released On-Line, shows the pianist’s versatility with jazz, world beat, and jamband influenced originals—from the breakbeat electronica of "The Neon" to the gentle balladry of "Who Knows." But he brings some heavy-hitters along for the ride. “My associations with the members of this ensemble span the last thirty-some years, basically the course of my musical career thus far,” Witham writes in the liner notes. They include guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Scott Amendola are both on board, as are pedal steel guitarist (and frequent Bill Frisell collaborator) Greg Leisz, bassist Jay Anderson, woodwind player Jon Crosse, and percussionist Luis Conte.

Continue reading "“LIGHT AT NIGHT”: An Exclusive Crypto Interview with David Witham, Pt. 2" »

July 19, 2007

Nels gets more L-U-V from critics, bloggers, your mom...

It's been about a month since we dropped the deux Crypto releases The Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath and David Witham's Spinning The Circle. Recently, Nels was profiled by Siddhartha Mitter of the Boston Globe. Check it out here.


Continue reading "Nels gets more L-U-V from critics, bloggers, your mom..." »

July 30, 2007

Review round-up of David Witham's "Spinning The Circle"

After finishing up his May/June mini-tour with George Benson, our rez piano wizard David Witham is currently on tour with the Ernie Watts Quartet. (He has a cool blog about life as a touring artist, which you can check out on his MySpace page.)


Continue reading "Review round-up of David Witham's "Spinning The Circle"" »

August 16, 2007

Dog-Day News & The Chicken Pox Blues

Sorry for the long wait between this and last posts. We were just plain lazy and there's no A/C in the "bloggin' office." Kudos to those 'nards over at Pitchfork Media for breaking the news of Nels Cline's chicken pox, which has sidelined our friend for a few Wilco gigs.


Continue reading "Dog-Day News & The Chicken Pox Blues" »

March 27, 2008

Crypto Kicks off 10th Anniversary by Re-Invading Manhattan

That's right, people. Next month we're returning to the Jazz Standard in New Nork, New Nork for a week of West Coast wackiness -- April 23-27, 2008 -- to coincide with the April 22nd release of Early Reflections, Bennie Maupin's follow-up to 2006's monster-of-a-comeback Penumbra, as well as a 10th Anniversary compilation including 2 CDs and a DVD entited Assemblage: 1998-2008 featuring recorded nuggets from the Cryptogramophone catalog as well as unreleased live video footage of Sir Nels Cline's New Monastery band, Mr. Maupin and other label artists.

Pic from last year's triumphant Crypto week at the Jazz Standard: from left, Bobby Bradford, Ben Goldberg, Nels Cline & Devin Hoff
(photo by Richard Termine, courtesy of The New York Times)

Here's the schedule thus far:

Continue reading "Crypto Kicks off 10th Anniversary by Re-Invading Manhattan" »

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 28, 2008

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.

Continue reading "Reflections on the week that was" »

May 5, 2008

Bennie Makes "The Week"; Nels (barely) Makes "Spin"

While we're still recovering from our recent sojourn to New York, Bennie Maupin's Early Reflections received 4 stars in The Week, which as is its style, offered a compendium of various early reviews:


"For the past 35 years, Bennie Maupin has been a faithful foot soldier of progressive jazz, said Mark Stryker in the Detroit Free Press. His "sinewy" bass clarinet playing helped to define Miles Davis' landmark Bitches Brew and he later worked with Herbie Hancock on the keyboardist's early forays into jazz fusion. Early Reflections finds the multi-instrumentalist in his element, wonderfully expressive and free to delve into the "lush avant-gardism" that makes his palying unique. This album just isn't a chance for Maupin to sum up the different styles he's explored over the years, said Michael West in the Village Voice. It's a continutation to a lifelong devotion to musical experimentation. Playing flute, clarinet or saxophone, and supported here by a relatively unknown Polish quartet, Maupin daringly rejects musical scrictures and imagines an "acoustic post-bop jazz of rich lyricism" that's at once subtle and audacious. "Coaxing wistful phrases from his soprano" sax, Maupin transforms the "eeriness" of "The Jewel and the Lotus" from his 1974 album of the same name into "sweet reverie." He creates a sense of wonderment throughout, pairing short sketch-like compositions with sweeping drifts of euphony. Early Reflections reveals a musical depth "refined by experience and cured through wisdom," said Michael Nastos in Billboard. By putting himself at the helm, Maupin creates the "most introspective" and remarkable recording of a "long and varied" career."


In direct opposite news, Das Wilco made the "Live Reviews" section of the current Spin magazine -- but where on earth was any text mention of the LEAD GUITARIST Nels Courtney Cline? Well, at least the had a small photo of him playing the lap steel...

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" »

July 18, 2008

An Open Invitation from Peter Erskine

Greetings to all of the friends, colleagues and fans (weren't we all?!) of Dave Carpenter, all of who got in touch with me following his untimely death.


There will be a memorial/tribute in Dave's memory and honor on Sunday afternoon, August 17, at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City. The best guesstimate for the start time is approx 1:30 or 2 pm. Ruth Price and the Jazz Bakery Board of DIrectors have very generously donated the space for us to gather and remember our dear friend. The tribute will most likely last until 5:30 p.m. TIMES TO BE CONFIRMED.

There will be music, photos and videos, snacks and drinks ... and there will be some level of organization, but the extent of that is being discussed ... above all, we want to make sure that we do this in a way that Dave would have approved of ... I'm sure that there will be plenty of good stories, laughs, and ...

There will be tears.

It will be good and important to see as many of you there as possible...I think it will help all of us in the healing department.

But for the moment, back to the planning department!

Any questions, suggestions, offers of help, etc. may be directed to Bob Sheppard and/or Peter & Mutsy Erskine. Feel free to forward this notice to anyone who you think would enjoy celebrating Dave's musical life as we in L.A. knew it ... it might also be good for you to reply and let us know if you're planning on attending.

Please mark your calendars. More definitive info to follow. Thanks, good health and love to all ~

Peter Erskine

August 8, 2008


Our axe-pal Nels Courtney Cline has always been a little bit of a fashion clotheshorse -- we're thinking in particular of that trippy 1970s-era Givenchy Shirt he likes to wear onstage with Das Wilco -- but Holy Crap, that Day of the Dead-themed Nudie suit he sported at the Wilco Lollapalooza set last week absolutely blew us away:

[Photos by Amrit]

Amy Phillips of Pitchfork Media saw the Wilco show and gave this appropriately Pitchforkian assessment:

About halfway through Wilco's set, I thought that I already had my review figured out: Make a joke about Barack Obama not showing up, make a joke about how the band's snazzy rhinestoned Nudie suits couldn't cover up the numbing mediocrity of the music on their last two albums. Point out that "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" (which they played second) is still a fucking amazing song, and Nels Cline is still a fucking amazing guitar player (see: his solo on "Spiders [Kidsmoke]"). Say something about how the whole thing was pleasant but dull, whatever.

But then, during "Pot Kettle Black", a guy in a Hawaiian shirt standing next to me with a beer in his hand asked me how I was enjoying the show. I said I was kind of bored. He looked stunned. "But it's such a nice night!" he exclaimed. "Everybody's having such a good time!" He waved his arms around to indicate all of the happy people around us.

You know what? Fuck it. He's right. How can I hate on a Wilco show on a beautiful (and not humid!) night in downtown Chicago? Regular dudes having a good time making music for regular people having a good time listening to them. Couples with their arms around each other, families sitting on picnic blankets, high school kids sneaking cigarettes. Everybody singing along to "A Shot in the Arm".

I'm not that mean. It was a great time. There, I said it.

A couple of newsy notes: Wilco played a new song, apparently called "One Wing". It started out as a pretty, melancholy jam with lyrics falling squarely in the Tweedy self-hatred canon ("I was a curse," "I cast a shadow on this world," etc.) But then it built to a nasty, noisy climax complete with a ripping Cline solo. Right on.

Yes, Amy, we agree: Nels is one great fucking face-melter. He'll be demonstrating said chops in a bunch of Post-Wilco summer tour shows in September, two of which we'd like to highlight: Monday, Sept. 1st sees Nels and his Quintet of Crypto pals Becca Michalek, Ben Goldberg, Joel Hamilton and Scott Amendola performing the music of the late great SoCal composer Jimmy Giuffre as part of the inaugural Angel City Jazz Festival. (Nels' twin bro, the formidable drummer Alex Cline, will be appearing on the same day with the Arthur Blythe Quintet.) Anyone who heard Nels' critically acclaimed New Monastery, which celebrated the music of avant-garde pianist Andrew Hill, will know it won't be just a rehash but a total systems refit of the most radical order. Mr. Giuffre, prepared to be "Nelsed."


On Friday, September 12, Nels will pop up onstage at the NYC's Knitting Factory for the Fender 50th Anniversary Jazzmaster Concert along with Tom Verlaine, Thurston Moore and J Mascis. Should be a killer show. Unfortunately, we're too poor to go. Ahem. Yes.


August 20, 2008

Propulsion and Lilt

Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors reviewed in the current issue of Downbeat by Jim Macnie:


When I first saw Todd Sickafoose's Blood Orange group a couple years ago, I was puzzled about where all the sound was coming from. The five-piece outfit swaggered like a little big band, sending a scad of intersecting lines into the air to make a series of thickly braided flourishes. Evidently, that's a signature trait of Sickafoose the composer-arranger, because the medium-sized ensemble that creates the music on Tiny Resistors can claim a similar victory.

For a guy smitten with elaboration, the New York bassist builds his oft-genial, mildly exotic and somewhat dreamy tunes from simple melodies that state themselves and then multiply into little labyrinths. I occasionally hear it as a blend of the late-period Lounge Lizards and Greg Osby's Sound Theatre. John Lurie and the M-Bass gang milked orchestral ideas from intricate cross-hatches, and Sickafoose does something similar. One of the marvels of the new disc is "Bye Bye Bees," a sweeping piece that starts out in one spot, but ends up in another. The conclusion has elements of its origin, but they're two discrete places -- nice trick. Something similar happens on "Pianos of the 9th Ward," a bittersweet tune that introduces itself as a simple keyboard lament but bids adieu as a brass-'n'-reeds prayer; slow, steady morphing is a key strategy here.

Sickafoose isn't working in a swing vernacular per se. He grew up on rock, has spent lots of time onstage with Ani DiFranco, and claims Tortoise and Bill Frisell as influences. Propulsion and lilt are in full effect on these peices, however. "Everyone Is Going" manages to blend a martial undercurrent and a sweeping grace. Trumpet, trombone, two guitars, drums and some effects help from DiFranco (ukelele) and Andrew Bird (violin) make the program rich.

Rather than each piece being a showcase for a specific soloist, the group is perpetually playing hot potato with shards of melody and textural colors. With this rather selfless tack, this remarkable music -- especially in the ersatz African bounce of "Warm Stone" and the Middle Eastern blues of "Cloud of Dust" -- is bolstered by the one-for-all atmosphere. By holding hands, they've created something unique. *** 1/2 stars

Tiny Resistors is also mentioned in the same issue's "Hot Box" section:

Richly varied in texture and form, Sickafoose's multilayered compositions are full of surprises -- a quirky sound, a sudden shift, a spectral melody. The production and conception is clearly articulated, and the band responds nicely to the changing densities and dynamics. The whole band sounds organic, the two guitars play well off one another and Andrew Bird's violin is especially righteous. -John Corbett

Lost of creative ideas on this mysterious nonet journey, and some cool sounds, both acoustic and electronic...I like the sad textures of "Pianos of the 9th Ward," and "Paper Trombones" is cute. -Paul de Barros

Though a bassist, Sickafoose depends largely on slithering Frisellian guitar lines for his music's identity. But the horn figure prominently, too, bringing almost a big-band feel to the title cut. Alan Ferber's muted trombone is chamringly Ellingtonian on two cuts. -John McDonough


Mr. Sickafoose is also mentioned in a recent Utne Reader article entitled "Bohemia in Brooklyn." Check it out aqui.

Bill Shoemaker reviews the Jeff Gauthier Goatette's House of Return in Downbeat:


Jeff Gauthier is in a distinct minority, having made eclecticism a virtue as a musician, label founder and producer. Spanning wispy ballads and thumping fusion lines, House of Return, the violinist's fifth as a leader, is as resolutely all over the lot as the Cryptogramophone catalog.

Were it not for the obviously close rapport between Gauthier and his cohorts, this would be a scattershot, if not schizoid, album. However, essential continuity is provided by Gauthier's 30-year history with the Cline twins -- Nels and Alex. They were three-quarters of Quartet Music, a woefully unheralded acoustic group that included the late bassist Eric Von Essen, whose nuanced compositions still loom large in his colleagues' repertoire. Von Essen's "Biko's Blues" opens with the mix of airiness and melancholy Wayne Shorter coined on his early Blue Note dates, while "Dissolution" surrounds a heart-rending melody with swells of brushed drums and cymbals, 12-string guitar and piano. They don't just bookend the album, they gauge the depths the Goatette explores.

There are sufficient reminders of these capacities in the intervening tracks. Some are improvised, like Gauthier and Nels Cline's flinty duet on the violinist's often searing title track. Others reflect well-honed compositional strategies, like drummer Alex Cline's use of delicate, violin-led lines on "Dizang." Initially, they cohere washes on gongs, electric guitar and keyboards, and then soothe the ensuring, seething ensemble improvisation. Subsequently, the occasionally obtuse effect and pugilistic passages are destractions, not deal-breakers. Still, someone almost instantly steps to the foreground to re-engage the listener, and it is just as likely that it is bassist Joel Hamilton and keyboardist David Witham who provides the spark as it is Gauthier or the Clines, a measure of the well-balanced talents that comprise the Goatette. ***1/2

Speaking of Downbeat, their 2008 Critics' Poll is in and Crypto scored on their radar yet again:

Guitarist: Nels Cline (#8)

Rising Star, Bass: Devin Hoff (#10)

Rising Star, Producer: Jeff Gauthier (#5)

Steuart Liebig's new disc with the Tee-Tot Quartet is getting some great reviews. Check out this one from AAJ's Troy Collins.

There's also an interesting AAJ article on "Telematics" ("the interface of computers, communication and performance") penned by our pal Mark Dresser.

Two new discs in one day?! What is this, Cryptogramophone Records? Naw, it's our violinist pal Jenny Scheinman, who has been all over the place these days. (She won the #1 spot for "Rising Star Violin" category in Downbeat, fer starters.) Check out her home page for all of the press that's been afforded -- among many other things -- her vocal debut.

September 3, 2008

Cryptonight at MONA


Nels Cline, Jeff Gauthier, Andrew Pask & David Witham plus performance painter Norton Wisdom Create Neon Soundscapes at MONA!


Guitarist Nels Cline, violinist Jeff Gauthier, woodwind player Andrew Pask and keyboardist David Witham will improvise while performance painter Norton Wisdom creates spontaneous works of art on his light board. Watch images and scenes magically come into being in response to the improvised music, suddenly shifting and changing according to the whims of the artist, and the creativity of the musicians. Now imagine all this surrounded by neon sculptures and unusual neon signs at the wonderfully eclectic Museum of Neon Art in Downtown LA's burgeoning arts district.


Nels Cline - electric guitar, electronics
Jeff Gauthier - electric violin, electronics
Andrew Pask - woodwinds, electronics
David Witham - piano, keyboards, electronics
Norton Wisdom - performance painting

Museum of Neon Art
136 W. 4th St., LA 90013
Tel. (213) 489-9918
Tickets are $10 at the Door

For more information and a map, please go to:

September 23, 2008

T-Sick Adds Dates, Gets Grilled by Rex Butters


Somehow, someway, in the midst of heavy touring behind Ani DiFranco, bassist Todd Sickafoose has snuck in some extra dates on his Tiny Resistors mini-tour AND managed to get corralled by All About Jazz's Rex Butters for a brief profile. How does he do it?

Alex Cline and Nels Cline have a new drop-date for their respective solo albums Continuation and Coward: February 10, 2009.

And, to the great L.A. session drummer Earl Palmer -- Rest In Tempo

October 15, 2008

El Confundido


This is without doubt the best -- or the worst -- review ever written about a Jeff Gauthier Goatette show. The fact that it might be both simultaneously shows you how confused even we were. It's certainly the most imaginative and graphic!

"LIT: A Psychedelic Neon Jazz Experience"

There is a serious new talent afoot...

October 30, 2008

The Twin Unavoidability Factor

Cryptogramophone's month-long guest blogging for Dave Douglas' Greenleaf Music continues with our label head Jeff Gauthier's latest post on his 30+ year relationship with twins extraordinare Alex and Nels Cline. Here's an except:

"One of the perks of owning a record label is from time to time I get to pretend to be a record producer. I say pretend, because most of the artists I work with don't really need to be produced. In many cases the musicians are my longtime colleagues and closest friends, and they often have mad production skills of their own. Usually my involvement is limited to booking the studio, hiring the engineer, and making sure everyone gets fed. I make myself available as a second pair of ears, and I keep extensive notes. But at least as far as the musicians I produce are concerned, the artist is almost always right.


"I've been working with guitarist Nels Cline and drummer/percussionist Alex Cline for about 30 years (and yes we did start out as small children). For about 15 of those years we co-led a new music ensemble called Quartet Music with bassist/composer Eric von Essen. After Eric's untimely death in 1996, Alex and I continued playing in each other's ensembles, and Nels has played and recorded in many of my groups as well.

"Not many people know that Nels and Alex are identical twins (mirror twins to be exact). Most people don't know because they don't advertise it. They don't advertise it because their musical paths don't cross quite as often as they used to, and besides, it's kind of old news to them. I think more than a few people in the world at large were surprised to discover that Nels and Alex shared the same birthday at their 50th birthday concert in LA a few years ago. Two musicians with same birthday, wow what a coincidence!


"On February 10th, 2009, Cryptogramophone will release two recordings: Coward by Nels Cline, and Continuation by Alex Cline. This is the first time in the history of the world that Alex and Nels will have CDs coming out at the same time on the same label. I'm afraid I must take partial credit for this, as it was important to me that these two artists, who have been so instrumental in my life, make definitive statements to cap Cryptogramophone's tenth anniversary year. This radical idea unleashed a wild set of coincidences (the "Twin Unavoidability Factor" as Alex calls it) which if examined closely extend far beyond the bounds of serendipity or genetic predisposition. And just for the record, until recently both artists had been working with absolutely no knowledge of what the other was doing."

Check out the full blog post here, which includes two unreleased tracks from each of the Cline Brothers newest Crypto releases. Also, Nels will be doing his part for the common republic with Das Viclo when he/they appear tonight on The Colbert Report.

This Sunday, November 2, Alex Cline will be hosting an amazing lineup of local muscians for the Memorial Concert for percussionist Dan Morris. Alex has many talented friends who are planning to show, including Larry Karush, Brad Dutz’s Obliteration Trio, rock band the Cheat, Eleni Mandell (accompanied by Jeremy Drake), Takako Uemura, Marie Morris, Matt Piper, and Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment (including Jeff Gauthier, Dan Clucas, G.E. Stinson, Wayne Peet, Steuart Liebig, Erin Barnes, Cline, and live painter Norton Wisdom). Look out for Alex's upcoming Greenleaf Music post on the concert and his late friend Morris who passed away way too young last December.

November 19, 2008

Nels Joins Frith, Frisell, Belew, Arto in New Book


Ran into Nels Cline a couple of weeks ago at his brother Alex's memorial concert for the late percussionist Dan Morris. Nels revealed that he contributed his thoughts to a new book entitled State of the Axe: Guitar Masters in Photographs and Words by musician/photographer Ralph Gibson. Some of Nels' postmodern compadres in the book include Adrian Belew, Jim Hall, Fred Frith, Mary Halvorson, Allan Holdsworth, Bill Frisell, Arto Lindsay, John MacLaughlin, Lou Reed, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Andy Summers and James "Blood" Ulmer. He also told us that he just got back from the new Das Vilco sessions in Chicago, where they are recording material for a new album, including "Wilco The Song," that impossibly catchy piece of hilarity that should quell anyone who says this band is too "serious." I asked Nels if that great sludgy, punky riff was his idea. "Nope, it was all Jeff [Tweedy]. The new stuff is a lot like that song. We wanted a sort of John Cale-in-the-1970s feel."

December 4, 2008


This Friday night (Dec. 5), our fearless leader Jeff Gauthier will lead a gang of avant-assassins in yet another installment of Crypto's ongoing residency at the Museum of Neon Art.


Friday Night December 5th - 8PM
Museum of Neon Art
136 W. 4th St., LA 90013
Tel. (213) 489-9918
Tickets are $10 at the Door

Jeff Gauthier - violin, electronics
David Witham - piano, keyboards, electronics
Becca Mhalek - alto saxophone, voice
Steuart Liebig - contrabass guitar, electronics

For more information and a map, please go to:

Cryptonight and MONA present David Witham, Jeff Gauthier, Becca Mhalek and Steuart Liebig in an evening of electronic and acoustic soundscapes inspired by neon art. This replaces The Jeff Gauthier Goatette show originally scheduled. On Friday, December 5th at 8PM, these fine musicians 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 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. Free parking is available on the street, or in two paid lots 1/2 block away.

December 19, 2008

Da Beast Shuttering For Holidays


We'd like to apologize for the lack of posts lately, but we're gearing up for a VERY BUSY beginning to 2009, what with the Cline Boys dropping their "twin" solo releases -- Alex's Continuation and Nels' Coward -- on February 10 and a traveling medicine show-style mini-tour -- March 25-26 at Yoshi's in Oakland and March 27-28 at REDCAT Theater in Los Angeles -- featuring The Nels Cline Singers, Alex Cline's Continuation Quintet, Myra Melford's Be Bread and, of course, the Jeff Gauthier Goatette. Also, we're getting ready to hand over the keys to our buds over at Greenleaf Music for some guest blogging for a few weeks.

In the meantime, here's our little holiday gift por vous (courtesy of The New Homemaker):


1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups dried fruit (dried cranberries or raisins)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups all purpose flour
1 liter bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila (silver or gold, as desired)

First, sample the Cuervo to check quality.

Take a large bowl. Check the Cuervo to be sure It is of the highest quality.

Pour another 4 ounces in a measuring cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer.

Beat one cup of the butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one teaspoon sugar. Beat again.

At this point, it is best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK.

Try another 4 ounces, just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit, picking the frigging fruit off the floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a screwdriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt or shomething.

Check the Jose Cuervo.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.


January 16, 2009

Crypto Artists/Friends in Year-end Polls

cg136.jpgOh, did we mention we stay away from year-end polls? Well, mostly -- unless it involves us somehow. Yessiree, that time again. Downbeat’s poll included only one Crypto release this year, Bennie Maupin’s Early Reflections – but a lot of Crypto satellites made the cut, like Myra Melford’s collab with Marty Ehrlich Spark! and Peter Erskine's collab w/ Tim Hagans & The Norrbotten Big Band Worth The Wait.
From JazzTimes, Todd Sickafoose’s Tiny Resistors hit #46 in JazzTimes' poll and #11 on Will Layman's PopMatters poll. Early Reflections also made the Village Voice’s year-end poll (curated by Francis Davis) and Mark Stryker's list for the Detroit Free Press.
Both T-Sick and B-Maup made our pal Greg Burk's MetalJazz year end list, as did Crypto pal Cuong Vu and spiritual L.A. forefathers The Gathering. Avant Music News included the Goatette's House of Return, as did Slate's Fred Kaplan. Michael J. West included Bennie in his list for The Washington City Paper.
tsick.jpgThe Denver Post assured us that "Indie Labels Delivered the Goods" in 2008 when it came to great jazz – but yet nothing we did was mentioned. Are we miffed? Nah, we’re used to it. Sort of.

We'll be updating this as the accolades pour in...

February 3, 2009

Cryptonight at MONA



Friday Night February 6th - 8PM
Museum of Neon Art
136 W. 4th St., LA 90013
Tel. (213) 489-9918
Tickets are $10 at the Door
Free parking is available on the street, or in two paid lots 1/2 block away.
For more information and a map, please go to:

Sara Parkins - violin
Sarah Thornblade - violin
Alma Fernandez - viola
Maggie Parkins - cello

plus guests:
Jeff Gauthier - violin, electronics
David Witham - piano, keyboards, electronics

The Eclipse Quartet is an exciting new music ensemble dedicated to the music of present day composers, and to creating music in improvisational settings. This quartet is made up of four women with strong backgrounds in international and national chamber music performance, new music, and recording. Their combined experience represents a wide range of musical styles and collaborations.

The first half of the concert The Eclipse Quartet will present string quartets by New York composers John Zorn and John King. The second half will be an improvisational collaboration as the quartet plugs in to play music by Jeff Gauthier, and to improvise with Gauthier on electric violin, and David Witham on electronics and keyboards. Together these musicians will create spontaneously composed music inspired by the amazing neon art on display at MONA.

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.


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 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.

"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 16, 2009

A Public Service Announcement from Nels Courtney Cline


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 23, 2009

Cryptonights at Yoshi's & REDCAT


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.

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.

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.

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."

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.


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!")


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

March 30, 2009

Bringing It/Swinging It

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."

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!"

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.

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]

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."

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.


April 10, 2009

Fearless Leader About Town

The Hat! [photo courtesy of Peak]

He recently celebrated a triumphant mini-tour commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Cryptogramophone Records, performed the epic 12-suite "Images of Los Angeles" at the Jazz Bakery with Motoko Honda's Sound Escape Project AND bought a nifty and hip new jazz hat. Now our label head Jeff Gauthier now has taken it upon hisself to get involved in some cool new activities: co-curating the 2nd Annual Angel City Jazz Festival with our pal Rocco Somazzi. (Check out the tentative bill of oft-killer performers they've come up with here.) He also pops up on a bewitching new CD by vocalist Takako Uemura called Reminiscence, a supple collection of traditional Japanese lullabies performed with an extended Crypto famdamily of Alex Cline, Joel Hamilton, Dan Morris, Will Salmon, Sara Schoenbeck and David Witham. Many of the same players will be performing at Alex Cline and Will Salmon's new Open Gate Theatre series called Flicked – showing old silent movies with new live music. This month's flick is Fritz Lang's ultimate worker-revolt tale Metropolis and will be screened at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts at 7pm on April 19 with improvisational music by Will, Alex, Jeff, Bill Casale and G.E. Stinson. For $5 bucks, easily the deal of this, the cruelest month!

Snooks Eaglin
John "Jack" Fragomeni Jr.
Duane Jarvis
Ralph Mercado
Manny Oquendo
Harrison Ridley, Jr.
Bud Shank
Lyman Woodard

April 15, 2009


Veteran music nerd and longtime Rolling Stone contributor David Fricke throws Nels Cline some L-O-V-E in the magazine's new issue.

Hmmmmmm... [photo by Peak]

Das Vilco's untitled new record drops sometime in late June, but their new live tour DVD Ashes of American Flags drops even sooner than that: April 18, which is also the much-hyped date for National Record Store Day. Check out this exclusive live clip of "Side with the Seeds" from the DVD. A Wilco-less Mr. Nels will also be featured TODAY on WXPN's venerable live music program World Cafe with David Dye.

Alex circa, uhhhhh....1980? [photo by Mark Weber]

Alex Cline will celebrate "Day After Record Store Day." At 7pm on April 19 he'll add his fierce percussion skill set to a live improvised "re-scoring" of Metropolis, Friz Lang's classic 1927 dysopian fantasy. He will appear with guitarist G.E. Stinson, flautist Will Salmon (whose instrument will "speak" for Maria, the film’s protagonist), violinist Jeff Gauthier and bassist Bill Casale.


Two weeks later on May 3 at 7pm, Alex and Will Salmon will present the third in his spring series of Sunday evening concerts. The evening opens with a true Battle of the Lungs: Steve Adams & Vinny Golia, two old friends and hard-core veterans of the jazz and New Music world. Virtuosi Adams (ROVA Saxophone Quartet, collaborations with Ken Filiano, the Bill Horvitz Band and others) and Golia (local uncompromising bandleader-composer-teacher-avant guardian-elder statesman) will present a dazzling multi-horn display of open, sophisticated, intense, subtle, varied, and expressive improvisational adventure. The resonant acoustics of the Center for the Arts should emerge as their wonderful helper and friend as their sonorous interactions swirl around and stunningly fill the space. A rare, dynamic, and intimate meeting.

The second set features Alex with keyboardist/ulitmate tech head Wayne Peet and mad trumpeter John Fumo: also old friends who have played in each others’ bands and in countless others’, running the gamut from the jazz mainstream and avant-garde to arena-level pop to film music to Latin jazz and pop to New Music. One thing they have never done is play together in a trio. Alex, who initiated the project, began playing with Fumo in the early eighties and Peet in around 1980. In their May concert debut, the three of them, under the moniker of Dot Org (so named partly in honor of Peet’s 1970s-vintage Yamaha organ that is featured as a prominent voice in the group’s sound), will collectively explore the expansive, the loosely-structured, the atmospheric, the drivingly rhythmic, the lyrical, and the obtuse ends of the spontaneous music spectrum, drawing on chemistry that is tried and true. Recommended!

Both shows will take place at the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock (one block west of Eagle Rock Blvd.). Admission is $10, students, seniors, and series performers half price. Free parking is plentiful. Further information can be obtained by calling (626) 795-4989.

Meanwhile Alex's Continuation and Nels' Coward continue to rack up the great reviews!

"Cline Every Mountain"
"What Would You Do for a Clinedike Bar?"
"California InCline" (santa monica reference)
"No Cline on the Horizon"

HAPPY %#@$!*&^>?+ TAX DAY!

May 26, 2009

Two Live Clines

Alex and Nels are profiled in the June 2009 issue of Downbeat magazine. Perosnally, we thought they would've made a great COVER story, but oh well...

At any rate, here's an excerpt from the mag, available on newsstands now!

Sushi Performance Gallery, San Diego (1/13/09)

by Josef Woodard

Musical brothers have long figured into the lineage of jazz, including the famous Jones brothers out of Detroit (Thad, Elvin and Hank), the Heaths out of Philadelphia (Jimmy, Albert and Percy) and the Marsalis clan from New Orleans (Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason).

Meanwhile, out West and lesser-known in the fraternity of musical brothers work the Clines, guitarist Nels and drummer Alex. Whereas brothers from other settings have heeded the theory of a musical household and the passing-down of wisdom from an older to younger siblings, the Los Angeles-born and based Clines are in synch as twins.

“You have solidarity, a best friend who’s obsessed with all the same stuff as you,” said Nels about the relationship he has with his twin. “We probably have some psychic connection.”

Starting in the ’80s, the Clines (born on Jan. 4, 1956) have figured strongly in the jazz and adventurous music scenes in L.A. and beyond. Both have played with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Charlie Haden, as well as numerous West Coast players to the left of straightahead. Their influential Oregon-like acoustic group Quartet Music lasted for much of the ’80s.

In recent years, the Cline name has bumped up in recognition after Nels joined the rock group Wilco. But his newfound fans have a lot to learn about Nels’ twisty musical story, involving work with his trio, the Nels Cline Singers, and other liaisons in jazz, rock and experimental circles.

This year, the brothers simultaneously released solo projects on Cryptogramophone, the 10-year-old L.A.-based indie label run by violinist Jeff Gauthier. Similarities and differences mark Alex’ Continuation and Nels’ Coward. The former is an expansive chamber jazz project, featuring pianist Myra Melford, cellist Peggy Lee, Gauthier, bassist Scott Walton and Alex on his large and texturally varied drum and percussion set-up. Coward, conversely, is Nels’ first all-solo project, although it features a layered collection of acoustic and electric, abstract and lyrical sounds. It includes such seemingly incongruous—but to Cline, logically linked—references as Ralph Towner, Derek Bailey and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

On a mid-January afternoon, the Clines convened in the Culver City home where Alex lives with his wife and young daughter. The interview took place a few hours after Barack Obama’s inauguration, which partly explained the excitable atmosphere, not to mention having their albums timed for a joint release.

While the brothers grew up together musically, they have cleaved personal directions and lifestyles. For instance, at the interview both Clines wore black T-shirts, with telling distinctions. Nels’ sported a facsimile of the album cover of the first release by the Bad Brains, the Washington, D.C., punk band, but retooled with the words “Barack Obama.” Alex, the more poised and introspective of the twins, wore a shirt with the Zen-like inscription “this is it.”

A week earlier, the brothers played a rare duo gig in San Diego [see above clip]. On the set list were Keith Jarrett’s “Angles Without Edges,” a snippet of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” the Jimi Hendrix instrumental “Beginnings,” Ornette Coleman’s “Law Years” and John Coltrane’s “India.” The set list speaks volumes about the eclecticism embedded in the Cline family crest, and manifested in their ongoing musical output.

June 29, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Larry Karush's New World Boogie

"Follow pianist Larry Karush around the musical world; it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than American Airlines, and he won’t lose your luggage."
Greg Burk, MetalJazz


“I’m basically a boogie-woogie piano player,” Larry Karush told the crowd gathered last summer for a Q&A session at his undergrad alma mater, Portland's Reed College. “And sometimes I think that all the stuff that I’ve developed goes back to that root of rhythm or energy, and how you work with that. Over the course of the last number of years I’ve tried to expand the vocabulary of what I can spontaneously play with.”

Yet to call Karush merely a “boogie-woogie” pianist would be like calling Salman Rushdie merely a typist. An interpreter and absorber of a startling array of world music textures, Karush is the Left Coast musician incarnate, representing the state’s diverse cultural stewing pot by synthesizing sounds from North India, West Africa and Brazil with jazz, classical music and 20th century minimalism.

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Larry Karush's New World Boogie" »

July 3, 2009

Happpie Indie Pendants Daye!

Before we disappear into this holiday weekend, some unfinished business:


Multiple review of new collaborative CDs from Nels Cline and friends: Acoustic Guitar Trio's Vignes and Red Feast from Cline with Stephen Gauci, Ken Filiano and Mike Pride. Also, a multiple review of several of Myra Melford's recent efforts: Under The Water with Satoko Fujii, Continuation with the Alex Cline Ensemble and Andrew Drury's My Fingers Will Be Your Tears.


Both Nels and Alex made the Avant Music News list of "the albums released so far in 2009 that have garnered the most listens":

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines
Henry Cow – Vol. 1: Beginnings
Nels Cline – Coward
Univers Zero – Relaps: Archives 1984-1986
Quartet Offensive – Carnivore
John Zorn – Filmworks XXII: The Last Supper
John Hébert – Byzantine Monkey
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Winterwood
Land Of Kush – Against the Day
Maurizo Bianchi – A M.B. Lehn Tale
Michaël Attias – Credo
James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone – Thin Air
Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn – Farmers by Nature
Kayo Dot – Blue Lambency Downward
Alex Cline – Continuation


Of interest to all L.A. free jazz geeks, Nessa Records' 2-CD reissue of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, a meeting of minds between L.A. free jazz pioneer Bobby Bradford and a group of British musicians led by the drummer John Stevens. Recorded over a long holiday weekend on July 9, 1971, SME represents a breakthough period of sorts for Bradford's composing and bandleading. "I was still nibbling away at writing some chordal stuff, bop-like stuff, some free pieces, but I didn’t have a handle on the free style yet at first," Bradford told an oral historian in 2000. "I don’t think it hit me until 1971, when I really started to go crazy writing...when I went to in England for the first time. I don’t know what hit me…I was writing stuff on the plane going there….I stayed for awhile and did some recordings with some British musicians…Everything we did was out of new music I’d just written and all of it was free-form. The Spontaneous Music Ensemble was John Stevens' band, but when we played together we played my music.” Bradford also recorded two consecutive live sets from Chat Qui Pêche in Paris with the same band that was reissued in 2003 under the title Love's Dream.

Sunday, June 12, 2009, 2:30-6:30pm. Crypto extended family member Bennie Maupin will be conducting his 24-piece Ikeda Kings Orchestra for "Jazz Explosion III," a fundraiser sfor the California Jazz Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports California jazz musicians in need. The emcees will be K-JAZZ DJ (and host of the Angel City Jazz Festival LeRoy Downs and our pal "Dr." Jeffrey Winston. Joining them will be Ernie Andrews, Llew Matthews, Richard Simon, Roy McCurdy, Bill Cunliffe, Janis Mann, Gerry Gibbs and many more to be announced. At All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena, CA.


July 19, 2009, 8pm. The next week in Eagle Rock, Open Gate Theatre will present a screening of Buster Keaton's classic The General with live-music accompaniment by percussionists Brad Dutz, Joe Berardi and David Shafer, woodwind player Jasper Dutz, oboist Camille Liu and voila player Alec Santamaria. Staycation admission price: $5! A plethora of free parking! At Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, CA (one block east of Eagle Rock Blvd.).


Saturday, July 25, 2009, 7pm. The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) will kick off the 10th anniversary of its sound. concert series with a first time pairing of like-minded West Coast sound explorers: Seattle-based sound manipulators Climax Golden Twins (CGT) and Los Angeles-based experimentalist Steve Roden. For further information visit or phone (323) 960-5723.


Nice looooong interview with Tim Berne from The Bad Plus' website. Berne has been a frequent collaborator with The Cline Boys, and will be playing at The Stone at the end of this month with Nels and drummer Jim Black in a trio dubbed "The BBC."

July 30-August 1, 8pm. The next night across the continent, Alex Cline will join visual artist Carol Kim, trumpeter Dan Clucas and Butoh master Oguri for "a hallucinatory mix of live-feed video and layered projections form an immersive installation that refracts the live performances." On the same bill will be the mysterious "all-girl feminist cock rock" ensemble Jennifer The Leopard, who will "stage a multimedia event featuring songs about celebrity sightings and knife fights while it pits an on-stage 'audience' against the real one in a show that is part bitchin' rock concert and part post-studio pep rally." Both are part of the aptly named New Original Works Festival at REDCAT.


Allright, that's it. We're outta here!

July 11, 2009

Apparently, We Matter

Cryptogramophone is one of the indie upstarts mentioned in a recent post from NPR's A Blog Supreme that poses the mercurial query: "Do Jazz Record Labels Still Matter?"


Greg Burk's Live Jazz Picks (July 10-16)
Don Heckman's Live Jazz Picks (July 6-12)
Brick Wahl's Live Jazz Picks (July 9-15)

Barry Beckett
Edward Downes
George Fullerton
Bob Mitchell

July 22, 2009


I wanted to play my own chords. I wanted to create and invent on little jobs.
Thelonious Sphere Monk

It’s easy to forget that one of the originators of bebop had such modest goals in his early years, just as its easy to forget that some of Thelonious Monk’s most mercurial compositions were themselves actual harmonic reconfigurations of pop standards: “I Got Rhythm,” for example, filtered through Monk’s starling, jagged notes and splayed-finger technique, begat “Rhythm-a-ning” and “The Theme.”


No doubt, this is the reason for the plethora of Monk tributes over the years: the pianist's open reharmonizations ensured that those who followed him would use his music as building blocks for their own ideas, and that the ultimate Monk tribute would not be note-by-note traditionalism but explorations that would sound very little like a night at Minton’s Playhouse in 1941. “Monk's songs are condensed compositions that function as riddles, as lessons, and above all as vibrant, swinging music,” says plays monk bassist Devin Hoff. “Each one of them possesses an inner strength and resiliency that can withstand infinite variations and permutations without giving up its form or its content.”

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Got Monk?" »

August 4, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Motoko Honda Sounds Like A Crazy Person (UPDATED)


Pianist Motoko Honda is the walking definition of the phrase “sound sculpturist.” She stands as much as she sits during her performances: either to direct her ensembles with a sweep of the hand or stabbing point of a finger, or to just lean into her open piano to perform some sort of bewitching skullduggery on its prepared strings—all the while working her (bare) foot pedals to create loops of electronic squiggles and sighs. Not content to simply compose and make music, Honda, in the sage words of Greg Burk, “colors the air.”

Like her colleagues in L.A.’s creative-improvisational community with whom she’s played—quite a a few, like Vinny Golia, our fearless leader Jeff Gauthier, Steuart Liebig, April Guthries, Alex Cline, Emily Hay, Ben Wendel, Joe Berardi, Kris Tiner, Andrea Centazzo, Ivan Johnson, Jesse Gilbert, Fumiko Amano and Carole Kim, are from the Crypto extended family—Honda marries classical, jazz, avant-garde, Pacific-Rim textures and 21st century technology into musical soundscapes that reflect Obamanian visions of a seamless mix-and-match between colliding world cultures.

(To underscore this point: she’s from Yokohama, Japan by way of Lindsborg, Kansas.)

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Motoko Honda Sounds Like A Crazy Person (UPDATED)" »

August 6, 2009


The organizers of this year's Angel City Jazz Festival are proud to announce that The Eclipse Quartet will be joining pianist Billy Childs for his ACJF set (8-9pm, Sunday, Sept 6, 2009).

Billy Childs performs "Autumn Leaves" live in Palermo, Italy (3/22/07)

Eclipse Quartet live at Location One Roulette, New York (December 2005)

In the picnic area of the Ford Amphitheatre from 4pm to 11pm each day of the festival, visual artists Fumiko Amano, Favianna Rodriguez and Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca will be painting live, directly inspired by the music being performed during the festival.


All live paintings will be available for sale at affordable prices ranging from $20 to $100: proceeds will benefit the Angel City Jazz Festival. Go here for more info.

Greg Burk's Live Jazz Pick's (Aug. 7-13)
Don Heckman's Live Jazz Picks (Aug. 3-9)
Brick Wahl's Live Jazz Picks (Aug. 6-12)

Betty Allen
Merce Cunningham
John “Marmaduke” Dawson
Willy DeVille
Titus “Baatin” Glover
Robert Hilferty
Andy Parle
Billy Lee Riley
George Russell
Mike Seeger
Michael Steinberg
Tom Wilkes

August 8, 2009

If Crypto Was a Gunslinger...

The results are in from Downbeat magazine's 57th Annual Critics' Poll.

And it looks like a happy one for our fearless leader...

Violin Rising Star - #6 Jeff Gauthier
Rising Star Producer - #10 Jeff Gauthier
Producer - #11 Jeff Gauthier

Continue reading "If Crypto Was a Gunslinger..." »

August 12, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: The Goldings Variations

I intend to experiment more and more in the studio to create something that is original, sonically satisfying, soulful, but not necessarily jazz.
-Larry Goldings


In April 2006, a bizarre MySpage page appeared hawking the musical philosophy and wares of an Austrian pianist named Hans Groiner. Hailing from the city of Branau am Inn (“also the birthplace of Hitler, but please don't hold that against me"), the classically trained Groiner accounted his introduction to the world of jazz: "One day, around 1978, I heard a very interesting piece of music that turned out to be a jazz pianist named Thelonious Monk. It pickled my interest because it was very different from anything I had ever heard.”

Then it all went horribly wrong. “Although his music fascinated me, I had very mixed feelings,” Groiner went on to explain. “On the one hand, Mr. Monk had obvious talents, but on the other hand, his piano playing was very messy, and his songs had many funny notes and rhythms. Over the many years that I have been studying his music, I have grown to the conclusion that his songs would be much better, and much more popular, if many of the dissonances, or "wrong notes," were removed.” On his new CD, entitled Hans Groiner Plays Monk, the pianist claims he has done just that with such Monk classics as “Well, You Needn’t”, “I Mean You” and “Think of One.” “I think music fans from all over will agree that this new interpretation brings Monk's music to a much prettier, much more relaxing place.”

“Hans Gronier” expounds on the music of Thelonius Monk

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: The Goldings Variations" »

August 18, 2009



Crypto's rez percussionist Alex Cline will be Michael Davis’s guest on Davis' radio show Trilogy (KXLU 88.9-FM) tomorrow (Wednesday) evening at 9pm. The artist himself: "I will be shamelessly promoting the jazz fest...and myself, I guess." Typical blowhard comment!

Hildegard Behrens
Carleen Hutchins
Ernst Katz
Allan Shellenberger

August 20, 2009


I would love to make music that no one has heard before.
Satoko Fujii

Ah wouldn’t we all. But how many of us get the chance -- much less the Herculean discipline -- to do it?


Here at da Beast, we like to throw around metaphors as carelessly as the next blog—but even this might be stretching it for us: think of the Satoko Fujii Four as The Band of nü jazz. Wait, wait for it...Here are a group of musicians whose diversity of ranks produces a diversity of sounds: there’s the Japanese husband–and-wife team of pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, the West Coast chamber music/avant-jazz elder statesman, bassist Mark Dresser, and the maniacally divergent young New York drummer Jim Black. Their combined assault of all these ingredients—from willowy caresses of Asian or European folk music and intricately latticed classical etudes to the chest-seizing peals of avant-noise—are, wrote Jazz Central Station’s Drew Wheeler, “a potent mix of passion and calculated madness.” “They are the masters of paradox,” added Music and More's Tim Niland. “Managing contradictory feelings and statements, mixing drama with fun, calm and nervousness, composition and improvisation, but all within the same very coherent idiom.”

Fujii herself has been invariably compared to Toshiko Akiyoshi, not in the least because (thanks, in part, to lazy journalists) both are Japanese pianists who are Berklee School of Music alums and had to endure painful breaks with tradition. In the former’s case, it was Western male-dominated jazz; in the latter, her parents.


Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Four Winds" »

August 21, 2009


West Coast Premiere of CHOPS: THE MOVIE!
Where: The Royal/T Cafe, Culver City
When: August 28, 2009 @ 7pm
Whence: $20

Admission price includes:

* A glass of Champagne (whoo-hoo!)
* Cryptogramophone Compilation double CD + DVD
* A chance to win 2 tickets for the Angel City Jazz Festival (John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 9/6 & 9/7)


CHOPS tells the story of a group of kids with extraordinary musical ability who learn to make the most of their gifts in an acclaimed public school jazz program in Jacksonville, FL.

From their early, squeaky scales to soaring, improvisational solos, we have a front row seat for their fascinating transformation. We're with them as they stick together and as they fall apart. And we see up close how the events of their daily lives are expressed in their music. We follow their musical journey from Florida to New York City, where they compete against the top high school jazz bands in the nation at the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival. Win or lose, the Essentially Ellington experience puts them at the threshold of their dream, and reveals the incredible growth they've experienced personally and musically.

(UPDATE: Pianist Motoko Honda and violinist Jeff Gauthier will be performing as well.)

Co-sponsored by Cryptogramophone Records and the 2009 Angel City Jazz Festival.

August 23, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Wayne Horvitz's Weight Music


One of Da Beast’s favorite sets at last year’s Angel City Jazz Festival was the sublime and serpentine performance of keyboardist Wayne Horvitz’s Sweeter Than the Day: one almost forgot it was the middle of a balmy Labor Day weekend inside the Gal Lery Theatre at Barnsdall Art Park, the set unfolded like cigarette smoke in the early morning air of a European jazzkeller, daring the sun-kissed crowd to follow them down the road of calm introspection in the face of the dizzying parade of big-city stimuli.

Which is all just a snooty way of saying: Mr. Horvitz makes you slow down, stop the car, get out and amble through the roses.

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Wayne Horvitz's Weight Music" »

August 27, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Nels Cline's Glourious Bandsterz



Guitarist NELS CLINE, a tall gentleman wearing black combat boots and a stylish Givenchy shirt, paces back and forth before his 3-man squad of avant-garde jazz musicians. They are drummer SCOTT AMENDOLA, bassist DEVIN HOFF and guitarist JEFF PARKER – all standing at rapt attention.

NELS: My name is Nels Courtney Cline, and I’m putting together a special team. And I need me three musicians. Three – avant – garde – jazz - musicians. Now, you might have heard rumors about a jazz festival happening soon. Well, those rumors are no longer rumors. In two weeks’ time, we’ll be parachuting into the rugged foothills above the Pilgrimage – uh, excuse me – Ford Theater, dressed as normal civilians – and no, I will not be wearing this shirt, sadly to say.


NELS: (Cont'd) And once we’ve staged our assault on the theatre stage, as a bushwhackin' improvisin' seratonin' pocket army of forward thinking alchemists of jazz/rock sonic exploration, we’re gonna be doing one thing and one thing only: melt faces. Musically speaking, that is. The Man has conquered Los Angeles jazz through supper clubs, cocktail lounges, dental offices and hotel piano bars in a pogrom of dilution and faux-respectability.

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Nels Cline's Glourious Bandsterz" »

August 28, 2009



Following Alex Cline's appearance last week on KXLU's Trilogy, pianist Larry Karush will appear on John Schneider's Global Village (KPFK 90.7-FM) next Thursday, Sept. 3 at 11am. Besides performing live, he will be talking about the music he'll be performing at the Angel City Jazz Festival as well as the festival in general.

Greg Burk's Live Picks (Aug. 21-27)
Don Heckman's Live Picks (Aug. 25-30)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks (Aug. 27-Sept. 2)

August 30, 2009



Hey Angel City Jazz Festival Fans, Today is the last day to get $5 off our already low ticket prices. After August 30th prices go up to $35 (from $30) for adult tickets. Students are just $12!!


The Festival is next (Labor Day) weekend, Sept 6-7 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. There will be food, drink, crafts, and live painting. Go to; and click on Buy Tickets.

Come hear Dave Douglas, Benny Maupin and Dolphyana, The Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker, Billy Childs, Larry Goldings, Wayne Horvitz, Satoko Fujii and many more.

UPDATE (9/02/09): Whoops! Looks like we missed a couple of ACJF '09 promotional appearances. There was Bennie Maupin's guest shot on KPFK 90.7-FM's Global Village Monday with Maggie LePique. (You can listen to the 8/31/09 podcast here.)
Jesse Sharps also stopped by the KPFK studios of RISE with Mark Maxwell. (Check out the audio archive of the show here.)

But that's not all: Tonight at 6pm on KXLU, ACJF co-organizers Jeff Gauthier and Rocco Somazzi will be guests on Jazz Journey with Eddie B. Tomorrow morning, in addition to Larry Karush's appearance listed below, pianist Billy Childs will stopping by KPFK at Noon for a live studio performance. Finally, on Saturday at 12pm, Rocco and organist Larry Goldings will pop by KJAZZ's The JazzCat with Leroy Downs. Leroy will (coincidentally) be repeating his duties as Master of Ceremonies for both days of the festival. Let's hear it for L.A. Jazz DJs for their support!

Greg Burk's Live Picks of the Week (Sept. 4-10):
Sun.-Mon. Sept. 6-7 -- Before last year’s Angel City Jazz Fest, Los Angeles had not hosted a wide-scale progressive jazz festival drawing from beyond local environs in something like a quarter of a century. What an embarrassment -- cities less than a tenth of our size such as Portland and San Francisco constantly kick our ass in this category with conclaves far larger than L.A. has ever mustered. Equally embarrassing was the response to the event by the media, which virtually ignored it. (LA Times improved its record this year via Chris Barton’s online interview with festival promoters Rocco Somazzi and Jeff Gauthier.) There ought to be a sign at the city limits that says NOW ENTERING HICK TOWN: NO WILD JAZZ OR PRO FOOTBALL. Despite his personal challenges, Somazzi has not given up, and he and Cryptogramophone’s Gauthier are acting as a pair of bolt cutters in a nation of artistic shackles....Damn, this is gonna be fun." (GB)

Don Heckman's Live Picks of the Week (Sept. 1-6)

"Highlight: Sept. 6 – 7. (Sun. & Mon.) Angel City Jazz Festival. The second installment of this adventurous Festival now takes place in the airy outdoor setting of the Ford Amphitheatre. And the line-up is an impressive collection of some of the contemporary jazz world’s most cutting edge artists and ensembles. The line up includes Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy, Bennie Maupin and Dolphyana, Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble, Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment, Larry Goldings Trio, Wayne Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet. Larry Karush, Dwight Trible, Satoko Fuji and more. Ford Amphitheatre. Angel City Jazz Festival. (323) 461-3673." (DH)

Brick Wahl's Live Picks of the Week (Sept. 3-9)

"FESTIVALS OF NATIONS: Three big jazz festivals in the area this weekend, each completely different. Way different describes the Angel City Jazz Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre. The whole point of this event is to collect all kinds of creative-for-creative’s-sake jazz in one place — hours of it. And they’ve certainly assembled two days of brilliant stuff. Sunday’s headliner is trumpeter Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy (trombone, French horn, tuba and drums). Their Spirit Moves (on Greenleaf) is a glorious mix of a nearly New Orleans–style classic jazz — hence the tuba — and some strikingly expressive pieces with melodies that really stick with you in their odd way; the semi-oddball mix of horns blending beautifully. And Douglas blows a beautiful trumpet. Also on the bill is saxist Jesse Sharp’s stunning collective known as The Gathering (with saxist Kamasi Washington and violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson). Just wait till Dwight Trible joins them, his voice soaring and filling the whole place. Pianist Billy Childs’ Jazz Chamber Ensemble (with harpist Carole Robbins and saxist Bob Sheppard), the Satoko Fujii Quartet with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, pianist Larry Karush, and the clarinet fronted trio Plays Monk fill out the rest of the day. Top of the Monday’s bill is brilliant reedman Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana, an all-star band — flutist Nestor Torres (filling in for an ill James Newton), vibist Jay Hoggard, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Billy Hart — performing newly discovered compositions by the great Eric Dolphy. Wow. Also, drummer Alex Cline’s Band of the Moment ought to be playing material from his striking Continuation; Larry Goldings has the great NYC guitarist Peter Bernstein in his organ trio; The Nels Cline Singers pair Nels with Jeff Parker of Tortoise, doing who knows what, pianist Motoko Honda improvises with butoh master Oguri, and the Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet feature the often radical trumpeter Ron Miles. Incredible lineup in one of our favorite outdoor venues. See for prices (not bad at all) and details." (BW)

From L.A. Weekly's Music Picks (Sept.4-10): "Angel City Jazz Festival at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre: It’s billed as “L.A.’s Only Alternative, Non-Commercial Jazz Festival,” and you really ought to be grateful for the progressive plateful of heavy hitters shreddin’ the boards for your new thing–seeking pleasure. This is a chance to experience the very best in the more modernist spheres of jazz-aligned new music. Certain highlights are Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker’s jam with the Nels Cline Singers, featuring superax from Wilco guitarist Nels (and not a singer in sight); Nels’ bro, drummer-composer extraordinaire Alex Cline, brings his Band of the Moment; revered nu-jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas debuts his alternatively arranged Brass Ecstasy; woodwind player/composer Bennie Maupin and an all-star crew present Dolphyana, West Coast premieres of newly discovered compositions by Eric Dolphy. Also, pianist Wayne Horvitz’s extraordinary Gravitas Quartet, pianist Motoko Honda and butoh master Oguri, the Gathering, featuring woodwind player Jesse Sharps and vocalist Dwight Trible, and many others. Also Mon." (John Payne)

From Flavorpill-Los Angeles: "Get Labor Day started a bit later: Ford Amphitheatre's two-day jazz festival gets cooking at 4pm. Double Grammy-nominated jazz trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas (along with five-piece band, Brass Ecstasy) headlines the fest in support of his debut disc, Spirit Moves, an original outing that also features arrangements of classics by the likes of Otis Redding, Hank Williams, and Rufus Wainwright. Also on the bill: jazz pianist Larry Karush, Thelonious Monk devotees Plays Monk, and the Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker." (Julian Hooper)

Dave Douglas

RE-UPDATE (9/05/09): Check out this interview with ACJF co-organizers Rocco Somazzi and Jeff Gauthier on the L.A. Times' Pop & Hiss blog!

September 1, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: On Sunday Afternoons in 1973

It was like nothing else in my life up to now.
Raymond Carver, “Cathedral”

Pilgrimage Play Theatre, original facade

Nestled in a chaparral-adorned nook in the Cahuenga Pass, the Ford Amphitheatre has had a quintessentially L.A. genesis and lifetime. Originally known as the Pilgrimage Play Theatre, it was built in 1920 by a Philly arts patron specifically for performances of her self-penned religious drama and was used as a site for religious performances for the next 44 years, a run interrupted only by (what else?) a fire and World War II.

Anson Amphitheatre, present day

In the 1960s and 70s, as the property deteriorated and attendance dwindled, L.A. County put on intermittent Shakespeare plays, dance recitals and musical performances. Among them was “Jazz at the Pilgrimage,” a series of free Sunday concerts presented via the Local 47 musician's trust fund. JATP became a destination for a murderers' row of Left Coast jazz artists, including Art Pepper, Mundell Lowe, Frank Rosolino (with Frank Severino on drums), Chico Hamilton, Henry Franklin’s band with Oscar Brashear, Charles Owens, Kemang Sunduza/Bill Henderson and Sonship Theus (plus a rotating spate of guests like Al Hall Jr., Kirk Lightsey, Dwight Dickerson and Kenny Climax), Harold Land (with his son Harold Jr.), Buddy Collette, Carl Burnett, Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Don Ellis and George Bohannon.


Many -- if not all -- of these concerts were attended by young musicians who would make up the next generation of LA's creative jazz scene, including two blonde twin teens named Alex and Nels Cline and their high school friends Lee Kaplan (who would later curate the series of memorable concerts at the Century City Playhouse in the late 70s and early 80s) and Michael Preussner (later the drummer for the Nels Cline Trio). “We often bought very powerful Ya-Sin Bazaar incense outside the theater after the concerts from two lovely local young African-American gentlemen who also turned out to be jazz musicians -- excellent ones at that -- Shams U-Din (Ray Straughter) and his brother Hamid (Ernest Straughter)! " recalls Alex Cline today. "We actually at one point wound up visiting the little back house/shed behind their parents' home in Watts where they made the incense themselves.”

Alex Cline [photo courtesy of Peak]

In many ways, when Alex Cline returns with his Band of the Moment to the Theatre Formerly Known as the Pilgrimage next week for the Angel City Jazz Festival, it will be a spiritual homecoming of sorts. Thirty-five years later, many of the same musicians who made their own pilgrimages to the jazz concerts as young teens now return to a revivified, rustic oasis to pay tribute to those summer days as well as the music they discovered during this particular time in their lives, to practice the fruits of a religious experience that had nothing to do with religion but with that first rush of musical transcendence that can galvanize the awkwardness and manic displaced energy of a difficult adolescence.

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: On Sunday Afternoons in 1973" »

September 3, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: The Diversification of Billy Childs

"Ruth, I broke a string."
Billy Childs, onstage at the Jazz Bakery (Feb. 2007)


Billy Childs is Los Angeles musical elegance personified. The 52-year-old composer/pianist brings with him to this year’s Angel City Jazz Festival a mountain of accolades, including two 2006 Grammy Awards -- one of them for the intricate, dense epic “Into the Light,” off Jazz-Chamber Music, Vol. 1: Lyric. By the laws of the music biz, music this ambitious wasn't supposed to win major awards. “People are learning that something significant is happening with pianist Billy Childs and his current band,” observed Kirk Silsbee in L.A. Citybeat. “And it's been too long since something of portent - new and distinct - has come out of Southern California jazz.”

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: The Diversification of Billy Childs" »

September 4, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Mr. Sharps Essays the Roots


A couple months ago, I sat with composer/bandleader/reedman/wise kat Jesse Sharps on a Mt. Washington hilltop patio overlooking the San Gabriel Valley. Sharps was using the amazing view to illustrate one of his musical philosophies. “There are sounds that hurt, just like there’s sounds that heal.” He swept his arm across the valley vista: “Say we got ten thousand motherfuckers standing up here on the hill with their horns. They all play the wrong note all at once, who knows what effect it’ll have on down there.” And this was before the Valley was on fire.


Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Mr. Sharps Essays the Roots" »

September 6, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Dave Douglas Is Brassed Off!


Along with The Bad Plus and Matthew Shipp, Dave Douglas is arguably one of the most high-profile of the Nu Jazz musicians whose appeal has crossed over into indie rock and (gasp!) pop territory. Besides releasing nearly 30 recordings since 1993, leading at least a half dozen different bands while managing find time to snap up a Guggenheim Fellowship and start his own label Greenleaf Music, the two-time Grammy-nominated trumpeter also been one of the most outspoken, chiming in online about subjects as varying as his favorite solo trumpet recordings, the possibilities of jazz in the digital age, and even the role of government in funding the arts.

But he’s also drawn flak for mouthing off Bill Maher-style about a whole range of subjects that Jazz Musicians Shouldn’t Talk About: criticizing the policy of American government in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and Bush’s prosecution of the War on Terror—often from the stage at his own performances. "Inevitably, it slips out," he told writer Doug Fischer last May. "I try to make a point of saying something about the world during every show. Some of my music is inspired by injustices so I think it is right and relevant that I talk about these things that are on my mind."

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Dave Douglas Is Brassed Off!" »

September 7, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Bennie Maupin + Eric Dolphy = Happy Labor Day


The final, cathartic notes that will be played at the ACJF tonight will be music that has never been recorded or heard before, written by a mercurial L.A multi-instrumentalist and gentle enigma who died 45 years ago last June and performed by a living bandleader who is on the kind of career resurgence/reassessment that comes along every. . .well, almost never. Not a bad way to end a two-day odyssey of the ears.

The story of how Bennie Maupin [above] and his newest band Dolphyana came to be is a story to make any jazz archivist want to strike a deal with the Devil. Mere days before he left for a 1964 European tour with the Charles Mingus Sextet, Eric Dolphy [below] entrusted his friend and teacher Hale Smith with several handwritten musical scores that he hadn’t yet gotten around to record. Within months, the 26-year-old composer was dead of insulin shock. Year later, before his own death, Smith passed the scores to one of Dolphy’s acolytes, flautist James Newton, with specific instructions: “You gotta take care of this.” Newton called fellow Dolphyaniac Maupin and the rest, as they say, is legend.


Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009: Bennie Maupin + Eric Dolphy = Happy Labor Day" »

September 9, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009 DAY ONE: A 7-Hour Continuous Jazzgasm

The Gathering (from left): Michael Nash, Thomas Stones, Nick Rosen, Jesse Sharps, Ivan Cotton and Dwight Trible at the ACJF [photo courtesy of the L.A. Times]

The heat finally broke in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend—or “Festival Weekend” as the natives have come to know it. There were at least two other jazz festivals besides the Angel City Jazz Festival, including the West Coast Jazz Party and the Sweet & Hot Festival, but the one the ACJF most had a kinship with was Sean Carlson’s FYF Festival downtown. Both were marathon celebrations of liberating and cathartic sounds that have oozed up out of the primordial stew of the noise/
experimental/creative music undergrounds and have started to infiltrate the wider musical spectrum: think of FYF headliners No Age and their scruffy compatriots at The Smell being granted long appreciative essay in The New Yorker; or Smell alum/ACJF headliner Nels Cline’s tide of rapt worshipt by Wilco fandom, many of whom still don’t realize his career (like his brother Alex) has now hit it’s 30th year.

The fact that both concerts were staged a mere 20 miles apart at different outdoor venues on the same weekend makes one think of pretentious words like “zeitgeist” and “renaissance.” Yep, there is plenty of adventurous and rapturous music out there, and it make some think of what Allen Ginsberg said when he first heard Bob Dylan: “The future is in good hands.”

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009 DAY ONE: A 7-Hour Continuous Jazzgasm" »

September 11, 2009

ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009 DAY TWO: “Release Ourselves Towards the Sky”

Bennie Maupin onstage with Dolphyana

The quote above comes from a poem from the drummer Sonship Theus, one of the many spiritual fathers of Los Angeles underground jazz who was present in spirit on the second day of the Angel City Jazz Festival. “Paying homage” was the watchword of the day -- not a heavy one at that, but a celebratory one: After all, Theus, who has been battling health problems since as long as he’s been playing, is still with us, as is Bobby Bradford, who just turned a silverfoxed 75 last July and, of course, the man who started it all; Ornette Coleman, still twisting eardrums at a testy, Pulitzer Prize-winning 79.

Continue reading "ANGEL CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009 DAY TWO: “Release Ourselves Towards the Sky”" »

October 19, 2009


Sorry, got all excited for a sec. As promised, here are our friend Mel Morris' exclusive backstage pics of the rehearsals and sound checks for the 2009 ACJF. Enjoy!

Jay Hoggard, Mark Dresser

The contemplative Billy Hart

Bennie Maupin


November 9, 2009

REST IN TEMPO: Stacy Rowles, 1955-2009

Trumpeter and extended Crypto family member Stacey Rowles [pictured below with her father Jimmy] passed away on 10/27/09 at her home in Burbank from complications after a car accident.


Los Angeles jazz has lost not only a terrific player but another link to our glorious -- if hidden -- jazz past. Read her obit from the L.A. Times here.

Stacy cuts it up at Charlie O's (Van Nuys, CA)

Stacy Rowles: A Celebration in Photos

November 13, 2009

(Not Glenn) Beck's Jam with Wilco, Feist et al (UPDATED)

When we ran into Sir Nels Cline last June at the Sky Saxon Tribute Show, he informed us that not only was he battling a pesky toe fungus but that he and the boys from Das Vilco has just completed their installment of Beck Hansen's Record Club ("an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day"). The record chosen this time was Oar, the spooky, whacked-out solo project from Moby Grape's troubled genius Alexander "Skip" Spence.


From Mr. Beck himself: "This one took place last June when Wilco was in town for the release of their new eponymous album. They came by after a long day filming a TV appearance and still managed to put down 8 songs with us. Jamie Liddell was in the studio with me working on his new record. Leslie Feist happened to be in town editing her documentary and heard we were all getting together. Recording took place at Sunset Sound Studios in the room where the Stones did a lot of Exile On Main Street (and looking at the records on the walls it appeared that the Doobie Brothers recorded most of their output there too). Sitting in on drums, we had James Gadson, who's played on most of the Bill Withers records and on songs like 'Express Yourself' and 'I Will Survive.' Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer played played additional drums. Also, Brian Lebarton, from the last two Record Club sessions is back. Running sequentially, the first song up is "Little Hands". Our friend Danny Kalb engineered."

Record Club: Skip Spence "Little Hands" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

UPDATE (11/18/09): Goodness gracious Mr. Beckie has been a bizzy beave lately. He's put up an insane 10-minute ode (if one can call it that) to the great Cali composer/
hobo/iconoclast Harry Partch on his website. According to Beck's site, the track is "a tribute to the composer and his desire to make the body and music unified into what he termed 'Corporeality.' The song employs Partch's 43 tone scale, which expands conventional tonality into a broader variation of frequencies and resonances."


Could this make Mr. Partch a topic of hipster conversations at Cafe Stella or Bordello? As Asia once opined: "Only time will tell...."

Greg Burk's Live Picks (Nov. 13-19)
Don Heckman's Live Picks (Nov. 9-15)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks (Nov. 11-19)

January 5, 2010

Nels Looks Forward, Back, Sideways, Gets Dizzy, Almost Passes Out

Happy New Year/New Decade, everyone! I am thankful for life on planet Earth and wish you all peace and happiness in 2010 and beyond!


So what's happening?? Here is some news, as well as some long-overdue clarification on tidbits mentioned here ages ago. Write this down in your copybooks!

Continue reading "Nels Looks Forward, Back, Sideways, Gets Dizzy, Almost Passes Out" »

January 29, 2010

New DOUBLE Nels Cline Singers CD Info Announced -- Whoo-Hoo!

The concept of duality has been a defining characteristic of guitarist Nels Cline since he first emerged in the late 1970s. On one hand, there's the harmonically sophisticated, compositionally rich Nels, who contributed to jazz recordings by everyone from Tim Berne to Vinny Golia to Julius Hemphill. On the other, there's the more extreme, visceral Nels, who brought unbridled power and reckless abandon to the post-punk, alternative rock of Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, and The Geraldine Fibbers. Thirty years on, Cline continues to explore this dichotomy, whether it's in his role as lead guitarist for famed rockers Wilco or with The Nels Cline Singers, his flagship group for the last ten years.

[Photo via Peak]

Initiate, the Singers' fourth release and Cline's seventh as a leader for Cryptogramophone, approaches the concept of Yin and Yang with a series of firsts for both the group and its intrepid leader, slyly dubbed by Jazz Times as "The World's Most Dangerous Guitarist." Initiate, in a beautifully designed, six-panel digipak featuring Simon Norfolk's gorgeous photographs of the world's largest machine (the Large Hadron Collider at CERN) is Cline's first double album and, with its second disc culled from a September 2009 performance at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco, the Singers' first live album.


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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