Finally… The end of summer. Away goes the heat. Finally gone away is the period of family vacation and obligations. And (hopefully) the end of the slack attendance at our BYOV meetings.
I really look forward to seeing some of our traveling musicians back in the fold. We’ve certainly missed you.
As you’ve probably guessed, our turnout at BYOV #14 on September 9th was light. We did manage to host our hardcore element and even a new guest.
As always, we heard some very interesting music from a diverse range of artists.
Our manageable themes were:
a) What ever happened to…? We want to hear your fav example of a living (or might be living) musician who has mysteriously fallen off the radar.
b) Hometown heroes. Or not. Let’s hear a musician from your hometown that you feel never got his/her due or was just overhyped.
c) The right sound for right now. Digging on Tuvan throat singers or bowed saw soloists? Bring an example of your current musical obsession.
We’re off to the races!
1. Hafiz Modirzadeh – “Facet Thirteen” & “Facet Twenty” from Post-Chromodal Out (Pi Recordings, 2012)
Our newest attendee jumped straight onto the hot seat. Paul was excited to present a hometown favorite of his.
We heard an assortment of wind instruments accompanied by piano that built microtonally into a very rich melodic statement somewhat reminiscent of those of Ornette Coleman or the Bradford/Carter groups, though with a more foreign, folkish sound.
Steve: “Is it one guy playing two horns?”
“No. A trumpet and a sax playing together. There may be some overdubbing.”
Jason: “Ah. This is who I thought it might be.” Jason knew but let us continue working on the puzzle.
Paul told us that the saxophonist was the leader and Jason kept dropping subtle hints.
“This is from that last album?” Yes.
Steve: “Is it a prepared piano?”
Paul: “A retuned piano. You’ll probably know the pianist best.”
Steve: “Blue Gene Tyranny?”
“Sounds like there is a zither.”
Jason: “It is a santur. I believe the recording is supposed to be a suite.”
“Is this a working group?” They’ve been together for the past two or three years but don’t play frequently.
Paul revealed the pianist: Vijay Iyer.
I was then able to guess Amir ElSaffar on trumpet, which gave away the tenor saxophonist as Hafez Modirzadeh.
Paul had attended high school in San Jose, California with Modirzadeh, who is of Iranian descent.
Modirzadeh studied and played with Ornette Coleman, utilizing many of the melodic and harmonic concepts of the master in his own amalgamation of jazz/western improvisation with Middle Eastern musical forms.
Paul had played with Modirzadeh while in school and followed his career, including his professorship at San Francisco State and his amazing self-made career in jazz/improvised music.
Jason was able to identify the santur and said that he was a fan of authentic Middle Eastern music. We listened to “Facet 20,” a composition that featured the santur played by Faraz Minooei.
(Interesting side note: Paul and Robert had met briefly at a gig of bassist Ken Filiano, who also happens to appear on this disc. Robert has studied with Filiano and the bassist had tried to hook Robert and Paul up to play together. Small world. Coming soon: BYOV - the Band.)
2. Freddie Hubbard – “Cry Me Not” from Hub Cap (Blue Note BLP 4073, 1961)
Robert inadvertently went out of his way to stump us on this track, as this was supposed to be a hometown hero but was only realized in a round about sort of way.
He began coyly enough: “This isn’t that obscure.”
We heard a fantastically arranged three-horn melody with embellished trumpet sections.
“Is it Wayne Shorter? He was from Newark, right?” No.
“McCoy Tyner?” Nope.
“It’s almost like a Grachan Moncur III tune. That slow tempo…”
Steve: “It sounds like Booker Little. But it isn’t.”
“Is it a Max Roach record? Wasn’t he from Brooklyn?” No. He was from North Carolina.
“Is the trumpet player the leader?” Yes.
“Is he a Brooklynite?” Sort of.
“Lee Morgan?” No.
Paul: “Freddie Hubbard.”
But Hubbard wasn’t from Brooklyn. He was from Indianapolis. He did happen to live in Brooklyn during the 1960s when this was recorded for Blue Note.
Steve: “I can really hear the Booker Little influence here.”
But there was another Brooklyn connection that was a little less obvious.
Steve: “The tune was by Randy Weston.”
“Cry Me Not” was indeed written by the Brooklyn born and raised pianist Weston and arranged by the great trombonist/arranger Melba Liston (of Kansas City). Apparently, this was Hubbard’s favorite track on the record.
This recording featured an amazing group including saxophonist Jimmy Heath (of Philadelphia), trombonist Julian Priester (of Chicago), pianist Cedar Walton (of Dallas), bassist Larry Ridley (also of Indy) and drummer Philly Joe Jones (I bet you could guess where he’s from).
Jason mentioned that saxophonist Cecil Payne was from Brooklyn.
Robert: “Well I guess I could have brought Betty Carter but I didn’t.”
Steve: “Thank you!”
3. Llyn Foulkes – “Old L.A.” from Llyn Foulkes and His Machine: Live at the Church of Art
Presented by: Jason Weiss – CD – Theme: C
For his own presentation, Jason brought a recording by an artist that he was invested in, this time for a writing project.
The musician here was known primarily as a visual artist and is soon to have a retrospective exhibit in Los Angeles.
The group heard a kind of bizarrely minimalist, homemade-percussive tune with a twisted vocal, which sounded vaguely familiar.
Jason: “Don’t mention Waits to him.”
Apparently, Waits wasn’t very supportive of this artist’s work, though they lived and worked in very similar artistic fields and locations.
No one was able to guess who this was.
Llyn Foulkes has been a unique and influential individual in the modern American art scene since the late 1950s. Music was also a huge part of his life as he played drums in a band called City Lights (1965-1971) and his own The Rubber Band (1973-1977).
In 1979, Foukes created “The Machine,” an assortment of junkyard percussion and small instruments that he played as a sort of one-man band. The tune we heard featured Foulkes on his contraption along with his own “Waitsian” vocals.
His music and his art recalled nostalgia for the lost traditions of novelty art, i.e. the one-man band and the postcard (which he used as inspiration for his landscape paintings).
Foulkes has been in Los Angeles since the 1950s and a part of many of the different movements established during these past five decades, though he has always remained an individual. Like his contemporary Robert Rauschenberg, Foulkes most well known work utilized a method of collage painting and mixed media. Many of his images took critical views of the United States and its culture, including mixing dour images with those of pop culture (including Mickey Mouse).
The same “souring of the American dream” can be heard in Foulkes’s lyrics.
We discussed a couple other projects that blended art and music relying heavily on improvisation. One of the most recent and successful was that of guitarist Nels Cline and painter (and Foulkes contemporary) Norton Wisdom. DVDs of their collaboration can be found here.
Foulkes’s retrospective will be held at Kent Fine Arts. The link is here.
4. Ramsey McLean / Tony Dagradi – “Swan Song” from The Long View (Prescription No. 4, 1983)
For my selection, I brought a recording that I had been listening to a bunch (I’ll explain why later) and featured a musician that had faded from the scene.
Steve: “Is that a cello?” Yes. And I’m sorry for the soprano sax feature, Steve.
The meditative cello and sax duet held the listeners in silence for a few moments.
Steve: “Is it Kalaparusha (Maurice McIntyre) and Abdul Wadud?” No. But interesting guess. I nearly brought a Wadud record.
Paul: “There is a hint of (Jan) Garbarek. Is this Surman?” Nope.
Jason: “Are they non-Americans?” They are both Americans.
“Erik Friedlander?” No.
“Still alive?” Both are still alive.
“Dave Holland?” He isn’t American and he hasn’t fallen off anyone’s radar.
I hinted that the cellist was the musician who had disappeared.
Robert: “It sounds like a bassist that switched to the cello.” How astute.
Robert knew from the patterns the string player was playing. More in the supportive role of a bassist than a practiced cellist.
“It isn’t (saxophonist) Courtney Pine is it?” No.
Steve: “The cello is out of tune. No big deal.”
Robert: “Ron Carter used to play the cello out of tune.”
Paul: “This isn’t (Carter’s) style or approach.”
They kept trying to narrow down the saxophonist. It wasn’t Dave Liebman. Not Steve Lacy. And not Sam Newsome.
I introduced the crew to bassist/cellist/songwriter Ramsey McLean and saxophonist Tony Dagradi.
I had found this duet record in New Orleans on my last trip and had been intrigued by the music.
Dagradi would be the most well known of the two players as he had been a member of Carla Bley’s band in the late 1970s, released a handful of records on Gramavision in the 1980s and has been a member of the New Orleans based modern jazz ensemble Astral Project for over 30 years.
McLean was the odd man out. He had also found his way to New Orleans in the late 1970s and made two recordings on Prescription Records, co-owned at the time by drummer Alvin Fielder.
McLean’s claim to fame came as he collaborated on early recordings of Harry Connick, Jr. The bassist had begun writing poetry/lyrics in the 1980s and supplied Connick with some for his early recordings.
Later, Connick would take McLean to court to try to break the 50/50 deal on royalties. Connick would lose.
With some help, I’ve tracked Mr. McLean down and plan to interview him for an upcoming project.
5. Louvin Brothers – “Must You Throw Dirt In My Face” from I Don’t Believe You Met My Baby (Hilltop JS-6165, 1976)
Steve: “Here’s something that I’m listening to right now. Well I’ve listened to this forever.”
The harmonically buoyant, mandolin tinged tune brightened up the room.
Jason: “Well this certainly isn’t a hometown hero.”
Steve was blunt and informed us that he doesn’t like most country, though the music here was far from what country has now become. He wasn’t sure that this tune was the most representative of how great a harmony group these guys were.
The Louvin Brothers were an extremely successful country group. Both brothers sang and helped to popularize close harmony, much of their material relating to their Baptist upbringing with warnings against the dangers of sin. Ira played mandolin, while Charlie played guitar.
While the music was in harmony, the relationship between the brothers was not. Apparently, the two hated each other. The group split up in 1963.
Their lives weren’t devoid of sin, either. Ira was accused of beating his wife and died in a car accident 1965 when he had a warrant out for his arrest on a DUI charge.
Charlie went on to have a long career in country and gospel until he passed away in 2011.
Steve thought that the music was very modern for the time, while the addition of mandolin kept the music rooted to the country tradition. His trajectory for the advancement of country music went like this: the Stanley Brothers to the Louvin Brothers to the Everly Brothers.
6. Al Haig – “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” from Jazz Will-O-The Wisp (Xtra 1125, 1972 (Mar. 13, 1954))
Steve had another.
“This is very brief and very different. This is a fall-off-the-radar guy who could have potentially been big. He’s almost a hometown guy, too.”
A fleet fingered pianist took off on an uptempo trio excursion.
Steve: “Perhaps he set himself up for disappointment. To do this song after Bud Powell was a mistake. It seems like the same arrangement.”
This recording was by Newark, New Jersey born pianist Al Haig. He had appeared on a variety of recordings by the likes of Charlie Parker and Stan Getz.
Haig disappeared in the 1960s. During that time, he beat the rap of killing his wife. He claimed that his wife was drunk and fell down the stairs but he later admitted that he had strangled her to death. Nice guy, huh?
Haig did mount a comeback in the 1970s
Some were wondering where Haig and Parker crossed paths. Haig was apparently busy in many recording sessions during the 1950s and was most likely available on a call for Parker sides.
Steve: “He knew how to do it (play). From swing to bop.”
We also briefly discussed other pianists that had the touch but were mostly overlooked, including George Shearing. Ornette Coleman was a fan of Shearing, saying that Shearing was a great bebop player.
Can you think of any others? I am sure there are a ton.
7. Tuba Skinny – “Some of These Days” from Garbage Man (Self-Released, 2011)
For the last selection of the day, Paul wanted to have us listen to a New Orleans based group that he had recently seen pack the house at Barbès.
“They do the trad stuff better than anyone else.”
The band is Tuba Skinny and Paul originally saw them while on a trip to the Big Easy. The band had been busking on Royale while he was walking through the French Quarter.
Paul had followed their itinerary and found that they were playing locally at BYOV’s home base, Barbès. The crowd went nuts for them.
“It was like a mosh pit. You gotta see them.”
The trumpet player was a particular highlight for the group. The trumpeter is Shaye Cohn, who just happens to be Al Cohn’s granddaughter. She was very impressive and showcased more than a passing resemblance in tone to the great Bix Beiderbecke.
The group gave the trad musical tradition a boost in validity because of their youth and enthusiasm. Very good to hear the tradition being kept alive.
Of course, talk went back to Mr. Steve Lacy, who started performing in trad bands. Red Allen had taken him under his wing while the saxophonist was still very young.