Featuring Wadada Leo Smith
Zen Widow is:
Gianni Gebbia (alto saxophone)
Matthew Goodheart (grand piano, electro-acoustic gongs and cymbals)
Garth Powell (drums and percussion)
Special guest artist—Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet)
1. Gifts We Have Forgotten 13:05
2. Notated Memory 12:05
3. Black On White Paper 7:05
4. This Seeming Dream 7:36
5. Musa Physics 15:42
Total Time: 55:41
“Screaming in Daytime (makes men forget)” is Zen Widow’s third album, our first collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith, and it is in large part homage to tenor firebrand: Glenn Spearman.
Many of the melodies are constructed from fragments of his compositions. We inverted, rearranged, and modified what wasn’t completely new or created on the spot. Wishing to maintain the essence of Glenn’s rich compositional style was the priority, without resorting to a typical “tribute” collection of an artist’s past works.
All four of us worked with and deeply respected Glenn. I was a young artist right out of music school when I first worked with him. Already a master of the free jazz idiom, he was both thoughtful and generous to treat me as an equal given his age and experience. Although I frequently find myself thinking about the music we shared, this disc represents where the four of us are today—looking up and outward towards our friend.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been the home of a multitude of great artists as it continues to be. Yet, the fire and passion that was stoked throughout our community left a vacuum with Glenn’s passing. That loss is felt to this day. Glenn’s work with Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons, The Glenn Spearman Double Trio with Larry Ochs, The Creative Music Orchestra with Marco Eneidi, and numerous other projects were all testaments to Glenn’s spirit and incredible power.
As improvisers we try to be in the moment, but it’s still hard not to gaze back and think of Glenn.
—Garth Powell 2012
I am very honored to dedicate this recording to Glenn Spearman, I worked with him only once at the Beanbenders concert series in Berkeley. I was very impressed by his solid sound, his gentleness and kindness of spirit. This recording is a double honor for me because of the great sounds of Wadada. He was the original soloist in the trio where I started my musical career with Peter Kowald and Gunther Baby Sommer. Wadada’s trumpet voice is the ideal to show our gratitude to Glenn.
Drops of Gold are falling forever in the long and everlasting dharma of the Great Black Music.
—Jòraku Gianni Gebbia 2012
In February of 1998, my group “Trio and. . .” played at the closing night of Radio Valencia in San Francisco. Performing was my regular line up of Glenn Spearman on tenor and Donald Robinson on drums, with Wadada Leo Smith as guest. The night was intense, beautiful, a fulfillment, these great artists sounding above those simple musical structures of my own making. A few weeks before I had been asked “If you could play with any musicians you wanted, who would it be?” My answer was: this group.
I did not know it at the time, but it was the beginning of an end of an era in Bay Area improvised music. Whatever forces drive certain moments in musicking, they had secretly begun to diverge. The group of artists centered around Radio Valencia moved to other venues. Glenn, in his own words, “went to join the ancestors” some nine months later. The scene slowly evolved into something else. The movement of that night, the deep interaction between Glenn and Wadada over the flux of the rhythm section, remains a personal embodiment of that time. All of these musicians had a profound impact on me, so generous in their time and artistry in support of a younger man struggling to find his formation. Glenn was my mentor; he brought me inside of his world, working closely, hours playing, absorbed in the details of his and our music. He taught me focus and intensity, maturity of vision. From Wadada I learned the concentrated, delicate, sensuous detail of shape and sculpture in each utterance. From Donald: flow, patience, attention, integrity.
To revisit Glenn’s music, over a decade after his death, with the collaborative Zen Widow and (once again) the generous addition of Wadada Leo Smith, moves into sound that complex network of events that exist as cadences in our lives. Glenn’s unending musicality calls back from the ancestors to play among the living.
I still learn from these artists, all of them. If asked again, if I could again play with any musicians I wanted, the answer again would be: this group.
—Matthew Goodheart 2012
Recorded Live to two-track analog at Ocean Way Recording—Studio A—Hollywood, California by Mike Ross (second engineer Patrick Spain)
Production and generous implementation of Audioquest microphone cables with DBS technology by Joe Harley
Mastered by Bernie Grundman—Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, California
Disc Manufacturing and 1:1 glass mastering—Groove House, Woodland Hills, California
Graphic Layout and Design—John Benz, Petaluma, California
Photography: Front Cover: Heike Neubauer–Antoci, Mettanest Studio, Dresden, Germany
Back Cover Group Photo: David Swann Photography
Inside Face Group Photo: David Goggin
Special thanks to Shantee Maggie Baker, John Benz, Michael Ehlers, Marco Eniedi, David Goggin, Bernie Grundman, Joe Harley, Jeff Kaiser, Wayne Powell, Mike Ross, David and Susan Thompson, everyone at Ocean Way Recording Hollywood, and all of our friends across the world who tirelessly create and support improvised music.
All compositions by Gebbia, Goodheart, Powell, and Smith. Evolving Door Music BMI 2012, SIAE 2012
© 2012 All Rights Reserved
Tony Atherton: alto saxophone
Bill Barrett: chromatic harmonica
Joseph Berardi: drumset, percussion
Steuart Liebig: contrabassguitars
chatterbox – – 4:17
double-blade axe – – 3:58
coal – – 4:41
back seat, white cadillac – – 7:08
hardcase – – 2:30
iodine cream – – 4:10
manchild hustle – – 3:16
way high lonesome – – 4:55
the single-double two-step – – 1:58
rocking chair – – 6:29
angel city dust – – 3:47
daisy man – – 2:00
rooster rocket – -1:53
© 2006, steuart liebig/sisong music (ascap)
photos/montages by steuart liebig;
band photos by amparo fernandez;
inside photo from david witham video, processed by joseph berardi;
layout by steuart liebig
recorded at newzone studio, by wayne peet; mixed at newzone studio, by wayne peet and steuart liebig, mar vista, california, 2006
gear thanks: fodera basses, thomastik-infeld strings, rick turner and raven labs; pat missin; paiste cymbals and attack drums heads
Liner Notes by Nels Cline:
The Mentones. The name conjures up some preconceptions: a sort of retro outfit, maybe a blues/rock or R&B thing. Dudes. Maybe Texan dudes. Or Oklahomans. The kind of band dudes get rowdy to, or maybe even couples shake their tailfeathers to. Interestingly, although the name is derived from bandleader/composer/bassist Steuart Liebig’s street name in Los Angeles County, there are shards of truth in these preconceptions. But they certainly don’t tell the tale. The Mentones—and yes, they ARE all men— actually do play a kind of blues boogie, though their brand of this is calculatedly skewed in a kind of Bartokian way. This is an all-instrumental thing, so already we’re talking some kind of FUSION band, right? The kind men might dig, since the rumbling roots of the band’s concept are blues, boogie, and some kind of out jazz freakout. HOWEVER: I have watched women groove mightily to The Mentones! I’ve heard them applaud their taut, economical solo workouts! And it’s not because these guys are working the image thing, OK? Not a hipster hat, no sharkskin, no stage presence is in evidence (sorry, cats)! What, then, IS this SoCal combo all about? Why are these hepcats and hepkittens in major DIGULATION MODE?? *** If one follows the prolific and mercurial output of CONTRABASS guitarist Steuart Liebig, one quickly gets dazzled—if not fully bogged down—in the myriad projects he has formed and for which he composes. I have truly lost count of how many bands Steuart is doing concurrently— it’s well over five—and each one operates within tight conceptual parameters. The Mentones is Herr Liebig’s rockingest combo, and it is specifically created to simultaneously refer to and mangle elements of blues, R&B, and, to my mind, surf and the old “instrumental hits” idea, particularly as it played out in the mid-60s. I am also repeatedly reminded of the early quartet music of Ornette Coleman, not stylistically, but in the tight and focused ensemble statements. There are no 5-minute solo forays here. Each piece is highly compressed, and some are over before you even know they’ve started. There appear to be other tightly controlled parameters. For example, it all seems to be about meaty vamps and unison or octave melodies between alto saxophone and harmonica. It’s a thing! I know this because I’ve known Steuart for 30 years! It’s how he thinks and works. His writing for octets, chamber trios, is rife with neo-modernist harmonies. But not in The Mentones. I cherish a fantasy (apologies in advance to Oliver Reed): Lee Marvin, looking for a out-of-the-limelight spot to have a drink or five, stops into a Salvadoran joint like Culver City’s Club Tropical. On the dance floor, The Mentones are at it, pounding out the mighty Liebig salvo, “Hardcase.” Marvin walks right up to the band, his towering, manly frame blocking the view of many of the reverent denizens. As they WHOMP! the song’s abrupt conclusion Marvin, a few Patron Silvers into his evening asks, to no band member in particular, “What are you guys supposed to be, some kind of LOCRIAN BLUES BAND?!” Too bad Lee’s joined his ancestors, but man, he’d be right! With melodies derived from obscure modes (Steuart is positively besotted with flatted fifths) or completely chromatic, the CHUG and CHURN of the bass and drums ram the solar plexus while the peculiar (and totally singular) melodies dance like satyrs in the cerebellum. *** A few words about the men of The Mentones: On alto saxophone is Tony Atherton. Sure, he sounds like he’s sucked up plenty of the toxic stench in Naked City, or perhaps worshipped at the feet of Big Satan. But the maniacal frothing of his playing is totally ROCK ’N ROLL. If he was around in the late 50s, he’d have been the kid in high school who hung out with all the older nighthawks, jamming into the wee hours—or at least as long as the benzedrine in his inhaler lasted. His imposingly tall frame and gentle demeanor barely mask what is obvious: he is a TOTALLY GONE CAT. After negotiating the written material to a tee, he then uncorks the reedy gusher of his horn/psyche. Bill Barrett plays the harmonica. Simply stated, he is one of the most cogent and arresting soloists ON ANY INSTRUMENT playing today. I kid you not. Listen to this shit! He goes from classic blues harp to fucking campfire memories to ghostly shakuhachi rushes without ever losing the moan and shriek of the blues. His playing is consistently haunted. It haunts the music like a spectre, imbuing each moment it inhabits with what David Briggs called “The Spook.” Drummer Joe Berardi has credits longer than the ‘thank yous’ on a Mariah Carey record. I’ve seen him in so many situations spreading his excellence around that it’s dizzying. Do some homework on this man. In The Mentones, Joe really GETS DOWN. Whether playing prepared drums, a tin can, or just laying it down normal-style, this is a BURNER for Joe (and beautifully recorded, I might add). There remains one question: how can a man so consistently well dressed SHRED like that? As for the fearless leader himself, Steuart Liebig here eschews his effects pedal dazzle for a virtuosic though never out-of- the-pocket piledrive through the lexicon of bass and guitar. You see, Steuart bought one of those 6-string basses right when they came out. These things were the fulfillment of a dream, much in the way the MiniMoog was the fulfillment of a dream for Jan Hammer. If only these select individuals were the only ones to bring these instruments to light! Anyway, now Steuart has 3 or 4 of these monster basses. One fretless, one fretted/flatwound, one fretless, one fretted/roundwound, all customized, stickered, slathered with the foam of the mad scientist he is. He plays slide, digs deep into involuntary bowel movement frequencies, and skitters around in the guitar’s range like a musician version of the Manster. AND OH YES, he writes all these neo-Peter Gunn, Locrian, Willie Dixon jams. When The Mentones perform, Steuart name checks his bandmates about 23 times—per set! But I hope that you, the holder of this fine CD, can take a minute to let the names of these men seep into your over-stimulated brain. *** By the way, this disc really starts to ramp up around track 9 (programmers take note!), so all you kids put on your crash helmets and don’t miss the exciting conclusion of Nowhere Calling! Cowabunga!
Nels Cline—Glendale, CA, April 1, 2006