Jason Robinson / Janus Ensemble: Resonant Geographies (PFMCD115)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="1360"]

Resonant Geographies
Jason Robinson

Jason Robinson’s Janus Ensemble:
Jason Robinson—tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute
JD Parran—alto and contra alto clarinets, bass flute
Oscar Noriega—Bb and bass clarinets, alto saxophone
Marty Ehrlich—bass clarinet, alto saxophone, flute
Michael Dessen—trombone
Bill Lowe—bass trombone, tuba
Marcus Rojas—tuba
Liberty Ellman—guitar
Drew Gress—bass
George Schuller—drums
Ches Smith—drums, glockenspiel

Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, January 5-6, 2016
Engineered and mixed by Mike Marciano
Produced by Jason Robinson
Recording session produced by Steph Robinson
Recording session assistant: Jamie Sandel
Mastered by Rich Breen, Dogmatic Studios, Burbank, CA
All images by David Gloman. Cover, West Worthington Falls, 2016, 17×21 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side A label, Bear Den Falls, 2016, 17×22 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side B label, Westfield River, 2016, 17×21 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side C label, Gold in Brook Falls, 2016, 11×14 inches, acrylic on paper (detail). Side D label, Gunn Brook Falls, 2015, 18×23 inches, acrylic on paper (detail).
Photography by Scott Friedlander, (c) 2016, used with permission
Graphic design by Ted Killian

Track Titles:

Facing East (10:41)
Futures Unimagined (8:12)
Confluence (6:55)
Dreaming (8:24)
Facing West (6:31)
Circuitry Unbound (8:44)
Outcropping (12:14)

All compositions by Jason Robinson (ASCAP)
All rights reserved ℗ and © 2018 Jason Robinson

Arriving in Montreal in the middle of the Janus Ensemble tour, I watched as my fellow trombonist Bill Lowe wrangled his enormous tuba and bass trombone cases out of the van, through sub-zero winds and icy sidewalks, and into the tiny club where we’d soon perform. This would be a challenge for someone half Bill’s age, but he was unfazed, focused only on warming up all that metal in time for the soundcheck.

We’d been driving all day and I’d spent much of it listening to Bill’s inspiring stories. For a half century, he’s contributed to expanding the ways that African American music is understood, starting out working with celebrated musical innovators in 1960s London and 1970s New York City and continuing through an extensive career that encompasses music making, community engagement, festival organizing, and academic work. As Taylor Ho Bynum points out, despite all this, Bill has “existed somewhat under the radar, partly because he’s been equally committed to teaching and scholarship throughout his career, and partly because the top-down, star-focused version of jazz history rarely leaves room for the artists in the trenches who are the lifeblood of the music.”1

That night, this “lifeblood” was a large band crammed onto the stage without a spare inch, working through a wide-ranging set of Jason Robinson’s music. “Futures Unimagined,” a piece we played and also part of this album, is typical of Jason’s compositional range and sensibility. It begins with an introduction where the only indication in the score is “collective improvisation – start sparse,” giving the band time for a spacious, internal dialogue that differs wildly each time, but eventually coalesces into more intricate notations and then a blues-inflected song form. There, one lush, recurring melodic phrase is scored for trombone on top of clarinets, an allusion to a specific color and orchestration developed by Duke Ellington in his 1930 composition “Mood Indigo.” As if to heighten the connection, Bill’s brilliant trombone solo on this piece combines throat growling and a harmon mute in his own version of a technique pioneered by Ellington’s trombonist “Tricky” Sam Nanton. Eventually the piece ends with a flourish of improvisational dialogue among two drumset players, George Schuller and Ches Smith, cutting to a sparse snare drum gesture played eight times in perfect unison by both drummers, an elusive and only temporary closure before we continue to the next chapter of the suite.

Almost a century ago, Duke Ellington’s early ensemble music helped establish an important new practice of composing music not only for specific instruments, but also for individual improvisers, drawing on each musician’s personal sound for inspiration and raw material. It’s an approach that has since expanded in infinite directions, especially in African American-based improvised music, but always with a powerful dialectic at its core: It depends on and highlights individuality, and it’s also a deeply collective mode of creativity.

That spirit infuses Resonant Geographies, an extended suite Jason has composed for these eleven improvisers, most of whom have performed in his Janus Ensemble since 2008. Compositionally, the suite is a series of sonic reflections on specific locations that have been important to Jason, each movement a kind of tone poem moving through a range of textures and forms related to that memory. But the suite is just as much animated by musical geographies, both those of the improvisers in this band who bring different relationships to jazz traditions, and those of the composers past and present whose influences echo throughout the score, filtered through Jason’s own compositional sensibility.

Multi-reedist J.D. Parran is another individual who has inspired both Jason and me for many years and brings his unique history to this album. Reflecting on his experience growing up in inner city St. Louis during the 1960s, J.D. describes how he was fortunate to have excellent school music teachers that were part of the “talented tenth group of African American educators.” He comments that these teachers, many of whom had recently migrated from the south, were “very, very special in what they had to go through—in mostly traditionally black colleges and universities—to get their education, and the rigorous kind of training that they received.”2

Rigor: “The quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.” I associate this quality with Parran himself, one of those rare people I’d describe as a master musician. He’s achieved astonishing technique on multiple reed instruments, including less common ones such as the bass saxophone and alto clarinet, and he’s worked as both an interpreter and an improviser across wide-ranging forms of contemporary music, from his early years with mentors in the Black Artist Group (BAG), an important St. Louis collective, through graduate-level formal training and decades of trans-disciplinary, creative collaborations based in New York City. As an improviser, he’s woven all of these diverse experiences into a “very, very special” sound all his own.

I first heard J.D. in the late 1990s, at a solo concert on which he played several reed instruments. I remember being especially stunned by his interpretation of “St. Louis Blues” on bass clarinet. Thinking back now on his sound, I’m reminded of these words:
“In the context of improvised musics that exhibit strong influences from African- American ways of music-making, musical sound—or rather, ‘one’s own sound’—becomes a carrier for history and cultural identity. As Yusef Lateef maintains, ‘The sound of the improvisation seems to tell us what kind of person is improvising. We feel that we can hear character or personality in the way the musician improvises.’”3 —George E. Lewis4

For this album, one place where Jason features J.D. is on “Dreaming,” the middle movement of the suite. Midway into the piece, J.D. interprets a melody that Jason composed to highlight the unique timbre of the alto clarinet, shifting between gradient inflection and incredible precision of pitch with a rich, fluid tone. He then improvises a solo that slowly blooms across multiple registers and propels the band through a kaleidescopic transformation, interacting especially with the dense, rhythmic composite coming from the two drummers. Here as in many other moments on this album, George and Ches are expert alchemists, constantly discovering new ways to mix their two distinct drumset sounds in a dialogue that grounds the band but is always shifting.

In the final section of “Dreaming,” the ensemble navigates a scored section of tempo shifts and dramatic gestures for low brass and reeds. These two effects together make for another historical citation, as specific as the Ellington one: here the reference is to the second movement of Charles Mingus’ album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, a landmark recording in the history of long-form suites composed for improvisers.

Hearing this Mingus trace isn’t necessary for enjoying the track’s explosive ending, but the point is that this model of composition always includes such imaginary dialogues, honoring one’s sources in ways that range from explicit to oblique. And the references aren’t always to the distant past—for example, the hocketed texture scored for two tubas and trombone over a churning rhythm section in “Facing West” points towards the work of contemporary composer Henry Threadgill, whose imaginative bands Jason has cited as a formative influence on the instrumentation of the Janus Ensemble. Here again, Jason’s choice of soloist adds to this connection, as this music launches into an otherworldly solo by virtuoso tubist Marcus Rojas, one of several musicians in this band who has played in Threadgill’s ensembles.

This interweaving of personal and collective histories is a reminder of something important about developing one’s “own sound”: you don’t do it alone. This kind of music requires extensive solitary practice and study, but our sounds as improvisers also evolve through infinite reactions and interactions with others, including the musicians we work with and others we know only through records, like the one you are holding now.

This is Jason’s third recording with the Janus Ensemble, which he has been leading in flexible configurations since 2008. All the musicians on this album have been part of the ensemble since then, except for two new additions on this record, the phenomenal reed player Oscar Noriega and myself on trombone. Though I’m new to the Janus ensemble, Jason and I have been close collaborators and friends for about 20 years, working in numerous bands and projects together. We first met when he moved to San Diego for the same reason I did: to study music with George Lewis and Anthony Davis in a graduate program at UC San Diego

Lewis and Davis radically expanded the questions we were asking about music and inspired us in endless ways. They modeled a creative practice that is rigorous in craft, wide open in creative possibility, and always with a thoughtful, complex and individual connection to the world. They encouraged us to develop our own communities and our own music, not just adopt theirs, but they also introduced us, figuratively and literally, to many other artists who would become important inspirations and mentors, including J.D. Parran and Marty Ehrlich, both on this record.

When I first met Jason, he had been playing on various scenes in northern California and had been mentored by the late Mel Graves, a bassist who ran a vibrant and highly original jazz program at Sonoma State University. Jason was immersed in music with typical intensity, having already released an album of his music on his own label while still in his early 20s. He was inquisitive, deep into the saxophone, creating music with darting, angular lines and exuberant grooves. His music had a driving quality, an optimistic, forward momentum, but always with a sense of openness to shifts in direction, whether subtle or extreme.

I still hear that same musical DNA in Jason’s sound, but deepened through two decades of work and expanded to a broader palette through collaborations like this one. This suite is carefully crafted to feature all of the improvisers in both solo and collective contexts while also covering a wide-ranging compositional terrain. Some sections delve deep into texture and sound, either through detailed score notations that exploit the band’s unusual instrumentation, or through improvisations set within imaginative backdrops. Other stretches of music revel in the rich rhythmic and harmonic language of jazz traditions, sometimes recalling the buoyant energies of early big band music and other times with a more abstract lens that evokes later “creative orchestra” explorations. What ties it all together and makes the work a long-form composition rather than just a sequence of varied parts is the dialogue among these different soundworlds, not just between movements but within them; none of the tracks end where they begin, and each travels unpredictably through a different blend of historical references, individual expressions and sonic explorations.

The band you hear on this record is diverse in generation as well as musical backgrounds, and along with those mentioned above, the lineup includes other equally renowned composer-improvisers. Multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, like J.D. Parran, began his long history of contributions to this music working with musicians from BAG and the AACM in St. Louis during the late 1960s, and over the decades since has created a wide-ranging body of creative work as a composer and collaborator. The versatile bassist and composer Drew Gress has long been one of the most in-demand improvisers on the NYC scene, grounding bands led by an incredible range of contemporary innovators, and the same can be said of acclaimed guitarist and composer Liberty Ellman, another musician here connected to Henry Threadgill, in Liberty’s case through working closely with Threadgill over many years alongside his own projects.

This band encompasses a fascinating cross-section of jazz-inspired contemporary music scenes, broad and difficult to categorize, but one thread running through the Janus Ensemble and Jason’s music is the idea that this wide range of creative expression and method is central to jazz traditions, and always has been. Many people in the jazz industry still seem eager to reinforce old fault lines and put every new record in a particular box, with avant-garde flavors on one side and “traditional” ones on the other. But music like this embodies a more expansive stance, a recognition that a wide spectrum of expressive possibilities is always present to begin with, endlessly woven into new forms by individuals responding to changing contexts. Speaking in Arthur Taylor’s classic 1972 book of musician-to-musician interviews, the great drummer Philly Joe Jones harshly critiques “bag carriers” who superficially imitate the screams of the avant-garde, but he also cites artists like John Coltrane to distinguish experimentalists who are committed to a deep, integrative craft. In response to a question about “freedom music,” Jones deftly deconstructs conventional discursive boundaries by commenting that “everybody’s been playing free. Every time you play a solo you’re free to play what you want to play. That’s freedom right there.”5 I hope you can enjoy this new music by Jason Robinson and the Janus Ensemble in that spirit. Thanks for listening. — Michael Dessen

Works cited
1. Taylor Ho Bynum, “Guest Post: Taylor Ho Bynum on Bill Lowe,” in Destination: Out, Feb. 1, 2012, accessed June 20, 2017 <http://destination-out.com/?p=3384>.
2. Interview with J.D. Parran by Yusef Jones, accessed June 2017: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMYc63l6OMg>.
3. Yusef A. Lateef, “The Pleasures of Voice in Improvised Music,” in Roberta Thelwell, ed., Views on Black American Music: Selected Proceedings from the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Annual Black Musicians’ Conferences, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, No. 3 (1985–1988) pp. 43–46.
4. George E. Lewis, “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture in ‘Voyager,’” Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 10 (2000), pp. 33-39.
5. Art Taylor. Notes and Tones : Musician-to-Musician Interviews. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993, pp. 47-48.
_______________________________________________________
Resonant Geographies is a meditation on place, memory, relationships, and community. Each movement of the suite is inspired by specific places, a canvas of various experiences and memories for me over a number of years. These are not the sounds of places in a narrow sense, but what is contained here might as well be considered a sounding of those places. A subtle but important distinction. A proportion, a relationship, a scent, a feeling. Like the shifting translucent blues and oranges of a rejuvenating and boundless sunset along the north coast of California, or the warm embraces or knowing glances of friends and loved ones, this project is a process. It continues to unfold. Great heartache, struggle, discovery, and rebirth accompanied/s its long stages. My heart smiles again. I hope that you, the listener, find yourself in the sounds contained here. And I hope we are all guided by compassion and empathy as we sound places, relationships, communities.

This album is dedicated to George Finney Thomason.

I’ve been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are standing on giant rocks extending into the majestic Pacific some four hours north of San Francisco, while staring with amazement at the spray created by crashing waves, enchanted by the patterns of mussels on rocks, the endless volume of water, the mysterious and beckoning horizon. And the smell—salt, seaweed, richly moist, oxygenated air. I feel at home in this wondrous meeting of water, land, and air. I can still see my great grandfather standing on the bluffs, the rocks, the beaches, and hear his voice as he guides and encourages me to explore. What kind of place is the vast, unimaginably large expanse of the ocean? — Jason Robinson

Deepest thanks to my musical collaborators and friends heard on this recording, whose collaborative spirits and finely tuned personal sound approaches make immeasurable contributions to the music. Thanks also to numerous others who helped make this project possible: Mike Marciano, Rich Breen, Jeff Kaiser, Glenn Siegel, Priscilla Page, Matan Rubinstein, Paul Lichter, Eric Lewis, Jim Staley, Jamie Sandel, and my colleagues at Amherst College. And without the love and support of my closest friends and family, none of this would have been possible. Let’s put this on the turntable, Piccolo. It’s about time!

This recording was made possible by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life at Amherst College.

pfMENTUM
PFMCD115
www.pfmentum.com

We have *four* exciting new releases for you

1) KaiBorg! Plus gigs in NYC and MO! Jeff Kaiser and David Borgo exploring new territory 2) Vinny Golia! With Steve Adams, Ken Filiano, and Tina Raymond 3) Trumpets & Basses featuring pfMENTUM veterans Danny Gouker, Adam Hopkins, and more! 4) Joshua Gerowitz’s exciting new release on CD, with vinyl coming soon! All available at pfMENTUM.com KaiBorg: Excerpts from Vibrant …

Trumpets and Basses: Sanctuary (PFMCD108)

Jeff Kaiser

Trumpets & Basses: Sanctuary
Trumpets: Danny Gouker, Jake Henry, Kenny Warren
Basses: Adam Hopkins, Will McEvoy, Zach Swanson

[playlist ids="1235"]

1. From Solid Ground (1:39)
2. Bubbles Rise (1:53)
3. From the Green Beneath (3:33)
4. (and) Ships Maneuver (4:18)
5. Quietly at Night (2:37)
6. Tremors Eventually Subside (8:41)
7. But Disquiet Persists (2:49)
8. The Birds Return (but they are not the same) (6:49)
9. Moments of Clarity (6:20)
10. Resolve into Complexity (6:21)
11. The Void Looks Wider than Before (8:38)

All music ©2017, Trumpets & Basses.

Recorded live at Cadman Congregational Church, Brooklyn (Courtesy of Brooklyn Studios for Dance) by Nathaniel Morgan on April 22, 2016.
Mixed by Nathaniel Morgan, December 2016.
Mastered by Wayne Peet at Newzone Studio, 2017.
Artwork and Layout by T.J. Huff.

pfMENTUM CD108
PFMCD108
www.pfmentum.com

Brad Dutz: Nine Gardeners Named Ned (PFMCD026)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

[playlist ids="414"]
BRAD DUTZ: mallet percussion, hand percussion
CHRIS WABICH: drumset, steel drum, percussion
KIM RICHMOND: Bb clarinet
BOB CARR: bass clarinet
SARA SCHOENBECK: bassoon
ELLEN BURR: C flute, alto flute, piccolo
JOHN FUMO: trumpet, piccolo trumpet
KRIS TINER: trumpet, flugelhorn #4, #8, #9
WILLIAM ROPER: tuba, spoken word
TREY HENRY: acoustic bass
DEAN TABA: acoustic bass #4, #6, #8, #9
ANDERS SWANSON: acoustic bass solo #1
JASPER DUTZ [age 9]: bass clarinet, Bb clarinet

1. Look at the pretty weeds…they’re dead 13:38
2. Rotted vegetables…too late to pick 3:45
3. Rotted fruit…infested with insects 6:07
4. Distribute fertilizer…evenly 5:56
5. I like brown leaves especially when they’re torn 11:54
6. Leaf blowers are stinky…and loud 2:31
7. Norbert rakes bark…and mulch 7:58
8. Wicked late for nite blooming…but not dusk 6:16
9. Plant the bulbs…frequently 3:47

all compositions by Brad Dutz • (c) 2005, leakyspleen music, BMI
recorded by BRAD DUTZ 2003-2004
mixed and mastered by WAYNE PEET at NEWZONE, july 2004-jan 2005
cover cartoons: JASPER DUTZ • layout and design: KAORU MANSOUR and JEFF KAISER
thanks to: YAMAHA, VIC FIRTH, PAISTE, REMO, MOUNTAIN RYTHYM

 

NINE GARDENERS NAMED
1. Look at the pretty weeds…they’re dead
Kim Richmond-clarinet [solo]; John Fumo-trumpet [solo]; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon [solo]; Anders Swanson-acoustic bass [solo]; Brad Dutz-vibes, marimba, crotales, bongos, cajon bongos, gong; Chris Wabich-drumkit; William Roper-tuba; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Ellen Burr-flute; Trey Henry-acoustic bass
2. Rotted vegetables…too late to pick
Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Ellen Burr-alto flute; Brad Dutz-marimba; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Kim Richmond-clarinet; text created and spoken by William Roper-tuba
3. Rotted fruit…infested with insects
same as above plus Chris Wabich-perc; featuring William Roper
4. Distribute fertilizer…evenly
Chris Wabich-steel drum [solo]; Jasper Dutz-bass clarinet;
Ellen Burr-flute; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; Kris Tiner-trumpet;
Brad Dutz-repique jamau, vibes, darabuka, cymbals, crotales Hadjira, khol; Ellen Burr-flutes
5. I like brown leaves especially when they’re torn
Chris Wabich-drumkit, percussion, steel drum [solo]; Brad Dutz-xylophone, congas, bongos, darabuka, marimba [solo]; Bob Carr-bass clarinet [solo]; Ellen Burr-flute; Trey Henry-acoustic bass; John Fumo-trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Kim Richmond-clarinet; William Roper-tuba
6. Leaf blowers are stinky…and loud
Brad Dutz-marimba, vibes; Ellen Burr-flute;, Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Jasper Dutz-bass clarinet, Bb clarinet;
John Fumo-trumpet
7. Norbert rakes bark…and mulch
Ellen Burr-piccolos [solo]; William Roper-tuba; John Fumo-piccolo trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Brad Dutz-piccolo snare, field snare, orchestra bells, bass drums, piatti, snare drum; Chris Wabich-piccolo snare, field snare, bass drum, piatti, snare drum
8. Wicked late for nite blooming…but not dusk
Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Kris Tiner-trumpet; Brad Dutz-vibes, crotales, cymbals, xylophone; Ellen Burr-flutes
9. Plant the bulbs…frequently
Sara Schoenbeck-bassoon; Bob Carr-bass clarinet; Kim Richmond-clarinet; Dean Taba-acoustic bass; William Roper-tuba; Kris Tiner-trumpet; Brad Dutz-marimba, xylophone; Ellen Burr-flute, piccolo; Chris Wabich-steel drum

pfMENTUM CD026

PFMCD026

The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet: 17 Themes for Ockodektet (PFMCD010)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

[playlist ids="374,376"]
Woodwinds: Eric Barber, Vinny Golia, Emily Hay, Lynn Johnston
Trumpets: Dan Clucas, Kris Tiner
Euphonium and Valve-Trombone: Eric Sbar
Tuba: Mark Weaver
Prepared Acoustic Guitar: Ernesto Diaz-Infante
Electric Guitar/Electronics: G.E. Stinson
Organ/Theremin/Electronics: Wayne Peet
Contrabasses: Jim Connolly, Scott Walton
Drums: Billy Mintz, Richie West
Percussion: Brad Dutz
Conductor/Trumpet: Jeff Kaiser

Suite One
1. Dirge 2:31
2. Clad Like Birds 3:40
3. Amplifying Their Parallels 7:01
4. Nothing May Be Taken Naturally 2:56
5. Even with Diagrams 8:12
6. One Absolute Material 5:54
7. Figures of this In-Between 3:05
8. Figures to be Actualities 4:27
9. Figure with Wings 7:09
Suite Two
10. Coincidentia Oppositorum 3:55
11. Where His Third Eye Could Be 3:59
12. Fulfilled by the Reflected Image 7:41
13. There is No Profit from Dreams 7:55
14. Into That Nothing-Between 5:07
Total Time: 73:44

All compositions and arrangements by Jeff Kaiser, ©2002 Jeff Kaiser Music, ASCAP
Recorded direct to DAT – on the occasion of Jeff Kaiser’s 40th birthday party – at Ventura City Hall, Ventura, CA, 12.8.01
CD recording, mastering, design, and layout by Jeff Kaiser

“Dreams are sleep’s watchful brother, of death’s fraternity, heralds, watchmen of that coming night, and our attitude toward them may be modeled upon Hades, receiving, hospitable, yet relentlessly deepening, attuned to the nocturne, dusky, and with a fearful cold intelligence that gives permanent shelter in his house to the incurable conditions of human being.”
— James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld

pfMENTUM CD010

PFMCD010

Steuart Liebig / The Mentones: Locustland (PFMCD017)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

[playlist ids="389"]
Steuart Liebig/The Mentones
LOCUSTLAND

The Mentones
Tony Atherton: alto saxophone
Joseph Berardi: drumset, percussion
Bill Barrett: chromatic harmonica
Steuart Liebig: contrabassguitar

broom – – 3:27
graveyard – – 4:41
mojave boxcar – – 4:46
drifter – – 7:47
honky tonk burn – – 6:48
westpoint, mississipi – – 8:19
small fry – – 0:45
burnt umber – – 2:50
nighthawk – – 5:43
howl & tumble – – 4:01
gasoline jelly – – 6:33
lightning bug – – 3:47
nowhere calling – – 5:57

©2004, steuart liebig/sisong music (ascap)
recorded at newzone studios, by wayne peet;
mixed at newzone studios, by wayne peet and steuart liebig
mar vista, california, 2000

photos/montages by steuart liebig
layout by steuart liebig and jeff kaiser
gear thanks to fodera basses, thomastik-infeld strings and raven labs

“First let’s talk about Steuart Liebig, the multi-faceted miscreant who squeezed the hybrid beast known as the Mentones out of his juicy mind. Steuart is well known in L.A. as one of the most significant improvising electric bass torturers and electronic manipulators in recent memory and, I’m grateful to say, a major contributor to most of the music I’ve done in the last decade and a half. The metaphor of a diamond with its many facets comes to mind, but that doesn’t quite get it. Imagine the diamond periodically reverting to its primal molten state and shooting out semi-controlled bursts of radioactive plasma melting everything in its reach. I could say that for Steuart the Mentones is an anomaly, but in a way every project he constructs is an anomaly. I will say this—there is nothing like the Mentones on this earth that I’ve ever heard of and even though you may recognize some of its disparate original elements, you will be whacked by how cohesively they come together in Liebig’s compositions. An adult dose of Little Walter crashing his Coupe de Ville into Ornette Coleman’s harmolodien. Howling Wolf gnawing on John Coltrane’s left ear like Mike Tyson. As for the other men in the Mentones: Bill Barrett takes the chromatic harp well beyond its limits like a rubber band stretched into a Mobius strip. Tony Atherton is soulful, relentless and driving. Joe Berardi grooves these odd time signatures like his mother nursed him on non-Euclidean geometry. It’s all that and it’s definitely enough.”

– G.E. Stinson

pfMENTUM CD017

PFMCD017

Rich West: Bedouin Hornbook (PFMCD016)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

[playlist ids="387"]
Rich West Bedouin Hornbook

Chris Heenan: bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Bruce Friedman: trumpet
Jeremy Drake: electric guitar
Scot Ray: eb tuba
Rich West: drums

1. Bugge 11:20
2. Tribology 6:34
3. Twang 14:41
4. Tread 8:22
5. Friends of the Vacuum 9:00
6. Tychai 1 and 2 7:25
7. Curly 4:10
8. Furcifer 6:44
Total Time 68:16

All compositions by Rich West
©2004, Richwest Recordings, ASCAP
Recorded April 29, 2002 and March 12, 2003
Recorded and Mastered by Scott Fraser
Mixed by Rich West and Scott Fraser
at Architecture, Los Angeles, CA
CD Design and Layout by Jeremy Drake and Jeff Kaiser

“The sad thing about L.A. is that it’s hard keeping people in the same room for extended periods of time.”
— Rich West

The title is from a book by Nate Mackey, which I haven’t read. However, in the spirit of Richard Meltzer’s infamous “previews” of bands to whom he’s neither listened or talked prior to writing about them, I’ll concentrate on the nomadic implications of Bedouin (from Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language); nomad, “a member of a tribe, nation or race having no permanent home, but moving about constantly in search of food, pasture, etc.”, and suggest that this band is composed of nomads as only an L.A. band can be. Luckily, Rich West was able to get them in the same room at least long enough to produce this exuberant album. It’s not just that the tunes (he says, “everyone had a hand in some of the arrangements”) are strong and interesting (shades of Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, Nino Rota), the playing — both written and improvised — is, too.

A surprising variety of moods and textures is developed, ranging from the inviting and theatrical “welcome to the show” feel of Tribology to the especially attractive Gyuto-Monks-meet-Fellini scenario on Twang. The sounds are oddly appealing in some non-traditional ways (murky trumpet, bell-like guitar). When it’s all over, you feel as if you’ve been someplace new. I can’t imagine any other five players who could play this music and make that happen. This is music that knows the difference between self-expression and self-indulgence, for which we should all be very happy.

— Dorothea Grossman, Los Angeles, CA, October 2003

pfMENTUM CD016

PFMCD016

Ted Killian: Flux Aeterna (PFMCD007)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

BACK IN PRINT! We have 10 copies left…

[playlist ids="668,670,671"]
Ted Killian: Electric and acoustic guitars, samples, loops, sound design

Loop-based guitar improvisations/excursions recorded “live” in the studio in a single take. Ted's music is frequently compared to that of David Torn, Steve Tibbetts, Terje Rypdal, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Sonny Sharrock, Nels Cline, or Bill Frisell, sometimes even David Gilmour, Jeff Beck or Uli Jon Roth. But Ted cites influences that come from all over the map: Leo Kottke, Eliott Sharp, Paul Dresher, Scott Johnson, Vernon Reid, John Abercrombie, Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois, Gary Lucas, Jim Thomas, John Fahey, Jimi Hendrix, John Mclaughlin, Frank Zappa, Pat Metheny, Buckethead, Chet Atkins and Les Paul. Yet, despite this, there is still something uniquely “Killianesque” in his approach. Ted is a guitarist who isn't afraid to paint with the instrument's full color “palette.” He's not afraid to make wild, adventurous, passionate “in-you-face” music or sonorous, languid, peaceful harmonic/melodic explorations.

Ted Killian: A Biography

Born and raised in sunny Southern California, Ted Killian has been a guitarist for over 4 decades now and he still hasn't managed to learn to play the thing correctly. But, as it turns out, this may have turned out to be a pretty good thing. Without necessarily having set out to do so, Killian has found his own unique “voice” on an instrument that is nearly ubiquitous in modern popular music. His sound is a peculiar amalgam of odd, sometimes familiar, influences: folk, pop, blues, rock, metal, jazz, electronica, electro-acoustic “art music,” and just plain noise (“!”) that begs one to think the word “fusion” but is much more primal, gut-level and organic than any connotation that word may conjure.

Killian's music is full of contradictions. It is primitive and sophisticated, visceral and sensitive, abstract and accessible, complex and blood simple all at once. It is given birth by heavy doses of technology (MIDI guitar, a plethora of electronic effects, digital echo devices, samplers, and all manner of assorted “gadgets”) but the result is amazingly human sounding. There is blood and sweat mixed in with all of the diodes and cables — and more than a small measure of passion. This intensity is not something that can be seen in the usual form of typical guitarist “histrionics” but can be heard in every note of the music itself.

Killian began playing and experimenting early on, but (in terms of public performance) bloomed late. Beginning in the late 1980s, he began performing his original music in conjunction with the Ventura New Music Concert Series (Southern California)– aided by close friend and colleague, avant-jazz trumpeter, Jeff Kaiser. So began a long series of ever-changing concerts and presentations all around Southern California. Some of these were in connection to SEAMUS, an acronym for the national “new music” organization: the Society for Electro Acoustic Music in the United States (Killian was introduced to the organization by Kaiser in 1990 and became President of the Los Angeles chapter in 1992). Ted's has been interviewed as a featured composer on “Music of the Americas” on KPFK radio in Los Angeles. Since the debut of “Flux Aeterna” his music has been played on literally dozens of radio stations around the globe and has garnered critical praise in as many publications internationally. In recent years, he has composed music for ballet, “fixed” gallery installations, multi-discipinary art performances, large ensembles and small groups. And, after all of this, Killian has still somehow managed to avoid having ever been in anything resembling a “band.”

Ted Killian is a 1982 graduate of UCSB with a Bachelors degree in visual arts. Since then he has exhibited paintings, sculpture and computer art in a number of galleries, museums and other venues across the country. He was a 1992 appointee to the “Task Force for Visual Arts” in Ventura, CA. He supports his musical/artistic activities with his “day job” as a freelance graphic designer for various musical instrument and high-tech manufacturers. He currently resides in Southern Oregon with his wife, 3 sons, 3 guinea pigs, and 2 goldfish.

pfMENTUM CD007

PFMCD007