Michael Vlatkovich and Dottie Grossman: Call & Response & Friends (PFMCD060)

Jeff Kaiser Leave a Comment

[playlist ids="501,503"]
Artists: Los Angeles Recording:
Dottie Grossman: poems
Michael Vlatkovich: trombone
Rich West: drums/percussion
Anders Swanson: bass

L.A. Recording 7/09: Killzone Studio, Los Angeles, CA

Corvallis Recording (indicated by *) 11/05:
Dottie Grossman, poems; Michael Vlatkovich, trombone;
David Storrs, drums/ percussion, toys; Jim Knodle, trumpet

Corvallis Recording: Califas Studio, Corvallis, OR

engineer: Wayne Peet
producers: Michael Vlatkovich, Dottie Grossman
front cover art: Billy Mintz
design: Ted Killian

1. Benjamin Called (1:38)
2. I Wish (1:49)
3. Tumbleweed (:57)*
4. Early Wednesday morning (1:20)*
5. Veterans Hospital (1:18)*
6. Mendocino Coast 1967 (2:21)
7. Merry Christmas, Michael (1:12)*
8. Two Henny Youngman Poems (1:57)
9. This Winter (1:38)
10. Two Appropriations (1:39)*
11. The Two Times I Loved
You The Most In a Car (2:37)
12. Two Poems About Trucks (2:20)
13. Africa (1:29)*
14. Melting Pot (2:35)
15. Zoey Steps Out (1:18)*
16. Quotation (1:56)
17.Little Rock (2:03)*
18.Two More Henny
Youngman Poems (1:48)
19. Helicopter Noise (:50)*
20. This Is What I Do Best (1:33)
21. The People Who Hate Wind (1:22)*
22. Just Before (1:45)
23. Noon Concert (1:36)
24. Another Nose Poem (1:52)*
25. Definition of Happiness/
If I Were Directing This Movie (1:27)*
26. From Iceland (1:36)*
27. Alaska (1:49)
28. What Henny Youngman Loves
Most About America (:47)
29. Vince Salvino (1.16)*
30. Fortune Cookie (3:11)
31. Henny Youngman’s True
Confession (2:06)*
32. Sorry To Disappoint You (1:39)
33. Future Past (1:42)
34. Mark Weber-Type Poem (1:41)

Track 1

Benjamin called
from Long Beach Island,
New Jersey.
I said, “I can hardly hear you;
the ocean’s so noisy.”
He put down the phone
for a second
and screamed,
“Atlantic, will you please
shut up? —
I’m talking to Dottie.”

Track 2

I wish there was a town
called Nirvana
in Nevada.
It would be
a beautiful place,
in a valley,
where the only industry
was happiness.
Wouldn’t it be fun
to send a letter there —
addressed to
“Nirvana, NV”?

Track 3

Something is draped on a fence
until it is time to be tumbleweed.
In this room,
you are heroic,
tasting of summer and vitamins.
Step outside
and the tumbleweed rolls.

Track 4

Early Wednesday morning,
nobody’s kicked up any dust,
nobody’s made a dime, yet.
All the pet dogs
have left-alone faces.

Track 5

Veterans Hospital

The uniform white buildings
shine as pointlessly
as dead men’s teeth.
Here, everything is slower,
even southern,
as they dance to mark
the time between the palm trees
and forget in the clean cut grass.

Track 6

Mendocino Coast, 1967

Inland, where the grasses and grapes lived,
we could not have imagined
the rocks, the cold clouds —
the surf that would surround us
like a headache,
and those long tubes of kelp
like noodles
from another world
where, with the music of foghorns
and wind chimes,
even the kind moon
seemed dangerous.

Track 7

Merry Christmas, Michael

You remind me of a dolphin,
navigating the waves
with your own mysterious sonar
that sounds a lot like a trombone.

Track 8

2 Henny Youngman Poems

Henny Youngman On National Poetry Month

Henny Youngman hates National Poetry Month;
it gives him performance anxiety.

Henny Youngman To His Priest

Forgive me, Father,
for I have sinned.
I’m sexually aroused
by sacred music.

Track 9

This winter feels colder than ever,
or maybe I’m just more sensitive
these days,
when the wind is
a fire engine
and the moon is sinister
and blue.
I’m all bundled up for it,
stamping my feet,
drinking rum,
counting the days
until the yellow flowers.

Track 10

(two appropriations)

Tuna Fishing

“A March 22 “Outdoors” article
about tuna fishing
inadvertently identified an angler
as Rusty Johnson.
His name is Frosty Johnson.”

The Rhythm of Commercials On The Discovery Health Channel

Will a new nose help Wendy
rediscover her self esteem?

Track 11

The Two Times I Loved You the Most In A Car

It was your idea
to park and watch the elephants
swaying among the trees
like royalty
at that make-believe safari
near Laguna.
I didn’t know anything that big
could be so quiet.

And once, you stopped
on a dark desert road,
to show me the stars
climbing over each other
riotously
like insects;
like an orchestra
thrashing its way
through time itself.
I never saw light that way
again.

Track 12

Convoy

Tonight on the road,
the trucks are majestic;
they sashay like elephants
through the turns,
with jewels on their heads
and tails.

Night Convoy

The trucks are wearing rubies in their hair.
They are like beautiful movie stars,
walking carefully in high heeled shoes,
making whooshing noises in the dark.

Track 13

Africa:
its vowels are so seductive,
I get dizzy.
I’ve no wish to deplete
the wildebeest,
I only wish to eat the wildebeest.
Last year’s skeleton crop
set a new record.
The air is succulent
with lions and mahogany.

Track 14

We were sitting around the melting pot
(which is what I call my hairdresser’s):
a Korean, a Vietnamese, and myself (the American)
discussing our homelands calmly
like three women anywhere,
with no mention of bloodshed or memories.
I told them I’d been reading
about Angor Wat
and the Cambodian jungles
where heartless nature
buried the ancient temples
and we all agreed
that could never happen here
in Santa Monica.

Track 15

At eight months old,
Zoey steps out,
wearing a new tooth
and a rose
in her purple hat.

Track 16

“I don’t own an exquisite way to move around in the night.”

Doug Benezra, 9/18/05

It occurs to me that,
when I die,
they might find the necklace
I dropped behind the bed
and wonder
how long it was there,
and whether I’d missed it.
But will they care
about my favorite color,
my long-range plans,
or my habit of searching myself
for signs of rust?

Track 17

“The town has several antique shops and fruit stands, in addition to restaurants and gas stations.“
…from the Little Rock, CA website.

Little Rock

No, not that one —
This one’s in the desert,
about a two hour drive from here
It’s the color of western movies
(blue skies, brown horses).
There’s even a mirage —
rare water and
big Medjool dates,
a fruit stand in the uncomplaining dust
on the way to Valyermo,
to Saint Andrew’s Abbey,
where the dead monks sleep
in the tight-packed earth
of The Holy Land
off the main road.

Track 18

Henny Youngman doesn’t understand
why camping is not permitted
on the cemetery plot
he just paid for.

Henny Youngman On National Public Radio

Once again, I made it through the pledge drive
without contributing a dime.

Track 19

When I remember
how quiet you used to be,
the helicopter noise
in my head
disappears.

Track 20

This is what I do best:
I phone you
and say Congratulations,
Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday,
Happy New Year,
How’s your sister?
Are you better?
Is it hot enough for you?
Thanks, I love you, too.

Track 21

The people who hate wind
are insulated, inland;
they wear hats to keep them safe
from
flying poems.

Track 22

Just before I killed that bug,
I had the guilty thought
that it might be you, reincarnated,
but I told myself that,
if you did return,
it would be as a much higher life-form,
maybe a hummingbird.

Track 23

Noon Concert

These frail, white widows
who get their hair done weekly
in tight curls,
like little flowers
bend their heads
until the applause
says it’s time
to be brave, again.

Track 24

If the bridge of the nose
is really the seat of wisdom,
yours is The Britannica,
edited by Einstein,
illustrated by Picasso.

Track 25

Definition of Happiness #302

Yellow plates on a black table,
and my new curtains,
dancing a tango
in the open window.

If I were directing this movie,
we’d be walking through clouds
wet as dogs’ breath.
Just a dot of pink, for excitement,
and no music, just ice where the wind was.

Track 26

Since she was from Iceland
and didn’t know any better,
she said, “I miss the green of the east.
It’s so yellow here.
Of course, at home, we don’t have any trees.
Once, in New Jersey, I could see Manhattan
across the river,
as if it was a picture of Manhattan.”

Track 27

Alaska

Once, I got into a taxi
whose driver wore a turban.
We chatted about traffic and travel
and he said he absolutely loved Alaska,
where he’d worked on the pipeline for five years.
He blushed when he told me, “You know,
I’m a Muslim. We’re supposed to pray
five times a day, facing Mecca.
But sometimes, when nobody’s watching,
I face Alaska.”

Track 28

What Henny Youngman
loves most about America
is that anybody can
grow up to be the Pope.

Track 29

We were all sitting around,
talking about what kind of animal
we’d like to be,
and Vince said, “A gorilla,
because they’re the most like us.”

Track 30

Fortune Cookie

You are going to look exactly
like your father —
one of those draped,
semi-ecstatic old Jews
you see framed
on the mantel
in grandmothers’ houses.
Like him,
you will lapse into Yiddish,
throwing your hands up
in mock surrender.
And your lips will move
when you read,
and your children will
imitate you.

Track 31

Henny Youngman’s True Confession
(thanks to M.B.)

I think that, if I were to talk to a rabbi,
he’d listen and all,
but then we’d just end up
with him asking me
to explain the Internet.
I went to a palm reader,
said, “I’m in love with a straight guy
who can’t love me back.”
She said, “Why would you
want to do that?”
I’m, like, exiled,
all the best people are.

Track 32

Sorry To Disappoint You

As the elder in your Chinese house,
I have almost no wisdom to offer:
A few books, a few poems –
I’m not sure there’s anything else,
except that I once shook John Coltrane’s hand,
and sex in the morning is more fun
than cereal.
The rest you already know.

Track 33

Future Past

If I had stayed asleep
I would have missed
the fun of speaking English,
the quiet satisfaction
of appointments kept,
the way dreams change
when you try to describe them.

Track 34

Mark Weber-Type Poem

So my latest rejection comes from Iowa,
about a week before Christmas:
“Thank you for allowing us
to consider your work…”
I picture the writer
at a desk overlooking a corn field.
There’s a droopy plant
on the windowsill
and a volume of Yeats or Keats
nearby.
It has been a tough day,
and here I come,
galloping into that landscape
with my palm trees and deserts,
coyotes and surfers.

pfMENTUM CD060

PFMCD060

Michael Vlatkovich: Across 36 Continents (PFMCD030)

Jeff Kaiser Leave a Comment

[playlist ids="423"]
Michael Vlatkovich: Trombone, Percussion
Rob Blakeslee: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Jeff Kaiser: Trumpet
Jill Torberson: French Horn
Michael Powers: Bass Trombone
Mark Weaver: Tuba
Rich Halley: Tenor Saxophone
Kurt Peterson: Alto Saxophone/Tenor Saxophone
Alan Lechusza: Bass Clarinet
Chris Lee: Drum Set, Vibes, Percussion
Mark Weber: Narrator, Track 5

1. 5 Why Zee 1 3:53
Soloist: Vlatkovich, Kaiser, Halley, Lechusza
2. I Have These Tears 6:17
Soloist: Blakeslee, Peterson, Lee
3. Asking How Tiny Screams Rust Thousands Of
Times Beneath Enormous Rocks 7:07
Soloist: Powers, Halley
4. 8 5:31
Soloist: Blakeslee,Vlatkovich
5. Be Careful 1:54
Soloist: Vlatkovich, Kaiser, Torberson, Weber
6. 9113 6:20
Soloist: Vlatkovich, Kaiser, Torberson, Peterson, Lee
7. It’s Too Much To See Things Any More Clearly
Than One Must See Them 10:20
Soloist: Kaiser, Vlatkovich, Blakeslee, Halley
8. All Of You None Of Us Know 2:56
Soloist: Halley

Music Composed by M. Vlatkovich, (c)2005 Julius Ivory Music, ASCAP • Poem Composed by Mark Weber
Recorded and Mastered by Sean Flora, Rocket Science Recording, Portland, Oregon
Color Photos by Harlan Goldberg • B&W Photo by Charles Britt
CD Design and Layout by Jeff Kaiser

PFMCD030

PFMCD030

Dottie Grossman / Michael Vlatkovich: Call and Response (PFMCD021)

Jeff Kaiser 1 Comment

[playlist ids="402,399,401"]
Call and Response
Poems written and read by Dottie Grossman
Trombone improvisations by Michael Vlatkovich

1. If we lived on a mountaintop :44
2. The lady from Calcutta 1:05
3. What if another caveman 1:12
4. This poem is part cartoon :44
5. I’m grown up now :55
6. The hum of a place :58
7. In a sleep
In the dream
In recurring Cary Grant 1:34
8. Today I bought 1:04
9. In the canyons below 1:27
10. In the evening 1:33
11. There has been :44
12. Three Henny Youngman Poems 1:12
13. Dear Terre Haute 1:05
14. We waited the storm out 1:23
15. On a navy-blue night 1:29
16. Two about movie stars 1:34
17. The man who is more like
The murderer on his way 1:40
18. Ten P.M. 2:12
19. Six Short Cat Poems 2:04
20. The Man Who Loves His Job Makes A Poem 1:09
21. You make me laugh easily 1:27
22. Three Henny Youngman poems :58
23. Two appropriations 2:26
24. My hairdresser tells me 1:52
25. Daughter 2:52
26. In my pre-adolescent :46
27. Once upon a time 1:32
28. Two short ones 2:00
29. Three short ones 2:09
30. The weekend begins 1:35
31. Two in a row 2:46
32. Two about geography 2:02
33. Two more in a row 2:40
34. Two that seem to go together 1:19
35. …And three more Henny Youngman Poems 2:08

(c) 2004 Dottie Grossman and Michael Vlatkovich • Executive Producer: Jeff Gauthier
Art: Billy Mintz • Design and Layout: Jeff Kaiser and Dottie Grossman
Engineers: Garth Powell and Scott Looney • Best Boys: Garth Powell and Jeff Gauthier
Recorded: 6 March 2004, 1510 Studios, Oakland, CA
Recorded in real time with no overdubs or edits

A sampling of the poetry…

1.
If we lived on a mountaintop,
the fog would rise up every night,
so thick you could run a comb through it.
Every morning would look like a barbershop,
with wet floors full of leftover curls.

2.
The lady from Calcutta
is taking a breather
in the California sun.
She sits by the freeway
eating ice cream
and thinks that the freeway
is a kind of Ganges,
all foamy and shining with light.
Oh, lady from Calcutta,
you never had it so good.

3.
What if another caveman
had my hands,
after they saw me
through my teens
and spent the sixties
with me?
Could somebody else
respect that?
And would the tracery
of my lifeline
meander differently
on, say, you?

4.
This poem is part cartoon
and part injection.
I hope it has the clarity of wind chimes
or the bloody sparkle of broken glass.

5.
I’m grown up, now,
but I still find
human babies
menacing:
especially
the way they bob
their smiling,
ornamental heads.
I don’t trust them
when the filtered light
of winter
cleans the empty beach
between storms
and exposes
the desert hideouts
of dead Indians
and their toys.

6.
The hum of a place
tells me everything’s working.
I love the electrical breaths
of us and our gear,
doing pushups.

7. Three Poems…

1.
In a sleep
ruffled by guilt,
I dream of my family,
praying together,
childishly.
They are so small
that I suddenly understand
their common nightmare,
and why they call themselves
by one name.

2.
In the dream
of skyscrapers
as paper dolls,
each has its wardrobe
of tenants
that can be moved
around forever.

3.
In recurring Cary Grant
Dream Number One,
he appears on Christmas Eve
to bless the animals.

pfMENTUM CD021

PFMCD021

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.

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PFMCD115
www.pfmentum.com

Building Blocks: New Recording from Ethan Sherman!

Building Blocks—guitarist Ethan Sherman’s first full-length recording as a bandleader—is a collection of original and traditional music featuring drummer Christian Euman and upright bassist Chris Rolontz. This recording is the culmination of Sherman’s education and experiences as a sideman, collaborator, and bandleader across jazz, American acoustic music, and free improvisation. Building Blocks delivers a thoughtful presentation of a finely tuned …

Peter Kuhn / Dave Sewelson: Our Earth / Our World (PFMCD097)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="866"]

Peter Kuhn: alto and tenor sax, Bb clarinet
Dave Sewelson: baritone and sopranino sax
Larry Roland: bass • Gerald Cleaver: drums

1) Our Earth 25:22
2) Our World 12:36
3) It Matters 11:07

Our Earth / Our World

“Just because you don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I am gone.”

The music on this CD is beautiful. It moves me to stand on one foot and hop in joy. It's laced with a dark and searing lyricism that one finds on those hot summer nights when the freedom bell tolls and all the heavy weight players would pick up their horns and blow all night. Dave Sewelson, Peter Kuhn, Larry Roland, and Gerald Cleaver are creating their own tradition and it is reborn each time they play.

The music swoops and soars into inner and outer space. Cane reeds vibrating and living in both the urban and celestial worlds at the same time. The sound re-enters with the earth touching it’s own root then resurfacing as colorful flowers made of soil and mud wrapped in a shell of hope that rests on a cradle of freedom. Then the phrase, “Just because you don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I am gone.”

Peter Kuhn who is back on the scene meeting with Dave Sewelson who still remains one of the best kept secrets on the music scene but is a hero in the tone world. Here they cross paths with Larry Roland’s mystical bass and Gerald Cleavers Saturday morning Detroit thrust. I would suggest you clean your palate and give this music a big listen. Veterans are in the house bringing in some of that old time religion. No time to experiment they know exactly where they are going into the unknown where pure creativity lives. 

—William Parker, 2015


 

If I had to choose a way to describe the music that flows through Our Earth/Our World that description would begin with intuition and conversation. The best of freely-improvised music is always rich in these details, and the dialog between Kuhn and Sewelson has obviously stood the test of time.

This disc, recorded on a brisk April evening at the 2015 Arts for Art Festival begins with the sonic swirl of Dave Sewelson’s rough-hewn baritone saxophone jostling against the slinky sinew of Peter Kuhn’s Bb clarinet. Right away, the melodic interplay between the two musicians, (an association that began some 40 years ago) rings true and devastatingly clear. Themes and riffs wrap around each other with serpentine grit and gristle, all with the surety of notated material – yet nothing was written down. “No discussion, no plan, no charts or even concepts,” Kuhn related, via email. “I had never met Larry or Gerald before the set, and they hadn’t played together before this either.”

Kuhn was making reference to the sterling rhythm section of Larry Roland on bass and the marvelous Gerald Cleaver on drums, who both leap into the fray of the 26-minute opener, “Our Earth,” with muscled dialog and multidirectional waves of motion, including a brief drum and bass duet that precedes Kuhn’s screaming essay on tenor saxophone, which wails in the best of the post-Ayler traditions – a sermon of great extremes joined at its orgiastic apex by Sewelson’s equally committed spiraling altissimo pealing. All of this flows atop the crisp martial cadences and precise control of dynamics initiated by Cleaver’s snare and the depth of Roland’s arco and pizzicato accompaniment. Sewelson returns on the tiny sopranino saxophone – his sound is dark, fat, and swollen with sonic fertility. Once again, the horns entwine and spiral into deep conversation. A joyous beginning.

Cleaver, an acknowledged master of subtle gestures, opens the second selection, “Our World,” with a stunning drum narrative that leads both hornmen into a writhing jostle of overtones on sopranino and clarinet, respectively, over the relentless ostinato of Roland. Back on baritone, Sewelson whinnies and squeals, all while alluding to an almost Motown-like pocket as Kuhn’s tenor reengages, stoking the fire with chortling repetitions and bone-chilling eruptions into the upper register.
That sense of joyful audacity deepens when Roland unleashes a monstrous solo to introduce the final selection, “It Matters,” where Kuhn’s lithe Bb clarinet burrows a serpentine course deep into the heart of the music, all the while guided by the ebb and flow of Cleaver’s drums, which both explode and illuminate.

You can feel the enthusiasm of the packed house – not just in the applause that peppers each selection – but in the spontaneous gasps and groans that accompany several unforgettable moments of deep listening. Turn it up. Enjoy. Repeat.

—Robert Bush, 2016

© 2016 Dependent Origination Music, ASCAP

Recorded at Arts For Arts Our Earth/Our World series, NYC, April 2015

Mastered by Wayne Peet, Newzone Studio, Los Angeles

Photos ©2016 Michael Klayman. Used by permission.

Layout, Jeff Kaiser

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PFMCD097

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Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series. Featuring Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Nicole Mitchell, Sarah Weaver, Gerry Hemingway and more.

Mark Dresser / Nicole Mitchell / Myra Melford / Michael Dessen: Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series (PFMDVD094)

Jeff Kaiser


Excerpt from “for instance, today” from Michael Dessen on Vimeo.

[NEW DVD! WILL SHIP FEBRUARY 5! In celebration of this release, we are offering a special price for this DVD! Three hours of music for $10.00. Sale ends midnight February 29, 2016.]

In April 2013, a quartet of renowned composer-improvisers—Mark Dresser, Nicole Mitchell, Myra Melford and Michael Dessen—performed an unprecedented “virtual tour” of new music conceived for world-class musicians performing together live in different geographic locations via Internet2. Building on years of prior telematic collaborations and using high-speed bandwidth available only at research and educational institutions, Virtual Tour linked performers and audiences across thousands of miles, using lifelike, uncompressed audio and high definition video to set a new standard for telematic music making. The core quartet, based in San Diego, California, collaborated with a different remote ensemble for each of the three concerts: Jason Robinson, Marty Ehrlich and Bob Weiner in Amherst, Massachusetts; Matthias Ziegler and Gerry Hemingway in Zurich, Switzerland; and Sarah Weaver, Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Min Xiao-Fen, and Matt Wilson in Stony Brook, New York. With footage from all three concerts and featuring eleven world premieres designed specifically to explore the unique potentials of this medium, this DVD documents an important step forward in bringing world-class creative music to the telematic stage. Please visit http://virtualtour2013.com for more information on this project.

Total run time approximately 193 minutes

Virtual Tour:

Amherst Concert:
Mr. Not-So TC, composed by Mark Dresser (14:29) (Del Dresser Music/ASCAP)
For Instance, Today, composed by Michael Dessen (16:22) (Cronopio Music/ASCAP)
The Story of My Anxiety, composed by Marty Ehrlich (9:41) (Dark Sounds Music/BMI)
God’s Bits of Wood, composed by Nicole Mitchell (6:25) (Wheatgoddess Creations/ASCAP)
Noema, composed by Jason Robinson (11:59)(Circumvention Music/ASCAP)

Performers in Amherst, MA: Marty Ehrlich, alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Jason Robinson, tenor saxophone and alto flute; Bob Weiner, drums

Performers in San Diego, CA: Nicole Mitchell, flute; Michael Dessen, trombone; Myra Melford, piano; Mark Dresser, bass

Zurich Concert:
3 Stories, composed by Gerry Hemingway (19:22)(Nagual Music/GEMA/BMI)
Between Walls, composed by Nicole Mitchell (9:45) (Wheatgoddess Creations/ASCAP)
SubTeleToning, composed by Mark Dresser (21:14) (Del Dresser Music/ASCAP)
Buffered Fragments, composed by Matthias Ziegler (14:48) (Matthias Zieger/SUISA)

Performers in Zurich, Switzerland:
Matthias Ziegler, flute; Gerry Hemingway, drums
Performers in San Diego, CA: Nicole Mitchell, flute; Michael Dessen, trombone; Myra Melford, piano; Mark Dresser, bass

Stony Brook Concert:
Universal Synchrony Music: Volume 1, composed by Sarah Weaver (30:30) (Sarah Weaver Music Publishing, ASCAP)
SubTeleToning, composed by Mark Dresser (25:16) (Del Dresser Music/ASCAP)
Telepathology, composed by Nicole Mitchell (14:41) (Wheatgoddess Creations/ASCAP)

Performers in Stony Brook, NY:
Sarah Weaver, conductor; Jane Ira Bloom, soprano saxophone; Ray Anderson, trombone; Min Xiao Fen, pipa; Matt Wilson, drums; Doug Van Nort, laptop (on Universal Synchrony Music: Volume 1)
Performers in San Diego, CA: Nicole Mitchell, flute; Michael Dessen, trombone; Myra Melford, piano; Mark Dresser, bass

Additional content:
Program notes for all compositions
Interview with Virtual Tour co-directors Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen

Locations and dates/times:

San Diego location for all 3 performances:
Conrad Prebys Music Center Theatre, University of California, San Diego, CA

For Amherst Concert:
7pm PDT/10pm EDT, April 5, 2013
Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
For Zurich Concert:
12pm PDT/9pm CET, April 6, 2013
Institute for Computer Music and Technology (ICST), Zurich, Switzerland

For Stony Brook Concert:
4pm PDT/7pm EDT, April 7, 2013
Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, with support from Consortium for Digital Arts, Culture and Technology (cDACT), Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY

Production Credits:

Project Directors:
Co-directors of Virtual Tour: Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen
Amherst site director: Jason Robinson
Zurich site director: Matthias Ziegler
Stony Brook site director: Sarah Weaver

In San Diego, CA:
Trevor Henthorn, technology director
Josef Kucera, technology consultant
Antonio Estrada and Andrew Johnson, local audio
Isaac Garcia Muñoz, network audio
Michael Ricca, audio recording
Daniel Ross, recording assistant
Yeung-ping Chen, network video
Kyle Johnson and Ash Smith, documentation video
Jennifer Bewerse, promotion design

In Amherst, MA:
Edmund Keyes, production assistant
Mark Santolucito, production assistant, audio networking
Joshua Baum, production assistant, video networking
Dan Richardson, sound engineer
Rob Ansaldo, networking assistance
Sara Leonard, lighting
Ross Karre and company, video documentation

In Zurich, Switzerland:
Johannes Schütt, network director
Joel de Giovanni and Benjamin Burger, video direction
Daniel Späti, stage director
Simon Könz, sound engineer

In Stony Brook, NY:
Kevin Schinstock, live audio, audio recording
Derek Kwan, network audio
Timothy Vallier, network video
Ross Karre and company, live video, video documentation
Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, lighting

Post-production:
Audio mixing/mastering: Michael Dessen, Jason Robinson, Stephanie Robinson, Kevin Schinstock, Sarah Weaver, Gerry Hemingway, and Joe Branciforte
Video editing: Ross Karre
DVD production: Trevor Henthorn
Graphic design: Ted Killian

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PFMDVD094

John Blevins: Matterhorn (PFMCD092)

Jeff Kaiser

[playlist ids="765"]

John Blevins: Matterhorn

(Please note: this is for the CD version, the vinyl version is available here.)

1. Identity Theft
2. Unaware
3. Brink
4. Nascent
5. Little Dickens
6. See
7. Breathe
8. Hear
9. See (alternate take)

John Blevins – Trumpet
Drew Williams – Tenor Saxophone
Brad Mulholland – Alto Saxophone/Flute/Clarinet
Nick Grinder – Trombone
Marta Sanchez – Fender Rhodes
Jeff Mclaughlin – Guitar
Marty Kenney – Bass
Nathan Ellman-Bell – Drums/Percussion
John Doing – Congas

Produced by John Blevins and Shane Endsley

Recorded at Grand Street Recording in Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Jake Lummus on July 21 and 22, 2014

Edited and mixed by Jake Lummus and John Blevins, Autumn 2014

Mastered by Liberty Ellman on December 12, 2014

All compositions © and& ℗ 2015 John Blevins Music (ASCAP)

Original artwork and design by Sam Gezari

THANK YOU to Nathan, Marty, Jeff, Nick, Drew, Brad, Marta, and John for their dedication to this music. It’s an honor to play with you.

Special thanks to Shane Endsley, Jake Lummus, Liberty Ellman, Leah Jubara, Matt Hurley, Simon Yu, Sam Gezari, Daniel Stessen, and to Bill Jubara and everyone who supported this project on Kickstarter. Special thanks to my loving, supportive family and especially to Amanda.

For Ray and Howell.

pfMENTUM CD092

PFMCD092