The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet: 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic (PFMCD013)


The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet is:
Eric Barber: Soprano and Tenor Saxophones
Vinny Golia: Saxophones, Clarinets, Flutes
Emily Hay: Flutes
Lynn Johnston: Saxophones and Clarinets
Jason Mears: Alto Saxophone
Dan Clucas/Kris Tiner: Trumpets
Michael Vlatkovich: Trombone
Eric Sbar: Euphonium and Valve-Trombone
Mark Weaver: Tuba
Ernesto Diaz-Infante: Acoustic Guitar
Tom McNalley: Electric Guitar
G.E. Stinson: Electric Guitar, Electronics
Jim Connolly/Hal Onserud: Contrabass
Wayne Peet: Organ, Theremin, Electronics
Brad Dutz: Percussion
Richie West: Drum Set and Percussion
Jeff Kaiser: Conductor, Trumpet

Track List
1. My Uncle Toby’s apologetical oration 6:57
2. Gravity was an errant scoundrel 5:55
3. This sweet fountain of science 8:44
4. The Curate’s folly betwixt them 5:47
5. Devout, venerable, hoary-headed man, meekly holding up a box 4:43
6. The stranger’s nose was no more heard of 1:18
7. Uncle Toby understood the nature of a parabola 4:01
8. The Accusing Spirit which flew up to heaven’s chancery 6:55
9. A thousand of my father’s most subtle syllogisms 7:23
10. His life was put in jeopardy by words 5:44
11. The heat and impatience of his thirst 5:16
12. Nothing but the fermentation 4:11
13. I wish my Uncle Toby had been a water-drinker 6:09
Total Playing Time: 1:13:13

All compositions and arrangements by Jeff Kaiser
©2003 Jeff Kaiser Music, ASCAP
Recorded at Ventura City Hall, Ventura, CA, 9.7.02
Recording, mastering, design, and layout by Jeff Kaiser

“Number helps more than anything else to bring order into the chaos of appearances.”
— C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche





  1. Post
    Louis Lopez
    0 out of 5

    “Again Jeff Kaiser surprises with the heavy experimentation of his Ockodektet. As always he uses multiple noises and sounds to create new landscapes (or shoud I called them “Soundscapes”?) of improvisational ideas. Here the music is not of really easy lsitening but it always amazes with the new ideas that he and the band achieve on each track. The experimentation with multiple musicians allows Kaiser to create different layers of sounds and then combined them into his own experimentation. This i music for open minds and for those who like to be amazed by the incredible musicianship of this guys.”

    Federico Marongiu/ Music Extreme, Feb, 2005

    “The West Coast has a very active new music scene, but it’s distinctly regional. Here are two recordings by avant-garde “big bands,” Jeff Kaiser’s based in southern California and Moe! Staiano’s based around the San Francisco area.

    Neither share any personnel, but both have vital players and a distinct energy and enthusiasm for new music. Kaiser has a number of Los Angeles notables peopling his band including reed master Vinny Golia, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, and keyboard player Wayne Peet. But while the two bands may share a certain spirit, they also have completely different methodologies.

    Kaiser’s band performs a multipart composition comprised of 13 movements played without pause. 13 Themes For A Triskaidekaphobic seems to be a tribute to a departed “uncle” (real? Imagined?, it’s hard to tell from the enigmatic but humorous movement titles) and begins with what sounds like the strains of a New Orleans funeral march before opening up into free territory. The first movement settles into a solo with Vinny Golia playing a sopranino sax with remarkable fluidity and a tone that almost sounds like an oboe. He’s accompanied by weird electronic rumblings and huffing orchestral accompaniment which leads into a dialogue between Golia and Vlatkovich. Kaiser makes maximum use of his 18 member ensemble and is continually finding intriguing and unique backdrops for the soloists as well as interesting solo/duet combinations. The New Orleans dirge makes a re-appearance at one point decorated by pointillistic orchestral flourishes. One of the more intriguing aspects of this group is the electronic arsenal buried in it. Weird bubbling interludes occasionally surface, adding a unique hue and textures to the foreground. But it’s their background work that really gives this ensemble a unique flavor. Check out their passages during the early part of Golia’s sopranino solo during the first movement. During the fifth movement Peet’s organ comes to the fore for a weird almost Sun Ra-ish interlude.

    If there is a drawback to this disc, it’s the recording quality. It has a hollow, “live” sound that primarily works against the drum/percussion section, causing it to sound too boomy. Oddly enough though, it enhances the electronic aspect of the band giving it an other-worldly sound (which probably also contributes to the Sun Ra angle). The other minor flaw is the inconclusive way this piece ends. Considering that the timing on the disc is 1 hour and 13 minutes, I wonder if Kaiser intended for the piece to have its final say at precisely the 13th minute to reinforce the Triskaidekaphobic theme, regardless of where it is musically.

    Despite this shortcoming, I still find this a fascinating document. If your ears haven’t yet been digitally sanitized (and you’re not afraid of the number thirteen), 13 Themes For A Triskaidekaphobic is well worth hearing…”

    -Robert lannapollo, Cadence Magazine, April 2004

    “Southern California area trumpeter Jeff Kaiser’s orchestral music can be unforgiving, sentimental, heady, weighty and probing. It’s kind of like a seek and destroy mission for the mind. Overall, the artist hits the mark with this exhaustively arranged extravaganza, abetted by some of the West Coast’s top modern jazz/avant garde instrumentalists.”

    Glenn Astarita, New and Noteworthy,

    “Two new releases from the avant-garde jazz label, Pfmentum, have come my way recently. First, Jeff Kaiser’s Ockodektet just released a massive 18 member ensemble recording of sounds, moods, and textures. Humorously titled 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic and clocking in at one hour, 13 mins, 13 secs, Kaiser, as both trumpeter and conductor, has brought together Southern California’s most experimental musicians for a grand blending of both jazz and classical abstractions. Featuring both classical symphony players and instrumentation, as well as guitars, electronics, and the theremin, the Ockodektet gives individual voices throughout the recording as both soloists and improv musicians create an exciting and completely engaging soundtrack to the phobia of the number 13. Besides Kaiser, the only other names I am familiar with here is Brad Dutz and the ever prolific Ernesto Diaz-Infante, but all of the other musicians are fascinating in weaving together this colorful tapestry of sound. Never ceasing, always in constant, kinetic flux, the album plays as a whole, with individual song titles placed for convenience more than points of reference. Here, only the most creative, imaginative minds work together to bring this moody piece of music together. Wrapped in beautiful packaging, this is highly recommended only to fans of experimental jazz who demand challenging music.”

    -Jeramy Ponder, Jackal Blaster Magazine

    “Joyous large-ensemble session with lots of open-ended improvisation. Tracks include composed threads and prearranged solos, so it’s not all one big blur. Loud and exhiliarating, mostly fast tempos, with some expert soloing. It’s an 18-piece band performing a piece about fear of the number 13. The band comprises some of Southern California’s finest jazz/improv artists including Vinny Golia (the Bay Area’s Ernesto Diaz-Infante is in there as well). Every track is energetic — even the slow ones — and worth a spin.”

    Craig Matsumoto, 2004-01-22,

    “Here’s a recording that is just as much of a mouthful as it is an earful. The title refers to the fear of the number 13, something that appears not to apply to the trumpeter, composer and leader of this L.A.-based 18-piece band (which, incidentally, should have been called “OkTodektet,” so as to be more etymologically correct). Over a total running time of 4,593 seconds, which works out to one hour 13 minutes and 13 seconds (at least according to the timing at the back of the wafer thin cardboard pack, though it is actually two seconds more), this somewhat unewieldy musical beast plows through, you guessed it, 13 pieces bearing such wordy titles like “The Curate’s folly Betwixt them,” “The Accusing Spirit which flew up to heaven’s chancery,” “A thousand of my father’s most subtle syllogisms” and other similar sesquipedelian designations. In strictly musical terms, this band is reminiscent of Vinny Golia’s even larger ensemble, and the multi-instrumentalist himself is also part of this venture and presumably featured on his many horns throughout (although there are no credits given to individual soloists on any of the tracks.) The disc was recorded in a live setting rather than a recording studio. Of course, the costs involved in properly miking all of this would cost a fancy penny, so what we get here is a distant and echoey mix which gets terribly muddled when the orchestral activity peaks, though solo voices are never lost in the proceedings. With only slight breaks between cuts, or sometimes none at all, the band sets out on a long uninterrupted journey. After a most unexpected opening fanfare, the music soon dissolves into a series of individual and collective solos in between a number of written passages, one of these even sounding like a take-off on Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music. In our fast-paced times, in which people are constantly bombarded by all sorts of stimuli and where attention spans seem to grow increasingly shorter, a sprawling music like this one can be viewed as going against the grain; but however raw or imperfect these kinds of statements may be, they are certainly needed. Still. for the next recording, it would be nice for those responsible to improve the recording quality; not only will the value of the music be greatly enhanced, but so will the listening pleasure.”

    – Marc Chénard, The Squid’s Ear

    “Trumpeter/composer Jeff Kaiser is an ambitious guy—an understatement his large ensemble work more than bears out. Although he has worked with a variety of groups of different sizes, his Ockodektet appears to be a significant focus recently, with his last release being 17 Themes for Ockodektet on his own pfMENTUM label. This eighteen piece orchestra (nineteen if you count Kaiser) includes not only a reeds and brass section, but also three guitarists, two bassists and two percussionists, the sum of which create a thick stew produced in Kaiser’s numerically fixated image. The musicians themselves come from the seemingly scarce, yet no less vibrant Los Angeles improvised music community. These beacons include reedists Vinny Golia, Eric Barber and Lynn Johnson, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, acoustic guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante, guitarist G.E. Stinson, keyboardist Wayne Peet and percussionist Brad Dutz. All are accomplished players and exhibit themselves as more than up to the challenge that Kaiser has placed before them.

    In the interest of background, Kaiser’s sense of purpose can be seen through the use of titles influenced by Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, an 18th Century comedic novel, and a program that oddly clocks in at 1:13:13 (by the way, a Triskaidekaphobic is someone who is afraid of the number 13). As for the music itself, the program places Kaiser’s diverse influences—Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Alan Silva’s Celestial Communication Orchestra, and other avant-garde/experimental composers come to mind—into a blender and spits them out for consumption. It is a demanding listen that is full of nuances, as each title flows into the next (the titles are seemingly there for mere convenience) with a combination of carefully scripted solo and ensemble parts as well as plenty of improvised joy and featured soloists. The terrain is constantly shifting and like the old big band trick, Kaiser plays sections off one another and also partakes in blending seemingly incongruous instruments together. Also worth noting is that if a static pattern or theme emerges, it doesn’t stick around for long, so don’t expect any rigidity.

    As the piece works best as a whole, there are many highlights, especially from the soloists. The work does commence with a coronation anthem (yes, think Handel), “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration”, with its luxurious brass and sonorous reeds that after 48 seconds dissolves into a swirling, hypnotic, yet slightly ominous brew of improvisation. Vinny Golia’s sopranino saxophone is the first to rise above the packed crowd to demonstrate that there is plenty of room for individual voices. As expected, the reeds get more than their share of the solo spotlight. Golia consistently shines, particularly on various clarinets on “The Accusing Spirit Which Flew Up to Heaven’s Chancery” and “His Life Was Put in Jeopardy by Words”. Tenor saxophonist Eric Barber is also impressive, as he rockets into the stratosphere during the dusky tension of “The Curate’s Folly Betwixt Them”. Oh, and be sure to catch the twittering reedplay that segues into the opening anthem on “The Stranger’s Nose Was No More Heard Of”.

    The three trumpets also are fiercely interactive, both as individual and group soloists, or when skirmishing with the other members of the collective. For example, the dueling trumpets have their say on both “Gravity Was An Errant Scoundrel”, and after a reed interchange, they spar on “The Heat and Impatience of his Thirst”, which even features a jazz twist by way of a quote from Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’N You”. Fellow brassmen Michael Vlatkovich and euphonium/valve trombonist Eric Sbar also excel, the former exerting tremendous power on “A Thousand of My Father’s Most Subtle Syllogisms” and the latter stepping forward on “This Sweet Fountain of Science”.

    Finally, the rhythm section serves as the spices that make the stew so damn good. Of particular note are Wayne Peet’s organ, G.E. Stinson’s Mars-induced guitar soundscapes, as well as the dual drummers, who all march together on “Devout, Venerable, Hoary-headed Men, Meekly Holding Up a Box”. The bassists also have their say on “His Life Was Put in Jeopardy by Words”, with their rolling arco waves inspiring a vivid group interaction and a rare rhythm section vamp. Interestingly enough, it is the rhythm section that more or less has the final say here, on “I Wish My Uncle Toby Had Been A Water-drinker”, laying down an eerie vibe courtesy of Peet’s rousing organ.

    One note of caution: the release was recorded in the Ventura City Hall on equipment that was less than ideal (perhaps direct to a DAT with one microphone). As such, the recording tends to get a bit muddy and during more rousing moments, some instruments do get lost in the shuffle. And while this is a musically complex piece that can be a tad overpowering at times, it is an elaborate work that demonstrates Kaiser’s unfailing imagination. But overall, even if this kind of release is not going to appeal to the mainstream listener, one seeking a more complex and genre-bending experience should find plenty to absorb within.”

    Jay Collins, 23 December 2003, One Final Note (

    “If you have an irrational fear of the number 13, or you’re just a timid person, look out: Jeff Kaiser and his seventeen-strong band of noisemakers have designed 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic to send you running for the hills. Armed with guitars, drums and a metric ton of wind instruments, Kaiser and his cronies stake out territory somewhere between free jazz and the atonality of twelve-tone classical music. If these references mean nothing to you, think about the crescendo of shrieking strings in a movie score — the sound that usually comes before something really scary happens in the film. Now stretch this out over several minutes. If that idea doesn’t fire up your curiosity, there’s nothing for you here. For the more adventurous, these thirteen tracks make for thoughtful listening.

    Given the absence of straightforward playing, there isn’t much need to debate the musicians’ relative chops. Instead, their skill and savvy lie in their ability to combine disparate elements into a cohesive whole. The opening track, “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration”, begins with a sick national anthem, then leaps from crazed saxophone to an obstinate marching band to hints of “Pop Goes the Weasel” innocence. None of this makes sense, either in writing or on the recording, but when you listen to it, that really doesn’t matter too much. This is gut-punch music, the type that aims for something a little more immediate and visceral than a toe-tapping rhythm. Melodies are given up in favor of frantic horn runs, song structures are abandoned for chaotic free-for-alls, and simple things like song titles are mutated into ambiguous threats like “The Curate’s Folly Betwixt Them”.

    The thing that really makes 13 Themes pleasurable is that it does all of this while maintaining a sense of child-like whimsy. Aggressive improvisation is often framed as a representation of an uncertain and unpleasant society. Here, however, the odd dashes of nursery rhymes create a sense of cartoonish anarchy. Because of this, rather than feeling exhausted by the album’s end, you’ll feel kind of excited and ornery, like a kid who’s seen too many cartoon cats get flattened.

    In the end, the music’s sheer surface tension will put off many listeners. Those who remain will get quite a treat out of this baker’s dozen.”

    — Ron Davies, 2.26.04,

    “When an editor at asked if I was interested in reviewing the Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet’s 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic, I said to myself “Sure, why not? I’ve reviewed CDs by people I have never heard of in the past, this shouldn’t be all that different.” Then I did a little bit of research, and a feeling began to grow inside me that this album would be way stranger than most in my collection. And when the CD arrived, the sensation in my gut was confirmed. The music on this album was as obtuse as could be, and I had a hard time listening to it, at first.

    Jeff Kaiser hails from Ventura, California, and is one of the most revered names in that state’s avant-garde music scene. He is a classically trained composer and trumpet player, and when he is not busy teaching music to pay the bills, he runs the pfMENTUM record label, which concentrates on sonic experimentation and the weird in music.

    Kaiser’s main role in this project is as a conductor. And the first task of any good conductor is to surround himself with skilled players, which Kaiser has done quite satisfactorily, hand-picking members of Los Angeles’s small but potent improvisational music scene to be in his Ockodektet. That’s eighteen musicians, plus Kaiser, lending their chops to the record….There is structure here, but it is of a much more cerebral nature than the compositions incorporated by most jambands. Though it may be difficult to believe on first listen, Jeff Kaiser has put much thought into this album, especially the title and the names of its “songs.”

    For those of you who don’t know, a person with triskaidekaphobia is someone is scared of the number 13. There are 13 “songs” on the album (the term is used extremely loosely in this context, as the tracks seem to be cut at random spots rather than fully containing structured, cohesive songs), and the CD’s running length is 73:13: one hour, 13 minutes and 13 seconds. Implications of bad luck aside, Kaiser seems to be infatuated with the number, further from a Triskaidekaphobic it would be difficult to be.
    And then there are the titles, all of which reference Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, an obscure novel written in 1799 that lampooned the memoirs of 17th century English nobility. How Kaiser decided which track of avant-garde noise would be called “Gravity Was an Errant Scoundrel” and which would be titled “A Thousand of My Father’s Most Sublime Syllogisms” is beyond me, but all of the titles are interesting.”

    -Scott Medvin, 2.26.04,

    “First, the good news: composer/arranger/conductor/trumpeter Jeff Kaiser has a knack for beautiful packaging and a sharp sense of humor. His most recent album, 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic, comes wrapped in a textured three-fold bordeaux sleeve, itself tied with a string like a special gift, and the artwork inside is brilliant, recalling M.C. Escher as “13” in different fonts rises to the heavens and becomes a wavy sky. The quote inside is from Carl Jung: “Number helps more than anything else to bring order into the chaos of appearances.” Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, so it’s no surprise that 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic has 13 tracks. But look more closely, and you’ll notice that the album runs for one hour, 13 minutes, and 13 seconds.

    Now, the not-so-bad but not-so-great news: Kaiser creates music that will either pleasingly challenge you or frequently frustrate you. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a mix of both. Kaiser and his 18-piece ensemble play instrumental pieces that were apparently inspired by Laurence Sterne’s unusual, unique comedic novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which was published in nine volumes in England between 1759 and 1766. The ensemble incorporates tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones; clarinets; flutes; trumpets; trombones; euphonium; tuba; electric and acoustic guitars; organ; theremin; and drums. The aural output is avant-garde, occasionally improvisational jazz with classical elements, at times recalling Georg Handel, Dizzy Gillespie, or Steve Reich.

    All of the tracks are lengthy in name, with titles like “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration,” which opens the album by shifting from a classical theme to six minutes of brass-heavy playing that builds up to a mellow ending. “Gravity Was an Errant Scoundrel” has its ups and downs, but you do feel a sense of danger and excitement throughout the track. By Kaiser’s standards, “This Sweet Fountain of Science” is more low key than most of the pieces on 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic, though there is a sense of hurry in the track’s second half. “Devout, Venerable, Hoary-Headed Man, Meekly Holding up a Box” has a heavier presence of drums, perhaps leading some listeners to imagine a twisted parade whose marchers may be sliding off their plane.

    Following the jaunty “The Stranger’s Nose Was No More Head Of,” Kaiser offers a quieter piece titled “Uncle Toby Understood the Nature of a Parabola.” This calmer and less angular track is an exception to the work you’ll find on 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic. Clarinets and bass shine on “His Life Was Put in Jeopardy by Words,” with the former especially effective throughout the piece. The closing track, “I Wish My Uncle Toby Had Been a Water-Drinker,” is notable for its heavy percussion and metallic feel; if you like the beginning of “Everything Counts” or “People are People” by Depeche Mode, you might love Kaiser’s closer.
    13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic is a difficult album to explain, which is probably how Kaiser likes his music to be. This is atypical, experimental jazz with excellent players and a menacing dissonance throughout the album. The diversity of instruments is entertaining and enjoyable, though sometimes there is a strong desire for traditional melody between the musicians. Before I got heavily into the Cocteau Twins recordings, a fan of theirs once described their music to me as “indescribable yet instantly recognizable.” So true, but yet so much more easily describable than 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic. The audience for Kaiser’s latest work is limited, but those who take the chance and give it a listen may be rewarded mightily.

    – Sahar, 1/19/04, DOA,

    “Triskaidekaphobia, of course, is the fear of the number thirteen. An ockodektet might be an 18-person ensemble, though none of my dictionaries list the word. In any case, there are 18 people (plus Jeff Kaiser) working their way through some really fun (and warped, of course) compositions here. And as usual, I’m impressed.

    This is Mothers of Invention kind of stuff. Or maybe it’s more relevant to Zappa’s later orchestral period. At times it’s neither. At times, it’s both. I think you get my drift. It sounds like Kaiser has written out these pieces fairly strictly, but I think there are improvisational moments as well. A blurb of spontaneity here and there within the inscribed explorations.

    Basically, this is avant-garde composition done well. Kaiser doesn’t much like to stick to the ordinary, but his flights of fancy are always unique and creative. He doesn’t “get weird” just for the sake of making listeners shake their heads. Rather, he travels unusual pathways so that the listeners can discover a new and exciting window on existence.

    I like unusual music of all kinds, but Kaiser’s one of my favorites. He knows how to use the experimental in ways that are approachable. And he creates works of lasting impact. This disc is another amazing outing.”

    Jon Worley, Aiding and Abetting, Issue 248

    “Jeff Kaiser’s CDs always create a moral dilemma for me because they come packaged in such beautiful, Japanese-style, wrappings that I am reluctant to untie the string to get to the CD itself. Once you get past that point, however, you discover that the music is fresh and inventive and not easily categorized. Is it jazz, with a classical touch? Or classical, with a touch of jazz? Doesn’t really matter, it’s highly original and the packaging is second to nobody.” November 10-17, 2003

    “13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic and 17 Themes for Ockodektet, build shivering walls of sound around his luminous trumpet, creating a lush, sophisticated mood that manages to remain lighthearted. ”

    “Jeff Kaiser is known for his experimentation with large ensembles of classically and jazz trained musicians. The result is obviously a symphony of styles and sounds that go beyond what you are used to and mess your head up with sudden explosions of no-wave free jazz just when you were relaxing and enjoying the calm complex arrangements and the lucky improvisations of horns, string instruments and other acoustic instrument. With very few electric or electronic instruments involved, this album sounds extremely alive and present, exotic and weird, but at the same time natural and smooth. It’d be interesting to know how much of is written and how much is improvised… The CD comes beautifully packaged in a folded cardboard with silver prints and a string tieing it together.”

    Marc “the MEMORY Man” Urselli-Schärer, 26 Nov 2003

    “Thematically, the new CD by trumpeter/composer Jeff Kaiser would send Howlin’ Wolf running for a rabbit’s foot. 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic features a large band comprised of some of LA’s most creative improvisers including Lynn Johnston, Mike Vlatkovich, Vinny Golia, Jason Mears, Richie West, Dan Clucas, and Kris Tiner. The hyper literate Kaiser named his themes after titles from the novel Tristam Shanty. Clocking in at exactly 1:13:13, the suite proves Kaiser to be a composer of richly varied multi-layered large scale works.

    Opening with “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration,” the band plays an orderly high school awards dinner intro that breaks into improvised reeds and drums. Vinny Golia’s remarkable sopranino solo emerges with the bass, and soon the brass marches in. Stinson and Peet create deep odd electronic rumblings which travel along as Vlatkovich duets with the Golia. Emily Hay’s dynamic flute signals “Gravity was an errant scoundrel.” She plays with the electronics and manages to stay in front of the returning brass. Tiner, Clucas, and Kaiser play chase games on trumpets, then Kaiser and Jason Mears on alto lead an assault with guitar, bass and drums.

    Erik Sbar on euphonium joins the burbling electronics that introduce “This Sweet Fountain of Science,” a ballad. After some drifting flute and trombones, Golia and Johnston take over on strident low saxes. That yields to a tribal drum sound joined by Kaiser playing a long vivid rich toned solo. Barber’s sax flags the beginning of “The Curate’s Folly Betwixt Them.” Kaiser frames Barber’s extended playing on the tenor sax with dramatic horn charts alongside organist Wayne Peet. Peet and Stinson jam their way into “Devout, Venerable, Hoary-headed Men, Meekly Holding Up a Box.” Peet considers the theme with Richie West and Stinson.

    “The Stranger’s Nose Was No More Heard of” hosts a return of the awards band theme that opened the piece played in a soundscape of chirping winds. Dutz and West set a primal mood for “Uncle Toby Understood the Nature of a Parabola.” Tiner, Vlatkovich, and Kaiser blow brief cries at each other, until Golia’s clarinet runs fast and free into “The Accusing Spirit Which Flew Up to Heaven’s Chancery.” The reeds join together to spur him on, then a herd of horns announces a long song by Tiner.

    “A Thousand of My Father’s Most Subtle Syllogisms” begins in the basses, who hand off to Hay. Her lilting solo leads into Johnston on bass clarinet and Kaiser on flugelhorn, both of which unleash a mighty roar. Golia returns to roam reflectively on contra alto clarinet for “His Life Was Put in Jeopardy by Words.” All the reeds play multiphonically, leading into Tiner and Clucas’ spirited duet on “The Heat and Impatience of his Thirst.” Vlatkovich takes over with a slippery solo, followed by a blistering turn on tenor by Barber.

    Jeff Kaiser’s large group recordings continue to impress, demonstrating the composer’s unique ideas and good taste in employing a cross section of LA’s bustling creative musician pool.”

    — Rex Butters, October 2003

    “Here’s something new from JEFF KAISER’S creative mind. With his talent and friends, they deliver explorations into experimental, avant garde, pseudo-classical, imaginary music, eclectic, and backgrounds for imagination.

    There’s a flood of instruments of every kind and they create effects, ‘personalities’, and musical situations of all sorts. Imagine on “The Curate’s folly betwixt them” sounds that conjur up images of an old monk plotting something maybe less than spiritual. Or is it the discovery in the cellar of a monster?! Let your imagination go.

    Beat and groove is not what is found here but rather a theatre for the ears and mind. The clever creations are not all that new in a sense–radio and tv as well as movies have created mood, scene, and set up music for decades, but here the nuances are deeper and one has to listen carefully and attently to grasp the solid playing and high skill often displayed.

    If you want to see instruments get ‘stretched’ to new possibilities, this album will give you a taste. It’s certainly not for everybody but it is something very interesting.”

    A. Canales, The CRITICAL REVIEW Service, November 2003

    “Moody, large ensemble modern jazz arrangements with excellent direction and playing from trumpeter Kaiser”

    -Don Campau, No Pigeonholes Favorites 2003

    Jeff Kaiser artista molto attivo nella zona, e d continuita a quella scuola di minoranza tenace che nella Bay Area ha sempre difeso le sorti del post-freejazz.
    Dirige questo organico di diciotto elementi, perpetuando tutte le tecniche gi note delle relazioni tra composizione e alea, mettendoci per un’enfasi visionaria piuttosto personale. Il lavoro si svolge in un’unica maxi-sequenza, suddivisa in sezioni impercettibili, titolate per con molta fantasia.
    Dopo un esordio assorto, sorta di preghiera introduttiva, l’orchestrona inizia a stendere le masse sonore che, pi o meno temperate, accompagnano l’ascoltatore fino alla fine.
    I solisti si lanciano in esposizioni estatiche, concitate, chiamandosi a dialogare a turno. Sassofoni e flauti trascolorano dal denso-drammatico al pallido-morbido, mentre gli scontri pi accesi sono tra le trombe (spesso sordinate e tirate in sovracuto) e i tromboni-euphonium-tuba.
    Punteggiano questi sfoghi a perdifiato rapide frasi di insieme, a volte legate pi spesso staccate, a cercare quell’effetto dialettico tra silenzio e caos non pi cos sorprendente. E una ritmica cangiante, molto elettrica a tratti, oppure tribale nel percussionismo ovattato di alcuni passaggi.
    Inutile descrivere l’avvicendarsi degli interventi, giusto segnalare invece quelli pi impressionanti, dovuti ai clarinetti dell’ottimo Vinny Golia, al trombone di Michael Vlatkovich, ai bassi di Jim Connolly e Hal Onserud.
    Chi ama l’ipertrofia voluttuosa del free orchestrale sar soddisfatto; viceversa, chi cerca qualcosa di pi formale pu tranquillamente astenersi.

    stefano merighi,

    With “13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic” we certainly don’t have a conventional musical project. The music is of an experimental character, with some classicist passages, others within the Jazz wave, some entering World Music, and the presence of elements typical of New Music and other styles. The work is mostly based on wind instruments.

    “I think Jeff must have pulled in every Left Coast improvisor he could find for this extraordinary outing. Th’ introductions to most of th’ cuts will make you think you’re going to hear a “straight” chamber music set, but about 16/32 bars in, the whole (humongous) group jumps on several (absolutely brassy) trains at once, goin’ to ev’ry corner of th’ globe to explore sounds & combinations of sound(s) that will inspire you to revel in random. Crisp, clear recording add a lot to the overall listening experience, & th’ improvisationally inclined will adopt this as a mantra for th’ next couple of decades. If you’re a “conventional” fan, or lookin’ for music to lull you to sleep at nite, you’ll avoid this at all costs… but if you dig th’ cool of chaos, this is the ticket! Headphones required – this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want something in an orchestral vein that isn’t “just chamber music” – there are some really nice jazz rhythm sections, too!”

    Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation, Issue # 65 1/2 REVIEWS

    The nineteen free-thinkers in action during these 73 minutes of barely governable, outspoken sonic mayhem are among the finest American improvisers, all coming from the more energizing fringes of radical contemporary expression. Kaiser’s alarmingly remorseless discarding of any kind of mindless convenience keeps the whole companionship navigating the perilous waters of earnest dissonance; this could alienate some superficial sympathy but surely rewards unorthodox listeners, which is a major ammunition for border operators with such a pedigree. The timbral orientation tends towards a large use of the wind instruments: it doesn’t come as a surprise, given the presence of luminaries like Vinny Golia, Eric Barber, Emily Hay & Lynn Johnston (from Motor Totemist Guild, one of the most overlooked ensembles in decades) plus the leader’s trumpet. Anyhow, the music is never overblown, maintaining a certain grade of meticulous activism that defines this brew of composed/decomposed parts as an immaculate self-government struggling to survive in a horde of neurotic humdrum values.

    Massimo Ricci, touching Extremes

    Comentario: Dentro del vasto catálogo de miedos que asolan a la humanidad, abunda la triscaidecafobia, que no es otra cosa que el miedo al número trece. Hay quien no siente ningún recelo respecto al trece y contempla la asociación de los dos guarismos como un hecho sin ninguna relevancia fuera de la aritmética. Pero también hay quien se aterroriza sólo de imaginarlos asociados. Sin miedo, intentando eliminar la fobia enfrentándose a ella con coraje, Jeff Kaiser bromea con las cuestión en el disco grabado para pfMENTUM, su micro-discográfica propia, con sede en Ventura, California. Estemos ante un caso u otro, lo cierto es que Jeff Kaiser, trompetista, compositor, arreglista y director de orquesta, abordó la cuestión con sentido del humor, tal vez creyendo en los beneficios de la terapia musical para sí mismo o para otros, a través de la audición de 13 Themes For A Triskaidekaphobic (“Trece temas para un triscaidecafóbico”). Y entre bromas, la cuestión es llevada a un asunto muy serio: son trece los temas humorísticamente titulados según los títulos de “The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman”, novela cómica en nueve volúmenes de Laurence Sterne, publicada entre 1759 y 1767 (por ejemplo “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration”, “Gravity Was An Errant Scoundrel”, “The Stranger’s Nose Was No More Head Of”, etc.), con una duración de una hora, trece minutos y trece segundos. Exactamente. Para condensar el clima supersticioso (o no), Kaiser incluye en la portada una cita de Carl Jung, a propósito de las innombrables cosas de la psique de la que el discípulo de Freud era un reputado especialista: “Number helps more than anything else to bring order into the chaos of appearances” [“Los números ayudan más que cualquier otra cosa a poner orden en el caso de las apariencias”]. Así sea.
    Dejando de lado las consideraciones extramusicales, 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic está estructurado como una larga suite ejecutada por el Ockdektet de Jeff Kaiser (con 18 integrantes como su propio nombre indica), que incluye a Vinny Golia, Ernesto Díaz-Infante y cerca de una decena y media de músicos de la mejor cosecha de la costa Oeste de los USA. Kaiser involucra a todos estos músicos en la creación de una estética basada en la libre improvisación moderna, en formato de big band, de propensión fuertemente abstracta, que tanto suena como sus congéneres británicas de Barry Guy, por ejemplo, como con las menos tradicionales orquestas de jazz norteamericanas, privilegiando igualmente las sonoridades camerísticas más próximas a la tradición musical europea. Un organismo complejo que ejecuta una música de elevada complejidad en su estructura y desarrollo.
    La obra es impresionante en su magnitud, tanto en los efectos de conjunto y
    los arreglos para diferentes conjuntos instrumentales, como en los detalles de los solos, con especial nota para los vientos (la sección incluye saxos tenor, alto y soprano, clarinetes, flautas, trompetas, trombones y tuba), que tienen el mayor protagonismo. Jeff Kaiser compone música de difícil aproximación, que requiere del oyente una actitud de escucha constructiva, esto es, concentración e interés para conseguir acompañar cada momento creativo, tarea nada ligera si se considera que el programa es realmente ambicioso y a veces algo pesado. Se recomienda que se empiece con escuchas parciales, por partes, antes de abalanzarse sobre la secuencia total, para la cual es preciso tomar aliento y realizar cierto jogging auditivo. Si se da el caso de tener los oídos bien robustos por mucho fitness y si no se es supersticioso, el desafío de 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic puede ser altamente estimulante y satisfactorio.

    Eduardo Chagas
    Publicada en Portugués originalmente en and

    Het ’13 Themes’-schijfje is een uitermate sober maar mooi vormgegeven cd-tje van een in Zuid-Californië residerende avant-garde bigband. De band bestaat uit een aantal muzikanten die in de regio van Los Angeles reeds enige faam verwierven door hun ongebreideld enthousiasme inzake geïmproviseerde muziek. Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, toetsenist Wayne Peet en de percussionisten Brad Dutz en Richie West zijn wellicht de bekendste ven het 19-koppige gezelschap. De 13 stukken vormen samen een meerdelige, in elkaar overlopende compositie zonder pauzes, die aan de titels te lezen zou kunnen gaan over een echte of ingebeelde oom die uit het zicht is verdwenen. De cd vangt aan met een soort dodenmars die stilaan overgaat in vrije improvisatie waarin zowel plaats is voor solo’s als duetten allerhande. Het grote verschil met het gros van dit soort orkesten is de grote inbreng die een resem aan elektronische geluiden krijgt toebedeeld. Soms zorgen die geluiden voor wat extra bevreemdende improvisatie, een andere keer zorgen ze net weer voor de samenhang. Sun Ra is nooit veraf, maar Kaiser houdt duidelijk ook van componisten als Stockhausen. Jazz en klassieke abstractie gaan hand in hand, met de vrije teugels geleid door een geïnspireerde Jeff Kaiser. Het getal dertien is trouwens alomtegenwoordig: 13 thema’s, een uur, dertien minuten en dertien seconden muziek en ’Triskaidekaphobic’ betekent een persoon die een grote angst heeft voor het cijfer dertien. Wie voelt zich geroepen om hierbij een knettergekke cartoon te maken? ‘The Alchemical Mass’ is een suite in zes bewegingen, gebracht door Kaiser’s Ockodektet dat deze keer elf deelnemers telt. Het zeventien koppen tellende vocale ensemble The Ojai Camerata assisteert de muzikanten in hun heel ernstige, naar hedendaags klassiek neigende, werkstuk. De spookachtige Latijnse vocalen vormen een gedegen contrast met de overheersende blazers van zowel Kaiser, Eric Barber en Vinny Golia. Dit is geen makkelijke muziek, maar bij beluistering met een koptelefoon bloeit de suite helemaal open en laat ze ook de gedetailleerde muzikale invullingen tot zijn recht komen. De tweede suite bestaat uit vijf gedeeltes voor een beperkter aantal muzikanten, waarbij de trombone van Scot Ray opvalt. De geprepareerde gitaar van Ernesto Diaz-Infante zorgt hier voor de vervreemding en brengt tevens een sneetje noise in de soep. Net zo donker en angstaanjagend van sfeer als de voorgaande suite, maar heel wat abstracter en moeilijker te behappen is deze tweede suite toch een toonbeeld van geïmproviseerde jazz die een kruisbestuiving is aangegaan met avant-gardistisch klassiek. Voor de durvers.

    (patrick bruneel) Gonzo Circus

    THE JEFF KAISER OCKODEKTET, das ist nichts weniger als eine kalifornische Neudefinition von Blas-, sprich Himmelfahrtsmusik. Der mächtige Klangkörper ist bei 13 Themes For A Triskaidekophobic (pfMENTUM CD 013) nahezu unverändert zu 17 Themes For Ockodektet. Das Kernteam aus Eric Barber, Vinny Golia, Emily Hay & Lynn Johnston (woodwinds), Dan Clucas & Kris Tiner (trumpets), Eric Sbar (euphonium & valve-trombone), Mark Weaver (tuba), E. Diaz-Infante & G.E. Stinson (guitars), Wayne Peet (organ, theremin, electronics), Jim Connolly (bass), Brad Dutz & Richie West (percussion & drums) ist identisch, die Bläser wurden verstärkt um Jason Mears (alto sax) & Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Tom McNally spielt zusätzlich E-Gitarre und mit Hal Onserud steht ein anderer Mann am zweiten Kontrabass. Das Klangmassiv, das der Trompeter Jeff Kaiser auftürmt als Komponist, Arrangeur und Dirigent dieser Bigband, in der die Erfahrungen einzelner Ensemblemitglieder mit der Motor Totemist Guild, Destroy All Nels Cline, dem Obliteration Percussion 4tet und Bedouin Hornbook kulminieren, hat ein Zentralmotiv in der ominösen 13. In 1 Stunde 13 Minuten und 13 Sekunden soll der Aberglaube um diese ‚Unglückszahl‘ ausgetrieben werden. Schließlich ist 13 eine Zahl wie jede andere und Zahlen helfen, laut C.G. Jung, mehr als alles andere, Ordnung ins Chaos der Erscheinungen zu bringen. Nur hat jeder Sachverhalt eine zweite Seite und die trägt hier den Namen ‚Uncle Toby‘. Zwar ist über die musikalischen Fähigkeiten von Tristram Shandy‘s Onkel kaum mehr bekannt, als dass er gerne ‚Lillabullero‘ vor sich hin pfiff. Aber Kaiser hat wohl seine Gründe, die 13 Kapitel seiner musikalischen Therapie des Aberglaubens aus Sternes abschweifungslustigem Anti-Buch zu entleihen. Und noch bessere Gründe, „to make some noise in the world.“ Seine Arrangements sind messerscharf geschliffen und gesalzen mit dem Know-how jeder einzelnen Stimme. Die tiefen, in den beiden Kontrabässen verankerten Bläser, die E-Gitarren und Peets Widerhaken bilden ganz eigene Klangwirbel um die nach einem genauen Plan gebündelten, gesplitteten und einzeln ausgestellten Brass- & Reedstimmen. Die Zitat-, Schnitt- und Überblendungstechnik erinnert hier und da an Willem Breuker oder an Charles Ives. Der kakophone Gusto ist mit einer Sophistication hinterfüttert, die permanent eine Ordnung zweiten Grades stiftet. Kaiser ist das Gegenteil eines naiven, nämlich ein kalkulierender Künstler, ein Meister der musikalischen Integralrechnung. Aber es gibt keinen Moment, an dem er einen nicht spüren lässt, wie sehr er „all that noise, and running backwards and fowards“ liebt.

    Bad Alchemy
    Rigo Dittmann
    Franz-Ludwig-Str. 11
    97072 Würzburg

    Jeff Kaiser è ottimo trombettista, compositore e più che altro notevole agitatore della scena californiana. Ha suonato con i Motor Totemist Guild, Eugene chadbourne, Ernesto Diaz Infante e molti altri ancora. In questo ’13 Themes’ lo troviamo a dirigere una valanga di musicisti lungo territori scoscesi che di volta in volta si fanno turbinosi ed ostili oppure subdolamente placidi con gelide folate di fiati ad irrompere sulla scena. Possibile ed ideale marcia funebre, in alcuni casi molto New Orleans per lo spirito da Big Band dimostrato, senza problemi maneggia e dà da maneggiare ai suoi invitati fascinose sezioni quasi orientali e stacchi assassini prossimi al lavoro dell’altrettanto folle orchestra messa in piedi da Moe! Staiano.
    Aperture quasi sinfoniche che si fanno free per brevi attimi e poi cavalcate ritmiche in una scrittura affascinante e complessa che notevole sforzo richiede ma è anche prodiga di soddisfazioni auditive.
    13 brani senza nessuna pausa animati da un’invidiabile energia e forza vitale dedicati alla morte di un ipotetico Zio Toby che a giudicare dai titoli succosi e dalle note di copertina un mezzo genio doveva essere.
    Sun Ra disteso al sole pallido che spunta dall’occhio di un ciclone?
    Potrebbe anche essere.
    Dare un’occhiata da queste parti è altamente consigliato.

    Aggiunto: December 4th 2004
    Recensore: Marco Carcasi,

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