Playlist for Week of February 1, 2016

  • Composers Workshop Ensemble – self-titled (Strata-East, 1972)
  • Janjiki-san – Telepatos (Subzonique, 2003)
  • Marshall Allen, Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, William Parker, Alan Silva – The All-star Game (Eremite, 2003)
  • Tom Rainey TrioHotel Grief (Intakt, 2016)
  • Weasel Walter Quartet and Double Trio – Firestorm (ugEXPLODE, 2007)
  • Kyoko Kitamura – Armadillo in Sunset Park (self-released, 2012)
  • Chicago Underground Duo – Locus (Northern Spy, 2014)
  • Aruan Ortiz Trio – Hidden Voices (Intakt, 2016)
  • Caught on Tape – Full Bleed (Northern Spy)
  • Nels Cline, Wally Shoup, Chris Corsano – Immolation/Immersion (Strange Attractors Audio House, 2005)
  • Nels Cline, Andrea Parkins, Tom Rainey – Ash and Tabula (Atavistic)
  • Charles Gayle Trio – Streets (Northern Spy, 2012)

January Artist Feature: Trumpeter Jaimie Branch

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net)

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net)

In a generation crowded with trumpet talent, Jaimie Branch has emerged in recent years as a unique voice capable of transforming every ensemble of which she is a part. At times fierce and direct, her scintillating tone also has the ability to ignite music from within while propelling a group organically. In 2015, Branch exploded onto the New York scene, quickly building associations with many of the other key innovators such as Brandon Lopez, Shayna Dulburger, Chris Welcome, Sam Weinberg, Chris Pitsiokos, Max Johnson, Kevin Shea, Jason Ajemian, Weasel Walter, Jason Nazary, Nathanial Morgan, Mike Pride, and Chad Taylor.

Upcoming Performances

  • Feb 3 – The Stone – 10 pm, $15 – Dither & TILT & friends play Cardew’s Treatise: Taylor Levine, Joshua Lopes, James Moore, Gyan Riley (guitars) Brian Chase, Carlos Costa, Mike McCurdy, Kevin Norton (percussion) Jaimie Branch (trumpet) Tim Leopold (trumpet, soprano trombone) Chris McIntyre (trombone) James Rogers (bass trombone, tuba)
    Dither, TILT brass and four percussionists perform Cornelius Cardew’s seminal work from the 1960s.
  • Feb 12 – Shapeshifter Lab – 8 pm, $10 – Welcome-Branch-Weinberg: Chris Welcome (guitar), Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Sam Weinberg (tenor sax)
  • Feb 17 – Rye Bar – 10 pm, $10 – Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Brandon Lopez (bass), Chad Taylor (drums)

Interview

Cisco Bradley: What path did you follow to becoming a musician?

Jaimie Branch: I just haven’t stopped yet.  My ma put me in Suzuki piano as a kid, my brother Russell was a musician, and I wanted to be like him, I started playing the trumpet at 9, and then I didn’t stop playing the trumpet. That was a while ago now.

CB: Who and what have been your biggest inspirations?

JB: Oh man, so many people. In no particular order, and with many exemptions, Booker Little, Miles Davis, Don Cherry, Axel Doerner, Ted Curson, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Albert Ayler, Monk, Mingus, Tortoise, Tony Williams, Joe Maneri, Ornette Coleman, Kid Koala, Cam’Ron, Os Mutantes, Nirvana, the Pixies, John Coltrane, Steve Lacy, Joe Morris, John McNeil, Fugazi, US Maple, SKAUR, Dos One, Varese, Wu Tang Clan, Eric Dolphy, Rothko, Gerhard Richter, Basquiat, Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson, TS Eliot, Kerouac, Bukowski, Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, Robert Frank, Studs Terkel, Arthur Miller, Matt Groening, my Chicago homies, my East Coast Dogs.

CB: What was the most substantive impact that the Chicago scene had upon you as an artist?

JB: Well, I really grew up musically there. Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, The Hungry Brain, 3030, the Empty Bottle, the Hideout, Hotti Biscotti, Heaven Gallery — it’s just that I saw these incredible shows, all the time. What’s wrong with that?

CB: What were the main projects that you were involved in while in Chicago?

JB:

  1. Princess, Princess: trio with Frank Rosaly and Toby Summerfield
  2. Sherpa: trio with Fred Lonberg Holm and Toby Summerfield
  3. Musket: rock outfit with: Fred Lonberg Holm, Toby Summerfield, John-Paul Glover, Jason Ajemian/Nate McBride, Frank Rosaly, and Theo Katsounis
  4. Branch/Riordan Duo: with Marc Riordan
  5. Rupert: Toby Summerfield, Marc Riordan
  6. Battle Cats: Anton Hatwich, Toby Summerfield
  7. Flytrap: Anton Hatwich, Marc Riordan
  8. Bullet Hell: Jacob Kart, Theo Darst
  9. and one of the first groups i put together was … Block and Tackle: Jason Stein, Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke

CB: What compelled you to move to Brooklyn?

JB: Well, I was finishing a Master’s degree in Baltimore, and had to decide what to do next. I was broke, so I decided to move to Brooklyn.

CB: What projects have you developed since arriving?

JB: I’ve had a lot of gigs with bands that have played once or twice trying to figure out my identity here. There are a lot of badasses here, it’s been fun. Some of these bands are:

  1. Skybirds: Chris Welcome, Toby Summerfield, Booker Stardrum
  2. CROOKS: John Welsh, Brandon Lopez, Sam Ospovat
  3. Jaimie Branch Trio with Brandon Lopez, Mike Pride
  4. Branch/Dulburger/Walter: Shayna Dulburger and Weasel Walter
  5. Welcome, Branch Weinberg: Chris Welcom, Sam Weinberg
  6. Jaimie Branch Quartet: Tomeka Reid, Jason Ajemian, Chad Taylor

CB: What are the greatest challenges facing artists working and living in Brooklyn today?

JB: Well existential crisis aside, I guess it’s money. Brooklyn is stupid expensive. That’s obvious. We’re all at least a little dumb for living here. Hooray!

CB: Who/what have had the biggest influences upon your sound?

JB: Don Cherry. Axel Doerner. Booker Little (I wish). Miles.

–Cisco Bradley, February 1, 2016

Concerts Reviewed: Craig Taborn at the Stone, January 2016

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net)

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net)

Craig Taborn played six nights at the Stone this past week in a highly anticipated residency. Taborn, who is widely regarded as one of the most talented and innovative piano players since he emerged in the mid-1990s, put on a broad range of fascinating performances. Each night featured different bands and he drew from his long-standing associations with many of the premier players on the New York scene as well as a few newly established or one-time formations. The week was a resounding success, showcasing an array of musical ideas. This review focuses upon two of the sets included in the week.

January 27 – The External: Craig Taborn-Mette Rasmussen-Ches Smith

Wednesday night’s late set featured Taborn and drummer Ches Smith–the two having played together a great deal in Smith’s trio–along with Danish alto saxophonist Mette Rasmussen. The three musicians presented four pieces of fierce energy music, each of which took different forms. One would have thought the unit had played together extensively before, because from the first notes they connected immediately, especially on an aesthetic level. Taborn is well-known for his fearless playing at lightning speed; Smith is a versatile poly-rhythmic drummer whose intensity matches his imaginative improvisations; and Rasmussen is a bold, confident, and searing saxophonist who matched the others step-for-step and often led the surge forward. The first piece opened with a no-holds-barred statement about what the band was capable of and concluded with a short solo from Taborn. The second piece took a more accented turn, though at times with vast openness that allowed the flashes of color from each player to contrast so starkly against the dark backdrop.

The third piece opened with a long, contemplative duet between Rasmussen and Smith, but once joined by Taborn the piece jolted forward, grew tight together, and crescendoed towards a long climax. After reaching its first peak, the players shifted towards a more autonomous interlude before building again. When the push came, it reached an ecstatic level of energy rarely matched in free jazz or improvised music circles today and only after moving to the brink and holding it there did the three eventually allow it to melt into a more fluid and soulful sonic alchemy. The emergence of Smith’s methodical rhythms then worked to structure the brief mellowing of the piece before it concluded with a saxophone and piano duet. Taborn, Rasmussen, and Smith then concluded the evening with their most sophisticated improvisation of the night. The piece featured each player making decisive statements within a shared aesthetic palette, built upon structured energy that propelled the group towards the peaks once again. Throughout the set, the band connected and responded to one another with a rare familiarity and without hesitation in an emotionally evocative way that allowed the three to reach their full potential as interactive improvisers. Confidence, determination, and the desire to embrace the audience with externally-derived energy made this one of the most exhilarating nights of music that I have seen in some time. From the first notes, Taborn, Rasmussen, and Smith connected deeply and never looked back.

January 29 – Otherworldly: Farmers by Nature

On Friday night, Farmers by Nature–Taborn with bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver–played two sets of music that strongly contrasted the music of the Wednesday night late set. Farmers by Nature has been active for nearly a decade, though given the busy schedules of the three members of the collective, live concerts are a rarity. But, when the three do manage to convene, it is a true delight because of how comfortable each is with the others, as exhibited through the tight connections present in their playing and the support each offers to the others as they interact. The music also benefits from the amazing level of respect the three musicians show each other by not only providing space for ideas to emerge and evolve, but also to contribute to bringing a shared musical vision to fruition.

For the first set, the band played one long improvised piece. Throughout the set, the music possessed a sort of collaborative sentience–each player contributed to its evolution, while bringing their own truth to the collective. Within moments, the three felt fully calibrated–having reintroduced themselves, the three masterful players settled down for a deep and intense musical conversation. Taborn, Parker, and Cleaver each took turns in leading that interaction in the kind of tight association that is built on trust and intimacy in sound. The music had a strong and robust center–even as it shifted as each transformed it, the piece itself felt very grounded, whether by the presence of constant propulsion, or by the patient evolution. Some of Taborn’s most exciting playing came as he led the group towards the peaks of the piece. Cleaver’s direct, yet unobtrusive style provided constant forward-motion outlined in flashes of light. Parker exhibited some very inventive playing–even taking a solo played with two bows, one on each side of the bridge that seemed to illustrate the dual-nature of the music. Together the music they produced hung in the air like shimmering curtains of sound that form the threshold between the reality that we can touch, hear, and see, and that which lies beyond. In sonic gestures of profound and honest beauty, they moved along that precipice, drawing the audience along for the journey, allowing all who witnessed it a chance to glimpse through the veil.

–Cisco Bradley, February 1, 2016

Playlist for the Week of January 18, 2016

  • The Group – Live (No Business, 2012) [vinyl]
  • Frank Wright Quartet – Church Number Nine (Calumet, 1971) [vinyl]
  • Kalaparush – Ram’s Run (Cadence, 1982) [vinyl]
  • William Parker’s Raining on the Moon – Great Spirit (AUM Fidelity, 2015)
  • William Parker – Double Sunrise over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
  • Valerie Kuehne & the Wasps Nests – The Apocalypse as Witnessed by a Slice of American Cheese (Gold Bolus, 2015)
  • Tom Rainey Trio – Hotel Grief (Intakt, 2016)

Playlist for the Week of January 11, 2016

  • Tomeka Reid Quartet – self-titled (Thirsty Ear, 2015)
  • Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Mike Reed – Artifacts (482 Music, 2015)
  • James Brandon LewisDays of Freeman (Sony, 2015)
  • Lauren Lee and Charley Sabatino Velocity Duo – Dichotomies (self-released, 2015)
  • N.R.A. – self-titled (Free103point9, 2005)
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet – Cash and Carry (Aerophonics, 2015)
  • James Brandon LewisDivine Travels (Sony, 2014)

Concert Review: Matana Roberts, Fay Victor, Liberty Ellman, Shayna Dulberger, and Qasim Naqvi Live at the Stone, Jan 15, 2016

Saxophonist Matana Roberts put together a brilliant series of bills for her residency at the Stone last week, January 12-17, drawing upon an eclectic array of musicians in promising formations, while paying tribute to the contemporaries that have impacted her, musically or personally, through the years she has spent in New York. One of the sets that really really captured my attention was a freely improvised quintet featuring voice artist Fay Victor, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Shayna Dulberger, and drummer Qasim Naqvi together with Roberts. A perfect mixture of confidence and selflessness seemed to guide the encounter between performers, most of whom had limited experience playing with one another previously. Victor spent much of the set exploring the lower register which connected with the rest of the ensemble on an aesthetic level: aqueous and magnetic as her sounds mingled with bass and guitar, especially. Dulberger brought a buoyancy and a propulsion to the group, but also moved to center stage when opportunity presented itself with direct cuts that seemed to anticipate the movement of the other musicians. In a similar vein, Naqvi seemed to move down the corridors left open by Roberts, Victor, and Ellman, adding flashes of light over their rich harmonies. Ellman, meanwhile, felt like the foil to much of the rest of the ensemble–more structured than the others, yet with measured flexibility, his swiftly orchestrated guitar lines gave a firmer shape to the ensemble’s overall sound. Roberts sometimes led the way, but often played intertwined with the other musicians, exhibiting her keen sense of harmony and opportunity for interplay. One of the reasons the band sounded so good together was the space that they each provided one another. Roberts seems to have led by example in this regard, moving out front and then drawing back, inviting each musician a chance to lead. The set included a number of sparse yet sophisticated duo and trio moments that further expanded the emotional range of the music when compared to the group sound. One can only hope that this is not the last encounter for this group which seems to have tapped into a shared aesthetic with great promise.