May Artist Feature: Drummer Mike Pride

(photo by Jim Newberry)

(photo by Jim Newberry)

Mike Pride may have moved out of New York City proper, but he is no less involved in the creative music scene. In fact, in the first half of 2015, Pride has a flurry of exciting and diverse new releases including 2 by Period, a self-titled release by Pulverize the Sound, Raoul with the group Spanish Donkey, and Listening Party, his long-awaited debut solo release. As always, Pride is pushing the boundaries while defying definition as an artist. As one of creative music’s great mavericks over the past 15 years, Pride has established himself despite being from a generation that is crowded with drum talent. Building on some of the revolutionary work that figures such as Jim Black pioneered in the 1990s, Pride has also pushed forward along his own path while drawing from an array of genres as diverse as metal, punk, noise, and classic jazz. Today, Pride remains one of the most interesting and unpredictable improvisers in New York, and his new records all deserve serious attention.



Cisco Bradley: What five records have had the greatest impact upon you as a musician?

Mike Pride: Well, that’s a real tough one to break down to such a small sample size, but right off the top of my head I would say: 

  1. Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch
  2. Derek Bailey/Bill Laswell/Tony Williams – Arcana
  3. Art Ensemble of Chicago – A Jackson In Your House
  4. Max Roach – Survivors
  5. Albert Ayler – Love Cry

CB: What are the key influences upon you as a composer?

MP: I could better say what my main concerns are: Density, development, duration (long or short), color, narrative & the ability to follow the sounds in my head truly and translate that to whatever medium I am working in.

CB: You have been busy. Could you speak briefly about the new releases you have coming out this Spring?

MP: This spring will see the release of 3 albums that are very important to me.

Mike Pride – Listening Party is my first solo release, on Akord/Subkulturni Azil Records (out of Slovenia).  I have been working on this album for many years and I am really excited for it to be available worldwide soon.  The album features improvised drum set solos, through-composed pieces for various percussion setups, studio creation and glockenspiel etudes.

Pulverize The Sound has our self-titled album on Relative Pitch.  This trio is Peter Evans on trumpet, Tim Dahl on electric bass and myself on drums and percussion.  Really super intense, tightly composed, otherworldly music.

The Spanish Donkey – Raoul is out on RareNoise Records.  Featuring Joe Morris on electric guitar, Jamie Saft on organ, keyboards and piano & myself on drums.  This is what I would call a super long developing, improvised, microtonal-blues organ trio.

CB: How did Charlie Looker and you approach the new Period record? What do you consider to be your overall sonic influences for the project? What are your approaches to in-the-moment composition?

MP: Charlie and I simply wanted to document the developments in our concepts on improvisation. PERIOD develops over long periods of time and every so often it will be necessary to document what we are doing – once things have reached a dramatic new place from our previous recorded material.

Sonically we were definitely hoping to go for a more direct, hd metal sound. We recorded with Colin Marsten, who is one of the true masters of modern, aggressive, clear, metal sound, so we were in excellent care in that regard.

My approach to in-the-moment composition is consistent. Listen first. Drop clear, definitive ideas rhythmically, sonically and spatially. Listen to how they are being processed by the others and then develop or sustain.  If I choose to sustain I will probably choose to make a dramatic break and move into disparate territory at some point and then reasses. I am very into big arcs.

CB: What did each of the other contributors (Chuck Bettis, Darius Jones, Sam Hillmer) add to the project?

MP: Chuck Bettis adds an entire world and padding around what Charlie and I do.  He can process our sounds, function as a melodic instrument, a harmonic instrument and even take on bass functions.  He also adds vocals which veer us into psych or death areas. Both of which are very evocative and appealing to Charlie and I. Darius and Sam both brought a very distinctive approach to reeds.  Both have a very particular and advanced sense of melody, harmony, space, emotion and brittle sonics. We would have never achieved the “wasteland” vibe we wanted on those quintet tracks without them.

CB: Can you describe the compositional process you employed with Peter and Tim in pulverize the sound? Are there non-musical inspirations present in it?

MP: It varies. Each of us has brought in pieces that were finished, and we’ve each brought in sketches. We’ve also workshopped a lot of ideas in private rehearsal, collectively, and then written music with whatever small victories we found in mind. I would say most of our inspiration IS musical. Peter’s extremely so.  Sometimes my titles can be a little autobiographical, as can Tim’s, but the music is always about certain sonic and musical obsessions we share or mine together as a band.

CB: You mentioned working on your solo record for a number of years. Could you talk about that process in depth?

MP: Well, I’ve always made “solo” music recordings since I was very young. It’s something I love doing. When I was given the opportunity to make this record I decided to collect every piece of solo music I had in my personal library and begin a long process of digesting it and tracing it’s focal areas. I then wanted to try and represent each of those areas while still maintaining some kind of continuity. I started off with something like 75 tracks to whittle down and/or finish.

I began inviting friends over to listen through groupings of pieces and asked for lots of feedback:  what was interesting, what was silly, what works and what doesn’t as it relates to everything else, etc. I then began working on newer pieces to fill in some areas I thought weren’t sufficiently represented, or pieces to smooth out transition points in the track order. The glockenspiel etudes are new and there are also the drum set improvisations (tracks dedicated to improvising drummers).

Once I had an order that I thought created an interesting narrative I mastered it with Jonathan Goldberger began the process of letting go.  The whole process took a few years.  Now I want to make a bunch of solo records as quickly as possible!

–Cisco Bradley, May 28, 2015

Playlist for the Week of May 18, 2015

  • Billy Bang & Denis Charles – Bangception (Hat Hut, 1983) [vinyl]
  • Dietrich Eichmann & Jeff Arnal – The Temperature Dropped Again (Leo, 2004)
  • William Parker’s In Order to Survive – Peach Orchard (Aum Fidelity, 1998)
  • Pharoah Sanders – Live at the East (Impulse, 1972) [vinyl]
  • Ben Stapp & the Zosimos – Myrrha’s Red Book: Act I (Evolver, 2015)
  • Bomx X – self-titled (Seeds of Sound, 2008)

Playlist for the Week of May 4, 2015

  • Devin Gray – Relative Resonance (Skirl, 2015)
  • Baikida Carroll – Shadows and Reflections (Soul Note, 1982)
  • Tim Berne’s Bloodcount – Poisoned Minds – The Paris Concert II (Polydor, 1995)
  • Rashied Ali Quartet – New Directions in Modern Music (KLIMT, 1971)
  • Rema Hasumi – Utazata (self-released, 2015)
  • The Uppercut: Matthew Shipp-Mat Walerian Duo – Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk’, 2015)
  • Period – 2 (Public Eyesore, 2015)
  • Pulverize the Sound – self-titled (Relative Pitch, 2015)
  • Bill Payne, Eva Lindal, Carol Liebowitz – self-titled (Line Art, 2015)

New This Week on Jazz Right Now / May 6, 2015





Playlist for Week of April 27, 2015

  • Baikida Carroll – Shadows and Reflections (Soul Note, 1982) [vinyl]
  • Billy Bang – Outline no. 12 (OAO, 1982) [vinyl]
  • Cecil Taylor Unit – Live in Vienna (Leo, 1988) [vinyl]
  • Jerome Cooper – The Unpredictability of Predictability (About Time, 1979) [vinyl]
  • Archie Shepp – Live at the Donaueschingen Music Festival (BASF, 1972) [vinyl]
  • Tim Berne – The Five-Year Plan (Empire, 1979) [vinyl]
  • Black Artists Group – Live in Paris, Aries 1973 (Rank & File, 1974) [vinyl]
  • Pascal Niggenkemper Solo – Look with Thine Ears (Clean Feed, 2015)
  • Michael Foster, Ben Bennett – self-titled (self-released, n.d.)
  • Dennis Charles Triangle – Queen Mary (Silkheart, 1990)
  • Secret KeeperEmerge (Intakt, 2015)
  • Dave Burrell – After Love (America, 1970)
  • Bill Dixon with Tony Oxley – Papyrus, vol. 1 (Soul Note, 1998)
  • Marilyn Crispell – Labyrinths (Victo, 1992)
  • Marilyn Crispell – Gaia (Leo, 1988) [vinyl]

Playlist for the Week of April 20, 2015

  • Joe Harriott Quintet – Free Form (1961, Doxy) [vinyl]
  • Joe McPhee – Nation Time (Bo’Weavil, 1971) [vinyl]
  • Julius Hemphill – ‘Coon Bid’ness (Arista, 1975) [vinyl]
  • Frank Lowe – Out Loud (Triple Point, 2014) [vinyl]
  • Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook UpAfter All Is Said (482 Music, 2015)
  • Ahmed Abdullah – Life’s Force (About Time, 1979) [vinyl]
  • Rashied Al Akbar, Muhammad Ali, Earl Cross, Idris Ackamoor – Ascent of the Nether Creatures (No Business, 2014) [vinyl]
  • Jerome Cooper Quintet – Outer and Interactions (About Time, 1988) [vinyl]
  • Baikida Carroll – The Spoken Word (Hat Hut, 1979) [vinyl]
  • Marilyn Crispell – Gaia (Leo, 1988) [vinyl]
  • Joseph Jarman, Anthony Braxton – Together Alone (Delmark, 1974) [vinyl]
  • GALM Quartet – Trash Is the Future (Another Shape, 2013) [vinyl]

A Weekend at Cornelia Street Cafe: Reviews of Secret Keeper and Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up (4/17 and 4/18/15)

This past weekend, Cornelia Street Cafe hosted two significant record release concerts. On Friday, guitarist Mary Halvorson and bassist Stephan Crump teamed up with their Secret Keeper project to debut their second record, Emerge (Intakt). On Saturday, Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up (including Halvorson, Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, and Michael Formanek) debuted their third record, After All Is Said (482 Music). Both records deserve critical attention.


Secret Keeper

Since forming in the summer of 2012, Secret Keeper has evolved considerably. The duo originally met to play some duets and just happened to record their first meetings. Those encounters, including their very first notes together, appeared on their fully-improvised debut record, Super Eight. Their sophomore release takes a different turn, with each of the musicians contributing four compositions in addition to performing “What’ll I Do,” by Irving Berlin. Both players display virtuoso talent as well as innovative musical vision.

The band opened with the title track and set the tone right from the beginning. The music moved slowly, while intimately weaving the sound of guitar and bass together. Halvorson’s guitar often danced like firelight above and amidst the deeper abyss of Crump’s bass. At times dark and foreboding, at other times, pure, yet patient energy, the two made the most of each note and each sonic relationship. Both players displayed bold, yet honest voices over a sparse landscape that built up to peaks and then gradually faded.

“In Time You Yell” was a cohesive, melodic chase with cutting guitar out front with bass sometimes echoing the leader, at other times creating a backdrop of revelry. “Disproportionate Endings” brought on cascades of sound in mellow and edgy lines opening up an ambiance of guitar over bedrock of bass. “Planets” set orbiting pin points of sounds in motion which led right into “A Muddle of Hope” in which Halvorson created a fantastic briar patch through which Crump moved with remarkable precision. The first set then concluded with “Bridge Loss Sequence” which opened with fiery, slashing sounds building towards a sudden withdrawal that reached up off the strings in celestial ascent.

The second set opened with “Turns to White Gold,” one of the more impressive pieces that showed what both musicians were capable of doing. The piece began with patient interactions gaining energy and then suddenly bursting with fire.  Then an improvised piece from their first record, “Mirrors” led into “What’ll I Do” in which they incorporated a certain buoyancy in supporting each other together with a beautiful resonance.

“Nakata” featured spasmodic earthquakes of sound flashing before the audience. “Toothsea,” another piece from their debut record, took a contemplative turn in which they did some worthwhile searching as they built towards a climax of focused mayhem. They closed with “Erie,” another standout, which opened with an aqueous abyss of sound and deep, cutting, bowed bass. It was the perfect pensive dark dissonance with which to send the audience off into the night. Confidence carries these two musicians to great heights in their exclamatory and vivid style. Emerge takes this band in a new direction, a big leap forward for this duo.

AfterAllIsSaidCover (2)

Tomas Fujiwara & the Hook Up

After All Is Said is a bold statement featuring a number of top shelf performers. Fujiwara is one of the premiere drummers of his generation and has built an impressive discography in recent years. Following Actionspeak (2010) and The Air Is Different (2012), the band’s third release investigates related themes–memory and human relationships–in seven intriguing compositions  that put the strengths of the band’s members on full display. Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) brings a crisp style by which he articulates his ideas vividly and with great precision. Having developed a deep aesthetic understanding with Mary Halvorson as a member of her quintet and septet, the two displayed their communication readily throughout the evening. Brian Settles is the perfect counter to the trumpeter. The tenor saxophonist has a warm tone that moves like water amidst the others, providing some necessary cohesion for the ensemble. One of the most exciting developments with the band since its last release is the addition of master bassist Michael Formanek to the line-up. He brings peerless energy and robust sound to the ensemble in ways that push the band’s sound to new heights.

The band opened with “Lastly” which Fujiwara suggested wryly is a “possible ending.” It got the energy going and exhibited one of the hallmarks of the leader’s style and composition frame: constant movement with drums and bass in a leading role, guitar slashing across the musical canvas or creating tension, with the horns alternating on casting yellow across the deep blues, greens, and violets of the sound scape. Settles opened with stark, mournful flute lines, a harbinger of the emotional richness that was to follow. An ending with new beginnings.

The band followed with “Boaster’s Roast,” an appropriately titled piece because of its difficulty, which the band carried out with a confident air. After the horns opened in tandem, the players built toward a brilliant guitar-bass-drums interaction with Halvorson flashing above pulsing rhythms. Then the tune returned to complex meters driven by bass and drums with trumpet, guitar, and tenor taking turns moving sure-footed over the top. This piece is one of the most impressive songs on the new record.

The first set closed with “When,” in which Halvorson opened with a Kurt Cobain solo reference that sent a satisfied shiver through any bona fide Generation X-er in the audience. But then she morphed it right into one of her signature ambient twists before returning to the theme several times. After the full ensemble added significant energy, the piece split into a trumpet solo. Finlayson then showed his remarkable ability to add emphasis to selective notes by making perfect use of space. The half-seconds he placed at key moments throughout his lines framed the sounds with crystalline clarity.

After opening the second set with “Lineage” from their sophomore record, the band took fun turns through “The Hook Up” and “Folly Cove” before ending with the masterpiece, “The Comb.” From a multitude of disparate sounds from all five players, the song emerged to take shape, then established definitive cohesion with a trumpet-bass duet. Then tenor sax began to ascend over a boiling mix of the others, with trumpet and guitar also having their moments with bass throwing its shoulder into the underbelly of the piece with brilliant cymbal work flitting at the tips. Of all the investigations into memory that Fujiwara has yet offered us, this may be the most touching and provocative. The story behind the song, told at length in the liner notes of the record, gives light to a piece that is a well-proportioned mix of mourning and hope.

Both of these records are well-orchestrated and deserve some serious ears. The live performances this weekend at Cornelia Street Cafe gave them a worthy send off.

–Cisco Bradley, April 20, 2015