Friday, July 13, 2018

Duo with Josh Allen this Monday in Sacramento!

I will be playing in a duo with Josh Allen this Monday, 7/16 at Luna's Cafe in Sacramento!
Mon. 7/16/18
Luna's Cafe
1414 16th St.
Sacramento 95814
Nebraska Mondays
Allen/Pino Duo
7:30 PM
Donations accepted

I know the weather will be hot, and the sounds will be, too. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

New Dead City Shaman digital release up at Aural Films!

Many thanks to Jack Hertz for initiating and continuing this project with me!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Early July Show Roundup

As a really pleasurable weekend of muse chasing winds down, I'm already feeling a bit nostalgic. Just have to remember to take my time as I write about it!

Crow Crash Radio-Hemlock Tavern, SF CA; 7/6/18
A bizarrely fast Friday evening trip across the Bay Bridge had Andrew Joron and I meeting up with Brian Strang at Hemlock Tavern well before our set time. Seeing as that Rabbles drummer Dave had volunteered his beautiful Pearl drum set as a back line, I had minimal gear to schlep. So, after a bit of a wait, Crow Crash Radio hit to open the show. Things felt good pretty much right away, and stayed that way for the duration. We strung about three opening pieces together, using quieter interludes to connect our riffs. Brian has added some cool pedals to his set up, getting nice repeater sounds and electronic squalls along with his tasteful guitar playing. Andrew and I did a brief Cosmists-style duet to start the latter part of our thirty minute set; I even got in a few solo drum passages! Stoked. A set of slower, Psych-colored feels, and a fun way to start off a fun night of music, in which all of the bands had similar approaches but diverse sounds. I was happy to be there, especially on account of seeing so many friends.

Below: great back line kit; Crow Crash Radio photographed by Brian Lucas (thanks, Brian!)
Above: the tallest building in SF lit by the sunset. I guess it's OK
Below: Crow Crash Radio's set from Hemlock Tavern!

Aural Monsoon-BAMPFA, Berkeley CA; 7/7/18
A few hours later I found myself being picked up by Andrew Joron, with Will Alexander in tow, for our trio set at Berkeley Arts Museum's Pacific Film Archive. The set was added on to a solo reading from Will. If you're not familiar with his work, get familiar with it. His writing is stunning, and his live delivery is as well. Very impactful. Will has become more and more obsessed with playing piano, and as such had requested that he be allowed to bring Aural Monsoon in to play a bit. It's a testament to the respect that he commands that BAMPFA rounded up a piano in order for us to do so. We only had about fifteen minutes in which to play, but I felt as though we made the most of the time. I brought a visual score, dubbed "Valleys and Volcanoes" after a long talk with Will back in May. This piece was taped to the floor of the very cool auditorium and used a cue, with the loose instruction being that we work upward from lower tones and into higher tones at a slow pace. We seemed to follow this concept pretty well. To start, I played the bass drum taiko-style, from a semi-seated position and using mallets to get low rumbles. Andrew got great, low sounds from his theremin, as Will did with the piano. At times, it was tough for me to follow the piano's sounds, as its sounding board was turned away from me, but I felt as though I was able to play interactively with Will for the most part; this is important in Aural Monsoon, as the group's sound is all about call and response from attentive listening. I would have liked to have played longer! Ah well.

Below: Aural Monsoon gear from above; Valleys and Volcanoes score
Above: a happy trio!

Much more music scheduled for this month!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Upcoming shows!

I have lucked into a few shows in early July!

Crow Crash Radio
Fri., 7/6/18
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk St.
SF 94109
8:30 PM
with Novio Electro and Rabbles

Will Alexander/Andrew Joron/Mark Pino
Sat., 7/7/18
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center St.
Berkeley 94704
6 PM 
Will reads, then we will play

A fine weekend of sound awaits!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

New digital release from Brandon Evans & Mark Pino!

Brandon has switched to playing tenor saxophone almost exclusively, and we're very excited about these sounds!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cartoon Justice/Elliot Levin/Mogauwane Mahloele-Musicians Union Hall Local #6-San Francisco CA; 6/24/18

It seemed clear right off of the bat that the logistics for this Sunday evening show in San Francisco were going to be touchy. The annual Pride parade, a Giants home game.....can you say traffic? Indeed, many of the evening's musicians arrived very late, after having been tied up in it for far too long. Thankfully, everyone eventually found their way to the Musicians Union Hall Local #6 for a fun evening of improvisation. Lords of Outland brought their usual tight focus and incredible musicianship. Anything Rent Romus plays is going to be solid, and with a rhythm section of Philip Everett and Ray Schaeffer, one knows it's going to be grand. And, it was of course! Really fine sounds.
Cartoon Justice had been collectively blown away by poet/woodwinds Master Elliot Levin on our recent visit to Philadelphia, and we were all very much looking forward to playing a gig with him. Additionally, percussionist and educator Mogauwane Mahloele sat in, expanding our group to a sextet. Levin and Mahloele are very familiar with each other as both are long time denizens of the Philly creative music scene. I had never met the latter before, as was the case for most of Cartoon Justice as well. Our set started out a bit tentative, with Elliot reciting some of his wonderful poetry while the rest of us seemed to be probing for ways in which to interact. The sound heated up eventually. I had great fun playing to Levin's flute sounds and powerful tenor sax wailing. Man, that guy can play, and it's thrilling to try to keep up with him. I tried to leave plenty of room for everyone, especially Mogauwane; I definitely didn't want to step on his toes. There were moments of what I felt was good musical interaction, along with moments that seemed somewhat unfocused and maybe even a bit uninspired.  At one point, the bass drum pedal simply fell apart, which was rather disconcerting. I dealt with it by focusing on trying to get bass drum-like tones from the floor tom tom. Not sure if that really worked!
Talking with Mika a few days later, he mentioned that the he was not able to hear much of anything from any of the other instruments. I'm inclined to agree: we should have gotten a soundcheck, but there was just no time for that amenity, mostly due to said traffic jamming. Ah well.
All told, we played a set of satisfying length, enjoyable to me as a player for its "getting lost" nature. Perhaps some of the assembled enjoyed that action as well. Many thanks to Elliot Levin and Mogauwane Mahloele for joining up with us for this one.

Below: drummers-always check the back line kit for signs of default!; Mika and Kersti setting up

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cartoon Justice with Elliot Levin this Sunday in SF!

Incredible woodwinds player and poet Elliot Levin will be joining up with Cartoon Justice this Sunday for a set at SIMM!
Outsound SIMM Series
116 9th St.
San Francisco CA 94103
Lords of Outland
Levin/Pontecorvo X2/Abrams/Pino
$10-20 sliding scale

We are excited for this show!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Cartoon Justice 2018 East Coast Tour pt. 2

Oh hell, I have to say that I'm pissed off at myself regarding my writing of the first installment. Really sloppy. I must have been more tired than I'd imagined when typing. Promise, I'll try a bit harder to organize my thoughts with more coherence this time around....

The Rotunda-Philadelphia, PA; 6/7/18
It had been pretty much forty years to the day since I'd last set foot in Philadelphia. In 1978 my family flew from there to Frankfurt am Main in West Germany. I've dreamed often of the skyline of Philly in the intervening years, and it was cool to finally see it again. Additionally, I got to visit with an old pal from Germany, Ryan Holiday. Ryan's a great, sweet dude, and it was fun to catch up with him, albeit somewhat briefly. The Rotunda show started with a Broken Whole set. Broken Whole consists of Mika on electronics, Eli on bass, and usually two drum sets. Calvin Weston and I took on the latter roles. We got into some good drum spaces, with Calvin providing all sorts of power. I tried to weave ideas in and out of what he was playing as Mika's Mac-generated tones blurped and beeped and whizzed atop of the maelstrom. Eli stepped in about half way through our twenty five minute set and threw out low tones from his bass. Good and abstract, I'd say. Following all of this, Elliot Levin played with an absolutely smokin' trio. I wish that I'd caught the drummer's name, as he was incredible. Elliot ranted great Beat poetry and blew some seriously righteous tenor sax. What a band! Cartoon Justice followed this tough act with a nice, long, heavy set. Calvin got his Funk side out: he was stomping on his home turf. After about thirty minutes of one piece, we stopped to catch our breath. Mika called out for Spirit Aligned Truth, but Eli and I had been playing that rhythm for it for the last ten odd minutes. We had to quickly come up with some new way of playing its 6/8 groove. Our efforts seemed to work, but I was sweating it a bit, and definitely felt drained afterwards. Kind of weird vibes all evening, but it was cool to get to play a lot. Added bonus for getting to sleep on an actual bed overnight.

Below: Broken Whole/Cartoon Justice shots, by and courtesy of Ryan Holiday (thanks, Ryan!)

Trans Pecos-Brooklyn, NY; 6/10/18
A few days off, spent walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn had done me right. If you're in NYC within the next few months, do yourself a solid and seek out the Rammellzee exhibit at Red Bull Arts. Holy cow that guy saw a lot! Our Trans Pecos set started off by getting to know a real cool woman named Imani; she does sound there, and was very helpful. She grabbed me this venue's beat up old drum set, which was surely the funkiest and most questionable one that I played during this trip. I love old, beat up drums and cymbals, so I was pretty stoked on it. It took a while to get the sound dialed in, but she gave us a nice, loud mix. Kind of a languid start as we adjusted to the absence of Calvin again, but things cooked up into some good, raw Psychedelic spaces. Good flows followed, and we got groovy and free toward the end of our thirty five minutes' return to Brooklyn. One thing I learned for sure during this set: Love Is Love and it can test our abilities to accept the actions of others. This is completely fine, even in the face of resistance.
Below: ugly beautiful drums

Downtown Music Gallery-Manhattan NYC; 6/11/18
The last show of our short East Coast tour, and the edges were wearing thin. Lots of emotion, lots of quiet contemplation, lots of angst. Time to finish and go home, for sure. Adrianne's cello had somehow gotten broken in-between Brooklyn and downtown, so she ended up playing Kersit's m'bira for the whole set.  Some people showed up, but I suspected that they were disappointed that Calvin was not with us. No pressure, hahahaha....sigh. We started off with a good, flowing version of Spirit Aligned Truth (how hard I worked on that 6/8 for months before the tour), leading further into scattered mayhem and block-ey patterns of Mika's tribute to Gnawa, Desert Roads. Things came crashing to a halt, and I looked up to see some people in the audience, still there and clapping. All right. The second half of our set started off with abstract bug music, lead by Eli and his cell phone/bass guitar combo. I dropped in and got clicky and clattered, and Kersti, Mika, and Adrianne followed suit. This felt like the best improvisation of the trip to me. I was satisfied with the odd moves of it all, a nice, long set that seemed intimate and connected. Downtown Music Gallery is an awesome space, run by great people. Plus, they have a pretty decent back line drum kit, save for the janky old high hat stand that comes with it. It was a bit tough for me in that Calvin's absence loomed large over this show, but I had no control over that. Minutes after we'd finished, Vinny from Vinny's Music showed up to pick up our rental gear, and we were done. 
 Above: Cartoon Justice at Downtown Music Gallery, this photo speaks volumes

We joked and goofed all the way through our cab ride back to Bushwick from China Town, the weight of expectations giving way to the elation of finishing something started.

Cartoon Justice will play with Elliot Levin in SF this Sunday......

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Cartoon Justice 2018 East Coast Tour pt. 1

The planning for a short East Coast United States tour by Cartoon Justice started in earnest in late 2017. We'd all talked about it, decided that it might be fun to hook up with drummer G. Calvin Weston and play versions of sketches from the our collaboration CD with him, Lingua Incognita.
We made it out there to play. It was good. It was not good. It was by turns ugly and beautiful. In other words, it was a tour.
Thoughts from the first half.....

Muchmore's-Brooklyn, NY; 6/2/18
Calvin and I showed up early with a whole mess of drums in tow. We waited for Mika, Kersti, Adrienne, and Eli to show up; when they did, we all found out that the evening had been double booked on account of the guy that had booked Cartoon Justice having been fired. I guess that Muchmore's did not honor his bookings, or he had not left his scheduled shows up on their master calendar. Either way, the situation was fucked up, and our humble little improvising band from California almost got shafted out of our first New York performance. Thankfully, this did not happen, mostly on account of some supremely adept political moves by Adrienne and some strong willed assertiveness from guitarist Ron Anderson, whose Improv Metal band was also scheduled to play. Ron's group set up and killed for a short, 17 minute set of flying shard improvisation, very much colored by Metal. Cartoon Justice got to play for about 25 blissful minutes. Calvin and I basically took one drum kit and split it in half on Muchmore's decent stage. I utilized a brush beater on my bass drum in order to contrast a bit with Calvin's bass drum, which is so strong. After a bit of initial back and forth click and clack testing of waters, the band segued nicely into a good, groovy version of Spirit Aligned Truth, from the CD. After that, we got into a crazy, fun energy jam that felt damn right. Aesthetic victory out of chaos, and a fun, albeit truncated set. I realized that many odd things were going to happen on this trip, but also resigned myself to that being a simple reality of independent touring.
Below: Mika, finally on stage, gets ready to rip into his guitar at Muchmore's

Bushwick Public House-Brooklyn, NY; 6/4/18
After the manic energy of the first night, it felt really good to me to show up and Bushwick Public House and meet the organizer of this night's show, Stephen Gauci. He was setting things up in the basement venue of the club. Featuring a nice big space for plenty of drums and instruments and good lighting, I felt confident that this would be a much easier place to have an event. This feeling was borne out. Cartoon Justice played third on a five band bill, and even this was OK, as every band was cool and kick ass in their own way. Such a pleasure to hear and see all this great music! On our set, keyboard player Eli Wallace joined in, and his sounds added some great flavor to the sound. Two full kits from Calvin and me seemed pretty well locked, with Calvin playing very powerfully. I kept the brush beater on my bass drum for continued contrast with the other bass drum. We tried to use a graphic score that Mika had sketched out, but I'm not sure how closely it was followed. A fun, crazy set that felt a bit short to me, but in light of the large bill, we all agreed that it was best to keep it that way and leave room for the other acts.
Above: many drums; that's Calvin on sitting at the kit on the left
Below: a graphic score!
Below: video filmed by and courtesy of Stephen Gauci, thanks Stephen!

AS220-Providence, RI; 6/5/18
After the crazy energy of Brooklyn, it felt good to drive up into New England for a gig in Rhode Island. I've never played in Providence, and was duly excited to be able to do so. It was also a real honor to spend some time with Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter before and after this show. They're the kind of people that one feels honored to have spent any amount of time with. I'm humbled by their graciousness and generosity. Our two sets at AS220 featured only me on drums, as Calvin had to head home to Philadelphia in order to take care of a family emergency. As such, they were a lot more quiet and free flowing, more relaxed than the previous nights' sets had been. Kersti really shined on sax, and Mika brought out his flute for a nice extended time. I had a great time leading the way with brushes and mallets, trying to keep things a bit more quiet and subdued. It seemed like a good opportunity to pull the energy back and really go deep into the listening vibes, which I felt I did pretty well. The second of our two sets featured digitally generated films by Mika. We hadn't played to them since 2015 or so, and it was awesome to get to do so again. Before heading back to Brooklyn, we stopped off at HP Lovecraft's grave site. Spooky!
Below: Cartoon Justice setting up at AS220

My main takeaway from these first three gigs: independent touring is crazy, uncertain, and fraught with weirdness. Hey, that's life! Stay tuned for rundowns on shows in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, coming up soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Amy Reed/Mark Pino Duo videos up at Youtube!

Many thanks to Charles Smith for filming and posting!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cartoon Justice East Coast Tour Dates

In early June, Cartoon Justice will be heading to the East Coast of the U.S. to play some shows!

Sat., 6/2/18
2 Havermeyer St.
Brooklyn NY, 11211
9 PM
Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses Ensemble
Cartoon Justice with Grant Calvin Weston

Mon., 6/4/18
Bushwick Public House
1288 Myrtle St.
Brooklyn NY, 11211
9 PM
Cartoon Justice with Grant Calvin Weston

Tue., 6/5/18
AS 220
115 Empire St.
Providence RI, 02903
Cartoon Justice

Thu., 6/7/18
The Rotunda
4014 Walnut St.
Philadelphia PA, 19104
Elliot Levin Trio
Cartoon Justice with Grant Calvin Weston

Sun., 6/10/18
Trans Pecos
9-15 Wyckoff Ave.
Queens NY, 11385
1 PM
Welf Dorr Unit
Matt Lavelle Unit
Cartoon Justice

Mon., 6/11/18
Downtown Music Gallery
13 Monroe St.
New York NY, 10002
6:30 PM
Cartoon Justice

There may be some changes to these lineups, but this is the most accurate view that I have so far. Looking forward to seeing some new venues and playing some shows on the East Coast!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Early May show roundup!

Another fun weekend of creative music making draws to an end, and I sit here somewhat drained but feeling very fulfilled!

Cartoon Justice/Broken Whole-Adobe Books, SF CA; 5/4/18
As Mika Pontecorvo loves to do, he set up a show in which new configurations of the core Cartoon Justice players would get to play with close/new associates. For Friday night's show at Adobe Books, he pulled in expert drummer Tim Orr to guest on two sets. The first set, played by Broken Whole, featured Mika on electronics processing plus Tim and I on drums. We got into some fun, interactive Electro-Acoustic zones. Things felt really subtle and linked, in a mostly quiet way. Lots of clicking percussion and whirring electronics processing. Eli eventually joined in on bass, and his extensions added some pretty great, block-like bass touches to the emerging sound. Super fun to get deep with Broken Whole!
After a brief break, Cartoon Justice brought its Harmelodic Punk Jazz in, with Tim continuing on drums. Things got pretty loud, pretty quickly. Our 6/8 jam, Spirit Aligned Truth, is really coming together nicely, going to some interesting places sonically. I'm feeling stoked that I can hold that rhythm down for longer and longer periods of time. We continued with two or three more improvisations, in which Mika played really inspired-he was clearly reveling in the sound. Kersti may have gotten a bit drowned out, which I felt bad about. We'll have to work on dynamics a bit. Cartoon Justice is getting heavy, that's for sure.

Below: Broken Whole/Cartoon Justice (photos by Josephine at Adobe Books; thanks, Josephine!)

Amy Reed/Mark Pino Duo-Gold Lion Arts, Sacramento CA; 5/5/18
After a fun trip along 80 East with Melissa and yummy meal at a really fine downtown Sacramento eatery, I got to Gold Lion Arts for a set with Amy Reed as part of the series that she curates, the Ma Series. I kept things really simple for this set, with just the large roto tom, some gongs, and some shakers. This was by design, as I know Amy's music well enough to be aware that she keeps her set up quite minimal, too: just guitar and amp, usually. Amy did augment her rig with some samples of various voices, seemingly recorded by her "in the field". Quite inspiring, actually! At times I found myself playing along to them, at others simply listening to them and waiting. The set definitely had a spacious feel, but I recall things getting dense and frenetic at times as well. At one point, I swear that we sounded like Crazy Horse! It is always satisfying to play along with Amy's singular guitar techniques, that's for sure. I admire her aesthetics greatly. A set of chilled intensity, if that makes any sense!
After our set, Mooncake Trio played: if you get a chance, go and see them. Not so much a Power Trio, but a Subtle Trio. Really fine music coming from Vinkeloe, Hay, and Honda.

Below: Amy Reed/Mark Pino Duo interacting, Mark yammerin' (photos by Melissa Crockett, thanks Melissa!)

Stay tuned for Cartoon Justice tour dates later this month!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Upcoming shows!

Two shows this weekend!

Fri., 5/4
Adobe Bookshop
3130 24th St.
SF 94110
Broken Whole (Mika Pontecorvo w/ Tim Orr and Mark Pino)
Mogauwane Mahloele
Cartoon Justice w/ Tim Orr

Sat., 5/5
Gold Lion Arts
2733 Riverside Blvd.
Sacramento 95818
Mooncake Trio
Amy Reed Project w/ dance by YAYA

Looks to be an exciting weekend of improvisation and creative thinking!

New Crow Crash Radio digital tracks up!

From a great session with engineer Bill Wolter. We will have physical product available by the end of this year, if all goes according to plan......

Saturday, April 28, 2018

John Vaughn Trio-Gold Lion Arts, Sacramento CA; 4/27/18

It was most definitely not a smooth Friday evening drive up to Sacramento from Concord yesterday afternoon. 80 East was seriously gummed up pretty much the entire way in fact. No worries for me, as I knew that once Gold Lion Arts would be reached, I'd see plenty of the sweet people from the Sacramento Jazz/Improvised Music scene, and all would be good. A few minutes after taking the above photo, in fact, Exploring Miles! leader Tony Passarell pulled up and we had a really great talk about Go Go. It turns out that Tony played in a late 1980's band that was heavily influenced by D.C.'s cultural fucking GIFT to the world. I was blown away, hearing about this!
A bit later, John Vaughn showed up. We talked over the charts that we'd exchanged: his Monk-ish eight bar melody and my piece Dream Etude. I was getting a bit neurotic about planning things out, but thankfully John reminded me that we would be improvising, and to just roll with things a bit more. Sage advice!
Our set started with bassist Robert Kuhlmann, having just had a cigarette, striding back into Gold Lion, a few minutes after 8PM, and stating simply, "...let's do it now..." We did, jumping right into some good improvised zones. I was feeling heavily into a call and response type of playing, along with thinking, as deeply as possible, about the words of Jack Wright, whose book The Free Musics I've been reading of late. Wright brings up many questions and insights as to what Free Improvisation really is made up of, and I couldn't help but be under their influence, at least a bit. Despite all of this, I feel as though I was able to be present and interactive with the bass and alto saxophone. This first section lead to Dream Etude. I've tried to play this piece live once before, but I'm still into trying it. It's really just a loose sketch; John and Robert did a really nice job with it. Hopefully the audience was feeling it as well. Next up came John's piece, on which he played soprano sax. I tried to swing it with some down Funk beats. At times, it seemed as though I was crossing up the rhythm a bit, lagging even. Things got a bit jagged here, I felt, but Robert kept things solid with his bass. I must take the blame for possibly dropping things a bit too much, for sure. That said, I kind of enjoyed the drama of the possibility of things completely collapsing. I have a tough time listening to recordings that I play on (no, really, I do), but I look forward to possibly hearing this section, just to get a grasp of how things transpired.
After these three pieces, Kuhlmann needed to stop due to some pain in his shoulder. I really didn't want to stop, so Exploring Miles! bassist William S. Jones joined us for a closer. I switched to brushes and played pretty spastic. William hit a deep pocket, and John wailed a bit more on the reeds.
This set had an effect upon me that's been lasting well into today. Deep lessons learned about improvisation, I think. Couldn't have asked for a cooler spot or finer players from which to have had them.

Below: Gold Lion drums, with beautiful, creamy Zildjian, borrowed from drummer Dax Compise, thanks Dax!
Above: John Vaughn Trio awkward ussie; live shot by and courtesy of Russ Tucker, thanks Russ!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Playing in Sacramento with John Vaughn Trio this Friday!

I'm happy to be headed back up to Sacramento this Friday, 4/27 for a gig with a trio that John Vaughn has put together, with Robert Kuhlmann and myself!
Fri., 4/27/18
Gold Lion Arts
2733 Riverside Dr.
Sacramento CA 95818
John Vaughn Trio
ExPloring Miles!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cartoon Justice/Faults video from Studio Grand!

Many thanks to Punk Rock/Free Jazz/Improvised Music fan and ace video documentarian Bill Russell!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Early April show roundup!

So far, April has been interesting. A couple of shows, some more video shooting for Radical Medicine, and word of cool stuff coming together for a bit later in the year. For now, I'll stick to those couple of shows......

Crow Crash Radio-111 Minna Gallery, SF CA; 4/6/18
Just getting into the city on this Friday night was a real schlep. A giant later winter rain storm pounded the Bay Area all day. By the time I'd begun heading into San Francisco, all traffic was simply crawling along. Thankfully, Brian Strang had graciously taken my drums the night before; all that I had to do was get on BART and head into the City. Even so simple a task as that was daunting, as, naturally, "system-wide slowdowns" reigned (pun intended). Eventually, Andrew, Brian, and me ended up at 111 Minna's Zappa Room for the our set. My memories of this gallery date back to the early 1990's, and man, has the place changed. What used to be a tiny, humble little art gallery has grown into a seriously swanky joint. Huge bars, tons of art by world wide renowned artists, wow! The Zappa Room stage is great, too. Plenty of room to spread out. One strange element was the very bright lights that illuminate the stage. I had to don sunglasses just to keep from getting a migraine. Crow Crash Radio started our set a bit shaky. I guess it was nerves, as we were up on display for a lot of artists and art fans, people that were coming through to see the Geeks, Freaks, and Strange Art show opening. After a bit of time, we found our groove, and managed to put in a nice, somewhat loud hour long set to start. Plenty of cool Psych moves occurred, and the interactions felt fine within them. People sauntered by, in between taking in the paintings. Some checked out the theremin, others swayed to the beats. It was somewhat relieving to realize that most of the people there were more interested in that art: we could pretty much stretch and expand and do what we wanted to do! It seems like this realization freed us up. Nice and loose! After a short break, we played a zippy, half hour set. This one was a bit more frenetic, definitely more focused, and ended with a solid version of Tarifa, my favorite Crow Crash Radio tune. A fun, crazy evening, entertaining the art world luminaries of the West Coast!

Below: Crow Crash Radio rocking out at 111 Minna (photo by Elisa Brasil, thanks Elisa!)
Above: Crow Drums

Cartoon Justice-Studio Grand, Oakland CA; 4/9/18
A couple of days later, and Cartoon Justice found ourselves back at Studio Grand for the second time this year. We owe a debt to Fernando of Oakland Freedom Jazz Society, as he's been pretty generous about booking us over the years. Many thanks, Fernando! We shared the bill with the cool Electro-Acoustic group Faults. See this band if you can. Drummer Kevin Corcoran is really great. Earlier in the day, I had been thinking about the recent passing of Cecil Taylor, and a small chord progression floated through my mind. I was next to a piano, so I quickly plucked the sound onto the keys, writing down its D flat major notes onto a post-it. I emailed a brief description to my pals in Cartoon Justice. Mika proceeded to confer with Jorge and Jaroba from Faults. It was agreed that we'd combine forces to do a two group version of this simple melodic cell. Awesome! We actually pulled it off, too. Jorge programmed the notes into his synthesizer, and the rest of us improvised around it. I had fun playing forearm strikes onto Studio Grand's piano, in tribute to the late Master Taylor. This action eventually faded into a brief, intense duet between Eli and me, which felt really pointillist and hard. We then moved into a frantic, slightly shaky version of Spirit Aligned Truth and some improvisations that felt like weird, heavy, emotional tribal music to me. We were loud and raw. It was a nice contrast to the subtle sounds of Faults, hopefully. Our forty or so minute set concluded with Kersti and Mika pairing up for some Blues-inflected abstraction. This set was ragged but right, infused with some really manic energies.

Below: Cartoon Drums (note piano, not damaged by my forearm); post it with notes
April certainly has gotten off to a good start for me, musically. Things will be quiet for the next couple of weeks before a cool gig in Sacramento happens. More on that later. I've got work to do. Keep your powder dry.