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.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Cartoon Justice plays Oakland this Monday!

Cartoon Justice returns to Studio Grand this Monday!
Cartoon Justice
Studio Grand
3234 Grand Ave.
Oakland 94610
9:30 PM

We will be playing a Free set.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Crow Crash Radio this Friday in SF!

Crow Crash Radio is stoked to be playing at 111 Minna Gallery this Friday. We'll be the band during the opening reception of the Geeks, Freaks, and Strange Art show. 
Fri., 4/6/18
Crow Crash Radio
The Zappa Room
111 Minna Gallery
SF 94105
5-7:30 PM
Should be a strange time......