Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Things we like -- end of year edition (for Phil Overeem)

I scarcely blog anymore because I don't have time, but I'm giving myself 30 minutes today to do this.

1) Chris Butler, Easy Life. A masterpiece by the ex-Tin Huey/Waitresses obscuro pop genius. It's a concept album about the 1970 National Guard shooting of four Kent State University students (Butler was there) and a Quadrophenia-esque evocation of youth, from the perspective of maturity.

2) Unconscious Collective, Pleistocene Moon. The magnum opus of the free jazz/hardcore punk Gonzalez brothers (Yells At Eels, Akkolyte), this trio with terrifying guitarist Gregg Prickett puts all your food on one plate, with thunderous whirlwind jams that cover bases from prog to Ayler. Beautifully packaged with artwork by photog Ginger Berry. Also: seeing them perform this music live in a Dallas taqueria where the owner has a rock cover band that plays every Saturday, then they have punk/noise shows.

3) Beck, Morning Phase. Sure, it's kind of Sea Change, Vol. 2, and the signifier that surprised me was the Moody Blues, but this is some very centering music that got me through a period when I really needed it.

4) St. Vincent, S/T. Doesn't everybody love this? Gorgeous melodic songcraft meets killer beats meets sick guitar. Annie Clark is the new Prince.

5) Neil Young, A Letter Home. Before he flipped even further out and made a record with an orchestra, Old Neil cut this covers album in a recording booth in Jack White's record store. Got me thinking about Gordon Lightfoot in a positive way (this has been my folk-binge year; lots of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake), and the messages to his mom are nice.

6) Wire Nest, S/T. Two once-and-future members of Fort Worth-Austin dub juggernaut Sub Oslo making mind-movie soundtracks that are a little bit dub, a little bit ambient, and totally hypnotic. Also: seeing a reunited Sub Oslo share a Lola's bill with Pinkish Black -- two of the best bands ever to come out of my city, playing for their family of friends.

7) The Relatives live at Fred's. Dallas gospel-soul outfit from the '70s evoked Norman Whitfield "psychedelic"-era Temptations and the first Funkadelic LP. And made 50 or 60 white people dance on their knees. Killer jam: "What's Wrong With America" from 2013's The Electric Word, which Jon Teague says "must be a very long song."

8) Ian McLagan at the Kessler. The man whose Wurlitzer piano and B-3 organ defined the sound of two of my favorite bands of all ti-i-ime (Small Faces, Faces) was also an affecting singer, engaging raconteur, and a sweet man. Hearing him play favorites from Those Two Bands and his last 20 years as an Austinite (including his swan song United States) to a full house from right in front of the stage at DFW's best listening room was a rare treat I'll cherish, especially in light of his sudden death a couple of months later. We've reached the age where you can never take another chance for granted.

9) Living Colour at the Kessler. A band of virtuosi that know how to entertain, and still have a lot to say. Their classic material sadly remains topical, and one wonders how the year of Mike Brown and Eric Garner will affect their album-in-progress Shade.

10) Fripp and Eno, Live In Paris 28.05.1975 and Robert Wyatt, Different Every Time. Music's a deep well, and this year I found myself going back and investigating stuff from my misspent yoof that I was too busy geeking out on the Who and Frank Zappa to attend to. The man who originally inspired me to play got me started by sharing some of Robert Fripp's Soundscapes, and another buddy fueled the fire with King Crimson's 21st Century King Crimson box. The Paris concert is a realization, utilizing the original loops and good audience recordings, of Fripp and Eno's equivalent to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring premiere. And Different Every Time is the career-spanning retrospective of the ex-Soft Machine political jazz rock eminence, who announced this year that he was through making music. So there.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Johnny Case December gig schedule

Following up on last month's concert in Mesquite, the Texas Swingtet will perform Sunday (December 7) at Free Man Cajun Cafe in Dallas from 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM.  Players will include Billy Briggs, tenor sax (soon to be 92 years old), Greg Hardy, vocals and drums, Johnny Cox, pedal steel (direct from Austin!), Mark Abbott on acoustic bass and myself on keyboard. The address is: 2626 Commerce Street in Deep Ellum. This gig is always fun!

Saturdays at Lili's Bistro continue with my jazz trio featuring Keith Wingate on guitar (Dec. 6), Steve Story on guitar (Dec. 13), Sam Walker on guitar (Dec. 27), and Keith Wingate on bass whenever he's not playing guitar. Personnel for Dec. 20 -  not yet determined.

NEW YEAR'S EVE - The venue is Lili's Bistro for Wednesday,  Dec. 31. Keith Wingate  and I will co-lead the trio for an evening of tasteful jazz and tasty food. This is a great way to end 2014 and welcome the new year, although we promise that our celebration will end before midnight to avoid all the amateur drinkers out on the streets and highways.
 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask's "Bite My Blues"

A mighty beast indeed is the music made by Peter Van Huffel’s “punk jazz” aggregation Gorilla Mask. Imagine the explosive intensity of Last Exit and the restless energy of Naked City, channeled with the precision and control of Rage Against the Machine. It’s a marriage made in Berlin, where fire-breathing saxophonist Van Huffel joined forces with bassist Roland Fidezius (who has since switched from acoustic to electric bass for its heavier attack) and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner, whose whirlwind of propulsive clatter and thump underpins and drives the proceedings.

Their second album, Bite My Blues, was recorded live on two consecutive nights at different venues in Toronto. From the furious opener “Chained,” through the extreme velocity of “What?!,” Van Huffel’s horn leads the way with brawny braying and skronky squeals. On “Skunk,” it plays hopscotch with the bass over an Ornette-ish theme, which gives way to a series of solos, culminating in a torrential one from the leader, the rhythm section racing alongside him every step of the way. On the title track, Van Huffel unleashes blood-curdling squalls over a crushingly heavy groove. “Broken Flower”’s rough-hewn lyricism flows seamlessly into a turbulent and tumultuous virtuoso showcase that is, indeed, “Fast and Flurious.” The closing “Z” matches an ominously ponderous engine room with some of Van Huffel’s most unfettered playing.

Gorilla Mask’s music – exploratory and ecstatic, challenging and visceral – invites listeners who are equally attuned to heavy rock’s metallic clangor and the nuances of improvised music to have all of their food on the same plate. Come for the thunder, stay for the lightning.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Still mo' scrawl in the New York Observer

A show preview I penned of a Brooklyn appearance this weekend by Walter Lure's Waldos is online now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mo' scrawl in the New York Observer

A piece I wrote about Unconscious Collective is online now.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

My scrawl in the New York Observer

A piece I wrote about Cerulean Giallo is online now.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Croton on Hudson Battle of the Bands 1967

These bands remind me of the ones I used to see in junior high school. From the interracial band led by the black kid with the process to the nerdy kid covering the Blues Project and the Doors, this is great stuff. The bands that left the deepest mark on me were the ones just a little older than me that I saw when I was one of those goofy-looking kids with mid-'60s "long hair."