:: ROVA NEWS: MARCH - APRIL 2014 ::
In this Newsletter:
Thelonious Monk’s words of wisdom, via Steve Lacy, 1960:
In advance of this summer’s shows commemorating the music of Steve Lacy and marking 10 years since his passing, Rova is unearthing arrangements, old parts, and recordings to reconstruct our prior tributes to him—the 1983 Black Saint Records LP/CD, Favorite Street, and the 2003 collaboration, Saxophone Special. Guests, including Ben Goldberg, Henry Kaiser, and Kyle Bruckmann, will participate in the events. Watch for details about our June 6 and July 11 concerts on our site and in the May-June Rova News. As Jon Raskin recently put it, Lacy and his music are simply fading from the world too quickly. We hope our concerts will help to shine some light on his enormous contribution. I found the above list of Monk tips to players in Lacy’s hand from 1960, and am sharing it here as an interesting artifact from his rich history in jazz and improvised music.
With the current Rova News we’re adding two new features with the intention of broadening our communications beyond the work of Rova, and to enlarge the newsletter’s scope to include aspects of the greater music and art community of which we are a part. We’ll now include a listing of events curated by Jon Raskin and Larry Ochs at the Center for New Music, San Francisco’s thriving hub for vanguard art. Sponsored by Rova:Arts, these events will include music, poetry, film and dance. Details can be found below in the section dedicated to the C4NM, and on the Rova:Arts and C4NM sites.
We’re also initiating a feature we’re calling “+1 – Guest Contributor”. Our plan is to engage a range of different artists to submit articles for upcoming newsletters, providing them a forum to offer a view into what motivates them and informs their work. Below is the first submission, from guitarist and co-conspirator, Henry Kaiser: an appreciation of the Persian music label Hermes. Appropriately, not only is Henry joining us for our July Lacy tribute, he has been a long-time collaborator with each of the Rovas, stretching back to pre-quartet days.
Active Music Festival Report
In February the latest iteration of Orkestrova—Rova + string quartet + power trio—performed at the first annual Active Music Festival, organized by members of the Oakland Active Orchestra, Aram Shelton and Crystal Pascuzzi, and co-sponsored by Rova:Arts. The festival was a total gas, and a great success, celebrating the vitality of this multi-faceted music. Over 3 nights, more than 60 musicians performed to enthusiastic listeners, who turned out in impressive numbers at the Uptown Bar and Duende Restaurant in Oakland. The series gave the community a jolt, and will surely reinvigorate an already teaming Bay Area improvisers’ scene. Bravo! to all participants, organizers, and listeners.
Rova Member ShowsSaturday March 22nd 2 PM to Noon on Sunday the 23rd
Vexations Re-Vexed II
A marathon performance of re-imagined versions of Erik Satie’s Vexations, featuring 30 minute sets by many of the Bay Area’s best.
Steve Adams – flute and electronics and many, many others. Check the website for names and times.
Organized by pianist, Joe Lasqo, this extraordinary event is sure to be illuminating. Come for an hour or three, come for the whole event—drink in the Satie!
Berkeley Arts Festival
Rova:Arts Sponsored Events at the Center for New Music
Larry Ochs and Jon Raskin are currently curating Rova:Arts sponsored events at San Francisco’s Center for New Music. The Center is located just off Market Street, a block from Powell Street BART. Unless noted otherwise, all events start at 7:30 PM.
Note that in addition to the screening of John Rogers’ documentary film, Channeling Coltrane, on April 19, the Center is featuring FILM @ C4NM, 6-week series screening some of the most compelling new music documentaries and performance films of the past decade. Screenings on weekends March 15 through April 19. Produced by Suki O’Kane; curated by Peter Esmonde, the films document the work of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Frank Zappa, Derek Bailey, Tom Zé, and many other artists. For complete details for all events, see: http://centerfornewmusic.com/calendar/.
Sunday, March 23rd, 4:00 PM
Dave Hatt, piano
Doug Weiselman, solo clarinet + clarinet quartet featuring Doug with Beth Custer, Ralph Carney and Ben Goldberg
Friday and Saturday, April 11th, 12th
Ned Rothenberg alto saxophone and clarinets, performing solo each night and in duos: April 11 with Gino Robair; April 12 with Chris Brown
Saturday, April 19th, 2:00 PM
Channeling Coltrane Screening - Electric Ascension on Film
A special screening of both the new documentary on Ascension, Cleaning the Mirror, PLUS the concert-video Electric Ascension Live @ 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival in a re-imagination of Coltrane's masterwork. Rova joined by Frith, Kihlstedt, Scheinman, Mazurek, Nels Cline, Hamid Drake, Ikue Mori, Chris Brown. Including a Q & A with filmmaker John Rogers, plus musicians Larry Ochs and Jon Raskin. Limited seating. Don’t miss it.
Sunday, April 20th, 2014
Steve Lacy on improvisation
The following is a Steve Lacy article from Derek Bailey’s book, Improvisation (Da Capo Press). We include this article in anticipation of Rova’s revisiting of Lacy’s music in concerts on June 6 and July 11 in the Bay Area. Complete details in the May newsletter.
For me that’s where the music has to be—on the edge—in between the known and the unknown, and you have to keep pushing it towards the unknown, otherwise it and you die.
The changes which began in the late ‘50s, and were probably completed by the middle ‘60s, came about because in the ‘50s jazz was no longer on the edge. When you reach what is called ‘hard bop’ there was no mystery any more. It was like, mechanical—some kind of gymnastics. The patterns are well-known and everybody is playing them. When I was coming up in New York in the ‘50s I was always into the radical players, but at the same time I was contemporary with some of the younger accepted players. And sometimes I would go up and play with them. People like Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock. They were the newer accepted people. I was also working with Cecil Taylor, Mal Waldron, and other people who were the radicals. I was really mainly concerned to work with the radical people but at the same time I couldn’t ignore the non-radical elements. But for me playing with the accepted people never worked out. Simply because they knew all the patterns and I didn’t. And I knew what it took to learn them, but I just didn’t have the stomach for it. I didn’t have the appetite. Why should I want to learn all those trite patterns? You know, when Bud Powell made them, fifteen years earlier, they weren’t patterns. But when somebody analyzed them and put them into a system it became a school and many players joined it. But by the time I came to it, I saw through it— the thrill was gone. Jazz got so that it wasn’t improvised any more. A lot of the music that was going on was really not improvised. It got so that everybody knew what was going to happen and, sure enough, that’s what happened. Maybe the order of the phrases and the tunes would be a little different every night, but for me that wasn’t enough. It reached a point where I, and many other people, got sick and tired of the ‘beat’ and the ‘bars’—everybody got tired of the systematic playing, and we just said ‘Fuck It!’.
But, I think the question of appetite is very important. Some people are of a progressive bent and some are not. And you can’t ask either of them to change. Some people are interested in carrying on an old tradition and they can find their kicks in shifting around patterns, and they are not in any rush to find new stuff. They can rummage around the old stuff all their lives. People become obsessed with not just maintaining a tradition, but with perfecting it. Some people search for the perfect arrangement of the old patterns and that is progress for them. Other people want to beat down the walls and find some new territory.
What Cecil Taylor was doing started in the early ‘50s. And the results were as free as anything you could hear. But it was not done in a free way. It was built up very, very systematically, but with a new ear and new values. But, there was complete opposition to what he was doing in the ‘50s. Then when Ornette hit town that was the blow. On the one hand there were all the academic players, the hard-boppers, the ‘Blue-Note’ people, the ‘Prestige’ People, and they were doing stuff which had slight progressive tendencies in it. But when Ornette hit the scene, that was the end of the theories. He destroyed the theories. I remember at that time he said, very carefully, ‘Well, you just have a certain amount of space and you put what you want in it’. And that was a revelation. And we used to listen to him and Don Cherry every night and that really spread a thirst for more freedom.
But I think the key figure just then was Don Cherry. Cherry was freer, in a way. He didn’t worry about all the stuff that Ornette was worrying about, and his playing was really free. He used to come over to my house in ’59 and ’60, around that time, and he used to tell me, ‘Well, let’s play. So I said ‘O.K. What shall we play.’ And there it was. The dilemma. The problem. It was a terrible moment. I didn’t know what to do. And it took me about five years to work myself out of that. To break through that wall. It took a few years to get to the point where I could just play.
It was a process that was partly playing tunes, and playing more tunes, and finally getting to the point where it didn’t seem to be important; and, it didn’t do anything for you to play the tunes. So, you just drop the tunes. And you just played. It happened in gradual stages. There would be a moment here, fifteen minutes there, a half hour there, an afternoon, an evening, and then all the time. And then it stayed that way for a couple of years. No tunes, nothing. Just get up and play. But it all had a lot to do with the musical environment. You have to get some kindred spirits. And at the time that was in the air. It was happening everywhere. But I think that jazz, from the time it first began, was always concerned with degrees of freedom. The way Louis Armstrong played was ‘more free’ than earlier players; Roy Eldridge was ‘more free’ than his predecessors; Dizzy Gillespie was another stage; and, Cherry was another. And you have to keep it going otherwise you lose that freedom. And then the music is finished. It’s a matter of life and death. The only criterion is: ‘Is this stuff alive or is it dead?’
+ 1, Guest Contributor, Henry Kaiser
HERMES RECORDS of Iran, an Appreciation
For years I haunted the world music sections of Bay Area record emporiums, hunting for the inspiring, the surprising, the alien, and the obscure. I searched things out both to inspire myself musically, and to share with my friends and KPFA listeners. The music of Iran was always one of my favorite areas to explore. It is certainly one of the most powerful and expressive tributaries of the great rivers of the musics of Islam.
During the past decade, with the great disappearance of many of the Bay Area’s record shops, and the shrinking of world music sections in the stores, I turned to the internet to find much of my world music CDs.
There seemed to be several suppliers of Persian musics in the Los Angeles area and I ordered many CDs from them online. One of the best sources for Persian music seemed to be Music Box: http://www.yelp.com/biz/music-box-los-angeles. Sadly their website, http://www.musicboxla.com, seems to be unavailable or gone, when I checked in on it this morning. A little over two years ago, I had noticed that among most of the favorite of the dozens of the CDs that I had purchased from Music Box were those from the Hermes Label in Iran.
I went directly to the label’s website and was astonished by what I found there.
Take a look at: http://www.hermesrecords.com/en/ . Take a look now. You will find a catalog of over 73 releases that encompasses New Music, Jazz, Persian Classical, Tribal Music, World Music Collaborations, Armenian Music and more.
The labels mission and history statements include this information:
There is no reason for Music. It simply exists.
Hermes Records was founded in Winter 1999 aiming to produce and promote modern persian music, discover creative musicians and help artists approach new horizons. While the music industry in Iran is devoting most of its attention to popular and traditional genres, artists from diverse backgrounds have been brought together to explore common understandings and new musical colorings under the slogan Music for Music. The trust of talented persian musicians as well as artists from abroad has helped us walk through this path and continue searching for new ideas.
Our Vision: Creating a joyful and inspirational environment to generate musical ideas.
1999 - November
- The idea clicks!
I have more than a couple of dozen albums on the label. The engineering and recorded sound is typically on a level with the best ECM productions. The musicians sound inspired and “in-the-zone” performance-wise. The music is unusual to Western ears and traditional and experimental at the same time.
I am amazed that this label has received almost no notice and press in the USA. True, it’s a time of musical xenophobia for the US music industry, and relations with Iran are not the most friendly between the two countries. But that’s also a time for musicians and listeners to try to bridge the gaps, a time to share, and a time to celebrate the pure joy of music.
I asked Ramin Sadighi, the owner and founder of Hermes Records a few questions about the label:
What is your model for
the label and your curation and production of the
The albums on Hermes all
have such excellent sound/engineering. Was this an
easy thing to achieve?
Where is most of the Hermes
Tell us about the music
scenes that you are involved with and which most
enjoy in Iran?
What’s in the musical
At any rate, I am certain the ROVA fans would enjoy much of the music recorded on the Hermes Label, and I encourage you to visit the website and order a few CDs that might seem to be to their own personal tastes. Go for it! You won’t be sorry. How often do you get mail from Iran, anyway? If you want to go after some of my favorite recordings on the label, listen to these samples, listed in no particular order:
- Henry Kaiser, March 2014
Favorite Street – Steve Adams
While doing some distance driving recently, I somehow convinced my family of the great entertainment to be had by listening to the car radio on Scan mode for long periods of time—not as a way to find something you like, but as a way of making a collage of what’s out there. It can be pretty great, and it fits in with my listening inclination lately, which is that I’d rather be surprised than hear something I’m familiar with, no matter how great it is.
Related to that is another music option I’ve gotten into lately: the Internet tab on iTunes, found on the top of the window after clicking Music under Library. (It used to be called “Radio” but they changed it in the last update.) Several people I’ve mentioned it to didn’t know it existed, but there are literally thousands of Internet radio stations you can access and the variety is mind-boggling. I’ve found several I like a lot, though many from a pretty small listening sample, so I could be wrong. The main problem is there are a large number of stations catering to mainstream tastes, so finding the few that play alternatives can be difficult. Some of these, unfortunately, have commercials; but, since ads tend to drive me away, I think most of the ones listed below are commercial-free.
In the Eclectic section:
Dave’s Strange Radio is more rock-oriented, but still spends most of its time well off the beaten path.
In the International section:
From other parts of the world, I’ve heard good classical North African on BanhaCityTarab and MarocMusic, cool music from Madagascar on Paradisagasy, traditional Norwegian folk on NRK Folkemusikk. And how about Café Bhutan?
In the Electronica section:
In the Classical section:
In the Jazz section:
Two points about how iTunes works that it took me a while to figure out: if you do a search of the Internet section, results will appear under the section heading, and if you don’t have the section open, they won’t be visible. Also, you can create a playlist of your favorite stations and drag the ones you like into it much easier than finding them each time.
Join the Rova:Arts Community
Become a Fan on Facebook!
:: WATCH FOR MORE ROVA NEWS IN MAY 2014 ::[TOP]