Lydia Kavina

Lydia Kavina is currently one of the leading performing musicians on the theremin. Born in Moscow Lydia began studying the theremin at the age of 9 under the direction of Léon Theremin, who was cousin of her grandfather. Five years later she was ready to give her first theremin concert, which marked the beginning of her musical career that has so far led to more than a thousand concerts and theatre, radio and television performances throughout the world. (from her web site)

Lydia Kavina

Bill Payne Goodness

Bill-Payne-3131

One of the top ten concert moments in my experience was etched by Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre at Halloween in, I recall, 1975. In the band’s iconic jam Cold, Cold, Cold/Dixie Chicken/Tripe Face Boogie, Payne whipped out a rhapsodic excerpt from Piano Sonata No. 1 by Charles Ives. The moment was glorious not because of the obscure-to-hippies Ives piece, but because it’s hard to play!

Payne has been the anchor of Little Feat for forty-four years, and counting.

He has allowed Archive.org to preserve and present streams and downloads of an ongoing series of shows (with drummer Gabe Ford,) at which Payne plays and sings and tells stories, most of which concern his years with Little Feat. He is a world class raconteur. It’s a gold mine of great music and history.

Payne also tells his and LIttle Feat’s story in the series of Rock Living Legends interviews.

Pauline Oliveros – Heart of Tones

http://youtu.be/SxM4iJH04-Y

On the web site of Pauline Oliveros there is a banner that flashes the headline from The New York Times, “Strange Sounds Led Composer to Long Career.”

Pauline Oliveros, composer, performer and humanitarian is an important pioneer in American Music. Acclaimed internationally, for four decades she has explored sound — forging new ground for herself and others.
Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation she has created a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly effects those who experience it and eludes many who try to write about it. “On some level, music, sound consciousness and religion are all one, and she would seem to be very close to that level.” John Rockwell Oliveros has been honored with awards, grants and concerts internationally. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in an underground cavern, or in the studios of West German Radio, Oliveros’ commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged. She can make the sound of a sweeping siren into another instrument of the ensemble.

Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational skills, which are the hallmarks of Oliveros’ form. In performance Oliveros uses an accordion which has been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation in addition to electronics to alter the sound of the accordion and to explore the individual characteristics of each room. Source: Important Records

Deep Listening Institute

Guide to her music

Deep Listening Certificate session

Interview at Music Mavericks

It’s Mostly All About Documentation

roadcases
Two thirds of the live recordings of Wilco, available at their online store.

When the three volumes of Russell Sanjek’s American Popular Music and Its Business appeared in 1988, I waited for the interlibrary loan came through–I was in Vermont at the time–and then I was set for the task. I skimmed huge chunks of it and bore down on the last two volume, covering the modern music business.

When done, a single reflection dominated by sense of their history: it was almost a complete history but, strangely, their account so underplayed the development of the modern distribution system that it fell down just because of that single deficit. The major label distribution system allowed the labels to sell hundreds of thousands of units on Tuesday release days. It allowed for a deep integration with the ordering systems of large retailers. That system had its heyday from around 1970-2005, and it paralleled the rise of the chain record store. (My last stint in the music business was spent as a manager for a chain between 1995-2000.) By the end of the 2011, with the implosion of Borders Books and Music, the multi-outlet music specialist had instantly become a memory.

Because the giant pipelines and the attending policies of the major label system so favored chain outlets, also by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, most of the independent record stores in the U.S. had gone out of business.

The age of distribution lasted thirty-five years. In 1988, when Sanjek’s epic three volume history was published, the biggest issue in the music business was consolidation, retail price wars, MTV, and, the extraordinary costs involved in rolling the dice in hopes of positioning an artist to sell big numbers and make a profit. The business at the time was also a plantation and anybody who paid close attention to the predicament of music artists understood that the rise of the modern distribution system went hand in hand with all the dishonorable tactics record labels used to manage risk by hiding sales, cooking books, and shifting revenues from the artist’s side of the ledge to their own.

Here in Cleveland, the music departments at Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, are laughable ghosts of the old chain departments with their 15,000-50,000+ titles. Incidentally, Cleveland is home to roughly a dozen independent record stores, and two very small chains. The latter specialize in used entertainment media. 

I buy my music as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon and eMusic. Every now and then, less than ten times a year, I buy a compact disc. And, I’m resourceful about checking out streams and downloads for the purpose of auditioning music. The internet cleary constitutes the biggest free record store ever, and this was not a revolution Russell Sanjek could have anticipated.

What accounts for the volume of new music that grows every year? Think about this awesome and awesomely weird fact.

Wilco
Wilco recording music in the comfort of their living room.

The Age of Documentation 2005 – ongoing

Because of the internet, distribution has been democratized. The incentive to primarily invest in pushing a single release every year has collapsed outside what’s left of the major label record business. The situation of independent labels (I would assume) is mostly precarious; stuck as they are between the challenging business and risk models of the big labels and the minimalist experiments of the do-it-yourself market space.

But, I’m guessing, really. The one feature of the 21st century music business I’m sure about is that the age of distribution has morphed into the Age of Documentation. Because the costs involved in being prolific have shrunk so rapidly and the barriers to meeting low demand are so low at the low end (!) it makes sense that, for example, Wilco would release thirty live records over the several years.

Last year, among the musical artists I am committed to, and trying to track, and acquire,
saxophonist Ken Vandermaark released at least five records, jazz icon Anthony Braxton released over the last two years six records, punk popsters The Flaming Lips released at least six records, ambient soundscaper Steve Roach released at least nine records, experimental guitarist and dronemeister Aidan Baker released at least six records.

What could be the business model underlying artists just pushing, usually on their own, all this music into the market space? I have no idea. Except, I can do the kind of math that suggest that ten records selling 500 units is equal to one record selling 5,000 units. 

Over the next month or so I will be reviewing my own favorite recordings of 2013. Wilco is a great American band. What I’ve heard of their Roadcase Series of concert recordings is stellar. There are 29 Roadcases to date! Hurray for documentation. 

Wilco – Roadcase #23 (Austin, TX) – 2013-10-11  is super fine. [Get it: Here] Wilco’s web site implements most of the modern “post-bricks-and-mortar” merchandising angles. This observer is reminded of the important and groundbreaking part The Grateful Dead played in all this. Defunct for over twenty years, The Grateful Dead released something like half a dozen archival records last year!

Art and Laurie

Sometime in late 1976 Lester Koenig sent to me at the Vermont Book Shop Living Legend by saxophonist Art Pepper. It blew me away. My experience of Pepper’s music had commenced in the aisle of Music Madness in Cleveland Heights a couple of years before the package of promos from Contemporary Records arrived.

Point Omega – Harvey Pekar in the late Spring, 1974 (from a remembrance of Harvey on squareONE explorations.) (Harvey walks in and heads to the jazz rack, fingers through it part way, and then notices a record displayed on the pegboard. He lifts it up and out of its holder and walks over to the counter. Harvey: This is incredible. Me: What? Harvey: You have no idea how rare these sides are. This record isn’t rare. Me: Huh? Harvey: I mean this LP contains really rare music from Art Pepper. Until now you;d have to hunt for them and probably you wouldn’t find them. Me: Okay! Harvey: You don’t know Art Pepper. I don’t even know why this record is here. Art Pepper is an alto saxophonist–is this white cat with a ton of soul. He sort of takes off from Yardbird, You don’t know Pres, Lester Young. Me: No. Harvey: hmmph. Anyway, it’s useless to sound just like somebody else. Art found his own sound and, man, all his great records are collector’s items. This is a goldmine, this one right here. Ring me up. How much?

Art Pepper was a master player. Hear for yourself.

Laurie Pepper, Art’s widow, has made her life’s project the sustenance of Art Pepper’s legacy. Laurie’s personal blog is full of recolelctions and photos of their life together. Her essential jazz blog leads to an archive of music on Bandcamp. The archive includes name-your-price gems, such as:

bonus:

I was startled to see Notes of a Jazz Survivor (full documentary) on youtube. It is one of the most important movies about the great American music jazz and about one of its singing angels, Art Pepper.

thank you Laurie Pepper.

The Murshid of the Underground

Bluemask

In the fall of 1972 my musical outlook was infected, then, by my early experience with the virtuosity of Flatt and Scruggs. I loved most of all blues-rock and country-rock. My much more experienced musical mentors at the time were hippies, so was I; we were into hippie music in all its plainness and simplicity,

This would not be changed by having my boss at Music Madness obsessively subject me to his in-store playlist during the holiday season that year: The Yes Album, the entire catalogues of Ten Years After, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum. Santana, and The Velvet Underground.

When we were both in the store he would shake his head when I played anything by The Grateful Dead or The Byrds, (except for Chestnut Mare on Untitled.). He could tolerate The Band, the first Moby Grape record, Little Feat, and Joni Mitchell. Our only shared mutual enthusiasm was for the Jefferson Airplane, The Allman Brothers, Santana and Quicksilver Messenger Service.  

His playlist was substantially altered in 1972, first (in my graduation month of June,) with the release of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and next in November, with the release of Lou Reed’s Transformer. He played the shit out of those two records. 

I hated Lou Reed and thought The Velvet Underground might turn out to be Satan’s house band. I thought Transformer was not only boring but was intentionally so; like, to be dull and repetitive was its point.

Scroll ahead thirty years, and I’m by this time I’m a grizzled muso–having spent the better part of 17 years selling music–with this really huge collection of records being dragged around, and ending up at this time renting a half a house situated a mile away from the scene of my boss’s original attempted crimes against my youthful musical prejudices, so-to-speak.

By then, Lou Reed had come to inhabit a decisive role in my musical awareness for over thirty years. Having his raw NYC rock serve as an unwanted dental procedure during my formative late-teen years had helped create his greatest impact on my tastes: in the realms of rock, I was tone deaf in the face of anything raw and underground for the next twenty years. The major deficit I incurred was my facile rejection of the entirety of punk and experimental and so-called ‘downtown’ rock music. Years later a friend called me ‘a loser’ for this fact of my development!

But Lou Reed’s spot in my awareness becomes ironic in 1982, when Lou at forty years of age delivers to me at twenty-eight a record The Blue Mask, and does so due to the automatic delivery of RCA new releases I was subject to as manager of the record department at The Vermont Book Shop.

“What the hell, I’ll give it a spin.” Hypnotic noisy post-punk–post-punk already?–crashes into something like Bleeker Street balladry. Listenable. WTF? I took the promo home and attended to what seemed to me to be either an apparition or actual appearance of virtuosity.

Robert Quine.

Two years later came Live In Italy. Bingo! I rapidly came to dig Lou Reed for three reasons: he was truthful, he was a romantic, and he shared with the world his creative destiny. It turned out to be uncomplicated but it also turned out that I was too callow to comprehend Lou’s artistry at 18.

Nowadays, even suffering the weight of accumulated prejudices and biases and blinding spots, I appreciate the VU and Bowie, and the first post-VU outpouring of Mr. Reed. Yet, I immensely enjoy the more recent high points of Lou Reed’s output, and these include the mountain of live bootlegs, he and the bootleggers delivered over the past thirty years. 

This has little to do with any increase in virtuosity, after all Mick Ronson was a great rock gunslinger in 1972. (What did I know?) It has to do with one part ultimate irony, that Reed was a generous touring purveyor of his greatest songs as he grew to be a rock elder, and, a second part for which I became able to move into a deep alignment with his poetic, hypnotic, (as I would term it,) two-and-half chord rock and roll, and, a third part, that I came to view and understand the context for his long and committed experimentalist’s journey.

Combine this context with his influence and he joins The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, as the ur-influences birthed by the second and most critical wave of musical counter-culture. A case could be made that the magnitude of his actual influential import on others places him first among equals.

I get it, now. Thanks Lou.

Youtube archives so many glorious artifacts of Lou Reed’s artistry that I will leave you to your own devices on that account except for the following and magnificent document from 2004. 

Bonus: Lou Reed with Robert Quine, 1983.

Steve Roach On Bandcamp

The legendary composer, synthesist, and pioneer and ongoing visionary of ambient music, Steve Roach is making his music available on Bandcamp. This venue supplements his brilliant web site

Steve Roach Timeroom Editions

There are forty-two recordings currently available. That is, as of today. Roach is famously prolific–although I prefer to describe him as bursting with music.

I’ll highlight the shiniest gems in the future.

Bandcamp affords complete previews, embedding of tracks, and lossless downloads. 

(I have created a category on the sidebar for Bandcamp artists I follow and favor.)

 

Sathima, Peace Be With You

sathima-benjamin

Having noted at the essential South African music blog, Electric Jive, a series of entries in July about Sathima Bea Benjamin, I was preparing a blog post to highlight wonderful resources brought forth at this fine group blog.

After Electricjive featured her to help highlight series of concerts celebrating her artistry presented in Cape Town in July, this was to be the hook for a post here.

Sathima Bea Benjamin

Now, sadly, Sathima Bea Benjamin has passed on, flown away away really, and, my purpose is now is to urge my readers to check her music out. Her human spirit is large, humane, and so was her lifetime of song-making.

Cape Town Celebrates Sathima Bea Benjamin (August 5th)

Her set at Tagores Jazz Bar was recorded:

 

Sathima Bea Benjamin web site

Trailer for the limited release documentary, Sathima’s Windsong

 

Archivist and scholar of South African music Matsuli (Matthew Temple) has issued on Bandcamp (and through iTunes,) the very rare al-Shams recording of Sathima, African Songbird. From 1976, the record obviously is one of the now-found cornerstones of the revolutionary artistic response to apartheid. 

A real treat:

Obituary at AllAfrica

Concert notice at profoundlysouthafrican.za

Sathima MAy 2013
May 2013

From a terrific article published in 2006.

Along with the legend of Buddy Bolden, the invisibility of Sathima Bea Benjamin will go down in jazz history as one of the great mysteries of this music. Benjamin, the mother of indie hip-hopper Jean Grae, stands among the greatest musical storytellers to ever hold a mic. She delivers lyrics with such emotion and patient phrasing that she will keep you hanging on to every word, and those words will linger for days, even weeks. And she exudes a kind of romantic innocence, not the kind of romance produced by pain, loss, and experience, but the “first love” variety, the dreaming love we associate with the young. She doesn’t sing the blues; she renders every love song like a first kiss.

Benjamin can create emotional truth and innocence in part because she doesn’t rely on vocal acrobatics or melisma–just pure, crystalline sound. And like Abbey Lincoln and Cassandra Wilson, she has her own unique tone. She has been performing and recording for the past four decades, always to enthusiastic reviews. In fact, she has been “rediscovered” at least three or four times in her career, and each rediscovery generates a flurry of excitement until some gigantic commercial label finds a new, young, sexy thing who can give the people what market researchers say they want. Robin D.G. Kelly, Jazztimes, Sathima Bea Benjamin: The Echo Returns

My hope is that grown up music lovers or anybody with a musically sensitive soul, if you haven’t ever heard her music, leap from this page to your newest exploration. Sathima did not make anything but stellar recordings, and each is a very direct and profound transmission. Starting point? (1) Song Spirit, #2 Musical Echoes iTunes

Sathima Bea Benjamin

Cedar Walton 1934-2013

In 1955 he moved to New York, but had barely begun to find his way about before being called up for two years’ military service. A few days before his unit left for Germany, Duke Ellington’s orchestra came to play at their camp.
For a dare, Walton asked if he could sit in: “The last thing we expected him to say was ‘yes’, but he did. He said ‘Go easy on those keys, young man’.” At the end of the number Ellington smiled, saying: “I thought I told you to go easy!” This, Walton later realised, was a “very Ellingtonian” way of paying a compliment.


Cedar Walton, who has died aged 79, was a noted jazz pianist and composer; a leading exponent of the style known as “hard bop”, he came to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, before going on to a prolific career as a player, bandleader and recording artist. Telegraph.uk

I do not very often deploy this blog to mark the passings of giants. Today is different because piano is my favorite jazz instrument and Mr. Walton has been one of my favorite pianists for close to four decades. In the middle of the strip above, pulled from youtube, is a triangle and if you click it magic happens courtesy of Cedar Walton, George Coleman, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins.

In the best of all worlds, start here:
You Didn’t Know What Time It Was – live at Maybeck Hall (Concord Jazz)