Utne Reader editor David Schimke remembers idiosyncratic jazz musician Sam Rivers:

Upon hearing the sad news that the visionary jazz saxophonist and flutist Sam Rivers died just after Christmas at the age of 88, I started scrounging for the notes I’d taken at a special guest appearance he made with pianist Jason Moran on October 4, 2001. It took a while to sift through the scribbling, but  the exercise led me to a short piece I wrote about the experience. That  is took place at Walker Art Center,  a modern art museum in Minneapolis, was particularly fitting, since the  composer and bandleader will forever be remembered for his abstract  expressions.

Click here for few paragraphs from the review, which originally ran in Jazziz magazine:

Utne Reader editor David Schimke remembers idiosyncratic jazz musician Sam Rivers:

Upon hearing the sad news that the visionary jazz saxophonist and flutist Sam Rivers died just after Christmas at the age of 88, I started scrounging for the notes I’d taken at a special guest appearance he made with pianist Jason Moran on October 4, 2001. It took a while to sift through the scribbling, but the exercise led me to a short piece I wrote about the experience. That is took place at Walker Art Center, a modern art museum in Minneapolis, was particularly fitting, since the composer and bandleader will forever be remembered for his abstract expressions.

Click here for few paragraphs from the review, which originally ran in Jazziz magazine:

What do you call a band that brings the tightness and technical  proficiency of jazz, the bombast and splendor of rock, the energy and  mischief of punk, and a certain hippie-space-jam je ne sais quoi?  Garage à Trois. The delightfully unclassifiable quartet plays music for  adventurous minds, a skittering amalgam that is sure to have your  friends asking, “What are we listening to?”—in a good way.
Keep reading …

What do you call a band that brings the tightness and technical proficiency of jazz, the bombast and splendor of rock, the energy and mischief of punk, and a certain hippie-space-jam je ne sais quoi? Garage à Trois. The delightfully unclassifiable quartet plays music for adventurous minds, a skittering amalgam that is sure to have your friends asking, “What are we listening to?”—in a good way.

Keep reading …

The Crockpot: A Weekly Link-Digest from Utne

At the outset, in May 1938, Alan Lomax did not expect much from his  interview with Jelly Roll Morton. As assistant in charge of the Archive  of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, Lomax focused on collecting  endangered music: field hollers, hillbilly ballads, the old-time songs  of marginal peoples that commercial recording was fast drowning out. So  he was intrigued but skeptical when friends told him about Morton, a  jazz composer who had generated a string of hit records before his  fortunes turned sour in the Depression. The interview would change Lomax’s life. Read more …

At the outset, in May 1938, Alan Lomax did not expect much from his interview with Jelly Roll Morton. As assistant in charge of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, Lomax focused on collecting endangered music: field hollers, hillbilly ballads, the old-time songs of marginal peoples that commercial recording was fast drowning out. So he was intrigued but skeptical when friends told him about Morton, a jazz composer who had generated a string of hit records before his fortunes turned sour in the Depression. The interview would change Lomax’s life. Read more …

The Torrential Majesty of Sonny Rollins

From Utne Reader’s third and final dispatch from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival:

When I discovered last month that Sonny Rollins would close out the 2011  New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, I started making plans to get there from Minneapolis. After listening to him play five songs over 90 minutes Sunday night in the WWOZ Jazz Tent, the experience was worth every penny. Money is fungible. But being exposed to such profound artistry generates an impression that lasts a lifetime.

I thought age had inexorably worn Rollins down. He turned 80 last September, and the last few times I have caught him over the past ten or twelve years, he had seemed unable to plumb his sources of inspiration as deeply and continuously as he had when I first started attending his concerts in the mid-1980s. But Sunday was vintage Rollins, a jaw-dropping display of improvisational gusto made all the more spectacular and poignant by its Lion in Winter dynamic.

Read more …

A Sexxxtet, a Wolfman, and the Strokes

From Britt Robson’s second day of coverage of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival:

Okay, folks, I’m going to try not to be as lengthy nor as breathless as my initial post from the Fairgrounds Racetrack here in New Orleans. By now you get the gist that the Jazz & Heritage Festival puts a gallon of music in a quart’s worth of time, and that every day spent here is suffused with iconic moments. Watching Beausoleil, the premiere Cajun band in the world, play in their natural stomping grounds is a quintessential experience that can’t be captured by a blog post.

Read the rest over here …

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place on the grounds of a race track, which makes perfect sense  as you’re wending your way through the teeming crowds along the hard,  dirt oval where the horses usually run, moving from the Gospel Tent to  the Fais Do Do Stage to the WWOZ Jazz Tent to the Gentilly Stage—there  are a dozen venues in all—trying to catch as many of the stupendous but  simultaneously playing musical performances as possible.  No other  festival is at once so resplendently diversified and yet so utterly  parochial. A dazzling array of musical styles have either been rooted or  crucially hybridized in the Crescent City, and they transform the Fest  into a live, organic jukebox of bliss.
Utne Reader asked Britt Robson to review the festival after a 30-year absence. Click here for the first part in a three-part series.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place on the grounds of a race track, which makes perfect sense as you’re wending your way through the teeming crowds along the hard, dirt oval where the horses usually run, moving from the Gospel Tent to the Fais Do Do Stage to the WWOZ Jazz Tent to the Gentilly Stage—there are a dozen venues in all—trying to catch as many of the stupendous but simultaneously playing musical performances as possible.  No other festival is at once so resplendently diversified and yet so utterly parochial. A dazzling array of musical styles have either been rooted or crucially hybridized in the Crescent City, and they transform the Fest into a live, organic jukebox of bliss.

Utne Reader asked Britt Robson to review the festival after a 30-year absence. Click here for the first part in a three-part series.

We reviewed the new album by Colin Stetson, avant-saxophonist extraordinaire, in the latest issue of Utne. Read the review here and check out the video above. You won’t be sorry.

What if improvisational jazz musicians ran the country?

Jazz drummer Dave King. Photo by Cameron Wittig.

I had an epiphany while waiting for the improvisational quartet Buffalo Collision to hit the stage at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis last week. I was all curled up in my chair reading the profile of White House Chief of Staff Rahm ‘Rahmbo’ Emanuel. Specifically, I was reading this:

At 50, Emanuel has the lean, taut look of a lifelong swimmer, with broad shoulders and distractingly prominent quadriceps. But at the heart of the Emanuel mystique is the family patois, which lurches between pronounced curtness and vivid, sometimes scatological, imagery. Emanuel will casually toss off quips like, “You’re in the bowels of nothin,’ man.” One former colleague recalls making two or three requests during a sensitive negotiation, only to have Emanuel respond: “Well, I guess if I can take care of Bill Clinton’s blow jobs, I can take care of that.”
And then there are the f-bombs, which Emanuel reels off like a verbal tic, sometimes embedding them in other words with Germanic aplomb. There is, for example, “Fucknutsville” (his pet name for Washington) and “knucklefuck” (an honorific bestowed on Republican opponents). In administration meetings, Emanuel will occasionally announce, “I think it’s fucking idiotic, but it’s your call.” (That would be Rahm-speak for: “You have more expertise than I do on this subject.”) He’s even been known to use the imprecation as a term of endearment, as when he signs off friendly phone calls: “Fuck you. See you later. I love you.” As Phil Kellam, one of Emanuel’s star recruits from the 2006 election cycle, recently joked to me, “If you could sum up Rahm Emanuel, it would be: big ideas, big mouth, big heart, little finger.” (Emanuel lost half his middle finger in a teenage accident.)

You probably read that and laughed. I did too at first. Then I just felt sad. Not lend-me-your-shoulder sad, but a kind of angry sad. Health care hadn’t passed yet and I thought to myself, “Why is it up to these knuckleheads at all?” Then I had this though: Collaboration is dead.

Five minutes into Buffalo Collision I was having a different thought: What if improvisational jazz musicians ran the country? Here these guys were, at the end of a tour that presented the same challenge every night: A crowd of people who paid to hear good music and a band with absolutely no idea what they were going to play. And they were killing it. Chaos turned to melody and back again. Over and over again they wandered into the abyss and then rose from it. In Washington it seems like it’s all abyss. Even today.

It was the first act of a two-night improvisational jazz circus at the Walker. The beloved drummer Dave King (you might know him from his band The Bad Plus) as the ringleader. King stormed and smiled his way through performances with six bands. Reach across the aisle indeed.

Sure we got health care passed without the jazz cats in office, but nobody was smiling and there was no music at all. It was all iron fists clanging in Fucknutsville and that song is far from over. Whatever happens next—immigration, the war, whatever—I’m going to be wherever Dave King is at. Let me know how it all turns out.  

–Jeff Severns Guntzel

Oh, and if you’re the kind of person who would sit through an hour+ interview with a jazz drummer (I am!), here’s some Dave King in a chair for you, courtesy of the Walker Channel: