Saturday, January 27, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - January 24/07

Cecil Taylor is often described as playing the piano as if it was 88 tuned drums. Look no further than the molten Irene Schweizer/Hamid Drake duet that kicks off "Live in Willisau and Taktlos" for exhibit B. Schweizer, one of the vital but unfortunately lesser known figures in European free jazz of the last 30 years, throws it all on the table. She was once a Taylor disciple and there are many sections of this 21 minute piece where the affinity is strong. She's not as cluster oriented; her melodies are discernable and rhythms have a tendency to settle into more pulsating motifs. She is also heavily indebted to South African melody, with Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo as inspirations and collaborators - it seems that anyone who ever played with the South African exiles once known as the Blue Notes was profoundly affected by them.
Schweizer excels in the duo format, as evidenced by Intakt's retrospective sampler from 2 years ago which reissued duets with Gunter Sommer, Moholo, Andrew Cyrille and many more. She's got huge ears (not literally) and can thrust and parry with anyone she meets up with - often her duet partners bring something unexpected even from their own repertoire. That's certainly the case with Drake here. He's an astonishing drummer, with unbelievable funk - which definitely comes into play in the last 1/3 of this piece - but what is most amazing in this piece is his melodic sense. The first ten minutes sees both players sketching along the margins of a shared rhythm, with lightning fast push and pull. Then, both go for the gutbucket in the latter part and meld one crunchy rhythmic vamp into another. And THEN Fred Anderson (dig the Bears boosterism on the Velvet Lounge site...) joins in for the rest of the disc, and it's a whole different story.

For those who think that European jazz is too cerebral...

a former dialogue - irene schweizer/hamid drake (intakt)
brekete takai - trevor watts moire music drum ensemble (ecm)
ye jawani hai mera jaan - mohammed rafi & asha bhosle/sonik-omi (normal) more about this next week...
rocky and perri - snowboy (ubiquity)
chocolate - grupo fantasma (airesol)
atlantic rising - sunship ensemble (do right)
pogo nuevo - rise ashen (fossil fuel)
hidden secret - neon tetra (noise factory)
m.o.a.b. - the eternals (aesthetics)
forobana (from "midnight in mali") - habib koite etc. (sterns)
saa magni - oumou sangare (nonesuch)
de trei ani nu dau pe acasa - dona dumitru siminica (asphalt tango)
revolution version - sly and robbie/dennis brown (pressure sounds)
walking on the edge (live) - dub syndicate (on-u)
toromata - nova lima (mr. bongo)
step and respect - polycubist (skor)
shaka zulu - twilight circus/ranking joe (m)
eden dub - prince jammy (csa)
all for free - tafari syndicate (pressure sounds)

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Vieux and New School

In recent years, remixes done under the auspices of the Creative Commons initiative have increased. The site offers free tools and sample material for anyone to reconfigure however they like
Last year, the most famous example were the remixes generated from ingredients of David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. However, I've never seen an African artist do this - unless DB & BE's Fourth World-ish project counts. Even more unusually, the artist in question hasn't even released his first album yet and already the remixes, both of the high profile variety and CC'ed on the table.
The artist is Vieux Farka Toure, son of the late great Ali Farka Toure. He releases his debut album in early February, but has already had about 4 months of press coverage in Canada due to the Toronto base of the album's producer. The album is very much like the elder Toure's work; bluesy and acoustic. In fact, this album represents the last session recorded by Ali prior to his death last year, and also contains the world's foremost kora player, Toumani Diabate who is Vieux's mentor. The difference in generations seems to be that the younger Toure plays at a much more sprightly pace, and with a more even, less swinging cadence. Moreover, his first instrument was the calabash - think of an upturned salad bowl played for percussive effect. I reckon all these characteristics would breed good sample stock.
I could never imagine the elder Toure doing this. He was notoriously cranky about dealing with the machinations of the music business, and the last 10 years of his life saw him produce only 1 album prior to the flurry of work he completed just before his death. He would most likely not have allowed his music to be used for free, and I suspect he would have been mistrustful of slicing and dicing his songs into mere snippets for the sake of sonic curiosity.
The difference between father and son here reminds me of when I interviewed Femi Kuti, who knew what he was in for when he signed to a major, but was nonetheless prepared to play the game his father had hated so much. The difference between the global career possibilities open to Femi seven years ago (when major labels still ruled the world) and Vieux's situation right now are summed up in this intriguing project.
Vieux plays the Kuumba festival at Harbourfront Centre on February 10.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - January 17/07

Gear, my dear. My setup at the last Excalceolators gig (with Damo Suzuki!), Sept 2003. Multi effects unit is at the left, next to the now quaint Zip drive.

So this was a dub show - and a fun one at that! Sometimes it's more stressful than fun, but the challenge of selecting tunes, effects settings and usage, as well as talking on the mike, playing IDs etc. is always rewarding. Over the years, plugging in additional equipment into the on-air booth could pose some challenges. Where to plug in? Does that piece of equipment work? Why is the signal so crappy? Lately, technical issues have been a non-factor, and the ride's been smoother.

About 90% of the time, I work with various delay settings. Delay is the most versatile of all effects, and with the non-user friendly effects box I bring in, it's the most sensible one. Besides, it's DUB - give the people what they want... I've mentioned before that the abstraction of dub tends to emphasize the commonalities between songs, but delay in particular has a way of somehow reinforcing the emotion of songs as well. I'm thinking of how the Selda track seemed to take off to the heavens with that particular 570 millisecond setting, or a very long delay enveloped Ryan Driver's synth solo and Mike Overton's bass in the St. Dirt track like a fuzzy blanket. I've often wondered about the magical powers of echoes to global musical traditions. To that end, I've been meaning to read "This Is Your Brain On Music" for about a month, but haven't gotten down to it yet. If it's as good as its' rep, I may have different ideas on how to apply the dub next time out.

shemegi - adam solomon & tikisa (indie)
elementals - h.i.m. (bubblecore)
blue spark - andrew hill (blue note)
quiabo - hermeto pascoal e grupo (som da gente)
canto chorado/bom tempo/lapinha - rogerio duprat (cherry red)
gwotet - david murray & gwo ka masters rmx. by rare moods (mind)
lulin dance - lubo alexandrov (enja)
nem kaldi - selda (finders keepers)
bir dunya da bana ver - bunalim (shadoks)
el candomble - dogliotti (vampisoul)
psychasoulafunkadelic - the politicians (invictus)
north york folk music - st. dirt elementary school (oval window)
drip drop march - drumheller (rat drifting)
8:03 PM - brett larner/kazihisa uchihashi/joelle leandre (spool)
the dream - garage a trois (telarc)
androids - robert rockwell III (soul jazz)
starliner express - little tempo (m)
politic weapon - brain damage rmx. by manutension (hammerbass)
lostentation dub (take 2) - mossman (dispensation)
rise and shine - bunny wailer (shanachie)
life goes in circles - dennis brown (pressure sounds)
streets in africa - big youth (blood and fire)
guided dub - truths and rights (big wig)
mr. c.i.d. - barry brown (trojan)

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eye Don't Know Why I Bother

I direct your attention to the Eye Weekly Cross Canada Music Critics Poll. I took a few years off from contributing to it - the last time I participated, not a single disc or artist I voted for made any list whatsoever. This year, I'm happy to say, other critics found Justin Timberlake overrated and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" to be a pretty good song just like I did. I'm so glad my opinion has been duly heard and registered.

Eye needs to get a bigger rolodex for this task. There is too much music, and hopefully diversity of musical opinion, in this country and beyond to create such a rockist poll year after year. More than being a rockist poll, it's a hype-ist poll. Very few of these selections were not accompanied by a good deal of hype and a surprising percentage of those listed seems to be on major labels. Maybe it's time to get more bloggers or perhaps radio hosts who aren't quite so plugged into the usual channels of Canadian music marketing.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - January 10/07

image of the William Parker Quintet courtesy of Jeff Schlanger, please visit his Music Witness project.

Last Wednesday was pretty special. I was so honoured that William Parker dropped by in person for an interview. As a bonus, he was accompanied by Leftover Daylight organizer Ken Aldcroft and visual artist Jeff Schlanger, who documented the proceedings in a series of sketches. Schlanger was also on hand to paint the entire Interface Series in real time from his front row perch.

Parker was as gracious and giving in an interview setting as he is in live performance. It seemed like all I had to do was toss him a softball question and he would make something marvellous of the answer. Even the innocent "Were you aware that this kind of (collective creative activity of the AIMT) existed in Toronto?" prompted the hilarious retort "Well, I was walking down the street in New York one day and I felt this... vibration. I couldn't place it at the time, but now I know: it was coming from Toronto".

Topics ranged from the old days in New York where you would run into
Don Cherry and Frank Lowe down at the corner store, to his global musical consciousness (much to my surprise, he said he'd been playing the shakuhachi since the 60's, citing Yusef Lateef as a key inspiration) to the differences between improvising in an electronic setting and improvising in situations like the Interface. It was a marvellous conversation.

The funniest moment was when he asked what music I'd brought with me. I showed him one of his first discs as a leader on Thirsty Ear,
Painter's Spring, and the recent Scotty Hard's Radical Reconstruction Surgery (see here for more). He furrowed his brow and said "I didn't play on that!" I pointed out his name on the cover, and he said "Well how about that! We did a session last year and that was the last I heard of it. How does it sound?" Now, I've premiered a few discs on the show, but never before to an artist involved in the recording....

muralila - tandava (independent)
nalina kanhti - autorickshaw (tala wallah)
faster than cold - philip samartzis/laurence english (room 40)
samune -mondii (hefty)
nfm - crouched head (drip audio)
track 5, les vampires - chateau flight (ogun)
buus - terrie ex/han bennink (atavistic)
people's republic - gold sparkle trio (squealer)
blue skin - stromba (fat cat)
laagia - ngewel international (syllart)
there is a balm in gilead - william parker (thirsty ear)
the peeler - scotty hard's radical reconstructive surgery (thirsty ear)
umri ma bansa - abdel gadir salim (shanachie)
cattle herders chant - african head charge (on-u sound)
rasta fiesta - sly dunbar (darace)
won't give up the fight - twilight circus feat. fred locks (m)
we deserve - turbulence (minor 7 flat 5)
see mi yah - willi williams/jah cotton/rhythm and sound (discograph)
lioness - dub rocket feat. mela one (touchbass)

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Dubbing It, Dubbing It, Yes We Are Dubbing It...

DB Hawkes at Harbourfront, 1990 during our broadcast of the WOMAD festival. I had two highlights at this festival: interviewing a merry, slightly inebriated Jah Wobble on his birthday, and DJing the wrap party for the festival, which was one of my first important gigs. See for more details of 20th anniversary events.

Happy Birthday CIUT! It was 20 years ago today that "Close the fucking door!!" was supposedly the first (live) voice heard over the airwaves. Station Manager Brian Burchell disputes this, but given the alcohol fueled chaos that reigned that first day (and month, and year), I think it's likely. I remember stopping by the station after class - I was in my first year of university. Although I had only been there for 4 months, I was welcomed with open arms by all the vets, who poured this underage kid copious amounts of the finest $10-or-less champagne. I think there was always at least one drunk or stoned person on the premises every single day for the next several years...

Tune in to the Abstract Index radio show this Wednesday and relive some of those inebriated moments with a dubbed out excursion into outer spaceways. Jan. 17 is 20 years to the day of my first on-air appearance (6AM, Sat. Jan 17, 1987). I will be hooking up the EFX units and tweakin' it live for your enjoyment, or horror.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Abstract Index playlist - January 3/07

Still mopping up '06, I'm afraid. I received a whack of discs at the end of the year from a wide variety of Canadian artists, and I've been panning for gold. Among the nuggets is New Frontiers by the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble.

The VCME are one of Canada's oldest Chinese music groups, founded in 1989. New Frontiers definitely represents the "contemporary" side to their repertoire. It's wildly aggressive at times, like an onslaught of strings across the stereo spectrum, as if mixing three Zeena Parkins discs together at once. 'Ling' features waves of hammered (guzheng) and plucked (pipa) strings cascading up and down each channel, then joining together into massive riffs. There are a few moments of calm provided by flute and vocal passages, but then the fabric rips apart again. Harry Partch came to mind more than once, probably due to the use of extended techniques on each instrument creating some detuned and double-plucked effects. Or perhaps it's all in the composition? Not every track on the disc is up to the same standard but the good far outweighs the pedestrian. Listen loud.

ling - vancouver chinese music ensemble (vcme)
universal band silhouette - jan jelinek (scape)
insolvent - mini system (noise factory)
crime - the eternals (aesthetics)
heavy traffic - autorickshaw (tala-wallah)
quiet - sex mob (thirsty ear)
games - dorothy ashby (cadet)
el casabe - alfredo de la fe (LP) totally crazy story in this interview about missing an gig playing for the Pope because he was too fucked up on coke...
sagoo - africando (sterns)
who can I turn to - reveries (rat drifting)
wedding night - modern egyptian dance band (jazzman)
chake noechako - thomas mapfumo & blacks unlimited (zimbob)
n'fa quartet - seckou keita quartet (arc)
my little sandra - leo graham (trojan)
the reminder - manasseh (select cuts)
smoke ganja hard - little john (vp)
marijuana - big joe (trojan)
kunte kinte dub - mad professor (ariwa)
declaration dub - dub specialist (heartbeat)
love is the key - viceroys (discograph)
the way - augustus pablo (pressure sounds)

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

William Parker Interview

My new year just got 10% happier because I found out that I will have the chance to sit down and chat with bassist extraordinaire William Parker tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7PM in the CIUT studios!

Mr. Parker is one of the most widely respected improvisers working today. He keeps up a hectic schedule of touring and recording, and will be hitting Toronto for 3 nights as part of the AIMT's Interface series. Details are here:

He will also be appearing in Guelph on the 14th. More info at the Guelph Jazz Festival website:

Should be a great chat! And of course, don't sleep on the Interface...

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Abstract Index playlist - December 27/06

This was the last radio show of 2006, so I'm not going to repeat my end of year spiel from the previous post.
The holiday show is always low key, full of familiar tunes from the year gone by. One disc I forgot to mention in my roundup of most-listened to music was The Roots Lover, an amazing double disc collection of Sugar Minott's work from 1977-83.
Sugar is one of the great Jamaican voices of all time, with a hushed but impassioned soulfulness every time out. There's a reason he's called Sugar - even the most desperate tunes sound so sweet coming from him. He's still sounding as good as ever on Radiodread, turning in an unbearably restrained performance of "Exit Music".
The Roots Lover saw him work primarily with the Roots Radics, who provide him with slow rolling, binshaking grooves and enigmatic guitar fills. Minott is a very versatile artist and producer who put out somewhat different sounding tunes with Sly and Robbie and Bullwackie during these years, ranging from the totally futuristic to Michael Jackson reinventions. He reinvested much of his income into "youth promotion" of artists on his Black Roots production company which has remained a vital concern to the present day.
let yourself go/there was a time/i feel alright - james brown (polydor)
jesus rhapsody pt. 1 - preacher and the saints (numero)
capricorn's thing - dennis coffey (vampisoul)
towering inferno - green arrows (analog africa)
kelen ati leen - orchestra baobab (oriki)
yaz gazetici yaz - selda (finders keepers)
kolum nerden aldin zanciri - edip akbayram (shadoks)
dalida - boom pam (essay)
gankini horo - lubo alexandrov (enja)
analog shantytown - glissandro 70 (constellation)
the last days - mike shannon (scape)
couch - drumheller (rat drifting)
fearer - burnt friedman/jaki liebezeit (nonplace)
big m - kahil el zabar (delmark)
the tortoise - frequency (thrill jockey)
i will you - feuermusik (independent)
after christmas - jackie mittoo, pablove black, devon russell (studio one/soul jazz)
horns cut - twilight circus/matics horns (m)
victim version - dub guerilla (enja)
zentown - zentone (jarring effects)
creation - djosos krost feat. jah bobby (quango)
hold on - sugar minott (moll-selekta)

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