Ancient to Future: A Festival in Celebration of the Great Revolution in Jazz

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This weekend we’ll be hosting a music festival called Ancient to Future during which we’ll celebrate the works of some of the most influential, creative, genre-bending minds that jazz has to offer.

We asked the musical directors involved to write a bit about the pieces they will be performing:

Greg Sinibaldi on Julius Hemphill: Music for Saxes

I happened upon Julius Hemphill’s music completely by accident when I was a kid just beginning to get into music. I went to the record store and found these records by the World Saxophone Quartet. As a 16 year old saxophone player, I of course, thought buying such a record would be a good idea. This was one of the first records of “freeish” jazz I had been exposed too. I say freeish because so much of Hemphill’s music has a compositional structure that calling completely free would be a mistake. I immediately felt the energy from the group and was amazed that you could play a saxophone in some way other than reading notes on a page.

One of the enduring qualities I appreciate about Hemphill’s music is that the flavor of the blues is always present. All of his music has this flavor, from the first world saxophone quartet records to his symphonic pieces. The sextet music we’ll be playing on the 6th is no exception.


Seth Alexander on “This Is Our Music” – The Music of Ornette Coleman

When I was asked to put together an Ornette Coleman set for this fabulous festival, I listened to all the OC albums I own and was most fascinated by “This Is Our Music”.

Recorded at Atlantic Records in 1960 and released the following year, it’s the first recording that Ed Blackwell takes the reigns from Billy Higgins and I’m glad because…he’s the man.  That dude can time it up.  The song writing is classic Ornette; soulful, inventive, somewhat abstract but always direct.  Pithy.  Most of the tunes follow an AABA format but it’s not instantly recognizable given the impressionist playing.  Not even the sole standard on the album can alter the uniqueness this quartet brings to the table.

As an offering, I hope our own quartet can honor the genius of this stellar album.  If not, you should at least come watch us burn it down while trying!!

Mike Gebhart – drums
Jim Knodle – trumpet
Paul Kemmish – bass
Seth Alexander – saxophone


Ivan Arteaga on Eric Dolyphy’s “Iron Man”

Wayne Horvitz approached me earlier this year about organizing this whole festival with him. I was really excited! My first confession is that just about every album that he mentioned on the list of possibilities for the festival was unfamiliar to me. So I just want to share that one of the best things about this whole process has been getting to dive into some pretty incredible music both as just a listener and then as a re-interpreter.

Eric Dolphy “Iron Man” Set:
Ivan Arteaga- Alto Sax/Director
D’vonne Lewis – Drums
Evan Flory-Barnes – Bass
Raymond Larsen – Trumpet
Simon Henneman – Guitar

One of the things that I’m really excited for is to work with a few musicians that I don’t often collaborate with. D’vonne Lewis and Evan Flory-Barnes have such a strong report as a unit and mixing them with Ray Larsen, whom I regularly collaborate with, is a really exciting prospect. I’ve thrown Simon Henneman into the mix because of his deep love for this music and his extreme creativity on the guitar. It’s a crossing of familiarity and newness that I’m thrilled to explore through the music of Eric Dolphy. Each person has such a strong voice of their own to bring to the table and after rehearsing I’m thrilled for the performance! I was completely blown away by the Dolphy album Iron Man. It’s such an incredibly swinging but utterly unique and wild album; it sits on the cusp of the hard-bop tradition and wild free-improvisation. The compositions are wily and full of energy, even when slow and quiet. However, there can only be one Eric Dolphy, and Iron Man can only be that record one time. I hope to give a nod to the power and impact the Eric Dolphy’s music and use it as a platform to share our own freakiness. Repertory music for me personally is always looking for a balance between the homage to the past and the self-expression of the present. I think this group of musicians is perfectly suited to stay firmly in love with the legacy of Eric Dolphy, all the while letting their honest and wild musical selves shine.

Ivan Arteaga on Roscoe Mitchell’s “Nonaah”

Seth Alexander – Alto Sax
Kate Olsen – Alto Sax
Neil Welch – Alto Sax
Ivan Arteaga – Alto Sax

You read that all correctly. It’s four Alto Saxophones! You don’t get to hear that everyday. Roscoe Mitchell has spent his entire life on the developing and reimagining his landmark composition Nonaah. In 2013 a group of Seattle musicians I work with invited Roscoe Mitchell to do a concert at Benaroya Hall dedicated to his work on Nonaah. This was a transformative experience for me and I’ll never forget the impact of hearing Roscoe perform solo. Our participation in the concert was putting together a number of different ensembles performing various versions of Nonaah and we are taking this opportunity at Ancient to Future to share the Alto Sax Quartet. If you know Nonaah then you’re already wanting to be there. If you don’t know what 4 alto saxophones playing music by Roscoe Mitchell at the same time sounds like then you really want to be there.


Robin Holcomb on Cecil Taylor’s “Unit Structures”

“To imitate on the piano the leaps in space a dancer makes” is one part of it. Also to work gestures in a modular manner in the midst of cascading notes, huge gong clusters, percussive hands, exuberant winding sound. And flying.

Layers of structure and chaos simultaneously. Glorious themes on this one.

I used to drive nightly from Santa Cruz to San Francisco to hear Cecil Taylor at the Keystone Korner during his residencies there, returning home early in the morning, ears ringing, along Highway 1, farmworkers ghostly as they entered the brussel sprout fields along the cliffs in the fog.

His explosion of form and expressions of joy is foundational to my music.

Wayne Horvitz on The Art Ensemble of Chicago – “Fanfare for the Warriors” 

The Art Ensemble of Chicago were pretty much it for me. Basically my favorite band of all time. The music that brought me to improvising and experimental music and sonic revelations were the bands of my youth. The Jefferson Airplane, the Dead, Hendrix, the Velvet Underground and so on. Electric Miles Davis made me think about jazz in a new way, and I started to look further, from traditional jazz, Billie Holiday and Ellington, to 20th century music, Stravinsky and Bartok, and to experimental music of all sorts.

But what grabbed me the most, after A Love Supreme opened up my ears, was the music of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, especially Cecil. For a period of time that is how I played, I did the best Cecil Taylor imitation I could, and for my senior recital I basically did a “sound alike” of Michael Mantler’s JCOA composition featuring Cecil Taylor.

And then came the Art Ensemble. The AACM were important, and I loved Braxton and Hemphill etc., but there was a deeper connection with AEC. I think I heard in their music everything I was embracing, plus a sense of song, of space, and a being a BAND. And that was what was so great about the Beatles, and the Stones, and Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service—they were bands, so much greater then the sum of their parts.

Speaking of bands, I had always been a big fan of The Band. But in all my Santa Cruz Years (72-78) The Band came once a year and I never went, because I was so into jazz and out music I just wasn’t paying attention.(I did see Cecil and Miles, and the AEC and lots of other music in those years, mostly at the Keystone Korner in SF).

Ironically just months after I moved to NYC in 1979 I saw The Last Waltz, and that was the beginning of a realization that I was, in a sense, denying myself an entire side of what I loved in music as part of the music I made. So I believe it was around this time that I really began to find my own voice, and there was an element of how the AEC approached music, how all their influences were in their music but all of it seemed to be their music and their music only. That was an incredible inspiration to me, and has been every since.

There is an incredible moment in the jazz series by Ken Burns where they say, “one night in their own home town of Chicago the Art Ensemble played for an audience of 3 people”. Man that may have been true, but talk about selective narrative. With the possible exception of Miles, the AEC was the only so called jazz band that ever felt like a rock gig, especially in the states. Being outside the Great American Music Hall to see the AEC felt exactly like going to see the Jerry Garcia Band. All ages, all races, folks scalping tickets, t-shirts, drug sales-the whole nine yards. They were a band. The music could be completely abstract, and still it seemed like a gig, not a concept, like they were there to play.

Years later I read George Lewis’ great book about the history of the ACCM, and Joseph Jarmen mentions all of their influences, jazz and African music and contemporary art music etc., etc. But then he pauses and says, “And you know the hippies influenced us as well.” Since I admit that deep down inside I basically am a hippie, those are my true roots, I found that charming, and it rang true.

Years ago I produced a gospel record for Fontella Bass, who had once been married to Lester Bowie. They were already divorced, but very amicable, and Lester came in one day to do one of his inimitable solos on “What the World Needs Now”. We had met a few times before, but It was great to work with him in the studio. Fontella and I were both staying at a hotel midtown Manhatten, I was already living in Seattle and Fontella was back living in her hometown of St. Louis. So Lester gave us a ride back to the hotel in his Lexus. Basically the highlight of my entire career.

Fanfare for the Warriors is a longtime favorite of mine. A piano-less band, this record features their longtime mentor and friend, the great pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. So that means I get to play on this gig too.!

Hope to see you there. We have a great band. Sam Boshnack, Skerik, D’Vonne Lewis, Ivan Arteaga, Geoff Harper and Greg Campbell.

 

Two Nights of Friends Old and New

The Royal Room has two special shows this April, featuring some of the finest, yet not so well known, improvisers coming in from New York and LA, many of which have an extensive history with composer and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz. On April 4th reed player Doug Wieselman joins Horvitz and local artists Steve Moore and Eric Eagle to perform the music of Robin Holcomb. On April 19th saxophonist Dave Sewelson, clarinetist Peter Kuhn, bassist Scott Walton and legendary drummer Alex Cline join Horvitz for a night of improvised music, drawing from their past collaboration and rich history. 

Wayne Horvitz gives us the scoop on who these musicians are, where they’ve come from and what we can expect from these two performances.

RR: On both the April 4th and April 19th you’re playing with musicians with you have an extensive history with, can you tell us a bit about your past with them?

WH: So Dave Sewelson, Peter Kuhn, Doug Wieselman and I all met essentially at the same time when I was going to the University of Santa Cruz around 1973 or 1974. Dave didn’t actually attend the university, he was living in Oakland at the time, but I met him through my older brother Bill (who was playing music in the bay area) and Lesli Dalaba (a trumpeter and improviser). All of us subsequently moved to New York around the same time and continued to work together there. I met Doug in the practice rooms at the university. Peter Kuhn introduced himself at a concert of mine…Peter, come to think of it, wasn’t going to the university either but was living in Santa Cruz. Dave was playing bass at the time, Peter was playing clarinet and saxophone but he is best known as a clarinetist.

I have very different relationships with each of them. Doug Wieselman has been a musical

Doug Wieselman

Doug Wieselman

partner of mine from that time to the present, particularly from the 80’s to the early 2000’s . He was featured in my band The President, he was a member of the NY Composer’s Orchestra, played on all of Robin Holcomb’s records, and various gigs, I could go on and on. Doug has played with (and some still plays with) Laurie Anderson, Anthony Coleman, Bill Frisell, Lou Reed, John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards and Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra and many many more.

Dave Sewelson and I kept playing together in New York (we actually moved over there

Dave Sewelson

Dave Sewelson

together) and mainly kept on the free improvised scene…in the beginning we had a band called White Noise. He switched from bass to alto saxophone, then he switched to baritone, and he was an old soul even when he was young, and he’s still an old soul (if you come to the gig you’ll see he looks like a Rabbi). I think he’s just one of the most underrated reed players of all time, some just don’t really get his playing but I think it’s just perfect. Most people would know his sound from the microscopic septet (who play the opening music for Terry Gross’s Fresh Air).

Peter Kuhn is mostly a free player. He introduced me to Phillip Wilson, William Parker and Butch Morris. When we moved to New York he was the guy who just had the nerve to  go up and talk to everybody, so I really owe him a lot for introducing me to a lot of people. Peter quit playing music for many, many years and I’m really glad to hear that he’s doing it again. We did some great records for Black Saint with William Parker and Philip Wilson (original drummer from The Art Ensemble of Chicago).

RR: What will you be doing on April 4th for Robin Holcomb’s music?

WH: Well Doug is in town doing a show at The Chapel for his own solo record that recently came out…it’s great because he is always doing so many projects but rarely puts out anything of his own and it has been getting great reviews, not just from jazz journalists but everyone. I just thought that since Doug and I have played so much of Robin’s music

Robin Holcomb - "Larks, They Crazy"

Robin Holcomb – “Larks, They Crazy”

we would put together some local musicians to do it, like Steve Moore and Eric Eagle who will be joining us. I was trying to figure out what we would play since Robin won’t be there and it dawned on me to just do her instrumental music; she put out a great album called Larks, They Crazy, which was with Marty Ehrlich and Doug and Bobby Previte, and then there’s new tunes that she has we’ll put together, maybe even do a vocal tune without the vocals.

RR: What do you think of term “experimental music”? Is this a fair way to describe many of the collaborations that have taken place with these musicians?

WH: Yeah, absolutely, then I also think it’s probably not a description of some of the other music. Talking about some of the musicians on the 19th, Alex Cline is a legendary

Alex Cline

Alex Cline

drummer who made a really interesting choice, like his brother Nels Cline, to stay in LA, but a lot of people don’t know what a fertile fimprovised music scene it has been. Alex has played with Julia Hephil, Bill Frisell, Bobby Bradford, Buddy Collette, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Vinny Golia, Henry Grimes, Myra Melford, Elliott Sharp, Wadada Leo Smith, Richard Grossman, and others. Just so many people from the improvised music scene.

 

RR: What is it about gathering of musicians that makes these shows special for you?

WH: Well it’s obviously special because they’re old friends of mine but…well, Seattle’s a really interesting town because it’s so insular: there’s a scene around The Royal Room, a scene for The Chapel, a scene for The Racer Sessions, but I’m surprised at the musicians that people here don’t know about. For example, I go to Vancouver and everyone has a much broader perspective on improvised music and really knowing the history: who was in New York in the 80’s, who was in Europe in the 80’s, who was there in the 90’s who’s doing things recently, ect. Maybe it’s partly due because it’s more of an international city, or because of their jazz festival, but these are important improvisers that just don’t get spoken of enough. I would say that Peter and Dave are a little off the radar…then Doug is working 365 nights a year with all sorts of people. Doug, for example, works with Eyvind Kang a lot, who people know here. Doing Robin’s music always brilliant, and on the 19th, Alex is one the premier improvising drummers on the planet, and getting together with these other friends at the same time is really a great pleasure.

RR: What can we expect to hear on 19th?

WH: You will hear some completely improvised music, and we will probably bring in a few pieces…but it’s hard say, you just have to come and see!

Friday April 4th 6pm: Doug Weiselman & Friends Play the music of Robin Holcomb 

Saturday April 19th 6pm:“Dependent Origination”: Cline/Sewelson/Kuhn/Horvitz/Walton 

No cover for either shows, the musicians are compensated by your donations. The Royal Room is all ages until 10pm.

Dylan Ryan, Sweeter Than The Day Plays American Bandstand, Robin Holcomb Plays Robin Holcomb

On Wednesday December 4th, 2013, The Royal Room presents a historic and beautiful evening of music! First, Los Angeles-based drummer and composer Dylan Ryan plays with his trio Sand, featuring guitarist Tim Young. Next, Wayne Horvitz’s Sweeter Than The Day, an acoustic reincarnation of Zony Mash, play their debut album, American Bandstand. Finally, a rare performance with The Robin Holcomb band, playing her 1990 self-titled album of songs from beginning to end. Both Sweeter Than The Day and The Robin Holcomb Band include Tim Young (guitar), Keith Lowe (Bass) and Andy Roth (drums).

“Ms. Holcomb has done something remarkable here: she has created a new American regionalism, spun from many threads – country rock, minimalism, Civil War songs, Baptist hymns, Appalachian folk tunes, even the polytonal music of Charles Ives. The music that results is as elegantly simple as a Shaker quilt, and no less beautiful.” - Mark Dery, The New York Times

Wayne Horvitz enlightens us on the history of these projects and what we can expect for the upcoming performance. Join us for this special night of music!

RR: With such a diverse bill, what do you think ties the three bands together? What are the cross overs in the music?

WH: First place, I don’t think it’s that diverse. To begin with, all three bands have the same guitar player and the same bass player, two of the bands have the same drummer, and I play in two of them. So really The Robin Holcomb Band is essentially Sweeter Than The Day plus Robin Holcomb, as it was on her last record for Nonesuch, The Big Time. Besides that there’s a lot of commonality; obviously Robin’s music is song-based in this case, but in a lot of ways American Bandstand is not such much Jazz tunes but really instrumental songs which is, why they were the perfect band to play that music.

RR: What led you to take the members of Zony Mash and go acoustic, leading to Sweeter Than The Day?

WH: Well the first thing was pragmatic: Zony Mash started with another bassist, and when Keith Lowe joined that band I was aware that he was an excellent string bass player. At the same time I was writing music for quintet, sextet, including people like Hans Teuber and Briggan Krauss, using Andy Roth on drums and various bass players.

At the time Reggie Watts was running a Thursday night series at The Baltic Room, which mostly had DJs and stuff, but for some reason had a nice acoustic grand piano. We booked a weekly gig there for a while, so I just thought I would have my guys play but different repertoire; we’d do acoustic stuff. Then suddenly all these tunes I had written, like Prepaid Funeral and Ben’s Music and the tune Sweeter Than The Day, I was enjoying more with piano and guitar (especially with Tim Young) than I was with the horns. Suddenly I realized the band I was looking for had been under my nose all along. In jazz particularly there’s this absurd construct that piano and guitar get in each other’s way, but I just say to them, listen to Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson,  Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Johnson, Jim Hall and Bill Evans.

RR: Tell us about the lawsuit from Dick Clark that was generated from Sweeter Than The Day’s American Bandstand.

WH: Well, I don’t want to get too into this, but in brief Dick Clark was starting a label called American Bandstand. This was 30 years after the TV show at least. He got some young law firm and they did a search looking for names and found us and took us to court. My lawyer said we could probably win but thought it wasn’t worth the effort, so later reissues of that record were released under the name “Forever”.

The irony in the end was that Dick Clark’s personal lawyer called me up on a conference call with Dick Clark on the other end telling me he wished he had handled this himself the whole time because the whole thing was ridiculous…and Dick Clark is sort of swearing on his line and this guy is basically telling Dick to shut up even though he’s his own lawyer. The whole thing was pretty ridiculous.

RR: Tell us about Robin Holcomb’s music, it seems like you won’t ever hear something like her music anywhere else! What is her musical background like?

WH: Robin’s music is unquestionably one-of-a kind. When I met Robin we were both very interested in Cecil Taylor, Alber Ayler, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and that was the music we were involved in even when moved to New York in 1979. For example she was in a wonderful trio with our friend Dave Sewelson and the drummer Dennis Charles who had played on all the early Cecil Taylor records. We were doing gigs with Butch Morris, William Parker, John Zorn and beginning to meet people like Bill Frisell, who Robin has continued to collaborate with.

We did a lot of driving in those days. At one point we drove across the country five times in one year and a lot of times while she was driving she would sing songs, often old timey Appalachian type songs she had learned. Robin had actually spent close to two years living in North Carolina with her boyfriend at the time who was a poet, and she sharecropped tobacco for most of one year and that experience left a strong impression on her. A few years later I heard her in the next room singing some songs and after a couple days I got the nerve to ask her what the hell was going on. She had four songs I thought were incredible, and on the back end of a recording session for an instrumental record I brought in Danny Frankel, bassist Dave Hofstra and my friend Doug Weiselman and we demoed, as I recall, the songs American Rhyme, Deliver Me, Waltz, and Nine Lives, all of which that ended up on her first record of songs. With the help of Lee Townsend and Hans Wendl, we approached a lot of labels and shortly thereafter Elektra Records picked it up.

RR: You, Holcomb, Tim Young, Andy Roth and Keith Lowe have done many projects and bands of different styles together throughout the years. What do you think allows you to make so much different music together?

WH: I hate this question. I don’t think the music is that different. In fact, the idea that the music is wildly different is essentially a superficial reading on what’s important about the music. The exterior, for example, of Zony Mash might be very different than a band like the 4+1 Ensemble or Sweeter Than The Day, but anyone but the most casual listener will hear the same harmonic language and music sensibilities being used over and over again. Maybe to a fault!

RR: Ok, what makes yours and Robin’s music different than that of other artists?

WH: Well I’m not going to speak to that in the case of my own music, but I think Robin’s music is distinct in a number of ways. It has a kind of harmonic ambiguity and coherence that I can honestly say I have never encountered anyplace else. Also lyrics are sort of a deal breaker for me, and Robin’s songs have almost ruined my ability to listen to just about any other song-writers, with some obvious exceptions. Robin’s lyrics are like the best books: they blow you away the first time and they blow you away even more with every repetition.

Tickets: General Admission $10 adv/ $15 door, Students $5, available now from Stranger Tickets. All ages until 10 PM.

INNER MOUNTING FLAME: MUSIC OF THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA

Join us August 21st for a night of music of/inspired by the legendary John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra! The night will kick off with a performance by Jacques Entertainment System (Jacques Willis – Vibes/ Keytar, 
Kate Olson – Sax
, Ryan Burns – Keyboard
, Geoff Harper – Bass) followed by Being John McLaughlin (
Mark Taylor – Sax, 
Alicia DeJoie – Violin, 
Tristan Gianola – Guitar
, Ryan Burns – Keyboards, 
Geoff Harper – Bass
, John Bishop – Drums). Read what pianist Ryan Burns and Royal Room’s own sound-man/guitarist Tristan Gianola have to say about the music – or more importantly, all things pertaining to shredding, man-crushes, and “raw power”. Hope to see you there!

John_McLaughlin_Mahavishnu_Orchestra_NYC_1974_copyright_Jonathan_David_Sabin_All_Rights_Reserved_04

John McLaughlin, shredding.

RR: How did you first hear the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra? 

RB: I first heard of Mahavishnu at Berklee School of Music. My roommate from Nashville was a huge McLaughlin nut. Also, I had a teacher who offered incentive to come to class the last day of school by pronouncing it Mahavishnu Day. We spent the last hour of the semester listening to the music. Different for a kid who was mostly into Monk and Wynton Kelly! I wish I could say I saw them live, but I’m not THAT hip.
TG: Just about a year ago I had a long drive ahead of me so I asked my friend if he had any CD’s I could borrow. I saw a copy Mahavishnu’s Bird of Fire. I gave it a try. I listened to the album on full blast the whole drive, and then again on the way back. It just knocked my socks off!

RR: What interests you about the work of the players in the original band?

RB: As a keyboard player, I was really interested in Jan Hammer, and his use of electronics, especially the analog sounds of the Fender Rhodes and Moog Synthesizer. I knew he did Miami Vice and other soundtrack work, but he was really letting loose in this band. I also developed a healthy idolization/man-crush on John McLaughlin, so much so that when I went to his clinic at UW a few years ago, I was nervous and had sweaty palms!
TG: Of course I became interested in McLaughin’s aggressive playing from a guitarist’s perspective. I found out that during the time he started Mahavishnu he was doing Yoga three times a day…the guy was very fit, no wonder he could shred like that! But what intrigues me even more is how the musicians played together. Every one of them shreds as fast and as aggressively as possible, yet the music never sounds confused or muddy, just dirty and mean. It is a total wank-fest, but never feels over indulgent. If you watch live footage of the band they were so instinctive, and their communication simply freed them to do anything. The world never heard a band so loud and fast at the time, it literally scared people.

How does this music relate to or differ from your usual work? 

RB: Less swing, more rock. Less 4/4, more odd meters. LOUDER! But it’s all the same notes…
TG: Less legato, less reverb, and more grit and grime! Also the harmonics have a static quality and even if there are some dissonant and underlying figures you can still just play blues licks over it. How cool! As far as the guitar role goes, it’s minimal in effects and extended techniques and focused on good ol’ rock n’ roll!

What are the origins of the Royal Room incarnation of this band?

RB: Our bassist, Geoff Harper loved the song “You Know, You Know” from Inner Mounting Flame. I think we talked about doing it in our Miles Davis electric tribute band “Live Evil” in the 90′s, but counting it was too weird for me. A few years later, my go-to sax player in town to hire for gigs (Rick Mandyck) switched to guitar. Between Rick and Geoff both wanting to cover McLaughlin stuff, and awesome sounding re-masters being released of Mahavishnu stuff, it seemed natural to get a band together and learn the material. Drummer John Wicks (now with Fitz and the Tantrums and Bruno Mars) got interested, so he was in the first incarnation of the group called Being John McLaughlin. We could not find a violinist, so we used Mark Taylor on alto sax for those parts, who blew the house half stack speaker at Patti Summers trying to be heard on our first gig. We were cranking it. Later, Wicks got busy, so we used Matt Jorgensen on gigs and a Sonarchy recording. Matt is not available for the Royal Room gig, so he recommended his Origin partner John Bishop. Also, Rick now plays PIANO, so Tristan, who was going to play in a separate group for this night is now with us! Since then, Tristan has also brought violinist Alicia Dejoie of Seattle quintet Moraine on board.

What can we expect for this upcoming show? What material will you guys be covering?

RB: All material will be from the first two records “Inner Mounting Flame” and “Birds of Fire.” There are many differing opinions out there, but most of us in the band feel this was the most raw, best sounding stuff the group ever did.
TG: … like Ryan said, the first two albums, which are just plain RAW


Meeting Of The Spirits/You Know, You Know, Live at the BBC, 1972

Please join us Wednesday, August 21st for “Inner Mounting Flame: Music of John Mclaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra”. 8 PM/ Suggested Donation. 

TORTURE GARDEN


(Naked City, live in NYC, 1992)

Join us next Saturday for an exciting performance of Naked City’s influential album of hardcore miniatures - Torture Garden – recorded in 1989  with John Zorn (sax), Bill Frisell (guitar), Wayne Horvitz (keyboards), Fred Frith (bass), Joey Baron (drums) and Yamatsuka Eye (vocals).

Saturday’s lineup will feature Reed Wallsmith (of the evening’s opening act, Portland ensemble Blue Cranes), Tristan Gianola, Wayne Horvitz, Keith Lowe, Mike Stone, and Brad Mowen.

Over two decades later, we asked some of Naked City’s original members for brief reflections on the album – what it was like to play the music, and what some of their favorite  pieces were:

Joey Baron: “Blood is Thin (Prestidigitator a close second). I love that opening line in Blood is Thin. More than any one piece, I most enjoyed being part of an ongoing team. We gave each other confidence in times where we, individually, may have felt incompetent .”

Wayne Horvitz: “It’s hard to pick one. Speedfreaks was the most fun to play. I think Obeah Man is the most incredible as a piece of music – I love how the ending seems like an incomplete thought, sort of like those weird moments just before you fall asleep…and of course Perfume of a Critc’s Burning Flesh wins best song title award.”

Bill Frisell: “We were at the right place at the right time.  John brought together good friends to play some music. Torture Garden. Wayne, Joey, Fred, Patton, Eye. Wow. What a trip. I’d never played music like that before…and don’t imagine I ever will again. I learned so much. We had a beautiful experience together. ”

Tickets are $10 advance/ $13 at the door, available now from Stranger Tickets. All ages until 10 PM. Not to miss!

 

Electric Circus

Our recent interview with Wayne Horvitz about the genesis of “Electric Circus”, which premieres this Saturday June 1st at the Royal Room. Show begins at 9pm.

ElectricCircusBlog

Where does the name Electric Circus come from?

Really from the rock club of the same name. It was in NYC on St. Marks Place right around the corner from the Fillmore East. I went there once with my older brother Lee when I was 13 or 14. It was an off night, like a Tuesday, not a big crowd, and it had the full light show and everything. What was crazy was that it was the Willie Dixon band, so essentially it was four middle-aged black men, in other words to me really old men, all in suits. Willie Dixon was playing upright bass. But it was loud, and the music was amazing. Spoonful, Wang Dang Doodle, Little Red Rooster, all in this sea of psychedelic lights. I found out recently that Andy Warhol had it first, and The Velvet Underground was the house band. I think by 1967 it was actually managed as a real club, and it lasted a few more years.

What has that got to do with this project?

Well I wanted to combine a couple of things. One, I wanted to start doing a groove based project that uses some of the same ideas that I use in the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble. Two, I want to start encouraging video and light show ideas at the Royal Room. I picked up a few projectors when I premiered “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” last year, and we did one show at the Royal Room with a lot of projections and it was great.

So does this involve “conduction”?

Well in a minor way. I will be using some hand signals to guide the band, and like I do with the other band I will have some written material too.

Your tunes?

No, in fact not even tunes at all. More like fragments. A riff from a James Brown tune or a line from some 60′s psychedelic band. I might plunder a Zony Mash tune so i guess some of my music as well, but not full arrangements. At the same time I will also be using some live sampling, and also samples that we play to set up vamps.

Who is in the band?

Well this will be the first time, and it will be a work in progress, but I have an awesome band for Saturday night.

Tim Kennedy and Ryan Burns on keys, Luke Bergman and Geoff Harper on basses, Bill Horist and Matt Deason on guitars, Claudio Rochat-Felix on drums, Thione Diop on percussion, Alex Guy on electric violin, Andy Clauden on trombone, Hannah Benn on voice. I will be playing some samples and organ as well.

And lights?

Full light show, a couple of friends have been working on it, we have 4 projectors going. Soon the Royal Room will have an overhead projector too, for the old school light show stuff.

Is the music very “60s”?

I don’t think so, though I hope it will be in spirit. I love that stuff, but this will be much more cut up, grooves coming more from soul and funk, but also a lot of very open playing as well. It will be different every time.

Music for the Baroness

 

The Piano Starts Here series continues Wednesday June 5th 2013 with “Music for the Baroness”.  Performers for the evening include Dawn Clement, Ryan Burns, Josh Rawlings and Tim Kennedy.  Hosted by Wayne Horvitz.baronne-panonica-de-koenigswarte_01

Piano Starts Here has always featured pianists in a solo format. For the “Music for the Baroness” performance each pianist will perform with The Sonny Clark Memorial Sextet, featuring Al Kieth, Craig Flory, Geoff Harper, Andy Roth and Steve Moore.

Tickets for Piano Starts Here: Music for the Baroness are available now from Stranger Tickets.  $7 advance and $10 at the door

In the entry below, David Kastin, the author of “Nica’s Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness,” highlights some the two-dozen tunes that have been written for Pannonica (Nica) de Koenigswarter by a couple of generations of jazz greats.

For more information on David Kastin please visit the Nica’s Dream Facebook Page.


It was early in the research process for my biography of Nica. Having already plowed through all the available secondary sources, I sent out a batch of letters and e-mails to musicians and jazz writers soliciting their recollections of the “Jazz Baroness.” A few days later, a little after 11 p.m. as I was drifting off to sleep, the phone in my Brooklyn apartment jolted me awake: “Hello, David?” a laid-back voice inquired, “This is Horace Silver.”

Oblivious to the three-hour time difference from the Malibu, California address to which I’d recently mailed my letter, it turned out Horace was in the mood to reminisce. Not wanting to interrupt – to explain that I didn’t have my list of questions at hand (or the tape-recorder I’d planned on using) – I managed to make my way to my desk, find a notebook and pen, and began scribbling down his wistful memories of Nica, circa 1956…

By the time she arrived in NYC in the early 50′s, Nica had already acquired a formidable backstory. Born in 1913 into the English branch of the Rothschild family, she’d grown up in the fairytale splendor of London mansions and vast country estates. In 1935, the 22 year-old heiress (and avid aviatrix) took a solo hop across the English channel where she met her future husband, the Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, a fellow pilot and member of the French Jewish aristocracy. Following a whirlwind courtship, the newlyweds settled into a 17th century chateau outside Paris and started a family. When the Nazi’s invaded a few years later, they both joined the Free French Forces in North Africa, where Nica served as a translator and ambulance driver. Following the war, Jules, a war hero (and recipient of the Croix de Guerre), became a diplomat, and it was during his stint as Ambassador to Mexico that the Baroness made the decision to escape what had become a dysfunctional relationship.

After acquiring a Rolls Royce convertible and a suite in the elegant Stanhope Hotel, Nica became a fixture in New York’s midcentury jazz scene. She also became a source of material aid and comfort for musicians who were either strung out, or simply down on their luck, and her Stanhope suite became a 24-hour jazz salon where musicians could hang out and spin records on her state-of-the-art hi-fi. Recalling his own times chez Nica, Horace Silver recalled with a ripple of soft laughter, “She had a huge record collection, and Doug [Watkins, the bassist for the Jazz Messengers] and I made a point to visit around dinner time, because she always invited us to eat. We ordered filet mignon from the restaurant downstairs, and the waiters wheeled the meal in on a trolley and served it to us.” As I discovered later, she’d also been a generous patron to the newly-formed Messengers (which Silver had just co-founded with Art Blakey), buying the band a couple of sets of matching suits, and for Blakey, a Cadillac, so he could get them to gigs in style.

Before long, musicians began to repay her kindness in one of the only ways they could – by writing compositions in her honor, and Horace Silver’s soulful, Latin-tinged classic, “Nica’s Dream” was the first. As Silver explained it in our conversation, “She loved the music, and she loved the musicians,” and these tunes were “a tribute to her, because she was so good to us.” Later, when it came to choose a title for my book, I would appropriate the name of Silver’s tune, which for me, conjured up the romantic quest at the root of her life and legend.

Another member of Nica’s inner circle, the under-appreciated pianist, Freddie Redd, also made his contribution to the Nica canon, “Nica Steps Out” (a lyrical melody wrapped in an intricate bebop line) in honor of all the nights that they’d hit the clubs, sip Chivas Regal (“that was her favorite”), listen to records at the Stanhope and talk till dawn. “Everybody loved Nica,” Redd told me in our interview. “I mean, she was irresistible! We needed somebody like her. She gave us so much assistance and respect. It was wonderful.”

Of the two-dozen compositions dedicated to “the Baroness” (as she was affectionately-dubbed by New York’s bebop pioneers), each seems to suggest a different facet of her complex persona. Gigi Gryce’s “Nica’s Tempo” – by turns brash and reflective – evokes her mercurial spirit, while the sultry swing of Kenny Drew’s “Blues for Nica” captures her earthy sensuality; the spare, melodic beauty of Kenny Dorham’s “Tonica” reflects her old-school elegance, and the hipster strut of Sonny Clark’s “Nica (a.k.a. Royal Flush)” her quintessential cool.

Of course, of all the jazz greats she befriended, her thirty-year relationship with Thelonious Monk was the most profound, and the haunting ballad he wrote for her in 1956, “Pannonica,” remains one of the most beloved standards in the jazz repertoire. Prior to recording the tune with a band for his Riverside LP, Brilliant Corners, Monk performed a solo version for Nica that she documented on her reel-to-reel tape recorder. In an unusual gesture, the usually taciturn composer offered a spoken introduction to the tune that alludes to the story behind her unusual name: “It was named after this beautiful lady here…I think her father gave her that name after a butterfly he tried to catch. I don’t think he caught the butterfly.”

When Jon Hendricks, the songwriter and vocalese master, first met Nica at the Five Spot Cafe during one of Monk’s early gigs, he quickly saw past her glamorous image (the fur wrap, cigarette holder and silver flask). “She understood what culture is, and so she approached our culture in that way,” Hendricks explained when we spoke in his spacious New York apartment. “To her, Thelonious and Bird were not just ‘hip jazz musicians,’ they were great cultural artists, and she treated them that way. A few years later, Hendricks expressed his feelings for her in a set of lyrics he wrote for Monk’s “Pannonica.” Taking a cue from the entomological source of her exotic name, he titled his song, “Little Butterfly:”

                                       Delicate things, such as butterfly wings,

                                      poets can’t describe, ‘tho they try.

                                       Love played a tune

                                       when she stepped from her cocoon.

                                       Pannonica, lovely, lovely, little butterfly.

 

Over the decades, many others would also try to capture her intangible essence in words or music, but just like that elusive butterfly, she continued to evade every attempt to pin her down. Nica died in 1988, and in a final gesture to her adopted city – and to the musician she loved and admired more than any other – she instructed her children to scatter her ashes in the Hudson River, ’round midnight.

Some other Nica Tunes:

 

“Thelonica” (Tommy Flanagan), “Inca” (Barry Harris), “Theme for Nica” (Eddie Thompson), “Nica’s Day” and “995 5th Ave” [the address of the Stanhope Hotel] (Wayne Horvitz), “Nica’s Gift” and“The Name is Nica” (Joel Forrester) and “Where is Pannonica?” (title of a 2009 CD by Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq).

 

ROYAL ROOM COLLECTIVE MUSIC ENSEMBLE TAKES ON NYC

Soon after the Royal Room opened its doors in December 2011, the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble was born. Truly embodying what the Royal Room is all about, music and community, the group consists of some of the city’s most creative players. Next week, with over a year of regular nights at the club under their collective belt (watch videos of  some  shows  here),  the ensemble will embark on their first ever “tour” with a trip to New York City for a week-long residency at John Zorn’s renowned creative music gallery, The Stone  – May 21-26.  Below, bandleader Wayne Horvitz  talks about how the group started and what it has become. READ ALL ABOUT IT:

royal-room-collective

Sometimes RRCME is referred to as the Royal Room “house band”. Why is that? What does the group represent for the club?

A couple of reasons. One, a lot of the players in RRCME are involved in various other projects that come through the Royal Room a lot, in all sorts of variations. For example – Sam Boshnack’s quintet played last week. Geoff Harper and Eric Eagle are in all sorts of groups that play here. Beth Fleenor curates a Monday night once a month, and so on. I think the other reason is that we play twice a month on Mondays, which have become a kind of “musician’s” night, when people don’t worry as much about audience numbers and can really stretch things out. I’m hoping Mondays become a night where musicians just turn up to see what’s happening.

What is most exciting to you about this project, and why did you choose to bring RRCME to The Stone for your residency?

When Zorn asked me to do a week at the Stone there were so many things I could have done, mostly with NYC musicians. But I just felt like this band was really creating a sound –  it sounded like a real band, not just a group of great players, and it was developing so quickly. I also honsetly feel like there are so many tremendously interesting players in Seattle that no one hears about in NYC, or beyond. So that was another motivation.

This is the first time that RRCME will be going “on tour”. Do you see doing more in the future?

Well, I’d love too. Frankly the economics are really tough with this large a band, but the music certainly deserves it. I also have been taking the music to other large ensembles in other cities and that had been fantastic, but it’s not the same. The band is really special, I feel.

The recently passed Butch Morris was somewhat of an inspiration for this ensemble. Can you talk about that?

It’s funny, I could burst into tears just thinking about how much I wish Butch could hear this band, and even more that all of the musicians in the band could have met him. I never really wanted to do much “conduction” myself, per se. I feel more like a composer when I lead ensembles. In this band we play my charts and I take just a fraction of Butch’s language, along with a few things of my own, and try to make it happen. Historically it’s interesting because back in the day Butch started by taking bits and pieces of written music and working with from there, especially with the David Murray Big Band. In a lot of ways this music has more in common with what Butch was doing when I met him years ago.

The Stone and the Royal Room seem like kindred sorts of venues. 

Well, we are similar in some ways, and exactly the opposite in others. It seems to me that The Stone was created in part to provide a clean and decent venue to perform in for a lot of creative artists who are on the edge, at least to some degree. All the shows are the same price generally, and there is nothing but the space and the music. When I started the Royal Room I felt that Seattle had some great venues for creative music, and good venues for Jazz and touring acts, etc., but what I wanted was a place that really served the local music community as a whole, and the South end in particular. We are a social space. We have all sorts of music. People eat and drink, and we make sure a lot of creative and improvised music gets supported in that. But we also opened the space to the Presidential Debates, and other events that connect the community. We have a Drag Brunch, a Gospel Brunch,  etc. But at its heart it’s inspired by places I used to go to in NYC when I first got there like the Tin Palace where Henry Threadgill would always be hanging out and musicians would always gather along with the audience, and after the music people would keep hanging.

And at The Stone shows you’ll be releasing a live recording, right?

Yeah, a limited edition live recording of Two nights at the Royal Room, all live. We brought in some gear and I think it sounds great!

The Stone is located at the corner of Avenue C and 2nd Street in NYC. The Royal Room Collective Music ensemble will perform May 21-26,  $15 tickets at the door. 

BECK’S SONG READER RETURNS TO THE ROYAL ROOM

In late 2012, Beck Hansen reminded us of how music used to be distributed: rather than recording his next album himself, he joined forces with McSweeney’s  to publish an entire new record in the form of Song Reader, 20 original compositions that echo the spirit of pop music from the days when songbooks were wildly popular. The project invites musicians to adapt the compositions as they like (visit the project’s website for video submissions from around the world.) Last January, the Royal Room joined in on the experiment, corralling  some of Seattle’s most creative players for a wonderful two show performance jam-packed with fresh interpretation. This Saturday, May 4th, we’re bringing the night back for round two!

Miles & Karina performing in the January show.

Miles & Karina performing in the January show.

Check out videos of stellar performances by Jimmie Herrrod, Carla Torgerson, and Katie Jacobson from the January show.

Beck’s Songreader will take place this Saturday, May 4th. Tickets for the early (7pm, all ages) set can be purchased here. Tickets for the late (9:30, 21+) show can be purchased here

COVERS & COLLABORATIONS : CELEBRATING WILLIE NELSON’S 80th AT THE ROYAL ROOM

Next Tuesday, Seattle-based pianist, composer, songwriter and frequent Royal Room performer Michael Stegner will bring together many special guests for a night of music celebrating the great Willie Nelson’s 80th birthday. We talked with Michael about his lifelong admiration for Willie Nelson, and what to look forward to in this night of songs:

RR: When did you start listening to Willie Nelson?

MS: When I was little kid, like 4 or 5, I had the Willie/Waylon duets records from the outlaw movement that they marketed back then. Those guys kind of bucked the tradition of Nashville country music, they didn’t wear the outfits, the fancy clothes. Not just hippie, but rough around the edges, “outlaw” because they really didn’t conform to what Nashville’s idea of a country record was. Still, both became some of country music’s biggest artists, all while respecting the people who came before them. Years later, after I’d gone to jazz school and moved to Seattle, I did the first Willie Nelson birthday show. It was weird how much of an imprint those songs made - I remembered all the lyrics. It was powerful.

So you’ve been doing the birthday shows for a while now.  

Willie & Waylon

Yeah, I think this will be the fifth year. These shows are kind of the reason my band Fascination Nation started in the first place. I hadn’t sung in ten years, had just been a keyboard guy, but Andy, the band’s drummer, and I had been playing at The Park Pub every Thursday and randomly decided to do a Willie Nelson night with me singing. It had definitely been a while! At that first show the bartender was like “well, you’re not Frank Sinatra, but you have most of the notes!” Since then, the show has moved around. We’ve done it at Conor Byrne, The Mix, and this year at the Royal Room.

What material will this year’s show cover? 

Willie’s 1974 July 4th Picnic, kind of like a Tuesday night at the Royal Room.

Willie’s birthday has always been a thing – every year he throws two big parties/shows, one on July 4th and one for his birthday. In the early days he’d do it on some fairground or open field in Texas and all his buddies would play. Leon Russell, Waylon Jennings, all of them. Later on he started doing a TV special where he would sing duets all night. The lineups were always amazing. There are videos of him with Norah Jones, Ray Charles, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan. That’s what we’re hoping to re-enact with this show on the 30th.  We’re going to have a lot of guests and focus on collaborations.  Jeremy Manley will help do some of the Waylon and Willie stuff (he has an amazing Waylon Jennings cover band, The Outlaw ), Jeff Fielder will do some songs, Katie Jacobson will sing off of Stardust, the jazz standards album Willie put out in the 70s, Cuong Vu as well, because of Willie’s collaborations with artists like Wynton Marsalis and Miles Davis. At the end my band will probably do the Red Headed Stranger album straight through.

Is Red Headed Stranger your favorite Willie Nelson album?

Seems like every time I hear something of his, that’s my favorite. There are a few people who just know how to treat a song – Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra. I think Willie’s on that level. But Red Headed Stranger was the album that made him known as more than just a songwriter. The way he put it, only people in Texas liked his singing. He was living in Nashville and couldn’t get a gig. Mostly people just used his recordings as demo reels for other artists. Red Headed Stranger was his first album as a solo artist. It was a concept album based on a story about a preacher who goes crazy, but it also included a lot of covers. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain was the hit all the DJs started playing off that record, and that was the beginning of his huge career as an artist.

In your opinion, what makes him so distinct?

His voice is so unique, and especially for a country musician he takes a very free approach. He sings to the room, very in the moment. It’s fascinating because as a songwriter he has a reputation for being the best, but he also does a lot of covers. Country musicians tend to have a pool of songs they all cover over and over, but Willie picks songs from genres not even in the same ballpark as country.  At the show we’re going to focus a lot on the covers he made famous. There are tons – Remember Me (When The Candle Lights Are Gleaming), Hands on the Wheel, Stardust, Georgia on My Mind, You Don’t Know Me, Yesterday. It’s a long list.

So you’ll be covering covers, among other things. What do you like about performing other people’s songs?

None of us came from a vacuum, we all have our influences, and to be able to acknowledge that through a show every once in a while is a cool thing. One of the things that makes the Royal Room unique is that it brings together original artists, people who write their own music, into situations where they’re performing covers for the sake of project nights like this one. So its kind of a win-win for the fans – they get to hear stuff they know while also getting to see original performers in a different light.

Do you know what Willie’s doing for his birthday this year?

I think he’s playing a show! I did email his daughter who runs his operation, asking if they’d throw us some support. She wrote back and said they really wanted to contribute, but were booked way too far out. But she did wish us well and told us to have a good show!

But yeah, it’s a big year. I think last year for his birthday Willie did a show in Amsterdam with Snoop Dogg.

Snoop & Willie.

Have you ever been to see him?

No, I’ve never seen Snoop Dogg or Willie Nelson! I’m always working. But I will. Soon.

Willie Nelson’s Birthday Celebration will take place at the Royal Room on Tuesday, April 30th at 8 PM. $12 advance/ $15 at the door. Available now from Stranger Tickets.