REVIEWS OF BEANBENDER'S SHOWS
March 1, 1995 Opeye / Nels Cline Trio
March 8, 1995 Andrew Voigt Trio / Senator Buchanan
March 15, 1995 ``Big Music, Little Musicians'' and The Manufacturing of Humidifiers
March 22, 1995 Greg Bendian, Willie Winant, & Lukas Ligeti
March 29, 1995 Sheldon Brown Trio / Snorkel
April 05, 1995 Alex Candelaria Trio / Bill Horvitz & Steve Adams & Joseph Sabella Trio
April 12, 1995 Philip Greenlief / Carl Stone + Otomo Yoshihide / Splatter Trio
April 19, 1995 Rotodoti / Pluto
April 26, 1995 The Code / Chamber League in a Polyphonic World
May 10, 1995 Joel Harrison 3+3=7 / Richie West Quartet
May 17, 1995 The Enormous Ensemble / Dan Plonsey's Disaster Opera Theatre
May 31, 1995 Rova Sax Quartet / Yoshida
June 3, 1995 Fred Frith solo guitar
June 7, 1995 Phil Gelb, Miya Masaoka, Scott Walton, Gino Robair / same plus Steve Adams, Dan Plonsey, & Francis Wong
June 14, 1995 Anna Homler & Beth Custer
June 21, 1995 Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton Trio
June 21, 1995 LaDonna Smith w/ Gino Robair & Doug Carroll / Graham Connah Band
July 19, 1995 Rova Sax Quartet / ``Another Curiosity Piece''
July 26, 1995 Steve Norton & Curt Newton, with Steve Adams, Ben Opie, Dan Plonsey & Gino Robair
REVIEWS OF BEANBENDER'S SHOWS
MARCH 1, 1995
OPEYE / NELS CLINE TRIO
This version of Opeye consists of regular members Henry Kuntz, John Kuntz, and Brian Godcheaux, with Esten and Ben Lindgren. Ben hung two large abstract paintings over the stage, and Opeye appeared in colorful masks and costumes. They played wild music, in which connections between individuals and between moments were never obvious. Instruments employed included several wood and metal gamelan instruments, balaphone, violin, mandolin, other exotic string instruments, tenor sax, bass, trombone, various unknown wind instruments, etc. The music was extremely colorful and playful, and often virtuosic. Players came into the foreground, then receded, rather than taking solos or accompanying. Opeye were magical, and utterly perfect as the inaugural band for Beanbender's.
The Nels Cline Trio played a set which can only be termed mind-blowing. I had not heard Cline in this context before. The arrangements were often multi-sectioned, with dramatic contrasts from section to section: repeated-eighth-note loud drones would suddenly give way to extremely quiet, fast, intricate winding lines. Some pieces were more single-minded, building slowly and inexorably to an extended climax. Cline's ear for extended harmonies takes him well beyond the limits of what we might call jazz, but his melodic style has some clear connections to the jazz guitar tradition. Some playing and some compositions reminded me of the John McLaughlin of ``Extrapolation,'' just prior to Mahvishnu. Cline's use of effects was graceful and extreme. The music was powerful, vast, but also frequently amazingly delicate. Nels Cline will be known as a guitar god in very short order. As it was, there was a sizable crowd present who seemed pretty fanatically devoted to Cline's music.
MARCH 8, 1995
ANDREW VOIGT TRIO / SENATOR BUCHANAN
The Andrew Voigt Trio quickly discovered that it's possible to play very quietly in the Berkeley Store Gallery. While the compositions were played at moderate levels, the improvisations frequently descended into extremely quiet realms. The audience was silent and attentive, and the effect was of a sort of suspension. Gino Robair's function was apparently to inject noise (quiet noise) and humor into the music. He rarely played jazz-drums, though the compositions often swung in the traditional sense of the word. Throughout, Robair and Voigt functioned as melodic partners, while the bass kept time. The music was very enjoyable, with frequent small surprises, and imaginative orchestrational effects (especially from Robair).
Senator Buchanan consisted of Russ Schoenwetter (drums and vocals), Joe Mahoney (guitar) and Charles Owens (bass). They suffered from some acoustical problems - Owens being barely audible much of the time, and perhaps this kept them from finding and maintaining their usual crazy grooves. Schoenwetter came up with some funny and surreal lyrics, though, and the music was often inventive. My favorite song was about remembering back to when we used to be apes, and when the first ape met the second ape, and when they first fought, and what those first apes could remember which maybe we've forgotten. Another song was mostly a plaintive request from an ex-employee to his former employer for a meeting: ``Pencil me in! Pencil me in!''
MARCH 15, 1995
BEANBENDERS AND DEMENTED KIDS
The last Beanbender's show was the incredible "Big Music, Little Musicians" with Manufacturing of Humidifiers.
There must have been something like 30 kids there. When I arrived it was a bit of a zoo, with various amateurs and pros hefting video cameras, and the largest crowd we've had yet. But the kids were pretty together, mostly thanks to the efforts of Maestro Randy Porter.
As an an ensemble, the kids played Sun Ra's "Planet Earth" and various other numbers, including Peter Gunn theme, which Randy tried to take off the playlist, but was overruled by the kids.
With the Man of Hum (I know they prefer Man of Hu, but...) they played some wonderful compositions by the kids, with the composer featured on stage with the band. In particular, a second year clarinet student's work hovered in that odd space between children's music and Ornette's finest, given credibility by a seasoned sax effort from Dan Plonsey.
Randy also treated us to the Oakland school system's answer to Cobra, in which he used an overhead projector to put up a transparency divided by type of sound (ranging from "blips and blops" to "glissando" to "snore"). Then he used a stack of cut up transparent instrument names (such as "basses" or "brass") and he'd place an instrument group on a sound- and they'd make it- whether it involved their instrument or not.
The music was very convincing and as brilliant as it was silly. There were many highlights for me, not the least of which was watching Gino try to keep time for a demented orchestra during Peter Gunn. I arrived late for setup and grumpy from work. I left relaxed and happy. What more could I ask?
MARCH 22, 1995
GREG BENDIAN, WILLIE WINANT, & LUKAS LIGETI
I had feared that this show would be chaos: one drum solo is bad enough - three drum solos simultaneously without a band to eventually come back in might be hell. Instead, it was an incredibly musical event. The concert began with a Bendian solo piece, dedicated to the late Ed Blackwell. Bendian plays with incredible precision, with very little showmanship. The lack of show bothered one friend of mine, but I found the music totally compelling and intensely propulsive.
After the solo piece, Winant and Ligeti joined Bendian onstage, Bendian sitting in the middle. The three played a beautiful improvisation which rose and fell like slow breathing. Bendian operated as a sort of scheduler, organizing the rapid ideas thrown out by the other two into some sort of cohesive whole, often by focussing on only one or two elements of his set. As the evening progressed, I became aware of how both Bendian and Winant have incredibly subtle and sophisticated orchestrational understandings of their sets: they could work with very minimal sounds to make music which ebbed and flowed dramatically. Both also had the patience to move the music along with symphonic imagination: knowing when to add a cymbal to the texture, or when to change the tempo. Ligeti added an energy which was a little quicker and younger, helping keep the music from settling into anything predictable. The music had a lucidity of both sound and thought.
The second set began with Winant and Bendian making small, delicate sounds with their cymbals. Ligeti entered, a little clumsily perhaps, and a complex musical struggle ensued. While Ligeti had played with taste and understatement in the first set, he seemed to want to lead the music in a very different direction than the others wanted to go in the second set, frequently choosing to contrast rather than complement. He trampled over the quiet cymbals with heavy bass drum and hi-hat kicks. After a bit of give and take (Bendian wouldn't budge, but Winant - playing brilliantly - found some avenues between the other two), the trio settled down into a musical representation of two friends going for a walk in the woods with a rotweiler puppy. The musical tension between Ligeti's polyrhythmic rock-drumming and Bendian's unswerving compositional purpose was at times amusing, and at times unnerving. The piece took on an arch form, with Winant rejoining Bendian to bring it to a soft, beautiful, shimmering conclusion, with Winant coaxing an other-worldly ringing from his cymbals. Just after the last cymbal note had been struck, as Bendian was rising to put his sticks away, Ligeti launched into a solo, which was okay or appalling or ridiculous or embarrassing, depending upon who you want to believe. It soon became apparent that neither of the others had any intention of coming back in, though at one point Ligeti slowed down to single bass drum kicks and beckoned with his head. Winant looked amused, Bendian either resigned or annoyed. It was somewhat painful to watch, but there had been so much great music before, with the prior musical conflicts appearing in such clarity as to make exciting symphonic drama, that ultimately Ligeti's solo was like a tacked-on Professional Wrestling ending which has no credence. In real life Bendian would have pulled Ligeti's drum carpet off the stage while Ligeti played on, oblivious to the end.
MARCH 29, 1995
SNORKEL AND SHELDON BROWN TRIO
We're told this is the Sheldon Brown Trio's first gig, and it's quite a fine one. Brown plays mostly freebop-ish melodic clarinet and more hard-edged tenor. He's backed by a guitarist somewhat in the Bill Frisell vein but more linear, and a sensitive and responsive drummer. I thought the ballads occasionally crossed the line into "diffuse" and went on a little long, but much of the set was well-executed post-Ornette free jazz, and the more upbeat pieces were spirited and exciting.
Snorkel is Ben Goldberg cln, John Schott gtr, Trevor Dunn b and Scott Amendola dr. They milk a similar territory as the opening band, but Goldberg and Schott are of course much stronger frontmen. The sound was a bit off, the clarinet being buried occasionally by the guitar and Amendola's Motian-esque cymbal work, but this is another typically entrancing Snorkel set.
Dinner at Beanbender's: south Indian potato crepe with assorted garnishes.
Bill, your music and food reviewer
APRIL 05, 1995
ALEX CANDELARIA TRIO / BILL HORVITZ & STEVE ADAMS & JOSEPH SABELLA TRIO
I was impressed by Alex's use of dynamics, especially at the low end of the spectrum. Alex uses his whole body when he plays, kinda lurching the notes out of the guitar, as though the amplifier couldn't quite get get the sound out without that extra effort.
APRIL 12, 1995
PHILIP GREENLIEF / CARL STONE + OTOMO YOSHIHIDE / SPLATTER TRIO
Philip Greenlief and Trevor Dunn played some beautiful duets as the opening band. Greenlief arrived a couple minutes late, having been the first to come upon the scene of an automobile accident on his way to the club. Greenlief and Dunn proceeded to set a somber and contemplative tone which Stone/Yoshihide/Splatter un-studiously disrupted.
My attention was focussed primarily upon Yoshihide, who is the showiest player of turntables (and guitars) I've ever seen! Working with a pair of rented turntables, Yoshihide did ground the needle into records, and tipped the turntables so that the needles bounced across the records, in addition to more classical turntable techniques. He also bent records across his face until they snapped, and played his guitar with records (both whole and fragmented). He took a great guitar-jack solo too.
Carl Stone's role was to provide a musical counterpart to Yoshihide's noise, and he did this very well, with the minimum of show - Entwistle to Yoshihide's Townshend. Stone worked with computer-controlled electronic sounds; writing almost two months later I've forgotten much about his setup. One highlight came when he did a segment with a woman who sang along to Chinese(?) pop music karaoke discs. During the soundcheck, Stone raised and lowered the pitch every few seconds, and she followed along perfectly, but I heard him promise that he wouldn't do this during the performance. Her performance was made almost eery by the fact that we hardly ever heard the accompaniment (she had headphones): she appeared to be singing along to an imaginary band; perhaps picking them out of the amazing noise being made by Yoshihide.
The addition of The Splatter Trio for a third set turned the music into a three-ring polyphonic circus. It was wonderful. I won't even try to describe the multi-layered noise out of which bits of tunes kept poking!
APRIL 19, 1995
ROTODOTI / PLUTO
I was reminded how much I like Rotodoti. They are pretty wild! This time Tom had a new instrument that is suspended on balloons that rest in flower pots. My friend Arthur speculated that it was to isolate the metal base of the instrument from stage vibration. It did allow him to strike the sheet metal base of the instrument to great effect. The other great effect was, of course, the drama resulting from watching someone strike and move a metal object suspended on such an unstable base- would the balloons break? Would the flower pots tip over?
As for Pluto, they were fun, but I miss their horns. Myles was exceptional, I thought, particularly his bluesy, long solo during the second to last piece.
Rotodoti played a great set! The music moved from the abstract to the nearly referential, until the last two songs almost seemed like songs! At one point, a crazy march emerged, and there were some vocals by Ron which had just the right amount of meaninglessness to be meaningful. These guys are so elastic in their understanding of music; they can do anything!
APRIL 26, 1995
THE CODE / CHAMBER LEAGUE IN A POLYPHONIC WORLD
The Code is bassist Steve Horowitz's brainchild. They have just produced their second CD for Ponk Records. The music seems to have become secondary to the lyrics and antics of singer/performance artist Sten (I forget last name). I didn't like this year's edition of The Code as much as last year's, but of course I'm entirely biased (having made a brief appearance on the first CD). Still, fans of Zappa, David Byrne, and atonal funk fusion will find much to enjoy I am certain.
Polyphony Night was my brainchild. Unfortunately, I couldn't gather enough musicians to do it right... but the results (judging from a tape made by Chamber League leader Clyde Yasuhara) were pretty interesting anyway.
The set consisted of the Chamber League (about 15 musicians) playing 20th Century music by some of the less well-known composers (e.g., Revueltes, Cowell, Antheil) along with lesser-known works by better-known composers (e.g., Ligeti and Hindemith). While they played, other musicians off-stage (including Philip Greenlief, Richard Saunders, an unidentified Italian trombonist, Tom Yoder, and myself) improvised individually and collectively. Crawling With Tarts contributed a hand-made 78 which was played on a not-entirely-functional record player which howled a lot.
MAY 10, 1995
JOEL HARRISON 3+3=7 / RICHIE WEST ENSEMBLE
From Cadence Magazine, July 1995, p. 75
Beanbender's presented drummer Rich West leading a quartet (Graham Connah, p; Eliot Kavee, ``baby'' bass; Alex Candelaria, g) for a set of sort of modern chamber music. The prevailing mood was solemn, but it left a very faint impression. Guitarist Joel Harrison had more success leading 3+3=7, with two other guitarists (John Schott, Nels Cline), drummers Gino Robair and Eliot Kavee plus percussionist Glen Cronkhite, for a set of joyous noise. The set started with a lovely collective improvisation that reminded me of spacier moments in jams by the Grateful Dead, but without any song around it. The contrasts in guitar sounds, which included Harrison and Cline going at their instruments with a variety of objects, combined with the total percussion attack to bring life to Harrison's skeletal compositions for the rest of the set...
There was much anticipation of this concert. 3+3 means 3 guitars and 3 drummers, where the 3 guitars = Joel, John Schott and Nels Cline. As always, everyone played great, I liked the compositions, but perhaps the all-star cast would have done better given 3 or 6 or 7 concerts in which to stretch out! The opening improv which Kremsky mentions (above) was made necessary by the landlord, who had rented out the room above for a class (on ``power advertising,'' I believe). We had to promise that the music would not be loud until 10 PM, and so rather than wait for 15 minutes (they went on at 9:45), Joel et al promised to play softly to begin with. The results were indeed quite beautiful.
The Richie West Quartet was quite amazing. West's compositions are what they call deceptively simple. Whether by design or due to lack of rehearsal, the performances had a sort of rough quality - the band one by one hooking up to the melody. One broken-octave theme appeared first in the hands of cellist Eliot Kavee, and later re-appeared in the piano (Graham Connah). The quartet moved in all directions at once, in little lurches and bounces. West's drumming incorporates all the elements of jazz drumming, but deconstructed and re-ordered in some non-functional way (e.g., swing rhythm on the ride cymbal is used as a piece of a solo statement, but not ever to accompany a soloist). The whole thing was entirely straight-faced: nothing obviously humorous. I had to keep asking myself why I liked it so much, and I kept wondering when the music would begin. Very crazy, and very enjoyable.
MAY 17, 1995
THE ENORMOUS ENSEMBLE / DISASTER OPERA THEATRE
From Cadence Magazine, July 1995, p. 75
The following week, Beanbender's presented The Enormous Ensemble, an a cappella trio (Mantra Ben-Ya'akova, Susan Volkan, Eula Wyatt) singing perfectly gorgeous Eastern European melodies (real or made up? who can say), plus Dan Plonsey's Disaster Opera Theatre, ``avant-garde'' Punch and Judy with music. I loved the singing... Stuart Kremsky
Oh gosh, another concert of mine at the performance space I book, and I have to review it too! The bittersweet inequities of musical life threaten to overwhelm me. And yet, I take refuge in reading the likes of ``The Sorrows of Young Werther,'' for there I learn that the rabble, though rabble they be, are still fit for one such as I, such a noble soul indeed, so artistically-tempered and elegant. Fit, I say, to write their own damn reviews if they would only do so, and risk hurting my gentle feelings of course, so best they remain quiet, damn their hides!
The Enormous Ensemble consists of founding member Susan Volkan, Mantra Ben-Ya'akova, and Eula Janeen Wyatt. Surely it isn't just that I am married to one of these fabulous ladies that I find their music so entrancing! Stuart Kremsky (see above) asked Seth Katz whether their music is all real Balkan music. Seth found this amusing. ``Of course not!'' It is a measure of their profound artistic success that in fact all the music is entirely genuine, as were Mantra's translations (at least loosely so, she assures me). They sing of men who throw apples at young sleeping girls, girls who reprimand their brothers for making advances upon them, and young men who surprise their village by successfully bringing back a goose. Or something like that. They have beautiful voices, they wear outrageous costumes (not exactly traditional, but highly appropriate), and Mantra says funny things in an accent that gradually seems to transform over the course of a minute from Bulgarian to Swedish.
Disaster Opera Theatre did two operas: a long puppet opera, and then a shorter opera which had no particular title, and which has since been cannibalized for other performances. The three creatures in the puppet opera are a pig, a preying mantis and an octopus, played by the members of The Enormous Ensemble. They fight incessantly, pausing only to recite poems and to recount their meetings with Satan. It's kind of funny, I think, but I did write it. Also, there was musical accompaniment (entirely notated, mostly in a sort of free tonality) performed by Virginia Morgan, Becky Bryant, Tom Yoder and Dan Plonsey on viola, violin, trombone and bass clarinet respectively. An early version of the libretto is actually available as an html file.
The second opera allowed for musical improvisation by Mic Gendreau, John Schott and Dan Plonsey, while the members of The Enormous Ensemble pulled little speeches from out of a toaster and read/sang them. It was great! Or maybe not. I couldn't tell at all. You guys really have to start coming to these things, and when you do come, you have to stay to the bitter end!
MAY 31, 1995
ROVA SAX QUARTET / YOSHIDA
Great attendance. Rova played so well that Phil Gelb (who was in the audience) stood up at the end and said `You bay area guys have it made!' The highlight was probably the last piece, for Schostakovich, by Steve Adams. Also enjoyable were passages from the Frith commission. Then Tasuya Yoshida played a set from left field. I just described it to Myra like this: Imagine a prog fan with some fascinating brain damage and strong skills with drums, synth, guitar ..at the same time. And a slide show of Asian stone idols.
Now I have to say that I mean that in the nicest way. We were all bowled over by this guy's originality. Interestingly, while it's easy to spot similar influences in his work with the Ruins, his set didn't sound much like the frenetic paced music the Ruins play.
JUNE 3, 1995
FRED FRITH SOLO GUITAR
The Bay Area was treated to an incredible solo concert by Fred Frith on Saturday at Beanbenders. The turnout was good and the audience was receptive. Fred played only one guitar (the Gibson with an additional pickup over the nut), no homemades and no violin. He attacked the instrument with all eight fingers as well as his usual assortment of sticks, strings, metal, food, and even several t-shirts. One thing that really struck me last night is that while I've heard many guitarists (myself included) attack the instrument with all kinds of stuff from chainsaws to featherdusters, none has done it as musically as Frith. Each little trick he pulls from his hat is explored for it's musical value and not just used to make a weird sound.
First solo show by guitar madman-Henry Cow-Art Bear-Naked City- Fred Frith in the Bay Area in 10 years occurred tonight at Beanbender's, a fabulous new venue located in a former bank in downtown Berkeley. Packed house in total rapture as Frith played 2 tremendous sets using his customary variety of creative devices for "treated" guitar playing (tins, beans, chains, twine, ribbons, etc.), each one rising far above mere gimmickry, complemented by a fairly standard series of effects pedals and electronics.
Extremely compelling concept of licking finger and wiping it across the top of hollow-body guitar, eliciting very distinct notes. Use of a violin bow directly above pickups made the instrument literally have a conversation with itself, high notes "talking" to low notes. Frith elevates guitar playing into a truly theatrical, physical act, getting his whole body into it...his gestures, facial expressions, wiping motions... all contribute equally along with actual contact with the instrument. Some incredibly noisy, almost Merzbow-esque blasts, some near-trance E-bow- driven drone, and use of what appeared to be tiny, hand-held microcassette players over the pickups (playing all manner of music and voice!).
A mind-bogglingly great show. I think every local music player I know was in the audience. Too bad there weren't more kids there...I bet they would have made mommy and daddy buy them a guitar the very next day.
the Fred Frith concert was totally amazing at Beanbenders last week, one of the highlights of the 2 week stay i had out in that area (along with Rova, Chris Brown solo, the Pan Asian jazz festival, Glenn Spearman Orchestra, Lisle Ellis Trio and getting to play with all the great players i was fortunate to play with).
About no other guitarists being as musical with their extended techniques like frith....well there is no doubt that fred is a master (and a real nice guy i found out) but in the ba area there is a brilliant guitarist in that style, Myles Boisen - an incredibly versatile and outstanding musician. Getting to play with him was a great joy last week.
Phil Gelb _________________________________________________________________
JUNE 7, 1995
PHIL GELB, MIYA MASAOKA, SCOTT WALTON, GINO ROBAIR / AND PLUS STEVE ADAMS, DAN PLONSEY, & FRANCIS WONG
I thought the show at Beanbender's was wonderful!! The first set (Gelb/Robair/Masaoaka/Walton) was especially great: due to the lower volume level, all the nuances of each player's contribution were audible and the depth of the overall sound was astonishing. Although there were moments of the second set (as above + Plonsey/Adams/Wong) that were great, some really fine duets, etc, I couldn't always hear the koto and the shakahachi. Regardless, it was great to hear something quite different than what I'm used to here in the Bay Area.
JUNE 14, 1995
ANNA HOMLER & BETH CUSTER
This was a beautiful show. I had not heard Anna Homler's music before (excepting the day before at the Hotel Utah), and I was very impressed by her ability to create evocative music with great simplicity and personality. Anna was formerly a visual and performance artist. She began singing some time in the 80s (I think) while her head was encased in bread (if you have to ask why a person would want to have their head in bread, then quite possibly you are not the ideal audience we had envisioned for Beanbender's events!). Anna brought a tableful of toys, gadgets, kitchen timers, frozen peas, pans, thimbles and other odd sound-making devices. Beth Custer arrived with a clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, zither, red baseball horn, electronic processing unit, miscellaneous percussion stuff and I forget what else. They produced an evening-full of often theatrical music in which each piece was different in sound, texture and gesture. There were unifying sounds, though: both women favor a middle-Eastern sort of modality, in which the music has a tonal center but with subtle microtonal inflections. Anna sang in an invented language which reminded some listeners of Japanese, others of some Scandinavian or Eastern European tongue. Some songs had tape accompaniment, some Beth accompanied - though it was often the case that each was accompanying the other. Anna also gave Beth space for solos, which were pieces in their own right.
Anna told a couple stories, but for the most part the story-telling was left to the sounds, which often evoked specific images in my head, the nature of which generally had to do with the wistfulness and the magic of everyday life, and the finding of a dreamy solitude within. The many kitchen implements, Anna pouring peas into a pan very very slowly while Beth played an understated solo, Anna giving thimbles to members of the audience to waggle on their fingers in some sort of secret greeting... I came to feel that I was in the presence of a particularly feminine mysticism, in which time is totally elastic, and the music languid and occasionally playful. Though there certainly are men who know how to play with elegance and restraint it's not common in this community. (In fact, it's incredibly rare. I don't think I know any of them, but probably they exist, right?) Also, there were particular colors which went along with the music: mostly blues and purples and greens. In fact, the final song had "Blue Flame Blue" in the refrain, and a background (on tape, prepared by Homler) which evoked the orchestration used in those Twilight Zone episodes about love potions.
After the show, there was much talk, and the possibility of a women's creative music festival in the fall was discussed. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Beth Custer.
JUNE 21, 1995
EVAN PARKER, BARRY GUY, PAUL LYTTON TRIO
Capsule summary: They were great, incredible, fantastic!
Long form: They played two sets, each a little under an hour, and a 10 (?) minute encore. Each set featured unaccompanied solos by Parker and Guy, Lytton got a solo in the second set. Parker's solos were on soprano. There is so much detail in their music, and it all goes by so fast, that it's hard for me to report on details... Perhaps when I hear the tape. All three played amazing, intricate solos, which matched or exceeded what I have heard of them on record. Parker's tenor playing was very strong, inspiring the loudest and densest playing from Lytton. ...
The crowd was very good - about 175 paid, maybe 220 total. This is about the most we can have comfortably. People were very enthusiastic. Maya said that she thought that the trio was in "top form," and Guy said felt good about the performance, and that they were happy to have had two sets - in many of their festival appearances they only get one set. _________________________________________________________________
JUNE 28, 1995
LADONNA SMITH W/ GINO ROBAIR & DOUG CARROLL / GRAHAM CONNAH BAND
Another wonderful concert at Beanbender's last night. LaDonna was magnificent, much more lyrical than I expected. What comes off as a bit grating on recordings seems more playful in a live context. Her trio with Gino Robair and Doug Carroll was a lot of fun too, especially liked Gino's piano "playing"- which looked kind of like those scenes in "Silkwood" where they're standing there working with radioactive material and their hands are hidden from view inside the container. Guess you had to be there shiurba _________________________________________________________________
JULY 19, 1995
ROVA SAX QUARTET / ``ANOTHER CURIOSITY PIECE''
``Another Curiosity Piece'' is the name of a new CD by Dan Plonsey, John Hinds, Peter Hinds, and Mantra Ben-Ya'akova (on 2 tracks). John and Peter decided not to play at this CD release party, so the band consisted of Dan and Mantra with Gino Robair (drums) and Tom Yoder (trombone).
Rova played three compositions, by Tim Berne, Fred Ho, and Jon Raskin. All three were major works (read: long, multi-sectioned, complex, interesting, well-worth hearing). The Berne sounded almost like what someone in Rova would have written: changing saxophones, solos over one voice accompaniment, splitting the quartet into pairs playing different melodies together. The beginning featured Raskin slap-tonguing a very fast bass line (improvised partly or entirely?) while Adams slowly built up a solo. Each member of the group got a solo as the textures and colors changed. Fred Ho's piece was my favorite piece upon first listening. Unlike the Berne and the Raskin, Ho had a few basic ideas which permeated the piece in various forms, giving the whole a feeling of unity (as opposed to being a collection of interesting but not obviously related sections as in Berne's work). He used some simple patternwork throughout, e.g., four notes repeating: ABAC,ABAC... Evocative of machinery. At several points, a pattern would quickly accelerate. Occasional references to pop-funk music appeared, but in disguise - odd dissonant harmonies very high up, for instance. Very urban. Raskin's piece wandered quite a bit, but the latter half was beautiful, featuring fast liquid unisons by Raskin and Adams, with counterpoint by Ochs and Ackley. The piece ended with a beautiful chorale in which each played changed notes on a different beat in sequence. Great performance of these difficult and imaginative works!
Wow. I'm speechless. Rova and The Curiosity Piece were both GREAT!
Rova reminded me a bit of John Zorn. They can both be really loud and intense, and then in the same piece shift to being more subtle. I don't know who said this, I think it's a quote from someone, but when an instrument seems to "speak", you can't get any better than that. This was the case with both groups.
I didn't have any $ tonight, so I hope I can still buy some CDs.
Here's a funny little thing: a friend of mine, who listens to metal and punk, once told me I'm too young to like jazz. Huh?
Dr. Mobius _________________________________________________________________
JULY 26, 1995
STEVE NORTON & CURT NEWTON, WITH STEVE ADAMS, BEN OPIE, DAN PLONSEY & GINO ROBAIR
Wednesday night at Beanbender's started with three sax/drum duets by Steve Norton and Curt Newton. The stripped-down Debris tunes work very well as springboards for Steve's inventive and aggressive solos, and Curt "plays the tune" as well as any drummer I've heard (for another superb example of this, check out the cassette of his duets with Ken Vandermark). A witty rendition of a Monk tune with Steve on baritone ended that part of the set, and the Yellow Curry Sax Quartet took the stage (Dan Plonsey, Ben Opie, Steve Norton, Steve Adams; ummm, the PONA saxophone quartet? I tried all night and couldn't come up with a funny acronym.) There was an exhilarating opening composition by Plonsey, an ear-splitting overtone duet with Plonsey and Opie, and that's just the beginning of an extended gripping set. The quartet with Curt and Gino rounded out the evening with a set of free improvisations. There were many magic transitions, and who can forget right after the first busy section ends with everyone dropping out leaving Gino doing a little jungle beat, Ben Opie blows digeridoo noises with one end of the rubber hose under his foot, craning his neck to stretch the hose, and Steve worrying Opie's foot with his growling baritone.
For more information about shows, or about booking your band or musical event, send e-mail to: Dan Plonsey firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 528-8440.