Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Minerva CD release concert at Cornelia St Cafe

Last Tuesday Minerva celebrated the release of our first CD, "Saturnismo" at Cornelia St Cafe. The whole concert is now up on YouTube, so you can check it out at your leisure. The music has evolved a lot since we recorded these pieces last summer!
Here's our performance of a composition of mine called "The Valenti", named after an ugly painting.
Saturnismo is available for purchase through Carlo's website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

GOWK at I Beam

On Friday I caught a set of improvised music at I Beam by some musicians visiting from Belgium led by the drummer Teun Verbruggen. The band goes by the name GOWK. There were also some Brooklynites on hand sitting in, including Kenny Warren and Jacob Wick on trumpets, and Andrew D'Angelo playing alto sax and bass clarinet.
Everyone sounded great, and there was a lot of variety over the course of the evening's music. Many different combinations of instruments were utilized, which is essential to keeping a large group improv concert interesting, at least to my ears. Here are some samples.

Christian Mendoza on piano!

A nice chorale-type interlude with the horns....

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jesse Stacken and Kirk Knuffke at Cornelia St Cafe

On Sunday I heard pianist Jesse Stacken and cornetist Kirk Knuffke at Cornelia St, who were celebrating the release of their latest album of duets, "Orange was the Color." The new album focuses on the music of Charles Mingus, and they picked some great tunes from the vast body of work of a master composer. Indeed, they played some of my personal favorites, like "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love", and "Peggy's Blue Skylight."
The duo didn't exclusively play the Mingus songbook on the gig, and it was interesting to see the interconnectedness of their repertoire choices. There were two Steve Lacy pieces, who was also a great admirer of Mingus, and who also recorded some Mingus tunes in his duet albums with Mal Waldron. There was also "Such Sweet Thunder" by Duke Ellington, perhaps Mingus' greatest influence. This is from one of my favorite Duke records, also called "Such Sweet Thunder". I did an arrangement of a piece called "Sonnet for Caesar" from that record for Old Time Musketry, you can listen here.

Here's a short clip of Jesse and Kirk's rendition of "Such Sweet Thunder"

There were also pieces by Carla Bley, Misha Mengleberg, and Albert Ayler. Jesse and Kirk have a really deep rapport that can only come from years of playing together, and they kept a really nice rhythmic intensity on the swinging tunes which is not easy to do in a piano/horn duo setting! I also always enjoy seeing musicians taking on a repertoire project, hearing them interpret music that they connect with.

Banda de Los Muertos at Barbes

On Saturday night I caught a set of music by the Banda de Los Muertos, a new-ish group that plays arrangements of Mexican brass band music. The group was formed by trombonist Jacob Garchik and has quite the all-star line-up of Brooklyn improvisers. They sounded great, a real party atmosphere instantly filled the room as soon as they started playing, although the air conditioner was broken and the room was sweltering! Clarinetist Oscar Noriega said that the band will be starting a monthly residency at Barbes, adding yet another great brass band to the rotation that already includes Slavic Soul Party. How lucky we are in Brooklyn to have access to all this music!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Staring into the abyss of time...

I saw Werner Herzog's new film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" at the IFC this week. It was pretty mind-blowing. I've never seen a 3D film before, and the effect was really magical. The paintings in the cave were so beautiful and so skillful, it was truly hard to believe that they were done by our ancestors over 30,00 years ago. Throughout the film Herzog refers to "the artists" who made the paintings, and one of the themes of the film is that the impulse to create art, to communicate our subjective experience of reality is one of the fundamental things that makes us human. It's pretty awe-inspiring to see these works of art from so long ago, it's hard to fully appreciate what 30,000 years means. Herzog says at one point in the film, "we exist inside history, they did not."
Also, there is some incredibly beautiful music by cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger that perfectly evokes something primal and mysterious, and also a kind of spirituality and reverence. The cave also contains incredible stalagmites that give it the appearance of a cathedral. Herzog's films always awaken a sense of wonder about the world we live in.