Friday, September 17, 2004

The Hanuman Sextet-CONFUSING THE DEVIL CD-R(Rent Control, try Cadence)

The virus that infected my computer a few weeks back (with no relief in sight!) somehow screwed up me being able to link various sites of worthiness, such as Cadence's on-line catalog where you can go to buy this and other Rent Control wares amidst a wide array of desperately-needed booty. Too bad...I guess for now you'll just have to "dial up" "Rent Control Records" or "Cadence" on your favorite search engine, and you better throw something like "avant garde jazz" in there somewhere just so's you get some righteous response. Anyway, avid readers of my BLACK TO COMM fanzine'll remember a "gang-review" of a couple of Rent Control releases in the latest issue, specifically those by a duo of current free-improv jazz acts with names as mind-bending as Idiophonic and Freedomland. Both of these aggros seem to be pointing towards a new direction in jazz, one of an even-newer avant garde bent that takes its cue from where the seventies free players left off, going in an even more skewered and ultimately engaging direction if your mind can fathom that!

Idiophonic are a trio with woodwinds, percussion and a sampler that play an even brighter take on seventies avant accomplishment, in the "classical" as well as "jazz" realm, while Freedomland are an amalgam of old and new players who hearken back to the late-seventies jazz collectives like Air who were making a bit of a splash in jazz circles thanks to the ever-budding "loft scene" which seemed to almost be a "last gasp" for the fertile underground of jazz that was documented on a vast array of discs easily and no-so available these days, the five-album series WILDFLOWERS on the Douglas label amongst them.

Joining this impressive selection of new jazz pioneers is the Hanuman Sextet...usually billed as the Hanuman Ensemble this group captures the free splatter mix of jazz and serious music like Idiophonic while searching amongst the outer-reaches (with a few trips into a rock-y funk-y groove) like Freedomland. And not surprisingly, both Freedomland and the Hanuman Sextet share a member in percussionist Dee Pop (yes, the same one who made a big name for himself as a member of the post-no wave band the Bush Tetras in 1979), who not surprisingly is the guy who's booking the Sunday Evening avant jazz shows at the CBGB Lounge. Also, not surprisingly, both the Freedomland and Hanuman Sextet CD-Rs were recorded live at the Lounge, and though Idiophonic weren't they have played the stage before which, true, does make it an "all in the family" affair, but this is one form of nepotism that I certainly approve of in that it helps categorize things for anal-retentive me even more!

Using a wide array of bizarro instrumentation (shofar [!], lotar [???]) along with gear that's less esocteric but still strange enough for the free jazz idiom (lap steel guitar, electric harp, banjo...), the Hanuman Sextet create "soundscapes" (for wont of a better hippie term) akin to something from side two of Sun Ra's THE SOLAR-MYTH APPROACH VOL. 1 thanks to the harp playing of Mia Theodoratus, formerly of Mia's Groovy Little Harp Band! In fact, the reliance on stringed instruments and electronics (shofarist/saxophonist Andy Haas being the only horn player in the bunch) gives this disque an even more outer-worldly essence than even Ra at his most outer-spaceist could.

When Haas plays his alto he comes off with a weird and pleasing vibrato that sounds kinda like a cross twixt Albert Ayler and Steve Mackay, while the use of stringed instros being plucked and strummed gives one the impression of a Japanese koto band played by the Marquis Chimps. Yeah, I know that such comparisons are strictly verboten in the world of jazz/snob critiquing, but you gotta remember that I'm writing about this stuff through a dunce/suburban standpoint (ie. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT JAZZ I LEARNED THROUGH CREEM MAGAZINE), and being naturally bigoted towards what I would consider non-pretentious tastemodes (at least as far as avant-jazz goes) I would say that this was a far better aesthetic than the ones all those neo-hippies at DOWN BEAT used to have back when I was reading that hallowed periodical in the seventies! (Sorta reverse-snobbery true, but it does make for a pleasant change.)

I'm no expert as far as jazz goes and never claimed to be. I'm more or less that old doofus who said, while looking at the painting of the nude lady, "I know what I like!!!," and I gotta admit I like this platter with it's mix of free jazz, obscuro late-seventies no wave moves, "world music" (for lack of a better term) and the classical experimental, and I think I'll go out on a limb and actually proclaim (given I don't even know who or what is reading this blog, or how many of you are out there) that if you've read BLACK TO COMM magazine o'er the years and if you have musical tastes similar to the ones I've touted throughout this blog, then YOU TOO will probably enjoy and cherish this CD-R as much as I think I am going to as the years roll by. In some ways it's surprising but others not that I'm probably listening to more avant jazz these days than avant rock, and even with the hot crop of underground rock goodies coming out (see past BLOG TO COMM entries) one comes across there's still plenty room for fire music in yout collection, a sound which I must admit makes more sense than a lotta the drivel that's out there vying for your precious attention and money, dontcha think???

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