Saturday, February 04, 2012

Sure doesn't seem like February what with all of the rather springy weather we've been enjoying in the tri-county area, but even when the ol' thermometer's been hittin' the mid-forties/fifties Fahrenheit I'm still having trouble enjoyin' the lack of freezin' weather that I usually hafta endure durin' the winter solstice. Dunno if it's the prospect of a Mitt Romney candidacy and possible presidency (which would only make him the new Wendell Wilkie...I mean, why bother voting against Obama if ya hate that iron fister so much with this bozo as the "alternative"???) that's drivin' me to the bottle of non-alcoholic sangria that I bought at K-Mart, or if it's goin' on Facebook and finding out that 99% of the people who I've befriended are down 'n out socialist types who believe in free speech 'n practice for everybody but people who don't think like they do (mainly me!). And I ain't talkin' Eddie Flowers who's more of a rightie 'n he'll ever admit (at least using my own keen definition of the term), nor Barry Goubler whom I usually seem to agree with on almost all fronts, nor Mike Snider who never did check his logic and reasoning at the door before venturing into the house of  sociopolitical theorem!  Let's just say that I'll probably never again go on that "networking" page as long as I live, unless I get one of those notices that I've been "tagged" in a post usually in passing and am curious as to see what negative things are being said (as usual).

Really, there's nothing more down-in-the-dumps 'n reading the rants of the new breed of rabble-rouser who blab on as if the froth in their mouth has suddenly hit the cranium as we all march lockstep into the new era of post-hippie statism with wide smiles on our faces...right before we're all forced to dig our own mass graves, that is. And I guess it's mostly my fault as well...after all, I've associated with many of these people in the past and maybe I shoulda caught on that a good portion of 'em were about as kosher as a huge slab o' bacon, but since I've been so naive about various "pals" o'mine who eventually shoved the big shiv in my back when I wasn't looking in the past then why should this old dog have learned any new tricks all these years later! Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for people spouting off their opinions and hey, at times I may even agree with a point or three some of the new babblers of Modern Dystopianism (or better yet a new kulturkampf) might be espousing, but most of the time when I flick on Facebook or the comment section of certain blogs I end up feeling like Public Enemy #1 with a big bullseye drawn on my hindquarters! 'n not only that, but the blowguns are gettin' loaded up with curare-laced darts and you can guess whose donkey the tail's gonna be pinned on! Y'know, this really is the "no future" that I've been mentioning we've been in for the past two or so decades, only the people who were warning us about it back in the seventies and eighties eventually turned out to be the same ones who, perhaps not so unknowingly, PERPETRATED it!

But maybe I should just shut my trap...after all, I still wouldn't mind getting freebee items from some of these very same people who I am cringing about, and I don't wanna clog up any more gravy trains that I have to in these budget strapped times! Anyhoo, here're some more stream-of-unconsciousness musings that mighta worked well back when Bangs and Meltzer and even Russell Desmond were doing the streaming but in my hands look like utter nonsensical masturbatory goo! Well, at least it's keeping me off the streets and out of trouble, and now that I think of it outta the bathroom and out of trouble there as well!  So come along and shave your palms while digesting some of this prattle which I hope will pass for "cutting edge", "experimental" writing that if discovered by the right big name author out there might earn me my first beret and bag of stale Doritos, or maybe even keep me outta prison for that matter!
Rob Garcia's Sangha-HEART'S FIRE CD (Connection World)

Moon Pool-ECLIPSE CD (Distinction)

Imaginary Homeland-JUMP FOR GEORGE CD (Imaginary Homeland)

(the above recordings are available via CD Baby)

I gotta admit that I really feel like a bonafeed goof sometimes if only because I must be the only person on the face of this earth who misses the decade that I playfully refer to as the "oh-oh's" but you people tended to call the "oughts"! Now, I don't have the same kinda feelings for those days that I did like say, in the early-eighties when I missed the type of prime-time tee-vee, underground records and general armchair decadence that I experienced in the seventies, but in many ways these bubbling under feelings sure come close. Actually, what I do miss about the previous decade (and there wasn't much!) are the old cybercasts that used to emanate from the long gone 'n sainted CBGB club in New York City back when, from the three stages gathered under that flophouse roof, a wide variety of music that has tingled my tootsies for quite a long time could be experienced and for free! Of course, with all of the goodies came an even greater variety of stuff that I would never think of sitting through in a thousand years but we're talkin' high energy for now and that's the raw meat that I never could get enough of back then and will continue to feast upon no matter how long I've got ears to bleed!

Yeah, I know that CBGB in 2006 was not the same beast it was a good three decades earlier, but if you looked long and hard enough you might have been able to spot the oh-oh's version of Harry Toledo or David Patrick Kelly and Toivo (forget the Blondies and Talking Heads!) on a given night. And during some of the sets I've caught I just might have seen the perfect embodiment of just what the mid-seventies underground outta-the-way garage band ethos might have been during an audition showcase by some group that probably didn't even make the cut. But when I'd tune into the club back during those perhaps not-so-halcyon days it was more or less to espy what was going on during the Dee Pop-curated "Freestyle Jazz" nights (Sundays of course, as if the club'd book something along these lines on a possibly jam-packed Friday or Saturday!) when a wide variety of acts and players both famous (Burton Greene, Eric Gale, Sunny Murray...) and upstart would get their chance to perform for an audience of ten chomping down their sausage pizza on some second-hand davenport. These shows were perhaps the most interesting part of the latter days of CBGB for me, where the bold survivors of the sixties still had meaning and a new generation was poised to grasp the torch, though as far as how far they'd run with it was always open to discussion.

I must admit that some of the musical acts that I never heard of who were performing at the series did seem promising, and some of the even more "fusion" (for wont of a better term) acts like Earth People and Noisetet were rather inspirational especially for a guy like me who kinda cringed at the thought of this music after giving Return to Forever's ROMANTIC WARRIOR a spin oh so long ago!  So maybe it was with some trepidation that I decided to snatch this particular platter by Bob Garcia's Sangha up...after all, they were compared to Return To Forever in the CD Baby listing, but then again I never heard that first album of theirs on Polydor which I understand is different and better than the music Chick and company cranked out later on during the days of jazz becoming just as boring and as pedestrian as the rest of the music being played onna radio. And then again I figured that perhaps Sangha could have had some moments of early John McLaughlin fire before he went the Sri Chinmoy route to wholesome buckskin living and square haircuts. Perhaps this act was in fact the oh-oh's answer to Jatra, this jazz/fusion act that was led by that Cuban guy who used to be in Mandrill that also got a McLaughlin comparison and were popular enough to score a gig at the CBGB Christmas Festival in '75. That would make them at least a footnote to the New York scene even if they never did release any recordings that I know of and could have sounded like typical NPR jazz custom-made for the Karen Quinlan who lingers on in all of the one-dimensional budding high school guidance counselors and reproductive rights campaigners that I've come across in recent years.

Unfortunately Sangha, even with the hipster Eastern Philosophical Nom De, can't muster up the kind of furious freedom that I wished they could have dispensed. In fact, this music is nowhere near anybody's concept of fusion making me wonder where CD Baby conjured up the Return to Forever comparisons unless it has to do with the standard cool jazz references and airheaded peace 'n love lyrics that are as bountiful as those little fly spec marks on my gut flab. From the smooth femme vocals to the tuneful guitar lines and PLENTY FLUTE, this platter really does not convey anything that I particularly want to experience when listening to some jazz trying to escape the banalities this Cee-Dee exudes. After all's said and done, Sangha's pretty much like most music where the noise, dust, crackles and dirt are removed all we're left with is some of the more tinkle-tune pleasantly mewls to have graced my ears since I was unceremoniously kicked off the Atlantic Records gravy train. And I do feel kinda sad about it because I was hoping this would have kicked up a bitta dust, vigor and tension, but I guess something like that would not be conduit to a platter just swimming in Buddhist mysticism, eh?

Fortunately the quartet that goes under the name Moon Pool fare better in their attempts to continue on with the spirit of seventies loft jazz in a world that couldn't give two hoots these days. Now, it ain't like they did an ajax of a job on this 'un since I felt a good portion of ECLIPSE just didn't have the same thrust to it that made similar aggregates so entertaining. But then again, considering the turdburger this coulda been maybe I should be grateful. The musicians who make up Moon Pool have the ability (and the dues, at least according to the insert where each and every member's past affiliation is brought up just to prove to us that these guys ain't a buncha pikers!)  and can present something that clearly sets in the "now" portion of anybody's free jazz collection, but there's a certain sameness and perhaps even sterility to the music that's being presented. Perhaps a few more spins will change my opinion, but for now I'd classify Moon Pool as a possible new hope for the future of avant jazz who just need to work out a few additional engrossing arrangements and attempt something that I would consider more...inspirational?

And now for a recording by a CBGB Lounge vet that I really can sink my fangs into! Imaginary Homeland are/were a quartet featuring two free jazz guys (David Rogers and Mark Stone) who had spent some time in Ghana studying African chops who decided to put their new musical ideas to use in a free jazz output. Along the way they picked up violinist Marlene Rice and bassist Matt Pavolka, and the four really know how to blaze ahead into interesting old directions (Back to Africa jazzisms) in a new and exciting way that ain't gonna make you think you're sitting through yet another replay of ROOTS on the History Channel!

General melodies do a good three-way bend twixt new thing, Africa and even a little rural white hillbilly twang, and considering how Rice's violin playing can get into some hotcha fiddleisms along with the African-influence and free Billy Bang/Leroy Jenkins style this really does make for a "World Record" that does a world of good. Rogers sounds like Archie Shepp at times while Stone plays all sorts of African percussion from water drum to African drum set to xylophone (or as it's called over there a gyil) giving this 'un a distinct sound that I gotta say does recall some of the finer moments of the Revolutionary Ensemble's recorded output. After being inundated with boring bowtie jazz and horrid screeches attempted by people who think all that free jazz is is the atonal honking of one's horn w/o the ability or creativity to take that sound and work some style and flesh into it a disque like this sure's welcome in my collection. Makes for a nice reminder of just why I was drawn to the idiom while I was still a pimple-infested teenager reading sacred screeds about people like Ornette and Braxton being the next "logical" step in a variety of magazines that undoubtedly have no meaning to anybody anymore.

There used to be a gas station chain in this area called Workingman's Friend, best remembered by me for their logo featuring a 1940's-era painting of a muscular hardhat with a grin on his overtaxed, Chuck Connors-ish mug. The family used to go there all the time because back in the pre-Energy Crisis days this chain was guaranteed to keep their gas price under thirty cents a gallon, and naturally back in those recessionary times we needed to save all of the pennies and nickels that we could in order that I could scarf up all of the comic books that were being presented to me via flea markets county-wide! Unfortunately for us we weren't the only ones patronizing Workingman's Friends since these usually outta-the-way rural filling stations were one-stops for a wide variety of robbers who took advantage of the easy loot that could be found once closing time came upon us and a day's earnings could be snatched up pretty handily at that! By the mid-seventies the chain was no more, and since those days a Korean War memorial has popped up looking rather outre in the plain grassy fields where once stood a classy old-timey gas station.

Why am I padding this review out with more childhood reminiscences which I'm sure somene'll will include in a biography to be written somewhere in the dark ages of futureshock? Well, because if you ask me Bill Shute is the new Workingman's Friend, and although he looks nothing like the brawny blue collar workhorse that adorned the station signs of old he sure does his gosh darndest best to help out the working man...mainly this working man who usually has to struggle and scrimp to get up enough money for a seasonal order to Forced Exposure only to find out that 75% of the rex he wants are now outta stock! At least with Bill I can get hold of these "Care Packages" that are filled with interesting DVD and CD-R burns (some even playable!) which help to pep up a normally snoozeville evening and, given that I have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what Bill's slipping into one of those little white envelopes of his you could say that I'm getting a Mystery Package worthy of any hotcha 1960's era game show! Only I don't expect to be getting anything that would be outside the realm of typcal BLOG TO COMM kultur like obscure art films with subtitles written in Sanscrit or parlor recordings of an old blue-haired/skinned lady singing hymns while playing her pump organ recorded sometime in 1953. Then again, next to some of the dross passing for "civilization" these days such items might very well be a godsend!

I never considered the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band a top psychedelic act 'r anything like that. Oh yeah, they were nice, and in fact rather listenable in their own pleasing way yet they lacked the knotty pine basement hipsterism of the Seeds, the rank reek of the Mothers of Invention, the snot punkitude of the Chocolate Watchband and the artistic drive of the Velvet Underground. Oh yeah, they certainly made some records that stand the test of time, but still their disques always seem to get pushed to the back of the collection along with other worthies usually to stay there until I happen to read some interesting anecdote about them and how they cop certain ideas on one melody and rearrange various classical composers on another thus piquing my attention. That usually starts me on yet another one of my jungle adventures through thirtysome years of recordings trying to give a certain track a listen to in order to discover for myself just what aspects I've been not lending my third ear to lo these many years of taking it all for granted!

If you're expecting the fab intellecto-pop of the WCPAEB you won't be disappointed. However, you will have to wade through a variety of pre-band efforts featuring future members which range from palatable to downright wretch-inducing (if you can sit through Lucifer and the Peppermints you can shake your hand!). after which you'll not only come across some fine enough mid-sixties El Lay folk rock like the Rogues' "Wanted, Dead or Alive" being just one good "Hey Joe" swipe you'll approve of! The lack of liner notes of course leave me in the dark 'n since I'm too tired to do a whole lotta websearching I'll just hafta play these tunes wond'rin' just who did what with which, but hey it's a good enough selection of tracks that at least gives you a li'l background as to where the WCPAEB was coming from and would be heading since some of these are def. post-group days.  (And really, some of this, especially the avant garde stuff [and serious avant garde mind you!] does come off a little more freakier'n I woulda expected to come outta sunshiney pre-Doors Southern California!)                                                                                                                                                

Nice surprise here for both fans and not so's, and as an added bonus the compilers even snuck in some rare sides by the Pop Artsters themselves. I know I don't have to tell you folk whose hearts are still in Los Angeles 1965 what to do now, do I??? (Again, this should be an easy-to-find download which would suit me, if this danged computer wasn't always acting slower'n a syphilitic pissing contest. Hopefully your set up's progressed beyond the age of crystals unlike mine.)

Another in an ad infinitum series of burns sent me by Bill Shute, this 'un has onetime Ornette sideman and future gnu age practitioner Don Cherry leading a pretty hotcha bunch including ace bassist Henry Grimes, fellow Ornette alumni Ed Blackwell on drums and future LAST TANGO IN PARIS themester Gato Barbieri long before he jumped onto the late-seventies schmooze wagon which overtook many a once-vital professional! 'n hey, this 'un's turned out to be (to use a favorite cliche) a wowzer considering how I'm not always one to get into some of Cherry's more, er, third world esoterica. Overall this '65 sesh is pure early-sixties Ornette (a name ya just can't get away from when discussing these crossroads freedom platters) with a nice splattering of bopdom in with the new thing that makes for a rather entertaining outing. Barbieri flaunts his Coltrane roots for all to see before even that jazz great's moniker got flogged so much it could have been sold for ground chuck at the A 'n P, while Grimes and Blackwell do the Right Thing with their in and out free play that stands out as much as Cherry's cornet and Barbieri's tenor. A great one to add to your avant garde jazz collection, if you can locate it and burn the thing for free like I'm sure most of you computer savvy readers are doing this minute, eh?

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