Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Birdbrain-I FLY CD-R (Persian Cardinal, try www.theworldofbirdbrain.com for more information)

As any astute reader of BLOG TO COMM knows, the main brain motivator for me these days ain't rock & roll as much as it is FREE JAZZ (read: avant garde jazz/new thing/fire music...). Oh yeah, I like rock & roll, but hardly any of the new stuff coming out moves me like a hefty helping of sonic Ex-Lax mighta some quarter-century ago, and frankly, all of these new groups that are being touted as the RAW AND ALIVE thing if you're a young and grooving guy just ain't cuttin' anything whether it be mustard or cheese as far as THIS "well-respected" (HAH!) scribe (NOT "rock critic") is concerned. Like, Mike Snider has been hyping some new group called The Fiery Furnaces at me, tellin' me all these things about how they recall past rock achievements of various respected stripes and all that, which sounds fine and dandy to me, only I've been around the block more than a few times and tend to be a little more wary about picking up some of these new items by groups who seem to have their "hearts" in the right place, but does that really mean anything in the light of all those bands of the past who took their guiding light from sources both stellar and dismal but made well with what they had solely on garage-addled primitivism alone?

So maybe that's why when I'm checking out the action at CBGB I'm not always paying close attention to what's happenin' at their main club nor their next-door art gallery/quieter-rock/folk music space. For me, the main action happenin' at this world-reknown club is goin' on at the CBGB Lounge on Sunday night's "Freestyle avant" showcase where the best of the old and the new freedom players are gathered in what has proven to be the best running gig in New York City since the Central Park wilding. I know that more than a few of you out there could care less about "jazz," feeling that it's the music of hi-fi nuts wearing suits going to see lounge-y pianists playing soft schmooze while martoonies clink, but this is the AVANT GARDE I'm gabbin' at you about! This is the music of high energy, atonal screech, nerves fraying and mental breakdown, and if you can't go for any combination of the above not only in your musical listening but your living patterns, what kind of BLOG TO COMM reader are you?!?!?!

Anyway, I assumed that Birdbrain, who play the series on occasion, were just another one of those great unknown avant jazz groups that have flocked to the Lounge for some rare gig in a world of apathy. Well, I am right, but there's a lot more to Birdbrain than juat being another free jazz group on the chopping block. This aggregate is more or less a weird juxtapoz of white avant-jazz chamber moves and alternative music (with just about everyone in the group coming out of a new wave/alternative background inc. two ex-members of the well-known in new wave circles Bloomington Indiana group The Dancing Cigarettes who I never were able to enjoy to the fullest...sorry guys!) consisting of vocalist Yvette Perez (who looks the 1981 new wave chanteuse role to the max) and three horn players (Don Trubey on alto sax, Tim Noe on tenor and Peter Zummo on trombone) and nada more! (A drummer has since joined the ranks which should change their sound dramatically...there is a gig coming up at the Lounge which I'm going to do my durndest to try and catch via cybercast!)

If you think I was somewhat bored silly by such a concept in music (being played out as avant garde jazz), you're mistaken as usual. I'll admit that I was at first puzzled after watching an archived 'cast of theirs available through CB's website, but this CD is not only "listenable" but downright enjoyable. Perez can purr and coo like you wish Cathy Berberian woulda w/o coming off too brash, while the horn structures, while not free in the classic sense, are abstract enough to add tension to Perez's warblings. If you get into Jimmy Giuffre's more experimental sides you might like this if only for the starkness. Plus, for a change, the final cut ("I Hear It on the Vine") has Perez singing to an organ accompaniment for a switch that I'm sure will bring a smile to even the cube-est of modern rock followers as well as practitioners of the sorry form.

George Cartwright's Glorious Ponycat-BLACK ANTS CRAWLING CD (Innova, available through Wayside)

Maybe it ain't so funny that I haven't touched my Albert Ayler box set since its arrival (other'n to spin a disc or two and do a little burnin') yet I'm buying up and playing this post- (some may say "sub-", but I don't) Ayler spurt in the interim. Pretty nice mid-energy romp from some guys who I think might not be that big on the "jazz scene" but given how lively the freedom quotient is these days does it matter??? Funny, the liner notes bring up none other than the Stooges masterpiece FUNHOUSE which I think is crazy since Glorious Ponycat are pretty much legit, "real" avant garde jazz while FUNHOUSE (and a variety of other rock/jazz crossovers a la Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR) were "fake" avant garde jazz...not that it means a hill of beans mind you. It just seems strange seeing it brought up in the liners of a "serious" jazz offering, but nowadays you can expect everything done anyway anywhere so why should I be surprised! Still, I'll take Glorious Ponycat over any of the "new" and "improved" supposedly hot "garage" groups of the day who more or less come off like warmed over Dream Syndicate retreads, not to mention most any group over the last decade who have been compared to the Stooges' sophomore sides.

Wire-PINK FLAG CD (EMI-Harvest UK)

Guess what! Ol' Chris has actually gone out and purchased a disque that just about everyone else in the world has bought, chomped, digested and pooped out ages back! I never really was that sold on the Wire legacy, perhaps because too many people were pointing to them as some all-encompassing musical act without whom our musical vocabulary would be severely limited. I never bought into such bunk, which is why I waited until the late-eighties to buy a Wire disc (actually, the one LP/one 12-inch EP Rough Trade issue) and didn't quite osmose to that as I'm sure more than a few spectators out there in BTC-land wish I had. However, I liked the the way Wire played with their audience...these relatively old-fogies romping around in the punk idiom (and in the extremely ageist Britpunk one too!) who were going around telling everyone just how much they hated rock music rather appealed to me...pure genius as in PLAY THE FANS FOR THE ZILCH-DIMENSIONAL SUCKERS THEY ARE!!! Advice I can live by. Besides, (as so eloquently pointed out in the last issue of BOMP!), Wire were a group that was using their standard rock instrumentation more or less as an experimental/electronic blare wall-of-sound along with the Slits, Subway Sect and Pop Group (OK, that ain't the exact meaning of the quote or anything near it...save your time writing in!) which sounded rather neat back when I first read it back in '80.

Anyhow, PINK FLAG is great, not as "Syd" as CHAIRS MISSING which I've had for a coupla years already but not as "duh" as much of the quickie punque flybynightisms of the time. Sorta like art rock Ramones (yeah, I know that the Ramones ARE art rock already...art like in the Sunday Funnies!) with major white-sound blare that "does" have its artsy quotient, but that doesn't matter when the punkisms offer a solid counterpoint. It's nothing to make me wanna go out and kill people (like the best music does!) but an interesting piece in that British punk puzzle I thought I didn't care about anymore, but maybe I do (a tad).

Sunny Murray-HOMAGE TO AFRICA CD (BYG/Sunspots)

It was a thrill seeing Sunny Murray on the CBGB Lounge cybercast last year and knowing that the man is still active long after becoming one of the first (along w/Milford Graves) truly free drummers, and this previously unheard-by-me BYG release, like Murray's other offerings both on and off BYG, reminds me of just how important avant garde jazz is to a person's (mainly mine) rockism sense and how it perhaps even surpasses it, at least nowadays when so little rock flashes on me like it usedta. Featuring the cream of the BYG in-house players (Shepp, Silva, Thornton, most of the Art Ensemble...) along with Jeanne Lee singing and playing bells, HOMAGE TO AFRICA is yet another free tour-de-force perhaps improved on given BYG's hands-off production. I only hope that Murray etc. get paid for this reissue!

A BIG HEAPING HUNKING THANKS TO BLOG TO COMM FAN PAUL McGARRY for sending me the rest of the first season of COMBAT on DVD-R! Just got 'em today and'll start spinnin' 'em as soon as the spirit moves me. Hope you're enjoying the Ayler CD-Rs I burned for you (don't wear yourself out listening to 'em!)...whadja want for this batch pal?

No comments: