Tag Archives: Byron Wallen

January 2019 – upcoming London jazz gigs – memories of black resistance and striving in Elaine Mitchener’s ‘Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde’ (7th January) and Rufus Reid’s ‘Quiet Pride’ (29th January)

3 Jan

This month, there are two very different opportunities to immerse yourself in historical music stemming from black resistance and the American civil rights struggle; the conflation of brutual oppression, storms, suffering and self-assertion which inform today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement.

One of these events is an edgy art-scream of vintage fighting classics, happening inside a rough-walled underground music stronghold. The other features music that’s barely seven years old, takes place in a lofty varnished orchestral concert hall at the heart of the British classical music world, comes varnished by a couple of Grammy nominations and represents the other end of the struggle: more well-spoken, staunchly dignified, talking back at the oppressor in something closer to his own language on his own terrain.

Would each of these efforts give the other house room? I’d like to think that they would.

* * * * * * * *

'Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde', 7th January 2019

Tireless vocal/physical-movement improviser and conceptual explorer Elaine Mitchener returns to Café Oto with a revival of her ‘Vocal Classics of the Black Avant Garde’ project (originally compiled and performed for the London Festival of Contemporary Music at the end of 2017). Re-examining 1960s and 1970s works composed by Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Joseph Jarman and Jeanne Lee, it studies and recreates “the overflow of experiment that occurred within improvised music, often springing directly from lived experiences of racial injustice… combin(ing) vocals and text with experimental jazz forms.”

Musical direction for the evening will come from reknowned saxophonist Jason Yarde – an improviser-composer who steps confidently between jazz and conservatoire culture. He’ll be at the head of a band consisting of pianist Dominic Canning, Elaine’s regular bassist Neil Charles, trumpeter and flautist Byron Wallen and the consistently staggering drummer/percussionist Mark Sanders. It’s a little unclear as to whether Elaine’s regular sparring partner Alexander Hawkins will be joining in on keyboards this time, but expat American poet Dante Micheaux is down to join Elaine on spoken/sung word.

Joseph Jarman

Joseph Jarman

It’s safe to say that while this music’s around fifty years old now, the content’s not going to be cosy. Expect some old wounds, some revolutionaries’ pride and some old fire to be raked over and rekindled. As Elaine writes, “these works illuminate an occluded moment in American cultural history, when the avant-garde aesthetics of new jazz doubled as a metaphor for the imminent politics of civil rights.

“Composed in very specific response to the perilous condition of black people in America, the works’ synthesis of experimental sensibilities, radical political sentiment, and gutbucket expression cuts across boundaries of time and space to resonate universally in the here and now. In the era of #BlackLivesMatter, these works speak powerfully of the need for resistance and resilience, sound stark and original, their hypermodernism firmly rooted in vernacular tradition.”

It doesn’t seem that anything of the previous show’s been recorded (or if it has been, it’s not been released), so here’s a little from one of Elaine’s previous projects as an indicator; plus a little Shepp, Lee and Jarman.





 
* * * * * * * *

Reminding us that the politics of dignity and survival (and the business of conveying an urgent message) comes in many different forms and tones, African-American double bassist Rufus Reid is reviving his 2012 jazz orchestra suite ‘Quiet Pride’ in London later in January. A limber, elegant musician and composer with profound roots in classical trumpet and bass, Rufus (like Jason Yarde) also straddles the worlds of jazz and music education with equal enthusiasm, grace and fervour. He has been playing in both small and sizeable jazz groups since the late ‘60s and composing for about the same length of time, moving into the world of large-scale compositions in 2011 with his symphonic orchestral work ‘Mass Transit’.

Rufus Reid (photo © Jimmy Katz)

Rufus Reid (photo © Jimmy Katz)

‘Quiet Pride’ was written to honour and illustrate the work of late African–American sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett, and Rufus has taken it around the universities and culture halls of the USA whenever possible. This particular performance of the suite will be rendered by the Guildhall Jazz Orchestra under the direction of London jazz composer and educator Scott Stroman (with, I think, Rufus as conductor). While Rufus prefers to play alongside or surrounded by actual Catlett prints and sculptures for honour, reflection and continuity, there aren’t any to hand at the Guildhall and so the performance will be accompanied by projected Catlett images.


 
Set against the Oto show, it could be tempting to decry this as bourgeois slickness, a birch-and-beech art gallery indulgence co-opting jazz into the spaces of white power structures or celebrating some kind of house-Negro ethic. That would be unfair, shallow and revolting. To dispel that kind of wretched political preciousness, consider Elizabeth Catlett’s actual life; the source of her art and the ultimate inspiration for Rufus’ humming, quick-footed, assertive music in which (according to ‘All About Jazz’s Dan Bilawsky) “chamber-esque civility can give way to a feeling of uncertainty which, in turn, can morph into swing. Focus shifts from the textural to the rhythmic, the background to the foreground, and the subtle to the obvious. The music is mutable and multifaceted but that’s not really surprising; sculptures can take on different meaning when viewed from different angles so the music should certainly do the same.”

A pioneering presence as both a black and a female sculptor in America (at a time when few of either were to be found – or, more pertinently, allowed) Elizabeth perpetually fused art and activism, mostly through effort and moral choices. Flat-out rejected as a scholar by the Carnegie Institute of Technology due to her skin colour; struggling against direct, demoralising racist university policies while studying for a Masters in Iowa (and, later on, being stripped of her American citizenship as a result of her Communist associations and her gestures of solidarity with striking Mexican railway workers), hers is a story of personal industry, profound ethical responsibility, and effort against the odds.

Her time in Mexico (where she settled for much of her life, first learning and subsequently teaching) was also the catalyst for the crystallizing of her artistic vision, uniting her early influences of Henry Moore, Diego Rivera and pre-Columbian American sculpture with a commitment to combining aspirational concepts of strength and fierce dignity with representative figure forms. “I learned how you use your art for the service of people, struggling people, to whom only realism is meaningful” she’d assert, later. “I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.”



 

Elizabeth’s figures and prints survive her and bear witness to her particular vision. Emblematic of black dignity, of powerful maternal femininity, of a refusal to be chained down by prejudices and programmes, they cradle their children; staunchly assert their curves; stand straight-backed, defiant and admirable; reveal the hidden or overlooked complexities of the black mind and sense of self; or punch the air as a simple, stark and meaningful mark of resistance. They’re already, in their way, as direct and as intricate as jazz: something which Rufus clearly understood from the start and has strived himself to bring across in music.


 
Dates:

Elaine Mitchener Projects presents:
Vocal Classics of the Black Avant Garde: Jason Yarde + Elaine Mitchener + Mark Sanders + Neil Charles + Dante Micheaux + Byron Wallen + Alexander Hawkins
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Monday 7th January 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Guildhall Jazz Orchestra/Rufus Reid/Scott Stroman: ‘Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project’
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 8DT, England
Tuesday 29th January 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

Upcoming live events – Steve Lawson plays in Poole, Birmingham & London; the Ian Smith 50th birthday event at the Vortex

24 Jun

Gregarious loop bassist Steve Lawson has announced (at pretty short notice) three gigs in England over the coming week. As ever, they’ll be a tuneful/melodic/noisy hybrid of jazz, pop, electronic and ambient influences squeezed through Steve’s battery of sound treatments, and salted by the usual mixture of stand-up comedy, general gabby friendliness and opinionation; the last of which isn’t a word, but is a pretty good definition of what Steve does when he’s not playing, and sometimes when he is playing. At a Lawson gig you get the whole brand, and then some. You can take your family; you can take your friends; you can take a donkey whose legs are in need of a bit of honing…

Steve Lawson live

Steve Lawson + Echo Engine + others (SoundCellar @ The Blue Boar, 29 Market Close, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1NE, UK, Thursday June 25th – 8.30pm, £8.50 )

This is the one which counts as a full gig – a solo Steve Lawson set, after which he’ll be joined by the Echo Engine trio (Daniel Biro on keyboards, ) plus ex Bjork/D’Influence drummer Pascal Consoli and the ECM-inspired saxophonist Jon Lloyd. Up-to-date info is here and here, and you can reserve your ticket via email here.

Scott Pellegrom + Andy Edwards + Adam Gammage (Birmingham Dream Cymbals Day @ Glee Club, Birmingham, B5 4TD, UK – Sunday June 28th, 6.00pm – £10.00/£15.00)

This is actually a drum clinic appearance, at which Steve will be playing with drummer and regular collaborator Andy Edwards. Up-to-date info is here and tickets are here. Also performing are Adam Gammage (Baxter Dury band) and Scott Pellegrom.

Ian Smith’s 50th Birthday Event @ The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ, UK, Monday June 29th, 6.00pm – £13.20

Steve will be performing at this expansive celebratory gig for London Improvisers Orchestra founder Ian Smith – an event so substantial that it needs its own section further down this post. Steve will be playing in the 10pm slot alongside drummer Jason Cooper and guitarist Reeves Gabrels (both currently members of The Cure). Tickets here: more on the event in a moment.

As usual, Steve has plenty of other things going on, not least an appearance at The One Dayer: Independent Music, Money & Tech conference at Cecil Sharp House in London on July 1st, where (as a longstanding advocate of independent artist-run music careers) he’ll be one of the speakers. He’s also planning further collaborations with loop vocalist/beatboxer Beardyman (having previously played with him in a “dream team” improvising quartet alongside drummer Andy Gangadeen and guitar journeyman Gary Lucas), with fellow bass guitarists Divinity Roxx and Jonas Hellborg (the latter for an October tour) and with Jon Thorne’s semi-experimental Sunshine Brothers trio (for an August appearance at the Manchester Jazz Festival. If you want to read about what he did earlier in his career, here are links to the ‘Misfit City’ archive reviews of ‘And Nothing But The Bass‘, ‘Not Dancing For Chicken‘, ‘Conversations‘ and the first in the ‘Lessons Learned From An Ancient Feline‘ series, early steps on a path of explorations and musical hook-ups.

*****

And now, some more on the Ian Smith birthday event at the Vortex at the end of the month, which sees a remarkable lineup of British jazz players and other improvisers swarm into Dalston to pay tribute to one of their own living heroes. (Hopefully the timings I’ve cited here are right, as the layouts in the original postings are a little confusing…)

Ian Smith 50th Birthday Event @ The Vortex

Ian Smith’s 50th Birthday Event @ The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ, UK, Monday June 29th, 6.00pm – £13.20

Ian MacGowan (aka Smith) arrived in London in 1990 from Dublin with two phone numbers in his hand: John Stevens and Derek Bailey. Those were the only two numbers he wanted at the time, but as the months went on he got to know and play with many amazing musicians – he founded The Gathering with Maggie Nichols, and the London Improvisers Orchestra with Steve Beresford and Evan Parker. He ended up playing and recording with John and Derek, and plays with anybody who wants to start from nothing. Most of tonight’s cast are old friends; some new; all are beautifully personal voices. He’ll be playing with most of them.

In the Square, 6.00pm:
Henry Lowther, Byron Wallen – trumpets
Julian Faultless – french horn
Alan Tomlinson, Sarah Gail Brand, Ed Lucas – trombones
Oren Marshall, Dave Powell – tubas
Steve Beresford – occasional conductor

In the Vortex downstairs, 7.00pm:
Pete McPhail – alto sax
Tom Wheatley – bass
Steve Noble – drums

In the Vortex upstairs, 8.00pm
BJ Cole – pedal steel
Ansuman Biswas – percussion

In the Vortex upstairs, 9.00pm:
Rowland Sutherland – flutes
Marcio Mattos – bass

In the Vortex upstairs, 9.30pm:
Sibyl Madrigal – poetry

In the Vortex upstairs, 10.00pm:
Reeves Gabrels – guitar
Steve Lawson – bass guitar
Jason Cooper – drums

and more special guests to be confirmed.

Tickets here.

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

A jumped-up pantry boy

Same as it ever was

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Organized sounds. If you like.

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

The Weirdest Band in the World

A search for the world's weirdest music, in handy blog form

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

musicmusingsandsuch

The title says it all, I guess!

songs from so deep

Songs and sound. Guitars and stuff.

%d bloggers like this: