Cory Ferber - - Your Jazz Music Connection - - Your Jazz Music Connection Tue, 23 May 2017 21:38:27 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Seasons 01 by Sound Tribe Sector Nine Don't pass this CD up! The fourth offering from Sound Tribe Sector Nine is a musical scrapbook of the band's improvisations throughout 2001, appropriately titled "Seasons 0…
Don't pass this CD up! The fourth offering from Sound Tribe Sector Nine is a musical scrapbook of the band's improvisations throughout 2001, appropriately titled "Seasons 01." This album is a new artistic expression arranged with careful attention to create a larger composition that exists outside of the individual tracks. Tangled inside this ten-track double CD is the first official release of three songs; including two hidden treasures whose origins date back pre-1999.

Disc one is four tracks with unique history tying them to special occasions in 2001. Disc two is six tracks and climaxes with 25 minutes of continuous improvisation. It's clear the band attempted to create art that is distinctly different then their live experience, intended to be enjoyed at home, work, or play. The ambient jazz layers that dominate both discs allow it to work on multiple levels as both foreground and background music.

Sector Nine is creating genre-blending instrumental music that is hard to classify. The heart of this album is jazz, where the five musicians demonstrate an uncanny ability to listen and respond in a fluid collective conversation. An experiment in the sounds of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, this band might be the result of tossing records by Miles Davis, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, King Crimson, Kraftwerk, and Durutti Column into a blender with a pile of obscure drum-n-bass records.

A special and unique organism, Sound Tribe Sector Nine finds their legacy in the drummer Zach Velmer. Kicking out lightning fast drum patterns reminiscent of a drum machine or computer, he negotiates as a lead instrument using phrasing typical of a rhythm guitarist, rhythmic keyboardist, and even harmonic brass instruments. Throughout the album, he can be found in deep conversations showering Hunter Brown's free-form jazz guitar, and playing cat and mouse games with David Phipps lead keyboards. This is the key to understanding the genius ideas that guide this band as a living organism.

"Seasons 01" delivers crystal clear stereo soundboard recording from the band's personal archive. Excellent production resulted in a finely tuned mix that allows you to clearly hear all of the musicians. It comes professionally packaged in a stunning foldout digi-pak with an eight-page color booklet containing numerous photographs including five uniquely decorated stages. As we enter an era where bands no longer require a major record label to produce a CD, the band embraced this opportunity and put together the entire product with its extended family. "Seasons 01" is an exceptional quality album that is a worthy purchase for anyone who wants to support independent musicians.

What the liner notes don't say.

According to the liner notes, the band began experimenting with improvisations that had "the intention of playing music in harmony with nature." These thematic pieces often opened a show and set the mood for the evening's music. Other times, their existing repertoire helped them escape into an elevated space that was ripe for the next musical conversation.

Opening the first disc is "A Gift for Gaia," an improvisational piece that has never been heard again, is from the band's appearance in New Orleans in mid September. It delivers many of the sounds to be encountered throughout the album: ambient soundscapes, free-form jazz guitar and piano, smooth bass lines from David Murphy, and worldly elements from Jeffree Lerner.

Just prior to playing the High Sierra Music Festival in the summer, they played in San Francisco under the moniker Tzolkin: A Sound Tribe Expression. For this unique event, the band abandoned their comfortable repertoire and played an experimental two-set show full of improvisations. Born was a piece of music to be known as Drone. Presented here and newly titled Jebez, this mature version features an extended jazzy ending taken from the final live show of the fall tour.

As one of the three existing songs, the fifteen-plus minute version of "Ramone + Emiglio" is the centerpiece of disc one. This number made its debut at the band's inaugural Fillmore West appearance in February to open the winter tour. This song soon evolved into a powerhouse split open dance groove jam. This version from late in the year captures the songs magic with its usual mind bending double speed jam in the middle of the song.

Closing out the disc is "Satori," an improvisation on the theme of winter taken from the Holiday Run in Boulder, Co. This piece contains both free form and compositional elements where repetition meets deconstruction. Velmer brilliantly mixes a variety of 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 drum notes to construct a barrage of uniquely different phrases that interact with Brown's guitar theme. The band quickly returned to this piece, adding it to the repertoire in 2002.

Opening the second disc is "Good For Everyday," a hip-hop meets funk experiment with an engaging exchange between the keys, guitar, and percussion. Recorded in Asheville, NC, this song reflects the small college town where hippy and DJ culture meld with new age. The band has roots in the town that is located less then three hours from their hometown of Athens, GA, although today most of the members live in the Bay Area.

"Equinox" and "Kaya" are paired next, two old school gems that debuted pre-1999 but had not yet been officially released on one of their previous three releases. These hard-core fan favorites were revitalized in 2001. Giving a glimpse into their past, these highly composed songs lie in stark contrast to the band's most recent musical explorations.

Closing out the double disc is a triple threat of 25 minutes of continuous improvisation. Rolling the listener in is "Eclipse," an ambient piece with jangling drums accompanied by sounds of flutes melting off exquisite melodies on the guitar. The centerpiece is "Thread," an odyssey based on a spring theme with a growing ferocious percussive groove. You can distinctly hear Lerner's hands slapping down on the percussion as he swings around Velmer's intricate beats. The track closes in grand fashion led by Phipps large melodic chords and delicious piano runs. The disc concludes with "Breach," a calming spacey number with real world samples including whales.

By combining a musical scrapbook into a larger composition, "Seasons 01" has mass appeal for all levels of fans: those unfamiliar with their music, those loosely or casually acquainted with them, and even those hard-core fans who collect live shows. Sound Tribe Sector Nine's most mature offering to date deserves a standing ovation, and a special place in your CD collection. This double album delivers hours of enjoyment and demands repeated listening to be fully appreciated.
]]> (Cory Ferber) Ambient Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 25 Sep 2002 01:00:00 -0500
Sound Tribe Sector Nine @ High Sierra Sound Tribe Sector Nine is a pioneering 5-piece band that dives into thought provoking musical journeys with unpredictable improvisation and group interplay. While people like to put labels and categories on fresh new types of music, this bands ability to seamlessly blend Jazz, Ambient, Rock and Dance music subgenres such as Drum ‘N Bass and Organica makes them extremely hard to classify. They mix the earthy grooves of soul jazz with elements of free jazz, fusion, and even big band/swing.
Sound Tribe Sector Nine is a pioneering 5-piece band that dives into thought provoking musical journeys with unpredictable improvisation and group interplay. While people like to put labels and categories on fresh new types of music, this bands ability to seamlessly blend Jazz, Ambient, Rock and Dance music subgenres such as Drum ‘N Bass and Organica makes them extremely hard to classify. They mix the earthy grooves of soul jazz with elements of free jazz, fusion, and even big band/swing. Their songs are set in the sounds of dance and experimental art rock, with thematic overtones of ambient, techno tribal, and progressive electronic. Their jams are known to evolve into living organisms that transcend time and space.

Sector Nine closed out the first night of the High Sierra Music Festival (Quincy, CA) with a legendary performance. Within the limits of a one set show, the band delivered a well-balanced look into their current musical world. This was the perfect journey for those vaguely familiar or unacquainted with the band’s music. For those familiar with the songs, it was a brilliantly constructed set list that had us on the edge of our seats.

The main stage performance was a treat because it was an opportunity to see them outside in the middle of a fresh pine forest under a star-filled sky. There was plenty of room for everyone to gather with their friends and dance. The bands music has so many layers and nuisances that could be appreciated at new levels when heard on an arena-rock sound system. It was a vibrant feeling to see the music ripple out from the stage through the audience into nature and beyond, without the usual walls that contain us inside a club or bar.

The announcer asked for us to take a moment of silence in light of everything that had happened in the world since last year’s performance. It was a moment to reflect, meditate, and listen to the natural world around us. This refreshing moment seemed to linger on until she spoke once more, "Brothers and sisters, Sound Tribe Sector Nine." The understatement of the band’s introduction was grand.

The band opened with the experimental dance number MOON SOCKETS, one of their biggest hits from their debut album. This move a bold move because this song is often the meat of a second set show. This version began with weird science fiction effects that led to the usual fluttering cricket sounds. The stage was radiating and you could see the excitement in the band. When drummer Zach Velmer kicked in with the rolling dance beat the place exploded. The introduction was delivered with extreme confidence, and found the band skipping back and fourth between the dance beat and the funky groove of the bass.

After the songs introduction, it is an open-ended song made up of endless cycles through a similar jam, which starts with the theme delivered by guitarist Hunter Brown. This song has this interesting quality where Hunter subtlety moves the band from the theme to the jam, yet it all happens on a dime. While he took a free jazz solo on the songs theme, Keyboardist David Phipps played swirling ambient soundscapes around him. The short composed chorus section that divides the cycles of the jam then helped to build the songs intensity.

As we moved into a second jam that reversed the musical conversation, Phipps laid down a solo with a funky Seventies tone while Hunter wrapped flying rhythm chords around him. This jam got much further away from the theme. A second roaring run through the chorus led to an ambient conclusion with luscious jazzy piano and the returning cricket sounds. This was classic Nine!

The band slowed things down with AND SOME ARE ANGELS, a composed instrumental from the band’s second studio album. It’s a song that could be played scaled down acoustic on piano and percussion in a jazz nightclub setting. The happy melodies and accompanying harmonies and bring a smile to my face.

During the most improvised section of the song, Hunter played fluttering free jazz guitar while Zach showered him with a full range of rhythm chords from the drum-kit. Bassist David Murphy held it all together while Jeffree Lerner, who plays percussion and elementals, through sonic bombs over top of him. As the jam peaked and slowly broke down, Phipps came in over top of all it with jazzy free form piano.

Jeffree eventually solely accompanied him on hand percussion. It was beautiful to see the two of them distorting the theme in quite way. There was great anticipation, as one sensed in the music we were building towards the next section. As Jeffree continued on hand percussion, Zach took over with a short solo where he proceeded to deconstruct and shred the theme.

This led way to a second jam, where Hunter’s solo continued where the first one left off. As he wandered and fluttered like a butterfly through the sky, the rest of the band listened closely. They were locked in around him, and moved like a raging storm with thunder and lighting. As Hunter reached his destination, the jam peaked into a heavenly extended moment. The pursuing ambient white noise left me feeling like the sun had finally broke through the clouds.

After a long pause, Hunter played a sample from his computer that began with someone saying, "I wanna be your side kick." Making eye contact with Phipps, he then delivered the theme of the song from the computer, as Phipps played along lightly on piano. Zach then kicked in with a splattered drum effect, as the theme grew stronger on the piano.

It all came together when Murphy and Hunter began trading two distinct harmony lines. The first was a short phrased noodling sound. The second was a longer phrased soulful and uplifting sound. Zach was playing whole beats while also creating spirals of sixteenth notes placed erratically. He was constantly playing off of the multitude of textures being developed by Phipps and Jeffree, including the sounds of wind instruments.

This song revealed a tranquil feeling, like soundtrack music for time elapsed photography flying over High Sierra. We had never heard this song and later learned it is tentatively titled TODAY. Similar to other songs, this one moved through repeated cycles of the theme/jam/chorus combination. During the last cycle, Hunter began playing more free jazz guitar took over a rolling psychedelic keyboard from Phipps. This may give hint to the songs potential madness.

Out of songs lingering ashes came the opening chimes of STS9, and unrecorded high-energy dance song that is less then two years old. The first half of the song contains Phipps playing the patented crinkling tingly sounds of early Nineties acid house. Through the thick haze of a dance song arose an intense jam as Hunter picked a solo using the tone of the chimes. As he moved into a sustaining the chimes, the rest of the band swept around him with wild percussion, keyboards, flutes, and soundscapes.

STS9 is a song where the first jam flips and is inverted into the second jam. The first jam is based on the sixteenth notes of the drums and keyboards, while the second jam is based on the relaxed down tempo groove on the bass. There was great anticipation in the music as Murphy began the bass line of the second jam. Those familiar knew the first half of the song was reaching its conclusion, while those unfamiliar simply thought the song was over and segued into a second song.

The band slowed things down again with LIFE’S SWEET BREATH, a soulful song that made its debut earlier this year. This powerfully moving composed instrumental was the perfect way to inhale our natural surroundings. This song begins with the theme introduced in a duet between guitar and bass. After the entire band runs through the theme, Hunter plays a bluesy riff that is filled with emotion. It’s augmented it with the occasional sound effect and drum fill. The band then returned for a final run through the theme.

From the lingering white noise rang the huge sound of cathedral bells. For whom the bells toll, they toll FOR MY PEEPS! This hard to classify song also made its debut earlier this year. Zach began belting out a fast rhythmic beat that guides us through the entire song, as other flying stereo effects soon rose and fell, and moved from side to side across the stage. Zach incorporates a barrage of dancing high hats and cymbals that sounds like a hose spraying water. He leaves holes in various places to construct the rhythmic flow, much in the same way a hose spraying water sounds as it is moved back and fourth in a rhythmic and chaotic fashion. This was patented Zach Velmer.

Murphy played a slow and wandering bass line, while holding down the structure of the song. After finding their groove, the music took a short breath. I turned to my friend and told him things were about to get nuts! Zach had been playing with such confidence all night and everything seemed to build up to this moment.

Zach then turned the pressure in the hose on full blast, leading the jam all over the place playing in an electrifying nature. Jeffree interacted with him along the way on hand percussion and effects. When Hunter began to lay down free form jazz guitar, Zach played off him like electric rhythm guitarist sitting from his drum-kit. Phipps ambient soundscapes reach loud volumes as the jam peaked into an intensely blissful extended moment.

When Phipps moved to piano, the whole band followed and locked together in breakdown jam. Murphy soon broke off and began weaving the song’s bass line back into the mix. Slowly and seamlessly, they found they way back to the introduction portion of the song. When it was over, I was left breathless.

How can we top that off? KAMUY! This happy go lucky jazz dance song returned us to the band’s second studio album. After a number of newer songs, you could feel the warm welcome from the crowd. If this band had lyrics, the entire crowd would have been singing along. The moment seemed larger then life as the stage was lit up like a rainbow, and the energy flowed between musicians and the audience, all among mystic natural settings.

Hunter’s gorgeous guitar work continued on this number. The first jam featured him playing the theme by picking notes, while the second had him playing the same theme on fast and frolicking rhythm guitar. A very short first jam led to evolved into the second where Murphy took a delicious free-form bass solo over top.

The next jam was somewhat chaotic, as Hunter seemed unsure of where the band wanted to go. First he played rhythm, then he picked notes, and then the band went right past him. Phipps and Zach had been making eye contact across the stage, and seemed set on moving the song into the final dueling rhythm section. This was interesting because this is not an original section of the song, but something that gown and evolved out of live versions. As Jeffree began going off on hand percussion, Phipps soon spoke up, and the shouting match pursued.

Once this section was done, they moved into the final section of the song that is similar to the introduction. Hunter got to finish off what he appeared to want to say earlier, while Phipps added lounge style piano for a beautiful extended conclusion. As it appeared the reached the end, I had stopped dancing and was ready to clap. The band surprised me by running through the theme several more times, while having looks on their faces that they didn’t want it to end. This was a wonderful conclusion for the songs, and a immense way to close out the show.

Sound Tribe came back out and encored with SATORI, a composed song from their latest album titled SeasonsO1. This is another song whose mellow insanity makes its hard to classify, yet it is typical of the maturing sound of the band. This song focuses on the interaction of fast drumming with ambient soundscapes and free form keyboards. It’s all held together by the theme delivered repeatedly on guitar along with a slow grooving bass line.

The interplay between Zach, Jeffree and Phipps was magical as the song moved through its cycles of the theme/jam/chorus combination. In the final cycle, Hunter broke free and Phipps incorporated the rolling psychedelic keyboard as the drummers peaked. Hunter soon returned to the theme to move them through its final climatic ending. This revealed great anticipation, as the band appeared stuck in the groove like a broken record. For one last peak musical sentence, Zach deconstructed the theme while being accompanied by flying stereo effects. This peaked into the final chorus of the song.

When it was over, David Murphy added "Blessings and love, thank you." I was radiating and inspired in a higher state of conscious. This was a peak performance for the band where keen song selection took us on a journey as the music poured from the stage. It is the perfect show to share with others about joy of the Sound Tribe Sector Nine.

7.4.02 High Sierra Music Festival Main Stage - One Set: Moon Sockets, And Some Are Angels, Today, STS9, Life’s Sweet Breath, For My Peeps, Kamuy, E: Satori.
]]> (Cory Ferber) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:36:16 -0600
Master bassoonist Paul Hanson joins Bizar Bazaar Bizar Bazaar is the appropriately titled name of a group of Bay Area musicians getting together every Tuesday night at the Boom Boom Room. Musically, it's an open market of improvising and jamming on a variety of styles from jazz/funk to dance hall classics that are infused with the energy of rock and roll. The local ingredients in the market change each week, adding to the flavor of the show. This week's theme ingredient was the unique taste of Paul Hanson<
Bizar Bazaar is the appropriately titled name of a group of Bay Area musicians getting together every Tuesday night at the Boom Boom Room. Musically, it's an open market of improvising and jamming on a variety of styles from jazz/funk to dance hall classics that are infused with the energy of rock and roll. The local ingredients in the market change each week, adding to the flavor of the show.

This week's theme ingredient was the unique taste of Paul Hanson on Bassoon, a Bay Area musician and composer rapidly gaining international recognition. Hanson is a master bassoonist who approaches his instrument with techniques not associated with the classical instrument. One way he achieves this is by brilliantly manipulating his sound with a variety of MIDI controls. Hanson, a graduate from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, is a frequent collaborator with Bela Fleck and appears to have a similar philosophical musical approach.

Bizar Bazaar is led by event creator Michael Bizar (AJ Croce, Wayside, Citrus) on lead and rhythm guitar. Rounding out the rhythm section is Murph (Citrus, Freddy Jones Band) on bass, and Jim Richards (Soultree) on drums. Bizar's Wayside companion Josh Paxton joined them on Hammond B3 and electric piano.

In a seven song first set, the band opened with a jazzy warm up that showcased the special ingredients. Although the guests are supplied with sheet music for the songs, the shows are spontaneous without rehearsals. Hanson and Paxton both took straightforward solos in what appeared to musical introductions.

The meat of the second song focused on Hanson, who wasted no time in getting freaky and letting us know what we were all in store for the evening. Accompanied by fast flying choppy drums, Hanson used MIDI effects to turn his bassoon into a Hammond B3. Adding to the impact was his ability to phrase notes like a keyboardist. His solo was a special collective moment that brought smiles to the faces of the band and the audience.

Up next was the Medeski, Martin, and Wood composition "Where's Sly?" a song that Hanson originally wrote the horn arrangements and played on Saxamaphone. This tune was a perfect pick to showcase Paxton on Hammond B3, who delivered with a layering of sound between individual notes and sustain. Bizar then delivered a dazzling solo, his first of the night, and appeared as if he had been waiting to explode.

The fourth song of the evening electrified the place. With a funky backdrop, Hanson and Bizar teamed up for a cat and mouse game that ran through spirals that moved through a kaleidoscope. The rest of the band was with them at every step, pushing the two even further. The fireworks continued with the full collectively jamming on "Watermelon Man" and "Hang Up Your Hang Ups", both by Herbie Hancock.

The last song of the set was a frequently played Bazaar song reminiscent of Eighties style King Crimson. Murph and Richards steal a bass and drum lines out of the Tony Levin and Bill Bruford catalog. Hanson seemed to enjoy this flavor and laid down an absurd and eclectic solo on the Saxamaphone. Bizar frantically played around all of them, weaving the song together.

By set break, the crowd had begun to swell and had doubled in size since the show started. This was very encouraging for a Tuesday night. The eleven song second set began with a session of musical chairs. Wayside members Justin Hellman and Lucas Carlton joined the band on bass and drums, and immediately fed off the anticipation of the crowd. What followed was one of the most brilliant things I've ever witnessed standing 3 feet away from a musician.

A perfect choice, the first song was another frequently played number that features Bizar's delicious wah-wah guitar that sounds like Jerry Garcia ala Dancin' In The Street circa 1977. This set us up for Hanson to give us schooling in the art of MIDI, as he turned himself into a A horn section! He slowly moved from one brass instrument to the next, stepping on pedals to control the output. He had at least 5 different sounds going and would play them with and against each other. This fed into the rest of the band who were creating more and more energy. Hanson began to switch sounds more frequently as the song moved into the final climax. He then held a sustaining note and used his pedals to sound like an exploding horn section that was layering higher and higher on top of itself, until it couldn't possibly go any higher. It was a jaw dropping moment.

The next song was a Wayside original, giving Bizar an opportunity to expose us to his cohorts. The song featured an extended bass solo by Justin, who was really enjoying himself on stage. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him join the line-up as a guest one week.

Murph and Richards returned to the line-up for Jimmy Smith's "Root Down", which was a welcome and familiar number to many in the crowd. This version was slightly different then past versions because of Paxton's influence on the song playing the Hammond B3. He owned this number and took the band to new heights. Hanson followed with a short but sweet solo returning to the basic bassoon sound.

The next number brought Hanson back to the effects, playing with artificial sound I can only associate with Jerry Garcia, because he introduced me to this unique MIDI sound. For all I know it could be a pre-programmed MIDI sound that is a standard out of the box sound. Although the tone is quirky and machinery and fake, Hanson used beautiful jazz phrasing to demonstrate the contrast. I really enjoy it when people take a weird tone and treat it in a normal classic style.

The second set focused more on collective group improvisation. The set continued with classic like "The Sanford and Son Theme", "Livewire" by The Meters, "Cantaloupe Island" by Herbie Hancock, "Slow Down Sam" by Jimmy Smith, "Shank" by John Scofield, and closed out with "Mercy, Mercy, Mecry" by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. All of these songs featured spectacular interplay between the band members and frequent mathematical games of constructing and deconstruction. This kept the dance floor shaking and swaying during the entire set.

This installment of Bizar Bazaar showed a new comfort level between the musicians as the band moved closer together as a single unit. Although the song selection is similar each week, the approach and resulting sound is always different. It was an interesting perspective to hear these songs with Paul Hanson on bassoon. Bizar Bazaar has become a great way to get exposure to the special ingredients taste, while witnessing how they can blend the flavor of their own world into the Bazaar world.

Word on the street seems to be getting out about Tuesday nights at the historical Boom Boom Room. The blossoming jam scene in San Francisco finally has a weekly home where everyone can come together for a unique but reliable night of improvised and jammed out music. More people have been coming out each week to get their groove on. It's nice to see many familiar faces in the audience, including other local musicians, all supporting the scene and having a positive uplifting experience.

]]> (Cory Ferber) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:36:16 -0600
Josh Roseman Unit freaks out Northern California! Josh Roseman Unit (JRU) spread their freaky vibes across Northern California, spawning gushing reviews across many local Bay Area mailing lists. While most had never heard the band, they went on to proclaim the show ranked among their musical highlights for the first half of the year. A JRU show is fresh and exciting as they surf interesting worlds of rhythm and texture collided with a blend of musical genres such as acid-jazz, straight jazz, jazz-funk, reggae, jungle house, and electroni
Josh Roseman Unit (JRU) spread their freaky vibes across Northern California, spawning gushing reviews across many local Bay Area mailing lists. While most had never heard the band, they went on to proclaim the show ranked among their musical highlights for the first half of the year. A JRU show is fresh and exciting as they surf interesting worlds of rhythm and texture collided with a blend of musical genres such as acid-jazz, straight jazz, jazz-funk, reggae, jungle house, and electronica. Alan Morris described them as freaky jazz, adding "It's music that's cerebral, yet danceable."

Regardless of style, the rest of the band would slowly lay down the groove in each song, and then a solo would be taken over top of that. Sometime it made perfect sense while other times it left you confused and made you think about what they were trying to accomplish. Within the rhythm section itself, their was magnificent jams and on going musical conversation. The entire evening had overtones of the Bitches Brew (Miles Davis) and The Grand Wazoo (Frank Zappa) era.

Most of the evening centered around Josh Roseman on trombone, playing against the rhythm section. His ability to weave through them created a magnificent bond between the two elements in the music. At times, it was a beautiful clash. When the rhythm section pulled out their freakiness, Josh might counter that with a big band style. And when they rhythm section played sit down dinner club jazz, Josh might pull out pure freakiness.

After the Henflings show (5.17), Larry Narachi wrote, "This guy is such a pro with an unmistakable warm, round and strong clean trombone sound." He went on to explain, "Josh is really strong and his articulation was spot on - not one note sounded bad, even the double tongued upper register notes, which usually sound like 'a slide trombone' - he made it all sing. Plus he had this attitude of confidence and taking the music seriously that sort of demanded."

At the Elbo Room (5/11), the rhythm section featured East Bay native Deszon X Claiborne (Groove Collective) on drums, Barney McAll (Groove Collective) on keyboards, and Patrice Blanchard, from Martinique, on bass. The West Coast run also featured Bay Area super star Will Bernard (Motherbug) on rhythm and lead guitar.

This show was the type of show you knew was going to be big as they slowly took their time with the introduction section of the first song, like they were preparing for lift off. Will Bernard took solo’s pitted against the rhythm section, while other times being apart of the rhythm section. Bernard did an excellent job of metamorphosing into his surroundings when playing rhythm. It was very entertaining in his choices of how to blend in with the band.

At the Boom Boom Room (5/15), the band played one set on a nice double bill with Bitches Brew, a local Miles Davis inspired band. This show also featured hometown boy Peter Apfelbaum (Trey Anastasio Band, The Hieroglyphics Ensemble) on saxophone, flute, and keyboard. Peter blended perfectly with the band, playing mainly note-for-note in fast style. He took a few solos where he constantly noodled to make up a greater melody and theme, similar to how one would play different parts on the piano with your left and right hand. His solos went to there and back, leaving everyone in the audience breathless. When Apfelbaum was not fighting the rhythm section, he joined them by playing keyboards and adding to the greater collective.

Will Bernard had another extraordinary night at the Boom Boom Room. He took a monumental solo on slide guitar that brought the house down. He worked the theme back and fourth really showcasing his ability to take a solo on a theme and slowly rip it apart. Bernard always has something interesting to say, and uses multiple styles to get across his feelings and emotions.

The Henflings and Starry Plough (5/16) shows also featured Bay Area native Scott Amendola on drums. Narachi described one song at Heflings, "It was a trance-like bass and drums groove - somewhat sparse with soundscapes layered over and over to make an infectious sensual groove...then Will Bernard slinged a killer solo just to add to the Stew."

The JRU rhythm section worked as a unit to collectively improvise on both composed and free form songs. They were locked together all night long, and showed many overtones of the current electronica meets jam scene. Claiborne was magnificent, holding down the rhythm and often playing eighths and sixteenths. McAll was melodic and added to the feel of the music with distorted piano sounds and sample. Other times he would just pound away in a fast rhythmic fashion. Patrice was smooth and deep as he floated through the songs. At times, he pulled out a vibrating sound reminiscent of Chicago deep house.

JRU did some interesting covers as well. Timothy Lynch reported after the Starry Plough, "Lots of improvisation, more than a little Bitches Brew era flavor, and even a deconstructed Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach tune or two." Narachi also commented after Henflings, "We got a Nirvana cover of Smells like Teen Spirit with a Sun Ra-esque musical interpretation. But the guitar, bass and drums rocked as hard as you needed to pull that tune off."

The reviews are in all and the verdict is multiple thumbs up. Josh Roseman Unit is one of the brightest young acts out there today, pushing the boundaries of music in a focused and thoughtful manner. They took chances and kept things interesting, while also making sure they didn’t lose their audience along the way. If this is your brand of wackiness, be sure to check them out when they come to your town.

The JRU has released an album titled Cherry, featuring the late Lester Bowie on Trumpet, John Medeski on keyboards, Dave Fiuczynski on guitar, Bob Stewart covering the low end, and Joey Baron on drums. Roseman is also a frequent guest with Soulive, and played as a member of the Soulive Horns on their most recent 3-act tour.

JRU played the following NorCal dates:
May 10th - Fairfax - 19 Broadway
May 11th - San Francisco - Elbo Room
May 15th - San Francisco - Boom Boom Room
May 16th - Berkeley - Starry Plough
May 17th - Ben Lemond/Santa Cruz- Henflings
May 18th - San Jose-Agenda

]]> (Cory Ferber) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:36:16 -0600
Bizar Bazaar electrify the Boom Boom Room Bizar Bazaar is a super group of Bay Area musicians joining forces for a month long project reinterpreting funk/jazz/soul dance hall classics. Every Tuesday night, they come together at the historical Boom Boom Room, San Francisco’s blossoming home base for the area's funk, jazz, and jam scene. Event creator and guitar wizard Michael Bizar (AJ Croce, Wayside, Citrus) is joined by Simon Rochester (!Tang, Tangria) on electric piano and Hammond B3, Murph (Citrus, Freddy Jones Band) on
Bizar Bazaar is a super group of Bay Area musicians joining forces for a month long project reinterpreting funk/jazz/soul dance hall classics. Every Tuesday night, they come together at the historical Boom Boom Room, San Francisco’s blossoming home base for the area's funk, jazz, and jam scene. Event creator and guitar wizard Michael Bizar (AJ Croce, Wayside, Citrus) is joined by Simon Rochester (!Tang, Tangria) on electric piano and Hammond B3, Murph (Citrus, Freddy Jones Band) on bass, and Jim Richards (Soultree) on drums. This weeks spotlighted local special guest musician was Will Bernard (Motherbug, TJ Kirk) on guitar.

Bizar Bazaar is steeped in interlocking rhythms where each song felt like a fractal set with its own clearly distinguishable image. While there are boundaries and limits to the structure, there are endless possibilities in color, focus, and speed. Their jams feature a soloist working against the other four musicians. The soloist wanders around the fractal, digging deeper and deeper, finally turning around to fight their way back out. Smooth bass lines and steady drumming are in constant collaboration with the two non-soloing musicians to deconstruct themes while keeping the fractal together.

A small but growing crowd finally hit the dance floor when they broke into Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island. Bernard took the first solo improvising in a relaxed note-to-note jazz style, uniquely working around the starts and stops of the composed section of the song behind him. This contrasted magnificently to Bizar’s follow-up solo that was wailing guitar rock intermixed with ferocious rhythm that pumped up the energy in the place.

The musical highlight of the night may have been the tripped out rendition of John Scofield’s Kool. The interaction of all five musicians on this song could be described as a spiral graph, the toy you had as a kid where you put different color colored pens inside a stencil that then spun around the inside of a circle. Bernard’s playing was extremely spacey with a rubber band phrasing that added beautifully to the greater collective. It was magnificent, inspirational, and triumphant.

The zany Sanford and Son Theme Song was one of the most memorable moments of the night. Elizabeth would have been proud of the way they turned this one into an extended dance number reminiscent of late seventies Grateful Dead. Towards the end the jam, Murp started to slowly weave the bass line from the theme song back into the mix in an elongated time sequence. Meanwhile, Bizar took an electrifying solo that took on a life of its own.

Bizar’s guitar wizardry is a sight to be seen and heard. His solos are active and energetic, incorporating together elements of progressive, psychedelic, surf, jazz, and rock to create something completely new and refreshing. This talented musician shined all night long, appearing confident and comfortable with the rest of the band. He consistently hit those elevating moments that had the crowd cheering.

As the special guest, Bernard was an integral part of the music. One of the hottest moments was a monster solo reminiscent of Frank Zappa. Bernard’s solo was an emotional exploration through a thematic mood. He showed no regard for time signature and was completely removed from the underlying music. He intentionally was in the middle of his phrasing every time the rest of the band hit their one. At one point, he had both hands on the base of the guitar and was attacking and tearing at it.

Other highlights of the evening included solid versions of Jimmy Smith’s Root Down, Hancock’s Spank-A-Lee, the Meters Live Wire, and Scofield’s Chank. The band has gelled together well and was having a lot of fun. There was a good turn out and nice vibe at the Boom Boom Room for a usually sleepy Tuesday evening.

Bizar Bazaar is something special for both musicians and audience. The next installment is with the uniquely amazing Paul Hanson (Wayne Shorter, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones) on bassoon and midi effects.

]]> (Cory Ferber) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:36:16 -0600
Back To The Bridge Featuring Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone) Bill Frisell (guitar) Brian Blade (drums) Larry Grenadier (standup bass) I’m a guy who makes things up as I go along so nothing is ever going to be finished There are so many different ways to approach a piece of music in my mind That’s why you always have to practice. If you’re not practicing, you’re not going to be there when the revelation comes. - Sonny Rollins Back to ‘The Bridge’ at the Herbst Theater was an all-sta
Featuring Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone)
Bill Frisell (guitar)
Brian Blade (drums)
Larry Grenadier (standup bass)

I’m a guy who makes things up as I go along so nothing is ever going to be finished There are so many different ways to approach a piece of music in my mind That’s why you always have to practice. If you’re not practicing, you’re not going to be there when the revelation comes. - Sonny Rollins

Back to ‘The Bridge’ at the Herbst Theater was an all-star ensemble recreating Sonny Rollins historic 1962 album. This year’s SF Jazz Spring Season was a tribute to the master himself, and included a number of other shows devoted to a wide range of Rollins material.

The Bridge is a landmark recording and among the most important jazz albums of all time. Just prior to releasing The Bridge, at the height of his career and popularity, Rollins took a 3-year sabbatical from playing live gigs and studio recordings. In that time he practiced and explored music throughout the streets of New York including under the Williamsburg Bridge. This became the reference to the albums title.

According to the SFJazz Program guide, this is "the finest example of collaborative improvisation in jazz history." What sets this album apart from jazz albums in the past is the idea that we now know of as jamming on a theme. Instead of long intense wandering solos with wicked variation, Rollins took simple melodies and repeated them over and over again with variations. Compositionally, this album also introduces the idea of mixing composition with improvisation. The improvised sections lead into short composed parts that push the song to the next section or the next solo. These compositional sections are also improvised or demented. These ideas are so pervasive in jam bands today, and in bands of the past like Phish, Frank Zappa, and the Grateful Dead.

I’ve owned The Bridge for years now and was very familiar with the album, so when I first heard about this concert I was thrilled. The cherry on top was of course having Bill Frisell sit in as the guitarist, a perfect choice. Jim Hall’s original guitar playing is a large part of The Bridge and prominent from the beginning. The guitar acts as the bridge between the rhythm section and Rollin’s lead, with the ability to change the music from a balance 2 versus 2 to an unbalanced 3 versus 1. I think is interesting to think about this album being released in 1962, somewhere between Chuck Berry and The Beatles. You can start to see where jazz begins to meet rock and roll. Many of the late 60’s bands were jazz fans, and Sonny Rollins had just rewritten jazz. They took this back to their own music and it really changed everything.

The morning of the show, I decided I needed to become even closer to The Bridge. I listened to the album three more times, deconstructing exactly where solos were and the time signature of songs, etc. The liner notes included with the disc were invaluable help explaining the compositional make up of songs and what makes some aspects unique. I never fully understood how important this album really is until that morning. Teaching people how to improvise is such an abstract concept to think about and it’s hard to explain.

I attendee the matinee was lucky enough to score 5th row seats. There were two performances of The Bridge, a general admission matinee show, and a higher priced reserved seating evening show. The matinee also allowed children and was to feature a question and answer period following the show.

The Herbst Theater is a beautiful old chamber music hall. The plush red carpets, red seats, and soft blue and green pastel wall murals are very inviting. There are large brick facades that look very colonial. The ceiling has wonderful chandeliers, and exquisite gold trim detailing along the ceiling. The stage has layers of huge elegant curtains with tassels. It is truly a wonderful place to see a show in San Francisco.

The line-up for Back To The Bridge featured Joshua Redman on tenor saxophone, Bill Frisell on guitar, Brian Blade on drums, and Larry Grenadier on bass. The band came out and started out the afternoon with a song that did not make The Bridge. It started out nice and slow with first just drums, then adding the bass, then the guitar, and finally the saxophone. Redman took a really nice solo with the rest of the band backing him up. He came out of the gate with something to say. This was the first time I ever heard Redman and was immediately impressed. His voice is so smooth and silky. This led into a Frisell solo with Redman taking a break on the sideline. Frisell looked to be having fun but also a little nervous. He didn’t appear to have much to say, and it felt more like a sound check for him. The song clocked in around 7 minutes. After the song Redman, introduced the song and explained it was part of the session materials for The Bridge but it did not make the final cut.

The second song of the evening was the beginning of The Bridge. The opening track, "Without A Song", hits the tracks running with the full band starting together running through a piece of composed music. From the beginning, the seamless blend of composition and improvisation can be heard on this track. Part of the actual composition is short space left for improvised lines from the musicians. That is such a brilliant simple idea, and one to ponder for a long time! It allows another musicians to play the cover song while at the same time allowing them to improvise in their own way. At the same time, it also allows one musician to re-explore a musical space again and again in different ways.

This song moves through many sections while keeping a constant grooving beat. During the opening compositional section, Redman and Frisell added their unique lines back and forth anchored by a more sturdy drums and bass. Redman took a rather lengthy solo that was very nice. Its sounded like Redman, not Rollins. This led into a bass solo backed by Blade on drums and Frisell. Redman eventually hoped back in and a full band improvisation began exploring the theme of the song.

The theme jam then led back into the compositional section that opened the song. This time, the lines traded by Redman and Frisell were far more fierce and demented, influenced by the middle of the song. This ended right into a short Frisell solo that seemed a little out of place. It was only for a few measures though, before Redman bounced back in and started interacting with what he was playing. Wow! Frisell was simply laying the groundwork for their improvisation over a controlled number of measures, not actually taking a solo. It was another one of those moments where I realized the sure genius of Rollins. They took this theme into a grand ending with Redman eventually blaring over top of Frisell. This song clocked in around 10 minutes while the original is 7:23.

"Where Are You" was up next, a light and airy song. This is a stark contrast to the opening track because it is mainly an unstructured improvised work. While the album begins with a Rollins solo, this version started out with Frisell taking a solo. It was nice to see them changing things up a bit. His solo was delicate and fragile, brimming with familiar chords mixed with short spurts of rhythm. It was typical Frisell, not Jim Hall. His solo lasted over 2 minutes with only light drums being laid down by Blade. The full band then entered onto his solo and the music shifted to a Redman solo with Frisell backing him up as well. I think what actually happens here compositionally is that Redman continues the same theme of the solo that Frisell was taking and it to appear as a seamless blend. There is no bridge or composition widget bridging these 2 solos.

Redman’s solo was followed by another Frisell solo with Redman on the sidelines. To finish up, the song entered in a short little full band jam that exploded. Redman finished the song by himself through on measure playing a beautiful spiraling line Redman that just seemed to linger as the song ended. This song clocked in around 8 minutes while the original is 5:05.

Redman introduced the next track by saying it sounded quirky to him. Quirky is good in my book. It’s hard to imagine "John S." was written 40 years ago because it stills sounds so fresh. It could be easily mistaken for something out of the Garage A Tois, Charlie Hunter, or Galactic songbook. At the same time, you can see the structural influence in this song that has even set the foundation for much of the way King Crimson improvises. You really need to hear it to fully understand it. This is my favorite song on the album and the live version did not disappoint.

"John S."started out with a compositional section where all four-band members were locked together as a unit. It’s a somewhat lengthy introduction that is repeated again at the end of the song, acting as bookends for the madness in-between. According to the liner notes, this song consists of choruses that are 34-bars long. They go on to say "Sonny’s marvelously built solo, growing out of a simple repeated declamation, is one of the finest examples of long line improvisation in which ensemble interaction is the key to success, both as a musical excitement and musical form." Another interesting thought to ponder.

The main section of the song features a rolling drum beat that is upbeat and military in sound. Redman led the band through a fast paced jam to open the song. This was extremely tight and demonstrated their intense listening abilities even though the band was an all-star ensemble. This led into a Frisell solo, again without Redman, and only the drums and base.

Brian Blade was going off on drums and at one point knocked over his cymbal! Redman went over and took a few minutes to fix it. This got a nice cheer from the crowd, as the band simply did not miss a beat. Frisell then dropped out and left just the drums and bass. Blade really began to demonstrate his ability here as he interacted with the bass solo, rather then simply supporting it. The bass then dropped out leaving just Blade, who began using every part of the drum like the rim and the sides, and using both ends of the sticks. Blade is young and talented musician. It was inspiring to watch him throughout the whole show always interacting with the other musicians rather then simply keeping the beat.

Blade’s solo led back into the ending of the song, a composed jam where they constantly pass the theme around between the 4 of them. First Frisell played a measure, then just the drums, then Grenadier played a measure, then just the drums, then Redman played a measure, then just the drums, then the full band played a measure together which was rather chaotic and at full tilt. The end of the measure jumps right back into the composed section that started the song, a quirky cut between sections that leaves you gasping for air. The feeling I had while this was going on was so close to something Phish or The Beatles do that it was an intense feeling. A flood of song memories that use that same technique came back to me. This is another song that shows a powerful mix of improvisation with composition. This song clocked in around 10 minutes while the original is 7:36.

After the song, Redman commented, "Funny tune, you weren’t clapping along." Next, they jumped out of order to play track number 5, skipping over the title track. "God Bless The Child" is an instrumental version of a classic Billie Holiday song. This version was beautiful. This song presented an interesting twist of covering a covering song. While playing this song, the musicians must be moved and inspired by both versions, something I never thought about until sitting there that afternoon.

The song started with Larry Grenadier’s bass solo. He was played a stand up bass the entire show. Light brushes on the drums slowly joined him. Redman took the first solo followed by Frisell. Towards the end of Frisell’s solo, Redman led the band through a composed section with wonderful harmonies that I believe is the chorus of the song. I have to admit I’ve never heard the original version. This song clocked in around 8 minutes while the original is 7:24.

Not surprisingly, the show closed with "The Bridge". This meant they were not playing track 6, "You Do Something For Me", which is a rather mellow song and one that I didn’t miss. Closing with the title track was perfect, and made me wonder why it doesn’t close the original album. Redman introduced by the number by saying it was "a crazy song and they decided to take the liberty and make it crazier." That’s an introduction that makes me smile.

The song began all 4-band members playing chaotic space. They played with each other and then against again each other, in parallel and then in-between, tugging and pulling, with tension and release. Once again, this little simple section sounded so pervasive to almost everything we here in jam music today.

Two composed lines of spiraling downward notes mark this song. According to the liner notes this song in constructed of "one alternate 6/8 passages with 4/4s; the other is straight 4/4." Since I listened to album all morning I found myself humming and jamming on this song in my head the entire way down to the Herbst Theater. I started to really think about what that structure means. It’s a fun little structure to jam on and the constant inversion seems to aid in having fun while improvising. The ability to play half notes before the beat and then invert it after the beat adds a constant rhythmic texture that adds dimension to the main beat. It reminds me very much of Jay Lane and Les Claypool’s interaction in Frog Brigade.

"The Bridge" is fast and upbeat. At the same time, there is a measure that keeps coming back where the band breaks into half speed. At first, these breaks are close to the theme and very controlled in distant. Eventually, they become more demented and take on their own flavor like a short reggae interlude. Imagine hearing reggae beat on a jazz album from 1962. This technique is something Phish, moe., and SCI do frequently in their own songs. The half speed breaks usually then leads into jams that slowly built back to full speed. Although "The Bridge" does not build up in the same fashion, the constant movement between speeds, and the blurring of the lines of which musician is playing at which speed is the same basic philosophy.

Blade was the foundation of the songs ability to move back and fourth between full and half speed. Redman’s first solo was breathtaking as he really let it all out. The beginning of his solo ran right over the rhythm structure moving back and fourth between speeds. At first he would slow down to match it but soon the music was pouring out of him and he just briefly touched them and eventually just ignoring them. It was so Phishy that it scares me. Like a cat and mouse game, Redman would follow them down the hole, sometime just a step behind while other times a few more steps behind. The finale of this song was magnificent. It clocked in around 8 minutes while the original is 5:35.

During the song I noticed he would drop out for a few notes and then come back, making good use of empty space. They was he interacted with the band here reminded me of the way Zach from Sector 9 plays drums. The music came across as rhythmic and unpredictably bouncy, where the dropped notes and where they are dropped began to say as much as notes being played. This is a phrasing technique is often used by Zach, and I never equated it to a wind instrument rather then drums.

The entire concert was only about an hour, but I feel honored to have been able to witness history. I understand they played a few more songs in the evening concert. I was very impressed with all of the musicians, and will certainly seek out the next Joshua Redman show in the Bay Area. His style is clearly influence by being a 33 year old Berkeley native. It’s an abstract idea but you can feel it in the way he plays.

After the show, we learned a few things about the performance. Although they had all been familiar with the albums for years, they only learned to play the album last week. They had one rehearsal the day before and this show was only the second time they had played the material together. That is a rather impressive testament to the strength of "The Bridge" as an improvisational masterpiece that set the groundwork for all future generations.

]]> (Cory Ferber) Concert Reviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:36:14 -0600