Keith Jarrett - piano, soprano saxophone, tambourine, Dewey Redman - tenor saxophone, musette, maracas, Charlie Haden - bass, Paul Motian - drums, percussion, Danny Johnson - percussion
As I was thinking about music that I could write about for this segment, it seemed fitting with Charlie Haden’s recent passing to bring attention again to this phenomenal record. I remember the time when I first became acquainted with this band, Keith Jarret is such a established figure in music that it’s actually kind of easy to take him for granted. But it was through records like this one that I was reminded at the time how heavy he is. And this band! The adjective that I would categorize them with is mercurial. On sound alone these guys can give any music an immediate character, it seems (at least to me) that it’s coming from something bigger than just human beings, everything here sparks and it’s filled with such optimism, it’s beautiful and ugly at the same time, it has all the things that most people love about jazz and also the things that most people hate too! I love the profound simplicity of Keith’s writing and his downright absurd piano playing, Dewey Redman’s ability to play a melody and make it sound like nothing else matters in the universe and Charlie and Paul just being one of the most perfect teams ever, playing the most amazing time or completely letting go of it. I even love the fact that Danny Johnson was presumably just a guy who they let sit in on triangle, at the Village Vanguard!! What?? Crazy. Always recommend this record blindly to anyone who asks.
Muhal Richard Abrams - piano, clarinet, Anthony Braxton - alto saxophone, Maurice McIntyre - tenor saxophone, Leroy Jenkins - violin, Gordon Emmanuel - vibraphone, Charles Clark - bass, Leonard Jones - bass, Thurman Barker - drums, Penelope Taylor - vocals, David Moore - poet
I just got this record, I’m working my way through the AACM discography with the aid of George Lewis' astounding book “A Power Stronger Than Itself”, an extremely informative document for anyone interested in learning more about the avant-garde in the US but also a profound look at the social and racial issues that creative black american musicians faced and continue to face in this culture, definitely giving me a lot of perspective on a number of things I hadn’t considered before.
“My thoughts are my future - now and forever” It is pretty clear, these guys, more than just making music were defining themselves and pushing forward to create an environment in which they could be so much more than what it was expected from them during that time in history. This music reflects that, the compositions are about the arc of what happens in the music. PACING!! Huge factor here, there are very unsettling moments when there’s almost nothing happening and then when the s^$% finally hits the fan you find yourself at the center of a black hole of density. This is just a spectacular document, an excellent entry point for the AACM as it is THE entry point, right at the beginning when Muhal founded and lead the association.
I decided to write about this because I was playing it today for a friend. There’s this thing this guy has that I find hard to describe, obviously he is an insanely talented singer/songwriter and musician (he sings and plays everything here). But it is this absolute hipness that’s perfectly in balance with elements in the music/lyrics that you can find almost dull (or cheesy if you will). Like, every single song on this record is a love song (the word “baby” is used excessively here), or certain aesthetic choices remind me of things that you could hear more mainstream 90’s R&B groups like Boyz II Men or Take 6 do, but then he kind of filters it through this stranger use of sounds, odd forms, melody, counterpoint and harmony that in a way is not mainstream at all. I love this record from top to bottom, have a listen!
This record is by my dear friend José Ignacio Benitez from Venezuela. José (or Jonacho as most of us call him back home) is one of the hidden treasures of the underground music scene in Caracas. As with the Lewis Taylor case here's a guy who makes records by himself, I've been there, he does it at his home with an old PC (yes, a PC) using the most archaic resources at times, he is an artist who doesn't have any lofty ambitions, his only goal is to continue making music in any way he can. A diligent researcher who knows about an enormous amount of music of all kinds, reflected in his clever arrangements that reference any number of things and go to many unexpected places, I always love to listen to his records because when I played in his band we played some of this music but with dramatically different arrangements. And as much respect I have for him as a musician his abilities as a lyricist are the thing that just completely blow me away! a truly virtuosic use of the spanish language, his songs are poems that with profound abstraction and flair talk about many universal realities while keeping true to many of the characteristic elements of Venezuelan idiosyncrasy (He has an encyclopedic knowledge of poetry and literature). Just really beautiful stuff from someone who’s also a beautiful human being. This record is only one of 11 he’s mande! and he already has 4 more that he’s about to release any time soon, so if you like it stay tuned!
Juanma Trujillo is a guitarist, composer, and improvisor and is a relative newcomer to New York City. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Juanma studied music intently with Maria Eugenia Atilano and Gonzalo Mico. He moved to Los Angeles, CA after becoming well established in Caracas, and has since toured throughout the United States and Europe. His music is ever encompassing, diverse, yet wholly original and engrossing.