People, Places & Things makes a rare trip out west to play a couple shows:
Friday May 17 @ the Center for New Music In San Francisco
With the Darren Johnston Ensemble
55 Taylor Street, SF
Saturday May 18 @ The Penofin Jazz Festival 20th Anniversary
1820 West Road Potter Valley, CA
This week my new record Clean on the Corner (482 Music), featuring my band People, Places & Things, was released. We play a release show this Sunday at The Hungry Brain in Chicago.
Unfortunately due to incidents beyond my control our upcoming shows in Europe had to be cancelled (insert sad face here).
Thanks for those who tried to make it happen! I hope to make it up to you in the future. UPDATE: We're making our plans to be back in Europe in the fall of 2012! Stay tuned for concert updates.
After some thinking and discussions with collaborator Jason Adasiewicz I came up with the notion of forming a large group to perform this project AND to specifically enlist his talents to accomplish the task. The first step in the process was to completely dismiss the idea of commenting or honoring Sun Ra. Neither one of us are fanatics and there's not much more anyone is going to add to the discussion of the man and the legend. The more interesting idea was of creating new music using someone's un-finished, un-wanted and abandoned material. In my mind it doesn't matter who's tapes these are, it's just source material , in this case it happens to be Sun Ra.
The aggregation of musicians was another selling point since this project, and it's debut performance at the Chicago Jazz Fest, would give me the ability and excuse to convene these members.
Greg Ward – alto sax
Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet
Ingrid Laubrock – tenor sax
Tomeka Reid – cello
Mary Halvorson – guitar
Jason Adasiewicz – vibes, arrangements
Nick Butcher – electronics
Tomas Fujiwara – drums
Mike Reed – drums, electronics
The band is basically comprised of a long time group of mine, Loose Assembly, and a collection of New York based peers that have a similar artistic and career trajectories. This was an important feature not only to further musical relationships but to showcase a stylistic and generational density that exists beyond the confines of our locales and beyond the minds of those who measure one against the other.
This project was possible with the support of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.
The Village Voice Top 50 Jazz Records for 2010
Stories and Negotiations #29
Sun Rooms #39
New York Times Albums of The Year by Ben Ratliff
New York Times Top Songs of The Year by Ben Ratliff
NPR Music Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2010 by Patrick Jarenwattananon
In January of 2001 Josh Berman and myself began the Sunday Transmission series at the Hungry Brain. Since then we've presented different Jazz and Improvised Music every week and combined our efforts into the Umbrella Music group, which programs different concert around Chicago each week. After many late night discussions about how to celebrate the 10 year anniversary we came up with an idea to make the festivities last an entire year. Starting on January 9th, 2011 we will showcase a special “best of” night along the regular weeks of programming. We also hope to record each show and release a limited edition compilation recording along with a hand made book and possible video.
Here's a list of some confirmed shows that will be part of the anniversary program.
January 9 AGOGIC featuring Andrew D'Angelo and Coung Vu
On November 20 my group Loose Assembly will do its' first performance in over a year. The last show was part of the 2009 Umbrella Music festival and featured special guest Roscoe Mitchell. That concert was recorded and released on 482 Music last week and this upcoming show will act as a CD release for that album Empathetic Parts. Although, most CD release concerts showcase the material from the recording I believe we'll take this opportunity to try some new stuff as well. The program has not been completely set, but the creative faucet is open and it will be unique to the event and possibly a new recording in the making. The free concert itself will be on the Pritzker stage at Millennium Park, but don't worry the show IS NOT OUTDOORS. The fantastically designed band shell allows for a large window to drop down and the entire performance and audience will be encapsulated on the stage itself.
Show at 4pm doors at 3pm. FREE!
In other news, People, Places & Things has finished the record we started working on 3 weeks ago. I'm especially happy with the tune I wrote while on the road in funky hotel rooms. The entire band contributed to the arrangement with guest Josh Berman on cornet. The new piece, entitled House of Three Smiles, is derived from the solo Jason Adasiewicz takes on his tune I Hope She is Awake. His tune was of course to his love and wife Val, but gained a second meaning when they produced a beautiful daughter – Isabella Rose. He would soon introduce the tune with this new angle as well. As an envious admirer of these close friends and adopted family I thought of how to make the tune my own and remembered the poem by W.S. Merwin – Song of Three Smiles. This recreation has its' own personal value which can be more fully understood by reading the poem. Thanks to Mike Stevens for introducing me to Merwin and to Isabella for letting me know that a good banana can make everything better. You can check out the new tune here.
Over the last few weeks I've done a good handful of interviews mostly due to the tour that People, Places & Things just concluded. Although it's nice to get some attention to help promote the shows it becomes tiresome answering the same questions. It makes me wonder how much homework the interviewer did in preparation. Most, if not all, of the answers to the questions are already out there in interviews and reviews of the People, Places & Things recordings released since 2008. The question that seems particularly bothersome is some version of
“what made you want to re-investigate the music of Chicago circa 1954-60?”
My first thought is to just say “read the fucking liner notes!” or take a look on the web at some of the material that's already out there. Of course I'm not that crass, and do my best to explain the idea...again.
Something occurred to me after one of these interviews which seems to answer a deeper meaning to the question. If we're really doing our best as creative people we are essentially saying something about right now despite the source material. A great interpretation of a Jazz standard can only be accomplished when the artist makes the piece their own. My attempts with People, Places & Things' first three recordings are also commenting on recognition right now.
At best it is an attempt to get people, especially critics and musicians, to look at all that is happening and possible outside of the world of New York – in other communities especially their own. The cultural capital that does or could exist in other places is essential to this observation so that these moments and places don't wither. It is the building blocks for communities, artists and the infrastructures that surround them. More specifically for me it is important that another moment in Chicago is not under recognized or under represented. Of course this applies to more than Chicago and more than the Jazz and improvised music world, but all aesthetic movements. As this tour came to an end I am more convinced that the Bostons, Detroits, D.Cs of the world have lost the ability to sustain a scene because of a myopic sense of what and where the music is most valued. For those of us who venture out to these places it is important that the community of fans, artists and documentors are healthy and vibrant. If not it makes what we do more difficult and maybe even slightly pointless. This will only be possible when all of those entities recognize the value in itself and in the possibilities for other people, places & things. I was highly impressed by the scene surrounding the Clown Lounge in St. Paul, which seems to have their own valued scene and a commitment to itself. Thanks to J.T. Bates for hosting us and all of the folks up there that are a great model of what is possible.
NEXT: A live recording of a piece entitled Empathetic Parts will be released on 482 Music on October 20th.
Recorded live at the 2009 Umbrella Music Festival, it features Roscoe Mitchell as special guest as well as a composition by the great drummer Steve McCall – I'll Be Right Here Waiting – originally on the record Air Time (Threadgill, Hopkins, McCall).
I'm also very happy and proud of my colleague and friend, cornetist Josh Berman who had a very nice feature in a recent issue of Downbeat (We've come along way since the Diversey Days!).
Things I'm listening to:
Clifford Jordan (left) and John Neely (right) at a South Side recreation center, around 1949
That being said, I'm still in the midst of this “dissertation” with the recent release of About Us (482 Music) and the forthcoming third record in the series, Stories and Negotiations, bringing three ubiquitous members of Chicago in the 50's into the fold (due out in April on 482 Music).
In the process I've taken to daily reading from the extensive website The Red Saunders Research Foundation. Although named after the noted drummer/bandleader, the site is an extensive data base of a forgotten time period in Chicago music:
"Since 1997, the Red Saunders Research Foundation has been dedicated to increasing our knowledge of the musicians who filled the clubs and recording studios of Chicago with great music during the two decades after World War II.
Some musicians from Chicago were appreciated by the fans early on, like Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin--yet their full worth only gradually become apparent to jazz critics over the years. Others were not widely appreciated until much later in their careers, like John Gilmore, Clifford Jordan, Norman Simmons, or Muhal Richard Abrams. Far too many others have been forgotten."
It has proven to be an invaluable asset to me in not only learning about venues, musicians and labels, but also giving leads and depictions of the state of the music industry. From the usage of ads placed in newspapers such as the Chicago defender or the records acquired through the musicians Union, the website does more than keep a history of music, but rather points to the social/cultural development in a time period of one of America's great cities.
To hear how People, Places & Things have worked to make the music of this time period our own check out these streams:
Stories & Negotiations