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Berkeley Arts

2133 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

November 4, 2012



This was a Goldberg show entitled ‘Come Back Elliot Smith” – all the music written for Mr. Smith or inspired by his music. I don’t know anyone in the band except for Ewell, a very good bassist I’ve seen in the past, and Wiley, who I’ve seen a couple of times as an alto sax player (which I like), and I’ve heard that he’s playing a lot of drums these days, but this was my 1st chance to hear him do so. It was a double bill thing, so I stuck around to hear Positive Knowledge just for the heck of it – but more on that later.

Berkeley Arts – was just there last night for the Tony Malaby gig (well, John Ettinger). Thought I’d go check this out too. Goldberg’s a, well, you know, a clarinet player, which is nowhere close to one of my favorite instruments (too clean and all), but that said, he is an excellent player and can sound great esp. when he surrounds himself with edgy players. The band had a great sound to it, rich, moody music that had a nice combo of arrangement and imrpov to it. Cressman knocked out a couple of excellent trombone solos – earnest and searching and full of effort, he impressed me taking a long, bluesy and Dixieland to edgy and out solo on The 2nd Interlude. Nice set of music and playing. Goldberg even read a poem in the gap between songs – a funny and good poem from What Narcissism Means To Me.


BEN GOLDBERG – clarinet                                    KASEY KNUDSEN – alto sax

JEFF CRESSMAN – trombone                              ROB REICH – accordion, piano

DAVID EWELL – bass                                             HOWARD WILEY – drums


Berkeley Arts (Duende sponsered)

2133 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

November 3, 2012

Tony Malaby week continues – concludes, actually. Great band – Hart, Sickafoose, Malaby . . . Never heard Ettinger before, but with a band like this, he must be good. And he is – great sound to the band, nice, unique instrumentation. And good writing – the tunes all with a distinct mood and element. This was supposed to be a show at Duende – but due to construction delays, it had to be moved. Same story as the Shuffleboil show – which means even though Duende doesn’t really exist yet, it is like the best concert promoter in town – 2 for 2 – and with Yoshis like a carnival of terrible these days, I can barely handle the wait until Duende opens. First time I went to Berkeley Arts (which is where it was moved to, thanks to Philip Greenlief)  – a very nice sounding room – think I’ll go back tomorrow night for Ben Goldberg.

The music – 1st tune and the 1st soprano Malaby’s played all week – and damn! he rips it up on that too – excellent edgy sound to the usually thin and boring instrument. Sickafoose is a man that basically never swings – he plays a modern bass style, all grooves and interaction – a beastly player in his way. Two sets of music – all very good. The 2nd set had 2 high points – Amdigato (or something like that) had a vicious, way out Malaby tenor solo with Hart all busy and interactive underneath. Sickafoose kept giving these funny looks where he would look from Malaby to Ettinger and back, like he was checking if the crazy ass stuff coming out of Malaby’s horn was acceptable or not. Indeed, it was the best music of the night. Torrential train-wreck tenor playing. Love it.

They closed with Kissinger In Space a really cool tune that went from thick groove to spacey out and back – sort of. On its return it felt all fractured and altered as if space twisted HK’s mind a bit. Great deal at the booth – all 3 Ettinger cd’s for $15 – that, I like. A great show, modern and excellent.

1st set

1. Shunyata

2. August Rain

3. Just Like Tomorrow

4. Dogleg 

5. Better Angels

6. Dual Diagnosis

2nd set

1. Talking Leaves

2. Ambigato

3. Harper Lee

4. The Doors Are Closing 

5. Kissinger In Space


TONY MALABY – tenor and soprano sax

JOE PREUSS – guitar


LORCA HART – drums


Kuumbwa Jazz, Santa Cruz

November 1, 2012


The second show in my self-proclaimed “Tony Malaby Week” – my own festival grouping Taramundo, this and (hopefully) John Ettinger Group in Berkeley on Sat. I drove down after leaving work early – not a bad trip, and entirely worth it for a show like this (or Vijay Iyer/Hafez Modirzadeh, which I saw a month age) – even got a $3 burrito at happy hour down the street. Really excited that this band was coming  – I love his album Deluxe – and why not to Yoshis? Because Yoshis is evil these days (with the throw-back to old days exception of the wonderful Roscoe/Tyshawn show last week). 

Ches Smith is a player that I’ve never seen but his name is popping up with a lot of the out players these days (the likes of Tim Berne and Darius Jones) – he’s a good player – nice drummer with good sound and involved ideas. The two tenor frontline was awesome. An unusual choice, but a great one – they played beautifully together, in long unison lines and in some sort of modern counterpoint with one playing a melody of sorts and the other trilling or squealing or playing against the tune. Just very cool, good stuff.  Malaby has an enormous tone – so rich and dominating that it wasn’t really that easy, at first, to hear Bishop in the mixup (a player I haven’t heard before).  But he took  a couple of great solos – building really well up from sparse to modern clusters and wailing. Good player.

Lightcap is a great writer – I really like the tunes that he writes, and most of the concert  was new, unrecorded tunes written for NYC, with 2 late tunes from Deluxe – Silvertone and The Clutch. Seen Mitchell a few times recently – a very good player, he played a lot of Rhodes here, and quite well, really popping off that dissonant, glassy sound.

Malaby plays like a fast approaching train – all these huge wailing onslaughts of sound with a side-to-side rocking feel. He plays what sounds almost like non-solo solos, where the solo doesn’t build in phrasing or twisting intricacy, but in wailing walls of thunder. With a band like this, playing great tunes, it sounds very cool indeed.

The last tune, well – it seems this set was being recorded for npr’s ‘Jazzset’, and then also for npr’s Toast of The Nation, their New Year’s show where they travel around the country with jazz clubs on New Year’s Eve – so, after the show, we had to pretend it was New Year’s Eve, with the countdown and all, and they ripped a rockin tune – no idea what it is, though it sort of sounded familiar – possibly from Deluxe with an Ornette-y horn line. Fairly hilarious in its random events – and my kind of New Year’s Eve – great music and no one even knows it’s a holiday.


1. 9 South

2. Arthur Avenue

3. Epicenter

4. Whitehorse

5. Down East

6. Fort Triumph

7. Stillwell

8. Silvertone

9. The Clutch

10. New Year’s Encore (sort of) 

TONY MALABY – tenor sax

ANDREW BISHOP – tenor sax

MATT MITCHELL – piano, Fender Rhodes


CHES SMITH – drums



Yoshis, Oakland

October 28, 2012

After thinking that the only way I’d ever see Tyshawn was if I headed to NY, this, amazingly, is the 4th time I’ve seen him this year. Never thought that possible. And in a variety of setups too. Saw Roscoe and Tyshawn earlier this year in the 2nd set of Tyshawn’s house concert – and I’m fairly sure that was the 1st time they ever even met since before the set they were introducing each other to each other (I don’t think that’s how that should be worded) and afterwards, patting each other on the back. Apparently they liked each other enough since only a few months down the line, they’re here again. And, to boot, it’s the 3rd time seeing Roscoe this year (he also had a Yoshis gig a couple of months back). Plus, this was like a throw back to the glory days of the once great Yoshis – an amazing club that barely even shows jazz anymore (a trend that pisses me off to no end) – but every once in a while, there is something right with the world.

Never seen Ragin before, or heard him in such a free setting, but he sounded great. Right from the start too – he opened with a nice rich tone and some nice quiet playing – it faltered a bit into breathy free non-notes for stretches, still good but without the nice bluesy edge to his tone when he blows full. This was the last in a 4 nights-in-a-row string of shows – Ron Carter at Yoshis on Thursday, random Broken Shadows drop in at Awaken Café on Friday, Tamarindo last night and then this. As Keith Cuderback said (at the shows the last 2 nights) “probably the most intense, out back to backs I’ve ever done” – and it’s true – not often does one get consecutive nights of intense way-out free jazz, not to mention the chance to see William Parker and Tyshawn Sorey back to back (can they play together someday . . . please?).

“Tonight’s performance is dedicated to Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie”-announced Roscoe at the start. There was a death-clown on stage too, rummaging, for like 45 minutes. No clue what he was there for – he did nothing (except plug in a blinking light).  This was a completely free slab of music – like 1 ½ hours nonstop, just invention. And it was basically ‘music without notes.’ RM played a lot of percussion (there was a huge cage of small perc stuff for him to play around in). Tyshawn played a lot of piano – which I was happy to see – I heard he was a good piano player, but never heard him play it – he has chops, and approaches it with the same driven intensity and lunatic ideas (for long stretches of times, he threw and flapped towels, played his shirt sleeves, blew into the bottom of his snare, slapped around a loose snare string, he even punched his cymbal so hard he knocked it right off the stand).

The music was quite varied dynamically, and had long stretches of near silence and just bells, or whistles, or Tyshawn tossing towels – but it was all fun and certainly unique. The high points for me where basically anytime Roscoe stuck the bass sax or the soprano in his mouth – the bass an amazing deep, Yoshis-rumbling sound, played at times in 10 minute circular breathing fits, and his soprano screeching in long circular lines. Tyshawn had 2 or 3 complete hurricanes on the drums, amazingly doing this one hand roll on the snare so fast you wouldn’t believe it. His psycho drumming was amazing. Another high point was a beautiful somber and dark, very slow 2 chord (strange chord too) figure that Tyshawn played on the piano while Roscoe built his circular bass sax lines into a long building vamp – TS slowly built the piano intensity, then reached over with his mallet and started playing the drums while still perfectly playing the low chords. Very cool (and funny – the man’s insane). Overall, it was a long, sometimes boring, sometimes silent, weird as hell and downright awesome chunk of music that could never be played again.

ROSCOE MITCHELL – soprano sax, bass sax, tenor sax, flute, PVC sax-thing, percussion

HUGH RAGIN – trumpet, French horn, pocket trumpet

TYSHAWN SOREY – drums, piano


Swedish American Hall, SF

October 27, 2012


The first night in what could be Tony Malaby Week, if I do as I should.  He is in the area all week, playing 3 shows with different bands – very exciting. I’ve been making my own mini-festivals these days. This was part of SFJAZZ festival, and I’ve been excited about this one since long before they even announced the schedule and Randell Kline told me they were coming when I was harassing him in Yoshis at the James Farm show. No Nasheet, but still all great players. Ferber I’ve seen with Ralph Alessi in the past, and he’s a great player, but I was surprised to see him in such a free setting. He played great though.

The show was just 2 huge slabs of music running between what apparently were songs (I overheard William Parker giving out the set list afterwards) – and, oddly, they had sheet music, which they even occasionally turned, even though I could find nothing in here that would have needed to have been read – I mean, this was FREE people. You composed this? Really?

David S Ware just died like a week or so ago, and both Keith Cuderbach and I, separately, felt they were channeling him a bit – I personally was hoping for an encore of Mikaro’s Blues, but nope – no encore. Still, there did seem to be a subtle undercurrent of DSW’s music here, especially in the torrential Malaby playing. TM was a force. He has just a gorgeous full tone and never fails to use it – plus, he spend huge amounts of his time playing split-tones, squeals, honks and scronks and just generally all-around noisy music – but it was great. Like a lot of freely improvised music, it has its moments, both good and bad – and although there was nothing even approaching bad, there were longeurs, and then there were stretches of tremendous intensity and wonderful playing. This is music that ranges widely and deeply over all sorts of terrains.

WP is so good – no one really plays the bass like him, or CAN play the bass like him – it’s like putty in his hands, and he molds it into all sorts of things, but always that rich, ringing, beautifully full and deep tone (although this hall is not the best sound-wise – esp for drums and bass). The four night mini-fest continues tomorrow night with Roscoe Mitchell, Tyshawn Sorey and Hugh Ragin. There’s been a couple of weeks like that recently – a wonderful thing.

TONY MALABY – tenor sax




Awaken Café, Oakland

October 26, 2012


This was a bit of a whim. Was at Mark Baugh-Sasaki’s sculpture opening down the street (Krowswork) with Irena, Gage and Linda. Thought it might be fun to check this out (free, after all), and I’ve been wanting to check out Johnston for a while know. He is quite a good trumpet player.  This is his band that plays Balkin folk tunes/jazz, or something like that, and the tunes all have him singing on it – which is fine, ok, not my thing, but way less bothersome than jazz singing since it was lullaby/folk-ish. Plus, Awaken Café sort of intrigues me, ever since seeing Amendola vs Blades there. Got to see maybe half of the set (plus, it was with a group so it was chatting and drinking (cacoa, of course)).  Each tune was similar – singing, solos, singing – but the trumpet solos were quite good and I’d like to hear more. This also turned out to be another 4 nights in a row of shows – Ron Carter at Yoshis last night, then Tony Malaby Tamarindo tomorrow and Roscoe Mitchell with Tyshawn Sorey and Hugh Ragin the next. Delicious when that happens.

DARREN JOHNSTON – trumpet, vocals




Yoshis, Oakland

October 25, 2012

10pm set


10pm set only. Got a Goldstar ticket for the 2nd set. Seen Ron twice before, and both times very pleasantly surprised. Very stately, in the pocket, sophisticated jazz with none of that edgy craziness and polyrhythmic complexity that I so love, but still, he seems to pull off nice sets of music. This show maybe didn’t impress me as much, but it was still good, solid music with moments of great propulsion and swing.

Rosnes is quite a player – she crushed it, getting off a couple of excellent solos that were much needed in an otherwise maybe too stately set of music.  Again, this was one (almost) set-long slab of linked tunes that melted into one another. Opened with a loose, freeish, quiet bass/perc interplay that transformed into a balladish tune, and then into a great upbeat Milestones that had a long, outstanding Renee solo (she is a force when she gets going) – then into a slower, blues tinged tune with another great RR solo. Fairly long bass solo tune and into a final number that ended the suite. Then they played a stand alone You And The Night And the Music (apparently a request, which is unusual for them – as RC said, he likes to prepare his paragraphs of music before the set – no surprise there) – upbeat with a flying Rosnes solo. Ended the tune with a cool duet bass/perc solo that had some ridiculously flying perc – that man is blistering – very cool. Nice band, good music, nothing bothersome and nothing earthshattering either, just a swell late night set of swing – I can live with that.






Duende (well, not yet – Starline Storefront, 2236 MLK), Oakland

October 19, 2012



Shuffleboil, or so their called. Turns out to be the perfect name for them – sinister shuffle beats and all a-boil in furious swells and intensity. Great music from a band of players I’ve never seen before. Horvitz I know from Naked City, of course, and other Zorn projects – and Previte from a Zorn bootleg – but the whole band turned out to be dynamite. Previte is a beast. Drumming like a madman and loving every minute of it. Very unusual intrumentation – not sure I’ve heard anything set up quite like this – 3 chordal instruments and drums. Horvitz had the Rhodes distorted to near-guitar sounds for a bunch of it – dark, dirty guitar. The sound had this cool mix – 3 dark, earthy and noisy players grinding out grooves and clusters of intensity, and the guitarist with a lighter, cleaner sound on top, nicely popping along (well – he plays some nasty guitar, lots of creative ideas and sounds, but the overall playing was almost like dancing afloat this churning mess of awesomeness).

Duende is this new restaurant/music club opening in uptown – spoke with Rocco at the door and he said they are planning on having experimental jazz a couple days a week (yess!). But, this isn’t Duende, not yet. This was supposed to be their pre-opening concert, but because of construction delays, they moved it to some guys open loft downstairs from the Starline (also not opened yet) – it was at 2236 MLK. Came across the info randomly – and was unsure what the music would be. Appaerently, the chef of this new Duende place is good buds with Zorn, so we’ll see if they can keep up this style of music.

Went with Gage. The show was LOUD – many tunes building quickly from either ambient searching or popping grooves to all out battles – Doria is a great player, ripping off fleet organ solos, often entwined with Hovitz’s dark Rhodes – trading lines or just inputting comments into the others solo. Horvitz had some furious playing and great solos. Previte was playing a storm from the get-go, and by the end he was just drumming like a bad season – quite impressive. Great music. 

WAYNE HORVITZ –Fender Rhodes

JOE DORIA – Hammond B3

TIM YOUNG – guitar



SF Conservatory Of Music, SF

October 14, 2012



The 2nd part of a great Sunday – went to Adam Kolker Trio at Chez Hanny at 4, then booked it over to the conservatory for this amazing trio at 7 (snug; perfect).  Got a ticket earlier in the week off craigslist – good deal, good seat (4th row). Haven’t seen Danilo as a leader before – but just a tight, fantastic band. Street, of course, always a great modern player. Cruz I haven’t seen and was younger than I thought he was going to be – nothing really flashy about his playing, but sticks well to the ebb and flow of the music and helps it ball together. They play amazing, searching and adventurous music that spins out from its beginnings and finds grooves and landscapes far from its birth. Very much like Wayne Shorter’s band (and Brian Blade’s Fellowship, which begs the question of how much those 3 influenced Wayne, or how much Wayne showed them the way). Either way, this is what I love about modern music – no head-solo-head, no swing in the drums or walking bass or steady floor to stand on, just music hunting across uneven terrains for deep emotion. Awesome.

The music was some sort of celebration of the 500th year of Panama, or something like that, according to Danilo’s brief intro. Took them a bit to find the road to adventure, but by the 3rd tune they were off; a dark, shifting, intense and varied piece with Shorter-like grooves. A phenomenal version of Round Midnight (and let’s be honest, how many more times does one need to hear that tune? Done like this – original, dark, barely skittering across the top of what’s expected from the song – plenty). Then some sprawling piece that began with at least one if not more Monk tunes, but travelled very far indeed from those grounds (how many Monk covers did I hear today?); an amazing tune (and band, damn) – completely free and ‘found’ music, very adventurous (and “dangerous” as Danilo says). Spent several minutes building and building over a slightly varying figure to a brutal climax. Some seriously badass intense music. Followed it with what seems to be the new obligatory Stevie Wonder cover Overjoy – (don’t know the orig. but this was a  great version).  Then closed with a dynamite, beautiful solo piano tune. Monster player – awesome music and band.

set list

1. Panama 500


3. Galactic Panama

4. Panama Vio

5. Chocolito

6. Round Midnight


8. Overjoy

9.                             (solo piano) 



ADAM CRUZ – drums


Chez Hanny, SF

October 14, 2012



The week continues. A great day – a Sunday that felt like a day in NY. I had a ticket to go see Danilo Perez Trio at the Conservatory that started at 7, and I haven’t been to Chez Hanny in a long time, so I decided to go for gluttony and hit Hanny at 4 for this trio, then bolt over just in time to make Danilo. Perfectly timed, and dodging crazy Bay Area 49er’s and Giants playoff traffic (uhgg), I literally ran from Hanny’s at the first clap at the end of the last tune. Closely timed events and multiple jazz shows in one day – great NY vibe to it all (and a sence of what would be my rapid demise if I ever lived there).

I never heard Kolker before, or McLaughlin either, but the trio sounded intriguing, and I’ve gone from never hearing of Denson to seeing him 3 times in the past 6 months – he’s a heck of a bassist, good song writer and seems to be involved with a number of top players. Kolker is a nice tenor player – solid originals, nice sound and good trio playing – and the drummer played well throughout. Some nice standards – opened with I Hear A Rhapsody, then, later, a nice grooved, good take on Monk’s Let’s Call This.  The 2nd set was substantially better – tighter playing from the three of them and more urgency in Kolker’s playing. Great Oska T (Monk) to open; awesome All The Things You Are with an excellent tenor solo, and Denson with a very good bass solo (seasoned solo – he’s been playing with Lee Konitz’s band, and I think Lee often plays this).  Very cool, off-kilter and awkward We See (Monk again), and then a great mid-tempo take on Wayne Shorter’s Dance Cadaverous (yesss – for all the standards and Monk stuff, it’s always heartwarming to see players cover Wayne, who seems, possibly more than anyone, to be the foundation builder for so much of modern jazz). An original Kolker blues, and a nice Alone Together to end. Hilarious intro on the blues – Kolker ‘Let’s play a blues’; Denson ‘Mine or yours?’; Kolker ‘Mine. Let’s talk about MY problems… MY gig, MY problems.’

1st set

1. I Hear A Rhapsody

2. In Or Out

3. Let’s Call This

4. Body And Soul

5. Nash

2nd set

1. Oskar T

2. All The Things You Are

3. We See

4. Dance Cadaverous

5. Kevin’s Birthday Blues

6. Alone Together

ADAM KOLKER – tenor sax