Blogs The Green Room Sam Segal

Sam Segal is a Walker Visitor Services Associate and the host of freeform Internet-radio program If You Lose Your Horse on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio.

Affable Experimentation: Steve Lehman Octet at the Walker

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Sam Segal shares his perspective on last Saturday’s performance by the […]

Photo: John Rogers

Photo: John Rogers

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Sam Segal shares his perspective on last Saturday’s performance by the Steve Lehman Octet. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

On Saturday night in the McGuire Theater, alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman made his Minnesota debut as a bandleader, fronting an octet made up of some of the baddest and brightest in contemporary jazz. It is rare that a band arrives on the jazz scene with a concept as fully-formed and a sound as original as the Steve Lehman Octet has, noted Senior Curator of Performing Arts Philip Bither in his introduction. The brilliant, high-powered performance that the band delivered served as a strong testament to Bither’s words.

Glancing at Steve Lehman’s resume, you might imagine his music to sound oppressively academic. He received an M.A. in Composition from Wesleyan University, where he studied with avant-garde luminaries like Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier. As a Fulbright Scholar in France, he researched the history of African-American experimental composers’ reception by French critics. He is also a noted scholar of Spectral Music, a movement of French composers that arose in the 1970s, which sought to utilize computer-generated representations of sound spectra as the primary tools for composition. Listening to a piece by Tristain Murail, the man with whom Lehman studied Spectral Music, can be a difficult, thrilling, and decidedly un-funky experience. Knowing all of this about Steve Lehman’s pedigree, some folks in the audience may have been surprised then to find themselves tapping their feet throughout the evening, maybe even feeling the urge to get out of their seats and groove. The Octet’s performance managed to marry the high-concepts of Lehman’s academic work with the visceral, bodily joys of jazz.

The group opened the evening with a piece entitled “Rudresh M,” a tribute to altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who graced the McGuire stage back in February with Rez Abbasi’s Invocation and his own Indo-Pak Coalition trio. Like Mahanthappa, Lehman’s alto attack was rapid and unrelenting, sounding like Charlie Parker filtered through the looking-glass of microtonality. On this song, and every other, drummer Tyshawn Sorey brought an unbelievable amount of energy and propulsive groove. He dropped on top of the Octet’s hypnotic spell with the furious insistence of a vintage U.K. Jungle break.

Lehman mentioned that the band hadn’t played together in this original configuration in two years, but they sounded as tight and focused as a group that had been touring for months. There were moments in the band’s second piece, “Alloy,” in which the horn section of Lehman, tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and trombonist Tim Alrbright sounded as locked-in and punchy as one of Fela Kuti’s peak-era outfits.

Yet, lurking underneath was the ever-present dissonance of Chris Dingman’s vibraphone and the sneaky rhythms of Jose Davila’s tuba. These two elements lent the music a constant feeling of uneasiness that drifted between conscious and subconscious. The juxtaposition between the muddy texture of the vibes and tuba and the tight stabs of the horn section created a beautiful and menacing tension.

The highlight of the night was a tantalizingly short, unrecorded composition called “Rhythm of the Earth,” a piece that perfectly encapsulated the affable accessibility of Lehman’s experimentation. He began with an extended soprano solo, in which disjointed popping sounds alternated with breathy and delicate streams of ghost notes. Far from a mere demonstration of extended technique, the solo was as heartfelt as it was cerebral. Lehman reached his apex when he found a raw and dissonant combination of notes and began pounding on them adamantly. Then, in the most delightfully shocking mash-up of musical worlds, Sorey busted out a beat with a funkiness that can only be compared to Clyde Stubblefield’s most classic James Brown breaks. The rest of the band began to swirl wildly around Lehman’s sax line, locked into an off-kilter groove that built in intensity until it ended with crushing abruptness.

Don’t Clap, Please Dance: Rez Abbasi’s Invocation at the Walker

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Sam Segal shares his perspective on Rez Abbasi’s Invocation. Agree or […]

Photo: Bill Douthart

Photo: Bill Douthart

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Sam Segal shares his perspective on Rez Abbasi’s Invocation. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

At the risk of sounding like an imperious jerk who wants to tell people how they should experience live music, I would like to make a suggestion to jazz audiences everywhere: don’t clap after solos. “Why?” you ask, “Clapping lets the musician know how much I dug their solo.” I hear you, but let me explain.

On Thursday night, guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi made his third appearance in nine years in the McGuire Theater. While he has accompanied groups led by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa in the past, this was Abbasi’s first appearance at the Walker with a group of his own. After a fiery and all too brief opening set by Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, the Abbasi-led Invocation sextet took the stage. The band opened with a tune from their recently recorded Unfiltered Universe. Flexing their dynamic sensitivity, the group journeyed through a wide range of emotional spaces, from pastoral beauty to mathematical claustrophobia.

Next, they leapt into “Turn of Events,” another lengthy piece that felt both tightly composed and phenomenally free. Pianist Vijay Iyer led with a solo that sounded like it contained seventy years of jazz history, jumping from the acrobatics of Art Tatum to the expressive decadence of Keith Jarrett and the heady percussive weirdness of Alexander Von Schlippenbach. Predictably, the sold-out crowd clapped when Iyer’s solo reached its obvious conclusion. The applause was understandable. Iyer is known as one of the greatest living pianists in jazz, and his solo was a miraculous display of technical inventiveness.

This pattern of interaction between musicians and audience continued throughout the piece. Mahanthappa let off another one of his scorching streams of Bird-meets-the-Carnatic brilliance, and the crowd acknowledged his efforts with claps and scattered hollers. The same went for Abbasi’s own solo of immaculate, fluttering guitar work. It was after a duet by bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and cellist Elizabeth Means when this solo-clap transaction started to become a problem. Improvising together, the two jump-cut from delicate harmonic tip-toeing to an intense crescendo. The duo’s playfulness sparked a loud applause that led to a sense of confusion as to whether or not the song had actually ended. When Iyer began a percussive pattern on his hand-muted piano strings, it seemed like the band may have entered the territory of a new composition. However, as the entire ensemble joined him, and the melody that opened the song fifteen minutes earlier returned at full force, I realized we were at the song’s peak. Unfortunately, the previous moment’s confusion had robbed the song of its emotional climax.

By clapping, we the audience had imposed our own structure on the music, and that structure was unfortunately out of synch with the one envisioned by its composer. Applause creates a narrative in which individual band members take turns showcasing their talents for our approval. That’s not the kind of narrative that suits a band as communicative and daring as Rez Abbasi’s Invocation. The anticipation of applause makes us listen only to be riled up into climactic excitement by the individual soloist. When we listen in that way, we miss the many interactions occurring between the supposed accompanist and the soloist, as well as those happening between the accompanists themselves.

Throughout the evening, drummer and tabla maestro Dan Weiss was constantly trying to create counter-narratives, shifting the ground that soloists tried walk on. He would move quickly from a stable swing into a cut-up funk or a head-banging rock beat, grinning to himself as if it were part of a game between him and the other members of the band. On the night’s closer, “The Dance Number,” Weiss added thick layers of fog onto Iyer’s piano solo, skittering away on only his cymbals. When the only story we’re paying attention to is the story of the soloist’s individual virtuosity, waiting to acknowledge it with our applause, we miss these kinds of moments of interplay.

One reason why we clap after solos is that we’re looking for a way to participate. Jazz is often the ultimate genre of unfiltered self-expression, and that is something we want to take part in as an audience. Allow me to offer an alternative. Instead of clapping, try dancing. Dancing can be hard when you’re bound to a theater seat, but you don’t have to be on your feet to allow your body to move in response to music. When done right, dance is an automatic response to the stimuli of the present. There is no anticipation of a soloist’s climax, because your body is reacting to the totality of the music in the moment. It’s hardly an original point, but it is worth repeating that jazz originally arose as dance music, its improvisation often attributed as a response to the needs of dancing crowds. I believe the music of Rez Abbasi’s Invocation still bears the danceable essence that exists at the heart of the music of King Oliver and Cab Calloway. The beat may be less stable, and its dissonances may have snuck their way to the fore, but this music can still move you, if you let it.

Sounds, Sourced and Unsourced: Aki Onda at the Walker

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Intern Sam Segal shares his perspective on Aki Onda’s recent […]

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Intern Sam Segal shares his perspective on Aki Onda’s recent Sound Horizon performance. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Set One

Aki Onda. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Aki Onda. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Composer and electroacoustic improviser Aki Onda begins Thursday night’s Sound Horizon performance soaked in the overcast light that floods through the massive eastern window in the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery.  Accompanying visual artist Liz Deschenes’s spare, meditative installation, Gallery 7, Onda sculpts a piece of equally precise and hypnotizing sound art. Equipped only with a portable radio, two guitar amps, an array of cassette players, and several cassettes, he manages to craft a soundscape of surprising depth and intensity by the end of his first thirty-minute set.

Given the unconventional nature of his instruments, it’s often difficult to see how Aki Onda is deriving some of his sounds and patterns. This inscrutability is liberating. When you see a string quartet, your brain can intuitively understand the chain reaction between the bow, the strings, and the violinist’s fingers. When you witness an Aki Onda performance, a loop of chirping tones might be the feedback bouncing between a tape player and an amplifier or it might be a field recording of a Mexican birdsong. If you understand the source of every sound, the live music experience can become a bland appreciation of virtuosity. With Onda, you quickly give up on understanding all of his sources; you allow yourself to experience the entirety of the acoustic environment as he facilitates its growth and change.

Set Two

Aki Onda. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Aki Onda. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Now, none of this is to give you the impression that Aki Onda is a formless technician, manipulating sounds with scientific exactitude. He is very much a performer, and he is as fearless an improviser as any of the great free music pioneers. For his second set, Onda plays for a large crowd in the long hallway that runs along Hennepin Avenue. His expanded set-up includes a larger collection of cassettes, two Kaoss Pads, multiple looping pedals, three cymbals, and a few cups of marbles.

There is a noticeable choreography to Onda’s movements. He paces methodically up and down the hallway, wrenching the tape player in his hand back and forth with a consistent rhythm, a frankly beautiful pattern of movement. The focused physicality of dance permeates Onda’s entire performance, embedding a constant human presence in his maze of disembodied sounds.

Onda’s calm demeanor may give the impression that he isn’t paying attention to the audience, but in this second set he subtly engages with his onlookers and their expectations of musical performance. On top of a brooding, ambient background, Onda sprinkles in the sounds of a soft rain by casting marbles down the hallway, letting them bounce with unpredictable rhythms down the slanted brick floor. As the marbles roll past members of the audience, they must choose whether to interact with them or not, whether to allow themselves to alter the soundscape or to let it continue on its path. Of course, this is a false choice. An audience member’s decision not to touch the marble still leads to a sound that would not have occurred if they had decided to touch it. In this way, Aki Onda enlists us all as his collaborators.

Set Three    

Aki Onda. Photo: Molly Hanse

Aki Onda. Photo: Molly Hanse

The night ends in Gallery 5, which currently houses the Walker’s Art at the Center retrospective, an exhibition that includes Nam June Paik’s hyperactive television sculpture 66-76-89 (1990) and selections from On Kawara’s TODAY series (1989), as well as Siah Armajani’s Prayer (1962), a typographical labyrinth that serves as the backdrop for Onda’s final performance.

The music resonates thoughtfully with these pieces of visual art. The screeching noise of feedback pairs perfectly with the looping chaos taking place on Paik’s televisions. Onda’s cassettes, heavily manipulated field recordings from his travels around the world, act as artifacts of memory completely cut off from their moments of origin. Kawara’s TODAY paintings, with their decontextualized calendar dates, achieve a similar feeling of detachment. Yet, both artists also open their work up to the audience’s free-associative memory. Kawara’s dates connect the viewer to their own real and imagined memories of the times he invokes. Aki Onda’s obscured sounds are equally open to individual interpretation. In just one of his tapes, depending on who you are, you might hear the squealing of a free jazz saxophone, the din of a busy street, or the terrified screaming of a human voice.

Off-The-Cuff Beauty: Jason Moran and Robert Glasper in Duo

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern and the host of Radio K’s jazz program Sound […]

pa2015Moran-Glasper Performing Arts; Music. Jason Moran and Robert Glasper perform in the McGuire Theater, May 2, 2015. Sponsered by Steinway & Sons; Additional support provided by Producers’ Council members Leni and David Moore, Jr. / The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation and Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney. Two of today’s most influential contemporary jazz pianists team up for a US-exclusive summit combining their artistry and virtuosity in what promises to be an unforgettable evening. Informed by the entire history of jazz as well as essential American musical forms of hip-hop, blues, gospel, and soul, Jason Moran and Robert Glasper are high school friends from Houston who have since changed the face of American jazz in the 21st century.

Jason Moran (right) and Robert Glasper (left), Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern and the host of Radio K’s jazz program Sound Grammar Sam Segal shares his perspective on Jason Moran & Robert Glasper at the Walker. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

I’ll admit it: my expectations for Jason Moran and Robert Glasper’s piano duet on Saturday night weren’t all that high. I adore Moran’s achingly beautiful duo album with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, Hagar’s Song (2013), as well as his subtle grace on Paul Motian’s Lost in a Dream (2010). Glasper, however, I’d never cared for very much. No, let’s try that again: Glasper, however, I’d always proclaimed not to care for very much.

After a few cursory listens to his breakthrough album Black Radio back in 2012, Glasper seemed to me to symbolize everything that was wrong with the narrative surrounding contemporary jazz. Music critics hailed the pianist’s fusion of jazz with hip-hop, soul, and R&B as the thing that would save what they perceived as a dying genre, out of touch with anything outside of its own insular world. “Slapping hurts, but at some point it’ll wake you up. I feel like jazz needs a big-ass slap,” Glasper told DownBeat a few months after the release of Black Radio. To me, the idea that jazz had stopped engaging with the world outside of conservatories and posh clubs seemed absurd, and anyone who saw it like that hadn’t really been paying attention to the fertile avant scene happening on the fringes. In my mind, Glasper was the conservative jazz world’s bland excuse to pat itself on the back and say, “We’re hip to this rap music the kids are into these days.”  Did it matter to me that I’d made this judgment after listening to one Robert Glasper album like maybe two-and-a-half times? Hell no! I was a pretentious nineteen-year-old with a point to make. So, it was with a certain amount of internal struggle on Saturday night that I finally admitted to myself that Robert Glasper truly is one of the great pianists in contemporary jazz.

pa2015Moran-Glasper Performing Arts; Music. Jason Moran and Robert Glasper perform in the McGuire Theater, May 2, 2015. Sponsered by Steinway & Sons; Additional support provided by Producers’ Council members Leni and David Moore, Jr. / The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation and Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney. Two of today’s most influential contemporary jazz pianists team up for a US-exclusive summit combining their artistry and virtuosity in what promises to be an unforgettable evening. Informed by the entire history of jazz as well as essential American musical forms of hip-hop, blues, gospel, and soul, Jason Moran and Robert Glasper are high school friends from Houston who have since changed the face of American jazz in the 21st century.

Robert Glasper, Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Throughout the duo’s performance (I caught the first of the night’s two shows), Glasper and Moran played with incredible wit and off-the-cuff beauty. They managed to blend the playful exploration of a jam session with the unabashed emotionality of a solo recital. Glasper’s lyricism and remarkable melodic sensitivity frequently reminded me of Keith Jarrett, and at times his percussive chops rivaled those of McCoy Tyner. During a song he performed solo (composed by Herbie Hancock, although I didn’t quite catch the title), it dawned on me how much Glasper has internalized the aesthetics of hip-hop. His brand of fusion goes way beyond the acoustic hip-hop of a band like the Roots, in which live instruments simply play what would usually be sampled. Glasper approaches the piano like a DJ, treating melodies and rhythms like breaks he can sample, remixing himself constantly as he moves through a piece.

Jason Moran and Robert Glasper at the Walker Art Center, McGuire

Jason Moran and Robert Glasper, Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Each player’s personality pushed the other into unexplored territory. After a gutbucket boogie-woogie workout inspired by Albert Ammons and Meade “Lux” Lewis warmed up the crowd, Moran gestured towards more ethereal territory, and his partner followed suit. Midway through the show, the two mounted a stunning reinterpretation of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much A Dollar Cost,” a cut from this year’s To Pimp a Butterfly, a critically-adored record that featured Glasper’s piano on a number of tracks. While Moran held down the song’s haunting melody, Glasper mimicked the rhythmic spitting of an emcee with an impromptu modification to his piano: a plastic bottle of water and a can of Folgers to mute a section of the strings. Moran took the suggestion and placed a ceramic bowl on the low-end strings of his piano, creating a clanking drone as his fingers moved furiously across the bass keys. Two prepared pianos playing a dissonant and hypnotizing version of one of the year’s darkest hip-hop songs was a far cry from the “safe” show I was afraid these two would put on.

pa2015Moran-Glasper Performing Arts; Music. Jason Moran and Robert Glasper perform in the McGuire Theater, May 2, 2015. Sponsered by Steinway & Sons; Additional support provided by Producers’ Council members Leni and David Moore, Jr. / The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation and Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney. Two of today’s most influential contemporary jazz pianists team up for a US-exclusive summit combining their artistry and virtuosity in what promises to be an unforgettable evening. Informed by the entire history of jazz as well as essential American musical forms of hip-hop, blues, gospel, and soul, Jason Moran and Robert Glasper are high school friends from Houston who have since changed the face of American jazz in the 21st century.

Robert Glasper, Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

The eight o’clock show ended with another classic hip-hop song: “My Block” by their fellow Houston-native, Scarface. After Moran announced the song, a few cheers in the audience (one of them admittedly coming from me) prompted him to dub Scarface “a great jazz composer.” On a vintage Fender Rhodes, Glasper let out bursts of gospel-inflected praise while Moran laid down different takes on the song’s soulful piano sample. The duo left the crowd on an uplifting high note, the picture of two contemporary greats joyfully nominating a new standard for adoption into the jazz cannon.

The Many Faces of Marc Ribot: Seven Sides of a Guitar Genius

I have no hesitation saying Marc Ribot is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. I know of no other contemporary musician who manages to merge experimental ambition, raw gutbucket emotion, and unmistakable beauty like Ribot. A vast array of collaborative contexts over the course of his career have led Ribot to develop myriad original […]

Ribot_Hidalgo_2014-15_04_PP

Marc Ribot. Photo: Barbara Rigon

I have no hesitation saying Marc Ribot is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. I know of no other contemporary musician who manages to merge experimental ambition, raw gutbucket emotion, and unmistakable beauty like Ribot. A vast array of collaborative contexts over the course of his career have led Ribot to develop myriad original guitar sounds, from the free-skronking blues of his performances with Tom Waits to the electrified neo-classical klezmer of his work with John Zorn and much more.

Ahead of Ribot’s performance at the Cedar on Saturday, April 18 with David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos), it seemed appropriate to compile a playlist that attempts to at least scratch the surface of the legendary guitarist’s diverse body of work.

1. The Lounge Lizards – “Fat House” – Big Heart: Live in Toyko (1986)  

Playing here with a top-form Lounge Lizards lineup, Ribot’s free-blues funk is a perfect representation of the jocular, disjointed, and visceral Downtown sound he would help define throughout the ’80s.

2. John Zorn – Live at Jazz in Marciac (2010)

One of the most fruitful collaborative relationships in either musician’s career has been the partnership between Marc Ribot and John Zorn. Ribot has played on everything from Zorn’s most outré compositions (“The Book of Heads”) to the “radical Jewish music” of his Masada songbook (as we see in the video above).

3. Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos – “Postizo” – The Prosthetic Cubans (2000)

The music of Ribot’s Los Cubanos project may give us some clue as to what we can expect from his duet performance with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo next Saturday at the Cedar. His distortion-laden take on Cuban music bursts with energy on this track and on nearly everything he’s put out with the band.

4. Marc Ribot (Solo Acoustic) – “Fat Man Blues” – Live at the Falcon in Marlboro, NY (2014)

In this breathtaking performance at a club called the Falcon in the small town of Marlboro, New York, we get a taste of one of Ribot’s subtler, more meditative takes on the blues.

 5. Tom Waits – “Cold Water” – The Mule Variations (1999)

In a career that’s seen Tom Waits go from a lounge-rat court jester to a demented noise-making carny and everywhere in between, Ribot’s guitar has been one of the few consistent variables. His deep-in-the-pocket blues has always managed to keep Waits (somewhat) grounded in the basics of American popular music without dumbing anything down. Dig his solo here at around three minutes in.

6. Marco Cappelli – “And So I Went To Pittsburgh” – Extreme Guitar Project (2006)

Ribot’s remarkable talent for composition is on display with this tune, a cut from Italian guitarist Marco Cappelli’s album of guitar pieces written by a number of accomplished contemporary avant-garde composers.

7. Ceramic Dog – “Your Turn” – Your Turn (2013)

With bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, Ceramic Dog is the closest Marc Ribot comes to playing straight up rock ‘n’ roll. On “Your Turn,” he’s out for blood with a blistering four minutes of hard-nosed, prog-inspired post-punk.

….

Marc Ribot performs at the Cedar on Saturday, April 18th alongside David Hidalgo at 8 pm.

Curiosity is the “Big Mother” of Invention: An Interview with Buke and Gase

As anyone who writes about Buke and Gase is obliged to do, let’s begin by explaining the New York duo’s name. The name Buke and Gase comes from the two self-made instruments that create most of the band’s sound. The buke is a baritone ukulele invented by Minnesota-born multi-instrumentalist Arone Dyer (right), and the gase, invented by Aron Sanchez […]

Bryce_Dessner_2014-15_04_PP

Buke and Gase. Photo: Grant Cornett

As anyone who writes about Buke and Gase is obliged to do, let’s begin by explaining the New York duo’s name. The name Buke and Gase comes from the two self-made instruments that create most of the band’s sound. The buke is a baritone ukulele invented by Minnesota-born multi-instrumentalist Arone Dyer (right), and the gase, invented by Aron Sanchez (left), is something of a half-guitar-half-bass. Running their instruments through an elaborate rig of homemade pedals, Dyer and Sanchez manage to achieve a seamless mixture of art-pop songwriting and experimental limitlessness.

On Saturday, April 4, Buke and Gase will join critically acclaimed percussion quartet Sō Percussion on the Walker’s McGuire Theater stage to present a new collaborative work. The performance is a part of a weekend-long mini-festival copresented with the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series celebrating the music of composer/guitarist Bryce Dessner, who has worked closely with both Buke and Gase and Sō Percussion over the years.

Ahead of next week’s performance, Performing Arts Interns Sam Segal and Mark Mahoney had the chance to ask Buke and Gase some questions about their compositional strategies, their collaborative process with Sō Percussion, and what led them to invent their own instruments.

Aron, you built instruments for the Blue Man Group for a period, and Arone, you’ve worked as a bike mechanic. It seems that one thing that characterizes all of your creative output, mechanical and musical, is a certain spirit of invention. Why have you embraced this DIY approach? What does it allow you to accomplish musically that conventional instruments and approaches couldn’t?

Aron Sanchez: Well, we’re only two people and we don’t want to play to a track; we want to perform all our sounds because it’s fun and presents us with interesting challenges both musically and technically. The “DIY approach” is just a matter of course. I think most musical projects are “DIY”—artists have to figure out how to achieve their particular musical expression. Ours logically extends to the creation of instruments and other technical devices, because other people don’t already make the kinds of tools we need to create our sound.

Arone Dyer: Having been a bike mechanic mostly speaks of my desire to do work that requires manual skill and understanding of how things work. Ultimately, this way of thinking has seeped into every millimeter of my existence, and without it as a philosophy I would be someone very different.

When many people first hear your music, they assume it’s coming from a band comprised of several people. Is that kind of expansive sound something you strive for? How does that sound get translated into a collaborative context with a group like Sō Percussion?

Sanchez: Sure it is. We like expansive. We get excited by hearing ourselves sound bigger than the two of us (we also like sounding as small as we are). With Sō, we try to blend in and not take up as much space as we do when we usually perform.

Dyer: We strive to create music that we enjoy performing and listening to, regardless of how expansive it is.

Has it ever felt like the uniqueness of your instruments has overshadowed the other elements of your music in the press?

Dyer: Yes, often, although it can be considered to be a “Chicken Vs. Egg” complex; how could we make the music we do without the instruments we use, and likewise, why would we think to create new equipment and instruments without playing and noticing the need for change or addition to our sound palette? Some say “Boredom is the mother of invention,” but perhaps for us it’s more that our curiosities are the mother. The Big Mother. At this point our instruments are quite solidified in their virginal sonic range, and most of our invention/additions are along the lines of enhancing usability and expanding post-instrument sonic expression. As far as this being the pinnacle of interview and article content, it feels likely that since instruments and inventions are such tangible, material subjects, it’s easier for the press to focus on those, rather than questions directed more toward the intangible, such as lyrical content, creative inspiration, and intended direction. It bugs me, but I also understand that some bubbles just aren’t easy or comfortable to pop.

How did the Sō Percussion collaboration first come about? What can we expect from your performance together on Saturday night?

Sanchez: In 2013, the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC approached Sō and B&G about doing some sort of collaboration. Ecstatic usually pairs different artists together to either create something new or collaborate on existing work. B&G and Sō took the opportunity to collaboratively write new material together over the course of some months, meeting and sending files back and forth. What we will perform at the Walker is a result of that work.

In an early iteration of Buke and Gase, you guys played with a drummer. What initially led you to pare down to a duo, and why have you now decided to return to using live percussion?

Dyer: Correct. We were playing with a drummer, and then that was simply no longer the case. We made the decision to remain a duo for many reasons, starting with the discovery that our music was just fine without one. B&G and Sō Percussion remain as two separate groups who come together to perform music we had created together, and we still don’t have a drummer.

Aron, you’ve said in the past that electronic music is a huge influence on you. Did you try to give this collaboration the feeling of a piece of electronic music played on organic instruments?

Sanchez: Yes, I’ve always been interested in the translation of electronic sounds and processes into the world of hands-on instruments, and definitely this is something we try to bring to the table. Regardless, our “organic instruments” are highly electronic to begin with, taking into account all the digital processing we use to add different dimensions – they sound completely different when un-plugged. Recently we’ve been taking that some steps further, actually using computers and synthesized sounds that we control with our instruments or feet.

Arone, did you change the lyrical process at all when you knew you were writing for this collaborative effort, rather than another Buke and Gase record?

Dyer: No, although I may have subconsciously toned down the variety of the subject content. It was quite a fluid, of-the-moment process this time around.

In 2009, Bryce Dessner and other members of The National came to one of your shows in Brooklyn, and they were absolutely floored. What has your relationship with Bryce been like?

Sanchez: Yes, Bryce and Aaron Dessner came to one of our first shows that their sister Jessica had booked at a little venue in Ditmas Park called Sycamore. It was super early days for us, but they were nonetheless impressed and asked if they could help us out, which led us to releasing three records on their label. Bryce is awesome of course and working with his label Brassland has been a huge influence on our success as a project.

Finally, on the video for your NPR Tiny Desk Concert, YouTube commenter ‘travelswithcharley4’ opined, “If they collaborated with the red hot chili pepper, i think that’d be awesome.” Can you comment on this?

Dyer: Chili Peppers are spicy, and, no doubt, were we to collaborate with them, our faces would be red, beading with sweat, and our heart rates would be higher than normal due to the capsaicin receptors located on our tongues reacting to high amounts of SHU. This might not be a good idea…

….

Buke and Gase will perform with Sō Percussion as a part of the Walker’s and Liquid Music’s The Music of Bryce Dessner program in the McGuire Theater on Saturday, April 4 at 8 pm.

Rock the Garden 2015 Lineup: Modest Mouse, Belle and Sebastian, Babes in Toyland, and More

Today, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2015. For the second year, the festival will span two days: Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21. On Tuesday, March 10 we celebrated the announcement by revealing one artist every hour live on 89.3 The Current. We liveblogged the announcement all […]

Unknown

Today, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2015. For the second year, the festival will span two days: Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21.

On Tuesday, March 10 we celebrated the announcement by revealing one artist every hour live on 89.3 The Current. We liveblogged the announcement all day, and you can see the entire list of bands below, along with a few fun facts about them.

For more updates, follow the action on Twitter at @walkerartcenter@RockTheGarden, and @TheCurrent.

Modest Mouse, Issaquah, WA (Sunday, June 21)

Modest Mouse. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Modest Mouse. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

  • Modest Mouse hasn’t played in the Twin Cities since 2010, and their upcoming release, Strangers to Ourselves, is their first full-length album in eight years. The album features “The Best Room,” a single based on frontman Isaac Brock’s experience of the famous Phoenix Lights UFO sighting of 1997.
  • Speaking of Modest Mouse and celestial weirdness, a meteor appeared in the sky as the band was on stage during November’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. The song they were playing: “Dark Center of the Universe.”
  • Last fall, Glacial Pace Records re-released the band’s early albumsThis Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About and The Lonesome Crowded West on vinyl. Along with those reissues came a handful of previously unreleased early songs. Check out Lonesome Crowded West outtake “White Lies, Yellow Teeth.”

Babes in Toyland, Minneapolis, MN (Sunday, June 21)

Babes in Toyland. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Babes in Toyland. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, Lagos, Nigeria (Sunday, June 21)

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. Photo: Johann Sauty

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. Photo: Johann Sauty

  • The son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, saxophonist, singer, and bandleader Seun Kuti has been carrying on his father’s legacy with a style of West African dance music all his own. First playing with the band at the age of eight, Seun leads Egypt 80, the group of musicians who once backed up his father.
  • Kuti’s most recent album, A Long Way to the Beginning, was produced by jazz pianist Robert Glasper, who will perform at the Walker in May with pianist Jason Moran. The album also features guest rappers M1 (of Dead Prez) and Blitz the Ambassador.
  • Seun was offered the lead role in Fela!, Bill T. Jones’s hit Broadway musical about his father’s life and music, but turned it down. “It would just give ammunition to those who say I am copying my father,” he told the Guardian.

JD McPherson, Broken Arrow, OK (Sunday, June 21)

JD McPherson. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

JD McPherson. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

  • Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s own JD McPherson makes roots music with simultaneous originality and shameless nostalgia, drawing influence from both Little Richard and Wu-Tang Clan. McPherson’s music is part Motown and part rockabilly with a little bit of the fuzzed-out blues of the Black Keys thrown in for good measure. On February 10, McPherson released his second full-length LP, Let The Good Times Roll.
  • Even though he’s not a son of the Midwest, McPherson has a huge fan base in Minnesota. When asked about this by Mary Lucia during a recent in-studio session at The Current, McPherson said, “We all know that Minnesotans are very intelligent and sensitive, artistic people, with the highest level of taste.” You flatter us, JD.
  • Before deciding to play music full time, McPherson was trained as a visual artist. He received an MFA from the University of Tulsa in Open Media. You can sense the influence of an art-school background on the literary style of his songwriting.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, New York, NY (Sunday, June 21)

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

  • The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger features singer-songwriter Sean Lennon along with his girlfriend and collaborator Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Their music merges the classic ’60s psych sounds of a certain world-renowned four-piece with the surrealism of more modern acts like the Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink.
  • While the two have been recording music together since 2008, they just released their debut album, Midnight Sun, last year. PopMatters called it “a near perfect album,” while Mojo praised the record’s “out-of-body transmissions that channel Bends-era Radiohead, Syd Barrett whimsy and woozy melodic weirdness.”
  • Ever wonder what Sean Lennon’s favorite flavor of ice cream is? Or what he would do if he found $46 on the ground in a parking lot? Find the answers to these and other questions in this interview with Lennon, conducted by a grade-schooler named Olivia for the website Kids Interview Bands.

Belle and Sebastian, Glasgow, Scotland (Saturday, June 20)

Belle and Sebastian. Photo: Soren Solkar

Belle and Sebastian. Photo: Soren Solkar

  • In January 2015, Belle and Sebastian dropped Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance, their first album since 2010. Nineteen years and nine albums into their career, the band is still finding new nooks and crannies of pop history to plum for inspiration. On this album, they’ve injected the danceability of ’80s synth pop without losing any of their revolutionary edge.
  • Last year frontman Stuart Murdoch made his debut as a film director and writer with the musical God Help The Girl. The film garnered a Special Jury Award at Sundance, and the soundtrack featured original songs by Murdoch and Belle and Sebastian.
  • Belle and Sebastian might not be the first band you’d expected to cover Journey, but when you’re playing a children’s hospital, you have to break out the hits. Here they are playing “Don’t Stop Believing” at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for the Songs For Kids Foundation.

Conor Oberst, Omaha, NE (Saturday, June 20)

Conor Oberst. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Conor Oberst. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

  • The last time Omaha native Conor Oberst swung by the Twin Cities to play to a packed crowd at First Avenue, he also stopped by The Current to perform a stunning in-studio session with his tour mates Dawes.
  • In a recent interview with Noisey, Oberst revealed the existence of an unreleased collaborative album he recorded with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and the Postal Service’s Jimmy Tamborello in 2003 called Blood on the 4-Tracks. Unfortunately, it seems the only way they’d be interested in releasing it is as a novelty edible seven-inch on Third Man Records. Your move, Jack White!
  • Speaking of long-lost Oberst projects, he will be touring all of April with his recently reunited punk project Desaparecidos. The group will be releasing the follow-up to its 2002 record Read Music/Speak Spanish on Epitaph sometime in 2015.

Courtney Barnett, Melbourne, Australia (Saturday, June 20)

Courtney Barnett. Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Courtney Barnett

  • Singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is a slacker-rock stream-of-consciousness poet. Her music has the dreamy languidness of a sunny June afternoon, but her lyrics employ the cutting storytelling of a master satirist. Rolling Stone has referred to her as “Jerry Seinfeld with a fuzz pedal.”
  • The music video for “Pedestrian at Best,” a single from her upcoming record Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit(due out March 23), features Barnett playing a depressed clown who just can’t seem to catch a break. Hilarity ensues.
  • Want to watch Courtney Barnett cover the entirety of INXS’s seminal 1987 album Kick? Sure you do!

Lucius, Brooklyn, NY (Saturday, June 20)

Lucius. Photo: Peter Larson

Lucius. Photo: Peter Larson

  • Described by the Guardian as “exuberant” and “relentlessly melodic,” the Brooklyn indie-rock quintet Lucius makes millennial girl-group pop with anthemic ambitions. Their live act is somewhere between a fashion show and a rock opera, featuring dual vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig singing in unison dressed in identical outfits.
  • Respected economist, New York Times columnist, and self-proclaimed “60-year-old wannabe hipster” Paul Krugman is an avowed fan.
  • The cover of Lucius’s latest album, Wildewoman, features art with a timely Walker connection: Belgian artist Evelyne Axell’s 1964 painting Ice Cream will be featured in the Walker-organized exhibition International Pop, on view from April 11 to August 29, 2015.

thestand4rd, St. Paul, MN (Saturday, June 20)

thestand4rd. Photo: Courtesy the Artists

thestand4rd

  • Made up of Twin Cities wunderkinds Allan Kingdom, Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, and Psymun, thestand4rd fuses cloudy hip-hop with R&B and ethereal electronic music. The New York Times describes their live show as an act that walks the line between “reverent church hymnal and intense backpack-rap show.”
  • Rapper Allan Kingdom recently found himself in the spotlight when Kanye West featured him on his new single “All Day” along with Theophilus London and Paul McCartney. The song debuted with an explosive live performance at last month’s Brit Awards.
  • At the tender age of fifteen, singer Spooky Black’s first single “Without You” scored mountains of Internet hype, with the song’s music video hitting the million-views mark while he was still in high school. Spooky graduates in 2016, by the way.

ROCK THE GARDEN 2015

The annual summer festival returns Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 2015 from 2–10 pm each day, in the green space next to the Walker.

BUY TICKETS

Tickets go on sale to Walker and Current members on Thursday, March 12 at 11 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, March 17, at 11 am.

Mark your calendar and make sure that your Walker membership is up to date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org.

MPR membership: 1.800.228.7123 or mpr.org/support.

“I Don’t Mind a Detour”: An Interview with Douglas Ewart

Douglas Ewart is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and past president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He sat down with Sam Segal and Mark Mahoney, the hosts of Radio K’s jazz program Sound Grammar, for an interview ahead of his March 5 Sound Horizon performance at the Walker. You can listen to […]

D._R._Ewart_sc000015da01

Douglas Ewart. Photo: courtesy the artist

Douglas Ewart is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and past president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He sat down with Sam Segal and Mark Mahoney, the hosts of Radio K’s jazz program Sound Grammar, for an interview ahead of his March 5 Sound Horizon performance at the Walker. You can listen to the interview on the Walker Channel.

My first experience with Douglas Ewart’s music came through Voice Prints, a recording he did in 2008 at the Walker with one of my musical heroes, Yusef Lateef, along with percussionist Adam Rudolph and Ewart’s AACM colleague Roscoe Mitchell. The music I discovered was deeply spiritual, a quest for serenity that never loses its intensity. In this performance alone Ewart plays sopranino saxophones, C flute, glass didgeridoo, voice, bass clarinet, gongs, bells, percussion, sirens, bass transverse flute, bamboo flutes, and something called the Ewart Hotchiku. Yet, his clear virtuosity on all of these instruments never seems to overwhelm the ensemble’s sense of collectivity, and when I had the pleasure of meeting him to record this interview, I wasn’t surprised to encounter a remarkably humble and thoughtful artist.

Ewart has lived mostly in the Twin Cities since moving up north from Chicago in the early ‘90s, and as a past president of the AACM, he has provided the local creative music scene with a connection to one of the pillars of the 20th Century avant-garde. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the AACM this year, Ewart spoke to me and my co-host Mark Mahoney about the Chicago collective’s impact on his own artistic approach, the supposed “Jazz Tradition,” and the Twin Cities artistic community.

We also went into depth on Ewart’s childhood in Kingston, Jamaica, where not only did his involvement in the Rastafarian movement in the early ‘60s put him in direct contact with the Nyabinghi drum music of the legendary Count Ossie  but he was also exposed to U.S. jazz titans like John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. We learned that as a teenager living in Chicago, it was Ewart’s vocational schooling as a craftsman that would inform his artistic practices as a sculptor and a maker of musical instruments today.

Last June, I attended The Audible Edge, an exhibition at the Nash Gallery that included one of Ewart’s sculptures, a rain stick he had crafted as a tribute to Trayvon Martin. When we asked him about the socio-political themes in his work, Ewart elaborated eloquently on his concerns over the continued dangers faced by young black men in America, as well as the issues he focuses on in his upcoming Sound Horizon piece: gender equality and water conservation.

For his Sound Horizon performance, Ewart will be playing alongside longtime collaborators, percussionist Stephen Goldstein and vocalist/poet Mankwe Ndosi. When asked what we could expect from the piece, Ewart couldn’t make too many promises. “[Performing] reminds me of going on a journey, and you journey to a particular place, maybe to see a particular item,” he said, “And someone tells you about something else, and you only have that moment to make up your mind….I don’t mind a detour….I often get lost on journeys, because I’ll take the other path.”

Listen to the entire conversation here.

Douglas Ewart performs in the Walker galleries at 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm on Thursday, March 5 as a part of the Sound Horizon series.

Coltrane’s Sacred Testimony: The Campbell Brothers Preach A Love Supreme

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” —Psalm 98:4, King James Version On February 26 in the McGuire Theater, brothers Chuck, Darick, and Phil Campbell will take the stage to set steel to steel in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the release […]

Campbell_Brothers_Love_Supreme_2014-15_01_PP

The Campbell Brothers. Photo: Gene Tomko

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” —Psalm 98:4, King James Version

On February 26 in the McGuire Theater, brothers Chuck, Darick, and Phil Campbell will take the stage to set steel to steel in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of John Coltrane’s seminal work, A Love Supreme. The Campbell Brothers are some of the world’s foremost practitioners of the “Sacred Steel” tradition, a strain of African-American gospel in which the organ and the choir are cast aside in favor of an ensemble of wailing and preaching lap steel guitars. With countless reinterpretations of A Love Supreme already in existence—in every medium imaginable and by everyone from choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker to poet Michael S.Harper—some might be bold enough to ask, “Is there really anything left to say about A Love Supreme?” When it comes to the Campbell Brothers’ version, the question of what they can say about the music becomes irrelevant. But things get a lot more interesting when you ask, “What can the Campbell Brothers do with A Love Supreme?”

It’s been much discussed how Coltrane’s Christian background influenced him on A Love Supreme. His grandfathers on both sides were ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal church, and while the AME has a less affective and flamboyant style of worship than the House of God, Keith Dominion church that the Campbell Brothers come from, the musicality of the preachers Coltrane saw growing up no doubt had an influence on the album. As musicologist Lewis Porter notes, Coltrane’s playing on the piece’s final movement, “Psalm,” is essentially a recitation of the self-written poem he included in the album’s liner notes. Coltrane himself refers to “Psalm” in his own outline for A Love Supreme (below) as a “musical recitation of prayer by horn.” Porter points out that this recitation follows the basic “tonal system” of the chanted oral sermon1.

love-supreme-manuscripts (1)

Manuscript of A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane, 1964, Photo: Courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History via Flickr Creative Commons

The technique of preaching through the instrument has been one of the defining elements of Sacred Steel music ever since pioneering  steel guitarist Brother Willie Eason first performed “Just A Closer Walk with Thee” by “speaking the lyrics slowly while playing slurred passages on the top string of the steel guitar to make the instrument ‘talk,’” according to Sacred Steel historian Robert Stone2. These technical and structural parallels allow the Campbell Brothers to channel the Christian spirituality embedded in Coltrane’s piece.

The kinship between A Love Supreme and the music of the Sacred Steel tradition extends beyond technique. Both the House of God church service and the recording of a jazz record like A Love Supreme are occasions of structured improvisation. Just as Coltrane twists, mutates, and builds upon his composed themes in search of spiritual transcendence and knowledge, the Sacred Steel band leader will extend and improvise on sermons and spirituals while members of the congregation give personal testimony and seek the Holy Ghost3.  There is a shared balance between intensity and meditation in the music of Coltrane and the Campbell Brothers. Professor Tommy L. Lott remarks that Coltrane’s saxophone playing features the same fiery intensity of African-American church singing, “with no overriding concern for pitch or intonation”4. Yet, the space for tender, melodic beauty is also made in Sacred Steel music, as well A Love Supreme, in order to heighten the intensity later on. In an interview, Bishop Charles E. Campbell, father of the Campbell Brothers, talks about a technique he taught his sons called “the breakdown”:

When you get it in high and everybody’s jumpin’ and getting emotional with you, we say, “Break it down. Lower it down.” Put in a certain thing…something touching that people can relate to. And they start thinking about the Lord and themselves and how far they’re down, and how they need to be lifted up…5

Coltrane and his band toy with energy in the same way throughout the piece. Clearly, there a number of ways in which we can see John Coltrane and the Campbell Brothers operating within the same musical, cultural, and spiritual framework.

12188230926_22167e80ab_o

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, 1965, Photo: Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

But the question remains: What are the Campbell Brothers doing with Love Supreme? Since Coltrane’s premature death in 1967, he has been mythologized perhaps more than any other figure in jazz. A Love Supreme is a central component of that myth, acting as a testament to Coltrane’s individual spirituality, a manifesto for his personal belief system. Coltrane himself seems to have wanted the album to be taken this way on some level. A Love Supreme is one of the only albums Coltrane ever wrote the liner notes for himself. These liner notes create a uniquely autobiographical context for the listener’s interpretation of the music6. He positions the album as a demonstration of his faith in God in the face of his struggles with drug addiction. At times, Coltrane explicitly asks us to see his music as personal testimony. In an interview with Newsweek from December 12, 1966, he said, “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am—my faith, my knowledge, my being.”

In his book Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album, Musicologist Tony Whyton asks why we view the studio recording of A Love Supreme as the essential document of the piece, when live jazz is so often hailed as the most authentic way to experience the genre and plenty of recordings of Coltrane performing the piece live have been released. Ultimately, he concludes:

Within the studio recording of A Love Supreme, the absence of the visual and the control of Coltrane’s sound creates a context for music to be experienced as more profound and mysterious. In many ways, the album transcends its status as a physical object to become something more symbolic, a reified object and associated set of events that bring us closer to Coltrane’s dialogue with God than any live performance could7.

Again, it seems that this album is continually experienced as a piece of testimony by John Coltrane. When we listen to the December 9, 1964 studio recording of A Love Supreme, it almost feels as if we are eavesdropping on Trane as he sings his song of praise.

The Campbell Brothers, however, are less concerned with the audience witnessing their testimony. In the Sacred Steel churches, the band acts as a facilitator for the spiritual experiences of the congregation. A steel guitarist measures his success by how much he moves the congregation, not by how well he can communicate his own faith8. The Campbell Brothers manage to turn the isolated personal statement of John Coltrane into a tool for creating a more communal spiritual experience. They can turn the holy experience of listening to Coltrane’s prayer alone in a bedroom into something shared, public, and no less sacred.

 FOOTNOTES

1 Porter, Lewis. “John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’: Jazz Improvisation as Composition.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 38.3 (1985): 593–621.

2 Stone, Robert L. Sacred Steel inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2010. 75.

3 Ibid 34

4 Lott, Tommy. “When Bar Walkers Preach: John Coltrane and the Crisis of the Black Intellectual.” John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music. Ed. Leonard L. Brown. New York: Oxford U, 2010. 115.

Stone, Robert L. Sacred Steel inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2010. 51.

Whyton, Tony. Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album. New York: Oxford U, 2013. 28–29.

Ibid 33

Stone, Robert L. Sacred Steel inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2010. 50.

….

The Campbell Brothers will perform John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, along with a selection of gospel and spiritual works from their repertoire, on Thursday, February 26 at 8 pm in the McGuire Theater.   

Get to Know the Artists Behind Chris Schlichting’s Stripe Tease

Ahead of next Thursday night’s world premiere performance of Minneapolis-based choreographer Chris Schlichting’s Walker-commissioned dance piece Stripe Tease, we asked his collaborators, including visual artist Jennifer Davis and art-rockers Alpha Consumer, to answer a few 8-ball-style questions. The artists discussed their histories with Schlichting, the other projects they’re working on, their favorite hidden spots in the Twin Cities, […]

pa2014pr_schlichting_002_PP

Stripe Tease; Photo by Gene Pittman

Ahead of next Thursday night’s world premiere performance of Minneapolis-based choreographer Chris Schlichting’s Walker-commissioned dance piece Stripe Tease, we asked his collaborators, including visual artist Jennifer Davis and art-rockers Alpha Consumer, to answer a few 8-ball-style questions. The artists discussed their histories with Schlichting, the other projects they’re working on, their favorite hidden spots in the Twin Cities, and much more.

SMALLERKristaLangbergStripeTease

Krista Langberg, Photo: Erin Celeste Westover

Krista Langberg (Dancer)

When or how did you meet Chris ?

At the bus stop on the corner of 62nd and Lyndale

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret that you don’t mind sharing?

The Lock Up mega self storage on American Blvd

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?

The La Brea Tar Pits

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Honesty

What have you been reading lately?

The Haynes manual “so you own a volvo…”

What else are you working on?

SHORE with Emily Johnson/Catalyst

MikeLewisStripeTease

Mike Lewis, Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Mike Lewis (Sound)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

Ever evolving.

When or how did you meet Chris?

Through Jeremy Ylvisaker, before Alpha Consumer performed as a part of his piece for the 25th anniversary of the Sculpture Garden.

What’s your best kept Twin Cities secret that you don’t mind sharing?

Succotash, a small vintage furniture shop in St. Paul.  The owners, Paul and Noreen, are beautiful and welcoming people with a learned and nuanced aesthetic, and prices always seem respectfully balanced between keeping the doors open and building a devoted clientele.

What global issue most excites or angers you?

The slow death of culture, thought, and individuality via corporate monopolization of food, media, and commerce as a whole.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Public Enemy. Mingus. Kubrick.  Rothko.  Jim Henson.

What have you been reading lately?

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.

What question do you wish we asked you?

Why do you wear that tape on your nose?

What else are you working on? 

Making time for solitary musical explorations and cooking eggs.

      p

Lion. Painting by Jennifer Davis

Jennifer Davis (Visual Design)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

I give up. I can’t do it. I just can’t!

When or how did you meet Chris?

I’ve known Chris for 24 years! We went to high school together. We briefly lost touch but were later reacquainted via mutual friends.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Axl Rose =0)

What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

Vintage carousel animals.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?

Playing for long hours in a weird, partially below-ground, playground built in the ruins of an old barn across the street from the house where I grew up in Jonathan (Chaska), MN. I have only my memories because I can’t find any photos of the place.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Getting plenty of sleep.

What else are you working on? 

I’m currently working on a series of paintings inspired by an ad for vintage paper mache masks, but after Stripe Tease I’m taking a short break to work on my tan.

SMALLERTristanKoepkeStripeTease

Tristan Koepke, Photo: Steve Niedorf

Tristan Koepke (Dancer)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

Erratic, elegant, hysteric, compulsive, and exquisite hypnosis.

When or how did you meet Chris?

We met casually through the community in 2007, but our relationship became official in 2009 when he mentored a project I created at the University of Minnesota.  I quickly told him that if he was in need of any tall, blond, awkward dancers, I was his guy.

What’s one of your guilty pleasures? 

Writing on bananas with ball-point pens.

What have you been reading lately?

In Bed with Gore Vidal by Tim Teeman

What else are you working on?

I work full-time for Zenon Dance Company. Touring with luciana achugar’s Otro Teatro. I also begin my training at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in Boulder, CO in May, 2015!

CROPdolomccombStripeTease

Dolo McComb, Photo: Bill Starr

Dolo McComb (Dancer)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

Calculating Cool Cats Coming Constantly Candy

When or how did you meet Chris ?

In June 2014 at the Bryant-Lake Bowl after I danced a little solo for 9×22 Dance/Lab!

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

John Maus. Still. Every day.

If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you invite?

Charlie Chaplin; my mother.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

I can only think of patience.

What have you been reading lately?

Steppenwolf  by Herman Hesse

What else are you working on?

I am creating a piece for the Red Eye Theater’s Work-In-Progress Festival this May. Also, working with BodyCartography Project on their work called closer.

DustinMaxwellStripeTease

Dustin Maxwell, Photo: Andy Richter

Dustin Maxwell (Dancer)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.  

Stripe Tease is a meticulous dance of gestures and short stories.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Eiko and Koma changed my life

What’s one of your guilty pleasures? 

Chocolate…and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

New Mexico.

Fill in the blank. What the world needs now is _________________.

Love. No, really, love.

What else are you working on?

I’m also working on Still Life with Morgan Thorson to be performed this summer at the Weisman Art Museum.

JeremyYlvisakerStripeTease

Jeremy Ylvisaker, Photo: Ben Durrant

Jeremy Ylvisaker (Sound)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

Parallels

What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

Distraction. It seems if I skate on top of my ideas, I’m less likely to get lost. I have 2 kids and a dog. This helps.

What’s your favorite place to people-watch?

24 hour casino in the middle of the night. I’ve only done it once, but I recommend it.

What is your favorite place in the world?

My cousin’s farm in Norway.

If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you invite?

I think Louis C.K. and Brain May should hang out. I don’t need to be there, but I want credit if they hit it off.

What else are you working on? 

A bunch of solo recordings, Alpha ConsumerGuitar Party, The Suburbs.

LauraStripeTease1

Laura Selle Virtucio, Photo: V. Paul Virtucio

Laura Selle Virtucio (Dancer)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

It is craft and candy.  It is meticulous and precarious. It is arithmetic and heart, clean and broken.

When or how did you meet Chris ? 

Chris and I had a class together at the University of Minnesota in the late 90s.  I remember seeing him swing dance and sing in a punk band around that time too…

What have you been reading lately?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See (my son’s favorite book) and I just started Silas Marner by George Elliot

What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

I’ve recently binge watched The Killing and The Fall on Netflix.

What else are you working on? 

Shapiro & Smith Dance at The Cowles Center for Dance, April 2 – 4, 2015.

Max Wirsing

Max Wirsing, Photo: Courtesy the Artist

Max Wirsing (Dancer)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.

It’s a dance piece that is almost fractal in its composition– the deeper you look into its details and nuance, the more it reveals.

When or how did you meet Chris?

Chris and I toured Heaven (by Morgan Thorson and Low) together– so many of my memories of Chris are in a long white skirt.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

So many to choose from:  Robert Rauschenberg, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Yayoi Kusama, John Cage, Meg Stuart, Sasha Waltz—though I guess many of those obsessions started in my 20s.  In high school I went through a jazz phase—so Miles Davis, Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald….and Fauvist painters.

Who is your favorite villain of fiction? Of non-fiction?

Ronald Reagan

If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you invite?

Tilda Swinton, Jeff Koons, Dan Savage, Solange Knowles, my sister Liz, Bjork, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Jean Nouvel, Bob Vila, Pema Chodron, Myra Kalman, Malia Obama, and someone who knows how to read tarot cards.  Holy cow, that’d be awesome.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?

I once swallowed the entire contents of my sister’s piggy bank.

What else are you working on?

Over the summer I’ll be a part of a performance installation at the Weisman Art Museum that Morgan Thorson is creating. And somewhere over the next year I’ll be working on a solo for the McKnight “Solo” show—choreographer TBD.  I’m also taking a math class right now.

SMALLERjtbates (3)

JT Bates, Photo: Bryan Aaker

JT Bates (Sound)

Describe Stripe Tease in one sentence or less.  

An honest search.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Max Roach.

What’s one of your guilty pleasures? 

Melted cheese.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Oh c’mon, it’s Minneapolis!

What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

The opposite of art/opposite of individuality.  Like, the brand new awful condo high rises everywhere.

What else are you working on?  

I’m always working on the Jazz Implosion series.

….

Stripe Tease will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday–Saturday, February 19–21, 2015 at 8 pm. 

No posts

Next