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Listening Mix: Devendra Banhart & Friends

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. For his two-evening event this weekend, Wind Grove Mind Alone, singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart has gathered a group of collaborators, contemporaries, mentors, and friends. It wasn’t so long […]

Photo: OSK

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

For his two-evening event this weekend, Wind Grove Mind Alone, singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart has gathered a group of collaborators, contemporaries, mentors, and friends. It wasn’t so long ago, however, that he was working with a group of artists he referred to as “The Family.” In this New Weird America movement, Banhart was cast as the key figure willing not only to sketch out the family tree but trace it back to its roots, with a constant willingness to give recognition to his influences. One could consider Wild Grove Mind Alone a sort of culmination of these efforts. As the McGuire stage is shared by Lucky Dragons, Jessica Pratt and Greta Morgan, Helado Negro, William Basinski, Rodrigo Amarante, Hecuba, and Harold Budd with Bradford Ellis, each could be said to embody a unique element of Banhart’s ever-shifting sound.

Banhart’s musical career coincided with the beginning of the century, busking around San Francisco, slowly compiling demo recordings on “shoddy and broken four tracks” and friends’ answering machines. A decade later, fellow San Franciscan Jessica Pratt found success with a similar analogue authenticity, along with a vocalic intimacy that aligns them both with unsung folk forebears like Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs. Banhart’s early aesthetic also effortlessly incorporated Spanish-sung ballads and polyrhythmic samba send-ups, hearkening to his adolescence in Venezuela. Roberto Carlos Lange’s music as Helado Negro has also found a center in an effortless bilinguality, and trades off Latin influences for pop efficacy with a similar ease. These elements also unify Banhart with fellow Venezuelan Rodrigo Amarante, with whom he has collaborated throughout his last several records.

While the decade moved on and The Family grew, so did Banhart’s sound. As his guitar and vocals were integrated into songs by Anhoni, he exchanged the influence of her contemporary William Basinski, a purveyor of sonic intimacy, melancholy, and wonder. This sense of wonder saw shades of klezmer, comedy, art rock, and gospel begin to appear on his records, enacted with the same sense of conviction he had left on answering machines in years prior. Lucky Dragons seem similarly committed to rearranging commonplace sounds, pursuing strange experiments, and retaining an acoustic instrumentation to give their work a sense of distorted familiarity.

After 2009’s What Will We Be, Banhart took a break from music to focus on a love of visual art fostered by his album cover illustrations and selection of tour-mates like Hecuba, a visually-motivated LA duo whose music develops naturally alongside its choreographed, costumed, and projected elements. In 2013, Banhart released his eighth album, Mala, and last year published a book of his art, I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street. The book contains a series of paintings inspired by the minimal piano pieces of Harold Budd, which Banhart had also expressed a wish to emulate on Mala, an album equal parts intimate and ambitious.

Just as in Banhart’s career, Wind Grove Mind Alone confronts a wide spectrum of sounds. Together, they create an ambitious portrait of a family of sounds that continues to grow, and where they’ll wind up next is anyone’s guess. For this listening mix, I’ve paired songs from across Banhart’s discography with collaborators and influences alike: the minimalist soundscapes of Budd and Basinski, the Spanish-sung ballads of Helado Negro, the intimate folk of Pratt and Vashti Bunyan, the heartfelt electronics of Hecuba and Arthur Russell, the abstract experiments of Lucky Dragons, and more.


Wind Grove Mind Alone—a copresentation with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series—will be performed over the course of two evenings in the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater. Devendra Banhart will perform with Lucky Dragons, Pratt and Morgan, Helado Negro, and Basinski on Friday, May 13 at 8 pm, and with his full band, Amarante, Hecuba, and Budd and Ellis on Saturday, May 14 at 8 pm. Tickets are currently sold out; a wait list will begin one hour prior to the performance at the Walker box office.

Listening Mix: Noura Mint Seymali

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the music of Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who is bringing her unique brand of desert blues to the Cedar Cultural Center […]

Photo: courtesy of artist

Photo: courtesy of artist

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the music of Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who is bringing her unique brand of desert blues to the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday, February 19. The show, copresented by the Walker, begins at 8pm.

Noura has been releasing music back home for a decade and performing since her teenage years, but even then, music extends beyond her birth for generations. Descended from traveling griot poets and storytellers, a father who devised the Moorish system of musical notation, a local pop star for a step-mother, and a grandmother who taught her the nine string ardine (which has become her signature instrument), Noura seems destined to carry on this sonic legacy. In collaboration with her husband, guitarist Jeiche Ould Chighaly, her international debut record Tzenni is the culmination of the sounds, classical and contemporary, that have shaped her path. This listening mix highlights some of her West African predecessors and fellow ardine and ngoni virtuosos, as well as Jeiche’s desert guitar contemporaries (Tinariwen, Bombino) and the unexpected westerners who inspired their sounds.

Noura Mint Seymali performs at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday, February 19, at 8pm, with opening act Gospel Machine.

Listening Mix: Mary Halvorson

Last year, Mary Halvorson was credited as an instrumentalist on eight releases. Two years prior, she was on eleven; the year before that, eighteen. Ever the versatile guitarist, each collaboration sees her slipping into any number of roles stylistically. Her 2015 solo release Meltframe, however, finds her unaccompanied for the first time, and channeling the sounds of an entire band through a […]

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Last year, Mary Halvorson was credited as an instrumentalist on eight releases. Two years prior, she was on eleven; the year before that, eighteen. Ever the versatile guitarist, each collaboration sees her slipping into any number of roles stylistically. Her 2015 solo release Meltframe, however, finds her unaccompanied for the first time, and channeling the sounds of an entire band through a singular guitar. In anticipation of her solo performances on February 11, as the inaugural artist for this year’s Sound Horizon series, it seemed appropriate to make a listening mix to showcase the many aspects of Halvorson’s craft.

1. Mary Halvorson Quintet – “Hemorrhaging Smiles” (2012)
Halvorson’s ensembles began with her 2008 trio of bassist John Herbert and drummer Ches Smith. As she’s expanded to a quintet and, more recently, a septet, the precision of this talented rhythm section continues to drive her compositions, taking center stage near this piece’s 17 minute mark in respite from the easygoing brass harmonies at its start.

2. Anthony Braxton – “Composition No 350 – Part 5” (2007)
Studies at Wesleyan with prolific composer Anthony Braxton lead Halvorson to become a valued member of Braxton’s ensembles, including the 12+1tet whose 2006 performance at the Iridium club he referred to as “the point of definition in my work thus far.” Halvorson’s arpeggiated duet with vibraphone that begins this excerpt is just one highlight in the sprawling, nine-hour performance.

3. Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, and Ches Smith – Live at Medienkulturhaus (Wels, Austria) (2005)
While the trio has never recorded together, one can’t help but wish for more from Halvorson, her Trio/Quintet drummer Smith, and Wilco guitarist/Walker favorite Cline. The group has an amazing energy that adds a strength and tension to this inconspicuously ambient, Dirty Three-esque improvisation.

4. Kristo Rodzevski – “Kadife” (2015)
New York-based composer Kristo Rodzevski enlisted the help of several free improvisers in creating Batania, his melancholic yet breezy jazz-pop debut. Halvorson’s electric guitar takes a backseat to bouncy strings and brushed cymbals, which allows her solo (beginning at 2:45) to aptly punctuate Rodzevski’s Macedonian-sung verses and a trumpet solo by frequent collaborator Kirk Knuffke.

5. People – “The Lyrics Are Simultaneously About How The Song Starts And What The Lyrics Are About” (2014)
People, which Halvorson formed as a duo with drummer Kevin Shea in 2005, gives jazz prowess a backseat to plainly chaotic Melt-Banana style noise rock; but their third record saw the addition of both Crystal Stilts bassist Kyle Forester and a sense of humor. This particular track is the peak of its self-referential irreverence, both lyrically and in the time signature arithmetic lesson at its center.

6. Mary Halvorson – “Ida Lupino” (2015)
Meltframe is Halvorson’s first truly solo outing, with ten reinterpretations of tunes by both icons and contemporaries. As Marvin Lin observes, “Halvorson’s guitar-voice opens the conversation, gesturing toward the mirror while displacing itself historically”. This reverent solitude, new for both piece and performer, reshapes styles as disparate as Oliver Nelson’s frenzied hard bop and Annette Peacock’s synthesized soul. A rare sense of tenderness, too, is revealed in her rendition of Carla Bley’s “Ida Lupino“, only further confirming the multitudes embodied by one woman and her guitar. 

Mary Halvorson will perform as part of Sound Horizon 2016, the Walker’s series of free in-gallery music performances, on February 11, 2016, at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Read more:
An Eruption of Communal Voice: Marvin Lin on Guitarist Mary Halvorson

Rock the Garden 2015 Listening Mix

In anticipation of this summer’s upcoming Rock the Garden, Walker Marketing Intern Samantha Sacks created a playlist that aims to capture the spirit of the festival’s unique lineup. These are twenty songs, both classic and contemporary, from the ten musical acts that will take the stage in July. From Afrobeat to psychedelic pop, this year’s Rock the Garden […]

Rock the Garden 2012

Rock the Garden 2012

In anticipation of this summer’s upcoming Rock the Garden, Walker Marketing Intern Samantha Sacks created a playlist that aims to capture the spirit of the festival’s unique lineup. These are twenty songs, both classic and contemporary, from the ten musical acts that will take the stage in July. From Afrobeat to psychedelic pop, this year’s Rock the Garden lineup offers a wide variety of sounds. Whether it’s the fresh faced newcomers or the seasoned pros, the festival seems to cater to folks young and old, with something for everyone finding their way to the garden this year.

Modest Mouse

“Float On” has been a massively popular hit since it was released over ten years ago. Its quirky anecdotes about life’s hassles and the positive message that “we’ll all float on okay” make this track a bit different from Modest Mouse’s typically darker moods.

In March, the band returned with their first new full-length album in eight years, Strangers to Ourselves. On “Lampshades on Fire,” lead vocalist Isaac Brock adds his classically punchy delivery to a highly danceable post-punk drumbeat. The vocals break down into numerous strands of soft, wordless sound, a technique that also appears all over Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

Belle and Sebastian

Like Modest Mouse, Scottish indie-pop outfit Belle and Sebastian have had a long career, spanning nearly 20 years. This year, they are back with their ninth studio album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. With a hypnotic ’80s synth-pop vibe, “The Party Line” is a perfect tune for any dance party.

“Lazy Line Painter Jane,” the title-track from their 1997 EP, is a classic of Belle & Sebastian’s early material. The song has the hazy groove of classic ’60s psych, along with the lo-fi pop genius of the ’80s Flying Nun discography.

Babes in Toyland

Local punk legends Babes In Toyland have also stood the test of time. They recently reunited for the first time in fourteen years. The trio will proudly represent the storied history of the Twin Cities underground this year at Rock the Garden.

“He’s My Thing” is an excellent example of the trio’s feminist subject matter. Lead vocalist Kat Bjelland screams and growls, “He’s my thing, stay away from my thing.” Clearly inspired by Patti Smith, Bjelland’s stark lyricism and vocals are totally unapologetic. Michelle Leon’s dark yet groovy bass line weaves prominently through the song.

One of the band’s most well-known songs, “Bruise Violet,” was thought to be about Bjelland’s grunge rival, Courtney Love, who almost joined the band early on in its formation. Although Bjelland denies these rumors, it’s certainly an angry song.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Seun Kuti, son of Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, has led his late father’s band, Egypt 80, since he was 14 years old. Egypt 80 and many of its original members have remained together since its formation around 1980. Their latest album, A Long Way to the Beginning, takes cues from the afrobeat sounds Seun grew up with, yet manages to avoid coming off like an exercise in nostalgia.

Like all of the band’s material, “African Airways” has an incredibly funky rhythm that will undoubtedly get the whole Garden dancing.

The rhythms of each instrument in “African Solider” seem to be very complex. However, they somehow come together as a very cohesive whole. Like much of Kuti’s catalog, his lyrics here are very political, exploring Nigeria’s deep history of militarism and corruption.

J.D. McPherson

The influence of rockabilly and early soul music on J.D. McPherson is very apparent. “Let The Good Times Roll” will take you from 2015 to a 1950s prom. This track is a fun homage to the sound of the early rock n’ roll era McPherson admires so much. He still manages to give the song a modern twist with a guitar solo that nearly explodes in punk rock energy.

“North Side Gal” tells the story of how he and everyone else is “crazy about a North Side gal.” McPherson’s vocals are incredibly soulful, reminiscent of rockabilly greats like Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Conor Oberst

Prolific singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has been involved in many different bands over the years, but he is best known for founding the legendary indie-folk outfit Bright Eyes. Recently, Oberst has been focusing on his solo career, releasing music under his own name and also with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band.

“Cape Canaveral” is just one example of Oberst’s talent for heartbreaking lyricism and unclassifiable arrangements.

“Zigzagging Toward the Light” stays true to Oberst’s folk roots, with sliding guitar melodies reminiscent of the cowboy psychedelia of Lee Hazlewood and the Grateful Dead. The song ends with a furious, distorted solo, proving Oberst has the firepower to melt a festival crowd’s collective face.

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett has received much praise and attention from critics with the release of her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit. The Aussie slacker-rock goddess is anything but lazy when it comes to songwriting.

“Avant Gardener” exemplifies Barnett’s offbeat humor and surreal lyricism. She sings of her attempt to be productive by gardening, which is foiled when she ends up having an asthma attack. The song is comical, with references to Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction and clever rhymes like “Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic.” Yet, there is also honest vulnerability in this song, as Barnett admits that she would much “prefer the mundane.”

With self-deprecating lyrics like, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” and “I’m a fake, I’m a phony, I’m awake, I’m alone, I’m homely, I’m a Scorpio,” it’s clear that Barnett isn’t trying to impress anyone. “Pedestrian at Best,” with its stream of consciousness lyricism, reveals her insecurities and inability to make up her mind. Its dark humor is met by powerful guitar riffs that seem to ramp up over and over again.

Lucius

Indie pop band Lucius consists of frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who sing in perfect unison and perform in matching outfits. They are another newer band in this year’s Rock the Garden lineup. They made waves with their 2014 debut album, Wildewoman. Coincidentally, their album artwork, the 1964 painting Ice Cream by Belgian pop artist Evelyne Axell, is featured in the Walker’s International Pop Exhibition.

“Turn It Around” is a punchy pop gem with strong singing from Wolfe and Laessig. Their harmonies are tight, showing off the duo’s remarkable vocal control.

“Two of Us on the Run” is a stunning combination of Wolf and Laessig’s delicate vocal harmonies and two hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars.

Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger

Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, or GOASTT, is the duo of Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon. The band has been active since around 2008, but only recently did they release their first full length album, Midnight Sun. With parents John Lennon and Yoko Ono, it is easy to understand where Sean gets his musical and artistic chops. Not straying too far away from his Beatle father, Sean and Charlotte blend folk with a heady serving of ’60s psych-pop.

It is hard to not hear John Lennon’s iconic tone in Sean’s singing, and on the track, “Animals,” Muhl’s voice compliments it with a more ethereal sound.

It only seems fitting to include a song about a famous garden. “Jardin Du Luxembourg” is the opening track of their 2011 EP, La Carotte Bleue.  Sean and Charlotte sing delicate harmonies together throughout the entire song, pausing only for a short guitar solo.

Thestand4rd

Thestand4rd is Bobby Raps, Allan Kingdom, Psymun, and Corbin (formerly Spooky Black): a local super group of rappers, singers and producers who have joined forces to create songs that lie somewhere in between rap and indie R&B.

“Simple Needs” soothes us with the soft, melodic croons of Corbin and Allan Kingdom.

“Binoculars” is more rap-heavy than “Simple Needs.” Boasting about the group’s DIY roots, Allan Kingdom raps about how they’re all just some “kids with computers.” The beats and melodies that producer Psymun crafts are darkly smooth, creating a doubly eerie and enveloping atmosphere.

Rock the Garden has made it a tradition to showcase local favorites alongside national and international acts. Local acts like Thestan4rd and Babes in Toyland highlight the Cities’ deeply rooted DIY ethic, while acts such as Lucius and Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 exemplify some of the freshest currents in contemporary independent music.

The artists of Rock the Garden 2015 share a common disregard for barriers of genre and a willingness to follow their own muse, wherever it might take them. The result is a gratifying, challenging, and remarkably eclectic array of musical output that deserves to be experienced in person.

Rock the Garden will take place at the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on June 20 and 21, 2015 from 2 – 10 pm. Tickets are available here.

Listening Mix: Jason Moran and Robert Glasper

Two titans of 21st-century jazz piano will join forces at the Walker’s McGuire Theater this Saturday. The audience is in for the rarest of treats: a meeting of equals that promises to break new ground even as it revisits shared history. The commonalities between Jason Moran and Robert Glasper extend beyond their instrument. Both artists attended Houston’s […]

Robert Glasper & Jason Moran, Blue Note Records’ 75th Anniversary Tribute at Winter Jazz Fest, January 8, 2014. Photo: Lesley Keller

Robert Glasper & Jason Moran, Blue Note Records’ 75th Anniversary Tribute at Winter Jazz Fest, January 8, 2014. Photo: Lesley Keller

Two titans of 21st-century jazz piano will join forces at the Walker’s McGuire Theater this Saturday. The audience is in for the rarest of treats: a meeting of equals that promises to break new ground even as it revisits shared history.

The commonalities between Jason Moran and Robert Glasper extend beyond their instrument. Both artists attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and they have both since refined distinctive languages characterized by an openness to a vast range of stylistic impulses. The breadth and depth of their respective visions would be impossible to encapsulate in a single playlist. What follows, then, is not intended as a representative selection, but as a freely associative dive into their multifarious artistry.

Track One: Jason Moran & The Bandwagon — “Break Down” — Artist in Residence (2006)

“Break Down” originated as part of Moran’s Milestone, a Walker-commissioned suite. The voice we hear belongs to legendary conceptual artist Adrian Piper. Piper’s original speech enjoined artists to make their processes public and transparent:

Piper: “Artists ought to be writing about what they do, and what kinds of procedures they go through to realize a work, what their presuppositions in making the work are, and related things. If artists’ intentions and ideas were more accessible to the general public, I think it might break down some of the barriers of misunderstanding between the art world and artists and the general public. I think it would become clear the extent to which artists are just as much a product of their society as anyone else with any other kind of vocation.”

In a playfully reflexive gesture, Moran heeds Piper’s suggestion to “break down” ideas by breaking down and rearranging her commentary itself. By rendering this rearrangement so transparent–we hear the unaltered source speech in its entirety later in the album–Moran alerts us to the constant deconstruction and reconstruction of meaning that characterizes his artistic process. Moran’s layered musical statement interacts with Piper’s original statement, and the resultant profusion of intertextual meaning invites the listener to take part in the interpretive fun.

In the span of just three minutes, Moran has laid out an ambitious array of artistic aspirations: to make art that is both abstract and accessible and to ‘break down’ barriers between artist and audience, form and process, and language and music. Over the course of his career, Moran has done remarkably well on each of these fronts, garnering critical acclaim and an ever-expanding audience.

Moran’s decision to mine Piper’s speech for its cadences and melodic contours as well as its semantic content points towards one of Jason’s early and ongoing influences: hip hop.

Track Two: Q-Tip — “Life Is Better” — The Renaissance (2008)

The honeyed tones of this Q-Tip cut come from none other than Robert Glasper. Glasper has an extensive history of collaboration with pre-eminent hip-hop artists, and there are few rappers/producers more venerated than Q-Tip. A founding member of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip also offers a link to a seminal time in the admixture of jazz and hip hop.

Q-Tip’s rhymes clue us into his keen awareness of his own aesthetic lineage:

One step at a time, a man walked on the moon
One record got played, Kool Herc said boom

Playlist setting: Cold Crush, Furious Five, and the Masterdon
Cosmic Force, Bammbaataa, Jazzy 5

His lyrical reference points provide a glimpse into his listening history as well as the history of hip hop at large. (Norah Jones even intones earlier in the song, “I’m so into your rich history.”)

Moran and Glasper share this ideal of crafting autobiographical and cultural narrative through music. In Downbeat Magazine, Moran mused,

“Which songs do we play that really tell our narrative? Looking at songs, even song titles or song composers, expresses where I am, or who I am … That sets up this place where we sit in current jazz piano, a place where you are able to tell these narratives, which are your personal ones. Somebody might say they’re open for criticism, but it’s open more for discussion. It’s trying to find that place where you can tell your story freely. Black people weren’t able to tell their story here, and some are still coming to grips with how to tell that story.”

Track Three: Jason Moran — “Gentle Shifts South” — The Bandwagon (2003)

Discussing “Gentle Shifts South,” Moran told Nate Chinen, “[The] piece is my grandparents talking; that’s my family history when I play that piece.”

Jason’s plangent playing here creates a wonderfully evocative atmosphere. The piano’s rich overtones seem to hover in the air, enveloping the listener in the bittersweet warmth of remembrance.

Track Four: Robert Glasper Trio — “Think of One” — Double Booked (2009)

Within the first 45 seconds of this track alone, we can hear traces from across the history of jazz piano: the rapid-fire barrages of Bud Powell, the left-hand stride patterns of the early pioneers, and the joyous, jagged dissonances of Thelonious Monk, who composed the tune. More than a simple homage to his forebears, the voice that emerges is unmistakably Glasper’s own. The trio’s take on the song has a playful persistence to it, dancing around the theme again and again until it explodes into something rapturous.

Monk’s music is a touchstone for both Glasper and Moran, as is the music of the early stride piano masters, but they share a preference for addressing these legacies obliquely rather than as linear influences.

Track Five: Muhal Richard Abrams & Amina Claudine Myers — “Swang Rag Swang” — Duet (1981)

This swinging jaunt from celebrated AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) pianists Muhal Richard Abrams and Amina Claudine Myers showcases the piano duo format at its finest. The melodic thread holding the piece together seems to be a single motif that sounds vaguely like an inversion of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.” From that germinal material, Myers and Abrams pull and push against one another, spinning the idea through every wondrous permutation imaginable.

The AACM’s impact on the current generation of forward-looking jazz artists would be hard to overstate. Moran has worked to shine a spotlight on this still-vibrant collective, spearheading a celebration of AACM member Henry Threadgill in Harlem last year and covering a Muhal Richard Abrams composition on his inventive solo album, Modernistic. (Threadgill and Abrams performed on the Walker stage in March as members of Jack DeJohnette’s ‘Made In Chicago’ Quintet.)

Track Six: Jason Moran & Robert Glasper, “Retrograde” Live

Here, Moran and Glasper fulfill the tremendous promise of their collaboration. Their interplay sounds comfortable but not complacent. It’s a pleasure to hear them alternate between digging into their shared vocabulary and pushing each other to new heights. The two artists make use of the full spectrum of pianistic possibilities, shifting from comping to soloing, from rhythmic ideas to lyrical ones, all fluidly and seemingly effortlessly.

Moran composed the tune they are playing, or, more precisely, arranged it; “Retrograde” is the product of his experiments with playing “Smoke Stack,” a song composed by his mentor Andrew Hill, in reverse. It seems to me that this provides the perfect metaphor for Moran and Glasper’s approach to music history: looking backward in order to move forward.

As these two masters play in tandem, their collaboration takes on the quality of a dance: moving forward and back, side to side, across the space and history of the piano, and ultimately reaching what feels like consummation, only for us to be reminded that at some point it will end.

We’re lucky to be invited to the dance party.

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.

LISTENING MIX // Grouper

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the pensive sounds of Grouper (Liz Harris) before she performs in the Walker galleries Thursday, May 9. Free and open to the […]

Grouper. Photo: Sean Herman

Grouper. Photo: Sean Herman

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the pensive sounds of Grouper (Liz Harris) before she performs in the Walker galleries Thursday, May 9. Free and open to the public, these 30-minute performances begin at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Grouper masterfully layers hypnotic vocal melodies, sorrowful shoe-gazed guitars, and analog drones into a deeply contemplative and expansive listening experience. Her dreamy sound worlds can slow your sense of time way down. This echo-chambered music is emotional and sincerely engaging. Paired with a few Grouper tracks, I filled in the music mix with an atmospheric anthem from Burial, bubbling vocal delays from High Places, and even some “witch house” distortions from SIΔMESE NOIR.

LISTENING MIX // Grouper by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Grouper / Living Room / 0:0
The Curse of Company / I Have A Simple Life / 2:21
Grouper / Cloud in Places / 4:42
Burial / Forgive / 8:47
Grouper / Water People / 11:54
High Places / Greeting the Light / 16:03
Grouper / Invisible / 18:12
Kria Brekkan / Uterus Water / 22:07
William Basinski / Melancholia XI / 25:31
Grouper / Sick / 26:42
SIΔMESE NOIR / COVER ME / 31:49
Grouper / Come Softly / 33:46
M83 / At the Party / 38:20

LISTENING MIX // Craig Taborn

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Before keyboardist and composer Craig Taborn performs at the Walker this Friday (April 26), get to know his complex and colorful music with this […]

Craig Taborn. Photo: Julien Lagarde

Craig Taborn. Photo: Julien Lagarde

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Before keyboardist and composer Craig Taborn performs at the Walker this Friday (April 26), get to know his complex and colorful music with this week’s Listening Mix.

Although much of his work has been created in collaboration with other players, I’ve decide to focus on his solo piano pieces. Somewhere between the jazz and classical worlds, Taborn’s piano works display rich harmonies, effective silences, and an acute attention to detail. Many of these ballads create expansive sonic space by use of quartal and tertiary intervals.

To further enrich this playlist, I’ve included piano polyrhythms from contemporary composer David Lang, a bittersweet interlude from Sylvain Chauveau, echoed repetitions from Panda Bear, and more.

LISTENING MIX // Craig Taborn by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Craig Taborn / Light Made Lighter / 0:0
Sylvain Chauveau / Pour Les Oiseaux / 1:56
Nicolas Jaar / Specters Of The Future / 2:36
Craig Taborn, David Binney, Mark Turner, Thomas Morgan, Dan Weiss / Intro To Toronto / 4:37
lucky dragons / outtake 1 / 8:44
Susumu Yokota / Gekkoh / 12:01
Craig Taborn / Diamond Turning Dream / 17:00
Panda Bear / Scheherezade / 21:17
Craig Taborn / The Broad Day King / 25:12
David Lang / Wed / 31:25
Martyn / Bridge / 36:21

LISTENING MIX // Fatoumata Diawara

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the captivating sounds of Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs with her band at the Cedar Cultural Center […]

Fatoumata Diawara, Photo: Pedro A.Pina

Fatoumata Diawara. Photo: Pedro A.Pina

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the captivating sounds of Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs with her band at the Cedar Cultural Center this Friday, April 12. Copresented by the Walker, the show begins at 8 pm.

Fatoumata Diawara has something to say. Or sing rather. Although I don’t speak her language (Wassoulou), I can’t help feeling that she has something important to express. Perhaps she is suggesting new ways of thinking and feeling about each other (and our world)? Maybe she sings about life in Mali? For me, I am simply drawn in by the music itself.

With effective simplicity, much of her work functions like a train running on its track. These songs groove at consistent tempos until arriving back to their introductory seed. When listening to this music, I am struck by its relatively neutral harmony, creating feelings which are neither obviously happy or sad. At the forefront, Diawara has an insistent and animated voice, occasionally sending out speedy rap-like melodies or pentatonic embellishments. Second to the voice, the guitars are catchy, and regularly display angular and intervallic motifs. For this LISTENING MIX, I’ve brought together the afro-disco chants of Dur-Dur Band, the intricate sound tapestries of Argentinian singer Juana Molina, the sunny pop-riffs from all-female Indonesian group Dara Puspita, and others.

LISTENING MIX // Fatoumata Diawara by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Fatoumata Diawara / Sowa / 0:0
Dur-Dur Band / Dooyo / 3:13
Fatoumata Diawara / Sonkolon / 7:05
Juana Molina / Micael / 10:30
Fatoumata Diawara / Makoun Oumou / 13:39
Damian Marley & Nas / Patience (Sabali) / 18:16
Fatoumata Diawara / Mousso / 24:03
Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali & The Kikulacho Yahoo’ Band / Sina Raha / 27:25
Dara Puspita / Ali Baba / 32:16
Fatoumata Diawara / Alama / 34:41
Rokia Traoré / Koronoko / 38:21

LISTENING MIX // Julia Holter

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Bringing her ethereal vocal melodies, vintage electronic sounds, and imaginative soundscapes, Los Angeles musician Julia Holter performs at the Walker as a part […]

Julia Holter, Photo: Stadiums & Shrines

Julia Holter. Photo: Stadiums & Shrines

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Bringing her ethereal vocal melodies, vintage electronic sounds, and imaginative soundscapes, Los Angeles musician Julia Holter performs at the Walker as a part of our in-gallery music series Sound Horizon, this Thursday, April 11. Free and open to the public, these 30-minute performances begin at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Utilizing analog synthesizers, drum machines, keyboards, and vocal effects, Julia Holter creates a dreamlike sound universe uniquely her own. Coming from the LA cultures of CalArts, Dublab Radio, and Echo Park, Holter seamlessly unifies art song with pop song. Within her music, the vibe can transition from direct melodies into abstract sound collages. Much of her work emphasizes texture, harmony, and narrative structure. For this Listening Mix, I’ve chosen to integrate the whispered vocals of swedish group El Perro Del Mar, the playful vocal layering of Grimes, the echoed storytelling of John Maus, and the psychedelic lullabies of Broadcast.

LISTENING MIX // Julia Holter by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Julia Holter / Sea Called Me Home / 0:0
El Perro Del Mar / Do Not Despair / 2:29
Julia Holter / Four Gardens / 5:49
Grimes / Vanessa / 11:58
Julia Holter / Our Sorrow / 17:25
Chairlift / Turning / 23:39
John Maus / Do Your Best / 26:38
Julia Holter / Marienbad / 29:33
Laurel Halo / Embassy / 34:54
Julia Holter / Moni Mon Amie / 39:02
Laurie Anderson / Love Among the Sailors / 42:30
Julia Holter / Measure What More / 45:20
Broadcast / Tears in the Typing Pool / 47:54
Salem / Whenusleep / 50:07

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