Rotten Apples Interview Questions (December 2011)

It took my 19 questions to get a half an hour of press. With jazz musicians, I get an hour with ten… This interview got published in all about Jazz in January 2012:


Rotten Apples Questions

  1. Let me start by asking you all who you are, where you each came from, and how you came together as a group.
  1. What made you realize that you clicked as a unit?
  1. Or DO you click as a unit?
  1. Tell us something about the development of your audience, and the role audience plays in your work.
  1. Your music seems to have the feel of being “stable in its instability.” What went on in the early years towards developing your sound?
  1. What has kept you together?
  1. Having fun and partying with the people listening to you is part of who you are as a band. How does interface with your fans affect your music?
  1. Tell us some stories of surprising or meaningful encounters with fans along the way.
  1. What makes keeping this band together rewarding for all of you?
  1. How do you deal with influence? Do The Rotten Apples have any?
  1. What types of music do each of you like?
  1. Is their anything you try to keep out of your music?
  1. How much control do you have over what you do, and how much do you leave to chance or accident? Do you tune your guitars?
  1. What do you think of labels and genres? Can The Rotten Apples fit under one? Will you let them?
  1. How serious are you?
  1. How does setting affect your music? Where do you like to play?
  1. How do your lives relate to your playing?
  1. Do you have a five-year plan or growth trajectory?
  1. Can anything destroy this band?

Hypercolor (Tzadik, 2015) – Heavy funk fusion trio


Hypercolor is a trio with Lukas Ligeti (drums), James Ilgenfritz (bass), and Eyal Maoz (guitar). From Austria, of Hungarian parents, Ligeti came into the New York scene through John Zorn. As you find in Zorn, you find a crazy eclecticism in Ligeti’s projects, with edgy flavors and international strains. But Zorn didn’t have Gyorgi Ligeti, post-war avant-garde avatar, as a father, who invented systems where opposing melodies and rhythms cancelled each other out in his new music compositions, but always executed with the light delicacy of folk music.

Hypercolor is a power trio, opposing individual styles like a particle smasher. But it is not cut-and-paste. Ligeti goes to sources. A primary one is polymetric African drumming, where different rhythmic cycles run against each other concurrently. The differing stylistic elements in Hypercolor likewise work together in one process, without the abrupt dislocation of channel switching.

Hypercolor is basically heavy funk fusion. The play on “Living Colour” is patent, and the group similarly throws up a knowing, intellectual take on a kind of dance music, music with a groove, that moves the people. There are sly introductions of modern rock themes, as in one track where Maoz plays on the Nirvana “In Bloom” guitar line, “He knows not what it means…” But Ligeti is also a giant Tony Williams fan, and he goes back to the source of the source, the source of Miles Davis, Tony Williams’ Lifetime, from which Davis hijacked the members of his electric band.

I have played this album over and over again, and I’m still playing it. Like the best jazz, it has a smooth patina, something you can hear at a nightclub and still enjoy your drink, but with the deep beauty of foreign lands, taking you to indigenous intellectual traditions, where secrets are unraveled, secrets to the key of human creativity.

Musician of the Year (2014) Yoko Miwa (piano)

yoko ryles

Yoko started playing piano at four, with a deep bedrock classical foundation. Jazz is her second language, but she swings with deep blue soul. She approaches the keyboard conceptually, with solos structured holographically that unfold with impeccable logic. Her focus is as great as the great jazz musicians, and she will have to be seen as in a league with an artist like Thelonious Monk in the long run. The difference is Monk was a jazz artist first, with an uncanny grasp of the structure of the idiom, whereas Yoko’s grasp is of the sheer logic of the keyboard. Monk was a technician second, playing flat fingered and choppy melodic lines, but glistening with smoky rhythm. Yoko came to jazz late, after seeing a movie with a friend and hearing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” As Monk’s technique was basic, Yoko’s jazz vocabulary is basic, based on primary theory and built on such things familiar to jazz students as chord blocking, walking bass lines, and octaves. But just like Monk, her whole transcends its parts. She extracts a world of perfection from a within a context of limitations, which is the soul of improvisation. Not as visible as some of the New York musicians, she comes through with greater integrity, putting herself second before the great tradition.

Angela Sawyer – Chinatown – October 25

Angela Chinatown

I like when noise makes me feel mellow instead of insane. Angela just played a kazoo over what sounds like a humming engine, making you feel like your feeling the heater blowing at you in a car on a cold winter night. It’s nice the way she uses silly children’s toys with the electronics. It gives it a human touch. The music kind of slips gear. Instead of developing and gathering to a conclusion, the climax happens when things have completely fallen apart, leaving you with a question mark.

Guerilla Toss – Midway – October 18

G Toss Midway

They’re funky and smooth, with an international feel. What were they going to do without Simon, buck naked icon; or Ian, who held the ship together? They got Toby, the only one who really looks like a rock star, and Pat, on bass, understated and cool.

I love the steel drum sound Toby gets on his synth. Peter is as dominating as ever in his kit, but with a freer feel, that allows the others to knit together what they have better.

Which is better? Not a fair question. Shifting lineups have defined the band since its onset, so it’s the change itself that counts, not any individual change.

That said, the new group gives more pleasure in the moment, if it’s not the same provocative assault on the brain. It’s a sports car taken on the highway into overdrive, wheeling and weaving and having a good time.

Ursula, Show Me the Body – lasthaus – October 10



I never knew Sona was in a band. She plays drums with a guitarist, and it’s very goth. Dark, icy tones cascading over rocky rock. The drums have a jet engine force. The guitar is a slipstream.

Show Me the Body

Show Me the Body

This band’s whole mission is to show what you can do with a banjo in a power trio. The banjo sounds are strange, mad, electric. This is a type of avant punk. It stops and starts, jolts forward on sudden rhythms. The drums are rattling bones. The bass is the Indy 500.

Charlie – Deep Thoughts JP – September 25


Charlie is a stranger. Who is he? Just another Boston band. What does that mean when you’ve discussed Bitches’ Brew with j. Geils guru Peter Wolf? They’re pretty good. Dan Hockstein, the guitarist, sounds like the guy from The Beastie Boys. It’s a trio, a power trio, and they have a clean, slightly dirty, casual feel. The mood is good. They’ve got waves of charisma and  charm. They’re cute.

Dinnersss – Deep Thoughts JP – September 15


It’s Jimmy Hughes. He’s got a disco beat going. It’s heavy synth psych stuff. But it develops. Now it’s a romantic, sweeping landscape, but still with the beat. Then it grows into something almost like Bruce Springsteen – and next, an ice skating rink. It’s hypnotic. It has touches of German minimalist techno, the black and white checkerboard sonic walls. But the beat keeps going, with sexy women’s voices.

Then it gets auditorium loud. Ricocheting patterns, handfuls of stiff wire harmony. Ultimately it evolves into straight dance music. Just a heavy thudding beat with chiming choruses. Everybody’s dancing.