Justice (Steve Colson)

The operation was touch and go. My first telephone interview, assigned by All About Jazz, and I had to improvise to get the job done. And yet, that is what makes me a jazz musician as a writer… I had been in email contact with Iqua, pianist Steve Colson’s wife, and I had set up the time and date with her.

 

And so I called, a weekday evening, and he answered. He has an African name, Adegoke, or “Ade”, and I was inclined to call him “sir”. But I asked him, “Is it all right if I call you Steve?” He said it was fine.

 

There is a defining moment in his life, going back to 1971. To put this in proper perspective, you will have to understand this was just one year after the Kent State massacre. There were just under a hundred black students at Northwestern University at this time, and Steve and six friends planned the occupation of the Bursar’s office for changes in racial policy. In the process, Steve and his friend Andre went into the undergoing tunnels and mapped them so when the National Guard tried to enter the doors were chained closed. Every black student participated. Colson and four classmates had the chains around them when they came out.

 

It resulted in the founding of a black dorm for the school, reformed admissions and curriculum, and in the long run was the impetus for the establishment of the African Studies programs across the country, for which the occupiers each became major players and department heads.

 

In the context of his involvement with The Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), I introduced this. “You’re going way back!” he responded, in his grand, earthy, dark voice.

 

The conversation was just as grand, dark and earthy, with a foray back into his childhood and how much he enjoyed playing piano, even then, and how he switched between jazz and classical, just as open to either, though choosing jazz in the long run, when he went to school.

 

The balance of freedom and order in his work is like a light- and dark-blended coffee. He adapts himself with protean accuracy to context, which involves much playing with such other great veterans of the free jazz scene as Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell.

 

His honors now are legion Newark, New Jersey, and where he teaches in nearby Montclair and Bloomfield. The city has honored him, and has commissioned composed work, for he is also a composer. And his scholarship is distinguished as well, often involving music theory in ancient history. He lectures on the Egyptian system, and the Greek, by way of the Egyptian.

 

But again, this belies his earthy, jazzy nature. He has been compared to composers like Bartok, but the comparison with Charles Mingus satisfies him most.

 

As for a great memory as a musician, about 40 years ago, he played at a club in Chicago with some friends. The great jazz drummer and leader of The Jazz Messengers, who funneled some few generations of hard-hitting new talents into the jazz world—the drummer Art Blakey, was in the audience.

 

Colson tells me how he came up afterward to the stage, smiling and beaming. He shook him by the shoulders. “You guys sounded great!” Ade is a man of great strength. This was still a moment that brought him to a peak of emotion.

 

So I talked to Ade, with my primitive cord with suction cups connecting my recorder to the receiver. The sound was dusty and full of static. I lost much of the detail in the transcription. Yet I concentrated hard, and I got the gist of it, the essence and hypostasis that will last. I have since adopted a more stable process of recording phone interviews, but this is the interview I am proud of. This is the one that’s part of the history of human rights, and of human music.

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Venus in Eden in the South End

Lucy Watson was excited when I said I’d write about her performance at The Anthony Greaney Gallery in the South End. I’d performed with her act Smarty, which is hard to explain, but suffice it to say I had some idea of what she was about.

Naked women dancing was enticing to me. That said, I still had a pubescent idea of feminine beauty. That changed tonight as I witnessed women without cookie cutter bodies arouse me more sexually than Penthouse pets.

But there was so much more to the night than that. Art writer and critic Sampson Wilcox enlightened me thus when I met him after the first performance, with his grasp and vocab of the medium about ten times as great as mine. With his spur of insight I was able to step beyond my essential base in sexuality and music, into the actual phenomenon of women’s bodies, and how they articulate their desire through art, in the notes that follow.

Madge of Honor

Reaching up for a rope on a bell a body like a cut d’Anjou pear curvaceous voluptuous chunky see the peach tan flesh sweat red the twenty minute sexual feat of wild sex  she shows her secret parts skipping falling down and rolling missing the rope trying again bending flexing breasts pushes pussy rings the bell

Creighton Baxter

Slight contortions as she slowly moves her black clad body across the white gallery wall rubbing her cheek against it  leaving a rouge smear line from lipstick gestures with her hand against it

Four lined handwritten sheets of paper on the hardwood floor she moves them around like playing cards in a game of solitaire there are more than four she stretches them up contiguously one next to another rips of tape and plastic eats the paper she’s nuts her black hair in a bun skirt and boots slowly chews silent tears shreds from clear sticky plastic backing pensive gaze closed eyes

Gobs of pablum spit upon the floor slight look of disgust or anger in eyes revolving a thought round the brain then she licks up the spit like an animal is it sexual or gross I don’t know gross is sexual

Strolls loosely and silently in semicircle round corner of the floor sweet abstracted gaze and screams like a beast

That I understood it’s me in my apartment every day

Maria Molteni

Maria  in silver dress sensual mode with her slender neck graceful as a nightingale slight plump pulp to her legs and arms from bee venom pretty little eye blinks otherwise still both hands on right hip feet apart at angles shadow grand and tall behind on wall switch of hips little lithe shrugs slight curve of lower breast beneath shine of silver

Plié like a dancer touching her toe slight swivel little head nods slips of lips

Lucy Watson & Venus Alba

Lucy in blue light onscreen in the background song about my shadow on camel caparisoned humps with friend behind plaster head big waving cardboard hand she’s not afraid of her shadow

Now she’s asleep on the floor blowing a pipe under sheet she tosses aside primps her face in a mirror Venus in blonde wig “I don’t know do you think this is good” Lucy tells her not to touch her dirty hands to the art Lucy’s at the playground again the little girl now they strip down and have a pillow fight with gauze rags covering each others’ heads with blue scarves duck tape belts holding silver skirts

Pas de deux hand dance with silver masks

Now Venus  has naked breasts she’s making her bed she has red hair

Bridging the art and music communities Lucy’s got a strange kind of techno children’s music playing and Venus is shuffling tarot cards

The pair eat candy kneeling across from each other Venus does an ink drawing on paper and on her left palm

The floor is a mess and Lucy’s got red stuff on her face she’s doing something with what looks like a fold up table she’s under it kissing a guy Venus is back looking sexy with bare breasts the two gently sweetly hugImage

Michael Rosenstein

Weirdo Records, July 22
Pleasant Buzz

Pleasant buzz to begin with clicks and the lovelorn sounds of plastic on the table an echo and things get grander Michael’s wedding ring shining grandly I feel good I just had a sip of dragonfruit juice and bought some CDs there’s a haze of clinking objects moving to the foreground but the stuff is slow and spacy now he’s holding nothing hands in his lap I think back to the piano factory and Andrew and the gang now the clinking of dripping water thinking of girls their different flavors mine has a dragonfruit taste it falls on my tongue now and the metronome flashes its beam the headlight on a locomotive but nautical things ring in a copper pipe I begin to sense the compostion the sonic spacings and the bottle of juice is empty

The Dash and Flash of Pile

Girls like goofy. The question is, how to be goofy and cool, at once. Pile knows how. It helps to be spot-on musicians, which they are, with deft, baroque but clean guitar lines, and disciplined drums. On their new album, dripping, they sport a hard-hitting sound, that’s always spunky and happy, and never dark, however daring they get, which they do.

The vocals have a charming, “aw shucks” quality, but they are always in tune, and never invasive, allowing the instruments to wash over them like waves. Check out the titles: “Baby Boy”, “Grunt Like a Pig”, “Sun Poisoning”, “Bubble Gum”. It’s kind of like a string of kid’s books crossed with psychedelic comics.

The dynamics are great, too. They come and go, like the rhythms of a dripping faucet. And sometimes the spigot is turned on full throttle, peppy and people-loving. The songs often have a folk-like quality, with their light finger picking, but the stuff always rocks, sometimes with strange breaks of string free-for-alls.

Sometimes they get hardcore, but it’s always in fun, with a big, pretty sound that loves everyone. “Prom Song” may be the highlight of the album, with twinges of the Nirvana of “In Bloom” (Nevermind). The song builds with grand romantic tones like a high school couple basking in the lights of the gussied-up gym, late in the evening.

Like Nirvana, they can get wild, but they always end up on their feet. They’re the kids you envied at school, who could jump and twist on the dance floor without ever getting hurt. And this is healing music, with a good dose of happy tones that travel through your brains like the nutrients of a good salad.

Pile plays at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, on Sunday, August 11.

Endation Does Duo (The Absence of Everything)

Well, I guess the absence of color is black. Though my niece, Celia, says, “Yeah, it’s a color.” So yes, Endation is a color, very basic black. Anthony Ants Conley does four-string guitar; Matt Graber does drums. And they do just about everything, so you could say it is a blinding white.

The Absence of Everything has a varied twelve songs, with tinges of Roots era Sepultura. But they get darkly mellow and electro-funky, too. The sound is much bigger than the two instruments. The duo weaves a warped complexity, undoing itself and threading itself back together. Conley has a quiet desperation to his voice, on the verge of screams, and then agonized love sickness, and sometimes just a seductive plea.

Drums peak out like pythons in the jungle, while the guitar sits neatly in the trees, like a three-toed sloth. Other times, they bounce around like a cue ball in bumper pool, falling into psychedelic holes.

Rhythms are abrupt, flowing, and then stop/starting, climbing and chugging like the little engine that could. This album brings us back to the age of super groups that ended with U2’s Achtung Baby. It’s got that same German cosmopolitan feel, with some touches of Krautrock, and the ‘70s’ genre’s patchwork quality. But it’s a sleeker, modern sound in the upshot.

It’s also got the quiet suppleness of a Folk Implosion or a Sebadoh, giving it connections to indie rock as well. It’s dramatic, plangent, and plaintive, but always calm and relaxing, somehow. I don’t know how these guys do it, get noise and make you feel like you’ve had a sedative. Must be some kind of homeopathic sound medicine.

Mod Gun’s Day at the Beach

Kathleen is the sexy singer for Mod Gun, with beautiful brown eyes, and she’s tall, so she sticks out like a slender ring finger onstage, playing bass. And Paul gave her the diamond ring. He’s the leader, songwriter, and lead guitarist. They are a band of pleasant personalities, but they have punch.

 

They draw much from the sixties, like Cream and Hendrix, but what this stuff really brings me back to his the heyday of the club kids, the golden age of alternative, the early nineties, with traces of suicidal Nine Inch Nails, a mean slash of Nirvana, goofy sucker punches from Pavement. And I know kids don’t think U2 is cool these days, but I love them, and Paul’s got a fuzz guitar just like The Edge.

 

Their new album is called No Beaches, but it may as well be called “No Bitches”, cause these guys take no prisoners when they commandeer the small stages of the local club scene.

 

Trevor rules with his fuck-you-up drums, and second guitarist Jon sings too, and is as reliable as hell, like a good man at the helm on a boat on the sea. I can see these guys now, out by Boston Light in the Harbor, coursing up to their home in North Redding; or is that inland? Not anymore, these guys just flooded the coast.

Coolest Club Curator

“We’re starting to feel alright,” sang Paul, from the hot new group Mod Gun. They’ve got a big sound, with splashes of complexity. Janelle LaMarche, sexy, glamor-girl booker for O’Briens, likes a big sound. It would be easy to say she just likes music, but it’s so much more; the environment, the people mixing, the connections!

LaMarche put on a heroine’s act this afternoon at the club, making colorful coleslaw, irresistible 24-carat golden brown sautéed onions, so she really is a hostess, or host—charming, to say the least, either way…

It will be no time before the house kids start beating down the door. However cool the house scene, every true rock star knows it’s special to be onstage, and O’Briens has a good one, with good viewing vantage points all around.

Look Sharp and i-Pistol also played. Look Sharp is a band with a good infrastructure, of which the superstructure gets a little wobbly at points, but they have a… big sound! And many fine moments. Lead singer and guitarist Tom Majkuk calls his style “extraterrestrial punk”, with an effort to “focus in on something to mine its weirdness.” i-Pistol is a band of solid punk rockers, with good chops and flashes of grandness.

Ok, for all you guys at The Whitehaus and Smokey’s, be patient. LaMarche is a perfectionist, with the slant that she appreciates even imperfections, the way they give charm to a sound object. So she wants to feature honest younger musicians who are growing, instead of just the next hot thing. She’s hot though, she’s a superstar, and she’ll be around for a while, so go down Harvard Ave some night, and check out her splendid rock and roll offerings. Next show, Wednesday, July 24.

Dave Grollman & Lucio Menegon (NYC)

Weirdo Records, July 15
sponge bath

Your savings account zeroes risk we will enjoy it and you will feel it and it will be painful Lucio on banjo eking out eerie high strung sounds like a wine glass being rubbed Dave running the smallest cymbal over the snare drum head Lucio now with a violin bow rubbing the strings beyond the bridge now it’s melodic a carousel organ with children riding up and down on the horses and it may be a fox hunt with trumpet over the country gardens now Lucio with his spanking black electric guitar and the sounds are strafed and echo Lucio in his straw pork pie hat and beige suit and tie is dashing Dave gets mosquito squeals out of the snare Lucio sly with pick in his mouth Dave getting buzzing alarm sounds out of a bow against the rim now low tones drones hums very quiet as echoes rise

Lucio stands up and strums what goes up must come down what goes down must come up so buy low sell high rocking out on electric strings both of them mad it’s a jungle or a country pond with the flora and wildlife waving in the wind Lucio takes rock star stance scritching and scratching sounds getting wilder rings on the strings clown balloon sounds at the circus wild and fun times balloon gets big it is clear gray and the guitar hums like an engine very quiet slight clicks of lips on bubble

Cowboy Band Doconstructs the Prairie (and Conrad Benjamin)

Cowboy Band is composed of students from New England and Boston Conservatories. It is a rough and tumble, cerebral group of growing stars, with a plethora of alternative/cool takes on country and western music. Deft, with spot-on arrangements and interchange, they can be rocking, heartbreaking and ironic. Songs change abruptly as they go along, shifting from one of these qualities to the next, and back.

Andrew Clinkman, singer and guitarist, draws much inspiration from The Band. Bassist Jesse Healy has fine, swooping range, rubber-banding and boomeranging the group and songs into new places at every turn. Ethan Parcells is the drummer, and he’s got good rolling power, and he’s like a kitchen appliance, electric mixer, say, transforming the songs into something tasty and edible for a party.

I saw Cowboy Band perform last night at a house in Jamaica Plain, first alone, second with shy, charismatic singer/songwriter Conrad Benjamin, who goes by “Con Tex”, who is a litter older and just got back from a national tour shepherding the younger guys through cities, from Detroit to Chicago.

I’ve seen both acts before and after the tour, and it is clear how much they grew from the touring, especially together, where Benjamin has evolved some good qualities as a leader. Together they are like a happening Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, so good the girls’ eyes were glistening in admiration as they watched on at the party last night.

Benjamin has been producing some limited run CDs out of his home, which are intelligent and good in a rough around the edges kind of way. He’s a great writer, both of melody and lyrics. Cowboy band also has a great new self-titled CD out. But it’s when the two are together that they really shine, and you see a great new star act in the making. Let’s hope they do more playing around town and some recording together.

Hospitality

“Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral is a record you can’t listen to alone,” says Mark Jamieson, a Scotsman like me, loyal to his women. I’ll say his name. Though he was a terrible alcoholic, he was a great man.

 

He was U2’s backstage pass guy. Hospitality, they call it. He told Madonna where she could go. She came to the door with a bunch of dames. “You can come in, but you can’t bring all your friends in.” “Nice to be able to say that to Madonna,” my friend Tom says.

 

He used to commandeer the jukebox at Cambridgeport Saloon. The first time I met him, he was wearing a Motors tee shirt. That’s how I knew he was cool. There’d be about sixty songs cued up and the bartender would say, “What do you want, Mark?”

They knew who he was, and so did I. He used to talk nonstop about Bono’s talking nonstop. He looked like a tall Jim Morrison. “Jim Morrison times ten,” as someone I encountered after some music guessed when I told him about him.

 

Though his status with U2 grants him immortality, the thing he kept emphasizing was a movie was based on his love life, Reality Bites, starring Ethan Hawke, in a love triangle with Ben Stiller and Winona Ryder. He had had a bittersweet marriage with an MIT architect, and he couldn’t forget her. Groupies just didn’t do it for him, I guess.

 

I don’t know what happened to him. We were supposed to go to a Wedding Present concert together, at Aerosmith’s club, Mama Kin, but he was incapacitated. He even fell off his barstool. It was sad. And still he meant so much to me. I admired him and looked up to him.

 

One night a bunch of girls were talking to me. One of them took a pack of cigarettes out my hand and crushed them, because she was worried about my smoking. Here he was, Jim Morrison, Mark, and the girls were talking no interest in him, just in me. I guess it should have made me feel good, I just felt bad for Jim.