The Big City

”The more susbtantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer—though not necessarily the happier—he is.."

Herbie turned a forever-ageless 80 earlier this month. He still makes music and plays like this.

“Hang Up Your Hang Ups” is my very favorite track from his funk era, it’s on Man-Child which you should own, along with Thrust, Sextant, and Head Hunters. This stuff is all at back-catologue prices—Thrust is $4.99!!!!!— and is prime choice.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

Roy Nathanson plays with his neighbors in Ditmas Park

The Endangered Quartet is saxophonist Roy Nathanson, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, bassist/vocalist Tim Kiah, and violinist Jesse Mills—sort of a version of the Jazz Passengers. They have an album, Heart, scheduled for release on May 22, on Panoramic Recordings (that’s the jazzish arm of the excellent New Focus Recordings new music label).

This is in the vein of a Jazz Passengers album: made with skill, taste, imagination, and a balance of irreverence and love for the material, like the jazz/bluegrass style on “Goodnight Irene” and the delicate and plangent arrangement of Bach’s Chorale BWV 244/44.

As for the mood…it’s real. My own moods are frustration, despair, hopelessness, and also determination. This music gives me an ache, one that I’m not always prepared for. That means they’re reaching me, so pre-order and prepare. (If the world is safe by then, there’s a scheduled releases show on May 22 at Joe’s Pub—otherwise, online only).

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

Kamala Sankaram

First: promotions:

HERE arts center has committed to supporting their artists during the COVID-19 shutdown, and they’re now going to present the first ever Zoom opera: all decisions will be made by consensus comes from composer and performer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Rob Handel, and director Kristin Marting.

The title tells you something about the subject, which “centers on a Zoom meeting of activists with radically conflicting styles.” Expect something absurd. Sankaram will sing, and the cast is filled out by Paul An, Hai-Ting Chinn, Zachary James, Joan LaBarbara, Adrian Rosas, and Joel Marsh Garland. This is some of the finest talent in NYC new music, so tune in. Performances are April 24 at 1pm, April 25 at 7pm, and April 26 at 3pm (EST). Tune in here.

Also opening April 24, and running through April 26, will be thingNY’s SubtracTTTTTTTTT. This replaces a previously scheduled live performance at Spectrum that was one of my personal highlights for this month. Like the artists above, thingNY are at the forefront of new music, especially opera and narrative performances, part of the core of new Robert Ashley players as well as inventive composers in their own right. Performances at 6pm EST each day, streaming here.

Now: a polemic (because that’s why you’re here, right?):

The large institutions that soak up the bulk of donations as well as grants funded by public money, e.g. the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, are all shut down through the summer, and their schedules are going to have to be substantially reworked for the 2020-21 season, whatever and whenever that may be. Meanwhile, small, shoestring groups like HERE and thingNY, which perform in tiny black box theaters, if even that’s possible, constantly struggle on the edge of survival. Yet in this emergency situation, who is it that can find a way to not only keep going, but to keep performing, AND to create and present brand new work?

I do not begrudge the big guys, they do a lot of good work. But right now, they are too big—they won’t fail, but they are paralyzed. I know, I know, this is late capitalist America, where material success is rewarded and quality is effervescent, but on an operating budget of around $300 FUCKING MILLION, the Metropolitan Opera House is dark and will be for the next four or five months. Meanwhile, HERE and thingNY are scheduled to come alive April 24, so maybe, just maybe, the country would be a better place if we spread some of this money around a little.

Now I’m going to go have a little cry because after four weeks I can’t even get the state to complete my unemployment application.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

Ólafsson is a wonderful musician. His recordings are excellent, he has the kind of clarity and naturalness that presents classical music as just music, something that is beautiful and there for any kind of listener. He’s on the edge of being like Gould or Richter, someone you just listen to regardless.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

All the music venues being closed sets field recordings into acute relief. You go out to see a concert or a show, you tune into one from home via your computer screen, but field recordings bring the outside and the elsewhere to you, in your home, straight into your brain via mobile devices when you’re out in the streets. The performance ritual place becomes you, your own sensibilities, your own experience.

ISSUE Project Room has set up an Isolated Field Recordings Series—not performances but places their artists have captured and send to you. These are recordings ISSUE has commissioned from various artist, and the organization will broadcast them via their own website, Vimeo, and Facebook Live. The opening session is Thursday, April 23, 8pm EST, with a broadcast of 9 a.m. (Eternal), created by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste from his mornings living in Crown Heights.

After the live broadcast, this piece and those that follow will be available in the archives. Here’s the upcoming schedule (EST):

  • QUALIATIK: 8pm Wednesday, April 29th
  • Shelley Hirsch: 8pm Thursday, April 30th
  • Bergsonist: 8pm Wednesday, May 6th
  • Andrew Lampert: 8pm Thursday, May 7th
  • Derek Baron: 8pm Wednesday, May 13th
  • Jules Gimbrone: 8pm Thursday, May 14th
  • Kim Brandt: 8pm Wednesday, May 20th 

And do check out ISSUE’s archives anyway for some amazing performances.

The scratch for the stir-crazy itch is to be elsewhere, and there’s nothing that takes you farther from where you are than sounds from someplace different than your own. Digital recording and distribution has led to a massive world of field recordings, straight, doctored, documentary, composed, or otherwise. For the curious, start by checking out the works of Kate Carr and Vanessa Rossetto, or this recent releases from the great Unfathomless label—Farol, produced by Thibault Jehanne, is the sound of approaching the 25 Abril bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. One of my very favorite recordings released so far this year.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

At the American Opera Project website, www.aopopera.org, you can view four recent operas:

  • As One (Laura Kaminsky): As One, which had its world premiere at BAM in September, 2014, is a chamber opera in which two voices—Hannah after (mezzo-soprano) and Hannah before (baritone)—share the part of a sole transgender protagonist. This earned rave reviews when it premiered.
  • Three Way: A Trio Of One-Act Operas (Robert Paterson): This set premiered in 2017, and as the title implies, it’s about sex, love, and has what in that context could be called a cheeky attitude.
  • Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom (Nkeiru Okoye): Also premiering in 2014, Harriet Tubman is a two act realization of how a young girl born in slavery became Harriet Tubman.
  • The Echo Drift (Mikael Karlsson): This is an experimental opera that opened at the Prototype Festival in 2018, a gorgeous piece about the experience of time and isolation, which is not just relevant but also the core of every operatic idea.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley

Roswell Rudd was a great trombonist, not just in handling the instrument and playing in bands, but in the way of the rollicking, gutbucket spirit of the instrument. The trombone finds the player as much, or even more than, the player finds the horn.

He celebrated his 81st birthday in 2016 playing at The Falcon, in Marlboro NY, with the exceptional vocalist Fay Victor, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Lafayette Harris. You can watch the archived video of this gig at The Falcon’s Facebook page, Wednesday, April 22, starting at 8pm.

This is free, but donations are encouraged via PayPal and Venmo. The moment will go to benefit musicians who had their gigs cancelled because of the general coronavirus shutdown. So if you’re not hurting, you can help out some of those who are.

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

“George Grella understood exactly.”

Robert Ashley