Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The New Decay Does the Jazz Winnipeg Festival Part 1
Anyways, here's the first part of my day-by-day breakdown of the fest (with part 2 coming on Monday).
It's kind of funny, but the first day of the fest looks to be the weakest as the Performance Series features latino phenoms Pink Martini and vocal wizards Madrigaia at the Pantages Playhouse (not my cup of tea, but many absolutely eat this stuff up). John Lee Hooker Jr. opens up the blues series at the Windsor Hotel and The Glen Buhr Band takes on the Exchange Events Centre. My pick of the day though, has to be at the New Groove Series which sees James Hunter make his was back to the peg alongside Folk Fest favorite Jackie Greene. I don't know much about Hunter, but from what I hear, this show has a lot of promise.
On Saturday the fest really starts to heat up as long time Winnipeg Jazzer Ron Paley plays the the late nite series alongside the likes of Sophie Milman, Jodie Borle and Cold Front. For the New Groove Series, Champion makes his return to the peg after his successful show at the West End a couple months back (not to mention his hit single 'No Heaven'). But the day belongs to the Performance Series as two of the most excited Jazz groups playing today, the Joshua Redman Trio and The Bad Plus, take on the Burton Cummings Theatre. Redman is possibly the most important Saxophonist to break out in the last ten years. He's played with indie superstars Pat Metheny and Chick Corea, and he's successfully re-imagined what Bop can really sound like. The Bad Plus, on the other hand, are coming back to the Jazz Fest riding on the wave of the hype generated from their last performance at the festival as well as the praise for their latest album 'Prog' (which just so happens to be one of my current favorite albums). If the $35 ticket price seems a bit too steep (and even if it doesn't), then you should head on over to the U of M at 3:00pm for the Bad Plus' jazz lab series where they will lead a discussion on what exactly Jazz music is, how it has failed to live up to that standard, and what place it could have within the larger narrative of pop music.
I'm taking a sabbatical on this day, just to ensure my sanity later on in the week. But not because there isn't anything good to see. Sunday sees what is generally considered to be the headliners of the festival come to the Burton Cummings Theatre as Herbie Hancock performs alongside the Kenny Garret quartet. What can I say about Hancock that hasn't already been said. When your resume includes being a long time pianist for Miles Davis (recording on my two favorite albums of Davis' no less, Seven Steps to Heaven, and Bitches Brew), writing one of the most beautiful jazz standards ever with 'Maiden Voyage' as well as being a pioneer in electronic music with Headhunters, I think the title 'Jazz Legend' is more than worthy.
Monday's key performance is at the New Groove Series yet again as Edmonton hip-hop extraordinaire Cadence Weapon plays the Pyramid along with Grand Analog and DJ Weezil. I've talked alot about CW on this blog, but have yet to get a chance to see him perform live. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this one.
This is one of those days where you wished you could be at two places at once. The Hylozoists perform at the Pyramid along with Winnipeg's All of Your Friends. The Hylos have a strong reputation for being an amazing live band, and if their live show is anything like their debut album, La Fin Du Monde, I wouldn't be surprised. Unfortunately I'll have to wait to find out, as I'm spending the evening at the Exchange Events Centre as the Village Voice hyped Vijay Iyer performs with his quartet. When the Village Voice declares you as 'The most commanding pianist and composer to emerge in recent years" you can't take that lightly.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Studs and Duds
Delta 5 -Singles & Sessions 1979-81 (Kill Rock Stars)
This came out two years ago, but I haven't had an opportunity to really look into it until recently. It's the first full-length release by the legendary Leeds-based band (can you be legendary when people remember you only after you re-release your old 7 inch's). This is for fans of Gang of Four and Mekons as it is a great celebration of what was one of the better music scenes of the last few decades (namely the Leeds University Art School). It's the birth of Art-Rock and it's pleasing to go back to time and time again.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Thurston Moore for Prez!
1.) They began in the early 80s as central figures of the No Wave movement in New York, a movement that is to this day still having a significant impact on much of the American underground (ie. Wolf Eyes, Black Dice, Animal Collective etc...). When the No Wave movement started to lose some of its steam they inserted a good dose of Psychedelia that enabled more artists to once again get on board with the original No Wave ethos (such as Swans).
2.) 1986-1990 - With post-punk and new pop coming to a startling halt with the emergence of Madonna and the rise of commercial pop, Sonic Youth respond by creating four albums (EVoL, Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo), that completely transform what guitar-based rock music might sound like. Later, this 'new sound' starts getting referred to as 'Grunge' and ends up influencing pretty much EVERY guitar-based group for the next 20 years (possible a bit of an overstatement, but not much of one). Two of those albums (Daydream Nation and Goo) are to this day considered indie-rock gems.
3.) In 1989 they played a huge part in the re-emergence of Neil Young (especially for younger people who didn't grow up with Young's 70s repertoire), by touring with him and dubbing him 'the Godfather of Grunge'.
4.) Then in 1991 along with Dinosaur Jr. and an unknown young band called Nirvana, Sonic Youth creates the movie 1991: The Year Punk Broke which instituted 90s alternative rock (the film also features the only filmed live performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'). A few months later, riding on the wave of success of the film, Nirvana releases Nevermind and the rest is history.
5.) 1991-2006 - Sonic Youth become the poster-band for what a group can look like going into the mainstream completely on their own terms, as the band signs a long-term contract with Geffen that allows them full creative control as well as the freedom to record on their own labels (which resulted in the creation of Ecstatic Peace! as well as the SYR series). This was also the period which saw them receive the most success in their career with the releases Dirty, Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star, and Washing Machine. It was also during this period that they were able to reclaim their place as indie-royalty with their AWESOME releases NYC Ghosts and Flowers, Murray Street, Sonic Nurse and last years Rather Ripped.
6.) 2001 - While recording Murray Street on September 11th, an engine from one of the planes of that crashed into the World Trade Towers crashes into the wall of their recording studio. This of course leads to numerous attempts by the media to paint Sonic Youth as a story of triumph over tyranny. Sonic Youth has none of it, writing the song 'Peace Attack' criticising the War on Terror, and become one of the more vocal opponents of George Bush's administration, again leading to another resurgence of their popularity.
7.) Present - While closing in on their 50s, Sonic Youth still have the energy to pump out at least one album a year, touring constantly (and well enough to still be considered one of the best live acts to see) while still having time to be parents, husbands and wives.
And maybe to a lesser degree...
8.) August 1995 - Little Jeff Friesen sees a cool video by some group called Sonic Youth (the song was called 'Bull in the Heather'), which shows a women (Kim Gordon) riding a skateboard. Jeff gets excited because he also rides a skateboard, goes out and buys the album, gets super excited about it and shows it to his mom. His mom cries, but Jeff is introduced to a whole new era of music.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Empty Tigers or the Roaring Sea, What are We?
Himalayan Bear - La Lonesome Island (2006) and ... Attacks the brilliant air (2007
After the Frog Eyes and Himalayan Bear show last week, my wife Jess turned to me in response to my excitement over how much I enjoyed Himalayan Bear and said 'see Jeff! This is why you shouldn't read so much about music. So you can be surprised by someone!' Although she probably wouldn't have used so many exclamation marks, what she said does have some validity. There's something about being caught off guard by an artist that makes music that much more enjoyable.
La Lonesome Island came out last summer, and is exactly that. A summer record. Not in the 'it's full of summer hits' kind of way. More because of the feel of the album. The songs are generally short (for Himalayan Bear's standard), and consist primarily of acoustic guitar, some slide, a ukulele here and there, and the occasional splash of drums and keyboards. Lyrically it is a fairly dark album, but sonically it's so sunny. You get the sense that the album was written as Himalayan Bear was relaxing at the beach in Oak Bay. While it does have its weak moments, it also has its breathtaking ones as well ('I'm On Sorrow' in particular). Overall, La Lonesome Island is an extremely good first record
Himalayan Bear ... Attacks the Brilliant Air extends HB's songs and allows them to percolate a bit more, resulting in a much more sophisticated and mature sound than that found on La Lonesome Island. A good conversation partner of HB would be San Fran's Devendra Banhart. Both have a fascination with creating imagery through lyrics (rather than merely telling stories), both focus on the guitar in their songwriting, and both are influenced by British Folk music (arising out of Devendra's obsession with Vashti Bunyan, and HB's growing up in Victoria, a city alive with British overtones). However, Attacks the Brilliant Air illustrates some significant differences between the two. Basically, Banhart lacks the subtlety so prevalent in HB's new album, and thus at times comes across as trying a bit too hard. Banhart wants to pound his faux-hippy mystique over your head. HB would rather just allow yourself to make that decision. Banharts songs often extend into jam-out sessions that lately haven't been working. HB also extends his songs, but allows them to sit for a while and develop on their own. It's a captivating way of songwriting that keeps me wanting more (even after a song moves beyond the 9 min mark). In short, Himalayan Bear is probably my favorite discovery of the year thus far.
The Bad Plus - Prog (2007)
This jazz trio is opening up for Joshua Redman at Winnipeg's upcoming jazz fest. If their live show resembles anything close to this album, the $35 ticket price will be well worth it. Their jazz version of Bowies 'Life on Mars' gives me goosebumps every time (in fact, I had to pause that last sentence because I couldn't handle listening to the track and writing about it at the same time). Same with Rush's 'Tom Sawyer.'
Adem - Love and Other Planets (2006)
I didn't get too into this album until recently. It's a wonderful mix of Brit/Pysch-folk, and pop-folk, with the appropriate amount of electronics thrown in. 'Launched Away' is particularly sweet.
Not So Into
It's been a good couple of weeks. Probably the only musical disappointment was Awesome Colors set last Monday. Other than that the only other things I can harp on are the Sens, Chris Pronger and the huge number of worms stuck on my front door.