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Three Great Things About Jenny Scheinman’s Mischief & Mayhem At The Village Vanguard

Jenny Scheinman’s Mischief & Mayhem turned in a provocative set last night at the Village Vanguard.  The dreamy passages were mixed with gnarled spikes of sound provided by guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Jim Black. Bassist Todd Sickafoose (who needed to be brought forward in the mix) was a second percussionist as well, insightfully flecking the pieces with stabs of propulsion. It all went by in a whirl, but three memorable moments are listed below. One that almost made it: Cline morphing into the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman on “The Mite.” I believe the above clip (NOT from last night’s show) features that as well. The band plays at the famed  New York club through Sunday night. Team Jackson has the stream of the performance for you right here. During the action critic Peter Hum hit the NPR comment field to deem this stuff “some of the least ‘Vanguard-y’ I’ve ever heard at the Vanguard.” Not untrue at all. But trad jazz fans will want to note Scheinman’s quoting of “Four” at the start of the pentultimate tune, a carnival mirror piece of swinging freebop that had toes tapping old-school style.

1. Opening Out
Sure, there have been moments of dissonance and abstraction at the Vanguard. But methinks few of them came in the first two minutes of the performances. The violinist and her team said hello to their West Village live audience and NPR global listenership with some splashy, dreamy, blippy, skronky salutation speak, with Cline creating some wonderful wobble and Black sending smoke signals to Steve McCall.
2. Chat-a-Thon
Scheinman’s “A Ride With Polly Jean” doesn’t parallel the raw sturm und drang that Ms. Harvey and her band has become known for, but instead offers a breezy groove. It’s a soundtrack to an effervescent conversation, and you can see the pair in your mind’s eye as the rhythm section pulses and the violinist draws out a few long tones: the ladies flying down the Coast Highway in a 55 Mercury convertible, the British rocker querying her mate about the poise of her “American Dipper” and the Brooklyn jazzer asking about the eruptions of Harvey’s “Kamikaze.”

3. Forward Motian
During the introduction of “Blues For the Double Vee” (written for the Vanguard), Scheinman mentioned that Paul Motian’s updates of Monk were also an inspiration for the piece. From behind his trap set, drummer Black launched into a power crunch version of a surf beat, and laughed a bit while yelling to no one, “Just like Paul!” The piece is a jagged rocker that sounds like the Ordinaires taking a stab a Bernard Hermann tune, so Black was waxing ironic. He was also waxing manic. His drum work – pummeling here, caressing there – was one the set’s consistent highlights.

You can get a download of a song here.

Scheinman talks about “The Mite” here. 

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“The tiniest sound can have a gargantuan impact. The reaction to what I’ve been doing with Norton is unexpectedly strong. He’s charistmatic. It’s helpful to have something else besides a dude pushing buttons and plucking strings to draw people in.” – Nels Cline

Tweedy’s Solid Sound Includes Skronk

Was speaking with Jeff Tweedy about Nels Cline, and the conversation trickled into the way that noise has found a natural place in our culture (and therefore our music) at this late date. Wilco’s music has certainly bent to make way for an artful smidge of the stuff. The arrival of Nels a few years ago helped that along. Tweedy and company curate their Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA this weekend. Here’s the singer’s take on how rough sounds and jazz entered his life.

I personally feel like I’ve always responded to those elements. Being a child of punk rock, noisy music was my first loves, and to be honest I feel that even the early Dylan albums have a fair share of dissonance, whether its intentional or not. Those albums feel very chaotic to me. Early on I felt that I owned folk and country music  for myself a lot easier than I owned the things I loved about noise and dissonance. Initially, it felt harder for me to put them into the music honestly.  I feel like I grew into it with time, and at some point they became as easy to incorporate as anything else. But as far as as the larger culture, I don’t see why people would hear them as being weird anymore, and actually most people probably don’t. It shouldn’t be anything odd. It’s just a part of rock ‘n’ roll. People ask me all the time: Why are the last three records less experimental than the other ones? I don’t think any of records have been experimental. Those experiments were done 30 years ago, the data is in, it all works, it’s great: carry on. I don’t think the point is to shock any more. The point is to create something you haven’t heard before, something that creates a certain amount of magic and feeling, and hopefully conveys that feeling in a way that can penetrate someone’s consciousness and heart. It’s much, much simpler than people make it out to be.

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Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy: Dissonance, Schmissonance

Was speaking with Jeff Tweedy about Nels Cline, and the conversation trickled into the way that noise has found a natural place in our culture (and therefore our music) at this late date. Wilco’s music has certainly bent to make way for an artful smidge of the stuff. The arrival of Nels a few years ago helped that along. Tweedy and company curate their Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA this weekend. Here’s the singer’s take on how rough sounds and jazz entered his life.

I personally feel like I’ve always responded to those elements. Being a child of punk rock, noisy music was my first loves, and to be honest I feel that even the early Dylan albums have a fair share of dissonance, whether its intentional or not. Those albums feel very chaotic to me. Early on I felt that I owned folk and country music  for myself a lot easier than I owned the things I loved about noise and dissonance. Initially, it felt harder for me to put them into the music honestly.  I feel like I grew into it with time, and at some point they became as easy to incorporate as anything else. But as far as as the larger culture, I don’t see why people would hear them as being weird anymore, and actually most people probably don’t. It shouldn’t be anything odd. It’s just a part of rock ‘n’ roll. People ask me all the time: Why are the last three records less experimental than the other ones? I don’t think any of records have been experimental. Those experiments were done 30 years ago, the data is in, it all works, it’s great: carry on. I don’t think the point is to shock any more. The point is to create something you haven’t heard before, something that creates a certain amount of magic and feeling, and hopefully conveys that feeling in a way that can penetrate someone’s consciousness and heart. It’s much, much simpler than people make it out to be.

The jazz records I wouldn’t want to live without are things that early on I fooled myself  into thinking I could possibly do. I like Thelonious Monk and Albert Ayler and stuff like that. For some reason, before I understood how difficult it was to do that stuff, I responded to ’em on the same level that I responded to Woody Guthrie. I was attracted to it because it sounded like something I could possibly do. I don’t know why that would make a difference to me, or why I respond more to that, but I could definitely relate to it.  Maybe because I could still hear a tune there. There’s sort of an irreverence about all of those guys.  Putting Woody in that trio probably isn’t the first thing that would come to a lot of people’s minds, but to me there’s a real similarity to the approach to music making. They’re all about a doing a very natural act.

To celebrate the new disc being released by their own, new dBpm imprint, they rerocked Nick Lowe’s timeless “I Love My Label.” (Shoulda recorded it as they submitted YFH to WB, no?)

CoverSongs.com has it for yr enjoyment (dig that Beatledelic outro!)

5 Cool Quotes: The Wit and Wisdom of Derek Bailey

Last night, on the way to the Nels Cline/Marc Ribot duet at Le Poisson Rouge, I walked by the apartment that Derek Bailey often stayed in when visiting New York. And it reminded me: the evening’s performance might not be as rich if Bailey hadn’t expanded the language for string instruments during his life.

Turns out that Marc and Nels did offer some of the vocabulary the renowned British improviser helped establish, especially during four acoustic pieces that, as K Leander Williams has mentioned, incorporated “fingerpicking, atmospherics, blues, noise.” Given the fact that this was Cline and Ribot’s debut together, I thought this would be the right time to drop a few nuggets from interviews I did with Bailey throughout the years. The chats took place in the mid-80s. The first is rather relevant.

1. Improvisation is a process that gets relationships sorted out. I’ve brought together people who know each other, but don’t play much together – I like to invite them cold. And the circle of players is getting wider. I like to mix it up. That doesn’t happen in other music as far as I know. Other music is more about having an ideas and polishing them until it dazzles your eyes out. I’ve got to say I don’t understand the unpopularity of improvisation. If I was going out for an evening, I’d choose this stuff.

2. This music can be very serious, but if you take it seriously, it’s a mistake. Improvisation lives under jazz sufferance; most of its visibility comes if a jazz club thinks to throw it in. But I’m one of those people who feel they don’t have any legitimate connection to jazz. I’ve played it in the past, but jazz to me was always something I was looking to get out of. I recognized discomfort there.

3. I still think the most important electric guitarist was Charlie Christian. He changed everything, just like that. My idea of newness is still associated with Christian. Not the way he played, just the fact that he altered everything. That’s something that could happen at any time.

4. I play cliches, too. Obviously they’re less useful. In any given performance, some of the lines are cliched and some aren’t, and a tiny portion are actually new. If everything is going okay, there’s a rejection process that’s taking place; hopefully you’ll recognize cliches as such. [Which isn’t to say] I avoid melodies. In fact, I think I’m playing them all the time. I play a sequence of notes and if it comes out as A-D-E-F-G, it sounds to me like a melody. There are more and more free players playing little songs. The idea that no one in the world of free music plays a melody is pretty outdated.

5. I’ve abandoned solo concerts because I thought I was playing badly. Just left the stage, right in the middle of the show. Part of the problem with playing solo is lack of stimulus. Better to have a partner. The act of playing with other people is important.

Jeff Tweedy on Nels Cline

Maybe it’s a bit naïve on my part, but I always assumed that guys with Nels’ kind of chops shunned more traditional kinds of guitar playing. Then I saw him with the Geraldine Fibbers playing a Neil Young cover and he played circles around everybody. He seemed so conversant with a rock ‘n’ roll approach. It was eye-opening and great. 

I told him I had confidence that there’d be room for both of us to explore in Wilco. I knew I’d reached the limit of my abilities to express myself with the guitar. I love the guitar. But it’s not my main thing. I want to focus on songwriting, and Nels being here makes that a lot easier.

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Nels & Marc: Pink Floyd vs Allman Brothers

Recently had a great chat with Marc Ribot and Nels Cline. It’s the cover story of this month’s DownBeat magazine. We discussed composing to a piece of film, working in the pop realm, and dream projects. I also asked about the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen from the stage. It’s a fun read. A sizable chunk of the Q&A was edited for space reasons, but below is one slashed exchange that I wanted to put out there. I’ll try to post some more extra passages in the next few days. You know Nels is Wilco’ing at the Solid Sound Festival, right? And Marc is playing solo in the burbs  and the Undead JazzFest, and dueting with Henry Grimes at the Vision Festival.

JM: What’s the better guitar freak-out: “Interstellar Overdrive” or “Whipping Post”?

Nels: Oh well, “Interstellar Overdrive.” I love the Allman Brothers, but I don’t think “Whipping Post” is a freak-out. I think Syd Barrett is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock, ever.

Marc: I prefer the guitar interactions on “Careful With that Axe, Eugene.” More subtle, but still gorgeous.

JM: Okay, better melody, Ventures’ “Telstar” or Lonnie Mack’s “Wham”?

Nels: Wow, “Telstar” is pretty great.

Marc: I have to confess my ignorance. I don’t know that Lonnie Mack tune. But I love the Ventures. One of my bands did “Walk, Don’t Run.” I liked the Shadows, too.

Nels: One of the first songs someone tried to teach me was “Penetration.” In California in the 60s you could see the guitars hanging in a rack display at the Thrifty drug store. You could stand there and touch them. They seemed magical. On Saturday afternoons they’d have concerts of cover bands on a flatbed. Big Fender Dual Showman amps. No mics on the amp. Beautiful.

Marc: Outdoors? I’m picturing real surf in the background. Venice Beach.

Nels: More like Culver City in front of a supermarket. But the sound was so exciting. Not punishing. That was start of my sound fixation. That and the radio.

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JM: Kermit Driscoll says he has great photo of him and Bill Frisell wearing uniforms while playing in a funk band during the mid-70s in New England.

Marc: That’s brings us into another kind of conversation. Bands we did for bread.

Nels: I have to opt out on that on. I just worked in record stores and played music no one came to listen to.

Marc: That’s an honorable choice.

Nels: It didn’t seem honorable at the time. It seemed weak.

Marc: This is one of the dirty secrets of jazz in the metropolitan area. A lot of the people who tried to play bebop in fact supported themselves by playing weddings. It doesn’t make it into many interviews.

JM: And still do. Not at your age or your level, but many do.

Ribot: Knock on wood, my brother.