Posted on

Animation Live at Barcelona Jazz Festival – tonight from 830 pm

BOB BELDEN & ANIMATION

MESTRES – Rare Noise Night

BOB BELDEN & ANIMATION

FECHA

Lunes, 26 de noviembre

LUGAR

Conservatori del Liceu, 20.30 h.

PRECIO

20 € Ant. / 25 € Taq.

VÍDEO

Señor Bob Belden: usted, ay, no forma parte exactamente del mainstream jazzístico. Díganos unas frases que hagan que el público pueda interesarse por usted. «Estamos tan arruinados como vosotros.” Caray. ¿Otra? «Era hacer este bolo o ir a la cárcel.” Ya ven: Bob Belden, un nombre detrás de las reediciones históricas de Miles Davis y Herbie Hancock -entre muchos otros-, productor y erudito del jazz, es también una leyenda de la música que, insobornable, ha decidido caminar por otras vías sin perder el humor y el sarcasmo. Su último proyecto es una reencarnación de su banda ANIMATION, cuatro jóvenes que junto con él – «somos una banda de verdad” – interpretan un sentido homenaje a Manhattan con Transparent Heart, un disco emocionante publicado, claro, por una discográfica que no es como las otras, Rare Noise Records.

Bob Belden, saxo soprano y flauta
Pete Clagett, trompeta
Roberto Verastegui, teclados
Jacob Smith, baix eléctrico
Matt Young, batería

CONCIERTOS RELACIONADOS

Posted on

Paul Resnikoff puts the nail in the coffin

Our Digital Innocence Just Died. And David Lowery Killed It…

I spent an entire afternoon reading and re-reading the storm of articles, comments, analyses and emails related to one impassioned and eloquent retort.  The New York Times, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Techdirt, Hypebot, Lefsetz, the Huffington Post.  Thousands of words, hundreds of comments, dozens of emails, several proposed guest posts; I’m not sure I’ve experienced anything quite like this.

Because David Lowery didn’t just touch a nerve this week, he may have single-handedly crushed years of post-physical, ridiculous digital utopianism.   In one crystallizing, cross-generational and unbelievably viral rant.

And after a decade of drunken digitalia, this is the hangover that finally throbs, is finally faced with Monday morning, finally stares in the mirror and admits there’s a problem.  And condenses everything into a detailed ‘moment of clarity’…

 

(1) No, artists can’t simply tour and sell t-shirts.

It doesn’t work.  In fact, shockingly few indie artists can pull this off, except for those developed at some point by the major labels (ie, Amanda Palmer) or a serious group of professionals.  Most of the others that are managing to squeak out a living on the road are doing it with great difficulty and are working non-stop.

 

(2) The recording is now effectively worth $0; its surrounding ecosystem has collapsed.

Some people buys CDs.  Less purchase vinyl.  iTunes downloads are still increasing.  But averaged across all formats and personal valuations, the recording has effectively become worthless.  And that has had drastic repercussions for the music industry, and the lives of otherwise creative and productive artists.

 

 

(3) Spotify is not a beneficial solution for artists.  Certainly not right now, and quite possibly, never.

Will Spotify ever put a meal on an artist’s table?  That’s extremely speculative.  Sure, it might eventually mimic Sweden-like penetration in the US.  But that is not happening right now; it’s not a fair solution for artists right now.  Instead, it is shuttling people like CEO Daniel Ek towards stratospheric riches, fattening major labels, and potentially giving Goldman Sachs bankers another joyride.

 

(4) Kickstarter will mean something to artists in the future, but only to a relative few.

 

Amanda Palmer may hold the world record for a long time, but there will be other Kickstarter stories.  Some will come out of nowhere, most will involve previously-established artists, particularly those already developed by a major label or similar entity.  This will not replace the vast financing once offered by recording labels.

 

(5) DIY is rarely effective, and almost always gets drowned by the flood of competing content.

It doesn’t matter if you’re singing directly into the ear of your prospective fan.  Because they’re listening to Spotify on Dre headphones while texting and playing Angry Birds.   Some can cut through, but most cannot without serious teams, serious top-level marketing and serious media muscle.  Justin Bieber ultimately needed the machine, no matter how beautifully his YouTube story gets spun.

 

(6) Sadly, most artists are worse off in the digital era than they were in the physical era.

Actually, we have David Lowery himself to thank for this realization.  Because the implosion of the recording has impacted nearly every other aspect of music monetization (though certainly not music creativity itself.)  And its replacement is generally a fraction of what a ‘lucky’ artist could expect in an earlier era.

Again, all great for fans like Emily White, but not so great for everyone else.

 

(7) Younger people mostly do not buy music; they do buy hardware and access.

They gravitate towards free digital content, and occassionally pay for things like concerts when they have the money.  Emily White isn’t a fourteen year-old, she’s a young adult that probably doesn’t want the morality trip.  And neither does anyone else – regardless of the generation.

 

(8) Older people buy less music than before; they more frequently buy hardware and access.

If you really want to sell a marked-up bundle, make another Susan Boyle.  It’s still a market that doesn’t revolve around free music and constant fan contact.  But older people file-trade, they stream, they steal and they buy less than before.

 

(9) Google is a major part of the problem.

Lowery is right.  Google is not interested in protecting content creators; their interests lie elsewhere.  Copyright is a nuisance to them, unless it involves their own code and algorithms.  In fact, anything beyond the DMCA erodes their ability to serve customers, remain competitive, and make money. Which is why the Pirate Bay is one of the ‘hottest’ searches, and why adding ‘mp3’ to any artist search produces pages and pages of results.

 

 

(10) You are a major part of the problem.

Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s helping musicians.  It’s not file-trading, but the payouts on Spotify, Pandora, Turntable.fm, or whatever else are shockingly low.  It’s a rounding error, towards 0. The paradox is that music fans are living in abundance, while artists are barely getting scraps.

 

 

(11) Google, the ISPs, and hardware manufacturers have won.

It doesn’t matter how brutal the war with Hollywood becomes; how many Dotcom mansions get raided.  Music fans aren’t going to start buying albums again; in fact, beyond the playlist, the concept of pre-packaged bundling will become increasingly foreign to newer generations.

It’s not about who’s right, it’s now the world the entire music community lives in.

 

(12) Everyone lies about stealing.

I’ve only heard a few people actually admit to file-trading: my close friends, Bob Lefsetz, and Sergey Brin.  If you have an iTunes collection of more than a few thousand songs, you’ve almost certainly swapped, torrented, or swapped hard drives in your life.  And almost everyone has a collection of a few thousand songs.

 

(13) Mass-marketed, ‘lottery winner’ style successes will continue.

Niches are available and sometimes responsive; more often, top-down mass marketing wins.  And most musicians are playing extremely bad odds.

 

(14)  This ISN’T the best time to be in the music industry.

Conferences like MIDEM make money off this sort of Kool-Aid optimism.  But I work in the music business right now; I was at a major label in the late 90s.  And the reality is that this is the greatest time ever for fans, but definitely NOT the best time for those trying to make money from those fans.  And as David Lowery so darkly described, it can be one incredibly depressing trip for even a ‘successful’ artist.

 

That’s the reality we now live in, and you really have David Lowery to thank for making it obvious.

Posted on

Bob Belden MasterClass at Manhattan School of Music

Dear Friends,

I’ve been given a rare opportunity to present this strange idea to unsuspecting students at the Manhattan School of Music. As punishment for

some unknown offense, the master class is scheduled for 9am on Tuesday, March 27 2012 at 9am…..

Its open to the public. just email me I will put you ‘on the list’ plus none….

In a nutshell: the thought process behind this ‘convergence theory’ is mixing the ‘techniques’ of composition, orchestration, sound design, audio engineering, 5.1 and x,y,z/3-D surround mixing, digital video recording and processing, digital video editing and codec-centric file creation in conjunction with cellular/live animation, live ambisonic audio mixing, live video remixing in a circular and spherical visual projection to ‘compose’ a singular or unique ‘inclusive and immersive hyper-world’.

When minds of different creative directions collaborate, there is a collective diffusion that improves the idea and has the potential for further investigation and elaboration.

FOR INFORMATION : The Manhattan School of Music is at 122ND & BROADWAY | 917 493 4428 | WWW.MSMNYC.EDU

Posted on

A Message From The Past

Dear Friends,

two years ago I sent the following message to Steve Jobs. I got no response and would like to share it with you.

*************************

Hello Mr. Jobs,

This is a file that allows Mac users to bypass DVD players and DVD discs (carbon positive) by
making iTunes perform the same functions, as well as uncompressed 5.1/7.1 HD Audio.

(Desktop Surround)

I’m a jazz musician/producer in Manhattan. Your age. I have produced hundreds of CDs in most
formats as well as 5.1 SACD discs. My last CD, “Miles From India”, was nominated for a Grammy
in 2009.

Have yet to meet anyone who can watch “Saving Private Ryan” in 5.1 from iTunes. Except me.

*************************

Manhattan

Posted on

Ode To Technical Reproducibility

Dear Friends,

I came upon this fascinating article, by Frederic Rzewski, straight and pari-passu from The Opinion Pages of the NYT.

I simply could not hold back, as it deals with one of my greatest intellectual concerns, the interplay of music and technology (and society for that matter) – I simply have to share it with you urgently…so enjoy.

Manhattan Out

Prophecy of Machines

By FREDERIC RZEWSKI

Is music technology?

Max Weber, in his last book, “The Rational and Social Foundations of Music, ” published in 1921, a year after his death, says, basically, yes.  Like every other aspect of civilization, music is subject to a relentless and irreversible process of rationalization, culminating (for him) in the organization of the symphony orchestra.  This was at a time when the recording industry was in its infancy, and radio had only just launched the new technique of broadcasting.  Weber could not have foreseen the effect of these two things on the art of music, but he might well have imagined it.

It was a revolutionary time, full of explosions: you can hear them in the recordings of Marinetti reciting his poetry; you can see them in Tatlin’s designs for enormous skyscrapers. It reeked of the future.  Artists (like Schoenberg) thought of themselves as  prophets.  They imagined things that one could do with technology, liberating people from older forms.  Some of these visions became reality decades later.

What survived the 1950s were not the masterpieces of Varèse and Stockhausen, but the techniques they developed.

Whatever prophetic aspirations artists may have had 100 years ago, however,  today they belong to the past.  This world has been abandoned by its gods— among them the notion of the artist as a kind of shaman or wise man.  Today artists are proletarians with privileges: workers in the culture  industry, like the writers in Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon,” well paid sometimes, but servants nonetheless.

Recording, like electricity, has been around for little more than a century.  Radio as a public medium for less than that. Computers have only become widely available since the 1980’s.  Edison did not grasp (at first) the consequences of his gramophone for music; he thought of it as an office machine.  Why wasn’t it invented 100 years earlier?  It was a fairly simple mechanical device.  Mozart might have liked it.  There is no technical reason why we couldn’t hear recordings of Beethoven’s improvisations.  But the time was not ripe.  It didn’t take long for Edison to realize the commercial potential of his machine, nor for the machine to have an effect on the art of music itself.

One of the most obvious effects of recording was to replace musicians with machines.

For Mahler’s audiences, for dance halls where the big bands played in the 1930’s,  and for people who went to the Community Concerts in the ‘40’s (when the United States was the center of classical music), music was an activity, a social event.   Today for most people “music” is a piece of plastic that you buy in a store, or a magic pod around your neck.

In the 1950s, when the first electronic music studios were created, it was still possible to imagine that a new form of music was being created that was ideally suited to electronic media.  What survived, however, were not the masterpieces of Varèse, Stockhausen and other experimenters of the time, but the techniques they developed, which then became a part of the standard vocabulary of industrially produced music.

For better or for worse, technology has surpassed art, not only in its power to reach and influence public imagination, but also in prophetic vision.  The technology of music lays the ground for the further evolution of music itself, and of other technologies as well.

(Whether the progressive rationalization of music, however, is a process which must expand indefinitely, or on the contrary must reach a limit, depends largely on the fate of capitalism. If the primary form in which music is consumed is increasingly that of electronic media, this process is part of the expansion of monopoly capitalism in the late 20th century.  The reduction of music to data accelerates the circulation of capital.)

Technological innovations come about, independently of the consciousness and will of their creators,  because they are objectively necessary.  At the time Weber was writing his book, artists, musicians, and poets were full of prophetic visions, largely based on the glorification of machines.  In the meantime, this prophecy has become a reality.  What has become of the vision?

In the century that separates us from the futurists, a subtle change has come over the relation of art and technology:  if the “avant-garde” (a military term first used with reference to culture and society around 1820 by the French socialist writer Saint-Simon) was once prophetic, it now occupies a subaltern position.  Technology is now dominant, art an appendage, a marketing tool.

Or is it?  Is there something left of the visionary avant-garde, or is it a thing of the past?

Can art still have something of the prophetic function assumed by the avant-garde of the late 19th and early 20th century, or has it been irrevocably absorbed by industry? Can art still be a harbinger of technological progress, even to the extent of forecasting its demise, along with the capitalist system of which it is a part?

Art has become a tool of the machine it has helped to create.

Music notation,  which is at least as old as writing itself and possibly older, is nonetheless in its modern form a technology which has evolved over the last thousand  years, and which has had a profound effect on the art.  It makes counterpoint possible, as well as the coordination of disparate elements in an orchestra.  Everything from instrument design and construction to the machines used for recording and transmission has affected the art itself.  So yes, Western music is very much technology.

In the 18th-century innovations in instrument design greatly expanded the dynamic range of many instruments: a development reflected in Beethoven’s chiaroscuro techniques and in the massive orchestral effects of 19th-century symphonic composers like Berlioz and Wagner.  Such effects are still to be found in the early electronic music of half a century ago.  Now that most music is heard through one or another form of electronic reproduction, the dynamic range has been reduced to zero.  There is only one dynamic: loud.  As a result composers (as if in imitation of Beethoven) become deaf.

The explosive expansion of technological resources has led, paradoxically, to an impoverishment of the language of music.  This process— consisting in a return to basic tonality, harmonic simplification, disappearance of counterpoint, replacement of developmental variation by hypnotic repetition, mindless re-juggling (sampling) of pre-existing historical models rather than genuine innovation, general dumbing-down of the vocabulary — corresponds historically with what has been called the “Great Regression”  (1980 to the present):  a period characterized by the crumbling of the great guiding models of the past (without any viable new ones), and an ensuing cultural, economic, and political stagnation.

(Some 20 years ago I attended a concert of Elliott Carter’s music followed by a  discussion with the composer.  Someone asked why he had not done any electronic music.   He replied that electronic music was primarily concerned with sound, whereas he was interested in writing; and in this context electronics, far from being an  advance, was a regression to the stage of hieroglyphics.)

Technology has no doubt conditioned art from its very beginnings.  But for most of its history art has nonetheless been master of the relation.  In the course of the 20th century a subtle reversal has taken place.  Art has become a tool of the machine it has helped to create.  The art which half a century ago set out to change the world has become a passive instrument  of that world’s malfunction.

Where there is danger, the Saving grows also. (Hölderlin).  Technology has undeniably had a positive effect on music as well:  The technical level of young musicians today is astonishingly high; instantaneous access via the Internet to the great masterpieces could lead to an increase in musical literacy; and the mutual confrontation and merging of different musical cultures could result in a quantum leap to a new stage of the art.  This would depend, however, on a major breakthrough in public consciousness, something theoretically possible for which there is little evidence at present.

Music is more than just technique.  It must have what Arthur Rubinstein called “soul,” or it is not worth the paper on which it is written — just as a technically perfect performance without understanding is no more than the sum of its inert mechanical parts.  If the “avant-garde” has no soul — if it is simply a branch of the market — then it has given up its historical claim to leadership.  It is dead.  But the questions that gave birth to it in the first place remain.  The new materials, the new channels of communication dictate the content.  But they also cry out, like the locomotives and steamships in Mayakovsky’s poem, for “new forms”.  We need, more than ever, a new art that will “drag the republic out of the mud.”

This article was adapted from an address given by the author at a conference on music and politics at the University of Warsaw in September.

FYI : Frederic Rzewski is a pianist, teacher and composer, and was co-founder in the mid-1960s of the group MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva), with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum. He has performed and recorded worldwide and written many pieces, including “Coming Together” (1971) “Attica,” (1972) and “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” (1975)

Posted on

Bob Belden is Back on Tracks

From JazzTimes (09/12/11)

By Bill Milkowski

At his lowest point, Grammy Award-winning producer-arranger-composer Bob Belden was too weak to get out of bed. His personal nightmare was compounded by the fact that two clients either delayed or reneged altogether on payments of $32,000 for work he had done. Faced with a bad cash flow problem, he let his health insurance lapse. Unable to afford the expensive medication needed to combat a chronic illness that had compromised his health since the mid-’80s, Belden went cold turkey, which led to a complete physical meltdown. Friends and associates wondered aloud if he would make it.

Four years later, Belden, 54, has rebounded in triumphant fashion and is back on top of his game, busier than he’s ever been in his long and productive career. He’s recently had his hand in three separate projects, all of which have some connection to Miles Davis. As Chick Corea puts it, “Bob Belden protects the creative imagination of Miles with his understanding and love of Miles’ life’s work.”

Long regarded as one of the foremost authorities on the trumpeter, Belden was hired by Sony to produce a series of box sets through the ’90s and early ’00s containing Davis’ fabled Columbia output. Concurrently, he racked up accolades and Grammy nominations for his work on such projects as Tim Hagans’ Animation-Imagination (1999), Re-Animation: Live (released in 2000 and credited to Hagans and Belden) and, under his own name, 1996’s Shades of Blue, 1997’s Tapestry and 2001’s sweeping, operatic Black Dahlia (all on Blue Note). He says of that final project, “I put all of the feeling of a slow, agonizing death into Black Dahlia, the despair and loneliness and uncertainty of life itself.”

Following on the heels of 2008’s Grammy-nominated Miles From India, Belden undertook another ambitious project in Miles Español, due out in late September on eOne. Featuring an all-star cast including Miles Davis alumni Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Ron Carter, Sonny Fortune and Sammy Figueroa, along with such renowned Spanish musicians as pianist Chano Dominguez, guitarists Niño Josele and Jaco Abel, bassist Carles Benavent, flutist Jorge Pardo, accordionist Victor Prieto and Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato, this recording represents the best in cross-pollination, wherein all of the participants bring their individual perspectives to the table while sharing a common language. As flamenco guitarist Josele puts it in the project’s EPK, “I think that jazz and flamenco have a lot to tell one another.”

“It’s a mix of folk music and the language of Miles and Gil Evans,” adds Belden. “It sounds like what happens when you take a seed and watch it grow. So you have the Miles Davis guys who want to play this kind of Spanish music, and then you have the Spanish guys who already play this kind of music wanting to play with the Miles Davis guys. And yet none of this stuff sounds anything like Miles Davis’ music, nor is there any particular clichéd Latin-jazz style present. So these musicians who played with Miles have grown to the point where they can adapt and play comfortably with musicians all over the world. And in a way, that’s the tribute to Miles.”

Corea contributed the tune “Trampolin,” performed with drummer Antonio Sanchez, Carter and Pardo. Scofield brought “El Swing” into his session for performance with Corea, DeJohnette and bassist Eddie Gomez. “My tune is really a tribute to the elements of Spanish music that already exist in jazz,” the guitarist explains. “I guess all jazz is world music!” Adds Corea, “Getting together with Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter and John Scofield couldn’t help but conjure Miles’ subtle but powerful influence on all of us.”

DeJohnette composed “Spantango,” performed with Dominguez, Gomez, DeJohnette and percussionist Luisito Quintero. And pianist Edsel Gomez contributed “Paisate,” a trio piece featuring John Benitez and drummer Alex Acuña. Elsewhere, Belden conducts a large-ensemble interpretation of Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” (with the hauntingly beautiful melody carried by harpist Edmar Castañeda and oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil), “Saeta/Pan Piper,” “Solea” and “Flamenco Sketches” (with Jerry Gonzalez on flugelhorn).

While there are a number of Miles tribute recordings out there these days, Belden’s painterly approach on Miles Español, recorded at Sear Sound in New York, is easily the most intriguing and organically realized. “If you don’t have to imitate the Miles and Gil record by transcribing the original arrangement for a big band, then you can deal with this music as folk songs,” he says. “So on this project we spread the grand-scale idea out over a bunch of individual elements that together are unified by a concept of Spanish music, Arabic music, flamenco music, Gypsy music, Miles Davis and Gil Evans. And when you bring these musicians together, they have a cultural bonding that lets loose of the expectations of what they’re supposed to make. They loosen up and create music that’s just there.”

A different kind of homage to Miles is offered on Belden’s Asiento, a document of a 2006 performance at Merkin Hall in Manhattan with his Animation band: trumpeter Hagans, keyboardist Scott Kinsey, bassist Matt Garrison, turntablist DJ Logic and drummer Guy Licata. Originally recorded by the BBC, it was only recently released by the U.K.-based Rare Noise label. Label head Giacomo Bruzzo had seen clips from the concert put up on YouTube (along with some 300,000 other viewers) and became determined to put out this raw, hard-hitting music on his renegade label. “I was familiar with the Animation band from their two Blue Note releases,” says Bruzzo, “and I found them fascinating. Their use of drum ’n’ bass was even pre-dating [Bill] Laswell’s, and this was being done on what was essentially a major label [Blue Note/Capitol]. This was unique and way ahead of its time.”

Bruzzo was alerted to the 2006 Merkin Hall performance by Licata. “I heard the music from this concert,” explains Bruzzo, “which to me sounded like having Weather Report playing tunes from Bitches Brew. There was an obvious opportunity there to put out this music, and I decided that it had to be done.”

Bruzzo came up with the album title, a Santerian term for rebirth. “We first put the record out in the U.K. and the reaction was quite good,” he says. “Some jazz police were angry, but I was quite happy about that. We later released it in the States. And then when I asked Bob, ‘What’s the next step?’ he wanted to start from scratch with a new band of young guys, and I liked the notion.”

With Kinsey and Garrison involved in co-leading their band Human Element (with drummer Gary Novak and percussionist/vocalist Arto Tunçboyaciyan), Belden grabbed three hungry young players from the University of North Texas while retaining Hagans. Keyboardist Jordan Gheen (20), bassist Jacob Smith (21) and drummer Matt Young (18) now bring an unbridled sense of energy and wide-open experimentation to the band. “If you listen to the Merkin show you can hear where Scott and Matt are pulling the music into their thing,” says Belden, who plays soprano sax. “And that’s why they have that band Human Element, because that’s more of what they really want to get into. So I had to find people whom I could pull in that were less jazz-fusion and more electronica.”

Performing their debut gig in early June at McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C., Belden’s new outfit generated sparks on the bandstand on two original pieces, along with audacious interpretations of Davis’ “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” and “Bitches Brew.” They also recorded studio versions of those same tunes for Rare Noise, utilizing the revolutionary new 3D60 sound technology that creates a three-dimensional surround-sound headphone mix.

In the fall, around the time of his next RareNoiseRecords release, Belden plans to perform with his new Animation lineup in a surround-sound setting at Le Poisson Rouge. “This is what I do,” says Belden of his latest adventures with Animation. “Everything’s possible with this band now. I’m not restricted because I’m not on Blue Note or some major label, so I can take these chances. And with these young cats, the idea is to not burden them with all these specific details about tunes. Instead, it’s ‘Here’s the vibe, here’s the energy, here’s the total texture,’ and then we play on top of it. So I keep it very vague and they fill in with intuition on the gig. And since they’re not forced to look at music paper or read arrangements or play fusion, it can just go places.”

Posted on

Alan Douglas (by John Masouri)

Dear Friends,

as part of our irregular article series by prestigious external collaborators collaborators/contributors, we present you today with an article by the great John Masouri, who wanted to share some thoughts with us about the great Alan Douglas

Alan Douglas (by John Masouri)

Alan Douglas is one of our last, great musical visionaries. He’s a record producer who learnt his craft from the ground up, and then helped to change the face of popular culture by having the courage of his convictions – something he continues to do well into his seventies.

His track record over the past fifty years is extraordinary, having encompassed jazz, rock, hip-hop, soul and symphonic music, as well as comic book art, film and revolutionary literature. To say he possesses an enquiring mind is an understatement. That astute cultural radar aside, his extensive knowledge of history and the arts has informed everything he does, whether it’s persuading the likes of Duke Ellington and Errol Dolphy to reinvent themselves, or recognising the relevance of a group of imflammatory street poets from the Harlem ghetto who’d invent hip-hop. His unfailing tastes and instincts made an indelible mark on the sixties’ counter-culture – a modern-day renaissance born out of holy madness and that continues to inspire ensuing generations of young creatives.

Such achievements should not easily be forgotten, and yet mention the name Alan Douglas to some, and they’ll immediately think of him as the man who’s attracted widespread criticism for tampering with the Jimi Hendrix legacy. His “sin,” should you want to call it that was to erase some sloppy playing by the guitar legend’s original band members, and replace it with the work of session musicians. Purists were outraged and it’s only now, some thirty-five years after the event, that his reputation is finally undergoing a much-needed re-evaluation.

These days Alan Douglas lives in Paris, where he oversees an eclectic catalogue of film, music and book projects that encompasses jazz, funk, avant-garde, blues, Latin and rock. It’s a world where Dizzy Gillespie and the Modern Jazz Quartet– both recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1963 – nestle side-by-side with B. B. King, Parliament, Little Richard, Celia Cruz, John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, Jerry Garcia and James Brown, as well as digital books by the likes of Timothy Leary and Lenny Bruce. Douglas has also co-produced albums with Bill Laswell, with whom he shares much in common. Both have “messed” with the work of cultural icons and antagonised fanatics guilty of imposing their own limitations upon the stars they idolise, yet there’s no doubting the integrity of their approach or the fact they’ve increased our knowledge and appreciation of these artists. For instance, it was Alan who shed invaluable light upon Jimi Hendrix’s jazz leanings, as heard on Nine To The Universe. His role wasn’t of deliberate agent provocateur, but of someone who was sensitive to an artist’s inner promptings and their desire to break free of whatever was holding back their development. Such qualities weren’t born out of any delight in defying convention, but his early grounding in jazz and having been around legends such as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, who no one could accuse of sticking rigidly to the same methods their whole working lives (and which is what many of Hendrix’s fans would have had him do.)

Alan hails from Boston, where he met the famous jazz DJ Symphony Sid, who was taking a sabbatical from the Big Apple at the time. Sid’s connections would prove very helpful to Douglas after he moved to New York in the late fifties and got his start by producing a record for Morris Levy’s Roulette Records with a young girl singer named Valerie Carr. Few acts wrote their own material during those days, and music publishers were always looking to place songs with record companies in the hope they’d be covered by the label’s top artists. This created the need for good demo recordings, and also streetwise producers who could hustle studio time and get results. Alan got to know a lot of people in the industry making those kinds of records including Phil Ramone, who offered him some free, late night sessions at A & R Studios. Sugar Ray Robinson’s manager then introduced him to Nicole Barclay, whose husband Eddie was head of Barclay Records in France. Alan duly took over as Quincy Jones’ successor in A & R; relocated to Paris and recorded American style music with the Eddie Barclay Orchestra for a while. During this period he narrowly missed out on working with Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, who died within weeks of each other. Alan had planned to record an album of original material with Holiday, and wean her off the standards that other producers usually gave her. This would be the first indication of his creative empathy with gifted, musical giants. Unfortunately Billie died before the project got underway although he later licensed an unreleased live recording from her estate, which Blue Note released as Billie’s Blues.

By this time Alan had returned to New York and taken charge of United Artists’ jazz division, after Nicole Barclay – who he says believed in him more than he even believed in himself – had introduced him to UA label head Art Talmadge.

His first task was to trawl through the UA vaults and see if there was anything he could reissue. There wasn’t a great deal there apart from a live Mingus set (Mingus In Wonderland) and an album by Cecil Taylor, Hard Driving Jazz, featuring John Coltrane. The latter’s growing popularity inspired Alan to reverse the credits and issue it as Coltrane Time, thereby ensuring more sales. Job done, he turned his attention to initiating projects of his own. Back then, it was smaller labels like Blue Note and Prestige who released the majority of jazz recordings, and so artists were always bothering the owners for advances. Alan couldn’t sign these artists as they were taken already, but his one-off projects with them gave company bosses welcome relief from the persistent requests for money.

“My whole time with United Artists was like that,” he says. “I mean I could have stayed and made my whole career out of jazz as a producer at one of the record companies, then I would have been able to sign artists and embark on longer relationships with them, but that’s the reason I had to choose artists who were already well established. There was no time to really develop someone.”

One of his first projects was Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’s Three Blind Mice, recorded live at the Renaissance Club in Hollywood. The Jazz Messengers had released an impressive sequence of albums leading up to that March 1962 engagement, including The Witch Doctor and Freedom Rider. Blakey’s playing is volcanic as ever and Three Blind Mice has the added attraction of a fresh Freddie Hubbard composition, Up Jumped Spring, that’s now revered as a jazz standard. Another former Jazz Messenger, trumpeter Kenny Dorham was coaxed in the studio for Matador, a soul-jazz classic shared with Jackie McLean and Bobby Timmons. Alan encouraged these musicians to express themselves, and experiment with different time signatures. He didn’t want them to be complacent or play anything formulaic but to push the boundaries, which is exactly what Duke Ellington did that September.

Daring as ever, Alan teamed Ellington with a rhythm section comprised of Max Roach (drums) and Charles Mingus (double bass) for Money Jungle, which George Wein has described as “one of the greatest piano trio recordings in jazz history.”

“I’d already worked with Duke Ellington in Paris, because soon after I’d arrived there, Nicole Barclay sent me to his hotel where he and Billie Strayhorn were working on the score for Paris Blues,” Douglas recalls. “Duke was playing the piano most of the time during the rehearsals and whilst they were writing, and I thought he was a great piano player. I asked Duke why he’d never made a record on his own playing the piano and he said, ‘Well, because no one ever asked me.’ Then when I went to United Artists I had a phone call from Duke, saying he wanted to come by and see me. I said, ‘Great,’ he came by and said, ‘Remember what you said to me in Paris?’ I said yes and he said, ‘Well, let’s do it.’ Mingus and Max Roach were much younger than him and I thought it would be interesting pairing him with musicians who weren’t from the Ellington school but Duke often spoke about how people had forgotten about his piano playing, and I think that’s one of the reasons he was happy to do it.”

Money Jungle contains the most livewire cut of Caravan you’ve ever heard, but then there’s nothing else like this album in the entire Ellington catalogue. The legendary bandleader, deprived of any comfort zone, was compelled to rethink his approach and judging by the results, clearly relished the opportunity. Alan would produce other memorable releases during his short tenure with United Artists – most notably with Oliver Nelson, Ken McIntyre, King Pleasure, Herbie Mann, Betty Carter and Bill Evans & Jim Hall, whose Undercurrent was the first (and best) of their celebrated collaborations. Highlights from these albums can be found on Douglas On Blue Note – a marvellous compilation that begs the question why the majority of these individual albums haven’t been made available – the Paris Blue Note label please take note!

A month after Duke Ellington’s tour-de-force, Alan produced a live big band recording by Charles Mingus that’s gone down in jazz history for all the wrong reasons, including fist fights between the musicians and overweening ambition on a grand scale.

“The Town Hall concert turned out to be a disaster,” he admits. “I had big budgets then, relatively speaking and so I decided to lay it on Mingus. That was a bold thing to do admittedly, but he was a very special human being and a very talented, creative musician. I told him he could just name his band and so we ended up bringing in musicians from everywhere but he was so confused by this sudden show of generosity that he never got ready for it. I mean he had the arrangers writing out parts on the stage, at the actual concert itself!

“It was a live recording in front of an audience and if it had come off, it would have been magnificent. The line-up was incredible, because it had everyone you could name in jazz standing on stage but it just wasn’t meant to be. I left when they said they were going to put the record out, because there was no music there. They hired George Wein to come in and save it and then put the record out, but it was a wasted exercise and trying to pretend only made it worse.”

There’s a delightful photo of Alan sat next to Charles Mingus on the sleeve of Douglas On Blue Note that offers ringing endorsement of their friendship but alas, no further joint ventures resulted from their alliance.

“Mingus was a very frustrated human being,” he explains. “I think I was one of the very few people who got along well with him. I could make him smile and we’d make jokes together but he had the frustration of most bass players because whilst he was a virtuoso, he could never be a star like horn players such as Miles or Trane because the bass is an instrument that can’t handle the melody line. He had a problem with that because it meant he never got the acknowledgement they had. I’m talking about the general public here, because of course he was highly rated by everybody in the business. I liked him a lot and tried to do other things with him but he was so frustrated, he would get too angry and turn people off.”
United Artists would release only a handful of jazz titles after the Town Hall episode. In 1963, soon after the birth of FM radio, Alan went to work for FM Records, owned by Monte Kay and Pete Kameron. He recorded a young Cass Elliot (later to join the Mamas & Papas) and two albums with Eric Dolphy for FM. Dolphy had been flown in from California to play at the Town Hall Concert, and was one of the most exciting talents in jazz at the time. Influenced by John Coltrane, he’d been studying Indian music before recording material that will later appear on the albums Iron Man and Conversations (also known as Jitterbug Waltz) during the summer of 1963. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays alto sax, bass clarinet and flute on both albums, and delivers a handful of stunning duets – including Ode To Charlie Parker – with bassist Richard Davis whilst not leading the band or soloing unaccompanied on alto sax. All were two-track recordings, and they were supposed to have been recorded under union rules except Douglas encouraged the musicians to jam and blow for hours.

The following year, Dolphy signed with Blue Note and recorded Out To Lunch with Freddie Hubbard and Tony Williams. That album’s rightfully regarded as a classic except there’s a delightful freshness and spontaneity to his Douglas recordings that shouldn’t be overlooked. Unfortunately, FM Records went bust in 1965. Alan then worked on soundtrack albums and also budget records designed for product and movie tie-ins for a couple of years before starting his own company, Douglas Communications Inc.

The counter-culture was now in full swing, and the times better suited to a creative maverick possessed of the vision and organisational skills required to explore fresh horizons. After making a few spoken word records, he spent $5,000 on buying Lenny Bruce’s writings from his widow and then persuaded Ballantine Books to compile The Essential Lenny Bruce, which became a bestseller.

“We did a whole series of books,” he confirms. “We did a beautiful book with the cartoonist Art Speigelman who got together all the underground cartoonists from that era, gave each one of them a piece of product and asked them to do a cartoon riff on it. That comic book, released by Douglas Comics, became a classic in itself. It was the first anthology of all the underground comics, which was pretty interesting. Art also illustrated a book for us called Whole Grains: A Book Of Quotations, which quotes figures like Leary, Ginsberg and others. We did books with the poet Ira Cohen and John Sinclair of the White Panthers, and we also did an anthology of underground press photography, which had all of the iconic photographs of the so-called revolution that was happening. We also did a book with Timothy Leary, who was in jail at the time. I used to go and visit him once a month and do four or five hour sessions with him, which is why the book was called Jail Notes.

“Timothy was a poet, and strangely enough out of all my stuff that’s available digitally, that’s one of the best sellers. That and Malcolm X are the two bestselling items I have in my catalogue and we did his record as well. Jimi played bass on one side, and he and John Sebastian played guitars. There were just two tracks on it. One was called What Do You Turn When You Turn On? Both are very interesting, well-produced pieces, and they took us a lot of time to do.”

Leary’s album, You Can Be Anything This Time Around, wasn’t released in the UK, although Rykodisc finally released it on CD in 1992. The sessions had taken place in September 1969. Alan produced John McLaughlin’s Devotion around this same time and with a group that was a precursor to Mahavishnu Orchestra, since the tracks were a blistering fusion of jazz, rock and funk. The Yorkshire-born guitarist had been invited to play on Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way within days of arriving in New York and will also jam with Hendrix in a summit meeting of guitar greats before the year’s out. Alan’s second album with him, My Goals Beyond, featured some superlative acoustic playing and a mix of jazz and Indian classical styles that was truly groundbreaking. He’ll pursue this same path with Shakti in years to come, but it was Alan Douglas who first granted him the opportunity to experiment in this way.

Hendrix, who felt increasingly trapped by the commercial demands made upon him, met Alan shortly after his headlining performance at Woodstock. Whilst celebrated as a rock icon, Hendrix longed to explore new avenues of expression and had recently formed Band Of Gypsies, who played a heady mix of funk, rhythm and blues and rock, topped by the kind of soul-baring improvisation on guitar that was closer in spirit to jazz than anything else. Jimi’s untimely death in September 1970 robbed us of hearing what he may have sounded like collaborating with jazz masters such as Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Tony Williams. The nearest we can get is on the series of recordings he made with Alan Douglas during the last year or so of his life, examples of which surfaced on an album called Nine To The Universe featuring Larry Young on keyboards.

“I got a lot of heat for showing people this different side of Jimi but it didn’t matter,” opines Alan, thoughtfully. “It was what he wanted to do, so together we tried out all kinds of things but tragically, he died before we could do anything super special. There’s some beautiful music on Nine To The Universe. You can hear Jimi moving into a jazz place without really trying to be a jazz player. He’s just playing freely, but Larry Young was one of the only musicians I ever found who wasn’t intimidated by Jimi. I wasted a lot of tape trying to put some very visible musicians with him but he just intimidated everybody too much. Larry though, was a very open-minded musician. He and Jimi would just throw lines at each other and their exchanges were beautiful. I mean Jimi was being pigeonholed into the rock thing but in all seriousness, where was he going to go after those three albums? What could he have possibly done?”

Young had played on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and like John McLaughlin, also played with Tony Williams’ Lifetime. This was the kind of jazz-inflected music Hendrix was interesting exploring. Not the supper-club style jazz you’d hear in provincial small clubs but the more experimental variety as played by Coltrane, Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Rashaan Roland Kirk, whom he’d also jammed with on occasion.

Alan had introduced him to Gil Evans after the guitarist heard his arrangements for Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. He also encouraged Jimi to think about learning to read and write music, and there were plans for him to attend classes on his return from those final European dates. On his last US tour, Jimi had told a reporter he wanted to play Carnegie Hall with Miles Davis and Roland Kirk, and that he was keen to expand his musical horizons both in the studio and on stage. Aided by Douglas, he’d begun exploring new ideas, retaining the blues as a basis but stretching out under the influence of the new jazz. Their collaborations, whilst all too brief and inconclusive, remain among the most tantalising items in the Hendrix oeuvre.

The year before Jimi died, he’d guested on another of Alan Douglas’ projects – this time with Jalal from the Last Poets, whose incendiary brand of jazz, poetry and politics helped lay the foundations of hip-hop. With their Armageddon raps, the Last Poets were well named. On record and by virtue of their performances, they invoked potent memories of how “400 years of physical, mental and spiritual slavery” had affected fellow African-Americans as they made a final push towards parity with whites. Yet during their formative years, they also helped shape the cultural life of Harlem by organising political and creative writing workshops, as well as concerts featuring Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler, among others. By virtue of words and deeds they inspired African-Americans to stand up and take pride in being black. It’s therefore little wonder their legacy would influence a long list of prominent singers and musicians, including Public Enemy, Kanye West, the Wu Tang Clan, James Brown, Peter Tosh and many others.

They’d first come together in 1968, just a few weeks after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King – an event that spelt the end of an important phase in the Civil Rights movement and ignited widespread rioting as African-Americans gave vent to centuries’ old feelings of anger and frustration. In fact the actual date they formed was May 19th, which would have been Malcolm X’s forty-third birthday since he too had been gunned down three years earlier. Advocates of black power such as Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam had brought revolutionary fervour to the struggle for racial equality and as the thirst for change spilled over into the streets of America new voices began to be heard, replacing the more conciliatory tones of Southern Baptist tradition.

The Last Poets weren’t just ushering in a new revolutionary order but drew from the ancient wellspring of African oral tradition. In summonsing this spirit, the Last Poets would help lay the foundations of modern-day hip-hop and yet they weren’t concerned with entertainment, but what KRS 1 would later term “edutainment.” This made them outcasts – ones who represented a movement and had direction, who spoke the truth as they saw it and used their music as a vehicle in keeping their revolutionary aims and methods alive. To describe them as uncompromising is an understatement, and nor were they averse to aiming barbs at their own people. Is there any song more scathing, and that strips the African-American psyche barer than Niggers Are Scared Of Revolution? By reclaiming the word “nigger,” turning it inside out and wearing it as a badge of pride, the Poets empowered themselves and by extension, an entire nation. In the words of Abiddun Oyewole, they set out “to de-niggerfy black people” and wage war against the fear and ignorance that still informed much of collective black consciousness.

Initially, they’d perform in parks and on the streets of Harlem. This is where Alan found them in November 1969, shortly before producing their debut album The Last Poets.

“That first record, it was just what they were doing on street corners and that’s where I heard them,” he explains. “I saw them on television at first, liked what they were doing and got in contact with them and they made me come up to 137th Street to this old, rundown basketball court on the corner of Lennox Avenue. I just stood there listening to it and then took them into the studio where we got it straight down on tape.

“If you look at their poetry you’ll find they incorporated certain of Malcolm X’s speeches into their pieces, or if not necessarily the words themselves, then the ideas. The thing is, nobody can teach you to be a poet. You’re either a poet or you’re not but these guys had all either spent some time in jail or had close associates with other people who had so they knew about that experience and then it developed into what we call jail toasts. Whilst they were in prison, they heard fellow inmates talking about their lives outside of jail and stories about pimps, junkies, whores and what have you, so they took that form and turned it into protest based on the words of Malcolm X. In that sense, what the Last Poets did was original, and helped to open up American blacks to different influences.”

How did they respond to your direction and being produced? Did they view your suggestions as being constructive or interfering?

“Well, they were very confrontational, constantly,” he replied. “That was part of the game and that was okay because I was used to that. Did you ever hear a record called Hustlers Convention?”
Of course, by Lightnin’ Rod…

“Well that record was done with Jalal from the Last Poets but we called him Lightnin’ Rod because he was a Muslim and we didn’t want to upset anyone from that religion unnecessarily. We did the Hustlers Convention and then another track called Doriella Du Fontaine. Jalal had come to see me and I told him to go out in the studio and see Buddy Miles, who was sat there on drums. They started into Doriella Du Fontaine but then Jimi Hendrix walked in and made everyone stop so he could go in and play on it, so that all happened by accident. The thing is, that song is part of a series. We were doing an album called Jail Toasts which never got finished and that included two unreleased tracks I think you’ll find really interesting. One of them’s called Honky Tonk Bird…”

Only two of the Last Poets appear on their second album, This Is Madness.

“Yes, because one of them went to jail,” he responds. “I wanted to wait for him before making it but he got too long a sentence and CBS were on our case, wanting us to make another record so we did it knowing they might never get back together again anyway. They did of course, and yet I still believe they said everything that needed to be said in that format. That’s why I kind of lost interest in trying to make it work again.”

That first album sold a reputed half a million copies despite receiving little or no media coverage. Extracts from it were included on the soundtrack to Nicholas Roeg’s film Performance, starring Mick Jagger, and this helped gain the Poets valuable exposure. As for Doriella Du Fontaine, it’s a wonderful amalgamation of jive storytelling and funky guitar. Jalal’s description of a high-class prostitute is so vivid, it’s like cinema for the ears and mind – just like Hustlers’ Convention in fact. Within a year or so, elements of African-American street life will be reflected in black exploitation films such as Shaft and Cotton Comes To Harlem. Not for the first time, Alan Douglas’ reading of the zeitgeist proved to be infallible, but then came his stewardship of the Hendrix estate and a cloud of vilification that’ll take more than three decades to finally dissipate.

Three years after Jimi’s death, his manager Mike Jefferies died in an airplane crash. Control of Hendrix’s legacy passed to his estate’s attorney Leo Branton. Warner Brothers’ Don Schmitzerle then contacted Alan and hired him to evaluate tapes found in a New Jersey warehouse. There were almost a thousand hours’ worth of material, mostly of recordings from 1969/70. Alan’s mission was to extract the most marketable of these, and then prepare them for release. His first sortie resulted in the album Crash Landing, issued in March 1975 – a set that included studio cuts of tracks premiered on Band Of Gypsies, a fistful of previously unheard songs and the occasional heart-stopping instrumental such as Peace In Mississippi. Whereas Crash Landing sold over a million and a half records, next year’s follow-up Midnight Lightning fared less well, despite bringing to light alternative cuts of Hear My Train A Coming and Machine Gun. Word had got out that Douglas had replaced existing backing tracks, and fans and critics alike immediately denounced him. Mitch Mitchell will later confirm that some of the original playing had been sub-standard, and that Douglas had made the right decision in hiring session players to make corrections. Wisely, he’d also edited out passages where Jimi had toyed with a riff repeatedly, searching for just the right phrase. All things considered, it’s highly unlikely that Hendrix would have sanctioned the release of poorly executed material yet the die was cast, and the producer has been branded a controversial figure ever since.

Four years later he issued Nine To The Universe. This album was superseded in 2006 by Message From Nine To The Universe, which included longer versions of the same tracks. Then in 1993, the Hendrix catalogue moved from Reprise to MCA. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that Alan Douglas did wonders with Jimi’s leftover material. Yes, he made changes here and there, yet he still managed to deliver authentic, quality Hendrix product that sounds a good deal more convincing than anything heard on Valleys Of Neptune. He understood the value of good presentation, and also appealing to a younger generation of listeners that has provided the Hendrix catalogue with its biggest audience share in recent years. He achieved this by keeping abreast of re-mastering technology and ensuring a steady supply of unreleased photos and essays, as evidenced by early CD reissues of Hendrix’s three studio albums. His last contribution to the Hendrix legacy would be a terrific album of blues performances called simply Blues, which appeared in 1994.

Twelve months later, the Hendrix estate changed hands. As part of the settlement, Jimi’s father dropped his allegations of fraud against Leo Branton and regained the rights to his son’s legacy. He was also granted the power to approve or disapprove of any final projects – a decision that would lead to serious ramifications after Jimi’s stepsister Janie assumed control of the estate in the wake of Al Hendrix’s death. Experience Hendrix set about re-mastering and reissuing the Hendrix catalogue, starting with the US album releases. They then began diversifying and releasing compilations, relegating rarities to a separate label (Dagger) that’s only available through their website. More controversially, they’ve attempted to rewrite history by omitting key individuals and events from the Hendrix story because of personal differences or jealousy. Bearing in mind Hendrix’s cultural importance and his continuing influence upon younger generations of musicians, this is surely tantamount to criminal damage. Consequently, we hear little of collaborators such as Alan or electronics’ expert Roger Mayer. One of Experience Hendrix’s recent spoiling tactics was to try and ban Handel House in Brook Street, London – where Jimi lived with another all-but forgotten figure, Kathy Etchingham – from playing any of his music at their month-long celebrations. Such behaviour, allied to wilfully erroneous (and not to say derivative) presentations such as the Voodoo Chile documentary, is hurting the Hendrix legacy in ways that Alan Douglas could never have contemplated.

Sadly, two projects he’s been involved with still languish unseen as a result of that legal decision determining what Hendrix material he can release. The first is a book compiled from interviews and personal writings called Letter To A Roomful Of Mirrors that is the nearest we’ll ever get to a Hendrix autobiography. Reading it, it’s difficult to imagine that it wasn’t written by the man himself, it’s so compelling. The second is a documentary by UK filmmaker Peter Neal, who made the first-ever documentary on Hendrix back in 1967, whilst working for the BBC. The knowledge that Neal has subsequently completed a far more comprehensive documentary (called Roomful Of Mirrors) that cannot be shown or released will prove hard to bear for the legion of Hendrix fans worldwide who care nothing for personal insecurities, but just want to learn more about his life and work. The concept behind this documentary, which centres on a narrator taking the viewer through the various stages of Hendrix’s life in Jimi’s own words is the same one that’s been appropriated by Experience Hendrix for their Voodoo Chile film, thus giving rise to accusations of plagiarism. Such underhand behaviour may also constitute a breach in the legal restrictions that have prevented Roomful Of Mirrors from being seen all these years, since neither party were supposed to proceed without mutual consent.

Douglas, who is the executive producer of both the book and Roomful Of Mirrors film, may well be vindicated sooner rather than later. In the meantime his career path is a labyrinth of fascinating twists and turns and I’m delighted to report that his oft-challenging contributions to popular culture are far from over.

 

John Masouri

Posted on

Animation: On The Edge Of Forever

Manhattan is the Edge of Forever. Live here and you are always on the edge, one day away from your destiny, fate, obligation or demise. I have lived in Manhattan for 28 years. On the edge for 28 years. DJ Logic grew up in the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, party DJs, break dancing and social engineering in the extreme. Matt Garrison, our bassist, and Guy Licata, our drummer, have lived their entire lives in the shadows of New York City, either directly or by DNA.  In parallel worlds, Scott Kinsey lives in Los Angeles, an American noir-ish metaphor for the extremes of success, failure and quiet desperation. Tim Hagans has lived close to Philidelphia for most of his adult life. Big cities. But only in Manhattan, is there 24/7 energy, an animated cartoon expressing adventure in the midst of wanton criminal behavior. The sound of street life, club life, studio life, a high cost of living, terrorism as tourism, Central Park, Harlem, Limos, no speed limits, fantastic restaurants, jay-walking as a right, After-hours joints, gangsters, endless parties, police with big guns in kevlar everywhere, all taken in the extreme. At night the city comes alive like no other in the world. At any moment you are working directly with multi-national corporations as if they were local businesses or street hustlers straight out of central casting. In many cases you can’t tell the difference. You may hear English spoken on occasion.You find yourself caught up in larger-than-life events such as the World Trade Center attacks, The Subway Vigilante, Guardian Angels, Gang wars, Wall Street Meltdowns (twice!!), and the media interests for the Western World are within walking distance of my apartment. If you live a life where each day you are compelled by necessity to create a new world that will satisfy your muse, pay your bills or keep you from getting in trouble, surrounded by 8 million other people with the same basic idea, one develops a creative survival instinct that defies logic or reason. If you can make it here you don’t care about anywhere else. And reinvention is the Mantra of Manhattan. You prod the status quo, finding new ways to survive as a creative artist. Its all about how you feel at that moment, your own basic instinct carved from your soul, one challenge at a time because things change here first. Manhattan never stops for anyone, you either catch up or move out. One lives and dies in this city always with a dream to chase, a challenge left unmet, a love never fulfilled, a heart oft broken. And take my word, this city will literally kill you. It is that treacherous to live life on the edge in Manhattan.

The underlying philosophy of this band we call ANIMATION has always been about reinvention (aka ‘re:Imagination’) and creating conflict within the status quo. Either by abandoning the traditions of jazz forms, the melodic and harmonic basis for improvisation and using dynamics as a sonic weapon, ANIMATION was able to invent music at the moment, invent forms, otherworldly textures and colors and improvisational contextualization. While this may not be “innovative”, it is refreshing. Recording for Blue Note Records from 1997-2001, under assumed names, ANIMATION created a unique sound within the framework of 1950s hard bop-inspired label. The recording had the same energy as a Charlie Parker or Art Blakey recording but with a contemporary texture.  Our followup live recording from the Montreal Jazz Festival did much to further the cause of progressive jazz within the conventional public discourse, bringing elements of Drum & Bass and electronica into the Jazz Melting Pot. We also received two Grammy nominations in the Contemporary Jazz
Category (Tim Hagans “Animation: Imagination” in 2000 and Hagans/Belden “Re:Animation LIVE! in 2001).

Early in 2006, ANIMATION was invited by Francois Zalacain and Brice Rosenbloom to create a performance (scheduled for) December 9, 2006) as part of a concert series based on covering classic jazz LPs. To fit comfortably within the programming I chose Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”, thinking this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate our approach to jazz improvisation and add to the bands oeuver. After the usual logistical stresses everyone magically arrived mid-afternoon on the 9th of December at West 67th street instruments in hand. We rehearsed about 30 minutes, enough to understand the phrases that defined the compositions. As our music has evolved into creating phrases as opposed to reinterpreting melodic forms, it was very natural to adapt to the phrases of “Bitches Brew.” Performing in Manhattan sharpens your artistic senses and reflexes. If you close your eyes, having read the above description of the city, you may hear the life and energy of this urban dystopia come alive in your animated imagination.

Each musician brings a unique voice to the performance. Tim Hagans has followed the path of great trumpet players by forging his own intense style, with an emphasis on tightly focused solo statements that resemble an electric guitarists efforts more than your typical trumpet expressions. Scott Kinsey has taken the language of the synthesizer to the highest level in our modern times as he is the first generation of keyboardists who developed electronically as opposed to the acoustic-centric classic piano model. Matthew Garrison has similarly improved the language of the electric bass and his unique technique allows him to redefine the the possibilities of the instrument within modern electronic ensembles. Guy Licata represents the next wave of drummers to emerge from the shadows of sampling, electronica and drum machine programming, and he has an endless supply of drive and energy that has few rivals in jazz. DJ Logic adds his input from a variety of sources, both from the street and from the penthouse, becoming part of the groove or texture, but always hovering about the textures.

This recording is an unfettered representation of the spirit of jazz; improvisation. We could not prepare to regurgitate what we rehearsed in the live performance so the decision was made to abandon intensive preparation and to emphasize the thrill of hearing music created for the first time in front of people. Most bands do not take this kind of risk these days. Many groups are intensely rehearsed and arranged more to show off the ability to rehearse and arrange but reiteration is not improvisation. In a marketplace that values fast tempos, loud grooves, pre-planned climaxes, cliche forms and presentation patterns that go back to the roaring twenties, to approach performance and recording as an act of pure improvisation is becoming a luxury. Often musicians feel that complexity means quality or virtuosity and in some genres this is held to a higher standard than creativity and taste. This is the mark of a desperate ego, a ‘me-and-only-me’ approach to making music (not creating). With ASIENTO, there was no me but us. We are all traveling very fast down a road with only a sketch for a roadmap in a Ferrari with no brakes and a reckless disregard for the dangers that lie ahead.

Cheers to you all.

Posted on

Is Reposting a Copyright Violation?

Dear Friends,

we all nowadays take the sharing liberties granted to us by the interweb to be a given. Above and beyond what is legal and what is actually possible (and how we often implicitly assume, that the latter implies the former), do we actually ever consider the chain of actions we engage into when reposting  content once produced by somebody else?

Awareness, after all, can lead to more sophisticated forms of courtesy, and that, by itself, could already represent a virtuous step forward. I therefore invite you to read the following article by Jonha Revesencio.

Cheers to all

Nemo.