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Live Review: Kenny Garrett at Yoshi's

Posted by on Jan 25, 2010

Even though it was over 25 years ago, Kenny Garrett will forever be associated with Miles Davis, in whose band he spent several years in the 1980s. Perhaps to spite the collective public mind beneath Miles’ shadow, Garrett has since made a career out of versatility. His latest studio album, the incredible Beyond the Wall, was an Eastern-tinged outing of dense, rich composition; Garrett dedicated it to McCoy Tyner. Last year, the celebrated alto saxophonist released Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium, a scorching concert set with guest Pharaoh Sanders.

Tonight at Yoshi’s, Garrett, now 49, displayed that trademark versatility with his quartet, playing short melodic duets alongside long, rhythmic barn-burners in a powerhouse set that had the audience on their feet and begging for more even after the house lights came up.

The set began by the thump of the bass drum and a full sixteen bars of funk-break drumming, and it would be easy to say that this set the tone for the night. Yet each player injected a stylistic flourish into the steady gait. Garrett, for example, began by adhering to the bluesy growl that is the trademark of one-chord funk jazz, only to slowly stretch to an aggressive dance around the perimeter of the music, splaying a feisty thread around his band’s patterns like a spider on methamphetamine.

Bassist Kona Khasu plucked out chromatic chord ascensions, warbling slides on the neck and pizzicato grace notes well above the twelfth fret. Johnny Mercier lathered organ and phase-shifted synthesizer together in a wall of texture. Throughout the set, usually climaxing a long, eventual crescendo, all these elements fell into place. Each time it happened, Garrett rocked back and forth playing alternately to the floor and ceiling in a physical manifestation of his personal nirvana, and the effect transcended any dismissive categorization as “funk jazz.”

When Garrett finds available real estate in a song, he drops everything and fills it. Tonight, he halted the proceedings in order to meditate on a feeling several times. The first excursion lasted roughly ten minutes with billowing, sad, evocative saxophone lines unraveling over Mercier’s sci-fi synthesizer oscillations.

The second came at the end of a piano/soprano sax duet—a light, major-key melody reminiscent of an AM soft-rock hit—when Garrett fell away and experimented with acoustics by bleating quick, sharp Eastern-tinged lines which resonated inside the grand piano and echoed in the back of the club. The William Tell Overture was quoted, some prominent overtones overtook the dominant tones and Garrett drained out his horn, like a bike tire deflating.

The night ended with a full-on funk scorcher, complete with teaser endings and solicitations from Garrett himself for more noise from the crowd. Not that solicitations were needed—the crowd was on their feet and cheering for more even after the band had blown their final note, fist-bumped each other and left the stage. Cheering for more, in fact, even after the house lights came up.

Chances are that when Kenny Garrett comes back next year, he’ll be on some different tip entirely, with different sidemen. This band, transcending prescribed pockets, is worth catching while it lasts.

The Radiohead Haiti Auction is a Vision of a Hellish Future

Posted by on Jan 22, 2010 3 Comments

Most people will view this Ticketmaster auction for tickets to Radiohead’s just-announced Haiti Benefit in Los Angeles this Sunday at the Henry Fonda Theater as a unique, outside-the-model way to raise money for earthquake victims.

Look at it again. Look at it. You are looking at the future of ticketing: a straight-up auction model.

It’s especially terrifying because it makes perfect sense. Instead of short-changing their profits with fixed prices and watching tickets to sold-out shows sell for four or five times face value on the scalper’s auction market, Ticketmaster has actually developed a platform to sell tickets to the highest bidder while stunting the middlemen down the line.

This might be no big obstacle if you want to go see some low-level act like, I dunno, Matisyahu. But what if you’re a 12-year-old girl from a low-income family and you’re dying to see Beyoncé?

Already, we’ve seen VIP tickets and “Fan Experience” tickets for more in-demand arena shows sold by Ticketmaster for inflated prices. During Beyoncé’s last tour, for example, front-row tickets sold at face value for $500—roughly what could be expected from the second-hand market. (Meeting Beyoncé in person, after the show, cost $1,000.) Those hoping to luck out with an affordable ticket for a good seat still had hope.

I hope I’m wrong, but staring at this auction page feels like looking into a crystal ball of plutocracy for the future of ticket sales.

I know Radiohead is doing a charitable thing with this ticket auction, and I know that people are going to be talking about the “Radiohead model” with this ticket sale. But unlike their pay-what-you-will approach to albums, which humbled the recording industry into submission, this pay-what-you-will approach to tickets is a valuable springboard for the ticket industry, and it’s only going to put a lot more power and money into their greedy, uncaring hands.

In News

Buddy, Buddy, Buddy All Up In Your Face

Posted by on Jan 21, 2010 One Comment

Every time these guys get together on stage the world is blessed. A Tribe Called Quest, unannounced reunion, at the Knitting Factory last night:

I caught “Award Tour” at Outside Lands in SF where the festival crowd was subdued, but this is insane. Phife has heavy medical bills from diabetes, and the show was a benefit for him, but feel the joy in the room and try to deny the gift to the fans.

Out to Where But the Rocks Remain

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010

“The McGarrigle Sisters, they were stunningly gifted writers. They were really, truly writers in the very best sense of the word. I mean, that’s an incredible song, ‘Talk to Me of Mendocino.’ When you think about the kinds of risks they take—“out to where but the rocks remain”—I mean, who else in the world would sing, you know, ‘Never had the blues from whence I came, but in New York State I caught ‘em’?  They have that strange, schoolmarmish, very old-fashioned approach to language, which is still in some parts of Canada, and they absolutely refuse to make any concessions to what trendy is, which I love about them. And then they have this really gifted way of just twisting a little phrase. It makes them just extraordinarily good, I think. Same with ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ which is just an amazingly good song. Beautifully, beautifully written.”

Linda Ronstadt, on the phone with me in 2006.

Kate McGarrigle died yesterday. They say you always learn something from obituaries, and the common eulogy that Kate wrote and performed something called “women’s music” was my lesson about the world and how it thinks. Or doesn’t, as the case may be. Scores of women have covered her songs. Who are the guys? Loudon, Rufus and Billy Bragg.

I have always wondered why the town of Mendocino hasn’t elected this as their theme song. It could play over loudspeakers hidden in redwoods on Highway 1 just after Albion, heralding one’s approach. Even just the cello intro would achieve the desired effect.

Benefits for Haiti in the North Bay

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010

In this space, I’ll be updating the many charity benefits for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti that have been hastily thrown together in the North Bay. It goes without saying, but the destruction in Haiti is immense and heartbreaking; if you can’t attend one of these benefits, you can always help out by donating to one of these organizations.

Are you hosting a benefit? Please let me know by emailing me here.

Thursday, Jan. 21

Linda Ferro has organized a benefit called ‘Reach Out to Haiti’ at the Last Day Saloon to benefit the Red Cross. Featured performers include the Linda Ferro Band, the BluesBurners, Dr. Joel Rudinow and Rude Notes Galore, Levi Lloyd and the 501 Band, the Pulsators, Seraphin, Spencer Burrows and Kris Dilbeck of Frobeck, the Thugz and DJ Sister Yasmin spinning music from Haiti. Presented by Keynote Productions and sponsored by 95.9 KRSH-FM and the Last Day Saloon. 120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 6pm. $10. 707.545.2343.

Friday, Jan. 22

Students Mari and Casey Castaldi have organized a benefit called ‘Shake the World’ at the Phoenix Theater to benefit the Red Cross. Featured performers include Decent Criminal, Bum City Saints, Ben “Sudman” Suddth and Gigio. Sponsored by the Phoenix Theater. 201 E. Washington St., Petaluma. 8pm. $10. 707.762.3565.

Sunday, Jan. 31

The Baby Seal Club has put together a benefit auction called ‘To Haiti With Love’ at the Hopmonk Tavern to benefit Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders. Each guest is encouraged to bring an item worth $25 or more to donate to the auction. From their description: We also encourage gift certificates, artwork, event tickets, coupons… Please let us know by email (haitiauction@gmail.com) what you will be donating. Auction items may be dropped off in Santa Rosa at New Arts Project, 606 Wilson St. Please consider making a donation even if you can’t make it to the event. Many store owners and wineries already have! (Though discouraged, items will be accepted at the event if early drop-off is not possible.) Those looking to volunteer can respond to the email above; those looking to attend will find plenty to bid on. The Hopmonk is donating 50% of each drink sold during the event to the cause.  Music and DJs well into the night follow, starting at 10pm. Presented by Baby Seal Club and sponsored by the New Arts Project, the North Bay Bohemian and the Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. Doors 2pm; auction at 3pm; cash or check only. $20-$25. 707.829.7300.

Sunday, Jan. 31

The Muir Beach Community Center hosts a benefit for Partners in Health and DG Educational Services Haiti. Mark and Myriam Pasternak of Nicasio will speak about their experiences working with relief efforts in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. The event will include a supper of organic foods from local producers, including Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, Della Fattoria Bakery and the Straus Creamery. Sponsored by the Muir Beach Community Center. 19 Seascape Dr., Muir Beach. 5:30pm. $50. 415.300.6686.

Friday, Feb. 5

Cellars of Sonoma and Aioli Delicatessen have paired together to create a fundraiser for the Red Cross’ Haiti relief fund. A $20 cover charge gets you a flight of four wines; $10 of the cover charge goes directly to the Red Cross. Aioli will be providing tapas for $1.00 each with all proceeds going to the relief fund. There will also be a silent auction with massages, magnums of wine, auto and computer repair and more. Please call 707.887.2476 to RSVP or to donate an item to the auction. 133 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 6pm-9pm. $20. 707.887.2476.

Ongoing Through February

D’Argenzio Winery is donating 100 percent of their tasting fees from now until the end of February to the relief effort in Haiti. The D’Argenzio tasting room is located at 1301 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.280.4658.

On the Stereo: Four Tet 'There is Love in You'

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010

Retro “pause tape” edit as intro—words from different sources spliced into a coherent sentence, like three kinds of adhesive tape used to wrap a Cartier bracelet. “Therrr es Love n Oooyou.” So far, much different than “A Joy,” the leadoff from Everything Ecstatic, and thus welcome. No one would file this in ‘Electronica.’

Rubbing it in: the sound of R2D2. Take that, Krohn. Processed hi-hats essential for that “chase scene” feel. Slow build with dope rubber-band bass, vocal loop fading, snares popping in to check on the bird just when you’d forgotten. Ways to get lost to the third power.

Would be hard to peg this as Four Tet until it starts harping on me, vintage Hebden. Taking the candy away as soon as it’s spiraled around the lips. How does one gate a synth? Suddenly I realize that the whole picture isn’t a picture. Match the edges first, then fill in the field. Coffee table’s out of commission for weeks.

If the pleasure of something is in its anticipation, and one is in control of crafting their desires, the world should theoretically be a wellspring of happiness instead of an assemblage of threshing machines ready to chew up the next mystery.

A slightly more pensive Four Tet, this one. I approve.

What's On Your Mind?

Posted by on Jan 12, 2010 2 Comments

I am imagining most people enjoying the new Vampire Weekend with a copy of the dictionary nearby. I am imagining teenagers Googling “Richard Serra Skatepark” to find out where it is, only to discover an incredible artist they’d never heard of. I am remembering myself making horchata from a packaged mix bought from Grocery Outlet earlier tonight, and deciding to stick with the real. I am imagining offering the rest of my horchata bag to Leilani, who makes me laugh.

I am imagining kids watching Jay-Z’s new video and thinking that he invented goth. I am imagining kids watching Lil’ Wayne’s new video, or Lady Gaga videos, and thinking the same thing. I am upset at Ke$ha for jacking L’Trimm’s tip. I am scrolling down the list of songs that Nicki Minaj has guested on, and thinking “nasty,” and then seeing a picture and thinking it tenfold. I am wondering if the sample to “Bed Rock” is from anywhere or if it merely sounds familiar and perfect.

I am looking forward to new electronic releases by old dogs like Blockhead and Four Tet, new dog like Flying Lotus who I wrote off until hearing the “GNG BNG” remix with Blu, which is how I want hip-hop to sound in 2010. I am noticing a rampant use of the dancehall triplets since Arular. I am wondering if RJD2 can come back correct like he deserves. I am reminding myself of seeing him live, numerous years ago, and him not exactly blending records on beat.

I am pondering the fate of Amoeba‘s Berkeley store since hearing rumors of its possible closure. I am saddened upon visiting, last Friday, and being one of about four customers in the entire place. I am speculating that it makes the least amount of money despite being the O.G., and further that they own SF and LA but still rent Telegraph. I am confident that owning a record store next to a college is not what it used to be.

I am conflicted about the reappearance of AFI at the Phoenix this weekend, despite having long ago championed their cause. I am seeing in my mind the setlist from their show on Dec. 29, 1993, at the Phoenix, their “last show,” and remembering how we unabashedly elevated them such that they could not break up like they wanted to. I am thinking of  comments in Gimme Something Better that seemed to disparage the scene from which they sprung, and thinking about stepping stones. I am missing Dave and Adam, and still awaiting the new issue of Society Suckers.

I am spinning over the elegance of Nonesuch’s deluxe vinyl pressing of Joshua Redman’s Moodswings, and over the fascinatingly remedial packaging of William S. Fischer’s Akelarre Sorta. I am excited at finding an LP by the German saxophonist Günther Klatt, and tickled that its notes read “Location: Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg. Date: July ’84. Producer: Günther Klatt. Reason: Don’t know.” I am listening to Shafiq Husayn‘s En’a-Free-Ka for the fifth time in three days.

I am hoping that raising a child gets easier like they say, and wishing that Liz and I had time to be together. I am closing my eyes and concentrating on the rain falling on the stovepipe. I am thinking of my walk downtown with Lena in the buggy tonight, at 10pm, and the sound of the wheels crackling the fallen twigs echoing off the Federal Building, and I am glad because my special order for Bjork’s Volta comes in tomorrow.

The New Year

Posted by on Jan 1, 2010

The party was packed from the driveway to the stairs, where the clarion sign hung with more promise than the prospect of a New Year: “Beer.” Where were you ten years ago, arose the question, when the world was worried about Y2K?

At home, watching TV.

Smashing Neil Diamond records against the wall and lighting off illegal fireworks inside.

I was in middle school ten years ago.

Running around a campsite naked.

The last day of the decade and I went to the dump, digging through the detritus of the aughts. Cashed in a gift card at the stupidest restaurant in Petaluma. Picked up and began acclimating to my first-ever pair of eyeglasses. Hung out with Matthew & Kerri and their new baby boy, Cassius.

And then the party—StarSkate in a ridiculously small living room where the ghosts of Lindauer and Courage sleep. Shadows jumping around the ceiling in rhythm. Oneness. Outside, Nick with scarf, Dean with owl, Susie with Maryland, Celeste with the story of Rod, the tree-feller. Flasks, cups, hearts. A night to love Santa Rosa.

Back by midnight to kiss my girl. Rihanna looking ridiculous on TV. Dick Clark aging out, a sad tinge. Up until 3:30 reading about 1989. Twenty years ago burned into my consciousness. The golden years? I slept like a log.

First record of 2010: The Fastbacks, Very, Very Powerful Motor. Off to loan an amp to Guy and see what the new year brings. Glasses are weird. I’m still not used to them.

Top 15 Shows of 2009

Posted by on Dec 31, 2009

1. Will Oldham at the Orchard Spotlight

2. Electric Masada at Yoshi’s

3. Beyonce at the Oakland Arena

4. Q-Tip at Outside Lands

5. Adam Theis at the Palace of Fine Arts

6. Bettye LaVette at the Independent

7. The Invalids at Spencer-King

8. The-Dream at the Paramount Theater

9. Victims Family at the Phoenix Theater

10. Dirty Projectors at the Independent

11. Thorns of Life at Spencer-King

12. Lady Gaga at the Civic Auditorium

13. Abraham Burton at the Malcolm X Festival

14. Lucinda Williams at Outside Lands

15. Ornette Coleman at Davies Symphony Hall

Rounding Up

Posted by on Dec 31, 2009

And It Don’t Stop: There was a lot of talk about rap fading away this year, just like there has been each year since, oh, around 1986. What sat beneath the talk was the fact that radio wasn’t hip-hop’s breeding ground in 2009. Luckily, Passion of the Weiss presents a year-end explanation of the 50 Best Hip Hop Songs of 2009 that you wouldn’t have heard if you weren’t scouring. They also present a download of all 50 tracks. I agree with most of what I’d already heard, and like most of what I hadn’t; check it out here.

Carles Strikes Again: By far the most insane/genius/essential reading for those into “Music of the Decade” writing is this beyond-epic post, The Most Authentic/Relevant/Successful Artists of the Decade. If you’ve never come across Hipster Runoff before, brace yourself. Recoil, then settle into the style, and realize the “raw meta power.”

You’re The Parking Lot, Motherfucker: If you or anyone you love has been injured, psychologically or emotionally, by the Counting Crows’ horrendous cover of “Big Yellow Taxi,” then this cathartic, wonderful, smart and very funny piece of writing honoring it as the #1 Worst Song of the Decade is for you.

Quiz Show: This week’s year-end Bohemian has some excellent cartoons, comprehensive arts and food reminisces and my multiple-choice quiz about the wacky world of pop music in 2009. Gather ’round and test your knowledge here.