Friday, January 30, 2009


No idea who or what that picture shows, but do a Google image search on "now's the time" and it's among the top returns. Sometimes context is overrated.

ITEM: Last night's edition of Now's the Time (the radio program) was supposed to be a whirlwind tour through whatever part of my brain stores memories related to the music I've been listening to recently, but technical difficulties overruled that. The program should air on February 19th. Check local listings.

ITEM: The Steinski career retrospective What Does it All Mean? is great headphone fodder while washing dishes, and paints a superior alternate universe where Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers never happened, but where that Steinski shit blew up large. History's full of what ifs.

ITEM: Good review of Mary Halvorson's Dragon's Head over at Bagatellen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January Miscellany

Always playing catch-up, I'll sandwich together my last several ideas for posts that never came to fruition. Let's go!

Freddie Hubbard
I'm overdue in mentioning this, but the great Freddie Hubbard (pictured) passed away on December 29. Hubbard's is an incredible body of work. The chances are, if you have anything resembling a jazz collection, you've got some Freddie in there even if you don't know it. Check the sleeves -- he was all over Blue Note in the '60s. There's nothing I could say here that my friend Mark-O isn't already saying better -- like right now, on Now's the Time on CKCU 93.1 FM.

Putting 2008 to Bed
In the interest of not dragging things out too long (too late?), and maybe beginning to concentrate on 2009, here's the last bit of '08-related chatter you'll hear from me. My favourite reissues (interpret that however you will) of the year that was were:

The Big Lie (a.k.a. Fuck Wynton)
The guys over at the always excellent Destination: Out have been doing their level best recently to shed light on the oft-misunderstood 1980s in a series of posts, but the most provocative note struck concerns the work and legacy of Wynton Marsalis (who must be mentioned if you hope to come to grips with that decade). The deeply, deeply conservative trumpeter is an incredible talent, no question, but there's little sense in denying that he's used his prominence to advance some ugly non-truths about The Music. We've debated this on Now's the Time before, and as I recall we had trouble reaching a true balance in our presentation of the argument, which boils down to Inclusiveness and Innovation (aka The Facts) vs. Wynton's Hagiography (oops, there I go again). Not one of the five of us could get behind his selective blindness. Anyway, head to D:O to read more.

Ginger Baker: All Kinds of Crazy
The prospect of crossing the Sahara to sit in on a few percussion-heavy jam sessions in Nigeria is crazy enough, but to do so in a pair of leather platform boots is plain batshit nutty. Then to seemingly get as baked as humanly possible before recording the echo pedal-aided voice-over for the documentary film which chronicles the journey is way, way beyond what most any of us mere mortals would ever in our lives consider doing. Ever. Still: entertaining.

I'll be repping the IMC and hosting Now's the Time next Thursday, bringing a grab bag of things I've been listening to of late. Download info to follow.

The IMC Presents the Chris Cawthray Trio

Our initial foray into "show facilitation" in Peterborough finds drummer Chris Cawthray and his trio appearing at The Spill on March 28th (note that it's an afternoon show). More info as available, but please, if you're within earshot (or walking/bussing/driving/training distance) come on by. No tickets, but we'll pass the hat until it's full, dump it out, and pass it again.

Who's Responsible?

The Spill

Chris Cawthray

The Improvised Music Collective
/ CKCU FM (Ottawa)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Best of 2008: Songs (Part 2)

Portishead, “Plastic” (from Third)
One of the strengths of Third is that it doesn’t ride from obvious single to obvious single; it’s an album, in the most cohesive sense of that word. Extracting any one song from the front-to-back flow of the thing robs both of some of their power and grace. That said, several songs do stand up on their own, and “Plastic” is one of them. In its prematurely-truncated drum sample rests the crux of Portishead’s continuing power: the interplay of the authentic masquerading as the artificial and the artificial muddying the waters of authenticity.

The Raveonettes, “Hallucinations” (from Lust, Lust, Lust)
“Downstairs on the sidewalk I kissed Stella some more – those cliffhanger kisses, you know, when you feel as if you’ll drop to your doom if your tongues untwine – before she sank into the seat of her car and disappeared. Then I stood there for a long while, my heart a sparkler spraying light across the sidewalk.” – Johnny Miles, Dear American Airlines

The Walkmen, “On the Water” (from You and Me)
Song of the year. No point in repeating myself. Read all about my gushy love here.

Sun Kil Moon, “Tonight the Sky” (from April)
Sometimes it just takes a song ten minutes to properly unfold. Don’t rush a guy.

The Funkees, “Akula Owu Onyeara” (from Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues, 1970-76)
A token inclusion from one of my favourite reissues of ought-eight (more on reissues in another post). Seems that compilations of Nigerian music are a dime a dozen these days, but this one shook my ass on several occasions. Also, I just watched Ginger Baker in Africa (more on that in another post) and I feel the need to include this. I know nothing about The Funkees, but this shit is crazy.

Dave Douglas and Keystone, “Kitten” (from Moonshine)
Awesome how Adam Benjamin makes his keyboard sound like a fuzzed-out guitar, no? That’s right: no guitar.

The Vandermark 5, “Speedplay (For Max Roach)” (from Beat Reader)
The world in seven minutes. Long live Vandermark.

The Peggy Lee Band, “Scribble Town” (from New Code)

DJ/rupture and Andy Moor, “One Hundred Month Bloom” (from Patches)
Notable for the sample/interpolation of “Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins. Also notable for incredibleness.

Bill Dixon and the Exploding Star Orchestra, “Constellations for Innerlight Projections (For Bill Dixon)” (from s/t)
I defy you to make sense of the spoken word bit. The song’s strength is as a showcase for this amazing ensemble, at once expansive and agile. They turn on a dime, rise to deafening heights, turn inward, crash upon themselves as though they were a single player.

Mary Halvorson Trio, “Momentary Lapse (No. 1)” (from Dragon’s Head)
Looking forward to her next release.

Matana Roberts, “Nomra” (from The Chicago Project)
Wonderful player, wonderful band.

Francois Carrier, “Experience” (from Within)
Not as monolithically impressive, perhaps, as “Core,” the (aptly-named) forty-minute centerpiece of Within, but a beautiful piece of group improvisation nonetheless.

Angles, “Every Woman is a Tree” (from Every Woman is a Tree)
Stylistic similarities to On Cortez by Dragons 1976 – a group of contemporary players mining the fertile nexus of hard bop and free music as you might’ve found on mid-‘60s Blue Note (think bands featuring Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson), while still finding new directions to push the sound. I can’t recommend this album enough.

The Bitter Funeral Beer Band, “Chetu” (from Live in Frankfurt ’82)
“A bit drum circle-y,” said Mark-O. Maybe so. But I keep getting drawn further and further into this space where world and free music meet.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Best of 2008: Jazz/Improvised

Tonight I convene (telephonically) with my IMC peers as we run down our picks for the best improvised recordings of 2008 on Now's the Time. It's on CKCU at 8:30 pm EST, or head to our myspace page after the fact for a recap. We'll record it, too, so watch this space for DL information.

My picks, of course, were laced in among the rock and pop stuff throughout December's 25 posts, but I'll try to elaborate on air, and probably play a couple of tracks from my top 2 or 3 choices.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Best of 2008: Songs (Part 1)

Those of you already in possession of the much-coveted TiOM year-in-review CD will have anticipated this post, and it will prove as anticlimactic as snow in winter. But we soldier on.

Every one of the previously-posted album picks is represented by a song here, as are a few strong-but-not-top-25-strong albums. When it comes to the improvised stuff, the songs chosen, while all very good examples of the artists’ work, are often concessions to the length of a CD-R rather than the track I enjoyed most.

In order of appearance on the CD (that is, the order dictated by flow, and not a hierarchical ranking):

Love is All, “New Beginnings” (from A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night)

I’m a sucker for anything this spastic and unhinged. The addition of saxophone seals it. Big inning, indeed.

Vampire Weekend, “Oxford Comma” (from Vampire Weekend)

The Oxford Comma, also known as the Serial Comma, provides the basis for one of the catchier songs on VW’s debut.

Ra Ra Riot, “Ghost Under Rocks” (from The Rhumb Line)

If I’d put together a top 26, Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line would’ve squeaked onto the list. A buoyant and catchy collection by a band prominently featuring cello and violin, Rhumb has worked its way into increased rotation at TiOM HQ in recent weeks after laying neglected for a couple of months. Danceable and only slightly twee, RRR crib from the right set of notes, namely New Order, Kate Bush and the Flying Nun roster.

The Whigs, “Hot Bed” (from Mission Control)

Was the Whigs’ Mission Control as front-to-back strong as the rest of the albums on my list? No, no it was not. Do I love “Hot Bed” because it shows the band at their Replacements-aping best? Yes, yes I do.

The Night Marchers, “Closed for Inventory” (from See You in Magic)

Keep doing how you do, John Reis.

The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer” (from Stay Positive)

God bless Craig Finn for his ability to toss off a line like, “Me and my friends are like double whiskey-coke, no ice.” When Stay Positive began this strong, it was clear Boys and Girls in America was no fluke.

Titus Andronicus, “No Future, Part II – The Days After No Future” (from The Airing of Grievances)

Absolutely perfect for late night air drumming while sitting before your PC and assembling a list of your favourite songs of the past year.

The Dodos, “Red and Purple” (from Visiter)

Visiter [sic] in a nutshell: clangy, tuneful, good.

Plants and Animals, “Bye, Bye, Bye” (from Parc Avenue)

By roughly the three-quarter point of Parc Avenue, I found myself overcome by the scent of patchouli, but “Bye, Bye, Bye” is grandiose and bombastic enough to disarm my defenses.

The Gaslight Anthem, “Miles Davis and the Cool” (from The ’59 Sound)

Mid-tempo longing and regret from Jersey Boss-worshippers.

The Baseball Project, “Past Time” (from Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails)

“Past Time” contains all of the Baseball Project’s DNA, acting as something of a sampler plate of the tracks that will follow. Half the fun of the album, and this song in particular, is sussing out how many of the names and stories you’re familiar with already, and how many you’ll have to look up at

Bon Iver, “Skinny Love” (from For Emma, Forever Ago)

Hands down the best use of a warbly, multi-tracked falsetto in 2008.

Frightened Rabbit, The Twist (from The Midnight Organ Fight)

Perfectly evokes to the sense of unease and tension in the moment described, until it builds toward something approaching confidence and the narrator declares, damn it, I want you to want me.

The Constantines, “Million Star Hotel” (from Kensington Heights)

One of the highlights of Kensington Heights, about equal with “Trans Canada,” I’d say, but the space and tension of “MSH” was better suited to my purposes.

Wolf Parade, California Dreamer (from At Mount Zoomer)

I think we can all agree that indie and prog now share a bed, and sometimes it’s an uncomfortable arrangement, but often, as when Wolf Parade drop in that bubbly electric piano, it delivers pure pleasure.