Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weasel Walter Hott Mixx Club #4: Punk Jazz

For one year between 2004 and 2005, I created a little mix-cd club. Here is edition number Four from the series. Thanks to Phil Plencner for re-posting it:

This edition features raw, rare trax at the apex where jazz and punk meet in the middle, focused basically on the Ornette Coleman-spawned electric "harmolodic" music school and including some DIY screeching from the old days of NYC . . .
1. Miles Davis - "Rated X"
From the 1974 2LP "Get Up With It", this is a true roomclearer featuring skeletal voodoo/Noh sabre-rattling death-funk topped by screechingly atonal farfisa treble clusters. This is the dark shit - it's abrasive and unnerving, a perfect opener for the punk jazz mixxx. Pure pain!

2. James Blood Ulmer - "Revelation March"
From one of the many versions of the second LP "Are You Glad To Be In America". To my knowledge there are at least 3 separate mixes for this record! I guess they kept trying until it was right? This one was the best one in my opinion - it saw the light of day on Ornette's Artists House imprint in the early '80s (other versions appeared on Rough Trade under the "production" aegis of Red Krayolan Mayo Thompson). An all-star cast w/ dual drumming by Shannon Jackson and Grant Calvin Weston and horns by Oliver Lake, David Murray and Olu Dara, this little ditty moves full speed ahead with clattering frenzy.

3. Milford Graves - "Ba" (excerpt)
 From the ultra rare mid-'70s DIY LP "Babi", this eruption of energy still stuns like shrapnel. There's supposed to be an umlaut over the 'A', of course - truly metal. Features Graves at his wildest plus the far-away caterwauling of Arthur Doyle and Hugh Glover on saxophones. Graves told the record biz to fuck off a long time ago and proceeded to document his legend on his own miniscule private pressings. He's also known for his many sideman appearances on various ESP-Disk titles as well as stints with Albert Ayler and Peter Brotzmann.

4. Ornette Coleman - "Voice Poetry"
Bo Diddley nightmare skronk from the "Body Meta" LP, recorded in late 1976. The early, definitive, teenaged(!) line-up of Ornette's "Prime Time" featuring Bern Nix (also future James White sideman) and Charlie Ellerbee on guitars, Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass and adult member Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. The band was busted broke in France at the end of a tour, so some weird Franco pop-star let them go nuts in the studio for a day. One of the most ridiculously flat drum sounds since "Trout Mask Replica"! The band is playing Ornette's concept of "harmolodic" music, which basically means that harmony, melody and rhythm are of equal importance to all of the instruments at all times, with no lead and no background roles implied.

5. Sam Rivers - "Scud"
From the out of print 1976 Impulse release "Sizzle". Sam Rivers is a well-respected elder statesman of post-bop and free jazz, having played with Cecil Taylor, Miles Davis and countless others. On this long, weird track he cycles through a bunch of rickety rhythm section riffs with abandon. There are moments of true chaos - particularly when both drummers kick in - while remaining steadfastly melodic and musical the entire time. I can't help but to think this composition was inspired by ornette's nascent electric music, but I don't know for sure. Featuring the stalwart duo of Dave Holland on bass guitar and Barry Altschul on drums.

6. Decoding Society - "Black Widow" (part 1)
From the rare 1981 Moers Music LP "Nasty". Typical of Ronald Shannon Jackson's writing, multiple layers of rhythm and melody clash and combine to create a rough but boyant tapestry of sound. This large group featured young luminaries Vernon Reid (pre-Living Colour!) on guitar and bassist Melvin Gibbs (pre-Rollins Band!) along with a shifting gaggle of solid but obscure horn players like Charles Brackeen and Byard Lancaster. The early Decoding Society records "Eye On You", "Nasty" and "Street Priest" featured the rawest music by the band before they became increasingly slick and glib, decending to the pits of, um, fusion.

7. Ornette Coleman - "Jump Street"
From the 1979 Antilles LP "Of Human Feelings" - one of the first all-digital commercial recordings ever! A totally disco-fied mess of dissonance from the Nix/Ellerbee/Tacuma/Coleman/Weston line-up of the group (when I say 'Coleman', I mean Ornette AND his enigmatic drumming son Denardo)

8. Decoding Society - "Black Widow" (part 2)

9. James Blood Ulmer - "Revealing"
From the macabre 1978 debut LP "Tales Of Captain Black", this track features the shockingly erratic percussion slaughtering of Denardo Coleman, the showstoppingly nimble Jamaaladeen Tacuma and a rare sideman appearance by Ornette. Blood developed his own harmolodic take on the guitar with uniquely sour open-string tunings coupled with his bitterly acrid, stinging tone. Denardo is clearly the star here - here, at tender age 21, his insanely jarring anti-pulse concept upstages everyone. He would have been great in the Shaggs!

10. Decoding Society - "Black Widow" (part 3)

11. Arthur Doyle - "November 7th or 8th . . ."
A teaser from the legendary "Alabama Feeling" LP released in the late '70s on Doyle's own label.
Doyle's ties to the no wave/noise scenes are well-documented, from his psycho-jamming with Rudolph Grey's Blue Humans to his current conglomerations featuring members of the Carbon and Siltbreeze mafias. This succinct outcry of ecstacy emerged right when everyone was proclaiming the death of jazz. Maybe it was the nail in the coffin!

12. Music Revelation Ensemble - "Baby Talk"
From the aptly titled 1980 Moers Music "No Wave" LP, featuring Blood Ulmer on guitar, Shannon Jackson on drums, David Murray on saxophone and Amin Ali on bass guitar. For the record, Jackson is particularly notable for having done time with Cecil Taylor, Ornette AND Ayler. That's quite a pedigree.

13. Human Arts Ensemble - "Beyond The New Horizon" (excerpt)
Frazzled free outbursting from the 1978 Black Saint LP "Junk Trap". These guys were a motley crew from late '70s NYC via St. Louis. The name of the album was quite fitting, considering the formidable drug abuse that certain members of the collective partook in! Influenced directly by the initial wave of free jazz, these slightly younger upstarts had extremely varied musical skills - from Joe Bowie (brother of Art Ensemble trumpeter Lester and future Defunkt leader) and Luther Thomas' (another James White henchman to be) fumbling but earnest incompetence to James Emery's shredding metal-muso speedpicking - but made up for it with sheer chutzpah. Drummer Charles Bobo Shaw held the whole mess together with his flashy drumming before winding up as a dope casuality in the '80s. The group issued a ton of flawed but truly unhinged LPs between 1972 and the early '80s (including one entitled "P'nk J'zz"!), most of which contain some wonderfully deranged moments worth the search.

14. Decoding Society - "Mandance"
A tasteful track from the 1983 Antilles LP of the same name, with Jackson, Reid, Gibbs, second bass player Bruce Johnson, trumpeter David Gordon and saxists Lee Rozie and Zane Massey.

15. Last Exit - "Discharge" From the landmark debut LP released on the German Enemy label in 1986. Full-boar assault by the supergroup featuring noise-guitar icon Sonny Sharrock, reedist Peter Brotzmann, Material bassist Bill Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Of all the band's legitimate releases, this one still holds up. The undoing of the combo was their increasing familiarity as documented at its nadir on the uninspired final release "Iron Path" (1990).

16. Ornette Coleman - "Theme From A Symphony"(excerpt)
From "Dancing in Your Head", recorded the same day, with the same line-up as "Body Meta"

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