I’m late posting this, but take a listen to the new LP by Virginia-based ambient electronic duo honeybrandy, joined by Chris Schlarb on guitar, Phillip Greenlief on woodwinds, and myself on trumpet. We made this down at Big Ego Studio in Long Beach earlier this year, and it all came together so beautifully. I’m especially fond of the last track…
2017 has been eventful to say the least, and I’ve been lagging on posting updates here but not for lack of activity. Above are some photo highlights. Back in January I was pleased to accept the Jazz Educator of the Year award from the Kern County Music Educators’ Association, which was a nice prelude to our 2nd annual KCMEA Jazz Day event at Bakersfield College in April, and a few months later my acceptance of a tenure-track, full time teaching position as Director of Jazz Studies at BC. Lots of exciting things coming down the pike as we expand and develop this program…
I’ve been doing a bit of work down in Long Beach at my friend Chris Schlarb’s new Big Ego Studios, playing on several soon-to-be released projects by Schlarb’s group Psychic Temple, LA bassist Anthony Shadduck, Virginia duo Honeybrandy, and Iowa-based songwriter Dana Telsrow. In May I made a new record with Mike Baggetta – our fifth duo project as Tin/Bag – which should be out next year on Big Ego records.
Other highlights include gigs in Idaho and LA with Cathlene Pineda‘s Quartet, Sacramento and Oakland with a new trio with bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and percussionist Nathan Hubbard, and an epic gig atop the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook organized by SASSAS and my friend Dan Clucas.
Two – two! – new records from Psychic Temple are set to drop in the next few weeks, and I’m happy to once again be included in Mr. Schlarb’s plan for global music domination. Psychic Temple Plays Music for Airports comes first, later this month on Joyful Noise Recordings…
Psychic Temple, led by band/cult leader Chris Schlarb and featuring Mike Watt (Minutemen), Sheridan Riley (Avi Buffalo), Paul Masvidal (Cynic, Death), jazz trumpeter Kris Tiner and more, has reimagined Brian Eno’s 1979 ambient landmark Music For Airports. The group’s own version of “Music for Airports 1/1” was recorded in one afternoon, live in the studio without headphones, overdubs, edits or effects.
The album’s flip side features the fiery original “Music for Bus Stops,” conceived as a working class commentary on Eno’s preferred method of transportation.
From Greg Burk’s liner notes: “Psychic Temple approaches Airports from a fresh angle, rescuing it from its ‘dark, boring fate’ of becoming a museum piece to be analyzed by select musicians inside expensive concert halls. Where Eno’s distant, static masterpiece doesn’t seem to fit the real-life chaos of what goes on in an airport, Psychic Temple’s version adds a human touch and a dose of reality, showing that we’re all in it together, we can make room for one another, and we’re calm.”
This was such a fun and beautiful session with a stellar lineup of mostly LA-based musicians, some of my favorite people around. Here’s a trailer for a quick taste:
Psychic Temple III is out in May on Asthmatic Kitty Records, and it will be epic – check out that “Deluxe Altar Edition” LP gatefold above…
Psychic Temple ‘III’ completes the transition from avant-jazz solo project to a working band constructed around timeless songs that draw upon the rich history of classic American soul, blues, and folk. Equally immersed in the sound of California’s canyons and the swamps of the deep South, Psychic Temple’s cult leader/guitarist Chris Schlarb steps out of the shadows and up to the microphone for the first time with astonishing results.
Maintaining Psychic Temple’s affinity for nuance and delicate minimalism, ‘III’ exhibits a new directness centered around Schlarb’s agile guiding voice. While the album places his unfolding vocal melodies and narratives in the foreground, ‘III’ subverts easy categorization by sustaining the collaborative, exploratory spirit of ‘Psychic Temple’ and ‘II’.
Culled from sessions recorded at home in Los Angeles and the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – ‘III’ includes contributions and performances from Spooner Oldham (Neil Young, Bob Dylan), David Hood (J.J. Cale, Aretha Franklin), Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges), Avi Buffalo, Nedelle Torrisi (Sufjan Stevens), Elliot Bergman (Wild Belle, NOMO), Dave Easley (Brian Blade Fellowship) and many more. Coming together quickly and intuitively, the album was mixed over three days with Ronan Chris Murphy (King Crimson).
It also comes with a recipe for pancakes:
The four members of The Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet formed in 2010 while studying music at Bakersfield College in sunny Bakersfield, California; a region known (musically) for the twangy, steel-guitar sound popularized by hometown heroes Buck Owens & Merle Haggard. IAHRQ take a decidedly different approach, reaching skyward toward the cosmos & the outer reaches of cosmic, spiritual jazz & Ethio-centric long-form jams.
“2” is the aptly named second album from the quartet (the first was released in late 2013 on noted composer & trumpet player Kris Tiner’s Epigraph Records) was recorded & produced by Chris Schlarb (Psychic Temple). “2” finds the ensemble digging deeper and reaching further out than before, honing their mixture of Ethiopian funk, spiritual jazz & cosmic psychedelia to a finer point. The album starts with “Praise One” & “Praise Two”, a pair of complimentary jams that begin in a free & loose cloud of cosmic dust, before honing in on a loping mellow groove that would fit perfectly next to tunes by Mulatau Astatke or Hailu Mergia. The rest of “2” populates the same headspace, pulling funky drum breaks (”Lifetime”), heady brass arrangements (”Headways”) & proggy psychedelia (”Cosmic Loneliness”) toward and over the event horizon.
This record is going to really blow some minds. I’m glad to have contributed to the brass arrangements along with saxophone hero Phillip Greenlief and Bako trombonist Omar Murillo. It’s not out till November 13, but you can preorder the very limited edition vinyl now at Trouble in Mind Records.
Lots of interesting creative projects over the last few months, in addition to a busy teaching semester in Bakersfield and filling in for John Fumo as the Jazz Trumpet instructor at CalArts – which was a whole lot of fun.
In February I had the pleasure of bringing my former teacher and mentor Wadada Leo Smith to Bakersfield College for a public lecture and concert, which is something I’ve wanted to do for many years. It was wonderful to see him interact with the students and the public here, and his solo performance of his own music and reinterpretations of music by Thelonious Monk was beyond great.
Other recent highlights include a couple of Blue Whale gigs with Cathlene Pineda’s quartet and the LA-based new jazz ensemble Slumgum; Vidya Trio in San Francisco at the Center for New Music; three performances in two days with Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond; and a duo performance with pianist Motoko Honda at Montalvo Arts Center as part of their 75th anniversary Rock the Garden celebration.
It was a busy few months leading up to the end of the year. The Empty Cage Quartet got together in October after a two-year hiatus for a live recording and several concerts culminating in a fantastic night at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles. In September I had the pleasure of performing at REDCAT with pianist Cathlene Pineda, who put together an impossibly beautiful suite of new compositions based on the poetry of Eloise Klein Healy for the Angel City Jazz Festival. Other recent concerts included collaborations with Thollem McDonas, Charles Sharp, Jeff Schwartz, Vijay Anderson, Chris Schlarb, Tabor Allen, Phillip Greenlief, Motoko Honda, Beth Schenck, G.E. Stinson, Alex Cline, Steuart Liebig, Kio Griffith, and the Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet.
Reaching back further into 2014, there were musical encounters with Jack Wright, Ben Wright, Tatsuya Nakatani, Michael Vlatkovich, Anna Homler, Kyle Burnham, John Fumo, Jeff Kaiser, Daniel Rosenboom, Ted Byrnes, Brian Walsh, John Lindberg, Gilbert Isbin, Scott Walton, Wadada Leo Smith, and quite a few others.
I’m opening this new year with a deep and profound feeling of gratitude for the wonderful and endlessly inspiring friends I’m fortunate to cross musical paths with so often, each one pursuing a life uniquely centered on beauty and creativity, bringing life-affirming music with them wherever they go.
Short clip from a recent duo with Thollem McDonas at Dagny’s in Bakersfield, 9/2/2014. Video by Angela C Villa.