Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wellington Jazz Festival tomorrow!

Flying to Welly tomorrow for gigs and madness at the final day of their Jazz Festival. Damage report after I'm back.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Death of Music Marketing?

The NZ Herald today finally caught up on the story that has been whispering around the NZ music industry for months... Wellington roots/hip-hop/jazz/dub reggae outfit Fat Freddy's Drop managed to top the local charts and continue to make waves in Europe off the back of one of the most inspired marketing plans ever - don't do any.

To describe their approach as "no marketing" is a little disingenuous, since FFD has been on the road, around the country and around the world since 2001, playing legendary shows, building an incredibly loyal (and large) live audience, putting out limited releases on vinyl, and cultivating an uber-hip image that has unshakable credibility here at home and abroad (their album and vinyl artwork contain many nods to kiwi pop culture that are likely impenetrable to their overseas buyers).

Friends tell friends tell friends tell friends. When their album finally dropped in NZ in May 2005, so much pressure and demand had built up that it went off like a booby-trapped concrete truck in Baghdad's green zone. Shot to #1, stayed there for weeks. Fat Freddy's success is virtually an MBA case study in viral marketing.

Given the cost and time involved in classic music marketing techniques such as TV ads, poster campaigns, endless press interviews, (yawn), is the Freddy's Method the way for future musical talent to promote themselves? Essentially guys, get out there and play heaps of gigs and play good music... sounds too easy, right?

And everyone likes a good online quiz, right? And everyone posts their results on their blog? The answer to both those questions is YES.

You fit in with:

Your ideals are mostly spiritual, but in an individualistic way. While spirituality is very important in your life, organized religion itself may not be for you. It is best for you to seek these things on your own terms.

60% spiritual.
60% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Leila Adu

London-born and New Zealand-raised of Ghanaian heritage, Leila Adu is one of the most unique musical voices to emerge in the New Zealand scene in the past few years.

Leila's 2003 debut album Dig a Hole is worth checking out, even though it sneaked in below the radar of most listeners even in this country. The university-trained songwriter and composer is now an established player around Wellington, and it is with colleagues from the windy city that she recorded her second album Cherry Pie: saxophonist Jeff Henderson, drummer Riki Gooch (ex Trinity Roots), bassist Tom Callwood and guitarist David Long.

Cherry Pie
is certainly one of the most underrated and undersung releases out of NZ this year, and it's unlikely that you've heard anything quite like this. If there is ever a CD that could be described as a "grower" this is it!

Leila Adu - Bokoo
Leila Adu - Train
From Cherry Pie: Independent HEN 712 [Buy]

In radio news, our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century with streaming and on-demand audio in .wma and .mp3 - unfortunate that none of RNZ's kiwi music programmes are available online yet !

And Abdel Bari Atwan sounds a cautionary note about the BBC's plans for an Arabic language TV channel. Lets hope that the Beeb doesn't become yet another conduit for propaganda....

Monday, October 24, 2005

Paul Bley

Inspired by this post by Taxi Driver...

One of the more consistent and individual pianists in jazz/improvised music, Paul Bley has been hitting ivories in new ways since the age of seven, according to his biography.

What I particularly appreciate about Bley is the way that his improvisations never lose sight of melody. Even in the most tenous moments of Bley's music, there is the sense of song. Here are two great examples: Fair Share is a duet with Gary Peacock recorded in Oslo in September 1991, and Noosphere is performed with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, from an excellent trio date recorded in New York in 1999 for ECM. Touching base with tranquility indeed...

Paul Bley - Fair Share
From In the Evenings Out There: ECM 1488 [Buy]

Paul Bley - Noosphere
From Not Two, Not One: ECM 1670 [Buy]

Oh, and I got sunburnt yesterday. Summer must be just around the corner...

Photo Copyright Jimmy Katz

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pause in the madness

Thanks to visitors from Oxford and Long Beach and government agencies, this week is crumbling into dust before my eyes. Hopefully I'll get a chance to focus on the music again shortly.

In the meantime, this upcoming exhibition by Auckland photographer Lindy Hickman should be interesting. Lindy's spent the last year photographing most of the current players in New Zealand's pop, rock and hip-hop scenes. In years to come, this show could prove a true historic document. It promises to comprehensively capture a period in NZ's musical development where we've finally realised that WE ROCK.

"The Talent Invasion" runs from November 2nd - 22nd at the Aotea Centre, Auckland. Funds raised by the exhibition go to The Starship Children's Hospital.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I couldn't resist...

1. Posting this article in which an Australian actually expresses admiration for New Zealand. (It's a fairly rose-tinted view, but we'll take the compliments - I wonder if my blog "exudes a confident, intelligent feminism"?)

2. Laughing at the "news" that Australia is destined to become the hip-hop capital of the Southern Hemisphere

3. Downloading The Brady Bunch Kids singing "Drummerman". (That guitar is WAY too funky for a Brady song). Thanks to

4. Posting this photo of Ahmed Zaoui singing at the New Zealand Music Awards a few weeks back. I wish we treated all our asylum seekers like this all the time :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

DnB2:Roni Size Remixed

When the Roni Size/Reprazent album New Forms came out in 1997, the future of music had arrived, or so it seemed. Here was music that sounded like the approaching Millenium. It offered aggressiveness, certainty and intensity to match the times: peace was breaking out everywhere, the Internet bubble was inflating, and we still had four years of innocence up our sleeves before that clear blue September morning over Manhattan. New Forms stormed the pop charts and won Britain's Mercury Prize. The media gushed about an "instant classic".

Today, New Forms sounds like a time capsule, a reference to a zeitgeist long past. A Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack for the late 1990s. Alongside Goldie's Timeless, New Forms was the drum and bass album that everyone bought, even if they weren't into drum and bass.

For my money, some of the best music spawned from New Forms were the remixes. I've chosen a couple of my favourite examples. NuYorican Soul bring a live salsa rhythm section into the studio and throw away the original track completely at around the 5 minute mark. The Kitachi Remix of Heroes centres around a big dumb orchestral synth hook and the Funky Drummer break.

Trust me, you will definitely want to hear the NuYorican Soul track at least...all 13'56 of it :-)

Roni Size - Watching Windows (Roni Size meets Nuyorican Soul) [Buy]
Roni Size - Heroes (Kitachi Remix) [Buy]

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Peace on the West Coast

Sometimes some alone time is a good thing.

Today I drove out to Te Henga (Bethells Beach), on Auckland's west coast. The road steamed with recent rain. I parked up and walked south along the beach. A dog followed me. The Tasman Sea roared in my right ear. A monk in Tibetan robes was sitting on a rock, looking out at the ocean. At the far end of the beach, volcanic cliffs rise up and lump southwards, riddled with caves. A boisterous family was wading knee-deep in the surf, collecting shellfish from under the sand, slinging their dinner into a large paint bucket. I turned around to head north. The Tasman Sea roared in my left ear. Steel grey clouds towered over the hills, but the rain held off. Another dog came up and sniffed me. I brushed the black sand off my shoes and drove home.

Stan Getz - With the Wind and the Rain
Stan Getz - Ballad
From Highlights: Verve 847 430-2 [Buy Stan Getz albums]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

DnB1: Megashira

If you, like me, were in your late teens or twenties and living in an OECD economy in the middle of 1990s, you probably had some kind of experience with "drum and bass". Or "jungle", whatever. It may have been a flirtation, an annoyance, or in my case, a short-term relationship. For a few years, this underground dance genre became disconcertingly mainstream, before submerging again to continue development in the darker alleys of 21st Century club culture.

I can accurately locate the start of my relationship with drum and bass to a time and date, and a single track: the evening of March 25th, 1997, on Stinky Jim's radio show on 95 bFM. Visiting UK DJ A-Sides dropped Mental Strength by Megashira. 4 minutes and 56 second of Miles-inspired trumpet hook rising over a clattering tech break. Industrial jazz. It was compelling.

Megashira - Mental Strength
From Zero Hour: INFRACom! IC 026-2 [Buy]

Megashira was a German production duo, consisting of DJ Kabuki and Mainframe. Their 1997 album Zero Hour had the distinction of being the first full-length drum and bass album produced in Germany, and bore the sonic influence of DJ Kabuki's time working in Tokyo. Megashira released a follow-up in 2001 called At Last, (I haven't heard it), which has a couple of kiwi connections in the form of keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe and drummer Nick Gaffaney.

Megashira: German, apparently

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Il est temps de faire un Zapping!

In response to some excellent recent posts on Freeman and Taxi Driver, here is a brief channel-surf (un zapping en français) across some of the many aspects of the work of Frank Zappa. Not comprehensive, not expert opinions, just some channel surfing.

It surprises me how often Frank Zappa is still dismissed as some kind of novelty minstrel, despite an unaparalelled recorded output (60 albums?) that spanned rock, doo-wop, jazz and contemporary classical compositions. Zappa's orchestral work stands up to scrutiny against any modern ensemble writing from the last 60 years, and proves robust when reinterpreted in a variety of formats. Check out this snippet of The Black Page #2, arranged for "drums percussion and interactive system" by Canadian composer Bruce Pennycook.

Blair McKay, Julien Gregoire - The Black Page #2
Recorded live in Montreal in 1995 by Radio-Canada

It is also worth listening (in glorious streaming mp3 stereo) to composer Nicolas Slonimsky discuss his relationship and work with Frank Zappa - it is clear that Slonimsky regarded Zappa as a musician and composer of the first degree.

If you want to be thoroughly confused by an overly obsessed and possibly misguided Zappologist, don't miss The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play by Ben Watson. In this 700 page book, Watson deconstructs Zappa's lyrics almost to the point of parody. Overlong and overblown, it is still entertaining, and may be the Gregory Peccary of Zappa fan-books.

And finally, if anyone still needs further proof of greatness, here's Zappa live 1975 in El Paso, Texas. Yes, it's a bootleg taken off the sound desk. Musicians include Frank Zappa (gt), Captain Beefheart (stuff), George Duke (keyb), Terry Bozzio (d), Tom Fowler (b), Bruce Fowler (tb) and Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax).

Frank Zappa - A Pound for a Brown on the Bus Medley
Frank Zappa - Strange Thing
From Bongo Fury in El Paso [Bootleg] Recorded May 23rd, 1975, El Paso, TX

Check out also Djdurutti's post on Architecture in Helsinki. Naturally, they're from Australia, but with a band name like that, you KNOW they're going to be good.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blogging and Music Shopping

I am very lucky to live in New Zealand. It's a beautiful, peaceful place. However, there are some disadvantages living in a thinly populated string of islands a long way from the rest of the world. One of these disadvantages is lack of access to comprehensive record shops. One of the highlights of travelling in Europe, the USA and Japan has been buying music that you can't get back home. (Of course, we have some great music stores in New Zealand. But my point is that we are a long way from the distribution channels of North America, Asia and Europe, so the variety and depth of stock is often poor.)

So online shopping has opened up a whole new world of music consumption for us kiwis! We can now buy from shops all over the world, while avoiding the need to spend $2000 on an airfare. Last week my latest CD order arrived from Amazon, and I realised that the every single disc I bought was the result of discovering it through audioblogs, or through my own blogging activities. Here's my shopping list, and the reason why I bought the album:
  • Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis. His solo album from 1998. Discovered via david fenech's blog.
  • Charles Mingus - The Great Concert of Charles Mingus. Discovered while researching Mingus for my recent series on Mingus' orchestral work
  • Jacques Coursil - Way Ahead. Discovered via PODvains
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago - Live in Paris. I came across this while putting together a post on Lester Bowie which still awaits the light of day...
  • Cuong Vu - Bound. Cuong Vu's first album. I was blown away when I heard this record on Xanax Taxi.
I would not have found any of this music without the aid of the Internet - it is not played on the radio, it is not advertised in magazines. Some of the recordings are 40 years old. Audioblogs seem to provide a great opportunity to breed a more informed and more sophisticated community of music consumers. I can only thing that this must be good for music as an industry in the long term, and more importantly, this must be good for music and musicians.

Mark Hollis- The Gift
From Mark Hollis: Polydor 537 688-2 [Buy]

Friday, October 07, 2005

Uri Caine's Mahler Circus

We music geeks all seem to carry around in our heads a mental list of our "Top 10 Albums ever". Every so often, you discover a new piece of art that is a serious contender to knock one of those well-loved records into 11th position. When I first heard pianist Uri Caine's urlicht/primal light a few weeks ago, I was completely blown away. It is awesome.

urlicht/primal light features recordings of Uri Caine's (re)arrangements of the music of Mahler, played by a solid crew of Downtown New York musicians - Dave Douglas (tp), Don Byron (cl), Michael Formanek (b), Mark Feldman (vl), among others. Under Caine's guidance, Mahler's music rediscovers much of its frankly Jewish roots, (as a composer/conductor in fin-de-siècle Austria-Hungary, Mahler had to renounce his Jewish faith in order to find employment). The overall effect is stunning.

Since the release of this album in 1997, Uri Caine has gone on to mess with the sacred rubiks cubes of several other European classical composers - Bach, Schumann and Wagner among them. I'm going to have to seek out these discs too...

If you thought the jazz artist's capacity for reinventing European classical music ended with Jacques Loussier's Play Bach series, go out and buy this album today.

Uri Caine - Symphony no.5, Funeral March
From urlicht/primal light: Winter and Winter 910 004-2 [Buy]

Uri Caine

In other news, ECM founder Manfred Eicher is interviewed in Le Monde (in French), blogs take over the world, the new episodes of Family Guy start on TV in New Zealand tomorrow night, and Rushan has arrived safely in Exeter, NH.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Funny Kiwis

Sometimes you just have to show a bit of pride in your fellow countrymen. Flight of the Conchords is a musical comedy duo from Wellington. They rightly claim the title of New Zealand's 4th most popular folk parody act, and here they are blowing up all over the world. An HBO special, sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and now, they've even been on Conan O'Brien.

They are not only very funny, they are also very fine musicians. Their David Bowie "song" is one of the best things I've ever heard live on stage. And Brett McKenzie played/plays in The Black Seeds, who are world famous in New Zealand.

I seriously recommend you download/watch their Conan appearance [.avi file, 22MB]

And make these guys superstars, please. We need more entertainment heroes in this country beyond Peter Jackson and Chris Knox.

Kiwi kids are Weet-Bix kids.

I am officially old.

My awareness of youth music is receding as fast as my hairline.

Driving back from attending the Dianova piano recital on Saturday night, I see thousands of kids lined up on Queen Street outside Auckland's St James Theatre. It must be the Black Eyed Peas show, I assume (after all, that's what the kids are into these days, right? Hell, I even played support for the BEP's Auckland gig years ago, before their Elephunk superstardom. Yeah, I know what's going down.)

It turns out that the queue of thousands is for a gig by a Canadian punk band called Simple Plan. I have never heard of them. Until I read about the gig in the paper on Monday.

And then the first part of my order of CDs from Amazon arrives - Mingus and Art Ensemble of Chicago, both live recordings from the 1960s. It is all over. I am out of touch.

Jeff Stinco from Simple Plan. I am so past it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Islands of Fire

Tzenka Dianova - XX Century Piano Music
Saturday, 1st October, University of Auckland School of Music

There are limited opportunities in Auckland to hear 20th Century "classical" music. So Tzenka Dianova's piano recital last night was an event to be leapt at. Dianova specialises in the avant garde end of 20th Century composition for piano, and the ambitious program was a satisfying survey of this particular musical vein, spanning music from 1905 to 1986.

Charles Ive's Three Page Sonata was the only piece with which I was familiar, and Dianova played the bustling third movement far more rhythmically than does Peter Lawson on his excellent American Piano Sonatas recording. There was even a hint of ragtime in Dianova's playing...

Peter Lawson - Three Page Sonata (Ives)
From American Piano Sonatas: Virgin Classics 61928 [Buy]

The real highlight of the concert was John Cage's Daughters of the Lonesome Isle for prepared piano. Oh to have a spare Steinway grand that you can fill with nuts, bolts, screws and bits of rubber! I couldn't help being reminded of Javanese gamelan on hearing this piece.

Tzenka Dianova, preparing her piano for a John Cage composition

The remainder of the concert was rounded out by the resonant harmonics of I.Phases II.Reseaux by Canadian Gilles Tremblay; the austere and minimal Intermission 5 by Morton Feldman; Galina Utsvol'skaya's Piano Sonata #5 (who would have thought that middle Db could become a theatrical character?). Dianova closed the concert with Olivier Messaien's brief and savage Ile de Feu I, played without sheet music, giving the impression that this forceful piece of modernism is one of Dianova's "party pieces"