Writing about a newly released 1973 Cecil Taylor concert in The Baffler:
It is stunning how fresh the music sounds, fifty years later. Technical innovations have been standardized, instrumental virtuosity institutionalized, but spontaneous musical communication on this level remains tantalizingly rare.
Paying tribute to Cecil Taylor in Point of Departure:
One of the most important figures in American creative music, Muhal Richard Abrams, died peacefully at home last Sunday, at the age of eighty-seven. “Pianist/composer” will be the description most commonly ascribed to him, but Abrams was so much more: organizer, philosopher, visionary, motivator, teacher, and always, learner. His innovation was not about developing a specific sound or style but in cultivating a certain kind of creative ethos that nurtured and launched some of the most extraordinary music and musicians of the past fifty years.
Taylor Ho Bynum Presents a New, Hour-Long Suite in Hartford
by Bill Milkowski
New Haven-based cornetist-composer Taylor Ho Bynum brought his 9-tette to Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 2 to perform his new hour-long opus, The Ambiguity Manifesto, just before going into the studio to document the four-movement suite at Firehouse 12 in New Haven.
Paying tribute to Muhal Richard Abrams in TheNew Yorker:
One of the most important figures in American creative music, Muhal Richard Abrams, died peacefully at home last Sunday, at the age of eighty-seven. “Pianist/composer” will be the description most commonly ascribed to him, but Abrams was so much more: organizer, philosopher, visionary, motivator, teacher, and always, learner.
Reviewing Butch Morris’s Art of Conduction in Point of Departure:
What artifacts does an improviser leave behind? For an art form dedicated to the ephemeral, the in-the-moment joy of spontaneous creation, legacy can be a vexing question…Ever the searcher and ever the iconoclast, Lawrence D.
Discussing the work of Anthony Braxton in the Sound American Journal:
The other morning I took a walk in my neighborhood, as I do several times a week. At the end of a dead end street a few blocks from my home, I noticed, for the first time, a path leading into the woods.
And it’s that aspect of Enter the PlusTet that embodies what makes this album special: The grand statements, the raw emotional power, and the inspirations and surprises that come from improvised music. There was a songbook in place, but one that allowed the musicians to be free to take everything they’d ever learned and experienced up to that moment and express it in the next moment and all the moments that followed.
Paying tribute to Prince in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Miles Davis, in his autobiography, compared Prince to Duke Ellington; one might be tempted to add Miles himself to that comparison. When we discuss artists so transcendently brilliant and impossibly prolific, their rarities and deep cuts offer profundities that dwarf the entire catalogues of lesser musicians.
Paying tribute to the great Ornette Coleman in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Ornette Coleman posited that the infinite improvisational possibilities of a melody could thrive outside of a predetermined structure, that musical ideas could flow and expand in the moment as naturally as breath or speech or thought.
If there’s one lesson to be learned from Bynum’s musical adventures, it’s one of insistently creating one’s own path with focus not only on the end goal, but also on the context. The old models can serve as a suitable foundation or reference, but they are only there to be used as launching pads.
Discussing Bjork’s new album and Carnegie Hall concert in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
The creative realms of the popular and the cutting edge are always closer than generally portrayed. An experimentalist as dedicated as the composer Anthony Braxton mines the Super Bowl half-time show for conceptual inspiration for his operas, while a pop celebrity as high-profile as Beyoncé cribs dance moves for her videos from the avant-garde Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Paying tribute to the great Clark Terry in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Master improvisers have a personality in their playing, a singularity to their sound. They have the ability to adapt to any musical context while maintaining a sense of personal identity, displaying distinct individuality while always contributing to the needs of the collective.
Discussing vocalist/lyricist Kendra Foster in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Jazz fans learn early on that digging into the sideman credits can reveal treasures and musical genealogies. That young pianist backing Lester Young becomes Nat King Cole; the unknown saxophonist on those Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk LPs blossoms into John Coltrane.
Mongezi Feza and Barbara Donald do not sound alike, nor do they sound like any other trumpet player; they are their own voices…Their outsider status (whether as a South African expat in Europe or a white woman in the midst of the Black Arts Movement) likely contributed to their relative obscurity, but despite the critical neglect and the moments of tragedy in each biography, their music endures and their brilliantly personal sounds continue to inspire.
Finished. It feels good to be done. As the elation and adrenaline from the tour begins to wear off, I recognize how wholly exhausted I am. Bone weary is a cliche I’ve used before, but I can really feel the tiredness deep in my tissues, my joints, my mind.
Both music and biking made one’s perception of time particularly malleable; sometimes minutes stretch into near eternities, other times hours pass in a seeming breath. This has felt especially acute over these final few days.
I’m still living inside some of the music from the weekend.
Tonight is my final night camping out and probably the last shot of much natural beauty before I enter the SoCal LA-San Diego megalopolis that will cover the rest of the trip. I got my biking done early so I’m treating myself to some time at the beach.
One week left to go. A couple of long, quiet days riding through the hills and valleys, farmlands and ranchlands, that are just inland from the coast. Strawberry farms so huge you can taste the sickly sweet smell in the back of your throat.
The magical rides tend to happen in the early morning. I left the campground at 6:30am, and had several hours almost to myself on the road through Big Sur’s southern coast. Tendrils of light from the rising sun making streaks through the light fog, cliffs dropping into the ocean, hard climbs on the yo-yoing road made worth it by the beauty at each turn.
After a day and a half of biking through the Silicon Valley suburbs, I was ready to escape back to some more outdoorsy environs. By the last half of the day today I got my wish, climbing up Highway 1’s zigzagging path through Big Sur.
I’m coming to the end of my mid-tour Bay Area respite, so time to jump back on both my horses – the diary and the bike. Yesterday was my one full day off for the whole five week experience with no gig and no serious riding, and it was just delicious doing nothing.
Last night in Arcata was the first gig that felt deeply affected by the biking. In Vancouver, I had just landed, so it was still theoretical (except for the crash, of course). It was long rides to Seattle and Portland, but nothing like what I covered over the past five days, and I gave myself a day and a half of recovery time before each of those gigs.
One kind of fast I forgot to mention yesterday. (And not my speed of travel; I’m happily mosying along at 11 or 12 mph.) When on bike, you can’t listen to recorded music – one’s ears are the early warning sign for oncoming vehicles, and you learn to differentiate the size by the sound they make.
Not sure how much journal time I’ll get in the next few days, in the midst of some serious daily mileage. (I was perhaps a tad ambitious in my planned itinerary.) After an early morning start from the campground, I just inhaled a huge breakfast: veggie-stuffed omelette with hash browns, raisin toast, and a side of boar sausage.
I’m rarely biking at night on this trip, only on the way back to wherever I’m staying after gigs. But nighttime rides can be special – last night it was just about a full moon as I wound my way through deserted residential streets in Portland, with the downtown skyline off to my right.
Yesterday began very nicely, with a quiet trip south through Washington State. Perhaps not the spectacular coastline I’ll get later on, but nice wide county highways zigzagging I-5, with views of the mountains or lined by the trees, a soft wind at my back.
Biking south out of Seattle on a clear day, Mt. Rainier looms like a totem, beckoning you forward from your left up ahead. You catch glimpses of it as you bike through the strip malls, suburbs, and industrial zones that, like most American cities, ring Seattle.
My cousin Piper and his son Theo came across the bay from Port Townsend to meet up with me in Bellingham, and we camped out in a friend’s backyard. So great to see them, and they joined me for the first twenty miles of my ride today (a beautiful run through some lush forest, almost primordial with the ferns and moss and trees).
I just crossed the border from Canada to the US, eating a fish taco at a Mexican restaurant with a view of the harbor and the Peace Arch (shout out to the great Paul Robeson). At first, a Mexican restaurant felt incongruous, but once I thought about it, I realized it was the perfect meal for this first real day on the road.
I’m in a “European-style” cafe with a slightly confused identity – the vibe is part Italian coffee bar, part British tea house, maybe some Vienna thrown in, with a French name and a menu in English and Chinese. Welcome to modern Canada.
So today got…interesting. Everything was going so smoothly. All the things I was worried about – getting up at 3am and driving to Newark before dawn, getting the giant box from the parking lot and checked in, finding a big taxi in Vancouver to get me to the bike shop, getting my bike rebuilt – went without a hitch.
An early morning at the airport’s theme park replication of a Jersey diner, as I wait for my flight to Canada. My bicycle, boxed up by the fine folks at the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop (a fitting name to support a tour of that devil’s music), currently being loaded into the cargo bin of the airplane.
I’m writing this at dawn from a campground named Hopeville, as the fog rolls off the pond and the cicadas’ nighttime drone becomes dotted with morning birdsongs. Seems like as auspicious a beginning as any. In two days I turn thirty-nine, and in eight days I begin my Acoustic Bicycle Tour – my attempt to turn a five-week, eighteen hundred mile bicycle ride into a kind of musical composition.
Taylor Ho Bynum’s Navigation: An album with the scope of a novel by Richard Brody
For all their sonic invention and rhythmic charge, the performances of “Navigation” have an essentially narrative feel, as if the combinations and improvisations reflected the musicians’ personal relations and dialectical negotiations.
Taylor Ho Bynum: Notions of Inspiration by Josephine Reed
Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is one of the freshest and most innovative voices composing and playing music today. As a leader, collaborator, sideman, and composer, Ho Bynum continually pushes the outer boundaries of jazz, and his list of collaborators reads like a list of “who’s who” in the avant-garde music scene.
Remembering my friend, the trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr. in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Campbell always looked relaxed, with a Bronx-bred saunter to his step and often a leather baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, but he always played hard, whether for a European concert hall or a New York subway platform.
Remembering Jim Hall in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
Jim Hall carved out a new place for the instrument, hybridizing the preexisting responsibilities of the soloist and the harmonic or rhythmic support. Though his style was influenced by the lush sounds of his favorite tenor saxophonists, he was not trying to imitate a horn player, nor was he consciously trying to take over for the piano.
I’m very pleased that Navigation has been receiving some unusually thoughtful and in-depth commentaries and reviews. Here are some excerpts and links to the full articles.
“Bynum has produced something that belongs to a special category, a masterpieces, a work that can shimmer into new identities, bringing multiple narratives into view.” – Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
“Rather than presenting the work as fixed in time, self-contained and permanent, Navigation documents the evanescent yet transformative power of improvisational music.
Remembering Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
The A.A.C.M. nurtured the radical individualism of its members, blowing past the idiomatic restrictions of jazz while embracing its tradition of innovation. The combination of a supportive community of fellow outsiders with a committed philosophy of artistic independence and creative investigation resulted in an extraordinary cohort of musicians and composers…Last week, this family lost one of its members, an artist less known to the wider public but admired deeply by his peers: Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, who passed away on November 9th.
Composition notes for my piece Navigation, written for my sextet featuring Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), with special guest Chad Taylor (drums, vibraphone):
The purpose of Navigation is to maximize the freedom, choice, and agency of the performing musicians while maintaining a strong compositional structure.
A fantastically beautiful day. I had a great run and a nice workout, so decided to treat myself to a lunchtime beer; a crisp summer lager to go with my avocado and cheddar sandwich (with a touch of spicy dijon and creamy hummus).
After practicing naked in a barn (with its artificially dappled roof) and climbing atop a massive fallen tree trunk to inspect an artfully sanded protuberance, I saw a red-tailed hawk in the sky. Sharply silhouetted, it revealed what looked to be a snake dangling beneath it.
A short article on the work of Roscoe Mitchell from the Tables & Chairs blog, in advance of a Seattle concert of Mitchell’s:
Like many listeners, I first heard Roscoe Mitchell in the context of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. As a brass player, it was Lester Bowie’s clarion call that brought me in, but I soon wholly embraced the collective; the magical balance of these contrasting and complementary musical souls, especially the yin/yang partnership of Roscoe and Lester.
[Ted Curson] first emerged during a period when everything was in flux, when the idiomatic boundaries were wholly permeable, and that aesthetic openness fueled his whole life. His playing displayed his hard-bop roots in Philadelphia (where he grew up alongside Lee Morgan), while maintaining the flexibility to work with avant-gardists like Cecil Taylor and the New York Contemporary Five (where he and Don Cherry split duties in the trumpet chair).
Remembering Butch Morris in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
For the generation of musicians following Coleman et al., the question was a familiar one of post-modernity: After freedom, what? How can one translate the euphoric intensity of total improvisation to other contexts and other cultures?
Taylor Ho Bynum premieres his Prince Project at Real Art Ways in Hartford by Michael Hamad
New Haven-based cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum’s Prince Project, premiering this weekend at Real Art Ways in Hartford, is much more than a tribute act. Prince is to Bynum — perhaps best known as an experimental jazz musician and an acolyte of Anthony Braxton — what Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker were to Braxton, Bynum’s mentor: an artist who lit a fire, back when he was still coming to grips with what music was all about.
Thoughts on two brass heroes from Nathaniel Mackey’s Bass Cathedral. (This is the fourth installment of his ongoing epistolary novel From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. In my opinion, the best book ever written about creative music, hands down.)
“…on Lester’s trademark lab coat, allowing one to see such attire in relation not only to Miles’s ‘We were like scientists of sound’ and his divergence from Satchmo, but also to Satchmo’s Elizabethan clownish license (as Ellison puts it).
Remembering Ravi Sankar in The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog:
It takes the passing of a legend like Ravi Shankar, who died yesterday, at the age of ninety-two, to remind us that the permeability of genre is a modern invention, one that has driven the rapid musical evolutions of the past half-century.
Taylor Ho Bynum takes jazz back to the future
By Calvin Wilson
Taylor Ho Bynum is widely regarded as one of the most forward-thinking musicians in jazz…But while Bynum is definitely interested in pursuing the new — as evidenced by the sounds he generates in concert and on recordings, including his most recent “Apparent Distance” — some of his influences on cornet are trumpeters with links to old-school jazz and St.
Playing with Genre: Positive Catastrophe connects salsa and the avant-garde, music and literature, brains and brawn
By Mike Shanley
The music of Taylor Ho Bynum, 37, the prolific cornetist who leads of co-leads groups of various sizes and helps run the Firehouse 12 label, can’t be categorized without a lot of hyphenated descriptions… Percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado, 40, has an even wider take on how his own music might be classified.
How does your relationship to the trumpet inform your approach to composition?
Actually, I mainly play the cornet, the trumpet’s forgotten sibling in the brass family. It’s a subtle difference in timbre and articulation, but a real one. Nonetheless, it has the same basic technique, register, and role in the ensemble as the trumpet, and they look pretty similar (though the cornet is a little smaller and more graceful, in my biased opinion), so obviously they usually get lumped together.
Here, There & Everywhere: The curious evolution of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum
By Ted Panken
As an instrumentalist, Bynum improvises with sound and silence in the manner of Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Dixon and Lester Bowie. He maintains a tangible narrative arc and pulse within his solos, weaving a cohesive sonic fabric from precisely executed screams, squawks, blurts, burbles, whispers and more conventionally rendered notes and tones.
Bill Lowe has had many roles in my life: teacher, mentor, friend, collaborator. Now a new role: the subject of an article I wrote. The first part of what looks to be an extended oral history project is now up on destination: OUT, complete with rare out-of-print and unreleased recordings, radio broadcasts, and interview excerpts.
One of my first post-college gigs as a professional musician in Boston was opening for Sam Rivers, at the Middle East club in Central Square, maybe around 1998. The irrepressible concert promoter Billy Ruane (may he also rest in peace, though actually, he’d probably be happier spinning in his grave, he had a tendency to burst into circular flight when the music was really killing) hooked me up with the opportunity.
I recently picked up some extremely interesting freelance work, conducting interviews for the Oral History of American Music project at Yale. OHAM is dedicated to archiving primary source material on the major musical figures of our time, capturing first person stories in the artists’ own voices.
Mr. Bynum, 36, is a provocateur in the guise of a consensus builder, too polite to suggest a firebrand and too generous to resemble an ideologue. But he has a strong vision regardless and has patterned his creative life after some of the least compromising American musicians of the last half-century: the pianist Cecil Taylor, with whom he has performed; the trumpeter Bill Dixon, whose late-career work he championed; and especially the multireedist Anthony Braxton, whom he serves as chief consigliere.
I like to think of myself as an artist first, with my hybridized role as an arts organizer/administrator/producer a distant second, but the realities of how I spend the majority of my time belie that assumption. For me, it is so much easier to spend the day answering emails, drafting grant proposals, setting travel plans and rehearsal times, chasing down the fast dwindling resources of the music industry, than it is to leap off the cliff into the terrifying unknown of ‘artistic inspiration’.
Yesterday afternoon I was lying on the floor, trying to play with the bell of my flugelhorn jammed into the bottom of a conga drum, as a dancer dragged the drum across the room with a guitar cable. An hour before that, I was on a stage with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary; Cuban jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera; pop producer Nile Rodgers; Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge; composer David Amram; and about a half dozen others, with everyone singing and playing along to “This Land is Your Land”.
The Next Generation: Three emerging jazz leaders offer inspiration
by David R. Adler
Jazz artists have always needed to be resourceful, perhaps today more than ever. For three representative New York-area musicians, the struggles and uncertainties of creative life in the trenches are well worth it.
Day 13 – 9/22: 0 miles, Amherst MA
A relaxed and much needed day of rest in preparation for the evening’s duo concert. Took a nice walk into town from the UMass campus and had a great lunch at Amherst Chinese Food (where I again hit the bitter melon), but let my legs chill otherwise.
Day 6 – 9/15: 50.8 miles, Brattleboro VT to Peterborough NH
New Hampshire is hilly. Very very hilly. Very very steep. Google bike maps had me going ten miles out of the way to find a non-existent rail trail, so after that failure I ended up taking Rt 119 across the southern part of the state, and it was a lovely but HARD ride.
Day 5 – 9/14: 72.6 miles, Springfield MA to Brattleboro VT
There are many swarms of gnats this time of year, especially in the mornings and evenings. Riding through them, I swallow so many bugs I feel like a blue whale trolling the oceans for krill.
Day 4 – 9/13: 0 miles, Springfield MA No biking today, in tech rehearsals all day for Teatro V!da’s Rumors of a New Day,which was a rousing success. I called my friend Magdelena Gomez six months ago to see if she would be interested in helping put together some kind of show for the bike tour in Springfield.
Day 1 – 9/10: 5.2 miles, New Haven CT to New Haven CT
OK, does that even count? On 2 hours of sleep, 5 miles can feel like a hundred. I had a fantastic time playing with Bob Ostertag, Sylvie Courvoirsier and Jim Black up at the Guelph Festival Thursday night, but the travel home was tough.
Yesterday I took my final training ride (coming out at exactly 1000 miles for the summer, a nice, auspicious round number!), and had the fine folks at the Devil’s Gear Bike Store do one last tune up before I hit the road.
Riding a bicycle, according to 35-year-old cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, is a lot like playing creative music. “It’s harder to get where you’re going, and it takes longer,” he says with a laugh, “but in the end, the rewards are greater, too.”
I got the news at 9am this morning from Stephen Haynes, my friend, my brother in brass, and the man who introduced me to Bill a little over a decade ago. A little later in the day, I talked to Sharon Vogel, Bill’s life-partner.
Interview with Taylor Ho Bynum by Julien Gros-Burdet
Taylor Ho Bynum has gradually built a body of exciting multi-faceted work. As expected of someone who made their name alongside Anthony Braxton, he is now producing some of the most original projects of the moment.
My liner notes for Bill Dixon’s Tapestries for Small Orchestra (Firehouse 12, 2009)
The music of Bill Dixon maintains such a powerful flavor, it is one of those things where you inevitably remember the first time you taste it. For me, it was his mid-career landmark recording November 1981.
Taylor Ho Bynum: consistency of contrasts by Antonio Terzo
Choosing the cornet as his instrument for its flexible nature, on each of his releases this Boston-bred musician points towards a music with no labels but self-expression, following the lessons of the greats who have come before him.
I was asked for a list of my five favorite big band recordings, for a downbeat feature Frank Hadley is writing. Even though I know there was a bit of blog-world discussion about this a few months ago (as usual Darcy James Argue was on the case with the roundup), it still ended up being a tough assignment; it’s so hard to nail down just five favorites, there’s so much spectacular stuff out there.
Jazz in the post-ideological era By Christoph Wagner
The avant-garde jazz of New York has moved to Brooklyn. The cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is one of its most prominent representatives; with his sextet he seeks new paths between improvisation and composition.
A few months ago, I had the chance to hear Henry Threadgill’s Zooid at the Jazz Gallery in New York, on a cold November night in front of a handful of dedicated listeners. It was probably the best live music I caught all year.
I was recently asked by the French journalist Franck Médioni to answer some questions for a book he is putting together featuring musicians’ thoughts on Miles Davis. (He did something similar for a John Coltrane book a few years ago, hopefully an English translation of both will come along some day.) With all the writing I’ve done on this blog about various brass folks, it surprised me to realize I haven’t written much about Miles.
I thought I had hung up my keyboard for the year (not that I was writing very much in 2008 anyways, increasing my output is one of my resolutions for ‘09), but upon the passing of a brass giant I must comment.
My head has been in the dream clouds lately (as evidenced by my last post, a true story, or a true dream, I guess…). Tonight, I start the rehearsals for a new piece I’ve been thinking about for years, Madeleine Dreams for my ensemble SpiderMonkey Strings.
I was sitting in a kitchen, talking to a dear friend who had passed away. I did not completely recognize the kitchen we were sitting in, yet it was also somehow familiar. In my dream, my friend was not dead, but we had not seen each other for a while and I was lamenting how long it had been.
I’m in Vancouver visiting family for a day. I take a 90-minute walk early this morning, down through the harborside into Stanley Park. All the usual splendors of this beautiful city; where else can you see skyscrapers, snow-capped mountains, and old-growth evergreens encircling a crystal bay.
I was checking out what’s up with Dan over at soundslope (who very kindly lists The Middle Picture as one of his favorites of the year, with what is probably the most thoughtful review that album has received) and he writes he just finished working on the new AACM website.
The world lost one of its most powerful artistic forces today. RIP Max Roach. Not just one of the greatest drummers in history, but a bandleader, conceptualist, political activist, interdisciplinary collaborator, and human being beyond category.
I had the chance to meet him when I was about 19, while I was studying with his wonderful trumpet player, Cecil Bridgewater.
Discussing the Philip Wilson/Olu Dara album Esoteric:
Horn and drums duos are one of my favorite configurations in creative music. The immediacy of a duo context totally breaks down any traditional hierarchies between wind and percussion instruments, between melody and rhythm, between composition and improvisation, between leader and sideman.
The positive fallout from the “great jazz of the 70’s and 80’s” discussion continues to accumulate. It got mainstream coverage in Nate Chinen’s article in the NY Times two days ago, and a new wiki site has been launched compiling all the various contributions, behearer.com.
One of the inspirations I had in starting this blog was the recent online discussion of great albums recorded in the period between 1973 and 1990, initiated by posts by Dave Douglas and Ethan Iverson, with the many contributions compiled here.
I had a crazy week, with a huge amount of work to get done before leaving town for two and a half weeks for some gigs in England and Belgium. And I had the realization, on Monday, that my Thursday night flight actually left on Wednesday, so I had 24 hours less to get everything done than I thought.
I just finished Don Quixote, and it was quite a revelatory read. Cervantes is such a primary influence in the work of so many of my favorite authors: Borges, Calvino, Nabokov, Reed, Murdoch, Saramago, Rushdie, Carter, Pynchon, Murakami, etc. Essentially, you can’t imagine modern fiction without him.