Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 4
(4TH Edition, Spring ’92)
Never let it be said that improv/innovation/artist fervor is dead… Zzaj Productions has received MORE tapes, poetry, books & magazines in the last 3 months than EVER! It’s HOTTER ‘n th’ dickens out there, my friends; so, let the naysayers WALLOW in it, mon! Elsewise, KEEP on makin’ it happen! Tape, exchange, sell, wotever it TAKES! Tell ALL yer’ partners to send their works in to I.N. for possible review! As always I make NO guarantee of review, but I DO listen to EACH an EVERY tape received. Judging by the quality of most things received of late, there’s enuff SUPER work out there to review TONS!
For those of you who didn’t get the word yet, the FINAL issue of a great magazine, Sound Choice, is on the street as you read this! I know many of us, this editor included, had probably given UP on this last issue ever hitting the streets… so, a big Zzaj hatzoff to D.C., Sound Choice editor, for making it HAPPEN!
There’s a tape in the REVIEWS section from RACHOT, a label currently based in Denmark; it has releases from various European countries, & I would encourage ALL interested in artistic freedom to WRITE this label! They’re interested in trades, cash sales, ANYTHING to help ’em keep going! As you’ll see in my review; they have QUALITY stuph as well, so dig deep & GET IN TOUCH with ’em!
(To the VANGUARD
SECURITY AGENCY –
A LIFE VERSE)
Life’s not just
And sorrow’s hollow.
Any way that
You can do it
Do it that way
Or live to rue it.
In frozen’s wint’ry
As two or three met
A reality/that never
’round corners (razor honed)
In th’ yellow zone
And courage speaks
Back-seat driver tones
To remember the hush
Of early mornings
I.N. is ALWAYS looking for those of you who jot yer’ thoughts down in free verse, actual verse, whatever… DON’T hesitate to send these little pieces my way… one of my ealiest frustrations in writing was finding it SO difficult to get it PUBLISHED! & though much of the focus of I.N. is necessarily on recorded music, one of my first loves is the WRITTEN word! So, SEND it on in, TODAY!
AN OLD SONG
(by Joe Marshall Hardin)
She tok a deep drag off of her smoldering Gitane and purred through the smoke
“The problem is all inside your head.”
She was right. The problem was inside my head. My brain buzzed like a basket of chain saws. Ever since we left Abdul’s Buffalo Steak House Lounge, a sound like a demented drummer practicing cadences for dervish-dancing had pounded on my medulla oblongata.
Alcohol always affects me strangely.
The evening started innocently. I had been downing a couple-of-dozen B-52’s with my old friends and running buddies, Jack Stan and Roy – our usual Friday night routine. I hardly noticed when she first slinked into the dilapidated bar and arbitrarily positioned her brief frame on the barstool next to mine. At that moment the evening took an eccentric bounce.
Now here we were, parked on the crushed-velour couch in her one-room walkup and contemplating – – what? God, my brain was buzzing, and now the drumming in my head began to form some absurd song. The whole mess coiled around my cerebral cortex like a starved boa-constrictor. I could almost hear the lyrics. Oh well, the problem was if I succumb to the siren song of this vixen, it will mean leaving my lover, Wanda. I’ll need a plan.
O.K., I’ll sneak away in the night like a thief. That’s good. Keep it simple. Wait until my lover falls into a deep sleep and softly pack my collection of Mose Allison records. I’ll leave a note, of course. Who am I kidding? That would be gutless. I can’t believe I even thought of it. The relentless churning of a melody began to circumscribe my frontal lobe.
The siren exhaled another deep lung-full of her cigarette and wiggled her shape further into the ragged, rolled velour. Her tight, tangerine-orange dress clashed hideously with the red couch – like a drunken guitarist. What was that song?
“Why don’t we both just sleep on it,” her voice dripped like loquat syrup. “You don’t have to decide now.”
All right, now I was clutching at straws. How could I leave my lover? The song spurred me on. I’ll vanish, like one of those misplaced souls who goes out for a pack of Camels or a loaf of bread and never returns. Don’t they usually find those guys years later on skid-row lying under a bus and drooling into a paper bag? No, that won’t do. I hate skid-row; it’s so filthy. My mind ran through excuses like the verses in a song.
I’ll lie to my lover. I’ll tell her I’m to be called away on a clandestine assignment for the C.I.A. Hadn’t I used that excuse before? Besides, I had told her that the C.I.A. fired me because of my involvement as a shill in a high stakes card game between George Bush and Manuel Noriega. The vixen’s eyes were telegraphing messages at me with a speed that would make a Western Union operator’s headphones whirl. I know the difference between right and wrong. At least I used to, but that was before the bar, the girl and the song that was driving me loco. I couldn’t leave my lover.
The truth is what I need. I’ll walk right up to my lover and tell her that this other enchantress had seduced me. I had used the truth before, and once or twice the truth had even worked. Hadn’t my lover told me that she respected a man who was honest? No she had said that she respected a man who was faithful. Wasn’t it this same lover, Wanda, who had once trounced hell out of the mailman for delivering the neighbor’s copy of Hustler to her house by mistake? No the truth was out of the question!
Why couldn’t I think? The B-52’s definitely obscured my logic. The sight of this captivating woman in the tight tangerine dress nestled on the faded couch was causing me to abandon the last scrap of decency I had. I can’t think with that damned song circling my reason like a voracious vulture. I can almost make out the words. There must be forty-nine ways to leave your lover, maybe more.
Jake Berry/John M. Bennett – THE LEMURS: Two masters of the truly artistic interplay that can occur betwixt text/poetry and improvisational musics are presented here in all their glory. All the way from Jake’s acoustic blooz licks, to the shadowy, sexy sax-playing by John, there are highly energetic & insightful (tho’ at times depressing; for instance, I don’t think I’d listen to Jakes’s “Roaches” over my steak & mashed potatoes) lyrical/musical weaves to challenge & stimulate the listener! This tape was MOST interesting for me, ’cause several of John’s poems in this collection, most notably “salute Cut” & “Evasion Force”, were done in collab with me on “Each Speech” (S.A.S.E. for Zzaj catalog; the mood/tone on “Lemurs” is TOTALLY different; this is MOST influenced by the shapes of the sounds employed under the poems… but the energies, positioning of phrases and emotional content are in a totally different zone as well – & it’s WELL worth the $5 (+ $1 postage) to hear the differences! You OWE it to yourself to hear this one. Write to either Jake (9th St. Laboratories, POB 3112, Florence, AL 35630) or John (Luna Bisonte Prods, 137 Leland Ave., Columbus, OH 43214 for info on “The Lemurs” & MANY other attractions, literary & sonic!
Joe Hardin – PARAGON: Now, here’s a REAL interesting tape… several cuts, running the gamut of Joe’s considerable keyboard skills; all the way from jazz numbers (Miles/Spyro Gyra) to blooz to originals. Tho’ those into definitions of improv restricting it to either amplified elephants farting or sampled nerdcrushers “whooshing” in the background will put this down without a listen; suffice it to say that yer’ missin’ out on th’ GOOD stuph… acoustic piano, electric, some sequencing all help to form a listening experience that will prove to even the most skeptic among us that there’s nothing WRONG with ‘music’, when it’s got the SOUL behind it! & Joe’s vocal talents will KNOCK yer’ sockzoff, whether it’s a soft ballad (My New Coat) or classic blooz (Black Dress & Pearls)! As I’ve said before, I’m the FIRST to delve into STRANGE… but, the KEY to any music, for me anyway, is talent in expression. & I belive there are few of you who take the time to read this little rag who won’t agree with my asssessment after hearing Joe at work! He didn’t put a price on it, but you can contact him at 3578 Azalea PL, Largo, FL 34641 to get more directly from him! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as a Zzaj favorite!
Blind Pineapple Phillips – THE MOVEMENT OF DESIRE: So, here comes this tape, in all it’s obscurity… nuthin’ but a wordsheet inside, fully documenting the guitar blooz tunes encaptured on th’ molecules of th’ tape… & a brief descript of th’ Pineapple himself, who is celbrating his “return to availability since his departure from the New England/Upstate New York Coffeehouse circuit in 1980.” He also sez’, “Please refrain from being offended.” Oy yay, th’ stummings’re familiar indeed… can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s entrancing enuff that it spins 7-10 times more before I put it back in th’ rack; but, I can’t resist th’ urge from time t’ time to pull it back out & try & figger out where it CAME from! It’s not really that the Washburn DC12CE noted on th’ liner is so TERRIBLY different from other folk/blooz strummers I’ve heard… but I just CN’T seem to put my finger on it! The tunes are just a little freaky – yeah, they’re blooz, all th’ way from urban folk to Mississippi mud – but they’re just a tad DIFFERENT! Well, suffice it to say that I was disturbed, eh? Not being one to let the little things creep up on me, I finally managed to put it BACK! & THEN, out o’ th’ blue, a CALL… no visitations,k no crack dreams… a PHONE call… & who is it? Why Bret Hart, of course! Didja’ GET it? Ha! Ha! Thought YOU’D be th’ one to figger it out, FER SURE! BLIND PINEAPPLE, my ASS! Yeah, NOW when I pull it back out & spin it again, it’s IMMEDIATE! Pleasurable? GOOD? Let me tell you, my friends, ANYTHING bro’ Bret does is GOOD… but, he sure threw ME for a loop! GREAT tape… contact Bret at 450 Rollstone St., (Lower Apt) Fitchburg, MA 014220, IF he hasn’t moved on to ANOTHER incarnation, eh? In event you didn’t know about it, Bret has a SIGNIFICANT library of earlier improvisational works available as well… ALL slightly bent, but technically excellent. GO for it!
Summer Assault – CHAR-BROILED (Live in Czechoslovakia) From RACHOT (mentioned earlier on) comes a tape that moves us into the CLASSIC realm for improvisation… featuring one of MY favorite improvisors, Jeffrey Morgan (on alto sax & bass clarinet), it also has J. Biskup on percussion, M. Klapper doing prepped guitar, sampler, homemades & toys, etc. Recorded IN Czechoslovakia in March, ’91, Jeff had sent me a pre-release copy of this way back in the summer, but cautioned me not to do much with it, as it wasn’t ready for release. That’s true, because the final copy from RACHOT (Postboks Nr 516, 2200 Kobenhavn N. Danmark) had lotz’ better sound quality after the final mixdown. MANY squeaks & whistles, tho’ interspersed with full-body as well, a true improvisor’s DREAM! The tape taked RIGHT off from the beginning & DOESN’T stop until the END! Percussion, horns & guitar hold a FINE balance all the way through, & it’s readily apparent that the players were all searching TOGETHER… guess what I mean is that it’s NOT just totally random, one instrument trying to overshadow the others in any one passage, & that makes it a MUCH more plasant listen! As I run back through the tape a second & third times, I wonder if the ‘Assault’ wasn’t coordinated by a crew of outer-space creatures intent on showing the world what TRUE freedom is all about… HIGHLY enjoyable work, though those into pattern and form will probably not be able to handle the FIRST 10 seconds, MUCH less the whole tape. WRITE to RACHOT if you’re inclined to explore the outer reaches of the improvisational artists creative potential. RECOMMENDED!
Bob Grumman (Runaway Spoon Press) – OF MANYWHERE AT ONCE: My personal excursions into the realms of reading/writing poetry are nowhere near ‘educated”; in point of fact, I guess you could say that I make a pretty strong effort to avoid a lot of ‘reading’ ABOUT poetry… so many of the books I HAVE glanced at which attempt to ‘talk/write’ about the writing/purpose of poetry turn it into either a mad shrink’s interpretation of why the poet being examined had fixations on his mother’s ?bawdy? parts or an obscure rambling about definitions/poetry terms that turn me OFF – but, not THIS one… Bob’s taken a poem that he worked on over the last 25 years (give or take 1 or 2) & turned it into a VERY pleasant, ‘shoot-from-th’-hip’ ADVENTURE that makes TRULY exciting reading for any/all interested in poets, their lives, their reasons and seasons! & it’s FRESH! There ARE references to definitions, some enjoyable discussions of the poets in question (their lives, MUCH that I didn’t know); classics like Theodore Roethke, Keats, Yeats; as well as TODAY’S poets/artists like John M. Bennett, Liz Was, Meikal And & MANY others take the reader quite immediately into the state of “Manywhereness’ that Bob seems to be SO well-acquainted with! This OUGHT to be the kind of book that’s used to TEACH literary skills/values in our schools; then I WOULD have learned something. ANYONE who has even the SLIGHTEST interest in poetry – yesteryear or today’s wide-open spectrum (vislature, as Grumman terms it) – NEEDS to take this TRIP; order it, $10, postpaid, from Bob at Runaway Spoon Press, Box 3261, Port Charlotte, FL 33949; I can’t give this a HIGHER recommendation; ABSOLUTELY couldn’t put it DOWN! Bob also has a NEAT little catalog you can order, with SEVERAL other works listed. WRITE him TODAY!
Ficus Strangulensis – TRANSMOOG 4: A pamphlet targeted at wordsmiths inclined to taking writing that ONE STEP FURTHER; could be that not many have heard of it at this point, but there are a VERY interesting group of folks out there taking poems (SHOULD be with the artist’s consent, I presume) & feeding them in to computer programs that totally MANGLE the original text… even with the WTWISTING, however, the resulting texts usually carry a STRANGE sense of the poet/writer’s original intent… I have used UTTERLY perverted versions of some of John M. Bennett’s original poetry (done by Clarke A. Sany, Church of the $.39 Hamburger) on a couple of my collabs, with VERY interesting results! TRANSMOOG 4 is only 6 pages long in it’s present form, but chock-full of interesting info about those INTO this new form; no subscriptions available at present, but S.A.S.E., & one $.29 stamp (OR 2 $.29 cent stamps) will get you a copy. FICUS is also much interested in exchanging ideas/programs designed to facilitate the process; write to Rt 6, Bx 138, Charleston, WV 25311, for more information.
Don Malone – XMAS IMPROV L.A.M.P.: (Live Algorhythmic Musical Performance): Newest tape I’ve gotten from DON, tho’ he’s managed to get one in time for EVERY issue of I.N. to date. EXCELELENT synthesizer music, new style on EACH one DON’S sent… ‘Xmas’ starts off in a rather slow/murky atmosphere, moving gradually in to a slightly heavier zone inhabited by (what I perceived to be) orchestral sections done by gigantic bells/chimes… distinct threads of ‘regular’ Christmas tunes that you’d NEVER hear on the muzack at WAL-MART (STEP-RIGHT-UP for the next ‘Black-light’ sale…) are woven through the sequences imaginatively and in a listeningly challenging fashion… STRONG bass sounds punctuate the bell and chime orchestrations in a manner that would make ANYONE enjoy the season! Don’s improvisationsl skills are SUPERB, & he does it without cliches or maddeningly long repetition. My only displeasure, if any, is that the tapes have all come without J-sheets/liner notes; that would be NICE to see on the next tape; but I CAN live without ’em, ’cause the experience is ALWAYS NEW! Write for more info at POB 32, Sharon, WI 53585. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
wot F ish
t O wn
kin G (s)OLD
w E dge
ba Y ou
b E arth
pas S age
m AN y
en D ear
tor SO lid
bonsa I stand
sai L ore
C.L. Champion, ’92
The previous ‘Juxtapoems’ are from the VIVID imagination of one C.L. Champion. He’ll be putting out an ‘experimental basement thingie’ SOON! Write to him for more information at Experimental Press, 3740 N. Romero Rd., # A-191, Tucson, AZ 85705; just make sure ya’ have yer 3D glasses when you get a reply – you’ll S
what I mean!
Ron Rice – H-23, # 3: (the minimalism issue) SUPER review magazine, dedicated to covering ‘experimenal music, film, video and performance art’. Interviews with PBK, John Hudak and Remko Scha; just CHOCK-FULL of consistently honest and decriptive reviews (‘course, you might guess I’d say that, since I WROTE about 10 of ’em – ha!)… no, this is the FIRST time I’ve read Ron’s mag, & it’s VERY enjoyable. Lots of nice features, VERY interesting viewpoints on MANY different styles of music and performance and one to WATCH! No subscriptions now (’cause Ron’s making some major changes in format/schedule), but cost for the current issue is $4 (& WELL worth it for 63 pages). My only problem with it was that the print was rather small & my ancient eyes have trouble with that, but I would imagine the aforementioned format changes, etc., will take care of that in future issues. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Contact Ron at H23, Bx 2306, Athens, OH 45701-2306
Miriam Sagan – UNBORN BABY (Fish Drum Magazine, # 9) This issue of ‘Drum’, a superb publication from Miriam and Robert Winson, 626 Kathryn Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501, is of the same high quality as ALL of their products. This issue is devoted entirely to a series of excellent poems by Miriam, centered (as the title indicates) on experiences surrounding the ‘carraige’, as well as AFTER the baby… BEAUTIFUL, and REAL, I really ENJOYED the glimpses in to a process that I (as a man) will never be able to truly experience… but, ‘Unborn Baby’ takes me a lot closer than any Dr. Spock article to ‘being’ there… by way of example (and with thanks to Miriam for her permission to reprint this):
Crossing the river gorge
Deep into mountains
Two bodies into one
Make a cipher, hexagram
I love you as much as mesa, New Mexico
Covered in sunflowers, covered in roses
Covered in peach trees
Covered in volcanoes
Tamarisks in the middle of the afternoon
We make a word of flesh
And with the sheets falling off
And the shutter’s drawn
Against the brilliance of our skin
Isn’t that superb? Order this, and many other enchanging issues/tapes, from the address listed above. Once again, thanks to Miriam’s approval, look for readings of selected poems from ‘Unborn Baby’ on future Zzaj releases.
Screamin’ Popeyes – CURIODDITY: Another exciting entry into the foray from the ‘Popeyes’, sent by Jeff Olson, 210D S. Alta, Branson, MO 65616. Swirling sound washes over rich/deep waves, voices in the ether… side one of this collaborative effort (which I ASSUME includes Craig Strong, tho’ he’s not listed on the liner except for cover art – which, by the way, is in itself a unique & enchanting piece) between Jeff, Arttek, Eric Hausamnn, Busyditch and Mike Hovancsek is subtitled ‘The Mr. Beautiful Contest’. I’d surely like to see the ‘full’ credit listing, so I could write to whoever the singer was… yes, this has some SUPER vocals, smoothly intertwined with instrumentation that has been carefully thought out; this is much better structured than previous tapes I’ve reviewed… heavy strings, excellent percussion, and synth sounds that will take you right where they were intended to take you…. along on a progressive and exciting ‘adventure’ through the extremely dynamic soundscapes painted by these musically gifted collaborators. ‘The Stomach That Walked Like A Boy” on side 2 continues the adventure, lyrically enchanging (“Man is the animal of the mind”) but not in any fashion overburdening or trite… this tape is a REAL powerhouse… GET IT!
Benny – MITAKE OYASIN: Natural, unassuming, fresh; according to Benny, the title is an Oglala Sioux expression meaning ‘crying for a vision’… other than the percussion, rattles, and minimal guitar accompanying Benny’s chants, and wild free excursions into various states of vision expressed through vocalization (including some prose), there is NOTHING to distrub his scenes (or yours)! My first thought was ‘omigod, another one of those boring chant tapes’… but after a second & third listen, it’s clear that his visions are born & bred in the roots of spontaneity so frequently missing in today’s ‘underground scene’… in fact, I somehow or other got a sense of an outrageous Alabama version of Bobby McFerrin, however strange that many sound. Those looking for ‘conventional’ music, formula hype & rock frenzy will INDEED be disappointed…. but there is ROOM (in the Zzaj perception, anyway) for more than meets the ear; & Benny (whomever he may be) has captured a little of that mystique on his tape. Get it from 9th St Laboratoriees, POB 3112, Florence, AL 35630
Jake Berry – EQUATIONS: Another 9th Street Laboratories production (see review above for mailing info). JAKE has put together a wonderfully STRANGE sound on this tape… steady and enchanting synthwashes over, under and around Jakes’ poetry noveau… either effects or wide pans are applied to Jakes’ voicings, poetry, equational sensua… this is one of my FAVORITE Berry tapes… the blending of odd arithmetical phrasings with synthchantments makes it ‘easy’ to listen to… the key point (to this reviewer, anyway), is you must ENJOY listening… trying to ‘interpret’ this with only AM/FM musical sensibilities as yer’ guidepoint will render you senseless & be SURE to grow some strange hairz’ on yer’ palm… RECOMMENDED!; but DON’T come timidly, or with preconceptions & time limitations! It’s a FULL 60-minute listen. That WRAPS the reviews for this edition. I had MANY more, & they (Francisco Lopes, from Spain, Dave from Ohio – Ear of Corn mag – & others too many to mention here) WILL be reviewed next issue.
Note from Robert Winson; SEND good spoken-word material to him for his ‘FISHDRUM’ on-the-air radio show, KSFR, Santa Fe. Send material to Robert Winson, 626 Kathryn Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501
New Zzaj collabs coming in the next month or 2 – all HOT, with guitarist Mark Kissinger, synthmeister H. Mark vale, Jake Berry & MORE!
How true are the rumors that Factsheet Five has dies? SURELY hope they’re not true. ANYONE who knows, PLEASE write & let us know!
GAJOOB is still NOT out; it wuz SUPPOSED to be out (‘ccording to Bryan’s note in the last ish, anyway) ’round December/January – WHAT’S happening, Bryan? Probably be better to SKIP the deadline(s) if ya’ can’t MAKE ’em, eh? STILL lookin’ forward to it, though; GAJOOB is a RED-HOT tape magazine & THIS fella’ wants to see it KEEP ON!
Guess that will be the FINAL word for # 4! PLEASE pass the word to ALL you know that I.N. has gone up to $1.50, due to increased pages & printing costs. TELL ’em it’s WORTH it. As always, I’m LOOKING for new artists; tape, poetry, write-yer-own reviews, etc., etc! BYE till # 5!!!
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