Thursday, May 24, 2007


A couple of nights ago I saw the Bad Plus for the first time at a rock club here in Portland called Berbati's Pan. Somehow, we actually arrived early and got really good seats at one of the few tables available. A solo act by singer/songwriter/loopmaster Marcus Eaton started things off pretty nicely. He kept surprising me with his abilities throughout the set, which is always nice. By the time their Badness hit the stage, the club was packed with a bunch of excited and vibing people all anxious for what was to come. When they hit, it was clear we wouldn't be dissapointed. Everybody was so into what was going on that I didn't even once hear shouted "play 'Smells Like Teen Spirit!'"(which they didn't play). What the Bad Plus are doing is truly remarkable. The music they are making is undeniably relevant to all sorts of different people. The complexities they reach are balanced by clear energetic impact that doesn't need an ear full of jazz lineage to appreciate. In fact, the opposite may be true. Knowing the pop music of the '80s and '90s gives the listener much of the reference needed to feel connected to even the craziest improvisations going on. It gives me some impression of what it was actually like for jazz musicians to play show tunes in the '40s. To be honest, when I hear a standard, I'm hearing what are really pretty abstract things like the melodic contour and the way it interacts with the harmony and the way the chord movement functions. Needless to say, this is not how music is recieved or concieved by anyone other than a musician. Back in the day, people just heard songs that they knew and liked. What the Bad Plus have done is tapped into a more collective musical conciousness, and based on the 300+ people they had in the palm of their hand the whole night, it is deeply effective.
I shouldn't make it seem like all they do is cover pop tunes, because all three of them are really terrific composers whose tunes, given the success and distribution of their records, are turning into something comfortably recognizable in their own right. I guess I need to go pick up the new record...

Monday, May 07, 2007

PDX Underground Jazz Series

We've been having fun playing alot of adventurously improvised music at the PDX Underground Jazz Series hosted by Mississippi Pizza every 1st and 3rd Tuesday Nite. I started this creative music series a few months ago to get this music out in the town and we've been able to keep it going because of the support of folks out for an earful, showing up and listening to good music. I usually throw together a group of folks that I play with for one night and get a different group to play the other night. So far we've had my quartet, Trio Subtonic, the Ryan Dolliver/Matt Schevchenko Ambient Duo, and lots of other thrown-together groups like last week's tribute to Ornette Coleman with Tim DuRoche, Jeff Picker, and David Valdez. Here's what we've got coming up:

June 5th: John Nastos

June 19th: Phelan Gallagher Quartet

July 3rd: TBA

July 17th: Drew Shoals Band (w/Ben Darwish, John Nastos, Damian Erskine, Chris Mosley)

All shows are 9-11pm, $2-5 suggested donation.
Hope to see you there!