AMN Interviews: Darius Jones

Darius_Jones_by_Peter_Gannushkin-1Darius Jones is a saxophonist and composer who defies genres and labels. His music incorporates jazz, soul, classical, avant-garde, and several other categories in a seamless fashion. His new album, The Oversoul Manual came out last week, and features The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit performing a purely a capella work.  Recently, he answered a few questions from AMN.

Five years ago, your name wasn’t popping up very often. Now, you’re all over the map. To what do you attribute your rise in notoriety?

I’d like to know what map you’re referring to. From my perspective, I’m just doing what I’ve always done, which is to work hard, be honest, and not compromise my artistic integrity. Notoriety is not my objective, but I appreciate that people are listening to the music and can only hope that continues.

Your latest album, The Oversoul Manual, is a departure from your jazz trio and quartet work. As an a cappella recording, on the surface it seems like a giant leap. How did the album come about, and why the emphasis of vocals?

I grew up in the church, and I was surrounded by vocalists from a very early age. I was a choir director and a vocal coach at one point in my life. So, for me, this is not a departure or a leap or anything. Vocal music and vocalizing has been a component of all of my music from the beginning. The Oversoul Manual came about through wanting to focus on the voice and ideas that I had for the instrument itself. I feel that the voice is one of the most fascinating instruments that we have. So in many ways The Oversoul Manual is my way of drawing attention to this thing I love. Plus give four vocalists, Amirtha Kidambi, Sarah Martin, Jean Carla Rodea, and Kristin Slipp an opportunity to develop their craft in a focused and open environment. This is the reason I originally created the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit 13 years ago.

How does The Oversoul Manual fit into your other recordings in the Man’ish Boy series?

The Oversoul Manual is the start of a new chapter in the Man’ish Boy series. From the mythological perspective of the series, it is the origin story of the character Man’ish Boy. The first three albums reflected more on the beginning of my life leading up until now. This new chapter is a reflection of my life in the present. The voice is something I am presently very focused on in my instrumental and compositional work. Also it was at the core of my ideas in the first three albums. The voice is where I was born.

The album was the focus of your Carnegie Hall debut on October 3rd. How did that show go? Did it meet your expectations?

The Carnegie Hall performance was other-worldly. The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit gave a performance that was powerful and humbling. They left everything on the stage. I feel so grateful to all those who were there to see it and hear it and witness my composition brought to life. I’m not sure my expectations could have been met in any greater fashion. All that I truly hope for is that this was just the beginning, and The Oversoul Manual has the opportunity to be performed again and again.

Isn’t there a mythology behind your music? Is it something of a Sun Ra thing?

I wouldn’t say what I’m doing is completely like a “Sun Ra thing.” I would say it is very much an African American thing. Sun Ra is a major influence on me. I connect with his idea of being disconnected from this world and this time. I feel that when we talk about the mythology of outer space and alienation, it speaks to the African American experience because what has happened and is happening can make you feel that you do not belong here. What inspired me to want to create a mythology of my own is the idea that there is power in a story, and we all have a story. My mythology straddles the line between reality and myth in that there are elements to the Man’ish Boy epic that are connected to my own life experience. Man’ish Boy is me.

Your saxophone phrasing is rather unique. Who are your influences and how did your personal style evolve?

My saxophone playing is very much influenced by my desire to vocalize through the instrument. Over the years I have worked to strip away the saxophonistic elements of my sound to get closer and closer to a pure vocal quality. When I think about the control, virtuosity, and power of a vocalist like Leontyne Price, or the timbral, imaginative phrasing and soulfulness of Betty Carter, I am awakened to the reality that saxophonistic linguistics is not enough to truly express all that I desire in a musical moment.

You music just cannot be pigeonholed…jazz, classical, soul…are you intentionally eclectic or did it evolve naturally?

I love good music and I want to create good music. For me, there is no style. There is no genre. There is no One Way. This is just a love thing, and the more organic the process, the better. It doesn’t matter what you want to call it, I just want to feel it in my soul.

What do you have coming up in the way of releases and performances?

In addition to The Oversoul Manual, I also have a record out right now on Aum Fidelity with Matthew Shipp entitled The Darkseid Recital. We are playing at UMass, Amherst on October 23rd. I just finished recording an album with my quartet and French vocalist, Emilie Lesbros, which will come out next year. We’ll be performing in France this November. Later this month, I’ll be heading to the West Coast with Eric Revis Quartet, and at the end of November I’ll be back in France with Nasheet Waits Quartet.

About these ads

A Closer Listen Reviews

From A Closer Listen:

A Ross Baker Septet
Jonathan Badger ~ Verse
Shikabala ~ Calor do Deserto
Felix Kubin ~ Chromdioxidgedächtnis
Longstone ~ リサイクル risaikuru
Drophead vs. Silent Land Time Machine ~ From Ashes Comes the Day
Invertabit / August Traeger ~ Cacophonies
A Preserved Sound Trio
Adam Basanta ~ Memory is the residue of thought
Chris Strickland ~ Animal Expert

A Japanese Film Series, Brought to You by John Zorn

English: John Zorn Français : John Zorn

English: John Zorn Français : John Zorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


However it started, the young John Zorn, who would become a crazily prolific avant-garde composer, musician, producer and record-label owner, also became an aficionado of Japanese movies (as well as that country’s music, calligraphy and cooking). “Japanese culture drew me in early on,” he said by email this week during a break from the recording studio. “Perhaps because of the profound sense of poetic resonance and visual style.”

More info here.

November Shows at Snugs

From New York’s Snugs:

Sunday November 2
Weasel Walter (Drums)
&Amp; Jim Hobbs (Alto Sax)
Solos &Amp; Duo
7pm $10

Sunday November 16
Matt Nelson Solo
(Sax, Electronics)
Celebrating the Release
of His New Solo Lp
Lower Bottoms (Tubapede 03)
Brandon Seabrook (Gtr) &Amp;
Brandon Lopez (Bass)duo
7pm $10

Sunday November 30
Susie Ibarra (Drums)
&Amp; William Parker (Bass)
7pm $15

Sunday December 7
Ingrid Laubrock (Sax)
Tom Rainey (Drums)
Oscar Noriega Solo (Reeds)
7pm $15/set $20/both

61 Local
61 Bergen Street

Chicago Scene: October 18-31, 2014

This is a weekly overview live avant performances in the Chicago area.  Contact us if you’d like your shows listed.

Saturday, October 18th 2014

12:00PM at the Promontory, 5311 S Lake Park, 312.801.2100 (Free)
Old And New Dreams Festival
Film : Misha And So On
Film : Douglas R Ewart performance shorts
Film : Roscoe Mitchell performance
Film : Peter Kowald performance
Film : Shadow Vignettes

7:00PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($25-$20)
Breaking Ice
Breaking Ice : Iddo Aharony, Sophie Webber, Jessica Segall, Ivo Peters, Qin Xu
Bike Again : Joel Styzens, Matthew McMunn, Alireza Ghoreishi, with The Recyclery
Trees + Radios : Henriet Fourie, Jeeyoon Kim, Matthew McMunn
Thirst : Winifred Haun & Dancers with Sophie Webber, Jeeyoon Kim
Cold Air : Winifred Haun & Dancers, Dawn Gingrich, Fused Muse Ensemble String Quartet

7:30PM at a house concert ($15 suggested donation)
Michaël Attias Solo — write to for details

8:00PM at the Logan Center Performance Penthouse, 915 E 60th, 773.702.ARTS (Free)
Chou Wen-Chung

8:00PM at the Promontory, 5311 S Lake Park, 312.801.2100 ($40-$22, limited $75 festival passes)
Old And New Dreams Festival
Amansu Eason with Errin Berry, Imani Dixon, Nicholas Brokemon, Lauren Brumett
Shanta Nurullah And Classic Black, with Emily Hooper Lansana, Zahra Baker, Mwata Bowden, Isaiah Spencer
Ari Brown Quintet with Kirk Brown, Yosef Ben Israel, Avreeayl Ra, Dr Cuz
Chicago Underground Duo : Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor, with Pharoah Sanders

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($12)
Russ Johnson’s Still Out To Lunch, with Roy Nathanson, Myra Melford, Brad Jones, George Schuller

Sunday, October 19th 2014

2:00PM at the Promontory, 5311 S Lake Park, 312.801.2100 ($25, limited $75 festival passes)
Old And New Dreams Festival
Oliver’s Cinema : Eric Vloeimans, Tuur Florizoone, Jörg Brinkmann
Open Loose : Tony Malaby, Tom Rainey, Mark Helias

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Yarn/Wire : Ian Antonio, Laura Barger, Russell Greenberg, Ning Yu

10:00PM at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont, 773.709.1401 ($7) (wheelchair-accessible)
Jim Baker Quartet with Ed Wilkerson Jr, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Monday, October 20th 2014

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Ed Wilkerson Jr, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Wednesday, October 22nd 2014

8:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Splice Series
Peter Maunu, Albert Wildeman, Julia Miller, Avreeayl Ra

Thursday, October 23rd 2014

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Makaya McCraven with Justin Thomas, Junius Paul, Marquis Hill

Saturday, October 25th 2014

8:00PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($12)
Spektral Quartet

Sunday, October 26th 2014

10:00PM at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W Belmont, 773.709.1401 ($7) (wheelchair-accessible)
Dave Rempis, Joshua Abrams, Avreeayl Ra

Monday, October 27th 2014

7:00PM at Comfort Station, 2579 N Milwaukee (Free)
Public Collectors : Malachi Ritscher
Panel discussion by Marc Fischer, Dave Rempis, Neil Tesser, Rebecca Zorach
Performance by Kent Kessler, Dave Rempis

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Ed Wilkerson Jr, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Wednesday, October 29th 2014

6:00PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western (Free)
Classical Revolution
Ursa Ensemble : Rachel Brown, Nicholas Jeffery, Veronica Nettles, Scott Dickinson, Joe Sanchez, Andy Frickle, Jonathan Hannau

Thursday, October 30th 2014

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Dave McDonnell Group : David McDonnell, Andra Kulans, Jeff Kowalkowski, Jason Adasiewicz, Joshua Abrams, Frank Rosaly

Friday, October 31st 2014

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($18)
Ben Frost — A U R O R A Live
Cleared : Steven Hess, Michael Vallera

For more information, such as show times and directions, as well as upcoming performances, see:

AMN Reviews: Polbrone – o-nulu (Self-released)

Lo these many years ago, 2005 I believe it was, the brothers Andrea and Simone Salvatici did leave their native Italy to resettle in fair Albion. London, the Big Smoke. And there they did make a joyful sound as Clorinde. Drawing inspiration, as I wrote elsewhere, “from late medieval Europe, they play in minimalist, cyclic oblongs with room for improvisation inside the ellipses, wielding an array of plucked acoustic instruments, mandolin, bouzouki and banjo, kalimba, zither and ukulele, as well as bowed and struck glockenspiel, keyboards, drums and electric guitar. Their wood, metal and catgut sounds startlingly crisp, clear and contemporary, but the brothers titivate them with digital electronics to imbue mustiness and patina.”

Thus The Creative Listener and not long after, a double album soundscaping The Gardens of Bomarzo, with over forty tracks, as sprawling as the infamous park in Viterbo, just north of Rome. Built in that mid-Renaissance time when the Enlightenment was young, science was still all tangled up with purported secret Hermetic knowledge and curiosity only killed the cat when it was required for some alchemical experiment. Designed to assuage the grief of the local prince, who had just lost his dear wife, he and his landscaper defied the symmetry of the typical Renaissance garden and filled it with mythographic statuary. The album Clorinde made in its honour was a kind of cross between an outdoor fair and a ´70s theme album, like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in scope and narrative ambition. It´s a fine thing to hear, especially if you´ve visited the bizarre, amusing park.

The brothers recently announced that they have rebranded themselves as Polbrone and made a drastic about-face with o-nulu, programming computers while gazing at the shoes beneath their guitars. Now wielding axes, they have chopped their mandolins, bouzokis, kalimbas, etc., into kindling wood and on “Dolores” attack the air in intense, deliberate waves, as if hoping to cleave the thickness of its atoms. “Pigs of Gavorrano” begins tinkling like rose quartz in sunlight before the guitars crizzle its clarity and clouds of feedback are shot through with electric malfunction. Banish the clouds and the sunlight returns to illuminate a cozy, hillside village cottage. There´s lemonade on the porch but it´s been spiked. Beholding the “Watermelon Fields” stretched out from the front yard down into the valley below, the bucolic scene begins to waver, both the sound of it and the sight of it, until some of the watermelons start blowing up.

An interesting introduction to an unexpected left turn in the duo´s career.

Stephen Fruitman

AMN Picks of the Week: Steve Roach / Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP / Combat Astronomy / Kayo Dot / Anthony Pirog

Kayo Dot

Cover of Kayo Dot

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Steve Roach – Bloodmoon Rising (2014)
Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP – Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost (2014)
Combat Astronomy – Time Distort Nine (2014)
Kayo Dot – Coffins on Io (2014)
Anthony Pirog – Palo Colorado Dream (2014)