AMN Reviews: Apocryphal in New York, Sept. 18, 2014

by Monique Avakian


Vinnie Sperrazza – drums, compositions
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Loren Stillman – alto sax
Eivind Opsvik – bass

Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC
CD Release
Cornelia Street Café, September 18, 2014

As I walked my own crooked trail to the venue, I met a man in monk’s robes. He gave me a golden ticket and a bracelet. But when I wouldn’t give him any money, he took them back! Hey! Didn’t he just mention the name of the Dalai Lama? A moment ago, wasn’t he speaking of love and peace? Oh, 6th Avenue! Ah! Apocryphal!

Apocryphal. A word and a concept. Perhaps even a lifestyle. First definition reads “false.” The second: “dubious.” Going deeper, you encounter cycles of biblical texts unearthed, locked away and subsumed. Rome is involved. Greece is presented at root. You begin to wonder about the earlier incarnations of the word created at the tribal and Goddess levels (which are not yet included in Wikipedia)….

Whatever your starting point for definitions and context, you’ll need 5 or 6 shovels at least as you dig in to the hidden secrets of these complex yet accessible songs brought to life by Vinnie Sperrazza, et al.

On stage at Cornelia Street Café on Sept. 18, 2014, the music was delivered from the heart, through freedom, and with playful mastery. The energy level of these four stellar musicians could not have been more intense, but I never felt overwhelmed by sound or ideas. Parts of the compositions felt eerily familiar at odd moments, yet the trajectories of sound and the narrative arc of ideas were completely unique.

It was easy for listeners to get on board, and many times I heard supportive laughter and hearty vocalizations from the large and wildly diverse crowd as we all thrilled to be part of this marvelous joyride.


Brandon Seabrook: electric guitar

Free and fluid, and like a living fractal, Seabrook propels his ideas out and further out, alternately leading and supporting through woven sounds characterized by texture. With playful integrity, he fades in and out with these sound thrusts that bend the ear through dimensions of clarity. Functioning almost as a human Theremin for the group, Seabrook simultaneously prepares the field and plows the way. Timothy Leary’s got nothing on this cat – Seabrook opens every door that materializes.

Eivind Opsvik: bass

Rudder. Compass. Tinder. Rhythmically, the challenges created by this group are vast and rapid in succession, yet, no turn goes unattended by this bass player’s firm command of form and function. Mr. Opsvik’s dependability as an inventive, responsive band-mate is perhaps only matched by his virtuosity as a soloist. The beauty of his improvisations illuminate an essence of melody in these compositions that otherwise would be lost.

Loren Stillman: alto sax

In fitting contrast, Mr. Stillman’s approach invokes the natural world: birds, waves, curves, streams, arcs, flutters, orbs, and spheres. Planetary revolutions. Hearty gusts of wind whispering passwords through keyholes. Living fields of light filled with subterranean creatures of essential import. Intellectually, it is obvious that Stillman carries forth themes and concepts through complex structural understanding, but as a listener you don’t have to get into all that unless you want to. This unassuming sax-man has nothing to do with false walls, superficial categories or meaningless slots of definition. Stillman’s oeuvre of being is open to anyone’s level of understanding, and if you just let his sound wash over you, you will know intuitively why Mr. Sperrazza kept grinning at him that night at Cornelia.

Vinnie Sperrazza: drummer, composer

Mr. Sperrazza’s way in is filled with surprises. As a drummer, that night and always, he takes incredible chances with improvised phrases of uber-varied character, often inserting percussive commentary at unexpected moments. It would be easy for him to get into a “schtick” with all this, but he deftly avoids all traps, and I think it’s because he has such a big heart and a generous nature. Anyone who knows anything about drums knows right away that you are dealing with a percussionist who is highly knowledgeable of the canon and technically able to achieve anything; yet, Sperrazza does not allow his ego to rule–he remains a true bridge-builder, exemplifying what it means to lead from the back. Or, rather, the side. Or, from below. Or maybe the space between. Or, perhaps from within: you decide.

As for my reaction to his work as a composer, I don’t even know where to begin. That’s why I really wanted to write this as a 3-dimensional sculpture, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit that inside this machine. However, I think you get the sense of the mystery, import, free-spirited-fun-loving-depth of muscianship, and much appreciated dramatic wackiness of tone involved in this incredible music. Please don’t misunderstand what it means to be playful and creative in the world we’re living in. As with every Shakespearean jest, the kernel of eternal wisdom is buried deep inside the joke. Don’t be fooled; you’re gonna get wise inside this music even though at first you think you’re just laughing your head off because you thought you were spinning out during a car chase scene involving your brother’s copper-colored Camaro.

Apocryphal. Vinnie Sperrazza never directly uses the image of a treasure chest, but there you have it.

Vinnie Sperrazza – drums, compositions
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Loren Stillman – alto sax
Eivind Opsvik – bass
Loyal Label
Producer Geoff Kraly

Bird is the Word Review
Something Else Review
Fully Altered Review

5049 Records Podcast: Mark Feldman

Mark Feldman
Cover of Mark Feldman

From 5049 Records:

Mark Feldman is a master of the highest order, an absolute virtuoso. He plays the violin with an intense beauty andhas been in high demand as New York musician since the mid 1980s. He’s a Chicago native and has played with everyone from Minnie Pearl to John Zorn, Oral Roberts to Bill Laswell. He just released a quartet record with his wife Sylvie Coursier and Scott Colley & Billy Mintz, called “Birdies for Lulu” that is absolutely spectacular.

Claudia Quintet East Coast Dates

From the Claudia Quintet:

The Claudia Quintet
Red Wierenga, Matt Moran, John Hollenbeck, Chris Speed and Drew Gress.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Inman Square, 1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA
Set: 8:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $15

Thursday, September 25, 2014
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET + Anna Webber’s SIMPLE CD Release! @ Shapeshifter Lab
18 Whitewall Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $10

Friday, September 26, 2014
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET @ Camden County College
College Drive, Blackwood, NJ 08012
Set: 7:30 PM
All Ages



September 21, 2014
Darius Jones’ Brigitte’s Baby, Greenwich House Music School
Darius Jones Emilie Lesbros Matt Mitchell Pascal Niggenkemper Ches Smith

September 19, 2014
Chie Mukai & LLILW GRAY, ISSUE Project Room
Keith Connolly Chie Mukai

September 19, 2014
Ché-Shizu, ISSUE Project Room
Che Chen Tori Kudo Chie Mukai Tsukasa Takahashi

September 20, 2014
à qui avec Gabriel, ISSUE Project Room
Aki Tamura

September 13, 2014
Yoshi Wada & Tashi Wada with David Watson & Jim Pugliese, ISSUE Project Room
Jim Pugliese Yoshi Wada Tashi Wada David Watson

Musique Machine Reviews

Steve Roach
Cover of Steve Roach

From Musique Machine:

Simon Whetham – Never So Alone
Auditor – When I Was A Little Kid I Was Just Like Anyone Els
Nightmare Castle / Fouke / Dead Body Col – Mythos And Lore
Sammath – Godless Arrogance
T.O.M.B. – Pennhurst/Xesse
Cakewalk – Transfixed
Otavan Veret – Otavan Veret
Cosmic Noise Waves / Ataraxy – Valles Marineris
Monuments Are No Good To The Dead – Earth’s Hum, Vol. II
Dead Body Collection – I Praise The Scars On Your Body
Steve Roach – Structures From Silence-30th Anniversary 3CD Edit

Wadada Leo Smith Profiled

From Burning Ambulance:

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has been extremely productive in recent years, issuing single- and multi-disc sets at a furious clip through a few trusted labels, Cuneiform, TUM and Tzadik in particular. Most artists would take an extended break after releasing something as epic as 2012’s Ten Freedom Summers, a four-disc opus greeted by rave reviews (and a Pulitzer Prize nomination). But in the two years since that set appeared, he’s sped up, if anything, releasing Ancestors, a duo encounter with drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo; Occupy the World, a double disc of collaborations with the 20-piece Finnish group TUMO; and Sonic Rivers, with saxophonist John Zorn and trombonist/electronic composer George Lewis. And now, he’s got two more releases appearing simultaneously—the two-CD The Great Lakes Suites, and the comparatively concise Red Hill.