Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

After a few years of searching for the best versions of my fave Grateful Dead jam songs (“The Other One”, “St. Stephen” and “Dark Star”), I decided to go back to the beginning and listen to every recorded Grateful Dead concert from their beginning in 1965/1966. Practically every night for the past 2 months, I’ve listened to one entire show or part of one show if it was too long to listen to in one sitting. I am currently up to November of 1967 and I find it fascinating to watch/hear certain songs from their first appearance and then evolve over time. I listened to the first recorded version of “The Other One” the other night (October of 1967) and heard Bobby Weir struggling with the lyrics which were probably just written beforehand. I also pulled out my Robert Hunter book of lyrics, “Box of Rain”, Hunter being Jerry Garcia’s longtime collaborator and main lyricist for the Dead. Many of us often sing along to catchy songs we like but often don’t look too closely at what the lyrics are saying. Reading and learning the lyrics to many of these Dead songs, lyrics which we often take for granted, has brought more meaning to what these songs are really about. I realize that some of the lyrics seem silly or not serious but still define the way many of us feel about life, love, pain and fun. The above song comes from the last Grateful Dead studio album. There is something about this song that touches me deeply, a universal stream of loneliness that is at the center of mankind, as we struggle to make our way through these difficult times. Lead guitarist, lead singer and spiritual leader of the Dead, Jerry Garcia, passed away in 1995, after years of struggling with substance abuse problems. This event pretty much ended the original version/vision of the Dead. On practically every album and at every concert Jerry would play at least one song that would bring his sensitive followers to tears, somehow tapping into the universal feeling of sadness or loss or loneliness. “Standing on the Moon” is one of those songs and I still shed a tear when I hear. I can hear & see Jerry standing on the moon, a singular figure watching the planet Earth as spins. A special DMG toast to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, both of whom have left the planet are probably hanging out together smoking a doobie in the heavens and watching us all go round in the circles of life.

Upcoming Releases from Tzadik

Source: Tzadik.

John Zorn: Azoth [#8375]
Jay Campbell (JACK Quartet) and Michael Nicolas (Brooklyn Rider) are two of the greatest cellists in new music. Long-time members of Zorn’s inner circle, here they perform four compositions written expressly for them. Featuring two works for solo cello and two works for cello and rhythm section, the music is filled with spectacular leaps, intense textures, dizzying tremolos, hypnotic ostinatos, scordatura and more! As always, Zorn pushes the envelope of what is technically possible on the instrument and Mike and Jay come to the plate full force, exhibiting a new level of virtuosity in these breathtaking and dramatic works. With Ches Smith on drums and Jorge Roeder on bass this is a cello recital unlike any other!
(Release date: November 2020)

Red Fiction: Visions Of The Void [#7819]
With a command of countless genres and a vast list of credits, composer/guitarist Jason Schimmel is a musical polymath whose talents know no bounds. A long time member of Trey Spruance’s legendary ensemble Secret Chiefs 3, his brilliant guitar work embraces a wide variety of traditions and styles, from blues, jazz and surf rock to Balkan folk and heavy metal. Visions of the Void is his masterpiece, an intense program of eclectic music that jumps quickly and seamlessly from one style to another. Years in the making, this is powerfully imaginative instrumental music by an all star ensemble of masters at the top of their game.
(Release date: November 2020)

Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

Between 1967 and 1969, there was a new era of creativity in rock music, where just about every band wanted to evolve and create an album that would be considered a classic of the time. Once bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones stopped touring (in 1966), many bands decided to work harder in the studio to experiment and create something completely unique. Before marketing & pigeon-holing took over the Music Business, few Creative Musicians cared about or were held back by genre or style or expectation. Thus, practically every week during this era, 2 or 3 albums would be released and each one would be considered a classic today. The Summer of 1967 was the center of the Psychedelic Era and it was perhaps the only time when the underground (of creative experimentation & weirdness) rose to great popularity. Dozens (hundreds?!?) of my favorite bands all released incredible records during that time: the Mothers of Invention, Love, the Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Moby Grape, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band, Traffic, Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Family, Spirit, the Band, the list goes on & on…

One of my all-time favorite bands from the era & afterwards was/is Procol Harum. Starting with the first & only hit, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (Summer of ’67), with a melody line influenced by Bach, they were in a class of their own from the start. Their first five albums, ‘Self-Titled’ through ‘Broken Barricades’ are all stone cold classics and still sound wonderful to me some 50 years later. The above song, “In Held ‘Twas In I”, takes up most of side 2 of their second album, ’Shine On Brightly’. It is an epic of sorts with thoughtful, philosophical lyrics with an appropriate wink of humor as well. The entire album is superb as is the next one, ‘A Salty Dog’ (1969). Strangely enough Procol Harum still exist today and released a new disc just a few years ago, which I still dug. Not too many of those sixties era groups still exist. I caught Procol Harum live five times between 1969 and 1973. The last time I caught them was in 1971 at the Academy of Music in Manhattan, here was the line-up: Yes (bottom of the bill & their first US tour), King Crimson (first tour since 1969, playing music from ‘Islands’) and Procol Harum (still great live!) A toast to Gary Brooker, founder, lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum.

Point of Departure #72 is Out

Source: Point of Departure.

Page One: a column by Bill Shoemaker

Ezzthetics: a column by Stuart Broomer

Jeff Cosgrove: A Personal History: an interview with Troy Collins

Free Jazz/Québec Libre: Le Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, 1967-1975 by Pierre Crépon

The Book Cooks:
John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra
by Martin Iddom + Philip Thomas (Oxford University Press, New York)
Play the Way You Feel: The Essential Guide to Jazz Stories on Film
by Kevin Whitehead (Oxford University Press, New York)

Moment’s Notice: Reviews of Recent Recordings

Recent Releases From New World Records

Source: New World Records.


Chris Brown’s (b. 1953) compositions Some Centre (2019) and First Light (2016), performed with such assured lucidity and subtle shading by the three members of The Chromelodia Project, engage with significant precursors in music and in literature, drawing upon their words and innovations, their insights and adventurous spirits while, in the process, transporting those uncompromising benefactors to a different frontier. Brown makes songs from poems by Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) and Jackson Mac Low (1922–2004), and his settings make use of the 43-tone tuning system devised by Harry Partch (1901–1974).


Finally, the works presented here demonstrate Polansky’s deep understanding of the history and techniques of experimental music in the United States. Within these compositions one can find compositional approaches that span styles from the Ultramodernists in the early twentieth century to advanced computational algorithms not yet possible in that era. Through these works Polansky somehow manages to integrate older and newer styles of experimental composition into a cohesive voice that despite, or perhaps because of, its eclecticism and diversity is unmistakably the music of Larry Polansky.


Wrestling with the notion of balancing both formal construction and creative spontaneity has allowed Scott Fields (b 1952) to compose a powerful body of work with ties to extramusical concerns from the realms of literature, philosophy, and science. Seven Deserts (2019), rather than operating from a fixed narrative structure with predetermined events, lays out the ground rules for a manifestation that is absolutely identical in every performance in its operations and sonic vocabulary, but with each realization completely unique in internal detail and musical interaction. Improvisation fleshes out the structure yet also embeds itself in the musical foundation to help determine the overall shape. The conductor is improvising to the same extent that the individual players are and may set forces in motion, allow them to work, and then, based on the results, initiate the next iteration.

John Luther Adams Completes Become Trilogy, Releases Autobiography

Source: John Luther Adams.

On September 18, Cantaloupe Music will release the long-awaited world premiere recording of John Luther Adams’s Become River, in a performance featuring conductor Ludovic Morlot and members of the Seattle Symphony. Become River, composed for chamber ensemble, was the first of Adams’s acclaimed Become trilogy to be completed. In the midst of working on his 2013 orchestral work Become Ocean, Adams was inspired by a conversation with percussionist and conductor Steven Schick: “Steven and I were having dinner together,” Adams recalls, “and I went on at length about the music I’d begun to imagine. ‘So you’re already composing a symphonic ocean,’ Steve said. ‘Maybe for a smaller orchestra you could go ahead and compose that river in delta.’ He had me, and I knew it. Within a week I’d begun work on Become River.”

On September 25, Become River will appear alongside recordings of companion works Become Ocean and Become Desert, assembled for the first time in the Become Trilogy box set. Described by Adams as “a trilogy that I never set out to write,” the pieces are nonetheless thematically linked. Resisting the idea that music should necessarily be a linear narrative progression, the Become trilogy instead attempts to capture a sense of place through sound, space, and sensation. “The titles are not ‘Becoming…’” writes Adams, “they’re ‘Become…’.

On September 22, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will release John Luther Adams’s Silences So Deep, a memoir of the composer’s life in the Alaskan wilderness, and a meditation on making art in a landscape acutely threatened by climate change.

Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

Tomorrow will be John Zorn’s 67th birthday so DMG is raising a toast to our Main Man! I met Mr. Zorn in December of 1979, more than forty years ago when both of us were around 25. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing on saxes & bird calls, that he was a fine bebop saxist and a completely original composer. It was his Game Pieces that really inspired a new generation of Downtown Musicians to improvise/compose in a new way. Thanks to Irving & Stephanie Stone (an old couple I met at his early shows) and Fred Frith for helping me to take Mr. Zorn unique playing, compositions & directing more seriously. Recently a newer friend of mine, Matt Vernon (famed Dead Archiver, that I met at The Stone), has been helping to archive my 3,000 cassettes of live concerts from 1976-2005. Over the past few months, I have listened to several dozen early John Zorn gigs, as well as many other early Downtown concerts. I am checking out every Game Piece in chronological order and this is helping me to understand the great jigsaw puzzle-like mysteries of Mr. Zorn’s vast music career/journey.

I still attend as many Zorn concerts as is possible and those of us at DMG still listen to each and every Zorn release as they come out practically every month. We are still listening to last month’s Zorn CD, “Les Maudits’, over and over. It is one of the weirdest and most intense recent efforts from Mr. Zorn but one of his many great discs. Starting tomorrow, Friday, we will be playing a great deal of Zorn’s vast catalogue over the next week: Acoustic Masada, Electric Masada, Naked City, symphonic & chamber works, string quartets, solo organ recitals, solo sax (The Classic Guide to Strategy), the Dreamers (post-surf, exotica…), the Book of Beriah, choral music, filmworks series, tributes to Morricone and many other composers, poets, philosophers and artists of all sorts. John Zorn’s label, Tzadik Records passed the 850 mark this year and no other label has captured/documented so much engaging music. Another great thing that Mr. Zorn has achieved is building a community of Creative Musicians through his performance space, The Stone, his record label and composing several books of songs (Masada Songbook – 650 songs! & the Bagatelles Series, as yet unrecorded), which have been recorded & performed live by many different musicians & bands. I asked Mr. Zorn earlier this year how he does so much and he said, “I never sleep”. He seems to live to create. He is an ongoing inspiration to many of us so let’s drink a toast and help him celebrate his birthday and hope he has many more. We love you bubbie! – Bruce Lee, Frank M & John M from DMG