Wednesday, June 27, 2007

6/27 WKCR Musicians Show 6-9pm EST, 7/1 HE Canada Day 5tet @ Bar4 8:30pm

6/27 WKCR FM New York 89.9 Musicians Show 6-9pm

Please tune in on-line at:

or in New York the old-fashioned way, on a radio, at 89.9 FM.


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - "They Say its Wonderful"
Tony Williams Life Time - "Two Pieces of One: Red"
Andrew Hill Point of Departure - "Dedication tk.1"
John McLaughlin Extrapolation - "Extrapolation"
Dave Holland Conference of the Birds - "Conference of the Birds"
Julius Hemphill Reflections - "The Hard Blues"
Chick Corea 3 Quartets - "Qt.2 Pt.2 ded. To Coltrane"
Henry Threadgill Song out of My trees - "Grief"
Thomas Chapin Sky Piece - "Night Bird Song"
Steve Coleman and Metrics - "Slow Lane"
Wadada Leo Smith Golden 4tet - "Dejohnette"
David Murray Ming - "Dewey's circle"

plus selections from my new release "The All Seeing Eye + Octets" on Poo-bah records.

7/1 HE Canada Day 5tet at Bar4 444 7th Avenue (@15th Street) Park Slope 8:30pm

Sara Schoenbeck - bassoon
Matt Bauder- tenor saxophone
Chris Dingman - vibraphone
Keith Witty - bass
Harris Eisenstadt - drums

From this week's Time Out New York:

Just back from a residency in West Africa, Toronto-born avant-jazz percussionist Harris Eisenstadt - who has worked with the likes of Sam Rivers and Paul Rutherford - is celebrating a new release, "The All Seeing Eye + Octets." This disc pairs a reverent yet risk-taking spin through a classic Wayne Shorter set with two lush multipart works by Eisenstadt, which skillfully reconcile spacious groove with textural intimacy.

- Hank Shteamer

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Empire in Africa

Recently watched the deeply unsettling documentary The Empire in Africa. It was released the same day last year as Blood Diamond, the Hollywood drama/thriller about civil war-torn 90s/early 00s Sierra Leone, in an attempt to bring attention to the tragedies that had befallen this resource-rich West African country. See my previous post about Blood Diamond here.

I knew that this was going to be some hard viewing, but I was amazed and horrified at the footage of Sierra Leone as the struggle between the rebels and army forces went back and forth, catching civilians in the middle in graphic, awful ways. Its difficult to keep track of who the guilty parties are, and in the end it becomes clear that everybody who was there has to take some responsibility for the atrocities to varying degrees. Ultimately the film implicates the UN and Western interests. Though confusing in the staggering amount and nature of victims, rebels, army, and political figures' testimonials, The Empire in Africa is a sobering, difficult, and important documentary.

And then I open the BBC on-line news and the top headline reads: "World failing Darfur, says Rice." Sad and true.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The All Seeing Eye + Octets Reviews

First two "The All Seeing Eye + Octets" reviews here and here. Check 'em out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut + Catch A Fire + Accordionology

Too many of my recent posts have been tributes to great people who have passed. That being said, I've got to shout out to Kurt Vonnegut, who passed a couple months ago. Hey, better late than never.

Just finished God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater. This lovely, short novel is a fine example of Vonegut's mix of satire, black comedy and science fiction. its actually been quite awhile since I read Vonnegut, and I was impressed by his humanism. He manages to be very instructive without being overly didactic. No small feat.

Set in early 80s South Africa and beautifully shot on location there and in Mozambique, Catch A Fire is a powerful film about Black-White relations at the height of Apartheid. After sitting through Blood Diamond, The Last King of Scotland, and The Interpreter, its a relief to see a Hollywood film about Africa with an African character actually carrying the bulk of the screen time. While Tim Robbins does a capabale job as a morally-ambiguous police officer in the co-starring role, he is not on-screen nearly as much as the quietly burning Derek Luke, playing Patrick Cherusso, a man accused of a crime he didn't commit. Maybe the strongest performance of the entire film comes from Bonnie Henna, who plays Cherusso's wife. Mistreated while detained, Cherusso is pushed over the edge when the Boer police beat and detain his wife as a way of withdrawing a false confession. He is released and joins the African National Congress's struggle against the Apartheid government. See this one before any of the films mentioned above.

Playing the cool, thorny tunes of accordionist/composer Art Bailey's Riboflavin tomorrow night Friday June 15 at 7pm, with Reuben Radding and Michael Winograd as part of the Accordionology festival at Barbes this weekend. Come on down if you're in New York and read this before then.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

RIP Ousmane Sembene

Just read on the BBC that Ousmane Sembene has passed. I just blogged about this seminal Senegalese filmmaker last weekend. Didn't realized he'd been battling a long-term illness.

Congo, Goray, Butch Morris

First things first, saw a very important film recently, Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death. It tell the story of Belgium's King Leopold II and his genocidal operations in the Congo during the 19th and early 20th century. Director Peter Bate casts modern-day Congolese in historical re-enactments of actual events at times, which is at best distracting, at worst very unsettling. But nonetheless, he and narrator Nick Fraser have produced an extremely important document. As they lament, Leopold II destroyed much of the evidence and accounts of what happened in Congo during his reign. Therefore, Leopold II's apologists have forever had a way of escaping the truth. The only solace, Bate and Fraser conclude, is that during Leopold II's state funeral, his casket was booed as it was on parade. Still, statues of Leopold II can be found in Brussels and Antwerp, and official Belgian history portrays Leopold II as a civiliser. See this film and see for yourself what happened on his watch.

Burned through Satan in Goray, by my man Isaac Bashevis Singer. Beautifully translated by Jacob Sloan, Singer tells the story of a 17th century Polish town making preparations for the messiah. The villagers of Goray believed fervently that the messiah was coming in the form of Sabbatai Levi, a charismatic preacher from the Middle East. When word reached Goray that Levi was the messiah, that God was going to open up the heavens, save all the Jews and smote all their oppressors, the villagers' lives changed drastically and for the worse. Believing pre-ordained salvation was just around the corner, they abandoned their pious ways and lived immorally and savagely under the spell of a hypnotic pro-Levi rabbi who'd come to town. Turns out he's an incarnation of El Diablo, and before they know it the town is worse off then it ever was, the messiah Levi is exposed as a fraud, and his champion who swept up Goray in his charm is exposed as a dybbuk, a malicious spirit in Jewish folklore. I'm always completely enamored by Singer's magical realism, and feel a deep sense of connection to his Eastern European settings and characters. Read him, whatever your background. He's as important as Garcia Marquez and Nabokov.

Been playing with Butch Morris every Monday at Nublu. Always a rewarding challenge to play for Butch. I think the only other bandleader I've ever worked for who brings the same intensity as Butch is Wadada Leo Smith. There's a lot of similiarities playing for them, most importantly that you have to keep your eyes on them the whole time. In both of their cases, the musical landscape changes so quickly that if you're not looking at them before it happens, you've missed it already. Its been great with Butch; I've been playing either drumset or sabar. Very diferent endeavors of course. There's a couple regular drumset players who've been doing it for years, Kenny Wollesen and Brazilian Girls drummer Aaron Johnson, so I play kit if they're not there, and sabar when they are. Its a nice challenge to fit sabar into the mix. Since I almost always play sabar in the context of traditional Wolof music, it forces me to think about it differently. Good, challenging fun.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sembene, Richler

Watched La Noire de... (trans: Black Girl) by Senegalese author/filmmaker Ousmane Sembene recently. Sembene is considered by many the father of Sub Saharan African film. La Noire de... was the first film by a Sub Saharan director to receive international acclaim, and its actually an adaptation of a Sembene short story. After an already-successful career as a writer, Sembene decided to make films as well as continue to write so he could reach a wider audience. Black Girl's main character, Diouanna, is brought to France by her employers officially as a governess, but quickly realizes she's there effectively as a slave. She's not literally incarcerated, but in a culture where she understands more French than she speaks, doesn't read or write and doesn't know anybody, she is essentially captive to her verbally abusive (wife) and indifferent (husband) employers. A powerful short film, I can only lament that things are still not so different for many West Africans given the "opportunity" of working as domestic "help" in European homes, over forty years later. Or, for that matter, much different than many situations for people from the Caribbean and Central/South America working in North America.

Been enjoying The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler. I didn't read this book as a high school kid in Canada and I'm not quite sure how that happened. Richler's story of post WWII Montreal is a well-written, tragicomic story that reminds me of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Richler is one of Canada's most accomplished and famous authors, and ...Kravitz is probably his best-known book. Just filling in the holes in my Canadian lit. background one classic at a time I guess. Recommended reading for Canadians and the rest of you too!

RIP Take Toriyama

Take Toriyama passed tragically earlier this week. There is an excellent post on Darcy James Argue's blog that has a great video of Take playing and other information. I never had the good fortune to meet or hear Take live, I'm sorry to say. I've heard him on record, though, and remember being blown away by his touch and uncanny musicality. New York's creative music community has lost an important contributor.