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Residents doc Theory of Obscurity to screen at International House

Theory of Obscurity
Theory of Obscurity poster | designed by Casey Howard

The first question that filmmaker Don Hardy, Jr. was inevitably asked whenever he told people that he was working on a documentary about the legendarily mysterious Residents was, “You’re going to reveal their identities, right?” In most minds, any film purporting to tell the four-decade story of the anonymous Bay Area weirdoes had only one possible ending: the unmasking of those top-hatted eyeball heads.

It’s not really spoiling anything to reveal that Theory of Obscurity, which will have its Philly premiere at International House for a single screening on Wednesday, Jan. 27, doesn’t go so far as to put faces and names to the Residents. As always, the band is spoken for by Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox, co-founders of the Cryptic Corporation, friends of the band who’ve managed their careers and maintained their public faces from the beginning. The true story of the reclusive creators is left to be glimpsed between the lines of their ever-evolving mythology.

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Make It Funky: Sax icon Maceo Parker reflects on a career of party-rocking showmanship

Maceo Parker | photo by Philip Ducap | press photo approved by artist
Maceo Parker | photo by Philip Ducap | press photo approved by artist

Maceo Parker became famous as the target of James Brown frequent imprecation, “Maceo, blow your horn!” The saxophonist was an integral part of two of the most influential funk groups of all time: Brown’s backing band, The J.B.’s, in the 1960s, and George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in the following decade.

Parker has focused on his solo career since 1990, performing a mixture of the funk classics he helped make famous, covers of a few favorites that he didn’t have a hand in, and a smattering of jazz standards. He’ll bring his band to the Ardmore Music Hall on Saturday, and we took the occasion to chat with him by phone from his hometown of Kinston, North Carolina. Continue reading →

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Tomeka Reid carries jazz into the future with an Ars Nova Workshop concert

tomeka reid
Tomeka Reid | photo courtesy of the artist

Fresh off of a year spent celebrating its 50th anniversary, it would be easy to view the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) as a landmark of the past, a movement that set jazz on a new course and was absorbed into a redefined mainstream. But the Chicago-based organization continues to spawn new members with fresh perspectives on its “Ancient to the Future” mantra, which takes a far-ranging and open-minded view of the whole of jazz – and music – history as fodder for its sonic experiments.

Cellist Tomeka Reid is one standout among the latter generation, who has worked with founding members like Anthony Braxton as well as more contemporary standard-bearers like flutist Nicole Mitchell and drummer Mike Reed.

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Andrew Lamb Trio will perform free concert at The Rotunda

andrew lamb
Andrew Lamb | photo courtesy of the artist

Though his career stretches back nearly 40 years and intersects with some of the most innovative minds in modern jazz, Andrew Lamb has remained largely unheralded. In part that’s due to his own relative silence: though he emerged onto New York’s avant-jazz scene in the mid-70s, the saxophonist and flutist didn’t make his recording debut as a leader until 1994, with the dark-hued but relatively straight-ahead Delmark album Portrait in the Mist. It took him almost another decade to follow that up, with 2003’s more free-flowing Pilgrimage. He’s expanded his catalogue with a few more releases since then, but still maintains a low profile, though he regularly appears with like-minded compatriots at New York’s annual Vision Festival.

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Bridging Music and Nature: The story of Canary Records’ Ian Nagoski

rarahportrait
Ian Nagoski | Photo courtesy of the artist

For much of the 20th century, canaries were carried into coalmines as early warning systems for noxious gases, their faster metabolisms making them more susceptible to environmental hazards. Record collector and music researcher Ian Nagoski saw a parallel between those ill-fated birds and his own digging through record shops and flea markets when he decided to name his vinyl-only reissue label Canary Records in 2009.

“The canary in the coalmine had the highest level of sensitivity to its environment, which I thought was a metaphor for the best part of what I do,” Nagoski says. “I do research on old recordings and pay attention to stuff that other people aren’t paying attention to.”

But canaries also hold another fascination for Nagoski: their songs make up a significant part of a once-popular, now largely forgotten genre of recordings, animal sounds and human imitations thereof. On Friday, the Wilmington-born, Baltimore-based researcher will discuss his discoveries and play examples with a Bowerbird-sponsored presentation at the Rotunda, “Ecstatic & Wingless: Bird-Imitation on Four Continents.” Continue reading →

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Dan Blacksberg celebrates Hanukkah with klezmer performances

dan blacksberg
Dan Blacksberg | photo courtesy of the artist

In his native Philadelphia, trombonist Dan Blacksberg is probably best known in avant-garde jazz and improvised music circles, as the leader of his own trio and the Hasidic doom metal band Deveykus, co-leader of the new-music duo Archer Spade, and a restless and inventive experimentalist who has collaborated with many of the city’s most adventurous artists.

But when he ventures outside the city, it’s more often in the context of traditional klezmer music, which he performs and teaches at festivals, camps, and schools across the country and around the world. To celebrate the Hanukkah season, Blacksberg will be showing off the talents that have made him one of the most in-demand trombonists on the modern klezmer scene with a pair of hometown shows: on Friday, he’ll congregate the Shining Stars Orchestra, an all-star quintet performing traditional and holiday-related klezmer music at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; then on Sunday, December 20, he’ll co-host a dance party with fourth-generation Philly klezmer musician Susan Lankin-Watts at the Rotunda.

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Matthew Shipp Duo will face off at an Ars Nova Workshop

matthew shipp
Michael Bisio and Matthew Shipp | photo via Ars Nova Workshop

A noted boxing fan, pianist Matthew Shipp has become renowned for his pugilistic approach to the keyboard. His attack ranges from forceful chords struck with the impact of a haymaker to the jaw, to fleet, graceful lines that float like the proverbial butterfly. His insistent motifs repeat and land with the effectiveness of perfectly-timed combinations, asserting melodies as memorable as they are strident.

He’s also become infamous for sporting a boxer’s braggadocio off the bandstand, taking audacious shots at some of jazz’s most sacred cows in interviews, backed up by his own ability to create sounds that are both primal and immediate, that stick in the brain while simultaneously challenging it.

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Jeremy Pelt hits up Orrin Evans’ “What’s Happening Wednesdays” at South

Jeremy Pelt
Jeremy Pelt | photo by Gulnara Khamatova

For their new restaurant and jazz club South, the Bynum Brothers have smartly turned over the booking of a couple of weeknights to two well-known Philadelphians with wide-ranging contacts. Thursdays belong to bassist Gerald Veasley, whose Unscripted series features big names from the smooth and contemporary jazz worlds. Hump days are the province of pianist Orrin Evans, whose “What’s Happening Wednesdays” are typically diverse, each week of the month dedicated to a different theme from veterans to vocalists to newcomers.

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Adam Rudolph brings his Organic Guitar Orchestra to FringeArts

Adam Rudolph
Adam Rudolph and GO: Organic Guitar Orchestra | photo by Scott Friedlander

Put ten of the world’s greatest guitarists together on one stage, and what do you get? Not what you might expect in the case of Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, which will perform at FringeArts on Sunday, presented by Ars Nova Workshop. Guided by the percussionist/composer’s conducted improvisation techniques, what could be an unruly eruption of six-string pyrotechnics becomes a unified ensemble exploring a wide range of textures, colors, and combinations.

“Since guitar players have all these foot pedals and sound processing and can sound like so many different things, I thought we could really make it sound like a futuristic orchestra,” says Rudolph. “All these players are phenomenal guitarists, but it’s serving a bigger orchestral palette and a bigger sentiment about what we’re expressing. That’s why it’s successful for me as a composer.”

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