On January 9, 2014, we lost one of the most eloquent voices of the freedom fight, Imamu Amiri Baraka, the man formerly known as Everett LeRoi Jones. Amiri Baraka was one of the most published and respected artists of the Black Arts Movement, and his work had an extreme polarizing effect. He was made the Poet Laureate of New Jersey, only to have that title stripped away because of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America", was a controversial statement about 9/11. He was a lifelong advocate for equality, but has been accused of anti-semitism, misogyny, and racism. He was a contradiction. Remembering Leroi Jones, Examining His Recorded Output as Amiri Baraka Amiri Baraka was an artist at the crossroads: between pre-war and baby boom; between black and white; between free-jazz and hip-hop. He stood between hippies, beatniks and black power; sci-fi and harsh realism. He occupied the intersection between humor and ugly truths. As we continue to lose more and more of the older generation of freedom fighters, we run the risk of forgetting – forgetting the struggle, and the oppression they were struggling against. As we get further and further away from slavery (the Southern kind, anyway), we are in danger of forgetting its face and losing sight of its specter, even if it's only in our minds.The 20th Century was unique for being the first full century with recording technology. While we may not get the scent of tear gas on the breeze, or know the humidity of an August afternoon in Birmingham, we can strive to remember and understand through records, photographs and film. Going through the recorded legacy of Amiri Baraka, from the '50s through the '90s, is like opening a time capsule. It reminds us of the revolutionary power of jazz, poetry and theater. In 2014, all of those forms have almost entirely been de-toothed and un-fanged, become a tool of the bourgeoisie that they panned, bombed and smashed. It's easy to forget that these were the voice of the people. It calls us back to a time of street theater and community workshops: these were a time of action. Without this reality, it is all too easy (and dangerous) to co-opt the art of revolutionaries past, to bolster your own cred, while safe and comfortable in your air conditioned citadel.

Good Romans - Open This Door, Never Look Back
When most people think of jazz, they either stop at Duke Ellington's sophisticated big bands, or possibly make it as far as the edgy, revolutionary architecture of bebop, if they're hip. This extremely limited viewpoint overlooks the fact that, in its essence, jazz is essentially improvised instrumental music. On Open The Door, Don't Look Back, the Finnish duo Good Romans strips the influence of jazz down to its bare RNA, pointing out its role in nearly every underground, avant-garde movement since. They manage to trace a very tenuous line from Django Reinhardt to Supersilent, which is a very abstract journey, if you missed the connecting steps. Using a very concise palette of electric guitar, drums and abstract electronics, Good Romans take you on a guided tour through nearly every genre that jazz has touched, from instrumental post-rock ("Smiling No"), to harsh freeform noise ("Moha Rave") and droning ritualism ("Hardanger"). They cover a lot of ground, but there is smart sequencing here, with miniature soundworlds strung together like a string of pearls. Some of the cuts are harsh, like a splash of cold water. This seems intentional: the intention is to shock, to make you pay attention and make you listen to some sounds you had not previously thought of as music.

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we've once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, Gina Altamura and Van Pham of the innovative, multimedia-minded nightclub Holocene give us the scoop on Portland bands to watch (and see their 2012 list here. Those who are interested in the Seattle scene can view the picks of the stylish boutique shop and venue, Cairo, here.
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Aan __ www.facebook.com/weareaan

I've believed wholeheartedly in the exceptional talent of Aan's Bud Wilson ever since I first heard his emotionally riveting avant-rock back in 2009. Fast-forward to the present, and Aan is experiencing a well-deserved breakout year. After extensive touring -- including a string of dates with the Smashing Pumpkins -- the band is in top form. Even in mid-size nightclubs, Aan puts on a show fit for an arena with their sheer dynamism and technical skill. Bud is a multi-faceted crooner, capable of delicate romance and ferocious vitriol alike, and he deftly charts a course across this wide emotional territory: a map of Amor Ad Nauseum (the title of Aan's excellent upcoming debut LP). With the recent addition of Brainstorm's Patrick Phillips -- ecstatic West African-influenced guitar shredder -- to the live band, I can only imagine 2014 will be even more exciting for this group. - GINA ALTAMURA (Editor's Note: Aan will be playing Holocene's next film score series, Fin De Cinema, on Purse Candy and Philip Grass; they will be scoring the Japanese animation, Night on the Galactic Railroad. See more details here. Their next record, Amor Ad Nauseum, drops February 1st, 2014.) ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO AAN

Phone Call www.facebook.com/phonecallsound

An incarnation of Portland's favorite disco sons, Strength, Phone Call kicks it up a couple of decades with their hard-hitting hip-hop beats, and introduces more assertive synth lines in lieu of Strength’s guitar-heavy grind. It’s unabashedly -- if not absurdly -- sexy, with plenty of space for singer Bailey Winters’ charismatic swagger to shine through. There’s a little Prince, a little JT, and a gleeful dive into the deep reaches of boogie funk crate. Some wear your sunglasses at night/Miami Vice vibes or at least they’ll make you think that it’s getting a little hot in here... But there’s no mistaking: they’re here to make us dance, and maybe leave the place with somebody tonight. - VAN PHAM (Editor's Note: Phone Call play Holocene on New Year's Eve, with Le1f, Shy Girls, and PWRHAUS... along with DJ slots from Miracles Club and Radiation City. Details here.)

Natasha Kmeto __ www.natashakmeto.com/

Natasha Kmeto is a total badass. Unpoetic I know, but nonetheless the most satisfying descriptor for this futuristic soul diva. She's an expert at working a crowd, and as a solo performer relying on electronics, this is especially impressive. As a producer, her adventurous bass music is powerful and entrancing, while her vocal delivery is more captivating still. Her unabashed reflections on the vicissitudes of love and the trials of artistic ambition are belted out with incredibly authentic emotion, lending her music an immortal quality of spiritual resonance. - GINA ALTAMURA ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO NATASHA KMETO + NATASHA KMETO INTERVIEW

This newest list of musicians includes the Blues musician who probably did more than any other one person to jump-start my interest in older music: Big Bill Broonzy. The fun of listening to somebody who recorded seventy years ago is that you can start to piece together who they influenced and who they worked with, giving you more to listen to. It sent me down a rabbit hole that I haven't even begun to crawl out of. Hopefully, I never will.
See all Forgotten Gems & Dusty Classics Posts Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy, born Lee Conley Bradley, was my gateway to blues music. I discovered Broonzy while reading an R. Crumb comic when I was about thirteen years old and decided to investigate. Broonzy's birthplace has been the subject of dispute, though Robert Reisman claims that he was born in Arkansas. Likewise, the year is in dispute as well; Broonzy claimed that he was born in 1893, but subsequent research suggests 1903. Regardless, he moved to Chicago in 1920 and began playing guitar for so-called "rent parties" and for Paramount Records, where he sold poorly. Broonzy's style was all over the place: he varied from country blues to hokum (blues with sexually suggestive lyrics) to small groups reminiscent of rhythm and blues.1 After WWII, his music declined in popularity with black audiences but began to grow in popularity with white audiences once he began touring as part of a folk group with Studs Terkel. Broonzy spent his last years touring in the United States and Europe. His European tours were particularly successful and numerous British musicians -- one being Bert Jansch -- cited him as an important influence. He died in 1958 of throat cancer, leaving behind hundreds of recorded tracks. "I Can't Be Satisfied" might have been the first blues song that I ever listened to, so it seems fitting that I include as part of a Broonzy mix. "Key to the Highway" was recorded in 1940 and was one of his most popular songs as well as a later hit by Eric Clapton. "John Henry" is a great example of the kind of music Broonzy was playing toward the end of his life. Big Bill Broonzy - "I Can't Be Satisfied" [audio:/mp3/Big-Bill-Broonzy_I-Can't-Be-Satisfied.mp3|titles=Big Bill Broonzy - Decatur Street Tutti] Big Bill Broonzy - "Key To The Highway" [audio:/mp3/Big-Bill-Broonzy_Key-To-The-Highway.mp3|titles=Big Bill Broonzy - How Can Cupid Be So Stupid] Big Bill Broonzy - "John Henry" [audio:/mp3/Big-Bill-Broonzy_John-Henry.mp3|titles=Big Bill Broonzy - Jazz Battle]

In honour of the Year of the Water Snake and the festival's ninth year running, Symbiosis Gathering 2013 took us to the stunning isolation of Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, CA to lose ourselves in an unbeatable line-up, and to then find ourselves in poetry, trees, healing domes, sacred fires and endless dives into the lake (for which we are all grateful). With an emphasis on the magic of transformation, Symbiosis provided an enchanted space of bio-psycho-spiritual healing, environmental and sociocultural conscious learning, and a unique source of musical inspiration. Among the many loved and soon-to-be loved artists was the powerful voice of Lynx, the free-flowing explorations of Mount Kimbie, and the ever-passionate words of The Coup.
Photography by Setareh Vatan

Lynx

Out of the untamed medley of transcendental ritual and primal movement that coloured the ether emerged, like a wild cat to the stage, Lynx: a woman whose roar resonated with deep earthy sounds that, like any shamanic heartbeat, carried the audience into a trance. Lynx's style marries folk, electronica, and traces of indie pop with her own beat-boxing, into a highly satisfying cross-genre hybrid, arousing overwhelming appreciation from a crowd immersed in continuous proclamations of love. With her first album, October 2010's On The Horizon, this Bay Area-brewed artist has been charming the world with her strong vocals for some time, and yet my first taste of her at Symbiosis was certainly a highlight of the festival for me, as it no doubt was for many others. Lynx creates a raw, sensual atmosphere throughout songs that swing from downtempo to upbeat rhythms. Her lyrics evoke archetypal imagery of a profound feminine power. On The Horizon presents a magical copulation of the inner unconscious in a poetic dance with a surreal surface world, as Lynx sings of existential ruminations amid romantic sentiments in a lyrical journey that hints at a negotiation of the self. At a festival focused on the partnership between two states of being, Lynx reaches symbiotic perfection through both technical eclectic success and a smooth voice that seduces the audience into watery world balanced between the emotive and the physical, leaving the crowd soaked in enjoyment and hungry for more. Luckily for all of Lynx's pre-existing fans and the new ones she created at Symbiosis (such as myself), her new album, Light Up Your Lantern, will be released on October 22nd.

When I was younger, I used to think that I'd live to like in another era, preferably one where the music was more akin to my own tastes. When I really think about it, however, a collector like me can only thrive in the digital era. Rarities are too hard to find otherwise; if there's only a bare handful of copies of a record in existence, the odds of finding it are much smaller. The internet is the great equalizer if you're looking for something obscure, as it's brought together the collectors into one community. Here's a few of my suggestions for getting your musical fix: Linda Perhacs, Charlie Christian, Earl Hines, Tampa Red, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.
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Linda Perhacs

Linda PerhacsMost of my music falls on the older side, but I think that I have fairly broad tastes in music nonetheless. Psychedelia is an area of interest for me because I like the idea of widening one's perception of reality, and I like the sense of something that's otherworldly – especially when it's not too electronic and is more on the acoustic side. This is what drew me to Linda Perhacs. Finding information on her can be difficult because she spent a great deal of time in obscurity. She became known for a single album in 1970, Parallelograms. The album sold poorly and the record label, Kapp, didn't want to promote it, so she returned to work as a dental technician for three decades while her record became a hot collectible item, completely unbeknownst to her. She was recently rediscovered and has two additional albums waiting to be released.
Every article I can find on her compares her to Joni Mitchell, which is beyond the scope of this article. Her style isn't simple so much as stripped down to its most essential pieces. The melodies can be atonal at times, preventing the music from being too atonal, but it's never so out there that it becomes off-putting. "Dolphin," "Parallelogram" and "Moons and Cattails" are my favorite songs of hers. Linda Perhacs - "Dolphin" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Dolphin.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Dolphin] Linda Perhacs - "Moon and Cattails" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Moon-And-Cattails.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Moon and Cattails] Linda Perhacs - "Parallelograms" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Parallelograms.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms]  

Charlie Christian (1916 – 1942)

Charlie ChristianCharlie Christian is one of the greatest guitar players jazz has produced, and to say that he is forgotten is in error. He's well-known among jazz aficionados for having played with some of the greatest musicians of his time -- but he's still relatively unknown among the public at large. He died young, from tuberculosis at the age of 25, and he never fronted a large orchestra or well-known group. However, he played a critical role in the development of bebop. Christian grew up in Oklahoma City and made a name for himself as a local talent. He was mentioned to John Hammond, Benny Goodman's record producer and a keen talent scout, who then introduced him to Goodman. Goodman didn't care for Christian at first and tried to throw him off during their first live performance by playing a song, "Rose Room", that he thought Christian wouldn't know. Christian ended up leading the group on a forty minute rendition of the song, earning him a spot in Goodman's orchestra. While in Goodman's group, Christian often led late-night jam sessions at New York clubs. These musicians were interested in expanding jazz's musical boundaries and included Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Don Byas and others. He died in 1942 but left behind some live recordings that show where he was headed musically. "Rose Room," the song that earned Christian a spot in Goodman's group, is a good song to get an idea of Christian's technique. His stated goal was to play like a tenor saxophonist, and he often played in a style similar to Lester Young. "Flying Home" is another classic of the Goodman sextet and features some of Christian's best work. Finally, if you want to hear what Christian was doing to help develop bebop, listen to "Swing to Bop", where he solos for the first two minutes in a jam session at Minton's in New York. Charlie Christian - "Flying Home" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Flying-Home.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Flying Home] Charlie Christian - "Swing To Bop" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Swing-To-Bop.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Swing To Bop]

Dawn of Midi Dysnomia Thirsty Ear Recordings (2013) When the American trio Dawn of Midi released their accomplished 2010 debut album, First, the world had gained another practitioner of minimalist free jazz. Two years in the making, and at a reported cost of thirty thousand dollars, Dysnomia is the follow-up to that promising debut, and builds masterfully on First, delivering an exciting blend of acute syncopation and imaginative instrumental counterpoint.
The first track, "Io", opens with resonating bass which is joined by a building rhythm produced by what might be a piano. Muted and muffled, this part works simultaneously with and against the initial deep bass, which is then underscored by the stabbing rhythm of a rich bass drum. From then on this track and those that follow build into a sparse though satisfyingly complex interaction of the three elements that comprise the classic jazz trio. The interplay of drums, bass and piano that make up Dawn of Midi is clever throughout, but in a way that never allows clarity to be lost. Hypnotic, rotating and tightly controlled, a subtle evolution of sound is the watermark that runs through this album. "Io", "Sinope", "Atlas", "Nix", "Moon", "Ymir", "Ijiraq", "Algol", "Dysnomia": each track merges with the next to make an album that is one complete piece of music.

A review of the Pickathon Music Festival, located on Pendarvis Farm just a short bike ride away from Portland, Oregon, is a tough thing to approach. An honest review will be one of the most favorable things you will read, because Pickathon is one of the most well-put together, intentional, everything-that-is-right-with-America musical festivals there is. It is a bit difficult to be objective and maintain credibility while oozing and gushing over every aspect of the three-day indie roots festival as though it's a schoolyard crush... but let's give it the ol' college try anyway!
"Since day one, the idea behind Pickathon has always been pretty simple: what does it take to be the best weekend festival of the year for music lovers? This question has driven us to highly refine an experience that is truly unique. Innovation has always been at the center of this process and through the years many important elements have come together; collaborating widely on yearly diverse lineups that are built on the idea of great music being the sole criteria; refining six unique performance venues designed to create juxtaposing alternate realities; trusting important decisions can be discussed and made with our online community such as maintaining a low crowd density; becoming the only large music festival to eliminate plastic and minimize single use items; recruiting the finest food and drink purveyors in the land; focusing constantly on eliminating "normal" festival hassles; enabling families to thrive; working with the Pendarvis Family to create a highly designed paradise of a festival grounds, and the list goes on." - Pickathon Festival

 

I must confess, with some embarrassment, that this year was the first time attending the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, and this has been much to my regret. The festival is held in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland underneath the St. Johns Bridge and is the longest-running free jazz festival on the West Coast. "Free" is a bit of a pun here; the festival is both free to attend and also because it highlights the work of free jazz musicians. At the risk of painting with broad strokes, free jazz can best be defined as jazz in which "the rules" have been eliminated: set chord changes and a fixed rhythm are gone. It's a sub-genre that has inspired a lot of controversy among jazz fans, but is also deeply loved by many. Cathedral Park Jazz Festival Photography by James Moulton I go on a Sunday evening, which is the last day of the festival. The atmosphere is, appropriately enough, like a festival, and there are concessions booths, signups for a jazz camp and informative areas around the park. What immediately jumps out at me is the number of families at this event; free jazz isn't necessarily thought of as accessible music, let alone kid-friendly, yet there seem to be a lot of younger kids hanging around. This is why jazz festivals are so relevant, especially when they're organized in a specific neighborhood: they sustain popular interest in an art form that risks becoming a museum piece otherwise, and that interest comes from people who might not be interested in jazz.
July 21st, 2013 - Cathedral Park Jazz Festival at St. Johns Cathedral Park - Portland, OR  

Gunnelpumpers Montana Fix Spiritflake Music, 2013On their fourth LP, free-improvisers Gunnelpumpers conjure the wide open skies and primordial landscapes of the Big Sky State. The incantatory nature of improvised music will not appeal to everybody. It's for a specialized sect, those that like to be surprised. It's the spirit of adventure that sends you off on random and unknown holidays, waiting to see what lies beyond the next corner. Like any other unplanned holiday, Montana Fix has its share of tedium and embarrassing memories. But what's good is golden, and the Chicago five piece transform your home into a sweat lodge with a mixture of Middle Eastern percussion, double bass drones, flutes, shakers and guitar. A free improvisation CD can be a hard sell these days. Only the most hardcore mental voyagers can invest an hour to listen to an album largely devoid of hooks, choruses, lyrics, or any discernible genre. In the liner notes for Montana Fix, Gunnelpumpers cite prog rock, krautrock, world music, jazz, experimental music, as well as traditional and modern classical, as influences. Believing in everything can be the same as standing for nothing, and Gunnelpumpers run the risk of entering bloated pretentious FUSION country. In addition, considering the infrared bison that graces the album cover, the jaded listener may hastily judge this as a post-modern New Age Putumayo reject. Judge this record by its cover, and you will be deprived of its epiphanies.