2018 Part 2

Progress continues in several creative areas:

The Arabic orchestra MESTO makes its first LA appearance in two years at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall March 17. Tickets are expensive, but there is a strong lineup of star singers and soloists and the band is stocked with hot LA folk, classical, studio, and experimental musicians (and also me).

I will be on the remaining concerts of the Santa Monica and Palisades Symphonies’ seasons. These are all free admission, so if you go to a couple of these and the MESTO show, you can lower your average ticket price.

I have a cluster of chamber music-style free improvisation gigs coming up:

I feel much more connected to the instrument when I can play without an amp, but I also want to work on using amplification to make small sounds more useful, as well as to be able to play in loud bands, of course. Here’s some video from a fun and funky recent gig where I was not quite loud enough:

And speaking of loud music, I’m organizing a recording session for three guitar-bass-drums improvising trios: Disclaimer (with Kristian Aspelin, Paul Pellegrin, and myself), Moonville (Haskel Joseph, Darryl Tewes, and Breeze Smith), and the Scott Heustis Trio (Scott, Breeze, and Tony Green). The plan is for each trio to record a long track and for each musician to pick a mix & match group for a short piece, sort-of Company style. This might be a CD or a Bandcamp-only release, we’ll see.

Also, there’s plenty of good stuff coming up on my Soundwaves concert series. Don’t sleep on it if you’re in LA, and if you aren’t in LA, a lot of videos of past shows are on the site.

Finally, the publication date for my book seems to be set: May 25!



2018 Part 1

So far 2018 has brought me a bunch of symphony and chamber music gigs:

followed by some non-classical action:

  • Feb. 12 the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble plays a new live score to a silent movie TBD at the Art Theatre in Long Beach.
  • Feb. 17 Jonathon Grasse’s Native Plant Society (with Dave Williams and Tom Steck) plays structured improvisation at the Wine Bar in Long Beach on a bill with Dave’s NotQuiteFree and Threadbare Aristocrats (Dan Clucas/Darryl Tewes/Jonathan Saxon). 8pm. Free, but buy drinks and fill the tip jar…
  • and March 17 is the return of MESTO to UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. This is a really special large ensemble of LA artists performing Arabic music, led by Palestinian-American conductor/composer/scholar Nabil Azzam. We’ve performed in Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Abu Dhabi, and Detroit. LA shows only happen every few years. This one features music from the Arabic-Latino North African connection and includes several amazing guest vocalists and soloists. That said, it’s gonna cost you $60 plus fees and parking. 7pm.

The Soundwaves concert series I run is moving ahead, with some great stuff coming up, and my book Free Jazz: A Research and Information Guide is on track for publication in May from Routledge’s Music Bibliographies series. The 4th edition of A Basic Music Library is also available now, after years in limbo. I contributed listings for the Himalayas and parts of India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. These are not books which any person should buy, but I hope they will be valuable tools for research libraries.

Happy New Year! Stay strong and fight back!


Soundwaves – First Quarter 2018

Soundwaves, the concert series I run at the Santa Monica Public Library, ends its second year Dec. 20 with a program of graphic scores. About 2/3 of the show will be played by an open participation workshop ensemble – arrive by 6pm to rehearse Ellen Burr‘s “Ink Bops” with the composer and a couple other things with me. The remainder will feature Scott Worthington playing James Tenney’s “Beast” and the Cal State Fullerton New Music Ensemble, led by Charles Sharp, playing Christian Wolff’s “For 1, 2, or 3 People.”

2018 launches Soundwaves’ partnership with PianoSpheres. They’ll be previewing their Zipper Hall events at the Library, with free one hour versions of the full evening concerts, in addition to the regular monthly Soundwaves presentations.

The first quarter looks like this. All shows are at 7:30pm, one set, free admission:

April, May, and June are also going to be great, but aren’t 100% confirmed.

Also at the Library, on Jan. 3, at 7pm, I am hosting a presentation by VP Artist Consulting called “Music Business 101” so, if you are in the music business, come on by!


More Late 2017

The next couple of weeks present a preposterous plethora of performances:

Hope to see you there!

Also, I turned in my manuscript, so this will actually be a thing around next May.

The Remainder of 2017

Summer is over and my book is approaching completion (?!?), so the performance schedule is going to fill up again.

For classical music I’ll be with the Palisades Symphony and Vicente Chamber Orchestra this fall. Palisades is playing Dvorak 9 and the Tchaikovsky violin concerto Oct. 22 at Pali High and the Bach Christmas Oratorio Dec. 3 at the Palisades Methodist Church, while Vicente have an all Mozart show Oct. 28 and Beethoven 7 and the Schumann piano concerto op. 54 Nov. 18, both at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica. No Santa Monica Symphony for me until further notice.

For the avant stuff I’m playing with Cello Pudding and the West Coast Chamber Jazz Trio (with Ellen Burr & Andrea Centazzo) at Cafe NELA Sept. 24, then heading to Woodstock to work with Karl Berger, Mary Halvorson, Ken Filiano, Billy Martin, and many other great artists at the Creative Music Studio the first week of October. At the end of the month I’ll be playing  a structured improvisation with Jonathon Grasse’s Native Plant Society at Cal State Dominguez Hills on the 24th and a live score to The Phantom Carriage at the Santa Monica Public Library with the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble on the 26th, then a set with Klang Association (Anna Homler, Jorge Martin, Carole Kim, and myself) at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts Nov. 5, opening for the Vicki Ray/Scot Ray duo.

Last but not least, the Soundwaves concert series I run at the library continues, with Jacqueline Suzuki, Susan Svrcek, James Sullivan, and Lynn Angebranndt playing Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” Sept. 20, Tone Drift (GE Stinson, Kris Tiner, and Steuart Liebig) Oct. 18, and Eric Barber‘s Quintet Nov. 15. On Dec. 20, I’ll lead a workshop on graphic scores. Anyone who wants to play, show up by 6PM with your axe. We’ll rehearse for an hour, then showtime at 7:30. I’m giving a paper on the concert series at the California Library Association conference in Riverside Nov. 3. There’s going to be a lot more cool stuff happening with the series in 2018. Stay tuned…

Hope to see you at some of these gigs!

Pudding Time

In Dec. 2015 I saw Dave Travis sitting-in with one of Dave Williams‘ groups at Cafe NELA and realized that I knew three unconventional cello improvisers. I invited them to form a group, Dave Travis named us Cello Pudding, we played several shows at NELA, and spent a day in the studio. The album is now ready and we will be making our first appearance before an audience who have not come to drink beer and listen to punk rock.

Here are the details: Cello Pudding CD cover
recorded at Catasonic Studios by Mark Wheaton.
Cover by Dean Westerfield.
Vetza (LAFMS): cello & voice
Dave Travis (Carnage Asada): cello
Michael Intriere (Fat & F*&^ed Up, Anna Homler): cello
me: bass

Coming soon to Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, etc.

CD release show Aug. 6 7PM at the Open Gate series at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock. Admission $10 ($5 for series performers).

We’re opening for the Michael Vlatkovich/Steuart Liebig/Garth Powell triumvirate.

I’m pretty stoked about bringing together these folks and about playing free improvised music that’s based on the four of us making sounds together with no preconceptions.

The Santa Monica Symphony

You probably already know that I play in the Santa Monica Symphony and that there is some weird bad stuff happening there, with right-wing radio host Dennis Prager invited to guest-conduct half of a fundraising concert.

I signed this open letter, and then was contacted by the Santa Monica Daily Press. I don’t know what they’re going to publish or when, but here are their questions and my answers:

Q: whether you’re playing

A:  I am not playing. I did not know who Prager was before Guido [Lamell, our conductor] announced he would be our guest. When I Googled him, the first thing that came up was his Twitter, and his post at that moment was in favor of eliminating the NEA. The Santa Monica Symphony has gotten NEA grants, as has the LA Philharmonic and just about every local cultural institution you can name, from Beyond Baroque to Self-Help Graphics. Why would we fundraise with someone who wants to destroy one of our sources of funds? Beyond this, of course, Prager insists that many members of the orchestra and community are abnormal, un-American, or subhuman: LGBT people, Muslims, atheists, etc. I do not think an event with him can be apolitical. Prager is not an artist who also just happens to believe or do terrible things (like Richard Wagner or Bill Cosby); promoting these ideas is his life’s work. It is an insult to the orchestra and audience to lend him our stage. I am heartbroken that Guido would do this.
Q: how many other SMSO musicians you think are concerned.
A: I don’t know. We haven’t met since the May 28 concert, and there wasn’t much discussion before then.
Q: Is it just a small minority?
A:  My impression, from a few brief conversations and some gossip, is that many people are concerned and that the orchestra’s board was quite divided. While musicians may wish Prager wasn’t involved, quite a few want to support the orchestra no matter what. Many are also excited about the opportunity to play Disney Hall. I also want the orchestra to thrive and think that associating ourselves with a hatemonger will alienate many of our fans and supporters.
Q: Are they active in trying to persuade others not to play or buy tickets?
A: Some are, as you can see from the open letter. I respect the other members’ choices to play or not. I understand that there are a lot of factors. For example, for those whose careers depend on freelance playing, maintaining connections and a reputation as easy to work with are very important.
Q: Have you heard from audience members about the decision to feature Prager?
A: Yes. Several friends, family members, co-workers, and musicians in other groups have asked me WTF is going on. It is sad. I joined after the 2013 organizational crisis, when Guido saved the orchestra from folding, and it has been a tremendous experience playing to consistently sold-out halls with some of LA and the world’s top musicians. Guido is not only a superb conductor, but he is so generous with his knowledge that I would often leave a rehearsal feeling like I had been to a strings master class. The Santa Monica Symphony has been an excellent orchestra, respected by musicians and loved by the community. Inviting Prager may have ruined this experience for a lot of people in and out of the band. I recommend that anyone concerned contact the symphony via info@smsymphony.org

I hope you can tell from this that my main emotions are disappointment and grief. Because of Proposition 13, there was no orchestra at my junior high or high school. I was a self-taught jazz and rock bassist, then eventually started getting offered gigs where I had to play as part of a string section rather than a rhythm section and my intonation and bowing had to suck less. So, I started taking lessons, and I quickly discovered that classical players know some stuff about the instrument the rest of us don’t. Imagine playing jazz with Renaud Garcia-Fons’ technique! (BTW, who’s got the Francois Rabbath/Ornette Coleman tape?) That was never going to be me, but anyway, I worked hard, felt real accomplishment that I’d made it into this band (and that I had a regular gig playing music everyone understood and respected, for a change), and now what? I’m not fired, as far as I know, but can I really go back in the fall like everything’s cool?