by Dan Grunebaum
True People's Celebration
Martin & Wood
Building on the success of its Organic Groove parties, jam
band party promoter Phatleaf is hosting a two-day improvisational
music festival that it says will consider the question: "What's
The diverse lineup cuts a broad swath across nationalities
and genres, with the only common denominator being the improvisational
expertise of the various acts.
Topping the bill are Medeski, Martin & Wood, the New York-based
trio whose alchemical electro-jazz explorations have provided
the highlights of previous Organic Groove parties. While lumped
into the jam band movement for their association with scene-leaders
Phish, MMW's signing with the storied Blue Note label
provides a better indication of their jazz leanings.
In addition to such familiar acts, the festival also marks
the return to Japan of one of jazz's most unusual characters
after a 23-year absence. Emerging from the Brazilian countryside,
self-taught musician Hermeto Pascoal first began his musical
experiments in his grandfather's blacksmith shop, where
he used to create music by hitting pieces of iron.
He later went on to conduct performances and recordings with
anything from pigs to kettles, recording with a range of Brazil's
leading musicians in the 1960s before catching the attention
of trumpet legend Miles Davis. Davis brought Pascoal on-board
for his landmark improvisational electric fusion album, Live
Evil, in 1970.
In recent years, the Brazilian's contributions to jazz
have been recognized with a string of awards. A year 2000
tour of the US was described as follows by the Boston Globe:
"With equal parts virtuosity and eccentricity, Pascoal's
sextet gave the rare example of a band that actually earned
its standing ovation."
Of equal stature for its improvisational work, cosmic musical
philosophy and outlandish costumes is the Sun Ra Arkestra,
founded by the late, great, jazz keyboardist and conductor
Sun Ra. Sun Ra's outlandish costumes and avant-garde,
big band experiments were revolutionary in the 1960s, and
since his death in 1993 his "arkestra" has continued
to carry on his vision.
While impossible to describe in these confines, the other
artists on the bill are worthy in and of themselves. Two outfits
from the East and West Coasts, for example, are both at the
forefront of the new movement in improvisational music. From
Boston, The Slip should provide a dependable performance,
while Seattle-based free jazz unit Black Frames, a.k.a. Critters
Buggin' (see CD review), have been acquiring considerable
notice among the post-rock and jam band communities.
Japan is also well represented by noise experimentalists the
Boredoms in their latest "V¥redoms" incarnation,
nu soul diva UA, future jazz keyboardist Rei Harakami, and
Kodama from Dub Station.
True People's Celebration
takes place at Yomiuri Land Open Theater East on September
7-8. See listings for details.