billycobham-georgeduke

It’s 1976. Beer comes in pull-tab cans and Miles Davis has taken a leave of absence. People don’t really know it, but jazz fusion is nearing the end of it’s creative streak: Mahavishnu Orchestra has burned through two lineups and Weather Report has just enlisted Jaco Pastorius, who’ll help propel the band into the stratosphere and towards glossy, slick jazz-pop.

For most of this year, Billy Cobham, George Duke and Alfonso Johnson toured together. They had impressive resumes: Cobham played with Davis and Mahavishnu, creating a reputation as a furious yet accurate drummer, while Johnson’s funky electric bass helped move Weather Report from the spacey, ambient grooves of their first few records towards the driving, funky fusion of Mysterious Traveler. Meanwhile, Duke had worked with Cannonball Adderley, but came into his own with Frank Zappa’s mid-70s Mothers of Invention, where he expanded into synthesizers and vocal duties, and left a unique mark on Zappa’s music. Rounding out the quartet was John Scofield, their the wild card: young, with a short resume and killer guitar chops.

As they toured, the Cobham and Duke band could’ve taken their lead from any of their members past: comedy rock, hard-driving funk or rhythmically complex jazz-fusion. Instead, they drew on all of these to become something else: a band who could be funky and pulsating with energy at one moment and only go off into a spoken interlude or weird spacey improvisations. At their best, they jammed hard and fast; at their worst, their antics were probably fun in person, but don’t translate to records.

Which, unfortunately, was how the only official document of this band shows them. “Live” on Tour in Europe is a mixed bag, an out-of-focus snapshot of a band dwelling on what doesn’t work and offering only glimpses of the band in full flight. “Space Lady” is a Zappa-esque monologue by Duke about an alien; “Frankenstein at the Disco” is a extended drum solo which overstays it’s welcome.

Fortunately, there are bootlegs of this tour, in, particularly a very good one from Hempstead on March 19, 1976. Let’s dive in.

Things in Hempstead start in full swing with a version of Cobham’s “Panhandler,” where Scofield unleashes on an extended solo, and the band deftly segues into an energetic “Floop De Loop,” and the slow groove of “East Bay,” each song giving them ample room to solo and jam; after nearly half an hour, they finally take a breather and Cobham introduces the band.

Billy Cobham & George Duke Band :: Panhandler

“This ain’t no Frank Zappa concert,” says a laughing Cobham. It’s not: it’s driving, it’s funky and it’s a full of tight musicianship: Scofield’s sizzling guitar, Johnson’s electric bass and Cobham’s propulsive drumming. There aren’t any cheesy jokes, any ironic covers or 10-minute guitar solos. At the same time, the influence of Zappa on Duke’s stage presence is undeniable: the silly monologues and spacey keyboard improvisations are all holdovers from Duke’s time as a Mother. Later, they’ll even cover two Zappa songs: “Echidna’s Arf,” blasting through its tricky passages with élan, and the slow groove of “Uncle Remus” (both also appeared on a then-recent Duke record). The evening closes with a slow, extended version of Johnson’s “Involuntary Bliss,” where the band stretches out and Scofield’s guitar sizzles against Duke’s keyboards.

The band plays well throughout, but Cobham’s drumming is especially on point: he’s all over the place, drumming fast and hard, but never overwhelms the rest of the band. Things really come together on “Earthlings,” where his drumming pushes the band forward and raises the tension. Before long, he’s going so hard and fast you’d swear there was a second kit. This was an interesting tour for Cobham; in an interview with Down Beat, he claimed he’d get so deep into a groove he’d have astral projections and watch himself drumming from up above the stage.

Billy Cobham & George Duke Band :: Earthlings

After this show in Hempstead, the band continued playing: there was a string of dates in Europe, including a nice set at the Montreux Jazz Festival and finally some more shows in the US that fall. But after about a year, everyone went their own ways; “Live” On Tour In Europe would be the Billy Cobham-George Duke Band’s only official release.

With Cobham’s solo records getting the reissue treatment – Rhino/Atlantic released a box of his early 70s records last year – maybe there’s some more of this band still in the vaults. And given the popularity of Weather Report’s recent live box set, there’s a market, too. But until then, this set’ll do nicely. words / m milner

Willie_tyler

Nashville guitar journeyman William Tyler is set to release Modern Country June 3rd via Merge Records. His fourth full-length, the record is self-described as “a love letter to what we’re losing in America, to what we’ve already lost.” Tyler guests on my SIRIUS show this Friday, his set presented here as Sebastian Speaks – A Mixtape. The artists, in his own words, below . . .

I woke up this morning from a dream about the end of the world. It started in a coffee shop in Nashville, there’s a long line out the door and the credit card machine won’t work. There’s a big boom and all the electricity goes off. I run out of the coffee shop, get to my car, and start driving out of the city as quickly as I can. Only one radio station comes through and I can deduce there has been a catastrophic series of earthquakes, knocking out most of the nation’s big cities and power grids. As my car eases into the Tennessee countryside the radio station disappears into a melodic hum of static and I chase the sunrise. As I write this I am at my friend Michael Slaboch’s house in Berrien County, Michigan. We’re only an hour from Chicago, I can hear the morning traffic report on my radio, but in the measured calm of the countryside it feels a universe and a century away. I spend a lot of time driving through the front roads and back roads of the country and like most  people harnessed to cars, I gauge music by how good it is for driving. This mix is meant to mirror a back roads drive, catching an oldies station or a sermon or a baseball game on some unknown AM frequency. Hope for spring time and yearning for the stillness of the rural contrast to the anxiety of the city. – William Tyler, April 2016

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Sebastian Speaks – A Mixtape

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre may have just celebrated a 25th anniversary, but it’s little surprise that there wasn’t a big to-do, as Anton Newcombe has always believed in pushing forward and not looking back. We caught up with Newcombe via Skype last week, from his home in Berlin, to discuss (among other things) his thought on recording, the music industry and…war.

Aquarium Drunkard: So, you’re in the middle of recording a new record…

Anton Newcombe: Well, several of them, yeah.

AD: And the Jonestown one, since you’ve been posting a lot of the previews online via twitter and such, it looks like it’s the first time that the touring members of the BJM have been in the studio with you in a while. And you’ve got Tess Parks.

Anton Newcombe: Well, all kinds of things are happening. I just write. The band happened to be here to track after we played Manchester, so they did some stuff. Now Tess is here doing some stuff helping me out.

AD: Just this morning you shared “Fingertips” with Tess on vocals and it sounds great. You brought out a side of her voice that I’d never heard before — she’s singing in a higher register, which made me think about how you’ve worked with so many different people on various projects and how you bring out unique things in them. How do you feel about that?

Anton Newcombe: Well, I don’t know. You know that’s up to the song inspiring. She felt the same thing. I mean, we were just talking a minute ago and she said, ‘Oh, I can hit those high notes, I just don’t.’ (laughs)

IMGP4632Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 430: Jean-Michel Bernard – Générique Stéphane ++ The Cleaners From Venus – Clara Bow (Back Wages version) ++  Felt – Something Sends Me To Sleep ++ Parquet Courts – Paraphrased ++ Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre – Awa Odori ++ Faust – It’s A Bit of A Pain ++ Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind – Rian Race ++ Guided By Voices – #2 In The Model Home Series ++Cass McCombs – Big Wheel ++ John Cale – Barracuda ++ Les Rallizes Denudés – Night Of The Assassins (AD edit) ++ The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray (AD edit) ++ Jimi Hendrix – Happy Birthday ++ Can – Mother Sky ++ The Fall – Totally Wired ++ A Certain Ratio – Shack Up ++ The Chills – Pink Frost ++ Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You ++ The Only Ones – The Whole of Law ++ Ultimate Painting – Kodiak ++  Wire – Pink Flag ++ The Fall – What You Need ++ Wire – Outdoor Miner ++ Les Olivensteins – Fier De Ne Rien Faire (démo) ++ Ty Segall – Cat Black ++ The Vaselines – Slushy ++ Omni – Wire ++ Ty Segall – Diversion ++ White Fence – Swagger Vets & Double Moon ++ Destroyer – Times Square ++ Billy Changer – Chiller ++ ゆらゆら帝国 – おはようまだやろう ++ Serge Gainsbourg – Melody

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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41ikUV7vqmL._SS280The New York City-based Texans of Parquet Courts have been responsible for some of the best post-punk rock & roll of the last half-decade. Coupling Wire and Silver Jews-style riffs with Reed and Richman cadences, songwriters Andrew Savage and Austin Brown are among the wittiest observationalists working in the indie rock landscape.

They’ve also proved themselves an ambitious bunch. Starting with their excellent debut, Light Up Goldthe band’s stayed on an artistically restless tear: Sunbathing Animal found ways to sweat more soul out of their taut framework; Content Nausea found Brown and Savage getting loose; Monastic Living was wild and improvisational.

The band’s latest, Human Performance, is their boldest, most confident record yet. It’s a big record, tackling big themes and employing big sounds, but specific too. Forgive the hyperbole, but it’s like the band’s London Calling or Green or Double Nickels on the Dime, the sound of a young band challenging itself, opening up, and creating the most personal record it could, cracking the format open and solidifying what makes the band tick.

Recorded over multiple sessions, at Sonelab in Western Massachusetts, at the Wilco Loft in Chicago, and at the Dreamland Studios in upstate New York, a former Pentecostal church which doubled as the band’s lodging while recording, Human Performance is the result of more time, editing, and creative pushing than anything the band has ever put to tape.

“This was a different process by design,” Brown says over the phone from Marfa, Texas, where the band played the Marfa Myths festival alongside experimental composer William Basinski, Fred and Toody of Dead Moon, Heron Oblivion, and other heady peers. “We wanted to get different results. Just all around, we wanted to make it as different as we could.”

The band succeeded. “Berlin Got Blurry” incorporates a newfound cowpunk twang, “I Was Just Here” lurches with punk funk swagger, and the title track is the most affecting thing the group’s ever released. But the song most out of left field is “Captive of the Sun,” incorporating hip-hop influences and dense, layered production.

For Brown, the song represented something crucial. Though he wrote it as a “typical” Parquet Courts song, a “fast, screaming” punk rock thing, he wasn’t satisfied by it. In fact, the song upset him. He kept thinking, “I don’t hear any of myself in this song.” The thought persisted: “I’m not getting anything out of this.”

woods

Pinning down Woods has proved increasingly elusive over their ten year run. While encapsulating and predicating the twisting currents of folk and rock, they’ve morphed calmly yet sharply from lo-fi to hi-fi. Their newest release, Sun City Sun Eater in the River of Light, represents both a step forward and yet another step to the side. Driven by their own ambition and a healthy, constantly evolving working relationship, the record finds Woods exploring a refined and expansive sound, ambitiously tackling uncharted areas of their nine LP discography.

We recently caught up with Woods’ two founding members, Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere, who spoke with us from each of their homes in New York state.

Aquarium Drunkard: How has the band solidified over the years? The constant has been the two of you, but does this record feel like a continuation, or a new chapter?

Jeremy Earl: The core of it is always going to be me and Jarvis, that’s sort of the constant throughout. This lineup is the phase-three version of Woods, with pretty much the same players as the last record, the same band we’ve been touring with for the last two years, off of that record. It’s just nice that this is the band, and it’s been nice to do a couple of records, and a lot of touring, with everybody.

Jarvis Taveniere: It feels like a new chapter for this band. I don’t think we meant for it to be. We don’t really plan it in advance, record to record. Sometimes the idea is such a relatively drastic shift, where it seems to us like a new phase. Especially once we got Aaron [Neveau, the groups drummer] in the band and became more of a touring band, it became this whole other thing. I don’t really know what phase I think we’re in now but after playing with Aaron for so long, and making the last record as an actual band in a studio, and then touring so much – we’re still anxious people, anxiety riddled in some ways, but the music part just kind of came out. Whereas the last one, With Love and with Light, we rehearsed it, we worked on the song structures, “should we put strings on this part?” – normal band things. This time we maybe wanted to go back to the casualness of the earlier records – while applying all this new shit to it. We’re finally comfortable in a studio – where we can just go, operate it, get the sounds we want, but also just kind of be the three of us just hanging out in a room.

AD: I’m interested in how, over these ten years, there are people who have come in and out of the band and the Woods universe – but the two of you have remained at its core. Do you think there’s something that previous members sought outside the group that you still find satisfaction in within the band?

 Jeremy Earl: We gravitate toward and bond with likeminded musicians. It’s a good thing, but it’s also a bad thing. Like with Kevin [Morby, who played bass in Woods for several years], it was clear that this guy wasn’t going to be playing in the band for much longer, that he had his own vision to write his own songs. I love it when that happens. We met Kevin when he was 19, we toured the world with him and watched him sort of grow up and become this incredible songwriter and do his own thing. That to me is all part of the Woods story and the way things work – I feel that sort of thing may always happen to Woods, whereas me and Jarvis will always stay the same and be what Woods is about.

mats

The introduction to Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements is set in a funeral parlor in Minneapolis in February of 1995. As readers, we don’t get back to the events surrounding this for another 400 pages, but the eventual demise of guitarist Bob Stinson hangs over much of the book like the Ghost of Christmas Future. But so does the eventual burnout of the band itself – one many considered the best American rock and roll band of the past 35-plus years. However, the flames burn bright in the meantime.

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Enter Stomu Yamash’ta and Osamu Kitajima via Ongaku 70 an indispensable compilation of Japanese psych/prog I was hipped to years back via Ghost Capital. At thirteen tracks, spanning 1969-1978, the collection also features Akiko Yano, Sadistic Mika Band, Harry Hosono & The Yellow Magic Band, Khyal, Kuni Kawachi & His Group, Toshiaki Tsushima, J.A. Caesar & Shirubu, Maki Asakawa and Les Rallizes Denudes among others.

Below, whet your palate with “Awa Odori” — then be sure to stick around for the ride that is “Tengu”.

Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre :: Awa Odori
Osamu Kitajima :: Tengu

Related: Les Rallizes Dénudés :: Night Of The Assassins

Terry-Allen-piano-Gary-Krueger-web

An outlaw of his own accord, Terry Allen’s output across a drove of mediums has remained open and engaging for over four decades. The Lubbock, TX native is a stalwart storyteller, oftentimes softening the lines of genre in both music and visual art. At age 72, Allen maintains a rigid work ethic, carrying with him the rich history from which he came.

Seminal 70s recordings Juarez and Lubbock (On Everything) are resolute, meant to be absorbed in their entirety. With humor and a gift for songwriting, each finds Allen subtly giving the middle finger to any and all expectations of what Country is or should be. Ahead of their reissue for Paradise of Bachelors, we spoke with Terry at home in Sante Fe, NM.

Aquarium Drunkard: What are you working on currently?

Terry Allen: I just put up a new piece I’m calling Memwars. It’s a sequence of about nine stories. Each of them kind of lead to the making of a song. How songs come about, stories of people I knew from childhood, relatives, incidents. Things that somehow ended up being a song and stories that talk about the idea that some songs don’t become what they really are until something happens after the song is written. Takes them a while to become what they are.

AD: You’ve worked across so many mediums over the years. When do you know a song should be a painting/drawing or vice versa?

Terry Allen: I don’t think in that way in terms of division. I figure there is an unlimited availability to just about anything you do. It kind of depends on what the idea is. What the circumstances are. I don’t think ‘oh well, I’m going to use this or that”, it just comes out of whatever the thinking concerning the work is. Like this piece is entirely a video installation (Memwars). There are three videos. Two of them are moving across a wall from one another. Constantly moving…the story videos. Just basically talking heads. My head and my wife, Jo Harvey, who I use a lot when there is acting involved. We’re just telling the stories. When they stop, it goes to a stationary wall. A song wall where the song is played. It’s just me playing a piano in front of a green screen with images that relate to the stories.

AD: You’re living in Santa Fe now. What drew you there?

Terry Allen: We lived in California for years. Lived in LA for all the 60s. Bay Area most of the 70s and then in the Central Valley. I taught at Fresno State for seven years and then quit, but we stayed on there and our kids grew up there. When they got out of high school and were ready to leave, we were ready to leave too. Deciding whether to come back to Texas or somewhere back in this part of the world. I booked a bunch of gigs in Texas. All over. We stopped in Santa Fe cause we had always traveled through here and really liked it and found a house just on a fluke that we really liked.

We changed our whole life overnight. Buying this house and selling the one in California. That’s how we got here. We lay pretty low when we are here. Low as snakes basically. We both travel a lot so when we are here we are in our studios. My mother did play her last professional job at the La Fonda hotel in in the lounge. We’d drive over from Lubbock to play the gig and I’d sleep in the booth. And we’d drive back after the gig. I had a history in Santa Fe.

AD: Speaking of family, can you tell me about the dance hall your folks ran when you were growing up, Jamboree Hall?

Terry Allen: My dad was a baseball player but he was nearly 60 when I was born. So he didn’t play anymore. He had a chance to get to get a hold of a defunct gospel church and he turned it into a dance hall on the weekends. He ended up getting a wrestling promotership and started throwing wrestling matches and would move to another building. He had moved out to an aircraft hangar. On Friday nights he would have these all black incredible dances with T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Reed. On Saturday nights he’d have all white country music. It was heavily segregated in Lubbock at the time. All these touring bands. Everyone was a touring band. People like Hank Williams or B.B. King. They were all traveling in one big station wagon with bass and drums on top.