Friday, January 1, 2010


Top ten list top ten list look at me look at me top ten list for 2009

1 -- Recordings I have acquired

a. John Blum: Who Begat Eye and In the Shade of the Sun

A new John Blum solo record and a John Blum trio record with William Parker and Sunny Murray. Can you possibly dig it? Everyone should know who John Blum is. You know who John Blum is, right? You must have heard Astrogeny with William Parker, Dennis Charles and Antonio Grippi by now, and you should have heard Naked Mirror by now also--what with it being an aesthetic predecessor of Who Begat Eye. You might have heard John Blum live in NYC, but then again, you might not have, as there are only so many pianos in New York City and the parent culture likes to celebrate the same people again and again and again.

While the parent culture thing is nothing new, the piano thing is pretty pathetic for two reasons. The first pathetic reason is historic:

Heinrich Englehard Steinweg from Seesen, Germany, installed his piano business, now anglicized to Steinway & Sons, on the Lower East Side by 1853, before moving to a factory on Fourth Avenue and eventually to Queens

And I don't think Steinweg and Sons was the only piano manufacturer in that immediate area at that time. In fact I know they weren't--because wikipedia told me so. The Loisidia used to riddled with pianos. Now it's riddled with high rents. Great.
The other is economic: there still is a lot of wealth in Manhattan--enough wealth that if the money people were (or wanted to be) meaningfully engaged with the art people, there would, by now, be a grand piano on every corner of that island and music, rather than the smell of aluminum and professional excellence, wafting through the air.

b. Kevin Frenette:
When Kevin gave me Connections I couldn't hear out of my right ear due to filthy germs of Cambridge, Manhattan and New Jersey. Worse, the right speaker is the onely one that works in the truck--that useless piece of shit money-black-hole of a Ford truck--and for the most part, that's where most the listening happens. Listening to the CD on a real live working stereo is worth the effort, as the music is quite excellent. There is a prevailing feeling of motility through the CD. Tatsuya Nakatani and Todd Keating together make a mighty sonic loadstone. Andy McWain drizzles in just the right amount of tonality amidst dexterous, compelling playing. Kevin Frenette is a good reason why smashing every guitar on earth might be a bit of an overreaction to a few bad apples. Lastly, it sounds to me like Kevin has put together a group, and not an all star session--not that they aren't all stars, but there's a cohesion and confidence that comes from...a very hard to see spaceship hovering over earth? Who can say anymore.

c. Eric Zinman Trio
Three cheers for Eric Zinman. If I'm not mistaken this is his third piano-bass-and-drums trio album thus far. This is the first not to use Laurence Cook, which is a pity, as any occasion to hear Laurence Cook is a unique joy. Benjamin Duboc on Bass and Didier Lasserre on drums are, however, an outstanding clutch and transmission perfectly suited for Zinman's piano gearing

d. Sabir Mateen quintet Secrets of When
Raphe Malik is on this one. For some reason I feel like it was one of if not his last recording. Sabir plays alto, tenor, clarinet and flute and plays them all equally well--however the sound of Sabir on alto and Raphe on trumpet is timeless and eternally enduring. During her late-romantic and high 'dissonant' moments, Naoko Ono reminds me of a lighter, softer John Blum--which is not judgement in a better-and-worse kind of way--just a density/dynamic assessment. Nakono Ono sounds great, and is used to great effect in the group. Same for Jane Wang and Ravish Momin. Way above average concept and realization all the way around.

2. 1/6th of a cow
(ground, stew, porterhouse, sirlion tip, eye of round roast, t-bone)
A nice holiday treat from the feed lot. It's been about 2 months now of almost constant beef eating and I'm not even close to a quarter of the way through. The cow is a mighty thing, and it would appear that much of it's might comes from cutting its head off and portioning out it's body in small packages. This is not something to be taken lightly, or for granted. It is something that can happen without a huge amount of space and not a lot of capital investment. It's also something that's going to have to start happening all over the place if "we" are to take this local food/100 mile diet thing seriously. Or maybe it too is something we talk about to make ourselves feel better about the wickedness and irrationality of our lives. What's more, all the 'waste' from the process (blood, intestines, spines) can be made into soil fertility, as opposed to, say, the waste from the oil industry, which isn't as good for soil health.

3. Burning CD's with Linux
First this then this. Linux is quite a thing...humbling, humiliating...many feelings. Any of you out there give a shit about Linux? Is there any parallel between music and Linux--particularly the gnu license/open source philosophy? Can "we" as artists learn anything from the gnu license/open source philosophy?

4. Chris D. book on New Texture
Hooray for New Texture and Hooray for Chris D.

5. The Jazz Code
Perhaps my most favorite blog post of the year on absolutely my most favorite blog of the year--but do remind me if I said that about others, or if there are some I missed.

6. Zappa Military Industrial Complex and wildly uninformed speculation And why not? It seems like a happy place; you got yer music, forum, frequent blog entries by himself--what's not to like? I really do say that with all sincerity. The music "boot camp" thing gave me moment for pause if for no other reason than there's only one Zappa who knows from boot camp--and he'd be the perfect 'pace setter' to really give it an old school MCRD sort of feel. It didn't take much to visualize an alternate reality where completion of boot camp was followed by membership in a larger Zappa franchise reality. Only bands made of boot camp graduates are 'official' or 'legitimate' or some kind of corporate devilry like that. Not that this has been suggested, not that this is the plan, not that I am accusing them of anything of the sort, not that I am acting on any kind of knowledge what so ever (I never do). But what if it was the plan? I mean, isn't larger and larger combinations, conglomerations and trusts the invariable, hard wired behavior of the corporate entity? Is that a newly emerging method of further monetizing / capitalizing on bodies of work that were already done (definitively) by the original, now-unable-to-collect-royalties artist?

7. The Antichrist translated by HL Mencken

Put the kids on the lap, next to the fire, the tree, the stockings and the golden retriever. A new Christmas tradition...

I cannot, at this place, avoid a sigh. There are days when I am visited by a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy--contempt of man. Let me leave no doubt as to what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am unhappily contemporaneous. The man of today--I am suffocated by his foul breath!...Toward the past, like all who understand, I am full of tolerance, which is to say, generous self-control: with gloomy caution I pass through whole millennia of this madhouse of a world, call it "Christianity," "Christian faith" or the "Christian church," as you will--I take care not to hold mankind responsible for its lunacies. But my feeling changes and breaks out irresistibly the moment I enter modern times, our times. Our age knows better...What was formerly merely sickly now becomes indecent--it is indecent to be a Christian today. And here my disgust begins. I look about me: not a word survives of what was once called "truth"; we can no longer bear to hear a priest pronounce the word. Even a man who makes the most modest pretensions to integrity must know that a theologian, a priest, a pope of today not only errs when he speaks, but actually lies--and that he no longer escapes blame for his lie through "innocence" or "ignorance." The priest knows as everyone knows, that there is no longer any "God," or any "sinner," or any "Savior"--that "free will" and the moral order of the world" are lies--: serious reflection, the profound self-conquest of the spirit, allow no man to pretend that he does not know it...All the ideas of the church are now recognized for what they are--as the worst counterfeits in existence, invented to debase nature and all natural values; the priest himself is seen as he actually is--as the most dangerous form of parasite, as the venomous spider of creation.

Talk about rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens! The Anti-Christ really is some great reading by the stockings (hung with care,) or while hanging around the Christmas tree next to the fire.

8. Record I have not yet acquired

a. Bill Dixon: Tapestries for Small Orchestra
b. Bill Dixon: Weight / Counterweight

Two sides of the same Dixonian coin--a large group (aka "Small Orchestra") and a trio featuring two drummers.

Not to play favorites with two things I haven't even heard, but I must admit that I am slightly more eager to hear Dixon with two drummers--not that I don't love Dixon's work with larger ensemble--it's just that the two drummer + Dixon modality brings to mind a certain Dixon concert at the St. Mark's church featuring Arthur Brooks, J.R. Mitchell and Gary Sojkowski. Said concert left a huge dent in my musical consciousness and that sparse harmonic setting gave Dixon a certain kind of "room" (dare I say "freedom") to play the horn. There is however, the turntable situation, particularly the not having of one. Perhaps Santa will put one under the tree for me--I'll let you know how that goes.

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And that's my top 8 list for 2009. Woo Hoo! Rumor has it #9 and #10 will be posted soon at But you go there regularly, and so didn't need me to tell you that.

EVERYONE HAVE A GREAT AND FUN 2010!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

copyright © 2009 Stanley Jason Zappa