2015 8 Jul
Heavy day-planning: due to physical and other handicaps only the meeting with Masabumi Kikuchi worked out. Masabumi Kikuchi (1939), pianist of the legendary Tethered Moon Trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian, released the trio-album Sunrise (ECM) with young bassist Thomas Morgan and the late Paul Motian last year, an album ranking high on my 2012-favorites-list (one of my RADIO-ON-DEMAND items: listen HERE). I am happy that it is becoming real to meet him. Great moment! Here’s a first rendition with impressions of that afternoon (a thorough article will appear later).
A Time Ago
It all began twenty years ago, 1993, in Gonneville, a small village in Normandy. I went there to work in seclusion to finish my Ph.D.thesis. My stay there was strongly, indelibly connected to the music I was listening to intensely: Triangle by Tethered Moon and If You Look Far Enough by Arild Andersen, Ralph Towner, Nana Vasconcelos and Audun Kleive. The opener of Triangle titled Little Abi was a revelation for me and is deeply stamped into my memory. Never before I had heard something like that. It stayed with me and every time I listen to music by Poo it is there, it is the starting point. He now told me that Abi is his daughter, born in the seventies (he recorded its first version with Elvin Jones in 1972). Now I am writing this down I suddenly realize that I first stumbled on Arild in a real funny way when arriving at the Paul Motian Tribute next evening.
Another unforgetable moment and precious memory: a nightly listening session years ago with my friend Jaap who was very close to Gil Evans (many stories …). He presented to me Gil’s recording of Kikuchi’s composition Drizzling Rain from Gil’s album Lunar Eclypse(1981).
Poo through the times
Masabumi Kikuchi aka Poo, a long time New York resident, had a close musical relationship to Gary Peacock, Elvin Jones, Gil Evans and during the last two decennia especially to Paul Motian. The last 10 years a Kikuchi-image of the highly wondrous genius existing in seclusion arose.
It is however only part of the story. There is much more than may appear at first sight! But Kikuchi never built on surface-continuity. In the sixties he worked and recorded regularly with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charlie Mariano, Watanabe, legendary drummer Masahiko Togashi and composer Toru Takemitsu. In the seventies Kikuchi befriended Miles Davis during his
post-“Agharta” retirement period, and recorded a still-unissued session with him (1978). Davis’ group should tour but had to be disbanded due to severe health problems of some of its members. In that period Kikuchi played and recorded with Davis-sidemen like Liebman, Grossman, Foster a.o.. as well. End of the eighties/beginning of the nineties he also worked and recorded with Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins. His recorded work is a bit scattered but much of his old work is still available.
Little Abi – it is the tension Poo is able to generate, a tension that brings forth magic duration and beauty of sound. Moon, tethered moon. It is said that his playing changed profoundly during the last years in the Motian-bands. Sure, he took advantage of Motian’s no-rehearsal-principal by trusting and relying on spur-of-the moment discoveries. “Lately when I sit down at the piano I do not prepare what I will play nor do I think about how to play, and I believe I found the way of putting out something new, and I guess I could call it my own.”
Comparing Little Abi to Ballad on the recent Sunrise-album with Paul Motian and Thomas Morgan: in the later there is still more, higher tension, sharper contrast and more abrupt movement. Heavy accents, halts and quick runs. Like certain processes in nature, e.g. breaking/flowing ice. It also inherits an ongoing antithesis of momentary explosive impulses and subsequent freezing of bold and gracious movements which lends sound an object-like quality. Tethered moon: evanescence and sharp contouring to and fro. As catapulting in the art of archery. His music is radically focusing, confronting, not distracting. These qualities are without doubt related a.o. to two strong influences on him, Herb Pomeroy and Gil Evans.
Meet, talk, (tr)eat
We should meet at Neue Galerie, 1048 – 5th avenue/East 86th street, with its Viennese Café Sabarsky. I got out at Lexington Avenue and walked 86th street down to 5th avenue corner. Before entering the building on 86th street, I turned round the corner to check my bag for a few things. At the moment I turned back, I bumped into Masabumi Kikuchi who was approaching from the north on 5th avenue. His left hand was bandaged. He showed me and told that he just had fallen and been bandaged at nearby Mount Sinaï Hospital. Goodness me! Later on I asked him if it would be possible for him to perform at the Motian-tribute next evening. He looked at me with the typical provocative grin of him: “I don’t really need both hands for that!”
Contrary to my expectation it was quite noisy inside the cafe. Kikuchi seemed to be intrigued by the Viennese decor and immediately reacted on spheric things. Triggered by the harsh behavior of the personnel he repeatedly asked me: “are they from Vienna?” The noisiness could have caused an extra obstacle given that Poo articulates at a soft level with his voice. It had however a benevolent effect. After a while he adapted his voice to the noise-level of the room.
Connecting to him was easy and heavy at the same time. I experienced that earlier at the phone when we organized our meeting. He picks up topics and questions very quickly but he is not just responding. He actually takes his very own route, interrogating and examining the interviewer. And then there are these restarts, resettings during the conversation. Topics and questions already dealt with are brought up, repeated by him again and again. It is confusing and takes some patience to get along with and some creativity to cope with it. We had a good rapport and that helped us to discuss all relevant matters nonetheless. His answers were sharp and precise too. It became hard however to hold on working through a set of prepared questions. Beter, inescapable to enter free flow conversation also because it is a lot of fun to talk with him. He is sweet, provocating with plenty stories on necessary and productive stubbornness. He repeatedly emphasized that he did not like the all improvised Sunrise-recording made at Avatar-studio on the other side of Central Park in september 2009. Even the titles were supplied by Paul Motian, he told. But when he finally got the finished product, he really liked it. A grin again.
Kikuchi owns a wondrous kind of ignorance. It is already apparent in his notes on Sunrise. The opening: “Suddenly, Paul was gone. He left without warning.” And then he continues:”By the time I visited him in hospital (also the Mount Sinai, HB) for the second time, he was already in the palliative care unit and they wouldn’t let me see him. A week earlier, not long after Paul had admitted, Bill Frisell’s wife and daughter were there to care for him. They kindly left me alone with Paul for a while, and I’ll always be grateful for that … Paul and I talked for close to an hour, but it was pretty much business as usual because, frankly, I had no idea he had so little time left. As soon as he began to look tired I told him I’d visit again soon and went home. And that was it.” Then he continues telling about their first meeting together with Gil Evans, Juini Booth, Airto for a recording with Sting …
On the other hand he clearly acknowlegdes own physical and mental handicaps and described how he turned his loss of control into spontaneous action and creativity. An example is the crossing of his hands when playing. It is a consequence of his loss of flexibility and width of hand span. “This solution occured spontaneously at a certain moment during playing. I learned to give way to these kind of impulses from a deeper level and follow a different modus operandi.”
We were already talking for nearly one and half hour when my nineteen year old son Dikran joined. Kikuchi apparently liked our company so we went on with the three of us. Unfortunately Sabarsky interfered. I had chosen Sabarsky because of their opening hours but just this afternoon they did not keep to it. We were expelled non-gently. We moved to a French restaurant on 86th street and had a delicious dinner there.
After nearly 4 hours having spent together we accompanied Poo to the subway-station at Lexington Avenue and said goodbye trusting that he safely would make his way home to downtown West Village. Next evening Masabumi Kikuchi appeared at the Paul Motian Tribute at Symphony Space contributing a solo and duo with Gary Peacock, his longest musical companionship. He knows him from the time that Peacock lived in Japan (1969-1972). Kikuchi’s contribution: short, intense and the one with the highest tension.
Kikuchi, a highly wondrous genius living in seclusion? No! Kikuchi, a queer customer on a strange trip? No! Kikuchi, an otherwordly sage? No! Rien de tout cela!
There is plenty material he recorded himself playing with extraordinary bassist Thomas Morgan and guitarist Todd Neufeld. He performed with the trio in Japan. His next public appearance in New York will be very soon: a concert with Tyshawn Sorey, another prudent, creative musician AND drummer, Todd Neufeld and … yes, Thomas Morgan. The group debuts new material from Sorey’s forthcoming Pi Recordings album:
Our next stop at one block walking distance: Tyondai Braxton, one of the big acts of famous WARP-label, with HIVE, an electronic event in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum or as NYTimes-review wrote: “Fastidious Percussion With Plenty Of Electronics”. When we arrived there was a long queue around the block.
Not only a long queue but it was completely sold out. A clear signal to return to Brooklyn!
More than once Poo just before declared he wouldn’t go there because the construction of the building was badly out of balance. “Not a good place for people to stay”, he said.
photo 1, 3 by the wonderful photographer John Rogers ©, good friend of Paul Motian
photo 4, 5, 6 7 © FoBo – Henning Bolte
2015 7 Jul
Yesterday was great: like one of Joey’s more eventful bike rides to the outskirts of Hannover. Though I was nearly never leaving the confined space of my garden. It all started with a weird dream explaining to Ian the text types of “interim texts”. I had to speak very loud, cause my long gone father was producing noises near the ceiling. One rule: if old daddy comes along in your dreams, it’s time to think twice. Within hours the unfinished businesses of the “book” and the “Punktfestival” were history. I just knew it was over. As Joey told me later on: the blog is more important than the book. Right he is. The day turned into pure delight. I had to laugh out loud when some guy I will keep unnamed used the word “slots”. Never believe a guy (at least be very sceptical) who says “slots” or “no slots”. A good man offered me his shining new blue tooth-driven Mercedes (there are nice people on this planet who drive Mercedes!) for a trip to Paris. Because my cooling system broke down. In the afternoon I was listening to Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” on a surround system, and thought, well, on August 15th I will definitely turn into a nightfly doing a five-hour-radio-live show, and the only thing that will keep me from snoring into the microphone: only play what you love. So, in the last 25 minutes, before 6 a.m. Mr. Fagen’s “New Frontier” would be a good choice as would be Rickie Lee Jones’ version of “Show Biz Kids”. And then Art Lande and Jan Garbarek might finish the time traveling zone with their duo classic “Red Lanta”. Anyone who knows the ECM-record will probably see the cover before the eyes, like a photo beautifully gone wrong. When, one evening, I sat with Manfred Eicher and some musicians in the open-air-zone of a restaurant in Lugano, we talked about some records we will always love to return to. Discovering some rare beauty in unheared music is the same thrill as returning to sources of constant wonder. And this was the multicoloured thrill of yesterday’s trip to a clear mind. In the end this clearness and joy were a bit too much for me, and I cooled down with a good half of a bottle of ice-cold wine (rose). If paradise is half as nice. When the night came falling down, I went into my electric cinema and saw one of the darkest episodes ever of the American TV-series “Justified” (in the middle of season 4). Near the end my “hero”, Raylan Givens, said to a guy: “Did I hear that right? You just gave me an order?” Mistake.
2015 7 Jul
Everything is important!
‘Yes’ or ‘No’?
2015 7 Jul
White bird must fly or she will die. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY. Mit lachendem, weit geöffnetem Mund und Sonnenschein in den Augen kurbelte sie sich und ihn hinüber ans andere Ufer. Auf der Fußgängerfähre war heute nicht viel los. Er filmte sie ungefragt. Sie wusste nicht, dass er nur mit ihr spielte. Ihr helles, kurzes Sommerkleid war durch den Fahrtwind hochgeschoben. Einen Slip trug sie nicht. Auf der anderen Seite der Meuse verabschiedeten sie sich. Sie umarmte ihn, er hielt steif die Kamera in die Luft, als ob sie nass werden könnte.
Wieder Zuhause konzentrierte sie sich auf das Nähen ihres Mantels. Sie würde morgen in ihrer Loge zum Gesellen befördert werden. Ihr Baustück hatte sie bereits verfasst. Bruder Redner würde sie sicher unterstützen.
Am nächsten Abend wartete sie aufgeregt auf den Einlass in den Tempel. Als der Zeremonienmeister dreimal mit seinem Stab pochte, bewegte sie sich langsam vom Westen her an dem Vorsitzenden vorbei, der bereits im Osten an der u-förmigen Tafel saß. Schwester Schatzhüter hatte ihr unbemerkt ein Zeichen gegeben, wohin sie sich setzen sollte. Die Kerzen waren bereits angezündet. Der Meister begrüßte die Gemeinschaft und schob dann sein Weinglas über das Tischband hinaus, was bedeutete, dass Bruder Falk das Wort ergreifen durfte. Seine Rede über ICH und DU beeindruckte alle. Auch sie hatte sich mit Martin Buber beschäftigt und an ihrem Baustück so gefeilt, dass es zu dem Leitmotiv: ERKENNE DICH SELBST passen würde. “Wenn wir eines Weges gehen und einem Menschen begegnen, der uns entgegenkam und auch eines Weges ging, kennen wir nur unser Stück, nicht das seine, das seine nämlich erleben wir nur in der Begegnung.”
Jetzt wurde der ganze Raum erhellt. Ihr wurde ein Gurt und ein Band mit zwei Schlüsseln umgelegt. Dann richtete sich der Meister an Bruder Talent.” Haben Sie noch ein musikalisches Baustück?”
Sie blickte auf die feierliche Tafel und wünschte für sich allein: THE SWIMMING SONG. Es erklang eine Sonate von Bach. Der Raum verdunkelte sich langsam. Der Vorsitzende bekundete, dass sich Mitternacht näherte. Alle standen auf. Beim Hinausgehen dachte sie an gestern und dass sie noch an sich arbeiten müsste. Vielleicht würde sie aber auch den Meißel und das andere Werkzeug der Freimaurer ganz anders einsetzen.
2015 6 Jul
BABYLON August 5th, 8.30pm.
NOTHING BUT A MAN August 12th, 6.30pm
BLACK POWER MIX TAPE August 12th. 8.30pm
SHADOWS August 19th, 6.30pm
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL August 19th, 8.30pm
Soul Jazz Records curates this season of music-related films – from Motown and Civil Rights Jazz through to Reggae, Bossa Nova, Jean-Luc Godard’s ground-breaking documentary on the Rolling Stones, & more. All of these films rely heavily on the relationship between music, film, politics and society. More importantly – they’re all wicked!
Soul Jazz Records’ founder Stuart Baker will introduce each of the films and Soul Jazz Records’ Soundsystem DJ’s are in the bar before and after each screening!
2015 6 Jul
I started the mix of the first three chapters of “the book of the manafonistas” one day ago. Again and again (in between searching and searching and searching the fitting texts and “interims”) I realized how great the idea is, regarding form and structure. And how time-consuming. Time is not on your side here. Well, it´s fun mixed with the myth of Sysyphos. It will definitely not work without anyone offering me 125.000,00 Dollars. Seeing good ideas fail along the way, is part of life. So, for my part, I just want to inform you that Joey can send the raw material to all of you – and then you know. Or try it for yourself. It might take ten days of work (six hours every day) to get it into shape and kind of class. Honestly, I can only warn anyone to follow this “schnapsidee” – you can see this whole process as a study of illusions at work. Seeing apparitions vanish. I think, I still prefer detective work. One of my jobs at hand is to find out how to make the best cider of La Bretagne (nearly no commercial distribution at all, simply rumours, and small quantums of treasure hunt romanticism) find its way to my cellar. The spare leads make it necessary to travel to Paris, and, later on, to a small village near Brest, to a farm with wild dogs and high tech-security systems. (I`m so sorry Gregs can`t join me on that trip – the dogs would kill him). If I get that going – far from easy – every manafonista will be invited for the biggest apple cider party ever in this hillside region of Germany.
P.S. We´re enthusiasts, storytellers, music lovers and much more. Surprise is a constant element of reading this blog, isn´t it? So here another announcement that may surprise longtime readers or listeners of my radio shows. I will not be at the Punkt Festival this year. Ten times in a row I`ve been there. It was such a long period of time in which I saw human relationships and musical ideas grow, thanks to the commitment of the artistic directors Jan Bang and Erik Honore – and the creative and supporting input of so many people around. Kristiansand has become a musical power spot in all those years, and I can highly recommend anyone to go there. This year I simply had to make a decision between two options. A win-win. Now, funny as some of these lines may appear, they do definitely have a serious sub-text: making decisions. Breaking patterns.
2015 6 Jul
Beside the poplar trees
Where I like to go
Away from busy rhythms of the city
To the languid river Mersey
Beneath the rain-filled clouds
The wind carries a song
Away from all the chaos
Into Fletcher Moss…