Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Year With 13 In It

When I was 13, I was in the seventh grade. That was the year President Kennedy was shot. As I recall, that day was Friday because the Middle School at Sidwell Friends was in an assembly which  occurred during last period of the last day of the week. Young Robert Kennedy and Joseph were called out of the room before the assembly ended. It was not til I reached home that I knew that the President had been assassinated. That was a horrible day. But the fact that I was thirteen never influenced my memory of that day nor that year in the future.

The number 13 has always been lucky for me. I am not necessarily superstitious, veering my behavior away, for instance, from the 13th floor of a building; the 13th square in a sidewalk from the curb; Friday, the 13th. It would take a bit of obsession to count all the time. And the 13th of anything is going to come anyway.

Actually, in retrospect, the idea of 13 is liberating. As far as my age was concerned, it marked the onset of my teenage years when I started growing up emotionally and began awkwardly to acquire a female figure. The liberation managed to present itself academically, when I let my intelligence fly and applied myself more in school than I ever had before. I saw high school coming and surprisingly its anticipation did not keep me waiting. 

Thirteen is also an incontrovertibly prime number: can only be divided by one and itself. As with irreversible, irretrievable time.

At the end of December, 2013, my alimony ends. Supposedly, by that time, my ex-husband should be erased from my mind. The impending absence of this monthly influx of cash has taken some measure of acceptance on my part.  Something else will come in. How much is still a mystery.  A friend mollified my anxiety once by casually telling me in a conversation that I have been OK so far and that everything will probably be OK in the future. My friend ran her business from home as a personal problem solver and morale booster.

A part of my blindly, out-of-fright, created plan after my ex-husband left was to be financially independent by 2013. The "plan" included somehow being able to support myself through what I do which has for forty years been my art.  

No one seems to know anything about what I do or how I function. Many people  suspect that I have gobs and gobs of riches. In a way, I do. The wealth of my creativity and soul carry me through my existence. I am perfectly happy in my big house shaping the spaces into intimate ones, making them inviting. And then doing my work is constant. If not in my mind, then on paper. 

My capacity for verbal expression of truth cannot be revoked. I am too old to let my tolerance of external forces block the way from how I really feel. I will say what I believe. And mean it. 

My freedom has widened  because I am bound only to what I choose rather than to what is expected of me. Since 2000, I immersed myself into writing about improvised music. It is a music I love; it is a music that saved me. The musicians I know have been a bastion of strength for me. Their music has been continually accessible, if not live, then recorded.

But one pursuit I must reclaim is my art.

Perhaps I will post some representational imagery here at this blog periodically. At the same time, I want to be undaunted in how I utilize this internet space.

This is not an apology. These words explain what is to come. Those who believe will return. 

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton
Drawings: copyright 2009-12 Lyn Horton

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Top Eleven 2012

1. Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform);
2. Burton Greene, Live At Kerrytown (NoBusiness);
3. Darius Jones Quartet, The Book of Maebul: Another Kind of Sunrise
4. Jason Stein Quartet, The Story This Time (Delmark);
5. Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Brooklyn DNA (CleanFeed);
6. Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira, Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM Records Oy);
7. Frank Rosaly, Centering And Displacement (Utech Records);
8. John Butcher and Matthew Shipp,  At Oto (Fataka 2);
9. Peter Brötzmann and Jason Adasciewicz, Going All Fancy (Eremite);
10. Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens, Gather (Delmark);
11. Tres Hongos, Where My Dreams Go To Die (Molk Records).

photo copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Friday, October 19, 2012

David S. Ware, Reflections of The Blue Note, October, 2010

All photos above copyright 2010-12 Lyn Horton 

I remember you fondly, David S.Ware. And with compassion. 
And the cognizance of your ardent desire and unrelenting determination to make a difference.

Michael Bisio & Matthew Shipp Duo: Floating Ice: Relative Pitch, 2012

No one can ever speculate on the process of improvised music before it happens. It just begins given the proper conditions, space and time. As does any phenomenon in this universe begin or actually simply continue. That is the reason that it is no surprise that bassist Michael Bisio and pianist Matthew Shipp can move forward together without competing: ego-less, unfettered, yet married to their sound.

In Floating Ice, the two musicians step outside of logical boundaries except perhaps when Shipp catches some rhythms in "Swing Laser" or strikes up strange melodic figures in "Disc" like a child might wonder about the frequent bursting glow of fireflies in the night. Bisio never really follows the exact flow of the stream as much as converses with it in pizzicato whispers, even as he grabs at his bass strings. When he goes down his own path, he fingers the bass strings purposefully and has serious, furious, rapid strokes to bow. Shipp pounds the keyboard with wide open chords or trickles through the sound screen with cantankerous repetitious two-handed phrasing, conclusive mid-range or treble tremolos and seemingly endless scalar runs arrested by shifts in tempo or contrasting distinct methods of touch. A unique camaraderie yields one of the most interesting rhythm alliances of the entire recording in the conclusion of "Holographic Rag."

This is a dialog that leaves behind the memory of cooperative interchanges, allowing for one musician or the other to make clear statements that bridge to the next notes or to the next silence. From abstraction to unquestionable lyricism to styles that are familiar but rendered in a contemporary fashion, this duo has created a recording in Floating Ice which skews the normal.  Among resonant bass chords and wavy sounding board tweaking on the piano integrated with intensely driven scraping of the bow across, or slapping of, the bass strings, the steady heavy holds paradoxically planted in “Supernova” and “Decay” project an idea of dimensionless-ness: where interaction with the instruments produces no physical result and captures the mere evanescence of time.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Michael Bisio: bass; Matthew Shipp: piano

Track listing:
Floating Ice; The Queen's Ballad; Swing Laser; Disc; Supernova; Holographic Rag; Decay.

Lyn Horton on Willard Jenkins' Open Sky Jazz

 Not long ago, Willard Jenkins emailed me regarding doing an interview for his series on women "jazz writers." The questions he asks the participants are always the same.

This is the product of that interview. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

13 Miniatures for Albert Ayler: RogueArt: 2012

Paying tribute to an artist who is no longer around happens often in the creative improvised music world.  Albert Ayler is one of the most, if not, the most, revered improvisers in the history of the music.  Perhaps, because he vanished before he fully realized his destiny. Or so it is thought.  Or perhaps, he left this world because it was really the time and he had done everything he, alone, could do and it was time for others to develop his language and legacy.

13 Miniatures for Albert Ayler demonstrates how his influence took hold. Thirteen vignettes with distinctive cadence: cadence that would be dismissed without the Ayler context. This is especially notable: in the introductory text, “Albert Ayler à la Fondation Maeght,” read by composer Daniel Caux’s wife, Jacqueline Caux, lyrically, in French, painting an atmosphere for the upcoming testaments to the assimilation of the saxophone player’s music; and in the poetry reading by Steve Dalachinsky, who is well-known for his remarkable practice of translating improvisational music experience into both visual and verbal sonority. For this performance Dalachinsky created a “collage” of interviews with Albert and his brother, Donald Ayler, entitled “As in My Name IS.............”

Predominant in the recording is reed and brass player, Joe McPhee, who, without having heard Ayler’s sound, would never have picked up a saxophone. McPhee plays in four of these pieces.  The last entry of the record is a McPhee tenor solo, fraught with melancholic melody, wherein the notes hang in the air; are slurred and interspersed with vocal grunts through the reed; evolve into extraordinary squealing/screaming pitches to descend into elegant conclusive mid-range tones.

The liner notes contain not only transcriptions of Caux’s tribute, Dalachinsky’s poetry, but also a two part poem by Parisian native and poet, Zéno Bianu.

The instrumentalists on the record are numerous and in combination express a wide-ranging grasp of Ayler’s musical intensity, never imitating it, only re-investing it with personal structure and signature. This is the only way Ayler can be remembered: by the spawning and growth of contemporary creative improvisation.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Track listing:
Jacqueline Caux; Raphaël Imbert, Urs Leimgruber, Joe McPhee, Evan Parker, John Tchicaї; Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Raphaël Imbert, Christian Rollet; Steve Salachinsky, Joëlle Léandre, Barre Phillips; Ramon Lopez; Ramon Lopez, Barre Phillips, Michel Portal; Jean-Jacques Avenal, Simon Goubert, Joe McPhee; Jean-Luc Capozzo, Joe McPhee; Evan Parker; Joëlle Léandre, Urs Leimgruber, John Tchicaї; Simon Goubert, Raphaël Imbert, Sylvain Kassap, Didier Levallet; Joëlle Léandre, Urs Leimgruber, Lucia Recio; Joe McPhee.

Jean-Jacques Avenal: bass; Jacqueline Caux: spoken words; Jean-Luc Capozzo: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Dalachinsky: spoken words; Simon Goubert: drums; Raphaël Imbert: saxophones; Sylain Kassap: clarinets; Joëlle Léandre: bass; Urs Leimgruber: soprano sax; Didier Levallet: bass; Ramon Lopez: drums; Joe McPhee: tenor saxophone, flugelhorn; Evan Parker: saxophones; Barre Phillips: bass; Michel Portal: bass clarinet; Lucia Recio: vocals; Christian Rollet: drums; John Tchicaї: alto saxophone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lyn Horton: Wall Drawings and Works on Paper

Horton &
photo by Richard Laurie 

Lyn Horton: Wall Drawings and Works on Paper

Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present a solo show of wall installations and works on paper by Massachusetts based artist, Lyn Horton, following her well-received participation in the gallery's spring group show, "TWISTED". This exhibition presents a more complete picture of Horton's oeuvre from her individual small works on paper to her monumental site-specific wall drawings that employ velvet rope for the linear elements and are applied directly onto the painted wall.

Horton's work is visual jazz - rhythmic, layered, sensuous and adheres to her own sensibilities. It is no surprise Lyn Horton writes about jazz - her passion. Her reviews have been regulars in Jazz Times, The New York Jazz Messenger, her own music blog - "The Paradigm for Beauty" and other publications, and her drawings have graced CD covers, most recently Wadada Leo Smith's "Ten Freedom Summers". Her jazz musings could describe her own art. Though reviewing a musical artist, Horton said; "The music Is thematic, tends to be quiet, slightly explosive, adheres to (the musician's) sense of humor, lyricism and even romantic melody" - an apt expression of the Lyn Horton exhibition in our gallery September.

As Mark Jenkins noted in his review in the Post of her recent work, " the drawings are still minimalist but with a sensuous ease" and "her "Loop" series twirls further away from Euclidean geometry".Many of the works in this exhibition are made of hypnotic twists of interwoven lines starting with circles and swoops that build to a crescendo - one layer over the other, line after line (or note by note and phrase by phrase) - in a repetitive, rhythmic, musical pattern.

Horton's MFA degree show at Cal Arts focused on the line and its place in minimalism and she has continued mining that vein ever since. Her experience executing wall drawings for minimalist Sol Lewitt informs her practice; she is a master of controlling her small pencil - mark by mark - with quiet, obsessive, painstaking, repetition - until a large and powerful work of art emerges.

The opening reception for the artists is September 7, 6-8.  The show is on view thru Sept 29th.

For digital images and more information contact: Rebecca Cross 202.333.7970 

cross  mackenzie  gallery
2026 R st nw washington dc 20009

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jamie Saft: New Zion Trio: Fighting Against Babylon: Veal Records, 2011

As a musician, Jamie Saft is not easy to pin down. Each of his ventures can and no doubt should be considered without comparison to any previous recording, composition, or performance for that matter.  Saft’s consistent inconsistency characterizes the breadth of his musicianship on keyboards, acoustic piano and electric guitar. Exposing unexpected contexts for well-known songs, compositions, and his own music puts him in that label-less zone that frustrates clear perceptions of him, but which also keeps him out of sedentary, stale ruts that are so often carved out by other musicians.

New Zion Trio is described on Saft’s Veal Records website as “bringing together three masters of Reggae and Jazz musics for the first time in a unique piano trio setting straight from Kingston [NY] Yard.” With Saft on piano and Fender Rhodes, Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass and Craig Santiago on drums are created a laid back, totally listenable set of tracks. Each track title has a metaphorical twist in keeping with the record’s title, Fight Against Babylon.

Nothing less than rhythmic, the music is fluid and comfortable. It varies from the serious and pensive to the most airy and pleasurable. The music is essentially timeless. Yet, swinging from one character to another, it is still one line. As keyboard artist, with great flair, Saft exercises superb fingering techniques to fill out his melodic constructions with trills, arpeggios, scalar runs or progressions. The left and right hands balance each other: there is more treble tone than bass, whether or not he plays piano, Fender Rhodes or both simultaneously, inside and out. His stellar phrasing has as much to do with his innate, acute sense of time as with the solid sonic backbone provided by the pizz phrasing and lines from bassist Grenadier or hi-hat, cymbal, stick to snare edge to skin and occasionally to tom combinations from drummer Santiago.
Fight Against Babylon invites and proves true the notion that Saft is a straight-forward, no bullshit musician. He can do anything he wants to and he does.

Track listing:
Slow Down Furry Dub; Niceness; The Red Dies; Gates; I hear Jah; IShense; Lost Dub; Fire Blaze.

Jamie Saft: piano, Fender Rhodes; Larry Grenadier: bass; Craig Santiago: drums.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baba Andrew Lamb: Rhapsody in Black: NoBusiness, 2012

The music of Rhapsody in Black has a distinctive character: it speaks of gentleness, humility, artfulness and dignified cultural embrace.  Sax and flute player, Baba Andrew Lamb wastes no time in manifesting the aforementioned qualities in the opening page of the liner notes. The title of the album addresses a celebration of Black Heritage.

The first percussion sounds heard are unavoidably spare and soft, but “initiate” (cf. the title of the first track,“Initiation”) a series of beautifully executed discrete strokes on the bass strings by Lamb's decade long collaborator Tom Abbs. The atmosphere built is environmental, say of the jungle, bearing some kind of tribal significance, haunting yells as testimony. Lambs’ clarinet induces an unique sound aura of calling forth spiritual power that pervades the entire album.

The bass creates strong arco and pizzicato voices within the group throughout the recording and seems just as prominent instrumentally as the reeds are. Abbs also sputters and rips short glissandos through the tuba to change up the bass colors. But Lamb sings the most intricate songs; he repeats a phrase, rarely arpeggiates and sculpts sturdy and erect melodies, most often in the same gesture on any instrument he plays whether it is the clarinet, the tenor, metal or wooden flute.

The percussionists, Michael Wimberly and Guillermo E. Brown, are integral to the group’s musical process. Lamb describes the percussionists' interaction: "They play together at the same time or accompany each other taking turns." The drummers commit to holding up the rhythmic content with undying and varying persistence: with light-handedness on cymbals, snare, woodblocks or bells. The pair keeps the music tight, manages its direction and seals its reverence.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Track listing: 
Initiation; Rhapsody in Black; To Love in the Rain; Song of the Miracle Lives.

Baba Andrew Lamb: clarinet, tenor sax, flute; Tom Abbs; bass, tuba; Michael Wimberly, Guillermo E. Brown: drums.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Narada Burton Greene, Live At Kerrytown House: NoBusiness Records, 2012

The maturity of an artist is built on how far and how well the artist pursues an idea. For Narada Burton Greene, the musical idea is the one that he is playing at the moment. Although he may have something in mind before he starts a solo concert, like the one at Kerrytown Concert House, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he begins is where he begins and where he ends has a simple resonant conclusion, the seventy-eight minutes in between equivalent of a short evolution.

On Live at Kerrytown House, the music is thematic, tends to be quiet, slightly explosive, adhering to Greene’s sense of humor, lyricism and even romantic melody. He does not play without minor improvisational discords and cantankerous fingerings. For it is with these juxtapositions that Greene maintains the utmost integrity and musicianship. He has collaborated with and arranged compositions by associates, including longtime colleague Silke Röllig. With Röllig, he has created some of the most evocative contemporary piano music that there is.  

The miracle of Greene’s music is its never-ending luster. Not one piece in this performance eludes its brightness or demonstrates lack of respect for the instrument he plays.

“Freebop” for Greene implies as much grace as going off an edge; the three versions here are all different yet in some ways very much the same. The intermittent sounds of a couple of the small percussive instruments he carries with him to every performance are a joy to hear: they are brief  hiatuses in the currency of the pianistic flow. “Prevailence” and “Greene Mansions” exemplify compositions where the main musical subject acts as an armature off which filigreed vagaries can weave and return, like vines on a trellis.

It is not difficult to detect the language that governs Greene’s playing: the ascending and descending chordal runs or marches; the two-handed chord systems that move up the keyboard from which stream tuneful treble explorations; or the stopping and starting of his process so that he can reassess and re-commence with  a possible repetition of ideas.

Greene is no longer interested in smashing things across the piano sounding board as he once was in order to prove that free expression is admissible. Rather, as he knows deeply  now, he makes a statement no matter how he portrays the richness of his life, from Chicago to New York to Amsterdam, where he has spent most of his adulthood. His concentration is unswerving; his dedication to his art unabashed.

The sage that he is, as his Yogic name Narada indicates, Burton Greene embraces an essential cultural core in his music. He never flounders and always is pondering the next step, whether that be for a solo or group context. Coming out of a meditative state of solitude or the conviviality of others, Greene is giving us his truth of self.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Track Listing:  
Freebop the 4th; Tree; Freebop the 1st; Prevailence; Greene Mansions; Little Song; Elevation; Freebop the 6th; Don't Forget the Poet; Get Through It; Space Is Still The Place.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers: Cuneiform Records, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers is not simply a four disc boxed set of recorded music. It is a historical document written throughout a single period of the African-American trumpeter’s conscious lifetime about the never-ending saga of the African-American people. Smith’s concept for the relation of particularly contentious stories within the entangled context of American life not only addresses landmark events but also the underpinnings of those events in the detail that becomes as abstract as his music can make them.

These recordings diverge from the program of the live premiere in Los Angeles in October, 2011, over three nights. The recordings have more music than was performed then and the sequence of pieces has been altered.  The power of the juxtaposition of one piece to the next, however, remains the same. Absent also is the final speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” which concluded the original performance. Notable is Smith’s sensitivity to the extent to which temporal constraints can be stretched. Whereas time was a factor in what could be performed, time is not a factor in listening to the records. 

The language of the music is meant for conveying and directing feeling, much of which is so deeply imbedded in Smith that it takes no effort for him to express it when he blows into his trumpet alone or its sound is integral to the improvisations of his Golden Quintet/Quartet and the elegantly constructed, carefully sculpted measures played by an ensemble derived from Southwest Chamber Music. The colors of the classical components of this music create unarguably indispensable tensions in stark relation to Golden Quintet/Quartet’s inexorably unique based-in-the-blues sonic lushness.

Even though the trumpet falls into silence more than once, it returns valiantlySmith does not fool around. His tone is unmistakably certain, demonstrating no influence from the past, only the strength of his commitment to the delivery of his own notes.  The musicians in Golden Quartet/Quintet (including bassist John Lindberg; pianist Anthony Davis; drummers Pheeroan akLaff and Susie Ibarra) know Smith’s sensibilities so well that the players behave as one organic whole. akLaff’s drumming is much larger in gesture than Ibarra’s whose stick technique tends towards elegant diversified cymbal strikes and sibilance rather than towards large booming uproarious tom/bass drum resonance.

All artists want to have something to sink their teeth into, something to explore, to shape, to know so well that it is automatic to be active in a certain frame of mind. The density of the ingredients of Ten Freedom Summers warrants absorption and digestion. The Southwest Chamber Music players are cast in the role of playing some of the most gripping lines in the entire piece, suitable for evoking a sense of loving, true sadness and tragedy. But Smith has composed recurrent contrasting patterns within the combination of Golden Quartet/Quintet and classical music ensemble.  

For instance, Lindberg’s extraordinary solo and a repeated two notes segues into the main body of “Emmett Till” when the Southwest Chamber Music string players and harpist take over; or the trumpet ushers in the hugeness of the tympani sound, violin sustenuto and piano/tympani unison in “Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society;” or the music falls apart and somehow pulls back together in a three-note trumpet ostinato in “Democracy;” or in “Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education,” Golden Quintet opens up into an exhilarating blues essay: Davis hits just the right treble notes; Lindberg plays a bass line that has just the right retard; or akLaff strikes the snare at offbeat moments; all of which disintegrates into a raucous sound tug that remarkably evolves into Smith's muted trumpet solo to end with a reprise of the initial theme on bass.

Golden Quartet/Quintet’s clarity and purpose is never lost, nor is the formalism of Southwest Chamber Music, because Smith’s music is aimed in a certain direction. The musical statements in Ten Freedom Summers are nothing short of arresting, a reason to shed tears often, and are so much about exposing ideas so frequently brushed under the rug and trampled upon that it is not enough just to wonder why the latter is so. Every round of pieces culminates with a striking, unfettered conclusion: the first with “John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier and The Space Age, 1960;” the second, with “Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and The Civil Rights Act of 1964;” the third, with “The Little Rock Nine: A Force for Desegregation in Education, 1957;” and the fourth, with “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, The Prophecy.”

Wadada Leo Smith is proud to live in America and be an American. If there were any doubts, due to his rebellious nature, more thought might go into the reasons why he is rebellious. To listen to the nearly fifteen minute section, “Democracy,” paints Smith’s questioning perception of how disturbingly confused the country is about the principles on which the country is built. But to listen to “America, Part 1” is to hear a description of the magnificence of living in a free country. Without being free, Smith would have little room for collaborating on his work, much less actualizing it.

Art is intended to provide inspiration to move forward and change. Ten Freedom Summers is a work of art that is seldom available to experience. Not many artists have the gumption to speak so straightforwardly and, at the same time, so beautifully and with such excellence, that, on the receiving end, the reluctance to change is cast aside; the incentive to change is inculcated into a thought and learning process and might actually be achievable.

©2012 Lyn Horton

The Players
Golden Quartet: Anthony Davis, piano; Susie Ibarra, Pheeroan Aklaff, drums; John Lindberg, bass; Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet.

Southwest Chamber Music: Alison Bjorkedal, harp; Jim Foschia, clarinet; Lorenz Gamma, violin; Peter Jacobson, cello; Larry Kaplan, flute; Jan Karlin, viola; Tom Peters, bass; Lynn Vartan, percussion; Shalini Vijayan, violin; Jeff von der Schmidt, conductor.
Disc One:
Dred Scott: 1857 [Golden Quintet];
Malik Al Shabazz and the People of Shahada [Golden Quintet];
Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless [Golden Quartet w/ Susie Ibarra & Southwest Chamber Music];
Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education: A Dream of Equal Education, 1954 [Golden Quintet];
John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier and the Space Age, 1960 [Southwest Chamber Music].

Disc Two:
Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 381 Days [Golden Quartet w/ Pheeroan akLaff];
Black Church [Southwest Chamber Music];
Freedom Summer: Voter Registration, Acts of Compassion and Empowerment, 1964 [Golden Quintet];
Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [Southwest Chamber Music; Wadada Leo Smith and Shalini Vijayan, soloists].

Disc Three:
The Freedom Riders Ride [Golden Quartet w/ Susie Ibarra];
Medgar Evers: A Love-Voice of a Thousand Years Journey For Liberty and Justice [Southwest Chamber Music];
The D.C. Wall: A War Memorial for All Times [Golden Quartet w/ Susie Ibarra];
Buzzsaw: The Myth of a Free Press [Golden Quartet w/ Pheeroan akLaff]
The Little Rock Nine: A Force for Desegregation In Education, 1957 [Golden Quartet w/ Susie Ibarra & Southwest Chamber Music].

Disc Four:
America Parts 1, 2 & 3 [Golden Quartet w/ Pheeroan akLaff];
September 11th,  2001: A Memorial [Golden Quintet];
Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964 [Golden Quintet];
Democracy [Golden Quintet];
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, The Prophecy [Golden Quartet w/ Susie Ibarra & Southwest Chamber Music].

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Renewal: Starting Again: New Perspective: Gotta Do It

Before The Storm Irene, August, 2011 copyright 2011-2 Lyn Horton

For a long time, I have, in the back of mind, been considering writing exclusively for my blog and that time has come. It behooves me to share the reasons for withdrawing from the online publications and one print publication to which I have been contributing over a span of nearly twenty years.

The first to go was I started writing scattered articles for Morrice Blackwell in 1996 and began to turn it on approaching the year 2000. In that year, my now ex-husband decided to go in a direction other than the one I thought I was traveling. Devastated and reeling with emptiness, urged by my son and Morrice and Joe McPhee, I immersed myself in music. I listened; I wrote. Not that how I wrote then was perfect-far from it. The performance reviews were extremely lengthy, to the point of exhaustion. The record reviews were better because I did not have much visual information to absorb and translate.

The more I attended concerts of creative improvised music, the more I learned to hear. I could detect the way instruments layered their sonic planes. The lines became clearer and clearer. The intention of my writing was and still is to filter for the reader the experience of listening and in some cases observing and becoming a witness to a series of artistic conversations whose vagaries were indeterminate, whose conclusions were complete surprises. I began to correlate my own visual creative instincts with that of musicians. The further I delved into "the music," the more of an advocate I became for this rarely instituted activity.

It was as if I was diving into a pool and learning how to negotiate the waters. gave me a consistently supportive place to practice my strokes. After about seven years or so, I changed course. Having written one concert review of the Iyer/Ladd collaboration, In What Language, which I had seen at UMassAmherst, on in 2005, when the site was down for repairs, I decided to ask if I could be a regular contributor to I contacted Michael Ricci, initially; he directed me to John Kelman.

My first encounter with John Kelman was off-putting; he was strident about the rules of the road at AAJ. I had to follow them to the letter. The editing of my articles was not too severe, where there seemed to have been more of a laissez-faire approach at It was not too far in to my working with the AAJ editorial staff that one of my articles was deleted from the roster. When I asked why this was the case, the editor who deleted it emailed me with a reference to an acceptable article with the directive: "Read and learn." I thought that this instruction was arrogant and unnecessary, even though the over 500-word article I had written was horrible and I understood why it had been eliminated. I was counseled to stick with writing record reviews that were 500 words exactly or less. The performance reviews were another matter; I could include photographs and a little more room to expand. But those articles, too, were combed and re-worded, sometimes in language I would not have used.

Nevertheless. I was learning how to write. And I was happy that I became accustomed to the bevy of limitations. Most of the time, the editing was appropriate and when I discussed what I disagreed with, a compromise was reached. I turned in over one hundred articles for All of the articles gave me satisfaction; I was supported by the staff. The self-pressure to write "for the musicians" overwhelmed me. I wanted to ensure the success of the musicians rather than garner any recognition for myself. But I was happy. The musicians were happy; the record companies which sent me records for review were happy. It was a real love-fest.

With this feeling of good will amongst all involved, I took on writing for The New York Jazz Messenger, at the time called All About Jazz-New York, for which I was paid. The first review I wrote was negative. Despite the fact that Laurence Donohue-Greene laid the groundwork to the record company that the review of their new release was pretty dark, the article was printed. At that point, the articles in the print publication automatically were posted on the site. The review I had written was not posted. When I asked Laurence why, he said he did not know. He talked to Michael Ricci. A large kerfuffle ensued. It was my idea that the problem was related to advertising and money. I thought to myself, I am touching on some unattractive issues. Albeit, I was essentially naive, I was learning quickly how things go. When I saw Michael Ricci at that year's JJA Award dinner, I approached him, at which time, he apologized to me for not speaking with me directly after the incident. It bothered me that he had waited so long and that it took a face-to-face encounter to elicit a response. Everything was now smoothed over and we went on our merry way.

The development of my writing had come a long way. It was easier to write for the AAJ website than for the print publication. The latter demanded that I cut down to 250-300 words, which I eventually could do fairly easily, although I was noticing that I was not always assigned articles. I ignored that; I had enough to do. I was beginning to do profiles of musicians on the AAJ site, which I always pitched myself until Kelman suggested I do one on Wadada Leo Smith.

I did not follow Wadada’s music at the time. Cursory research on him brought me to the conclusion that I could do a profile on someone whom I did not know. The work related to Smith's profile was intense. In fact, I never worked so hard in my life. I had not known DJ Spooky or Thurston Moore or Matthew Shipp or David S. Ware when I interviewed them for profiles at  For some reason, writing those profiles did not tax me as did the mere prospect of writing about Wadada. Kelman had done me a real favor. It was my plan to check Wadada out at Firehouse 12 in New Haven in September of 2010; I was assigned the article in January that year. It took me months to research material, listen to recordings, and cull information out of two hour long phone interviews. The article was published in May.

The Smith profile became a pivotal point for me and my writing. I gained immense confidence. This marked ten years of writing. Only one musician had paid me to write liner notes. Only one publication had paid me minimally per article. And Downbeat printed five Letters-to-the-Editor and paid me once for an article which created a bundle of controversy for the subject I covered.

I was hanging in there as I have done for so many years with my art making. I sought out yet another place where I could submit articles and perhaps be paid.

The editor at found a niche for my niche writing. He offered to pay me once for a profile on Burton Greene, but then said that the owner of the magazine was not prepared to pay for online submissions. I complied with his statement and continued to write for the online publication.

The pressure that I felt writing for was less than I felt when contributing to It was my intention to submit an article on percussionist Warren Smith to AAJ; that had been determined in the fall of 2009 to be published in the spring of the following year.

I interviewed Warren in New York in January of 2010. Warren was not forthcoming with sending me recordings and other information because he was so incredibly busy performing with multiple bands. Prior to the interview, therefore, I had not been able to listen to a lot of his music; I was familiar, however, with his performances. He gave me only three or four albums when I left his apartment that winter afternoon.  In the back of mind, I did not feel prepared enough to write a comprehensive profile. This is what I believed AAJ demanded of me.  I emailed Kelman, the Senior Editor, and said to him that I wanted to submit my article to another publication; I did not support this action with any reasons.

It was not too long afterwards that Kelman responded, in one email saying ‘OK, see ya’ round,’ and, in the next, exclaiming that he and Michael Ricci had discussed and come to the conclusion that my submitting Warren’s profile  to another publication was unacceptable: no further submissions would be accepted from me by AAJ. I was for all intents and purposes: “fired.”

In the meantime, I inquired at The New York Jazz Messenger why I was not assigned all of the recordings which I had chosen. The editor told me that my writing was too difficult to edit so he did not bother assigning me anything; he just did not have the time to spend editing my work. I submitted my resignation to Laurence Donohue-Greene.  I was tired of fighting for $10 a pop.

It was down to and me. The editor shared no grievances with me about my reviews. We worked together well. He had a zillion more tasks to tackle rather than be bothered with me. He was happy with my personal, laid-back deadlines. I gave him lists of recordings I wanted to review and he gave his approval. He was always appreciative of what I did… as were the other editors. Each of the three has told me so. So I did not feel terrible when I let them know that I could no longer submit to them except that to which I had already committed. I could not submit to them because I was not paid. There was no prospect of being paid. And if I was going to do anything with music, I would do it for my blog.

I cannot penetrate the wall built by the writers who have created the Jazz Writing Business. I have knocked on the gates as many times and in as many ways as I can.

It has been heart-wrenching, anxiety-producing, satisfying, life-affirming and often wonderful to write about music. But I am done with everything except for what I do for my blog. Here, I am the boss.

I have no regrets, I bear no resentment. It is my intention to keep on writing about subjects that matter to me: music, art and life, for heaven’s sakes. Those who know me, really know me, will understand why I am taking these steps. Even though I will be narrowing the venue for publication of my words, I will broaden my scope for writing them. Pitching to myself as I always have. The rebounds will offer new means to catch and throw again.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers

I do not remember when exactly Wadada Leo Smith made clear that he wanted to have my art incorporated into the cover art for his landmark music piece, Ten Freedom Summers. It could have been after I had seen the premiere in Los Angeles in October of 2011 and had written so much about it both for and this blog. 

In any event, he requested that I send him some pictures of art that I had been working on. I selected some digital images at random to forward to him. And just as randomly it seems, Wadada selected what he thought corroborated with the "feelings" that he was trying to impart in his multi-part music statement.

After he picked certain pieces of my art, he said that he needed hi-resolution photos as soon as possible. I got right on it without really understanding the impact that his request would have on me. When I opened the email which contained the finished files of the booklet and cover that went with the recordings, my heart fluttered. The elegance of their portrayal in support of the absolute and total grandeur of the people and the events that Wadada had written about was stunning. I was beside myself with emotion and believed that this moment constituted one of the finest that my work had ever seen or would see.

Even though my work is now seen for how, during all these years since 1970, it has lived to be appreciated... alone and for itself...the realization that my art is associated with one of the defining moments of music and African-American history overwhelms me.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cross MacKenzie Gallery, Washington, DC, Group Show, Apr-May 2012

Lyn Horton, Opening Out, 2011, colored pencil on gouache on rag paper

Opening April 13th 6-8
Charles Anthony,
John Brown, Lyn Horton, Laurel Lukaszewski, 
Ellen Wagener 

Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present "Twisted", a group exhibition featuring 5 artists who share the use of a single element - the simple curving line - as the launching point to create engaging and complex works. Patterns are formed by the repeating interwoven lines in these artworks in four different media - photography, ceramics, wood and works on paper. In each piece, there is a sense that the artist is controlling and bending a force to their will to create order out of chaos. The curving, curling, wild lines have an agenda, a desire to escape the restraints of the drawing or sculpture's bounds, but are disciplined into aesthetic submission.

Lyn Horton's pencil and gouaches drawings are hypnotic. The artist has executed Sol Lewitt wall drawings and is a master of controlling her small pencil - line by line - until a large and powerful work of art emerges.

John Brown's photographs capture wisteria vines in silhouette that reach with sinuous strands across the watercolor paper like jet-black India ink spills. This current work is an outgrowth of the striking "Vine Series" presented at Cross MacKenzie last spring.

Real Midwestern cyclones are drawn in the height of their twisting motion in the dynamic charcoal drawings by the Iowan artist, Ellen Wagener. The energy of the twisters is present in these small but power-packed pieces included in the show.

Laurel Lukaszewski has broken out of her familiar black and white extruded ceramic elements with a new hanging ceramic sculpture made of colored clay ribbons which reference vines even more directly in this palette of twisted lines.

Finally, noted architect and sculptor, Charles Anthony, tames twisted wood and writhing vines to create beautiful mirror frames whose interwoven elements literally have to be tied and screwed down to control their natural habit of reaching for another vertical to use as a climbing trellis. Combing hair in front of these mirrors is like mimicking the efforts of the sculptor in smoothing down stray curving lines of hair into a pleasing frame of the face. Anthony's architectural projects must stand up to serious building codes, classical dimensions and construction deadlines. His whimsical side is let loose here to our delight. The tension in all of these works of art comes from their twisted nature - parallel lines need not apply.

The opening reception for the artists is April 13, 6-8 and runs thru May 16th.
Digital images available upon request.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wadada Leo Smith: Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets: TUM Records, 2011

“Mbira” is the word for “thumb piano” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. Mbira is also the name of a trio of musicians created in the spirit of the Shona story-telling tradition by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Joining him in the trio is Min Xiao-Fen, Japanese pipa player and singer, and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff.  The title of Mbria’s recording, Dark Lady of the Sonnets, stems from Smith’s poem of the same title referring to Blues singer, Billie Holiday.

As with anything he does, Smith approaches the music making with the utmost integrity. Smith’s choice of instruments to include the four-string wooden lute-like Japanese pipa to play in combination with the trumpet, flugelhorn and standard drum set, is more concerned with how distinctly different sound voices relate to each other than with their ethnic origins.

The high-pitched non-resonant quick strumming of the pipa matched with the elegant slow tempo unraveling of a melody from the trumpet becomes the first piece, “Sarah Bell Wallace,” the name of Smith’s late mother. Its opening and closing bracket a lively, rhythmic body which serves to magnify the timbral differences as well as the similarities among the instruments. The latter is proven throughout the recording by the ways in which each instrument is played: Smith rings in vibratos, trills, and tremolos over the taut incessant plucking of the pipa. The drums continue with as much intensity as is transferred by the pipa with, for example, the closed-off claps of the hi-hat coordinated with the rattling of the cymbal in endless cascades.

The evolution of the tunes is unpredictable, but careful listening can unveil the conversation that is occurring. The instruments answer to one another, correspond in sonic intention, and come together in joyful glory. More than once, “Zulu Water Festival” bursts open with exuberance, not so much in pace and volume, but with the spiritual shape the major thematic tune assumes.

The Blues are contextual. Min Xiao-Fen vocalizes more than once on the album and, especially when she sings Smith’s poem “Dark Lady of the Sonnets,” she is singing in a manner that is out of context in relation to how Billie Holiday would sing. From this perspective, Smith is saying that no matter how the blues sound, they exist in every culture. It is the web of how the music grows around the idea of the blues that reveals what they can be…that tells the story that can be told.

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Track listing:
Sarah Bell Wallace; Blues: Cosmic Beauty; Zulu Water Festival; Dark Lady of the Sonnets; Mbira.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jacob Wick, Marc Riordan, Frank Rosaly: Tres Hongos, Where Dreams Go To Die

In a trio collaboration with Jacob Wick on trumpet, Marc Riordan on piano and Frank Rosaly on drums, Tres Hongos demonstrates that improvised music from musicians,  born within the last four decades, recalls as much from the past as it projects innovation and awareness of the present. The youthfulness of the musicians gives the music its rawness, its edge, its angularity, its penchant for sound examination as opposed to grandiloquent, lilting lyricism, for instance.  

The inexorable amount of detailed expression that documents the energy that goes into maintaining restraint gives the music its edge. It is no mystery that muscle and breathing control are components of managing the non-explosive retention within the playing.  No time is wasted to clarify that the trio is going to pull back and articulate no further than the tremolos or choruses that Wick repeats on his brass instrument or the notes Riordan plays mechanistically on the piano keys or the snare rolls, snaps, and cymbal hisses that Rosaly sculpts in the most high-tempo moments on the album. Volume is permitted, as in “Champagne Bayside;” but that does not mean that the overall sound steps out of the boundaries that were set from the very beginning.

This music is linked to the classical compositions of the last fifty years that includes that of John Cage, Morton Feldman, George Crumb and the Minimalists. Nonetheless, what is taken out of that music is naturally incorporated into a new process that allows the flow to happen rather than be irrevocably metered out.

The trio exhibits a sense of the passage of discrete units of time which intensifies the fact that no resonance contributes to the ongoing sonic unwinding. “God’s Girlfriend” is a prime example of the players’ complete introversion: trumpeter Wick plays his mouthpiece; Riordan interjects measurable silence between short chords or briefly rolled phrases; Rosaly barely touches the cymbal or the snare and any potential for ringing is damped and transformed quickly as he moves from place to place within the percussion spectrum.

The cover photo is called “Mojave Desert, California (Bottle of Piss)” from a series by Chicago photographer, Greg Stimac. That the members of the trio believe that this picture is simply a “strong stand-alone image” and lends no particular meaning to the music that is played on Tres Hongos testifies to the same kind of  provocative character in the title: for the “bad” translation of the spanish ‘Tres Hongos’ is 'Three Fungi.’

If there is any meaning to be had, though, the subtitle speaks the loudest of all: ‘Where My Dreams Go to Die.’ The evanescence of dreams is similar to the evanescence of improvised music. Neither a dream nor the music ever dies; neither can be replicated and once experienced simply becomes a part of the omnipresent universe.   

Track listing: Game Urge; God's Girlfriend; Champagne Bayside; Optimist; Franklin as Night.

Issued on: PromNightMolk Records, 2012

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Friday, February 3, 2012

Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects: Thirsty Ear, 2012

No matter whether he plays solo or with his trio, in his recordings, Matthew Shipp appropriates a signature design that includes introduction, evolution, climax, denouement and conclusion. The quality of the music in each recording never shifts; its character does. His fourth recording with his trio, this group including Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, Elastic Aspects demonstrates clarity of motion that goes unquestionably forward but never deviates from an intensity, even in its quiet moments, that denotes universal embrace. 

This story is prefaced with a slow-tempo arco bass line layered over amplified, distorted drumming and piano. Shipp’s mid-range chords, which he exits with single treble notes, follow; and then, after a breath, the guts roll out. Bassist Bisio picks out a sturdy rhythm; drummer Dickey coincides with light cymbal to snare combinations; and the piano persistently relates thematic ostinatos. It is as if Shipp opens the gates for everyone to walk through. The tracks each have titles, but that fact matters only for reference, because the music unwinds effortlessly from one place to the next without a hitch.

A mixture of abstraction interspersed with formal, heavy and subsequently boppish melody melts off Shipp’s sure fingers; he forms stunning improvisations that climb, curve round or spread out like the limbs of a tree to their creatively alogical end. Even when he goes under the hood of the piano, as in “Stage 10,” his determination is measurable; his purpose is audible in the clipped –off resonance. In fact, hearing his technique on the sounding board juxtaposed with his keyboard work is educational. It arouses awareness to the intersections of his pedaling with his fingering. Shipp is concerned with the broadness of his reach and the details within. How he manipulates them both preaches to the bass and the drums their role in communicating his overarching message.

Shipp hands a large portion of the development of this music to Bisio, whose weighty, resilient arco solos, particularly in “Rainforest,” are exceptional. Bisio plays into his instrument; he is not tall so his gravity is centered where he places his bow on the strings. The sound he produces is bound in rhythm and unrelenting in expression to exhibit sensitivity to change and range. When he works within the group, his pizzicatos are strong, relaxed and thoroughly united with music’s direction.

Dickey dictates his own boundaries. He steers towards rendering the sound that much fuller: the cymbal hissing and the snare skin shaking signify his presence. His playing becomes a means to stretch the musical line as opposed to being hell-bent on “keeping the beat.”

Continually achieving recognition and praise in the world for his musicianship, Matthew Shipp always succeeds in doing what he is meant to do: which is to make new music and lay aside all the superfluous nonsense that flutters around him. 

copyright 2012 Lyn Horton

Track listing: Alternative Aspects; Aspects; Psychic Counterpart; Frame Focus; Flow Chart; Mute Voice; Explosive Aspects; Raw Materials; Rainforest; Stage 10; Dimension; Elastic Aspects; Elastic Eye.

Is the Picture Big Enough?

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