Friday, August 30, 2019

A Return to "Killer King."

What's been happening? Pretty busy. Last Wednesday (Aug. 21), I did a hit with the Bobby Bradford Sextet at the Santa Monica Public Library on their Sound Waves Series, hosted by Jeff Schwartz. It was a very good show. There is good documentation, but I don't know if Bobby will allow it to go up on YouTube. Members of the septet are Bobby Bradford - cornet, Vinny Golia - reeds, William Roper - lip reeds, Don Preston - piano, David Tranchina - bass, Tina Raymond - drums. We had a good crowd. This show was the first time I played pennywhistle in public. It was a duo with Vinny on clarinet. 

Bobby and I headed out to Santa Monica early and had dinner at Hollywood Swingers Diner.

Bobby enjoyed his burger (cooked medium well) as did I mine (cooked medium rare).

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

On Saturday (Aug. 24), I participated in another piece (Stay Awake) with the Heidi Duckler Dance Company. Heidi's company specializes in doing site-specific works. This one was at the M. L. King Community Hospital in Willowbrook. Willowbrook is just south of Watts. Everyone has heard of Watts, Willowbrook not so much. This is the second iteration of the hospital. The original one was the King Drew Medical Center. It became known as "Killer King." My mother was one of the people that helped that institution justify the moniker. She should not have died the way she did. She should not have. It was because of deaths like hers that the Feds closed it down. And now, here I was, creating work at the new version of the institution. So far, there are no stories of the old horrors be repeated. Despite some challenges, it ended being a very good show. I was not a composer on this, but a featured performer. As always with Duckler, I created my role. I used six instruments: pennywhistle,  wakrapuku, never lur (first time in a performance), ran singha, conch and helicon.  I was in two scenes. There were two composers for the work: Jessie Cox (out of NYC), Justin Bardales, and 12 dancers. 

These shots are from the rehearsal the Saturday before the performance (Aug. 17):

Rob "Rawbzilla" Lambaren protecting the helicon from the sheriff deputies. 

Featured dancer Raymond Ejiofor.

Featured dancer Himerria Wortham giving notes to the company. They are not in jail.

Heidi making decisions.

The parking structure. One of three "stages" the piece took place on.

Rob working out his duet.

Shots from the day of the show...
Heidi Duckler - artistic director, Raphaelle Ziemba - managing director

Calling Hemirria with the ran singha.

And here she is.

Using to wakrapuku to bring Raymond and Hemirria together.

Playing and singing arhoolies with the helicon.

Doing this show provided opportunities to try out some local food stands. 

After the rehearsal on the first Saturday, I found a food truck on Avalon Blvd.

I had a buches mulitas.
A & T Burger on Central Ave. 

Lunch before Friday's dress rehearsal.

It was a good and honest burger.

I passed this place on the first day down there, but the line was too long for me stop. I don't stand in long lines for food. 

The line wasn't very long, but it still took forever to get the food.

Asada taco. Very home-style, very familiar. I haven't had a taco like this for a long time. Not a taco I'd want every day,
but a few times a year would be cool.

This is the taco burger. It looks messy. It is, but more so, because
it was an hour before I could eat it. The bread would not have been
soggy had I eaten it right away. It was a fun burger to eat. 

Then on Sunday (Aug. 25), I premiered a new ensemble for an event called: "Black Music in LA @ WAA - DCA Presenters Showcase." Grand Performances is the entity that hired us. The event was held in Leimert Park. The original request was for Purple Gums, but neither Francis nor Bobby was available. I worked very hard to pull together another ensemble that fit the mold, yet would have an identity purely its own. Ultimately I came up with a trio of Chris Williams on trumpet, myself on tuba, aerophones, vox, and Roberto Lambaren doing movement. The set, like those of Purple Gums, was free improvisation. We did good. 

I only got a short video in terms of visual documentation of the performance. I did get a complete audio recording. There will eventually be shots or video from the Grand Performances folks. For now, here are three screen shots pulled from the video.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Back With PAPA (Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra)

This past weekend I did a hit with the present iteration of the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra, otherwise known as PAPA. I first played with the group back in 1984 when Horace Tapscott called me to play a concert they had as part of the Olympics festival. I performed with them fairly often until Horace's death in 1999. 

The band didn't die with Horace, which is saying a lot. These days, I'd say it is going pretty strong. Mekala Sessions is the leader and drummer. He is the son of saxophonist and ARK veteran Michael Sessions. I have been playing with them for about a year now. The band is a mixture of veterans and youngsters. I like it. The band has a certain kind of freeness to it. It is also based on a concept of community. There is a commitment to the African American neighborhood writ large that is rare. Of course, predominately African American large music ensembles are rare, and that my friends is really some food for thought. 

We played at Zebulon in Frogtown. Also on the set was P.A.P.A.'s vocal component, the Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA), led by Dwight Trible. Special guest opening the evening and also performing with PAPA on our set was Angel the Oracle, from Chicago. A fun time was had by all. 

The photos below are from earlier in this 12 month period that I have been back with the group, as well as last weekend's coming together. There are also two burger shots from Saturday (Phat Daddys Burgers) and Sunday (Rick's). Both were very good burgers. Is there a bad burger? Not really.

Photo by Samantha Lee

Photo by Jessie Justice.

Mekala Sessions

Chris Palmer and Mekela Sessions

Fundi Legohn & Devon Daniels

Michael Sessions

Chris Williams and Aaron Shaw

Dwight Trible, Angel the Oracle and members of UGMAA.

Burger from Phat Daddys.


Aaron Shaw & Devin Daniels, Najite Olokun in background.

Kafi Roberts

Nolan Shaheed

Chili burger from Rick's.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fishin' dem Bones

The long, ongoing, catch-up series of posts: 

Back at the beginning of July, the 7th, to be exact, my piece "Fishin' dem Bones," got another performance. That piece, commissioned by Dr. Raymond Burkhart, has gotten a lot of performances. Who would have guessed? If it keeps it up, it will become my most often performed piece. I won't complain. What was different about this performance is that I conducted it. An interesting experience. Not only do you have to find ways to get several people to do what you want at the same time, you have to know what you want. Not necessarily so easy. You'd think it would be, especially for the composer. The difficulty is that there are a lot of choices. Many of them just as right as others. Then, whichever decision you make, you have to live with. You have to make a bad decision into a good one. It is good that music exists in time, lives in time. It never stands still. It moves on, makes you move on. It was a good performance. The ensemble was The Decisive Instant. Large. Winds, percussion, keyboard, electric strings and a female voice. I have now heard it with enough different types of ensembles, that I want to hear particular other ones. For example, an ensemble that is majority strings. Today I was wondering if it would work with a cappella voices? I think it would be beautiful, but I suspect all of them would have to have perfect pitch. We'll see what time brings. 

The performers in The Decisive Instant were:
Vocalist: Suzi Stern
Reeds: Steve Bowie, Alicia Byer, Vinny Golia, Ken Luey, Luke Reeder, Charles Sharp, Patrick Shiroishi, Alexander Vogel, 
Trumpets: Dan Clucas, Dave Williams
Trombone: Chris Middleton, Ed Weiss
Tuba: William Roper
Keyboards: R. Scott Dibble
Guitars: Kristian Aspelin, Jonathan Grasse, Robert Jacobson, Angelo Metz
Bass: Jeff Schwartz
Percussion: David Martinelli, Paul Pellegrin, Milton Salazar

Click >>HERE<< to watch a video of the performance. 

These two drawings and photo are by Dean Westerfield. I should explain the "Bee," drawing: During the very final moments of the piece, I am standing in front of Vinny Golia. He pointed to a fly that was flying around. Once I noticed it, the fly landed on my hand. I figured it would take off immediately. It did not. It stayed on my hand. I was fascinated. So fascinated that I decided to show it to the audience, never thinking that it would remain on my hand for a second longer. But it did. Long enough for me to do a short monolog about it. And it still didn't leave, but the piece needed to end, so I needed to slap it off my hand and end things. At the end of the video, if you look closely, you can see the fly on my hand.