Drawing from some of NYC's finest - Tim Berne, Tony Malaby, Mary Halvorson and Andrea Parks - drummer Ches Smith's band takes the Downtown NY strategy to bridge experimental rock and avant jazz in unexpected and astonishing ways.
Smith, Ches and These Arches (Smith / Berne / Malaby / Halvorson / Parkins)
Label: Clean Feed
Released in: Portugal
"Though drummer Ches Smith has a penchant for christening his compositions with playfully oblique names, the name he chose for the title track of the second album by his band These Arches couldn't be more straightforward. "Hammered" is relentless, pounding, fueled by a driving, recursive pulse that goads tense, urgent playing from Smith's quintet of master improvisers.
The piece is a vivid illustration of the precarious balance that Smith strikes between the worlds of avant-garde jazz and experimental rock. He's in demand as the drummer for such forward-thinking jazz artists as Tim Berne, Darius Jones, Mary Halvorson and Trevor Dunn; and at the same time he's provided the backbone for adventurous rock acts like Xiu Xiu and Secret Chiefs 3, not to mention uncategorizable hybrids between the two like Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog and Smith's own Good For Cows.
The merging of sonic worlds on Hammered is no accident; several of the pieces began life as songs penned for rock bands that evolved into more open frameworks for These Arches' expansive improvisation. "A lotof these tunes were meant for a rock band but are being played by something that's not a rock band at all," Smith says. "They're sort of rock reject tunes, and that gave a shape to the whole record."
These Arches may not be a rock band, but its membership has no problem providing the power and ferocity of one. Since the release of the band's debut, Finally Out of My Hands, its ranks have been swelled by the addition of alto saxophonist/composer Tim Berne. He joins tenor powerhouse Tony Malaby, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and accordionist/electronic musician Andrea Parkins.
"These Arches is basically about me writing for a set of my favorite improvisers," Smith explains. "The tunes I ended up coming up with for Hammered were more hard-hitting and straightforward than the earlier ones, but they're also more expanded and developed." The pieces make inspired use of these musicians' ability to navigate fluidly between composition and improvisation while evoking the force and direct communication of heavy rock tunes.
Berne's addition to this remarkable line-up was initially an accident, the result of a scheduling conflict. With Malaby unable to make a tour with the band, Berne stepped in; when Malaby's calendar suddenly reopened, Smith decided to try arranging some of his music for both saxophonists. "It turned out great," he says. "When we all played together it was like, 'This is what I've been hearing.' Having another voice to work with, and especially Tim's way of improvising, adds a whole different dimension to the band."
That new dimension is immediately evident on the album's opener, "Frisner." When the tune breaks down in the middle, Berne and Malaby both push their horns to their screeching limits while Smith and Halvorson provide pointillistic interjections and Parkins shrouds them all in skittering electronic textures. The title refers to master Haitian Vodou drummer Frisner Augustin, a teacher of Smith's who passed away unexpectedly in February 2012. His influence can be felt in the piece's buoyant, intricate rhythms.
Another percussion hero is honored via "Wilson Phillip," which pays homage to the late drummer Phillip Wilson via a tongue-in-cheek reference to a somewhat less revered '80s pop band. The undersung Wilson was a veteran of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band who played with the likes of Lester Bowie, Anthony Braxton, and Julius Hemphill. Smith's inspiration for the piece came from a beat played by Wilson on one of Hemphill's records.
The spiraling "Dead Battery" was initially intended for Ceramic Dog, while the chaotic, ever-shifting "Learned From Jamie Stewart" was penned for Xiu Xiu, whose lead singer is name-checked in the title (which is also an inside joke between Smith and Bay Area clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg). These Arches' next project will be a collaboration with Stewart on a set of Nina Simone compositions.
"Limitations" provides a minimalist intermission to the album, while "Animal Collection" takes the repetitive structure of "Hammered" in a decidedly different, far more relaxed and grooving direction. And "This Might Be a Fade-Out" actually contains several fades before the ultimate one, ending the album on a note of perpetual resurgence."-Clean Feed
• Show Bio for Ches Smith
"Born in San Diego, CA and raised in Sacramento, Ches Smith came up in a scene of punks and metal musicians who were listening to and experimenting with jazz and free improvisation. He studied philosophy at the University of Oregon before relocating to the San Francisco Bay area in 1995. After a few years of playing with obscure bands and intensive study with drummer / educator Peter Magadini, he enrolled in the graduate program at Mills College in Oakland at the suggestion of percussionist William Winant. There he studied percussion, improvisation, and composition with Winant, Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran. One of Winant's first "assignments" for Ches was to sub in his touring gig at the time, Mr. Bungle (here he met bassist / composer Trevor Dunn who would later hire him for the second incarnation of his Trio-Convulsant). During his time at Mills, Ches co-founded two bands: Theory of Ruin (with Fudgetunnel / Nailbomb frontman Alex Newport), and Good for Cows (w/ Nels Cline Singers' Devin Hoff). He currently performs and records with Xiu Xiu, and Secret Chiefs 3. He has also performed with Ben Goldberg, Annie Gosfield, Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai, Fred Frith, and Trevor Dunn. In addition to Ceramic Dog, he also leads his two of his own projects, Congs for Brums and These Arches. He currently spends his time between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn."-Ches Smith Website (http://www.chessmith.com/)
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• Show Bio for Mary Halvorson
"One of improvised music's most in-demand guitarists, Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called her "a singular talent" (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (Howard Mandel, City Arts), "one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz-or otherwise" (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice). The Philadelphia City Paper's Shaun Brady adds, "Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar in recent years with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style."
After three years of study with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on six of Mr. Braxton's recordings. Ms. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot, in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey and Mike Reed.
As a bandleader and composer, one of Ms. Halvorson's primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon's Head, the band has been recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Ms. Halvorson's quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon to the trio, has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label: Saturn Sings and Bending Bridges. Most recently she has added two additional band members-tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik-to form a septet, featured on her 2013 release Illusionary Sea. Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a longstanding chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew and Secret Keeper."-Mary Halvorson Website (http://www.maryhalvorson.com/bio/)
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• Show Bio for Andrea Parkins
"Andrea Parkins is an American composer, sound artist, performer and improvisational musician based in New York. She is known for her inventive explorations on the electric accordion, generative sound processing, and arrangements of objects and sound. Parkins received a BFA from Tufts University and MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.
Andrea Parkins's work is influenced by the compositional strategies of John Cage and Fluxus and pays homage to musique concrète and 1970s analog synth. Parkins often incorporates electronically processed accordion, customized sound processing, live tape manipulation, analog effects boxes, laptop electronics, acoustic piano, sampling, and amplified objects. Her method and sound were characterized by LA Weekly as: "The big, varied, confidently conceived abstractions Parkins yanks from her squeezebox, laptop, effects devices and maybe piano - cloudy and cranky one minute, surgically sharp the next." With an unconventional approach to instruments, Parkins "fragments the instrument's traditional vocabulary and expands its capabilities with electronics and extended techniques."
Recently Andrea Parkins has been developing a series of interactive sound and image works inspired by the structures of Rube Goldberg's circuitous machines. Describing this organizational approach Stephen Bezan remarked: "the individual sounds manipulated by Parkins seem to interact and influence the outcome of the other, crafting a goal-oriented structure based on timbre, not harmony or rhythm. This approach transcends the inherent cacophony of the material and reveals a genuinely organic, even playful quality to her work." Parkins has described her Rube Goldberg approach as a means for examining slippages between object and meaning. She observed: "An important conceptual thread running through these pieces is the discovery and expression of metaphors for the slippage and tension between object and meaning that occurs through the passage of time." Describing her intentions, Parkins noted: "As both a sonic and visual artist, I try to build and layer idiosyncratic systems and structures that point to these shifts in meaning."
Andrea Parkins has toured and exhibited internationally and has been presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Kitchen, Experimental Intermedia, and Diapason Gallery for Sound and Intermedia. She has collaborated with musicians such as Nels Cline, Jim Black, Ellery Eskelin, David Watson, David Fenech, Fred Frith, Thomas Lehn, Günter Müller, and Otomo Yoshihide and choreographers Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad from the BodyCartography Project. Parkins has been the recipient of various grants, awards, and residencies including Meet the Composer, New York State Council for the Arts, Harvestworks Media Art Center, in New York City, Frei und Hanseastadt Hamburg Kulturbehoerde, in Germany, and CESTA in the Czech Republic."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Parkins)
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Shipping Weight: 2.00 units
Quantity in Basket: None
Label: Clean Feed
Catalog ID: CF 270
Squidco Product Code: 17488
Packaging: Cardstock gatefold foldover
Recorded in December 2011 by Bryce Goggin at Trout Recording.
Tim Berne-alto saxophone
Tony Malaby-tenor saxophone
Andrea Parkins-accordion, electronics
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1. Frisner 7:19
2. Wilson Phillip 7:22
3. Dead Battery 6:43
4. Hammered 7:45
5. Limitations 2:08
6. Learned From Jamie Stewart 4:26
7. Animal Collection 6:28
8. This Might Be A Fade Out 8:27