The Squid's Ear Magazine

Weston, G. Calvin

The Phoenix Orchestra - Dust and Ash [VINYL]

Weston, G. Calvin: The Phoenix Orchestra - Dust and Ash [VINYL] (577 Records)

An excellent example of modern fusion as drummer G. Calvin Weston (Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer), also on pocket trumpet, joins the Phoenix Orchestra, a Philadelphia-based string & electric octet, for a funk driven album of spectacular playing with melodic force and compelling rhythm, showing shades of Cobham or Mahavishnu but with its feet fully in the present.

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Grant Calvin Weston-drums, pocket trumpet

David Dzubinski-piano, keyboard

Elliot Garland-electric bass

Tom Spiker-electric guitar

Carlos Santiago-violins

Benjamin Sutin-violins

Ashley Monique Vines-viola

Ajibola Rivers-cello

Kayle Brecher-vocals

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UPC: 02363267845

Label: 577 Records
Catalog ID: 5826
Squidco Product Code: 27526

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Undercarriage Studios, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by Tom Spiker.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"On his third album for 577 Records, drummer G. Calvin Weston, known for his work with Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, The Lounge Lizards, James Blood Ulmer and Marc Ribot, hits notes both on and off the beat, that mark the time and space of sound, with edgy and sharp melodies. If you listen carefully, you'll hear an obsessive bass-line that incites the explosion of rhythm.

Dust and Ash is like a sand storm that changes direction with the wind and tries to imprison the traveler. If you hear it without anchors or safety nets, it is like an abstraction that draws a perfect shape. It is like a voyage without departure or arrival points, in which a woman's voice allows itself to be cuddled by the shadows of a piano and dances with them to become a waterfall of notes before taking off.

More than ever, G. Calvin Weston's playing is the rage of thunder, the melting of sound in a carpet of drums. The sound of the vital resistance of a native Philadelphian, the rage of blood that follows the edgy melodies of The Phoenix Orchestra, a boutique of sounds to be found, discovered, caressed, without questions that would compromise its flying."-577

"Grant Calvin Weston's connection to Ornette Coleman's Prime Time is undeniably a major feather in the artist's proverbial cap, though back in the day (i.e. the late '80s) I'll admit to being more struck with his work on James "Blood" Ulmer's first two records, especially 1980's classic Are You Glad To Be In America? This is partially because Coleman's two earlier electric band outings, '76's Dancing in Your Head and '78's Body Meta, had already nailed me but good; the saxophonist's '80s albums featuring Weston weren't just more of the same, but they can be evaluated as something of a refinement.

On the other hand, Ulmer's second and third albums, both of which I'd heard before his '78 debut for Artist House Tales of Captain Black (which featured Coleman and Weston's Philly-based friend and future Prime Time cohort, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma), were upon introduction both striking affairs. Over time the impact hasn't lessened by much.

Are You Glad To Be In America? offers the selection "Jazz is the Teacher (Funk is the Preacher)"; its title is a decent summation of Weston's mode of operation across the decades. To expand a bit, he's drummed with all three members of Medeski Martin & Wood, contributed to the work of techno artist Tricky, and along with Tacuma, taken it far outside in trio with the late Brit avant guitarist Derek Bailey. A fine recent example of his aptitude with improvisational fire and power groove would be his work in the Young Philadelphians alongside guitarist-leader Marc Ribot, Tacuma, and guitarist Mary Halvorson.

Flying Kites, a duo record released in 2015 on 577 with co-billed guitarist Lucas Brode really underscores Weston's talent for exploring ideas descended from non-crap fusion. The other prior outing for 557, 2016's true solo album Improv Messenger, spotlighted his range as multi-instrumentalist, with Weston playing trumpet, guitar, bass, Moog bass, and keyboards in addition to the drums.

And so, this new LP, another co-bill, this time with the Phoenix Orchestra, can be viewed as a departure, expanding the lineup to nine contributors with a focus on strings as the band features violinists Carlos Santiago and Benjamin Sutin, violist Ashley Monique Vines, and cellist Ajibola Rivers. Along with Weston and singer Brecher, the group is completed by pianist-keyboardist David Dzubinski, electric bassist Elliot Garland, and electric guitarist Tom Spiker.

"With Open Wings" places Brecher, Dzubinski and the string section up front for a short opening prelude, lush and gorgeous, prior to the deft integration of heat and expansiveness that is the title track. While the ensemble string arrangements in "Dust and Ash" are superb, especially the initial grand sweep emerging a little over 90 seconds in, it's really during the extended stretch of violin soloing, with Weston and Garland laying down a massively elastic and exploratory groove, that the music hits my personal fusion sweet spot.

Some might be thinking of another orchestra, namely Mahavishnu, and while that's not inappropriate, Dust and Ash is distinct for a variety of reasons. Sure, high-flying violin is present, but for starters, that rhythmic dimension offers its own flavor as the record, being the byproduct of a large band, is more legitimately deserving of the orchestral tag overall.

Also, guitar takes a back seat in the title cut; when it steps to the fore across "Incarnate" it's with a raw funk edge that's quite distinct from McLaughlin. And so, enough of this comparison, as Brecher's return in the fittingly titled and rewardingly executed "Abstraction" drives home the lack of depth in the assessment.

"Abstraction" leads into a considerably sharp change of pace, and while the avant-funk of "Dance with Shadows" doesn't grab me as quite as hard as "Dust and Ash," those recurring string section figures do ooze a deliciously urbane quality with more than a smidge of '70s Philly in its makeup; Dzubinski's electric keyboard solo is also a treat.

"Thunder" scales back to just Weston, which is to say that it's a drum solo, and one with passages befitting its title, though the whole is appealingly varied (and unlike the rest of the set, it seems to have been recorded live). "Endurance" is a tidy cooker mingling electric jazz heft with string moves again nodding in the general direction of Gamble and Huff. The track delivers a sweet finale to Dust and Ash, a record that should leave Weston fans and lovers of jazz-funk well-pleased."-Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

Get additional information at The Vinyl District

Artist Biographies

"G Calvin Weston was born June 6, 1959 in Philadelphia, PA. He became interested in drums at the age of 6, when he (and his neighbors) discovered his talent for rhythm as he beat on every car on the block. He lived in North Philadelphia where he saw musicians like Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five and James Brown at the Uptown Theatre. Seeing his attention focused on the drummers, his Father bought him a small set. In high school Calvin learned to read music and played second snare in the drum ensemble. He co-founded the group Bad Influence which played in cabarets and clubs around Philadelphia.

At 17, Calvin joined Ornette Colemans Prime Time Band,with bass player jamalaadean tacuma.his close friend from philly, which toured extensively in North America and Europe.

Grant Calvin Weston has blazed a harmolodic, funkadelic trail through modern jazz. This record is a culmination of recordings made on the West Coast and his hometown of Philadelphia. Weston puts his Midas touch on electronics and acoustic instruments that blow the socks off any jazz-rock poser out there. Listen to the man who funked-up Ornette Coleman in the 1970s."

-LInkedIn (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"David Dzubinski is a pianist and composer who combines his great energy, wit and humor with endless imagination and courage.

David Dzubinski's interpretive playing incorporates freedom with an eye toward frame of reference. While never letting go of the reference points in tunes, Dzubinski journeys in and out of harmonic dissonances and rhythms, chaos and unity, creating a lovely dance of tension and release. With the basic structure of the tune always central, his whirlwind of colors and rhythms swirls around it, allowing the listener to be inside and outside of the tune at the same time.

This inside/outside approach is, in fact, Dzubinski's goal as both a performer and composer.

As a ballad player Dzubinski displays a rare intensity. He is able to place himself into a deeply personal and melancholy space, displaying bold sensitivity and beautiful phrasing."

-Brecher Jazz (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Born on June 20, 1974 in Wilmington, DE, Tom's musical life started at the age of three, when he began studying the Suzuki violin. Soon, by the age of four or five, the violin lessons landed him some recitals as well as a few Saturday mall gigs, but around the age of 7, the violin was dumped. Tom got his first guitar at the age of 9.

Many teachers and rock bands later, Tom's thirst for new music lead him from rock into jazz territory. First came high school jazz band, then Delaware All-State jazz band, followed by 2 semesters as a high school student in a University of Delaware jazz combo. With a small grasp of theory, a solid ear and an ability to fake his way through jazz standards, the next step was college. Despite being awarded a decent scholarship at The Berklee College of Music, Tom opted to study at The University of Miami (known for it's alumni, Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius).

It was at the University of Miami that Tom began uncovering what would be his musical voice. The late-night jam sessions evolved into gigs and recording sessions, most notably, the early Film Arts Revolution (F.A.R.) gigs at an on-campus bar. Though he can't take credit for the idea, Tom was involved very early on in this multimedia show involving student films and live, improvised film scores.

Having grown tired of the South Florida music scene, Tom soon relocated to Manhattan to finish up his degree at The New School-Mannes College of Music. It was in New York that Tom was able to immerse himself in the "downtown" music world. Between studying bass and guitar with Reggie Workman, Vic Juris, David Fiuczinski and Kermit Driscoll, and numerous gigs sitting in with Steven Bernstein's Sex Mob, Tom was finally able to comprehend the essence of the music he was striving to make.

Fast-forward to the year 2000; the move to Philadelphia. Within only a few months of moving to Philly, Tom was able to hook up with G. Calvin Weston. As fate would have it, Calvin's tour with the Lounge Lizards had been cancelled, spawning the creation and very first recording of G. Calvin Weston's Big Tree; a band that Tom would perform, compose for and produce for several years to come. Through this relationship with Calvin; he was introduced to Jamaaladeen Tacuma, whom he would replace on a tour of Europe and Africa in the band Groove Alla Turka in 2002.

Naturally, a sort of rebirth of the F.A.R. concept would soon be back in slightly different form. Without any resources in the film world, Tom decided to raid the shelves of T.L.A. video for the finest in B Movies, has-been T.V. shows and various instructional videos. Naturally, this provided a backdrop that was far more pop-culture oriented than any of the previous concepts. The new concept, dubbed "The Mobile Pleasure Lounge" became a performance far more avant-garde, largely due to the musicians on board and the way the visuals were presented.

It was through M.P.L. that Tom was able to form his "Doublewide Trio", a double-trio (2 guitars, 2 basses and 2 drummers) featuring Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston, to be the house band for the first few performances. It was through The Mobile Pleasure Lounge and various other Philly-based improv collectives, Tom would get to perform with several other world-renowned musicians such as Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra and John Medeski of Medeski Martin and Wood.

In 2005, Tom completed construction of his Northern Liberties, Philadelphia-based recording studio: Undercarriage Recording. Not only did owning a studio open up countless production and engineering opportunities, it opened up touring ones as well. In '05 Tom went to Europe as a bass player with Kelis, Japan as a guitarist/keyboardist/percussionist with Philly Hip-hop/reggae artist: Steph Pockets, traveled nationally with Ari Hest (Columbia records) and Tony C. and the Truth (Atlantic records).

More recently, Tom has been seen performing with Bakithi Kumalo's All Star Graceland Experience (guitar), Jeffrey Iqbal (guitar), Frank Bey (bass), David Newman (guitar), Don McCloskey (guitar and bass), Jessie Baylin (guitar), Res (guitar), King Britt's Sylk 130 and Back 2 Basics Band (bass and guitar) both locally and internationally. In the studio, he worked on recordings for Atlantic records, Stax, Decca, Blue Note, Columbia, Hidden Beach, Hand Cuts records (Japan), worked as an engineer for G. Love and Special Sauce, and produced countless recordings including a collection of Fleetwood Mac songs with Res entitled: Refried Mac, David Newman's Love is Awake LP, tracks w/ Jaguar Wright and Brentwood Estates' debut album, which featured Jimmy Luxury and G. Love."

-Tom Spiker Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:


1. With Open Wings 01:19

2. Dust and Ash 08:41

3. Incarnate 05:11

4. Abstraction 02:10


1. Dance with Shadows 04:41

2. Thunder 06:37

3. Endurance 04:57

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Large Ensembles

Search for other titles on the label:
577 Records.

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