Sunday, 23 November 2014

Brownman & GRUVASYLUM feat Mad Dukez Friday November 28th @ May Cafe

Bright and chipper, eager to chat
 about the intersections of jazz and hip hop,
Brownman Ali calls me on a Sunday afternoon
between an eleven am big band rehearsal 
and an early evening studio pre-production session. 
The Trinidad-born, Brooklyn-bred, Toronto-based
trumpeter, composer, teacher and bandleader is a man of boundless energy;
juggling juggernaut jams in a menagerie of musical settings.
The previous night, at Melodia in Burlington.
Brownman presented a condensed version
of his annual 5 week Miles Davis tribute.


The first step is to make a set list
that speaks to his career, and that's hard.
We did our first set in suits,
covering the bop and swing stuff: the Acoustic era of 47-68.
After (that) we took a set break;
we actually made a costume change,
came back psychedelic, with sunglasses and headbands.
It changes the vibe, it changes how you approach the music.
To spend the whole night inside Miles' head
is a real heavy thing, for all of us...
You need five heavy musicians who are versatile enough.
There's literally only about three bassists in Canada that could play this gig.
 Marc Rogers of course tops that list.

Also joining Brownman on this sold-out gig were
Andy Ballantyne on altotenorand soprano sax,
Adrean Farrugia on piano and keyoards,
and Anthony Michelli on drums

We had to sublimate our own voices musically to play the idiom.
It was interesting to watch the transition...
slowly watch it morph by the end of the night into me.

(photo Nils Blondon)

By the end of their second set, 
the quintet were riffing in an idiom four decades removed 
from where they began: Miles' work from the 80's, which was
distinguished bcrisp beats and Marcus Miller's tight slap-bass:
something muccloser to Gruvasylum's sound:
Brownman's own brand of high-energy electric funk.

Brownman, who in his very international career has shared the stage with Paul Simon, Mos DefTalib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-ONE, and Jay-Z, feels a sense of continuity in the traditions he has inherited from his mentors Guru and Randy Brecker

Cats like Guru and Miles, they're always looking to the future:
Guru is the Miles of hip hop.
The years I had with him were life changing:
I know all his ethics, I know his ideologies.
The only difference is, he was a hip hop artist coming at the jazz idiom
and I was a jazz artist coming at the hip hop genre from a jazz perspective.
And really, it's not that different from what Miles does.
What defined Miles?
Three things: courage, irreverence, and evolution.
Miles was not interested in playing the music of yesterday,
and that's the thing with hip hop;
look at some of these guys from the Golden Era:
still touring around the same old tired record.

Mad Dukez: Gruvasylum's resident MC

I had just come off the Guru Tour in 2010,
and was asked to play with the band Type Relevant in upstate New York. 
Mad Dukez was their rapper, that's how we met. I was blown away:
I was so knocked out by his flow;
his sense of timing, his sense of rhythm,
and by his sense of storytelling.

The freestyle form in hip hop
 is not so different from the jazz solo:
the headspaces are similar, the context is similar.
Gruvasylum investigates that connection.

I asked Brownman what his thoughts and plans were;
going into the studio this week to record 
Gruvasylums second album

Mad Dukez is coming up from New York tomorrow.
I have all of these pre-production ideas;
and a lot of them are quite loose,
which is very different from when I go in with other groups,
I'm going into the studio tonight:
I've got a couple snippets, just frameworks,
grooves for bass, drums, and keyboards.
I've played them, sampled them, looped them.
Then I'll bring in Dukez, (and) talk about the ethics,
the idea of the tune. I'm setting the parameters,
but its gonna be Dukez doing the storytelling

 There's a track on my Juggernaut album;
Evolution Revolution, that came about because
Guru would say 'the evolution of hip hop
need(ed) a revolution'.
'Cause conceptually a lot of hip hop today
is about rims, helicopters, and bravado,
(That's) not using your form.
I think that's whack.

Mad Dukez, Fresh Kils on the set of their Sookie Sookie video shoot

The ethic of Gruvasylum
is to deal with real subject matter,
even if its just a story about a girl.
Coming up in Brooklyn, we would sit on the stoop
and just tell tales: go through a day of your life
or a big story arc: that's a Brooklyn tradition.
We're trying to get back to that act of authentic storytelling
and maybe have a certain literary bent to it.
That's harder to find now
than it was in the Golden Era, y'know:
 guys like KRS ONE and Public Enemy.

Brownman's vision for GRUVASYLUM
differs from the rest of his projects:
his foray into hip hop takes aim 
at street poetry's full potential 
for engaged storytelling,
the vitality of the oral tradition,
and relevance:

I'm hoping the beats will remind people of late Miles
or early hip hop.
What do with my different groups (is)
I break up all of my interests
and I have a different ensemble for each interest
and I really focus on the one thing.

Holding down the gruve for Brownman and Dukez this friday  
will be BEN MILLER on 6-string electric bass
and GEOFF BRUCE  on drums
For all Friday Nov. 28th GRUVASYLUM Toronto show info:

The band is also playing DBGB's 
in Buffalo on Sat. Nov. 29th
For all Buffalo show info

(photo by Nils Blondon)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Paul Poule: poemes et dessins (choses 2-4)

(sans ames- avec cyril lavain)

Nov. 13


la nuit recrut dans les draps
dans les marmites d'acier
dans les coffres
et les miroirs
dans les creux, les grottes,
et les crevasses des paupières
le grain semé pour récolte
au ciel déserté


 comme montée sur un carrousel infernal
la morte accompagnée de son 
fricassée d'étoiles vertes
dansait dans l'assiette
son dernier repas aurait des allures
de cortège funèbre
de défilé de mollusques stellaire
la mort patiente dans la viande
pas dans l'os des rêveurs


le cliquetis des larmes pleurées au dedans
rythmait l'avancée silencieuse
des mots ourlés aux lèvres
du mendiant
le vide répond au vide
dans chacune de ses prières

Nov. 14


ses crimes
la nuit les porte
à hauteur de flamme
à hauteur d'homme voûté
piétiné de lueurs


un chien danse avec l'écuelle des rêves
sa truffe humide collée au ciel
ses babines retrousées en un étrange rictus
englobent l'immense


son corps était écris a l'envers
écris avec quelques lettres inventés
pour combler ses creux, ses lieux d'angoisses
de l'orteil à la glotte le texte de son être
comme aligné ou perlé sur un fil invisible
semblait taire une autre douleur

(chien- avec Florent Vuilermet)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

the Kiss-off (February 22, 1987)

I first became suspicious a few days later, 
in the confusion of hospital error and Warhol s death 
following what should have been a routine surgery. 
Anyways, the last time Warhol was photographed alive 
who was right there by his side?

The man in question, heaven save us, 
trumpet master, 
sorceror, genius
Miles Dewey Davis III

Thursday, 16 October 2014

20 Questions with DJ Eddie C

  • How long has it been?

    Sammy D! It's been some time.
    However I'm not sure anymore if time exists or not.

    Were you living in Nelson for a while?

    That would be nice! No, but I've visited many times.
    The last time I went there my friend took me to see the house he grew up in just outside the town.
    To his surprise the property had been turned into a Buddhist retreat.

    And now Germany. Berlin? What hood? whats that like?

    Yes! So great. The complete opposite of where I was living before.
    I live pretty central but really that means nothing as the streets all seem to go in a circle.
    Somebody just biked by my window with a tuba strapped to his back.
    What have been the best shows of your career?

    The first ones ever of course!
    Nothing's better than a party in your friend's basement
    when you're a teenager.

    Best collaborations?

    I almost never collaborate. I should.
    It's good. I know it's the right thing to do.

    How has your production style changed?

    That's really up to the journalists.
     But I would say... not too much.
    Like Bryan Adams once said,
     "I can't help the music that I write, it's just what comes out of me."
     Turns out he's actually a huge fan of speed metal
    but has great difficulty writing that in that style.

    whats your favourite musical discovery of the past 7 years?

    Re-Re-Re-Rediscovering dance music.

    Other cultural benefits of living in Europe?

    Learning insane histories of different countries.
    Nothing (comparative) has happened in Canada.

    favourite country/ places to tour?

    ahh, it's all pretty good! Everyone's the same.

    Even my sister likes the CCC mix. 
    Are people going nuts for your funky styles?

    hahaha... most times. You know how it is.

    Worst venues you've played

    Weddings in Banff. Corporate gigs for oil companies.
    Terrible! Some people have no idea how to party.
    It's really interesting!

    Do you ever get vodka, beer promos?

    Judging by the haze in my brain this sunny Sunday,
    I'm going to have to say yes.

    Tell me about your experiences with small labels

    I only have experience with relatively small labels.
    Generally everyone is pretty honest and a lover of music.
    There's very little money to be made and I guess that's what keeps it on the correct level.

    Expound on the joys of vinyl

    Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to own, listen to and appreciate recorded music.

    How do you feel about boomboxes and cassette tape culture?

    I miss it dearly!
    Actually a friend from Winnipeg keeps mailing me tapes
    and I can't listen to them because I don't have a player here yet..
    I bought some tapes in Egypt recently as well.
    I gotta get on that.

    Do you prefer film or books?

    That depends. You know, I can really only read when I'm on holiday. I have no idea why.. too many distractions in the real world.

    local german acts/ djs your into?

    So many. Been getting into Guru Guru a lot lately.
     Mostly older stuff actually.
     Cluster, Eberhard Schoener and the like.

    How do you enjoy visits to Toronto?

    Always love it! The last party was a bit of a high school reunion..
    I wonder what it would be like to live there?

    You call this living?  I think someday the future will arrive in TO.
    Who are your favourite Canadian artists?

    I don't really know any other than my friends. I guess that counts though!
     There are quite a few Canadians here actually.
     We enjoy bowling and picnics in the park.


text by Kierin Gorlitz

Hissing missiles of cicadas and the thundering blow of bullfrogs 
are the cannon fire of Matt Walker’s 
Device for the Emancipation of the Landscape. 
(T)his is no gentle nostalgia for an erstwhile soundscape; 
rather, the sound cannon delivers a forceful and focused aural reinvasion, 
projecting the cry of the wilderness into the sound of the city.
The invasion is successful.

 Within the range of the cannon’s blast, motors, car horns, 
and the drone of tires give way to birdcalls and the chirp of insects. 
There is poetic justice, here: all over the world, 
the sounds of industry and transportation have infiltrated ecosystems, 
masking the frequencies of wildlife communication. 
The native species have been forced to adapt or depart, 
effecting a transformation of these habitats 
as tangible as the construction of highways and skyscrapers. 
Walker’s Device achieves a telling reversal of this unnatural order, 
repopulating targeted areas of downtown ... environment with the 
long-muted sounds of marshland wildlife. 

... while drawn from and evoking nature, 
the projected sounds have a distinctly unnatural effect. 
Passersby are struck, as though with actual artillery, 
by the sudden barrage of nature’s cacophony. 
The cannon has been specifically 
constructed to incorporate parabolic reflectors that 
allow for a highly directional acoustic projection. 
The sounds are, in a sense, shot into the street, 
appearing both physically and contextually 
to come from out of nowhere. 

 One expects to encounter the sounds of 
a wilderness such as a marsh as a gradual, consistent 
wash through a wide-open space. In its natural 
surroundings, even the shrill cry of a red-winged 
blackbird integrates with the other chirpings, 
hissings and whirrings of its environment and settles 
into the pattern of nature’s chorus. 
To be assailed with these typically congruous sounds, 
all at once and out of context, has a startling impact. 
The sudden dissociation of sound and setting arrests passing listeners; 
the peculiar manner of the sound’s conveyance gives them pause. 

Within this pause, the listener is drawn to consider 
the two disparate environments suddenly placed in overlap:
 first the marsh and its organic symphony, 
with rhythms metered but consistent; 
then, looking outward, the city with its pavement, machinery, and architecture – 
an intricate panorama of the history of human influence. 
... thus seized, upon stepping beyond the cannon’s range and back into the city’s soundscape, 
perhaps the listener will seek out traces of wilderness amongst the traffic,
 picking up the sounds of birds and rustling leaves 
in an effort to make sense of the transition. 
Or perhaps, having passed through the sound of marshland, 
the listener will find the very city-ness of the street pronounced.

As is often the case when “what if ?” is the question,
Walker’s Device for the Emancipation of the Landscape
carries in it a note of optimism.
 Here is an invasion in the name of liberation, 
as the title of the work suggests – 
an effort to let loose the wilderness within the city, 
rousing the traces of it that exist here already, 
and releasing it into new areas to see if it may flourish. 
The naturalization of nature into this urban
environment may not be easy progress, 
but, as the strength of its sound suggests, 
nature is a force to be reckoned with. 
The time has come for the wild to
retaliate – this is its battle cry.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Erik Volet in conversation with Sam Decter, 2013-14

Totem Plane 2

Let's talk about your recent work. When was you last show?

My last show was at a friend's Antique shop/gallery
 in Toronto called 'Weird Things'
I showed a series of gray scale drawings
 done with prismacolor felt pens. 
The drawings were a small series whose content was derived 
from experiencing a number of traditional ceremonies
 throughout the year. 


Some of the imagery was inspired by indigenous art of the
northwest coast-albeit pretty loosely, since I took some imaginative
liberties, as well as referencing traditional art from elsewhere.

 The drawings came from my personal vision, 
but were clothed in certain traditional conventions of form.
 I had shown the same series a month or so earlier
 in a small cafe in Victoria.

Totem Plane

Does the set of drawings have a collective title?  

The set of drawings doesn't (yet) have a name 
they are all bound by a sort

of medicine/interior vision type of theme/form/quality.

Twp paintings resulted from the series
but I have since moved on to other stuff.
The 'series' may be resumed in the future...

Medicine Boat

Can you tell me more about the medicinal and visionary approach to your work ?

Attending (these) traditional indigenous ceremonies, 
both... local traditions, as well as those rooted in traditions
 indigenous to other areas of the world, 
has had an impact on my work in terms of new spatial

relationships to vision, and relationship with the sacred. 

Sun Mask

I have always been interested in non western-centric modes of art making/doing, 
but actually being able to participate in and experience these traditions

opens up a direct relationship,(one) that is harder to access through studying

traditional art in the removed sense of a merely academic approach.

More recently I've been producing larger format 
black and white paintings from various photo sources. 
The photos give me a point of departure. 
They help me to take off from a found moment that already exists in the world
rather than arising from my own imagination.

Scene from the Yiddish Theatre

 I sample the staging of figures existing in a landscape or interior

 that I would otherwise not be able to concoct as convincingly
 from memory or the imagination. 

In the selection process these images interact with my unconscious
enabling me to construct uncanny scenarios rooted in the real 
and employing classical space to a certain extent.

Stolen Journey

Reducing the palette to a gray scale helps me focus on structural elements

that were de-emphasized when I was working in a more openly expressionist

mode reliant on color being used in a spontaneous subjective manner. The

idea is that a surrealist painting can arise as much from a planned,

structural mode of construction, as from an automatic spontaneous mode,

just as an expressionistic painting can result from careful staging as
much as from wild abandon. Eventually merging these two apparently opposed
tendencies would be ideal, as I go back to the color, and the spontaneity
the idea is to synthesize the lessons learned from the preplanned staging
and the palette restraint.

Beggars' Banquet

Beggars' Banquet is from a still from Luis Bunuel's 1961 film Viridiana. 
Stolen Journey is from an old photograph 
as is Scene from the Yiddish Theatre.

Can you elaborate on what you refer to as
 'alternative depictions and experiences of space'?

 To start with a few western examples of what I meant 
Andre Breton said that "the eye exists in its savage state"
 now I'm not going to pretend I know exactly what that means 
but for me it refers to the idea of an interior vision,
 the eye that looks within as well as without 

and is related as well to Leonardo Da Vinci's 
celebrated suggestion to his students that they look 
at the spittle encrusted cracked walls of the city
 and therein find visions of marvelous battles and



Anyways, I think that ceremonial time affords a certain glimpse 
into this way of seeing that goes so far beyond 
the mere recording of the limited
'reality' of the external world as we believe it to be. 
This is a common idea in most traditional cultures 
where the access to non-ordinary realities 
or what we might reductively call the mythic
 (is) just a familiar and accepted aspect of reality. 
But in the west it seems we had

to 're-discover' this sort of perception, 
this way of being in the world,
and so in the context of modernity we have 
come up with things like surrealism, 
and various other routes to regaining a connection
 to what I would call the Sacred 
(although that term might make some surrealists touchy)

Elk Angel

 When I say the Sacred, I mean that ceremony and ritual also reconnect us
not just to new (old) ways of seeing, but also a different way of
experiencing our own existence -so it is not just our visual relationship
to the world, not just an aesthetic thing, it is as much about sound,
music, rhythm, the voice, storytelling, communion with one another,
nature, the elements and the divine.

Khmer Dancers

So there is this mystic aspect to drawing vision from 
sources other than our own Cartesian ego, 
which the Greeks understood since their idea of the muses 
gave credence to the notion of divine inspiration.

Then there is also the material aspect of culture...
which preserves the mythic, the archetypal, the collective memory of mankind-
and when we look at the diversity of form within
 the traditional art of the various cultures of the world
 there is an immense repository of knowledge...
which also gives us a glimpse into 
the 'interior vision' of
all peoples.