In 14 years together as a group, rhythms get to be familiar. This thematically was what I was getting at in the preview piece I wrote for the San Antonio Current of The Bad Plus' show last night at San Antonio's Aztec Theater. There's a sense of familiarity in the rhythm, a knowledge of direction. When I asked them how they do what they do, for example, in Reid Anderson's composition, "Physical Cities" off 2007's Prog (a song the trio unfortunately didn't play last night, something just a tad too complicated and a little too far back in their catalog to perform with the level of precision these guys are proud to demonstrate in every show), while I expected some sort of breakdown of specific counting, a lesson of polyrhythms that couldn't possibly have been conveyed to such a tender-minded admirer in the span of time of the tail end of a dinner break, Iverson jokingly answered they did so through telepathy. One might over 14 years of playing together and building such a body of work, most recently with Inevitable Western on the Sony-OKeh label, seriously consider that as a possibility.
I had reservations at first. Any album that integrates a string section must do so with care. Are the strings the main attraction? An accent? A layer of a greater sound or something flashy that pulls away from the central musician? Most importantly, when adding strings, is this album going to get Capital S Serious? Yet one run through 26-year-old saxophonist Mario Castro's new album, Estrella de Mar, dispelled all worries. The album features his quintet, a group of string musicians, and a cadre of contributors who fully wring everything out of his compositions to marvelous effect.
I've spent quite a bit of time mulling over whether or not to write this post. In the years in which I've edited Nextbop, I've learned how to present the work of talented musicians to the public around the world and have had to contend with those who have not necessarily learned the skills necessary of dealing with the press, establishing a good web presence, and most importantly the fundamental notion of presenting one's work to another human being in a way that is appealing. I recognize that this is all part of the job-- I'm an editor, self-made at that, of a website that deals with artistic types with various skillsets, artists young and old of different experiences and different perspectives. Not everyone is going to know everything. Making music is a different skill set than promoting music, than writing about music for journalists to write about it, than writing about music for fans to get intrigued, than discussing it in an entertaining fashion over the air. Working as an editor continually gives me insight into the ever-spreading and ever-morphing tendrils of the music industry; it's also driven me slowly insane explaining to the yet-initiated how best to send music. I considered writing a column like this to be too inside baseball-- a general readership may not find this particular subject helpful. It may have been too negative-- the Nextbop mission of positivity runs directly against the idea of writing a rant about the appropriate way to send information while I'm boiling over inside and not revealing every invective I'm spewing at my computer's & smartphone's screens. However, with every spammy tweet and every two lined, info-less email I receive, the more I realize for my own peace of mind, I had to spread the word. Musicians, journalists, and random fan alike, these suggestions for submitting work may not be universal, they may not always work, they may not always even work for submitting to Nextbop, but they'll certainly give whoever you're sending things to a hell of a lot fewer headaches.
In journalism, there exists a device that many fall into using but should be avoided whenever possible called the false range. It involves describing something as having various disparate attributes and inferring that these attributes range from one to the other, all the while there being no true order to the range, hence it being false. Thus, in many write-ups on the music of vocalist José James, journalists will often say his music goes from R&B to rock to jazz to soul. Yet what determines this order? They aren't chronological or alphabetical. Style cannot be put in a determinate quantifiable order. A range is stated that cannot truly be. James truly does have all these sounds in his music, but I would certainly want to avoid using a false range to describe him. (All the while using the same trope to do so and simultaneously describing why I shouldn't. Paaaaaaralipsis!) Once you can see the device, you can't unsee it. It's effective but faulty, like a headline asking a vague clickbait-y question or implying you won't believe what happens next in this story (when you totally will). Such is the case-- José James performed his first show in Texas last Saturday, June 21st in downtown San Antonio's Charline McCombs Empire Theater as part of his tour supporting his new album While You Were Sleeping and you won't believe what happened (like I said, you totally would).
Chris Galvan asked me to guest host once again and I was more than happy to oblige to give myself a couple more hours to play some more brand new music. I did a lot with this week's Line-Up, but I just couldn't resist having a larger canvas this week to work with.
Nu Standards for 7 June 2014