The day after Chuck Cuminale died we opened a forum on the Refrigerator website. Social media did not yet exist so the forum served as a community billboard, a place where people who knew Chuck, or were influenced by him and his music, could share memories and post tributes. The tributes poured in.
I’ve been slowly dismantling the Refrigerator website, moving some of the content to this site and letting the rest die as I pull the plug. I rescued the “Chuck Cuminale Remembered” forum today and put it all on one page, a page that tests the limits of endless scrolling. It is a real testament to the impact Chuck made on peoples’ lives.
Chuck not a late bloomer. He was a beatnik in high school. He was in my sister’s class but he was best friends with my brother. I loved arguing with Chuck. It could be over music or just about anything. He was opinionated and passionate. Riding in a car with him down to NYC, maybe to see Charlie Coco the conversation never stopped. He was curious about everything. Last time I saw him he was raving about Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy.
Listen to “Copernicus,” recorded live at Rising Place, Gary Bennet’s place, long before Chuck formed the Colorblind James Experience. My brother was there and is credited with “Background inspiration.”
I know the quality so the word “stubborn” caught my eye in Chad Oliveiri’s accompaning wall text for Joe Tunis’s “Carbon Records: 25 Years of Cover Art” show at Rochester Contemporary, It reads “Carbon has been stubbornly releasing music from artists on the fringe of the Rochester scene and far beyond for the past 25 years. It’s a record label Joe Tunis started because he was obsessed primarily with packaging.”
Joe’s label, Carbon Records, started releasing records in the summer of 1994. They were mostly bands Joe was involved with but the improv/noise/drone/experimental label has gone international. They are giving Earring Records a run for its money.
We spent about an hour in the Lab Space at RoCo on opening night, studying the artful packages for (mostly) bands we have never heard of. The wall above features the 12 inch format. That’s Nod, “So Much Tonight,” third one in on the bottom row. Each package is as striking as it is unique. I hope you’l have a chance to see this show in the next month.
I did my homework this year by reviewing the list before we left the house. It took some of the fun out Record Store Day but it also gave us more freedom to just hang out, drink coffee and eat cookies. There were only a couple of things that caught my eye and I snagged both the Art Ensemble 45 with the African poet, Alfred Panou, and the John Cage Meets Sun Ra 45 (plus dvd of the complete Coney Island performance). I put that on as soon as we got home.
We left our car in the old Tops parking lot on Winton and walked to Monroe where stopped at Bop Shop and Hi Fi Lounge. We stood in front the sound system in the back room. I asked the guy how much the pair of speakers cost and he said “around $300 but don’t quote me. They sounded fantastic and I was considering so I asked the owner when he came in. He said “about two thousand.”.
I brought my Hauser Wirth bag with me and filled it with vinyl, a few more 45s from the sixties and Silver Apple’s debut 1968 lp on milky blue vinyl. They sound like Nod, Can and Suicide, all bands that came after them.
We took a different route over to Record Archive where a big inflated dinosaur was bouncing around in the parking lot. A local brewery called Single Cut was giving away samples of beer that tasted exactly like grapefruit juice. A young mod-like band was performing in the back room you had to get in a long line in order to look at the Record Store Day product.
I will sleep good tonight. I spent a good bit of the afternoon rebuilding the short concrete wall that sort of marks the property line between us and our neighbors. I do this every years as the pachysandra bed on the other side continues to expand the wall tilts toward us. It is not even a foot high and from our perspective, an eyesore. I proposed removing it but that didn’t fly so I rebuilt it again.
Our local newspaper has been promoting the Pulitzer Prize winning, USA Today documentary, “The Wall.” The movie was free so we signed up.
Once the Trumpster announced and made the big fence a pledge a group of journalists decided to fly the the border from from the mouth of the Rio Grand to the Pacific Ocean. The winding river makes a natural border for large sections and and the terrain is so rugged and inhospitable I kept trying to picture the engineering feat required to run fence up and down the sides of mountains and over huge ravines Currently there is only 600 miles with an actual fence. The one feasibility study of effectiveness of the wall, which was done in 2006, showed the astronomical costs would bring negligible benefits. So full stream ahead.
God creates Eve from Adam’s rib and they have two sons, Cain and Able. Then Cain takes a wife. Did you ever stop to think about where that woman came from? Was there someone around the corner that was also doing creation?
This is just one of the arguments Spencer Tracy’s famous defense lawyer character uses against his famous prosecuting attorney in the 1960 recreation of the famous Scopes trail. This damn movie, which was screened at the Dryden Theater yesterday, is sixty years old and the story it retells is 100 years old. Yet the movie is still relevant. One third of Americans don’t believe in evolution. The clutches of the fundamentalists, those that believe in a literal, word of god, biblical creation story still go as deep as the Tennessee townspeople singing “Give me that old time religion,” in Stanley Kramer’s “In Inherit The Wind.” And I find that depressing. But the movie is not.
The movie is vivid. It is witty. Quips fly by. Gene Kelly playing a reporter from the Baltimore Herald, lets the most fly. The smallest characters are as large life. Claude Akins is fantastic. Fredric March goes over the top. Spencer Tracy is brilliant. Distrust of science and distrust of journalism is nothing new.
I went down for the count for a few days. Didn’t have the energy to sit at my computer. We were making the rounds on First Friday and I felt pretty good at Colleen Buzzard’s. I was loving Amy Robinson Gendrou’s drawings, paintings and whatever you pieces that involve string or thread mounted to drawings and paintings. But by the time we got to RoCo for the opening of the Cut & Paste show I felt like I had been beat up. I was so out of it for the next couple days I put my pants in the laundry with my wallet in the pocket.
I am on the mend now and the restorative yoga class Jeffery taught tonight was just the ticket. It would have been a perfect class if he hadn’t read a Yoga Sutra during Savasana. I was thinking about how Suzanne, our old yoga teacher, used to drop a small bean bag on our eyes during deep relaxaton.
Suzanne’s hair spilled down to her waist and some people called her Gypsy. When she did a forward bend she could fold up like a jack knife. She taught class in her living room and the only equipment or props that we used were bolsters, which she had piled up in a corner. We didn’t bring anything, not even a yoga mat. We used to walk down Culver to her house on Vermont Street and then stop and pick up a slice on the way back from Romano’s Pizzeria.
Now, we bring mats, blocks, straps, tennis balls and a towel which Peggi and I use when Jeffery says, “OK, get out your blankets.” Props are for old people.
Last year on this date, 4/5, we had a 45 party. Maybe it was the year before. Everybody brought a few records and we whooped it up. I wanted to do it again but we have an art opening to attend so I made plans to talk about the new Real Angel Corpus Christi record. Lindsey Hutton writes the liner notes and I should probably just reprint those but here goes.
The package is stunning, like a giant 45, a European one on the front and and an American one on the flip side. We have two Angel Corpus Christi 7 inches and three of those four sides are included here. The record is chocked full of singles.
The accordion is exactly the right instrument for Angel’s International pop sound. Pull Girl is a smash. The low end quiver on Dream Baby Dream rattles the dishes in our cupboard. The ultimate Suicide song features Alan Vega himself on backups. Angel’s Barbarians cover, a perfect choice for her, sounds like it’s being performed live in a teen club, maybe a converted bowling alley, the way bands sounded in the Panorama Bowl when I was sixteen. Dean and Britta join Angel on an a dreamy, instrumental version of Femme Fatale, maybe my favorite cut. I would die to hear that played on the street in SF the way she used to.
Sadder is Peggi’s favorite! If only Lou Reed had taken the advice Angel offers on Lou Reed’s Hair. MX80’s Bruce Anderson plays guitar on Face in the Crowd and the lp finishes with a brilliant mash-up of Walk on the Wild Side and Henry Mancini’s Elephant Walk.
I submitted a few of my Police Composite collages in Rochester Contemporary’s “Cut & Paste” show and one got in. I’m not sure which one got in but I’m guessing it was this one. The show opens tomorrow night and features collage artwork by over 100 artists. That is one surefire way to get a big crowd at the opening.
Four of every member of the sax family plus one bass saxophone. A saxophone orchestra. The Eastman Saxophone Project rearranges work for the saxophone and plays from memory without a conductor. We heard at noon today in the Hochstein performance space and you can catch the rebroadcast on WXXI at ten tonight.
With a little bit of help from a small percussion section they performed Emanuel Chabrier’s “Espana,” Astor Piazzolla’s “Contrabajjissimo” and Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, something that would be immediately familiar because it has been used in many movies. It is amazing to me that the sax can do it all. The group will perform again at Kilbourn Hall on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 7:30PM.
At a distance the witch hazel can look like Forsythia but it is too early for that. At the end of Wisner there are bunch of witch hazel trees growing near the road and in this spot you can see three different varieties. Into the park and up the hill on Zoo Road is another variety, one that blossoms earlier, like February. It is still in bloom and very fragrant.
Carl used to run a saxophone repair shop on East Avenue. The place was called Shuffle Music and his cliental was mostly Eastman students. He’s retired now but he does some work out of his house. Peggi put her soprano in her backpack and we walked over there today along the lake. We made a loop out of the trip by coming back through the far side of the park where the sewage treatment plant is.
We missed yoga last week because we were at Big Ears. I’m looking forward to to tonight.
Dan Eaton had a sweet gig with RNews for many years. In a few minutes he talked you through a gourmet recipe and convinced you that a regular guy could do this. He delivered the goods at Rooney’s and Good Luck and Rochester’s finest. He holds court in Hammondsport now, at the bottom of Kueka Lake and will soon be offering a “Chef’s Menu.”
We had dinner there on Saturday and ordered from the menu. We were just digging in to our roasted Brussels sprouts appetizer when the waitress told us Chef Dan would like to cook for you if you agree. We agreed and were blown away. We were were celebrating Jeff’s birthday so booked a room upstairs and shared a bottle of Mescal that he had brought back from Mexico.
I know girlie magazines is the first thing anyone thinks of when you say World Wide News but they used to be the only place in town where you could buy the English weeklies, Melody Maker, Sounds and NME, the Spanish daily newspapers and any obscure art magazine you could think of. Last time I was in there it was more like a corner store.
It was a beautiful day for a walk around the city. We had lunch at Fifth Frame and a late afternoon beer at Swiftwater. I’m thinking about painting the horseshoes for the new season.
I stopped in to see Jack at the Twelve Corners bagel shop. The cashier told me to go on back. Jack was listening to to some Arabic music and franticly tending a steady stream of dough as it spilled out of a vat and onto the moving track that shapes the bagels.
Upstairs at the House of Guitars in the far back corner of the building there used to be a mound of drum hardware. The peak was ten feet high and the pile spilled toward you like an art installation. Most of it was used, stands that were taken in on trade, but if you were lucky you might find just the part you were looking for. We walked over this afternoon and found Ethan Porter in Dick’s old space, working on guitars. And that pile is growing again but its over to the left.
I was looking for the shortest snare stand I could find because I wanted to put a rack tom on it and have the tops of my snare and tom be level. I found a used top and a bottom and put them together but it still wasn’t short enough. I took it down to Jared’s and we shortened it with a grinder, drilled a new hole with his drill press and put it all together.
Spring Break is over. The UT college kids are coming back. We spotted Tim Berne waiting for a ride out of town and then a little further down Gay Street was Ken Burns in a bus wrapped with an ad for his upcoming PBS Country Music documentary. Knoxville is returning to normal.
I’m going to miss the Big Ears app. This festival unfolded so well and our schedule was continually in flux we that depended on the app for everything. To listen to sound samples from the artist’s sites, to get from one venue to the next, and most of all to get continuous stream of updates about surprise appearances and clubs reaching capacity. But most of all I’m going to miss Big Ears, the festival, an astounding collection of great music.
People were walking toward us this morning with pillows under their arms. We were headed to The Standard where a twelve hour drone was just finishing up. It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. Bodies were scattered about, some cross legged with their eyes closed, others completely sprawled out or asleep. A different musician or set of musicians took over the drone every half hour. We listened with our full body for fifteen minutes or so and headed over to the Knoxville Art Museum to check out Tim Story’s Roedelius Cells, fragments from old Cluster recordings played through sixteen speakers, eight times stereo. We stopped in a panel discussion with Nate Wooley. He talked about listening, the importance of silence and playing with but not mimicking external sounds.
A century after the WW1 armistice, Richard Thompson performed KIA with a string ensemble. His songs are based on letters, diaries and verbatim extracts from people directly involved. Peggi counted 10 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and two basses.
Ever the optimist, Roscoe Mitchell, in the center of a panel surrounded by three current members of the Art Ensemble, said, “It seems like the sixties all over again.” He talked about composing in the moment and how he was trying to do the past members, those who have passed on, proud. “You either have a ticket to ride or you don’t go.” We we’re thrilled to see that Tomeka Reid, the cellist we liked so much in Artifacts, is now a member of the Art Ensemble.
Bill Frisell’s Harmony with Petra Haden singing as he plays guitar along with cellist, Hank Roberts and Luke Bergman on baritone guitar sounded right at home in Tennessee. The old timeyness in a lot of Frisell’s playing in hi many settings is fully fleshed out here.
At the Spanish/Moorish Tennessee Theater the amazing Art Ensemble of Chicago, celebrating fifty years of great black music, closed out the festival like a rocket ship leaving earth with the very best elements of our culture. With only two of the formible five left they had added twelve members and a conductor. Their set and encore were so musically rich our ears indeed got bigger.
We weren’t sure what to expect, which is always a good thing. We gathered in an art room at the downtown galley and were told to turn our devices off. They warned us that we could not leave the room for forty five minutes. Bill Frisell was to play a tone and we were told there would be ten minutes of silence after that. Then Bill played his guitar for fifteen (without any boxes) and then there was another ten minutes of silence before Bill struck the final tone. A morning meditation and a perfect start to the day.
We had seen Mary Halvorson on the street but hadn’t heard any of the configurations she was playing in until Columbia Icefield. They were loud and rambunctious. Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir went for emotion, Icelandic style, accompanying herself on piano. What a contrast, walking into Wadada Leo Smith’s solo trumpet performance. Not just a warm tone but a deep, soulful, bluesy tribute to Monk.
Over to the Knoxville Art Museum for Nate Wooley, someone who is supposed to make us question our fundamental understanding of what a trumpet sounds like. His opening piece was so quiet I had a hard time chewing my peanut noodle and pickled cabbage dish without making too much noise. Long, meditative notes that got so long they required circular breathing.
Carla Bley played a very pretty set at the Tennessee Theater with her partner, Steve Sallow and a saxophonist. Amirtha Kidambi‘s Elder Ones at the church sounded like a middle eastern Art Bears or maybe Screaming Gypsy Bandits. Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison’s son was surprising. Garrison, on six string electric bass, comes across as the lead instrument in this all star trio. And did ourselves in with Abstract Black in the Old City, a solo sax with effects.
We started our day with a few minutes worth of Dead Souls, the eight hour movie by Wang Bing, at the UT Gallery and then headed down to the Bijou Theater for Joan La Barbara again, this time with Alvin Lucier and the Ever Present Orchestra. It was transcendent.
Larry Grenadier’s recent ECM release is a solo bass recording called “The Gleaners.” He performed songs from it and mixed Coltrane, Gershwin and Hindemith in with his own songs. He makes the bass sound extraordinarily rich.
Harold Budd opened with a gong piece a Methodist church. The church bells chimed in the middle of his loosely conducted set. Shai Meistro’s trio was amazing. They finished with a cinematic song worthy of an Oscar winning movie.
Absînt with accordionist, Aurora Nealand, Tim Berne, Bill Frisell, and David Torn, performed for the first time together at the Standard, a standing room only venue. It was kind of messy so we ducked out to see Spiritualized. And we finished the night with a brilliant performance by Meredith Monk of her “Cellular Songs,” something she premiered last year at BAM.
The upholstery in the Ford Focus was all cracked. That’s the first thing I noticed and once our Uber pickup was confirmed the driver played “Only the Good Die Young” through the tiny speaker in his phone. I hate that song. He must have called up Pandora’s Billy Joel station because before we arrived downtown “Still Rock n Roll To Me” was playing “through a cheap pair of speakers.” We were in Knoxville for the Big Ears Festival.
We started with a few short films by Beatrice Gibson. We sat on the floor in the UT Art Gallery and marveled at the sound system. It might be time to upgrade our home system before we loose our hearing. We had a salad in a bistro near the gallery and spotted Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan walking by. Frisell is playing all four nights in a different configuration each night. In Saint John’s Cathedral we heard the cellist, Peter Gregson, play lush reinterpretations of Bach concertos. We stuck our heads in the Mill & Mine to hear someone who has apparently played on every Animal Collective album. Mercury Rev is playing here tonight and Spiritualized tomorrow. This is a very walkable city.
Joan La Barbara started with something she called “a real time composition.” She made a sound with her voice and followed it. She did a composition of hers that was used in the movie, Arrival, and told us she is working on an opera based on the life of Virginia Woolf and Joseph Cornell. She reimagined what Woolf’s voice would be like in setting based on Cornell’s journals.
Artifacts Trio, cello, flute and drums, have steeped themselves in the AACM, ancient to the future, tradition. This trio played so well together and covered so much rich musical terrain, they are going to be hard to top.
We peeked in the windows of this old Masonic Lodge building when we were down in Aurora. They were apparently still using the place for meetings. The space was sort of an open plan like a small church. It’s one of the few buildings in The town that hasn’t been restored by the Inn owners. Standing outside the front door you could see right through the building to the lake.
In these dreamy small towns, that are at least a century past their prime, I always find myself entertaining an old fantasy, really just momentarily picturing what it might be like living in a rehabbed building in the center of town. But before it even comes into focus I dismiss it. I know it’s impossible.
At Pete Monacelli’s opening, where a series of works were titled “Searching For Home.” he told me why he left his hometown of Albion. The scenario where he opened a space where teens could hang out only to find the principal of the school and the local cops did everything they could to shut him down pretty well sums it up.
Amidst an extraordinary confluence of natural phenomena Margaret Explosion will perform two sets of original music at the Little Theater Café this evening. The atmosphere will be conducive to creativity. Join Steve Piper and Scott Regan (and the band) who are regularly seen sketching while we play. Oscar was there, on a school night, and drew this picture of Ken as an octopus playing bass.