This is the second time I've had the honor and privilege of featuring the fun and fabulous Li'l Miss Dolemite on Funky Friday. I love the mixes that she puts together -- great grooves with sprinkling of the absurd.
"Up in Flames (What-a-Gas)" is especially trippy. Enjoy.
I've been a fan of Barbara and her band for a couple of years. I love her sensibility as a composer. She's deeply embedded in the jazz tradition, but is by no means bound by it. Her compositions happily embrace other influences; the sounds that she creates are fresh, gorgeous, soulful. Not surprisingly, her band attracts fantastic musicians.
Barbara Bruckmueller Big Band, Vienna, Austria, August 2012.
In the video above, Barbara talks about her band's new album, which will
be released in March 2013. I'm betting right now that it will be my
favorite big band recording of the year.
* * *
I've written about Barbara twice before. You can read those posts here and here and listen to a couple of terrific arrangements -- one is an original tune, the other is by Duke Ellington. Fine and funky playing, straight from Vienna, Austria.
I spend a lot of time wishing I were in South Africa. Yes, I know: Be Here Now. Screw it. I'll take South Africa, preferably Cape Town.
Except for today. Right now -- 5 September 2012 -- I'd rather be in Johannesburg for the opening of Nadine Hutton's first solo show, I, Joburg, at Room, 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein.
I, Joburg, exhibition catalogue.
I find it difficult to write about Nadine's work without gushing, on the one hand, and tripping over overwrought metaphors, on the other. So let me put it very simply. Her photography, film-making, and truly innovative use of social media add up to one of the most emotionally and intellectually challenging bodies of work that I've seen in years.
One of the things that I like the most about the work is the way it subverts, ignores, tramples on, and strokes the poor tired head of distinctions that have long seemed crucial to thinking about photography and film, especially the supposed dichotomies of documentary and art, public and private, personal and political.
I, Joburg catalogue. [Click on any image to see a larger version.]
The works on view in I, Joburg are just fragments of Nadine's output. But having seen the catalogue and the short film, "Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy," that is a part of the show, I think it reflects some of the subject matter and much of the sensibility that she's developed in the course of her still relatively brief career.
In this show, the subjects are her city and her friends and collaborators. The sensibility, in the words of Maria Fidel Regueros, is "direct, quiet... schizophrenic and queer."
I, Joburg catalogue.
I take the show's title to mean two things. First, Johannesburg is Nadine's city. It's where she grew up and where she first worked in photography as a photojournalist, documenting its life in a more or less straightforward manner. In this show, however, she's created menacing documents (to paraphrase Regueros) -- photos that look like set designs for a movie version of Lauren Beukes' brilliant dystopian novel Zoo City. The photos are at once documents and art.
I, Joburg catalogue.
Second, I, Joburg refers to the camera that Nadine used to make the show's photo -- an iPhone. The use of the iPhone is more than incidental. Its small size, unobtrusiveness, and the fact that most people don't take it seriously facilitated Nadine's move from observer to participant, from a more distanced relationship to what is in front of her lens to a more intimate one. Public and private merge, separate, and come together once more.
I, Joburg catalogue.
In these photos and in "Memoirs of a Killarney Houseboy," the personal is the political. Their depictions of "spirituality, melancholy... absurdity, silence, friends and lovers, aspirations" are central to what Regueros calls Nadine's "ongoing disruption of benign heteronormativity." Queerness here is a sensibility, an identity, a way of being in the world; it's expressed with a matter-of-factness that destabilizes heterosexual norms more effectively than any overt display of sexuality ever could.
I, Joburg catalogue.
I, Joburg will be on view from September 5th to the 29th. Nadine leads an artist's walkabout on Saturday, September 22nd, at 11:00. Go, if you possibly can.
If you can't, check out Nadine's photography on her website, here, and her videos on both Vimeo and YouTube.
I mentioned that social media is a central part of Nadine's art. To get a sense of what she's up to, follow her on tumblr and Twitter.
Kait Dunton must know what she's doing. Either that, or she's ever-so-slightly out of her mind. Because here she is -- amid of the clutter and noise of the internet age -- whispering.
Mountain Suite, the mesmerizing new album from the LA-based composer and pianist, never raises its voice, never prances or preens, never grabs your collar and demands your attention. Instead, it quietly invites you into its world for a long, engaging, and ultimately moving stay.
"Frolic," live recording. Kait Dunton, piano; Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz, bass; Peter Erskine, drums.
Mountain Suite began to come together when Dunton attended a workshop at the Banff art center in the Canadian Rockies. While she was there, she told me a few weeks ago, she began to write pieces that were "more adventurous, without an obvious form." Over the next few years, some of the tunes "kept hanging around." As Dunton worked with them, she realized that they formed "part of an arc," and she decided to complete it with newer pieces, "keeping the concept in mind."
The concept -- that arc -- is a journey, an abstract journey that for Dunton has both physical and emotional associations. It connects the glorious mountain scenery of Banff and to journeys of the mind and the heart.
Dunton emphasizes that Mountain Suite is very much a suite -- a series of related short compositions that are meant to be heard as a whole. She says that the various movements reflect the stages of a journey -- its excited, yet apprehensive beginning, its moments of enchantment and jubilation, its disappointments and confusion, and, in this particular case, its triumphant revelations and quiet return. To my ears, the suite is an inward journey, and a deeply emotional one, at that.
"Day One," live recording. Same performers.
Dunton is still in her twenties, but there's no doubt that she's already developed a distinctive compostitional voice. Her style mixes angularity with emotion, and rhythmic complexity with melodic grace. Even though she's already released a debut album -- 2008's Real & Imagined -- Mountain Suite is her real coming out party as a composer.
As you've gathered from the videos, Dunton is working with a number of collaborators on this album. The two that appear in the videos are drummer, Peter Erskine, and bassist Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz. On the album, as in the videos, the interplay between piano, bass, and drums is marvelous to behold.
Dunton's piano playing on Mountain Suite, even at its most exuberant, has a serene quality, as though she were painting with pastels rather than primary colors. Erskine, especially, is with her all the way, often relying on his cymbals rather than drums to propel the music. That's going to surprise people (like me, to be honest) who will forever associate him with the high-powered athleticism he displayed when playing with Weather Report. It shouldn't. He's a wonderfully tasty cat who's played with everyone from John Abercrombie and Diana Krall to Steely Dan to Linda Ronstadt.
"Path," live recording. Same performers.
Saxophonist Bob Mintzer and trumpeter John Daversa, who appear in the video directly above, also show up on several of the album's tracks. (Oh, yeah, Dunton has put together a damned impressive band.) Even though the none of the movements turns into a blowing session, they both do a lot more than providing another set of colors, as you can hear. Like Erskine and Oleszkiewicz, they're in tune with Mountain Suite's moods and contribute subtle, intricate, moving solos.
(In a wonderful coincidence, Dunton told me that Mintzer also performed her very first composition. It happened in 2005, when she was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, and Mintzer was in town to perform with the university's jazz ensemble. I wonder if he remembers the dark-haired piano player with the blazing talent.)
I started out by suggesting that Dunton is either a genius or a little bit crazy. I imagine you've figured out which side of the fence I fall on as far as that question is concerned.
It also seems to me that Dunton has more than her share of courage. Not every young artist would be prepared to make her second album one that makes demands on the listeners. This is music that asks for your time and your concentration. It should be heard whole -- as the suite that it is -- and it rewards careful, sustained attention. It takes guts to release an album that's neither iTunes-friendly (it would make little sense to download isolated tracks) nor iPod-friendly (it would make even less sense to put the tracks into a shuffle mix) in 2012.
As slow music in a fast food world, it's never going to be popular music. Most Taylor Swift fans or Beyonce fans probably wouldn't be interested. But some of them would be, if Mountain Suite somehow came their way and if they stopped to listen. Here's hoping that they have the chance.
If you're in Los Angeles or Berlin, you can catch Dunton live in July. On Sunday, the 8th, she and her trio will be playing in LA at the Honor Bar, in the South Beverly Grill, from 6:00 to 10:00. (Free admission.) And, on the 28th, she and the trio will be in Berlin, performing at Noyman Miller, at 8:30.
When I met Nadine Hutton last October, my first thought was this: She's what I would have been, if I were South African, a woman, had far, far fewer hangups, and more talent. Of course, that's a complete fantasy. I know -- heck, you know -- that no matter how South African, female, footloose, and fancy-free I manage to become, I'll never be as cool as Nadine.
Nadine's an artist and photographer, not a musician. But, as the second video clearly shows, she's sure 'nuff funky. (The first video is an introduction to her wide-ranging work.) She's in Los Angeles right now, where for the next few weeks, she'll be an artist-in-residence a the 18th Street Arts Center. That's reason enough to celebrate.
Nadine's one of my favorite photographers. I love her portraits -- for instance, two images that she made of the great Hugh Masekela. The first makes me happy; the second blows me away. You can see them here and here.
I'm also a big fan of an ongoing series of photographs that she's making with an iPhone, in which she's exploring, as she says, "a personal, often ironic and humorous vision of home, Johannesburg." You can see these wonderful images here.