Favorite Street: Steve Adams


Favorite Street: Steve Adams Recommends (January 2016)

Hermeto Special!

Iconoclast, Hermeto Pascoal

I had the singular pleasure of playing in the recent concert of the music of Lindsay Cooper, organized by Fred Frith and Zeena Parkins. There was a section of one piece that unexpectedly reminded me of the music of Hermeto Pascoal. I mentioned this to a bandmate, who was unaware of him, so that launched me on a binge of Hermeto videos. There are a vast number of them, but here are my faves. Hermeto is such a unique, joyous, insanely creative musician, I think everyone should know about what he’s up to.

Hanging out with his band in a lake

Their phenomenal piece using tuned metal tubes, continuing on to a solo on, uhhh, I’m not sure what

A piece made out of a recording of sports announcing

His landmark 1977 recording Slaves Mass

A good recording of his band, with a tea kettle solo

Hermeto playing his beard (and a pot of water, and more tea kettle, and…)

Oh yeah, he can also play some piano

A full album from 1992, Feste dos Deuses (Feast of the Gods) that I really like, with a great loop of pig oinking in 7/8, and a fantastic cut of harmonized bird calls

And, a nicely recorded full set with his badass band, sent to me by Lee Isles - thanks Lee!

There are tons more - enjoy!


Maritime Rites – Alvin Curran ( New World) - A brilliant combination of found sound and improvising by a wide range of guests including Steve Lacy, John Cage and Wadada Leo Smith.

Una Nave – Guillermo Klein (Sunnyside) - A very interesting Argentinean pianist and composer leading his 14 piece ensemble through a wide range of rhythmically sophisticated compositions.

Human Animal – Wolf Eyes (Sub Pop) – It’s making my speakers crunch right now (but in a good way.)

Acoustica – Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin (Cantaloupe) – Electronica turned into chamber music; it’s smartly done and really performed well.




Captain Beefheart/Under Review (Sexy Intellectual) A look inside the workings and significance of the Captain and the Magic Band with interviews of members and an odd collection of others. It also has some good concert footage.


Favorite Street: Steve Adams

In the last few years we’ve been exploring graphic scores in Rova. It’s been very interesting investigating the possibilities of them, and checking out the history and resonances of the idea. We’re going to be presenting two concerts in the coming months at the ODC Theater in San Francisco where we will be joined by guests to perform graphic scores.

Here are some of the visual influences I’ve been inspired by in doing these scores:

Agon Orchestra: Graphic Scores and Concepts
by Petr Kofron and Martin Smolka
This book with accompanying CD documents the graphic pieces that this Czech group has played and gives detailed explanations of how they developed their interpretations of scores that range from clarity to complete ambiguity. It’s a real eye and ear opener.

Kandinsky: Watercolors and other Works on Paper
by Frank Whitford
Kandinsky has been a huge inspiration to both Jon and me. There are lots of good books covering his work but this one is of particular interest since I work largely in watercolor on my scores. His use of rhythm and form and his many ways of expanding a personal language never fail to excite.

The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy
by Abdelkebir Khatibi and Mohammed Sijelmassi
The idea of calligraphy connects to traditional music notation and has been a way for me to think about new notational possibilities. Islamic calligraphy has been developing in many surprising ways for centuries.

Brion Gysin: Tuning in to the Multimedia Age
edited by José Férez Kuri
Gysin was a collaborator of William Burroughs and Steve Lacy and is probably best known as a writer. But he also had an equally interesting career as a visual artist, including a large series of paintings that are working from calligraphy. He took the idea to some unique and beautiful places.

Hans Richter: Activism, Modernism and the Avant-Garde
edited by Stephen C. Foster
Richter did many things in his long career including, like Kandinsky, creating visual art that connected to music. I’m fascinated by the development and variation in his Constructivist pieces


Favorite Street: Steve Adams

Here are some of my favorite web sites that deal with music in one way or another:

  • Hans Reichel's site, www.daxo.de might be my favorite thing on the Internet. It's clever, involving, evolving and tons of fun. If you only follow one of these links, make it this one.
  • Two good e-zines covering jazz and improvised music are Paris Transatlantic www.paristransatlantic.com and Point of Departure www.pointofdeparture.org. All About Jazz, www.allaboutjazz.com, is a good place for reliable reviews of a wide range of music that falls under that heading.
  • Grow a Brain is an interesting blog that has a collection of "Unusual Musicians and Their Music" at growabrain.typepad.com. For instance, there's a link to the giant string instruments of the Yi people of China that's not something I'd ever run across before.
  • On the electronic music front, Create Digital Music createdigitalmusic.com is a blog that covers the more interesting developments in the field well, and has lots of quirky humor. Check out the video of Keepon the dancing robot, powered by Max/MSP.
  • For woodwind instruments, you can find some odd and entertaining things at www.contrabass.com and lots of useful fingering information at www.wfg.woodwind.org.
  • And for checking out what's happening in the Bay Area scene, it's the Bay Improviser at www.bayimproviser.com.


Favorite Street ? Steve Adams


Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen
August 22, 1928 – December 5, 2007


The passing of Karlheinz Stockhausen has me reflecting on his brilliance and singularity as a composer and musical creator. Like another one of my other personal heroes, Miles Davis, he had extreme stylistic periods and was never afraid to re-invent his music at any point. Here are some of my favorite pieces of his:

  • Hymnen – Though not as widely admired as Gesang der Jünglinge , I have always found this electronic piece to be my favorite of the entire field. I’ve always been drawn to music that takes you somewhere else, and this is a prime example of that.
  • Mikrophonie 1 – a daring leap into the micro-world of the sound of a gong.
  • Donnerstag aus Licht – I am not a big fan of opera in general, but this is a mind-blower.
  • Michael’s Reise – a beautiful landscape for the amazing virtuosity of his son, the trumpeter Marcus Stockhausen.
  • Stimmung - another journey into a micro-world, this time a vocal octet exploring the overtones of a note.
  • Tierkreis - a set of melodies for the signs of the Zodiac originally composed for a set of music boxes. Beautifully succinct and original.


The recordings of these pieces are mostly available on Stockhausen’s personal label at unfortunately high prices, but I think they’re worth it. There are recordings of Tierkreis and Stimmung on other labels, and Michael’s Reise is on ECM.


Favorite Street ? Steve Adams

Excavating the LP’s

Though I still have most of my LPs from when they were the recording medium of choice, I haven’t had a working turntable for a long, long time. I recently got a turntable that plugs into a USB port so you can digitize your LP’s, and as a result I’ve been digging out things that I really love but haven’t heard in ages. Here are some of my favorite re-discoveries.
(I feel like I’m breaking the implicit understanding of these lists, which is to suggest things people can pick up and enjoy, since some of these recordings are out of print, but I think it’s worth talking about anyway.)

Sun Ra - Live at Montreux (Inner City 1039)

I first heard Sun Ra when I was sixteen in a tiny coffee house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, having gone because it sounded odd, and it was a life-changing experience. I saw him almost every chance I had after that, and was always surprised and delighted. But I’ve always felt that there’s more of a gap between the live experience and the recordings for Sun Ra than for any other music I know, maybe because the recordings tend to focus on one aspect of the music and the concerts were always vast and kaleidoscopic.

This is the recording that comes the closest for me to capturing what it was like to see him live. It also has an amazing, epic John Gilmore solo on Take the A Train. Sun Ra also gave me an understanding of the Big Band Era, which I had never gotten before. Big Band music of my lifetime always seemed too regimented and polite, but when Ra ripped into a Fletcher Henderson chart, it became apparent what kind of energy this music could generate.

John Cage – Indeterminacy (Smithsonian/Folkways 40804)

This one I know is available, since my LP copy was so worn that I went out and got the CD. Cage reads ninety one-minute long stories while David Tudor improvises piano and electronic music. Neither could hear the other while they were recording, and the result makes you ponder deeply on the nature of randomness. Endlessly entertaining.

Julius Hemphill – Dogon A.D. (Arista 1028)

Rova just returned from Saalfelden, Austria, where we heard a great concert by Vijay Iyer and his trio playing music from his new CD Historicity. They did their version of the title tune from Dogon A.D., so I’m not the only one who still thinks highly of this recording. Beautiful playing and great writing from one of the giants of this music. I’m also really digging Julius’s Georgia Blue (Minor Music 003) with the Jah Band – Nels and Alex Cline, Steubig and Jumma Santos.

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (WB-23696-1)

I was somewhat shocked when I played this one and found out how much I still enjoy this music. It’s catchy as can be, grooves like crazy, has funny, clever lyrics, beautiful production touches all over, and maybe my all-time favorite 16 bar sax solo in the middle of a pop tune by Michael Brecker on Maxine.

The Electronic Arts Ensemble – Inquietude (Gramavision 7003)

I don’t know much about this band. I think they were from upstate New York and put out a couple of recordings in the early 80’s. Working with synthesizers and guitar, they made music that sounds like structured improvisations, combining architecture and immediacy in a really interesting way. It’s a remarkably modern-sounding work that creates an individual sound space that’s not like anything else I can think of.

David Holland Quartet –Conference of the Birds (ECM 1027)

I don’t think there’s any jazz tune more deeply imbedded in my brain than Four Winds on this record. It’s really fun hearing Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton in this context, dealing with compositions strikingly different from their own.

Hal Willner – Amarcord Nino Rota (Hannibal 9301)

I spent lots of time in repertory cinemas as a youth, and always loved Fellini’s films particularly. This recording has a wide cast of musicians interpreting the music from those films, including Steve Lacy, Jaki Byard, Carla Bley, Muhal Richard Abrams and Debbie Harry. It’s a constant joy to listen to, and avoids the pitfalls of excessive eclecticism that projects like this can easily fall into. Plus, it’s the only recording I own with Wynton Marsalis on it.

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