So Too Much Guitar #4: The Embiggening

So Much Guitar is i2b’s weekly(ish) coverage of the best of the gajillion tremendous guitarists out there. This week, we take a gander at the tsunami of string slingers invading Knoxville for the 2023 Big Ears Festival. I’ve been thinking a lot about Col. Bruce this past week and almost went with “Too Many Gittars” but I lost my nerve.

It is truly overwhelming to consider, and there is no way to honorably cover everyone who deserves it, much less hold any hope of seeing even half of the shows on offer. But fools rush in, as they say.

The venerable Bill Frisell continues his reign Official Guitar Hero of Big EarsTM, with another year of more than half-a-dozen appearances. He kicks off the first night with his trio alongside the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. I’m inherently sceptical of jazz/classical mashups, but this one holds real promise. First, Frisell’s songbook is filled with dozens of my favorites. Second, the KSO is an crackerjack ensemble. Finally, the arrangements are by the superb Michael Gibbs, who has known Frisell since his days in Boston as an occasional student at Berklee.

Bill’s listed for 7 shows (so far), including four shows within John Zorn’s two-day mini-fest at the Tennessee Theater; his latest quartet with Knoxville’s own Gregory Tardy on sax; the Tyshawn Sorey Trio with Joe Lovano; and the Charles Lloyd Chapel Trio with bassist Thomas Morgan.

Lloyd is an absolute legend, 85 years old and truly better than ever. He and Frisell have collaborated in multiple settings since 2015, and their sense of connection is already something to behold. Check this reading of the Billy Strayhorn classic “Blood Count.”

The Sorey Trio is a direct descendent of the great Paul Motian Trio, with Sorey assuming the drum throne; Frisell and Lovano played in the Motian Trio for decades and they have the kind of empathic connection that only comes with years if time listening and responding to one another.

Of the Zorn hits, a trio with guitarists Gyan Riley and Julian Lage on Saturday at noon is my guitar pick (sorry) of the fest. Zorn wrote a suite of guitar trio pieces inspired by Francis of Assisi and St. Teresa of Avila. This is the first of ten listed performances curated and directed by Zorn. (The fest is already teasing at least one “surprise” set in this series.) Zorn Sunday kicks off with the Gnostic Trio, with Frisell, harpist Carol Emmanuel, and longtime Frisell drummer Kenny Wolleson on vibes. Both of these trio shows are must-attend for me. Here’s a full performance of the Gnostic Trio. Pure shimmer.

Next on my gotta-see list is the incomparable Mary Halvorson. She presents back-to-back shows at the Bijou Theater on Saturday afternoon to showcase her twin albums released last year (on the same day) for Nonesuch records: Amaryllis and Belladonna. (I reviewed them here.) These albums represent Halvorson’s finest compositional effort to date. Belladonna features Halvorson with the Mivos Quartet (who will also present Steve Reich’s string quartets elsewhere at the fest), while Amaryllis showcases her sextet, with occasional assist from Mivos. Here’s a sample of what happens when both ensembles take flight.

Halvorson is also slated for three Zorn performances, including the festival capping Cobra hullabaloo, alongside guitarists Will Greene and Wendy Eisenberg. Last year’s Zorn finale near about slayed everyone in attendance. Bet yer bottom I’ll be there for this 12-piece wailer.

Speaking of Wendy Eisenberg, they are down for a solo set at Boyd’s Jig & Reel. There is literally no way to predict what their set will sound like; Eisenberg covers the spectrum. But I am extra curious about this, largely because Eisenberg is part of one of my favorite projects of 2022.

I wrote about Bill Orcutt’s Music for Four Guitars when it landed. I was knocked out then and still love this one beyond all sense and reason. As I wrote then, “Imagine Beefheart’s Magic Band playing Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint or Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists gone electro-anarchic and you get an idea.” Guitarist Shane Parish transcribed the whole thing, which Orcutt had multi-tracked in his home studio. Augmented by Parish, Eisenberg, and the interstellar Ava Mendoza, we now get a chance to hear this live, with all members playing Orcutt’s distinctive 4-string tuning configuration. Count this one among the shows I would crawl across broken glass to hear.

The players in the Orcutt gang are delivering big across the weekend. There’s Eisenberg’s presence, and Parish (I profiled him for Salvation South last year) has a solo set at Boyd’s on Friday. Orcutt teams up with drummer Chris Corsano for some paint- and face-peeling improv skronk Saturday afternoon at Jackson Terminal. Their 2021 album Made Out of Sound is a masterwork in the genre.

Orcutt co-conspirator Ava Mendoza appears twice more, once in a multimedia collaboration with video artist Sue-C. This promises to be one of those events where you have no idea what to expect and then walk away wondering what the actual hell you just experienced, a classic Big Eargasm. But the essential Ava deal for me is William Parker’s Mayan Space Station, a full-metal power trio featuring bassist Parker, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and Mendoza in full-throated Hendrixian howl. Their 2021 album remains in my regular listening rotation two years on.

Oh but wait, there’s so too much more, and we’re running a tad long as it is. Still a few more guitarists I need to acknowledge.

I’d be remiss to leave out the superb David Hidalgo of the band Los Lobos. The band is celebrating 50 years together and performs twice: on opening night at the Tennessee Theater and again at a free outdoor street party at the Historic Southern Railway Station. Hidalgo is hands down one of the greatest rock’n’roll guitarists the world has ever known and Los Lobos belongs in any serious consideration about what rock music has been, is, and will be. That’s it. That’s the review. Miss him and miss one of our most criminally underappreciated legends.

The uncategorizable Marc Ribot is on hand with his Los Cubanos Potizos, his format-bending organ trio The Jazz Bins, and for one of Zorn’s three Bagatelles performances. If you love the inexhaustible range of possibilities the guitar represents – Ribot is your guy.

I wrote last time about Sona Jobarteh, a Gambian kora genius with killer guitar chops to spare. Let’s go ahead and call the kora an honorary guitar so we can mention the Malian superstar Bassekou Kouyate. Kouyate – himself descendent of a long line of griots – plays the ngoni, a West African antecedent of a cigar-box guitar made from a gourd and stretch animal skin. Kouyate tastefully uses amplification and effects with the ngoni, a modernizing strategy that never crosses the line into gimmickry. His group, Ngoni Ba, features several other ngoni players with his wife, Amy Sacko, the primary vocalist. I’ve seen this band several times, and they will knock you sideways, guaranteed.

Back to guitars but hanging onto the West African groove, the band Etran De L’Air from Niger is a bubbling stew of blues and slinky rhythms beneath three interweaving guitars that call to mind the best of King Sunny Ade and Mdou Moctar. If you don’t dance to this music, you may already be dead.

Look, it’s getting late, and I barely mentioned Julian Lage (with his trio in support of singer Margaret Glaspy) and Gyan Riley (solo set at St. John’s Cathedral Friday evening, and you’d be a fool to skip it), much less the solo appearance by Sonic Youth founder Lee Ranaldo. And then there’s all the bluegrass and country stylists, and I really wonder if Jeff Parker is hitting with Makaya McCraven, because if so I’ve got another gotta-see on my list. I figure I’m leaving out someone essential that will make me wake up at 3 a.m. shouthing “D’oh!” and then not being able to sleep because I’m such a schmuck. Mea culpa.

And holy cow, Jake Xerxes Fussell (profiled here in Salvation South last year) has a four-night run in the prime time slot at Boyd’s Jig & Reel. Fussell is an excavator of old music that he brings into the present moment with a bourbon-honeyed voice and the smoothest finger-picking this side of James Taylor. This Tiny Desk Concert opens with “River St. John,” the most agreeable earworm I’ve ever met.Seriously, whenever I get an unwelcome earworm like Don’t Stop Believin’ stuck in my brain, I sing this one to myself and it’s Journey be gone!

I can’t stop now, not without a nod to the historically decisive monument James “Blood” Ulmer. Born in 1940 in St, Matthews, South Carolina, Ulmer came up on the jazz and r&b circuit in the 60s, playing with folks like Paul Bley, Rahied Ali, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, and Larry Young. But it was his association with Ornette Coleman that transformed Ulmer into an essential component of jazz and guitar legend. He became one of the movers behind what became known as the No Wave movement and is one of the most singular voices in the history of the plank-and-wires machine. Living history, y’all.

Here’s one of my Ulmer favorites, a 1980 track featuring Oliver Lake and David Murray on saxes and Olu Dara on trumpet. Back in my early-80s DJ careerThat’s DJ on the radio, kids. Ask your parents. I played this cut on almost every shift I pulled.

Go. Listen.

The First Instrument #1: Voices Embiggened

The first in a series that will alternate irregularly with ‘So Much Guitar’ and ‘All That Jazz,” a place to talk about the array of beautiful voices. We are awash in a creative tsunami. Life is good.

Today, a look at some of the sirens impending at the 2023 Big Ears Festival.

First off, deepest regrets for i2b falling silent these past months. Between my work for Salvation South and a seemingly endless parade of deaths and illnesses among family and friends, I’ve had to let something slide. Sadly, it was this. But hey, back in the saddle what what!

As always, I am (inordinately, perhaps) excited about the annual Big Ears hoolie in Knoxville next weekend. The schedule is significantly expanded, with a few venues added – 17 in all this time – to spread the crowd out a bit. On the one hand, the expanded schedule creates even more opportunities for option anxiety, with several clusters of seriously essential performers in overlapping time slots. Tragically difficult decisions loom. How I suffer. On the other hand, the last festival found the queues for some of the more popular acts a bit overwhelming; several pals groaned about getting shut out of some shows. So the embiggening of Big Ears this season may actually serve to relieve some of the crowd grumbles that emerged last year.

As always, the lineup is staggeringly cool. Today, I want to focus on the singers. Overall, the fest is a global vocal feast that covers the gamut of styles. Here are my highlighted picks. If you can’t be there, there are a bunch of musical rabbit holes you can dive into instead.

First up, my absolute pick of the entire festival: The collaborative trio of vocalist Arooj Aftab, pianist Vijay Iyer, and bassist Shahzad Ismaily.

Their first album together, Love in Exile, released today. Aftab, raised in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, moved to the U.S. in 2005 to study at Berklee College of Music. She flew under the radar for a while until her 2021 release Vulture Prince – my pick for Album of the Year 2021 – made her the first Pakistani artist to perform at and win a Grammy award. Her set at last year’s fest – part of a world tour that included an improbable and triumphant appearance at the Coachella free-for-all that made news in her native Pakistan – was all the buzz before and after her set.

Aftab sang every song but one on Vulture Prince in the Urdu language. On Love in Exile, it’s all Urdu. But that’s not nearly the most distinctive aspect of the new album; Exile is a spontaneously composed 70+ minute set that sounds as though the group had meticulously arranged the pieces ahead of time. The sensitivity and deep listening on display here is rare and remarkable in our hyperagitated society. Must. Hear. This.

I’ll probably just go ahead and close the Album of the Year competition now.

Another performer at the top of my chart: the luminous genre-straddler Shara Nova, a classically trained, three-octave singer/composer who also works the pop singer-songwriter side of the street. I first heard Shara last year at the Long Play Festival and I was immediately hooked. She appears on opening night in her My Brightest Diamond persona and then again on closing night with the Knoxville Symphony performing the transcendent My Blue Hour, my pick for Album of the Year in 2022. Based on the poetry of Carolyn Forché, it was composed by a quintet of five superb women composers: Nova, Caroline Shaw, Angélica Negrón, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Rachel Grimes. 

We’ll have a deep dive on Shara’s career and her Big Ears experience at Salvation South in late April.

Three-time Grammy winner Cecile McLorin Salvant is widely considered the preeminent jazz vocalist of our time, but I think that sells her short. Her work certainly has a firm foothold in the jazz realm, but Salvant is in a fact a subtly subversive genre buster. Her repertoire ranges from the Great American Songbook to Kurt Weill to Kate Bush.

Her latest album (release today) is a multi-lingual telling of the Euro-folklore myth of Mélusine featuring five original tunes alongside nine interpretations of songs dating as far back as the 12th century.

Here’s a tune from 12th century France, translated into Haitian Creole by Salvant’s father, Alix.

Probably better to call her a chanteuse in recognition of her stylistic range and Haitian and French parentage. Expect a long line for this show.

Allison Russell, born in Montreal but by now firmly and truly a Nashvillian, opens the festival on Thursday at the Bijou. Once known primarily as a member of Rhiannon Giddens’ Our Native Daughters project, Russell is emerging as one of the skyrocket stars of whatever people are calling Americana these days. She recently made waves as the organizer of a star-drenched “Love Rising” protest/benefit concert in response the the Tennessee legislature’s recent legislative targetings of the LGBTQIA+ community. Russell is certain to, um, mention this issue during her appearance at Big Ears, but with all her activism and address of serious social concerns, she remains committed to inspiring us all to be, well, this. Planning a big piece on Russell for Salvation South for later this year.

The rest of the lineup is too rich to detail here, but there’s one more that I want to highlight. File this one under the “sleeper” category.

Tarta Relena is a “folk duo” from Catalan, but once again genre labels are insufficient to capture what’s going on with these two. They sing in a smattering of Mediterranean languages – including Latin – and draw on sources as varied as Catholic prayers, Sephardic love songs, flamenco, and electronic dance music.

Here’s their take on the “Stabat Mater,” a 13th century hymn to the Virgin Mary. Reckon I’d start going to church again if this kind of thing were on offer.

I am not really sure what to expect aside from their near-miraculous harmonies but I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of those patented “holee fukk, did you catch…” Big Ears moments.

There are at least another half-dozen women I don’t want to miss but probably will. If you are looking for more rabbit holes, here ya go.

Sona Jobarteh – Born to a long line of Gambian griot masters, Jobarteh is the first woman to become a recognized master of the kora, a 21-string harp/lute ancient to West Africa. She also plays piano, guitar, and cello.

Ibeyi – Parisian-born twin sisters who sing in English, French, Spanish, and Yoruba, their music is a smart blend of traditional styles and contemporary styles. They pull off the kind of two bodies/one voice harmonies that it seems only siblings can manage. Joyful and rhythmically irresistible.

Maeve Gilchrist – A master of the Celtic harp and a member of Arooj Aftab’s band, Gilchrist laid me out last year with her originals and covers of folks like Richard Thompson. Go for the Scottish lilt alone.

Apologies to whoever I missed. Mea culpa.

Go. Listen.

All That Jazz #1: Obomsawin, Philion & Knuffke

The first in a series that will alternate irregularly with ‘So Much Guitar,’ a place to talk about the mountain of amazing *jazz*Whatever meaning that word has these days. happening these days. We are awash in a creative tsunami. Life is good.

Today, a couple of swinging large ensemble bangers and
a delicate serving of chamber jazz from a trio of contemporary masters.

Go. Listen.

Mali Obomsawin: Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth (Out Of Your Head Records, 2022) is the debut release from Wabanaki bassist/vocalist Mali Obomsawin. The lineage of Native American jazz heroes is imposing – Jimmy Blanton, Thelonious Monk, Jim Pepper, Don Cherry, Kid Ory, Don Pullen, Charlie Parker, the luminous Lena Horne, to drop just a fraction of the names – and Obamsawin’s first outing lays solid claim to the heritage. With six original tunes, three of them with lyrics from traditional and contemporary Wabenaki chants, Obomsawin delivers “a suite for Indigenous resistance” that poses a challenge to anyone expecting Native American culture to pander to tired cliché and a simplistic expectation.

“It’s the story of my people and why we survived,” Obomsawin explains. “This movement is about the lineal and cultural inheritance that Indigenous people receive from our ancestors.”

Obomsawin’s bass – more than a tad reminiscent of the great Charlie Haden – anchors a rhythm section that features the superb drummer Savannah Harris and guitarist Miriam Elhajli. The front line trio wields a tonal reed range from bass clarinet to the high tones of soprano saxophone around the cornet/flugelhorn of Tylor Ho Bynum. The composition/arrangements echo Carla Bley, especially her work with the Liberation Music Orchestra, while the sections of free creation recall Mingus or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But even with all those reference points, Sweet Tooth stands as an impressively original declaration from a young artist who is clearly here to stay.

Full album releases on October 28. This preview track is built around a 17th century Abenaki ballad, with an arrangement that evokes the brass bands the Jesuits brought to Native reservations as part of their ‘salvation’ mission.

Ethan Philion: Meditations on Mingus

This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of the monument known as Charles Mingus. The man was a giant in every way. He was one of the greatest bass virtuosos of the 20th century, one of the century’s greatest composers, and a bandleader who could spot great rising talent and knew how to bring out the best in them. He was also difficult, profane, prone to outbursts of violence and paranoia. He played with Miles and Monk and Bird and Duke, was muse to an enamored Joni Mitchell, and then up and died in 1979 at the young age of 56.

His widow Sue – who died just over a week ago at age 92 – kept his work alive since the 80s with the Mingus Dynasty project, but aside from that his classic compositions have been sorely under-performed. Aiming to remedy this neglect, Chicago-based bassist Ethan Philion put together a 10-piece band to perform his arrangements of the Mingus songbook.

Meditations on Mingus (Sunnyside Records, 2022) is a set of eight well-known Mingus classics that reminds us of the melodic bounty and rhythmic heft of Mingus’s writing. Mingus wrote at the same level as Ellington, delivering the music that made calling jazz “America’s classical music” more than wisenheimer marketing copy.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to pick one cut from this set for preview. This is one of my favorite Mingus tunes and it showcases Philion’s deep chops on the big bass fiddle.

Kirk Knuffke Trio: Gravity Without Airs

Kirk Knuffke seems to be everywhere these days, sideman and collaborator to an astonishing array of musicians, contemporaries (Mary Halvorson, Allison Miller, Myra Melford) as well as venerated elders like Marshall Allen, Roswell Rudd, and Tootie Heath. On Gravity Without Airs (TAO Forms, 2022), he delivers some of the most gorgeous chamber jazz of recent memory. Calling to mind the classic Jimmy Giuffre Trio featuring Steve Swallow and Paul Bley – with Knuffke’s cornet in the Giuffre clarinet role – the fourteen pieces on Gravity are a mix of Knuffke compositions and free form spontaneous creations. Pianist Matthew Shipp is one of the music’s current masters. A player steeped in the histories of jazz and classical and possessed of prodigious technical skill, he not only has the entire piano vocabulary at his fingertips, but the wit and discrimination to know exactly what needs to go where/when. Bassist Michael Bisio, a member of Shipp’s exceptional trio since 2009, brings huge ears and a massive, earthy tone to the proceedings. The result is pure gold.

This track closes the album with a movingly beautiful melody and the kind of uber-sensitive group listening that makes this entire double disc set an absolute gem.

Go. Ya know….

So Much Guitar #3: Ava Mendoza

Photo: Laurent Orseau

Ava Mendoza appeared on my radar with the arrival of William Parker’s Mayan Space Station (Aum Fidelity, 2021). Mendoza’s playing blew my head clean off. A trio outing with bassist Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver, this one calls to mind Sonny Sharrock at his face-melting finest. No mystery why it landed on so many Best of 2021 lists. (Mine included.)

Miami-born Mendoza has been generating buzz since her days in the Mills College music program where she studied with Fred Frith, Maggi Payne, and John Bischoff. Now based in Brooklyn, Mendoza has been bouncing around the globe for the past dozen years, following wherever the music takes her. She spent her early years studying classical guitar, but fell prey to the siren song of making massive noise via six strings on a plank and a passel of pedals for dialing in sounds unknown. The technique she earned through classical training remains evident, but Ava’s work is as far from the buttoned up ways of Parkening and Fisk as you can get.

Torrential. Paint peeling. Scathing. Coruscating bellows of post-Hendrixian skronk. And often as comforting and tender as a gentle summer rain.

This Guitar Contains Multitudes (Photo by Matthew Muise)

A few months after Mayan Space Station came out, Mendoza released the solo set New Spells, a joint release by Relative Pitch Records and Astral Spirits. It is hard to pick just one of the five tracks, but I replayed this one four times in a row on a recent car trip, so maybe go with that scientific indicator of quality.

Mendoza is a prolific collaborator. Among her many co-conspirators we find Nels Cline, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney, and John Zorn. She was part of trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley‘s superb 2020 release Seven Storey Mountain VI, a collaboration that no doubt set her up for the call when Wooley needed a touring substitute for Mary Halvorson in his Columbia Icefield project with pedal steel wizard Susan Alcorn. (Check out question 5 in the Q&A down below for Ava’s observations on this project.)

Ava sent me this tidy two minute Icefield clip from Stockholm last May. (EXCLUSIVE!! (perhaps) MUST CREDIT I2B!!!)

Video shot by Gavin Maycroft

If that grabs ya, here’s a 40+ minute set from Austria in late 2021. I’ve come back to this performance several times. (And the two Icefield albums with Halvorson are damned fine, too.)

There’s a lot more where that came from. Her trio Unnatural Ways is a post-punk maelstrom. She writes music for film and video; her tidy little set of soundtracks, With Other Media, offers a glimpse of the Bernard Herrman lurking within. Mendoza is the musical Roy Kent: She’s here, she’s there, she’s every…

Next Spring, Mendoza has multiple gigs at the Big Ears Festival. As I mentioned last week, the performance debut of Orcutt’s Music for Four Guitars (Palilalia Records) has me completely a flutter, and you can bet I would crawl over broken glass to catch her with Mayan Space Station. But there’s another set that has me very curious: Ava in performance with artist/engineer Sue-C, whose video/technology based work (she calls it “real time cinema”) promises to be one of those sui generis happenings that makes Big Ears my personal pilgrimage to Lourdes. And it would not surprise me to see her pop up in other collaborations over the weekend.

I got in touch with Ava to see if she was up for a round of “One Question Per String,” which is a barely clever name for something I hope to include in most of the So Much Guitar posts from here on it. She was more than game, returning this set of thoughtful replies that allow me to leave her with the last words, save two.

1) Who/what was the main spark that made you want to dedicate yourself
to six strings and a plank?

Q1 was so impossible for me to answer that I gave up. Sorry!

2) Who is on your bucket list of people you really want to work with? (any instrument/discipline/universe)

Big Freedia, Buddy Guy, Will Guthrie, Moor Mother, Iggy Pop

3) If you had to cut your pedal array down to only 3, which ones do you keep?

Blackstone Appliances Mosfet Overdrive, Dunlop Volume Pedal, and Red Panda Tensor. The Blackstone isn’t usually on my pedalboard these days, but if I do a gig where it makes sense to bring a smaller rig, often I’ll bring it because it’s so versatile. It has two gain stages, brown level and red level, which are basically overdrive and distortion. You can really dial them both in and get a lot out of them. So, it’s not my favorite fuzzbox in the world, but if I want something that can do a lot in one box, it’s great.

Dunlop Volume pedal, pretty self-explanatory! I’m always riding my volume pedal, using it for swells and just to control dynamics.

Red Panda Tensor- It can be a semi-normal delay, but it can also do extreme pitch shifting, glitch, fast forward rewind and looping effects. So, depending how you dial it in you can use it just to add some subtle echo to your sound, or noise it out and go to Pluto right off the bat.

4) Do you ever work with altered tunings?

I use drop D all the time, that’s all over most of my recordings. And sometimes solo I use drop D with a capo at the first fret, so drop D# essentially. Other than that I’m usually in standard. This past year I’ve been learning things in alternate tunings actually, open D minor, D major, and open A. Jessie Mae Hemphill and John Lee Hooker things, and then I’ll just improvise on my own. It’s been really great to work on at home, but I’m not sure yet how it will pan out in terms of my own writing. [I]n any case it’s been really good for me to learn some new music in altered tunings, and it’s changing the way I approach bends and resonating strings in any tuning. We’ll see what comes of it!

5) How did you approach filling Mary’s chair in Columbia Icefield?

I brought my own background and approach to the music, essentially how I would do on any gig. Unless you are subbing on a Broadway show, I don’t think the goal of subbing should ever be to sound like the person that you’re subbing for. Mary is a friend and a great player and person, and we’ve played together in a bunch of different contexts. Everyone was aware, going in, that we sound pretty different, and as a bandleader Nate wants people to be themselves, so I felt free to do that.

Nate has described the band as “Americana” and that is really how I hear it and how I approach the music. Not Americana in the saccharine “the prairie, the white picket fence, the greatest nation in the world” sense! But in a more cold, hard, realistic look at the country, sometimes a brutal and frightening one. It’s about a giant expanse of frozen, ice-covered land! I listened to the record a lot, and really tried to sink into its pacing, because it’s a slow, chilly, patient record, and I wanted those qualities to come thru live.

My take on the music probably owes as much to doomy country as to “jazz” or free jazz. There were two guitarists that kept coming to mind for me as I worked on the music and developed my approach. One was Dylan Carlson (Earth) because of how measured, heavy and substantial his riffs are, things you can listen to over and over. And Roy Buchanan, for his tone and crazy phrasing, pinched harmonics and big bends behind the nut. I think of him as sort of blues and country extended technique. Hearing him make a sound calls to my mind a whole past, present and future of American music.

6) Hendrix, Hazel, or Cosey?

Hm, all masters and true originals, good for different things. They’re all distorted guitarists who ride the line between rock and blues, and in Pete Cosey’s case the line with jazz as well. All of them use some effects. But I think of each of them as so special in terms of their playing and the role they occupied in their bands, it’s impossible pit them against each other. Hendrix is fluid fire, he’s like if Albert Ayler was a blues rock guitarist, this amazing spontaneity and feel. Eddie’s pocket is sooooo deep no matter what he’s playing, even when he’s shredding somehow he’s always playing rhythm guitar. And Cosey is more adventurous harmony-wise than the other two, plays more intervalically and atonally. No way to pick! {Ed. Note: This is indeed the only correct answer.}

Go. Listen.