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Live at the Angel City Jazz Festival (+ Handbag Factory Highlights)

by Vijay Anderson's Silverscreen Sextet

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Kimba 03:55


Vijay Anderson’s Silverscreen Sextet was first convened in Los Angeles on Martin Luther King, Jr. day in 2017 in a unique domed structure that allowed for immersive 360-degree video projections by Tim Hix, who also provided the cover art for this recording. The group would perform again on Martin Luther King, Jr. day of 2018 in downtown Los Angeles and then later that year at the Angel City Jazz Festival at the World Stage, each time with video projection by Tim Hix. The music and visuals, whose initial inspiration came directly from King’s commitment to social justice, focused on Los Angeles, seen not from the image portrayed to outsiders but from the inside, from the bottom up where wealth inequality, racism, and the struggle against them was most evident.

After their first performance, Hafez Modirzadeh mentioned that he preferred the idea of a “constellation” to describe music communities that are not confined to a single geographical location. Though Vijay was born and raised in Southern California, he and Hafez were based in Northern California at the time (Anderson has since relocated to New York). The rest of the band has deep and long roots in Los Angeles. Constellations are imagined connections that are rendered visible across space and through time and moreover they orientate us and our perspective on the world. Anderson’s music provides us insight into a constellation that connects music and social justice, referencing stars, not commercial movie stars, but of points of light connected for inspiration. Horace Tapscott, who performed extensively with Bradford, Golia, Miranda, and Roper, often at the World Stage, frequently used “Bright Moments” as a salutation and what is a star if not a “bright moment” cosmologically? The Silverscreen references Hollywood, but here we are peering behind that screen, perhaps it is also a screen against which such constellations are made visible.

Several important figures in Los Angeles mark out this star map. Tapscott eschewed mainstream fame, grounding his work in community, where he served as a mentor to an entire generation of musicians. Bobby Bradford, along with his longtime musical partner, John Carter, similarly served as mentors. Carter’s compositions, particularly his longer suites, were a direct musical influence here. Carter and Bradford met through their mutual friend Ornette Coleman, a direct influence here as well. Charles Mingus, who recounted the construction of the Watts Towers in his autobiography, is worth noting here as well. All these figures created uncompromising music, personal and political; a blueprint that continues to speak to the importance of connecting with others, of listening, of bravery, and of being true to yourself.

That ethos is further exemplified through Anderson’s title of each movement of this suite. “Invisible Visible” is a quote from a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. calling for seeing poverty and injustice as a political and spiritual problem. King’s response to that was a call to care, to love (in the Christian sense of agape). That’s demonstrated musically in the piece through collective improvisation. The growing density references the coming together called for in King’s sermon in which a personal call to action connects individuals into a political movement, which was, of course a threat to the status quo then as now.

“The Insidewalk” speaks to what is made visible from the inside rather than the façade portrayed in mainstream media. It is from the sidewalk where that wave of protest and change will come and be felt. The piece dissolves into open improvisation that connects us to the ideas of the next piece through Roper’s spontaneous poetry and Miranda’s graceful solo accompanied by Roper’s cow femur and then vocalizations through the tuba.

The ballad “Angels Flight” references what tourist brochures proudly claim as the world’s shortest funicular railway but one that has a troubling history of displacement and “redevelopment” that benefited only the wealthy, which hardly looked like the work of angels from those who lost their homes and businesses. Modirzadeh’s tenor solo embodies loss and mourning.

“Easy, Mouse” references characters from the work of author Walter Mosley, detective Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins and his friend Raymond “Mouse” Alexander. Rawlins’ adventures, over the course of 14 novels take place in Watts and surrounding areas from the 1950s to the late 1960s. Anderson’s tune, based on the blues form, is stylistically appropriate to the setting of the books and features two contrasting themes, one for each character. Bradford’s solo seems to embody both characters and the struggle between them. The collective improvisation that follows tempts, taunts, and cajoles, much like the conversations between the old friends in the series. It ends, like many of the novels, somewhat unresolved. An open, free improvisation connects this to the next piece.

“Almost Not Crazy” is a line spoken by Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’ film Love Streams, a complex investigation into the different types of love and responses to it. His films are never simple and offer almost nothing in the way of explanation, instead you must engage with them directly, ponder them and as a result they speak towards the human condition. These are of course attributes that can be said of the music in this recording as well. Vinny Golia’s searing clarinet solo here illustrates the influence of John Carter.

The final piece reprises “Easy, Mouse” from the earlier show, and evolves into a new composition, “Degrees of Gray in Los Angeles” which features an overlapping, echoing theme. The title references the poem “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg” by Richard Hugo, which on the surface is about a failing silver-mining town. The poem takes an unexpected turn towards hope midway, focusing on simple pleasures and the recognition of others. The recording similarly concludes with an unexpected change in feeling — not a resolution in the musical sense, but resolution to continue the struggle.

Alluding to love and hope, and not in a naïve way, in the final themes is a fitting close to the suite that opened with a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. That sense of care for self and others (as opposed to obsession over things or in fleeting pleasure) was central to his message connecting spirituality, politics, and justice. Community reimagined as a constellation consists of care for each other in a shared message that says, at the minimum, “we are here for you. We are listening."

The last three tracks, bonus tracks found only on Bandcamp, were recorded at the Handbag Factory. “Kimba” is a duet between Roper and Modirzadeh. Roper switches from the tuba heard at the start of the duet to a natural horn, drawing out the microtonalities in Modirzadeh’s melodic statement on the alto sax. As the piece evolves, it gets further subverted from its opening mood. Hafez eventually removes the mouthpiece from his saxophone, playing just the mouthpiece or just buzzing and vocalizing into the saxophone, as Roper adds sung vocals, revealing the title of the piece. The entire improvisation moves from somber to humorous, sustaining and providing different insights on the perturbing, complex, and challenging.

“A Slice of Vinny’s Life” features an intense improvisation from Golia on the G mezzo-soprano saxophone, an unusual instrument whose range is between the usual alto and soprano saxophones. Golia develops a wild and unrestrained solo matched in density and intensity by Anderson. Towards the end of it, Bradford joins in, almost as a foil against Vinny, recalling a roll he often performed in John Carter’s groups as well as the many times he and Golia have performed together.

The last track, “House of Vetes,” is another tribute to the director John Cassavetes, and reminder that he often used his own house as a film set. The composition is in 3/4 (or 9/8 – as each beat is grouped in threes, like a shortened 12/8) and follows a blues form. The head features overlapping cascading lines, which opens up into improvisations from Bradford, Modirzadeh and Golia over duel bass lines from the tuba and bass before a cathartic ending, all of which illustrates the togetherness that underpins all of the works in the recording.

—Charles Sharp

Silverscreen Sextet References:


Horace Tapscott Website / Archive compiled by Steve Isoardi horacetapscott.free-jazz.net

Bret Sjerven’s Neglected Treasures - John Carter & Bobby Bradford on Flying Dutchman bphresh.blogspot.com/2012/06/neglected-treasures-john-carter-bobby.html

Mark Weber’s 1976 interview with John Carter: markweber.free-jazz.net/2012/05/29/the-coda-interview-with-john-carter-1976/

Charles Mingus on the Watts Towers: www.charlesmingus.com/mingus/towers

“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” – Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 sermon kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/publications/knock-midnight-inspiration-great-sermons-reverend-martin-luther-king-jr-10

William Roper on Angel’s Flight: roperarts.com/angels.html

Scott W. Williams’s introduction to Walter Mosley’s work www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/mosley/mosley_walter_primer.html

I'm Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes, the Man and His Work, 1984 documentary by Michael Ventura on the making of Love Streams. www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFqBSl-6KWI

Richard Hugo’s Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43088/degrees-of-gray-in-philipsburg


released August 7, 2020

Vijay Anderson - drums
Bobby Bradford - cornet
Vinny Golia – b flat clarinet (4,5,6,7,10), g mezzo soprano (1,3,9), baritone saxophone (2,7)
Roberto Miranda - bass
Hafez Modirzadeh – alto (7-10), tenor saxophone (1-6)
William Roper – tuba, water buffalo horn (7), cow femur (2) spoken word (2,8)

Live at the Angel City Jazz Festival
Tracks 1-6 Recorded live on Oct 4th 2018, at the World Stage by Alexi Calzatti,assisted by Carlos Gonzalez, Oscar Gallegos, and Kevin Reyes; mixed by Michael Coleman
Track 7 -10 (Handbag Factory Highlights) Recorded live on MLK day January 15th 2018 at the Handbag Factory by Alexi Calzatti, assisted by Carlos Gonzalez; mixed by John Finkbeiner
All music mastered by Eli Crews
Artwork by Tim Hix
Layout by Carol Liebowitz
All compositions by (c) 2020 Vijay Anderson ZINCPENNYMUSIC/ASCAP
(except Track 5 , 9 - collective improvisation and track 8 Roper/Modirzadeh)

Thanks to Hafez, Vinny, Roberto, Bobby, and Roper for taking the time to realize this music, and for the endless creative inspiration. Special thanks to Tim Hix for the crucial collaboration and the deep boundless visuals, as well as to Charles Sharp for the liner notes and hosting the panel discussion. Additional thanks to Emily Hay, Lynn Johnston, Rocco Somazzi and the Angel City Jazz Festival Organization, The World Stage, Alexi Calzatti, Samur Khouja, The Handbag Factory, Francis Wong, John Finkbeiner, Michael Coleman, Eli Crews, Tim Anderson, Carol Liebowitz, and of course all our friends and family.
- Vijay


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