NOISES GREAT AND SMALL AND ONGOING: Barrels full of joyful noise and action befall Santa Barbara this weekend, courtesy of the third annual New Noise Conference and Festival. New Noise is well along its steady path toward putting Santa Barbara on the map of indie music energy-marshalling, business planning, and scene-strategizing, and it liberally coats the town with live bands. New Noise aims to become the go-to event for the burgeoning grassroots indie music world and to assist in liberating independent musical operations from the age-old corporate stranglehold on ways of doing business. By name and spiritual association, we fully support the independent way.
Another mighty noise in this town at the moment is something blissfully old yet ever-young: KCSB, the glorious, university-based noncommercial station (91.9 FM, “the left of the dial”), which could be considered one of the finer alternative, noncommercial radio outposts in the nation. The station celebrates its grand 50th anniversary with a special exhibition, Wireless, opening at Contemporary Arts Forum, and a slate of activities. Friday in Storke Plaza, from noon to 2, check out the radio-centric performance Picnic Revolution, which uses “looping broadcast streams and analog synthesizers.” Sign me up!
HELLISH BUSINESS: It’s been a rocking autumn in hell — “Sings Like Hell,” that is. The beloved monthly series, now going into its 15th year, dares to bring on ear-worthy artists in the singer-songwriter, Americana, reformed punker, and other zones, some known, some not, and all at the Lobero. So far this season, the Lobero has had its timbers shivered by the great Austin band the Gourds — following on the heels of a stunning new album, Old Mad Joy (one of the year’s best, for sure) — and a sizzling electric set by Dave Alvin two weeks back.
Coming up on Saturday, November 19, we get a local angle with the first Hell appearance of the great young alt country hope Ryan Bingham. Whatever other personal virtues he may have, Bingham — who played Tales from the Tavern and opened for Willie Nelson at the Bowl last year — got a serious leg up on the career horse as songwriter and bit player in Crazy Heart, which starred our hirsute man in Montecito, Jeff Bridges, who played Sings Like Hell in February. Circular logic prevails and grooves on.
L.A. LOGBOOK: While the state of jazz concerts in Santa Barbara is slim pickings this season (apart from the Jazz at the Lobero series), local jazz fans and addicts (there is a difference) can appreciate the advantage of living within driving distance of the big city to the south. We wouldn’t want to live there, but L.A. sure is chock-full of cultural enticements. Take, for instance, two of the more important “jazz” events of the SoCal year, the return of Keith Jarrett, in trio mode at Royce Hall last week, and a three-night world premiere opus by one of L.A.’s few world-class jazz residents, Wadada Leo Smith, downtown and downstairs at the Disney Hall’s REDCAT black-box theater.
Jarrett’s trio delivered a surprisingly down-the-middle set list, framed by “Green Dolphin Street” and “I Thought About You,” but with the usual richness, virtuosity, and subtle exploratory zeal. Jarrett once again showed why he’s our greatest living jazz pianist. From the “perchance to dream” department: Could Jarrett one day head up the highway a bit and play the Granada Theatre, in either trio or solo mode? Hope springs eternal. Meanwhile, we can savor his L.A. jaunts and unstoppable discography, just expanded with a strong two-disc solo set, Rio, recorded only last April in Brazil.
Quite simply, Smith’s courageously ambitious, five-hour and 21-movement “Ten Freedom Summers,” which had its three-night world premiere at REDCAT last weekend, is a landmark cultural event this season, on whatever coast. This is Smith’s grandest effort yet, a broad canvas dealing with the Civil Rights movement, but in poeticized musical terms, and for both jazz and “classical” forces (his Golden Quartet, with Anthony Davis, John Lindberg, and Susie Ibarra, and Southwest Chamber Music), a difficult blend to succeed at. But he has managed the feat, idealistically and brilliantly.