Billly Higgins

LOBERO TO OSLO EXPRESS: A few years back, Charles Lloyd-Santa Barbara’s gift to jazz (or vice versa)-settled into the Lobero Theatre for a special project, a loose, chordless ensemble with tabla player Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland. The idea was to pay homage to the great, much missed drummer Billy Higgins, someone whom Lloyd had connected with in the last few years of the drummer’s life. What transpired was deeper than anyone expected, and the ripples continue. The Lobero show was recorded for ECM, and released as Sangam-notable, musically, as an artful detour from Lloyd’s traditional quartet context, and locally significant as a validation of the Lobero as a great American jazz venue and spot for live recording. A few concerts subsequently materialized: This columnist heard two of them and was duly amazed.

Now comes the news that the Sangam project’s next gig is in Oslo, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10. Poetic logic prevails here: Lloyd’s group, built on the power of three, miraculously cuts across cultures and musical structures, without a fixed agenda. This is music about freedom, coming from a place of strength, summoned over time and with dedication.

PARTY FAVOR FRINGE PRODUCT: Back in the day, when the Contemporary Arts Forum was on the ground floor of the Balboa Building across the street from Mel’s (pre-Paseo Nuevo), Carl Stone was a memorable merriment maker in the house. (This was even before “in the house” had entered the common vernacular. Yes, that long ago.) Stone was a witty maverick of computer/electronic music, then honing his extreme looping skills thanks to a digital wonder-box called the Publison. This was before you could fit a mainframe’s worth of stuff in your cell phone, or your cell phone’s cell phone.

At CAF, Stone’s show was part of a new music series, also including guitar gadgeteers Scott Johnson and Paul Dresher-brothers doing it for themselves, with the help of digital toys. Stone would seize on a source-say, a jazz or pop tune, a Pygmy monkey chant or an Indonesian gamelan track-and elaborately wring new life and identity out of the source. It was quite beguiling, for some of us. I had a show on KCSB and played a Stone track in which he turned “My Girl” into mind-bending temporal spaghetti. A listener called and calmly reported. “If you ever play that again, I will place my head inside a freezer.” One person’s arty bliss is another’s despondency-inducement program.

Listening to the new release of Carl Stone’s music, Al-Noor (on the Los Angeles-based In Tone label), the music still sounds enticing and head-twisting, but is now suitable as a holiday season party favor, thanks to the changes in musical perception in the past 20 years. House music, techno, acid jazz, jamband-ery and other groove-is-the-thing fashions have trained us to appreciate Stone’s sonic mash-up artistry afresh.

Stone has moved on to other computer music intrigues, including the cerebral nitty-gritty of granular synthesis, but he remains a master mixologist. These four tracks draw on materials from the global marketplace, tweaked into virtually unrecognizable forms and tethered to hypnotic beats (or anti-beats). Slap it on the player of choice at your holiday party and watch the dance action kick in, with some double takes along the way. They oughta’ put it on Mel’s jukebox, for old times’ sake.

TO-DOINGS: Shoehorning rock and roll into string quartet form is nothing new by now, but the L.A.-based group called The Section Quartet transcends the novelty factor. This quartet has actually played with known/loved rock bands, gotten stamps of approval, and now they have their own album out, Fuzzbox (Decca). Who woulda thunk that “Time Is Running Out,” “Paranoid Android,” “The Man Who Sold the World,” and “Black Hole Sun” could sound so rich, satisfying, and rockalicious on fiddles and such? Find out the answer when the quartet plays at SOhO on Wednesday.


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