Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Chicago trombonist Jeb Bishop and Norwegian songstress Hilde-Marie Kjersem.
Listed: Jeb Bishop + Hilde-Marie Kjersem
Jeb Bishop is one of the most respected musicians in Chicago’s fabled improv scene. The trombonist moved to the city in 1992 after many years as a punk rock bassist in Raleigh, N.C. (for the completists among you, the bands were the Stillborn Christians, Angles of Epistemology, Egg, and Metal Pitcher), and quickly fell in with Weasel Walter’s Flying Luttenbachers. Since that time, he’s played regularly with Walters, Kevin Drumm, Jim O’Rourke and, of course, Ken Vandermark. Bishop was a founding member of contemporary jazz’s flagship group, the Vandermark 5, and he also split time in the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet and Vandermark’s other outfits School Days and his Territory Band. Bishop started his own trio in the late ‘90s and released his self-titled debut as a leader in 1999 on Okkadisk. Since the turn of the century, Bishop left the Vandermark 5, but continues to play around Chicago and at various jazz festivals around the world. You can keep up with activities at www.jebbishop.com.
1. Minutemen - “Afternoons” (from the Bean Spill EP on Thermidor)
This was the first time I heard the Minutemen: at the punk rock house on North Street in Raleigh, N.C., sometime in 1982. I was immediately grabbed by the distinct difference from the punk rock I’d been listening to. Angular, dissonant, non-distorted guitar; independent bass line; a different approach to the drums; weird, oblique lyrics. A great basic riff and a structure that manages to go somewhere else and come back within a very short time frame. The Minutemen changed how I thought about rock music, and this was my first encounter with that. Also, I named one of my own CDs after this track.
2. Conlon Nancarrow - Studies for Player Piano (Wergo)
The first time I heard Nancarrow’s name was when Frank Zappa dropped it in an interview in Musician magazine around 1980. In the fall of 1981, the father of my friend and fellow trombonist John Berners made me a cassette of the 1750 Arch LP edition of some of the player piano music. I wound up listening to it a lot after quitting music school, often with rocker friends in Raleigh. In the spring of 1988 a bunch of us took a road trip to Mexico, and I remembered that Nancarrow lived in Mexico City, so when we were there I looked up his address in the phone book and a few of us took a cab to his house. He was gardening, but told us to come back later, so we did, and he was kind enough to talk to us, no doubt bemusedly, for about an hour. He showed us his studio but the player piano was down at the time, as I recall. Anyway, I love this stuff.
3. J.S. Bach - Gigue and Double from the Lute Suite in C minor, BWV 997
This piece first made me aware of the concept I think of as "the abyss" in musical structure. The music progresses to a point at which it would be natural to expect it to return to the original melody. It does do that, but only after a brief detour through the unexpected. (In this case, the “detour” is bars 33-36, appended to what would otherwise be a 32-bar form.) The effect (on me) is hard to explain. It’s as if the threads are undone just long enough to give you a glimpse of the terrifying formlessness that underlies the contingent fabric that we usually rely on, and then it returns to the known. (In case you’re wondering, I realize that sounds ridiculous.) Since then I’ve occasionally recognized the same experience, realized in different ways, in other works as well. I have a clear memory of listening to this piece on a Walkman while sitting on the floor of the main hall of the Cleveland bus station at 4 a.m. during a harrowing bus trip from Raleigh to Chicago in 1992, in which every connection was missed, so that the trip took about three days.
4. Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring, Orchestre National de la R.T.F., conducted by Pierre Boulez (Nonesuch)
When I was about 13, I got obsessed with this record and listened to it several times a day for a good stretch. (Mom and Dad, thanks for your patience!) It’s still engraved on my brain to such an extent that other performances of the piece still sound not quite right to me. There’s one part where the orchestra executes a kind of massive drop that bottoms out in a huge bass drum rumble. It blew my 13-year-old mind, and I have still never heard that passage performed in the same way anywhere else.
5. Muddy Waters - Rolling Stone (Chess)
I’m pretty sure this compilation is the album I’ve listened to more than any other, due mainly to incessantly playing it in my cars (1976 Ford Maverick and 1987 Saab 900S), when I had cars. Actually, I don’t know what to say about it, other than that these songs are perfect and I never have gotten tired of hearing them. (I feel the same way about the Velvet Underground.) Trying to play “Still a Fool” was a big influence when I was trying to learn guitar.
6. Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation (Sire)
Speaking of guitar, this is one of my all-time favorite guitar records, and not just because of Robert Quine’s solos (though those are great). I love the interplay between Quine and Ivan Julian in the amazing guitar parts, but more than that, it’s just one of the great rock records, in every respect – lyrics, attitude, immediacy, range of emotions and musical expression. It’s like a great Rolling Stones record was doused in battery acid and smashed to bits and glued back together into something better. Side one, anyway.
7. Guillaume Dufay - “Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys” (available on the CD The Garden of Zephyrus: Courtly Songs of the Early Fifteenth Century on Helios)
An incredibly beautiful song for three voices. I listened to this a lot at my friend Gary Hess’s place in Manhattan in the summer of 1995. It’s a great song of farewell and I’ve often thought of it when leaving something behind.
8. George Lewis and Anthony Braxton - Elements of Surprise (Moers Music)
This live recording of a duo performance from the 1976 Moers festival (in Germany) is another one I’ve listened to many, many times. It has the boisterous playfulness, combined with an intellectual component that is intense but stays lighthearted, that I associate with both these musicians. The great George Lewis has had a huge influence on my own attempts to play the trombone, and this record is probably my favorite of his recordings.
9. Art Ensemble of Chicago - Fanfare for the Warriors (Atlantic)
Probably the first concert of avant-garde jazz I saw was the Art Ensemble at Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, in 1981 or 1982. Seeing and hearing (both were important!) a performance that was framed as jazz, but vastly broadened to encompass musical worlds I hadn’t suspected existed, was truly a mind-expanding experience, and this was the first album of theirs that I heard that recalled the spirit of that performance for me.
10. Thelonious Monk - “Just a Gigolo” (from Thelonious Monk Quartet, Misterioso (Live at the Five Spot) on Riverside).
This is one of my all-time favorite jazz records for many reasons, especially Johnny Griffin’s absolutely ass-kicking playing throughout, but this particular track has special resonance for me because of this one time in the summer of 2001 when I was drinking at the Matador in New Orleans with Jim Freeburn, and I played this track on the jukebox. I remember becoming very sad, because here’s Monk playing this introspective little piece on the piano, transforming what’s kind of a kitschy song into something beautiful with his unique harmonies, and on the CD you can hear the audience talking, ignoring him. He’s playing this beautiful, ephemeral thing, and nobody’s listening. We’d had a lot of whiskey, and I wound up breaking down and crying about it on the bar. Later, I threw up in the men’s room, and after that we drove to Colorado to see Gary, and he and I spent a wondrous night at an Anasazi cliff dwelling in a remote canyon in southeastern Utah, and I flew back to Chicago the night of September 10, 2001, and woke up to a worse world. But that’s another story.
This 27-year-old blonde from Norway isn’t your typical Scandinavian singer. Kjersem’s background is in jazz, having recorded with jazz guitarist Jon Eberson and marrying Kongsberg Jazz Festival organizer Martin Revheim (who, strangely enough, brought Jeb Bishop and the Chicago Tentet to Kongsberg in 2002). Kjersem recorded her first album in 2004 as part of the long-gone TUB Quaret, followed by a duo set of standards with Eberson. Her first recording under her own name, A Killer For That Ache came out Tuesday on Rune Grammofon, and is a far cry from her days singing swing and be-bop. It’s a daunting collection of lushly orchestrated songs that spill into each other, eschewing pop techniques for tenuous compositions.
If there’s an overall theme to what I listen to or what catches my ear, it must be music that does not exclude me by being pretentious and self-conscious. And by saying that, I do not mean ambitious. I love ambitiousness!
Anja Garbarek - “Stay Tuned"
Oh, dear Anja, how I wish I could write lyrics like you. This song has taken me through the universe and back. Punning riddles and ever-changing seasons.
Kate Bush - “Mother Stands For Comfort"
Our unabashed mother of pop music, production, lyrics, melodies, she breaks my body and holds my bones.
Roy Orbison - “Crying"
Beautiful and morbid at the same time. I don’t know what makes this song so remarkably juxtaposed. Maybe it’s because it easily brings references to mind, like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, collaborating with the Ravel-like march rhythm and the Disney choir.
Washington Phillips - "What are They Doing in Heaven Today"
No doubt about it – heaven exists, but what are they doing? You came crawling out of my speaker. Won’t you sit next to me, Mr. Phillips?
Kenny Rogers - “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town"
I love you old-timer.
Robert Wyatt - - Cuckooland
It’s like fever. You’re about to fall asleep, you dream in colors that aren’t colors and of shapes that fall out of shape.
Per Texas Johansson - Alla Mina Kompisar
I’ll always come back to this record. I wander off and around, listening to different music, genres, styles, expressions, and somehow this album stands out as severe to me, making me recoil and spring back into shape after I’ve been bent or stretched.
David Bowie - London Boy
Being ironic, but not self-admiring for being so. I think the reason why I love these recordings so much is because I can relate to the rootlessness of the expression. Being all over the place and at the same time having the feeling of being guided by the intuitive knowledge of what is "me."
Chaka Khan - Naughty
Today, we under-communicate, and highly guard the secretive in music Compared to that, I must say it’s liberating to hear the ‘80s untamed self-confidence and perfection.
Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue
There is heaven here on earth, thank God for recordings. Amen.
By Dusted Magazine