Thursday, August 15, 2013


(I just want to start by saying this band is not from Alabama. Just bear with me)

   Often, when I tell people (who live outside of the south) that I grew up in Alabama, there are a few different reactions that folks like to cycle through. One reaction is embarrassing (for them not me): people seem to like to repeat the state name back to me in a faux southern accent as if to accentuate the fact that I come from a backwards, fucked up place and a southern accent can represent absolutely nothing besides ignorance and stupidity. Another reaction is a sense of shock followed by the usual reply of "That must have been weird." Yeah, of course it's weird, because all of youth is weird because you don't yet know what the fuck you're doing in life and you bumble around in an awkward haze. Plus, is it any less weird to grow up in a flat in Brooklyn, a bus in Bolinas or a tiny house in eastern Iceland? Still another reaction is a story of the one time that person drove through Alabama, got out at a gas station and heard someone say something fucked up. I'm not gonna deny that Alabama has some really fucked up, racist qualities, but so does Portland, NYC, the central valley of California and pretty much everywhere else in the entire world.
   A lesser-known quality about the state is that it has a long history of avant artists and musicians...many are well known and others fly far under the radar. When i was really young, I knew there had to be something out there besides top 40 radio and bad sitcoms on TV. I didn't know how to find it. I didn't know where to look, but I knew it was out there somewhere. I could feel it lurking in the shadows just out of sight. By the time I was in 4th grade, I had found THE CURE and VIOLENT FEMMES (thanks to a sister who knew what was up) but even that seemed I didn't know those people. It was cool to listen to their tapes, but I needed something to pull me into a different world altogether. When I was 11 or 12, I found myself in a dusty, wooden storefront in Montevallo with my sister at a performance art....thing.... Some people read bad poetry and others just kind of yelled at us. Then, LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams sat in front of the room and blew my little pre-teen mind, playing trombones and guitars like I had never seen before. That was it. I was fucked. It was over. I started finding more stuff (I still am). I discovered SUN RA, who many people believe is from Saturn but is actually from Birmingham, AL. Listening to his music helped me to open my mind up to all the possibilities of what's out there in the world and the rest of space. These people left deep, lasting impressions on me that have influenced my outlook on music ever since.
   That's why it was important for me to see SUN RA'S ARKESTRA a couple of weeks ago when they played in SF. Led by the 89 (!!) year old Marshall Allen, the Arkestra was transcendent and amazing. When they hit their first note, I felt at home. To see a band that was that trained and professional, but still able to improvise and go out on a limb was just a beautiful experience. (I'm getting to the point here in a second). I started thinking about the ways that they influenced my thoughts on free jazz and improv throughout the years.....the ways that I'm quick to dismiss whole swaths of the genre, even though the world of improv is so vast. To me, there's a huge difference between improv and "just kinda dicking around", but I know that not everyone thinks that way. I love the way that each performer can swirl around in their own world for a while but has an idea of when to join the others and work together.
   At some point during that performance, I started thinking of TACHYCARDIA, who I hadn't thought of in years. I got home and dug out this CD, which is just one 54 minute improv track of three accomplished artists in a studio in Austin. There's no riff or loop that they ever come back to but I think this recording has it's own character, personality and drive for the entirety of the recording. I can't really be the one to tell you how you should feel about this because I think everyone has their own approach to improv. For some that approach could be a full sprint in the opposite direction, but because of the weirdos I encountered during my early days in Alabama, I welcome this stuff with wide open arms.
  On this recording, TACHYCARDIA is Carl Smith on tenor sax, Walter Daniels on harmonica, clarinet, piper's chanter, nose flute and Wade Driver (from 50 MILLION, APOGEE SOUND CLUB and LIBERTAS) on drums, bugle and whistle. The amazing art (included in download) is done by Marcel Herms from Holland.

Thanks to Wade Driver for allowing this online.