Music » In Rotation

In Rotation: MCA curator Dieter Roelstraete on Constellation

Plus: Painter Lisa Alvarado on Esteban "Steve" Jordan's Echoplex accordion, the Reader's Peter Margasak on Afro-rockers Colomach, and more


  • Colomach

Peter Margasak Reader music writer

Takahiro Kawaguchi, Aaron Zarzutzki, and Nick Hoffman, So Sorry Electronic improviser Aaron Zarzutzki (of Green Pasture Happiness) has hit pay dirt in recent collaborations, including Touching with trumpeter Graham Stephenson. This trio session with Japanese experimentalist Takahiro Kawaguchi and former Chicagoan Nick Hoffman (nobody is credited with any particular instrument) merges industrial hums, chugging machine noises, errant twangs, unpitched breaths, sibilant vibrations, and metallic clangs to create surprising beauty.

Colomach, Colomach The lone album by this guitar-heavy Nigerian Afro-rock group is apparently one of the rarest made during the country's fruitful 70s. Bandleader and Togo native Gneni Mamadou orchestrates fusions of West African styles with funk and psychedelia, so that I keep expecting the bass line of "Enoviyin" to turn into "Tighten Up"—but instead we get a zombielike chant and a wiggy guitar solo over rhythms that sound cribbed from King Sunny Ade.

Deciders, We Travel the Airwaves If you ask me, Die Enttäuschung and Atomic are the best jazz bands in Europe, and it looks like Norwegian bassist Ole Morten Vagan agrees—his group the Deciders includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall and trumpeter Axel Dörner from the former and reedist Fredrik Ljungvkist from the latter. We Travel the Airwaves is bristling, loose-limbed freebop that makes some nods to history (the Sun Ra wink in the title, the Mingus-like energy of "Feeble Fables"), and the front-line heavies season their killer improvisations with humor and humility.

Peter is curious what's in the rotation of …

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Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Constellation Constellation is a tremendous addition to the city's already fabulous musical landscape, and the first concert I saw there—which paired AACM reedist Roscoe Mitchell with the venue's driving force, drummer Mike Reed—set the bar very high indeed. I look forward to seeing the likes of Josh Abrams, Hamid Drake, and, say, Douglas Ewart teaming up in that great space.

Gongs I've had a long-standing obsession with all things gong (the instrument, not the band), so there's always some gong playing in our house—including the sounding of the thing itself, as we've amassed a modest collection of wind gongs and tam-tams. Karlheinz Stockhausen's Mikrophonie I and James Tenney's Koan: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion are the obvious new-music classics in this surprisingly rich field, but I dig the yoga/meditation/crystal-­vibrations stuff—say, Sotantar Simrat Singh's Sun Gong or Frank Perry's Zodiac.

The Otolith Group's tribute to CoDoNa The Otolith Group is an amazing film collective from London whose contribution to an ECM-themed exhibit at Munich's Haus der Kunst earlier this year consisted of a moving tribute to CoDoNa, a tragically short-lived avant-jazz-world trio consisting of Collin Walcott, Don Cherry, and Nana Vasconcelos that I was admittedly not terribly familiar with. An exceptional piece of cinema, it shows us how truly musical filmmaking should be done; I've been listening to The CoDoNa Trilogy pretty much nonstop since.

Dieter is curious what's in the rotation of …

  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Noh theater

Lisa Alvarado, painter, member of the Natural Information Society

Noh theater For the past couple of years the Natural Information Society has included painting in many of our live performances. Searching for historical precedents, I came across Noh, a 650-year-old form of Japanese musical theater. The sound of Noh is slow and haunting, with three drummers and a flutist. Giant pots buried beneath the stage floor increase resonance and ghostly vibration. All Noh performances take place in front of a painting of an old pine tree, called the oi-matsu, which symbolizes the demarcation of a sacred place. I'm also a fan of the similarly slow-motion Japanese court music called gagaku.

Tumba Francesa Tumba Francesa is an intricate simultaneous combination of song, drumming, dance, and weaving, which originated with Haitian slaves in 18th-­century Cuba and fuses influences from West African music and French traditional dance. Dancers hold ribbons connected to the top of a tall pole, and as they circle and cross back and forth with their partners, their movements create a multicolored weaving that runs down the pole's length.

Esteban "Steve" Jordan Esteban Jordan (1939-2010) was a south Texas conjunto musician and connector of musical genres. He incorporated a myriad of styles into conjunto and shredded his accordion through an Echoplex. I was fortunate to hear him play live several times at Saluté back in my hometown of San Antonio, where he packed the dance floor every Friday night until his passing in August 2010.

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