MUSIC NEWS & OPINION
HISS and VINEGAR
MEOW MEOW HATCHES SCHEME TO DISTRIBUTE TO MINORS
Meow Meow, the li'l romper room upstairs at 527 SE Pine St., long ago surpassed the newtlike average life expectancy for all-ages clubs. Now, tireless club commando Todd Fadel intends to add to his altruistic empire with a monthly CD series, aimed at turning the Kids on to that crazy rock-and-roll beat. Fadel figures Teenland is crawling with potential fans for local bands, but radio and other castrato commercial outlets give young'uns precious little chance to hear anything besides frickin' Good Charlotte. "I just think they don't even know what they'd be into until they heard it," quoth Todd. So starting in late January, Fadel will bless the world with compilation CDs featuring bands scheduled to play Meow Meow and other PDX acts. He plans ambitious runs of 1,000 copies a month, handed out free to high-school kids through Meow Meow's volunteer army of street-teamers. Fadel ultimately wants his CDs, which will bear the serial sobriquet "The Wonder of the Underground Pressed on Plastic," to include a digitized zine. For now, he hopes the series will spark chatter on a new discussion forum planned for themeowmeow.com. Installment uno should hit streets and study halls by Jan. 24, in time to hype the Jan. 29 MM show featuring comp bands Cursive and The Velvet Teen. The curious should check out Meow Meow's website for info on how to acquire this fabulous new modern convenience for the practical home.
JAMES ANGELL EMOTES SUCCESSFULLY
Portland has a new/old hometown-boy-done-good in James Angell. The sold-out crowd at the former Neros Rome frontman's release show at Lola's Room on Saturday--a lot of women, a lot of upscale clothing--couldn't decide whether to sway to the music, or sway and take digital photos. Angell's whispered psych-prog took a turn toward the rock symphony with his six-piece all-star band. (In case you haven't heard, the ensemble features an ex-member of Duran Duran and longtime Elliott Smith accomplice Tony Lash.) The players were clearly behind Angell as he played through new record Private Player track by track. Angell held down the piano with pounding chords and vocals so emotive that he winced regularly. The crowd devoured the rock dramatics, but all that emoting left this reviewer wondering if the record's title wasn't all too appropriate. Opening acts Garmonbozia and Menomena turned in tight performances but seemed largely mismatched to the main attraction. --Rob Kelley
SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT
After years of lending iron fist, razor mind and deep humanitarian caring to this newspaper's music section, assistant music editor John Graham has resigned his commission. Mr. Graham is reportedly resting comfortably in a secure facility, whence he threatens to continue contributing dulcet prose-tones to these pages as his parole officer permits. Those who communicated with Graham regarding calendar listings, the HeadOut section and off-track tips should for the time being direct such correspondence to Kim Colton (firstname.lastname@example.org). Perfumed packages of limited-edition J-Lo thongs posted to Mr. Graham at this address will be returned to sender, postage due.
The February issue of teeny-rocker rag Alternative Press gives props to new product from "Portland, Oregon doom rockers" Glass Candy and the Shattered Theater. Love, Love, Love comes out in February on N.J.'s Troubleman Unlimited...Ingenious Portland/NYC improvisers Jackie O Motherfucker landed on the cover of super-heady Brit avant-music mag The Wire in December, with the final syllables of the band's name tastefully omitted...Ominous New Year news: The U.S. Senate has designated 2003 "The Year of the Blues." Sales of Blind Lemon Jefferson LPs have taken off in Baghdad, where it pays to be prepared...
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Would You Prefer Eskelin, or Mescaline?
Ellery Eskelin expands minds
Some dismiss music they hate by claiming that, whatever it is, it isn't "real music." "Rock is just a bunch of screaming." "That so-called rap music just sounds like talkin' to me--and why can't they play something wholesome at Blazers games?"
Most of the time, people who say things like this are both lazy and stupid. But what to make of someone like New York tenor sax player Ellery Eskelin, whose free-jazz act is so heavy on the "free," it teases even open minds with questions of music's boundaries and definitions?
Raised in Baltimore but schooled among NYC's music wolves for about 20 years, Eskelin dispenses with the conceits that prop up music as most people understand it. Song structures? Only if you're willing to go deep with the man and puzzle out the internal logic within his extended riddles of manic composition.
"I guess what I'm going for would be a sense of mystery and surprise," says Eskelin of his work with drummer Jim Black and keyboardist/accordionist Andrea Parkins. (There's no bass player either, defying jazz-trio convention.) "I kind of look at this as a group that could improvise completely, except I'm actually bringing the music in. I'm setting forces in motion, but the results are going to surprise most people."
In Eskelin's bag of tricks, Zen-koan gaze-into-the-void moments avalanche into slithering cascades of noisy non sequitur. Sometimes Eskelin's tenor sax fakes left and goes right, camouflaging imminent sonic strife with a few seconds of cool, calm and collected jazz urbanity. Like an apparently mild-mannered Everyman who keeps chaos hemmed in behind his eyes, Eskelin flirts with the edge even during his most placid moments.
He admits it can be confusing even to avant-jazz proponents.
"People are always asking, 'Is it jazz?'" he says. "Those questions aren't really so interesting to me. What's interesting to me is the music itself."
Those willing to chance their preconceptions of how music is built might find Eskelin's music "interesting," too. Zach Dundas
Ellery Eskelin, with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black, performs Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Fez Ballroom, 316 SW 11th Ave., 221-7262 ext. 41. 8 pm. $15. 21+.