The Ghosts and Ballyhoo album
I asked drummer Steven Menasche to record an improvised-jazz album based on Ghosts and Ballyhoo. He added guitarist Ron Kukan, keyboardist Jai Young Kim, and Scott Thunes on bass.
Since the music is completely improvised, it was important that Steven not consult me in any way. I wanted to see what four musicians’ take would be on my book. What they did was adapt chapter titles, write them on slips of paper, put them in a hat, and choose them blindly. Then they improvised pieces for them. Steven also decided to name the album after the book, although I didn’t ask for that.
I love the album. It’s hard to put my finger on what makes this jazz improvisation so much better than others. Probably because there’s no show-offery or pretentiousness. There’s a sort of joyful humility and sincerity that “experimental” music often lacks.
When I was a music journalist, the worst act I ever saw was two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer caterwauling away, each in his or her own little world, but every now and then they’d all lock eyes and then dramatically go off into another tangential cacophony, like, “Okay…NOW!”
The female guitarist wore a black miniskirt; stockings divided into horizontal black-and white bands; black stompy boots with buckles; and a purple, satin man’s shirt unbuttoned to show her black bra. Her hair was wound into two bulbs that looked like Mickey Mouse ears. It was an abomination, but one that they made people pay to see. That’s what improvised jazz was to me, until I heard Steven, Ron, Jai Young, and Scott’s approach.
From the Free Jazz Collective home page:
founded in 2008, the san francisco jazz collective is a rotating group of well-seasoned musicians that record their music with no charts, no chord changes, no discussions… they simply ‘hit record’ and play. the results have been amazing… sometimes: straight-up jazz, rock, fusion, electronic, blues and even a bit of funk–but always reaching…
On another Website I found a new term: “fuzac”: fusion-muzak. This is about as far from fuzak as you can get. My favorite track on Ghosts and Ballyhoo is “Recognizing the Pig,” inspired by pages 268-269 of the book.
All proceeds from the album go to…whomever they go to at the San Francisco Free Jazz Collective. I don’t get a penny, which is what I requested. So buy the album and dump loads of bucks into the pockets of people other than me.
Click here for the interview Scott Thunes gave me about the album.