Alonzo Holliday: The Archaeology of Out-Bop
Like many musicians, Turek's discovery of public libraries' music collections really opened his ears. "I taught myself the basics of music history from books and records from the library," he says. "I abandoned a lot of the pop I listened to when I was a kid, and focused on classical. I was interested in the more obscure elements of classical music. I would look up the more canonical works of, say, Mozart, and then I would find his lesser-known pieces. Also, I liked the lesser-known composers from that period. And gradually I worked myself up to the 20th century, like Scriabin. His interest in synaesthesia, where you see sounds or hear colors, appealed to me.
"I got a slot as a DJ at my university radio station. They were having a hard time filling it 'cause it wasn't hip," he added. "I did that for three or four years. In the process of that I got into the downtown stuff, like early John Zorn. I also started work at a record store in Portland, Amadeus, that specialized in jazz and classical.
"When I was growing up, I really didn't like jazz. One day I picked up a record by the Modern Jazz QuartetI figured 'modern' ... 'jazz' ...sounds good! But it was so boring! But a little later I started to listen to jazz radio, and there were some good DJs. I would always have my radio on. I started hearing people likethe three who first got me into jazz were Sun Ra, Charles Mingus and Archie Shepp. I loved Shepp's big, aggressive sound.
"We had a recording, at the record store, I think it was [Sun Ra's] Nubians of Plutonia (Saturn, 1966). I was into the wild group improvisation. He was more 'out' than Archie Shepp was. Shepp had more of a song construction that he was working from. He was self-expressive, whereas Sun Ra had a group expression. He would have an overarching structure, but within that there was a bigger sound."
The Out-Bop Review has structure, but of a different nature. "I think we kind of just go with whoever, at a given point in time, has the best ideas and best energy behind it," Turek says. "Kit and Chico have a really fundamental communication. Like anyone who plays with a bassist and drummer with that kind of connection, the other guy is in some respects going to feel like a third wheel."
That said, he turns this situation into a window of opportunity. "A lot of times, I'll be like the lead vocalist on top of what they're doing," he asserts. "We like the idea of being an egalitarian-type band. There's no one who really dominates any given performance."
He still likes to play outside of the Out-Bop context on occasion. "In some ways it's a challenge because it's like having a conversation with someone you don't know," he says. "At the same time it often works, in a different way, because you are playing with musicians who are also accomplished."
He will be meeting this challenge later this month [Feb. 27, 2010] when he plays at XFest in Lowell, Mass., in which musician and gallery curator Walter Wright mixes and matches other artists, taking them out of their element. He will be playing with many Boston-based performers, who have a decidedly different sound, more academic, perhaps, quieter and European. Turek is unfazed: "What happens is you find a meeting point. We all come from the avant-garde and we all know how to speak that language. A couple of times I have done this festival, I could tell the people weren't communicating well but the things I did came out really well."
Ethically, many artists say that their role is not to be part of a system, and show the way to having a unique, individual voice. Turek shares this value. "If you have a really expressive voice, then that's your social role," he said. "Like the traditional role of the shaman, someone with this esoteric knowledge that was both a part of the community and not a part of the community. And to maintain that wisdom there has to be that separation to maintain the meditation on the nature of things. Being able to integrate and find some way to express that to the rest of the people- -to me that's the whole reason for being this, an avant-garde performer."
Mystic Out-Bop Review, Live at Strange Maine (Self Produced, 2007)
Alonzo Holliday, Knom (Aria Arts, 2003)
The Clown School Dropouts, Sweet Petunia Pie (Oy Vey, 2003)
Mystic Out-Bop Review Meets Reverend Crank Sturgeon, ChamberMusic (Aria Arts, 2002)
Mystic Out-Bop Review, Lagrangian Points (Aria Arts, 2001)
Mystic Out-Bop Review, s/t (Aria Arts, 2001)
Page 1: Joe Donnell; Page 2: Ron Harrity
All photos courtesy of Alonzo Holliday