Veteran drummer and tireless promoter Dee Pop has, in a pleasant surprise, stepped forth with Radio I-Ching, easily his strongest project since way back in the '80s and his seminal funky-post-punk band Bush Tetras. He's become a familiar presence downtown again, organizing the Sunday night Freestyle events, first in the CBGB's basement and now at the nearby and much smaller basement room at Jimmy's Restaurant. His Sunday nights have often featured him with other regular downtown improvisers, but somehow he never quite made the match. Maybe it's because, at heart, Pop plays songs. The Tetras were an odd group, but they were still something of a verse/chorus, repeat, intensify band.
Likewise, Radio I-Ching deals in song and does so well. Hovering around the same sort of Americana vibe that Bill Frisell and Steven Bernstein have worked, they bring their own take, doing songs like "Brother Can You Spare a Dime? or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic without a hint of irony - even pulling off a drum and fife improv - and then slide into Dr. John, Duke Ellington and Charlie Haden. Pop sounds deeply at home with the trio, Andy Haas on sax and (subtle) electronics and Don Fiorino playing guitar, lap steel, banjo and lotar. There's a deep, political undercurrent to the record ("Let My People Go , "Machine Gun Blues ), but they aren't pounding their fists. If the trio would agree on how - or if - to vote, they're still there to play music.
There's a similar suggestion to Haas' solo disc Humanitarian War. He gets the proselytizing out of the way with track names suggesting different sorts of weaponry and moves on to the music - an impressive, moody set of improvisations reminiscent of his excellent Arnhem Land from nearly a decade ago. But where that album used guest performers to fill out the tracks, War uses live electronics and realtime loops to create something that feels like more than a solo horn record. He leaves the sax at home and plays a variety of ethnic instruments (shofar, raita, fife, taal tarang) for an impressionistic one-world feeling, without being a hackneyed, jingoistic or colonial world. Instead - and buttressed by the titles - it becomes impressionistic, ethereal, one-world imploding, collapsing into itself, mirroring what's lost within the euphemisms of our leaders.
Tracks and Personnel
Last Kind Words
Tracks: Go Down Moses; Brother Can You Spare a Dime?; Fife & Drum; Last Kind Words; Machine Gun Blues; Battle Hymm of the Republic; Caravan; Walk On Guilded Splinters; Morsing Boogie; Song For Che; The Mooche; Last Kind Words Version 2; Go Down Moses Version 2.
Personnel: Andy Haas: curved soprano saxophone, fife, raita, morsing and electronics; Don Fiorino: guitar, banjo, lotar and lap steel; Dee Pop: drums, percussion.
Tracks: CBU 87 Steel Rain; Depleted Uranium, Part 1; AGM-142 Have Nap; White Phosphorus; MK77 Mod 5; BLU 113 Penetrator; Depleted Uranium, Part 2; PFM-1 Green Parrot; Valmara 69; BLU 108B Cluster.
Personnel: Andy Haas: shofar, fife, taal tarang, live electronics.