171

Kenny Millions: Humanplexity/Mixed Nuts/Those Were The Days

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Imagine John Zorn with a sense of humor, or a least imagine him telling a joke not at your expense and you have an idea where Keshavan Maslak a.k.a. Kenny Millions is coming from. His outsider status in the avant community (probably self-imposed) comes from his utter lack of musical sobriety. Born of Ukranian ancestry, Keshavan Maslak played in R&B bands in Detroit before moving on to New York’s loft scene and an eventually becoming a US expatriot in Amsterdam. He has since moved to Florida, set up operations in his Sushi Blues Cafe, and begun issuing recordings on his Hum Ha Records label.

Maybe it’s his ties to the showbiz R&B world or something in his Ukranian past that steers Millions to his mayhem. He definately found his people when he circulated in the Dutch jazz scene. His music, like that of Han Bennink, Misha Mengelberg, and Willem Breuker relies heavily on entertaining smiles and surprise, a concept not foriegn to jazz. Louis Armstrong was known go into an alternative character and tell jokes during a show, as did Dizzy Gllespie who was possesed with a lifetime of physical comedy on stage. But like all things in this puritanical American society jazz began to suffer from the “serious art form” syndrome, and it’s serious young men rejected Satchmo in favor of higher art. Eventually the avant-garde came along with its share of serious young men and I guess they felt carrying the creative flag was no laughing matter. This was never the case in Europe and the former Soviet Union. Serious fun could be had making artistically creative music.

These two discs are an excellent sampling of the Kenny Millions experience. Those We The Days, recorded in 1996, is a duet between Millions and Russian avant-garde pianist Sergey Kuryokhin. When they cover “Those Were The Days” it’s as if they were in a Russian circus starring a dyslexic Benny Hill. Kuryokhin tempers folk music with a sometimes classical approach to the keyboard. The pair are partial to comical chaos, singing popular music, or making up (is that Russian or a new language?) words. Both men play this outside music with a tether, always coming back to the melody or some beautiful passage. At one point on “Romantica” as Kuryokhin is playing a sweet chamber passage, Millions inflicts a yell and symbol crash which has all the feel of the Naked City track “Gob Of Spit.” Sadly, Kuryokhin is no longer living, but a few Leo Records and these Hum Ha discs preserve his memory.

Kuryokhin is also heard on Mixed Nuts but in sampled form. Recorded during two tours of the former Soviet Union states in 1989 and 1996, the four tracks are less personable than the previous duets, but they are almost pure theater. The enthusiastic crowds love outsider art and Millions’ zamisdat-jazz seems to describe the insanity that has become so much of Russian life. His circular breathing high end squeaks are cheered and fiery saxophone passages worthy of any of today’s energy jazz flame-throwers counters the crazy sampled collages Otomo Yoshihde tosses up. Fans of Chicago Underground Duo and Isotope 217 can relate to Millions cut and paste approach to music. A one point in “Hit It” the musicians stop playing to gauge the reaction of the audience. They hoot (actually I don’t think Russian hoot) and holler for more. Yoshihde applies his plunderphonics-approach to a very accessible carnival of a show. Millions orchestrates a serious amount of entertainment to accompany his outsider act.

Track Listing: Mixed NutsAre You Nuts; I Don

Personnel: Kenny Millions

| Record Label: Hum Ha | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Right Up On CD/LP/Track Review Right Up On
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Wanderlust CD/LP/Track Review Wanderlust
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Imagination CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Evolution CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read On A Monday Evening CD/LP/Track Review On A Monday Evening
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Parrhésie" CD/LP/Track Review Parrhésie
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 17, 2016
Read "True Flight" CD/LP/Track Review True Flight
by James Nadal
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 29, 2016
Read "Signals" CD/LP/Track Review Signals
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "The Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" CD/LP/Track Review The Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: February 4, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!