6

Nation Time Concert at the Guggenheim Museum

Nation Time Concert at the Guggenheim Museum
Kurt Gottschalk By

Sign in to view read count
Richard Hell, Arto Lindsay, The Thing
Guggenheim Museum
Nation Time
New York, NY
November 20, 2013

Over the course of three forms of media and four decades, Amiri Baraka stretched his way into New York's Guggenheim Museum. A poem he penned more than 40 years ago found its path into the venerable visual arts institution via the music of Joe McPhee, which in turn inspired a response from painter Christopher Wool. In a roundabout way, then, Baraka gave Wool the name for the retrospective on view through January 22.

The poem was "It's Nation Time," published in 1970 and opening with what could be seen as a call to arms: "Time to get / together / time to be on strong fast black energy space / one pulsating positive magnetism, rising / time to get up and / be / come / be / come [...] black genius rise in spirit muscle."

Those words called McPhee to action with his 1971 album Nation Time, released on CJR Records. Wool discovered that record 30 years later, when it was reissued on Atavistic's Unheard Series, curated by jazz journalist John Corbett.

To add another concentric circle, Corbett organized a night of music that served as part party, part concert, for the exhibition—a scene and a place to be seen—on November 20 in the basement theater of the Upper East Side museum (although it began with Mats Gustafsson bleating a baritone solo through the Frank Lloyd Wright designed rotunda during a pre-concert reception). The evening featured McPhee, of course, playing with the Swedish trio the Thing, as well as two people representing Wool's East Village roots. Punk poet Richard Hell opened the night and singer/guitarist Arto Lindsay—a man who perhaps more than anyone epitomizes the word "skronk"—played a solo set before McPhee and Thing took the stage.

Lindsay's performance was plagued by technical problems, although for the most part it could have passed unnoticed were it not for his between song caveats. He played the first song with a big grin and no sound coming from the amp, but frustration soon set in. "I know I'm brave but courage is not enough," he said, futzing with the cables and amp settings. Kim Gordon, sitting next to Wool in the front row, yelled encouragements, but his fatalism persevered—or was his shtick. "I'll squeeze a little pleasure out of this situation or die trying, right?" he said, leading into a dedication to his former bassist back in his no wave days. "Speaking of dying, here's one for Tim Wright."

And he played a great, despite his misgivings, or perhaps because of them, as he struggled against technology for a half hour of Brasilia skronk as harsh and brittle as anything he's done. Looking spent during each song but smiling after, he finally got the built-in tremelo on the Fender Twin Reverb working and pushed his distorted signal though it, emulating an overloaded synthesizer. Then, with guitar hyped and activated, he ventured a ballad and the familiar lyrics of "Titled" from his 1996 record Mundo Civilizado rang over the guitar clatter. He then laid into an open strum with the high E held at or about the 18th fret, working the strummed rhythm against the tremelo into a manic pulse for several minutes before introducing Thing drummer Paal Nilssen-Love for a final six minutes of intense and angular duet improvisation.

After a short break, Nilssen-Love returned with his Thingmates, Gustafsson and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten—decked in black and white and sporting Rudy's BBQ shirts obtained during their South by Southwest appearance—and McPhee, in black and white and sporting a white-and-orange plastic alto saxophone. They made a striking appearance (it could not have been an accident) and more to the point played a heavy-hitting set. McPhee and Thing laid out a freewheeling montage, touching on Steve Lacy's "Call the Police," John Coltrane's "India" and Donald Ayler's "Our Prayer." They broke only to return harder, riffing seriously on Nilssen-Love's "Viking" but ramping down into a bonafide ballad, an emphatic one to be sure but still a bluesy swoon brought to sweet culmination by McPhee. They closed with Don Cherry's "Golden Heart," which the Swedes recorded in 2011 with Cherry's daughter Neneh.

Shop

More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "The Julian Lage Trio at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews The Julian Lage Trio at SFJAZZ
by David Becker
Published: September 13, 2016
Read "Midge Ure at Revolution Music Hall" Live Reviews Midge Ure at Revolution Music Hall
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Enjoy Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Enjoy Jazz 2016
by John Kelman
Published: November 7, 2016
Read "Jazzkaar 2016" Live Reviews Jazzkaar 2016
by Martin Longley
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams at Kennett Flash" Live Reviews Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams at Kennett Flash
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!