StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Gerald Cleaver & Black Host


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Today, let's have a look at some videos featuring drummer, composer and bandleader Gerald Cleaver, whose group Black Host will be in St. Louis next Saturday, April 25 for a New Music Circle concert at The Stage at KDHX.

Cleaver is a Detroit native known for his work with a wide range of artists in jazz and improvised music, including Joe Morris, Roscoe Mitchell, Miroslav Vitous, Michael Formanek, Tomasz Stanko, Lotte Anker, Craig Taborn, and many more. Black Host, just one of several ensembles he leads, was formed in 2011 and is said by their record label Northern Spy to “blend modern jazz, free music, psych, post-punk and electrified noise with painstaking detail and heady abandon."

When asked to characterize the group's sound, Cleaver has said, “The music is not written as a tribute to anyone, but if I were to engage in a fanciful description, I’d say I’m trying to embody the passionate empiricism of Roscoe Mitchell, the power and scary joy of Black Sabbath, and the smart, bad-assed and rocking songwriting of PJ Harvey (in addition to a hundred other references)."

In addition to the drummer/leader, Black Host also includes alto saxophonist Darius Jones, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, and multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore, who concentrates mostly on piano and/or electric keyboard.

So far they've released one album, 2013's Life In The Sugar Candle Mines, which NYC music writer Hank Shteamer described as “discrete tunes that satisfy in the manner of good pop or funk or even (dare I say?) jazz fusion, but that are constructed from and defined by the timbres and rhythmic interplay most often associated with freely improvised jazz and experimental electronic music."

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of video of Black Host online, but they did do a couple of shows in 2013 at the Brooklyn house concert venue Seeds that were live-streamed on video and later posted on YouTube. One of those shows, from May 28 of that year, can be seen in the embedded window up above.

The other, from the next night, was posted here on StLJN a few weeks ago as part of the “bonus edition" of our spring jazz preview, and since there's really not much other live footage of the band available, that clip is reposted after the jump.

Below that are a couple of short music videos released by Northern Spy to promote the tracks “Hover" and “Test-Sunday" from Life In The Sugar Candle Mines. While these don't necessarily tell you much about Black Host's live show, they do convey a sense of the group's overall aesthetic.

Lastly, just to fill out our quota of clips, there are a couple of videos featuring Cleaver improvising with Black Host's bassist and some other collaborators. Specifically, the fifth video is an excerpt from a show last year for the Evolving Music Series in NYC, featuring Cleaver, Niggenkemper, clarinetist and saxophonist John Dierker, and drummer Ches Smith, while the sixth is from a 2013 show at JACK in Brooklyn, and shows him with saxophonist Lotte Anker (with whom he played here in St. Louis a couple of years ago), saxophonist Tim Berne, and bassist William Parker.

For more about Black Host, you can read a review of one of the band's early live shows from Hank Shteamer, as well as reviews of Life In The Sugar Candle Mines from Shteamer for Pitchfork, Something Else's S. Victor Aaron, and the Free Jazz blog's Paul Acquaro. Gerald Cleaver also talks quite a bit about Black Host in the 2013 interviews he did with Point of Departure and BlouinArtInfo.com.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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