Volume 43 Number 04

Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor


PREVIEW The 2008 San Francisco Jazz Festival’s Vanguard Series is screaming. There, I said it. Both neophytes and adepts need to turn out this week for what will be personal milestones — those moments of "aha" and inspiration you’ll want to crystallize in something stronger than words — starting with mystic saxophonist Archie Shepp at Herbst Theatre Thursday. Considered one of the inventors of avant-garde jazz, Shepp blended blues, spirituals, and free-form music into a sound that transcends classification. Those who are familiar with his recordings are not getting the full message. Bearing witness is the only way to truly see.

Bearing witness is the only apt term for Cecil Taylor playing at Grace Cathedral on Friday. Taylor, one of the most prolific, experimental, and daring pianists in jazz or any other music, attacks the keys, coaxes polyrhythmic twists out of the music, and chisels chords from the dissonant, while traveling to the sublime and back again. Mix Grace Cathedral’s seven-second reverberation and Taylor’s inviting, deflecting, infuriating, and always inspiring compositions, poetry, and persona, and you get a religious experience. Go now — or regret later.

ARCHIE SHEPP Thurs/23, 7:30 p.m. (pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m.), $25-$65. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. 1-866-920-JAZZ, www.sfjazz.org
CECIL TAYLOR Fri/24, 8 p.m., $30–$50. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, SF. 1-866-920-JAZZ, www.sfjazz.org

What’s Up


PREVIEW Post-hardcore is as straightforward as it sounds: the bands that hardcore musicians started that drew on a broader range of music beyond the self-imposed limitations of hard ‘n’ fast. After those bands imploded or stagnated, new groups emerged to incorporate influences from so-called world music and the fringes of contemporary classical, making for a helping of instrumental, textural artists on the one hand (Black Dice), and hyper-technical indie rockers on the other (Dirty Projectors).

What’s Up, however, is that rare thing: a technical instrumental band with lots of feeling. When I tell keyboardist-guitarist Robby Moncrieff by phone that I sense a lot of positive energy in the way the music is packed with bright, run-on melodies, he replies, "It comes from just being fed up with how things were going in town in a sense." "Town" is Sacramento, though Moncrieff, drummer Teddy Briggs, and bassist Brian Marshall recently relocated to Portland, Ore. "Sacramento’s got a great little underground thing going on, but it’s too small to support itself," Moncrieff continues. "There’s a lot of moral support, and it’s a great starting point, but it’s hard to try to grow there."

What’s Up is prepping to drop its first LP, Content Imagination, on Chicago’s upstart Obey Your Brain label in the spring. Although people might hear traces of Moncrieff’s work in 8-bit interpreters the Advantage, this band is a different beast. Briggs’ and Marshall’s solid, lurching rhythm section gives plenty of space for Moncrieff’s hyperactive, distorted keyboards to turn out melodies that shimmer for a moment before contradicting themselves. If there’s a signature What’s Up track so far, it’s "Harper’s Introduction." There’s something in the way the melody rides on the dirty keyboard bounce and the jerking rhythm of the drums and shaker that makes it seem like it could be some of the best beach music ever.

WHAT’S UP Fri/24, 8 p.m., call for price. Red Door Gallery 371 11th St., SF. (415) 652-4054. Also with Zach Hill, Oaxacan, and Religious Girls. Sat/25, 8:30 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. (510) 444-7263, www.21grand.org

Never grow up


REVIEW Azazel Jacobs’ portrait of the artist as a regressive thumb-sucker is a welcome antidote to Hollywood’s inane home-for-the-holidays pictures. Jacobs’ counterculture parents, the experimental filmmaker Ken and his painter wife Flo, were sporting enough to play Ma and Dad to Mikey (Matt Boren). The slouchy 30-something purposefully misses his flight back to wife and baby in New York, and lands back in the family nest in a deep funk. Momma’s Man‘s delicious comedy derives from Mikey’s fruitless conquests of the past: playing through a notebook’s worth of high school breakup songs, reading comic books, and, memorably, propping up in bed with his parents to watch Monsieur Verdoux (1947). The mother-son bond veers toward Portnoy’s Complaint territory when Momma Flo won’t stop asking if Mikey needs anything from the other side of a bathroom door, but elsewhere her gentle prodding strikes just the right homey notes. And after Mikey uses his parents’ aging as a cover for his own semi-consciousness, her final, wordless embrace of her son is enough to make you want to call home. Momma’s Man is a bleary-eyed nostalgia trip, mindful of the precarious limbo of post-adolescent reflexivity. As Mikey spins out in his black hole of comfort and culture, it becomes clear that Momma’s Man is a goodbye not just to childhood, but to the last echoes of bohemian New York. 

MOMMA’S MAN opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.

Missing pieces


NEWS/REVIEW At this point, any review of Gallery 16’s fifteenth anniversary show "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood" must revolve around its missing pieces. On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 15, two paintings by Margaret Kilgallen were stolen. Of the 68 works on display, they were among only a handful not for sale. When one takes the exhibition’s layout into consideration, it appears that Untitled and Easy — a pair of small enamel-on-wood works that Kilgallen had given to gallery owner Griff Williams — were part of a behind-your-back theft.

Rough ironies are left in their wake. The first is the friendly title of the exhibition itself. "Please stop stealing the stemware," asks one page of Tucker Nichols’ line-drawing zine Fifteen Yrs Give or Take: A Commemorative Guide to Gallery 16. "One bad day in like 15 years," says another. With a show by Lydia Fong reaching the end of its run in San Francisco, and Barry McGee (whose work has also been stolen: check out a Luggage Store interview in an old issue of ANP Quarterly) one of the main focuses of a recent Artforum issue dedicated to "Art and its Markets," the Kilgallen theft is a high-priced mystery.

What remains at Gallery 16? For starters, I like: Michelle Grabner’s update of op art’s love affair with the circle; Gay Outlaw giving form to inversion with uncharacteristically Mission-like materials; a number of unassumingly beautiful watercolors by Cliff Hengst; Jim Isermann’s brash ’90s version of the understated loom pieces Ruth Laskey is making today; Alice Shaw’s hypnotic lenticular photos; Lauren Davies’ Dirtballs with Snow (a deal at $350 each); the Jerome Caja-eseque shrinky dink humor of Andrew Romanoff’s Ipod Sucks Brain Out; and Alex Zecca’s and Wayne Smith’s amazing ink-on-paper screens or patterns.

Regarding the Kilgallen pieces, here’s a message from Gallery 16’s Vanessa Blaikie and Griff Williams: "There is very little of Margaret’s original work out there for sale, if any, and so we are asking that everyone please keep their eyes and ears open with respect to these two works. Should they resurface for sale, or should you see these in a private residence, we ask that you please contact us immediately. Any information would be much appreciated."

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD Through Nov. 7. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Gallery 16, 501 Third St., SF. (415) 626-7495, www.gallery16.com