Last year, I wrote this (attached) observation about Mike Reed's Flesh & Bone project/record release, connected to NPR's Jazz Night in America. I have been waiting for the broadcast of the show, to release my writing about the live shows and art.
That time is now.
Listen to the Show - February 2, 2018
Flesh & Bone Constellation Jazz Night in America July 28th 2017
How can I talk about a record still sealed in cellophane?
I cannot. The live concert version, recorded for NPR’s Jazz Night in America, is what I will reflect upon. In addition, back on April 28th 2017 Flesh&Bone played Constellation and revealed some of this CD material. I was painting large-format live with acrylics at that concert, unseen behind a partition. Tonight I sketched with charcoal on paper and wood panel, in a side seat. My experience with this Flesh&Bone songbook has these two concerts from which to draw (& paint).
I know there is a concrete experience originating this album. This was Mike Reed and his bandmates’ hard brush with the human condition in the Czech republic. As a testament to good art, this album’s content has a building Talmudic feel to it. Having heard portions of this record live twice, and creating artwork to it, I can attest to the increasingly clarifying narrative that lies within.
Again, this is before I have listened to the recording and read the liner notes, so my storytelling is going to be abstract.
Marvin Tate’s spoken words set the tale in San Francisco and from a calling-mind-through hollers on a street corner (and his girlfriend Lou.) During the blind painting of April 28th, these words and freedom spelled backwards guided my brush to channel the Fillmore grit of my own girlfriend experiences in SF. Tonight, on July 28th, the charcoal wanted to carve out the masculine grime of unapologetic seeking.
Each member of the band stood up at various times as totem paragraphs in a sonic poem. Tate’s was not the only voice, in that sense. Ward, Stein, Lamar Gay and Haldeman recited with brass. Roebke and Reed played the non-traditional role of Amen sayers and portenders in the band, as well as traditional root-layers. The material came across as a first act opera or the first few chapters of a contemporary book on the human struggle.
I will scan my sketches from tonight. Then I will listen to the record in the morning and continue my observations.
Several weeks later, after the embarrassment of Charlottesville, I unsheathed the Flesh&Bone CD and listened on a summer drive to the MCA to hear/sketch Twin Talk.
I did not read the liner notes.
The record is a soundtrack to a battle. The scene is set through the spoken word (there is levity and acid in that voice), but I abstracted the language to let the music tell the story. Track 3: Conversation Music is the theme: portending the chase and acting out the betrayal. I see cross-eyed looks and backstabbing smile on the face out of place action here.
Track 4 is the chase.
Track 5 is the escape, like a black and white movie.
Track 6 an asking.
Track 7 I Want To Be Small has that vocal Taxi Driver soundtrack (questioning open hands to the sky) relating ability.
Track 8 does the words right; a wrap up of emotions. Roebke opens
Track 9, Watching the Boats, and then the reeds fold the clouds above.
The Weight of Rage with a New Orleans stomp comes on Track 10, and gives an honest culpability poem (you like that? He’s asking. Are you listening?).
Track 11 gives us that distant Miles D from Ben LG, and then indexes it all with a welcomed cross-fade of voices.
I’m liking the telling and re-telling on this record. This will be a resilient document of a group of contemporary artists light-handedly allowing us to think about where our culture is, right the now. The subject and experience is Heavy here. The delivery offers a hope and a solution. I should read the liner notes before publishing this observation, but won’t. I like the mystery and storytelling to keep on.
Thank you, Mike Reed and Flesh&Bone.
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