Donald Trump’s musical taste is surprisingly eclectic according to the BBC, but, given his thin skin, I doubt he’ll appreciate the sentiments behind the outpouring of extraordinary sounds inspired by his election.
Over the last few months Oakland drummer Vijay Anderson, violist/vocalist Dina Maccabee, a former Bay Area mainstay, and Berkeley clarinetist Ben Goldberg have spearheaded the digital label Minus Zero, which donates all proceeds from its online sales to Planned Parenthood.
With 19 albums now available via Bandcamp, Minus Zero is responsible for disseminating some of the year’s most exciting and intriguing new music, like For My Mother, a consistently captivating quartet session featuring Anderson, saxophone explorer Hafez Modirzadeh, bass master Mark Dresser, and pianist Diane Moser, a New Jersey player rarely heard in the Bay Area.
The quartet performs Friday at Café Pink House in Saratoga, Saturday at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco, and Sunday afternoon at California Jazz Conservatory in downtown Berkeley (Moser and Dresser are also offering CJC master classes Sunday morning).
Like many musicians who perform in various ensembles, Anderson was sitting on recordings he was looking for ways to release, particularly The Reckoning, a trio session with Ben Goldberg and Sheldon Brown on alto sax from 2015. Playing a protest gig on inauguration day with Goldberg and Black Spirituals percussionist Marshall Trammell at Studio Grand in Oakland “and the women’s march was happening the next day,” he says. “I just had this idea about putting The Reckoning out online and giving all the money to Planned Parenthood. Ben was really into the idea. He thought we should get as diverse a lineup as we could.”
The idea quickly took hold. Goldberg released 1(800)729-3700, a quartet project with keyboardist Michael Coleman, tenor saxophonist Matt Nelson, and drummer Chess Smith. Anderson put out For My Mother and a two-piano quintet project featuring the late great Connie Crothers and Virg Dzurinko.
Some artists have used to label to reissue material, like guitar maverick Ava Mendoza, who contributed the volatile 2011 duo session with drummer Nick Tamburro, Quit Your Unnatural Ways, which was originally released by the label Weird Forest. New York vocalist Andrea Wolper contributed her strikingly beautiful standards album The Small Hours. And the Schimscheimer Family, a mesmerizing trio with keyboardist Michael Coleman, alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, drummer Jon Arkin (and special guest Ben Goldberg on clarinets), rereleased one of my favorite albums from last year, Broken Home.
Other artists are taking the opportunity to showcase solo projects that few American labels would find a place for, like riveting Devon Hoff’s bass recital Baile As Baile and Aaron Bennett soprano sax tour de force Live at Luggage, “a great statement,” Anderson says. “I called him up and asked him to put it out. I think the label is great for solo recordings and I’m hoping to get more of those.”
While many Minus Zero albums feature jazz-steeped musicians in improvisational settings, Maccabee released Tethered Music, an EP of her mostly through-composed score that “explores themes of communication as developed and inspired by dance notation.” She created the music last year in collaboration with choreographer Teresa Heiland, featuring Jessica Ivry on cello and herself on violin, viola, vocals for “Tethered,” which was premiered by Southern California’s Megill & Company in Pasadena. And East Bay alto saxophonist Prasant Radhakrishnan released Naada Samyama, a gorgeous Carnatic recital with violinist Vittal Ramamurthy, V. Suresh on the clay pot-shaped ghatam and Anantha R. Krishnan on the double-sided mridangam drum. He recorded the 2012 session in Chennai, the creative center of South Indian classical music.
“We’ve got 19 recordings so far, but we have another five to 10 more lined up,” says Anderson, who spent years busking around the North Berkeley and Downtown Berkeley BART stations with tenor saxophonist Josh Allen.
“We’re talking with Joëlle Léandre,” the spectacular French new-music bassist, “and tuba player William Roper from Los Angeles,” he continues. “We’re trying to get rock, jazz, and classical musicians too. So far everything has been recordings done at live shows, or albums people weren’t sure what to do with. It would be interesting if people started recording for Minus Zero. It’s asking musicians to donate their work, which is asking a lot. But given the political circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people stepping forward.”
Oregon-raised jazz pianist Caili O’Doherty returns to Jupiter on Friday with a trio featuring drummer Cory Cox. Trained in Portland by the renowned music educator Thara Memory (who died last month), she’s a lyrically charged improviser and composer who has earned numerous national awards. She’s also giving a California Jazz Conservatory master class in band leading on Saturday afternoon.