Sunday, August 10, 2008

Yells At Eels at Lola's, 8.8.2008

Caught up with Yells At Eels -- the Dallas-based free jazz outfit consisting of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez (whom I first met 30 years ago!) with his sons Aaron Gonzalez on bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums -- at Lola's the other night, after missing Fort Worth appearances they'd made at 1919 Hemphill and Arts Fifth Avenue. (I suck as a fan.) In fact, I hadn't seen them since they played the Wreck Room in 2002, but I'd followed their evolution through more recent recordings -- 2006's Geografia and this year's The Gift of Discernment (credited to Dennis Gonzalez Jnaana Septet). They've toured the U.S., Portugal, Poland, and Mexico, and played in loads of different contexts, including the brothers' thrash duo Akkolyte and Age of Disinformation, an ambient experiment of Aaron's (including Jon Teague on live electronics) that he plans to release on his Inner Realms Outer Realms label. (I got to play a show with Aaron last fall in a one-off improv outfit that was kind of a precursor to PFFFFT!.)

Before they hit, I got to talk with Stefan (who's getting ready to head to New York to play some shows with Puerto Rican hardcore band Cojoba) about taking drum lessons from Ronald Shannon Jackson and playing double drums with Alvin Fielder (on The Gift of Discernment) and Famoudou Don Moye (on a soon-to-be-released recording as Renegade Spirits). Aaron described some very vivid and bizarre dreams he'd had, to his father's great amusement. Since I saw 'em last, the brothers have gotten fiery. They both fairly dance on their respective instruments in the same way that Cecil Taylor does on piano, and are totally fearless as improvisers. Their performance was both powerfully physical and intensely emotional. When I mentioned to Teague (who subbed for Stefan on a YAE gig in Dallas earlier this year) that their hardcore background seemed very compatible with a free jazz context, he laughed and reminded me, "'Free Jazz Is Thrash, Asshole'" (title of a tune from YAE's 2002 release Pictogram/Home Away from Home). Their dad remains a touchstone, hitting pleasure centers from '60s Miles (something I'd never noticed in his playing before) to Don Cherry to Lester Bowie, using a Digitech harmonizer to transform himself into a one-man brass section, calling an Ornette tune ("Happy House") for Fort Worth.

Afterward, Aaron gave me a copy of a CD he and his brother recorded in Portugal last year with guitarist Luis Lopes and saxophonist Rodrigo Amado as the Humanization Quartet. It's the best representation I've heard on disc of the way he and Stefan play now. I'm looking forward to hearing the Renegade Spirits record (due in October on L.A.-based Furthermore Recordings) and having YAE back on the boards in the Fort again before too long. One idea: a YAE/Stoogeaphilia bill, so Stefan (who's started playing bass clarinet) can join us for "1970," "Funhouse," and "L.A. Blues."


Blogger Molly said...

I wish I could have been two places at once! Thanks for the info, and I'm looking forward to their next performance, too.

6:28 AM  

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