Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DISSIDENT ARTS FESTIVAL 2013....a musical marathon in retrospect

a musical marathon in retrospect
by John Pietaro

The Dissident Arts Orchestra closed out the 2013 Festival by performing a live improvised score to Eisenstein's classic silent film 'BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN": John Pietaro (musical direction, vibes, percussion), Ras Moshe (reeds, flute), Rocco John Iacovone (reeds), Matt Lavelle (trumpet), Nora McCarthy (voice), Laurie Towers (electric bass), James Keepnews (electric guitar & effects), Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic (double bass). Photo by Denise Iacovone.

Several days after the close of it all, while looking back on this year's Dissident Arts Festival I can still feel the soreness and draining sensation that naturally grows out of curating this kind of thing. Though the event occurred on a Saturday (August 24) and it was hard to get back to my day job on the Monday after. I had spent Sunday in a sort of Twilight Zone state, the sounds not quite out of my head, the surge as well as the ensuing headache remnant still holding on. So on Monday morning the thought of moving back into 'normal life' was not very appetizing. You'd think it would all be cleared up by Tuesday, wouldn't you, but no, not really. I mean we got to make a living and in this nation, the belly of the capitalist beast, the avant garde has never paid much of anybody's rent. So we keep on keeping it all together, regardless. But what a nice grainy Twlight Zone set to get lost in.

I woke up early on the day of the Festival, too many racing thoughts about what had to be done. Though I had spent many months planning this and worked overtime doing outreach and publicity, I needed to get out one last push of PR to try to level off the effects of some heavy competition we were facing: the Charlie Parker Festival was going on across town in the East Village and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was being celebrated in DC. The expensive ad I had placed in 'the NYC Jazz Record' paper just couldn't counter that.

After I made a power breakfast for Laurie and I, and completed my last-minute foray into emails and social media, I spent a few minutes warming up on a practice pad and then ran a bunch of scales and arpeggios on my vibraphone. After this, I could concentrate some, so packed up the car and headed to the West Village and the Brecht Forum. I had gotten the key the day before from Ras Moshe who produced many cultural events at the space. He was in a rehearsal with Bill Cole's band so couldn't get downtown for a few hours. I opened up, dragged my instruments in and set up the chairs, moved around the tables that lined the perimeter, got the drumkit and amplifiers and microphones set up but, damn, I had no idea as to how to get the PA running. I had gotten to the space at 12:30 and now it was 2PM. A couple of people who were strolling down West Street (who in hell strolls down busy West Street?) wandered in, asking when the show would start; I told them no earlier than 3 and hoped they'd return (they did). Just then a man came in with his daughter asking about what I was setting up for. I looked up at him from amidst a twisted spaghetti jam of cables. He had a lean, friendly looking face with graying hair and a long pony tail. He surely fit into the Brecht Forum's purview.

"Looks like you have a concert going on here", he said. "I had donated the 2 mics you have there, I come here a lot, so I wondered what was going on today"

He said he donated mics! "Hey, man, do you know something about audio engineering?", I frantically asked.

"Yes, something", he said with a chuckle. "Let me help..."

Wow, even when you cannot imagine how the day will possibly proceed, there's always someone who comes along at the last second. Thank you Tim, whoever you are.

The day moved along rapidly and quite smoothly following this. Ras came in a little while later, we got the place lighted properly and then the performers began arriving. From there it was one set after the other, with just the briefest interludes between. As usual, the time slots indicated on my clipboard meant very little as segments ran a bit long and set-ups seemed to spill into the next hour. But this is all a part of the marathon gig. Everyone stayed in good cheer and the house, though never very crowded, remained a  pretty active. Many of the musicians moved from the performance room to the Brecht Forum's bar or sitting area, laughing, debating, talking shop. Various friends showed up to check out certain acts but hung out afterward. As MC I could often be found running about seeking out this artist or that and at one point looked out and saw Bern Nix hanging out on the couch.  Later I heard that Howard Mandel had come in for the latter part of the Festival. It was that kind of day. Too many wonderful things to break down, even now, in retrospect, but I must state that the highlight for me was playing a set with the celebrated poet Steve Dalachinsky. He read his works and I improvised around and behind and beside him. later on we agreed that something very special had happened up on that stage and we simply must do this again. Nice. I can dig that.

My own band the Red Microphone also had a terrific set, but then we tend to enjoy each other's company that much so our gigs are always on. And as it ended, Ras Moshe and I remained up there and brought up the fabulous jazz poet Raymond Nat Turner who read Langston Hughes 'Kids Who Die' in front of our accompaniment. This was deep. I also sat in with SoSaLa on a tune and got to check out so many other great performances. Roy Campbell's Trio was simply smoking. Unconspicuous Meeting offered an impeccable set. Sana Shabazz recited an epic poem for Trayvon Martin (whom the Festival was dedicated to) with my much better half Laurie Towers accompanying---this was another powerful point in the event, a very moving, compelling segment. Tesla Coils kicked it. Obi Kaye gave it propulsion. Randy Credico turned it on its head. And then my Dissident Arts Orchestra closed the day off with a live improvsed score to "Battleship Potemkin", an amazing experience in every case---leading a group of such talented artists as they responded to the fiolm of a genius director, one about the experience of a ship's crew during the first Russian Revolution. So much sound, so much motion, so much happening. Oh yeah. I can hardly wait for the next marathon. If getting wrung out afterward is the worst that happens, I can keep on going for another 51 years this way........JP


New York, NY: The annual Dissident Arts Festival, a celebration of revolutionary Free Jazz, New Music, Poetry and Film, returns to Greenwich Village’s Brecht Forum for the fourth consecutive year. Our event this year will be dedicated to Trayvon Martin and other victims of racist violence.

The Dissident Arts Festival serves as a conduit for progressive artists and other activists to gather and engage in an all-day concert commemorating the rich heritage of movement culture. The 2013 edition encompasses a tapestry of liberation jazz and new sounds including Festival headliner THE ROY CAMPBELL TRIO (ROY CAMPBELL, HILLIARD GREEN, ANDREW BARKER), STEVE DALACHINSKY, UNCONSPICUOUS MEETING (DANIEL CARTER, RAS MOSHE , JEFF PLATZ, JOHN MC LELLAN and leader NICOLAS LETMAN-BURTINOVIC), political satirist/activist RANDY CREDICO, TESLA COILS (BLAISE SIWULA, HARVEY VALDES, GIAN LUIGI DIANA, DAVE MILLER), THE RED MICROPHONE (JOHN PIETARO, RAS MOSHE, ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE, NICOLAS LETMAN-BURTINOVIC), “nu world trash” band SOSALA (led by SOHRAB SAADAT LADJEVARDI), African percussionist OBI KAYE, poet SANA SHABAZZ, and Festival house band, THE DISSIDENT ARTS ORCHESTRA, performing an improvised score to the Sergei Eisenstein silent classic film, “BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN”; the Orchestra will include many of the day’s performers plus vocalist NORA MCCARTHY, trumpet player MATT LAVELLE, cellist GIL SELLINGER, bassist LAURIE TOWERS, guitarist JAMES KEEPNEWS and others. There will also be a special reading of Langston Hughes “Kids Who Die” by poet RAYMOND NAT TURNER, accompanied by Ras Moshe and John Pietaro.

The Dissident Arts Festival 2013 is produced by Dissident Arts and the Brecht Forum, sponsored by the Rosenberg Fund for Children and endorsed by Local 802 AFM’s ‘Justice for Jazz Artists’ project and ‘DooBeeDooBeeDoo’ magazine. John Pietaro serves as host.

DATE: Saturday August 24, 3:00 – 9:30pm

SITE: The Brecht Forum 451 West Street, New York, NY 10014 (212) 242-4201




3-3:30: Obi Kaye – solo African percussion (Bongo, Udu Pots, Doumbek, Dundun)

335-3:50: Sana Shabazz: Sana Shabazz (poetry) with Laurie Towers (electric bass)

3:55-4:25: Tesla Coils: Blaise Siwula (reeds), Harvey Valdes (guitar), Gian Luigi Diana (electronics),         Dave Miller (drumkit)

4:30-5:00: Steve Dalachinsky: Steve Dalachinsky (poetry) with John Pietaro (vibraphone)

5:05-5:35: SoSaLa: Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (tenor saxophone/voice), others TBA

5:40-6:10: Unconspicuous Meeting: Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic (bass), Daniel Carter (reeds), Ras Moshe (reeds), Jeff Platz (guitar), John McLellan  (drumkit)

6:10-6:25: Randy Credico: The celebrated political satirist/activist and current NYC mayoral candidate speaks!

6:25-6:55: The Red Microphone: John Pietaro (vibraphone/percussion), Ras Moshe (saxophones/flute), Rocco John Iacovone (saxophones/piano), Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic (bass)

6:55-7:00: Reading of Langston Hughes’ “Kids Who Die” (dedicated to Trayvon Martin) by Raymond Nat Turner with Ras Moshe (flute) and John Pietaro (vibraphone)

7:05-7:50: The Roy Campbell Trio: Roy Campbell (trumpet), Hilliard Green (bass) and Andrew Barker (drumkit)

7:50 – 8:00: intermission

8:00-9:30 The Dissident Arts Orchestra playing an improvised score to Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary silent film classic “Battleship Potemkin”: Nora McCarthy (voice), Rocco John Iacovone (soprano & alto saxophones), Ras Moshe (tenor & soprano saxophones, flute), Matt Lavelle (trumpet), Gil Selinger (cello), James Keepnews (electric guitar & effects), Laurie Towers (electric bass), Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic (double bass), John Pietaro (vibraphone/percussion/musical direction).

Album review: Gene Pritsker’s Sound Liberation, Let’s Save the World Suite

  Gene Pritsker’s Sound Liberation , Let’s Save the World Suite (Composers Concordance 2022) --originally published in The NYC Jazz Recor...