The recent release of an album entitled General Semantics by the jazz trio Geof Bradfield, Ben Goldberg, and Dana Hall, was cause for celebration, and for our December 2nd, 2020 New York Society for General Semantics program. The recordings were made available for digital download this past September, and on CD and vinyl this past October, produced by Delmark Records. Here is their description of the album:
The collaborative trio of Ben Goldberg (clarinet, contra alto clarinet), Geof Bradfield (soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet), and Dana Hall (percussion) explores new directions on General Semantics. Their Delmark Records debut features original music by the trio as well as unique interpretations of Duke Ellington, Cecil Taylor, and Hermeto Pascoal. The unusual instrumentation⎯especially the lack of a bassist⎯enables the musicians to transcend traditional instrument roles of accompaniment, improvisation, and interaction and create music that embraces form and harmony alongside freedom and spontaneous improvisation.
Bradfield, Goldberg, and Hall joined us for a discussion about their album, and about general semantics and all that jazz. Here is some more information about the trio:
Clarinetist and composer Ben Goldberg currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied under, and was heavily influenced by, the eminent soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Ben’s career has been one of constant curiosity and experimentation across many genres and styles, and the New York Times has noted that Ben’s music “conveys a feeling of joyous research into the basics of polyphony and collective improvising, the constant usefulness of musicians intuitively coming together and pulling apart.” Downbeat Magazine has twice named him Rising Star Clarinetist. Ben has released over 30 records of his own compositions, and his many groups include Invisible Guy, Tin Hat, Orphic Machine, and Unfold Ordinary Mind. He is a member of the music faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, and he is widely known in the Bay Area for his groundbreaking work with his New Klezmer Trio, which has garnered a large following for their radical experiments with Ashkenazi roots music. The New York Times has noted that Ben’s music “conveys a feeling of joyous research into the basics of polyphony and collective improvising, the constant usefulness of musicians intuitively coming together and pulling apart.”
Chicago-based saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield has shared stages throughout North America, Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East with a variety of jazz luminaries. His work is featured on 50+ CDs, including seven albums as a leader that have garnered critical accolades from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Downbeat, the Chicago Tribune and NPR. Bradfield has been recognized in Downbeat Critics Polls as a Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist and Arranger. Birdhoused, recorded live at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill jazz club and released on Vancouver label Cellar Live in 2017, garnered 4 ½ stars from Downbeat. His most recent large scale work Yes, and… Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark Records 2018) was commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and features a nonet of top-flight Chicago and New York artists. Bradfield has garnered two Grammy nominations in his career, and has won the prestigious award once. A committed educator, Bradfield is Professor of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University and has given master classes and lectures at the Brubeck Institute, the Manhattan School of Music, the Jazz Education Network conference, and numerous other national and international venues.
Dana Hall, jazz drummer, percussionist, composer, bandleader, and ethnomusicologist, grew up in Brooklyn, but relocated with his family to his mother's hometown of Philadelphia. There, Hall was exposed to jazz and soul music at an early age thanks to his family's interest in creative music, and their “open door” policy toward Philadelphia jazz musicians of the era sparked Hall's curiosity, passion and ultimately a career in music. After completing his education in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, Hall received his Bachelor of Music degree from William Paterson College and his master's degree in Composition and Arranging from DePaul University. He is presently a distinguished Special Trustees Fellow pursuing his Doctorate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago. As a jazz drummer, Hall is primarily influenced by the work of Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, Max Roach, and Roy Haynes. As an ethnomusicologist, Hall is principally interested in issues of ethnicity, identity, and temporality; popular musics of the world; music as protest and resistance; and musics of both the African continent and the African Diaspora. His dissertation is a historical ethnography of Philly Soul during the Black Power Movement. The list of artists that Hall has performed, toured, and/or recorded with reflects the diverse, varied approaches of his music-making in the fields of jazz and popular music and include Branford Marsalis, Ray Charles, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Horace Silver, Michael Brecker, Benny Green, Betty Carter, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Diana Krall, Clark Terry, the Mingus Big Band, Steve Lacy, Muhal Richard Abrams, Slide Hampton, Sonny Fortune, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Bud Shank, Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Jackie McLean, the Woody Herman Orchestra, Joe Henderson, Curtis Fuller, and a host of other music luminaries. Additionally, Hall is both a member of the Terell Stafford Quintet and the Music Director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. He is also a former regular member of the prestigious Grammy-nominated Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and has served as an extra in the percussion sections of the Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids Symphonies. In 2012, Hall joined the faculty of the DePaul University School of Music where he is the Director of Jazz Studies.
Our panel discussion was also joined by a local luminary Anne Phillips. Singer, composer, arranger, conductor, producer. Ms. Phillips’ career has covered almost every area of the music business. In addition to recording several solo albums, from the classic Born To Be Blue, to her recent release, Ballet Time on which she sings with such old friends as Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland, she has worked as a singer and choral arranger/conductor with many of the music world's leading artists and is widely known in the industry as the writer/arranger/producer of many national commercials. Her children’s musical, The Great Grey Ghost of Old Spook Lane, is published by Samuel French; her environmental piece, What Are We Doing To Our World? was produced in the Chapel at Duke University in 2018; her art songs have had many performances; and her short operas, most recently That Certain Ageperformed by Chelsea Opera, have been produced by opera companies in many cities. Her jazz opera, Bending Towards the Light … A Jazz Nativity, has been described as, “a most extraordinary and powerful blending of opera and jazz … absolutely truthful to both genres.”
The panel was moderated by Thom Gencarelli, Professor of Communication at Manhattan College, a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, editor of ETC, and a member of the board of the New York Society for General Semantics, and a good friend of the NYSGS from the west coast, Ed Tywoniak, Professor of Communication Emeritus at Saint Mary's College of California,a former Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, and former editor of ETC.
It was a program that was totally kinetic and ebullient!
Because so many of them were quite interesting, and included some worthwhile links, we would also like to share comments that were made in the chat box during the Zoom session:
00:35:11 Alex Zane: Lance your background is magnificent.
00:41:31 Cynthia Maris Dantzic: Fractals, no?
00:41:49 Dana Hall: I believe so. Really great background.
00:46:52 Lance Strate: thanks, yes it’s a Mandelbrot set
01:03:44 Lance Strate: Duke Ellington’s 1971 album, The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, begins with an introduction by Ellington where he references Marshall McLuhan
01:11:29 Lori: Nice very inspiring and playful ... as a dancer/ choreographer many ideas were generated .
01:11:39 Geof Bradfield: thank you!
01:13:57 Lance Strate: “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” attributed to Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, and Martin Mull
01:16:01 Lori: musicians are always yelling at dancers .. so to speak .. as we feel the rhythm within the body different from how it is actually musically counted .
01:17:16 Yana Grushina: In a rare interview with Jean Michel Basquiat, he said in response to “Do you ever comply with the request to describe your work?” —
JMB: I never know how really to describe it except maybe- I don't know, I don't know how to describe my work, 'cause it's not always the same thing. … It's like asking somebody, asking Miles [Davis), "How does your horn sound?" I don't think he could really tell you why he played-you know, why he plays this at this point in the music.
01:17:51 Geof Bradfield: that’s why I’ve stopped filling in that upper left hand corner!
01:18:29 Lance Strate: "If I could say it, I would not have to dance it." Isadora Duncan
01:18:45 Lori: yes!! love that response
01:20:32 Mike Plugh: “We did the thing” is a great album or song title
01:20:54 Dana Hall: I’ll use it! Thanks, Mike.
01:21:23 Mike Plugh: PLEASE. I’ll be looking out for “the thing” that you do
01:21:26 Lance Strate: https://annephillips.com/
01:21:37 Lance Strate: this thing of ours…
01:21:45 Lance Strate: sopranos
01:23:12 Lance Strate: here’s the link to the NPR interview I mentioned in the introduction: https://www.npr.org/2020/10/08/921587828/temporary-trio-creates-a-quirky-groove-on-general-semantics
01:27:34 Geof Bradfield: jacktrip and some others eliminate audio lag- not video- but require hi speed ethernet and 100 mile radius plus other tech skills.
01:33:47 Dana Hall: Very cool
01:34:34 Geof Bradfield: http://www.tzadik.com/index.php?catalog=8146
01:34:43 Geof Bradfield: link above to Ben’s record
01:34:53 Dana Hall: Tioga...?
01:35:35 Lance Strate: Language Behavior
A Book of Readings in Communication. For Elwood Murray on the Occasion of His Retirement
01:35:57 Dana Hall: Thanks, Lance.
01:36:48 Lance Strate: contributions from Lee Thayer, Dean Barlund, Gregory Bateson, Harry Weinberg
01:36:55 Lance Strate: https://www.degruyter.com/view/title/2832
01:37:46 Lance Strate: also Ray Birdwhistell, Wendell Johnson
01:40:00 Thom Gencarelli: Wow.
01:44:03 Thom Gencarelli: Gary Gumpert "The Ambiguity of Perception"
01:47:51 Lori: YES!! healing
01:48:13 Lori: Art does that for the world
01:48:13 Mike Plugh: Wow. That was gold. Thank you.
01:50:13 Dana Hall: Found it. Thanks, Thom.
01:50:22 Lance Strate: harmony
01:52:39 Vernon Sanders: I think your “music as protest” description actually applies to all the arts.
01:53:27 Dana Hall: Indeed, to all of the arts.
01:53:38 Jacqueline Rudig: this is such a great program. fantastic panelists. timely focus. lance thanks so much for putting this together
01:54:10 Lori: yes.. all arts bring light to the world and rest the space to heal.
01:54:21 Lori: créate
01:54:22 Lance Strate: tikkun olam
01:55:48 Geof Bradfield: time binding- going to use that as a tune title!
01:55:58 Lance Strate: yes!
01:56:20 Ed Tywoniak: Perfect song title!
01:56:31 Dana Hall: Great song title.
01:58:55 Dom Heffer: ‘Consciousness of abstraction’ perhaps would also be a nice title for a Jazz composition….
01:59:19 Lori: yes to love, Family , music ...
02:01:22 Mike Plugh: etc…
02:09:24 Lori: Have you done any collaborations with dancers???
02:09:54 Dana Hall: Yes, I have. I believe that we all have done so
02:10:45 Ben Goldberg: here is a record my students made entirely through zoom.
02:12:24 Dana Hall: Ok. Wow. That’s really cool/
02:16:10 Lance Strate: Miles Davis: “It's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play.”
02:16:30 Lance Strate: John Cage's 4'33
02:16:51 Ed Tywoniak: One of my favorite Miles quotes!
02:17:29 Yana Grushina: Yes that piece by John Cage where musicians are instructed not to play for the duration of the piece is all about the silences :)
02:17:38 Dana Hall: And with the Cage, it’s really an opportunity for US to all serve as performers and collaborators. We are an integral part of the work.
02:17:54 Dana Hall: It’s also about the “sound in the space that we all make together”
02:18:22 Lance Strate: Cage was also informed by McLuhan, the idea of a cool medium as one that requires participation
02:18:24 Dana Hall: Breathing, heartbeats, coughs, shuffling feet…
02:18:42 Dana Hall: All of this is “Music” to Cage
02:18:52 Dana Hall: Indeed.
02:21:30 Geof Bradfield: speaking of silence and space…Ben Goldberg!
02:21:45 Dana Hall: Right?!? Incredible.
02:22:29 Lance Strate: another possible title for you, from McLuhan, acoustic space
02:22:43 Ed Tywoniak: YES — incredible!
02:22:53 Alex Zane: Gorgeous
02:23:03 Thom Gencarelli: Titles, titles, titles! We're giving 'em away tonight!
02:23:20 Dana Hall: Love it!
02:23:22 Lance Strate: Thom is giving away the titles to his car and house
02:23:41 Yaowen Liu: The perfect fifth hhh
02:23:57 Lori: great
02:24:20 Lori: soothing to the soul
02:25:05 Thom Gencarelli: Wittgenstein: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
02:25:55 Ben Goldberg: Arranged by Geof Bradfield!
02:26:12 Elizabeth Brown-Jordan: Nice!
02:26:51 Vernon Sanders: Thank you to everyone, this has been an incredible experience for me.
02:27:04 Yana Grushina: “You’re a master of your silence and a slave to your words” — French proverb :)
02:27:25 Yana Grushina: This has been beautiful! Thank you!
02:27:26 Dana Hall: That’s great, Yana…and true.
02:27:32 Lori: Thank you so much
02:27:49 Lydia Liebman: Aw thank you!!
02:27:59 Mike Plugh: Thanks to all of you. Amazing!
02:28:07 Lydia Liebman: A pleasure. This was a wonderful way to spend an evening.
02:28:14 Gloria Sampson Knight: great evening. thank you!
02:28:23 Amy Mooney: Many thanks—brilliant music and thoughtful conversation.
02:28:24 Lydia Liebman: https://geofbradfield.bandcamp.com/album/general-semantics
02:29:01 Elissa Goldberg: Thank you. This was wonderful.
02:29:02 Geof Bradfield: Black or Green Vinyl! And possibly coffee soon..in the works.
02:29:02 Molly: Thanks everyone, great panel!
02:29:07 Dana Hall: A pleasure. Thank you!
02:29:13 Mike Plugh: Every day would be great
02:29:14 Lori: have a great night everyone .
02:29:20 Geof Bradfield: Thank you for having us! So much fun.
02:29:31 Cynthia Maris Dantzic: I have taken more notes tonight than at any other Zoom event!
02:29:54 Dom Heffer: Great event - Thanks to all!
02:30:25 Barry's iPhone: fantastic. thanks