Phillip Greenlief

  • The Lisa Mezzacappa Six, The Jazz Conservatory, November 2, 2018. Video still: Kirk Schroeder.
    music March 26, 2019

    Written In the Stars

    SINCE THE EARLY 2000s, Lisa Mezzacappa has worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a composer and in-demand jazz bassist who plays with a roster of free improvisers and maverick composers including Fred Frith, Myra Melford, and Rhys Chatham. She has a knack for conceptualizing and articulating fresh ideas in collaborations across multiple disciplines: Touch Bass is a recent project with choreographer Risa Jaroslow for three basses and three dancers. As well, she founded the live cinema series Mission Eye and Ear at Artists Television Access (ATA), and is co-organizer of the Do-Over Music Series

  • music January 18, 2019

    Idol Hands

    THE MUSIC OF PIANIST AND COMPOSER MOTOKO HONDA is to mainstream jazz what Brahms’s music was to the neatly packaged forms of the Classical period. Following Beethoven’s belief that forms must expand to represent the breadth of human experience, the 19th century composer presented elongated themes with lengthy development, in which melodies were passed throughout the orchestra; he avoided the leitmotifs of Wagner, for whom specific instruments were associated with specific themes.

    Honda has assimilated many forms on her path to the present: early classical piano training in Japan, a move to the

  • Beam Splitter during a December 5, 2018 performance at The Lab, San Francisco.
    music December 14, 2018

    Free Your Voice

    TRADITIONALLY, A VOICE SINGS while accompanied by an instrument, but the members of Beam Splitter and Voicehandler—two electro-acoustic improvisation duos hailing from Berlin and Oakland respectively—dispense with that custom in favor of offering a conversation between sounds. There’s no adhering to conventional roles of harmony and melody, and the results offer balancing acts of sound-grammar pointillism and textural landscape; when the groups shared a bill at The Lab, they offered a study in conceptual contrasts as well.

    The first set featured Voicehandler—Jacob Felix Heule and

  • Keiji Haino and Peter Brötzmann. Performance view. Photo: Geoffrey Smith II.
    music August 21, 2018

    Ode to Destruction

    PETER BRÖTZMANN AND KEIJI HAINO are free improvisation elders who, as a duo, have developed a sonic theater of destruction. While composers use pitch, melody, and rhythm to establish themes and develop them, these improvisers use those tools to work in counter-intuitive ways to instigate instability and flux. Their recent show at the Chapel was SRO. While many Bay Area residents are mourning the gentrification of our cultural landscape, I honestly can’t remember a time when three hundred people gathered on Valencia Street to hear free jazz.

    In the late 1960s, critics compared Brötzmann to Albert