Into The Hot with Kevin Norton

Kevin Norton -- August 22, 2o14 -- photo by Mark Weber

Kevin Norton — August 22, 2o14 — photo by Mark Weber

The Thursday Jazz Radio Show

November 19, 2o15 Jazz @ Noon every Thursday (starts at 12:07 after the satellite news) Host MARK WEBER KUNM Albuquerque, USA 89.9 FM (Mountain Standard Time) also streaming on the web KUNM.org Current time zone offset: UTC*/GMT -6 hours (*Coordinated Universal Time)/Greenwich Mean Time)

Into The Hot with Kevin Norton

The first Ornette Coleman album I ever listened to was EMPTY FOXHOLE which was already a few years old by the time I found a copy, circa 1972, which has always amused me that this was my entry into his music, (it being one of the farther Out records he made, with his trumpet and violin in prominence).

What is the impulse to creativity? Whatever it is, our guest today has it in large measure: Kevin Norton. We’ll ask him what his first Ornette album was. We’re the same age and came into jazz at the same time, albeit on opposite coasts. We’ll be talking with him via telephone Live from New Jersey.

Kevin Norton fits perfectly that saying by Edgar Varese that Frank Zappa put on all his early albums: “The present day composer refuses to die.” (Sometimes with the hyphen and sometimes not) present-day being the active word. I had those records in my youth and that phrase never entirely made sense to me. I have come to believe the avenue to understanding the quote is to focus on “present-day” as it reveals itself to mean that the composer is in the now, working on present concerns of what is happening now. No easy trick. But, that’s what Mr Norton does in his considerable approach to music and his long years sticking to it. He is a composer as well as a player.

For what is composing?
Some of it is song.
Some are explorations of musical problems.
Some are platforms to find transport and release into improvisation.
But, what is song?
Where did it begin?
With chant? Yes, probably with chant.
And chant began as invocation?
But, before that?
Maybe as the ancient Vedas have it: the primordial sound of OM?

I seem to be at a stage of life where I’m wondering where everything came from? Kevin Norton is very articulate and thoughtful and probably can help me out about all this. He’s on faculty at William Paterson University and is scooting his schedule around to spend some time with us.

Kevin has been in the trenches, in the front lines, in the back lines, and the inside lines with jazz, making 30 records with Anthony Braxton between 1995 and 2003 qualifies him for special combat pay in the realms of the vanguard. He learned a lot from Mr Braxton. (The motto for my radio show comes from Anthony: “If we’re not having fun, count me out.”

One of the great chapters of jazz history is the Downtown Scene of the 1980s on Lower Manhattan. This chapter follows the chapter on the Loft Scene of the 1970s. And Mr Norton was there in the middle of the Downtown Scene. This was a music that exemplifies a phenomenon of jazz and that is that it absorbs everything in its path. The Downtown Scene utilized musical ideas outside of jazz, mostly from the “20th Century Music” category ie. Morton Feldman, John Cage, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and before that everything that radiated out of the Viennese School of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern (no relation). There needs to be more anthropology and documentation on this Downtown Scene. I wasn’t there, I was in Los Angeles, so we’ll ask Mr Norton how it rolled out with him.

Quartet with Kevin Norton, vibes; Roger Mancuso, drums; Connie Crothers, piano; Ed Schuller, bass -- August 22, 2o14 at The Stone, NYC ---------photo by Mark Weber

Quartet with Kevin Norton, vibes; Roger Mancuso, drums; Connie Crothers, piano; Ed Schuller, bass — August 22, 2o14 at The Stone, NYC ———photo by Mark Weber

Two drummers: Kevin Norton & Bill Chattin at the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet performance in village of Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River, north of the city ---- August 24, 2o14 -- photo by Mark Weber

Two drummers: Kevin Norton & Bill Chattin at the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet performance in village of Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River, north of the city —- August 24, 2o14 — photo by Mark Weber

An evening of mixed configurations ---- Carol Liebowitz had rented I-Beam for an informal jam session ---- every kind of re-configuration was explored with the 20+ musicians, poets, dancers, singers, painters that showed up ----- this was a trio with Connie Crothers on piano; Bill Payne, clarinet; Kevin Norton, drumset (this is the I-Beam studio set) ---- May 9, 2o15 -- photo by Mark Weber -- it was 5 hours of music & dance on such a high level kaleidoscopic astrophysical paisley that I wish I had a million bucks to start a record company . . . .

An evening of mixed configurations —- Carol Liebowitz had rented I-Beam for an informal jam session —- every kind of re-configuration was explored with the 20+ musicians, poets, dancers, singers, painters that showed up —– this was a trio with Connie Crothers on piano; Bill Payne, clarinet; Kevin Norton, drumset (this is the I-Beam studio set) —- May 9, 2o15 — photo by Mark Weber — it was 5 hours of music & dance on such a high level kaleidoscopic astrophysical paisley that I wish I had a million bucks to start a record company . . . .

Kevin Norton & Kazzrie Jaxen outside The Stone on Lower East Side -- August 22, 2o14 -- Kazzrie had drove down from Callicoon to hear the Connie's quartet that includes Kevin -- photo by Mark Weber

Kevin Norton & Kazzrie Jaxen outside The Stone on Lower East Side — August 22, 2o14 — Kazzrie had drove down from Callicoon to hear the Connie’s quartet that includes Kevin — photo by Mark Weber

Kevin Norton after his quartet set at The Stone, and me (MW) telling Kazzrie where the shutter release is on my Fujica ST-701 ---- August 22, 2o14 -- photo by Kazzrie Jaxen

Kevin Norton after his quartet set at The Stone, and me (MW) telling Kazzrie where the shutter release is on my Fujica ST-701 —- August 22, 2o14 — photo by Kazzrie Jaxen

Kevin Norton and Adam Caine -- jam session at Connie's loft in Williamsburg -- September 10, 2o13 -- photo by Mark Weber

Kevin Norton and Adam Caine — jam session at Connie’s loft in Williamsburg — September 10, 2o13 — photo by Mark Weber

At the Lumen Festival on Staten Island, June 20 2015 – I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but the family moved to Staten Island when I was around 5 or 6 years old and I lived there until my college years. Most of the time I was there, I couldn’t wait to “get out” – but in recent years I’ve connected with some fantastic young artists, musicians, photographers, poets, dancers, etc. This is a photo of me and two of these artists (Jenna Synder, left, “chicken” and Julia Simoniello, right “deer”) and myself worked on a series of dance pieces choreographed by Florence Poulain and Florence’s husband Kristopher Johnson (a fantastic photographer, like you Mark) took the photo in one of the “ancient” underground walkways in Staten Island’s Snug Harbor.

At the Lumen Festival on Staten Island, June 20 2015 – I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but the family moved to Staten Island when I was around 5 or 6 years old and I lived there until my college years. Most of the time I was there, I couldn’t wait to “get out” – but in recent years I’ve connected with some fantastic young artists, musicians, photographers, poets, dancers, etc. This is a photo of me and two of these artists (Jenna Synder, left, “chicken” and Julia Simoniello, right “deer”) and myself worked on a series of dance pieces choreographed by Florence Poulain and Florence’s husband Kristopher Johnson (a fantastic photographer, like you Mark) took the photo in one of the “ancient” underground walkways in Staten Island’s Snug Harbor.

Hubcaps – reminded me of your “hubcapaphone” … Route 302 in Maine the road that travels East/West between Portland and the Bridgton/Sweden area where I’ve taught at Camp Encore/Coda for the past 10 summers. This hubcap store/museum has always fascinated me as I drove past either on the way to camp or to Portland, finally a couple of summers ago I stopped and took a few photos.

Hubcaps – reminded me of your “hubcapaphone” … Route 302 in Maine the road that travels East/West between Portland and the Bridgton/Sweden area where I’ve taught at Camp Encore/Coda for the past 10 summers. This hubcap store/museum has always fascinated me as I drove past either on the way to camp or to Portland, finally a couple of summers ago I stopped and took a few photos. — Photo by Kevin Norton

Signs – the “village crossroads” in Harrison, ME – around where I lodged at “Susan’s place” with Susan, Deb and Peter. The inclusion of Norway is not a joke, nearby towns are named Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Naples, Poland, etc. Many beautiful little towns with lots of ancient lakes, perfect settings for summer camps.

Signs – the “village crossroads” in Harrison, ME – around where I lodged at “Susan’s place” with Susan, Deb and Peter. The inclusion of Norway is not a joke, nearby towns are named Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Naples, Poland, etc. Many beautiful little towns with lots of ancient lakes, perfect settings for summer camps. — Photo by Kevin Norton

Beautiful Field just before sunset – Upper Ridge Road, Bridgton/North Bridgton, ME about a 1 minute from the camp, looking towards the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Beautiful Field just before sunset – Upper Ridge Road, Bridgton/North Bridgton, ME about a 1 minute from the camp, looking towards the White Mountains of New Hampshire. — Photo by Kevin Norton

The “Zappa” Combo – Just one of the ensembles that I’ve coached at Camp Encore/Coda. This one was dedicated to the music of Thelonious Monk (it’s called the Zappa combo because we rehearse in the Zappa studio – all the studios on the camp are named after composers: Beethoven, Chopin, Ives, etc.) from left to right: Samara (sax), Tabatha (trombone), Dara (sax), Kevin (drums), missing Christian (bass).
The “Zappa” Combo – Just one of the ensembles that I’ve coached at Camp Encore/Coda. This one was dedicated to the music of Thelonious Monk (it’s called the Zappa combo because we rehearse in the Zappa studio – all the studios on the camp are named after composers: Beethoven, Chopin, Ives, etc.) from left to right: Samara (sax), Tabatha (trombone), Dara (sax), Kevin (drums), missing Christian (bass). — Photo by Kevin Norton

7 Comments

  1. The term “Into the Hot” refers to the follow-up album to OUT OF THE COOL(1961) that Gil Evans put out on Impulse that was called INTO THE HOT where he showcased Cecil Taylor and Johnny Carisi and the schools of NYC composition that they were into.

  2. One small detail — I think I started playing with Braxton in 1993, though the first CD came out in 1995 — (There is a recording from 1994, Small Ensemble Music (Wesleyan) 1994 — but it was released in 1999 on a small Italian label, Splasc(h) ) ….

  3. Lot of stuff I didn’t know, Kevin Norton and those scenes in New York and the connection with Schoenberg (sp) etc. I like Charles Ives a great deal and see the jazz connections there. I didn’t quite understand Ornette Colman ( “The Shape of Jazz to Come” I listened to), anyway I’m a big Monk and Mingus fan…will try Colman again later, didn’t really understand Coltrane either til recently….your remarks on creativity and where it all comes from very stimulating Mark! — Fred Voss

  4. RE: ZAPPA QUOTE/MIS QUOTE

    “The present day composer refuses to die”
    FRANK ZAPPA

    the actual (full)quote is below

    “The present day composers refuse to die. They have realized the necessity of banding together and fighting for the right of each individual to secure a fair and free presentation of his work”
    EDGARD VARESE

    the VARESE quote is taken from the following book Edgard Varese. A Musical Biography. Ouellette, Fernand (1973). London: Calder and Boyars. ISBN 0714502081.

    the difference is where the s is

    in ZAPPAS quote it is in refuse(s) i.e., pertaining to him

    in the VARSE quote it is in composer(s) i.e., pertaining to composers

    interesting that ZAPPA never quoted the 2nd part of the actual quote

    “They have realized the necessity of banding together and fighting for the right of each individual to secure a fair and free presentation of his work” which actually DEFINES the first part of the quote

    but FZ didnt have fellow composers that he would band together with in order to have his music performed, only his bandmates

    and while he went thru many many musicians BEFORE the MOTHERS the guys who stuck with him and are a huge part of the foundation are the Mexican (Roy Estrada) and the Indian (Jimmy Carl Black) of the group

    how was it possible for those guys to play in 11/8 against 12/8 e.g., LITTLE HOUSE I USED TO LIVE IN and a myriad of other musical contexts when they had limited musical training(!)

    the THING they did have, which cannot be bought, rehearsed or paid for is WILLINGNESS and INTENTION i.e., they DID it

  5. Thanks Mark for this great article on Kevin. I’ve had the extreme pleasure to collaborate with this sensitive/aggressive percussionist several times. The outcome has always been improvised music on the highest level. Thanks for posting the photograph, it brought back some great memories…

  6. empty foxholes… again, Mark, more groovy photos, clear and sharp cool imagery.. keep on noting how greybeard you are — and so are many of those guys with you.. fine writing, Mark… you just keep getting better. love, respect to you.. joan and Fred… p.s. fred really loves these photo albums w/fine writing, but he’s too busy to tell you more often..

  7. ——————-playlist————————
    Thursday Jazz Show
    KUNM
    November 19, 2o15
    Host MARK WEBER

    1. Kevin Norton Ensemble “Asa Nisi Masa” cd KNOTS — 1997
    2. Milt Hinton Quintet “The Judge’s Decision” cdr of Lp THE JUDGE’S DECISION — 1984 w/ Kevin Norton, drums
    3. Kevin Norton’s Bauhaus Quartet “Microbig” cd TIME-SPACE MODULATOR — 22aug2003
    4. Anthony Braxton Quartet “All the Things You Are” cd 20 STANDARDS 2003
    5. Live telephone talk with KEVIN NORTON
    6. Kevin Norton Ensemble “Walking the Dogma” cd KNOTS
    7. Kevin Norton-Joelle Leandre-Tomas Ulrich “attainable syntactical destinations” 27oct02 — cd OCEAN OF EARTH
    8. Kevin Norton’s Metaphor Quartet –18jan02 — “not drunk, but stunned” cd NOT ONLY IN THAT GOLDEN TREE

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