The Thursday Jazz Radio Show
July 19, 2o18 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)
KALI Z FASTEAU
Today on the radio show we’ll visit with multi-instrumentalist multi-faceted Kali Z Fasteau — via telephone from her upstate NY studio along with as much music as we can float into the 83 minutes this jazz show has going.
Kali plays everything from piano to drumset to violin to hundreds of wood flutes gathered from her world travels in the 70s & 80s. I am especially drawn to her soprano saxophone playing —- with that horn she is the calm at the center of a maelstrom. (I am writing this having not seen her answers to my interview questions, yet.) As I say in one of the questions, Kali Z Faseau first came up on my radar when she made a record on the renowned free jazz label ESP (1974) and so I’ve always thought of her as a Downtowner (that’s Manhattanspeak for Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the Lower East Side where all the revolutionaries, non-conformists, anarchists, the last hold-outs of uncompromising idealisms hang their hats, the refusniks to the capitalist doctrines and monetized bankrolled world).
I love how Kali has accomplished the amazing ability to play frenetically & full-blown & ferocious without coming across as angry or unhinged, that it is merely in service of the music ——– I love her soprano sax (hear her cassette BEYOND WORDS with tunes like “The Gift” and “Beyond Words” and “From Above” in trio with bassist Bob Cunningham, and drummer Rashied Ali, who made all those great records with Coltrane, where she is the calm at the center of a torrent of flashing energy).
She’s an artist of deep spiritual sensibilities, although, she doesn’t outwardly profess any one religion or philosophy ———– the only clues being in the titles of her compositions that allude to the numinous and the fact that she’s a practitioner of Tai Chi and something called Silent Gong (all this can be learned at her website) but, just the fact that she trusts the human spirit to venture fully into spontaneous expression and the workings of the pre-rational mind indicates a spiritual dimension.
There is a thing that Gary Snyder said that would fit nicely right here, but, damn, if I can find it, read years ago, I swear, in THE OLD WAYS (1977) about how the bohemian underground has always been world-wide, of like-minded iconoclasts, that stretches clear back to the Paleolithic —- That single-minded individuals have never been the norm (even as longevity comes from going along with the crowd, ie. cooperation) —- It’s a secret society, stretches way back to Original Mind —- That’s a good way to understand Kali Z, her referents are more primal than those of us who like our jazz contained within the patterns we’ve come to recognize as “jazz” —- She is not alone: the nature of being an artist compels one to inhabit meaningfulness, to shed “conditioning” that society (and TV!) overlays upon us, not that this is “bad,” it’s just that there are those among us who have bigger fish to fry. “For an empty moment while their [seagulls] soar and cry enters your heart like sunshaft through water, you are that, totally,” so sayeth Gary Snyder in his Foreword to his latterly-published 1951 thesis on Haida myth, for graduation from Reed College (where coincidentally Kali matriculated 12 years later — 1964-1968).
WOW, I haven’t thought about Gary Snyder in years, since his last visit to Albuquerque, 1993 packed-bookstore reading at Living Batch (I’m still searching for that damn quote) —- I have all his books, being of that generation that he influenced greatly —— And here’s from Gary’s THE REAL WORK (1980) page 72: “And also, by virtue of the nature of their sensibilities, tuned into other voices than simply the social or human voice . . .” Well, there you have Kali Z in a nutshell. She represents Otherness. And what kind of world would this be without such representatives from the Other World? And as Gary says (1978): “A curse upon mono-cultural industrial civilization and it’s almost deified economic and political systems that compete, exploit, and then give vast wealth and power to a tiny few while draining and scattering the cultural and natural wealth of our planet.”
Here’s a short interview we did via email recently:
1) I have you filed away in my brain as a Downtown artist of the late 60s, possibly because you released an LP on the renowned ESP label in 1976 in duet with Raphael Donald Garrett (who played bass & bass-clarinet with Coltrane, first coming up on the radar on KULU SE MAMA) —— Were you indeed part of the East Village or Greenwich Village cauldron in those halcyon years? Then, I seem also, to have memories of photos of you in jazz magazines playing flutes on the streets of exotic places like Marrakesh or Timbuktu, during your many years of world travel . . . .
Actually, Rafael and I recorded “We Move Together” in January, 1974, (for ESP-Disk) at Frank and Carmen Lowe’s loft in Manhattan. We stayed in NYC until June, 1974, playing some gigs, and then flew to Europe. We had arrived in December, 1973 from Haiti, and had previously been in Congo-Zaire, Senegal and Morocco, and previous to that, Amsterdam and Paris, previous to that, San Francisco, where we met on a magical day in November, 1971. In June, 1972 we flew to Europe and Africa. Later we also lived in Turkey for a year, and toured all over Europe, both as our duo The Sea Ensemble, and with Archie Shepp.
I also traveled to many other countries on 4 continents: India for 2 years, months in Mali, Niger, Nepal, Zimbabwe, etc. etc.. I’ve written a book about my world travels, wrote it in about 2 weeks, and have still to edit and supplement it before publishing. I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn briefly in 1969-70, when I met many wonderful musicians and artists, first-generation pioneers of the revolutionary “Free Jazz”. 1970-71 I lived in Manhattan, and then on to San Francisco and the rest of the world. I traveled a lot as a kid too, early childhood in Paris – a long and colorful odyssey so far.
2) From the YouTube concert footage (Oct. 2o15) of you in solo performance playing piano, drumset, multiple wood flutes w/ EFX, piano strings with mallets, violin, vocals, one learns that you are completely enmeshed/involved/embodied/contained within the spontaneous in-the-moment improvisational life ——altho, listening to your recordings with Rashied Ali & Bob Cunningham I detect written lines, as well . . . .
Yes, my initial musical focus was Spontaneous Composition. I’ve been multi-instrumental since childhood, so it comes naturally to me. Each different instrument’s unique timbres inspire my musical imagination. My love for Arabic, Indian and African musics drew me to Turkey, Congo-Zaire, Morocco, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Zimbabwe and India. When I returned to New York in 1985, for some years I did write some themes based on raga scales. However, while I’ve always loved unusual scales, during the last decades I have renewed and deepened my focus on Spontaneous Composition, nourished by all the musics I’ve studied and heard and played. I feel the flow of energy most powerfully when I shape it into sound entirely in real time.
3) For those of us out in the provinces —- we are always curious how artists in New York City live their lives —- What sort of foods do you eat? Tai chi & swimming? Do you have a car? What is your favorite time of year in the city? I only ask these mundane questions as you appear to have (I get this from your music) mastered being outside it all .
I’ve been studying and living informed by what I’m continually learning about healthy eating, and healthy living since 1971. Never cigarettes, no caffeine or alcohol since I was 23. No wheat, low carbs since year 2000 when I learned about the blood-type diet, organic if possible. I usually cook my own food, and have no problem limiting my choices . I test out various herbal and natural remedies on myself. I offer plenty of free medical advice to my friends and colleagues, some of whom call me Dr. Kali. My first husband and musical partner, the late great Don Rafael Garrett taught me Tai-Chi Chuan, and I ’ve been doing it daily every since. He also taught me macrobiotic cooking, and the latest advanced philosophies, as well as his genius insights about music and sound creation! I added Falun Gong (a type of Chi-Gong) in year 2000, to my daily practice. I swim long distances in natural bodies of water as much as possible in summer. I also sail and taught sailing. I don’t particularly like driving, but I have a small car to drive me and my doggie to the mountains .
4) Two unrelated questions:
A) What is your favorite movie? (mine is QUEST FOR FIRE, followed closely by MIDNIGHT COWBOY)
B) What is your favorite incense aroma? (mine currently is sandalwood that I picked up in Altadena CA a couple weeks ago)
I very rarely view movies, and have never had a TV. I avoid Follywood products, both their tired plots and their blaring trite soundtracks. If I see any film, it would be an indie, most likely made in Africa, India, or some other “non-western” land. That said, “Daughters of the Dust” by Julie Dash was so beautiful I sat through it twice. As far as ‘major’ films, I loved “Gandhi” for the beautiful soundtrack, and the vivid footage of the India I had lived in for two years. While I lived in India I made music for film soundtracks, as well as performed special concerts in Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore. I love to breathe the scents in the forest and the ocean . Indoors, I prefer no incense or perfumes, because I breathe deeply to play and sing . .
5) On soprano saxophone you have accomplished the amazing ability to play frenetically & full-blown without coming across as angry, that it is merely in service to the music (we love your soprano work).
Thank you. Sometimes I may feel anger about something while I’m playing, but transmute the anger energy into beautiful sounds. My aesthetic goal is to develop exquisite tone quality and timbre to express deep emotion through sound.
6) Coltrane must have been a touchstone for you? Were you one of the lucky ones who saw caught him in performance? How about Albert Ayler? or Dolphy?
I never saw any of these greats in life. Of course John and Alice Coltrane were essential influences. I consider myself to have the great good fortune to be in a direct line from the Coltranes through Rafael (Donald Rafael Garrett), who recorded with John and hung out in California with him and Alice . I met Alice several times, and gave her some of my records, including the important double CD: MEMOIRS OF A DREAM, the best recorded music of Rafael.
7) Tell us about your early musical training and when you jumped ship into free improvisation — what led up to that change?
I came from a musical family steeped in Euro-classical tradition, who also liked some Jazz and Blues. My father said that the Gershwin brothers and others used to hang out and play at my maternal grandparents’ house, “shaking it from the rafters” with their enthusiastic sounds. My piano teacher for 8 years was Olga Heifetz (wife of cellist Benar Heifetz, and sister-in-law of violinist Yasha Heifetz). My aunt was a composer, conductor, concert pianist and opera singer, and my maternal grandfather played cello in the NJ symphony. They had a large rickety wooden house with a piano in each of the 10 rooms, and used it as a music school and summertime music day camp. My mother played piano and she and my father enjoyed singing at home. My brother played clarinet (he taught me to play on it) and had lots of jazz records (Miles, Monk, Bobby Timmons, Errol Garner, Brubeck, etc. My parents were good at ballroom dancing. I also had 8 years of strict Russian ballet lessons, which was wonderful for training my body. However, I got so tired of Madame Bartova’s Chopin records that I vowed to make the music, rather than (as a dancer) be controlled by the music. In public school I learned cello and flute. and sang in all the school choirs, and with records at home. In my teens I picked up a guitar and sang folk music and blues. My epiphany into ‘improvisation’ was, at age 14, I dreamed I was playing Bach at a piano recital, and I forgot the music I’d memorized, but I just kept on playing, ‘making it up as I went along.’ My performance was well received. When I woke up, I went right to the piano and started ‘making up music’ in real time. A few years later, when I first heard about “Free Jazz”, I said “that is me!” I was brought up as a Free Thinker, so Free Jazz was a perfect fit!