10:00am | This Friday at Exhibit [A] Gallery, located at 555 Pine Avenue, bassist Anthony Shadduck will present an homage to Ornette Coleman‘s 1960 genre-defining recording, Free Jazz. Like Coleman, Shadduck is assembling a double quartet loaded with massively talented players. Shadduck is modifying Coleman’s original formulation of reed/brass/bass/drums by replacing one of the brass voices with guitar. Also on hand will be famed performance painter Norton Wisdom.
This is the third time he’s assembled such a group. The first was for his 2005 graduate recital at CSULB, and the second for a concert titled “With Little or No Preparation,” curated by Rychard Cooper. I asked Shadduck to talk about the players he’s assembled.
“On drums I have Alan Cook and Ted Byrnes,” said Shadduck. “Alan brings a more traditional jazz style to the mix, while Ted Byrnes uses the drums texturally and very unconventionally. I’m very pleased to have bassist Devin Hoff (Nels Cline Singers, Good for Cows, and Xui Xui) playing with us. Trumpet player Jeff Kaiser and Guitarist Tom McNalley, along with Brian Walsh on Bass Clarinet and Alex Sadnik on alto saxophone.
“Alex has a wonderful lyrical tone, almost Lee Kontiz like. He’s paired with Brian Walsh on bass clarinet. On Ornette’s original Free Jazz recording, he paired the alto with bass clarinet and I have been doing this in all of the my Double Quartets.”
I asked Anthony how he found his own instrumental voice.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I have found it yet,” Shadduck confessed. “I know who I want to sound like, or who I admire as bassists. I love Charlie Haden’s playing. He’s my musical hero. His tone and presence on the instrument is profound. There is a minimalism to his playing. and a lyricism in his lines, that I aspire to daily. He celebrates the wood of the bass in his sound. His sound is deep and wise. It’s hard to explain. I want to honor the wood, the organic element of instrument, in my playing.
“I started playing electric in high school,” said Shadduck. “Not jazz, but rock and punk. I was a huge Nirvana fan. I came to jazz in a round about way. I started listen to bands like Sonic Youth. Their music introduced me to the free improvised scene, and I started to see the larger connections. I discovered Ornette’s music that way, and then started listening to Coltrane, Miles, Bill Evans, and Charlie Haden.
“We can really thank guitarist Nels Cline for all this,” said Shadduck. “He was the bridge for me. He allowed the worlds of Jazz and Experimental Rock and Punk to come together in my mind. His music and career arcs though so many genres and styles. Who else can say they played and recorded with bassist Dr. Art Davis and bassist Mike Watt? That’s amazing!”
Shadduck’s musical career is also amazing. Not only has he worked with Cline, but his live performance and studio credits read as a who’s who of Los Angeles Jazz luminaries. He’s played with innovative pianist Motoko Honda, pianist Kei Akagi [Miles Davis, Al di Meola, Stanley Turrentine], trumpet player Kai Palmer [Brian Setzer, LeAnn Rimes, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra], and tenor sax player Chuck Manning [L.A. Jazz Quartet, Alphonse Mouzon, Lydia Lunch]. I asked him what those experiences mean for him as an artist.
“It means that I get the chance to learn in a performance setting. The more players I am privileged to perform with, those with names in the business and those like myself, they are all worthwhile experiences that add to my development as a musician. It’s all about deep listening.
“I’ve always believed,” said Shadduck, “that, if you are listening, you play responsibly. That is true freedom. I think a common misconception from critics and naysayers of improvised music is that the freedom in this music is chaotic. This music works when there is an empathy among the players participating. There’s no room for musicians taking liberties on the band stand. That’s egotism.”
Shadduck connected to many of these musical luminaries through Lynn Johnson, who hosted regular improvisational ‘jams’ at his house.
“He was a mentor to me,” Shadduck recalled. “He opened a lot of doors for me among the free jazz and free improvising communities. He introduced me to a lot players during the afternoon jams at his place in El Segundo.
“It was just a matter of being present, and playing as much as possible, with as many people as possible. I wish I did more of that these days, but straight ahead work takes you out of it pretty quick. I try to keep one foot there and one foot in the more traditional jazz community. They overlap, for sure.
“My first real record was ‘Debut,’ with Nels Cline on guitar, Lynn Johnston on clarinets, and Ches Smith on drums. This was a completely improvised record put out by Chris Schlarb on his Sounds Are Active label. I kind of let this project happen of is own accord. Like I told everyone at the record release at Fingerprints, ‘I just made the phone calls.'”
Anthony continues to perform and record in a variety of contexts, both as a leader and sideman. He’s currently performing in support of a new release by Jacob Wendt, and frequently plays with his Duck Soup Trio [Dhiren Panikker & Alan Cook] in support of vocalists at Monday and Tuesday night Jazz shows at McKenna’s on the Bay, which he curates. He’s also part of Trio Sangha, which he started with Panikker in 2008.
“I feel a very deep musical connection to the members of Trio Sangha,” Shadduck said. “Collectively, we share a musical empathy that I value very strongly. I love the nature of the piano trio. It’s my favorite ensemble setting. There is a musical intimacy in the piano trio setting. Maybe that’s the case with most jazz trio settings, whether they are piano based or not, but the trio seems to allow for a profound communication and that deep listening we were talking about earlier.
“In the case of my Duck Soup trio, there are certain codified roles that each member falls into while playing in that standard medium. With Trio Sangha, we push and bend those structural elements. That’s the nature of musical genre. They all have varying rules, but a musical communion is possible in all of them. You just have to know the limits. This is where fine musical craftsmanship comes into play. The possibilities are infinite. That why it’s about freedom. In either instance, it is about our voices expressing something that is profoundly human.”