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MP3 Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber - Making Love to the Dark Ages

Visionary funk with spoken word rumination and searching improvisation.

8 MP3 Songs in this album (75:28) !
Related styles: JAZZ: World Fusion, AVANT GARDE: Structured Improvisation

People who are interested in Miles Davis Sun Ra Arkestra Parliament Funkadelic should consider this download.

"But under the baton of producer/guitarist Greg Tate, the voices, guitars, strings, keys, horns and percussion also summon overlapping echoes of George Clinton, the electric Miles Davis of Get Up With It, Lee Perry''s dark magic at Black Ark Studios, plantation blues and gangsta hip hop (minus the gats and ''hos): Ellington to the future via the Grateful Dead''s Anthem of the Sun." David Fricke - Rolling Stone

It''s been five years too long, but thanks to some coaxing from LiveWired our new partner in sonic expressions Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber is celebrating it''s Tenth Anniversary with it''s first studio release in Five years.

But that''s not all Folks! Because we like to party, we are going to send a copy of Live From Lake Minniegiggle, our 2004 performance at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis Minnesota co-sponsored by the Walker Center, with the first thirty copies of MLTTDA purchased on CD Baby.

Here''s what the critics think about Making Love To The Dark Ages to date:

BlogCritics Online Magazine
Published March 15, 2009

Jazz and improvisation have gone together like bread and butter since the first player stepped out to blow a lead. There is something about the music that just lends itself to allowing musicians the freedom to explore all a piece of music has to offer. However, it''s jazz''s free-form nature which seems to have worked against its integration with orchestral works. Although modern composers have drawn upon many other elements of contemporary music and technologies, orchestral and jazz haven''t seemed to be able to find the comfort zone where they can blend easily.

At least that''s how Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris saw it, and what prompted him to develop his system of "playing" an ensemble called conduction. Conduction is a serious of gestures, including facial expression, that allow a conductor to generate notation for his performers on the fly based on factors like what the audience is feeling, who is playing in the band that night, the backgrounds of the musicians involved, (musically and otherwise), and of course whatever is needed to fulfill the emotional requirements of the music. There are hand gestures to change the rhythm, have sections repeated, have an instrument play in a higher or lower register, to silence, and to control volume. Needless to say, in order for a band to successfully carry off this type of performance, in which there are no written scores or arrangements, everybody involved has to be completely familiar with the vocabulary of gestures and be skilled enough a player to keep up with what are rapid fire changes.

This all sounds like it could be a recipe for disaster; a mishmash of sounds that end up being discordant at best and absolute hell at its worst. Yet when you listen to pieces like "Chains And Water, A, B, and C", they sound like they have been as carefully orchestrated as any piece of music with full notation and separate arrangements for each instrument. Each part, from the vocals to the electronic effects, sound and feel as if they were carefully rehearsed for days in advance. In fact, before I read any of the accompanying press package that came with the disc, I wouldn''t have been able to tell from listening the extent to which improvisation was involved in the creation of any of the pieces.

Now part of that comes from the players all buying into the system and learning the vocabulary of gestures that Tate uses. However it also necessitates having musicians of some skill, ones who are able to do things like change direction on a dime without missing a beat or inverting the rhythmic pattern of a song without it turning chaotic and confusing. For those who are able to rise to this challenge, they are awarded with the gift of freedom like they''ve probably not experienced before in a large group format.

For instead of simply playing their part in the charts, they are able to explore their instrument''s potential within the parameters allowed by which ever gesture has been employed by Tate at the time. Since those are everything from repeat that phrase again, to repeat that phrase but this time do it with a Latin beat, it''s not what you could call limiting.

Now lest you think this is just unorganized chaos with everybody simply playing what they want, the music is developed along themes. So each track on Making Love To The Dark Ages builds from a consistent motif established prior to it being played. Therefore, the song always starts the same, where it ends up traveling to, on the other hand, is another story. What makes this music so intoxicating to listen to is the surprises awaiting the listener while accompanying the musicians on their journey.

The title track, "Making Love To The Dark Ages", is Tate''s response to eight years of a Bush administration, which created a world in which selfishness, inequity, and cruelty were commonplace. While at times the song descends into a wild cacophony that reflects the turmoil and ugliness of those behaviours, it also carries within it the sound of resilience, the belief the world can and will recover from those years. Two instruments, or sounds, stood out in particular for me in this piece because of their contrasting influences on the overall tone; an improvised scat vocal line insisted on being heard in spite of everything else going on around it and the metallic sounds of electronic music which verged on being annoying because of its constant demands to be heard.

On the one hand there was the most human of all musical sounds, the human voice, and on the other, there was its antithesis, the sound of a machine, the voice of all that couldn''t care less who was washed away or swept under in the course of events. Between these two polar opposites swirled the confusing sounds of other instruments that began to feel like the state of chaos formed by the pull both forces could exert on people. During the past eight years it has sometimes felt like we were being forced to choose between the inexorable pull of technology and compassion and caring, instead of finding a way for them to work in harmony, and this song managed to bring those feelings to life.

Perhaps this is what''s truly most amazing about Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber''s CD Making Love To The Dark Ages, the fact they are able to convey complex ideas and emotions through music in such a way the listener is able to relate to it on their own terms. You don''t need to understand how they are making their to music to know it is powerful and amazing. However, it does make it all the more amazing when you do. Improvisation in music has come a long way from a horn player standing up an riffing a few bars around the theme of a song, and Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber are one of the most accomplished ensembles working in that field today.- Written by Richard Marcus

THE NEW YORK TIMES - Friday March 27th
(a preview for our NYC Blue Note performance)
* Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber (Friday) This deliriously cross-disciplinary ensemble has a new album, "Making Love To The Dark Ages" (LiveWired), that strikes a characteristic balance between visionary funk, spoken-word ruination and searching improvisation. (Nate Chinen)

Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
Making Love To The Dark Ages

***1/2 stars
Triangulating Afro-futurism and Butch Morris'' conduction cue lexicon is a heady proposition on paper, but Burnt Sugar''s ringleader Greg Tate''s approach yields fluid, funk-fortified music. While there are moments that flash with antecedents-usually located somewhere in the mid- ''70s, but reaching occasionally as far back as the ''40s-Burnt Sugar has it''s own sound. there''s a cadre of horn players who cover the post-Ornette Coleman waterfront with ease ( including Matana Roberts and Avram Fefer ), rhythm sections who can lock into a groove but also suddenly pivot, and a sufficient array of textures ( some emanating from Tate''s laptop ) and searing walk-ons by Vijay Iyer and Vernon Reid that morph the ensemble sound from track to track.

Burnt Sugar is at it''s elastic best during extended work-outs like the second section of "Chains and Water," "Thorazine/81" and the title piece. However some of the album''s high points occur in the more tightly scripted pieces like the first part of "Chains and Water," a throbbing, harmonica-laced holler featuring Lisala, a compelling singer. But there are also a few miscues in the more structured passages. In the boppish tag that concludes "Chains And Water," Lewis Barnes'' trumpet is fractured by a psychedelic mix. A synthesized ostinato threatens to stifle the album-ending title piece, but violinist Mazz Swift prevails with a synthesis of Leroy Jenkins and Papa John Creach, making a lasting impression.
- Bill Shoemaker- April/2009 issue of DOWNBEAT

March 2009 issue of JazzTimes
Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber: Paint the Sky Red
By Bill Milkowski

In September of 1999, author, critic and Black Rock Coalition co-founder Greg Tate had the notion to form a new band that captured some of what he calls “the extreme kind of Stygian darkness and gnarly, Abyssinian, evil-sounding vibe and crusty, Jurassic, tectonic funk of Miles Davis’ Dark Magus and Agharta bands.” A volatile outfit comprised of three guitars with rhythm section, Burnt Sugar played its earliest gigs at alternative-rock emporiums like CBGB, featuring Tate wailing away on his ax with Pete Cosey-like abandon. 

Evolving over time into a sprawling ensemble that took its cues from Sun Ra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Parliament-Funkadelic, as well as Jimi Hendrix and electric Miles, Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber has now expanded to 15 to 20 musicians with a four-piece horn section and a full complement of vocalists. And auteur Tate has traded his guitar for a baton, following in the footsteps of “conduction” maestro Lawrence “Butch” Morris.

“I’ve been watching Butch do the conductions since the first one he did at [Manhattan arts space] the Kitchen back in 1985, which came out as a live recording, Current Trends in Racism in Modern America [Sound Aspects],” says Tate. “Of the hundreds of conductions that he’s done in New York, I’ve probably seen about 30 or more. So I’ve been a huge admirer of Butch’s work and his ability to just pull music out of musicians in the moment, to create symphonies in the moment.”

The epiphany that caused Tate to take up the baton came to him at a gig with Morris at the now-defunct Cooler in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. “It’s funny, because it wasn’t anything at the concert that made this indelible impression on me—it was what happened before the concert. I brought a big Peavey amp to the gig and took that heavy-ass thing down all those stairs with a guitar and bag of effects, got set up and came back upstairs for air. And as soon as I hit the street I look up and Butch is getting out of a cab, and he’s just got this little pool-cue case with his baton in it. And I was like, ‘Huh! Wouldn’t I love to do that!’”

On Making Love to the Dark Ages (LiveWired), the latest recording by Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, Tate wields a baton along with a laptop and occasionally his trusty guitar. The results range from his expansive meditation on slavery, “Chains and Water,” full of free-blowing conversations between the horns and soulful vocals supplied by dynamic singer Lisala, to the electric Miles-ish groover “Love to Tical,” to the dreamlike, ambient, Eno-meets-Teo soundscape “Dominata,” which incorporates his audacious laptop experiments, to an intriguing mashup of Tate’s funky “Thorazine” with the Ron Carter-Miles Davis composition “Eighty-One” (from E.S.P.).

Tate’s ensemble comprises such high-caliber players as keyboardist Vijay Iyer, bassist Jared Nickerson, trumpeter Lewis “Flip” Barnes, alto saxophonists Matana Roberts and Avram Fefer, baritone saxophonist Paula Henderson, guitarists Ben Tyree and Rene Akan and vocalists Lisala, Karma Johnson, Abby Dobson and Justice Dilla X. Special guest guitarist Vernon Reid explodes with ferocious metal-esque abandon on “Love to Tical.” Says Tate of the Living Colour founder, “Vernon’s like a damn Ferrari, man! He can start where most guitar players climax, and then he keeps on taking it out from there. In the midst of an improv piece you just call on Vernon and ... bam! He’s setting land speed records.”

Other special guests in this rotating cast of characters on Making Love to the Dark Ages include violinist Mazz Swift, trombonist David Smith and tenor saxophonist V. Jeffrey Smith. “Throughout the band there are definitely people who approach their instrument with more of an orchestral approach than a genre- or idiomatic-based approach,” says Tate. “I think they’re coming at it like painters and poets and scions of Bernard Herrmann or [Ennio] Morricone. People of different instruments in the band think of bringing those kinds of sensibilities. They’re colorists, really.”

While the band has recently taken to performing radically re-imagined covers of tunes by everyone from Hendrix and Chaka Khan to Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Iggy Pop and Joni Mitchell, Tate’s spontaneous conduction and the ensemble’s adeptness at pure improv remain the ensemble’s focus. “It’s really great having cats that when you want them to just go crazy, just paint the sky red, and bam—they’re there. And then they can just pull it all the way in and interpret really classic pieces of material, too. You know, it’s kind of a real powerful piece of machine we’re driving.”

March 2009 issue of JazzTimes
Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
Making Love to the Dark Ages

By Steve Greenlee

With a name like Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, Greg Tate’s latest project conjures up everything from funk, jazz and rock to the avant-garde world of Sun Ra and the hard-hitting hip-hop of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Yet when the band delves into the three-part album opener, “Chains and Water,” they first hit you with a blend of Delta blues and modern soul, propelled by the saucy vocals of Lisala. (How many different ways does she manage to intone and enunciate the phrase “I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back to chains and water”?)

Tate works with a huge array of musicians on Making Love to the Dark Ages, and he knows how to use them. Trumpeter Lewis “Flip” Barnes Jr. turns in a solo on “Chains and Water” that grows more and more discordant before the tune takes on a hip-hop bent that becomes an all-out jam in the long middle section—which, in turn, leads into a brief final section of Ellington-inspired swing. (Whew.)

More wildness ensues: The heavy romp of “Thorazine/81” teeters at the edge of chaos for much of its nine-and-a-half minutes, and an unusual cross of hip-hop and free-jazz-style soloing (from bass clarinet, no less) threatens to create a new species of music on “Love to Tical.” Then Tate goes further afield, using his laptop to create a rhythm of blips and beeps on the ballad “Dominata” and a backdrop of noises on the 18-minute title track. And what a tune: Mysterious, tense, and dramatic, it builds toward several highlights, including a fantastic solo from baritone saxophonist “Moist” Paula Henderson.

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