MP3 The Emergency Broadcast Players - Only a Test
A Denver-based collective of jazz musicians performing avant-garde collective improvisations inspired by Warner Bros. cartoons, Sun Ra, etc.
25 MP3 Songs in this album (69:31) !
Related styles: AVANT GARDE: Free Improvisation, JAZZ: Avant-Garde Jazz
People who are interested in Frank Zappa Sun Ra Carl Stalling should consider this download.
Back in the second half of the Clinton administration, composer and future Hate Camels leader Geoff Cleveland led a collective of top-notch musicians from Colorado called The Emergency Broadcast Players. In addition to the prog-rock and art-jazz influenced compositions of their leader, The Emergency Broadcast Players performed collective improvisations, structured and unstructured. The only EBP CD released yet, “Only a Test” (1997) is comprised almost entirely of these collective improvisations, and displays the group-improv skills of such artists as Ron Miles (trumpet), future Kneebody members Shane Endsley (trumpet) and Kaveh Rastegar (bass), bassist Artie Moore, violinist Jennifer Matsuura and seven other musicians (including Cleveland).
During its tenure from 1995 to 2000, The EBP received much critical acclaim and some harsh criticism (ex: Cadence magazine). It was named Westword’s Best Jazz Band of 1998 and performed at New York City’s Knitting Factory (including the 1998 Texaco New York Jazz Festival) and at numerous venues in Colorado.
Here are some of the nice things said about The Emergency Broadcast Players and “Only a Test”.
Westword’s Michael Roberts:
“Only a Test”…is unlikely to turn up on a smooth-jazz station anytime soon; its 25 fragmentary tracks are too challenging for that. But for those of you with an interest in the sort of free jazz practiced by the likes of The Art Ensemble of Chicago, “Test” is definitely worth taking. Head man Geoff Cleveland has gathered a slew of the city’s finest players…and set them loose in a musical landscape where anything can happen…This isn’t easy listening, which is precisely why it’s good.” (Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 1997)
“All too often, modern jazz albums are merely reproductions of post-bop recordings that didn’t need updating in the first place. But “Test, put together by Geoff Cleveland and a daunting collection of Denver’s most respected instrumentalists, eschews easy-listening stereotypes in favor of musical adventurism that’s particularly bracing.” (Jan. 1-7, 1998)
Review by Brennen Flory (The Independent July 9-15, 1997):
Denver’s Geoff Cleveland and the Emergency Broadcast Players crack open a crazy, psycho jazz egg on “Only a Test”, more of a screwed-up sound collage than a collection of organized standards.
Oddly enough, though, the strange mélange of hyperactive crescendos, tempered by complacent instrumental recesses and spontaneous blackouts gives Cleveland’s sophomore release an unexpected refinement.
For some, this 70-minute tapestry will be nothing more than weirdness incarnate. In fact, it is exceptionally weird. Weird to the point of utter distraction.
Cleveland’s ditty “We Have a Lizard” sounds as psychotropic as Pink Floyd’s exotic “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave Grooving with a Pict”-squeaky animal noises included.
But classic-rock avant-gardism aside, Cleveland more clearly references the obscurities of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, as well as the reckless abandon of Ornette Coleman. Spacey meanderings on “The Ill-Tempered Clavinet” contrast with the sparse and lopey cello on “Innermission”. Add the two together and a medium-tempoed “Splat” takes form, relying on the uneven and random horns for stability.
Featuring 12 Emergency Broadcast Players, including the Mile High City’s elite trumpeter Ron Miles, “Only a Test” provides strange but satisfying instrumentation; although I wouldn’t play it too loud lest the neighbors think I lost my noodle.
Westword’s Best Jazz Band 1998 (June 25, 1998)
Led by Denver’s resident theremin expert, keyboardist/composer Geoff Cleveland, the Emergency Broadcast Players is a collective of adventurous musicians who perform unified improvisational pieces, avant-garde jazz and theme-based compositions that frequently tip the hat toward classic cartoons and horror-film soundtracks. The group’s core is made up of Cleveland and Denver bassist Artie Moore or East Coast resident Kaveh Rastegar, along with any one of a trio of Denver-based drummers-Tony Black, Tim Sullivan or Matt Houston. But you never know who might be sitting in: At a recent appearance at the Knitting Factory’s Alterknit as part of the Texaco New York Jazz Festival, frequent EBP guest trumpeter Shane Endsley was at the drum kit. Past guest EBP players include violinist Jennifer Matsuura, baritone saxophonist Clare Church and the immensely talented Ron Miles on trumpet.
Passing the Test (by Linda Gruno, Westword July 17, 1997)
Like most Colorado jazz musicians with a taste for experimental sounds, multi-instrumentalist Geoff Cleveland puts food in his belly by playing mainstream and straightahead jazz in area clubs. Doing so is not a chore for him: "When I''ve been away from it for a while, like I have been recently, I miss the chance to just sit back and swing," he insists. But when Cleveland is making music purely from his heart, without worrying about commercial considerations, the results can be inspirational.
Such is the case with Only a Test, a self-produced, self-issued CD by Cleveland and a collective of musicians he''s dubbed the Emergency Broadcast Players. Containing 25 tunes that fill nearly 70 minutes, the disc is consistently delightful, and often more than that. At its best, Test is vibrant, fresh and powerful.
The platter, Cleveland says, is "a collage of live collective improvisations. Some of the tunes have notes written, and the musicians could pick certain notes that they wanted to use, but actually, the majority of it is concept-free. The title tune is supposed to sound about as obnoxious as possible, so it will remind you of the emergency-broadcast-testing thing. And even though two of the pieces, ''Joyous Encounters'' and ''Longing,'' actually have written parts, they both have lots of room for improvised parts, too."
Another pair of tracks, "InStalling" and "The Route of All Evil," epitomizes the album''s variety. The former is a tribute to Carl Stalling, who oversaw the music for many of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons made during the Forties and Fifties: "He''s the one who was responsible for all those sounds you heard when Sylvester and Tweety were running around," Cleveland points out. As for the latter song, Cleveland reveals that "it''s supposed to sound like music played backwards." Achieving this effect was a bit tricky, he concedes: "It''s one of those things where you can try it and try it again and it won''t work, but the next time it does. I don''t know why. But I can''t say that it was that hard. Everybody was listening so well."
The quality of Cleveland''s supporting cast undoubtedly made the task easier. A number of the area''s finest performers appear on Test, including violinist Jennifer Matsuura, baritone saxophonist Clare Church, bassists Artie Moore and Kaveh Rastegar, drummers Tony Black, Tim Sullivan and Matt Houston, and trumpeters Derek Banach, Shane Endsley and Gramavision Records signee Ron Miles. Cleveland, meanwhile, plays acoustic piano, clavinet, cello, slide whistle and a handful of other instruments that require some explanation, including virtual piano, vibra-slap and lizard. "''Virtual piano'' is a phrase I borrowed from Nelson Rangell," Cleveland divulges. "It just means a keyboard like, say, a Roland EP7--the standard piano-in-a-box. A vibra-slap is a percussion instrument that makes kind of a liquid, watery sound. And the lizard is just a squeeze toy that squeaks."
Most intriguing of all is Cleveland''s work on the theremin, an electric instrument, complete with antennae, that responds to the movements of a players'' hands or body. The device had a brief heyday during the psychedelic era: The whooooo-oooooo-ooooo effect that helps distinguish the Beach Boys'' "Good Vibrations" was produced using this tool. (Lothar and the Hand People, a defunct Denver-based act that retains a cult following among aficionados of Sixties art rock, also employed a theremin.) According to Cleveland, he began tinkering with the contraption after viewing Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, a 1994 documentary about Leon Theremin, the Russian physicist who invented it in 1920. At this point, he still considers himself a theremin novice, but he''s become so attached to the instrument that he''s named his "Uma"--a decision that may say more about Cleveland''s fantasies than anyone really needs to know.
Because of the spontaneity involved in the cutting of Test, the songs on it sound quite different in a live setting. In Cleveland''s opinion, that''s only natural. "The CD represents just one dimension of my work," he says. "I do a lot of other things. When I do a concert, about half of it will be free stuff, and the rest will probably be written." He adds, "I actually have another CD of music that was recorded when this one was; it''s all written stuff that''s stylistically somewhere between Only a Test and Donut Storm [a Cleveland disc from 1995]. I made the recordings all at once, but I figured that this one would be too hard to sell, so I put it out myself. I''ve got an eighteen-minute demo of the other one to send to record companies, so I''m basically trying to be patient enough to find someone to put it out. I can''t afford the money, time or energy that it would take to put out another album myself--at least not right away."
Fortunately, an interested party may be waiting in the wings: New York''s Knitting Factory, the nerve center for America''s jazz avant-garde, put out feelers to the Emergency Broadcast Players following the release of Test. If the group goes national, however, it will do so with a rotating lineup necessitated by the previous commitments of its members. Miles is busy with his own band, a full-time teaching gig and scheduled collaborations with Bill Frisell and Ginger Baker; Endsley has joined the band of saxophonist Steve Coleman; Rastegar is taking classes on the East Coast; and Cleveland himself may soon be hooking up with Texas drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson.
What do these changes mean for the future of the Emergency Broadcast Players? Cleveland laughs before stating, "I''ll just have to wait and see." But one thing seems certain: He may not have to swing for his supper much longer.