LIVE: Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber @ Proctors, 1/28/12

February 2nd, 2012, 2:00 pm by Greg
Burnt Sugar

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber’s closing number was a burning medley of “Let’s Dance” and “Fame,” a quick glimpse of the tribute show they did to David Bowie a few years ago. On the other side of the GE Theatre (and I do mean the other side), the audience sat firmly in their seats. It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying themselves – far from it! It’s just that after the two-set assault of this towering juggernaut, the crowd’s collective brain had pretty much shorted out.

To give you some perspective, we’re talking a ten-piece group with a leader (former Village Voice columnist Greg Tate) who also plays rhythm guitar when he isn’t conducting the band – and when he wasn’t conducting, the job was ably handled by either vocalist Mikel Banks, violinist Mazz Swift or keyboardist Bruce Mack. On one side of the stage was a two-person reed section that handled spaced-out jazz and down-and-dirty funk with equal dexterity, while the other side was held down by a guitarist whose solo lines were nearly as blinding as his wardrobe choices. What we have here is the musical equivalent of a 700-pound gorilla: It does whatever it sets out to do, and accomplishes it with the kind of crushing power normally associated with nuclear submarines and fire-breathing dinosaurs.

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Interview: Greg Tate of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber

January 26th, 2012, 1:00 pm by Greg

By J Hunter

Burnt Sugar’s website lists Greg Tate’s duties as “Conduction, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Laptop.” But if you get into his bio, you’re going to have to read a bit before you find anything about any music he himself created.

Long before Burnt Sugar came into being, Tate was a staff writer for The Village Voice, and his words have also appeared in everything from The Washington Post and The New York Times to Rolling Stone and JazzTimes. The Source named Tate one of the “Godfathers of Hiphop journalism,” and the list of people he’s interviewed makes envy gush out my ears in big green globs.

These days, though, he’s at the nerve center of Burnt Sugar (at Proctors in Schenectady at 7:30pm on Saturday), one of the most interesting bands to cross my path in many a year, and he was good enough to take time to talk about it with me:

Q: The full name of the band is “Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber.” Is that last bit merely a play on “chamber orchestra,” or were you giving a shout-out to the late, great Sun Ra’s Arkestra?

A: Both answers are right, although there’s also a shout out there to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “36 Chambers.”

Q: The group was put together in 1999 as “a forum for the New York improvisational musician.” What was happening in the New York scene at that time that inspired the creation of the group?

A: We felt a need for a situation where contemporary improvisers from various schools and styles could freely practice musical alchemy without being restricted by genre or a set repertoire and let the music unfold in a real stream-of-consciousness way. Since our stream included a Conductor, there was also a bit of multiple brain surgery going on that used a baton instead of a scalpel.

Q: One phrase associated with Burnt Sugar is “conducted improvisation.” It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but Adam Rudolph also did some of that on his last Moving Pictures disc, “Both/And.” How does the term apply to Burnt Sugar? Is it direction of tone and/or intensity, or (given the size of the group) is just down to traffic control?

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Five Firsts: Jared Michael Nickerson of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber

January 25th, 2012, 11:00 am by Greg
Jared Michael Nickerson

Jared Michael Nickerson

NAME: Jared Michael Nickerson
BAND AFFILIATION: Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
INSTRUMENT: Electric Bass

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … “Are You Experienced” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Love” by Love and Chuck Berry & the Steve Miller Band’s “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium” – all at the same time.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … James Brown at Memorial Hall in Dayton, Ohio in 1967.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … owned a Harmony guitar – played piano. (My mother was firm that I start with piano before moving to any other instrument.)

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