The collective makes a bold statement with its core eleven piece ensemble on this premiere recording engineered by Scott Colburn (Sun City Girls, Animal Collective). Throbbing punk textures slash through a thick musk of space orchestration and madcap melodies. This is new composition in a spontaneous music combat zone.
Ahamefule J. Oluo – trumpet (and trump-bone solo on 4)
Gabriel Herbertson – trumpet
Ryan Murtfeldt – flutes, clarinet, tenor saxophone
Izaak Mills – flute, bass clarinet, c melody, tenor and baritone saxophone
Bill Monto – alto and tenor saxophone
Adam Weiss – tenor saxophone
Stephen Fandrich – piano, Fender Rhodes
John Ewing, Mark Ostrowski – percussion
Stephen Parris – electric guitar, trombone
John Seman – double bass
This music was improvised live in the studio to 16-track 1-inch tape, no overdubs/edits. Tracks 5 and 6 are based on graphic scores by Seman and Ostrowski, respectively.
Recorded by Scott Colburn, 27 July 2002 at Gravelvoice, Seattle, WA. Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI.
released December 5, 2003
Paul Harding's liner notes were edited to fit on our CD packaging, so here they are unexpurgated.
NON GRATA: notes on by paul r. harding
…Because of poetry I have a sense of sight in my ears, so let me tell you how and why NON GRATA the premiere recording by the Monktail Creative Music Concern is a serious travelogue. But to be honest, not any old passport is qualified to be stamped going through their eclectic customs. Why?
Because, just because… we do not ask the waves when and why or how they come in. Why some cobblestone streets can stand for centuries. Why a tropical island sunset stirs its streaks of purple and burnt yellow differently every dusk. Why the tallest building's height matters to man so much. How come one culture applauds impulsively wild and another waits politely. Why the element of rhythm is prominant in some places and harmony more so in others. Like a poet asks questions without question marks, I ask the primal question (with an emphasis on today): what defines the point of departure in music for those acquainted with its highest forms?
Let’s not spend a lot of time on the tried-and-true stop points of the classicist; meaning: we ain’t gotta talk about Swing (literally or metaphorically), or the history of flight in Jazz. The Blues (as this america's essential medium of expressionism) ain't stagnant, because its experience ain't. Personally (due to may favorite bittersweet vacation spots), the remote junction of The Blues and Gospel is where I lay my hat; however, because... yes, because of this... I say... because of an unaltering love of its journey, this story of sound(the alaphabet of music in this culture), we must keep moving forward. No, not forget where we put our hat, but keep picking it up, putting it on, and stepping ahead. The price of the ticket is what comes from the heart, mostly it’s courage… and Monktail is all about this.
If cats like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet were the Wright Brothers, then we've had our modern pilots in Monk, Bird, Trane, Miles and many other heroes of the Bluenote heavens. To repeat such orbits - or attempt to - (using “tradition” as an excuse for lack of imagination) contradicts the character of progression; the stuff of art. It is surely an understatement to say we live in a time of anarchy and corporate manipulation of creativity, the spiritual “downsizing” of the airlines of the soul. This is where I recommend picking up the Monktail ticket. Why?
Because… just because they gather in spontaneous and well studied aerial maneuvers. Visual take-offs. Rooted hoverings of every significant corner of the soundscapes us serious travelers investigate and pursue for life.
Live Free or Die is a turbulent flight through mountain air pockets of modulating emotion. A brief tailspin, a little fall, a suite of ascension. Tips of wings dip in spiritual cirrose of inter-twisting rhythms tumbling and weaving. Guitar and bass flight stewardess-ship. Brass co-captains announcing weather conditions while colorfully exchanging nervous and calming reassurance dialogue between passengers.
Anti-Foaming Agent is elemental. At times going over the instructions for air bags and flotation device use in case of a crisis. Monto Emergency Drill. The drive of drums underneath is landing wheels coming in and out making the vessel swoop and, for a moment, suspend in time… in the air. The engines spark, going straight up into a sudden ray of double bass sunlight where time changes and breathing returns in guitar oxygen, natural and alien. You can hear the invisible pilot gesticulating as eyes water in the coach area.
Air Room enters a lightning storm. Straight ahead, piano notes of an angel ensue. 4/4 bass relief. Lost in the nocturne, Mr. Weiss makes the darkness fuel (I’m reminded of a trip to Saturn with Marshall Allen). Fandrich’s angel carries them all to safety… but not before the storm rebuffs.
Whisper Skin brings the expedition to balanced elevation. A place where the celestial beings can be served lunch (I think I see Booker Little signing autographs). Mr. Seman pushes the tray down the middle of the aisle as the folks are hungry for Fandrich’s “non-grata”… and just a little “Left Alone” heard in Oluo’s tail spinning melodic vamp saying, “you can remove your safety belts now,” and Grachan Moncour III can be seen outside the eastern porthole just before the sky comes into harmony.
Cantometrics to Cotton is a warning light for there is thick fog beyond Seman’s musical setting. Passengers awake to Murtfeldt’s flutes and stoic cockpit activity. A sixth sense guides the ship by way of a Butch Morris kind of map. Spontaneous voices seek oneness through the density. Momentarily, Parris’ guitar challenges auto-pilot and the brave crew’s determination is stop-and-go keeping the rhythm. Turbulance avoided by sheer woodwind of faith.
Bone Loss is preparation for landing via an Ostrowski maneuver. Immediately the seat-buckle lights come on. Inside Out patience. Some retrain in air pockets. They must ascend in order to descend; the motion of this notion is pure. High register aviation and Chicago Art(istic) Ensemble bottom. The bass is a rubber tree turning and twisting as Mills’ saxophone propulsion lifts above the jungle. Landing strip felt more than seen just ahead. Landing gear combustible phonetic hands. All the while: Herbertson’s colorist yearning underneath it all, a rough but safe meeting with the earth. Voice of knuckles and music’s lifelines across the palms… driving an “…eighteen-wheeler”?
From Philadelphia to Seattle, these young air-walkers have arrived. Free Music? Music, more than any other language, is meant to be Free. As the heavens are free, so is sound. The experience and exuberance within the Monktail Creative Music concern is worthy of the chapter of NON GRATA. All other amusement park rides, no matter what their names, will fade as hit charts and fashion fads do. This trip is continuous. Your passport is calling you to come onboard. Turn off your cell phone and radio. This is uncharted territory… vital soundscape… if you want your music like you want love… in truthful, undictated port-o-calls.
Paul R. Harding
poet, “Hot Mustard & Lay Me Down” (Entheos Press, 2003)
by Christopher DeLaurenti
Smeared across a rumpled Citibank credit card application, my hastily scrawled notes from Non Grata's latest show at the Blue Moon record glimpses of a rowdy, raucous performance by this out-jazz big band: "Powerhouse drummer M[ark] Ostrowski clapping two pot lids like those grinning toy monkeys." "Cued sections of the full band give way to rowdy freakouts--apt to inspire bouts of spontaneous t'ai chi or maniacal yelling..." And my favorite, crammed between Citibank's promise of no annual fee and 0% APR, "tatterdemalion swells of sound--Non Grata."
Non Grata is the core ensemble of the Monktail Creative Music Concern, a Seattle-based collective of musicians who blossomed here in the late 1990s as unruly makers of improvised music. More a protoplasmic sonic organism than a true "big band," Non Grata's wall of trumpets, saxophones, guitars, clarinets, basses, voices, and percussion combines rehearsed sections--any of which can be freely (re)arranged in live performance--with a mutant mix of free-ranging solos and massed, slashing forays into Dixieland, reggae, funk, country, and punk.
Live, Non Grata is ferocious and fun. My notes got jumbled as the evening continued, but sometime after a flurry of racetrack fanfares and a goofy satire of "Pop Goes the Weasel," Non Grata's frontline shambled through the audience and detoured next door into the Rainbow Tavern to honk along with Phat Sidy Smokehouse. Near the end of the night, as Non Grata wailed on, someone dumped leftover beer on the floor and started dancing, skidding, and smearing that precious elixir across the concrete floor into a crazed calligraphy. Only at the Blue Moon. --CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI, THE STRANGER (July 2004)