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You're Reading: The Inconstant Sun (Volume 7, Edition 2)
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The Goings-On

October–November 2020

Where was I? Oh, yeah—still 2020 over in these parts, but we've had some brief moments of relief amidst returning anxiety and stress.

For my part, I've been laying low on social media and online aside from weekly streaming live broadcasts with various bands. I'm proud to say that the sound quality of the performances has increased tremendously with not insignificant help from my friend Juanma Trujillo, a marvelous composer-guitarist who's also been getting more work recently as a studio and mixing engineer (including mixing both my upcoming and most recent albums). Also thanks to Juanma, I've graduated from using my iPhone to using two (!) cameras as well as up to eight microphones, and I expect to keep learning (next up is how to use Logic for mixing).

The series is going on hiatus for December partially due to the increasing virus transmission rate and also as a respite to re-focus my creative energies. It's been great getting a chance to work out and refine newer pieces and arrangements, but I have some inchoate thoughts about where to go next and what to do to get there, which will most probably include adventurous covers of songs and other people's music—hence, a break to meditate and reflect.

Fortunately, the entire series from September through November will be available archived on my website for a modest fee. Here's the archive listed by original broadcast date (all with Walter Stinson on bass and Matt Honor on drums):

  • September 18, 2020: Quartet ft. Max Light
  • September 25, 2020: Quartet ft. Christian Li – I
  • October 2, 2020: Quintet ft. Adam O'Farrill & Dana Saul
  • October 9, 2020: Quintet – II
  • October 16, 2020: Quartet ft. Christian Li – II
  • October 23, 2020: Trio – I
  • October 30, 2020: Allhallowtide Trio
  • November 6, 2020: Quartet ft. Christian Li – III
  • November 13, 2020: Trio – II
  • November 20, 2020: Trio – III
  • November 27, 2020: Trio – IV: Album Release (free)

I'm also putting out a new album at the end of the month: (Un)seaworthy, a compact set of five tunes over 35 minutes, which I recorded with Walter and Matt last May a few days after returning from our residency in Beijing. It was part of the same two days of tracking that produced "Circle, Line" on The Sustain of Memory,  but its release was delayed for various reasons, and I'm glad it's finally seeing the light of day. It'll be available on the 27th (semi-coincidentally my birthday) at all the usual places on the internet, but the best way to support myself and other artists is to buy a copy of it on Bandcamp (available the day-of).


My last live gig of 2020 will be this Saturday with Simón Willson's trio as part of a live streaming series by St. Luke's in East Hampton, New York. We played a date as a quartet at the Arts Center at Duck Creek in East Hampton back in September (full concert on YouTube here), and I'm looking forward to one more show before hibernating for the winter. Simón's recent original compositions are paragons of melodic economy, as compelling and memorable with only melody and bass as they are with the full complement of harmonic color, and I'm excited to get another chance to dig into them alongside the kinetic drumming of Aaron Seeber.

I should also mention a few upcoming records that I had the pleasure of being involved with not primarily as a performer, but as a part of the production side: Family Plan, the co-led trio of Andrew Boudreau, Simón Willson, and Vicente Hansen called upon me to produce their upcoming début album, which was recorded last month in Brooklyn. The band has been playing together for a few years and their sound is truly outstanding—to my ears, among the best that the Brooklyn improvised music scene has to offer in terms of balancing intricacy of composition, rawness and intensity of playing, and a balance of tonality and post-tonal abstraction that appeals to anyone who loves both the mainstream tradition of jazz and the numerous streams of improvised music adjacent to it.

My Shanghai-based friend Reny Bao also moved forward with recording his first album, which I was originally going to produce in New York, but which went to plan B due to the pandemic. I ended up writing the liner notes, in which I described him as possibly the pre-eminent young jazz voice from China today—no exaggeration, as he has a unique vision and sound that sets him apart from the other young saxophonists I've heard over there. 

What else is new? Well, I've been sucked back into the vortex of video games after a years-long stretch of successfully abstaining, thanks to my trio-mates who are enthusiasts of From Software's Dark Souls series. Set in a dark medieval fantasy world, Dark Souls I is known primarily for its reputation as the hardest video game ever made, which, after beating the game twice so far, I can't agree with, but it certainly has a challenging and sustained difficulty curve that is ingeniously scaled with the player's progress in the game so that it continues to be equal parts engaging, frustrating, and rewarding throughout.

The game design, from its interlocking level design and fight mechanics, is what distinguishes it, really; from reading interviews with the lean team of designers who conceptualized it, it's clear that this was more than just another routine entry in the role-playing game genre, but really an attempt to fashion a self-contained world imbued with wonder, mystery, and logic. Anyway, I'm waiting for a copy of the second installment to reach me by mail any day now, after which you'll hear from me in the distant future.

Thanks again for reading whether you've been following for five years or just subscribed in 2020, and stay safe!

-KS

Coming Soon:

Friday 11/20
Kevin Sun Trio
streaming at kevinsun.com
through 11/27

Saturday 11/21
—  4 PM  —

Simón Willson Trio
at St. Luke's, East Hampton, NY
Watch live for $10

Friday 11/27
Kevin Sun Trio
streaming at kevinsun.com
through 12/3

Miscellanea


—Recent filmic amusements: Highlander, The Horse's Mouth, Naked

—Brazilian musical wizard Hermeto Pascoal's "Ginga Carioca" resurfaced in my life recently

—Bar Bayeux (not the bar by me) started live-streaming and is soliciting donations. Here's a recent performance by the awe-inspiring pianist Sullivan Fortner

—Among other things, 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the releases of both Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Spike Lee's Bamboozled, as AS Hamrah discusses here

—The centenary of Yusef Lateef's birth in October occasioned a slew of remembrances by colleagues and students, including by jazz greats Louis Hayes and Ron Carter

—In case you missed it: "Trash can sounds like John Coltrane" (4 second video)

—WKCR continues its birthday broadcast tradition Friday with 24 hours of Hawk: Coleman Hawkins (listen online or on 89.9 FM in the Big Apple region)
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Kevin Sun · 155 15th Street · Apt 1D · Brooklyn, NY 11215 · USA

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