Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Of all of the holidays, I think I like Thanksgiving best. To me it is the most real holiday and is about being with friends or family, not gifts and any other distractions. I give thanks to my wife for all of her support and to all of my friends and family. I am honored to know so many wonderful and beautiful musicians to share music and good times with. I can't imagine any other life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New CD being completed....release set for late Jan or early Feb

Mixing the last two tracks of my latest CD (and first entirely solo CD I might add), "Fear Is Not The Natural State Of Civilized People", the second release on Urban Nerds Records, tomorrow at the amazing Wayne Peets. We have to mix the tracks "Aung San Suu Kyi" and "Fela Kuti". I am going to track some bass on "Aung San..." as well, easier than fixing, I just want to tighten up the melody between me and Wadada and I want to follow his phrasing closer. Can't wait, CD is coming out very nicely and I am hoping to have a January or February release date. Fantastic playing by Sarah Phillips on piano, Scott Collins on guitar, Craig Bunch on drums, and of course Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.

CD is a concept album about political prisoners and freedom fighters and includes tracks for Goyathlay (Geronimo), Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Fela Kuti. In these times, I think it is time that people look closely at human rights again, it seems that things are getting worse and most of the world seems to be okay with the idea of holding people prisoner without any real due cause and without due process as long as its not them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on a Los Angeles Creative Music Venue

Thinking of interview questions I would ask some of the musicians who are involved with the Creative Music scene in Los Angeles. I want to interview some of the bigger names, but I would also like to interview some up and coming musicians to get a well rounded view of improvised music in Southern California.

One big topic on my mind is the idea of live performance venues. Los Angeles, unlike New York doesn't have its The Stone to allow artists room to play and a source where people can go to hear this music seven nights a week. We have a rag tag collection of coffee houses, libraries, museums, clubs, and galleries that musicians utilize, but there isn't any one central place that can build an audience, not since Cryptonights series at Club Tropical shut down. People have tried and there were some successful series for a good amount of time like Line Space Line and Dangerous Curves and such, but it seems to me that the players need their own venue which is run seven nights a week, is a hub for presenting their music, and is not dependent on outside business for it success or failure.

I'm wondering how to get this done. A space and a sound system. What else do you need?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can Jazz Be Saved......

Every so often I read these posts about whether or not Jazz can be saved. The articles are mostly the same tired info recycled for the past year or two that I have read over and over. I think the question itself is erroneous. There are probably more people than ever creating "jazz" music and there are certainly more schools offering Jazz curriculum than ever before. I don't think that Jazz needs to be saved, it is alive and well. If you are talking about it's mainstream popularity and the musicians making a living, those are quite different questions altogether.

I don't think the world needs a "Neo Tin Pan Alley" songwriting movement to reinvigorate the music. When the jackasses involved in Lincoln Center decided they knew what Jazz was and everybody else was wrong, they killed their version of Jazz from ever growing and having a modern existence. It's museum music and a moldy fig indeed. It is not the 40's or 50's anymore.

There are plenty of players creating vibrant, cutting edge music: Wadada Leo Smith, Keith Jarrett, Joe Lovano, Ornette Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Benny Maupin, Larry Koonse, Ben Monder, Tim Berne and on, and on, and on....

Jazz doesn't need to be popular to survive, it just needs to be keep being created by the musicians to survive, and survive it does. The Jazz police just don't like what it has become and try to keep it locked in its retro time loop for all eternity. Anytime Jazz is mixed with Hip Hop or electronics or anything like this, and not kept in its predetermined role, they are the first to say thats not Jazz. Like the players are supposed to ignore any music created in the last 50 years. How can you be an honest musician and block out most of what you heard to concentrate on what something is supposed to be? That is when something is dead and cannot truly be saved.

My 2 cents

Music Competition, Inspirations, and Observations

My wife chaired the MTAC contemporary music Festival yesterday and had Michael Jon Fink, Ulrich Krieger, and Brian Pezzone judging the performances.(talk about overkill in the judging department!)

I helped out last year and saw the performances of these talented kids and they were good; last night, I saw some of the same kids perform almost one year later and I have to say, what an eye opener! Some of these kids were stunning! The improvement was 100%, almost across the board! I saw about 3-4 kids who were about as good as any performance I saw in college. Mind blowing and to have such improvement in 11 months was inspiring!

The one kid who stood out in my mind was a Japanese male (I have since learned that this kid was the first place winner) who played 'Serpents Kiss' by William Bolcom (I've never heard of the composer before but it looks like he has won the Pulitzer!). The music wasn't my cup of tea, but it definitely had some great moments, including extended percussive techniques of tapping on the piano body, rhythmic vocalization, and foot rhythm. The best part though was that this kid owned the music, 100% owned, like he wrote it. It was a fantastic display.

There was another little kid who was maybe 8 or 9 that had a heartbreaking evening. He had a memory slip after about 8 bars and couldn't continue and he sat on stage crying. It was too bad, the first 8 bars were some of the best music I heard yesterday evening. The judges are giving him a special award (I learned that they thought exactly as I did about his performance).

This brings up another subject to deal with at a later time. Are music competitions really worth having? There are some big Pro's and Con's to either side.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Ox and The Lunatic

I have always loved The Who, (InLink fact when someone asks the lame, 60's, mod or rocker, BS question, "Are you a Beatles fan, or a Rolling Stones fan?" I always give the answer "Neither, I'm a Who fan!" (Believe me I still hear this question from time to time!)) and I have been listening to them a lot recently. John Entwistle is one of my all-time favorite bassists and Keith Moon is one of my all-time favorite drummers, regardless of genre. Together they made one of the most amazing rhythm sections of all time. The only rhythm section I think that offers any similarity, in its scope of dynamic interaction and its ability to bring fresh ideas to a song over and over again, is that of Jimmy Garrison/Elvin Jones from John Coltrane's classic quartet.

A lot of bands play Rolling Stones songs and a lot of people perform Beatles songs, but hardly anyone covers The Who and if so, there are only 3-4 tunes people play. I think a lot of it has to do with th fact that it is a hard band to cover. The songs themselves are easily coverable; however, the way that the drums and bass are usually interacting is really an improvisatory and jazz-like, form of accompaniment. It is not easy to capture the same feel and energy; especially for musicians mostly steeped in rock idioms. I think this is why. There aren't, for the most part, easily graspable parts to learn in the drums or bass. It all feels very spontaneous and in the moment so you can really play what you feel and change it from night to night.

There will never be another rhythm section quite like this one.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Is it important to know whether or not the music you are listening too is composed or improvised? Does it change your listening criteria? Is the quality affected? Does the knowledge change your listening perception?

I remember a well known harpist telling me that she didn't like listening to composed music much anymore because she could almost always hear where the music was going and could second guess the musical outcome, but when listening to free improvisation, she was constantly surprised in the directions that the music would take and that it was always more fulfilling to her in the end.

Not the usual response from a music fact I almost always hear the exact opposite response from people. I hear people don't like improvisation because it is formless and sounds chaotic. They like the safe harbor of form and structures laid out before them.

Don't know exactly where I am going with this, but it is fascinating,.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tracy Caldwell/Daren Burns Quartet rehearsal...

Interesting how after not playing with someone for 12 years, the passage of time can be erased almost immediately by the simple act of making music. Tracy and I went to CalArts together in the mid to late 90's, she pursuing her MFA, me on the way to my BFA. we kept in touch over the years but we never got together to make music for whatever reasons that would rear their head; life, work, and whatnot.

We set up a gig at Redcat this coming Sunday, 11-15 and Tracy Caldwell and I wrote some new music for the quartet we decided on. It was kind of eerie how similar our music was, in flavor at least; not necessarily in its construct. Chalk it up to both being students of Wadada Leo Smith I suppose!

Rehearsal went well, with Josh Charney on keyboard and Craig Bunch on drums. I am looking forward to the performance this Sunday!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Onibaba one of Bricks Picks of the week

Just had a great show with my band Onibaba @ the Museum of Neon Art and I was fortunate enough to be included in the LA Weekly's Brick's Picks article (Jazz picks of the week) along with McCoy Tyner, Lanny Morgan, and Larry Goldings (yikes!). Thanks to those who came out. Special thanks to David Witham and Jeff Gauthier at Cryptonight and Kim Koga at Mona!

Brick's Picks Article

Band included:

Ulrich Krieger - Sax/bass clarinet
George Mcmullen - Trombone
Eric Klerks - Guitar
Me - Bass
Craig Bunch - Drumset
Kio Griffith - Live Video


This blog will about my thoughts on improvisation, composition, bass, and other various meanderings. I hope to touch on web 2.0, music business and whatever is on my mind.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"Real music is not for wealth, not for honours or even the joys of the mind... but as a path for realisation and salvation."-Ali Akbar Khan

“If you miss the sensual part of music, you risk becoming a gynecologist and not a lover”-Rabih Abou-Khalil

"Don't play whats there, play whats not there." -Miles Davis

"It was when I learned you can make mistakes that I knew I was on to something." -Ornette Coleman

About me:

Daren Howard Burns, fretted and fretless electric bass player, composer, and improviser has been playing and making music for more than half of his life. Much of his musical interest lies in the area of improvisation and how to make new systems for developing improvisation in new ways. In the past few years he has also become interested in classical Indian rhythmic and melodic systems.

Born in El Centro, California, but moving all around as child, to places like New Mexico, Texas, and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Burn’s musical life began in Junior High School when he purchased his first bass with money from a paper route he had. At this time, he was immersed in the rock music of the time, but was quickly turned on to jazz by purchasing bassists, Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke’s first albums and classical Indian music by listening to Ravi Shankar. He received his formal education from Fullerton junior College (1991-1994), California Institute of the Arts (1994-97, BFA; 2006-08, MFA). He also studied privately with Wadada Leo Smith, Ralph Rose, Baba Elephante, Gary Willis, Aloke Dutta, Aashish Khan, Vinny Golia, and Jeff Berlin.

As an Improviser/Composer Burns has studied, Western European music, the classical music of North and South India, Ghana music of Africa, Japanese, Eastern European/Arabic music, and American Blues, Rock, and Jazz. He is working on notation systems that incorporate world music and jazz and open structures that give the musician freedom while also giving the composer his realized ideas.

Daren has taught privately from his home and at Woodlowe Music in Woodland Hills, CA for over ten years. He is a member of the American Composers Forum and an ASCAP member. He was a winner of the Dan Radlauer composition competition in 1994.

As a composer he has written for soloists, various ensembles, and creative orchestras. As a performer he has played in every situation imaginable and has shared the stage with Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, John ‘Drumbo’ French, Neil Sadler, Butch Morris, Mike Keneally, Nels Cline, Jeff Kaiser, Motoko Honda, Ori Barel, Chris Opperman, Andre LaFosse, John Bergamo, Randy Gloss, Houman Pourmehdi, Miroslav Tadic, Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharp, George McMullen, Kurt McGettrick, Bruce Fowler, David Roitstein, Joe LaBarbera, Eleanor Academia, Frank Macchia, and many, many, many others.