John Schott In These Great Times (Tzadik, 1997)
In These Great Times is the name of a song cycle and also the title of my first record. It is scored for electric guitar, acoustic bass, drum set, and tenor voice. It received its only performance to date at Merkin Hall, New York City, at a concert of “Radical Jewish Culture” curated by John Zorn. It was performed by Schott, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen, and John Horton Murray.
The texts in the piece are 1) excerpts from Karl Kraus’s speech regarding World War One, In Dieser Grossen Zeit, sung in German; the short text Der kommen des Messias by Franz Kafka, sung in Hebrew (translated by Naomi Seidman); 3) the Yiddish poem 1919 by Jacob Glatshteyn.
The CD was recorded in the fall of 1996 at Systems Two in Brooklyn, New York.
John Schott Actual Trio Dan Seamans, John Hanes (Tzadik 4011, September 2015)
Produced by Hans Wendl, recorded at mixed by Adam Munoz, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley; December 21, 2014.
John Schott’s Dream Kitchen: Drunken Songs For Sober Times (Smash The State! 2008)
Dream Kitchen is Marc Bolin on bass trombone, tuba and jug and John Hanes on drums. On this record we were joined by Suzy Thompson on voice and violin, Richard Hadlock on soprano sax, and John Finkbeiner on drinking straw. The compositions are by Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, Mel Stizel, Johnny Dunn, and other pioneers of Jazz composition. This CD was also the first time I sang on record! (“Everybody’s Crazy ‘Bout The Doggone Blues”, “Chantez les Bas”).
John Schott’s Typical Orchestra (Smash The State! 2002)
TWO TRACKS FROM THIS CD ARE ON THE MP3 PLAYER ON THE HOME PAGE. A record’s worth of my more vernacular-based small group music. In other words, there are grooves, chord changes, and melodies. With Ben Goldberg, Devin Hoff, and Ches Smith on every track and guests Carla Kihlstedt on Stroh violin, Jon Raskin on jaw harp and alto sax, Lorin Benedict on vocals, Myles Boisen on guitar, Dan Plonsey on baritone saxophone, Joe Karten on trumpet, Rob Ewing on trombone, and Ward Spangler on percussion.
John Schott and Ensemble Diglossia Shuffle Play: Elegies for the Recording Angel (New World Records, 2000)
THREE TRACKS FROM THIS CD ARE ON THE MP3 PLAYER ON THE HOME PAGE. This record might never have happened if it hadn’t been for a little contest set up by my friend Myles Boisen. Since February – April have traditionally been slow times for his recording studio, he decided he would give twenty hours of free studio time to whoever came up with a creative, unusual recording project. My idea was to mix old recordings from the first decade of recorded sound with compositions and directed improvisations, recorded with a wide variety of techniques and strategies. The pieces range from solo drum set to chamber orchestra. Electronic treatments come and go throughout. A Bay Area all star cast: Ben Goldberg, Steve Adams, Gino Robair, Beth Custer, Mathew Brubeck, Jenny Scheinman, Carla Kihlstedt, Trevor Dunn, Scott Amendola, Dan Plonsey, Tom Yoder, Myles Boisen, Karen Stackpole, and Tara Flandreu.
As a co-leader:
Ark Ensemble Might Be (Jewish Music Festival Records)
I produced this CD of original and traditional Jewish music by the band members: Marjana Sadovska and Jewlia Eisenberg on voice; Avi Avital on mandolin; Frank London on trumpet; Jessica Ivry on cello; Glenn Hartmann on piano, accordion and organ; myself on guitar; Stuart Brotman on bass; and Aaron Alexander on drums and percussion. Recorded and mixed by John Finkbeiner at New Improved Recording. Fantastic contributions from each members, all virtuosos and band leaders in their own right.
Ben Goldberg, John Schott, Mike Sarin
What Comes Before (Tzadik)
Recorded the day after we finished Ben’s “Eight Phrases” this impromptu session of free improvisations is very close to my heart. Mike and I played a lot together in our late teens-early twenties in Seattle. He went to New York, and to a lot of work: (Thomas Chapin, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Ned Rothenberg). And, any opportunity to record with Ben is extremely important to me.
I’ve been asked why this record is on Zorn’s Jewish series; what’s Jewish
about it? Well, in the months prior to this session, Ben and I had been
exploring ways to improvise together on a given four-note set, or chord. Using
some of the basic principles of set theory – octave equivalence, inversional
equivalence, etc. – we found ways to move between sets that would provide a
coherent continuity. After the fact, we made a connection in our minds to
Rabbinic commentary, the polyphony of texts in the Talmud, as well as the
laborious study that symbolizes being Jewish. The connection is very loose, but
at the same time I know it’s there, and that not just any record would fit into
Junk Genius Junk Genius (Knitting Factory)
What happens when two guys lock themselves in a room for six months and play bebop heads over and over and over again? This: screaming, furious deconstructions of compositions by Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, and Tadd Dameron. It was originally intended to convey their dark and troubled natures, their self-destructiveness and their outsider status within American society. But I think we failed, being young and thrilled to be making a record together. Instead the record sounds celebratory and joyous to me. Oh well.
Junk Genius Ghost Of Electricity (Songlines)
ONE TRACK FROM THIS CD (“Gone Away”) IS ON THE MP3 PLAYER ON THE HOME PAGE. This was the result of six months of concentration on some recordings of Southern traditional music by Ben and myself. Working from the Harry Smith anthology and Alan Lomax’s field recordings, we learned a score of songs from both the black and white songbooks (keeping in mind that there’s a lot of overlap). Our process was more or less the same as it had been five years before: play the songs over and over to ‘till
something gives. We wrote the material in about the week before the recording,
not trying to copy anything or anybody, just letting the effects of our research
seep naturally into the compositional soil. Tony Rief paid us the compliment of
recording us in HDCD, and engineer Cookie Marenco really shone on this one –
it’s stunningly recorded.
I wrote a statement about the music when the record came
out, here it is:
Our first record, released in 1995, was the result of seven months
of intensive study of the music of Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and
Dizzy Gillespie. Though some compositions by Parker and Gillespie are
in every jazz musician’s repertoire, they are often played
incorrectly, and the more intricate pieces by these composers are
ignored entirely. After poring over the original recordings with a
magnifying glass, we opted not to re-create those performances, but
instead to offer a commentary on them, refracting the spirit
of those incendiary three-minute 78’s from the vantage point of our
For our second record, we again wanted to have a unifying project
that would tie the record together, rather than have it be simply a
bunch of disparate songs. The present record is in some measure a
commentary on American folk music, a very inadequate and vaguely
offensive label for the many musical traditions that spring from
rural Southern cultures. The raw material for our study was provided
by the field recordings of Alan Lomax, the famous Folkways anthology
of Harry Smith, and the vast archival project of the Austrian
Document label. Artists such as Dock Boggs, Clarence Ashley, Son
House, and the Carter Family combined with Sacred Harp singing and
work songs to provide a template for what song might mean. We set
ourselves the challenge of writing music that could take its place
among these recordings, songs that could almost have been passed
along through oral tradition. We wanted to preserve the messy,
knotted and tangled pictures the music presented us, and not prettify
it or put quotation marks around it. We didn’t want to simplify or
Our model for the personal transformation of folk song was Bob
Dylan, whose song Visions Of Johanna provides the title of our
record. From the outset of his career Dylan had an uncanny feeling
for the strange, off-balance world the old songs inhabit. He knew
that the violence of the imagery, the Old Testament justice, and the
naked expressions of desire present in the songs were all but
underground in the conservative 50’s milieu from which he emerged.
In our way we had attempted a similar re-claiming of the almost
malevolent genius of bebop on our first record. Folk traditions have
of course been used by jazz musicians before, memorably by Jimmy
Giuffre, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler. Moreover, jazz is itself
a sort of folk music, mixing individual genius with an implicit
history that is continually reworked.
The forgoing should not be understood to be a prescription for how
to listen the record. The members of this group have a recording
history, both individually and collectively, that this record updates
and reflects in various ways. What can this record be, after all,
other than merely the most recent record by Ben Goldberg, John
Schott, Trevor Dunn, and Kenny Wollesen?]
Snorkel Bootleg — Live at the Elbo Room, San Francisco
A spontaneous, almost accidental mono recording of a
great set. Edition limited to 1,000 CDs.
T. J. Kirk T. J. Kirk (Warner Bros., 1995) out of print
Recorded at Mobius Music in San Francisco, produced by Lee Townsend.
T. J. Kirk If Four Was One (Warner Bros., 1996) out
Nominated for “Best Contemporary Jazz Recording” Grammy Award.
T.J. Kirk Talking Only Makes It Worse (Ropeadope, 2003)
When T. J. Kirk was fun, it was a lot of fun. I will forever be grateful for this experience and the great friends I made: Charlie, Will, and Scott. I learned so much from these guys, and from producer/manager Lee Townsend. Much of what was great about the band was about performance, and could only be captured fitfully on these records. The records, of course, have an integrity of their own, and I’m especially proud of the second disc, If Four Was One.
Baguette Quartette à la noce (self-released, 2011)
As a sideman:
Ben Goldberg Eight Phrases for Jefferson Rubin
Steven Bernstein Diaspora Suite (Tzadik, 2008)
This disc was recorded in one six hour session at a great studio that’s now sadly gone, Bay Records in Oakland. Joining Steven were Peter Apfelbaum, Josh Jones, Scott Amendola, Nels Cline, Jeff Cressman, Devin Hoff, Ben Goldberg and myself. Will Bernard added some guitar later in New York. The group subsequently performed at the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Austria.
Tom Waits Bad As Me (Deluxe Edition) (Anti-, 2011)
Recorded with Mr. Waits, Gino Robair on drums and percussion, and James Whitson on acoustic bass. Later overdubs by David Hidalgo.
Larry Ochs/Rova Sax Quartet The Mirror World (Metalanguage, 2007)
Recorded in performance at Kanbar Hall at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center.
Henry Kaiser with John Schott “Steamboat Gwine Round The Bend” on The Revenge of Blind Joe Death: The John Fahey Tribute Album (Takoma, 2006)
with John Hanes and Dave Jess. Recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. I left a $100 guitar cable there, and when I came back the next day they couldn’t find it!
Ben Goldberg Almost Never (Nuscope, 2000)
Recorded by the great Cookie Marenco in Belmont, CA, where we also did Eight Phrases, What Comes Before, and Ghost of Electricity.
Various Artists In Your Own Sweet Way: A Tribute To Dave Brubeck
This is a collection of Brubeck compositions interpreted by friends of John Zorn: Joey Baron, Anthony Coleman, Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas, et alia. I play on Dave Slusser’s very creative version of “Blue Shadows In The Street”, WHICH CAN BE HEARD ON THE MP3 PLAYER ON THIS SITE’S HOME PAGE.
John Zorn Xu Feng (Tzadik, 2000)
This is one of Zorn’s post-Cobra game pieces, for the specific instrumentation of two guitars, two keyboard/electronics players, and two drummers. For this recording – the piece’s first – the band was Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantomas), Willie Winant, Chris Brown, Dave Slusser, Fred Frith, and myself. Zorn led the session, recorded at Different Fur, San Francisco.
Joel Harrison 3+3=7 (Nine Winds)
Dan Plonsey Portcullis
Dan Plonsey Music From El Cerrito (Unlimited Sedition 502)
Dan Plonsey “Jazz At Yoshi’s”
Dan Plonsey The Wise King Taken By The Foolish One
Myles Boisen Past-Present-Future (A Small Tribe, 2003)
Some unreleased CDs that may or may not ever come out:
John Schott and Ensemble Diglossia
This record of four ensemble pieces is unreleased as yet. It was recorded over a three-year period at several locations. Tracks are:
1. Diglossia, for nine
musicians. Recorded live at Yoshi’s, Oakland, in 1995.
2. Three Bagatelles
for trombone, accordion, acoustic guitar and drums.
3. Jealous Lover #2:
Josephine The Singer, for voices, percussion, violin, guitar, bass, and drums.
Recorded in New York and Oakland.
4. Snakes, for eleven
players. Recorded at Festival Rovatè, 1998.
Steve Adams Diatribe, Parts 1-6
Larry Ochs Invisible Quartet
Henry Kaiser and John French session at Bay Recording
Ben Goldberg, John Schott, Trevor Dunn Acoustic Trio
Somewhere there are a pile of tapes of improvisations with acoustic guitar from the same sessions that produced Almost Never. Possibly these are still in the possession of Mr. Goldberg. I borrowed incredible vintage guitars from Tony Furtado and Henry Kaiser for these sessions.
CDs I helped out on with some minimal production help:
Bun-Ching Lam Like Water (Tzadik)
Rova Saxophone Quartet The Works, Vol. 4: Freedom In Fragments – Fred Frith
Lou Harrison Rhymes With Silver (New Albion)