Austin's patron saint of avant-jazz, Tina Marsh was the voice and identity of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, the innovative local big-band ensemble that tirelessly explored the realm of free-form improvisation. Founded in 1980, CO2 followed the blueprint of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, providing a sorely needed outlet for more than 200 musicians. "As a composer, there was a complete freedom of expression," relates John Mills, who joined CO2 after hearing a live radio broadcast in 1981. "It wasn't music for a concert hall exactly or a club. You could set your own agenda. For any given concert, you got a very different reaction from the composers as to what that compositional freedom meant." Before succumbing to cancer in June, Marsh had been planning CO2's next performance, an idea to be realized, as the collective's final work, this Friday, Sept. 11, at Laguna Gloria Amphitheatre, with Echoes of the Heart: Music in Living Memory. The tribute serves as CO2's swan song, featuring both past and present members of the orchestra and a selection of material dating back to the early 1980s, most notably Alex Coke's 2005 work, Iraqnophobia. A three-person choir will handle Marsh's vocals. "It's an acknowledgement of the absolute highlights, those spontaneous fleeting moments that would happen with the Creative Opportunity Orchestra," says Mills, "but also of the regret or melancholy for where else we would have gone and now will never know."
"The new paradigm is that there is no paradigm," reasons Jon Dee Graham. "That's terrifying news for anyone that's as poor of a businessman as I am." In lieu of traditional label advances, artists everywhere are scraping together new ways of generating recording budgets, and two of the better new music models have arrived locally. Lounge swingers the Belleville Outfit funded its latest, Time to Stand, through an Adopt a Song campaign on its website. Patrons sponsored the album's 13 songs for $2,000 each, in exchange for a house show, credit in the liner notes, and promotional swag. "We got sick of all the waiting with the record industry; we needed to get this record out and on our own terms," relates vocalist/guitarist Rob Teter, who recently laid down some new recordings in Los Angeles. "It was a huge amount of work on our end to coordinate, but in the end I think everyone benefited from it."
Ever the extremist, Graham has taken that idea to the next level with the JonDeeCo Music Co-Op for his forthcoming Freedom Records release, It's Not as Bad as It Looks, named for and inspired by his first words after his near-fatal car accident last year. The co-op offers a variety of donation packages, beginning at $100, which includes a personalized advance copy of the album and a T-shirt, before bulking up with hand-drawn covers and sketches ($500-$2,500), one year of free admission to the Continental Club ($3,000), and house shows ($5,000). "For $5,000 I'll mow your lawn, cook dinner for five friends, and when we're done I'll clean the kitchen and quietly tiptoe out the back," cracks Graham, who hopes to raise said amount to cover the cost of mastering and plans to introduce new options, such as Chuck Prophet's bike. "Surely I have a fan here or there that's done well and would be willing to reinvest or flat-out help support what I'm doing. It's intended to be funny, but there's probably going to be somebody somewhere that sees that and goes, 'Damn right.' ... This may be the best record I've ever made, so I don't want it to go unnoticed."
Charlie Sexton called the Chronicle to clarify that his rejoining Bob Dylan's so-called Never Ending Tour doesn't mean the Arc Angels are on hold. "Focusing on those two things is going to work really well for me," he riffs. "It's all tricky, but the good thing about this is that it will give us a very specific schedule. And I've always found working with [Dylan] quite inspiring in all kinds of ways." The Angels just finished mastering their live CD/DVD package, which features documentary footage and three new studio recordings. "We're starting the process all over again, dealing with the past to get to the future essentially," Sexton concludes. "We have a pile of new songs that are in development and need to be finished." Meanwhile, former Arc Angel Tommy Shannon is on board for the second coming of Storyville, without longtime partner-in-crime Chris Layton. Populating the local blues rock standard this time around are original members David Holt and Malford Milligan, who's moved back to town and appears on Eric Johnson's upcoming album, along with new members Barry Smith of Soulhat and guitarist Gabe Rhodes. A new Storyville album is in the works for 2010.
Featuring former members of Greezy Wheels, the Lotions, and Pressure, South Austin's longstanding roadhouse country outfit Stop the Truck doubles as the Mau Mau Chaplains, the reggae house band for Flamingo Cantina, where the two acts kick off a weekly double bill Tuesday. "We're not fooling anybody; we're not dressing up with dreadlocks," laughs guitarist Steve Carter. "We wear cowboy hats at reggae gigs and just play whatever we feel like." To boot, Stop the Truck – rounded out by Miguel Pankratz, Moe Monsarrat, and Ed Ferguson – also serves as the backup band for Freddy Powers (see "The Good Times Ain't Over," Aug. 22, 2008) and has been working on a tribute to the outlaw songwriter that includes contributions from Ray Benson ("Texas in Oklahoma"), Merle Haggard ("A Friend in California"), and Powers himself (the unreleased "Do You Still Listen to Willie"). "We call him Poppa," says Carter. "He's our guru. He's made us all better writers and musicians."
• C3 Presents has a one-in, one-out policy in place for the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Last week, Them Crooked Vultures – Queen of the Stone Age Josh Homme, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl – was added to the Friday lineup. Due to Marva Wright's stroke and Lee Ranaldo's fractured wrist, both she and Sonic Youth dropped from the bill and were replaced by Dirty Projectors and Mike Posner.
• Following a launch party on Sunday at the Scoot Inn that further bolstered its local credentials with engaging performances by Brazos' Martin Crane and TV Torso, Woxy, the Cincinnati-bred FM-turned-Web radio station, officially started broadcasting from the ME-TV studio on Tuesday. Tune in now at www.woxy.com.
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