Pop Philosophy

Cecil Taylor's recent show; record companies move to Sacramento

I deride your truth-handling abilitiesHave you ever seen the movie Rashomon? In the film, a woman is raped and her husband is killed. The story is told four times by four separate people, and each time the details come out differently. By the end of the film, it's near impossible to say what is the truth and who is to blame.

That's pretty much how I feel about the controversy surrounding legendary pianist Cecil Taylor's recent show at the Luggage Store Gallery.

San Francisco Jazz Festival organizer Randall Kline says there is no controversy.

"It's a non-issue," Kline said when reached by phone.

Saxophonist Marco Eneidi thinks otherwise. He feels that Kline and S.F. Jazz, who receive huge sums of money from corporate sponsorship, bullied the tiny Luggage Store into not advertising or promoting its second, non-festival show with Taylor. Kline, in turn, said the second show was a breach of a clause in Taylor's contract that stated he was not to perform at any other gigs. "It's a standard contract," Kline insisted. He also swore that no one from his office had spoken with the Luggage Store, let alone strong-armed its employees. He did, however, admit to calling Taylor's agent, Joel Chriss.

When I spoke to Chriss, he had no idea whether Taylor's contract had such a clause in it. But Chriss did understand why the festival would be peeved if it had paid for Taylor's plane fare and hotel and he turned around and played someone else's party.

"It's not a legal issue; it's an ethical question," Chriss said.

Did he speak to the Luggage Store about dropping or not promoting the show?

"I had a very pleasant phone conversation with [owner Laurie Lazer]. We decided they would make it plain on their fliers that Cecil was going to be reading his poetry and not playing piano."

Naturally, Lazer remembers it differently.

"They asked us not to promote [the show] heavily," Lazer responded. "I didn't want to step on any toes, so we didn't." Then she hinted at something more mysterious, saying, "We all know what really happened."

And "we" are not telling.

How ya gonna keep them down on the farm after they've seen Sacramento For the past six years, James Agren and Chandra Tobey have run Darla Records from a one-bedroom apartment on Scott Street, releasing over 100 albums, from twee folk to skittery drum 'n' bass to instrumental guitar chaos. The label's quarterly compilation series, Little Darla Has a Treat for You, consistently uncovers some of the best indie pop and electronica from around the world. And now the label's address is located an hour and a half east.

"I never thought we'd do it," Agren said via phone. "I left Orange County to come here in 1982, and now it's worse than where I left."

In Sacramento, the duo traded their small hovel for palatial quarters. All for $400 less a month -- and they own it! Still, there have been sacrifices.

"We've tried eight Mexican restaurants so far. I'm dying for a Mission burrito," Tobey said. "And everyone out here has big hair and mullets."

"But there's plenty of space and everything's cheap," Agren chimed in in an obvious attempt to lure like-minded people to the state capital.

And, look! It's working! At the end of the year, Mordam Records will end 18 years of business in San Francisco and move its distribution operation to Sacramento. After five years in the label's current space, Mordam owner Ruth Schwartz has lost her lease.

"I can't compete in the market and I can't keep my employees," Schwartz said recently. "I've had three employees evicted in the last year."

Mordam distributes two dozen "independently produced rock 'n' roll" record labels, including locals like Alternative Tentacles, Broken Rekkids, Gearhead, Man's Ruin, Shredder, Rip-Off, and TKO. Schwartz looked to move to Oakland at first, but decided that the costs were similar to San Francisco circa 1995. So how does she feel about the move east?

"Six months ago, I was scared to death," she said. "But now, I can't wait to get the fuck out."

Next week: a protest against stupidity Good news from the Take Back San Francisco rally on Sunday: We live in a country where a fat guy in a tunic can stand in front of City Hall and advocate the beheading of the mayor, with no fear of reprisal. Bad news: Teenage punks from the sticks give both teenagers and punks bad names by throwing things at MS poster girl and warbly singer Victoria Williams, while chanting "Green Day" and making fun of her mentally challenged roadie.

 
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