Mike Pride Quartet: From Bacteria To Boys

Posted in Spotlight by unartignyc on 2010/11/03

From Bacteria to Boys featuring Darius Jones on alto sax, Alex Marcelo on piano and Peter Bitenc on bass is a Brooklyn based jazz quartet, led by drummer Mike Pride. I’ll leave it to the fine gentlemen below to fill you in on the details of Pride’s extraordinary craft. Let me just add that any dude pushing the limits of the avant-garde and experimental scene, while rocking a Ministry or Jesus Lizard shirt, is my kindred spirit. (((unartig)))’s live video anthology comes with all original text contributions by Arthur Goldwag (Best selling author of “Isms & Ologies” and “Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies”),  Charlie Looker, Ben Gerstein, Jacob Wick, Jamie Saft, Peter Nye Kerlin, Byrne Klay, Mary Halvorson, Hank Shteamer, Kentaro Saito, Katie Young, Andrew D’Angelo, Kirk Knuffke, Keesha Mishawn, Josh Sinton, Jason Stein and Jonathan Moritz.

[Ben Gerstein]
A band which tells stories, Names that flutter, names in the shapes of Men, rhythms in the sky, on the wall, feet planted, plodding… Of Bacteria from Boys, back to Bacteria, back to Boys, sounds and individuals breathing the Breath of the Chapters in front of them—the stage floors, the fires, the song modes, the pages which stand and handle being touched, caressed, torn and taped, folded, flown, rolled and chewed. The charted courses and forces of fluency in the light of our nights’ flights, times told to us through the gifts of existence as we straddle the lands of music. Air is smokey, vaporous, bulbs flicker, the curtains rise, smell of maroon, pale blue moon, pine trees, brick wall, chickens, dress shoes, funnel cake and the heat from games, cards stuck to the plate, chipped vanilla bowling pins, the carousel begins turning in grooves, a satellite, a singing line, whistling bottle, the horses grin nibbling the air ready to be released from their golden poles and ridden towards the rocky sea coast. It’s a club, a farm, a log cabin living room love county fair porch jazz dance hall studio ritual leading us by the clapping hand through the ears of history into our era one-of-a-kind… “A man who has a vision is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see.” Black Elk
Ben Gerstein | New York City, October 2010

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[Charlie Looker | Extra Life]
Having known Mike for almost a decade now, as his friend, his fan and his collaborator, I have become familiar with all of the many different currents in his musical river. He does a lot of different things and he does them all on the highest level. I think however that From Bacteria to Boys is so far the most profound and clear crystallization of his creative voice.

So many musicians nowadays who study Jazz in college end up completely rejecting it. They rebel against it as something stifling and obsolete, going completely into noise or indie rock. If you’ve heard jazz school kids trying to “just rock”, you know how cringe-worthy it can be. I think it’s great that Mike, someone who has studied the Jazz tradition deeply and has also done amazing work in the worlds of punk, noise, free improv and modern composition, has hit such a tremendous creative stride by going further into Jazz rather than rejecting it. I think that Mike’s deep love and understanding of musics other than Jazz, are now being most vibrantly expressed in this new group which he began as his “Jazz” project.

On a more immediate level, the band just kills. And I mean they kill as a band, not just as four great musicians playing together. There is a real unpretentious mastery in their personal and collective styles. Slickness and rawness don’t feel like opposing forces. All the musicians are completely masterful and also take tons of chances, continually ready to reach out of their comfort zones and deal with what happens with soul and style. What strikes me when I see them play is how authentically improvised the improvisation feels. I think this is one of the reasons why people who aren’t necessarily deeply familiar with Jazz are moved by this band.

While I’m probably not the guy to make this prediction, From Bacteria to Boys could be the future of Jazz. This is because the music incorporates elements from many other traditions without trying to not be Jazz. Jazz has always been absorbing other styles and traditions since its beginning, without necessarily having some weird identity crisis about it. These musicians’ collective commitment to the authentic spirit of the Jazz tradition naturally opens up their music to other influences and also naturally opens up listeners from other scenes to the deeply Jazz-rootedness of their music. I would recommend that anyone from any musical orientation check out this band, if not to see that Jazz is alive and well, then simply to experience the pure conviction and top-shelf quality of their music.
Charlie Looker | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Arthur Goldwag | Isms & Ologies]
Betweenwhile – Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys

Music is a primal thing, its roots planted deep in eros and awe. Ecstatic sex and ecstatic prayer are borne on rhythm and chant; Bach fugues come from as sweaty and swampy a place as babies do. I have this theory that art music took a wrong turn when its composers decided to treat musical notes and harmonies like they were integers and algorithms and altogether abstract. They forgot that music can only exist in time and space; that it resonates in bodies and moves them.

The journey from chant and tribal dance to serialism took thousands of years; jazz’s journey from 12-bar blues to bop and harmolodics took less than a century. But jazz never did lose its funk and I think that’s because its geniuses have been players and improvisers first rather than composers. Back in the 1960s, avant gardism cleared a path for ever more emotion, more expression. Fifty years hence, a new generation of big-eared player/composers are less concerned that their sound be new than that it be true.

Mike Pride is a superb drummer, a brilliant composer, and a self-effacing leader—From Bacteria to Boys isn’t a showcase unit but a living, breathing ensemble. As formally complex and dissonant as their music can be, it is always soulful, even unabashedly gorgeous.

The alto sax, Leroi Jones once said, is “a horn that can sound like white squeaky ladies under the wrong heart.” I wish I could turn him onto Darius Jones, whose tone is big, big, big—it’s what Johnny Hodges might have sounded like if he were reading a chart by Anthony Braxton. Alexis Marcelo’s piano is propulsively chromatic at one moment, lush and romantic the next; and Peter Bitenc gets as beautiful a sound out of his bass as any I’ve ever heard on record.

The music you’ll hear on Betweenwhile isn’t about anything—it just is. Which is the highest praise I know how to bestow.
Arthur Goldwag | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Jacob Wick | Hungry Cowboy, High Life]
Are we not men? We could talk about boys, but I prefer to do that with a drink in my hand – and besides, that would be obvious. Instead I believe we should focus our watery gaze on this progression: from bacteria to boys. Is it even a progression? We could be talking about evolution, Darwin, primordial sludge, life, death, illness, health, and so on. We can speak of the past, the future; what came before versus what happens now; what happens now versus what will come soon. I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, however, and so I would rather not talk about any of this. I would rather make comparisons, contests: proto-lifeform vs pre-man, bacteria vs boy, connotation vs reality, and so on. And by pre-man I do not mean Neaderthal, nor do I mean Australopithecus – as I mentioned above, I am neither a scientist nor a theologian. I’m talking adolescents, not-men. Not-men who live inside every man, like a disease or a tapeworm, both of which may or may not be caused, or cured, by bacteria. I read recently of a man – perhaps you’ve read this magazine as well – who began to refer to his tapeworm as a person, as “he,” and “he” was often hungry. The two – man and worm – were in a constant battle, a battle that the man slowly lost. We can imagine this man/worm on his deathbed, sunken cheeks and sullen eyes, enormous worm coursing through his viscera – a victory lap, if you will. Or we could select a different game, connotation vs reality: we could talk about how bacteria get a “bad rap” but aren’t necessarily bad and in fact are often quite good, and compare that to the sort of “rap” that boys get. I am, of course, speaking of they that live, faces covered in dirt and shit and blood, inside the phrase “boys will be boys,” not necessarily adolescents. Of these people I’m not sure how much good can be said: I have an aversion to excessive displays of masculinity and a revulsion to the indifferent shrug that excuses them. Boys do not have to be boys, after all, or at least they do not have to be those kinds of boys; boyhood should be neither a definition nor an excuse. But enough of this – as I’ve already mentioned, I do not want to talk about boys.

We can instead talk about what lies inside vs what lies outside, futures past vs past futures. Because if we are even speaking of a progression we are not speaking of a linear one, from point A to point B, and the second we try to pick out a string, a line, a history or family tree, a specific future, a specific past, we will lose it immediately, it will be swallowed back into the throbbing mess between A and B or B and A or wherever we end up as the future crashes headlong into the past, as we encircle Charybdis’s gaping maw. What lies inside? Neisseria (skin), Achromobacter (large intestine, small intestine), Fusobacterium necrophorum (natural cavities), Burkholderia cepacia (whole body), Bacillus (large intestine), Haemophilus influenzae (mucous membranes), Moraxella (eye), Streptococcus viridans (eye), Candida albicans (pharynx), Citrobacter freundii (sputum), Streptococcus pneumoniae (amygdala), Mycoplasma hominis (cervix), Morganella morganii (feces), Chlamydia trachomatis (eye), Kingella (upper respiratory tract), Mycobacterium (skin), Eubacterium (natural cavities), Candida albicans (external genitalia), Campylobacter upsaliensis (mouth), Candida albicans (mouth), Capnocytophaga (mouth), Corynebacterium (mouth), Eikenella corrodens (mouth), Buchnera aphidicola (mouth), Streptococcus sobrinus (teeth), Staphylococcus aureus (nose), Yersinia enterocolitica (large intestine), Staphylococcus aureus (hair follicles), Streptobacillus (throat), Staphylococcus aureus (perineum), Haemophilus influenzae (eye), Haemophilus aegyptius (eye), Kingella kingae (upper respiratory tract), Peptostreptococcus (whole body). Given the context, perhaps we should even be speaking of Staphylococcus epidermidis (ear), Staphylococcus aureus (ear), Corynebacterium (ear), or indeed any of the rest of the bacteria that happen to reside for brief or extended periods in our ears; but again, that would be obvious. For when we listen, vibrations do enter our ears, pulsing through the hammer and stirrup into the bony labyrinth, through membranes and thousands of microscopic hairs to become impulses to our brains; but they do also dance across our skin, our faces, fingers, ankles, necks; they crawl under our shirts and and trickle down the smalls of our backs; they slide across the stage, if there is one, and onto the floor and into our toes, tickling our calves, searching for our thighs; they shudder the linings of our stomachs, the walls of our hearts. When we listen, we submit to our environment, we surrender to that which lies outside; our bodies become porous, vague, wet. To hear the betweenwhile you must open your mouth – open wide.
Jacob Wick | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Josh Sinton | Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Ideal Bread, Holus-Bolus]

Josh Sinton | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Keesha Mishawn]
From Bacteria To Boys dishes up beautifully creative jazz to the everyday individual in perfectly seasoned servings. It is a pleasure traveling down Kancamagus, staring with envy at Resse Witherspoon and admiring the urban decadence of Bole. I absolutely Love from Bacteria to Boys. I am so appreciative of the variety, depth and passion I experience while listening. I have never really been able to enjoy jazz because it often seems over my head and too complicated to follow. But I have found this record to be perfect for a music lover like myself. What a treat! Thanks Mike Pride!
Keesha Mishawn | New York City, November 2010

[Jamie Saft]
Mike Pride is a “next generation” musician- composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, arranger, visual artist, and entrepreneur. His writing for “From Bacteria to Boys” shows his serious commitment to creating a unique sound within the world of contemporary improvised music. Composers from the downtown scene in NY have been combining composition with improvisation for many generations- Mike seems to be working towards a further, deeper step in this process. The sounds may sometimes be challenging for the listener, but this uncompromising approach to constructing a set of music will reward with perseverance. His musicians share a similar clarity of purpose. This younger generation brings an energy that inspires previous generations to step up their game most every time. Mining a “hardcore” aesthetic brings a rock’n’roll energy to Mike’s music that most contemporary jazz musicians cannot access. Combine this fortitude with a most serious consideration of difficult composition and you have Mike Pride’s “From Bacteria to Boys.”
Jamie Saft | New York, October 2010

[Peter Nye Kerlin | Snake Eats Electric Blanket, The Chris Forsyth Band]
I have a secret title for Mike Pride. I came up with it when we were recording Snake Eats Electric Blanket. We were listening back to the takes before breaking down for the night. I was so stoked. I was doing backflips about these takes. On my way back from the bathroom, walking down the hallway, back to the studio, I was thinking about how to differentiate what Mike does from what most people think of when they think of what a drummer does – most musicians too. Because it really is different. “That needs to be clarified!”, I thought. Maybe by crediting him with something other than “Drums and Percussion by Mike Pride”. I felt like he’d put so much more into the music than that! The tunes that I’d been thinking through for weeks now suddenly had this expansive spacial quality, a palatable mystery, drama, a sense of physical immediacy. All created with a level of technical facility that I’d call magical if i didn’t know how hard Mike works for his art.

This work is front and center in the music of From Bacteria to Boys. There is a rare level of rigor that is brought to bare by every member of the group, from Darius Jones’ deep and emotionally fraught alto sax, Alex Marcello’s dementia inducing piano work, and Peter Bitenc’s unwavering bass center. The compositions dart seamlessly in multiple directions. There is a rhythmic imagination in Mikes music that is always in motion, producing new ideas and creating a density and complexity that brings the music closer to life. This is music that, if you’re a musician, makes you want to run home and practice, or if you’re just a music fan, makes you wonder why you don’t listen to more jazz. Then you think to yourself, “Wait a minute. Was that jazz even?”. It forces you to come up with new words.
Peter Nye Kerlin | Brooklyn, October 2010

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[Byrne Klay | Megan Jean & the KFB]
What to say about Mike “Fucking” Pride…

Mike Pride loves music. He wants you to love music as much as he does. To his ears Mariah Carey is as glorious as Anthony Braxton. R Kelly is as inventive and soulful as John Zorn. Prince is as dynamic and brilliant as Albert Ayler. Bad Brains, Frank Zappa, Milford Graves, Boredoms, Jimmy Scott, Michael Jackson, Eric Dolphy, Stockhausen, John Coltrane….. Good Music. Spirit Music. When Mike is playing this is what he is feeling. All of it without exception. It’s all in there. If you listen really close you will hear it.

The first time I worked with Mike was around 2000. We played 1970’s Broadway tunes for an old singers birthday party. The last time I worked with Mike was around 2005. I played bass (as have many others) for Dynamite Club, an experimental punk type band he co-led with Kentaro Saito. I’ve played with Mike in dirty rock clubs, restaurants, squats, bars, big concert festivals, house parties, anywhere and everywhere on four different continents. When you travel with Mike, he is always trying to share with you the new music he’s all hot and bothered over. Every time we came into a new town and had a few hours to kill, Mike was out looking for a record store. When he came across an album or an artist he liked we would hear it alongside his commentary all day in the car while driving to the next gig.

There wasn’t a single “type” of musical expression that Mike gravitated to. It was many different sorts of sounds and feelings. He was as entertained and inspired by virtuosic skill (i.e. Elvin Jones) as he was by bizarre incompetence (i.e. Shooby Taylor). Mike wants music to make him laugh as much as he wants it to influence his chops. Every night during our gigs he’d make some sort of quick musical reference to the music he’d been thinking about that day. Sometimes he’d reference some sort of drum beat or rhythm he’d been talking about. Or sometimes he would randomly burst into song. While I was touring with him he did this to a lot of Mariah Carey songs. Albeit his versions were much shorter and much more, eh, visceral than the originals.

No matter what he was playing he did it with conviction and intensity. Sometimes he was trying to make you laugh. Sometimes he was trying to make you dance. Sometimes he was trying to make your head spin. One statement after another without apology.

Music is the only art form that in and of itself is purely abstract. There is no reason why a major chord is happy or a minor is sad. We have just convinced ourselves that they are that way. When most people hear music their brains freak out at the unfamiliar. People want their music to be placed in neat little boxes called genres. This attitude has done absolutely nothing for the hearts and minds of the music consuming public. It has only enhanced people wardrobes and tattoos. An open ear can lead a mind to new creative ways of thinking and perceiving the world that comes from deep within. But so many have tucked themselves into their little boxes not wanting to see what’s outside. Mike doesn’t exist in a box. He won’t do it. His music will be varied. It has to be. When you love music as much as Mike for as many reasons as he does it is a daunting task to be able to express it all through your art. And yet he does regardless as to whether you notice or not.
Byrne Klay | Charleston, South Carolina, October 2010

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[Mary Halvorson | People]
Mike Pride was the first person I worked with upon moving to NYC in 2000, which officially makes him one of my oldest collaborators. We played in his band, the MPThree, as well as in duo contexts, throughout the early 2000’s. In fact, I recently stumbled upon an old flyer for a duo gig Mike and I did in the “alterknit” theater of the old Knitting Factory in 2001, on fluorescent pink paper and complete with one of his crazy drawings. In addition to sounding like no one but himself on the drumset, Mike has always been a prolific composer. I have a stack of probably 50 of Mike’s charts from the MPThree days. So, upon hearing his new material in “From Bacteria To Boys”, I wasn’t surprised at all that his compositions have gotten even more insane, intricate, intense. Darius, Alexis and Peter execute his music beautifully and fearlessly, with telepathic communication. To me this group is a culmination of Mike’s talent as a composer and a drummer. This is the band to check out.
Mary Halvorson | New York City, October 2010

[Katherine Young | Pretty Monsters]
I think that the name of Mike Pride’s band–From Bacteria to Boys–is a fabulous one, one that is simultaneously funny, memorable, and a bit of a tongue twister. The name suggests evolution, development, and growth, while making a clever connection between two kind of gross things. And well, as cute as some boys are, in some ways they don’t seem that far removed from the slimy primordial ooze. And that ickiness just doesn’t evoke the subtlety, sophistication, and expert musicianship that this band demonstrates. (It’s still a good name, though–don’t think of changing it!)
Katherine Young | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Andrew D’Angelo]
Music is energy.
Michael Pride uses his personal energetic force to manifest sonic expressions.
Always being him Self.
Genre does not preclude his motivation for creativity.
Constantly striving for artistic greatness.
Every moment spent together is unifying.
He is proud.
Unconditionally thoughtful and giving of Self.
Over ten years of existence together.
Linear time will expand our greater awareness.
Intention of sound is paramount.
Music. Energy. Mind. Existence.
Michael Pride is a conduit for the Creative Force.
Andrew D’Angelo | Brooklyn, October 2010

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[Hank Shteamer | Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches]
The new From Bacteria to Boys record, Betweenwhile, really impresses me. Mike Pride obviously has a reputation for producing work that’s aggressive (Period), experimental (I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But the Blues) or even downright goofy (Dynamite Club). This, however, is simply a jazz record, and a very elegant one at that. There are some offbeat tendencies on display, but—crucially—there’s no winking or rib-nudging, or any other kind of pose that sets the artist apart from the material. Mike Pride wanted to make a beautiful, straightforward, soulful, listenable record, and what he ended up with is every bit as convincing as his more explicitly challenging work.
Hank Shteamer | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Kentaro Saito |Dynamite Club, Otonana Trio]
From Bacteria To Boys. The goal for a musician should always be to clearly send its message to its listeners. The music of From Bacteria To Boys is a prime example of a group of musicians succeeding to express their philosophy and thoughts clearly by their music.
Kentaro Saito | Tokyo, Japan, October 2010

[Kirk Knuffke | Matt Wilson Quartet]
It’s an honor to play with Mike. He brings a completely unique approach to music and the drums. I feel like I can take any turn and we move side by side. He also does his research, it’s hard to find a record he doesn’t know about. Like Matt Wilson says he studies the “Anthropology of the music. ” I look forward to many years of friendship and music!
Krik Knuffke | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Jonathan Moritz | Evil Eye]
My first experience playing straight ahead with MP was somewhere around 2002 on the west coast. The tour was playing my tunes with a quintet of local musicians and Mike came and pushed the envelope as far as what was status quo for us. It has to do with vibe and the intent was clear: Raw energy brought to these smooth tunes smothered anything we expected to happen. So much so that words were eventually exchanged with a few of the band members, but i came back a transformed player. What mattered to him was the music before pleasing others. After one hit the bass player came up to him red in the face with anger after an extended impromptu drum solo that ended the set containing a fair amount of bombs accompanied by screaming, saying: “free jazz is supposed to be soft!” MP didn’t have to defend himself or his choice of direction because everyone in the audience felt a very real moment in creativity which translates to a level of artistry that comes out in any style or medium. Admittedly, I was reluctant at first when Kentaro suggested Mike for the tour when my guy couldn’t do it, thinking, this guy’s going to clobber my smooth tunes. Well, I’ve never seen such a fast learner. Unlike myself, his intuition is such that when he started to get the vibe night after night, then night after night began developing it and stretching it to the point where it wasn’t what we had written but something new and unique to us as a group completely it forced us to move out of our comfort zones to a new meeting point. Isn’t that what you’d like to hear anyway?
Jonathan Moritz | Brooklyn, October 2010

[Jason Stein | Locksmith Isidore]
I’ve known Mike Pride for about 8 years. We met on a random gig in Manhattan in 2002 and right from the start I was blown away by his incredible playing, musicianship, intensity, and gentlemanliness. I have been honored ever since to call Pride a friend and colleague. Since 2002 I’ve been fortunate enough to perform, record, and tour pretty extensively with Mike in my trio. We’ve spend many late nights walking the streets of a variety of cities, checking stuff out together. Few things in life make me happier than these times.

The combination of Mike and Darius Jones playing in a working quartet together is totally killing. From Bacteria To Boys is one of the most important bands playing these days, not to mention one of my personal favorites. Mike brings such a unique myriad of interests and influences to his playing and writing, the music he creates stands alone. I look forward to many more years of listening to Pride’s playing on record and playing with him on stage and in the studio.
Jason Stein | Chicago, IL November 2010

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