George Herms

[from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly about 2010]

We don’t know anything about art, really. It’s like classical music or philosophy or poetry or anything really cerebral like that, universes we don’t traipse around much. So we had no idea who George Herms was before we met him. We were occasional drinking buddies at Charlie O’s, always right up front rocking out and applauding too loud and laughing, just really digging the music. He never let on he was famous, like Getty Museum famous. Then one Friday we saw him do his thing at LACMA. There was a band, they took a break, and then there’s George and this huge sphere, an immense hollow iron ball he’d found in the mud somewhere and thought wow, Thelonious Sphere Monk. He finds things that way. And he’s dragging the damn thing around the stage at LACMA, then stops, thinks a minute, and then starts beating on it, making this ethereal music. Freaky. After a while he dragged it off again. For some goddamn reason it was the coolest thing ever, Beat beyond belief, and the band had to blow their asses off afterward to get anywhere near the space he’d taken us.

Well, REDCAT has given him three nights to get to that space again.  He’ll be doing the sphere thing, his legendary spiral staircase thing, he’ll be assembling some sort of mondo clarinet out of throwaways, oddities and detritus. He has two incredible bands to score this madness…Theo Saunders & his Lesstet (including Azar Lawrence, Chuck Manning and Henry Franklin) doing mad things with Monk and Trane and Saunders, and the Bobby Bradford Mo’tet doing “Sideman”, one of our fave tunes ever. Herms calls the thing his Free Jazz Opera, and talks of Horace Tapscott and John Carter and Ornette and, well, get him going he can go on and on. He’s breathed this stuff for fifty years, inhaling jazz and exhaling creativity. This will be a real happening, people, each and every night.

[from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly c. 2009]

Trumpeter Bobby Bradford brings his Mo’tet back to LACMA on Friday. Sure, Bradford has major avant garde credentials; his work with John Carter was way out there. But he is always close to the source, with Satchmo just an arm’s length away, and his band sounds so positively genuine you know that his jazz isn’t something purely cerebral, not just art, but deeper than that, something that really swings. There’s no genre to file the Mo’Tet under; not bop enough for Charlie O’s, but not conceptual enough for the way hip art crowd. But he gets serious players like Chuck Manning, and serious fans, like artist George Herms. If you’ve hung around the coolest joints for the past several decades you know Herms, he’s always totally into it, but this time he ain’t watching the show…he’s part of it. Creating what, we have no idea, but his crazy work—just things he’s found combined with other things he’s found that he somehow turns into cool, new things—somehow matches the whole feeling exactly. It’s a real live happening. Be there.

George Herms2

George Herms and light bulb. (Photo by Wilder Herms)

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