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M. Sean Dowd: Poetic reviewer of improvised music

Adam Saikaley brings "bride of Frankenstein" to life at the IMOO show on Feb. 6, 2011. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Mary Shelly's bride of Frankenstein lay before us. She is adorned with diodes and quarter inch jacks abounding. Alligator clips and dials jerk her to life. Herr Doctor Saikaley was not dressed for a formal wedding. His lab coat thrown off, Adam Saikaley twisted the key dials threw the switch and brought the beautiful monster to life in UMI on the first Sunday of the Lunar New Year in Chinatown.

The lovely bride's attire was all wires and jacks patched together - male ends to female ends- surging her to life in ungodly fashion. Power at two hundred and twelve volts was boosted to eighty amps under the careful attention of the Mr. Band Width. In attendance were Mr. Voltage, Mrs. Watts and their children Loop and Distortion.

A quarter inch baton may seem too small for the job. It may seem to rob the bride of a wedding night rite but the sound board and feedback samplers found the "G" spot. Soon the screams of passion were compelled through loudspeakers. They filled the space and soared like a Soyuz rocket or the last of the behemoth Saturn rockets driving the NASA space shuttle beyond escape velocity; past eleven kilometres per second and the UMI crowd were lifted outside the ionosphere. Fans of this brand of Electronica: As brought to us via the Improvised Musicians of Ottawa and the Outaouais, could have been forgiven for their intrusion on to the International Space Station. It was as though the urgency of a Hubble Space telescope repair was depending on the next twist of Adam's finger tips.

     an excerpt from M. Sean Dowd's  "IMOO at UMI February 6, 2011 Adam Saikaley set two Review"

M. Sean Dowd is one of the growing numbers of listeners at the IMOO shows at the Umi Café, but he could be easily overlooked. Quietly attentive to the music, his most unusual characteristic is the rapid writing on the small notebook on his lap, as performers create and listeners discover.

We recently discovered what he has been up to: writing poetic reviews of the shows, when he is not otherwise busy with his work at a high school teacher. He took time to tell us more about his motivations and experiences as a listener and reviewer.

M. Sean Dowd at the Umi Café. ©Brett Delmage, 2011OttawaJazzScene.ca: How long have you been listening to improvised music? What attracts you to it? Do you like other kinds of improvised music or jazz?

Sean Dowd: Some of my early memories are of listening to Scat singing by Ella Fitzgerald.  In the 1960’s, television was new and what most caught my attention was images of smoky French jazz clubs in the post WWI period.  I was always drawn to Bebop and Scat and then to free-form poetry of the Beatnik generation.  

I was drawn in by Gitanes cigarettes and the haze of basement clubs in Montmartre.  These were hard to find as a twelve year old in the Niagara area but I got to Paris in 1976 and I sought out these clubs.  The music of Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billy Holiday courses through me.   More modern influences include Frank Zappa and now Hawksley Workman, whose rock and Cabaret extravagances thrill me.

OJS: You mentioned you are not a musician. Do you think a person has to have musical training to 'get' this music or to be qualified to write about it?

Sean: No I do not think that you need to be a trained musician to enjoy these concerts.  I am glad to have both the senses of sight and hearing…but even one of these is all it takes to appreciate the Improvising Musician at IMOO concerts.  When a drummer or other percussionist is on stage the antics are a great visual delight.  These musician “feel” their music.  I have sung in choirs but I have no musical training otherwise.  The stories that I write about this music are informed very lightly by formal musical training.  As a writer I let my readers decide on whether or not I am qualified to present these topics.  I do not feel at all inhibited.  

OJS: How do your think your exposure to other artforms (poetry, plays, etc.) informs your response to this music?

My popular culture exposure runs from Bugs Bunny to Shakespeare and the Sci Fi of William Gibson and Issac Asimov…I enjoy the theories of Michio Kaku in science.  I use all my prior knowledge to inform my responses. Artforms I will interpret very broadly for as a teacher I inform all of my activities with the spirit of Improvised jazz and “Playfulness”.  A class of students is like a band or orchestra.  Bring out the serious bass line of curriculum, the melody of interconnectedness and the ethics of spirit, heart and soul and you can use the principles of music in every artform.  

OJS: What inspired you to start writing about IMOO's shows?

I am a writer of poetry and short stories.  I love Umi Café and I live a block away.  I happened upon the first concert after a little advertising and I felt like I had waited all my life for such an approachable venue and such great music.  I had my journal and I was drawn to record my thoughts immediately.

OJS: What do you want to communicate to readers with your reviews?

I channel the concept of “Glide”.  We really can get more from an activity than we put in.  I believe that if you put effort in and if you pay attention to others that resulting work, study or play will be greater than the sum of the whole and you will feel enlivened.  I want others to say, “Hey, I thought of that too!”: And especially, “I wish I was there!”

OJS: Anything else you want to tell us?

I am very pleased to be in the company of other Jazz music and electronica fans at the IMOO concerts at UMI.  See you at the concerts!

You can read more of M. Sean Dowd's reviews on his blog at  www.freewebs.com/inflightpress/

  – Brett Delmage