regarding international orders:
There has been an enormous increase in the price of international postage. Since we do not charge separately for shipping, this makes it tricky to ship overseas. One possible solution would be if you want to use the donate button below -- the difference between our price for a cd and the cost of international shipping is around $10, so you could order a cd and then make a donation for something around that amount to cover the postage -- this amount probably covers up to 3 cd's. Just a thought.
CDs / Downloads / Merchandise
Orphic Machine - CD (pre-order)
Short-Sighted Dream Colossus
In August of 2010 Scott Amendola, John Dieterich, and I recorded a short program of amazingly beautiful music. It has taken a while, but I think the wait was worth it -- the cd, Short-Sighted Dream Colossus, is available as of September 16, 2014. I think you will enjoy it.
Happy to announce the Unfold Ordinary Mind T shirt!
Molly Barker's painting of a pink horse, from the fold-out booklet that accompanies the cd, looks great on dark grey, with the Unfold Ordinary Mind logo beneath. The shirts are pre-shrunk 100% combed ring-spun cotton.
These were a big hit on our September 2013 tour and we sold out of the first printing. More are on the way, and we aim to keep a variety of women's and men's sizes in stock.
A note on sizes: we are using the Bella brand of shirt; their women's sizes seem to run small. So, if you usually wear a Small, you might want to order a Medium, etc.
How to specify your size: since the website is not yet designed for T shirt orders, please go ahead and order your quantities, then send an email to
with the size(s) you need. (For specific measurements or size queries, just send an email and we will send more information.)
Even though the button says "order CD," don't worry -- this is a T shirt.
Price includes shipping.
Here is a lovely record of Thelonious Monk compositions, played by Adam Levy on guitar, Smith Dobson on drums, and myself on clarinet. We had a relaxed and surprising time at Jeff Cressman's studio in January 2014, and I think the music reflects the friendliness and weirdness of the session. This is a download-only release!
You can find the album on iTunes and bandcamp (see links), or on Amazon by clicking here.
Unfold Ordinary Mind: Limited Edition
Last year as we were preparing Unfold Ordinary Mind for release, Molly Barker and I envisioned a limited edition that would include an original piece of art.
Molly reports: "I thought I would do a drawing of a horse for each copy, to connect with the booklet I made for the record. The horses soon took on a life of their own and the project got much bigger than I had imagined."
Molly created 150 brush-and-ink paintings, each depicting a horse in motion or repose (the horse above is #63). The series is called Year of the Snake.
Each copy of the limited edition package of Unfold Ordinary Mind contains one of these original paintings.
To get the point across, we made a crazy music video of all 150 horses on parade (working with our experts at Black Parrot Productions), with the song xcpf from the record.
Watch Year of the Snake on youtube:
Here's what you get with the limited edition:
a copy of the cd in original digipak
Molly's accordion-fold booklet painting printed on high-quality paper (we worked very closely with our printer on this, and had to send things back twice before they were perfect!)
an original signed brush-and-ink horse painting on handmade mulberry paper, approximately 4 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches
your edition will be signed by Ben Goldberg and Molly Barker, and numbered
all materials are archival quality
To specify which horse painting you are interested in: send an email to ben[dot]goldberg[dot]music[at]gmail.com, telling us at which minute and second of the video your horse appears; or attach a screenshot of your horse to the email. We will let you know if your preferred horse is available.
Unfold Ordinary Mind
I have been developing my abilities on the Eb contra alto clarinet (a weird member of the family, pitched below the bass clarinet) for some years, mostly in my work with the group Tin Hat. Somehow it occurred to me to have a band where I was the bass player, on this instrument.
Of course the group would need two of my tenor saxophone heroes (Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth), a guitar genius (and now certifiable rock star) (Nels Cline), and the deeply tumultuous drummer Ches Smith.
So after finishing up the premier of my latest giant project, Orphic Machine, in March of 2012, I wrote a bunch of songs and assembled this crew at the Bunker studio in Williamsburg one day in May. We learned the tunes, rehearsed, and recorded them all in just a few hours, and the results are extraordinary -- raw, dire, and to the point.
Molly Barker did the cover art and painted a lovely fold-out booklet that is included with the cd.
Here is a video of Parallelogram, from a concert in Baltimore in December 2012:
Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues:
In 2008 I spent a few days with an amazing group of musicians:
Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone
Ron Miles, trumpet
Devin Hoff, bass
Ches Smith, drums
Scott Amendola, drums
Joshua Redman and I had gotten to know each other when SF Jazz presented a double bill of my trio Plays Monk and Josh’s trio featuring Joe Lovano. Later I invited Josh to sit in with my quintet, and he suggested that we make a record together. Ron Miles and I are both from Denver and I had always been crazy about his playing so I invited him (this was before we recorded Go Home). Of course anything can happen when the rhythm section is Good For Cows.
We rehearsed for a day and then recorded at the legendary (and lamented) Bay Records in Berkeley, California. The session had a loose, swinging feel, and we tried a wide range of tunes, from the avant-swing of “Evolution” to the exuberant funereal march of “Possible,” and I even made an arrangement of Bob Dylan’s version of “Satisfied Mind."
Here is the first record on my new label, BAG Production Records (BAG 001).
The band is
the door, the hat, the chair, the fact
From the liner notes:
This music is for Steve Lacy. It was written in 2004 after I learned that Steve had cancer. I was thinking and thinking about him and I wished there was something I could do so I wrote down all the music I could and I kept thinking of Steve and hoping for the best.
Once Steve Lacy gave me a lesson, I mean I went over to his house for a lesson, I had already been doing my best to draw a lesson from his work. It was 1985, for some reason I had been in Paris a lot and when I was there I would go to the Sunset and listen to Steve and politely beg for a lesson. Finally he relented, maybe so I would stop bothering him and also saying, “I have a soft spot for clarinetists.”
I should say that back then I had a hero and it was Steve Lacy. I mean the kind of hero where you wish you could do what they do. This was mostly based on the evidence of “Evidence,” a record he made in 1961 with Don Cherry. I had to listen to that record about four times a day, and though I was in the dark I memorized Steve Lacy’s solos and tried to figure out what he was doing. The note that lifts all other notes up into the world. Punctuation. The line that’s backwards and forwards and the pop of logic more logical than logic.
At the lesson Steve said he wasn’t really a teacher so maybe we could treat this like a visit to the doctor: play a duet and based on that diagnosis he would prescribe something. Evidently the fundamentals needed vitality. Steve said you had to know the difference between materials and material and suggested two lines of inquiry concerning materials. These were exercises for uncovering the basic elements.
He talked matter of factly about the invisible, and I caught a glimpse of what an artist does. He said, “If you stay in the dark long enough, eventually you’ll see the light.” He gave me a copy of “Hocus Pocus” and a book of rhythm by Kenny Clarke and I was so happy I wrote a poem and worked on those exercises for ten years. The exercises were strong medicine – the first time I played them I got dizzy and almost fainted.
In 1992 I was preparing a concert of Steve’s music and he sent me a fax of “Blinks.” There was a note at the top, and when I started writing this music the note became a song: “Dear Ben, been out of town. Probably too late but here’s Blinks anyway. I am hardly here these days.” Blinks is my favorite Steve Lacy song, it gets the up and down just right, plus the poem was on it so a few of the pieces here are based on “Blinks.”
I had booked the studio for June 7th; Steve passed away June 4th. I was so sad, a lot of people were calling each other up. We had a rehearsal and then went and made the record. It was a sad time. The title comes from a poem by Robert Creeley. Steve Lacy wrote a song called The Door and once he sent me a postcard signed “Chapeau.” Kenny Clarke sat on a chair. In honor of the durability of Steve’s music I once made up an exercise called Pursuit of Facts.
Pursuit of Facts. A fax arrived, with a poem on it. I am hardly here these days.
The Relative Value of Things
Kenny and I recorded this in my living room with Jeff Cressman at the controls. I think it at least partly reflects Kenny's beautiful homemade philosophy. Kenny designed the actual packaging as well as the cover images and it was printed at his mother's printshop. The title is from Robert Henri's The Art Spirit, a book introduced to me by my brother Adam that had a deep effect on many of us at the time.
Modern melancholy, modern jubilation, modern swagger and modern volatility – for the last few years Tin Hat has reminded us that things aren’t exactly as they used to be.
The 2010 edition of Tin Hat: Mark Orton, Carla Kihlstedt, Ara Anderson, Ben Goldberg
I actually played on the very first Tin Hat Trio concert ever! Rob, Mark and Carla had me as a guest at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. I don’t even want to guess what year it was. From the very first I could hear a beautiful open-minded approach. At the time, a lot of musicians were enjoying playing with people from other musical worlds – “free improvisers” playing with “jazz” musicians, etc. When Tin Hat Trio came along, they had everything in their bag – grooves, beautiful melodies, all kinds of harmonic motion, “free” playing, etc. – and you could hear that for them it was all music. They did not feel the need to identify with a particular camp. So that was very refreshing. When Rob left the group I was very happy to be invited by Mark and Carla to join. It was exactly the right time for me, and it’s been a ball ever since. For a while, Zeena Parkins was the fourth member, then later Ara joined us. I have learned so much about music from playing with these guys, it has completely changed my perspective.
In 2007 we made The Sad Machinery of Spring. We were meticulous in the studio to create just the right sound -- a hallmark of Tin Hat records. But there is another side to the group: unbelievable live performances. When you're on tour things loosen up night after night, anything can happen, and then it's gone forever -- unless you are lucky enough to have recorded it, which brings us to Foreign Legion. We had recordings from gigs all over the place, and when we listened to them we found a couple of gems: the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley and a festival on the island of Mallorca.
Mark did the mix at his studio in Portland so he probably spent the most time with these tapes. Here is what he says:
Foreign Legion includes material from the entire history of Tin Hat, from the title track -- one of the first things we ever played as a group -- to new songs that have never appeared on record. Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse has always been one of our favorite venues -- we consider it our home town club, and I think you can hear something special in the lovely performances recorded there. The other half of the disc comes from a concert in Mallorca -- a really fun show in a far-flung corner of the world. They put on a great festival there, we had been well fed and provided for, and we were lucky to have it recorded. Even though our other records reflect our interest in sounds you can only get in a studio, listeners know that Tin Hat has always been about live performance -- the kind of group improvisations and chances you take in front of an audience -- so I'd say the live record has been a long time coming, and I couldn't be happier with the results.
Here By Now
Trevor Dunn on bass and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. We had a trio for a few years and tried a lot of different ideas on how to play the melodies I was writing. There was one memorable Knitting Factory tour of the East Coast where we had to keep reminding audiences that we were not New Klezmer Trio, and where I learned what a truly unique and brilliant individual Elliot Kavee is. I think this record captures the essence of what we were doing very well, as does the cover painting by Molly Barker. Recorded at Annie's Hall in Berkeley by Jeff Cressman.
It’s funny to think that this project originated with John and me wanting to learn some songs to get better at jam sessions! We focused on songs by Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie -- music of the "bebop" era. Of course what happened next wouldn’t have fit into the kind of jam sessions we originally had in mind – like most creative goals it proved to be a kind of inverse confirmation of Yogi Berra’s famous advice: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
We went at it with hammer and tongs. And discovered, not for the first or last time, that if you are dealing with material this strong, then your attempts to fuck with it result in you yourself being transformed into a vessel for the further beauty and truth of the original vision. And thus, Junk Genius.
I think Molly Barker captured the state of affairs pretty well with her painting of the enigmatic purple-faced man (menacing? depressed?) for the cover, although Steve Lacy sent a postcard: “I like the music; I do NOT like the title”.
While I enjoyed hearing the music again, I also realized that the sound could be improved. So I handed it to none other than Jon Cohrs of Spleenless Mastering in Brooklyn (Jon mastered the recent records by Tin Hat, and my new releases Unfold Ordinary Mind and Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues). Jon is reluctant to call what he did a "remastering," since who knows where the master tapes are now, but he did an excellent job and I think you will like the result.
I am happy to be offering this record for the first time in many years as a high-quality digital download exclusively through bandcamp, beginning on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.