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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Oct 14 1998
A Jazzman's Life Bay Area composer and tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman died of cancer in his home Thursday morning, Oct. 8. He was 51. A colossal improviser and kindhearted father figure to many in the local creative-music community, Spearman's loss is deeply felt by all who knew him. "Musically, Glenn was a lot more talented than I think he even knew," says Rova saxophonist Larry Ochs. "His compositions were simple on the surface, but deep and profound to play. He was basically always positive, a unique force in this community. And he's not replaceable." A nurturing, eloquent artist with great respect for all music traditions, Spearman taught improvised-music history classes at Mills College. Along with fellow saxophonist Marco Eneidi he co-founded the 21-piece Creative Music Orchestra, an ambitious project that provided dozens of up-and-coming players with great opportunities in adventurous, collective musicmaking. "Glenn took me under his wing and taught me what it means to be an artist -- what kind of dedication is required," says pianist Matthew Goodheart. Spearman -- whose death ended a short bout with colon cancer, diagnosed in August -- had a long history in the Bay Area. Originally hooked by the radical "energy" players of the mid-'60s, like saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Cecil Taylor, Spearman began performing in S.F. and Los Angeles almost 30 years ago. In the mid-'70s he lived in Europe, studying with expat and arch avant-gardist Frank Wright, who became an influential mentor to the developing improviser. Spearman returned to the States in '78, taking up residence in New York and working the underground loft scene with Taylor and trumpeter Raphe Malik. A few years later the ever-screaming saxophonist moved back to the Bay Area and began a lifelong partnership with drummer Donald Robinson. Their excellent debut album of duets, Night After Night, was compared at the time to Coltrane's inspired collaborations with drummer Rashied Ali. Over the past decade, Spearman recorded and toured with increasing prolificacy, including critically acclaimed stints with his Double Trio with Robinson, percussionist William Winant, pianist Chris Brown, bassist Lisle Ellis, and Ochs. (John Zorn's label Tzadik will release the Double Trio's last studio recording.) His final live appearance -- with Goodheart and drummer Rashid Bakr -- took place this past summer at Amherst's renowned Fire in the Valley Festival. Glenn Spearman is survived by his mother Marianne, his father Rawn, his wife Shantee, his former wives Marte and Marja, his children Rose, Ahmad, Jihan, and Angelica, and his stepchildren Jessica and Jasper. (Sam Prestianni)

No Free Speech for Fascists In the 12 years of its existence, the Paradise Lounge has canceled only two bands for their politics. Back in the early '90s, owner Robin Reichert shut out a group calling itself Fuck Muhammad when Muslims and African-Americans protested the booking. Then, two Mondays ago, on Oct. 5, Reichert wiped out Portland's Blood Axis. A loose committee of 75 or so San Francisco protesters had claimed that Blood Axis' frontman, writer Michael Moynihan, is a fascist and a hatemonger. Moynihan says the protesters don't know what they're talking about, and he appears to be right. But in this story, almost no one looks good. On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 4, an S.F. activist received a protest fax that had been used to shut down a Blood Axis gig in Seattle. The flier included five Moynihan quotes about subjects like the Holocaust, fascism, and race separation; the quotes used precise syntax to avoid directly stating racist or fascist opinions. "If I were given the opportunity to start up the next Holocaust I would definitely have far more lenient entrance requirements than the Nazis did," Moynihan was quoted as saying. (Moynihan says the quote does not mean what some think it does, because he would never be given such an opportunity, and, furthermore, having looser "entrance requirements" means that he would not single out a particular race.) The faxed activist (whom other activists would not name) copied the flier, postered the Castro with it, and made several phone calls. The next day dozens of people called the Paradise to protest. Reichert, whose club had booked Blood Axis through an independent promoter and who didn't know anything about the band, had a copy of the flier in his hands by early afternoon. Reichert called Moynihan. Moynihan, who is well-spoken and articulate, explained the quotes to Reichert. Moynihan says there is absolutely no racist or Holocaust-revision sentiment on his records. Yes, he's interested in the aesthetics of fascism. Yes, his albums mine religion, mythology, European history, and individualism, and he doesn't believe in humanism or in the concepts of good and evil. But, he told Reichert point-blank, he is not a Nazi or a fascist. Reichert asked Moynihan to make two concessions: to talk with any protesters who showed up, and to accept less money if the event blew up. Moynihan agreed, but at 5:30 p.m. the band found a locked door at the Paradise. Reichert had changed his mind. "I'm not going to have a neo-Nazi skinhead band here by preference," Reichert said later that week. "I run a private establishment, and I have the right to do that [cancel]. We didn't know; it wasn't clear [if they were fascists]." (Reichert says he would consider booking the band again if he had more time to evaluate their politics.) Outside the Paradise, around 8 p.m., Moynihan met several protesters who had marched to the club. The protesters chanted slogans, some about fascists, others about labor issues. They carried placards, including one that read, "No Free Speech for Fascists." Another sign called for an end to police brutality. "They didn't know why they were there," says Moynihan, who got several protesters to admit that they'd never heard the band's music. "They had these quotes and nothing else." (A few Riff Raff interviews with protesters confirmed Moynihan's point. One told us that Moynihan was part of a network of far-right organizations in the Pacific Northwest. "He's a fully articulate, conscious Hitler lover," the protester said. We researched both assertions; the protester is wrong. Although Moynihan irritatingly fixates on ungainly topics and seems to be using them as merely a way to piss off people and get attention -- the band's logo is a Celtic rune that looks similar to a swastika -- we have to concede that there is a large gap between talking about murder and actually killing someone.) Both sides argued for about an hour longer. When a protester with a bullhorn arrived, Moynihan walked on. His band left for Portland, nothing but flint corn in their pockets. The protesters went out for beers. Reichert, who didn't pay Blood Axis, the opening bands, or the promoter a cancellation fee, kept the bar shut for the night. (J.S.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (


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