May 20th, 2007. Brooklyn, NY. A well dressed man sits at a piano and plays the opening strains of Puccini’s Recondita armonia. Santa Claus sits in the audience, yells epithets at unsuspecting spectators. When the pianist has finished the introduction of the aria, his supple, effortless classical tenor voice wafts through the room:
Santa makes his way to a guitar. Just before the heartrending aria’s final cadence, a cacophony of sound erupts like the sound of shopping carts colliding in the produce section, unleashing the fury of a hundred repressed housewives. Triumphantly enter Undead Hot Dog and Undead Banana. Cheers from the audience.
Circa 1993, a young Joe Mapplebeck began discovering a passion for the unpredictable. This love manifested itself in the form of a guitar, a four-track recorder and a whole lot of effects units. Under the tutelage of nothing more than an adventurous spirit (and willing experimenters Carlos Alverado and Kurt Nepogoda), large scale electronic compositions found life in the privacy of his basement apartment. It was not until the entrance of Barry Seroff into his life that these works matured and set out for the public.
While Joe was creating electronic masterpieces in his basement, Barry Seroff was creating similarly spirited compositions within a stricter environment: the Aaron Copland School of Music. The presence of the unpredictable in the music of John Cage, Frank Zappa and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, as well as the philosophic influence of Zen, had already guided his compositional style. However, these concepts could not reach fruition until Joe Mapplebeck had made his mark. Add to this mixture gifted engineer and creative spirit Kurt Nepogoda, and Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas was born.
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas: conceived by Joe Mapplebeck, painfully birthed through late night sessions with Barry Seroff, raised through a tumultuous youth with former member Gerry Tuohy, finally achieved maturity with classical pianist and tenor Stefan Paolini. Free improvisation begets conceived improvisation, retaining dream logic. Free associative concepts combine all ends of the musicians’ unique musical landscape. All forms of music sound at once, all events occur simultaneously, a kaleidoscopic cacophony becomes a mirror for the unconscious: John Cage through Napalm Death, Frank Zappa through the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Conceptually, the group is rooted in creating an atmosphere in which anything can happen. To create this environment, they take influence from Zen teachings as much as from Western influences. The idea is that of a Zen koan: to create a situation in which the mind, trying to relate the most unrelated ideas, is shocked into a state of enlightenment. While this is all well and good, the idea of enlightenment may be a little out of their league, so they settle for comedy. The resulting comedy, however, is unlike anything seen before.
These ideas are also pervasive through the music. Since the observer cannot be prepared for the performance, each performance is an original composition. Furthermore, these compositions are improvisatory, leading to open-ended ideas often directed by the reaction from the audience. The instrumentation also reflects this—they frequently focus on ethnic instruments as well as found objects (often donated or annexed from audience members), leading to surprisingly original tone colors and melodic concepts.
Aside from unforgettable concerts, the band has released two acclaimed studio releases; Bb Cat on Sachimay Interventions (with drummer Gerry Tuohy) and 27 New York Antisonnets on OKS Recordings of North America (with pianist/vocalist Stefan Paolini). More info, contact, recordings and live video can be found at www.myspace.com/littlerickyimprov. Words cannot do justice, it must be experienced. Consider yourself invited to go shoe shopping at Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas.