Cast of Characters

When Dave Douglas asked a few of us Cryptoids to be guest bloggers on Greenleaf, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce you to our left coast/left of center extended family. Of course some of us need no introduction, like Nels Cline, Bennie Maupin, Peter Erskine, Wadada Leo Smith, Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, Scott Amendola, Ben Goldberg, Alan Pasqua, Darek Oles, and many others. But a few of us like Alex Cline, Steuart Liebig, Andrew Pask, David Witham, Dan Klukas, Rich West, G.E Stinson, and my-own-self, who don’t get east of the Rockies that often, might not be as familiar to you.

So let me start by telling you a little bit about our own little corner of the West Coast “creative” scene. Just like our sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles, it’s pretty diffuse and spread out. There are many talented musicians here and several local scenes all interconnected by a sense of community, a few performance venues and some happening record labels. In Los Angeles there’s a specific lineage that many of us regard as having been influential, that extends from John Carter, Bobby Bradford and Horace Tapscott, through Vinny Golia (and his label Nine Winds Records, Roberto Miranda, Sonship Theus, Jesse Sharps, Phil Ranelin, Dwight Trible, and Michael Sessions, to many of the amazing young improvisers that populate the scene today. Cryptogramophone owes its very existence to the influence these musicians, and was started to showcase the music of a friend and colleague, bassist composer Eric von Essen, who died at a tragically young age. But, that’s another blog.

Vinny Golia has gone on to influence a whole generation of players through the many musicians who have worked in his ensembles like Michael Vlatkovitch, John Fumo, Wayne Peet, Jeff Kaiser (and his happening label pfMentum and also through his teaching at Cal Arts, with musicians like Jeremy Drake, Kris Tiner, and many others.

In the Bay Area, you not only find some great Crypto artists like Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, Scott Amendola, and Devin Hoff, but many other amazing players like Graham Connah, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet (Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams, and Bruce Ackley), Fred Frith, Phillip Greenlief, Carla Kihlstedt, John Schott, and many others.

Of course this is just an extremely skewed snapshot, and I’m already in serious trouble for omitting about a hundred other great players and cities like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, but I’ve only got so many words, and even fewer brain cells. Several of the Crypto players I mentioned above have agreed to blog and share their views on music and life, and I hope you’ll have a chance to check out some of their work. One way to get a head start is to go to and do a search on West Coast Jazz. Please don’t do anything rash like buy anything! (well, OK if you must) I just want you to get an idea of a few of the great musicians who live and work west of New Jersey. And of course will give you an overview of our humble little label.

I’d also like to introduce you to Cryptogramophone’s resident blogger Matthew Duersten, a wonderful writer whose work you can find at; Cryptogramophone’s official blogsite. Matthew’s not only got chops and a point of view, but a great understanding of the history of the West Coast scene, and will undoubtedly fill in many of my blanks.

It’s a big musical world out there. Thanks everybody at Greenleaf for letting us share our little corner of it with you.