Michael Lytle and George Cartwright

The Five Front Gallery

Just about the most important gigs we did early on in the city was at the 5 Front Gallery in December 1978. The Five Front Gallery was located in New York City on Layafette Street right across from Joe Papp's Public Theater . This was John Zorn and Michele Butchco’s place, a groovy almost penthouse with terrific windows all across one side of a big spacious room. You can see the windows still nearly across from the Public Theatre on Lafayette Street.

I’m not quite sure how we met John Zorn. Perhaps on one of his visits to CMS. We hit it up right away. There weren’t a lot of us New Music Improvisers in those young days of the “Downtown Music Scene”. John had this terrific group with Eugene Chadbourne and Polly Bradfield. You’ve probably heard some of those early recordings (a bit of a  groundbreaking trio, that) so you know what an innovative time it was. Well, we were there, keeping up in our own way, blowing our hearts out.

John was great, and very supportive. He used to invite us up to the loft and put on these little “object” exhibitions where he would place out tiny things on a small little stage one at a time. We all loved it.

Then, of course, John played like most of us had never heard. He had one sax key held down with a rubber band so when he blew hard it would flutter. Also, I think he was the first to play a mouthpiece by itself. Eugene was incredibly funny. Still is, of course. He really set the good humor in the music of that period, I thought. He’d play some frantic string thing so fast his hands were a blur. Then he would stop and pick up a little paper ball from the table of toys he kept by his side and throw it hard onto the floor. It was a little ball firecracker. POP!! And Polly would be scratching away. It was great!

We didn’t play a lot with John directly, as he had a rule about playing with other reed players, but we played on a few bills with him and had some great times.

Michele was a good friend, too. I think she might have kept the gallery going after John moved over to the East Side. She was a big help to us later on when we were putting Corn Pride East Records together. Designed a terrific catalogue.

Anyway, we played pretty well on this concert, our chops and ideas being pretty strong with much early practice, and had a great time.

There are only two composed pieces on this selection, “the hardwood” and “te (4) to (o)”, the rest being improvisations and a couple solos.