Thursday, December 28, 2006

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp

End of year lists, everybody has one. I don't have "bests", I just haven't heard enough, only favorites. I talked about quite a few of these on the blog in the past- links beefed up 1/14, more commentary to come.

Favorites of 2006:

Jennifer Kimball "Oh Hear Us" Jennifer's solo outings have been too few and far between. I blogged about it when it was released, and on many listenings I only like it more.
John Hollenbeck et al ""Joys and desires"" The best large jazz ensemble album I heard this year. John's style of writing is like nothing else I've heard. The suite that is the centerpiece of the album is really something, formally, vocally, energetically.
Dave Douglas ""Meaning and Mystery"" The best album so far from Dave's quintet, I think. There's a comfort level with the material absent from the first two, and the interplay that has been evident for some time in live hits is more obvious here. And "Blues for Steve Lacy" is my favorite new jazz tune in several years, a great composition.
Dominique Eade and Jed Wilson "Open" Mostly overlooked outside Boston, this a beautiful marraige of jazz singer and pop singer-songwriter esthetics. Clean, clear, unpretentions music from two great musicians.
Crooked Still ""Shaken by a Low Sound""
Ornette Coleman "Sound Grammar" Can we pray for a studio album this year? Please?
Prince "3121" Not his best, but I think better than "Musicology". Which is better than most artists can hope for in a career.
Gnarls Barkley "Gnarles Barkley" This album has been so well hyped that I can't say anything that hasn't already been said. I love "Feng Shui".
Keith Jarrett "The Carnegie Hall Concert" This time last year I got "Radiance", and thought it a beautiful departure. This one blows it out of the water. The best solo Keith I've ever heard. His decision in the past few years not just to blow headlong through a set, but stop and let there be shorter pieces yields more coherent results, which occasionally even resemble tunes. I can only imagine the energy in the room- just the recording fires up a room. (But ECM, do we really need 2 minutes of applause on every track? Please!) Interestingly (to me at least), I find myself listening to the second disc a lot more than the first, and not jsut for the encores. But I digress- this is badassed. Is it too much to hope for a quintet record from Keith in '07, as was famously planned before he got so sick? It wouldn't have to be the band planned at that time (in '97, I heard from DeJohnette among others that they had studio time set up for a record of the standard trio plus Lovano and Tom Harrell, playing new original music) It could be with five chimps for all I care- it would be beyond fascinating.

Car Songs (I won't change the station until it's over, and I have a hyper finger in the car. Probably wouldn't seek them out, except for "Crazy", in another context)
KT Tunstall "Suddenly I See"
Ray Lamontagne "Three More Days"
Gomez "See the World"
Gnarles Barkley "Crazy"

Note the lack of hip-hop. I liked The Roots' Game Theory, especially the single "Long Time" (should've been a radio hit), but I thought the album was inconsistent, and took to long to get going. I liked Tipping Point more, though no one single was as strong as "Long Time". (I have a totally opposite view than Mwanji. In general, I love his list) And I still haven't heard the late entry, Nas' "Hip-Hop is Dead" In general, though year for hip-hop on the radio in my book.

Change the station songs
"SexyBack" Justin Timberlake. I liked the last record's singles. I hate this one.
Anything by a Creed sound-alike. (There are three or so right now. I never hang around for their names.)

New websites
Destination Out. Can't say enough nice things about it.
Ear of the Behearer. Mind you, I'm biased.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

we'll tak a right guid-willie waught

This is the first New Year's Eve in awhile that I won't be working. (Not yet, at least, the phone could still ring.) And since I'm single and well, haven't yte regained my crazy social standing in these parts, I was looking around for musical options on Dec. 31. And I'm afraid that in Boston, the pickings are slim. By contrast, the Times today picks out highlights of the evening in New York. Bernstein, Bargemusic, Brazilian Girls- I'd go broke before I got bored. (Too many Bs in one sentence)

Back to the bean, the big jazz clubs have gone either really smoothy (Earl Klugh), faux-funky (Chicken Slacks at Ryles) or bluesy (Sugar Ray and the Bluetones Big Band (?) at the Regattabar). I can't imagine a rock club that night.

And First Night, probably the best cultural NYE event in the country, is a little slim this year as well. Among the hundred or so events are the Boston Jazz Voices, an old fashioned jazz choir, and local straightahead stalwarts Rusty Scott and Yoron Israel.

On the bright side, Sessions Americana, a good roots band is on the menu, as is what's being billed "visceral electronic music" by Intrasitive Recordings at the Hynes. Could be interesting. Of course, there's also improv- comedy, juggling, theatre, and just about anything else you could think of.

So, barring any last minute calls, I've decided to ring in the New Year with, yoga. It seems right to end a very topsy-turvy year (to quote Peter Gabriel)right-side up, upside down.

(For those keeping score at home, all New Year's Eve/Year in Review posts will have actual lyrics from "Auld Lang Syne in the title" Full lyrics here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The hardest working man takes a vacation

RIP James Brown. With Jimi Hendrix, the most important pop musician (possibly musician) after 1965. A few years ago in amongst the trailers for a movie I was seeing was a BMW short, starring the then seventy-ish Godfather, where he makes a deal with the devil to be eternally young. Naturally, he cheats the devil, keeps his Soul, and is seen as a cackling twenty-five year old driving away in a (what else) BMW convertible. I think a lot of us thought this might actually be the way it would go down in real life. It would've been something else.

JB is mourned especially in Boston, oddly enough. As the Globe reported this morning, Brown went onstage at the Boston Garden the night MLK died, pleaded for calm, and performed for more than two hours. He was widely credited for preventing the kind of race riots many other cities saw. Farewell to one of the greats.

via Ryshpen- Questlove's thoughts

Friday, December 22, 2006

singing the unsung heroes

The Bad Plus has wrapped up their second invitational with answers from the great Billy Hart, and a nice recap. A few thoughts:

- I love the "underrated on your instrument" category, Django Bates' inside joke aside. A few names I didn't know, and many wonderful "oh, yeah!" moments. Notably, Fred Hersch highlights his teacher Art Lande, and absolute badass piano player, and a beautiful nut. I'm fortunate enough to know Art a little through my friend Khabu, and he is a great inspiration. (Must be something about Denver- Art, Ron Miles, Shane Endsley, Bhu, and many more- all great musicians and some of the most beautiful people I know) Fred, Michael Cain and countless others cite Art as an important teacher and influence.
I also wouldn't have equated Fred with Peter Gabriel's "Big Stuff".

- Count on Billy Hart to come up with two underrateds I've never heard of, so need to go hear now. I think many musicians would put Billy on their list- he deserves so much more credit than he gets.

- My list of hip-hop and world records just exploded. Again.

Finally, like so many others I am humbled and a bit confused to be named Time's "Person of the Year". (Actually, I'm confused most of the time, so I shouldn't blame a magazine for it.) All kidding aside, thus far this humble blog was originally devised as attempt to hold some sanity on Cruise Ship X. (which, by the way, was NOT a Celebrity Cruise ship, as has been reported. I'm trying to avoid alienating the cruise lines, on the ungodly chance that I need to work there again) It has morphed, obviously, into something quite different, and much better I think, and should only improve once I get off my ass and get my work on really happening. Thanks to Darcy for a great model, and to Dave Douglas, Ethan Iverson and TBP, Mwanji and many others for their support.

Side note- incidentally or not, S.R. Sidharth, better known as "the Macaca guy" and a featured webizen in the Time article was's Man of the Year. If you read the article, I'm also embarrassed to admit I recognize Tila Tequila from her, er, earlier incarnation. I most enjoyed the advice Mark Foley exposer (pun unintended, really) Lane Hudson gives: "Politicians have to start being themselves from the beginning, then they won't screw up so much." Good advice for everyone, I think.

Blogging will resume sometime next week, so I can take this time to do all the usual, delightful holiday stuff, notably see some relatives I've never met before, and to eat a lot. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday, and pray for peace. It's possible if we do.

P.S. I apologize for in advance to the Bloglines and other subscribers to my blog. I am in the process of updating all the Amazon links to take advantage of their affiliate program, so there will be a lot of false new posts over the next week. In the long run, this is a really good thing, that I should've done long ago.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back when there was some jazz in the Pazz and Jop poll

The Behearer nugget of the week comes from user WebsterHodges, who posted a summary of the 1990 Village Voice "Best of Decade Poll": I defer:

"The Jazz Critics’ Poll in the August 28, 1990 edition of the Village Voice was a wealth of information about jazz recordings of the 1980’s. Each of 33 critics was asked to name the ten best jazz albums recorded between 1/1/1980 and 12/31/1989.
It’s an indication of the diversity and richness of the jazz of the 80’s that only one recording appeared on as many as nine of the 33 lists: Revue by the World Saxophone Quartet."

read the rest here. It's a great post, and worthy of some more digging. Does some packrat still have a copy of the poll?

I know for me, in high school my bible for jazz was a list of the "great saxophonists" given by Steve Massey at a summer music camp. For that time (1991) it was remarkably thorough and diverse, including Bird, Ornette, Dolphy and Sanborn on alto, Bechet and Lacy on soprano, etc. (I'm pretty sure I would never have found the "Free Jazz" double quartet album otherwise.) In college I found a lot of "out" music through the Rochester Public Library, whose collection was nothing short of remarkable. The ways we find into our interests always fascinate me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

one more thin gypsy theif

This weekend found me writing Christmas cards, and trying to be cheerful about it. (If you didn't get one, I'm not done yet. If you still don't get one, don't worry I love you anyway) I mitigated the inevitable drudgery by catching up on some concert movies. (The Patriots winning big helped too.) The two on the hit parade so far were Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man and a Masada concert film from 1999. The fact that all this music has a very Jewish bent, and I'm a formerly good Catholic boy writing Christmas cards is not lost on me, but I don't know what it means.

More on Masada in a later post, but I highly recommend the Cohen video. Cohen himself only sings one song, "Tower of Song" backed by U2 of all people. Most of the music comes from a tribute concert featuring Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave and several others. Of note to jazz fans, Hal Wilner produced the concert, 3/4 of Sex Mob anchor the house band, and Kenny Wolleson is great.

I was introduced to Cohen by one of my favorite jazz pianists, a Cohen nut, and am a fan but not a very knowledgeable one. The music is for the most part quite good, and really lets his lyrics, the most remarkable part of his writing, shine. The best part of the video, however, is doubtless the interviews with Cohen himself. He is a warm, thoughtful man, and I feel like his ruminations on the creative process is must material for just about any artist. And his speaking voice is pretty killin' to boot.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Do the Math Invitational, part duex

Ethan and the gang over at The Bad Plus' Do the Math blog have had an interesting project this past couple of weeks, a survey of their friends about music and musicians. Of course when your friends include Tim Berne, Fred Hersch, Django Bates, etc, it's going to be a worthwhile read. They opened the floor, and since I'm always so short of opinions, I thought I'd jump in.

One caveat- as I'm sure it is with most people, this list is totally arbitrary and for the most part could be completely different if you asked me tomorrow. (B & C would be the same, for sure)

1. Movie score. Cinema Paradiso (the best of a certain breed)
2. TV theme. “Suicide is Painless” from M*A*S*H
3. Melody. This Is Always, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy”
4. Harmonic language. Claire Fisher, Bartok (esp. string quartets), James Carney's "Miracle Mile"
5. Rhythmic feel. Prince “Now” from the Gold Experience,
6. Hip-hop track. The Roots “Long Time”, Talib Kweli “Get By”
7. Classical piece. Bartok String Quartet #4, Morton Feldman “Rothko Chapel”, Bach Well-Tempered Clavier
8. Smash hit. The Police “Every Little Things She Does is Magic”
9. Jazz album. Wayne Shorter “Ju-Ju”
10. Non-American folkloric group.
11. Book on music. Toch “Shaping Forces in Music

A) Name an surprising album (or albums) you loved when you were developing as a musician: something that really informs your sound but that we would never guess in a million years: Tracy Chapman, “Crossroads”
B) Name a practitioner (or a few) who play your instrument that you think is underrated: Billy Drews, Dick Oatts, George Adams, Gary Bartz
C) Name a rock or pop album that you wish had been a smash commercial hit (but wasn’t, not really): Jennifer Kimball, “Veering From the Wave”
D) Name a favorite drummer, and an album to hear why you love that drummer: Joey Baron on Bill Frisell’s This Land, Michael B. on Prince’s “Rainbow Children” (skip straight to the last track)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

return to the workshop

Last night the New England Conservatory Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra, (that's a mouthful) the only school big band I know of devoted to playing only student composition, played it's first concert of the year. This band is close to my heart because I was a player and writer in it for two years, and helped run it the second year. The band, only seven years old has also been a springboard for some well regarded young writers, including Ayn Inserto, Rob Bauer, Camille Jentgen, and some guy named Darcy. It was an important concert for the band for two main reasons. One there were thirteen writers, a new record, and two, it was the first time the band played without the guidance of founder and mentor Bob Brookmeyer, who is on sabbatical. Frank Carlberg pinch hit.

Due to the sheer length of the concert, I only stayed for the first half (a mere eight tunes and 80 minutes), but I can safely say that it was the strongest, most consistent concert I've seen from the group. Of course I liked some things better than others, and there was no one piece that blew everybody's ears off as in years past, but all the pieces were solid, interesting compositions, well prepared and well performed. Anyone in a workshop situation knows this is nothing short of a miracle. (I'm loathe to talk too much about any one piece, since I wouldn't have wanted critics on me when I was a student.) There was a lot of stylistic variation as well, from more traditional big-bandy sounds to pieces that drew strongly on Ligeti, rock-steady and latin language. It's refreshing that while Maria Schneider is clearly still the strongest influence on many writers, she was not the only or even the overriding one at this show. Congratulations to Frank, my buddy and band coach Jeff Claasen, and the composers and players of the band. It's clearly in good hands.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

arch-viceroies of old media

Behearer hits the old media in the New York Times Wednesday, courtesy of Nate Chinen. Welcome to those of you who are here for the first time thanks to that article. I hope you keep coming. For those of you who missed it the first time:

The pre-Behearer version of the list
my first suggestions
Steve Smith's passionate plea for John Carter
Darcy and the boys over at D-out have taken care of business- see sidebar.
Talyor Ho Bynum recently wrote a long post about Bill Dixon records, which is worth reading.

I could go on, but better to move forward. Dave mentioned the 90's a while back. While I think it's far too early, I'm currently slogging through my record collection listening to music that has been collecting dust for far to long and reporting back. Much of it is from that 90-00 bracket, so hopefully that will illuminate, well, something.

(This post will be the top post for the week, to accomodate the folks who come from the NYT. Another good idea brought to you by the Secret Society.)

Wet behind the ears

Behearer is already paying the kind of dividends we (or at least I) was hoping for. I'm not able to keep up with everything, but this one caught my eye. (There's no real attribution for this post except KAJKfm. According to ontheradio, KAJK is a pop station in California. But I digress...)

"... I thought you might like to know the origin of the "Ear of the Behearer" album title. At the time the album was recorded, I was a recording engineer/producer working in classical and world music and my honey was Ed Michel, the fabuloso Impulse producer. Dewey's album was recorded in New York, but was mixed at Tom Hidley's legendary Westlake Audio in L.A. I was in the control room when the mix was completed and Ed, Dewey, the engineer and I listened to the final playback. As was his habit, Ed worked way into the wee hours of the morning, so by the time the playback was finished we had all been there for a very long time. It was so overwhelming to hear music in that room, one of the best mixing rooms ever designed, and Dewey's album had turned out so wonderfully, so it was truly, in the parlance of that day, mindblowing to experience that playback. We all sat there dumbstruck after it was over and eventually Ed said, "OK Dewey, what are you going to call the album?" Dewey had been thinking about it and remarked on the personal nature of perceiving beauty, and he said "If you're talking about paintings, you say 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', but what do you say if it's music? 'Beauty is in the..." "...Ear of the Behearer", said I, as the answer seemed obvious. Under the combined influence of sleep deprivation and our mutual ingestion of an impressive array of controlled and uncontrolled substances, we all took this to be a construction of singular brilliance, and dazzlingly apt. I have to admit that just about everything seemed singularly brilliant at that point, but you know how that goes. Anyway, Dewey really liked the idea and so he did in fact choose Ear of the Behearer as the album title.

I really miss Dewey, who I believe was way underrated his entire career. Though the circumstances of his life always seemed really difficult, somehow his playing was so incredibly UP. In that respect he reminds me of Cannonball, not because his playing sounds like Cannonball's, but because the attitude, the affect of his playing was always so incredibly positive, a kind of eternal Up Jump Spring in sound."

"Eternal 'Up Jumped Sprig'. Another great way to put it. Whoever wrote this, please e-mail me so I can attriblute properly. And THANKS!

P.S. I'm still working out all the particulars, but I'm hoping in early '07 to do a concert presentation of "Ear of the Behearer", hopefully in the newly renovated Lily Pad in Cambridge. The whole album is too much, so we may intersperse with some of my originals, or Old and New Dreams stuff. Stay tuned...

Friday, December 08, 2006

old lady awards

Edited 12/9, to add the arranging categories. Will try to make it neater soon)

Passing over the fact that the allegedly hippest award in entertainment sounds like me calling for my father's mother at age five, it's Grammy time again! What it says about the state of music today, didly squat. But for those keeping score at home, the "jazz" categories this year are:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album
The Hidden Land- Béla Fleck & The Flecktones[Columbia]
People People Music Music- Groove Collective[Savoy Jazz Worldwide]
Rewind That- Christian Scott[Concord Jazz]
Sexotica- Sex Mob[Thirsty Ear Recordings, Inc.]
Who Let The Cats Out?-Mike Stern[Heads Up]

Best Jazz Vocal Album
Footprints- Karrin Allyson[Concord Jazz]
Easy To Love- Roberta Gambarini[Groovin' High/Kindred Rhythm]
Live At Jazz Standard With Fred Hersch- Nancy King[Maxjazz]
From This Moment On- Diana Krall[Verve]
Turned To Blue- Nancy Wilson[MCG Jazz]

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (For an instrumental jazz solo performance. Two equal performers on one recording may be eligible as one entry. If the soloist listed appears on a recording billed to another artist, the latter's name is in parenthesis for identification. Singles or Tracks only.)
Some Skunk Funk- Michael Brecker, soloist Track from: Some Skunk Funk (Randy Brecker w/Michael Brecker)[Telarc Jazz/BHM]
Paq Man Paquito D'Rivera, soloistTrack from: From The Heart (Hilario Duran And His Latin Jazz Big Band)[Alma Records]
Freedom Jazz Dance Taylor Eigsti, soloist Track from: Lucky To Be Me[Concord Jazz]
Hippidy Hop (Drum Solo) Roy Haynes, soloist Track from: Whereas[Dreyfus Jazz]
Hope Branford Marsalis, soloist Track from: Braggtown[Marsalis Music/Rounder]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
Ornette Coleman- Sound Grammar [Sound Grammar]
The Ultimate Adventure Chick Corea[Stretch Records]
Trio Beyond — Saudades Jack DeJohnette, Larry Goldings & John Scofield[ECM]
Beyond The Wall Kenny Garrett[Nonesuch]
Sonny, Please Sonny Rollins[Doxy Records]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Some Skunk FunkRandy Brecker With Michael Brecker, Jim Beard, Will Lee, Peter Erskine, Marcio Doctor & Vince Mendoza conducting The WDR Big Band Köln[Telarc Jazz/BHM]
Spirit MusicBob Brookmeyer — New Art Orchestra [ArtistShare]
Streams Of Expression- Joe Lovano Ensemble [Blue Note Records]
Live In Tokyo At The Blue Note- Mingus Big Band [Sunnyside/Sue Mingus Music]
Up From The Skies — Music Of Jim McNeely- The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra [Planet Arts Recordings]

Best Latin Jazz Album (Vocal or Instrumental.)
CodesIgnacio Berroa[Blue Note Records]
Cubist MusicEdsel Gomez[Zoho]
SimpáticoThe Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project[ArtistShare]
Absolute QuintetDafnis Prieto[Zoho]
VivaDiego Urcola, Edward Simon, Avishai Cohen, Antonio Sanchez & Pernell Saturnino[CAM Jazz]


Best Instrumental Composition
(A Composer's Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.)

Taylor Eigsti, composer (Taylor Eigsti)
Track from: Lucky To Be Me
[Concord Jazz]

A Concerto In Swing
Patrick Williams, composer (The Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra & Big Band)
Track from: Elevation
[Concord Records]

A Prayer For Peace
John Williams, composer (John Williams)
Track from: Munich — Soundtrack
[Decca Records]

Sayuri's Theme And End Credits
John Williams, composer (John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma & Itzhak Perlman)
Track from: Memoirs Of A Geisha — Soundtrack
[Sony Classical]

Fred Hersch, composer (Fred Hersch)
Track from: In Amsterdam: Live At The Bimhuis
[Palmetto Records]

Best Instrumental Arrangement
(An Arranger's Award. (Artist names appear in parenthesis.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes
Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band)
Track from: The Phat Pack

Three Ghouls
Chick Corea, arranger (Chick Corea)
Track from: The Ultimate Adventure
[Stretch Records]

Three Women
Gil Goldstein, arranger (Gil Goldstein)
Track from: Under Rousseau's Moon
[Half Note]

Tom & Eddie
Patrick Williams, arranger (The Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra & Big Band)
Track from: Elevation
[Concord Records]

Up From The Skies
Jim McNeely, arranger (The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra)
Track from: Up From The Skies — Music Of Jim McNeely
[Planet Arts Recordings]

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
(An Arranger's Award. (Artist names appear in parenthesis.) Singles or Tracks only.)

For Once In My Life
Jorge Calandrelli, arranger (Tony Bennett & Stevie Wonder)
Track from: Duets: An American Classic
[RPM Records/Columbia]

Good Morning Heartache
Gil Goldstein & Greg Phillinganes, arrangers (Chris Botti & Jill Scott)
Track from: To Love Again — The Duets
[Columbia Records]

My Flame Burns Blue (Blood Count)
Vince Mendoza, arranger (Elvis Costello With The Metropole Orkest)
Track from: My Flame Burns Blue
[Deutsche Grammophon]

Slide Hampton, arranger (Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band)
Track from: Dizzy's Business
[MCG Jazz]

Gil Goldstein, arranger (Gil Goldstein)
Track from: Under Rousseau's Moon [Half Note]

taken from the Grammy site.

Congrats especially to Ornette (way past due) and Bob Brookmeyer, though I think both are at the point where voters feel compelled to nominate them if they put something out. (Don't get me wrong, both albums are excellent) To Sex Mob as well, the only useful entry in their category. And I love Fred Hersch's tune "Valentine", both the vocal recording with Norma Winstone and the nominated version. (Fred makes a cameo at Do the Math this week)

Who the hell is Taylor Eigsti? Two nominations??!! I know I'm not as well versed as I used to be, but damn...

I have no special beef with Mike Stern, and he's a helluva guitar player, but "Who Let the Cats Out" could well be the Worst. Album. Title. Ever.

My two cents- I'd say a better than average year for both the vocal category, even if we all know Diana Krall is going to win, and the instrumental album category as well. My heart and brain say Ornette, my gut says Chick... !~$#%@n popularity contests.

Current listening: "You Can't Have Everything" from Winter Truce (and Home Blazes)- Django Bates. Seemed appropu.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Crosstown traffic

First, housekeeping. I have (finally) added links to my first posting of the '73-'90 list and Behearer to the line on the left. I've also edited the list to add a couple of records we overlooked- Hemphill's Cool Bidness, and Bill Dixon's November 1981.

Tonight features a surfiet of improvised riches, not a given in Boston these days. Over in the people's republic of cambridge, the remarkable John Tchicai (pronounced, I think, ti- CHAI) is honored at the Longy School of Music, as part of the 10th anniversary of their Modern American Music program. The program also features Boston stalwart (and these days, criminally underrated saxophonist) Charlie Kohlhase and Longy students and faculty. The music will mix Tchicai's improvised music with more notated works.

Over at Jordan Hall, the New England Conservatory Big Band plays the music of Gil Evans. Knowing Ken Schaphorst, their director, it will be an interesting mix of the famous and less famous, vintage and later Gil. Since coming on board at NEC, Ken has done a yeoman's job with that band. I also think that big band is one place in jazz where a repitoiry band is a good idea- it's often hard to get a sense of the physical impact of the music from a recording, based on where people are, how the doublings of certain notes are physically positioned. With someone like Gil, who was so careful about everything, I expect to learn a lot. I've played some of this music, but never sat in the audience for it, so I'm looking forward to it.

Finally, the Boston Globe has a nice piece about "alternative classical concerts", concert music performed in non-concert venues. I read quite a lot of buzz about this in some of the classical and new music blogs elsewhere, but not surprisingly, Boston is a little behind the curve. (Actually, versions of this have been going on for several years now, so maybe just the media is behind the curve.) Again, I think those of us in the improvised music field have to think harder, and more creatively, about presentation. I do, just don't have many answers yet.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Behearer here! Finally.

Please go, browse, bark, bring it up to snuff. Several pieces of the puzzle, including my content, is still in process, but what we have is a great beginning. I'll be posting the Behearer content here as well.

Flux explodes out of the box

Kudos once again to Mr. Darcy James Argue, who was featured this week at New Music Box, and had his most recent gig with his Secret Society big band reviewed glowingly in the Grey Lady herself. As always, the performances are posted at his blog. I’ve known Darcy since our time together in Brookmeyer’s studio at NEC, and have always admired his work and valued his friendship and advice, and it’s always pleasing to see the good guys win one. (Less known but equally important, he also mixes some of the best drinks in Brooklyn.)

One great advantage of Darcy’s blog is the ability to hear the evolution of the music from gig to gig, something you don’t often get to hear even with a working big band. (It helps that he’s very articulate about his process, moreso than most) Most charts by someone like Bob or Maria Schneider get defined in most listeners heads by the recorded versions, and in a workshop band the listener (and the band) usually gets only one or two cracks at a piece in performance. Which is a shame, and not representative of a composer’s process; when charts get played often they breathe, grow, bitch, and are revised, reorchestrated, or flat out rewritten sometimes. Or different players give a piece a totally different feel- the Indian influences Richie Barshay brings to “Phobos” (the August hit) make it feel radically different from Kendrick Scott’s version last week.

For the record, I’m with Darcy on Ratliff’s take on “Flux in a Box”; I really like the alto solo. My beef- it’s waaaaay too fast for me- a lot of the really sharp lines that define the chart get lost. And one question I’ve always had- how does he determine what sounds the keyboard player uses, or does he? I know if I’m facing a venue where I know I don’t have a real piano (which is most), I always adjust so that the player is instructed to play a Rhodes or Wurly sound, or something else. I’ve never heard a piano patch that makes me happy, so I always work around it. On the plus side, to my ears the reading of “Transit” is the best to date in my book. What a bone solo. Kicks my ass to write more better.

In the news

The Boston Globe today put forward two articles too good to pass up for me:

"For Rick Looser, the last straw came on an airline flight a couple of years ago when a 12-year-old Connecticut boy sitting next to him asked, "Do you still see the KKK on the streets every day?"
That prompted the Mississippi advertising executive to spend his own money on a campaign to dispel Mississippi's image as a forlorn state of poor, illiterate, racist "good ole boys." (full article)

On the one hand, I admire this guy and his efforts. But in case we needed any reminding, Mississippi has the second highest rate of extreme poverty, the worst literacy rate and the highest infant mortality rate in the country. You can put a coat of paint on a trough, but that doesn't make it a townhouse. Maybe that money would be better spent advocating for a better Mississippi, not a glossier image. (Full disclosure: I misspelled Mississippi twice in writing those few paragraphs...)

On a more local, more relevant note, Berklee School of Music announced the beginnings of a big expansion plan in the Back Bay of Boston today. This is good news on several levels, though I imagine it will make Mass. Ave. a bigger mess than it already is. I have mixed feelings about elements of the Berklee education (did spend some time as a high schooler in programs there), but it is a vibrant place who has certainly outgrown its current digs. And I have no doubt that a new performance center would be fantastic, if the current one is any indication. However, I did a double-take on this one:

"Mainzer-Cohen (spokesperson for a neighborhood association) said she did not object to Berklee building dorms in the neighborhood because its students are more well behaved than many other colleges' students; Berklee students are usually busy practicing and composing and do not have much time to devote to partying."

She just doesn't go to the right parties...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Robert Altman

I am late to lament the loss of Robert Altman, one of the great directors certainly of my lifetime, and probably of all time. There are many great posts about him, and I don't know nearly as much as they do, but let me add the "Nashville" is one of my favorite films, and I think he more than any film figure resonates with me as an improviser. Part of my just wants to write the way he directs- big, messy, stepping on itself, and beautiful.

I just watched his adaptation of A Prarie Home Companion, his last effort. Not his best work, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. (I think how much you like it will hinge in large part on how much you like the radio show) I recommend it highly, though, because there is a director's commentary with he and Kevin Kline riffing for a hundred minutes. In between the usual inside jokes and raving about actors, there's a lot there about Altman's process, how he thought and how he created. And Kline is the perfect guide into his head- knowledgeable, intellegent, and sympathetic to Altman without being a doormat. Worth the watch, certainly. It's just sad that's the last we'll here of him,