Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Today was one of the rare days I actually got to see one of the Ear of the Behearer cabal in person; Dave Douglas is in town for a residency at NEC (see last post). He and I bumped into each other (almost literally) for a brief chat. We talked about how pleased we are at Behearer's liftoff, and bemoaned how little time we've had to give it. (His excuses, needless to say, are a little better than mine, putting out a 7-disc length live collection, running a record company and all...)

That said, since we haven't be able to, I'd like to once again put a call out to the blogging public to contribute to this ongoing project, particularly to the "discussion" pages. We'd love to see editorials, reviews, and (perhaps most of all) links to other resources about the albums, artists, and materials in question. With our web-guru Brett's guidance, I hope to have some stuff added to the "help" section to help this process along, but in the meantime a put a couple of skeletal pieces up as examples. (And 'cause I think the links are cooler 'dan s#@%.) If we had even that much for 50% of the albums, what an amazing step that would be, and imagine all the information accesible through this one spot. I will also be adding the first couple of "editorial" pieces by the end of February- we had to push the interviews back, but trust me, they're worth waiting for.

And more on Dave's workshop, well, as soon as I have time to write it...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Roses break through the frosty ground

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement. But after a couple of dead (and I do mean DEAD) months for jazz and improvised music in Boston, February is looking like the best month in recent memory. To wit, this Thursday Dave Douglas presents an evening of his music at New England Conservatory. Meanwhile, at the same time Jason Moran and Bandwagon make an appearance at the Regattabar. Dave will also be giving masterclasses at NEC on Tuesday and Wednesday at 1pm. I will hit tomorrow's workshop and report back. On Thursday, my plan is to catch as much of Dave as I can, then hit Bandwagon's second set.)

Oddly enough, February has been a good month in Boston for some reason. Offhand I can think of amazing February hits here by Myra Melford, McCoy Tyner, a Joe Lovano superband featuring Joey Baron, Billy Drews and Dave Douglas, Shirley Horn, and Freddie Hubbard. (Not in the same year, but still) I wouldn't think of it that way if I were a booker, so maybe it's better that I'm not...

Other highlights this February include Matt Wilson at Scullers, Nando Michelin trio featuring Rchie Barshay and old friend Sofia Kousovitsis at Ryles and Chris Potter's Underground and Danielo Perez' trio at the R-bar. Add the usual local hits at Wally's, Rutman's and the schools and there's a lot to hear. (Of course, between the school vacation and the lack of gigs, February is the month of the year when I'm most broke. Figures.) And in perhaps the best news of the month, the Lily Pad is on its way back to presenting music, and should be up and running by month's end. I am hoping to do a (belated) Behearer related hit there in March- stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Re: Person I Knew

For the first five years of my career (i.e. when I started gigging), random people, and some knowledgeable ones too, would come up to me and say something to the effect of "yeah, you sound good. Paul Desmond, man." And I would always smile and nod, but think to myself "WTF"? I don't think I sound a whole lot like Desmond. I like Paul Desmond a lot- he was the one good thing about the Brubeck quartet, and the record with Mulligan is really nice, but I never checked him out a whole lot, and certainly didn't model my playing after his. (For those who care, my models at that time were Kenny Garrett, Steve Coleman and Lovano and Coltrane to a lesser extent) But I guess, I was white and skinny (still am), and don't play with a traditionally "jazzy" sound (i.e. Cannonball or Bird), so that's what they heard.

So I guess I can sympathize with the rather testy reaction that Brad Mehldau recently gave to Downbeat about his connection to Evans. (The one where he said something to the effect of "I don't see what the big deal is about Bill Evans." The one that got Jack Reilly so worked into a tizzy Unfortunately, Downbeat just today removed that article's teaser from its website.) The article is in it's own way quite interesting, primarily but not exclusively a puff piece for the new Metheny/Meldhau recording. Though maybe not the way Downbeat intended. It has two theses- debunking the aforementioned Evans/Meldhau connection, and asserting that somehow Meldhau is the most influential jazz musician of his generation. Maybe I'll deal with that second issue when I tackle the duo record later (my early impression is largely positive).

I don't think Brad sounds a whole lot like Bill Evans, or at least, any more or less than most of his peers. On the other hand, he claims Monk as a primary influence, and I don't hear that especially obviously either. I do hear the influence of his teacher Fred Hersch (and by extension, his teacher Art Lande), whose debt to Evans is clear in his own music. Plus, he's white, he's classically trained, and his reach extends beyond the traditional cannon (or, at least, what it was when he hit the scene in the early '90s) so the Evans comparisons are inevitable, if perhaps not entirely fair. If asked, I would probably say to Brad what I'd say to Senor Reilly- get over it.

The second notion presented in the Downbeat article- the issue of Meldhau's influence, and perhaps of influence in general- is much more interesting. So that'll be next. I hope...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fish in a Barrell

The cup of hyperbole overfloweth this week on the jazzwideweb:

via (Mwanji) Jack Reilly's alter-ego sends an open letter to Downbeat objecting vociferously to this month's piece on Meldauh and his influence, because they don't like Bill Evans ENOUGH! I've only skimmed the piece, and like Giovanni I blanched on first glance. (And may well wretch at second glance, we'll see). But Jack, get over yourself. Neither Metheny nor Evans are any more or less great because Pat hasn't checked Bill out all that much.

That said, I think Evans has a very unusual place in the jazz pantheon, one I hope to talk about soon enough. (Every few months on the web there seems to be a Bill Evans dustup, so I may just have to wait a bit and let it come to me.) If anyone has links send 'em along and I'll post.

Some of my favorite blogging to come from the recent IAJE conference came from JBSpins, a politically conservative jazz writer and critic. Yup, there are some. I don't agree with him on either politics or music very often, but I thought his take on the Jazz and Politics panel, while a little too snarky, was a very useful critique.

But JB, c'mon (from an older post):

"It might be counter-intuitive to most jazz fans, but Republican administrations have been better for jazz. Under the Clinton administration, jazz was decidedly not a priority at the NEA. Now jazz is one of the agency’s showcase programs. As recently pointed out, every jazz musician awarded the Medal of Freedom received it from a Republican president. The decision in the James Newton-Beastie Boys case, the most troubling ruling for jazz artists, was handed down by a Clinton appointee."

He's said or intimated sever other times that jazz musicians would be better served if they voted Republican? Huh? JB, while I do appreciate the recognition and funding this administration is giving jazz (really, under this administration it is a slightly bigger piece of an ever- shrinking pie), grant funding is pretty low on the list of issues I, and I think most musicians of my ilk vote on. When it comes to what matters to my life- economic and tax justice, smarter and affordable health care, human services funding, sensible foreign policy, not sending my neighbors to die in ill-conceived wars of choice- explain to me why the hell I should vote Republican? I don't think I'll ever see it.

"Can Jazz Educate More Than Classical?", New Music Box asks. Not from articles like that- I don't follow at all. This is a big conversation that needs to be had- I'm not even sure that the strength of the IAJE is good for the music right now (will follow up, I promise). But this is not an especially good start.

Okay, I'm going to go hope the Patriots improve my mood, and blog accordingly later...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ron Carter Orgy

Harvard's radio station, WHRB, has entered it's annual Orgy season. (No, not that kind. Sick people...) To coincide with the school's pre-exam reading period, they program long elaborate retrospectives of a particular composer, player, or theme, from Mendhlesson to Bill Evans to Squarepusher. They are usually well organized and carefully researched, and certainly worth a listen. As I write this they are in the middle of their first of four mornings devoted to the music of Ron Carter, both as a sideman and a leader. (Current album- Nefertitti) They promise more of his own albums, as well as more Miles and some of the great and lesser known Blue Note recordings Ron anchored in the 60's. CORRECTION: Their schedule is here.

WHRB broadcasts at 95.3fm in the Boston area, and streams live online at WHRB.org. The remaining highlights include a "St. Louis Noise" orgy, and a west side blues orgy. And a VERY good month if you like Sibelius. The composer, not the notation program. Nuts for me- I don't like either...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Now you see it, now you don't- RIP Michael Brecker

(Blown up from yesterday's post)

Michael Brecker (NY Times obit here) has been sick for some time, but the last news I heard was optimistic, which makes this hurt even more. The Bad Plus has posted a tribute from Mark Turner, and Darcy blogs about tributes at the IAJE.

In addition to the music TBP mention, I would add as a favorite Brecker moment the drum duet with DeJohnette on the Michael Brecker Impulse album. A good, not great record, but that track is mind-boggling. And call me sappy, but my personal favorite Brecker is the solo on Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years". I don't care if it wasn't improvised; it was the perfect sound for that moment, which at his best is what Brecker, and any great improviser, is.

I personally am not a huge Brecker fan, though I've always admired him tremendously. When I was getting into jazz, Brecker was recording very glossy-sounding albums for GRP- not his finest hour, perhaps- that didn't resonate with me at all. And I saw him live once with the Brecker Brothers once in '90 or so. The gig was unbelieveably loud- three times too loud for the room- and most of the playing was flashy but pedestrian. Except for Michael Brecker; he was unbelievable- I've never before or since heard the sheer instrumental brilliance on the saxophone that Brecker could whip out of seemingly nowhere. I've just never seen anyone, anyone play more saxophone than Brecker. And he wasn't showy about it- that's just what he did. Even when I didn't love his music, I always admired and respected him, which I think most musicians do, and all should. (And I would echo Darcy and Mark- the more recent stuff he's been doing seems to be much more wide open, and the little bits of the Quindectet album I've heard is really, really good.

The tone of Mark Turner's comments points out that Brecker gets something of a bum wrap from the "jazz establishment". I think there are two chief complaints about Brecker, neither of which is really his fault. One is that he is the prototype of what Brookmeyer calls "the robo-tenor", this technical saxophone monster who plays with brilliant, usually very pentatonic technique but lacks any imagination. (Just to be clear, I've NEVER heard Bob say this about Brecker, just his imitators. Keep reading) Two, he made too much fluffy, pop music; he "sold out".

The first complaint is like blaming Monet for all the knockoff impressionist works in suburban houses. In the early 70's, several tenor players emerged- Brecker, Liebman, and Joe Farrell jump to mind- who were grappling with all of the harmonic innovations Coltrane presented. (Warning, gross overgeneralizations ahead) Brecker is famous for focusing on and to some degree systemizing Coltrane's exploration of pentatonic scales (five note patterns that can be superimposed in many different situations to sound more "inside" or "outside" the chords played behind the scale). This is very evident on the Brecker Brothers stuff, and on a lot of his solo albums as well. As Mark points out, Brecker could do damn near anything he wanted on the tenor- this system (if indeed he thought of it that way, I don't know) wasn't a crutch, but a tool for him. I have no doubt that he could have gone in a different direction, and out-bopped the best rebopper on the planet. But this is what he did do. A lot of young saxophonists in the 70's and 80's, egged on no doubt by jazz educators or theory books, imitated this part of Brecker et al, without either his mastery of musicianship. He somehow gets blamed in some circles for deep study and application, and innovation? Please...

As for the pop thing- I can't speak for every Brecker studio date, but i think about the music with Steely Dan, and Paul Simon, and Joni that I know. The music is never any less than good, and his playing is never any less than great. Since when is there anything wrong with that. Wouldn't you kill to hear Brecker on pop radio today? I know I would. Though at this point, I wish I could hear him again in any context.

Current Listening: Joni Mitchell, "Shadows and Light". Has anyone else ever notices the yodeling in the crowd at the end of "In France They Kiss..." I just did- pretty funny.

Update: Trumpeter Randy Sandke writes a moving tribute to Mike on Doug Ramsey's page. (via Mwanji)

Martin Luther King would be 78 today. This is what he said

From his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Oslo 1964:

"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love...

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

RIP Alice Coltrane

This is very sad news indeed. Alice Coltrane's passing is a shocker, to me at least. As Darcy mentioned, she leaves us during a prolific burst or work, and a reassessment of her legacy. I can't speak to her music at all, I plead ignorance. But her beautiful humanity is obvious in anyone who has met her son Ravi. I know Ravi casually, and he is a beautiful, grounded human being, carrying both the privlidges and burdens of his name with grace, warmth and dignity. I've heard him give his mother a lot of the credit for this. My heart goes out to Ravi and the Coltrane family.

Check out TBP and Destination Out for more on Alice's music.

Friday, January 12, 2007

downward drooping dog

Yesterday, Baron Baptiste quietly announced that he will close his yoga studio in Boston on January 24. There are signs up in the studio, but it is not on the website yet. The studios in Cambridge and Brookline will stay open, and I believe Brookline will expand its schedule.

I am currently an employee of Baptiste, which precludes me from commenting further at present, except to say that I am sad to see it close- there are a lot of wonderful people I've met through there, and as with any breathing community, there's an energy there that won't quite be duplicated elsewhere, an energy I like. On the bright side, this is a good impetus to expand my personal yoga practice, and take some classes with teachers in town who I hear great things about, but have never actually encountered. And, of course, I'll blog about it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

early reports

A few links to pass the time while I work on some longer posts.

Darcy is blogging this weekend from the IAJE conference in New York. I echo his sentiments on just ow big a deal this can be to young players- my first IAJE was also the Boston '94 hit, and I remember just how big and bold it felt, and strangely empowering. I've been thinking a lot about the conference in light of Nate Chinen's recent report in the Times, and a couple of other posts on the state of the industry. I was hoping to make it down there this weekend, partially to talk up Ran Blake's book, but we hit a snag in the layout process (surprise), so my time and money is better spent closer to home.

Destination Out has Air doing Jelly Roll. Great as usual.

The Times reports today that the legendary Broken Angel house, featured in Chapelle's concert movie last year (among other things), is going through some major changes. Next trip down I have to see it for myself- I used to stay not far from there with a friend, and never knew about it.

I am also going to beef up my own 2006 favorites list. Darcy, Mwanji, and several others all have rolled that particular ball in interesting directions.

Finally, after 5-plus years of diligent service, I am retiring my Mac Powerbook G4 in favor of a last year's MacBook. Advice on useful downloads, tricks, and pitfalls are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


No news here- President Wubba is going to announce his "new Iraq" strategy tomorrow, the lynchpin of which is a 20,000 troop surge. Despite the opposition of a majority of Americans, most of the Democratic party, and even the firebrand neocons (they like the idea, they just think he'll screw it up, as he's done with the rest of the war effort)

MoveOn is circulating an online petition asking Congress to stop this new effort by, well, not funding it. If you're a US citizen, please Click here to sign. A neighbor I grew up with just joined the Marines, and will no doubt head to Iraq- I want to see him home on leave, not attend his funeral.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dewey Redman Memorial Concert

Via TBP. Wish I could be there...

Dewey Redman Memorial Concert

Sunday, January 7, 2007 at 7:30pm at SAINT PETERS CHURCH
619 Lexington Avenue @ 54TH Street ~ 212 935 2200

Those scheduled to appear include:

Baikida Carroll, Cameron Brown, Charles Eubanks, Charlie Haden, Frank Kimbrough, Geri Allen, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, John Betsch, John Menegon, Joshua Redman, Judy Silvano, Leroy Jenkins, Mark Helias, Pheeroan AkLaff, Sheila Jordan, Ted Daniel, Ethan Iverson, Matt Wilson, etc.