Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wayning thoughts

(Note: I had a version of this post ready to go a couple of days after the concert, and my hard drive got wiped.  So, here is how I remember it, plus the lucky addition of a run-in I had with one of the band's members, the great Danielo Perez)

A night after Wayne Shorter celebrated his 75th birthday in New York, his great quartet played a packed house in Boston.  Both Dave Douglas and Ben Ratliff covered Wayne's Carnegie Hall hit beautifully, and I feel like I gave my best shot at a nuts and bolts review of this group at Newport this summer, so below are just a few thoughts I had at the show, and after.  

One thing that struck me this time around was how much better Patitucci sounds with this band than he did when they first started playing.  I remember several folks who saw them with me in '03 mentioning that no one, including John, was exactly clear on what his role was, because this band doesn't use a bass player in the conventional sense.  At this gig, he and Danielo especially were bouncing ideas off each other, moving back and forth.  Patitucci also bowed much more this last time, not just during "solos", creating a very broad thick texture for the others to paint on.  

The word I kept coming back to in listening to the band was "cinematic".  Ratliff in his review mentioned some of the tunes the band touched.  I felt like I recognized bits, and certainly heard when pieces of forms returned, but I couldn't name anything they played this time out specifically.  But I could easily imagine this music underneath a fight scene on film, or an earthquake, or a noir horror theme.  And I mean that literally- I don't know if the timing would work, but it felt as good for the movies as anything Danny Elfman does.  Wayne's love of movies is well known, and to me this band feels like it's able to bring that love to the fore, without ever quoting the "Superman" theme.  (as Wayne is wont to do)

Today I bumped into Danielo Perez at a local coffee shop as he was finishing business at New England Conservatory.  We chatted a little about the gig, and working with Wayne, and here is (not verbatim) what he has to say about it right now:  

"I don't know if I have words for it.  I feel like I've gotten more patient.  Like I'm uncovering something- rubbing and rubbing at it until it shines.  (puts his sleeve on his briefcase and rubs it in circles.)  I can't explain what it is I'm finding, but I think I understand now.  It's like I'm walking in several different dimensions at the same time, just with everything..."

I hope to see him again soon and try to pin him down, but for now I'll chew on that...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Gigs to see in December

You must see: Wayne Shorter Quartet at Berklee, this Wednesday, 12/3. (Guys, is $44 for the upper balcony really necessary? C'mon!) I bought my tickets on Friday, and it looked like it may sell out. I wrote about the quartet in my Newport blog- an absolute must see.

Otherwise, while January looks promising, December is a little slow. But the highlights:

12/3 "The Final Task" big band @ Lily Pad
12/4 Flatlands Collective @ Lily Pad
12/7 Allan Chase New Quartet @ Lily Pad
12/12 Karyn Allison @ Scullers
12/14 Mike Gamble @ Lily Pad

I have to say the Sunday nights Gil is putting together at the Lily Pad are definitely worth checking out- good house bands, and a lot of interesting guests.

12/31 First Night Boston features the Makada Project. And many other cool things.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette @ Symphony Hall 10/27/08

Walking into Symphony Hall, I was wondering what I could write about this concert. I've seen the Standards Trio multiple times, and they've always put on a brilliant, beautiful, and fairly predictable show. Lots of standards, at least one ten minute vamp at the end of a tune The inevitable tension of "Will Keith freak out at the audience?" Basically, every trio record ever recorded, plus a little drama. This has been the knock on Keith for years, especially among musicians. For his part, Keith insists, as he restated in concert notes distributed at the doors, that the point of the trio, even after 25 years, is that the vessel of the presentation is so much less important than the content.

He proved it tonight. Whether planned or not, the first set was mostly movie themes: "Green Dolphin Street" (people forget it was a movie, after all) "Someday My Prince Will Come", a beautiful dark ballad I didn't recognize, before moving to a blues. Keith opened the concert with a big, billowy piano introduction, almost Chopin-ish, before moving into a beautifully swung performance. The band took "Prince" at a really hard, medium-slow tempo, and for most of Keith's solo, Jack kept a 2-beat brush pattern going, and was dropping little bombs through his pattern, turning a cute waltz into a pretzel of a tune. The ballad (can anyone who was there help me with the name) was gorgeous, with the band using a much more elastic time sense than I'm used to. Keith would lead into the bridge with almost a pregnant pause, with everyone landing in the bridge literally seconds behind where you'd expect it. At times it reminded me of how the Motion trio plays ballads.

The second set started with another ballad I didn't recognize, before moving into "Innocence", a Keith original from the European quartet days, which really surprised me. Keith proceeded to tear it up, taking on of the most virtuosic solos I've ever heard from him or possibly anyone else, rolling in, around and through the changes at lightspeed. He further surprised with his first encore, taking "When I Fall in Love", the warhorse of warhorses for this group, from the usual reverence the trio shows it and swinging it really hard, with Keith almost not stopping his solo for Gary to come in, then coming back after the bass solo swinging even harder.

Keith himself even seemed surprised with how the night went, saying after Innocence- "I can't say anything about this group that matches what you just heard." I can say that to their usual brilliance, they added the element of surprise, something I hope they'll keep in the book.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Daily musings

Wow, it's been awhile since I did this...

- A last minute concert announcement: Judy Silvano performs tonight at Lily Pad with Joe Lovano and the Fringe. I reviewed a similar gig last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anytime you can see Garzone and Lovano on the same bill, and for only $10, how can you miss?

- I did get to most of the okayokay set last Thursday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The trio of Khabu, vocalist Kyoko Kitamura and woodwind freak Mike McGinnis rolled through a whimsical set of songs and improvisations, riffs on the Weekly World News, e.e. cummings, and original loops. Khabu is playing a lot more mandolin, in addition to his burning otherworldly electrics, which in a strange way grounds the proceedings. A lot of fun.

- Congratulations to Miguel Zinon on the announcement of his MacArthur fellowship, a truly remarkable event. Darcy opines about it. I'm still listening to some of Miguel's solo stuff- I'm not that farmiliar with them- thinking hard about this one and what it could mean. More soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ok, OK, Okay!

A last minute heads up- OkayOkay, featuring old friends and bandmates Mike McGinnis and Khabu, are making their only local appearance tonight at 10pm at the Lily Pad. Should be fantastic, so come out already...

More blogging tomorrow, finally, I promise!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Four Across tonight at Berklee

Last minute update- good friend and infrequent stagemate Carmen Staaf is part of a concert tonight at Berklee (the old Boylston street building) with Four Across, a great unit of former Seattlites. 7pm. Here's the myspace, go hit the gig.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Paul Motion Trio at the Vanguard 9/2/08

A trip to the Vanguard can feel a little like a pilgrimage- the place basically looks the same as it has for many years- only a few pictures on the wall seem to change. Everywhere there are references to all the amazing albums made there. It seems doubly so when the Motion/Frisell/Lovano trio play there. At this point, their two week run at the end of every summer is often their only one in the states, and over thirty years they have built a reputation as on of, if not the, best small group in jazz.

So when tenor saxophonist and longtime Motion collaborator Bill McHenry walked on the stage with his horn, it felt like going to a high Mass and seeing someone with a yamulkah on the altar. No explanation was ever given, and the band went through an hour of its typical music- several Motion originals recognizable from their albums, as well as "Good Morning Heartache", Body and Soul", and "Misterioso". But my concert companion and I were more than a little jarred by it. (I don't know if this was a one night thing; the Vanguard website still lists Lovano for the whole run)

The music, was needless to say, different. Both Motion and Frisell are angluar, even sometimes jagged players, and Lovano's big gruff sound and long, full twisty lines have always been a great counterbalance, connecting thread. McHenry has a slightly smaller, darker sound, and plays in short, jerky bursts more than lines, which gave the music a feeling of a lot of the same thing. Early in the set was very effective- it was obvious that everyone was listening tremendously hard, and the interplay and ideas kicking around were remarkable. And of course, Frisell and Motian are old hands, and can toss off brilliant music together in their sleep. But as the set went on Motion and Frisell seemed to move more towards how they would play if Lovano were there, and it left big holes in the music, all rough and no smooth. McHenry is a very, very good player, and to his credit I never once felt like I was listening to someone play like Lovano. And perhaps further into the run, they'll establish more common ground.

I'd be interested to hear who knows what, and if Lovano will be back for any of the run.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Upcoming yoga events in Boston

The yoga community in Boston, in my experience, is a wonderful group of people who have a tough time coordinating anything. As a result, there is a tremendous burst of yoga-related benefits and events in Boston these coming weeks. Many are worth checking, most haven't been well publicized. Here are highlights:

Wednesday YogaMonth, a national campaign, rolls into Boston. (An all day event on a Wednesday? Right as school starts? Who planned this puppy?) That said, there are several great teachers leading workshops, including the nationally renowned Timothy McCall M.D., and a concert with Donna de Lorey, who seems to have successfully translated some of Madonna's forays into yoga music into something a little more coherent and reverent.

Saturday Sept. 13- a fashion and photography show at the Intercontinental Hotel to benefit YogaHope. I will be playing with my trio at the reception. Despite rave reviews from all of our service partners and a lot of great recent press, YogaHope recently had to cut its Seattle programs due to lack of funding, so any help they can get is critical.

Sunday Sept. 21- Global Mala, a project Shiva Rea has been leading nationally, rolls into Boston. I am especially looking forward to the AcroJam in the afternoon.

October, date TBA- one of my first yoga teachers, Rebecca Pacheco, leads a benefit class for a charter school she works with in Boston. Details TBA.

November 16? (will confirm)- The annual 108 Sun Salutations to benefit YogaHope and Pathways to Wellness at SportsClub LA. Details and a link when I have it.

On a personal note, I will no longer be teaching on Thursday evenings in Brookline, and new classes and workshops will hopefully be added soon!

And like a Bolt I'm off

With the school year fast approaching, and the realization that I haven't left the state of Massachusetts all summer, I'm on the Boltbus down to NYC for a couple of days. The itinerary, beyond the usual seeacouplepeopleIain'tgottoinaminute (subject, of course, to radical change at any time) :

Music: Moition/Frisell/Lovano at the Vanguard tonight. (If you haven't seen them, drop what you're doing and go NOW. They're there for two weeks- no excuses.)

Tomorrow I'm going to try to hit the new LPR to see Nasheet Waits and the two trios he's involved in. Everything I see and here about the venue is so positive. (I thought about trying for the Zorn/Reed hit, but I dont' think I can handle that scene.)

Yoga: I hope to hit Yoga for the People and Big Apple Power Yoga, the new Baptiste affiliate in NYC.

On a totally unrelated note, it's the time of year where like so many other grunts, I put together my fantasy football team. I think I'm going to use the Facebook app this year, so if you're on facebook and want to form a league, let me know.

If you see me, please say hi. Suggestions are always welcome.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gigs to see- September edition

First, I realized that I've reviewed Bill Frisell more than any other artists here, so I'll spare you a blow-by-blow of his wonderful solo set last weekend. Suffice to say, it was great. I'm in a yoga teacher training all of next week, so here in advance is the good stuff on the schedule for September:

Every Wednesday at 10pm- Kaufman/Bergonzi/Gertz/Guerrero at Lily Pad

9/5 Mitch Marcus Group @ Lily Pad
9/9 Noah Preminger @ Scullers
9/10-11 Chris Potter @ Regattabar
9/11 Oregon @ Scullers
9/12-13 Danielo Perez @ Regattabar
9/12 Michael Bates and Outside Sources at Lily Pad
9/18-20 Dave Holland Sextet @ Regattabar
9/24-26 Saxophone Summitt (Lovano, Liebman, Coltrane) @ Regattabar

More as I find 'em...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Frisell is in Boston tonight!

A last minute add- the inimitable Bill Frisell will be performing tonight (solo, I assume, but I don't know) at the Cambridge Y with Daniel Bennett's band opening. And there are still tickets. I will be there, and will blog, but it's a great chance to see Frisell in a small venue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Newport Jazz Festival, Saturday 8/9, Fort Adams State Park

I haven’t been to the Newport Jazz Festival in more than fifeen years. I have lots of warm fuzzy memories from that weekend- it was the summer that the living members of Miles’ 60s band reunited to tour, Jack Dejohnette played a set with unannounced guest Bobby McFerrin, and so on. I also remember a small crowd- rain scared a lot of people away. So I was in no way prepared for my trip back today. I hope I don’t sound nostalgic or old fogey, but everything seemed much… bigger. More parking, longer walks from parking, a ginormous main stage, with big lights and video screens, and two side stages to boot, both just off the main entrance.

I got in just in time to see Brian Blade and Fellowship on the larger side stage. Blade was the second busiest man at the festival, leaving his band and immediately moving to the big stage to play with Wayne. (the busiest easily was Chris Potter, playing six sets with four bands this weekend, including a turn with Herbie on Sunday.) Fellowship (Blade, reedmen Myron Waldron and Melvin Butler, pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas on bass, and budding jazz god Kurt Rosenwinkle on guitar) is promoting its new album, seemingly forever after Perceptual, their second. I’ve never heard the band live, and liked but didn’t love that record, and have real reservations about both Waldon and Rosenwinkle, so I was very curious about what I’d hear.

I was floored. Blade writes big, open sweeping tunes for this band. The heads generally have very slow melodic rhythms, and the rhythm section always emphasizes big beats, so that even at very fast tempos it doesn’t feel fast. This gives most of the tunes a big, open, almost epic feeling, suggesting wide open spaces; comparisons to the Pat Metheny Group seem inevitable, and not at all bad, but Blades tunes feel somehow earthier, with more soulful (stylistically, that is). In most of the tunes, the blowing is very contained- one solo, usually less then 100 bars- and for the most part the soloists took the role of actors fleshing out roles in the music rather than showstoppers chewing up the scenery turns. Blade, true to form, set up a beautiful, light cushion for the tunes to glide on, dropping his occasional patented bomb for good measure. Blade’s feel was remarkable for how triplety it was. In a time where to my ears many drummers are playing a straighter, more even “swing” it really stood out, sounding very fresh and not at all anachronistic. (I could spend a week talking about what Blade was doing with the time, and maybe after I absorb the new album I will.) The feel gave the soloists huge room to play with, against, around the time, which all did in different ways.

One major complaint about the festival- while the three stages were a great chance to serve more people's tastes, could we be a little more careful about how you put things together? Is it absolutely necessary to have Wayne's band and the Iverson/Haden/Frisell trio running opposite each other? Likewise, Aretha and Lettuce at once? Why not program for contrast instead of stylistic redundancy? (Okay, that's not fair, but why not spread like acts out instead of concentrating them? Wouldn't that make more people happy? I for was was very pissed at having to choose between the two above, especially since Ethan is a friend and Wayne is, well, my hero. Not fair) Anyhow, I did hear a tune plus of the Iverson/Haden/Frisell trio. They opened with Charlie's gorgeous "First Song", and continued with "Sub-Conscious-Lee", which has been a mainstay of recent Frisell sets. I wasn't there enough to say much, except that I think I get completely why Charlie loves playing with Ethan. Haden is a natural romantic, as evidenced on the gorgeous "Nocturne" and the Quartet West music notably, and Ethan often approaches playing from the big-R Romantic point of view. He wears his deep study of European classical music on his sleeve in every solo, even in the wackiest Bad Plus moments, and that sensibility worked beautifully as a contrast to Charlie's spacious approach.

The Wayne Shorter Quartet (Wayne, Danielo Perez, John Patattuchi, Blade) is perhaps the most heralded band of the 21st century, and the most inscrutable. The play a mix of Wayne’s great old and new compositions, sort of; good luck finding more than four bars of a time of “Footprints” or “Mascalero”, or anything. (And new tunes, you're guess is as good as mine.) I saw this band six years ago in Boston, and was left frustrated- you could hear the potential, and obviously the talent, but it never seemed to quite gel. So several years and hundreds of gigs later, I was very curious to hear what was happening.

The answer was, a lot. I hit the set a little late, and it felt just like the '03 gig did- bursts of tremendous energy individually, but no coherence. As the set went on, though, the band connected in a series of patters, melodic, harmonic, rhythmic or all of the above, and the results were magical. Everything connected on a level that I've honestly never heard before. There was a spot where the band would play 4 bars, then lay out as Wayne carried forward whatever they just did, then they did it again. The compositions themselves were vintage Wayne- beautiful and singable and angular and thorny all at the same time.

I can safely say that that set was the first time in my life I've heard something that felt unbelievably new, and five years ahead of what anyone else is doing. Even when I could tell you exactly what was happening- Danielo was playing this, Wayne was here, Blade's beat was like so, etc., I still don't feel like I got what I was hearing. (And I can only imagine the bulk of the crowd, coming of a singer's smooth jazz set) I was talking to my dad, a jazz fan from the mid-fifties on today, about how jealous in a way I was of him- he heard Miles in the 60s and Ornette and Brookmeyer and Getz and whoever when they were still new and fresh and sometimes outlaw, being confused and amazed and threatened all at once. That set was the first time in my adult life that I've felt like that. I almost feel like no critical judgement of this band is fair, since we need five years to catch up with them. I'm excited to try. (I'm friendly with Danilo from my NEC days, and hope one of these days to pin him for ten minutes to talk about Wayne's music and band. If I do, I'll post it here.)

After Wayne's set I felt full, like I'd just eaten a huge gourmet meal. But in the interests of you dear readers (and justifying the $90 I'd paid to come) I popped across the lawn to see the quartet of Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Eric Harland, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The set was all band originals, some of which I recognized from albums, some I didn't. This set was jazz-nerd heaven; the tunes were generally twisty, clever and complicated, the playing fierce and athletic. I wrote about Dave and Chris in a duo awhile back, and there's little I can add except they both still play at that level. Harland, who I loved in the SFJazz Collective earlier this year, is a fantastic, ferocious drummer (and a good writer), and everything he played seemed to crackle.

Rubalcaba, however, was the highlight of the show for me. When he hit the scene as a Cuban wonderkind fifteen-plus years ago, he was a firestorm of virtuosity, and no one knew quite what else. (If you can find it, see Marcus Roberts' skewering of GR in a blindfold test at that time. I thought the critique was as usual over the top, but not entirely unfounded) Hearing him this weekend, the virtuosity is still obvious, but there was a warmth and grace to everything he played that softened and humanized even the most obtuse blowing. One hopes we see more of him in these parts in the near future.

Other notes from bits I caught:

- I heard a little of Chris Botti on my way to get food. The less I say about it, the better. But... Chris gave an effusive intro to his drummer Billy Kilson, comparing his musical personality to- Yo-Yo Ma! Chris, I like Billy a lot, and am glad he has that gig, but back off the hyperbole a little, please?

- Trumpeter Christian Scott, who closed the smallest stage, was recording his set for a CD/DVD connecting his Newport set to the great Miles set at Newport which happened 50 years ago. Gotta love record labels. Maybe for that reason I was ready to hate it. But I didn't- his sextet channeled Miles not sonically, but in their attempts to explore and stretch the music. The two tunes I heard were dense and crunchy and even noisy- the guitar player played with a tone that I think of as indie-rock, and the second tune would've been at home on a Tortoise album. (At least until the blowing started) I thought initially that Scott was overblowing, but he found a full clean sound by the second tune, and everyone in the band played well. Definitely the pleasant surprise of the day.

- Aretha Franklin put on a Vegas-y set with a union big band backing her. Her rhythm section and singers were tight, the band was not; there were a couple of moments that struck me as near train wrecks due to miscommunication. I stayed for the first four tunes- a Sly Stone medley (?!), "Natural Woman", an old school version of "Cherokee", and something I didn't know. The highlight was Cherokee- she used the long melody against the fast changes to swoop and float and sing her ass off. She still sounds as good as she ever has, but only in spurts; I fear her health is catching up with her. But 75% of Aretha is so much better than 200% of all her progeny.

The Globe's overview, which touches all the stuff I couldn't see, is here.

UPDATE: NPR recorded all of Sunday's concerts, and is streaming them online. Listen here. I haven't checked any of it yet, but soon...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There's grass on my mat...

A brief plug- for the next few weeks I will be teaching yoga outside on Wednesday evenings. The classes will be informal (I know), small (I think), and fun (for sure). The classes are donation based, and net proceeds will benefit YogaHope. Details are on my website. If you're in the area, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You may need a new mouthpiece

A late follow-up on the end of the IAJE as we know it- last month's Downbeat (with Return to Forever on the cover- yikes!) has a two page article that summarizes a lot of what kicked around the web, and adds some interesting info and interviews. Only half the article appears online, though the web version adds the details of the organizations financials from '00 to '06- it's worth the read, and then you can find out who won the Critics' Poll, yippee! I came away with two distinct lines of thought:

I have little doubt that the stronger state organizations will thrive (the New Jersey chapter posted its letter to membership online, and I have a feeling the sentiment there is shared by a lot of states.) And in talking to a couple of high school educators I work with, I don't see the collapse impacting work in the classroom in the short term. However, there are long term initiatives and programs that an organization like IAJE can create (think the "Jazz Month" it helped coordinate with the Smithsonian) that are for now abandoned. I see this more as an opportunity for new voices to come forward than as a great loss.

And while financial mismanagement lies at the heart of the IAJE's demise, the intellectual mismanagement of jazz education is an issue as well. (Darcy talks about this in his New Music Box piece, and in the follow up discussion on his blog.) I've already ranted on this enough, but if new music ensembles and new concert approaches can rise from conservatories to play Reich and Carter and student composers, I don't think it's too much to ask for the same from jazz programs...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

you'll have to bang your drum somewhere else

The sad thing is, I'm not even surprised at this anymore. If you're around Cambridge tomorrow, this is a worthy cause. And call Kennedy and Kerry as well. This is somehow making us safer? (via Jennifer Kimball)

Wednesday, 7/17, 8pm til...
Ryles, Inman Square

Benefit concert for Vicente Lebron,
a beloved local musician who was detained by Immigration and Naturalization Services (working under the auspices of Homeland Security) on his last trip through Logan airport in with the band he's played with for 10 yrs, the Either/Orchestra. His passport and green card were confiscated and after a hearing June 9 was incarcerated in the S. Bay Correctional center where he remains indefinitely. A native of the Dominican Republic and a great conga/timbales player, he's lived here for more than 30 years, has a wife, children and grandchildren all here in Cambridge. The proceeds will help with legal expenses...

featuring Orchestra Morphine, Club d'Elf, Gabrielle Agachiko, Russ Gershon's Mood Elevator and more....

full stories here in the Phoenix..

Lindsay notes
that the terror watch list is now at a million names, with no end in sight... I'm sure there are many Vincente Lopezes who may not have benefit of visible friends...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A festival of...

Since the festival scene in Boston isn't anything like what it used to be- no Globe Jazz Fest, no Phoenix produced concerts, and the Beantown fest is in May- I look south, to Newport, the great name in music festivals. And I have to say, this year's Newport Jazz Festival is really, really good. While I have no use for Chris Botti, and I look at Aretha these days with a mixture of anticipation and fear, I'm excited about just about every second act on the bill. As much as I would love to see Herbie and the Gauchos, at best I'll catch the Saturday show- I've seen Wayne's current quartet twice in its first year, and I'm really curious to see what a couple of years together has done.

If I were a folk fan, however, I can't imagine I'd be thrilled. Someone explain to me where the folk is in this year's Newport Folk Festival? In fact, while there are some cool names on the bill, Calexico notably, I'm having trouble figuring out what in the hell the festival is about.

I know that strict genre lines are way too arbitrary, and that marketing overrides all other factors in booking these days, but every time I look at that bill- Jimmy Buffett? Brian Wilson?? I just scratch my head. I'll be curious to hear the reports in August...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It ain't at Lincoln Center, yo

Fresh on the heels of the latest Shaq-Kobe feud, today (via Alex Ross) we find... a new music rap confrontation, courtesy of Hybrid Groove Project in Baltimore. Not quite as catchy as "Umbrella", but not bad either, and certainly funny if you know the in-jokes. Up here, I don't think Levine or Gil Rose are exactly quaking in their boots.

But why take shots at the new music groups, even in jest, and ignore those most ripe for smackdown, the composers? I've been out of the new music scene as a player for a few years now, but I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to smack a composer around a little bit, even (especially) some of the bigger names, for writing really dumb crap. (I still operate under the illusion that this is a family show, which makes it harder to be all gangsta.) What better venue than rap feuds?

"John Harbison/at it agin/ getting five commisions and then mailin' three in."

"And then there's P Glass/ your time has passed/ twenty years you pull the same three notes out your A&%."

(Just in case anyone wonders why I mostly do text settings of other people's poetry) Someone with more skills than me, please, bring it on!

I thought about including the jazz scene, but everyone's hurting right now, so I'm not sure feuds are the best idea. Plus, we all know what happened when Wynton rapped. (click on "Where Y'all At, if you must...)

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

To be funny means to watch carefully, and be able to articulate what you see. Carlin is one of the great models here, and so many of his skills are so sorely lacking in todays performers. I really think many musicians, especially improvisers, would be well advised to watch comics more carefully, to see how they time, what works, what doesn't. Painful as it was, watching bad comics on Cruise Ship X was a great teacher for me. Watching Carlin was an even better teacher, and a helluva a lot more fun. My favorite Carlin sketch of all time:

Stevie Wonder @ Comcast Center, Sunday 6/22

First of all, how the hell did this not get any press in Boston? (Okay, there was one puff piece in the Globe) It's Stevie Wonder, dammit, who last year, in the eyes of Boston's senior rock critic, "delivered one of the finest evenings of music this writer has had the pleasure to attend." Who's barely toured since I was ten. Who... anyway, had Darcy not blogged about it (great links here, btw), I would've missed it entirely. Thankfully, we braved the perils of Route 140 (Comcast is the old Great Woods, a nice facility with good sound and only one one lane road in and out. Sigh.) Here are the Globe and (crappy) Herald reviews.

There's not a ton I can add to Darcy's review- the show was only (only!) two hours and change, with any possibility for an encore stuffed by the obligatory guest singing radio contest winner. (who, thankfully, did NOT sing "I Just Called", opting for a somewhat frazzled medley of "Living for the City" and "Superstitious".) Stevie came out and chatted for a few minutes, mostly about the Celtics and their recent success. Stevie is a big Lakers fan, so this was very generous, or maybe just wise. The pacing of the show was also still a little ragged- after blowing the doors off at the beginning of the show, the middle sagged with too many ballads in a row- the bathroom lines suddenly got longer. At the end though, he lit the place on fire at the end with a run of "Superstitious", "Sir Duke", "I Wish" and "Do I Do". (I still can't get past the video for the last one.) And given how tight the band is now, the thought of what they'll sound like on the back end of this tour is pretty mind-blowing. The band, while seemingly bloated at thirteen players, never played like it- the balance, both in volume and density was mostly perfect.

Nitpicking- I could've used even more harmonica, especially after, on "Spain", Stevie blew everyone out of the water with his short harp solo. And I would've loved to see "As" and "Overjoyed" on the menu, but with a catalog as big as his, that's whining. If you can get to it, go now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Green and white and black all over

If you pay even the least amount of attention to sports this month, you'll know that my beloved Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship for the first time since I was 11. Yesterday I was in the neighborhood, so I walked down to the Public Library to catch the victory parade. And I have to admit, I choked up when the floats with Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett went by. It had nothing to do with the trophy (I think all the sports trophies are pretty gaudy) or the cheering.

This was the most diverse crowd for just about anything I've seen in Boston for a long time. Young, old, black (much more black than I'm used to), brown, yellow, white. I didn't read any reports of problems in the paper this morning, which matched my experience of a boisterous, but well-behaved crowd. For most cities, this may not seem like a big deal, but this is Boston, and the Celtics.

The last time the Celtics won, in '86, they were the whitest team in the NBA, already the blackest in sports, and there wasn't always that much love for the Celts in the black community here. Back then Bill Russell, the greatest Celtic and possibly the best big man ever, was a pariah in these parts for, among other things, his unflinching criticism of Boston for the way it treated him during and after his distinguished career, because he spoke his mind- and was usually right. (J.A. Adande wrote a good piece about the curious issue of the Cs and race earlier this year) Even in '02, the last time they were competitive, there was some ambivalence in the press and fandom- Paul Pierce was too much of a thug, Antione Walker was greedy and shortsighted on the court, etc. Which often were ways of saying "too black".

Not this time. The only peep you heard was about Jemele Hill, a national columnist for ESPN, writing that rooting for the Celtics was akin to rooting for Hitler, and being suspended for that idiocy. (The column, without that comment, is here) Back at home, though little white girls held up signs asking Rondo to marry them. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett grinned like little kids, going back and forth with anyone in the crowd who he could here.

As much of a sports nut as I can be, I know they don't matter that much, and a good year for the Cs doesn't mean somehow Boston has put history behind itself. But for that one afternoon, under a shower of green confetti, it was nice to witness the possibility.

Monday, June 02, 2008

'cause I missed you something fierce...

Blogging has been nonexistent lately, since in the past month I've taught my first to extended yoga workshops, hosted Johnny Carcrash (thanks to the folks who came, sound clips to come) and found a new apartment. Along with the usual nonsense. But, with the school year winding down and the summer music scene heating up (well, relatively), I'm hoping to get a little more blogging done.

I realize a lot of these are old news, but while I was out, here's what captured my attention in blogdonia. If you haven't looked, check it:

- Mike McGinnis wants to know about teaching improvised music. I want to write something substantial about this, since it's a question I ponder a lot teaching.
- Ethan Iverson hearts Lennie Tristano. Okay, it's a lot more complicated than that, and a great piece.
- Darcy examines fanservice. I was a comic book geek too at one point, but trying to read Grant Morrison's current epic Final Crisis I get nothing but pissed off at how clueless I am. I can't imagine what it's like for someone who's never read it. Also probably why I never dug Smalls all that much...
- D-Out on Power Tools. The picture made me think of Sean Bell. Damn...

More to come...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tales of Johnny Carcrash, Saturday, 5/10, 3pm @ Lily Pad

I'm thrilled to (finally) be performing with Hwaen Ch'uqi this weekend in our duo Johnny Carcrash, in a matinee show. A play on Jeff's (as I know Hwaen) name, Carcrash is an improvised duo that he and I have been doing for several years now. Jeff is a fascinating guy- a classical pianist originally from the Peruvian Amazon, an improviser in a genre where improvising is often a lost are, and a wonderfully nutty human being. We don't get to do this very often, so please come and check it out! One of our pieces is up on my myspace page- sound quality is not ideal, but I like the music. The details:

Tales of Johnny Carcrash
Pat Donaher, reeds, Hwaen Ch'uqi- piano

Saturday, May 10, 3pm
Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge Street, Inman Square
$10 suggested donation

Spread the word- hope to see you there!

Monday, April 28, 2008

We'll string a few tunes together and call it a show

Once again, it's Jazz Week in Boston! This is the second year in a row that JazzBoston, a new-ish local non-profit has taken the last week in April to highlight the local jazz scene. (I blogged about it at greater length last year.) It's funny, I just reread that post, and I could write the same post today- nothing has changed. The format has created allowed some cool things to happen; there seem to be more lectures and panel discussions this year, and the "big" concert does focus more on local acts, with poet Robert Pinsky headlining in a duo with Bob Moses. (I will be attending that gig, so if you see me say hi, or just don't throw things...)

I opted not to try to do something during Jazz Week this year- last year I felt like it was a fair bit of hassle without a lot of payoff. I do have some cool stuff coming in May- stay tuned.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Certain Trumpets- Ralph Alessi and Bill Frisell w/Ron Miles, 4/23/08

I am on the new BoltBus back to Boston after a couple of delightful, sunny days in New York. The highlight, musically, was bouncing across the Village to see two of my favorite trumpet players, Ralph Alessi with his band This Against That at the Jazz Gallery, and Ron Miles with the Bill Frisell Quintet at the Vanguard. Both shows were better than solid, both well attended, and they offered a remarkable study in contrasts.

Ralph is one of my most important teachers, ever, from our time together at Eastman, which makes reviewing him difficult. He is a remarkable trumpeter, combining brilliant acrobatic technique with a compact, focused sound and a focus that keeps even the most outrageous trumpet feats from feeling like showboating. Last night he was workshopping some new music before a trip to Europe. The band was fantastic- the rhythm section of Drew Gress and Mark Ferber was a great study in contrasts, with Ferber's stacatto, hyperactive snare offset by Drew's huge sound and thick, careful bottom-heavy playing. Ravi Coltrane, who I haven't heard in years, sounded fantastic; his technique, always solid, is approaching superhuman, and his attention to motif and development reflects his dad's passion without ever sounding derivative. The four tunes had an open unfinished feel that sometimes offered pleasant surprises, and sometimes made transitions feel too long and aimless. Ralph's tunes are twisty, abstract and prickly; they force the listeners to pry their way into the structure rather than revealing themselves. Even the catchiest of the tunes had a twisty 4-3-3-4 beat structure, simple and thorny all at once.

By contrast, the Frisell quintet (Bill, Ron Miles, Tony Scherr, Chris Cheek, and Rudy Roystein) put everything out on the table like a picnic lunch. The last couple of times I've seen Frisell he's eschewed the looping, feedback-y solo turns everyone associates with him for very clear statements of very clear heads, here a tune from Blues Dream who's name I've forgotten, a bebop blues, "Sub-Conscious-Lee" with a wonderful counterline, and a couple of old pop tunes I didn't recognize. Like Sonny Rollins' band, the quintet would play the head three or more times, drift into a solo, then play it again, rollicking through, everyone clearly enjoying it. Rudy Roystein, a Denver based drummer best known for his work on Ron's solo stuff, swung his tail off, simple and straightforward, light and clear while Tony Scherr provided his usual huge bottom of the band.

For me, the high point was Ron's playing. I am an unabashed fan from when I first heard him on Bill's quintet record, through his solo work (though the Stone/Blossom record was uneven). A friend who studied with him said he talks incessantly about clarity, and it's obvious in how he plays. It's clear hearing him that, like Ralph, he can do just about anything on the trumpet, but he is rarely elliptical, sometimes rolling a single motif through two or three choruses of a tune, just letting it swing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Better late than never part 1- The SFJazz Collective @ Berklee, March 2008

The SF Jazz Collective at the Berklee Performance Center: This group is a superband, a collection of all-star talent thrown together for a tour, seemingly a staple of jazz since the Hot Sevens. I was more curious than excited going into this gig- a group featuring Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Stefon Harris and Miguel Zenon, for starters, knowing full well that this level of talent, and egos, doesn't always translate into great music. But the creators of this project have a really smart model- they get the group together for two full weeks of rehearsal before hitting the road, and split the book between band member originals and music of one great jazz artist, this year Wayne Shorter.

The covers provide an anchor for both audience and artists (though some of the arrangements were pretty daring and not at all conventional). Dave's arrangement of Aung San Suu Kyi, a tune I've always loved, was a highlight. (Partially because, after years of trying, I finally figured out where the extra beat is) The originals highlighted the diversity of approaches of the group- the fairly straightahead blows offered by Renee Rosnes and Lovano, a clever, twisty Wayne-inspired Dave Douglas tune (too clever for its own good), an anthem offering electronic overdubs and an unbelievable Lovano solo from drummer Eric Harland, and thorny math-jazz from Robin Eubanks. At this particular show Zenon, playing to a hometown Berklee crowd, and Lovano were the highlights. Joe was clearly feeding off the energy of his bandmates and the audience, and put forth the best playing I've heard from him in ten years easy.

A Berklee honors band opened, a guitar/piano/bass/drums quartet, playing generic modern jazz in a pretty generic way. (Down to generic song titles- “Desire”, “Solace”, etc.) Good players, but a clear lack of vision in both writing and playing.

Is that what they teach you in school these days?

I'm sure many of you have read by now that the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) has effectively gone belly up, filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection. Darcy has a recap of the coverage, and Ryshpen followed up with a post that caught a lot of what I wanted to say. Last year I wrote a post called “Is the IAJE bad for jazz?” I guess we're going to find out. A few thoughts:

The letter former IAJE president sent out explaining the organization's moves this month describe a “perfect storm...” He forgets bad management, which several blogs pick up on. I would ask two more questions. Everyone seems to agree that the Toronto convention this year was “underattended”. Compared to what? If they were using their New York numbers (which is my nagging suspicion), of course they were! Having the conference in New York made it a must attend, because it boosted all of the programming across the city in the week around the festival. At both NYC conferences I was around there was amazing music well beyond the festival itself, in clubs and concert venues, because everyone knew that there would be so many people there to hear music, which created a positive feedback loop. I remember going to hear Matt Wilson at Detour on a festival week, and it was mobbed, and seemingly every hot player under 30 was sitting in. Only New York, or even a city near it (Philly, Hartford, maybe Boston) could make that happen. To expect any such scene to just spring up in Toronto, or most other cities (and I'm not knocking Toronto).

I think the festival has suffered as well from the lack of label support for artists. Darcy mentions all the acts he's seen at conferences- I remember Diana Krall's breakout performance in Atlanta. (I'm not saying I loved it, but I remember it. She brought the house down.) Part of the reason that happened is because I'm sure Impulse (her label at the time) was helping underwrite that gig and its promotion. Many of the evening showcases, and I'm sure smaller shows as well, were working in much the same way. And/or, the labels would use the festival to shop for new talent. Now that there are no labels per say, the conference automatically loses some of its momentum. (I've only heard about one musician at this last conference who had third party support to get their band up there, unless you count fundraising drives.) And while I didn't read the IAJE's glossy religiously, I've not seen any acknowledgement of this reality in the jazz ed community, save maybe in the occasional panel discussion. Like many institutions, the IAJE didn't see the ground shifting under it until the ground was all gone.

The good news is there are a lot more options for jazz education, both in terms of organizations and philosophies, than there were before the IAJE began this rapid ascent, and now even quicker downfall. While the North Texas model lives on at some universities, the music I hear coming from young conservatory players (and in Boston, you here a lot) is certainly more diverse and more interesting than it was 10 years ago. Not just students leaving NEC or Berklee, but folks when they first get to town. And you have more left of center organizations like SIM and Banff promoting new and interesting ways of thinking about jazz.

For some time I've liked the idea, which David and Darcy have been talking about, of trying to move a jazz ed convention to more resemble SXSW. I hope that the regional leadership (if these “regional conferences” come to pass) will really explore this model. Off the top of my head, why not try it next year in Hartford? You have a strong jazz school (Hartt) as a base, proximity to New York, a lot of great players and schools in a 200 mile radius, and a city that, needing any shot in the arm it can get, would probably be really helpful in putting it together. Name if after Jackie MacLean, the late godfather of the Hartford scene, and see what happens. Just a thought.

the music echoes... and echoes

I've been fortunate in the past month to be cultivating a bunch of exciting things, including (finally) my garden, but I'm afraid the blog has suffered as a result. I'll try to catch up this week on some of the stuff I've been seeing and hearing and thinking. Especially, the batch of stuff that has kept me so busy.

The Phoenix
, the local (well, now regional, with outposts in Providence and Portland ME) “alternative” paper, put out its “best of '08” list this week. I should know better at this point than to get worked up about this stuff, but... Scullers as the “Best Jazz Club”? Let's see, it's overpriced, the emphasis is on smooth jazz, it's always really cold in there, the sightlines are mediocre, and the sound is terrible seemingly no matter who I see there. (It's a function of the room- it's an L shape, with the stage at the bottom of the L near the bar, and every surface of the room is hard. Doing sound in there must be a nightmare.) Yes the view of the Charles River is fantastic, and at least once a month, they come through with a really cool show (in April it was the Bjorkestra, which of course I missed) And the picture in the Phoenix of Dominique Eade and Jeremy Udden is nice. But best of Boston? I'll throw it out to the hivemind- favorite place to see an act you like in Boston, if price is no object?

On the plus side, Baptiste Power Yoga, where I work and occasionally substitute teach, is listed as the “best place to get sweat on by strangers.” Thanks, I think...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Whisper Not

Benny Golson, who is best known for writing "Whisper Not" and "Killer Joe", as well as anchoring the Jazztet with Art Farmer in the '50s, is in Boston this week for a residency at Harvard. He gives a talk at 4pm on Thursday about his career, and plays with Mulgrew Miller and the Harvard Jazz Band on Friday night. The Globe has the details. Like every jazz nerd, I grew up playing Killer Joe, which I resented, and Whisper Not, which I loved. ("Along Came Betty" is on my list of hard tunes to get to, with "Con Alma" and "26-2", one of those high temples of math-jazz.)

Benny came to Eastman when I was a student there- I remember him as a very warm guy. His playing is not what it used to be- I heard he has some face issues (literally), and I know he's changed his setup from back in the day. But I'm sure Mulgrew show up big, and the Thursday talk should be really interesting.

Other keepers this week: Carla Bley and Steve Swallow play Wednesday at Scullers, Bob Brookmeyer gives a lecture at NEC on Wednesday at 1, then conducts his "Spirit Music" on Thursday night.

Monday, March 31, 2008

I'll snicker while you preen

I've got a couple of (late) reviews in the hopper, but in the meantime, here are some links:

First, a new link. Rebecca Pacheco, a friend and one of my early yoga teacher, has started a blog, OmGal, with lots of good yoga info.

Darcy gets all irrational. I mentioned it in the comments, but it feels like we're reaching a point in improvised music where the notation is not keeping up with the expression, especially in communicating 3:4 and 4:3 relationships. (See Maria Schnieder, Kenny Garrett, Lovano, and so many others) I like the fairly elegant solution he reaches.

Byron Katie tells her daughter about her day. This woman continues to blow my mind.

Quite awhile ago I linked to a rather lopsided tenor summit of Scott Hamilton and Wayne Shorter. But this blows it out of the water- Luciano Pavarotti and... Bryan Adams. Even ten years past his A-game, Pavarotti giggles, then wipes the floor with Mr. "Everything I Do". (via the Sports Guy) I should mention a personal animus here- I had to play a bad medley of "Everything I do..." and "All for Love" four times a week for several months on Cruise Ship X. But even if I thought he was godly, he is awesomely bad here, and he realizes it too late. (Of course, there's a link from that page of Adams, Pavarotti and Andreas Botticelli singing "All for Love", which is an embarrassment to all involved. I'll never understand...)

Nate Chinen reviews Ornette in New York. What are the odds of him ever hitting Boston again?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

now I really can't throw any curveballs

I am nursing my first ever yoga injury, a sprained right wrist which, among other joys, limits me to one-handed typing. Blogging is now even more awkward than usual, and will resume soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

these people are a part of me

In my freshman year at Eastman, I became a member of Corpus Christi Church on East Main Street, now known as the Spiritus Christi community. It was a open, very progressive Catholic church, (Yes, I know that that seems like a contradiction in terms to many folks) who tithed more than 10% of its weekly collection to local and national charities, who had a woman deacon (!), a large gay ministry, and a policy that communion was open to all, no questions, no judgements. (Any Catholics reading this know how far left that is, especially in 1993.) There were things about Corpus that I found downright strange, or corny, or abrasive some times, but the remarkable feeling of community I found, both with others in the parish and in the “union with Christ” sense that churches love to talk about but rarely live up to, is one I've never quite matched before or since. While I no longer call myself Catholic, in large part because of how my community was basically told to leave the Roman Catholic Church, that place is a huge part of my spiritual formation, and informs my goals and behaviors as an artist and teacher in ways I rarely think about, but always know. (A decent wiki entry about Corpus/Spiritus is here)

I bring this up in chewing on Barack Obama's monumental, much talked about speech yesterday. (I swear at the gym I teach at this morning that even ESPN and the Cartoon Network had Obama coverage.) For what it's worth, I thought it was a remarkable piece of rhetoric, for it's language, it's thoughtfulness, and the fact that he didn't really take the easy way out. I had other reactions that are better articulated by others:

Matana's reaction resonated with me tremendously- go read it. It's ridiculous and shameful that he had to give this speech in the first place (but God did he have to). I'm never asked to explain my Irish-ness, nor was John Kerry, nor Lieberman his Jewish-ness, nor Hillary or McCain explain their whiteness, ethnic or otherwise, but somehow every black person in the public square, scholar, artist, athlete, politician should somehow have to articulate, no, justify their blackness? That double standard is absurd on its face, but is taken for granted in American public life- huh?

The best political calculus I read was Glen Greenwald's- I think he analyzes it with a very clear head. (Which given how little I've thought of his last two weeks of posts, particularly about Spitzer, surprised me) From a tactical point of view, I think the best thing Obama supporters can do, (and Democrats in general, since Hillary can use this tactic if she wins) is to hammer at the double standard being presented between Obama's distancing himself from Rev. Wright, and John McCain's embrace of the far more toxic Rev. John Hagee. (I wrote a brief letter to the editor of the Globe today making this point about their token conservative Jeff Jacoby's shallow bromide about the speech this morning. Let's see if it gets published...) Greenwald gets into it more in a previous post well worth reading.

But getting back to Corpus Christi, people are in all kinds of communities for all kinds of reasons, and if you haven't belonged to a non-mainstream, open church, it can be hard to see the allure. Or why you'd stay even with a preacher who's up there yelling crazy things sometimes. But I firmly believe that the early Christian church, which most evangelicals give lip service to without having a bleepin' clue what that kind of community involves, looks a whole lot more like Spiritus Christi, or Reverend White's church in Chicago than it does Reverand Hagee's. And I'll throw my lot in with someone from that church every day of the week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

RIP Dennis Irwin

The bassist is always the "musician's musician", and Dennis was that and a lot more. I remember seeing him with Scofield in the early 90s, and while fireworks went off everywhere in that band, he kept the ground soft for landing. Ethan's tribute is wonderful.

The Times obit is here. As I mentioned before in a post about Dennis and Andrew D'Angelo, in addition to supporting the worthy work for uninsured musicians Dennis' illness kickstarted, perhaps the best thing we can do is foment the real change we need so that everyone can get access to quality health care in this country.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

my shamrock falls on 2 and 4

March is looking like a good month for acts passing through Boston. My picks:

Best bets: 3/7- SFJazz Collective, Berklee Performance Center
3/27-29- Bill Frisell 858 Quartet, Regattabar

3/5 John Pattituci, Regattabar
3/13-14- Kurt Rosenwinkle Group, Regattabar
3/14-3/15- Elian Elias, Scullers
3/16- Metheny/McBride/Sanchez, Somerville Theatre
3/20- David Torn & Prezenz (w/Tim Berne, Craig Taborn), Reggatabar
3/20- Insight, Ryles
3/21-22- Kenny Barron, Regattabar
3/25- Aruan Ortiz w/Greg Osby
3/25- Dave Holland with Robin Eubanks, New England Conservatory
3/28- Leo Genovese, Ryles

More to come- please let me know what I missed.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Intergalactic, academic

This is a good month for improvised music in Boston. Full rundown coming, but first, this evening New England Conservatory is presenting a concert of the music of Sun Ra, led by Allan Chase, great saxophonist, teacher, and one of the world's foremost authorities on Ra's music. (Well, who hasn't played with him) It's at 8pm in the St. Botolph building, for free. Highly recommended.

P.S. I know blogging has been slow lately, for reasons I'm hoping to detail soon, all good things. But I'm hoping to pick things up shortly...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Doctor doctor

First, thanks much to the folks that came out on Saturday night. It was fun to visit, or revisit in some cases, so many cool tunes. And even some less cool tunes. Sadly, there weren't enough of us to send a big check Andrew D'Angelo's way, but every bit helps I suppose. To that end, Nate Chinen wrote a piece for the Times that we all hope will help, Darcy commented, then reviewed the Tea Lounge benefit in Brooklyn, and Andrew continues to blog about his progress. For those of you have never heard Andrew play, there is a straight line from the way he writes to the way he plays, no question.

I've been thinking about health care a fair bit lately, even before the situations with Dennis Irwin and Andrew surface. You see, for the non-Bostonians, I am one of about 40,000 guinea pigs in Massachusetts great experiment in mandatory health care. I was compelled by the state to buy health care, at a prorated monthly fee based on my tax return income. My plan starts this month. On paper, at least, it's a good deal- I pay less than $40 per month in premiums, the co-pays are in line with the going rate, and I badly need health insurance. My plan kicks in March first, so I have no idea what will actually happen when I need services- stay tuned.

That said, while I'm grateful, I'm also equally skeptical that this can work. For one, even before this law went into effect, primary care physicians (PCPs) were in short supply in this area. My roommate, who has Blue Cross, was told last week the next time his doctor could see him was August(!) To my knowledge, nothing in the law addresses that. Second, the state is already projecting billions of additional costs in the next few years, with no idea of how to pay for it. It's my (limited) understanding that both the Obama and Clinton plans are similar to the Massachusetts law. While I think it will make some things better, get ready for the same problems.

Second, I don't see anything, at least in my coverage, that adequately addresses diet and lifestyle issues, which are the two biggest factors in most common American maladies. Of course, that would mean taking on the food industry, and what are the odds of that...

Honestly, I don't see any way we really "solve" health care in this country without a national single-payer system. Sure it'll ration care, but what do you call what we have now? And more importantly, talk to anyone working in the system (I was a secretary at a hospital in one of my many day jobs). Medicare covers more, and hassles less, than any private insurer, with about one eighth of the overhead costs. (I need sources) So explain again why private is so much better???

Thursday, February 21, 2008

my jukebox still only costs a nickel

I wanted to put out one more last-minute call for one or two more pop chestnuts to mutilate, er, cover on my gig Saturday night. I'm honestly flummoxed. I'm looking for something, well, overplayed and despised that we can knock around some, a la TBP doing "Chariots" or Frisell doing "Live to Tell". (And I know, I know, Ethan didn't mean it that way.) So far, the plan is to do some Beatles and Beach Boys tunes I've player before with Ooomph, my friend Jeremy Udden's great reworking of "Eternal Flame", and new reworkings of stuff by Feist and Journey. What else fits...

On a more serious note, a portion of the proceeds from the gig (and please god there will be some) will go directly to the fund for Andrew D'Angelo, the great NYC musicians who is fighting a rare form of brain cancer. If you can't come, please consider contributing via Andrew's website. He is an amazing musician and a true original (see Ethan's wonderful tribute), and we need him here for awhile longer...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pat Donaher Sells Out! This Saturday at the Lily Pad

Sell*out- Informal. a person who compromises his or her personal values, integrity, talent, or the like, for money or personal advancement. (from

That's right, despite six years of conservatory training, many hours spent playing Bach suites and Hanon exercises, years of playing very strange noises in artistic, underground hipster venues, it's come down to the Bangles. And Journey. And (gasp) maybe even the Monkees. I'll be pandering to the masses with these chestnuts this Saturday night in Cambridge. For a mere $10, you can be part of the debasement...

I'm kidding, of course; this was going to be a Johnny Carcrash gig, but we had to push that back due to scheduling constraints, so I thought it'd be fun to do something a little less intense and compositional than my last few outings. And I needed an adversising gimmick. As I've said before, I'm totally down with covering pop tunes, and at this point one could argue that the Beatles, who we'll also cover, are well ensconsed in the jazz songbook. But the band is happening, and I hope you'll check out all the merriment.

Pat Donaher Quartet
featuring Kai Ando and Jakub Rojek
Saturday, Feb, 23, 7:30pm
Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge Street
$10 cover

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tea Leaf Prophecies

After last year's debacle, I didn't stay up for the Grammys this year, so I have to admit I was a little surprised when I picked up the paper this morning and saw that the big winner last night was... Herbie Hancock. Herbie?? Anyone else know what to make of that? As the times article mentions, Herbie has won ten of them, since the Grammys seem to favor known, famous commodities over quality, though Herbie certainly offers both. And he has contributed two of my fonder Grammy moments, this really swinging bit with Natalie Cole (this was recorded just days after Tony Williams died, which apparently lent some extra push to the performance), the famous Rockit blowout. and the hilarious '85 synth medley (see Thomas Dolby's amazing post on the event.)

I've stated my skepticism of award shows, and the Grammys in particular, in these pages before, and it's rare when I'm willing to tag any record, no matter how much I like it, the "best of the year". (Note also that my most of my jazz category picks, made with no lack of cynicism, came to pass.) But what I've seen of the show, and the coverage it's getting, seems to confirm what we already know- the industry proper, even more than the rest of us, is confused as hell about how to address the changing marketplace, the "long tail" and the opportunities and challenges presented by the digital world. If you had any doubt, read the transcript of the Grammy's president. You decide to fight hard to ensure proper renumeration for traditional radio play... a piece of the economic pie which shrinks more and means less each year. You promote the grand future by... playing an Oscar Peterson tune. Way to go guys.

I did catch up with a few of the performances online, and was pleasantly surprised. I'm not exactly a fan, but Amy Weinhouse put on a monster mini-set, as did Kayne- it's unusual for me to react when a performer's charisma jumps off the screen, but his sure did. And Feist's performance, half solo, half with (somewhat half-assed) brass band was pretty happening- reminded me of Darcy's review of her set this summer, which sums it up nicely.

Look at the Globe's photo montage, with all it's diversity, and tell me how many artists, or even categories, you recognize. After the first twenty or so, save Blanchard and The Shins, I'm clueless, and I like to think I keep up. I have no idea what it all means, except maybe that the Grammys grow less relevant with each passing year.

UPDATE: read Ben Ratliff's astute take on Herbie's victory. His article from a few years back on the Diana Krall phenomenon is worth reviewing as well. And David Ryshpen as well.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes we can

Okay, just disregard most of that last post... (coughs and looks at floor) Maybe us Bostonians were due for some come-uppance.

Yesterday as I was coming home from teaching, I passed through Coolidge Corner to be met by sign-wavers from Clinton and Obama. To me, this is remarkable- this is the first time in my lifetime that Massachusetts has mattered in a presidential campaign. We've voted for the Democrat every time except '84 by large margins, and the primaries have always been too late to mean much. Not this year, so go take advantage.

Some of you have seen this video making the rounds. Barack's my guy this time too. I have real questions about Obama- in Massachusetts we've seen the hot glow of Gov. Deval Patrick's rhetoric has been extinguished by the cold realities of governing, (And a few boneheaded decisions at the outset, not the least of which was trying to take us headlong into the casino business) and while that may not be a fair comparison, it sticks in my brain. But he has captivated the American imagination, particularly that of young people, in a way that I've never seen, and offers us an opportunity to put new face forward that the world can embrace more readily.

While I'm not convinced that he can deliver, I know Hillary will deliver the same tone and harshness of politics that we've seen for the past 15 years, and I believe is much more vulnerable to McCain in the generals for just that reason. I want change, and believe in the power of hope. So I'll vote Obama tomorrow, and hope you consider it. (But for god's sake, vote! It really matters this time)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Links for groundhogs, goalposts and other creatures

Nate Chinen reviewed Trio M at Hotel Kitano in New York. A different, but equally positive take on the band to my reactions.

Ethan Iverson scores again with a parsing of Oscar Peterson and his notable critics. My reaction to come. And staying in the family, Ethan's fantastic wife Sarah reposts her amazing essay about vacuum cleaners and loss.

One concert note, my friends Prana Trio will play the Lily Pad tomorrow night. I would be there, but I'm afraid I'm a homer, and there's this little football game. But if that doesn't interest you in the least, go check 'em.

One note on that game. There has been a lot of blowback this week in the papers against the Pats, which I understand. It's hard to like a juggernaut for very long, especially one whose boss sometimes resembles a cross between a poorly dressed Dr. Frankenstien and a football Grinch who may have used, er, less then ethical scouting tactics. But those of us who live here are still pinching ourselves. My first football memory is watching an horribly inept Patriots squad on television give up a game winning pass to Buffalo (1979? 1981? someone help me here). We had three defensive backs in the area, they had one receiver- guess who caught the pass? That pretty much set up the football of my youth. I also remember losing to Tampa Bay back when they were god awful, and had lame pastel orange uniforms to boot. Likewise, my first baseball memories are 1.) seeing Dwight Evans on TV getting hit in the face with a beer while trying to catch a fly ball in Yankee Stadium, and 2.) having to leave my first ever game at Fenway Park because my grandfather had broken his hip. Paged over the stadium PA and everything. I'm not making this up. So forgive me and me ilk for reveling in our good fortune. And enjoy the game!

(Shakes head in disbelief that someone actually put up a Dewey Evans page on Wikepedia...)

Current listening: Bobby McFerrin, Medicine Music. Was reminded of this album recently, so I went out and finally got it on CD. (I had it on cassette 15 years ago.) Am I the only one that thinks that McFerrin is criminally underrated, partially due to his pop success?

UPDATE: One of the few bright spots of the aforementioned Pats from my youth, the amazing linebacker Andrew Tippett, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame today. That makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trio M @ Brookline High School

Myra Melford, Matt Wilson and Mark Dresser are three tremendously accomplished musicians, recording artists, grant winners, etc. who I've admired on record for years, and seen play before in much bigger or trendier venues. So it was a little jarring at first to walk into a little workshop room in a high school, replete with silly high school in-jokes and pictures of teenage big bands on the wall, and 2-Liters of soda in the hallway and be greeted (I was late) by Myra's swirling cluster lines and the sound of Matt's drums. Wilson said towards the end that this gig was a somewhat last-minute, and I guess there was a perfomance/workshop session with the high school jazz ensemble beforehand.

Another jarring thing walking in was how quiet this band was. I've never taken enough note of Mark Dresser's playing, but Matt and Myra have always struck me both live and on record as big, brawny players. (Anyone who saw Matt's wacky quartet at the old Detour can back me here) Matt played primarily with brushes and "swizzle sticks", and while Myra was certainly aggressive, she didn't pound the piano the way I've seen her do in the past. (The rather quiet sound system probably contributed to this too. And Matt did wear a really, really loud orange shirt.) The quietness of the quartet highlighted the equality of voices in the trio- through the first tune I heard, there was a level interplay between Mark and Myra, no solo and accompaniment, but a two voice conversation.

With the exception of "Be Melting Snow", a tune I know from a Same River Twice album, the tunes were simple on the surface, with striaghtforward melodic lines and gospel-ly, traidic harmonies. The last tune, "Freakonomics", even had a quasi- calypso 3/2 groove. "Snow" was more twisty, starting with out of time bass/piano unisons and spreading out into bigger harmonies from there. At the end of the tune, a thorny 8 beat groove served to punctuate everything that preceded it.

Myra's improvising continues to fascinate me. When she plays she hunches her shoulders and wrinkles her face like she's writing at an old typewriter. Her lines alternate between clear single-note melodies and these clustery, whirling lines. It's not simply gestural- there's a direction and shape to the lines, but the individual notes serve the color first and the harmony a distant second. It reminds me a little of shape note singing, or what it might sound like on the piano.

Trio M's tour continues in New York and points west- details on Myra's Myspace page.

Tickets for this concert were provided by DL Media.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Music to see this week

Updated 1/28

Monday night- Happy Apple feat. Dave King at the Lily Pad. Hoping to make it.
- also, Bob Moses with his guru for his 60th birthday at Jordan Hall. (Globe article here. Note how the ole Pheonix mess pops up here even 7 years later. And he says he was "speaking from love"... Uh-huh)

Tuesday- gig o'the week. Trio M, with Myra Melford, Matt Wilson and Mark Dresser will play at Brookline High School, 8pm. Myra comes through Boston once a year at best, so be sure to check it.

Of more interest to me at NEC, over the next few weeks the Piano department will be playing and talking about lots of Messien. I'm hoping to make some of it.

Finally, at some point very soon I think Myra Melford is giving a workshop in town- details when I have them.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dennis Irwin benefit

I'm sure many of you have or will see this today, but just in case, here it is. I remember Irwin fondly from hearing him with Scofield's great 90s quartet with Lovano and Billy Stewart, and later with Lovano's solo stuff, so I hope he's able to bounce back and grace us with more music (from a DL media e-mail I received):

This email is in regards to Dennis Irwin, the beloved and world famous bass player whom we all know well. If you haven't already heard, Dennis is very seriously ill and will be leaving New York City quite soon to seek other treatments. Right now he needs our support both spiritually and financially.

We will be having a benefit event for him at Smalls Jazz Club on Sunday, February 3rd after the Super Bowl. Even though this may not be the most convenient date, time is of the essence and we cannot wait here. We will begin at 10:00 PM and continue until 4:00 AM at Smalls. Everyone is invited to come down and participate by playing and also by making a contribution. A box will be set up so that the donations will be discreet and anonymous. Everything collected will go directly to Dennis. There will be no cover charge for this event but you'll be expected to contribute something, whatever's within your means. Smalls will be donating a portion of bar sales to Dennis as well (so come and drink!).

Once again, the date is Sunday night, February 3rd starting at 10:00 PM, after the Super Bowl. Smalls is located at 183 West 10th street at 7th avenue, just down the street from the Village Vanguard. Our website is . Any further questions or inquires please send an email to

If you cannot come and would like to make a tax deductible donation to Dennis, send a check payable to Sixteen As One Music, Inc to:

Sixteen As One Music, Inc
888-C Eighth Ave. #160
New York, NY 10019

On the memo line write: Dennis Irwin.
Please come out, bring your instruments and play and show your support for Dennis Irwin.

Not mean but be

Haven't done one of these in awhile.

There are various wrap-ups of the IAJE jazz blog panel featuring Darcy and Ryshpen, among others of interest to us who do and read these. In reading the posts about it, I'm struck by the position that the moderator took (as I read it), of initial skeptical derision. First, why doeas anyone need to justify a creative endeavor, be it a band or a painting or a blog. ee cummings said "a poem should not mean, but be". I'll defend blogs in that category

Second, anyone who reads any of the bloggers on the panel, or the other "major" jazz blogs (my big three are Darcy, Do the Math and be-jazz, both in terms of eyeballs and content) doesn't read them because the creators are self-promoting, they read them because they're worth reading. For the same reason political junkies read Woodward or Friedman or whoever, or football fans read Peter King. They're knowledgeable, well-connected, and have strong, informed opinions. And if there's promotion, especially of a quality product on top, what's wrong with that. But why would anyone read a blog that only self-promotes? And finally, what's wrong with self-promoting, anyway? It's not like the papers and the radio and the labels are going out of their way to help us out... Anyhooow, more links:

D-Out has a phenomenally warped version of Chameleon this week- yes! My middle schoolers are doing a big-band version of that old, overplayed chestnut for their upcoming concert, so anything i can give them to keep it from turning into an unwitting porn-groove is a good thing. (On the plus side, having to teach Chameleon does give me an excuse to teach them to learn the basslines and the rhythm parts as part of learning to improvise on a tune.)

YogaHope is featured today in the New York Times! I've done a little teaching at the Hello House, which is the facility they highlight, and it's a remarkable experience. The article doesn't overstate anything, believe it or not.

More as I see 'em.

Monday, January 21, 2008


"Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. you only need a heart full of grace. a soul generated by love." Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter brings songbirds

I didn't put up a "gigs to see" this month because, well, I didn't find too many, but this week two great friends and great singers pop in from New York, and they come highly recommended:

Heather Masse leads Heather and the Barbarians, tonight (Wednesday) Johnny D's in Somerville.
Sofia Koutsivitis comes into Ryles on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Winter Jazz Festival @ The Knitting Factory, 1/12/08

Before Saturday night, I haven't been to the Knitting Factory since late 2001, the last time I played there. Since then, of course, the booking policy has changed radically, emphasizing indie rock and booking jazz and avant musics- the mainstays of the club when I lived in New York- once in a blue moon. That said, I had a strange sense of deja vu walking in- everything looked, and felt, and even smelled the same. The bands on the signs were different, but everything was in the same place, and the beer list was almost unchanged. Even the renovation of the Tap Bar (they took out the wall that used to divide it into two rooms) didn't change the feel at all for me.

The festival, primarily an artist showcase for APAP, a international association of presenters in town for a convention, did nothing to dispel my nostalgia. Several of the old Knit mainstays- Dave Douglas, Don Byron, and Wayne Horowitz, to name three- anchored the bill, buffered by young lights like Matana Roberts, JD Allen and the Bjorkestra. I'm no longer able to digest six hours of music all at once, and the Patriots game was stuck in the middle for good measure, but here's what I heard: (Ben Ratliff has a good review, catching a lot of the big names I missed)

- I caught the first few tunes of Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra. I'd heard some about the band, and remember really liking Travis when I met him a few years back at someone's party. Bjork's music invites reinterpretation- probably one reason why so many jazz musicians are smitten with her- but putting pop tunes, not matter how conducive to big band, can be tricky or worse. (has anyone else ever heard Duke's misbegotten "I Want to Hold Your Hand") The Bjorkestra handles the material nimble- it does a nice job capturing the flavor of the songs without aping the original baldly or taking things way far afield. There is a floating figure that weaves its way around the vocal on "Joga", back and forth through the sections, like tying a bow around the piece. The soloing was solid but unmemorable, and Becca Stevens handled the impossible job of singing Bjork with aplomb. I had to move on, but enjoyed what I heard.

- I'm both a friend and a fan of Matana Roberts, so I was excited to hear her Coin Coin project, a band created to perform a series of long works (five and counting) shaped largely from Matana's study of her ancestry. (for much more, see her blog) The band played a shortened version of the second piece/chapter,
Mississippi Moonchile. The piece was a swirling stew of spirituals, blues shouts, folk themes, and improvisations, with themes popping up and then bouncing out, only to reappear and flesh themselves out later on. At times Matana would stop playing and read from interviews she's done with an older relative, often returning back to one things she'd said, bringing a stream of consciousness feel to both the spoken word and the music. It almost feels like your standing in the middle of a version of her family history, watching facts and stories, sounds and emotions swirl around you out of time. It was clear that this was an abridged version of the piece- there were sections that you could tell wanted to breathe more, and Matana was sometimes calling directions to the band to push the music forward, but even so it was a riveting performance.

- I caught the tail end of Don Byron's set, and honestly didn't know what to make it. Ratliff called it salon music, and that seems right- intimate, straigtforward songs with Byron commenting tastefully around the lyric.

- David Murray's set seemed to have the most buzz around it, and he certainly didn't disappoint. He came out firing with a tune of his, a clear but open form, which he obliterated as soon as he started blowing. I will admit I've never been a David Murray fan, but for the first time I clearly saw the attraction- his sound is huge, if unfocused for my taste, and he has built a unique, brawny tenor language. There's a harmonic logic to some of his blitz-like playing that is really interesting, and god can the man play it up high. As I was leaving the set, another man, clearly a fan, came out shaking his head. "Man, David is playing SOME horn; ain't nobody gonna cut him. Nobody." And if you approach jazz from that mindset, it's easy to see why David Murray could be your man. I don't, so I came away impressed but ready to move on.

- I hopped downstairs to catch the last two tunes of Brad Shepik's trio set. For those of us who were first introduced to Brad in the off its hinges Tiny Bell Trio, it can be a little jarring at first to hear him playing straightahead, modern guitar, but he's damn good at it. I heard more of a Metheny influence that in the past, but that could just be me. That said, the tunes drew me in, and the playing was really tasty. I was really glad to have heard it.

- Shepik was followed by Hypercolor, a guitar trio featuring drummer (and son of the great composer) Lukas Ligeti. The set was again, the Knit I remember, off-kilter fusion tunes in odd meters played with reckless abandon. The guitarist Eyel Maoz was playing with a grungy, almost Dick Dale sound, adding to the raucous air of the group. I have a feeling that I used to be much more into this music than I was Saturday night- it had a ton of energy, but for me not much else.

- Following Murray upstairs was Zimology, a quartet of South African musicians led by saxophonist
Zim Ngqawana. Didn't care for it at all. Zim can clearly play, but the tunes lacked any coherence, the blowing was pretty standard "weird/avant" stuff, and he alternated seemingly willy-nilly between horns and sing/shouting, even making noises by running his finger over his mouth like we all did as kids. Plus, on a night where the sets were short, he started late (not his fault) and ran way over (his, and the club's fault). I was excited about seeing Chris Dave's trio, but couldn't because I had to go catch my train before his set even ended.

So, as with most of these deals, I came away knocked out and underwhelmed all at once. Part of me says I should've missed the game, seen the big names and bailed before midnight, but I enjoyed the game too (and the outcome, certainly), so I'm not complaining.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Meshell Ndegeocello @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, 1/11

While a big chunk of the jazz world migrated to the IAJE in Toronto, I hopped down to New York this weekend, primarily but not exclusively to hear the incomparable Meshell. (especially since I missed her hit in Boston this summer.) First, I'd not been to this venue, either by its new name or when it was NorthSix, but I like it a lot. Apparently the changes the Bowery Ballroom made when they bought it have made a huge difference- it's sleek looking and, far more important, good sounding, and the sightlines are solid. (Well, except when middle-aged drunk people shove their way in front of you to get a better look. Sigh)

Her show was really great; a slightly pared down band of two guitars- Oren Blowdow providing primarily colors and sheen, the other soloing more- Mark Kelly on bass and drummer whose name I'm afraid I missed was tight and responsive. The music was split between items from her most recent effort (my brief review here) and stuff I hadn't heard before, but I guess she's been touring with. (some, including "Mass Transit" and "Lock and Load" is on her myspace page) As I mentioned in my album review, this music is sonically and rhythmically harder edged and "punker", for lack of a better word, than anything I'm used to from her, and even blunter lyrically- "Lock and Load" opens with images I see as scared soldiers exerting control, "Sloganeer" probes the mind of a young suicide bomber. That said, she is still as funky a bass player as ever- she opened the show just playing half notes on bass behind an instrumental, and I could feel the room shake, and her bass openings on tunes like "Top Shelf" were at once fleet-footed and so full of bottom that everything vibrated. All that said, Matt Kelly was a fantastic second bass- I can't imagine a more intimidating gig for a bass player, and he was more than up to it, never second guess, always laying it down. I was saying to my friend and former N$V mainstay Sasha, she makes me rethink most of what I'm doing every time I hear her, and that's a great thing.

The opener was a local jam unit called Pimps of Joytime. I'm not really the best person to be reviewing jamband stuff, so I'll be brief. First, they're not bad; the rhythm section was really solid, and the singer had this Prince-ish flasetto that was impressive. But, to my ears they're not as good live as the stuff on the web- the solos go nowhere, and the tunes without the bells and whistles were pretty generic- struck me as second-rate Santana circa 1972.

And- this is what got to me- the leader, who my radar said was even whiter than I am, had this drawly jive-talking schtick between tunes that I couldn't buy at all. I know for me, being a white musician who plays leads a band where the influence of black funk music is pretty obvious, and where you're trying to attract an audience that digs that, the choices you make in how you present yourself are tricky. How do you acknowledge your debt to that style with out sounding like a stylistic tourist or voyeur, or worse a sycophant? I don't have an answer, but I'm pretty sure that wearing aviator sunglasses and talking like a pimp with a drawl isn't the way to do it.

But- so as not to end on a dark note, the venue is cool, and Meshell is on her game, and her game is always at a Patriots kind of level. (I had to sneak that in, 17-0 and all) Check her when she's coming your way.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Going to the hidden place

Greetings from NYC, where I'm going one of what's becoming my patented two days hits. Happily, I happened to come the one weekend the Knitting Factory decided to have jazz, their "winter festival." AND, tonight, it's Meshell N'Degeocello. I somehow have to juggle it with watching some part of the all important Patriots/Jaguars game, but I'll manage.

Anyhow, the Knit hasn't released a schedule, but somehow I got it. For $25 for the whole night, you can't beat it. Highlights in my book (which, of course, overlap):

7pm Bjorkestra- mainspace
7:20 Matana Roberts COIN COIN- tap bar
7:40 Donny McCaslin- old office
9- Dave Douglas Magic Circle- main space
10:20- Ben Allison & Man Size Safe- tap bar
11- David Murray, mainspace
11:40- Brad Shepik- old office
1am- Chris Dave Trio- mainspace
1:20- Omar Avital- tap bar

3:15 am- my train leaves for Boston. Should be fun...