Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ring it in, Ring it in, it in ring, in ring it...

The marquis event of New Year's Eve in Boston for more than thirty years has been First Night Boston, a celebration of culture all over Boston. This year might bring the best gig of December anywhere- John Hollenbeck, fresh off his critically acclaimed big band record, brings his Claudia Quintet with guest Gary Versace, to the First Church in Boston. $18 dollars gets you two sets, plus the hundreds of other events of the evening. I have a prior commitment, but the last time I saw Claudia I was knocked out, and I'm sure this will be no different.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

RIP Charlie Banacos

I just found out through a yoga student tha Charlie Banacos, legendary Boston area piano and improvisation teacher, passed away earlier this month after a brief battle with cancer. Globe obit here. Charlie is legendary locally for his vast encyclopedia of teaching techniques and exercises, and he no doubt profoundly influenced the teaching (and playing) technique and style of Jerry Bergonzi, Danielo Perez, and many other teachers locally and nationally. I know a lot of the stuff I got in high school that really propelled my playing forward on a nuts and bolts level came indirectly from Charlie.

Charlie is remembered by students as an unassuming and nurturing teacher, who as one student said, "made you feel like you were the only student he'd ever had." His wisdon and light will be sorely missed.

Links and rememberences as I find them- former Charlie students, please add your thoughs and memories in the comments section.

UPDATE: A tribute from bassist Jeff Berlin at All About Jazz
Warren Senders blogs about Charlie's last days.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The chorus' awful long, but it's a good refrain...

Interesting, if somewhat anachronistic piece in Wednesday's NY Times about how a new radio ratings system is changing the ratings themselves. Specifically, people who say they listen to classical stations are fibbing at least sometimes, and men listen to more soft rock than they care to admit. Color me unsurprised. A pleasant surprise is that conservative talk radio is not quite as big as we thought...

The bigger question is what, if anything, does this mean. Radio doesn't carry the same weight as it used to, especially in breaking new acts, and the industry (save perhaps sports talk, which around here is only growing.) How do you, dear readers, get word of new music, especially new jazz/creative improv/left of center pop? Word of mouth? Blogs? Pandora. (Full disclosure, I am prepping a new album, so I will use this info)

In the same section, the Times critic clearly aren't too thrilled with what's actually making it to pop radio. Go figure... This is the snarkiest thing I've read this side of Pitchfork in awhile...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Twist us, roll us in your mouth, light us up and take a hit...

(Any excuse to quote Prince is a good one...)

As some of you know, I am a volunteer for YogaHope, a wonderful non-profit that provides free yoga to women in transition from difficult (read hellish) situations, often substance abuse or domestic violence. I have been working with YH for more than two years, and firmly believe in the mission and the work of this organization.

And I'm putting my money where my mouth is- I am auctioning myself off, both as a musician and a yogi. You can have an intimate concert with my duo, or a yoga private lesson with me, for well below my retail value. (Well, hopefully well above, but, y'know.) The auction ends sometime on Sunday. Right now I'm a bargain, and them some... let's change that.

Seriously, Yogahope is a great organization, and I hope you'll consider bidding on me, or many of the other very cool items available. I would be very grateful.

P.S. Much love to BTI Consultants, one of whose executives is a yoga client of mine, for making YogaHope one of their two holiday donation recipients. We are tremendously thankful!

Monday, December 07, 2009

You can't have enough orgies...

December is here in Boston, and we have the snow to prove it. We also have the annual WHRB orgies, long stretches of a single artist or motif. I'm a big fan, and hope you will listen either online or at 95.3FM in the Boston area. The whole schedule is here, and there's a whole lotta Chopin, but here are my highlights.

Wednesday 12/9, 5am-7pm, and Thursday 12/10, 4am-1pm: the Jazz Royals orgy, playing only those artists with King, Duke, etc. in their names. Silly gimmick, some great artists.
Friday 12/11, 5am-1pm: Messien and Radiohead. Looks intriguing.
Week of12/14 5am-2pm (Monday through Friday): Yuseff Lateef Orgy
Saturday 12/19 through Monday: Arvo Part Orgy
Monday 12/21: Modern Jazz Quartets and Quintets Orgy. (Or, just another Jazz Spectrum...)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No-no radio

I apologize, again I have screwed up. While WGBH is keeping it's jazz programming, as well as A Celtic Sojourn and Prarie Home Companion, it is dumping all of its weekend folk and blues programming in favor of talking heads. GBH announcement here. The Notlob blog brought this to my attention. The blog also lists what you can do to at least try to change things. (Local people, I would call WGBH and tell them you will not give them money until they start programming more music. May not help, can't hurt.) If you are a member, cancel your membership immediately. It seem that only money talks for them...

This is really bad news. As I said when I first posted on this, with WBUR already an all news/talk station, we really don't need this. Dan at Soundslope wrote about this awhile back when something similar happened in Chicago- read it. In short it's about the money. (Grimace mutter grumble...)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

You make me happy when skies are grey...

NPR is streaming a Bill Frisell concert at the Kennedy center. Click here to listen.

On another media note, WGBH had indeed taken over WCRB, as mentioned earlier. The good news is, at least so far, they are keeping their evening and weekend programming the same, which means jazz, Celtic and folk music are safe for now. Do e-mail them and ask them to use this new bandwidth to expand jazz programming, now, wouldja?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gigs to see- December

I hope to update this, but there are several this week that demand attention:

12/1- Twinbill of Daniel Bennet Group and Eric Deutch at Beehive. Eric's new record has gotten a lot of good buzz. And, it's FREE.

12/6- The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, featuring some of Boston's best improvisers, starts a once a month residency at Johnny D's.

12/10- Amy Cervini at Lily Pad

More as I find it...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a million watts of, what?

Something to keep an eye on- WGBH, on of Boston's two public media behemoths, has bought the only all-classical station on the dial. (Globe article here, WGBH's puff page here)

Two points- no matter what WGBH says, if they are indeed going to all talk, this is a net loss for music on the radio. (And really, we already have one all news/talk NPR station in Boston, are we dying for a second?) And more importantly, there is no mention in any of this press what happens to WGBH's jazz programming, which is still the most visible (well, audible) and most popular in the Boston area. In the past couple of years GBH has cut back its jazz programming, shifting the overnight show to a nationally syndicated jazz program. On the plus side, their new headquarters has a state of the art new studio, which they have been opening up for a lot of live performances and studio recordings. I want to take a "wait and see" attitude, but I fear bad things.

Any clarification or other buzz is appreciated.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Next performance: Pat Donaher Khabu Duo, 11/18 Rutman's

Pat Donaher/Khabu Duo
Wednesday, November 18, 7:30pm
Rutman's Violin Shop, 11 Westland Ave
$10 Suggested Donaher


Boston really needs to get hip to 'Bhu. More soon.

We're also playing music for a benefit yoga class, with the fabulous Chanel Luck teaching. Details here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Talk talk

Briefly, a big thank you to everyone who came to the Johnny Carcrash gig. Details later this week, but know how much I appreciate it.

Fuller gig listing soon, but tomorrow night Ben Ratliff interviews George Garzone at the Regattabar as part of his book tour. Worth checking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Next Gig: Tales of Johnny Carcrash, Friday 10/30, 7:30pm, Rutman's Violins

After an 18 month hiatus, I'm thrilled to be playing again. If you're within shouting distance, come and listen:

Tales of Johnny Carcrash
Improvised duos with Pat Donaher and Hwaen Ch'uqi

Friday 10/30, 7:30pm
Rutmans Violin Shop, 11 Westland Ave (near Symphony Hall and the Whole Foods)

I have a little webpage up at my site about the gig, including some sound clips and links for Hwaen. (Formerly Jeff Tomlinson; I still call him Jeff) This is the first of two gigs I'm using to finish up an album of duos, please God. More about the gig as the week progresses

Video of Hwaen's recent performance at the Richter Competition in Moscow is here

Other gigs to see this week

(Note: I'll be moving my gig announcement to the top of the page for the week, for those of you without RSS feeds. but since I'm starting to get on a bit of a roll, I don't want to stop.)

I'll put November up soon, but there are several gigs of real note in town this week. One, of course is mine, and I hope to see you. Otherwise:

This afternoon at 1pm, the great (and in the states, tremendously underrated) Han Bennick gives a masterclass at New England Conservatory. The great Anthony Coleman, who is now in town a lot due to his teaching at said NEC, offers a solo recital Thursday night at Jordan Hall with music of and inspried by Jelly Roll Morton.

Late, late Thursday night Boston ex-pat and great friend Jeremy Udden has a CD release party, at midnight. It's an invite-only (so to speak) so see his webpage for detalis.

And the Bad Plus drop by this weekend, two nights at the Regattabar. TBP on Halloween- hide the candy, and the children...

How, Hwaen?

In preparing for the aforementioned Johnny Carcrash gig, which I know all of you have marked off in your calendar, I thought I would ask my colleague Hwaen Ch'uqi how and why he chooses to improvise, an unusual trait in today's classical musician. Here is what he says:

"It is with slight trepidation that I, known hitherto by many asthe "wooden Inca," dip my toe into these uncharted waters of the blog, let alone a "jazzer's" blog! Nevertheless, I wade on -- and pray tha tI shall not be, whether by clandestine tow or sudden maelstrom, caught unawares and spirited away toward boundless sea! How often have I by others been met with incredulity, reserve,even concern at the mere proposition of free improvisation. "But youhave _some_ kind of plan, no?" represents the more generous person's response. But how else shall I characterize this wondrous process inwhich Pat and I engage? It is neither aleatory nor pre-design; its tongue is neither jazz nor classical. Its vestments are not exclusively drawn from one fashion or another; neither is its substance fraught with or void of intention. Rather, it is what it is,and I do hope, with utmost sincerity, that it may be what it need befor your particular circumstance. I look forward to see all of you there. Please take care. Hwaen Ch'uqi

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thinkin' of one thing and doin' another

One of the interesting things about being a jazz blogger, even a fairly inactive one, is the press lists you manage to get on. Sometimes it's cool- I've gotten a handful of CDs, a couple of which I've loved- randomly in the mail, and at least twice a month get other mailings asking me to consider hawking a musician, band or tour of some sort. Some days it's darkly entertaining, at best you make a find. (Case in point, Mexican singer Magos Herrera who put out a great and well-received record this summer.)

And then occasionally, you get the likes of this. Monster Cables, they who grossly overcharge you for your HDMI, USB and other computer and home entertainment cables, are dabbling in the headphone business... AND MILES F*#&@*n DAVIS' ESTATE HAS PUT THEIR NAME ON IT! I am not up on the industry buzz by any means, but even I have heard grumbles of dissatisfaction about how the Davis estate was handling Miles' name and business, most notably when the Cellar Door set was allegedly delayed by the estate's, er, cattiness. But this is on a whole 'nother level, pimping Miles name and image to sell a $500 pair of earbuds. I don't care if these f*&^#$s make turd sound like gold, and I know Miles' wasn't a saint, or shy about chasing a dollar, but of all the products to attach his name to, you pick THIS? Couldn't you at least make a deal with Bose, who we already know can make a good set of cans?

Sheesh, what did Miles say- somebody ought to pick up a sign and picket.

(P.S. If you are looking at a set of Monster cables for anything, instead check out cablewholesalers.com. I used them for stuff for my HDTV, and found them great to deal with, the product is fine, and at a fraction of the price Monster and the box store wanted.)

(P.P.S. Erstwhile press agents who send P.R. to bloggers... I know I state the obvious, but be careful what you ask for.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wayne Shorter Quartet + New England Conservatory Philharmonia, Jordan Hall 10/24

New England Conservatory chose to close the celebration of the 40th year of its jazz program with a tremendously ambitious program, pairing Wayne Shorter's groundbreaking quartet with symphony orchestra, for five of Wayne's pieces. The quartet played a long opening set, then after intermission the stage filled with a huge orchestra (studio orchestra personnel, which for the uninitiated means huge everything- almost twenty brass, an equal number of winds including saxohpones, harp, and seemingly double sections for all the strings). Warning: serious music geekdom ahead. I'm assuming the Globe's writer was there, and hopefully he'll give us a great layman's review on Monday, which I'll link to.

I've written at some length about Wayne's quartet before. This performance never quite achieved the electricity of the Newport performance, but was remarkable nonetheless. I started to get a sense of the set construction for the first time- the band is working from music, long long charts, which seem to hit certain themes and vamps at certain places. My best guess is that the chart sets the arc of the set, and the band fills in the details liberally. I also noticed Danielo Perez doubling Wayne more on melodies. Any remaining sense of "soloist" was completely gone in this music, almost as if the band was coming at Ornette's idea of "Harmelodic" equality from a radically different direction.

The orchestral set opened with "Orbits", originally recorded on Miles Smiles in 1963(?). I realized after the show that there is a large ensemble version of this on Alegria, but I don't know how closely this hewed to the album. I do know that it makes Wayne's reworking of "Children of the Night" on High Life (a masterpiece in my mind) look conservative by comparison. The four bar hook from the original "Orbits" opens the piece, and really isn't heard again, and the rest of the tune is seemingly gone. The set also included "Prometheus Unbound", "Midnight in Carlotta's Hair", and "Forbidden Plan-It".

Hearing Wayne's ideas spread out across such a huge canvas as an orchestra is remarkable- Wayne's reputation (deserved in my opinion) is of a curious genius, a mystery inside an enigma, who's genius is ill served by all the transcriptions and Real Book versions of his tunes. So to hear his lines and harmonies so explicitly is a treat. Several of the pieces used some really interesting voicing tactics- my favorite was when the tuba would double the basses for one statement of a theme, then when the theme repeated would jump up into the middle of the voicings, like Gil Evans would do, to great effect. I really hope that a publisher releases a book of his orchestral pieces- I think it will be a treasure trove of goodies for the many players and composers who puzzle over Wayne's music. And having Wayne floating his own playing over these orchestrations, clearly relishing the opportunity, and Blade lighting fires under the orchestra made it that more exciting.

That said, the composer/arranger in me couldn't help feeling a little dissatisfied with the charts. I was talking to an orchestra member before the concert, and he said he liked the charts, but they were "dense". And they were- Wayne and/or whoever helped orchestrate the music leaned heavily on a dense, "studio" sound. Almost every major theme was played by the french horns, usually doubled by some combination of trumpet, saxophone and/or flute. The strings primarily played the role that a piano would in a jazz quartet, "comping" riffs, occasionally breaking out (really complex and sixteenth-notey) counterpoint. There was a lot of counterpoint between the horn/high string melodies and the cellos and basses, who had tremendously difficult answer statements to many of Wayne's themes. In other words, as fascinating and varied as the themes were, the orchestration was fairly monochromatic, blunting some of the impact. The impact was further blunted by Blade's playing- not his fault, the sonic realities of a drum set is that it will obliterate anything strings are doing, which was the case here. It was clear the orchestra worked very hard to get this complicated music happening, and then we couldn't hear it.

(One saxophone-geek side note: music schools, when you do studio orchestra-ish music, PLEASE don't put your classical saxophone students in the group, use jazz players instead. I can't begin to describe how silly the classical alto player, sounded doubling Wayne at spots, swinging like a brick. Perfectly good for Ravel, but not for this music. But I digress...) NOTE: This was an incorrect assumption on my part, and the saxophonists were all jazz majors- see comments below. My apologies- I didn't love how it sounded clearly, but I jumped to a poor conclusion.

The closing piece, "Forbidden Plan-It", originally on Phantom Navigator, brought the orchestra and Wayne to the fore, with Blade and Danielo playing very little. It was my favorite piece of the set- while there were more exciting moments in some of the other tunes, there was beautiful interplay between Wayne and the orchestra, and his remarkable lines and harmonies shined throughout the piece.

Nitpicking aside, this concert was a remarkable experience, and NEC deserves all the plaudits it can get for putting together not just this concert, but a remarkable week of events to celebrate it's seminal and still vital jazz department.

(More thought on the few other NEC events I made this week, including today's Blade/Perez/Pattatucci masterclass, soon)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rosenwinkle @ Regattabar tonight

For the jazz nerd in all of us- Kurt Rosenwinkle brings his crack trio to the Regattabar tonight, presumably playing standards as he did recently at the Vanguard, and on an upcoming CD.

I did make the Meshell hit at the Middle East last night, and hope to blog about it. The review of the Highland Ballroom show in the Times a good primer for this tour, though the sound last night was much better than it was in New York.

Friday, September 25, 2009


My sincere apologies to you readers and to Matt Wilson- the concert was Thursday night, not Friday as I posted. There was a mixup between myself and Matt's people, which is totally my fault.

The fact that Matt was playing at Rutman's was a little odd in itself, given that the rest of his tour includes, well, a lot of really hip venues that certainly don't make you pay to play. This is something I will explore in the near future- short version, it speaks REALLY badly of the Boston scene at the moment...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matt Wilson Quartet @ Rutmans, Friday 9/25 @ 7pm

Expain to me how this happens. Okay don't, just show up:

Matt Wilson Quartet featuring Andrew D'Angelo and Joel Ledderer. It'll be just like the old days at Detour, only with a lot of expensive violins hanging on the wall instead of a lot of overpriced cigarettes on the wall.

Rutmans is at 11 Westland Street, by Symphony Hall. I'll be playing there next month- details soon!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My bean is cooked.

This week marks the real beginning of the fall jazz concert season in Boston with the Beantown Jazz Festival. Full listings here. Tonight Branford Marsalis hits Boston with his "new" quartet; the main event is the outdoor show featuring Donald Harrison and Jane Bunnett. Berklee sponsors the event, and the Berklee theme is much more prevalent at the Saturday show, with several Berklee student and faculty bands mixed in with the "major" acts. (In recent years Berklee and NEC have split the student acts) I'm hoping to catch Harrison and Jane Bunnett, but frankly the programming this year does little to excite me- too much smooth jazz, and none of the more exciting and left of center Boston acts (or NYC, for that matter). I'm not asking for a whole slate of the New Languages fest or anything, but throw the more voracious music lovers a bone! Contrast this with NEC's blowout to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the jazz program, and tell me which one you'd rather spend time at.

On a related note, I heard the back half of Branford's interview with local radio legend Eric Jackson. A lot of what he was talking about was the same theme and tone that Darcy pointed out from the "When the Music Died" DVD. He is on the same tip here. I need to chew on it a little, but when I hear from both Wynton and Branford, I feel like they think it's more important to be right than to be happy, and they spend a lot of time being smart and sharp and miserable. Maybe I'm reading to much into it, but Branford was pretty dark last night. I'll post a link to the audio if I find it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ben Monder tonight at Beehive

Last minute gig update- Ben Monder performs tonight at 9pm at Beehive in the South End. I have stuff until 10pm, but may stop by. And it's FREE. Not to be missed.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

There's a tidal wave...

I'll be hitting the September dates in Boston shortly (the shows always get better when the students come back, even if it gets a little harder to live here...), but I'm psyched for this one:

Meshell N'Degeocello
Middle East
October 7

Details to follow... I get my tix tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It was a dry wind and it swept across the desert and it curled into the circle of birth

(Note: I'm trying to start blogging again, but that means I may not write all that well at first, so please check back for edits and corrections often, and comment if I am out of line, or just spelling things wrong... or even if you agree.)

While I've been away making a living and pursuing my other career as a yoga teacher, the jazz blog explosion of the summer came when Terry Teachout wrote a dismal prognosis on the state of the jazz scene, based on a census survey about who listens to what. Kelly Fenton wrote a nice summary with links, and Darcy has continuing coverage over on his blog. I've followed this debate with only one eye, and don't want to restate the obvious, but I had a few random thoughts that I hope are useful:

- There's been a lot of back and forth about the methodologies of the study Teachout mentions, and I'm not competent to get into that. But what I see from the commentary critical of Teachout speaks to the perceived (often anecdotal) health of the scenes in various towns. In what I see from friends online and in person, there are certainly strong scenes in cities like NYC (duh), Boston, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago. (All of the above would qualify as the bluest of "blue cities" politically. Coincidence?) I would be interested to hear about the state of scenes in smaller cities with strong scenes historically that aren't exactly media hubs or perceived as cultural centers, and may politically run "purple or red"- places like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Cleveland, etc. What Sarah Palin calls "real America"- and I'm not trying to get overtly political here, believe it or not. To me, that would serve as a interesting and important litmus test of where we are as a jazz economy (and that's really what Teachout is talking about), more than who is hearing some cool shit in Brooklyn. This ties into my education rant below...

- I don't know why I though of this- I can't remember the last time I heard an honest-to-God instrumental solo on pop radio (John Mayer the notable exception). Not indie rock, pop. My memories of pop radio as a kid are littered with solos, good, bad and everything in between. Pop nostalgia for me isn't complete without the opening guitar madness of "When Doves Cry", the awful sax glop on "Careless Whisper", and a dozen others not worth mentioning. Not to mention the pop tunes that sit more meaningfully on my brain- the sax intro to "What's Going On", Herbie on Stevie's "As", Brecker on "Still Crazy..." And remember the outpouring of interest when Darcy counted down sax solos? But outside of Mayer, whatever you think of him, I can't think of an honest to God guitar or sax or anything solo on I've heard on pop radio in at least a couple of years. I don't know if its that radio edits are getting shorter, or that's just out of favor, or the triumph of the producer over the songwriter or what. But I think it matters.

I am a reluctant proponent of the "gateway drug" theory of musical interest. Kids hear instruments, they get interested in playing, and some eventually find improvised music and become players and fans. I see it as a teacher. If kids aren't hearing solos on the radio, they're less likely to seek out instruments to solo on, or as listeners seek music where solos are a focus.

- While I don't agree with everything Teachout says, like everyone else I'd love to see a larger audience for all kinds of art music in this country. If I had to put all my eggs in one basket as to how to "solve" this crisis, I feel like the answer is education. Not music education, education as a whole. I worry as I watch politics, the state of the newspaper, the fate of my peers that we are living in what local writer Charlie Pierce semi-satirically calls "Idiot America", a country that can't think in a paragraph longer than a tweet, where citizens are born on third base and think they hit a triple. If we don't create a citizenry who can think in paragraphs and form and process somewhat complicated arguments about anything, we're sure as hell not going to find an audience for a twelve minute jazz composition, no matter how well it's written or how sharply it's played.

The heyday of jazz in this country, at least as a commercially viable meduim, came at the height of the American educational system, when at least a plurality of middle-class kids came out of high school able to form a geometry theorum and comprehend Shakespeare. When Bernstein could produce a young people's concert where the text doesn't sound like Barney the purple dinosaur, and get an audience. God knows this wasn't a utopia, and there was a ton of inequity, but without wider access to an education where critical thought is valued, I don't us getting anywhere beyond where we are now.

Speaking of Bernstein, this clip isn't as textually eloquent, but Dolphy is amazing:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RIP Joe Maneri

In less than a month Boston has lost two of its major musical thinkers. Composer, saxophonist, NEC professor and tireless advocate of microtonality Joe Maneri has passed away. The few details available are posted on allaboutjazz from the family.

Like George, Joe was a complete individual, funny, irreverent, and passionate about his cause. I never took with him, but the man who looked like Yoda and could cuss like Joe Pesci was impossible to ignore at NEC. His microtonal class was for years late on Friday afternoon, not exactly prime time, and always attracted him a group of passionate students, many of whom came to incorporate a lot of what he was teaching into their own work as composers and player. (Many on the bandstand with him)

His website is a fascinating look at his evolution as a composer and player, especially his works page. Condolances to son Joe and his whole family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aaron Goldberg and Madeleine Peroux tonight!

Last minute add- Youthbuild Boston is presenting a concert tonight of local hero (and former Josh Redman sideman) Aaron Goldberg and radio hit Ms. Peroux tonight at Northeastern. Proceeds benefit Rwandan rebuilding efforts. Info here.

Real blogging is on the way. I promise...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

ring ring go my ears

One addenda to my thoughts on George Russell, which didn't fit into an obit:

I'd known that George was in poor health for a while- Ran Blake and George were close, and when I was working for Ran five years ago people were already worried about George. I would mention that one of the contributing factors to George's health issues was tinnitus, a condition I've been dealing with for ten years. I would say that if you're ears ring in a way that bothers you, don't ignore it- it can literally drive you crazy. While there is no cure per say, several Eastern medicine treatments, meditation and diet adjustments have been very promising in coping with it. For me, yoga has been a godsend as therapy, but I know that's not the only approach. I would encourage anyone with issues here to look for help- I'm glad to answer e-mails as best I can, and send resources.

RIP George Russell

Darcy and Allen Chase have good posts on George, so I'll just add a little.

Like Darcy, I heard "All About Rosie" in high school, on a Mulligan CD I happened into, and it blew me away. Just typing the title I snap into the theme of the third movement. It's at once so busy and so clear, every note exactly where it's supposed to be. And though George could be pretty heady and erudite when he was teaching, and I know a lot of theoretical thought went into his music, it always grooves, which is a testament to just how good he was.

I got to take a class with George at NEC in 2001. I will freely admit that I hated the class- George was struggling with health issues and his hearing was very poor, and he was surrounded by assistants who had all of his certainty and even hubris about the Lydian Chromatic Concept (which I don't pretend to understand at all to this day) with only a fraction of his talent. It was awkward, and I think of it as the most frustrating academic experience I've ever had- it was clear that there was sooo much information and wisdom George had to share, but at that point the roadblocks were just too many. And the only "concept" in jazz that confuses me more than Harmelodics is the Lydian Chromatic Concept. That said, I want the music it produced.

George had a unique capacity as a teacher to turn a big band on- I saw him conduct his music twice with NEC bands. Both times I heard beforehand how difficult the music was and how chaotic everything seemed. And both times I saw George seemingly will the band into a spectacular performance. In and era where too many college bands are perfect and antiseptic, the grit and greatness he brought to the bandstand is sorely missed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RIP Merce Cunningham

I knew absolutely nothing about dance growing up (except that I didn't think I was any good at it), so going to college in the same town as the Garth Fagan dance company, and getting to see them work was mind-blowing. Through that inspiration I worked backwords a little into the world of dance, and found Cunningham's work.

To me Cunningham was so inspiring because he seemed so modernistic in his style, so committed to both a very high level of virtuosity and to a style that spoke to the present he was in. I'm embarrased to say that I didn't know John Cage was his musical and personal partner through much of his life- I can only imagine how that sets off the imagination. Actually, I don't have to.

Here's an interview with Cage and Cunningham in 1981.

Matana and Ethan both have great things to say...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gig to see: Newport, and Jody Redhage

I know I've been a very dillitante blogger, but I really didn't want to blog about every yoga sub I've had this past two months, and that's really where my brain is. But:

The Newport Jazz Festival is coming back, after some hand wringing and corporations changing corporation names, will be back this summer with the legendary George Wein at the helm. (Globe story here) I'm hoping to make it, if only as a show of support for the idea of booking real music at an American jazz festival. I think Mr. Wein has found a solid balance of the bankable, if less than artistically interesting (Brubeck), with the really good (The Bad Plus, Branford) famous and intriguing that could be either amazing or totally suck (Mos Def, Chaka Kahn) with the amazing unfamous who will undoubtably kill (Rudresh Mahanthappa, Charles Gayle). And I'v been to Newport multiple times, and there's always a band who surprises- last year for me it was Christian Scott, who was much better than the image, and this year I'm rooting for either Steve Bernstein's band (I like Steve, but I've heard his band absolutely suck) or the Berklee presents group. But who knows? (The festival website is here)

Locally this week, cellist Jody Redhage hits Boston with her Fire in July trio Saturday at the Kai Aso studio by Symphony Hall. It comes with the blessings of none other than old friend Darcy James Argue, so I'll be there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

There's going to be a lot of trite s&^# written about MJ in the next few days. I'll leave Darcy to round up the good stuff. (The video he posts is fantastic.)

I remember being in second grade, on my linoleum kitchen floor, trying to ape MJ on "Thriller". My parents, to their ultimate credit, wouldn't get cable, so I never had a prayer. I think I was the norm, not the exception. I remember in college, occasionally at parties there would be dance-offs between some of the people in my class, and it was always Michael they were aping, not whoever was on the charts that week. Sometimes my mom talks about the effect of Elvis on her, and her peers, and their parents. I think Michael was that for my generation. Like the other two icons of that time, Prince and Madonna, he messed with just about everyone's ideas of gender and propriety and sex. (One could argue his was more necessary and less calculated than the other two, and a whole lot messier, which changed how we experienced it, but that's for someone else to blog about...)

When I was in college, some of my peers and I had some, in hindsight silly, conversations about our five "desert island" pieces. Mine were one of the movements of Bartok's 2nd string quartet, Coltrane's live recording of "I Just Want to Talk about You", Bird's strung-out version of "Lover Man", I don't remember #4, and "Baby I Want You Back." People looked at me funny, but in hindsight I have an easier time standing behind the Jackson 5 than I do Bartok. It's that perfect. I don't think that about all, or even much of MJ's catalog, but isn't that enough?

Here's my favorite of MJ's solo songs (won't allow the embed). And the version where he, even at pretty freakish, schools Britney Spears. Not that that's hard, but I remember seeing him live and remembering exactly how good he was. Check out how the first 90 seconds swing, yup, swing:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Puddle jumping

The posts have been, well, nonexistent.  I am working to correct, but meantime:

Tomorrow at 10pm the Transatlantic Collective is playing at Lily Pad.  Friend of visionsong Jason Palmer is along for the ride.  I am on the website now and really like what I hear.  Check it.

(These kinds of things are why people tweet, isn't it...)

Monday, May 18, 2009

RIP K. Pattabhi Jois

Pattabhi Jois, affectionately known as Guruji, is dead at age 93 or 94.  Jois studied in his youth with yoga legend Krishnamacharya, and from some of his teaching developed the asana system known as Ashtanga yoga.  Here is Jois talking about the practice.

I've studied Ashtanga only indirectly; the only formal Ashtanga classes I took really didn't agree with my body.  But I am very grateful to Guruji nonetheless.  The Ashtanga yoga format, and indeed some of the energy that makes it go, comes directly from the Ashtanga practice, and since the power practice is where I really developed, no Guruji, I'm still just playing music and probably in severe physical pain most hours of the day.

When I took a class with Indian music teacher George Ruckert, he talked about the importance of lineage in Indian music- you were my (George's) student, who was Ali Akbar Khan's student, who was x's student, etc.   While I think a lot of my thoughts here in talking about jazz are critical of the limits of worshiping lineage, I think you also lose a lot when you fail to acknowledge it at all.  So I am personally blessed by Guruji's life and teaching, and wish him great things on his next journey.

Monday, May 11, 2009

on the radio, uh-oh

This comes via Eric Jackson, WGBH jazz impressario.  It is a release from Sue Auclair, a local jazz promoter.  I heard Jeff Turton's announcement on Sunday morning, but wanted to wait until I knew more to post:

 Boston-MA--May 11, 2009--Jazz host *Jeff Turton* announced today that  WFNX FM has cancelled his show, */The Sunday Jazz Brunch/*, as of his  show yesterday and after 26 years on the air on Sunday mornings.
 “I got a call late last week informing me that this past Sunday would be my last show. The reason being given is budget cuts related to diminished revenues at both ‘FNX and at the /Boston Phoenix/. While I wasn't surprised, given the nature of the newspaper business and radio in general, I am incredibly disappointed. I’m not sure where to go next but I guess I'll sleep in for a couple of weekends and then figure it out. I still plan on being active in some way but everything happened pretty quickly so I really haven't had much of an opportunity to figure out what's next,” noted Turton in an e-mail Monday morning.
 Legendary jazz concert promoter *Fred Taylor* weighed in. “I think it shows WFNX’s total lack of acknowledgement of Boston’s arts community.  To cut one lonely jazz show like this which represents a basic American art form from the station’s 24-7 programming is unconscionable,” he said upon hearing the news. 

“Jeff Turton has been a jazz resource for Boston listeners for 26 years. He hosted the go-to show on Sunday morning radio, and he will definitely be missed.” stated noted jazz writer and Marsalis Music Creative Consultant *Bob Blumenthal*. 
Last week came the news that WGBH FM jazz host* Ron Gill* would be  moving to South Carolina to live with relatives after 23 years on the radio here and the jazz scene held its collective breath and wondered who would be his replacement host. Then the word came that his show would be covered by a syndicated show taped on the west coast by Bob Parlocha.
 Next there was a call from WGBH 9 year veteran jazz DJ *Al Davis*. “I can’t book any guests on the show until I speak with WGBH. They’ve called me in for a meeting and it sounds serious,” said Al to publicist Sue Auclair. 
 Tuesday, May 15 brought the news that ALL of the */Jazz Gallery/* hosts would be departing at the end of May. That included Davis on overnight  Fridays, 15 year veteran *Kevin Ball* overnight on Saturdays and *Ron Gill*, overnight on Sundays. 
 All live-hosted weekend jazz shows will be gone, as of May 26 and the new programming will feature “Jazz With Bob Parlocha,” the program that is syndicated nationally and now already airs on 89.7 FM overnights on weeknights.

This is very bad news.  I haven't been able to listen to FNX's jazz show much, partially due to my schedule, partially because I thought he veered to poppy, too often, but both musicians and promoters say great things about him, and I have memories of him playing this crazy 20 minute Sun Ra tune almost every Sunday when I was a kid.  

I was hoping to (and still plan to) write a piece on the state of jazz in Boston right now in light of Boston Jazz Week.  I was actually feeling pretty optimistic going into it.  Not so much right this instant.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gigs to see in May

I'll be adjusting this, so check back, but here are highlights:

Top picks:

Go down and see Darcy James Argue release his CD at Galapagos in Brooklyn.  I only wish I could... 

5/10 (Sun) 9:30- David Ryshpen and Indigone @ Lily Pad.  Leo Genovese follows
5/21-22- Bill Frisell and 858 Quartet @ Regattabar
5/27- Tom Harrell Quintet @ Regattabar

The Rest:

Tonight (5/7) Hear Hear w/Allan Chase and Jorrit Dikstra @ Lily-Pad
5/10- Lake Street Dive @ Toad (Free!)
5/12- Mike Stern w/Weckl etc. @ Regattabar
5/13 Bjorkestra @ Scullers
5/13 Anna Hoffman Big Band @ Ryles 
5/13 (busy night!) Jerry Bergonzi @ Beehive
5/25 Phil Grenadier @ Beehive

5/23- Aaron Goldberg @ Regattabar

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bells will ring

Whew, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

May calendar is coming, but before it's too late.  Bell, featuring old friends Olga Bell and Jason Nazary, is playing TT the Bear's tonight at 10:45 ish.  An early teaching date will probably keep me home, but Olga's music is great.

Then, on Saturday night, Cuddle Magic plays the Lizard Lounge.  Never have so many played so quietly.  Check it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

we don't always get to know

I got a couple of e-mails in response to my post about Gabe Feld's death- people who knew Gabe, but who I don't know, wanting to know more, and especially know why.  (I want to know too, dammit)  I wanted to post an (abridged) version of one of my replies.  Details about the recipient are deleted for obvious reasons.  Maybe it's useful to someone else:

I wish I had more answers for you- I didn't know Gabe really well; we ran in some of the same circles, and David Vendetti mentored both of us, but we weren't close.  I actually hadn't seen him for awhile.  I've heard scuttlebutt about what exactly happened, but beyond what I posted I don't know for sure, so don't want to spread information I'm not sure about.  No one I've talked to saw this coming. 
The especially confusing and maddening part of this situation is that Gabe was always, as you said, the bright light encouraging everyone to shine, and he wouldn't follow his own encouragement.  When I let myself feel, I get profoundly angry at him for all the mess he left here and the pain he brought forth by his leaving.  The key for me is not to try to bury how I feel, but to let it out.  If you're sad and haunted or angry or even giddy and whatever else, feel that completely, don't deny it's validity.  

My teacher David was saying that he's noticed in his grief that when he's with people, when he's doing his work and offering it up to Gabe's memory, it goes better than if he stays by himself and shuts off.  So I would encourage you to reach out to people in your life now- talk to the yoga friends, seek out our other teachers, talk to friends or family.  Look at gabe's facebook page, all those people pouring out their hearts.  I'm sure that any of them, if Gabe asked, would've come running to him and held his hand, and talked him through.  I'm equally confident, though I don't know you, that you have those people too.  Use them now.
I appreciate your confusion about yoga and breathwork- it's completely understandable.  I feel oddly lucky in that I've had yoga teachers who are brilliant teachers, thinkers and motivators who don't necessarily walk the talk very welll.  It drives home to me that our lives don't magically shift just because we land on the mat or breathe big.  It is a constant process, one step forwards and two steps back, and we fall often.  I love yoga because when I'm practicing or now teaching I feel like I can't help but put my best foot forward and shine.  But that doesn't make the other foot disappear- indeed, I couldn't walk without it.  I don't think- no, I know that Gabe's passing doesn't in any way diminish his work while he was here.  It just means he has another foot too. 
I am reminded of a story that Ram Dass tells in one of his books, where a disciple asks one of Ram Dass' gurus one of the "big questions"- is there reincarnation, why are we here, what happens when we die, something like that.  The teacher smiled and said "that's none of our business."  I think his point was not to be stern or awful, but to point out that our work is here and now, being, breathing feeling, and looking for big answers can take us away from that work. This is one of those things that we never get to know, because it's ultimately none of our business, as cruel as that seems.  Our business is being here now.  We who he leaves behind can only commit to doing our work, and honor the joy he brought us by spreading it. 
I realize that's probably a longer non-answer than you were looking for, but I hope it helps.  I hope I see you around.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

He juggled fire and it consumed him

RIP Gabriel Feld.  The Boston yoga community is reeling this weekend from Gabe's very sudden passing.  I knew Gabe from his work with my teacher David Vendetti- he was a very warm soul, a fire juggler (literally), and a passionate yogi and teacher.  

Gabe committed suicide, which makes his passing that much more painful and frustrating to those he leaves behind.  This is the second suicide I've seen this year in my yoga circles (proof, I suppose, that the practice, as amazing as it is, is not a panacea)  I would point back to the post I wrote after Boston frontman Rob Delp died.  I have no personal experience with clinical depression, so I can only imagine how alone one feels.  But I know for certain from the suicides I've seen that the people who died were so loved, and so supported, that if they had called for help people would've come running.  I encouraged my classes today, if you think you need help, please ask, and be completely available to help when you're needed.  I don't ever want to write this obit again.

Getting so much larger than life...

Congrats to two old comrades on some worthy recognition:

Darcy James Argue was featured this week in Newsweek as part of a piece about New Amsterdam Records.  I'm psyched for the new album to hit, so much so that I'll actually buy my own copy rather than crib a press one.  You should do likewise.   I hope none of this swells his head too much, and that he'll still let me crash on his couch occasionally...

Page one of the endangered Boston Globe featured the new indie film sensation "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench", featuring none other than amazing local trumpeter Jason Palmer.  I am very blessed to work with Jason occasionally, and not surprisingly he's never mentioned the film to me- he's that kind of guy.  But he is an absolutely amazing player- I'm still in awe years later of just how much he kills my music every time he plays it.  By coincidence, I also have met Desire Garcia, the female lead, in academic circles.  Jason mentioned on his Facebook that he was trying to set up a Boston screening soon- I hope so.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And the twelve-bar, anyone, anyone?

He's not as loaded as Ben Stein, but Ethan Iverson wants to give you $100 to blog about jazz.  Go, you know you want to.

On that note, I need to update the blogroll- this is school vacation/catch up week, so stay tuned.

On another note, as I mentioned in the gig list, the Jazz Composers' Workshop Band is playing NEC tonight at 8pm.  Especially in light of all the talk about big band in the blogosphere lately, it'll be interesting to see what the next generation is thinking (and writing) about.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The rest of the gigs to see for April

It's actually a good month for music here in Boston.  I'm sure I'm missing something- send it along:

Tonight (4/16)- Hey Rim Jeon @ Ryles

Tomorrow (4/17) - Fly @ Regattabar

Tomorrow- Roy Haynes Tribute w/Roy Hargrove @ Harvard University

Tomorrow- Jennifer Kimball @ Passim

Every Tuesday- Sessions Americana @ Lizard Lounge

Tuesday 4/21- New England Conservatory Jazz Composers' Ensemble

Wednesday 4/22 Kevin Harris Project @ Scullers

Thursday 4/23 Nick Payton @ Scullers

Friday 4/24 Frank Carlberg record release, followed by Allan Chase @ Lily Pad

4/25  starts "Jazz Week"  in Boston (more on this later)

4/29  3 Play w/Phil Grenadier @ Lily Pad

4/30 Third World Love feat. Avishi Cohen @ Regattabar

4/30 Five Peace Band: Corea/McLaughlin/Garrett/McBride/Blade @ Berklee Performance Center

4/30 Jeff Galindo w/Jerry Bergonzi @ Beehive

5/2 Cuddle Magic @ Lizard Lounge

Florencio Gonzalez Big Band @ Ryles

After all the hulabaloo online this past month about a recent big band canon (more on that later), I was excited to see a young big band live for the first time in awhile.  I stumbled on Ms. Gonzales in researching my "gigs to see" post for March, and was really struck by the music I heard.  I caught a (short) second set at Ryles last night.  While I didn't hear anything that would vault her onto Mr. Kirchner's must hear list, Ms. Gonzalez is a fine young writer well worth following.  

The set opened with an arrangement of Sonny Rollins' "Blue 7" that sounded like it had evolved out of a school writing project- very smart dissonant opening, harmonized melody, solos with various backgrounds, sax soli, and out.  (across the chart Florencia showed a cheeky way with endings.)  She followed with "a 12 tone tune" (she actually never gave any chart titles from the stage, which was mildly annoying, especially for a reviewer).  It was an interesting piece, shifting temops and feels while keeping the pitch material present, mixing in short solos throughout.  There were some nice spots, particularly towards the end when a groove started after a slow unison band line, but the piece as a whole didn't quite hang together.  The soloists here did a nice job of using the more atonal language of the piece to build their solos around. (Maybe they read Ethan's request on this.)  Trombonist Ryan Drayson (forgive me, I'm going by my notes) stood out.

The last two pieces were the best of the set, introduced as a tango and a chacarerra (sp?).  The tango leads off her website, but was a little quicker this evening.  Both tunes were orchestrally bright and rhythmically engaging, with sharp writing throughout.  Overall the solos here were workmanlike- for my taste too often the solos didn't necessarily take the music anywhere, but the soloists themselves were engaged and solid, if not wildly interesting.  The huge band, augmented with a lot of extra woodwind players, was generally tight, quite an accomplishment with some very daring charts and I'm sure not much rehearsal time.  I'm excited to see as Ms. Gonzalez continues to evolve what she writes, because there is much here to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More April gigs to see

I hope to have a fuller list tomorrow, but highlights for this week:

Fly, with Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Ben Street are following their well;-hyped new record with two nights with Berklee students at Cafe 939, Wednesday and Thursday, and a more traditional Friday night at the Regattabar.  I'm going to try to make Thursday- get there early, it will be a mob scene, I expect.

The Tipton Quartet, featuring Lounge Lizard Jessica Lurie, will play with the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble at Dante's Club in Somerville (Map here).  The story behind the group is fascinating, and the playing is good too...

Monday, March 23, 2009

For all, I care

it's all about the commas. Meanwhile...

The Bad Plus dissect their classical "covers" on the new album, with video and choreography to boot. I'm jealous, and now curious to hear about the cover covers. (The epic series of Wynton posts is great to, and has been discussed roundly on the interweb.)

Ryshpen thinks about how to approach the avant-garde if you're on the outside looking in.

The last month plus of stuff over at D:Out, especially the Ornette and the Headhunters stuff, is fantastic.

I'm baffled by twitter, much as I am by texting, but it certainly has possibilities as a kind of haiku, as being explored by old friend Jed Wilson and Christopher Walken. Also, many congratulations to Jed and his wife Deena on their new baby!

My bracket picks on Facebook are in the top 2 percent, with 15 of the Sweet 16 still in, which gets me a whopping 7,448th place. I'm so proud... (hides in corner)

Dave Douglas gets asked about practicing. Many of the responses are great, and I'll try to pick this thread up soon.

If you missed it, old friend Rudresh Mahanthappa was on Fresh Air earlier this month. The whole thing is great, but the sound clips of Carnatic saxophone playing blew my mind.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gigs to see- March/early April

I missed a lot of good ones so far in March, but there's still plenty to check out

Best bets (three way tie)

3/20-21: Cassandra Wilson @ the Regattabar (waaay too expensive, but she is amazing)
3/28- huge bill of Quartet of Happiness, Scurvy, the amazing Mostly Other People Do the Killing and Ronald Reagan at the Cambridge Y
4/3- The Bad Plus with Wendy Lewis @ Berklee Performance Center

Other good stuff

3/24- Jeremy Pelt @ Regattabar (so far I'm not convinced of him. Somebody change my mind)
3/26- Christian Scott Quintet @ Scullers
3/26-7- Kenny Barron @ Regattabar
3/28- Eric Friedlander @ Lily Pad
3/28 Jenny Scheinmann @ Regattabar (somebody tell me why they all have to be on the same night?)
4/3-4/4- John Scofield @ Regattabar
4/15 Florencia Gonzales Big Band @ Ryles

I have my tickets to The Bad Plus, want to get to Chrstian Scott after what I heard at Newport and have to decide between all those gigs on the 28th- MOPDTK probably win.  

See a couple people I ain't got to in a minute.

I'm trying to get back to blogging after this very long hiatus- my life has been insanely busy. Mostly good busy, but very busy.  A few personal updates:

- I am about three months away from completing a 500 hour yoga teacher training at South Boston Yoga, which is absolutely amazing, but pretty all consuming, especially for someone with no background in human anatomy.  If you're in Boston and haven't taken class with David or Todd, the co-owners yet, I can't recommend it highly enough.

- I am also teaching a lot more yoga, regularly at Spirit Bear Power Yoga, and soon Equinox on Franklin Street, in addition to the Beacon Hill chain, and as a sub at the beautiful new A Little Yoga in Wellesley.  I will be updating the teaching page soon.

- I am hoping to finish album #3, a collection of duos, some dating back several years, this summer with some live Johnny Carcrash performances.  Stay tuned.

There are about seven thousand things that have caught my eye in blogdonia, and I'm hoping to say more about it in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

They'll help you conserve

I'm slow on concert stuff this month, but two I can't make but really want to:  New England Conservatory is showcasing the music of faculty member and brilliant pianist Anthony Coleman tonight at 8pm in Brown Hall, and the remarkable Lee Konitz tomorrow night.  The concert is billed as "the music of Lee Konitz", so I don't know how much he'll actually play, but even if it's only one tune, that's worth the whole evening.  Lee also had a workshop today that I found out after the fact I could've made... aaargh.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking again, waiting to hear.

First, a little housekeeping- I've finally gone in and fixed the comment settings on blogger so that comments come to my e-mail. My apologies to those who had to wait awhile for their comments to post- that should not be an issue anymore. As can be seen by the last post, one of the best things about blogging is the lively conversation it can create, especially from an engaged and literate readership (that's you). So go ahead, pat yourself on the back.

Finishing the thought behind that last post, while in hindsight I clearly chose a bad example to make my point, I'd like to hear other opinions, about my broader point. Too often, especially in Boston in the past couple of years, I've been frustrated by “performances” where the artists, often some young avant unit, play with no thought whatsoever given to the actual performing of the music beyond simply notes and rhythms- how they look, how they address the audience (or don't). And institutions, including schools, that seem to at least tolerate it, or at the worst encourage it. I don't know if it's ignorance, or some sort of artistic noblesse-oblige or just being dumb, but I've seen it enough recently to be bothered by it, and to wonder about what, if any, are the broader implications. Do we further marginalize the audience for this music when we play this way?

I'm no huge fan of all the rather archaic rituals that surround an orchestra concert- it's too stuffy for me, and often encourages an atmosphere that almost seems to encourage all but the cognizanti to stay away. (Which, I suppose at one time, may have been the whole point) But I feel there is a grave danger in going too far the other way, which I feel like I'm seeing a lot of, more than I'm used to, and much more than I'm comfortable with. Do I care too much about this? Thoughts?

These are extraordinary qualities.

Overlooked in all of the Oscar hype for "Slumdog" was the other song in the best song category, Peter Gabriel's "Down to Earth".  This was one of my favorite songs of the year, from my absolutely favorite movie.  

I thought it was interesting, and kind of cool, that two of the three songs nominated were from the closing of each film, two of my favorite credit sequences ever.  (If you missed the end of Wall*E, go back and watch again. )  I hope Gabriel wins, but I think it'll be one of the "Slumdog" songs, as a make-up for other awards it may not get.  Ah, awards shows...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let All Those Who Do Justice and Love Mercy say Amen!

I know that Barack Obama is a politician first and an idealist second- that's why he's where he is- but I pray that he can be the leader we need, and we are strong and clear enough to hold his feet to the fire.  Amen!

Monday, January 19, 2009

You look like what I hear

On Saturday evening I made my annual trip to hear the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's "Boston ConNECtions" concert, which celebrates their long relationship with New England conservatory, and features primarily Boston composers' work. The concert featured several premieres, including of Michael Gandolfi's shimmery, fun new bass trombone concerto, Peter Maxwell Davies' striking bass (!) concerto, and a new piece by William Thomas McKinley celebrating some of Boston's notable musical citizens. (The George Russell movement, of course, ended on the #4) They also debuted a student commission, an annual event, this year Matti Kovler's "Jew Among the Indians (Cokboy)", a dramatic setting of a Depression-era poem about a Jew living on a Navajo reservation.

I honestly don't know what I thought of the piece one way or the other, because I couldn't get past seeing Mr. Kovler performing as the narrator in his own piece. He looked like he had just fallen out of bed- he wore a sweater with the collar rumpled up haphazardly, blue jeans and sneakers. His hair looked unkempt, his face like he hadn't shaved for three days. He looked so bizzarly out of place in front of the (generally very stylish, I might add) all black-clad orchestra. My date for the concert had the same reaction.

I wouldn't mention this, and I know maybe it's not fair to single Mr. Kovler out, but I've thought about it several times over the past year. I've gone to a show jazz, classical and otherwise, when paying sometimes substantial money to see a performance, and the performer dressing and acting on stage in a way that never acknowledges it. While I've never said anything, I've definitely noticed, and it's always I think subconsciously biased me against whoever I'm seeing. We're paying to see a performance, dammit, not just a string of notes, and I'd appreciate at least a modicum of effort to acknowledge that. Rock acts from The Clash to Coldplay to whoever certainly are very aware of that, no matter what they look like, and lots has been made over the years about how jazz musicians from Miles to Mingus to Duke to the Art Ensemble present a performance.

I'm not saying we should all go Young Lion again and wear suits to a $10 gig again- I would certainly hate it- but when I perform I think about what I wear for either fashion, or theatricality or both. If I'm soloing with an orchestra (which, of course, hasn't happened) I take that into account in how I dress. (If I'm going to or playing at Lily Pad or the Sidewalk in New York, obviously, I care a lot less) If he'd dressed in a way that acknowledged the material but wasn't "dressy", I know I'd have a different reaction, and might have heard the piece better.

While I'm grateful that the mores of concert performance have gotten a lot less stuffed shirt, have we gone too far the other way in the way we present music. In jazz and improvised music, has this been a detriment, a boon, or something else? Or am I getting too cranky in my old age? Thoughts/rants/feedback appreciated.

UPDATE: See the comments section- clearly my reaction was not universally shared, and there was much more to it than I saw.  Had I been able to go to the pre-concert talk, or seen Mr. Kovler afterwards, I might have responded differently.  He was going for something that I didn't get.  As I said, I am more interested in larger issues of performance presentation that this one case, and maybe this was the wrong example to use.  More tomorrow.  

Friday, January 16, 2009

tea by sea by T buses

Last night I went to Sub Rosa, local singer Rose Politano's occasional hootenanny at the Lizard Lounge. Apparently each time she does this show she has what she calls the Stranger segment, a sort of gong show where someone who she hears about somehow is invited, and sings a couple of tunes. Last night it was Becca Stevens, best know in my circles as the voice of Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra. (review from last years Winter JazzFest here) I don't think anyone in the room knew who she was, and she proceeded to blow everyone away with very twisty tunes, tight three part harmony with her band of bassist and accordianist, and a tremendous amount of poise.

Rose afterwards in a little interview segment teased her about needing a band name, and a couple of the musicians present and I agreed that the music leans too heavily on Sufjan Stevens' influence. But she was asked back for an encore, and knocked us out again.

I mention this because Becca is playing Lily Pad tonight at 7pm. Go check her out, you won't be disappointed.

P.S. Due to the limits of my small reptilian brain I mixed Becca up with Jean Rohe, another up and coming New School grad, to her face. My apologies to both parties.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Music to see in Boston, Jan. 09

This is late (and small), but here goes:

Highlight: Josh Redman double trio @ Berklee Performance Center, 1/22

1/17: Either/Orchestra @ Regattabar
1/20: Bill Frisell Trio @ Regattabar
1/23-4: Kenny Garrett @ Regattabar
1/23-4: Pat Martino at Scullers

The Fringe is still at the Lily Pad every Monday night at 10. In addition, there is a cool new Sunday night series that Gil Ahorn, the owner is running. Details here.

Also, for some reason the Ryles schedule is not working online. Not a good sign. If you have it, or think I missed something, please e-mail me.

It's time for an orgy

First, sorry to be so absent from the blogworld recently, especially with so much cool stuff passing through lately. (You'll see what's been keeping me busy, hopefully, on the blog soon) In the meantime, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Boston is, in addition to being knee-deep in snow, in the center of WHRB's annual orgy season, where they play hours and hours in a row of a single artist or theme. I missed the first week, and I'm not particularly interested in the five days of Mendhlesson they are currently playing, but there is some interesting stuff coming:

Friday 1/15 8pm- Saturday 1/16 5am: History of Hip-Hop orgy
Saturday 1/16 5am -7pm Jazz Funk orgy. Should be a lot of the good, the bad and the ugly from the 70s.
Sunday 1/17 - Met broadcast of Doctor Atomic. Not an orgy, but something I'm excited for.
Tuesday 1/20 2pm- "Jazz for Change"
Thursday 1/22 to Friday 1/23, various times- Elliot Carter orgy
Tuesday 1/29- the John Zorn orgy.

I would note that compared to years past, this is a very weak orgy season for jazz, and just about everything non-classical. Do we really need days and days of Martinu, and only one orgy dedicated exclusively to anything even remotely jazz (Zorn)? I've been very disheartened recently with the Boston jazz scene, and particularly the media's indifference. For instance, in their year in review columns, the Boston Globe had classical and pop reviews from their big guns, but not a word about jazz. And they have Steve Greenlee, a very solid and underrated critic, is nowhere to be found. The Globe is currently in a crunch, like all papers, but to see jazz increasingly written off there is disturbing.

More soon...