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.