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 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.