Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RIP Bob Bowen

(via Josh Sinton) I am shocked and saddened to hear of the death of wonderful New York bassist and educator Bob Bowen. This is terrible news. A bio skecth is here and there are details here of his passing, including a fund for his family. It's been years since I saw Bob, but when I was in New York he was a friend and occasional collaborator- we had many friends and bandmates in common- and I was always honored to be able to play with him. A few years ago he helped run a summer creative music academy, which was a beautiful addition to the music scene in New York. I think the last time I talked to him was when a student of his was starting at NEC, and he wanted me to keep an eye on him. (That student ended up being a Fulbright scholar and studying Carnatic music in India) That's how he was. My condolences to his family and friends.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sing me a movie

A brief plug for the Regent Theater in Arlington- all weekend they are showing documentaries from the legendary Isle of Wight Festival. Of interest to readers of this blog- tomorrow at 7, "Electric Miles- Another Kind of Blue", which I've seen and like, and at 9, "Lenord Cohen Live". I will be at a meeting, but if you can, check it. (link coming, I'm haveing cookie issues. Ummm, cookies...)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RIP Abbey Lincoln

NY Times obit here. Fresh Air has some wonderful interviews from the 80s and 90s. Jason Palmer has been writing little bits on his Facebook about his friendship with Abbey.

Ethan Iverson wrote about three Abbey tracks that moved him early and mid-career. I'm ashamed to admit that I don't know that music very well, though Ran Blake assigned the great track "Laugh Clown Laugh" from Abbey is Blue, so I know that. But I am most grateful to Abbey for her records in the early 90s on Verve/Polygram. I grew up around classic jazz- my dad had lots of Ella and Sarah and Anita O'Day, but none of it spoke to me for some reason.

But in about 1990 both Abbey Lincoln and Shirley Horn put out records on Verve that totally, radicaly changed my conception of a jazz singer. Shirley, who I've raved about here before, taught me about sophistication, and patience, and phrasing. Abbey's disc "The World is Falling Down" was about raw power. Not uncontrolled power- she was far too smart and stylish for that, but from that record I always got the feeling that just under that voice was a tremendous force that could come up and smack you silly if you were being dumb. (Some of that is obvious in the NPR interviews, when she talks about married life.) But listen to a track like "I've Got Thunder" (also excerpted on Fresh Air)- sometimes she'll put a little hitch in a multi-syllable word- some folks talk about my po- WER- not because she can't find the time, but because it packs that extra little punch. And as great as her own songs are, the covers are fabulous too- for years I played "How High the Moon" in three, just because Abbey did. (This album also benefits from some fabulous, elegant playing from the great Clark Terry.) The whole album is great, from the cheeky but dark title track to her reimagining of Charlie Haden's "First Song" to the music mentioned about.

The other Abbey album that killed me as a teenager was "You Gotta Pay the Band", the last record Stan Getz recorded in studio. Stan's impending death looms large here, but as on "People Time", his last album, he plays impeccably, as if his mortality focuses him even more than earlier in life. And Abbey's choice of music does nothing to soften the coming blow- "When I'm Called Home" is a meditation on meeting the Maker, and the title track ruminates on the idea of paying the piper that every hard-living artist must ruminate on.

One of the yoga teachers who I studied with early on is big on cute aphorisms, one of which is "Hold Nothing Back." To me Abbey is the epitome of that- from the time she connected with Max Roach on, she was entirely in your face power, entirely who she was and unapologetic for it. That beacon was very powerful to me as a young artist, and now as I approach middle age it is still a beacon and a challenge to stand your ground and speak your peace. I am tremendously grateful to Abbey for being who she was, and challenging us, artists and audience, to play big too.

To close, here's Abbey singing "First Song" on David Sanborn's Night Music. I don't love the backing as much as I do the album version, but here delivery is impeccable.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Your enlightenment gets me off...

Two random notes as I continue to try to compose my thoughts about Newport, and move to a new apartment:

Salon.com highlights the seedy underside of the guru in Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray Love". Really, they're just compiling older reports, but I think it's worth highlighting. I've had no contact as a teacher or a student with the SDYM, so I have no particular insight into these accusations. But I can say that I've studied with teachers who, while they were tremendously helpful to me and to my journey as a yogi, have behaved in ways that I find downright despicable. (Omgal sums it up beautifully) And there are other teachers whose ideas I greatly admire and work with who have been accused of the same. My own personal solution- I work with their ideas, meditations, and processes at a distance, not up close. I vividly remember something my father said to me once when I had my first experience with institutional politics: "you want to test someone's character, give them just a little bit of power". As a teacher, it's easy to let yourself believe the idea that somehow the fact that you came across this cool insight somehow makes you hot %$#t, which then gives you the right to shtoink anything you want and pull power trips at will. Ahhhh... not so much. It's not about you; it's never about you.

On a ligher note, the recently resurgent blogger (and author of the amazing The Rest is Noise. If you care about music of any stripe and haven't read it, I'm not sure I can talk to you...) Alex Ross collects suggestions of the "worst recording ever" after suggesting his own. I know it isn't the worst, but one of my least favorites is a collection of Howard Hanson conducting his own symphonies. I know it doesn't reach Ross' depths- for one, the fidelity is decent- by I have a personal animus against Hanson from my Eastman days, and the music itself is crap. If you have better suggestions, please send them to Alex. I also remember completely from my days studying with Brookmeyer his rant against a couple of comps he got from the Aum Fidelity label- he thought the music (mostly free, which wasn't typically to his taste) was ill-conceived, and then badly recorded at that. I don't think I agreed with him about those particular records, but I'm starting to see where he's coming from. But that's another post...

UPDATE: The Siddha Yoga Foundation responds to the Salon article here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Newport was now, now it's then

I'm still working up my notes from a fabulous Saturday in Newport- suffice to say it was a great time, and I heard some great music. In the meantime, a lot of what I heard and will be blogging about can be heard here. I'm currently taking in Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstacy's set, since I couldn't be there in person to see it. Check it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Coming Back, Heading Out.

So after a long, long delay, I'm trying to get things up and running again here at visionsong central. I'm debating which direction to take the blog, which will probably be the topic of upcoming posts. In the meantime, a couple of brief updates:

- Album number 3, working title "Who We Are Together" is in the home stretch. All the tracks are edited, now I have to cut 90 minutes of music into a 60 minute album, and master it. Details (and samples) forthcoming.

- My next big post will be a review of Saturday's piece of the Newport Jazz Festival. I'm tremendously excited to see the lineup, especially old friend Darcy's hit with Bob Brookmeyer, as well as seeing Maria Schneider's band. If you're there on Saturday (and if you're within 200 miles, you should be) and see me (I'll try to wear something garish) I hope you'll say hi.