Tue, 29 November 2011
Category:general -- posted at: 3:05pm EST
Mon, 28 November 2011
The Solos & Duos Series, produced by the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, concludes its 10th season with a concert by the Wadada Leo Smith/Günter ‘Baby’ Sommer Duo on Friday, December 2, in Bezanson Recital Hall at 8:00pm. Günter ‘Baby’ Sommer is one of the master musicians of contemporary European jazz, a percussionist of enormous originality and humor, who has recorded with Cecil Taylor, Peter Brötzmann and Günter Grass. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is a hugely influential trumpeter and educator, who has worked with every major improviser of the last 40 years.
Born in Dresden, East Germany, in 1943, Sommer studied at the Hochschule für Musik "Carl Maria von Weber" from 1962-66. (He now teaches at the University.) He was soon performing with masters like saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowksy and pianist Ulrich Gumpert, and has released over 100 recordings with Peter Kowald, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Barre Phillips.
Other events in the residency will include:
Günter “Baby” Sommer: Jazz Recital Hour Thursday, December 1,11am-Noon, Bezanson Recital Hall, UMass Free and open to the public
Wadada Leo Smith: Discusses "10 Freedom Summers", his recent large-scale work inspired by the Civil Rights struggle. Reception to follow. Thursday, December 1, 4-6pm, Hampshire College, Music Bldg, Recital Hall Free and open to the public
Listen to Glenn Siegel's live conversation with Wadada & Baby on WMUA, 91.1FM Friday, Dec. 2, 11a-Noon www.wmua.org
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46am EST
Fri, 25 November 2011
When jazz lovers like myself talk about "the new standards", we're usually talking material written in "the Rock Era" that entices jazz musicians to record unique or different versions of the song. Well established singer-songwriters like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon have been recorded by jazz musicians for years, with Joni's catalog becoming something of a touchstone for jazz musicians lately. Bands like Radiohead and Pavement have found their songs improvised upon as well.
Two singer-songwriters who passed away too soon seem to be the most covered artists these days - Elliot Smith and Nick Drake. I'll focus on Smith another time, but for today which is the 37th anniversary of the sudden death from an overdose (accidental or otherwise) of antidepressants at the age of 26, it's Drake.
Barely noticed by the record-buying public and never championed by critics during his lifetime, Drake recorded three album - Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later and Pink Moon - that have become essential listening. Other posthumous collections and re-releases have since followed. Whether or not you first heard Drake on the Volkswagen television commercial that co-opted "Pink Moon", if you've listened, you're likely a believer.
So why have jazz musicians been drawn to his music? Other than the hipster factor of recording the songs of a "doomed sensitive British artist", there is the intricate harmonies in his compositions. Drake obsessively practiced his guitar, and worked with alternative tunings and clusters of chords that make his music unique in the singer-songwriter oeve. He was never afraid to avoid classic song structure, and his hushed voice often downplayed what are now recognized as strong melodies.
Pianist Brad Mehldau has been a champion of Drake's music among jazz musicians. You can listen to his explanation of why he finds his music so enthralling in this NPR interview from 2004. Mehldau claims to have been first turned on to Drake while hanging out at a club in Los Angeles:
The first time I heard Nick Drake was someone covering "River Man". I thought, what the hell was that beautiful evocative thing in 5/4? The chords reminded me of something modal that I had identified with Coltrane, but it was being sung on a guitar.
Click here to listen to jazz versions of songs written by Nick Drake, including:
Brad Mehldau - "River Man" from Deregulating Jazz.
Taylor Eigsti - "Pink Moon" from Daylight at Midnight.
Charle Hunter Quintet featuring Norah Jones - "Day Is Done" from Songs from the Analog Playground.
Chris Gestrin & Simon Fisk - "One of These Things First" from Poor Boy, The Songs of Nick Drake.
Tessa Souter - "River Man" from Obsession.
Brad Mehldau - "Things Left Behind the Sun" from Live in Tokyo.
Kate Hammet-Vaughan - "Poor Boy" from Poor Boy, The Songs of Nick Drake.
Brad Mehldau - "River Man" from Live in Tokyo.
Thu, 24 November 2011
We all have much to be thankful for today, and so let us begin the day by sharing the sentiment of this song, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Erin Bode, the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Thanksgiving Day:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am EST
Thu, 24 November 2011
Forty-two years ago today, a little known record label called ECM (short for “Encounters in Contemporary Music”) booked time at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg to record what would become its first release, a trio album by Mal Waldron. entitled Free at Last. Perhaps only the label's founder Manfred Eicher, could have imagined that in 2011, ECM would still be going strong, and be synonymous with subtle, haunting, memorable music. Their identity rivals more traditional jazz labels like Blue Note and Impulse, and have been true to their motto: “The Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence”
My first contact with an ECM record was the same as many others, through Keith Jarrett’s solo improvised masterpiece The Koln Concert in my Dad's record collection. Highly impressionistic and yet melodic and swinging, that album went on the sell four million copies, one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. Since then, ECM has always presented music of the highest quality, if not some of jazz’s most ethereal and hard-to-label sounds. Their roster of talent has always shifted over time, but has included masters like Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Matheny, Keith Jarrett, and Jack DeJohnette.
To celebrate the anniversary, Podcast 245 presents just a smattering of the wonderful recordings that I have come to know and love from ECM. This is a highly personal list, rather than a “best of” or historical retrospective. As an extra, the final two tracks are from two fascinating ECM releases from this year, the Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani duo piano collaboration Orvieto, and the reimagined, remixed CD from Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer, as they use their DJ skills to create new sonic results from the ECM vaults. Click here to listen to:
Chick Corea – “Crystal Silence” from Return to Forever.
Gary Burton Quintet with Eberhard Weber – “Tunnel of Love“ from Ring.
Ralph Towner / Gary Burton – “Drifting Petals” from Matchbook.
Pat Metheny – “Midwestern Night’s Dream” from Bright Size Life.
Kenny Wheeler – “In the Afternoon“from Deer Wan.
Keith Jarrett – “Country” from My Song.
Jan Garbarek · Ustad Fateh Ali Khan – “Saga” from Ragas and Sagas.
Jack DeJohnette - ”Emanations” from Dancing with Nature Spirits.
Charles Lloyd, John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Billy Higgins – “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” from Voices in the Night.
Steve Kuhn Trio with Joe Lovano – “Trance” from Mostly Coltrane
Chick Corea / Stefano Bollani – “A Valsa da Paula” from Orvieto.
Ricardo Villalobos / Max Loderbauer – “Retimeless“ from Re: ECM. (Remixed from John Abercrombie – "Timeless").
Wed, 23 November 2011
Twenty-four hours to go before the big Thanksgiving feast! What would go better with some turkey than some "Giblet Gravy", courtesy of guitarist George Benson.
Those who only know Benson from his smooth jazz or Top 40 recordings don't realize that he was one of the funkiest and fastest guitar slingers in his early days. Here he plays with a team of top notch musicians in 1968 sessions, including Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Certer (bass), Pepper Adams (sax) and Billy Cobham (drums). It's worth noting that three of the four - and Benson as well - are all Miles Davis Alumni.
Click here for a tune well suited to those last minute preparations around the kitchen. Cue it up and let the gravy fly!
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Tue, 22 November 2011
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00pm EST
Sat, 19 November 2011
Guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and grew up in California listening to rock music. Today, he mixes the sounds of his native Southern Asia – particularly devotional Qawwali music – with jazz and classical sounds to create true world music. Whether he is playing with the electric Rez Abbasi’s Invocation (with Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer), Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet (“RAAQ”), the Indo-Pak Coalition (with Mahanthappa and Dan Weiss) or with his wife Kiran Ahluwalia’s band, he is performing at the highest level, and becoming a leading figure in modern jazz.
I spoke with Abassi earlier in November, following the release of his latest CD, Suno Suno, one of the best of the year. Rez Abbasi’s Invocation has a band capable of performing both western jazz and eastern sounds with great dexterity, creating music that shifts and swirls as often as it subtly swings. Click here to listen to the interview, which includes musical selection like:
Kiran Ahluwalia – “Aks” from Wanderlust. When we spoke, Rez was on tour as the musical leader of his wife Kiran’s band. He plays guitar and produced the CD, which creates a fusion of ghazals, the Indian and Persian sung poetry often about unrequited love, and fado, the melancholic Portuguese song form also based in poetry. Kiran was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in New York.
Rez Abbasi – “Dream State” from Things to Come. Rez’s killer band – Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass and Dan Weiss on drums and tabla – kicked off the CD with this tune that allows everyone to stretch out a bit. Listen to the closing solo by Mahanthrappa, in which he at times tries to replicate the tone of a traditional Indian shenai (a double reed conical oboe).
Rez Abbasi’s Invocation – “Onus On Us” from Suno Suno. You’ll have to listen to the interview to hear a great story on how this song, and thus the album, came to be titled. The same band is here in its glory, on a Qawwali-influenced number
Rez Abbasi’s Invocation – “Part of One” from Suno Suno. A more conventional jazz structure makes this tune a standout. Rez really gets a chance to solo here.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – “Shamas-Ud-Doha, Badar-Ud-Doja (Edit) (Edit) “from Passion Sources. Passion Sources was compiled by Peter Gabriel as a companion album to Passion (the music written for the film The Last Temptation of Christ). Legendary Qawwali Singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan contributed greatly to Gabriel’s attempt at a genuine Middle Eastern feel.
Mon, 14 November 2011
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST
Thu, 10 November 2011
Most jazz fans have been exposed to the rhythms and melodies of Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), the Argentine tango master who melded his native music with jazz and modern classical sounds in the second half of the 20th century. Albums of his music have been recorded by jazz stalwarts like Gary Burton, Paquito D’Rivera and Pablo Aslan. Alsan, a masterful bass player and arranger, has recorded some fascinating interpretive projects of jazz tango music, and his latest CD may be his most interesting.
In 1959, Astor Piazzolla, then living in New York City, assembled a quintet of studio musicians and recorded Take Me Dancing!, a blatantly commercial project that even misspelled the artist’s name on the sleeve.. While a failure with the public, and, in Piazzolla’s mind, an artistic abomination, in many ways it represented the birth of jazz tango. Over the next thirty years, Piazolla would develop his “nuevo tango” and re-invent tango for the world.
Aslan assembled his favorite players to try to re-imagine the “cursed album”, and the result is enjioyable, always full of the rhythmic pulse and tunefulness that would later make Piazzolla a musical giant. I spoke with Pablo about his reasons for tackling this album, other jazz tango projects he’d like to take on, and even got a playlist for newbies looking to learn about tango music. Click here and listen to the conversation, which includes musical selections such as:
Pablos Aslan Quintet – “La Calle 92” from Piazzolla In Brooklyn and the Rebirth of Jazz Tango. One of the many memorable numbers written by Piazzolla and the jazz tango movement, this is the only “non-cover” on the CD, having come from the later Piazolal songbook. The quintet is Pablo Aslan on bass; Gustavo Bergalli on trumpet; Nicols Enrich on bandoneon; Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla (the great man’s grandson) on drums; and Abel Rogantini on piano.
Pablos Aslan Quintet – “Plus Ultra” from Piazzolla In Brooklyn and the Rebirth of Jazz Tango. A reworked version of one of the more propulsive tracks from the original Take Me Dancing! album by Astor Piazzolla.
Paquito D’Rivera – "Bandoneón" from Tango Jazz: Live at Jazz Lincoln Center. Recorded live in 2010, the great Cuban musician plays tribute to his musical idolsm backed by a band that includes Bergalli on trumpet; Michael Zisman on bandoneón; Rogantini on piano; Aslan on bass; and Daniel Piazzolla on drums.
Carlos Gardel – “Volver” from The Best of Carlos Gardel. Gardel was an international sex symbol and one of the great tango originators in the first third of the 20th century. A songwriter, bandleader and raconteur, Gardel tragically died in a plane crash near the height of his powers and popularity. Even today, he is often referred to as the “King of the Tango”. The title of this classic means "to come back"; you may have heard it in Pedro Almodóvar’s award-winning film of the same title.
(Pablo Aslan, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels Piazzolaa’s pianist Pable Zeigler, and many more will present The Music of Astor Piazzolla on Fri-Sat Nov 11-12 8pm at the Rose Theater in NewYork, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Music of the Masters” series.)