Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear 1999

This post is part of a group blog event organized by The topic is: "If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?"

Dear Greg (1999),

I wish you had an idea of the changes that are in store for the music world in the next 10 years. Looking back on things, there is one thought that keeps coming back to my mind and it serves as the most important piece of advice I can think to give you for the upcoming decade: Don't Wait.

We both have a tendency to plan things out and think about how great things will be when we get everything just right. The secret is, it is never just right. Start documenting things, start writing, start recording, don't wait! Things are coming that will blow your mind!

In just a few years, the internet will be much more connected to the music world and it will change the whole paradigm of how music is experienced, purchased, discussed, etc. There is still much discussion going on even now in 2009 but I can tell you, this is a GOOD thing. Artists are getting their work out at a rate that is unprecedented. The trumpet player Dave Douglas (go find his recordings as soon as you can...) is self distributing everything he does. He records a set, goes home, posts it online and makes it available for download. Tenor player Matt Otto (don't wait to check him out either...) does similar things with his recordings as well as lessons and exercises with a pay what you can system. So generous.

Get your stuff recorded and get it out there. As an artist, you (and I) have to be ready to embrace the opportunities that are coming.

Remember what you tell all of your students: "If we waited until we could do something to do it, we'd never do anything!"


Greg (2009)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Someone should have Warne-ed me!!!

The Warne Marsh project I've been working on is at the same time incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating.

I've transcribed some stuff from later in is life and an now working on stuff from the 50s. His harmonic vocabulary is very steeped in common practice/BeBop ideas so it is relatively easy to absorb his melodic and harmonic choices. What I am struggling with is both his rhythmic language and his approach to the saxophone in general. The rhythmic piece comes from, I am sure, his study with and of Tristano's approach. He plays lines that at first hearing do not seem so complex but once you begin to deconstruct the line, none of the expect rhythmic resolutions are present. Lines that typically resolve on the beat are displaced by several beats. That coupled with a sound conception that is very impressionistic and effervescent make it quite difficult to isolate the specifics for his vocabulary. His sound is one of the aspects I haven't quite decided about yet. The transparency of his sound gives the effect of his lines rising and out of and falling back into a misty field of subtone and air. I get the feeling that Wayne Shorter was influenced by Warne at some point. If anyone has data on this, I'd love to hear it. However, there are aspects of his sound that do not appeal to me also. To my ears, there is a nasal, almost "stuffy-head" color to his mid-register and his upper register can be an adventure in intonation.

The challenge and point of transcription projects like this is to put aside any subjective feelings about the artist under study, absorb the artist's conception and approach, and THEN decide what works for you and mine that gold.

These challenges are very good for me right now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

That Old Feelin'

Last week marked my first week as a Graduate Student in Jazz Studies at The University of Rhode Island.

It feels great to be back in school and I am working on some very interesting projects:

- A research project into Gil's writing that will culminate in 2 charts written in his style.
- A semester-long study of the saxophonist Warne Marsh (An Unsung Cat indeed).
- A Music "History" course on the 20th century. This is mostly 20th Century Classical, but I am already finding some interesting compositional techniques that I look forward to trying out.

Having some projects to do and some milestones to hit has done wonders for my motivation level, which has been sagging of late. I'll update how the projects are going. For now, here is a great clip of Warne's playing with Lee Konitz.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, The President....

A happy 100th birthday (a day late) to Lester Young. I have been listening to some Prez today for the first time in a while and I must get some more into my rotation post-haste.

Lester is one of those cats that I always feel like I "should" listen to and never do. I have written about primary sources before and Prez CERTAINLY counts as one. All of my favorites have links back to him and, as today's listening has shown, he is QUITE heavy. His sense of line is something I want to dig into over the next few months. Currently, I'm digging "Ad Lib Blues" from Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Just beautiful playing.

On a different note, I am adding the Twitter widget that Howard Mandel has put together. This is a great idea and I hope many will use it. It is designed to act as a way of tracking who is hearing live jazz direct response to the "Is Jazz Dead" article and conversation that has been going around. Here's what Howard has to say about it:

"Start a Twitter campaign, and see what happens! Do as many people hear live jazz in a week as attended Woodstock, say? Using the hashtag #jazzlives, a rough count is underway, supported by independent jazz activists, musicians, festivals, journalists but most of all the listeners themselves. It's a lesson in how people participate in culture now, with encouraging findings."

I am still formulating my own thoughts on the issue, at least trying to put them together in a coherent enough fashion for posting here but, based on the attendance and demographic at the Newport Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago (at $75.00 a day!!) I am encouraged, with reservations. I'll be exploring those reservations in the next couple of days. Until then, dig some Prez...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Newport 2009 - Day 2

Sorry for the lag...

The second day of the Newport Jazz Festival was an absolutly amazing experience.

I love Joe Lovano. I have loved Joe Lovano since "Universal Language" back in the 90s.

Joe Lovano played on Sunday as the first act on the main stage. It...was....beyond....words!

NPR webcast the performance and it is available for download here. RUN, do not walk, to this site and download it. US5 is, in my opinion, his most creative project yet and they were in top form. The 2-drummer format worked very nicely...very textural and not much "bashing" (although, there was some). Esperanza killed it for a second day in a very different setting. She is an amazing musician.

Roy Haynes and Ron Carter (!)...another killer set. Ron's bass sound is as thick as ever and his playing is even more refined than I remember.

Brubeck was as elegant as always. Played mostly Duke tunes and it was great to hear his sensibilities steeped through Dukes compositions.

Enjoy the pics:


Lovano and some hack...

Roy Haynes and Ron Carter


Lovano on Tarogato...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Newport 2009 - Day 1

What a great day. The weather was perfect, bright and sunny (as evidenced by some very unfortunate tan lines on your's truly...I was wearing a Kufi. Use your imagination....) and not too hot. The music was wonderful! I heard:

The Cedar Walton All Stars - Cedar with Lou Tabackin and Curtis Fuller. Lou is always a treat to hear and what a privlidge to hear Curtis. One of the only (if not THE only) bone players to play with Trane. The music was right out of the hard bop/modal genre. Cedar's great tunes sound great with the tenor/bone combination.

Esperanza Spalding - How is it that I have not been listening to her for the past couple of years?!? Killer bass player, that goes without saying, but her vocal work really knocked me out today. Informed to my ears by Betty Carter as well as artists like Stevie Wonder, there is an element on her upper range that just grabs at my heart. I'll be visiting iTunes soon.

Joshua Redman - Josh hit with his double trio, which at times covered the entire spectrum from solo to sextet, with all mathematical combinations in between. I haven't checked out much of Redman's music in the past few years. Hearing him today makes me realize what I have been missing. The music was exploratory, very textural and formally VERY interesting. No head-solos-head.

Branford Marsalis - When I was in high school, Branford was my hero. I begged my father to take me to hear him when he would come through Chicago/Ravinia etc... I have gotten away from listening to him in the past few years, but today was a nice reminder of how much I like him. A good mix of standards and originals, his set was full of mastery. Branford's harmonic sense is quite original while keeping touch with history and his rhythmic concept is just amazing. He can shift gears between upper and lower neighbor meters with more ease than anyone I can think of. His soprano tone is to die for!

A great day of music and I can't wait for tomorrow...Photos follow...

Esperanza Spalding

Joshua Redman

Esperanza Spalding

Branford Marsalis

Esperanza Spalding

The crowds

The NPR Command Center

Cedar Walton, Curtus Fuller, Lou Tabackin

Friday, August 7, 2009

Newport Up! - Day 7

I must admit, I spend a good part of yesterday listening to OMD and The Cure. But in honor of the Festival starting tomorrow, here is one of my favorite performance clips from Newport.

See you at Ft. Adams....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A brief pause...

from the run up to Newport Jazz Festival to pay tribute.

The Newport videos will return tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Newport Up! - Day 6

Joe Williams and Jimmy Rushing take us to Chicago, by way of Newport, with Basie's band providing the propulsion.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Newport Up! - Day 5

I have always thought that Dave Holland's Quintet with Chris Potter was one of the best. Here they are in 2002...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Newport Up! - Day 4

Today, a KILLIN version of Midnight Sun by Esperanza Spalding. She'll be there this year too with Joe Lovano's Us 5.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Newport Up! - Day 2

Today I offer a short little gem. Rahsaan Roland Kirk at the 1962 Festival. Bro. Rahsaan tears up some flute...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Newport Up!

As life in transition settles down and boxes slowly get unpacked it occurs to me...THE JAZZ FESTIVAL IS NEXT WEEK!!!

I am very excited about the lineup and will be posting my impressions here, but in preparation I will offer a daily look back at the Newport Jazz Festival of days gone by...

We start, very appropriately, with Pops:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full-upright position...

So, it has been over 2 months since my last post.

In the blogosphere this is roughly equal to the amount of time it takes for light from Alpha Centauri to reach Earth, so I am grateful for anyone who is still following. If you are new, welcome!

My move to Rhode Island has been a very positive step for me. The energy of New England is a much better fit and the location is perfect, close to Boston and New York. Being able to drive 1.5 hours and hear an artist of the caliber of Jerry Bergonzi (with only 10 people in the club!) is a true blessing.

The scene in Rhode Island seems to be positive. I have met and been working with some great players including: Joe Parillo, Joe Potenza, Gene Rosati, and Jared Sims. I'll be starting my Master's Degree at The University of Rhode Island this fall so I have a feeling that most of my projects will be focused in that direction for the next couple of years. The program at URI is very interesting and seemingly very progressive. It's a performance degree but the curriculum is quite ad-hoc. Lots of opportunity for independent study and research coupled with traditional lessons, recitals etc.

The Spring has been exciting in the listening realm. I've been on a big Joe Henderson kick lately. His sense of time and harmonic individuality are big inspirations to me lately. I have read in interviews and also heard from some of my teachers who studied with Joe that he was big on writing etudes on tunes under study. I have been doing a bit of this in my practice and it is a very valuable way to understand a tune. The trick for me is to write etudes that don't sound like etudes. Greg Fishman (one of the teachers mentioned above) is great at this. He has several books of etudes that are great examples of the process.

I have also been listening to a lot of Rich Perry. I am in love with this guy's playing. Beautiful sound, rich harmonic and melodic ideas and a soft and subtle concept that really appeals to me.

I've taken a bit of a break from writing, although I currently have an "itch" that I keep messing around with at the piano, so something may be coming soon.

Finally I must state me sorrow at the passing of Charlie Mariano. I have been listening to a wonderful arrangement of Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess by Vince Mendoza that features him.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bud Shank (1926-2009)

I was saddened to learn of Bud Shank's passing this weekend.

When I was an undergrad student at NIU, the program was great about bringing in artists for long residencies and performance tours. Bud was the guest artist during the Fall semester of my Freshman year.

I was entranced by his playing and his lectures and clinics we very formative for me. I was really effected by his honesty, frankness and depth of knowledge without being pedantic. I remember a great conversation we had about how I felt there there was too much polarity in music and he paid me a very nice compliment about my "mature outlook". Needless to say, I was buzzing for weeks on that. His alto playing continues to knock me out and his music will be in heavy rotation today.

Here is a link to Doug Ramsey's remembrance and a KILLIN video...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lovano KILLIN it!

I just came accross this footage from 2008 Jazz Baltica's Trane tribute.  Dig them in order...

Pack up all your cares and woe...

A busy 2 months...

That is the only way I can describe what has been going on around here.  In addition to my usual gigs and projects (more on that in a moment) I have been processing some big upcoming changes.

We are going to be moving soon.  I've taken a job in Newport RI; I move up there in April and the family will follow in late June/early July.  This is an incredibly positive thing. 

I've enjoyed living and working in Hampton Roads VA.  The scene here is very healthy and there is work, even now, to go around for everyone.  The jazz scene is small, but forward thinking and there is a good public following for creative music.  I'll truly miss some of the cats I have been working with, namely:  Chris Brydge, Jeff Smith, Jim Nesbit, Keith Philbirck, Joe Camarda, Roy Muth, Jackie Friend, John Toomey, Rob DeDominick, Woody Beckner and so many others.  

I have to admit, though, I am really looking forward to the move to New England.  The chance to be close to Boston (an hour) and NYC (2 or so hours) is really exciting as is the opportunity for study.  I am applying for some grad schools up there and I hope to complete my Master's within the next couple of years.

There have been some great moments in the past couple of months.  I have been doing some very creative work with Chris Brydge's quartet.  Alto, Tenor, Bass and Drums.  The colors between the alto and me on tenor are really refreshing and Chris can GROOVE!!!!  Also, the Virginia Arts Festival Jazz Orchestra (AKA The Roy Muth Big Band) recently performed a tribute concert to Frank Foster.  Fos' lives in Hampton Roads and it was such and honor to work with him on his music, some brand new and some the original ink from Basie's band!

Postings here will continue to be sporadic as the family and I prepare for the big move, but I will drop in from time to time.  I have a few more projects pending down here that may merit discussion.

Lastly, I would like to add my thoughts to the many who have already paid tribute to Gerry Niewood.  My thoughts are with Adam and his entire family...

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Wonderful turn of events!!!

This update from Virginians for the Arts says it all...

Thanks to all who wrote their Congress-people!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Washington...we have a problem

An amendment to the stimulus package has passed that has taken any hope of arts funding to a new low.  At Parabasis, they're calling this the "How To Make Sure None Of The Stimulus Money Will Go To Enriching Or Bettering People's Lives Amendment" and I think that sums up my feelings on the matter.

Americans for the Arts is sponsoring a letter writing/email campaign to let both our Senators and the local media how we feel about this.  It takes very little time, please make your voice heard!

I quote Darcy James Argue on his post on the issue, "Remember last week when people were all worried that America might indulge in too much arts funding...or that Obama might appoint an Arts Czar and that would be bad, somehow?  Good times."  Ain't that the truth!!

We're better than this...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

I can't believe...insert cliché here.

There are a few things that make me a bit thoughtful as I look back on 2008.  Many of which have already gotten considerable press such as the Election, the new administration, the economy, and Illinois politics.  Others, less so:  Freddie's passing, IAJE's passing, and the future of the arts in said economy.  Considering the latter, I have been so grateful to the group of bloggers that I read for giving a voice to some of those issues.  Thanks to Darcy, Majikthise,  DonnaTroy, Howard Mandel, Dave Douglas and so many others.

As for my part, I look back on some of the posts for the last year and I see an evolution from some posts about the artistic process and aesthetics to mainly a links clearing house I feel a slight tinge of disappointment and concern about what this blog is "supposed to be" and the types of posts that "should" be here.  Neither of these are healthy.  I will continue to post but I will also try to be much more mindful and post thoughts that are important to ME vice things that "should" be on the blog in order for it to be what it's "supposed" to be.  There may be more time between posts, but there will continue to be posts.

As a final note, tis the season for resolutions and I do have some this year.  They are very general and they are as follows:

Less Driving...More Biking

Less Speaking...More Listening

Less Buying...More Making or Making Due

Less Electronic Media...More Reading

Less Facebook...More Facetime (sorry, that is a cliche waiting to happen!!!)

Less Division...More Inclusion

Less Expecting...More Accepting

and finally...

Less Planning...More Doing