Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Sound

I am listening to Stan Getz.

Any time I put one of his records on my first thought is "why do I EVER listen to anyone else?!?!" Getz often gets "sorted" into kind of a holdover from the swing era - nothing could be further from the truth. His playing in the 80s right up until he passed (my favorite period, by the way) is as rhythmically, harmonically and sonically advanced and adventurous as anyone but to me, and unlike other adventurous players, Getz steeped everything through a deep well of swing and taste.

One of my favorite things about Stan's playing is what I call the sense of inevitability that his lines have. A great example of this can be heard on "Stan's Blues" from the album "But Beautiful" recorded with Bill Evans. He takes several unaccompanied choruses and EVERYTHING, time, harmony and melody is so clear that as I listen to it, my reaction is that there could be no other choice. His lines are THAT definitive. That kind of clarity is what I strive for every day.

I think I'll be listening to Stan for a while...

Here's a nice clip of Getz with musical soul-mate Kenny Barron:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Locals...

There is an interesting discussion going on over at A Blog Supreme dealing with "the great unknown" jazz artists. That is to say, the local cats on the scene who we don't see on the cover of Down Beat or hear at major festivals.

I've come across some VERY HEAVY local guys in my travels including the following, many of whom I've had the honor of collaborating and working with:

Hampton Roads, Virginia:

Jim Nesbit: Woodwinds
Eddie Williams: Saxophone
Roy Muth: Trumpet
Jackie Friend: Trumpet
Jimmy Masters: Bass
Chris Brydge: Bass
Howard Curtis (now in Austria): Drums
John Toomey: Piano

Naples Italy:

Giulio Martino: Saxophone
Tony Ronga: Bass

Chicago IL:

Jim Gailloreto: Saxophone
Ari Brown: Saxophone
Greg Fishman: Saxophone
Brad Wheeler: Saxophone
Karl Montzka: Piano
Eric Montzka: Drums
Dereck Polk: Bass
Tom Hipskind: Drums

Newport/Providence, RI:

Joe Parillo: Piano
Joe Potenza: Bass
Alex Chapman: Drums
Geno Rosati: Guitar

There are so many more, but these are some of my favorite folks to play with and listen to. We all know how important it is to support the local scene, who are some of the cats in your town?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

13 Years Ago...

I have been following saxophone player Christopher Braig's blog over the past week and it has me feeling very reflective and nostalgic. Chris just returned from attending David Liebman's Saxophone Masterclass. I was a student at this class in 1997 and reading about his experience has had me thinking.

To say that it was a profound experience would be an understatement. People throw the phrase "life-changing" around a lot these days but for me, Lieb's masterclass was exactly that. I had never before been in such close every-day contact with a master of the art. Coupled with the very no-nonsense, methodical, and logical pedagogy he preaches and practices, I came away with a very clear blueprint of what to deal with and how.

But here's the rub...

To date, I have done very little of it! Let me be clear, the processes and pedagogy I took away from Lieb still informs everything I practice, but there is so much more I feel like I should have done by now (more about that word should in a moment). As with any intense experience, it can be a bit of a crash-landing back into reality afterwards. The flame burns for a few weeks, a couple of precious months, and then the mundane-ness of life creeps back into your artistic space. I catch myself every now and then and try to re-energize by listening. It always works and I vow to start over and get it right.

This bit, the starting over, is the problem. I always feel that when I fall off the path, I must go back to square one. Often this is right, but I find myself practicing things that, for the most part I am quite comfortable with in the guise of "rebuilding the foundation".

I have been thinking about incorporating the Zen idea of "the beginner's mind" into my practice. Maybe not going to square one, but dealing with where I am in the open and accepting mind of the absolute beginner. Not as "something to get through..."

Now, about that word should...the conditional tense causes lots of problems for artists. It makes us question our work and doubt the moment. Lieb even speaks about it when he talks about practicing, here is an example.

Be honest, be open, be objective...figure out what is missing AND GO RIGHT THERE.

That is the last line of my notes from my week with Lieb 13 years ago. I have some thinking to do...

Monday, August 9, 2010

My friend Steven...

has put some very eloquent thoughts together on the current "Mosque in Manhattan" discussions. I really don't think I can add to what he so bravely states here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Newport Jazz Festival 2010

As I write this I can still hear the muffled sounds of Chris Botti wafting over the bay from Ft. Adams into my living room. I am now relaxing after a marathon couple of days that I'll try to recount here...

What I Heard:
Darcy James Argue and the Secret Society
Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra
Chick Corea's "Freedom Band" with Roy Haynes, Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride
Anat Cohen
Ben Allison Band
Gretchen Parlato
and snippets of many others.

Also, as if the lineup on Saturday weren't enough, I trekked up to Acton to hear Jerry Bergonzi and Phil Grenadier on Saturday night.

What I (sadly) Did Not Hear:
Any real representation of the local New England scene.
Yes, there was a septet from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute on Saturday morning at 11:00, but in a region where a partial list of local cats includes:
Jerry Bergonzi
George Garzone
Hal Crook
Phil Grenadier
Greg Abate
Bruce Gertz
Rick DiMuzio
Jared Sims
The Fringe
and many many more, why no love for the local artists?

My only real frame of reference for big summer jazz festivals is the Chicago Jazz Festival in September. This has always taken place over several venues and stages (much like Newport), featured a great mix of local artists with national/international acts, even having a "local artist" stage for awhile (much unlike Newport), and was FREE (decidedly unlike the $75.00/day Newport festival).

Please let me be clear, the Newport Jazz Festival and George Wien is a blessing and an American institution. Consider the history: Duke's Crescendo and Diminuendo in Blue, Brubeck's many appearances, "Jazz on a Summer's Day" Trane's 1961 date...on and on. But, a festival that is considered to be the perfecter of the genre should, in this writer's opinion, do a bit more to support the "Blue Collar" jazz musicians who live and work in its shadow throughout the year.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Newport Up! 2010 Edition - Day 5

Tomorrow is the big is a reprise of one of my favorite videos from the Newport Jazz Festival:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Newport Up! 2010 Edition - Day 3

Some great footage of Duke's band in 1962:

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Newport Up! 2010 Edition - Day 2

Here is a wonderful version of Sweet Georgia Brown by Anita O'Day.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Newport Up! 2010 Edition

It's that time of year in New England...bright blue sky, sailboats, and miles of cars pouring into the city with exotic license plates like New York and Massachusetts...

The Newport Jazz Festival starts this Friday!!! I am especially looking forward to the performances by The Maria Schneider Orchestra and DJA's Secret Society. As I did last year, I will run up to the festival with videos of some of my favorite Newport moments: Here's a great bit from 1979, Brubeck with Bergonzi....