Friday, March 30, 2012

Brittelle, Sirota, Mizrahi, and MnOrch musicians at Bryant Lake Bowl

Thursday, March 29, 2012: Bryant Lake Bowl Theater: William Brittelle, piano and voice; Michael Mizrahi, piano; Nadia Sirota, viola; MnOrch members Peter McGuire and Kenneth Freed, violin; Sam Bergman, viola; Eugena Chang, cello. Presented by Kate Nordstrum Projects and New Amsterdam Records.

Sign me up as a fan of indie classical, or whatever it's called (whatever any music is called these days is open to question, interpretation, and shouting). I liked very much what I heard in the theater at the Bryant Lake Bowl last night.

The room: intimate, cozy, with occasional bowling-alley din from the other side of the door, which is not quite soundproof enough. (Although, in a way, it adds to the charming and singular ambience of the place, and I'm kind of getting used to it.) The crowd: serious listeners.

The music: inventive, engaging, melodic, serious and fun. Playful. Expressive. Sometimes so beautiful it made me ache. Unusual: one piece was performed on just half of the piano--the keys above middle C. It made me hear the piano differently.

Brittelle, Mizrahi, and Sirota are friends of composer Judd Greenstein, whose commissioned work for orchestra, "Acadia," has its world premiere at Orchestra Hall tonight and tomorrow. He was in the house, and late in the evening, he thanked his friends for coming, thanked us all for being there, and remarked that he's not usually about music with full orchestra; he's more about music with small groups, played in small places like the BLB.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

John Raymond talks about his music, his faith, and his new CD

John Raymond
The opening track of “Strength and Song,” the John Raymond Project’s first recording, starts with a fanfare. Two crisp, insistent trumpet phrases, each played four times, seem to say, “Here we are!” The song is titled “Already and Not Yet.” Confidence mixed with humility, a fitting description of Raymond himself.

Jazz trumpeter/composer John Raymond grew up in Golden Valley, Minnesota, attended the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire (known for its jazz program), and earned his master’s degree from SUNY Purchase. A finalist in the 2009 National Trumpet Competition, he has played with many top jazz artists at venues across the US. Raymond now lives in New York City and is planning his first European tour.

Produced by Jon Faddis, featuring Javier Santiago on piano and Fender Rhodes, Gerald Clayton on piano, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Tim Green on alto sax, Raviv Markovitz on bass, and Cory Cox on drums, “Strength and Song” is a debut recording, but it neither feels nor sounds like a freshman effort. The compositions are melodic, thoughtful, and complete. Hear them once and you’ll know them when you hear them again. Raymond’s tone is clear and direct, without affectation. Moods and tempos vary, as they should, but this is largely upbeat, uplifting music. Celebratory yet reflective. Rock-solid, with something to say.

“Strength and Song” was officially released on Feb. 28 and streamed on NextBop that week. The Cornelia Street Café hosted a CD release event on March 22, and on Thursday, March 29, the John Raymond Project will play the Dakota in Minneapolis. Raymond’s band in Minneapolis will include Bryan Nichols on keys, Vinnie Rose on guitar, Jeremy Boettcher on bass, and Miguel Hurtado on drums. I spoke with Raymond by phone in mid-March.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Live Music

In my music library are many recordings I love and listen to, although I don't have as much time to listen as I want, whether to old favorites or new buys or CDs I discover in my mailbox. Late last year, Ted Gioia wrote, "I try to listen to new music every day, and have made this a part of my daily routine for many years...on some days I listen to four or more albums in their entirety, and a typical week will find me checking out 15-20 new releases." Jealous!

I probably try harder--I do try harder--to make time for live music. Nothing is better than live music. You don't just hear it, you feel it. The music surrounds you and fills you up. There's energy in the air, from the musicians playing their instruments or singing, from the audience listening (or not, as it happens). An emotional connection is formed between you and the artist. It starts out small, a wisp or a tendril, and if you respond and send back your own emotion along that thin and tentative connection, it can grow and become a river of fire. I've left concerts where all I've done is sit and listen and feel, yet I'm exhausted.

So when I received the most recent Mosaic Records newsletter by email and saw this note from Michael Cuscuna at the top, I had to share. (MC, I hope you don't mind.) Read, then please, get out there. The calendar at right is at your disposal.

Pharoah Sanders at Birdland
March 20, 2012

While we all treasure our favorite recordings, revisit them often and memorize them note for note, there is nothing that can replace the experience of live music. Last night I went to hear Pharoah Sanders at Birdland, one of New York's better and more comfortable jazz clubs. I hadn't heard Pharoah live in years and was immediately struck by the richness, power and authority of his sound and the command with which he moved from tonal melodies and improvisations to his trademark growls and screeches - things one can never see and feel from recorded music. It's always a great idea to check on your heroes from time to time and discover some new artists in the process. - MC

Live Music is the Lifeblood of Jazz.

New e.s.t. album to be released in the US May 15

From Burkhard Hopper Management:

Since yesterday e.s.t.´s new album ‘301’ is out in stores in Sweden !

Very soon the rest of Europe, the USA and Canada will follow.
Here are the dates for releases in the various countries:

UK: 26th of March
Germany, Austria, Switzerland (and many other European countries): 30th of March
France: 03rd of April
USA & Canada: 15th of May

The new album contains only original and never-released-before compositions and music !

In January 2007 e.s.t. were on tour in Asia and Australia performing shows in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Jakarta, Perth and Sydney. It was their third tour of Japan and their second time on the fifth continent and the venues and audiences had become noticeably bigger. Only a few weeks before they had finished their triumphant tour of Germany performing their now legendary “Live in Hamburg” concert (awarded ‘Album of the Decade’ by the London TIMES). It was undoubtedly the prime time of the style defining jazz band of the Noughties.

Esbjörn Svensson, Magnus Öström and Dan Berglund decided to rent the famous Studio 301 in Sydney for their off-days in the middle of the Australian tour and jammed for two consecutive days to develop new songs and material. Altogether they recorded 9 hours of music. “Leucocyte” became the first release from this recording and has been praised by critics and fans alike as a ground-breaking work that leads into a new musical universe.

Very soon after the recording Esbjörn Svensson had edited much of the material down to two albums. And so the plan at the time was to release either a double album or two consecutive albums from this recording. The untimely passing of Esbjörn Svensson then disrupted this undertaking and only one of the albums, “Leucocyte”, was released at the time.

The fan community has been longing for access to archival material and recordings ever since. So three years on, in October and November 2011, Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström revisited the material from that recording and together with their regular sound engineer Ake Linton made their own edit for an album which is now called ‘301’. It contains all original e.s.t. compositions that have never been heard before !!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute at Columbia University accepting applications

Here's the press release:

American Composers Orchestra & Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University present
Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute
Application Deadline: Monday, April 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm (EST)
Phase 1: Intensive August 7 – 11, 2012 UCLA Herb Alpert School of MMusic
Phase 2: Readings, April – June, 2013

The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI) will bring together up to 35 jazz composers, working in jazz, improvised, and creative music, whose work demonstrates excellent musicianship, originality, and potential for future growth in orchestral composition, to explore composition for symphony orchestra. Previous hands-on orchestral experience is not expected, but applicants should address how increasing their skills, knowledge and experience with orchestral instruments will affect the direction of their future work.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Zacc Harris and Brandon Wozniak: Cats in hats

Zacc Harris

Hats for Cats, the saga, continues. So far, to my knowledge, I haven't made anyone a genuinely ugly hat, though I have made some from bamboo yarn that stretched until they became unwearable. Bamboo does that. Live and learn. If you have a bamboo Hats for Cat hat, get in touch and we'll discuss other options.

Brandon Wozniak

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sax to the max, mostly

If one saxophone is good, seven saxophones are seven times better, provided they're played by the right people. Nathan Hanson, George Cartwright, Pat Moriarty, Scott Fultz, Brandon Wozniak, Daryk Narum, and Donald Washington are the right people. I've seen all but Narum several times.

L to R: Narum, Pete Hennig on drums, Washington, Fultz,
Brian Roessler on bass, Wozniak, Hanson, Moriarty, Cartwright
Photo by John Whiting

On Sunday, HH and I drove all the way to Roseville on a chilly Sunday night to hear Nathan Hanson's newly formed Saxophone Choir at the Roseville Area High School's spacious and modern Performing Arts Center. The evening began with Moriarty (who teaches at Roseville and is a band director there) leading the school's award-winning Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Combo in several selections by Bill Holman, Mongo Santamaria, Juan Tizot, and South African composer Chris McGregor (the mystically titled "The Serpent's Kindly Eye"), plus a world premiere of "Raincheck," a new work for big band. Tight ensembles, hot solos, impressive performances, and I loved that "Raincheck" was composed by one of Moriarty's students, Alex Charland.

The Saxophone Choir played 7 pieces from a repertoire of a possible 10 listed on the program. We heard Thollot's "Marche," and "Cinq Hops," Milton Nascimento's "Ponta de Areia," Carla Bley's "Blunt Object" (with a fine solo by Wozniak), Thollot's "On the Mountain" (which paired Fultz's alto with Hanson's soprano), local treasure Carie Thomas's "Turn Left, You Can't Miss It" (which Hanson prefaced by saying it was about someone giving Thomas directions to Charlie Parker's grave), and Bley's "Real Life Hits," featuring Narum on bari. "Blunt Object" was the only piece I knew, probably because I've listened to Carla Bley Live! a million times.

We had a good time, the musicians looked as if they had a good time, and everything seemed to work: the concept, Hanson's arrangements, the space. Two minor gripes from me: The set was too short, and where were Hanson's original compositions? If the Saxophone Choir wasn't a one-off, and I hope it wasn't, perhaps we'll hear them next time, in a longer set.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vijay six ways: Vijay Iyer at the Walker, March 1–2

Vijay Iyer at the 52nd Annual
Monterey Jazz Festival (2009)
Photo by John Whiting
They could have brought him in for a single concert. This being the Walker Art Center—home of (Dave) King for Two Days (2010), believer in relationships, and the organization that commissioned Jason Moran to wander its collections and write something—they invited pianist, composer, physicist and mathematician Vijay Iyer to play six sets over two days. An opportunity for depth and breadth, looking back and looking forward.

Iyer has played piano since childhood and has released 16 recordings, starting with Memorophilia (1995) and, most recently (not officially out yet), Accelerando (2012). His work has long been noticed by those in the know; he made his Walker debut in 2006, with his quartet (his working trio plus the exceptional alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa). He has received several prestigious commissions and awards. But in 2009, things seemed to reach critical mass, and suddenly everyone (at least everyone in jazz) was talking about him. 

Historicity, out that year, topped the jazz polls. In 2010, Iyer released Solo and was named Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Tirtha (2011) brought a new trio into the spotlight, with tabla. In 2011, he was appointed Director of the Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music; in January of this year, he won the Greenfield Prize. He’s on the cover of this month’s JazzTimes. If there’s justice in these things, he should be getting a phone call from the MacArthur Foundation someday soon.

Iyer’s music is cerebral, mathy, and dense, full of complex, asymmetrical time signatures and polyrhythms, unexpected harmonies, glittering cascades of notes, percussive chords, and extravagant beauty. It never goes where you think it will go. Which is not to say it’s intimidating or hard to listen to. It’s the opposite. Iyer wants to reach you, to connect with you. During a live stream of a masterclass he gave in December, he said to one student, “We’re all in this because artistically we have something to say. But it’s about giving someone an experience, not just having one.” You don’t have to “understand” jazz (whatever that means) to receive that experience and enjoy it.