Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ritesizing Stravinsky

The Joffrey Ballet dancing "The Rite of Spring"
I love Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The high opening notes on the solo bassoon and the initial bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-BUMP-bump thrill me every time. My CD of choice is the CBS Records Masterworks “Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky,” with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, recorded in NYC in 1960.

I heard The Rite live in 2011 under Sarah Hicks' baton, performed by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, back when they weren't locked out. In February of this year, the Joffrey Ballet came to Minneapolis to dance a reconstruction of the original 1913 performance, wearing the original wild and crazy costumes. Mark Russell Smith led the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, which overflowed the pit into the side aisles of the Orpheum Theater.

As wonderful as the full orchestra can sound, I’m especially fascinated by pared-down versions of The Rite. My first was arranged and performed by The Bad Plus. Co-commissioned by Duke Performances and New York’s Lincoln Center, “On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring” had its world premiere at Duke University in Durham, NC in March 2011 before coming to Minneapolis in May.

The Bad Plus by Cameron Wittig
The Bad Plus is a jazz trio: Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass, Dave King on drums. How could they take a score written for more than 100 instruments, including some unusual ones – alto flute, Wagner tuba, bass trumpet, crotales (antique cymbals), and guiro (notched hollow gourd) – and make it playable by three? Iverson told me in an interview, “Sometimes I wish I had an extra arm or two.” By now, after playing The Rite live on several occasions around the world, he has probably grown one.

You can hear the original Duke performance at Josh Jackson’s website The Checkout. Or listen on YouTube (and ignore the misspelling “On Scared Ground”). The Rite is still there, the familiar notes and phrases, and also present is the trio’s own ensemble sound, style, way of playing, aesthetic, attitude, musicality, and everything else that makes them identifiably and indelibly The Bad Plus. I hope they record it someday. Iverson says they will.

Stravinsky himself scored The Rite for piano-four-hands. In 2010, pianist Serhiy Salov recorded a virtuosic solo performance of his own transcription, called “The Sacred Spring of Slavs,” for the Canadian label Analekta. Iverson considers it “one of the major classical piano releases of this century,” then confesses, “I have no idea how Salov achieves his more bewildering effects – maybe he has another couple of arms?” I can't tell one effect from another, but when I listen to this, I can't believe I'm hearing one pianist on one piano. It's immense, intense, earth-shaking and immersive. Seriously, buy this.

In 2012, Darryl Brenzel released “The Re(w)rite of Spring,” arranged and orchestrated for big band, on Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum. It has about as much brass as Stravinsky intended, but not a single string. And it swings. On first listen, I wasn’t sure what I thought. It sounds so different. Much more civilized. I can't imagine anyone dancing herself to death to this music. With only three instruments, The Bad Plus comes closer to the original sound. Brenzel turns Stravinsky’s orchestral score into a real big-band arrangement, complete with backdrops for solos. I gave it another chance. It’s courageous, and it works. I don’t always hear Stravinsky in it, but I do hear some satisfying big band music. The final track gets down and gets funky.

Imani Winds by Matthew Murphy
Earlier this week EMI made available a digital-only version of The Rite performed by Imani Winds, the Grammy-nominated wind quintet of Valerie Coleman (flute), Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboe), Mariam Adam (clarinet), Jeff Scott (French horn), and Monica Ellis (bassoon). Last week, the group performed Jonathan Russell’s arrangement as a Tiny Desk Concert on NPR.

You can watch a video and download the audio here. NPR Music called it “an epic in miniature,” but there’s nothing miniature about it, except it's not complete. It's full and convincing and also intimate. The orchestral version envelops, lifts and sometimes buries you. This is chamber Stravinsky. Personal Stravinsky. Stravinsky with family and a few close friends.

In honor of Igor’s 100th, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill dedicated its 2012-13 season to examining The Rite’s legacy as a modern masterpiece. Twelve new works inspired by and related to The Rite were presented, including “Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi,” a pairing of film and music by pianist/composer Vijay Iyer and filmmaker Prashant Bhargava. The music was performed by Iyer and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). You can hear the complete performance at NPR and see excerpts from the film. It's Iyer channeling/interpreting Stravinsky against a backdrop of a huge festival in India. Thrilling.

Tell me about other versions and adaptations of The Rite and I’ll check them out.



Stravinsky's grave
on Isola di San Michele, Venice
(my photo)
“100 Years After the Riot, The ‘Rite’ Remains” (NPR, May 29, 2013)

"Why Jazz Musicians Love The Rite of Spring" and "Rites of Swing: Jazz and Stravinsky." NPR's Patrick Jarenwattananon unpacks the connections between jazz and The Rite.

The Rite of Spring at One Hundred, a website devoted to “The Rite of Spring” on its 100th anniversary. See the “Reflections on the Rite” blog, esp. Ethan Iverson’s post.

The Rite of Spring with animated graphical score. Fantastic. And here's Part 2.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blue Note partners with Artistshare

I hope this turns out to be as smart as it sounds.

Wondering if Maria Schneider will be "upstreamed" to the Blue Note label?

From the ArtistShare Insider News email newsletter:


The legendary jazz label Blue Note Records, historic home to such greats as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock, and current home to artists such as Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Joe Lovano, Jason Moran, José James and Norah Jones, has joined forces with the pioneer of crowdfunding, ArtistShare, to create a groundbreaking new partnership: Blue Note/ArtistShare

In recent years Blue Note has launched the careers of young jazz stars such as Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, and Ambrose Akinmusire, and continues to release cutting-edge music from new talent such as bassist Derrick Hodge, whose debut album as a leader will come out this summer. The new joint label Blue Note/ArtistShare provides an additional channel for Blue Note to help nurture and promote up-and-coming young jazz artists, while creating a platform that offers a unique opportunity for fans to become directly involved with the creation of new music by tomorrow's jazz stars. 

"Young artists worldwide are making fresh musical statements left and right, but are forced to do their own marketing campaigns, too, often when their main focus should be their creative output," says Bruce Lundvall, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Note Records. "ArtistShare founder Brian Camelio is a true visionary. I see the ArtistShare business model as a key component of the future music business.

The Blue Note /ArtistShare collaboration was forged by Camelio, Lundvall, and Don Was, President of Blue Note Records. Under the arrangement, Blue Note will be involved in the selection of artists, and will lend its iconic logo and promotional support to the finished album, along with the potential to upstream the artist to the official Blue Note Records roster for future releases. Blue Note/ArtistShare will allow the artist full ownership of master recordings, and will reach out directly to ArtistShare's community of fans to offer a unique experience where the physical copy/digital download of an album is not necessarily the end product. Rather, the intimate relationship and insight into the creative process become valuable intangibles that cannot be acquired elsewhere. 


ArtistShare, first launched in 2003 as the Internet's first fan funding platform, is an innovative design that connects fans with artists in order to share the creative process and fund the creation of new works. ArtistShare shifts the focus of value to the creative process. The artist/creator is compensated prior to the release, which decreases chances of revenue loss, and assists artists to produce bolder musical statements. Fans show appreciation for their favorite artists by funding their projects and are granted exclusive access to the artist's creative process. Notable ArtistShare artists include composer Maria Schneider, jazz guitar legend Jim Hall, The Clayton Brothers, pianist Danilo Perez and saxophonist Chris Potter. ArtistShare projects have received numerous awards and accolades including 6 GRAMMY Awards and 18 GRAMMY nominations. 

Blue Note Records was founded in 1939 by two jazz-loving German immigrants on the run from Nazism (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff), but it took the joining of many natural forces to truly create and define one of the world's greatest Jazz labels, including a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer (Rudy Van Gelder), a classical music-loving commercial designer (Reid Miles), and some of the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth. The elements that each brought to the table—impeccable A&R instincts, elegant and insightful photography, sterling sound quality, strikingly original cover artwork, and consistently transcendent music—were all essential to the label's early success. Together they created a vivid Blue Note identity. The whole could not have existed without each of the parts. Blue Note's legendary catalog traces the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and into the music's countless streams today. After a brief dormancy from 1981-1984, Blue Note returned reinvigorated by the leadership of Bruce Lundvall and has since established itself as the most respected jazz label in the world. In 2011, veteran record producer and musician Don Was joined Blue Note as Chief Creative Officer and soon became President of the label with Lundvall continuing to provide guidance as Chairman Emeritus. With Was at the helm, Blue Note has renewed its dedication to Lion's original vision that "any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression." In the 21st century Lion's words still ring true and provide a blueprint that continues to guide the label into the future. Blue Note Records is part of the Capitol Music Group, a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Big-Band Insanity! 2013 Summer Concerts in the Parks

The Capri Big Band

Big-band fans, this is for you: a list of all 96 big-band concerts planned for this summer in parks in and around the Twin Cities, thanks to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and Saint Paul Parks and Recreation. All are outdoors, most are free. Hat tip to Jerry Swanberg, big-band aficionado and host of KBEM's "Big Band Scene," for compiling this beast.

Big-band sounds aren't all you'll hear in parks around the cities. Here's the complete program of Minneapolis' Music and Movies in the Parks for 2013. And here's St. Paul's Music in the Parks schedule.

Brio Brass

91 Concerts by 36 Big Bands in 41 Parks

Sun, 5/12 – Capri Big Band - Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Mon, 5/13 – BBB Jazz Orchestra - Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Tues, 5/21 – Mpls Southwest High School Big Band & Combos, Lake Harriet – 6:30 PM 
Tues, 5/28 – Roseville Big Band - Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Thur, 5/30 – South Mpls Community Jazz Band  Minnehaha Falls, Mpls  7 PM

Sat, 6/01 – Jazz on the Prairie Big Band – Round Lake Park, Eden Prairie – 3 PM
Mon, 6/03 – Adam Meckler Orchestra – Rice Park, Downtown St. Paul – Noon
Mon, 6/03  BBB Jazz Orchestra  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Mon, 6/03 – Southside Big Band  Centennial Lakes Amphitheatre, Edina – 7 PM   
Tues, 6/04  South Mpls Community Jazz Band  Como Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Thur, 6/06 – Red Rock Swing Band  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Sun, 6/09 – 23rd Annual Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie, Staring Lake Amphitheater, Eden Prairie
• 2 PM – River City Jazz Orchestra
• 3 PM – Good News Big Band
• 4 PM  Just Friends Big Band
• 5 PM  ACME Jazz Company
• 6 PM – Bend in the River Big Band
• 7 PM  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band
Sun, 6/09 – Southside Big Band - Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 3 PM
Mon, 6/10 – Maple Grove Jazz Ens.–Maple Grove Town Green Amphitheater –7PM
Mon, 6/10 – Mpls Police Swing Band  Como Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Tues, 6/11 – River City Jazz Orchestra – Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Thur, 6/13 – River City Jazz Orchestra – Como Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Thur, 6/13  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Mon, 6/17 – Southside Big Band  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Tues, 6/18 – Roseville Big Band – Frank Rog Amphitheater, Roseville – 7:30 PM
Wed, 6/19 – Classic Big Band  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Wed, 6/19 – Good News Big Band  Centennial Lakes Amphitheatre, Edina – 7 PM  
Mon, 6/24 – Brio Brass  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Wed, 6/26 – Bend in the River Big Band  Centennial Lakes, Edina – 7 PM
Wed, 6/26  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band  The Village at Mendota Heights – 7 PM 
Wed, 6/26  Brio Brass – Minnehaha Falls Bandshell, Mpls – 7 PM
Thur, 6/27  Bend in the River Big Band – Hopkins Downtown Park – 7 PM
Thur, 6/27 – Brio Brass – Casey Lake Park, North St Paul – 7 PM
Sat , 6/29 – Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park, Downtown St. Paul
• 1 PM  MPS Summer Jazz Around Mpls Youth Big Band  Youth Stage
• 1:30 PM  Brio Brass  Union Depot Stage
• 2 PM -– Stillwater High School X-tet  Dakota Foundation Youth Stage
• 4 PM  Main Stage  JazzMN Orchestra with Connie Evingson
• 5 PM  6th St Stage  Adam Meckler Orchestra
Sat, 6/29 – Capri Big Band  Centennial Park, 6301 Shingle Creek, Brooklyn Center – 8 PM

Adam Meckler Orchestra

Mon, 7/01 – Maple Grove Jazz Ensemble  Como Park Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Tues, 7/02 – Pizzazz Jazz Band – Dance at Ojibway Park, Woodbury – 6:30 PM
Thur, 7/04  Roseville Big Band – Frank Rog Amphitheater, Roseville – 7:30 PM
Thur, 7/04  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band – Round Lake, Eden Prairie – 5:30 PM
Thur, 7/04 – Wolverines Big Band – Excelsior Commons  6-10 PM
Thur. 7/04 – St. Croix Jazz Orchestra – Pioneer Park, Stillwater – 7 PM
Sun, 7/07 – Beasley’s Big Band  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Mon, 7/08  River City Jazz Orchestra  Centennial Lakes, Edina – 7 PM
Tues, 7/09  Bend in the River Big Band – Town Square Park, Blaine – 7 PM
Tues, 7/09 – Brio Brass – Minnetonka Civic Center Campus - 7 PM
Wed, 7/10 – Brio Brass – White Bear Avenue Parade - 6:30 PM
Thur, 7/11 – Classic Big Band  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Thur, 7/11  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band – Hopkins Downtown Park – 7 PM
Thur, 7/11 – Andrew James Big Band – White Bear Marketfest, 4701 Hwy 61  6 PM
Sat, 7/13 – Maple Grove Jazz Ensemble – Maple Grove Days  Town Green Amphitheater – time TBD
Sun, 7/14 – Stan Bann’s Big Bone Band  Como Lakeside Pavilion, St. Paul – 7 PM
Mon, 7/15  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band  Centennial Lakes, Edina – 7 PM
Tues, 7/16  Tim Patrick & His Blue Eyes Band – Ojibway Park, Woodbury – 7 PM
Wed, 7/17  Bend in the River Big Band – City Park, Victoria – 6:45 PM
Thur, 7/18 – BBB Jazz Orchestra  Hilde Performance Center, Plymouth – 7 PM
Thur, 7/18  Roseville Big Band – Salo Park, St. Anthony Village – 7 PM
Thur, 7/18  Bend in the River Big Band – Rivers Edge Park, Elk River – 7 PM
Thur, 7/18 – Zuhrah Flames Big Band – Bryant Square Park, Mpls – 6:30 PM
Tues, 7/23 – Minnesota Jazz Orchestra, Normandale Lake, Bloomington – 7 PM
Tues, 7/23  Bend in the River Big Band  Como Lakeside Pavilion, St. Paul – 7 PM
Tues, 7/23 – Capri Big Band – MN History Center, DT St. Paul – 6:30 PM
Thur, 7/25 – Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra – Rice Park, DT St. Paul (Dance) 7:15 – 10 PM
Thur, 7/25 – Brio Brass – Hilde Performance Center, Plymouth – 7 PM
Sun, 7/28  Jazz on the Prairie Big Band  Staring Lake, Eden Prairie – 7 PM
Mon, 7/29 – Brio Brass  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Tues, 7/30  Red Rock Swing Band – Dance at Ojibway Park, Woodbury – 6:30 PM
Tues, 7/30  Roseville Big Band – Frank Rog Amphitheater, Roseville – 7:30 PM
Tues, 7/30 – Classic Big Band & the Nostalgics – Boerboom Park, Osseo – 7 PM
Tues, 7/30 – White Bear Big Band – Shoreview Community Center Pavilion – 4 PM
Tues. 7/30 – Zuhrah Flames Big Band - Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM

River City Jazz Orchestra
Thur, 8/01  Bend in the River Big Band  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 7:30 PM
Thur, 8/01 – Minnesota Jazz Orchestra – Lakefront Park, Hudson, WI – 7 PM
Sun, 8/04  Roseville Big Band – Centennial Lakes Amphitheatre, Edina – 7 PM
Sun, 8/04 – Tim Patrick & His Blue Eyes Band – Lake Harriet, Mpls – 5:30 PM
Sun, 8/04 – Brio Brass – Canadian Days Parade, Little Canada – 12 Noon
Tues, 8/06  Bend in the River Big Band – Minnetonka Amphitheater – 7 PM
Wed, 8/07 – EXECS Big Band  Centennial Lakes Amphitheatre, Edina – 7 PM
Thur, 8/08  Bend in the River Big Band – Central Park, Faribault – 7 PM
Thur, 8/08 – Swingbeat Big Band  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul – 7 PM
Wed, 8/14  Andrew James Big Band – Eagan Marketfest, Central Park – 5:30 PM
Thur, 8/15 – Moonlight Serenaders – Fillbrown House, White Bear Lake – 6 PM
Fri, 8/16 – Brio Brass – Sounds of MN, Ettinger Field, South St. Paul – 7 PM
Wed, 8/21 – Moonlight Serenaders  Centennial Lakes Amphitheatre, Edina – 7 PM
Sat. 8/24  Red Rock Swing Band – MN State Fair, DNR Stage (dancing)
• 5 Shows: 10 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM, 7-9 PM
Sat, 8/24 – Capri Big Band  Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet, Mpls – 5 PM
Sun, 8/25 – Moonlight Serenaders  Como Park Lakeside Pavilion, St, Paul –7 PM
Wed, 8/28 – Zuhrah Flames Big Band – Minnehaha Falls Park, Mpls – 7 PM   
8/28 & /29 – Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra – MN State Fair, Heritage Stage – 10:30 AM

Moonlight Serenaders
Sun, 9/01 – Capri Big Band  Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls – 2 PM
Sun, 9/08  Jazz on the Prairie BB – Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen – 1 PM
Sun, 9/08  Southside Big Band – St. Odilia Church, Shoreview – 12:30 PM 
Sun, 9/08 – Brio Brass – Jesse James Days, Northfield – 12 Noon