Tuesday, September 29, 2009

11 Wayne Shorter albums in 9 and a half hours

ALL NIGHTER!! It's been a while since I have pulled one of these, at least a few years. I wanted to get that calm feeling of no sleep, that natural perspective changer, and what better way then to stay up catching up on work, as well as listening through 11 Wayne Shorter albums back to back!

Introducing Wayne Shorter: A good starter, bluesy, but not in a kitsch/cliché sort of way. Wayne's gentle harmonizations at the end of lines really do this album justice. Not modal, but hints of it, as well as hints of Coltrane Giant Steps substitutions, 1959!

Second Genesis: I didn't know this existed! Art Blakey on drums, kind of like a jazz messengers quartet vibe.

Wayning Moments: There's a sweet swing version of Black Orpheus. The album didn't have the best review but I think Wayne and Freddie Hubbard sound great on it!

Night Dreamer/Juju: Adding these together for the Coltrane-esque back up band of Reggie Workman, Elvin, and McCoy. This is when the music started opening up more, and the model influence on the compositions started coming in full sway. Starting to equate Wayne's sound and concept with the space of Elvin's triplets.

Speak No Evil: Wowza, great compositions, this record brings me back several years. Starting to shift into Miles Second Quintet sound, but still with Elvin swinging away in the background.

The Soothsayer: Starting to hallucinate/get tired from staying up, it's roughly 4am right now. This is when we break away from the typical blue note, bop, modal sound and start adding Tony Williams and James Spaulding into the mix, to give it some avant garde edge. Going crazy quietly!

Etcetera: Vamp heavy, this seems more a pre-cursor to the 70s loft scene sound of Sam Rivers and those co-horts. Bass vamps, long solos, modal, and stretching out the form. The change to Joe Chambers is huge, more backbeat and funk to the drum sound, really gives the records a totally new sound, much heavier.

The All Seeing Eye: Where I am at now at 6:03am, bringin' in a wave of new instruments, harmonies reminiscent of Ornette's "Free Jazz" mixed with Sun Ra, mixed with Art Blakey. The new sheets of instrumental colors are taking me for a ride that I can't quite get off of. Reminds me of Tony William's Spring, and some of the looser Andrew Hill records with Joe Henderson. I am amazed at the colors that Ron Carter is playing, he's usually so "in," great to hear him taking risks.

Adam's Apple: I always thought this record was an early Wayne Shorter one, but it turns out it's one of the last ones before he goes fusion. Wayne really likes interacting with the drummer's snare, from record to record I keep hearing that interplay. We've come full circle and Reggie Workman is back on bass! Wayne's solos are starting to get longer in the past few albums and here, but he plays less, more like inspired collective improvisation, rather than a soloist concept.

Schizophrenia: Perfect end for my sleep deprived state of mind.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Open Space Festival for New Music

I am blogging today to spread some publicity for UNC's upcoming Open Space Festival for New Music, March 24-27th 2010. This is our second year for this festival, last year being a big success. Our mission statement is as followed:

The Open Space Festival of New Music is designed to present innovative composers and interpreters of contemporary music annually at the University of Northern Colorado. Composers and performers are featured guests in lectures, seminars and performances. Each Festival gives students the opportunity to perform with guest artists in a number of diverse settings and genres.

Here's a list of of what happening last spring at UNC:

Thursday, April 9
4:40 p.m.: Composition master class with Paul Rudy, Studio B at Frasier Hall, 7th Street between 9th and 10th avenues
4:40 p.m.: Piano master class with Stephen Drury, Milne Auditorium, 8th Avenue and 17th Street
7 p.m.: Pre-concert talk with Paul Rudy, Milne Auditorium
7:30 p.m.: Music of Paul Rudy and Charles Ives performed by Rudy, Stephen Drury and Roger Landes, Milne auditorium

Friday, April 10
Noon: Lecture/demonstration: “What You See is Not What You Get: Slight of Hand in Sound and Image” by Paul Rudy at the Kress Cinema & Lounge, 817 8th Ave.
2:30-4 p.m.: Open rehearsal for John Zorn’s “Cobra” with Drury, Kress
5 p.m.: Live performance of John Zorn’s “Cobra,” Kress
6-9 p.m.: Live music at the Kress
9 p.m.: Irish, Balkan, Middle Eastern concert with Roger Landis at Patrick’s Irish Pub, 800 9th St.

This spring we're looking at bringing composer Christian Wolff, Stephen Drury and the Callithumpian Consort to perform a new piece by Wolff, "Songs from Brecht: The Exception and the Rule." The UNC Cobra Ensemble will be giving a performance of Wolff's improvisatory piece "Edges." Composer and performer Michael Hicks from Brigham Young University will also be a part of this spring's music festival.

For more information on some of these artists check out the links:

And for my own myspace page that I will updating throughout the year, go here:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bass Videos

For my Jazz Lesson this week I am supposed to bring in five videos of bassists with an amount of facility, here goes:

Drew Gress unaccompanied playing Autumn Leaves

Michael Formanek on Caravan with Kenny Drew Jr. and Clarence Penn

Trevor Dunn on a Tim Berne tune

Gary Peacock on Autumn Leaves with the Keith Jarrett Trio

Christian Mcbride and NHOP on Bye Bye Blackbird

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2nd day of Crumb

I drove up a few nights ago with a van of music composition students to see a few performances of George Crumb's pieces with him in attendance. The Grusin Music Hall was very nice, located on campus at Colorado University in Boulder. The first piece was "The Ghosts of Alhambra,"a setting of Federico Garcia Lorca poem's to music with a baritone singer, nylon string guitar and multi-percussion. The singer occasionally played percussion, like finger cymbals and clave, and the guitarist used some extended techniques, with knocking on the wood and playing with a glass slide. The percussion set up was pretty big, with congas, bongos, cymbals, vibes, bells, shakers, claves, and a lot more! It was a pretty mind blowing experience, especially considering it was a world première. This was sung in spanish, the original language of the poems. The guitarist was David Starobin, which I was told is a well known contemporary music enthusiast that has had hundreds of pieces commissioned for him to play.

The second piece was my favorite, featuring four handed piano playing, with an amplified piano. This was an older work titled "Celestial Mechanics" written in 1979, and was four movements long, with a rotating cast of six piano players. All of the movements were named after stars, and it sounded like outer space music. A lot of contemporary and/or avant garde music gets the nomenclature of "outer space sounds," but truly, these sounds reminded me of a dark and very empty starry black night. The majority of the piece was played inside the piano, with the occasional bass note struck, high pitched chord, or repetitive idea. The piece featured a lot of subtle sounds, and unfortunately was disrupted for me a few times by obnoxious audience members not following performance etiquette.

The last piece was another setting of a Lorca poems,"Sun and Shadow," written in the past year, and performance by George Crumb's daughter Ann singing the soprano part, and piano accompaniment. The piece was sung in english this time, and had humor in it, for instance the second movement "The Fly" consisted of the vocalist humming and buzzing with her mouth. Between movements the piano player left some of the music backstage and unceremoniously went back to retrieve the missing parts.

After the performance my teacher Paul Elwood introduced me to some "harmonic chanters" a term new to me, but basically "throat singing." They made me aware of a vocalist known as David Hykes that performs and writes music for a harmonic choir, a choir of people that do throat sing. I knew one could do a lot more with this vocal technique, and finally have heard someone that is really extending the range of what can be done. This is very beautiful music so I recommend checking it out! All in all a great evening of music, and a pleasure to see George Crumb and hear his music. The Kronos quartet is coming in a few weeks to play Black Angels, and I hope I can go!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

George Crumb and The Bad Plus

Yesterday I was at the George Crumb lecture in CU Boulder, involving him speaking in a panel with several of his former students. Here are a few thoughts from his lecture: Crumb mentioned his main influences being Debussy, Mahler, Ives and Bartok. What he mentioned brought all these composer's together was their use of quotations, their pluralism, and their organic magick. It seems to me the common bond is that all of these composers use folk materials from other geographical areas, and were stretching the forms and what had been done up until their time. At this point Crumb mentioned to the composers out there, to use everything that they are hearing, all the devices they know of, and not focus on just one technique. There is a book I need to get titled "George Crumb: Alchemy of Sound." Crumb when talking about Asian music says that what is going on is a suspension in time, with a minimal idea and/or texture. The Asian idea is that the ideas are not narratives like in western art music, but more of a sounds tapestry.

I apologize for jumping all over the place describing the lecture, but I am trying to put all my thoughts out there from what I heard him say. When talking about music he mentioned that music doesn't consist of always equal parts. There are certain times when a piece focuses solely on rhythm, other times the focus is on melody, and other times only on strong harmony. Another Crumb piece I need to check out is "Five pieces for piano," a piece that became one of his earliest musical fingerprints, and was influenced by John Cage visiting his school, and becoming influenced by his philosophy, which he thinks Cage's philosophy is the most important element of 20th century music! It was interesting to note that Crumb talked about writing for inside the piano, but how he does not like to prepare the piano, but use what is naturally there inside of it. There are some pieces he wrote for his daughter based off of Appalachian music, which I never heard the name of the pieces, but will look into. "Zeitgeist" was another piece that was performed yesterday and talked about in the lecture that I need to find a recording of. He mentioned his music sometimes has a "daytime version" and a "dream" version within the same piece. "Music has to connect the composer to the area in which they were born," and he was adamant about this thought. On post modern music, he said that it is music mostly freed from politics and agendas, an interesting note. On electronic music he said "It is hard to admire the bravura of a machine!" On why he uses graphic notation, "I don't know, just something I did, and other composers around me were doing." Several of his students at this point talked about it for him, saying that it gives you a visual representation of how the music in the big picture is supposed to come out, be it a long arch, or a circle, or a cross. The original version of his "Night music one" had a fully improvised section, but after some bad performances of it, he changed it to being fully composed, not being happy with the improvisations. On Bach, he said, Bach's fugues were metaphysical, and he never had wasted a note. On the direction music is heading in the future, "Music is going inside, inside yourself, more composers are reaching inward than looking outward, which helps in identifying with your personal musical fingerprint." Crumb did talk more about the importance of the philosophy of Cage, but then mentioned the spiritual importance and dedication of the composer Messiaen. The last notes I wrote out were of Crumb saying you cannot quantify timbre like you can other musical elements. Also there was a mention of electronic music never being able to fully emulate the complex sounds of acoustic instruments, the example being of an oboe.

The only downside of the lecture was some older, presumably musicologist, that made a comment about how nothing is happening at all in the music composition in the past thirty years. The panelist deflected the question well, coming back to the idea of personal statements and musical fingerprints. Somewhere later in the lecture, the youngest panelist mentioned working with a synthesis of genres with musicians in New York, and this same old musicologist interrupted him by shouting, "Nothing new is happening!" Luckily, this man got nothing but death stares and dagger eyes from everyone else. Luckily George Crumb was the least pretension person in the lecture hall as well. This musicologist just goes to show that the older generation will continue to decry that the younger generation isn't contributing, and that music isn't like what it was back in the old days, an age old argument of the conservative vs. the youth. I was blown away, simply thinking about the breakthroughs that have happened in the past thirty years in the downtown New York scene, samplers/turntables/electronic music, the availability of music from all over the world, and the hybridization of all the different genres forming new syntheses. Oh well, a good lecture, and there always are a few bad apples in the crowd. I also can not help but laugh at different "questions" that arise in lectures like that, where the person with the question name drops several composers and their pieces, uses high academic language, and asks incredibly shallow things. Again, oh well, it happens, fact of life, but Crumb was a beautiful person to hear speak of music, and I can't wait to see the performances tonight!

After the lecture the group of people that I was with decided to hang out in Boulder, buy some vinyl and catch The Bad Plus at the Boulder Theatre. The saxophone professor from UNC went down to the show, and told me he knew Reid Anderson, the bassist of the group fairly well, and that he would introduce us. The show was great, chocked full of originals, several that haven't been recorded on a record yet. The "covers" of the night were Ornette's "Song X," Stravinsky's "Apollo," David Bowie's "Life on Mars" and the jazz standard "Have you met Miss Jones." Have you met Miss Jones started out normal, but kept slowing down and speeding up throughout the performance. It was a funny take of the tune, and seemed to be poking fun at the idea of playing a jazz standard.

After an incredible and inspiring show we were able to meet Reid Anderson and Ethan Iverson. Reid Anderson spoke of the cult following of his record the Vastness of Space, and how currently he isn't practicing much anymore. He told me that he worked really hard for over ten years practicing, but because he gigs so much now he stays in shape. Reid was also saying he no longer flys with his bass, and gets a bass provided by the venue. He has had two very bad bass experiences flying where his bass was destroyed, the neck completely broken. I asked him about practing arco after being done with school, (Reid studied at the Curtis Institute) and he said he rarely played with it after that. He did however mention that if I did work on practicing with a bow to practice scales, with the metronome at 40 bpm, playing eight beats to a single note.
I spoke to Ethan Iverson for a minute after meeting Reid, and mentioned that I had sent him my blog post on Charlie Haden for his blog contest. He immediately remembered me, and told me that he had forwarded my paper to Charlie Haden himself. Ethan said he never heard back from Haden about it, that he is bad with responding to calls or emails, but that he had it. He then recommended I see the documentary on Haden that was coming out soon. It was an incredible evening, and tonight I go back to Boulder to catch several premiere's of George Crumb's pieces.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

George Crumb

I am going to see George Crumb, who turns 80 this year, give a composition lecture today, and catch performances of his pieces tonight and tomorrow night. I will give more updates, and whatever notes that I gleam from the lecture. I was disappointed to miss a performance of Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (Ruminations on Round Midnight). The piece used Thelonious' Monk's Round Midnight, and plays variations of that theme, uses Henry Cowell effects and other extended techniques. I don't have much to report today, but will update this very soon on the topic!