Posts tagged: jazz

More Focused Listening

By , March 23, 2016 5:03 pm

When David Bowie passed away, I was motivated to listen to more of his music, as I had really only heard his big hits previously.  As I have occasionally done with other artists in the past, I decided to start with his early albums and move through them chronologically (I wrote about this approach previously here).  Listening to his albums this way definitely taught me some things about the development of songwriting, exploring different sounds and textures in pop music, and how pop music can be inventive and unique.  I really missed the boat in not listening to his music earlier.

With an upcoming special event that Ben Bloom and the rest of the Polyrhythmics will be putting together in New Orleans for JazzFest, I moved on to do the same focused listening with the discographies of Fela Kuti and the Grateful Dead.  I knew a fair amount of Fela’s music, but almost none of the Dead’s music, and once again both experiences were significantly enlightening.  What struck me in listening to the Grateful Dead was how interesting the actual composed material was; it seems to me that they are largely known for the improvisational nature of their performances, but I enjoyed the written material just as much.

Fela’s music is, in its own way, a perfect example of the approach that I frequently talk about achieving:  a unique synthesis of all of his influences into an individual sound.  Throughout his discography you hear how he incorporated West African Highlife, Jazz, and Soul in the style James Brown in a way that allows them all to work together.  The political nature of his music and how fearless he was in declaring his views is also an important part of who he was, and how the music sounded.

Polyrhythmics have never claimed to be an Afrobeat band, or tried to accurately and faithfully execute Afrobeat music as Fela and others played it, but the influence is definitely there, and it would be irresponsible to ignore or downplay that.  I’ve thought a lot recently about my responsibility as a musician to not only acknowledge influences but to bring them to the front of conversation when talking to listeners or students about my playing, especially if they are not familiar with those earlier bands and musicians.  I haven’t done a great job with that, and hope to do better.

Art

 

 

 

Lottie’s Lounge

By , April 15, 2015 1:28 pm

Lotties-01.0

Great gig at Lottie’s Lounge with Eric Hullander and Papa Josh the other night.  I got a chance to really dig into some standards that I haven’t played in a long time, and all three of us were listening close.

I found myself thinking a lot about the old Dexter and Hayes sessions I used to play with Tim Kennedy and friends years ago (more on that here) while I was at Lottie’s.  It hasn’t had live music for too long, but I could see a really similar scene there that grew at the Dexter, where older regulars mixed with younger listeners and musicians.

Maybe I saw the similarities because I want another scene like that one.  The thing is I know that there already are scenes like that in town,  I just don’t frequent them that often, at places like Darrell’s Tavern, Egan’s Ballard Jam House, the Owl and Thistle, and the Royal Room just down the street from Lottie’s.  I guess when it comes down to it, venues and music nights hit different people different ways, and it can’t always be explained why one person enjoys certain scenes more than others.  I do know that Lottie’s felt good last night, and it was great to play with Eric, Josh, and Lamar Lofton (who I hadn’t seen in way too long!), as well as meet some new people.  I hope Lottie’s continues to do well!

 

– A

Listening

By , April 4, 2012 12:30 pm

Two tracks I can’t get enough of right now:

Claudia Quintet – Keramag, from Royal Toast

I love the melody that first shows up at 1 minute 1 second that the vibes and piano play together. It gets moved around and displaced throughout the entire song.

Christian Scott – American’t, from Yesterday You Said Tomorrow

For me, this one is all about the guitar part 32 seconds into it.

Mark de Clive-Lowe at Nectar

By , January 21, 2011 11:31 am

This is a repost of my entry for my friends over at Rust and Rum:

Mcguirk met up with me to check out Mark de Clive-Lowe at Nectar in Fremont. MdCL is not necessarily a DJ as much as a beatmaker, with a bunch of drum machines and keyboards around him on stage that he uses together, and he does it really well. The music was awesome, and the vocalist who was with him, Sy Smith, was on everything perfectly, even doing some a capella dj-ing of her own.

There definitely seems to be this strand of electronica that’s jazzier and a little less driving than other linear, hypnotic trance and techno, and I definitely dig it. My main resource for it is City Soul Radio, a program on KBCS 91.3 that is put on by Sun Tzu Sound, a local DJ collective, but watching MdCL do his thing last night made me want to get more into it. Here’s a clip I got from Mcguirk that does a pretty good job of showing what we saw last night:

And here’s another song that I would put in the same genre. I heard this a long time ago and still want to buy it, but so much of this stuff is impossible to get in the U.S. I may just have to pony up the money to buy an import…

Earshot

By , October 27, 2010 4:22 pm

So the Earshot Jazz Festival is about halfway over.  The Seattle Times talked about it a bit , as did Lucas Gillan of Accujazz and Jason Parker from One Working Musician.

As with every year, I am impressed with the diverse schedule of music and film, and several of the musicians in particular have been hype-worthy for me, in particular Mark Taylor, Steve Lehman, Dafnis Prieto and Agogic, and the Brian Blade Fellowship, but there really is something for everyone.

There’s some talk that the turn-out hasn’t been great for some shows,  but that seems to me to be par for the course at Earshot, and an understandable side effect of a festival that can book Robert Glasper, Charlie Musselwhite, and Steve Lehman in the same festival. 

In addition, you’ve got multiple shows going on at the same time sometimes, so the audiences are split, not to mention that at 20-25 bucks a pop folks like me are going to pick and choose what they can afford to go to.

 I can specifically remember going to festival events in the past that were on both sides of the attendance spectrum (Manuel Valera and Kris Davis are two concerts where I remember thinking there should be way more people there, while Ravi Coltrane’s first appearance at the festival I nearly didn’t get into), and I’ve talked with some musician friends of mine that know for a fact some acts are booked for the festival with full knowledge that they might not necessarily bring an incredible amount of listeners, but the music is bad-ass, so Earshot does it anyway.  I really admire that. 

I’m also really happy that Earshot continues to feature local groups as well as out-of-town groups.  Hardcoretet was fortunate enough to have our cd release party as part of the Festival last year, and who knows?  Maybe we will have the chance again, but until then there are plenty of top-notch Seattle musicians on the schedule, all of them well worth supporting (Mark Taylor and the Teaching both come to mind). 

A coworker took his family to see the Darius Jones Trio on Saturday.  He didn’t know Jones’ music, he just knew that Earshot was going on and wanted to see at least one concert and take his kids too.  I was able to forward him this post from Destination:  OUT on the trio’s New York appearance and their most recent release.  He soon realized Darius and company was a little outside of his comfort zone, but enjoyed the show anyway and was glad he went.  I think it’s safe to say he never would have gone to see, much less heard of, the Darius Jones trio if not for the Earshot Festival, which is as strong a piece of testimony as I can think of for the value of the Festival (not that I ever thought its value was in question).

What does Earshot mean for local musicians the rest of the year?  Not much, in my opinion.  The festival is a great platform to have in the moment, but once that time is over, it doesn’t really lead to much else, and although the Earshot organization does have some concert series at other parts of the year, they don’t seem to me to do much more in terms of a band’s promotion than a gig that the band went out and booked itself would.  That said, I always look forward to Fall in Seattle, I check out the artists list as soon as its announced, and I hope Earshot continues for a long, long time.

Sasquatch/IO Awards

By , June 18, 2010 8:58 am

I’m back with another double post that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, a recount of and some thoughts about Memorial Day Weekend. 

I was very excited for this weekend for several reasons.  There would be great camping with some of my favorite people, a full day’s worth of music that was largely new to me, and then the IO Awards at Benaroya Hall to cap it all off.  First, Sasquatch.

When my sister Emily first suggested a bunch of us buy Saturday Sasquatch tickets, I probably was familiar with 3 or 4 of the bands out of the 12 hours of music that would be happening that day.  Part of the great birthday present my girlfriend Brittany got me was a package of burned cds of almost all the bands playing at Sasquatch when we would be there, a primer of sorts so I knew what to expect, and listening to these just got me more pumped.  As I’ve said here before, I pretty much come from a jazz background, and haven’t listened to very much of anything else, although my horizons have definitely expanded in recent years, and this was an opportunity to open my ears even more.

Saturday at the Gorge did not disappoint.  Artists like Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Miike Snow, Broken Social Scene, Vampire Weekend, the National, and Brother Ali all were top notch, and obviously seeing all of them at the Gorge in beautiful weather was an amazing experience (camping was incredible too, but I’ll stick to the music here).  From noon to midnight, I can’t remember a single act that I was honestly disappointed with, and they all had their own style and sound, not to mention incredible amounts of stage energy.  I was really impressed with all the bands’ ability to put on an awesome show and really get into it, often with little or no pageantry or flash.  Everyone seriously rocked their sets, but there was nothing lost in the execution of the music, and these are things I think I could think about more often when I play.

Monday night was the first ever Inside Out Awards.  All in all, it was an immensely impressive event that Lucid’s David Pierre-Louis pulled off, and it was fun, at least for a small part of the night, for Brittany and I to feel a little fancy walking around the Benaroya Hall lobby.  Hardcoretet didn’t win, but there was even some fun in that; after hanging out and joking around with our friends in Gravity, who beat us out for the mixed-genre album award, a tongue-in-cheek feud was born, and I hope it goes for a while.  You win this round, Gravity, but next time!

Most importantly, I hope that this first time around for the Inside Out Awards was an experience that can both be improved on as an event as well as a catalyst for increased musical activity in Seattle.  It definitely gave a snapshot of the incredible musical diversity here, and if listeners continue to seek out new venues, new bands, new artists, and new music, the scene will benefit.  I think it’s important to recognize that one of the possible negative side effects of emphasizing any particular community, whether it’s jazz, rock, sculpture, poetry, or anything else, is that the circle tightens, and even though the bonds inside that community get stronger, it begins to isolate itself.  That being said, the Inside Out Awards event was a fun celebration of what we have going on here in Seattle, and I for one was energized to look ahead to the future!

So that was Memorial Day Weekend.  Stay tuned for another post soon about the Polyrhythmics, the band I’m in that recently took an Oregon mini-tour of our own, and come celebrate Solstice this Saturday the 19th at 7:30 at Cafe Solstice(!) with Dead Zerious featuring Andrew Swanson, IO award winner and subject of this week’s Better Know a Badass on www.hardcoretetmusic.com.

Art

IO Awards/Return to Oregon

By , May 10, 2010 8:42 am

Hardcoretet has received news that our album “Experiments in Vibe” is nominated for Best Mixed Genre Album in the Inside Out Awards!

Presented by Lucid Jazz Lounge, and taking place for the very first time on Monday, May 31st at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium at Benaroya Hall, The I/O Jazz Awards show will consist of honoring musicians for achievement in Seattle’s jazz community, and we are honored to be considered for an award. You can see all of the nominees and place your votes here.  We could not have been able to throw our hat in the ring without your support, so thank you for all of the positive reactions to the album!

Speaking of positive reactions, Hardcoretet was also able to head down once more to Oregon several weeks ago.  Our first stop was in Portland where we met up with Arick Gouwerok, a bass player and friend of mine and Tarik’s from the UW days.  Arick collaborated with me on my Senior recital, and I have missed his playing ever since he moved to Beaverton after graduation, so needless to say it was a joyous occasion to hang out with his wife Janie and him for a day.  We played that night at the White Eagle Saloon with Trio Subtonic, a really talented Portland-based band (check them out here).  Unfortunately, the mood was not ideal; the city seemed to take the Trailblazers’ NBA playoff loss pretty hard that night, but we did what we could to bring some energy.  Regardless, it was great to try a new venue, and Trio Subtonic had some awesome tunes, as well as a collection of Radiohead arrangements they were working on for an upcoming show (very cool), and they seemed to dig our sound too.  We’re excited to host them May 22nd here in Seattle at the Seamonster Lounge.

From there, it was down to Eugene to spend the day exploring the University of Oregon and the night performing at the Jazz Station, where we played on our CD release tour.  Several people who had seen us then returned to check out the show, so it was fun to reconnect and talk to them about the last couple of months, as well as see what they thought about new material, which went over well.  A guitarist playing a rock show across the street even came over to listen from outside!

All in all, it was good to tighten up our music for these shows, and the trip gave us time to talk about music, our sound, and what’s next for the band.  Roll through the Seamonster on May 22nd to see both Hardcoretet and Trio Subtonic and hear for yourself what we’ve been working on!

Robert Glasper at Jazz Alley

By , March 31, 2010 4:57 pm

glasper2

I’ve been a Robert Glasper fan since I first heard Canvas, his first Blue Note record, years ago, and since then I would say he’s gotten as close to “blowing up” as a jazz artist can get, releasing his third album, garnering a fair amount of press, touring with Maxwell, and continuing to play with his trio and his new quartet.  In all fairness, however, I’ve found that he was already a pretty busy guy before Canvas, playing with Terence Blanchard, Mos Def, D’Angelo, Common, J Dilla, Jaleel Shaw, and a bunch of other people.

Obviously, when Glasper came into town last week with Chris Dave on board to promote the new record Double Booked, I was excited to see the band, especially with Casey Benjamin on Alto and Vocorder as well.  In general, it was not what I expected, but, in hindsight, that’s not such a bad thing.

In all fairness, I hadn’t really checked out Double Booked like I should have before the show, and the band was performing material taken from the second half of that album.  After all, the band booked at Jazz Alley, as my dad and I observed, was not the Robert Glasper Trio, it was the Robert Glasper Experiment, a small but at the same time very important detail.  I think what threw me is that this band is not going for a conventional jazz aesthetic, and therefore the conventional roles as pianist, saxophonist, drummer, etc. do not apply.  What did this mean to me as a listener?  Well, the main difference is what Dave was doing on drums.  Throughout most of the tunes, he was moving between different divisions of the beat, displacing downbeats, and moving grooves as the rest of the group held things down.  To someone expecting a groove that would stay in one place and do the same thing repeatedly, this would be unnerving.

This shifting in the band hierarchy had implications for everyone in the band and for the music in general.  There definitely seemed to be more of a “holding it down” vibe between Glasper and bassist Derrick Hodge, at all times.  Granted, they were super tight, and the communication between Glasper, Hodge, and Dave was unreal, but I kept waiting for Glasper to take the lead and for Dave to back up musically.  I felt the same way for a lot of Benjamin’s alto work.  There was a disjointed nature to the music:  shorter phrasing and quick statements, darting in and out of Dave’s drumming  (I will say this about Benjamin on vocorder, though:  really beautiful, expressive, and musical; my favorite moment of the night was Benjamin really going to town on it at the end of a Hodge original).

I’ve asked some other people about the band’s two nights at Jazz Alley, and some folks had similar feelings.  Deandre Enrico, a great bassist around town, wrote to me that “it often sounded…like the drums weren’t playing ‘with’ the rest of the band…it ruined any chance for a ‘groove'”.  But others, like my friend and drummer Tarik Abouzied, made the case that the music needed to be listened to in a different way, that when it came down to it Dave was comping and adding to the music the same way other musicians do, but because he is a drummer it sounds different to me.  I disagreed at first, but the more I think about it, the more I think Tarik may be right.

I talk a lot about trying to erase the divide between soloist and rhythm section, improvisation and accompaniment, but when I see it in practice I still fall into my old biases.  It’s also important to point out that although Chris Dave is the most well known of the group of drummers playing in this sort of style, there are many out there, and it could also be that I just need to check more stuff out.

I kind of wish I had the chance to see the Experiment again now that I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, but I will have to wait until next time.

Speak

By , February 26, 2010 11:48 am

speak

Speak is a 5-piece band that plays creative instrumental music drawing on a wide variety of influences.  Some of the members, like Chris Icasiano and Luke Bergman, I’ve mentioned in this blog before from their work with other groups like Bad Luck and Motorist, and I work with Aaron Otheim in Hardcoretet.  I’ve known saxophonist Andrew Swanson for several years, the same amount of time as the rest of the guys mentioned above. 

I realized that it was quite difficult for me to talk about the music and the band in a satisfying way, so I went to Aaron for help.  After all, if I wanted to put out a truly accurate description of Speak, why not go to the source?

As Aaron tells it:  “I think it’d be good to mention that Speak began as a straight-ahead-sounding jazz group that was originally Andrew, Chris, Luke and me, but that our sound evolved to incorporate elements of classical music and rock – the music each of us grew up playing and listening to.  This shift in sound was definitely strengthened when Cuong Vu joined the band as his musical aesthetic and playing style reflect a similar trajectory.”

Before Cuong Vu began teaching at the University of Washington and playing with the group, he had already become fairly well known in creative music circles.  The Trio had come to Seattle a couple of times, including a show at the Tractor featuring Bill Frisell that saxophonist Stuart McDonald told me was one of the best shows he had seen in a long time, and Vu had begun touring with Pat Metheny.  So it was very exciting to hear that he would be teaching in town, and then even more exciting when he started playing with Speak.  The result of the year or so that the quartet had put in combined with this later collaboration that has now been going on for longer than that has resulted in the band’s self-titled debut CD, available here.  Aaron went on to talk a little bit more specifically about the music:

“Another important component: most of the “solos sections” actually consist of collective improvisation, meaning that everyone is improvising together… no real soloists. The heads of the tunes themselves all have very specific parts worked out, however, much more akin to a classical composition or the way a rock band might rehearse. This provides a very strong structure that frames each improvisation, giving us a clear focus on where the improvisation should go, but not necessarily how it should sound.”

The CD release show and the album itself put all of these concepts on display, moving from sections of pointillistic modern classical music to free improvisation to experimentation with electronic sounds and the layering of indie-rock. 

Speak will get a chance to showcase their sound outside of the Northwest soon, at performances in Colorado, the Stone in New York and the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Salzburg, Austria.

Congratulations, guys!

Cafe Amore

By , November 24, 2009 10:15 am

amore

The jam at Cafe Amore has been going on for a bit now, but until last night I had only been able to stop by quickly.  The band was D’vonne Lewis on drums, Mark Bullis on bass, a piano player who goes by Gus, John Terpin on trombone, and the always entertaining Ronnie Pierce on alto saxophone.

Ronnie is a pretty amazing guy.  He’s 81 years old, still plays and hangs out as much as I do, likes dirty jokes, and hams it up on the microphone like nobody else.  He’s also become somewhat of a mentor for John, who played with Ronnie at the Whiskey Bar when they had jazz on Wednesdays, and who will often drive Ronnie to hang since he can’t drive anymore.  Keep your eyes on the blog for a recorded interview with Ronnie by John, hopefully he’ll get some crazy stories on tape!

Cafe Amore is a great little italian spot, albeit a little expensive, with a nice bar, fair amount of tables, and a stage at the front of the room under a screen where they play old black and white movies.  The jam is early, from 7:30-10:30, which works well because Ev Stern, bass player and teacher, runs a jazz workshop that finishes around 7, and Amore is all ages, so a lot of the students from the workshop and kids in general get a chance to jam with local musicians.  It was a blast to see this 15-year old kid (who sounded ridiculous, by the way) just grinning ear to ear as he’s playing with D’vonne Lewis, one of the first-call drummers in town.

The other great thing about this session is that John keeps things moving.  There’s never really any lines of soloists because he keeps the groups small from tune to tune, and he’s really good at maneuvering people to getting the song called without a whole lot of discussion, which makes a huge difference at a session.

It’s also really fun to play standards with a trombone on the front line, just a different sound than the typical sax madness you get sometimes.  Thanks John!

Panorama Theme by Themocracy