Posts tagged: jazz

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!

Congratulations to Bad Luck

By , November 16, 2009 11:03 am

l_bfa088ed9c3942d4a845c18f197dc4b4l_d58310c95526492287b4e4d2bab16e7f

Bad Luck is a drums and saxophone duo with Chris Icasiano and Neil Welch, two classmates of mine from the University of Washington days, who have taken off on an amazing path of music-making since then.  Chris has gone on to work in a diverse range of settings, from free jazz to rock to West African music, and Neil has been leading a 7-piece group that fuses Indian music and jazz, releasing an album, as well as playing with Chris and squeezing in a road trip that spanned almost all 50 states! 

That being said, I was very excited to to see the Bad Luck CD release concert on Saturday night and hear what Chris and Neil were up to.  I had not heard the group since Hardcoretet played a show with them months ago at Lucid, which I still look back on regretfully and with some guilt, as the owner of the club asked us to cut Bad Luck short that night, and we did that rather than stand up for them and refuse to do so.

That unfortunate experience has done nothing to slow the duo’s momentum, however, and it was evident at the show on Saturday.  The Good Sheperd Center was packed, and it was definitely the place to be if you were a Seattle musician.  The compositions moved from wildly energetic and raw to achingly delicate and introspective, sometimes in a very short span of time, and Chris and Neil were on the same wavelength the entire night.  It was inspiring, interesting, and new, something any music scene needs as much of as possible.  Congratulations guys!

Hardcoretet CD Release

By , November 1, 2009 7:56 pm

What a ride it’s been for the last month or so…

After sweating and working hard for our tour, we had a couple of days to great ready to present our hard work to Seattle at the official CD release at Tula’s as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival. 

cd

The vibe there was definitely different than what I’m used to, in that there is more of an expectation that the audience sits and listens to the music somewhat intently.  To be honest, I feel more comfortable in a looser atmosphere, where I can talk to friends and family casually during the show, even step away to give a hug or high five or two.  I’m also usually more comfortable inviting people to those shows, because it feels like a more social thing to do than sitting down and keeping the conversations to a minimum. 

cd2

I was a little nervous as to what it was going to be like, but I was blown away by the support and how much everyone present enjoyed the show.  Unless you all were being nice, it sounded like people liked the music, the show, and the energy behind what we were doing, which is honestly the music that I feel is closest to what I really want to play. 

cd3

The sound of Hardcoretet is really personal to me because it incorporates elements of everything I’m into:  the jazz I listened to growing up, the funk, hip hop, and electronic music I got into later, and elements of pop and rock that I’m just starting to appreciate now.  Knowing that, combined with the reception we received at the sold-out Tula’s, made me feel incredibly humbled and happy to have a great group of people around me to hear me put something out there basically saying “this music is me” and to have them dig it.  I talk about the importance of supportive listeners all the time, but I do that because it’s really important to remember.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Sheehan, www.eyeshotjazz.com

Hardcoretet Tourblog, day 5 and Conclusion

By , October 24, 2009 5:02 pm

So after Skinny’s Lounge in NoHo we headed home to Jon’s house.  Jon had already left for the East coast, because Slumglum was playing over there to participate in a program where they may become music ambassadors to another part of the world!  Very cool.  Anyway, we had already said our goodbyes, but Erin left us one more note on the fridge:  “Help yourself to treats.”  She had made us Rice Krispy Treats!  WITH CINNAMON!  With full stomachs we went to bed and headed out the next day for San Martin, home to the Persing family, relatives of resident bad mofo and superfan Dave Persing.  We entered to find Ellie and Margaret working on Trader Joe’s pizza dough to make FOUR pizzas for us.  Oh yeah, and they had already made a salad and two cookie sheets of cookies!

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 202

They needed a bit of help with the pizza dough, but luckily we had a pizza parlor veteran in the band, Tim Carey!  Look for video clips of the impromptu show “Cooking with Carey” on the Hardcoretet website.  After dinner, it was time for a movie and then bedtime.  The band got the trundle beds (I got the Transformers sheets):

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 214

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 212

Thank you so much to the Persing family and especially Ellie and Margaret for being such incredible hosts!

 

It was time for our final stop, Eugene.  Through a slight miscalculation, we found ourselves in a time crunch:  If everything went perfectly and we maintained our speed, we’d get there right before we were supposed to start!  And if that wasn’t enough, it started pouring down rain!

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 190 

And if THAT wasn’t enough, our driver’s side windshield wiper broke!  It was chaos!  After all this though, Tarik was able to navigate by leaning over to the passenger side and driving that way for about 3 hours before the rain stopped and things had calmed down a bit.  Ask him for a dramatic retelling on Wednesday at the CD release.  Finally we made it the Jazz Station in Eugene.  It started slow, but by the end of the night we had made some more fans and friends and felt great about the performance!

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 210

Hardcoretet Tour 2009 231

From there, we packed up, fixed the wiper, and drove through the night to get home sweet home.

I hope these entries convey the sheer enjoyment of the last week.  More than anything, I feel thankful for all of the kindness we encountered as a band, both from strangers and friends.  I began this tour with a completely musical goal:  I wanted to do what made me happy (playing our music) in front of new people in the hopes that it would make them happy, and I think this was accomplished.  What I didn’t expect was the realization that we, as a band, are the luckiest people in the world to have such genuinely good human beings in our lives, and I hope I never forget it.  Sappy and corny, I know, but whatever…

See you Wednesday at Tulas for the Homecoming/CD Release Party!

hardcore

Hardcoretet Tourblog, Day 4

By , October 22, 2009 9:09 pm

With one more full day in L.A., and a set time of 11:30 pm, the band had some time to bum around the city a bit.  First things first:  TACO TRUCK!

100_1011

Jon showed us to his personal favorite, which was, of course, amazing, and even more so because of where we went to eat them:

100_1012

This was a ridge about 5 minutes away from Jon’s house, and the view was breathtaking.  From there, we were led by tour guide and old friend Sarah Nelson!

100_1007

We headed to Santa Monica beach, experiencing L.A. traffic both ways, but it was worth it:

100_1031

100_1037

100_1038

Thanks for everything, Sarah!  That night we hit Skinny’s Lounge in NoHo (North Hollywood, duh):

100_1043

The venue was kind of classy, with hip booths and seats and a stylish kind of vibe.  Which was why we were somewhat surprised by the opening duo, Naked and Shameless:

100_1047

Both guys were very cool and supportive, though, not to mention hilarious.  After them was a singer-songwriter, Asia Whiteacre, who sounded great, with well-written pop songs and a clear voice that still had a lot of character.  This, however, made us a bit of a wierd fit.  We decided to just do our thing and let the chips fall where they may, which was a lot easier to do with the support of friends and family that were in town!

100_1057

100_1061

Thank you so much to my brother and sister, Charlie Patnoe, and my old friend Matt Hovland!

100_1044

We said our goodbyes to L.A. this morning, and I was somewhat sad to leave, but I know we’ll be back soon!

Hardcoretet Tourblog, days 2 and 3

By , October 21, 2009 2:02 pm

Bocci’s Cellar Monday night began as possible tragedy but ended in triumph. We arrived to the gig to find another band set up inside…the gig had been double booked!

100_0896

Fearless leader Abouzied was on the case:

100_0894

Eventually it was determined that the other band would play a set, and we would follow, so we settled in at the bar:

100_0897

During the first set though, Tim thought up the idea of just opening up our set so that in addition to some of our music, the Santa Cruz guys could sit in and we could all play together. The result was fun had by all. Thanks to Barry, Ben, Jake, Stuart, and Melanie for making our night!

100_0902

100_0905

100_0907

Day 3 found us grabbing a little Continental breakfast courtesy of the Comfort Inn, and hitting the road for L.A. We rolled in around 5:30 and settled in at our friend Jon’s house. We met his lady friend Erin and his roommate Sarah, and at about 6:30 Jon got back from work:

100_0955

Jon is my best friend from my time at UW, and it’s a crying shame I haven’t been in touch with him more, but it was incredible to see him again. It was also great to hang out with Erin and all of Jon’s friends, who are all awesome people!

100_0954

Unfortunately, guess who forgot their camera at the house after leaving for the gig at Juanita’s last night? FYI, it went really well. The crowd was super supportive and all of the bands killed it.  Jon’s group Slumgum freely moved between slower, more expressive melodies, free jazz, and rhythmic ideas, Chicano Batman was a great rock band that incorporated some Cumbia rhythms with wah guitar and organ, and Hardcoretet closed the night doing our thing.  all in all, a great couple of nights!

100_0965

100_0967

100_0968

Hardcoretet tour, day 1

By , October 19, 2009 2:39 pm

Hardcoretet took off early yesterday morning for our West coast mini-tour, San Francisco bound! The minivan was a bit of a tight squeeze:

100_0806

100_0807

but we made it work! Most of the guys had gigs the night before, so I had planned on taking driving duties the first leg of the trip, which basically was this:

100_0809

and this:

100_0811

and this:

100_0813

There were some moments in the drive with great scenic views, although my photos don’t really do them justice, so I’ll post those elsewhere.
14 hours later, we were in San Francisco! We had a bit of time to hang out with our awesome and gracious host Ashley and her friends in the Mission District, then headed home to hit some hardwood floor and go to bed:

100_0863

The next morning, Aaron hooked us up with an amazing breakfast joint, also in the Mission District, called St. Francis:

100_0877

Really loved the public graffiti art in that area as well; Seattle could use more of this:

100_0874

100_0876

From there it was off to Santa Cruz for our first gig, tonight at Bocci’s Cellar:

100_0886

100_0884

I’ll let you know how it went!

Another Great Group Part 2

By , October 5, 2009 11:02 am

Once again, Seattle music blew me away. I’ve talked about playing with Scott Morning in Soul Kata before, mostly describing his ability as a section player, but that’s not how I originally got to know him. Scott’s always been a great improviser and composer, bringing together all of his musical tastes to make one stew, and he finally has put a band together to get his music out there. Doomsday Device is Scott on trumpet and effects, Aaron Jenkins on saxophone and effects, Rich Pellegrin on keyboards, Nate Omdal on bass, and Grant Schroff on drums, playing all sorts of stuff, jazz, rock, drum and bass, you name it. They rocked the Sunset Tavern in Ballard last night and I hope they get some more shows together soon.

Next, I bounced over to the Comet Tavern to see Gackstatter, an awesome rock band that includes Tim Carey, the bass player for Hardcoretet, Evan Gackstatter on vocals and guitar, and Nathan Taylor on drums. It was incredibly fun to see these guys rocking their asses off, especially since I’m used to seeing Tim play jazz, and the only other time I’d heard Evan was with an R&B singer! My face got melted, and the music was just plain good.

Thanks guys.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy