Sunday, September 17, 2006

Two Trios

Last night I saw Jason Moran and the Bandwagon and The Bad Plus at the Blue Note. They say the Blue Note is a tourist club. Boy are they right! There were so many people standing in line who had literally no idea who they were going to see. All they knew was that their tour books had directed them there - many Americans but also many Japanese as the Blue Note is a much more recognizable brand in that country (multiple locations exist throughout the country - in Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and of course Tokyo.

It was my first time seeing a show at the famed "Blue Note" since in the past their line-ups have seemed slightly less than impressive. Some call it pandering to the masses. Others call it staying in business. But I have to commend their programming for the month of September - all actual jazz acts. Wish I'd been up last weekend to see Scofield's trio with Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart. I'm still waiting for another album from them. Given Sco's new freedom from an exclusive label contract, maybe they'll do it on Swallow's XtraWatt label (a subdivision of ECM which he, Carla Bley, Michael and Karen Mantler and a couple others record on). It would probably have to be a Swallow date comparable to the situation where Swallow took a trio through Europe in 2002 and documented his work with Chris Potter and Adam Nussbaum on Damaged in Transit (2004).

Anyways, both bands played their asses off. Moran is an intense cat and The Bandwagon (which consists of Tarus Mateen on electric bass and Nasheet Waits on drums) is equally focused. There were definite highs and lows - dynamically, rhythmically, and stylistically. Moran is perpetually in the moment; reacting to everything including the noises of shaken martinis and clanging dishes. But particularly impressive are his bursts of furious right hand flights which not only boast technique but point to the beat subdivisions going on in his head.

The program began with Moran Tonk Circa 1936" from the 2001 album Modernistic. I believe that was followed by "Arizona Landscape" or "He puts on his coat and leaves..." from the new album, Artist in Residence (which came out Sept. 12).

Mateen is sort of an enigma. He is a guy I don't really get despite having llstened to this group for some time. It's not that I don't like his playing, which I do. It's just a bit too unstructured and incongruent for me to understand. Very infrequently does he play a groove except maybe on Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" which they played followed by a seamless segue into "Moon River" ("Planet Rock" was also recorded on Moran's solo album Modernistic).

For the rest, which I take it was essentially the same every night, see Darcy's appraisal which is far better than anything I could write now (not having taken notes).

So yeah. That's all I feel like writing about this event. However, that night that I was there I finally got to meet my fellow blogger, Ethan, who told me he'd be taking JaMo back to his dressing room to talk music for his blog. And that they did.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Globe Trotters: Rob Mazurek & Sao Paolo Underground

I had meant to make this post the night of the show, but I got home and forgot all about it.

I don't know if I've blogged about an Ars Nova show yet, but this past Wednesday night myself and a group of about 30 other people gathered in an unassuming black box-like theater. We sat in bleacher-like seating in dingy chairs and watched magic occur between a group of musicians that have come together as a result of one man's journey to find a new musical voice (perhaps a new life) in the Brazilian jungle.

Of course I'm speaking of the now-esteemed Chicago-born quasi-avant-straight-ahead trumpeter Rob Mazurek. His current project moves the spirit, moves the torso, taps the foot, and generally fucks you up.

Despite arriving about 10 minutes late, the set hadn't started. The band was aligned in a very specific manner: drum set up front on the far left (from the audience's vantage point). To his left was a cat playing various samples and distortion/feedback boxes. To his left and slightly forward was a seated Mazurek with an array of mutes and feedback/effects pedals at his feet. And finally to Mazurek's left was another drum set who also had an Apple iBook laptop directly next to his hi-hat so he could program beats (it was my impression). It appeared it was this 2nd drummer's job to keep the flow of the set going as his computer housed the basis of their set.

The concert was ultimately an experimental yet funky and generally moving affair. Mazurek has a strange yet refreshing tendency to hint at the avant-garde while momentarily dipping in and out of straight-ahead playing a la Freddie Hubbard. However while he's playing his trumpet, the rest of the band has the listener fully enrapt in a trance as they rock out over dub and hip-hop grrrroooves punctuated by the occasional solo cadenza by the bearded (and on this night red-shirted) Mazurek.

It was the most fun shooting the shit with the band members and Mazurek after the show. I made my best attempt to impress everybody with my musical knowledge, like the show-off I tend to be. Rob was a really chilled out dude; very casual. When I walked up to him, I introduced myself as the guy who tried to book him in Pittburgh and he remembered me. So I mentioned the Invisible Jukebox which ran in the June 2006 issue of The Wire. We talked about how he correctly identified Lee Morgan from The Last Session (Blue Note 1973) and about how a couple days earlier after the Guelph Jazz Festival the band went back to Dixon's home in Bennington, VT and Rob had asked the elder trumpeter if he had any copies of the renowned 6-CD collection of
of solo works, also known as Odyssey.

Dixon answered, "We only have one copy of Odyssey here....I guess the Odyssey goes to Rob." Dixon charged Mazurek zero dollars.

Speaking of Merch, the band had sold out of all copies of its latest CD, Sauna: Um, Dois, Tres.

Anyways, I think that about sums it up....Oh, I also met a middle-aged hippie woman named Linda who asked me for info on ProTools and I ended up driving home. Random, I know.

Rob called me the next day at work hoping to hook up and see my boss' record collection, but the reception was shitty and we got cut off. Sorry Rob. Until we meet again, it was a pleasure. Your music rocks.

Also, Guilherme, you owe me a CD! Don't worry. I am going to purchase the album

Go see the Sao Paolo Underground in Mazurek's native Chicago at the World Music Festival on September 20.

Sao Paulo Underground features:
Mauricio Takara, drums/percussion/electronics (the guy on the right)
Richard Ribeiro, drums/percussion (the guy on the left)
Gulherme Granado, samplers/percuscion/voice (the dude in the middle to Rob's left)
Rob Mazurek, cornet/electronics (well, its not hard to pick out Rob).

Rob Mazurek's annoyingly cubist website.
If you get discouraged with the navigation, try this.
Strangely, Rob Mazurek is strangely on MySpace. Go figure.

Now listening to: RJD2 - F.H.H. from Deadringer. Buy it at
RJD2 & Jakki Da Motamouth - Deadringer - F.H.H.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Six Degrees of Separation

I first got turned on to drummer Ted Poor when my boy BK brought guitarist Ben Monder's group to the Underground at CMU. I was charged with taking care of the band and overseeing things at the show since BK ended up having to miss the show as he was in the pit orchestra for a local musical theater production. So that Thursday in April 2005, I picked up Monder, Theo Bleckmann, Kermit Driscoll, and Ted at their hotel; brought them to the CMU campus; down to the radio station where I taped an interview that never actually aired to my knowledge (props to Matt Toups for producing it). So that night the band was to perform at the Underground and like I said I was in charge of things.

Anyways the gig was very poorly attended due to it being booked on a Thursday and the fact that BK did very little advance publicity. Only a handful of guitar freaks showed up (mostly non-CMU affiliated cats either in high school or local musicians). It was a terrific show - as if I were sitting hearing this great band in Brooklyn or the Village - but in Pittsburgh at the most awkward venue on campus and possibly in all of Pittsburgh...

Anyways, since then I've seen Ted in a variety of different settings - with Ben Monder and singer/songwriter Rebecca Martin (who is married to bassist Larry Grenadier - they play together in the latest incarnation of Paul Motian's Trio 2000 + One), and with the extremely underrated pianist David Berkman on a live recording session at Smoke back in August of this summer.

At one point this summer, late one night at home in Philly while on my computer, I read about this group (The Respect Sextet) in a review on The Respect Sextet had its start in Rochester where its members were students at the Eastman School of Music. It was a review of their performance this June at the Rochester International Jazz Festival - a festival that has grown immensely in stature in the last 3 years. Now, all but one of them are in NYC toughing it out on the jazz scene. Who knows if NY with wear them down or whether they will weather the storm finding jobs as they come along. It's always a gamble with that city...

Anyways, when I saw Ted in August we discussed the band and now (roughly 3 weeks later) my new buddy DJA is posting about them on his blog. And now that I think of it, I met Darcy that night before I went uptown to see Ted with Dave Berkman. Crazy!

My conclusion: This jazz world we live in is very small. There are at most three degrees of separation between myself and every young musician in NY under the age of 30. Everybody knows everybody and I guess MySpace and Facebook "help" these random events to occur. I find myself fortunate to know about musicians like Ted Poor, who despite his name is a fantastic musician, composer, and guy.

My inspiration for this post. Respect.

Now listening to: The Joe Lovano Ensemble - Fire Prophet - Part IV from Streams of Consciousness (Blue Note 2006)

Chris Potter 2006 Online Lessons Project

So I hate to post another thing about CP so soon after mentioning him in my Sunday post, but I have to comment on his latest update to his website.

Not so revolutionary now that we've become familiarized with the ArtistShare model, Potter is now offering downloads and streaming content discussing the process of composing, improvising over, and recording Traveling Mercies (2002), Lift (2004), as well as his approach to playing the Jerome Kern standard All the Things You Are.

I think it's terrific if somewhat overdue (i.e. the only change in the website since it launched in late 2004 besides tour dates). You can't really fault the guy. I mean, he's constantly on tour, composing, rehearsing his band, or just relazing between all the above.

Lucky for saxophonists and musicians worldwide, Potter had some time this summer to sit down with ArtistShare creator/technological facilitator Brian Camelio and talk about the inspiring music on these previous albums.

No word yet on whether these sections will actually be updated biweekly as the participant offers claim, but all we can do is hope for the best.

Also don't be fooled by the dates on the main page (namely the "upcoming dates" section) which Chris regularly updates. If looking on the top navigation bar, click on "Events" for the same information. Someone really should show him how to update the main page to reflect that he has made changes to the tour dates so its more obvious to people who look at the site.

Now listening to Gnarls Barkley - Who Cares from the album St. Elsewhere (Atlantic 2006). Buy it.
Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere - Who Cares?

Friday, September 08, 2006

....I missed the Dewey Redman train.....

This past week I deleted everything in my MacBook's iTunes library with the genre "Jazz."

Why would Dr. Jazz Ph.D do such a thing? Well, I could say it was a cleansing of sorts but I'd be lying. The reality was that my MacBook kept coming up with error messages saying "Startup Disk Almost Full" and it was freezing up programs left and right.

Here I was, back where I'd been all the past year and a half since living with only 40GB of space on my one broken iBook G4. This time around though, I'd transferred everything I had on the old iBook to this MacBook as well as the iMac I bought along with this new MacBook to celebrate my graduation from college (thanks Mom & Dad). The iMac and the MacBook were holding everything I had ripped and/or downloaded from the Pittsburgh years plus everything I'd ripped since I got into Philadelphia town.

Thus I had a redundant system. A couple albums that were on the MacBook weren't on the iMac and vice versa but I had a problem and it needed fixing, so I deleted the bulk of the drive (i.e. all my music tagged as jazz), and tried to start anew with the bootlegged stuff that I hadn't bothered tagging with a genre and the random assortment of other types of music I listen to.

I was left with a mess (my recent rotation).

Some Sufjan Stevens tracks I'd just legally downloaded from iTunes, a bunch of Aceyalone (with various projects), Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, an Ahmad Jamael track, a bit of Ella Fitzgerald I hadn't tagged "jazz" or was tagged something ridiculous like "alternative/punk," several albums and singles produced by RJD2, a shit ton of music by the avant-rock group The Residents and a smorgasboard of other stuff.


You're probably wondering at this point what the fuck this post has to do with Dewey Redman. Right?

Well, a couple days after I deleted all my music - Dewey Redman died. This week I must have read 15 tributes to Dewey Redman in addition to all the threads going on at AAJ, Organissimo, JazzCorner. I found out before many as I happened to be chatting with Margaret Davis (who is Henry Grimes' partner and manager). "We lost Dewey last night," was the way she broke it to me Sunday morning in the midst of bemoaning the dwindling number of original jazz masters alive today. Note: We were strategizing about bookings this November for Henry, Roy Campbell Jr. and Chad Taylor (three quarters of the Spiritual Unity band - apparently leader Marc Ribot will only be on the Philly and NY dates).

It was only when I went to my CD and LP collection that I realized not only did I not have anything with Dewey Redman as a leader, but I couldn't find a thing with him as a sideman either. I must have heard him or played him sometime on the radio in the jazz journey of my life, but I'll be darned if I could describe what he sounded like or pick out any of his tunes... Thus, somehow, some way i missed the Dewey Redman train. I was on his son's proverbial "train" from his debut on Warner Brothers. But I always knew Josh was his dad's foil - a much straighter player.

It really goes to show you how players and listeners of my generation can know so little about the music of the elders because of all of the media attention goes to the young kid (in this case Josh) whose technique in all registers wove circles around his dad Dewey. But do these acrobatics necessarily make him the better player?

Well certainly more exciting for a young sax player to listen to. I wouldn't have "gotten" Dewey based on Ethan's description as a young player.

My past insistence that Chris Potter is the funkiest mainstream sax player of all time is proof positive of the limitations in my listening experience. The fact is that while Potter may be one of the most exciting players with music readily available for me to listen to, he is one player within a very small time compartment jazz history.

I recently learned that Eddie Harris (an woefully unsung cat) did a lot of the same stuff that Potter has been doing, but I just hadn't gotten around to listening to Harris' stuff both because my peers weren't talking to me about it, and because I just hadn't been willing to sample some of the greater earlier post-Coltrane tenor playing.

There are tons of other cats out there. Old and young. Obscure and famous....that are playing music just as vibrant and relevant as Chris'. I really think that the lesson learned here is that it can't hurt to take a step back from what the magazines and our close friends tell us to dig on, and look back to earlier periods as well as the current scene for what it really is: a diverse mix of concepts and musical sensibilities.

Maybe by erasing all my "new modern jazz" from the computer, I am getting a fresh start and will be able to focus more on the predecessors to Chris Potter, Josh Redman, Mark Turner, and Seamus Blake, etc. This will make some critics of my listening tendencies very happy and I do actually think I'll benefit from a change in my listening regimen.

But the following bloggers straightened things out for me on Dewey. And there were so many recordings referenced that I've got my collecting work ahead of me for years to come.

Do The Math has a very lucid appreciation of the man, his music and his essence. Also, Marc Medwin (Bagatellen), Pat (visionsong), Aldon Lynn Nielsen (HeatStrings), David Ryshpan (Settled In Shipping), Mac (Portastic), Destination Out, DJ Matt Durutti (Los Amigos De Durutti), etnobofin, the NYT (Ratliff), the UPI, Washington Post and the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Now listening to: Brad Mehldau - Wave/Mother Nature's Son (Largo - Warner Bros 2005)
Brad Mehldau - Largo - Wave/Mother Nature's Son