Clinton Swanson Blues Trio at Stage 64

The Nelson based Sax player Clinton Swanson has “brand name” recognition here in the East Kootenays. Over the years Clinton with his pork-pie hat and quiver of saxophones has been a frequent visitor to the area. Most recently he was with the Melody Diachun’s  “Back to the Groove Tour” and also with  Jon and Holly in a Cranbrook Summer Sounds Rotary Park concert. Because of  that “Brand Name ” recognition it was understandable that the group was billed as the Clinton Swanson Blues Trio. In actual fact it was more appropriately the Kelly Fawcett Blues Trio with Clinton Swanson on tenor and baritone saxes and Doug Stephenson on bass. Once the concert got going it was easy to hear why Clinton said “we are part of Kelly’s trio and we are here to support him”. Kelly is a new  face to most of us but he has been a long time friend and musical associate of Clinton and they have toured together frequently over the years. The other member of the trio, Doug Stephenson is also a well known Nelson musician who has also toured extensively in the Kootenays. He is living proof that to make a living as a professional musician these days one can’t have “too many arrows in one’s quiver”. I first encountered him playing bass guitar behind Gabriel Palatchi, then as a nylon string Bossa Nova guitarist with Melody Diachun, then as full on electric guitarist with Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour”. On this particular night with Kelly Fawcett he is a stand up bass player (no pun intended). In every performance circumstance he looks like he is having way too much fun. He excels on all his instruments and that probably explains why he is in such demand. I am not sure how he is able to keep up his superb skill levels on all instruments. He must practice constantly, all day, every day. I must ask him about that.

In this day and age we are used to Blues groups being guitar based. You know the usual configuration – drums, electric bass, rhythm guitar and a screaming lead electric guitar backing up one or more vocalists. Kelly Fawcett is the vocalist and guitarist in the group, Doug is the bass player but there is no drummer. To be honest, the absence of a drummer is a plus. Without a drummer there was lots of space in the music to hear the vocals, the finger picking guitar leads and backups, and Clinton’s and Doug’s superb solos.

The night kicked of with a couple of standard tunes. Dr John’s New Orleans inspired Such a Night from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz and Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. In the latter Kelly played some excellent open G slide guitar. From then on the night was a mixture of Country Blues, Jump Tunes (Let the Good Times Roll, Crazy About My Baby), old time tunes (Nobody knowns Atlanta Like I Do), a novelty number here and there, a Tom Waits number (Hey Little Bird Fly Away Home) and, to brighten up the sonic landscape, a few original tunes (Numbers Blues / The Gamblers Blues and Cheddar). For me there were a couple of standout tunes namely Kelly’s interpretation of Taj Mahal’s  classic Fishing Blues and Clinton Swanson’s baritone Sax exploration of Harlem Nocturne. All in all another classic concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series. Here are some images from the evening ……..

          

As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings.

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YouTube Pick (#27) – John Dowland

If you looking for a YouTube performance by John Dowland (1563-1626) then you are out of luck. He died about 400 years ago. That was way back at the end of the first Elizabethan era. Despite his demise his music lives on and is a staple in the Classical Guitar, Lute and Vocal repertoires of today. He was an English Renaissance composer and lutenist and in his day was described as “the rarest musician  that his age did behold’. He was a celebrated composer and performer who traveled extensively in Europe. He constantly fell afoul of the religious turmoil of the day. He was Catholic and despite his fame was unable to obtain a court position with Protestant Elizabeth I. He finally, and belatedly, obtained a position with King James I. At that time he was recognized as the finest Lutenist in Europe. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as Come, Heavy Sleep (the basis of Benjamin Britten’s 1963 composition for solo guitar Nocturnal after John Dowland ) Come Again, Flow my Tears,  I saw my Lady Weepe and In Darkness let me Dwell. As the titles suggest his music displays the melancholia that was so fashionable in his day. His instrumental music has undergone a revival and today any serious Guitarist or Lutenist  needs to spend serious time in exploring the music of John Dowland. The music is complex, exciting and well worth the effort.

I recently stumbled on a YouTube vocal performance of Come Again  by the Bensa-Cardinot Duo and it was one of those “ah ha” moments. Cécile Cardinot vocals had a purity that “rocked my world”. I don’t know if was her French accent or the old English language that ignited my imagination. The first video features Cecile on vocals and Olivier Bensa on Lute. In the second video Olivier switches to Classical guitar.

COME AGAIN – Lyrics (not the same as Cecile’s)
Sweet love doth now invite
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight
To see, to hear
To touch, to kiss
To die with thee again
In sweetest sympathy
Come again
That I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain
For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh
I weep, I faint
I die, in deadly pain
And endless misery
Gentle love
Draw forth thy wounding dart:
Thou canst not pierce her heart;
For I that do approve
By sighs an d tears
More hot than are
Thy shafts, did tempt while she
For scanty tryumphs laughs

Born in 1989 in France, Cécile Cardinot is a singer, a spectacular classical guitarist and choirmaster. She started her guitar career with Olivier Bensa in 2008. Along with her choirs, concerts that lead her to various countries and her profession as a guitar teacher at Cahors Conservatory, she worked on the music of John Dowland to create a show “Voice Lute Forte” dedicated to the music of this composer. She is laureate of the Claude Nougaro competition as well as “Revelation Guitarist Acoustic” 2015. (check the duo’s performance of Piazolla’s Libertango to gain an appreciation of her guitar skills  http://www.rodneywilson.ca/2018/07/10/youtube-pick-26-nuevo-tango-new-tango/ )

Her musical colleague Olivier Bensa was born in 1951, is a classical guitarist, lutenist and composer. He has recorded several discs such us “O. Bensa performs Leo Brouwer”, appointed as a reference by the composer himself. Being a concert performer, he has played in prestigious halls (Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London…). As a composer he is subject to numerous commands and his works for guitar are published at H. Lemoine Editions. In 2016 he worked with Cécile  to create Voice Lute Forte a work dedicated to English Renaissance music and more specifically to the music of John Dowland.

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Here is another version with the lyrics closer to those printed above

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The flip side of John Dowland’s Music is his instrumental music and specifically his Lute music. Here is a performance of his Fantasia No.7  by Andrey Lebedev .It starts out as a gentle, stately exploration of the melody before going into complex variations and contrapuntal explorations before reaching a climax in an eighth rhythm finale. Modern day steel string guitar players with their alternate tuning and finger picking techniques have been heading in this direction for a number of year but, take note, John Dowland was there long before us. A technical note: To emulate the  sound and range of the Lute, modern day classical guitarists will use a capo (usually at the third fret) and tune the G string down to F#.

Andrey Lebedev, born in Moscow and raised in Australia is one of many, many outstanding young players who are breathing new life into Classical Guitar performances. He is a winner of many awards and honors  and currently lives in London where he is a full scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, supported by the ABRSM and the Julian Bream Trust. His interests in contemporary repertoire have led him to premiere new works by leading composers including Peter Sculthorpe’s Oh T.I. for Guitar and String Orchestra, Leo Brouwer’s Danzas Rituales y Festivas, Vol.2 and the aforementioned Julian Bream Trust commissions, as well as regularly performing music by late 20th century by composers such as Berio, Henze, Ginastera, Britten and Takemitsu. A lover of chamber music, Andrey Lebedev performs regularly with flautists Bronte Hudnott and Alena Lugovkina, mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, and has worked extensively with the Llewelyn Guitar Quartet in Australia.

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Gabriel Palatchi at Studio 64 in Kimberley

Gabriel Palatchi Trio at Studio 64 in KimberleySeptember 8, 2018, 8pm. This is the first concert of the 2018 Winter Jazz and Blues Concert Series.

Keyboardist Gabriel Palatchi is a citizen of the world. He is an Argentinean with Jewish, Turkish and, given his surname, Italian Roots. He is a ceaseless wanderer touring the world, performing and studying the many musical cultures  he encounters along the way. His recent forays into Spain and Morocco included the study of Flamenco piano music.

“Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1982, Gabriel Palatchi started his first piano lessons at the age of 8. He spent his formative years in Buenos Aires studying classical piano, and being mentored by some of the great maestros of blues, tango, jazz and Latin jazz.  After graduating in 2007 from Berklee international School, Argentina, he spent several months in Cuba where he studied Latin jazz with the master Chucho Valdez. Gabriel subsequently became a composer when he moved to Tulum, Mexico in 2008, and his life experiences up to that point influenced the composition and production of his first solo album “Diario de Viaje” (Travel Diary) in 2010. The album received critical acclaim from music industry journals, and was chosen as one of the best Latin Jazz albums of the year by JAZZ FM Toronto.   He went on to record a further 3 albums that cemented his unique sound, culminating in his 4th and latest album, “Made in Canada” (2017), which also happens to be his first live recording. Gabriel’s songs are a representation of the many cultures which have influenced his music over the years, with a deep core in Latin Jazz.

For the past 8 years Gabriel has been performing at major international music festivals, touring throughout Mexico, Canada and Europe.  His music is broadcast across radio stations all over the world from Alaska through to South America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia  It has been reviewed and featured in the Rolling Stone Magazine, Latin Jazz Network, Ejazznews, All About Jazz, Jazz Caribe, The Toronto Star, Salsa Son, Timba Columbia, Newstime South Africa and inside World Music, among many others.

“Trivolution” was selected as the Gold Medal Winner in the Composer/Album categories; achieved TOP TEN status in the 2015 “Global Music Awards”, and also featured in the “Emerging Artists” section of the April 30th, 2016 issue of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE.”   – This info is from Gabriel’s website.

In the past he has performed in Kimberley. In 2015 his band was included in that year’s Jazz and Blues Concert series ( http://www.rodneywilson.ca/2015/09/13/its-a-long-way-from-buenos-aires-the-gabriel-palatchi-band/ ). I must commend the organizing committee for setting aside their “no repeats rule” to invite Gabriel back to the Studio 64 stage. In that particular performance Gabriel was joined by West Kootenay musicians Doug Stephenson on bass and Tony Ferraro on drums for a collection of some familiar material (Juan Tizol’s Caravan and Ahmad Jamal’s Poinciana) along with his original compositions. This time around the other members of the trio were Cameron Hood from Vancouver on 6 string Tobias electric bass and Luis “El Pana” Tovar on drums. Luis is originally from Venezuela and is now a resident of Calgary. The program for the evening was all original material. As can be imaged, rehearsing such a scattered group of musicians is a challenge. It was done by exchanging mp3’s across continents followed by only three days of rehearsals before the tour. Cameron assures me that the music is fiendishly difficult and for him to nail the exotic piece “in sevens” required many hours of solo practice. Cameron explained that the piece was in 7/8 (perhaps a nod to Gabriel’s Turkish roots) but it was complicated by mirror images of the rhythm. 123 4567 followed by 1234 567 – three and four followed by four and three. On top of that there was all the salsa, Latin and funk overtones. I confess as an Anglo the names of all the Spanish tunes just flew by me. “Oh yeah. There was that thing in sevens. Then there was the Flamenco piano piece and the piece with fragments of Astor Piazolla’s Libertango but as to the names of the tunes they just flew by”. No matter. The music was a tour de force of Latin, Funk and not to be forgotten Nuevo Tango.

In Argentinean Nuevo Tango, drum kits do not figure prominently in traditional performances . Luis “El Pana” Tovar stepped up to the plate magnificently, particularly in the Tango pieces. That style of music is noted, among other things, for its shifting rhythms and structural complexities. It’s enough to make you wonder if a thorough grasp of rhythm requires being born south of the equator. Luis is a noted conga player and percussionist and that may account for some of the musicality in his performance. Or is it perhaps because the guy appears to be almost seven feet tall? Maybe from that height the rhythms of the world are more understandable.

Here are some images from a spectacular night of music.

                       

As with the previous concert in 2015 the music was outstanding. So much so I hope the organizing committee will once again put aside “the no repeats” rule if Gabriel decides to return.

As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings. Oh, by the way, the bassist Cameron Hood would love to come back this way with some of his fellow Vancouver musicians.

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Tony Ferraro – The Man in the Middle

On stage, drummers are rarely up front and in your face. Usually they are buried at back, in the middle, or occasionally off to side. The best they can hope for is a raised stage behind the band. They may not always be seen but they usually are heard. Some might say that is not necessarily a good thing. By and large they tend to be loud, abrasive, and dare I say it, not always musical. However, there are exceptions and Tony Ferraro is one of those exceptions. He is the quintessential “man in the middle” with precise deft splashes of technical skill that perfectly fits the musical situations at hand. He is capable of enough powerhouse drive to fuel a big band. He can be as funky as all get out in an organ trio, or softly pulsing in a Jazz or Bossa Nova setting. He is a resident of the West Kootenays and is basically “the go to drummer” in the region. If you want to take a band to the next level then Tony is your man. We have been very fortunate in this area in that we often get to see, hear and experience such a master musician at play. He was recently in the area with Melody Diachun and her jazz group and a short time later with Lester McLean / Michael Occhipinti’s Jazz/Soul/Funk outfit.

Last June the extra fine vocalist Melody Diachun was in the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook as part of her “Get Back to the Groove Tour”. The initial kick off concert of the tour was at a Jazz Festival in Calgary. Cranbrook was the stop before the Kaslo Jazz Festival and then all points West down to the coast. With the exception of Cranbook the group played to sold out crowds. As usual Melody surrounded herself with a group of first class musicians that included Tony Ferraro on drums, Doug Stephenson on guitar, Mike Spielman on bass, Clinton Swanson on saxes and the Edmontonian Chris Andrew on keyboards. True to her promise of “getting back to the grove” she kicked off the evening with ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man and an her own original Get Back to the Grove. What I like about the Stage Door as a venue is the opportunity to really hear the music. There are no impaired sight lines, no idle chatter or bar room clatter. It’s just about the music, the musicians and the the audience. The little nuances that might be easily passed over in other environs are there to be appreciated. When Melody picked up the shakers and beat out a groove Tony was right there behind her doubling the rhythm on his snare. The resulting pulse was mesmerizing. When Clinton Swanson rolled off the end of a solo guitarist Doug Stephenson was right there to pick it up and extend the melodic line that Clinton was exploring. And so on. The evening just rolled on with magical vocals and sparkling solos. Here are some more images from the evening:

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Tucked away in a little strip Mall in the old Big Picture electronics store in Cranbrook is Auntie Barb’s Bakery. It is the brain child of Barb Smythe and Todd DeBoice  and it operates as a Bakery and Bistro that also caters to Banquets. The establishment does have another life. At the back of the main room is a  professional stage and performing area complete with a black backdrop and professional stage lighting. For musical aficionado Tod DeBoice it is dream come true. He now has an opportunity to hear and support musicians of his choice in an environment that will show case their talents to the best advantage. A couple of bands slipped into town without my knowledge and performed in this new Cranbrook musical venue. However, I stumbled on a poster in the local library advertising the venue. The names on the poster,  Michael Occhipinti,Tony Ferrero and Felix Pastorius immediately caught my eye. Michael is multiple Juno nominee and top of the pile guitarist from Toronto. I have no hesitation in suggesting that Michael is the most “over the top” talented guitarist in Canada. Over the past year or so he has performed several times in the area including a tour with the outstanding Italian vocalist Pilar.  Tony Ferraro, as I mentioned above is the “go to drummer” in the Kootenays. Although I didn’t immediately realize it at the time Felix Pastorius is the son of the late great bass player Jaco Pastorius. The leader of the band Lester McLean (vocals, guitar and alto sax) was an unknown to me but given the company he was keeping my expectations were pretty high.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 7:30pm – Lester McLean Soul / Funk Band featuring Michael Occhipinti at Auntie Barb’s Bakery.

At the opening of the show Michael Occhipinti warned me that this wasn’t going to be a jazz performance. After it was over I begged to differ. It may have been masquerading as Soul and Funk but it was all jazz to me. Of course there were the Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Arethra Franklin hits and a sprinkling of Classic Rock (Drift Away and Harvest Moon). On a blues shuffle Michael Occhipinti did some romping around with his guitar set to an organ effect that made you look for the keyboard that wasn’t there. Lester played some searing alto sax solos and the giant in the back (Felix) played some blistering solos and backups on his Vinny Fodera six string bass. At one stage he was trading riffs with Michael that were over the top brilliant. This was an outstanding night of music.

           

New York may have The Blue Note and the Village Vanguard but Cranbrook has Auntie Barb’s Bakery. What more could we want.

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Read any Good Books Lately? (#12) – The Korean War: A History

We all live through historical events. Some we don’t recall and others are only vague memories. Even the ones dimly remembered can continue to have significant impacts on our daily lives. Case in point – The Korean War of 1950-1953. Almost before my time of course. I was barely a teenager with other things on my mind at the time. The recent political theater with Donald Trump and Kim Jong has prompted my interest. What was the Korean War really about? I came across this publication on Kindle and I think it is well worth the read.

The Korean War: A History  by Bruce Cummings –

From the Amazon Web site : A BRACING ACCOUNT OF A WAR THAT IS EITHER MISUNDERSTOOD, FORGOTTEN, OR WILLFULLY IGNORED.

“For Americans, it was a discrete conflict lasting from 1950 to 1953. But for the Asian world the Korean War was a generations-long struggle that still haunts contemporary events. With access to new evidence and secret materials from both here and abroad, including an archive of captured North Korean documents, Bruce Cumings reveals the war as it was actually fought. He describes its origin as a civil war, preordained long before the first shots were fired in June 1950 by lingering fury over Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Cumings then shares the neglected history of America’s post–World War II occupation of Korea, reveals untold stories of bloody insurgencies and rebellions, and tells of the United States officially entering the action on the side of the South, exposing as never before the appalling massacres and atrocities committed on all sides.

Elegantly written and blisteringly honest, The Korean War is, like the war it illuminates, brief, devastating, and essential.”

This book is not about the battles and the gory aspects of the battle field. This book is about the political back ground of the lead up to the war, a pencil sketch of the war,  and some of ramifications of the outcome of the war. I am not a war buff so that aspect did not particularly interest me. I was more interested in the larger picture and the larger issues. At the time, and even now, the perceived wisdom of the conflict was a simple case of Northern Communist aggression against a democratic Southern Korea that was friendly to the west. Now, in hindsight, it is easy to see that was not the case. In truth it was a civil war with the protagonists representing anti-Japanese and pro-Japanese points of view. The anti-Japanese Koreans had spent years battling the Japanese colonization of Korea and Manchuria. They had fought along side their Chinese compatriots in Manchuria and at the end of  WWII there was an expectation that the allies would dismantle the Japanese (French, British, Dutch etc) colonies and foster national aspirations of those “former” colonies. Of course that never happened. The French were reinstalled in Vietnam, the British in Malaysia, the Dutch in the east Indies, etc). Despite the war crimes tribunials and the establishment of Japanese  guilt for the war, shortly after the completion of hostilities the Americans realized that they needed to re-establish Japanese industry and economic interests to stabilize the area and prevent Communist expansion into the Asian political vacuum. Virtually, that meant re-establishing Japanese interests in Korea.  The result was civil war between those Koreans who were anti-Japanese and those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese before and during WWII. Like most civil wars it was a brutal conflict with many large scale atrocities  perpetrated by both sides. The war was fought to a stand still and technically a state of war still exists between a Northern communist regime and a somewhat more liberal South Korea. The American had hoped that a popular democratic government in South Korea would eventuate. That did not really happen. As we speak there is a perception that South Korea is a democratic entity much like those of the west but in reality the country has existed with a rotating door of coups and corrupt governments. Unfortunately the North has not fared much better. There has been a stable regime in place since the end of the conflict but the general population has suffered under a brutal dictatorship with a siege mentality. It is that siege mentality that governs the north’s position in any dealings with outside interest. It is the very reason that North Korea will never give up their understandable pursuit of nuclear options. Trump came away from the recent discussions with an assumption that the North will denuclearize. But that will never happen. Why would they give away a trump card when history has shown them what happens to regimes that buckle to American pressure.

Some where, some one, has stated that that the actions of a crazy person are those of some one that keeps on doing the same thing over and over and over again with the expectations of a different outcome. With that in mind haven’t the American been doing that for years and years. They didn’t succeed in Korea or Vietnam. In broad strokes the Vietnam situation a was repeat of the Korean experience. A communist north, a corrupt southern regime, a nationalist determination to achieve independence, a divided country and a civil war with the Americans entering the war on the wrong side of history. The outcome is some what similar. The war did end but the Americans lost that war. In the long run the final outcome is somewhat better with a united Vietnam without war and some semblance of peace and prosperity. With Korea and Vietnam behind them once again the American ended up in a divided Iraq with warring factions in the semblance of a civil war. They may have won  the battles but I suggest they lost the war. Similarly in Afghanistan where I also suggest they have won the battles but have lost the war. I think they have been involved in the region for over ten years and there is still no end in sight.

The book is not exactly holiday reading but it requires very little effort and the possible understanding obtained is worth the effort.

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YouTube Pick (#26) – Nuevo Tango (New Tango)

Tango music came out of Argentina in the very early part of the twentieth century and is mostly associated with the dance of the same name. It’s popularity has waxed and waned though out the century but in more recent times the music has undergone a change into what is now known as Nuevo Tango or Tango  Nuevo.This new style  evolved from the traditionally sung Argentinian Tango which was played as dance music. It originated in Buenos Aires in the mid 1950s and owes its development to new rhythms, melodies, harmonies, dynamics and the incorporation of elements of Jazz and Classical music into a style more  suited to modern times. One of the pioneers of this new style was the Argentinian composer and Bandoneon soloist Astor Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 – July 4, 1992). Piazzolla’s Nuevo Tango introduced elements of Jazz, used extended harmonies and dissonance, counterpoint, and  ventured into extended compositional forms. In the realms of Argentinean music, both Tango and Classical, Astor Piazzolla is a giant. In bringing about the change in Tango style his efforts have not always been met with universal acclaim. There is one story out there about a traditional Tango musician who, on hearing Astor performing music on radio, threatened to go down to the studio and beat up the musicians.

My first encounter with the style was a vinyl recording of Piazzolla’s 1987 New York Central Park Concert and, to be honest, I didn’t get it then and to some extent I am not entirely sure I get it now. The music is so different to everything else that is out there that it is difficult to get a complete sense of the music.   The music is structurally very complex, the melodies are different, the rhythms chop and change and have nothing in common with conventional pop, jazz and nearby Brazilian folkloric styles. In performance the music is very virtuosic and an average musician would have great difficulty in performing the music.The configuration of Nuevo Tango ensembles are unique. The conventional drum kit is absent and any percussion accompaniment is restricted to musicians beating on the body of standard acoustic instruments. Piano, guitar, and bass figure prominently in intricate, mostly written, compositions. Improvisation in the conventional jazz sense is limited.

The instrument that is fairly unique to the music is the Bandoneon. It is an instrument that gives the music it’s unique sonic flavor. It is a type of non-chromatic button concertina defined as a wind / free reed / aerophone instrument. It is similar to certain types of concertinas and melodeons in that it produces different notes on either the push or pull of the bellows. The Bandoneon, so named by the German instrument dealer, Heinrich Band (1821–1860), was originally intended as an instrument for the religious and popular music of the day. Around 1870, German and Italian emigrants and sailors brought the instrument to Argentina, where it was adopted into the nascent genre of tango music, a descendant of the earlier Milonga. By 1910 Bandoneons were being produced expressly for the Argentine and Uruguayan markets, with 25,000 shipping to Argentina in 1930 alone. However, declining popularity and the disruption of German manufacturing during the World War II led to the end of mass production of the instrument. Bandoneons were historically produced primarily in Germany, and, despite its popularity,  were never produced in Argentina itself. As a result, by the 2000s, vintage bandoneons had become rare and expensive (US$4,000), there by limiting prospective bandeonists……… Wikipedia

My interest in the style picked up when I came across Nuevo Tango performances by Gary Burton. For me this made the music much more accessible. I am very familiar with Burton’s music and the sound of the vibraphone in jazz. Burton was born in Anderson, Indiana in 1943 and began playing music at the age of six. He mostly taught himself to play marimba and vibraphone. He began studying piano at age sixteen while finishing high school. He attended Berklee College of Music in 1960–61 and the Stan Kenton Clinic at Indiana University in 1960.  After establishing his career during the 1960s, he returned to join the staff of Berklee from 1971–2004, serving first as professor, then dean, and executive vice president during his last decade at the college. In 1989, Burton received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee. In the world of Jazz, music in general and in the art of playing four mallet vibraphone Gary Burton is a giant. The Gary Burton Grip is one of a number of standard grips used to play with four mallets. He has cited jazz pianist Bill Evans as the inspiration for his approach to the vibraphone.

Burton first became aware of Piazzolla’s music while visiting Buenos Aires with the Stan Getz Jazz group in 1965. Gary Burton at that time was 25 years old. From the liner notes of one of his recordings Burton chronicles his love for the music. ” Standing at the side of the stage in the Buenos Aires  club thirty five years ago, I was swept away by the passion of his (Astor Pizzolla) soaring melodies and rich harmonies and the breathtaking virtuosity of his musicians. But even more surprising, I couldn’t believe this music existed and it was so little known in the United States.”

Here is clip of Gary Burton playing Piazzolla’s Libertango

Libertango is probably one of Astor Piazolla’s most famous compositions and it has been adapted by many performers over the years into solo guitar, guitar duos, guitar quartets, string quartets and other configurations. I think the music is worth a listen and if you are so inclined there is plenty of other examples on YouTube.

Here are a few Gary Burton New Tango recordings to help you to get your head around this music. It may take a while but It is worth the effort.

GARY BURTON – LIBERTANGO – THE MUSIC OF ASTOR PIAZZOLLA  Concord Jazz CCD – 4887-2

NEW TANGO – ASTOR PIAZZOLLA & GARY BURTON  Atlantic Jazz 7 81823-2

GARY BURTON / ASTOR PIAZZOLLA REUNION Concord Jazz CCD – 47932

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post script : more versions of LIBERTANGO

My comment after hearing numerous versions of the piece and this particular guitar duo version…..  Holy Frack, what is that  ………..

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Sean McCann – Life after GREAT BIG SEA

Just a few years back (1993 to 2013) GREAT BIG SEA was an almost unstoppable force in Canadian East Coast music. Over a twenty year period they dominated the scene with their mix of Newfoundland traditional music and rock and roll sensibilities. A founding member, and key performer, in the group was Sean McCann. Sean is very up front about his motivation to perform. It was about “booze, sex and rock and roll”. But every thing has a price and by 2013 he knew, for his health and family situation, he needed to get off the “Party Bus”. He quit the band and relocated to Ottowa – “That’s where all our tax money goes, so why not.”  On his retirement from the band he noted he had been on the road with Great Big Sea  for 20 years….. He was 46 years old and it was time to make a change. Great Big Sea struggled on for a while but it was not the same . The band is now in happy retirement. The two key performers, Alan Doyle and Sean McCann, while still tipping the hat to the “Great Big Sea Repertoire”,  have gone onto solo careers.

For this evening, Sean kicked off the night in true Newfoundland fashion with an acapella sea song and followed that up with a collection varied material from his own stock of original songs and a few Great Big Sea staples thrown into the mix. Like all good singer/song writers Sean is essentially a story teller and the dialogue in, and between the songs wove the evening into a tapestry of his life so far. For the most part of that life he has traveled with his favorite guitar “Brownie”. A beat up old Takamine Dreadnought that shows the many scars of a hard life on the road . It is emblazoned on the deck with Sean’s mantra “Help Your Self”. To round out the team there was his second DADGAD guitar, a Takamine Jumbo, and his Bodhan (an Irish Frame drum). Part of the tapestry of the evening included the drinking song Red Wine and Whiskey and his recovery song Doing Fine. On the later there was some especially fine finger picking on the DADGAD guitar. Here are some images of a fine, intimate evening of story telling…….   @@@@@@@@@@@@@@

YouTube Pick (#25) – Joey Alexander

Normally, for a number of reasons,  I have an a distaste for child performers. At best they are circus performers verging on the freakish. At worst I think they are possibly children who have been deprived of their childhood by driven parents, care takers and teachers. It also pops into my mind; How is it even possible for a youthful performer to be able to develop the strength, stamina, muscle memory and mature musicality and  perform at an adult level? Then there is the other question of intimidation. If a child can do it why can’t I? So when I saw a positive review of a recording by the pianist Joey Alexander I was intrigued. At first glance I thought here is another new (adult) pianist on the scene who had escaped my attention. Then in the review I noticed he was only 13 years old. Is that possible? I was intrigued. I decided to check out YouTube for his performances. I was immediately gob smacked astounded and completely blown away. This was not some circus performance. It was the work of a mature musician  with a bucket load of technique and musicality. Joey Alexander, is an Indonesian  jazz pianist who  learned about jazz by listening to classic albums his father gave him. By age six, he had taught himself to play piano using a miniature, electric keyboard his father brought home for him, learning by ear compositions such as Thelonous Monk’s Well You Needn’t and other songs from his father’s jazz collection. Here is his version of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood – both are classics in the Jazz repertoire. Note the length of his fingers.

Of course Chris Potter is no novice. His work here on Soprano Sax and Bass clarinet are just hints of the high standard of his many performances. I get a kick out of Chris’ expressions on In a Sentimental Mood when he steps aside to check out Joey’s playing. Here is Joey with performances of My Favourite Things  and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

While it is unusual for some one of his age to be able to perform at this level Jazz has always been blessed with a number of young performers, usually in their late teens, who have won international acclaim and gone onto long and fruitful adult careers. Some musicians in that category that come to mind are the vibes player Garry Burton, trumpeter Lee Morgan, guitarist Pat Methney, pianist Oscar Peterson and bassist Christian McBride. I’m sure there are many others. For the final video clip here is Joey at age 7 performing Caravan.

It just isn’t right, fair or even natural but there it is.

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Cecil Taylor, Pianist Who Defied Jazz Orthodoxy, Is Dead at 89

 

At a concert during the the last European tour of the Miles Davis / John Coltrane Quintet in 1960 a lady in one audience stood up during a John Coltrane solo and pleaded “please make him stop”. I am sure that would be the reaction of most audiences to the music of Cecil Taylor. Even in Jazz circles Cecil Percival Taylor (March 25, 1929 – April 5, 2018) is not exactly a household name. He was a classically trained American pianist and poet and is generally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the Free Jazz movement. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, resulting in complex improvised sounds that frequently involve tone clusters and polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion – referring to the number of keys on a standard piano as “eighty eight tuned drums”. He has also been described as like “Art Tatum with contemporary classical leaning”. The Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould has been reported as saying “Cecil Taylor is the future of piano music”. It is an interesting comment from a musician who is famous for his precise interpretations of the music of Bach. Taylor is from the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Gould’s interpretations are architectual musical masterpieces while Taylor’s musical musings are more like splashes of molten lava.

Taylor is outside the orderly progression of jazz piano styles of the past century. The normal historical flow of American piano music goes back to the almost classical formalism of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and then onto the improvisational styles of James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, “Fats” Waller, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Nat ‘King” Cole and then the moderns – Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett etc. Taylor stands way outside that tradition. The only pianist that might claim some connection is the Thelonious Monk and he is better known and appreciated as a composer. Like Monk Taylor’s public appearances were performances in the true meaning of the word – music, poetry, dance. At the center of his art was the dazzling physicality and the percussiveness of his playing — his deep, serene, Ellingtonian chords and hummingbird attacks above middle C — which held true well into his 80s. Classically trained, he valued European music for what he called its qualities of “construction” — form, timbre, tone color — and incorporated them into his own aesthetic. “I am not afraid of European influences,” he told the critic Nat Hentoff. “The point is to use them, as Ellington did, as part of my life as an American Negro.”  In a long assessment of Mr. Taylor’s work — one of the first — from “Four Lives in the Bebop Business,” a collection of essays on jazz musicians published in 1966, the poet and critic A. B. Spellman wrote: “There is only one musician who has, by general agreement even among those who have disliked his music, been able to incorporate all that he wants to take from classical and modern Western composition into his own distinctly individual kind of blues without in the least compromising those blues, and that is Cecil Taylor, a kind of Bartok in reverse.” Because his fully formed work was not folkish or pop-oriented, did not swing consistently (often it did not swing at all) and never entered the consensual jazz repertoire, Mr. Taylor could be understood to occupy an isolated place. Even after he was rewarded and lionized  his music has not been easy to quantify. If improvisation means using intuition and risk in the present moment, there have been few musicians who took that challenge more seriously than Mr. Taylor. If one of his phrases seemed of paramount importance, another such phrase generally arrived right behind it. The range of expression in his keyboard touch encompassed caresses, rumbles and crashes.   –     (excepts from Wikipedia).

Taylor may not have had a big following but he was not without honors during his lifetime. Even after he was rewarded and lionized — he was given a Guggenheim fellowship in 1973, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award in 1990, a MacArthur fellowship in 1991 and the Kyoto Prize in 2014 — his music was not easy to quantify nor did it have a great following. There was no academy for what Cecil Taylor did, and partly for that reason he became one himself, teaching for stretches in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at Antioch College in Ohio. (He was given an honorary doctorate by the New England Conservatory in 1977.) Not until the mid-1970s, Mr. Lyons told the writer John Litweiler, did The Cecil Taylor Unit have enough work so that member musicians could make a living from it — mostly in Europe. Although classically trained his comment on written music bears repeating  –  “When you think about musicians who are reading music,” he said in “All the Notes,” a 1993 documentary directed by Chris Felver, “my contention has always been: The energy that you’re using deciphering what the symbol is, is taking away from the maximum creative energy that you might have had if you understood that it’s but a symbol.” (excepts from Wikipedia). I agree with the comment but most of us mere mortals have to start somewhere and once the music is under your belt then perhaps the written symbols should be discarded.

In some ways he reminds me of Frank Zappa. Frank was a “rock” musician who was very distinctly outside the traditions of Rock and Roll. Just try and jam along with a Frank Zappa recording and I think you will get my meaning.

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Amos Garrett and Julian Kerr at Studio 64

Amos Garrett and Julian Kerr at Studio 64; March 24, 2018 8pm: This is the first concert of the Spring 2018 concert Series

Amos Garrett is an “in between sort of guy”. He has been on the Canadian and American music scene for “a million years”. He not a Classic Rocker in the strutting long- hair mode, nor a true blue down home country blues player. Although he cites the trumpet player Bix Beiderbecke and pianists Jerry Roll Morton, Fats Waller and the elegant Teddy Wilson as musical influences he isn’t really a classic Jazz player either. As I said he is an “in between guy”. He is a musician who cements all these varied influences into a personal style that can only be Amos Garrett. Apart from his solo ventures he has performed and recorded with over 150 major artists including Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Martin Hull, Paul Butterfield and Pearls Before Swine. He was on Anne Murray’s classic recording Snowbird and performed as a founding member of Ian Tyson’s band The Great Speckled Bird He currently resides in Calgary where he performs with a number of outfits including gigs with keyboard playing neighbor Julian Kerr.  At 77 years of age he no longer does “the big tours”. The last big tour of Japan he recalls with great affection for the country and the people of that nation. After touring there he wondered about who actually won the last war. Japan has prospered with peaceful cites and an admirable life style while the North American landscape is littered with crime and violence and inner cities in decline.

Julian Kerr is a professional Calgary musician and is one of Amos’ favorite keyboard players. Julian plays and teaches, bass, and guitar and for over 30 years he has played with many notable musicians including Bo Diddley .

The concert kicked off with Otis Rush’s  My Baby is Such a Good One followed by a Curtis Mayfield classic tune, Boz Scaggs Running Blue, and the 1966 soul-jazz classic Mercy Mercy by the Adderley Brothers (Nat and Julian).  They then slipped back in time to the early part of the last century for Jelly Roll Morton’s Michigan Waters Blues (“Michigan water tastes like Sherry Wine and the Mississippi water tastes turpentine”). Now Jelly Roll Morton was a schooled Creole musician from New Orleans who claimed to have invented Jazz. Not true of course, but he was a pivotal musician in the transition of ragtime to what we now know as jazz. From the repertoire of Toronto’s Whitely Brothers we were introduced to their jug band style tune Perfume and Tobacco.

Although I lived through the era I pretty well missed out on hearing the Texas band  The  Jazz Crusaders in the 1970s. I only discovered them last year in a box set of CDs published by Mosiac Records. To hear Amos working on the Larry Carlton guitar parts was a treat. It must have also been a treat for Julian Kerr to dip into the music of pianist/keyboard player Joe Sample who was a co-leader of the band. The Jazz Crusaders eventually dropped Jazz from their name and went onto an even longer career as The Crusaders. Julian dropped some rocking piano into Bob Dylan’s Takes a Train to Cry. Amos performed his signature version of Sleepwalk and entertained us with lots of anecdotal  stories  from his long career. My favorite was the tale of the Mounties Breakfast – Steak and Beer. For the encore Julian took us home with Booker T and the MGs  Green Onions and some lovely “fluffy organ tones” that probably outshone those present on the original recording. As always this was another highly enjoyable concert in the ongoing Blues and Jazz concert series at Studio 64. Thanks must go to the organizers, volunteers and sponsors that make this series such a joy.

Here are some more images from the evening:

         

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