YouTube Pick (#15) – Lee Ritenour and Mike Stern

The best and the worst thing that has ever happened to guitar music has been  “the invention of electricity”. On the plus side, before guitarists could plug in the guitar was, and still is, a very quiet instrument with very limited dynamic range  and sustain. On an acoustic guitar, a note struck does not travel far and does not last long and in a group setting it is quickly overpowered by other instruments. In the days before amplification acoustic guitarists were forced to play very hard and as a result the sound coming from the instrument suffered. Even today Blue Grass flat pickers who prefer to play  hard and fast without plugging in run the risk of not being heard or ending up with a crappy sound. Electricity changed all of that. From the get go an amplified guitar could now hold its own even in the big bands of the forties. Case in point listen to the recordings of Charlie Christian and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. As instruments and amplification systems improved the guitar came into its own with more volume, more sustain, more dynamic possibilities and with effect pedals more sonic possibilities. The sky was the limit and unfortunately that led to the false conclusion that more volume became equated as more, not necessarily good,  music.  The possibilities of increased  sustain and sonic effects are very useful tools that have often become completely obliterated by the shear power and volume of the modern electric guitar. That has become the down side. The temptation to continually crank up the volume has become hard to resist  and it has affected every body. Drummers, bass players, keyboards are now all capable of immense volume and the result, often, is that musicality and nuance have gone out the door. If every body plays super loud there is no musical room to move.  Having said all that there are still examples out there of loud electric guitar music well worth listening to. This YouTube of Lee Ritenour and Mike Stern at the Tokyo Blue Note is right up there with great interplay between the two guitarists and with the great supporting musicians in Freeway Jam Band. The band features Simon Phillips on drums (that must be the biggest drum kit on the planet), John Beasley on a mass of keyboards and Melvin Dasin on a gigantic seven string  electric bass. This is a long video, over an hour, so grab a beer and kick back for some great “electric” music. Now is it Jazz or is it rock? who cares?

For most of the listening public and despite many albums, awards and studio session both of these musicians are somewhat under the radar. Lee Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles. At 16, he played on his first recording session, with  the Mamas and the Papas, and was given the nickname Captain Fingers for his dexterity. He was a a studio musician in the 1970s, winning Guitar Player magazine’s Best Studio Guitarist award twice. Throughout his career, Ritenour has experimented with different styles of music, incorporating funk, pop, rock, blues, Brazilian , classical and jazz . He has 41 solo albums to his credit and has played as a sideman on many, many hit records including Pink Floyd’s THE WALL. He was also a key member of the groups Fourplay and L.A. Workshop. In 2004 he brought together some of the key musicians of his career for the two disc DVD Overtime. For anybody who takes music seriously this DVD is a must view. Strictly speaking Lee is not specifically a jazz player. He exists in that commercial arena that straddles rock / pop / and studio work. He is a musical chameleon who manages to slip effortlessly into what ever role is required. It is probably the reason he doesn’t figure highly in the DownBeat Jazz Critics and Readers polls. He is probably not a pure enough Jazz player to be considered. It is a bit of a shame really because he has an unbelievably high skill level. Just to demonstrate his Jazz chops check the the two clips below of him in two groups playing Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece Stolen Moments. His 1990 solo album of the same name is one of my all time favorite Jazz Guitar recordings.

On the other hand Mike Stern (born January 10, 1953) has impeccable jazz credentials. Because he has a very non-jazz sound I find the the situation a little ironic and yet despite this he is a six-time Grammy-nominated American jazz guitarist. After playing with Blood Sweat and Tears he landed a gig with drummer  Billy Cobham, then with trumpeter Miles Davis from 1981 to 1983 and again in 1985. I guess it takes a Miles Davis imprimatur to be taken seriously as a jazz player. Following that, he launched a solo career, releasing more than a dozen albums. Stern was hailed as the Best Jazz Guitarist of 1993 by  Guitar Player Magazine. At the  Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in June 2007, Stern was honored with the Miles Davis Award, which was created to recognize internationally acclaimed jazz artists whose work has contributed significantly to the renewal of the genre. In 2009 Stern was listed as one of the 75 best jazz guitarist of all time. He was presented with Guitar Player magazine’s Certified Legend Award on January 21, 2012. He has 16 solo albums to his credit.

I tend not to find solid body electric guitars visually pleasing. To me one Telecaster electric guitar looks much the same as another. However, Mike plays a signature Yamaha Pacifica – Mike Stern Model. Years ago, because he really liked Telecasters so much he had Yamaha make him one to his specifications. It is one beautiful looking guitar.

This is loud music but with lots of good stuff there to hold one’s interests. Of course at the end of the performance the question remains. Is it Rock or is it Jazz?  ….. Enjoy

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TWO MORE JAZZ LEGENDS PASS AWAY

VIBRAPHONE  PLAYER BOBBY HUTCHINSON AND CHROMATIC HARMONICA PLAYER “TOOTS” THIELMANS

 In jazz, history counts for a lot. Every current performer of note stands on the shoulders of all those who came before. In the case of vibraphone players the early jazz giant on the instrument was Lionel Hampton. Lionel first popularized the instrument while playing with Benny Goodman during the swing era. He was a two mallet player (one in each hand) with a rapid aggressive splashy style suited to the music of the day. He never really modernized his style when the likes of Charlie Parker invented Be-bop. That was left to the next generation of performers who immersed themselves in the new style. Milt Jackson, while still a two mallet player, had a style strongly influenced by the blues and Be-bop. He was not a show man in the Hampton tradition but rather made his name as a band member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The MJQ had a career that spanned over forty years and Jackson was an integral component in their reflective style of jazz.  bobby-hutcherson-image-2Bobby Hutchinson and Gary Burton careers’ both somewhat overlapped Jackson’s and they both rose to fame in the 60’s and 70’s. They were the new generation who favored the use of four mallets (two in each hand) that allowed for a more complex pianistic style of performance. Although somewhat now retired Gary Burton is still around and is probably still performing in a semi-professional capacity. Bobby Hutchinson passed away on August 15, 2016 surrounded by his family in the living room of his long time home in Montara, California. He was 75 years old.

Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidore Thielemans was born in Belgium and began studying the harmonica at age 3, and by age 17 he was also proficient on guitar. He became Jean 'Toots' Thielemansknown as “Toots”. The Chromatic Harmonica does not have the same historical traditions of other jazz instruments so he is literally the first of his kind. Although he has played with all the great jazz soloists, including Charlie Parker, he is best known for his composition Bluesette. He died in Brussels on August 22, 2016. He was 94 years old.

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STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES SERIES – LAURA LANDSBERG

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Saturday, October 15, 2016 – Laura Landsberg with her Trio at Studio 64, Kimberley

What can I say? Once again the Kimberley Arts Council has hit the jackpot. And once again I am astounded at the technical proficiency and musicality of the musicians coming out of the West Kootenays. Laura Landsberg (Vocals) and her Trio, Paul Landsberg (Guitar), Tony Ferraro (Drums) and Doug Stephenson (Acoustic Bass) all hail from the Nelson area.

Although Laura is currently from Nelson she does “come from away” . She has an honest musical pedigree. She is the daughter of world-renowned trombonist and composer Ian McDougall. She  was born in London and grew up listening to her father’s jazz trombone. Her father played in Johnny Dankworth’s top British Jazz Orchestra. Undoubtedly at some time in her youth she was exposed to the jazz sounds of that orchestra plus the incredible British Jazz vocalist Cleo Laine who performed from time to time with the Dankworth organisation.  Laura was raised in Vancouver, BC,  received her formal education at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. In numerous vocal workshops she went onto to develop her skills as a performer and teacher. She has studied with Bobby McFerrin, Rhiannon, David Worm, Axel Thiemer (Voice Care Network), Dee Daniels, Kiran Ahluwalia, Joey Blake and many other inspiring teachers. She has been teaching music since 1985 and joined the Selkirk  College Music faculty in the fall of 2004. Laura is a certified voice care teacher and a member of the “Voice Care Network”. There you have it, a pretty impressive  resume.

612-laura-landsberg Her musical co-conspirators are no less impressive. As any good vocalist will tell you a good 239-paul-landsbergaccompanist  is hard to find so when you find one you hang onto him and there is no better way than to marry him. Paul Landsberg is that accompanist. The two other members of the trio should be named “The Dynamic Duo”. The drummer Tony Ferraro is a full spectrum performer who can drive a big band into the stratosphere (The Chicago Tribute Band), or dig into funky Latin Grooves with the Gabriel Palatchi Trio or, as in this performance, play whisper soft brushes behind a vocalist. Tony has performed many time in this area. Doug Stephenson is adept on funky electric bass in the context of the Gabriel Palatchi Trio or adding his beautiful bass lines to any acoustic performance.

270-tony-ferraro    255-doug-stephenson

Laura and her trio kicked off the evening with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Dindi. Although described as a Bossa Nova classic it is entirely new to me so it was a welcome introduction. They followed that up with two jazz standards All or Nothing at All, How Deep is the Ocean and a bluesy Please Send Me Some One to Love. Other songs in the set included more jazz standards and the Elton John hit Your Song. Tony Ferraro’s brushes were the sweet support for Laura’s vocals. Paul Landsberg’s Wes Montgomery inspired guitar playing on Exactly Like Your was also perfect. The song Time After Time  had a nice little rhythmic twist. I am seldom right on these things but was that tune in 5/4? It was just one of the many musical twists and nuances in the evenings performance. These little things make a difference.

200a-laura-landsberg   212-laura-landsberg312-tony-ferraro100-keith-nichols    228-tony-ferraro240-paul-landsberg257-doug-stephenson272-tony-ferraro     302-laura-landsberg268-laura-landsberg330-tony-ferraro312-laura-landsberg314-laura-landsberg   336-laura-landsberg320-paul-landsberg380-paul-landsberg    274-paul-landsberg340-laura-landsberg352-laura-landsberg   354a-landsberg350-doug-stephenson372-laura-landsberg  356-laura-landsberg386-doug-stephenson370-laura-landsberg

All in all it was another nice evening of top flight Jazz and one I hope will repeated with a return concert at some future date. As always the evening was made possible by the efforts of the many volunteers and community support of the sponsors.

(PS. Paul Landsberg plays a 1961 Gibson ES335)

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STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES SERIES – THE ANDREA PETRITY TRIO

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JAZZ BLUES & STUDIO 64: THE ANDREA PETRITY TRIO, September 24, 2016, 8pm at Studio 64 (Centre 64) Kimberley BC 292-andrea-petrity

Some musicians have an epiphany. They may be wandering along in a sonic fog and out of the blue they hear a performer or a recording that becomes an “aha” moment. It becomes lodged in their brain and the thought train becomes  – “So that is what it is all about. I want to do that”. What follows is a commitment to a musical performance philosophy that may take them in a completely different direction, one that they may have never considered prior to the “aha moment”. That didn’t happen for the Calgary jazz pianist Andrea Petrity. The metamorphosis was much more gradual than that. Like so many other youth she took piano lessons and worked her way though the standard classical piano curriculum and repertoire. After leaving school and wondering what to do with her life she came to a conclusion that she already had a possibly useful skill set and perhaps, if she applied herself, it may lead some where.  That is what she started doing and, eventually, she applied for admission to a Jazz Performance Program at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Now, years later she is a fully fledged Jazz Pianist with a great love for the music of Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Thelonious Monk and that whole other world of Jazz Piano. Her favourite is the long deceased musical genius Bill Evans but she freely admits that there are so many talented musicians out there it is impossible to know them all, hear them all, or give credit where credit is due.

When asked the crass question “And what is your real day job?” the unequivocal response from Andrea, her bass player Stefano Valdo and drummer Robin Tufts is that they are full time professional musicians. That they possess a degree of professionalism is more than self evident in their on stage demeanour and commitment to technical and musical excellence.

On Saturday night at Studio 64 in Kimberley the Andrea Petrity Trio gave the admittedly small audience (very unusual for this extremely popular annual series) a substantial serving of straight ahead, no holds barred piano trio jazz. They kicked off the evening with their interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on the Wire. I normally approach listening to drummers with a certain amount of scepticism. Kit drummers tend 216-robin-tuftsto play too loud and dare I say it, often sound unmusical. Andrea promised a tasty treat with Robin Tufts accompaniments and we were not disappointed in his adroit handling of brushes and his simpatico accents. The bassist Stefano Valdo is no stranger to Studio 64 audiences. The last time he was here he played a huge electric bass guitar but this time around he had switched to upright bass. One of his musical heroes is the late great Scott LaFaro of Bill Evans Trio fame. The influences, at least to my ears, were very evident 238-stefano-valdoin his free wheeling accompanying and solo style. One of the sonic pleasures of recent years is the return of the upright acoustic bass. Nothing quiet matches the big fat bottom depths  of the acoustic upright bass. The first “standard” tune of the evening done in a very original style was Harlem Nocturne. The rest of the program was filled with a number of Andrea’s originals that included You Took Love With You, a nod to Thelonious Monk in Monkey Around  (I am sure Thelonious was smiling), and a cute interpretation  of a Hungarian Folk tune with some nice hand percussion from Robin. The name of the tune was loosely translated as an ode to a Brown eyed or gypsy girl. It was a neat 4/4 tune with a triplet feel, kind of 6/8, but not really. After the intermission they kicked off with a Latin feel in Andrea’s original Marianna, followed by an achingly slow (Andrea’s direction to the trio) version of the standard The Very Thought of You. This was followed by I Found a New Baby. Then more original tunes  including a new untitled work simply called Untitled and the final piece of the evening PMS. A title that doesn’t mean what you think. It is a nod to three modern Jazz master musicians, the bassist John Patitucci the guitarists Pat Metheny and John Scofield – PMS.

Here are more images from the evening.

204-andrea-petrity210-stefano-valdo  230-stefano-valdo214-robin-tufts254-andrea-petrity220a-robin-tufts   224-robin-tufts268-andrea-petrity306-robin-tufts242-andrea-petrity    244-andrea-petrity270-stefano-valdo232-robin-tufts240-stefano-valdo  100-cymbals258-andrea-petrity   266-andrea-petrity280-stefano-valdo

As always in the Studio 64 Jazz and Blues Concert series the music in this concert was a joy to experience. There is something about the interplay and shifting textures of live jazz that cannot be beaten.

The musicians in the trio would like to thank the Studio 64 Organizing Committee, Volunteers, the audience and A B&B AT 228 for their hospitality. They would also like to thank Elaine Rudser fo her astonishing art work on the walls of the performance space.

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RECORDING ENGINEER RUDY VAN GELDER DIES AT THE AGE OF 92.

Rudy van Gelder- in 1988

Only a non-jazz fan would ask “Rudy who?”. Rudy was a renowned recording engineer and the principle sonic architect of the “Blue Note Sound”. A specific sound that is associated with the classic recordings of the golden jazz era of the last 50 years. He worked with many recording companies but is best known for his work with Alfred Lyon’s Blue Note Recording company. He recorded  all the jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and just about every other major jazz artist of the past 50 years.

He wasn’t always a sound engineer. He trained as an optometrist and that was his “day job”. He went off to work in the morning to his optometry practice to earn his “daily bread” and after hours he spent his time recording jazz. At first in his parent’s living room, then in the iconic studio he designed and built at Engelwood Cliffs in Hackensack, New Jersey. He eventually ditched his day job and became a full time recording engineer.

Here is a Wikipedia quote: “When I first started, I was interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment I had,” Van Gelder commented in 2005; “I never was really happy with what I heard. I always assumed the records made by the big companies sounded better than what I could reproduce. So that’s how I got interested in the process. I acquired everything I could to play back audio: speakers, turntables, amplifiers”. One of Van Gelder’s friends, the baritone saxophonist Gil Melle introduced him to Alfred Lyon, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years Van Gelder was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York,  such as Prestige Records, Impulse and Savoy. Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige, recalled in 1999, “Rudy was very much an asset. His rates were fair and he didn’t waste time. When you arrived at his studio he was prepared. His equipment was always ahead of its time and he was a genius when it came to recording”. According to a JazzTimes  article in August 2016, “jazz lore has formed the brands into a yin and yang of sorts: The Blue Note albums involved more original music, with rehearsal and the stringent, consistent oversight of Alfred Lion; Weinstock was more nonchalant, organizing what were essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history”. Van Gelder said in 2012, “Alfred was rigid about how he wanted Blue Note records to sound. But Bob Weinstock of Prestige was more easygoing, so I’d experiment on his dates and use what I learned on the Blue Note sessions”. He also worked for Savoy Records in this period, among others. “To accommodate everyone, I assigned different days of the week to different labels”. Rudy was also a  pioneer in the development of live “on site” jazz recordings. In the 1950s Van Gelder also performed engineering and mastering for the classical label Vox Records. Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder entitled “Hackensack”.

Here is quote that I am  sure will raise the ire of fans of vinyl recordings. From 1999 on, he re-mastered the analog Blue Note recordings, that he had made several decades earlier, into 24-bit digital recordings for the Blue Note’s RVG Edition series and also a similar series of re-masters for the current owners, Concord Records, of some of the Prestige albums he had previously recorded.  He was positive about the switch from analog to digital technology. He told Audio magazine in 1995: “The biggest distorter is the LP itself. I’ve made thousands of LP masters. I used to make 17 a day, with two lathes going simultaneously, and I’m glad to see the LP go. As far as I’m concerned, good riddance. It was a constant battle to try to make that music sound the way it should. It was never any good. And if people don’t like what they hear in digital, they should blame the engineer who did it. Blame the mastering house. Blame the mixing engineer. That’s why some digital recordings sound terrible, and I’m not denying that they do, but don’t blame the medium.”

Van Gelder resided in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where he died at his home on August 25, 2016.

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SummerSounds: The Little Jazz Orchestra

SummerSounds presents: The Little Jazz Orchestra, August 13, 7:30 pm, Rotary Park, Cranbrook.

It isn’t Newport, Rhode Island and the year is not 1958 but it could be the next best thing. The documentary film Jazz on a Summer’s Day was set at the penultimate jazz festival of the day and here in Cranbrook  a half century later we have SummerSounds and The Little Jazz Orchestra (LJO). In both instances the weather was wonderful, the music superb and the setting magical. Sure the crowd wasn’t as big and the number of performers was restricted to just the one band of superb musicians. But to be able to kick back an enjoy the music on this wonderful summer evening, what more could one want? The band line up sported a couple of changes; Dave Ward (Trumpet, Fluegelhorn), Janice Nicili  (Bass), Evan Bueckert,,(Keyboard)  and Graham Barnes (Guitar) were the long time members joined by special guest Rick Lingard (Alto Sax) and Julian Bueckert substituting for Sven Heyde on drums. The band delivered up a set of their funkified version of jazz stands and their own original compositions. Here are images from the evening:

012. Janice and Graham

202. Janice Nicli   206. Rick Lingard208. Graham Barnes  210. Graham Barnes102.   100.208a. Graham Barnes214. Janice Nicli  216. Evan Bueckert220. Julian Bueckert  222. Rick Lingard236. Dave Ward218. Evan Bueckert246. Janice Nicli  244. Janice Nicli238. Dave Ward256. Julian Bueckert258. Evan Bueckert

Dave looking for his muse

278. Graham Barnes270. Shelagh Redecopp280. Janice Nicli   282. Janice Nicli288. Evan Bueckert

And a spectacular end to the evening600a. Fire604. Flames

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LJO on the Small Stage at the Key City Theatre

The Little Jazz Orchestra at the Key City Theatre, Saturday June 11, 2016, 7:30 pm

100. On stage

The Little Jazz Orchestra (LJO) with their straight ahead Jazz concept has been a fixture on the local music scene for a number of years. The original membership of the band consisted of Dave Ward (Trumpet and Fluegelhorn), Janice Nicili (Acoustic Bass), Jim Cameron (Guitar) and Graham Knipfell (Drums). From time to time they featured other local guest artists. Dave and Janice remain on board with the latest edition of the band while Jim and Graham have moved onto other endeavors.  Sven Heyde has taken over the drum chair, Graham Barnes is now on guitar and Evan Bueckert has joined the band on Keyboards. The LJO is now a quintet. In keeping with their newer slightly more funky approach Janice Nicili has switched to Electric Bass

Normally they have a regular gig on the first Thursday of every month at the HeidOut Restaurant in Cranbrook. While that venue bristles with ambience it is a fairly noisy environment and to hear the band in this concert setting was a very welcome opportunity to really hear their music. It was an evening for the band to plunder the archives and come up with a solid batch of Dave Wade’s original tunes. The tunes go all the way back to the local band Wham go the Ducks (I never did find out about that name) when Dave was barely out of High School. From that era  of “Heaven and Hell” tunes (Dave’s description)  they extracted  Beelzebub and Heavenly Bodies. As witnessed by his tribute to his mum and dad in the tune Me and My Old Man and My Old Man’s Lady  Dave is never at a lost for whimsical titles. It was also evident in his nod to two long time fans Les and Vera-Lynn in Les is More. The lyrics were hardly ground breaking poetry but the sentiment and the riffs were heart felt . Sean Heyde added some tasty low keyed drum riffs on the tune Where to,  a tune written specifically for one of Janice Nicli’s bass lines. According to Dave, Make it So, was reaching for a Star Trek ambience. As a tribute to Graham Barnes and his occupation as a chef Janice named the whimsical tune It’s Chefie Pants. Sprinkled though out the sets were a couple of ballads that included the tune Nectar . One of the definite pluses of the evening was the opportunity for Evan Bueckert to show case his talents on the Hammond B3 Organ. This magnificent beast doesn’t get to see the light of day very often so it was real treat to hear one of Jazz’s unique sounds. The last time I heard the “B3”  in the Key City Theatre it was when Dr. Lonnie Johnson came to town with Cory Weed and his jazz outfit. That was a night not to be forgotten. This LJO event was also another memorable night with a choice mix of original tunes and tasty solos in a very choice intimate environment. Hope fully there will be more of the same in the future. Here are so images from the evening.

218. Dave Ward300. Sven Heyde and Janice Nicili  400. Janice and Graham  530. Evan Bueckert614. Janice Nicili304. Sven Heyde414. Graham Barnes  412. Graham Barnes416. Graham Barnes012. LJO Header200. Dave Ward512. Evan Bueckert224. Dave Ward206. Dave Ward220c. Dave Ward

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Paul Bley and Pierre Boulez – not really famous but …….

There are entertainers who are just that – entertainers. There are entertainers who are musicians and musicians who are entertainers. Sometimes it is hard to tell exactly which is which. Then there there are musicians who are just that – musicians. Then again  there are those musicians who go beyond the accepted artistic norms of their era and create their own categories. Two such musicians are the Canadian Jazz Pianist Paul Bley and the French modern classical composer Pierre Boulez. Both of these exemplary musicians passed away this month (January 2016).

Paul Bley, born November 10 1932, died January 3 2016

Paul Bley North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague in 1990

Paul Bley is a Canadian Jazz Pianist born and raised in Montreal. He was essentially a child of the Be-bop era who performed with some of the jazz greats of the era (including Charlie Parker). He started studying violin at 5 and piano at 8, and as a teenager began playing piano professionally as Buzzy Bley. In 1949, as a senior in high school, he briefly took over Oscar Peterson’s job at the Alberta Lounge in downtown Montreal. Mr. Bley left for New York in 1950 to attend the Juilliard School of Music. During his early years there, he played with the saxophonists Lester Young and Ben Webster. Keeping a hand in his hometown jazz scene, he helped organize the Jazz Workshop, a musician-run organization in Montreal that set up out-of-town soloists with local rhythm sections; in February 1953 he booked Charlie Parker for a concert and accompanied him. That concert was recorded, one of his first extant recordings before his first album as a leader, made nine months later with a trio that included Charles Mingus on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Through the mid-’50s, he was an adept bebop player with a spare style.

As he matured he went further afield in his musical explorations to become involved in what became known as “free form jazz”. In my opinion, what set him apart from the frenzy and frantic performances of other “free form” artists was a more melodic and measured approach. During his time in New York playing with the saxophonists Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins, he defined as well as anyone the blurry line between the scratchiness of free improvisation and the virtuosity of the jazz tradition. His solo performances are said to have had a significant impact on the extended solo performances of Keith Jarrett.

He often talked about being eager to get outside his own habits. In  the 1981 documentary “Imagine the Sound” he professed not to practice or rehearse, out of what he called “a disdain for the known.” He did not stake his work on traditional notions of acceptability, or the approval of the listener. With that particular musical philosophy it is easy to see why he is not a household name even in his own country.

Paul Bley was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2008.

Although I don’t have an extensive collection of his music I do treasure and enjoy the recordings he made in 1961 (Fusion and Thesis) with the Jimmy Giuffre 3 (Jimmy Giuffre on Clarinet, Paul Bley on Piano and Steve Swallow on Double Bass). The albums were re-released as a double CD by ECM records in 1992. For that I am forever thankful. Another CD of interest is the 1993 duo recording he did with fellow Canadian, saxophonist Jane Bunnet called Double Time (released by Justin Time). Although  Jane is better known for her extensive explorations of Cuban music the album shares some of the “spacey” textures of the Jimmy Giuffre 3. I am sure these albums are only the tip of the iceberg.

Here is an audio clip from the Jimmy Giuffre recordings and a clip of Paul Bley in an interview.

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 Pierre Boulez,  born 26 March 1925 , died 5 January 2016

Pierre Boulez

“Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor whose career spanned from the avant-garde post-World War II era to the computer age, has died, according to the French culture ministry. He was 90. Boulez famously challenged his peers and his audience to rethink their ideas of sound and harmony. In his music, Boulez often created rich and contrasting layers that were built on musical traditions from Asia and Africa, and on the 12-tone technique pioneered by Arnold Schoenberg — as in his 1955 work, Le Marteau sans maître (The Hammer Without a Master).”

To be honest I am more familiar with his reputation than with his music. Classical music of the 20th century was mostly overshadowed by the music of the Romantic Era and that made it extremely difficult for musicians and composers who tried to create a new vocabulary. Pierre Boulez was one of a number of musicians trying to create a “new music”. Among concert goers “the new music” tends to alienate audiences and it is only though the dedicated efforts of musicians like Pierre Boulez  that the music moves forward and, possibly in time, develop a dedicated audience.

This short YouTube video of his most famous composition LE MARTEAU SANS MAITRE  will give listeners some idea of the challenges they face when exploring the music of Pierre Boulez. This is not your typical symphonic fare.

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These two musicians may not be well known and they played music that, by and large, most audience would chose to ignore. However, they have demonstrated that there is more to music than three guitars and a back beat.

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Four on the Floor – The Alan Brecker Quartet

THE ALAN BRECKER QUARTET, Saturday November 21, 2015, 8pm at Stage 64 (Centre 64) in Kimberley. This was the last concert of the Fall Jazz and Blues Series.

This is what I call “Four on the floor straight ahead Jazz”. A solid rhythm section and one or two melody instruments, a copy of a Jazz Fake Book, pick a tune and let’s hit it , one and two, and three and four ….., and that was the name of the game on Saturday night with The Alan Brecker Quartet at Stage 64 in Kimberley. The solid rhythm section, Alan Brecker on piano, Stefano Valdo on electric Bass, Taylor Hornby on drums with the lead solo Tenor Sax of Pat Belliveau. There were added vocals by Alan 010. Pat Headerand some magnificent melodic bass solos by Stefano on a huge 6-string bass that added variety to the sonic spectrum. These four session musicians from Calgary love to play jazz and the gig here in Kimberly gave them ample opportunity to delve into a selection of songs and tunes from the Jazz Fake Book. The Jazz Fake Book, for those who don’t know, is one of several published, copyright approved, collections of a huge number of jazz standards and songs from the American Song Book. It is almost a bible for improvising jazz musician. “Want to play some tunes? What have you got in the Fake Book that we could play?” That’s pretty well how an “off the cuff” session would play out. There are no elaborated arrangements, the tunes are usually presented as an abbreviated one or two page chart that notates the basic melody, chords and possibly some brief instructions about style and tempo. Nothing is set in stone and the musicians are free to make any number of musical choices in performing the piece. In doing so, some of the “off the cuff” choices can yield some adventurous and interesting musical moments. Case in point is the quartet’s rendition of the well known I Remember April. Who would have thought that this ballad had such potential as a hard driving Samba. Thier version would be rig082. Stefano's Bassht at home at a carnival in Rio. Alan has a thing for the songs of Jimmy Van Heusen and and during the evening he indulged his passion with more than one Van Heusen song. The standout, of course, was  Here’s That Rainy Day (from the show Carnival in Flanders) with some brilliant  mallet and brushes work by Tyler Hornby behind Stefano’s extended bass solo. Some other tunes that came off the pages of the Fake Book were Somewhere Over the Rainbow, How High the Moon and the Louis Armstrong classic What a Wonderful World. Another high light of the evening was Alan’s Stride/be-bop solo version of Summertime. Despite their popularity there are some tunes that just never wear out. Summertime is one of them.

 

Here are the images from a wonderful evening of “Four on the floor, straight ahead Jazz”

414. Alan Brecker  100. Tyler Hornby  204. Pat Belliveau 217. Pat Belliveau 107. Tyler Hornby  308. Stefano Valdo 200. Pat Belliveau  114. Tyler and Stefano  227. Pat Belliveau  300. Stefano Valdo  400. Alan Brecker102. Tyler Hornby   209. Pat Belliveau   125. Tyler Hornby221. Pat Belliveau  462. Alan Brecker 142. Tyler Hornby 337. Stefano Valdo  412. Alan Brecker

This was the last concert in the brilliant fall series organized by the “Alive at the Studio 64 Committee”. Many, many thanks from me and others I am sure. I for one am looking forward to what will be another brilliant Spring Concert series in the New Year.

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Music Behind the Green Door – Elizabeth Shepherd

Elizabeth Shepherd Trio at the Green Door in Kimberley, Tuesday November 17, 2015, 8pm. The trio features the talents of Michael Occhipinti on guitar and Scott Kemp on acoustic fretless bass.

112. Elizabeth Shepherd & Scott KempElizabeth and a number of her band mates are on a cross Canada tour and perhaps  the tour could have been named the “The Almost Famous Tour”. Between them, Michael Occhipinti and Elizabeth Shepherd, two of the finest musicians on the Canadian scene today, have scored 10 JUNO Nominations (Elizabeth – 2; Michael – 8). I guess that is as close as you can get without actually becoming famous. A small audience in The Green Door were very fortunate to hear the trio in a very intimate setting  as the trio stopped off for a brief respite from the larger sites on the tour. In the press Elizabeth has been hailed as “a jazz virtuoso blessed with a pop sensibility”, ” praised by critics worldwide for her arrestingly original writing and soulful delivery. Along with artists like Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, and Jose James she is seen as part of a wave of jazz musicians bringing the art form to a new generation of music fans”.  That’s pretty high praise indeed. But that’s not all. Elizabeth has released  four widely acclaimed records and toured extensively in North America, Europe, Japan and Mexico. She has sold out legendary clubs from Tokyo to Detroit, played major festivals like Montreal and North Sea Jazz Festivals, shared the stage with Victor Wooten, Branford Marsalis and Christian McBride, and opened for Jamie Cullum at The Hollywood Bowl. Elizabeth is also the only jazz vocalist to ever have been long listed for the Polaris Prize – Canada’s most prestigious music prize.

If you have ever spent any time listening to CBC radio and TV Michael Occhipinti will 300. Michael Occhipintibe a familiar name. Michael is a cross-cultural “dabler” with projects that have explored the music of John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Bruce Cockburn (Creation Dream) – and more recently the music of Sicily in Muorica. Michael has collaborated with many jazz musicians of note and in his spare time he is an educator at Humber College in Toronto.

Scott Kemp is nominally an upright Bass player originally out of Manitoba but now resident in Toronto. On this tour he is using an Ephiphone fretless Bass Guitar that he managed to pick up almost as gift on Craig’s list. The original owner felt that such a great instrument need to be played. It is easier to transport and more robust that an upright bass. It has taken it’s share of beatings on the road but is still holding together.

045. Scott HeaderLike a lot of jazz influenced musicians and music today Elizabeth’s music is hard to define. She is a jazz singer but not in the classic senses of say Dianna Krall. She doesn’t dive too deeply into the “Great American Song Book” but rather delivers highly original material in a somewhat soul tinged timbre. Songs from her new album Signal include Willow, What’s Happening, BT Cotton, The Signal, Lion’s Den, This, Another Day, and Baby Steps.

Here are some more images from an intimate evening of Jazz behind The Green Door in Kimberley.

100. Elizabeth Shepherd & Scott Kemp   302. Michael Occhipinti   410. Scott Kemp 116. Elizabeth Shepherd 306. Michael Occhipinti .138. Elizabeth Shepherd  404. Scott Kemp 006. Elizabeth Header 020. Michael Header

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