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 and 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 right 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”
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.
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.
Elizabeth 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 be 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.
Like 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.
James Neve and his Return to Roots Music at BJ’S Creekside Pub, Saturday November 14, 8pm
Over the past 10 years 60 Hertz has been my favorite local Band. James Neve, with his stellar writing, vocals and hybrid guitar picking was the foundation of a band that included Rob Young on backup vocals and lead guitar, Marty Musser on drums and Dave Birch on electric bass. This was a band with great arrangements, who rehearsed religiously and was super tight in performance. All that work paid off. Alas the band is no more. They disbanded in April of this year. Oh well, nothing lasts for ever. The musicians have gone on to other projects. James Neve’s current project is a solo effort where he continues to bring new songs to the stage with each performance. As always he infuses his repertoire of original material with a selection of cover tunes that on this night included John Mayer’s The Heart of Life and Cat Steven’s Moon Shadow. That’s what the audience were treated to Saturday night – stellar songs, great 12 String guitar and the electronic gadgets that filled out the sound for an impressive night of music.
“Everybody” knows that the standard tuning for guitar is EADGBE (low to high) and most guitarist are aware that there is more than one way to tune a guitar (or any stringed instrument for that matter). One of the most popular non-standard tunings is DADGAD. The December 2015 edition of ACOUSTIC GUITAR published the following article that profiled the DADGAD tuning and four of its famous advocates and performers. Here is an except from the internet download of the article:
The DADGAD Way: Davy Graham, Pierre Bensusan, Sarah McQuaid, and Daithi Sproule Talk Tuning
A few years before George Harrison put world music on the pop charts with his 1967, Indian-inspired “Within You Without You,” from the Beatles’ landmark Sgt. Peppers album, another Brit, the late folk musician Davey Graham, had already invigorated western acoustic guitar music with his brilliant cross-cultural contribution, DADGAD tuning.
Inspired by Graham’s travels in India and Morocco, and his subsequent introduction to the region’s lute-like oud, DADGAD revolutionized the folk genre by allowing the guitar to mimic the piping, or “droning,” sound that defines authentic Celtic music. The D-based, open-string DADGAD effectively transforms the guitar into a modal—rather than chord-driven—instrument, thus allowing for easier shifts between minor and major keys, with the open strings on either side of the treble and bass strings serving as the drone generator.
Embraced by such British folk greats as John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and Martin Carthy, the genius behind DADGAD tuning is that Graham had offered up something akin to a tonal Rosetta stone: It was now possible to do justice to traditional Irish music on the guitar, particularly the outpouring of works by blind, 18th-century harper and composer Turlough O’Carolan. It wasn’t just Celtic music acolytes from the British Isles who appreciated the versatility and range that this alternative tuning provided. Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Paul Simon, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Wings’ lead guitarist Laurence Juber, Jimmy Page, among many others, gave DADGAD a chance. (Page termed it his “CIA tuning,” for Celtic/Indian/Arabian.)
DADGAD has found its way into genres including classical, blues, gospel, and jazz, and into the hands of acoustic guitarists everywhere. As one of DADGAD’s most notable practitioners, French-Algerian-born Pierre Bensusan, advises “DADGAD is not a genre—it’s a tuning.”
Multi-award-winning guitarist, singer, and composer Pierre Bensusan, lauded by the LA Times as “one of the most unique and brilliant acoustic guitar veterans in the world music scene today,” is regarded as one of music’s greatest exponents of DADGAD. Almost every performance and recording of Bensusan’s is a celebration of DADGAD tuning. Currently on a world tour to mark his 40-year career, Bensusan’s style includes Celtic, folk, world, new age, and chamber music.
His Take on DADGAD: Bensusan has described DADGAD as a tool that “helped me to be identified, and to identify myself. It gives me confidence.” Introduced to DADGAD by a friend who had learned it from Graham, Bensusan was experimenting with different tunings at the time, anxious to settle on one that he could make his own. DADGAD won out.
Bensusan realized that embracing DADGAD meant he would have to relearn the guitar if he wanted to translate the new tuning style for an across-the-board repertoire of music normally played in standard tuning. It was a guitar lesson to-do list that included taking a second look at the neck, the chord shapes and positions, the sounds, and the intervals. He mastered the task and highlighted the journey in Pierre Bensusan Presents DADGAD Guitar. Published in 2000, it is primarily a songbook featuring comments and DADGAD selections from James Earp, Laurence Juber, Doug Smith, Bill Mize, David Surette, Eileen Niehouse, and Peppino D’Agostino, among others.
The pitfalls in the beginning, he notes, included fighting against “a ready disposition to fall into all the predictable trappings of such a modal tuning as DADGAD”—notably by doing the obvious, such as playing almost exclusively in the key of D. “If I wanted a key change, I’d simply use a capo,” he writes. But as Bensusan discovered, relying on capos limited the possibilities for chord voicings, which he recalled, “got me right back to the point of really learning the fret board. There is certainly nothing wrong with using a capo—sometimes you have to. Still, though, with a limited understanding of the fingerboard, it was very easy to get stuck in the ruts of standard positions and chords.”
Another challenge: the disposition of the open strings. While DADGAD tuning is famous for its open, ringing strings, that’s not always a plus: It can get in the way of the music, Bensusan advises. “You want to be able to control the sustain and the length of the sound,” he says. Bensusan’s goal was to make DADGAD “completely disappear. I don’t want there to be any active consciousness of the particular tuning I happen to be using. And I certainly don’t want my audiences to be distracted by it. You have to play the instrument—the music—not the tuning.”
Player Tip: “Virtuosity is not showing off what you can do on the guitar,” Bensusan told Acoustic Guitar last year. “Virtuosity is making the guitar and the musician completely transparent, and having the music just speak out. This is a high, high standard of virtuosity for me. The music is using you as a channel. So you have to be ready for it. Technically, you have to be ready. You work your ability, your tone. But when you play, all of this has to be forgotten.” Visit pierrebensusan.com for more information on his work, concerts, numerous songbooks, and more.
SARAH MCQUAID : She Wrote the Book on DADGAD, Literally
Born in Spain, raised in Chicago, and now living in rural England, Sarah McQuaid’s music is an eclectic mix that, as noted on her website, segues from original compositions “to a 1930s Cuban jazz number, a 16th-century lute piece, or an unexpected contemporary cover.” Regardless of the genre, the tuning is always in DADGAD. McQuaid is the author of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book, described by the Irish Times as “a godsend to aspiring traditional guitarists.” She has developed two workshops: “An Introduction to DADGAD,” for players with little or no experience, and “DADGAD Song Accompaniment,” for experienced DADGAD guitarists. Her workshops have been held at music schools, festivals, arts centers, private homes, and other venues in the UK, Ireland, the United States, Holland, and Germany.
Her Take on DADGAD
“In my teens, I was a big fan of Windham Hill Records artists like Michael Hedges and Will Ackerman, and also of Joni Mitchell,” McQuaid says, “so I was tinkering around with different tunings all the time. Then, when I was 18, I went to study in France for a year, and quite by accident wound up singing and playing guitar with a traditional Irish band. At a festival gig somewhere in France, I got to chatting with a French guitarist, who said to me, ‘You know, most of the Irish guitar players these days are using DADGAD—you should try it.’” She did, and never looked back. “I tuned my guitar to DADGAD straightaway, started experimenting with chord shapes, and it was a real eureka moment—suddenly I could make all the sounds I’d been trying to make for years,” McQuaid says. “I loved the fact that it freed me up from the limitations of major and minor [and that] I could play in all these weird modal scales.”
McQuaid has been playing in nothing but DADGAD for more than 20 years. “I write all my own songs in DADGAD, and I play everything from Elizabethan ballads to blues in DADGAD,” she says. “It’s a wonderfully versatile tuning, especially when you get out of the mentality that you have to play in D all the time: E minor, G, G minor, A, A minor, and B minor also work beautifully, to name a few. “I love the way it encourages you to focus on notes rather than chords,” she adds, and “to work with the song, interweaving the guitar melody with the vocal melody so that it’s a case of the guitar [in duet] with the voice, rather than merely accompanying it. I don’t think there are any two songs that I play the same way in DADGAD.”
Player Tip: “Don’t forget that lots of other keys besides D work beautifully in DADGAD! E, G, A and B, to name just a few—all work really nicely and offer great scope for expanding your repertoire of chord shapes and picking patterns,” McQuaid says. “Also, remember that sometimes it’s nice to just suggest a chord by playing a note or two, rather than filling out the full shape.”
A guitarist, singer, and composer of traditional Irish music, crowned “a seminal figure in Irish music” by the Rough Guide to Irish Music, Dáithí Sproule began using DADGAD tuning not long after Graham introduced it to the folk music world in the 1960s. A native of Derry, in Northern Ireland, who now calls Minnesota home, Sproule began his career with the traditional Irish music group Skara Brae, collaborating with fellow DADGAD pioneer Michael O’Domhnaill of the Bothy Band. Later he became a founding member of the internationally known Irish band Altan, considered one of the best in the world. He continues to perform with Irish music greats, including box player Billy McComiskey, fiddler and composer Liz Carroll, and flute and fiddle duo Dermy and Tara Diamond. He continues to influence a new generation: Sproule’s “The Death of Queen Jane” was featured in the 2013 Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. Sproule has taught at the University College Dublin and the University of Minnesota, and is a DADGAD guitar instructor at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul, Minnesota.
His Take on DADGAD: “I first heard of DADGAD in the late ’60s on the sleeve notes of a Bert Jansch solo album. His playing, in whatever tuning, was of course inspiring,” Sproule recalls. “I used it then occasionally to accompany songs. Around 1973 or so I accidentally discovered it worked well for me in accompanying Irish dance music—reels, jigs, and so on—and I began to use it a lot for everything. . . . [And] it works well for instrumentals I compose myself.” Among the benefits of using DADGAD, Sproule notes, is the “very versatile tuning enables us to get an immense amount of variety in voicing. I generally don’t use full chords in DADGAD and I think this suits Irish music, which is really a genre that has developed as a purely unilinear, non-chordal music. It complements the melody and doesn’t trap it—at least the way I try to play. It truly has a literal quality of openness. “Since the tuning comes down to D and A with built-in droning, it magically reproduces the situation of the Irish Uilleann pipes, on which so much of our music was formed—and those pipes have D and A drones.”
Player tip: “Standard tuning—which I also love—as most people play it, boxes a melody in, traps it,” Sproule says. “DADGAD is quite literally an open tuning—it harmonizes, resonates, but doesn’t tie things down. “Resonance is one of the beauties of the tuning—it makes us aware of the sound of the strings we are not actually playing.” In 1996, he told Acoustic Guitar: “The way I put chords to songs is totally intuitive. I can’t really describe how I do it. Most of the time, I’m not playing full chords at all. I’m playing basses and bits of chords and there are always droning strings in the background. You could break it down into chords, but it’s not a matter of chords. It’s a matter of varying the bass lines and the harmonies.”
The Home Grown Coffee House, October 24, 2015; Centre 64 – The first of the season.
Once again the Home Grown Coffee House Society with the aid of MC Bill St. Amand, has plundered the human resources of the community to present another marvelous evening of music. The cross section of the community was ably represented by the older cadre of musicians – Jim Marshall (and his one man band); The Blarney Pilgrims (Wally Smith and Rod Wilson on percussion, button accordion and cittern). The Blarney Pilgrims played a selection of Celtic tunes (Malchy’s Set, The Mudgee Waltz / Bucks Camp Down at Monroe) and also a little splash of Eastern European influences (The Sarajevo Set) thrown in for good measure. The young were out in force with Nick Skibsted on piano with a selection of instrumentals that included the ragtime masterpiece The Entertainer; Mac Watson with some original materialon vocals and guitar; Maddie Keiver and Kyle Albright also on vocals and guitar. The ladies of the town were well represented by the vocal harmonies of Wild Honey (Laura Cain – fiddle, Shelby Knutson – guitar and Jessica Neidermeyer on vocals). Newcomers to the community were represented by Tamara Sonntag (vocals and guitar) and Robin Periera and his sidekick Curtis. All in all the evening once again demonstrated the musical depth of this community. Here are images from the night
So that’s it for this show. The next Home Grown Coffee House will be November 24, 2015.
I ran into one of the Symphony Board Members a couple of days ago and she reminded me that this was the 40th anniversary of the Symphony. So I felt it was worth reminding people that $20,000 symphony concerts don’t “just happen” and that there is a lot that goes into a concert. Here is a reprint of an article that I sent to the Townsman some years ago. Nothing much has changed; each concert is still a masterpiece of music and organization.
IT’S SYMPHONY SEASON AND IT’S A JUGGLING ACT: Symphony of Kootenays 2010/2011 Season. Article published in The Townsman, Wednesday October 13, 2010, page 23
It would seem to be simple enough. A bunch of musicians figure they have a potential audience and decide to give a public performance. They practice and rehearse; rent a venue; put up the posters; sell the tickets; play the gig and maybe walk away with some change in their pockets. For a rock quartet it is almost that simple but for a symphony orchestra there is nothing simple about the whole venture.
Some of the problem is simply a product of scale. There are more musicians and more complex music. This in turn creates problems with financing and logistics. The Symphony of the Kootenays has been around for over 35 years and each year it is a juggling act of obtaining grants, sponsors and pull together the actual logistics of staging a concert. The organization’s annual budget is around $150,000 and each concert costs around $20,000 to $30,000. Naturally ticket sales only cover a fraction of the costs.
As with most not-for-profit organizations the grant process has become more challenging. The monies available to not-for-profits have shrunk and there is fierce competition for what remains. Most available grants have strings attached. There are demands for Canadian content and prerequisites for adventurous programming. The granting organizations want to see the “best bang for their buck”. They feel it is important to have significant Canadian content and to promote adventurous programming. Compliance with these prerequisites, because of copy right issues, further increase costs.
Local corporate sponsors have been most generous over the years but often the decision to support local arts programs is out of local control. The final decisions are made at corporate headquarters and these may be located half a continent away. Despite this the symphony has managed to attract significant corporate sponsors and these have made the idea of a symphony season feasible and possible.
The whole process of a concert season starts with the musical director and conductor Bruce Dunn and his selection of music for the up coming season. Bruce has to balance his duties as musical director of both the Kamloops Symphony, The Symphony of the Kootenays and his teaching activities across the province. He must strike a balance between the conditions of the grant applications, the skill set and availability of musicians (including soloists), the relatively small amount of rehearsal time available and the costs of the music. The latter is no small amount. The music has to be rented, distributed to the musicians and returned to the publishing house at the end of the concerts. Late compliance with the conditions of the rental can involve financial penalties. If the work is recent there are additional copyright costs as well. Printed music is not cheap. For example, the Arvo Part choral music for the Christmas concert last year cost an additional $1,500.
Once the season’s concert programs have been selected then the logistics kick in. The composition of a Symphony Orchestra is not set in concrete. The size and variety of the orchestra is dictated by the music chosen. An orchestra to perform the early music of Haydn is significantly smaller than, say, the music of more modern composers. The equation is simple, the more musicians required then the greater the expense. More modern or adventurous music invariably requires more musicians and more expensive music.
For each concert the musicians have to be selected, contracts agreed upon, fees organized, and travel expenses negotiated. The musicians are all professionals and as professionals they need to be paid at a rate that is consistent with the going rate. Musicians for the concert come from far a field and there is fairly stiff competition for their services. Financially the local symphony is at a disadvantage when competing with larger population centres in Alberta. The musicians’ contracts are generally a five service agreement, three rehearsals and two concerts, spread over a three day week end. Once in town the musician have to be billeted. The cost of hotels for all the musicians would be too onerous for the organization to bear. If there is also a concert is out of town then transport of the musicians and instruments also has to be arranged. So apart from the organization, funding, music and logistics there is an army of volunteers to take care of the musicians while they are here.
That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. And, of course, inevitably the question arises, why bother? Classical music is definitely not at the top of most local resident’s agenda. Then again why bother with an Arts Council, a Railway Museum, local theatre and the Key City or for that matter a Hockey team. At the best of times, apart from perhaps the Hockey team, local support for these activities is probably at fairly low ebb. Most of us do not spend a lot of time at any of these events, functions or facilities but they are all part of a “value added” profile for the City of Cranbrook. It attracts new residents, business and builds the profile of the city as a business, cultural and educational hub. For all residents this can only be a plus.
So here we are in October at the beginning of the Symphony season. All the balls are in the air and the first concert is scheduled for Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 at the Key City Theatre. This gala concert will feature a program of music by one of the big “Bs” of classical music (Bach, Beethoven & Brahms). Of the three the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven is probably the better known. The piano concerto #5 (The Emperor) will feature guest soloist Sarah Aleem. Currently Sarah lives and studies in Montreal but is returning to her home town for this concert. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture and his Symphony #6 (The Pastoral)
The annual Christmas concert will held December 3rd & 4th and will feature music of a Christmas fair by Purcell and Handel, including the Messiah. Other concerts are scheduled for February and April. In total there will be 5 concerts in the season.
– Rod Wilson
The following image was published in the Townsman following the early concerts of the 2010 / 2011 season.
Published in the Townsman, October 29, 2010, page 23: “A Triumphant Home Coming”.– Rod Wilson