Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91.
New York Time Obituary, March 7, 2020 – McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81
Jimmy Cobb’s passing was a reminder of the classic Miles Davis album KIND OF BLUE recorded and released in late 1959. This album started jazz musicians down the modal path of musical improvisation and innovation.
Like wise McCoy Tyner’s passing was a reminder of that other jazz modal master piece – John Coltrane’s A LOVE SUPREME. This was a four part jazz suite recorded during December 1964 withJohn Coltrane on Tenor Sax, Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano.
As described in wikipedia: A Love Supreme is a suite with four parts: “Acknowledgement” (which includes the oral chant that gives the album its name), “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”. Coltrane plays tenor saxophone on all parts. One critic has written that the album was intended to represent a struggle for purity, an expression of gratitude, and an acknowledgement that the musician’s talent comes from a higher power. Coltrane’s home Dix Hills, Long Island, may have inspired the album. Another influence may have been Ahmadiyya Islam.
The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam) and cymbal washes. Jimmy Garrison enters on double bass with the four-note motif that lays the foundation of the movement. Coltrane begins a solo. He plays variations on the motif until he repeats the four notes thirty-six times. The motif then becomes the titular vocal chant “A Love Supreme”, sung by Coltrane accompanying himself through overdubs nineteen times. In the fourth and final movement, “Psalm”, Coltrane performs what he calls a “musical narration”. Lewis Porter calls it a “wordless recitation”. The devotional is included in the liner notes. Coltrane “plays” the words of the poem on saxophone but doesn’t speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is an homage to the sermons of African-American preachers. The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane’s solo) ends with the cry, “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”
To my knowledge there is no videos available of a complete Coltrane performance but there are fragments of performances scattered across YouTube. In place of that there is the excellent complete performance by the Bradford Marsalis Quartet recorded in Amsterdam in 2003.
Brandon Marsalis – Tenor Saxophone
Joey Calderazzo – Piano
Jeff Tain Watts – Drums
Eric Revis – Doublebass
This performance and the original Coltrane performance is not light weight music. It is a deeply spiritual composition and calling it intense is not and understatement. The music would not be to everyone taste. But having said that for anyone interested in jazz it is a classic recording and should be on every jazz fan’s shelf
For anyone interested in information about the music and the recording I suggest the publication A LOVE SUPREME – The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Recording by Ashley Kahn published in 2002.
While surfing the web the following item caught my eye….
Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91. He was the last surviving member of that landmark album’s sextet, he was a master of understatement, propelling his band mates with a quiet persistence.
It was this “blast from the past” that prompted me to revisit the album. Most Jazz fans “have the moment” imprinted on their memory of when they first heard KIND OF BLUE. For me it was during a lunch time break in a record store (remember those) in down town Sydney, Australia. In those days there were head phones or listening booths available to check out the latest releases. The radio in those days was awash with top Forty Tunes and Jazz wasn’t all that popular. Apart from late night smooth jazz radio to get one’s jazz fix you had to get it when ever and where ever you could. For me it was those lunch times listening sessions in a record store. The opening track on the album, SO WHAT, became my all time favorite Jazz composition and performance. Here is that opening track from the classic album followed by a live clip from a TV show.
While the tune in both instances is the same a discerning ear can detect distinct differences between the performances. The first clip from the recording is the classic Miles Davis Sextet of Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (Tenor Sax), Julian Adderley (Alto Sax), Paul Chambers (Bass), Jimmy Cobb (Drums) and Bill Evans (piano). The contours of the solos played by John Coltrane (tenor sax) and Miles Davis (trumpet) in both clips are similar but demonstrate the variety available within jazz performances of the same material.
The album KIND OF BLUE was recorded recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959, at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City. It was released on August 17 of that year by Columbia Records and in the past 60 years has never been out of print. It is regarded as the best selling jazz album of all time and because of its unique approach to composition and performance it has been deemed as one of the most influential records of all times. On this album Davis followed up on his modal experimentation on his earlier Milestones album. By basing Kind of Blue entirely on modality he departed even further from his earlier work in the hard bop jazz style.
Why the recording is so important in the Jazz repertoire is that it was a radical departure from the way jazz musicians normally approached performances. Throughout the early history of Jazz up until the 50s and even later, the main stay of the Jazz repertoire was what was called THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK. It was a standard repertoire filled with the songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin etc. Generally a performance of these songs included an instrumental statement of the tune, sometimes with variations followed by individual solos by various instrumentalists. The underlying chord structures and melody line were the basis for the improvisations that applied time honored musical devices to shape individual performances. The songs may have had mundane lyrics (moon, June, love, spoon, etc) but the melodies and the harmonic structures were (are) pretty sophisticated. Jazz musicians often ditched the standard melody and made up ones of their own. Sometimes they just used the chord progressions and came up with completely different compositions. KIND OF BLUE changed that. Instead of using chord progressions for the improvisations Miles Davis came up with a Modal approach. It was no longer necessary to play in a specific key, rather the composer could dictate a series of modes to act as basic scales for the improvisation.
“So What is one of the best examples of modal jazz music. Although improvisation takes up the majority of the piece, it does have a compelling riff that sets the piece in motion and sets up the stage harmonically for the improvisations. This riff is notable in that involves the interplay between the upright bass and the rest of the band. The antecedent phrase is played by the bass, which plays an ascending line of notes that begin with a fourth leap starting from the root note. This is followed by the “response” by the piano or rest of the band, which consists two chords that move in parallel motion downwards in answer to the bass. These chords are a whole step apart and are made up of a root, fourth, minor seventh, minor third, and fifth. The second chord-and final statement of the phrase-is an altered minor chord. This establishes the harmonic center of the piece.
Harmonically speaking, this piece is fairly simple. It is centered around the D Dorian mode, and there are no harmonic progressions other than the modulation from D Dorian to Eb Dorian, which occurs throughout the piece. The piece follows a 32 bar AABA structure, both during the melodic line and during the solos. This translates to 16 bars in D Dorian, 8 bars in Eb Dorian, and 8 bars again in D Dorian. The piece begins with a piano and bass opening with a slower tempo than the rest of piece. After this bass and piano alone play the melodic line with the drum as accompaniment. The drums serve to get the atmosphere going with a laid back, ‘cool’ atmosphere. The other instruments join in and after one chorus, each performer takes an extended solo in the following order: trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax, and piano. After the solos, the melody line is played for a chorus. The piece ends with the melody being just played with the bass and piano (with drums for accompaniment) before fading out.
The harmonic simplicity of So What gives the instrumentalists a certain freedom in their improvisations not found in other forms of jazz music. The differing creative approaches are evident in each of the different solos; for example, Miles Davis’ solo can be characterized as very melodic which is mainly focused on thoughtful phrasing whereas Coltrane uses a harder and often scalar approach, playing faster and leaving less space between his phrasings. Despite this, the atmosphere throughout So What remains mostly unchanged thanks to the vamping of the rhythm section and the careful upholding of the structure of the piece. The composition and the performance is a Jazz Masterpiece. Miles Davis was famous for approaching recording sessions with no set agenda. Just a sketch of some scales or chord progressions to be played with very loose instructions to the participants about tempo, structure and what he wanted to achieve. KIND OF BLUE and SO WHAT conform to Miles’ general approach to recording. In his later electronic explorations (BITCHES BREW, etc) he even took it further using the recording studio as a compositional tool. Literally editing, cutting and pasting and shaping the final product (I find it hard to call it a performance) to his compositional needs. Miles never dwelled on his musical past and in later years when asked about the recording he tended to be dismissive of the effort and basically had the attitude “been there done that and I have moved on”.
Modal Jazz, in some ways reaches back to earlier classical and folk music ways of playing music. It did not replace the time honored Great American Song Book, rather it opened the door to different ways of composing, playing and improvisation. FREE JAZZ, a later development in jazz performance , was another way of organizing (some would say disorganizing) the music …. no prepared structure, no set key, rhythm etc. Here in 2020 it has been around for 50 years and while is still has a significant following it remains controversial.
I have this uncalled, and I dare say sometimes unwelcome urge to educate my peer musicians in some of the finest recordings out there. I sent these clips out to friends and one response astounded me. The composition and performance was described as and interesting “song” and it kind of illustrates the difficulties modern audiences have with instrumental music. Calling SO WHAT a song is like calling Beethoven’s A minor STRING QUARTET #15 a song. We are all used to listening to “songs” but most of us have little or no educated experience with listening to instrumental compositions. As a result a large percentage of audiences have no sign posts to help them understand the music. Instrumental music is about the architecture of the piece; the use of melody, harmonic invention, rhythm and variations within all of those elements. Songs, as typified by the normal singer/song writer, and instrumental compositions in the Jazz and Classical traditions operate at two different levels and there is no way to really compare the two. Songs tend to be (not always of course) factual and concrete and generally touches our humanity with portrayals of every day circumstances and emotions. Instrumental music on the other hand tends to be more abstract and puts us in touch with music at a more mystical level.
Each musical style or school has a specific, and often unique, way of composition and performance. For instance, Arab and Middle Eastern music is based on completely different concepts of harmony, melody and rhythmic rules to western music. To understand and appreciate that music requires a re-education in the rules of the game. Similarly, Northern and Southern Indian Classical Indian that, to some extent , came from the Arabs is different again. In fact Northern and Southern Indian traditions are sufficiently different to require another re-think when moving from one tradition to the other.
Closer to home, Celtic Music is based on time honored airs and dance tunes with a large component of modal methods and a different feel to the music. Blue Grass had its origins in Celtic music but the feel is different. To my ears Blue Grass musicians do terrible things to Celtic tunes. At a Celtic music session in Dublin I once asked my daughter in law what she thought of the music. Her response was “it all sounds the same to me”. For most people that is the response to most, if not all, instrumental music …… “It all sounds the same to me”.
But with a little bit of effort it does not all have to “sound the same to me”
Post Script. Over the years there must be thousands and thousands of words examining, defining and analyzing the album KIND OF BLUE. One book of note that I can recommend is KIND OF BLUE – THE MAKING OF THE MILES DAVIS MASTERPIECE, by Ashley Kahn, Da Capo Press Books, 2000.
The great 12-String Guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke started out his high school musical career as a trombone player and, for whatever reason, he later switched to guitar and the world became a better place. Similarly, Dani Strong also started out in high school on trombone. I believe her father had other ideas and gave her a guitar. Once again, the the world is a better place. I have nothing against trombone players but I imagine it is hard to develop your song writing skills on a trombone. Dani moved to the Cranbrook area about 18 months ago and, between tours and performances, she works at the Top of the World Ranch out near Fort Steel. Apart from her day job Dani is cruising under the radar as a country music artist but, in fact, she is much more than that. She is a very talented singer / song writer. She avoids all the usual cliches and tags of country music and does what all good writers do. She writes about what she knows. With the exception of a cover of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay she presented an evening of original material. Accompanied on guitar and keyboard she played such songs as Run to the Hills, Walk the Mile (Top of the World Ranch), Dirt Road Mountain, Wishing Well, Daddy Called me Pumpkin, Gold Fever, Ashes, Out of Darkness, Mrs Jones, What You Need, Free to Be, Healing, etc. There was not a gin soaked lyric or truck driving song in the whole batch. That’s not entirely true. I think a truck was mentioned in one song. With her stage patter Dani brought the whole package together for a completely entertaining evening. Singer / songwriters always run the risk of bombarding their audience with unfamiliar lyrics and tunes. First and fore most, a good song is a story and sometimes the back story needs to be presented so the audience has a context to allow them selves to be immersed in the song. With lots of stories, dark moments and humor Dani delivered context in spades.
It was a sold out crowd. So much so the organizers had to move the show from Studio 64 to the larger space upstairs. Once again thanks to Keith, Ray and the volunteers who made the evening possible. A special thanks goes to the new guy on the lights. He did a superb job.
I arrived in British Columbia, Canada in 1971, fell in love, got married and briefly moved to Halifax. While down East it was almost impossible to avoid the Celtic influence in Maritime music. The Irish expatriates, in groups like the Sons of Eiren and Ryan’s Fancy, while they recycled the songs and tradition of Ireland and Britain, they also infused their music with a healthy dose of local Canadian content. One song of note that I came across was Peter Emberley as performed by Ryan’s Fancy. Often the composer of Folk Songs are not known but in the case of Peter Emberley we know it was written by a Boiesetown, New Brunswick farmer named John Calhoun. The song is the story of a young man born in 1863 in Alberton, Prince Edward Island . In 1880 when he was seventeen he left Alberton to find work as a lumberman in the New Brunswick woods of the valley of the South West Miramichi. In the winter of that year he was fatally injured at Parker’s Ridge while loading logs in a yard and he later died in Boiesetown. For over a century the song has been sung throughout Atlantic Canada and in the lumber camps of Ontario and it has kept alive the memory and story of Peter Emberley. The melody is a variant of a popular Irish Ballad. The song spread further afield when Bob Dylan made free use of it in his Ballad of Donald White. As a side note my paternal grandfather was killed in a similar accident in far away Australia in the early part of the 20th century so the song has a particular resonance for me. My father was five years old at the time and I never got to know my grandfather. The melody is a variant of a traditional Irish ballad and there a multitude of lyrics and versions out there but it is not well known around this area. May be it is time to change that.
Here are a couple of versions of the song. The most recent version by the Wakami Wailers is particularly strong but The Ryan’s Fancy version is still my favorite. Strangely enough, to my ear, Bob Dylan’s Ballad of Donald White sounds the most “authentic”. Go figure ………
Danny Boy ……. My favorite story about this song is the one told by a traditional fiddler in a concert at the Stage Door in Cranbrook. He had been busking in Toronto when some one came up to him and asked him did he know Danny Boy?
“Well yes I do”
“I’ll give you ten bucks to play Danny Boy”, and with that he dropped a ten dollar bill into the violin case. The fiddler was not over enthused with the prospect of playing DannyBoy. It’s an old favorite of mothers, grand mothers, Irish Tenors and Saturday night drunks and the fiddler had heard more versions than he could care to remember and he really didn’t want to be added to the list. However, ten bucks is ten bucks so he over came his hesitancy and launched into a heart rendering version of the old war horse. He thought he acquitted himself very well indeed, until the patron reached down and picked up the ten dollar bill.
“What are you doing? You wanted Danny Boy and I played it”
“Yeh, but I didn’t like the way you played it”.
That disgruntled patron should have been in the audience on Saturday night when Lizzy Hoyt closed out her concert with an unaccompanied encore of Danny Boy. It was outstanding !!!!!
Lizzy Hoyt in Concert – Stage 64,Kimberley – Saturday, March 23, 2019 – This is the second concert in the Spring Concert Series.
This is Lizzy Hoyt’s second trip to the East Kootenays. She was last here February 2016 to perform with the Symphony of the Kootenays at her World Premier of Canadian Folk Sketches. Lizzy on guitar, fiddle and vocals this time around was accompanied by Josh McHan on upright Double Bass and her long time guitar and Mandolin player Chris Tabbert.
From her bio…. “Lizzy Hoyt is one of Canada’s most powerful Celtic-folk artists. Known for bringing Canadian history to life with music, her songs like “Vimy Ridge”, “White Feather”, and “New Lady on the Prairie” that have garnered awards and nominations while also connecting strongly with audiences across the country. In 2013, Lizzy was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Governor General of Canada for her outstanding contribution to commemorating Canadian veterans and history through music.
Like her encore of Danny Boy the entire concert on Saturday night was outstanding. The group opened the evening with a set of foot stomping fiddle tunes followed by The Star of the County Down. In concert Lizzy offers the complete Celtic package from Fiddle tunes, well known ballads such as Out on the Mira (from Nova Scotia), The Banks of Loch Lomond and onto some original songs like New Lady of the Prairie, White Feather, and Vimy Ridge. Tucked into the mix was even the country classic Jolene. Each performance was a sparkling jewel of polished musicianship. The program choice was great, the accompanying musicians were spot on with great Bass playing by the Edmontonian jazz musician Josh McHan and Chris Tabbert playing his Russian Stalin Era Mandolin (he found in a junk shop amid a bunch of old accordions). Lizzy played and passed around her wonderful custom Collings guitar for Chris to use when she was playing fiddle. Her fiddle of choice for the evening was a Mezzo Forte carbon-fibre instrument. The only thing missing from the evening was her Celtic Harp performances. Unfortunately the instrument was laid up and need of some repair.
Conversations in the audience indicate that this was the best ever performance at Studio 64 and for that we should thank the organizers, volunteers and sponsors for all the dedication and good work.
Danny Boy – Lizzy with a nice guitar arrangement with moving bass lines
The Piano Trio as a genre is a long established tradition in jazz. The first Trio of note was probably The Nat King Cole Trio in the late 1930s through the 1940s. Most audience think of Nat King Cole as the smooth voice, with perfect diction, pop crooner and TV star of the 1950s and 1960s. Most music patrons don’t realize that he was a major jazz pianist way before he became famous as a pop singer. For a time the format of his trio (piano / vocals , bass and guitar) pretty well defined the genre. Over the years many pianists including, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, have adopted that format. For whatever reason, the original iconic trio format has morphed into the Piano/Bass/Drums format of the modern era. Most jazz pianists at some time in their career front a standard Jazz Piano Trio. The Christian Mcbride Trio is one of many on the current jazz scene and, as if to break with tradition, the leader of this trio is not a pianist. Christian McBride is a bass player. This is a trio of young, highly trained and very skilled musicians.
Christian McBride (born May 31, 1972) is an American jazz bassist, composer and arranger. He is the “go to” bass player of the past decade and has appeared on more than 300 recordings as a leader and sideman. He is a six-time Grammy award winner. The pianist Christian Sands was born on May 22, 1989 and grew up in New Haven, Connecticut and later moved to nearby Orange. He started playing the piano at a very young age, and took lessons from the age of four; he commented that “I grew up with it in the house, in the classroom and on stage so it has always been a huge part of my life”. The drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (born December 6, 1982 in Jacksonville, Florida) also is an American multi Grammy Award winner. Owens began playing the drums at the age of 2. He has played many types of music in his younger years, centering on his experience in the church. By the time he was in his early teens, he realized that he would become a jazz musician, and received a full scholarship to study at the Juilliard School. He is active on both the New York and international jazz scene as a sideman and band leader
There are many examples on YouTube of the trio performing in a variety of settings but here are three for your enjoyment.
A Footenote for pianists –
In the early 1990s Mosiac Records produced an 18 CD box set entitled The Complete Capital Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio (Mosiac 138).
For anyone who may be interested Mosiac has also produced a 5 CD box set of Teddy Wilson Trios entitled The Complete Verve Recordings of the Teddy Wilson Trio (Mosiac MD5 -173). This is a collection of the music from the master of elegance, Teddy Wilson, with some of the finest drummers of the day. If a drummer needs to study how to play with brushes this is the “go to” source.
Another Mosiac set of note is the 9 CD collection The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions 1956-1962 (MD9-246).
“The Medium is the message” …….. This catch phrase is from the writings of Marshall McLuhan. He coined it way back in the 1960s. I never really got “it” then and I am not even sure I get it now. However, the following is a reprint of an article that I came across recently and it goes a long way to explain the recent resurgence of interest in Vinyl Recordings.
WHY VINYL RECORDINGS SURVIVE IN THE DIGITAL AGE – Don’t underestimate ritual and tactility. …. Steven Brykman –
Ask a record-collecting audiophile why vinyl is back and you may hear a common refrain: “Of course vinyl’s back! It’s a more accurate reproduction of the original! It just sounds better than digital!”
To this I reply, “Does it really, though? Or is it just EQ’d better? And since when did we start caring so much about the perfect fidelity of our recordings? I grew up—as did many of you—listening to cassette tapes on a boom box. They sounded horrible, and we loved them.”
I think the real reason for vinyl’s return goes much deeper than questions of sound quality. As media analyst Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, “The medium is the message.” In other words, “the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.” Nowhere does this hold truer than in the world of recorded sound.
The entire experience of vinyl helps to create its appeal. Vinyl appeals to multiple senses—sight, sound, and touch—versus digital/streaming services, which appeal to just one sense (while offering the delight of instant gratification). Records are a tactile and a visual and an auditory experience. You feel a record. You hold it in your hands. It’s not just about the size of the cover art or the inclusion of accompanying booklets (not to mention the unique beauty of picture disks and colored vinyl). A record, by virtue of its size and weight, has gravitas, has heft, and the size communicates that it matters.
Records, in all their fragility and physicality, pay proper respect to the music, proper respect to the past. They must be handled carefully, for the past deserves our preservation. They are easily scratched, and their quality is diminished as a result of those scratches. They are subject to the elements—left in the sun, they warp. Like living things, they are ephemeral.
While the process of launching Spotify and searching for a track (Any track! You have 30 million choices!) is clearly the most efficient means of listening to music, sometimes efficiency isn’t what the experience is about. Record albums are analog, the closest thing we have to the sound waves. These waves are coaxed out of a flattened, spinning disk of vinyl by a diamond. The diamond is literally taking a ride on the record. The bumps in the grooves push the diamond up and down. Everything about the process has a tactile physicality to it that differs in feel from digital services.
Steven Beeber, the vinyl aficionado and author of The Heebie-Jeebies at GBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk summed up the appeal of records this way: “As with so many things, the Luddites were right. The old ways were better. Vinyl has a richness and depth that digital media lacks, a warmth, if you will. And hell, even if it didn’t, it sure looks cool spinning on the table, and you’ve got to treat it with kindness to make it play right, so it’s more human too. As in our love lives, if you want to feel the warmth, you’ve got to show you care.”
Beeber’s last point hits at the crux of vinyl. The cumbersome process of putting on a record is akin to a ritual, an experience that mirrors the care that artists took in creating the work. First you have to find the record—a treasure hunt which might take five or 10 minutes depending on the size and organization of your collection. When you find the record, you pull it out. You remove the album from its cover. (Or, if you’re a real stickler, you remove the album from the cover, still inside the inner sleeve. Because at some point you rotated the inner sleeve 90 degrees to prevent the album from accidentally slipping out. So you pull out the album in its sleeve.) Then you place the record gently on the turntable spindle: the hole so accurately punched that you need to push the album firmly down to get it to sit right.
The album and the turntable needle are both objects that demand your respect. The record must be freed of dust, so you get out your Discwasher D4+ System. You remove the wood-handled brush from the cardboard box. You remove the small red bottle of Hi-Technology Record Cleaning Fluid, along with the tiny red-handled needle brush, both of which are cleverly nestled inside the wooden handle. You gently sweep the needle with the brush, which produces a satisfying whooshing from the speakers.
Then you apply 3-6 drops of D4 fluid to the cloth-covered face of the wood-handled brush and rub it in with the base of the bottle. Then you place the wood-handled brush on the record, careful to orient the nap in the right direction. Then you lick a finger of the other hand, place it in the center of the record, and gently rotate the platter beneath the brush. When these tasks are complete, then—and only then—do you set the platter in motion and lower the needle—slowly, ever so slowly—onto the spinning vinyl disk.
And the music begins to play.
The record experience suggests a few possible lessons for user-interface designers:
1) Designing for multiple senses can be more powerful than designing for just one. This is why mobile apps that incorporate sound (button clicks, etc.) and tactile sensations (haptic feedback) in addition to visual cues create greater user delight than those that are purely visual.
2) Always design in a manner appropriate for the medium.
3) Always consider the user’s state of mind. Consider every aspect of their psychology and how it might relate to the experience at hand. For instance, a person might find one experience preferable to another, because it reminds them of their childhood, or because that’s how they’ve always done it. (Case in point: my mother always preferred grinding her coffee beans with a hand-cranked grinder, because that’s how she always did it—not because she thought that the beans tasted better.) There might also be a touch of rebellion in the act of rejecting today’s technology for a simpler tool that worked just fine, thank you very much.
Not everything in life is about ease and speed. Believe it or not, sometimes people want to take longer, particularly if an experience evokes a past memory, satisfies a deep-rooted need, or fills a behavioral gap. Make anything too easy and its perceived value declines.
Some people, some of the time want the process of listening to music to demand respect from them, to offer an embodied ritual that removes us for a time from the daily humdrum of our digital existence. Speed has its place, but time spent can signal value and create a pleasant weight of meaning. There’s a reason our religious services aren’t five minutes long, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that as digital technologies continue to dominate our lives.
By definition a Child Musical Prodigy is a young person capable of playing music at an advanced technical level with the interpretative and emotional maturity of an adult. The most famous Canadian prodigy in the recent past was pianist Glenn Gould. The most famous international prodigy, also in the recent past was Yehudi Menuhin. Both musicians started playing and performing at a very young age. Yehudi started violin lessons at age four. Prodigies are rare but not unheard of (pun intended). The big challenge for these gifted musicians is to be taken seriously and not be mistaken for “a monkey see monkey do” circus performer. Another challenge is to avoid “burn out “. A significant number of child prodigies fade into relative obscurity in later life. Having said that while their stardom is in assent in their early years it is startling to see and hear them perform. The question that always come to my mind how do they do it? While the rest of us mere mortals struggle to play a precise and accurate musical scale that can past critical muster there are children out there playing at a level that we can never achieve. It wouldn’t matter if we practiced twenty hours a day it would not happen. It’s just not fair!
Here is violinist Chloe Chua at the age of 11 accompanied by 20 year old Kevin Loh on classical guitar playing Astor Piazolla’s ‘Café 1930’ from his Histoire du Tango suite. Chua was the First Prize winner in the junior category of the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. Loh, now 20, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London for seven years (partially funded at the outset by none other than the Rolling Stones!).
The saloon bar in the Heritage Inn Convention isn’t a new venue. It has been around for a while and has mostly been used as a venue for stand up comedians. The manager took note of the success of Auntie Barb’s Bakery and Bistro as a music venue and figured “well he could do that”. It was a good move. For music the room is ideal. Perhaps a slightly raised stage could improve the sight lines but apart from that the lighting is reasonable and the sound acceptable. And, more to the point, the room is quiet and the audience respectful. Louis (“Louie”) Cupello has lined up some fine acts to get the ball rolling.
Local singer/song writer Maddi Keiver was back in town following her recent trip to Dublin, Ireland. She opened the evening with some cover tunes before moving onto her original songs Three crows at the Funeral Home,Crystal Clear,Landslide and Hopeless. In between these she squeezed in a version of The House of the Rising Sun.
Once again the Winnipeg / Thunder Bay musical axis strikes another blow. Every once in a while the musicians from that neck of the woods venture out into the wider world and refresh our memories of how central that axis is to the Canadian musical landscape. This time around it was the blues duo of Tracy K (vocals, guitar and blues harp) and her musical side kick Jamie Steinhoff (vocals, guitar and resonator slide guitar). Musically the duo has been around the block for a number of years; traveling back and forth across Canada and down “blues highway 61” into the American south to savor the heartbeat of the blues. Tracy was raised on sixties radio and her brother’s hippie records and began her professional career at twenty five while living in Toronto. She moved back to Beausejour in the 1990s, started a family and, eventually, began her solo career. She is inspired by local blues greats Big Dave Maclean and Brent Parkin, and contemporaries Rita Chiarelli, Sue Foley and Suzie Vinnick. She is currently Nominee for Blues Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in October 2018. On the other hand (so to speak) Jamie Steinhoff started his musical life as a Blue Grass banjo player. He still has a great love for the style but over the years he has slipped into a role as a blues performer. As a duo Tracy and Jamie have traveled a lot in 2018 for folk festivals and a Home Routes Tour.
Perhaps Tracy is best known for her blues harmonica playing and her affinity for the old time female blues singers of by gone eras. In the first set she paid homage to Sippie Wallace with a version of Everybody Loves My Baby and Memphis Minnie’s Chauffeur Blues (originally recorded in 1941). Here and there throughout the evening Tracy performed some of her original material, a jazz tune here and there and even Anne Murray / Gene MacLellan‘s Snowbird. Her sidekick, Jamie Steinhoff, when not traveling with Tracy, has a real job as a cook. His musical repertoire includes some Blind Blake, Dave Van Ronk and Brownie McGee tunes with great finger picking on both the resonator slide guitar (in open D or open G) and a wonderful Guild F-40 acoustic guitar (I love the shape of that instrument). He also dipped into the country bag with an original song called Too Low Down to Sing the Blues (so I have to sing a country song). His back up slide playing on Nobody Knowns Atlanta Like I Do was outstanding. Here are images from the concert ….
As a venue The Heritage Saloon is great addition to the local music scene and I am looking forward to hearing Ken Hamm perform here on Saturday November 3, 2018.
Tracy and Jamie would like express their thanks to the house staff and the audience for their support of live music. They would especially like to thank Tom Bungay for the sound system and John Bisset for the setting up the stage
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.