Sunday, September 08, 2019

It's time to drop the plastic sleeves

Vandoren saxophone reeds
I'm a long-term Vandoren user. Over the 25 years I've been playing I've used Vandoren (various models... I've tried them all!) more than anything else (and I've tried most other brands/models at some stage). But surely I'm not the only one who's sick of all the plastic packaging used by reed companies. What's the point of the plastic reed holder? You open the box, remove the reed from the plastic sleeve and that's the end of it. Can't more companies use cardboard/paper sleeves? I can't recall opening a box and finding damaged reeds do to the being store in cardboard sleeves. Are sleeves even necessary? Remember the old Rico and La Voz that had tissue paper packing? 

Has anyone noticed performance improvements since Vandoren started individually wrapping reeds? I can't say I have – I even have some of the from the non-wrapped era and they seem pretty much the same. Is it worth the extra waste creation? And due to the wrapping, the Vandoren boxes are huge.

But it's not limited to Vandoren. Rico/D'Addario use plastic sleeves. Rigotti (and Roberto's) use a soft plastic sleeves. And I'm sure there are others too. Alexander use cardboard sleeves... albeit inside the metal tins (wouldn't a cardboard box keep the costs down?) Side note: other than storing old reeds in them - yes, I do keep them...at least for a little while - has anyone found a use for Alexander tins?

Anyway, once my current stock of reeds run low (and I've got quite a stock pile), I will start the search for an alternative that uses less plastic. Marca, Ponzol and Gonzalez come to mind. In the past, I haven't had much luck with Gonzalez, and I'm not sure if Ponzol still make cane reeds, so I'll likely be starting with Marca.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Music for Commuting: More Soprano (I got a fever)

soprano saxophone
It was Wayne Shorter's 86th birthday last week so 1 + 1 was a fitting (although completely coincidental) choice. I don't hear too many people taking about this album, maybe it's bit of a sleeper in his discography, but I dig it. Bonus points as Wayne sticks to soprano throughout and I particularly like his tone on this album.

It took a bit of hunting to track it down, but I really wanted to find a copy of Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner after reading that David Liebman rates it as one of his finest outings. The album has grown on me over the years and not having listened to it for a while, I really enjoyed it this time around. It's an all-soprano outing - solo with multi-tracked soprano. Lieb signed the album for me following a masterclass at PM Woodwind - I don't know why I didn't ask him about the recording process and how he put the work together. It's a must listen for Liebman fans, those keen on the soprano saxophone, and solo sax recordings. For those interested in composition, it's worth checking out how much Liebman can extract from the brief main theme. And again, completely coincidental, I'm posting this on Lieb's 73rd birthday.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Music for Commuting: Voices and Communique

The car ride needed some soprano sax last week and Steve Lacy is always go-to source on that front. Communique is another chapter in the long line of Steve Lacy/Mal Waldron collaborations. I'm not sure I enjoy this one as much as Sempre Amore. I know I've listened to the latter a lot more, so maybe I just need to spend more time with this one. It dawned on me that I don't have any albums by Waldron as a leader and he's a player I want to explore further - I'm open to recommendations.

Voices is a reissue I picked up earlier this year - a trio date led by Masahiko Togashi with Lacy and Jean-Jacques Avenel. I have a couple of albums of Lacy and Togashi together and they make a nice pairing. Spiritual Moments was getting airplay earlier in the year but of late Voices has been in the rotation. For now, I'll take a break from the master while I await a few more discs that are heading my way.
Steve Lacy; Mal Waldron; Masahiko Togashi

Saturday, August 31, 2019

NZ Jazz: Jann Rutherford - Discovery

Jann Rutherford: Discovery (Tall Poppies) 1998

I picked this out of the pile on the spare of the moment as I was about to head out the door on the first of the month. Sometimes the fit is just right for a particular moment. And having this keep me company whilst driving through the Horowhenua fog.... it just felt right.
New Zealand Jazz

The album contains 14 solo piano pieces – original compositions and some improvised pieces too. Overall it's warm and intimate with nice amount of introspection (with a sombre edge). Some pieces are quite joyful (yet slightly restrained), while others are searching deep. There are some shades of Mike Nock on the more up beat tunes (“Expectations” “Eve” "Weird Blue Lady”), but rhythmically Rutherford is different. Forceful is not the right word, but Mike is more rhythmically pronounced or percussive. As a bonus, listening to Discovery led me to giving both Talisman and Piano Solos a spin too.

Although the more introspective pieces may have led to some naval gazing, they are my favourite parts of the album – particularly those that I'm assuming are free improvisations such as the 2-part “Flights of Fancy” and 3-part “Adventure” (I finally checked the liner notes... they are free improvisations).

I noticed that this album would often lead my mind wander off and ponder things beyond the music at hand. Was it the music or just my general state of mind in this month? It seemed to happen often enough that I feel the music was setting the wheels in motion - just zoning out with it but not in it. I may have felt a bit zoned-out at times, but the music was going in. And as the month passed I was catching myself singing along with bits and pieces across the album – no doubt due to the lyrical, melodically memorable aspects of her playing.

Some music can change your mood, other (or at other times) music can reinforce it. But in this case I feel I’m projecting my own feelings into the music (we always do that though, don't we). Had recent times not been what they were, how differently would I hear this music? Would I be projecting something else entirely on this music? Would listening to this album in a years time change my perception of it - or perhaps my impression is now ingrained in me. Revisiting this album down the track could be an interesting experience.

Why is this on my mind this month and what is it about this recording that made me think about it? Would I have thought about it had I been listening to something else? Further, why am I doing this series on New Zealand jazz recordings? Why not just listen to music I really love? Two years in and I’ve found it interesting and quite rewarding at times. But how much of the music has touched me on a truly deep level? Not much really. I started this series at a time when things were getting tough, and probably more than anything else it was a way to reconnect with home. The struggle continues but for now, at least, I feel like things have run their course. Maybe it’s time for a break and step back from this before it becomes a drag.

Across the month moments change but none quite fit like that first listen. It’s funny, you sit down to write about an album and something else comes out.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Arthur Street Loft Orchestra: Blair Latham & Anton Wuts

Blair Latham (b.cl/ts) Anton Wuts (as/ts/bs) Jake Baxendale (as/b.cl) Bent Hunt (trpt) Jasmine Lovell-Smith (ss) Alistair Isdale (b) Thomas Friggens (d)

I had been well overdue getting along to another Arthur Street Loft Orchestra concert, but I really didn't want to miss out on this week which featured Little Symphony Sax Quartet and Noveltones (with Ben's trumpet in place of Tristan's violin) and joining forces to play music written by Anton and Blair. There's always plenty of energy from these two and a bit of humour too. Plus their music works well together too with the set moving seamlessly between works from both composers. So often you hear original compositions just once, but I'm glad that Blair's “Message in a Bottle” has reappeared at a few gigs - I must have heard three versions for different instrumentation so far. It's nice when artists have a chance to only present original music, but also the oppourtunity to develop works over time. Week to week there's plenty of variety at the Arthur Street Loft Orchestra gigs both in terms of instrumentation and content. There's three weeks left in Season 7 – Louisa Williamson, Daniel Hayles and John Rae – I'll need to check my work schedule but I hope to get to at least one of these.

It can be bit of a rush to get in straight from work. Or at least it feels like a rush, but I always seem to get in with time to spare (great... now I've just hexed it for next time!). Although, I have to remember to stand next time... too much time sitting (in the car, at the gig, in the car again). It makes for a long day – about 7am-11pm - but it's worth the effort.
New Zealand Jazz

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Everyday Life

Connie CrothersNot unexpectedly, I had a great hang with my old mate JJ tonight. As usual we started with jazz (the methodologies of Coltrane and Rollins, radio, live performance, the magic of Lester Young etc) and then branched out (life, death, the vastness of space, cosmic expansion, and living in the moment). Music from Everyday Life hit the spot on the ride home. Of Connie's album, this is the one I have listened the most over the past three years. Vital.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Swagman at Raumati Social Club


New Zealand Jazz

I'm trying to keep up the tradition of catching the monthly Swagman gig. This time around I convinced my sister to bring along my nephew - his first gig - and I enjoyed watching him take in everything. He hung in there for the first set and then they bailed before he melted down.

Swagman draw a regular, local crowd. By the end of the evening it's 85% (at least) regulars who are there every time I'm there. It makes for good vibes, and this time round it was a night of enjoyable hangs - first with the family, the band between sets (Swagman groupie alert!), and meeting some new people at the end of the night. The band was sounding really together, and perhaps as a result, the soloists stretched out a little more (especially in the second set). Until next time.