Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.10

With Thanksgiving done and dusted classes resume as does the 10th edition of Lambic Jazz. I have a number of recordings of Third Stream - that curios blend of jazz and classical - it manages to draw me in even though not much of it really appeals to me. So following a short practice, here I am relaxing after class with a glass of Boon Ode Geuze while listening to The Modern Jazz Society Presents a Concert of Contemporary Music (Verve).

Lambic beer Chord Scale Theory
The recording dates from March 14, 1955 and of the six pieces, J.J Johnson’s “Turnpike” (which is a rehearsal take only) is the lone composition not from the pen of John Lewis with the arranging duties split between Gunther Schuller and Lewis for the remaining pieces. 

The ensemble size varies from 9-10 players consisting of J.J. Johnson (trb) Gunther Schuller (f.horn/arranger) James Politis (f) Aaron Sachs/Tony Scott (cl) Lucky Thompson/Stan Getz (ts) Manuel Zegler (bassoon) Janet Putnam (harp) John Lewis (p/arranger) Percy Heath (b) Connie Kay (d) with Thompson, Getz, Scott, Sachs and Johnson being the featured soloists. I was pleasantly surprised how nicely Lucky Thompson's tenor playing slotted in to the overall sound. 

Although I have enjoyed listening to this album this week (and tonight), it's not really my cup of tea. Overall it's a pretty mellow album and perhaps at times it's a little samey mood wise, but I wouldn't hesitate recommending it to fans of John Lewis, Gunther Schuller or the Third Stream. 

"Turnpike" (a variation on Monk's "Thelonious"?) gets things moving along. Strangely, the false start take of this song kicks off on the same track as the preceding "Sun Dance." That's not the only oddity. The original notes from John Lewis are printed on the back cover and the booklet contains notes from Gunther Schuller. However, Schuller's notes suffer from some poor copy editing - how didn't they notice that the middle third of the notes are missing only to have the first page repeated?!

While we're on the subjects of edits..... courtesy of a free subscription, a copy of Jazziz arrived in the mail yesterday. It's the first copy I have picked up in ages. Someone managed to miss that the Donny McCaslin article had a page missing.....oops. While it's pretty mainstream stuff it was refreshing to flick through a jazz magazine and not be bombarded with jazz education related articles and advertising.

And while we are on that subject...... jazz education, in a similar way to third stream music, also draws me in. Not because I'm sold by what it has become (far from it) but because I'm curious to find out what people have to say on the topic. I was exposed to the "chord scale" method during my undergraduate studies (actually, now that I think about things, it would have been slightly prior to that via some Aebersold play-alongs) and it never really agreed with me. The pervasiveness of the "chord scale" method in education is unsurprising due to it's black and white nature. And while I don't subscribe to it as a method for improvising, I picked up these two books - The Chord Scale Method & Jazz Harmony by Barrie Nettles and Richard Graf (Advance Music) and The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony by Joe Mulholland and Tom Hojnacki (Berklee Press) - for some light entertainment and comparison. So far the newer of the two (the Berklee publication) seems a little more direct and to the point but I'm only about 20 pages into each - lets see if I can stick with them.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Witty Paul Desmond - Down Beat 1965

From the September 9, 1965 issue of Down Beat, here is Dan Morgenstern's feature on Paul Desmond. Click on the image to view PDF of the full article. More vintage magazine articles are available here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.9

Allen Lowe That Devilin' TuneFrank Gratkowski Trio: Quicksand (Meniscus)
I reorganized my CDs last week and maybe Quicksand lodged somewhere in my mind as I’m not sure what made me reach for this album tonight. Pianist Georg Graewe and percussionist Paul Lovens join Frank’s alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet for a set of four free improvisations recorded live at Stadtgarten in 1999. At times it's an intense 44 minutes and I'm pretty sure my wife would have preferred something else, but it suited me just fine (even with the volume down low).

I tend to go through periods of listening to Frank's music and it had been a while since I had one of his albums on. Last week I picked up his first solo recording, Artikulationen, but I'm yet to give it a spin so it (along with tonight's listening) might just get me revisiting a few of his albums.

I’ve been lucky to hear Frank in concert on a three occasions (with three different groups). Although his music sometimes moves away from my aesthetic preferences, there is always plenty to take away from the performance (or recording). Without question he is one of the best saxophone players I have heard in the flesh (he's ain't half bad on clarinets either!). One piece in particular by his trio with Achim Kaufmann and Wilbert de Joode from a gig at Roulette in 2009 featured some jaw-dropping alto playing I would love to hear again. Who knows, maybe it would disappoint on the second time around. Listening to recordings of gigs you attended is similar to listening recordings of your own playing - things get accented that you missed in the moment, other memories are lost on the recording. That in itself is interesting.

Even though I'm still finishing off the Mike Nock biography, I have started on Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune: A jazz history, 1900-1950. I started reading it a while back but got distracted and put it down and now I'm finally getting back in to it. Lowe spends a nice amount of time on pre-jazz without limiting himself self to the usual Africa-blues-ragtime-jazz timeline. It's an interesting read and recommended for those of you interested in the roots of the music.

Tonight's listening was accompanied by a dry Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueuze. And now it's time to tune into the second test between India and England (the first day of New Zealand v Pakistan was washed out).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.8

Paul Motian Songbook Lambic BoonConnie Crothers and Roger Mancuso: Deep Into the Center (New Artists)
This seemed like the perfect choice last night, as I am using this disc for one of my school assignments. However, plans changed and I ended up going out after class so here I am this afternoon catching up. The added bonus was that today I had more time to listen and gave the album three spins.

At the time of the recording (circa 1994) Connie and Roger had been playing together for 30 years but I think this was their first recording together since Connie's 1974 debut, Perception. As I listen today, two words leap out - unity and flow. The connection between the drums and piano is deep, creating a seamless series of duets. Many times I have turned to this album for calm and floated away on a magic carpet of improvisation.

While it can be exciting to hear people playing together for the first time, as relationships develop the music takes on a different quality that only comes with time. And it can, perhaps counter-intuitively, even heighten the surprise factor in the music. There were many long-standing collaborations in Connie's music - the quartet she co-led with Lenny Popkin and the more recent Connie Crothers Quartet (that along with Roger also another included long-time collaborator, saxophonist Richard Tabnik) immediately come to mind. And then there are some other favorite groups of such as the Steve Lacy Quintet, the ICP Orchestra and Root 70 (new album due in May 2017). There's something to be said for groups that maintain stable personnel.

If you are in the NYC area on Sunday come on down to Roulette for Connie's memorial concert - Love and Music: Celebrating Connie Crothers

The Compositions of Paul Motian Vol. 1 arrived in the mail the other day. It covers his works from 1973-1989 (over 60 tunes). I had a quick browse through before class last night and a flick-through today. Printing it as a facsimile of the original handwritten lead sheets is a nice touch.

This post was accompanied by Boon Geuze Marriage Parfait.

Previous editions of Lambic Jazz: Vol.1 -- Vol.2 -- Vol.3 -- Vol.4 -- Vol.5 -- Vol.6 -- Vol.7

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Dave Brubeck - Time Magazine 1954

The Dave Brubeck cover story from the November 8, 1954 issue of Time magazine (it even includes a glossary of "Far-out words for cats"). Click the cover image to view PDF of the article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.7

Jazz Duo De Troch Oude GueuzeNo class last week, but there was tonight so I'm back for the Wednesday night post-class hang.

A couple of days ago two discs arrived via CD Baby. On Monday and Tuesday I listened to Virgo Dzurinko (p) & Ryan Messina (trpt) Undertow (New Artists) and tonight Carol Liebowitz (p) & Nick Lyons (as) First Set (Line Art Records) is getting it's first spin. Nick was the first person Connie Crothers introduced me to when I came to NYC to study with her and a couple of days later I met Carol at a session with Nick (at which they played duo). Over the years it's been great to hear them play together and now a moment of that relationship (in concert during 2012) has now been captured.

I've heard Carol and Nick improvise - freely and on standard forms -  many, many times and there are always surprises. The bonus here is that they play two lines written by Connie ("Carol's Dream" and "Roy's Joy"). Of interest to me is the final track - "Another Time." Even though it was recorded five years earlier (2007) and the energy is a bit different (studio vs live perhaps?) it doesn't distract from the flow of the album. This was recorded before I had met Carol and Nick (although I did have a couple of Carol's albums) and I'm curious to see if I pick up on anything I hadn't noticed before. Duos are a favorite format of mine so I expect these two albums will be getting plenty more airtime. Tonight's music was accompanied by De Troch Oude Gueuze.

I'm looking forward to hearing them play (Virg & Ryan too) as part of the Connie Crothers celebration concert on November 13th. If you're in the NYC area get on down to Roulette and check it out. The full line-up is here.

Yesterday Norman Meehan's Serious Fun: The life and music of Mike Nock came off the shelf and I started re-reading it this afternoon. This will be the third (I think) time reading it in full, although I do read a few pages or a chapter on a semi-regular basis. Norman has another book due out in December - New Zealand Jazz Life (Victoria University Press). I'm looking forward to it.

Now I'm going to keep an eye on the first few hours of the first test between Australia and South Africa (looks like I've already missed a bunch of the action!) as game 7 in the World Series goes right down to the wire.