Friday, March 29, 2013

Off to NYC

Off to NYC for a week - I have a few concerts to get to:
Friday 29: Richard Tabnik Trio at Ibeam - with Ken Filiano (b) & Roger Mancuso (d)
Saturday 30: Pauline Oliveros at Roulette - with David Arner (p) Doug van Nort (electronics) & FILTER (computer)
Tuesday 2: Connie Crothers at Jazz at Lincoln Center's 'Swing University' or see my post.
Wednesday 3: Connie Crothers at Roulette - solo piano

Also, I would like to make it out to Louis Armstrong House if time allows and may go to John O'Gallagher's masterclass at New York Jazz Workshop tonight....

No doubt there will be some playing too - I wonder how the thumb will get on? (and the lip!!).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Listenings of Late

Well - here's what's been on of late.....

Miles Davis: "Live in Tokyo" (CBS)
This disc led me to listening to a bunch of Sam Rivers last week.

Sam Rivers:
"Vista" (Meta) A nice trio of Adam Rudolph (percussion), Harris Eisensadt (drums) and Rivers on Tenor/Soprano sax/Flute/. He didn't slow down in his later years - recorded in 2003 just before his 80th birthday.
"Crystals" (Impulse). I was familiar with the 2 big band discs from the 1990's on RCA but this one was new to me. A very distinctive big band writer.
"Waves" (Tomato)
"Hues" (Impulse)
"Streams" (Impulse)
Sam Rivers output from the 70's has managed to evade my ears until I had bit of a binge this week. Feel-wheeling, powerful blowing with plenty of continuity.

Cecil Taylor:
"Jazz Advance" (Transition) A bold debut with the added bonus of some early Steve Lacy.
"Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come" (Revenant Records) A live recording of an early incarnation of the Cecil Taylor Unit.
"Unit Structures" & "Conquistador" (Blue Note) Two classics on Blue Note (I tend to favor the latter). I enjoy the contrasts in this group - the bass playing of Silva & Grimes....Taylor's density & Lyons roots in Bird.
"For Olim" (Soul Note) Recommended if you are wondering where to start with Taylor's solo work.

There has been plenty of Ornette Coleman related albums on too.
Ornette Coleman:
"Something Else!" (Contemporary) I hadn't listened to this one in ages. I remember one of my friends being into this album (Hi Brad!)  and playing 'The Blessing' back in our days at what is now the NZSM.
"The Shape of Jazz to Come" (Atlantic)
"Live at the Golden Circle Vol.1" (Blue Note)
"Free Jazz" (Atlantic) Other disc I hadn't listened to in quite some time. Enjoyed much more this time round.

Old & New Dreams: "Old & New Dreams" (Black Saint) For those of you that enjoy Ornette Coleman's work on Atlantic this group (of Coleman Alumni) makes an excellent follow up.

Keith Jarrett: "Fort Yawh" (Impulse) Jarrett's 'American Quartet' - a group I haven't listened to that much.

Don Cherry: "Complete Communion" (Blue Note) A nice place to start with Cherry's work after the Coleman Quartet. Two, four movement suites with nice playing all round - particularly the rhythm section of Ed Blackwell & Henry Grimes.

John Coltrane & Don Cherry: "The Avant-Garde" (Atlantic) I feel this album is pretty up & down and can see why it wasn't initially released by Atlantic - must have sounded quite tame compared to what Coltrane was playing when it was released in 1966 ( the year "Ascension" & "Meditations" were released). Coltrane's earliest studio date on soprano.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lennie's Listening Lessons with Connie Crothers

Starting next week (April 2nd) Connie Crothers is back at Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Swing University" - It just so happens to be I'm in town for the opening night - Billie Holiday.
Here's the info from the website:

Lennie's Listening Lessons with Connie Crothers
Register Now!
Eight Tuesday Nights: April 2 (Billie Holiday), 9 (Lester Young), 16 (Roy Eldridge), 23 (Charlie Christian), 30 (Charlie Parker), May 7 (Bud Powell), 14 (Fats Navarro) , 21 (Lennie Tristano)
Irene Diamond Education Center (IDEC)

Lennie Tristano, a virtuoso jazz pianist and a primary performer in the Bebop and Cool years of the 1940s and 1950s, was also a pioneer in jazz education. Tristano had his students listen to Lester Young's work from 1936–1941, Billie Holiday (primarily in The Swing Era), Roy Eldridge, Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, and Bud Powell's 1944–1953 output. Pianist Connie Crothers has been the central teacher of Lennie's Listening Lessons since Tristano's death in 1978, and carries on his credo: if you listen to these artists, then you will know jazz.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vandermark & Gustafsson Duo

corbett vs dempsey
The Corbett vs Dempsey gallery was the scene for the duo of Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark.
The half a dozen improvisations - Mats on alto/tenor/baritone saxes and Ken on tenor sax/clarinet/bass clarinet - was the duo's debut though their association dates back to 1994.
Nice to see a sizable crowd too!

The set was recorded, so keep an ear out for it at Catalytic-Sound.

This was my second time hearing Gustafsson in person - the 1st was when The Thing toured New Zealand in 2011. Unfortunately I couldn't get to the gig(s). However I did make it to the trio's improvisation workshop -  one of the best workshops from touring artists that I have attended.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Free Jazz Project

I'm currently working on a project to send back home to John & the rest of the 'Friends of Jazz' gang - a jazz appreciation group on the Kapiti Coast.

The plan is to write a series of emails under the subject heading "Free Jazz: An Introduction" with the hopes to open the ears to some new sounds.
Making brief notes on key artists and recordings is leading to an ever expanding list as I think of things along the way.

Lots and lots of listening to get to in the coming weeks. Lately there's been plenty of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Sam Rivers resonating throughout the apartment.

Tonight I'm off to hear Ken Vandermark's "The Midwest School" at the Green Mill.

thumb ache

Yesterday was the 1st time I had played my horn in over a week. That's the longest  break I've had in a little over two years - when I injured my thumb/wrist. Thankfully it's not as bad this time..... woke up Sunday and it wasn't right.

I took it easy - two 15 minute session during the day. 
Opened up blowing single notes for a few minutes.  My reed(s) seemed softer than I remember but it felt good to be playing again even if half of my attention was on  my right hand. After that brief warm up I moved on to playing what I could remember of "You Let Me  Into Your Life" - a lovely ballad by saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc - it's been ages since I had played it. 

I returned to the horn in the afternoon for another 15 minute session. I followed a similar pattern to the morning....... a brief warm up - descending octaves without the octave key (aka "Letting it Fall") a favorite of mine that I picked up during my time studying with Richard Tabnik (thanks RT!). Then moved on to a tune - "What Is This Thing Called love" - playing the melody and letting things happen from there. Nothing too taxing. Trying to keep everything relaxed.

The plan is much the same for today. This time next week I will be off to NYC so the timing is not exactly marvelous but at least I have some time up my sleeve.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recent Listening

Due to aggravating a thumb injury it has a been a quiet week for the saxophone. Not the best timing - off to NYC at easter. There have been plenty of listening sessions.

Steve Lacy: Anthem (Novus) Found this at Reckless Records. They have some good prices on used stuff - this one was $1.99. A larger group work from the late 80's. Lacy's output is always high quality though I tend to prefer his smaller groups.

I picked these next two up at Dusty Groove a week or so ago. Not sure why I hadn't made it out there before. Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson are playing at the gallery upstairs on March 24th so I'll probably duck into the store then.
Roscoe Mitchell: Live at the Muhle Hunziken (cecma) A solo concert from 1986

Chris Kelsey: The Ingenious Gentle of the Lower East Side (CIMP) I preferred this disc over the one other of Kelsey's I had heard. The trio works nicely together - kiwi bonus points for Ed Ware.

Bernie McGann: Bundeena (rufus) Recently I have started revisiting albums that I used to listen to a lot that haven't made the rotation for a while. This one is a gem - McGann has such a distinctive sound. Check him out!

Hayden Chisholm: Auto Poetica - Works for Saxophone (Moontower) At the end of 2012 Hayden released the box set "13 Views of the Hearts Cargo." This disc features an eight piece alto sax ensemble playing works that developed out of Hayden's annual saxophone workshop in Greece.

Johnny Hodges: Everybody Loves Johnny Hodges (Impulse) Decided to put one of my early sax inspirations while getting dinner ready.

Messiaen: Petites Esquisses & Etudes de Rythmes - Roger Muraro solo piano. Some classical music to refresh the ears.

Jimmy Giuffre:
Piece for Clarinet & String Orchestra (Verve)
Mobiles (Verve)
These two albums were reissued by Verve on "Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre". I've been listening to a bit of Giuffre lately.

John Lewis: Jazz Abstractions (Atlantic) I hadn't heard this album in over 10 years. Seems funny that this was released under Lewis's name as it's really Gunter Schuller's album. Be sure to compare "Abstraction" (here with Ornette Coleman as soloist) with the one Eric Dolphy recorded a few years later - it was released on "Vintage Dolphy".

Frank Trumbauer: The Complete Okeh & Brunswick (Mosaic) The first was on while we were tidying up and doing dishes on Saturday. A request from my wonderful wife!

Charles Mingus:
Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic)
The Clown (Atlantic)
Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (Candid)
I had a morning listening to these three albums. Eric Dolphy wails on the Candid disc which also contains the vocal version of “Fables of Faubus”. Doesn’t get as much attention as the Columbia albums from around the same time but it’s a top shelf quartet with Ted Curson & Dannie Richmond.

George Russell:
The Outer View (Riverside)
Jazz In The Space Age (Decca)
I was reading bits a pieces from the Russell biography while I was at the library last week and unsurprisingly it led me to out on some of his music.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recent Work: Sound

Here's any entry dated February 14 2013

Sound work of late has included:
- Quiet Long Tones
I have been mixing it up between Free notes of my choosing and scales. Each note is held out for a natural breath. Sometimes I emphasize a particular part of the horn other times various registers are utilized. For the scales its a simple matter of one note per breath covering the entire range of the horn. Lately its been a diminished scale to tie in the Laquor etude I am working on. Keeping notes stable at low dynamics is a great workout. Focus. As quiet as possible. This is something I have worked into my teachings over the years.

- Overtones
Splitting overtones. Playing the fundamental & the 1st overtone at the same time. I find Bb - C# works better than D and above. When it feels good I have also started playing around with the 2nd overtone.. with less success. Early days, but fun stuff.

- Multiphonics
Choosing one or two fingerings from Daniel Kientzy's multiphonics book. Working on those fingerings and then playing around with similar fingerings to see what I can come up with. I seem to remember things better when I 'discover' them for myself. I won't be surprised if the fingerings I discover appear later on in the book. After struggling away with them when you go back to single notes and the sound really seems to open up.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The List

There are times that see me attending lots of live performances (notably my stays in NYC during 2004 & 2009 when I went out most nights) and other times that I seem to buy lots of albums. The last few months I have been in the latter mode.

Since moving here at the end of September with album buying is at a higher than average rate for me... Aided by online sales at Leo Records and Cadence with 10 disc minimums.

My friend Mike once said "I never make a list." At that time he seemed to buy more cds than anyone I knew. I tend to keep a list but rarely do I stick to it 100%. The recent sales at mentioned above gave me reason to pick up a few discs I would otherwise pass by in favor of something on the list. Not that they aren't list-worthy - just more opportunistic purchases on my part.

The list can be specific (a particular album) or vague (any solo sax album)

The List as it currently stands....
Tranceformation: In Concert
Alexis Parsons & Connie Crothers: Hippin’ - these two fall in the anything by Connie Crothers category
Sean Mac Erlaine: Long After The Music Is Gone
Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet: Callicoon Sessions (I don’t think this has been released yet)
Frank Gratkowski: Fo[u]r Alto
Ted Brown & Brad Linde: Two of a Kind
Ted Brown & Kirk Knuffke: Pound Cake
Solo saxophone recordings - a particular area of interest - I still haven't got Braxton's "For Alto"... that must be near the top of the list.
Schoenberg: piano works

Thursday, March 14, 2013

January 23 NYC

Here's another older entry from the journal.....

January 23 2013 - NYC
Interesting practice today. Woke up the horn -improvising, long tones, multi-phonics, overtones - all as quiet as I could play them. Not sure how long it lasted but it was an intense start to the day (in a good way). Today's quiet playing came out of me not wanting to wake my hosts downstairs (it was early when I started and I couldn't hear anyone up and about). Lacy mentions some exercises in his book 'Findings' that deal with quiet playing - they did come to mind when I had the urge to play. Quite intriguing, I intend to do more of quiet sessions. I was using a new-ish reed and it seemed to respond well to the warm-up. Really opened up as I brought the dynamics up. Today I just felt playing.... taking my mind off this afternoons meeting at a graduate school I am looking at. Played a couple of tunes 'The Nearness of You' & 'Just Friends'. Was enjoying my tone - still struggling up top. It seems worse/harder when I'm working on scales/technical stuff compared to when I am playing tunes/improvising. A lot of it is mind games (when I didn't think about about it they popped out). Anyway... to finish off I revised a Bach invention (#13).. a bit rusty but fun.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Recent Listening March 12 2013

Recent Listening - from the last week and a bit

Jimmy Giuffre
Flight, Bremen 1961 (Hatology) 
The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet (Atlantic)

Steve Lacy Five: The Way (Hatology)

Lennie Tristano: Intuition (Capitol) 

Warne Marsh: Personal Statement (Interplay)

Hayden Chisholm: Circe (Jazz Haus Musik)

King Oliver: Jazz Greats (a random compilation)

Son House: Father of The Delta Blues (sony)

Olivier Messiaen: The Works for Orchestra (disc 8)(Hanssler Classic)

Chris Kelsey Trio: The Ingenious Gentleman of the Lower East Side (CIMP)

Roscoe Mitchell Solo: Live At The Muhle Hunziken (cecma)


Hearing Steve Lacy & Evan Parker in concert during the 1999 Wellington Jazz Festival wasn't the catalyst. I enjoyed both concerts - Parker's set in duo with Richard Nunns has since been released as 'Rangirua' on Leo Records. I added Lacy to my listening list (having only heard 'Evidence' at the time of the concert). Parker's music, whilst fascinating, seemed out of my reach at that time.

Anyway... I was well entrenched with the alto back then and didn't get a soprano until several years later when I found a used one for an excellent price. I dabbled here and there but eventually it found its way under the bed! There it stayed until one morning I woke having dreamt about playing the soprano. So out it came... I played it that day and had a bit of fun as I struggled away. Once again it retreated behind the alto.

I wasn't listening to much soprano then (I had listened to a fair bit of Lacy a couple of years before). Around that time I was listening a lot to Bill Payne (clarinet) & Connie Crothers (piano) duo album "Conversations" . Five or six months passed (October-ish 2010 at a guess) and I woke having experienced a very similar soprano dream - this time more intense; high contrast black & white, muted sound, but the physical sensation of playing was present. Out came the soprano - still a struggle but I was digging it. This time the horn stayed out and I started working on it in conjunction with the alto. Eventually the soprano starting getting more attention than the alto to the point that I didn't play the alto for a week, then only when I was teaching. Had I become a soprano player? Yes.

Friday, March 08, 2013

January 22 NYC

An entry from earlier in the year......

January 22 2013 - New York City

I enjoyed yesterdays playing. It wasn't particularly focused - breaking in a new reed, some sound work, scales, Lacour etude, playing some tunes and free improvising. I moved between subjects freely and returned to a couple at different times. Little frustrations (the high register is bugging me lately) did not faze me which was nice. The lack of focus may have come about due to me being on the road (in NYC) and not having all my resources on hand. Lately I have been warming up with long tones played against a drone. Without the drone I zoned in on the unique qualities of each note - listening to where the note wanted to go, letting it be, listening to each notes individual character come shining through.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Why Keep a Log?

Going through some musically frustrating times led me to reflect on things as well as set some goals. One of those goals was to keep a music journal. For some time I have kept notebooks briefly detailing concerts that I have attended and during my travels I have written journals of my daily activities including thoughts on music. This will be an online journal concerning my ongoing work with music and thoughts that arise  from that work. 

At times I may give specific examples, other times may be more abstract. As a saxophonist there will be some focus on the horn -  a lot of the content will be on the process and the music itself regardless of the instrument.
Will writing things down help me through those times for frustration? Time will tell. 

The first step is to get writing - something each day if I can. Will it end up here? Possibly… stay tuned.