Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NZ Music Month: Introduction

Jochen Rueckert: Introduction (Jazzline)
Rueckert (d) Hayden Chisholm (as) Chris Potter (ts) Johannes Weidenmuller / Matt Penman (b) Kurt Rosenwinkel / Ben Monder (g)
NZ Music Month New Zealand Jazz
Before delving into Cusp of Oblivion, I decided to listen to revisit some of his earlier work, so why not go back to the album that was my introduction to Hayden Chisholm. I have to give a big thank you to Charmaine Ford for this one. Sometime during 2003 Char lent me her copy of Jochen Rueckert's Introduction as it featured Matt Penman on bass and as she handed it to me she casually remarked that apparently the saxophone player was a Kiwi too. In the evenings I would practice at the piano store where we worked, and that night I put the album on during a practice break as I ate dinner. My ear was immediately drawn to the alto saxophone. While odd-meter arrangements of standards wasn't something I was in to (they do it well though), the alto tone was right up my alley and the lines he played presented someone developing a voice all his own. I looked at the date it was recorded (1997) and then I wondered..... How could I spend three years at university studying music (saxophone and jazz no less) and have not come across his playing? In fact, no one had even whispered his name in passing.

During 2004, I spent six months in NYC studying with Richard Tabnik (more on that later!). I stayed at Matt’s for a couple of weeks (thanks Matt!) and made a point of checking out his record collection - and Introduction was there. I listened to the album a lot during those couple of weeks - everyday I would put it on, focussing on Hayden’s playing (the first couple of Root 70 albums also got plenty of airtime).

Fast forward a dozen years and it's been fun, and perhaps even a little nostalgic, giving Introduction a spin throughout the week. It's an important album in my musical development and Hayden continues to inspire to this day. Luckily for me I have 12 more new discs of Hayden's to get through.... oh, and the new Nautilus album. No complaints here (an American tour would be nice though!).

New Zealand Jazz

Friday, May 27, 2016

NZ Music Month: New Zealand Jazz history

New Zealand Jazz History
This week I've checking out some articles on Jazz that appeared in New Zealand newspapers during the 1920s and 30s. I downloaded this cartoon that appeared in the Auckland Star on 3 July, 1936 via Papers Past - a great resource put together by the National Library of New Zealand.

For those interested in some New Zealand jazz history be sure to stop by Aleisha Ward's appropriately titled blog, NZ Jazz History. Aleisha is one of the few currently researching the early years of jazz in New Zealand (actually, I can't think of anyone else at the moment - but if you know of any others,  please let me know) and is uncovering some great stuff.

Here are a couple of posts to get you started - Early Maori Jazz Musicians and New Zealand's First Jazz RecordingIn this guest post - Jazz, Research and Aftershocks - Aleisha gives some background on the research she conducted for her Ph.D. You can download the thesis - "Any rags, any jazz, any boppers today?": jazz in New Zealand 1920-1955 here.

While you're at it, hop over to Where are the Camels? to download (free) Ken Avery's New Zealand Dance Band Diary.

NZ Music Month

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NZ Music Month: Hayden Chisholm Quintet - Cusp of Oblivion

Last week I posted on an album from Hayden's 2013 box set, 13 Views of the Hearts Cargo. This week I've been listening to the first disc - Cusp of Oblivion - from the box set (of the same name) released a couple of months ago.
NZ Music Month
The quintet - Hayden Chisholm as, Evi Filippou vibes, Achim Kaufmann p, Petter Eldh b, John Hollenbeck d - tackle eight pieces by Hayden. Cusp has a suite-like feel to it, the pieces seem to come from a larger whole. They flow together, and throughout the week very rarely did I listen to only part of the album. Instead I found myself listening to the album from start to finish - and on more than one occasion, multiple runs back to back. Although the sax and piano take on the bulk of the solo work (their different approaches make for a nice pairing), with the vibraphone, bass and drums largely in the role of supportive and interactive accompanists, the album maintains a strong, balanced group sound throughout. I'm really enjoying the rich texture provided by the vibraphone and piano. The vibraphone seems to fill out harmony, giving extra depth and color to the sound and gets a nice blend with both piano and alto (disc 7 of the set is a Chisholm/Filippou duo and I'm looking forward to hearing more of this combo). The effortlessness of Hayden's playing is one the the standout features of his work. His tone is complex and continues to develop new shades of expression coupled with an extra assuredness (at least I think that's what it is). The sound of the album is unhurried and delicate yet intense, brooding yet light, and I'm finding these contrasts make for compelling listening.

With such a strong start to the set I can't wait to delve into the other 12 discs. But one of the challenges with box sets is making sure you don't rush through things. I may have a cursory run through of the other discs before settling down to absorb things focusing on one disc at a time.
Cusp of Oblivion

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Long Look At Stan Getz (part 1)

Part one of Don DeMicheal's feature on Stan Getz from Down Beat (May 19, 1966). Stay tuned for Part Two. Click on the image to view PDF of full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NZ Music Month: Nearness Live

Nearness Live (Moontower)
Hayden Chisholm (as) Matt Penman (b) Jochen Rueckert (d)

New Zealand jazzI picked up the first Nearness album when Root 70 toured New Zealand during 2007(?). It quickly moved into heavy rotation (from memory, around that time I was listening to plenty of Warne Marsh, Connie Crothers, Michael Moore and whatever recordings of Hayden's I could get my hands on).

Recorded in 2008 in Cologne and released as part of the monumental box set 13 Views of the Hearts Cargo (2013), Nearness Live features the same methodology as the earlier disc - improvising on material from the great American songbook. Perhaps this one is a little more outwardly energetic than the earlier studio recording. Either way, the trio provide more evidence of just how much music is left in these gems of songs.

These three have played together in various groups since the mid-90s they have developed a great rapport and the intimate nature of this album allows the subtleties come shining through (and the recording captures the individual sounds of the trio wonderfully). I continue to hear new things whenever I return to it - "May" caught my ear around 6.16 - the way the trio slides into the next 8 leapt out at me this week. Another, is the way the alto emerges out of the cymbal wash at 2.04 on "Friends." I have been getting into how much Hayden's phrasing and rhythmic approach is integral to his lyrical core - the stretch at 2.18-2.40 of "So Alone" and 2.20-2.28 of "Tout de Moi" are just a couple of (many) examples.

The rhythm section of Penman and Rueckert is a favorite of mine. Matt has a great tone and creative lines (as an accompanist and soloist) and Jochen has the ability to play lower dynamics without sacrificing any of his personality. An added bonus is that both have a little more room to move on this outing than on the first album.

New Zealand Jazz

Friday, May 13, 2016

NZ Music Month: Norman Meehan - Small Holes in the Silence

I was hoping to get the first of the NZ Music Month posts up a bit sooner but school deadlines had the blog momentarily on hold. Better late than never I guess.......

Small Holes In The Silence (Rattle Records)
Norman Meehan (p) Hannah Griffin (v) Hayden Chisholm (as)

Norman Meehan has been setting text to music for several years now, starting with the 2009 release Sun Moon Stars Rain (Attar Media) featuring the work of e.e. cummings and following up with two albums setting the work of Bill Manhire - Buddhist Rain and Making Baby Float (both on Rattle).

This time around, Norm sets works from James K. Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire, Alistair Campbell, Eileen Duggan and David Mitchell. And while the overall mood is sombre with ballads the order of the day, I feel there is enough variety in both the text and music to keep things moving and engaging. It is unhurried and uncluttered, providing clarity for the words and music to speak and breath.

A couple of favourties include the succinct "High Country Weather" (James K. Baxter) [in fact, I was singing this to myself yesterday and was so absorbed that I missed my train] and the wonderfully paced "Frost" (Eileen Duggan) featuring a great blend from Hannah and Hayden during the melody and improvised dialogue between piano and saxophone.

The pairing of Hannah (I can't recall hearing her sound better) and Norman displays a richness developed over many years and adding to that runs the risk of a "third wheel" situation. Although I can hear a couple of other NZ saxophonists who may have made fine contributions to the album (with very different end results), Hayden's touch was the correct match for this album.

For me, Small Holes In The Silence is Norman's strongest work to date. If he continues this collaboration with Hannah and setting texts (and I hope he does), I would love hear a rhythm section added into the mix.

This Radio NZ interview with Norman provides some insight into the album and his process of setting texts.

Rattle Records New Zealand Poetry

Friday, May 06, 2016

Andrew Hill: Roots, Culture & Economics

From the May 5, 1965 of Down Beat - Andrew Hill discusses the economic realities of being a jazz musician. This reel of film had some damage running down one side - hopefully it's not too difficult to read. Click the image to view PDF of full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.