Archive for the “jazz” Category
Posted by Chris Becker in Concerts, Contemporary Classical, Interviews, jazz, Saxophone, tags: Austin, Bass Concert Hall, Earthdriver, Fort Worth, Free Jazz, interview, Ornette Coleman, Texas
Ornette Coleman photo by Jimmy Katz
Fort Worth-born Ornette Coleman will perform November 18th, 2010 8pm at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall with his son Denardo Coleman on drums, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass, and Al MacDowell on electric bass. I can’t think of a genre of music that hasn’t been influenced by Coleman and his recorded legacy. He had a profound impact on musicians as diverse as Leonard Bernstein, John Zorn, and Jerry Garcia and at the age of 80, Coleman continues to disregard geographical, political and cultural boundaries in a relentless search to build upon his palette of sound.
A recent interview with Ornette Coleman conducted by bassist, singer, producer Jeremiah Hosea can be heard for no cost at Earthdriver.org. It’s an unusually personal and far reaching conversation that you won’t hear anywhere else. Hosea has been instrumental of promoting the work of several exciting rock, jazz, and avant-garde musicians in NYC, and I had been meaning for awhile to direct Sequenza21′s readers to his site.
Thanks to Houston’s Dave Dove for the news tip.
Besides helping out here at S21, composer Chris Becker has been racking up some excellent interviews at his own blog. One I wanted to share with you is his recent chat with brilliant, hard-to-classify musician Lawrence Sieberth. For the full interview just head to Chris’s blog (where you’ll also find a link to buy the Arkipelago CD, and a list of upcoming Sieberth concerts), but here’s the introduction and a sample:
After moving from New Orleans to New York City, I managed to stay connected to keyboardist/composer Lawrence Sieberth thanks to the Internet and email, keeping him posted on my music activities. My first memory of Larry is hearing him on piano performing his 1995 tribute concert Booker and Black at the Contemporary Arts Center which celebrated the music of New Orleans musicians pianist James Booker and drummer James Black with projected visuals by artist Jon Graubarth (Jon created the artwork for my CD Saints & Devils). More recently, Larry emailed to say he thought I might dig his latest CD Arkipelago and could hear the whole thing streaming on his website www.musikbloc.com. I downloaded the mp3 version, eventually got a copy the CD, and for several weeks listened to Arkipelago at least once a day. I just couldn’t get enough of the music and the production which reminded me of Peter Gabriel’s So, Jon Hassell’s City: Works of Fiction, and other recordings that artfully combine (to quote writer musician Michael Veal): “…the traditional conception of “note-based” music and the potentials of sound recording as an aesthetic medium on its own terms.” Larry is firmly grounded in the piano playing traditions of New Orleans. And Arkipelago will surprise some fans of that music and expand their perception of what “New Orleans” music is and has the potential to be.
Chris Becker: Your CD Arkipelago combines synth programming, extended through-composed compositions that include sudden unexpected breaks and rhythmic changes, and real-time “in the moment” improvisation. The title track (featuring Joo Kraus on trumpet) and the track ‘Le Serpente Volant’ (featuring Ed Peterson on saxophone) are two examples of what I’m describing. Can you talk about how you recorded those two particular tracks? Did you provide any specific instructions to Joo or Ed before tracking their performances? Or was that not necessary given your familiarity with their each musician’s approach to improvising?
Lawrence Sieberth: If I can backtrack a bit it will help help explain the way this project materialized. Over the last couple of decades I’ve been part of ‘free’ improvisational collaborations with other musicians, dancers and visual artists – the driving force of these performances has sometimes been spontaneous, a response to visual imagery or prerecorded tracks. There is a range as to what the word ‘improvisation’ implies – playing ‘changes’, manipulating the form, responding to the moment, etc. are all ways of perceiving the options inherent in improvisational music – all idioms and musical combinations of personalities have a built in set of expectations, manifest as compositions, styles, forms, tonal centers, etc. even when it is not predetermined. When the musician is faced with the option to create something new without preconceptions the creative mind is opened, allowed to connect with a communal state of being as opposed to reaching into the bag of tricks that our intellect builds – not to throw away that bag of tricks but to transcend it – for me, these situations have been some of the most joyful musical experiences of my career. This is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed arranging and composing in the traditional sense. I like the balance between the two extremes – in truth, however, it can be self-indulgent and not something I want to listen to all the time. The ‘quality’ of the music, albeit quite subjective, can range from ‘totally happening’ to ‘totally boring’ whether I’m a musical participant or just a listener – it’s hard to convey why some ‘noise’ can be inspirational.
Arkipelago is the result of many performances of an ever changing group I assembled over several years called VooDooTek – the objective was to start with a blank canvas and draw upon the talents of the musicians assembled at the time – the idea was for everyone to contribute musical ideas to the direction of the music – responding and being open to the unexpected – whenever I felt the music had run its course I would abruptly change the musical context or mood. With electronics it is easier to cut through the volume of sound. The one prerequisite of the musicians was listening – for me a most important quality of musicianship. All the tracks on the CD started off as through composed synth soundtracks – soundscapes might be a better analogy – a combination of textures, industrial loops, otherworldly sounds – sometimes empty space – very sculptural – the charts are diagrams with emotional directives, sometimes a bass line, sometimes a tonal center – an integral part was the click that signaled sections and tempos that was removed – the core group, myself on more synths, Doug Belote on drums, Nori Naraoka on bass and Makuni Fukada on guitar, played with the prerecorded tracks – it was important for them to perceive those tracks as part of the improvised structure rather than a composition – since I was also incorporating more synth sounds and textures it was naturally impossible to separate what was virtual and what was live – so the whole track seems improvised but compacted due to its composition directives – most takes were the second take. Joo Kraus added his part in Germany and sent it back to me in New Orleans – I had played with him at a jazz festival and we really hit it off. I gave him no directions and the track you hear is virtually edit free.
The orchestrion is a fairly old instrument, going back to the mid-19th-century. Pat Metheny and the mad scientists at the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots have teamed up to create a 21st century version of an orchestrion.
I’ve spent the past few days listening to Metheny’s new CD, Orchestrion. If you’ve been following his work for the past few years, it’s no big surprise musically or harmonically: lush diatonic harmonies and sweetly melodic improvisations. What makes this disc so special, though, is his interaction with a robot ensemble, one which is completely controlled or programmed by Metheny. There is a surprising richness and warmth in these robot-played instruments that one does not find in MIDI accompaniments, and if you like Metheny’s music or you’re interested in seeing/hearing a mechanical instrument out of Jules Verne’s wildest dreams, do pick up the CD or catch Metheny and company on the road with this.
Lots of demos and explanations on Metheny’s web site.
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…Collide in a good way, that is… The world of “avant” classical and “avant” jazz (I know I know, half of you will cringe at the labels, but it’s as good as we’re going to get here) share so much in common: a long and staid tradition and preconception to fight past and against, to push and trespass beyond; interest in new sounds, new forms, new aesthetics; an intensity of commitment to their vision, even when it might mean a long spell of creating and performing in the shadow of those taking the safe path.
But for all their similarities, there’s also often a kind of fine barrier that keeps many on the classical side from truly “getting” the jazz side, and vice-versa. Differences in approach, language, culture maybe; maybe also a little intimidation with the unknown. (Like my own mystification upon entering a McDonalds — where do you go? How do you order off that board? Do I get my drink, sit down, pick it up where? — when every regular does it all on autopilot.)
To hear the voices cross over and talk about the other is always interesting, and a recent guest post at Jeff Jackson’s and Jeff Golick’s jazz blog Destination:Out seems particularly welcome. In
Some Current Trends in Contemporary Classical Music: An Improviser’s Guide
Steve Lehman — one of the few who fully (and formidably) inhabits both worlds, as both composer and saxophonist — gives “out-jazz” folk an introduction to the likes of Gerard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Michael Finnissy, Helmut Lachenmann and Beat Furrer. The notes on each come from a slight jazz angle, and Steve thoughtfully includes audio of representative works. The comments after the post are also good and worth reading.
A few of the terms and comparisons may be unfamiliar to the avant-classical fan, but really we’re mostly talking, listening, and thinking about the same things. It’s a fairly “eurocentric” list, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And truth told, there are plenty of new-music types on our side, that are still largely unaware of some of these developments, and can only benefit from Steve’s little musical tour.
Wolfgang Grajonca that is, who is better-known to us old hippies as Bill Graham, the late impressario of the Fillmores East and West and the man who brought the music to a thousand purple-hazed nights of our misspent youths. Graham taped and saved everything and you can stream hundreds of full concerts free (downloading costs a little money) at a site called Wolfgang’s Vault. Want to hear that dead band’s song before they were dead? You got it. Catch Steppenwolf doing “God Damn, the Pusher Man?” Stevie Ray demonstrating why no one else should ever be allowed to touch a guitar ever again. Jimi, the real Jefferson Airplane, even early Bruce.
And, if that isn’t enough, today Wolfgang’s Vault began adding concerts from the 50 years of Newport Jazz Festivals. There are three up now–the Jazz Messengers, Dakota Staton and a 1959 Basie set that gave me goosebumps when I listened to it earlier this evening. Talk about minimalism, you ain’t heard shit until you dig Freddie Green and the Count sliding into a groove. Get yourself over there.
Random thought: When I went into Starbucks this afternoon, they were playing Jimmy Durante’s version of “You must remember dis…a kiss is still a kiss” and I thought to myself–Greatest Album Never Made? Jimmy Durante sings Tom Waits.
[Ed. note: Composer and S21 regular Chris Becker sat down recently with the one and only Matana Roberts. I told him I'd love to feature his interview, and so here it is: ]
Saxophonist, composer, fanzine writer, and blogger Matana Roberts is the current artist in residence at Issue Project Room (NYC) where she is developing and presenting in a series of concerts material for her “large scale…sound narrative” COIN COIN. COIN COIN might be described as a multi-movement composition utilizing composed, improvised, and pre-recorded music along with elements of theater (projections, candles, chains) to give voice to a complex family history that extends from Louisiana to at least three other continents. Matana – a Chicago native – combines her Midwestern roots (including the influence of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians of which she is a member) with a very Southern-styled “collage” compositional technique to realize performances that (in Matana’s words) “…create an atmosphere where the people witnessing it feel enveloped into the experience.” Those words certainly describe the two COIN COIN performances I myself have witnessed, the most recent being last week (September 30) where Matana, on alto saxophone, clarinet, and vocals, was accompanied by drummer and percussionist Mike Pride.
Her recent CD The Chicago Project (2008) is a wonderfully varied collection of original compositions featuring Chicago musicians guitarist Jeff Parker (Chicago Underground Trio, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble), bassist Josh Abrams (Josh Abrams Quartet) and drummer Frank Rosaly (Ken Vandermark) and special guest tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. We talk a little bit about this recording in the interview that follows.
I first became aware of Matana’s work via her blog (Shadows of a People now called In The Midst of Memory). What I like about her writing is its immediacy and honesty whether she is providing details about her family ancestry or reacting to this country’s current confusions regarding race, gender, and class. Matana’s will to give voice to her experience as a creative artist in the 21st century, as well as to the history of her Southern, African, and European ancestors is one of the things that inspired me to reach out to her for this interview.
Please note: This interview was conducted and edited just before the untimely and tragic passing of Issue Project Room founder Suzanne Fiol. Matana is certainly not the only artist to speak highly of Suzanne, and I would like to express my sincere condolences to everyone who knew and loved her.
Chris Becker: As a composer and bandleader, can you talk about how you select musicians for a recording date or a Coin Coin performance? Do you compose with specific musicians in mind or do you go about the search and selection after the fact?
Matana Roberts: I like to compose with specific people in mind when I have the luxury to do so. Since I have been working on COIN COIN now for about 5 years as I re edit the work, I can pick and choose amongst sound makers that mean a lot to me not only as musicians but also as friends and almost honorary family. I put together The Chicago Project with every musician that is on that record in mind. I wanted it to be a very specific document about my Chicago roots and development and all of the people involved are people who made it possible for me to play at the level I am playing now.
The only exception on that record would be Frank Rosaly- Frank showed up in Chicago right after I left, but I wanted him on the record because I felt he represented the positive new influx of creative direction Chicago has been getting in the last 10 years or so, and I also just liked him as a person. I’m more interested in musicians as people first, sound makers second. If they are not compassionate and open and considerate as people, that means that their sound output will (to me) be just as cold as their probable personality in my opinion.
CB: Not to take anything away from the other musicians you play with, but one of the many exciting things about your CD The Chicago Project is the sound of Jeff Parker’s guitar playing alongside the sound of your alto saxophone. You each have a very distinctive sound that blends as well as contrasts with the other throughout the tracks. What do you anticipate musically from Jeff when he is playing with you?
MR: For whatever reason I have yet to figure out why Jeff and I have a very special musical connection that has always been apparent even in the little time we have played together. Maybe it’s because he has such big ears. He listens to some of everything and deals with the process of sound in so many different capacities – in collaborative groups, groups he leads, as a deejay. He’s one of the busiest sidemen in creative music and so I just feel like he internalizes so much that allows him to connect with someone weird like me in a really empathetic and eerily intuitive sense. He’s also just has an incredible big heart, the best laugh ever (Nicole Mitchell is a runner up to this though-her laugh comes from such an amazing wellspring of sound!) and speaks with such kindness about so many things, and knows how to speak on them with a tasteful brevity that I wish I could access more often… Read the rest of this entry »
Imani Winds decided some time ago to make their tenth anniversary special, by commissioning ten new works from ten very different composers of color. Titled the Legacy Project, each new work not only gets premiered, but added to Imani’s rolling repertory as they perform across the country and beyond. So far they’ve taken on pieces by Wayne Shorter, Roberto Sierra, Alvin Singleton, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and Jason Moran; Danilo Perez, Jeff Scott and Simon Shaheen (and I suppose a mystery 10th composer) are in the wings.
But just now the latest offering is stellar jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris‘ Anatomy of a Box (A Sonic Painting in Wood, Metal and Wind). Imani already showed it off this past week at Iowa State and Penn State; now they’re about to give the West Coast their chance, with concerts Oct. 2, 8:00PM at Cal Poly Arts (Spanos Theatre) in San Luis Obispo, CA; and Oct. 4, 7:00PM at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Imani Winds has always put their impressive chops at the service not only of the ‘official’ canon, but also pieces that reach out to someplace in the wider world beyond the typical classical concert stage. Hey California, come and hear for yourself.
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San Francisco is famous for its innovations, its open minds, and its spirit of protest. In 2005, according to Rova Saxophone Quartet member Larry Ochs, “our government was committing all sorts of crimes against humanity in all of our names. I wanted to create some art that flew in the face of those acts – but not overtly political because that’s not what we do.”
Rova dreamed up an international collaborative work in honor of the visionary genius of Buckminster Fuller and his “Spaceship Earth” global perspective. “Good works by people brought together from different countries – if only to point out that it was possible for people to meet for the very first time and in a week of collaboration, create something positive for the spirit, and something that was more than any one of the collaborators could create on his/her own,” Ochs explains. Berlin-based multimedia artist Lillevan, Swedish-born percussionist Kjell Nordeson, Canadian contrabassist Lisle Ellis, cellist and Kronos Quartet alumna Joan Jeanrenaud, and violinist rock star Carla Kihlstedt make up the international dream team that will join Rova in presenting Fissures, Fixtures: for Buckminster Fuller.
The set of pieces combines live music and digital animation in a continuous feedback loop, with the music influencing the creation of the film in real time, and the film images inspiring the music. Improvisation, as Larry Ochs declares, will ensure that the piece transcends the individuals involved and becomes more than the sum of its parts. Rova and friends offer up the piece to honor “someone who over 40 years ago was stating categorically that mankind had to find a way to work together to create a one world-system that benefitted everyone.”
Since both performances will be recorded for future DVD release, this is your chance to immortalize your own applause for contemporary music posterity. The concert happens twice, on May 22 and 23 in Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco located at 3200 California Street. Tickets are $24.00 general, $21.00 for JCCSF members, and $16.00 for students. Get them online at www.jccsf.org, and by phone at (415) 292-1233.
We’ve reached the final concert of Interpretations’ twentieth season of provocative programming in New York City! Founded and curated by baritone Thomas Buckner in 1989, Interpretations focuses on the relationship between contemporary composers from both jazz and classical backgrounds and their interpreters, whether the composers themselves or performers who specialize in new music. To celebrate, Jerry Bowles has invited the artists involved in this season’s concerts to blog about their Interpretations experiences. Our last concert is also an anniversary celebration: The String Trio of New York has been going strong for 31 years. Guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg have invited some of the most innovative jazz violinists to work with them: Billy Bang, Regina Carter, Diane Monroe, and Charles Burnham. Since 2001, violinist Rob Thomas has more than ably filled those shoes. While the trio has had many works written for them, and does perform the “classics” of jazz, this concert will feature the music of Emery and Lindberg. John Lindberg explains in his own words, below. We hope to see you at Roulette this Thursday, 23 April and stay tuned for next season.
This particular concert of the String Trio of New York, now 31 years running, is a unique opportunity to present a retrospective of works that have in some ways defined the development of the group, and highlights its diverse repertoire. My three pieces on the program — The Anticipator (1987), Nature,Time, Patience (2001), Journey Platz (2007) represent different side of my mucical personality as a composer, and extremely varied approaches to the collective utilization of the improvising and interprational talents of the trio members, in effect being a voyage through the time/space continnum of the s3ny, while offering up renditions that lie solidly “in the moment” that they are being performed.
Interpretations has been, in my view, the most vital and compelling series for creative music in New York city for some two decades, due to its great breadth of music it presents, and remaining one of he very few ongoing series that offer composers free reign to present their music as they wish it to be presented.
It is with great pleasure I have another opportunity, with this landmark concert for the trio, to perform as part of the Interpretations series.
The String Trio of New York performs at Roulette on Thursday 23 April at 8pm.
For more information:
The String Trio of New York