Orrin Keepnews Has Died at 91

The New York Times announced today that Orrin Keepnews, Jazz Producer and Record Executive, is dead at 91.

You can read their article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/arts/music/orrin-keepnews-jazz-producer-and-record-executive-is-dead-at-91.html?_r=0

He was an amazing figure in Jazz history.  Heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and fans.

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Greg Murphy: Blues for Miles

She told me to always shake everything out, towels, clothes and shoes, before using them as the spiders made temporary homes in the creases of things at night attracted by the warmth. I did not know how much veracity there was in this but the other morning while shaving I had seen a spider crawl out of the skirt that she had left on the bathroom floor.

Her sister was sick and she had to go and help her out. Occasionally it is good to sweetly suffer the blues induced by finding oneself alone. The rawness makes all sensations both good and bad more acute and the inherent poetics of everything rise to the fore.

Late at night, two empty bottles clang. It is the pantomime of an amour as the bag that they are in comes to rest on some side street next to a dumpster. Footfalls like applause, the last man left in the theater who refuses to leave until he is sure that he has seen everything.

I wondered if thoughts could have a sound. And if they did, would they vary from person to person? To be even more specific, did the type of thought dictate its sound? For the erotic, a breeze like sigh, work, the metallic clang of a steam driven piston.

While just a cerebral meandering to while away what hours remained until dawn, it did present the concept of the personal/universal aspects of a thing. This concept could easily be applied to art. The best art in any medium shares this property. It is embraced and treasured by many over the course of generations yet for each person, it has somewhat of an individualized meaning which resonates in a personal way.

Miles Davis (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) is one artist whose oeuvre has touched many people deeply and personally. His many fans can all agree on his greatness yet the reason why varies for each person. Blues for Miles by pianist/arranger Greg Murphy offers up evidence of this personal/universal effect.

The album is no mere stylistic homage but a way in which to show some of what Miles meant to him not via the work’s structure but rather in mood and spirit. The album’s program is a mix of standards and originals which along with the band’s interplay keeps things interesting.

“My Shinning Hour” starts the album off. This standard from the pen of perennial Great American Songbook scribes Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer was originally for the film “The Sky’s the Limit” (1943) but is probably best known to jazz fans through the John Coltrane cover. John Coltrane’s version from the album Coltrane Jazz (Atlantic Records 1961) marked the first appearance on record of his classic quartet.

Greg eschews any comparison by injecting heavy Bossa Nova inflections. With a fat mid-range tone the trumpet maintains the familiar melody while all around him dances percussion and drum flourishes. The perfect foil which meshes with the horn while not becoming merely a twin is the low end bass groove. The piano breaks are lyrical and like the rest of the song, fun. Punctuated with whistle and percussion breaks one finds themselves suddenly thinking of carnival and the softly murmured innuendos of the sun.

“Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” is taken as a solo piece. It shows the contemplative aspect of Greg’s playing. Written by E.Y Harburg and Jay Gorney (1930) for the musical Americana it was in the vernacular of the depression, portraying the broken possibilities of the once seemingly limitless potential for every American. Despite the Republican right thinking it “Red” propaganda and trying to have it cut from the show it remained and continued on well after the depression in the lexicon of great standards.

Greg is no stranger to this song having previously (2012) recorded it as the theme song for the HBO documentary “Redemption”.   We all get down but not every musician can play the blues. Greg displays an authenticity not in any specific blues-based structure but in an organic soulfulness.

There is a power to the performance deriving from simplicity which is not meant in a pejorative way. Any attempt at doing a deconstruction or re-imagining are avoided in favor of a straight reading which allows the song’s inherent power and Greg’s voice to come through unadorned and without any distraction. Tinged with melancholy but bearable on account of its beauty, it is a rainy day with all the leaves of the trees dripping silvered jewels.

“Hat Trick” is another original. It is free jazz not in the genre sense but in the band allowing different components from several genres to meld without concern of adhering to any specific formula. The band on this album is comprised of musicians with whom Greg has a history, having played together in various incarnations. This song has a slow burn, offering up permanent evidence of how much fun the ensemble would be in a live situation.

The start of the song finds the bass releasing deep drone like pulses. The brush and cymbal work on the percussion is the whispered encouragement to do something interesting and in nocturnal colors. When the piano initially enters, softly, it sounds almost akin to an older model keyboard so valued by today’s turnbulists. Soon though it is metamorphosis into grander, fractured ivories playing in elliptical patterns which mirror that of the bass, punctuating its own pattern with rapid asides.

The trumpet and tenor saxophone are two long things which entangle even as the stretch out, wisps of smoke, coils of rope or deeply abstracted thoughts. As the piece continues on the front line of horns separate with the trumpet then tenor taking solos which would not sound out of place on the Impulse label of the 1960’s.

A dramatic cohesiveness is created not because all the musicians play in unison but because each of the smaller patterns executed within the piece bolster the others.

This album is no mere tribute nor does it seek to concern itself with offering up the next artistic evolutionary step. Instead it displays what inspirations one generation of artists gleamed from another. An informal meditation on the enjoyment from works that we find ourselves constantly going back to, something which we can all relate to in our own way.

Maxwell Chandler

Midtown

More information on Greg:  http://www.jazzintensity.com/

 

Not for use without permission. maxwellachandler@aol.com

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Help Subway Moon Get To Hamburg

The Institute for Collaborative Education is a small public alternative middle/high school in Manhattan that attracts families of all incomes from across the city. Its music department is run by professional jazz musician and poet, Roy Nathanson. Roy’s songwriting class has been invited to perform their original songs in Hamburg, Germany, April 19-27 at the Youngstar Theater Festival. Many other young performers from all over the world will be joining them in a cross-cultural exchange. The festival will pay all of their expenses once they get to Hamburg. This Kickstarter campaign is to raise money for airfare. Parents are all paying what they can afford towards this goal, but many cannot afford the full fare. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime—please support them.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/924981496/subway-moon-goes-to-hamburg-teen-original-jazz-pro

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Jurgen Friedrich: Monosuite

My writing going out in the world, I know it is merely a matter of personal perception but it seems to go further when the notes become separated from one another. Each paragraph takes up residency in a different piece.

The cat laying by the fountain and the sound of her broom on the steps both captured by my pen on the same day and sharing a page in my notebook. Once utilized they live many miles apart as one goes to an essay while the other in a poem.

All the words circle the globe, they create the lines of a special map as groups of words come together to form countries with names like;

“Bar at night…”

“That girl from then…”

And

“Regret from a lack of tears.”

No nation’s borders have straight lines of demarcation, although some do more so than others owing to the suppleness of certain words and their groupings.

I take long walks and talk to myself about the nature of what goes into any given work. Picasso once told Andre Malraux that he dreamed his “Bull” sculpture, which was the skeletal head of the animal made up of a bicycle seat for skull and handlebars for horns, would one day have a reverse birth. Like watching a film run backwards, the parts would subtly vibrate, then shake and then detach from one another. Jumping out the window each would separately place themselves back on the frame of some bicycle, where their former prestige unnoticed, they would go back to carrying out their original functionality.

I imagined the similar magical motion behind the absorption of my notes into various pieces. The sea change that the words underwent from their birth in a reporter pad into something less functional but perhaps grander in some people’s eyes.

With the vision of the Toro behind me, my inner dialogue on this day was the nature of influence and components which make up any work of art.

It has been written that the twin wellsprings of all modern (Western) classical music flows from Igor Stravinsky (1882 –1971) and Arnold Schoenberg (1874 –1951). With the passage of time, these two influences have not waned but in some cases have occurred via a ripple effect, the influenced composers in turn influencing the following generations.

Even for these two composers, neither of them started off fully realized as the artists whom countless people would treasure. And once their artistic identities were fully gestated, there was still a near constant evolution occurring. The forms of inspiration offered up by these two were the foundation to build off of or reject, spurring on further explorations. Their different theories and techniques taken apart, cannibalized to reappear in new forms, like The Bull.

 

Modern jazz has had many similarities with modern classical music. In both cases diverse components from traditional folk/ethno-world and previously established cannon have been utilized and mixed to varying degrees with the aural vernacular of the day along with each composers own voice. Creating something new, yet linked to what came both before and after.

Both jazz and modern classical have had instances of cross pollination within their genres and with each other. As both genres were ever evolving, they have conveyed an aural shorthand for capturing the zeitgeist of progress.

Although non-populist music stateside is largely marginalized in regards to where the casual listener can discover (or see live) works which do not strictly adhere to a genre, in some ways it is a golden age for creating uneasy to define works. Now artists need not restrict themselves from where they cull influences and inspiration. Cologne musician/composer Jurgen Friedrich’s new release Monosuite (For String Orchestra and improvisers) is more a classical piece with improvised solos than a jazz album. Yet in this age we need not worry about coming up with a too exacting classification.

Jurgen draws from not only a myriad of musical influences and inspirations but painters and nature as well. All perfectly apropos given the visual feel to the piece.

The structure of the work is a suite which is non-programmatic. The orchestra is made up of strings with the improvised solos of bass, alto saxophone, piano and drums. The lack of a brass or woodwind section allows for the episodic nature of the suite to subtly present itself to the listener.

“Waves” begins with a lush swell of strings, sonorous cello and viola above which crystalline waves of violin rise. This is a good example of the subtle colorations of the score. There is a reoccurrence throughout; a sort of ambient vibration(s) as one may experience when looking at the color field paintings of Marc Rothko or during a long good conversation.

“Breaks” is mainly the fluttering breath of flute punctuated by the occasional emergence of the orchestra. It is meditative beauty, the soft wind which hits the cheeks as one catches themselves standing in contemplation of an abstract.

“Fiddlesticks” has a great drum pattern accompanied by strings which conjure up a North African feel. These colorations strive for the rigid confines of authenticity to the place from where they came but as an added influence to be incorporated into the esprit de corps. The melody takes on a sort of rolling motion, rolling the way the dunes do across a dessert and over which can faintly be heard the glissando of piano and above that, horn.

“Blossom” starts with strings building into a wave of tension. The shrill violins are a rope or wire about to break, the crooked looping cello the voice warning that they are about to do so. The string is broken and there is a fall through the roof into a lopsided cabaret where the piano attempts to intermittently gallop away when the discordant voice of the horn is distracted by the ratchet like percussion. The bass becomes both the front door opening and closing and the footsteps of the patrons many of whom wear ill-fitting hats. The flute is a type of nocturnal peace as can be achieved in such places at a late hour, not necessarily real but believed. This section marks the introduction of discordant elements. I would not say they are necessary but their presence with their piquant cacophony serves to underscore the lushness of the more out right beautiful sections.

“Low Tide” is my favorite section. It has an elliptical flute breathing over the tinkling of a piano. It is a predawn Gotham, someone practicing in their fourth floor walkup or softly talking to themselves via the ivories. There are swells of strings and the rumble of bass, so much concrete resettling in its predawn coolness. The percussion is the rattle of found objects, umbrella skeletons with their spindly metal bones now bereft of any fabric, empty cans which lost the fight and with their middle dented in now have a V for the victory of their opponent. All tripping up or being kicked away by a lone flaneur. Walking alone at night, gently enfolded in the wings of the city, I want to wear a suit the color of yesterday but will settle for a peace nestled in discordance.

The suite ends with “Weave” which is not a summing up but more the mirror twin of the first section. Where our entry into the suite was lush, this last section is densely beautiful and of a darker hue. There is short bursts of strings, their humming a code converging with flinty notes of piano. Cello conjuring up the ghost of Boccherini’s nights mark a change in the sections cadence. Percussion and piano mirror the pattern of the strings before flute, piano and bass delicately add solos which stay inside the melody.

In his composition Jurgen never falls back on repetition to move onto the next idea or to merely fill space. All the soloists make statements in the end, the effect is of individuals running into a crowd, joining it and then continuing on at the same brisk pace from within it. The close of the suite, the strings drop away and it is all soft murmurings and plinkings, the symmetry of beauty.

Maxwell Chandler

Midtown

 

More information on Jurgen

http://www.pirouet.com/home/artists.php?artist=ART3042

 

 

Not for use without permission. maxwellachandler@aol.com

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Buddy DeFranco has died at 91

The Jazz world loses another great:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/27/arts/music/buddy-defranco-versatile-jazz-clarinetist-dies-at-91.html?_r=1

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CHARLIE HADEN MEMORIAL AND CELEBRATION OF HIS LIFE

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015 @ 7PM @ THE TOWN HALL NYC

Family and friends, including many jazz greats, will come together to celebrate the life of CHARLIE HADEN (1937-2014), one of the most innovative and influential bassists in the history of jazz.  A three-time Grammy winner, Haden has received many awards and accolades throughout his five-decade career including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the NEA Jazz Master Award, and was most recently bestowed the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Just as importantly, he was a husband, a father, a colleague, a friend, a teacher, and a human being passionately concerned about social justice. Haden first came to fame as a member of the iconic Ornette Coleman Quartet, and literally changed the way the bass was played. He went on to play with Keith Jarrett and a who’s who of music’s greats, including John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Abbey Lincoln, and so many more. At the same time he formed his iconic bands Liberation Music Orchestra (in 1969) and Quartet West (in 1986) with which he performed and recorded until his untimely passing. In 1982, he founded the Jazz Studies Program at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA .

Among the many performers and speakers attending will be Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Carla Bley, Jack DeJohnette, Denardo Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Fain, Bill Frisell, Ethan Iverson, Josh Haden and the Haden Triplets, Ruth Cameron-Haden, Dr. Maurice Jackson, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Josh Redman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Brandee Younger et al., as well as several special guests to be announced. The evening will be anchored by performances by Haden’s two preeminent bands, Quartet West with Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts, Rodney Green, with Scott Colley on bass, and Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley, Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek, Loren Stillman, Michael Rodriguez, Seneca Black, Curtis Fowlkes, Vincent Chancey, Joe Daley, Steve Cardenas, Matt Wilson, with Steve Swallow on bass.

“Charlie would play what it meant to be human, he had a sound that gave people the idea of what music does. When you find that sound that comes from the soul, you can really do something, and Charlie did, he did something for all of us.” Ornette Coleman -2014

“People will always love his playing, but no one will ever imitate him. He was a rare, true original. Perfect intonation, the biggest ears, the warmest, most captivating tone in the history of the jazz bass.” Keith Jarrett 2014

THIS IS A FREE EVENT

Tax Deductible Donations to benefit the Charlie Haden CalArts Scholarship Fund, a 501c3, providing tuition assistance for jazz students in need, will be accepted at the venue or can be sent to PO Box 520, Agoura Hills, CA 91376.

Location: THE TOWN HALL, NYC

123 W 43rd St. (between 6th Avenue & Broadway) New York, NY 10036

Box Office: General Admission.  Doors open at 6pm.

For more info:  www.thetownhall.org

http://thetownhall.org/event/624-celebrating-charlie-haden-19372014

Press contact: Regina Joskow  regina.joskow@gmail.com

 

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Jon Armstrong Jazz Orchestra: Farewell

Lying on my back, I raise my left arm parallel to the edge of the bed. The square of sunlight which comes in the late afternoon…

In October it is golden with an almost greenish tinge to it. Always, it is quickly retreating after only offering a stage for my shadow puppets for a mere twenty minutes before the elongated square then sinks back into the rest of the wall.

Dawn too may have offered a brief theater but I was rarely awake to observe if it was so.

I look best in bar-light and so tried to bathe myself in it as often as possible. This trick of light also encompassed the perception of time. Regardless of how long I held myself absent, none of the stool vultures noticed. Conversations and arguments could easily be picked up again as if they had just been started the previous night.

I spend a lot of time in my head giving my life currency via obeying Socrates’s old adage. Sandra noticed my lack of presence as I became wrapped up in a project. She insisted I go out with her, adding the prerequisite that it be some place free of other distractions or crowds in which I could camouflage myself.

A home cooked meal, the preparation for which painted my shirt that I changed right before her arrival. Offered up, a heavy pasta meal whose execution and richness induced a near sensual stupor. We talked, the music played and as I remained an active participant it all remained dreamily peaceful.

However, as good as the evening was she knew that there was every reason to believe that tomorrow would find me once again solitarily soaring through the air on notepad wings at the expense of all else not birthed from the barrel of my Waterman. She wanted to squeeze as much of my attention out of the night as possible.

We went for a walk. I choose an area which I did not usually find myself in as to avoid the transmutation of this evening into just another night. There was a diner, whether mere ritual or the heaviness of the meal, I desired a coffee even though most likely it would not be any good. Sandra was fine, so I go it to go.

A small park. We sit in the empty bandstand. I drink smoldering coffee from a cardboard cup while Sandra smoked one of her endless, last cigarettes.

The bandstand sits in meditation on the ghosts of Duke, Basie, Kenton and a then young modern America. As for myself, I think of Nathan. He had driven a taxi for thirty years, big band music providing the soundtrack. Not necessarily wisdom but the desire for a minor immortality is the catalyst of one generation telling the next their stories. A lot of Nathan’s anecdotes centered on the time of his youth. Whether this was because he thought I would relate better or because it was the more interesting time in his life, I never knew.

There was his pal who had lost an arm in the war but afterwards continued to drive his taxi that was affectionately known as “The one arm bandit”, countless get rich quick schemes involving silver mines and commercial tuna boats that had nearly paid off and a general excitement which kept his taxi circling the city well after hope of obtaining fares was gone as he was afraid that he would miss something where he to merely go home and go to bed.

The stories I never tired off. The music he tried to share did not do much for me; I was pure into the then new to me, bop and would not appreciate it for many years and by then he would be long gone.

I initially when I finally got into Duke, it was his later recordings on Columbia which were closer for my ears to the modern jazz I had been cutting my teeth on. From this I traveled backwards in his catalog and then outwards, exploring and embracing his peers.

I grew big ears, listening to music from every era and genre, the who and what depending upon my mood. I gained an affection and knowledge of big band.

From the early 1950’s on, while no longer the soundtrack for youth, the big band genre continued past its cultural reign. It was not merely nostalgia, a mere few remaining bands playing the favorites at festivals, the genre continued to evolve well past the inception of bop, albeit it outside of mainstream attention.

Overall, modern jazz, while supplanting big band from its previously held cultural position did make the incorporation of largely previously unutilized components such as Western classical and world music easier to incorporate.

People like Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Orchestra, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus (not big band per see but amazing large ensemble writing with some Duke in his DNA) and Bob Brookmeyer continued evolving the genre well past what had been its era utilizing palettes which were no longer limited in the way their artistic predecessors had been due to commercial or other consideration.

For big band and large ensemble music it would seem that now would be a golden age to be a musician/composer as there are not limitations to where one can draw influence from nor what can be incorporated into a work. However there is neither the widespread innovation nor evolution as one would expect from such freedom.

Once in a while there are little flashes of something, the power of it being real as it comes neither from gimmick or novelty.

Jon Armstrong’s new jazz orchestra album Farewell offers something new but clearly built off of what had come before him.

The ensemble is made up of woodwinds, trumpets low brass and percussionists. The first track “Ardnave”, begins with a foundation of percussion and trumpets playing in unison a theme which has an Iberian peninsula feel to it without it ever lapsing into ethno caricature.

After a solo trumpet statement there comes a percussion break. This section really puts forth the warmth of the album’s sonics. The album’s sound is very good with an ambient warmth which I will take any day over a cold digital, pristine perfection. Recorded in a school in North Hollywood (California) the artist and engineer clearly understood how to utilize the room. After the percussion break comes a section with clarinet. It has a mild klezmer feel to it. The contrast between clarinet and the swell of brass is enjoyable. The clarinet’s voice, a rich woody shade as found in the forest, the trees’ canopy broken here and there by the shafts of sunlight brass.

With a lot of larger contemporary ensembles, regardless of how good the players are and how forward thinking the charts, there is always that effect of garnering a suspicion that the band sounds better live. The overall warmth of this recording keeps that feeling at bay throughout the length of the entire album.

“Fool of Me” starts with a legato, split reed murmuring and is a perfect example of the intimacy of Farewell’s cadence. The lone horn is joined by other voices in a plaintive lament. The low brass roils in contrast to the bass and saxophone which remain delicately buoyant in a duet. Slowly a near vocalese trumpet speaks its piece as the rest of the ensemble add an underlying richness. I enjoy the density of this composition which is kept from feeling overly heavy by achieving its mass through the emerging and reduction of various instruments in smaller groups within the group.

“Dream Has No Friend” begins with horns in unison laying out slowly descending lines. After a low end march is introduced there are some subtle tempo shifts accompanied by varied orchestral colorations. Rising out of the aural miasma, the trombone lays out long lines upon which the piano and clarinet intermittently appear all voices unified by a slight waltz like rhythm.

The clarinet has chime like echoes accompanying it upon its initial introduction which makes for a unique and compelling sonic contrast. Towards the end of the piece the rest of the ensemble comes in, an impasto effect. The work ends with the deep brass reduced down and once again in a descending pattern.

Jon’s work does not strictly adhere to genre formula(s) and the entire album is all the more better for it. It stands up to repeated listenings. It has substance but is never so forward thinking as to turn off the more casual listener. The CD comes in gatefold packing with a liner note booklet.

For more information on Jon

http://www.jonarmstrongmusic.com/menu/

 

Not for use without express permission

Maxwellachandler@aol.com

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