Maxwell Chandler

Syndicated Jazz columnist. A literate take on a great American art form now gone global.

Homepage: https://maxwellchandler.wordpress.com

Greg Murphy: Summer Breeze

There is a whisper in my heart, echoing down a dead end street full of disregarded desires. The brief moments in which we allow ourselves to enjoy the small pleasures of life are akin to a treasure that is never accrued. I had not been intent upon anything other than dipping my toe, swimming in the stream of life for a few hours before once again taking up the pen.

She sat a few stools down from me with no other strangers between us serving as a buffer zone. I watched her absent mindedly in much the same way one would contemplate a painting in an empty museum. The ice in my drink was the priceless gem that I wanted to give her.

We talked. Our taste in literature was too different for one of us to not appear as judgmental. Switching to music, I nearly appeared more closed minded than I am by thumbing my nose at the mention of certain standards that she enjoyed.

Collecting our glasses with a smile, the bartender found a good luck charm for the night. Eventually though, the empty glass will look like all the others. The velocity of her kiss made me dizzy, carrying me home quicker than she could hold me.

I lay on my side, looking at the elongated reflection of myself in the goldfish bowl which I kept on the night table for emptying my change into. In these fleeting hours before dawn I am made pure once again by my solitude, an encroaching ecstasy as experienced by the lonely.

The sun rises and I walk on the first few pale rays which pierce through the window into the kitchen to make some coffee.

I sit at my desk since my stomach is not yet ready for toast. The coffee is strong and hot, its seeming perfection making me feel that it should be accompanied by some music. I reach for the new release by Greg Murphy, Summer Breeze. I do sometimes miss records with their soft pop, a fire about to start that would precede the music, regardless of genre.

In thinking of our conversation last night, I had known from the get-go that she was right but had been interested in hearing her defense of standards and covers.

Regardless of how far afield one goes in life or geographically, we carry our homes in the music that we listen to and the food that we cook. There can be a favorite dish, cooked over the course of traveling or a lengthy stay somewhere. The ingredients and equipment used to execute the dish may vary but the essence remains the same. Songs too are like that, whether by the original artist played over the span of a career or their peer(s) for whom it provided inspiration.

The inspiration emanating from one artist to another. When not used as a lazy shorthand, this is what is meant when an artist’s name is used to describe another’s tone or way of playing.

Greg over the course of his career has played in all different types of ensembles. Some of his influences are detectable but in a way which makes him an artistic “son of” as opposed to mere stylistic parroting. For his new release his choice of material is a mix of originals along with some covers whose style resonates simpatico with the program of music.

The players on the CD are his regular band along with some guest stars to expand the ensemble’s sonic possibilities.

Fall”, a great Wayne Shorter tune, retains the spirit of the original while letting his bands’ identity shine through. I have always been a fan of Greg’s playing on slower pieces as it really gives one a feel for his cadence, his crystalline tink-plink. For this piece he utilizes space in a way that it is as important as what he is actually playing. An intentional stutter of beauty. This is one of the pieces which features Josh Evans on trumpet. His tone is mid ranged and round. There is an unhurried elegance to it, all soft angles of a night where no matter what happens, it will be good.

Tsk” is an original, written by Greg. It starts off as a sort of sanctified lament that slowly unfurls into a three-way conversation, murmured by keyboard, bowed bass and trumpet. The piece if not suite like in construction, is so in intent with its shifting moods and tempos all; revolving around an established aural theme. A beautiful mid-section showcases Eric Wheeler’s vociferous bass pulses and drones over Kush Abadey’s brush and cymbal work. When Greg returns to the song his keyboard serves as punctuation marks for sentences of varying length exclaimed by trumpet and staccato bass. Elements of fusion when it was not overblown are incorporated into the second half of the song. All the sonic forward motion is brought to an end by the squeak of a trumpet and piano strings being caressed so that they sigh akin to a hand dulcimer.

Cedar Salad” is another original written by Greg. It has late era hard bop in its DNA. Eric Wyatt sits in on saxophone and the interplay among the musicians never betrays that he is not a regular member of the band. It is a cooker without having to resort to merely playing off of (blues) heads. There are some great lines played in unison by trumpet and saxophone.  A fullness of sound exists on this piece which despite a quicker tempo, never lapses into mere cacophony.

Malou Beauvoir does guest vocals on several tracks including the cd’s namesake. The most successful track is a cover of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady“. This song has been often recorded both as an instrumental and with vocals. While there are many amazing versions, it is a standard that does not have the one definitive singer/version. Despite familiarity with the song, part of its unending brilliance is to serve as fertile ground for each singer to make to it what they will, a sonic Rorschach test.

The song starts at a slow tempo with muted trumpet shadowing the vocal lines. Malou has a strong voice which never lapses into an over showy dinner theater cadence. It is lower and warm, sometimes verging on horn-like. Both the ability of the band and the singer make it an organically perfect fit.

Rather than trying to make the song her own or sing it in the manner of one of her predecessors had, her approach is to do a highly enjoyable execution.

The last half of the song has a quicker tempo accompanied by a latin tinged feel. Some may feel it an odd choice to what is often interpreted as a paean to melancholy, however the original version was instrumental (1932) and had a sunnier program having been inspired by three of Duke’s teachers that would summer in Europe. The song ends with Malou who splits her time between Belgium, Paris and New York murmuring in French.

Summer Breeze is Greg’s debut for the label Whaling City Sound. The sonics are spot on with nice ambient warmth throughout.

I drink coffee, the ink flows the music plays. Each sentence is a kingdom. Those things left unsaid, the words which lay in wait, the space between the heavens to be revisited again and again like a good song.

 

Maxwell Chandler

Midtown

 

Not for use without permission. maxwellachandler@aol.com

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Orphanage – Maxwell Chandler

My thoughts move like the needle of a compass slowly setting on a position. It was all those years ago, when we had first arrived in Paris, well before we found our footing, living over in the eighth. The excitement of being in Paris, walking the same streets as that of all of my heroes. At night, lying in bed, I would go down the long list; all the names forming a sort of prayer.

Of course I could not sleep. Powered by nervous energy I could not even manage to walk at a normal pace, which would have allowed me to take more in. Every café called to me. Initially I could not sit still long enough to be noticed and then become categorized as a regular. No surprise either that I suffered from insomnia.

There was a heat wave, my heart raced; I wondered what happened to everyone that I used to know. Even those whose fates I had long ago stopped caring about. It was just a temporary malady. The heat also messed with all the birds too. They sang, their calls coming at the wrong hours, mixing worry and confusion, groups of three or four voices echoing from the treetops and balcony flower boxes which clung to black wrought iron railings.

My head felt like it was going to crack open as I sat in the tub; hands clasped, arms around my knees which were pulled up to my chest. You rubbed a cold cloth down my back. I am thinking of horses. Momentarily I had thought that maybe I was going crazy. Years later, after everything else, I now know that had not been the case as I had actually been enjoying the sensation.

Now, I recline in a tub, several arrondissements over, Mallarme and a tea balancing on the lip. I wet a face cloth and put its hot weight on my forehead. I pull at its edge with my fingers, draping it over my nose. Still damp but no longer dripping, It forms a rough hewn royal blue shroud that bears a resemblance to me. I slowly exhale through the cloth and try to imagine who wonders what ever became of me.

 

 

 

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Rudy Van Gelder Dies at 91

The sad passing of one of the most important non-musicians in the world of modern Jazz.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/arts/music/rudy-van-gelder-audio-engineer-who-helped-define-sound-of-jazz-on-record-dies-at-91.html?_r=0

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Time Change – Maxwell Chandler

I always found the fatigue in the maid’s face oddly attractive. I tried not to leave too big a mess as the typical tourist and business traveler was wont to do.alley late at night

I did not require service every day which I think was secretly appreciated.

One day my timing was off, I got back from lunch before my room was ready. So patiently and unobtrusively did I stand in the corner that the maid soon forgot my presence.

As she was making up the bed she paused and looked out the window. I was the voyeur receiving knowledge for my discretion.

How long would she look? Despite being younger than I, for her there was no longer any dreams of escape but now merely that of brief distractions.

Once again aware of my presence, she blushed, backing out of the room, pulling her cart after her.

Without having sought to, she influenced me. Out of curiosity I let my gaze drift out the window, not necessarily interested in what I would see but rather what I would think in thoughts drifting.

Not meant in the same way as used to describe a maudlin holiday special, talking to you on the phone with the curtains drawn is timeless. There seems to be, as the conversation ambles, all different aspects of me and not just me as I am, but also as I had been and will be that take turns rising to the foreground.

I want.

I did.

I have.

I lost.

What times is it there?

 

-finis-

 

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Jazz Pianist Claude Williamson Has Passed

http://www.jazzwax.com/2016/07/claude-williamson-1926-2016.html

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Smoke in the Lobby – Maxwell Chandler

We were in her hotel room because my tiny place had been made even smaller by the still drying paintings. Even though she was going home at the end of the week and there were parts of Vienna that she still wished to see, I stubbornly remained too sick to go out for more than a quick meal nearby.

While using her full bathroom mirror which allowed for a better shave than that of my small circle, as I smoothed my left cheek I once again told myself that I really was sick but that I could make far more of an effort, this debating continuing onto my right cheek.

A beautiful day, the windows stretched out their wings wide, reaching towards the Stadt park. We drank vermouth and sodas lying atop the covers while listening to bop.

We fell asleep. I awoke before her, the sun still shining. The perfect moment and I knew that she was truly going home soon.  20160706_090958

I put on my most unwrinkled shirt. We ran all over the city and when her legs became tired we barnstormed with a crazy Serbian taxi driver. I loaded her up with chocolates and kirsch for her journey home. Sneaking into the opera house to see the Rodin bust of Mahler, my wet shoes squeaked but still didn’t give us away.

Now she is gone. I must find a new framer since Marc ran away with a student from Algiers, at least temporarily.
I find myself going back to all the places we had been; as if there were a chance of glimpsing at least her shadow and then by stepping on it she would be unable to leave. I play our records over and over but I would have anyways.

I am sitting in the Stadt park sketching. A few benches down from me a girl stands, thighs holding her bicycle as she throws something in the trash. Her figure is made to seem plump by her sky blue capris and white ankle socks. I notice her brown mole above the corner of her right lip which slowly twitches in concentration.

As I turn to a clean page and settle she is already off. I do some detailed studies of acanthus and some poppies. I want to enjoy the weather but now indirectly so I stop at a café on my way home.

At the counter is the girl from the park whom I now find myself standing beside. She is taller than I, which had earlier been camouflaged by the bicycle.

I think of a passage from Don Quixote. The Don had told his man Sancho to go by himself to see the Don’s raison d’ etre, Dulcimina. In doing so, Sancho would then come to understand the reason for the arduous mission that the Don and he were on.

Sancho went and not being beset by passion or delusions as was his master reported back a far less superior picture including the descriptive phase:

“A horsey scent.”

Of course she had been out in the sun riding a bicycle. Two people together do not always produce roses either but it was made more tolerable by the activity which went into creating the bouquet.

I came out of my musing to sip my coffee. The girl was gone, replaced by a man with a camera around his neck carefully unfolding a map.

Finis

 

 

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Lonnie Mack – A Real Guitar Hero Has Died

A true legend has passed.
http://www.guitarworld.com/artist-news/pioneering-guitarist-lonnie-mack-dead-74/29020

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Terry Plumeri

The music world lost an interesting figure suddenly, violently, strangely. I had interviewed Terry back when I was writing for All About Jazz. After a brief email exchange it seemed he was leaning more towards talking about his work conducting the oeuvre of Tchaikovsky, of which he was a leading authority. He was generous of his time and very much a perfectionist in wanting to get across the points he was making.

For all the pages of typed up transcriptions there was plenty left out as it was variations on what he was trying to say. Over the week that I was typing he would call several times a day leaving messages on my answering machine about other things which had since the interview come to him.   Admittedly, at the time I did start to become a little annoyed. Terry made up for this though by sending me on his own initiative stacks of CDs, his music and him conducting Tchaikovsky.

I credit Terry for igniting my initial interest in the composer with whom now I am well versed and greatly enjoy.

Terry also composed his own music, which has a sort of Aaron Copeland /Walton Piston type feel to it.; American pastoral impressionism.

He leaves behind a body of work of which anyone would be proud to call their own.

Maxwell Chandler
Midtown

The Interview:

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/terry-plumeri-singing-strings-terry-plumeri-by-maxwell-chandler.php

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Father of Nascent Rock & Roll Saxophone Passes

http://www.presstelegram.com/obituaries/20151229/joe-houston-legendary-saxophonist-dies-in-long-beach-at-89

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John Schott – Actual Trio

Coming in from lunch as always, unless it is nighttime and I have finished working, I am alone. In my solitude I remain silent, not feeling the need to make a show of how tired I am after my long walk back on a full stomach.

A plump fly sits on the edge of the bed, perhaps confusing the brown duvet for soil. Like me, he wants only to take an hour or two to sleep in the warm sun. When I stir, no matter how fast he flies away, later on I will still manage to capture him with my prose.

I must be careful though, to not metamorphose him into a type of insect which could bite and make me sick.

Not too long with my head down and I wake up having left my food stupor behind. I work for a few hours, the words mount up in pleasant cascades which make me giddy until everything seems to be covered in ink and one would have to lie on their belly to write on what remained of the whiteness of the wall.

Now I can go out and work up an appetite, accompanied depending upon what pattern of people the city is wearing, by the heat of desire.

I grab my book bag from its place by the door. Locking up I take the stairs and pat my pocket three times for luck. Once I own a home I will keep the keys on an oval brass keychain as would have been handed to any gumshoe in an old film.

I will still travel the world and even though I would not need it again until I was once more home, no matter where I was, I would keep it in my pocket letting it weigh my coat down on the left side. After becoming used to the weight and learning to keep my pen in my right pocket as to prevent any knocking together with the brass, I would not even need to go home. I would carry it with me, embodied by the brass in my pocket.

Amy did not understand why I did not merely buy the so often described keyring instead of the ordeal of working towards becoming a home owner of which she suspected contributed to my moodiness. No, no. It was a phony faith which I feared. An act, such as just totting around the keychain, was a pantomime of satiated ambition.

The poet in me once said during a party by way of dramatically filling in a dull silence that we carry our homes in our hearts, particularly with the food we cook and the songs we sing.

A correlation between cooking and music, specifically jazz is that one can have a recipe but then depending upon location, available ingredients and even mood there are changes or improvisations made from the established conception. Just as a musician may improvise off of “Melancholy Baby” so too can it occur with a pot of gumbo or Coq Au Vin.

Stylistically, whether it is food or music sometimes there is a sea change within the creator which is not about rejecting the familiar ancestry but building off of it to create something new but still containing recognizable components.

The debut of John Schott’s new album and trio Actual Trio travels along such lines. The trio’s set up is that of a classic guitar trio, this familiar ground serves as a sort of jumping off point. The material on the album is all original compositions. While not a radical stylistic departure from its trio forefathers neither is there any museum glass stagnation.

“Frequently asked Questions” has a laconic strolling quality to its structure. There is an almost programmatic feel to the piece. Me, someone, flapping madly the lapels of my raincoat as I hit the street. Daydreams and inspirations as befitting a flaneur. Within the DNA of the piece are elements of Grant Green and Wes Montgomery combined within a generation also equally exposed to rock, blues and modernist composers such as Babbitt, Berio and Schoenberg.

John’s tone is a clean sound akin to the cadence of those from vintage Fender Guitars. Throughout the album he eschews use of effects to alter or gild his instruments voice. The interplay among the musicians is immediately apparent and made more impressive by the fact that the entire album was recorded live in the studio in one session, without overdubbing. All the playing is top notch yet there is never the distraction of overly fussy to mire things down.

“Hold On Sheldon” is a sort of samba as if done by James Brown late at night when a good portion of the band has gone home. The varying components within the piece show what big ears the trio has. The bright punch of John’s guitar declaiming single note runs, a Morse code to get funky morphs into bent string chiming; the mission bell in the land of the blues calling people in for catharsis or to dance. John Hanes drums do not merely keep time nor add density to the piece but provide a sort of forward thrust feeling. Especially starting at the midway point to the song. He incorporates intricate polyrhythms and touches of louder rock leaning heaviness, underscoring that is not merely a lead voice being backed by two others.

“Egyptians” starts off with the guitar peppering Dan Seaman’s rich bass pattern. The initial tempo suggests an air of slinky contemplation. A descending guitar pattern followed by a brief series of volcanic rumblings and the tempo and general feel of the song drastically changes. The funk of a Saturday night circa the late seventies. The trio lock into a deep groove. If we are not fighting or crying then we should be dancing said a neo-Greek chorus from atop their barstools. The trio show an inherent taste regardless of the tempo or tempo changes in a song. Absent is any kind of stylistic Achilles’ heel in regards to performance ability.

The entire CD finds great interplay among the musicians. With the manner in which the CD was recorded, it has a great organic, warm sound. Who these musicians are may change down the line with time or travel. This CD offers a compelling snapshot of their here and now, well worthwhile.

Maxwell Chandler

Midtown

 

 

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