Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Unsung Heroes!

Hey all,
I thought that I would mention two musicians that I feel deserve more attention. One I know quite well, one I never met and is no longer with us.
The former is the great Montreal based drummer/pianist/recording engineer/ teacher Andre White. Andre was the first real full time jazz musician that I had any sort of ongoing relationship with. I met him in Montreal in the late '80s and he influenced me a lot. He was the first one I knew who'd actually played with some of the American players (Pepper Adams, amongst others), he had a boatload of records that he knew inside out, and he grew up with the music. (His father, keith, played piano with Charlie Parker and was friends with Bill Evans.) I won't repeat Jon McCaslin's great interview but you can find it at Four On The Floor. Definitely check him out, he's a great imaginative, inspiring player and he's just put out a new cd.

The other player I's like to mention is J.C. Moses. He played with Kenny Dorham and Eric Dolphy but I'd like to post him playing with Archie Shepp from a great recording entitled "Archie Shepp and the New York Contemporary Five" and the tune is called "Trio". Enjoy!

If anybody has video of Mr. Moses parting the red seas of sound ( sorry, I'm tired), please let me know!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shortest post ever!

Two quotes.....

I am the instrument.

-Art Blakey

Silence is our canvas.

- Keith Richards

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rudiment of the moment!

Hey everyone,
I while back I started the idea of examining a rudiment a week, then life interfered again! Now I'm calling it the rudiment of the moment so I have some wriggle-room!

This is the current one:

I got this from Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual (those of you who don't have that can find it here. It's interesting, the standard way to approach the ritual is to memorize it and play it without stopping. I've found, however, that I've gotten a lot out of it by isolating rudimental ideas I don't use a lot, and trying to adapt them to my playing. I rarely use double paradiddles, and adding in the flam gives it accents in interesting places. I have so far:

1. Played the triplet version on snare or one hand on one tom the other hand on another tom, hi-hat on 2 & 4 and played the melody to "Oska T." or "Milestones with the bass drum.

2. Played right hand on bell of cymbal and left hand on snare to play a sort of 12/8 groove. (Again I'm playing the triplet version.) That's all I've done so far but I'm going to stick with it a while and see what I come up with.

Now here's the man himself.....soloing on "There will Never be Another You"

Mr. Dawson apparently had back issues and stopped touring as a result. Hence he's much more known as a teacher rather than the great performer he was. It's interesting, Tony Williams was always very cagey when he talked about his studies with Alan Dawson. I sometimes think he got more from him than he let on. Regardless, serious inspiration!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let the games begin.....

Hey everyone,
Just a quick post to discuss something I've been thinking about and then back to sociology!
When I was a younger musician, I used to get tied in knots all the time about my playing. I've mentioned this before, but I used to give myself very negative messages that didn't improve my playing and certainly didn't help foster any feelings of self worth. My attitude is different now. Really my main concept about playing now is that it's a game! Games are supposed to be fun, right? In a game you do your best even though you don't know the outcome. In a game you don't sweat what just happened, but try to be more focused and successful the next round (or gig, or recording.) This attitude is especially useful while improvising but also can easily be applied to practicing as well. When I'm working on stuff at an instrument, I'm not trying to conquer it or anything like I see a lot of people trying to do. ( Besides, if you take that attitude, in my opinion, the instrument will always "win" anyway.) If I work on an idea the challenge (game) might next be asking, "How else can I play that?" or "How would that sound softer or slower?" or "How would I apply this to "Gloria's Step"? etc. Or it could be as elemental as "How many times can I play that correctly?"

The big difference for music and I nowadays is that I rarely get heavy with myself about it anymore. I really try to enjoy the process I'm involved in, whatever it is.

Speaking of enjoying the process.....

What I LOVE about watching Mr. Purdie is that no one enjoys his playing as much as Bernard Purdie himself. For those Canadians here, it might feel weird to "celebrate" yourself in such a demonstrative way. We all all products of our culture. However, if we relax and get the game vibe even just a bit, you'll be amazed at how much better you play, with way less effort.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I hear the jazz Police Sirens Now!

Hey everyone,
I sometimes run into people at clubs who think I only listen to Jazz, think I love everything I hear on the radio labeled "Jazz" and think I look down on all music not labeled "Jazz"....

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I hear a lot of music labeled "Jazz" that I don't think is good music at all. Why? Well, some of it isn't very well played or constructed. It suffers from bad draftsmanship. Other times it's so conservative and unimaginative it makes we want to scream. A lot of music labeled Jazz really feels like it doesn't say anything. I feel if you're going to record "But not for Me" for example, you'd better find a way to make it real and be about your vision of the world. Occasionally I'll hear a version that does that, but not very often.

Now here's an example of some music most people feel I should hate.

Now, why do I like this? Well, it's direct. They're not trying to be anything they're not and they're very committed, especially the drummer. I would much rather listen to this than a lame version of a standard or a jazz quintet being "cleverer by half".

Here's another example that is great to me:

No B.S. Just getting to the heart of the matter. My goal is to be as direct and clear in my music. Okay, I'd better start doing some research on Clifton James!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Wave Tony!

Ugh! Okay I'm making excuses! Studying Sociology, injured leg, practicing harp and piano (and a tiny bit of drums) and I have left you, the blogisphere, in the lurch. Well, get out of the lurch because about a week ago I received this from Jon McCaslin via Adam Nussbaum:

Tony Williams was a wunderkind of 16 when he first came up playing drums with Miles Davis. In the ensuing years he became one of the most respected and influential jazz drummers in the world, equally at home playing be-bop, fusion, or funk. He went on to play with Herbie Hancock’s classic “V.S.O.P” groups and eventually led his own bands, and in a world in which he was considered a peer of older venerated drummers, it was easy to forget he was still a young guy who could bring the sensibilities of another generation to the set.
When punk bands such as The Sex Pistols emerged around 1976, Tony took notice. He mused that if the music scene produced and celebrated such hyphenated, hybrid forms as country-rock or soul-funk, why not jazz-punk? And whatever that might come to mean, Tony was just the guy who could pull it off.
In 1977, he brought together a band of veteran rockers with both new-wave and jazz leanings and called them “The Barbarians.” He was already signed to Columbia Records, who green-lighted the recording project to see where it would go.
They were doing most of the sessions in L.A., and I shot this flash photo in a back alley near the downtown studio one night at about two in the morning., capturing Tony in a transcendent, beatific mood, surrounded by his bad-boy alter egos in the band.
Several weeks later, we were back in San Francisco working on a more elaborate studio shot involving a gorgeous model and a black-satin jacket I’d had custom-embroidered with a cool “gang” logo I’d designed with Tony for the group. In the midst of an intimate photographic moment, the kitchen phone rang. It was Tony’s manager who asked to talk with Tony for a minute.
They were on the phone for about twenty minutes, and when Tony came back from the kitchen he quietly said we should probably wrap things up. His manager had told him that Columbia had been listening to the rough studio mixes, had no clue how to position or market the music they were hearing, and were killing the project.
Tony took it in stride, and eventually used some of the musical direction and material (plus an illustrated adaptation of our “Barbarian” logo) on a subsequent album called “Joy of Flying” that used an eclectic assortment of players ranging from jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Cecil Taylor to rockers Ronnie Montrose and Brian Auger.
But to this day, nobody’s ever heard Tony’s “Barbarian” project. Officially, at least, it never happened.

Here's a picture of the band:

...And here's the first tune entitled "My Imagination'.

Sorry about the lack of visuals. Check out the flammed 16ths in the chorus. he's still kicking our butts, from the great beyond! He always plays for the tune but also puts in little signatures like that. As great as an improviser Tony was, he also was great at composing great drum parts. Here's the link to download the album here.

A couple of more comments. It's interesting that Tony killed the project because the record label didn't know how to market it. Boy, that's from a bygone era. Nowadays Tony would be putting it out him self or might have given it away after the label gave it the thumbs down. it also shows how the powers that be were always just interested in business rather than putting out interesting sounds. Finally it shows that Tony was always interested in exploring new things and challenging the listening public's perception of him. It may not rank with Tony's best work but that's not the point anyway. The point is that Tony Williams did it all. He was a Jazz visionary, a rock star, a stadium metal god, and a punk rocker, sometimes all at once!

P.S. Happy birthday to Jack DeJohnette. 69 years young today! May you inspire us all for a long time to come!