Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Houston Person & Jesse Van Ruller with the Rein de Graaff Trio - 28/03/2004, Heist-op-den-Berg

Houston Person - ts
Jesse van Ruller - g
Rein de Graaff - p
Marius Beets - b
Eric Ineke - dr

2 generations of players met in this ad hoc quintet: the senior citizens Houston Person, Rein de Graaff and Eric Ineke, and the thirty-something Jesse van Ruller and Marius Beets. The stylistic differences were slightly less marked than than the age difference, though.

Houston Person progressively warmed up throughout the two sets. At first he was rather restrained and stony-faced, but by the end he was positively ebulliant and actually said something loud enough for the crowd to half hear. His tenor was always out front: big, smooth, velvety, erupting into a sharp blues lick. No-nonsense, old-school soulful swing'n'bop playing. His last performance of the night was arguably his best, on a "Georgia on my Mind" encore.

Van Ruller also seemed to warm to the task progressively. By the time they reached a somehow odd sequence of "Sunny" and "Pennies From Heaven" in the second set, the guitarist was chomping at the bit of the imposed harmony. As they played a sign-off riff-blues for the third time of the night (each time featuring a rather mechanical, train-like snare drum shuffle from Eric Ineke), he made no bones about searching out his own harmonic paths, to great effect.

In between the various takes on the blues, you'd get a samba (first set) or a bossa (second set, during which Person nicely contrasted the lower-register theme with some brief light, high-register soloing), a ballad ("My Funny Valentine," for example). Nothing much to say about the concert other than just good, solid swing. The alternate name for the group, Movin' & Groovin', had kind of tipped us off.

More good shows coming up at the Hnita-Hoeve, check 'em out.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Junior Jazz live!

It's been a while since I mentioned good ol' JJ... Here's the first concert listing I've seen for her:

29/04/2004 20:30 JUNIOR JAZZ
Tél :03/235 04 90

I heard a song of her's, called "Thirteen," on the radio a few days ago (also a first). More folky than jazzy and sounding like, well, a 13-year-old.

This post is partially to re-attract all those "junior jazz" googlers who had drifted away.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Dave Holland Quintet - 26/03/2004, Antwerp

Chris Potter - ts, ss
Robin Eubanks - tb
Steve Nelson - vib, marimba
Dave Holland - b
Nate Smith - d

For the first time in ages, I went to a concert without a notebook. I'm rather impressed at how much I managed to remember (I have a terrible memory for most things). After every song I jogged my memory: "First they played this, then that..."

I love this band, their CDs and their Octet and Big Band extensions. Oddly enough, the one time I saw the Quintet itself (the other two previous times were the larger versions), Nate Smith was subbing for Billy Kilson. Now Smith occupies the drum chair permanently. When he was subbing, he stuck to Kilson's template, but now he's clearly playing as himself: less bombastic (ie. few resonant tom fills), polished and demonstratively virtuosic, Smith develops a leaner, more rugged kind of funk, but just as energetic and driving. This personnel change gives the Quintet a more fusional group sound: kind of a bubbling magma, best demonstrated when Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks took turns soloing in a trio format (with bass and drums) on Eubanks's "Full Circle" or on other tunes when their duetting abandoned their trademark pinpoint listening in favour of a denser, more visceral texture. Indeed, at their best, the horn solos were less about specific notes than about generating a single, massive, enveloping sound. The only aspect I found Smith a bit lacking compared to Kilson were in the duets with Dave Holland. Kilson and Holland just had such a special rapport, their duets were always incredible. That was the result of years of collaboration, so maybe Smith will build up something similar in time.

Speaking of Holland, I'm always riveted by his playing. Whether he's holding down that all-important vamp (that allows the other four members to play freely) or playing alone, as in the intro to "Free For All," Holland always maintains incredible grace and melodicism.

The Quintet seems to have closed the book on the repertoire dating back to the Prime Directive, Not For Nothing and What Goes Around albums, playing mostly unrecorded tunes. I found the new songs less memorably tuneful than the old ones. This was underlined, I felt, when they played Steve Nelson's "Go Fly a Kite" as an encore, a piece full of innocence and child-like wonder. They've also cut out the mid-solo backgrounds. I wonder it they are play a part in the larger configurations.

The concert really got kicking with the second tune, "Easy Did It," which made me sort of think of a 7/4 version of a A Tribe Called Quest beat. Early on in his solo, Nelson stumbled upon a Monk quote (from "Blue Monk," I think) and went on to flip its phrasing around as much as possible. Nelson's compositions favour a quieter, very melodic chamber-like approach with less room for improvisation, as demonstrated by his "Salentino Amateur" (or something like that). Oddly, the middle of the piece consisted of a few minutes of free improvisation, not something this band does much of and certainly not something I expected on this piece. Nelson marked the change physically, whirling around from vibraphone to marimba (as they didn't play any "marimba tunes" like "Juggler's Parade," it seemed rather a waste to lug around such a massive instrument, only to play it so little). The first set ended with Potter's brilliant "Vicissitudes," which he later said to have a Brazilian element, but reminded me of Chick Corea's "La Fiesta," with its recurring Spanish tinge.

The second set opened with "Last Minute Man." I may have witnessed the genesis of the song's name when, at the Big Band concert I saw a year or two ago, the wrong vibraphone had been brought, and the last minute man in question saved the day by getting the proper instrument to the venue at, well, the last minute. That's what I remember Holland saying, but who knows if it's true. The particularity in this tune is that the first beat of every 7/4 bar is unemphasized, giving it a cool lopsided or indeterminate feel. Then came Eubanks's "Full Circle," which Potter's solo brought to a boil and which, improbably, Eubanks proceeded to top! Those were probably the concert's high points in terms of intensity. Then came "Free For All" and the aforementioned bass intro, and "Go Fly a Kite" as the inevitable, and deserved, encore.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

One Final Toot

Lotz Of Music - Pum'kin Diaries: review up at One Final Note. The estimable Nate Dorward e-mailed me the following tidbit:

I'm sure there are variants, but the version of a "glass organ" I'm familiar with offers a series of rotating glass discs, moistened with water, so that the performer can touch them to release their sound.

It's weird, I only get to review really obscure stuff for OFN (apart from the Pilc and the upcoming Frahm/Mehldau review, I guess. Although, Pilc might be obscure in the US.). The next 4 I have to do are pretty obscure as well. Which doesn't include the 4-in-1 review/profile I'm doing of Smalls Records, as I have no idea of their notoriety, as they're a nascent label. It's going to be a busy month.

Archie Shepp & Amina Claudine Myers - 24/03/2004, Brussels

Arriving at the PP Café, I was stunned by the huge line of people waiting to get into the already packed bar. I guess "Archie Shepp" and "free" attract a crowd. I was also surprised by the level of name recognition: one guy passing by stopped in front of the sign and, stunned, asked "Is it really Archie Shepp?"



I was wondering what state we'd find him in, as on the latest album of his I have, One Night Alone, a duo with Mal Waldron, he's quite unsteady, even if the album as a whole is nice enough. Furthermore the recently (and needlessly, if you ask me) re-issued I Know About the Life is rather uninteresting, but that was recorded quite some time ago. Given these fears, it was great to see that Shepp was in fine form, especially as I'd never seen him before. Of course, long gone is the merciless explosivity of '60s and '70s: he just plays and sings the blues now, but has integrated the cries and wails of hot-blooded free jazz (no honks though - his lower register has litterally vaporised into thin air) into his blues playing in a non-clichéd and highly-effective way. On soprano, Shepp was a bit less at ease, but far from cringe-worthy (as he is on a Bechet tribute album I have). Especially during the first set, Myers reminded me of Mal Waldron, using minimal, blues-based building blocks and a slow, regular pace to create a hypnotic trance. Both her singing and her playing were light and nimble, but very deep at the same time. While consisting of blues and a standard or two, the first set ended with a slightly more sprightly and rousing gospel tune.

During the break I moved from the very back of the packed room to the very front and my enjoyment of the music increased proportionately. They started with "'Round Midnight" (it was 11:30 PM) and both Shepp and Myers were absolutely magnificent. No notes were wasted, nothing was insincere, complex or merely for show: everything played was right. The crowd really got into the following 12-bar blues and the vocal exchanges between Myers and Shepp about - what else? - a man, a woman, cheating and reconciliation. On "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," Myers effected a welcome change of pace by abandoning the blues for a bit and accompanying Shepp's soprano with more classical-sounding, sustained arpeggios, creating a less rhythmic and more dramatic atmosphere that spilled over into her own solo. The night ended with a couple of trusty old 12-bar blues, the kind you could go on playing for ever and ever.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Taking time out?

Apparently Kelefa Sanneh is looking to unseat Ben Ratliff. You can almost hear Sanneh's glee when writing that the audience got a chance to hear old avant-garde compositions that prefigured a future now past, which is kind of Ratliff-ian, if you ask me.

Random thoughts

- Modulation at the end of pop songs.
Why? Is it an attempt to disguise the fact that a song is being stretched to needless length? Did the songwriter or arranger think "Here's something that'll inject harmonic interest!"? Please, all of you, stop doing it. When Stevie Wonder went totally over the top with "Golden Lady," that should have been a sign to generations of musicians. But no.

- Outkast and child-naming.
Bamboo and Seven (or is it 7?)? Not only are the names stupid in and of themselves (does Seven even count as a name?), but Seven makes for an incredibly clumsy rhyme in "A Life in the Day." Granted, Bamboo's cameo on Speakerboxx is arguably better than the actual song and he has cool hair, but... Bamboo?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Fabrizio Cassol/Kris Defoort - 23/03/2004, Brussels

Fabrizio Cassol - as
Kris Defoort - p

I've only just realised that I'm going through a mini piano-sax phase: this concert and the Shepp/Myers tomorrow, the very good Frahm/Mehldau CD and another, rather forgettable, CD that I listened to the other day.

The concert was intially advertised as an aulochrome solo, then duo with Defoort and in the end Cassol turned up with just his usual alto, for an unexplained reason. I was disappointed at first, but the music was quite satisfying nonetheless.

Despite the fact that they've known each other for decades, Defoort and Cassol had never performed as a duo before and had simply rehearsed the music the day before. I don't know if the repertoire was new as well, such was the ease with which they moved between solos and duos and composed and improvised material. While Cassol may be the better-known of the two thanks to his long-standing group AKA Moon (if you don't know it, I highly recommend you check out some of their CDs, especially the ones with Indian musicians), he and Defoort share being composers and instrumentalists equally active in jazz, improvised music and contemporary music.

Cassol started alone, drawing soft vertical lines full of curls-within-curls. Defoort then took his own solo, a beautifully logical and concise statement beginning with slow, abstract plunks which grew into bluesy clusters and ended on lush, romantic jazz changes. When they played together, the composed melodies melded a blues-tinged lyricism with very interesting and open compositonal forms. During a passage in which Defoort was accompanying Cassol's soft high notes by alternating played and plucked notes, the former suddenly punched the front of the piano. I was quite startled.

The second piece was built around a rhythmic, lugubrious motif (it recurred often, but not quite often enough to call it a vamp) in the piano's low register that would have been quite funky had it been played with more gusto. This motif re-appeared at key moments, as if to ground Cassol's solitary flights. In the last piece, an even simpler two-note motif served a similar purpose.

Roles were reversed in the intervening piece, as Cassol accompanied Defoort's furious piano attack (sometimes using the back of his hand) with an incongruously bouncy and joyous alto line. When Cassol took over, Defoort left the piano's sustain pedal depressed, so the saxophonist was accompanied by the piano strings' sympathetic reverberations.

During the closing number, Defoort took a solo that was as if he was taking the basic blues element, the blues scale, and throwing it directly into a modern/avant-garde context, while ignoring the incremental sophistication jazz had taken the blues language through. This blues element, peppered throughout the concert, really, gave this duo's advanced harmonic language a grounding in something more immediate, an appealing combination.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Water-pistols 'n' Rosebuds

Rock'n'roll, baby.

Street music

Sometimes you wonder why people choose to become musicians, when even well-known, Europe-touring, Major label CD-releasing jazz guitarists live in crummy New York appartments. Although that's probably better than not being able to buy dentures. I'm always impressed by people who can turn unusual initiatives into successes.

Mowing them down, agreeably

Blissblog points us to Mr. Agreeable. Check out the Reaper series.

While I winced through the Miles Davis entry, I actually agreed with a lot of his screed against Songs in the Key of Life (yes, I do realise that the columns aren't necessarily sincere).

Mundane ballads like “Summer Soft” and “As” take an agonising age to fade out, with Wonder shifting up endlessly through the keys as the listener looks on despairingly like waiters stacking chairs waiting for the last diners to quit yapping, down their cold coffees and sod off.

I've thought exactly the same. While I can understand a 90s (or 00s) disaffection for "Black Man"'s educational approach, it probably sounded a lot different in the mid-70s. Even today, I'm interested in finding out about figures such as le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Then again, I've never found Wonder the most nimble lyricist. I've been thinking about writing something about his "electro-classical" pieces ("Village Ghetto Land," the fantastic "They Won't Go When I Go" from Fulfillingness' First Finale) for a while now, maybe I should get 'round to it.

I found Mr. A's take on Billy Elliot is quite enoyable, but maybe that's because I haven't seen the film.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - 18/03/2004, Brussels

What more can I say? That this band only continues to get better, at once tighter and freer as a finely-honed ferocious unit? That you should buy the CD that just came out, Change of the Moon (review coming soon), because it's great?

A few highlights: a particularly nice version of Pascal's "Ancil," a composition a run hot and cold about: it didn't do anything for me when I last heard it less than a month ago. Pascal's flying mallet head during his solo on "Blues for Mr. P.S." No-one was injured. A great new composition called "Leap Year" (29th of february, you see) that pushes the band's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink (ie. lots of tempos, metres and melodies) approach to new lengths. If this were a pop (well, bloggers at least) song, people would be raving about the wealth of hooks. Jef's patented frog-jumps were augmented by lewd pelvic thrusting towards his piano, arena-rock guitar god style. He can get away with it, because he was, incredibly, even more impressive than usual, pulling new and unheard tricks out of the bag. The two sides to his playing (the extroverted showman with Pascal, the more introverted seeker with his own trio) are increasingly undeniable. Amidst all this energetic pummeling, he can still hit you with subtelty: after Christophe's particularly poignant bass feature on "Goodbye Little Godfather," Jef introduced some chords that reminded me of gamelan music, or untuned gongs, bringing a truly eery quality to the composition. Later he explained that it was a pile-up of major and minor thirds, some octaves and getting the pedalling right. "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" was the only standard of the night, and whether they were skipping around the theme in the opening vibraphone-piano duet or during the extraordinary unaccompanied piano solo, the "softly" part was nowhere to be seen.

I'm writing an article on the band for Flemish cultural mag Rekto:Verso (I'm writing it in English, they're handling the translation, thankfully). My first "feature" (ie. not a review or a straight interview) article and I'm terrified. They make it look so easy in The Wire, with their cool, all-knowing tone and socio-politico-musical angles. At this point, I'm just trying to get the word count and not make it too hagiographic. Which is going to be hard. I'm mainly scared that my fandom has overshot what is actually matter of public record (ie. the album) and is based more on the handful of fabulous concerts I've seen. We'll see what happens. It'll be nice to see my name in print.

After finally leaving the club well past 3AM, I had the strange experience of hearing Cannonball's Somethin' Else on repeat all through the night, the few hours that were left of it, anyway (thanks M. for the hospitality and food!). An album I had always liked, but having it insinuate itself into my subconcious like that gave me a new appreciation of its greatness. Weird.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Mariana & Piotr - 17/03/2004, Brussels

Mariana (voc)
Piotr Paluch (p)

Seeing a couple of friends/acquaintances perform for the first time. Talented pair of kids and funny stories about the ups and downs of having a famous musician as piano teacher. Mainly, though, the evening reminded me to continue bashing the "attentive Europe" myth.

It pops up in so many interviews of non-European musicians who, understandably, enjoy their lucrative European tours. "They have so much respect for the arts," blah, blah blah. They never ask Steve Lacy about things like that. Or Archie Shepp. I'll come back to him.

So what do you do when the PP Café patrons couldn't give a toss about what you're doing over there in the corner? You just dig into your own groove, listen to your partner and tough out the shitty gig, as generations of jazz musicians have done before you and countless more will long after you're gone.

"My Foolish Heart," "My Favorite Things," a nice rhythmic vamp and middle-east tinged vocals to lope down "Caravan"'s camel trail: weapons to block out that uncaring portion of the world currently referred to as patrons, and even some portions not referred to as such, like loud motorcycles. Amazing: Win them over with a soul/gospel flagwaver and get an encore as a birthday table engages in whipped cream warfare. What would Archie Shepp do?

Archie Shepp is coming next week, in duo with pianist Amina Claudine Myers. Remember him? He recorded albums with titles such as "Fire Music" and performed in prisons. He doesn't need the rowdy patron crap, but we were assured things would be different. Don't miss it if you're in town (24/03, rue Jules Van Praet).

Mariana complained that they'd added an extra "n" to her name in the concert listings leaflet, so I pointed out that on the outside it stated "February/March 2004," but then went on to list March and April concerts on the inside.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Just Another Final Note

Not that you should visit the site just for me (you could also read this, for example), but I have a review of Jean-Michel Pilc - Cardinal Points at OFN. And yes, it's in English! Incidentally, if anyone does use Babelfish to translate anything of mine and comes up with something funny, please send it on, send it through.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Michael Bublé

After reading the interview, I did the only responsible thing and visited Bubbly's site and listened to the three available (generously full-length) tracks.

If anything, my preconceptions (bland retro-crooner) were confirmed, but he has got one thing going for him: he's less vomit-inducing than Peter Cincotti. It's a start.

Citizen Jazz Update

A raft of new CJ articles and the first update I've been in charge of. I'll be in charge of the next few as well.

My contributions:

Polar Bear - Dim Lit: a GREAT album by the English quartet. But don't take my word for it: listen on their website and order it from their label.
Jambangle - Rememberance: a modern Belgian big band, that has a Gil Evans/Maria Schneider influence as its premise, then adds in a bunch of other things. Ends with a nice remix/electronic manipulation of the opening track. A worthwhile album.
Alain Cupper - Bunga: boringly standard-issue hard bop (and not even top-notch, at that), made only marginally more interesting by the fact that the leader plays baritone.
Hilde Vanhove/Quantize: concert review, in which I discovered a few new interesting musicians.

Of course, these are all in French, but you can "translate" them with Babelfish. I use the double quotes because "composer" comes out "type-setter." The result is often barely comprehensible, but for you hardcore Mwanji fans out there, its the literary equivalent of toilet-audio live bootlegs.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The musical cosmos

musicplasma: planets, constellations, galaxies. Fuel up and navigate at leisure.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Bubbly freak

Rather weird GuardianMichael Bublé interview. It starts in the usual boring "I'm one of today's many bland, retro jazz crooners," (I haven't heard his music) but ends up quite the barnstormer.

He sums himself up thusly:

I'm young, I'm immature, I'm a punk. I'm everything that a good young man should be.

Of course, you and I know he's either intensely delusional or reciting his media pitch. Still, the out-of-the-blue final paragraph makes it worth reading.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Andrew Hill Quartet - 11/03/2004, Brussels

Greg Tardy - ts, cl
Andrew Hill - p
John Hebert - b
Nasheet Waits - d

I'd never seen Andrew Hill live before, and only heard a couple of his old albums (Point of Departure and Passing Ships, to be precise). If anything, his music has grown even more idiosyncratic in the meantime. While most musicians make gestures towards their audience (even someone like Cecil Taylor will sweep you off your feet and Hill's austerity makes his protégé Jason Moran seem a ribald entertainer), Hill seems content to tinker in a corner, his back turned to everyone else. Even when you notice that he might be doing something interesting and come to peek over his shoulder, he'll still pay you no mind. Which explains, perhaps, why the Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley concert had packed the same hall that Hill filled nicely, but not to the brim.

Barely upon his seat, without a word, Hill launched into the introduction of the first piece, setting the tone for the evening. You could see Greg Tardy listening attentively to figure out when the leader's intros or solos were finished and it was his turn to jump in: Hill signaled these changes with only the slightest of cues.

Nasheet Waits (playing extremely differently from a few months ago with Jason Moran) and John Hebert provided roiling, turbulent tempo-less support for both Hill and Tardy, but the two main solists used this space very differently. While the saxophonist imposed order with conventional solo arcs, a velvety sound and an easy-going slowness of expression, Hill's logic remained opaque as notes were attacked sternly and lines were unpredictable, peppered with strange interruptions and digressions.

The only easily digestible bits were the themes, all, I can only suppose as no announcements were made, by Hill. Quite nice ballad-ish melodies stated by Tardy. Most were simply played, but the fifth song of the one-set concert was a bit more interesting: based on a simple, almost hymn-like arpeggio that was repeated three times progressively faster. This acceleration brought out some bounce and even (gasp!) some swing patterns, even though they always threatened to dissolve. The last song before the encore contained one of the weirdest grooves I've ever heard, despite Hebert providing a vamp. Tardy took up his clarinet for this one and provided his most abstract playing of the night, though he almost comically ended on a blues lick. Hill jovially announced the names of the musicians over the groove, in an almost game-show host manner. The inevitable encore consisted of a romantic ballad caressed by Tardy's gentle vibrato and even Hill's solo was more lush than prickly, despite many wide intervals and well-placed dissonances.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Murder By iPod

Murder By iPod.

What more can I say? (I'm not quite sure that this news is true, however, as the original source contains "rumormill" in the URL)

Jazz Valley in exile

Incredibly, Victor Zamouline, the founder of the site Jazz Valley, might have to leave France because the state won't grant him permanent residence, only 3- to 12-month extensions. He's launched a petition, take a minute to help him out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Music to sell sex

When I discovered that Snoop had been dabbling in porn, I felt deeply ashamed - for him and partly for myself, perhaps. Now, I see that this has become a legitimate business practice. On the bright side, maybe the track record of porn soundtracks (unfunky light funk) will improve. It's a rather slim silver lining, however...


I've just joined the Blogcritics mega-blog. My first contribution is a review of Joel Frahm's Don't Explain.

Monday, March 08, 2004

LeTAVERNIER concerts

Le Tavernier is a place I've never been to, but its free Wednesday electric jazz/soul/funk concerts seem pretty interesting. The format also makes it easy for me to give you a complete listing:

Le Tavernier programme

Sunday, March 07, 2004

That's all, folks!

AAJ reports that Warner Bros. is shutting down its jazz label. Which may seem surprising at first, considering that people like Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and some smooth jazz people record on it, but is less so when you look at their crappy website.

Week-end round-up

4 concerts in 4 days (Jef Neve Trio, Sylvie Courvoisier, Vandermark 5, Lundis d'Hortense Festival) is a nice run, even if I only really enjoyed 2 of the 4 nights.

Jef's trio was better by leaps and bounds than what I heard just under a year ago. He's recording a new CD aimed at a November release, which should be excellent.

The Vandermark 5 was MINDBLOWING! I'd never seen them before, nor Ken Vandermark himself, and was simply overwhelmed. I was most impressed by the combination of brawny free jazz playing and smart writing/arranging that kept the concert moving forward and not stagnating in some morass of meaningless energy. I've written about it for Citizen Jazz, maybe I'll write something in english for One Final Note.

The second day of the Lundi d'Hortense (I missed the first day in favour of Vandermark) was rather underwhelming. It started out with guitarist Peter Hertmans's trio, playing slow-moving ECM-ish kind of stuff of little interest. Then he brought out three young horn players, most impressive of whom was Tim Dejonghe, who, after fumbling about a bit in a bop vein, found a Miles circa Jack Johnson groove, which energised the rest of the band and got them into a great rock beat.

Then 20-year-old saxophonist Robin Verheyen gave a very good trio concert, playing original compositions and some jazz standards like Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" and Monk's "Introspection." He's got a fair amount of "heir apparent" hype around him at the moment, but he's both technically gifted and smart, so hopefully he'll fulfill the potential made apparent during this concert. Interestingly, Wayne Shorter sounded like a big influence at first, but a few hours later at the jam session, he was playing just like Charlie Parker.

The main part of the festival ended with pianist Diedrik Wissel's world music extravaganza: harmonica, cello, guitars/saz, bass and drums/percussion, with singer Fay Claassen joining in at the end. It's one of those things where you're supposed to bask in the music's well-arranged internationalist beauty, but I found it rather dull and drifted off a fair amount. The last straw was when on the last song, Wissel took a solo consisting of running up and down a scale in the most harmonically and rythmically uninteresting way possible, over and over. It was one of those moments where you felt like heckling was appropriate, just to show him that someone was paying attention and ready to call him on his shit. If only I had those kind of balls. Other minus points were that the band as a whole, and the harmonica and guitars especially, were way over amplified. Thankfully, they never rose much above a self-satisfied mezzo-forte. One thing I did find cool were the frequent unissons between cello and harmonica: an unexpected combination that really worked.

From what I was told, the first day of the festival was dominated by a fabulous performance by Jef's trio, which pleased me much. Saxophonist Bart Defoort's quartet and guitarist Marco Locurcio's electronic group sandwiched Jef, but I didn't get the feeling that either did anything to write home about. So, interestingly, the younger musicians will have stolen the show this year. A good sign, I guess.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Beyond the love below

I've listened to it once, and I really hope all the critics who were so crazy about Andre's album will talk about Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine at least a little bit.

Sylvie Courvoisier Abaton Trio - 04/03/2004, Brussels

Sylvie Courvoisier - p
Mark Feldman - vln
???? - cello

I hate to sound like a moldy fig, but I must make the following rant.

At this institution called Flagey, they have a monthly series called "Jeudi Jazz" ("Jazz Thursday", but they also have jazz concerts outside of the series). They also host a lot of classical music. Now, going into this concert, I did not expect to hear a straight-ahead jazz concert, but some kind of mix of contemporary music, improvised music and jazz, which would have been fine by me. I did not expect to hear a 100% contemporary music concert (there were some brief improvised violin solos, but nothing that really took us out of the classical realm, as apparently classical musicians used to improvise cadenzas). Why this was billed as a Jeudi Jazz concert, I cannot make out. Were I to go to a (fictional) "Mardi Rock" concert, I would not expect the crowd to react kindly to a dixieland performance. Flagey is hosting a series on Algerian music: I don't see any non-Algerian music on the bill.

As for the music itself, it was not really my cup of tea. I am extremely ignorant of contemporary classical music, so take my comments with much salt. I can latch on to certain sounds and passages in the fragmented world of Courvoisier's compositions and describe them as "sounding cool," but I can't step back, look at the whole and say "Yes, I really liked that." Feldman's improvised sections mentioned above were quite nice and immediately gave the music a kind of East-European dance music feel, as they were more rhythmically engaging and swung, in a way. He also had a nice stage presence, cracking jokes in-between pieces.

I discovered what I am told is a contemporary music tradition: standing up and bowing after every piece. Very odd, as if every composition were an event in itself. Seemed a bit too self-congratulatory to me.

The best part came after the concert, actually. For 2.5 euros, they were selling tickets that gave you access to a cheese & wine area, with a cheese buffet and 4 glasses of red wine per person. There was also a nice white wine that didn't even count against the intial 4! Apparently, Flagey wanted people to get totally plastered. As I was driving, I kept it to a reasonable two glasses. However, the cheese was the highlight. I'm not really a cheese fan, but this wide array was simply, there is no other term, heavenly. I felt really cheap, going back to the buffet three times, but thoses cheeses, man, they were just so good. Quite possibly better than any narcotic and more addictive (not that I'd know anything about that). More fattening, too. That cheese buffet will go down in my personal history books. If it's a regular Jeudi Jazz feature, it may well be worth going just for that. Or slip in at the end of the concert. Did I mention how great the cheese was?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's a house...

Here's an e-mail I received about stopping John Coltrane's last place of residence from being demolished. The way I see it, if the Coltranes themselves can make do with the house, surely, so can we? Anyway, here it is:

Located in the Town of Huntington, on Long Island, NY, Dix Hills is one of the nicest communities on Long Island. Our community is almost entirely residential, consisting of beautiful homes in a wooded suburban setting.

We are proud to say that the American jazz musician, John Coltrane, lived here on a quiet residential street during the last years of his life. In his home here, he composed his greatest work, A Love Supreme as well as all of his last works, considered by many to be his greatest and most stirring.

We now find ourselves at the crossroads where history conflicts with modernization. Recently, the property and home, formerly owned by the Coltrane family, was purchased by a local developer. Unknowing of the significance of the home, the builder has applied to subdivide the Coltrane property, demolish the home, to make way for new luxury homes.

This website has been created to help spread the news of the situation .... ask for help .... and hopefully become successful in saving the home from demolition.

We would like to see the situation resolved in a way the John Coltrane himself would have wanted it ... peaceful ... fair to the developer ... fair to the community ... and enjoyed by people all over the world.

John asked God to enable him to help others through his music. His life was cut short ... but this home can allow his message to continue.
Please visit the many pages on this site. Because of the urgency of this situation, this website was created quickly and will be updated often. Please check back for the latest news and information.


I would go to the club but I'm too busy praying

I came across the kookiest answer ever to the question Who is Responsible for the Sorry State of Jazz? in the All About Jazz forums:

Date: 06-Aug-1998 09:45:00
From: Judy Coverton
The reason jazz has taken a backseat in my life is because I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, I've switched partners. I was once a die-hard jazz fan! Had been for years, as a matter of fact. I'm still a jazz fan. Fortunately for me, there is gospel. I know for a fact, we can't keep those cd's in stock at the Gospel book stores, because I work in such a store, and we are forever placing orders for gospel jazz.

By the way, I'm 43. I believe the saving knowledge of Christ wiped out a large percent of that 'vanishing' jazz audience. Jazz is good, but gospel jazz is awesome, when done to the glory of God, God in turn puts an anointing on it that cannot be matched!

(emphasis mine)

Well, if God Himself is against you, there isn't much you can do, is there?