Monday, January 29, 2007

World Skip The Beat playlist 1/29/2007

Slavic Soul Party - "Dance the Dust Up" (In Makedonija)
Taraf de Haïdouks - "A La Turk" (Band of Gypsies)
Burhan Oçäl/Pete Namlook - "Part VII" (Sultan Osman)
*Autorickshaw - "Bird on a Wire" (So the Journey Goes)
Caetano Veloso - "Come As You Are" (A Foreign Sound)
Omara Portuondo - "Killing Me Softly" (Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba compilation)
Ry Cooder/Manuel Galbán - "Los Twangueros" (Mambo Sinuendo)
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas - "El Tahonero" (Vacunao)
Gilberto Gil - "Aquele Abraço" (Acoustic)
*Eliana Cuevas - "Perdón" (Ventura)
Aurelio Martinez - "Mala Mujer" (Garifuna Soul)
Felix Baloy - "Ven a bailar cha-cha-chà" (Baila Mi Son)
Ali Farka Touré - "Mali Dje" (Niafunké)
The Soul Brothers - "Isigebengu" (Born to Jive)
*Mr. Something Something - "The Invitation" (S/T)
Oliver Mtukudzi - "Ngoma Nehosho" (Paivepo)
King Sunny Ade - "Jigi Jigi Isapa" (Odú)
Bembeya Jazz - "Lefa" (Bembeya)
*Alpha Yaya Diallo - "Freedom" (The Journey)
Ojos de Brujo - "Tiempo de Soléa" (Bari)
Hossam Ramzy - "Gani Lasmar" (Egyptian Raï)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


It's a busy few weeks here, before embarking on another BMI excursion and Master's auditions. Here's the rundown:

Friday, January 26 I'll be playing once again with singer-songwriter-guitarist Michael Reinhart, this time at Sablo Kafé (50 St. Zotique E., metro Beaubien). Last time I played with him marked my debut on accordion. I'll be opening for Michael with a set of solo keyboard music - a couple of my own compositions reworked for solo playing, and a few covers, many of them new to my repertoire. Michael and I will be joined by two fantastic singers - Robin Gorn and Sarah Wendt. 8 pm start for my solo set, $7.

Friday, February 2 is my first gig with Kids Eat Crayons. Music from the mad mind of drummer/composer Dennis W. Lee, it's unlike any work I've ever played before. I'm really psyched about this band, as it's a consistent challenge to my playing ability - odd meters, demanding parts for all instruments, and the chance to let out all pent-up aggression. We'll be the last part of a triple bill with Frootfly & Super-Automatica (an electronica project between Max Henry and Liam O'Neill). This goes down at Barfly (4062a St. Laurent, near Duluth). $5.

Kids Eat Crayons: Jean-Philippe Major - voice; Steve Reid - alto sax; Ben Henriques - tenor & soprano sax; Craig Sauvé - guitar; DRR - keyboards; Scott Kingsley - bass; Dennis W. Lee - drums. (We're also hitting the studio January 31 and February 7. Stay tuned.)

I used to play in a band called Kokoro, which has been defunct since 2005. I've since worked with Kevin Warren and Jim Bennett in separate scenarios, but Saturday, February 10 marks the first time the three of us have played together since the demise of that group (and since Jim's return to Montreal from Vancouver). We'll be joined by guitarist Olivier René de Cotret and saxophonist Yannick Coderre at Bar Les Conneries (2037 St. Denis, above Ontario) for a night of jamming. I've missed playing with those guys.

And finally, Indigone Trio is relaunching for 2007 at les Conneries on Friday, February 23, and we welcome drummer Phil Melanson into the fold. Liam has decided to pursue other projects and we wish him all the best.

Additionally, I'll be hosting World Skip the Beat this coming Monday (Jan 29, noon EST) and Jazz Euphorium this coming Wednesday (Jan 31, 8 pm EST) on CKUT.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Changing landscapes

Montreal seems to be going through a period of cultural upheaval. In the wake of the closing and re-opening of Cinéma du Parc (which may yet be transformed into Cinéma de Robert-Bourassa), word comes that the Spectrum will be no more. This venerable space is slated to be replaced by a Best Buy.

I'll go one better than Jamie O'Meara: Spectrum was one of the best venues in Montreal, bar none. The acoustics were always good - maybe not fantastic, but never mediocre, and any problems usually lay with the soundman - the ambience was beautiful, with surprisingly decent sightlines from anywhere in the room. Its ability to metamorphosize from charming cabaret to sweaty funkbucket was truly appreciated.

I've seen some wonderful shows at Spectrum, many affiliated with Jazz Fest but not all. Highlights that flashed through my memory as I read the announcement of its imminent closure:
- An off-season Brad Mehldau Trio appearance, touring the Anything Goes repertoire before it was released, was the first time Mehldau's music clicked with me. His solo piano encore, in tribute to the recently deceased Elliott Smith, rendered Spectrum completely silent.
- Seeing Joss Stone just as her wave of popularity was starting to pick up speed. We waited longer than usual after the opener for her to come on, but it was well worth it. Showtime was during a crucial Habs/Bruins playoff game; when Stone came out in Habs gear and announced we had won, the place erupted. It gave the scene a jolt of energy she couldn't have delivered on her own at the time.
- 2005's Metheny marathon concert with Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez, David Sanchez, Enrico Rava, and Me'shell Ndegeocello's Spirit Music band, hanging out up in the balcony of Spectrum with members of the press.

Spectrum serves/d as the indoor heart of Jazz Fest, with many of the outdoor stages mere steps away and having the most indoor programming outside of the Place des Arts complex. As O'Meara notes, the Spectrum was supposed to have merged with the Parc des Festivals for a larger Complexe Spectrum. It's yet another blunder in the Charest Liberal books that the funding for such a project was denied. Luckily, the demolition is only slated for August, post Jazz Fest, so the havoc it's sure to wreak on programming and scheduling will be postponed until 2008. O'Meara writes:
Montreal has a long history of being a poor custodian of its arts and culture heritage, and the imminent destruction of one of the city's most prized performance venues is just another in a growing list of assaults on the arts community in the last week alone.
And as a Montreal-based artist, that's truly disconcerting to me. On the ground level, there's so many fantastic people working at and with their art here, and its got a cultural vibrancy which I haven't experienced anywhere else. I hate to see it sabotaged by lack of space or understanding.


CBC Radio 2 makes good on its restructuring. [via CleverLazy] I had heard the first rumours of this circulating, and now reading the details, I'm torn about it. I lament the loss of Brave New Waves, as a recent convert to the show, though it could (and should) continue as a podcast. (Hey Helen, any notion of that floating about?) I do applaud the notion of Katie Malloch having a daily slot, though I don't know what that will do to the features JazzBeat used to run. The increase of talk and lack of classical does bother me, but this restructuring doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Wait and hear, I suppose.

I must confess to not having listened to as much CBC Radio as I should have, being a good Canuck and all. I'm just not near a radio much these days, and when I am it's usually tuned to CKUT.


Last night, I attended the launch for Literacy Through Hip-Hop's Montreal chapter. The project will take place in Little Burgundy, a down-trodden neighbourhood in the city, and will engage kids in the social aspects of hip-hop and get them to record their own music. As I mentioned about Under Pressure in the summer, one of the most interesting aspects about hip-hop, to me, is the way it can involve community. Hip-hop now, especially in inner cities, is one of the first ways kids get exposed to music and the creative manipulation of language. As music programs get cut from school budgets, other groups need to pick up the slack. Kudos to everyone involved in LTHH.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What you gon' play now?

There's a couple of very touching essays remembering the departed up now around the web.

Firstly, Christian McBride went on a burst of blogging at the beginning of the new year. I'd like to draw attention to his ultimate blog, not intended to be a memorial but functioning as one for the late Godfather of Soul. Read some of the subsequent entries, as well. McBride's experiences with Soul Brother No. 1 give Mr. Brown a human element that not many people saw.

Secondly, as has been linked a lot today, trumpeter Randy Sandke remembers his buddy Michael Brecker over at Rifftides.

And thirdly, Destination Out has a massive Alice Coltrane tribute. Jay and Drew, I salute thee.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Salon answers

On the Pulse blog, Joe Phillips has put up some substantive debate for composers, performers, and the like. I'm going to repost excerpts here for some context, but for the full talking points, check the link.
I. is not complete until it has been observed or heard [and subsequently] evaluated by an audience. ... a good work of art is one that (as you experience it) “makes you want to jump up and get out of there” and go and create something yourself. How do you view this statement (especially in relationship toward how your own compositions are received by the public)?
The best concerts I've seen usually make me want to hit the practice room, seriously write my butt off, or investigate their artistic tradition. Sometimes it has less to do with wanting to copy the musicians/composers in question and more about being inspired and rejuvenated. There must be an analog to this sentiment among non-musicians/non-artists, but I can't figure out what it would be - maybe "I wish I could do that," or regretting having quit piano lessons in early adolescence.

I agree that composition - and any performing art - is incomplete unless it has been disseminated in some way, which is why I always felt that my high school Shakespeare readings should have been determined by what was being staged that year and not by a predetermined curriculum. The audience doesn't necessarily hold the final judgement on a work, but the act of having a piece performed, even if it's just for a jury of my peers, adds a dimension to it. Composition can be such a hermetic practice that the ability to have my colleagues critique it in a reading session takes me out of my own headspace and allows me to re-evaluate my work in a more objective setting.

II. ...with the rise of modernism (in art) in the early 20th century, there came a disconnect with audiences—an “antagonism” between the artistic creator and the consumer of the art. ... “This is my essential criticism of modernism, whether perpetrated by (Charlie) Parker, (Erza) Pound, or (Pablo) Picasso: it helps us neither to enjoy nor to endure.”

Do you agree or disagree with Bayles’ and/or Larkin’s statements/premises? How do you as a composer/performer, balance artistic and commercial viability in your own work? In the presentation (i.e. performances) of your works? What other composers/performers do you feel balance artistic and commercial viability well? Is this even necessary?

I have little patience for pedantic or academic work. If I have to read the program notes for a piece to make any sort of sense, the composer should merely become a poet or author. Spare me the tedium. And as many jazz musicians have spouted over the years, the stage is not the practice room. Tell a story, etc. To effect the jumping-up-and-getting-out reaction that Laurie Anderson mentions above, the piece/improvisation/art has to stem from an honest and sincere place.

I firmly believe that it's obvious whether a musician is honest or whether they're bullshitting. Conviction is an easy thing to hear. If I tried to play a Djavan tune verbatim, it would come off quite crass, honestly, both to me and to the audience. But any cover I play, I endeavour to approach it from a place of true admiration and appreciation, and to make it my own in some meaningful way. There's a lot of songs I love and love to play in private, but that I would rarely, if ever, program on one of my own gigs, because I don't feel I have anything of myself with which to imbue it.

That said, there's more factors at play in the 20th century reception of art aside from the rise of modernism. The rise of alternative forms of entertainment, such as radio, cinema and television, created this idea of competition for attention. Half the threads on NewMusicBox and the like seem to be about how to get listeners out to concerts, and to entice them away from their Wiis (Wiiae?) and TiVos and various other entertainment devices. Additionally, the iPod and internet is the pinnacle of music dissemination, with the ability to get nearly any music at any time and listen to it anywhere. Four hundred years ago, music could only travel by way of printed scores and performance. Home entertainment was in the form of children learning instruments, home concerts and salons.

I've said it before: it's amazing what mere exposure will do to generate an audience. I don't want to get on the political soapbox about mainstream media insulting the intelligence of its viewers and listeners, but I think we really do underestimate what people will gravitate toward if they're even given the opportunity to hear it.

As a composer and/or performer how do you generate audiences for your performances? How does audience reaction to a piece affect your future writing? your programming? Do you think about the audience when writing?

I don't think about the audience when I'm writing. Composition is a very selfish task: I'm writing for me. I write what I want to hear, sometimes even as a form of personal catharsis. When I wrote "Driscollage" as a tribute to Chris Driscoll, I did it as a coping method. I couldn't get the melody out of my head after I heard the news. The potential reception of it never entered my mind. I do, however, think about the audience in terms of programming, but again, it's based on how I, as a listener, would want to hear a set of music. As for generating audiences, I haven't ever modified my music to gain more listeners, and I hope I never have to. If my music has changed, it's been for personal reasons and growth, not to kowtow to commerciality.

Can you recommend any composer, group, or recording that balances the artistic with the popular (or at least commercial successful)?

Radiohead. Paul Simon. Ethel. Maria Schneider. Tom Waits. The current crop of [shudder] crossover projects (Kronos playing Sigur Ros, Alarm Will Sound playing Aphex Twin, So Percussion double bills with Matmos) seem to be coming from a genuine appreciation for the music as opposed to a record producer's grand marketing idea.

I'd like to bring up David Lewis' review of Golijov's Ainadamar on AllMusic. He writes:

In Ainadamar, Golijov plays it safe, ... almost sounding like a zarzuela or, at worst, like Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita with better music. ... The serious subject of Ainadamar does not defeat the fact that its music sounds commercial, as well crafted as it is. ... [T]he lack of risk-taking in Ainadamar is tantamount to Golijov moving into another camp of composers -- some might say on his way up in the world, but others may decide that it's "out."
If all operas were as direct and accessible as Ainadamar, one wouldn't need to pull teeth to get audience members. Lewis seems to consider "melodic" as a synonym for "commercial," and I can't fathom why any composer or musician should become an apologist for melody. And what of the idea of balancing the weighty subject with lighter music? Not all opera has to be buried under Wagnerian gravitas. The biggest detriment facing "classical" and "jazz" music is that its purists risk putting it not merely in a museum, but in a bubble. The best art is not insular, but connected to the entirety of its traditions and social contexts - both of its time and timeless.

Monday, January 15, 2007

World Skip The Beat playlist 1/15/2007

Trilok Gurtu - "Big Brother" (African Fantasy)
Rez Abbasi - "Kismet" (Snake Charmer)
Richard Bona - "Konda Djanea" (Scenes From My Life)
Maleshevski Melos - "Nesatova Sa-sa" (Belly Dance)
Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria - "Barem se ergen nahodih" (Mechmitio)
Esma Redzepova - "Chaje Shukarije" (Chaje Shukarije)
Trio Mocoto - "Nagô" (Black Rio compilation)
Moreno Veloso +2 - "Arrivederci" (Music Typewriter)
Bebel Gilberto - "August Day Song" (Tanto Tempo)
Forro in the Dark - "Forrowest" (Bonfires of São João)
Osvaldo Golijov/Atlanta SO/Upshaw - "Balada (Primera Imagen)" (Ainadamar)
Waldemar Bastos - "Kuribôta" (Pretaluz)
Papa Wemba - "Bakwetu" (Molokai)
Salif Keita - "Tekere" (Folon...The Past)
Rokia Traoré - "Wanita" (Wanita)
Kasai Allstars f/ Tandjolo - "Koyile/Nyeka Nyeka" (Congotronics 2)
Beny Moré - "Maracaibo Oriental" (Ritmo)
Patato - "Descarga en Faux" (The Legend of Cuban Percussion)
Irakere - "Bacalao Con Pan" (Bacalao Con Pan)
Compay Segundo - "Chan Chan" (Calle Salud)
Fela Ransome-Kuti & Africa 70 - "Fogo Fogo" (Afro-Baby compilation)

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Added a couple of overdue names to the blogroll.

Jesse Jarnow first came to my attention as a pre-eminent writer in the jamband scene, and has since proven to be a first-class blogger and podcaster (on the Ropeadope site) with varied taste. He also posts mp3s and whimsical fiction from time to time.

Dr. Jazz and I have crossed many a cyberpath. It's always refreshing to see musicians involved with the industry and journalism side of things. As a saxophonist (I'm unsure of his activity in the Philly or NYC scenes as he seems pretty busy with his day job), he's got a very frank memorial of Michael Brecker up now.

Notes: I'm hosting World Skip the Beat on CKUT on Monday, January 15, noon EST. As always, you can tune in online or download from the archives. The playlist will appear here after the show. You can check out the playlists of previous Jazz Euphorium shows here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Two blocks from the edge

AP is reporting that Michael Brecker has left us, at the far too young age of 57. He had been suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome over the past couple of years, and according to reports it had turned into leukemia. I guess even with the valiant attempts made by the jazz community at large, his family never found a donor.

Brecker gets a bad rap, mostly for all his copycats with overly bright tone and fingerwork exceeding their musicality (never mind the EWI), but he created some wonderful music that went beyond his 'Trane-isms. The McCoy Tyner album he's on, Infinity, is indebted to Trane without being merely imitative, and the intro to "Delta City Blues" from Two Blocks From The Edge is a fairly direct forebearer to Chris Potter's solo intros (especially the one before "Boogie Stop Shuffle" on Lift). He's killing on Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light, mightily matched Dewey Redman's efforts on Metheny's 80/81 and added a hefty dose of soul to any number of sessions he did in the '70s and '80s. He will be missed.

RIP Michael. (Edited to add: I've been playing Tales from the Hudson tonight, a sleeper record from the '90s. What a great band - Brecker, Joey Calderazzo, Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette, with McCoy Tyner guesting on a couple of tunes, including a burning "Song for Bilbao.")


EDIT (10:45 pm): Via David R. Adler, Alice Coltrane's gone too? I never explored her music, though by all accounts her renaissance of recent years has been spectacular.


Darcy's been blogging heavily from IAJE. Great photos and fantastic post-mortem, as usual. I can't exactly say I wish I was there - the program seems fairly similar to last year's, and given my routine appearances in NYC, the novelty of it is somewhat diminished - but it's still a cool hang. I'm happy to hear Pulse went off well, and to see some of my friends like Quinsin and Melissa Stylianou getting some props.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Words of wisdom from the world outside

The Idolator Jackin' Pop poll is finally up. It's a massive list, and I haven't parsed it all yet, but the various breakdowns in the demographics section are revealing. It's also nice to see some non-pop critics like James Hale and Alex Ross get in on the action, and that Christgau is as omnivorous as ever. NPR covers the Internet rebellion against the Voice, with Sasha Frere-Jones providing insight.

I've been channel surfing over the holidays, and sometimes land on the best-of/worst-of/encapsulate-the-year-in-an-hour shows on MuchMusic and its sister stations. One little bit struck me, from a MuchMoreMusic wrap-up, lambasting some starlet-du-jour and stating, "If talent actually mattered, everyone would love this guy!" I don't disagree - Ron Sexsmith is among the top songwriters in Canada - but it set me on a train of thought about the industry, reminiscing of the buzzwords from the Future of Music Coalition meetings in October.

If the kingmakers - or at least their writers and on-air personalities - prefer substance over style, then why isn't Ron Sexsmith given similar rotation to Fergie? Or even a fraction of it? (This is assuming music videos still made up the majority of programming, which is not the case.) A yearly tradition is Ed the Sock (a sock puppet meeting of Oscar the Grouch and Triumph, for the non-Canadian readers) openly mocking the fromage of whatever year, which usually happen to be the most highly played videos in MuchMusic's repertoire. I guess the 15 minutes of fame doesn't care if it's comprised of bad press.

Is the mainstream still really that commercial, or is it a case of all the alternatives in the indie world split the vote? With all the press and adulation Gnarls Barkley got, I still only saw the video twice, and have only heard "Crazy" on radio a handful of times.

Old and new dreams

2007 is starting off with some very strong music, both here and in NYC. Maybe cloning's not such a bad idea after all...

January 7 is the Dewey Redman Memorial Concert at Saint Peter's Church in NYC (Lexington & 54th). The announced performers are fitting, and stellar: Pheeroan AkLaff, Geri Allen, Reid Anderson, John Betsch, Cameron Brown, Baikida Carroll, Ted Daniel, Jack DeJohnette, Charles Eubanks, Charlie Haden, Mark Helias, Ethan Iverson, Leroy Jenkins, Sheila Jordan, Frank Kimbrough, Joe Lovano, John Menegon, Joshua Redman, Judi Silvano, and Matt Wilson, and others. I can think of no better way to celebrate his life - wish I was in town to pay my respects.

January 9 & 10 sees Dutch iconoclast, percussionist/artist Han Bennink at Tonic, joined by friends Joachim Badenhorst, Anthony Coleman, Dave Douglas, Ellery Eskelin, Thomas Heberer, Brad Jones, and Marcus Rojas. All surfaces in the club are open game for Bennink, and I imagine hilarity as well as fantastic music will ensue.

January 12 is the night of a fundraiser concert for the crisis in Darfur at Clara Lichtenstein Recital Hall (555 Sherbrooke W, room C-209). Organized by my friend, flautist Deborah Thomson, I'll be performing at the end of the concert with Scott Kingsley (bass) and Liam O'Neill (drums). Other McGill alumni and current students are on the programme, with works by Damase, Hovahness, Persichetti, Liszt, Gubaidulina, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Vivier, and Bartok. Admission is by donation, and it starts at 8 pm.

January 12 & 13, Upstairs brings in a kick-ass quintet from NYC: Donny McCaslin, Lars Dietrich, Ben Monder, Zack Lober and Greg Ritchie. I'm quite excited to hear this group - I've missed Ben and Donny whenever they've been through town before, and I haven't heard Zack and Greg in a very long time.