Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Innumerable losses

It's the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and while the news networks play for ratings with commemorative specials and pay lip service to the victims and survivors, very little is actually being done (except providing shelter with toxic chemicals). I hope there's a large turnout at the Essence-organized Day of Presence. My heart goes out to all those who have been and still are affected by this disaster. I never got to visit NOLA pre-Katrina, and as the mecca for most of my musical interests, it pains me that it may never be rebuilt culturally. Structurally it may well be impossible to build a city on that ground again, but to me it's the cultural environment that defines New Orleans, and the fact that artists are scattered with no means to get back or places to return is a travesty.

My friend, the great organist Vanessa Rodrigues has passed on word that Canada's Dr. Music, Doug Riley, has passed. For anybody who loved straightahead jazz in Canada, Doug was one of the leading figures in the national scene. His tremendous musicality and great spirit was evident at every gig he played. I never officially "met" him, though I saw him play both piano and organ a few times, and I was always incredibly humbled. Playing B-3 with Alex Dean's "Tenor Madness" band (5 tenors, Doug, bass and drums), he could have easily indulged in Hammond tricks and upped the showboating ante, but each solo was well-crafted and wonderful. His contribution to the Canadian jazz landscape will be missed.

More from the Toronto Star and blogger Mark Federman.

Tonight I'm hosting Jazz Euphorium on CKUT, and the plan is now to feature music from NOLA, music from Doug, and an interview I did with Kurt Rosenwinkel during Jazz Fest (which I had been previously planning to air tonight). The Rosenwinkel interview may have to wait.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

RIP Max Roach

Steve Smith broke the news, at least in my blog reader. One of the last living connections to the bebop era, the last surviving member of the Massey Hall Quintet, has passed. He, Kenny Clarke and Roy Haynes laid the groundwork for all drummers after them, much like Bud Powell is the root of most pianistic developments.

I don't have much Max in my personal collection, but I've heard what must be a small sampling of the classic records countless times, and his sound is quite clear in my head. The Clifford Brown records offer definitive, textbook versions of tunes that have been studied by countless musicians. Money Jungle is an underrated piano trio recording of the highest calibre. The legacy and discography are too numerous to detail here - WKCR will have a marathon starting at noon EST. His willingness to embrace the developments of new music and of African music, his exploratory nature, is something we should all cherish and adopt.

I can't say I'm stunned - his health had been in question for some years, going back at least to his last appearance at Massey Hall commemorating the historic concert.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Under Pressure 2007 photoblog

Scaffolds and murals
Originally uploaded by Dr Keys
The 12th edition of Montreal's Under Pressure block party/festival was as colourfully vibrant as ever, and better organized, with caution tape designating a clear area for the b-boy battles. For whatever reason, the crowd didn't seem to be as hyped as last year. It was also fascinating to see the changes in DJ technology, from WeFunk's Professor Groove and godfather DJ Kool Herc rocking 45s, to CDJs and now the world of laptop DJing with time-coded vinyl systems like Scratch, which DJ Mana used for his set.

More photos here, with more to be added to the set in a short while.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pouts' Over (and the Day's not through)

On a whim today, I picked up the Keith Jarrett 1968 record Somewhere Before, one of the early trio sessions with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. Jeff Johnston had recommended this to me while I was studying with him (along with Life Between the Exit Signs) but both had been relatively hard for me to track down. This album is the one with the relatively incongruous cover of Dylan's "My Back Pages," a repertoire choice that fits in with the folky Jarrett that was to follow in the next decade, but the idea that Jarrett ever got anything out of Dylan baffles me somehow. For someone that disdains the Montreal Jazz Festival for all the extraneous noise and belligerently insists on perfection, the rough-hewn nasal delivery of Dylan seems at odds. Ah well.

I suppose this is a good entrée for me to comment on the recent Umbria hoopla that has circled the interweb. I had a similar discussion with guitarist Greg Amirault during the festival, when our beloved Mr. Jarrett unleashed a similar tirade (equally unfounded and unprovoked) in Place des Arts. Greg went to the show, and even with my press pass I bowed out of requesting the ticket. I saw the trio at their last appearance a couple of years ago, when Jarrett was the recipient of the Miles Davis prize. It was sublime, save for a buzz in the PA which occasioned an abrupt start to intermission, and served as the butt of a recurring joke through the second set. But given the standard behaviour of a festival audience and Jarrett's reviled temper, I have very little interest in going to see him live again. I'm not willing to shell out that kind of ticket price ($80-$100, depending on the seat) and risk an uninspired set, a walk-off, or an extemporaneous rant. Especially not when Jarrett records almost exclusively live these days (save The Melody At Night With You). I would much rather remain in the comfort of my own home, put on Whisper Not and bliss out, not worrying whether some schmuck is going to turn off his cell phone or not, cough, sneeze, or whip out his digital camera.

Some argue that we should separate the artist from the individual. And I have no problem doing that in some cases - Elton John's past addictions and recent tantrums don't detract from my enjoyment of his early records. Miles' carefully cultivated "fuck you" attitude and history of usurping credit and publishing from his collaborators doesn't diminish the masterpiece status of his work. However, Sir Reg keeps his temper in check onstage, and doesn't unleash on the audience. Jarrett's forums aren't punk rock, with mutual abuse between performer and concert-goer; he has long abhorred the give-and-take of performer and audience. He doesn't thrive on the audience's adrenaline or reaction for his creative consciousness, and it's really the audience member's privilege to watch Keith work. External reaction doesn't filter into his equation. So I think it's kind of disingenuous for him to dismiss the role of the crowd, and then go postal when one person in the crowd is doing something that could potentially, maybe, be distracting.

Again, it's not like I'm about to go torch all the Keith that I own - once I warmed to him, he has been a key influence on my playing and is quite rewarding to listen to. I just have no desire to be in the room when he detonates - I know that the magical moments will be captured by ECM.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We be blogrollin'

Some really belated additions to the blogroll:

Taylor Ho Bynum's SpiderMonkey Stories
Jeff Chang's Zentronix
Aurgasm (mp3 blog without your usual indie leapfrogging)
Oliver Wang's Soul Sides

Under Pressure's 12th edition is this Sunday in the alleys behind Foufounes Electriques. Expect the usual mind-bending graffiti, killing b-boys and b-girls, and killer tracks galore from the likes of The Goods (Andy Williams & Scott C), WeFunk (Professor Groove & DJ Static), Mossman, DJ Mana, and the one and only Kool Herc. 11 am-10 pm, free. Afterwards the party moves inside with Narcicyst, Accrophone and other hip-hop talent from across the country.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Funky Revolutions playlist

August 4, 2007. Due to some miscommunication, the mighty Moonstarr dropped in to spin a set as well. Good hang, good times, and a couple of tech glitches in the beginning.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk - "Volunteered Slavery"
Antibalas - "Battle of the Species"
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - "Third World Revolution"
Positive Black Soul - "Boul Ma Mine"

Moonstarr takes over...
Bill Cosby - "Get Out My Life, Woman"
Lowell Fulson - "Tramp"
The Meters - "Ease Back"
Eddie Bo - "Hook and Sling"
Bill Doggett - "Honky Tonk Popcorn"
Vanessa Kendrick - "90% of Me is You"
Marlena Shaw - "California Soul"

The Pride set
Lila Downs - "La Cumbia del Mole"
Nina Simone - "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
Meshell Ndegeocello - "Love Song #1"
Scott Free - "Another Day of the Cruelty"
Femi Kuti - "Beng Beng Beng"

Linton Kwesi Johnson - "Di Eagle and Di Bear"
K'Naan - "Soobax"
Stainless Steele/DJ Image - "Salt Water"
Blackalicious - "Paragraph President"
Vijay Iyer/Mike Ladd - "Cleaning Up the Mess"
Bernard Purdie - "Hapnin"
Les McCann/Eddie Harris - "Compared to What"
Roy Ayers - "Funk in the Hole"
Charlie Parker f/ Miles Davis - "Moose the Mooche (Quantic remix)"
The Ravens - "(Give Me A) Simple Prayer"
Domenico +2 - "Telepata"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Chaque petit cerveau a son propre château

Firstly, my condolences to anyone affected by the collapse of the Minneapolis Bridge. A similar incident occurred in Laval, just north of Montreal, a few months ago and has resulted in an investigation and repair of many overpasses and bridges across the province. One structure that has been earmarked is an entrance to the Ville-Marie expressway, the main highway to downtown Montreal. Very frightening, indeed.

I just came from seeing Ariane Moffatt at FrancoFolies, and she never ceases to impress me. The last time I saw her was about three years ago, while she was still touring Aquanaute, a record of textural, albeit comparatively one-dimensional, trip-hop. Live, the music started to expand, with various English-language covers. The newer disc, La coeur dans la tête, and the live show, sheds the trip-hop for house, glitch, and chirpy faux-reggae on the single "Montréal." The latter has become ubiquitous; I remember the first time I was in a pharmacy and heard that song come on the radio. Tonight, the tune dissolved into a feature for drummer Jean-Phi Goncalves. I was struck by the balance Ariane and her bands have achieved between improvisation, tight pop songcraft, and inventive electronic textures and production. No surprise, given that both Goncalves and keyboardist Alex McMahon are in electro-whiz trio Plaster, and Ariane has collaborated with bands like Motus 3F and Karkwa. The electronic touches enhance the songs, as opposed to defining them - the tunes themselves are often strong enough to exist even in a bare piano/voice setting. Moffatt & co. are not beholden to definitive versions of songs, either, as evidenced in a radical electro-dancehall-funk revisioning of "Fracture du crâne." Apparently, the tour for this record is winding down, and I look forward to what she offers us next.

Various announcements:
- I'll be filling in for Funky Revolutions on Saturday, August 4, 2 pm ET on CKUT. Per regular host Khalid M'Seffar's request, there will be a portion of programming surrounding Montreal Pride (Divers/Cité).
- Spectrum officially closes its doors Sunday, August 5th, with a free bash featuring Michel Rivard and DJ Ghislain Poirier. It'll be a strange evening for sure, with dancing feet and a few wet eyes. I'm still in shock that it will no longer be the nexus of Jazz Fest, or anything else, for that matter.
- ElectroJazz Spaceship touches down again at L'Absynthe Monday, August 6. Expect originals, a couple of covers, and open funky improvisations.
Ben Henriques - saxophones/effects; Olivier René de Cotret - guitar/effects; David Ryshpan - keyboards; Nicolas Bédard - electric bass; Kevin Warren - drums/percussion.