Friday, December 28, 2007

Playlist December 28, 2007

Below is the playlist for my fill-in on Jazz Amuck (Fridays, 9-11 am), plus the additional Oscar Peterson hour. I'm filling in next week as well, also with an extra hour - I haven't quite decided whether it'll be three hours of Amuck or an hour of non-jazz music. I'm also covering Basabasa Soukous Soukous Soundz New Year's Day, 9-11 am, with music from the African diaspora. (* = Canadian Content)

Jazz Amuck
Amir ElSaffar
- "Flood" (Two Rivers)
The Bad Plus - "Mint" (Prog)
*YUL - "Florence" (Departure)
*Geordie Haley's Every Time Band - "Eagle Boy" (The Green Suite + Other Stories)
Steve Lehman Quintet - "Curse Fraction" (On Meaning)
Mario Pavone - "Bastos" (Boom)
Peter Van Huffel Quintet - "Luminescence" (Silvester Battlefield)
Bobby Selvaggio - "Jungle Animals" (Unspoken Dialogue)
*Gary Schwartz - "The Door is Open" (Public Transport Project)
Marty Ehrlich/Myra Melford - "Night" (Spark!)
*Don Scott - "Holding Pattern" (Out of Line)
*François Bourassa - "Fa Do Do" (Rasstones)
Uri Caine Trio - "Snaggletooth" (Live at the Village Vanguard)
Marco Benevento - "Record Book" (Live at Tonic)
Scott Colley - "Window of Time" (Architect of the Silent Moment)
Nels Cline - "Yokada Yokada/The Rumproller" (New Monastery)

Oscar Peterson Tribute Hour
"East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (Beginnings 1945-49)
"Sweet Georgia Brown" (Beginnings 1945-49)
"My Blue Heaven" (Beginnings 1945-49)
"Oop Bop Sh'Bam" (Beginnings 1945-49)
"Oh, Lady Be Good!" (Plays George Gershwin)
"Nigerian Marketplace" (Dimensions)
"Hymn to Freedom" (Night Train)
"Mack The Knife" (Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry)
"How About You?" (Tenderly)
"Moanin'" (Exclusively for my Friends: The Lost Tapes)
"Night Train" (Night Train)
"Django" (Eloquence)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oscar RIP

We have lost our jazz icon. Oscar Peterson has passed on at the age of 82. More at the CBC.

As a Canadian jazz pianist, especially one living in Montreal, Oscar's shadow looms large. Peterson served as the figurehead of all that was right about Canadian jazz and represented the community and talent of its heyday, when clubs were peppered all over the streets of Montreal and Toronto. When I first moved to Montreal and rode the métro through Place Saint-Henri station, the movement from Canadiana Suite popped into my mind. His legacy is continued here by Oliver Jones (who took lessons from Peterson's sister, Daisy) and Wray Downes, who also specialize in fleet, blues-soaked swing.

Oscar was definitely one of my first inspirations when I started listening to jazz - I remember hearing Night Train and marvelling at the power in his hands. The bounce in his comping and the effortless facility of his lines were artistry that I still aspire to. I heard "Hymn to Freedom" before I heard A Love Supreme, and Peterson's solemn ballad was maybe the first piece of music that moved me in such a deep and visceral way. I don't hear much of Oscar in my playing anymore, but he was a primary influence when I was starting and I would still do anything to have his left-hand ability. Even his diminished capability after a stroke in 1993 was a force to reckon with.

I had the opportunity to shake his massive hands when I was still living in Toronto, and the even greater honour of playing his Bosendorfer Imperial when it was stored at Remenyi House of Music. His support of jazz in Canada, and of young pianists in general, is something to be cherished. He will be dearly missed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ambushed by art

On my commute today, I walked into a strange métro painted deep ocean blue. There were architectural line drawings on the windows, and various samples played over the PA - voices of old men and children in French, English and Chinese, cows mooing as we pulled into a station, sitar runs evoking clichéd exotica and more. I'm still a little unsure of what this was apparently it was this (French-only); it got me thinking again about the role of art in our everyday lives. The UK's recent No Music Day raised this point as well. We're all surrounded by music all day, but I don't know that I would characterize it all as "art." For me, I'd prefer to make the choice of being immersed in an arts exhibition rather than being bombarded with buskers and inescapable eavesdropping on others' playlists. I suppose I did make that choice by stepping on that car instead of finding another one. (Aside: when did blasting music out of one's cellphone, sans earbuds, become all the rage?)

To me, the argument that being surrounded by music inherently devalues it doesn't hold water for me. I think the opposite is true - the music I devote my time to is imbued with a higher value because I'm actually setting aside space, time and undivided attention for it.


The resurrected Cinéma du Parc is running the first annual Brazilian film festival until December 20. I went to see the documentary on Capoeira Regional pioneer Mestre Bimba. Having little prior knowledge of the subject, it was a highly educational film for me. It was intriguing to learn the roots of capoeira in its Angolan form, as a real, violent and illegal martial art practiced by stevedores. Mestre Bimba was the inventor of Capoeira Regional, the most common form of it today. What was truly fascinating to me was the musical element of it all: the way the berimbau and pandeiro rhythms influence the moves capoeristas improvise; the various mythologizations of Bimba in folk song, MPB and capoeira chants. The influence Bimba had on his students was immensely powerful, and that sense is conveyed in the film. Because capoeira is an improvised art form with an underlying vocabulary and structure, many parallels can be made to jazz. I won't make them until I've seen the film a few more times. Some of the quotes from historians and students of Bimba were quite profound and beautiful, but I can't remember any of them right now.

Dan Levitin, in This is Your Brain on Music, cites the figure of 10,000 hours of practice to make a virtuoso. I wonder if the musicality of certain cultures - definitely Latin America, and to a different extent South Asia - is due to the fact that music isn't a rarefied thing in those regions, but rather part of its lifeblood. Go to Cuba or Brazil and everyone, or almost everyone, can play percussion, or guitar/tres/cavaquinho, or sing; the familial percussion groups profiled in Susie Ibarra's Electric Kulintang are part of a weekly ritual. I would assume that this 10,000 hours of practice is built up a lot faster in these regions than in North America due to mere exposure. This suggests to me that it's not that being surrounded by music is the inherent evil, as above; it's music as wallpaper, rather than actively engaging subject, that's the culprit. And really, isn't that the fault of the listener?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow day!

I don't even think Montreal got the brunt of this nor'easter, but I'm still snowed into my house. Time for warm beverages and YouTube browsing.

The Meters live in 1974, from a Dr. John "Soundstage" special. One of my first exposures to funk in high school, the New Orleans funk sound has a special place in my heart. Sentimentality aside, these guys groove like hell, too.

James Booker's "Pixie," live in 1978. I don't honestly know much about Booker except that next to Professor Longhair he's the most mythical pianist from New Orleans.

Non-NOLA, but amazing nonetheless: The Gadd Gang's version of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." I can't find the words to describe Richard Tee's playing here (starting roughly at 3:10, for those who want to skip ahead). A master class in two-fisted gospel-derived piano.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It can follow you like a dog

I'd like to direct everyone's attention to the blog of my friend, the Freshwater Mermaid, who has taken it upon herself to singlehandedly advocate against the proliferation of TASERs and the tabled Canadian DMCA bill. While I'm not going to weigh in on the former, because it's not my area of expertise, I will speak to the latter.

This is, honestly, a very scary bill. One of the privileges of being an arts lover and artist in Canada is that our definition of fair use was broad - copying discs for private use was A-OK. And with resources like the Bibliothèque Nationale and the McGill music library at my disposal, it was a veritable treasure trove. BANQ has a wonderful selection of jazz, with a surprising amount of "out" and out-of-print material. It was there that I discovered the Braxton gems Creative Orchestra Music 1976 and Dortmund, which have proven to be my points of entry into his astonishing world. McGill's classical collection is stunning, and the jazz collection is achieving parity.

Now, the mere act of ripping - even if it's for the purposes of back-up, archiving, or transferring to my own digital device - would become illegal, as would disabling any DRM technology that comes embedded on CDs or other files. This worries me on many levels: as a keyboardist, I have converted my rig to software synthesizers, and my computer is my career. It holds all my sounds and all my scores (thank you, Sibelius!). My father worked in the computer industry for a long while and is vigilant about keeping clean systems. If I want to play a CD while I work on my computer, I don't want to be obliged to install whatever DRM-rootkit-proprietary-player crap. I also want to know exactly what is being installed, and what information is being sent to third parties. If this bill passes, we would not be allowed to spy on the spies. What's more egregious is that in the event one locates the hidden DRM files on one's computer, the proposed software would be regenerative - delete it, and not only are you a criminal, the software reinstalls itself. Never mind the fact that as an artist, I'm still paying copyright levies on blank CD-Rs so I can send MY OWN MUSIC to festivals, radio stations and other members of the industry.

As an educator this is also disturbing. Music is an aural tradition. I'm not going to insist my students track down x, y and z recordings, and any CDs I'd make for my lessons are protected under fair use for education. How are the powers-that-be supposed to know the difference between ripping for pleasure and ripping for education?

Michael Geist has far more information on his website, and there's even a Facebook group. If you are a Canadian artist or arts lover, write your MP and protest this bill.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Launch post-mortem

The launch gig at Casa went well. We had a small but intimate audience (and still more than I expected given the snow-plowing fiascoes and imposing snowbanks) and the energy was high. The sound balance between the trio and the strings was a lot better than we anticipated, too. This was the premiere of "Indigone Trio Electric," with Alex playing electric bass in addition to my usual laptop gig rig. We opened with a couple of trio tunes, and then brought on the strings to play all the songs from the EP, plus new and reworked pieces.

In other news, my Red Bull Academy Radio mix is now available for your listening pleasure here. We're also on the Facebook band wagon.

Real, pre-Madness blogging to resume shortly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We're all here because we're not all there.

I've been cautious about blogging this most recent item, because it's been something I've prematurely hyped before, and the internet is far bigger than just my circle of friends.

But it's finally here - Indigone Trio + Strings has been released by Ropeadope Digital! While oddly not available from Ropeadope's own store, if you can't wait to buy it direct from them you can currently get it from your favourite online music downloading service. A quick Google search tells me we're on iTunes, eMusic, mtraks and Blue Vault Digital.

A final reminder that our launch party is tonight at Casa del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent, corner St. Joseph). A real launch party for a virtual release - how 21st century.

Monday, December 03, 2007

High school revisited

A few months ago, I was called to do a gig where the client requested swing dance music. In preparation for the gig I pulled out a couple of albums I hadn't listened to since high school, and hearing them with new ears was refreshing.

Joe Jackson - Jumpin' Jive (A&M, 1981)
I must have bought this when the neo-swing revival was in full tilt, with "Zoot Suit Riot" and Brian Setzer's version of "Jump, Jive an' Wail" seemingly everywhere. I had just gotten into Joe Jackson, and was impressed that he had done a retro-jump-swing record about 15 years early. The energy is high, sounding like a bunch of guys at a pub reminiscing about their father's records, and the arrangements are actually surprisingly clever (especially "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?"). It flags a bit towards the end, and Graham Maby's electric bass doesn't have the requisite woody thump of an upright being smacked to hell, but it's an enjoyable listen nonetheless.

Gary Burton - For Hamp, Red, Bags & Cal (Concord, 2001)
My buying habits in high school were decidedly simple: look for players I had heard of and tunes I knew or wanted to learn. More often than not, this worked out. I was obsessed with this record after I bought it, but hadn't listened to it in a long time. I tend to eye jazz tribute and concept records with disdain now, but in the late-90's this seemed to be all the rage at major jazz labels and tended to succeed on some sort of creative level (cf. Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World). I think my previous exposure to Burton had been the Like Minds supergroup record, which I don't think I ever truly "understood" in a musical sense but appreciated on a surface level. I certainly wasn't aware of his ECM heritage at all.

As for the music on the record, some things were immediately apparent - the burning groove of "Afro Blue;" the incredible unison reading of "Donna Lee" at the end of "Indiana;" and the unexpectedly simple-yet-hip reworking of "Flying Home." That record was my first exposure to Danilo Perez, and while his work on these pieces are nowhere near as creative or overwhelming as his work with Wayne or on his own, it's a treat to hear him sink his teeth into the grooves. Yeah, the marimba and xylophone pieces (in duo with Makoto Ozone) at the end are hokey, but I wouldn't expect anything else from tunes called "Dance of the Octopus."