Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Notes

It's been kind of strange trying to come back down to earth after last week's Trio M show. Everyday life looks and feels a bit bland after something that memorable. That and it's been just a hellacious teaching week, as every week is.

How I wish I could have coaxed a few more students to come to the show. One first year student, Zoe, three undergrad English Majors, Randi and Shelby and Derek (who videotaped it), and three grad students, Michael and Sarah and Stephanie. They always seem interested when I'm describing it and urging them on, but I guess it's like a lot of the time....they're not really listening. The master class was beyond belief. They talked for an hour and a half about what they listen for, how they improvise. We had to cut them off...they might *still* be talking if we hadn't stopped them.

I've been listening a lot to Matt Wilson's "Scenic Route," and trying to imagine Terrel Stafford's off-center embouchure, which Matt described at the Master Class. It's such a straight-ahead album that it's also kinda hard to picture the drummer as the same guy who was feeling his way into infinity and beyond, in the trio. Like I've said in an earlier post, it's a road album, and while I suppose you could listen to Trio M on your car stereo as you're tooling down the freeway, I just don't see it as the kind of music you drink Pabst to.

There's Pabst all over "Scenic Route." Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Milwaukee's Finest, and Goebel's (from Detroit), Red White and Blue . . . I remember a time in my younger days when Rolling Rock would be in that series, but it has long since graduated into hipper categories.

Next up, Marcus Shelby, on March 7.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

These pics were taken this morning at the RJA Master Class. Marty Ehrlich, Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, Matt Wilson. They put on a fantastic show last night. Scroll down for a slideshow of the concert and reception.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

RJA's Latest Missive

Greetings from the Redwood Jazz Alliance. We hope you're planning on joining us for pianist Myra Melford, multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Matt Wilson this Saturday, January 26 at 8 p.m in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. If you don't yet have your tickets, they can still be purchased at our website (, at People's Records, the Metro and the Works in Arcata and Eureka or at the door the night of the show. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors.

Bob Doran of the North Coast Journal did a very nice interview with Myra, only part of which made it into the Journal. The entire interview can be read at the Journal's blog:

The RJA's Eric Neel also had the opportunity to talk recently with Myra. Their wide-ranging and revealing conversation is on our website:

Don't forget about the free workshop that Melford, Ehrlich, Dresser and Wilson are presenting Sunday at 11 a.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

We'll see you Saturday night!

The Redwood Jazz Alliance


To be added or removed from our list, just send us an e-mail at

The Redwood Jazz Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to jazz performance and education by visiting artists in Humboldt County. For more information about us, please visit our web site at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cafe at the End of the Universe

Kellie, Naomi and Heather have a dream.


Bob Doran Interviews Myra Melford

Local music critic/columnist Bob Doran has a really interesting interview in this week's North Coast Journal.

Bob really knows what questions to ask and how to ask them. He gets her to talk rather a lot about her pending visit to Arcata.

It's on the newstands today, and here.

A New Review of "Big Picture" at AllAboutJazz

Big Picture

Trio M | Cryptogramophone (2007)

Superficially, the combination of pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson might seem unusual, though the three have previously commingled. Melford and Dresser are known for their work in freer contexts or exploring extended compositional forms, while Wilson—by no means a neo-traditionalist—has forged a reputation playing more established forms and grooves. After years of musing about a trio, the three convened for a gig and were so pleased with the results that they played more, ultimately heading to a studio to record Big Picture.

Each musician contributes compositions but, with the exception of the ambitious, suite-like title track penned by Melford, the pieces were written for other groups, rearranged and reinterpreted here. Stripped of the brass and reeds of the original version, the pianist’s “brainFire and bugLight” is spacious, with Wilson, then Dresser, embellishing the spare piano introduction. The intensity builds as they playfully tease the theme, move into open passages and coalesce again. A rolling tom-tom rhythm burbles beneath Dresser’s “For Bradford,” a piece written for his drummer-less trio, showing the malleability of the composition and Wilson’s inventiveness. The drummer’s “Naïve Art” boasts a staggering, bluesy feel that Melford peppers with roadhouse swagger and with Dresser’s arco spiraling, an accelerating ensemble figure hurtles toward the conclusion.

The title track exemplifies Trio M’s modern approach: the improvisations seamlessly segue to composed sections without emphatically stated head-solo-head forms. Wilson’s probing opens the piece and later urges the fleet-fingered Dresser’s thrumming cushion for Melford’s flourishes and percussive key hammering. When the tempo ebbs, her spare notes, amid light drum and cymbal colors, accent a mournfully bowed bass that melts to a whisper.

With a nod to its enduring fertility, Trio M joyfully confounds expectations with the litheness afforded by the piano trio format.

Visit Trio M on the web.

Track listing: brainFire and bugLight; For Bradford; Naïve Art; Big Picture; Modern Pine; Secrets to Tell You; FreeKonomics.

Personnel: Myra Melford: piano; Mark Dresser: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Style: Modern Jazz/Free Improvisation | Published: January 11, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Today's "Arcata Eye"

Today's Arcata Eye features the RJA and the upcoming Myra Melford show big time: headlines in section 2. Brother Eric Neel again takes the mic to talk about the organization, the band and the upcoming concert.

You have to buy the newspaper to see it, as they don't put brand new content up on their web site.

Check it out!

Update! You can now access the story on line, here.

Joe's Pub

Here's a link to some very nice Marty Ehrlich material. A video of "Let Me Hear You Say" in which he does the Roland Kirk thing of playing soprano and alto sax at the same time.

Also links to an interview with Myra, and a downloadable mp3 of "Hymn," the first tune on Marty and Myra's new CD "Spark!"

This tune "Hymn." It could be a top ten hit. I'm serious. KHUM played it yesterday in the afternoon drive time and I swear I could feel the whole county groovin' to it. It could happen! Jazz like this could make jazz "popular" again.

If only folks were listening--or rather--if only radio were delivering the goods.

I could do it to this tune on the radio.

Mark Dresser on YouTube

For a very cool video about the war crimes of the Cheney-Bush regime, with eerie soundtrack by Mark Dresser, go here.

For another noted performance, this one a duo with Roswell Rudd, go here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Matt Wilson's "Scenic Route"

This CD makes me wanna buy (or better *steal*) a Chevy convertible and head out into the sun rise.

(Since I live on the very western edge of North America there's really no where to go in a stolen Chevrolet than back east. Pace Kerouac.)

It's not just a record for a road trip, though it is that. And I doubt that he'll be playing this kind of music when he's here Saturday night, but maybe a future RJA show will feature him and his Arts and Crafts band. The organ is so cool. And wherever there is Terrell Stafford on trumpet, there am I.

"Scenic Route" is the third release of this band. Allaboutjazz has a judicious review.

Check it out!

Myra Melford Teaches at Berkeley

I knew that M.M. was associated with Berkeley, but I didn't know all the details, i.e. "Myra Melford is currently Assistant Professor of Improvisation and Jazz in the Music Department at the University of California at Berkeley."

Read more. (It's her UC Berkeley faculty page, which is a tiny bit dated--she has since initiated the Trio M, and Leroy Jenkins has, alas, passed.)

Review of "Spark!"

Here is a concise review of Ehrlich and Melford's highly acclaimed new CD.


Marty Ehrlich and Myra Melford

Palmetto Records

Release date: September 4th 2007

Availability: CD, iTunes

Playing as a duo since 2000, Marty Ehrlich (bass clarinet) and Myra Melford (piano) have been proving for some years what a number of jazz musicians are just beginning to appreciate; given the right understanding and approach, less can be more. The paired down effect of just their two instruments playing off each other leaves room for the listener's imagination to fill in all the spaces they have so artfully placed into context.

Strong on blues underpinnings and full of flowing melody lines, these nine tracks step out into free form excursions (as in Robin Holcomb's "Up Do") without imperiling the overall project of delivering an approachable and thoughtful series of meditations on the shifting faces of beauty.

There is a programmatic intention in Myra Melford's "A Generation Comes And A Generation Goes" and "I See An Horizon," which were inspired by the poetry of alJawahiri, a poet who wrote on war in Iraq in the 1940s. They are offered as odes to peace throughout the world. "For Leroy" is a tribute to free jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins, with whom they had both collaborated. "Blue Delhi" recaptures Myra Melford's experiences in India. However, it is not necessary to know about the programmatic intentions to appreciate the spirituality that inhabits not just these pieces but the whole album.

Overall, a very powerful use of "less is more" to produce a music that sounds out resonant and clear.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Posting Trails Off for a Bit

I'm not posting very much right now because I don't want to distract from the last few messages about the upcoming RJA show. As it is right now, you get the info, and the interview, right close to the top of the scroll, and I think that's good. I'm not going to clutter it up with news, which there ain't much of anyway.

The news: We've been working hard getting ready for Myra et al., and this coming week is gonna be nutso, what with the concert on Saturday and the start up of Spring Term on Tuesday.

Spread the word, if you're within shouting range. This is gonna be a good one. Have a gander at the main RJA web pages if you want to see the great poster, with superfine photos of Myra, Marty, Mark and Matt. Myself, I can't stand the wait. Trio M. Quartet M. Duo M.

See you Saturday night!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Coming Up Soon....

We're very excited about the concert coming up on Saturday, January 26 featuring pianist Myra Melford, multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Matt Wilson. These four gifted and adventurous improvisers will be playing in three different configurations that night: The Myra Melford-Marty Ehrlich Duo; Trio M with Melford, Dresser and Wilson; and, in their debut performance, Quartet M, with all four musicians joining forces.

The concert is at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and are on sale now at the Metro, Peoples Records, the Works in Arcata and Eureka and online at You can also find on our web site streaming audio of all of the artists who are a part of our spring season.

In addition to their performance, Melford, Ehrlich, Dresser and Wilson will present a free workshop on Sunday, January 27 at 11 a.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

RJA's Eric Neel Interviews Myra Melford

Thanks for joining us, Myra. Let me start by asking, what should we be looking forward to on January 26th?

There’s going to be a lot of variety. Marty Ehrlich and I have a duo recording out, so we’re going to play some of the music from that. And then we’re going to play some of the music from the new Trio M record, which is me, Mark Dresser, and Matt Wislon. And then we’re going to do some things as a quartet, which we haven’t actually ever done before. Because we’ve all played together in other contexts it should be very fun. We’re going to mix up who’s playing, and explore a variety of material. We are all pretty well versed in anything from free improvisation to playing each other’s original music, which is often tune-based, and so there will definitely be compositions, and tunes, and there will be improvising on the tunes, too, things that could go way out, and things that at other times may not.

You’ve always been involved in a number of ensembles simultaneously. What draws you to that kind of constant variety, to those different scenarios?

It’s one of the things I thrive on. Ever musician brings something different to the bandstand, and as an improvisor a lot of the joy is in being confronted with new situations, or new approaches, or new perspectives on material you already know. When you’re playing with different people, different combinations, it can go in a different direction, and that’s what’s really exciting to us as improvisers. Keepign it mixed up, and playing with people who approach the music differently is just really exciting for me.

Within that mix-up, how much do you depend on familiar relationships, in this case with Marty, Mark, and Matt?

Long-standing relationships in my experience provide . . . there are things that can happen in the music on a kind of telepathic level the more you play with people. The great thing about my relationships with these guys is that we’ve grown together and on our own, and now we have in many ways a shared history that has become a shared aesthetic, and that basis can just make real magic when it comes to improvising together.

That said, sometimes the first meeting with someone can be equally exciting. There may not be that surefootedness all the time, where you know what someone is likely to do, but it can be just as magical to discover, to be in that moment of discovering for the first time.

Your music seems to live on an edge between something melodic and perhaps familiar, and something restless and adventurous. What intrigues you about that edge?

You’ve said it very well. I’m constantly playing on that edge. Sometimes I’ll push it a little more one direction or the other, but I’ll always find myself coming back to that place where the different sensibilities can actually come together. It’s the tension some times that really makes the music alive for me.

As you explore that tension, your music has sometimes been described as ‘percussive,’ ‘explosive,’ even ‘aggressive.’ Do you feel those things?

I hear the terms very differently. “Percussive” to me sounds like a musical, sonic, maybe visceral description of the music. “Aggressive” connotes a certain emotional quality, and I would say for me the music is more the former than the latter. I like a very physical approach to playing. I’m a very physical player. It’s almost . . . sometimes I almost feel more like I’m dancing than playing, and the music that comes out is a result of the movement I’m engaged in as it is the result of something I’m hearing. At the same time, that physicality is often, for me, very joyous. I don’t think of it as aggressive so much as exuberant, but everyone has their own take on it. For me it really comes out of a joyful place, and a love of that kinetic energy that goes into playing.

You mention dance, and it invokes for me your willingness to jump, to cross some unpredictable bridges, to perhaps bring together genres, tempos, and sound families that one might not typically think of in combination. How is the jump or the bridge important for you?

I think of it as my adventure. It doesn’t always mean something loud, or atonal, or of a dense texture. For me, it’s just that willingness to go out on a limb that makes the music. There are times where that means I’m taking it somewhere “out,” and there are times where I ask myself, “What if I do a really meditative, spacey thing here, and then introduce some other, unexpected element with it?” I’m kind of always synthesizing opposites, I think, things that don’t really go together, trying to juxtapose them and find out something new about each one by putting them together in a different way. That’s where the juice is in the creative process for me.

You’re a student of poetry, and someone who has engaged in some pretty profound spiritual exploration as well. How do those things infuse what you’re doing musically?

That’s at the core of it for me personally. Improvising for me is a kind of spiritual practice in the sense that my goal with it is the same as my goal as a meditator or a practitioner of yoga, where the ultimate thing is to transcend duality. It’s that place where the music and the listener and the musician become one that I’m always pursuing, always seeking. Ultimately, you know, playing music for me is part of a spiritual practice. The ultimate goal is to move away from any sense of duality or separation or any of that stuff that would distract me from just being completely at one with the music or the musical experience.

Is that pursuit of “being at one” also a part of your working through so many different ensembles and combinations, to keep unsettling the ground beneath your own feet so that you don’t become too attached to any one way of being or one identity?

Yes. Exactly. That’s a huge part of it, and then, too, can I always come back to center, from that adventure, can I come back to make myself a vehicle for whatever music wants to happen, rather than trying to make it play to some preconceived idea?

How do you know that “center”? What is it like to be “back to center”?

I think when I was younger I would often happen upon it. But now it’s something I try to nurture, that relationship with the other players, that edge and balance. And when I’m not in that state, I think about what I can do, whether it be physical or emotional, to help me be in that state when I’m playing. It’s something I cultivate in my preparation more now than I used to.

You’ve said elsewhere that some of your music corresponds to your politics, to your feelings as someone who is against the war. How does that ethic translate into an aesthetic in your mind? Does sound have a politics?

That’s a good question. In a sense everything is political, of course. All of the choices that we make and the things that we create are certainly cultural and personal statements, and in a sense also represent how we see ourselves in relation to our world, which is also political, right? So, I think for me what I’m doing is sharing . . . I think this gets back to the spiritual question we discussed . . . along with the sense of oneness comes a sense of inner peace, and it can manifest in different ways for different people but ultimately that inner peace is what I’m trying to manifest through the music. If I can be in that state, and convey that through the music, then that’s my part in trying to make a more peaceful world.

That’s interesting in that some of your music, in its adventurousness, doesn’t immediately connote peace. There’s sometimes something vertiginous about it, something not quite chaotic but certainly something that moves away from known forms. How does that sound, that feel, relate to peace for you?

I think a sense of peace can arise even in the eye of the storm. There are times when I’m entranced listening to Cecil Taylor, times where I start to feel like I’m no longer even in my body, like I’m just in such a state that I don’t feel the boundary between me and the physical world around me. So even though it can be extremely tumultuous, it can bring up a sense of peace in me. I think I feel that playing, too. Sometimes some of my more intense playing is really a way of creating tension as a reflection of what I experience is happening in the world, and then looking for a resolution through the music.

Where do you go from here? Beyond these latest recordings with Marty, and Trio M, what shape does the future of the work take for you?

I’m thinking about the next projects I want to do. I’m in the early conception stages of a solo project I want to do in which I’m going to collaborate with an artist in Sacramento who has a bunch of drawings and paintings I really love. I’m in the process of writing the music I’d want to play in conjunction with those drawings and paintings, something where I would somehow project those images as I play. I’m also working on a large-ensemble project that’s going to be based on some writings, some poetry by Arab women, as well as some pieces from a book called “Literature from the Axis of Evil,” stories and essays from North Korea, and Iraq, and various so-called enemies of the U.S. I’ll be looking at their literature, and working out some pieces for a large mixed ensemble that would have both western and non-western instruments, and would have some written forms and would also have a lot of structured and non-structured improvisations within it. I’m imagining music I could do with any number of ensembles; perhaps have a west-coast version, a group in New York, and maybe travel with it and just put together musicians wherever I go.

Typically when you compose and imagine such a concept, do you do the way Ellington used to do, and imagine particular passages being ideally suited to the voices of particular musicians you’ve worked with?

Yes. I really started doing that very intentionally with the group I had called Same River Twice, with Dave Douglas, Chris Speed, Erik Friedlander and Michael Sarin. As I was writing that music over a period of a few years, I felt myself writing for what I heard them doing, and I still do that with my small ensembles. I think this larger ensemble thing, I’m more interested in writing a body of music that has a certain flexibility to it, so that any number of people could play some of it and it would still work. It’s a new way of working for me.

As you work across various media, incorporating visual works, poetry, the instruments of divergent cultures, are you conscious of asking your listeners to stretch, to do more?

Yes, and you know I’m not interested in doing real literal engagements. When I’m working in conjunction with something visual or something literary, it’s much more about being intuitive, it’s the sense of this sound having some relationship to this piece or art. Somebody else may have a completely different understanding of that relationship than I do, and that’s also valid. It’s not like I’m trying to get people to see things my way, or to see a particular thing. It’s that I’m trying to get people to open up, and maybe just to look at things differently.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

They Write Press Releases

January 14, 2008

The Redwood Jazz Alliance is thrilled to announce a very special addition to its spring 2008 calendar.

On Saturday, January 26th at 8:00 p.m., four of the most gifted and adventurous improvisers in jazz today, Pianist Myra Melford, multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Matt Wilson, all critically acclaimed bandleaders and composers in their own right, join together on stage at Fulkerson Recital Hall on the campus of Humboldt State University for a singular night of musical exploration.

In a throwback performance reminiscent of the jazz summits of days gone by, Melford, Ehrlich, Dresser, and Wilson will combine into three different ensembles. First Melford and Ehrlich, in support of their outstanding 2007 release, "Spark" (Palmetto), will renew their rich and unpredictable dialogues as a duo. In the second portion of the show, Melford will collaborate with Dresser and Wilson to form Trio M, a group whose inaugural recorded effort, "Big Picture" (Cryptogramophone), made nearly every jazz critic's best-of-2007 list. And the evening will conclude with all four players joining forces, for their first-ever live performance, as Quartet M, a super-group whose abundance of gifts promise not to be not only arithmetic but exponential.

As rare and wonderful as the concert promises to be, its quicksilver collaborative spirit is nothing new for Melford, who routinely participates in several working ensembles at any given time. Her work with Ehrlich reaches back almost eight years, and though Trio M played together for the first time early in 2006, the group is a natural extension of the many Times Melford, Dresser, and Wilson have crossed paths while playing in other combinations. Always working a line between something serene and something restless, always practicing the boldest, most vulnerable sort of empathy, Melford and her mates are alchemists, first and last, committed to being flexible, and dedicated to the unpredictable. As *Jazziz* magazine recently put it, Melford's groups demonstrate an uncommon "confidence to go into uncharted territory, and the ability to carry listeners along and then bring them back."

Melford, who studied under the late, great Don Pullen, shares her mentor's dexterous feel for both angular flights and blues grooves. She is at home in the pocket of a familiar melody or on the edge of an avant-garde improvisation, and her versatility has made her highly sought after as a collaborator by some of the greatest names in modern jazz, including Henry Threadgill and Dave Douglas.

Critically acclaimed as both a composer and player, and equally fluent on clarinet, saxophone, and flutes, Ehrlich has been hailed by the *Village Voice* as "one of the most formidable multi-instrumentalists since Eric Dolphy . . . the jazz dream musician." Beyond his work with Melford, the list of leaders he's played with is as long as your arm; highlights include:

Muhal Richard Abrams, John Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Andrew Hill, and Oliver Lake.

On the music scene since 1972, Dresser has played free jazz with L.A.¹s Black Music Infinity group, classical music with the San Diego Symphony, and been a member of Anthony Braxton¹s pioneering New York jazz group of the late 1980s. In addition to Trio M, and his ongoing work as a professor at the University of California at San Diego, his most recent projects include trio work with Ehrlich and drummer Andrew Cyrille.

Wilson, winner of the 2007 *DownBeat* Rising Star Drummer Award, began his career as a leader with a highly regarded 1996 collaboration with Dewey Redman. He has worked with the Either/Orchestra and the Charlie Kohlhase Quintet, and has settled in New York, where collaborations have included work with, among others, Lee Konitz, Tim Hagans, Bill Mays and Cecil McBee.

He currently leads his highly inventive Arts & Crafts band.

Their performance on Friday night will, like all RJA events, be followed by a FREE public workshop at 11:00 a.m. On Sunday, January 27th, in Fulkerson Rectial Hall on the HSU campus.

The Melford-Ehrlich-Dresser-Wilson performance and public lecture are presented with the generous support of Wildberries Marketplace, top of the hill G Street, in Arcata. The RJA wants especially to thank Wildberries president and owner Phil Ricord. Without Phil's commitment to our efforts, this exciting show quite simply would not be possible, and because of his support ticket prices for this RJA event will once again be $15 General Admission and $10 for students and seniors.

To order tickets and other RJA merchandise online, and to get details about the entire Redwood Jazz Alliance Spring Season (which features upcoming appearances by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Wayne Horvitz's Sweeter Than the Day, the Miguel Zenon Quartet, Jewels and Binoculars, the David Berkman Trio, and Ben Allison with Man Size Safe) please visit our

Advance tickets are also available at The Metro, The Works (both locations), and People's Records.

For more information, tune in to "Bright Moments with the Redwood Jazz Alliance," this Friday night (and every Friday night) at 8:00-10:00 pm on KHSU 90.5 FM and KHSR 91.9 FM. Also, please check out our new "Bright Moments" weblog at:

We in the RJA are incredibly gratified and humbled by your enthusiastic support of our efforts to host great jazz musicians from around the world.

We can't thank you enough for coming out to the shows, listening to the radio show, and spreading the good word. You make our work possible.

We hope you continue to enjoy the season and we hope you will join us on January 26th for another extraordinary night of music.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Kenny

Originally uploaded by Pip Eastop
Kenny Wheeler, born on this day in 1930.

Photo by Pip Eastop, posted at Flickr on 25 Feb 06.

If you click on Pip's link below the photo, you'll see more fantastic shots of Kenny.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kenny Tells You Which Jazz Program He Likes Best

The subject line tells it all.

Happy Birthday, Hootie

Happy Birthday to Jay McShann. This is the second one since 1916 that he isn't around to celebrate it.

January 12, 1916December 7, 2006

Cody and I used to see him from time to time in St. Joseph or Kansas City. One life-memorable time at the gorgeous Folly Theater, with Claude Fiddler Williams, and Harry "Sweets" Edison. All of them are gone now.

Absolutely the very last of the Blue Devils.

A Bill Dixon Clip

Jamie Proctor, from Thrill Jockey Records, writes to tell me that we can hear a selection from the new Exploding Star Orchestra with Bill Dixon CD.

Clink on the link.

Friday, January 11, 2008

14 Days and Counting

Myra Melford, Marty Ehrlich, Mark Dresser and Matt Wilson, at Fulkerson Hall, 8:00 pm, January 26.

Check it out.

Next morning: a free master class too. 11:00 AM, Fulkerson.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bill Dixon, Guelph, Chicago Underground

Blogging at times seems more conducive to the sideways slide of the signifier, the impulse to surf, scroll, cut-and-paste or point over there, rather than the essayistic discipline of in-depth attention.

That and this too: anyone in my vicinity for a bit of jazz time gets an earful of Guelph. I know I know, there are other jazz festivals in the world and I've even been to a few, but Guelph 2006 was one of Dem Changes for me. It rocked my world.

Not just me, it turns out, and here the sideways click:

Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra

Thrill Jockey
thrill 192 • 2008

Back in September of 2006 both Rob Mazurek and Bill Dixon were performing at the Guelph International Jazz Festival in Ontario, Canada, where the two horn players met for the first time there at a workshop the latter was conducting. Later that day Mazurek saw his long-time hero perform for the first time, but it was an impromptu performance after Dixon's sound check that really left a mark on him. A photographer wanted a shot of Dixon playing his trumpet. "He put horn to lips and played the most sublime, powerful sound I have ever heard from any player ever," says Mazurek. "It was as if the church was going to crack open and a million white birds would fly from his chest, leaving traces of gold and silver in the light-blasted sky. What felt like an eternity was, in fact, one minute of sound. He ended the piece with an ascending flurry, and it was as if his sound had penetrated the granite pillars to be embedded in the rock for all of eternity." Clearly, an impression was made.

Although Mazurek had long been inspired by Dixon's life and work, meeting him and hearing him play in the flesh was an altogether revelatory experience. Mazurek was enthralled when his elder responded in return, catching the gig by the Sao Paulo Underground, with whom Mazurek was playing, and then charging backstage once the gig was over. "He walked directly up to me, gave me a big hug, and said that the performance was powerful and intense and fantastic, and the juxtaposition of rhythms, the dense structures, the sound, the sound...," he recalls. "I was stunned."


So as it happens I was standing about 10 feet away from Mazurek and Dixon when they met at the workshop described in paragraph one above. I missed the sound check, but I was there shortly after for the concert in the church, and it were beyond my wildest, as they say.... The next day I got to hang--they say this, really they do--with Bill and his wife Sharon a bit, and that too were way beyond awesome.

I gotta get this new record, of course, and I gotta get back there next year.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Inside Knowledge

I'm a member of the TPIN (Trumpet Players International) listserv, and they're currently discussing "Fake" books. There's a lot to know about them, I'm finding out.

Anyway, one of the more interesting tidbits to appear today is this one, and I'm wondering if you all knew about it. Is this true, Dan? Any other knowledgeable insiders hip to this?

Jazz players of my acquaintance refer to key in a wonderfully helpful shorthand. C is signaled by a closed fist (no sharps or flats). F is "one down" (one flat) - signaled on the stand by pointing one finger down. Bb is "two down" for two flats; G is "one up" for one sharp. D is "two up". You get the idea.

Saves a ton of confusion on the stand when not everyone can hear everything that's said - more of a problem now than it was a few years ago :-)}. Simple hand signals for the key of the tune being called.

And saves arguments about whether Autumn Leaves is in g minor or Bb major. It's simply "two down". ;-)}

Bill Biffle


And then later in the day came this addendum, in the scroll, so to speak:


In NYC, up is flat and down is sharp. I know the reason, anyone care to guess? :)



Update: Today, Tuesday the 8th:


I'm on the East Coast (of Iowa) and we use down for flats and up for sharps. I just makes sense!


One thing I do not know, is why on the West Coast, we always use fingers

> down for flats and fingers up for sharps, but it is the opposite on

> the East Coast........

> Mike Vax


Update on January 10:

> By the way, you can solve the whole major/minor key thing by calling "2 down" or "1 up"



My first experience with this club date "key code" using finger signals was when a leader called After You've Gone in "3."

I was the only horn on the gig, and I proceeded to play After You've Gone in Eb concert, which was correct, but I was playing a jazz waltz WAY faster than the leader wanted it. I interpreted every finger snap as a measure of 3/4. I thought to myself, "This guy's going to be thrilled with me because I know the tune he called and how to do what he asks at this ridiculously bright tempo."

Wow, was I embarrassed later when I learned what he had intended!

Funniest part of it is that the rhythm section enjoyed the challenge of interpreting the tune the way I misinterpreted it. The guy hired me over the phone because I knew and sang him the bridge to Someone To Watch Over Me but he didn't know how inexperienced I was. That leader groomed me into a much better player . . . thank God he was cool with paying me while giving me on-the-job training.

Oh, and he held his three fingers sideways/horizontal, not up or down.

Rich Willey / Boptism Music Publishing

Friday, January 4, 2008

Are You Curious?

Humboldt County Jazz Fans!!!!

Are you curious about the jazz artists coming to town in Spring 08? Do you want to know more about who they are and what they sound like?

Now you can listen to some of their tunes and songs ahead of time. There is a listening "widget" about half-way down the links column (which could be on your left, or right, depending upon your browser). Under "DrDavis' Music," you should see a subtitle ("RJA Artists Coming to Town"), and then a list of tunes.

Highlight a title, then click the play button. I have included at least two songs from each of our upcoming visitors. I may switch around some of the entries from other CDs in the coming weeks.

Note that this is totally above-board. You cannot *steal* these tunes. I didn't. You can only listen to the streaming audio here. The sound is pretty terrific, if I say so myself (as if I and not Media Master are making this possible). Of course, if you like the music, buy it, online or at your favorite record shop. And tell your friends!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

From Brother Neel

Eric notes that the Village Voice 2007 Jazz Poll has appeared. It's slightly late this year, but as it's the Mother Of All Top ___ Lists, we'll forgive.

It comes with a major apparatus: The main composite list of the top fifty, then links to "New releases, reissues, debuts, and more—each critic's picks." All told there's about a week's reading in there.

It is interesting to see what some of the major dudes are listening to. I'd say major "women" too but I can't find any. I though I had one with Ashley Kahn, but it's a he. Probably British. I dunno. Not many women in the ranks of jazz critics.

Is Suzanne Lorge British? That's maybe one.

Received from New York This Morning....

That's a pompous subject line, but hey, it's good to be on Kenny Werner's mailing list:

One night only!
Randy Brecker
David Sanchez
Scott Colley
Antonio Sanchez
w/ Kenny Werner @ The Blue Note
come see this great band!
Blue Note Jazz Club
131 W 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 475-8592
sets @ 8 & 10:30pm

So what's it like to live in NYC and have access to ALL THAT JAZZ? Like anything else I suppose: you would also need access to about a zillion dollars a year to take advantage of much of it. But hey, a guy can dream, no?

Randy Brecker's straight-ahead playing has always been under-rated. Scott Colley: now there's the man to see. He's got some nice radio shows available at his Artist Share site. Streaming audio is getting so easy and efficient that we're now able to get some serious samples of just about everybody new, online. That's good. It's not all good, but that's good. I'm listening to "Trip," from Colley's Initial Wisdom CD (Palmetto), as I write this. Ravi Coltrane is sounding more than a bit like his dad, and Scott is doing some trippy things with the bow, and a touch of electronic reverb on the bass. Most cool.

So, Kenny meets Colley. At the Blue Note. Kenny was talking about these occasional gigs at the Blue Note while he was here in October. They are major moments for the artists too, he told us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

On the Horizon, Incoming, for the Watching....

Nellie McKay. Pronounced "Mick I," as I found out yesterday in the car listening to Terry Gross's year-end round up of "Fresh Air."

First featured were a duo of comedian singers from New Zealand who apparently have a great TV show. Alas I've never seen the show and so my radar wasn't on, and I didn't catch their names. The songs they sang were unbelievably hilarious send-ups of 70s era "message tunes." They were extremely pomo, very adept at pastiche and inter-musical parody. Pretty cruel when I think about some of that kind of music I remember actually liking, way back when (e.g. Marvin Gaye: "What's Going On," which they specifically mentioned as a target). But I'm not whining or being smart about it: they were fantastically funny, and I'll be Googling around to find out who they are.

And also about Nellie McKay, who is on my radar. She sang a couple of gorgeous songs, accompanying herself on ukelele, I think it was, and I was impressed. I'm not very smart about singers but (watch for it....) I know what I like. She did a message tune off her new CD and then a torch song that really had spark to it.

Obligatory Villagers is not exactly a title for the ages, but it's available at Emusic, and it does show up on several Top Ten Or Eleven or Twelves lists for last year.

Last year. 07. Good Riddance. Now I just have to wait for November.

Update: the torch song she sang was "P.S., I Love You," from the new movie of the same title.