Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Destaques da DownBeat de Abril de 2007

Michael Brecker como "cover story". Mui merecidamente.

"When Michael Brecker died on Jan. 13, the music world lost one of its truly great artists and all-around beautiful human beings. To pay tribute to Brecker, we talk to the musicians with whom he collaborated and those he influenced. We tell the story of how a young post-Coltrane tenor saxophonist from Philadelphia emerged on the scene to redefine the role of his instrument."

Entre os reviews, algumas curiosidades:
três estrelas para "Not Too Late" de Norah Jones, quatro para "Estrada de Terra" do tecladista Philippe Baden Powell (dá-lhe Brasil!) e, pasmem!, apenas uma estrela para "From the Plantation to the Penitentiary", o mais recente manifesto tradicionalista-rancoroso (e ultrapretensioso) de Wynton Marsalis para a Blue Note.

Eis um trecho do artigo sobre Michael Brecker:
Remembering A Titan
By Dan Ouellette
Michael Brecker has died, yet he lives. His saxophone is silenced, but his music survives. We grieve the void, yet celebrate his mighty feats: the sonic trembles that shaped new continents of jazz and the telling snapshots of his heroics, such as his first onstage meeting with McCoy Tyner—at Yoshi’s in 1995—and his final public exhilaration, guesting with Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall last summer.

In conversation with fellow saxophonists Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano at the time of their Saxophone Summit Gathering Of Spirits CD release (October 2004 DownBeat cover story), Brecker said: “Jazz is not entertainment. It’s an art dealing with complicated and subtle things. It’s not an easy listen. It involves close and open communication among musicians and a lot of trust onstage. That’s partially what makes this music so powerful.”

Brecker was a bona fide jazz star, but he could have been the music’s most modest figure. He was a shy man who blew torrents and mused rhapsodies, without boast or swagger. He channeled John Coltrane, but found sanctity in his own horn.

“The power, mystery and spirituality in Coltrane’s music inspired me,” Brecker said in the ’04 interview. “That was enough to propel me to choose music as my life’s endeavor.”

Saxophonist Tim Ries, who was first a fan of Brecker’s and then became a close friend, said, “Mike’s ego was never in the way. Seeing how intensely he practiced and always pushed to the next level was inspiring. But aside from the music, as a person, there are few people so kind and willing to spend time encouraging other musicians as Mike.”

“It was never about the limelight for Michael,” said Dave Love, whose Heads Up label will release Brecker’s highly anticipated new album, Pilgrimage, on May 22. “He was the consummate artist and gentleman. He was an artist’s artist. So many people looked to him for their growth. He’ll go down in jazz history as one of the greatest saxophonists of all time. He carried on the Coltrane tradition in a respectful way.”

“Mike got better and better as an artist until the day he passed,” said older brother and trumpeter Randy Brecker. “He was so intent on learning and expanding his vocabulary. He was like Coltrane in that way—dedicated to practicing, committed to the music as an art form, never staying the same. Whenever we played together, it was always a joy. I would get all pumped up and ready to keep up with him. And every time, he would add something new that would blow me away, and I’d have to slink away with the bell between my legs.”

Brecker died Jan. 13 in a New York hospital. He was 57. The official cause of death was leukemia, which was brought on by his two-year battle against MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a rare form of cancer where the bone marrow stops producing healthy blood cells. His death was directly linked to a failure to find a suitable donor for a blood stem cell and bone marrow transplant after an exhaustive worldwide search for a person with a genetically matched tissue type.

Initially reluctant to go public with his illness, Brecker, convinced he could help others, offered his name to a cause that would aid those in similarly dire situations by getting people to sign up with a donor registry. “Many lives have been saved as a result of Mike’s perseverance,” Randy said. “There was a shortage of potential donors.”

“Even though he was such a private man, Mike was always concerned about others,” said Darryl Pitt, Brecker’s manager since 1986. “He talked about his illness, but only to make people aware of the need for donors.”

E leia também:

ICP Orchestra
In For Life
By Michael Jackson

The Instant Composer’s Pool, as a record label, musical collective and modus operandi, was established by Willem Breuker, Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink 40 years ago in Amsterdam. In 1967 there was no precedent for what two Dutchmen and a pianist born in Kiev had in mind. “Except,” Mengelberg said, “maybe in America with those women around Paul Bley—Carla Bley and Annette Peacock—what they were up to with the Jazz Composers Guild.”

Saxophonist Breuker, perhaps the ICP’s primary catalyst, broke away to form his Kollektief in 1974. Since that time Mengelberg and Bennink have persevered as one of the most enduring tag-teams in creative music—the portly pianist playing a wryer Hardy to the gangly drummer’s knowingly slapstick Laurel. Seeking comparatives to their inimitable act is tempting, but folly.

“When people sit in a concert hall they are used to this and that, and then suddenly the piano player is eating a cake, or the drummer is taking his cymbals off and winding them on the floor,” Bennink said. “Then we talk a little bit, and people think it’s Laurel and Hardy. I never have that intention.”

When the two toured the Midwest with the ICP Orchestra last spring, their relationship resembled a matador and picador—Han the goader, and Misha the spiker. Bennink didn’t buy the analogy. “When you go and look at a painting as a spectator, there always should be room to come into a painting, grow into it, find your place,” Bennink said. “When I played with Misha there was always so much space that there was time to make up these thoughts.”

Mengelberg was more sympathetic. “I’m not courageous enough to stab with a sword and go through to the kill,” he said. “I stab with a pin. I like to hinder people.”

Neither man lacks courage of conviction, even if Bennink is the more physically demonstrative of the two. During separate solo performances orbiting their concert with the orchestra, both flouted compromise. Bennink remains protean, his antics refusing to pall in the way aspects of the Kollektief’s schtick have over the years, in large part due to his sheer athleticism (despite being almost 65) and his reliance on precipitous site specifics. At his performance at the Intuit art gallery in Chicago, he put 10-foot planks into service as ungainly drumsticks. In the meantime, he annihilated several loaner snares and used a cupped hand to spookily control reverberations from a surviving snare drumhead.

Some express longueur at Bennink’s forays from the kit, at which he is a deep catalyst of swing feel and meister of brushwork amid the gamut of traditional skill. Yet his improv theatrics demand a more nerve-wracking sense of timing.

Mengelberg will start a performance with a blank slate in the same fearless manner, commencing with a scribble on the keys, a nursery rhyme—“a little nonsense” as he would term it—then coax it into something, or perhaps nothing. To him, either is acceptable. Beginning his solo set at Chicago’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, he tossed his leather jacket on the apex of the open piano lid and let it hang as an affront to concert society. Mengelberg was riddled with sniffles, so his rather disgusting deployment of tissues and throat coughs rendered literal the music as phlegmatic.

Though Mengelberg’s connection with the Fluxus movement from the 1960s has been overplayed, such unapologetic interpolation of chance conditions is part of his general manifesto, calculated to set bourgeois teeth on edge. To top off his set of miniaturized ruminations and underscore disregard for audience expectation, Mengelberg pranced across the stage like a sugarplum fairy.

The true wonder of the ICP Orchestra, however, is not the idiosyncrasies of these two giants of dada-jazz, but how they have magnetized a loyal league of uppercrust musicians—the “Lifers”—whose personalities also define the group.

“ICP changed quite a bit in 40 years,” Bennink reminisced. “How the band sounds now, how they work for each other and they are all good improvisers, it reminds me of the Duke Ellington band. It’s not a showoff band. It’s a band that’s interested in music. It can only work the way it works now with these people.”

Bobby McFerrin
Out Of The Woods
By Bill Banfield

The idea that one was in the woods—perhaps lost, or maybe searching for and attaining spiritual insight—conjures up a powerful image of a symbolic journey: crossing over, coming out of the valley, making it to the other side. Bobby McFerrin’s musical life is more than symbolic in this way. For almost a year-and-a-half, he retreated to his rural home in the outskirts of Philadelphia for a sabbatical.

“You know what’s wonderful about living in the woods?” McFerrin asked last December at his home near Chestnut Hill, Pa. “When it rains you can see the rain, when it’s windy you can hear the wind. You can hear the snow fall. I have had the wonderful blessing to sit and drink all that in. Now I am anxious and eager to see what will come out.”

McFerrin moved here with his family in 2001, after living in Minneapolis, where he served as creative chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1994–2001. His move to the East Coast was immediately followed by a blistering tour itinerary of performances, clinics and conducting. He exhausted himself, became sick and in 2005 made the decision to stop performing and teaching so he could stay home, spend time with his family, contemplate his music and faith, compose and recharge his batteries.

His home is surrounded by nature, with deer sightings a regular occurrence and no other houses visible in any direction. Large bay windows offer views of the forest, and porches extend out into the woods. It’s integrated into the environment, so he can enjoy and appreciate the surroundings. Inside, there’s a music room, leisure room and Bible room, which contains a piano, rare recordings and his comfortable reading chair. He owns more Bibles than a library should be allowed to hold.

“I did this to find my center again, to get quiet inside, to be still,” McFerrin said as he walked with his two dogs, Harley and Mo (for Mozart), around the acres of woods that surround his home. “To sleep in my own bed, raid my own refrigerator, be with my family, snuggle with wife, hug my daughter, walk the dogs, sit on my front porch swing, read my Bible and pray, get up early when it’s dark, look at the stars, take deep, deep breaths—now that’s living, and I was successful in doing all those things.”

Now, he’s back in a capacity that audiences around the world know him: He’s performing. His sabbatical is over, and McFerrin has emerged from the woods prepared to set new musical trends and show the world a new face. “I was so tired of entertaining,” he said of his state of mind before taking his break. “You never want to get to the place when you walk out on a stage, look out at the audience and not recognize yourself. We live in a society that’s so fast. We want fast solutions to our problems. We need to know immediately what we are supposed to do. It took me a year-and-a-half to figure out where I wanted to start again creatively. I am so glad that I took this long.”

Fire Music Renaissance
New Music from the Likes of Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Soweto Kinch, Terence Blanchard, Charlie haden, Wynton Marsalis and Others Offers a Surge of Political Dissent
By John Murph

Three years ago, in discussing his ambitious and political-minded jazz big band disc, Goodbye Swingtime (Accidental), British electronica composer Matthew Herbert said, “If you look 50 years into the future at today’s music charts, there would be zero indication that there was a war going on. It shows a great deal about what music has become.”

Herbert directed most of his indictment at the pop world. But how true do his statements ring for jazz today? By scratching beneath the surface, a surge of political dissent in modern jazz becomes apparent.

One doesn’t have to scratch too hard. In the wake of such decade-defining events as the 2000 presidential election, 9/11, the Iraq war and overall war on terror, and the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, a sizable number of jazz albums voicing sociopolitical angst have emerged. This decade has produced such stirring works as violinist Billy Bang’s personal exorcism Vietnam, The Aftermath (Justin Time, 2001) and its equally poignant follow-up, Vietnam: Reflections (Justin Time, 2005); Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd’s elaborate In What Language? (Pi, 2003); Dave Douglas’ Strange Liberation (RCA, 2004); Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra’s Not In Our Name (Verve, 2005); Alex Coke’s Iraqnophobia/Wake Up Dead Man (Documentary Sound Art, 2005); and the World Saxophone Quartet’s Political Blues (Justin Time, 2006).

This trend isn’t slowing down. Already this year, Iyer and Ladd released Still Life With Commentator (Savoy Jazz), which takes on today’s blogosphere media culture. Wynton Marsalis’ provocative new disc, From The Plantation To The Penitentiary (Blue Note), picks up the sentiments expressed by Bill Cosby in 2004, when he questioned the advancement and current leadership of Black America after the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

In England, trumpeter Abram Wilson’s recent sophomore effort, Ride! Ferris Wheel To The Modern Day Delta (Dune), amounts to a brooding meditation on his cultural roots in New Orleans, while saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch delivers an autobiographical portrait at life spent in his Birmingham, England, housing project on his new disc, A Life In The Day Of B19: Tales Of The Tower Block (Dune). Even the seemingly benign pop jazz chanteuse Norah Jones shared some of her political concerns with the salty ditty “My Dear Country” from her new disc, Not Too Late (Blue Note).

The Hurricane Katrina catastrophe has sparked the most recent wave of socially conscious releases. The federal, state and local governments’ foul ups in their Gulf Coast rescue efforts, most pointedly in New Orleans, can be viewed as a direct diss to jazz, considering the Crescent City’s role in nurturing the music. “When we think about the war in Iraq and other stuff facing this country, we’ve mostly been giving a blind eye,” claimed New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who’s working on a jazz interpretation of the score he composed for Spike Lee’s four-part HBO documentary on the hurricane and its aftermath, When The Levees Broke. “But Katrina has made people say, ‘Enough is enough!’ and speak up.”

Albums that address post-Katrina New Orleans include Dr. John’s four-song cycle, Sippiana Hericane (Blue Note, 2005), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s What’s Going On (Shout Factory, 2006), Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint’s The River In Reverse (Verve Forecast, 2006), and Harry Connick, Jr.’s 2007 Oh, My NOLA! (Sony) and Chanson Du Vieux Carré (Marsalis Music). The political voice on all of these vary, but the overall theme is “New Orleans matters.”


Andy Statman
Gordon Grdina
Paoli Mejias
Steve Swell

Blindfold Test

Pianist Larry Willis was tested on the following tracks for the "Blindfold Test":
Gonzalo Rubalcaba: "The Hard One" from Supernova (Blue Note)
Chano Dominguez: "No Me Platiques, Mas" from Con Alma (Venus)
Denny Zeitlin: "Bemsha Swing" from Solo Voyage (MaxJazz)
Marcin Wasilewski: "Plaza Real" from Trio (ECM)
Oscar Peterson: "Sweet Lorraine" from Freedom Song (Pablo)
Dave McKenna: "C-Jam Blues" from Live At Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 2 (Concord Jazz)
Jason Moran: "Out Front" from The Bandwagon (Blue Note)
Bebo Valdes: "Lamento Cubano" from El Arte Del Sabor (Blue Note)

Also In This Issue

Musicians Gear Guide; Keith Jarrett transcription; Brooklyn Jazz Underground; Backstage With ... David S. Ware; Sly Stone reissued; George Wein sells Festival Productions; Ethan Iverson Insider column; Alice Coltrane tribute; Panama Jazz Festival, Horace Silver tribute and Dizzy Reece return reviewed; dozens of CD reviews; and much more!

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