Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Friday, November 04, 2011

My Vinyls 3: Charlie Parker Memorial Part 2

I don't know how I got this one. It basically is a collection of Bird songs from 1944 to 1948, mostly with short failed takes released on the Savoy label. The playing is brilliant, not only by Bird but also by Bud Powell and a young ambitious trumpeter called Miles Davis. You can hear Parker whistle when something goes wrong to stop the band.

I had a tiring day at school. I suck at memorizing stuff, and had to sing by heart 2 Miles solos and even hours after the exam I was still singing them in my head. Came home and practiced a little bit and wanted to listen to some good music to ease my mind. This precious piece of bebop history did it well for me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Vinyls 2: East Broadway Run Down (Sonny Rollins)

The musician I listen to most these days is probably Sonny Rollins. His big tone, endless stream of ideas and immaculate feel of time and rhythm continues to amaze and inspire people all around the world. This 1966 album consists of a quartet a la Ornette Coleman (trumpet, sax, drums and bass) with Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. I must say the latter two, being part of Coltrane's rhythm section for 5 years at the time, sound really tight. Although Hubbard's playing on the long title track (20:27) is fabulous, he is not included on the other two.
The wikipedia article quotes this link and says that the title track is an improvisation on the Lionel Hampton's 'Hey Baba Rebop' riff. I personally associate the song Blessing In Disguise (first track of side B) with that riff. This song also happens to be my favorite on the album with Sonny's playing being much better and focused than from the Run Down. The Hammerstein/Rodgers tune We Kiss In A Shadow, the only ballad, concludes the album. I am not a fan of ballads being played by saxophone trios and this tune makes no exception. Plus, I don't really get the idea of mixing the free jazz sound (the noise elements vs. the lick oriented bebop phrasing that outlines the harmony) with standards like this one. Still, the interaction between Jones and Garrison makes the song going.
A fact also worthy of noting is that it is Rollins' last one for the Impulse label and his last before he took his second sabbatical (yes, he was doing this stuff before it became hip and when it was actually risky to do so!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Vinyls 1: The Clown (Charles Mingus)

For my 29th birthday I was offered a vinyl player, and a copy of the beautiful album "The Clown" by Mingus. So I guess it's my turn to have my share of the vinyl comeback madness that has been going since these last couple of years.

The album is composed of two tracks on each side, and includes two of my favorite Mingus tunes: the uncompromising Haitian Fight Song, and Reincarnation Of A Lovebird (my first encounter with Mingus was through this incredible ode to Charlie Parker that we have played a couple of times over the last year, although I must say pretty disappointingly) . The other two songs are Blue Cee, a blues in C (although I think they switch to Bb and back) and the title track The Clown which, according to wikipedia "[.. ]tells the story of a clown who tried to please people like most jazz musicians do, but whom nobody liked until he was dead. [Mingus'] version of the story ended with his blowing his brains out with the people laughing and finally being pleased because they thought it was part of the act. [He] liked the way Jean changed the ending; leaves it more up to the listener."

There is a peculiarity on the cover of my copy: The Atlantic 1260 part below the image is missing. Maybe the image above that I took from wikipedia is from an earlier -or later for that matter- print.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life is really weird. Here I am trying to transcribe all 4 voices, and some of the piano accompaniment from the amazing Oliver Nelson tune Hoe-Down, realizing it is the second time I'm falling in love with this song.

It all started in our sight reading class two weeks ago. A friend of mine was showing me some augmented arpeggio exercise (it's basically descending the arpeggio in a straight forward 8th note sequence approaching each starting note from the upper chromatic neighbour), and our teacher said it sounded like this Oliver Nelson tune called Hoe-Down that he had on his iPod. I just loved how the song started with a basic blues idea and turned into a modern beauty. I went back home that day and listened to the whole The Blues And The Abstract Truth album and remembered something. Back in 2000, the day of our first sight reading class at London Music School, Ed Speight brought an arrangement of Stolen Moments (first track of the album) for 6 guitars. I remember we failed miserably as no one knew how to read music. The same day I got a copy of the Abstract Truth cd from the library and copied it to a cassette and really loved the second song (Hoe-Down) without knowing the name because I hadn't written the names of the songs. Of course, I left the cassette back in London and forgot about the whole album and now I'm rediscovering the song.

Although I thought my connection to music is ultimately weaker than it was back in the early 2000's, I have the impression that I now hear more "creatively". Some things must have settled in despite the fact that I didn't practice at all for years.

Here is the song. I love the trumpet and tenor solo. I think I'm going to arrange this to play with a guitar quartet.

Merry Christmas and happy new year,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So, the summer is over another busy year has begun. I've recorded couple of songs on an album of a friend of mine from school, the album is in the mixing stages and will be available soon. We're also jamming every Tuesdays with people from American School of Music in a little bar. We open the night as the house band with a couple of standards, and this really incredible singer called Bryant Mills joins us to heat things up a little bit. After that a jam session begins. As it's an open stage we witnessed some very broad range of styles being played the last 2 months.
The school has started with all it's splendor, I'm absolutely in love with the practical way ear training and musical awareness is being taught and emphasized in the American tradition of musical education. As always, the best thing about the school is the opportunity to get together and play with people from different backgrounds, and who have different perspectives.
Also there is a small paid gig coming in November in another city. Apparently we'll be headed to Grenoble to play a couple of nights. I'm really looking forward to this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's been an incredibly busy year for me. I worked 18 hours a week at my job and finished the first year at The American School Of Modern Music. Other than that I was practicing or rehearsing almost everyday (although looking back I realize that most of my practice time was ruined because of a serious lack of concentration as a result of exhaustion). We did some gigs around Paris with friends from school and even got paid on some of them. The good thing about the gigs was the variety of music being played. One day we would play Stevie Wonder and more pop oriented songs with a singer, while the next we were trying our best on Mingus tunes and we played a lot of standards. As I am a basically self taught sax player, I had to return to the basics and correct my bad habits like too much reed biting and intonation (I still work on this, it is the single most energy consuming thing to do and most people just underestimate it).

Sometimes I feel that I'm rushing a little thinking that I'm always behind of "schedule" and that really stresses me. This feeling comes and goes every now and then, right now I'm in one of those periods. Patience, patience, patience. And baby steps.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore,
is not an act but a habit.