Tag Archives: saxophone

Artist Profiles: Yuri Yunakov

Yuri Yunakov

Saxophonist Yuri Yunakov was born in Haskovo, southeastern Bulgaria, of Turkish Romani (Gypsy) ancestry and currently lives in the New York City area. He comes from a long line of musicians in his extended family, including his father and grandfather and his uncles and brother. Yuri’s career began with the band Mladost and he later started a 10-year collaboration with Ivo Papazov and Trakija.

Yuri is Bulgaria’s most famous saxophonist. Together with the Trakija orchestra Yunakov played at hundreds of weddings in his native Bulgaria, and toured extensively in Europe and North America.

In 1989 he was featured on NBC TV with saxophonist David Sanborn. Yuri appears on the recording “Gypsy Fire”, a CD of Turkish music on Traditional Crossroads.

In 1994, Yunakov moved to the United States. He is the director of the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, and is in great demand among the Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Armenian and Romani communities in the New York City area.

In 2011, Yunakov received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Discography:

New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music (Traditional Crossroads, 1997)
Balada (Traditional Crossroads, 1999)
Roma Variations (Traditional Crossroads, 2001)
Together Again (Traditional Crossroads, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Trygve Seim

Trygve Seim – Photo by Antonio Armentano www.antarm.org

Inspired early in his creative life by Jan Garbarek and by Edward Vesala, Trygve Seim has worked in many modern jazz contexts, and continues to tour with Manu Katché’s group.

In his own music, however, distance from conventional definitions of jazz becomes ever more marked. Investigation of Asian, Middle Eastern and East European music – and especially the sounds of the Armenian duduk, the Japanese shakuhachi, and the Indian bansuri flute – have had their effect on Seim’s music and brought about a redefining of the nature of dynamics. Subtle shadings and textures are part of his diversity, and microtonal phrasing characteristic of his melodic approach.

In additional to his discography as a leader and as a member of The Source, Trygve Seim appears on ECM recordings by Iro Haarla (Northbound), Sinikka Langeland (Starflowers), Christian Wallumrød (Sofienberg Variations), and Manu Katché (Playground). Other recent activities have included extended stays in Cairo, where Seim studied Arabian modes and played concerts with pianist Fathy Salama.

Trygve Seim – Photo by Antonio Armentano www.antarm.org

Seim frequently collaborates with accordionist Frode Haltli, with whom he shares an interest in the expressive potential of acoustic music across all stylistic boundaries, from world folk traditions to contemporary composition. The accordionist joined Seim’s large ensemble for live performances after the release of Different Rivers in 2000, and participated in the recording of later that year, as well as Sangam (recorded 2002-2004). He continues to tour regularly with Seim’s large ensemble. Trygve and Frode have been playing in duo since 2001. Yeraz is the first documentation of their work in this format.

Seim’s ECM debut Different Rivers won the annual prize of the German Record Critics (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in 2001).

Discography

* Airamero, with Christian Wallumrød, Johannes Eick, Per Oddvar Johansen (ODIN Records NJ 40492, 1994)
* http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00008FHPC?ie=UTF8&tag=musidelmund-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00008FHPC | Olemanns kornett, with The Source (Curling Legs CLCD 63, 1994)
* The Source: of Christmas, with The Source (Curling Legs CLCD 63, 1996)
* Decoy, with Havard Lund, Njål Ølnes and Audun Kleive (Turn Left Productions TURNCD497, 1998)
* The MotorSource Massacre, with Motorpsycho and The Source (Stickman Records 3RD EAR 0200, 2000)
* Different Rivers (ECM Records ECM 1744, 2001)
* Live In The North, with 1300 Oslo (Curling Legs CLCD 63, 2001)
* The Source and Different Cikadas, with Øyvind Brække and Per Oddvar Johansen (ECM Records , ECM 1764, 2002)
* Sangam (ECM Records ECM 1797, 2004)
* The Source, with The Source (ECM Records ECM 1966, 2006)
* The Source: of Christmas – “Live” (GRAPPA Records GRCD 4215, 2007)
* Yeraz, with Frode Haltli (ECM Records ECM 2044, 2008)
* Purcor (ECM Records ECM 2186, 2010)
* Rumi Songs (ECM Records ECM 2449, 2016)

Web site www.trygveseim.no

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Artist Profiles: Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito D’Rivera

Born in the island of Cuba, Paquito D’Rivera began his career as a child prodigy, playing both the clarinet and the saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the same Orchestra.

A restless musical genius, Mr. D’Rivera formed and performed with various musical ensembles as a teenager and became one of the founding members of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which he subsequently conducted for two years and was also founding member and co-director of the innovative musical group Irakere, whose explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical music and traditional Cuban music had never been heard before. The group toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several Grammy nominations and a Grammy.

In May of 2003, he received a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Music, from the Berklee School of Music, adding this to his many numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Contribution to Latin Music along with Dizzy Gillespie and Gato Barbieri.

In addition to his awards and recognitions, including six Grammys, Paquito made history for being the first artist to win Latin Grammies in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories, for Stravinsky’s Historia del Soldado and “Brazilian Dreams with New York Voices” in 2003, the other historic recipient is Wynton Marsalis.

In 1996, he received a Grammy for his highly acclaimed recording, Portraits of Cuba. In 2000 for his Tropicana Nights, along with a nomination in the classical category for his Music from Two Worlds, featuring compositions by Schubert, Brahms, Guastavino, Villa Lobos, and by Mr. D’Rivera himself.

In 2001 Grammy for his Quintet’s recording of Live at the Blue Note. He was also nominated in the Classical Crossover category for The Clarinetist, Vol. 1. In 2002, he won again as a guest artist on the recording of the Bebo Valdes Trio.

While Paquito’s discography includes over 30 solo albums in Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, and with Brooklyn Philharmonic, the London Royal Symphony, and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also performed with the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rican National Symphony, and the Sim?n Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Paquito also keeps busy by frequently touring around the world with his ensembles: the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, and in the 2005 with the guitar duo of Sergio and Odair Assad, in “Dances from the New World”.

In his quest to bring the Latin repertoire into the forefront of the classical arena, Paquito has successfully created, championed and promoted all types of classical compositions!, including three chamber pieces composed by Paquito, recorded by Yo-Yo Ma and Paquito, live at Zankell Hall, Carnegie Hall, September, 2003.

In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His works often reveals his versatility and widespread influences, which range from Afro-Cuban to the dance hall, to influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins.

In 2002, The National Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic commissioned Paquito, to write a concerto “Gran Danzon” (The Bel Air Concerto) for the acclaimed flutist Marina Piccinini under the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

A gifted author, Mr. D’Rivera’s book, My Sax Life was published in Spain by the prestigious literary house, Seix Barral and contains a prologue by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. It’s been translated into English, published by Northwestern University Press. You can also listen to it in Mr. D’Rivera’s own voice by Recorded Books in Spanish available in the Internet and in libraries alike. His novel Oh, La Habana is published in Spain by MTeditores, Barcelona.

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Artist Profiles: Jan Garbarek

Jan Garbarek

Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek adopted the sounds of jazz, classical and world music at a very early age. He has collaborated with artists from various folk traditions, including India and Brazil, as well as age-old European traditions, including his remarkable partnership with the Hilliard Ensemble.

Jan Garbarek was born March 4, 1947, in Mysen, Norway. At the age of 14, he heard John Coltrane on the radio and experienced a kind of epiphany. He immediately bought himself a saxophone instruction book and learned fingering positions, even before he had bought a horn.

Knowledge of Coltrane’s interest in Ravi Shankar, brought Garbarek to an awareness of Indian music as early as 1963. From the Coltrane Quartet, the young Norwegian learned about the dynamics of the band, and the internal relationship of the instruments. Coltrane’s endorsement of the freest spirits of the New Thing fired Garbarek’s appreciation of Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp and especially Albert Ayler.

Scandinavia at that time was a haven for American musicians. Garbarek grasped opportunities to hear, and learn from, Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Johnny Griffin. In 1964, he had a chance to play with Don Cherry, whose embracing of world folk traditions in his unique variety of free jazz was another significant influence. Most important in this formative period was the association with American composer and pianist George Russell.

In 1967 he joined the Scandinavian orchestra led by US avant-garde composer George Russell, and in 1970 worked in the USA for a while under such leaders as Keith Jarrett and Don Cherry.

In 1969 Manfred Eicher, in the process of establishing ECM Records, invited Garbarek to record for his new label. The album Afric Pepperbird was taped in Oslo in 1970 and effectively put the young saxophonist on the map, along with his fellow band members. This was the start of a exceptional relationship between Garbarek and ECM which continues to this day.

Afric Pepperbird was the first of many ECM recordings to be produced in Oslo. It was the beginning of the creative alliance between Eicher and sound engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug.

In the 1980s Garbarek created several groups, which included bassist Eberhard Weber, John Abercrombie and at various times guitarists Bill Frisell and David Torn. During that decade he began a series of world music collaborations. In 1984, Garbarek recorded with Ravi Shankar on Song For Everyone.

The landmark album Rosensfole came out in 1991. This now legendary ECM album features Garbarek together with Norwegian folk singer Agnes Buen Garn?s. The international collaborations continued with Ragas & Sagas (1993), where Garbarek collaborated with the Pakistani Qawwali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. That same year, Garbarek recorded Twelve Moons, which focused, yet again on Scandinavian folk melodies.

Officium, released in 1993, features Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, with a musical concept that simultaneously reached up into the Jazz, Classical, and Pop charts. In 1998, five years after the recording of “Officium”, the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek returned to the monastery of St Gerold to renew, in the words of singer John Potter, their “encounter with the unknown.”

The result was a very beautiful double album, Mnemosyne. It was wider in scope than its predecessor, and the improvised component of the music was expanded. The repertoire spanned 22 centuries, from the “Delphic Paean” of Athenaeus to the “Estonian Lullaby” of Veljo Tormis, via folk song fragments from North and South America and Spain, freely developed, as well as pieces by Tallis, Dufay, Brumel, Hildegard von Bingen, Jan Garbarek, a Russian psalm, a Scottish ballad of the 16th century, and much more. “We did it for each other in the absence of an audience, and these are complete one-off performances which will never sound the same again.”

In 1998 Jan Garbarek released another double album entitled Rites. It suggested initiations, rituals, the archaic, the magical, but also “rites of passage”, and the Norwegian saxophonist reflected, in his choice of material, upon pivotal episodes and influences in his own life and those of his associates.

Pieces included a tribute to Don Cherry and reworkings of the Garbarek classics “It’s OK to listen to the gray voice” and “So mild the wind, so meek the water”. There were abundant references to scattered musics of the world, from Norway to India, as well as a setting – for voices and saxophone – of a Native American poem, and the surprise inclusion of Jansug Kakhidze’s “The moon over Mtatsminda”, sung by its composer with the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra. In total, this was the most comprehensive recording Jan Garbarek had made to date.

Garbarek compiled a double album of Selected Recordings for ECM’s :rarum anthology series in 2001. “This retrospective compilation represents 30 wonderful years of my life…. I hope as you listen that you will, in some measure, hear the joy I’ve had making each of these recordings.”

Garbarek’s double album traces the growth of his own groups, his collaborations with a wide range of musicians – from Keith Jarrett to the Hilliard Ensemble – and his investigations of Nordic and other folk traditions.

In 2003 Garbarek appeared, alongside Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and John McLaughlin, on Miroslav Vitous’s widely-acclaimed Universal Syncopations.

In 2004, Garbarek played with Kim Kashkashian on Tigran Mansurian’s Monodia, a recording that also features Leonidas Kavakos, the Hilliard Ensemble, and the Munich Chamber Orchestra under Christoph Poppen.

On the album In Praise of Dreams (2004) , Garbarek emphasized his capacity as composer, orchestrator and arranger, proposing new colors and textures in its blending of acoustic and electronic elements. “I think more in terms of evolution than revolution,” Jan Garbarek says, “the changes in the music taking place slowly over time, but there are some surprises here.”

Although the trio heard on the disc is unprecedented, there is also a logic to the unorthodox line-up. In Praise of Dreams features two musicians with whom Jan Garbarek has some history – American-Armenian violist Kim Kashkashian and African-French drummer Manu Katch?.

The use of loops and samples had only occasionally appeared on earlier Garbarek albums (“All Those Born With Wings”, “Visible World”), although they are a hallmark of music Garbarek has written for film, theatre and ballet.

The most striking aspect of In Praise of Dreams, however, is the interweaving melodies of saxophone and viola. “I was really overwhelmed by the life and the depth that Kim brought to the lines that I presented to her…The way she plays the viola, the sensibility of the phrasing, all the subtleties and nuances of her sound production, it’s very close to the way I’d like to play saxophone. There seems to be a very good connection between our timbres, too, which was even more than I had hoped for. The richness in her sound brings the music to another level and gives me something to reach for, in my improvisations. It was inspiring to work with her.”

Describing Kim Kashkashian as “a very powerful new agent in my music-making“, Garbarek added that “her strong sound had come to define the viola in a new way for me. I’d had many opportunities to listen to her music on ECM recordings through the years, in chamber music or orchestral contexts.”

Jan Garbarek first became aware of African-French drummer Manu Katche after hearing his sparse, unorthodox beat propelling the most striking tracks on Robbie Robertson’s 1987 solo album. Producer Manfred Eicher put Garbarek and Katche in touch with each other.

Katche, it transpired, had long been a follower of Garbarek’s music (“his records filled my adolescence”). Manu Katche joined ECM’s 20th Anniversary concerts in Paris, played in trio with Garbarek and Indian violinist Shankar (saxophone, strings, drums – not so far from the In Praise of Dreams concept ) at La Cigale in October 1989, and joined the Jan Garbarek Group for several tours. He appeared on four subsequent albums with Jan – I Took Up The Runes, Ragas and Sagas, Twelve Moons and Visible World, prior to In Praise of Dreams.

Manu has many qualities as a player. He can do many things, but much of his playing is pattern oriented. He’s looking for just the right drum pattern to fit a piece of music and he’ll stay with that, but vary it in minimalistic ways with dynamics and attack. Rather than breaking loose to play soloistically, he maintains the ambience he’s created. Now, I love all the old jazz drummers, like Jo Jones, for example, or Gene Krupa, and they were also more pattern oriented rather than freely expressive in the way that most contemporary jazz drummers are. And it’s something I’ve missed. Manu has that quality in his approach, but also a very elegant sophistication, a poetic sensitivity.”

Garbarek attributes the overall shape of the album to its producer. “When it comes to organizing the pieces as a whole, that’s difficult for me, because I’m bound up in the details of each individual tune. The best ideas for that usually come from Manfred Eicher. Hearing these pieces during the mix he very quickly had an idea about the dramaturgy. He sees the whole more spontaneously, and I trust him 100 % in this. I’d tried all kinds of way to put these pieces together, but once Manfred suggested an order, everything fell into place – not for the first time.”

The album’s title was borrowed from the poem “In Praise of Dreams” by Wislawa Syzmborska, which begins, in the English translation, “In my dreams/I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

Partial Discography

* Esoteric Circle, with Terje Rypdal (Freedom FLP/CD 41031, 1969)
* Afric Pepperbird (ECM 1007, 1970)
* Sart, with Stenson and Rypdal (ECM 1015, 1971)
* Triptykon, with Arild Andersen and Edward Vesala (ECM 1029, 1972)
* Red Lanta, with Art Lande (ECM 1038, 1973)
* Witchi-Tai-To, with Bobo Stenson Quartet (ECM 1041, 1973)
* Luminessence, with Keith Jarrett (ECM 1049, 1974)
* Dansere, with Bobo Stenson Quartet (ECM 1075, 1975)
* Dis (ECM 1093, 1976)
* Places (ECM 1118, 1977)
* Photo with Blue Sky, White Cloud, Wires, Windows and a Red Roof (ECM 1135, 1978)
* Magico, with Charlie Haden and Egberto Gismonti (ECM 1151, 1979)
* Aftenland, with Kjell Johnsen (ECM 1169, 1979)
* Folk Song, with Charlie Haden and Egberto Gismonti (ECM 1170, 1979)
* Eventyr (ECM 1200, 1980)
* Paths: Prints (ECM 1223, 1981)
* Wayfarer (ECM 1259, 1983)
* It’s OK To Listen To The Gray Voice (ECM 1294, 1984)
* All Those Born With Wings (ECM 1324, 1986)
* Legend of The Seven Dreams (ECM 1381, 1988)
* Rosensfole, with Agnes Buen Garnas (ECM 1402, 1988)
* I Took Up The Runes (ECM 1419, 1990)
* Ragas and Sagas, with Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and musicians from Pakistan (ECM 1442, 1990)
* Star, with Miroslav Vitous and Erskine (ECM 1444, 1991)
* Atmos, with Miroslav Vitous (ECM 1475, 1992)
* Madar (ECM 1515, 1992)
* Twelve Moons (ECM 1500, 1992)
* Officium, with The Hilliard Ensemble (ECM 1525, 1993)
* Visible World (ECM 1585, 1995)
* Rites, 2-CD (ECM 1685/86, 1998)
* Mnemosyne, with The Hilliard Ensemble, 2-CD (ECM 1700/01, 1998)
* Rarum 2: Selected Recordings (ECM, 2002)
* In Praise of Dreams (ECM, 2004)
* Dresden (ECM Records, 2009)
* Officium Novum, with the Hilliard Ensemble (2010)
* Résumé, with Eberhard Weber (ECM, 2012)
* Magico: Carta de Amor, with Charlie Haden (ECM. 2012)
* Concert in Athens, with Eleni Karaindrou (ECM, 2013)

Web Site

www.garbarek.com

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Artist Profiles: Diego Villegas

Diego Villegas

Diego Villegas was born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cadiz, Spain) in 1987. He grew up in a flamenco environment. His sister is a flamenco dancer and she initiated and guided him.

At 8, Villegas began his classical guitar studies at the “Joaquín Turina” Conservatory in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cadiz, and then completed his Professional Degree at the Joaquín Villatoro Conservatory in Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz). At the age of ten he enrolled in the Sanlúcar de Barrameda Municipal Academy, where he studied clarinet and symphonic percussion. At 12 he joined the “Julián Cerdán” Band, also in Sanlúcar, as a clarinet soloist.

In terms of flamenco, Diego Villegas has shared the stage with dancers such as Antonio Fernandez ‘Farru’, Ángel Muñoz, María Juncal, Concha Jareño and Raquel Villegas. He also collaborates with artists like Remedios Amaya, María Toledo, Jorge Pardo, Israel Suárez “Piranha”, etc.

Diego Villegas leads the Flamenco-Jazz Project. He plays musical instruments such as flute and saxophone. He also uses other wind instruments rarely utilized in flamenco: harmonica and clarinet.

In 2016 Diego Villegas released his first solo album titled Bajo de Guía, which is dedicated a well-known neighborhood in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. On Bajo de Guía, Villegas combines flamenco, jazz, bossa nova and Latin American rhythms.

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Jorge Pardo Releases Djinn

Jorge Pardo
Jorge Pardo

Spanish jazz, flamenco and world music saxophonist and flutist Jorge Pardo has a new album titled Djinn.

Djinn combines jazz grooves, electronic beats and flamenco. Pardo uses acid Hammond organ, powerful drums, electric bass and flamenco guitar along with guest DJs from the world of electronic music.

Jorge Pardo - Djinn
Jorge Pardo – Djinn

Jorge Pardo was a member of pioneering Spanish salsa and Latin jazz band Dolores. He later worked with flamenco legends Paco de Lucia and Camarón. His essential albums include Vientos Flamencos, 10 de Paco, Huellas, and Historias de Radha y Krishna.

Jorge Pardo will be touring Spain to promote the new album. The next concerts will take place Friday, October 28 at Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid and Saturday, October 29 at Sala Malandar in Sevilla.

Buy the digital version of Djinn.

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‘Pay attention to your inner music’ – interview with saxophonist-composer Sundar Viswanathan

 Sundar Viswanathan (Avataar)
Sundar Viswanathan (Avataar)

Canada-based saxophonist-composer Sundar Viswanathan has recently released the album Avataar. It is a brilliant blend of Indian classical music and jazz, reflecting his own journey in an immigrant backdrop in the West. He teaches at York University in Toronto, and has played with musicians ranging from Wynton Marsalis to Vijay Iyer. Sundar joins us in this interview on his musical experiences and messages.

Q: From jazz to Indian classical music and fusion, that’s quite a journey! What is about music that inspired you so much to devote your life to it?

A: The cliche is: “You don’t choose music, it chooses you”. While that’s very much true in my case, at some level I just stumbled into it. I was involved in music with my family from a very young age, and later, in high school, it was the one subject area for which I had a natural talent.

I also think being an introvert led me deeply along this path; music was an outlet for me and a way in which I could express my creativity most effectively. My interests in different genres were in good part due to the influences of different people in my life: primarily music teachers and musicians that I knew and respected.

Q: What are the challenges you face as a musician and composer?

A: I would say, overall, music is a low-stress occupation! 🙂

However, there is a great deal of pressure to maintain a high level as a performer, especially in the times when other things are going on in your life and you really don’t feel like being on stage in front of all those people (luckily this feeling most commonly passes after a tune or two.)

Along with that are the dual pressures of what I call “the weight of tradition” and “the curse of innovation.” These two pressures are polarities; the first references the vast influence of musics that came before, and that beg to be attended to (even when there is not enough in a lifetime to do so); and the second has to do with the need to sound fresh, to create new material. Again, when one tries to do so, it seems to slip away more quickly! Both can sit like heavy weights on your shoulders when you give too much attention to them.

With regard to composition, there’s the challenge of accessing the creative spaces that lead you to works that you are willing to add to your portfolio. In other words, the challenge of being able to write something you are willing to keep! It’s not so easy to do.
And then again, there are the economic challenges.

Avataar
Avataar

Q: Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career, from the jazz, Indian and fusion sides?

A: The range of my influences is broad, going beyond jazz and Indian classical, to Western classical, Brazilian, Indonesian gamelan, groove, ambient and ‘New-Age’-type music.

More specifically, my influences include; Jan Garbarek and Keith Jarrett, Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin), John Coltrane, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ornette Coleman, Shakti, Zakhir Hussain, Paul Motian trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, Scriabin, Alban Berg, Trilok Gurtu, Nitin Sawhney, and artists like DJ Shadow, Enya, Bliss, and Loreena McKennitt.

There are many others that have influenced me in my compositional path, but I think these have had a more direct impact on this album.

Q: Who are some of the musicians you collaborate with the most, and how did these relationships get formed?

A: I’ve been very fortunate to have played with a lot of great musicians from jazz and world music, including Rez Abassi, Dave Holland, Charles Tolliver, Kiran Ahluwalia, Vijay Iyer, Wynton Marsalis, Yair Dalal, and more.

I wish I could say these are recurring collaborations, but given my proximity (living in Toronto) and focus these days, most of my collaborations are with (equally excellent) local musicians, like those on my recordings and with other bands I play with, like world music band Jaffa Road.

A lot of the musicians I meet and play with come through a mutual awareness of our interests, or through word of mouth. Also, musicians of like-mind tend to radiate toward one another, and cross paths a lot on the festival circuit and in clubs.

Q: How are you able to do ‘fusion’ of different styles and instruments without ‘confusion’?

A: Good question. Firstly, I never liked the term ‘fusion’, because the picture I get is of two parts fused or slapped together, without integration of either part. I see my music as more of a hybrid, a ‘new form’ created by the many styles (and instruments) coming together in a natural, assimilative fashion. I think the key here is that I don’t think about the genres when I write the music.

As I mentioned before, I’ve studied a lot of different styles, hopefully deeply enough that their essences have seeped into my musical psyche, and so will come together seamlessly when I compose. The challenge created here, however, is that it can become harder to ‘categorize’ the music into a specific genre. This sometimes throws off industry types and festival ADs. But some of my favorite music is music that goes beyond genre, so that’s ok.

Q: How long were you working on the album Petal? What is your next album about?

A: Petal took over a year to record, edit and produce. We could have spent a lot more time nuancing the album, but I didn’t have that luxury! And, I really haven’t given much though to the next album – my focus now is to get the band playing and touring as much as I can.

Avataar - Petal
Avataar – Petal

Q: The tracks Agra, Monsoon and Annapoorna are fabulous ­ please tell us how you composed them!

A: My compositional process is typical – I usually get the initial melodic ideas or a bass line and sing them into my phone and work with them later. Then I write my music alone, in my basement, with or without piano. It ends up being a very intuitive process; I was also inspired by the narrative theme, and the title of the songs. I might also work with specific ragas or scales I create that have a sound that I like, and want to develop.

Sometimes I also map out the phrase rhythms that I want, that follow a shape that feels good to me, and fill in melodic material from there. These processes apply to all three pieces you mention here.

Most of the time I don’t go back and edit my writing in great detail; sometimes there are small things that I change/add/remove. With this music, there was some editing and revision during rehearsals – some of my bandmates suggested things that we liked, and then incorporated into the tunes.

Ultimately, if I don’t feel moved myself by the narrative (the story behind the song), it’s very difficult for me to put out interesting material – by the way, most composers will tell you that you should be able to write whether you’re inspired or not (I guess I’m not a natural! 😉

Q: How would you describe your musical journey? Where do you see yourself headed in the next 10-15 years?

A: How much time do you have? Seriously, though, I suppose my musical journey parallels my life journey. I could quote Charles Dickens “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

Certainly, my musical journey was not without bumps – I worked very hard over the years and sacrificed a lot to develop my musicianship, but there were great rewards, like meeting and playing with fascinating people and traveling all over the world and getting paid for it. And those moments on stage when I feel most connected to the music, musicians and to myself, in turn, make all the work worth it.

The next 10-15 years? Hopefully there will be more records and a lot more touring and good times. And money, oh yes, LOTS of money! 🙂

Avataar
Avataar

Q: What have been some of your collaborations with other musicians from India, and other parts of Asia?

A: I’ve played with some very good jazz musicians in Japan – interestingly (and this speaks to the universality of music) none of them spoke English well enough for us to communicate. But the musical experience was great.

I’ve done some jamming in India with Louiz Banks, and others like Shivamani and Adrian DeSouza, but my musical experiences in India have been limited, so far. I hope to do more there and with other Indian-based artists. I have played with several NRIs (non-resident Indians) in Canada and the USA (I mentioned Vijay Iyer, Rez Abbasi (who is of Pakistani heritage) and Kiran Ahluwalia).

There are a lot of very good musicians of Indian origin (and others who play ‘Indian music’) in the Toronto area, such as Ravi Naimpally, Suba Sankaran, Rakesh Tewari, Ed Hanley, Neeraj Prem, Azalea Ray, Ernie Tollar, George Koller, and others.

Q: Which are your favorite musical festivals, and what makes them so special?

A: I’ve played a lot of jazz and folk festivals in Canada, USA, and Europe. I like the folk festivals for their relaxed atmosphere (read: hippies!) and the collaborative nature (there are frequent ‘jam sessions’ with featured bands).

Worldfest in Grass Valley, California was a trip – so much fun and interesting people. I’ll never forget the experience of playing in full sunlight at 2AM at The Rocking Walrus Festival in Igloolik, right near the Arctic Circle. The Vancouver Jazz fest was excellent – so organized and the intensity of performances was impressive.

Local festivals like Sunfest and the Ottawa Jazz Festival were also great experiences. I also have to acknowledge some of the jazz festivals in Europe that I’ve played at: Viennes, Pescara, Umbria, Blue Note, North Sea — they really made us feel like royalty and the music experiences were incredible. Rubbing shoulders with people like McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman and others didn’t hurt either.

Q: What are some unusual reactions you have got during your live performances?

A: One comes to mind: I was presenting a CD release of my album Hope and Infinity with Sundar’s Induswest Project. The great pianist, Dave Restivo, was in the middle of an intense solo – the rest of the rhythm section had dropped out, and Dave was traveling into outer space.

Somewhere along his solo excursion, a lady in the audience passed out. People flocked to her, to help. Meanwhile, Dave was still going, his eyes closed. Eventually I had to put my hand on his shoulder and break him out of his meditation. The lady was ok, but I don’t think Dave ever recovered from being so rudely interrupted… 😉

Q: Do you also teach workshops for students and musicians?

A: Yes! As you probably know, I am a University professor (I teach at York University in Toronto), so I have a lot of different ideas/concepts worked out. And as you can also see from my long answers, I like to talk!

Q: What kinds of social and political messages have been conveyed in your recent albums?

A: There are many ways that the music on Petal can be interpreted. I wanted to let the listeners draw her/his own conclusions – this is why I didn’t include extensive liner notes about the meanings of the songs. The two songs with lyrics and the last track, though, give some insight into the meanings of the CD as a whole. The main themes are impermanence, universal consciousness and the idea of no-mind.

Having two little children, I’ve often watched them and been struck by how small and fragile they are, how they are like flower petals. Through them, I’ve also observed the reality of my own mortality, and of the fact that nothing lasts forever. Interestingly, during my research around these themes (and for the record) I also found that a lot of spiritual thinkers see flower petals in this way, as a metaphor for humanity.

With regard to the idea of no-mind, I’d been reading some great dialogues by the Indian mystic Osho – he talks about the idea of there being no ‘mind’, just a series of photographs that we put together in our brain that creates our past and projects our present. I directed the singer, Felicity Williams, toward some of these ideas and she wrote lyrics around them for the record.

And I’ve always believed that there’s an invisible connection, a vibration, between all humanity, and really, all life. In our day, and more than ever, this is something we all need to pay attention to. If we do, maybe we can transcend our differences and move toward empathy for each other, With regard to the record, at the end of the day, I also hope that I can move my listeners to a place of some emotional depth.

Q: What is your message to the musicians and artistes of the world in this age of globalization and also conflict?

A: Keep doing what you do, with honesty and love. Pay attention to your inner music – be authentic to your voice. Write and play/sing what you are; don’t try to be anyone else. Our world would be a richer place if more artists and musicians did this.

Finally, there is a lot of suffering and conflict in the world – if we all direct our artistic vision toward healing, maybe the masses will hear our collective message of peace and move into that space…

Headline photo: Sundar Viswanathan (Avataar)

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Artist Profiles: Manu Dibango

Manu Dibango - Photo by Louis Vincent
Manu Dibango – Photo by Louis Vincent

Emmanuel Dibango N’Djoké was born on December 12 of 1933 in Duala, Cameroon. Manu Dibango arrived to Europe as a young student. With his extraordinary musical talent and burgeoning love of jazz, the young Manu soon opted for a life devoted to adventure for the musical kind.

With jazz blaring in its every nook and cranny, Paris was the perfect place for Manu to mix, mingle, listen and learn. Manu was introduced to the music of Armstrong, Ellington, Young and Parker and all the multifaceted life of the Parisian jazz-scene.

His first stay in the French capital turned out to be relatively brief. It was a time when African nations were being born, either violently or more or less peacefully and words like “independence” and “afro centricity” were common currency.

The great Kabasele invited Manu to join his band, the African Jazz, to play Congolese music. The invitation was accepted and Manu returned to Africa. A love of jazz on the one hand and traditional African music on the other prompted Manu to experiment by combining various different styles of music to create his own unique blend.

With his inherent curiosity and sensitivity Manu has always been interested in widely divergent and different styles of music. A cursory listen to his output bears this out: jazz, reggae, rap… all these and more are in full effect.

In 1972 Manu scored his first international hit with the million selling “Soul Makossa”, which fared particularly well in the United States of America where it helped to create considerable awareness of African music and break down some prevailing musical prejudices.

Manu discovered a secret pleasure in going against the grain of entrenched ideas about musical purism and traditionalism. His purpose was and still is to build bridges between the continents.

Manu was the fist-mover in what became a deep-rooted relationship between the music of francophone Africa and Paris. He has recorded and released numerous albums. Today, as well as touring in the world, he spends considerable time supporting and encouraging young musicians and fighting humanitarian causes.

Discography:

Soul Makossa (Fiesta Records, 1972)
O Boso (London/PolyGram Records, 1973)
Makossa Man (Atlantic Records, 1974)
Makossa Music (Creole Records, 1975)
Manu 76 (Decca Records, 1976)
Super Kumba (Decca Records, 1976)
The World of Manu Dibango (Decca Records, 1976)
Ceddo O.S.T (Fiesta Records, 1977)
A l’Olympia (Fiesta Records, 1978)
Afrovision (Mango/Island Records, 1978)
Sun Explosion (Decca Records, 1978)
Gone Clear (Mango/Island Records, 1980)
Ambassador (Mango/Island Records, 1981)
Waka Juju (Polydor/PolyGram Records, 1982)
Mboa (Sonodisc/Afrovision, 1982)
Electric Africa (Celluloid, 1985)
Afrijazzy (Soul Paris, 1986)
Deliverance (Afro Rhythmes, 1989)
Happy Feeling (Stern’s Music, 1989)
Rasta Souvenir (Disque Esperance, 1989)
Polysonik (1992)
Live ’91 (Stern’s Music, 1994)
Wakafrika (Giant/Warner Bros. Records, 1994)
Lamastabastani (Soul Paris, 1994)
Bao Bao (Movieplay, 1996)
African Soul – The Very Best Of (Mercury, 1997)
CubAfrica, with Eliades Ochoa (Corason Records, 1998)
Africavision, Vol. 3: The Cinema of Manu Dibango (Buda Musique, 2003)
The Rough Guide to Manu Dibango (World Music Network, 2004)
African Woodoo (2008)
Choc’n’Soul (2010)
Afro Funk (2010)
Afro Soul Machine (2011)
Past Present Future (2011)
Ballad Emotion (2011)
Africa Boogie (2013)
Aloko Party (2013)
Lagos Go Slow (2013)
Balade En Saxo (2013)

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A.C. Reed & the Sparkplugs

A.C. Reed
A.C. Reed

A.C. Reed’s expressive tenor saxophone supported the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. His gruff and tough blues vocals were showcased on his best-selling album for Alligator Records, “I’m In The Wrong Business,” that features guest appearances by long-time fans Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

A.C. Reed - “I’m In The Wrong Business
A.C. Reed – “I’m In The Wrong Business

Born Aaron Corthen in Wardell, Missouri in 1926, A.C. was immediately attracted to music. “I’ve been around music all my life,” he said. “I had one brother who made himself a bass out of a wash tub, and another brother who played the piano.”

He became a session musician and sideman for many acts until he pursued a solo career in the late 1980s.

For A.C., though, neither bass nor piano would do. He had his heart set on playing the saxophone. Realizing that rural southeast Missouri offered limited opportunities, A.C. arrived in Chicago in 1942 at age 16. He quickly found work at a steel mill, and bought a saxophone at a pawnshop with his first paycheck.

A master songwriter and blues humorist, Reed’s wry commentary on life in the music business, a trademark of both his witty original lyrics and comical stage persona, delighted audiences worldwide.

A.C. was revered as top blues man, earning the 1998 Most Outstanding Blues Horn Player pick from the readers and critics of Living Blues.

A.C.’s traveling band, the Sparkplugs, a six-piece unit featuring a female vocalist, were revered for their passionate guitar solos and powerful dance grooves.

A.C. Reed died on February 24, 2004

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