All posts by Wojciech Rubis

Wojciech Rubiś is a jazz musician with an inclination towards world music, fusion, Latin, ethnic music. He’s active mainly in the music scene as a sideman, arranger and conductor. In this role, he has appeared in various jazz and popular music bands in Poland and abroad.

He worked for cruise marine (including Royal Caribbean), theaters and television French and Japanese, including Canal +, La Cinquième, Planète + and artistic Muzzik (now Mezzo), MTV Japan.
Wojciech has collaborated with many distinguished musicians, among others: Niño Josele, David Chesky, Kurt Elling, Michael Parkinson, Marisa dos Reis Nunes, Bebo Valdés, Javier Limón, Gary Witner, Jarosław Śmietana, Paweł Kaczmarczyk, Grzegorz Motyka, Ryszard Krawczuk, Michał Barański, Michał Knapik.

He has considerable experience in teaching and music education, lecturer at many individual workshops of jazz and classical music organized by instituions such as Webster University Department of Music (St. Louis), Musicians Institute of Contemporary Music, the Guitar Institute of Technology, Los Angeles.

Ive Mendes and the Bossa Nova Repertoire

Ive Mendes – Photo by Paulina Tendera

 

Music criticism does not derive from musical censorship; it is based on conventional rules. Ive Mendes performed in Krakow at a jazz festival; criticism, according to convention, is based on the fact that Ive does not sing a jazz; therefore, in accordance with the same neat convention, I assert that the organizers acted… unconventionally.

The world music scene, like many other spheres of culture and art, is created basically in one of two ways: bottom-up or top-down. The story of a typical bottom-up musician begins somewhere in the home, a school, a small town, a musical family, often poor and devoid of cultural roots; this is the story of many masters of jazz, as described in biographies and memoirs. The story of typical musicians whose careers are built top-down usually starts a little later, not in childhood but in early adulthood. Wherever a business, a manager, or ready-made material for a record appears, it’s only a question of finding someone to perform the material on stage.

About Ive Mendes, one thing can be stated with certainty: she is a typical product of the global policies of the music scene, the product of interventions by an entire staff of managers, arrangers, and other members of a “shadow cabinet” who stand proudly (not without reason!) behind her success. This time it was Kevin Armstrong, the producer of Mendes’s latest album, who was promoted to the head of this cabinet. Nothing like this is possible in the jazz field, where musicians make their choices strictly according to musical criteria, and a stage-managed career is an absolute contradiction in terms.

Ive possesses a powerfully crafted charm and grace in the visual sphere. It is precisely her superficiality that affirms the misleading conviction that she comes from Brazil, yet it is indeed difficult to perceive any connotations from the musical culture of the region from which she originated. The artist herself does not conceal her inspirations, mentioning a fairly wide range of essentially pop music styles: “… I learned that I have a natural facility for moving from bossa nova to smooth pop, drum & bass, and even alternative country. After all, I’m a farmer’s daughter.” [www.newsweek.pl]. Unfortunately, in the same breath she adds bossa nova to this eclectic mix. The problem is that even if we can (though we need not) think of smooth pop, drum & bass, or “alternative country”—whatever that is—as mere categories of arrangements, that is, for the creation of hybrid sound forms (as Ive basically has made use of these styles, though in a different way than, e.g., jazzmen do, using groovy or funk rhythms and R&B just for some kind of dance fun, likewise “ontic background” for improvisation, etc.), bossa nova itself cannot be treated so freely. Indeed, the concept of bossa nova encompasses a deeper philosophy. It is a unique combination of samba and jazz.

The self-proclaimed comparison of Ive to João Gilberto smacks—to put it politely—of immodesty. And indeed, if Ive actually had something in common with bossa nova—apart from “reciting” a few standards—it might salvage her image as an artist fit to share a stage with artists of improvisational music. This, however, is not the case. Ive, in essence, does not understand bossa nova at all.
These are not the only reasons why I state that Ive Mendes is largely a phenomenon of the modern music industry, in which vocal talent is exploited for the benefit of a mass audience. A mass audience at the Jazz Festival? This is, of course, possible, thanks to, among others, Ive. The boundaries of jazz in Poland are not clearly visible to a public which accepts a rather pop Kenny G performance, often with just as much satisfaction as it would Kenny Garret or Nigel Kennedy, and similar case with Ive Mendes vs Kurt Elling. The Polish, indeed European, and perhaps even global (in the era of globalization) mass audience, while occasionally needing to commune with elegance, is thoroughly democratic. And that is a shame, because democracy does not serve the cause of high art. Thus my criticism concerns not Ive Mendes herself, but her presence on a jazz stage.

As a vocal star, Ive obscures the musical potential of the songs with “literary” quality and linguistic content. I am not thinking here at all of the lyrics (which play a less essential role in jazz in any case) of the songs, but of her stage presence. That is, Ive greatly expands the entr’actes, I mean the never-ceasing patter between songs, which at times took the form of motivational coaching, gave the impression of being an integral part of the artistic performance, whereas the songs seemed merely to supplement her verbal tirades, which many of the ladies present in the hall received with blushes of embarrassment.

 

Ive Mendes – Photo by Paulina Tendera

 

Thus, Ive’s performance consists of, first and foremost, a kind of refined dance-calling; second, songs; and, in the background, arranging and musical potential, which usually remain strictly in the realm of the potential. For Ive, music seems to be effortless; it is not an area of great concern or creativity. Sounds, for her, are primarily a matter of a fixed esthetic framework of correctness in which her emotions occur (even if they are exploited extramusically). Ive sings safely within proven registers beyond which she consistently refuses to venture, avoids improvisation (or feigns it), while the band (and after all, Ive has a live band on stage: a smooth rhythm section, violin, cello, etc.), apart from the correct performance of sometimes arduously executed arrangements, is reduced to the role of a karaoke backing track.

There is no room here for improvisation and musical freedom; Ive does not play at all with her voice, with sounds, or with rhythm in the sense of musicality (as deeply understood). Instead, her show is reminiscent of harvest festivals, but obscured by a snobbish veil of supposedly higher culture, while deprived of the vibrancy and unpretentious naturalness of country bands. Ive’s performance is so smooth that she loses, in the correctness of the performances, a whole range of expressive musical possibilities, substituting non-musical stage theatricality, whereas the songs themselves, differing very little from studio recordings, are so safe that they sound like something played on a boombox in an adjoining room. I also have the compelling impression that Ive often sings out of tune, slightly below the correct note. Perhaps this is a question of wrong stage listening monitor setup, but the effect is permanent: she sings consistently sharp.

Ive, however, has several patented theatrical devices up her sleeve to exert a narcotic effect on the emotion-seeking audience. She possesses the ability to stimulate the emotions of a large crowd with two or three stage tricks. Undoubtedly, she also possesses an original voice, with a characteristically deep, rather low, vibrating, sensual color. There is a distant similarity to Sade, and, still more distant, to Cassandra Wilson, but without their musical consciousness, personality, or charisma. Other aspects which attract attention include her stage image, exotic beauty (probably the most authentic aspect of her Brazilian heritage), outfits, mysterious gestures, movements, dances, etc. This is essentially a good recipe for the conquest of the unsophisticated heart of a standardized, democratic listener.

In Krakow, the singer performed the repertoire from her latest album, Bossa Romantica, about which she says in one of many interviews: “This is music characterized by complex chords and rhythm guitar in a free samba rhythm. I made this music in the same way that João Gilberto created bossa nova: trying to create versions of American songs in a specific way, in a Brazilian atmosphere.” [www.polskatimes.pl]. The album was supposedly created under British (Ive recently obtained British citizenship) and Brazilian influence, which Mendes often mentions (although the comparison to Gilberto is lip service as well as an exaggeration) along with the musical inspiration of smooth jazz (or rather, perhaps, smooth pop), with which the singer is also identified. These were, I believe, her intentions, but their effect can be described simply as free eclecticism. Her album is not a very good example of World Music; no matter whether it draws from Brazil, England, or “smooth,” the esthetic and artistic effect of this album was a foregone conclusion before Ive entered the studio. It betrays her superficiality, the excessive esthetization of her style, idealized romanticism, and the renunciation of harsh or folk-derived elements.

Among other songs from the album Bossa Romantica, Ive performs covers like “The Girl from Ipanema.” This performance, however, blends in with the overall character of her music, blurring in places the expressive syncopation of bossa nova which we associate even with the singing of Astrud Gilberto. Freshness, lightness, and the aforementioned unpretentiousness are also lost. Another cover, “Killing Me Softly,” is played for no apparent reason, or, as already mentioned, as a sure-fire heartbreaker, completely devoid of expression or of any ideas.

In jazz, performing standards makes some sense, if only in terms of musicians making use of familiar themes for further musical exploitation. Themes are only pretexts, or gateways to great adventures on the verge of beginning. With Ive, everything starts and ends with the theme. This would make sense, of course, if the artist proved the value of her contribution to the work, if the listener at least discovered individual hallmarks of musical expression. With Ive, this never happens. This is not another beautiful rendition, as we hear with Perry Como, Roberta Flack, or even the pop Fugees. Instead, Ive turns it into hack work, potboiler gig, potboiler gig, a number trotted out for shows like The X Factor.

 

 

Ive Mendes says that her voice works in many styles. Certainly the concert at Krakow’s ICE Arena was a good showcase of her vocal abilities and her typical stage esthetics. Her emotions are expressed primarily extramusically; they are naively feminine, romantic … which means that her repertoire appeals to the taste of many—but not to fans of jazz, improvised music, or (as widely understood) world music.

Ive Mendes deserves a much more favorable review, on the condition that we evaluate her in terms of pop music, though here I am not referring to great pop music artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, or female celebrities to which Mendes might be compared, such as Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, the quasi-Latino Shakira, or even Lady Gaga. She is not in that league, but rather in a class with festivals of the Eurovision type, connoisseurs of soap operas … in Poland, Ive can also count on fans with a sentimental attachment to the old Brazilian serial feature A escrava Isaura [Isaura the Slave Girl], whose main heroine recalls Ive to mind.

In the press there are many extremely passionate positive opinions about the work of Ive Mendes; thus the present critical opinion, expressed here with the conviction of its justice, may serve as a badly-needed counterbalance in contemporary reflections on music.

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Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet Release Music Video

Rising Malian world music act Trio Da Kali and the renowned Kronos Quartet have recorded a superb single titled ‘Eh Ya Ye’. This song will appear on Trio Da Kali’s upcoming album ‘Ladilikan’ scheduled for release on September 15, 2017.

The video was made in Casamance (Senegal) and includes dancers Amadou Kande, Cheikh Omar Preira, Souleymane Diallo and Mamadou Drame.

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Nigel Kennedy to Perform Pieces from his Album “My World” at the 22nd Summer Jazz Festival on July 12 in Cracow

 

One could say both: Poland is lucky to be loved by Nigel Kennedy and Nigel Kennedy is lucky to be loved by Poland. Polish audiences are particularly fond of the artist, and his fans are not limited to regular jazz listeners, a lot of them being also recipients of widely understood popular music and even World Music. Let us recall his joint album with Kroke “East Meets East” from 2003, which Poland simply fell for in seconds.

 


Nigel Kennedy with Kroke – East Meets East

 

Kennedy possesses the Slavic spirit and understands Slavic musical aesthetics, further even – he understands, or is somehow able to aesthetically sense, the tangled combination of cultural inspirations at work in Eastern and Central Europe. The album “East Meets East” is remembered chiefly as a journey into the cultural tradition of Polish Jews, especially those from pre-war generations. This is not a record about the Israelites, nor is it a record of American Jews or Jews in general – it is the spirit of Polish Jewish culture before the war, brought back by means of being sung out.

But the Polish have yet another reason for their appreciation of Nigel Kennedy – his fabulous and passionate rendition of the csárdás. He yet again proves himself to be nothing short of comfortable in European musical tradition, rooted in folk and though originally Hungarian, popularized by the Gypsies and presently an integral part of national identity in many European countries.

Kennedy has tied his life to Poland and Cracow for good a while back. This world-famous artist lives in the very center of the “City of the Kings of Poland”, often performs at the Cracow Philharmonic, and in 2002 assumed the artistic direction of the Polish Chamber Orchestra. Kennedy can then be said to have become another strong point on the long list of incentives for those leaning towards the idea of choosing Poland as their next destination.

On July 12, 2017, we will host Nigel Kennedy at the Jagiellonian University’s Auditorium Maximum during the celebrations of the 22nd Summer Jazz Festival in Cracow. This concert will undoubtedly be an opportunity to admire the talent, charisma and virtuosity of the artist, all of which have been admired both in the field of contemporary interpretations of classical music and in the mainstream of jazz worldwide. Let us recall that the album released in 1989 containing a rendition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” has sold over two million copies and is by far the best-selling classical music record in the world.

 

Nigel Kennedy

 

The magnificent success of classical music in Kennedy’s artistic life contrasts with his inspirations drawn from – among others – the works of Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors, the influence of which has often been referred to by the artist himself. Kennedy doesn’t seem to notice these contrasts as clearly as an average recipient of music – he is a firm believer in the notion common among musicians that music should not be categorized and such action does not serve any compelling purpose in world of music and its creators.

About his work and passion, he says: “I love getting up in the morning and playing. It’s almost like meditation. Through music I get to communicate with other musicians and the audience. This contact is the real reason for playing. … Bringing down the barriers, connecting with people on one common level, the level of music, is my reward. Music occurs within the framework of time, it’s here and now. What do we have here on the wall? A mirror? Wallpaper? Someone once made these and now we can look at them. Music is the only art that happens at a given time and then disappears. That’s the way it is during concerts. It’s fantastic. That is what I love about music.”

 

Nigel Kennedy

 

As has been announced by the organizers, the concert program will mostly include works dedicated to Kennedy’s most important mentors, namely Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli and Isaac Stern, immortalized on the artist’s latest album “My World”. The Concert in the Auditorium Maximum will be enriched by the results of the musician’s last project, an interpretation of Krzysztof Komeda’s works, the spirit of which Nigel Kennedy has managed to capture brilliantly, reaffirming his strong emotional bond with Poland. The author of “Polish Spirit” comments on his attitude to what Polishness is in one of his interviews: “The Polish spirit is … this rare extraordinary ability to express emotions, your contagious sentimentality you infect the rest of the world with.”

 

 

The Summer Jazz Festival in Piwnica pod Baranami was first organized in 1996 alongside the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the venue. Year after year, the Festival expanded both its repertoire and its scope by moving beyond the scene of Piwnica pod Baranami to concerts at the Philharmonic, the Cracow Opera, Radio Kraków, the Manggha Center, ICE Kraków, Kijów Centrum and every jazz club in Cracow, rounding up to almost 100 concerts every year.

Since the year 2000, Cracow has seen many sizable outdoor concerts and events, such as the New Orleans Sunday and the Jazz Night. In recent years, both the leading Polish jazz stars and many foreign stars (including Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Jean Luc Ponty, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Maria Schneider, Richard Bona, Al Jarreau) have graced these events with their presence and artistry.

Tickets can be acquired at: ticketpro.pl, InfoKraków at Św. Jana Street 2 and the organizer’s office at Karmelicka Street 52/1, Cracow.
www.cracjazz.com/pl/program

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Ive Mendes, First of the World Music Stars Set to Perform in Krakow at the 22nd Summer Jazz Festival at Piwnica pod Baranami

Brazilian vocalist Ive Mendes will perform at ICE Kraków with her band and string quartet on June 25, 2017. Mendes combines elements of smooth jazz and Brazilian bossa nova, resulting in an example of really great music. The critics praise Ive’s voice, whose color and warmth lend expression and romanticism to her music. We expect that during the Summer Festival we will hear all the songs from her new album, Bossa Romantica, which actually appeared first in Poland.

Bossa Romantica was recorded by Kevin Armstrong, known for his collaborations with, among others, David Bowie and Iggy Pop. One of the singles from this album, the song ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, was mixed by Miles Walker, the legendary winner of several Grammys, in his studio in Atlanta.

The world music accent in the work of Ive Mendes has its source in the singer’s origins. Ive was born in Ceres, Brazil, in a farming family with mixed roots: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Brazilian. She also mentions her Indian heritage.

The music of Ive Mendes is perfect for a warm evening with a glass of wine or a great late dinner—the point being that it complements the sensual pleasures of life. The sensuality, depth, and moodiness of her voice will lead our thoughts along the paths of Spanish vineyards. We’ll hear the sounds of samba, jazz, soul, and chillout, guaranteed to awaken sensual passion and bring out life’s most delicious flavors.

Ive has the ability to move freely between bossa nova and modern influences, smooth jazz and pop, and her originality ensures that she is appreciated by listeners in the Asian and European markets, where she is known as the “Brazilian queen of smooth jazz.” Ive Mendes is one of very few Brazilian singers representing this cosmopolitan and open attitude to music. Her worldwide success is sustained by renowned, highly esteemed, intimate live performances, during which we are guaranteed to discover her charm, charisma, and hypnotic voice.

Ticket sales locations: eventim.pl, ticketpro.pl, biletywkrakowie, Punkt InfoKraków, ul. Św. Jana 2, and the organizers’ office at ul. Karmelicka 52/1, Kraków.

More information at: www.cracjazz.com

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Review of New Music Concepts. 2nd International Conference ICNMC 2016

New Music Concepts. 2nd International Conference ICNMC 2016
New Music Concepts. 2nd International Conference ICNMC 2016

New Music Concepts. 2nd International Conference ICNMC 2016, Michele Della Ventura (ed.), ABEditore s.r.l. – Milan ISBN 978-88-6551-221-0

This book is a collection of essays and scholarly articles comprising the results of the second New Music Concepts academic conference, held in Treviso (Italy) 5‒6 March 2016. In this review we will take a general look at this publication, focusing on the specific research carried out within the framework of the annual academic meeting. The conference is organised by the Studio Musica Music Academy affiliated with the Benedetto Marcello Conservatorio di Musica of Venice.

As the book’s academic editor, Professor Michele Della Ventura, writes in the introduction, the book is a collection of ideas, theories, and research findings from areas touching on the humanities, philosophy, engineering, mathematics, and the everyday experience of studio work and creative artistic work. The publication consists of articles by researchers, academic educators, and artists from England, the United States, Spain, Austria, France, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Korea, and Germany. The results of the research presented in the book can be divided roughly into three main areas: (1) sound engineering and studio work; (2) teaching at different levels of artistic instruction, with special consideration given to the potential of applying e-learning tools to improve the quality of education; (3) cultural studies and their impact on the understanding of contemporary artistic phenomena.

The amplitude of the issues involving development of e-learning methods in the book is not surprising if we consider the academic and educational achievements of Professor Michele Della Ventura, who has been a specialist in this field and for many years has been systematically expanding the field of artistic teaching, contributing to the improvement of the quality of education with the involvement of modern tools and learning: http://www.studiomusicatreviso.it/Corso_Internazionale_2016.

Among the articles addressing the issue of sound engineering and tools for the creation of contemporary music, one can find such issues as ‘A User-Centric Algorithmic Composition System’ (A. Antoine, E. R. Miranda), ‘Blyth-Eastbourne-Wembury: Sonification as a compositional tool in electroacoustic music’ (N. Bonet, A. Kirke, E. R. Miranda), and ‘Basis Function Modeling of Loudness Variations in Ensemble Performance’ (T. Gadermaier, M. Grachten, C. E. Cencino Chacon). These issues were well suited to the resources of the academic centre where the conference was held, as the Academy of Music in Treviso possesses a well-equipped modern recording studio.

Among the issues related to teaching and e-learning, such topics emerged as: ‘Virtual Music Classroom via Incubation Theory: Case Studies and Research’ (Mary K. French), ‘E-learning and its effectiveness in improving The Performance of Techniques and Skills of playing the piano’ (Bahia Galal Al Ekhrity), and ‘The Efficiency on Video-supported Teaching in Amateur Violin Training’ (N. Yagisan, Y. Aksoy).

In the last-mentioned section one can find very interesting studies concerning research touching on the fields of philosophy, sociology and culture. It is shown in this section how varied, in terms of fields and subjects, research on music can be. Among other issues we find ‘Could the be considered an alternative popular music? A Jihadist ideology practiced through audio patterns: the case of al Nusra and Daesh’ (I. Hafez), ‘An innovation way the teaching the Arabic music analysis of the freshman student through e-Learning’ (Mayada Gamal El Deen Aly Aghaa), and ‘A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Music in History: Language, Health and Implications’ (M. H. Cui, D. Knox, M. O. Agyeman, R. MacDonald), as well as the article ‘World Music: a Transcultural Phenomenon’ (P. Tendera, W. Rubiś). In this section of the book, the philosophy of music is closely connected to sociocultural research, which complements the broad perspective of the research conducted annually within the framework of the ‘New Music Concepts’ conference. Bringing together issues touching on technology, teaching and cultural research in a single book results in a very interesting offering in the field of academic reading.

The last-mentioned article is the result of my own theoretical research, which I have been conducting for several years. These studies focus on the ontology and value of music. We analyse not only the construction of music (where I concentrate on my own original, philosophically modernised division of music into form and content) but also the conditions that must be met for the phenomenon of transculturalism that we see in the World Music trend to have significant meaning.

We are conducting our research in counterpoint: focusing on one hand on aesthetically diverse exemplifications (mainstream jazz, swing, bebop, Latin, world fusion, global fusion, worldbeat, neo-tradition, influences of Hindu, ethnic Arab, Jewish, gypsy, African folk and European music), on the other on the universality manifested in the creative process, improvisation, and specifics of musical expression [[Cf. P. Tendera, W. Rubiś, ‘World Music: a transcultural phenomenon’, in: New Music Concepts. 2nd International Conference ICNMC 2016, Michele Della Ventura (ed.), ABEditore s.r.l. – Milan, pp. 61‒82]].

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Flamenco Guitar Master Mario Escudero Dies in Miami

Mario Escudero

Madrid, Spain – Renowned Spanish guitarist Mario Escudero died in Miami, Florida, November 19, 2004, at 8 a.m. Escudero had been suffering of Parkinson’s disease. His son will bury his ashes in Madrid.

Mario Escudero Valero was born in Alicante (Spain), in 1928. He was one of the great innovators of the guitar in the 20th century.

Escudero studied in Madrid under the tutelage of two of the greatest Flamenco guitarists of the time, Ramón Montoya and Niño Ricardo. Escudero moved to the United States and recorded several guitar albums in New York, as a duet with another Spanish master, Sabicas. Some of these recordings became a reference point for the great modernizer of Flamenco guitar in the 1970s, Paco de Lucía.

Mario Escudero became a US citizen in 1969. He maintained homes in Sevilla & New York for over 30 years and returned to Spain in the
1980s. In 1994 he moved back to the United States, when his son Ramón died in 1994, and gradually lost his ability to perform due to Parkinson’s disease.

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