Tag Archives: Jazz

Artist Profiles: Hermeto Pascoal

Hermeto Pascoal

Hermeto Pascoal is a prominent Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist. His compositions appear on albums by Miles Davis and other jazz heavyweights.

He was born in 1936 in Lagoa da Canoa, a small town in northeastern Brazil. His reputation in Brazil is the result of a varied career. As a juvenile he learned to play the flute, appearing on a multitude of occasions. When his family moved to Recife in 1950 he spent the following six years as an accordion player for radio stations, ending as the director of a complete orchestra. Pascoal then moved on to Rio, stunned by the possibilities and musical opportunities arising for him.

In 1964 he joined Aito Moreira in a group called Trio Sambraza. Two years later, again with Airto, a first record was released in Brazil with the Quarteto Novo. When in 1969 the group broke up and Airto Moreira left for the States to play with Miles Davis, Hermeto stayed behind.

Pascoals’ international career began two years later. Airto called him to arrange his productions in New York. Miles Davis, who was fascinated by the wilfulness of Brazilian and especially Pascoal’s music gave him room for two compositions of his own on the album Live Evil. In the same year, 1972, Hermeto Pascoal’s first album, together with Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Ron Carter was released; called Hermeto.

In 1964 he joined Aito Moreira in a group called Trio Sambraza. Two years later, again with Airto, a first record was released in Brazil with the Quarteto Novo. When in 1969 the group broke up and Airto Moreira left for the States to play with Miles Davis, Hermeto stayed behind. Pascoals’ international career began two years later. Airto called him to arrange his productions in New York. Miles Davis, who was fascinated by the wilfulness of Brazilian and especially Pascoal?s music gave him room fo two compositions of his own on the album Live Evil. In the same year 1972, Hermeto Pascoal?s first album, together with Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Ron Carter was released; called Hermeto.

Due to the recognition Pascoal received in the United States, the Brazilian record industry’s interest grew rapidly. In 1973 he released an album called A Musica Livre De Hermeto Pascoal. It was due to his innovative power, his restlessness, his search for unconventional musical instruments: bottles, stones, water splashing, and almost everything else that could create sounds; that people started calling him “Bruxo”, the wizard.

His masterpiece, a milestone in the Brazilian music world, was the album Slaves Mass, released 1977. Many other releases followed after this breakthrough.

Hermeto Pascoal

His influence on Brazilian music extends well beyond his own remarkable output as a writer an multi-instrumentalist. As the father-figure for avant-garde Brazilian Jazz, Pascoal’s pioneering music has prepped a generation of musicians who are now having a great deal to say about the direction of the American music scene.

Airto, had this to say about his mentor: “He is the most complete musician I ever met in my life. I consider him almost a genius.

Pascoal plays flutes, keyboards, guitar and bass with equal facility; and reads, writes and arranges without the benefit of any formal training.

Discography:

Conjunto Som 4, with Conjunto Som 4 (1961)
Em Som Maior, with Sambrasa Trio (1966)
Quarteto Novo, with Quarteto Novo (1967)
Brazilian Octopus, with Brazilian Octopus (1969)
Hermeto Pascoal, reissued on CD as Brazilian Adventure (1970)
A música livre de Hermeto Pascoal (Sinter, 1973)
Slaves Mass (Warner Bros. Records, 1976)
Trindade (1977)
Zabumbê-bum-á (Warner Bros. Records, 1979)
Ao vivo Montreux Jazz Festival (Atlantic, 1979)
Nova história da Música Popular Brasileira, compilation (1979)
Cérebro magnético (Atlantic, 1980)
Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo (1982)
Lagoa da Canoa, Município de Arapiraca (Happy Hour Music, 1984)
Brasil Universo (1986)
Só não toca quem não quer (Intuition, 1987)
Hermeto solo) por diferentes caminhos (Som Da Gente, 1988)
Festa dos deuses (1992)
Instrumental no CCBB, with Renato Borghetti (Tom Brasil, 1993)
Música! o melhor da música de Hermeto Pascoal, compilation (1998)
Eu e eles (Rádio Mec, 1999)
Mundo verde esperança (2002)
Chimarrão com rapadura, with Aline Morena (2006)
Bodas de Latão, with Aline Morena (2010)
The Monash Sessions (Jazzhead, 2013)
No Mundo dos Sons (SESC SP, 2017)
Viajando com o som (Far Out Recordings, 2017)
Natureza Universal (2017)
Palmares Fantasy (Far Out Recordings, 2018)
E Sua Visão Original Do Forró ‎(Scubidu Music, 2018)

Share

The Salsa Music of Ismael Rivera Reconstructed for Alto Saxophone

Miguel Zenón – Sonero: The Music of Ismael River

Miguel Zenón – Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music, 2019)

Puerto Rican composer, arranger and virtuoso saxophonist Miguel Zenón continues his series of tributes to Puerto Rican music on Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera. Within salsa, Ismael “Maelo” Rivera was an innovator. He introduced vocal improvisation and also incorporated Puerto Rican rhythms like bomba y plena.

On Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera, Miguel Zenón takes some of Maelo’s best-known and beloved songs and transforms them into masterfully-crafted straight ahead jazz pieces with an underlying Puerto Rican flavor.

The lineup on the album includes Miguel Zenón on alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo on piano; Hans Glawischnig on bass; and Henry Cole on drums.

Buy Sonero: The Music of Ismael River

Share

Joyce’s Exquisite Renditions of English-language Standards

Joyce Moreno – Coo

Joyce Moreno – Cool (Far Out Recordings, 2016)

Joyce Moreno, one of the greatest Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) singer-songwriters, switches to English on Cool. Joyce Moreno rarely sings in English so this album showcases a different side of Joyce’s multifaceted talent.

The album consists primarily of American jazz standards .  Joyce and her talented band transform these classics into delightful Brazilian-flavored songs. The vocals are charming, featuring Joyce’s marvelous lead vocals and overdubs as well. Joyce is also an excellent bossa nova guitarist and arranger.

The lineup includes Joyce Moreno on vocals and guitar; Tutty Moreno on drums and percussion; Helio Alves on piano; and Rodolfo Stroeter on bass.

Buy Cool

Share

Celebrated Dominican Pianist Michel Camilo Releases Essence

Pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo revisits some of his essential music on Essence, featuring new arrangements. Camilo is an award-winning pianist who has a passion for jazz, Latin American music and flamenco.

Essence, scheduled for release June 7, 2019 features an impressive lineup of musicians, including many longtime collaborators.

I tried to choose music from every stage of development as a creative artist and as a composer,” Camilo says about Esence. “I picked songs that represent shifts in my career and my point of view; that showcase how I developed my sound. I’ve always thought of the trio as a mini-orchestra, so the big band is a way to celebrate my career and my journey with a group of friends creating together in the studio.”

Buy Essence

Share

Big Statements and African Diaspora Roots Sounds from Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues (PIAS, 2019)

Capitalist Blues is the third album by former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist and singer-songwriter, Leyla McCalla. On Capitalist Blues, Leyla incorporates a wide range of influences that reflect her Haitian heritage, the music of the Afro-diaspora and her current home in New Orleans, which is one the essential musical melting pots of the United States.

Leyla sings in English and in Haitian Kreyol and collaborated with local artists and acclaimed Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik, who participated in the album while they were staying in New Orleans to perform at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. In addition to African-American and Haitian music, Leyla also added Brazilian rhythms and Cajun music to Capitalist Blues.

Capitalist Blues illustrates Leyla’s ideas and sentiments about the current world events, including violence in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war; capitalism; lead poisoning in water that has affected many minority communities, especially in Flint, Michigan; the divisiveness of Donald Trump; and the protests in New Orleans over the dismantling of Confederate monuments.

For this album, Leyla McCalla decided to use the guitar and banjo instead of her familiar cello.

Capitalist Blues s is a finely-crafted example of the essence of New Orleans roots music and songwriting with a social conscience.

Share

Artist Profiles: Andy Narell

Andy Narell

Though a native of New York, Andy Narell has spent more than two decades developing a global reputation as a steel pan virtuoso whose multicultural style embraces a range of Afro-Caribbean, Latin jazz and pop traditions. He’s one of only a small handful of steel pan players in the world who are playing jazz, and perhaps the only one among that circle of musicians to commit an entire career — live and in the studio — to creating new music for the steel pan in that context.

Andy Narell was born in 1954 in New York City, New York. His father, Murray Narell, a social worker, met a gentleman from Antigua who needed a job and he knew how to make and play steel drums. Andy’s father had the idea of teaching the neighborhood kids how to play steel drums so he started one of the first steel pan programs in the United States. Muray Narell traveled to Trinidad several times, met with some of the top steel pan performers and makers and wrote notes about this encounters. He also brought back steel pans from Trinidad.

Andy Narell started his own steel band group in Queens. The group played regularly at festivals, weddings, benefit concerts and other events. In 1966, at the age of 12, Narell traveled to Trinidad for the first time. The locals were surprised to find such a great technique in a 12 year old boy from New York.

For many years, Narell worked within the context of jazz and world music. One of the highlights of his career came when he teamed with Paquito D’Rivera and Dave Samuels to form the Caribbean Jazz Project. While Narell was busy playing around the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean, or composing for the Panorama steel band festival in Trinidad, or laying down tracks on albums, films and commercials, a grassroots movement was taking shape in South Africa that would have a dramatic influence on his musical and cultural perspective. The lifting of economic restrictions and the transition to majority rule in South Africa in the early 1990s allowed residents of the major cities and outlying townships easier access to recorded music from around the world. A network of “listening clubs” sprouted throughout the region as low-income South Africans pooled their monies to buy CDs of their favorite artists.

By the late 1990s, Narell had ascended to folk-hero status in a fan club he knew nothing about. Narell had been hearing rumors as early as the mid-1990s, but he didn’t know what to make of them.

When South Africa’s government-sponsored Arts Alive festival invited him to come and play in September 1999, he figured he might fill a couple 200 or 300 seat clubs, maybe play an outdoor gig or two, and then come home. He figured wrong. When Narell and Heads Up president Dave Love landed in South Africa, the entire Andy Narell Jazz Club was at the airport, waving signs and sporting hats and t-shirts bearing his name. Arts Alive staffers told him there could be as many as 20,000 people at his outdoor performance. But even they figured wrong. Backed by some of the tightest, most intuitive jazz players from the Johannesburg scene, Narell took the stage and witnessed what he recalls as “a mass of people like I’d never seen. I’d never played in front of anything like this before in my life. The people from Arts Alive estimated between sixty and eighty thousand. And the people knew all the music. In the middle of songs, I’d hear this roar from the audience, and I’d realize that they were singing along with the music. All I could think of was, wow, we are really not in Kansas anymore. This is Africa, man.”

Andy Narell

Narell came down from the experience just long enough to come home and record Fire in the Engine Room (HUCD 3056), his 2000 studio release on Heads Up. Among the musicians featured on the album was guitarist Louis Mhlanga, whom Narell had met in Johannesburg. He returned to Southern Africa in April 2000 for an extensive concert tour that reunited the band he’d played with seven months earlier and explored many of the lesser-traveled cities and townships off the beaten Johannesburg-Cape Town-Durban tour path frequented by most foreign artists.

Live in South Africa — recorded over a two-night stand at the Blues Room in Johannesburg at the tail end of the tour — chronicles another expansion of Narell’s already multicultural sensibilities. The musicians are veterans of the South African music scene, and they bring a rich musical heritage to the performances. Along with Mhlanga, hailing from Zimbabwe, the lineup includes keyboardist Andile Yenana, from the eastern Capebassist Denny Lalouette, from the island of Mauritiusdrummer Rob Watson, from Bloernfonteinand percussionist Basi Mahlasela, from Soweto.

For every song Narell taught them, he learned his share of their music and culture in return. While the formula of solid material interpreted by high-caliber musicianship may be surefire, Narell insists that much of the album’s energy comes from those moments — in the songs themselves and in the tour in general — when spontaneity and creative energy transcended traditional musical structures and cultural boundaries. “A few gigs into this tour, I realized. This is really clicking. We’ve got a band now. The guys were more comfortable with the music, and I started pushing them to experiment more and take more chances, open the music up and allow it to become more African. And sometimes we’d have people up dancing on stage, and they’d break into their township jive and the whole place would turn into a big party. Those were the greatest moments for me, when it was their culture front and center on stage.”

Live in South Africa is all about the response. “With the South Africans’ openness to jazz and instrumental music, somehow I’ve found a way in the door — or my records did, on their own,” he says. “But there was no way I could have known. Recordings are like a message in a bottle, and you really don’t know where the message is going to land and who’s going to hear it or understand it.

His 2004 album, The Passage, which features Narell, the steelband Calypsociation, and three of the greatest soloists in jazz – Michael Brecker, Paquito D’Rivera and Hugh Masekela. The Passage was recorded and mixed using cutting-edge technology to capture all the excitement of the steelband sound, and was released in two formats: a CD, and a 5.1 surround-sound SACD.

The story of The Passage started in two places at the same time: Paris, France, and Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Parisian plot started when Narell arrived in Paris to discover the existence of Calypsociation.

I came over here to teach in the spring of 2001,” Narell recalls. “I had sent over the chart of ‘Coffee Street,’ and they played part of it for me – and I could hear after two minutes that I wanted to work with this band.”

The fit between Narell and Calypsociation was so tight that the band commissioned him to direct, compose and arrange two ten-minute pieces for the second European Steelband Festival in 2002. That music sounded so sweet, and the experience was so rewarding on all sides, that Narell continued working with Calypsociation – a collaboration that’s documented on the CD.

Narell realized that this recording provided the perfect opportunity to try something revolutionary. “Due to technical issues,” he explains, “steelband recordings tend to be one-dimensional sounding. It’s very hard to capture the power of the bass, the spatial relationships of the sections, and the clarity of all the inner parts. So even digital recordings tend to sound small and tinny compared with the massive power of the real thing. For this recording, we placed the microphones all around the band to capture the excitement of 30 people playing together in a large studio space. Then we overdubbed each of the eight sections of the band on top of the live performance to get a clean stereo pair of each section for presence, balance, and effect sends. This way I’ve got the elements I need to create a mix that puts you right there in front of the band.

That’s just the stereo mix. The 5.1 surround sound SACD will be ground-breaking in more ways than one. Obviously, this is the first steelband record to be released in surround, but Narell has gone a great deal farther. “Since surround sound is such a new format, everybody is experimenting and there are very few established conventions. So rather than take the stereo mix and just add a few things to the back for interest, which is what a lot of surround mixers do, I decided to use the technology to put the listener right into the center of a steelband. It’s a thrilling audio experience.”

To take things to yet another level, Narell invited three jazz masters to sit in – Michael Brecker, Paquito D’Rivera and Hugh Masekela. “A lot of jazz musicians don’t take steelband music seriously,” says Narell. “So it was important to me that the soloists should not only be great players, but that they would approach this music with respect, and come to the session with the anticipation that they were about to play with a tight, swinging big band – which is what Calypsociation is. Mike, Paquito and Hugh exceeded my expectations, which were very high. They add a whole new dimension to the record. They play so beautifully, and the sound of their instruments soloing in front of a steelband is a totally exciting experience for me.”

It’s not every day you get a world class orchestra to rehearse for two years to make a record,” says Narell. “I could have spent a few thousand dollars, and a few days, to record the band, but I decided to make the most of this opportunity. We put hundreds of hours of work into recording and mixing this disc. Frankly, I’m trying to redefine the art of the steelband recording.”

Discography:

Hidden Treasure (Inner City, 1979)
Stickman (Hip Pocket, 1981)
Light in Your Eyes (Hip Pocket, 1983)
Slow Motion (Hip Pocket, 1985)
The Hammer (Windham Hill, 1987)
Little Secrets (Windham Hill, 1989)
Down the Road (Windham Hill, 1992)
The Long Time Band (Windham Hill, 1995)
Behind the Bridge (Inak, 1998)
Fire in the Engine Room (Heads Up, 2000)
Live in South Africa (Heads Up, 2001)
Sakesho (Heads Up, 2002)
The Passage (Heads Up, 2004)
Tatoom (Heads Up, 2007)
University of Calypso (Heads Up, 2009)
Dis 1. 4. Raf (Listen 2 Entertainment Group, 2016)

Share

Artist Profiles: Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell – Photo by Michael Wilson

In a career that spans more than 20 years and numerous recordings, guitarist, composer and bandleader. Frisell’s Nonesuch discography includes 16 albums, ranging from original Buster Keaton film scores to covers of music by Charles Ives, Stephen Foster, Bob Dylan and Madonna (Have a Little Faith); collaborations with Jim Keltner and Viktor Krauss (Gone, Just Like a Train and Good Dog, Happy Man); a disc of eleven jazz standards performed in duo with pianist Fred Hersch (Songs We Know); and a first-ever solo guitar album, Ghost Town.

In addition to his work as soloist and bandleader, Frisell has established himself as one of the most sought-after collaborators in contemporary music. He has contributed to the work of such diverse artists as Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach, Ron Carter, Ginger Baker, Gavin Bryars, Jerry Douglas, Marianne Faithfull, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Paul Motian, David Sylvian, William S. Burroughs, Hal Willner and John Zorn, among others.

Bill Frisell was born in Baltimore and grew up in Denver, playing clarinet in his high school band and discovering his love for the guitar through his exposure to pop music on the radio. His great enthusiasm for the Chicago blues ‘particularly the music of B.B. King and Paul Butterfield ‘ led to his complex affinity for contemporary American music. Frisell studied at the University of Northern Colorado and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1978 he spent a year composing in Belgium and then moved to New York City, where he played a critical role in the foundation and widespread acceptance of the downtown new music scene. In 1989, Frisell moved to Seattle, where he continues to make his home.

Bill Frisell made a national television appearance in 1997 on Sessions at West 54th. That same year, his 1996 recording Quartet won the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, the German equivalent of a Grammy away. In 1998, Frisell’s recording Nashville won the Downbeat Critics Poll for “Album of the Year,” and in 1998 and 1999 he received both a Critics Award and an Industry Award in the category of “Best Guitarist” in the Annual Jazz Awards, sponsored by the Knitting Factory and the Jazz Journalists Association.

From 1999 through the Summer of 21 Frisell toured extensively with the New Quartet. He was also involved in a 1999 collaboration with Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, The Sweetest Punch, which was released by Universal Classics. He has been busy in recent years composing and recording music for such films as “Finding Forrester”, “Million Dollar Hotel”, “American Hollow” and “Psycho” as well as numerous stage, television and radio productions. In addition, he’s been on the road periodically with his trio featuring bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen.

In October of 21, Nonesuch released Frisell’s self-titled trio record with jazz legends Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, a reworking of a number of Frisell’s most enduring compositions along with a couple of standards. It followed the January 21 release of Blues Dream, the debut recording of Frisell’s Septet. In many ways it represented a culmination of the strands running through several of his preceding Nonesuch releases, combining the homespun lyricism of Frisell’s previous records with the expanded tonal palette and harmonic sophistication afforded by a larger group, something he has explored as far back as his first Nonesuch recording, Before We Were Born.

Frisell collaborated with visual artist Jim Woodring (album cover illustrations from Gone, Just Like a Train, and Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones) on a performance piece entitled “Mysterio Simpatico.” The event, featuring Woodring’s artwork, and Frisell’s trio music with violinist Scheinman and trumpeter Ron Miles, premiered at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in June 22.

The Willies, Frisell’s sixteenth Nonesuch recording, was released in June, 22. Featuring Frisell on electric and acoustic guitars and loops, Danny Barnes (Bad Livers) on banjo and guitar and Keith Lowe (Fiona Apple, David Sylvian, and Wayne Horvitz’s Zony Mash) on bass, the album sets out to explore Frisell’s inimitable and modern conceptions of bluegrass and country blues. The collection features eight traditional offerings including “Cluck Old Hen” and “Cold, Cold Heart” as well as eight original compositions.

Frisell’s encounters with Malian musicians like singer and guitarist Boubacar Traore and percussionist Sidiki Camara, who has played with many of Mali’s most renowned performers, have left him eager to further explore the commonalities of African and American roots musics.

The Intercontinentals is a band Bill Frisell formed in 2001 which made its performance debut at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival that fall. The self-titled album The Intercontinentals features the Brazilian composer, singer, guitarist and percussionist Vinicius Cantuaria; Greek-Macedonian musician Christos Govetas on ud, bouzouki and vocals; and Mali’s Sidiki Camera on percussion and vocals, as well as subsequently added musicians Greg Leisz on pedal steel and various slide guitars and violinist Jenny Scheinman. It is an album that combines Frisell’s own brand of American roots music and his inimitable improvisational style with the influences of Brazilian, Greek and Malian sounds. Frisell, in talking about this collaboration, has said, “With this group I’ve been finding all kinds of new musical connections. It’s been a challenge and an inspiration.”

In addition to Frisell’s ongoing performance and collaborative recording activities, he was honored at London’s Barbican Theatre with “An Evening with Bill Frisell”, where he performed with The Intercontinentals, plus special guests Djelimady Tounkara, the celebrated guitarist from Mali, and Eliza Carthy, the young singer and violinist from the UK.

Frisell was also commissioned to write and record a musical response to the paintings of Gerhard Richter, to accompany a book and exhibit celebrating Richter’s acclaimed 858 series. The resulting CD-length piece includes performances by Frisell with Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola) and Hank Roberts (cello). Frisell also accepted an invitation from Gerard Mortier to be Artistic Director of the “Century of Song” series as part of the Ruhr Trienniale Arts Festival in Germany for the 23/24 season.

Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004) featured Frisell’s long-time rhythm section of Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, percussionist Don Alias, horn arrangements by Steven Bernstein, and Frisell’s string arrangement for the 858 strings of Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind Kang and Hank Roberts. It won a Grammy award in 2005 for Best Contemporary Jazz recording.

The double live album East/West included Frisell’s two working trios. “West” featured Bill’s trio with Viktor Krauss and Kenny Wollesen and was recorded at Yoshi’s in Oakland. “East” features Frisell’s other working trio with Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen. It was recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City.

The album, Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch), is a collaboration with two musicians whom Bill considers to be true mentors and inspirations, and represented a personal milestone for him. “To hear Paul and Ron play together was a dream come true for me. I knew they had worked together a little bit in the 6’s and was sure they would reconnect in a big way. During the sessions I was so mesmerized listening to them, most of the time I wasn’t even aware that I was playing too! I wanted the album to be live, all of us playing in a room. It was recorded quickly, with no rehearsal,”said Frisell “In high school I heard Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin’on Sunset. This was the first solo I learned to play on the guitar. The floodgates were opened and soon I was listening to Miles, Eric Dolphy, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Rollins, Herbie, Wayne, Tony, Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy, etc. This music changed my life. Ron Carter is the thread that runs through all of it, since he played with all those guys. It’s awesome to think about.” He continued, “I first had the chance to meet and play with Ron on Joey Baron’s albums, Down Home and We’ll Soon Find Out. He then invited me to play on his album Orfeu. We’ve done some gigs with Joey’s band and also some duo gigs at the Blue Note Club in New York. He’s been so supportive of my music and me. I wrote a tune for him, “Ron Carter” on my Blues Dream album. The bass line has only two notes.

Paul Motian is my musical father. There’s no way to put into just a few words the impact he has had on me. He helped me find my musical voice. In 1968, I heard him play live for the first time with Charles Lloyd’s band. So, just as I was discovering Ron’s music I also found Paul’s with Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Lennie Tristano, etc. In 1981, Paul was looking for a guitar player and Pat Metheny recommended me. Paul called and invited me to come to his apartment and play with bassist Marc Johnson. Bill Evans had recently passed away and they were reminiscing about their time spent with him. The first song we played together that day was My Man’s Gone Now.’ We’ve been playing together ever since.”

History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008) featured an octet of strings, horns and rhythm section with some of his closest music collaborator: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang, (viola), Hank Roberts (cello), Ron Miles (cornet), Greg Tardy (clarinet and tenor saxophone), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums). History, Mystery featured new Frisell compositions as well as some of his arrangements of favorite pieces by other songwriters, ranging from soul pioneer Sam Cooke to jazzmen Thelonious Monk and Lee Konitz. The original compositions on the album were born from and inspired by collaborations with visual artist and fellow Seattle resident Jim Woodring.

Album producer Townsend said, “History, Mystery explores a fuller palette of orchestral colors and timbres than for any project Bill has done before. Thematic elements recur throughout the album, furthering its symphonic sensibility.”

The Best of Bill Frisell, Vol 1: Folk Songs was the first in a series of compilations, this one drawn from Frisell’s catalog spotlighting his idiosyncratic excursions into country and traditional folk. The album features an impressive lineup: Bill Frisell, electric and acoustic guitars, loops, music boxes; Viktor Krauss, bass; Jim Keltner, drums, percussion;Danny Barnes, banjo, acoustic guitar, bass harmonica, pump organ; Keith Lowe, bass; Jerry Douglas, dobro; Greg Leisz, pedal steel, lap steel, National steel guitar, mandolin, Weissenborn; Dobro, Scheerhorn resonator guitar; Wayne Horvitz, organ, piano, samples; Ry Cooder, electric and Ripley guitar; Kermit Driscoll, bass; Joey Baron, drums; David Piltch, bass; Kenny Wollesen, drums, percussion.

The album Disfarmer was inspired by iconic photographer Mike Disfarmer. The multimedia project Disfarmer Project featured Frisell, lap steel guitar player Greg Leisz and violinist Jenny Scheinman, plus slides of Disfarmer’s photos, displayed on screens. The piece premiered on March 3,27, at the Wexner Center, on the campus of Ohio State University. The score was subsequently recorded in Seattle and Nashville, produced by Frisell’s longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and also featured Viktor Krauss on bass. Along with Frisell’s original compositions, he included versions of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama”and Hank Williams Sr.’s “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)”.

In his liner notes, Frisell, who took a driving trip to Heber Springs to learn more about the area where Disfarmer worked, said, “Of course I was blown away when I saw his photos for the first time and started to learn a little about his life. What a fantastic story … I kept thinking about the many other unsung and misunderstood artists who never had the recognition they deserved during their own time: Vermeer, Van Gogh, Charles Ives, Henry Darger, etc. … I try to picture what went on in Disfarmer’s mind. How did he really feel about the people in this town? What was he thinking? What did he see? We’ll never know, but as I write the music, I’d like to imagine it coming from his point of view. The sound of him looking through the lens.”

After 22 years of a productive relationship with Nonesuch Records dating from the late 1980s, Frisell signed an agreement with the Savoy Label Group. His first album for the label,Beautiful Dreamers featured a trio with Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums. The repertory included Frisell originals as well as interpretations of classic songs “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, “Tea for Two”, “Goin’Out of My Head”, “Keep on the Sunnyside”and a stirring rendition of Benny Goodman’s “Benny’s Bugle”.

Frisell’s second album for Savoy Jazz,Sign of Life, with his 858 Quartet featured Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola) and Hank Roberts (cello). This time, Frisell explored chamber-group dynamics and interplay on a set of all-Frisell original material.

In 2011, Frisell pull together an ensemble consisting of Greg Leisz (guitars), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums) to record his versions of the classic songs of John Lennon. A fan of the Beatles since the age of 13, Frisell was asked to put together a performance in honor of Lennon as part of a special event in Paris. The arrangements and interpretations were recorded and appear on the album titled All We Are Saying… (Savoy Jazz).

Bill Frisell and Skúli Sverrisson – Photo by Jordan Kleinman

In 2018, Frisell recorded Strata, the first ever collaboration with Icelandic bassist Skúli Sverrisson. “I almost feel like I didn’t even play on this record. Compositionally, what Skúli brought is so amazing. There wasn’t anything for me to do, everything was there already. So natural for me to fall into–so effortless. What Skúli chose to play and what he wrote–he built this structure that didn’t have anything blocking me but it was holding me up the whole time. It feels like we’ve known each other longer that we have. And it feels like the start of something,” said Frisell.

Also in 2018, Frisell appeared in Lebroba, an album from drummer Andrew Cyrille.

In 2019, Frisell released Epistrophy, a collaboration with bassist Thomas Morgan, recorded at New York City’s Village Vanguard.

Discography:

In Line (ECM, 1983)
Rambler (ECM, 1984)
Lookout for Hope (ECM, 1987)
Before We Were Born (Nonesuch, 1989)
Is That You? (Nonesuch, 199)
Where in the World? (Nonesuch, 1991)
Have a Little Faith (Nonesuch, 1992)
This Land (Nonesuch, 1994)
Go West: Music for the Films of Buster Keaton (Nonesuch, 1995)
The High Sign/One Week: Music for the Films of Buster Keaton (Nonesuch, 1995)
Live (Gramavision, 1995)
Quartet (Nonesuch, 1996)
Nashville (Nonesuch, 1997)
Gone, Just Like a Train (Nonesuch, 1998)
Good Dog, Happy Man (Nonesuch, 1999)
The Sweetest Punch, The New Songs of Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach (Decca, 1999)
Ghost Town (Nonesuch, 2000)
Blues Dream (Nonesuch, 2001)
With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch, 2001)
The Willies (Nonesuch, 2002)
The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003)
Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004)
Richter 858 (Songlines, 2005)
East/West (Nonesuch, 2005)
Further East/Further West (Nonesuch, 25)
Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch, 26)
Floratone (Blue Note, 2007)
History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008)
Disfarmer (Nonesuch, 2009)
Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy Label Group, 2010)
Lagrimas Mexicanas with Vinicius Cantuaria (E1 Music/Naive, 2011)
Sign of Life: Music for 858 Quartet (Savoy Label Group, 2011)
All We Are Saying.. Frisell Plays Lennon (Savoy Label Group, 2011)
Floratone II (Savoy Jazz, 2012)
Big Sur (Okeh, 2013)
Guitar in the Space Age! (Okeh, 2014)
When You Wish Upon a Star (Okeh, 2016)
Small Town (Okeh, 2016)
Music IS (Okeh, 2018), Strata, with Skúli Sverrisson (Nouvelle, 2018)
Lebroba, with Andrew Cyrille (ECM, 2018)
Epistrophy, with Thomas Morgan (ECM, 2019)

Share

APAP 2019 Rewind: Tell It, Sing It, Play It Like It Is – Towards Social Justice

With Observations by Catalina Maria Johnson, Neva Wartell, Brice Rosenbloom

Meshell Ndegeocello Ensemble – Photo Evangeline Kim

In these convulsive times, we affirm that the performing arts are a force, and that as a field, we can and will navigate and drive change together. – Mario Garcia Durham, APAP President & CEO

Despite the current, troubled, and uncertain times in the United States, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) served to rally and infuse thousands of its members and attendees with measures of inspiring and positive energies during its 62nd annual conference at the Hilton in New York City (January 4-8). 

The world music and jazz conferences and showcase offerings in particular continue to be bellwethers of change and developing trends for all the performing arts in the country.  Their combined focus was social justice.

Part I: Observations, Reflections

Wavelengths Preconference

Almost 20 years ago, when I first started to attend APAP’s world music themed preconferences just before September 11th, 2001, the gathering or room of attendees held little racial or ethnic diversity.  Slowly but surely this has changed and continues to change.  Increasing numbers of “people of color” and from various ethnic origins, notably from younger generations – including agents, presenters, producers, artists, and newer world music industry thinkers and leaders – are starting to populate the by now branded Wavelengths preconference as participants or audience members.

Here’s a one-stop newsletter about Wavelengths that summarizes the whole event, including links to all the panel discussions. “What Happens at Wavelengths: Takeaways from 2019’s World Music Pre-Conference”.

In keeping with this year’s Wavelengths theme, “Acknowledgement of Land”, the Canadian-based First Nation Anishinaabe singer and activist, ShoShona Kish delivered a compelling keynote address about the Indigenous peoples of North America.  The impact of her talk resonated throughout all the APAP showcase events I attended.  Her words underscored more than the torturous, disenfranchised past and present of the Indigenous peoples of North America.  They also held hope and beauty through her call for global social activism in the coming years for future generations.  Listen to her speech here, starting at 18 minutes into the video recording.

Going Deeper…

The most challenging and painful issues of Indigenous peoples have recently dominated the media due to a horrible incident of incendiary racial confrontations in America. Anti-immigration rhetoric is getting louder.  At the same time, the first Latin American Indigenous actress has been nominated for this year’s best actress Oscar in Hollywood. This is the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages.  The United States has just left UNESCO, the world’s great and indispensable organization, promoting peace and hope through culture.   What could all this mean? Leadership in the arts is key.

Two media colleagues offer their interrelated thoughts:

Catalina Maria Johnson Moderates Wavelengths Impact and Integrity Panel – Photo Evangeline Kim

Catalina Maria Johnson: Land Acknowledgement

In this century, as we gather in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S. it is becoming more customary to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional inhabitants of the land.

It is the impact of this small verbal gesture that we discussed as part of our Wavelengths “Impact and Integrity” panel, which was focused on developing best practices for our world music community. On the one hand, to say a few words that over time can become stale and perfunctory may be perceived as an insignificant effort in the light of the enormous harm done to traditional societies across hundreds of years of colonial/settler imperialism; we barely understand the depth of those wounds and are very far from comprehending what needs to be done to heal them and move forward appropriately.

Yet, to come together as communities to create and experience art is one way in which we celebrate and share our common values. In the current political climate, words of hate have vomited forth in public gatherings, rallying and emboldening dark forces. As the philosopher/linguist Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language, are the limits of my world.” Today, more than ever, words matter. We can wield words as instruments capable of creating and shaping different ways of moving through our lives; we can advocate traditions that honor truth.

Additionally, as we reflected upon in our panel, a simple land acknowledgement is a seed of possibilities that can blossom into concrete actions. The words can serve to raise our awareness of a respectful relationship to the land, honor those that came before us, and become a an organic part of fostering a vision of protecting the earth that ties into concrete actions that can be undertaken as a world music community—-such as efforts like the Earth Muse Collective to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles at our concerts and festivals.

Yet, let us not be fooled into thinking that the acknowledgment in and of itself will be enough and lead us to reconciliation and some kind of utopia. It is important to understand the long-standing history that has brought each of us to reside on the land, and to understand what our role is within that history. Land acknowledgment should be approached as one way to consider our own place in the story of colonization and of undoing its legacy—-because as has been pointed out, there is no point in repeating words to atone for a crime that we are still committing.

And so, let me conclude by acknowledging that I live on the ancestral lands of the Peoria, Potawatomi and the Miami. And you? Take a moment to research and acknowledge the original peoples of your place of residence, then make a commitment to act and honor the vision those words represent.

Catalina Maria Johnson is a tropical being living in Polar-Vortex-loving Chicago who stays warm by listening to hot, hot music and sharing these grooves through her radio show and podcast, Beat Latino, as well as writing for NPR MusicBillboard, Downbeat and others.

Neva E. Wartell – Photo Evangeline Kim

Neva E. Wartell: Whose World Is It, Anyway?

An ethnomusicologist and cultural activist since the 1970s, by now I’m a senior member of the global music community that gathers every January at the Wavelengths: APAP World Music Pre-Conference in NYC. The two days of panels, workshops and presentations never fail to provide inspiration and food for thought, along with the opportunity to reunite with colleagues, and to encounter new musical discoveries. Having attended every year since the first, some dozen years ago, I found the 2019 edition to be the most engaging and thought-provoking yet. I also found myself infused with a powerful sense of optimism for the future of the world.

Why? Because clearly the world is in new hands.

For me, one of this year’s most important markers was the generational shift in attendance and participation – and even more significantly, what such a shift represents: a changing social landscape, which by its nature creates a changing consciousness, which in turn demands…change.

This shift was reflected in both the topics of discussion at Wavelengths and the artists chosen to perform at globalFEST 2019. It’s no surprise that conversations and performances shared themes such as respect for the land, acknowledgment of cultural roots, assertion of identities, and demand for respect as human beings on this shared and suffering planet. Addressing these subjects is necessary and overdue – a very positive indication that a new generation is preparing to take the lead.

What kind of world have we left for them? The generation before mine created a music industry built on assumptions of white supremacy and male privilege. My generation took those power dynamics to the next level, inventing genres and marketing strategies, exploitative practices, and an insider/outsider mentality that gave birth to an amorphous, culturally myopic category called “Other”, which became the convenient home of “World Music”.

The new generation stepping forward represents all things labeled “Other” – the lovechild of “World Music” mated with “No Known Genre” equals every genre in the musical universe – both the cause and the effect of our changing social landscape.

They have every right, and so many reasons, to reject our constructs. Young musicians I meet these days are urgently aware of climate issues, economic issues, race, ethnicity, gender and other identity issues. They know the power of music as a vehicle for achieving social justice. And growing up in a digital environment and an increasingly do-it-yourself music industry, more and more artists are adept at handling their own business.

Many are from families who migrated from elsewhere, wanting only to assimilate into the dominant culture. But this generation is utilizing the dominant culture to express their “otherness” – celebrating the same cultural roots their parents left behind while making it relevant to their own context, creating a whole new cultural reality in their own image.

As award-winning musician and composer Rhiannon Giddens said in a recent interview with The Root: “I’m not interested in trying to do a hip-hop track to try to ‘reach across the aisle.’ I’m like, ‘This is our aisle.’”

The next generation is here, and they are unapologetically reclaiming the world. ‘Nuff’ respect.

“DJ Neva” E. Wartell is an ethnomusicologist, producer and cultural activist. Formerly with WBAI-FM and Radio Soleil in NYC, she currently works for WGXC community radio in NY’s Hudson Valley region, where she lives with two cats, a dog, a turtle, the turtle’s pet fish, and Pepe the Pig. She was the DJ for the very first globalFEST afterparty.

Globalfest 2019 Awards

This was the second year Globalfest presented awardsthat celebrate those that excel in the small but crucial global music field in the USA, too often with little recognition…. The annual awards will be presented to artists and members of the field who have been instrumental in making significant, longstanding contributions to the performing arts landscape in the USA through risk taking, addressing cultural diversity and diplomacy, cultural activism, helping to keep, transmit, and extend the world’s ancient traditions, commitment to working with local communities and making a difference to the greater American performing arts landscape as well as other areas.”

Leigh Ann Hahn GF Impact Award – Photo Evangeline Kim

A note about the honoree Leigh Ann Hahn, programming director of Grand Performances in Los Angeles.  Marco Werman, host and producer with PRI’s The World, presented her with the Impact Award.   She used her moment in the spotlight during the awards ceremony to draw attention to the ongoing, terrible genocide of the Uighurs in China.  She urged activism on their behalf. The entire situation concerning the Uighurs is an unfolding tragic story.

The New York Times recently reported, “According to the United States State Department, between 800,000 and two million people, or up to 15 percent of Xinjiang’s Muslim population, have been incarcerated in a growing network of more than 1,000 concentration camps.” 

There has been systematic targeting over the past few years by the Chinese government to detain influential Uighur musicians, writers and critics, and cultural activists in those concentration camps.  One of the greatest Uighur artists, Sanubar Tursun, Leigh Ann presented at Grand Performances in 2016, has been detained.  It will take massive efforts by governments, human rights organizations, and all interested in the world’s Indigenous populations to mount campaigns to oppose and counter this genocide.

GF Impact Award Honoree: Leigh Ann Hahn

Leigh Ann Hahn, who started at Grand Performances in 1992, is an endlessly creative and innovative programmer.  She is a leading figure in the world music performing arts field who has done a remarkable job producing free programs that pay homage to her beloved LA and its diverse communities with global breadth, depth and power.  Her programs are uniquely multidisciplinary and frequently shine a musical light on significant historical, political and social events.

Lincoln Center’s Atrium Producer Jordana Leigh Introduces Matthew Covey/ GF Trouble Worldwide Award – Photo Evangeline Kim

GF Trouble Worldwide Award Honoree: Matthew Covey and Tamizdat

Tamizdat, founded in 1998 by Matthew Covey and a group of musicians, has become a critical organization in the performing arts and cultural exchange fields.  Tamizdat’s work facilitates cultural exchange by easing the burden of the visa process for artists entering the U.S through their programs: legal visa assistance, outreach, the Artist Mobility Forum, The White Paper Project and other activities.  Their mission is motivated by the conviction that the international mobility of culture is fundamental to a healthy and progressive global civil society and their work has enabled thousands of artists to perform on stages across the country.

GF Pioneer Award Honoree: Lee Williams

Lee Williams has worked professionally as a venue booking agent, promoter, and non-profit arts leader since 1982, playing a defining role not only in the music culture and community identity of Bloomington, Indiana, but also as a champion of world music in North America.  A co-founder of the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival and founder of the non-profit Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, Lee served as Director of Lotus from 1995 to 2013 and as Artistic Director from 2014 through his retirement in 2017.  He also co-led the creation of the Midwest Consortium, a professional block-booking network for world-music presenters that now includes peers from across the US and Canada.

GF Artist Award Honoree: Mighty Sparrow/Slinger Francisco

83 year-old Slinger Francisco, better known as Mighty Sparrow and affectionately dubbed The Birdie, is the unrivaled Calypso King of the World.  With a career that spans over 60 years and counting The Sparrow is one of the most important living exponents of one of Caribbean music’s most important traditions, known for a combination of politics, daily life, humor, innuendo and dance music. Sparrow continues to translate his witty island authenticity to the world, in a one-man demonstration ot the role that culture plays in uniting humankind.

Part II: APAP World Showcase Notes

APAP’s conference is the best occasion of the year to sample favorites of promoters and agents from all over North America and beyond.  There are so many superb acts going on simultaneously, you literally need to be in several packed venues at once on any given night. These were some of my favorites.

Zaiko Langa Langa – Photo Evangeline Kim
Bazurto All Stars – Photo Evangeline Kim

Africa Yetu & Mateo Productions presented one of the best programming feats in this new year known as “The Soukous/Champeta Project” at S.O.B.’s nightclub.   They co-billed the classic soukous group, Zaiko Langa Langa from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and one of the most popular champeta groups, the Bazurto All Stars from Colombia.  Musical cousins, Zaiko Langa Langa celebrates its 50th anniversary while the Bazurto All Stars was formed just 10 years ago.  Their generational and historically related genre contrasts – reaching as far back as the early 70s – were revelatory.  The dance energies were contagious and at maximum levels of audience enjoyment.  However, the club’s poor sound engineering marred the overall quality of their performances.

Mundial Montréal, North America’s World Music Summit, held their annual 7th edition “Mundial On the Road” APAP showcase in partnership with the DROM nightclub.  Theirs is one of the most popular and “thoughtfully curated” showcase evenings during the conference. And always cram-packed.  Drawing from Canada’s vast cultural diversities including their Indigenous First Nations, and stand out international artists, Mundial Montreal’s annual 9th edition summit will take place in Montreal, November 19-22, this year.

This year the Mundial + DROM roster featured 5 Canadian groups with Afro-Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, and Balkan roots.  Two others were from southern Italy and Haiti/New York.  I caught the last two acts: Lemon Bucket Orkestra from Canada and Malou Beauvoir from New York.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra – Photo Evangeline Kim

Lemon Bucket Orkestra is a Balkan brass band uniting Ukrainian, Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, and English languages in performance.  Their songs covered many subjects with thrilling, high-energy paced rhythms with deep folk soul.  A walk down a village street arm in arm with a girlfriend; wishing the audience a good night; sibling rivalry; love and loss. 

The stunning musical moment was Marichka Marczyk’s solo “Zajdy, Zajdy” –  “My heart stopped as in a dream”.  She sang with such sorrowful passion, the club room seemed to fall into a swoon of silence.  A well-known Macedonian song  beloved all over the Balkans, a woman sings at twilight to a tree: “Let’s cry together, you for your falling leaves and me for my lost years.  Your leaves will grow back, but my years will never return…”  In their triumphant, rousing finale, the band trooped off the stage into the audience playing their strings, brass, and thumping percussion in gleeful unison.

Malou Beauvoir with Paul Beaubrun – Photo Evangeline Kim

The Haitian-American singer Malou Beauvoir known for her international jazz career, surprised with entirely new music from her recent album “Spiritwalker” – where she explores her Haitian roots.  Her buoyant performance celebrated and conjured the healing Vaudou spirits of her heritage.  She professed her faith in their power to awaken and bless humanity.  To protect us. To guide us all to peace and harmony.  Paul Beaubrun from Boukman Eksperyans lineage and her partner in the recording, appeared with her superb band from Haiti, New York, Japan, and Cuba.  The whole night reached an ecstatic musical moment when Paul and Malou sang their pop hit version of one of Haiti’s deep Vaudou songs by Toto Bissainthe, “Rasanblemen”, or the “rassemblement” of spirits – to honor and comfort victims of oppression and slavery.  It was also a prayer and plea for world unity.

Winter Jazzfest

Brice Rosenbloom – Photo Evangeline Kim

All in all, Winter Jazzfest continues to grow and expand phenomenally.  This year, its 15th anniversary, the festival extended well beyond APAP’s official dates over 9 days.  Within the thematic framework of social justice, the focus was gender equity with over 140 groups, 12 venues, and close to 750 participating musicians.  (Disclosure: Much as I intended to see many more showcases following APAP, I was hit by the flu.) 

I look forward to Winter Jazzfest each year for many reasons, especially the international-related performances.  Despite the feat of producing multiple differing jazz genre showcases all over lower Manhattan venues, the sound engineering is almost always perfect, as you sprint from stage to stage. I’m not forced to pull out earplugs to deaden overly aggressive or amateurish engineering. I find it impossible to review good shows when the sound levels are deafening or imbalanced. (Lighting is another issue…) Brice Rosenbloom, the founder-producer, and his team deserve highest kudos for the foremost crucial aspect of live music: excellent sound quality. 

There’s always a well-organized and invaluable program booklet that gives you all the basic festival information with venue maps, artist personnel and instrumentation, and good thematic introductory notes:  In his tough-minded essay-manifesto,“Why Have We Been So Ass Backwards?”, Brice reflects upon last year’s Winter Jazzfest conversation at The New School on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  “Jazz and Gender: Challenging Inequality and Forging a New Legacy”.  Here are some excerpts:

Terri Lyne Carrington moderated the panel featuring activist and professor Angela Davis, bassist  Esperanza Spalding, journalist Lara Pellegrinelli, trumpet player Arnetta Johnson, and pianist Vijay Iyer.

Terri Lyne Carrington started by asking the panel, “Considering the role jazz and jazz musicians have played in social justice movements why have we been so ass backward in this one with regards to women?

Angela Davis reminded the 600-person audience that we are witnessing the beginning of the era of women; “There was the amazing women’s march, millions of women all over the world rose up against the Trump administration and the message was when women rise up, the whole world rises up with us.” Davis then reiterated Carrington’s quandary, “It’s kind of bizarre that in the jazz community that has been so responsible over the decades for major contributions to social justice for doing civil rights work before the civil rights movement was born;  it’s kind of amazing that the jazz community isn’t leading the rest of us with respect to issues of patriarchy.” 

Journalist Lara Pellegrinelli echoed these concerns when witnessing the #metoo and #timesup movements: “I was watching this movement gain momentum, women in the media, and women in Hollywood, and all these women in other spheres of labor stepping forward and outing their oppressors.  And I was watching and asking myself when it it going to happen [in jazz]?”….

Today, with individual actions and music as the spark, it still takes the whole community – including men – to bring about change. Vijay Iyer challenged that “men can have feminist thoughts but what are they doing about it?” Carrington shared a quote from Jack DeJohnette: “Artistry is artistry no matter what the gender is.  It’s time for women to take their rightful place as equals in our predominantly patriarchal society.  Now more than ever is a time for my gender to stop being part of the problem and embrace being part of the solution.” 

As many musicians echo strong messages in their music and offer a soundtrack to the movement, we have seen real ripples of change over the past year towards progress in the jazz community.  This progress is absolutely vital to countering the bitter reality of blatant sexism pervading the jazz community (and overarching music industry)….

Winter Jazzfest is proudly among the first wave of adoptees of We Have Voice; and their Code of Conduct was distributed to all 140+ performing groups and to all participating venues to be posted in artist dressing rooms.  Winter Jazzfest is also a proud member of Keychange.  Last year Vanessa Reed proposed that we become of the first U.S. based festivals to sign the Keychange pledge of gender balance in programming by 2022.  We are proud to have achieved that mark with both our 2018 and 2019 festival lineups. 

There is still much more we can do and intend to do moving forward.  While we reached Keychange’s gender representation goal, we are far from being fully gender balanced.  With nearly 750 musicians performing at this year’s Winter Jazzfest, 129 are women.  While we have taken steps towards gender equality in programming the next step is for bandleaders to also commit to more gender inclusivity in their groups.

In solidarity, we are committed to supporting progress and we hope to further inspire our colleagues, audiences, and artists to feel these ripples of change and to take the individual action necessary to forge a true movement of inclusivity in our jazz community. – Brice Rosenbloom

I am delighted that the Era of Women is happening.  I believe Brice’s gender equity activism is one of the most notable and influential developments in the entertainment industry. Mainstream media is beginning to reflect this. Women journalists and radio hosts have cause to rejoice.

Meshell Ndegeocello, this year’s Winter Jazzfest’s artist-in-residence, with her ensemble, delivered a fire and brimstone version of her tribute to James Baldwin, entitled “No More Water, The Fire Next Time, Auditory Portion”. The set began with a live recording of James Baldwin’s talk, “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”,  given in 1963 at New York City’s Community Church. 

It seems to me that the artist’s struggle for his integrity must be considered as a kind of metaphor for the struggle, which is universal and daily, of all human beings on the face of this globe to get to become human beings. It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do… The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets….  (partial quote).

Meshell hovered at Le Poisson Rouge’s rear stage supplying a fierce bass undertow to the band’s smooth R&B jazz grooves and choir-like gospel harmonies.  Her ensemble unleashed a celebratory testimonial to civil rights’ call to action and consciousness-raising for all the marginalized in song and spoken word.  Staceyann Chin, the performance poet, condemned white supremacy’s exploitation and hatred of black people.  Her righteous fervor intensified as she voiced the pain and anger of the black woman’s centuries-long bondage and victimization.  Redemption lay in her cathartic fury. 

The proclamation, “No More Water, The Fire Next Time!” Baldwin’s rallying cry against injustice, carries even more power today after 56 years – through Meshell Ndegeocello’s extraordinary summoning of his spirit.

Richard Bona’s “Bona De La Frontera (Bona From The Border) – Photo Evangeline Kim

Inspired by Paco de Lucia, Richard Bona, Cameroonian bass player and singer, has been performing his newer flamenco project “Bona De La Frontera” in Europe over the past few years.  Le Poisson Rouge was a Winter Jazzfest American debut.  Leaving aside his past Afro-Cuban explorations, he has plunged into flamenco’s passion.  Judging from the wild elation of the crowds, a recording seems imminent.  In unison with Antonio Rey on flamenco guitar, Mara Rey cantaora, Paco Vega on percussions, Richard Bona’s rippling bass lines were a love serenade to southern Spain’s deep soul tradition. 

Flamenco’s laments and sorrows progressed in heart-skipping, clapped and tapped rhythms by the musicians as Bona called out the untitled songs, “Rumba Uno”, Rumba Dos”… The dramatic tension built slowly and erupted in finale when the “bailaora de flamenco” Pedro Cordoba took center stage during the last two songs.  Showmanship was at a zenith, as Cordoba whirled and stomped at dizzying pace.  The whistling, cheering crowds were enthralled.  No one wanted to leave.

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez – Photo Evangeline Kim

The memorable highpoint of all the APAP showcases I attended was Winter Jazzfest’s “Duologue” concert – title of the current Quincy Jones produced release– by Cuban jazz stars, pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and percussionist Pedrito Martinez.  Their live performance together at SubCulture surpassed their recording in improvisational brilliance.  Most of the evening’s repertoire, drawn from the album, was a thrilling opportunity to experience superlative musicianship.

Rodriguez’s head constantly bobbed in counterpoint as his fingers sped over the piano keys, skimming spidery delicate passages or pouncing with muscular syncopation.  His ability to produce liquescent, bell-like tonalities, complex trilling ostinatos involving arpeggio-like chromatic scales, and flourished phrasings was sheer listening pleasure.

Pedrito Martinez was the perfect balance in their conversation, a unified rhythmic totality, as he switched between Cuban percussion and his drum set with precision and elan – spelling out the project’s Cuban Santeria spiritual foundations.  Rodriguez in spontaneous surprise, invited the flamenco star Antonio Lizana onstage. Lizana’s vocals wailed and implored for a few moments, recalling Spain with nostalgia.  The duologue ending riffed on a timba rhythm with echoes of an Andalusian melody.  Still can’t get over that showcase, it was so good.

Globalfest

Globalfest promotes outstanding examples of the world’s cultural diversities.  2019 was its 16th edition.  We don’t have a bona fide world music festival in New York City like Chicago’s city-wide World Music Festival, for example – although there are several excellent world music promoters here.  Globalfest’s attraction lies not only in its international scope, but its consistent levels of quality.  (Although there seemed to be a few new-venue sound issues this year.) 

It’s a tough job for the producers to represent and showcase “the world” so successfully each year in a compressed format – 11 or 12 acts over 5 hours. Increasingly difficult visa challenges included.  The producers are mission-driven.  Shanta Thake, one of the co-producers, also served this year as an APAP Conference Co-Chair.  During the APAP opening plenary introductions she paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are bending the arc of history for justice.”  That could just as well be the motto of Globalfest.

This year’s showcase of 11 acts was a glorious mix of rhythms and melodies from India, Palestine, South Africa, Mozambique-Ghana-Senegal, Ukraine, Canada’s First Nation Tobique, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Tennessee and New Orleans.  It took place at the Copacabana nightclub over 3 floors.

Cha Wa – Photo Evangeline Kim

There were several examples of today’s “freedom voices”.  Cha Wa from New Orleans started off the evening with a rousing blast of 2nd line brass-driven Mardi-Gras parade music, a few of its band members dressed in Native American feather headdress regalia.  With their strutting, funk rhythms, they celebrate and honor the early Native Americans who took in and protected captive Africans during the days of slavery.  South African B.C.U.C. (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) seems almost beguilingly cool and hip in their recordings, drawing on South Africa’s danceable ethnic rhythms.  But their performance was an explosion of righteous protest and fierce resistance.  The room was boiling with their forceful lyrics and pounding beats.

47 Soul – Photo Evangeline Kim
Orquesta Akokan – Photo Evangeline Kim

Palestine’s 47 Soul played one of the most popular dance grooves over the evening.  The group’s Arabic techno-dabke with its syncopated, sinuous step-dance rhythms electrified the jumping crowds. Their lyrics called for unity, equality, freedom.  By contrast, in classic Latin dance mode, Cuban Orquesta Akokan held sway with signature Afro-Caribbean mambos and son cubanos harking back to the 40s and 50s and salsa dura from the 70s – while thoroughly captivating in their contemporary big band brightness.  Theirs holds a vast history of cultural pride, triumph over social struggles, and the sacred rhythms of Santeria.

Amythyst Kiah – Photo Evangeline Kim

Hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee, and steeped in the great traditions of African American spirituals and blues, Amythyst Kiah’s deep, tempered vocals with her melismatic wails cast a neo-folk spell among all present.  When she switched from her guitar to her banjo, she noted that the instrument has its roots in West Africa’s fretless ngoni lute.  A rising star, she preserves memories of the long, musical journeys from Africa to Appalachian traditions by African Americans with effortless style, grace, and conviction not heard in a long time.

Jeremy Dutcher – Photo Evangeline Kim

Tobique First Nation’s Jeremy Dutcher’s recent album “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa” won Canada’s 2018 Polaris Music Prize.  A classically-trained tenor, composer, and musicologist, his determination to help preserve, dignify, and honor his rapidly disappearing Indigenous Wolastoq language is a worthy cause.  There are fewer than 100 speakers of the language today.  His set, sung in Wolastoq, was moving, emotional, solemn, as his operatic vocals dramatized his long research into the traditional music.  He celebrated his culture with songs about honor, a chief’s installation, a wedding dance, canoeing, and water spirits.  Bravo to Globalfest for its activism in being part of what may become an Indigenous linguistic and cultural renaissance in North America.

Finis

We are passing through a dark period.

The precise role of the artist… is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place. – From James Baldwin’s 1962 essay, “The Creative Process”

Share

Artist Profiles: Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem was born in 1957 in Halfawine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, and music lover as well, Brahem began his studies of the ud (Arab lute), at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the ud master Ali Sriti.

An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18, he decided to devote himself entirely to music. From 1981 to 1985, Brahem lived and studied in Paris, seeking out points of congruence with other cultures. He was, nonetheless, first heard on disc with an all-Tunisian trio on Barzakh (ECM 1432) in 1991. This was followed by the collaboration with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the late Pakistani tabla master Shaukat Hussain on Madar (ECM 1515) and by an album reworking, with an international cast, music Brahem had written for the Tunisian cinema.

In 1985, he returned to Tunis and an invitation to perform at the Carthage festival provided him with the opportunity of bringing together, for “Liqua 85”, outstanding figures of Tunisian and Turkish music and French jazz. These included Abdelwaheb Berbech, the Erköse [Barbaros Erkose] brothers, François Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, François Couturier and others. The success of the project earned Brahem Tunisia’s Grand National Prize for Music.
In 1987, he became the director of the Musical Ensemble of the City of Tunis. Instead of keeping the large existing orchestra, he broke it up into variable size ensembles, giving it new orientations: one year in the direction of new creations and the next more towards traditional music.

On the recording of Khomsa, his partners were Tunisian violinist Bechir Selmi, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and three musicians from France – accordionist Richard Galliano, keyboardist Frangois Couturier, and saxophonist Jean Marc Larche. Although Dave Holland and John Surman both contributed compositional material to Thimar, Brahem’s following album,most of the writing stems from Brahem’s pen.

Two of the pieces were written originally for the Musical Ensemble of Tunis, two more for the Tunisian Theatre, and one originated as a sketch for the Khomsa ensemble. The majority of the music, however, was prepared specifically for the Thimar session. Dave Holland: “I hadn’t known what to expect. Anouar gave us a pile of music the day before the session. There were no bar lines – and of course there were no chords, because that’s not a reference point in this music. But there were these complex melodies, and one phrase might have seven beats in it, and another phrase nine. And when John and I started to play this, at first we were stumbling all over ourselves. But we persevered, put some pencil marks on the music, talked about how to approach the structures… At the session, things started to fall into place, as they so often do. The moment impresses itself upon you, and you rise to the occasion. Bringing these traditions together is by no means simple, and I think what we ended up with is music that has real value.”

As was the case with Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, the drummerless music of Thimar places special responsibilities on Dave Holland to shoulder most of the rhythm duties. The demands seem to bring forth some of his finest playing. “With John and Anouar, although my main function was to be accompanist and rhythm player, I felt I was getting support from both of them because of their ability to maintain a sense of rhythm independently…” Holland was invited into the session after producer Manfred Eicher played Brahem Angel Song. Brahem: “I listened to that album following the bass. It’s like the heartbeat of the music. And Dave’s sound is so beautiful. Powerful, but rounded, not at all aggressive or harsh.” The ud player first became aware of John Surman’s music with the release of the solo album Road To St. Ives in 1990. “This extraordinary sense of melody that John has. ..I liked that so much. It touched me very deeply. Since then, I’ve listened to everything he’s done.”

In 1994, Surman and Brahem toured Japan together but separately, playing opposite each other in concerts to mark ECM’s 25th anniversary. “We got to know each other and got along well and talked then about making a record one day. His playing on all his instruments is exceptional, but I especially like the blending of the bass clarinet and the ud. The wood in the sound makes it a very satisfying combination, I think. “I was really impressed with the engagement of both Dave and John in the making of this album. Collaborations of this kind can be quite…dangerous. Sometimes musicians of different cultures meet only superficially. But they were both concerned to get to the essence of the music.”

In 1995, Brahem released Khomsa, featuring Richard Galliano, Bechir Selmi and François Couturier. This was followed by 1998’s Thimar with John Surman and Dave Holland.

The Astrakan Café album came out in 2000 as Anouar Brahem Trio with Barbaros Erköse and Lassad Hosni.

In 2002, Brahem released Le Pas du Chat Noir, recorded with François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier, followed by
2006’s Le Voyage de Sahar withe the ame lineup.

In 2009, The Astounding Eyes of Rita came out. Lineup: Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Khaled Yassine.

Souvenance was released in 2014, recorded with Francois Couturier, Klaus Gesing and Björn Meyer.

Anouar Brahem released Blue Maqamns in 2017 with Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and Django Bates.

Discography:

Barzakh (ECM Records, 1991)
Conte De L’Incroyable Amour (ECM Records, 1992)
The Silences Of The Palace Caroline Records, 1994)
Madar (ECM Records, 1994)
Khomsa (ECM Records, 1995)
Thimar (ECM Records, 1998)
Charmediterranéen (ECM Records, 2002)
Le Pas Du Chat Noir (ECM Records, 2002)
Le Voyage De Sahar (ECM Records, 2006)
The Astounding Eyes of Rita (ECM Records, 2009)
Souvenance (ECM Records, 2014)
Blue Maqams (ECM Records, 2017)

Share

Anouar Brahem to Perform Blue Maqams in London

Anouar Brahem

Tunisian composer and oud maestro is set to perform on Friday, March 15, 2019 at Barbican Hall in London. The concert draws together Brahem’s profound insight into Arab music alongside his fascination with a broader canvas. Here he will present material from his latest recording Blue Maqams (ECM), alongside pianist Django Bates, drummer Nasheet Waits and virtuoso bassist Dave Holland.

Pianist Kit Downes will present the opening set with music from his upcoming ECM album, Obsidian, in duo with saxophonist Tom Challenger, linking into the 50th anniversary of ECM Records. Downes has developed a fascinating approach to music for solo pipe organ and solo piano. His current work includes collaborations with cellist Lucy Railton, composer Shiva Feshareki, the band ‘ENEMY’, and violinist Aidan O’Rourke.

Share