Sunday, December 28, 2014

A retrospective

I started "Kind of Pink and Purple" December 29th, 2013.  It was winter break from school, and I was listening to Miles Davis, and "Blue in Green" came on. After one note I was struck with such an emotion that something told me I needed to tell everybody about it - about jazz. It was simple, it was calm, relaxing, emotional. My first post was, "Reasons why I love jazz", which I explained through songs that changed my life. Through these songs I wanted to show the real human connection between jazz and people, and break down stereotypes on 'who listens to jazz'. If I could show one person one jazz song that they liked, then I would be happy. 

So after one year of writing every week, even multiple times a week, I wanted to look back once again on the reasons I love jazz. And I wanted to explain it through the people that have changed my life.

A retrospective
Reasons why I love jazz shown through people

1. Lonnie Smith: It's Changed

Because it's so relaxing. Because when I met him at the Montreal Jazz Festival he was so supportive. Because he was genuinely kindhearted, and told me that I was an old soul that came back to complete an unfinished task - to spread my love of jazz. Because he told me to surround myself with people that lift me up instead of naysayers that only want money. Because in his music I hear his heart, and I am forever grateful for his words of wisdom.

Meeting Lonnie Smith

2. Herbie Hancock...Dolphin Dance

Because it's so absolutely gorgeous. Because at his Harvard Lectures he told me that in order to be happy, I should encourage and help others. Because at the Boston Book Fair he told us that in Miles Davis's band if you did something for applause you got fired, which stuck with me. Because his story inspires all of us to keep on burying our heads and ears into the world of life. Because his music illustrates humanity - and we are all humans before musicians.

Meeting Herbie Hancock

3. Reggie Workman and Pharaoh Sanders...Colors

Because this song captures music and life at another level. Because the Blue Note concert went beyond life into spirituality. Because the band loved each other, and you could tell with all of their jokes. Because Odean Pope went over the audience saying, "Are you there?", living in the moment. Because Reggie Workman came up to me to say I was a good listener, and encouraged me to share. Because I was so stunned by the sound of it all - I can never forget how truly happy I was in that moment.

Meeting Reggie Workman

Pharaoh Sanders, Odean Pope, James Carter (L to R)

4. Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Robert Pinsky...Words and Music

Because music goes beyond barriers. Because the PoemJazz concert I attended with Iyer and Pinsky changed my view on poetry, inspiring me to write my own. Because Pinsky's poetry class taught me that learning comes down to finding your own examples of the art. Because words are music in themselves, with rises and falls of phrases. Because at an NEC masterclass with Iyer and Moran, I learned that I should not be so quick to take criticism from peers that are at my same level. Because Moran reminded us that there is gold inside of us all.

Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran (L to R)

5. John Zorn...Saigon Pickup

Because Zorn's music knows no genre. Because when I saw him receive an honorary doctorate at New England Conservatory, he reminded us that music is a platform, and music is about people. Because he taught us about paying our dues, creating intensity in intimate music, and community. Because Zorn exhibits integrity down to his core, and his music speaks for itself. 

Hankus Netsky, John Zorn, Tony Woodcock (L to R)

6. Jerry Bergonzi and Phil Grenadier...Dog Star

Because their music is intensely creative. Because they play every Monday night at the Lilypad in Cambridge. Because when I interviewed Bergonzi and Grenadier, they taught me to keep an open mind and to look at composition and improvisation as two sides of the same coin. Because after attending their concert in August, I wrote my first poem on my blog, "Jazz Club". 

My sketch of Jerry Bergonzi and Phil Grenadier (L to R)

7. Arturo Sandoval...There Will Never Be Another You

Because when I saw Arturo at Scullers, he filled the club with joy. Because Arturo supported each member of his band with smiles and laughs. Because Arturo and Ed Calle were so supportive of my drawings. Because he remembers his mentor Dizzy Gillespie and is so thankful for everyone that listens to him. Because even with all his success, he reminds us all of his humble beginnings, giving us perspective. 

My sketch of Arturo Sandoval and Ed Calle (L to R)
8. Maria Schneider...Hang Gliding

Because Maria captures entire narratives in her music. Because when I saw her speak at the Berklee Jazz Composition Symposium, she spoke against music piracy. Because when I interviewed her for my Artistry, Creativity, Inquiry class she taught me about composing without boundaries or preset expectations. Because she is a role model, and wants her music to capture people. Because when I interviewed Frank Kimbrough for my class as well, he spoke of how Maria has taken him to her childhood house so he can understand the stories behind her music. Because her music makes me feel like I am hang gliding.

Maria Schneider

9. Danilo Perez...New Morning

Because Danilo's music was fiery and full at the Newport Jazz Festival. Because whenever I go to the Berklee Global Jazz Forum, Danilo shares so much insight to each student. Because Danilo always ends the forum by reminding everyone to spread kindness. Because Danilo compared improvisation to a little kid with markers, happy to scribble and draw. Because Danilo taught us to not apologize for what we don't know yet - we should play what we play beautifully. 

Danilo Perez's "Panama 500"

10. Christian McBride...Hamhocks and Cabbage

Because his music is so energizing. Because his entire band was incredibly kind and supportive of my blog about his concert at Scullers. Because McBride spreads happiness with every note he plays. Because his music is catchy, bluesy, wholesome, hearty, and fun. Because McBride shares his love of jazz on radio, "Jazz Night". Because McBride inspires me to be a leader. 

Meeting Christian McBride

Final Thoughts:
This year had its ups and downs, but I have to say jazz and writing have been a rock for me. There are so many people, songs, and stories  that continually reaffirm why I love jazz. And in retrospective, being able to share my own love of jazz in some small way has brought me immense happiness - and what more could I ask for? 

Please read my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", in which I improvise a new poem everyday. I also incorporate a jazz drawing and song of the day too, so stay posted! 

Thanks everyone that has ever read my blog! It means the world to me. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Encouraging Jazz Songs

Pharoah Sanders
Sometimes we all need encouragement. For me, some of the best encouragement comes from music that makes me sit down and reflect on my day. Music can bring forth feelings of relaxation, love, gratitude, spirituality, and more.

Writing also brings me encouragement. Everyday or every couple days I write in a gratitude journal, which combined with music allows me to find brightness in even small things. A gratitude journal is relatively simple - I write three to five things that went well in my day and why I am grateful for them. They can be even small things like saying, "I am grateful for having dinner with my family because we were able to talk about our days."

So for this week I wanted to write about the songs that encourage me, and that I am more than grateful for in my life. You can also read more posts in this series, including: "Jazz Songs for When You're Feeling Blue", "Relaxing Jazz Songs", "Peaceful Jazz Songs", and "Joyful Jazz Songs".

Encouraging Jazz Songs

1. "I'm in the Mood for Love" - James Moody

I love James Moody because each note he plays is so full of the purest sort of love. "I'm in the Mood for Love" or "Moody's Mood for Love" is a sweet, laid-back song that always brightens my day. Listen to this JazzStories podcast and this NPR Jazz Profile to learn more about James Moody.

This song encourages me to put love into my own music, and to share joy and kindness with others.

2. "Look for the Silver Lining" - Chet Baker

Chet Baker's vocals are so comforting, and his melodic sense keeps me humming all day. The lyrics "A heart, full of joy and gladness/ Will always banish sadness and strife/ So always look for the silver lining/ And try to find the sunny side of life" always make me stop and appreciate little things in life.

This song encourages me to find silver linings in every situation, because even poor circumstances can lead to brighter ones in the future.

3. "Mood Indigo" - Duke Ellington

"Mood Indigo" is one of my favorite Duke Ellington songs. I love the unusual arrangement of the instruments, and the tone of the clarinet. Learn more about Duke Ellington by listening to this NPR Jazz Profile. The slow, haunting melody sounds like a good friend talking to me, and the instruments overlapping sounds like a conversation.

This friendly quality encourages me to be grateful for all the people that bring me joy in life.

4. "The Summer Knows" - Phil Woods

One day I was going through my iPod and picked Phil Woods to listen to. This song came on, and I immediately was shocked, and needed to know what it was, and I listened to it over and over because the sound was so new to me. The way Phil Woods holds out each note and bend notes creates such emotional intensity brings a vocal quality to the saxophone that I had never heard before. 

This element of being shocked encourages me to keep on searching within myself. 

5. "The Creator has a Master Plan" - Pharoah Sanders

Seeing Pharoah Sanders at Blue Note was such a life changing experience for me. Everything about the concert was riveting, and showed me how jazz goes beyond into the spiritual. Since this concert, every time I listen to Pharoah Sanders, I am inspired, hopeful, and encouraged to keep on going.

The electrifying energy of this concert will surely inspire me for a lifetime!

James Moody
Final Thoughts: 
Sometimes we all want to give up on something, but just taking a step back and listening to reflective music or writing in a journal can bring us all the encouragement we need to keep on going.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem and drawing everyday.

What jazz songs bring you encouragement?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jazz Christmas Songs

With the holiday season already here, I wanted to share Christmas songs with some of my favorite jazz musicians. I included links to NPR Jazz Profiles of the artists mentioned, so anyone can learn more about each musician.  

Jazz Christmas Songs

"The Christmas Song" has a lengthy history, with many great jazz singers performing the tune from Mel Torme to Nat King Cole. Listen to these NPR Jazz Profiles on Mel Torme and Nat King Cole to learn more about these great artists. 

Watch this version of "The Christmas Song" with Mel Torme and Judy Garland:

Also watch Nat King Cole perform "The Christmas Song":

"Jingle Bells" is a perennial favorite. The great Duke Ellington Orchestra performed this holiday song, adding instrumental solos for extra excitement. Learn more about Duke Ellington as a composer here.

Listen to the Duke Ellington Orchestra perform "Jingle Bells":

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a fun, swinging song. Ella Fitzgerald performed this song in her career, adding her signature bright sound. Learn more about Ella Fitzgerald here.

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald perform "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas":

"Christmas Time is Here" is a great reflective song. Tony Bennett performed this song with the Count Basie orchestra, bringing intense beauty to a standard. Learn about Tony Bennett here, and Count Basie here.

Listen to "Christmas Time is Here" with Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Big Band:

"White Christmas" is a gorgeous, lush song. Louis Armstrong performed this song in his career, adding his gritty vocals. Learn more about Louis Armstrong here

Listen to Louis Armstrong perform "White Christmas":

Final Thoughts: 
Christmas songs are a great way to start listening to jazz, since they are such a part of all of us. Yet, in this same way, you can start to learn a great deal of history by looking back at who performed each song, and listening to people like Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington's other music as well.

As always, visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also recently added art, my sketch of the day, so stay updated!

Share your favorite Christmas song with a jazz artist in the comments!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dear Diz - Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

Last Sunday, November 30th, I went to Scullers Jazz Club in Cambridge to watch Arturo Sandoval. I was especially excited, since I had seen him once before at Scullers, when he played with the Latin Jazz All Stars a couple years ago. This concert was definitely special, full of great memories and exuberance. If you want to learn more about Arturo Sandoval, listen to these NPR segments here, and visit his website here.

Dear Diz - Arturo Sandoval 

Arturo kicked off the night with songs such as Cherokee, Hot House, and Donna Lee. These bebop standards kept the energy up, and breezing through solos. These bebop songs all flowed seamlessly into each other, as an extended sort of homage to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. 

Arturo with Jeanie and his wife (L to R).
The next piece was a stunning ballad called "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)". What I love about Arturo's playing is that even with all the technique in the world, he uses his skills to move the audience. "Dear Diz" was a sweet, sentimental ode to Arturo's mentor and hero, Dizzy Gillespie, and Arturo sang and played trumpet. With this, Arturo mirrored the likes of Chet Baker, making his horn an extension of his voice and vice versa. What was especially endearing was that Dizzy Gillespie's daughter, Jeanie, was sitting right behind my table, and hadn't seen Arturo in almost twenty years. So this song was not only to thank Dizzy, but to reunite with an old friend. 

Arturo's band with Jeanie

Watch this video of Arturo Sandoval's album "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)":

Then Arturo played the Clifford Brown song, "Joy Spring", making quick lines and octave jumps look flawless. In this way, Arturo's style of playing comes to him as naturally as most people breathe - and with each breath his phrases zig zagged through a fast paced dialogue with his band. I noticed Ed Calle on saxophone would listen with wide eyes to Arturo while he played, and would make motions as if they were actually speaking to each other. 

Ed Calle on tenor saxophone

Following, Arturo hopped onto the piano to showcase what he had been working on, creating lush melodies. Then the classic standard "All the Things You Are" electrified the audience. As a final song, Arturo played the quintessential Dizzy song, "A Night in Tunisia". Arturo would hit high notes on his trumpet I didn't think were even possible! This element of showmanship combined with his extreme musicality allowed for a profound musical experience. 

Watch Arturo Sandoval playing the classic bop song, "A Night in Tunisia":

My sketch of Arturo and Ed Calle. 

Final Thoughts: 
This was the first show I came to with a sketch book to draw the scene. I was overjoyed when I showed Arturo Sandoval and Ed Calle my sketch, and they both loved it and signed their names. This made me very grateful for their artistic support.

This experience inspired a couple of poems on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", including "Diz" and "To Diz". Every day I improvise a new jazz poem and sketch, so stay posted.

My sketch of Arturo Sandoval

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Modern Art and Jazz

This past week I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I went through many exhibits, including ones on Renaissance art, Ancient Greece and Egyptian art, among others. The exhibit that struck me the most was the contemporary art collection of Shinique Smith. This exhibit polarized me - I was stuck between being confused about whether I was looking at art, and not caring if it was in fact art. And what I took away from this was a completely non-biased look at what people may think of jazz the first time they listen to it - the stun, shock, and confusion of it all.

Modern Art and Jazz

Jazz stunned me. To me, this sound epitomized elation and joy; it was different and exciting, but it was also confusing. What is happening? I liked it because I felt like I discovered the whole thing, like it was mine, like only I could hear what these people were communicating. The music was talking to me, and it was genuine to my ears.

Being confronted with another medium, one that I am personally unfamiliar with, allowed me to gain perspective. Honestly, with any art form it is easy to think that you would be seen as unintelligent if you did not like the art, or if you said that you didn't understand it at first. Some art forms take patience and willingness to understand.

Just like jazz stunned me, these pieces of art stunned me. I looked at them in a sort of nightmarish way - spirals, collages, splatters of paint, all put together with heaps of yarn. At the exhibit, I looked at pieces over and over, reading the descriptions to try to understand what was happening. And the thing was, I didn't understand it, and that is okay. Sometimes you just have to accept something and let it be.

Jazz gave me a gut reaction, just as contemporary art, just as some poems and novels. Sometimes you just go with your gut instinct - a feeling, an emotion. How does the piece strike you? Perhaps you may find humor, creativity, boldness, inspiration, or even freedom in a piece without exactly knowing why.

This video of Charles Mingus playing "Flowers for a Lady" musically presents the same shocking feeling I felt about this art collection - I saw beauty, but also controlled chaos, and abstraction.

Final Thoughts: 
I have found that sometimes the most you learn about jazz is when you are doing something completely non-related to jazz in the first place. By stepping outside and appreciating new art, I was able to see the physical and symbolic - how this art related to me. And with each paint stroke and collage I was able to understand the feeling of acceptance for an art you may just not 'get' at first glance. Joy comes from your heart not your head. You don't need to be an art expert to get nostalgic about a sculpture. You don't need to be a jazz aficionado to cry at Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life. It just happens.

My sketch of Thelonious Monk
This sentiment inspired me to start drawing. As I have mentioned here, I don't consider myself an artist; but I as I was surprised to find out that jazz musicians Miles Davis and Tony Bennett drew at the Montreal Jazz Festival, I figured why not draw what inspires me?

Inspired, I wrote my poem, "Wrong" on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", in which I improvise a new poem everyday without editing my thoughts. I will also share my 'sketch of the day' on my poetry blog!

Share your thoughts about the similarities between modern art and jazz in the comments.

Photographs by Grace-Mary Burega.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Joyful Jazz Songs

Recently I came across the poem "Motto" by Langston Hughes, which has quickly become one of my favorite poems. 


I play it cool
I dig all jive
That's the reason 
I stay alive
My motto
As I live and learn
Is dig and be dug in return

I think this poem, containing jazz language such as "jive" and "dig", can relate to anyone. To me, this poem means to keep on being yourself, and fill yourself with positivity, even in the face of adversity. To "dig and be dug in return" is the respect you gain from this positivity. 

Building off my previous posts, "Jazz Songs for When You're Feeling Blue", "Relaxing Jazz Songs", and "Peaceful Jazz Songs", I wanted to share some songs that make me joyful, elated, radiant, and jolly. 

Joyful Jazz Songs

Dizzy Gillespie's song "Salt Peanuts" always makes me chuckle. I love the humor in this song, and Fred Taylor from Scullers even said that this song made him fall in love with jazz. 

Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" has such a singable melody. In this video you can really see the smiles on everybody's faces, and that kind of positivity surely rubs off!

Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" is another swing era song that can get anybody up and dancing. There is something about a strong horn section like this one that brings so much character to a simple song.

Frank Foster's song from the Count Basie band, "Shiny Stockings" has so much energy, as well as a broad range of dynamics that transports me into another world.

Jerome Richardson's song from the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis band, "Groove Merchant" creates such a heavy groove, with a clear emphasis on strong articulations, that it feels as if you are being pulled up off your seat!

Final Thoughts: 
This list quickly became a list of some of my favorite big band pieces too - I guess I just love the family quality of seeing how a group that size can relate to each other. The energy bouncing from player to player bounces straight to me, bringing me joy even when I'm feeling down. So I hope these joyful songs can also help you lead a life to "dig and be dug in return".

As always, please read my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", in which I improvise a new poem everyday without editing my thoughts!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Concert Experience - Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars

Today's blog is a guest post by JazzDad who had the pleasure of seeing the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars this past Friday at the Regatta Bar.

The Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars is a 6 piece ensemble consisting of John Lee on bass, Jeb Patton on piano, Tommy Campbell on drums, Dave Stryker on guitar, Mark Gross on alto sax and Freddy Hendrix on trumpet.

The night started with John taking the mic and saying he was going to introduce the musicians. The musicians all got up and introduced themselves to each other, ignoring the audience. John then said that this was a tradition with Dizzy's bands.
John Lee on bass

The first number was written for Dizzy by Lalo Schifrin, best known for the theme to "Mission Impossible" : Toccata from Gillespiana.
Jeb Patton on piano

The second number was Fiesta Mo Jo. What was apparent was the band was really enjoying themselves. In particular the drummer, Tommy Campbell used his foot at one point to kick the symbols, and he crossed his hands behind his back and hit the drums with the sticks.
Freddy Hendrix on trumpet
Here is Dizzy playing Fiesta Mo Jo:

The third number was Birk's Works, followed by Bebop - the song that started the revolution.
Mark Gross on alto saxophone

The fifth number was the famous tune, from the movie of the same name, Black Orpheus.

The set was rounded out by an excellent rendition of Night in Tunisia - the drummer had a rubber pig on the drums that he squeezed for noise effects, in between the cow bells.
Tommy Campbell on drums
Overall it was a very enjoyable evening. The audience enjoyed the music, and the musicians enjoyed themselves, smiling and laughing.


Joshua Redman
It's amazing that when you attend a jazz concert, you also attend a sort of therapy session. Personally, the feeling of being part of a jazz concert is a feeling that teaches me about myself: Who am I? What do I love? 

In the spirit of previous posts, "Master Class" and "Learning from the Masters", I thought I would share what I have learned in the past month from some of my heroes. 

Lessons learned from jazz

Meeting Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock never ceases to inspire me ever since I attended his Harvard Lectures. On October 23rd I attended his keynote interview with Berklee's president Roger Brown followed by a book signing at the Boston Book Festival for his memoir "Possibilities". Every moment in the presence of Herbie seems to be an eternity of wisdom.

  • If you play to get applause, you get fired. You need to play in the moment and be present. Trust. 
  • You don't need to play the 'butter notes'. Sometimes you just need to leave space for the soloist to determine the direction of exploration. 
  • Creativity comes with an innate sense of curiosity. How do things work? How can I put something together that hasn't been done before? 
  • Listen to what you are playing. Sometimes all the information you need is there. 
  • You don't need to resolve. 
  • What you get out of it is what you need. 
  • Get your life together. You are not a musician first, you are a human being. 
  • Bury your head and ears into the world of life. 
  • Follow your heart. You are the only person in that body. You wake up in the morning and you face yourself. It happens everyday of your life and being your self in that creates the path to honesty. 
  • Try not to be judgmental. You can contribute to the music either through silence - nothing - or something to help develop, or grow to bring a seed to a flower. Let things flow and see what happens. 
  • Try to reword matters of hierarchy, because people are equal. 
  • Practice is what you do everyday, all the time. Practice with your eyes and ears open, and hope that as the years go by you get better as a human being - that's what practice is really about. 

Meeting Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman has been one of my favorite modern jazz musicians for a very long time. Needless to say, I was elated when he came to play at Scullers jazz club on October 26th. Unlike Herbie, Joshua did not come to do a talk - he came to play. Yet, in the art of playing, I learned a few things. 
  • You can reinvent yourself. You are in charge. 
  • Freedom can come in a standard tune. Freedom comes from interaction, and hearing beyond. 
  • Jazz is about energy and creating a moment that can't be repeated: the moment is in that room, with those people, at that time. 
Joshua Redman

On November 4th, I was able to attend a trios masterclass with Fred Hersch at the New England Conservatory. Hersch has a great sense of constructive criticism. 
  • Everyone has rhythmic responsibility. 
  • Think of the sentence before you take a breath, in the midst of a thought. Talk, speak through lyrics to find where you breath, and how to manage the phrases. 
  • A drop in energy during improvisation can come from a lack of confidence. Listen to basic horn players, learn beautiful phrasing. 
  • Get yourself off the page, you play differently. We need to play out of our imaginations, what's on the page is just a skeleton. 
  • As an exercise, take a tune without a lead sheet and in your mind hear the chord changes, and write a couple of choruses and then play them on your instrument to see how it sounds on your instrument. Then do the opposite, figure out a solo that is too hard for you to play. This transcends what you can do technically without transcribing - it's learning recognition. 
Kenny Werner at Regattabar
I was very lucky to be able to attend the Berklee Global Jazz Forum on November 5th. The forum had Kenny Werner, Danilo Perez, and George Garzone as teachers for students in the Global Jazz Institute. Within two hours, my perspective on hearing jazz was flipped.  

Kenny Werner: 
  • You don't need to play every bar, every chord. You need a wider beat, an elastic feeling. The purpose of the notes is the rhythm in and out of the key, so you can resolve and hear things in context. 
  • The tune is the vehicle to layer things on top of. The bottom line is you really know the tune. 
  • The two things youths struggle with are: 1) A lack of their own sound 2) Everyone plays in their own bubble. 
  • It's best when you can make a piece and it's like a movie you can see. 
  • You need to have joy when you hear yourself. 
  • Play something that isn't music. 
Danilo Perez "Panama 500" at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival
Danilo Perez: 
  • You need to be able to say things, use words. What am I feeling? It is like the different layers of a house. Play things not trapped by the pulse by paying attention to the pulse. 
  • What about sound? What do you want to sound like?
  • You need the desire to create something together. You need to be with others, it's like life - you need some basic rules to share. It's a question of listening but also sharing. 
  • Try different parts of your sound. You can tell when people are affected by their environment. You have to have tension and release - it's like you are talking with syllables!
  • Try tap dancing, pretend to be a little kid scribbling with a marker - where are the colors now? 
  • You don't need to prove you've done your homework when you play - just have fun and be happy. 
  • Say what you want to say, sing it. Gestures, a conversations - play that! I know it's crazy sometimes, but it's not. You're the only one who can do that for your self. It's the feeling of just talking - you talk to your self sometimes. 
  • Music is an experience. Make that for everyone. It's a right for humanity. Allow the sounds to tell who we are. When people are listening there is a frequency, you need to tune in. 
  • Free doesn't have to sound out - it's the spirit. 
  • When you play the music - don't apologize for what you don't know. Do what you do beautifully.

Tia Fuller and Mimi Jones (L to R)
Tia Fuller is an amazing role model to female jazz musicians, as well as anyone in general. I was glad when Tia Fuller came to Scullers on November 5th. 
  • Have a party, have a celebration with music!
  • You need to find an angelic warrior within your self. Create a balance within your life: angelic, graceful, peaceful, prayerful; opposite: warrior, disciplined, tenacity, reaching beyond what you think. Balance.   

Ralph Peterson Jr.
Final Thoughts: 
I enjoy writing about the lessons I learn from jazz because I believe that even if you are not a jazz musician or a dedicated jazz fan, you can find some insight from this music to apply to whatever you love to do. 

Maybe you are a scientist and jazz teaches you curiosity and how to find new combinations to information. Maybe you are a teacher and jazz teaches you how to create a balance within your life to lead your classroom. Maybe you are a nurse, and jazz teaches you that there are infinite possibilities. And maybe you are a student, confused about the future, but jazz teaches you to follow your heart because you are the only one in your own body. 

Whoever you are, and whatever you do, I think jazz can teach us all something so intrinsically human - and if we just bury our eyes and ears into the world of life we can feel it.

As always, I improvise a new poem everyday on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem".

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It's about people

John Zorn receiving an honorary Doctorate of Music.
Hankus Netsky, John Zorn, Tony Woodcock (L to R)
This past Tuesday, November 4th I went to the New England Conservatory of Music to attend "The Music of John Zorn". The night included a pre-concert discussion with John Zorn, Anthony Coleman, and Hankus Netsky; a presentation of an honorary Doctorate of Music upon Zorn by Tony Woodcock; and a student concert of music from Zorn's prolific career. And within the twists and turns of words and music, one could only realize that people can unite anything.

It's about people
What John Zorn taught me about life

John Zorn, Anthony Coleman, Hankus Netsky (L to R)

1. Zorn taught me about integrity. 

Netsky started the Q&A by asking Zorn of his musical heroes. Upon much prodding, Zorn came out by saying his hero was Jack Smith, the American film director, and explained that as an artist, you have to pay your dues - you have to earn the right to do what you do. Zorn paid his dues with Jack Smith. 

Smith was always performing, and would give shows for three people in the audience. Zorn always wondered what would happen when nobody showed up - and Smith did the same exact thing. This purity of purpose showed that Smith was what he did, unique. In this way, Zorn learned integrity. Coleman interjected these humble beginnings were also in Zorn's musical career: Zorn created intensity with even six or eight people at a show. 

Listen to "Saigon Pickup": 

2. Zorn taught me about the intensity of intimacy. 

You take a small canvas and create something that changes in the world. "Bigger is better loses humanity, while intimacy touches you directly." Intimacy is seen in reduction and in small ensembles. Zorn prefers to be concise, so every note has weight and meaning. Small groups can interact with meaning.

I thought Zorn really hit on something when he explained that music is a platform - music is really the people and feelings, and the energy they bring to the work. Zorn continued by saying it is all more than notes on a page, it's about life experiences; sound on its own is very uninteresting. Zorn claims, "I write for people - people are interesting, not music or sounds". 

Hankus Netsky, John Zorn, Tony Woodcock (L to R)

3. Zorn taught me that music is united by people.

If you took one look at "The Music of Zorn" program, you would think, "how could this piece, 'Madrigal's Book II for six female voices', be followed by 'Rain Flowers'?". And this chronology hit on more than just breaking genres. Zorn explained, "What ties my genres together is people. I met certain people, I made a bond, and I wrote for them." Zorn has rock music friends that inspire rock music, and he claims these friendships create a fluency of language. It's about having a rich life with diverse people - a sort of palette cleansing. 

Watch "Cobra": 

NEC students performing "Cobra" under director Anthony Coleman

4. Zorn taught me about community.

Zorn laughed about how he used to play in the basement of a pet shop with Coleman. Zorn claimed that community was one of the most important things about his humble beginnings, because the people that were there supported each other. Zorn added that when success happened, the money went to charity, his own label, grants, books, and more because everything is about community: "Music is about people, and without people there is no music". 

5. Zorn taught me about roots. 

Roots are about looking deeper inside your self: "Where are your roots? Who are you?". These questions provoked Zorn to write for his Jewish fusion group, Masada. 

Watch "Tekufah": 

6. Zorn taught me that some things you just can't notate. 

In addition to his Jewish roots, Zorn talked about his childhood and how when he first heard jazz he was struck by the foreignness of it: "How do you notate this jazz?". 

Yet, what was funnier than this quip, was the fact that Zorn actually gave up speaking for a year in his adolescence. Zorn believed that spoken language was just a big lie. His report card even stated, "While I identify with his suspicion with spoken language, I do believe he has taken it a bit too far." Maybe this disgust for spoken language led to his prolific musical career, since music is an unspoken language in many senses. 

NEC students performing

7. Zorn taught me that music is sacred.

Zorn admitted that his childhood was beautiful, because everyone had a piano, and if you wanted music you had to learn it. "Things happened through learning and discovery, not boom anything you want." This sentiment has allowed Zorn to keep a sense of treasure and sacredness within his music: "Music is a place to go I can always count on, it's always a source of joy."

Listen to "Between Two Worlds": 

NEC students performing

8. Zorn taught me to live with positivity. 

At the Montreal Jazz Festival, the great Dr. Lonnie Smith told me to surround myself with positive people. This advice has really touched me, and Zorn reiterated the importance of supportive people. Zorn admitted, "It's about loyalty, belief, integrity, sacrifice. These things make communities work, and make music and art deep and meaningful."

Zorn tries to channel four things within all of his music: 1) catharsis 2) imagination 3) craft 4) honesty. And he always ties these four qualities together with people. 

John Zorn
Final thoughts: 
During the talk, Zorn mentioned that artists need support not criticism. I can only agree - a self critical personality needs support to thrive. That is why, as an aspiring musician, I do not write negative blog posts. I think it is better to share the lessons that I learned from an experience with others. Because, at the end of the day, we are all just people. 

This concert reminded me of my poem "About People" from my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem".