Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Concert Experience- Learning from the masters

This past week I went to Berklee College of Music to attend "The State of Jazz Composition Symposium". I went to a few events from this six day symposium and concert series, and learned a great deal from some of my heroes in jazz.

I went to numerous concerts, workshops, panel discussions, and more and in each one there was a sense of unity- unity for the love of not only jazz, but for life.

A Concert Experience- Learning from the masters

Every person taught me something different, yet they all taught something that didn't just relate to jazz, but to life in general. Here is what I learned: 

From Dave Fiuczynski: 
No matter what system of tuning you use, microtonal or not, a groove is a groove. 
Be influenced by nature, and the beauty of natural sound. 

From Rudresh Mahanthappa: 
Interact with the musicians you are playing with. Close your eyes. Get into the music. Feel something and have passion for every note you play.
Be influenced by your culture, and add those influences into your own music and your own personal sound. 

Danilo Perez
From Danilo Perez: 
Jazz music has been influenced by so much of the world's music. "Four four time" is really a combination of different world rhythms and poly-rhythms in disguise. 
Learn the history of jazz music, and the influences. This is American music, but like America, it is a melting pot. 
Experience the world, and put the beauty of nature, of people, of stories into your playing.
Two key elements in any musical collaboration are trust and space. This is true for any relationship in life too.
You should be able to hold a conversation while tapping the swing feel- because improvising over it is a conversation too.
Ever since the beginnings of jazz music, it has been used as a music for the people- for communication- for freedom. Express what it means to be free, and the jubilance of living! 

From Joe Lovano: 
The best players may sound like they are playing straight quarter notes, or simple rhythms, but the influence, the world knowledge is all there. In simplicity there is complexity. 
When you improvise, interact. If you hear someone play a rhythmic phrase, play a rhythmic phrase in response. You are improvising to communicate, so make a conversation, make a dialogue. 
"I don't ask what jazz is. I ask how. How can jazz communicate your personal story?"

From Eric Gould:
"We are not jazz composers. We are composers who like jazz. Actually, no, we are people, human beings that compose music that speaks to us". 

From George S. Clinton: 
As a film score composer, you have the choice to include improvised music to add that element of "real time". 

Here is a video of Miles Davis improvising to a film

Terence Blanchard
From Terence Blanchard: 
You never need to dilute yourself when you are in a new situation. Bring your honesty and your authenticity to everything you do. Never just become what others expect you to be. Bring your personal style to every music you play, and trust your instincts. 

From Billy Childs: Just because you think others want you to play a certain way, trust what you think you should play or compose like. You don't need to change your personal style to fit a certain mold. Authenticity is what makes people want to hear your music- a personal sound is more important than fitting a mold. 

From Vijay Iyer: 
Be influenced by a variety of sources. Read books. study nature, study cultures, and incorporate everything you learn into your music. 
Depth in your own music comes from the depth within yourself. 
Collaborate, and allow other musicians to have their own freedom within your music. 

Maria Schneider
From Maria Schneider: 
"I know I am finally done with a piece of music when I can finally sleep without thinking about it!"
To compose without boundaries or expectations.
When you need new material for your composition, go back to what you already have and see what you can do with that. 
When writing music, allow the improvisers the freedom to express themselves and their individuality within the concept of your piece. Help them understand the intention behind your piece so they can convey that in their own way. 
So much of jazz is a culture- the culture of the music. 

From Terri Lyne Carrington: 
Jazz music will live on if people accept their own influences, and do not remain simply purists. If you are open to new music, and incorporate different musical elements that you personally like, and make your own sound, your music will be heard. 
You have to be fearless to play jazz.
You aren't a complete musician until you can get to that place where one or two notes mean so much that you can make someone cry. No scale can do that. Life can do that. 

From Don Was: 
The albums that continually are being sold and played are the ones that were groundbreaking, that challenged the status quo. (Like "Out to Lunch" by Eric Dolphy). 
If you want to be noticed, just be yourself. Don't add elements to your music just because you think a label will like it. Write and play the music that speaks to you, because if it's honest, people will want to hear it. 

Geri Allen
From Geri Allen: 
When you collaborate with others, listen to them closely. They have their own personal sound, and they are communicating with you. If you listen closely, you can respond in your own way. 
When composing, know the strengths of the musicians you are writing for and help to highlight them.

From Patrice Rushen: 
In order to become a complete musician, you must become a complete person. Learn who you are. You can be the best player, but if you don't know who you are and what you stand for, what are you communicating?
Don't be afraid to break boundaries. You don't just play jazz- you play music. Don't be afraid- you aren't confined to jazz. 

Final Thoughts: 
By simply being surrounded by some of my heroes, and seeing them not only play, but talk, was extraordinary. Each musician had a unique philosophy not only on jazz, but life. Their immense wisdom inspired me to not only want to learn more about jazz and composition, but to also expand my own personal knowledge, and become more of myself in order to get to that pinnacle of music- communication. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is Sun Ra really from outer space?

Sun Ra 
This week I would say I discovered Sun Ra. Sure, I have played and listened to a few of his songs, but I never really delved into his music. I never really knew how much I loved it!

Sun Ra was an influential jazz composer, bandleader, pianist, poet, philosopher...the list goes on. He has a very iconic sound, and was one of the most controversial jazz musicians- he claimed he was from  Saturn for one. Sun Ra led his "Arkestra", and recorded many albums, with an ever-changing sound.

Sun Ra was born 100 years ago on May 22, 1914- which means that this year celebrates what would have been his 100th birthday. In celebration, I went to the NEC Jazz Orchestra's "Sun Ra Centennial" concert this past Thursday, directed by Ken Schaphorst in Jordan Hall.

Is Sun Ra really from outer space? 

What struck me about this concert was how truly fun it was. The NEC Jazz Orchestra all came out in these floor length costumes, with hats to look like the clothes Sun Ra would have worn. The outrageousness of the clothes could only compliment the outrageousness of the music! For the first song, "Shadow World", the band played in the dark, the shadows I suppose, while saxophonist Allan Chase improvised.

The NEC Jazz Orchestra played Shadow World, A Call for All Demons, Brainville, El is the Sound of Joy, Planet Earth, Saturn, and Enlightenment before the "Inter-planetary-mission".

Here's "Saturn". I love the repeated, catchy horn lines, and head-bopping groove!

Here's one of my favorites from the first half "Enlightenment". I love the happy, catchy melody, the building horn lines, and the relaxing atmosphere!

The sound of some of the music was hectic and crazy- yet that was the charm. I brought my brother to this concert who has told me on multiple occasions that jazz is not his cup of tea- he likes heavy metal. Yet, I wanted to hang out with him, and I go to a lot of concerts, so we went on an adventure to hear this crazy music- and he actually loved it! I was so shocked that out of all the jazz I have shown him, he really took a liking to Sun Ra. We were laughing the entire time.

I think what my brother loved was the catchiness of Sun Ra's music- among the craziness of the costumes and the overlapping parts was a strong, danceable rhythmic drive complimented by catchy, repeated melodies.

Here's "El is the Sound of Joy". I love how calming, yet energetic this song is! 

The second half of the concert featured the songs We Travel the Spaceways, Satellites are Spinning, Love in Outer Space, Space is the Place, and Outer Spaceways Incorporated. This half of the concert was so much fun! Some of the NEC singers joined the jazz orchestra and created a danceable, fresh vibe. My brother especially loved the second half, and surprised me by flipping to the lyrics page in the program and singing along with many of the songs!

I would say the best part of the entire concert was "Outer Spaceways Incorporated". The singers kept on repeating the catchy lyrics "If you find Earth boring, Just the same old same thing, Come on sign up with the Outer Spaceways Incorporated". These lyrics are pretty silly, but the way the singers sang them was in such a groove, and the rhythm section was driving in such a strong "pocket". At one point the horn players got up into the rows between the crowd and led people to the stage to dance. I looked at my brother, assuming he would want to stay seated, but surprisingly he was so into the music he got up and we both went to the stage to dance to the catchy beats. I don't think my brother and I have had that much fun in a long time.

Here's my favorite "Outer Spaceways Incorporated". It is just so catchy and danceable! 

Final Thoughts: 
I think my brother's reaction to this music was amazing. I think hearing jazz on a CD is completely different from going to a concert and hearing it live. There is so much more energy and excitement when you see it live- you start to realize that those solos are happening right now in this moment, and the thrill truly gets to you.

If you want to check out more Sun Ra music, I would suggest the albums Space Is the Place and Jazz in Silhouette .

Whether Sun Ra is from outer space or not, his music is definitely out of this world!

A Concert Experience- Sara Gazarek and Peter Eldridge Double Bill

This past Wednesday I had the pleasure to go to the Regattabar in Cambridge and see Sara Gazarek and Peter Eldridge perform a double bill performance. I had a lot of fun hearing contemporary music and arrangements, as well as some new songs and fresh interpretations of older songs.

Sara Gazarek is an American jazz musician and singer. She released her first album  Yours in 2005, her second album Return To You in 2007, and her newest album is Blossom & Bee. She has placed in many jazz polls for up and coming jazz singers, and she currently lives in Los Angeles. Sara performed with her pianist Josh Nelson.

Here's a video of Sara performing "Blackbird/Bye Bye Blackbird":

Peter Eldridge is a vocalist and composer. He is part of the Grammy winning group, New York Voices, included in such albums as  Day Like This . Eldridge has collaborated with many musicians including Bobby McFerran and Kurt Elling, and has toured extensively. Recently he has begun a duo with his bassist Matt Aronoff called "Foolish Hearts" which presents originals and arrangements of jazz and pop tunes with an organic sensibility. Eldridge teaches at Berklee College of Music. 

Here is Peter Eldridge performing a song I heard at the concert "Postcards and Messages":

A Concert Experience- Sara Gazarek and Peter Eldridge Double Bill

The concert started with Gazarek and Nelson playing a couple of songs together. The first thing I noticed about Gazarek was how she truly became the music- she would dance around, sway her hands, and change her facial expressions based on the story she was telling with the lyric. Her power to tell a story was extraordinary- no matter what song she sang she truly felt the lyric, and made the audience believe every word she sang. One song that stood out was her "mashup", "Cello Song/ Without a Song". I love how she combined these two songs seamlessly. Gazarek had a CD giveaway, which was clever and sweet for the audience. Gazarek exhibited a wide range of dynamics, emotions, and colors throughout her song selections, such as "All Again" and "Where is Love?". The piano solos by Josh Nelson matched the lyrics- he did not necessarily play a lot of notes, but he had intention and shape in each line that complimented the mood of the song. 
Gazarek then combined with Peter Eldridge and their voices blended very well. This segwayed into Peter's portion of the set, and Eldridge started with "Postcards and Messages", where he played piano and sang with Matt Aronoff on bass. Eldridge exhibited a wide vocal range, and a full tone, and Aronoff brought an element of added texture to each piece. 

Throughout Eldridge's set I noticed the intense energy he brought to the crowd through his articulate and fun piano playing. There was definitely a great group dynamic between him and his bass player- they made jokes, smiled, and created a strong rhythmic "pocket" in every piece. I was happy to hear Eldridge include a Paul McCartney song, "Jenny Wren", in his set list. This arrangement of such a contemporary song shows that jazz can truly make any song its own. I enjoyed how Eldridge made the lyrics of each song seem to float over the dense piano lines and rhythmic bass figures. Oftentimes Eldridge's vocal quality reminded me of Chet Baker from the album "Chet Baker Sings"- a very cool, simple vocal interpretation. 

Then Gazarek came back on stage, and played "Wish You With Me". It was nice to see that even though there were two almost separate acts, they eventually came together harmoniously. They continued to play as Gazarek and Nelson, and played a heart-wrenching song called "I Don't Love You Anymore", which was about how one person in a relationship falling out of love quicker than the other person. It was nice to hear how the vocal quality reflected the emotions behind the lyrics, and after the song ended there seemed to be a bubble of calm hesitation before the clapping, an almost meditative moment. 

Then all four musicians came together to sing a song, Nelson on piano, Aronoff on bass, Eldridge and Gazarek standing for vocals to sing "No Moon at All". There was a good connection between the two vocalists- both provided a fun, entertaining, inviting atmosphere by blending, and overlapping lyrics, rhythms, and harmonies. There was a strong danceable pulse to this song, that left the audience happy and energized. This element of fun showcased what jazz is truly about- communication! 

Final Thoughts:
The double bill was a cool idea to mix sounds, genres, voices, instrumentation- this kept everything fresh and interesting not only for the musicians, but for the audience as well. It was nice to hear vocal music- sometimes I get so fixated on instrumental jazz music that I forget how powerful the human voice truly is. It is truly wonderful to hear live music, and I am very happy I attended the concert! 

A Concert Experience- Chick Corea Solo Piano

Last Sunday I had the pleasure to see Chick Corea play solo piano at the Wilbur Theater in Boston. It was amazing to hear his approach to a variety of jazz songs and situations. Chick Corea was actually from Massachusetts, so this concert was coming back to his roots, and it was amazing to see some of his high school friends in the audience!

Chick Corea is a jazz and fusion pianist, keyboardist, composer, and bandleader. He was part of Miles Davis's band in the 60s and was part of the jazz fusion movement. Since then he has led many influential bands, including Return to Forever among others. Many of his compositions have become standard repertoire.

Here's a link to Corea's website to learn more about him.

Here's one of Return to Forever's most famous songs "Spain":

A Concert Experience- Chick Corea Solo Piano

The concert started around 7:30, and Chick came onto the stage with jeans and a button down shirt- very casual and comfortable. He addressed the crowd jokingly and started with a beautiful jazz standard, "How Deep is the Ocean". Chick actually played a lot of standards, and not a lot of his own songs in his solo piano concert, which surprised me. Yet, each standard he approached with creativity and wit that made it personal. 

Corea continued with a bossa nova, "Desafinado" by Jobim, which showcased his precise rhythmic drive and groove. Corea then paid homage to Bill Evan's compositions by playing "Turn out the Stars" and one of my favorite jazz standards, "Waltz for Debby", which I learned was written for Evans's niece. Each song with played with care and tenderness. 

Here is Bill Evans playing "Waltz for Debby":

Corea jokingly told an anecdote about Stevie Wonder telling him to play some new standards, which meant him playing Wonder's songs! Corea continued with "Pastime Paradise by Stevie Wonder, and it was nice to hear Corea incorporate a different kind of sound into his song choices. 

Corea embraced his classical skills and played a Chopin Mazurka- I was surprised by the spontaneity he gave to an established piece. Once again, Corea paid homage to another jazz pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk, and played "Work". It was enjoyable to hear Chick incorporate his individual voice into an icon's work. Then Corea played some original material,  "Mozart Goes Dancing" and "The Yellow Nimbus", characterized by edge and joy. 

The next part of the concert blew me away- Chick Corea invited audience members to come up on the stage and play piano with him! Imagine how that must feel- to spontaneously play piano with one of your idols! Two different young pianists had this opportunity, and their joy was eminent. These people were talented! 

Then Corea blew me away again. He said when he's on the road he likes to paint- so he invited audience members to come up on stage and he would improvise a "portrait" for them. I was blown away by this concept! He just met a person for the first time, sat them down, and improvised an entire song from the way they seemed to be. I think that is a way I should practice- just think about something or someone and play what comes to mind. Corea then played his "Children's Songs" as an encore, then continued by welcoming his wife of stage to sing a song from "Light as a Feather" called "You're Everything". 
As another encore piece, ending the concert, one of my favorite clarinetists, Richard Stoltzman, came onto the stage to jam with Chick Corea. I was surprised, because I know Richard Stolzman's classical works, like his Brahms Sonatas. Yet, Stoltzman came onto the stage and happily jammed. Eventually the jam turned into "Someday My Prince Will Come", and Corea's wife sang. I love this song, it is another one of my favorite standards. I loved the complete spontaneity of friends just jamming and having fun- this energy transferred to the crowd and made everyone energetic. 

Here is Chick Corea playng "Someday My Prince Will Come" with his "Akoustic Band":

Final Thoughts: 
I am very happy that I was able to see Chick Corea for the second time- the first time I saw him at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival. This was one of the longest concerts I have ever been to- it lasted over three hours in total! Yet, the amount of diverse material, and the depth of each piece astounded me. I gained so much inspiration for my own approach to music and improvising- like improvising to a person or idea, and to be more spontaneous and to go with the flow. Chick allowed the crowd and the moment to inspire his playing- and this allowed true creativity and honesty to shine through.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A CD Experience- Gotham by Tyler Blanton (2014)

Recently I have had the opportunity to listen to a lot of current jazz music- music that is quite new to the scene. I especially like newer jazz because it makes me happy to hear how jazz has evolved throughout time- the music doesn't sound like it's from another generation, it is expressing this generation, the now.
Cover art for Gotham by Clare Chen 

This week I listened to vibraphonist Tyler Blanton's new album Gotham. Tyler Blanton is a vibraphonist and composer from the New York jazz scene. Botanic was Blanton's debut album, and Gotham is his second album to date. Gotham "molds reflections of his now seven-year residence in New York into a mesmerizing musical portrait that is as captivating, aggressive and challenging as the city itself". Blanton describes Gotham as "edgier, more hard hitting, assertive and rhythmic" than his former work.

The News Release for the album says, "Acclaimed vibraphonist Tyler Blanton channels the grit and energy of New York into Gotham, his new groove-inflected album featuring saxophonist Donny McCaslin, drummer Nate Wood and bassist Matt Clohesy". 

Here's a link to the Sound Cloud recording of Gotham's opening track, "Never Sleeps":

A CD Experience- Gotham by Tyler Blanton (2014)

"Never Sleeps": As soon as I started listening to the album, the opening track struck me as catchy, rhythmic, and groove-based. The vibraphone opens up the album with a repetitive figure that immediately caught my attention, and made me nod my head to the beat. I enjoy hearing the different musical influences, like rock music- it makes the album seem fresh, and really captures the urban sound of New York. 

"Freaky Dream": This song opens up eerily, with a repetitive rhythmic figure. Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin joins in on this track with a crisp, articulate tone. The saxophone adds a sense of jubilance and makes the song quite singable with melodic lines. I like how the drummer and saxophonist line up different rhythmic hits either on or off the beat- these unison figures add extra energy to the song. Blanton seems to line up his improvisational lines perfectly within the set groove, with a cool, urban tone. 

"Gotham": The title track to this album opens up almost like a movie score- eery, cool, and mysterious. I am not sure if Blanton named the album Gotham to relate to Batman, or just to relate to a nighttime New York City, but the mysterious quality from either is found in this track from cool repetitive figures, to a driving rhythmic pulse, to groove based solos. Each musician's technical facility is easily demonstrated, but also the artistic facility is demonstrated, leading to interesting and meaningful solos. 

"Cogs": This song opens up quietly with only vibraphone then adding saxophone, once again with repetitive rhythmic figures. The drums suddenly come in with a series of strong hits, then the groove builds around a few repeated melodies. The ensemble hits every accent together with precision and an electric sort of energy. 

"Tunnels": This song exemplifies an energetic sort of relaxation. The mood of this song is reflective, but seems to look forward through its unison precision and a heartfelt groove. The bass lines up perfectly with the drums, and their partnership drives the entire ensemble. I enjoy McCaslin's edgy, full tone- he seems to put a lot of energy and soul into each note. Even though this song might not be considered "dance music", there is a certain danceable quality from the strong groove that makes you start to move around. 

"Breaking Through the Clouds": This is my personal favorite song off of the album. I enjoy the calm, serene quality. The tone colors that result from the vibraphone and tenor saxophone provide a lush, smooth feeling, that result in a reflective, almost sentimental ballad. Each solo seems to be approached with authenticity and hope. This song is supposed to, "state in sound that while New York can often threaten to break you, its vitality can, in fact, offer an artist uncommon inspiration"- and I can definitely hear this inspirational quality. 

Final Thoughts: Blanton says this of Gotham: "Whether you like it or not, this album is an authentic statement of where my music is now at"- and I think this genuine authenticity is what makes the album so enjoyable, and what makes jazz so exciting for me. Individuality, and expressing your own personal story makes jazz evolve over time to express the people and the generation. 

Here is a link to Amazon to buy the MP3 download. The album is officially set to be released April 22 on Ottimo Music. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Concert Experience- Lee Konitz

This past Saturday I went to the Regattabar to see one of my favorite jazz saxophonists play live- Lee Konitz. It was crazy to see him in person, at the age of 86!

Lee Konitz is from the "cool school" of jazz and is known for his work with the pianist Lennie Tristano. He was on the Miles Davis album "Birth of the Cool" and led his own influential jazz groups. He is an NEA Jazz Master and continues to play sold out jazz concerts even in his eighties.

Here's a song from one of favorite jazz saxophone albums "Lee Konitz Live at the Half Note"which features Lee Konitz on alto saxophone, Bill Evans on piano, Warne Marsh on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Paul Motion on drums:

A Concert Experience- Lee Konitz 

I was really excited to see Lee Konitz play live because he is one of my favorite saxophonists. From his albums, I had come to love his full, sweet tone; fresh melodic ideas; focused rhythmic ideas; and the way that each solo sounds like a conversation. 

When Lee Konitz came onto the stage everyone was clapping. It was kind of tragic when Lee realized that he forgot his neck strap to hold his saxophone and actually left to go find it. Yet, the rest of his band started playing without him, and when he came back, without being told what song he was playing, he just joined in. 

Now, you can tell that Lee Konitz is quite old. He walks slowly, he needed to sit down a lot, he couldn't hear to his fullest, and his technical facility was not the same as from old albums that I have listened to. And that made me kind of sad. A lot of the time Lee would put down his saxophone and start singing- this was kind of strange since it was not expected. Yet, what still was in his playing at 86 year old was heart, soul, and melody. And I think that if I'm still playing at that age, I must have done something right. 

Lee Konitz only wanted to play standards, but each standard sounded like an open jam. He would tell his band to start a song and he would join in- always without truly being told what song he was going to play. I got to talk to the pianist after the show and he told me that Lee's philosophy is to come in as unrehearsed as possible, so it sounds fresh and spontaneous. This means that they do not even know their set list and who's going to solo when. This level of spontaneity was definitely heard. 

As the concert went on, Lee definitely warmed up, and started playing some old lines that I have heard. He kept his playing minimal- I think this was a combination of him being tired and him only playing what he really thinks matters. Sometimes Lee would hit something that was perfect for the moment- and I couldn't help but say "wow". 
I requested the band play the standard "Just Friends" because one of my favorite jazz recordings is "Just Friends" from "Lee Konitz Live at the Half Note". The band took my request and I was in jubilation. It was kind of strange when there was a break down and the band started singing, but, everything else was crazy. You could really tell that the pianist and Lee had a close relationship because most improvising stemmed from a loose sort of call and response between the two of them. 
Final Thoughts: The concert was not what I expected it to be, but maybe that's what made it enjoyable. I laughed and smiled a lot, and it was a really fun experience. I got to meet Lee and the rest of his band after the show, and talking with someone like Lee was out of this world. From that concert I learned that jazz is truly timeless and ageless. 

A Concert Experience- Jason Moran "Fats Waller Dance Party"

This past Friday I had the pleasure to go to the Berklee Performance center to see Jason Moran "Fats Waller Dance Party" as part of the Boston Celebrity Series.

Jason Moran is a jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. He combines stride, hip hop, world, avant gard, classical, and other genres into his jazz playing. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010, and is a musical advisor at Kennedy Center. He is very inspired by Thelonious Monk, and of course, Fats Waller.

Here's Moran talking about and playing the Thelonious Monk song "Crepuscule with Nellie":

A Concert Experience- Jason Moran "Fats Waller Dance Party" 

I was really excited to go and see Jason Moran's "Fats Waller Dance Party". For one, Jason Moran is a very creative pianist, always on the edge of the new. And I love Fats Waller's music, and his songs like "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'". And who can turn down a "dance party"? 

Well, the concert was definitely a dance party- which I thought was great since most jazz is a sit-down kind of music. And there's nothing wrong with that- sometimes you just want to sit down, relax, and listen to music. Yet, jazz was originally played as dance music- so Jason Moran's aim at recreating Fats Waller's music was a great idea. A lot of Fats Waller's music was used as dance music while he was alive. 

And what I liked about this concert was that it was unexpected for me. I came in thinking that he was going to play a lot of old time sounding songs. Yet, Moran mixed a broad range of sounds into his recreation of Fats Waller's music. He made the music seem fresh and new with his own arrangements of the standards- a lot of sounds had a modern, hip hop/ R&B/ soul kind of sound infused with jazz. There were two singers, that mixed new interpretations of "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'", among others so that they were modern. And the entire time everything was still danceable! 
Moran alternated between a modern hip hop kind of sound, and old time stride sound during the concert. Moran even wore a mask for part of the show that made him actually look like Fats Waller. I really liked when they played "Lulu's Back in Town" because it was very fresh sounding. What impressed me about the concert was the amount of energy the musicians exuded- everyone danced on stage, and wore the biggest smiles. This energy radiated to the audience. 

There were even dancers on the stage adding to the "dance party" element. My only complaint was that the Berklee Performance Center is not a good place to get up and dance- I could only move back and forth in my seat, because I was not near an aisle. Yet, even without being able to actually dance, the energy was there. 

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed Moran's fresh interpretations of old time classics. It was really cool to hear someone give new life to old songs, and make them danceable in a modern kind of way. Moran paid homage to a jazz great, while also paving his own path, and I think that is what jazz is about- respect for the past and bravery for the future. 

A Concert Experience- Steve Kuhn Trio with Special Guest Eric Alexander

This past Thursday I went to Scullers to see the Steve Kuhn Trio with Special Guest Eric Alexander. It was an amazing experience, and left me very excited to play jazz.

Steve Kuhn is a pianist, composer, and bandleader. He has played with many great jazz musicians such as John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Ron Carter, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, among others. He has a well known piano trio.

Here's my favorite song of his, "Trance":

Eric Alexander is a jazz saxophonist. He came in second in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone competition, and since then he has been signed, recording records, and performing with many great jazz musicians like Ron Carter, Pat Martino, among others. 

Here's a recording of Eric Alexander playing the John Coltrane song "Lazy Bird": 

A Concert Experience- Steve Kuhn Trio with Special Guest Eric Alexander

The band came on the stage, and started with the Miles Davis song "Four", because, as Steve Kuhn explained, there were four people in the band. Other songs they played were "Mr. P.C.", "Like Sonny", "Trance", among others. I enjoyed the song selections, they fit the band well. 

I liked Steve Kuhn's playing- it was quite different than many other piano players that I have seen live. What I liked about him was that he would leave a lot of space, and he never seemed to be compelled to just play something for the sake of playing something- everything he played seemed to have an intention. Kuhn alternated between dense chords, and single lines as well as alternating between the highest octave of the piano and lowest octave of the piano. In this way, his playing seemed to be centered around contrast. 

I also really liked how Eric Alexander played. He would calmly come on stage, close his eyes, and play his saxophone. He seemed to be in a "trance". Even when he played strings of fast notes, he would build them in such a masterful way- he would start quiet and get louder, or attack some notes more than others so nothing seemed like a straight line- it was always going somewhere new. I really liked his rhythmic sense- sometimes he would find a rhythm that really fit well, and he would keep on moving it to different notes, and develop his ideas. It was enjoyable to see him be rhythmic, and build his ideas, because then the band would act as a sort of call and response with him. 

The entire band communicated really well. Even if they were not outright talking to each other, you could tell they used different musical ideas to communicate where they were going with their solos, and they used call and response a lot. The bass player had great time, and his solos were melodic, and you could often hear bits of the tune in them. The drummer was very enjoyable to watch. He seemed to be having a great time, and he would smile and respond to different ideas the other people in the band were playing. Everyone in the band seemed calm, and radiated positive energy! 

Final Thoughts: I had a great time going to see the Steve Kuhn Trio with Special Guest Eric Alexander. It was a hidden treasure among concert lineups this month, and I am very happy I went to go see them! 

A Concert Experience- Herbie Hancock Lectures

Every year Harvard presents the Norton Lectures, which talk about "poetry in the broadest sense". Distinguished people from across humanity fields like music, art, poetry, etc. give six lectures every year. In the past, lecturers have included composer Igor Stravinsky, poet E.E. Cummings, conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, among others. This year the guest lecturer was the renowned jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

Herbie Hancock is a jazz pianist, keyboardist, composer, and bandleader. He was part of the legendary Miles Davis's "Second Great Quintet", which included Miles Davis on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Tony Williams on drums, Ron Carter on bass, and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone. Herbie is known for his use of synthesizers, and was a leader in blending elements of funk and soul music into jazz. Herbie Hancock has had some crossover hits, and many of his compositions have become jazz standards such as "Watermelon Man", "Cantaloupe Island", "Maiden Voyage", and "Chameleon".

Here's my favorite Herbie Hancock recording, "Dolphin Dance" off of the album "Maiden Voyage":

A Concert Experience- Herbie Hancock Lectures

For the past two Mondays, I went to Harvard to attend the Herbie Hancock lectures as part of the Norton Lecture series entitled, "The Ethics of Jazz". The two lectures I attended were "Buddhism and Creativity" and "Once Upon a Time".

During the "Buddhism and Creativity" lecture, Herbie talked about why he became Buddhist, and how Buddhist practices have helped him lead a more honest life, and become the kind of musician he wants to be. Although Herbie did talk a lot about Buddhism, most of his focus was on qualities and philosophies that will help you lead a better life, because in his mind the road to becoming a great musician must be followed by the road to becoming a great human being.

I was so happy when he went over to the piano to start playing "Maiden Voyage". It was surreal to sit in Sanders Theater at Harvard, and see my role model play one of his signature songs to exemplify his messages. I was astounded by how wise Herbie Hancock is. He is a legend and role model to every aspiring jazz musician, but I did not know he was such a wise person.

"Herbie, how do I improve the flow of my fingers on piano?"
"How about you improve the flow of your life first?"  

During the "Buddhism and Creativity" lecture, I had the opportunity to ask Herbie a question during the Q&A portion.  He gave the most heartfelt, sincere answer to my question, and I am so grateful because I look up to him a lot. I asked him a personal question: If as a kid he ever felt stuck, like he wanted to be a better musician and person, and he could feel it, but he was just stuck and didn't know how to be "unstuck". And he reassured me that he has felt critical of himself and lost before. He told me that in order to stop feeling stuck internally I should focus my efforts externally. I should encourage others and help others, because by focusing on improving other peoples' happiness externally, my internal struggles seem to fade. And he looked me straight in the eye and said this.

During the "Once Upon a Time" lecture, Herbie gave the audience an inside look into what a rehearsal would look and sound like for him. He brought a band to play with him, and they rehearsed songs like "Toys" and "Chameleon". I can truly say one of the happiest moments of my life has been seeing Herbie play "Chameleon" live! At one point her left his piano and keyboard, and picked up a keytar and started soloing.

The "Once Upon a Time" lecture was inspirational, not just because I got to see Herbie play some of my favorites, but because of the messages he left the audience with. He told the audience the lecture was entitled "Once Upon a Time" because that is a phrase Miles Davis used to say. Miles would tell his musicians to go up on the bandstand and not think about the technical elements of music. He would say, "Tell a story- start with "once upon a time"- now where do you want to go?"

Miles would say that the musicians should come onto the stage and "read the music, but not read it for the notes, to read it and go beneath the paper, to go so deep down into the music that you start to see the faces of people beneath it, and you start to hear the inner dialogues of what the music is trying to say, and before long you start to realize that those inner dialogues come from you." These words were enlightening in my life, and really touched on why you play jazz- to tell your story.

Final Thoughts: 
I am very grateful to have so many opportunities to listen and learn about jazz. The combination of Herbie's wisdom from years of experience, and his humorous anecdotes inspired me. Here's a link to information about the lectures, and videos of all the lectures: