Sunday, June 28, 2015

Montreal Jazz Festival: Singing in the Rain

Today Montreal was pouring rain - for an outdoor music festival rain is not a welcomed neighbor. However, at the Montreal Jazz Festival rain is no reason to keep your dancing shoes indoors.

Montreal Hard Bop Five

Read about my other adventures at the 2015 Montreal Jazz Festival: Day 1, Day 2.

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Montreal Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Day 3Review of Bobby McFerrin.

Montreal Jazz Festival: Singing in the Rain

Even though it was raining, I was able to find tent concerts that kept me dry. The first band I saw today was L'espirit De La Nouvelle-Orleans. Montreal is a French speaking province of Canada, so many of the local acts are dixieland and gypsy styles of jazz due to their French heritage.

L'espirit De La Nouvelle-Orleans

This group played such standards as "Hello Dolly", "All of Me", and of course "When The Saints Go Marching In." Also, the group used collective improvisation - where each instrument improvises at the same time. This collective improvisation built the music's intensity as the melody was repeated with different countermelodies and arpeggios. 

Listen to Louis Armstrong playing, "All of Me":

L'espirit De La Nouvelle-Orleans

Afterwards, I visited the Place De Arts again to look at some of the artwork and sculptures.

Artwork in the Place De Arts

Orkestra Severni

Another band I saw was "Orkestra Severni", a Balkin-jazz group. I am not familiar with Balkin music, so hearing this fusion of sounds was interesting to me. The scales, harmonies, and melodic shapes were different from American jazz, yet the improvisation was still present. The instrumentation featured harmonica, trumpet, trombone, alto saxophone, sousaphone, and drum kit. 


Following, was "Gypsophilia", a gypsy and klezmer style jazz band. Gypsy jazz was popularized by the French guitarist Django Reinhardt. This group was not only musically rewarding - it was wholly entertaining. The leader of the band involved the audience, by learning to speak French on the stage to passing around his tambourine to teaching us a clapping pattern. Gypsophilia was rhythmically rich and danceable - so much so that during the song "Jewish Dance Party" the leader jumped off the stage and did a handstand! 

Listen to Django Reinhardt playing, "Limehouse Blues":


Montreal Hard Bop Five

Afterwards I saw "Montreal Hard Bop Five", a hard bop jazz quintet. Hard bop is a style of jazz from the 50s and 60s that described a new form of bebop with added rhythm and blues and gospel influences. Some of the main contributors to hard bop were Art Blakey and Horace Silver. Montreal Hard Bop Five utilized a classic hard bop instrumentation - saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums. 

Listen to Art Blakey playing, "Moanin":

Final Thoughts:
My family

Even in the rain, there were plenty of opportunities to experience multicultural music, art, and food. 

This experience inspired my poem, "Hum sing shout" on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem".

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Throughout this entire experience I want to hear why do you love jazz? Comment down below.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Montreal Jazz Festival: No mystery

The Stanley Clarke Band

Jazz can come across as mysterious to many people. From movie soundtracks to jazz-age novels - this music has a sort of mystique to it. Yet, when jazz is heard in the context of the world's largest jazz festival - the Montreal Jazz Festival - there is no mystery why it is loved internationally. 

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Montreal Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Day 3Review of Bobby McFerrin.

Montreal Jazz Festival: No mystery 

Hot Pepper Dixie

The first band I saw today was a local group called "Hot Pepper Dixie." The group played classic New Orleans songs such as "Basin Street Blues," "St. James Infirmary," and "When The Saints Go Marching In."

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Basin Street Blues":

Hot Pepper Dixie played in the street while people sat, crowded around, and walked by to hear them. It is amazing how this more informal concert was still heavily attended, and featured superior musicianship. New Orleans style jazz is always a pleasure to listen to, and this group brought so much energy to the crowd by dancing, singing, and passing along soaring solos. 

Sousaphonist from Hot Pepper Dixie

Afterwards I went to the "Place De Arts" where every year there is a free art gallery. Each piece in the gallery is inspired by jazz or created by a musician. Artwork by Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Tony Bennett were showcased. Also Yves Archambault, the Montreal Jazz Festival artist, had many works displayed. As someone that loves to draw jazz concerts, this exhibit was especially fun to attend - the colors, shapes, and impressions of jazz will surely inspire my own art!

Yves Archambault's art is used in logos

Another free concert I attended today was "Montreal Dixie." A New Orleans style band, this group played jazz standards such as "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Blue Monk," and "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?".

Watch Billie Holiday perform, "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?":

Montreal Dixie played in an outdoor style club. This allowed people to sit down in tables, while still having the music drift down the street as people ate ice cream or bought souvenirs. It was interesting to hear how New Orleans jazz could be reinterpreted, with added instrumentation, and a different songbook. Whereas Hot Pepper Dixie played classic dixieland songs, Montreal Dixie played songs outside of that canon with works by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.

Montreal Dixie

The Montreal Jazz Festival has many amusement activities such as photo booths and lottery style games. One photo booth had a "rock star" theme, which my dad and I went to.

My dad and I

In the evening, I had the out of this world opportunity to see the Stanley Clarke Band in concert. Stanley Clarke is an innovative bassist known as a bandleader, composer, and a sideman from Chick Corea's 'Return To Forever' band.

Stanley Clarke sold out a giant theater, and people were screaming when he came out like he was a rock star. Coyly Stanley responded by saying, "Thank you, my name is Louis Armstrong."

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band perform "No Mystery":

Stanley played an assortment of songs from his latest album, "Up." The band consisted of Stanley on acoustic and electric bass, Beka Gochiashvili on piano and keyboards, Michael Mitchell on drums, Cameron Graves on synthesizer. Beka and Michael are 19 and 20 respectively - seeing people my own age performing at such a high level inspires me and motivates me as a musician. 

The Stanley Clarke Band

Stanley's music was definitely some of the most high voltage music I have ever listened to. Period. Stanley's style of bass playing was not only virtuosic, it was percussive - he would physically slap all areas of the bass from the strings to the wood to create different sounds. From holding down bass lines to creating call and response in his solos - Stanley showcased the delicateness of a Bach Cello Suite with the punchiness of funky jazz fusion. 

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band - The Making of "Up":

The compositions were highly arranged and accented with hits lining up on every instrument. What struck me was the immense contrast between sections of the song. The synth player used a multitude of different sounds, from flute to xylophone to more ambient sounds. These different colors allowed for intense contrast in songs - from a soaring flute line to a film score-esque synth pad - the instrumentation allowed the music to breath and build. 

My sketch of Stanley Clarke

I truly learned what it means to 'build' your solo at this concert. Each musician started their solo quite stark with a lot of space. The music would grow outrageously soft, and the musicians would play simple lines. Then, over the course of many choruses, the solo would have this Everest-like arc that would climb in intensity. This type of energy not only caused the audience to erupt in clapping - it caused the audience to clap so much there were two encore performances!

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band perform "Last Train To Sanity":

Final Thoughts:
My family listening to live jazz
With such great music, there is no mystery why jazz is so enthralling.

This experience inspired my poem, "No Mystery " on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem".

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Throughout this entire experience I want to hear why do you love jazz? Comment down below.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Montreal Jazz Festival: NettWork

This year, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to go back to the Montreal Jazz Festival as a journalist. This festival really encapsulates what I love about jazz music from the sheer joy seen in the diversity of people. I wanted to share my experiences from my time, not just because I am a journalist or a musician, but because at the end of the day I just love jazz

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Montreal Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Day 3Review of Bobby McFerrin.

Montreal Jazz Festival: NettWork

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the "NettWork Trio" concert featuring Charnett Moffett, Stanley Jordan, and Jeff Tain Watts. This powerhouse trio combined different musical rhythms, harmonies, and effects to create a 'network' of sounds. Each member of the trio could stand alone as a leader much like the "Bad Plus" - but the net worth of the team was greater than the sum of its parts. 

NettWork Trio: Stanley Jordan, Charnett Moffett & Jeff Tain Watts (L to R)

Much of the music from NettWork had a Middle Eastern and Egyptian tinge to it. The use of repeated bass ostinatos and modal scales solidified this sound. Yet, even with this ethnic flavor to the music, an element of funk dominated the performance from electric bass lines and solos, to bending lines on the guitar, to steady time and high energy crashes on the drums. I truly have never heard music like this before! It was free and improvised, while always having this element of movement and dance. 

Watch the NettWork Trio:

Some of the songs had short cutouts in the middle where Moffett started reciting a sort of spoken word poetry: "Life is a field frozen with snow." The use of these hypnotic, philosophical statements propelled the music forward by giving added meaning behind the notes. In addition, the camaraderie and joy underlying the music only strengthened the performance by adding the pertinent element of communication. 

My sketch of Charnett Moffett

The standout of the show was a song called "O C 2" dedicated to Ornette Coleman, who recently passed away. Ornette was a pioneer of free jazz, with such albums as "The Shape of Jazz to Come". "O C 2" borrowed Ornette's message more than his distinctive sound. Moffett created a call and response by saying, "love for the people" while the audience would say, "for the people." This call and response not only strengthened audience participation and focus, but it also properly laid out Ornette Coleman's main message of love and acceptance. When the set was done the audience erupted in shouts for an "encore for the people!"

Listen to "Lonely Woman" by Ornette Coleman:

Final Thoughts: 
The message of the NettWork concert was love and acceptance "for the people, for the children." And what better place to spread this message than the International Jazz Festival of Montreal!

The streets of Montreal are filled with New Orleans street bands, scatting "doo bop ba," and smiling faces. This city never ceases to amaze me! More detailed reviews of concerts and experiences are forthcoming.

My sketch of Jeff Tain Watts

This experience inspired my poem, "Network" on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem". 

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Throughout this entire experience I want to hear why do you love jazz? Comment down below.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Celebration Jazz Songs

With summer here, I wanted to share some jazz songs to help celebrate! 

Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Celebration Jazz Songs


1. Jon Batiste - "Believe in Love"

Jon Batiste was recently appointed music director of the Colbert Show. His band, "Stay Human" brings so much soul, power, and happiness to each performance. This particular video from the Newport Jazz Festival really encapsulates the celebratory nature of jazz music. 

2. Esperanza Spalding - "I Can't Help It"

"I Can't Help It" is a song written by Stevie Wonder for Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" album. Esperanza reinterprets the song, and I can never get it out of my head once I start listening! I love Michael Jackson music, so hearing this cover is a great combination of sorts. 

3. The Marsalis Family - "Struttin With Some Barbecue

There is nothing that gets me more than straight up swinging music. This video of the Marsalis family is not only heart warming, but it's so full of energy. The dancing spirit and memorable, melodic solos are where complexity and simplicity meet.

4. Woody Hermann - "Take The A Train"

"Take The A Train" is a great standard by Billy Stayhorn for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. This version shows Woody Hermann's "Thundering Herd" and features Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone. As both a baritone saxophonist and clarinetist, this video is enthralling to watch. 

5. Tony Williams Quintet - "Geo Rose"

Tony Williams started out as a teenager in Miles Davis's "Second Great Quintet". Later in life, he formed his own quintet, as part of the jazz fusion movement of music. I love the collaboration of the band, with Wallace Roney and Bill Pierce as the horn section. In this video you can really see the intensity Tony Williams brought to the music.


I also wanted to include two concerts that not only celebrate birthdays - but put anyone in a celebratory mood! 

1. Tootie Heath - 80th Birthday Celebration

I watched this Jazz at Lincoln Center live -stream the other week and couldn't stop laughing! Tootie Heath is part of a jazz family legacy - featuring Tootie on drums, Percy on bass, and Jimmy on saxophone. Tootie had so much fire to his playing, and his humor kept me laughing all night. 

2. Steve Turre - Roland Kirk Birthday Celebration

Roland Kirk was a great multi-reed instrumentalist. In this Jazz at Lincoln Center live stream concert, trombonist Steve Turre teamed up with greats like reedman James Carter to play Kirk's music. It was a night of crazy sounds and great talent!

Final Thoughts:
This week I wrote my poem, "Swing" to celebrate jazz.


I used to think that
swing was rather out
of date and that the
only thing that had
a ring was bebop

But just one pop and
I couldn't stop tap
tap tapping away.

As festival season rolls along, I hope as many students take advantage of the $20 tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival! Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the Montreal Jazz Festival! 

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

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why I love jazz festivals

I look forward to jazz festivals all year round, and I wanted to share why I love festivals. 

I'm excited to go back to the Montreal Jazz Festival this year!

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Review of Bobby McFerrin.

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Newport Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Interview with Shelly Berg

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Beantown Jazz FestivalWhat day is it?.

Watch Diana Krall at the Montreal Jazz Festival:

Why I love jazz festivals

1. The music

Jazz is a music that needs to be heard live. I believe the experience of a live jazz concert will make people on the fence about jazz truly appreciate it. Jazz, to me, is more of a live experience than a genre.

Watch Jaco Pastorius at the Montreal Jazz Festival:

Festivals are amazing in the way that they connect so much different music under the umbrella of 'jazz'. At a festival, you can hear a jazz big band, a latin jazz band, a jazz fusion band, a New Orleans street band, a blues singer, an avant-garde jazz band, a funk group, a hip hop band and more. You can hear jazz legends, up and comers, students, and more. Between the variety of sounds, it's easy to find an artist whose music connects with you. 

Watch Wynton Marsalis at the Newport Jazz Festival:

2. The people

The most touching thing about jazz festivals is that you see people from all walks of life gathered to just listen to jazz.

Watch Anita O'Day at the Newport Jazz Festival:

Last year at the Montreal Jazz Festival, I attended one of the free street concerts. These musicians were playing New Orleans style jazz, and people started dancing. One of the most enthusiastic dancers happened to be a handicapped man in a wheel chair. Everyone started dancing with him and at the end of the concert we all applauded his dancing abilities. It made me cry to witness this love and compassion between people. It was just so beautiful to see people take away race, gender, age, physical and mental disabilities, etc. and just spread happiness and be kind to each other.

Watch the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Newport Jazz Festival:

3. The energy

Festivals bring a new kind of energy to the music. The amount of people, the anticipation, the summer season, etc. brings a sort of urgency to the music. Unlike a studio recording, where multiple takes may be merged into one recording, a live jazz concert has no apologies and has a lot of risk taking. In these live settings, it's easy to see why improvisation is exciting. You realize how in the moment everything is - and how every note is chosen right now

Watch the "Three Clarinets" at the Newport Jazz Festival:

Honestly, it is more fun to go to a jazz festival than to hear a jazz CD because you can see the musician's authentic personality on stage. On the surface it may seem that jazz is stern and serious, but in fact many jazz musicians are comedians in nature. When I saw Roy Haynes at the Newport Jazz Festival he was telling jokes and he even started tap dancing! 

Watch Roy Haynes tap dancing at the Newport Jazz Festival:

4. The vendors

Festivals are also a great tourist attraction. You can learn more about an area by eating the local foods and looking at the local art and clothing. Grab a local specialty like 'poutine' at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Look at local handmade clothes at Newport. Stroll through vendors while hearing the sounds of jazz in the distance! Bring your friends for a day of shopping, eating good food, and listening to great music. 

Watch Buddy Rich at the Montreal Jazz Festival:

5. The getaway 

Festivals are simply a getaway from the daily grind. So much of our lives is strict, scheduled, and busy with work, school, social and personal commitments, and more. We lack a lot of humanity in the way we passively go on the internet, watch television, or go on social media for hours. If anything, more than music, sightseeing, or socializing - jazz festivals give us a way to bring back humanity to our lives by connecting us with what's genuine, authentic, and occurring now

Watch C├ęcile McLorin Salvant at the Detroit Jazz Festival:

I'm excited to attend the Detroit Jazz Festival this summer!
Final Thoughts:
I encourage everyone to find jazz festivals in your area or beyond and make the trip out. I'm sure you'll come back with a tune in your head and a skip to your step! 

Student tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival are $20 this year!

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I honored Ornette Coleman this week with my poem, "Free". 

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Why do you love jazz festivals?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Jazz quotes 2

Building off of my recent "Jazz Quotes" post from April, I wanted to share some more quotes and music to inspire everyone. The aim is that the quote will compliment the music, and vice versa. Hopefully you can relate the quote and music to your own life.

Jazz quotes 2

1. Dave Brubeck
There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play, which is dangerously, where you’re going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven't created before.
Listen to Dave Brubeck playing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow": 

2. Art Blakey
Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.
Listen to Art Blakey play, "Nica's Dream": 

3. Bill Evans
Jazz is a mental attitude rather than a style. It uses a certain process of the mind expressed spontaneously through some musical instrument. I'm concerned with retaining that process.
Watch Bill Evans play, "My Foolish Heart": 

4. Bill Frisell
Music, for me, has always been a place where anything is possible--a refuge, a magical world where anyone can go, where all kinds of people can come together, and anything can happen. We are limited only by our imaginations.
Listen to Bill Frisell play, "The Days of Wine and Roses": 

5. Bobby Hutcherson
The whole thing of being in music is not to control it but to be swept away by it. If you're swept away by it you can't wait to do it again and the same magical moments always come.
Listen to Bobby Hutcherson play, "Old Devil Moon": 

6. Cannonball Adderley
Hipness is not a state of mind, it's a fact of life!
Listen to Cannonball Adderley play, "Sack O' Woe": 

7. Cecil Taylor
Improvisation is the ability to talk to oneself.
Listen to Cecil Taylor play, "Bemsha Swing": 

8. Charlie Haden
Don't think of yourself as a jazz musician. Think of yourself as a human being who plays music. 
Listen to Charlie Haden play, "Where Can I Go Without You?": 

9. Clark Terry
Imitate, assimilate, and innovate.
Watch Clark Terry play, "Pennies From Heaven": 

10. Don Cherry
When people believe in boundaries, they become part of them. 
Listen to Don Cherry play, "Guinea": 

Final Thoughts:
I think these kind of thoughtful, inspirational quotes help connect the music to the people who created it. When I listen to jazz, I feel like I am listening to an old friend - jazz is a music of people

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


I am excited to attend the Newport Jazz Festival for the 5th time this year!
Student tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival are $20 this year!

This summer I am excited to be able to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, and the Detroit Jazz Festival. There are also many local jazz festivals around Massachusetts that I look forward to attending throughout the summer and fall such as the Beantown Jazz Festival and the Cambridge Jazz Festival. I think festivals are the best way to start listening to jazz - they are social, informal, outside, full of vendors, and you can go with all your friends. They make perfect tourist stops and vacations as well - soak up the sun while listening to jazz!

I am excited to return to the Montreal International Jazz Festival this year! 
I am excited to attend the Detroit Jazz Festival for the first time this year!