Thursday, July 30, 2009
(Excerpt from Jazz Improv Magazine Volume 7, Number 3)
JI: I remember in our last conversation we were talking about how you came to the U.S. and you were somewhat apprehensive because you didn’t have everything all lined up.
MC: That’s it, exactly, but I think the last drop was when I was playing as the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic. I was playing in the percussion section, which included the piano and the vibes and the celesta as well as the timpani and the snare drum and all that. They brought reinforcements - musicians from New York, to reinforce the symphony for the whole four-month opening celebration of the theater. That’s when, in the middle of the rehearsal, I sat down at the piano and started playing some jazz. And some of the American musicians that were there came to the piano and said, “Wow, man, you’re pretty good. You play jazz also?” “Yeah, I play jazz. That’s what I want to do.” One of them who was an incredible percussion player from New York, Gordon Gottlieb invited me to visit. He became a very good friend of mine. In 1975, he took me around to all the jazz clubs in New York. I came and visited and he made me fall in love with New York. That’s when I decided I should be here. I should come and try to make it here. So in 1979—it took me four years, of course, to do that, but when we finally took the plunge, me and my wife Sandra came to New York to see what would happen. We set ourselves a goal of five years to find out what the possibilities were - if we could survive and if I was going to be able to make a name in the jazz field. In the meantime, I also went to Julliard. I kept on studying, which was nice - because everything didn’t really start happening until 1981, ‘82. In the meantime, very little happened, just my name started getting around among musicians. It’s good, because that gives you a chance to hone your skills and go to the clubs and sit in like everybody else does. You make the rounds and try to connect with the musician community. It takes time. But also I think it makes you get better and practice hard and be ready for that opportunity and play in different bands and know everybody and keep on really studying. I studied with Don Sebesky, for example, big-band writing and contemporary arranging in those years. That was very important. In the meantime, the way I survived is I was playing a Broadway show. I auditioned for a Broadway show that needed a player that could play classical, popular, and jazz. That was a show called Dancing, which required a piano player that could play Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in the opening of the third act. It required a piano player that could play the Bach-Busoni “Toccata” onstage in the first act. I played there for four years. And that’s how I was able to pay for my studies.
To read the full interview, click here:
Monday, July 27, 2009
2 New Releases on Half Note Records: McCoy Tyner's "Solo: Live In San Francisco" and James Carter with John Medeski & Friends' "Heaven On Earth"
Heaven On Earth - James Carter & John Medeski
Saxophonist James Carter and organist John Medeski (of the pioneering jam-band, Medeski, Martin & Wood) lead a supergroup featuring Christian McBride (bass), Adam Rogers (guitar) and Joey Baron (drums).
Together they carve out a groove that captures the buzz and vitality of jam-jazz at its most exhilarating.
Recorded live at the Blue Note in New York, the group throws down the funk on Djanjo Reinhardt's "Diminishing," Larry Young's, "Heaven On Earth," Leo Parker's "Blue Leo," and the songbook standard, "Street of Dreams."
Solo: Live From San Francisco - McCoy Tyner
Piano Legend McCoy Tyner offers 11 song form vignettes, intimately rendered, before a rapt audience at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, during the Spring Season of SFJAZZ in May, 2007. This is the third release on his own McCoy Tyner Music Label.
The evening finds him reflective, treating his fans to a mix of originals and standards, delivered in a style as much thunder as mist. Stand out selections include, "Naima," "You Taught My Heart To Sing," "I Should Care," "Sweet And Lovely," and "In A Mellow Tone." An excellent companion disc to his two previous MTM releases, Quartet and Guitars.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"THE GIG" - NY Times writer Nate Chinen's Arts Blog
Haden and Iverson
Not far into his second set with Ethan Iverson at the Blue Note on Tuesday, Charlie Haden took a moment to recall their first meeting. It was at a 2006 memorial service for the tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. For his part in the program, Iverson sat at the piano to play “Broken Shadows,” a processional ballad from the 1971 Ornette Coleman album of the same name. (Redman and Haden both took part in that session, indelibly.) Afterward, Haden recalled, he introduced himself to Iverson, who greeted him this way: “I know what you’re going to say. I was playing your chords.”
Haden told that anecdote after he and Iverson had played a luminous duo version of “Broken Shadows.” At one point in his solo, Iverson had briefly risen from his seat, elucidating long arcs of notes with his right hand while plainly stating the melody with his left. His bond with Haden throughout the set was palpably deep. Among the other tunes called was
Tadd Dameron Benny Harris’ “Wahoo.”
I was especially riveted by the Ornette/Dewey stuff, though, because of how deeply it engaged both musicians. This is something Iverson himself has covered in elaborate detail, perhaps most notably in the Haden Q&A he published last year (after an engagement much like this one). It should be read in full, but consider this exchange:
CH: I learned about the importance of listening playing with Ornette. We first played duo at his house, for days. I had never heard such beautiful melodies. He had his compositions written out with changes on them.
EI: There were changes on his charts?
CH: Yes, and he said to play on the changes until he left them, and then just follow him. At first I thought he meant he would play on the written changes for a little while, but then I realized he would be creating a new set of changes almost right away. So I discarded his changes and followed him.Sometimes the changes he had for the written parts didn't always fit, so I would look for the right note, even if it wasn't the root of the tonal center.
EI: Dewey Redman told me once that he was looking at a piece of Ornette's music and thought he heard some changes in there. He asked Ornette what the structure was, and Ornette responded by putting a chord symbol on every eighth note! He made sure never to ask Ornette that question again.
CH: Yeah, NEVER ask Ornette about the changes!
EI: So, you were making up the harmony. On some of the early music like "Lonely Woman," "Ramblin'", and "Una Muy Bonita," there is also a strong melody in the bass. I have a strong suspicion that those are yours too.
CH: Sometimes I would play what I was hearing instead of what he had written and he usually accepted it.
Haden’s bass-and-piano “Invitation Series” continues through the rest of the week, with a host of different pianists: Steve Kuhn (7/22), Kenny Barron (7/23 & 24), Paul Bley (7/25) & Bill Charlap (7/26). I imagine Ornette Coleman will be another point of reference on the Bley evening. I’m sorry I can’t be there every night.
Incidentally, bassist Reid Anderson was at the club for last night’s set. He’ll be joining Iverson, his Bad Plus band mate, for a Village Vanguard run next week. Paul Motian will be the drummer. That’s a whole different story, sort of.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Haden and Iverson :
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
TWO X TWO =
by Jim Macnie
Bop sometimes sounds wan without a drummer, but in the right hands, a percussion-less group can deliver the goods by stressing punctuation – which is pretty much the way Charlie Haden and Ethan Iverson got the job done last night at the Blue Note. The tune was Bird and Fats’ “Wahoo,” which as the bassist said, is a spin on “Perdido” that has a fair amount of forward motion written into it. The gig was the first chapter of Haden’s now-annual “Invitation Series,” his chance to spend a week playing single-evening sets with a variety of pianists (Kuhn, Bley, Barron, and Charlap round out the shows). Iverson gave the head a crisp reading and fueled that forward motion with an mistakable dollop of bottom thrust. The evening’s fare may have stressed the graceful nature of the duet realm, but time and again – from the jaunty “Humpty Dumpty” to the melancholy “First Song” – a deep sense of pulse implied a palpable rhythm. Abstractions were kept to a minimum – melody was the set’s calling card, as it is the bassist’s signature trait – but Iverson added inspired maneuvers to a couple tunes, chopping one head in an amusing staccato manner and adding delicate, upper register flurries to the conclusion of another. It prompted the guy next to me – who otherwise seemed to know his stuff about Haden – to tell his pals, “this pianist is out there.” If busting inventive moves to nudge a performance towards a more vivid musical spot is being out there, I guess the dude’s right. Haden, whose earthy bass sound became more and more addictive as the set progressed, had a smile on face as his partner steered left of center.
The interview, which can be found here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lqyd1), found the often misunderstood jazz legend in a delightful mood, seemingly eager to share his thoughts. Where many past Jarrett interviews seem to find him drifting from the questions or being vague or confusing in his answers, it is obvious that in this interview Jarrett is honest, sincere, and happy to share. The interview is extremely revealing and truly fascinating.
Speaking on his influences, Jarrett confessed his love for the playing of Ahmad Jamal, describing the initial experience of discovering Jamal's music. He said, "It changed my mind about everything that could happen. Up till then it was just a virtuosity thing...playing fast or swinging...at least swinging was there. But then there was a spacial thing, and not a need for constant playing."
Another interesting portion of the interview comes at it's end, when Iverson describes what he finds to be part of Jarrett's appeal and the reason for Jarrett's influence on himself.
He says, "I don't think there's been someone else who's been able to play so much piano yet at the same time not regard that as the mission of the musician. Most piano virtuosos I think end up deciding that the virtuosity is the most important part of the message, but that has never been Keith Jarrett's way."
It is amazing to realize how parallel each pianist's statements are regarding their own pianistic influences.
I've posted a video of the Ahmad Jamal Trio playing "Darn That Dream" in 1959. Enjoy!