Não creio que possa haver alma mais sincera, música mais visceral e humana que a de Sonny Rollins.
Este filme revela Rollins e duas das suas relações mais profundas: a ponte de Williamsburgh e o saxofonista Paul Jeffrey, seu companheiro de travessia.
segunda-feira, dezembro 27, 2010
Não creio que possa haver alma mais sincera, música mais visceral e humana que a de Sonny Rollins.
domingo, dezembro 26, 2010
Abre com uma resenha do que foi a 4ª edição do Cascais Jazz pela pena de José Duarte adoptando uma estéctica ML (*)absolutamente actual, na altura...
Seguem-se preciosos elementos biográficos de Rui Cardoso, um dos pioneiros nacionais do saxofone Jazz e um extenso artigo/entrevista sobre Archie Shepp.
Lá pelo meio o anúncio de concertos em Castelo Branco e Lisboa do grupo de Red Rodney com o português Nuno Gonçalves no contrabaixo.
(*) ML, para quem é demasiado novo para o saber ou para quem já esqueceu o espírito do tempo, significa "marxista-leninista"
A curiosidade pelas circunstâncias em que estes concertos foram agendados e pelo que se passou no "terreno" levou a que abordasse o Nuno Gonçalves,um dos decanos do contrabaixo jazz portugueses e uma simpatia de pessoa, para que soubessemos mais sobre como foi tocar com esse grande trompetista próprio, alguém que tantas vezes partilhou o palco com "Bird".
Como era de esperar, Nuno, amávelmente, respondeu ás questões que lhe coloquei:
"Onobsj!!:Como chegaste ao contacto do Red?
N.G.:Foi o Duarte Mendonça que empresariou os concertos com o RR, que tinha cá estado no festival de Jazz de Cascais. Veio agora acompanhado do Art Themen (sax tenor), simpático, excelente musico, e médico otorrino inglês.
Os concertos com o Red Rodney foram 3 no Hot Clube e um em Castelo Branco, no Cineteatro Avenida. Estava agendado mais um no teatro ABC, que não se chegou a realizar.
Eu era o único português da banda. Os outros músicos da secção rítmica eram o Kevin Hoidale, pianista norte americano que vivia em Portugal nos anos 70 e o Adrien Ransy, baterista belga que na época integrava o Quinteto Académico.
Para as sessões no Hot, o Kevin trouxe o seu piano Fender Rhodes, pois o piano do Hot da época, que era um piano acústico antigo vertical muito estafado. Este Rhodes era uma grande novidade na época, porque era uma adição muito recente à musica de Jazz.
Onobsj!!:: O Red Rodney mandou os temas antes ou foi á 1ª vista? algum original? que dicas deu ou exigências ( musicais ou outras) fez?
N.G.:O Red Rodney enviou uma carta com uma lista de temas a fazer nas sessões, todos standards bonitos. Fizemos (só a secção rítmica) um ensaio prévio no Hot Clube, para passar os temas da lista.
Onobsj!!:: Alguma "estória" ou detalhes interessantes que tenham ocorrido durante os ensaios e/ou concerto?
N.G.:Red Rodney contou nos concertos, no intervalo entre dois temas em que apresentava os músicos da banda, o episódio da sua parceria com Parker, em que num gig num bar que era reservado apenas a pessoas de raça negra, ter apresentando Red Rodney como “Albino Red”. (Vi uns anos mais tarde este episódio no filme Bird, de Clint Eastwood).
Para além dos concertos no Hot, o ultimo concerto foi no Cineteatro de Castelo Branco organizado por um aficionado do Jazz, o Luis Pio, dedicado ao irmão, que tinha falecido num acidente de automóvel e que era também um grande aficionado do Jazz.
Forma-se uma comitiva, com alguns notáveis do Jazz Luso como o Luis Vilas Boas e o Zé Duarte, que se dirige para Castelo Branco por montes e vales por uma estrada sinuosa e em mau estado.
Na época as coisas eram ainda mais artesanais do que hoje e, quando chegámos para ensaiar o som, só havia o piano, um chaço de piano vertical que, além de não tocar algumas notas, estava super-desafinado!!! Aparelhagem sonora inexistente e um frio de rachar numa sala deserta (3 bilhetes vendidos) num edifício antigo e húmido, completavam o quadro surrealista... Ainda se tentou remediar o piano com uma iniciativa heróica pelo Zé Duarte, o Vilas Boas e de mais uns bravos, que foram tentar ir buscar em braços um piano de cauda que estava num museu. Claro que desistiram quando viram o peso e o concerto teve que se fazer mesmo com o piano que havia e a aparelhagem que não havia. Coisas do improviso à portuguesa, que na época era mais incipiente ainda do que é hoje.
O regresso a Lisboa foi, para compensação, super divertido com a companhia e o senso de humor do Luís Vias Boas!
Foi a realização de um sonho poder tocar numa formação destas e com estes músicos, um deles, uma lenda viva que tinha tocado com o “deus” Charlie Parker, temas dele, reproduzir aqueles sons que se ouviam nos discos..."
Obrigado Nuno. Grande abraço!
Nuno Gonçalves in facebook
Red Rodney on MySpace
segunda-feira, novembro 22, 2010
quarta-feira, novembro 03, 2010
sábado, outubro 30, 2010
Este fenómeno físico tem implicações musicais mais do que muitas e muito importantes. Não foi por acaso que Arnold Schonberg decidiu começar o seu livro de Harmonia por este assunto livro publicado em 1922 e que é ainda hoje uma ferramenta de trabalho importantíssima.
"A Monk's Musical Musings" auto-intitula-se como um blog Semi-Hemi-Demi-Semi-Erudito de teoria musical e guitarra.
Deixando para os guitarristas a informação que lhes é destinada, sou um visitante regular dada a qualidade do trabalho teórico publicado.
Precisamente sobre o assunto de que falo - as implicações musicais da série de harmónicos - encontram-se publicados no blog 10 posts/capítulos que, segundo o autor serão posteriormente editados em livro.
Deixo aqui os links para cada um dos capítulos bem como o meu agradecimento pelo trabalho partilhado.
sexta-feira, outubro 29, 2010
A entrevista de Kenny Werner aqui
O cineasta dinamarquês Soren Jensen captou imagens e entrevistas sobre todo o processo para um documentário cuja preview pode ser vista aqui
É um previlégio poder partilhar de tal intensidade e intimidade enquanto ouvinte.
quinta-feira, outubro 28, 2010
Pianista de incrível originalidade para além de académico citado em inúmeros artigos científicos sobre psicologia da improvisação, Vijay Iyer congrega na sua música os sons de todo o planeta.
Tecno-indo-funk-trance-dance-punjabi-trash-galactic-reggae-jazz. Para mim este sr. é uma das melhores surpresas musicais do sec. XXI.
P.S: Já agora ouçam o tema seguinte e digam-me se não vos faz a energia e a vibração da música dos L.U.M.E. (Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble) ?
Ah, ok...Ainda não conhecem a música do L.U.M.E.
Temos de tratar disso...
sábado, outubro 23, 2010
Numa ocasião dessas vieram ter-me ás mãos algumas revista de Jazz editadas pelo Hot Clube em ... 1975.
Preciosidades! Documentos de uma pré-história do Jazz em Portugal que, agora que tantos dos praticantes ainda não têm 25 anos, podem dar uma ideia do que era o Jazz nesses primeiros tempos do pós- 25 de Abril.
segunda-feira, outubro 11, 2010
terça-feira, outubro 05, 2010
É lindo (e viciante) descobrir estes tesourinhos. Tipo coleccionar cromos, tão a ver? Espero que me passe, em breve.
O tema seguinte está registado na SPA (Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores) com o nº T-045554643-6 NAS HORAS DE DOR TONY CARREIRA Compositor/Autor
e agora ouçam este:
O "talento" para o plágio é hereditário como provam o próximo tema - registado na SPA com os nº:
T-045711977-5 DO YOU LOVE ME INDEFINIDO MICKAEL Compositor
T-045711977-5 DO YOU LOVE ME INDEFINIDO RICARDO Compositor/Autor
Entretanto passem pelo blog http://copiadoemportugal.blogspot.com/
Há pra todos os gostos.
domingo, outubro 03, 2010
Quem representa esta expressão portuguesa?
Marco Paulo, Toy, Santamaria, Ana Malhoa, Pedro Miguel, Lucas & Matheus, Augusto Canário, Ricardo & Henrique, Suzana e Adriana Lua.
Estou chocado. Música de expressão portuguesa.!!???
Mais importantes do que gostar ou não destas canções convém lembrar que a (esmagadora) maioria das canções que cantam não são mais que plágios descarados de canções popularizadas por cantores da mesma área "estilística" de vários países como a Venezuela, Brasil ou França , geralmente de países com grande comunidade emigrada.E intitulam-se de representantes da música de "expressão portuguesa"??!!
Nã. A maioria destes "artistas" duvido que seja capaz de compôr uma canção.
O País, enfim, deixa-se enganar ou nem questiona isso. Que lhe interessa que a canção seja o Quim ou do Tonho? Já o caso com a SPA (Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores) é mais grave. O seu papel deveria ser o de impedir este tipo de situações e fazer reverter os direitos de autoria e interpretação para os legítimos autores.
Pensarão os respectivos públicos destes vídeos que a música é da autoria de quem a canta? Provávelmente o público alemão achará que é uma canção típica da música de expressão alemã.
Canção de expressão típicamente portuguesa, não é? Expressa sem dúvida a nossa alma lusitana, única e irrepetível na Europa, no fundo a nossa contribuição mais importante para o mosaico cultural da União Europeia. É, não é?
Mas ouçam as seguintes
Ondé que eu já ouvi isto?
Estou a começar a gostar disto.
Aí vai mais um par delas. É a verdadeira queda prá música a deste Carreira...
Conheço isto de algum lado!!
Não. Não dá pra parar agora...Mais um "original"
Não me cheira que tenha sido a Alannis a copiar os miúdos ca da terra.....
Nunca me canso quando estou a divertir-me. Mais uma....
And now for something completely different
De referir que estas autoria estão registadas na SPA
Que se copiem uns aos outros, não é o que me preocupa. Que o público pense que os Tops Mais ou Menos são,cândidamente, o reflexo real dos gostos do público tanto faz.
Mas por favor não me comam (a mim e aos outros que estão atentos) por parvos. O negócio da música, aquele negócio em que roda dinheiro "á séria" é um assunto demasiado importante para ser deixado para... os músicos.
Agora Festival de Música de expressão portuguesa, os....
Aquilo de português não tem nada.
É assim que se aniquilam gerações de autores que nunca chegarão ao Coliseu ou aos números de discos vendidos por esses gajos, que se vai dando cabo da música (verdadeiramente) portuguesa de qualidade e se vai transformando a cultura deste rectângulo este país numa loja dos 300. (por falar nisso continuarei a escrever rectângulo com "c" até ao fim dos meus dias. Qual acordo, qual caraças...)
E agora está a apetecer-me ouvir qualquer coisa de português, qualquer coisa de genuíno, qualquer coisa que vomite por sobre o palco do Coliseu neste triste fim de semana.
Um bem-haja ao blog "O verdadeiro Tony" donde grande parte destes links foram retirados.
sexta-feira, outubro 01, 2010
"I follow the school of thought that says there are basically three phases in Coltrane’s musical life. I would identify his activities from the beginning up to 1961 as one phase. From ‘61 onward to ‘65 or ‘66 there is the period where he was leading his own group, especially what’s now often referred to as the classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. At the end of this phase, there is the transition period where Coltrane’s determination to keep moving forward, finding new possibilities, strained the quartet to the point where Elvin was unhappy with the addition of other drummers and McCoy Tyner probably couldn’t hear himself anymore. These are all matters of public record and I don’t think it’s wrong to talk about them. This transition led to the late period of Coltane’s life which, although you would think that the area that I might be most expert on, it is actually the area that I know least about. That’s partly because it overlaps with my own entry into a full-time relationship with music, attempting to be a professional musician, which, for me, started probably around ‘65, and ’66. There was no clear beginning for me between playing with student bands and then gradually earning some money by doing that and then gradually meeting the players that I thought I wanted to play with. All of this was happening during the last period of Coltrane’s life. At that time, his music from that period was available to us only through recordings. The last tour that Coltrane was supposed to have made of Europe was scheduled for 1966 but it was cancelled. His health was already suffering at that point and that’s probably the reason that last tour was cancelled. So we in Europe never got to hear those late Coltrane performances, the type that were documented during the tour of Japan. It’s hard to imagine what the response would have been in England; but I’m fairly sure that itwould have been pretty hostile. By then, Coltrane’s music was a step too far for many people.
I remember in ‘61, the time that he did come with his own group to England, I think the only time that he did play in England, there was already a division of ‘this is going too far...we liked Milestones, we liked Kind of Blue, we liked those things but this is too much’. And of course Dolphy was in the group. I heard that group play and it was, to me, a revelation. An amazing experience because it was Coltrane in the moment, not Coltrane six months later when the record arrived or a year later when the record arrived. But Coltrane at that point, in 1961. As I say, that to me is a key moment and it was literally one week after the recordings at the Village Vanguard. Originally, there was just one LP of material released from these performances. Over the years, especially since Coltrane’s death, interest in his work has become more and more intense, resulting in bigger and bigger editions. The final version of the Village Vanguards is four whole CDs , including multiple versions of some pieces.
At the time, many people thought Coltrane’s “Chasin’ The Trane,” which was included on the original Village Vanguard LP, was his most radical performance to date because of what was considered its extraordinary length and intensity, and the fact that Coltrane was accompanied by only bass and drums. But, there are other versions of this same idea, a blues played with just bass and drums that goes all the way back to a piece he recorded in 1957 for Traneing In with Paul Chambers called “Bass Blues,” although that’s a more straight ahead tune. Something that took me a while to realize is that “Blues To You” on Coltrane Plays The Blues, which he recorded in 1960, is also a trio blues that basically has the same approach to the structure. The blues was a very natural form for Coltrane, which must have grown out of his work with rhythm and blues bands in the early period of his professional life. Like most musicians looking for a chance to play and earn some money, Coltrane played with various rhythm and blues bands almost as soon as he was discharged from the Navy, where he went to study. That was an approach that my generation of musicians and that a generation before me, took in England, too. There was John Stevens, the drummer, Paul Rutherford, trombone player, Trevor Watts, saxophone player, Chris Pyne, very good trombone player. Some of these people are no longer alive, some are still active, but they all got their musical training by joining the military. In the case of the English guys it was usually the Royal Air Force. Coltrane went to Honolulu with the Navy and was based there. Some of the very earliest recordings of Coltrane playing were made there in 1946, when he was still playing alto. These recordings include performances of “Ko-Ko” and “Now’s The Time,” so it natural that you hear very much the influence of Charlie Parker in his playing. Obviously, Charlie Parker was still alive at that point -- more than still alive, I mean, he’s right in the middle of his musical life. When he got back from Honolulu, Coltrane started to do these rhythm and blues bands and that must be where he developed that profound relationship with the structure called the blues, the 12 bar form, which is stretched very far in “Chasin’ the Trane.” It’s a collision between a very simple form, or the integration of a very simple form, with a very sophisticated saxophone technique.
I will now risk digressing, first by talking about the slave trade. There’s a book – The slave trade : the story of the Atlantic slave trade, 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas – where I found this: “By 1730 we find 6,000 slaves in North Carolina.” That’s where Coltrane was born.”Though most of them were probably not shipped, but carried in as a result of purchase in Virginia. The colonists mostly paid by barter.” The colony complained since it had no direct deliveries from Africa. Here’s a quote from a local politician of the time “they received the refuse, the refractory and distempered Negroes, bought from other governments, other states.’’ This is one of many 18th and 19th Century documents collected by an American academic, Elizabeth Donnan, which are now housed at Yale University. I’m not even sure what the words “refuse,” “refractory” and “distempered” exactly mean in this context, but I guess it means they were hard to handle, they weren’t wanted in Virginia, and so they were sold in North Carolina. It’s very interesting to think of Coltrane as being a descendent of these slaves.
Some more quotes: “After changes in the tax laws concerning shipping slaves, Bristol entered the trade as a port in 1712. Between then and 1807, more than 2,000 separate slave trade voyages were made out of Bristol.” That’s particularly interesting to me since I was born in Bristol, England. Here’s another: “Lisbon is a center for Portuguese dealings with Africa in general and the slave trade in particular.” This will be better known to you than to me. But in that same book I was astonished to discover that at least 100,000 slaves were removed from Africa already in the 15th and 16th centuries. We’re talking about history that ties us all together in ways that we sometimes try to forget, but I think it doesn’t do any good to forget. The great work that Mandela is doing at the moment is based on ideas of truth and reconciliation; we’ll come back to that a little later on. There’s another quote: “African Muslim slaves were more difficult to control, for, as the Brazilians found in the 1830’s, in particular, some of them were at least as cultivated as their masters and capable of mounting formidable rebellions.”
This reminded me of the question that Frank Kofsky, a Marxist critic who did one of the best interviews with Coltrane, in my opinion, asked Coltrane about Malcolm X. “Were you impressed by him?”, Kofsky asked him. Coltrane said “Quite impressed.” Now talking from my own position, I heard Malcolm X speak in Birmingham University in England I think it was in the summer of 1964. By that time he was no longer connected with Elijah Mohammed and was an independent force in Black politics in America. He was actively concerned with the development of a Pan-African social and political sensibility. Everything he said made perfect sense to me. He was not a man of violence, as he was often portrayed, but a speaker of awkward and unwelcome truth. I found out also that when Kofsky was a student at Berkley University, he asked Coltrane to play a concert to raise money for an organization for improving the situation for Black students in the University system there. Coltrane was agreeable to that idea but the University then forbade the organization to exist. This is as recently as 1961, so it’s important to remember and to keep our eye on what people are telling us we can’t have today. Two million people on the streets of London saying they didn’t want a war, but one man and his friend in America decided it was a good idea, and now we have to live with the consequences of that for the rest of our lives. Coltrane spoke to the Vietnam War in the same interview: “This music is an expression of higher ideals to me, so therefore, brotherhood is there. I believe with brotherhood there would be no poverty, and with brotherhood there would be no war.” So Coltrane is no longer a jobbing musician at this point, he’s feeling the weight of responsibility that comes with his position, his new position as being considered one of the leading voices in the music and he’s using that situation to speak up.
The weight of responsibility Coltrane felt in large part stemmed from his sprituality, which was awakened after Miles Davis sacked him because he was drunk and drug addicted and unreliable. For Coltrane, being fired by Davis must have come as a very profound shock, as well as he was playing, because he always played very well. But clearly he felt something had to be done about this and so the famous story of him going to a room in his auntie’s house and shutting the door and staying there until he had broken his addiction to heroin. I suppose that’s what he’s referring to when he said: “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.” At this point Coltrane was clearly moving towards a sense of his own destiny and perhaps even a sub-conscience intimation that his life would not be a long one. An urgent sense of purpose begins to motivate all of his playing. And I think at this point we also hear that he’s moving away from the conventions of the day.
During that first period, up to ‘61, Coltrane’s approach to improvisation was mostly playing over predetermined chord sequences. So you could characterize that music as problem-solving. The improvisation was constrained by a particular series of note choices which would fit; some things would fit, some things wouldn’t fit. Coltrane was always looking for new elements in that language – how to play over harmonic sequences and how to add to what’s already there, a whole system of superimposing chord on chord. But again, it’s all basically problem solving, which reaches its highest point of development with the “Giant Steps” type of approach, where the complexity of the chord sequence is such that, if the chords are going to be marked clearly in the course of the improvisation then there’s very little freedom to move. If you compare the various takes of “Giant Steps” you’ll hear the same patterns recurring at the same points in each chorus and even recordings of the tune which are done more or less a year apart you’ll hear those same patterns. So although the precise nature of the solo is improvised, it’s based on a very well studied set of materials, and memorized. As far as I know there are no live versions of Coltrane playing “Giant Steps.” “Giant Steps” epitomizes the idea of etude and the idea of studio. These were etudes for the studio.
I think that there’s a very clear sense that he’s gone as far as he can possibly go in that direction towards the end of the period of his recording for Atlantic. This was a period where Coltrane was effectively a leader, but before he could go out on the road with his own band. Recording for Atlantic, he could function as a bandleader, hire musicians of his choice, play his tunes, choose material when they played standards, and used his altered versions of the chord sequences, especially using that formula, the “Giant Steps” formula in the place of other standard harmonic formulas. I think that there’s a very clear sense that he had gone as far as he could possibly go in that direction because the sense of improvisation is canceled by the complex nature of the problems within which the improvisation has to take place, namely the chord sequences, those chord sequences.
For me maybe the final statement on the Atlantic period is the B side of My Favorite Things, the LP, where he plays “But Not For Me” and “Summertime” and there’s a looseness; he’s still using that “Giant Steps” formula for substitute chord elements, but with a looseness, a degree of working informality almost, and it’s working toward the next phase. So there’s never any clear, sharp lines in Coltrane’s development. If I seem to give you the feeling that I think there are hard markers in this story, I don’t. It’s one continuous story and we’re backtracking; the way time works, the way memory works, the way we think of the future, the way we remember the past. All of that is there and it is decipherable in the music if you listen and if it means enough to you and if you get taken by the story that Coltrane’s whole life has to tell, then you will gradually learn to interpret anticipations, repetition, moments where he’s seeing ahead, moments where he’s thinking backwards – all of that is moving along a timeline dynamically and that timeline itself is very short. From the point of view of a 62-year-old man – I’m already 20 years older than Coltrane was when he died – I can’t imagine how somebody could fit so much into such a short space of time.
But there does seem to be a sense of, which I referred to before, a sense of how long you’ve got. If you think about musicians like Clifford Brown or Booker Little or Scott La Faro, all of these people died absolutely tragically young - but somehow they did enough in the time that they had, so that we still talk about them and still revere what they did. I believe the same thing is true of Dolphy and Coltrane – that they were aware of, at some level, of the time that they had available to them. So, the last record for Atlantic was Olé with the quartet plus Eric Dolphy – who is called George Lane for presumably contractual reasons. There’s a great record shop in London called Ray’s and for many years there was a postcard on the wall and it said “Why George Lane?” Previously, Charlie Parker had called himself Charlie Chan and Art Pepper called himself Art Salt and so on. So, usually there was a way of figuring out who it really was. Everyone who listened to Olé knew it was really Eric Dolphy but nobody could work out why George Lane? That record is, in a way - could equally well have been the first Impulse record. It’s quite different from all the other Atlantic recordings for me.
Olé is already moving towards the feeling of some of the tracks from the Village Vanguard, with Dolphy there, two bass players. But, something more important is happening. The emphasis on improvisation as problem solving is being left behind, and Coltrane is moving toward the use of improvisation as a test – the testing of the predetermined structures to their limit, to their destruction. It is a dialogue between the activity of improvisation and the structure upon which the improvisation was nominally based. That really characterizes the shift in Coltrane’s music for me at that point, more than anything to do with sheets of sound. Somebody asked me about sheets of sound yesterday and as far as I understand, that was a very specific period, probably best documented on the early recordings with Miles and his own recordings for Prestige. It was a particular phase that he was working on, especially with this stacking of chords on chords, so you ended up with very long arpeggio forms, and very hard to fit into regular 8th note groupings. When you see Andrew White’s transcriptions of these things – long brackets over groups of 7, 11 notes, 15 notes – it’s very hard to notate because he’s not really thinking in terms of 8th notes in that way but just “How can I fit all these notes into this bar before the next downbeat?” And that really only occupied him for a certain period. By the time you get post 1961, you’re really not dealing with “sheets of sound”, in that sense, anymore.
I said already that Coltrane came to Europe for the first time in 1961, a week after the Village Vanguard recordings. The tour began in England and continued in continental Europe until December the 2nd. Music from this tour gradually became available because the concerts were not officially recorded. Coltrane had recently signed with Impulse and they made no provision to record the European tour. The playing is of an amazingly consistent high standard, which I think is connected with a mouthpiece issue. I’ll come back to that. At first there were only unauthorized recordings with plain white sleeves, unmarked labels and various titles from a P. O. Box in Sweden There may be a couple of you who remember Live At Mt. Meru, Volumes 1-5. I was such a stickler for correct behavior that I refused to buy them because they were, in effect, stolen material at that point. But gradually people would say “you’ve got to hear this, you’ve got to hear that,” especially a version of “Bye, Bye Blackbird” on the one that had a yellow label, which is just amazing. But fortunately now, most of that stuff is available officially on a Pablo box set of the European tour. The playing from the ‘61 tour is of a consistently high level even by Coltrane’s standard of creativity. Frank Kofsky asked him about what happened after the Village Vanguard, because Coltrane made a record of ballads, a record with Johnny Hartman, the singer, a record with Duke Ellington, all of which were considered to be less adventurous than this marker that was set by Africa/Brass and then especially with the Village Vanguard recordings, the first two records for Impulse. Kofsky was always looking to blame capitalism, so he basically asked if the record company was making him do this. But Coltrane said in effect, “No, no, it’s more complicated than that. I had a very nice mouthpiece and I ruined it.”
This going to get a little nerdy now for non-saxophone players but we’re famous for talking about reeds and mouthpieces. Coltrane used a metal Otto Link mouthpiece. That’s a brand of mouthpiece, most of the time from 1961 onwards but there’s an ebonite (hard rubber) mouthpiece on the cover of the Impulse studio recording The John Coltrane Quartet Plays with “Brasilia.” A mouthpiece has many potential variables: the facing, the surface, on which the reed is fixed with a holding device called a ligature. It’s made to a fairly standard set of dimensions in order that the reeds may also be made to standard measurements. All other dimensions are potentially variable. The tip opening, how much material in the body of the mouthpiece, the width of the rails – the sides of the mouthpiece on the inside we call the rails. The length of the curvature from the tip opening to the facing, so that can be over a long curve or or short curve, also called the spring, affects the reed behavior. The internal shape and dimensions of the so-called tone chamber, which may be with or without a baffle. A baffle is something about the shape of the roof of the tone chamber. All manner of adjustments may be made to standard mouthpieces in order to change their playing characteristics. I’ve been told that Coltrane relied on Frank Wells, a craftsman man working in the Saxophone Shop in Evanston, north of Chicago. Coltrane may have also worked on his mouthpieces himself. Dolphy was known to work on his. So, it’s possible that Coltrane worked on his, but he speaks in the interview of having work done. By filing and sanding the different parts according to personal formula, it’s possible to adjust the way they sound and feel to play. This tradition is full of trade secrets and practices that may, in part, be mutually canceling. It’s possible, for example, to increase the tip opening so that the reed has to vibrate across a wider arc making it physically harder to blow. But then to make the tone chamber smaller by adding a baffle inside, making it easier to blow. This approach is often taken in the adjustment of any mouthpiece, which would otherwise have little in the way of baffle. I can’t be sure that that’s the way Coltrane’s adjustments were designed but it’s possible. It’s certainly true of a lot of people I know that played metal Link mouthpieces. They adjusted them in this way to make them a bit more open, then they changed the tone chamber inside to make it more edgy and bright, so it also makes it easier to blow. So it’s like you’re looking to get the maximum variability for what the reed can do and especially to get good, solid, centered bright sound. Certain musicians are known for their obsessive relationship with this work. Time and again a mouthpiece is gradually improved by a sequence of small adjustments until finally so much material has been removed that the tip of the mouthpiece breaks off. And I think the way my talk is advertised in the poster gives the impression that I’m talking about Coltrane playing on a broken mouthpiece. That is not what I’m saying. I’m saying he made adjustments. It was very interesting. Later, he made too many adjustments and the mouthpiece broke but that’s not interesting. The broken mouthpiece is not interesting. The adjusted mouthpiece is interesting. The late Dick Heckstall-Smith, maybe some of you know him from Colosseum or as a kind of rhythm and blues player, was in search of the perfect mouthpiece all his life, and destroyed many Berg Larsen stainless steel, so-called “duckbill mouthpieces” – the model used by his hero, Wardell Gray, and this process is a kind of Holy Grail, that you never arrive, you never quite get there. Usually something happens and the mouthpiece breaks because you’ve made it so thin. But last weekend, talking to bass clarinet specialist Rudi Mahall, I discovered that he too is involved with such a quest. Not only does he play a very open mouthpiece but he also uses a very hard reed. This is the mythic combination – very rare. It is what they always say people do but most people don’t; they usually do one thing or the other. If it’s a hard reed, its a close mouthpiece; it it’s an open mouthpiece, it’s a soft reed. But there are a few characters who can play hard reeds on big, open mouthpieces and Rudi Mahall is one of them. So, the laws of physics mean that if the reed is stiffer, harder in the jargon, then it will take more air to make it vibrate. Beyond a certain stiffness, it will simply not be possible to blow hard enough, then, with pressure from the jaw, it would be necessary to close the tip opening, the effective tip opening, to a smaller gap where the air column can sustain the vibration. I don’t know if this is like hieroglyphics to you or if it’s put in a way that means something, but it’s not going to go on for much longer. Some players like that feeling – they like the feeling of pressure, so that, effectively, they’re closing the mouthpiece down. They have to do that before the reed can vibrate across the gap. Again, I’ve got no way of knowing for sure about Coltrane, but at least I have outlined the variables. Some players like this feeling; in Rudi’s case it produces the loudest volume from the bass clarinet that I’ve ever heard. But there are some tradeoffs – he’s loosing subtlety at the bottom end and certain kinds of dynamic control. I myself use as little jaw pressure as possible now, so that the reed has to vibrate across the full width of the tip opening and I use softer reeds as a consequence. Steve Lacy took this approach to an extreme, using the biggest possible opening, and the softest reed, a custom-finished ebonite Link with a tip opening of around 11 or 12 , so he had it opened up really big but then played an extremely soft reed. A Number 1 Marca cane reed softened down to almost less than a 1. I’ve seen Steve sand on a a Number 1 reed. Very unusual. I’m not sure but I presume he used a fairly relaxed embrochure.
It was Steve Lacy who famously introduced Coltrane to the soprano saxophone and by doing so led to a revival of its fortunes. I’m sure that neither Kenny G nor Evan Parker would be playing soprano were it not for that fact. However, an interesting, additional fact is that I heard Sidney Bechet play soprano in Brussels, at the Expo in 1958. That was the first time I’d ever been outside of England. And I also heard Xenakis’ electronic music for the Philips Pavilion I leave it to you to work out quite what effect that combination of inflences may have had!
Some philosophy: This is from Lewis Mumford’s The Myth of the Machine. “Man has formed a curiously distorted picture of himself by interpreting his early history in terms of his present interests in making machines and conquering nature. Ritual and language and social organizations were probably man’s most important artifacts. To give form to the human self using only tools that could be constructed out of the resources provided by his own body” Ah, Dreams! Images! And sounds!
This is from a poet, a Scottish poet called Kenneth White, from the Atlantic edge, the other side of the Atlantic edge: “What we’re after is a world of expanded intelligence expressed with poetic force and clarity.” Coltrane said to Valerie Wilmer in 1961. “All a musician can do is get closer to the sources of nature and so feel that he is in communion with the natural world.” Coltrane’s language is very elegant. I find that sentiment most touching. “Life is whatever you make it, the traveler is the journey, what we see is not what we see but who we are.” You know who wrote that? It’s translated from Portuguese into English. That’s Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet. Don Cherry used to say to his kids “We’re there already,” when they would ask him “When are we going to get there?” We’re there already. And thanks, Don. I played with Don at the Baden Baden New Jazz Meeting in 1968 and never again after that, what a shame. We got on very well. He soon realized that I was very interested in Coltrane and said, “I have some stuff for you; I’ll give it to you before I go.” So I assumed that these were practice notes, materials, patterns to practice on. The day I said good-bye to Don I said “You got the stuff?” And he said, “What stuff?” I said, “The Coltrane stuff.” He said “Oh, no, sorry, I forgot.” And he fished in his bag and gave me an unpublished Ornette Coleman piece. Which was very nice, you know, but I wanted the Coltrane stuff. .
Well, for your homework students, please go home and listen to “Chasin’ The Trane” from beginning to end. I think you can hear the tension between the structure and the tempo, elements are required to hold each chorus together, and the elements which are really being stretched, for this, I think at the time was an amazing revelation that Coltrane would use this approach, and I think it was even a surprise to him because Kofsky asked him, “Did you ever listen to that record again?” And he said, “Well, I did, only at the time it came out, I used to listen to it and wonder what happened to me.” “What do you mean?” “Well, it’s a sort of surprising thing to hear this back because, I don’t know, it came back another way. It was a little longer than I thought it was and it had a fairly good amount of intensity in it, which I hadn’t quite gotten into a recording before.” Fairly good intensity … I think that’s quite an understatement, especially if, you know, you can put that into context back then, when it was issued.
I’d like to go to the third period which I would say started ’65-‘66 - the important marker would be when Coltrane’s contract with Impulse came up for renewal. There was a period where it seemed like he wasn’t going to renew with Impulse - that he was going to make his own label. And in fact he issued one record himself, the first version of the record called Cosmic Music. There are aspects to that that I would like to talk about. First of all, the cover was Coltrane’s design so, of course, it was not a very slick looking record. We didn’t have Photoshop and all of that in those days so it was pretty funky kind of graphics – a handmade look and design. But the important thing to me was what the design was trying to convey. You had a photograph of Coltrane paying homage to the victims of Hiroshima on the back, a memorial to Hiroshima. So, that speaks enormous volumes about Coltrane’s distance from American official behavior in the world. We want to try and make an analysis of the postwar period, all of that, how that war was brought to an end, but I think there are certainly good reasons to think that it was absolutely unnecessary for those bombs to be dropped. The war was won at that point and the bombs were dropped because it was a good time to test such a thing. It’s an awful thing to think, but that seems to be not an exaggerated interpretation of the history. Coltrane clearly felt the need to make this public prayer for peace. It is clearly important to him because he ties that photograph to his first record for his own label. The other elements, which are very important, very significant, are the elements associated with the major religions – from the Crescent of Islam to the Star of David, the Cross and so on. He is speaking about the need for religious leaders to deal with the realities of where we are at this point. If there’s one God, and they’re all saying there’s one God, but they all think, as Bob Dylan put it “God’s on their side.” I don’t think Coltrane had that naive view of religion. He was interested in what can we do next? Which he believed in some general way, that life on this Earth, has meaning, has purpose. How can we encourage our so-called leaders to behave more responsibly? It seems the very worse people are the ones that decide to be politicians or decide to be religious leaders. Until the people distance themselves from this stupidity – as I said before – 2 million people on the streets of London saying “This war is absurd,” but one man could take the country to war. It’s wrong. And that one man can still be in power. It’s wrong but there’s no mechanism to get rid of him. OK. That’s rather heavy.
Let’s talk more at the level of the practical affairs of a musician – Coltrane saying, “I want certain things.” He was also saying, I want to be able to help younger musicians. He had already established relationships with the players on Ascension like Pharoah Sanders, but he wanted to do more. And he wanted to have the record company support them. And in the end Impulse did agree to a series of Coltrane Presents kind of thing, and they did, I think, just the one record, Archie Shepp’s Four for Trane. As far as I know that was the end; of course by that time you’re coming close to the end of Coltrane’s life. I think if he’d lived longer he would have carried on further in that direction. He also talked about the limitations of playing in nightclubs. That made me think about the Village Vanguard, which is a nightclub, and some of the other, most fantastic music that they made, the Classic Quartet, was in the Half Note. I don’t know if you know those recordings? but some of them have been officially issued now as One Up, One Down. They’ve been floating around as pirate, bootleg recordings for a long time. But the Half Note must have been an even smaller club than the Village Vanguard. And then you think about, for example, the Bill Evans trio with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian at the Village Vanguard, again. All of this music made against the sound of people rattling their ice in their glasses, to cite Mingus, or chatting among themselves, you know. Cash register: ping, ping, ping. But somehow these places are OK for the music, the music survives and even thrives. I don’t know what you made of that film, ‘Round Midnight, where Dexter Gordon plays an amalgam of Bud Powell and Lester Young – I would rather have seen a film about Dexter Gordon, personally – but, that strange idea that the club is a struggle and what the musicians really want is to play for a football stadium full of people and bright lights - I think that’s wrong. That film seems to suggest that all these guys really needed was bigger venues and audiences. I think the very best music Coltrane made was in small clubs. And Coltrane I think would have come up against some interesting struggles with Impulse if he’d lived longer. I’m sure that they would have been pressing him to make some changes. The way he was taking the music was definitely away from commercial attitudes.
There’s just a thing about Ascension I would like to mention. I wonder if the title has as much to do with athe small island in the Atlantic between Africa and South America as was with the Biblical connotation? There was a slave ship called Ascension, one of 32 slave ships that left Newport, Rhode Island for Africa in 1794. That puts the Newport Jazz Festival in a bigger context than its founders envisioned. Charles Mingus, a man in touch with his emotions if ever there was one, may have had this in mind when he organized the Newport Rebels. Coltrane, in the last period of his life, expressed the simple desire to be a force for good. His profound interest in astrology and the roots of religion connect in my mind with the scientist-philosopher Charles Arthur Muses I made some photocopies of diagrams you might find interesting. As a young man Muses set out to debunk astrology as being nothing more than superstition. However, his research led him to the opposite conclusion. That’s quite interesting, you know, the French scientist Michel Gauquelin made a big analysis of the birth records of French citizens – thousands and thousands of cases analyzed and found that there were patterns there which justified some of the basic assumptions of astrology – that there are forces at work, holding this universe together; things are much more complicated than we know. It seems that, in previous ages, there was much more understanding of those things. More respect for astrology. I don’t know quite where I stand on it – it’s not as though I’m an astrologer and I don’t go to an astrologer and I don’t know much about astrology. What I do have is respect for the complexity of things, and for me the universe is held together by a sequence of miracles, and if you know the idea of fractals, fractal relationships, then there are miracles at every level of fractality from what keeps this table here to what keeps this planet in relation. To the Sun. All of these things and the forces at work to create and maintain them are miraculous – everything is alive. And I think Coltrane’s music was tapping into that kind of sensibility, a universal sensibility with emphasis on brotherhood and religion, on spiritual development. And on doing your best – “I want to be a force for good.”, he said. This is very simple language but it says everything.
Muses also made a big study of shamanism. The same scientist, very interesting man. In one paper he talks about shamanism as the “root religion” and traces back all of the established religions we now think of as being the prominent religions in the world, all have their origins in a past where the understanding of cosmic relationships was much higher in their development. Especially in Egypt, but going back before that- the whole relationship between Egyptian culture and African culture. The things that the Dogon people in Africa knew – planetary relationships, especially with the idea that Sirius was a binary star and all of that, these things are impossible to explain except by some previous period in human history on this planet- as having had knowledge – access to knowledge which we have lost. And where it seems to be best preserved is in the cultures that we treat with the most awful disrespect: the Aborigine cultures of Australia, the Native American cultures, the South American Indian cultures, African traditional cultures, the Siberian, the Inuit, all these people know stuff that we don’t know. And they’ve been telling us about it for hundreds of years but we’ve been ignoring that. I think maybe I’m now starting to rant with messianic zeal.
The major documented material on this so far is the chart of 12 tones related to the Zodiac, a copy of which he gave to Yusef Lateef and which is reproduced in his book of scales and patterns. But there are many other fragments of Coltrane’s notes and titles where Coltrane attempts to relate musical and astrological concepts. I think we deserve better in terms of documentation than we’ve got somehow. I’m not an academic and I don’t have the time to work on this . The existing fragments used to decorate CD covers simply do not do justice to the profundity of the man and his work.
I’d just like to finish by saying Coltrane’s music and life remain an inspiration for good. "
Retirado de http://www.pointofdeparture.org
quinta-feira, setembro 30, 2010
Um conceptualista da improvisação e um discípulo incondicional de Bechet e Monk, Lacy ficou com o seu nome ligado á estória do Jazz em Portugal já que foi dele a primeira gravação de Jazz ao vivo em Portugal: o disco Estilhaços, gravado em 1972 por altura do 6º aniversário do programa "cinco minutos de Jazz" de José Duarte e produzido por Manuel Jorge Veloso.
Conheci-o no club "Sunset" em Paris aquando da festa/concerto/jam session que organizou para celebrar a sua mudança de Paris para Berlim, onde viveu, creio eu, até á sua morte. Foi de uma simpatia inesperada para comigo. Falamos de Villas Boas - que conheceu muito bem e de quem tinha muitas saudades, do Hot e de Portugal.
Nessa noite tocou com John Betsch (bateria) e o fabuloso Jean-Jacques Avenel, um dos contrabaixista mais melódicos e com um dos sons mais incríveis de contrabaixo que já ouvi, apesar de ser o tipo de som precisamente oposto ao que costumo gostar. Mais tarde na noite chegou o seu parceiro inseparável, Steve Potts. A música deste saxofonista sempre me deixou sentimentos ambivalentes desde a primeira vez que o vi ao vivo em 1977 (Chateauvallon). Confesso que a única vez que realmente gostei de o ouvir foi num dos programas "Jazz a preto e branco" produzidos por José Duarte, gravação essa da qual esta é a única referência que encontrei. Lacy e Potts a capella, e foi muito bom. Bem que gostava de ter o audio deste programa. Se a gravação andar pelos vossos lados, avisem por favor.
Obrigatório (para os que estudam estas coisas da improvisação) o livro de Lacy "Findings: My experience with the soprano saxophone"
"We don't determine music,
The music determines us;
We only follow it
To the end of our life:
Then it goes on without us."
sexta-feira, setembro 24, 2010
Dos discos de Chick Corea que mais gosto, para além do fabuloso "Now he Sings now he Sobs" , "Three Quartets" ocupa um lugar muito especial. Comprei o disco (vinil, claro) pouco tempo depois do seu lançamento e talvez já seja dificilmente imaginável quanto moderna a música soava em 1978 ou 79.
Estas composições, agora que as acabei de ouvir (tocada ao vivo no Blue Note provavelmente em 2001) provam a qualidade do seu ADN musical e o potencial de modernidade e recriação que encerram.
Calculo que um público um pouco mais jovem possa considerar esta sonoridade um pouco passada, demodé, gone, not-hip. De resto o Brecker, não está nada na moda, pois não? Agora, neste Outono-Inverno usam-se tons mais escuros. Mas...don't worry. O mundo roda em espiral e não tarda nada, estaremos a passar por aqui again ...and again... and again...
Num próximo post colocarei a 2ª encarnação deste grupo "Three Quartets" com Bob Berg no sax.
quinta-feira, setembro 23, 2010
terça-feira, setembro 14, 2010
domingo, setembro 12, 2010
quinta-feira, setembro 02, 2010
sábado, agosto 28, 2010
No "Jazz em Agosto 2010" o Electro-Acoustic Ensemble de Evan Parker.
EVAN PARKER (saxofone soprano)
PETER EVANS (trompete, trompete piccolo)
KO ISHIKAWA (shô)
NED ROTHENBERG (clarinete, clarinete baixo, flauta shakuhachi)
PHILIPP WACHSMANN (violino, electrónica)
AGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ (piano, piano preparado)
BARRY GUY (contrabaixo)
PAUL LYTTON (percussão, electrónica)
JOHN RUSSELL (guitarra acústica)
PETER VAN BERGEN (clarinetes contrabaixo e piccolo)
ALEKS KOLKOWSKI (stroh viola, musical saw)
LAWRENCE CASSERLEY (processamento sinal)
JOEL RYAN (sample, processamento sinal)
WALTER PRATI (processamento sinal)
RICHARD BARRETT (electrónica)
PAUL OBERMAYER (electrónica)
IKUE MORI (electrónica)
MARCO VECCHI (projecção som)
KJELL BJØRGEENGEN (projecção imagem)
Aqui os primeiros 60 minutos
quinta-feira, agosto 26, 2010
Mais recursos sobre Bill Evans:
"I played for all the wrong reasons. I played to impress and to manipulate. I played to create self-esteem where there was none. I lived and died by my last solo. These reasons still exist in some part of me today, for the old self doesn't die easily, and I need love and approval as much as the next person.
But today something more sustains me: I play to love and nurture myself, to discover my higher self. I celebrate life when I play, often thinking while the music is going on, that all thanks goes to the spirit that makes this possible. I'm so glad to be one of the ones chosen to carry this message.
Recently, I've become more and more aware of the true purpose of the music and the people who play it: to heal and unite the planet. Music is one of the most tangible manifestations of spirit today. And in a technological world driven by intellect and ego, spirit is a hard thing to comprehend.
At concerts I see people who have come to be entertained and who leave just a little enlightened. It is the widening of the eyes in wonder, the melting of the heart, and the opening of the soul that is the true purpose of the musician. But to be this kind of vehicle, the person playing the music must put his own house in order. He must prepare by emptying himself of personal goals and self will so that the music may fill him and spill out of him again. To be able to let whatever wants to come out to do so -- that's the thing. (You see, such spiritualism is possible, even for an American on a straight salt-and-sugar diet.)
It is a simple path for complicated people. The piano is a mirror that reflects the temperament and spiritual condition of the player. If one witholds love and approval from oneself, then the piano is an unforgiving, complicated machine with too many choices and no owner's manual. The player feels a wave of anxiety just by approaching this instrument. If you could watch him making his approach without the piano in view, you wouldn't know whether he was about to play music or defuse a bomb; the look would be similar.
But when Horowitz plays the instrument and the camera shows him from the shoulders up, he looks like a kindly old man waiting for a bus.
The fact is that if music is approached with commitment to effortlessness over excellence, it is possible through the years to develop an ease that is truly marvelous. I like to say that I have more trouble tying my shoes than making music, and the piano chair (I gave up that bench business a long time ago: too much effort to sit up straight) is the most comfortable chair in the house.
I can remember when this was not so. I would contort my face and body and do any damage that was necessary to squeeze some little extra juice out of the music. Had I not met two people, Madame Chaloff and João Assis Brasil, I would have continued down that destructive road.
Madame Chaloff was a legend among music students in Boston. She was supposed to have taught Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock and other luminaries at one time or another. But what she was mainly revered for was some secret mystical approach to playing the piano. I went to Madame Chaloff, a woman in her 80's with the demeanor of an angel. Her golden hair had a halo quality, but I've always been susceptible to those kinds of visions. "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" were two of my favorite movies. But, as all who knew her agree, she was one God-inspired lady.
Until I met Madame, I thought you pushed the music out by the sweat of your brow. I thought that if you didn't practice at least two to seven hours a day, you weren't accomplishing anything. This belief was a major problem for me: I had problems practicing two to seven minutes a day. Music was a burden. And in Boston, where I was studying, the popular saying was, "I gotta take a semester off and get my head together!" The implication was that there was so much material to absorb that one needed to isolate oneself completely and do nothing but woodshed! Of all the material being taught, very little was actually showing up in anyone's playing. Of personal musical expression, there was none at all. But when I heard Madame Chaloff speak of "the secret of playing music" and how it centered around learning to play just one note correctly, I was greatly intrigued. Being basically a lazy person with no discipline whatsoever. I was hearing what sounded a lot more realistic than those hours and hours of practice. But it turned out to be much more difficult (or simple, perhaps?) than I had thought. Her concept of playing a note correctly was to "defy gravity," as she put it. This was to be done with complete effortlessness. The concept baffled me. It made perfect sense in light of her presence, but as soon as I got back to my room, I scratched my head and wondered what had really just taken place.
At the time I met Madame Chaloff, I was hardly ready to surrender to the meditative study of one note. It just seemed beyond me. We worked together for six months and I couldn't get it. Also, Madame was coming from such a high place that she didn't take into account all my neuroses, the head trips that got in the way of effortless concentration.
But this lady was definitely a prophet, a mystic, and a forebearer of my goals in music. Even though I missed the message of Madame Chaloff, it seems the powers that be wanted me to get this thing because they sent not one, but two guides to help. That was pretty amazing when you consider that her point of view is so rare.
A year after my experience with Madame, I had the good fortune to play in Brazil, where I met my second guide, Juao Assis Brasil, brother of the great saxophonist Victor Assis Brasil. He had been a concert pianist. His story was that he was really showing promise as he toured through Europe entering piano competitions when, suddenly, he had a nervous breakdown. Over-achievement (eight hours a day of practicing) had finally taken its toll. They sent him back to Brazil, where he lived with his parents and recuperated. He was in therapy five days a week and was practicing from scratch, just trying to do five minutes at a time of "effortless non-goal-oriented playing" (a phrase that rolls off the lips rather nicely). He had a little exercise: a teacher in Vienna had showed him how to relax completely his arms and fingers and just drop the fingers onto the keyboard, one through five. He talked of effortless piano, but his head wasn't in the clouds, as Madame's was. Because of his own pain, he could relate to mine; he knew that the torture of piano neurosis is mentally damaging and, if not dealt with, physically also. I have since come to believe that it is also the result of a spiritual malady. He was well versed in the ways a person could beat on himself trying to make music. He knew the obsession involved.
One day we were listening to Horowitz play on record. Juao was sitting there conducting in the air and enjoying himself. I was sitting with eyebrows furrowed, obsessively biting my fingernails as I suffered over Horowitz's greatness. I was thinking. Yeah, wow, that's great playing. I feel horrible. I'll never play like that. But wait. If I start practicing now, five hours a day maybe, by the time I'm X years old I'll be able to --- Juao must have been reading my mind, or I was probably much more transparent than I thought, but just at the right moment he startled me by putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, "kind to yourself. Enjoy the music." This was nothing short of a revelation. I instantly relaxed my whole body, which I had been unaware was tense in the first place. I've since realized that I had trouble listening to good music because it hurt so much. Oh, I could listen to the immortals and hang with that OK, but when a contemporary of mine really sounded good, man, that was hard to take. That sense of comparison had blocked me from much beauty. It took me years to detoxify myself of the belief that I had to be the greatest pianist in the world or nothing at all. You really have to avoid listening to a lot of music to believe this fairy tale about yourself.
Juao told me that after his breakdown he had to use the words "be kind to yourself" many times each day. Sometimes, in a fit of expectation, he would have to retreat into the bathroom and with clenched lips repeat to himself over and over, "I must be kind to myself, I must be kind to myself."
At the time I met him he had been practicing this philosophy and the five-finger relaxation exercises for a couple of years. He was able to take it easy on himself mentally while practicing with grace at the piano, and it all blended beautifully. What I observed was a loving, comfortable, and productive person who could now practice for ten hours with more ease than I could for fifteen minutes. He told me that if I practiced five minutes a day of effortless concentration, those five minutes would become ten; ten would become twenty, etc., until I could practice as long as I wanted. This was another revelation. Also, at times, it was hard for me
to believe it. But I realized that my life was dysfunctional because I expected so much from myself. These five minutes a day could reprogram me to focus on whatever I was doing and not about the overall result. I had thought that I was on some sort of timetable that was crucial to my success. But this concept contradicted that.
He had me try an experiment that would convince me once and for all that this was the path for me. He told me not to play anything but the five-finger exercise for no more than five minutes at a time. The exercise, which I have since shown to many people, requires just sitting at the piano, unloading all the excess baggage that you're carrying, and dropping each finger onto the keys. (I have described the exercise in greater detail in my last article for "Organica"). But he wanted me to do this for two weeks. I thought he was insane. Sit at the piano for only five minutes and then walk away? I had to prove my pianisthood every time I sat down. I had to convince everyone of my worth. But he was telling me to release the whole game and relax my mind and body and just sink into the key. I was sure I was going to lose my chops and forget everything. But because it was his home I was living in and because I was greatly influenced by him, I decided to give it a try. It was an uncomfortable feeling, on the one hand, because I felt I was doing nothing at all. But, on the other hand, I had never succeeded at fulfilling any other teacher's practicing requirements.
I finally broke down and played at a party of some friends. When I got there I had no idea what I would sound like, since I had done next to nothing (or so I thought) for five days. Then the miracle happened. My playing had gone through a complete metamorphosis. My sound was totally different, something like Bill Evans' touch. My lines sounded fresh and tasty and very economical. My chords were either completely changed, or they just sounded that way. There was a balance and control in my playing that I seemed to little to do with. It was as if I had swallowed some magic pill that transformed me into perfection. And the tape confirmed it. Right then and there I became a believer and disciple. It's been about fifteen years since that experience and as I continue on that simple path, the freedom and joy continue to grow, and to flow through my life, widening my view of life itself.
As the years have passed, the concept has changed to reflect my experience with it. Now it goes something like this: I am an empty vehicle, ready to be loaded with music which I let flow through me unobstructed so that it may reach its intended parties. The joy I receive more than compensates for the apparent loss of control. I try to stay in a state of gratitude. This I do quite imperfectly, but I try nonetheless, because in that state, the responsibility to play great falls not on me but on God. And just who is God? For me, God is the groove, the wind at my back, the life energy that envelops me and nurtures me if will simply fall into it. Although it's just an earth groove, I can tense it up and shake it off, or I can kick back and let it flow.
What could be easier for a lazy guy like me?"
quarta-feira, agosto 25, 2010
terça-feira, agosto 24, 2010
"To a Young Jazz Musician"
de Wynton Marsalis e Selwyn Seyfu Hinds
The Humble Self
Today would have been a good day for you to hang with us. We just pulled into Maine for a performance. Did the usual bit: check in at the hotel, head to the venue for sound check, back to the hotel to change for the show. Oh, and look for lobster. I also had a chance to talk to some kids about playing. They were high school age, a bit younger than you. People filled the school auditorium—dads, moms, brothers, and sisters, cousins. All watched the kids in the school’s jazz band. Those kids did okay. It touched me to hear them play so earnestly, to watch them listen so intently in their effort to get better. And I love the feeling of pride and expectation that pours out from the families as they enjoy the results of hard work on display. You should have seen the drummer; fifteen years old. Trying to be so cool we called him Ice. He looked great, but damn sure wasn’t swinging. Afterward, I ended up telling ’em the usual: stay encouraged, play with each other, and keep practicing. I wonder sometimes if saying “practice” is enough. Practice what? Talking with those kids brought to mind something someone once asked John Coltrane, “Trane, when do you practice?”
“I only practice when I’m working on something,” he replied.
Yeah, man, you can play tunes forever. Play enough, play every night, and you’ll get to blow on a lot of songs. Experienced players get to know the changes and play a lot of standards. But you, and those kids in Maine, don’t have Coltrane’s experience. Y’all need to practice—and practice the “something” Trane talked about. It could be your sound, a deeper swing, solo construction, or just hearing bass lines. The bottom line is practice”something” every moment you can. Don’t just sit around and wait for something to happen, that same something is waiting on you.
So, I spent some time thinking about what we should talk about in this first letter, and I came to the notion of humility. You consider yourself humble? Ever really think about it? Let me tell you, humility is the doorway to truth and clarity of objectives for a jazz musician, it’s the doorway to learning. Check it out.
When you start playing, you’ve got to have objectives: What are you playing? Why are you playing it? How do you want to sound, and how will you achieve that sound? When you have those things clear in your mind, it’s much easier to teach yourself, and ultimately, that’s what you have to do. No one’s really going to teach you how to play.
I’ve been lucky: Early on in my career I spent a good deal of time around great musicians, for instance Art Blakey. You might ask me, “What did Art Blakey teach you?” And I’d tell you “nothing,” at least in the way your probably meant the question. Art didn’t say “play your scales” or “play a G on this.” You’d start playing, and he would tell you something like, “You need to be more physical.” Or he would come in and say, “You’re bullshitting.” That was your lesson. What did that mean? Stop bullshitting. That’s Art. That’s what he taught you.
Today you have all these universities putting out loads of jazz musicians. But these institutions breed misconceptions, particularly the one that says you need great technique. How many times have you heard of an older cat grumbling that these young kids can’t play nothing but fast nothing? But what they really mean is that everyone’s being educated into believing that fulfilling a few technical objectives is actually playing. Style over substance. Like a lot of academic writing, piles of big words that add up to one response: “Huh?” If you wanted to become an engineer, certain basic, fundamental levels of technical expertise would just be assumed when you showed up for the job.
In jazz, scales and chords are belabored ad infinitum as is playing fast, meaningless lines. Thinking that practicing rudimentary techniques is advanced study will not take you where you need to go to develop musicianship and your personal direction, to develop your conception, and to unleash your own personal power.
In fact, it’s a question relevant to just about any situation in which you find yourself: How do I unleash my personal power? It could be in your family. It could be when you relate to your kids. Most relationships will require you to address the issue of how you participate as yourself without being selfish. And in jazz, the power in this sense is your unique creativity. Unleashing your personal power is the result of codifying, articulating, and projecting your own hard-earned objectives in playing.
You learn a piece in class. And you do it again and again—eight thousand times. You’ll be so tired of doing it that every time you gotta do it again, you’ll say to yourself, “Man, not this!” And if it’s part of a course of study in school, maybe you’ve done it for five or six years now. What if it had been for twenty-five years? You can repeat something forever or you can look for things. “Things” are possibilities in jazz, and possibilities in jazz never run out. That’s why the music lives on. Consider just the rhythm section alone. They can slow down. They can speed up. They can be solo-specific and change grooves. And you, playing with them, you realize the different things you could do on your own. You can interact with your drummer. You could modulate to another key. You could do a million things with it.
But I guarantee you, twenty-five years from now, you will go all over the world and you will play with people, and they’ll play the same basic vocabulary held by the people who play jazz now. Melody, a string of too long solos, then you’ll play a long one (even though you know better), then a bass solo. Everyone will play his or her own version of the common vocabulary. So start now, don’t accept this for yourself. Unleash the unlimited freedom in the music for your unique articulation. Don’t just stand up and play clichés all the time, all night, the same patterns. Use your ingenuity and your creativity.
And to do this, you must develop some objectives. When you have objectives, when you understand what you’re trying to do, then you try things as you’re playing. They might sound sad at first, but you have an objective—you’re working those things out. It’s important to understand that in order to be different, you have to do something different. The first inkling of difference comes with thinking in a different way. Then, make sure that that thinking reflects how you truly feel.
Let’s rap about your favorite musician for a second, Charlie Parker. Whenever Charlie Parker used to play Jazz at the Philharmonic with other all-star musicians, they would always play these loud, obnoxious riffs behind him. He didn’t like it, but they did it anyway. Why is that? Maybe, unconsciously, the others didn’t want to hear Parker’s playing because it stoked a kind of anxious competitiveness in them. They didn’t want to deal with the weight and power of what he was playing, and they most likely didn’t know what they were doing. They were’nt purposefully thinking, “He’s playing great. Let’s play loud.” It’s just the psychological impact of being on a bandstand with a musician of real genius.
Parker had specific themes to his art—for example, his root music, the Kansas City blues—and a fleet-footed conception of melodic virtuosity, absolute technical clarity—a way of playing the shuffle rhythm in a manner distinct from Lester Young. Bird was a great musician and he had a different mind for music, but the bottom line on the vocabulary and the objectives were clear. That’s why so much of Charlie Parker’s early material is the blues, the American popular song, and originals that have song form.
But at a certain point, all of that became unimportant to his acolytes. How can I explain? Well, when somebody puts on a two-thousand-dollar suit, you look at the suit and not the person. Charlie Parker’s surface style was fast, and it had a certain type of flash to it. Underneath, it possessed soulful melodies and the blues—Midwestern swing and other earthy elements that are comprised the foundation of his required to successfully carry that level of sophistication. But you could not see that. The flash blinded you.
That’s where education is needed, to open your eyes. When root objectives are lost, it becomes impossible to contribute. The best that you can hope for is to create some new form with an entirely different meaning. The proof sits before us. For all the talk of innovation, we don’t hear as much as we should, given the mountains of talents out here. People are not being moved the way Parker or Armstrong or Erroll Garner moved them. The late, great composer John Lewis once told me he would go to hear Charlie Parker and there would be all types of people listening: longshoremen, policemen, people who simply heard his sound and were touched by it. Lewis would be hurrying home and just happen to stop in a club for a second. But Charlie Parker’s playing was so gripping it made him stay.
When we teach Charlie Parker, that’s what we should focus on. What gave him this relationship to his environment? What gave his playing such power? You need to evoke that or some portion of it to get a good grade. The style comes after. With Parker there came a point where style was elevated over substance, conventions over objectives. Don’t confuse conventions with objectives. Don’t confuse conventions with the actuality of the form. For example, after Charlie Parker, everybody started trying to play his melodies on their instruments. Trombone players started playing like Charlie Parker; bass players wanted to play Charlie Parker; piano players wanted to play Charlie Parker. Granted, a lot of piano players sounded great in that style, but one of the strongest aspects of the piano is its capacity to voice separate melodies simultaneously when played with two hands. Now, because Charlie Parker played with a single-voice instrument, no pianists are gonna stride with two hands? Or take the three-horn New Orleans counterpoint. ’Cause Bird didn’t do it, was it no longer worth doing? Or not modern? You see, that’s the problem with following something as if it’s the whole thing. Who are you: a part of a fad, or a jazz musician?
As you grow older, self-knowledge becomes one of the hardest things to acquire. In our context, as jazz musicians, it’s more difficult than you think—to know what you will play; how your playing will evolve; whether you might say, “Yeah, I’m standing up here, trying to be hip.” Much like those cats playing with Bird, riffing all loud. They probably didn’t articulate that thought. But something said, “Get in Bird’s way.” Thus, “Mess the music up.” The first level of mastery must occur over self. And the first test of mastery over one’s self is humility. True humility. You look at yourself and say, “Man, I don’t want to be sad anymore. I want to learn how to play.” True humility has nothing to do with me, your friends, your lady; and it’s in such short supply out here, man.
Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble? I believe there’s one simple test: The humble exhibit greater growth and development over time. Because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, “I know the way.” Of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of musicians that I’ve worked with, I’ve seen true, continuous development in eight or nine. That’s in twenty, twenty-five years, man. In most of my experiences with musicians, I hear them when they’re fifteen or so and I think, “Damn, this guy’s unbelievable.” Then all the obstacles of life appear, and by the time they’re twenty-five or twenty-six, I think, “How did that happen? How did you start with this much ability, this much genius, and this much creativity, and end up here ten years later?” Man, it’s hard out here.
Understand something, Anthony: You will hear the same thing over and over again, but you have to develop the requisite humility to learn, to love to learn. Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves, so you don’t stand in your own way. You realize this: It’s all about you. Your learning won’t live or die with your school or me. You have to become the center of your education. Once you realize that, you’ll understand that learning means figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to be. I hope I’m not beating the point to death, but I have to make you understand the importance of your personal involvement in your own growth and development.
Some people don’t show up for class. In truth, they don’t want to go to school. But that has nothing to do with any teacher. It’s your own time and opportunity lost. What if the commitment was a job? You might have been told to show up at 9:00 a.m., or hand in paperwork by Friday. And you don’t. So they fire you. Your employer is not going to have much interest in asking, “Why didn’t you show up on time?” That’s for your parents, or people who love you with such intensity that they feel a sense of personal loss when you give bullshit.
Real life won’t work that way. A jazz musician’s life won’t work that way. People don’t know, or care about your issues. They spend hard-earned money to go out and enjoy some music that they want to hear. They don’t have a personal involvement with you, or me. So it’s incumbent upon you to figure out: “What do I want to do? Will I kill myself to learn how to play this difficult music and develop my voice so that I can play something provocative enough for people to want to hear it enough to hear me play? What do I have that I can present to people that will make them feel better about being alive?
This is a tough thing we do, a tough road we travel. It demands your respect and commitment; it lives through your humility. Man, listen: Whether you’re a grizzled veteran like me, or a nineteen-year-old like you, or in high school like those kids back in Maine, as jazz musicians we’re engaged in the same thing—grown folks’ business. So treat it seriously, man. ’Cause it damn sure will treat you seriously.
In the spirit of swing."