Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A couple of records that changed some things

I thought I'd use this opportunity to briefly talk about two records that had a significant impact on me. In this case, they are both from Brisbane, Australia:

Artisans Workshop: Artisans Workshop
Elliott Dalgleish (saxophones)
Jonathan Dimond (bass guitar and trombone)
John Rodgers (violin)
Ken Edie (percussion)

When I first heard this record I really couldn't believe my ears: "People in Australia, nay, BRISBANE played this?!" Apart from being some of the tightest ensemble playing you've ever heard (the solos-on-the-form playing in 'Ridiculous' is mind-blowing), and including some incredible instrumental playing (check 'Viv's Bum Dance), this record really presented my with a totally new sound. Never mind the kind of fusion-y production (it was the early 90's after-all): this is some of the toughest, most-committed, most joyful music you'll ever hear, anywhere, period.
You should get a copy at Tall Poppies. Elliott tells me there are other (he says even better) reel-to-reels siting in storage somewhere. If/when they come out, I'll be the first one there.

John Rodgers: A Rose is A Rose
John Rodgers (violin)
Ken Edie (drums)
Anthony Burr (bass clarinet)
Stuart Cambell (piano)
John Reeves (voice)

John's debut release as a leader is some of the most beautifully ferocious music I've ever heard. When I heard this I knew I wanted to find out what is was, how it was put together, and how I could get those sounds. 'Improvisation' is still my blueprint for playing with John, 'St. Mary's is some of the most ridiculous violin playing in all of my collection of music, and the trio of 'Duet for Violin and Bass Clarinet', 'Solo for bass clarinet' and Solo for violin' is astounding (if you ever get to, ask John about how these pieces relate, technically: mind-blowing!). As with "A.W.", the attack of the sound on this record is one of the first things that got me: you really can hear how virtuosic each musician is just by his sound on his instrument (never mind the out of tune piano). Get one here
Your life may never be the same.

Till next time, enjoy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


As I've mentioned in one of my previous posts, I've been getting back "into" Jazz. Not that I was every supremely disenchanted with it, it's just I think I kind of painted myself into a corner. Let me explain:
As a student of creative music, I think we all spend a significant part of 'early' learning in building up some kind of aesthetic template. We then use this template to create, to define our musical identity and (often) to listen to music. It is a two-way cycle: all of these acts help us create, reinforce, morph and develop our template. So, as somebody who has always been concerned with having a strong 'musical-template', I think I had maybe gone too far in one direction. Don't think for a second I regret it though, this is 'extreme' behavior is actually quite consistent with my person as a whole, and I think was a necessary product of working hard on 'my own sound'.
So, there are things I know I like to have in my own music. They are my music aesthetic, my musical identity.
The trouble for me had become, though, that I ended up not really liking any music that didn't have at least (or maybe even all) of these things. Needless to say, it made me not want to listen to very much music, and even made me not enjoy certain playing situations which were actually quite good (see previous post).
But now, friends, now it's all changed. Lately I've actually found myself to be able to listen to alot of music, not of all of which check off my criteria for 'good' music, and just pick out things which I like. These things may not be influences in a direct sense, but definitely broaden and strengthen what I already have.
What I think this truly says (if I may be so bold) is that I am getting to a stage where I am comfortable enough in my own beliefs that now I'm not worried about being 'corrupted' by listening to music that isn't very close to my own ideal music. Either that or I've realised it doesn't matter anywhere near as much as I thought!
So anyway, while before all I was really listening to was Elliott Carter, mid 60's Coltrane, Herbie Nichols, Karakudi R Mani and Bach, no I've also been getting into (or back into) Horace Silver, Keith Jarrett, Lennie Tristano, 50's Miles, Weather Report, Brain Wilson, The Roots, Dave Holland, D'Angelo, and Paul Bley.
Some of these guys I re-discovered, while others I either discovered for the first time, or have been drawn into them much more recently, without worrying about becoming a 'clone'.
Long live stregnth in yourself and the thirst for more knowledge!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Difference in Listening between Then and Now

I am having an interesting experience at the moment picking takes from trio session I did almost a year ago. When I recorded this I was just about to head overseas to attend the Banff Jazz workshops and was feeling pretty dis-enchanted with "jazz," and didn't really enjoy the recording session.

My inner voice after the session was done went something like: "well that wasn't a very good session, it was good to do, but it's one that'll just live on the hard-drive." However, Ronny Ferella approached me regarding putting the music out on his new label, Downstream, so I've had occasion to revisit the music: now I actually like it!

So what this really confirms for me is that judging while playing is impossible. Objectivity is highly unlikely while 'in the moment' of music making. In this case, it seems my negative thinking  at the time didn't result in totally unusable music and in some cases it may have actually (dare I say) added a certain aggression to my playing that I enjoy.

Here's the crux of my point though: abstaining from judgment while playing can help achieve a state of flow. When one gets stuck in the details—"Oh that line was no good," "Why can't I play in time?," "Why is the drummer doing that?"—it is difficult to let the music emerge through collaborative improvisation.

Douglas Hofstadter, in his books "I am a Strange Loop" (2007) and "Godel, Escher, Bach" (1979), argues that intelligent beings such as ourselves are designed to comprehend the world on a macro level—we don't think about the vitamins and proteins being carried through our blood-stream, but we do think about the concept of being fit and healthy, for example. For Hofstadter meaning—in every sense—is created and perceived at the macro levels, where the interaction between large symbols takes place, not at micro level where we 'can't see the forest for the trees.'

Being stuck in moment-to-moment 'micro', judgmental thinking while playing is the exact opposite of how humans create and perceive meaning. I need to focus on getting to the macro-level of listening when improvising.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A welcome note...

I think it's apt I begin this blog drinking a Coopers Pale and listening to Ren Walters' "What's Left", having just watched an episode of "Deadwood", and having listening to Scott Tinkler, Keith Jarrett, The Roots, Miles Davis, Billy Strayhorn, and Paul Bley, and also having read some Richard Dawkins, spent some time composing, and gone for a run, this afternoon.
No doubt this blog will house my raves on a variety of subjects, all with a purpose too un-developed at this point to make clear here.
I hope you enjoy the ride, and, if you're not suffering from tendonitis in the mouse-clicking hand, will take the time to subscribe to.