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Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

I feel like Dorothy. All I needed to do was click my heels together three times. I’ve been able to edit and upload videos to youtube all along. I just needed someone to tell me how.

Here’s what you do with a mac:

Open imovie

if the movie is already on your desktop and you want to edit it, click file – import – movies and find the file.

Click on “create a new event” and give it a name

make sure you click “copy” rather than “move” the movie

you will then see the entire movie (frame by frame) on the bottom of the page.

Move the mouse anywhere, hit the space bar and it will play from that point onward.

Select a section by holding down the mouse – find a good starting place, a good ending and once it’s highlighted, you hit “E”

that isolates and moves that section to the top of the page where you can probably do a whole bunch of things to it that I don’t know how to do yet.

Click on “share” and you can export to your desktop or share it directly to youtube. there’s actually that option, and a bunch more.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been daunted by this task.

Now I just need to learn how to edit a few things together, and write some text on the movie. I’m sure it’s not that hard…

Feel free to tell me about it.

In the meantime, please enjoy a couple of videos from my “Two Kites” CD release recorded live at Lula Lounge:

Mike Murley (saxophone), George Koller (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums)

Here’s the title track from the CD, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Two Kites”

Here’s an original instrumental, “All Fall Down”

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preamble.

part one:

what’s the difference between playing tunes and free improv?

nothing.

nothing?

nothing.

but surely…

 

part two:

they’re the same thing. same rules. tunes are free and free are tunes.

the only difference is that when you’re playing a tune the form is inherent.

when playing free the form is extrinsic. it’s still there. you just need to find it or allow it to find you.

 

part three:

look. it’s all about composition. even playing tunes is about composition.

not some rote play the head solo for a few choruses play the head. we’re done.

unless that’s intentional.

or you have 16 bars or 32 bars or whatever and a huge canvas to play with around inside, outside, through, over and beyond the tune.

 

part four:

free playing is composition, too.

it’s just a composition that reveals itself over time

and if the players are truly listening they’re on the lookout for it.

and by the way.

melody, rhythm, harmony, motifs, themes and variations, counterpoint

tonality (now there’s an idea) atonality

it all applies.

 

the gig.

okay. I admit it. I had a few ideas. But they were ideas of intent. Not actual melodic or harmonic ideas. The ideas occurred to me a few minutes before I was about to play. The ideas were kind of like guidelines that I wanted to share with my fellow musicians Mark Segger (drums) and Heather Segger (trombone). I said, let’s make things short. I mean get to an idea, play with it and end it. Then move on. Nothing meandering or aimless. Let’s listen for endings. Even if one part is simply one of us taking a solo, let’s be aware that that’s okay. I even had an idea that it could be like a suite. We could interrupt applause if we wanted to so that it didn’t get too broken up. The weird thing is, the audience got it. They only clapped once, but the next time we gave them breaks in the action, they didn’t clap. they knew. they were part of it.

It was part of Leftover Day Light at Somewhere There, the performance space of AIM (Association of Improvising Musicians) Toronto. It’s a series that goes on every Friday night featuring three groups (or solos) who play one set each. I asked Heather and Mark to join me. I had been playing some of my regular “jazz” gigs with Mark lately, so I thought it could really strengthen how we play “inside” if we did a completely “outside” gig together. I was curious about Heather, having heard wonderful comments about her playing. I also loved the idea of having a few trombone/vocal dialogues. I was attracted to the range, timbre and warmth of the trombone with vocals.

I came prepared. I brought my own mike and amp to sing through, even though I knew I primarily wanted to play the piano. I removed the entire bottom panel of the piano in order to get more volume. I had the advantage of having heard the piano in the first set and was determined to make it louder. I even brought my digital tape recorder to tape the performance, but, well, kind of forgot to hit the record button a second time, so it remained in standby mode. ugh. technology… or maybe it was just Friday the 13th.

While setting up I was talking to the audience about the recent concert I saw at the Vanguard. I thought about the ostinato bass line Geri Allen and Esperanza Spalding played on “Au Leu Cha” and it occurred to me that it would be a good place to begin our set. It was such a fun place to start, that I decided to end the set with it as well.

Here are some things I want to remember:

I love the concept of a suite

I love ostinatos. I’m going to use this one again.

trombone/voice. very cool

a good ending

 

postlude.

one thing leads to another.

A few months ago I had a lesson and breakfast with Sylvie Courvoisier. Over breakfast we talked about free improvisation and form. She spoke about her concept of form as though you start with a fork, move to the spoon and the knife, perhaps the plate. There is some relationship, development and exploration as you move from place to place and branch out slowly,  giving time for an idea to develop and simmer rather than all of a sudden being across the road in unrelated territory. (or worse – my comment – meandering in a sea of nothingness where everyone is afraid to make a move).

In my lesson with Sylvie, we talked a lot about tone, weight and dropping into the keys. Sylvie introduced me to the Taubman Technique and encouraged me to seek out Edna Golandsky. But that’s another blog entry…

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here is the link to part 1 and part 2

“Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career…but her music retains—and maintains—a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul.” Duke Ellington

Over the past several weeks I have been listening to a great deal of Mary Lou Williams’ music in preparation for a concert at the Barrie Jazz & Blues Festival (Yamaha Piano Series “Giants of Jazz” ) this Saturday, June 11. The more I listen, the more astounded I am by Mary’s playing, writing and arranging. You can read about the project here.

In my previous postings about Mary Lou I focussed on her boogie woogie bass lines. In this post I am going to illustrate some of her other wonderful bass grooves. I have found Mary’s compositions to be a huge amount of fun to play. Her grooves are strong, interesting and incredibly satisfying. They also provide a very open space from which to solo. She can be funky, angular and soulful, but most of all she has left a wealth of beautiful music behind her just waiting to be discovered.

Let’s start with her incredible Zodiac Suite written in 1945. Here is an excerpt from “Scorpio”

The piece opens with this gorgeous bass line, over which Mary plays an angular melody making use of the whole tone scale as well as chromatic intervals. It’s provides a wonderful basis for improvisation.

The piece continues with a transition into a bluesy bass groove.

(click to enlarge. note: my transcription is from her 1975 recording. Please contact me if you’d like the complete transcription)

Here is Mary Lou playing it on her Zodiac Suite recording from 1945.

“Black Christ of the Andes” was recorded in 1964, and contains a very funky arrangement of “My Blue Heaven”. Here is the bass line:

Who knew that playing “My Blue Heaven” could be so much fun?

Here’s Mary’s original recording from 1964

…and here’s Mary and her trio from a live recording in 1978

“Offertory Mediation” is a beautiful minor blues waltz which can be found on the Norman Granz Jazz in Montreux series from 1978.

Check out this fabulous up tempo bass groove.

“Offertory Meditation” begins at 4:19 after “Over the Rainbow” (which is amazing in itself!)

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Preamble

On June 11 I will be presenting a concert about Mary Lou Williams at the Barrie Jazz & Blues Festival. I’ll be talking about her life and playing her music. George Koller will be joining me on bass, and Nick Fraserwill be playing drums. It’s a fascinating project. In a career that ran from the mid 1920’s until her death in 1981 Mary Lou remained, in Duke Ellington’s words, “perpetually contemporary” and was an especially formative figure on the Kansas City scene of the 1930’s and in New York during the 1940’s. She wrote hundreds of compositions and played in every style from boogie to swing to bebop to modern, influencing several important musicians along the way. Many came to hang out in her apartment.

Mary Lou with Jack Teagarden, Dixie Bailey, Hank Jones, Tadd Dameron and Milt Orent in Mary Lou’s apartment, Aug 1947

Boogie woogie

Here is an example of a rolling octave boogie woogie bass line. (played an octave lower than written)

(click on image to enlarge)

Mary Lou is nothing short of a powerhouse. Her left hand has tremendous strength and stamina. Over the past several weeks I’ve been trying various left hand boogie patterns and trying to sustain them over periods of time. I’m in awe of her.

A couple of days ago I watched Mary Lou Williams 1978 concert from Norman Granz “Jazz at Montreux”. The camera work is great with a lot of close-ups of her left hand.

As the camera zoomed in, I began to notice that her bass notes were being played by both her 4th and 5th fingers at the same time. Two fingers on one note! A revelation! It’s also something I had never attempted before. But as I tried it out and thought about it, it began to make a huge amount of sense. First of all, it doubles the strength of the weakest finger while giving it support. The bottom note needs to be hammered in the boogie woogie style. Secondly, it changes the angle of the hand so that you’re not spreading your fingers out straight, but rather angling the hand to the left, which is way less strenuous. All of the action is in the rotation of the wrist. It didn’t take long before this way of playing began to feel less foreign and more comfortable. I imagined how I could apply it in other contexts. In fact, I had a gig that night and kept looking for opportunities to hammer out a bass note using those two fingers. The tone was strong, heavy and warm.

Do any other piano players use this technique in any style of music? I wonder where Mary Lou got it from and I’m very curious to know who else uses this.

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In a recent blog entry by Peter Hum, Peter asks the question “Why make CDs if they’re such a tough sell?” What place do CDs have in this increasingly diminishing marketplace? Peter poses the question to some Canadian jazz musicians who responded in various ways. You can read the full article here.

I responded to the article by writing the following:

I agree that nothing forces you to grow as an artist more than recording a CD. The process of creating the repertoire, deciding how to play it and who to play it with, the countless hours of practicing, gigging, rehearsing, arranging, writing and thinking about it all come together in the sacred space of the recording studio. It challenges you to face your own musical truth and gives you a place to move from. It’s crucial for me to have the goal of recording in order to dream up a project and see it through…

I now have further thoughts:

Jazz is an art form that exists in the moment. In the space of a musician’s studio there are often no witnesses to that moment unless it’s the family pet. Or it could be that a phrase of music briefly enters someone’s ears at a noisy club. At it’s best, music is a living dialog between the players and the audience. The ears of the listener may be the intangible ingredient needed to bring the music to a higher level. Most performances exist for a moment in time and vanish into the ether. However, truly inspired performances can stay with you for a long time. Years even. They can be transformative.

Making a studio recording is an attempt to capture a body of work. It gives a musician a goal to work toward and in the end it gives them something tangible. But the result is a particular performance on a particular day. If they had gone into the studio a day before or a week later you’d likely hear something very different.

But when I think about the iconic jazz records that I own and have listened to hundreds of times, I can’t help but think that the moment they were recorded defines the music. When I later recall those records I’m hearing the voicings, comping, solos, instrument timbres, phrasings and melodies played only as they were that day in the studio. I can’t think of Kind of Blue, for example, without hearing every tune in order complete with solos. And when I play those tunes, those sounds sometimes inform what I’m playing. It may just be a phrase or a voicing, but the impact of those recordings is very powerful.

I even find that once I’ve recorded a certain tune, I’ll often recall phrases that I’ve played! I then need to choose to go with that preexisting idea or to deliberately try to find something else.

So there is an interesting problem here. Jazz is improvised and needs to exist in the moment. It’s a living art form. Recordings give a certain definitive finality to a body of work.

Is this a dichotomy? I’m curious to know what other musicians think. Do you prefer one over the other?

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collective remembering.

collective forgetting.

the universal mind. the collective unconscious.

If you’re lucky, you can learn to recognize and identify that which you have forgotten. If you’re really lucky, you follow…

My body always knows long before my conscious mind tells me anything. The electric shock of recognition will start in my spine as my eyes fill with tears.

Forgotten Melodies came out of Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata Reminincenza. but it also came out of Maria Schneider’s Hang Gliding, and Shalom Secunda’s Dona Dona with a stop-over at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany. The seed of the idea came out of a spontaneous duet I heard at klezkanada played by Alan Bern on accordion and Christian Dawid on clarinet. It was heaven and earth and everything in between. And I recognized it at once. It was buried so deeply into my past that it preceded my birth. And it felt as though a vibrant and colorful path which I had never noticed before had suddenly come into view.

Forgotten Melodies is an exploration of Yiddish/Eastern European/klezmer music which I have arranged as contemporary jazz. I started the project a few years ago with Dona Dona and with a Canada Council grant to study with Marilyn Lerner, and on March 29 I will be presenting the collection in concert at the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts in Toronto. The repertoire includes some old Yiddish songs and melodies as well as original compositions inspired by klezmer/Yiddish music. I’ll be playing this music with my fantastic band: Mike Murley on soprano and tenor sax, George Koller on bass and Nick Fraser on drums.

I’ve recorded a couple of the selections on my upcoming CD, Two Kites. Here is a youtube video of Yam Lid/Lustige Chasidm/Balkan Bellabusta played in concert at La Belle Epoque and recorded by the CBC for “Canada Live”.

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“Like the very first title says, Sherlock Jr is a story about being able to do two things at once: move and entertain, dream and wake, negotiate between our real and our better selves – how we are all, in the end, projectionists and detectives. That art inflects life and vice versa is not a new statement, but a celebration of that fact perhaps bears repeating. Sherlock Jr is a testament to the imaginative impulse, the creative wish- the amount of ourselves that we put into the movies, and what the movies give back to us. For when the lights come up and we’re shoved rudely back into our misfit selves, we find we’re a little better off. Our ghostly flights sustain us. And then it’s time to kiss the girl.”

Edward McPherson, Buster Keaton – Tempest in a Flat Hat

(click to enlarge- Photos by Sonia Recchia/Wireimage for TIFF. This photo was taken at our performance of Sherlock Jr at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto)

a band within a band within a film within a film…

watching/playing, interacting/reading, composing/improvising, listening/creating

In a much broader sense, I have found that when two major projects overlap, particularly when one project is nearly finished and another is beginning, they both benefit. While I was composing the score for Sherlock Jr I was also in the final mixing stages of my CD project, Two Kites. It’s almost as though my creative imagination needed to take a day off here and there to think about something else and be engaged in a different type of brain activity in order to return with fresh ears and ideas. When Sherlock Jr was ending, my Halloween cabaret show, That Old Black Magic Cabaret, at the Young Centre for the Arts was looming, which I think really helped me get over post-show letdown. There simply wasn’t time.

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on arrangements for my newest project, Forgotten Melodies. This project will have its world premiere at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts on March 29. Forgotten Melodies brings the exoticism of klezmer/Yiddish/Eastern European music to modern jazz. This project has also inspired me to be in serious practice mode. Right now, most of my days are spent writing, practicing, recording, listening to my playing, analyzing and refining my ideas.

At the same time, I’m also preparing for my Two Kites CD release on April 28. I signed off the final proof for the CD package this week! There are still tons of loose ends to think about for the release of the CD and for upcoming concerts for its promotion.

That’s all I can handle. Two things at once!

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