Jazz Performance Review

On March 31, I attended Whole Note Wednesday with the Daniel Bennett Group, which plays at the Liberty Hotel every Wednesday from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. I approached him before the first set to see if I could ask him questions in between sets, and he was very receptive to the idea. His trio, which consisted of him on alto sax and flute, Brant Grieshaber on electric guitar, and Jason Davis on string bass, played in the hotel lobby next to the Clink Bar. The atrium was very airy; a circular, open column about eight stories high. The converted brick prison-to-upscale hotel allowed the music to reverberate, and the trio filled the space quite well. The ambiance was fairly relaxed with well-dressed, talkative patrons chatting over libations.
The trio began the set with a standard called “Have you met Ms. Jones?”, which had a moderate tempo. The major tonality gave it a light and happy feel. In the sax solo, Bennett would double notes at times while the walking bass kept time. The guitar and bass solos exhibited short runs up and down their respective ranges, jumps, polyrhythm, and syncopated eighth notes. When the trio went back to the head, there were several sequences down the scale, as well as call and response between the sax and electric guitar. In “Joy Spring,” the energetic and up-tempo melody was played in parallel by the sax and guitar, characteristic of the bebop style. The sax solo embellished over the melody with runs across the range of the instrument. The guitar solo played many passing notes and appoggiaturas. The sax and guitar traded fours after the solos, with the sax doubling the notes played by the guitar at times, creating a highly dense melody or exhibiting a cross-rhythm at other times. Key modulation at the bridge provided harmonic complexity. The tag at the end of the piece was a riff played three times, or as one of my classmates pointed out, a turnaround.
The trio as a whole played with great balanced. I expected the saxophone to overpower the electric guitar and string bass, but they all played with equal strength. The flute was an interesting contrast from the strums of the electric guitar and the low tones of a walking bass riff. Bennett remarked after the first set that since the trio lacked a drummer, they all had to be impeccable with timing to maintain the rhythmic structure of the performance. The trio played very cohesively and the lack of drums did not take away from the overall effect of the group.
Bennett employed several interesting techniques in his playing style, including growls on the alto sax for slow ballads such as “How Insensitive” and trills and scalar rips or glissandos on the flute, as heard in “Wave.” In “Confirmation,” Bennett would oftentimes smear the end of an eight bar passage. Also in this piece, the sax traded fours with the guitar, which often played blues scales linearly in bebop fashion. Many of the pieces the trio played were standards with a unique twist, such as a funky (accentuated and prolonged two and four beats) feel, such as in “Blue Monk” or a Latin fusion feel, such as in “Wave.” The flute also provided a nice contrast in sound from the melodious alto sax from piece to piece. One trick Bennett used was a flute pattern that emulated a singing bird, apparent in “Yardbird Special.”
After the first set, which consisted of twelve pieces, Daniel Bennett came over to our table and talked to us for some time. He has played the saxophone since he was 10 years old and moved to the Boston area in 2002. His trios repertoire consists of the Real Book, Bossa Nova, Joe Bean, Bonfi, Kern, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Paul Desmond, and Henry Mancini, playing jazz ranging from the 1950s to 1970s. He keeps the music “light and bright” for gigs at places like the Liberty Hotel, since he provides ambiance for the well-to-do patrons at the bar. He also composes original compositions, and plays four to five nights a week in New England (Rhode Island, Maine, and New York City). Bennett is influenced by funk and world music, flavors that I noticed in the first set. The Daniel Bennett Group has been playing at the Liberty Hotel every Wednesday for the past three months, echoing the trend discussed in class of a band playing at a specific venue over time, developing an in-depth relationship between the band and venue (the band was served a handsome dinner in the lobby after the first set). All in all, the dynamic performance, along with the club ambiance, made for a great evening for jazz appreciation.

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“Nowhere Boy”- homage to John Lennon

According to IMDB, this film won’t be released in the US until October, 2010. However, whispers of it has been floating around the Internet since it was released in the UK October 2009. A story of a “Teddy Boy” who came into his own as the leader of the acclaimed Beatles.  I’m gonna try to get my hands on a British copy to review..looks like good stuff.

- Maggie

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A modern twist on Beauty & The Beast

In which Mary Kate Olsen plays a modern-day witch with costumery fitting of her usual fashionista self, Vanessa Hudgens reprise her role as the girl-next-door brunette beauty, and a prettyfaced blonde by the name of Alex Pettyfer makes his first American movie debut. Note that even with the scarring, tattoos and metal weldings, Pettyfer’s charismatic.

I’ll admit that it may not be the most substance-filled film. The acting will probably be sub-par, we’ll only have the opportunity to oogle at Pettyfer in his ‘pretty’ state for like 1/4 of the movie and Hudgens continues with her middle-school like innocence. However, it’s fluffy, it’s cute, a perfect transition into the lightheartedness of the summer months. Hmm, what’s next though for remakes? A modern take on Snow White?

- Maggie

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About that Whirligig of Time…

Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare.

Many, many happy returns, Will…

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The Future of Media

This post is, of course, in response to my impossibly cute* co-editor (co-editor? junior editor? I don’t know…) Samuel Markson, who writes:

“[...]Do it. Please. Also, if you have input, tell me. This is the future of media–accept it.”

This seemed like a perfect time to tenderly embrace the future and make a list of everything that I’d been listening to on Youtube this past week.

I’ll skip the really embarrassing stuff (I mean, seriously, how many times can you *really* listen to Send in the Clowns and not be shamed to tears?) and continue on to my position as the Tech’s Classical Music Grouch.

As it turns out, there’s much that’s very good out there. Take for instance, William Billings‘s Rose of Sharon. What’s frustrating is that there’s really no good professional choirs singing it, at least not that’s readily available. But the quality of the amateur groups is really stunning. This week’s choice is, goes to the Dordt College Concert Choir, directed by Dr. Benjamin Kornelis. Crisp lines, no background hiss of an amateur recording, really, some solid stuff here (keep in mind the lyrics are a rated R, due, in no part to Dr. Benjamin Kornelis, Dordt College Concert Choir, or Billings, for that matter–take up any complaints with the Queen of Sheba):

But there’s a place for this business of professional choirs too. Take, for instance, none other than the King’s Singers, who manage, through the magic of digital editing, to render Thomas Tallis‘s forty-part motet (eight choirs, five voices a choir–epic on so many levels) Spem in Alium:

For a good time, fast forward to approximately 6.10-6.23. For those of you paying attention, that’s C major to A major, then, in a matter of two or three beats, a swift shift to a minor. Just incredible. And incredible seems to go for the entire work in general. It’s ungainly and bloated coming from computer speakers, but if you have stereophonic headphones, that helps. Keep in mind Spem in Alium is supposed to be performed with the audience in the center. Wikipedia gives more information here.

Since it seems that everything I do is inherently in threes, there’s on final video I suppose I’ve been begrudgingly listening to is Knut Nystedt‘s Immortal Bach. Not because I don’t like it, but because I like it for all the wrong reasons: the straight tone, the affected buzzing, the impossibly long vocal lines, it’s enough to drive me crazy. Not to mention that there’s a time and place for mensuration, my friends, and the twentieth century, I like to think, is not one of them. At any rate, it’s an incredible work filled with all sorts of nostalgia for my apocryphal Northern European heritage. So be it: you don’t have to be Lutheran to like Nystedt.

*Cute only because he was born after 1990 and therefore counts as one of the Absurdly Young. Although, now that think about it, I suppose it’s not unfair to note that he has a certain boyish charm to him. *Ahem*: not, of course, to say that, as one approaching my twenty-eighth year, I make a habit out of thinking about cute nineteen-year-olds. At least, not on a regular basis…

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iPod Playlist of the Week

So one of my friends admitted to me the other day that he was still listening to the same playlist from 2 yrs ago. Appalled, I sent him my most recent playlist. I was in part inspired by- of all places- TeenVogue. They always ask photographers or models for their top picks’ of the month and list about 10 things from their iPod. I don’t always listen to ‘new’ music but I’m always discovering music that’s ‘new’ to me. Here’s for this weekend:

1. Broken Social Scene- World Sick
2. Train- Hey, Soul Sista
3. Starf*cker- Boy Toy
4. She & Him- Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
5. Kina Grannis- Valentine
6. The Goo Goo Dolls- Sympathy
7. Ke$ha- Your Love is My Drug
8. Matt & Kim – Lessons Learned
9. Matt & Kim – Don’t Slow Down
10. The Far East Movement- Girls on the Dance Floor

- Maggie

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More snarky puppy, more dentures

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Snarky Puppy @ Church

Just saw Snarky Puppy at Church last night.

Absolutely insane.  This group made me realize what I’d been looking for in sound.  There are lots of technically proficient musicians out there that make you think.  But there aren’t that many that make me want to go out and make other people think.  Seriously.  Every time I listen to Snarky I want to drop out and play music.  It’s a huge group, but it’s so tight.  Rhythmically, harmonically, everything.  The recordings are incredible, but square compared to seeing them live, where every single moment is fresh and unexpected, because they’re so locked in that they can control every beat–stretching it here, pushing it back there–and every note they think is put into the air.

They really play for everybody in the room–themselves, the audience–everybody.  And that’s what you don’t get out of a recording, because the artist never knows who’s listening.  Some groups take advantage of this, some don’t.  Snarky Puppy is one of the former.

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Revolution in Kyrgyzstan

Last night, one of my good friends discovered that his country was having a Revolution.  Apparently, the President has fled.  The BBC seems to have the second most footage, after Twitter.

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Fabrizio Sotti–Inner Dance

Those of you who follow what I write might know of my interest in the interplay between a country’s inherent culture and the music it produces. Italian guitarist Fabrizio Sotti is an apt example. Since the death of Marcus Aurelius, the Italians haven’t quite been renowned for their sense of urgency. And while the higher browed and straighter lipped of their European brethren may poke fun at the sloth of this Mediterranean cradle of the West (here’s looking at you Berlusconi), you have to give them credit. After all, while you’re off criticizing Italy for it’s mafia-style government and excessively easy-going lifestyle, an Italian man is probably sleeping with your girlfriend. Italy may be the degenerate skeleton of the Roman Empire, but damn they’re smooth.

(Apologies to Fabrizio, who I’m sure operates like clockwork and never has wine before 2 p.m.).

Being a bit more serious, Fabrizio Sotti’s album is really quite good. He’s decidely un-notey. He uses space. That’s not trivial. The reality is that jazz (particularly the type that I generally enjoy, so this is a change for me) is overrun by what’s known in the music world as “angry motherf*ckers.” A.M.’s like to play as many notes as possible, completely overturn your sense of harmony, and still make a serious political statement at the same time. In their spare time they start fights with their own band members, shout at audience members for taking photographs, and generally act cooler-than-thou. A.M.’s push out a lot of good albums, but occasionally at the expense of Jimmy Knepper’s teeth.

Fabrizio is the opposite. Oh, sure, he wants to change the world, but first he wants a nap. There’s corruption and racism and loneliness and urban poverty out there–the staples of A.M. artistry. But there’s also a lot of beauty–love, the sun coming up over Sicily, a bottle of Fundador or four. Fabrizio Sotti’s subject material is the latter. BYOFundador.

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