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Down To The Bone – the non-band

DTTB logo

When I am looking to get groovy, get funky. When I am in one of those moods where I want my shoulders shaking and my head bobbing, I put on a little Down To The Bone. I call them a non-band because DTTB is essentially the genius of Stuart Wade – DJ, mixer, producer – pushed through a varying mixture of musicians.

Stuart Wade

Stuart Wade

Wade never studied music, nor does he play any instrument. He is not a composer, in the traditional sense. Rather, he “creates music” by humming tunes and grooves into a Dictaphone, or face-to-face with musicians in the recording studio. Over several years he has collaborated with a sizable group of musicians in producing three very successful albums with a new one about to be released. If this sounds kind of bush-league to you, take a few minutes and listen to the two sample tracks below.

My favorite is From Manhattan To Staten, released in 1997 by nuGroove Records. This is a collection of funky beats and cool Jazz. Take a sample of the opening track, Staten Island Groove:

My favorite DTTB track, without a doubt, is Brooklyn Heights. In fact, it is one of my favorite Jazz tracks of all time. I defy you to keep still with this track going at a decent volume. I love to listen to this one through my Sennheiser headphones, getting every note from every instrument. My grandson, Evan, when he was just a wee tot, became a groovy dancer when I would put on a little Brooklyn Heights. Cutest thing ever. If you’re holding a beverage, put it down before you listen to this tune:

Manhattan to Staten cover

Manhattan to Staten cover

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Pat Metheny – Fusion Guitarists & Genre Purity

Pat Metheny
Image via Wikipedia

In a recent comment on another post, Do I Like Jazz & Big Band?, bluetwango (Our Man in Colorado) offered the following regarding guitarist Pat Metheny:

A funny & unexpected pop cult reference to Metheny was heard tonight on NPR’s “Fresh Aire.” Check it out at npr.com/programs. It was a clip from a comedy by producer Mike Judge, the interviewee. A pair of overeager music store salesmen were pitching a Gibson guitar to a fetching and flirtatious young beauty.

“It’s just like Metheny plays,” said one. “He’s the greatest fusion guitar player.”

“I… don’t know who you’re talking about. But it’s a beautiful guitar. Do you have it in another color?”
Both guys rush to the back room to fetch the instrument, while she picks up the first guitar and walks out the door.

That’s the first joke, the one most folks get. But a true Pat-head knows he stopped playing the Gibson ES-175 ten years ago, and that he hates being called a fusion guitar player. “My stuff was a reaction against that,” he writes. His music is built from melodies, not riffs. Compared with McLaughlin, Coryell and DiMeola, Pat slowed the music down to my speed of listening. And he takes most of his inspiration and style from horn players, not guitarists.

But if he’s not a fusion guitarist, he’s certainly created a wide assortment of fusion music, leaping continents to seek new musical material. Brazilian grooves mix with Asian instruments, classical orchestras with synth guitars, all seasoned with steely broad-strummed textures from country music.

So he’s an anti-fusion guitarist creating fusion music. That’s like the other paradox he’s often posed: All the members of his band must be familiar and expert in bebop, although they’ll hardly ever come right out and play it.

I am breaking this out into a new post because it brings up the whole debate about genre purity. Kevin Kneistedt had a good discussion going recently over on his “Groove Notes” page on the issue of Jazz purity. Check out  Where Is the Fine Line In Jazz? and stay to read more of Kevin’s stuff. His post came out of a complaint he received from a listener to his regular live-stream broadcast on Jazz24Live. Kevin had played Steely Dan’s Aja, and the listener complained bitterly that the track was Rock, not Jazz and did not belong on the show.

I, along with a few others, responded about the general idiocy of labeling styles and genres, especially when it leads, as it typically does, to a kind of huffiness about who “belongs” and who doesn’t.

For the sake of research, here is the “offending track” in live performance:

While the Pat Metheny incident is, instead, a question of self-labeling (or, more precisely label-denial) I think it grows out of the same tendency, when it comes to musicians, for us to seek pigeonholes. You correctly point out that one of the notable things that Pat has done, over the years, is to tap into, blend, yea fuse many disparate styles into his music. And yet, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the word fusion. His marked avoidance emphasizes the power he accords the label.

So where does the tendency for genre labeling come from?

Does this come from the marketing side of the business?

Is it inherent in fan-dom?

Are musicians, themselves, prone to sort out into categories, like religious denominations?

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Wynton Marsalis Is Fun On Facebook

If you do facebook, fan-up with Wynton Marsalis and his page at:   http://www.facebook.com/wyntonmarsalis?ref=mf

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

I think that Wynton Marsalis is one of the most intellectual, informative musicians active today. His knowledge and appreciation of ALL styles of music is a resource not to be missed. Wynton posts something most days and they are very enlightening and entertaining. Peeking in on the workings of this unique musical talent is a major treat.

He has posted live, streaming video during rehearsals and sound-checks. These are great fun. You not only get to hear some great music, but you are sitting in on the discussions and exchanges that result in the final performance piece.

Here is the link to a video he posted where master trumpet-maker Dave Monette,  delivered a new trumpet to Wynton at Lincoln Center:

Watch him try out the new horn, and watch Monette try to contain his joy at hearing the instrument taken for a test-drive by the master. This is great, insider stuff that enriches the jazz experience for me.

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