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Jazz Around the World

Recently, we have been curious about the readership, especially since thejazzmonger blog went through a protracted period of idleness last year. So, I checked into our usage statistics a little bit. We found some surprises… some very pleasant surprises. First, we have been averaging around 65 hits per day, recently, with the high being 82 hits and the low being 50. So the traffic has been pretty steady. That’s good, I think.

Kudos are due to the great folks at WordPress for providing a terrific vehicle to let one speak to the whole wide world. If you have ever given any thought to expressing yourself in blog form, I encourage you to check out the great package of services and assistance  provided there.

But, what really surprised us was where the visitors are logging in from. Naturally, most connections originate in the United States, with the United Kingdom and India (both predominantly English-speaking countries and very heavily wired-in) coming in second and third. It was the overall distribution that was a revelation. Over the last seven days, we have logged visitors from thirty-eight (38) different countries.  And I am quite stoked about that.

Any disappointments? Yes, a couple. We would really love to be picked up more in Japan. The Japanese are well-recognized as sincere fans and aficionados of good Jazz. One fine exampleof this is the excellent site Jazz in Japan, edited by Michael Pronko.  Not only does he thoroughly cover the Jazz scene in Japan, but he writes with passion and talent on some surprisingly (for me) provocative subjects, such as Jazz and ZenThis guy has stretched my horizons considerably. Maybe our problem, here, is that thejazzmonger just doesn’t measure up to this kind of material. Michael gives us something to shoot at.

And the Japanese are not just fans. Many important contributors to the genre are from Japan. A case in point is one of my favorires, Gota Yashiki, about whom thejazzmonger wrote lovingly some time ago (Cf: http://wp.me/ppvVJ-al).  thejazzmonger needs to put in some serious thought on how we might appeal to this sophisticated audience, in the future.

Another disappointment is the low showing from Switzerland. I have some family, and a couple of good friends in Switzerland. We bagged one hit for the week. C’mon family!

We draw some encouragement, though, from what we think are pretty good numbers in some other places. Fifty-three hits from India and Pakistan, combined. Twenty from Greece! The Greeks have plenty going on, right now, so we are gratified that a few of them had time to drop by. One hit from the Russian Federation, probably Vladimir Putin, unwinding from another election rout.

WE invite any, and all, visitors to come back often, comment as you see fit and, please, drop us a note via the “Contact Us” link, introduce yourself and let us know where you sign in from.

Here is the chart

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Steve Tyrell

I mentioned that a friend of mine was in New York City a couple of weeks ago, and saw Cole Porter‘s piano in the cocktail lounge of The Waldorf Astoria.

She had asked me for ideas on where to go for some good music one evening. After checking around on what was happening (thanks New Yorker magazine) I recommended they consider seeing Steve Tyrell, who was performing at The Blue Note.

Steve Tyrell at The Blue Note

Steve Tyrell at The Blue Note

They went, and they really enjoyed it. The Blue Note is a terrific, intimate venue for this kind of act. The performance was built largely around Steve’s Back to Bacharach album, but included some tunes from the Great American Songbook. At the very beginning of his music career, Steve worked as an assistant producer for Burt Bacharach, and he has a special feel for all the Bacharach/Hal David material.

Back to Bacharach album

Back to Bacharach album

On most tunes, Tyrell’s voice has certain rough, growly quality. I think of it as “a little taste of Louie.” This makes for an interesting interpretation of some of the classics on his Standard Time album, which includes several of my all-time favorites like Stardust. Probably my favorite track on the album is Fats Waller‘s Ain’t Misbehavin’ from way back in 1929.

Tyrell followed up Standard Time with A New Standard offering more of the great old stuff. This time we get Cheek to Cheek , I Can’t Get Started and Smile. Where you really hear “a little taste of Louie” is on A Kiss To Build A Dream On. It’s not Louie, but it’s close.

Any of you who saw my post on the Denise Brigham recording sessions for Hotel Lafayette knows that I am always intrigued by the process behind the final track. While not quite the same as the ‘live look” at the recording process we saw there, the following video has Steve talking about what it was like working with, and learning from, Burt Bacharach, as well as some of the production work and strategy that has gone into some of his best tracks.

Steve Tyrell will take over at The Carlyle Hotel for a run fro November 10- December 30, plus a special performance on New Year’s Eve. We recommend it. Read more of this post

Do I like Jazz & Big Band?

This is the first posting from bluetwango, “Our Man in Colorado”

Do I like Big Band, Jazz and Swing? That’s a simple question that calls for a complicated answer. I’ll try to riff on this awhile…

Not so much in its original form. I enjoy watching an old clip of a nattily tailored band playing to elegant dancers in a sleek Art Deco ballroom, caught on some classic movie on TCM. It truly was a time — but not the only time — when popular music achieved excellence, and excellence found an audience. That said, I don’t listen to any classic Big Band, at all.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, about a year ago when I dropped by a humble tavern in my neighborhood that had started booking jazz.  I stepped inside and found myself face-to-face with an 11-piece Big Band in full thunder. What I took for the front door turned out o be a side door, so I was literally fronting the band, a yard in front of the rhythm section. If there had been a mike and a song I knew, I might have tried to sing it– the experience was that immediate and involving. Instead, I found a seat among a crowd that barely outnumbered the players. It was bigger the next week, though.

I probably spent five hours in there, coming back with my little family, and again as the cast of players shifted from week to week. They always were some of Denver’s best players, many of them are teachers at a local college’s jazz program. I realized I”d been hearing their names on the local jazz radio station (one of the few 24-hour jazz spots on any dial). We’ve quietly been developing a cadre of notables, most notably trumpeter Ron Miles. Bill Frisell, who knocks me out with his Hendrix-influenced Americana, was a Denver native who comes by often.

GuitaristBbill Frisell

GuitaristBbill Frisell

How was the music? Oh, the music. Melodic, dynamic, intensely emotional. Cheerful, in a way jazz often isn’t, but that’s in tune with the bandleader’s debut title, “Unfailing Kindness.” The composer and conductor was Chie Imazumi, a Berklee grad who’s set up shop in Denver for now. She paints with the usual big-band’s broad palette of instruments, along with a prominent lead guitarist who sometimes cranks it into overdrive. (It’s my generation, cuz- without a little feedback and distortion now and them, something’s just missing for me.) I’d be happy to send you a copy, or suggest you buy one– she’s still small enough to need the income.

That was only one of the incidents that periodically remind me that I like Big Band, though I don’t… much…

Another was my first after-show chat with my musical idol, Pat Metheny. When I asked him why he never stretched or altered compositions or arrangements when performing with the Pat Metheny Group, he replied, “They’re the big band. They play the charts.” (Later when he cut my favorite movements out of two of his songs played live, I was deeply irritated and sorry I’d suggested anything!) It was easy to see the Group as a modern Big Band. Its core quartet are augmented by between three and five second-line musicians who multiply their own efforts with a battery of wind instruments, arrays of mallets and percussion oddities, plus guitars and vocals. It’s something to see live, as deliberate and intricate as a watching a team of top chefs working up dinner in the diner of a speeding train, to stretch a metaphor. The Group’s last effort, “The Way Up,”  involved nine musicians playing over an hour with a composition that fills a 300-page music book. So yes, I like complexity, which is one thing Big Bands were good at, and something that got lost in the bebop age of minimalist bands. Pat’s next act, which should push complexity to a new level, is too compose and tour with a modern Orchestration. Check his site for details- any attempt at description of this would keep me up even later, and it’s too late now.

Guitarist Pat Metheny

Guitarist Pat Metheny

I’d recommend you look up “The Music of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays” by Bob Curnow and the LA Big Band. It’s a small label, hard to find, but a great project. It’s a note-for-note rearrangement into the language of a big Big Band, with over two dozen players, IIRC.  These compositions are deeply grooved into my brain now, but hearing them with oboes and clarinets taking the leads was a whole new experience. It removed all the distance between me and the Big Band era, all those pencil-thin mustaches and zoot suits and dry cocktails. But I have pretty big ears. Driving through Kansas City once, I was treated to an hour’s program on Lounge music. Sandy Denny and the like. Wow, what a forgotten genre of music! I found myself digging some of it. Lots of emphasis on orchestration; not just what notes are played, but what voices play them. A good bit of world music influence, too, like I hear in Metheny’s music, who also grew up in KC, listening to this stuff, perhaps?

So, Big Band strikes me when I’m out looking for something else. As for Swing, I hear that in all good jazz. If I had to find some on my shelf, I’d dig for my disc of David Grisman with Stephane Grappelli. Anything by Grisman swings like Chipper Jones at a high fast one, right?

’til later,

bluetwango

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