Sunday, January 28, 2007

John Mclaughlin

Check this John McLaughlin performance on The Tonight Show out before it gets taken down. Amazing playing!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wynton on Chainsaw

No, my ears weren't deceiving me; in fact, Wynton Marsalis' From The Plantation To The Penitentiary is even worse than I thought. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was a contract breaker.

Sample lyric from WM: "I see women dragging the souls of their womb-vanquished dreams never to be.” Wha?

Another ripe one: “The rap game started out critiquing/now it’s all about killing and freaking.”

What is most disturbing, though, is his premise that black Americans (read under-educated black Americans) have moved directly from white-imposed slavery to self-imposed slavery — or as Marsalis puts it "from yassa, boss, to ghetto minstrelsy." Talk about blowing off the entire black working class!

And, if that's not enough, he writes about America's obsession with "expensive fluff" in a song he calls "Supercapitalism." Now, that's one song we'll never hear on a Movado watch commercial.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

On A Limb With A Chainsaw

Whoo, boy! I just got a taste of the forthcoming Wynton Marsalis recording, From The Plantation To The Penitentiary, and if my ears aren't fooling me this is one of the worst albums I've heard from a major artist in years.

More listens will reveal details, but my visceral reaction to the doggerel he composed about "Supercapitalism" (this from a man who endorses designer watches and what all else!) is to turn and run.

And, oh yeah, he raps, too. Is there nothing this man can't do? His vocal debut "Where Y'all At?" is his swipe at the politicians who have failed America in the face of Katrina,, but it's tame stuff, with lyrics that would make Stevie Wonder blush.

Can Marsalis truly believe that anyone wants to hear this from him?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

IAJE Saturday

How bizarre to spend the day in windowless rooms with the world's leading jazz journalists without any of them being aware of two of the most newsworthy jazz-related deaths in recent years. Goes to show you how rare Blackberries are among jazz scribes and broadcasters. The first buzz about Michael Brecker's death didn't start until after 4:30, and Alice Coltrane's passing had added poignancy given frequent collaborator Charlie Haden's headline gig Saturday night.

IAJE Friday

As usual, at this point in IAJE—or any other trade show/conference—what you have to show from the experience is a stack of business cards, a bagful of assorted freebies and literature, a hoarse voice from too many loud conversations, and the feeling that time has shifted into some kind of nether-zone.

Okay, so maybe that nether-zone is more the product of Greg Osby's loopy interview with Ornette Coleman. Coleman's responses to Osby's questions/comments dipped, twisted and curled back on themselves like one of his saxophone solos, and made about as much traditional sense as his violin scrapings or trumpet blats. There are enough seasoned hands around to know that Coleman can make perfect sense—granted, in a delightfully weird Ornette way—if you ask the right questions. Osby sounded like he'd followed Coleman down one too many rabbit holes of logic and couldn't find his way back to the surface. Very early on, Osby forgot one key thing: this was supposed to be enlightening, not just entertaining, and many in the audience of several hundred—and, this being IAJE, a fairly young and impressionable audience—left thinking that Coleman is a semi-literate eccentric rather than the highly original thinker that he is.

Friday, January 12, 2007

IAJE Thursday

My focus at the IAJE conference is threefold: an article for DownBeat about a joint education program betweeen The Manhattan School of Music and The National Arts Centre; an article for Winnipeg's Dig! magazine tracking five University of Manitoba jazz program students through their experience here; and my responsibilities as vice-president of the Jazz Journalists Association.

The latter two occupied Thursday from 9 am to late. We started early—always a challenge in New York, where there's so much going on—with the annual JJA workshop on review writing. Hopefully, six participants will be back with their overnight reviews for one-on-one critiquing Friday morning. Informal JJA-related conversations throughout the day, culminating with a cocktail reception at a very crowded Iridium on Times Square.

Somewhere in the middle I caught trumpeter Avishai Cohen's band inside an insanely packed bar off the lobby of the Hilton. One of the Winnipeg students held down the piano chair in Cohen's band, and it was great to hear him get some spirited vocal support from his fellow students. Will Bonness held his own, too, in some fast company that included guitarist Lionel Loueke.

Closed off the night with a leisurely, and jazz obsessed, Thai dinner with a few JJA members.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NYC Day #1

Landed in Manhattan just in time to check in, sign in to the IAJE conference, grab some latkes at the Carnegie Deli (the recipe I picked up from a Yiddish folklorist I used to know is better!) and head downtown for the first Winter Jazzfest at the Knitting Factory.

Just like old times (circa the What Is Jazz?/Texaco Jazz Festival) with three floors of simultaneous music.

Caught an interesting solo set by percussionist Mino Cinelu, hard-grooving stuff from pianist Antoine HervĂ© with the Moutin brothers on bass and drums, and then a real flashback—all the way back to the No Wave Era—with a punky quartet called Gutbucket. Best thing of the night was a pickup quartet fronted by alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, with Craig Taborn subbing for Vijay Iyer, Tyshawn Sorey on drums and François Moutin on bass.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jazz Education

I'm heading this week to the annual International Association of Jazz Education conference in New York, and was mildly surprised to see an article on the conference in today's New York Times. Jazz education has such a low profile that among the major jazz magazines only DownBeat pays it any mind.

My focus at the IAJE conference is usually on the industry-track content, but I'm pursuing a couple of education-related articles this week. For one, I'm following five young music students from Winnipeg to record their experiences at the conference and how they integrate their experiences into their own studies. My other assignment is related to an article I'm researching on a joint distance education project between the Manhattan School of Music and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

As Nate Chinen's Times article makes clear, jazz education has grown tremendously in the past couple of decades, and the opportunities for high school graduates have expanded both in scope and geography. These Winnipeg students are among the first enrolled at the University of Manitoba's new jazz program, which is run by bassist Steve Kirby. It wasn't that long ago that kids had to head to either Boston, New York or Texas if they wanted a serious concentration on jazz. It's terrific to see all these new options.

Time—and wireless connections—permitting, I'll be blogging from the IAJE conference later in the week.