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Hm, that's interesting--I do some of the STN copyediting but Pete obviously deleted that section of the review before I saw/edited it. I've heard that disc, & yes it's pretty awful. I guess he felt it wasn't worth wasting (increasingly limited) column inches over.

Edited by Nate Dorward

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Hm, that's interesting--I do some of the STN copyediting but Pete obviously deleted that section of the review before I saw/edited it. I've heard that disc, & yes it's pretty awful. I guess he felt it wasn't worth wasting (increasingly limited) column inches over.

In a way I felt badly about dissing it so completely. But, yes, it sucks. It's a little puzzling how such a clunker can come out in the midst of some very interesting discs from the same artist. Nobody's perfect as the old saw goes...

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I've really been enjoying everybody's contributions. Thanks to Bill for starting the thread.

Jazz Times' Top 50 LPs from the 35th anniversary issue. Sept. 2005

Woody Shaw, "Little Red's Fantasy" (Muse, 1978)

As a freshman at the University of Illinois in 1981, I asked my parents for $90 to buy football tickets. Rah-rah and all that. It was a ruse: I bought records instead, among them trumpeter Woody Shaw's "Little Red's Fantasy," a blistering and profound 1976 quintet date that defines mainstream modal post-bop. It has also become my default response to the canard that straight-ahead jazz died in the 1970s.

I was an American history major in 1981 but also a budding alto saxophonist. At 18, I knew my way around bebop tunes like "Confirmation," "Yardbird Suite," and "Oleo." But modal harmony was a mystery. When I tried to tackle the Jamey Aebersold play-along set devoted to Shaw's music, the music's formal riddles proved way too complex for my elementary skills. I was speaking one language; Shaw spoke another.

I bought Little Red Fantasy because I recognized three tunes as beguiling Shaw originals that had stumped me, and I was intrigued by the presence of Frank Strozier, an alto player unknown to me. Pianist Ronnie Mathews, bassist Stafford James, and the late drummer Eddie Moore complete the group. Still underrated, Shaw was the next link in the trumpet chain after Freddie Hubbard and Booker Little. He applied the lessons of Coltrane and Dolphy to hard-bop roots, and the result was an angular but swinging style spiked by dissonance, pentatonic scales, wide intervals, and a disciplined inside-outside approach anchored in history but never limited by it. Shaw's music speaks of the eternal quest.

Each tune here is a melodic and memorable journey. Execution snaps to attention. Shaw's corpulent and burnished copper tone and Strozier's darkly plangent sound merge into thick expression; the splashy rhythm section creates a tidal-pool churn. Side 1 is given to the exploratory vamps of Mathews' waltz "Jean Marie" and James' lyrically edgy bossa "Sashianova." Side 2 opens and closes with Shaw's steeple-chase structures "In Case You Haven't Heard" (with solos based on a revolving series of four Lydian Scales) and "Tomorrow's Destiny" (intervallic melody, shifting Latin and swing rhtyhms, pedal points, advanced harmony). Shaw weaves in and out of chords like a Manhtattan taxi barreling down 7th Avenue, creating tension and release through chromatic side-slipping, clipped ferocity and maniacal spikes of volume and range. Strozier compliments him with deviously original phrasing that should have made him a star. The title track, Shaw's signature ballad, exposes his psyche with a gentle melody framed by a heart-of-darkness bridge.

Issued on Muse in 1978 as Shaw was reaching peak visibility with a newly minted Columbia contract, "Little Red's Fantasy" remains the definitve document of his art. The record is thrilling, brawny, soulful and sweeping in its aestheic field of vision. Head, heart, tradition and innovation are held in alchemist proportion. Nearly 30 years later, the music remains state-of-the-art. It helped teach me to play modern jazz--and it still has much to teach us all.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Thanks for diving in, Mark. I agree with Chris. A well-turned review indeed. The personal touch is particularly cool. There are theories that one should never do such a thing in this type of writing. No first person, no "I," etc. That review of yours obviously shows the fallacy of such limitations.

The first paragraph was a kick! Money well-spent I'd say. Did your parents ever discover your clever ruse? :rolleyes:

And thanks for the Wallace Roney piece, Chris. You make some very good points here.

Apropos of the developing trumpet theme, here's one from the long-defunct Green Mountain Jazz Messenger, also from the late 1990s. The "GMJM" shorthand in the body of the review refers to the paper. Valve trombonist, composer, arranger and bandleader Don Glasgo has been on faculty at Dartmouth College for many years and is the leader of The Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble. He has been a regular contributor to Jazz Improv too.

__________________________________________________________

Michael Ray & The Cosmic Krewe

Funk if I Know

Monkey Hill Records

Michael Ray & The Cosmic Krewe are probably no strangers to most regular readers of the GMJM. Their "Jazz-Funk of the Future" has proven to music fans from New England to New Orleans that you can shake your booty without disengaging your brain.

From 1978 to 1989, Ray split his time between the horn section of funk-pop supergroup Kool & The Gang and playing lead trumpet in Sun Ra's Arkestra. The slick, choreographed moves and grooves of the former and the outré multi-media avant theatrics of the latter have more in common than category obsessed listeners might imagine (for graphic recorded examples, check out Sun Ra's Singles collection on Evidence.)

When Ray left Kool and Ra in 1989 to form the first Krewe, he demonstrated a unique artistic vision: An alternate universe where George Clinton and Bootsy Collins jam with Marshall Allen; a parallel world where James Brown and Sly Stone front the Art Ensemble of Chicago; a cosmic city where Fletcher Henderson plays piano with Funkadelic; a night-club where Louis Jordan and Ray Charles sit in with a hip-hop group.

There are two Krewes, one based in New Orleans and one in New England; members of both groups take part in Ray's new CD, his second as a leader. The disc kicks off with a Ra-esque vocal romp titled "Cosmic City." Next up is the title track, an instrumental funkathon highlighted by the greasy, gritty alto saxophone of Clarence Johnson, and an expressive outing on valve trombone by frequent GMJM contributor Don Glasgo. "Yolinda" is a hip-shaking Latin tune with a lovely melody written by Glasgo that showcases some stratospheric Ray trumpet and a full-toned tenor sax solo by Tim Green that is bursting with ideas.

"Earthrite" will be familiar to long time Krewe fans; it's a stomping funk groove with environmentalist lyrics and swaggering solo contributions by alto saxophonist Dave "The Truth" Grippo and Adam Klipple on synthesizer. Afro-Cuban rhythms return, complete with Spanish lyrics, on "Latin Monkey," which pheatures special guest Trey Anastasio on guitar and a fine Klipple piano spot. "Neon Cosmos" has a delightful "out" intro and intriguing textures with Gregory Boyd's steel pans prominent in the mix. "Worry Bout Dat" brings drummer Kevin O'Day up front to rap propelled by a strong dance groove.

Then come three selections from the Sun Ra book: "Cosmos #2" swings along merrily with a retro feeling that hearkens back to Ra's mentor and early employer Fletcher Henderson; "Angels and Demons at Play" is one of those patented galactic Ra vocal extravaganzas; and "Watusi" is a strutting Afro dance featuring stunning ensemble interplay, an excellent piano solo, and polyrhythmic percussion that conjures up the ghost of Jac Jackson (some of you may recall the amazing tribute to Sun Ra a few years back at The Flynn in Burlington, when the Krewe hosted a number of Arkestra alumni, including Jackson and Marshall Allen.)

"Big John Special" is a chunky swing number written by Horace Henderson (Fletcher's brother, and a great swing era pianist-bandleader-writer himself.) "Made A Mistake" is the New Orleans Krewe (with special guest John Medeski on clavinet) serving up lyrics by Sun Ra set to new music by Ray. Medeski returns, joined by trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, for "6666," a piece that takes its title from the compositional form – six measures of one mode, six of another, six back and the bridge – and has nothing to do with the sign of the beast. "Dance of the Cosmos Aliens" closes the disc on an Arkestral note.

Michael Ray & The Cosmic Krewe are more fun than a barrel of Latin monkeys in live performance, and although an audio recording can give you only a fraction of the experience, this disc is a joy from start to finish. The packaging deserves a special tip of the jester's hat; it eschews the dreaded jewel-box and opts for a tripartite cardboard foldout with beautifully reproduced photos of Ray – a class act all the way.

©1999

Bill Barton/Green Mountain Jazz Messenger

Published in Volume Two Number Four (March-April 1999)

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(From the late lamented) Jazz Magazine [1974]

(BTW, I no longer believe, or no longer believe that literally, everything I said in this one -- in particular, the business about Coleman's relatively negligible influence. But that's how it seemed to me in '74.)

Ornette Coleman -- Live at the Hillcrest Club

Ornette Coleman worked with this group (cornetist Don Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Charlie Haden, and pianist Paul Bley --the nominal leader, who recorded the group in live performance) for six weeks between his first and second studio recording sessions, sometime between March 1958 and January 1959. The logical question is, how does Coleman sound at this early date, freed from studio pressures and united for the first time with Haden? Well, he sounds great, much more at ease than on his first album, Something Else. And even though, compared to what was to come, there is something of the gawky adolescent to the Coleman we hear on Live at the Hillcrest Club, no other recording of his has a comparable feeling of looseness and spontaneity until the Town Hall Concert album of 1962.

And do these tracks tell us something about Coleman that we didn’t know before? I suppose not, but merely because they’re beautiful in themselves and unexpected messages from the past, they do help to explain why the most successful innovator of the sixties (successful in the sense of producing performance after performance that really worked) should in the long run have had such a negligible effect on his contemporaries and successors, compared to the impact of men like John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. (Very few players showed Coleman’s literal imprint, and if there were others who grasped the principles of his music without wishing to sound like him, they must have decided that these principles coudn’t be applied by them.)

It comes down to this -- Coleman is both a pre-tonal and a post-tonal player, and, in a sense (a very fruitful one for him), he reads the history of tonality backwards to its pre-tonal state. What enabled him to do so, in addition to innate genius, was the accident of birth that placed him in a provincial center (Fort Worth, Texas) where Charlie Parker’s latest stretchings of triadic harmony could be heard alongside musics--blues, rhythm and blues, cowboy ballads, and what have you--that were either pre-tonal or so crude in their tonal functions as to be pre-tonal by implication. You can call it naïve or the ultimate sophistication, but sensing the relation between a music in which tonality was on the brink of ceasing to function and musics in which it functioned quite simply or hardly at all, Coleman was able to preserve what for him were the plums of tonality --the emotional colors of triadic harmony, especially the most basic ones (who aside from Monk has made so much of the octave jump?)--without adopting tonic-dominant cadential patterns and phrase structures.

This explains why the internal rhythm of Coleman’s solos often has a bouncy, downhome lope to it, a la Swing Era alto saxophonists like Pete Brown and Tab Smith or proto-r&b figure Louis Jordan (even though Coleman will interject phrases of startling asymmetry, and even though that internal rhythm has a floating, precisely controlled relation to the stated beat of the bass and drums). Conversely, the men who were most involved in stretching triadic harmony to its furthest limits to date in jazz, Charlie Parker and Art Tatum, also were the men who carried the subdivision of the beat to its furthest point to date--because such subtleties of accentuation were necessary to throw into relief, and so make articulate, melodic lines whose harmonic implications otherwise might have been inchoate.

On “Klactoveedsedstene,” Coleman and Cherry play Parker’s spikey theme with tremendous élan, which should settle any lingering doubts about Coleman’s rhythmic control and confirm that his sometimes radically simple rhythmic choices were real choices and not the results of any instrumental incapacity. The analogous simplifications of his melodic-harmonic universe can be heard best here on “The Blessing,” where he takes a mellow, strongly organized solo highlighted by a subtle sotto voce passage of implied doubletime. Improvisations like this--“Peace” on The Shape of Jazz to Come is another--reveal that however free Coleman is of tonic-dominant functions (in the sense of not needing to touch home base at specific intervals), his music has plenty of cadential possibilities that he can find as emotion dictates. And it is these moments of resolution, which give back to us the most primary pleasures of triadic harmony cleaned of the grime of long use, that ultimately divided Coleman from his contemporaries. However much they might respect a pre-tonal universe and make gestures toward it, they lived in a post-tonal world and could not read the history of tonality as Coleman did. But if his route has turned out not to be one that others could take, perhaps that makes the beauty he has given us all the more treasurable.

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Thanks, Larry. That's one of my favorite album reviews from Jazz in Search of Itself, by the way.

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Here's one that may be particularly apropos now that The Little Emperor has been deposed.

___________________________________________________________________________

David Budbill/William Parker/Hamid Drake

Songs for a Suffering World

Boxholder BXH 044

Budbill and Parker’s two-CD collection Zen Mountains, Zen Streets was the premiere release on Lou Kannenstine’s Boxholder label in 1998. The ensuing five years have seen a spate of creative, adventurous, critically acclaimed and wonderfully diverse releases from the Woodstock, Vermont-based company. This sequel is definitely worth the relatively long wait. Budbill is a poet who truly understands, appreciates and interacts with improvised music in a fully organic manner, completely devoid of the hipper-than-thou ostentation that has plagued so many jazz-poetry or poetry-jazz combinations over the years. Subtitled “A Prayer for Peace, A Protest Against War,” this is outspoken, scabrous, occasionally oblique, subtle yet in-your-face, angry yet compassionate, eloquent, energetic and passionate – sometimes almost overwhelmingly passionate – words plus music, music plus words. A little like a purple onion prepared for cooking, this recording provides layer upon layer of different colors, aromas and textures. It’s a reality check, a gentle but assertive boot to the butt, Big Ben tolling the eleventh hour for all of us, a wake up call that refuses to be ignored. Make love, drink a cup of tea, listen to the birds, live your life in an ethical and humane fashion, don’t let Little Emperors have their way, do what you can. That’s the message. Listen. React. Change and/or change others.

©2003

Bill Barton/CODA

Published in Issue 313 (January/February 2004)

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Thanks for diving in, Mark. I agree with Chris. A well-turned review indeed. The personal touch is particularly cool. There are theories that one should never do such a thing in this type of writing. No first person, no "I," etc. That review of yours obviously shows the fallacy of such limitations.

The first paragraph was a kick! Money well-spent I'd say. Did your parents ever discover your clever ruse? :rolleyes:

As a freshman in '81 at the same school (Taft Hall btw) I too liked the first paragraph (and the rest of the review as well.) Were the records bought at Record Garden? (or whatever the name was of the bigger record store on Green St. kitty corner from the movie theater.)

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Larry - thanks for re-printing that Ornette article - your remarks about pre-tonality have been on my mind since I first read it - as a matter of fact, I just started writing a book on the blues, and I'm still thinking about it, though I think I disagree slightly; I think I would say that what you perceive as pre-tonality is really a very common practice among early African American musicians, as in a vertical approach to improvisation, almost a stationery way of playing as opposed to the classic and more typical linear approach; and that the jazz musicians who do the blues best tend to have applied this vertical approach to linear/horizontal methods, to have retained their vertical-ness even in the face of linear improvisation (and ornette's playing is quite linear, I think). I am working on this is in the intro to the new book, which is basically a 20th century narrative of the blues and cuts across all basic popular/vernacular genres.

I digress, but thanks again for articulating that about Ornette - it was a major stimulus for my mind, deadened as it is by Maine life -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Larry, Allen, could one of you explain what this stuff about tonality and pre-tonality is, please? It's like you're talking a foreign language to me.

MG

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I'm only speaking for myself, but I think Larry is referring to the vocal origins of African American (and most American vernacular) music, and the kind of flexible tonality that kinda puts the notes between the notes, that sees melody as a free-form thing, as a matter of sound and sonority as much as conventional western diatonic scale/intervals -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Kinda like I asked a guy one time - who played more notes, Trane or Johnny Hodges? He kinda snickered and said Trane, of course. Ok, I said, how many notes are in one of Hodges long-ass glissandos? An infinite number he said. Ok then, I said back, how do you play more notes than an infinite number?

He says he's still scratching his head over that one...

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Well, MG -- and remember I'm not as musically literate as I might wish -- tonal music is for me in one crucial sense a historical thing: music in which an entire language arose and flourished (from roughly Haydn through Brahms, with deviations of course) in which the establishment and ultimate long-range dramatic resolution of tonic-dominant-etc. relationships, all this in living "harmony" (so to speak) with rhythmic, timbral, etc. events, was THE lanauage of Western concert music and then continued to play a strong language-like role in popular music of the so-called "Standards" era, in much jazz, and elsewhere, again with all sorts of variations and deviations. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, tonality as a language (remember I'm talking in historical terms -- I don't think there are any "absolute, for all time" musical languages) was, as they say, "breaking down" in the face of the music of Wagner, Debussy, Schoenberg, et al. (not to lump them all together, but you probably know what I mean -- music of arguably great power was being made essentially or entirely for its own sake in which "the establishment and ultimate long-range dramatic resolution of tonic-dominant-etc. relationships" no longer played as coherent a role, or a crucial role, or even much of a role; and this led to attempts to systemitize, in the case of Schoenberg and his disciples, a new musical language that would be at least as structurally coherent as the language of the Haydn-through-Brahms period. I know -- lots of luck, and we can talk about how that's worked out, but there's little doubt that a good deal of modern music was and continues to be post-tonal along those and other lines (historical awareness virtually demands that it be so, even if one wanted to write music, as some did and still do, that regarded the "language" of tonality, as outlined above, as a permanently renewable musical resource.

Meanwhile Part II, there also was a heck of a lot of music around -- particularly in the yeasty U.S.A. -- that was what I'd call pre-tonal (though Allen Lowe above adds an important alternate view). Blues, Gospel, Country stuff, we could go on and on, but the thing about this music was, aside from its intrinsic beauty and vigor, that it was (so I think) pre-tonal in at least two related ways. First, while it was full of events whose language was somewhat akin to that of (or not utterly alien to) "the establishment and ultimate long-range dramatic resolution of tonic-dominant-etc. relationships," it was different in that the "rules" or grammar of those languages were at once looser, more abrupt, and of a different flavor, i.e.playing these musics and listening to them, one moved to different musical-emotional places and in different ways. Second, because these musics were in large part "vernacular," at least for some time, they were historiacally "prior" to the language of tonal Western concert music, and of course the languages of post-tonal Western concert music, even when they were no longer prior to those languages according to the calendar.

And now, I think or hope, we're back to Ornette and what I said or speculated about him in that 1974 review. For reasons that had a lot to do with his particular genius as a musician, and his particular place in terms of background and personality, he could do (to borrow the old AACM phrase) "Ancient To the Future" -- in fact, he could hardly, given who he was, do anything other than that. Now I thought then that what was open to Ornette, even inevitable for him, was not as open to others; in that I wouldn't say I was literally wrong, but I underrated or didn't even grasp the language-making drive that was cropping up and was going to crop up all over the map. We can, of course, disagree about the success of any part of that language-making -- in concert muisc, in jazz, in pop, or wherever -- but we are still living in pretty interesting times.

Does this help?

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thanks Larry, will have to copy and paste that into my intro -

well, not exactly, but you've earned a significant footnote - don't want to derail this thread but suffice to mention that whenever I try to explain something BEFORE Larry Kart explains it, I always wondered why I bothered, as his explanation always make more sense to me than mine does -

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Thanks to all three of you. I get the general idea now.

One thing that always interested me - well not always, really - but when I went to West Africa for the first time I found a guy making balas (balaphones) by hand in the traditional way. Now the bala is a very old instrument - a bit like a marimba - wood blocks with gourds hanging off them and you play like marimbas. It certainly goes back to the 13th C and probably a good deal earlier.

Anyway, I asked the guy if I could have a go (well, you would, wouldn't you?) and, to my surprise, when I hit the keys successively, found I was playing an ordinary European style scale. The Mandinke musicians and instrument makers might have changed the tuning over the centuries but I can't see why, since they still sing in what you call a pre-tonal manner, with accompaniment by instruments that are tuned pretty much as ours are. I've never been able to get this.

Sounds OK, though :)

MG

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Meanwhile Part II, there also was a heck of a lot of music around -- particularly in the yeasty U.S.A. -- that was what I'd call pre-tonal (though Allen Lowe above adds an important alternate view). Blues, Gospel, Country stuff, we could go on and on, but the thing about this music was, aside from its intrinsic beauty and vigor, that it was (so I think) pre-tonal in at least two related ways. First, while it was full of events whose language was somewhat akin to that of (or not utterly alien to) "the establishment and ultimate long-range dramatic resolution of tonic-dominant-etc. relationships," it was different in that the "rules" or grammar of those languages were at once looser, more abrupt, and of a different flavor, i.e.playing these musics and listening to them, one moved to different musical-emotional places and in different ways. Second, because these musics were in large part "vernacular," at least for some time, they were historiacally "prior" to the language of tonal Western concert music, and of course the languages of post-tonal Western concert music, even when they were no longer prior to those languages according to the calendar.

Exactly.

Ask yourself this - why would you hear a music that reflects precise man-made measurements when you're living in a world that still, mostly, doesn't?

I mean, this:

9-june-05-sky.jpg

would seem to trigger an entirely different vibrational take on the sense of time/space boundaries than would this:

66757,1202530020,2.jpg

Music is first and foremost (exclusively, really, but let's not go there...) vibration. And vibration can and does take on an infinite number of shapes, and existes in an infinite number of dimensions. "Tonal" music reflects the development of a more "measured" (in all sorts of ways...) world. One could well argue that the "liberating" effect of all things "African" (real or imagined) to the 20th Century "Western" world was to (re)open some of the vibrational spaces that had been closed off/up by the "precision" of a "tonal" vibrational culture. One might also well argue that the Viennese School, etc attempted to "destroy tonality" in an attempt to get into those spaces, but jeez, there's the matter of timbre, micro-rhythm, everything else besides harmony that those guys were just too far gone from to really go where they thought they wanted to go. Think about how radical Louis Armstrong really was in terms of rhythm - into a world where time had been strictly measured & segmented, here comes this guy who finds time in between time in between time in between time.

Or so it seemed. Really, he (and all whom he represented, past, present, & future) just related to time & space from a different vibrational stance, not because they were trying to find something, but because they were already there! The rest, the various forms & rhythms & colors & everything, that was just engineering. And yeah, people who weren't already there called their travel agents regularly & excitedly. Factor in all the various Euro-ethnic vibes that were still active, and you got a fertile ground for time & space to be defined in a way that the world had yet to see - American Music.

I don't know who agrees or disagrees with me on this, but I'm firmly convinced that you can't talk about stuff like this just in terms of tonality, or rhythm, or any one "element". It really is all of a piece, a holistic entity that reflects a basic type of interaction with "life" - the vibrational path of existence as its peoples interact with time and space on its way to becoming what it - and they - will be.

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For that matter, look at how our American palate has been evolving towards more spicy/savory foods. That's another vibrational area opening up in response to realizing that it's there to be gone to.

It's all the same thing, really, music, food, "tonal", "pre-tonal", everything. Where we are, what we think "is" is turns out to be, not an absolute, fixed quantity, but a relativistic perception. Once we know "different", wheels get set in motion, and reciprocal evolution is off to the races. Resistance is futile, but nevertheless offered by some on both ends of the equation.

Edited by JSngry

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MG, or anyone else -- let me recommend (because it touches on all this and is just a great book that probably will enrich your understanding of all sorts of stuff) the late Carl Dahlhaus' "Nineteenth-Century Music" (U. of California Press). There are musical examples and there is technical talk but nothing that will leave you on the outside looking in. Dahlhaus has really smart and, untypically for a heavyweight German musicologist-historian, a man of broad understanding who wrote very clearly (or at least can be translated into clear English) and was not at all snotty.

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"Tonal" music reflects the development of a more "measured" (in all sorts of ways...) world. One could well argue that the "liberating" effect of all things "African" (real or imagined) to the 20th Century "Western" world was to (re)open some of the vibrational spaces that had been closed off/up by the "precision" of a "tonal" vibrational culture.

I get what you're saying, but it occurred to me, thinking about this earlier, that one of the basic things a musician, or instrument maker, of a stringed instrument, would absolutely know about is the relationship between the length of a tensed string and the pitch. And that any instrument maker of quality would standardise, partricularly since back in the day (and still now actually) musicians made their own instruments and wouldn't want to make micro adjustments when playing their Sunday best whatever for a special occasion. I have a slight feeling that the idea that African musicians didn't measure things as we do is part of the heritage of Euro-centricism that is so hard for us to ditch.

MG

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Larry, Allen, et al.:

Please don't worry about derailing the thread. The sidetrack is most enlightening indeed. And thanks for the recommendation of that book, Larry, I'll have to search it out.

Another (somewhat) related puzzle along the lines of the tonality/pre-tonality connection is - to me - the whole concept of the oral tradition versus the passing on of methods and repertoire through an academic, literate tradition that can be codified. In its early days, jazz was in the oral tradition, and in some ways still is. Ornette Coleman's music is a superb example of the oral tradition living on. Among the circle of musicians who have played with him over the years he's more like a griot than he is a professor. You certainly won't learn how to play his music at Berklee or The New England Conservatory or North Texas State; you'll learn by playing with him. Another example of this could be - and this may very well be open to debate - Anthony Braxton. Thoughts?

Chris:

Thanks for sharing that interview. By all means, let us include interviews in the mix...

P.S. "Polly Esther" eh? :rofl:

Edited by Bill Barton

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I have a slight feeling that the idea that African musicians didn't measure things as we do is part of the heritage of Euro-centricism that is so hard for us to ditch.

Why is that? "Euro-centric" pitch is all about standardizing the octave (yeah, there's always "fudging" going on, but...). You think the piano/etc, where the octave is divided into 12 (theoretically) equal intervals is a non-European concept? No way, dude, no way. "African temperament" is a fact of life. Let's not even get into Indian/Asian temperament...

Same thing w/rhythm - "Euro-centric" rhythm is all about equal divisions & placements of the beat (again, there's always "fudging" going on, but...). African rhythm is all about floating in and around the pulse, the "one". This is, I'm pretty sure what Allen is getting at with his "vertical" thing, but I myself think it's futile to look at multi-dimensionality through a lens of just two dimensions...

Timbre? "Euro-centric" timbre is all about a focused tone, rigidly aligned to fit within pre-determined parameters. African timbre is a helluva lot more open, the overtones are quite frequently more "on top" than in "Euro-centric" musics.

All these things point directly to fundamental differences in perception/consciousness, in the way that one's personal vibrational pattern interacts/intersects with one's environment. You can call it "measuring" if you like (it seems a little simplistic to me, but not really "wrong"...) but the bottom line is that there are differences, they are obvious, they are significant, and they are not accidental.

It's not a matter of "not knowing", it's a matter of "differing needs". And to that end, "European" "folk" musics have a helluva lot more flexibility/openness in their personal vibrational pattern interactions than do "court" (i.e. - "classical") musics, and also to that end, the closer to Africa the Euro-folk musics are, the more...."intricate" they tend to be.

So what does all this mean? Hell if I know, other than looking at music as just/purely music is something that is only good up to a point, and that the sooner one gets to, and then past, that point, the sooner one is likely to start finding what one is looking for. That, and that Johnny Hodges plays more notes than Coltrane, because Johny Hodges plays an infinite number, but Coltrane's can be counted.

Anybody doesn't think that that means something, hey, we might be hearing the same sounds, but we sure ain't hearing the same musics.

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Vinny Golia Interview

Referring to Vinny Golia as a “multi-instrumentalist” is something of an understatement. The Los Angeles-based musician and composer plays an astonishing variety of aerophones: Ab, Eb, Bb, C, A, alto, bass, contra alto and contra bass clarinets; piccolo and Db piccolo; G, C, Db, alto, bass and contra bass flutes; sopranino, soprano, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones; and soprillo (a saxophone that’s one octave above the Bb soprano). To those you can add Tubax (a form of contra bass saxophone – “It’s a new design and I’ve been playing it a lot lately,” he explained.); English horn; bassoon and contra bassoon; stritch; taragato; and several ethnic aerophones.

It must be a challenge keeping his chops in shape on such a cornucopia of instruments requiring different embouchures. “It’s really difficult to describe,” he responded to a question regarding his practice regimen. “I have to make practicing a fun thing. I usually try to break it up into areas, things I have to accomplish: learning music, working on extended techniques, basics, and time with the instrument playing for discovery and enjoyment. Part of the approach is to hear how you are going to use the instruments and in what contexts, so you can shift whatever technique is transferable to the next horn you’re going to blow, but also keeping in mind the identity of the new instrument, its inherent sound, its history and how it’s been used in the past, who played it. So for the practicing part I try to cover the basics – scales, arpeggios, long tones, etc. – on the flutes and clarinets at least a little every day. Then, if I have time, I go to one of the saxophones, choosing what needs to be done with some kind of priority in mind. Since I’m involved in a lot of projects, sometimes certain instruments or instrumental families get more attention. When I’m composing a lot, which I do a fair amount of the time, all this practice time gets reduced a bit, so I start to specialize the attention to the specific horns. It’s a constant merry-go-round with my routine. The good thing is that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to do the same thing every day, so even if I’m doing the same exercises on a number of different instruments, I’m actually doing something different.”

Asked about the ethnic aerophones, Golia said: “I use the shakuhachi and dzi (Chinese membrane flute). I’ve been using the kaval (Macedonian end-blown flute) and xian (Chinese vertical flute) lately. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with the ney… so I may start to use these instruments more too. This is another area where the project dictates what will happen musically and what instruments I will use. I get to use a lot of the ethnic instruments in movie and TV scores and soundtracks if I am lucky. The thing with these horns is that you don’t want to disrespect the tradition of the instrument(s) but also you don’t want to mimic the sounds either. You ideally want to make the instrument your own. That’s a hard road.”

Golia has composed for ballet, modern dance works, video, TV and theatrical productions as well as for films, including TroubleBound, Blood and Concrete, Heatwave, No Secrets, Serpent’s Lair, Real World-The Lost Vancouver Sessions, Evolution’s Child, They Nest and The Pass. In 2002 he composed and performed the music for Travis Preston’s production of King Lear in France. He has won many awards as a composer, and the Los Angeles Flute Orchestra is scheduled to perform his new composition for flute orchestra, Twelve of Seven, in late 2003. The Ojai Camerata recently commissioned a choir piece titled Dedilus. In 1982 he formed The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble – currently 37 pieces – to perform his compositions for chamber group and jazz orchestra. The ensemble includes eight woodwinds (with doubles), two bassoons, three to four trumpets, four to five trombones, one tuba, two orchestral percussionists (mallets, chimes, timpani, hand drums, etc.), one drums and percussion, one piano and keyboards, three violins, one viola, four ‘cellos, two double basses, and a conductor. A DVD is scheduled for release in January 2004.

His influences and mentors are fully as diverse as his collection of winds. “I always liked Eric Dolphy, Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk – he was just Roland Kirk when I met him [around 1968] – James Spaulding, Sam Rivers… all of the usual great players in the jazz world that were prominent when I first got into the music. But when I met Anthony [braxton] he changed my opinion of what a multi-instrumentalist was and what he did. By the way, I started out just wanting to play the soprano saxophone; but somehow along the way I veered into playing all these other instruments to get a better viewpoint of the music I was involved in. I really didn’t want to play more than one, as it would interfere with my painting and drawing. Anyway, I then started to look at people who specialized in one instrument and those figures are the people who inspired me to push what I could do on each instrument. After all, what’s the purpose of playing more than one instrument if you suck on them and can only really get around on your primary horn? So, I started to think of each instrument I played as my primary instrument, and used these other masters of music as my inspirations. Strangely enough, many of them are classical or modern music players like [flautists] Severino Gazzelloni and Pierre-Yves Artaud, [New Music bass clarinetist] Harry Sparnaay, [saxophonist] Serge Bertocci, David Breidenthal [principal bassoonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic], Armand Angster – a clarinetist closely associated with Boulez’ Ensemble Intercontemporain and Louis Sclavis – and Guy Deplus, another great clarinetist very active in the 1960s. Just so many! I still do it. I just like all kinds of good music. There’s always something to learn.”

Judging from the preceding list – and Golia’s formidable skills as a musician, composer and arranger – one might assume that he received considerable European classical training, but that is not the case. “I had two lessons with Anthony Braxton, one bassoon lesson with John Steinmetz, and two lessons on tone with Bill Green here in Los Angeles,” he explained. “Other than that, I’m self-taught. I had a lot of friends who helped me in different ways when I started to play my horn, but nothing very formal in music.” As an educator, he is in great demand as a clinician, and has lectured on music, improvisation, jazz history, CD and record manufacturing and self-production throughout the United States, Europe and Canada. In 1998 Golia was appointed Regent’s Lecturer at the University of California-San Diego; he currently teaches at California Institute of the Arts and Art Center College of Design.

His entrée to the creative arts was as a painter, but he set aside the brushes and pigments in 1971 to concentrate on music. He sees a number of parallels between the two forms of expression. “In the esoteric range, all artists seem to be dealing with vibration,” he mused. “If you look at wavelength graphs you’ll see… ranges of vibration, light, ultra violet and infra red, etc., all formed as a continuum, one range leading into the next. I had to see all the things that music had similar to the visual arts if I was not going to be entirely swamped by what I had to do to learn how to play, so I used the same ground rules as painting: rhythm, shape, form and color. With these ideas in mind as my blueprints to see if something I was doing was working or not, I started to find a lot of similarities that I could work off. The instrumental technique and tone I had to practice a lot, but some of the other concepts transferred, the same way as some instrument technique transfers from one horn to another.”

The aural palette of his large body of recorded work certainly explores a wide spectrum of colors, forms, shapes and rhythms. Unaccompanied solo, duo, trio, quintet, medium-size and large ensemble recordings with a stunning variety of timbres – and sometimes quite unusual combinations of instruments – define his vision as omni-directional. Each project has its own niche, its own distinctive personality, and there’s nothing even remotely predictable about his discography, which includes 32 recordings as leader or co-leader and over 50 appearances as a sideman. Two recent releases on Golia’s 9 Winds label could serve as a microcosm of that diversity. Feeding Frenzy matches up piccolo and the flute family with a string quartet of two violins, ‘cello and double bass; Music for Electronics and Woodwinds pairs his winds with Mark Trayle, who uses “a Powerbook running the software synthesis program Supercollider,” as Trayle’s notes explain. “[On two pieces] I use Vinny’s playing as my sound source; in the other pieces the sounds are generated by the software alone. ‘Imparticle’ is a bit of studio trickery; everything else was performed and recorded in real-time and subjected to a minimum of editing.”

Golia formed 9 Winds in 1977, and the company has released nearly 200 recordings to date. Concentrating primarily on artists rooted in the West Coast of North America – from San Diego north to Vancouver, BC – 9 Winds is not only one of the most prolific musician-operated recording labels in the world but also remarkably consistent in the quality of its productions. Adventurous music that negates artificial boundaries between jazz, creative improvised music and “modern classical” (for lack of a better term) has always worked reed-in-mouthpiece with crisp, clear, detailed engineering and edgy, evocative graphics to generate a catalog that future historians will surely cite for its important documents in the development of creative music from the late 1970s through the turn of the millennium. A large percentage of the recordings remain in catalog, although the critically acclaimed Solo from 1980 and other early vinyl-only releases are out-of-print.

Speaking of graphics, Golia keeps his visual chops healthy through the collaboration with photographer Jeff Atherton on the 9 Winds inserts and liners. “He’s very lenient with my altering his photos, and he’ll try every idea I have without complaining how I am changing his shots or how ridiculous the idea is. It’s really a lot of fun to work with him. He came on the 1996 Large Ensemble tour as a photographer and took a lot of great shots along with videographer Neil France. Also, when I have my hand on that aspect of the label, the CDs have a consistent look. At least I think so.”

Many musicians have also been involved with visual art through the years. Sticking to the world of jazz and improvised music, the names of Pee Wee Russell, Milt Hinton, Miles Davis, Ivo Perelman, Bill Dixon and Wally Shoup immediately spring to mind. When queried about other musicians who double in the realm of the retina, and reach him on that level, Golia had this to say: “David Byrne, Alex Cline, Larry Rivers and Susie Allen off the top of my head for people whose work I’ve seen. Leroy Jenkins and Leo Smith have some interesting things. Leo’s scores are quite visual and are really very beautiful. Ornette and Braxton did some visual art also. Most of the things I’ve seen from musicians haven’t caused any great chords to swell up in me. I suppose a lot of musicians say the same about me too.”

Candor, a sense of humor, appreciation of honest and heartfelt expression – regardless of the conduit – and modesty that isn’t self-deprecating shine through his comments and observations; his music resonates with those qualities too. Golia combines vision, refinement and business acumen in all of his projects with a balance and perspective “beyond category,” as Duke Ellington might have said.

©2003

Bill Barton/CODA

Published in Issue 313 (January/February 2004)

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Kinda like I asked a guy one time - who played more notes, Trane or Johnny Hodges? He kinda snickered and said Trane, of course. Ok, I said, how many notes are in one of Hodges long-ass glissandos? An infinite number he said. Ok then, I said back, how do you play more notes than an infinite number?

He says he's still scratching his head over that one...

I know what you're saying, and your point still stands. But I think, to perhaps be tedious about it (and I'm saying this not really to you but -- well, you know), that that's not being fair to Coltrane, who certainly could play (at various points in his career) just as many "notes" (in the between or inside the note Hodges sense) as Hodges did -- and/or enough, in his own way (as in, as many as he needed to), as to be beside the point. Of course, the guy you were talking to wasn't thinking of things that way but kind of in terms of athletics.

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Nah! Hodges glanced off more notes than anyone I can think of.

This is no "dis" of Coltrane.

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Just want to repeat information (not a quote) attributed to OC: Your can play 'sharp' in tune and you can play 'flat' in tune. Overtones are everything.

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