Monday, February 9, 2015

Nice gig with Curtis Andrews

Nothing major to report, but I don't want to completely neglect the blog...


I played with the Offering of Curtis Andrews on Saturday night.  Lots of listening people were there in the audience, including quite a number of my students.  It was nice to see them there and see them really having a great time. The music was intense, as it always is when I play with Curtis. He tends to write impossibly difficult tunes that make your eyes cross when you are learning them but then things get loose and crazy on stage.  I don't think I have ever experienced anything quite like the musical contrasts and challenges that this band presents.  They are all great guys to play with.  John Korsrud (trumpet), Robin Layne (vibes), Russell Shumsky (percussion), David Spidel (bass, and Colin Maskell (saxes/flute).  Most of all, I get to exorcise/exercise my rock and roll roots a bit as you'll see in the clip... Thanks to John for taking a minute to record a snippet of my solo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Spring Gigs

Here is a guide to some of my upcoming public performances... I'm not playing quite as much as usual this spring.  There are a lot of private functions and that, coupled with my crazy teaching and administrative load at Capilano makes for a full schedule.  I

There are some good quality gigs coming up that should be a lot of fun.  I'm sure there'll be more announced, so watch this space or drop me a line if you're in town and want to know where I'm playing. Hope to see you around.

Jan 21 - Brad Muirhead Quartet at Presentation House Studio.  8pm $10 at the door.

Jan 30 - Tribute to Brazil show at Blueshore Theatre 8pm.  Capilano U box office for tickets.

Feb 4 - Jared Burrows Quartet at Presentation House Studio.  8pm $10 at the door.

Feb 7 - The Offering of Curtis Andrews at Cafe Deux Soleils.  9pm. $7 at the door.

Feb 18 - Soundimagenet at with Paul Cram at Presentation House Studio.  8pm $10 at the door.

Feb 26 - NARWHAL at Capilano U  Room Fir 113. 11:30am.  Free admission.

Mar 4 - Jazz Faculty concert with Kofi Gbolonyo at Capilano U.  Room Fir 113. noon.  Free admission.

Mar 11 - Valtkovich/Campbell/Burrows/Reed at Presentation House Studio.  8pm $10 at the door.

Apr 7 - Cap Jazz Faculty Quartet at Capilano U.  Room Fir 113. 11:30am.  Free admission.

Apr 9 - NARWHAL at Capilano U  Room Fir 113. 11:30am.  Free admission.

Apr 18-19 - Adjudicating at Cantando Festival, Sun Peaks.

Apr 25-26 - Adjudicating at Cantando Festival, Nelson.  Performance with Cap Jazz Faculty Quartet.

May 2-3 - Adjudicating at Cantando Festival, Whistler. Performance with Cap Jazz Faculty Quartet.

July 7-11 South Delta Jazz Festival daily teaching and performances.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tipping the Scales

For the last few weeks, I have been talking with my students about their reasons for making music.  Why do we do it?  Today is Diwali, a festival that celebrates the victory of light over darkness. With all that is going on in the world these days, I feel more and more that I do it because making music is a meaningful response to the wave of negative and destructive energy with which we are confronted on a daily basis.  Music creates order out of chaos, meaning out of emptiness, reveals the beauty of humanity in opposition to the base and the crude.  In contrast to the hard, smooth edges of technology and the cold, algorithmic calculations of the machines that we invent and invite to govern more and more of our lives, music is organic and welcoming. Even the wildest, noisiest, most rambunctious music is beautiful to me and has an accessibility and a fleshy vulnerability that we need somehow.

Today, violence and hatred was visited on the sleepy capital of our country. It was a shock to most of us. This is of course a very small taste of the kind of pain and suffering people in other lands must face on a daily basis. We watch images of it on television on the nightly news, but it is always far away.  When such evil surfaces in our society, in any of its myriad forms, what can we do?  Heightened security measures won't prevent it, more guns won't help, political rhetoric of any kind will aggravate it.
When others wage war, musicians can wage peace.

I got to play a lovely concert tonight with some fine musicians from the Hindustani and Carnatic music traditions. The sound of the tanpura drone gently filled the room, melodies unfolded, ideas and rhythms were traded back and forth.  The audience was sitting very close, listening very hard, completely focused on the music. Outside, the rain was pouring down with a vengeance, there were traffic and city noises, a drug deal was probably going down at the 7-11 across the street.  But music made the outside world disappear for a time.  People smiled, hugged, drank tea and ate cookies, laughed and chatted with each other at the intermission. Even the ear infection that has been bothering me for 2 days completely stopped. I think it was Vidyasagar's incredible singing of raga Pantuvarali that did it.

 I know that while we were playing our concert, in many places in the world people were and are at war, suffering from cold, hunger, disease, and fear.  But I also know that in many other places in the world, people were playing music, painting, dancing, speaking poetry, writing books, acting plays, telling stories. Darkness and destruction will continue to be realities, but we don't have to despair or succumb. We can choose to exercise our true birthright as human beings to create beauty, order, light, and meaning and to share these things with each other. These acts of creation and sharing are acts of love. When we choose to do engage with acts of creation, as artists or audience members, we are in that moment tipping the scales ever so slightly in favour of the good and the just, the pure and the beautiful.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reaction to Geoff Dyer's "Catastophic Coltrane"

Geoff Dyer's recent article in theNY Times "Catastrophic Coltrane" was brought to my attention this morning. Here is a link to the article and a brief reaction to his piece.

Dyer does raise an important issue:  the Temple University concert represents a last rather than late example of Coltrane's art.  We don't and can't know what he would have done if he had been able to stay on this planet longer.  Thus, both Dyer's analysis and my reaction to it are both speculation based on our understandings of Trane's legacy.  Perhaps the difference is that Dyer wants to understand Coltrane's music within the scope of jazz and his impact on that idiom.  I want to understand Trane in the broader cultural and musical sense. He was not just a jazz musician, he was a cultural, revolutionary, spiritual and artistic force.

Dyer’s analysis makes sense if one views Trane’s music only through the window of ‘jazz’.  In this article, the writer fails to acknowledge the power of the activity of music making as a communal experience and process and as a site of not only personal development, but also cultural exploration, revolution, and redefinition. In my view, these issues were extremely important to Coltrane and essential for any kind of understanding of the last few years of his life.  Dyer seems to be looking for coherence in terms of the traditional harmonic, rhythmic, melodic, and formal concepts deriving from the jazz tradition.  Such obvious points of reference may be beside the point when we consider the music from the Temple University concert or other recordings from this last period of Trane's life.

I believe that Trane saw (or was beginning to see) the activity of doing/making music with and for people as primary.  The recording from Temple University seems clear evidence of that to me. The actual sounds resulting from the process might even be secondary to what was happening with Coltrane's music during that time, hence his tendency to include more and more participants in the music making.  Perhaps the use of the older tune-based improvisations like “Favorite Things” served as a warm-up or as a way of drawing in participants to a deeper experience. In any case, the importance of actual musical results as observed and evaluated by outsiders (let’s not forget that we are listening to a live recording nearly 37 years later) is secondary or perhaps even further removed.

The author’s suggestion that ‘free jazz' had hit a brick wall shows his lack of understanding of the communal aspect of music making and of subsequent developments in European (and now international) directions and developments in free playing.  Trane was simply pointing music in another direction.  Many people moved in that direction and the road has not ended yet.  Coltrane’s own career demonstrates an incredible arc of development: from simple imitation and music as entertainment to complete technical mastery of the idiom to artistry and innovation within the idiom.  Eventually, through intense self-examination and searching he eventually broke the bands of that idiom and began to question not only his relationship to the jazz tradition, but the purposes of music itself and the changing roles of performers and listeners.

This search and questioning should be viewed not within the narrow window of ‘jazz’ but rather within the broader cultural revolutions of the 1960s.  Speaking just within the field of music, we have at the same time period John Cage, Terry Riley, Lamonte Young, the Fluxus movement, etc. all asking similar questions. Some of them were very much inspired by Trane of course. What is music?  What is it for? Who is the performer and who is the listener?  I find it interesting that in 2014 we still have not fully come to terms with the things people like Coltrane and Cage were saying and exploring.  Many in the jazz world (and many critics certainly) are still extremely conservative.  What happened to the tradition of innovation left to us by Trane and other giants of the 20th century? Has the malaise of the post-modern (or post-post-modern?!) condition extinguished the desire for revolution? This question is directed first and foremost to myself and my own music, but it is worthwhile for anyone to consider it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn Performance Schedule

Hi All,

I took the summer off from blogging and some other things too. The summer in Vancouver has lasted so far into September that I feel reluctant to get back to work on teaching and playing music. Nevertheless, Autumn is officially upon us and there are gigs to play. I am very fortunate to be involved in a wide range of exciting musical projects. Please come out and hear some great music and be part of the scene.

Sept 25 - JB Trio at Tangent Cafe.  8:30-11:30pm No cover.  food and drink are excellent.  I'll be playing with Kerry Galloway (bass) and Joe Poole (drums).  Mostly jazz standards stretched and pulled into new shapes. 2095 Commercial Drive.

Sept 28 - Swamp People at Tangent Cafe. 6-9pm.  I'll be performing the music of Jimmy Giuffre with two young geniuses: Geoff Claridge (bass clarinet),  Emma Postl (voice). 2095 Commercial Drive.

Oct 8 - Danderfer/Claridge Quintet at Presentation House.  8pm. $10 at the door. Free tea and cookies. Playing the music of Benny Goodman and his successors with clarinettists Geoff Claridge and James Danderfer, Joe Poole (drums), Graham Clark (bass).  333 Chesterfield, North Van.

Oct 16 - Terry Riley's "In C" at Capilano U.  Fir 113.  Free admission. 11:40am.

Oct 17 - the Offering of Curtis Andrews at Cafe Deux Soleil.  8-10pm.  Curtis' indo-afro-jazz-rock fusion extravaganza with a 7 piece band for your listening and dancing pleasure. 2096 Commercial Drive.

Oct 22 - Indian Music at Presentation House.  8pm. $10 at the door. Free tea and cookies. Classical Indian music from North and South and all points in between with renowned sarode player, David Trasoff,  Karnatic vocalist, Vidyasagar Vankayala, Curtis Andrews (mrdangam), and me.

Oct 23 - David Trasoff (sarode) and Sunny Matharu (tabla) play at Capilano U, Fir 113, 11:40am. Free admission.  I will join these two fine fellows for a few tunes.

Oct 26 and 27 - Convergence: Capilano Jazz Faculty Concert and Live Recording.  21 of Vancouver's finest jazz musicians work at Capilano U.  The concert will feature all of them in various combinations, with special compositions and arrangements written just for this show.  Click here for tickets and info. Oct 26 is for the public.  Oct 27 for Cap Jazz students.

Nov 6 - Music of Kenny Wheeler at Capilano U.  Fir 113, 11:00-1:00.  Free admission. Bassist, Dr. Paul Rushka, presents a lecture on the music of Kenny Wheeler followed by a concert of that music with Brad Turner (trumpet), Dave Robbins (drums), Dennis Esson (trombone), and Bill Coon and I on guitars.

Nov 7 Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra plays Eliezer's, "Fantasia.  Port Moody.  Details TBA.

Nov 12 - Music of Kenny Wheeler and Benefit for Doreen Wheeler at Presentation House. Brad Turner (trumpet), Dave Robbins (drums), Dennis Esson (trombone), and Bill Coon and I on guitars. 8pm. $10 at the door. 333 Chesterfield, North Van.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Academic Freedom/Censorship Debate at Capilano U

I had taken this post down, but in the interest of full public discussion of the matter have decided to put it back up and keep updating as the story progresses. 

I wrote the following on the morning of Monday May 13. Many others wrote letter of protest or called the University.

Free speech and academic freedom have been under attack at Capilano University. Please check out the article in the Straight (link below). My letter to Cap U President, Dr. Kris Bulcroft explains. 

Dear Dr. Bulcroft,

I learned today from an article in the Georgia Straight that the University has taken George Rammell's sculpture. The following article is making the rounds of social media this morning at lightning speed:

I saw the work when it was unveiled and thought it was hurtful and in very poor taste. I feel it damaged the relationship between the Faculty Association and the Cap U administration and did not help dialogue between the parties. I expressed that opinion to the Faculty Association executive.  Be that as it may, I believe that George had a right to make the sculpture and show it in any public forum he likes. This is Canada, not North Korea. George has a right to express his opinion through his art or in any other way he chooses, even if that opinion is unpopular in some quarters or seems to some to be in poor taste. The idea that the work belongs to the University because it was created on University property is a gross abuse of University policies in this area and a flagrant violation of George's academic freedom and intellectual property rights. George Rammell is the owner and creator of this work and the University has stolen it. It makes me wonder whose work will be next and I am sure it makes the public wonder what kind of University we have.

This seems destined to ruin a year's worth of positive efforts to put the pain and tumult of the last year's cuts behind us. Why would the Administration want to create more bad press for the University at this critical time in its development?  Many departments at Capilano, including mine, have spent the past year in damage control trying to recover from the harm done to our reputation by the cuts of last year.  Now basics rights to free speech, intellectual property, and academic freedom at our University are called into question.  The recent budgeting and academic planning processes have done much to restore trust and collegiality between faculty and administration.  I was so hopeful for the future of this kind of dialogue.  This seriously damages that relationship again.  What a terrible mistake. Please do the right thing and give back George's art.

Most sincerely,

Dr. Jared Burrows
Coordinator, Jazz Studies

*UPDATE* as of evening May 13, 2014
Since I wrote this, the University has given the sculpture back to George (perhaps in damaged condition or in pieces? waiting for news on that).  They sent the following outrageous and laughable explanation to the University community;

Late last week, an effigy of the University President, produced by George Rammell, was removed from campus on my direction.

The effigy has been repeatedly displayed on and off campus and online over the last year. The decision to remove the effigy was not taken lightly, but rather was the result of endeavouring to find the right balance among many competing values.
Our University is committed to the open and vigorous discourse that is essential in an academic community, the inherent value of artistic expression, and the rights to free speech and protest that all Canadians enjoy. No one wants Capilano to be a place where art is arbitrarily removed or censored.
We must also be mindful of the University's obligations to cultivate and protect a respectful workplace in which personal harassment and bullying are prohibited. These obligations are reflected in our employment policies, as well as legislation. Our policies are intended to protect the interests of all individuals in our community - including our president, as well as our faculty and all others.
I am satisfied that recently the effigy has been used in a manner amounting to workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the President. This led me, as Board Chair, to take action.
I understand the University's Administration has offered to give Mr. Rammell the effigy. The condition attached to this is that it not be returned to campus, and I fully support that position.
Jane Shackell, QC 
Board Chair
Capilano University

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Serious Post about Education.

This is a posting prompted by a Facebook comment, but is also in reaction to the BC Government's "BC Jobs Plan" announced last week. For those of you who haven't heard yet, the BC Liberals decided to "redirect" funds away from universities and colleges who aren't in the business of training students to serve big industry. Their plan relies almost completely on the long term availability of fossil fuel extraction jobs, and on the still-hypothetical Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry in the North in particular.

Don't get me wrong. I'm 100% in favour of giving people opportunities and funding for trades training IF they want to be trained and IF the jobs are REAL and of long-term benefit to the province. Whether that is so with LNG is very much up for debate. If these jobs are so certain, surely the Province should be keen to invest new money and demand that big industry contribute their share to train their future workers. Why will it be necessary to take funding away from other areas of higher education that are already suffering from underfunding? It makes me angry and it makes me wonder if anyone actually values education for its own sake.  Then one of my students posted the following on Facebook today.

"LOL Jazz Education: preparing musicians for a future…in Jazz Education."

I responded with "No one is twisting your arm. YOU decide what your future will be."

He said:  "It's just a joke." ;-)

I know it was a joke. But my response was in earnest.  I guess I don't like it even as a joke because music, learning, art, and knowledge are central in my life. I really believe passionately in what I do as a teacher, researcher, and musician. I also believe in the historical purpose of a university education. That purpose is (or was) a tripartite purpose comprising the sharing, preservation, and discovery of knowledge. It is an opening of the world to the student - an opening that I hope stays open when students leave. Job training or preparation as expressed in the idea of 'preparing students for their futures' has always been an important, but secondary, function deriving from education, not the primary purpose for it.

There is nothing wrong with getting training to do a specific job. If you want to become a welder or a bank manager or a nurse or a plumber, that is great. These are all worthwhile pursuits and specific training and skills are required in addition to broader kinds of education. But the idea of education, especially an arts-based education, is so much more than training. The more our society holds universities responsible for job training and career preparation, the poorer we become as a society. When we hold the ideals of education hostage to job outcomes, we push our society toward becoming nothing more than an ant colony where individuals mindlessly serve in limited, foreordained roles. We cut off the benefits of the expansion of knowledge and limit the meaning of education for successive generations. The freedom to be educated and choose what we will do with our lives has been a great dream of humankind for millenia. Only a few societies in the world today have the wealth, political freedom, and economic conditions to support the kind of education that has been available in universities. Even within our society, access to education is far from universal. Barriers of many kinds remain for those who are poor and marginalized in various ways. Those of us who have been born into this position of privilege should hold the ideals of education and free access to it sacred and safeguard the privilege for our children against whatever forces seek to erode it.

To all of my students I say the future is now. Your "real life" is now. Don't think about your education as having some future payoff other than the possibility of spending the rest of your life trying to reach your potential as a human being. A university education can give you a glimpse of that potential. It might become, and is likely to become, the basis for further training for a job related to your field of study. If it doesn't, you may wish you had pursued more specific vocational training (and that possibility always remains open) but I doubt very much you will regret the educational process itself or wish you hadn't learned the things you learned. It is a tremendous privilege to spend part of your life in the full time pursuit of knowledge. The seriousness and dedication with which you approach this period will be a pattern for the way you relate to the pursuit of knowledge, skill, and artistry for the rest of your life.