Friday, April 29, 2011

Len Aruliah Sextet gig and end of semester

The Spring Semester is over and I am taking a little breather this afternoon before plunging into the many other projects and piles of work that have been put on hold over the past few weeks. After adjudicating a bunch of grad recitals and hearing some of the wonderful work that was done by the students at Capilano this semester I feel very grateful to be a music educator and to work with such intelligent, creative, and interesting students.  Thanks all for a great year!

Wednesday night I played a great gig with the Len Aruliah Sextet at Presentation House Studio.  The house was packed to capacity  Len had a new batch of tunes beautifully and intricately arranged for the band:  Joe Poole (drums), Brent Gubbels (bass), Kristian Alexandrov (piano), Colin Maskell (tenor), plus Len and me.  I always have a great time playing with any of these players, but it was the first time with this particular grouping.  I thought the band played especially well.   Joe really kept things exciting and challenged everyone to play on a higher level.  What an amazing drummer and musician he is.  I'll be playing with him again next week at the same venue with Coat Cooke (saxes) and Clyde Reed (bass).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gig with Len Aruliah Quartet

Looking forward to another gig tonight with the Len Aruliah Quartet at El Barrio.
Len has a book of new tunes and some Kenny Wheeler compositions as usual.  Stan Taylor on drums, Tommy Babin on bass.  Tommy and Stan can get quite rambunctious as a rhythm section so it should be a lot of fun.

I met Tommy in Montreal in 1998 when I was there auditioning for the MMus program at McGill.  Tommy already knew Len, who was also living in Montreal then, and Len arranged for Tommy and a drummer (either Karl Jannuska or Claude Laverne, can't remember which...) to play on my audition.  The audition was successful and I thought I'd be heading to McGill, but greener pastures in Oregon seemed more appealing to my wife (we just got married a few months before) so we didn't go to Montreal.

A few years after I returned to Vancouver, Tommy came out here as well, following his wife Tamara, who had just got a faculty job at SFU.  He called me up and we played a gig that very week.  Since then we've been pretty regular collaborators in a variety of different bands: East Van Jazz Orchestra, Djangophilia, Koan, Len's band etc....  He is a marvelous player with a very aggressive and powerful time feel and right-hand attack plus a very fluid and seemingly effortless technique and flow of ideas.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gig with Jennifer Scott and Rene Worst at Presentation House Studio

I'm playing a gig with the fantastic jazz vocalist, Jennifer Scott, tomorrow at Presentation House Studio  Jennifer's husband Rene Worst is one of this town's best-known bassists and he will be on the gig too.  Bernie Arai will play drums.  I have never played with Jennifer before, though I have known her and her musical talents since I first started playing here.  Rene is of the generation of musicians preceding mine and I got to hear him a lot when I was coming up.  We haven't played together, nor have I played with Bernie, since before I left for the States so it will be great to musically reconnect with everyone.  We're playing the Vancouver Club next Wednesday, so if you are a member and happen to be around, come and say hi.
Jennifer and Rene have put together a lot of great arrangements and original tunes.  It is going be a fun night!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gary Bartz on Jazz Education

I respect Bartz' right to a point of view based on what he has personally  heard and seen of jazz education and its products, but it seems very facile and uncritical to think or propose that there is some monolithic thing called 'jazz education' that is all 'backwards'. He is using his (considerable) weight as a musician of note to lend creedence to a subjective personal observation of a very small sample.  A broad-stroke condemnation doesn't seem either helpful or truthful. He himself teaches at Oberlin so does that mean he is the only one who can get it right, the only one who can't see the very obvious problems of which he speaks? If so, it seems very convenient for him.

Like it or not, we are now living in an era where the majority of jazz musicians out there have some degree of formal education.  Brad Meldhau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ethan Iverson, Joshua Redman etc etc etc.   Do they all sound the same as Bartz suggests?  Do they 'have no ears' ?  There are great jazz educators and institutions and there are terrible ones too.  Some get it 'frontwards' and some get it backwards.  Do they all teach the same way and turn out students that sound the same way?

The video seems to be excerpted from something longer.  It would be interesting to hear his comments in their full and original context.  Perhaps in that context it would come across as less self-congratulatory, narrow and poorly-considered.

Jazz in Moscow

The annual conference of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the College Music Society met in Moscow, Idaho this weekend with the faculty of the Lionel Hampton School of Music as out hosts.  Many thanks tomy colleagues Leonard Garrison, Bob Dickow and Barry Bilderback for all their hard work making it happen.  I'm currently the chapter president and have been involved with CMS since my grad student days in the late 90s.  The conference was a great success with lots of interesting presentations and, as always, many performances of great new compositions.   I presented a workshop on some of John Stevens' free improvisation teaching strategies with some of my fellow delegates as willing and very able guinea pigs.   I've used these improv 'games' with students on many occasions, but never with musicians of such high calibre.  What a pleasure!

I was lucky enough to top off my weekend with a great gig at Bucer's Coffee in Moscow with some wonderful local players:  Dav Bjur (bass), Jon Anderson (piano) and Joe Covill (drums).  A U of Idaho student called Andy Rayburn sat in on tenor as did my trombonist friend Don Bowyer (from Huntsille Alabama).  The venue is a very hip cafe/pub with lots of bookshelves, amazing desserts (it is America after all!) and very nice people. Lots of students and some of the conference delegates turned out to hear the music.

I'm always amazed by small towns in America.  Even in a little place like Moscow, with no major cities for miles around, you can find really fine jazz players and make some music.  Dave, Jon and Joe were really generous and welcoming and they played beautifully.  All are really swinging players who listen hard.  there are no attitudes and posturing with these folks - it's all about the music. It reminded me again of how powerful music, especially jazz music, can be in helping strangers communicate, create and form meaningful relationships.  I just love the rush of going to someplace new and meeting new people and then improvising together to create something beautiful.  It really is a celebration of the best aspects of being human

Here's a post-gig pic taken with Joe's phone.  From left - Joe, me, Jon, and Dave.
My old U of Oregon office-mate, Barry Bilderback, and his wife put me up at their house kindly drove me to and from the airport.  They are two of the kindest and most genuine people I know.   Barry also set up the Bucer's gig for me.  He is a professor of ethnomusicology and music history at the U of Idaho now.  UI is a classic American university with frat houses and old brick buildings covered in ivy - the kind of institution we just don't have in Western Canada.

I'm a little tired after a late gig and catching a 6am flight this morning, but all in all it was great weekend.