22 de juny, 2015

2015 JJA Jazz Awards Winners

Cécile McLorin Salvant © John Abbott.

La Jazz Journalist Association va fer públics la setmana passada els seus guardons als artistes de jazz més destacats de l'any. Entre els guardonats que aquest any debuten o tornen al festival de jazz de Barcelona hi ha la cantant Cécile McLorin Salvant, premiada en dues categories: Up and Coming Artist i Female Singer. Com a arranjadora va guanyar, com sol ser habitual, Maria Schneider, que aquest any presenta al festival la seva última obra, The Thompson Fields, i com a trompetista Ambrose Akinmusire. En l'apartat teclats, un altre habitual d'aquests premis, Chick Corea, i en l'apartat bateria, Brian Blade, un dels Children Of The Light.

Finalment, com a guitarrista de l'any va guanyar Mary Halvorson, que vindrà a Barcelona com a membre del grup de Marc Ribot The Young Philadelphian, que inclou una secció rítmica que va treballar sovint amb Ornette Coleman, Jamaaladeen Tacuma al  baix elèctric i Grant Calvin Weston a la bateria. I en l'apartat de millors notes d'un disc, un altre habitual del nostre festival, l'escriptor Ashley Kahn, premiat pels seus textos del disc de John Coltrane Live at Temple University.

A tots ells els veurem ben aviat, aquesta tardor. La llista completa de guanyadors es pot consultar aquí.

16 de juny, 2015

Ornette, a wheel-turning king

Ornette Coleman, 2007, Palau de la Música Catalana (© Ricard Cugat).

By Spike Wilner

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the passing of Ornette Coleman. Ornette Coleman was a giant of this music.  In Buddhism he would be called a “wheel-turning king” - a great spiritual force that comes only once in several generations and invokes a great change in the fabric of the Dharma.  Our Jazz Dharma was fundamentally changed by Ornette’s trailblazing musical mind.

I had the inexplicably good fortune of being invited to Ornette’s Chelsea loft to play a session with him and some other musicians.  This was thanks to photographer John Rogers who had a friendship with Ornette.  When Ornette was in town with some time off he liked to play and John would suggest guys for him to play with.  That afternoon I was there with drummer Anthony Pinciotti, bassist Gregg August and saxophonist Stacy Dillard.  Ornette’s loft was awesome – a huge space with highly modern design and décor (would you expect anything less?).  Ornette himself was shy and soft-spoken almost like a child, but his smile disarmed any nervousness and one immediately understood what a beautiful soul he was.  Ornette greeted everyone cordially with soft handshakes and took us to a rehearsal studio section of the loft.  There was no piano, which made sense, but he did own a pretty good keyboard. We were cowed to silence not knowing what to expect, but set up our instruments and waited to see what would happen.

But before any playing started, Ornette began to speak. His voice was gentle and somewhat high pitched. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye and began to speak about the metaphysics of music. He had an elaborate theory about the relationship of sexual energy and each note of the scale. I wish could have recorded this but can only paraphrase from memory. Somehow, middle C represented the female sex organ and all the other tones where subjugated to this tone. For Ornette, sexual energy was musical energy and thereby the Universal Energy. It all made perfect sense to me at the time but we were dumbfounded and could only listen. We sat around him on the floor like the disciples with the Great Sage.

Finally we began to play. Nothing was said and no instructions were given. We just started playing – no preconceived idea, no tune, no chords, no imposed structure or rhythm – completely open. We started tentatively. Ornette didn’t play but just listened as we searched, trying to find something and uncertain what we were doing. And then – Ornette played a simple phrase that shattered us! Something so simple and yet it directed us immediately to a musical place where we then began to dwell. It went on like this: we would play and Ornette, every now and then, would play one or two little things which would direct us and set a new vibe, a different slant. He was like a shepherd herding his lambs and we followed and gamboled in his musical landscape. This improvisation lasted for more than one hour with out pause. In this hour I found myself in a musical world, which I never knew before.  It was like being at a cocktail party with different groups of people holding different conversations and one wandering from one to the other seamlessly. The hour passed so quickly! Ornette, the entire time, smiling his secret smile and guiding us along in his dream-like music world.

This musical experience at Ornette’s loft is one that I constantly refer to and think about the most in my musical studies. What I learned that day has forever changed my personal approach to jazz and what I think it is. He freed me from my personal box and made me understand the nature of spontaneity as the essential essence of true jazz music – the ineffable unconscious that must appear with out contrivance. If you can connect to this than you have achieved the goal. In the brief time that I got to experience Ornette Coleman (which was only twice), he impressed me as a true artist, a true thinker and a philosopher. In addition I perceived him to be a near angelic-like spirit. My profound thanks to you, Mr. Coleman, our world is far the better because of you!

26 de març, 2015

From The Bottom To The Top

© Lorenzo Duaso

By George Wein

Did you see that jazz has finally reached its zenith of importance in the American music scene? Zenith means the top, however, the newly published Nielsen Soundscan report says that jazz, along with classical music, is at the bottom of the pile in terms of sales. 
We've got some nerve in saying that the bottom is actually the top, but our reasoning is that classical music has always (and will always) be with us, as it is supported by the cultural hierarchy across the world. Jazz belongs to this wider world of culture, not just pop culture, which has its own icons. 

We've been involved with the presenting of jazz for over 67 years and it's only in recent times that nonprofit subsidies, thankfully, have permeated the jazz world. What does this mean?  It means that the sale of recordings is incidental (but not without importance), to the success and prominence of jazz in the cultural mainstream. Jazz festivals are now prolific and our own festival in Newport shows more vibrancy and a more diverse audience each year. Jazz clubs in cities throughout the world are full every night with eager and curious onlookers.

One who becomes interested in jazz feels that he or she is adding something to his or her life that, in a sense, separates them from the masses that absorb what is happening in pop music.

So, jazz fans, don't be upset that we're the bottom of the totem pole. Realize that you are something special. I know I felt that way when I was a kid. None of my friends were jazz fans and I really believed that I had something in my life that was lacking in theirs. Feel proud that you love jazz. 

Don't lose the beat.

06 de març, 2015

Piano solo de Chucho Valdés

Mañana por la noche a las 21.30, el Teatro Circo de Murcia (información aquí) acoge a Chucho Valdés en solitario. Preguntado por el teatro sobre cómo será su recital, he aquí la respuesta del padrino de nuestro festival, que compartimos con sumo gusto.

© Lorenzo Duaso

Por Chucho Valdés

Cuando me preguntan qué voy a tocar en un recital a piano solo, no sé me ocurre otra palabra más que “música” para definir el género de lo que la audiencia va a escuchar (perdonen si no soy original). No van a escuchar exactamente jazz, ni música cubana, ni clásica, pero son todos esos géneros al mismo tiempo, y más todavía si la noche lo propicia. Sentarme ante el piano en solitario es una gran responsabilidad, porque no hay redes de seguridad de ningún tipo, pero es también lo más placentero para mí. Estoy libre, sin cortapisas; no quiero decir con ello que no esté a gusto cuando toco con mis grupos o con otros músicos, pero sí estoy dentro de un contexto en el que tengo que respetar ciertas normas.

El piano solo es muy distinto. Y aunque yo pueda acudir al concierto con ideas previas, sé que al final me voy a dejar llevar por el instante, por las características del piano, por la atmósfera del teatro. Por allí desfilarán, como si conversaran, mis amigos de toda la vida: en desorden, Ernesto Lecuona, Fryderyk Chopin, Claude Debussy, la música cubana, mis propios originales, el jazz desde el ragtime hasta Cecil Taylor… Lo ha expresado hace muy poco otro pianista al que admiro, Keith Jarrett: «Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple.» Es decir, el jazz (la música en general, añadiría yo) está y se va. Sucede. Tiene que estar uno presente para ello. Así de sencillo.

Les espero este sábado en el Teatro Circo.