Monk, that is.
“Rhythm-a-Ning,” (T. Monk)
Art Pepper Quartet (AP, alto saxophone; Milcho Leview, piano; Tony Dumas, bass; Carl Burnett, drums), live
Tom Harrell Quintet (TH, trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone; Danny Grissett, piano; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Johnathan Blake, drums), live, Paris, 2008
Given the number of lives that end in death, the odds of avoiding it seem slim.
love it or hate it
Anthony Braxton 12+1tet, Composition 355, live, Italy (Venice), 2012
Anthony, a MacArthur “genius” award winner (1994) and professor at Wesleyan University, talks about this and that:
Music can take us places we’ve never been before, if we’re willing to listen to sounds we’ve never heard before.
Butch Morris, February 10, 1947-January 29, 2013, cornetist, composer, conductor
“Conduction #188,” live, Italy (Sant’Anna Arresi), 2009
From the New York Times’ obituary:
Butch Morris, who created a distinctive form of large-ensemble music built on collective improvisation that he single-handedly directed and shaped, died on Tuesday in Brooklyn. He was 65.
The cause was cancer, said Kim Smith, his publicist and friend. Mr. Morris, who lived in the East Village, died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fort Hamilton.
Mr. Morris referred to his method as“conduction,” short for “conducted improvisation.” He defined the word, which he trademarked, as “an improvised duet for ensemble and conductor.”
He would often begin a performance by setting a tempo with his baton and having his musicians develop a theme spontaneously and then seize on the musical ideas he wanted to work with, directing the ensemble with a vocabulary of gestures and signals. An outstretched upward palm, up or down to indicate volume, meant sustain; a U shape formed with thumb and forefinger meant repeat; a finger to the forehead meant to remember a melodic phrase or a rhythm that he would summon again later.
He introduced this concept in 1985 and at first met resistance from musicians who were not willing to learn the vocabulary and respond to the signals; he was often in a position of asking artists to reorient themselves to his imagination and make something new out of familiar materials. But he demanded to be taken seriously, and he was. After 10 years he had made enough recordings to release “Testament,” a well-received 10-disc set of his work. After 20, he had become an internationally admired creative force, presenting conductions at concert halls worldwide and maintaining regular workshops and performances at the East Village spaces Nublu, Lucky Cheng’s and the Stone.
Mr. Morris, who also played cornet, began his career as a jazz musician in Los Angeles. After settling in New York in the early 1980s, he took his place among both the downtown improvising musicians of the Kitchen and the Knitting Factory and the purveyors of multidisciplinary, mixed-media art flourishing in the city.
In decades of workshops around the world, and for a stretch, from 1998 to 2001, at Bilgi University in Istanbul, he taught his signals and gestures. Some of these were common to all conductors; some were adapted from the California jazz bandleaders Horace Tapscott and Charles Moffett, whom he had known early in his career (he also cited Sun Ra, Lukas Foss and Larry Austin’s “Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists’’ as influences); many were his own.
He said he didn’t care whether people thought his music was jazz or not, although he himself saw it as derived from jazz but not beholden to it. “As long as I’m a black man playing a cornet,” he reasoned, “I’ll be a jazz musician in other people’s eyes. That’s good enough for me. There’s nothing wrong with being called a jazz musician.”
WKCR-FM (Columbia University) is devoting much of today’s programming to a Butch Morris Memorial Broadcast, featuring his music until 3 p.m. (EST).
Happy (Belated) 70th Birthday, Lester!
Lester Bowie, October 11, 1941-November 8, 1999
trumpet player, bandleader, irrepressible spirit
Lester Bowie Brass & Steel Band, Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy), 1996
Jazz is neither specific repertoire nor academic exercise . . . but a way of life.
Few musicians, on any instrument, give me so much joy.
Ed Blackwell, October 10, 1929-October 7, 1992
Mal Waldron Quintet (Mal Waldron, piano, with Ed Blackwell, drums; Reggie Workman, bass; Charlie Rouse, saxophone; Woody Shaw, flugelhorn), “The Git-Go,” live, New York (Village Vanguard), 1986
Want more of Ed Blackwell? Here.
I’ve been playing with Blackwell over 20 years. We used to play when I first went to Los Angeles. Blackwell plays the drums as if he’s playing a wind instrument. Actually, he sounds more like a talking drum. He’s speaking a certain language that I find is very valid in rhythm instruments.
Very seldom in rhythm instruments do you hear rhythm sounding like a language. I think that’s a very old tradition, because the drums, in the beginning, used to be like the telephone—to carry the message.
In one of my clearest memories of the drummer Ed Blackwell, he sat in an Indian restaurant drawing percussion notation on the tablecloth with a felt-tipped pen. The waiters looked on, aghast, as the splodgy black figures spread across their white linen, but Blackwell, rapt in concentration behind his dark glasses, remained oblivious. Music was all that mattered to him, the drums in particular, and there was a particular point he needed to make.
Blackwell was a deeply serious artist who, whatever his circumstances, put the music first and insisted his associates did likewise. In New York percussion circles he was seen as a teacher. He often quoted the Chinese adage, ‘Neglect your art for a day, and it will neglect you for two’, and would actively pursue other drummers whom he respected, should he feel they reneged on commitment.
I never saw him without a pair of drumsticks or homemade mallets in his hand; these he would employ constantly as much to accentuate a point as to strengthen his wrists. Some percussionists have made a cabaret act from beating out rhythms on any available surface; Blackwell would do it to fill in gaps in conversation. He played drums like that, too: the perfect listener, who could equally stimulate and inspire with his enviable grasp of polyrhythmic possibilities.
No jazz musician can claim greater authenticity than a New Orleans birth. It is the most African of US cities, where Yoruba religious practice continues and the Second Line that accompanies street-parades moves with an African strut. From the moment he could walk, Blackwell was part of that Second Line and as a child he danced in the street for pennies. That characteristic dancestep and the ‘double-clutching’ two-beat of the parade bass drum remained features of his playing, securely anchoring his adventurousness in an earlier memory.
More from the Albertina Walker Musical Tribute
Michael McKay (voice), Delores Washington (voice), Juli Wood (alto saxophone), “I’m Still Here,” live, Chicago, 10/14/10
This guy’s one of the most lyrical players and composers around.
(He also happens to have paranoid schizophrenia.)
Tom Harrell, flugelhorn/Tom Harrell Quintet
“Rhythm-A-Ning,” live, France (Paris), 2008
“In the Infinite” (by TH), live, Italy (Sorrento), 2008
“Dancin’ Around” (by TH), live, Brazil (Sao Paulo), 2003
I’m posting this next piece with mixed feelings. Talking about Harrell’s psychiatric condition can distract from what’s most important—his music. On the other hand, what he’s been able to accomplish says a lot not only about him but also about the power of music.