music clip of the day

jazz/blues/rock/classical/gospel/more

Tag: Art Institute of Chicago

Wednesday, March 20th

voices I miss

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007), violin, live (“Lush Life” [B. Strayhorn], “Keep on Trucking, Brother (A Message to Bruce)” [L. Jenkins], “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” [Trad.]), New York, 1977

**********

lagniappe

musical thoughts

A jazz musician playing alone is like a tightrope walker working without a net. Playing a music of rhythmic verve, he lacks a rhythm section. Playing a music of spirited interplay, he lacks the company of others. And when the musician’s instrument happens to be the violin, he’s working not only without a net but without a tightrope.

The violin lacks all the advantages of the one instrument with a long-standing tradition of solo jazz performance, the piano. Where a pianist can play more than one musical line at a time (accompanying herself with her left hand, for example, while “soloing” with her right), a violinist can’t. Where a pianist can readily play complex chords, a violinist is limited to four strings and beset by innumerable fingering problems. And the range of pitches available to a violinist is only about half that available to a pianist. When a jazz violinist steps onstage by himself, he either falls flat on his face or, defying the conventions of gravity, flies.

Last Friday at HotHouse, jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins not only flew but soared. A dignified man so diminutive that he makes a violin appear large, Jenkins focused the listener’s attention not on what was absent—other musicians, multiple lines, an expansive tonal range—but on what was present. His concert provided a response of sorts to the familiar Zen koan: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Playing for a small but attentive audience, the longtime associate of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—who hadn’t performed here for several years—displayed a powerful and original musical vocabulary. Just as a poem forces one to consider language word by word, a solo jazz performance forces one to consider music sound by sound. And that was how Jenkins constructed each of his pieces: sound by sound.

He began most of them with a simple melodic statement that sang. Then he would veer off into gradually accelerating repetitions of two-, three-, and four-note patterns. Unlike a horn player, he never had to stop for breath, so these patterns could go on and on. Out of them would emerge long, winding bursts of melody, like swallows taking flight through a swarm of bees. Then Jenkins would return to repeated patterns, steadily building the intensity until he reached a climax and suddenly stopped.

The narrative structure of many of his pieces was thus not unlike that of a sexual encounter. But the steadily mounting intensity was invariably coupled with precise articulation, lucid organization, and exquisite control. When near the end of his set Jenkins rocked back and forth like a man possessed, his seemingly unshakable control of his instrument only heightened the dramatic impact.

A master colorist, Jenkins called forth a seemingly limitless array of sounds, from singing to fluttering to stinging to rasping to wheezing. But what was ultimately even more impressive than the variety and virtuosity of his playing was its logic and coherence. And unlike some jazz musicians, whose solos can be neatly divided into segments “inside” or “outside” normal harmonic and tonal conventions, Jenkins’s playing was all of a piece.

Jenkins’s HotHouse set readily calls to mind Richard Goode’s magnificent recent performance at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall of five Beethoven piano sonatas. Neither musician spoke a word to the audience, but neither seemed remote. Both played so wholeheartedly that they virtually disappeared in the music. Both are virtuosos who put their virtuosity entirely at the service of the music, never exploiting it simply for effect. Both played music that often pitted a coming-apart-at-the-seams emotional intensity against an ultimately prevailing clarity and order. Perhaps one day, solo jazz concerts of the caliber of Jenkins’s will be met with the same degree of anticipation and excitement that performances of Beethoven piano sonatas by artists such as Goode typically receive today.

—Richard McLeese, “Flying Solo,” Chicago Reader, 10/27/1994

*****

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago 

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), The Bedroom, 1889

Thursday, November 22nd

Some sounds you listen to; others you inhabit.

Morton Feldman (1926-1981, MCOTD Hall of Fame), Between Categories (1969); Yarn Wire, live, Stony Brook, N.Y., 2017

 

*****

Another take.

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

James Webb (1975-), Prayer (through December 31st)

 

Wednesday, September 19th

alone

Morton Feldman (1926-1987, MCOTD Hall of Fame), Palais de Mari (1986); Jesse Myers (piano), live, Seattle, 2018

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), First Stone (print, artist’s proof), 1961

Monday, September 3rd

timeless

Bessie Smith, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” 1929

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Charles White (1918-1979), Bessie Smith (Charles White: A Retrospective, closing today; traveling to New York [Museum of Modern Art], then Los Angeles [Los Angeles County Museum of Art])

Saturday, August 11th

voices I miss

Sun Ra Arkestra (Sun Ra [aka Herman Blount, 1914-1993], keyboards, compositions, vocals), TV show (Night Music), “Face the Music,” “Space Is the Place,” 1989

 

*****

Here’s another take on “Space Is the Place,” which I bumped into the other day at the Art Institute of Chicago, where it’s playing, continuously, through August 19th.

Space Is the Place (A March for Sun Ra), directed by Cauleen Smith, featuring the Rich South High School marching band, Chicago (Chinatown Square), 2011

 

**********

lagniappe

random sights

other day, Oak Park, Ill.

Saturday, April 14th

serendipity

Yesterday, while working on an appeal for a client convicted of attempted murder, I bumped into this on the radio (WFMU, Bryce’s show). One-word review: Wow!

Peter Ruzicka (1948-), Metastrofe (1971), Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (Michael Gielen, cond.)

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Xu Longsen (1956-), from Light of Heaven (through June 24th)

Saturday, February 10th

more

Does any pianist play Mozart with more verve?

Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) playing Mozart (Sonata in D major [K 311], Sonata in F major [K 332]), Germany (Munich), 1991

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Fruits of the Midi, 1881

Thursday, February 1st

more

Four Tet, “Morning Side,” live, Australia (Sydney), 2016

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Georges Braque (1882-1963), Landscape at L’Estaque, 1906

 

Wednesday, January 31st

what’s new

Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, “Black Hole” (feat. Anderson .Paak), 1/18/18

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Albert Bloch (1882-1961), Harlequin and Three Pierrots, 1914

Saturday, January 27th

Last night, like many other nights, this kept me company, on repeat, as I slept.

Morton Feldman (1926-1987; MCOTD Hall of Fame), Piano and String Quartet (1985); Kronos Quartet with Aki Takahashi (piano)

 

**********

lagniappe

art beat: other day, Art Institute of Chicago

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Head of Sorrow, 1882 (Rodin: Sculptor and Storyteller, through March 4th)

%d bloggers like this: