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Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Carlos Jimenez at the Seagal center this month

Here is a little promo video for a concert that I'll be participating this month at the Segal Center. I've had the pleasure of playing in Carlos' group for a little more than a year now and I have to say the music is really happening. Please come out and support us if you like what you hear!

Concert is Sunday January 22nd, 8pm
Segal Center5170 Chemin Côte-Ste-Catherine
Tickets: (514) 739-2301

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Montreal Musicians : Piano trio reviews of Kananaskis and More!

Happy Freakin' New Year!!

I'm very happy to have my latest CD reviewed in Peter Hum's JazzBlog.ca along side two other Montreal pianists Steve Amirault and Marie Fatima Rudolf! I have been a fan of Peter's jazz writing for many years. His blog has now become pretty much the most read jazz blog in the world by jazz musicians and at this point I believe he is also attracting more non musicians than any other jazz blog. While Peter is an exceptionally well regarded writer what makes me a little nervous when I send him something of mine is the fact that he is also a jazz pianist. Of any review that I have ever had of my work it is always Peter's that means the most to me because he appreciates not only the music but also the playing in way that is the most informed of the process.  That is to say I think that other pianists probably hold the most biases when listening to other pianists. Maybe that's not entirely true but I think musicians are often the most judgmental when it comes to listening to someone who plays the same instrument. On the other hand it is those musicians who play the same instrument as we do who we can often grow very close too musically and personally. That's definitively how I feel about the other two pianists on Peter's review. I mean Steve has been a great source of inspiration for Montreal Pianists for 2 decades now and I consider him a very good friend. Marie Fatima or M-F as she has become known is very quickly becoming someone to watch for and listen to. Anyway I encourage you to read Peter's great blog and humbly ask you to read his reviews of some recent piano trio records by Montreal pianists. Read the review HERE

Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of the year roundup Part I: Art advocacy

For the next few days while I catch my breath from the cavorting and over-eating I'd like to revisit some of my yet unpublished posts from this past year. Inevitably every year I write some posts which, for some reason I either can't finish or just don't have the balls to put my name on. I am almost always writing from my emotions and I feel that this yeilds unpredictable results. As in playing music one's feelings can play a really vital role in producing inspiration while at the same time undermining other things that are important like... organization! But hey, I didn't choose music it chose me so everyone has to just deal with me. Haha So I hope you all enjoy a sample from my posts which I felt were largely too unorganized to or pretentious to publish.

(Originally written last winter...sometime...)

I would like to further support my assertion from a previous post that it is crucial for those of us involved in the arts to hone our skills in advocacy for the arts.  Even if it is just learning about the major issues and working out one's own arguments.  I often think about what art means to people and that includes myself. Especially when I get home from a performance where the sound sucked, I sucked, and the piano was badly out of tune. Then I really need some arguments of my own to support my self-financing of my music career (or in my case earning a standard of living lower than what I could make in another field). And on top of that I have to subject my family to my selfish career choice!

Why is it that we need to justify art? What is it exactly that we need to defend to the tax payers of the far right? I come back to my previous statement that there is nothing more worthless than an unwanted piece of art. And that goes for an unwanted minute of jazz improvisation at the Lincoln center or an unwanted opera production. And perhaps we can all agree with this to some extent. I don't support the opera because it is largely a form that I find worthless to me. For shame! But how is that different than the argument that is often made by people that the free market economy means that jazz should die because that is what the public wants.

I think if we are to help change the minds of this increasingly large segment of our society and to really argue with an informed opinion then we need to do our research. I encourage you to start with this video. It's really long so just skip over to the part about the arts and let me know what you think!
Watch the video here (Fast forward to minute 119:30 to hear McCain's rant worthy of a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon against earmark spending for the arts)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chris Donnelly blogpost competition

I'd like to cordially invite my readership to check out Chris Donnelly's blog competition. Chris is an outstanding pianist in Toronto and his blog is no less a top notch place for pointed discussion on topics ranging from jazz piano to creativity and improvisation. Please follow the link here to his blog. You can win $200 from Chris if you write a post reflecting on:

“How do you get people out to gigs? How do you build an audience?  How do you support live music?"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are there Mistakes in Jazz Part II

As the jazz blogosphere south of the border descends into a racist-tinged chaos, a fitting parallel to their economic chaos (how can jazz be so divisive...only in America!), I'd like to hopefully keep your day on an elevated level with a clip of Stephon Harris addressing some of the same points I made in my previous post on making mistakes in Jazz.

To quote Ike Turner: "Why can't we just be friends?"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are there mistakes in Jazz?

Recently I was having a discussion with a younger bassist about a gig we played a few months ago. I was focusing primarily on my enjoyment of playing music that night. Just to update those of you reading this blog I have 2 young children and a demanding day gig teaching at McGill University and Vanier College. Needless to say I feel like someone who is always making the food but rarely gets to taste it if you catch my drift. A good day for me is when I can get even an minimal amount of practicing in before I need to clean up, give baths, read bedtime stories. All the stuff I really love to do as a parent. Anyway my young bassist friend was focusing the conversation primarily on the mistakes. And in particular those instances where I played certain chord changes that were unfamiliar to him and there were moments that clashed between the chord I was playing and the bass note. These sorts of things often crop up in inter-generational moments like when a younger musician is playing a standard with an older musician. They often just know different chord progressions to the tunes because they've had different teachers for the music.

For example several of the standards I know I learned from recordings of Miles Davis and in particular the 60's quintet with one of my big heros Herbie Hancock. For sure as a student I would always be looking for places to put my favorite Herbie-isms. Here is one that I always wanted to do on "All of You" by Cole Porter. Check out the decending dominant sus chords in measures 13-16 of the form:

I'm sure if you're a jazz pianist this passage absolutely makes your eyes water with envy for Herbie's moment of superlative slickness. Well the whole solo is just about as great a herbie solo as it comes. It was even transcribed by Bill Dobbins in his seminal publication of Herbie Hancock solos published by Advance Music.(Just as an aside: a couple of years back I bought the box set "Miles Davis: Seven Steps to Heaven" and found to my utter amazement that the Herbies solos from these live concerts with the band that included George Colleman were heavily edited to remove entire choruses. When I heard these missing choruses put back into the solos it was like going to going to sleep and waking up in some kind of paralell universe like Bizzarro jazz world in the DC comics if that ever were to have been imagined. The previous Youtube clip plays the recording with the solo restored and not what was on the original cd)

Ok so I got the chance to play with Dave Young, veteran Toronto bassist, a number of years back and here's what those bars sounded like:

In Burrell's  version this passage is:

EbMaj7 (Db7) Gmin7(b5) C7(b9) Fmin7 Bb7

which more closely resembles the original changes to the tune as opposed to the Miles/Herbie chords which are:

Eb7sus D7sus Db7sus C7sus B7 EMaj7

In jazz it is quite common for different musicians to play the same tune with even far greater differences than these and make them work. In my opinion the question is not whether or not these differences constitute "mistakes" when played together but rather the question is how do these players play what amounts to unrehearsed repertoire and make it sound so "right". The first question is phrased in the negative, glass-half-empty approach (which I find a surprising number of musicians are willing to take) and the second question is phrased in a positive, glass-half-full, how-do-we-make-this-thing-work approach.

I suppose the analogy I often use for my students is when we hang with our friends socially. In this context we are constantly using language to express and riff off completely unrehearsed ideas. Someone brings up a concert they recently attended, an episode of "Curb your enthusiasm" (nerd!), gossip about a gig they were on. All of these "ideas" existed internally as emotions and concepts that needed a language for them to be expressed. These ideas also needed an audience or an interactive human outlet for them to be "performed". During their performance they grow to include influences from the subtle emotional subtext of the "hang". Things like the vibe in the room which is often humourous. Or maybe the subtext involes an inter-generational vibe like when we're with family. The point is that there is so much that goes into the expression of ideas through language.

The only mistake we can make in these situations is to not be completely present. Humans are just naturally sensitive to each other but we sometimes do things that get in the way. We feel insecure about ourselves and so we start an internal negative dialogue that has nothing to do with anything external. We use drugs that dull our minds. Music only sounds wrong when this sensitive exchange between people isn't happening. Yes understanding of language is a very important part and so is the quality of our ideas (typically you don't hang out with your friends to bore them with mundane ideas) but so is an attitude of open mindedness and a willingness to listen and respond honestly to one another. Possibly THE greatest thing about jazz and improvisation is that it rellies on conventions and languages that are the best at representing the subtlety of complex human interaction. The only time it sounds bad (not Shaft bad but yucky bad) is when that interplay isn't there. All the right notes in the world won't change a band that isn't happening!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notes on Kananaskis

This is the second video in the series shot by Randy Cole here in Montreal documenting me and the trio. Once again Cole's artistry as a film maker is apparent as well as my inability to form complete sentences when interviewed. Also featured is the superb musicianship of my friends Dave Watts and John Fraboni who I've had the pleasure of playing with and being inspired by for a number of years now. I hope that some of our nice chemistry comes through on film despite my banter. Enjoy...