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Jack DeJohnette - Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago

From ECM Reviews:

As the story goes, when legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and given carte blanche to perform at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, he immediately thought of his old jam buddies from the early 1960s, the founding sessions of which had led to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose most hallowed disciples formed the Art Ensemble of Chicago, resolutely documented on ECM. As Roscoe Mitchell recalls, “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off.” To be sure, the conversation between reedmen Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Larry Gray, and DeJohnette himself feels like it’s been going on forever. Despite the fact that these musicians had never recorded before as a quintet, much less played as one, it feels as if they have been plowing through ether on its way to the cosmos all along, and that we can count ourselves fortunate for catching even a snippet of their time on this planet. As if in service of this analogy, the recording is very present in relation to the musicians, while the crowd cheers like some distant panel of stars whose appreciation arrives light-years after the fact.

Mitchell—who plays alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, and Baroque flute—offers two substantial originals to the stage. “Chant” cracks the concert’s outer shell with a sacred tap. From raw, arpeggiated materials it constructs a body from the ground up and, by addition of instruments, imbues it with consciousness. Likewise, every member knows his place in the larger symphony of his setup. DeJohnette pays off his timbral dues with handfuls of Benjamins, especially in his dialoguing with Mitchell, while Threadgill touches off more angular lines of flight. Gray meanwhile appears, stealthily at first but with increasing conviction, to be the psychological impetus behind it all. But it’s Abrams whose torrent of ideas seems most organic. Like a healing energy itself in want of healing, he plays the all-important trickster as Threadgill curls his fist in staunch refusal of suspension. Thus do we return to the center of the spiral, only to find another waiting to be sung. The aptly titled “This” reveals an adjacent facet, fronting Baroque recorder and Threadgill’s bass flute in an excursion of astute reflectivity. Abrams again proves vital to the physical nature of this sound, his pianism attaining downright Beethovenian proportions.

The bandleader’s “Museum Of Time” fuels the Abrams fire. Spanning a gamut from whirlwind to delicacy, its touch provides spatial reference for the reeds and a still larger context for the slippery groove in which DeJohnette and Gray find themselves. Threadgill’s “Leave Don’t Go Away” flips this approach, beginning in interlocking fashion before spawning a lone piano with a mind of its own. Bass and drums jive their way into frame, while sopranino nears bursting from the strength of its inner poetics. And then there is “Jack 5” by Abrams himself. Light cymbals clear the air before late-night sounds ground an alto and all the soulful things it has to say. DeJohnette then takes the reigns and builds his steed one muscle at a time, each part mutually independent of motion.

(Click to hear samples of Made In Chicago)

Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, bass flute
Roscoe Mitchell alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, Baroque flute
Muhal Richard Abrams piano
Larry Gray double bass, cello
Jack DeJohnette drums
Produced by Dave Love and Jack DeJohnette
Recording engineer: Martin Walters
Assistant engineers: Jeremiah Nave and Daniel Santiago
Recorded live August 29, 2013 at the Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park Chicago at the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival
Mixed at Avatar Studio, New York by Manfred Eicher, Jack DeJohnette, and James A. Farber (engineer)
Mastered at MSM Studios, München, by Christoph Stickel
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

“It’s hard to find unique voices in this music. Especially in jazz, more so lately, everybody is trying to do the same shit. I don’t want to hear ‘My Favorite Things’ anymore… What I am hearing is a leader among artists.”

–Flying Lotus

The Beard – EP 123 – Kamasi Washington by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Kamasi Washington - The Epic

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

The Epic, the solo release from young Los Angeles jazz composer and bandleader Kamasi Washington, just out on Brainfeeder, the underground label from producer/musician Flying Lotus, completely demolishes the bar for contemporary jazz standards. Primarily in its approach:

The Epic is a 172-minute, three-volume set that features a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score written by Washington. The base ten-piece band, some of the best young musicians around all out of Los Angeles – including bassist Thundercat and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., bassist Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin, keyboard player Brandon Coleman, pianist Cameron Graves, and trombonist Ryan Porter with Patrice Quinn on vocals – are often referred to as “The West Coast Get Down”.

Secondly, the band has been jamming together for years. Washington, 32, has known Bruner since he was two. The rest met in high school. The hours they have put into the music, playing together and practicing alone, total cumulatively in the tens of thousands.

This is what happens when talented youth is exposed to music from birth – a tenor saxophone jazz prodigy is born. As the apocryphal story goes, At the age of 13 Kamasi Washington picked up his father’s soprano saxophone, and even though he didn’t know anything about it, he played Wayne Shorter’s “Sleeping Dancer Sleep On”. Already well versed in the drums, piano, and clarinet it was at that moment that the saxophone became his instrument of choice.

Instead of playing music part time and going through the rote motions of dreary high school, Kamasi played and studied at the prestigious Hamilton High School Music Academy, forming his first band with childhood friends Ronald and Stephen Bruner on drums and bass, along with pianist Cameron Graves, called “The Young Jazz Giants”. His education continued as Kamasi went on to study Ethnomusicology at UCLA, recording his first album with The Young Jazz Giants, and eventually toured with Snoop Dog. He joined The Gerald Wilson orchestra, went on his first international tour with RnB legend Raphael Saadiq, played with legendary jazz artist such as McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, and George Duke. At the same time he was working with Lauryn Hill, Jeffrey Osborne, Mos Def, and Quincy Jones. While still taking courses at UCLA. His vision of work experience is as avant garde and forward-thinking as his “Next Step” music is a modern spin on a big band, with two drummers, two bassist upright and electric, piano and keyboards, three horns and a vocalist. Recently Kamasi has been touring with legendary musicians Stanley Clarke, Harvey Mason, and Chaka Khan. He’s featured on Harvey Mason’s latest album “Chameleon”, Stanley Clarke’s latest and the last two Flying Lotus albums. The man is prolific.

Kamasi Washington - The Epic

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

The Epic Vol.1: The Plan
1. Change of the Guard 12:16
2. Askim 12:35
3. Isabelle 12:13
4. Final Thought 6:32
5. The Next Step 14:49
6. The Rhythm Changes 7:44

The Epic Vol.2: The Glorious Tale
1. Miss Understanding 8:46
2. Leroy and Lanisha 9:24
3. Re Run 8:20
4. Seven Prayers 7:36
5. Henrietta Our Hero 7:14
6. The Magnificent 7 12:46

The Epic Vol.3: The Historic Repetition
1. Re Run Home 14:06
2. Cherokee 8:14
3. Clair de Lune 11:08
4. Malcolm’s Theme 8:41
5. The Message 11:09

Free Jazz - RIP Ornette Coleman

Free Jazz – RIP Ornette Coleman

It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.

The Beard- EP 122 – A Tribute to Ornette Coleman by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Free Jazz – RIP Ornette Coleman

After I left Texas and went to California, I had a hard time getting anyone to play anything that I was writing, so I had to end up playing them myself. And that’s how I ended up just being a saxophone player.

Free Jazz - RIP Ornette Coleman

Art and expression and feeling seem to be uppermost in the musical compositions of Ornette Coleman. I got into him years ago while flipping through used albums (searching for Rare Groove stuff) at a record shop in Santa Barbara. Free Jazz had a picture of Jackson Pollock’s 1954 painting The White Light, which I had been studying in a course I was taking at university. Without so much as a second thought, I added it to my purchase pile and, thankfully, have never looked back. While not as famous or well-known as other jazz musicians of his day, but like Pollock, Coleman was prolific and by subverting the mainstream movement, he expanded the palate and canvas for all artists to come.

Ornette Coleman, composer, violinist, trumpeter and alto-saxophone jazz bandleader, was born Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman in 1930. Unlike many of his slightly older jazz counterparts who passed away in or even perhaps before their primes (Charlie, Parker, Gene Ammons, Chet Baker, Art Blakey, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Grant Green, Billie Holiday, et al), he lived a long and fruitful life with a career spanning 60 years. Not only did he enter jazz at a time in the late 50s when the genre was in retrograde against the high energy of 40s Bebop with the Birth of the Cool (Miles Davis) movement, the West Coast and Bossanova movements threatened to transport the universe in cool modal jazz mode ad infinitum.

Enter “Lonely Woman” (1959, a great year for Jazz) an original composition by Coleman that is the closest thing to a standard in the movement he co-lead with Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Pharaoh Sanders–Free Jazz. Free jazz was an attempt to break through the “rules” that had emerged as jazz convention throughout its young history. The musicians would do this by altering tempo, time signatures and chords changes. Mainstream jazz had come to be semi-rigid and free jazz was seen as an avant-garde alternative that strove to return jazz to its origins, such as in Coleman’s 6th album Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. Which is not to say that all those experimenting with free jazz were strictly Free Jazzers, so to speak. They were the Hippies after the Beat Movement, eschewing all classification and standards not by denigrating the past but by choosing a different route to build onto the past.

Throughout his early career Coleman put out nearly as many live recordings as he did studio albums. Apart from the quiet hiss of the studio monitors in contrast to the applause of a live audience, there is likely very little difference in what he would have played as in how he played it. It seems plausible that Time was the only difference to him in a song. As in how shall I play this song this time, or going even further, how will this song come out of me this time around? He says:

Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.

The man was flashy and poetic, while being down to earth and gentle. He had his troubles with record companies which is likely why his albums weren’t properly marketed and didn’t sell as well as some of his contemporaries. The early years with Atlantic got him in the game and he was at Blue Note during the hey day of that label, after which he jumped to multiple labels throughout the rest of his career, eventually starting his own with the release of Sound Grammar, the Pullitzer Prize winning album recorded live in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 2005. A most notable moment includes “Sleep Talking” which begins with the same notes as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. It is fitting that he ended his life in the late spring in New York, a city he came to but was not born in, and made some part of it, however small to him, bigger to the rest of us.

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

As the sparse synthesizer and video games breaks beep to life on the first track of The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi we hear a Puma Mimi ask a question, “Acchi, kocchi, acchi, kocchi, dochi ni ikou?” (Here, there, here, there, which way to go?). It is unclear if she’s asking us or herself. And with the range of musical genres represented on the album (hip hop, dance, electronic, J-pop, crossover jazz, fruit), this might be emblematic of the album itself. At its heart, it’s a fun and accessible (even if you don’t speak Japanese) musical metaphor for modern Tokyo living.

Much as the album defies straightforward definition, so too does how Tim and Puma Mimi met (“We met at the Santa Klaus party in the Netherlands in the end of 2003.”), and eventually came to live and make music in Tokyo.

In places it is a throwback album of beautiful voicework and analog instruments, yet its modern synthesizers, canned drumbeats and use of fruit as instrument (what?!) belie the way it was made–not in the studio, but in Puma Mimi’s small 1DK (One Dining Kitchen Apartment) flat in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

HESO: How do you make music? digitally, analoguely, with fresh produce or all of the above?

Tim: All of them, we don’t have rules, how to produce, it just has to bring the song to a cool shape. The cucumber is electronic, the flute acoustic, mostly I use the micro Korg, but sometimes Fender Rhodes or Mini Moog, or even plug-ins, but I don’t like midi.

More than just the multi-instrumentalist genre-mashing, the way the songs are made reflects on the private/personal relationship between life and music, recording and touring, loving and playing. Having met and seen a bright future, both musically and romantically, they soon had to part because of the technicalities of bureaucratic life–visas, work, nationality. But long distance relationshipping didn’t stop them from making music. The Skype concert series soon sprang to life, with Tim touring clubs Europe and skype-casting Mimi singing live from her kitchen in Tokyo. This, plus their growing number of singles, created a following and got them into electro-festivals across Europe. But it wasn’t enough.

HESO: You wrote and recorded your album in Mimi’s tiny Tokyo apartment, but where are you now?

Tim: Now we live in Zurich, bit bigger apartment, but still all instruments in bedroom. It’s in Kreis 4, the melting pot of underground Zurich (yes that exists too in Zurich, beside being a super-expensive and clean old town famed for the Bahnhofstrasse). Sometimes we rent a music-room, but it’s often underground and humid.

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

HESO: Tim, what is your impression of Japan? Puma Mimi, Switzerland?

Tim: Japan? First I was disappointed, I had a picture of crazy colorful people, but 90% of people in Tokyo wear black suits. But after two weeks you start to understand, why they don’t look into your eyes, that they have different lines to queue for next train. After two months you start to love it, but I’m not sure if I will ever feel at home there.

Mimi: I like Zürich very much because I can get both city and nature life at once. I grew up in the northern part of Japan where I enjoyed nature, but as a teenager, it was boring. No concert places, no exhibitions. Even the last cinema in the town went bankrupt, and turned to be a Karaoke house (yeah! of course we had Karaoke!). Then I went to Tokyo to study when I was 19. Tokyo was so exciting, creative fashion, fast information, music, arts and so on…. I enjoyed it a lot. But sometimes, I couldn’t breathe. I missed nature, fresh air, fresh water, quietness, the sky. Compared to Tokyo, Zürich is very small, but there are many things going on in this “little big city”. Lake water is very clean. And I can get to deep nature in 10 min by train. That’s perfect combination for me. Besides Zürich, I like mountain area in Ticino, old stone houses and sharp mountains. It’s so nice to walk there.

HESO: If your beats and words are inspired by the cramped and crowded Tokyo lifestyle, what happens when you have all of the Alps from which to take inspiration?

Tim: I would love to do calm, maybe even spiritual music, but always when I try it, I think that doesn’t work, audience would fall asleep, or just start talking. I would like to do live music for yoga or something similar.

Mimi:I try to write about something around me. So Alps could be a good inspiration too. But the problem is that the nature is very powerful. So, when I go to mountains, I become wordless. It takes more time to write about the nature than about concrete jungle… at least, for me.

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

On the lenitive “Tamago” the album takes a turn from the fun and playfully amateurish upbeat Electro-J-pop to a more serious and contemplative nature. It is not a coincidence that this comes halfway through the Stone Collection. From this point on, especially on “Green Blood Circulation”, even when the music returns to previous form, the songs retain a depth and a progressive movement toward some far-off point that we can’t quite see, but know is out there.

HESO: How do you come up with ideas for songs? Albums? Videos? Live performances? Who does what?

Tim: I produce the songs. Mimi writes texts and melody lines. Musically it’s just trial and error, sometimes it works, sometimes doesn’t. I give the recordings over to Mimi. In a bigger view I would say: The ideas grow in our heads and sometimes we can pick up the fruits. Inspirations are: fleamarkets, walking in cities and mountains, watching concerts, movies, reading books.

Mimi: About lyrics: I try to express my inner feeling by describing daily objects around me. For example, I came up with lines for “Giacometti” when I saw the poster of Giacometti hanging in the room where we were recording. And the text begins with “To talk to Giacometti, I don’t need words….”. Something like that. Melody line: it’s all depends on Tim’s music. When Tim gives me an idea of song, then I listen to it many times and try to jam (hum) with lyrics I already have.

HESO: The album has dropped. What happens next?

Tim: In a week we visit China for 3 weeks, travelling with a bunch of musicians and do live music to silent movies. Later this Year I want to build a do-it yourself-kit of my Fruitilyzer, that people can build their own Fruitilyzer and electrify new fruits and vegetables.

HESO: Can you write a very short song-poem about your favorite food?

Mimi: I wrote this quite long ago, and try to make a song out of it, but Tim never liked my melody lines with these lyrics. So it is still un-published. Tim doesn’t like Tomato Sauce either, by the way.

トマトソース / Tomato sauce
飛び散る飛び散る/ It splashes all over
白いTシャツ / on my white T-shirts
赤いシミ/ and leaves red stains
食べるのやめるか/ Should I stop eating
トマトソース/ Tomato sauce?

いやいやそんな/ Noway, it’s
トマトソース / Tomato sauce!
だってだいすき / I love
トマトソース / Tomato sauce
ファッションは /Fashion has no chance against
食欲に敵わない / appetite

HESO: I love Tomato Sauce. Thanks guys. Check out their site for more fun with fruits and beats.

Interview with Tim & Puma Mimi is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing (late) Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

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