Posts Tagged ‘Chick Corea’

playlist #98 (1/18/2010)-rhythms of change

January 19, 2010
World of Music
Pgm #98 – Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the people of Haiti
Listen Mondays 3-5pm EDT  – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
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Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / http://www.intrahealth.org/open/ (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
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Tabou Combo: Lakay / Sans Limites / Antilles Mizik 9050 – (HAITI)
Neville Brothers: My Blood / Yellow Moon / A&M 5240 – (N’AWLINS)
Neville Brothers & Les Freres Parents: San Nou Ki La (My Blood) / Konbit! Burning Rhythms of Haiti / A&M 5281 – (N’AWLINS / HAITI)
Emeline Michel: Moso Manman / Cordes et Ame / Cheval de Feu 1 – (HAITI)
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Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Children’s Song / Crystal Silence / ECM 1024 – (USA)
Langston Hughes: Mother and Son (Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair) / The Voice of Langston Hughes / Smithsonian Folkways 47001 – (USA)
Nina Simone: Why? (The King of Love is Dead) / To Be Young, Gifted and Black / RCA 74413 – (USA)
Soweto Gospel Choir: In the Name of Love / In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 / Shout Factory 10608 – (S. AFRICA)
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Wyclef Jean: President / Welcome to Haiti Creole 101 / KOCH 5783 – (HAITI)
Bill Summers & Irvin Mayfield: Yayiti Kongo, Petwo et Nago (recorded live in Port Au Prince, Haiti) / Los Hombres Calientes vol. 4 / Basin Street Records 204 – (N’AWLINS)
Black Kold Madina: Amazing / Trouble the Water / BKM 1 – (N’AWLINS)
Orchestra Tropicana d’Haïti with Dadou Pasquet: Superstition / 40 ème Anniversaire Vol. 1 / SOCD 6 – (HAITI)
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Ti-Coca & Wanga Nègès: Gerda / Colibri / Accordes-Croisés 127 – (HAITI)
Mozayik: Sa Te Bel / Haitian Creole Jazz / Zoho 200506 – (USA / CUBA / HAITI)
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: Possum Slim / It’s Your World / TVT 4370 – (USA)
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Tabou Combo: Fausse Conception / L’An 10 / Rotel Records 377 – (HAITI)
Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80: African Problems / Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80 / Disorient 56 – (NIGERIA)
Beethova Obas: Pa Prese “Prends ton temps” (Take your time) / Pa Prese / Sony 8420092 – (HAITI)
Fela Kuti: Sorrow Tears and Blood / The Best of the Black President / Universal 3145431972 – (NIGERIA)
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Twoubadou: Ke’m Pa Kontan / en Folie / Antilles Mizik 9107 – (HAITI)
Mahalia Jackson: I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song / Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns / Columbia Legacy 65594 – (USA)
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2009 montreal jazz fest – day one

July 5, 2009
MIles from India, released 2008

MIles from India, released 2008

Destination: Montreal

Objective: Miles From India, playing tonight at the 30th annual Jazz Festival

Made it here, beautiful drive with intermittent rain and sun breaking through towering white cumulus. Never fail to be a little surprised to see how fast the landscape flattens out after crossing the border. Within a mile or two of the entry port, northern Vermont’s rolling green hills iron out into corn-rowed farmlands that remind me so much of home, growing up at the edge of Colorado’s eastern plains.

A couple of years I visited the Montreal Jazz Festival to enjoy whatever the experience had to offer. Turned out, it offered a LOT: Ravi Coltrane’s incredible 3+ hour concert; a memorable outdoor show on one of the free stages with Esperanza Spalding (who has since, as we know, fully emerged from her prodigy chrysalis to headline at festivals around the world); Bruce Nauman’s delightfully subversive exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum; and a happy unexpected encounter with participants in a Caribbean Pride Parade on the last morning in town. Special memories. 2009-July4-MontrealJazzFest4

This time around, the reason for coming to the Festival was more focused. Around a year ago I picked up a recording of Miles Davis tunes, played by a group made up of around 15 former bandmates (Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Gary Bartz, etc.) and 15 top-flight Indian musicians. The group – and their remarkably refreshing recording – is Miles From India. It’s remarkable for concentrating so much talent in a single studio recording effort and for the artistic result, which succeeds in concept and most especially in execution.

Tonight’s live Miles From India concert was no less inspring: three drum kits(!), two keyboardists, two sax players, electric bass, a trumpeter, and seven Indian musicians played everything from sitar and tabla to mandolin, wooden flutes, and they dazzled the audience with the characteristic rapid-fire rhythmic singing style that echoes the tabla’s own melodic punctuation. All Blues, So What, and Blue in Green were all in there, the latter enjoying some particularly striking lighting effects with static white wedges of light beaming down at assymetric angles to eerily fragment the stage. So was a touching Michael Jackson tribute – think about that one for a minute. This is a Miles Davis tribute ensemble, including seven traditional Indian musicians, in a musical nod to Michael J. It was heartfelt. And it worked.

2009-July4-MontrealJazzFest2What didn’t work as well was some of the technical aspects at the Theatre Maisonneuve. I can’t tell you what was happening behind the scenes, I wasn’t there. But from my seat in the fifth row center, I can tell you that missed (and mistimed) lighting and sound cues and numerous other repeated sound anomalies unnecessarily shifted the attention at times from the musicians to the process of making live music. Note to crew, from me to you: when you see a musician walking to the mic, that’s a cue THEY’RE GETTING READY TO PLAY, and it’s time to turn up the mic. Some extra light wouldn’t hurt either. Thanks. (If there were behind-the-scenes issues you know about and want to mention, please feel free to leave a comment here and I promise I’ll share it with everyone. I’m not trying to be unfair, I can only tell you what I experienced in the audience. And it was consistently a disappointingly unprofessional production.)

Back to the positive: Rudresh Mahanthappa, the alto sax man and (appointed, he said in a self-deprecating disclaimer) band leader. He was as comfortable drilling out deep, searing solo work as trading bars in more cooperative exchanges with bandmates. I ran into a friend at the show and he mentioned having seen Mahanthappa here around six years ago as an emerging artist on the scene. My friend commented at the transformation Mahanthappa’s made from sideman into the commanding artist he is now. That’s the word: commanding. Appointed or not, he has the charisma, artistry and professional skills to be a leader and take his career as far as he wants to.

I could cite everyone in the group individually for the success and cohesion of tonight’s concert, and they all deserve it. But I believe I do their mission a greater honor in saying that they came together as a group, and as that group they played with a single creative vision that exceeded most expectations. They could have used a little more prep time together to lock down the ‘flow’ of each tune’s architecture (weaving between the multitude of solos and ensemble parts), and the sitar voice was somewhat absentee throughout, owing to the sound difficulties mentioned earlier. But overall a very positive experience thanks to the supreme musicianship.

I’ll leave with those thoughts tonight, and know that if I left the Festival tomorrow the trip here would have already been worth the effort to get here and see Miles From India. I recommend checking out the recording if you get a chance.

No special plans for tomorrow in Montreal. If past experience bears out, that’s going to be the best way to experience as much as possible!

four decades, five men, one music.

May 2, 2009

2009-may01-flynnAbout midway through last night’s concert with John McLaughlin and Chick Corea’s Five Peace Band, McLaughlin paused, glanced over to Corea at the keyboards, and said quietly, “We have a history together going back 40 years.”

40 years – 1969. It’s a history forged, as many musical relationships are, in a recording session. In this case, a musically and historically important one. Early that year – February 18th, 1969 – a bitter cold winter day in New York City, Miles Davis met up in the Columbia studios with some of the best progressive jazz artists of the time: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Dave Holland, Tony Williams, Chick Corea, and the 27-year old English ‘newcomer’, electric guitarist John McLaughlin. 

That single session resulted in yet another career turning point for Miles, his first fusion album, In a Silent Way: the electricified counterpart to the legendary Kind of Blue from 10 years earlier. And that session was the genesis of the Five Peace Band, as the lifelong McLaughlin/Corea friendship played out in last night’s show at Burlington’s Flynn Theatre.

The rest of the Band is Philly bass man Christian McBride, former Miles bandmate Kenny Garrett (alto sax), and one of my favorite players in today’s jazz  scene, the always-entertaining drummer Brian Blade. (His broad smile works as well as his fine percussion to keep the energy burning under the rest of the group!)

2009-may02-programtixAny single one of the band members could have headlined solo, and most of them have. Ensemble they offered a great night of hard grooves, wide-open landscapes of unfolding improv exploration, and the kind of tight, intuitive connection you can only find with groups that have been playing together for a long time.

And they sure have. In fact I didn’t realize before the show that the Burlington stop is the end of the line for the Five Peace Band. They’ve been on the road since October – incredibly, I thought, since only a month after I caught up with McBride as artist-in-residence at the Detroit Jazz Fest, over Labor Day weekend – seems like so long ago! Since then they’ve been leaving a smoking trail of stages all over the world on a tour that took them to Europe, Japan, Australia, and over 20 dates in the US since mid-March. Intense.

The highlights of last night’s show came less in the tunes themselves, than in the special moments of musical and personal interaction throughout the whole performance, and the collective pleasure of experiencing music in the hands of folks who were so obviously loving playing together.

Chick Corea’s introduction of a smouldering McLaughlin tune brought a few whoops from the audience – “New Blues, Old Brews”. But wait a minute folks, – is that ‘brews’, as the audience seemed to think, or ‘bruise’? Turned out to be ‘bruise’, I found out later from reading the New York Times review of the same show. The language confusion didn’t take away a thing from the simmering, steamy scenario that began with Blade’s moody, ruminating soft-mallet percussion intro.

About Blade: you’ve heard all the names. “The engine”, “the sticks”, the “straight man” – for some reason there are as many drummer clichés as there are percussion instruments. Blade encompasses the best qualities of all of them. He’s tight, he’s driving, he’s sensitive and nuanced and what IS he doing with the back end of those brushes, is he really tapping them on the mic stand!? Yep. Sure looked that way. When your job gives you express permission to beat, tap, shake, rattle and thump anything within reach you SHOULD have that kind fun with it. And when Blade pulls the string of bells out to get them ready for the next passage, the soft jingling in the act of picking them up and draping them over his left leg is a calculated, lovely effect of its own. What a joy!

Other nice moments were the interwoven, clockwork 4-bar tradeoffs between McLaughlin, Corea and Garrett – exciting and riffy with an energetic overdrive. Corea’s “Hymn to Andromeda” began with a few cloudy acoustic piano chords, followed by a glassy glissando that prompted a spontaneous bowed-bass response of the “Lush Life” melody, from a grinning McBride on the upright. Everyone on stage (and many in the audience) chuckled at the reference, and then Corea continued in his solo intro to the piece. (And yes, your eyes saw it right: he DID drop in a few tone clusters courtesy of his right elbow. It was just that kind of piece.) “Andromeda” further developed with support from McBride, softly plucking the bass in low, soothing tones, and Blade offering quiet, musical touches on the tambourine and bells.

As for McLaughlin: let it be known, at 67 he is absolutely still a badass. With distortion and feedback in just the right places and outright fire fueling the rest, his playing resonated with the maturity of decades and the freshness of a musician who still finds new inspiration every time he picks up his instrument.    

As if the occasion of the band’s last show didn’t lend enough positive energy to the evening, at the end of the concert, the stage hands, sound engineer, and supporting staff were all invited on stage to emerge blinking in the light, looking a little sheepish and getting in on the group hug with the band. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that before – maybe at the end of a theatrical show’s run, but never in a music performance. It was real. 

Whether it’s 40 years, or an audtitorium of 1,450 other listeners – last night’s show proved that a great music experience can (should) be absorbing enough to melt away the externals. When the musicians are playing they are playing for you, and you alone.

The show was the end of the tour but not, we hope, the magic that is the Five Peace Band.  

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For listening:

Five Peace Band: Live (2009)

John McLaughlin: After the Rain (1995), Extrapolation (1969, recorded exactly a month before the Miles Davis In a Silent Way session), Birds of Fire (1972, with his Mahavishnu Orchestra), Shakti (1975, with tabla artist Zakir Hussein), 

Chick Corea: anything with Return to Forever, Crystal Silence (1972, with Gary Burton)

Brian Blade: Handmade (1998, with Dave Berkman), Season of Changes (2008), Mama Rosa (2009) 

Christian McBride: either (or both!) of the Super Bass recordings, New York Time (2006), Fingerpainting: Music of Herbie Hancock (1997)

Kenny Garrett: Beyond the Wall (2006), Pursuance: Music of John Coltrane (1996, Coltrane tribute on alto sax, and it works – beautifully.)


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