Posts Tagged ‘Flynn’

playlist #85 (10/19/2009)-a jolly good mix of tunes

October 19, 2009
World of Music
Pgm #85 – New releases, international adventures, and discovering the world right here at home
Listen Mondays 3-5pm EDT  – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Michael Rose: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? / The Mighty Quinn (film soundtrack) / MGM Pictures 3341 – (JAMAICA)
Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries: Andrejs Nächt / Zirzop / Geco-Tonwaren 293 – (BALKAN / AUSTRIA)
Bonerama: Cabbage Alley / Bringing It Home / MTP 1101 – (N’AWLINS)  * At FlynnSpace this Thursday, 10pm: *
Youssou N’Dour: 4-4-4-4 / Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take) / Nonesuch 266044 – (SENEGAL)
Les Orientales: Stenitek – Besame Mucho (Kiss Me A Lot) / Music-Hall d’Algérie / mk2 Music 8345106342 – (ALGERIA)
Kadda Cherif Hadria: Djezaïr / Djezaïr / Naïve 36911 – (ALGERIA)
Soha: C’est Bien Comme Ça / D’Ici et D’Ailleurs / Opendisc 5099950318100 – (ALGERIA)
Le Vent du Nord: Au Bord de la Fontaine / Maudite Moisson! / Borealis 151 – (QUÉBEC)
Rupa & The April Fishes: Culpa de la Luna (It’s the Moon’s Fault) / Este Mundo / Cumbancha 15 – (SAN FRANCISCO) *NEW – Coming to Parima on 11/9/09 – *
Easy Star All-Stars: Like the Stars / Until That Day / Easy Star Records 1016 – (JAMAICA)
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Afro Blue / Red Earth / DDB Records 9091 – (USA / MALI) * Coming to the Flynn on 11/1/09 –
Novalima: Libertá / Coba Coba / Cumbancha 9 – (PERU)
Mamane Barka: Wo Kuru /Introducing Mamane Barka / World Music Network 114 – (NIGER REPUBLIC) *NEW*
Mariza: Vozes do Mar (Voices of the Sea) / Terra 4Q 1814 – (PORTUGAL) *NEW*
Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective: Baba (Father) / Wátina / Cumbancha 3 – (BELIZE)
Tony Whedon & friends: Things to Pray to in Vermont (to the tune of “If I Had You”) / Last Days: Live at the Black Door / PoJAZZ 1 – (MADE IN VERMONT) *NEW – CDs can be purchased online for $10 at: *
Pitz Quattrone & The Earthman Band: Locomotor / The EP /    802-229-4952 – (MADE IN VERMONT) *NEW*
Twist of the Wrist: Donna Lombarda / Twist of the Wrist / self-produced N/A – (MADE IN VERMONT)
Guagua: Charanga / Pan Frito / 1128 – (MADE IN VERMONT)
Les Loups Noirs d’Haïti: Jet Biguine / Tumbélé! / Soundway 17 – (MARTINIQUE) *NEW*
Hal and the Big S: Zamiyego / Umoya / Halspirit Records 2 – (SOUTH AFRICA) *NEW*
Emily Loizeau: La Femme a Barbe (The Bearded Lady) / Pays Sauvage / Opendisc 531407 – (FRANCE) *NEW*
Kailash Kher & Kailasa: Guru Ghantal / Yatra (Nomadic Soul) / Cumbancha 14 – (INDIA) *NEW*
Mexican Institute of Sound (remix): Cha Cha Cha / Lotería Beats Mixtape vol. 1 – Raul Campos / Nacional Records 68499 – (MEXICO)
Félix Baloy: Mami Te Gustó / Baila Mi Son / Tumi 100 – (CUBA)

BDJ Festival, day 1: the double header

June 6, 2009


Esperanza Spalding and Anat Cohen. Esperanza AND Anat.

I remember thinking that at the Discover Jazz Festival back in April, when the full lineup was rolled out for this year’s event. Really? Both of them, in the same show? Yes. At least, sort of. It was actually two very different but complementary shows last night on the Flynn Main Stage as the festival got off to a big bang start.

Anat first: strong, versatile, and commanding on both of her chosen instruments, clarinet and tenor sax. I always wait to hear what the very first notes of the festival will sound like, thinking of them as the defining moment in setting the tone for the whole event. Anat delivered the opening salvo with a fast downbeat and an immediate launch into her own lilting, grooving arrangement of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” (found on her recent collection, Notes from the Village).


Anat Cohen (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

So what does it say about this year’s festival that it began with the clarinet, a surprisingly rare instrument in jazz today? And not only that, but the clarinet in the hands of the first woman reeds player to ever headline at the hallowed Village Vanguard, playing her own fresh, hip new version of such a jazz classic? Everything, I think. This festival is about translating the best elements of the jazz tradition into the language and sensibilities of today. (Esperanza’s performance furthered that thought – more on that in a minute.)

Cohen’s quartet is equally solid, with Jason Lindner at the piano (you may have seen him here last year with his own trio), basisst Vicente Archer, and the very fine percussionist Daniel Freedman. I’m tempted to add ‘percussion’ to Lindner’s name here too because of his tendency to reach inside the piano, holding down the strings, while playing the keys with his left hand. The effect is pecussive,  sounding something like a marimba or tuned drum. Great texture, and used well especially at start of the set-closing “Washington Park Square”, the colorful tune Cohen wrote about her neighborhood in New York and the cultural diversity of people the Park attracts.

No matter what future festivals may hold, this will go down as one of my favorite festival performances ever.

Esperanza’s set started spunky (no surprise), with her scatting introduction of the band, along with a scatting disclaimer about why the scatting the audience was about to hear in her performance wasn’t the traditional “shoo-be-doo-be-ska-be-bop” kind. That’s a fact. Not much about her style is expected.

If you saw her here in 2007 (in the downstairs Flynn Space), you may remember that her show generated some serious buzz: everything from impressed excitement to some doubt that she could sustain that level of energy as she matured. There was criticism about her light, airy, singing style, her less-than-substantial music choices, and some expressed desire that she’d pick up a bow and take some time to explore that important side of the upright bass tradition.

Esperanza Spalding (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

Esperanza Spalding (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

Well, she has. Developed her singing style, expanded her musical range, and found a whole new dimension of expression with the bowed bass, which she employed to beautiful effect on Nina Simone’s “Wild is the Wind”. It was the standout moment in her show, starting with the dark, stirring bowing and evolving slowly like a love affair into the nearly out-of-control passionate love song it is. Powerful. Spalding’s energy and natural charm flow out from some bottomless inner wellspring, it’s not an act that will burn out. It’s who she is. To critics: next?

The ensemble included drummer Otis Brown; pianist Leo Genovese (he was here last time with her, too) and guitarist Ricardo Vogt. Each had some solo time to shine, and each did. A couple of thoughts on the overall experience: a lovely Brazilian duet could have used better mic balance, as Vogt’s delicate vocals were a bit overwhelmed by everything else. (At least, from where I was sitting about six rows back orchestra left.) Esperanza’s vocals were also indistinct at times but that’s less a mechanical issue than an effect of the fast, breathless singing style she’s creating. That same approach, with a little more control in shaping the individual words and the phrasing, could be the single nuance that would transform this from a high-beam performance into one with laser focus and effect.

Today: an outdoor organ recital at 3:30 (not related to the festival); jazz on the marketplace; an evening dance recital; and then live music somewhere around town tonight.

I’ll have a few more pictures to share today than I did from yesterday’s adventures (it was dark, I was tired.) Stay tuned for more about the music around town!

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.  


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.)

afternoon with a griot

April 26, 2009

4/25/09-Toumani Diabaté in Burlington

4/25/09-Toumani Diabaté in Burlington

If there’s a single word to summarize the profound effect that regional culture has in shaping its native music, I haven’t found it. Not before yesterday, that is. Now I believe that influence may very well be described in the word “griot” – at least when we’re talking about music from Mali.

The warmest day of the year so far in Burlington (over 80°F – ugh) brought shoppers, cyclists, and folks of every other sun-loving pursuit to downtown yesterday. As the streets and sidewalks crawled with deliriously revitalized springtime activity, the Amy E. Tarrant gallery offered cool, quiet sanctuary to around 40 attendees with the latest in the Flynn Theatre’s ongoing series of pre-concert “INsight” discussions.

The afternoon’s guest of honor was the Malian kora master and storyteller, Toumani Diabaté. As he shared his own story over the next half hour it was readily apparent that he viewed his part of the timeline just the most recent chapter in a much longer, much more involved narrative that began with his first relatives, some 71 generations ago in the 13th c. kingdom of West Africa. Diabaté is a griot (or ‘djeli‘), a musician by patrilineal birthright. So was his father, and so is his son.

Griots are the vested oral historians of Mali, responsible for maintaining the culture as well as commenting on it, and passing on their knowledge and musical skills to the males of the next generation. In an illustration of the vital relationship between griots and their land, Diabaté raised his left hand, swept the length of his torso, and said “if West Africa was a body, the djeli would be the blood”.

The main voice of the griot tradition is the kora, a resonant, modally-tuned instrument with a light texture and fluidity often compared to a harp. With 21 nylon strings and a resonator made from the huge, bulbous hull of a hollowed-out, half-calabash – it’s a striking instrument in both looks and sound. Why is it played facing the performer, instead of outward facing listeners like other simliar instruments (the banjo, or guitar for example)?

4/25/09-Diabaté demonstrating the 'front' of the kora

4/25/09-Diabaté demonstrating the 'front' of the kora

As with most things in the griot culture, history and folklore each have a hand in informing the answer: Diabaté described the time very early in the tradition’s development when the kora was actually an instrument commonly played by the women musicians of neighboring Guinea, and how they gave one to the newly crowned Mandinka Prince in the mid-13th c. as a gift at the start of the Malian empire. Since that time it’s been an instrument handed down through the male ancestors, and it’s played facing the musician, “as if creating an intimate conversation between lovers”.

I listened to Diabaté’s solo performance yesterday afternoon (and last night at the Flynn, with his full 8-piece electrified Symmetric Orchestra) a little differently, after learning more about what I was hearing. The kora is played with only four fingers: both thumbs, and both index fingers. The other three fingers in each hand grip the long pegs on either side of the neck to keep it upright during performance. The left thumb plucks out the bass line; the right thumb plays the melody. That leaves both index fingers free to improvise over the top of the bass and melody.

When Diabaté plays with his Orchestra, the bassline of his left thumb is doubled by the electric bass; the melodic line of the right thumb is doubled by the electric guitar, and the flights of improvisational fancy allowed his index fingers is matched (and THEN some, to my ears) by the virtuosic sonorities of the group’s balafon player.

Listening to a kora under any circumstance is delightful, but seeing it being played, and understanding a little about the mechanics of the musicianship is absolutely enchanting. I hope you, too, are fortunate enough to have the opportunity sometime! More than an instrument, the kora is a chorus of voices, playing with and against each other in a strumming, thrumming, multi-layered conversation of music.

Would you expect anything less, for an instrument that speaks for over 700 years of people and their culture?

A final thought from Monsieur Diabaté: “If you can learn a song on the kora, you are a master. But you have to be born a griot.”


For listening:

with guitarist/singer Taj Mahal: Kulanjan, 1999

with trombonist Roswell Rudd: Malicool, 2001

with guitarist Ali Farka Toure: In the Heart of the Moon, 2005 (Grammy winner, best traditional world music album)

solo: The Mandé Variations, 2008 (Grammy nominee)

news from discover jazz fest

April 15, 2009
4/15/09-Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss showing off the new Smithsonian National Jazz Month poster

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss showing off the new Smithsonian poster for National Jazz Month

If the downbeat to summertime in Vermont is the annual Discover Jazz Festival (and, it is) then the official downbeat for spring is the annual press conference where the full Discover Jazz schedule is revealed.

That happened today in Burlington.

Geeda Searfoorce, the Festival’s Associate Director, had it just right in her introduction when she said “you can feel the music in the air”. The gallery (home of the annual conference) buzzed with many of the area’s top music media folks from radio and TV, members of the Festival advisory board and reps from the many Fest sponsors. A few steps inside the door and everyone was tearing into the press kit, leafing through page after page of artist listings for this year’s event. If not music itself (come to think of it why wasn’t there background music?) there was a lot of talk about music in the air today.

The headliners have been public for a while now (Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, and Pink Martini, in case you’ve missed the first big splash) but the rest – and often the most interesting part of the lineup – was kept under wraps until today.

Highlights? You bet. Lots of them: starting with the opening night, this is definitely one of the ‘don’t miss’ shows of the Festival: Esperanza Spalding (bass, vocals, charm by the bucketful) and Anat Cohen (clarinet, sax + innovation like you wouldn’t believe). Mark that one down. In fact, just get your ticket now so you’re not sad when (when) it sells out.

Also very much looking forward to the Luis Perdomo Trio (6/8), the Grace Kelly Quintet (6/9), Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph (6/10), the Waterfront Funk Tent (6/11)-featuring one of my N’awlins favorites, Russell Batiste ….and that’s just the first week.

Check out the schedule. You’ll have your own favorites, and, best of all will be those great moments you won’t find until you get there: artists performing in local venues, all the way up and down Church street, and everywhere around town.

Make a plan, get tickets for the shows, and give yourself the time to explore and be surprised.

Guess that’s why they call it Discover Jazz.


P.S. – Just in case you think the schedule alone would be enough to get a bunch of light-deprived media folks inside on such a beautiful day (though, with this crowd it actually would be) – one of the Festival’s sponsors is Lake Champlain Chocolates. The ice cream and chocolate truffles didn’t hurt…I’m just sayin’… Thanks, Lake Champlain!

VSO concert: mambo!

March 22, 2009


2009-mar21-vsoVSO conducted by Jaime Laredo


Albert Brouwer, flute

Nancy Dimock, oboe

Mark Emery, trumpet


Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide

Henry Cowell: Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 3

Richard Danielpour: Rocking the Cradle

Samuel Barber: Capricorn Concerto

Bernstein: West Side Story Symphonic Dances

Candide glittered (and yes, it was gay too), the Barber beamed a rare ray of WW II-era sunshine, the Danielpour stormed and solemnly ruminated (1st and 2nd movements, respectively), and the Cowell – well, you need to ask someone who gets that piece better than I do. Might have been fine, I just couldn’t tell you. I always feel like I need ‘night vision’ headphones or something to cut through the thick murky fugue of the string parts, enough to hear what’s really happening in there melodically.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra offered quite a fine night of music tonight. The program was varied and well paced, and the ensemble was polished with notable moments of flair and inspiration, particularly with the balance of the flute/oboe/trumpet solo trio against the rest of the group in Barber’s Capricorn Concerto. (And I decided tonight after hearing the orchestra’s swinging, spirited Westside Story dances that “mambo!” is hereby the new “bravo!”)

This was the fourth of the five Masterworks concerts during this 75th anniversary year, with the entire season being a celebration of “Music of Our Time”: every concert’s repertoire focuses on works written since 1935.

Artistic Director and conductor Jaime Laredo, in a personal and heartfelt introduction to Danielpour’s “Rocking the Cradle”, promised the audience a return to the more standard subscription series offerings of Brahms and Beethoven next year. The announcement prompted a few pointedly hearty claps. He furthered the thought with the hope that this season’s concerts have been enjoyable, though all contemporary and somewhat offbeat (my paraphrase). With this, the Flynn resounded with an enthusiastic cheer and loud round of applause. Who says concertgoers don’t want to ‘be subjected to’ contemporary music? Not this crowd!

Next (and final) Masterworks concert is Saturday, May 2nd. See you there.

I’ll be the one standing up to send out a loud ‘mambo!’ at the end.

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