September Gigs in NYC

Following a nice 3 weeks in Europe, I’m playing in a few local configurations this month: Twice with Singer/Keyboardist Malcolm Hunter, once at the Bushwick Improvised Music Series with old friends, and in the Red Hook Jazz Fest finale, a very fun outdoor festival! Welcome out!

9/7 9:30pm Malcolm Hunter & Makeshift Dream @ The Greenhouse, 7717 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

9/11 9:30pm Bushwick Improvised Music Series @ Bushwick Public House, 1288 Myrtle Avenue: Brian Groder – trumpet, Anders Nilsson – guitar Adam Lane – bass, Newman Taylor-Baker – drums Program

9/23 Anders Nilsson solo set 2-5pm @ HOWL Festival, La Plaza on Ave.C & 9th Street, free

9/24 12 Houses @ Finale at Red Hook Jazz Festival Program

9/29 Malcolm Hunter & Makeshift Dream @ The Greenhouse, 7717 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

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September 4, 2017

35 irreplacable albums

A while back I started jotting down some thoughts on the role of irreplaceable albums in my life. The albums that stand out are no surprise covering a wide range. Our exploded postmodern era is manifest in our record collections among many other objects. The way we have been living in the plugged in parts of the world since the mid-late 1900’s, it’s been totally natural LP-hopping, CD-shuffling, or youtube-zapping from Arnold Schönberg to Count Basie to The Melvins to Luigi Dallapiccola to Kraftwerk to Sam Cooke to Gnawa music etc. as if the pieces were scenes in a big cinematic reality, or instant mood changers akin to a baby’s shifting reactions to external stimuli.
I decided that the one criteria for making the desert island picks is that I continue returning to each record. I can’t shake them and want more of the good stuff, repeated thrills, feelings and ideals they represent to me, and reflecting things I believe in and are of value to me. Some of these albums take me to a special place every time. There is a sense of lasting value, a subjective sensibility of true connection between me the listener, and the artists’ playing/singing communicated through the recorded music.

When listening to music we imagine what the musicians playing are like as humans, as when reading a novel. The recordings can be mind blowing, emotionally gripping, awe-inspiring, comforting, fascinatingly constructed, mind boggling etc. I’ve only chosen albums that have meant a lot to me as an individual over time. Hundreds of albums are obviously important to me but it would take up too much of my time to continue, for now. Some selections have very little, if anything at all, to do with how my own music may sound. In some cases the influence has leaked in rather blatantly and has established points of reference and valued positions echoed here and there in my own music making process. One commonality I find the albums all share is that none of them boast some big or small pretentious concept or another – points for technical, or intellectual bravura don’t matter, although many of them have become staples in my hungry private edutainment program of enhancing musical understanding and desire to learn and develop further as a musician. They also share a feeling of magic, believability, and excitement in the delivery, “flaws” included. I’m not dogmatic about them and can easily see that others may argue and/or just shrug their shoulders in response, of course. I am quite sure anybody can identify with being “in on” or in tune with a favorite record – involuntarily air guitaring, singing, knee drumming, or just flowing along with track after track as if one is actually in the band – that empowering feeling.
Growing up in Sweden in the 80’s, going to the record store (which was located in the regular supermarket) was very exciting because you knew you’d face something new and titillating every week. Anticipation is a very important factor for the hunger and want dwindling in the digital non-stop mode of today’s era. These days I go to record stores or online sites to look for specific albums or for impulse buys. Often friends generously give me their newest album, or tips, or I’ve read about some recording that triggers curiosity for whatever reason. For what it’s worth – 35 albums listed alphabetically:


Bela Bartok “6 string quartets” Alban Berg Quartet (EMI) Is a 3-cd box of the complete string quartets by one guy an album? I guess so… It was either late in high school or early in college a friend and I put on a recording (Takács quartet’s) of string quartet 1 on lp. After a few minutes my friend said he needed to lift the needle because he couldn’t deal with the melancholy in the music. I, however, was into it. Over the years I got a book with all the scores, this cd box, and have listened a lot to all 6 quartets. They are so imaginative and full of surprises and of course so well composed. I really like #2 but they are all immense.


Blind Blake “The best of Blind Blake” (Yazoo) A few years ago I was listening back to old blues guitarists. Hadn’t heard BB before but was blown away by his one-man band approach to the guitar. They call the style ragtime guitar and he stays very active on the instrument, so bouncy, along with his singing. Bitter sweet or funny lyrics too. He was blind and recorded for Paramount Records until they went bankrupt, died at 38.

Paul Bley “Mr. Joy” (Trip Jazz) The thoughtful, humorous take on jazz and improvisation of Paul Bley has been a reference point for me since I heard his dark and bleak trio album “Ballads” (ECM) in college. On “Ballads” they weren’t afraid to turn the tempo down to crawling, face distressing tension, and dwell on the personal choice at each moment in a piano trio setting. On that album the themes, mainly by Annette Peacock, are very minimal and unhappy, it resonated with me. On “Mr. Joy” there is a much brighter spirit and vivacity given to Annette’s music that puts me in a good mood, and makes fun of a lot of jazz clichés in the process already in 1968, with master Gary Peacock, and Billy Elgart.

Marion Brown “Porto Novo” (Arista) This is an album in the acoustic jazz realm, considered on the “free” side of jazz. What draws me to it is it’s sense of purposefulness and “relaxed intensity” in the trio, the clarity of the melodious songs, and a certain natural playfulness with Marion Brown on alto sax (with his humane tone) while he was living in Europe in the late 60’s, with Maarten Altena bass, and Han Bennink drums.

Ornette Coleman “The shape of Jazz to come” (Atlantic) Ornette had the best titles, always ringing true as the pieces play, never ramming any opinions down anyone’s throat. This is a holistic album with a form that seems part of the composition. The group plays incredibly well together and the feel is wonderful. Poetry, process, pain, satisfaction, with several magical moments.

John Coltrane “European Tour” (Pablo Live) The quartet recorded live in Stockholm with completely bewildering expression, flow and groovin’ real high. I’m trying to imagine what my countrymen and women may have felt at the time… Aside from my own playing, John Coltrane is by far the musician I have listened to the most in my lifetime. As a consequence I’ve also listened so much to McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and the incredible groove of Elvin Jones! There was a long period in high school through college where I estimate I can count on one hand the days I didn’t listen to some recording of this quartet. Another album – “Afro Blue/Impressions”, a double LP, features the same quartet on the same tour playing mainly other songs. This is an album to use to raise the inner spirit, amen!

Miles Davis “Live Evil” (Columbia) Of all Miles albums this is the one whose energy and musicianship speaks to my body and mind directly. I don’t listen to it much any more but the style of playing on it has influenced so much of my own free improv reflexes in the past. I used to put this on and get a little drunk, it turns up the heat inside. The “Cellar Door” box set part of this double album was distracted from is an interesting listen. Great cover art.

Deep Purple “Deepest Purple” (Harvest) Although this isn’t a real album, it’s a compilation, and the sound quality sucks due to cramming too many tracks on to each side, it’s what I listened to in my youth. Most of the tracks still make me feel the same way they did back then. My favorite song is “Child in time”, most gripping from beginning to end, lyrics about the nuclear threat.

Jack DeJohnette “Album album” (ECM) a favorite drummer and favorite album: great selection of tunes, New Orleans grooves, fun solos, great arrangements, a great album.

Esquivel! “Spaceage bachelor pad music” (RCA Victor) When you hear this you may think it’s a joke, I did. To get it’s effects across it uses musical exaggeration to ridiculous degrees, it’s like the “ka-poooows” in batman, not subtle. Juan Garcia Esquivel was a Mexican band leader who you could say is the Austin Powers of music. He is considered a pioneer in the vague field known as “lounge music”. If only lounge would be made with the same gusto today, with something to actually listen to, the mood in many public places: cafes, elevators, even lounges, would be way different as opposed to today’s trend of simplistic, digital, minimum effort, detached, ice cold, mindless, pervasive occupation of aural space.

Fred Frith “Clearing” (Tzadik) The intimacy of the solo act has always been something special to me. Mr. Frith is a master improviser whom I’ve seen live many times (once playing a tribute to the then recently passed iconic British improvising guitarist Derek Bailey at The Stone). Striking about Frith is a subconscious, intuitive method following what I perceive as “one sound leading to the next”. An amazing solo mostly-acoustic guitar album full of imagery, and as a guitarist, once you start tracing the steps of how he played what you are hearing it’s pretty inspiring as well. On some of these cuts I have no idea how he does it. There is a nice video of Fred Frith and drummer Joey Baron, independently talking to an interviewer about playing music. Frith gets asked whether he is religious and answers “I believe in the mystery of life”, a perspective I hold true myself. This is an insoluble existence.

Egberto Gismonti/Jan Garbarek/Charlie Haden ”Magico” (ECM) A successful recording session of this Brazilian/Norweigan/American trio with haunting beauty and room for breath and dreaming.

Jan Johansson “Jazz på svenska/jazz på ryska” (Megafon) The keyword here is understatement. This album used to be a household item in Swedish homes. Folk tunes (on fiddle and so on) played with a jazz musician’s approach. This mixture can often go horribly overboard and fall into pastiche and embarrassment. With Jan it’s the most natural thing in the world. I miss understatement in a lot of things, and vulnerability.

Quincy Jones ” The Deadly Affair” (Verve) Learned about this album as a friend and I went record shopping during a break from rehearsal. This is a soundtrack to a film from 1966 I saw recently.  The music is fascinating as it can be seen as a study in theme and variations. An infectous melody in 4/4 with a bossa nova groove gets re-arranged, re-orchestrated, milked to scenes of varying dramatic characteristics in this orchestra score, amazingly well put together. One feature of this irreplacable album’s category is that they don’t warrant “figuring out” on my part. In other words I’m happy just being intrigued, but in this case I couldn’t help but to transcribe the main theme.

Kebnekajise “II” (Silence) Like Jan Johansson sometimes did, Kebnekaise playes Swedish folk tunes and make them come out differently. This band was a 60’s communist one that played prisons and outdoor festivals in a rock band format. The harmonies often associated with the music sound lovely on multiple electric guitars.

Loincloth “demo” This isn’t an album either but a really great 4 tracks used on a demo. Instrumental metal from Virginia, pulling at me.

Mahavishnu Orchestra “Birds of Fire” (CBS) This music has a stern tenacity and control that both attracts and repels me, it’s so mathy but the energy and playing is so sharp and turned on it means a lot. Definitely an influence on my writing.

Olivier Messiaen “Turangalila” (Deutsche Grammofon) Listening to this is pure Science Fiction, Messiaen’s particular harmonic habits, beauty involving dissonance, emotional scope and a myriad of awe-inspired episodes. Magic.

Metallica “Ride the Lightning” (Elektra) As for so many others this music struck a chord in me when I was in my youth. After school some days, I remember listening to this daredevil, concerned, urgent, dangerous music with a friend, getting goose bumps and being transported from our normal schoolboy lives to a different world of electrifying expression. I still think it has some of the best sinister riffs in the world, in “For whom the bell tolls” for example. Metallica took me on a trip through a fantastic world filled with excitement at every turn. I’ve gone back to it over the years and dig the energy, the journey happening because of how well the songs are constructed, the melodious sections, the searing guitar tone, the singing style of James Hetfield, and general lyrical theme of discontent and seeking answers, resonating with many a youthful yearnings.

Charles Mingus “Ah Um” (Columbia Records) Such a great jazz album. There is a thread that never breaks running through it song to song. Great song titles (some of which were politically corrected by the bosses to fit the racism of the day, and lyrics omitted for release on the market).

Thelonius Monk “Thelonius himself” (Riverside Records) Here it’s as if you are sitting as a little kid next to Thelonius himself on the piano bench. Taking his time selecting his next choice, playing cat and mouse with the listener and maybe himself. A gift from my brother.

Milton Nascimento “Lô Borges-Clube de Esquina” (World Pacific) I recently was given this album as a gift. The songs are of such a variety and inviting tone that it’s addictive. There is also some collage pieces that suggest political, militaristic threat. I don’t know because it’s sung in Portugese but the music speaks like that.

Tito Puente “Cuban Carneval” (RCA Victor) The only Tito record I have, gets me going  and happy everytime. Guaguanco!

Terje Rypdal “Whenever I seem to be far away” (ECM) It’s virtually inconceivable to imagine a record label (or whatever entity) investing money in a product such as this today. Side A features a magical, funky music wonderfully composed with French horn as the main voice next to Terje’s great guitar playing, mellotron, fuzzed out electric bass and Jon Christensen on drums. Side B features a kind of romantic through composed piece for electric guitar, oboe, clarinet, and a German string orchestra. Makes me happy it was possible to do at one point in time, 1974!

Elliot Sharp “In the land of the yahoos” (SST) My introduction to Elliot Sharp happened by reading a short article about him in a magazine in the 90’s. The thoughtful statements sparked my interest so I went to the record store to buy whatever I could find. It was this album that introduced me to his work and the whole Downtown scene in New York in fact. I had never heard anything like this before; oddly programmed drum machines, various fragmentary entrances and exits on various instruments over a machine-like loop, and an overall impression track to track of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” while still holding together as an album. This isn’t about wailing or development, it’s a kitschy collage I find charming and unorthodox. Having worked with him a few times over the years I continue to admire his thoughtfulness and dedication to music, an artistic individual following his own course.

Wayne Shorter “Odyssey of Iska” (Blue Note) In 2013 I was asked by British record store “No Magic Man Records” to contribute my thoughts on an album that has meant a lot to me, the full posting: http://www.nomagicman.com/blogs/hocus-pocus-focus/9028773-guest-blog-anders-nilsson) Here is what I wrote:
This is a beautiful thematic album recorded in NYC in 1970, released on Blue Note Records. The theme is the wind (Iska), leaving no trace in it’s path, immeasurable and eternal. Right after Shorter stopped playing with Miles’ band he made a few great albums; Moto Grosso Feio, Super Nova, and Odyssey of Iska. I’ve listened to this one very many times ever since I bought the LP in the early 90’s. Wayne’s words included in the liner notes are poetic and totally believable when you listen to the music = no jive or pretentiousness. The music has a feeling and sense of selflessness, honesty, quest and truth, that I find disarming and holds my attention throughout. The orchestration is put to good use: Shorter – soprano and tenor sax, Gene Bertoncini (later my teacher for a while) – guitar, Dave Friedman – vibes and marimba, Ron Carter and Cecil McBee – basses, Billy Hart and Alphonze Mouzon
– drums, Frank Cuomo – percussion.
Every musical voice involved has its particular place or role and is able to move freely at the same time! There is really great deep calm and beauty in the more serene parts, as well as fiery release in places. To me the motion of the music and the sense of it’s players being moved to fine heights is deeply felt, maybe you will feel it too. The recipe made for lots of magic to take place and to be captured on record. Very few clichés or short-sighted ego-laden blowing here, no formulas! Gene told me Shorter asked him to echo him, react and answer his own playing, something which he did so well. Gene was asked to join Weather Report shortly after this session, he was flattered but turned it down!
The album “Super Nova” featuring John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous, Jack DeJohnette and others is by contrast more muscular and wilder and also amazing. This album has been an influence on my writing, playing, and relationship to music, for example on my 7-piece cd Anders Nilsson’s AORTA Ensemble (Kopasetic Productions).

Ravi Shankar/Alla Rakha “Sound of the Sitar” (Angel Records) Among the Indian albums in my collection this is my favorite. The playing is fierce, free spirited, and the music lifts off high while so tightly structured.

Ali Farka Toure “The source” (World Circuit) There is a unique sound to this stule of guitar playing, and an incorruptible groove through this album, including a solo track that is simple unbelievably beautiful.

Boubacar Traore “and his guitar” (Mississippi) There is the kind of album you put on because it has one mood throughout. This is a wonderful soft album like that. Malian singer/guitarist with a great vibe.

“Turkisk Musik” (Caprice Records) In the 70’s (and again now) the state- owned Caprice label released a number of albums intended to introduce a sample platter of music, and an informative booklet about the culture itself, of varoous countries. I found this Turkish one at a library sale. It was here I learned about the bağlama, surna, and several other instruments. The tracks were tracked a la field recordings, with local maestros across the land. A wonderful educational series produced at a time when the country only had 2 state owned tv stations and cultural variety wasn’t as easy to get. Not unlike similar productions on Elektra Nonesuch.

Anton Webern “Sechs Stucke für Orkester” Opus 6. (Deutsche Grammofon) There are many pieces from the early days of the Second Viennese school that really fascinate me and that I dig over and over in their own right; Schönberg’s “Die Gluckliche Hand”, “5 Pieces for Orchestra”, “Jakobsleiter”, Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” and “Lulu Suite”, but out of all of them I’ve spent the most time with Anton Webern’s “6 pieces for Orchestra” opus 6 from 1909, written in Austria when he was 26 and trying to deal with feelings associated with the passing of his mother. The work is extraordinarily gripping on a soulful level, resonating on an emotional level, and is a great work featuring constant shifts in tone color, a characteristic associated with these composers around 100 years ago. There is so much attention to detail in this music, every note counts, yet it’s utterly unpredictable. When I try to listen analytically and follow along in the chromatically rich music by ear, I quickly lose my place, but it certainly has improved my distinction and vocabulary in the free tonal realm. I like their pre-12 tone music better because I feel it written more like an improviser plays, although carefully measured in the case of Webern. The brevity and articulate pieces make for powerful expression and intense movements, bypassing the intellect. I am not much of a collector but I have developed a rare hobby buying different LP-versions of this short work. My favorite recording so far is by the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan on Deutsche Gramophone, a recording that Staffan Storm, a teacher at Malmö Academy of Music, gave to me on cassette when I was writing a paper on the piece in the mid 90’s.

Tony Williams Life Time “Turn it over Redux” (Verve) The classic album was released on Verve with so-so sound, Bill Laswell remastered it and included several new takes and unedited the shortened releases. Imbedded is youthful and social tension, fire and anger, and the will to wake people up. Prog-era expression with musical intelligence and politics without words. Killer.

Stevie Wonder “Songs in the key of life” (Tamla) My wife took us out to hear this album performed live at Madison Square Garden in 2015. It was very uplifting and engaging… i had of course heard this double album before but it has taken on a lot more meaning now. Especially side 4 with “As” on it.

Frank Zappa “Joe’s garage” (Zappa records) My favorite musical so far, what a story, countless memorable lines, sarcastic and frank music drawing from a million things played by a great band, including a very soulful FZ solo on “Watermelon in easter hay”. Just a masterpiece.

Frank Zappa “We’re only in it for the Money” (Verve) This always puts me in a good mood. Mind blowing creativity, satire, good music, “Flower power SUCKS”

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January 7, 2017

lower east side gig report

Sunday 5/15: l.e.s/e.v.Large groups mixing composition and improvisation are so very linked with the personality, perspectives, and dreams of the leader, thus the artistic results and experiences are starkly different between independent groups. It’s hard to find 2 big groups that sound this unique, while going in different directions with this, within a few blocks, on the same night. Needless to say the musicians involved make the endeavor a personal reality in its own right, making the it become whatever it is it is. Only in Nueva York:

7pm @ ABC no Rio (156 Rivington Street) with Evan Gallagher. My old friend Evan has once again gathered a cast of 14 musicians to attempt tackling his ever new compositions. The old Abc no Rio is going to face a total facelift really soon, so this is likely the last time he’ll conduct his pursuits here for quite a while. Gaetano Daga was a composer who resided in the building in the 1800’s, one tune we’re performing is a derangement of one of his pieces. It’s always special playing with Evan, this time even more so for me, as he totally out of left field and on his own accord wrote music around a “poem” of mine (only sent to a short list of friends a while back), called Vultures also floss, set to premier this night. First time anything like that has ever happened to me! Honored. The instrumentation is 5 reeds, 2 brass, 2 electric guitars, 1 electric bass, & 2 percussions. 5 spot admission.

+ 9pm @ NuBlu with 12 Houses (62 Avenue C) On that same night I’ll move over to Nublu for a set with 12 Houses that has a residency there every Sunday night. This is also a large group of musicians featuring voice, horns, strings, drums, led by Matt Lavelle who organizes the band, selects themes for certain nights as well as originals from the 12 Houses song book. Lately it’s been politically charged and honoring different masters of music. Tonight it’s music by Ornette Coleman! 10 bucks, nice bar.

Thursday 5/19 11pm @ NuBlu 62 Avenue C with Jeremy Danneman’s band, $10. Jeremy is an alto and baritone sax player who has done a few unusual things. Through/as his organization Parade of One (http://www.paradeofone.wordpress) he has travelled to Rwanda, southeast Asia and other places forming good bonds with musicians and people there, and he has brought artists (with way too much bureaucratic struggle) over to the US from these places to appear here, including Sophie Nzayisenga from Rwanda. His music is very melodious and unpretentious with lots of African influences. With William Parker, Tim Keiper, and myself, he recorded music that resulted in 3 albums released on Ropeadope records in 2015-2016. Tonight the line-up is J.D., myself on guitar, Joe Exley-tuba, and Kevin Zubek-drums. We are preceded by fellow guitarist Brad Farberman’s band featuring Mike Clark on drums!  

AIRING ON WKCR 89.9FM ON LIVE CONSTRUCTIONS SUNDAY 5/30 @ 10PM!!
Monday 5/23 THE WHY @ WKCR. We are making a studio recording to be aired later on, stay tuned on the “Intro” page on this site for the specific date and time as wkcr no longer streams online. You have to return to the wonderful thrill of holding out in anticipation until the show is scheduled to air, just like we used to do with TV shows and magazine subscriptions not long ago. Anders Nilsson – guitar, Francois Grillot – bass, Jeremy Carlstedt – drums. The why is by far the hardest of the questions to answer. In our case it all is flung into reality by the moment to moment choices we make from scratch and independently together in the step taking that makes up the musical process of improvisation. Urge vs. consequence etc. We played our first gig last April and it’s easier to physically convey the question with people in the room with us. Let’s see how it translates via the aural sense alone.

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May 22, 2016

Reading

I enjoy reading so I thought I’d share some book tips. Since moving to New York 16 years ago I’ve read American noir from the 40’s & 50’s (particularly Raymond Chandler, Charles Willeford and Jim Thompson) more than anything else. Some favorites include Willeford’s “Pick-Up” and Thompson’s “Pop. 1280”, brutal stuff that resonates today. I’ve also gone through artist’s biographies, history books of various kinds etc. and have developed a respect for older Swedish literature; August Strindberg (“Inferno” for instance) and Hjalmar Söderberg’s “Doktor Glas”. That language is so articulate and beautiful, nobody speaks like that anymore. As a way of keeping track of my reading, rather than keeping a physical journal I use a public one, so I’ve listed and written notes about many books I’ve read on Goodreads. Here is my page if you are interested: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1380499-anders

Currently I’m into Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

 

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February 1, 2016

Ornette Coleman

6/14/15

A few days ago Ornette Coleman died…a giant gone. That very Thursday evening I performed with the large group “12 Houses” at the Stone. The program was supposed to feature original music by Charles Waters but after the news reached us it was decided to forego those compositions and play an unscripted concert dedicated to Ornette Coleman. This because we are all influenced by this one of a kind man, his music, and humanistic/artistic truthfulness. Further, several people in the band knew him, especially the band leader Matt Lavelle. 2 nights later and the following morning I wrote to all the people performing that evening about my impressions of the special, extra emotional vibe that evening, and included some of my impressions of Ornette. Here is what it said:

ornette
“Hey everybody, that was a beautiful, joyous manifestation in sound…
The bittersweet, humane music OC produced was obviously overwhelming the room. As I’m sure many of you also have done, my dial has been and will be tuned to WKCR as much as possible ’til Wednesday. I had a long car ride alone to eastern LI yesterday and it struck me throughout one album after another how Ornette never lets anybody down. The music continues to be positive, truthful, serene, funky, bluesy, whilst abandoning any noticeable (to my ears and heart anyway) matrix, language/linguini, display, and show biz persona.
I’m happy he was relatively well recorded, and cared so much about the recordings left out there for the rest of humanity to hear and feel, roll with, engage in, potentially take further…in a personal way.
As we all know he was a poet in words and a tone poet on his chosen axes

I started listening to him before I was a high school student in Sweden in about 1989, when I was 15, the early stuff, well documented and long ago solidified as valid. A favorite alto solo of mine is found on the song “Tears inside”. When the stuff hits that emotional perfection and timing, magic occurs. Do yourselves a favor and listen to that piece (even if you know what I’m talking about). You won’t regret taking this diversion…

This evening I played a duo set with Ken Filiano at Barbes and while we had very personal stuff prepared I couldn’t stop feeling this grace and genuineness that OC represents for me. He is the very opposite of what I call “spiritual gentrification”, meaning he is staying truthful and disallowing trends and schools of thought to influence your own way of life. The artist’s life, or any questioning person’s life really, is ultra hard. I can only imagine what the added bs of racial US politics added to this reality in the people of his generation, position and skin tone. (I hope we get to the point of putting racism in the historical museums one day, however hopeless that hurdle may still seem).
I also thought the set we played was one of the more fun, free spirited, varied, collage-like realizations we’ve done to date, including “classical” sections, funky unison groove sections, back to back guitar duels, and so much more….”
 & then the following day…
“Good morning, don’t mean to overstay my welcome in your inboxes but just a few more thoughts for what it’s worth ; In my humble opinion Ornette has the best song and album titles! They make you wonder and are often right on point with the music, respectfully avoiding ramming any agenda down the listener’s throat; “civilization day”, “tomorrow is the question”, “what reason could I give?” etc. This way of operating has contributed to my repeated listenings to his music over the years, and an ongoing fascination with how the music continues to process inside me for a long time afterwards.
My take on Ornette is that he was singing a song the way most people invent their own little melodies while singing in the shower, just that he never stopped until now he’s been forced to stop by life itself.
Have a good day,
-His Hotness
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December 26, 2015

Notes

Standards

I’ve been playing jazz standards since high school. Every now and then one of these tunes occupies my mind space for some time and I work extra on it. For whatever reason, some of these standards have the evergreen factor; it can be due to a built in mood, a melodic quirk, harmonic qualities or whatever. For me it’s virtually next to never the lyrics that trigger my fascination. A short sweeping statement about the history of this bag of 10’s, 20’s, 30’s show tunes for fun: As the story goes they were often made popular in musicals – then repurposed and used as song forms to jam on by jazz musicians – reharmonized, contrafacted (=remelodicized, for example “Whispering” becoming “Groovin’ High”), and revamped completely (for example Coltrane’s version of “My favorite things”), remeterized etc. These songs were almost exclusively in 4/4, or 3/4 occasionally. Many of them have a 32 bar-form, grouped in 4 sections of 8 bars each, commonly AABA, thus tending to be rather short forms withstanding cyclical repetitions. So the A-sections make up 75% of a song, quite a lot of it. If taken from musicals, these songs had a purpose and place within the tale, so the lyrical message of a story, a couple of verses long, was a key feature. However, this facet is irrelevant to what attracts me to these songs.

Very generally: A1 is the initial statement, A2 is the repeat and corroboration of the same with a different resolution, essentially confirming to the listener that you heard it right the first time around, B is a bridgein which new material is introduced, A3 is another repeat of the familiar A completing the circle, or square. The AABA song form is so ingrained, in most listeners acquainted with this type of repertoire, that it is second nature to feel familiar with how it goes. These three A-sections usually go the same route melodically speaking; commonly involving the same theme restated thrice with slightly different endings, and harmonically speaking; using authentic and half cadences at the end of respective sections to match that. Musicians often learn variations of the chord changes and/or melodies as recorded and made famous by jazz profiles, and continue searching. It certainly is one thing what is written on the page, or whatever the musicians are using as a blueprint, and quite another how the music is treated in the heat of the moment (hopefully). It is part of the jazz tradition to bend the paparameters to one’s satisfaction. It becomes a natural development to vary up these 8-bar sections with various touches, energy and inflictions as you play the songs through repeated choruses, using intuition, knowledge and musicianship to stay on the case and play engaged. Spontaneous reharmonizing, superimposing alternative harmonies, laying down pedal points, rhythmic pliability, melodic alterations, varied phraseology, etc. are organic results of this kind of experience and stretching. Many arrangers take advantage of these opportunities and possibilities in enriching song versions.

So lately I’ve been working on a few standards that I like for their intrinsic qualities. Two of them are in the typical AABA mold. Instead of repeating the chord structure more or less the same way three times, I simply changed the underlying harmony for each progressive section. By progressive section I mean that instead of merely replaying the thing played in A1, A2 and A3 present the option of new material in the structure and thereby moving the music forward. My own inclination is to have each variation support the melody still, thereby setting up 3 separate ways to harmonize the A sections, and the AABA sounds a bit more like an ABCD form. This way there is musical news in each section and a longer arc of chord progressions that lead to an ultimate resolution at the end of the 32-bar form, establishing the feeling of a longer route. I didn’t change the melodies at all so the melodic themes stay the same for the 3 A-sections but as is customary in jazz the melody is not restated when soloing takes over, instead the band is faced with several sets of chord changes to play with.

I have 3 examples to share with you (click on the links below); the first one is “Just You, Just Me” by Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages from the 1929 musical “Marianne”. The reason I like it is it’s a happy song with a simple and singable theme. Originally all the A-sections start, and end, on the I-chord which can become a bit tedious. When playing over the original changes I’d normally blues that up after a while to get more harmonic room and vibe to move around in, and as a continuation of that tendency I found that a change of bass note and harmonic color at the onset of each 8-bar section feels fresh. I left the 1st A-section intact. In my version the 2nd A-section sounds more like a turnaround using 7#9 – Hendrix chords, and 7b9 chords. I didn’t do anything to the bridge. The 3rd A-section features minor major 9th – James Bond chords, and takes a route more distant from the tonic (I) than expected, giving the third rendition of the catchy melody a more suspenseful touch. The 3rd A is the only section that sounds really different from the original, because the turnaround in the 2nd A is very similar to the 1st A (with E7#9 being a more colorful variation of C major). The first half of A3 is harmonically related to A2, but what gives the reharmonization it’s power is the change of bass notes. I haven’t thought of an arrangement otherwise, just a 4/4 swinger with an alternative reharmonization thrown in, establishing alternative chord progressions to play over that nudge results other than those of the original song. Chart: just you just me

“Softly as in a morning sunrise” – originally performed as a tango in the 1928 musical “The new moon”, was composed by Sigmund Romberg & Oscar Hammerstein ll. It is a very well-known standard with a beautiful melancholy feel and 4-bar structures. Like the previous song it’s in 32-bar AABA-form. It would drive a band crazy to stay strictly to the original changes chorus after chorus, so many colorful variations using various C minor related progressions usually happen as a natural thing. Although still “inside”, in this reharmonization I strayed a bit further from the expected tonalities. All the chord progressions work together with the melodic line but aren’t always centered around C minor. I picture this as a “crime jazz” version of the tune. A repeatable 8-bar intro is set up to introduce a mood, using chromatically circling chords, modulating, ascending, and moving in 2-bar patterns with a 2-bar cadence-like progression at the end before the melody comes in. This creeping chord set-up keeps going once the melody enters, for A1 and A2. For the B-section in Eb major, I stayed close to the original with a chromatically ascending bass line leading the way. A3 mimics the other A’s in this one, except for it avoiding resolution in another way. When it comes time to solo, there is an alternative set of chord changes for the A sections, now descending. Each 4-bar structure within the A-sections starts at a new harmonic point (again – different bass note) instead of repeating the original 4-bar phrase twice as the composition did. As an extra option the first chord of each 2-bar phrase of the intro can be used on cue or at will to play over during any A section: A7#9 l A7#9 l C7#9 l C7#9 l E7#9 l E7#9 l D7 l D7 l Chart: softly as in a morning sunrise

“Fly me to the Moon” by Bart Howard from 1954 was originally called “In other words”. It has 32 bars divided into two halves (the only difference being the words and the endings again). Everybody and his uncle can imagine the Sinatra-version of this one. I think I’ve played and heard this song, with that as a blueprint, at a few too many weddings. Sometimes a song doesn’t need chords. It has a robust descending fifths bass line with a sequential Baroque-like melody (like Autumn Leaves), and unearthly vibes in the lyrics. I changed the key from A minor to F minor, darker. I imagine a slow heavy version with the first 8 bars being looped over and over, saving the part that goes “in other words, please be true” until the very end of the performance. I hear an electric bass with fuzz playing that strong bass line with long, dominating fat tones, cymbals rolling, electric instruments buzzing, hints of sequential patterns, and the lyrics slowly being delivered syllable by syllable with spacey effects, reverse delay, and spontaneous improvisation that avoids the changes. Like being onboard a space ship. Chart: fly me to the moon

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August 6, 2015