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Bebop Spoken There

Vadim Neselovskyi, Professor of Jazz Piano, Berklee College of Music: “Every pianist has to deal with a very complex left-hand part at some point. This is the essential pianistic experience – to split your brain into two halves and execute two very different tasks at the same time.” – (Down Beat September 2017).

Roscoe Mitchell: “To me, improvisation is trying to improve your skills so you can make these on-point compositional decisions. That takes practice.” – (Down Beat September 2017)

Archives

Today Monday September 25

Afternoon.
Jazz in the Afternoon - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
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Classic Swing - Marquis of Granby, Streetgate, Sunniside NE16 5ES. 0191 4880954. 1pm. Free. New mainstream gig w. Bob Wade (trumpet); Olive Rudd (vocal) and other familiar faces.
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Alastair Lord (trumpet) & Kris Thomsett (organ) - St. Nicholas Cathedral, St. Nicholas Square, Newcastle NE1 1PF. 1:05. Free (retiring collection).
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Evening.
?????
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

CD Review: Theo Bleckmann – Elegy

Theo Bleckmann – voice; Ben Monder – guitar; Shai Maestro – piano; Chris Tordini – double bass; John Hollenbeck – drums
(Review by Hugh C)
German-born vocalist, Theo Bleckmann, now resides in New York.  He has been described as a “sound painter” - on this CD he uses his instrument to create both broad brush strokes and delicate patterns, he has also composed most of the material.  Bleckmann has had a musical association with guitarist Ben Monder and drummer John Hollenbeck for over two decades, but a more recent association with pianist Shai Maestro and bassist Chris Tordini.
Elegy sets out to be an “exploration of death or transcendence in some existential way”.  Bleckmann states that in this album he wants to “create songs that deal with this subject matter not in a morbid way, but with some light to it”.  

The CD consists of a series of songs contributing to the exploration, with short instrumental interludes, each of which are improvisations on Bleckmann's written material.  Semblance is the first of these and rapidly moves into Comedy Tonight, setting Sondheim's words and arranged in memory of Bleckmann's mother, who died recently at the age of 91 still looking for things to make her laugh.  Bleckmann's atmospheric take on Sondheim's lyrics are supported by Maestro's solo piano.  Fields, followed by The Mission feature the whole band in balladic mood, with Bleckmann's vocalese floating over the instrumentalists.  After another brief instrumental interlude – Littlefields - comes the title track, Elegy, which has a darker musical texture, through which emerges the more uplifting finale.  To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple, based on an 8th-century Zen poem by Chiao Jan, is about not giving up and exhorts the listener “not to think about death, but keep on moving; not to be morose, keep on living”.

Another instrumental interlude - Cortege - precedes a short reprise of Elegy, leading into Take My Life.  Bleckmann composed this thinking about Bach and his cantatas, especially “Ich habe genug” - Bach was looking forward to the afterlife; Bleckmann here imagines in his lyrics what it would be like to die, but ultimately finds “no other God but silence”.  Wither (sic) – no h and no question mark - is another vocalese, no lyrics.  This reverts to the ballad format with fine piano from Maestro, sensitively supported by the three other band members.  A final instrumental improvisation, Alate, closes the set in a rising chordal progression, rather in the manner of an old black and white film ending, with a slowly closing iris ultimately forming a small central dot, followed by the word FIN.

This is certainly a thought-provoking offering.  The musicianship of all the band members is beyond question.  I think it would probably pass Lance's Outré test.  It is certainly unconventional (even for an ECM recording) and could possibly be considered bizarre.  I do think that Bleckmann has probably achieved his objective and created songs that deal with this subject matter [exploration of death or transcendence in some existential way] not in a morbid way, but with some light to it.
Hugh C

Elegy is now released on ECM (ECM 2512  479 9717)

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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