Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the latest Wikileaks/Bradley Manning revelations “very irresponsible, thoughtless acts that put at risk the lives of innocent people all over the world.” Mike Huckabee stated that anything less than execution is too kind a penalty. Sarah Palin said of Julian Assange, the front-man of the Wikileaks ensemble, “He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands ... Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”
This is my brief attempt to illuminate the MIT administration as to why so many students and affiliates are offended by the recent dining plan, and maybe, by the end, justify my title.
Meet OJH, the Orquestra de Jazz de Matosinhos, and the latest sonic shift for renowned guitarist and Berklee alum Kurt Rosenwinkel. The last time I wrote about Rosenwinkel I was writing about his 2009 classics album <i>Reflections </i>— itself a somewhat unusual shift for an artist who’s more (in my mind at least) associated with the typical small ensemble jazz setup. Here he’s playing his own stuff, but arranged for big band by band leader Pedro Guedes and pianist Carlos Azevedo.
Ke$ha is the latest in a series of things that suck. She’s got the usual dumpset-pop trappings with an extra dose of marketing zeal. <i>The Guardian</i> once called her a degenerate Miley Cyrus. It’s said she broke into Prince’s house to give him her demo CD. Her avaricious self-branding is her empowerment, and is, we’re told, zero parts objectification.
Jazz festivals are a strange, modern beast, a queer mix of federally funded tourist traps alongside the grassroots gatherings of lonely fanatics to meet, greet, and bitch about the state of culture today. On one hand, they’re a wonderful way to take in a huge breadth of musical diversity, to see and talk to the greatest practitioners of old and new jazz — a Davos for the aficionados of the world. On the other hand, they can be ridiculously expensive, attracting those who may have the funds to pay for tickets but not necessarily those who should be deciding the future of jazz. Certainly, Charlie Parker wasn’t playing for sexagenarians in lawn chairs. Even close to the peak of his career he busked on Manhattan streets for heroin money. Parker was the 1940’s hipster icon, the scourge of the squares, and the founder of bebop.
Those of you who follow what I write might know of my interest in the interplay between a country’s inherent culture and the music it produces. Italian guitarist Fabrizio Sotti is an apt example. Since the death of Marcus Aurelius, the Italians haven’t quite been renowned for their sense of urgency. While the higher-browed and straighter-lipped of their European brethren may poke fun at the sloth of this Mediterranean cradle of the West (here’s looking at you Berlusconi), you have to give them credit. After all, while you’re criticizing Italy for its mafia-style government and easy-going lifestyle, an Italian man is probably sleeping with your girlfriend. Italy may be the degenerate skeleton of the Roman Empire, but damn they’re smooth. Their plethora of Lotharios only adds to the stereotypical image of the tall, dark, and handsome Italian.
“A stick, a stone/it’s the end of the road/ it’s the rest of a stump/it’s a little alone” Luciana Souza sings, choosing English over her native Portuguese. It’s also the birth language of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the quintessential Brazilian composer and the artist behind the song itself.
ALBUM REVIEW Smooth grooves from across the ocean Atakoglu’s new jazz fusion album takes you across continents
Of all the albums I’ve heard this year, Fahir Atakoglu’s Faces and Places certainly ranks as one of the most exciting. Not only is it special for carrying several international styles into the mainstream jazz market (Atakoglu was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and uses artists from Cuba, Brazil and New York in his ensemble), but as a standalone work it is a powerful addition to the jazz fusion library. Rather than passively creating an album that fuses several cultural voices together, Faces is a very blunt, intentional attempt at multiculturalism — its title and piece choices take geography as inspiration. Despite the diverse nature of the compositions, the album seamlessly weaves styles and moods, lending a greater sense of continuity; this is a cross-continental road trip, not your neighbor’s vacation slide show.
Metheny-esque in his versatility, yet aggressively daring in his devotion to groove, Kurt Rosenwinkel is one of the most interesting and well-rounded guitarists on the scene today. Rosenwinkel seamlessly weaves together elements of funk, bop, classic rock, and modern compositional (a la Ravel), producing works that are both innovative and listenable — the well-mannered wing of the avant-garde, if you will. His work may be haunting, joyful, melancholic, or thoughtful, but it’s always modern, and ahead of the curve.
The world of free jazz can be a harsh place, a radical, norm-destroying battleground, with the players, in their attempt to create something original, spending a lot of time focusing on tearing down the old. All that chopping and carving and shaping can turn a collaboration into a pile of dust if you aren’t careful. The solution: focus on the basics.
It’s hard to put a finger on Ahmad Jamal’s music. It speaks slowly, suggestively, and delicately. He’s seen his fair share of music, and his style fits into the spectrum between breezy carelessness and angsty desperation. Perhaps its greatest quality is its use of space. Few other artists out there can tap out of melody with as much natural, composed structure as Jamal can without it sounding inevitable and rigid. Jamal’s playing is unfettered but rational, well-balanced, and smooth. Above all, it feels good.
For musicians, it’s easy to get caught up within a genre. Classical musicians tend to find jazz messy and undisciplined. Jazz musicians find classical music square. Pop musicians find both groups stuffy and academic. Both groups stereotype pop as superficial and uninventive.
Conspirators wear business suits. Mark Antony chats on his cell phone. The soldiers of Brutus deck themselves out in camo and army boots.
Drama is tough. It takes a lot time, a lot of money, and a lot of otherwise unemployed people willing to sacrifice both soul and social life for the glory of a few good performances. Unlike some of the other arts, which are often solitary, drama is always about other people: the audience, the cast, the director. No production is “pure” in that sense, but rather the amalgam of a host of other people’s opinions and decisions.
Lights come up. Welsh hymns slowly fill the air. Actor scurry about stage. The modern day is left at the doorstep and nineteenth-century Wales comes to the fore.
A lot of single-instrument groups can be gimmicky — along the lines of, “How many tuba players does it take to make a coherent album?” Many of those efforts are well and good, even virtuosic, but the majority are relegated to narrowly devoted fan-bases — those who, no doubt, brake for vibraphones or are the proud parents of an oboe player — without much chance at breaking through to the larger musical scene.
For the Boston jazz scene, Regattabar is about as classy as it gets. High-rollers in tailored suits like to mix and order $86 bottles of champagne, and mellow out after a day of tapping their blackberries. Its best asset is that it can entertain this crowd without losing sight of jazz’s groovy, down-home feel: those same high-rollers are sitting happily next to Berklee students in hoodies and ripped jeans. There’s no stage — only a wood floor in one corner of the room. Big names in jazz come and stand a yard in front of the audience, and no one pays it any mind. There aren’t any barriers here (save the $86 champagne tab for you and me) — this place is about the music.