• Lionel Loueke Trio @ Jazz Standard (NYC), 1/10/09

    14. Jan. 2009, 4:19

    From my review at rvajazz.com:

    Sat 10 Jan – Lionel Loueke Trio @ Jazz Standard

    Guitarist Lionel Loueke is capable of a plethora of tones and timbres with his instrumental combination of guitar, voice, and effects. Beginning the set at Jazz Standard on Saturday night with the title track from his latest release, Karibu, Loueke's voice and guitar melded into an African herald. Singing bass in unison to a mixed-meter thumbed guitar riff while adding clicking vocal percussion, Loueke immediately captivated the audience and quickly caught those not familiar with his background and music up to speed. On point into the groove came Swiss-Italian bassist Massimo Biolcati and Hungarian drummer Ferenc Nemeth with African style and Caribbean subtleties. Nemeth, like Loueke, layered subdivisions on top of one another until the groove was a flowing and syncopated stream. The trio is playful and persuasive, often times prodding at each other with a grin to develop an idea. Within "Seven Teens," named for the distribution of beats in the main phrase as 4+6+4+3, Loueke played duo with each band mate, navigating the phrase's map with ease and style. An effect on the band leader's vocal mic expelled harmonies based on the chord fingered on guitar. A whole choir seemed to join the band, even when Loueke jokingly played with the effect, expanding the group's already lusciously full sound.
  • Analysis of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"

    17. Dez. 2008, 5:38

    Beyoncé - Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
    Analysis by Dean Christesen

    I strongly believe that there are characteristics of music that only hit the subconscious level and that can help or hinder the popularity of a song. There can be a discrepancy here, since what might affect the subconscious of the layman listener might be fully realizable to the musician or music scholar: not only those who know about a dominant-tonic resolution are aware of what it feels like to listen to it, but it is a conscious realization to know it exists. Since it is impossible to pinpoint the qualities that subconsciously affect the listener's opinion of a song (for if it is truly subconscious, we are not aware of its presence), I will attempt to identify the features of "Single Ladies" that may be subconscious moments of bliss for some, and fully recognizable musical techniques to others. For now, I will put aside the fact that this song feels good, and therefore might be popular for that reason alone.

    "Single Ladies" starts with 6 beats (the last three quarters of the groove that will play the entire song) of the basic drum beat and a few unidentifiable sounds (one sounds like a cuica if it were coming from a computer. A cuica is a small moaning drum utilized heavily in samba and other Brazilian music). The time is marked by a hand clap sample, immediately prompting the listener to follow with clapping and/or dancing. Beyonce's entrance is not stalled for anticipation; after these quick 6 beats, she enters with a titular salutation. Her melody is entrancing and simple: the 5th scale degree B ("Single Ladies" is, for the most part, in the key of E major) is a call and is responded with a descent down the tonic major triad to the 3rd (G#), the 2nd (F#), and resolving to the tonic. This melody already seems eerily similar to the Largo from Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From The New World" (Op. 95) (Symphony No. 9 in E minor; 2nd movement; Largo). This, of course, was absolutely not directly inspired by Dvořák's work. But in writing his 9th symphony, Dvořák sought to utilize truly American melodies that he found traveling the country in 1893. For Beyonce to sing this same fragment of a melody may touch something ingrained within the American listeners: not just a Dvořák melody but a pentatonic vignette of American culture.

    This first descending melodic motif response (G# F# E) begins once as a solo voice, repeats with a harmony up the tonic triad (B A G#), and once more with a harmony to complete the triad (E C# B). The inner voice constructs an F# minor chord, diatonic in the key, unjarring and transparent as a passing voice. This cascade of harmony seems exotic, as if barbershop in practice but Caribbean or African in origin.

    Beyonce's verse melody could be (and most likely is) the melody to a nursery rhyme. It simply ascends and descends diatonically (E F# G ' E F# G ' E F# G F# E, or in scale degrees 1 2 3 ' 1 2 3 ' 1 2 3 2 1). Her delivery and articulation of the melody swings, as if coming from a shuffle, or a more modern swinging dance music like funk or Go-Go. Phrases vary in rhythm: some are busied with more words to sing in the same amount of space, resulting in this swinging; other phrases are sung in 8th notes.

    The chorus can be analyzed as A B A'. "A" is characterized by a quick singing line descending diatonically from the 5th scale degree (B) to the 2nd (F#) (or, in scale degrees, 5 4 3 2). New sounds are heard: a space-age sound whooshes upward into a synth pad proclaiming the tonic near the end of the measure. Beyonce teases by leading to the tonic but never singing it until the last note ("it") before the "B" section. The "B" section's melody (in "oh's," an ever popular syllable for singing along) is a combination of what the listener has heard so far. It first descends the tonic triad, revisiting the intro without the 2nd scale degree, and then sings scale degrees 1 2 3 2 1 like in the verse. As if this melody were not catchy enough, the beat is added to by a laser-sounding sample on the upbeats. With the addition of the upbeat, the groove's Reggaeton nature in the second half of the beat seems to be affirmed. Also, the beat swings more with the lasers' help.

    "A' " welcomes a flirtation with bitonality. The song no longer sounds like it is in E major, although it is up to the listener to decide--if he or she chooses to--what the resulting tonality is. A heavy synth plays B to C natural under the same melody as section "A"--B A G# F#. In the next measure, the synth descends from B to A. These two measures are repeated with slight variation in rhythm. This synth motion suggests an overall sound of A melodic minor: if the listener allows the mind to believe that the synth's A is tonic, this can be a possibility. But the human mind, however musical or non-musical, is smarter than this and remembers the melody from the original "A" section: the melody and harmony eventually resolves to E major. For this reason, it can be argued that this was not a modulation to A melodic minor, but instead a foreign bass was inserted in the harmony to augment the existing melody.

    Another verse and chorus is sung, ensuring a predictable song structure for the listener. An extra "B" section occurs in order to transition to the bridge. The bridge indirectly modulates to the parallel minor of E minor: instead of following the "B" section's E major with an E minor chord, it instead goes to the iv and V chords (A minor and B major). But since the A chord is minor and not major (the C# from E major becomes C to fit the A minor), the listener senses the change to a minor key before the E minor hits and at the downbeat of the bridge. This iv-V-i progression occurs three times, and then varies it by going to C major (VI) (nearly hinting at a Phrygian cadence) to B major, the dominant (V), for five measures. Like a newly liberated woman in a club, the fanfare-like theme from the intro re-emerges in glorious E major, triumphing over the short-lived E minor section.

    The re-intro section gives way to the participation-encouraging "B" section of the chorus, then to A', nearly combining the two with tease "whoa oh oh's" leading into the lyric "If you liked it..."

    The song ends with an unaccompanied "whoa oh oh."

    The infectious beat, stunning singing from Beyonce, an mindless commands like "Now put your hands up," secure "Single Ladies" a spot on the radio charts. The subtleties, however, are what make the more-aware listener's ears perk up. The fleeting moment in A' of the chorus comes as somewhat of a shock to anyone versed in typical pop music mechanics. This was my "driveway moment": sitting in my parked car, I had to hear the rest of the song before I got out. This was a conscious realization to notice the unorthodox harmony in the chorus. But this is not to say that there were not effects on my subconscious that really held me in that car. Studio tricks like vocal multi-tracking and panned instruments seem to reach the brain differently than things like lyrics, melody, and harmony, and are fully capable of having attracting powers greater than those of musical fundamentals.

    "Single Ladies" is written by Chris Stewart (a.k.a. Tricky), Terius Nash (a.k.a. The Dream), and Kuk Harrell of RedZone Entertainment.
  • Charles Mingus and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

    21. Okt. 2008, 11:58

    One year ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the Mingus Awareness Project found its home away from home in Richmond, Virginia. Created and first held in Chicago by brothers Jon, Dan, and Erik Godston in May 2007, M.A.P. was formed to educate people on two topics: jazz bassist Charles Mingus and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS), the disease that killed him and continues to kill thousands every year. The project’s goal is to raise money to benefit an ALS research foundation.

    Drummer Brian Jones—a childhood friend of the Godston’s—was naturally affected when their mother died from the disease after years of suffering through it. “The agony of that illness in particular is just a horrible thing,” Jones says. “Essentially your body shuts down slowly, [but] your mind is completely active. You know what’s going on; you’re totally alert, but all of a sudden you can’t move your legs, you can’t move your arms, and you can’t do anything. And then eventually you just can’t breathe and you die.”

    Jones decided to organize a benefit here in Richmond like the one that had taken place a couple months earlier in Chicago, and on October 21, 2007, it happened. “It was certainly one of the jazz highlights of last year,” says Doug Richards, composer and arranger extraordinaire who conducted the big band at the event. Not many people dare or desire to disagree with him on this topic.

    Read the whole story on RVAjazz.com.

    Duke Ellington
    Harry Carney
    Fight the Big Bull
    Jelly Roll Morton
    Rex Richardson
    John D'earth
  • Fight the Big Bull - Dying Will Be Easy (Clean Feed, 2008)

    2. Sep. 2008, 12:29

    This review has been published by All About Jazz.

    Visit Fight the Big Bull on the web.

    Track listing: Dying Will Be Easy; November 25th; Grizzly Bear; In Jarama Valley.

    Personnel: Matt White: guitar, tunes; Pinson Chanselle: trap kit; Cameron Ralston: bass; Brian Jones: percussion; Bob Miller: trumpet; Reggie Pace: trombone; Bryan Hooten: trombone; J.C. Kuhl: tenor saxophone; Adrian Sandi: clarinet.

    Fight the Big Bull - Dying Will Be Easy
  • Playlist for learning to play the mandolin on one's own

    7. Aug. 2008, 0:38

    So I recently bought a mandolin to try and teach myself how to play. I'm a drummer with a couple years of basic guitar background. But I never got really fluent on the guitar. Now a couple years later, I can play some basic chords on the instrument but nothing too crazy. I wanted to get back into playing a compact chordal instrument like the guitar (as opposed to a piano, which I am learning in school along side drums and which is not compact), but didn't want to play the guitar. Everyone plays the guitar. So I was listening to a lot of Chris Thile, and although I knew he's a freak virtuoso on the mandolin, I thought it would be a cool instrument to try and teach myself. I've already noticed that I'm more in demand as a mandolin player than I would be as a guitarist.

    I've been developing a playlist of songs to play along with on the mandolin.

    The first half I built when I first got the mandolin and wanted to play along with music that I really liked (some of which happens to have hard harmonic progressions):

    Nickel Creek - Spit On A Stranger
    Phish - Waste
    Nickel Creek - I Should've Known Better
    Nickel Creek - This Side
    Fiona Apple - I Know
    Wilco - What Light
    Wilco - Jesus, Etc.
    Nickel Creek - The Fox

    So clearly, not a very diverse list of artists. Today, I decided that although I've outgrown music that I used to listen to often, that might be a good way to start with some great basic chord progressions and use the simple progressions to experiment with different voicings of chords and really get to know the fretboard.

    Today's modification, part two of my mandolin playlist is:

    Third Eye Blind - Thanks A Lot
    Matchbox Twenty - Hang
    Damien Rice - Volcano
    Jason Mraz - Clockwatching
    Jason Mraz - You And I Both
    Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
    Jack Johnson - Mudfootball (For Moe Lerner)

    I try and avoid listening to Jack Johnson these days, because there's probably more productive things I could be listening to. But I was playing along with it and it's got a great I-V7 verse, a nice vi-ii-IV chorus, and even an unexpected secondary dominant at the tag. This is what I need in my level of mandolin playing.

    Plus, I love what Darcy James Argue of Secret Society Big Band said recently about guilty pleasure music on my friend's blog: "You might (justifiably) feel guilty about, like, cheating on your spouse, or betting your kid’s college fund on an online poker game. But feeling guilty about enjoying music? Life’s too short, dude."

    Awesome. So Jack Johnson it is.
  • Similar melodies across genres: John Scofield vs. Andy Davis, Count Basie vs. The…

    5. Aug. 2008, 15:07

    1. Wow, my library radio played these songs back to back:

    John Scofield - Hammock Soliloquy within the first 12 seconds
    Andy Davis - Quicksand within the first 15 seconds

    Listen to the melody of each. Even in the very low volume of my office cubicle, I could hear Davis' voice mimicking Scofield's melody that played just a moment ago. Check it out.

    2. It's kind of like when my band in high school (The Supreme Quartet) wrote a song called Who's The Bossa?, and we thought the melody that our guitarist wrote was SO cool, until we found out that he was subconsciously recalling the melody to Scofield's Snap, Crackle, Pop. We had quite a laugh when we found out that we had blatantly, yet unintentionally, ripped off Scofield.

    This (the former case more than the latter) kind of proves that although music seems like an endless universe waiting to be discovered, there are only so many melodies out there. With 12 notes (in Western music) and only so many scales that we have been told sound good to the human ear, the permutations eventually have to run out. Thoughts?

    3. The percussion intro of Count Basie's Mambo Inn sounds like a clear influence of David King's intro in The Bad Plus - Big Eater, even though the two tunes go in two totally different directions.
  • Jason Arce - Simplicity (2008)

    30. Jul. 2008, 2:54

    From RVAjazz.com

    Simplicity is a modest title for an album that has exciting complexities around every corner. Wild melodies, blazing solos, and unique interplay often mask any simplicity that is to be found in the music. But still, there is a certain welcomed basic-ness at the heart of saxophonist Jason Arce's debut release. Penned solely by Arce, the compositions are borne of a talented band full of life and energy.

    The album firmly opens with the title track, featuring a sharp-edged wandering melody, but there is some titular truth to the very next piece, "Break the Wall." After a balladic intro with piano and sax, the band storms in. Trumpeter Bob Miller takes off running while propellants drummer Kelli Strawbridge and bassist Matt Hall surge with. In the album's second instance of chivalrous behavior from the leader, Arce takes second solo to a band mate, but still manages to throw good manners out the window with his aggressive and adventurous playing. His varied use of space and fervent heat sets his band's course with democratic leadership and an open ear. The solo, like many on the disc, arcs beautifully and comes together at just the right moment.

    Hall's strength on the backline is impeccable, and his ability to react to any situation and see and hear is quite omniscient. Fellow accompanists, guitarist Alan Parker and piano and wurlitzer player Devonne Harris, are equally extrospective, looking outwards before looking in, especially on "Time To Leave."

    Strawbridge, insightful with often-explosive bursts of drums and cymbals, also looks outward to inspire each soloist. Even the calmer pieces are laced with a sense of vigor in his drumming, as on "57th Sunset." Harris's first trip to the drum throne on "New Relationship" brings ultra funky drumming with a fist full of a hip-hop vibe, and with the absence of keys, the music breathes a little better than the pieces before it.

    The musicians often nod to Miles Davis's legendary second quintet [Miles Davis Quintet] (Strawbridge displays Tony Williams-like fire in his drum solo on "Happy Blues," and Harris immediately quotes the melody of E.S.P. on the first track), although that doesn't stop Arce from exploring his own inspirations, life experiences, and the beginning of his journey as a leader.

    Track listing: Simplicity; Break the Wall; End of the Night; Time to Leave; 57th Sunset; New Relationship; Forward Progress; Patiently Waiting; Happy Blues; Break the Wall (alt. take).

    Personnel: Jason Arce: saxophone, piano; Devonne Harris: piano, drums (6,7), wurlitzer; Alan Parker: guitar; Matt Hall: bass; Bob Miller: trumpet (1-3,10); Sam Savage: trombone (8,9); Kelli Strawbridge: drums (1-5,8-10).
  • Angles - Every Woman is a Tree

    2. Jul. 2008, 23:40

    Every Woman is a Tree
    Angles | Clean Feed (2008)

    See this review on All About Jazz.

    Track listing: Peace is not for us; Don't ruin me; My world of mines; Every woman is a tree; The indispensable warlords; Let's talk about the weather (and not about the war)

    Personnel: Magnus Broo: trumpet; Mats Aleklint: trombone; Martin Kuchen: alto saxophone; Mattias Stahl: vibraphone; Johan Berthling: double bass; Kjell Nordeson: drums.
  • Glows in the Dark - Music to Listen to Glows in the Dark By

    5. Jun. 2008, 13:29

    Glows in the Dark
    Music to Listen to Glows in the Dark By (2008)

    See the review on All About Jazz.
  • Clusone Trio - Love Henry

    12. Mai. 2008, 0:52

    Clusone Trio - Love Henry
    Gramavision (1996)

    See the review on All About Jazz.

    Track listing: Introduction; Red Hot; When I Lost You; White Hot; Cuckoo In The Clock; Uninhabited Island; Red Spots; Bilbao Song; Restless In Pieces; Love Henry; In The Company Of Angels; Tempo Comodo; Moeder Aller Oorlogen; White Christmas/Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor; Ao Velho Pedro/Marie Pompoen; Goodbye.

    Personnel: Han Bennink: drums, percussion; Ernst Reijseger: cello; Michael Moore: alto saxophone, clarinet, melodica.