CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Groove & Funk, New Zealand Jazz Gigs, Review

Alan Brown@CJC (KMC Live launch)- C3 organ/guitar/drums

Alan Brown & C3

When ever Alan Brown brings a band to the CJC, the club fills to capacity.  Alan is well-known, deeply respected and he swings like crazy.  The ‘KMC Live’ release was always going to be a significant musical occasion, but on this night the sparks of inspiration flew between the band members and we witnessed something transcendent .  This was an incendiary gig that lifted our spirits; causing us to tap our feet uncontrollably and for some, to dance with abandon in the flickering shadows.   Alan had arrived earlier in the day, because dragging a heavy C3 organ down into a basement presented challenges.   The patience of Job and the strength of Hercules are required.  These wonderful organs with their bass pedals, wood-paneled console and double keyboard have probably caused preachers to swear when moving then.   It would not surprise me if some elected to rebuild the church round the organ rather than drag it up front.  It is our gain entirely that Alan achieved the translocation.   Hearing the wonderful bluesy phrases flow effortlessly from his fingers as they flew over the keyboards and seeing his feet pedaling out compelling bass lines was a rare treat.

Josh Sorenson

Dixon Nacey is without a shadow of doubt one of the best guitarists in New Zealand and it is a joy to watch him solo and interact with the other musicians.  During solos he will often close his eyes while weighing up the next step and his facial expressions reveal his commitment to the process as he dives ever deeper into the tune.  It is also a revelation to watch him in call and response situations.    When he and Alan are batting each other ideas, this often turns into good-natured un-armed combat.    Dixon watches intently while waiting for a challenge.  Occasionally calling to the others as if to say, “do your worst”.  When a musical phrase is tossed into the air he will smile gleefully and pounce on it, turning it about until it is fashioned into a thing of his own.  Josh Sorenson proved to be the perfect groove drummer as he locked down the beat and pulled the unit together.    This type of drumming requires specialist skills and Josh most certainly possesses these.

Tonight was the launch of Alan’s album ‘Live at the KMC’.   This was recorded at the Kenneth Meyers Centre back in September 2010 and choice of venue was fortuitous.    The venue is of historic importance as it has nurtured radio and TV in its infancy.    It is now part of the Auckland University School of Music (Creative Arts Section).  An acoustic gem.  Alan had recorded this gig thinking only that it could prove useful as a private resource.   One listen convinced him that he needed to release the material at some future date.

The set list at the CJC gig (and on the album) was a mix of Alan’s original tunes with three standards thrown in.   The standards  were ‘Maiden Voyage‘(Herbie Hancock) and ‘All Blues‘ (Miles Davis) and ‘Chank’ (John Scofield) – all arranged by Alan.   The rest of Alan’s compositions were; ‘Mr Raven’ (from the Blue Train days), ‘Charlie’s Here’, ‘Shades of Blue’, ‘In Fluence’, ‘Slight Return’, ‘Inciteful’.    ‘Shades of Blue’ was the best known of the originals while Alan’s interpretation of ‘Maiden Voyage’ was delightfully brooding and moody.  It was a nice take on this well-loved tune.  If I had to choose which of the tunes I liked best however I would probably say ‘Inciteful’.   This was played in extended form and it teased every ounce of inventiveness and musicianship out of the band.

On this night the stream of ideas kept coming, as fresh musical vistas were revealed.   Each one holding us in suspense until the next gem appeared.  This was organ/guitar/drum music at its best; intelligent, highly charged and full of joyous abandon.  A groove jazz trio of the sort you might find in East Philly or Montreal had been formed on our own doorstep.  This gig took place at the Creative Jazz Club (CJC) in Auckland New Zealand on the 18th April 2012

Dixon Nacey
Post Millenium, Review, USA and Beyond

Miles Espanol – New Sketches of Spain

Late last year as I was reading Jazz Times I spotted an article about Bob Belden’s new ‘Miles Espanol’ project.  I like Bob Belden’s work but my first thoughts were, why mess with perfection?  I need not have worried because he has created something quite fresh and original; using ‘Sketches of Spain’ as a springboard into the now.

Like many Jazz listeners I had been deeply immersed in Miles Prestige recordings and his seminal ‘Kind of Blue’.    Soon after that ‘Sketches of Spain’ came into my life and along with ‘The Maids of Cadiz’, ‘Flamenco Sketches’ and ‘Teo/Neo’; Miles (and Gil’s) Spanish tinged music was seldom off my turntable.  As a guitar fan I was already quite familiar with Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ and Flamenco.

Miles Davis and Gil Evans took this wonderful material and reworked it in ways that only master musicians could.  This was visionary and a new type of jazz – perhaps a fore-runner of the ECM Jazz which a decade later would unselfconsciously  absorb the music of cultures far removed from the American heartland.   Miles later described this Flamenco music as a type of blues – the voice of a people’s struggle against oppression.   I had not realised it before writing this, but my fascination in recent years with Mediterranean Jazz (and particularly Sufi/Moorish/Italian/Spanish Jazz) probably began right there.

This was a mammoth project to take on, but Bob Belden has a track record of realising such crazy visions.  He also has serious pull with musicians and industry players.

First on board appears to have been Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette soon followed.   After that things came together in an organic fashion – each artist seeming to recommend the next.  He had not initially planned to ask 33 musicians to participate, but that is how it ended up.

Bob Belden is a well-known horn player producer/arranger/composer.  On this double album he does not play his warm-toned tenor sax (only Timpani and Marimba on one track).   As arranger producer his presence is never-the-less over-arching; like a Gil Evans for our times.   While he has guided the 33 musicians firmly towards the realisation of his vision, he also appears to have known exactly when to loosen the reins.

The artists were flown into New York from a number of countries but mainly from Spain, North Africa and South America.   The American musicians are mostly Miles alumni – a who’s who of Jazz royalty.   Chick Corea (p), Jack DeJohnette (d), John Scofield (g), Sonny Fortune (f), Ron Carter (b), Vince Wilburn jnr (d).  Add into that heady mix; Tim Hagans (t), Gonzalo Rubalcaba (p) Eddie Gomez (b), Antonio Sanchez (d), Alex Acuna (d) (perc), Jerry Gonzalez (fh) (c) and more -(the full list of musicians is at the bottom of the post).

Of note is the well know Jazz-Flamenco pianist Chano Dominguez (p).   I first obtained an album of his in the nineties and he is very impressive.    Other notable Mediterranean musicians are Rabih Abou Khalil (oud), Edmar Castineda (harp), Nino Joseles (g), Lou Marini (fl)(bass flute), Jorge Pardo (f), Christina Pato (Spanish bagpipe).

My favourite small group tracks are; (1) ‘Trampolin’ (by Chic Corea) – Chic Corea (p),Jorge Pardo (f), Ron Carter (b) Antonio Sanchez (d).  This builds in intensity until the grove is rock solid and it swings hard without losing the complex polyrhythms.   Chick understands this music very well. (2) Spantango (by John Scofield).

Larger pieces; Saeta/Pan Piper (Gil Evans- traditional)

The concept is so big that the overall album lacks a little in cohesion, however the tracks range from very good to marvelous.

Full listing of musicians: Bob Belden, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Sonny Fortune, Eddie Gomez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Scofield, Rabih Abou-Khalil, John Clark, Tim Hagans, Jerry Gonzalez, Adam Rudolph, Jorge Pardo, Alex Acuña, Carlos Benavent, John Benítez, Chick Corea, Sammy Figuerova, Scott Kinsey, Lou Marini, Michael Rabinowitz, John Riley, Antonio Sanchéz, Vince Wilburn J, Mike Williams, Chano Domínguez, Luisito Quintero, Charles Pillow, Edsel Gomez, Jaco Abel, Dominick Farinacci, Victor Prieto, Cristina Pato, Edmar Castaneda, Brahim Fribgame, Niño Joseles.

Concerts - visiting Musicians, Review, USA and Beyond

Miles: Jack Johnson and Jack DeJohnette

Last night the ‘Dark Magus’ was among us again and what a joyful experience it was.   The DeJohnette band performed the often overlooked ‘Jack Johnson’ music, complete with the famous Jack Johnson film as back drop. The original Miles Davis album had been cut in 1970; not long after the more abstract ‘Bitches Brew’ and just before his free flowing ‘Fillmore’ excursions.   A very different sound was emerging and it is only now being properly evaluated.   Miles wanted to carve a pathway right into the hearts of the younger rock audiences and he achieved that without jettisoning all of his loyal Jazz audience.    At the time of its first release ‘Jack Johnson” alternately shocked or thrilled Miles fans.    The music was most definitely not rock music and if anything it was an edgier avante guard type of Jazz.     The brilliance of its execution and the raw electric energy created new fans to replace the older ones who stopped listing.   The  ‘Jack Johnson’ story-line is fundamentally about the issues of race and achievement against the odds, but there is a thread of good natured humour in this celebration of a likable man.    ‘Jack Johnson’ the soundtrack was pure Miles and pure genius.    It is obvious that Miles saw Jack Johnson as a role model.

A large part of Miles genius was in finding the right musicians and giving them the right push.    This resulted in some of the most successful collaborations in Jazz.   The original ‘Jack Johnson’ was actually a pared back version featuring Miles (t),Steve Grossmnan (ss), Herbie Hancock (ky), John McGlaughlin (g) Michael Henderson (b)Billy Cobham (d) and Brock Petters (v).  The first release was soon followed by ‘The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions’ and we saw a much enriched palette with the additional artists -Jack DeJohnette (d), Wayne Shorter(ss), Bennie Maupin (bcl), Chick Corea & Keith Jarrett (ky), Herbie Hancock (org), Sonny Sharrock (g), Ron Cater, Dave Holland, Gene Perla (b), Airto Moreira (perc), Hermeto Pascoal (v, d).

Last night master drummer Jack DeJohnette  presided over a new and updated version of ‘Jack Johnson’.    His guiding hand as a leader was in evidence every step of the way and with a smaller lineup than the original band he achieved the same result.  It was electrifying from start to finish as the soundscape ranged from the hauntingly beautiful (the boxers loneliness after winning the the world heavyweight title only to be ignored in his own country) to the dissonance  accompanying shocking Klu Klux Klan scenes.     The musicians were almost all multi-instrumentalists and their virtuosity on which-ever axe they picked up was evident.   There were two older musicians, Jack DeJohnette and Bass player, Jerome Harris; The rest were younger and all were very talented.   All respect to Byron Wallen for playing Miles so beautifully but the real accolade must go to Jack DeJohnette .   To see him sitting under a large projected image of Miles was to see see a perfect juxtaposition between past and present.

Beyond category

What is in a name?

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
Image via Wikipedia

With civil unrest erupting across the middle east and bitter battle lines being drawn in Wisconsin and other Republican dominated states’ over the rights of people to collectivize in order to further a common cause, this title feels relevant.  This blog-site is a place where local opinions about Jazz can be voiced but that is not why I chose the term ‘Jazz Local 32′.    A ‘Local‘ is the term unions in America use when they refer to their branches.   These musicians union ‘locals’ are an integral part Jazz history and they have often been at the forefront of civil rights actions.  Jazz has been deeply concerned with social justice struggles since its inception and especially in the bitter battles to overcome racism.  These struggles are often reflected in the music.   Billy Holiday witnessed the lynching and burning of fellow African-Americans as she toured the deep south and later at the Cafe Society Club she sang ‘Strange Fruit‘ in order to bring home these unspeakable horrors.    This heart wrenching song once heard will never be forgotten, because the strange fruit are the charred rotting bodies twisting in the wind.    John Coltrane marched with Martin Luther King and later wrote profoundly moving tunes like ‘Alabama’, which touch the depths of the listeners soul.    Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and many more took on the segregationist bigots and their collective struggle is part of Jazz DNA.    A larger than life but somewhat controversial figure in this battle was John Petrillo; a one time trumpet player who eventually became president of  the American Musicians union.

‘Petrillo became president of the Chicago Local 10 of the musician’s union in 1922, and was president of the American Federation of Musicians from 1940 to 1958.  He continued being the prime force in the Union for another decade; in the 1960s he was head of the Union’s “Civil Rights Division”, which saw to the desegregation of the local unions and the venues where musicians played.

Petrillo dominated the union with absolute authority. His most famous actions were banning all commercial recordings by union members from 1942–1944 and again in 1948 to pressure record companies to give better royalty deals to musicians;these were called the Petrillo Bans. (Wikipedia)

Why the number ’32’ ?- That is where I live.