Monday, February 18, 2008


I was just thinking, when was the last time you saw someone walking down the street whistling a popular tune? I mean, in the days when every song actually had a strong melody, whistling was pretty common. I'm not talking about the occasional skilled whistler you come across, a musician, or just someone who has always whistled and is good at it. But just someone in a good mood who caught a tune on the radio and it naturally comes whistling out without a thought. When I worked in a factory as a teenager, there was a guy who would clock in and you could hear him whistling complex classical music as he walked back into the maze of machines. I always wondered what his story was.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chick Corea and Return to Forever

It's been years since I've been to a big Jazz Fusion concert and I'm pretty excited about the upcoming Return to Forever tour.

Keyboard Videos

Check out the bizzaro funk after 3 minutes! Chick is playing Fender Rhodes, Mini Moog, Moog 15, Micro Mini Moog, ARP Odyssey, Yamaha Organ and Polymoog. These were cutting edge new instruments at the time! :)

Keyboard Videos

An earlier version of the band with Bill Connors playing guitar. Chick solos on the Arp Odyssey synthesizer here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Neal Boortz Doesn't Understand Jazz

I was just Listening to Neal Boortz go into one of his rants about noisy uncontrolled children in restaurants (He is having a bad day). He said he would much rather be in a restaurant with screaming kids than in a restaurant where they are playing jazz. Later with a caller he called jazz "the emperors new clothes", where everyone is sitting around and saying isn't it wonderful how they are communicating etc., but nobody listens to jazz alone.

I'm sure that's a truthful statement of how Neal feels about jazz. But I think about all the times I've witnessed genius in a jazz club, the hours I've spent at home in amazement of the skill and understanding of Coltrane or Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. That said, there are times I have felt the same as Boortz of some jazz. Recordings of Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders come to mind.

In a social setting, say a restaurant where you are having conversation with others or your mind is distracted by the meal, it would be impossible for me to perceive the simultaneous free form wailing of Coltrane and Sanders as anything but noise. I have to think those guys would have the performing sense to not play in that manner at a restaurant, but then again...if they were actually there, I would probably not notice the food or friends and be completely absorbed in the performance. Ok, say you have a couple Coltrane and Sanders wanna bee's wailing away. Sure if you were to focus all your attention on it you may find intelligent music within it, or maybe not. I guess my point is, it takes active listening and understanding, maybe even practice listening, to appreciate great jazz. With practice at focused listening it takes less effort. The problem for appreciators of great improv is, that when you hear "normal" music, unless there is some other incredible performance aspect to it, you may become bored and irritated with it.

I'm not saying anyone is wrong in how someone appreciates music. If there is a style they like, then great, enjoy it. But caution when discussing types of music you don't yet appreciate. There is where the emperor's new clothes effect occurs. The snobs at the opera or the jazz lounge using little or no understanding to pose as superior.

Some paintings appear as noise till you study them a moment. The first time I read Shakespeare it made no sense to me, now it is amazing beautiful language. I surely wouldn't force anyone to listen to free jazz or hard bop, in fact I tend to take that off the stereo depending on who is around. But alone, I want to hear musicians really working and thinking on their feet, gravitating toward great jazz and blues players.

Thankfully Neal is bored with the subject and will move on to his championing of the free market. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

That 70's festival

Yesterday I went to "That 70's Festival" at the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering. (Dayton) Christopher Cross was actually pretty good! I didn't realize he played all those guitar leads on his songs. The band has a clean sound and all the vocals were strong and on pitch. Ambrosias version of Magical Mystery tour was another highlight. Perfect weather and a friendly crowd made it a nice evening out.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Eric Clapton | Schottenstein Center Columbus 4/6/07

That Eric Clapton guy can really play the guitar.

The concert was excellent of course. It was the last show on a long tour, but they were still tearing it up. Clapton just walked out on this enormous persian rug with this burning jamming freestyle on a stratocaster and didn't let up for the next couple hours.

The Musicians:
Eric Clapton - guitar, vocals
Doyle Bramhall II - guitar
Chris Stainton - keyboards
Tim Carmon - keyboards
Willie Weeks - bass
Steve Jordan - drums
Michelle John - backing vocals
Sharon White - backing vocals


Tell The Truth
Key To The Highway
Got to Get Better in A Little While
Little Wing
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad

Sit Down Acoustic Set
Driftin' (Clapton Solo) Video from Melbourne Concert
Outside Woman Blues Video from Moline concert
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Running On Faith

Motherless Children
Little Queen of Spades
Further On Up The Road
Wonderful Tonight

Crossroads (with Robert Cray)

The concert was filled with a lot of older tunes. Key to the highway was done with a New Orleans sort of drumming. Little Wing made me cry for some reason. A Pair of projection screens often gave close up of Clapton's fingers on the guitar. Robert Cray was ok, but in comparison Clapton was so smooth clean, melodic and rockin. He moves a lot more than I realized when he plays. Bringing up a knee when he stabs a note, rising on tiptoe when a high note sings out seemingly coaxing the sound to sail away to the nearly expected him to levitate above the stage with the energy. The other guitarist in the band, Doyle Bramhall, soloed often too and often gave clapton good material to play counterpoint to. Bramhall also played electric slide and dobro pretty well. I wonder if he was covering the parts of Derek Trucks who pulled out of the last part of the Tour. I have a feeling we were witnessing a lot of fresh improv between the 2 guitarists.

2 Keyboard players on opposite sides of the stage. Both were awesome with basic piano and Hammond organ sounds. Layla was the expected highlight of the show. Classic blazing rock riffs all the way through till the quieter coda. Then the classic arrangement with piano and Clapton and Bramhall singing around on the high strings. With the drums final fill of the song, Steve Jordan raised his sitcks high overhead and when He brought them down there was an unbelievable roar from the guitars and explosions from both sides of the stage sending long wide metallic streamers across the stage, the guitarists moving in front of their amplifiers milking more and more feedback from the speakers with the rest of the band thundering along. Jordan and the backup singers wrapped some of the long streamers around their necks before exiting looking very Mardi Gras.

Robert Crays voice was added to last finale, Crossroads. He really has an ideal voice for a rock blues concert. At the bands highest volume his high clear voice could still cut through it all. Honestly I'd heard enough his guitar popping percussive sound and his choppy guitar solo's by then, but fortunately Clapton waded in at the end to show us what a stratocaster's pickups can do when you let them all saturate a stack of tube amps and play with a searing melodic style.

My ears still feel a bit warm from the experience.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lou Rawls Dies

I'm sure there will be millions of people commenting on what a class act Lou Rawls was. He was a great entertainer and a completely courteous personality. I saw him last summer at a rainy outdoor concert. His appreciation of the remaining crowd felt sincere and warm. We hardly noticed the rain as we enjoyed the manner of a first class entertainer as much as his music.

Lou Rawls - Soulful Blues and Jazz

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jaco Lives!

Pushing my cart past the magazine shelf at Krogers, the cover of BassGuitar caught my eye. Jaco Lives! A tribute to the baddest bassman ever!

Ok it's at first glance another exploitation of Jaco Pastorius focusing on his punked out persona and comparing him to Hendrix. But I ended up enjoying the 2 focused articles; one biographical and one focused on his pioneering techniques.

I was a big fan of Jaco in the 70's. He was the rebel in Weather Report; the ultimate contrapuntal sideman in Joni Mitchell's Hejira; and funkmaster on Come on, Come over from his first solo album. He coaxed swells and false harmonics from his fretless electric bass or flew into crazy speeding punk jazz funk with complicated burping note damping technique and rhythm that had never been heard before. Peter Erskine at an Ohio State percussion workshop I attended described his rhythmic relationship with Jaco as feeling spiritual, unspoken. A train ride with Jaco was like going to church. He had a driven personality and ego that seemed to keep him distant from others. Seeing him with Weather Report he played far left stage and to the front, often looking annoyed with the bands sound, leaning way back on his stool in a defiant stance. Other times he played with unending intensity, sometimes literally screaming with the effort.

When he was killed outside a bar it was one of those "Aw man!!!" days. I very selfishly feel cheated when a unique artist is taken away in his prime. Why can't they all be like Clapton and clean up, enjoy life and keep playing? The balance of intensity and sensibility seems particularly difficult for artists.