What Do I See?

The nature of reality is a subjective interpretation.

 “The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The above quote made me think about reality. In fact, it was more of a dwell; what do we actually ‘see’?

Below is essentially a breakdown, and personally interpreted, smorgasbord of highlights from Graham Smetham‘s article in Philosophy Now, Issue 93.

Just over a year ago the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced they had uncovered evidence for the Higgs boson – the God particle. Such a discovery is evidence for the Higgs quantum field, which in theory pervades the entire universe, and is necessary for mass to come in to being.

We ‘see’ mass.

The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle that gives mass to matter.

The Higgs field is made-up of Higgs bosons.

 “Mass is constructed entirely from the energy of interactions involving naturally massless elementary particles… The physicists kept dividing, and in the end found nothing at all.”

Jim Baggott, Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle

These elementary particles are the smallest building blocks of mass. Yet they divide into nothing. This is the quantum level of physics.

At the quantum level, classical materialist physics is redundant.

In 1931 the instigator of quantum theory, Max Planck, proclaimed “consciousness as fundamental, I regard matter derivative from consciousness.”

 “Mind has erected the objective outside world… out of its own stuff.”

Erwin Schrodinger, What Is Life? 1944

At the quantum level, there is no classical materiality.

Matter needs your mind.

Some scientists and philosophical thinkers still cling on to the idea that Matter makes the mind. This is Materialism.

Materialism states that there is a realm of stuff which has no mental qualities and which exists independently of mind, and that this is the material world. This mindless material stuff somehow manages to produce minds: yet the material stuff is still somehow the only stuff that exists.

 “An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe.”

Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, 1996, p.27

FALSE

At the quantum level there is no “molecular machinery”: there is a quantum field of material potentiality that also has the potential for forming an experiencing mind. “Molecular machinery” is too large a concept for the quantum level – so it is not the basis for anything.

Imagine you experience seeing a yellow wall

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This experience is generated through neuronal activity in your brain…

It follows then brain matter is the kind of stuff that has the potentiality to produce experience…

This means matter is defined as stuff which has the capacity to produce mind, in the right circumstance.

 

All material structures and processes, including the brain, are emergent from insubstantial quantum “dream stuff”, physicist Wojciech Zurek’s description.

So, quantum theory tells us that even the existence of a brain is a result of mental acts upon a deep quantum ground of potentiality. This means material of the brain is ultimately immaterial.

The idea that we have to think about the physical existence of our own brain, using our brain, which is made up of subatomic particles that only exist through us having to consciously determine them… well, does that mean my consciousness is removed from the realm of physicality? Or does it mean the soup of subatomic particles that potentially creates my mind is a self-generating wonder? But, surely consciousness would have needed to exist before the creation of anything physical, anything with mass, for the mass to come into existence in the first place. It would have needed an observer.

What came first; the chicken or the egg?

Matter needs mind.

What do I see? My consciousness’ subjective interpretation…

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Genuineness, that’s what I go for…

Perusing around Fopp, just off Charring Cross Road, I noted Hugh Laurie has a new “blues” album out. Each to their own I suppose, but such efforts always remind me of this wonderfully cutting comedic caveat from the much-missed George Carlin. Replace his use of the word “white” with “Hugh Laurie” and it’s nigh-on a perfect fit.

Genuineness, that’s what I go for. Do white people have a right to play the blues? Obviously. Can white people even play the blues? A resounding YES! Keith Jarrett’s encore on the solo Paris album is just one example of laying that bullshit to rest, although I do prefer his rawer earlier improvised lines than his post-classical expedition output, circa the eighties. Does anyone have a right to play whatever type of music they wish? Of course. Do I have to listen to it? Celebrate it? Or even just stay silent over my contempt? No. An Eton and Cambridge educated, multi-millionaire thespian singing a song which happens to have a 12-bar blues chord structure is naturally dismissible to my ears as a BLUES, even if Graham Norton does plug it. If you were to forward to 6’19” in the Norton clip (from 2011, when Hugh was plugging his last effort), you’d hear Laurie sing this line…

“She won’t cook my dinner, won’t wash my clothes, won’t do nothing but walk the road…”

I assume he’s talking about his house-keeper?

Genuineness, that’s what I go for. Hugh Laurie’s sound/intonation/delivery is weak. He wouldn’t get a record deal if his names wasn’t Hugh Laurie. I’d even go as far to say it’s all a bit of a joke. If he really dug football, for as long and with as much passion as his love for the blues, and he fancied himself as a bit of a player, would he have channeled his efforts/money/personnel/connections into trying to break into a professional side? I’m sure QPR would have taken him on, but still?! His attempt to earn a crust as a blues performer is both egocentric and undermining to his musical heroes.

Genuineness, that’s what I go for. Talking of shit voices, here’s an example of how an experience of social-struggle, unrestrained artistic belief, uber confidence, and a genuine witty bravado can heighten even the most grating/nasally/whiney of tones…

John Lydon knows he should be on that stage, Hugh Laurie obviously doesn’t (you can tell he’s not 100% comfortable), and quite frankly he shouldn’t. But if you really have to put yourself in the spotlight, entertain for fuck’s sake, don’t just feed the sixth-from, dormitory ego.

 

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Hardly Compulsive

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I started writing this post, the first in over 4 months, on April 8th, 2013. Margaret Thatcher passed away earlier today but more importantly, at least to my immediate family, it’s my brother’s birthday. I open with this gambit simply to give you some form of personal historical context. Setting the scene even further I’m scribbling into my newly unsealed notebook (pictured above) whilst sat upon an uncomfortable barstool in a non-descript Fulham gastro-bar. Manchester United will play their derby rivals, City, in just over half an hour, which will be streamed live via the series of flat screen TVs peppered around the perimeter of this particular gaff. Such an Orwellian arena of televisions resembles a 1984-esque dystopia to me, albeit for the fact it isn’t yet mandatory for viewers to simulate any displayed sporting prowess.  It soon will be though, I’m sure of it.

I’m sipping a pint of Coca Cola, the ice was assumed, and it cost me £3.50. Three pounds and fifty pence. It’s an extortionate amount for what is essentially 18 fluid ounces of carbonated corn syrup topped up with ice (assumed) to reach the full 20, however it reads even steeper when one doubles the costs and measuring units. £7 for 2 pints of Coke. Seven pounds. See?

Anyway, why am I mumbling-on over such fleeting, unimportant descriptors? Well, as pointed out in the opening sentence, it’s been 4 months since my last post and I’m flummoxed by where to start? I could have posted an album review (whilst the flow of my writing might have recently seized, my listening certainly hasn’t) but this would have been a cold start to 2013. They say (whose they? Well, Mark Twain actually) “write what you know,” so what could I be more knowledgeable on than my immediate thoughts and experiences? An ambulance, lights flashing and siren blaring, just drove past the window I face down the Fulham Road.  

Another, less sardonic and thus more genuine reason for such a contemplative start is because I have taken an active interest in Meditation since the New Year. The awakening of the self, total awareness of ‘now’ and retraining ones thought processes so not to focus on immediacy and compulsion but rather contemplation and reflection, has been, cliché granted, very fulfilling. I seem to have wandered on to a path forked from the ego driven course of general modern British society. Society, quite an apt word in the wake of Thatcher’s death. Of course there is, and always will be, such a thing as society, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a united, socially-conscious, unselfish and all-round pleasant place to live. Yet I’m discovering with meditative introspection it’s easier not to reduce oneself to the occasionally anxious, irritable, compulsive London boy I so easily and willingly played prior. I’m far, far from Zen, and to be honest I’m sure I wouldn’t want to be that harmonious anyway, but I’m gradually becoming more at peace with, well, everything.

So there we go, the first post of 2013. Let’s get things moving though, eh? 

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Merry Christmas One ‘N’ All…

Merry Christmas One 'N' All...

Merry Christmas One 'N' All

Here’s a few more.

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Best Albums DISCOVERED In 2012…

“Critics are biased, and so are readers. (Indeed, a critic is a bundle of biases held loosely together by a sense of taste.) But intelligent readers soon discover how to allow for the windage of their own and a critic’s prejudices.”

Whitney Balliett, Dinosaurs In The Morning

I’ve never taken too kindly to being told what’s what, particularly concerning the aesthetic. This isn’t as bold a statement as it might first appear for I welcome encouragement, recommendation, and enticement but not fixed statement. Thus any end of year “Best Of” list is read through with an acknowledged swiftness at best. They’re good fun, you might even see a name or two that have passed you by, but the idea that one journalists decision (no matter how well versed they may be in said subject) is the measure of success doesn’t hold water with me, particularly with jazz. Again, here’s Whitney…

“It is an elusive, subjective form, whose delights are immediate and often fleeting. It seizes the emotions and the heart – but rarely the head – and few people need written instructions on how to feel”

A quick, recent example that exemplifies the skewed nature of “Best Of” lists; John Fordham’s Best Of 2012 was published in the guardian recently. Rightly so, congratulations were given to Alexander Hawkins via twitter for his album All There, Ever Out getting the number 1 spot, but then a few days later, via the London Jazz blog, we discover the Guardian had printed the list in reverse. You will note the Guardian still has the list in the wrong order, but not one eyebrow has been raised in the comments section simply because readers can’t tell the difference due to it is pure subjectivity. Free playing may not be my thing, but I do recommend an informative guest post by Hawkins on Destination Out’s site.

Nonetheless jazz is a mercurial wonder and I believe for the sake of it’s health, widespread understanding (as to why it does seduce so many), and just because I enjoy the art of transforming my thoughts in to sentences, that an attempt should be made to “pin down its sights and sounds on paper.”

So, with encouragement from Barry Dallman of the Play Jazz blog via twitter, I decided to create a Best Albums Discovered In 2012 list. Barry came up with the idea of creating a joint post, where we both have each other’s choices on our respective blogs, a great idea and Barry’s fantastic and informative choices are posted below as well.

The date the album was released is irrelevant, the focus is purely on the highly personal and emotional impact my choices have had on me. I’m forward with my subjectivity.

Finally, I do understand the exposure argument such lists can give struggling artists (being in a ‘top-whatever’ list is a nice and saleable tag to have) and I concur to an extent, however by lumping jazz albums in to a pop-style date-released list, the journalist is inadvertently damaging the aesthetic credibility of any noted artist, and limiting the reach of the work past next January. My run-down is designed to be anti this, and to be educational in the full breadth of jazz history. So, without further adieu, here are my favorite 5 albums that I listened to for the first time in 2012…

Benny Carter – New York Nights

This live recording from 1995 captures alto saxophonist Benny Carter, at the grand age of 87, in killer form alongside Chris Neville on piano, bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Sherman Ferguson. This is the first late-period Carter album I’ve owned and he is now on the top of my to-purchase list. Carter was one the last great swing-period horn-men. He stands alongside Webster, Hodges, and Hawkins in his ability to “maintain primitive vitality in the face of sophistication.” His execution of vibrant lines and fresh ideas over well-trodden standards is awe-inspiring. Here is Stanley Crouch on the late-period Carter…

“In his work, one heard a plush vibrato purring around and pouncing on his notes, which were always chosen with the infinitesimal deliberation of a past master who had heard the saxophone develop from a circus tool of barnyard eccentricity to an instrument capable of expressing aristocratic inclinations as it was all the low-down dirty blue memories that arrive from the innumerable alleys and boudoirs of the world.”

The above quotes are from Crouch’s Considering Genius, and Crouch’s love for the man and his music can also be found in his highly personal album liner notes. A perfect example of Carter drawing on these two social worlds on this live date can be found on his statement of the theme and solo on Easy Money. After an exquisite and lavish opening from Neville, Carter’s alto enters brimming with note bending and caricature effects usually banished to the pre-bop era. Yet Carter delivers these horn add-ons with such panache, such exact precision, that the man’s perfect pitch is wholly evident. Chris Neville’s solo is beautiful as well, alternating between 8th note runs, to rhapsodic chordal statements, and ending with a broken chord, shimmering coda. Carter is quoted as calling Chris Neville an “exceptional pianist,” some praise from a man of Carter’s historical stature.

Joe Henderson – In Japan

Another live record, this time recorded in 1971. This will be the third time I’ve mentioned this album on Sure ‘Nuff this year, so it’s a worthy addition to the list. This is important Henderson as it captures the man whilst on an international tour during a difficult economic period for great jazzmen (the 70’s) playing with noticeably harder-grit.

His introductory cadenza to ‘Round Midnight is peppered with his stereotypical harsh diversions – as is his statement of the theme when the rest of the local outfit enter – yet these tenor-glottal utterances, far from masking his sincere melancholic yearning, magnify Henderson’s intended expression. Henderson’s trademark tune Blue Bossa is another great track on the album, due in part to Hideo Ichikawa’s solo on Fender Rhodes.  Jazz historian Bill Kirchner is quoted on the back of the album as having said “In Japan is one of the handful of records from the late Sixties and early Seventies to be studied like a textbook by the most advanced young jazz musicians. It’s that kind of record.” Well, I’m currently transcribing Ichikawa’s Blue Bossa solo, so who am I to disagree?

Dexter Gordon – Jumpin’ Blues

Another horn led ensemble from the early 70’s? Afraid so. 2012 will go down as the year I truly fell in love with Dexter Gordon’s playing, and it’s thanks to a plethora of often-maligned prestige dates. It was a close call between Jumpin’ Blues and The Panther! – recorded a month earlier – but the riotous bluesy vibe of Wynton Kelly helped push this record through. Take Kelly’s vamping under Dex on Rhythm-A-Ning for example. Whilst Dex is blowing hard, swirling beautiful bop motifs into formidable improvised statements, Kelly drives the rhythm along in angular motion to the steady walking bass of Sam Brooks and the riding high beat of drummer Roy Brooks. What I love about Kelly’s playing on this tune is his ability to simultaneously emulate the accompanying posturing of Monk yet not relinquish the duty of his own ears and natural musical responses – his dynamic chord responses to Dex’s solo throughout is evident of this. Kelly then gives a master-class in restraint and eloquent blues phrasing in his solo – once he’s said all he has to say, that’s it, done, leaving the bass walking. It’s also of interest to note this was one of Kelly’s last recordings before he passed away the following spring.

In the Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD, Jumpin’ Blues is described as a reminder “to the jazz audience (in the U.S.A.) that the old lion was still out there rather than (a) meaningful statement.” However the track listing goes against this non-“meaningful” point, as there is a nostalgic and sentimental theme throughout – many of the tunes were composed by past contemporaries such as Charlie Parker’s Jumpin’ Blues, Monk’s Rhythm-A-Ning, Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now and the pop hit of it’s day For Sentimental Reasons. This self-reflective set-list equates to a slight change in style to Dex’s playing compared to his Blue Note period, “a willingness to play more quietly, using fewer notes, a greater dynamic range and willingness to dwell on effective phrases.” This is a great, transitional record in the career of Dexter Gordon.

Lee Konitz – Spirits

I’d never truly listened to the piano playing of Sal Mosca prior to obtaining this record. Like Konitz, Mosca was a Lennie Tristano disciple, and one can assume the dense, sometimes aggressive approach to accompanying Mosca portrayals stems from his tutorage under Tristano. This is by no means a negative statement, there is great interest and individuality in Mosca’s playing , and his style is a welcome antithesis to the overly indulged rhapsodic approach often displayed by too many of Bill Evan’s disciples. Yet, as a result of the relentless driving nature in Mosca’s playing one feels Konitz in response plays deliberately anti-lyrical, as though to frequently surprise himself and the listener.

Dedicated to their former master, Mosca and Konitz duet on 5 of the 9 pieces, whilst for the other 4 they are augmented with the wonderful Ron Carter on bass and the fantastically named Mousey Alexander on drums. As well as featuring a selection of Tristano’s convoluted heads (Baby, Dreams, Hugo’s Head etc) the ensemble also perform Warne Marsh’s Background Music and a couple of Konitz originals for good measure. My favorite track on the record is Lennie-Bird featuring all 4 players. Alexander is an incredibly energetic player, and alongside Carter they are able to create some real swing, enticing Konitz to be a tad more lyrical compared to the duet pieces. It’s an interesting, cobbled-together record that keeps pulling me back for more.

Tommy Flanagan – Thelonica

Recorded just 8 months after Thelonious Monks death, Flanagan manages to heighten the quintessential essence of his personal style whilst capturing the introspective spirit of Monk – much like Wynton Kelly’s solo on Rhythm-A-Ning from Dexter Gordon’s Jumpin’ Blues.

Accompanied by the solid bass work of George Mraz with Art Taylor on drums, Flanagan’s solo on Off Minor exemplifies why I love Flanagan’s playing; killer swing, gorgeous motific bop phrases with a clean execution of ideas. Whatever he plays Flanagan does it with such care, delicacy and steadiness that I just want to sit down and transcribe it, then unashamedly claim it as my own.

In truth there are some rough edges to Flanagan’s improvisations, particularly once his solos have reached their zenith and his ideas start to lag. Yet these moments are typically balanced by his lingering intelligent phrasing. This is one of THE great Monk Tribute albums, with a focus on Monks lesser know tunes. Flanagan’s interpretation of Reflections is bewitching due to his touch and finely balanced (between the lush and the dissonant) chord voicings. Mraz’s counterpoint playing is also a delight on this track whilst Taylor’s delicate snare work keeps things moving nicely. A firm favorite in the Flanagan catalogue.

Coda

Hmmm, no Brtis?! Well, this is my honest list folks. After much deliberation these were the five I’ve spent the most time listening to and studying. If I were to extend the list to 10 then Jim Mullen’s String Theory would definitely have been in there (I wrote a post on this album earlier this year), as would the late Pete Jacobsen compilation, For Pete’s Sake, featuring a wealth of the greatest British players around. Both of these records are amazing and regular listens of mine. Anyway, enough excuses. There’s always next year.

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Barry Dallman’s Five Key 2012 Records

Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band – Season of Changes

This 2008 release from drummer Brian Blade’s ensemble had somehow slipped under my radar, but after hearing a track on the radio, I tracked it down. My only regret is that I didn’t find it sooner. This is a beautiful album, at times introspective and sweetly melancholic yet also full of joy and energy.

One of the things I complain most about in some modern jazz is what I see as a disproportionate emphasis on the individual solo at the expense of the group sound. Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band give a masterclass here in ensemble playing; nobody overplays and the band works beautifully as a unit.

This is the album I’ve found myself returning to more than any other this year.

Jerry Bergonzi – Napoli Connection

In my own practice this year, I’ve been exploring new applications of pentatonic scales. I came across Jerry Bergonzi’s excellent book on the subject and whilst I was aware of his name, I hadn’t heard too much of his playing. Sometimes, when I’m investigating somebody new, I’ll just buy a random album and see what I get. In this case I got a lot of saxophone playing for my money!

Despite everything I said in the paragraph above, if you’re going to build a reputation as a hard-blowing soloist then you’d better be good! This 1992 album is all about Bergonzi’s saxophone playing and his solo and cadenza on the opening ‘Love For Sale’ serve to represent the high-octane virtuosity that marks this recording. Aside from the opening standard and Bruno Martino’s ‘Estate’, the rest of the tracks are all Bergonzi originals, although each of them really serves as a vehicle for blowing.

What attracts me to the leader’s playing is his commitment to the melodic line and the way he explores the full range of the saxophone. Shreaks, squeaks, harmonics and other cliched sax ‘effects’ are kept to a minimum as Bergonzi weaves phrase after phrase of immaculately constructed melody. He possesses a seemingly rare ability amongst sax players to create excitement and build climaxes without simply going to the top end of his register and screaming.

The rhythm section of Valerio Silvestro (piano), Tony Ronga (bass) and Salvatore Tranchini (drums)pulls its weight whilst showing admirable restraint and this record now serves as one of my favourite examples of the modern mainstream sound.

Snarky Puppy – Ground Up

Ok this isn’t strictly a jazz album, but Snarky Puppy are my favourite musical discovery of 2012. This New York-based instrumental collective fuses a range of infectious grooves with a heavy dose of improvised jazz, blues and gospel sounds.

Recorded simultaneously as a CD and DVD in the Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, this album continually explores different dynamics, soundscapes, rhythms and textures and it’s this variety that keeps the interest alive and never allows it to descend into the ‘noodling over a groove’ monotony I hear in much of what gets described as ‘fusion’.

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with this band and see them live at a medium-sized venue in Liverpool this year. I doubt they’ll be so accessible this time next year; this band is going to be huge.

Bill Evans – Portrait in Jazz

The jazz world lost some giants this year, and this album gets included because it was the first time I heard drummer Paul Motian’s playing. When I bought this Bill Evans album, I was still relatively new to jazz and chose it largely because most of the tunes were standards I was trying to learn. As a newcomer, although I liked what I was hearing, I couldn’t yet appreciate just how unique the interplay between the trio of Evans, Scott le Faro on bass and Paul Motian really was.

In later years, and with the discovery of ‘Sunday at the Village Vanguard’, this album found its way into the CD player less frequently but i dug it out this year for a trip down memory lane when I heard of Motian’s passing. The trio naturally gets a lot of praise for its interplay and a sound where bass and drums were promoted to a more prominent and equal role, but I think that much of that praise is given to Evans and Le Faro. Motian’s contribution is perhaps less obvious and therefore more easily overlooked. Nevertheless, his playing on this album reminds me of everything I loved about his drumming – his effortless swing, enormous ears and selfless musicality. For my money he was also one of the finest brush players of any era.

Revisiting this album in 2012, I became painfully aware that this is too fine a recording to play second fiddle to anything – even those Village Vanguard sessions. With captivatingly original arrangements and and an utterly original trio sound, Portrait in Jazz will not be so easily overlooked in my collection this time around.

RIP Paul Motian.

Dave Brubeck – Take Five, The Jazz Master Series

By making it to the ripe old age of 91, you could argue that Dave Brubeck had lived for nearly three jazz lifetimes! Nevertheless, 91 years still didn’t seem enough for somebody who was as universally admired and respected as a man as much as a musician.

This rather obscure 1982 live Montreux recording was the first Dave Brubeck album I owned and I bought it from the bargain bin of a local record shop. At the time, all I thought I knew about Dave Brubeck was that he had written Take Five (and of course that turned out to be wrong!). However, I was immediately attracted to the energy and good humour of these live recordings although to be honest, I hadn’t listened to this album for years before Dave died and I decided to go back to my first experience of his music.

This concert is an enjoyable snapshot of Brubeck as composer, entertainer and pianist and perhaps the thing that shines through the most for me is the energy, humour and enormous power in his piano playing that he was able to deliver consistently throughout an incredible career. I never got the sense that Brubeck was capable of playing half-heartedly or dialling a performance in and I think it was that willingness to pour himself into every gig and session that made him such a popular artist. So long Dave, and thanks.

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Dave Takes 5…

I’ve just learnt via twitter that Dave Brubeck has passed away. Brubeck will always have a place in my heart as he was one of the key artists that initiated my love for jazz. It was my Granddad who bought me my two first jazz CDs: Oscar Peterson’s Night Train and Dave Brubeck’s The 40th Anniversary Tour Of The UK, featuring Alec Dankworth on bass. Both Brubeck and Peterson are consistently dismissed for a variety of reasons (too showy, too repetitive, doesn’t swing etc) yet it only seems to be other musicians who regularly shun them, not the listening jazz public. This isn’t true of all musicians of course, the great British pianist Liam Noble recorded a fantastic reappraisal of Brubeck’s work, which Brubeck himself called “an inspiration.”

Anyway, I digress. Brubeck was also the first jazz musician I saw in a concert setting. I was 17 and it was at the Cliffs in Southend. Below is a photograph of my tour poster from the gig.

Dave Brubeck UK Tour Poster

You will notice at the bottom of the poster I asked bassist Michael Moore and drummer Randy Jones to sign – yes, I did wait afterwards at the back of the theatre to get their signatures, ok?! Looking back I’m wondering why I don’t have Bobby Militello’s signature, as I actually spoke to him the longest. His advice of practice as much as you can whilst you’re young fell on naive ears, yet I remember him telling me he personally dropped out of law school to pursue jazz. All three were gentlemen. Unfortunately Dave rushed through the crowd straight to his tour bus, only managing to sign a handful of LPs and merchandise on the way. I’m sure If I’d made more of an effort I could have got it, but oh well. I’ll always have the music.

The tour was a promotion for his new CD at the time, Park Avenue South, which was recorded live at Starbucks. My favourite track on the record was the opening take of On The Sunny Side Of The Street. Dave’s meandering, almost hesitant stride opening that leads to Militello taking over the melody with aplomb blew me away. It’s gorgeous straight ahead playing, Militello in particular shines.

Dave Brubeck’s music was the catalyst for so much more, from Chick Corea to Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan to Keith Jarrett. If it weren’t for Brubeck I would never have discovered these and so many other pianists. Dave’s music was easily digestible for a young jazz novice, and as I got older I heard deeper meaning and musical invention in his playing – one should never forget he did study composition with Darius Milhaud and Arnold Schoenberg. He knew his performance limitations yet he stretched his musical boundaries to create original innovative and accessible jazz. What a wonderful thing that is.

This isn’t the time to dredge up the controversies which I fear will always follow Brubeck, perhaps I will find the time to help lay some of these issues to rest another day. But I will end on this note: of course Dave Brubeck could swing! He just swung in his Own Sweet Way. RIP.

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One Big Catch Up…

So here’s a casual post, designed to update you with my recent activities and plans for the future. Every time I write a new post it seems to start with an apology, or at the very least a knowing nod and wink to the time-length between each blog update. With this opening it’s too late now to not acknowledge how long it’s been since my last post (a month and 2 days if you must know), but I’m certainly not going to apologise this time. For at least the past 3 months I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy personal shiz, and it would be wrong of me to ignore this completely when writing a catch-up post. But things are generally cool now and I’m certainly more aware of what Bill Hicks so beautifully stated concerning the peaks and troughs of life, that it’s all “just a ride.”

New Blue Swatch

I do want this blog to be a bit more diary-like with my shinanigans, so to the left is a picture of my beautiful new Swatch. I’ve never been a big watch wearer, but I do remember many moons ago (I’m 26 now, so it must have been when I was 15/16 and deep into HipHop) that I tried to carry off a fake yellow-gold, diamond encrusted Rolex. I remember it falling of the exam desk and the glass breaking whilst completing my Maths GCSE (higher paper I hasten to add). That watch must have looked a right treat on my broomstick wrists. But, along with my promotional Doctor Who watch for the Paul Mcgann film (he WAS a great Doctor), this current one’s a keeper too.

Doctor Who Watch

Look to the right. Beautiful, isn’t it?

However, back to the Swatch and “where did you buy said watch?” I hear you cry. Well, the duty free at Heathrow! I’m currently typing this on the tail-end of a holiday to Thailand.  It’s been nice to get away from the UK for a couple of weeks but I do feel ready to come home now. I came away with the best intentions of eating healthy Thai food everyday (particularly the seafood and Tom Yum soups) yet within the first 4 days the burger cravings kept intruding my consciousness and I had to give in to my western predilections – plus steaks are so cheap out here! Oh well.

I have done a bit of sightseeing this holiday, although nothing too extravagant as I’m definitely a swimming pool/air conditioned sorta man rather than an all-out back-packer (man I sound old before my time reading that back). Here are some photos from the Khao Luang caves in Phetchaburi, which have been turned into a temple. I found it an incredibly calming space, really quite spiritual, and the visit has certainly increased my interest in meditation and the Buddhist faith overall. I found this informative blog if you want further reading on the Khao Luang caves.

Cave Entrance Stairs 1Cave Entrance Stairs 2

These are the stairs you walk down when entering the caves. Very Tomb Raidery!

Buddhist StatuesSome of the many Buddhist statues within the cave.

Cave Bell

Here is a link to the book I’m currently reading on meditation. It was a passage from Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession and Other Religious Writings that helped set me on my current search for spiritual fulfillment. It’s from the opening of chapter 3, when Tolstoy is discussing his time in Europe, Paris specifically, and how spiritually lost-at-sea he felt (in fact the quote details the very essence of that phrase)…

“Living as I was then, like any individual I was tormented by the problem of how to live a better life. I did not yet understand that in answering ‘live in conformity with progress’, I was speaking exactly like a person who is in a boat being carried along by wind and waves and who when asked the most important and vital question, ‘Where should I steer?’ avoids answering by saying, ‘We are being carried somewhere.’” 

I just feel it’s about time I took control of my own steering (ponce alert!)

Anywayz, after the cave-temple visit I ‘steered’ myself to one of the most bizarre amusement parks I ever been to. Sheep World. Well, I’ve called it Sheep World, the actual name of the park is Swiss Sheep Farm and you can find it’s website here, where you will find some brilliant examples of Thai-lish in the About section.

Sheep World Entrance

Entrance, with the year in the title.

Shetland PonyHere is a man studying a shetland pony. Cheeky git hasn’t even paid the entrance fee.

Couple and Car

A couple of local hipsters loving it. In all seriousness there was no knowing irony to this couple taking the shot.

Carriage

Katie Price donated one of her many Wedding carriages to the project.

Broad View

The fusion of Western agricultural heritage with Halloween pumpkins, all in the setting of a Thai landscape, was just too much at times. Also, bearing in mind this place is called Swiss Sheep Farm, I didn’t see one living sheep. Just the humorous sheep statues above. No joke.

Mini and HayMan, even Danny Boyle never dared to meld such contrasting imagery.

Lamb ChopsLamb meat is such a rare food stuff in Thailand that this relatively meagre paper plate of lamb chops cost the UK equivalent of around £8. Double the price of a half decent Steak. No wonder I didn’t see any sheep.

Check The MapBefore I end the Chris Tarrant schtick of ‘aren’t foreigners funny’, I did notice this unfortunate administrative error on one of the products in the gift shop. Whoever google-mapped London for a storage case background really should have double-checked they had London UK and not London Canada. Doh!

Ok, back to my music. So when I’m back in the UK I have a solo piano gig on the 13th December. It’s a private show so unfortunately I can’t advertise but I’m really looking forward to it as I haven’t done a solo show in a while. I have a keyboard over here so I’ve been practicing voicings and getting a set-list together. What I enjoy about preparing for solo shows is the implementation of variety in actual song execution, particularly in the left hand. For example I wouldn’t want to do an hours worth of stride piano, nor mid-range voicing’s, nor walking bass lines, nor ostiantos, nor Monk-esque open Dominant 7ths etc. Obviously you shouldn’t be too hesitant in utilisng these techniques whenever you deem fit, but for varieties sake I find it useful to give each individual piece a left hand starting point. So for example I’ve been practicing All The Things You Are with open, root-based 7ths and 3rds in the left hand with lush crunchy voice-led shapes in the right. Mood Indigo is a piece I’ve recorded before (at the bottom of the article) with an original, more up-tempo ostinato pattern in the left hand. Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba is a tune I play with my quartet, but it’s been fun to play solo with a walking bass line too.  Needless to say creating intricate walking bass lines is a fun way to get your left hand chops up-to-speed. Once I have a full set-list and plan I’ll update.

Finally, there are a few gigs coming up that I want to spread the word about. I have personally seen the sheer hard graft and strain going into organizing and promoting these shows as the guy’s a very close friend of mine. Add Alex on twitter here. He’s working his socks off to present internationally world-class acts in London for Jazz FM and I can’t recommend the shows enough. I’ll be there and it would be great to see some of you there too…

07/12/12 London Afrobeat Collective, Rich Mix

08/12/12 Ibrahim Maalouf, Rich Mix

11/12/12 James Torme supported by Cecilia Stalin, Bedroom Bar

A final note. I know Lee Konitz part II is still to come, as are a plethora of other posts. No excuses now folks.

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