Tag Archives: keith jarrett

Etiquette & An Unexpected Journalistic Assist

[UPDATE 05.21.14: David got in touch with me privately and was quite thoughtful and sincere, nullifying the below post.]

I’m happy to report that, albeit in a very small way, I have possibly contributed to an article in The Boston Globe. More on that in a bit. I’d first like to say, however, that this post is simply about manners, if it’s about anything at all (beyond, perhaps, quasi-narcissistic neuroses). I often consider blogging about etiquette, as there never seems to be enough to go around, but this particular episode has provided the proper inspiration. Again, I’m only concerned with manners here. (I am in NOT suggesting plagiarism or anything of the sort AT ALL – my former students know how seriously I consider that charge to be…)

The Globe article in question is last week’s review of Miles Davis’s recently released Miles at the Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3. It appears as though I helped find source material for the opening passage. Neat! However, I didn’t know at the time because the small nugget of information I believe that I provided – or at least showed the way to – to the article’s author, Globe Correspondent David Weininger, went unthanked and ignored. I’m certainly making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it’s nonetheless curious and a bit annoying.

A few weeks ago I happened to see via Twitter that someone (Weininger, whom I was unfamiliar with at the time) was asking about a particular Keith Jarrett interview regarding a Miles anecdote. His question, retweeted by an account dedicated to ECM (Jarrett’s label of choice), grabbed my attention, as I immediately knew the answer. (My large Miles and Jarrett collections pay off in more ways than one, I suppose.) After quietly gloating to myself and quickly confirming the answer with my own copy of the interview, I checked online video sources (hence the YouTube mention) and answered. And, as you can see, I was at least the only one to respond publicly via Twitter (screenshot taken tonight from his page):

One retweet by @ECMSound and one reply from yours truly. That’s the extent of the whole thread. I had visited his Twitter feed a few times after that to see if anything came of it, but I never heard back and eventually forgot about it. Until this evening, that is, when I thought of it for no reason whatsoever. Returning to his feed, I was surprised to see the following succession of tweets from last week:

And if you click on the links to the actual article, you’ll see that that Miles anecdote is the first paragraph.

Now, should I have been cited in the article? Absolutely not – the very thought is absurd. But a simple reply of “thanks” (no capitalization or punctuation required!) or some other brief acknowledgement would’ve been great. And, who knows, perhaps Weininger found his answer elsewhere. Totally feasible, and I completely understand. Though, the aforementioned video of that interview is difficult to track down outside of sold, copyrighted media – hence my YouTube reference. It’s noteworthy that a quick Google search of that quote, for me, is topped by Weininger’s article, which is accurate, followed by some slightly paraphrased versions on websites of Miles quotes. (I just watched the interview on my DVD again to confirm the accuracy.) So he must’ve tracked down the legit video somewhere…

Even so, isn’t it polite to say “thank you”? In a similar crowdsourcing escapade last summer, Dr. Mark Berry asked his many followers (of which I’m one) for recommended recordings of Wagner art songs. It’s a positive case study, considering he already received his answer:
IMG_0527(Granted, I had had limited online interaction with Dr. Berry preceding this, but I doubt he could pick me out of a crowd despite the semi-annual RT.)

Again, my “role” in that review is tangential at best. If Weininger’s a head chef, then I’m a dishwasher…but he did ask for a clean salad bowl! Tonight I tweeted at David to see if he’d respond. He hasn’t yet, but he’s since been tweeting with others, so I’ll go ahead and green-light this post that I doubt he’ll see. And that’s unfortunate, because I really want to tell him something…

You’re welcome.

MTH-V: Keith Jarrett Trio Live in Antibes

I’m rather dumbfounded to realize that Keith Jarrett hasn’t yet received a dedicated post here. He’s one of my all-time favorites, and his jazz and classical recordings occupy significant real estate in my collection (including the elusive Sun Bear Concerts box set, which was a nice find last year in Munich). I haven’t done one of these video posts in a while, and what better way to resurrect the series than with someone whose career enjoyed a resurrection of sorts around 2000 (after a bout with chronic fatigue syndrome).

I first knowingly heard Jarrett’s playing when an excerpt from The Köln Concert popped up on an internet radio station (AccuRadio?) while I was doing homework at my apartment in college. I was taken with the music and jotted down the album info. I later learned of Jarrett specifically (i.e., could identify the name and face) through his work with Miles Davis, then realizing it was the pianist I had heard online. Years later I first heard him as a leader on a friend’s copy of Bye Bye Blackbird, which prompted me to get my first Jarrett album, Up For It, in 2006. Up For It remains a perennial favorite thanks to the renditions of “Scrapple from the Apple” and “Autumn Leaves.” That quickly led me down the rabbit hole of his voluminous discography. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him four times – twice solo and twice with the trio – since 2007, all of them at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

I’ll admit I can be a bit of a fanboy, but I’m also able to know when “Keith’s being Keith.” He’s notoriously prickly, even when being sentimental (e.g., his NEA acceptance speech). And, for the uninitiated, the vocalizing and gyrating are more than distracting. (After getting used to his “distractions,” I don’t hear most of the utterances unless I really listen for them.) That being said, his phrasing and musicality are second to none, and, like Miles, one’s better off to just focuses on the music instead of the man. As for his phrasing, he claims to be more influenced by horn players than pianists, hence his regular emphasizing monodic lines.

I could pontificate about Keith Jarrett all day, so I’ll reel it in. In short, Jarrett’s output has been dominated the last 30 years by two main avenues: solo improvised recitals and his Standards Trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, seen below. The trio, so named for their extensive exploration of The Great American Songbook (as well as collective improvisation, but next to no original compositions), formed in 1983 for a recording date at the suggestion of Manfred Eicher. They recorded three albums at the session, and the rest is history. Especially after three decades, the ensemble is arguably telepathic – always different and consistently great. If I may, their renditions of “A Sleepin’ Bee” and “Stella By Starlight” on 2009’s Yesterdays are perfect and my two favorites by the group.

Part of why Jarrett hasn’t yet had a video post is that it’s difficult to find non-copyrighted video of he or the trio online. However, here’s a video of the French broadcast from the 1986 Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival in Antibes, France (where Up For It was recorded in 2002). The whole performance is on YouTube in four parts, and I recommend it if you have the time and interest. It’s a nice hidden gem. The below video is the opening number (and my favorite standard), “Stella by Starlight.”


Reconciliation at the NEA Jazz Masters 2014 Ceremony

The ceremony honoring 2014’s NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship recipients was held Monday evening at Lincoln Center and was streamed live. I generally don’t make a habit of watching or listening to the actual ceremony, but I was home and had the time. And while I don’t want to go into a lengthy exposé, I do have a few thoughts on the event.

(The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship is the US’s highest federal honor for jazz musicians. That’s great, though it’s curious that such prestige for “America’s classical music” amounts to a $25,000 grant for cultural titans in our homegrown art. Anyway…)

It’s of course interesting to see who receives such awards, and I had an increased personal interest in the class of 2011 which included Dave Liebman. (2011 also curiously included the entire Marsalis family. Cute. It prompted this response from Phil Woods.) This year’s class also piqued my interest beyond general curiosity. The recipients are:
Jamey Aebersold – Renowned jazz pedagogue (I bet a number of you reading this have used his play-along sets as I have)
Anthony Braxton – Saxophonist, composer
Richard Davis – Bassist, educator
Keith Jarret – Pianist

He hasn’t received as much attention on this blog as some other figures/topics, but Keith Jarrett looms large in my life. (As I alluded to in a recent interview.) He’s one of my favorite musicians, and I’m fortunate to be alive at the same time as he. I can’t claim to have all of this albums, but I can at least say that I have a strong majority of his ECM output, and he’s a significant part of my collection. As far as “traditional” jazz is concerned, he’s often a bit of an outsider, despite his stature as being one of the most listened to pianists in the world. So his being recognized as a “Master” was of strong personal interest. That, and I was curious to see him give a speech – something that almost never happens – and wanted to see how he handled the performance portion of the evening. (Aside form classical works, he plays extended solo concerts or with his trio. That’s it.)

Jarrett was warm and sincere, all things considered. Humorous, even. (His speech was rough around the edges, but people don’t flock to his concerts – myself included – because of his charm and pleasant demeanor.) And it was nice to see Manfred there with him. For his “performance,” fellow ECM artists Jason Moran and Bill Frisell performed his “Memories of Tomorrow,” which he seemed to genuinely enjoy.

For me, the highlight of the night was Anthony Braxton‘s portion. It was quite compelling and one of the reasons I tuned in to begin with. If Jarrett is somewhat removed from the historical neo-Bop “heads” of the jazz elite, then Braxton is from another universe entirely, something Braxton acknowledged in his speech. Among other things, he, along with Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker, pioneered the solo saxophone aesthetic in improvised music. He’s since become renown as a composer, writer, and educator, as well as a strong technician of the instrument. While I’ve not really written about Braxton on this blog, I have discussed his Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) colleague Roscoe Mitchell. When I tuned in, I wanted to see both what he would say/do and what the reaction of his peers and audience would be.

I’ll admit, Braxton rambled and his speech was all over the place (and long), but he spoke a great truth: that musicians must reconcile their aesthetic differences and celebrate creativity and progression. He was heartfelt, joyous, and soft-spoken. Also, he acknowledged that his being considered a Jazz Master is a solid leap in that direction of reconciliation. Three key quotes, the first coming from his opening:

“For the last 50 years, my worked has been viewed as not jazz, not black, not contemporary classical music. My work doesn’t swing. After a while I got used to that. I got used to those perspectives and accepted it. In the end, I just wanted to do my music. And suddenly, with the beautiful passage of time, there would be a change.”

“Before Charlie Parker played his music, it didn’t exist.”

“We need to have a reconcilement in our music… We need to reconcile the polarities.”

He cited influences including Dave Brubeck, Cecil Taylor, Arnold Schönberg, Iannis Xenakis, John Philip Sousa, and the MSU and UofM marching bands. He also discussed music and aesthetics in the prism of cultural nationalism, politics, and theory. Yes, he droned on and on, but it was obvious that he was just as surprised to be receiving the award as others were to watch him receive it. Although the other three recipients were humbled and gracious, they’re still easily considered jazz musicians and they know it. Braxton, on the other hand, has spent his life and career in the wilderness doing his own thing and creating his own art. And the fact that he was acknowledged alongside Jamey Aebersold for anything is news in and of itself.

Braxton didn’t himself perform, but rather an excerpt of one of his operas, Trillium J, was performed by some of his associates and students. Yes, a contemporary/avant-garde opera excerpt was performed at the NEA Jazz Masters ceremony. And not only that, but it was performed well.

Unsurprisingly, Braxton’s speech and performance received a supportive but unenergetic applause. At least it got that, I suppose.

I could drone on and on about my thoughts on various other details, but a few things stick out:
• It’s curious that the two most technically advanced musicians of the recipients – Jarrett and Braxton – were the two recipients who did not perform live. Aebersold, a giant of jazz education who hasn’t made a career out of performing, did. (Which was nice to see, by the way, since it’s a rarity.) And Richard Davis started playing an interesting solo bass piece that quickly devolved into an arco trainwreck. (The bow, like the Ring of Power, is tempting and does more harm than good.)
• Despite the above point, the performances of Braxton’s and Jarrett’s music were the strongest of the recipients, and arguably the strongest of the night if judging purely on technical merits (and not subjective matters of taste).
• Wynton Marsalis and Soledad O’Brien needn’t co-host again.
• The forced collaborations for performances had an awkward, Grammy-like quality to it. Furthermore, why did some of the collaborations by jazz musicians seem so uncomfortable?
• The neo-Bop army was a little too smug when they gave a rousing applause to Richard Davis’s insistence that one can’t play “free” without the requisite fundamentals. (I agree wholeheartedly, but the audience reaction seemed like more of a slam against Braxton, who preceded Davis, than a support of instrumental technique.) This happened a couple other times.
• Many of the next-day write-ups have downplayed if not outright ignored Jamey Aebersold’s presence at the ceremony. Not only is he 25% of the program, but he’s arguably responsible for everyone under 40 on that bandstand. Considering how much those in the arts like to “celebrate” education, I take that as a slap on the face that one of the giants of jazz pedagogy was written out of so many articles. Simply look at this title. [Note: This entry is largely about Braxton and some Jarrett, and not an overall report. So I can get away with it.]

That about sums it up, at least for this post. Will I be tuning into the live stream in 2015? Let’s wait and see the recipients list first.


MTH-V: Charles Lloyd

This past Saturday I finally got to see Charles Lloyd (with his New Quartet) live at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater. These last five years or so I’ve become quite taken with Lloyd, and he’s perhaps my favorite living jazz saxophonist after Dave Liebman. (At least according to my wallet and library.) I blindly purchased 2001’s Hyperion with Higgins on a whim a few years ago, having been convinced by both the personnel (Charles Lloyd, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier, Billy Higgins, Brad Mehldau) and the record label (ECM, his nearly exclusive label since coming out of semi-retirement/reclusivity in the 80s) that it’d be worthwhile. In fact, for many reasons I’ll not list here, I consider that purchase/album to be the watershed moment for my love of ECM, when I went from thinking That’s a great label to That is THE label.

While I’ve since gone far down the rabbit hole that is Lloyd’s output, Hyperion remains one of my most-listened to jazz albums. But most of his other albums are in the running for a close second, and that’s because Charles is 1) always engaging and 2) surrounds himself with great players. Perhaps the single most appealing aspect of his playing, to me, is its gravitas. There’s no frivolity is Lloyd’s music, and even the more light-hearted moments have weight. That’s where I hear the influence of Trane most in his music, although the harmonic vocabulary is evident, its the ethos more than anything that grabs my attention. And even with the most chromatic of runs that may include multiphonics or other extended techniques, Lloyd’s unparalleled melodic and rhythmic phrasing make his playing appear deceptively simple or “in,” especially in the last couple decades. It’s more about subtle nuance than aggressive showboating or gymnastics with Lloyd.

At 74 he’s a solid as ever, and rhythm section of his New Quartet – solidified in ’07: Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland – provides a nice youthful balance to his more meditative approach. Without writing a full-blown concert review here, suffice it to say that Saturday night’s show scratched me right where I itched. The highlight for me was their powerful rendition of “Go Down Moses.” Stopping only to introduce the band twice, Lloyd & Co. captivated the auditorium for 100+ minutes.

I’ve assembled a variety of videos to serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with him. And if you’re already a fan, you should really dig these if you haven’t yet seem them. FYI – they’re in reverse-chronological order:

“Passin’ Through”
This features the New Quartet (and they performed this on Saturday, if you happened to be in attendance)

“Prometheus” (the first half)
Geri Allen – Piano; Eric Harland – Drums; Robert Hurst – Bass
Geri’s solo is top notch here…

“You Are So Beautiful”
Geri Allen – Piano; Billy Hart – Drums; Robert Hurst – Bass
(Yes, that “You Are So Beautiful,” although Lloyd’s interpretation practically transcends any other associations or notions you may have previously held about it.)

“Manhattan Carousel”
His famous quartet from the late 1960s – talk about being able to spot talent!
Keith Jarrett – Piano, Jack DeJohnette – Drums; Cecil McBee – Bass
Keith’s pianistic outburst at 3:15 gets me every time…