Beautiful People and Others, re: JC's post on the Maria Schneider article in last Friday's NY Times: It was great to see Maria give props to Jimmy Webb, the wonderful writer of so many classic pop tunes (among other music). Jimmy's marriage of melody, harmony and lyric, and his experimentation with and expansion of the accepted pop music structure and form of the day are qualities that have influenced so many across the musical spectrum.
An extension of the Classic American Songbook, his music seemed to jump out with an originality and the elusive quality of either defining the time or reflecting it, depending on your point of view. He's also arguably one of the last great upper structurer/modulater/chord substituters in pop music.
For those interested, he has a great book "Tunesmith" (Hyperion Press) in which he expounds on various topics including the craft of songwriting, basic (and not so basic) musicianship, and his personal trajectory. You've got to love a book that refers to Samuel Barber and Boudleaux Bryant almost in the same paragraph.
Just someone tell me why I decided to obsess over buying a new printer today (both my wife and I actually...) when I should be thinking about my concert tonight - gotta run, still need to learn the guitar/piano book. Wish me luck!!!
Ok, so less stress now. Rehearsals are done, the band sounds good so now it's time to relax and enjoy the prelude leading up to the gig - yea right!!!
I will say this: the combination of my PULSE collaborator JC Sanford's conducting seminars and me spending some time trying to learn the piano (whoa, do I suck!) have really helped me make rehearsals more efficient. It seems improving the overall level of my musicianship has made me feel more "in control" in front of the band; at least I don't feel like I'm getting in the way anymore.
Now, the stress is centered around me organizing the last few details (guest list, tune order, being able to pay the band etc...) pretty normal stuff at this point - it's been a year since we played so all those things that were on "auto-pilot" during the more active times need to be remembered piece by piece.
I'm looking forward to the show. There's a new piece for sax section and rhythm section on tap as well as a rare arrangement (by me) of Astor Piazzola's "Ballada Para Un Loco" for a chamber-sized group.
So after about 6 months of ignoring the reality that I had a gig coming up with my band this Tuesday, November 7 I'm finally finding the energy to get things done. So many deadlines came and went; I spent a lot of time avoiding the topic altogether, to the point where I finalized the band roster only last Thursday, a day before the first rehearsal!
Really, I just want to do the gig and have fun... it's actually amazing how not worrying about press/promotion (or anything else) allows one to enjoy the process of making music again...
You can find a link to my website on the Pulse page if you want info - hope to see you there!!!
Just a couple of new-ish records on the OmniTone label that I thought folks should be aware of. They also happen to be projects by a couple of Eloquent Light folks.
The first was released at the beginning of the summer. It's Pete McCann's CD, Most Folks. Truly inspiring playing and writing. Take special note of the few tracks that Pete plays beautiful acoustic guitar. Great sidemen, as well. John O'Gallagher on alto sax, Mike Holober on piano, John Hebert on bass, & Mark Ferber on drums. Can't really ask for a better band, really. We look forward to experiencing Pete's energetic and intellectual voice on our next two performances (stay tuned!)
The other title is officially to be released on November 14th, but you can pre-order it now at Amazon. It's frequent Pulse Ensemble contributor Dan Willis's record called Velvet Gentlemen, and I was lucky enough to get to hear it before it was officially released. First of all, I've always known Dan was an incredible saxophonist, improviser, and doubler (he also plays bass clarinet, piccolo, oboe, English horn, duduk, sinai, suona, & zura on the record), but I had never heard a note of his writing. Deep, inspired sh*t. Wide variety of moods, grooves, ethnic and world music treatments. Plus his orchestrations are as colorful and full of motion as anything I could conceive of. Really think this is one not to miss if you likes you the smart stuff. (I usually listen to a new record all the way through the first time, but "Place of Enlightenment" in particular deserved two immediate listenings.)
The contrast with MoMA’s overly refined building, whose poor layout shortchanges the world’s greatest collection of Modern art, is striking. That MoMA could have spent so much money on a design that seems so unaccommodating — and already feels too small — for its growing audience is a travesty.
Tate Modern has been a hit with the public since the 2000 opening of its immense Bankside building, a former power station converted by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog and de Meuron at a cost of about $200 million. The art world, though, had plenty of complaints: the cavernous Turbine Hall, the dust generated from the unfinished oak floors, the relentless progression of galleries and the weak collection.
But Tate Modern appears to have worked out many of its kinks. It is using its limitations to its advantage and evolving into a people’s palace that the art world can also love.
The lessons of Tate Modern challenge a lot of conventional wisdom, at least that expressed in many American museums these days. Most important, Tate Modern’s huge building proves that being big is not the same as being corporate: it is possible to have a large institution feel personal to its visitors.
I love the Tate Modern -- it was the hands-down highlight of my visit to London last year. Of course, I'm a sucker for the steampunk-influenced converted-power-station architecture, but I thought the gallery organization was brilliant. Instead of grouping works chronologically, they are presented thematically -- landscapes in one wing, still lifes in another, etc, challenging you to find the commonality in juxtapositions of dramatically different works.
I wouldn't be quite as harsh on the MoMA redesign as Smith is, but it's certainly true that the Tate is far more inviting, in spite of its imposing, almost menacing exterior. It also feels much more hip, contemporary, and alive, where MoMA often feels corporate and sterile. It tends to reinforce the idea of museum-going as a cultural duty rather than a fresh and exciting aesthetic experience.
Kyle Gann has a great vignette from his office at Bard:
Composers Joan Tower and George Tsontakis were in my office today, discussing composition with a student. George, the student's teacher, said, "We've been talking about the problem of how fast you can add contrasting new ideas to a piece without losing the listener and making the piece disunified." Joan replied, "Oh, that's a problem everyone faces." I said, "Adding new ideas? That had never occurred to me."