Monday, October 23, 2017
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Looking at this year’s Sopot Jazz Festival line up, I found it even more international than the last year. I understand that all these artist are your picks. Did you receive any recommendation from other people about those artist or these are all your own choices?
The artists are all my choices. I wanted to provide as much variety, excitement and color as possible from different styles, disciplines, perspectives and locations. But with each group using jazz as the foundation for their expression.
The variety of music styles is also wider. For instance Tali Rubinstein is a recorder player and she has a classical background. On the other hand we have Timucin Sahin which is quite avant garde.
Jazz has a lot of different factions, influences and levels of outreach. My responsibility as festival programmer is to show the audience all the different layers and possibilities. Jazz isn’t just Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. It has evolved a great deal.
Did you have a plan for the next festival just right after the end of previous edition or did you plan some time later?
As far as programming possibilities go, I’m always ahead of myself. Whatever I’m involved in, I’m always thinking of what’s possible or what’s next. So I’m always several steps ahead. It’s just a matter of if people are available, but also about who is in tune with my vision – cooperating and understanding that I’m not just trying to be traditional or conservative. I want to show the potential of artistic collaboration and what the future can possibly hold.
So setting these collaborations that you picked this year with those artists against themselves was the first idea or did you try some other configurations?
I thought about some other configurations, but due to budgetary and some other limitations, there was only so much of what I could do with what was available. I had a much bigger and broader artistic picture that I wanted to present. It involved poets, dancers and painters. And it can truly be that kind of festival. As a matter of fact, any festival can be like that. It’s all art, and shows the potential and possibility of what happens when musicians collaborate with artists of another spectrum. It shows us how they influence each other and inspire each other. That’s what should take place in order for this art form to survive.
This years festival first concert will be Alice Riccardi and Viktorija Pilatovic, and is entitled “Song Book”. What will it be?
They will perform original compositions as well as familiar standards, but also they will give them very personal treatments, after which those standards will sounds like their own songs. That’s the responsible thing to do. Every artist should do that so the standards all sound customized and modified, so it sounds like they wrote each one. The whole point is to leave your personality and stamp on every piece of work.
Last year you told me that you have some ideas that haven’t been done on the previous editions of the festival. Now I understand your way, but I’m curious where will it go in the future?
I don’t want to reveal everything right now, because then there wouldn’t be any surprise. All I will say is that when Greg Osby is involved – audiences can surely expect the unexpected. Always expect quality and that you will be enlightened. We attempt to introduce you to something that you did not know was possible or that you didn’t know existed or could ever happen. I really enjoy collaborations between artist from different disciplines that work with others and see if they can make a new baby, creatively speaking.
And are these choices in the line up dependant on your personal taste too?
Yes, it is my personal taste, but also my hope that I’m appealing to the taste of a people whose needs have not been met at the Sopot Festival, or any other festival. They may have come to the festival and the program was very conservative, traditional and even historical and the music didn’t reflects their taste. I’m not a selfish programmer, and I want to show people that jazz is bigger than maybe what they’ve experienced before.
I saw that just before Sopot Jazz Festival you gonna lead a 3-Night International Jazz Festival In New York between 28 and 30 September. There is also a lot of variety in the line up. That gives you two completely different festivals in short amount of time.
Yes, but the New York festival is with my own record label, “Inner Circle Music.” I have signed artists that fully represent my vision from a global perspective of what is possible in jazz. These are individuals who are already accomplished, have many compositions and have momentum artists. I use my resources to help them further their careers and to get them a broader audience. This edition of the New York festival will be our third one. We have club gigs and concerts all over New York and the festival is my idea of what jazz in 2017 should sound like.
What about your new album? Last time you told me that it’s gonna be finally released.
My artistic life is very demanding and complicated, and I have so many projects that I’m involved in. When I make a commitment to something, something else usually comes up and many things have to be delayed. But finally this year my album will be done. I’m not going to accept any other jobs, before I finish this record. I’m very proud of it. All of the preparation is done, so I just need to book the studio and record it at this point. This record will show people, what I’ve been thinking about since the previous release 9 years ago. I was in no hurry.
Thank you very much and see you at Sopot Jazz Festival 2017!
It was my pleasure.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
July 21 - 29
Program Director/Artist in Residence - Greg Osby
For workshop information and registration:
Greg Osby - saxophone
Marquis Hill - trumpet
Joanna Pascale - voice
Liberty Ellman - guitar
Miki Hayama - piano
Matt Brewer - bass
Naima Acuña - drums
Don't miss Langnau Jazz Nights (festival) July 25 - 29
Monday, February 13, 2017
New York Jazz Masters International Workshop
Wojanów, Poland August 8 - 15
Wojanów, Poland August 8 - 15
Greg Osby - saxophone
Judy Niemack - voice
Mike Moreno - guitar
Aaron Goldberg - piano
Matt Pennman - bass
Greg Hutchinson - drums
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Submitted this month is a repost of a blindfold listening test that I did with trumpeter Jason Palmer.
Blindfold Bootleg Series: Greg Osby
I consider saxophonist/composer/sonic scholar Greg Osby to be my musical godfather. He gave me my first big break by hiring me to play in his quintet after he released St. Louis Shoes. This came at a time when I was thinking about quitting music. I’ve learned what it means to be on the road and how to survive once you’re there under Osby’s tutelage. He possesses a deep well of knowledge on musical stylings as well as a highly refined sense of taste and these qualities shine brightly in his playing and composing. Here’s what Greg had to say after hearing the examples:
Example 1: Marcus Strickland live at the Regattabar, Cambridge MA 2008
1. This tenor saxophonist may be JD Allen. He sometimes plays in trio format without chordal accompaniment and it doesn’t sound very much like an older person. I’m assuming that it’s JD based on the player’s vibrato and attention to tone. I say tone as opposed to sound because everyone has a sound but everyone doesn’t necessarily have a tone, as exhibited by many of the likes of a Don Byas, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Paul Gonsalves, Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, etc… TONE – the main ingredient, And JD has a beautiful tone and a very meaningful way of interpreting music. He some exhibits an admirable amount of patience.
AFTER: OK, it’s Marcus. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard either him or JD enough to have answered this one correctly, but what I have heard from Marcus validates my response. He also has a beautiful full-bodied tone and appears to be concerned with proper execution and the development of solos via beautiful phrases. His ouput is very broad and lush and yet, still very precise.
Example 2: Myron Walden live at Fat Cat, NYC (year unknown)
2. I can’t recognize the player, but his rush to flash lost my interest very quickly. There was little to hold onto, in terms of thematic material and melodic development. In the beginning, there was a brief statement, and the next thing I know all the fireworks were quickly being lit. Listening to music like this is akin to being shouted at for extended periods. It’s great to thing hear or to experience music like this live but it somehow loses it’s impact on recordings, given the references to the Coltrane/Jones dynamic that has been explored and even exploited to no end. It makes one wonder why would anyone seek to frame themselves in such an environment these days when the social and arts climate is so significantly different than when this mode of expression was being developed? It just doesn’t have the same meaning behind it anymore and the overall impact is lessened considerably. Somehow, for me, it amounts to yelling and forcing a point when there is none. Again, the players here are fantastic musicians but I’ve grown weary of this approach unless I’m in the venue when it’s actually happening.
AFTER: This makes sense. Myron is what I respectfully call a convert – which is to say that I heard him first and know of him primarily as an alto saxophonist. I think that would account for the way he plays tenor. Maybe not. However, it’s easy for me to understand the excessively notey approach because many tenor players who “hear” alto or higher pitches in their heads like Stitt and Coltrane, have a tendency towards content bombardment. I am also guilty of this, and is why no one will ever hear me play tenor saxophone publicly, or otherwise. Mind you, playing with lots of notes isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it should be a progressive act. Not an aural assault just several bars in. But, just because it overwhelmed me as a listener doesn’t make it improper. This is definitely fine playing.
Example 3: Logan Richardson live at the Duc du Lombards, Paris 2013
3. This very definitely sounds like Logan Richardson, who does have a very considerate and refined style with a strong sense of purpose in his playing as well as in his compositions. I appreciated the pacing of the build during his solo. It was very relaxed and there was no hurry to rush into a technical display. I also recognize his tone, which has some very personal and appealing characteristics to me. Interestingly enough, as an alto player myself, I must admit that I have a very low tolerance for the output of many, if not most, alto players. Some players have sounds that are very strident and devoid of body or fullness. Not human-like enough for my tastes. Also, the tendency for players to overwhelmingly embrace the discoveries and breakthroughs of the most prominent player of the day represents, to me, a failure to define themselves adequately by developing a methodology that emphasizes the core character in their musical makeup. They resign to playing the role of copyists and parrots, as opposed to crafting a style for themselves. This is one of the primary reasons why most laypersons have the usual throwaway impression that “all jazz sounds the same,” One can’t fully blame them for having such a perception, given the lack of sonic diversity amongst the ranks. At any rate, this is not one of those instances. Logan has successfully done what used to be the normal thing to do, which was to recognize and hone one’s own voice.
AFTER: This was the easiest and most obvious example, as Logan is one of my favorite contemporary improvising artists. He has a great mind and is fearless. It would have been nice to have evaluated a few more altoists during this listening session but tenor is, and always has been, much more popular than the smaller horn. There are many reasons for this, but that’s an entirely different discussion.
Example 4: Ravi Coltrane live at the Jazz Standard, NYC 2013
4. More chordless saxophone trio. Again I’m at a loss for who it is. I’ll take a wild guess and say Tivon Pennicott but that’s a shot in the dark. I do appreciate the player’s sense of articulation, which is a characteristic That I find to be missing in the playing of many contemporary players who often seen to slur through every line with no detail to the attack or punctuating elements. Here, there’s a sameness in approach that is shared by many younger players that makes them difficult to identify, as if they are all influenced by the same guy. Proficient many, but hopelessly similar.
AFTER: I’ve always enjoyed Ravi’s playing, and I’m surprised that I didn’t recognize him here. I heard him live at Birdland a while ago and was really caught up in his creativity and dominance on the bandstand and how he navigated around within the forms of his music. This performance wasn’t reflective of anything that I heard that night, although I do appreciate his approach to the instrument. He usually doesn’t play in a manner that one would expect, which gets my attention immediately. Perhaps he wasn’t so inspired during this song or maybe there were other moments that night where he caught fire.
Example 5: George Garzone live at the Museum, Boston (year unknown)
5. Without knowing who it is, I must say that I really like this. Some very good decisions are being made here and the player sounds very mature and he makes no effort to impress, although he sounds very proficient. The beginning of the solo has definite Stan Getz inflections, which these days is so rare that hearing this is a breath of fresh air. If only players would dig into the archives and research and study the output of some of the more ignored masterful players of the music, they would find an untapped pool of resources that would separate them from the rest of the pack that has chosen to emulate the popular players of the day. I almost hear a bit of Charles Lloyd in the makeup of this player. Yet another untapped resource worth investigating.
AFTER: I was right about the mature aspects of the tenor playing here, but I’m disappointed in myself for not recognizing George. What he does is always masterful and unique. He has a genuine love of the art and comes with a great deal of passion and information that he can back up theoretically as well as sonically. I can hear many levels of acknowledgement and history in his playing, coupled with his own discoveries and developments. He is one of the important voices and minds in contemporary improvised music.
Example 6: Bill McHenry Live at the Village Vanguard, NYC (year unknown)
6. No clue. I don’t hear very many identifying characteristics other than the eighth note feel in the lines. I did like the development of the riff in the beginning, as well as the articulation.
AFTER: I have heard Bill live several times, but even after the reveal I still don’t know enough about what he does to identify him.
Example 7: Tim Warfield live at Scullers (year unknown)
7. I can’t identify this player either. It’s interesting because I happen to go out to hear players perform live a LOT, and I thought that I knew the approaches styles and detail of many of the younger cats. However hearing this final player is akin to sampling perfume – in a short while, they all start to smell the same, even if they are amazing. In the case of this listening session, I’ve heard some amazingly accomplished players, but, for me, most of them lack standout characteristics in style, approach interpretation, concept, logic, phrasing and TONE (most important) This isn’t to say they are not good players, I’m saying that there’s not much of a difference between them other than that they’ve all have an exceptionally similar educational makeup and inspirational foundation. They not only speak the same language, but the same dialect and inflections as will, which makes listening to them fine – the first rime.
AFTER: It’s been years since I’ve heard Tim live, but this example shows very few outstanding or identifying markers, if you will. What he’s doing certainly shows accomplishment, but I was waiting for something that really would set him apart from anyone else, and it didn’t happen for me. I’m not referring to something very radical either – perhaps a personally developed technique, conceptual approach, a way of developing ideas and phrases, a very personal tone, juxtaposition of thoughts, etc.. something that would make me do a double take or press rewind. None of my observations are meant to suggest that he is incapable of these things, it just isn’t projected on this cut.
When I hear Ben Webster, Don Byas, Gene Ammons, Paul Desmond, Joe Henderson, Cannonball, Getz, Ben Webster, Young, Hodges, Konitz, etc.. play just a few notes, their identities are unmistakable. Who they are is not necessarily defined by content, but by a deliberate crafting and cultivation of a trademark tone and a sense of purpose.
Everyone do yourself a huge favor by staying current to Greg’s new projects and live events by frequenting his website.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Ted Panken is one of my absolute favorite journalist/researchers. He had a broad framework of reference and responsibly investigates instances, facts and history in preparation for his interviews. I consider his perspectives to be among the most sensitive and accurate of any contemporary music writer.