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Monday, May 26, 2008

Women & Jazz on Riffin'

As we head into Jazz Month, the Riffin' line up features jazz in its many facets, and a strong representation from the women too.

MONDAY: ‘KARIBU”, a debut album by guitarist, Lionel Loueke from Benin. He’s been acclaimed by Herbie Hancock, as the best of the new musicians.

TUESDAY: Legend, Charles Lloyd, celebrates his 70th birthday, in the company of young musicians, who energize him- Jason Moran, Rueben Rodgers and Eric Harland.

WEDNESDAY: Anne Mette Iversen, a female bass player and composer, leads her own Quartet, through a set of her excellent writing, that combines jazz and classical music.

THURSDAY: Esperanza Spalding, only 23 years old is a marvel, a female bass player who also sings while accompanying herself on the acoustic bass. One of the most unique female voices, Brazilian, Rosa Passos, sings about “Romance”.

FRIDAY: Kicking Back, feeling the music, and finding the groove.

June is Jazz month

June marks the 18th year of the Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Fest, the "last stand"

for straight-ahead jazz and related music

Kick-off is Sunday June 1 at the Verandah in Kingston (Pulse complex, Trafalgar Road)

Other events include Openign Jazz Day - June 8
at the Pegasus Gardens feat Yolanda Brown out of England and The 4 Tenors out of Switzerland

and Sunday June 15 at Shaw Park Beach hotel
featuring sax legend Odean Pope
and - out of Hungary - the Kerekes Band

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ocho Rios Jazz Artiste Profile - Hungary's Kerekes band

The Shepherd's Flute, a Pact with the Devil, and Transylvanian Rock: Hungary's Kerekes Funkifies Tradition with New/Old Tunes

Just like the dancefloor DJs of today, the members of Hungarian band Kerekes are always searching for ways to turn up the heat in their táncházok ("dance houses"). So ten years ago, when they were still teenagers, they travelled to the countryside on foot, by bus, and by train and just like Bartók, collected living traditional folk songs in the last minute before all the masters were gone and the tradition would be lost forever. They spent eight years looking for new material and recorded over 200 hours of songs, all with the goal of bringing new-old songs to their audiences.

While the band continues to keep traditions alive for their regular dance nights, they have plugged in on their new album Pimasz (which means "cheeky"), following in the footsteps of bands worldwide who are connecting their roots sounds to amplifiers and effects, without losing the spirit of their ancestors. With a strong basis in the music of Moldova and the Gyimes region of Romania, two areas with ancient Hungarian ties, Kerekes (pronounced ker-ay-KESH, with a rolled 'r') has also taken cues from Jimi Hendrix and the J.B.'s, developing their own "voice," though the band is all instrumental.

For some, Kerekes introduces audiences to melodies and dance rhythms rarely heard elsewhere. For others, they take familiar sounds and update them. But all listeners notice that the band taps the magic of the ancient shepherd's flute, conjuring sounds never heard before on this planet. While artists like Shantel and OMFO have used electronic wizardry to bring Romanian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian sounds to the dance floor, Kerekes' prolific live performance (including 200 concerts in Hungary in the past two years; appearances in Hungary's top venues, The Palace of Arts and The Music Academy in Budapest; and performances at prestigious venues across Europe) taps another type of magical music-making. "Shepherds are the inheritors, warriors, and carriers of the ancient knowledge of the shamans," says Zsombor Fehér, the band's virtuosic flutist and leader. "They used their magic to heal or place curses. They could read the future." Zsombor carries knowledge from the flute and bagpipe player István Pál (age 87), who is probably the last keeper of this ancient knowledge in Hungary.

In Transylvania, the flute can magically return a lost herd to its shepherd (the melody on "Searching" brings this to mind). In Gyimes, it is said that a dead bear can be revitalized by his master with his flute. In Transdanubia, a miller being attacked by robbers used his flute to call a pack of dogs who rush to his aid shredding the robbers to pieces, a story embodied on the track titled "Két pásztor" or "Two Shepherds." The track features the ütôgardon, a cello shaped rhythm instrument whose strings are hit with a stick and a special three-foot, three-holed flute. This "longflute" is still used in Somogy County in Western Hungary and was brought over from outer Mongolia.

The way Zsombor plays brings to mind the epic Robert Johnson tale when he says, "To become a good pipe player, the shepherd has to enter into collusion with the devil. They say he 'takes his skin to the market' and then the pipe can play itself." Zsombor plays a shepherd's flute on which he installed extra keys to make it chromatic. After playing the flute for about one and a half years, old relatives mentioned that both his grandfather and great-grandfather had been shepherd flute players. He later found out that all the way back to the 1700s, all his male ancestors had been shepherds, which means they had been flute players as well.

On their journeys, the band found a village in Transylvania where just about everybody makes flutes, about 200 families. "We were looking for a particular flute-maker. Upon presenting a flute I had, everybody said that even though they hadn't made this one, they could make an identical one, though admittedly it would not have such a great sound," says Zsombor. "It took three days to find the maker of this original prototype, and there just like Aladdin¬ I was awaited by heaps of flutes. Sometimes I had three flutes hanging from my mouth, in a frenzy to try as many as I possibly could." Another time Zsombor went to the hillside around Fedémes, his grandparents' village, just to play the flute for his own pleasure. "The next day villagers told us that they had heard the music even in the far end of the village," remembers Zsombor. "They had stopped working and sat out to listen to it, bringing back a sense of the old times when shepherds used to do that regularly."

"I learned the traditional way of flute-playing from old peasants," says Zsombor. "Having turned the flute chromatic, it is now suitable not only for pentatonic folk songs. When I realized that each shepherd flute player is a local Jimi Hendrix both in their manner of playing and musical re-creation, I saw the fusion of these two styles as completely legitimate."

Other band members have also adapted both instruments and playing styles. Csaba Námor plays the koboz, a lute of Middle Eastern origin. "By now, all the Hungarian koboz players rest in peace, and they left behind only a couple of recordings," says Csaba. "In the absence of masters, only rock music could show us the way." Meanwhile, the band is proud to have convinced the largest instrument factory in Transylvania to restart the production of the koboz. The instrument's Middle Eastern origins can be heard on "Medina," named for a sweet Hungarian red wine from Eger, the band's hometown.

The viola has been used all over the Hungarian-speaking territories. "The Transylvanian viola is built with a flat, not curved, bridge, with three strings," explains viola-player Ákos Csarnó. "It is played with a stronger bow made from the hair of a stallion. This allows the player to bow all three strings simultaneously in a strong rhythmic manner, playing loud chords." Ákos plays it as if he had a "Reggae Fender Rhodes" in his hands, with his bow imitating a buzz saw.

The drum was introduced in Moldova from brass bands in the 1950s. It was played similarly to the tapan in the Balkans. Viktor Fehér had played this traditional drum for years until he realized he couldn't play funk on a drum from Moldova, so he bought a drum-set. "Since rhythms in Hungarian music are quite fixed, we drew on rhythms of other musical cultures, mainly those of popular roots," explains the younger Viktor. The band is rounded out with Csaba Kónya on electric bass. Four years in the making, the overall sound of Pimasz has earned them a 2007 Top of the World acknowledgment from Songlines magazine, a result of 200,000 readers' votes which put them in the company of The Gotan Project, Ali Farka Toure, and Toumani Diabate.

"We knocked on the doors of old peasants' houses not because we wanted to make world music but because we wanted to experience the real folk music of our ancestry," concludes Zsombor Fehér. "At the time, our main motivation was to find these newly-collected tunes that our dance audiences could not possibly have heard anywhere else. However, beyond all the sophisticated reasons we could give, the heart of the matter is that we were simply spellbound by the amazing music we found, and we could not help just purely enjoying every minute of both listening to our old masters and playing with them. But now, we're going to funkify this tradition!"

In recognition of Kerekes' efforts to modernise whilst preserving these old traditions of Hungarian music they were given the title of 'Ambassadors of Hungarian Culture' for the European year of Intercultural Dialogue by Katalin Bogyay, the State Secretary for International Affairs of the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture, the only band to be honoured by this title in Hungary.

First Global Steps up for Music Ed

Frist Global Finanacial Services, part of the Grace Kennedy conglomerate, on Thursday announced a multi-tier music sponsorship programme dubbed Build Jamaica Through Music. The announcement was made at the Jamaica Pegasus.
The programme will see the financial house supporting the Alpha Boys School, aprticularly the Band, the Ocho RIos Jazz Festival and thew aligned Schools band competition, and a series of Sunday in the Park concerts in Emancipation Park through the months of July and August.

The fiancial execs also presented the school with a new trombone, one of several new instruments and other equipment to be provided under the sponsorship.

A very encouraging start - here's hoping others will follow suit.

Reviews coming up

Haven't forgotten about promised reviews. Just had opportunity to audition Hiromi's latest. Look for them by Monday

Then, in maybe another week or so, a saxophone feast, with the latest from JD Allen, as well as Bill McHenry and Jerome Sabbagh

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Case of the 'Misplaced s'

So often we see what we wish to see and hear what we beleive we ought to hear.
Long and short of it, the ACTUAL title of the new Brian Blade & hte Fellowship Band CD is Season of Changes nad not Seasons of Change as we reported in the earlier post.

Wherever you place the 's' there's no denying, even on our preliminary sampling of th tracks, that this is a great album, and our congrats to saxist Melvin Butler, bandleader and drummer Blade and the whole band on the achievement.

Ocho Rios Jazz Profile - The 4 Tenors

DIE VIER TENÖRE (The Four Tenors)

Four soloists, one instrument and totally different temperaments!

"Die Vier Tenöre" (The Four Tenors) offer a summit for the lovers of the tenor saxophone. The four protagonists come from very different musical backgrounds: Jan Galega Broennimann searches with his main band Brink Man Ship on a wiring of Jazz and Electronics, Klaus Widmer flirts with Tango-Moods in his Quintet Horn Knox, Roli von Flue dives into complex compositions with Kaspar Ewalds Exorbitantes Kabinett and Daniel Bean Bohnenblust blows the funky horn with GMF (Grand Mother' Funck). This furious Quartet meets the groovy and adventurous Rhythm Section of Hans Ermel on bass and Lukas Bitterlin on drums.

Saxophonistic high-flights far above the pitch of the tenor are guaranteed!

Line up:

Daniel Bean Bohnenblust, ts (Grandmother's Funck, Bean)
Jan Galega Brönnimann, ts (Brink Man Ship, The Felas)
Roli von Flüe, ts (Gruppe 6, Zürich Jazz Orchestra, Kaspar Ewalds Exorbitantes Kabinett)
Klaus Widmer, ts (Horn Knox, Swiss Jazz Orchestra)
Hans Ermel, bass (007 Only, Frank Sinatra Tribute Band)
Lukas Bitterlin, drums (Eliane Cueni Trio, Toy)

Next: Jazz from Hungary

I Am Riffin'

Its been a while since we brought you Riffin' but as usual, Dermot has kept the musical flag up way high, and we couldn't have pickeda better week to return. Don't miss tonite's programme. Tenorist JD Allen is everybit as good as advertised (its only May, but his new CD may well be among the best of the year), as is guitarist Lionel Loueke.




MONDAY: “ IAM I AM”, a masterly album,by tenor saxophonist supremo, JD Allen. Also featuring “The Mande Variations “ by the world’s greatest kora player, Toumani Diabate.

TUESDAY: Guitarist, Bill Frisell, works with an octet of strings, horns and rhythm section, in support of music of different orchestral colours.

WEDNESDAY: Jazz Warriors, AFROPEANS, led by Courtenay Pine, commemorate the bicenterary of the Abolition Of The Slave Trade by the British House of Parliament in 1807, with a stirring “live” concert.

THURSDAY: “Karibu” the debut album with a major label, Blue Note, by guitarist Lionel Loueke from Benin. He’s been acclaimed by Herbie Hancock, as the best of the new musicians.

FRIDAY: Skamania returns with Carlos Malcolm and The Afro-Jamaican Rhythms, as well as some sanctified sounds from New Orleans.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Butler's doin' it with the Blade

Jamaican jazz fans - and churchgoing ones in particular - may be familiar with Melvin Butler's emotive sax playing form his two stints (thus far ) at pal Dennis Rushton's Christ in Art & Jazz cocnert at Swallowfield Centre.

Butler, who's o nthe faculty of the Univ of Virginia, has devoted much of his time to teaching, but he made time for longtime music collaborator Brain Blade, who reassembled his Fellowship band for the new recording, Seasons of Change. The group's last album, Perceptual, came 8 years ago.

Meanwhile, word form the Christ in Art & Jazz camp was that a major talent was beign sought to add ot the roster this year, but mum's the word on who it is.
Whoever else comes, we're hoping Melvin can make it three in a row this June

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Recent Auditions

Yellowjackets; Lifecycle
Heads Up International

As a colleague of mine remarked prior to a recent performance, if you've been able to do the same thing for 25 years (and counting), things must be going right. Through personnel changes and varying stylistic shifts, what has kept fusionists he Yellowjackets alive and well is quality musicianship, not mention easy camraderie. Both are in evidence on this their 20th overall recording. Keyboardist and charter member Russell Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, drummer Marcus Baylor and especially bassist Jimmy Haslip continue to adroitly cross sonic lines; this CD in particular feels and sounds like fusion the way a 'serious' jazz listener might expect fusion to sound (and be acceptable). Guitarist Mike Stern repays a favour (the Jackets guested for him at last year's Montreal Jazz fest) and is the sonic equivalent of a regular guest on your favourite TV series.
The slinky, organ-synth, guitar-driven "Country Living" is the standout to these ears, but also worthwhile listening are Measure of A Man , and '3 Circles.

Look out for : reviews of Hiromi's latest, Beyond Standard, and David Murray & Black Saint Quartet's Sacred Ground.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ocho Rios Jazz artiste profile

Monnette Sudler
"... Incredible tour de force! An artist in constant motion."
James Spady; New Observer Magazine

Monnette Sudler is a jazz guitarist and composer is soulful and electrifying. Her original compositions and arrangements of jazz, jazz funk, blues African and soul provide the vehicle for Monnette and her band to jam. She is an innovative bandleader and engages her audiences with her sweet and rich vocal styling and poetry.

"...A Sublime intimate album of Folk, African and blues accents." Press release

Ms. Sudler's new European release on Discography "Meeting of the Spirits", part of the Philly Jazz series, is music in its purest form. Her compositions are wonderfully emotional, lyrical and poetic. She shares feelings of love, ancestry and son Erik "Abyss" Honesty sharing his feelings of a young man's struggles on Bottled In. "...her soulful animated compositions are entrusted with her natural singing and the brilliant interventions of the great trombonist Steve Turre and the activist poet Sonya Sanchez."

"Her virtuosity never overwhelms ... a rare sensitivity..."
Peter Relic; MoJo Magazine

MONNETTE SUDLER'S earlier recordings on the Danish based jazz record company, Steeplechase Records, showcases Monnette as a dynamite guitarist, writer, composer, and arranger accompanied by bassist Tyrone Brown and vibraphonist Kahn Jamal on "Brighter Days for You". One of Monnette Sudler's more recent recordings "Other Side of the Gemini" is an eclectic blend of jazz funk and blues, joined by Grover Washington, Jr. Reggie Workman and Steve Turre.

This Philadelphia born artist has played with many all-time jazz greats, such as Steve Turre, Doug Carn, Clifford Adams, Odean Pope, Sam Rivers, Dave Holland, Hugh Masakela, Philly Joe Jones, Grover Washington, Jr., Byard Lancaster, Sounds of Liberation, Change of the Century Orchestra and Kenny Baron, as well as hot new artists like bassist Gerald Veasely and icon poet/activist Sonia Sanchez. Monnette's performances are worldwide. Europe, Japan, South Africa, Jamaica and the United States have welcomed jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler with her original music and unique arrangements.

Ms. Sudler has her degree from Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music. Her background covers composition, music therapy and performance. Monnette Sudler conducts guitar workshops, private instruction, workshops on creative development and composition. She has been artist in residence/musical director/composer for the Art Sanctuary North Stars for four years, an artist intensive after school program founded by author Lorene Carey.