Sunday, January 30, 2011

An amusing iPod-related rant

Did you know iPods are tracking devices that government uses to control the populace? Beats an implanted skull chip, 'cause iPods can also play music!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Arranger/composer special pt.2: George Russel and Oliver Nelson

A second installment of the (jazz) arranger/composer special. The first one was about arrangers working to the strengths of a specific performer. These two are more about the composition; it's the performers that come to play with the mastermind.

George Russell is the mastermind behind the first album. He passed away in mid-2009; here's a well-written obituary detailing his accomplishments. While not a household name, Russell was very influential among his contemporaries. Many (including Miles Davis) point to his theoretical work as a cornerstone of the modal jazz. His book, Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, is legendary among the jazz musicians - among other things, for being so densely written as to be nearly unreadable. The excellent Casa Valdez Studios has a discussion of his theories - see if you can make more sense of it than I did.
Russell had no trouble assembling an all-star cast for his albums; this one is the first he recorded under his own name and it has Art Farmer on trumpet (again!) and Bill Evans on piano. Don Ellis and Eric Dolphy play on his next, Ezz-thetics, possibly even more fascinating, although somewhat less accessible album.

George Russell - The Jazz Workshop [1956]
With Art Farmer, Bill Evans, Paul Motian, and others.
256kbps, 103mb on depositfiles
1. Ye Hypocrite, Ye Beelzebub
2. Jack's Blues
3. Livingstone I Presume
4. Ezz-thetic
5. Night Sound
6. Round Johnny Rondo
7. Fellow Delegates
8. Witch Hunt
9. The Sad Sergeant
10. Knights Of The Steamtable
11. Ballad Of Hix Blewitt
12. Concerto For Billy The Kid
13. Ballad Of Hix Blewitt (Alternate Take)
14. Concerto For Billy The Kid (Alternate Take)

Another album that fits the arranger/composer theme is Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. It is probably the best-known of all of the above, and also well-represented in the share-o-sphere, so I will leech the links instead of uploading it.
Read a review: a landmark of jazz orchestration, one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever (Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans)

Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth ()
Three links here or get it on rapidshare or mediafire; also available in FLAC
01. Stolen Moments
02. Hoe-Down
03. Cascades
04. Yeanin’
05. Butch and Butch
06. Teenie’s Blues
Alternative artwork:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paul Hindemith

The reason I wasn't writing here much in the past year is that my musical interests have shifted once again, going rather beyond the scope of this website. I still want some place to write down my little musical observations, so I guess the scope of this website will have to expand, as well.

I am generally more interested in what in jazz is called a combo and in the classical lingo chamber music. So in my recent explorations of classical I came across the Hindemith's sonatas for piano-and-every-orchestral-instrument-there-is; many of them staples of educational repertoire.
So I spent about a week trying to get my head around his music - specifically, the trumpet and piano sonata of 1939, and the horn sonatas. The first few times had me rather baffled. Last night I listened to it again with scores in my hands and finally found a point of reference I could grab onto. He sounds to me a lot like Ornette Coleman. Incidentally, it looks like I might be the first person ever to use the names of Ornette Coleman and Paul Hindemith in one sentence.
I think there are two main points of similarity, the very ones that made Ornette's music so distinctive and controversial. Firstly, it's the rhythm. Both Coleman and Hindemith are melodists, with their compositions hung on melodic lines that run through the pieces, giving them inner logic and consistency. However, the melodies conform neither to the 4-bar/8-bar length, nor even to a steady time signature. By ear, it sounds like a player is adding or subtracting beats at will to underscore or enhance a certain melodic point, to make it more expressive. On paper, these jumps and skips have to be notated by shifting from 4/4 to 3/2 to 12/8 and back. Ornette's themes are built on the very same logic. Strictly speaking, that approach is nothing new and is used by solo performers from just about any folk tradition - most visibly to an american listener, by Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson, or a tune like King Bee. Coleman was controversial not for inventing it, but for placing it into the context of a jazz combo.
Secondly, it's the harmony - the pliable, fluid harmonic development that follows not the conventional rules, but the melodic line. A lot of times piano accompaniment in the sonatas is primarily textural, not so much harmonic - a feature Ornette would've appreciated.

As before, it is worth noting that these are the case of the opposites converging. Hindemith is a highly schooled composer from the Western classical tradition who chose to speak through the medium of written music. Ornette Coleman comes from the aural/oral African-American folk tradition and to my knowledge he was musically illiterate. I guess the biologists would call it convergent evolution.

Here are some sounds to sample:
Sonata for Trumpet and Piano played by Thomas Stevens, on mediafire
It seems that classical music is best perceived in small amounts - preferably, is chunks intended by the composer. The CD this came from contains more stuff, none of it relevant to today's post and thus omitted.

Nonetheless, the completists might be interested in the Complete Works for Brass as performed by the Summit Brass and available on megaupload, 192mb, high VBR

Outside link:
Horn and Piano Sonatas at the most excellent Closet of Curiosities