Our Scene // Your Scene

Hello – In lieu of a long introduction, perhaps a new tradition, an excerpt from a book of letters written by Rainer Maria Rilke which feels right for now:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

from “Letters To A Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke // HERE is a link

This week, Phil offers a challenge, Alex expresses, Eli tells us about a Fareed Haque album, a gift from the Montreux Jazz Festival, and some offerings from Jazz Arts Group.

As Phil Sees It // Phil Maneri

Virus Vacation Week 3

Ellis Marsalis, Wallace Rooney, Joe Diffie, John Prine. This week’s musical voices silenced by the virus. It’s just getting started. And we grieve. And are maybe a little afraid.  Yes they were older and more vulnerable, but the virus doesn’t just go after them, it can take anyone. So when you make an exception to the distancing because of one reason or another, remember that doing so gets you one step closer to the virus, and more importantly you’ll drag someone you love closer along with you. Maybe someone vulnerable. Maybe someone older. 

In many cultures the elders are afforded the highest respect. People ask permission from them to even speak. The idea is that the young might have the ebullience of youth but the older have the trump card of wisdom. The broader vision of years.  Experience and understanding, patience and calm, these elder traits can be swept from view by the culture that celebrates youthful vitality over them. But we are doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over should we disregard elders and not see them at all anymore. They become invisible.  

In jazz tradition the elders on the bandstand were in charge of bringing up the newbies. They would teach them what to practice, how to practice. Teach them how to tame their wild talents and harness them to surpass where they themselves may have traveled.  There was belittling, and hazing, and “cutting”, which at that time was designed to check the youthful egos and help them understand their place in the hierarchy of jazz musicians. While that happens somewhat these days, its not like it was then as much. Exponentially less gigs, less cross pollination of older and younger musicians on the gigs that are left. While I do see quite a bit of mentorship, I think it’s something that might be an even higher priority. 

With the virus picking off the elders one by one there’s never been a better time to pay attention to them. And remember that part of why we are all staying home is to protect the collective wisdom of our elders. It is one of our most precious cultural riches.

John Prine wrote in “Hello in There”:
“So if you’re walking down the street sometime
and spot some hollow ancient eyes.
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say “Hello in there, hello”.

Now he’s gone. Its  your turn.

Montreux Jazz Festival // Concert Streams

Montreux Jazz Festival would like to bring a little magic into your home! We have made over 50 Festival concerts available to stream for free, including performances by Ray Charles, Wu-Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Deep Purple, Carlos Santana, and more. We hope that a little music and soul will brighten up your day!

With Montreux Sounds and our partner Stingray Qello, you can access them for free for 30 days:

Go to stingray.com/FREEMJF1M
Enter the code FREEMJF1M
Find all the Montreux Jazz Festival concerts here: stingray.com/MJF

Jazz Arts Group // Offstage Live

Jazz Arts Group (via the Jazz Academy) is offering an ongoing series of interviews and lectures from Byron Stripling, the members of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and a few special guests on a great variety of topics.

This week, in addition to the weekly hang with Byron Stripling (check out last weeks), the CJO rhythm section featuring Bob Breithaupt, Chris Berg, and Bobby Floyd will have a roundtable discussion (CJO Roundtable last week!) about all kinds of things jazz, Columbus, and life outside of their normally hectic lives. CHECK IT OUT!

(not a letter) From (an) Editor // Alex Burgoyne

My Life, But Also Yours

I wanted to say hi to those of you out there who aren’t hanging in there like you’d like to. It’s really been the weirdest month of our collective lives.

4 weeks ago, I was standing on the Southern Theatre stage after having spent a week preparing music for the upcoming Columbus Jazz Orchestra concert (I work as, among other things, the orchestra librarian). The Maestro was giving the band the skinny on the current state of affairs – we were all aware but still a bit in shock that what had been happening in world for the last few weeks (actually months!) was now happening around us. The Southern shows were cancelled and they were going to try a (now we know, an ill-fated) small audience Livestream at the Blue Velvet Room on Saturday and Sunday.

Isn’t it wild that that was only a month(ish) ago? I played a gig with the Famous Jazz Orchestra on the Monday prior, my first in a few weeks (I just got married on 2/29!) – I had no idea that’d be my last gig for the foreseeable future. There it goes, all the hustle and social life and live music just like that. And a strange, extended honeymoon.

It came clear slowly, how big the scale of this was going to be. We were hopeful that we could play together, with a small audience. Then we were hopeful that we could play, but with no audience. Maybe we could have some friends over to do a livestream in our homes. All of it shut-down. Can’t even go in to work. Stay home. Figure it out.

It’s taken me a little while to figure out my feelings – I’m really sad, but it’s so small in comparison to how big it all feels, so I don’t let it out so well. I’m angry, but at what? I’m bored, but I’m lucky that I have plenty, to do and eat and clean and practice. The thing we’ve been saying in my house is that it’s wild.

We’re doing yoga every day, which is awesome actually. I’ve been trying to take walks, but they cause some stress. I’m listening to a LOT of music. I’m writing a little. I haven’t been practicing very much – I’m trying to be easy about that last one. I’ve been cooking a lot – making bread, soup, curry. But it still feels quite a bit like it’s going to be “normal” again soon. Probably not soon. Maybe not again.

I quit teaching privately in January because I wanted time to look out the window. I wanted time to go on hikes and write music without my schedule spinning around in my head. I wanted to write poetry and create art without an agenda. And I wanted time to develop a career to go along with my playing life. I’m getting all of that now, which is a real gift. But it feels like a weight too. Free time never felt so burdensome.

But here we are, facing all of this together. You’re dealing with the same world I am, and there’s something really sweet about that. I’ve said it every week, but I continue to be knocked out by how connected I feel to this community. Friends call every day. I’m talking to my neighbors. I wave to people walking by. We’re here together. Let’s keep sticking to each other – from a distance. It’s a really good thing.

What’re You Spinning // Eli Chambers

Guitarist Fareed Haque is no slouch. He has shared stage and studio with Joe Zawinul, world-renowned tabla player Zakir Hussein, Sting, and jam giants Garaj Mahal. I first learned of  Haque after seeing him perform at Ohio University, and was immediately taken by his versatility and virtuosity in no small quantity, and his wariness of over-intellectualizing his approach to guitar and to music at large. Of his many projects, I was most intrigued by the Flat Earth Ensemble— named, one hopes, outside of the scope of the conspiracy theory with which it shares its name. The Flat Earth Ensemble effortlessly integrate the stylisms of Latin-American bugalú, the cool saunter of Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, and the Hindustani classical and pop music Haque’s Pakistani father introduced to him growing up. The group’s 2008 album Flat Planet (again, let’s assume this isn’t an endorsement of building homemade rocketships) reflects these influences brilliantly and is well worth keeping toward the top of your stack. While the entire album merits a listen, I want to specifically focus on the last four tracks on the album: the Four Corners Suite

The Four Corners Suite appears as the B-side of the album. The first movement, North, is a churning, mantric tune in 7 / 8 that features David Hartsman both on flute and soprano sax. The final strain of the movement scans almost like a tihai, a conclusory statement in Indian classical music. I’m a sucker for anything composed in or influenced by the Konnakol tradition. If you’ve never looked into the procedures behind not only the composition, but also the improvisation, in that school of music, I highly recommend taking a day or two to do so. 

South begins with a gestural, out-of-tempo introduction, a sort of fanfare in untethered tonality. It is then ushered into a frenetic and infectious asymmetrical 9/8 groove over which Haque is absolutely blasting on his Moog synth guitar, the tone of which is an unmistakable relative of Pat Metheny’s use of the Roland GR series guitar synthesizers. To my ear, something about analog wave oscillators, especially in the very capable hands of Fareed Haque, seems just as fresh in the context of 2008 as it must have in the late-70’s advent of the technology. 

Of all the movements in the suite, West is the one that stands out most to me as an analogy of its geographical namesake: an amalgamation of cultural experiences, vastly different but symbiotic. This movement exudes the coolness of El Hombre-era Pat Martino. The head exhibits some very cheeky harmonic and rhythmic juxtapositions, staying just inside the groove with its nine-and-a-half bar form. The band then takes to an easy-going and jovial twelve-bar blues for solos by Haque and keyboardist Willerm Delisfort. The bit of this track that deserves the most attention comes toward the end, when the ensemble approaches the head but then plants their feet on a triplet-based figure as backgrounds for the tabla player to take a turn. What follows is a mind-bending flurry of percussive prowess. Seriously, do yourself a favor and look into the technical skill it takes to play tabla.

Curiously, the CD release of the album does not include the East movement of the suite; it must be found separately. But what kind of four-cornered suite would it be without all four corners? It’s worth your while to listen to the whole thing. This final movement opens with free improv, the musicians passing short reactionary phrases around the room. Through a brief Eastern-influenced interlude, the tune pivots into a Lydian-heavy jam, the backdrop painted with strummy acoustic guitar and reminds me of some of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s quieter moments. It serves as a brilliant conclusion, unwinding the energy of the and flattening the curve on the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of the whole suite. Conspiratorial connotations aside, I highly recommend everything Flat Planet has to offer, specifically the brilliant, captivating, and just downright groovy concoction of the Four Corners Suite. 

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