Computers and Music
Sunday, October 31, 2004
A book that I highly recommend is "Searching for the Emperor" by Roberto Pazzi. From the book jacket: Pazzi "recreates the last days of the Imperial Russian family. We begin in Siberia, a land cut off from European Russia and (apparently) from history...."

It's an amazing read that is incredibly poetic, even though it was translated from Italian. It has two main threads, one showing the Tsar and his family stuck in a house because of the newly empowered communists, and the other showing the absurd and heroic journey of the Preobrazhenskii regiment marching through Siberia. Pazzi "reworks the 'facts' of history into the material of a rich and tragic romance, heightened by the elements of the supernatural that become not only plausible but increasingly true." I was especially struck by some of the lines in the book such as, "we are all prisoners of God, each in our own cell." It's a first novel that reads like a modern day classic.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
A while back I had a jam session with Mark White and Colin Defreitas... and I recorded the whole thing with Minidisk. For your listening pleasure, I present to you our version of "My Funny Valentine" recorded on Sept. 18 2004 at the Leisure Castle.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
How to learn jazz piano: Here's an email response I wrote to someone asking how I learned to play jazz.

I have been taking jazz lessons for only about 2 years - before that I was just learning jazz on my own. How I was doing this was spending lots of the time at the piano, just trying to learn how to read chords and play through Fakebook tunes, and listening closely to the sounds that I made. But before I started to learn jazz, I just played classical piano. What really helped was over 11 years of purely classical training, where I really focused about 40% of my practice time on learning technique - scales, chords,arpeggios, octaves, and studies. For my classical training, I had to complete yearly exams, which involved perfecting pieces and getting my technique really down.

One really important part of my jazz development was when I began jamming with other musicians. You can start doing this pretty much at any stage in your development, and I think earlier is better. At the time, we were all really inexperienced,but I had some knowledge of chords from my classical technique, so I was able to accompany the other players. We started with simple jazz standards and with the blues. To get better at something, the key is to just "do it", and do it alot!! I had a weekly jam session with some friends, and after about two years we got sounding pretty good, enough to record a little demo CD. Then we had a photo session and sent our CD around town to various restaurants. We were very surprised when a restaurant asked us if we would perform there every Thursday night. That was a wonderful learning experience, just to perform every week, andwe got really used to performing with each other.

What would be a good idea for you to check out is to see if there are any "jazz camps" in your area - for example in my area there is a "New West Jazz Clinic"where you spend a week with other people who want to learn jazz, learning tips from professionals, and playing together. This was a very inspiring way to get hooked on jazz and help put together a plan in your mind on how to go about learning it. Also, it might be good to take a few private lessons from a jazz instructor: you could try contacting your local colleges and ask for the phone numbers of jazz musicians who teach. Or just go up to some musicians in a jazz club and ask them if they give lessons.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
I have just witnessed one of the most spectacular live performances I have ever seen, of improvised music.

The band was the New York trombonist Steve Swell's group, with Hamid Drake on drums, Jemeel Moondoc on alto saxophone, and William Parker on bass. They gave a stunning performance at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, after having been on the road together for about 3.5 weeks.

I have never seen anyone play so intensely on the trombone, as Steve Swell did tonight. He played lines that any sax player would envy, and his whole body shook with incredible energy as he moved the trombone effortlessly through space like it were a toy. Steve Swell is a powerful man, physically as well, so he has mastered and tamed his instrument like not many can. As well as playing highly in an"avant-garde" style, he also showed off his beautiful tone and melodic sense in a middle number, which left me sitting and thinking that I could listen to this music forever.

One who nearly stole the show was Hamid Drake on drums. I can't even begin to describe what he was doing on those drums, but his playing showed a technique so deep, with such command of every possible sound that can be made with a drum kit, and such speed, energy, force and precision that drove the band into reaching new heights what seemed like every few seconds. I thought Lewis Nash was my favorite drummer before today, and while I still highly regard Nash, I must say that my mind has been forever changed! Drake rules!

The likes of the great Jemeel Moondoc on alto saxophone is not seen very often on the Vancouver jazz scene, and what creativity and talent he showed through his instrument! CJBS likened his approach to "the looseness of bar room blues with post-Ornette multi-key vigor", but what I thought was the most impressive was how he easily exchanged musical ideas with the other players, especially Swell and Drake.

I think it is the hallmark of a good improvised performance when you can tell that the players are truly listening to each other and are subtly complimenting, supporting, and bouncing ideas between themselves. It makes listening more rewarding when you suddenly realize that "hey, the drummer just echoed that sax lick", or "that sax player just carried on the phrase the trombonist started". That happened for me a lot tonight, so I was very impressed.

And not to be outdone was William Parker on bass. CJBS calls him "one of the most inventive bassist/leaders since Charles Mingus", and I can easily see why. On each of his many bass solos, he did something totally new, such as closing off the strings near the top of the neck and playing the strings near the tuning pegs (that created a very cool high-harmonic effect which he punctuated with the occasional deep tone). His sound was immaculate... so resonant and full, but yet with a sense of time and place that glued together the whole ensemble.

You might notice that it's very late at night as I am writing, and I don't usually write such long articles, but it's only because I was just so excited from this concert that I had to share it with you. Definitely check out these guys' recordings, or try and see them live if it is at all possible.
Thoughts of an aspiring jazz musician and computer programmer.

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