Tag Archives: Jazz

The Three String Double Bass

Usually when I think of bass as a solo instrument what pop up will be the modern Jazz bassist, especially Jaco Pastorius or Stanley Clarke, there are also a few very good solo bassist rooted in rock, my favorite clearly Tony Levin.

And there are even entire albums dedicated only to the Bass, as an example Marcin Oles – Ornette On Bass from 2003. Marcin Oles is a Polish bass player, composer and record producer born in 1973. He has released several albums since 1999 sometimes solo, sometimes with others, often involving his brother Bartłomiej “Brat” Oleś.

Well that was a long introduction to something quite different.

As the main object of all this talk lead back almost 200 hundred years, back to 1835 and the day when Pietro Bottesini got a scholarship for his son Giovanni. Pietro was himself a skilled Clarinet player and Romantic Era Composer, some of his works is if not famous, then at least recognized and recorded.

I was wondering of again ! back to Giovanni.

Giovanni had received some education in violin but the scholarship in Milan there was only bassoon or double bass vacant, Giovanni decided to go for the Bass.

Form here the stone was rolling he soon got an offer to join the opera house in Havana, touring the united states sometimes with appearances as a soloist. 1849 was his debut in London to great success and form here his fame lead him to every corner of Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Mexico etc, he met Giuseppe Verdi in Venice, and they became lifelong friends

At this point (1849) Bottesini had completed quite a large number of compositions, many of his famous compositions for the double bass were if not finished then written in “first” version.

Bottesini was in favour of Three Strings of pure gut, at the time some places used mostly four and even five strings, such as Germany. France had just accepted the four strings as standard. Italy, England and Spain, etc. were still using three strings, England was one of the last places to change, as three strings were rather common until the first world war.

Bottesini bought his bass in 1839, an instrument made in 1716 by Carlo Antonio Testore in Milan, the eldest son of Carlo Giuseppe. According to Thomas Martin (see note) it was originally a four string instrument transformed to three strings.

It is so sad to know that we will never the able to enjoy Bottesini’s performances, he must have been no less than fabulous, nicknames “the Paganini of the double bass” without doubt evolving the bass technique and reform the use of double bass as a solo instrument.

Never the less Bottesini saw himself mainly as a composer, who also played bass or conducted. His style of composing was not ground breaking although he was successful with his operas, but it is his solo works for the double bass that stands out, still standard repertoire for the double bassists.

This is played on an original three stringed period instrument

Note: I usually won’t mention my sources, as that would often be a boring journey, but in this case I would like to mention that I have read and truly enjoyed reading this article by Thomas Martin of Thomas and George Martin Violin Makers.

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Yume no Fusion

Japanese Kenso was originally formed in 1974, but founding and the only consistent member to this date, Yoshihisa Shimizu departed for Kanagawa Dental College and the band went on hiatus, but reformed in 1979 to released their first self-titled vinyl in 1981.

Yoshihisa Shimizu often comes to stage in a lab coat, to reflect his daytime trade.

The style on the debut was instrumental and very inspired by early 70’s British Progressive Rock.

 

Over the next few albums Kenso’s music changed towards a more Jazz Rock inspired style, British acts like Brand X or Bruford comes to mind, but also Return to Forever and many others.

That said Kenso is far from copying anyone, they have their own sound and style and I believe you can also sense something very Japanese in their music.

 

Besides the wonderful Hiromi Uehara  (a very different story altogether). Kenso is as far as I know the most well-known Jazz Rock artist coming from Japan and for very good reason, their music is very varied and complex, touching many subgenres of (prog) Rock and Jazz fussion, mostly instrumental but never boring or one-sided.

Current lineup:

清水義央  (Yoshihisa Shimizu) Guitars

小口健一 (Kenichi Oguchi) Keyboards

光田健一 (Kenichi Mitsuda) Keyboads

三枝俊治 (Shunji Saegusa) Bass

小森啓資 (Keisuke Komori)Drums

 

 

Kenso have made 10 studio albums, the latest in 2014, and a serie of live albums. They are also featured with 5 tracks on “Live at Progfest-2000” DVD released by Musea.

Kenso played NEARfest 2005

 

 

Steve Lacy – Bop, Free Jazz and Avant Garde Prog

Steven Norman Lackritz was born in New York City back in 1934. He is best known to be the first to specialize on soprano saxophone in modern Jazz, but he was also a very diverse saxophonist, from interpreting the classics masters especially Thelonious Monk, to free Jazz, avant-garde and even progressive jazz rock.

Steve Lacy playing Monk’s “Played Twice”

Starting his career playing Dixieland with various musicians from 1952-55, by the 2nd half of the 50’s he moved into more modern styles and playing with giants like free Jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor , Gil Evans, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

From Steve Lacy Sortie 1966, this was Steve Lacy’s sixth album, the first based only on his own compositions and his first take on free jazz as a band leader.

 

Steve Lacy appears on Italian band Area’s fourth studio album maledetti, the album is a mystic journey of styles and moods in the more avant-garde division of progressive rock, but also inspired by free/experimental Jazz.

Lacy on Area’s “maledetti” (1976)

 

 

A Liquid Fusion from the Adriatic Sea.

After Miles was opening the door between Jazz and Rock with Filles de Kilimanjaro (68), In a Silent Way (69) and especially with Bitches Brew (70), there was a lot of good creative bands playing a great fusions of Jazz and Rock throughout the 70’s.

One of these Groups was Italian Agora from Ancona area at the Adriatic side of central Italy, Their first studio album (1976) was called Angora´2 based on the fact that they had already released a live album from Montreux international jazz festival.

 

Agora is a relative unknown band (outside the absolute inner fussion circle), playing a style that is not ground breaking, the similarities to the big Jazz/Rock fusion legends is very evident, but to me it is still a nice album with some very fine fusion. Especially the woodwind instruments works very well for me on this album.

 

 

Hawkins Encounters Webster

Jazz can be many things, and do many things to me as a listener. Today I have fund an example of Jazz as a Zen moment, filled with true beauty. When I listen to these tracks from   “Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster”, every stressful thought leaves me and I am filled with ease. My thought go back to late night / early mornings, wandering empty streets on my way home from great nights.

Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster is studio album recorded in 1957, on the Verve label. The band was :

Coleman Hawkins – tenor saxophone, Ben Webster – tenor saxophone, Oscar Peterson – piano, Herb Ellis – guitar, Ray Brown – double bass, Alvin Stoller – drums.

In the United Kingdom, the album was released with the title Blue Saxophones.

Hawkins was born in Missouri 1904, active from the early 1920’s to 1967. He was one of the first prominent Jazz musicians to play the tenor saxophone, and have been a major influence on many tenor saxophonists. Hawkins has played with a lot of famous Jazz musicians, far too many to mention here.

 

 

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, what jazz is all about

So much is to be said about Rahsaan Roland Kirk, his immensely creativity, his unique techniques, his ability as a multi-instrumentalist, his amassing solo improvisations, and his ability to perform within a wide range of Jazz styles. I urge everyone interested in his talents to search more, there is so much more to Kirk, than what I can cover here.

Roland Kirk with McCoy Tyner and Stanley Clarke

Kirk was able to play several instruments it the same time, and developed a breathing technique making him able to play notes for a long period of time without pause.
Kirk played a wide range of saxophones often modified, clarinets, flutes, harmonica, English horn, recorders and trumpets. He additionally used many non-musical devices and tape-manipulated electronics sounds, long before they became common practice.

Serenade To A Cuckoo (covered by Jethro Tull, on This Was 1968)

The extravaganza of his stage appearance, although extremely talented may have come in the way of his recognition as a true master of Jazz, due to it being too spectacular for the serious jazz critics and audience at the time, but I don’t mind his inventive approach to music, or his political idea’s, I think he sounds just great and that all that matters to me.
Mingus said “This man is what jazz is all about”, Kirk died in 1977 after a stroke, 42 years old.

Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening

Keith Tippett is one of the great pianists of the British free jazz scene, for decades he has formed various groups creating brilliant jazz improvisations.

On his 1971 album “Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening” credited to “The Keith Tippett Group” We have got an impressive avant-garde jazz, dissonance and swinging, wild and energetic sometimes chaotic, a unique and different take on Jazz Fusion.

The album Title, was taken from a track title on Soft Machine: Volumes Two (1969), and several of “The Keith Tippett Group” members, was also involved in “Soft Machine”, Elton Dean and Nick Evans joined Soft Machine from their 1970 album “Third”, Roy Babbington and Mark Charig from “Fourth” (1971).
Also original Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, was playing on “Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening”. But where Soft Machine’s output at the time, was clearly rooted in “Progressive Rock” although increasingly Jazz inspired, Keith Tippett’s work is mainly rooted in Jazz.

Members of The Keith Tippett Group, was also involved in the King Crimson albums released in the period. Tippett was involved in “In the Wake of Poseidon” (1970), he added a Jazz feel to Crimsons symphonic Rock, and notably playing a stunning solo on “Cat Food”. Keith Tippett, Mark Charig and Nick Evans played on “Lizard” (1970), Keith Tippett and Mark Charig was guests on “Islands” (1971).

The Circle Maker

In a wonderful combination of Jazz, World and Chamber music, John Zorn have on this album, taken the music of his Hebrew background, using traditional Jewish melodies and scales from the Hebrew folk tradition, and arranged them for a modern Jazz/Chamber setting.

Even though Zorn is saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist himself, on this album, he is composer and producer only. First half of the project called “Issachar”, performed by a trio of Violin – Cello – Bass. The second half called “Zevulun” performed with the addition of Guitar – Percussion – Drums.

Zorn (born September 2, 1953) usually known as an American avant-garde composer, working with almost any kind of experimental music since the mid 70’s, trying to expand on the borders and eliminate the limits of music.
This album from his “Masada” project, traditional in its origin, seems very calm and soft, Zorn said about the hundreds of songs he has written in this tradition : “The project for Masada was to create something positive in the Jewish tradition something that maybe takes the idea of Jewish music into the 21st century”

The musicians on the project was :
Mark Feldman: Violin – Erik Friedlander: Cello – Greg Cohen: Bass
Marc Ribot: Guitar – Cyro Baptista: Percussion – Joey Baron: Drums

Blakey – Drumming in the heart of Hard Bop

Hard bop developed in the mid-1950 and is most often credited to The Jazz Messengers, led by pianist Horace Silver and drummer Art Blakey. The first recording of Hard Bop, was “A Night at Birdland”, issued as Art Blakey Quintet, the same band that would soon be renamed The Jazz Messengers.

Art Blakey Quintet – A Night at Birdland – Blues (released 1954)
Art Blakey (drums), Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone), Clifford Brown (trumpet), Horace Silver (piano),Curly Russell (bass)

Silver left The Jazz Messengers to form his own band, Art Blakey became the leader of The Jazz Messengers, and recorded under this name with an ever changing group of musicians, many who would later become Jazz legends themselves. Hard bop was an extended form of Bebop, incorporating elements of R&B and Gospel. A highlight from the period is Moanin’ an album recorded in 58, released the following year, featuring amongst others Saxophonist Benny Golson.

The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’- Moanin’ – (Released 1959)
Art Blakey – drums, Lee Morgan – trumpet, Benny Golson – tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons – piano, Jymie Merritt – bass

From 59 to 61 the band features brilliant Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who was writing most of the bands material in this period. A series of great albums was recorded, amongst them Caravan, released in 63.

Caravan – Sweet n Sour – Released Feb 1963
Art Blakey – Drums, Wayne Shorter – Tenor Saxophone, Freddie Hubbard – Trumpet, Curtis Fuller – Trombone, Cedar Walton – Piano, Reggie Workman – Bass.

Unbelivable as it may seem, George Wein a well known Jazz Consert arranger, managed to create an all star Bebop tour, with a band called Giants of Jazz, featuring a dream band comprised of Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Kai Winding, Thelonious Monk, Al McKibbon, Art Blakey, all those bandleaders in one Jazz super group. This is a performance from Copenhagen 1971.

The Giants of Jazz – Live in Copenhagen 1971
Art Blakey – drums
Dizzy Gillespie – trumpet
Al McKibbon – double bass
Thelonious Monk – piano
Sonny Stitt – alto and tenor saxophone
Kai Winding – trombone

Gnawa fusion

Majid Bekkas was born in Marocco 1957, He got a classical music training at “Rabat national conservatoire of music and dance” as well as studies in Gnawa culture, the ritual Ganwa music and their traditional instruments. Besides playing traditional instruments Bekkas is also a guitarist and vocalist, during his musical adventures he have played with a string of different musicians from all over the world, and incorporate numerous styles in his music. Bekkas have toured in Europe and played at many international festivals.