Tag Archives: trumpet

Armstrong, Hargrove, The Beatles and Film: New Posts on JazzArchive.org.UK

Hey all!

I’ve been busy writing pieces on various jazz topics over on JazzArchive.org.UK. The basic idea I’ve had with the Altman-Koss collection is that with a database catalogued in its particular style, it’s really easy to ask broad thematic questions and quickly retrieve relevant videos to investigate. Its simplicity is its flexibility; with just an Excel-style sheet to represent the information on these videos, all you need to do are ask the right things and translate them into search queries using CTRl-F (CMD-F for Mac). The kinds of questions I’ve been asking have led to finding groups of videos that, taken together, tell a story about a particular artist, place, or song. For example, “What relationship did The Beatles have with jazz,” “What is the connection between the underground jazz scene and glamorous Hollywood films,” “What kind of person was Louis Armstrong and how did he change throughout his career,” and “What words of advice do successful jazz musicians today have for the musicians of tomorrow?” Each of those questions have propelled me on short excursions into the archive and ended up in posted shorts over on the Altman-Koss website.

Go check it out!

 

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Tonight: Jam at The Brunswick

Brighton and Hove’s jazz scene has been wonderful, but tonight I’m playing my last jam here for the summer! Come drop by The Brunswick around 8:30 pm to catch me and other local musicians join Paul Richard and his quartet for the best jazz session in town!

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And a quick thank you to Adam Stokes for inviting me out to his gig at Martha’s Gunn last Wednesday. It was a pleasure to play with his group and Charlotte Glasson, who played circles around me on tenor sax, soprano sax, and fiddle 😀

Roy Hargrove @ The New Morning in Paris

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Was lucky enough to catch Roy Hargrove at the famous New Morning jazz club in Paris last Saturday. One of my heroes when it comes to trumpet playing and music in general: not only has he worked across genres from jazz masters like Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis to hip hop legend D’Angelo, but he talks, thinks, and teaches about music in a way that’s almost philosophical. And he’s fun; at the New Morning show he actually stopped part way through a song, put his trumpet down, and started dancing, motioning for the saxophone player (Justin Robinson – a beast) to do the same. For a couple of nearly fifty-year old musicians, they had some moves.

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One of the coolest things about Roy is his stage presence. I mean, outside of the raw sophistication and thrill of his soloing, there is such a grippingly visual aspect to his performance. Since starting work on this jazz video archive, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what can be gained from watching jazz as opposed to just listening to it, and Roy is a shining example of why jazz is so important to see. First off, his style – he tends to wear well-cut, light-colored suits, paired with big, athletic sneakers. He literally embodies the jazz-hip hop aesthetic in his outfit. And if he doesn’t have sunglasses on when he walks out on set (indoors, in a basement-like jazz club), he’ll probably pull them out at some point, maybe while he’s dancing. Then, he’s never just standing around, looking like he’s bored or even waiting. Roy always appears to be listening. If he’s finished soloing, he turns his body and fixes his gaze on the next player, intently watching them take a chorus. Or he might walk off stage and give the spotlight entirely to someone else. Or (and he did this several times), he’ll go sit by the drummer and tap on the drums with him. And whisper to audience members, less than two feet away. And just… be interesting. Everything he did had some kind of intention behind it. A relaxed intention, to be sure; he always looks laid back and content. But definitely like he had a handle on the performance the entire time. He engaged audience attention and controlled it very well, never looking like he was really trying that hard to do so.

And then the music was amazing. I’m biased towards his composition “Strasbourg/St. Denis,” because I’ve watched his 2007 New Morning performance of it on YouTube hundreds of times (not an exaggeration). And of course, he performed it now, 10 years later in 2017, because he wrote it across the street from the club (the nearest Paris metro station is literally called “Strasbourg – St. Denis”). And it was fresh, even though I’ve heard it so much, because, of course, this is jazz: every performance is going to be different. This time around, Roy played the head and then grabbed a cowbell, and had a contest with the drummer (Quincy Phillips). Roy would play a rhythm, and the drummer would spit it right back, not after him, but with him. It was amazing. Eventually, they both stopped, leaving the piano player to do a solo that was truly solo. Nobody else in the band played, but the audience was clapping on beat the whole way through (the nice thing about a jazz audience is that they stay on beat, too). Suddenly, the whole group was back in an explosion of sound, and Roy and Justin took the head to finish out the piece.

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Going to see this trumpeter at this jazz club felt like a sort of pilgrimage to me as a musician, so I had to post about it. Some video clips of the performance are already up, check them out on YouTube.

Yazz Ahmed: UK Trumpet Feature

Even though I’m currently immersed in the English jazz scene, it was my home jazz authority, SFJazz, that pointed me in the direction of UK-based trumpeter Yazz Ahmed. She’s British-Bahraini  and recently released an LP critics have described as “Psychedelic Arabic Jazz.” As an Arab-American jazz trumpet player and composer myself, I couldn’t resist reading it, and it’s a truly enlightening perspective piece on the state of modern jazz and jazz musicians. Check it out here.

… And while you’re at it, be sure to give the album a listen toLa Saboteuse is joining my inspiration playlist right alongside Ibrahim Maalouf, Roy Hargrove, Hiromi, Christian Scott… etc.

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June 21, 2015 Sunday

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There’s always something going on in any part of New York you happen to be in – especially in the summer, and even when it’s so foggy you can’t see a skyscraper a mile away, like it has been this past week. I don’t think June 21st is any sort of special holiday in Chinatown (other than father’s day, nationwide), but the whole area was filled with music, fruit stands, and board games. Walking through Columbus park, I saw crowds of people huddled around xiangqi tables, and every fifteen feet there was a different band of musicians, contributing to this blooming sound tangled but pleasant noise. One guy sat by himself at the base of a statue, holding an erhu. He caught me looking at it and beckoned. I hesitated, knowing I had no money for a tip, but I couldn’t resist when he held the instrument out for me to play. It’s kind of like playing a violin, except it has more of a keening sound. After a while, I handed it back to him and asked if I could get a recording of him playing it (which you can listen to here).

One of the first things I did here (other than work) is set up a lesson with Michael Blutman, a fantastic trumpet player and Julliard graduate who, among other things, plays for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. After two hours with him out on Long Island, I left with a mind-blowing amount of new music-related knowledge and a vague feeling that I suck, which is good for a trumpet player.

Mike also referred me to a tribute concert for Lew Soloff, a legendary trumpet player who recently passed away. Many people consider Lew responsible for blurring the line between jazz and rock, especially when he and Blood, Sweat, and Tears came out with “Spinning Wheel” in the 70s. I’m starting to learn just how small the music world is; the guest musicians at Lew’s tribute included some of the best in the world, including Wynton Marsalis and Miles Evans. Mike went to school with these guys, and I know Mike because my teacher knew him, and my former teacher in Chico knew my teacher… and so on.

Last thing – if you’re ever in New York for the summer, be sure to catch the New York Philharmonic when they’re giving their free concerts in the park. FREE. This year is the 50th anniversary of the event; how cool is it that what is arguably the best large music ensemble in the world gives free concerts to the public every summer? For the past 50 years? I got to go to the one in Brooklyn, and it’s 100% worth wading through the mass of picnicking tourists and locals.  If you’re in town, there’s still a few more performances left in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

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June 7th, 2015

Aaaand the summer blog is back!

This time I’m in New York, ostensibly for something completely unrelated to music, but I’ve brought my trumpet with me and will be writing about our adventures in the music scene of this city.

Here’s my situation: I’ve been placed in the middle of Manhattan with an 8-hour work day, a list of names, and a few vague leads on possible venues and jam sessions. I have 10 weeks to try and meet people and scrounge up a few gigs before going home. With any luck, I’ll have some recordings to post here soon, even if they’re not of me. So with that – if anyone reading this knows a musician in New York who wants to jam, let me know!

August 6th, 2014

This morning we ate labna and grapes while listening to gunshots. A few days ago, this would have made me tense up and strain my ears for minutes on end, trying to decide whether or not I should make a dash for the bedroom. Now, the other volunteers and I have grown strangely accustomed to the noise. In fact, Tessa, being the musician she is, has formally named it part of the “tapestry of sound in Palestine.” We hear bullets almost every day, although they’re far off and restricted to protest areas, and unlikely to spread, since all the shooting is done by the IDF (the Palestinian protesters don’t actually have guns). There’s zero risk of being shot here in Nablus, but it still feels weird to be so comfortable with such a sound.

The City Cultural Center classes are running smoothly now; Tessa, Giulia, and I no longer feel the need to all go to every single class. Which is good, because according to my (rather unreliable) schedule, we’re up to 16 classes a week between the three of us. Afterwards, Giulia and I went to go teach a new class, this time in Askar refugee camp. Askar isn’t as compacted as Balata, and it’s fortunate enough to have an art center and a women’s center in addition to schools and health clinics, all funded by the UNRWA. We were told the class was at the art center, so we sat out front and waited for Habib to open the building. After ten minutes Habib was still a no-show, but someone was watching us from the house across the street. Two kids, no older than ten, were shyly peeping at us from behind the green front gate. I tried saying hi to them, but they immediately ran indoors. Giulia and I went back to waiting. It was getting really hot outside, and beads of sweat were forming on our brows and arms.
Suddenly, the gate opened, and the younger boy came running across the street, straight for us. He stopped abruptly at the foot of the steps and asked us, “Bidik Ahwe?” (“Would you like coffee?” in Arabic). Giulia and I looked at each other. Habib still wasn’t here, and we had nothing better to do, so we followed the kid back to the house.

Inside was the other boy, a girl, and their mother, who brought us steaming Turkish coffee. It was surprisingly refreshing, despite the heat. Nobody in the family knew English, so we practiced our Arabic, awkwardly but successfully getting across that we were music students from Italy and California, come to Nablus to teach for Project Hope. The mother smiled and asked us more questions: Were we teaching at the arts center? Do we know Habib? What do we play?

Meanwhile, the older boy started messing with my trumpet case, tapping it and looking it up and down, like it was a cage containing some small, exotic animal. Finally, I unzipped the cylindrical case and pulled out my Kanstul trumpet. And the kid immediately grabbed for it, almost knocking it out of my hands. A little wary, I told him to be careful, but let him play with it while I reached for a mouthpiece. He puffed up his cheeks and whooshed a ton of air at the lead pipe, to no avail. I laughed and demonstrated for him, letting loose a bright tone, before handing the instrument back to him. He caught on quickly.

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Finally, we received a call from Project Hope. As it turns out, the class wasn’t at the arts center at all; it was down the street at the women’s center. We hurriedly finished our coffee, flipped our cups (to read the fortunes) and dashed over.

After class, we had lunch with Sego at what is probably the ritziest restaurant in Nablus (we’re talking fish for 120 shekels), and later, after a nap, we climbed upstairs again for coffee and tea with the neighbors. Our large group broke into smaller ones, with different discussions buzzing around the balcony as the sun shrank in the west. It was a learning exchange; Ahmad taught me Visual Basic coding on his laptop, while Tessa and Giulia taught Khalid how to play Happy Birthday. As a music and computer science major, I felt completely in my element.

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After we had finished our coffee and figs and mangoes, Khalid and Ahmad’s mother beckoned for us to come with her upstairs. We climbed, one story after another, until we were five or six floors up. I had no idea the building was so big. We emerged on a rooftop patio, sheltered by an awning heavy with grape vines. I know I’ve already described various viewpoints overlooking Nablus, but this was different. From up here we could see the two mountains that form Nablus’s valley in their entirety, as well as the northeastern and southwestern ends of the city. The city sparkled below us and hummed with traffic and nightlife. Suddenly there was an explosion, and our eyes snapped to the center of the city. But instead of fighting, we saw fireworks. Green, white, red: the colors of Palestine.