28/05/2010

Two swingin' years... / Dos años con swing

The very minute this is uploaded, it'll be two years since my first post. To express my gratitude to my 8,504 unique readers – because you are all truly unique (read with a mock Dizzy Gillespie accent) – I've embedded the player below to reveal the secret of swing. Yes, someone has finally uncovered that intangible aspect so intrinsic to the nature of jazz, which has kept grown men with beards, turtlenecks and smoking pipes, mulling and musing for the best part of a century...

If it isn't exactly that, at least it's quite funny, and still pretty accurate, I find.

22/05/2010

Bill Dixon: early influences / influencias tempranas


Bill Dixon (b. 1925) is one, if not the, foremost avant-garde jazz trumpet player. Given the common perception of the different factions in jazz, the following may come as a surprise for some... Bill Dixon:

The first person I ever heard play the trumpet, and this should be interesting, was Louis Armstrong.

When I was a teenager, the first trumpeter I heard as a trumpet player who had a remarkable affect on my thinking about the instrument from a technical point of view, and this may shock you, was Harry James (right). "Carnival of Venice," "Flight of the Bumblebee," pieces like that, I love those pieces.

The person who had a profound thing in terms of how he played, and the sound he took out of Horn, was Rex Stewart... I heard [him] at the dances we went to as a teenager because the Ellington band, the Lunceford band, all of those, they played for our dances, I heard them live.

When I started to play the horn... the person who was absolutely terrifying on the horn at the time was Dizzy... When I first heard the records of he and Bird, hey, I wept... Dizzy, it was impossible to escape the force that Dizzy had on that horn.

No one knows why ultimately [Miles Davis] took the stance on the instrument that he did... We don't know if it was accident, if he sat down and decided after so many years, we don't know what he did... And he brought to the instrument, to my ear, one of the most beautiful sounds I have heard come out of the trumpet... I listened very, very carefully that he did... And one time I could play note for note every solo that he had.

Bill Dixon interviewed by Robert D. Rusch in Jazz Talk - The Cadence Interviews (Lyle Stuart, 1984)



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Bill Dixon (n. 1925) es uno de los principales trompetistas de la vanguardia del jazz, si no el más importante. Dada la percepción que habitualmente tenemos de las diversas facciones del jazz, lo que viene a continuación puede ser una sorpresa para algunos... Bill Dixon:

La primera persona que oí tocar la trompeta en mi vida, y esto debería ser interesante, fue Louis Armstrong (a la izquierda).

Cuando era adolescente, el primer trompetista que oí como trompetista y que me afectó notablemente en mi forma de pensar sobre el instrumento desde un punto de vista técnico, y puede que esto te sorprenda, fue Harry James. "El carnaval de Venecia", "El vuelo del moscardón", este tipo de piezas, me encantaban.

La persona que poseía algo profundo en lo que respecta a su forma de tocar, y el sonido que le sacaba al instrumento, fue Rex Stewart (a la derecha)... Le oí en los bailes a los que iba cuando era un adolescente, porque en esos bailes tocaba la banda de Ellington, la de Jimmie Lunceford, y yo les oí en directo.

Cuando empecé a tocar la trompeta... la persona que era absolutamente aterradora con el instrumento en aquel momento era Dizzy... La primera vez que oí los discos que hizo con Charlie Parker, lloré... Dizzy... era imposible escapar de la fuerza que ejercía Dizzy sobre el instrumento.

Nadie sabe cómo en última instancia [Miles Davis] adoptó el enfoque que adoptó con el instrumento... No sabemos si fue por accidente, si se sentó y lo decidió al cabo de los años, no sabemos qué hizo... Y para mis oídos, aportó al instrumento uno de los sonidos más hermosos que jamás he oído salir de una trompeta... Escuché muy, muy atentamente lo que hacía... Y hubo un tiempo en el que podía tocar cada uno de sus solos nota por nota.
Bill Dixon entrevistado por Robert D. Rusch en Jazz Talk - The Cadence Interviews (Lyle Stuart, 1984)




18/05/2010

So long, Mr. Jones

(La versión en español de este texto está en Cuadernos de Jazz.)

© Mark Sheldon. Used by permission.

Hank Jones left us last Sunday and it's safe to say that we have lost a piece of living jazz history. Some other musicians were certainly more vital in steering the course – the courses, rather – of this music, but no one has permeated and defined the main stream of what we know as jazz like he has.

12/05/2010

Musicians' quotes / Citas de músicos (III)

Maynard [Ferguson] was a leader, a front man in every sense of the word. He wanted to be on top and bottom at the same time. (In the middle too for that matter.) He could hit a double high C and then without missing a beat drop down to a low G with a fat symphony sound. He had learned circular breathing. He could read fly shit. He could switch between trumpet and valve trombone without a hitch. He was a virtuoso, the complete instrumentalist; even his improvising was not bad for a bandleader. Why then has he left me with so little to remember?

Trombonist, writer, and bon vivant Mike Zwerin, who played in Ferguson's band, in Close Enough for Jazz (Quartet Books, 1983.)

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Maynard [Ferguson] era un jefe, un líder de banda en todos los sentidos de la palabra. Quería ocupar a la vez el registro alto y el bajo. (Y el medio también, ya puestos). Podía tocar un do sobreagudo y, sin perder el compás, descender hasta un sol bajo con un sonido gordo, sinfónico. Aprendió a usar la respiración circular. Podía leer hasta caquitas de mosca en un pentagrama. Era capaz de pasar de la trompeta al trombón de pistones sin pestañear. Era un virtuoso, el instrumentista completo. Incluso sus improvisaciones no estaban mal del todo, para ser un director de orquesta. Pero entonces, ¿por qué me dejó tan pocos recuerdos memorables?


Mike Zwerin (1930-2010), trombonista, periodista, y bon vivant, miembro en su día de la orquesta de Ferguson, en Close Enough for Jazz (Quartet Books, 1983).



09/05/2010

"Rhythm-A-Ning": A detour / Un desvío (II)

Some time ago I posted about the alternative life of the melody that would become "Rhythm-A-Ning" and forever associated with Thelonious Monk. Last week I was listening to some classic Bud Powell, "Hallelujah!" came up, and lo and behold, come 1:57 and there it was (right before he quotes "Go In and Out the Window", a nursery rhyme, of all things).

04/05/2010

Musicians' quotes / Citas de músicos (II)

(Gjon Mili/Life magazine)
Cecil Taylor (below) on flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya (right):

It was as though everything stopped for me. I mean everything stopped. That, to me, is the highest kind of compliment that can be paid to another artist - [that he is able] to make somebody else lose all the sense of time, all sense of his own existence outside [of the performance.]

(As quoted by Nat Hentoff in the liner notes to Cecil Taylor: Jazz Advance)


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Cecil Taylor en 1958
Cecil Taylor (izquierda) acerca de la bailaora Carmen Amaya (arriba):

Fue como si todo se hubiera detenido a mi alrededor. Es que... TODO se detuvo. Eso, para mí, es el mayor elogio que puede hacerse de otro artista, [que dicho artista sea capaz] de hacer que alguien pierda toda noción del tiempo, toda noción de su propia existencia más allá [de la actuación].

(Citado por Nat Hentoff en las anotaciones de Cecil Taylor: Jazz Advance)

01/05/2010

Ben Young speaks (and III)

(Para el texto en castellano, pulsa aquí.)

This is the third and final part of the video interview with Ben Young, where he tackles the sticky issue of boiling jazz to a few recommendations (tricky business, which I tried myself some time ago). Like the interviewer points out, in his overview of jazz Young hasn't mentioned any musicians yet (except Louis Armstrong and Bill Dixon in passing), which is remarkable, bearing in mind the tendency to present jazz as a succession of "big names".