Here Max is playing within the conventions of orchestral percussion, but from the first time you hear him on the brushes it’s unmistakably him—the same phrasing, the same sound out of the instrument. Regardless of the setting, the language was so indigenous to his person, you know it’s Max regardless of the setting. There are several sections. Max initiates some time with the brushes, then they come in with a theme, then they switch up from 4/4 to 3/4, and he makes that transition, too. A different theme is initiated, and then they transition back into four. This often happens in Western Classical music, but here it’s an interesting juxtaposition of time signatures and also of genre. It’s the “jazz feeling” or whatever, because Max is playing some time countered against what the orchestra is doing with the structure. He kind of solos in the piece, but he’s also weaving in and out of it, and he is used to accentuate certain portions. It amazes me that Max was so open and flexible and willing to put himself into so many different positions throughout his career.
I have a degree in music, but the way I learned the music was kind of on the street, watching my Pops play and so forth. I’ve never studied Western classical pedagogy. Now, Max went to Manhattan School of Music and studied it, but here it sounds like he’s using the techniques that he mastered from his experiences, not from the Western pedagogy. Within the framework of this piece, the music has a certain time feel. When I played with an orchestra, it was always challenging from the downbeat, because when I see the conductor come down, I’m thinking that’s the downbeat, but it’s not. Then it’s weird. It’s the downbeat-AND, and everyone’s responding to that. Visually, it was so challenging to de-condition yourself—in jazz, it’s always the downbeat, so everyone enters there, whereas in the orchestra the AND after the downbeat is the place. So the fact that Max was able to integrate what he does within that setting so seamlessly, to play the music so impeccably, was impressive—to say the least!
October 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
The movement starts with a rhythmic cymbal pattern which in turn becomes the background for serpentine lines from the saxophones. Dankworth enters for the opening verse which admonishes the poet Terence for wolfing down his food and drink. In this short section (just over a minute of music), we hear an astonishing number of ideas, including the distinctive three-note motive for the words ï¿½stupid stuffï¿½ and the sudden change to waltz-time, both of which Gowers returns to throughout the work. The next section, which mourns a dead cow, is in a slow 3/4, subtly changing back into duple time before a dramatic unaccompanied turn for Dankworth featuring an angular vocal line that could have come from a 20th century opera. There is a brief return to the opening style with fragmented lines performed by Dankworth and the saxes, with the ï¿½stupid stuffï¿½ motive played in the background by the brasses.
Then, to lighten the mood, Dankworth invokes Terence to pipe a tune to dance to. The ensuing drinking song, again in 3/4, features wide leaps and exaggerated glissandos in the vocal lines and Dankworth sings it in a comic quasi-operatic style. After a brief return to the section with fragmented lines, guitarist Phil Lee introduces a rolling figure in 12/8 (which combines the duple and triple meters heard earlier). This final section is the most relaxed of the entire work, setting Housmanï¿½s sage advice to Terence to face life as a wise man would, and train for ill and not for good . Gowersï¿½ vocal line is melodic rather than angular, and any necessary minor tension comes through short figures in the horns. And on the final line And I may friend you if I may, in the dark and cloudy day, the quiet ending grows slightly menacing with the final return of the ï¿½stupid stuffï¿½ motive in the reeds.
July 02, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
“I Remember When” is a Debussy-like dreamscape where dusky tenor phrases waft through an enchanted orchestral forest, chased by random gusts of strings and harp. Stan Getz is at the top of his form, blowing effortless, perfectly sculpted lines over the languid, impressionistic framework. This is the art of improvisation at its best, cliché-free, inspired and cerebral — and it offers a unique glimpse into the depths of a brilliant and complicated jazzman’s soul.
May 14, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
March 23, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
Still, a few diehards managed to teach the no-jazz straights how to tap their feet, if not actually step out, and Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet was instructor extraordinaire. The brilliant composer of "Django," "La Ronde," "The Cylinder" and other titles Italian and/or geographical could go for Baroque or back to Bop in a New York minute. He had the knack and the smarts, the elegance and the will, to propel (or maybe drag) others in his wake; just think how he managed to keep players as diverse as Milt Jackson and Connie Kay together, and wearing black tuxedoes, for decades.
Away from the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis mostly stuck to conducting/writing for Orchestra U.S.A., the American Jazz Orchestra, and other lightly avant-garde ensembles. But he also recorded a few sterling examples of what Third Stream Music could be under the right conditions, and the most spirited of these is the brass-drenched, stereo-demonstrative Atlantic album The Golden Striker, a wonderful combination of fanfares à la Gabrielli and complex yet swinging longer pieces from the pianist's trick bag, played by a steady mix of jazz cats and classical gassers. The emblematic title track, driven by Duvivier's dancing basslines and Lewis's own Basie-esque piano (minimal notes and maximal pulse), bespeaks a smiling demeanor. Like clock-tower mechanical figures that mark the onward march of the minutes, Lewis's staccato melody alternately halts and surges, striking brass-choir sparks amid the rhythm section's very "timely" five minutes—a dance of the hours as it were, and a fanciful pleasure for both curious hipsters and "serious music" tourists alike.
January 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
September 09, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
The work has four movements, and while each has a subtitle, they do not appear in the published score, suggesting that Johnson dropped them at some point. Several commentators have mentioned the influence of Paul Hindemith's music on J.J., but the result is still pure Johnson. "Sonnet for Brass" features a Miles Davis solo over various brass textures and combinations (and imagine for a moment: six trumpets and Miles on the same date). The end of Miles's solo is written, and almost immediately Johnson takes over with a short solo, the beginning of which is also written. A short melodic statement by baritone horns leads to an incomplete cadence, ending the section. A short, elegiac-like section leads to "Ballad for Joe," a solo statement by the excellent and highly underrated Joe Wilder, who is as comfortable with a Haydn concerto as a hot solo. The next section is called "Meter and Metal" and features the brass alternating phrases with Osie Johnson's cymbals (his part is fully notated). Before we know it, the tuba begins a fugue which is the highlight of the work. Recasting the pitches of the melody from the beginning of the piece, this is a grand and glorious tour de force with voices all over the place. A short recap leads to a freely played ending with a delicious major chord.
This was certainly one of the highlights of J.J. Johnson's musical career. In the minds of many of his fans, he was a master trombonist, but "Poem for Brass" will always remind us that he was a great composer as well.
August 09, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
As a result, Gunther Schuller's Third Stream -- a merging of the two preexisting streams of classical music and jazz -- is now seen by many as some passing fad that came and went. Yet the principles of Third Stream are as valid today as when Schuller coined the term back in 1957, and the potential of an ongoing rapprochement between these two musical perspectives is undiminished. Moreover, the music the Third Stream produced during its first blossoming, such as this Concertino from 1959 (recorded in this version in 1999 and released on a 2008 CD), continues to serve as eloquent testimony to Schuller's vision.
Schuller's Third Stream compositions sometimes veered more closely to the classical side, while other of his works took on a more pronounced jazz perspective. The Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra emphasizes the jazz side of the House of Schuller. This is also the household of Schuller to some extent, with sons Ed and George contributing their considerable talents to the ensemble, alongside pianist Bruce Barth and vibraphonist Tom Beckham. The music offers wide scope for improvisation, and these players rise to the occasion. But the underlying structures are full of interesting twists, such as the fresh take on 5/4 from the opening movement or the unconventional 13-bar blues of the "Passacaglia." All in all, this performance demonstrates the ongoing health of Third Stream, not just as a label or theory, but as a body of inspired music that merits our attention to this day.
July 28, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
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November 30, 2007 · 2 commentsTags: third stream
November 23, 2007 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
November 23, 2007 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
November 23, 2007 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
November 23, 2007 · 1 commentTags: third stream
November 21, 2007 · 0 commentsTags: third stream
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