Pianist, keyboardist, and composer Michael”B.B.” Butkus-Bomier attended the Terence Blanchard Ensemble concert October 21st at the Wisconsin Union Theater and reviews it below. If you went, do you agree with Michael? Let’s hear from you.
by Michael BB
Post-modern jazz has the same aesthetic problems to solve as any other music, jazz or otherwise, and these unsolved difficulties were all on prominent display at the Union Theater’s Jazz Series performance of the Terence Blanchard Quintet Friday evening. The essential elements of Western music are, of course, melody, harmony, rhythm, and tone color. The choices the Blanchard group made in these key areas left me dismayed and disappointed.
Great, great show last night. Briefly, here are my impressions.
As expected, Jackie Allen’s quartet was the highlight: fantastic interplay among the musicians, great solos, and Jackie’s wonderful stage presence.
Randal Harrison’s string trio played a nice mix of originals, standards, and unusual selections like Jimmy Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Terrific musicianship, highly entertaining, and perfectly sandwiched between the louder opening and closing acts. I’ve never been a big fan of jazz violin but Randal converted me, I’ll definitely see him again.
The one disappointment of the evening was Joel Adam’s group. They played 2 songs, the first lasted 50 minutes. In general, the solo’s lasted longer than their ideas, and the soloist was often overpowered by the rhythm section which was too loud and seemed to be in its own world. Great musicians but not a great performance.
As for the setting, it was my first time at Art in the Barn and I loved everything about it except those darn flies. Next time I’ll make sure to bring a hat.
Last night I met many new friends and joined with them to make music; I went to the second occasion of Laurie Lang’s new Improvisation Music Workshop.
I had a bit of trouble finding the Washington Hotel Coffee Room (look for Lakeside Fibers – it’s in the back) so I was surprised it was nearly full when I arrived 20 minutes into it. I settled into a table with a breeze next to an open window (no AC so a little warm in there), and shortly all the tables were occupied. People kept coming and soon the audience spilled out onto the deck that overlooks the beautiful grassy area leading up to the lake.
That’s a lot of people because it’s not a small room. It’s large and open, but cozy and with excellent acoustics because of the extensive wood. This picture only captures about half of the room.
Maybe it was the cozy atmosphere, or Laurie’s friendly way of integrating everyone into the evening, but the majority of the audience participated at one point or another. There were several pianists, another bassist besides Laurie, a trumpet, a number of saxophones, a flute, guitar, and many singers. Of course everyone wasn’t up there at the same time. Some groups were singers mixed with instruments, others purely instrumental or purely vocal.
The theme was single line songs: someone states a line and each person adds a layer with the last soloing over the top. Each song was different. Flavors ranged from bluesy, to classical, to world/African (at least to my ear).
Except for being more creative, and expertly facilitated, it felt somewhat like sitting around a campfire singing songs. There was a palpable sense of group spirit and goodwill, and I left with a good feeling.
Thanks, Laurie, for putting together the Improv Music Workshop (IMW). I feel confident speaking for everyone when I say we all had lots of fun and are looking forward to the next one in 2 weeks.
Last week I published a review of Robin Kelley’s, “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original” and links to reviews by the NY Times and NPR. Tomorrow the book will be reviewed by Kevin Lynch on WORT. The Madison Music Collective sent in this link to a fascinating interview of Robin Kelley, and the following notice:
Tune into WORT (89.9 FM) this coming Monday, 5/17, at 3:00 PM when “All Around Jazz” host Alex Wilding-White presents Kevin Lynch’s review of the new biography, “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original” by Robin D.G. Kelley, Professor of American Studies, Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California.
Lynch, arguably the best jazz writer ever to grace the pages of Madison newspapers, describes Kelley’s work as a “towering accomplishment” and “perhaps the most powerful and moving jazz biography ever written.” With production by Wilding-White, Lynch’s review will be interspersed with the timeless music of Monk.
REVIEW POSTPONED ————-
WORT host Alex Wilding-White just called to say the Monk book review will be postponed one week to 3 p.m. Monday May 24, due to problems in gaining studio access for the production work for the piece, which will include Monk musical interludes.
If you were planning on today for the review, “Well You Needn’t” — to quote a composer of note. However Alex always does a good show.
Stay tuned to 89.9.
I just finished a great book: “Thelonious Monk, The Life and Times of an American Original.” Published in 2009, this exhaustively researched and highly detailed book goes beyond caricatures to reveal a complex, caring , family man deeply devoted to music. It paints a vivid picture of Monk, the jazz scene in New York City in the 40′s and 50′s, and the times in which he lived (the author is a history professor). Occasionally there were more details of record dates and gigs than I needed, but the book is definitely compelling; I tore through the 450 pages in 3 days (I skipped the 120 page appendix of notes, acknowledgments, and assorted material).
Here’s an except from a review on Amazon:
….in this well written book the author digs deeply into Monk’s life, starting with his upbringing, his family ties and influence, his early life, jail,and his mental and physical disorders, his one true love in life, Nellie,and his many friends (Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter for example), and associates in the music world.
This book shows why Monk–was Monk. His mother’s encouragement to follow his own path, early in Monk’s life, set him on his own individual path. The many people who misunderstood Monk (Bill Evans,for example,thought Monk’s musical ability was because he was not exposed to Western music forms-not true), which led to the popular myth of Monk being some sort of musical savant,who had little knowledge of the “outside” world. In reality, Monk worked very hard at his music, and even harder to achieve his own individualistic sound. As for his perceived eccentricities, in this book Monk is shown to be a devoted family man, a man who was generous to his friends, but was also incredibly honest in his opinions and at times was brutally honest to a fault. His mental illness, and it’s effects on not only his music, but his life are also brought into context with his views on people and life. In addition, readers get a good view of jazz, in N.Y. City, in the forties and fifties, into the sixties, and the many musicians who Monk employed, and played with on the bandstand.
The complete review and many more are available on Amazon. Here is a NY Times book review, and here is a review from NPR. The book is available at the Madison Public Library.
by Joan Wildman
The NY Times has a very positive review in this morning’s paper about Floriculture, a group led by former Madison pianist, Carl Maguire, relating to their Tuesday evening’s performance in Brooklyn. The group is celebrating their new CD, SIDED SILVER SOLID. The music on the CD has a decidedly avant guard flavor, but with Carl’s intelligently composed structures readily apparent throughout. It is very good! Let’s hope that Carl and his group can do a Madison performance soon!