Sunday, November 30, 2008

Vietnamese Music School in Little Saigon

This is one of the reasons that I love living in the greater Los Angeles area. The amount of music that we can take in is almost unlimited. I've been interested in Vietnamese music for a while now and would seek out a chance to study it if I had the time. Check out the Dan Bau, it's amplified! Instead, I'll be content with the following for now:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Terry Riley Experience

On Monday November 24 John M. Kennedy directed the CSULA New Music Ensemble in a program titled the Terry Riley Experience, the name referring to the two showcase pieces, Terry Riley's In C and Eric Honour's Haze.

The first half of the performance began with Madelyn Byrne's Rain, Sea, and Sky, a piece for piano, vibraphone, and computer generated sounds. With the spare piano and the combined resonance of the bowed vibraphone and the recorded sounds this piece leaned towards the minimalist portion of the program. The totality of sound was the key here, with the vibraphone blending into the synthesised sound and the piano floating over the top, with no one sound source dominating. The harmonic stasis of the piece underscored the serenity suggested by the title.

Next was the piece for two pianos by Emma Lou Diemer, Homage to Cowell, Crumb, and Czerny. The piece showcased various extended piano techniques loosely linked to the composers that the it was dedicated to. Between these techniques and the orchestral quality of two pianos playing together the composer achieved a particularly massive sound. As in the Byrne piece, the pure sound of the instruments was up front here. With few melodic and harmonic reference points the piece was a nice contrast with the first.

After a quick set change a short film on guitarist Jimi Hendrix introduced one of the pieces that the evening's program was named for, Haze by Eric Honour. Loosely using Hendrix' Purple Haze as source material Honour essentially deconstructed the guitarist's music spreading motives and gestures across the different instruments. Particularly striking was the use of the cello as "feedback". Each motive was given ample time to develop, with the piece giving the listener a displaced Hendrix feel without overtly using material from it's source.

Last in the program was Terry Riley's In C. This is a piece that really doesn't need much comment at this point. However, the ensemble performed it well, dealing with the obvious challenges that the piece presented. Kennedy ably directed the group, managing the subtle changes in the music.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's been a while

It's been a while since I've played straight ahead jazz, but I got to last night at CSULA's Fall Jazz Combos concert. Our combo was led by Cathy Segal-Garcia and included singers Margaret Adegboro, Bill Sinclair (primarily the combo's piano player), and Priscilla Stroud. The rhythm section was David Askren (bass), Omar Chaudhry (drums), myself, and JoAn Kunselman and Sinclair (piano).

The set started with Autumn Leaves played rubato between myself and Segal-Garcia. A nice little vamp in time led to each singer taking part of a chorus with solos by Kunselman and myself. Ending the song were some very nice three part harmonies between the singers.

Next up was a piece very closely associated with Billie Holiday, Lover Man, sung by Stroud. On this one the rhythm section created a slow groove that allowed her to dig in and get into the meat of the song. Bill and myself took solos, with some great rhythmic punctuations by Choudhry. Back to the bridge and out, with Priscilla really driving her point home.

While not usually a singer, Bill Sinclair decided to give it a go and sang When In Rome, styled after the great collaboration between Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. I got to play a solo over the bridge on this one.

Our set ended with a version of Sonny Rollin's St. Thomas, with original lyrics in Nigerian by Adegboro. This had a little bit of a fast bossa feel, with the choruses moving up in half steps. Margaret really sounded great singing in her native language and really brought a feeling of fun to the tune. A nice, upbeat way to end the set!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New MC76 Blog and Gig Tonight!

My band Monte Carlo 76 has a new blog here. Go over there, check it out and contribute!

Also, tonight we are playing at East Side Luv in Los Angeles. This is a great place to see live music with a great look, particularly the sunken bar. The price is right: free.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A little family reunion...

Tuesday November 4 marked a little reunion of sorts as I played with Olmeca, whose group includes Gomez Comes Alive! on bass. This was like a microcosmic Slowrider reunion, even with a Slowrider song being played, Con Respeto. It was great to hear that Olmeca has stayed very true to his aesthetic of hard-hitting, political, bilingual hip hop and it was great to experience the group from the inside out.

Due to a family emergency for the group's guitar player Alex Hernandez I was asked to fill in at the last minute so the set was very abbreviated. This was a concert that was part of the 21 Day Fast for Human Rights encampment and march at Olvera St. The march was today, with the hunger strikers breaking their fast as well. Although the weather was cold and we had to compete with election day, it was a good set. Olmeca started by rapping to a backing track, to which Gomez and drummer Josh Duran joined in. From there I joined in on The Product (a song to which I contributed to originally), Batalla, Remember Your Foundation (on which we were joined by singer Laura Rann), and ending with Con Respeto. I felt good about the set, at the very least making it possible for the band to be part of the event in Alex's absence.

It's after a gig like this that I reflect on how music and life can take us all in different directions, but we'll often return to a core or center, if only briefly. With Gomez, Olmeca and myself I believe that core exists strengthened by so many years of playing, traveling, and spending time together.