Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dave Liebman at Birdland Jazz Club

Last night, a colleague and I went to the Birdland Jazz Club on West 44th Street, not far from Broadway. This is a really nice space with a good bar, good if not great food, and an OK wine list. The band was Dave Liebman (saxophones), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). They opened with the howard Dietz song "You and the Night and the Music", then a Brecker original, "Moontide", then a Leibman original, "All About Bird". Dave Liebman is a very accomplished player, though I found his solos a bit "notey", as my old music teacher used to say. But he has enormous fluidity and a fiery attack that wins you over in the end. There were moments of magical interplay between him and Brecker, especially on "All About Bird", which seemed to quote every Charlie Parker tune you have ever heard.

But the greatest fascination for me was watching and listening to Marc Copland, a very accomplished pianist with a distinctive style that I found quite captivating. His solos seemed to combine knottiness with lyricism in a quite effortless way, playing lushly extended chords with a sparsity and precision that was more like Ravel or Messiaen than Evans or Jarrett. The contrapunctual playing on "All About Bird" sounded like a bebop Bach invention, and his altered chord voicings on the fabulous version of "Sidewinder" that closed the set gave the song a new lease of life for me. The rest of the rhythm section certainly carried their water, with Drew Gress on bass never flagging and providing some very nice chromatic work on "Moontide", while Billy Hart's percussion was always innovative, and he played some nicely judged solos.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beethoven and Goebbels at the Ordway Theater

Last night, Sandy and I got to hear three different orchestras at an event that is part of the SPCO's 50th International Anniversary Chamber Music Festival.

The evening opened with Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing the Emperor (Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5) with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. I am not a huge Beethoven fan, but I do like this rather unusual piece, with the very grandiose intro and the rather wonky rhythm in the Rondo. Pierre-Laurent's playing was excellent, as always, and received a standing ovation.

This was followed by Heiner Goebbels' "Songs of Wars I Have Seen", played by a double orchestra: the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This 26-movement opus blends three different elements: readings from Gertrude Stein, some period instrument playing from the Elizabethan and Baroque periods, plus some more modern music, with jazz and Asiatic influences. Hard to describe and has to be experienced, but really a very accessible and exciting work.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year and other musical events

Sandy and I saw in the New Year at the Dakota Jazz Club, as usual. There was a double bill of Moore by Four, followed by the Steeles. Great vocals, great food, and plenty to drink.

Last night, we went to Julie Johnson's CD release concert and party at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis. This was an awesome event, with many guest musicians, mostly featuring tracks from her new album, Arrest. Memorable arrangements included "Lunfardo" (Piazzolla), Assobio a jato (Villa-Lobos), and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (Leadbelly), and Julie also played an original composition "The Removed" and a flute improvisation. The Antonelli Hall was full, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Additional players included Brian Roessler on bass, and Drew Druckrey on guitar.

I am continuing my studies in jazz piano at MacPhail this year. I am not playing much guitar; the winter is not being very kind to my hands. Hopefully, by the spring, I will have the strength and the time to return to stringed instruments.