A Look Back At The 50th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Photo Credit: The University of Idaho Photo Services
Preston Snyder

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is held at the University of Idaho and is a festival inviting student musicians and school jazz bands from around the Pacific Northwest to compete for awards, participate in workshops and clinics put on by professional jazz musicians and experience concerts featuring famous musicians and bands. Started in 1967, this year marked the 50th anniversary of the festival. The Univeristy of Idaho made a promotional video commemorating the 50th anniversary:

The Saturday night concert started with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Big Band, loud and proud, led by Vern Sielert. Featuring a variety of guests, including Jason Marsalis on Vibraphone, Claudio Roditi on trumpet, and Julia Keefe singing, the band played a variety of songs including a song called 50 and Counting written by Vern and closed with a loud and proud arrangement of Lionel Hampton’s Flying Home featuring Jason Marsalis, in the style of Hampton, and a dancing trumpet section.

The set then transitioned to the best student soloists from the day and each group played their best songs from their set. Then they all came together for a final group performance and one lucky soloist, Max Zhang from Semiahmoo Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, was named Outstanding Instrumental Soloist for bass and received a University of Idaho scholarship from Avista Utilities.

After a brief intermission, the stage was reset and, in an outfit far more colorful than the other two performances before her, Esperanza Spaulding took to the stage, had a casual conversation with the audience as she tuned her bass, and then began to play and sing. She was joined by Justin Tyson on drums and Matthew Stevens on guitar. She played a variety of different styles and genres from an Argentinian standard to a mash-up of Humpty Dumpty by Chick Corea and All The Kings Horses by Aretha Franklin because “Those songs just sound like they should go together.” Then Justin left the stage leaving Esperanza and Matthew to play a slow, free version of Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair. Justin came back and the trio played a loud and engaging Endangered Species. Finally, after asking for some participation, Esperanza Spaulding led a rousing finale of Nina Simone’s Forbidden Fruit. The trio took their bows, the lights came up and as the they walked backstage that was the conclusion of the 50th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

For more information about The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and The University of Idaho visit:

http://www.uidaho.edu/class/jazzfest

At 75, Chick Corea Still Has That Magic Touch

Image result for chick corea

Chick Corea celebrated his 75th birthday this year but the acclaimed jazz pianist is still going strong with a number of live performances this year. Corea was on the road all summer and has settled into an eight week stay at the Blue Note Club in Greenwich Village, New York. This year he has played with 15 different bands that have played music from every phase of Corea’s career.

 

Chick Corea was born in 1941 in Massachusetts and had music influence from his father who was a bebop trumpet player. Corea gravitated to Latin music in High School and was also influenced by Miles Davis. He got the chance to work with Davis in the 1960’s and helped pioneer jazz rock fusion with records like In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Corea also formed the group Return to Forever which would become his most successful venture and still records with the likes of pianist Herbie Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton.

 

Through his numerous groups and bands, Corea finds great importance in collaboration. “The particular music that I love is not just casual interaction with other musicians, but actually creative interactions with other musicians,” Corea says. “It means everything”. The love of creation is what he says keeps him going.

 

You can read more about Corea’s past and influence on jazz at NWPR.org:

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/13/501592227/at-75-chick-corea-still-has-that-magic-touch

Hyperdrive on the Piano

 

The Ruthless Shapes of Paradise

A hyperpiano is, for the most part, the same as any other piano with one difference. Instead of just hitting the keys to create sound, a multitude of different objects are placed on different strings of the piano. Many of these sounds seem to come right out of an eerie horror movie soundtrack.

While playing the piano, everything from copper bars, rubber blocks, cow bells and even plastic cassettes can be placed on the strings as well as slid up and down for different effects. For example, by placing a rubber block across the strings, higher pitched sounds are created. Sliding the block will make audible rubbing or whipping sounds. By listening to just the sounds being created by these objects, it’s hard to tell that you are actually listening to a piano. In fact, it sometimes sounds like you are listening to another instrument like a guitar or banjo. These different sounds can also be combined with playing the piano traditionally, which adds structure to the music and creates a more cohesive piece.

Hyperpianos are not widely used throughout the musical world and this could be attributed to their odd sound as well as the risk of damaging the piano. Strings are fragile and placing and rubbing objects on them could ruin them. Specific sizes of objects are recommended as to not damage the strings. This recommendation comes from the creator and main player of the instrument Denman Maroney, who lends his sound to Steve Olson’s album, The Ruthless Shapes of Paradise.

Despite its relative obscurity, the hyperpiano is able to create numerous sounds by changing which objects are on the strings. While it may not work as well in mainstream jazz, it could find a home in Avant-Garde Jazz or by providing the soundtrack for the next blockbuster horror or suspense film. If you are in the mood for some truly experimental jazz, check out the hyperpiano. You can learn more about it and the different techniques used to create its unique sound at Maroney’s website:

http://www.denmanmaroney.com/Hyper.html

In Los Angeles, An Immigrant’s Dream Becomes A Jazz Hub

In the middle of recording his debut album, jazz vocalist Joon Lee received a phone call out of nowhere that made him stop, quite literally, in his tracks. A dark, run-down karaoke bar in the corner of a Little Tokyo strip mall was on the market — would he like to have a look?

It was the fall of 2009, and Lee was still a relative unknown in the Los Angeles jazz community. A Korean immigrant, he had been studying architecture in New York City when he heard a recording of pianist Chick Corea and vocalist Bobby McFerrin. He promptly quit school and moved across the country to study jazz singing.

Lee had also fantasized about opening a small performance venue, though initially he didn’t find the karaoke bar particularly captivating. “The only really attractive thing about it was that the elevator was really close,” he recalled. “That way, the musicians can bring their gear.” The timing couldn’t have been worse, either — it was, after all, the middle of a major economic recession.

But the appeal proved too powerful. He gave himself only two months to redesign the room. “I had so little time and so little money,” he said. “The only stuff that I bought was the ice machine, toilet bowls, stuff like that.” Even the elevator proved unreliable. Continue reading In Los Angeles, An Immigrant’s Dream Becomes A Jazz Hub

Kate Bush, As Heard By This Dude Who Sings Jazz: A Conversation

The singular vocalist Theo Bleckmann released a new disc today dedicated to the songs of English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. In other words, it’s an album where one inimitable singer with a small but dedicated fan base reinterprets another.

There’s not much in the way of ding-ding-a-ling on Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush. But there is, perhaps, a jazz aesthetic: It grooves, and makes room for interactive improvisation from a talented band. Have a listen to the first track, “Running Up That Hill” (the full album is on Spotify too):

I sensed a number of sympathies between Bleckmann and Bush, starting with their mutual taste for gorgeous idiosyncrasy. But like many Americans, I wasn’t too familiar with the source material. So I wrote to a big Kate Bush fan who happens to be my colleague: the esteemed pop critic Ann Powers, of NPR Music’s The Record. Here’s the discussion we had, in four emails: Continue reading Kate Bush, As Heard By This Dude Who Sings Jazz: A Conversation

Translating Ether To Paper

The headline of this feature story in the Green Bay Press-Gazette is “Saxophonist transcribes jazz to printed notes.” Especially if you’re not familiar with the mechanics of the craft, it is a rather amazing thing:

“There will be one measure with 65 notes in it,” he said. “First of all, I have to write out every note and then divide each beat into however many notes until it hits on the next beat.

“And you have to do this in real time. So I’m doing it by pressing the pause button.”

Now, the musicians reading this are saying, “big deal,” and wondering why this is the basis of a feature story. For most jazz improvisers, transcribing recorded solos is a valuable way of studying the greats in depth. Writing down every single note and rest in even the simplest solo forces you to listen closely and repeatedly. And because musical notation has inherent limitations — how to represent that trumpet growl, or that tricky flurry of notes? — you must translate with great precision. (Sixty-five notes in a measure seems like a bit of hyperbole, but you get the picture.) Continue reading Translating Ether To Paper

Why A Jazz Festival Is Asking Musicians To ‘Do It Yourself’

The Undead Music Festival has grown every year. In 2012, it outgrew New York City.

This jazz festival typically seizes small pockets of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, building immersive urban playgrounds where largely young audiences flood venues with colored admissions bracelets. It is jazz as both heady experience and social happening. But on Friday’s Night of the Living DIY, the venues scatter across five Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as a half-dozen cities across the U.S.

Still, the festival’s expansion — and its use of “do-it-yourself” spaces rather than traditional clubs — is really a way of asking audiences to think smaller, to look closer to home. To turn off (computers and stereos), tune out (from your MP3 collection) and drop in (on a snug, local gathering).

As the head of Capitalbop, an organization that seeks to engage local jazz audiences in Washington, D.C., and presents informal shows in service of that goal, I find this development exciting. Search & Restore, one of the groups responsible for Undead, has decided to feature living-room venues simply because they are already thriving: A quiet movement of artist-produced, anti-corporate jazz concerts is creeping across the country. Here are a few of the motivations that I’ve perceived for this idea, and for Undead’s decision to embrace it.

1. Jazz thrives in unmediated spaces. The venues at the Night of the Living DIY range from artist studios to musicians’ lofts. Some don’t have event permits, let alone liquor licenses. One, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is the living room of Search & Restore director Adam Schatz’s friends. In these settings, “You’re just in a room with the music, and that’s what’s important,” Schatz told me earlier this week. “On the artistic side, that’s usually where it starts — people playing this music in their homes — and it’s kind of cool to perform it in a similar, raw setting. Not just physically raw, but emotionally raw: There’s a kind of vulnerability to [these spaces] that I think really magnifies the humanity of the music, which is what makes it so special.” Continue reading Why A Jazz Festival Is Asking Musicians To ‘Do It Yourself’

Crashing On Couches To Talk To Musicians

Usually, it’s the musicians who go on tour, and the journalists who write about them for local publications. But one journalist is taking to the road to talk to musicians where they live.

Jason Crane produced 374 episodes of The Jazz Session, a podcast of interviews with top jazz musicians. Last week, he announced he was going on a “World Tour.”

He interviewed musicians in cities large and small throughout the eastern and southeastern United States, all the while reading and writing original poetry. (He hoped to eventually make the tour actually international, or at least to go west of the Mississippi River.) He had only a loose itinerary; he planned to buy a Greyhound bus pass and eventually end up in New Orleans, crashing on couches of friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Crane, 38, once supported himself as a working soprano saxophonist and later, as the station manager at Jazz90.1 in Rochester, N.Y. He recently moved to New York City in part to be closer to the jazz scene. So why is he taking to the road again? Over e-mail last week, I sent him a few questions to find out, and he was happy to respond: Continue reading Crashing On Couches To Talk To Musicians