All posts by Kevin Vallene

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