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 →
Oliver Jones — the greatest living jazz musician in Canada — played his hometown Montreal International Jazz Festival, one of the world’s largest. “Oliver Jones Plays Oliver Jones,” read the bill. It was the first time, he said in a conversation earlier last week, that the pianist, now 77, would be playing strictly his own tunes for an entire set.
The show was an affirmation of his legacy, in Canada and abroad, and — backed by his trio of Jim Doxas on drums and Eric Lagacé on bass — he played brilliantly into the night. Highlights included “One More Time,” the swinging title track of his 2006 release, and “Lights of Burgundy,” a wistful ballad recorded in 1985 and named after the poor, black neighborhood in Montreal where he grew up, Little Burgundy.
For the final song, however, Jones strayed from the script. He chose the late pianist Oscar Peterson‘s powerful “Hymn to Freedom,” which wound up a fitting conclusion to the show. Earlier that evening, Jones had presented Canadian vibraphonist Peter Appleyard with the Festival’s Oscar Peterson Award, a prize bestowed to a great Canadian jazz musician. Jones received the award himself in 1990. Continue reading →