The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Jazz Rock/Fusion

The year was 1972. I was moving up from my associate degree at Norwalk Community College to complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of New Haven. It was an exciting time in my life. I enrolled in my junior year classes that fall. Little did I realize that the course I signed up for last-minute, Introduction to Music, would open before me an incredible path of music discovery and direction.

The music teacher started our class by playing sitar in the middle of the room for 30 minutes as he welcomed us to world music and eastern influences. He went on to articulate what he had been taught and experienced as a student himself at Wesleyan University. I was so hooked on what he had to say to us that morning. I decided right then and there that I would minor in music. I took six music classes at UNH, all ably taught by world music professors and alumni of Wesleyan University.

One recording we heard often in my first music class was Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame. The record grew on me as we were permitted uninterrupted, meditative listens during class. I had never heard music so powerfully stated yet so eloquently executed. If it wasn’t for this music class, I may have never discovered jazz rock/fusion at its core from Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Left to right: Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, John...
Left to right: Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Rick Laird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I listen to The Inner Mounting Flame 41 years later, still intrigued by its rich textures, that machine gun guitar from John McLaughlin and the powerful drumming of Billy Cobham. The layered effect of Jerry Goodman on violin, coupled with the driving bass and sharp tones by Jan Hammer. A once in a lifetime collaboration. My favorite song on this recording is, “You Know, You Know”.

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The Mahavishnu Orchestra followed The Inner Mounting Flame with Birds of FireI didn’t think it was possible for jazz rock/fusion from The Mahavishnu Orchestra to soar any higher. It took off for the stratosphere on Birds of Fire. I did my college term paper (which I so wish I still had somewhere) on Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. He afforded me a wonderful interview from his Jamaica Queens apartment. We recorded it on high-end reel to reel on a Scully Tape system at the WNHU-FM radio station. Alas that has been lost to me too, sigh.

 Thankfully I saw The Mahavishnu Orchestra live at Staples High School in the summer of 1973. They were very skilful in their concert. I can still visualize John McLaughlin arched to the heavens playing the double neck guitar. I can also see Billy Cobham playing behind his massive plexiglass drum kit.

A Festival of Serious Fun Awaits You In New Haven

Fest2012_MainPage

Last night we attended the International Festival of Arts and Ideas season preview which is scheduled to take place June 16-30, 2012 all around New Haven. New Haven continues to figure prominently in my world music consciousness.  I minored in music at the University of New Haven in the early 70s. Many of my music professors were graduates of the prestigious Wesleyan University world music program.

This blog post will highlight the major music events announced that interested us. Please note the entire schedule of events which features 900 artists from 17 countries will be available at the end of April on the  official International Festival of Arts and Ideas Web site.

The music events have two major themes. The Music At Dusk series is a paid ticket. This series will be held at the Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall at the Yale School of Music. The music event that intrigues is 34 Punaladas an Argentine tango guitar quartet. They sound delightful and fresh.

The other major theme will be the free concerts, Headliners on the New Haven Green. We have been to several free concerts at this picturesque, historic setting. Its fun to bring a picnic basket, chairs and a blanket as you listen to live music in the fresh open air.

The free concerts we contemplate are:

  1. Asphalt Orchestra – June 17  (7 pm)- I love their rendition of Frank Zappa’s Zomby Woof
  2. The Carolina Chocolate Drops – June 23 (7 pm)
  3. Red Baraat & Noori – June 24 (7 pm) – Red Baraat is a fiery blend of raucous Indian bhangra combined with funky New Orleans brass
  4. Roseanne Cash – June 30 (7 pm) – I am excited that Roseanne Cash will perform The List, a paean to her father, Johnny Cash.
Now that the Litchfield Jazz Festival and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas plans are announced, I have one more 17th annual Connecticut music festival to learn about 🙂  Monday, April 2nd the line up for the Gathering of the Vibes festival in Bridgeport, Ct will be unveiled. Then I will be able to author my, “How I spent my summer music vacation” paper for back to school in the fall 😉

In Pursuit of More Jazz

One of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions is to include more jazz in my life. In pursuit of more jazz the first two concerts of 2012 were jazz events. We saw Tim Berne‘s quartet at the Rubin Museum in the Chelsea district in New York City and the Lionel Loueke Trio at Wesleyan University (for free) in February.

I am hemming and hawing about catching Vijay Iyer at Birdland and Wayne Escoffery at the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in NYC in April. We have decided to pass on the Newport Jazz Festival 2012 due to the cost of a hotel stay being out of our price range.

A jazz festival I want to attend instead is the Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen, Connecticut. I received e-mail notification that tickets are now on sale for the 17th Annual Litchfield Jazz Festival to be held August 10-12. We’ve been spending more time in Litchfield County the past few years as patrons of Infinity Hall. The Litchfield County environs offer a picturesque setting with a rolling pastures set against the Connecticut hills.

Saturday August 11th looks like the best day of events. I am very interested in seeing the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet play.

2012 Festival Line-Up

StagePage – I Love This App!

This is the app I have waited for! I have attended live concerts for 43 years now. So wish I had the StagePage iPhone app from the beginning 🙂

I read about StagePage at evolver.fm. If you are into music apps (and you know you are…) you must follow the evolver,fm Web site. It is published by the definitive cloud music metadata borg, the.echonest.com 

Now I can complete my long overdue task to document all the concerts I have witnessed. It’s just the tool I have looked for to get r done.

I will begin by using it tonight at the Lionel Loueke Trio concert at Wesleyan University.

I should soon know how close I am to achieving that 500th concert. 😉

Great job on this app Alexcel!

Charles Lloyd – Athens Concert

JazzTimes October 2011 coverI have read a perceptive article about Charles Lloyd, “The Fires Are Still Burning”. The JazzTimes story is authored by my favorite jazz music journalist, Ashley Kahn. (Webzine edition can be found here.)

Ashley Kahn is the author of several pivotal jazz books in my collection. I have come to depend upon him to unlock the inner secrets of jazz legends and he has never failed my expectations. His article expands the depth and vision of Charles Lloyd spiritual saxophonist/band leader.

I saw the Charles Lloyd Quartet at the beginning of this year in concert at Wesleyan University. I wrote about that stellar experience in this blog post. Wesleyan University was so taken with my concert review I was awarded two free tickets to a concert of my choice, anytime in the future.

The year got busy on me and I lost sight of Charles Lloyd’s musical output.  ECM released Athens Concert on September 13, 2011 and I meant to get a copy at that time. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.

Fortunately life provides second chances and as luck would have it I found the JazzTimes article so I ordered a copy of Athens Concert. It’s due to arrive today by parcel post from Amazon. I am eager to delve into this double-disc package recorded live at the outdoor Herodion amphitheater at the base of the Acropolis. Every bone in my body tells me this is a monumental work consisting of 18 well articulated, melodic songs.

I’ve never been to Greece nor have I sat in an outdoor stone amphitheater to listen to jazz under the stars. Athens Concert affords me the rare opportunity to carry out both without leaving the comfort of my listening chair.

I can’t wait to report back to you what I have discovered about Athens Concert. (Reserves this space to share with you what I will learn and absorb shortly…)

Charles Lloyd Quartet - Mirror (Album Cover)

Performance Spaces

Yesterday I wrote about Pi Recordings and the importance of their role with avant-garde jazz music. (see Related articles link) Time did not let me write more in-depth about the focused two-week event that Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang are curating at The Stone. The Stone is a non-profit performance space in New York City, dedicated to experimental and avant-garde, in the East Village.

The events planned  by Seth, Yulun and Pi Recordings at The Stone show a cornucopia of avant-garde talent. If we can get it together we want to attend one of the events 8/29-8/31…

Performance Space Events in 2011

Five of the 23 music experiences we attended in 2011 have taken place in performance space settings. Our association with intimate, well designed acoustic spaces commenced in January. My wife and I attended a winter concert at Wesleyan University by The Charles Lloyd Quartet.

We followed that event with the first of two performance space concerts at Stage One Theatre in Fairfield, Ct with Joe Sample on piano in April (we just saw Jimmy Webb in late July at this space).

The next avant-garde performance space event featured the Anthony Braxton Septet at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT in May.

Then just last week we enjoyed the swampadellic music of 7 Walkers at the Nancy Marine Studio in Torrington.

Fingers crossed we can add to the repertoire of performance space and avant-garde jazz  events we saw with what Pi Recordings is curating at The Stone!

Eric Harland, Jazz Drummer

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Eric Du’sean Harland is the most captivating, innovative drummer I have seen perform live. I am still reeling from watching the magic his percussion made with the Charles Lloyd New Quartet this past Friday evening at Wesleyan University.

Here is a YouTube clip that will give you a taste of what I am sweetly savoring 🙂

Eric has an impeccable sense of timing. His command of the drum kit and the sticks is extraordinary to witness.

Visit Eric Harland‘s Web site, it’s a very engaging experience. I am digging the music loop.

You will be hearing and seeing much more from Eric Harland, trust me, he’s the real deal!

Tagi – Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd wrote on his Web site,

Music is a healing force. It has the ability to transcend boundaries, it can touch the heart directly, it can speak to a depth of the spirit where no words are needed. It is a most powerful form of communication and expression of beauty. Whether in context of my “New Quartet” with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, and Eric Harland, or Sangam, with Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland, and more recently with Maria Farantouri, it gives me great joy to make music with each of them. Each time we play together there is a healing wholeness that permeates the atmosphere.

We must go forward, all the great ones that went before us insisted on this. For each generation, it is incumbent upon us to rise up and sing the song – the journey and pursuit is unending. I will always remember that from his death bed Master Higgins told me “We must continue to work on this music,” and as long as I am able, I will continue to do so. Each of us has his own experience, and from that experience, something is transmitted. For me, the purpose of life is to know God and the struggle of spiritual life will go on as long as I have breath. The pursuit and the music are one.

Yours in the music,
Charles Lloyd

The most reflective, uplifting moment of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet concert at Wesleyan University, now two days hence,  was the performance of the spoken word meditation, “Tagi.”

Pianist Jason Moran pulls up another chair to the piano and Charles Lloyd sits next to him swinging the microphone close to allow for his poetic narration to flow from his guiding light voice to our ears and senses.

“Tagi” is a Bhagavida Gita inspired Lloyd composition where Charles Lloyd poetically speaks in a meditative chant-like mantra on top of the arco bass of Mr. Rogers, the delicate piano tinkling of Mr. Moran and the “Om-like” baritone chants of Mr. Harland. The moment that Lloyd’s spiritual narration over the soft accompaniment creates is deeply inspiring yogi.

He knows bliss in the Atman

And wants nothing else.

Cravings torment the heart:
He renounces cravings.
I call him illumined.

Not shaken by adversity,
Not hankering after happiness:
Free from fear, free from anger,
Free from the things of desire.
I call him a seer, and illumined.

The spirituality and the healing power of “Tagi” is further accented by Charles Lloyd on tenor sax. His instrument flows with a cornucopia of colors as we regale in the splendor of the illumination.

Ah at last it has all become abundantly clear, the mirror is a reflection of our inner soul.

Namaste, Charles Lloyd and the New Quartet, until we meet again on the astral plane, Peace be with you 🙂

Charles Lloyd New Quartet @Wesleyan University Review

Rosemary and I spent a memorable evening in Middletown, Connecticut last night enjoying ourselves as patrons of the arts. First we savored a superb dinner at Tuscany Grill on College Street. The pan seared scallops over angel hair pasta served in a spicy but oh so tasty sauce was exquisite. We highly recommend this two-floor Italian restaurant. The service was impeccable. We sat upstairs in the restaurant, overlooking the bar, directly across from the high-definition TV screens mounted on the opposite side wall. CNN was broadcasting special coverage of the breaking developments in Egypt which continued to be unsettling. Change is going to come, but what will it mean for the rest of our planet in terms of next-level co-existence?

We finished our meal quickly to get to the Wesleyan University Crowell Concert Hall to hear a pre-concert talk by Sarah Politz. We got a little lost trying to find the building so we missed Sarah’s presentation. 😦 I wonder if Sarah has slides available and how I might contact her about that information? (I’m open to suggestions…)

The Wesleyan University Center for the Arts eleven-building complex houses classroom and studio facilities in support of arts programs at the university. The CFA Spring 2011 calendar offers a comprehensive choice of  leading, innovative world music performers. Anthony Braxton, noted American composer and jazz musician is a Professor of Music in the Wesleyan Music Department.

The Crowell Concert Hall is an architectural wonder with a breathtaking interior design. The stage is all housed in wood with creative textures of multi-tiered roofs that jut out at different angles. The acoustics of this 400+ seat venue are aesthetically pleasing. This was the perfect venue for the Charles Lloyd New Quartet. I felt like we had lifted and placed into the music setting that served as the backdrop for the ECM live Charles Lloyd Quartet recording Rabo de Nube.

I was finally getting to witness Charles Lloyd after many decades of  silently desiring to see him perform live. Charles Lloyd has a spirituality and presence that is very commanding yet humble. He plays the sweetest saxophone I have ever heard. His sax was constructed of soft white gold. His energy was amazing as he drew us in from the first breath.

Charles Lloyd is magical to watch. His phrasing on the sax captures your senses. He accents his saxophone playing with sweet melodic verse contrasted by spiritual meditation of the highest order. I would have to say he creates a church that effectively communicates each person’s sense of self-worship and faith. I truly loved watching him perform as he lifted his leg and knee to further accent the notes. He is a band leader who delegates telepathically and the quartet responds with instinctual punctuality.

Charles Lloyd is complemented by three super talented jazz musicians. Jason Moran on piano has the touch of the keys on the Steinway that mesmerize your senses. My wife and I have seen Jason play before with his bandwagon at Long Wharf  Theater in New Haven, where he did a recreation of Thelonious Monk‘s famous 1959 Town Hall Concert complete with black and white vintage 35mm footage. He made Charles Lloyd smile several times when he improvised or stretched out on his piano solos.

Charles Lloyd offered a varied music program.  His execution of “tenderness sutras” wove rich tapestries of the heart within us. He invited Jason Moran’s wife, Alicia Hall Moran, who is an extraordinary mezzo-soprano vocalist to accompany their version of “Go Down Moses”. Alicia’s operatic voice added a beautiful, haunting accent to the American Negro spiritual. What really struck me was the irony of hearing this song’s lyrics in light of the revolution of change happening in Egypt at the same moment in time as they played. History repeating history…

 

When Israel was in Egypt’s land: Let my people go,
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.

Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go.

Charles Lloyd, tenor and alto saxophone, flute

Jason Moran, piano

Reuben Rogers, double-bass

Eric Harland, drums and percussion

Alicia Hall Moran, mezzo soprano

The New Charles Lloyd Quartet also features Reuben Rogers on stand up double bass. He was very relaxed in his role yet his ability to slap the notes or strum the strings earned your immediate respect.  I especially loved how into his distance he would go. taking us on that journey with him. His double bass I think was made of deep cherry red wood and it produced an eloquent resonance.

Eric Harland blew me away with his inventive drumming style. His technique and sensibilities captivated my attention as soon as he started at his drum kit. He would rest a folded over tambourine on the high hat or use the sets of bells he had on draped on either side of his drums. He had a really cool way of using his drum sticks to accent the music. He would drag the tip of the drum stick across the cymbal top at just the right point in the selection. He was never overpowering when he drummed but you paid strict attention to his drum shots and rolls as they were all very unique

Charles Lloyd made time after the concert to meet with fans and sign autographs. I was thrilled to meet him. He signed my concert program and the CD cover of his latest CD, which we heard a few songs from that night, The Mirror . I thanked him for his healing music. He folded his hands in prayer and bowed ever so slightly. I left his company elated and reassured being in his spiritual presence.


World Music and Wesleyan University, Daily Post 2011 #8

“When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder
I can think at all

And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none

I can read the writing on the wall

“Kodachrome”  – Lyrics by Paul Simon, Copyright 1972, Paul Simon Music

High school didn’t teach me very much. College was the real education, especially when I minored in music at the University of New Haven, from September 1972 – June 1974. I was exposed to audio experiences from music professors who were graduates of Wesleyan University‘s World Music program. Their knowledge of world music sounds, cultures and instruments expanded my horizons in ways I never imagined before.  I took courses on the music of the Far East, where we studied such countries as India, China, Tibet, Bali and Japan. We studied Black Music, diving deep into the eras of jazz, deciphering John Coltrane and gaining a full appreciation for Miles Davis. We studied the music of Africa and its relationship with American blues and jazz.  My favorite book we discussed and read was Savannah Syncopators: African retention in the blues by Paul Oliver . We also studied the music of Europe, especially the music of the gypsies and Django Reinhardt.

The term “world music” was coined in the 1960′s at Wesleyan University by ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown.Robert E. Brown, who passed away in 2005, was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from University of California Los Angeles. He was appointed assistant professor in Wesleyan’s Music Department in 1961 and joined the tenured ranks of the faculty in 1966. He introduced Carnatic (South Indian) music to Wesleyan.

Brown wrote that he: “… invented the term ‘world music’ … to avoid using … ‘ethnomusicology’ for a new graduate program we were cooking up, and to emphasize music and music performance as the core of the program, as opposed to musicological research.” (Robert Brown, letter to the editor, “His fault,” Folk Roots (208 Oct. 2000), 1-2.).

I also had Paul Simon to thank as he championed world music in exciting, innovative ways.  Simon’s relationship with world music began with  Bridge Over Troubled Water, which featured an Andean song called el Condor Pasa.  Then in 1972, when his first solo album Paul Simon was released he created the reggae influenced hit, “Mother and Child Reunion”. He continued on that path by adding layers, textures and world music influences by recording much of Graceland in South Africa.

Paul Simon continued to imbue world music cultures into his music, for example he moved on to the music of Brazil with The Rhythm of the Saints recording.

Another famous Wesleyan graduate, John Perry Barlow has worked with Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture to create an online music archive to catalog all the music of Brazil. It is an open source initiative that I heartily embrace as it will make all the music available for free download.