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  #1  
Old Jul 2, 2003, 12:10 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Bernie Arai.

I'm sure this won't come as news to all you folks who are actually in the loop and get out of the house once in a while but Bernie Arai is really the shizzit, ain't he? I caught him at performance works with he band To Be Ornette To Be, and my goodness gracious gosh...

It seemed to me that Bernie had taken the very best from players like Billie Higgins and Ed Blackwell, while at the same time speaking in a voice entirely his own. He's got yards of techique and can be very sensitive, and yet he's not afraid to hit the damn drums once in a while.

I haven't had a chance to really listen to Bernie since we played in Fred Stride's band together back in the mid nineties. He was good then, but he was one among several promising young guys, all good players. But he's grown into a truly exceptional musician,really amazing.

I was mightily impressed.
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  #2  
Old Jul 2, 2003, 12:33 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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P.S.

I'm adding this as a post script because I want to make sure it is not misconstued as a criticism of To Be Ornette Be, who I thought were absolutely fabulous.

But I'm curious to know in what way CJBS regards this as NOT "cookie-cutter retro jazz."

I did a fair bit of listening, on an analytical level, to the more "progressive" stuff at this year's festival. I want to make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that I heard some stuff I liked very much. Got that? I LIKED it! This is not criticism, it's analysis.

I'm curious to know how people who define this music as "new" arrive by that definition. I heard a lot of devices common to early and mid-twentieth century classical music, mostly the use of scales and harmonic constructions without clear key-centers. Some "world music" rhythmic stuff. Some "musique concrete' style distortion techniques from the DJ's. Some of it I liked, some of it didn't do much for me.

I'm curious to know how one would define,say, re-interpretations of music which is 40 years old ( Ornette Coleman's. And please, yes I know this is NOT how Bernie presents his music, I'm talking about how other people perceive it) as "new" and re-interpetations of music that is 45 years old (some of Hugh Fraser's quintet things, for instance ) as "retro-jazz."

My own pet theory is that music which uses devices associated with functional triadic harmony ( up to and including the late romantic period and maybe even into Debussy and the French Impressionists) is perceived by young people raised on the esthetics of punk rock as sounding like elevator music, whereas music which employs devices like diminished and whole tone scales INDEPENDANT of any underlying harmonic structure sounds "edgier" and more appealing.

I like both things. I think where we get into trouble is when we start attaching value judgements to purely musical devices and implying that one thing is somehow hipper and more valid than another.
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  #3  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 02:24 AM
John Korsrud John Korsrud is offline
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Hi John
Howyadoin'

I think I know the general point your are making and it is a good one (Ornette's been doing his thing since the late-50's, not to mention the whole AACM, etc.)- but at the risk of sounding like a uptight dweeb - you will occasionally develop arguments in this forum against fictitious people saying fictitious things so you can argument against them.

I have no problem defending MY views. I love talking art philosophy. But it's difficult to respond when you present, what seem like, your opinions (or anti-opinions) as by others. For instance:
Who, exactly, do you know says Ornette's music is "new"?
Which CJBS said To Be Ornette To Be WASN"T "cookie-cutter retro jazz"? Which "progressive" concerts are "people" calling "new"?

PS.
I whole-heartedly agree with you last sentence.

PSS.
I would be curious to know which "progressive" concerts you liked and disliked.

PSSS
Over the past year or so I've appreciated your submissions to this forum and your willingness to be a provocateur and initiate discussions. I wish more people would...I love the rare community involvement, an arena to exchange ideas and the simple mindless entertainment.
love and kisses
jk
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  #4  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 09:09 AM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Hi John,

Answering your questions last to first.

I'm kind of having fun being a shit disturber. You've spent time in Europe and know how much people there love to argue and split hairs. I think sometimes people in Vancouver are a little too polite in this area.

"Which 'progressive' concerts I liked:

I really dug George Lewis' gig with the N.O.W. Orchestra. No matter how 'out' his stuff gets it still seems to me to be a logical extension of things that have gone before, and even when there are no overtly 'bluesy' elements in it, it is still 'informed' by that tradition. if that makes any sense.

Really wanted to see NOJO, but couldn't make it. I've seen both them and Sam Rivers before (though not together). I'm a sucker for Michael Occhipinti's occasional attacks of Mingus-itus.

Anything which featured the presence of Han Bennick. As my pal Roy Sluyter says, you can always tell a Dutchman, but you can't tell him much.

Reeds/Storrs/Samworth/Freedman/Carter. I hadn't seen Bruce Freedman in years. I played in Al Mathesons lab band at VCC with J.P. Carter and was interested to see what he was up to now. With these guys I could see what sort of practical and esthetic choices I would have to be making on the stand if I were playing in this idiom myself. And it gave me an idea of how much fun that could be.

It seems to me the actual physical and practical process of playing jazz remains the same, regardless of style. The choices made are simply a matter of a general communal acceptance within the ensemble of where the performance is going and what materials will be used. I know in the things I've been involved in this is almost never discussed, but only implied, and relies heavily on the players one has chosen to work with, rather than any kind of micro-management of the actual performance. And of course the idea that one could somehow replicate a performance by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1958 ( short of actually transcribing the music note for note) is absolutely ridiculous. You can never step in the same river twice, even when it's a 'hard bop' river.

I remember when I was about 17, reading an interview with Mingus in which he recounted a conversation with Duke Ellington. Mingus was suggesting that he and Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie get together and make an avante guarde album and show these upstarts how it was done. Duke said something like" oh let's not go that far back. Let's not be so old fashioned. Let's just make a nice 'modern' record."

At the time I thought Duke was just being sarcastic, but later, when I learned a little theory and music history, I saw that he was dead serious. Many of the devices used in 'progressive' jazz are borrowed from early twentieth century classical music.

The perception of Ornette's music as 'new'.
This is really something that I pick up from conversations in the audience,both overheard and ones that I was involved in. My point is that there is sometimes a perception among the general public of a continuum in jazz going from 'square' ( Dixieland) to hip (be-bop) to hipper (post-bop) to excruciatingly cool and exclusionary( avante guarde, outside etc.) It's the same kind of thinking that can't accept the fact that Brahms was a contemporary of Wagner. And even among some musicians, I sometimes get the impression that Albert Ayler is considered hipper than Alphonse Picou.

My assumption that CJBS considered Ornette To Be "not cookiecutter" was arrived at by the fact that Bernie's band was presented at Performance Works, a very high profile venue ( I'd dearly love to play it myself someday before I die. I have a whole pile of compositions I never play at my (outdoor) festival gigs simply because they need to be presented in the way that God meant jazz to be played,ie indoors, with a waiter standing by to hand you a cocktail). I just realized I'm totally full of shit though. Just three days before Bernie's gig I saw Hugh Fraser and Patience Higgins at the Roundhouse, playing some pretty straight ahead stuff. So much for that sweeping generalization.

Oh well. I never said I was smart. Just opinionated.

All told, though, I probably saw less music this year than any other, partly because my teaching schedule prevented it (mid-terms at Mount Royal) and because my life is in total chaos because I'm leaving town for a few years. And a lot of players here in town like you and Coat Cooke and Kate Hammett-Vaughn and some others, practically the only time I see you is at the festival. I really wish I could have got to more stuff.

I did see Sharon Minemoto at Bernie's gig though. Sitting with Jill Lebeck, who I didn't recogize. People really need to send me notification of change of hairstyles so I don't embarrass myself like that.

p.s.

Did you see Ronnie Thompson doing the goofy white-guy dance onstage at the Preservation Hall gig? Now THAT was outside.
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  #5  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 10:02 AM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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P.P.S.

I just realized I maybe need to clarify one point, regarding the "step in the same river twice' thing. The argument I'm refuting is the one about certain jazz styles having been 'done before', as in ' Why play something with Rhythm Changes, that's been done before'. This is an argument usually made by critics, almost never by musicians.

And my answer to it is,"No it hasn't." Anytime I, or any other jazz musician, plays Rhythm changes, it's brand new and different. Anybody who doesn't understand that REALLY doesn't get it.

In fact, they probably don't really like jazz.
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  #6  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 11:36 AM
Steve Steve is offline
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You shouldn't play (or not play) because of recognition, or being new or inventive. Why would anyone write another big band arrangement of Caravan, or All the things.... why does anyone play the blues anymore (it's like kicking a dead dog) I write/play/arrange because I have something I want to say. I don't care how it is recieved or whether what I am doing is ground breaking. I do what I do because it is what I want to do.

Hmmm.... that's confusing... but I can't elaborate.... have to get back to work.... boss is coming! :P
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  #7  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 12:20 PM
Morgan Childs Morgan Childs is offline
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Yeah, Bernie's a badmofo. I've looked up to him for years now, and he always inspires me to get back into the 'shed and really learn the instrument. But what I REALLY want to know is how he keeps so many bands going at the same time.... Ugetsu, TBOTB, Diversions, Wabi/Sabi, and his own trio... did I miss anything? All musical endeavours of the highest quality, all either led or co-lead by Bernie. I caught TBOTB's set at Studio 16... playing the music of Keith Jarrett's American Quartet. Now that is some pretty specific repertoire... I've played some of that music before, and it's really hard to do something new, and not just ape what they were doing. Well... they succeeded and I was floored. One of the best sets I saw all festival. And BRAD... wow... he must have been flying after putting in such a great opening set at Patty Barber's show, because he was KILLING...

This festival was particularly light in the loafers in a lot of other ways, in my opinion. It's a shame how these conversations always seem to devolve into discussions about what is and what is not jazz. When what should be discussed is the objective standards of musical performance, and how that relates to our musical tradition and continuum. It seemed like a lot of the stuff I saw was pandering to the lowest common denominator in the audience, and in Vancouver (a city with world class talent that has to beg for an audience the other 354 days a year) that denominator is fairly low because people don't come to the shows for the rest of the year. So they don't know the difference. But there is a difference, there has to be. It's the difference between music with popular ends and music with artistic ends. A public forum is not the place for me to be remarking on what music I thought was inherintly better than other music (this is not meant to be inflammitory), but it's NOT a stylistic definition. It's got nothing to do with style or genre. It doesn't even have much to do with my own personal taste. I can acknowledge music as being "not my cup of tea", and still recognize it as being artistically rather than commercially driven. But I always feel like when the bullshitters get called out that there's going to be somebody jumping down my throat saying "you can't say that! who are you to decide what music is good and what music is bad? what are you, some kind of neo-nazi-traditionalist?" Well, if I (and the other people in the audience who have spent their entire lives listening to jazz) don't decide what is good and what is bad, who does that leave? People that don't know anything about MUSIC (I'm leaving jazz out of it, for the moment). You don't ask an electrician to fix your toilet. You don't ask a Police Officer to perform open heart surgery. So when I say "Karrin Allyson and Denzal Sinclaire are better singers in the jazz idiom than Holly Cole. They sing with more reference and relevence to what it means to be a jazz singer." It is not a statment of pure opinion. And I'm not putting down Holly Cole, I'm simply stating a fact that will be corraborated by anybody who caught those shows. I understand that festivals need big ticket acts who will draw in order to make money, but this is a separate discussion from what I'm talking about, which is the artistic direction of the festival and the merit of having so many acts that speak to populist sensibilities. That's all.

I can see that I'm starting to blur the line between musician and critic here, so I'm going to stop. I wish I could be a more articulate writer on what it is about certain music that I like or dislike. I will leave with a positive reference to the great shows I saw: Wayne Shorter, Brad's quartet, To Be Ornette To Be, Ugetsu (let's have a little more of that in Gastown next year, shall we?), Stillpoint, Karrin Allyson, Joe Zawinul (there ya go "groove bands" taking notes, are we? you should be), Sekoya, and every single night of Mike Allen's jam session at O'douls. I saw a lot of other stuff that deserves honorable mention too, but I can't think of it right now. I'm just glad that we all got together to play music again, and hopefully this festival continues for many years to come.

And, like John K, I value this as a place to exchange ideas and debate (a million thankyous to the undervalued, underappreciated and overlooked Brian Nation) and nothing I've said here should be taken as inflammitory or insulting to anyone. I had an absolute BLAST at the festival, like I always do... getting wasted at the opening gala, hanging with all my friends from Vancouver.... seeing my old buddies Remy Bolduc and Todd Strait, hanging out at O'douls and making new friends with great young musicians like Zack Lober from Montreal and Roger Lent from New York... and, most importantly to me, getting to play!!! wow... what a great time. Thanks again to everyone who made the festival happen.
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  #8  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 12:37 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Hey Steve,

"Why would anyone write another big band arrangement of Caravan?"

Man, I don't know...Maybe because he thought he had something to say by doing that?

"Why does anyone play the blues anymore?"

Wow! That's such a sweeping statement that I hardly even know how to respond. I'm kind of hoping I'm just taking your meaning wrong or something because...well jeez I don't know about you but the blues is at the bottom of everything I do. Not just as a musician but as a human being. And whenever I hear somebody playing some jazz that isn't landing in my heart, my first thought is often that maybe that player should have spent a couple of years on the road with Lowell Fulsom.( I really must put some Lowell stories up here sometime).

Yeah. Your post is kinda confusing.

My sympathies on the day job.
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  #9  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 12:52 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Hi Morgan.

Morgan,

You guys were really happening at Lonsdale Quay, especially considering how uncomfortable that venue can be to play. The last time I played there the wind actually blew Phil Belanger's ride cymbal over( he suggested I add sandbags to the contract rider next time). And of course the ferry ALWAYS docks during the bass solo.

That Elkuf guy has sho nuff been listening to Sonny Rollins huh.

I think what was so cool for me about seeing Bernie play was the sense that I got of him having broken through into a kind of comfort zone in his playing, where the instrument isn't in the way of his ideas. When I knew him at UBC he was a good player but, as I said, there were a number of young guys around then that played pretty good, like Ian Browne, who later played with the Mathew Goode Band, and Greg Nicholson. But Bernie's the guy who really seems to have broken through into that charmed circle where the music just plays itself. I pick around the corners of that zone sometimes, but it seems like I just start to really have fun and then suddenly it's gone and I'm back to stringing licks together.

Hey I just remembered. There was a guy around then named Joel Fountain who could really play some drums. Does anybody know what happened to him? I know he went to North Texas but I haven't heard anything about him since. I've asked a few people in New Orleans ( he could really play that Herlin Riley-Shannon Powell-Johnny Vidacovich street parade stuff) but nobody knew him.
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  #10  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 01:01 PM
Morgan Childs Morgan Childs is offline
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Thanks John, that's always a fun gig, although outside sound is really hard for me to deal with sometimes. Yeah, Kiyo has checked his Sonny out, no doubt.

Actually, I think my ride cymbal blew over last year, if I remember correctly. Wind is hard to deal with sometimes... even the way it can move your ride cymbal while you're trying to walk on it.... it's crazy...
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  #11  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 01:07 PM
Steve Steve is offline
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John, I saw Joel playing with Maynard a few months ago. He seemed to be digging the gig leading the rock star life (I susposed that Maynard is as close as you can get to a rock starr while still playing jazz)

Morgan, I hope you know me better then to take me seriously when I said that. John was talking about why do we continue to play rhythm changes and whether we should be doing things that have been done before. I was simply trying to make the point that most musicians who are playing art music (as opposed to money music) are doing so because it's what they want to do, and what they have to say. I don't know many musicians who wake up and think "what can I do today that hasn't been done before." I do know musicians who play/write because they have to communicate something that's inside of them. Any clearer?
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  #12  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 01:30 PM
Morgan Childs Morgan Childs is offline
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It was John that misunderstood...
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  #13  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 02:00 PM
Steve Steve is offline
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Sorry Morgan. That's what I get for trying to read all these posts in 3 seconds........ my appologies.
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  #14  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 02:30 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Thanks for clearing that up. You had me worried there for a second. :-)
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  #15  
Old Jul 3, 2003, 02:35 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Steve

Steve,

I'm glad to hear Joel is making some coin with Maynard (well, jazz-style bread anyway). Truly the Eddie Van Halen of the trumpet.

Do you happen to know where he's living when he's off the road nowadays? I'm going to be in the D/FW area for a bit after christmas and if he's still living there I wouldn't mind knocking him a greet.
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