Thursday 28 April 2011

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud - Louis Malle - (Elevator to the Gallows)

I'd like to be in London for this:
Music from Ascenseur pour l'échafaud and Orfeu Negro

4th May 2011
7pm for 8:30 pm
The 606 Club
90 Lots Road
London SW10 0QD
020 7352 5953
Miles Davis’ film music and improvisations for "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud"
Here's the beautiful Jeanne Moreau looking distracted while Miles' trumpet conjures up the mood of Fifties' Paris. It's a while since any of us had to pop into the local bar to see if anyone has called (25 years in my case!).

Thanks to the London Jazz Blog for highlighting this clip.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet, Ronnie Scott's, 18 April 2011

Photo from Kurt's website -
The last time I saw Kurt he was with his standards trio, focusing on in depth interpretations of classic jazz tunes with a focus on chordal improvisation. This larger format (Aaron Parks on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums) showcased Kurt's compositions, his virtuosity and expressiveness as a melodic improviser and his ability to lead a band from the front. If the trio is at the George van Eps end of Kurt's spectrum (virtuosic chordal soloing, minimal effects), this quartet is at the Allan Holdsworth end (virtuosic single note soloing, an array of pedals).

From the drum intro to Our Secret World we could tell the this was going to be an evening of focused, energetic and intense music. I love the way that Kurt reinterprest and reinvents his compositions. Our Secret World is one of the intriguing tunes that made its debut on Heatcore. Comparing it to the version that Kurt played on Monday and the recent big band recording, it has matured considerably. Kurt's soloing had a deep yearning quality and within a few choruses he was really soaring, lines just flowing out of him. It lifted the music and, even though the material was probably unfamilar to most, it took the audience with him.

Kurt followed this with Deja vu, Safe Corners, A Shifting Design (and then I lost track). With each tune you could tell that Kurt was clearly aiming at something that he head in his head. By the the communication with the rest of the band and his comments about the (seemingly minor) inadequacies of the sound, he has the ears of a bat and just completey inhabits his world of sound. I like the way each band member has clearly defined roles (not always the case). Eric Revis take care of the bottom end with his bass. He doesn't try to play the bass like a guitar player (he didn't spend a lot of time at the dusty end) and he has a great groove. The young drummer Justin Faulker brought a lot of energy to the music and made sure that the collective sense of direction had some power behind it. Aaron Parks on piano never tried to compete with Kurt. He provided a lot of harmonic interest when comping and he solos had lots of space in them and interesting intervals (I made a mental note to check out some of his recordings).

Arrayed on the floor in from of Kurt were about 20 pedals and from where I sat it was really interesting to see how he userd them. He mixes the effects with a clean signal and is able to do things like hitting a volume-type pedal to sustain a particular note or chord, taking his foot off and them playing lines over the chord. Its totally built into his playing, as naturally as McCoy Tyner might use a piano sustain pedal. Seeing Kurt with his foot on the pedal reminded my at times of Jimi Hendrix - not just in terms of the effects but also in terms of the use of the band. Jimi usually told Noel Redding what to play (a lot of Eric's bass lines were composed) and Mitch Mitchell had the freedom to provide a lot of energy and interest (as Justin did).

The evening was all originals, I think, with the exception of one Mark Turner tune. It's difficult to say what his compositions are like. The majority of them I know through repeated listening. One point of comparison are the Wayne Shorter & Miles Davis tunes of the mid-Sixties. At times, I also thought of some of Led Zeppelin's more esoteric outings (e.g. Kashmir from Physical Graffiti). Obviously they are not easy to classify but they certainly acknowledge the jazz tradition in terms of their conception (heads, solos, the roles of the instruments).

A fantastic gig and great to see Kurt having an impact in the UK. He always seems to have had much wider acceptance in mainland Europe and had just come from 5 nights in Paris. Hearing this great New York band in Ronnie's made it feel like the Village Vanguard and, hopefully, it provided some influence and direction to some of the British musicians in attendance. This music is fresh, exciting and deep too. It's music I love.

Here is a review of the same gig from today's Financial Times.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Ronnie Singer

I'm a big fan of René Thomas and in particular his later work from the Sixites and Seventies. In his early career he pretty much adopted the style of Jimmy Raney wholesale. Jimmy was a very cool guitarist who improvised brilliant melodic lines. He was a big influence on the the post-Django guitarists in France, notably René and Sacha Distel. An American with a style very like Jimmy was Jimmy Gourley, a who settled and made a career in France (there are plenty of videos on YouTube from French TV). In the Forties, the two Jimmys hung out in Chicago with another guitarist, Ronnie Singer, who was apparently the most gifted of the three.

Ronnie was never officially recorded and he died tragically young - just 24, he (a heroin addict) and and his wife committed suicide by asphixia in a gas oven. The three tracks here were recorded live c. 1950 and they show a confident and inspired soloist.

Note that the two Jimmys, René and Ronnie all played the Gibson ES-150 that Charlie Christian made famous with the Christian pickup.

I'd love to transcribe a few of Ronnie's choruses - in fact, I'll put that on the To Do list!