I went to see Wayne Shorter last night! He’s still one of my favourite composers, so it was great to go and hear the work he’s been doing recently. It was a series of suites that have his quartet (with John Patitucci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), and Danilo Perez (piano)) accompanied by the LA Philharmonic to bring out, amplify, and explore a wider range of harmonies than you’d get with the quartet alone. It was a great evening, enhanced further by the fact that on two pieces, he had as special guest (singing on one and playing bass and singing on the other) Esperanza Spalding (who I’d seen recently at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam – post here), who I’ve now learned has a stunning voice! Stunning. Remarkable Continue reading ‘Shorter Sweeter’
Archive for the 'music' Category
(Photo: Taken during the break in the back room at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans. The Hot 8 were playing late into the night – super loud and energetic in the tiny space – and it was great. A really classic New Orleans sound.)
Having returned from the (excellent) New Orleans trip (lots of food, lots of music), I started to turn my attention to things like the final preparations for the Science Film Competition – the submissions are due Monday and the showcase is on the 23rd – and preparations for the lecture course on Electromagnetism I’ll be giving, starting Monday. But then I got hit by a virus, and yesterday was lost to the violent swings between freezing cold and boiling hot that accompanies an intense shivering fever. Continue reading ‘Music Matters’
I thought I’d share with you the above photo of an important (to me) artifact that I visited in the old US Mint building, which has a number of exhibits. This is the cornet that, as a boy, Louis Armstrong leaned to play trumpet on!
This is sort of a big deal for me. It would be like finding a set of notebooks that the young Continue reading ‘Beginnings’
In Rotterdam a couple of weekends ago, the North Sea Jazz Festival took place. It was an excellent event. Well, I think it was, based on my Saturday trip there with some friends – I assume that the other two days were at least as good. We were there from the start at about 4:00pm until about 11:30pm, when we went back (via trains, with an adventure story for another day) to Amsterdam. Seven and a half hours is a good amount of time for some excellent music to be heard and seen…
Turns out that there was great news for me right from the get go on this event. One of my favourite saxophonists from the younger generation playing out there these days, Joshua Redman, was the artist in residence for the event this year, and he did two concerts that day, in different configurations. (I say younger… I’ve been following his work for 20 years, since I first arrived in the USA all the way back (Princeton), shortly after his second album appeared. He was one of the hot new musicians on the scene at the time… But that was 20 years ago, so I suppose it’s time to use a different term…?)
I’ve seen him play a number of times over the years, on both coasts, in tiny clubs and in larger concert halls, and he’s always been great. This time he was probably the best I’ve ever seen him, and that’s saying something, since he’s usual so very good, along with the musicians he has in his bands. This time he’s part of a newer band called “James Continue reading ‘Gifts from the North Sea’
So out of the blue the other day, I got an email with this photograph in it, and an explanation for its appearance. It seems that some old friends from my school days (who I’ve not heard from in a long, long time) were discussing it on Facebook, and one of the people reading the comments who lives near my mum in Preston, the town where I went to school, realized that I was one of the people in the picture…!! Since I am not on Facebook* (despite some misleading pages that sometimes send people astray) he contacted me the old fashioned way via finding my email address on my website. Nice and quaint, the way I like it.
I remember this event, but had no idea a picture was taken! Since it is all over Continue reading ‘Je Suis un Rock Star’
This film is simply delightful, although in the context of the article I read about it* in (in the May 14th 2012 New Yorker, “Here’s Looking at You” by Nick Paumgarten – about domestic use of unmanned drones and all that is in store of us there), also a Continue reading ‘Flying Robot Band’
This is a snap of a sketch I started while sitting in the Village Vanguard (New York) the other night while listening to the Mark Turner (ts) quartet play. On trumpet was Avishai Cohen, who was really excellent. This quick sketch, very incomplete, was assembled from several glimpses of him when he’d return to this pose, or more or less… Anyway, it was a fun exercise (I’d started another larger sketch of the whole band, but decided it went off balance after a while and so did not complete it).
Hurrah for excellent late(r) night live Jazz in LA! I’d been needing some live Jazz, so this came along at just the right time. My dear friend Patrice Quinn was singing at The World Stage in Leimert Park last night, with Jacques Lesure on guitar and Don Littleton on percussion. I went with a friend to see the second set, starting at 10:00pm. She was wonderful! I’d previously only heard Patrice sing privately (a Continue reading ‘Patrice’
Here’s a montage (by Alex Lozupone) of some of the clashes between some of the Occupy Wall Street participants and the police. It is food for thought, for sure. It is set to an evocative song (“Love, That’s America”) by Melvin Van Peebles from long ago that really catches the mood**.
**Thanks Shelley! Say hi to MVP for me!
A quick sketch during the Winter phase of the LA Phil’s performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, last night, at the Hollywood Bowl.
Why? Well, Mr Double Bass player was more still than Mr. Joshua Bell, over to my left on solo violin…
Three inches tall in my little notebook. Pencil for quick layout then ink with ballpoint pen… (I had to fix the lower left corner in PS, since my drawing ran into the fold…)
Mozart and Mahler. An interesting combination, for sure. In any case, it made for a lovely evening on Friday night, with Jeffrey Kahane directing from the piano on Mozart’s 25th piano concerto, and then conducting (after the interval) the slightly enlarged orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. The latter was a surprise to me in that I enjoyed parts of it a lot. I’d forgotten it, not having heard it in a long time, and in fact I must say I usually don’t go out of my way to listen to performances of Mahler’s symphonic works… so either I’m getting old and more forgiving, or this one has fewer of those elements I usually am not overly fond of from the composer. Hmmm….
Anyway, there it is. A good evening. One other excellent aspect is that Kahane is a fan of big dramatic gestures, and so this means great shapes of his body and clothing as he stands on the podium. He had a jacket with stiff shoulders, and pants Continue reading ‘M and M’
At some point I became distracted from my scribblings in my notebook when I realized that suddenly I had all these people around me sitting helpfully rather still (relatively speaking) as they listened to the music. (Prokofiev’s delightful 5th Symphony was on at the time.) Perfect quick-sketch subjects! And as it is a target-rich environment, you can pretend to be looking at someone else which drawing someone, so as to not make them suspicious… (I’m not interested in spoiling people’s enjoyment of the concert, after all…)
It worked rather well until this guy who was near me, who I’d noticed looking at Continue reading ‘Prokofiev Women’
I only noticed this late in the day, but had to point it out! There’s a Les Paul tribute on the google home page today. If you go there, you’ll find that there’s a set of playable guitar strings there… You can strum them, pick them, etc., and even hit the record button below it all to record your experiments. Then it gives you your own URL with your result!
Continue reading ‘Google Guitar!’
… of Summertime fun*!
Yes, I went with some friends to see His Purpleness last night, at the Forum. Remarkably fun show, with tons of great music. He played and played and played, including some long James Brown style jams where he channeled much of the master’s moves and stylings, and – yes! – brought on Maceo Parker as a guest for a lot of the evening’s proceedings. (Who is Maceo Parker, you ask?! The familiar also saxophone soloist on a lot of the famous James Brown hits…) He did so many of his songs, including some of the great hits known to all, and some of the songs that he’s written that have been made famous by others, such as “Nothing Compares 2 U”**.
…And he kept coming back for more… leaving the stage entirely, with people setting off to leave, and then returning for another long jam. He did this three times into the Continue reading ‘Another Purple Indicator…’
Before getting up in the wee hours to prepare to jump onto a plane on Friday morning, I was out seeing some live music at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. I find that I need to go and get some of that from time to time, and the Hotel Cafe is a favourite of mine for that…
I had my notebook and a nice vantage point for grabbing a quick sketch or two of people at the piano. It was a nice challenge to do a couple of fast sketches – in almost darkness – to see if my hand and eyes were still “in”.
As usual (I’ve discussed this earlier here) my goal on fast sketches is not photo-realism (!) but a Continue reading ‘Maneuvers in the Dark’
Mum’s upstairs packing to leave after her lovely visit of a month and I’m already upset by this. It was such a great time, and I’m so very sad to see her go*. But I can’t keep her all to myself. My sister and brother will no doubt be expecting her back by now, and so I must give her up. This blog post is a lame attempt to distract myself from her packing activity, which is a bit sad for me. On the other hand, a rather sweet aspect of it is that I can hear her in the distance singing along to songs from Queen’s A Night At The Opera** and other albums while doing her packing. This makes me smile from ear to ear.
The last few days had lots of activities, including more picnics by the seaside, walks, cooking, shopping, visits to some old favourite haunts (including a surprise Sunday Continue reading ‘Leaving Home Ain’t Easy’
“…and then three come along at once.”
So, as usual, all of a sudden lots of things that I want to go to occur on the same week or so, and I find myself dazed and confused. Here are just a few of them (I’ll spare you the rest):
Last Wednesday saw me dashing off to the West Side after a late meeting on campus to get to UCLA’s Royce Hall to see Ornette Coleman in the UCLA Live series. It was not a bad show, although about 1/3 of the way through I realized why it all felt familiar. I’d been to see him in exactly the same series in a similar seat in the same hall some years back and decided then (but obviously forgot) that I really would not see him in such a space again. It is the usual Los Angeles Jazz problem. Rather than come to a small(ish) club and be resident for a few days, the mode for LA seems to be to try to pack a big audience into one night. This misses a huge point of the whole intimacy and communication of jazz that is more prevalent in a small space. But LA audiences and concert organizers seem to miss this fact and Jazz limps along lamely in this city, time and again, because nobody seems to want to support the smaller club model much. (Yes, there are one or two small clubs where the touring players come Continue reading ‘Buika, Cassandra, Ornette, and More’
You might not know the name Maurice Murphy, but I am certain that you are likely to know – and maybe even be very familiar with – his work. His is the principal trumpet playing the lead themes in very many films with music by John Williams. I have for a long time been very impressed with how so many of those themes trip so easily off the tongue (physical or mental) and seem to fit together so well (just hum the Star Wars theme, and then follow it by the Superman theme, then the Indiana Jones theme, and so on). A lot of this is due to the fact that Williams (like most good composers) is a master at recycling and modifying, creating a cluster of much loved (deservedly) themes that accompany some of our favourite movie-going memories, but I now think that the other reason is that you’re hearing them all played by the same voice! That voice is the playing of Maurice Murphy, the truly wonderful trumpeter who Williams would specifically request to play the lead on recordings of his film music. Murphy died recently, and you can dig a bit more about him and explore what I’ve been telling you further by going to the London Symphony Orchestra’s site devoted to him Continue reading ‘Passing Star People’
“A loose cat in Colorado must wear what?”
(I thought about this for a while, and could only come up with bawdy humorous answers…)
“A tail light.”
[Post written yesterday.] Yes, I am on the bus to work (above was from the on board entertainment system that sometimes asks quiz questions) and it is the start to another week. Another very full one, it is shaping up to be too. I find these days that if I am not careful I tend to measure a week’s potential a mostly in terms of how much time I will have to work on the Project. Like my research, it is not something that is served best by being chipped away at, catching a few minutes here and the between things, but involves a fair amount of immersion. (Having said that, I am getting better at finding tasks that I can allocate to chipping-away time, and I have even found certain things for it that I can do on the bus… A lot of this will become clearer later, I promise.)
There was certainly a lot going on last week, as I mentioned, and I did not even tell you the half of it. Things like going to see Ira Glass talk about his radio show, essentially doing it in the style of the show, and of course about four hours on Friday spent in costume with hundreds of my faculty colleagues marching in a parade and listening to long (but mostly good) speeches from various Vice-chancellors, Chancellors, Trustees, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and of course, the man of the hour(s), our new President Max Nikias, who we were, er, installing. (When people use that term, and they do here a lot, I always think of plugging in a new electrical appliance, or a new piece of software… I suppose the latter is closer to what we are doing than the former.)
This week sees a lot coming up too, the main thing probably being the first of the Nobel Lunches, scheduled for Thursday. I’ve been very pleased with these events – I Continue reading ‘Start the Week’
I learned from members of my family the other day that Arrow died last week. I’ve no idea if by name you know who that is, and I am sure if I mentioned his given name, Alphonsus Cassell, that won’t make your eyes light up in recognition. But as soon as I say “Hot Hot Hot”, I bet that there’s a good chance a song starts playing in your mind. It is a Soca song (Soca being a more dance-oriented cousin of Calypso, and the name Arrow was, I think meant to pay homage to the Calypso star the Mighty Sparrow), and may well be the most famous Soca song worldwide. So many times when someone wants to inspire heat – usually involving sunshine – or excitement they play a bit of that song and so it ends up in lots of TV and radio commercials and other such places, and of course is played a lot at parties and other places where people are simply having fun. Arrow wrote and sung a lot of songs, and was devoted to his community, and so many are very sad at his passing, feeling that a friend has gone, even though they might not have known him. Seems to me he had a good life. At the very least, to be known for bringing joy and communion through good music well after you’re gone? That’s a great thing right there.
I did know him since I grew up in the community that he was part of. It was on the island of Montserrat where, you might recall from previous posts, I spent ten years of Continue reading ‘Magnitude and Direction’
The new season of Categorically Not! starts up on Sunday. This one is entitled Song and is all about song. There’s more on series creator K. C. Cole’s site about the events, and you’ll find there that her event description is:
“There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven [...] “
Not that I’m calling Boris Johnson, the [
occasional village idiot] Mayor of London, a lady or anything. It just was the best bit of the song I could use for the story. This structure does not exist yet, but it seems that will. What is it? Another Big Thing for people to go up to look over London. Yay. Silly, in many ways, but I will admit that I like it as a piece of mathematical poetry squiggled in the sky. It is by Anish Kapoor. Story here from the BBC, and here from AOL news. Video of announcement from Guardian here.
Now, while looking at the picture above, I noticed something interesting. Is it just me, or is the sky wrong? I don’t mean that it is blue and over London and therefore a Continue reading ‘Stairway to Heaven?’
My Walkabout finds me in Madrid for a little while, and I find myself reporting joyfully on rain, once again. Not because it has been raining an unusual amount here, but because of a production I went to the other night. It was primarily a dance event, celebrating and dramatizing the work of poet Frederico Garcia Lorca during his time in New York in the 1920s. The choreography was by (I’ve forgotten… will find ticket and update shortly) [update: Blanca Li. Title: ¨Poeta en Nueva York¨] with flamenco as the primary form, mixed with several other dance traditions. There was a lot of good and enjoyable work to see, but I’ll admit to being blown away by the theatre’s (and associated production staff’s) ability to suddenly create a rainstorm on the stage, and sustain it for a prolonged period while one of the dances (using the water, as you can see) used it to great and stunning effect. I had to sneak a (no flash and no disturbing of neighbours of course) photo for you. Click for larger view.
A bit like the first time you saw Jurassic Park back when it was first released and utterly groundbreaking visually, I (and maybe you?) spent time thinking, “this is amazing!”, “how did they pull off this illusion?”, before concluding that maybe the Continue reading ‘Waterfall’
There’s something about a little park in London being named after the excellent (and legendary) drummer Max Roach that makes me feel good.
I hope it inspires those who pass by and those who use the park.
Now, find some time to listen to some Max Roach…Perhaps hearing him playing Continue reading ‘Dedication’
Time for a little music with my nostalgia. I remember my days in Princeton (where I was a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study and, later, at the University) particularly well when it comes to certain special things, and one of them was the music I was discovering, and venturing up to New York or down to Philadelphia to see live.
The wonderful Cassandra Wilson had just firmly settled into her astonishingly good Blue Note phase at that time, and the (then) newly released album “Blue Light ‘Til Dawn” was pure magic to me (and remains so), and was considerably inspiring to me during that time of intense work and during a key period of career and personal development.
I went to see her sing at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philly one wonderful evening. Here she is, (from around that time, I think, or at least it has the right feel), singing the opening song from the album in a slightly shaky live recording. It is a bit Continue reading ‘Cassandra Wilson’
I went to a friend’s birthday party last night and… Eric Lewis was there, playing the piano throughout the night! He’s a master in all styles, it seems, including classic and contemporary Jazz, through Happy Birthday to masterful renditions (and deconstructions) of pop, R&B, and soul tunes (there was a lot of spontaneous gathering and singing around the piano). I found some videos on YouTube for you.
Well, the weekend is here and so I have wrapped up most of the official part of my visit to Madrid. Lest you think that I spent most of my time eating (not that there’s anything wrong with that), let me mention that I ended up, from Monday to Thursday giving about eight hours of detailed exposition at the board and fielding questions (the lectures and seminar), umpteen (an official number, I’ll have you know) hours of preparation of the notes needed to do this in a successful and clear way, and several more chunks of time in private physics conversations of various sorts. Quite fulfilling, tiring, but worthwhile for all concerned. (I even heard that various people liked the lectures and the seminar, so that’s a real bonus!) It has been a good week.
Thursday night saw me wandering the city streets in the drizzle for several hours. It all started out with a quick walk near my hotel to see if I could stumble on a restaurant, but eventually turned into a longer walk and then an epic quest, as happens to me so often in such situations. I start applying a list of criteria for what I Continue reading ‘Less Work, More Play’
Yesterday at some point I decided I was in the mood to see some good live Jazz, and checked out the program at the Catalina and considered John Patitucci and his trio. There was still no Jazz Bakery schedule to check as there is as yet no news as to whether they will be really coming back at some venue somewhere… I thought I’d scan a few more places and noticed that a venue I’d not been to before had… Ahmad Jamal! Gosh, how did I never notice Jazz at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center before? It is right in mid-city on Washington between Crenshaw and La Brea, near where in days past, there were several Jazz clubs such as The Parisian Room, The It Club and The Hillcrest Club. (All now gone, sadly, leaving a relative vacuum in terms of support for regular live Jazz in the heart of the city.) While the Nate Holden does not look to be set to become a regular Jazz venue featuring great music every night, there were encouraging things said in the announcements before Ahmad Jamal came on to play. Things that voiced an awareness that people miss those places, and the Continue reading ‘Ahmad Jamal’
Still from the closing piece of the short concert in tribute to trumpeter Snooky Young on the occasion of being awarded the first LA Jazz Treasure award. This was on Friday 11th September, at LACMA. (Don’t you long for a time when everybody had nicknames like this as a matter of course? Well, it is more of a matter of place and culture than a time, in some ways, but anyhow… What would you choose yours to be, if you had the choice?) There are some trumpet players of note on the stage at this point (Arturo Sandoval is one, I cannot identify the others by eye), and Snooky himself is there too. He’s the one looking endearingly like a Mathematics professor (which, now I think about it, sort of fits for a trumpet player).
While it was a pleasant enough event, and I am glad it took place, I can’t help but think that it would have been greatly improved by not having quite so many official Continue reading ‘Snooky’
The next Categorically Not! is this coming Sunday September 13th. The Categorically Not! series of events that are held at the Santa Monica Art Studios, (with occasional exceptions). It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events. (Image above right is from the inside of the jacket of KC Cole’s book on Frank Oppenheimer, who will be celebrated in this month’s Cat Not! as you’ll read below. I talked a bit about the book here.)
The theme this month is The Worlds We Make Up. Here’s the description from K. C. Cole:
I learned yesterday that it was the 100th anniversary of Lester Young’s birth. I hope you know who he is. Just in case you don’t, I’ll take a second out to urge you in the strongest possible terms to learn more and listen to his music. He is one of the true giants of so much of the Twentieth Century’s music, and whether you listen to jazz or not (the musical form he is most associated with), you probably will have felt his influence.
He took the tenor saxophone to a new level, and the rest of the music rose to new heights as a result as well. He refined and extended what a soloist does in jazz improvisation, composing, on the spot, wonderfully lyrical extended solos with a clear and compelling logical structure, of such beauty, and in such a distinct and Continue reading ‘Pork Pie Hat Reflections’
As a follow up to my earlier moon post of the day, here’s a link to the (excellent) Police singing the excellent “Walking on the Moon”. Seems to fit somewhat with the occasion. No embedding, sadly, so you’ll have to come back here to finish your reading. Click on the picture. Enjoy!
Well, I bet you have not read any articles connecting Michael Jackson and research in string theory before. No, even though I spend a lot of time and effort trying to bring science into everyday conversations people have about the broader culture, I cannot claim credit for this one. I was reading an excellent article* in the Village Voice written by Greg Tate, and to my surprise, there it was. It is by far the most thoughtful and insightful of any of the articles on Michael Jackson that I’ve read, and I’d already concluded that before noticing any mention of physics. I strongly recommend it, especially if you don’t know what all the fuss is about, or if you think that the fuss is only about some pop music.
Tate examines not just the impact of Jackson on the culture, and where he sits in the pantheon of black people who have made such impact (he’s mostly focusing on America), but also the role of adversity and struggle in focusing talent in a way that produces people who create at such a high level and which such seismic effect. He Continue reading ‘Michael Jackson and D-Branes’
“I’m Not Like Other Guys”. A quote from Thriller, in case you’re wondering. It’s appropriate. Michael Jackson was truly exceptional. (I’m focusing on the musician here, not the troubled person who unfortunately turned into a bit of a freakshow.)
Well, I feel like a big, bright piece of my childhood died today, and will feel this way for a while. I know it will pass, as it should (one must celebrate life and look forward) but there was so much joy in the music, and so much of it (the album Thriller especially) was so exceptional that it stood way apart from what was around at the time.
Even now when I hear a song from Thriller it sounds like it was created yesterday. Continue reading ‘Goodbye Michael Jackson’
Tim Burton’s film Sweeney Todd is utterly brilliant. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it since its release in 2007, but it hasn’t grown old for me at all. The Sondheim songs are so well done, for a start, and Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter are especially wonderful as the leads (along with the excellent Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall, of course). I caught a bit of them again on HBO the other night and delighted all over again at darkly hued songs such as “A Little Priest”. How many other songs about eating people are quite so excellent? (Lyrics here if you can’t catch them all.)
Hope. This word has been used a lot in the last year or more. Sometimes it felt to me like it was overused, but now that the dust has settled, I think I’m quite sure that it is a good word to describe where we are, or what we have. Beginning early today, there will be a new President of the United States, Barack Obama. He’ll be bringing in a whole new regime that seems, given what we’ve seen so far with the work of the transition team and the various appointments to key positions, determined to do some truly good things. (See several related posts listed below.) There’ll be several huge obstacles to fulfilling the promise and potential of the new regime, some known, and some unknown. It’ll be hard to firmly move forward, but it is hugely encouraging to see the looks of delight and joy on people’s faces during these days of celebration, and to hear about their engagement with the idea that we can pull together and move forward on so many fronts on so many vital issues. We don’t know what will come to pass, but one thing we do know is that there is a marvellous window of opportunity. There is Hope.
Since the election result on the night of 4th November 2008, with all that had been achieved and overcome still fresh in the air, right up until today, there’s actually been a rather fitting song ringing in my head when I think about all of this. I find the chorus from the song “I Live In Hope”, by a musician friend of mine, Libby Lavella (you may recall her from posts here and here) extremely evocative of the mood. With Continue reading ‘Hope’
One of my favourite trumpet players – one who helped transform the instrument – is Freddie Hubbard. He died on Monday morning. Sadly, this means that the last of a line of great trumpet giants of the middle period has passed. (I’m thinking of a line including Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan – Hubbard was the next. See my article on this from last year.) There’s a Herald Tribune obituary by Peter Keepnews here, and NPR has a reflection by Howard Mandel here.
There are a lot of YouTube clips of him playing, but sift carefully since (from a quick scan) what’s there is not a great mixture, I’d say. At least to my tastes there’s not enough stuff representative of his greatest periods as compared to the later work. I picked out a few bits for you below, but I’d recommend, if you are looking to more Continue reading ‘Moanin’’
Sad news from the entertainment world today. Eartha Kitt died today. I thought I’d mark this with a post here. What a wonderfully odd character she was! I’m often a big supporter of those who march to the beat of a different drum, and she certainly fits the bill.
There’s an excellent Washington Post article by Wil Haygood describing a lunch with Continue reading ‘Goodbye Eartha Kitt’