Archive | June, 2009

Concert Review: Arturo Sandoval 6/25/09 at Jazz Alley

29 Jun

arturo-sandoval1Every time Arturo Sandoval comes to town, I try to make a point of bringing someone who has never seen him before with me. Sometimes I will go as far as taking someone that I know doesn’t particularly care for jazz. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a challenge, but maybe more of a point of pride to know ahead of time that there is one concert I can literally bring anyone to, and they will walk away with their mind completely blown.

The opening set Thursday night didn’t let me down. I spent most of the drive from Tacoma to Seattle talking up the concert to my guest, who by the time we showed up I’m sure had heard enough from me and was just ready to hear what all the hype was about.

There was an initial skeptical raise of the eyebrows from my guest when Sandoval walked on stage and opened the first song with synthesized strings from his keyboard. I slumped in my chair, but only for a moment. The keyboard playing stopped and the horns were picked up, and we started to hear exactly what I said we would hear: a true trumpet virtuoso with an incredible high energy band.

If you attend Sandoval concerts on a regular basis, the set list might seem a little predictable. That might be the only thing you can truly prepare yourself for, even if you attend his shows regularly. You know he is going to play high and fast, but it is still going to blow your mind when you hear it. His tone, his band, no matter how many times you hear it, you are never disappointed.

The band featured Ed Calle on tenor saxophone, who I always walk away wondering why I don’t hear more of him on recordings. While his sound certainly has Latin roots, his solos definitely demonstrate the influences of Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker.

Aside from Sandoval admittedly being a little distracted by the news released earlier in the day of the death of music icon Michael Jackson, and seemingly never being satisfied with the volume (or lack thereof) being put out by his bass player, the concert was once again spectacular. Once a year someone makes the uneducated comment that Sandoval doesn’t have the chops that he used to. And every year he comes to town and shows with his range, tone, and ability to play tirelessly  that the chops are more than fine.

And once again, Arturo Sandoval and the band managed to blow the mind of my guest. And I would be lying if I said my mind wasn’t once again blown as well.

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Call and Response – My Thoughts on Your Thoughts Volume 1

20 Jun

I figured it is about time that I offer up some thoughts to some of the wonderful comments and contributions that we’ve received on Groove Notes so far. Thanks to everyone who has offered an opinion so far, and keep ’em coming!

First, my response to jazz radio legend and fellow KPLUer Jim Wilke’s comment to my December 17, 2008 poll asking readers to vote on who would win the jazz Grammy awards this year. Jim wrote:

Judging artistic achievement is NOT like judging giant pumpkins. You can’t weigh a jazz solo. However, Americans love a competition and that’s why we have the Grammys, the Oscars, even the Country Music Awards. I rather prefer an unranked list of significant achievements, because what I like is not necessarily what you will like, but hopefully we can both appreciate the artisanship, imagination and skill that goes in to producing an exceptional recording. Is this one “better” than that one? I wouldn’t want to be “the great decider” to that question.

I agree with Jim. How are we to decide better or worse with such a wide variety of artistic contributions? Personal taste, I suppose. While we all might agree that certain qualities go into what makes a “great” recording, I think it is safe to say that we, in general, love to offer our opinions on what recording might be the “best”. Whether it is or it isn’t, it is fun to talk about.

Next, I received several responses to my post “My Top 10 Jazz Albums That You Probably Don’t Own“. Tom T writes:

Are you kidding me? These are good tracks, but not the best 10. Come on. Get real.

One might get offended, but not me. In fact, I enjoy responses like these. I never offer Top 10 lists as a universal list that everyone should accept. I only post lists based on my own personal opinions and personal tastes. In most cases, readers offer their own lists, which results in me buying their suggestions and expanding my own personal music library. I hope everyone can accept that my lists are simply personal, and that I always encourage everyone to make their thoughts just as personal, whether offering their own lists, or their thoughts on mine.

On a similar note, my April 25th post “The Debate Over Coltrane’s Best” ask readers to vote on what they think John Coltrane’s best album was in a poll, and offer their thoughts. As of today, A Love Supreme is in the lead with 39 percent of the vote, while Coltrane’s Ballads release is bringing up the rear with 4 percent. Keep the votes coming!

And finally, I received an overwhelming number of responses to my post “Where is the Fine Line in Jazz?“, offering perspectives on whether or not Steely Dan’s album Aja belongs on jazz radio after a listener to my radio show wrote in and scolded me.

There were several people saying “play what you want”, while many others felt like it should belong on the local classic rock station. Nick Francis writes:

If this tune were performed with traditional acoustic jazz instruments rather than the electric ones on the record, absolutely NO ONE would consider this tune a rock or pop tune. The pop and rock elements are only on the surface.

Thomas Marriott responds with:

Well said and very true, but it isn’t performed that way and I think that’s what probably bothers the listener who wrote in.

But my favorite line comes from former colleague Troy Oppie:

“…if you don’t like something… just take a 5-minute break. Something new will be on then, and it’s very likely to be something I like.”

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Troy is right. If you don’t like something, come back in a few minutes, and you will probably hear something you do like. That is the great thing about jazz radio.

My thoughts on Aja? Truthfully, it is an album I can honestly say I will never buy. Not because I think it is or isn’t jazz, has talented musicians on it or not, or is or isn’t well produced. I wont buy it, well, because I don’t want to. And I have that right and freedom, without having to go into any more detail than that.

Keep those comments coming, and thanks for reading!

Emerging Artist: Melody Gardot

13 Jun

melodyPerhaps singer Melody Gardot has already emerged, but I feel that it is safe to say that while her popularity has risen quickly, Melody is still in the early stages of what will be a long, wonderful career.

What is most interesting, and truly inspiring, is the story of how twenty-four year old Melody Gardot came to be a singer and songwriter.

Melody was 19 at the time of the accident. She was in fashion school, and played piano at a handful of nightclubs in the Philadelphia area. She was riding her bicycle when a car took a turn and hit Melody, fracturing her pelvis and skull, among other injuries.

It was music that she held to for inspiration during the several months she spent in the hospital, and through rehabilitation. She stayed positive writing music and singing, and even recording from her hospital bed.

Life since leaving the hospital has not necessarily been easy. Melody is extremely sensitive to light and sound, and is prone to headaches. She is forced to wear dark glasses, and requires the assistance of a cane to walk.

Even with the great pain she deals with on a daily basis, and the fact that loud noise can only enhance that pain, Gardot continues to take her music career to the next level. Following a wonderful debut release Worrisome Heart, her new album My One and Only Thrill has peaked at number two on the jazz charts. With the exception of Over the Rainbow, the album is made up entirely original compositions, and offers a mellow, laid-back feel to compliment her warm, smokey tone.

I’m never one to suggest that anyone buy an album or listen to a musician out of sympathy, or the story behind the musician…so I wont. The music itself is worth the purchase. But to know not only what a person went through, but what she goes through on a daily basis while still managing to produce such wonderful music only heightens my appreciation for what one musician can do.

Watch Melody Gardot sing Worrisome Heart:

Other blog entries from the Emerging Artist Series

Grace Kelly

Ryan Keberle

Just for Fun – Tractor Style

3 Jun
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