23 May 2010

Orchestrion Follow-Up: Part I

You may remember this post, in which I expressed my skepticism about Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project. My main concern was whether Metheny could replicate human rhythm with his array of machines and solenoids. Metheny has since released the album to wonderful acclaim (Including a Jazz Times cover and profile with David Adler that quotes yours truly) and taken his act on the road. Ben Ratliff reviewed Metheny's performance at New York's Town Hall, writing, "It's still lunacy, but it breathes. The orchestrion has humor and elegance."

Below is a clip of Metheny's Orchestrion show at the Olympia in Paris:

19 May 2010

Record Club 1

When I was in high school, I learned of my father's record collection. It was not a huge stash (I think he had about 300 albums in total), just a collection of music he had accumulated since he was a teenager in the 1960s. He had no jazz albums, save for a few Return to Forever records, but his collection did include early pressings of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and other sixties luminaries which I was heavily into at the time (and still am, of course).

Dad had an ambivalent relationship with his records. He kept them for a long time, mainly out of nostalgia, but never listened to them (I had to dig them out of a storage unit when I realized what treasures he had in his stash). None of the records were true collectors' items, they had been played too much to be considered mint. But they were one of the major artifacts of his youth, and he and I had some wonderful conversations sparked by discussing the records (eventually, when he finally decided to get rid of the records, he let me keep the hundred or so that I couldn't bear to see trashed).

After bringing the records home from storage one weekend during high school, I hooked up our old record player to the stereo in our living room, and began listening to my dad's old records after school. Shortly thereafter, I discovered that I could get old Blue Note albums on eBay for next to nothing, so I slowly began acquiring a few albums here and there every few months. When I went to college at the University of Florida, I discovered that Gainesville had a handful of great record stores, and I spent a good portion of my freshman year digging through crates at Sharpe's Music and Hyde & Zeke.

Part of my interest in vinyl was the album covers (which shouldn't surprise you). I discovered that album covers made great wall art in my dorm room, and I could hang them by taping a clear plastic sleeve to the cinder block walls. But I also loved the act of sitting down and listening to the record, experiencing the music the way listeners did decades ago. I also felt an extra sense of connection to this "old" music when I had to bring out a slab of vinyl to hear it. I'm no audiophile, and I really can't pick up on the differences between analog and digital sound.So when it comes to vinyl freakdom, I'm more of a dilettante than an enthusiast.

But I do have some music on vinyl that I like to throw on the record player, so when I moved to Virginia, I convinced my parents to let me take the record player with me (it did not take much convincing at all, actually). Of course, I could not hook it up to my modern stereo without an external preamp, plus I had to replace the cartridge, so the record player sat untouched for most of the past four years. But I've since bought a preamp and cartridge, so I can finally pursue my halfhearted hobby once more.

First entry in Record Club after the jump...

17 May 2010

Hank Jones

There are only a few jazzmen left on this planet who witnessed and participated in the bebop revolution, and yesterday we lost one, Hank Jones. Hank played with just about everyone, including Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Wes Montgomery, Art Farmer, Tony Williams, Charlie Haden, and Joe Lovano (take a second to consider the years spanned in that incomplete list). His wit, style, and sincerity at the piano and off the bandstand will be missed by many.

For more on Hank, take a look at Howard Mandel's remembrance at Jazz Beyond Jazz.

16 May 2010


I'll be in flying into Portland (Oregon) a week from Tuesday (the 25th), and will be leaving Sunday the 30th. I've got some ideas for things to do while I'm there, and I'm staying with my cousin, who has a few things planned I'm sure. But since I have a handful of readers who might be in the know, where should I be sure to go while I'm in Portland? Also, any local legends I should check out while I'm there? Leave a note in the comments. Many thanks for your help.

07 May 2010

Must Reads

Did you hear? The jazz wars are back on. Well, sort of. This week saw two takes on the ongoing debate over what is and isn't jazz from Peter Hum and Nextbop's Anthony Dean-Harris. You should read them, for I don't want to spoil their arguments by excerpting them here.

I suppose I should weigh in, and I may work out my thoughts for a long-form piece later this month. In the meantime, suffice it to say that I'm with Esperanza, with the added rejoinder I posted on Jason Parker's blog a few months ago on the declining utility of jazz as a brandname. More on that later, though.