June 03, 2007
Just because L. J. requested it, here goes (if I'm out of line posting this, someone let me know please)--
Unfortunately we no longer have a functional website for the Michael Hardin Band. I can personally be contacted at email@example.com for business purposes. As for upcoming shows, I can offer the following:
On Wednesday, June 6th, at 7 pm, we will be playing a one-hour set on the marketplace in front of City Hall, featuring mostly my own tunes. The band: Paul Brana on trumpet, Will Oncken on alto, Chris Barosky on bass and myself are all members of the All-State Jazz Ensemble (though Will missed the concert Friday night) and Chris Markley on drums was the first alternate for same. Dom McCann is a great trombonist from South Burlington and is rounding out the group, subbing for tenor saxophonist Ted Crosby (yet another All-State member, featured heavily on Friday).
Thursday, July 12th, we're playing at the Black Door in Montpelier in the evening.
Friday, July 20th, at 7 pm at South Burlington High School will be the culminating concert for a big band I'm assembling entirely out of young Vermont jazz musicians, nobody over the age of 20. We'll be playing a lot of progressive big band charts including a few of my own. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time now, and I'm really excited to compile that much talent into one powerhouse band. If you liked hearing the All-State Jazz Band and want to hear its past and present members stretch out a little more...
Palmieri Concert Thoughts
I have kind of a strange perspective on this particular event since I'm kind of an insider, having played in the opening act of the show. I had an absolute blast playing the new Steinway (best instrument I've ever played bar none) and Eddie was gracious enough to allow me to use it (Ahmad Jamal last year was not, and I was stuck on my piece of crap Prokeys 88). Something about that stage inspires great playing, and Paul Brana (1st trumpet) in particular absolutely played his brains out. I play with Paul on a regular basis (he's in my sextet) and I personally believe he's going to be one of the most important jazz trumpet players in my coming generation, because every time he picks up his horn to solo, all kinds of surprises come out. Sometimes he even surprises himself.
As for the main attraction, I agree with most of L. J.'s assessment but I have to say I enjoyed trombonist Conrad Herwig's performance more than a lot of the people I've talked to. I think he's a trombonist with great technical facility, solid ideas, and he's a particularly good showman. He does play what we call "parlor tricks," drawing from what is probably a canned vocabulary of fast runs and other acrobatics which are only there to impress and entertain, but there is certainly something to be said for the ability to connect with an audience, and it's not something everyone can do. His towering presence onstage was a positive addition for me. Brian Lynch was definitely impressive as well, taking time to build his solos in intensity, though I would have liked to hear him push a little further outside harmonically.
I feel compelled to mention the bassist as well, Luques Curtis. I got to see him play at Newport last summer with Christian Scott, a young trumpet player on his way up to superstardom. Chris Barosky (bassist in the All State Jazz Band and one of my best friends) and I talked with him a little bit before the show--he remembered Chris from when they talked at Newport. Luques is a really down-to-earth kind of guy and he was really friendly to us. It's really encouraging for young musicians like ourselves to meet someone only a few years older than us who has really made it and is playing on a high level. His one solo on the concert had really interesting textures and was structured differently than most of the bass solos I hear. I liked it even if it was a little cluttered.
I'm kind of upset about missing out on Kenny Garrett last night, especially after all the great things I've heard. As a side note, the bassist on that show, Nat Reeves, is a professor at the Hartt School of Music where former Vermont high school trumpet star Josh Bruneau (All-State from 2003 to 2006) has become good friends with him. I'm also a little upset about missing Esperanza Spalding this coming Wednesday, but my sextet has a gig on the marketplace at 7 pm that night. At least I still have Chick and Bela...
May 09, 2007
I feel compelled to say that I agree with LJ's assertions with Smooth Jazz and Acid Jazz as genres: the former is nothing but watered down Fusion conceived and executed in an attempt to be pleasant (but Kenny G's intonation often spoils even that) and the latter is...well I actually don't even really understand what it means. I keep hearing how people like this Acid Jazz group or that one and yet I really have no concept of what they mean by that. Methinks some marketing ploy is at work again.
However. I have to offer an alternative perspective on funk and especially on fusion. I don't think it's fair to look at these two genres as only being useful for a starting point. Historically it was quite the contrary; fusion arose because jazz needed to infuse some kind of new life. Just as jazz "standards" come from popular music of the 30s and 40s, jazz fusion was influenced by from the rock music of the 60s and 70s. What's more, the man most responsible for the change to fusion, Miles Davis, was not backing off or watering down his music but rather raising the density and the energy into a menacing wall of sound. People love Bitches Brew but the edgy masterpiece in my opinion is On the Corner. There's nothing toe-tapping or overtly commercial about that record. I also love the earlier In a Silent Way, kind of the calm before the storm. The most incredible thing about that particular album is that everyone who would become a major force in fusion was present: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Tony Williams, and Dave Holland (though his contribution to jazz is more in the avant-garde acoustic realm) made up Miles' band for the session.
Moving past Miles, though, I can start to imagine how one might find fusion a little too pop-friendly, and yes, the cheese factor comes into play. But just like any other period of jazz, there are albums of profound creativity, mostly whenever new electric sounds were employed in creative compositional ways. Herbie Hancock made some great records in the early 70s with his Mwandishi band, like Crossings and Sextant that were extremely experimental and not at all simplifications of jazz or concessions to the pop crowd. Weather Report's Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter got to experiment with longer written forms whose merit would be even more recognizable if not for some dated synthesizers. All in all, I don't see fusion as a watered-down version of jazz, only useful as an accessible doorway into the "real" stuff once one's ears grow larger with age and experience. My young high school ears are big enough to take in and like everything from Ellington and Monk to the Yellowjackets. I guess I'm able to keep one ear in the "dark side" and the other to the "light."
May 02, 2007
My Money is on Champions
I have to say there isn't a single show for which I'm more excited than the Chick Corea and Bela Fleck duet. As a jazz pianist, Chick has been a favorite of mine for a while, and I've seen him live twice, once with the Akoustic Band (John Pattituci and Dave Weckl) and the other time performing at Newport with Roy Haynes, Christian McBride, Gary Burton, Joshua Redman, and surprise guest (this could only happen at Newport) Pat Metheny, for an 80th birthday celebration for Haynes. As great as that group was, I'd have to say the superior Corea performance was the former, because I actually believe having Chick in creative control of a project is (usually) a good thing, and I don't think that's the reason for the "cheese factor" in some of his work (which I will admit is there). What I find cheesy in Corea's discography has more to do with electric instruments and synthesizers, and historical context, than it does with being in charge. The Return to Forever albums that I've heard sound dated mostly because of the sonic palette, with primitive synths and the general trend to want to use them all. I don't think Chick Corea was the most adept at making good creative use out of the new technology of the time (that honor goes to Joe Zawinul, and Herbie Hancock to a lesser extent) so the sound of the music suffers. But this isn't about Chick's creative conception or composition. Case in point, the tune "Senor Mouse" is featured both on Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and on Crystal Silence, the former being with Return to Forever, electrified, and the latter in duet with Gary Burton, totally acoustic. In my mind there is no comparison; the latter version is far superior and does not suffer at all from the cheese factor of the former. There is a certain lightness to Corea's playing that becomes a little TOO light when he's playing rhodes or a synthesizer, but on piano it's perfect.
I have faith in this concert because, even though I'm not as familiar with Bela Fleck, I'm confident in Chick Corea's ability to perform well in an acoustic duet. He recorded a series of DVDs a few years ago at the Blue Note in New York City with different bands and collaborations (all acoustic) and some of my favorite concerts in the set are the duets with Gonzalo Rubalacaba, Gary Burton, and Bobby McFerrin (incidentally Bela Fleck is featured on that DVD, sitting in on "Spain"). On top of that, there is an album Chick made in 1978, at the height of his electric cheese craze, in duet with Herbie Hancock, and it floors me every time I hear it. Something about the intimacy of duets bring out the best and most creative in Chick Corea, as he strives not to assert his own ego but rather to compliment the other musician, and I'm really hoping something similar happens in this concert. The key is going to be a large amount of interaction, rather than one of them merely accompanying the other...
Just a last thought. I don't generally consider Chick Corea exclusively a "fusion" artist, and I don't think this will be a "fusion" concert. A lot of Corea's most important work is acoustic and, while not necessarily mainstream, it doesn't fit into most people's preconceived notions of fusion. I'd settle on calling it "jazz" or even just "music."
April 30, 2007
I saw Eddie Palmieri perform in duet with Brian Lynch last summer at the Newport Jazz Festival, and that show was one of the highlights of the whole festival for me. Donald Harrison, an alto player who came up through Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the 80s, was at the festival with McCoy Tyner, and he ended up sitting in at the end of Palmieri's set, since the three of them have apparently made some recordings together (I think "Palmas" is one of those, my music teacher in middle school played some of that for us but it has since gone out of print). Harrison was very busy that whole festival, as he also sat in with Christian Scott (his nephew), Dr. John, and even Chris Botti (which really livened up an otherwise horrifically self-indulgent set on Botti's part--what a hack he is).
I'm looking forward to playing with the All State Jazz Band, which gets to open for Eddie Palmieri at DJF. We opened for Ahmad Jamal last year, so I didn't get to use the piano, as they were concerned about tuning and would have to retune the piano an extra time if I played on it. I'm just hoping Eddie Palmieri isn't quite as picky about his instruments!