Jonathan Crossley - - Your Jazz Music Connection - - Your Jazz Music Connection Mon, 22 May 2017 14:41:54 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Speaking of Now by The Pat Metheny Group Pat Metheny is a well-known name to anyone interested in jazz, and certainly not confined to the circle of jazz guitar enthusiasts. He was born in Kansas during 1954 into a…
Pat Metheny is a well-known name to anyone interested in jazz, and certainly not confined to the circle of jazz guitar enthusiasts. He was born in Kansas during 1954 into a musical family who encouraged him to start playing, first learning trumpet and later, at the age of twelve changing to the guitar. Of great benefit to him were the early opportunities afforded to him through his family to perform on a bandstand, giving invaluable early group experience and spurring his extremely rapid development as a player. These early experiences also brought him to the attention of the famous vibraphone player Gary Burton; a musician who has been instrumental in the development of many young players by their inclusion in his various outfits. Metheny initially played with Burton for a period of four years and then went on to make the now landmark ECM release ‘Bright size life’, which was his first album as leader, in 1975. This album featured his own compositions performed in a trio format with legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses. While only being his debut release, this album already contained elements of his unique mature style, which combines elements of swing, blues and even country influences.

Metheny has been prolific throughout his life, recording with many of the great jazz musicians of our time, such as Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock and Jim Hall, as well as classical musicians such as Steve Reich. His output has also been prolific with albums in the jazz trio format, as well as film soundtracks, experimental recordings like ‘Zero tolerance of silence’ on the Geffen label, works for ballet and his own ‘Pat Metheny Group’.

The Pat Metheny Group features Metheny’s more than twenty-year writing partnership with keyboardist Lyle Mays and their work with bassist Steve Rodby. The Mays-Metheny partnership has been compared to many of the great contemporary writing partnerships and has resulted in albums such as ‘Still life still talking’, ‘Letter from Home’, ‘Secret Story’, ‘Imaginary Day’ and ‘We live here’. These albums have consistently won awards including three gold albums and even an amazing seven consecutive Grammy awards for seven consecutive albums! With a track record like this it is not surprising that fans of this group wait with baited breath for the next installment in the group’s legacy.

On ‘Speaking of Now’ the line-up of the group has changed and consequently they have approached the compositions from a different angle. The band now features Pat Metheny on guitar and other instruments, Lyle Mays on keyboards and piano, Steve Rodby on bass, and three new players, Cuong Vu on trumpet and voice, Richard Bona on voice and percussion and Antonio Sanchez on drums. In any group format a change in members can often result in the growth or demise of a project, but with a writing team like Mays and Metheny growth is really the only option. Many artists will try to mould new members into the previously accepted format and not necessarily accentuate the new players abilities, however, Metheny and Mays have succeeded in bringing the abilities of the new musicians to the fore.

In the new group drummer Antonio Sanchez replaces the previous drummer Paul Wertico. He brings a new energy to the group; through his vibrant playing he turns the excitement and momentum up a notch, while still exhibiting sensitive interaction with the existing players. To compliment this new addition Metheny found other additions to the band in multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona, who hails from the Cameroon, as well as the New York trumpet player and vocalist Cuong Vu. What characterizes Metheny in life and a musician is his great humility. This was evident when he commented that after approaching these outstanding musicians to play for his group; he was often surprised that they wanted to work with him. This kind of attitude shines through in the recording in the way that each of the players seem to feel free to express themselves, and the resulting performances are at times breathtaking and overwhelmingly beautiful.

The albums nine tracks take you on a journey through country melodies, amazing vocal harmonies, spacious piano solos, bebop influences and of course mind blowing guitar work. If you don’t yet own an album by the ‘Pat Metheny Group’ this is a great place to start. I have three personal favorites on this album. Track three "Another Life" for the inspiring vocal introduction with influences from Gregorian chant, track four "The Gathering Sky" for the interesting and innovative arrangement in the drum work and track six "On Her Way" for the trademark virtuosic Metheny guitar solos. All in all this album not only lives up to the groups legacy but lifts the standard while still remaining accessible enough to take all of us on an amazing sonic journey with them.

]]> (Jonathan Crossley) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 17 Aug 2002 19:00:00 -0500
Malay tone poem by Hotep Idris Galeta Hotep Idris Galeta’s album ‘Malay Tone Poem’ continues to push South African jazz standards ever upwards, in terms of performance, composition and historical relevance; but…
Hotep Idris Galeta’s album ‘Malay Tone Poem’ continues to push South African jazz standards ever upwards, in terms of performance, composition and historical relevance; but just a bit about the leader.

Crawford in Cape Town was the birthplace of this musician, 1941 the date, and the rich musical culture of the city, during that time, was the cradle. Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) became Hotep’s mentor during his formative years after they met at a High School jazz concert in Athlone, Cape Town, and it was this kind of support that nurtured Hotep and brought him to the attention of other players in Cape Town. Some of these players (Cecil Ricca, Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor amongst others) shared the bandstand with him and provided him with guidance and influence, imprinting sounds that would follow him on his travels around the world.

Hotep left South Africa in 1961, moving first to London and then to New York, remaining in exile from his home for thirty years. However while in exile Hotep was not content to continue producing music in the same style or mannerisms; he continued to grow musically, expanding his vocabulary, furthering his piano studies under John Mehegan, and even going on to attain a masters degree in jazz studies. It is therefore not surprising that he went on to work with many great jazz artists, such as Joshua Redman, Herb Alpert, Elvin Jones and Archie Shepp, leaving a recorded legacy of roughly eighteen albums, including one with Hugh Masekela.

In 1985, six years before his return to South Africa he was appointed as lecturer in jazz studies at the Hartt College of Music in Connecticut, but the call of home was to strong. Since 1991 he has lived in and around Cape Town and has been involved in many educational projects and institutions, mostly in a non-profit capacity. He currently looks after a jazz outreach program that operates from the Artscape Performing Arts Theatre in Cape Town, South Africa.

This sterling recording features the combined talents of some of the top musicians from Johannesburg and Cape Town. Marcus Wyatt is featured here on trumpet, often muted, and flugelhorn, and what is exiting about his playing here is that we are starting to hear a strong individual voice with a defined and recognizable style. Another interesting choice of musician is Zim Ngqawana on flute and saxophone. Zim is known mainly for his own recordings that have a distinct sound and feel, almost an African avant-garde, but here Zim shows us that he can slot into another musicians project with ease, without sacrificing anything of his own trademark sounds. Both these soloists weave through the chord changes with confidence but with distinctly different approaches to rhythm.

Kevin Gibson’s percussion work clearly exhibits his ability to hold the time together while giving us clear indication of the harmonic form of the work. He also latches onto the soloists’ dynamic and rhythmical movements, supporting rather than interfering with their statements. Victor Masondo lays down the grooves and gives us glimpses into his technique, especially when playing the melody, check out his harmony to the head of track two, ‘Monk in Soweto’.

But the highlight on this CD is the pianist. Hotep exhibits influences from Thelonious Monk to Cecil Taylor to Chick Corea. I asked him about this and his simple reply was ‘I like to wear many hats.’ This is not surprising when after talking to him I was struck by the number of musicians he mentioned working with or having played alongside. On track four, ‘Harold’s Bossa’, the influence of Corea is as plain as daylight, and as it turns out the two pianists are good friends! On track two, ‘Monk in Soweto’, Hotep dons his Monk hat, etching out the angular chord voicings and characteristic dissonances with grace. But for all of these chameleon like qualities his playing is distinctly South African. Whether he is working his way through a blues, a samba, a bossa, or any other style he still sounds distinctly Cape Tonian, taking a modern and progressive approach to existing forms and African elements; isn’t this what all great jazz innovators do?

With this, his second album as leader, and one other solo album, Hotep is stamping his mark firmly onto the South African jazz landscape. And with his continuing involvement in jazz education and outreach programs you can be sure this spirit will spill over, onto and into the new generations of players.

]]> (Jonathan Crossley) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 17 Aug 2002 13:00:00 -0500
Africans in Space by Marcus Wyatt From the beginnings of jazz, the trumpet has had it mark stamped firmly on the canvas that forms our picture of the genre. The ‘Hot Five’ and ‘Hot Seven’ recordings by Loui…
From the beginnings of jazz, the trumpet has had it mark stamped firmly on the canvas that forms our picture of the genre. The ‘Hot Five’ and ‘Hot Seven’ recordings by Louis Armstrong made between 1925 and 1928 are generally regarded as the first recorded examples of jazz and while at that point he was still at cornettist, his 1930 switch to trumpet proved to be the one we all remember him for. From that time onwards the predominant soloists were horn players, from Louis Armstrong to Bix Beiderbecke and the bebop revolutions of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis and later the radical changes the partnership between Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry brought about.

In South Africa there have had many great horn stars. From the jazz epistles, Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi and their pianist of the time, Dollar Brand, the horn has been prominent in South African jazz. Marcus Wyatt continues that tradition, reviving some old, inventing some new and challenging the boundaries set out by current commercial definitions of jazz.

Marcus Wyatt’s musical journey began at the age of eleven when he began playing the trumpet in his school band. His father was involved with the local Port Elizabeth folk club and he recalls his early South African musical influences being provided by folk artists like Steve Newman and Tony Cox. While still in school he played the classical trumpet for orchestras in and around Port Elizabeth but his love for jazz was awakened during his service for the South African Naval Band.

After his military service Marcus went on to complete a degree in jazz arrangement and composition at the University of Cape Town and then moved on to Johannesburg to further his career. It was while living in Johannesburg that Marcus feels he really began to discover his African roots. He tells me that "Growing up under apartheid I was not exposed to any of the great eastern cape acoustic musicians", like Chris McGregor and Mongesi Feza, it was only later that he has become aware of, and involved with that legacy.

Marcus recently returned from roughly a year spent in Amsterdam, he says "I left South Africa to discover my identity; what was amazing was that I met African people in Amsterdam who embraced me as an African."

This reaffirmed love for his homeland is present throughout his new release for the Sheer Sound label, titled ‘Africans in space’. The CD is a collection of pieces, which were mainly composed while Marcus was in Amsterdam, and reflect his longing for home. This release differs from his previous one, ‘The gathering’, in many ways but is definitely a stronger musical statement. The overall sound of the CD is more open; almost ECM like, and the arrangements have really encouraged the other musicians to play to at the edge of their abilities. Strong solo work abounds on the CD, both in flash and taste. Marcus’ solo on track 3, ‘Umculo Wakwantu’, is exceptionally tasteful and restrained with the rhythm section latching attentively onto every motive. Another favorite is not necessarily a solo but Mnisi’s gentle first statement of the melody on track 6, ’Awakening’, the duet between bass and saxophone allows the melody to float, obscuring and enhancing the meter of the tune.

In Nontuthuzelo South Africa has a new jazz vocalist, Marcus says that ‘She is one of the musicians, working with the band’ not separate from it. He feels it is rare to get a vocalist that works as cohesively with the band as she does. Specifically look at the ease with which she handles the complex lyric and melody of track 7, ‘You were there’. Tsoaeli’s bass work is exemplary as always, but check out the solo bass intro on track 6, ’Awakening’, and track 9, ‘Little ones’. On track nine he starts with melodic work and then sets up a swinging groove for the trumpets first statement of the melody.

Track 11, ‘Black Genesis’, harkens back to Marcus’ first release ‘Gathering’, and starts out with a strong bop influenced head with the sax and trumpet dueting on the melody. It then breaks down to just bass and piano for the first part of the piano solo, Fransman fleshing out angular and original lines, uncompromisingly new yet still melodic, and when Kesivan bring back the groove the drums swing hard and fresh.

There is much to say about this CD but the best way to convey it is definitely not in words. ‘Africans in space’ is a real jazz CD, modern, yet never forsaking it’s Africaness. Also worth getting is Marcus’ other release ‘Gathering’ from 2000, which features a different set of musicians and provides a soundtrack to the evolution of his sound. Get into this African’s space.

]]> (Jonathan Crossley) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 17 Aug 2002 07:00:00 -0500