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  • Trumpet Player Miles Davis | Teen Jazz Legend

    Miles Davis is arguably one of the most influential trumpet players and band leaders in American history (Louis Armstrong is another) with a career that spanned 50 years. He was not only a multi-platinum artist, but he was also an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2006). His album Kind Of Blue, is considered a “national treasure” and received its fourth platinum certification in 2008 for over four million sales in the US alone.

    Trumpet Player Miles Davis (né Miles Dewey Davis III) was born in Illinois on May 26, 1926 to dental surgeon, Dr. Miles Dewey Davis, Jr., and music teacher, Cleota Mae Davis. At the age of 12 he began taking trumpet lessons and by the age of 16 he was playing professional gigs.

    Davis got his start playing with Eddie Randle’s Blue Devils, a band based in St. Louis. He also had the opportunity to play as a part of Billy Eckstine’s band while they were in the same area due to the fact that his regular trumpeter was out sick. As part of this opportunity, Miles played with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

    Later that year (1944), he began studying at Julliard (then known as the Institute of Musical Arts in New York City) and performing with Parker in local clubs. After only a year in school, he abandoned his education for a full-time career in music, and joined Benny Carter’s band. It was with this group that he played on his first recordings as a sideman.

    In 1949, Miles Davis earned a contract with Capitol Records which resulted in 12 tracks he recorded with Kai Winding, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, JJ Johnson, John Lewis and Kenny Clarke. This 12 tracks were eventually released by Capitol as the LP Birth of the Cool.

    Miles Davis signed with Prestige in the early 1950s and released several albums with performers such as Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey.

    In 1959, Davis released Kind Of Blue, and the album went on to sell several million copies not only making it a great success, but arguably his most popular album.

    During the 60s, Davis continued to record and collaborate with artists such as Hank Mobley, Coltrane, Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock, et al. Bitches Brew was released in 1970, signifying Davis’ turn to a more electrified and jazz-rock style. The album reached the pop Top 40s and was his first certified gold album.

    He continued to record and perform into the 70s and 80s (with the exception of a five year break due to illness). He passed away in 1991 due to a combination of pneumonia, a stroke and respiratory failure all occurring within a few months.

    Throughout his career, Miles Davis recorded and released more than 50 albums, earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and countless Grammy awards for Best Jazz Composition, Best Jazz Performance, Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Best R&B Performance and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. He inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 and he received an honorary Doctorate in Music from the New England Conservatory as well as countless other awards.

     

    April 26, 2013 • Interviews • Views: 2161

  • Musicologist Dr Alicia Doyle | Teen Jazz Influence Interview

    HI EVERYONE, THANK YOU FOR TUNING IN TO TEEN JAZZ RADIO. WITH ME TODAY I HAVE DR. ALICIA DOYLE, A MUSICOLOGIST, FRENCH HORN PLAYER AND PROFESSOR AT CAL STATE LONG BEACH AND TODAY WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE FIELD OF MUSICOLOGY. HI DR. DOYLE.

    Hi Shannon.

    THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

    I’m delighted to be here.

    AND HOW ARE YOU?

    I’m great thank you, and you?

    I GOOD, THANK YOU! SO WHY DON’T YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?

    So, I am a musicologist. I am a music history professor and I teach at the university at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at CSU Long Beach.

    AND WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL?

    For my undergraduate education I went to the University of Southern California and I studied French Horn Performance. And for my graduate degrees I went to UC Santa Barbara in Musicology and French Horn Performance Studies as well.

    AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO MORE SERIOUSLY PURSUE MUSICOLOGY AS OPPOSED TO FRENCH HORN PERFORMANCE SINCE YOUR DEGREES ARE REALLY IN BOTH?

    That’s a good question. So as a young person I decided I wanted to be a musician and of course, to me that meant to be a performer and my instrument was French Horn so I thought, well, I’ll be a French Horn player. And in college I went to a concert and I accidentally arrived early and much to my surprise there was someone at the concert hall talking about music before the concert started and I had never seen anything like that. It was magical to me. And so I went back to my school and I spoke to a professor who happened to be a musicologist who’s class I had been enrolled in all semester. And I said to her, “I think I want to do that! I want to be the person who talks about music before the concert.” And I said, “who is that? What kind of person does that?” And she said, “that’s a musicologist, what we’ve been doing all semester!” But I woke up and she was very inspirational and she told me certain strategies for becoming a musicologist, and the rest is history and I didn’t stop.

    SO WHAT WERE THOSE CERTAIN STRATEGIES SHE TOLD YOU ABOUT?

    She was encouraging initially because I was already well-read. I had been a reader since I was a young person. I had a large literary background in poetry, art history, architecture, so I understood already the cultural context of music. But I don’t think that would stop anybody if you didn’t have that. I already did have that… She said from there that I should start writing more and to learn how to properly research music and how to write about music in an academic way.

    AND HOW WOULD THAT BE DIFFERENT THAN WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT SUBJECT LIKE HISTORY IN GENERAL?

    Well, when you’re talking about music as opposed to just history, you really do need to look at the music first and begin with the actual piece of music. And then figure out how the composers context affected that piece of music. So putting music in the center and not putting history in the center of your discussion.

    AS PART OF MUSICOLOGY YOU DON’T JUST STUDY MUSIC HISTORY IN GENERAL, YOU HAVE SPECIFIC FIELDS OR TOPICS THAT YOU STUDY AND YOURS ARE ACTUALLY REALLY DIVERSE, SO HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THOSE TOPICS?

    It was, again, a kind of accident. When I started musicology I thought I would do Mahler, I’m a horn player, of course I’m going to study Mahler forever. And then when I went to graduate school we were made to take classes in other musics – musics I had never heard of. For example my first semester in graduate school I took a class on the music that preceded the Italian madrigal in Italy and I had never heard of any of these things. It was fascinating to me and lovely and there were no French Horns and I still liked it. So then from there I became enamored with Renaissance music and the actual physical artifacts, the manuscripts they were copied into back in the 15th century. And I just kept going backwards and more and more backwards until I ended up into the 10th century and that’s where I remain as a Medieval specialist.

    However, to make me more fun at parties… When I walk into the room and people say “hey what do you do?” and I say “I’m a medievalist,” they get a little standoffish. I have a second field and that second field is that I study Latin American popular music.

    SO CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LATIN AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC?

    Um, sure. So Latin American popular music is a post-colonial symptom of our hemisphere. So when the colonists came, of course, they brought there music and then there was the music of the indigenous peoples and then the music of the African peoples that arrived also… So, the resulting blending of cultures makes our music very special and very unique. I chose to study the music of Mexico in particular because I grew up in California, I’m familiar with mariachi, I’m a huge fan of mariachi and then I also spent five years at the University of Texas on the border of Chihuahua in Mexico. And again, I have the utmost respect for that music.

    SO STUDYING LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC, THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED ETHNOMUSICOLOGY, COULDN’T IT?

    Yes, my personal philosophy is that it’s all music and I don’t really believe that we need to have different compartments within music studies, academic music studies. I think musicology can be all-encompassing. I know in the past it hasn’t been and that’s to the fault of those in the past. But I don’t believe that ethnomusicology and musicology need to remain separate from each other. I think that it’s all the study of music. So, the same way that I would look at a medieval manuscript and figure out how it fit into culture, I would look at mariachi music and figure out how it fit into culture.

    SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO AS A MUSICOLOGIST?

    I suppose that the number one thing that I do is that I teach music history to future performers, future educators, future music critics, future who-knows-what my students will do. But I help them have a very strong understanding of music in context and their role in the lineage of music. That’s most of my time. I also write article on topics that I’m a specialist in – I write on medieval topics and I write on Latin American topics. One of my favorite activities is pre-concert talks which is what got me in this mess to begin with. And I love talking to general audiences about music and helping them build a road map for listening so that when they go into the concert they can have a greater enjoyment of the concert. The last thing I do is I teach a class in music appreciation at the university.

    WOULD YOU SAY THAT HAVING, YOU KNOW, SOME SORT OF MUSICAL BACKGROUND, WHETHER IT’S PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT OR SINGING, DO YOU THINK THAT THAT’S NECESSARY TO GO ON TO BECOME A MUSICOLOGIST?

    Yes, I do. I think one of the things that I believe makes me a more successful musicologist is that my own personal experience with music-making and the repertory that I’ve played… I’ve played, you know o f course, anything that has a French Horn in it, I’ve probably at this point have played through it and that gives you a real insider’s sense of what music is.

    OTHER THAN SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU’VE HAD PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH AS FAR AS WRITING, WHICH IS BOTH BOOKS AND MAGAZINES, AND TEACHING, ARE THERE OTHER THINGS A MUSICOLOGIST CAN DO?

    I believe, I’m thinking of the more splashier musicologists that I have know and who have worked with maybe organizations like the Lincoln Center or advocacy for music because musicologists are so well-spoken, they are good advocates in public for music.

    YOU COULD BE A HISTORIAN AT A MUSEUM, COLLECTING MUSIC AND THINGS.

    That’s true, or you can be an archivist, you could be a librarian. I actually thank you for nudging me, I have several students who have gone on to be music librarians.

    SO OTHER THAN WRITING AND RESEARCH, WHAT ARE SOME OTHER SKILLS THAT YOU THINK YOU NEED TO HAVE AS A MUSICOLOGIST?

    I think to be a top musicologist you need to have a good understanding of the language of the music, of the culture in which the music was created. So, for example, in my case, I really need to know Latin. I do liturgical music, I sure better know Latin in order to understand what’s being sung. Most literature in musicology was initially written in French or German, so the early scholarship was in those two languages and that’s critical for musicologists a minimum a reading understanding of German and French in addition to the language of whatever music they’re going to study. As a medievalist, I think it’s important to look at primary sources, so I do believe you actually need to see the thing that you’re talking about and not just rely on hear-say. So to actually look at the manuscripts, not just read someone’s description of the manuscript. You go to the archive to turn the pages yourself. Today it’s easier because a lot of these manuscripts have been digitized. In the past, it wasn’t the case. You either had to go to the library and look at them or get a microfilm of them which were often horrific. But that’s what we had and that’s better than just relying on somebody else’s observations.

    WELL, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE ORIGINAL SOURCE, THERE’S A LOT OF RULES AND THINGS FOR HOW YOU CAN TOUCH THEM, THE WAY TO TURN THE PAGES AND ACTUALLY HANDLING THEM, SO THAT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT THING IN AND OF ITSELF THAT YOU HAVE WORRY ABOUT. SO IT IS REALLY GREAT THAT A LOT OF THE STUFF HAS BEEN DIGITIZED.

    Right, because for example with the thing that I studied, there’s really only 8 resources that are, that have survived the ages. One of my favorite stories is when I was doing my dissertation I spent three months in Paris at the Bibliotheque Nationale and I was there everyday working from a microfilm. They wouldn’t allow me to see the actual book except for one day. So for three months I went in and did microfilm, for one day for three hours they allowed me to actually see the book. But it’s from the year 986, if they let anybody in at anytime to see it, it could be destroyed very easily. And they hovered over my shoulder and watched me. I was not allowed to do any marks, no pens, no pencils. Just white gloves and my eyes to observe this manuscript.

    BEING IN PARIS, ONE OF THE BENEFITS, YOU WOULD SAY, OF DOING MUSICOLOGY IS THE FIELDWORK?

    I love fieldwork, especially since medievalism is to libraries, which for me is fabulous. But with the Mexican music it’s to club and to restaurants and to quinceneras and wedding ceremonies and outdoor festivals, and you name it – and capturing mariachi in context has been fabulous. I’ve gone to racetracks to witness mariachi. I’ve gone to Disneyland to witness mariachi in context. One of the fabulous things about studying an active, living culture is that you get to observe the audience reaction whereas in medieval music it’s impossible. But in my mariachi work I can actually observe how different audiences react to mariachi and whether it’s at a staged performance or impromptu performance, if it’s at a casual event, a larger event.

    THAT IS REALLY, IT’S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TO BE ABLE TO SEE IT IN LIVE PERFORMANCE BECAUSE WITH LIKE MEDIEVAL MUSIC, YOU ONLY HAVE WRITTEN ACCOUNTS OF AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION AND IN SOME CASES SOURCES CAN BE REALLY LIMITED AND REALLY HARD TO FIND. SO ACTUALLY BEING ABLE TO STUDY A MUSIC THAT IS STILL ACTIVE, THAT GIVES YOU A LOT MORE TO WORK WITH AND YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE IT AND THAT’S SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN WATCHING SOMETHING BE RE-CREATED, LIKE AS FAR AS PERFORMANCES. THERE’S THAT WHOLE ISSUE OF AUTHENTICITY AND THINGS LIKE THAT. SO, MAYBE YOU WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?

    Right. Authenticity is problematic because when I look at a medieval manuscript, I’m guessing at how it was… Well, I’m not guessing, I’m carefully researching how this was probably performed. But with more contemporary music, or active, living, dynamic music, like the mariachi, I actually spend a lot more time observing the audience. Because the music, I know the tunes, and the music mutates somewhat, but it’s the audience that causes that mutation, so I have a lot of video footage of audiences because I’m fascinated with the way they will react to the same piece in different situations. Take any piece of mariachi performed in El Paso versus San Diego versus Montana – how does the audience react to that same piece of music?

    BASED ON TALKING TO YOU ABOUT THIS AND BASED ON THE WAY YOU TALK ABOUT SEEING MARIACHI MUSIC PERFORMED AND THE AUDIENCE INTERACTION AND THE EXCITEMENT AND EVERYTHING THAT GOES ALONG WITH THAT, HOW DO YOU CREATE THAT, YOU KNOW, THAT SAME PASSION, THAT SAME INTEREST FOR A MUSIC THAT YOU CAN’T REALLY HEAR BE PERFORMED IN THE WAY THAT IT WAS MAYBE ORIGINALLY INTENDED?

    Well, taking a moment, and my medieval studies is probably the thorniest music to get an audience engaged in because it was never meant for entertainment. It was meant for prayer, it’s a spiritual music. It was not meant for dancing. So having a concert of medieval chant is not… advisable. It’s not, that’s not what it was ever meant to be at any time because it’s a spiritual act. So taking a quick moment to explain to the listener, actually to explain to the performer too, what the origins of this music, the function of this music originally, will help everybody involved to have a deeper understanding of it in the performance.

    SO THAT’S WHERE SPEAKING BEFORE CONCERTS COMES IN.

    Really, I think the pre-concert lectures are fabulous. They should be kept light and direct and help, like I said, give the listener a roadmap for things to hang their head on during the concert. Because if it’s new music and people are faced with new music that they have no context to understand, they’re not likely to enjoy it as much as they would if they had some sort of hint.

    RIGHT, WELL, ON A REALLY BASIC LEVEL THAT COULD BE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T REALLY FAMILIAR WITH CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THEY GO TO A CONCERT AND THERE’S A MULTI-MOVEMENT PIECE. IF SOMEONE DOESN’T WARN THEM BEFOREHAND EITHER IN THE PROGRAM OR AT THE BEGINNING IN SOME SORT OF PRESENTATION, THEY MIGHT CLAP BETWEEN MOVEMENTS AND WITH AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE, IF THEY’RE THE ONLY ONES IN THE AUDITORIUM CLAPPING, THEY’RE GOING TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE AND THAT’S GOING TO BE A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE FOR THEM. AND YOU DON’T WANT THEM TO HAVE THAT. SO ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING TO PREPARE THE AUDIENCE FOR WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO LISTEN TO AND WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO EXPERIENCE, THAT’S A REALLY GOOD THING. SO I AGREE THAT CONCERT TALKS NEED TO BE A MORE REGULAR PART OF MUSIC PROGRAMMING.

    WE’VE BEEN TALKING A LOT ABOUT MUSICOLOGY, BUT YOU STILL PLAY FRENCH HORN. YOU DIDN’T CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER – PERFORMANCE OR MUSICOLOGY – YOU STILL DO BOTH.

    I do.

    SO HOW DO YOU BALANCE DOING BOTH – FINDING THE TIME TO RESEARCH AND STUDY AND TEACH AND FINDING TIME TO PRACTICE AND PERFORM?

    It’s tricky. It is tricky… As time goes on I find I have to make a concerted effort to schedule time in for practicing and for performing as much as possible. Over the years, you know, sometimes there’s more performance and less musicology and sometimes there’s more musicology, less performance… It’s never been equal. And I have chosen to be a musicologist so I understood that was an outcome. But I think that keeping performing – continuing to perform – helps me keep it real. I can put my money where my mouth is. I actually have played this music. I do play this music. I am playing this music… tonight… And having people see that not only do I speak about music but that I’m actually participating in the music making, is huge. It gives me a lot more validity.

    MORE AUTHORITY.

    More authority… As a performer and as a musicologist. So I know about the music so I am a better player and I play the music so I’m a better musicologist.

    YOU TALKED ABOUT GOING TO PARIS AND STUDYING IN PARIS, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER INTERESTING THINGS YOU’VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO AS A MUSICOLOGIST?

    More recently I have decided to look at objects of liturgical interest, of sacred music in California. And one of the most interesting things that I have found were some lampshades at Hearst Castle in California. And William Randolph Hearst was an enormously prolific collector and he bought some older music manuscripts and had the pages turned into lampshades. Yeah, so if you take a tour, Tour 1, 2 or 3 at Hearst Castle today you will see that in his own personal collection he has lampshades that are made out of the pages of chant manuscripts.

    SO YOU STUDY THE LAMPSHADES?

    I study lampshades! Lampshades with or without the party are fun.

    SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HOPE TO DO IN THE FUTURE AS A MUSICOLOGIST?

    In the future, one of my little pet projects is something I’ve come to fall very much in love with which combines both medieval studies and mariachi is the colonial music in California. So the music of the missions. And that’s an ancient liturgical tradition that goes back to medieval times but it also has this Mexican flavor to it, so this is something that I look forward to doing in the future. And it’s right here at home and it’s understudied. It’s not unstudied but it’s understudied and it’s exciting and real and it’s part of my personal Californian history.

    YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT WHAT YOU STUDY AS A MUSICOLOGIST, BUT MORE IN GENERAL, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIFFERENT THINGS THAT YOU CAN STUDY?

    You can study any aspect of music and culture. Any aspect. So, it could be compositional techniques, you could study melody or harmony. You can study gender in music. You can study the instrumentation. Really, anything goes. Patronage – who paid for the music. There’s not limits to what you might study as a musicologist.

    WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU?

    About me? The quick and dirty way is to go to the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music website and my name is there. I am the Associate Chair of the conservatory and I’m also in the musicology program. And I also have my own writing website where I can be found at allmusicreview.com.

    AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THINGS YOU DO AS PART OF ALLMUSICREVIEW.COM?

    You name it, I’ll do it. I can do an artist bio, I can do a CD review, a scholarly treatment of some subject of your choosing, all music.

    ALL GENRES?

    All genres. Omnivore (points to self).

    WELL THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THE INTERVIEW WITH US.

    Thank you for having me.

     

    April 4, 2013 • Interviews • Views: 903

  • Learn Jazz Lingo and Slang

    Here are some jazz phrases that we like and found entertaining. There are so many more than what we’ve listed here, so feel free to add your favorites in the comments!

    The Apple – New York City.

    Axe – An instrument.

    Bag – A particular interest.

    Balloon lungs – A wind player with plenty of air.

    Beat – Exhausted.

    Birdbrain – Someone who imitates Charlie Parker (I think we should start using “Breckerbrain”).

    Blow – Slang for playing an instrument.

    The Bomb – Very cool.

    Bread – Money.

    Burnin‘ – An extremely excellent solo/performance.

    Cats – Those who play jazz.

    Changes – Chord progression.

    Chops – The overall ability to play an instrument in a very skilled way. Also refers to a brass players facial muscles.

    Clams – Mistakes made while playing.

    Combo – A combination of musicians that can vary in size (anywhere from 3 to 10).

    Crib – House/home. Also known as pad.

    Dig – To know or understand.

    Finger Zinger – A musician who plays a whole lot of notes fast.

    Flip – To go crazy.

    Fly – Slick.

    Gig – A paying job.

    In the Pocket – When groove is really together Jam – Improvise.

    Jive – Phony or fake.

    Licks – A term for a phrase of music.

    Licorice Stick – Clarinet

    Noodlin‘ – Playing a bunch of notes that don’t mean anything or are out of context.

    Pad – House

    Popsicle Stick – A sax reed.

    Scene – A specific place or the general atmosphere.

    Smokin‘ – Playing your booty off.

    Solid – The band is playing tight.

    Split – To leave.

    Square – Someone who doesn’t play with a lot of feeling.

    Supermurgitroid – Something/someone really cool. (okay, who really used this? Come on…)

    Tag – Used to end the tune, where the last phrase is repeated.

    Train Wreck – Where a piece of music or performance is completely botched.

    Wail – To play extremely well.

    Wax a disc – Cut a record.

    Wig/Wig out – To flip out.

    Woodshed (or Shed) – To practice.

    January 26, 2013 • Teen Jazz • Views: 1838

  • Ethnomusicologist Dr Suzel Reily | Teen Jazz Interview

    Hey everyone. With me today, I have a very special guest. This is Dr Suzel Reily, she is a professor at Queen’s University Belfast and she teaches in the Ethnomusicology department. So today we’re going to follow up on careers in music and discuss ethnomusicology as a career.

    THE INTERVIEW

    Hi Suzel

    Hi there Shannon, how are you?

    Good and you?

    I’m just fine

    So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

    I was born and raised in Brazil of American parents and so I think having that double cultural background was probably what incited me to be interested in issues of culture and different kinds of musics. I actually began as a music educator. I discovered a thing called ethnomusicology and it was quite definitely the thing for me and then I went back to Brazil after finishing my MA and did a PHD in the department of social anthropology at the University of Sao Paolo, so that was, I guess, how I became an ethnomusicologist.

    So why don’t you talk about some of the things you do as an ethnomusicologist?

    Well, some people divide it into the two big camps – those people who are connected more to anthropology which I guess would be people like myself and people who are more linked to musicology and this is particularly marked in traditions that have got an art tradition associated with them like Indian classical music. Obviously one big area of ethnomusicological work is the field work. There’s of course the teaching, music journalism, arts administration, music therapy…

    What are some of the other things that an ethnomusicologist could study? What other topics are there that are available?

    Anything that’s connected to music and music is such a central part of so many people’s lives. Many ethnomusicologists do go abroad, a number of ethnomusicologists are now showing that ethnomusicological sensibility can be really quite critical to understanding even what we consider western classical music.

    And how would one go about selecting a topic to study?

    Often people will come with particular musical experiences that they had and that for one reason or another they were drawn to that topic or drawn at least to that particular music world. You can’t do everything so then you end up having to decide how you’re going to cut up your cake. Sometimes you have a particular idea about what you wanted to do and when you get to the field you realize that it isn’t going to be possible. It’s a little bit pragmatics, it’s a little bit chance, it’s a little bit personal interest and you just go from there.

    So what are some of the other fields that you have to research and be aware of in addition to music and anthropology?

    Music and anthropology would be the main ones. Depending on what you want to study, nowadays there’s a lot of very interesting material coming out of geography, sociology as well. One of the writers that all ethnomusicologists nowadays are reading, and she would not consider herself an ethnomusicologist but rather a socioligist is Tia DeNora, and she wrote a magnificent book on music in everyday life. There’s also a growing trend in cognitive ethnomusicology perhaps being led by Judith Becker. Cognitive psychology can be another important area. The work on emotions by Dimazzio is also being cited quite a bit. Philosophy is another area that some people wold say that you need to have a good basis there. But a lot will really depend on what area of music and what geographical area you’re working on.

    Do you think it is necessary to learn the language of the region that you’re studying?

    It’s fundamental. You do need to, yeah. Especially if you’re going to do fieldwork. It is possible to work with translators if you have the funds to pay them but it just does not take the place of first hand encounters and actually being able to talk yourself with the people that you’re studying. I would certainly encourage anyone wanting to go abroad to do research to start learning the language as soon as possible.

    What advice do you have for a young musician or scholar interested in studying ethnomusicology?

    Go do it! Well if you’re in high school and are thinking of studying ethnomusicology then one thing that you might want to do is take languages. You’ll certainly want to have every kind of musical experience that you possibly can. Start listening to as much music of the most varied type that you can and by that I mean actually listen. Don’t just put it on in the background. Sit down and actually take the time to try to hear what is that, how is this music put together? What are the sounds that are going on here? And do the same for musics coming from a lot of different places. Read. “How Musical is Man,” you might enjoy that. Tom Turino’s book on music in social life. Above all listen to as much music as you can.

    -And of course bloopers!-

    October 6, 2012 • Interviews • Views: 1096

  • Saxophonist Michael Brecker | Teen Jazz Legend

    As one of the most innovative and imitated saxophonists of the 21st century, Michael Brecker has played a large role in shaping the jazz and instrumental pop genres over the last thirty years. “You’ll find no better example of stylistic evolution than Michael Brecker, unarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years.”

    Born March 29, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Michael grew up in a musical household, influenced by jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, but most importantly and significantly by tenor saxophone giant John Coltrane. His father, who was an amateur pianist, encouraged Michael and his older brother, Randy, to study music. Randy took up the trumpet while Michael initially began to play the clarinet, but later moved to alto saxophone, and in high school, finally settled on tenor sax as his primary instrument.

    Michael followed his older brother, Randy Brecker, to school at the University of Indiana in 1966, but moved to New York to be a part of the jazz scene. After doing plenty of freelance work, Michael co-founded the first instrumental, horn-based rock group Dreams in 1970, which only lasted a year and two record releases. Their importance as an ensemble was shadowed by being signed to the same record label as Blood, Sweat, and Tears. The group included outstanding musicians such as Michael’s brother Randy on trumpet, Billy Cobham on drums, Barry Rogers on trombone, John Abercrombie on guitar (who was eventually replaced by Bob Mann), Jeff Kent on keyboards (who was eventually replaced by Don Grolnick), Doug Luban on bass (who was eventually replaced by Will Lee), and Edward Vernon on vocals.

    In 1973, Michael and Randy Brecker joined pianist Horace Silver’s quintet. Then in 1974, Michael and his brother Randy formed The Brecker Brothers, which was labeled as “one of the most innovative and successful jazz and funk fusion bands of the decade.” Around this time, Randy and Michael also owned their own jazz club in Manhattan where they had jam sessions with artists including vibes player Mike Maineiri, bass player Eddie Gomez, and drummer Steve Gadd, which eventually led to the formation of the group Steps Ahead.

    Formed in 1979 by Mike Mainieri, Steps, was intended to unite the efforts of some of New York’s virtuous musicians and made its debut on tour in Japan with the album Smokin’ in the Pit, a dual-disc live CD recorded at the Pit-Inn Tokyo released solely in Japan on December 15th and 16th in 1979. Their third album, Step By Step, was recorded December 17, 1979 in a studio, and it was also initially only released in Japan. In 1981, Steps recorded their last album for Nippon Records entitled Paradox in New York City at Seventh Ave South, the club owned by the Brecker Brothers.

    Steps originally included Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, Eddie Gomez on bass, Don Grolnick on keyboards, and Steve Gadd on drums. In Steps, drummer Peter Erskine eventually replaced Steve Gadd for the album Paradox. In 1983, Don Grolnick left the group and Steps became Steps Ahead due to the discovery that a band had already trademarked the name when they signed with Elektra Records. These changes eventually led to Michael Brecker gaining leadership of the ensemble in 1987. At this time, the ensemble included Mike Stern on guitar, Daryl Jones on bass, and Steve Smith on drums. Initially recording in the smooth[er] jazz styles as Steps, Steps Ahead became more of an electric band and became the renowned fusion band in New York. Some various musicians that passed through the band are Bob Berg, Elaine Elias, Marc Johnson, David Sancious, Rachel Z, and Warren Bernhardt. Steps Ahead recorded seven albums and became known as a worldwide success.

    Having recorded at least one thousand albums as a leader or as a sideman, Michael Brecker has shared his music brilliance in recordings by artists such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, and countless others.

    Michael Brecker released his debut, self-titled solo album in 1987 supported by Charlie Haden on bass, Pat Metheney on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Kenny Kirkland on keyboards. To contrast with his more electric and fusion based group Steps Ahead, Michael Brecker’s album was recorded in a more traditional jazz style, displaying his versatility as a saxophonist and EWI player. “Michael Brecker,” the album, earned Michael Brecker recognition for having the “Jazz Album of the Year” in several jazz magazines. His second record, Don’t Try This At Home, earned Brecker his first Grammy award.

    In 1990, Michael Brecker released his third album, Now You See It … (Now You Don’t) and began touring with Paul Simon. In 1992, Michael reunited with his brother Randy Brecker to record The Return of the Brecker Brothers. In 1994, Michael recorded his next solo album Out of the Loop, and then Tales From the Hudson in 1997.

    Michael Brecker released Two Blocks From The Edge in 1998, which featured the popular tune Delta City Blues, a song that demonstrated Brecker’s amazing facility on the saxophone and knowledge of harmonics. In 1999, Time is of the Essence and The Nearness of You: The Ballad Book followed. The Nearness of You: The Ballad Book featured several jazz greats – Pat Metheney, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, and Jack DeJohnette, as well as folk singer James Taylor. This album also won Brecker a Grammy.

    In 2002, Michael Brecker recorded the ground breaking album Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall, a tribute album to Miles Davis and John Coltrane which was one of the most popular jazz events in the last few years. In 2003, Brecker’s solo recording Wide Angles, a large ensemble recording, featured some of Michael’s most original writing and earned him two more Grammys in 2004. The “quindectet” instrumentation included saxophone, trumpet, trombone, French horn, alto flute, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn, two violins, viola, cello, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion.

    Throughout the jazz community, Michael Brecker is known as the most ground-breaking saxophonist of his time; in the words of Pat Metheney, “by the time he gets done with an audience, people are standing on their chairs screaming. He gets to people under their skin, and that’s what makes him heavy.”

    Sadly, Michael Brecker was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood disorder. “Despite a widely-publicized worldwide search, Brecker was unable to find a matching stem cell donor. In late 2005, he was the recipient of an experimental partial matching stem cell transplant. As of early 2006, he still is seriously ill, and it is unclear whether the experimental procedure will provide a long-term remedy.” Sadly he passed away not long after.

    Throughout his career, Michael Brecker has received much recognition for his saxophone genius including eleven Grammys, as well as being the first to win “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance” and “Best Jazz Instrumental Solo” for two consecutive years. In 1997, Brecker was recognized as the “Best Soloist of the Year” by JazzLife and “Jazz Man of the Year” by Swing Journal just to name a few.

    September 30, 2012 • Interviews • Views: 1551