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Moment's Notice from Gregory James

The last weekend in September was an amazing series of concerts by SF Jazz.  Friday the 28th was the Brecker Brothers reunion (sadly of course without Michael).  Randy, his wife Ada Rovatti on tenor, George Whitty on keys, Neil Jason on bass, Dave Weckl on drums, AND Mike Stern on guitar.  Weckl and Mike soared up to heaven!  Fond memories of listening to the Brecker Brothers and many others at their club Seventh Avenue South in the late seventies and early eighties.The next night was Miles Smiles with Wallace Roney, Bill Evans, Joey DeFrancesco, Omar Hakim, Victor Bailey fortuitously filling in for Daryl Jones, AND Robben Ford!  I always knew that the great electric period of Miles (and Ornette) would one day be recognized and celebrated.  And with the ascent of Christian Scott, incorporated into a new generation of improvisors.  As with the night before, the interplay between drums and guitar was amazing.  Omar was the premier drummer in the world in the early 80's, and he's just as spectacular.  And Robben, well , he's my favorite guitar player.  At the end of one solo he quoted Some Enchanted Evening. They say Miles cried when he left.  I had the privilege of seeing them quite a few times for the short time Robben was in the band.And Sunday night was Sonny Rollins at Davies Hall.  A collosus, indeed.  In his eighties, white haired and his huge frame starting to hunch over, he is every bit as powerful and inventive as he was 40 years ago. My dear friend Baron Shul has said that Sonny's universal appeal is that he either plays standards (Once in a While) or blues, or calypso.  And about 80% of his soloing is inside, but about 20% is outside - 12 tone- so he always sounds fresh, and adventurous.  With:Clifton Anderson tromboneSaul Rubin guitarBob Cranshaw bassKobie Watkins drumsSammy Figueroa percussionAmazing!

A few weeks ago Esperanza Spaulding played with her big band Radio Music Society, a follow up to her hit album Chamber Music Society.  Esperanza is brilliant, and this is her most ambitious project yet.  A true big band, which incorporates everything from funk, to Ellington, to samba, to Tin Pan Alley and Rock and Roll.  The musician credits give a good hint at how diverse and yet cohesive the ensemble is: Esperanza Spalding double bass, electric bass, lead vocalsJeff Galindo Musical Director, tromboneTia Fuller alto saxophoneDaniel Blake tenor andsoprano saxophonesAaron Burnett tenor saxophoneIgmar Thomas trumpetLeala Cyr trumpet, backing vocalsCorey King tromboneJef Lee Johnson electric guitar, backing vocalsLeo Genovese piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboardsLyndon Rochelle drums, backing vocalsChris Turner backing vocalsAs I'm fond of saying, she plays bass like Ron Carter, and sings like Betty Carter.  And leads an orchestra like Ellington or Sun Ra!

I haven't posted for a while, as we have been recording the new Emily Palen release Creation and my new release Cult of Beauty.  But I have been out to see some great music, and there is more coming up this fall.  In August Dead Can Dance played the Greek Theater.  It was their first tour in 7 years, backing their first studio recording in 15 years.  I first saw them in the '80s, and in many ways they are timeless.  Lisa Gerrard has one of the most fantastic voices in all of music.  A huge range, often dipping into eastern quarter tones, and singing in everything from old English to invented languages, she casts an hypnotic spell.  The fans lean toward Goth, which has always amused me, as Lisa is usually in a white gown more reminiscent of Amee Semple McPherson.  And now the fans are mature Goth.  (With quite a few very attractive mums with their teenage daughters, for some reason. Bonding?).  Ms. Gerrard is a great beauty, and her voice has remained pristine.  She did a wonderful solo tour a few years ago.  DCD have always been two bands for me; one when Lisa sings, and a less fortunate one when Brendan Perry sings.  He hasn't aged well, and has always sounded to me like Neil Diamond imitating Jim Morrison.  It should be hard to sound pompous when paraphrasing Humpty Dumpty, as he does in Children of the Sun, but he manages.  Still, to be in the presence of Ms. Gerrard's incredible voice, and gentle, enigmatic demeanor, one would endure far more.    

Mozart's The Magic Flute is one of the most complete works of art I know.  Often underestimated, it has everything from comedy, to drama, to the profound nature of good and evil, light and dark.  SF Opera's recent production, with sets and costumes by Jun Kaneko, affirm that Mozart is always fresh and modern.  And Albina Shagimuratova's Queen of the Night was electric.  In a week of senseless world wide violence, works that affirm beauty and truth are essential.

On this day – 1985 Live Aid (via On the 13th July 1985 the Live Aid concerts were staged, simultaneously, in Wembley Stadium, London and John F Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia. The event, organised by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, was watched by an estimated global audience of 1.9 Billion people. It was staged to raise money and awareness…

The legendary Pat Martino played Yoshi's SF last Saturday as an organ trio with Pat Bianchi on organ and Carmen Intorre on drums.  Bianchi and Intorre play with a musicality and fire that beliestheir youth.  I've had the privilege of seeing Pat Martino for many, many years, and I don't think I've ever heard him in better form.  He started out playing in organ trios with Brother Jack McDuff,  (with whom I've also had the prvilege of playing) and has returned to this format occasionally in the last few years.  He started the set with the Charlie Christian tune Seven Come Eleven.  It's hard to imagine the influence Charlie had on bebop; he was the Jimi Hendrix of his day.  From stating the melody onward Pat dove deep into postbop upper extensions and polyrythmic lines.  In fact the entire set was an exercise in making jazz standards that are forty to seventy years old vibrant, modern and even edgey.  The set included Full House, by Wes Montgomery, All Blues by Miles, and Footprints by Wayne Shorter.  All are tunes I still love to play.

I've been working on a new recording the last few weeks, and haven't had a chance to post for a while.  The Gaultier show at The De Young Museum is a must see: many musicians I'm influenced and inspired by many art forms.  Gaultier is simply a genius.  He re-defines fashion, eroticism, gender, and culture.  Co-incidentally MTV was playing Madonna's Truth or Dare documentary this morning.  I hadn't seen it in years.  Many of the costumes from that tour and the Blonde Ambition tour are at the De Young show.  I've always admired Madonna's message for young women:  Your body belongs to you, not your parents, not your church, not the state.  Bravo (and Brava) Gaultier and Madonna!   

Paco de Lucia played the Paramount Theater last night as part of SF Jazz.  I have a pretty strict definition of genius:  an artist who changes the way practitioners think of the medium.  Picasso, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix.  You can work through them, but you ignore them at your peril.  Miles said "I changed the music five or six times", and indeed he did.  Birth of the Cool, Walking, Kind of Blue, ESP, Silent Way, Bitches Brew, changed the way we thought, and felt, about music.  Paco, from his astounding work with Camaron, to Entre Dos Aguas, to Siroco, Zyryab, and Luzia, continually changes the way flamencos view their art form.  Originally criticized by "purists", his command of traditional material and technique is without equal.  His genius is in continually evolving and renewing the art form.  He is one of a handful of the most accomplished musicians on earth; Ravi Shankar comes to mind. This concert featured the great vocalist Duquende, and the spectacular young dancer Farru.  Paco was greeted with a standing ovation.  As is his custom, the opening piece was solo, a beautiful rondena.  The encore segued from Guardian Angels by John McLaughlin (which they used to play together) into Entre Dos Aguas.  In between were two hours of seamless magic.  Bravo Paco! 

The New Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring Maria Farantouri played Herbst Sunday as part of SF Jazz.  This was a true meeting of world music.  Maria was the voice of Mikis Theodorakis' compositions, and a symbol of the resistance to the Greek military junta.  Charles Lloyd is one of my biggest musical influences.  To this day my love of major and minor 9ths and 13ths stems from his great quartet with Jack DeJohnette, Cecil McBee and Keith Jarrett. (For a while, Gabor Szabo was in the band!)  His New Quartet of the last several years includes Jason Moran, Eric Harland, and Reuben Rogers.  Along with Wayne Shorter's Quartet, I believe it is among the most important music being made.  Charles has known Maria for many years, and has studied Greek music.  All ethnic music has modes, and pentatonic scales, with micro tones (from Indian classical, to the blues).  Charles and Maria blended, seemingly effortlessly, while Eric Harland wove an infinite pattern of rhythms that would have confounded lesser talents.  True Genius!


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