• Replace Head With Instrument: Surrealist Music Photography

    December 13, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Bootsy Collins. (Image Credit: Michael Weintrob)

    New-York-based Michael Weintrob is the official photographer of the 43rd Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival. "I met him when I needed a photo of [jazz concert producer] George Wein when we presented the great impresario with his trio last year," says Joan Anton Cararach, the festival director. (Barcelona is a sister festival to the Newport Jazz Festival, founded by Wein.) "I saw Michael working very hard in New York and Newport, and I really liked his approach to live concert photography."

    Weintrob occupied the Gran Hotel Havana, festival headquarters, starting Oct. 26. During the festival, he became something of an anchor resident and a self-described "camp counselor" to journalists covering the events on a temporary basis.

    Fifteen images from Weintrob's portraiture series, InstrumentHead, were exhibited in the hotel lobby, thanks to support from the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona. "InstrumentHead is a project I've been working on for five years," says Weintrob. "They're surrealist portraits of musicians, and I'm trying to tell their story without seeing their face. The idea is to leave hints in the images, so their fans can guess who they are without seeing their face."

    More than 200 artists have participated in the project so far. There have been discussions about a book and a fan-funded online archive, as well as a 2013 exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    In Barcelona, Weintrob spent his days shooting artist clinics, conducting student workshops, and speaking at the Catalan Institute for Photography. At night, he captured the concerts and special events, spread over a month, that are collectively known as the Barcelona Jazz Festival. "It's a big honor to have a surrealist exhibition in Catalonia, the home of surrealist art and a place where Dali, Miro and Picasso all made an impact."

    "Michael was already set to come to Barcelona, so I thought it could be a great idea to make him our official photographer," Cararach says. "I loved the idea of having a photographer from abroad discover the festival — our venues, our public, our love for food and wine. He's working hard, but he's having fun. I'm delighted to see my festival through his eyes. He has become a true Barcelonian."

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  • Seamus Blake Quartet: Live In Concert

    December 7, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Seamus Blake performs live at Berklee College of Music. (Image Credit: Armeen Musa/Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)

    He's not quite a global icon, but a jury of his peers would surely judge the tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake one of the top improvisers working today. In fact, a jury of peer and elder saxophonists officially deemed it so in 2002, when he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Unofficially, he's long held the distinction — since landing in New York in the early 1990s, really — serving with Victor Lewis, Dave Douglas, John Scofield and the Mingus Big Band, among other headliners, all the while finding time to record and perform in multiple settings as a bandleader.

    He brought several of his trusted collaborators back to his alma mater for the next installment of The Checkout: Live At Berklee series, featuring alumni of the Berklee College of Music. In a live radio broadcast on WBGO and live online video webcast at NPR Music, the Seamus Blake Quartet performed live at Berklee's Cafe 939 on Wednesday, Dec. 7. For more information about this series and the full concert archive, visit npr.org/checkoutlive.

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  • Christian Scott Quintet: Live In Concert

    November 17, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Christian Scott. (Image Credit: Kelly Davidson/Berklee College of Music)

    The trumpeter Christian Scott is a rare breed these days: A young musician who has earned mainstream attention for making modern jazz. He's only 28, but he's already put out four albums of original music. He's been cast in feature films, photographed as a fashion plate, called to play with Prince. His quintet has played on late-night talk shows — twice.

    That quintet, the one behind 2010's Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, has recently recorded material for a new album. It would be the next landmark for the New Orleans native, who grew up ingesting his hometown's musical traditions, but has refused to tailor his career arc exclusively within them. To wit, he's known for his distinctive tone — he sometimes employs what's been called "whisper technique" — and for the stylistic fusions of his bands.

    He and his current bandmates, most of them fellow alumni of Berklee College of Music, returned to their alma mater for the premiere installment of The Checkout: Live At Berklee. In a live radio broadcast on WBGO and live online video webcast at NPR Music, the Christian Scott Quintet performed live at Berklee's Cafe 939 on Thursday, Nov. 17. For more information about this series and the full concert archive, visit npr.org/checkoutlive.

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