WBGO Blog
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel: The Grapes Of Jazz

    November 18, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    The days of wine and jazz improvisation. (Image Credit: Josh Jackson)

    "Making a good wine," my oldest son says, "is about choosing the grapes that you'd like to eat." And you can't do that with huge containers. You have to be like a small child filling a bucket.
    --René Barbier, Clos Mogador Winery

    When Joan Cararach, the Artistic Director of the Barcelona Jazz Festival, told me about his gambit, it sounded a little impractical. The premise was thus:

    Bring Spain's finest vignerons together at Monviníc, an oenological cultural institution in Barcelona's Eixample district. Taste their finest wares -- an Iberian sauvignon, an albariño, a blended red from Penedès, another red from the heart of Catalunya's Priorat hills, an ancient Moscatel from Málaga and a noble Jerez Amontillado. Invite Kurt Rosenwinkel to play improvisations based on his impressions of these wines. Is this even possible?

    The short answer is yes. Rosenwinkel had plenty of study time. His trio (Eric Revis, Ted Poor) and guests enjoyed four bottles at a specially prepared menu in Paris. The remaining two bottles were consumed in Umeå, Sweden, for Kurt's 40th birthday. He made tasting notes on an index card and then worked from there. "I'm not an expert by any means," Rosenwinkel said. "But it was a great challenge to translate and interpret the qualities of the wine into musical qualities."

    I still wasn't sure, but Kurt had a plan. "All the colors and textures, they all have harmonic colors. They all have speed. Some wines are fast some are slow. Some are rhythmic, some are plaintive. I immediately heard some chords, so for each bottle, I would feel a certain tonality."

    Were there any favorites? It's an unfair question to ask, but I did anyway. "They're all great," Rosenwinkel said. "The Clos Mogador 2001 floored me. It's such a beautiful red wine -- very light but very intense flavor. It had a deep and profound tannic structure. It made for a very complex improvisation, and it was hard to reconcile both the wine and the music for that one."

    My heart leaps up when I think about what happened in Barcelona on Monday night. I'll admit to some initial skepticism, but too much of it can rob a man of good intentions. You have to let wine and song prevail, else your bucket's got a hole in it.

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  • In 'Antiquity,' The Modern Roots of Aethereal Bace

    July 8, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    (Image Credit: SteepleChase Records)

    Today's NPR Music Favorite Session features a group called Aethereal Bace, a trio of one saxophonist and two drummers.

    Two very important musicians are central to the development of this group: saxophonist Jackie McLean and drummer Michael Carvin. In 1975, they released a duet recording called Antiquity for Inner City/SteepleChase Records. It is a very good record. Here's a taste of it:

    "Antiquity: The Hunter And His Game," by Jackie McLean and Michael Carvin, Antiquity (SteepleChase/Inner City). Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Michael Carvin, percussion. New York, N.Y.: Recorded Oct. 30, 1974.

    Who are these musicians?

    Michael Carvin is a master musician and educator who gets little recognition beyond those who know his formidable coaching method of drum rudiments. He has taught the A-list of modern jazz drummers over the last 30 years. His pupils have included Nasheet Waits and Eric McPherson, the rhythm behind Aethereal Bace and many a great recording, including the aforementioned Two Top (Piano) Trios released recently.

    Jackie McLean influenced a lot of saxophonists, especially those who sought his tutelage at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where McLean founded the Department of African-American Music in 1980. (It was later renamed the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in his honor.) Wayne Escoffery, who played the Village Vanguard recently, went there. So did Steve Lehman. Abraham Burton, the saxophonist in Aethereal Bace, received his degree in music and performance there too. And Eric McPherson, McLean's last drummer, studied on scholarship. He is now a faculty member at Hartt.

    This is just to say that a lot of today's music owes a great debt to McLean and Carvin. Their recording of Antiquity is a testament to how much music can come out of them, literally and figuratively.

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  • Meet The Jazz Audience: Winston Lin

    June 30, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    Winston Lin of Los Angeles, Calif. with his girlfriend. (Image Credit: Josh Jackson)

    In the last few decades, June has become the busiest month for jazz in New York City, home to the biggest jazz scene in the world. But who is actually going to these shows? A small team of Bloggers Supreme attended the festivities -- primarily, the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. In between our reports on various goings-on, we talked to the some of the people who were actually in the audience. We started off every conversation with the simple question: how did you hear about this show? And be sure to check out more of our Meet The Jazz Audience series. --Ed.

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