March 6, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Happy birthday today to Wes Montgomery. Any guitarist worth his or her salt has at least ONE album from Wes Montgomery, the master non-plectrist. No, I didn't invent that word, plectrist. It's actually derived from plectrum, which is what guitar nerds and speakers of dead languages call a pick. [Incidentally, another great guitarist, Billy Bauer, made a record in the 1950s called Plectrist. But I'm getting even more off topic here.]
Wes Montgomery, however, was a non-plectrist. He didn't use an external tool to pick the strings. He used his thumb. That's what makes Wes Montgomery's sound so identifiable - warm, casual, and about as 'natural' as an amplified electric instrument can sound without using algorithms or superhero powers.
Check out this video of Wes playing Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." About two minutes in, you'll see the closeup on his hand. Not plectacular, but spectacular. - Josh
PS - Anyone have a favorite Wes Montgomery album, song, or solo?
© 2008 WBGO
March 5, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
People who know me will tell you I always have jazz on the brain. Guilty as charged. Recently, scientists studied improvising musicians, hoping to unlock the underlying neurological functions of high and low level musical improvisation. A summation of the study is here.
Turns out all you have to do is turn off your prefrontal cortex (can an Idiot's Guide to Turning Off Your Prefrontal Cortex be far behind?).
This study reminds me of a conversation I had with the New Orleans writer, performer, and creator Kalamu Ya Salaam. One night on Rampart Street, at a club called The Funky Butt, I watched in awe as Kalamu performed an original poem in a style similar to the way that pianist Cecil Taylor played his music. Kalamu and I worked together at WWOZ in New Orleans. One night, during his Thursday evening Kitchen Sink show, I asked him how he could do such things.
He said, "There's an invisible button located on your forehead. It controls the part of your brain that says you cannot do something. Turn it off."
© 2008 WBGO
March 4, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
FYI - The WBGO studio session with Jason Lindner's Now Vs. Now has been posted. Five completely new songs. And for a little lagniappe, you can download two of them, and dig the video from the session. Check it out now. Versus now...
PS See the band live at The Jazz Gallery, Friday and Saturday, 3/14 and 3/15.
© 2008 WBGO