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Last weekend I heard two bands at Tonic as part of the Festival of New Trumpet Music. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I co-curate the festival with trumpeters Roy Campbell and Jon Nelson.)

Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band began the evening by burning through repertoire from Serbia. (Well, mostly Southern Serbia, the trumpeter Michael Ginsburg later explained. They did eventually wander 15 or 20 miles further afield and play music from parts of Bulgaria and Greece...) At first it was just a shock to see this happening at Tonic (I had done an electric triple-bill with Kneebody and Jonathan Finlayson the previous night). Then it just got infectious and we forgot where we were and started generally celebrating. All those horns up there, all that energy.

Then Avishai Cohen led a great quintet through a set of original music. This is Avishai Cohen the trumpet player, not to be confused with Avishai Cohen the bass player ... Avishai has awesome chops, and he and the band (including Jason Linder on Keyboards and Omer Avital on bass) charmed the audience with their great groove. Another great night in New York.

The festival runs in New York throughout the rest of August 2005.


The New, Exciting and Soon Forgotten

An article in today's NY Times highlights a problem in new music that affects musicians and music lovers alike. It's called first-performance disease. I think it happens in all genres -- even pop musicians generally only play material from the current album (with great exceptions like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson). How many exciting new jazz compositions have you seen or heard about, only to see them performed once at the world premiere? It's even tougher for post-classical music. Commissions are a great opportunity for composers to write something new, but it's a shame when there's only one performance to show for it. Here's Allan Kozinn in today's New York Times:

Last week, as the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood was gliding to a close, the large student orchestra of the Tanglewood Music Center lit into Steven Stucky's Second Concerto for Orchestra. It is an electrifying piece: three movements that explore an orchestra's potential in much the way Bartok's and Lutoslawski's concertos for orchestra do, but in ways that sound fresh and exciting. It alludes to works by other composers without losing its own focus, and like many of the festival works it stands apart from academic disputes about style and language, and strives for direct communication.

But although Mr. Stucky's description of the score and his method of composing it piqued my interest, there wasn't much to be done: it became one of those works you read about but have no access to. The best you can do is file away the impression and hope that the piece turns up, either in the concert hall or on disc.

When I finally did hear the work, at Tanglewood, the exhilaration of discovering a vivid new score was tempered by a nagging question. While intending no disrespect to the Tanglewood Music Center or its superb young musicians, who produced a fantastic performance, I wondered why I had had to drive 150 miles to hear a student orchestra play it, some 17 months after a premiere that, by all accounts, was a success and four months after its Pulitzer?

Kozinn goes on to make the point that orchestras ought to be more flexible and adaptive to great new works. I especially liked reading this:

...forget the outmoded notion that where new music is concerned, only premieres are important. Audiences and composers don't think that way.

There is no real prestige in giving the premiere of a work that no one else plays, and there is no loss of prestige in giving the second, third or fourth performance of a worthy new score... And once an orchestra establishes a track record of finding works that resonate, audiences will come to trust these changes and look forward to them.

That's good to hear, and something I suspect to be true.

There is also no easy solution, especially for composers who are not performers of their own work. One example of an attempt: a great new program over at Chamber Music America called the New Works Encore Program.

It's interesting to look at the musicians involved. It reads like a who's who of great composer ensembles in improvised music. But it still seems it's up to them to keep the work alive, and up to us to seek it out.


Jazz Views Interviews Dave Douglas

For those interested in an extended take on my views, here's a 2004 interview with British journalist John Kelman.

While critics attempt to categorize Douglas' work as ranging from the Eastern European folk-informed Tiny Bell Trio to electronica with his Freak In project, Douglas steadfastly avoids the use of labels. "I am really wary of genre names," says Douglas. "I feel like when we get into saying, for example, that there's more blues on Strange Liberation we get on a really slippery slope to defining what the blues is and then taking it further and saying, 'OK, is this more black or white?' And that's what we've been fighting against doing to people for hundreds of years, so I just don’t feel like we should be doing that to music."

Link: Jazz Views


Street Diva: a new book on Billie Holiday

There's a new book about Billie Holiday -- Street Diva, by Arthur Kempton. He talks quite a bit about her life and work. There's an excellent review here:

Link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18114


Steve Coleman: Music and the Internet

Steve Coleman makes quite a bit of his music and thoughts available online. Here's a link to his essay about downloading.

Many people have asked me what are my reasons for giving away music for free.

Well, why not? Why should everything always cost something? For me music is organized sound that can be used as sonic symbols to communicate ideas. Since my main goal is the communication of these ideas to the people, then why not provide this music for free and thereby facilitating the distribution of this music to the people. However the distribution of music in this way is not in the best interest of commercial music companies, i.e. record companies, music distributors, retail stores etc.

My reasons for providing free music comes from my belief that musical ideas should not be owned by anyone. I believe that ideas should be free for anyone to use (but not to necessarily sell to others or make others pay for the use of these ideas). The concept of a commons area where ideas can be used for the benefit of all but for the profit of no one may seem like an unrealizable concept in the world today. Basically greed runs the world today and it is because of this that the concept of ownership exits.

There would be no need to own something exclusively unless the use of it was restricted to the owner for reasons of conservation, or the owner wishes to rent out the use of the item to others for a fee. The concept of wealth also stems from ownership and control of resources.

Link: http://www.m-base.org/mp3_philosophy.html


Chuck D Interview

Here's an interview with Chuck D of Public Enemy from the August issue of The Progressive that I found interesting.

Q: How are corporations commodifying hip-hop?

Chuck D: If you checked out the news lately, McDonald’s offers a king’s ransom to any hip-hop artist who is able to put Big Mac into a song. MTV—and more to the point, Viacom—is succeeding in extending a teenage life to twenty-nine or even thirty-one years old. It is about extending this market and removing any intelligent substance in the music. Why would twenty-six-year-old “teenagers” care about political ramifications if their backs are not up against the wall? But if their backs are against the wall they may be plucked to fight in Iraq, and all of sudden they become politicized real quick.


Welcome to Greenleaf Music

Welcome to the new Greenleaf Music site! I hope you'll visit often. For us, it's a new way to connect listeners with creative music by independent musicians and the musicians themselves. It's also personally exciting because it's a forum where I can release different kinds of music in different ways.

For example: my new studio recording, Keystone, will be sold exclusively online through Greenleaf Music and our partner store, musicstem.com. The album is a collection of new compositions inspired by the great (and unfairly maligned) Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, one of America's earliest and funniest movie stars. Keystone also contains a DVD, Fatty and Mabel Adrift, a 1915 silent comedy with new music I composed especially for the film. Check out the short music video by Kelly Smith Eddolls.

We're also offering our first Paperback Series release, Dave Douglas Quintet Live at the Bimhuis, a great VPRO radio recording from 2002. I've always felt these live tapes should be available and affordable -- now, thanks to the Internet, they are.

Another major addition to our site is the Greenleaf subscription service (also through musicstem). It's a way for us to make special music, material and discounts available to our best supporters, and to use that support to continue writing, recording, and releasing the music. I hope you'll consider joining as a new way supporting the artist and getting "the music" -- not just the album itself, but inside access to the art and the musician, including tracks not available anywhere else. If you're interested, check it out here.

There's also the Greenleaf music blog, which you're actually reading now. We'll post updates about Greenleaf, but more importantly, we'll constantly link to articles and write about what we're seeing: musical events, how the music industry is changing, how technology is changing music, almost anything that interests us, really (and hopefully will interest you). I'll share my thoughts from time and time, describe and discuss. Visit daily.

I recently recovered the masters of the four albums I made for Arabesque in the 1990s. That means we'll be reissuing Tiny Bell Trio Live in Europe, Stargazer, Magic Triangle, and Leap of Faith. (Tiny Bell Trio Live in Europe is available with the original cover, while supplies last, to all subscribers.)

Finally, we've recently released a record (which I love): Kneebody, by the band Kneebody. It's a fantastic piece of work and I hope you'll check it out. They'll also contribute special inside features to Greenleaf subscribers.

This site directly supports the creative work of artists, fully and fairly. We're proud to be working that way.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Kneebody

Kneebody's self titled debut on Greenleaf Music showcases the band's musical depth and non stop creativity. The band's five members bring lessons learned from their experiences backing artists such as Ani DiFranco, Jurassic 5, Snoop Dogg, Daedelus, Phil Woods, Steve Coleman, Chaka Kahn, David Murray and Ravi Coltrane to this project. The result is an organic, original instrumental music that has, as one L.A. Music Connection reviewer wrote, "an epic, trans-generational gravity." All the music on the album is composed by Kneebody.

Personnel: Adam Benjamin (keyboards), Shane Endsley (trumpet/pedals), Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Ben Wendel (saxophones) and Nate Wood (drums).


Subscriber Bonus: Conception
An unreleased track from Kneebody keyboardist Adam Benjamin's new album "It's A Standard, Standard, Standard World." The album contains 36 tracks of standard songs arranged and created by Adam using Garageband 1.0 using only the internal sounds. If you don't recognize the song, it's George Shearing's "Conception." In a recent Greenleaf blog post on the new album, Dave D. says:

"Adam traipses through timbres, textures, and tunings. The variety is astounding. What at first seems to be potentially smirky and sarcastic (though still first-in-the-class brilliant), soon becomes a majestic tour de force. It's a unique and heart-felt (I believe) tribute to the repertoire. There is so much original thought and material put into this that at times you forget the subtext, only to be jolted back by the clear statement of a melody or a set of chord changes."

What else can you do with standards that hasn't been done (short of hiring Rod Stewart)? Adam shines a light. I recommend it highly.


Private Music for Brass Quintet


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Private Music, two movements for brass quintet, was written for Brian McWhorter and the Extension Ensemble in the summer of 2001. It was first recorded on their album, New York Presence. At the time there were plans to add a drummer for this piece, but in the end the group performed the piece as written. The score is available in transposed and non-transposed versions.