Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Passing of a Legend: Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

Dave Brubeck 1920-2012 R.I.P.

On Wednesday December 5, 2012, according to published reports, jazz pianist and legend Dave Brubeck passed from heart failure in Norwalk, a few miles from his home in Wilton, CT. He lived just a day shy of his ninety-second birthday and during his life his music touched millions of listeners, both those who loved jazz as well as those who just loved good music.

I'am currently spending time in Portland, Oregon and so I was jolted by the news of Dave's death sometime early afternoon EST or about 10 am PST.  Dave had been in failing health for sometime now. Despite his increasing frailty, he continued to perform on a schedule that would challenge a man twenty years younger. I recall seeing him play with his most recent quartet about a year ago at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown , New York as he was approaching his ninetieth birthday with a celebratory tour. The Music Hall was a particularly appropriate setting to see Dave play, as it was like to two old friends acknowledging each others longevity and relevance. Dave needed some help to the piano, but when he sat at the ivories the music came gushing out of him with no lack of vitality and invention. Dave's playing has always been one of subtle support and unerring direction. His music embodies a joyful, airy lightness despite his sometimes heavy chordal work. He always seemed to eschew the self-searching ruminations of a Bill Evans or the percussive, layered approach of a McCoy Tyner, two of his most formidable contemporaries. When you went to a Brubeck concert you came out with a smile on your face and a beat in your heart.

Dave's legend as a pianist and composer spans from the time he came out of his California college band days at Mills College, where he studied with his mentor the French composer/educator Darius Milhaud. Dave had a brilliant ear and an advanced harmonic sensibility but he always struggled with reading music. Dave formed an early band with college mates Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty. He then went on to form a quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, whom he meet in 1944 while in the army during WWII. Dave served in General George Patton's  Third Army, and was spared having to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. In an Jazz Wax interview from 2010 he spoke of narrowly escaping a harrowing experience behind German lines despite being in the band for his tour of duty.

After the war it was Dave and his wife Iola who virtually created the unlikely pairing of academia and jazz music; the college tour, that persists today as a vital vehicle for spreading the music, while at the same time creating a viable alternate source of revenue for jazz musicians.

All of Dave's musical milestones have been well documented and his lasting musical legacy includes the well known "Take 5" ( which is solely credited to his altoist Paul Desmond but clearly has the Brubeck stamp upon it), his equally time altered Blue Rondo a la Turk, his compelling jazz standard "The Duke" and his uplifting  and appealing "In Her Own Sweet Way".  These are just the more recognizable compositions that Brubeck leaves as part of his musical legacy. He never let himself become stale, vitalizing his music with the inclusion of poly-tonality and alternating time signatures and infusing his compositions with influences from other cultures, while always retaining an uplifting message and a joyful, exuberant  delivery. 

But what about Brubeck the man? A man who lived almost ninety-two years and who was married to the same wife, the former Iola Whitlock, for seventy of those years, an astounding testament to he and his wife's eternal commitment to each other. A man who raised six children, five who have followed in their father's footsteps to become professional musicians. A veteran of WWII who served his country proudly, but who was forever changed by what he experienced in the war. A man who battled popular social convention and integrated his army band known as "The Wolfpack" during WWII. He later continued his commitment to racial equality by hiring bassist Eugene Wright as a permanent member of his famous quartet in 1958 and refusing to play in venues who wanted him to replace Wright. One time he cancelled a television appearance because he found out the producers were planning to keep the black bassist off camera during the entire performance. 

For years he served as a State Department cultural ambassador of jazz music, with concerts performed all over the world proselytizing American culture and good will to our cold war enemies. As a result of those State Department trips, where he shared the stage with many with African American artists,  Brubeck and his wife Iola worked in collaboration Louis Armstrong on a musical titled The Real Ambassadors. The musical dealt with the nature of God, civil rights in the U.S., the music industry and America's place in the world during the cold war era. Louis Armstrong was the main character and it featured performances by singer Carmen McCrae, the vocalese group Lambert Hendricks and Ross as well as Brubeck with Eugene Wright and Joe Morello.  To say that Brubeck the man was anything less than Brubeck the artist is to miss the point of this man's life.

In searching the net for personalized recollections of Mr. Brubeck I came across some splendid examples that seem to authenticate how generous of time and spirit Dave Brubeck was to his fellow men.

The pianist Jack Reilly, who is currently finishing a book on Dave's music "The Harmony of Dave Brubeck" had this to say:
"Dave, I believe was a genius, genius being defined as one who changes the course of history. In Dave's case, musical history. He was a prolific composer in all genres, a pianist of originality and power, who influenced all of us and has left an enormous legacy in recorded works. He was a giant among giants. And may I add, a humble, kind and generous human being. In writing my book on his music, I got to know him more intimately. He was never too busy to come to the phone when I called. Iola, Dave and his children have given the world some amazing and exciting music that will be around a long, long time. "

Pianist Chick Corea had this to say on his blog:
"I have the highest admiration for Dave, who has been an inspiration to me and my music for a lifetime. He might never know how much his encouragement of me and my music has meant to me- but this is the truth. Gayle and I treasure the friendship that we had with him and have with his amazing wife Iola."

Drummer Jack DeJohnette posted this on Facebook "We lost an amazing pianist. composer & humanitarian today, Dave Brubeck. He left us with a wonderful legacy of great music and he will be missed by many."

British pianist Liam Nobel had a heartfelt remembrance of Dave on his London Jazz Blog An excerpt from it demonstartes how open and encouraging Brubeck could be to other artists: "Perhaps it's this that always drew me to his music: a quietly spoken individualism born of a sense of curiosity about music in all its forms. When I sent him my trio's album of versionsof his tunes. he sent me a letter that was full of generosity and warmth. He seemed more interested in what he could learn from our interpretations of his tunes than whether we had done them justice. That blew me away, it still does. I'm still learning from that letter."

Many others posted similar experience; being influenced by Dave's music or being personally touched by his generosity of spirit and openness. The true measure of a man's life lies in the memories and legacies he leaves behind. We certainly mourn the passing of Dave, but by any meaningful measure Dave Brubeck seems to have exemplified a life well lived. 

My sincerest condolences to his wife Iola and his family. He will be missed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Best of Jazz 2012

Every year it is a right of passage that  reviewers compile their "best of" picks from the previous year's crop of offerings  Some reviewers amazingly are able to review hundreds of cds in a year! The pool from which they pick their best of lists are admittedly more extensive than mine, but nonetheless I have heard some fantastic performances both "live" and on cd this year and the ones I have found exceptional certainly deserve recognition, even if its only from me. So in no particular order here is my top picks from 2012
with some links to listen to selections from each album where available. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 Jack DeJohnette's: Sound Travels                                              
 Check out "Dirty ground"

Kenny Garrett's : Seeds from the Underground
Check Out "Wiggins"
        Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts : An Attitude for Gratitude                                                                         
         Listen to  "The Cruise Blues" 

  Gary Smulyan's : Smul's Paradise
  Listen here to Gary's version of "Sunny"
 Ralph Peterson's: The Duality Perspective
  Listen to "Bamboo Bends in a Storm"
 Vjay Iyer's : Accelerando
 Listen to "Optimism"
       Tom Harrell's : Number 5        
        listen to the beautiful
        "Journey to the Stars"

     John Abercrombie's Quartet : 
     Within a Son
     John and Joe Lovano on "Wise One"
              Scott Robinson's Docette : 
              Bronze Nemesis
              listen here to the eerie "Mad Eyes"
 Carmen Intorre Jr. : For the Soul

      Marc Johnson/Eliane Elias
      Swept Away
      "One Thousand and One Nights"
  Ryan Trusedell's; Centennial : Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
"The Maids of Cadiz"

     Kathy Kosins: To the Ladies of Cool
     A montage from the album "here"
         Markus Burger Trio: 
         Accidental Tourists                                                                           
         The L.A. Sessions

       Amhad Jamal : Blue Moon
                                                                                        The hypnotic "Invitation"

Michael Campagna: Moments
"Dear John"
        Chad Wackerman: Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations
         "Monsieur Vintage"
 Jonathan Blake : The Eleventh Hour
 "Time to Kill"
                             Sabrina Lastman: 
                             The Candombe Jazz Sessions

  Tec Nash: The Creep
   Listen to Ted live on "The Creep"
      Torben Waldorff : Wah Wah
       listen to   "You Here"

      Sam Rivers, Dave Holland & Barry Altschul 
      Reunion: Live in New York

                   Bill Evans Trio:
                   Live at the Top of the Gate
                   Promo video "here"
   Chick Corea: Further Explorations
   " Peri's Scope"
                           Wes Montgomery : Echoes of Indiana Avenue
                            Promo video "here"

    Denise Donatelli : Soul Shadows
    Her live version of  "Another Day"

Maybe I am, in the Christmas spirit already but I just listened to two newly received releases that I really enjoyed so let's add these two to the mix:

Jeff Babko : CRUX
"The International Client"

Barry Romberg's Rndom Access : Crab People 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Donny McCaslin at the Firehouse 12

Donny McCaslin at Firehouse 12 photo by Ralph A. Miriello c2 012

The Firehouse 12 is a beautifully converted old firehouse on Crown Street  in downtown New Haven, CT. The converted space now includes a chic lower level bar, a state of the art recording studio and an intimate performing space. Every season, the venue produces a series of Friday night concerts that feature some of today’s most interesting and creative performers in jazz.  Some acts that were featured this year included Ingrid Laubrock, Kris Davis and Tyshawn Sorey’ s Paradoxical Frog,  E.J. Strickland’s Quintet, Dan Tepfler’s Trio and the more mainstream Fred Hersch Trio. The “Live Room,” a 1200 square foot space that seats approximately seventy-five lucky patrons, is where all performances are featured.  It is the intimate nature of this venue that makes it especially rewarding for both the artists and their fans.

On this past Friday evening the Firehouse featured the firebrand saxophonist Donny McCaslin and some old friends playing the music of his latest cd  Casting for Gravity. I recently reviewed this challenging album which finds McCaslin pushing further into the blurred lines between jazz and electronica. You can read my Huffington Post  review here.

On the album McCaslin was joined by the keyboard artist Jason Lindner, the bassist Tim LeFebvre and the drummer Mark Guiliana.  At the Firehouse, McCaslin’s band included the talented pianist Kevin Hays, the bassist Fima Ephron and the drummer Zach Danzinger.
Kevin Hays photo by Ralph A. Miriello c 2012

The group started out with the title track from his new album “Casting for Gravity" a slow brewing song that starts with McCaslin and Hays slowly ruminating on a vamp that then erupts into a more urgent, repeating refrain from McCaslin that is accentuated by some strong syncopated pounding by Danzinger. The refrain eventually ends in just under four minutes, segueing into the powerful “Stadium Jazz.”  At its’ core, this tune is built on a melodic ascending and descending scale played by McCaslin and Hays, which yields to a raucous break-a broken, staccato driven vamp played in unison by soaring tenor, echoing Rhodes keyboard, throbbing electric bass and bombastic drums all executed with surgical-like precision. While the energy level of the group was laudable the unchecked volume of Mr. Danziger’s drums was unsettling.

On McCaslin’s “Losing Track of Daylight” the artful Kevin Hays straddled himself between the grand piano and the Fender Rhodes. Hays single handed runs on the Rhodes came through as muddled to my ears and I was in the second row. The nuances of his solos almost rendered undecipherable, blotted out as the drums overpowered the space. Where on the album Guilliana’s drums are powerful, syncopated partner in the music with well placed rhythmic breaks, Danzinger’s pulse was bombastic, overpowering and awkwardly at times out of sync with the flow. McCaslin, who is a powerful player, seemed oblivious to Danziger’s volume and compensated with his own strength. All subtlty that may have been observable in Hays or Fima’s work was obliterated by Danzinger’s over the top playing.

There is no doubt McCaslin’s music requires a strong rhythmic foundation, but it is incumbent upon a drummer to know the room and play accordingly. The audience for the most part seemed impressed by Mr. Danzinger’s energetic playing. He is a powerful, propulsive drummer who has serious chops, but to my way of thinking he needs to harness his enthusiasm and inject some subtlety especially in a room as intimate as the Firehouse.

McCaslin has a slender, reed-like frame with an innocent, almost schoolboy look, a deceptive appearance that hides the fire that resides within this man. This fire erupted on his next composition “Tension,” a song he composed with his two year old Henry in mind. McCaslin’s music, while taken from life,  has become less lyrical in his most recent offerings and this composition is a case in point. Starting out as a series of repeating honks that rise and fall to a changing beat, the song is a pure exercise in manic, frenzy that leaves you in a state of agitation. McCaslin’s taught face was the picture of tension as he played this song. While it may perfectly represent his state of mind when his two year old is testing him, it did little for me but to make me twitch. 

The final song of the first show was titled “Memphis Redux” and was a from a previous McCaslin album titled Perpetual Motion. The slow burning, funk imbued song was a homage of sorts to influences like Joe Zawinul’s  “Mercy, Mercy Mercy “. McCaslin’s horn took on a distinctive Maceo Parker rasp to it as he dug deep into the soul of the tune. It was nice to hear McCaslin play more recognizably melodic music. Kevin Hays added a  particularly bluesy touch to the keyboard and with Danziger in the pocket on this tune, Hays offered his most creative solo of the night. McCaslin ended the song with a sustained solo exploration that was both lyrical and moving and brought the audience to its feet.

I applaud McCaslin for stretching his boundaries and venturing into more challenging modes of music. He is a fine player who plays with intensity and passion, but perhaps he is sacrificing some of his musicality. I was recently at a Jazz Standard show where I was seated next to two saxophonists who had come to  see Scott' Robinson's latest creative work, Bronze Nemisis. One of the players, who recently saw Donny at a Vanguard show, read my review of Casting for Gravity and later wrote to me in disappointment. that at the Vanguard show he just wanted to yell out “Sing us a song, Donny!”   I remain a fan, but  I too long for McCaslin to show us his more lyrical side more often.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Ron Carter Trio at Nyack Library's Carnegie Room : November 11, 2012

Ron Carter photo by Ralph A. Miriello c 2012

Once again the vibrant Rockland County Jazz and Blues Society has proven its ability to attract world class talent to the small but sophisticated community of Nyack, NY and greater Rockland County. As part of their jazz concert series, that is run in conjunction with The Soiree Society of the Arts and The Nyack Library. Artistic Director Yashar Yaslowitz and the R.C.B.& J. Society’s President Richard Sussman, continue to surprise with some killer talent in marvellously intimate concerts. The Carnegie Room is an especially appealing venue for both the artists and their audiences. The warm,  oak trimmed setting, with its' turn of the century charm, has wonderful acoustic properties that make for special moments.

On this evening, the venerable bassist Ron Carter, celebrated as one of the most recorded jazz bassists of all time, came to Nyack after an admitted thirty year absence. Mr. Carter recalled once playing a now defunct venue that was a part of this Hudson River community decades ago. He was joined by his trio with guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega. Mr. Malone played a sunburst Gibson L 5  through a small amp, Mr. Carter played a beautifully burnished what appeared to be ¾ size bass and Mr. Vega was seated at the beautiful black grand piano, a gift generously donated by Yamaha, to this series and the room.

Mr. Carter is a classically trained musician and is an accomplished cellist, as well as a master of the upright acoustic bass. He is a composer of some note as well as an unusually perceptive improviser.  If ever there was a person whose stature and appearance so typified his instrument it would be  Mr. Carter. Elegantly dressed in a handsome tailored suit and tie ( his trio mates were similarly attired),  despite a hoarse voice-the remnants of a cold, Mr. Carter, at seventy-five years young, appears to be in remarkably fit condition. His tall, lean figure embraces the upright bass as an equal. His slender willowy fingers caress the classic lines of his instrument, while at the same time fly fleetingly over its long black fret board with a dancer’s agility. He projects a cool, confident demeanor. There is a sense of intimate familiarity with his instrument, a serenity that only comes from years of practice and performing.

The performance opened with a composition by guitarist Russell Malone titled "Cedar Tree," a tribute to the pianist Cedar Walton. The song has Mr. Carter opening with a pedal-like bass line that allows both Malone and Vega to explore on the groove before it bridges into a scalar form that remind me of “Giant Steps.” Malone’s guitar has that classic Gibson sound, born in the era of the guitar/ organ trio. Mr. Malone cut his teeth with organist Jimmy Smith. His smoothness, that transcends single note playing, makes it seem like his  notes melt together.  He effortlessly moves from chordal work to rapidly executed single note arpeggios. I caught flourishes of George Benson’s  “On Broadway”  during his solo work.  Mr. Vega is a sensitive pianist with a feathery touch. He is of Nicaraguan descent and his story is compelling having studied, when necessary, on a cardboard keyboard to keep in practice when a piano was not available.
Donald Vega, Ron Carter and Russell Malone  photo by Ralph A. Miriello c 2012 

The group covered "Laverne’s Walk" and "Candle Light" both Carter originals that featured some beautifully evocative bass work . His signature style combines slurring, bending, sliding and sustaining notes all used to great effect.  His pizzicato technique is tonally impeccable and he often uses octaves and strumming techniques that are more frequently associated with the guitar than the bass. The only technique he didn't employ on this evening was his arco. All the while the quiet but effective Mr. Malone watched Carter’s movement carefully, adding quick chord strums or single note lines at appropriate times. The simpatico between these two artists was extraordinary.

Mr. Vega occasionally seemed to be the odd man out. His playing delicate, almost Evans-like, with a wonderful floating touch on the keyboard. When the two string players went off to the races it seemed like Vega had a hard time keeping up with them. On parts of  “My Funny Valentine”  there seemed to be a momentary break in communication between Mr. Vega and Mr. Carter.  Carter tried to play in between Vega's lines, but eventually stood down to let Mr. Vega play solo, as they seemed to be going in different directions.

The first set ended with Fletcher Henderson’s’ “Soft Winds “ where Malone settled into rhythm guitar, sometimes providing a bongo like beat, as he tapped his muted strings and the hollow body of his guitar to create the pulse. Later he would play the strings in such a way as to elicit a banjo-like strumming sound that had a Django-like feel.  Mr. Malone's guitar voice has clearly absorbed the tradition with vestiges of Django, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Wes Montgomery and George Benson all being present in his own unique voice.  Mr. Carter quickened the beat sending the song into a rapid double-time as he and Malone carried it to a frenetic tempo. Mr. Vega did his best to fill in the voids with a flurry of single-line notes that he had to execute at a ferocious pace. He occasionally employed double handed block chording to great effect. The audience was left in arrhythmic delight and they received a standing ovation.

After a somewhat lengthly intermission the group returned with two Carter originals, "Eddie Theme" and "Parade." Mr. Vega shinded on "Eddie's Theme" as Mr. Carter gave it an Afro-Cuban ryhthm with plenty of room for Mr. Vega to solo using his clave inspired percussive runs on keyboard.

Mr. Carter immediately delved into the next tune, a solo rendition of "You Are My Sunshine"  which was a veritable tutorial of how sensitive a bass can be.

The band completed the second set with a redux of Henderson's "Soft Winds."  It seemed as if Mr. Carter wanted to give Mr. Vega another bite of this apple. Mr. Vega, now fully warned up, rose to the occasion handily providing his own blistering runs over Mr. Carter and Mr. Malone's rollicking romp. The night cap of the evening turned out to be a pleasing finale sending the audience into a sustained standing ovation.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The End of Jazz is Greatly Exaggerated: A Response to Benjamin Schwarz's Atlantic article " The End of Jazz"

As a long time subscriber to the Atlantic monthly, I have often read articles or reviews of books written by their literary and national editor Benjamin Schwarz His observations have been generally well thought out and cogent. His book reviews have offered evaluations on the worthlessness or value of a newly released book that are often consistent with my taste. So when I read his most recent diatribe provocatively titled 
“The End of Jazz,”  a subject of great interest to me, I was greatly surprised and disappointed  by Mr. Schwarz’s spurious conclusions

The article was supposed to be a book review of the recently published book “The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire” by the scholar Ted Goia from Oxford Press. Mr. Goia was my editor in chief at the now defunct web-based jazz magazine where I was a regular contributor. He has written several authoritative works on jazz, including “The History of Jazz” and his fine “West Coast Jazz.,” to name a few, and his opinions carry some weight in the community. I have always found Mr. Goia’s  work to be well researched, informative and eminently readable.

Candidly I have not yet read Mr. Goia’s recent offering, but I understand it to be a collection of some two hundred and fifty songs that he has deemed to be essential to any working jazz musician’s book-a repertoire of songs that are generally accepted as standards that any jazz musician should know. In delineating his choices, Goia takes a valiant stab at codifying what he considers essential to the jazz canon. He uses the frequency of play as his chief criteria for inclusion with some other more minor criteria being factored into this equation. His list, by its nature, becomes a declaration of taste, popularity and substance that transcends time.

In reviewing this book, Schwarz seems to tacitly agree with Mr. Goia’s unequivocal praise for Billy Strayhorn’s poignantly bitter masterpiece “Lush Life,” which Goia lauds as his choice for the single most important song from the twentieth century ( the cover picture of the story is of Strayhorn and Ellington at the piano) . But as anyone who knows the music is bound to do, Schwarz does take the opportunity to air his own taste. He mentions some songs that he feel Goia has unfairly left off his list. These songs include Rodgers and Hart’s “Where and When” three by song-smith Cole Porter  “In the Still of The Night” , “Begin the Beguine “and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  All  worthy entries and all clearly part of what is known as “The Great American Songbook,” a group of songs that were written predominantly between the 1920s and the 1950’s, and have become a wellspring of inspiration for jazz musicians as a vehicle for improvisation. The choices also say a lot about where Mr. Schwarz’s musical mind has been quagmired, offering a clue to how he has drawn his own personal conclusions about the state of jazz.

The predominance of these songs, from this bygone era, create a moment of careful reflection for Goia, who freely admits to the dearth of contemporary compositions in his version of the repertoire. But where Goia sees promise  “…the  jazz idiom [is] a vibrant present day endeavour ”, Schwarz uses this fact as a raison d'entre for his controversial and misguided assertions. He states  “The Songbook, a product of a fleeting set of cultural circumstances when popular, sophisticated music was aimed at musically knowledgeable adults was the wellspring of jazz.” He continues " “…there is no reason to believe that that jazz can be a living, evolving art form decades after its major source-and the source of that linked it to the main currents of popular culture and sentiments- has dried up. Jazz, like the Songbook, is a relic- and as such, in 2012 it cannot have, as Goia wishes for it, an “expansive and adaptive repertoire.” "

Here is where Mr. Schwarz has gone completely and perilously off the tracks. Does he truly believe that there are no longer, any  " musically knowlegable adults" listening ?  Or perhaps he believes that the music no longer speaks to the audience because it no longer "links [them] to the main current of popular culture and sentiments..."? True enough that some modern jazz requires "work" by the listener before it can be fully appreciated. Does that automatically  un-link it to the main stream of popular culture or does it just expand the culture ever so slightly,  breathing new life and vitality by daring to be adventurous? 

Admittedly the Songbook is an invaluable resource and the basis of many of a jazz musician’s book, but it is not the only resource. Just as the Magna Carta of 1215 AD was the cornerstone for the subsequent U.S. Constitution, which was written over five hundred years later,  the Great American Songbook, is a particularly important part of the the jazz tradition but not its only part. It is certainly premature to claim that reliance on this admittedly dated mother lode of inspiration is the death knoll for future creativity and advancement in the art of jazz.  

It cannot be denied that the Songbook has become the cornerstone of the jazz repertoire, but new music from cabaret, theater, films, world and popular music arenas have always provided a rich vein of new compositions for the jazz musician.

In Its function as a template, the Songbook has become a living, breathing monument to tradition. It is not calcified and decayed, but is constantly being infused with new vitality through repeated explorations. In an interview with Goia on Mark Myers fine blog, , Goia recalled talking to 82 year old saxophonist Bud Shank in 2009 before he passed. Shank told him that even after fifty years of playing the standard “All The Things You Are” he felt that he still hadn't exhausted all the possibilities that a song like that could provide to a sufficiently curious musician. Like the torch carrying the never extinguished Olympic flame, the Songbook is continuously providing the spark that illuminates the way for future generations of musicians while serving as a link to the origins and development of the music. As such it can never be considered a "relic" as Schwarz asserts.

Modern music is constantly evolving and its inclusion into the jazz canon is a process that will occur naturally over time. It may be frustrating for some that the listening public have become inordinately attached to these classics of yesteryear, but it is unwise to characterize the art form as being on terminal life support because its audience is slow to accept change. Jazz does not have a monopoly on the public's resistance to change. Monk was derided for much of his lifetime as a man whose music was curiously out of tune, Even his fellow musicians and critics had trouble with the demands of his compositions. Few musicians or critics today would deny the brilliance of his musical legacy and many of his compositions have become an integral part of the repertoire.
Time is a great healer. Jazz as a distinct art form is barely one hundred years old. Why is it so hard and potentially damning to fathom that the Songbook is still such an important element in its repertoire? 

The listening public must be connected to the music if it is to survive and thrive. It is the modern jazz musician, who as he becomes more daring in his approach to bringing new material into the lexicon, will make the repertoire grow organically. The music of Michael Jackson,  Paul Simon, Sting, Lennon & McCartney or  Kurt Cobain, is certainly more relatable to  younger audiences and  needs to be included in the conversation; explored for its nuances and adaptability to the improviser’s art.

It has happened in the recent past with artist like Miles Davis and George Benson introducing songs by Cyndi Lauper  and Leon Russell and is happening now with artists like Brad Mehldau , George Colligan  and  Ethan Iverson, who have introduced  the music of contemporary artists like Thom Yorke,  Michael Jackson and The Beatles to the repertoire. Other musicians like Robert Glasper, Dave Douglas, John McLaughlin and Rudresh Mahanthappa have successfully attempted to bring soul, hip-hop,fusion,techno and world musicical influences into the pantheon of jazz. Who knows when these influences become a permanent part of the repertoire? Far from being mummified and interred as Mr. Schwarz suggests, jazz is morphing, replicating and mutating.

Perhaps Mr. Schwarz does not embrace this change, perhaps he is stuck in the afterglow of  songs  by Porter, Gershwin or Kern, but to the declare “The End of Jazz” and to relegate it to the status of a “relic”  is an uninformed and just plain wrong and its assertion does little to enlighten the conversation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pianist Markus Burger's : Accidental Tourists The L.A. Sessions

Accidental Tourist: The L.A. Sessions CR 73332

German expatriate Markus Burger is a new name to me, but if his latest album Accidental Tourists : The L.A. Sessions   is any indication he has won me over as a fan. The pianist has assemble a top notch trio that includes former Bill Evans drummer Joe Labarbera and the big and beautiful bass of    
Bob Magnusson a studio musician who worked with saxophone legend Art Pepper. Burger currently teaches in the Los Angeles area. His bio information indicates that he acknowledges wide ranging influences from Bach and Debussy to Thelonious Monk and Stevie Wonder.

On the opening composition ”Grolnicks,”  a dedication to the late pianist Don Grolnick, Burger establishes an immediate connection to his listener with the song’s inviting melody line, played at first solo and then breezily in conjunction with his tasteful collaborators. Bob Magnusson’s honey toned bass solo is a welcome surprise as it is quickly introduced with a conviction and fullness that reminds me of Red Mitchell’s masterful sound and attack. Drummer Joe Labarbera sets the pace with his masterful brushwork. Burger’s piano has a welcoming and buoyant sound that draws you into this wonderful collaboration.

“Air Canada” has a lilting feel that reminds me of some of Pat Metheny’ s earlier work with pianist Lyle Mays. It is a hopeful song that is energized by Burger’s light and dancing right hand lines and propelled by Magnusson’s deep and prominently featured bass lines. Labarbera reminds us how good and subtle he can be  at creating a breezily swinging rhythm with minimal fanfare or bluster.

Burger uses the repeating ascending and descending lines of his composition “Black Sea Pearl” to create a sense of poignancy. The trio moves up and down in tandem as Burger creates interesting offshoots to the otherwise predictable ostinato pattern in the song.

Full Circle” begins in an almost solemn, contemplative refrain. Burger impressionistically establishes the circularly repeating melody line. Magnusson’s bass anchors strong and clear, the perfect counterpoint to Burger’s probings outside the self created orbit. Magnusson’s bass becomes a beacon of sound that emanates from the center of this crafted circle with his warm, precise tone..Labarbera adds to the circular theme of the song with his whirling traps and his whooshing cymbal work.

The Gershwin classic “I Love You Porgy,” is rendered in the most sensitive of ways by Burger’s soulful playing. Magnusson’s evocative solo is a highlight. The bassist’s  ability to carry the melody with his warm, deep tone and evocative feeling is a joy to behold. Burger, inspired here by his deft partners, creates a cascading solo that is both inventive and moving.

With the title of the album reference to Los Angeles, it’s no surprise to hear the west coast influence peppered through  this offering. Two songs that seem to draw inspiration from the early trio work of the late great LA based pianist Hampton Hawes are the swinging “Rodeo Drive Hustler” and the quirky, rollicking “Inspector Bauton”. The quick paced repeating lines are played effervescently with great swinging support by Labarbera and Magnusson. Both tunes have that easy, effortless mastery of rambunctious swing that Hawes work epitomized. It is good to hear a boisterous drum solo from Labarbera who is a master of brushes and rarely lets loose on his traps.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful songs on the album is the trio’s stirring rendition of “The Old Country,” a song always identified with  Nancy Wilson’s great work with Nat and Cannonball Adderley. Burger uses the armature of the melody to weave his own rich tapestry from this emotionally thick song. Magnusson is once again brilliant in using his facile bass lines to create pathos. His rounded, romantic sound and his counterpoint lines at the coda are both superbly chosen and sublimely executed.

The magnificent Evans composition “Blue and Green” is always a favorite of piano trios and here  Burger uses Evans-like voicings in his opening that eventually give way to explorations that are reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's work. Burger’s fertile imagination is prodded by gentle bent notes from Magnusson’s bass and slowly built up urgency in Labarbera’s traps. It is a wonderful display of true sympathetic trio interaction. Magnusson’s bass solo is  remarkably facile as he shifts from rapidly executed pizzicato  to slowly sustained bent notes that flow like melting butter on warm toast.

The album ends with two songs one by Thomas Hoft titled “One World”  and the finale a Burger composition titled “Morning Smile.”

Markus Burger has managed to pleasantly surprise with Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions.  The album continues to be capture attention even after  repeated listenings. Burger is a player who has absorbed some of the best influences of contemporary and classical music. His musical choice of materials from the standards repertoire is  astute and his compositions like “Grolnicks” and “Full Circle” show promise. It is the sympathetic whole of this trio that is the real find here. Together with Magnusson and Labarbera, Burger has hit upon a trio that can challenge the best on  the contemporary music scene. Accident's do happen and sometimes they produce marvelous results, my hope is that this is no accident and that the Markus Burger Trio continue to work together to explore the endless possibilities.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scott Robinson's Doc Savage Suite "Bronze Nemesis"

Bronze Nemisis The Scott Robinson Docette:Doctone -01
The multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson is a first call musician for many of today’s finest and most contemporary of big band ensembles. He has graced the reed section of Maria Schneider’s Orchestra as well as played in the ranks of the Mingus Big Band and as a member of Mel Lewis’s Village Vanguard Orchestra to name just a few.

As a noted collector of rare musical instruments, Scott has made it his mission to preserve these most specialized of artifacts. He has actively learned the intricacies of playing many of these unusual instruments which include the C melody saxophone and the enormous contrabass saxophone, all in an effort to preserve their use in modern music.

On his latest, most unusual, project Bronze Nemisis, Robinson uses his fertile imagination and the pulp fiction character of Doc Savage as his source of musical inspiration. A masterful musical adventure, Robinson’s  spot on use of an arsenal of sounds from his vast array of instrumentation and gadgetry makes, the recording  a theatrical and musical triumph.

Joined in following Robinson’s muse are the pianist Ted Rosenthal, the trumpeter Randy Sandke, the bassist Pat O’Leary, and the drummer Dennis Mackrel.

The “Man of Bronze” starts out ominously enough with thunderous rolling toms and a front line of tenor and trumpet. The large looming presence of the Man of Bronze, arch enemy of evil, is portrayed by Robinson’s clever use of ascending lines using the deeply resonant sounds of his euphonium and bass saxophone and topped off by a bowed bass cadenza by O’Leary that drips with tense anticipation as to what is next.

Robinson's multi-reed facility is essential as he employs the woody tones of the bass clarinet intermingled with Sandke’s trumpet to introduce the next tune. “The Secret in the Sky” is at first a homage to the soundtracks of detective stories from another era, then Robinson’s science fiction brain takes over with his eerie use of the modulating, voice-like sound of the Moog theremin, complimented by little bell noises and some electric harpsichord. He creates this strange unsettling scene; you find yourself facing the unknown, then, suddenly, you are given a brief respite from danger as a more familiar, inviting rhumba-influenced break in the music lures you into a momentary sense of tranquility, only to return to the sounds of lurking treachery that hangs over you  like some unsettling cloak of darkness.
On the ominous sounding “He Could Stop the World” Mackrel’s shimmering cymbals sets the stage as Sandke’s trumpet and Robinson’s overdubbed bass and tenor saxophones climb a wall of intensity, a suitably dramatic entrance for the crazed evil genius that emerges from his secret place in the sky, declaring “If necessary I can stop the world on its axis!’.

Meanwhile back at Doc Savage’s secret “Fortress of Solitude” the fictional hero is pondering his next move. This icy Arctic retreat of Savage’s was later absconded by Superman in the nineteen fifties. The group coolly grooves on this number with a nice jaggedly, obtuse piano solo by Ted Rosenthal and a menacing bass saxophone solo by Robinson that really swings. Robinson handles this large horn without lumbering; instead he floats lightly above the hip groove created by O’Leary, Rosenthal and Mackrel.

“Mad Eyes” is a playful creation that would make a great soundtrack for a Halloween movie. Robinson’s simultaneous use of the slide saxophone and the Moog theremin creating the eeriest of sounds. A gravelly Sandke shows he too can make his horn emit a series of shivering voice-like utterances. Coupled with the groups moaning  this one can that can make you feel like you are truly going mad.

“The Metal Master” is another of Savage’s arch enemies, a mad scientist who has discovered the ability to destroy the molecular integrity of any metal. Leading off appropriately with a Chinese gong and some scraping metal noises, this piece includes a sawtoothed line played by Sandke on trumpet and Robinson on tenor. The tune uses contrapuntal lines between the two horns to lead us on this circuitous path. Robinson’s  tenor voice is boisterous and brash as he navigates the chicane. Sandke’s trumpet is raucous as he climbs on crescendos of notes in the high register with an easy fluidity. The piece ends with a cacophony of clanging tubes, chimes and singing metal plates.

The late Denis Irwin, the original bassist for Scott’s Doctette, is featured on a unaccompanied bass solo from “The Mental Wizard” recorded at a concert from 2001 and is here labeled “The Golden Man.”  Sadly Irwin died two nights before the band went into the studio to record this album.

The “Land of Always Night” is the most moving piece on the album. Rosenthal and Robinson play a wonderful duet that has a  poignant quality with classical grace and soulful sonority. Scott’s sound is pensive and pure, with a breathless, whistling cadenza. The song was taken from his “Lagomorphic Concertino" and was written for his wife Sharon. He should play flute more often.

“The Living Fire” is a musical representation of the living flame within and it sears with Mackrel’s sizzling cymbals, Sandke’s searing trumpet and Scott’s scorching tenor. Too hot to handle.

“The Man Who Shook the Earth” opens with the earth-trembling sounds of the large treme terra, a refrigerator sized drum from Brazil. Robinson uses a wind machine and his own rare contrabass saxophone to create the deep rumbling feel to this musical collage.  After a brief flurry from drummer Mackrel, we are treated to the mind boggling swing of Robinson’s gigantic contrabass. With some brief references to Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” hidden in the deep, blustery low register of Robinson’s solo, it is a rare treat to hear this instrument played with such confident swagger.

The evocative “Weird Valley” features another of Robinson’s rare instruments, in this case the mezzo-soprano saxophone. The snake charming-like sound of this instrument has an air of the exotic and is mildly intoxicating, especially when complimented by the muted trumpet of Sandke. Pianist Ted Rosenthal is given some room to create his own special corridor in this weird valley and he does so with surprise. The two horns joined by the Moog Vanguard theremin raise their level of intensity at the rising coda as they intertwine their sinuous sounds like two mating cobras in ecstatic bliss.

The final piece of this theatrical suite is “The Mental Wizard” a difficult composition, with no repeating parts and a testament to the groups seasoned interplay.

Bronze Nemisis  is a thoroughly enjoyable recording for anyone who wants to transport themselves into another, less complicated world of science fiction and mystery. Emblazoned with authentic Doc Savage images from original illustrator James Bama and packaged with extensive notes on the recording process and instrumentation by Mr. Robinson, this is surely one of the most creative musical offerings of the year.

Scott Robinson, various saxophones, clarinets, flutes, euphonium, Moog theremin, wind machine, bells, chimes   and various instruments/gadgets; Ted Rosenthal, piano and electronic harpsichord; Randy Sandke, trumpet and euphonium; Pat O’Leary,bass; Dennis Mackrel, drums, tubes  and treme terra, Dennis Irwin , bass on track 7.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Exploring Influences: John Abercrombie's "Within a Song"

Within A Song ECM 2254
I first saw the guitarist John Abercrombie many years ago as with the super group Dreams.  Even then he gravitated toward playing with people who challenged the norm, people like drummer Billy Cobham, the trumpet and saxophone duo,  the Brecker Brothers and bassist Will Lee,  As a fledgling guitar player myself , I took a keen interest in his development, a guitar player’s guitar player. His debut album as a leader came in 1974, with his presciently titled fusion album Timeless,  this time with keyboard wizard Jan Hammer and drumming phenon Jack DeJohnette. Clearly Abercrombie was developing as a master musician who was following his own muse.
Timeless ECM 
His then avant-garde work with his group Circle, with drummer DeJohnette and bassist Dave Holland, was on the forefront of progressive jazz in the nineteen seventies. All along the way, this restless soul continued his quest to challenge convention, collaborating with the very best of his generation, often times with musicians slightly outside the mainstream including  the multi-reedist John Surman, the pianist Richie Bierach, the eclectic trumpeter Kenny Wheller and fellow guitarist Ralph Towner. Abercrombie’s musical adventure has crossed into a myriad of musical styles with the one common thread running through all of them being the unique sound of John’s guitar.

Musically you might never know what to expect next from John, but even blindfolded, as the drummer Billy Drummond recently said in Downbeat, you will always know who is playing from the first note because of John’s signature sound.

Abercrombie’s latest ECM recording, Within A Song, features a series of songs that have been influential to guitarist’s development. For this outing John has again surrounded himself with some of the  finest musicians currently working today, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Drew Gress on double bass and Joey Baron on drums. 

The opening, “Where Are You,“ first came to the guitarist’s attention when he heard Sonny Rollin’s seminal album The Bridge from 1962.  Guitarists often find their voice in listening to the work of other instrumentalists, not necessarily always other guitarists, but clearly hearing Jim Hall’s guitar became an epiphany of sorts to the young Abercrombie.  John and tenorist Lovano take on the roles of Hall and Rollins from the original album, approaching the tune with the same moving sensitivity. Abercrombie pays homage to Hall’s lush, liquid sound here. Delicate comps follow Lovano’s lead. Lovano’s tenor is rich and warm with almost Getzian inflections. Joe is a master of precise intonation, even when playing cascades of notes adagietto. Drummer Baron’s shimmering cymbal work sets a dreamy scene evocative of Ben Riley’s work on the original. The song lingers in your memory long after it ends.

“Easy Reader” is an slow Abercrombie waltz and according to the notes is somehow influenced by the picture “Easy Rider.”  With Lovano and Abrercrombie stating a series of descending lines followed by a series of rapidly ascending lines in tandem, the song has a formal almost classical sensibility. The guitarist is given ample room to develop his rambling harmonic explorations with bassist Drew Gress reading his twists and turns telepathically. Lovano’s tenor soars softly with Abercrombie’s muted guitar comping and countering in a contrapuntal conversation.  Baron’s rolling toms accentuate his flawless cymbal work toward the coda.

The title song of the album is a take off of another song from Rollin’s The Bridge , “Without a Song.” On this album it is penned by Abercrombie as “Within a Song/Without a Song,” it is the most swinging song of the album. Gress’s plucky bass is buoyant and vascular, keeping the pulse invigorating. Baron keeps the most impeccable of time on his ride cymbal spicing the music with occasional timely rolls and well placed bombs. The song features a marvelous dual front line of Abercrombie and Lovano first stating the melody line in precise tandem and then in a stuttered call and response. Lovano is pure elegance on his horn. With an unflappable sense of time, Lovano navigates the chicane with a grace that is marvelously inventive. Abercrombie’s guitar meanders around the melody searching, probing the harmonic edges without going too far astray. After almost seven minutes the group touches on the last few bars of the original song, bringing it all back to place where it came from..

For many of us, the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue was an inescapable influence. Abercrombie chooses a deeply ruminative take on “Flamenco Sketches” from that album. He seems at his finest when he is left some room to be able to explore the depths of a song, uncovering new possibilities in succinct flurries, like short detours from a road well traveled. All the while the atmosphere of the song is retained and in some ways enhanced by the military-like drum cadence. The deep plucky bass of Gress is a tip of the hat to Paul Chambers fine work on the original. Lovano’s saxophone is amazingly versatile with a collection of flutters, moans, slurs and squeals all perfectly controlled and purposefully employed. The group excels at this marvelous homage to the original.

“Nick of Time” is a jagged melody of John’s that is a reminiscent of the exploratory jazz of the sixties and seventies, when musicians were into testing the boundaries of the musical form. The musicians all navigate through the maze in with like-minded determination, maintaining a tonal quality and suppleness that is not obviously reliant on the melodic form but nonetheless creates a coherent musical statement.

“Blues Connotation” is from the Ornette Coleman songbook. Originally recorded by the alto saxophonist on his This Is Our Music. This free form jaunt loosely plays with the blues form in a playful and open way. Lovano’s slightly screechy sound plays into the Coleman legacy. John’s guitar solo is suitably wandering. Joey Baron’s drum solo is light, loose and jagged in keeping with the unfettered Billy Higgins approach to Ornette’s music.

The most moving song on the album is from John Coltrane’s 1964 release Crescent, titled “Wise One”. Abercrombie makes a beautiful entrance with his signature, tightly sequenced guitar voicing. Mr. Lovano’s exquisitely plaintive sound, while Coltrane-esque, is clearly of one of his own making, yearning and bordering on religious in its reverence. John’s comp work is the most Hall-like on the album. His solo is a tour de force of sensitivity and inventiveness as he demonstrates his unique sense of harmony. Baron’s rolling toms are subtly omnipresent and his dynamics are always tasteful. Gress’s is subtly grounding but never overpowering. Lovano returns to solo in his own inimitably tasteful way, cascading notes in cadenzas of seemingly endless ideas. Multi tonal ideas that follow their own unpredictable path but always leading to a logical conclusion.

For anyone growing up in John’s era, pianist Bill Evans was an inevitable influence. Here John choose’s  the minor blues “Interplay” from the 1962 Evans/Hall collaboration of the same name. Bassist Drew Gress gets to do a beautiful walking blues line that sets the tone.  Lovano and Abercrombie show that they are no stranger to tasty improvisations over blues changes no matter how abstract the blues form is buried in the song..

The closing song was a favorite of Abercrombie’s from his days of watching the Art Farmer-Jim Hall Quartet titled “Sometime Ago.” Abercrombie starts with an obliquely rambling introductory solo before going into the memorable melody head on. Lovano brings his own sense of warmth to the song with a floating, poignantly played solo. He has a wonderful way of entering a song with smooth but forceful presence that commands you attention. When Abercrombie returns he climbs the tune with an ascending solo line that dances around the melody. Baron accents the guitarist’s turns with prescient changes of his own as the tune winds down we are treated to a beautifully controlled microtonal embellishment by the master saxophonist to end this poignant but uplifting piece.

With some of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano’s most emotional playing to date and ensemble work of the highest order,  John Abercrombie’s Within A Song is a strong addition to the guitarist’s discography, once again validating John’s ability to continue to create timely music of extraordinary beauty. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band plays atop the Harlem Skyline

A view of Harlem Meer from atop the penthouse of One Museum Mile
This past Thursday September 27, 2012, I was invited to attend a roof top party at one of Harlem's most prestigious new buildings One Museum Mile. Located at 1280 Fifth Avenue, this large, luxury apartment building occupies the corner between 109th street and Tito Puente Way( 110th Street), and the edge of Central Park North, right off the Duke Ellington Circle. In keeping with the jazz history of the area, there is Robert Graham's imposing, twenty-five foot tall bronze sculpture of Duke Ellington and his piano perched atop nine caryatids, adorning a small park within the circle. The recently opened Museum of African Artwith its sixteen thousand square feet of exhibit space, calls the ground level of this ninety thousand square foot building home.

On this balmy evening, the view from atop the penthouse was spectacular. Despite the large cumulus clouds that lingered above threatening the outdoor proceedings with the possibility of showers, the evening was unscathed by  any rain. The mostly gentrified crowd of invitees was treated to good food, drink, a soft sales pitch (the luxury apartments are for sale with presently 40% occupied) and great music. Like a lush Persian rug being unrolled before your eyes, the great green expanse of Frederick Law Olmsted's masterpiece, Central Park, and its hidden Lake, Harlem Meer, are majestically viewed from this unique vantage point .

But on this evening  it was the music that I came for and I was not disappointed. The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band is a now venerable institution. Originally founded in 1973 by King Oliver's trombonist /blues singer Clyde Bernhardt and the jazz aficionado Al Volmer, it is dedicated to keeping the significant side-men of the Classic Jazz period working and not forgotten. Since those early beginnings, an impressive number of musicians from the classic era have moved through this group's ranks, often until attrition forces the band to replace them. Through it all the band's authenticity to the music is retained while providing these journeymen musicians a reason to still play and giving the listeners an important link to the music's heritage.

The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band play the penthouse of One Museum Mile
Predominantly a blues and swing era band, Vollmer is still managing the latest edition of the group. On this evening the band consisted of the trumpeter and singer Joey Morant , Fred Staton on tenor saxophone, Art Barron in the trombone chair and Fred Wurtzel, the guitarist. The rhythm section included pianist Reynold "Zeke" Mullins, bassist Michael Max Fleming and drummer Jackie Williams.

Tenor Saxophonist Fred Staton
All veterans of an era gone by, Fred Staton logged in as the elder statesman at ninety-seven and still going strong.  The group exhibited grace and vitality as it went through a repertoire that included Ellington standards like "Take the A Train" , "In a Mellow Tone" and "C Jam Blues." Trumpet player and de facto master of ceremonies Joey Morant, sang the Armstrong classics "What a Wonderful World" and  "When the Saints Go Marching In" , punctuating the music with poignant trumpet solos complete with plunger mute in the tradition of Ellington mainstay "Cootie" Williams.
Trombonist Art Baron

Art Barron, who was a one time member of the Ellington Orchestra, did a fine job resurrecting the spirit of Ellington trombonist "Tricky" Sam Nanton, as he slurred and muted his instrument to create a plethora of unusual sounds. He would often team up with tenorist Fred Staton in a tag team of call and response. Staton's hushed tenor sound was smokey and warm;  somewhere between Lester Young and Ben Webster. Staton is the brother of the late singer Dakota Staton and has played with Earl Hines among others. Reynold "Zeke" Mullins was holding down the piano duties on the electric keyboards. You could barely see his eyes under his NY Yankees cap. Mullins was a frequent collaborator with the great Lionel Hampton's band. The stately Michael Max Fleming, whose tall lean appearance was the human embodiment of his instrument the upright bass, stabilized the bottom and kept the groove on track. Fleming made his bones playing with childhood friend and multi-reed player Rahsaan Roland Kirk as well as Eddie "Cleanhead" Vincent and backed up the singer Sammy Davis Jr.

The Bassist  Michael Max Fleming
The drummer Jackie Williams kept impeccable time on the traps. Williams has anchored groups with Milt Hinton, Buddy Tate and Illinois Jacquet to name just a few.Guitarist Ed Wurtzel was heard on his hollow bodied guitar deftly comping behind the band and soloing with gusto especially on "C Jam Blues."

With showmanship and joy that belies their age, the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band is a living tribute to classic jazz from the swing era and a treasure to anyone who appreciates the fine tradition they are keeping alive. As a working band that has done tours all over the United States, Europe and Scandinavia this group shows no signs of letting age get in the way of their love of this music. Catch them if you can.