Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bill Shoemaker on improvised music

"For many, improvised music is the final frontier, the last large blank space on the musical map. In a word, discovery is the deep-seated need that is fulfilled for many by improvised music. Often, it is a need previously met by other forms of music, before they became, after sufficient exposure, familiar, then predictable, and, ultimately, product. The irony is that improvised music is not completely immune from the expectations and fickleness of consumers. People come back and again to improvised music because they have developed a taste for it. They know in general terms what to expect, and their evaluation of the music depends on how those expectations are met, or are supplanted by something truly unexpected and startling. The saving grace of improvised music is it is fated to remain on the fringe. The idea of having improvised music out there, way out there in the unmarketable wild, also fulfills a deep-seated need of many improvised music fans."
- Bill Shoemaker, June 2005 in Point of Departure

Vitamin S - First Trio, Part C Excerpt, 20th August 2004 [2'12]

Finnish Spirit

Nuspirit Helsinki are a collective of DJs, producers and live musicians, based, not surprisingly, in the Finnish capital city. Since the release of their debut album in 2003, they have been fairly quiet on the recording front, but they are the force behind an annual summer music festival in Helsinki. And the musicians (such as the very fine trumpeter Jukka Eskola) and the DJ crew seem to pop up in clubs all over the world.

The collective's musical influences range across virtually every kind of black music (jazz/soul/funk) as well as Latin and African musics. What impresses me most about this group is how they mix frankly DJ-oriented production/composition methods with some very intelligent live instrumental arrangements.

Nuspirit Helsinki - Afro-Cuban Sunshine
From Mundial Muzique (Various Artists): Guidance Recordings [Buy]

Nuspirit Helsinki featuring Nicole Willis - Honest
From Nuspirit Helsinki: Guidance Recordings [Buy]

Holy Crap It's etnobofin's First Birthday
I've just realised that I've been doing this for a year now. OK, it didn't really start out as a music blog, but as etnobofin moved through its 6 month adolescent crisis, this blog's destiny became clear... here's to a second year of free parking! Thank you to everyone who continnue to visit and have faith in this little corner of Internetworld. And happy birthday to Benn loxo du taccu, the best blog on African music on the web.

And for all of us who stepped out of the spaceship at a young age to travel the world alone, Nick's post on exchange students is great. It is all so true. It's not the places you go, or how much you drink. It is always the people that make the journey memorable.

Nuspirit Helsinki

Monday, September 26, 2005

Jose Roberto Bertrami

Brazilian keyboardist Jose Roberto Bertrami is the founder of the epochal band Azymuth, the trio who masterfully meld jazz, bossa, electric fusion and samba. Some would go so far as to call Bertrami and Azymuth smooth jazz artists. Yet Bertrami and colleagues seem to avoid the cheese, and produce something that is truly satisfying and successful. The melodies are always taught, and the rhythm is alway impeccable, thanks in no small part to drummer/percussionist Ivan "Mamao" Conti and bass player Alex Malheiros.

I've chosen two selections from Bertrami's solo albums to illustrate his approach, recorded 18 years apart. Blue Wave was recorded in 1983, and Things are Different in 2001. Spot the difference.

Jose Roberto Bertrami - Partido Alto
From Blue Wave: Milestone M 9117 [Buy]

Jose Roberto Bertrami - Partido Alto 3
From Things are Different: Farout Recordings 053LP [Buy]

Jose Roberto Bertrami (front) with Ivan Conti and Alex Malheiros

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dominion Centenary Concert Band

Today's post is about a new musical project in Auckland - the Dominion Centenary Concert Band. The DCCB is a 7-piece ensemble of improvising musicians involved in the Vitamin S collective. (And yes, I play in it.)

DCCB's instrumentation, stage appearance and repertoire is largely a tribute to New Zealand's brass band tradition, and particularly the amateur community bands (Salvation Army, Women's Temperance Union, Maori and Ratana bands) that abounded during New Zealand's colonial period. The DCCB has specifically been established to mark the approaching centenary of New Zealand becoming a Dominion of the British Empire in 1907.

The format of DCCB performances revolves around "islands" of orchestrated composed pieces (drawn from multiple sources) connected by passages of free improvisation.

The 17 minute performance posted here was recorded at our inaugural concert, on June 16th 2005 at St Kevin's Arcade on Karangahape Road, one of Auckland's few remaining orginal shopping arcades. The composed fragments heard here are Hala Vuna, a traditional Tongan folk song; Ennio Morricone's movie theme from My Name is Nobody [Update: I am reliably informed that this theme is in fact High Plains Drifter, by Dee Barton, not Morricone's spaghetti western melody] ; and Bonnisseau, a brass theme of French origin.

Dominion Centenary Concert Band - Performance #1 , June 16th 2005

The personnel on the recording are: John Bell (concert master, glockenspiel, tenor horn, whistles and percussion); Paul Winstanley (marching bass drum, percussion and guitar); Bruce Morley (drums and percussion); Jaekyung Kelly Choi (clarinet, recorder, fife, hojuk and bass clarinet); Richard Cotman (trumpet, flugelhorn, bugle and shofar); and Tim Sutton (bass trombone).

Our next gig is in Wellington on October 30th as part of the Wellington International Jazz Festival. I hope you enjoy the music, and I'd be interested in comments, whether positive, negative or bemused!

John Bell

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Carlo Actis Dato...

Italian baritone saxophonist Carlo Actis Dato is deluded. He either thinks he's leading a Balkan travelling circus orchestra, or he thinks he's Gerry Mulligan living in a cartoon world of pre-war Algiers. Either way, his music is darn fine, especially live (you can read my post on his quartet's gig in Auckland in October last year here). Dato has repeatedly been named as one of the top baritone players in the world by Downbeat magazine, and his bands have chops to burn.

Evidence for above statements follow:

Carlos Actis Dato Quartet - Ababa
Carlos Actis Dato Quartet - Tarfaya
From Swingin' Hanoi: Splasc(H) CDH907.2 [Buy]

Oh, and if you think space stuff is cool, check out NASA's new spaceship.

He's deluded, I tell you.
(And yes, I know, that's not a baritone sax. It's a bass clarinet. As I said, deluded.)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Soul Power 2005 !

Thanks to everyone who has been reading and leaving comments on etnobofin over the past little while. It is almost miraculous how little virtual communities of people can form around particular tiny specks of HTML in this ocean of almost limitless information. I hope we all can provide each other with a little bit of clear signal among all the static.

Anyway, it's been a fairly eventful 24 hours here in little ol' New Zealand. It looks like we've retained a Labour-led social democrat government, by the skin of our teeth. 23,000 votes separated the two major parties nationwide. It was very close.

And more bizarrely, somebody tried to fly a stolen aeroplane into Auckland's Sky Tower last night, in the middle of the election. This sort of thing doesn't happen very often in New Zealand. It was certainly a little scary and confusing when the news started filtering through to the gig I was playing last night.

To lighten the mood, here's Maceo Parker (as), Fred Wesley (tb), Pee Wee Ellis (ts), Rodney Jones (gt), Larry Goldings (org), Kenwood Dennard (d), Candy Dulfer (as) and Kym Mazelle (vox), performing in Köln in March 1992.

Maceo Parker - Soul Power '92 (14'13)
From Life on Planet Groove: Verve 214 517 197-2 [Buy]

And in other positive news, Ubuweb is back up and running ! And Hubert de Lartigue shows us how to make X-Wings out of Paris metro tickets (the photos are cool, and there are instructions in English and en français).

Blow that horn, Maceo!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Little Things

Great blog posts combined with internet access in the office can make for a dangerous mix. After reading Rushan’s post today, I had to rapidly dry my eyes (really) and pull myself together again before heading into a meeting! Perhaps luckily (or not?) nobody spotted the brief lowering of my at-the-office mask and I was soon back talking about the importance of consistent branding and recommending a programme of ongoing background media outreach.

Rushan is exploring the unpredictable and sometimes massive implications of even our tiniest actions on the lives of others. If you think too long about this, you can freak out. I’m sure for most people looking back at their lives so far, the “what if” scenarios are endless and sometimes frightening. I guess we need to learn to be more conscious of the way we treat others and ourselves, for even the most insignificant act can have far-reaching effects on others. The butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil…

In no particular order, here are some thoughts that kind of all link back to this theme.

Go to Finland
It was early in 2001. An endless European winter and the pressure of finishing my Honours dissertation 12,000km from my university conspired to get me a bit depressed. I was thinking about heading home immediately at the end of my employment contract in France. Mum phones me. She convinces me to stay a while longer, tells me that I should go and visit some friends of hers in Finland. The trip to Vaasa later that spring turns into 3 wonderful weeks on trains and ferries around Nordic Europe. I cross the Arctic Circle, see the Midnight Sun. I come home to New Zealand a month later than planned, just in time to fall into a temporary job opening that convinces me that I shouldn’t go to Journalism School. The temporary job becomes very, very permanent. I learn about the importance of consistent branding, and a random guy gets hold of me at work one day and asks if I’d like to join a funk band.

When Mum called me long distance in 2001 to kick me out of my rut, she would have no idea that her conversation would mean that I wouldn’t become a journalist, that it would lead me to local funk scene stardom (haha), or that it would cause me to sit in a meeting today making a business case for an ongoing programme of media outreach. In fact, she still doesn’t know how that conversation shifted my life sideways. Maybe I should tell her sometime.

Little Things
Yes, there is some music today. The boys from Trinity Roots keep coming through for me, and I thought that this song was particularly appropriate.

Trinity Roots – Little Things
From True: Independent/TR_02 [Buy]

Please please please check in mine eyes
For I and I have nothing to hide
As I wipe the slate clean, share this with you
Take on my own, the pain of your soul

It’s the little things
That really matter

These fine fine lines, make for trying times
And trying times, make you strong
You take your strength, pass it around
Pass it around and then move on

It’s the little things
That really matter

© 2002 Trinity Roots

Making a Difference
Tomorrow is polling day in New Zealand’s General Election. I’ll be doing my bit by voting against what I see as fear, ignorance and greed. I know people who have chosen not to vote tomorrow, thinking that it won’t make a difference. I hope they’ll change their mind tomorrow morning and turn out cause their own tiny ripple in the grand scheme…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead, anthropologist

Sunset over Tysfjord, Norway

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mood Piece

I was sent this movie yesterday by a friend - it's a video of images taken by the NASA Messenger probe as it flew by Earth in August, on its gravity-assisted path to Mercury.

Seeing Earth as viewed by a passing spacecraft put me in a strange mood. It was almost like stepping out of ourselves, and getting a glimpse what a visitor from elsewhere might see. Our planet is so small... we are so insignificant. This thought has struck me previously in a different form.

My initial thoughts for a soundtrack to this short movie was Sting's Fragile, but in the end I selected a song by Beck. Charlie Haden plays bass on this track, in case anyone cares...

Beck - Ramshackle
From Odelay: Geffen 24926 [Buy]

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Let's Give Wynton Marsalis a Break...

The guy sure can play. So, without taking sides in the politics of American jazz, here are two recordings of a young Wynton, cementing his place in the history of the music. With Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams in Japan in 1981, and with his own band (Kenny Kirkland, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Phil Bowler) in New York in 1983.

Herbie Hancock Quartet - Clear Ways
From Quartet: Columbia CGK 38275 [Buy]

Wynton Marsalis Quartet - My Ideal
From Think of One: Columbia CK 38641 [Buy]

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mingus Orchestras Part IV

To complete this series on Charles Mingus and his work with large ensembles, I'm going to post a couple of favourite tunes, both of which illustrate the range of influences that Mingus brought to bear on his orchestral writing - Monk, Ellington, 20th Century classical composers, Bird, Fats Waller - it's all in there somewhere.

Rambunctious and confident, E.S.P. was recorded at the 1972 Philharmonic Hall concert. We hear solos from Lee Konitz (as), Lonnie Hillyer (tp), Gerry Mulligan (bs) and Charles McPherson (as). The back-announcement is by Bill Cosby, who was M.C. for the evening.

I like to think that Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is Mingus' acerbic response to the bouncy optimism of Bart Howard's Fly Me to the Moon. Solos are by Richard Williams (tp), Jaki Byard (pn), Zoot Sims (ts) and Charlie Mariano (as). The tune was the final "planned" tune recorded at the 1962 Town Hall concert, and ends suddenly during Mariano's solo as Mingus was given a signal to wrap the gig up before union overtime kicked in at midnight...

Charles Mingus Orchestra - E.S.P.
From Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert : Columbia C2K 64975 [Buy]

Charles Mingus Orchestra - Please Don't Come Back from the Moon
From The Complete Town Hall Concert : Blue Note 28353 2 5 [Buy]

Charles Mingus. Image Copyright Karlheinz Kluter

Friday, September 09, 2005


Here, in unexpurgated glory, is the complete, original story of the Journey to Paradise. Thanks to Rushan for spurring me on to dig this up! I wrote this short story in mid 2002. It is inspired by an actual journey taken in that year by a certain special group of people , to a place that is marked on maps of New Zealand as "Paradise". Yes, it is a real place, although I am still not sure to this day where it actually is.

Until yesterday, I hadn't read this story for almost 3 years, and it prompted a lot of memories about a key time in my life. I'm not quite sure if I am the narrator or not, he/she certainly sounds a lot more authoritative about the expedition than I recall feeling at the time. Although the text was only read once in public at at youth service at St Paul's Remuera, it strikes me that it could have made a great short voice play for radio... ah, another project for a rainy day.

The story is best read accompanied with a large pinch of salt or some of your favourite music. I suggest the following, the opening track on Trinity Root's album "True", which I was discovering for the first time during those short, cold days surrounded by the Southern Alps.

Trinity Roots - True
From True: Independent TR_02 [Buy]

Enjoy, and comments are very welcome.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mingus Orchestras Part III: Salvage

The attempts by Charles Mingus to work with supersized bands in his own lifetime were plagued by logistical, musical and personal obstacles. A combination of inadequate rehearsals, changes forced by promoters and record companies, the ambitious nature of Mingus' orchestral vision, (and in no small part Mingus' own famously explosive temper) conspired to make appearances by a Mingus Orchestra rare and frustrating for all concerned.

In fact some of the highlights of these concerts came not from the planned and arranged tunes, but from spontaneous music that was created in some ways to cover up for the often abysmal playing and sightreading!

The October 1962 New York "Town Hall Concert" was the first attempt by Mingus to record his Epitaph suite, and became one of the most famously bungled gigs in the history of jazz. The entire, almost unbelievable saga is recounted by Gene Santoro in the Village Voice (thanks to be.jazz for posting this recently!). As midnight approached and the concert slowly dissolved into chaos, trumpeter Clark Terry started the opening riff from Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone". The band quickly caught on, and the performance is exciting because it is completely unrehearsed, and born out of total frustration. We hear solos by Pepper Adams (bs), Clark Terry (tp) and Britt Woodman (tb).

Mingus' New York "comeback" concert in February 1972 was perhaps less eventful, but again the juggernaut barely kept itself on the rails. At the end of a less-than-satisfactory first half, Mingus tried to reignite the evening by launching into a funky, dirty blues. Gene Ammons (ts) followed his lead, and the resulting jam (named "Mingus Blues") is one of my favourite Mingus recordings.

Charles Mingus Orchestra - In a Mellow Tone
From The Complete Town Hall Concert: Blue Note 28353 2 5 [Buy]

Charles Mingus Orchestra - Mingus Blues
From Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert: Columbia C2K 64975 [Buy]

Kea @ The Remarkables, Queenstown, NZ, August 22nd 2005

I am .pdf. Oh Dear.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Interdependence Day

Some of the conversations I've been reading in the non-musical blogosphere over the past few days have given me pause for thought. So I'm going to digress momentarily from my normal line of writing. (There is an mp3 at the end, so you can skip to that if you want...)

Rushan and friends have been exploring ways that we come closer to being who we truly are, not only by dropping the masks we use so often in our daily interactions, but by acknowledging that we, as individuals, are not complete without a community around us. A quote from M. Scott Peck:

"...we can never be completely whole in and of ourselves. We cannot be all things to ourselves and to others. We cannot be perfect. ... So we are called to wholeness and simultaneously to recognition of our incompleteness; called to power and to acknowledge our weakness; called to both individuation and interdependence."

As something of an rugged individual myself, it's often hard to recognize that I am very dependent on others to become more like who I am - whether within my family, at work, at church or in music. For example, I'm very fortunate to have discovered such strong musical colleagues in one million dollars, the Brassouls and Vitamin S to help focus my musical ramblings. My family supports me and forgives my faults unconditionally. (Dunno why). And if I value them enough, friends far and near will always be there along the journey.

The same gratitude applies in the little blue and green blogosphere in which etnobofin floats. This blog would be of limited value without the readers and fellow bloggers who visit every so often, and who hopefully discover some new things. It is very reassuring that there are so many people out there who share some of my enthusiasms.

So this post is for all of you, wherever you are. In this world where our relationships with others seem often defined by which XML feeds we subscribe to, let's celebrate the communities that really bind us together and make us whole. Peace, and kia kaha.

Sly and the Family Stone - Family Affair
From There's a Riot Going On: Sony 467063 [Buy]

Lake Tekapo, July 2002

Monday, September 05, 2005

Missing New Orleans

I've been away travelling for the past few days, so have been somewhat insulated from news reports describing the unimaginable events in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of the USA. As with other recent disasters of massive proportions, our thoughts, prayers and support go to all those affected and to those who are working to clean up and repair the lives of millions of people.

But of course, New Orleans is also the town of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Freddie Keppard, Louis Armstrong, the Marsalis family, Fats Domino, the Neville Brothers, Dr John and Nicholas Payton (to name but a few natives). The Village Voice is already contemplating the potential loss of musical history, while David Freedman of WWOZ-FM worries whether the current NOLA music scene will ever regain its vitality.

In hope of a rapid return to normal transmissions in the cradle of so much music we love, here's the city's most famous son, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1947. He is joined by Billie Holiday on vocals.

Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra - Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans
From Satchmo in the 40s: ASV Living Era AJA 5402 [Buy]