Why do we have musical boxes?

Why do we feel the need to put all music into it’s own little stylistic box? Last night after my gig I stopped by dba to hear the Robert Walter Trio. I hadn’t really heard him live, eventhough he has lived in New Orleans for some time now. I must admit my expectations were low, but some friends were playing with him, so I stopped to check it out.

I was expecting some sort of bland jam, and the first bits I heard didn’t completely convince me otherwise in terms of the tunes, but the groove was happening and the energy was good. As I opened myself to listening I realized that the improvisations were all honest and interesting. As the night continued, tunes like Juju and Monk’s Dream made their way into the set, and I really enjoyed the music.

I left feeling good about what I had heard, and wondering how many nights of good music I had missed, because the catergory or box that Robert Walter is usually put in doesn’t usually get me to listen open mindedly. I realize that it is my responsibility to listen openly always, and I also realize that there is only so much time to explore, so we tend to start with things that have been categorized in ways that appeal to us.

I just wonder how much good music we are missing because we look at the category instead of listen to the music?

More Chicago hearings…

I had the chance to hear some more great music here in Chicago. The Hungry Brain did Jazz Fest aftersets with visiting musicians and Chicago guys playing in various combinations. On Saturday the visitors were mostly from the Lee Konitz New Nonet. Ohad Talmor, Oscar Noriega, Jacob Garchik, Bob Bowen, and Russ Johnson all played and sounded beautiful. Their Chicago counterparts included Jeb Bishop, Mike Reed, Quin Kirchner, and Jason Roebke. They played about eight or nine different short sets, each with a different combination of musicians. It was all freely improvised, and most of it very good listening.

Sunday afternoon, after the Lucky 7s set, Maurice Brown and Corey Wilkes hosted a New Orleans/Chicago style jazz party throwdown, followed by the Rebirth Brass Band, who of course kept the party rolling like they always do.

That evening on the big stage, the Lee Konitz New Nonet directed by Ohad Talmor played a beautiful set. The music was subtle and widely textured, and well played. Jacob garchik had a couple of very nice solos, and Ohad’s charts are great settings for Konitz, as well as the rest of the band. I would love to hear this group in a more intimate setting. The Chicago Jazz Fest sound guys did a pretty good job with them, but I think the music could be even more effective up close and acoustic.

The Sunday night sets at the Hungry Brain featured mostly Dutch guests with Chicago hosts. The first combination was Eric Boeren on trumpet and Wilbert de Joode on bass, with Jeb Bishop on trombone, and Mike Reed on drums. The next set had Frank Gratkowski and Jason Stein on bass clarinets, Jan Willem van der Ham on basson, and Jason Roebke on bass. For the third set, I got to be the out of town guest, and play with Josh Berman on cornet, Paul Hartasaw on tenor sax, Jason Roebke on bass, and Mike Reed on drums. Next were Gratkowski (now on alto sax), Bishop, de Joode, with Frank Rosaly on drums. Boeren, Berman, van der Ham (on alto sax), and Roebke did a set with Quin Kirchner on drums, and I think there was another grouping that I am forgetting at this point. Again, all freely improvised, with some very moving moments.

On Monday I heard the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band at an African-American arts festival in Washington Park. The sound was amazingly good for a close miked big band at a big festival style stage. Any big band whose tenor sax player are Jimmy heath and James Moody is off to a good start. The band sounded very good, with nice solo contributions from Heath and Moody, plus Roy Hargove, Steve Davis, Jayson Jackson, Claudio Roditi, and Cyrus Chestnut. While some of the soloists stayed in pretty safe territory, Hargrove and Jackson let it out a bit, which I dug.

Chicago hang

I got into Chicago last night just in time to check into the hotel and get to Grant Park to hear Ray Anderson with the Charlie Hunter Trio. Ray sounded great and it was nice to see Simon Lott, who is now playing with Charlie Hunter. Wolter Wierbos and Eric Boeren, who are in town with the dutch group Bik Bent Braam, were also there listening.

It turned into trombone geek fest back stage as Ray, Jeb Bishop, Wolter Wierbos, Norman Palm, and I got into a gear dialouge about old horns sparked by Norman’s old Conn 40H and Ray’s new/old NY Bach 6. Wolter plays a voca bell 44H and Jeb plays a 78H. I felt a little left out as the guy with the new horn, but that’s ok, I like my new horn.

Jeb, Wolter, Eric, and I continued on to the Velvet Lounge to hear some classic AACM stylings from Douglas Ewart and his colleagues. There is something special in that music. I need to explore more of it. Comments with your favorite AACM listening are encouraged.