Music theory teaches us how to hear. Can it help us hear each other? — Institute for Creativity

Music theory teaches us how to hear. Can it help us hear each other? — Institute for Creativity

Music theorist, trombonist, (and my former road roomate) Chris Stover writes about how applying ideas from the practice of music theory can help us understand each other.

Remember that music theory is itself a creative practice, that it does not seek “truth” so much as rich modes of sense-making, and that it is first of all communicative.

I never really thought about how studying Haydn and sonata form would help me do a better job of having empathy (or at least understanding) for my fellow humans, but the idea that all meaning derives from context really hit me.

Jazz Fest in Place

WWOZ is playing sets from past Jazz Fests during the times that Jazz Fest would have been happening. Tune in at 90.7 FM in the New Orleans area or www.wwoz.org. Full listings are here: https://www.wwoz.org/640011-jazz-festing-place-cubes

You can hear me at 12:30 pm on Friday, April 24 on the 2018 Luther Kent & Trick Bag set, and at 4:30 pm on Thursday, April 30 on the Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Orchestra set from 2015. There is a two week archive as well

It is almost like having gigs…ok, not really, but it is better than nothing.

Ellis Marsalis (1934-2020)

I just learned of the passing of Ellis Marsalis, Jr., the great pianist and teacher. There will be many greater eulogies and histories across the internet, so I just want to tell one story. I got my MM from the University if New Orleans when Ellis taught there. He conducted the Concert Jazz Orchestra and was on my graduate committee. The jazz orchestra took a trip to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil right as I was graduating, and I was the de facto road manager for the band as part of my assistantship. There are many great stories from that trip, but my favorite has to do with a music school that was up the hill in the favela. The father of an exchange student at UNO ran the school and Ellis and the band visited one afternoon. When Ellis asked the folks in the neighborhood if they were coming to our concert on Friday night, people laughed. We did not know that a ticket to our concert downtown in the theater was more than one month’s salary for most of the people in this neighborhood. When Ellis heard this he immediately said, “oh, well then we will come play a concert here Saturday afternoon.” We did, and the joy of Brazilian children dancing to Thad Jones’s “Groove Merchant” is forever burned into my memory. That is the great man I remember. RIP Mr. Marsalis.

Thoughts on the mortality of a friend

On December 12, a friend died. She was younger than me, and had only known about her cancer for 11 months. Those 11 months contained some fear and some optimism. At one point she asked fearfully, “what if I die? What will my life have meant?” I didn’t know how to answer. I mentioned her many students and friends and all of the other people whose days and lives she brightened, but I don’t think that was what she wanted to hear.

After her death, a friend from her teenage years shared something that was written 20+ years ago. in 1997, my now deceased friend wrote, “One more thing: When I die, I would like to be remembered as an open person, open to the world. With big and understanding eyes that have seen and see lots of things. More than full of knowledge, wise (in the greek sense, I mean, I don’t want to tell books by memory, but know how to live and help others to do the same).” (This was translated from Spanish)

That is a lovely and accurate description of my friend. She was open and understanding and wise. She successfully lived the life she imagined for herself when she was a teenager. May we all live so successfully. Rest in peace my friend.

A year?

It is hard to believe it has been over a year since I posted anything here. I need to change that. I am in Chicago right now for the Instigation Festival. My band Unanimous Sources played last night at Constellation, and today the Instigation Orchestra played a new composition by Katinka Kleijn.

Jeff Albert, Katinka Kleijn, and Steve Marquette

On Judging Creative Activity or Sometimes My Kids Teach Me Stuff

The ranking of creative activity often strikes me as awkward at best, and counter-productive at worst. Competitive cooking shows are a great example. One chef leaves in tears, as I am thinking, “that looks great, pass that plate over here.” “This band is better than that band” always seems like a futile exercise.

Last night we attended the big end of the season high school marching band competition. My daughter is in one of the bands that competed. This competition has a prelims and finals format. They played two great shows. I think the best two shows they have played all season. When the rankings were announced after finals, they did not place as high as many hoped, or expected. There are some natural emotional reactions that can flow out in times like that. But, it made me remember something that my step-son said to me a few years ago.

My step-son, Blake, spent three summers performing on the DCI Tour with the Madison Scouts. (DCI is the highest level of marching band field show in the world. They would be pros, except you have to pay to do it…maybe another post.) At the end of one of Blake’s seasons, as I picked him up at the airport the day after finals, I commented that I thought they should have placed much higher. His response taught me something. He said that they had played one of their best shows of the season, and the audience loved it, and that was what they were there to do; be as good as they could be, and make something that moved people. They did that, and it was a success in his mind.

I feel like that is what my daughter’s band did last night. They performed as well as they could, and people liked it. That’s all that really matters.

…and that third place cheesecake can still make someone VERY happy.

AAJ Review of Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert with William Parker: New Normal

Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert with William Parker: New Normal:

“If sentimentality is the synonym of nostalgia, then the antonym is anticipation, and maybe a better word would be modernity. That word comes to mind spinning the trio recording New Normal by trombonist Jeff Albert, drummer Dave Cappello and their guest, bassist William Parker. “

Tour recap and shout outs

I just got back from a lovely two weeks in Europe. The main purpose pf the trip was for a tour in Italy with Marcello Benetti’s Shuffled Quartet, but I worked in a trip to Switzerland for the International Society for Improvised Music 2015 Conference.

Our regular woodwind collaborator, Rex Gregory, could not make the trip because he is busy being a new father, so we had Dan Kinzleman on clarinet, flute, and tenor sax. Dan is an American musician who has lived in Italy for the last ten years or so. He is a wonderful musician, a fun hang, and a great road comrade. We were happy to have him with us. It was also nice to have two people who spoke the language of Italian sound engineers at sound checks.

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We did most of the touring in Marcello’s Toyota Yaris Versa. Somehow we all fit, with the stuff.

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Setting up for soundcheck in Udine, for our performance at Udin&Jazz. The concert space was lovely and the sound was very good. The festival also had great hospitality.

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Sound check selfie.

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The last gig of the tour was in Rovigo for the summer jazz series presented by the conservatory there. We shared the concert with the quartet of Massimo Morganti, who teaches at the conservatory. This pic is Massimo’s band at sound check.

After the gig in Rovigo, Marcello and I drove overnight to Chateau-D’Oex, Switzerland for the ISIM Conference. The over night drive was crazy, but when you arrive to this view from your hotel room, it feels less stupid.

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This tiny alpine village seemed like an odd choice for the location of this year’s conference, but the setting was lovely, and the hosts were great. There were some good conversations about diversity, and community building. I presented on improvisational structures I use with my student laptop orchestra, and I really enjoyed Jeff Morris’s presentation on his weblogmusic.org project.

I also got the chance to hear a great house concert before I came back home. The band was led by Filippo Vignato, and they did his arrangements of Albert Manglesdorf’s music. The band included Piero Bittolo Bon, who has performed at Open Ears, and a great young bass player named Rosa Brunello.

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It was a great trip. We made some good music, and I met or reconnected with a bunch of great people. I am happy to be home, but a touch sad that I left before I could experience Mirano Baseball Day.

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Breakfast for Dinner Records

I have a new record label called Breakfast for Dinner Records. The music is available in most of the usual digital places and CDs are available from the label’s band camp page.

You can also buy the downloads on Amazon ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ), or iTunes ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ), or listen on Spotify ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ).