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Photo by Alex W. Rodriguez

Tigran Hamasyan (center) and Sam Minaie (left) perform “Hov Arek”

Tigran Hamasyan — The Alex Theatre — 4-22-14

By Alex W. Rodriguez for LA Weekly West Coast Sound

This was my first concert review in a long time — and I had a lot of fun checking this out and putting the review together. Special thanks to my fellow concert attendees AJ Kluth and Alyssa Mathias for coming along and helping out. Also, thanks to Tigran Hamasyan both for the incredible music and for the website shout-out!

AlexMarina_233

Playing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” to my beautiful bride Marina.
Photo by Greg Cohen

The last time I posted here, over six months ago, I wrote:

Next up: I’m flying to Chile on Thursday to start a month of fieldwork in South America. Wish me luck on the next step of this adventure—and let’s hope that it generates lots more writing in the near future!

I’ll say! But more than just writing, I have been incredibly fortunate to start this new chapter in my life with projects that incorporate many aspects of what I enjoy, including writing but also music, teaching, improvising, reading, making new friends, and—most important of all—the love of my life, Marina.  Read the rest of this entry »

glenn

For a long time, I used to get really jealous of my jazz musician peers who grew up in musical households. So many of today’s great young players—Gerald Clayton, Anthony Wilson, Zack and Adam O’Farrill, the list goes on—come from families of jazz greats (not to mention, of course, the Marsalis Dynasty.) I remember hearing Clayton, for example, as a precocious dreadlocked teenager wowing all of us in jam sessions at the annual Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, where he is now on the teaching faculty, and his dad John is now the Artistic Director.

Even as a young player, I could tell how skillyfully these musicians soaked up new musical ideas, plugging them into a seemingly inborn musical logic. Of course, they woodshedded harder than the rest of us; still, I’ll never forget feeling like they had access to some secret formula. These guys had something special—and everyone knew that their proud papas had a lot to do with it.

What I never realized then, but have since come to appreciate since taking a dive down the Jazz Writing Rabbit Hole four years ago, is that I was getting a similar father-son transmission all along—I just don’t think that either of us knew it before.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tigran Hamasyan, photo by Rob Gaudet for blue whale

Tigran Hamasyan, photo by Rob Gaudet

On Wednesday night, I finally made it back to my favorite LA jazz club, blue whale. Pianist Tigran Hamasyan was playing a solo show, and I knew that it was going to be something that I’d regret missing. So I carpooled with two friends, Alyssa Mathias and Kristin Gierman, to check it out—and we sure weren’t disappointed! Rather than write a straight-ahead review, though, I thought I’d try something different: an improvised concert review. So after the set, I fired up my audio recorder in the car, we asked each other questions about the set, and I transcribed the result. Check it out after the jump, lightly edited, minus our typically Angeleno debate over which freeways to take home: Read the rest of this entry »

The first UCLA cohort of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock

The first UCLA cohort of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance with new UCLA professors Wayne Shorter (bottom left) and Herbie Hancock (bottom right)

A Brief History of Jazz Education: Part 1 and Part 2

By Alex W. Rodriguez for A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

The second half of my latest contribution to A Blog Supreme is now online — part one was posted in November — and I learned a lot from putting this together. It turned out that part two went up on the same day that UCLA announced the appointment of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as Professors of Music there — auspicious times for jazz education, indeed!

Former UCLA Professor Charles Seeger

With another year of graduate coursework well underway now, I figure it’s time to take a minute to reflect here at the blog on the various writing, musicking, and writing-about-musicking activities swirling through my calendar these days.

The title of this post refers to former UCLA musicologist Charles Seeger’s apt description of musicology: that scholars of music are “in a linguocentric predicament,” that is, that we are stuck talking about music when the music expresses so much all by itself. I’ve done a lot of talking about music recently, which has been a lot of fun and has also reminded me of the stark limitations to the word’s capacity to convey musical meaning.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hitomi Oba, Dominic Thiroux, and Jessica Jones at Blue Whale

Jessica Jones, Hitomi Oba — Blue Whale — 7/24/12

By Alex W. Rodriguez for LA Weekly West Coast Sound

This was is my first piece for LA Weekly — and what a great set to review! Jones and Oba, her former student, brought all original music and sounded fantastic. It also featured a cameo from Ambrose Akinmusire, another former student of Jones, who sounded amazing even as a last-minute addition.

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Alex Pinto and Laura Maguire, co-founders of the SF Offside Festival

Six Creative Presenters Finding New Audiences for Jazz

By Alex W. Rodriguez for A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

I wrote this about a month ago for NPR Music, and in the midst of end-of-the-year shenanigans forgot to link to it here at the blog. In case you missed it, do have a look: the piece gives an overview of six jazz presenters that are finding new ways to reach out to jazz listeners.

The most recent example of me parting with money in exchange for music

This weekend, NPR Music intern Emily White wrote a well-meaning (and well-written) reflection on her relationship to music — namely, the fact that she never purchased any, given the free and easy access with which she has grown up.

I, too, have purchased little music since my regular trips to the Used Jazz CD shelves at Everyday Music in high school, unless you count pre-ordering a few things through Kickstarter campaigns (the latest of which, Darcy James Argue’s new record, has four hours left and has reached its goal!) In fact, I think the last piece of music that I directly purchased was Argue’s previous album, back in 2009.

But that’s largely because I have had the good fortune of falling into the jazz journalism world, where I am given promotional copies of music for review. Given the excellent stuff that comes across my desk, I am rarely compelled to reach out and buy more.

But this strongly-worded and well-argued rebuttal to Emily’s confessional has me thinking a little bit more closely about the ethics of my music listening habits. And with your help, I’d like to publicly lay out a set of guiding principles for my future listening, and check back later to see whether or not I was able to live up to my aspirations:  Read the rest of this entry »

Fred Wesley at the Oceanside Jazz Festival

In case you were wondering, Fred Wesley still knows how to get down. At the tender age of 68, the Funkiest Trombonist of All Time overcame a long cross-country flight and a bout with acute bronchitis to serve as the guest artist for the Oceanside Jazz Festival, an all-day celebration of local college and high school jazz ensembles.

I drove down to Oceanside to catch the final concert, which featured the Mira Costa Jazz Collective and Mira Costa Oceanside Jazz Orchestra (operating under the clever acronym MOJO) directed by Steve Torok with Wesley as the guest soloist.  Read the rest of this entry »

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