14 November 2018

Too meaningful for me

I like a melody (not least the great standards that merge whimsy with depth) but I found the quietude and mesmerism of Oded Tzur just too much for me. The band was all good. The volume consistently and convincingly rose in each piece from a ppp(p) that was only just audible to loud with abandon usually in someone’s solo and the solos were good. Oded himself did some interesting outings, especially developing repeating phrases that crossed bars and mutated through intervals and perhaps resolved in time. He talked once of Tihai as an Indian classical music rhythmic technique that resolves on a key beat (usually 1 of a bar) after three repeats. Again repeating, he mentioned his three weddings (NYC, Israel, Brazil) and “the most important thing in the world / the most important thing in the world / the most important thing in the world is LOVE”. Three themes, three repeats: a tihai in presentation and in verse. Cool! In fact, everything I seemed to count was in 3 or 6 but I didn’t count everything. Pianist Nitai Hershkovit is a Smalls regular and an impressive player. He soloed impressively and accompanied nicely here too: usually restrained, in the style of the band, then growing in volume and intensity, again in the style of the band. Drummer Colin was nicely outgoing, I thought, and bassist Petros had a lovely tone (mic and a Realist Copperhead?), perhaps highlighted by the very low volume, and played mostly fairly straight syncopated lines but could expand as in one fast thumb position melody played unison with piano. These are decent NYC players but playing just too deep for my enjoyment. It got me wondering about politics, US and others, Trump and Netanyahu; how we account for our own politics (we Australians increasingly need to account); just how Oded feels about this; how this music in relevant. For that matter, is it a relevant question? But, again, deep. I’ll leave this here as I left early there. Decent players but just not for me, at least on the night.

Oded Tzur (tenor) led a quartet with Nitai Hershkovit (piano), Petros Klampanis (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums) at the Casa del Jazz in Rome.

13 November 2018

Negotiating travel

Again, dark footpaths, distant locations, traffic to avoid. This was a Roman jazz night. The place was the Casa del Jazz, claimed as “un luogo unico in Europa, in cui convergono attività concertistiche, culturali e didattiche”. It’s in the Villa Osio, in a park, just outside the walls of Rome past the Terme di Caracalla, near the Porte Ardeatina with its streaming traffic. OK for cars but difficult for public transport but always stunning to be surrounded by this history so worth it. I arrived by bus past Rome’s genuine ancient pyramid (tomb of Gaius Cestius, built 18–12BCE, smaller and younger than Egypt's) and walked lumpy footpaths in the dark around speedy traffic, even being felled by an unseen branch. But I got there. The concert was in a small theatre rather than a bar; well equipped with PA and piano. The Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet was sponsored by the Polish Embassy for Poland’s 100th birthday. I’d checked out YouTube and found a hip-looking group playing to festivals so was in two minds. I shouldn’t have been: I was seriously won-over. This was well arranged music with generous space for solos but with planned exits and returns, unexpected compositions often playing on simple themes, blues or the like, but interspersing solos from free to formal; solos varying in support from truly alone to accompanied; mostly syncopated grooves and just one swing passage; varied in style from C20th pianism through jazz and pop to blues. I found the approach genuinely thrilling and just hung out for solos by Joanna on piano and Marek on tenor. At one stage they combined for a duet that thrilled with invention and tonal contravention. But so did Mark and trumpeter Oskar combine nicely. Drummer Qba took a most odd but interesting of solos, not at all the marching band virtuosity of the Americans but intricate in tone and even pitch given some gamelan-like percussion. Wojtek stood at centre with EUB laying pentatonics and prompting widely with smiles. Joanna especially responded. This being an embassy event, there were free drinks after and I spoke to her shortly. She’d studied classical and never followed jazz and was influenced now by the likes of composer Gervasoni (Antonio, must look him up). Wojtek just introduced a few titles. I got the impression from one naming that it had run through many passages over 30-minutes or so. Or maybe he just hadn't introduced others. Not sure. But I found this thrilling and inventive and playful with pop and rock and blues references; both fun and worthy, and that’s a great combination. And to see those YouTube videos, this band is getting to a new generation and that’s mightily worthy. Much enjoyed.

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet performed at the Casa del Jazz in Rome. They comprised Wojtek Mazolewski (bass, composer), Oskar Torok (trumpet), Marek Pospiezalski (tenor), Joanna Duda (bass) and Qba Janicki (drums).

12 November 2018

The saint of music

I’ve seen Santa Cecilia often enough in churches and museums. Finally I’ve heard Santa her. Santa Cecilia is the saint of music and she gives her name to perhaps Italy’s and Rome’s key musical institution (La Scala and others may disagree), the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. We missed their orchestra on tour in Frankfurt but we caught the first of their annual concert series in Rome. It was at Parco della Musica, a music complex of five theatres designed by Renzo Piano, in the concert hall called, what else, Sala Santa Cecilia. This is a big room lined with bulging timber that seats 2,744. Getting there was somewhat a trial, negotiating rough unlit footpaths along busy traffic but the room is good. The Italians were chatty (very much in the aisles) and the orchestra is informal. It was a good size, ~95 with seven bassist playing played 5-string instruments. From the top, this was an exciting and entertaining concert played with lovely skills and strong dynamics. Glinka Ruslan and Ludmilla overture opened at a pace way beyond when I’ve played it. So it should, all cascading scalar runs and exhilaration. Great! Then visiting Russian pianist, Daniil Trifonov, playing Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no.3 Dminor. Again, stunning and thrilling and dense with notes. Ferocious, lush, romantic with the second movement running into the third and virtuosic piano. Fabulous playing by Trifonov and nicely conversational by the orchestra. Then a little encore on solo piano and a strange sight of Italians standing and chatting throughout the hall, at least those who didn’t exit for the interval. And the finale, Tchaikovsky Symphony no.4. To paraphrase Wikipedia, it’s a loose structure of large-scale orchestral writing and emotions and instrumental colors; a hybrid of the symphony’s architectural form and the symphonic poem’s literary form with self-contained contrasting sections displaying drama within movements. Whatever, it was exhilarating and emotional and sweeping and played with massed forces. Again a wonderful and involving performance. Santa Cecilia deserves her place.

The Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia performed Glinka, Rachmnainov and Tchaikovskyat Parco della Musica in Rome. Antonio Pappano (conductor) directed and Daniil Trifonov (piano) soloed.

11 November 2018

Piu di Firenze

Florence deserves time but were are just passing through. It’s another ridiculously touristy town, at least in the historical centre, but the collections are great and the museums are many. It claims jazz but my one attempt for a Monday night jam met with an empty stage and we weren’t there for weekend gigs. Always save something for next time. But I have more pics and here are some.

10 November 2018

Academy and thereabouts

I’d expected lines at L’Accademia but no. I walked straight in. This is one of the two top attractions with the Uffizi. It’s the home of David, Michelangelo’s huge statue and probably the symbol of the Renaissance humanism. I walked through. It was moderately busy but this gallery is pleasantly small. There are statues and paintings, presumably as examples for the students of art, of David’s era or before, there was a gallery of plaster casts, again for students, and a small collection of musical instruments. That included a quintet of strings by Stradivarius, once owned by the Medici and two early double basses, on small with 3 strings next to one large with 5. There were some diminutive timpani. David was huge and impressive but we all know the scene so well from pics so no surprise. Then the Museum of Pietra Dura. It’s something odd and apparently particularly Florentine, the art of inlayed polished stones used to create images. Again, a favourite of the Medici. It’s used on table tops, for panels as in paintings, for altars and various boxes and household products for the rich. Amusing and quite stunning when done well. It glows with colour and keeps its colour indefinitely. It’s sometimes in relief. L’Accademia and the Museo delle pietre dure are in Florence.