Music Criticism

 

Michael Bublé: The Biography By Juliet Peel Piatkus, 2010, £7.99

Introduction
Juliet Peel, "experienced show-business journalist and writer, with extensive contacts in the celebrity world", has produced a biography of the "international singing sensation" who's blessed with a "huge and loyal fanbase", it says in the blurb. I hope they enjoy it. Although crass enough to be at times unintentionally amusing, the book's musical and artistic content is sparse.

(Published in "Jazz Journal", Feb. 2011) Read More

 

Sal Mosca Interview

Introduction
Pianist Sal Mosca was one of the most musically gifted of the Tristano School players who enjoyed a critically important position in modern jazz from the late 1940s onwards. As a pianist he was as gifted as Tristano himself. His style developed independently of Tristano's, and was quite divergent in his later years. Though not among the most well-known of those players, he was achieving recognition towards the end of his life, despite an uncompromising rejection of the commercial imperatives of his art. His searching, exploratory improvisations graced some of the most important Tristano School recordings, notably 'Lee Konitz ‐ With Warne Marsh' on Atlantic. He was once of the most accomplished of piano stylists in modern jazz. 
(Published in "Jazz Journal", Dec. 2010) Read More.

 

Chopin Forum

Introduction
As part of the composer's 200th birthday celebrations, the second Chopin Forum ‐ the first was in 1999 ‐ was convened by Chopin scholar John Rink, who, with fellow-participants Jim Samson and Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, edits the New Critical Edition of Chopin published by Peters. Other participants were performers and teachers Kenneth Hamilton, Ronan O'Hora, Peter Donahoe and Kevin Kenner, plus piano restorer David Winston. With the possible exception of Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger's very scholarly account of Chopin's first Paris concert in 1832, almost every Forum presentation had a lively general appeal. As one contributor commented, Chopin's music is conceived for the piano in a way that Beethoven's, for example, isn't. By this, I believe, they meant that it originates in keyboard improvisation, working with and not against the instrument's tactile and sonorous qualities, for instance by focussing climaxes in the middle and not the outer registers. Samson's brilliant New Grove essay on Chopin ‐ the distillation of a career's writing and thinking about his music ‐ comments that it uniquely embodies the expressive and technical characteristics of the instrument. But it's also true that his music decisively shapes our view of what pianism involves. 
(Published in "International Piano", May/June 2010). Read More.

 

Herbie Hancock Interview

Introduction
On River: The Joni Letters, Herbie Hancock renews an association with the great singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, who he first worked with on her celebrated album with Charles Mingus. With producer Larry Klein, he selected thirteen songs, and as Klein has explained, "we used the words to guide us. All of the music emanated from the poetry." They assembled an all-start band to interpret them - Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and guitarist Lionel Loueke. Characteristically for Universal, these instrumentalists support a clutch of vocalists, from Corinne Bailey Rae and Norah Jones on "River" and "Court and Spark" respectively, to poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen who recites the dark, surreal lyric to "The Jungle Line" as Hancock freely improvises a solo piano accompaniment. Tina Turner appears on "Edith and the Kingpin," while Brazilian singer Luciana Souza offers "Amelia." Mitchell herself jazzily interprets the autobiographical childhood musings of "Tea Leaf Prophecy". Read More

 

Pete LaRoca Sims

[Jazz Review, Feb-March 2009]

Abstract
Jazz and politics, the rival merits of swing and even eigths, the relationship between jazz and programme music embodied by Sonny Rollins's Way Out West - these and more exercise former Coltrane and Rollins drummer Pete LaRoca Sims as he reflects on a life in jazz in the presence of Andy Hamilton.
Read More.

 

Paul Bley: Time Must Have a Stop

The Wire, October 2007

Abstract
Jazz pianist Paul Bley is usually known for his spacious, restrained lyricism, honed with his formative years in the Jimmy Giuffre group and later with music composed by the women in his life, Carla Bley and Annette Peacock. In Bley's 75th year, Andy Hamilton reassesses his career, highlighting his founding role in cementing the early 60s free jazz avant garde with Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, and his pioneering synthesizer and electronics improvisations at the dawn of the 70s.
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David Liebman

[Jazz Review, April-May 2008]

Abstract
I caught up with David Liebman between his masterclass and concert in Manchester with guitarist Phil Robson's group, featuring bassist Aidan O'Donnell and Liebman's old partner, drummer Jeff Williams. This was the conclusion of a brief UK tour which began with a two-night residence at the Vortex in London. I met the saxophonist in the RNCM cafeteria, a throwback to British cuisine of the 60s. But we were not downcast – David was going to eat elsewhere later, and anyway was in talkative mood. As time was quite limited, his verbal tempo in fact seemed to speed up through the interview, but not at the expense of his musical wisdom and good sense. He is, I reckon, one of the most astute and articulate commentators on the music – as his sleevenotes to the Mosaic boxed set of The Complete Blue Note Elvin Jones Sessions attest. 

Click here to read full article.

 

Sonny Simmons

[The Wire, Nov. 2007]

Introduction
"I was labelled a free player when I first came to New York. Ornette Coleman and free jazz, that was no problem for me - I would jump on that train too, and have a good time!" But Sonny Simmons has a curious ambivalence towards the free jazz that made his name: "I got sucked into the avantgarde when I was a young cat. I said 'This is the lick, I'm going with it'. But actually, I'd just as rather just play beautiful melodies, with my own compositions, with a groove. That's my true heart. Avant-garde and free, man, that's cool, but it only goes so far ... People want to hear a snap [he clicks a groove with his fingers]." He's done a lot of free playing, so he must have a lot of feeling for it? "Of course I do - if I'm with the right musicians, I can stretch out and play all my ideas within a parameter. But now that I'm in the autumn of my years, I want to come inside again - I've been outside a long time!" 
Click here to read full article.

 

The Primer: Spectral Composition

[The Wire, issue 237, November 2003]

Introduction
Sound as a physical phenomenon has dominated the imagination of avant garde composers during the later 20th century. None has been more obsessed by it than the school of spectral composers. ‘Spectrality’, according to one of its founders, Romanian pioneer Horatiu Radulescu, is not about composers with an interest in the occult or who like dressing up as spooks, but instead involves searching out the "deep structure of sound" revealed in its harmonic spectrum. The search for "Music... older than music", as one of Radulescu's titles has it, was anticipated by Xenakis and Stockhausen, among others. Until this point, Western composition had long spoken the language of tones, defined through melody, harmony and rhythm – music which leaves the inner nature of sound unexplored. It's this conception which spectralism challenges. Essentially, the spectralist idea is that one single sound is also a resonant acoustic complex. 
Click here to read full article.

 

Christian Wolff - Chancey Gardener

[The Wire, issue 202, December 2000]

Introduction
Plunged at age 16 into the musical experiments of John Cage and his circle, Christian Wolff is America's most enduring minimalist composer. Now well into his sixties, his New York School explorations have reached beyond strict composition into the musics of avantists from AMM to Sonic Youth.

"Chance is used as a way of discovering things," declares Christian Wolff, the American composer whose consistent vision has been to use the force of hazard to 'shape' his enduring, distinctively sparing works. "You could call it a heuristic device," he continues. "Cage once said he looked forward to performances to discover what he'd composed, to be surprised by it. I recall somewhere in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina the story of a painter who got stuck while working on a painting. He gave up on it, put the canvas away in some corner of his studio. Some months later coming back to it he noticed a grease spot or smudge had appeared on it, and then he knew just what to do to finish the picture." 
Click here to read full article.