I recently visited the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, CA for the first time. The main space and Skylight Studios are in the middle of the Century City complex and you would never know they were there from the street. This felt elitist to me but the layout is nice, admission is free, and the underground parking is almost free with validation. The REFUGEE and NEW AMERICANS (Skylight Studios) exhibits were rich and powerful. An international team of photojournalists and professional photographers are working with the UNHCR to tell the human stories of the refugee crisis abound the world. There is a lot to absorb and this certainly changed my thinking about refugees, immigration, and the incredible human cruelty that has created this situation. I highly recommend this show which runs through August 21st.
As musicians we spend as much time as possible working with our craft but can struggle with the business side of our careers. I think of business as the complete chain of events that brings the music out of our imaginations into the world. Money is fuel, but is only one piece of the equation. Bringing music to life requires the skills and attention of many smart people; musicians, presenters, managers, agents, marketers, labels, publishers and fundraisers. Composers and performers are musical CEOs, managing each step and partnership along the way.
Organizations like Chamber Music America (CMA) are making a huge contribution to classical, jazz, and world music by providing grants and the business education that musicians need. On January 24, 2013, Jeanette Vuocolo, Program Director for CMA Jazz led a well-attended workshop at The Blue Whale jazz club in downtown Los Angeles. Ms. Vuocolo’s presentation focused on the New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble grant application process and featured panelists, Bennie Maupin and Remy La Boeuf.
The New Jazz Works grant, which is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides funding and music business guidance to professional US jazz ensembles of 2-10 musicians in three phases:
1. CORE: Creation and Performance
The creation of a new work, the work’s world premiere, and one additional performance. Both performances must take place within the United States. This phase must be completed within eighteen months.
2. Continued Life
The second phase supports additional concerts, touring, open rehearsals, master classes, clinics, school and community visits, residencies, conference showcasing, promotion, self-presenting and recording. Activities can take place in the US or abroad.
3. Better Business
Phase three supports the ensemble leader, funding business related activities; attending conferences, meeting prospective presenters, taking classes, and working with mentors and consultants.
Both musician-panelists described what they have learned. Besides the opportunity to compose and perform a new extended work, they found that the application process itself was educational, helping them to articulate their goals and musical vision. Both Mr. Maupin and Mr. La Boeuf described the many new opportunities and business relationships that have emerged from their involvement with CMA. The program also encourages musicians to give back to their communities, mentoring others and sharing their experiences in panels and conferences.
For more information and application materials please visit: http://www.chamber-music.org/
Panel hosted by Tamara Conniff – TheComet.com
- Ariel Wada, CommerceSocial
- Eric Garland, BigChampagne Media Measurement
- Bryan Calhoun, SoundExchange
- Jordan Glazier, Eventful
- Michael Closter, Reach Global Music Publishing
- Tracy McKnight, Lionsgate Film Music Division
Artist/Producer panel moderated by Ted Cohen with Artist Colin Hay (Compass Records, Men at Work), Producer Mike Clink (Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Metallica, Sarah Kelly), Garry West, co-founder of Compass Records, and DJ Nu-Mark of Jurrassic 5.
This diverse panel discusses the current state of music recording and marketing.
I’m taking a break today from the usual stuff to acknowledge two extraordinary woman I am very fortunate to call friends.
Nancy Santullo is a former fashion photographer who has dedicated herself to bringing clean water to the children of the Peruvian rainforest. When Nancy is not heading up river she is advocating at the United Nations. In eight years she and her team have brought clean water to two remote villages serving over 450 adults and children.
Virgina Paca is an architect and garden designer in Pasadena, California who had a simple idea: She wanted to grow her own food and connect with local farmers and businesses. Her garden took off, and at the height of the economic downturn she began giving away her abundance of organic produce. Each week she prepares beautiful baskets overflowing with fruits and vegetables and hand delivers them to a food bank, local businesses, and friends.
You can follow her story, and take a peek inside her wonderful garden here.
Thanks to The Woman’s Eye for profiling these two extraordinary women … and many more.
Happy Mother’s Day!
The other day an architect friend took me to The Judson Studios in the Garvanza (Highland Park) neighborhood of Los Angeles to view a project in progress. I knew a little about the building but had never had the opportunity to meet the artisans or see their stunning stained glass work up close. Everything about this place exudes a deep love of beauty and an attention to detail that makes no compromise. It’s hard to believe this Southern California gem is only a few blocks away from Penny’s Hamburgers and the T-Shirt Warehouse.
William Lees Judson settled on the banks of the Arroyo Seco in 1893 and quickly became a driving force behind the Arroyo Guild of Craftsmen, fueling Southern California’s Arts and Crafts movement. In the late 1890s he founded the Los Angeles College of Fine Arts at this location. In 1901 his art college became USC’s College of Fine Arts and remained in Garvanza until moving to the central campus in 1920.
Judson’s stained glass studio remains in the family to this day, producing profoundly beautiful work in a tradition unchanged by time. Horace Judson told the Highland Park News-Herald in 1940: “Here there is no rush. We work slowly and for perfection as they did six centuries ago.”
As I watched the artisans work I marveled at the way architects manipulate light to create beauty and a sense of well being. When we look away from a painting it is gone, but when the light has been channeled in our living and working spaces, it continually changes our experience whether we are aware of it or not. Stained glass transforms itself with the seasons and the daily cycles of light and dark. The tradition captures icons that surround us with the things we value most.
This beautiful place reminded me of music, which also shifts space around us, creating a dimension of beauty and a sensual aesthetic that goes beyond words. Enjoy these images from The Judson Studios web site.
|Innocent When You Dream – Celebrating the Music of Tom Waits|
Vocal music connects with listeners through lyrics, melodies, and arrangements. Instrumental improvisation is rare and usually serves as a device for building the energy of the song. The mystery of a magical pop or rock tune lies in the mix of lyric, melody, and presentation.
Jazz on the other hand is about virtuosic instrumental performers composing in realtime without a net. The soloist’s ability to spontaneously create, usually on top of complex, rapidly moving harmonies can take the audience on a powerful and unexpected emotional journey. This stripped-down, solo-driven intensity can lend a static quality, a kind of esoteric minimalism to what many people think of as “jazz”.
Just as jazz harmonies and styles have evolved over the years, restless jazz musicians have explored new approaches to making their music, mixing improvisation, ensemble writing, and genres not usually associated with jazz. For me, this pursuit of innovation has always been key. I love music that balances the direct emotion of pop and roots styles with the freedom and sophistication of contemporary improvisational techniques.
I was very excited to hear Brandon Bernstein’s new CD, “Innocent When You Dream – Celebrating The Music of Tom Waits”. The band, Brandon Bernstein (guitar), Aaron Shragge (trumpet, shakuhachi), Matt Otto (tenor sax), Greg Leisz (pedal steel and dobro), Ryan McGillicuddy (bass), and Jason Harnell (drums) take an ensemble approach to the material. The group’s sound is wide open but still deeply connected to the core of each of these songs. While there are solos throughout, this is not a blowing date, but a conceptual work, merging the skills and personalities of these fine musicians with the unique songwriting of Tom Waits.
Choosing Tom Waits as the starting point for this music is quite ambitious. Waits is a multi-faceted, iconoclastic artist, from his powerful voice (and Radio Shack bullhorn), to his theatrical song-cycles, dramatic arrangements, physical presence and deeply emotional songwriting. Rather than trying to capture the ‘Big In Japan’ totality of Waits, the band has taken an approach similar to the traditional jazz read on Tin Pan Alley tunes. Some of the tracks are true to the tone of the Waits originals and others use his version as a springboard for something fresh and unique to this band.
A few highlights…
The album, opens with ‘Good Old World’ originally done as a waltz. Matt Otto has arranged the song in a somewhat brighter 4/4 meter, opening up new possibilities. Brandon Bernstein and Otto contribute thoughtful, melodic solos, and Greg Leisz adds a touch of mystery and a hint of Robert’s Western World. The arrangement teases the listener, playing with new directions, but staying close to the introspective emotion of Waits’ original. Jason Harnell’s fills are free and colorful, letting us know that the band is listening and ready to let the music go where it will. The opener tells us that these musicians are quite comfortable exploring this unique mix of musical styles.
Aaron Schragge’s modal arrangement of “Blue Valentines” drops the slight tongue-in-cheek, noir jazz vibe of the original, favoring the bones of the song itself. The band treats it as a pensive jazz ballad with introspective solos by Schragge and Otto over Brandon Bernstein’s hypnotic chordal vamp. Jason Harnell’s out-of-time fills add color and dynamics, pushing and pulling the mood.
The title track, “Innocent When You Dream”, arranged by Brandon Bernstein, artfully mixes the melancholic melody (Schragge and Otto) with pedal steel guitar, creating a blend of country longing, and “last dance of the night” bar room glow. Harnell paints fills and colors on the canvas of the song. It works.
“Flash Pan Hunter” always reminds me of some sort of demented Max Fleischer cartoon. William Burroughs’ lyrics conjure up images of grainy, distorted, psychopathic, vegetation and mechanical contraptions going about their daily business. Schragge’s treatment takes a different look at the song, bypassing the wackiness and playing the tune as a rubato ballad with a long free introduction. Schragge plays shakahachi flute on this track which clearly sets the tone for the arrangement.
Berstein’s straight forward arrangement of “The Long Way Home” features Greg Leisz and almost hints at a Caribbean feel. Cowboy jazz with a light touch.
The record also features performances of “Picture In a Frame”, Frank’s Theme”, “Can’t Wait To Get Off Of Work”, and two original group improvisations, “Orphan” and “Fishbone”.
You can catch the band (with Doug Livingston substituting for Greg Leisz) performing a free CD release concert at 7:30, Saturday May 1 at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, CA. You can find this music in the iTunes Store, at Amazon.com and at CD Baby. You can also purchase CDs by contacting Brandon Bernstein through his website.
|Shadow Language Electric Guitar Quartet|
Ken Rosser’s Shadow Language Electric Guitar Quartet is playing a show at The Electric Lodge in Venice, CA Thursday April 22 at 8 pm. In addition to the repertoire from their premier performance (see my interviews with Ken) they will be performing a piece by Nick Didkovsky and a world premier, Rooms of Marble and Red Grass by composer Stefano Giannotti.
If you are a fan of modern electric guitar music be sure to check this out. SLEGQ is pushing the boundaries of the electric guitar and contemporary chamber music. If you think “it’s all been done” on the electric guitar… think again!
|Guitarist Ken Rosser|