Riffs: Music News from Out and About


By Patricia Myers

Suspicions confirmed. I’ve always considered modern jazz the most inventive of all music genres. Its early influences of Prez, Diz, Duke and Miles are never-ending, but each new configuration offers newly creative elements. So when I saw an article about how similar country music hits are becoming, I thought, “Suspicions confirmed.”

Older country music seemed to me to have had more originality, a blues mode but changed up via the personal style of each vocalist or lead guitarist. Songwriter Greg Todd recently dissected six current country hits to emphasize their similarities in structure and melody, i.e. Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and Parmalee’s “Close Your Eyes.” Todd created a YouTube video in which he tweaked those and other songs into playing at the same tempo and in the same key. Then he did the same with a batch of other country songs, to emphasize the sameness, especially in the power choruses.

Radio analyst Sean Ross responded by noting that sameness exists in pop-dance songs about partying, most with 110-beats per minute. A third observer, musicologist Michael Harrington, stated, “I think what most people want of music is probably 5% to 10% to be original, to be something new to them. They want familiar elements.”
Contrast that with current jazz ensembles performing Dave Brubeck’s venerable “Take Five” with reinvention, or 21st-century renditions of classics such as “Take the A Train” and “All Blues” that are constantly revised into fresh sounds.

Do jazz fans like these because they want to be entertained, but not bored? If so, is this why we love hearing Margo Reed sing “My Funny Valentine,” but always enjoy Dennis Rowland’s rendition? Is that why we still thrill to Etta James’ quintessential style on “At Last,” but ask for Renee Patrick’s rendition? Is that why we continue to venerate Patsy Cline’s “Crazy (for Loving You)” but appreciate it anew when Judy Roberts performs it?

Perhaps it’s that “jazz ears” are acquired by listening to and for all aspects of songs – melodies, arrangements and treatments – so we ingest music differently from those who prefer other genres of music. In my view, true fans don’t find jazz cerebral or complicated, although certainly requiring a special skill set beyond our own abilities. We simply find this music to be, at the same time, satisfying yet stimulating.

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The new website, www.MusicSceneAZ.com continues to add fresh articles and interviews, while providing an all-Arizona live-music listing. The site is an all-inclusive service available for musicians, presenters and venues from information provided either via email to psmyers1@cox.net (for my monthly Jazz E Update) or in the Contact element of the website. Please help us make it even better and more far-reaching with continuous input; thanks.

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The Buzz: Lakeshore Music’s monthly jazz series at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe 85281 (480-350-2822), continues Feb. 28 with the premier American piano duo of Renee Rosnes-Bill Charlap. The New York city-based wife-husband duo charmed the audience at the Musical Instrument Museum last June with compelling interaction and interpretations. Their CD release, “Double Portrait” for Blue Note Records, features remarkable four-hands duets. More information at www.reneerosnes.com. Concerts are $35 each, with discounts of 15% for four shows, 10% for three shows; also, Mill Avenue Dinner and Show Packages available @ Lakeshoremusic.org

Desert Botanical Garden’s annual outdoor series is scheduled for Friday nights from Feb.6 through June 26, including Feb. 13, The Swingtips; Feb. 27, Novo Mundo; March 20, Chuck Hall Band; April 3, Quetzel Guerrero’s Brazilian Jazz; May 1, Adam Roberts Trio; May 15, Big Pete Pearson Blues Band; May 29, Pete Pancrazi; June 12, Carmela y Más; June 19, Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns; June 26, Cal Tjader Tribute Band; other styles of music on other Fridays; information dbg.org

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Musicians’ News: A benefit for the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, organized by founder Hans Olson, netted $2,500 to help pay for more remodeling at Pranksters Too in Scottsdale, where the memorabilia eventually will be exhibited. A strong lineup of musicians donated their talents and time to perform. Word is buzzing that “the newest Reed” (vocalist Tabitha (daughter of Michael Reed, niece of Francine and Margo) was the hit act of the night. The Reed Legacy continues.

Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary on Feb. 2 performing with Renee Patrick at Malee’s on Main (an ongoing 6-9 pm Monday-night booking). The pair was married at 2 p.m. Feb. 2, 2002, on the birth date of Stan Getz, a major influence and idol of Fishman.

Former Stan Kenton Orchestra trumpeter Mike Vax is performing at a festival in China this month. Upon his return, he again is working on the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra Tour. That ensemble features Kenton alumni from the 1956-78 orchestras who perform for festivals, clinics, concerts, cruises and dances, carrying on the tradition of dedication to creative music and to jazz education. Donations are being asked for a “tour start fund” via Friends of Big Band Jazz (501c3 non-profit), to enable the alumni to perform and teach in schools, and award scholarships for summer camps. More info with Kristy Good, 928-277-1576, or Mike Vax, 925-872-1942 after Feb. 10). The link to donate is  http://www.bigbandjazz.net/TOUR_START_PAGE.html

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Overheard: “I have discovered three things which have no geographical borders: classical music, American jazz and applause as the sign of the public’s favor.” Jascha Heifetz, classical violinist

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Quotable: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Leonard Bernstein

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Final Chorus: Buddy DeFranco-clarinet, 91, in Dec. 24, Panama City, FL; Frankie Randall-piano-vocals, 76, Dec. 28 in Indio, CA; Jim Galloway-soprano sax, 78, Dec. 30 in Toronto, Canada; Buddy Catlett-bass, 81, Nov. 20 in Seattle, WA.; Ronnie Bedford-drums, 83, Dec. 20 in Powell, WY; Al Belletto-saxes-bandleader, 86, Dec. 26 in Metarie, LA; Jeff Golub-contemporary guitar, 59, Jan. 1 in Copley, OH; Ward Swingle-vocalist-Swingle Singers founder, 87, Jan. 19 in Eastbourne, England; Rod McKuen-poet-vocalist, 81, Jan. 29 in Beverly Hills, CA.


All Content Copyright © Patricia Myers 2015  More news @ www.MusicSceneAZ.com

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