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On Wisconsin

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

I traveled out to my home state of Wisconsin today. It’s always a nice feeling for me to be back in those parts, feeling comfortable and letting the cheese head in me have full sway. It’s also not a bad thing to get out and do some playing after another heavy week teaching at NYU. First off is two concerts with mi familia, Eddie Palmieri. Today we performed at the University Of Wisconsin – Madison, then tomorrow on to my home town of Milwaukee tomorrow to play at Alverno College, where I have many fond memories of hearing bands (most notably Maynard Ferguson’s a couple of times while I was in high school) during my years there. On the way out of Madison I’ll be stopping by the live broadcast of public radio’s “Whad’ya Know” with Michael Feldman to play a tune on the air with my old Wisconsin Conservatory Of Music schoolmate John Thulin, a regular on the show.

We had a great gig tonight; cats were certainly playing great and very creatively. We had a 2 1/2 van ride up to Madison from O’Hare, and we had some good jams going on the sound system courtesy of my old school IPod. Here was the playlist:

  • Nat Adderley – Calling Out Loud (late 60s on A&M with Joe Zawinul – an early CTI production)
  • Miles Davis – In A Silent Way
  • Miles Davis – Jack Johnson
  • Hank Crawford – More Soul

It’s great to listen to some great jams (going down memory lane to boot) and then play – sometimes it helps to bring that spirit!

Speaking of the Wisconsin Conservatory, I’ll be hanging around my beloved alma mater for a few days after the Palmieri gigs for the first of my stints as this year’s Artist In Residence for the WCM’s Jazz Institute program. I’ll be coaching the Jazz Institute students, performing and giving master classes with WCM’s faculty jazz ensemble “We Six”, and hanging out with some of my favorite people, like pianist (and WCM director of jazz studies) Mark Davis and my mentor, legendary saxophonist Berkeley Fudge.

Unsung Heroes News: The first review of the project has come in, courtesy of the excellent Elements Of Jazz website and reviewer Atane Ofiaja.You can read the complete review here: http://www.elementsofjazz.com/home/2010/11/3/music-review-brian-lynchs-unsung-heroes-project-volumes-1-an.html

And of course, if you’d like to check out Unsung Heroes for yourself, you can listen to and download all the music at: http://brianlynch.bandcamp.com

OK, signing off – next stop Brewtown!

Unsung Heroes Project On Line and On Sale! + Progress Report

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The Unsung Heroes Project , Volumes 1, 2 and 3, is finally live and online in its finished form! Thank you, everyone, for hanging in there patiently while I’ve been putting the final touches on the digital art and such.

Listen to all the music and buy the digital version (including full downloadable booklet) at http://brianlynch.bandcamp.com/

Next up is completing the design for the physical CD of Vol.1. I hope to have that ready in about a week to 10 days. Knowing how the process goes with manufacturing, I would say about a month from the time I turn in the materials will be when I have CDs in my hands. So, maybe around Dec. 1st? – I’ll have it ready in time for Christmas.

Play along track “prints” are being generated here at Hollistic Studios whenever I have spare hours – it’s a fairly simple process but time consuming since there’s 5 to 10 possible variations of “minus one” for each performance. It’s coming along – the trick is to figure out a way to master all this stuff cleanly, efficiently, and without undue expense. The multi track stem project will be addressed once I’ve achieved more traction on the play alongs.

Video? My man Nick Myers has been working away on the footage and achieving great results with the raw material synced up to the tracks. He’s a little less that halfway there; we’ve got seven videos up now for streaming on Vimeo. When all the tracks have been mated to image, then we’ll get to hooking up the DVD. The documentary is in process but a little farther back in the queue.
Here’s one of the Vimeo videos:
Access more Unsung Heroes videos at:
Household Of Saud:  http://vimeo.com/16032400
Terra Firma Irma:http://vimeo.com/15920034

NYU Ensemble Latvian Tour – Part 2

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Life and work have conspired against a timely follow up to my Latvia Part 1 post, so here we are more than a month later picking up the pieces. OK, let me see if I can remember what happened next….

The morning after out marathon day in Riga we left the big city for a”run-out” to Jelgava, which was about an hour or so away. We’d be returning to our hotel in Riga after the day’s activities; a master class, dinner and the concert at night. The cats were in great playing shape after all the gigging yesterday, and really stepped it up to another level. Back to Riga to catch some z’s and pack….

The next day we checked out of the Radisson (we’d be returning for a few hours of sleep after the last gig before the flight home) bright and early and hit the road in earnest, now a four hour ride to Reskene in the eastern part of the country. Things felt a bit different here; certainly more down home and a bit somber, but not in a bad way if you know what I mean. We visited a pretty incredible place, a famous church and shrine of the”Old Believers”, which are the Orthodox worshipers of the original, archaic version suppressed at the time of Peter the Great. Many of this faith fled Russia proper to surrounding lands such as Latvia, both in the olden times and after the Revolution, I believe (I would need to do a little more research to be sure). Very severe, spiritual folk, with a feeling from another time. The church bells were incredible, and their sound transfixed me! I had recently read about the Russian Orthodox church bell tradition and their mystical aspects in a magazine article, but here was the real thing; an amazing, stupefying edifice of harmonics with the most shattering attack I could ever conceive of. I could not tear myself away from the sound.

A good concert, and a fun gathering for dinner in the hotel after. This was a much more modest establishment than our Riga hotel, but the food was good and the atmosphere seemed to promote conviviality. There was something about this area that I liked very much; its quietness had a calm intensity that opened the mind up a bit.

Next morning another longish bus ride to the most historic and gracious city of Cesis. After a causal lunch, the first order of business was the tour of the castle. Going back to the 13th century, the castle was the hq of one of the Germanic orders of warriors, a cross between knights and monks, that controlled much of these parts in those times. I would imagine those badasses were similar to the cats that Ivan the Terrible put a hurting on, as in the Eisenstein film. A pretty amazing place, well restored without a fake “medieval” treatment. We had a great guide and it was really interesting stuff – I often opt out of touristy activities, but this was another diversion well worth the time.

Cesis is known as an artistic and culturally active city, and proof was in the next activity. A presentation of a special art work to the Cesis Art Museum (located on the grounds of the Castle), donated for just this occasion of our trip by co-sponsor New York Foundation for the Arts, was given by our own Peter Cobb. Our bassist Jin Park and I played as a duo for the dignitaries present, including the US Ambassador and the Mayor of Cesis:

Afterwards at the reception I had a most enjoyable talk with the Mayor. Turned out he was an ex trumpet player and had worked his way through school! I had him almost halfway convinced to start on the long tones again….

Our last concert was a great summation of all the hard work the cats had done all year and the growing they had done on tour. It was quite an achievement to learn to function successfully as a Latin Jazz band when most of them had never played this idiom previously to our project. Everyone did very well, as you can hear here:

The Brian Lynch NYU Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble

Brian Lynch – trumpet, leader, instructor
Peter Cobb – alto sax, liaison with NYFA, student tour coordinator
Casey Berman – tenor sax
Brad Gunson – trombone
Steven Feifke – piano
Jin Park – bass
Jamie Eblen – drums
Alex Raderman – percussion

Thanks to the NYU, the US Department Of State, the US Embassy, and NYFA for making this possible. Special thanks to Davida Baxter and Lauma Bruvele, our US Embassy guides and tour coordinators.

NYU Ensemble Latvian Tour Roundup – Part 1

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Effective leadership and successful teaching share the factor of selection in that if you have a good team or good students it makes the task a lot easier and good results more certain. I must have selected well judging by the way my NYU student ensemble came through in our just completed tour of the Baltic country of Latvia; they hit the ball completely out of the park, fulfilling and exceeding expectations on every level.

Followers of the blog know that this trip was a reschedule of a tour originally slated and prepared for April during last semester, but travel difficulties arising from the Icelandic volcano situation resulted in a dramatic last minute cancellation of the trip. This was a real drag for all hands; certainly for us since we had been preparing musically and otherwise for the tour all semester, and equally a disappointment for our hosts in Latvia (the US Embassy and their Latvian presenter partners) who had invested time, effort, and resources into making this opportunity happen in collaboration with NYU and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). It was touch and go for a while whether we’d be able to get a second chance, but largely due to the efforts of NYFA’s Peter Cobb (also a NYU Jazz grad student and our alto saxist!) along with everyone on the Latvian side, we were able to pull off the remake. I was quite elated to meet the rest of the band at the Riga Radisson hotel on Tuesday, the 24th of August, the students straight from New York and I having flown in the day before from Copenhagen, where I had been playing my music in quartet form the week before.

NYU Ensemble in Latvia

I took the cats out for dinner the fist night. Peter was getting some rest...

The first order of business was for everyone to get reacquainted with the music through a rehearsal. We hadn’t played together since the end of the semester in May, but there was no rust and the cats had kept the clave consciousness together that I had worked with them on in preparation for performing the Latin jazz program of music for this tour. We also commenced to getting to know our liaison and guides from the US Embassy, Davida Baxter and Lauma Bruvele, who we became quite close to over the next few days. They made everything easy and smooth for us from a to z! OK, time to get some rest and have the cats try to deal with that jet lag, because we would have quite a day of music to play tomorrow…. (more…)

August 2010 Continued – Copenhagen @ Jazzhus Montmartre

Monday, August 30th, 2010

What a great time I had in Copenhagen! Five glorious gigs playing music good for my heart and soul – good old fashioned swinging jazz. And with some beautiful musicians in the hippest settings possible.

The Jazzhus Montmartre was one of the hippest jazz clubs in all of Europe during the 60s and 70s up until the early 80s. Legends like Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean, and Kenny Dorham played there regularly, backed by superb Danish resident rhythm sections, most notably the team of American expat Kenny Drew (piano), bass phenom Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, and the fine drummer Alex Riel. Encounters like these, documented in many live recordings from the Danish Steeplechase label, were only the tip of the iceberg of an incredibly fertile and swinging jazz scene in Denmark during that time. This tradition of commitment to the swing and classic jazz blowing has been preserved to the present day in Denmark, where it thrives alongside other contemporary forms of the music.

I grew up on those Steeplechase records live at the Montmartre, so you can imagine what a thrill it was to play in that historic, fabled spot! The location had been used for various purposes in the almost 30 years since the closing of the original club, but an important piece of the Montmartre’s original and quite modern wall art had miraculously remained intact over all that time.

Jazzhus Montmartre: original wall sculpture

Jazzhus Montmartre: original wall sculpture

Other striking wall art has been recreated by the old place’s original artist. All aspects of the Montmartre; the decor, sound, excellence of the piano, distinction of the staff and knowledge of the audience, make for a playing or listening experience unequalled in any club.

This reopening of the Jazzhus Montmartre bodes well for both fans of the straight ahead style in Copenhagen and musicians like myself who have an opportunity to partake of its swingingly conducive atmosphere. Its revival has been a labor of love of a dedicated group of musicians and savvy devotees. (more…)