The new semester at New York University has brought a lot of turnover in my Artist Ensemble, but the quality hasn’t suffered; on the contrary, I’ve got one of my strongest lineups yet. You are definitely going to be hearing about some of these guys! Joining returning trombonist Ray Mason is the all new group of Tom Finn, alto sax; Perry Smith, guitar; Julian Waterfall Pollack, piano; Youn Chul Kim, bass, and Andreas Klein, drums. We’ll be performing at the famed NYC Village Vanguard this coming Wednesday, Feb. 16th at 5:30 for a special presentation called “The Village and All That Jazz”, sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the American Music Project. More info about this gig at: http://newyork.nearsay.com/nyc/west-village-greenwich-village/arts-culture-join-us-village-all-jazz. We will also by playing another iconic NYC jazz mecca, the Blue Note NY, for Jazz Brunch on Sunday, April 3rd.
NYU Ensemble Blog
A heads up about a special night in the Village (Greenwich, that is) coming up very soon. My “Unsung Heroes” group ,will be playing for one night only on Wednesday, December 8th at the Zinc Bar, a frequent BLJ hangout over the years now in a new location and with a real piano! The group, featuring alto sax ace Vincent Herring along with an all star cast, will be playing the material from my brand new recording “Unsung Heroes” (available online at http://brianlynch.bandcamp.com/). Opening for Unsung Heroes on the early set will be my NYU Artist Ensemble playing some of my “hits”.
I’ll be giving away 10 download certificates for music from my newly released “Unsung Heroes” project at the show. I’ll be giving away 5 after the NYU early set and 5 after the first set of Unsung Heroes. First come first served! Come see me after the sets and I’ll lay it on you.
Double Bill! – Brian Lynch “Unsung Heroes” Project and NYU Artist Ensemble at NYC’s Zinc Bar
Zinc Bar: 82 West 3rd Street, New York, NY 10012 (212) 477-9462 www.zincbar.com
7-9 PM: Brian Lynch NYU Artist Ensemble
Brian Lynch – trumpet, instructor/leader
Raymond Mason – trombone
Jinhee Lee – guitar
Michael Eckroth – piano
Ku Oh – bass
Sangmin Lee – drums
9:30 PM – 2 AM: Brian Lynch “Unsung Heroes” Project
Brian Lynch – trumpet
Vincent Herring – alto sax
Alex Hoffman – tenor sax
Rick Germanson – piano
Luques Curtis – bass
Pete Van Nostrand – drums
Unsung Heroes Vol. 1 – 3 out now! Download at http://brianlynch.bandcamp.com
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.
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.
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….
We were off bright and early the next day to play and be interviewed on a live TV show that day highlighting educational exchange and US culture. We were featured quite heavily, playing three full songs live and Peter and I talking about the tour (Casey Berman, our tenor saxist, go a few words in too). Next we went straight to the local music high school (conservatory) where the ensemble and I did a master class for the students and the general public. A very fine big band, comprising many of the accomplished local players performed a char to for us first and made us aware of the high level of the music scene in the area. After a few suggestions to the band from yrs truly, our ensemble performed one of our pieces. This was the prelude to my lecture demonstration covering the basic concept of clave, instrument patterns in clave and insight into how Latin jazz, by using clave as a rhythmic organizational foundation, is distinct from other styles. This basic program was used for our other master classes over the next two days.
No letup in sight as we again went straight on, this time to a sound check for our evening concert at Artelis, a charming and funky cabaret theatre space that sported great ambiance, good sound, and a most cordial and accommodating staff. After dinner at the club (takeout), we performed a set of our best stuff for an enthusiastic, packed crowd featuring many dignitaries, including the Latvian Minister of Education, the US Ambassador, and the Cultural Affairs officer from the US Embassy. Luminaries from the Latvian music world were there too, including Latvian Jazz Festival organizer (and drummer/bandleader) Maris Briezkalns. After the concert, we all took part in a jam session that gave us an opportunity to hear some more fine Latvian jazz players, this time in an unfettered blowing context. A standout for me was saxophonist Deniss Pashkevich, a completely accomplished and world class player who impressed me on soprano sax playing in a fluent, harmonically sophisticated idiom reminiscent of, but not beholden to, David Liebman.
We made it through the first day! I’ll bet we did more performing than the students had ever experienced in such a concentrated amount of time. A great challenge for the young cats, and they came through it like champions. In the second half of this post I’ll introduce you to each of these new stars on the modern jazz horizon and pick up our tour narrative on the next morning.
Yesterday was a momentous day as I finished up my classroom teaching for the 2009-10 school year. I gave the exam for my Improvisation class, and did the end of semester recording session with my NYU Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble. The session went great; we were very successful working in the new studio facility at NYU’s Steinhardt Education Building. This studio is a state of the art facility graced by a most skilled and knowledgeable teacher, Paul Geluso, who supervised our session. Far and away it was the best sound we’ve ever had from a NYU facility; totally competitive with a top NYC professional facility. The students played great, along with special guest Zaccai Curis on piano. We did some of my arrangements of Miles Davis classics (“Solar”, “Flamenco Sketches”, “So What”) in Latin-jazz style. I’m looking forward to getting some of these tracks mixed and up on this blog so you can hear how talented these young players are.
Now grades will be posted, a couple more final lessons given when I return from the road in a couple of weeks, and then teaching hiatus! (at least until the next workshop or camp; I think I have a couple of each slotted this summer). We should be hearing soon about the rescheduling of the NYU Ensemble’s Latvia tour, possibly for the end of August.
Thanks to all my students and the faculty at NYU for a rewarding and fun year!