Dr. B's Blog
Friday, January 29, 2016
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Something I've come to enjoy is what I call binge listening. With streaming services like Spotify, you can listen to an artist's entire recorded output from debut album to their latest offering. It's very interesting to hear how some artists stick to a tried and true style or genre while others change greatly over the years.
For me, binge listening works best with an artist with a somewhat limited output. The Beatles put out 13 albums, all of which predate the CD era, so they all clock in around 40 minutes or so (not counting the double White Album). That's about 10 hours to hear the progression from a brilliant cover band through Beatlemania, folk rock, psychedelia, sonic experiments, and back to their skiffle roots. Well worth your time!
Other artists I've done this with: Steely Dan, R.E.M., and The White Stripes (still in progress). I also recommend taking a specific portion of an artist's output, like Miles Davis' second quintet albums (E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, Filles de Kilimanjaro) or David Bowie's Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes, Lodger) if their discography is too large to go through all at once.
On the classical side, I am currently listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams nine symphonies in order. I had previously only known a couple of them, so to sit down seriously with all nine is fascinating. Quite a departure from the English Folk Song Suite.
Anybody have recommendations for their own binge listening playlist?
(Yes, I know that this is the first blog post in a year and a half. It might be the last for another long time. Or maybe not. We shall see...)
Monday, July 7, 2014
I started off with a trip to Ravinia to hear the Steans Music Institute jazz showcase. This concert capped off a week of intensive jazz study for 15 up-and-coming undergraduate and graduate students from the finest college music programs in the country. They were put into three quintets, and each group played five tunes, all of which were composed by the band members. They were led by some of our most esteemed jazz educators, including Dr. David Baker, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and bassist Rufus Reid. It was a great evening of music with a lot of fine soloing and unique compositional voices. I will definitely put this concert on my must-see list for June 2015.
Next I checked out DHS alum Greg Spero with his trio playing a homecoming gig in Highland Park at Vibe at 1935. Greg played piano in our jazz band and trumpet in the concert bands and marching band. He has since carved out quite a nice career for himself as a jazz pianist and keyboardist. This gig featured a lot of tunes from his most recent album, Electric. I especially dug his Bollywood meets Herbie Hancock number called "Raga."
I was very proud to see my former student with his killer bandmates Junius Paul on bass and Makaya McCraven on drums. Check them out if you get a chance!
My next event was a trip into the city to see Sting's new musical The Last Ship at the Bank One Theatre. Despite the fact that it took over two hours to drive there from the north suburbs, it was a very enjoyable show. The story is about the relationship between fathers and sons set against the backdrop of a dying shipyard in the north of England. The performances were strong, and I enjoyed the music. The tunes are varied with lots of traditional fiddle sounds, but there are little hints of Sting's individual style - a chord here or a bit of melody there. It sounds at times like one of his early solo albums, The Soul Cages, but it is definitely a musical theatre score, as opposed to a bunch of pop tunes strung together to make a "jukebox musical."
My last live music event was an old-fashioned "house concert." We had a guest musician, Matthew Clark, singing in our Sunday morning service at church, and one of the families hosted him in their living room that evening for an intimate performance. It was great to hear a singer/songwriter who knows more than four chords and can really get around on an acoustic guitar. Matthew sang and told stories about his life, and about 30 of us had a great time listening and chatting with him. There's actually a long history of house concerts in Western society--before recorded sound, if you wanted to hear music it had to be live. Think about all of the great Classical Era music that was performed for dinner parties, including many serenades by people like Mozart. What a wonderful tradition to bring back.
Later this week, we'll be off to Ravinia for our first Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert of the season. Looking forward to hearing one of the finest orchestras in the world!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
- Nica's Dream
- Tokyo Blues
- Summer in Central Park
- The Preacher
- Song for My Father
- Filthy McNasty
- The Jody Grind
- Senor Blues
- Silver's Serenade
- Sister Sadie
If you'd like to find out why Horace Silver is so highly esteemed in jazz circles, check out this greatest hits album:
Photo: Horace Silver by Dmitri Savitski 1989, CC BY-SA 3.0
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
- January 15 is Klezmer Day! We will have three musicians visiting from the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band visiting DHS to work with SB and WE on pieces for our upcoming concert.
- The orchestra winds and percussion will join our strings in the second performance of A Heartland Symphony at the Illinois Music Education Conference in Peoria on January 24. I'll be making the trip with you all.
- There are still lots more Pep Band at basketball games!
- On January 30, we'll put on the second annual Jazz Combo night featuring the 2014 MAJ and TAJ debuts. This year, we'll be in the studio theater, which will be a fun new venue for us.
- The Winter Band Concert will take place on February 5 with all three concert bands--we'll perform our klezmer music along with other wonderful selections.
- The Jazz Band heads to Evanston Township High School on February 8 for the Evanston Jazz Festival, where we'll play a 3-tune set, get professional critiques, and hear a concert featuring John Fedchock, an internationally-known trombonist.
- A number of our students will join musicians from 9 other local schools at the North Shore Honor Band Festival on January 11. A special highlight will be a world premiere piece by guest conductor James Curnow based on themes from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
- Concert Band will start their annual music on Latin American music. Get ready to become a giant mariachi ensemble, salsa band, and samba group!
- The Solo and Ensemble fest in March will feature a number of SB/WE chamber groups as well as soloists.
- Sometime this spring, I'll announce the proposed destination for the 2015 band trip. I've got some pretty cool ideas, but for now, my lips are sealed!
Monday, September 9, 2013
We entered their party room at the Embassy Suites to drum clicks--we were the special surprise they had been told about. We then played the Fight Song (about 40 seconds), I shared greetings from the current students and staff of DHS (about 15 seconds), and we finished with "Go Big Red" (about 20 seconds). Shortest. Gig. Ever.
We were well received, and some of the women did an impromptu cheer from the early 60s. It was a lot of fun, and I think we were an exciting addition to their festivities.
Then, I headed off to a friend's house for his annual backyard music fest. Sounds quaint, but it was really quite impressive. Here is the line-up:
- a singer-songwriter performing a solo set accompanying himself on guitar and piano (not simultaneously!)
- a vibraphone/violin jazz duo that sounded like it was straight out of the ECM studios in the 1970s
- three tenors singing folk and pop music with guitars and basses
- a world-renowned opera singer who has debuted several important operas over the past several decades
- a country-rock band performing originals and covers
- a band with the three tenors, 5 female backup singers, piano, mandolin, piccolo, guitar, dobro, bass, drums, and a horn line of sax/trumpet/trombone
So you see, kids, this is why you need to keep playing your instruments into adulthood! Maybe you'll have a friend who is ambitious enough to stage his own mini-Ravinia. Then you can take part and have that transcendent experience of sharing music with good friends. That's why we do what we do, isn't it?
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