Thursday, April 19, 2007

Audio/Visual, Books

British pianist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford is in town for a couple gigs. Had a lovely one last night at Barbes (trio with Nate Wooley) and a Company-style evening tonight with Jason Hwang, Jessica Pavone, Peter Evans, and Reuben Radding at Rose Live Music. Info below:

april 18 8pm barbes

steve beresford trio
nate wooley - trumpet
harris eisenstadt ˆ percussion

april 19 8pm rose live music

steve beresford and friends
jason hwang - violin, viola
jessica pavone - violin, viola
reuben radding - bass
steve beresford - piano
peter evans - trumpet
harris eisenstadt - percussion

Took in two films this week that shared excellent cinematography, editing, and plot devices: Blood Diamond and Children of Men.

While I was somehow disappointed to find that Blood Diamond was not shot where it was set (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea) rather in Mozambique and South Africa, it doesn't change the fact that it looks stunning! Same can be said for Children of Men, the "anti-Bladerunner" as director Alfonso Cuaron termed his film. London 2027 looks incredible, with its technology-stopped-at 2014-due-to-chaos understatedness. When Cuaron and his team dressed their London sets, he said to make it "look more like Mexico" whenever he needed more reality of a destroyed future London.

The plot device that the two films share is the anti-hero (Leonardo DiCaprio in BD, Clive Owen in COM) who dies at the end of his journey after successfully saving the one who most needs to be saved. Both were cool, but for me the definitive performance of either movie is given by Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond. Wow!

Couple great books I've been digging. Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael reed", the seminal early70s re-imagining of Black/White Race Relations set in 1920s New York City and beyond, and
Masters of the Sabar by Patricia Tang. Ms. Tang addresses a question that's been in previous posts of mine and intrigued me for years: what is the nature of the overlapping origins of Mandinka kutiro drums (also called tantango/saoruba) and Wolof sabar drums? She arrives at the same conclusion that I have: no one can say empirically and categorically which one came before the other. She does suggest that evidence points to Mandinka tantango pre-dating Wolof sabar. Which would corroborate the point of view that my friend Mandinka griot Foday Musa Suso has. The mystery continues...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rainy Sunday

A rainy Sunday here and I'm sipping some Peet's french roast and processing a nice day yesterday.

Listening to some CDs that were laid on me by Sylvain Leroux and Malika Zarra. Sylvain and I had a nice hang at his place in the East Village, playing some tambin-sabar duets, drinking tea, talking about mutual respect and love for Africa. Check here for info about him, the tambin (Fula/Malinke flute) and two great CDs by his bands Fula Flute and Source.

Then went and played for one of Babcar Mbaye's classes at Chelsea Studios. Brought my minidisc and recorded it so I could work on some of the baks (breaks). The guys I play the classes with are from the same family as my teacher, Malick Ngom Faye, referred to in previous posts as 19yrold mofo. They're his uncles, older brothers/cousins, etc. You can find them here. So interesting that alot of the baks and rhythms Malick tought me are his generaton's version; the guys who teach these classes are 10-20 years older than Malick. Of the discrepency between their stuff and what the Sing Sing Juniors are playing right now in Medina, they say something to the effect of: "those young'ns play too fast, too slick, they don't focus enough on the original versions, groove deep enough, etc). As far as I'm concerned both versions are off the hook.

After the dance class went down to meet up with my friend Brahim Fribgane, great guy, great percussionist/oud & guitar player. He was playing at Boom in Soho with a killing vocalist Malika Zarra, who has a killing band. Had fun sitting in with them and trying to make their subtly-arranged and deeply-grooving music feel good without knowing the tune. Always great to be inspired by other drummers! Mailka's regular drummer is this dude named Harvey Wirht from Surinam. He played such deeply grooving, creative, tasteful stuff. And all on a tiny NYC-style one cymbal-hihats-snare and kick only kit (one doesn't really need much more than that).

Monday, April 9, 2007

Video # 17 - Mamady Danfa Making Tea

Just a quick post of my deputy teacher from Gambia, Mamady Danfa, pouring Atya (gunpowder green tea mixed with tons of sugar) in Brikama, Gambia last month. Most people drink this stuff at least once a day. If they haven't had their first fix by 11am or so, they start getting testy. Talk about a different pace! They brew it slowly over charcoal, pass out little shots from a little pot until the first batch is done, and then do the same thing a second and third time. The whole process - from lighting the charcoal until the third pot is empty, takes at least an hour. Its mesmerizing to watch people pour the tea from cup to cup, back in to the pot, into the cup, back ito the pot, etc... Hypnotic! Just don't drink the first round if you're having a hard time sleeping. Stuff works like hi-octane fuel. Good for right before playing a traditional dumming program.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Out and About in NYC

Sunday here and I've been back from West Africa for a little over a week. Haven't blogged and have just been processing I guess. Been running around a bunch and its my first day to catch up on writings (prose and music), have some serious practice time, etc. Starting work on a piece about my time in Senegal and Gambia for Bill Shoemaker's excellent on-line journal which will be published in PofD's July edition.

Been playing Sabar dance classes all weekend with Babacar Mbaye and Babacar Ndiaye at a cool festival/conference of African Dance at Baruch College. Playing tonight for Babacar Mbaye at 7:45 then will probably swing by Freestyle Jazz at Jimmy's to hear one of my favorite groups, my friends' Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone's duo project.

Also been out to hear some music the last couple nights. Enjoyed ICP Orchestra's last show at Tonic (since Tonic is closing its doors this month, sadly) on Friday night. Amazingly the first time I've seen this band live. Have had the good fortune to work with some of its members (Toby Delius, Tristan Honsiger, Mary Oliver) and always nice to see Michael Moore, who I've met several times in Amsterdam and California but not had the pleasure of playing with yet. Soon hopefully! Great to hear Ab Baars, Misha Mengelberg and Wolter Wierbos live. And always fun to see Han Bennink, and each time Mary re-introduces me he says "oh yeah" and rubs my shoulder or pats my head. Han does this to everyone and though he may or may not remember me, it doesn't actually matter. He's a warm-spirited, genial, beyond-gregarious guy and he's just Han. All there is to it. As usual with ICP and New Dutch Swing, there was a fun of mix of Ellington-meets-Frederik Hendrikstraat themes, wacky-sometimes-somber improvs, and Townships-meet-De Wittenstraat 100 pentatonic loveliness. They've been playing at Tonic for years so it will be interesting to see where they end up next time they're in NYC. Meanwhile, I eagerly await the next opportunity to go to Amsterdam. Its on my short list of favorite cities in the world. The architecture takes my breath away.

Last night my neighbor Tony Malaby graciously comped me to hear him with the Paul Motian Octet at the Village Vanguard. I must say being comped is the way to go. Thanks Tony! I stayed for two sets and had one beer, and was set back $7. Had I been a regular-paying customer, it would have cost me at least $70. Now don't get me wrong; Paul Motian is a living master and his band is full of killing musicians. But thats a lot of bread. Still, it was packed with tourists as usual. And despite the fact that its a tourist trap, I still dig going the Vanguard from time to time. The history in the room is palpable, even if the programming of the last decade (since I've been going sporadically) is not always my thing. Malaby introduced me to Paul between sets and he said to me, as he switched his order at the bar from a glass of water to a martini, "It ain't easy being a drummer." Truer words were never spoken.

It was a curious couple sets, I have to say. Motian is wonderfully mystifying to see live; wiry and unpredictable behind his beautiful-toned Gretsch drums. The band had some great moments, but there also seemed to be an air hanging over the music that kept it from hitting that elusive transcendent spot. Still, a treat to see all these great players. Nice to hear and catch up a little with my friend, the ubiquitous guitarist/bass guitarist Jerome Harris. Always making the music feel good, that Mr. Harris.