Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nad takes on Monk Competition

Congratulations to Nadje Noordhuis for making it into the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. This esteemed competition will take place Oct. 27 & 28 in LA. Nadje will compete in a live performance against 10-12 other semi-finalists for a ranking, and up to $20,000 award money.

A division of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the Monk Competition is one of the most highly recognized competitions in the jazz world, helping young artists gain notability. Major record labels attend the competition, and like American Idol (and this is the ONLY comparison) the 2nd and 3rd place winners often gain more fame than the top placer. It's an incredible honor to make it into the competition.

Each year, the competition focuses on a different instrument. To make it to the semi-finals, competitors have to be 30 years of age or younger, submit 5 different tunes meeting a variety of requirements, and have never recorded as a leader or co-leader on a major or independent label.

Nadje, in addition to being a good friend, is a fantastic trumpet and flugelhorn player whom I often utilize in my own compositions. She hails from Sydney and Melbourne, Australia and attended the Manhattan School of Music to earn her 3rd degree, a Masters in Jazz Performance in 2005. She currently plays around NYC, most notably with Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Kyle Saulnier's Awakening Orchestra, and the Justice League of Jazz (yes, I've settled on that name for my band, provided the folks at DC Comics don't mind...). Occasionally you can catch her with her own quartet, the NNQ.

As I was browsing the list of winners, dating back to the competition's inception in 1987, I noticed that no female instrumentalists have placed number one. In 2003, Karin Harris placed 4th for trombone, and in 1995 Shirley Bailey placed 3rd for guitar. But so far no number 1s.

On behalf of all female jazz instrumentalists, no pressure, Nad...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mix Tapes, again

Thank you Destination: OUT for bringing us this solo piano mix tape compiled by Vijay Iyer.

An interesting and educational listen, especially for you non-jazzers out there! But hurry, the downloads will only be active for another 6 days! Hopefully D:O will continue to post these compilations, as I do love a good mix tape!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Audience Participation Necessary?

There was a talker again last night. Oh, nothing irritates me more!!!

I was at Dizzy's with Sara checking out Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, part of the Diet Coke Women in Jazz Festival. We both have friends in the group and felt compelled to support our "sisters in jazz." And I have actually never heard the band before and was curious.

I was quite pleased with the set. The band swung hard and I enjoyed hearing Carmen Bradford sing her heart out. Janelle Reichman is a saxophonist you need to get to know. She was covering Anat Cohen's tenor chair and played her ass off on a Benny Goodman clarinet tune (wish I could remember the name). I also cheered loudly for Nadje Noordhuis's beautiful flugelhorn feature, Deborah Weisz's plunger enhanced trombone solo, Erica vonKleist's short but sassy alto solo, as well as Sharel Cassidy's alto feature.

I was very happy this band did not suck, as it seems to be one of the primary representations of female jazzers right now. But aside from genuinely enjoying the music, I was once again struck by the audience.

My first observation was that it seemed the band was more at ease than the audience. It was a full house, but a very polite house. The band started their first tune hooting and hollering for each other. The girls laughed, smiled, cheered during each other's solos. They behaved as you would expect any rowdy swinging big band to act.

The audience clapped and cheered at the expected moments, but that was it. Overall, they seemed a bit unsure. At one point Sherrie actually instructed the audience that it was okay to cheer whenever they heard something they liked. At another point, the man sitting next to me turned to me and said, "You sure are supportive." Why? Because I was cheering?


I don't think people know how to listen to jazz. And when I say people, I mean civilians. Non-jazzers. Non-musicians, really. I always wonder who the people are at these shows and why they are there. Are they mothers and fathers and friends of the musicians? Are they people that actually enjoy jazz and don't mind dropping $30 for the cover and another $10 for food/beverage? Or are they the dreaded self proclaimed "intellects" who still equate jazz with sophistication and are hoping to appear hip when at the water cooler Monday morning they relay their weekend hanging at Dizzy's?

Surely the men at the opposite end of the bar where the latter. They were the men that would not shut up. Really, how rude can you be?

I know this is not a new issue, the appreciation an audience gives jazz. I'm glad it's not just other jazz musicians in the audience. But I wish they would loosen up and try actually listening to what they are hearing. Not that I expect a "yeah, man" after every interesting statement a soloist makes. This was after all a big band and the audience most likely related to the overall sound of the band rather than the intricacies of the soloing.

But it did make me consider the different ways people listen and show appreciation for what they are hearing. I know I myself am not gonna be that listener that shouts out in the middle of solos when I hear something I like. But I am definitely a head-bobber. And a smiler. If there's a good groove my body is moving and if I like what I hear I am smiling like an idiot. Then there are people like my friend John, who sit there frozen and stone faced, but enjoying themselves nonetheless, usually ready with a complex analysis of the solo. There are also people like my other friend Doug, who back in college used to get so excited he would bust out into girlish giggles and hide his face in a pillow in attempts to contain his excitement over a Cannonball Adderley blues lick.

I believe music is a communication and that involves audience participation of a sort. Maybe Sherrie has the right idea in educating the audience in when to cheer. I know I spend a good part of every class I teach making my kids participate in "Active Listening" which includes appropriate concert behavior and a very basic analysis of what they hear. How else do we expect these audiences, specifically those new to the music, to know how to listen and that its okay, even better, to be an openly appreciative audience?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Giant Steps

Actually, the trail is called the Giant Staircase, and for any hiker's out there, I highly recommend this nearby hike. Amanda and I met at the W. 178 bus depot, hopped a bus over the GW Bridge and up the into the Palisades, where we disembarked at the NJ/NY state line. The whole trip took maybe 4 hours, the hike was shady and challenging, offering beautiful views of the Hudson and a much needed break from the city.

Here are a view pics to tempt you...

Rave Run

In Runner's World, there's a column called "Rave Run" where people can send in a picture of themselves running their favorite routes. I love pouring over these 2 page spreads of varying landscapes and locations, daydreaming about what it would be like to run in these favorite places, discovering the magic the route holds for each stranger. Does the runner feel inspired when running here? Is it the simple challenge of the route that holds the allure? Does it offer peace, or a desired loneliness? Or is the view so breathtaking that the runner felt compelled to photograph it and mail the print into Runner's World?

Last Wednesday, I had a Rave Run.

I met with Kate, much later than intended, and we headed over the Reservoir. We were both a little nervous as we cut through Central Park to darkening skies. Scenes from Law and Order and CSI:NY of cops bent over dead girl number 1's body in the park flashed through my mind as did my mother's warnings to "not go out after dark in big, bad New York City." But then we crossed over the W 94 Reservoir Bridge, and all changed.

The reservoir's 1.6 mile loop, which is usually crowded with runners, walkers, and extremely annoying space taking tourists, was sparse with just enough runners to make us feel safe. By now it was flat out dark, but the run was amazing. Kate kicked my butt with a slightly faster than normal pace. Extremely peaceful, the loop was a nice juxtaposition to the streets that lay a half a mile to either the east or west.

Kate and I did the usual girl chat on the first lap, but fell silent on the second as we worked to keep our pace. This silence taunted me to return alone, knowing my introvert self would be in heaven in the darkness. But despite my Donna Troy alias, I think I'm not quite brave enough to venture back there alone. (Well... maybe if I entered from the East Side, but who wants to go there?!)

Sadly, I only had my 1.something mega pixel cell phone camera to capture my Rave Run, and I will not be mailing the print into Runner's World.

Instead, I share it here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Philly Marathon

It's official! I am now registered for the Philadelphia Marathon to be ran on November 18, 2007.

I'll only be there a few days, no long trip this time, but I would like to do 1 or 2 touristy (or non-touristy) things.