Mad about the girl

The girl in that case is China Moses, who gave her first concert yesterday in the small room at the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid. She started with some repertoire from her Dinah Washington tribute record and Dinah was more or less the theme of the evening – as she proceeded to perform new material for an album to be released in September – and the songs  for this record were selected with Dinah in mind – either from singers who influenced her or were influenced by her. Bessie Smith, Esther Phillips, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone are just some of the names popping up through the night.

The material is carefully chosen and fit China’s voice perfectly, the arrangements by her pianist Raphael Lemonnier are truly done with respect for the original and are powerful were needed, emotional when requested and always stylish. His arrangement for Nat Adderley’s Work Song (a song Nina Simone used to sing) is simply great – keeps the power of the instrumental original, but adds the emotion of the lyrics and the performance by China was absolutely amazing. Supported by the incredible Raphael and her bassist Fabien Marcoz, whom she sang a funny Happy Birthday, and drummer Jean-Pierre Derouard, China had a great time on stage and the audience seemed to love every minute of it.

It is very entertaining how China introduces the songs, makes the choices understandable and personal and then performs them as if they were hers …..

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The band and herself were visibly moved by the great reception they got from the Spanish audience, which truly got mad about the girl.

Mum would have been proud of her daughter !

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Take Five Europe 1

Just got back from this unique event, which developed out of Take Five UK, a week-long coming together for young musicians with workshops and lectures on all aspects of the music business. Take Five Europe takes this idea into a wider perspective with invitations to 10 musicians, 2 each from 5 different countries. You can for sure find more details on the TAKE FIVE EUROPE website, but as I have been a guest speaker there on Tuesday evening, I would like to share my impressions:

Arriving in the morning of Tuesday, I got right into the warm up for the workshop, which is lead by John Surman. The young musicians, who only met for the first time on Monday evening, got some tips on breathing to relax and warm up before going to play. The group consisted of:

Celine Bonacina                    baritone sax     Fr

Benjamin Flament                vibraphone      Fr

Bram Stadhouders                guitar               Nl

Oene Van Geel                      violin                 Nl

Gard Nilssen                          drums              No

Ole Morten Vagan                bass                  No

Maciej Garbowski                 bass                  Pol

Maciej Obara                        alto sax            Pol

Tom Arthurs                         trumpet           UK

Fraser Fifield                        soprano sax      UK

Each of the musicians had to bring a composition the band would then rehearse and perform together under the guidance of John Surman, who as well would join in the playing. It was great to see and experience the respect all musicians had for each other and how fast they understood and played together on a pretty amazing level of musicality. After the first three ours of the workshop two compositions had been performed and recorded to the satisfaction of the composers.

The afternoon then was divided into two lectures about Funding and Budgeting, as well as Contracts and Copyrights and for each session experts came to Bore Place, outside of London, to give their speech and answer all questions. Both of them really interesting even for an outsider like me.

After dinner it was my turn, together with ACT owner Siggi Loch, to speak about the state of the music industry – possibilities, challenges and problems. And to answer some very good questions by the group of young musicians – then a few drinks at the bar and some music talk …

Day 2 started with the second session in the work shop and new music – a challenging piece by Ole and a beautiful one by Fraser, in which he played bag pipe and flute and the group grew even more together and one could see how much fun John had working with this bunch of people.

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Unfortunately I had to leave Take Five then, but the musicians will over the next few days have had a few more lectures and music sessions. The speeches were on Digital Distribution, Agency and Management, Radio and Broadcasting, Programming (Getting the gig), Marketing and Communications and in the end 5 groups of 2 musicians (not from the same country) had to do a presentation of a project to a panel of professionals – all in all a week to remember for these artists, as beside the music, they could learn a lot and many doors were opened for them.

A great concept and a great chance for the musicians to pick up things outside of making music and get some better understanding about the music industry – but as well form bonds with the other acts and get a chance to play with them in the future. All organised and done very relaxed, but very professional.

One can only wish that this initiative will get more chances to do other events and expand this to other markets as well. Next time: TAKE TEN!

talking music ….

Talking to artists I always found interesting and challenging and exciting, as to find out more about the person behind the music. To get a bit of the background, the philosophy and even the worries or moments of happiness.

Last week I did spent a few days with Branford Marsalis, doing interviews for his new quartet album in a hotel room in Vienna. The dinners and times off, when we could chat, were for me the most interesting part, as he is a very clever and conscious man, with his own set of strong views about the music and the world.

As he is a teacher as well as a musician, he deals a lot with young players and it took me bit by surprise when he mentioned that a lot of the young musicians he meets when teaching, think that the history of the music is not important any more, as long as they have their own ‘concept’. They know who Bird (Charlie Parker) is, but don’t consider him relevant. As an educator and performer, Branford knows that evolution comes from the knowledge of the past and taking it into a new age – whatever form of art you are talking about. If you get stuck in your ‘concept’, you might stay there forever. What is needed to move forward is curiosity, but a lot of the youngsters don’t have it – like in many different ways in our times, in music as well, all is centred around the ego and oneself.

A word on Branford – it has always been a pleasure to work with him, as he is truly one of the most professional guys in the business. Within three days in Vienna he did 23 interviews – each at least 40 minutes long! Never tired of talking about his music, the way the band approaches a recording or concert, his philosophy. An example in many more ways than musically.

The week before going to Vienna I had a friend and great musician visiting my wife Yolanda and myself in Madrid: Tunisian oud player and singer Dhafer Youssef. So we arranged for a dinner in one of our favourite places and invited as well flamenco/jazz guitarist Josemi Carmona, bass player Pablo Martin and singer La Shica – friends from around town, as well ex-colleagues from Universal, a manager and an agent, all with partners. We had an amazing evening with talk about music and everything else, and some of these guys meeting for the first time proper – Josemi and La Shica had met Dhafer briefly at a concert a few months before, but never had had time to chat and get to know each other a bit better.

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(La Shica, Josemi Carmona, Dhafer Youssef, Pablo Martin)

The day after the dinner Dhafer, Yolanda and myself went to see Josemi at his house in Madrid and the two musicians almost immediately started playing around – Dhafer had brought his studio oud and after a few minutes the tape was running – and out of an idea a song was brought to life in an instant. It was pure magic to see these guys communicate musically with so much respect for each other, but as well with the sensibility to follow or to lead and to play together. One take, one song! After 2 more hours, sketches to more music was recorded and everyone had a smile on their faces. Later we went to see Pablo perform in a small club, in a duo with a guitarist and really enjoyed what they were doing. As he hadn’t brought the right oud for a concert, Dhafer didn’t take up the invitation from Pablo to join them – he’ll do that on his next visit.

Talking music and listening – different ways to expand the horizon, but equally satisfying the never diminishing curiosity!

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes

What the hell is becoming of this world? Policemen strike in Brazil and the crime rate explodes, people are not even able to ride a bus in safety, fear for their lives in their houses and the military needs to be brought in to secure some safety… yes, we are living in a material world, but … Or maybe this is just the end of the road for money doing all the talking and money running the world, not politicians, but banks and rating houses.

One could get depressed about all this – but then there are Four MFs Playin’ Tunes – and how !!! Pure jazz on a level of composition and improvisation that is hardly reached and really playing together as a group, a unit. Be it hard, be it a soft ballad, a free improvised section or one written out – these guys really play! Four MFs Playin’ Tunes is the new album by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, which will be released early April, just before he will go on a short tour of Europe – Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Poland are the countries where the quartet can be heard Playin’ Tunes.

If you enjoyed Metamophosen, the quartet’s previous release, you will enjoy this one even more. It is just a musical and emotional pleasure to close your eyes and fall into the expressions of these guys. Tracks like The Mighty Sword, Endymion and Maestra stand out for me for their deepness and power and As Summer into Autumn Slips is a beautiful ballad full of beautiful dreamlike moments.

When you have Four MFs Playin’ Tunes like these guys do, for an hour at least you can forget the madness of the world and drift away…….