show review: High Risk – Constellation (July 2 2015)

150702 - High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702 – High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

My main reason for attending this and thus staying was the Mark Guiliana drum clinic/after show.  I knew nothing of this group but I’m glad I stayed.  Remember when I mentioned that I have a hard time listening to newer jazz done with the instruments of old?  Well, this is something I can get down with and am excited to eat my words.  It was Mark Guiliana on acoustic drums, Dave Douglas on Trumpet, Shigeto on electronics and Jonathan Maron on Bass and keys.

I was obnoxiously annoyed right at the start, hearing the typical slow dramatic start that happens with most music, but that really is something I need to get over.  It lasted for a few minutes and got you adjusted to the group, and then they tore into it.  Although the songs were a jazz swing feel they weren’t your typical beat on the ride swing style jazz. The trumpet played melodies, but also veered on the edge of free jazz and drawn out sounds.  The electronics and the drums had a nice sync, complementing each other, but also having certain spots where they were allowed to breathe on their own and share their own voice.

150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

There were multiple times throughout the set when Dave would step away from the stage and let the remaining members find their voice and play off of each other.  Most of the times this would end in a drum solo by Mark, and they were always interesting.  It was also cool to see Mark’s drum solos after he had explained his thinking and building into them ahead of time.  They would add to the song and slowly build instead of just trying to fit as many hits as possible into the space.

One of my favorite parts, aside from the drum solos, was when everyone except Shigeto left the stage and he was able to explore his sounds for a few minutes.  Another favorite thing about getting exposure to a group like this with independent musicians coming together for an album is the ability to be exposed to these new musicians, then diving into their catalog.  Having only heard of Mark, barely, I’m excited to dive deeper into his catalog. Reading up on Dave Douglas he’s recorded 40 albums as a band leader and got his start with Horace Silver.  That’s a dedicated dude.  Expect reviews in the future regarding the members projects. If more new wave does projects like this I’m excited to finally open up my mind and explore what else is being done with the genre. Please pardon my ignorance. (I’m open to suggestions)

Judging by Dave’s past experiences with bands this might be the only tour with this group of musicians so if you can find them playing live near you I’d highly recommend checking them out.

150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike
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show review:Snarky Puppy – Pritzker Pavilion (Chicago – June 25th, 2015)

150626 - snarky puppy pritzker, dude in front
150626 – snarky puppy pritzker, dude in front: photo credit Drumnmike

No good conversation in Chicago starts without the weather, so I’ll address that first.

It’s been raining heavily lately, with tornado’s touching down earlier in the week just outside of the city.  Some solar storms headed our way and thus the weather has been nuts.  There was a major thunderstorm the previous night and the outlook for the the day of the show was not good, with the weather channel calling for rain just before the show started.  We arrived around 6:05 (I’m estimating) and found a seat about 20 feet back from the front of the lawn. We brought peanuts and red wine.  Obviously.  My love for peanuts will soon become apparent.

Shortly after we arrived it started to drizzle. The drizzle continued for 10 minutes, then it was done.  I was relieved to not be sitting in a lawn soaked to the bone, with wet peanuts.  The rain stayed away for the remainder of the night but as you can see down the post a nice fog moved in, engulfing the buildings in front of us.

At 6:30 they started the show and Third Coast Percussion played what must have been a Steve Reich song, as they played a monotonous, lovely mostly percussive piece for at least 45 minutes.  (in time I’ll get on my game with this review thing, I’m sharing my experiences) Members of Snarky Puppy joined them on stage, but as you can see by the above picture, I had a difficult time making anyone out, as this dude started the standing, then slowly throughout the song everyone from different walks of life chose to stand there.  Why get the front most spot if you’re going to stand?  But anyways.

Snarky Puppy came on and tore it up.  I first heard of them through a Drumeo video with their drummer, Larnell Lewis.  Shortly after watching this video during a conversation with a good friend he mentioned he’s been listening to them a lot lately.  Shortly after that one of my drum students mentioned he’d been listening to them, since they’re playing Millennium Park.  I tell ya, you need the young kids around always to help keep you in the loop.

After the first conversation I gave everything they have on spotify a listen.  It’s a jazz funk hip hop type of thing, with great musicians whom all have played and continue to play with some bigger names in the music BIZ.  Not that you can necessarily hear those influences straight up, but they’re sought after in their own accord. Thus combining them to form a type of supergroup, if you will, they really know what they’re doing.  Hearing them on recording is one thing, but to truly experience them in the live setting is a whole new experience.  Not just because it’s cool to realize that 20-somethings really enjoy this type of music, but experiencing it live gives a whole new type of movement to the music, which could otherwise be lost in a purely audio setting.  Don’t get me wrong, the music still swings on their releases, but experiencing it helps gives another appreciation for it.

150626 - snarky puppy pritzker, the fog engulfs the skyline: photo credit Drumnmike
150626 – snarky puppy pritzker, the fog engulfs the skyline: photo credit Drumnmike

They played around an hour and a half, coming back on for an encore (I think it was Lingus?) with 2 of the members wearing Blackhawks jersey’s.  The sets continued to be lively, with each member receiving their own time to solo.  Being a drummer watching Larnell and their percussionist tear it up on a few occasions were a site to behold.  I would’ve loved to see them the previous 2 nights at City Winery, and I could only imagine what type of energy would be happening in such a tight environment, but given the giant space and beauty that is the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, they did an excellent job transforming their energy to the crowd.

150626 - Foggy Chicago Sky line photo credit Drumnmike
150626 – Foggy Chicago Sky line photo credit Drumnmike

album review: Stanton Moore – Conversations

listen here.
My first exposure to Stanton was on a Drumeo free lesson, in which the man showed his chops and clearly had a wonderful time playing the drums.  The picture of him smiling on this cover isn’t an act: this dude is happy playing the drums.  To see this much joy come from someone doing something almost makes me feel uneasy, but it should be something to aspire to.

He jokes about this in the Drumeo video but this guy has probably one of the loosest snare drums ever recorded.  Artistic choice, why not do it. He also grew up in Louisiana, which helps put the style of jazz on this release into perspective (new orleans/ragtime).

Now I have a hard time listening to ‘newer’ jazz and blues, not because I don’t think it’s good, but I just have such an affection towards Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Art Blakey, etc that I feel like the pinnacle of jazz was hit some 60 years ago, and now we’re all trying to play catch up to what they’ve done, but all in the spirit of respecting what they’ve done. This just puts me in an odd perspective when wanting to enjoy the music, because most times when I’ll listen to newer jazz I hear those older musicians in their music and would rather listen to that stuff. There’s probably no way to write this paragraph and not sound pompous, but I poured a lot of time into the original masters and their music really hit home with me.

But that being said, this is a solid effort.  This music pays respect to those musicians with the style, but takes on a ragtime, more melodic style, instead of the typical scale and improvisation back and forth.  The also leave Mr Moore a lot of room to breathe and create rhythms that aren’t similar to the typical drum patterns and styles from the 50’s, etc.  In this regard the album is strongest. The majority of the songs have space for a drum solo and that remains the constant throughout the release.  I mean, what would you expect when the album is named after the drummer?  Most songs are upbeat and Stanton easily carries the tunes, with the piano and bass complimenting his playing. The drum solo breakdowns are all different showing off his versatility in playing.

This album is strongest with the drummer crowds, but the piano playing is reminiscent of old saloon and ragtime style, with compliments from the bass.  This can fit in easily with other straight forward jazz artists (Louis Armstrong, etc) and if you know how to do the Charleston this could work as dance music, too.  You can find more of his work at his website.