All posts by Emilie Pons

Technology : A revolution

For musicians around the world, technology has brought about changes which have facilitated exposure.

 

Saxophone player Arturo Santillanes, who plays with the band Troker, which is based in Guadalajara, in Mexico, said that technology has completely revolutionalized the music industry.

 

“Social media has democratizated the music industry,” Santillanes said. “We have examples in all genres, from Justin Bieber to The Pomplamoose, to musicians who have become stars thanks to music they produced at home.”

 

Santillanes, who is 35, said that technology also allows musicians to make music according to their own tastes. And it has broadened the types of musical genres people can be exposed to.

 

Technology allows for a real access to musical diversity,” he said. “With services such as Spotify and Groove Shark, music from everywhere can be discovered.”

 

Panamenian flute player Melvin Lam Zanetti, who has studied with Grammy award winner and UNESCO artist for Peace Danilo Perez, said that social media has made his life much easier: it allows him to play more, and to get known by more people even if they do not meet him in person. He said social media is crucial.

 

Every young musician should use social media: this is the easiest way to get your material in the feeds, especially today since the record industry is dead,” Zanetti, 29, said.

 

Zanetti said flute player Maraca Valle produces very effective utube videos, such as the one where he performs the tune entitled “El Guanajo Relleno” with Orlando ‘Maraca’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz_XyLMgTSw . That video not only features the music of Valle, but also his work process.

 

Another musician, Paoli Mejia, uses his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/paolimejias?fref=ts) to interact with his fans.

 

The other day he said that many people knew about him and his music thanks to his jokes on facebook and twitter,” Zanetti said.

 

 

Hugh Masekela celebrates his 75th birthday

Hugh Masekela sang his heart out in front of a moved and delighted audience on April 6 at the Victoria Theatre of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The South African singer and political activist was ending a North American tour started on March 22 in honor of his 75th birthday, which he also celebrated at the Lincoln Center on April 4 and 5.

Hearing Masekela is like traveling all the way to South Africa, and to the roots of African music. Masekela does not tire of singing hits like the sad protest song “Stimela” (“Coal Train” in English), for which he literally screamed, on April 6, to imitate the whistle of the train. That train in the song takes African men to the mines of Johannesburg, where they are going to be exploited.<br />

Masekela lived in exile from the early 1960s through the early ’90s, but “his music talked to the will of South Africa’s struggle for independence,” D.C. based jazz writer Giovanni Russonello explained. “Even in what often passed for blithe funk-jazz (“Grazing in the Grass” is the obvious example), there is a bite and an alert, declarative sensibility.” South African bass player Bakithi Kumalo, who has performed with the singer several times, recognized Masekela’s influence. “He was almost like Nelson Mandela, but for our music,” Kumalo said.</p><p>

Hugh Masekela began his career as a teenager in the 1950s, “idolizing American jazz musicians at a time when South Africa’s native majority hungered for what they represented: their convictions, their hoodwinking, truth-to-power intellectualism, their dapper self-regard,” Russonello said. “Along with fellow future-immortals Dollar Brand and Kippie Moeketsi, in 1959 he formed South Africa’s first widely recognized jazz band, the Jazz Epistles.”

Kumalo said that Masekela was a friend of the famous jazz trumpeters Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. “And they loved him because he was bringing South African music to American music,” he said.

Social media is not the musicians’ favorite tune

Numerous jazz musicians are reluctant to use social media, and yet, those tools are crucial to their careers. “A lot of the artists I work with are very reticent with this technology. They feel it’s child’s play,” publicist Michael Crowell said.

A lot of musicians think Twitter and Facebook are hard to understand. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who tours with Jeff Beck and Sting, said social media is toxic.

Crowell is based in San Diego and mostly represents jazz musicians such as violinist Regina Carter and saxophonist Dave Liebman. He said social media is essential to musicians’ success because it allows them to build loyal audiences. And social media is very inexpensive.

“To not have that is a wasted opportunity,” he said. He said it is “not too dissimilar from talking to your fans getting out the bandstand.”

Crowell also said these networks allow musicians to reach several thousands people a week – people who may otherwise not have an opportunity to know about the artists.

“If you’re really trying to push the music forward, the music press isn’t going to cover you,” Crowell said. “So how do you reach your audience with what’s available to you? That’s social media and touring. The goal is to be able to perform and to live as a musician, or as a creative artist.”

This year, singer and songwriter Neil Young raised more than $6 million with a crowdsourcing project. New York- based DJ Sid Vaga said he has different Facebook pages which help him get the word around.

“Social media is a new medium that has developed and is not going to go away anytime soon,” Crowell said.

South African music at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

One more time, Hugh Masekela sang his heart out in front of a moved and delighted audience on April 6 at the Victoria Theatre of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Full of energy, the trumpeter, singer and political activist did not miss a single opportunity to make jokes.

“He was amazing: he is a musician, a philosopher,” one of the audience members said after the concert.  Hearing Masekela is like traveling all the way to South Africa,  and to the roots of African music. At NJPAC he performed with his quintet , composed of young musicians, two nights after he had just celebrated celebrated his 75th birthday at the Lincoln Center with singer Paul Simon. The concert included Masekela hits like the sad protest song “Stimela” (“Coal Train” in English), for which he literally screamed to imitate the whistle of the train. That train in the song takes African men to the mines of Johannesburg, where they are going to be exploited.
Masekela also performed “Grazing in the Grass,” another of his hits. He played various percussion instruments and performed a sophisticated dance move in which he bent his knees close to the floor, then rose again.

Masekela’s music does not age, said the South African bass player Bakithi Kumalo, who has performed with him several times. “When he is on stage, people pay attention,” Kumalo said. And Kumalo recognized Masekela’s influence. “He was almost like Nelson Mandela, but for our music,” he said.

Kumalo added that Masekela was a friend of the famous jazz trumpeters Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. “And they loved him because he was bringing South African music to American music,” he said.

He added that Masekela’s music is a mix between South African music and jazz. “Because he’s spent a lot of time in America,” Kumalo said.

Going to a Masekela performance is setting oneself up for fun, excitement and surprise.

Concert review: Lovely trio at Jazz Club Birdland, March 21st 2014

This week at the midtown club Birland, named after famous saxophone player Charlie Parker, three outstanding musicians filled the room, which was covered in red carpet, with soothing and original melodies and sounds. On Friday night, the audience was shushing and faint sounds of silverware could be heard in between songs. But for the most part, listeners were very respectful of the musicians and their work.

Bass player Gary Peacock, pianist Mark Copland and drummer Joey Baron played standards such as “For Heaven’s Sake,” “Gloria’s Steps” or “Time remembered,” as well as original compositions. Friday night’s first set went by very fast because every tune was captivating. It looked and sounded like the musicians could not play a single wrong note. Also, they mixed their respective musical colors so well that it felt like they had played together since a young age – they connected rhythmically, melodically and sonically.

The trio started the evening with “Estate,” which Brazilian singer and guitar player Joao Gilberto is famous for. “Estate,” the right song to open the set with, was smooth and sophisticated and felt like a comfortable piece of clothing to put on.

The trio also played “Moor,” an original composition by Peacock, who has played and recorded with world-renown pianists Keith Jarrett (with whom he still plays) and Bill Evans. “Moor” was an experimentation with the drums: instead of using his sticks, Joey Baron used the drums as percussions.

One of the most memorable aspects of the performance may have been Gary Peacock’s sound, which is uniquely warm and generous. This is probably due to years of practice, but maybe, too, to the musician’s practice of zen philosophy. He said the first thing he does when he wakes up is just sit and do nothing.

 

PROFILE: Versatile Colaiuta, master of the blank slate

 His name may not ring as many bells as Joni Mitchell, Jeff Beck or Chaka Khan, but he has performed or recorded with all three. Vinnie Colaiuta, 58, is one of the most in-demand sidemen today. A versatile drummer who has traveled the entire world, Colaiuta just finished a North American tour with singers Sting and Paul Simon, during which he played at Madison Square Garden. This week, he is at the Abu-Dhabi festival, performing with pianist Herbie Hancock.

Colaiuta received his first drum set when he was a teenager. But “the drums found me,” he said. It was in his parents’ attic that he would spend days playing, until his mother suggested he start taking classes.

Soon, meteorite-like Colaiuta was at the prestigious Berklee School of Music, in Boston; and shortly after, he moved to Los Angeles, where he started his career with Frank Zappa – which catapulted him to fame.

Colaiuta,  like a chameleon,  said he practices the technique of the blank slate. “Whenever I go to a gig, I try to be completely open and forget everything I know,” he said. That allows him to immerse himself completely into the music, he said.

Colaiuta plays in large concert halls as well as in smaller venues. He is able to adjust to pianist Chick Corea’s softer style which, he said, is like pointillism, but also Herbie Hancock’s, which he referred to as “dense harmonic sophistication”  and “beautiful abstraction.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z95pQ7f-iJQ

Colaiuta spent many years earning a living as a studio musician in Los Angeles – that entailed recording specific tunes with musicians he would only work with for that occasion, and for just a few hours. Colaiuta has thus become a drums expert. He understands all the nuances of his instrument and when he performs, every single touch means something unique. That’s also one of guitar player John McLaughlin’s assets. Colaiuta and McLaughlin have played together, and both are the epitome of controlled precision and sophistication.