Sortiesjazznights.com

Français

Advertise | Contact

ALL THE QUÉBEC JAZZ NEWS SINCE 2003

JazzBulletin   -   Thursday September 21 2017 to Saturday October 14 2017

Get the JazzBulletin by email or rss every Thursday !
All QC jazz events in clubs, restaurants, concerts, bars, cafés & festivals!

RSS

SJNPRO Bulletin

For jazz musicians and professionals

twigg banniere 658x127.jpg

This special section on the Winter Jazzfest is presented collaboration with Twigg Musique



Winter Jazzfest NYC celebrated jazz and social justice Jan. 5-10 2017 and we were there. Interviews with harpist Edmar Castaneda, keyboardist Rachel Z / drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Omer Avital, and percussionist Adam Rudolph.


output_kasIFA.gifsortiesJAZZnights.com has always wanted to go to NYC to cover jazz, after all, isn't it the mecca of jazz and only 6 hours away from Montreal?

So yours truly is heading for the 12th Winter Jazzfest NYC which boasts and impressive line-up of over 130 groups (600 musicians) in a dozen or so venues over five days, from Thursday Jan. 5th to Sunday Jan. 10th.  The opening concert, Jan. 5th, which has been sold out for a few days and impossible to attend, is Pharoah Sanders / Shabaka and The Ancestors at Le Poisson Rouge.

But the heart of the WJF NYC are both signature Marathon Days, Marathon Day 1 - Friday Jan. 6th and Marathon Day 2 - Saturday Jan. 7th presenting concerts about every hour in a dozen venues with a line-up that include jazz greats, unknown celebs, and artists of all jazz genres, including Andy Milne,  Ben Allison, Bill Frisell, Chano Dominguez, Charlie Haden, Dave Douglas, Donny McCaslin, Edmar Castaneda, Jazz Legends for Disability Pride, Nate Smith, Omer Avital, Rachel Z / Omar Hakim, Adam Rudolph, Chico Freeman, Arturo O’Farrill, Peter Bernstein, Ravi Coltrane, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Uri Caine, Vinicius Cantuaria, and so many many more.

The list of venues of the Marathon Days is just as impressive and include Le Poisson Rouge, SOBs, Subculture, Bowery Ballroom, The Bitter End, Zinc Bar, Bowery Electric, Roxy Hotel, Nublu and 4 New School Auditoriums - all within a 20 block / 1 mile radius - making it possible for the avid jazz lover or simply curious music fan to get an earful within a walking distance. I'll be, if all goes to plan, at the Zinc Bar, Subculture and New School to interview pianist-keyboardist Rachel Z / drummer Omar Hakim, percussionist Adam Rudolph, bassist Omer Avital, and harpist Edmar Castaneda. Oh yeah! (interviews on this page).

Sunday, Jan. 8th it's the Thelonious Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show with Kris Davis, David Virelles, Shabaka Hutchings, Sam Newsome, Marc Ribot, Charlie Burnham, Erik Friedlander, Linda Oh, Trevor Dunn, Hamid Drake, Andrew Cyrille, and Deva Mahal at Littlefield in Brooklyn. Monday, Jan. 9th, it's Sam Amidon Extended, with Andrew Cyrille, Shahzad Ismaily, Jeremy Gustin, Marc Ribot, Kris Bowers, Richard Sears, Curtis Fowlkes, Ben Goldberg, Sam Gendel and Linda Oh, at Le Poisson Rouge. And finally to end it all it's Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra concert, a Concert For Social Justice with special guest Geri Allen, also at Le Poisson Rouge, Tuesday, Jan. 10th.

For more info : www.winterjazzfest.com

Claude Thibault, Editor
sortiesJAZZnights.com

This feature article is presented in collaboration with Twigg Musique



So what was so great about NYC's 2017 Winter Jazzfest? The Marathon Days! And that's where I heard Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures Octet.


Adam Rudolph Moving Pictures Octet 5 solo - 150x150.jpgThe heart of the Winter Jazzfest are both signature Marathon Days, Marathon Day 1 - Friday Jan. 6th and Marathon Day 2 - Saturday Jan. 7th presenting concerts about every hour in a dozen venues with a line-up that include jazz greats, unknown celebs, and artists of all jazz genres. So I put on my walking shows and made it to 12 amazing concerts.

On Marathon Day 1, I heard Rachel Z Omar Hakim OZ 4tet (@Zinc), Dave Douglas & High Risk with Shigeto (@Poisson Rouge), Omer Avital Quintet (@Zinc Bar), Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet (@SOBs), and Nir Felder Trio (@The Bitter End)...wow! And then on Marathon Day 2, on to Jaimeo Brown Transcendence (@SOBs), Emile Parisien & Vincent Peirani (@Bitter End), Shabaka & The Ancestors (@Poisson Rouge), Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures Octet (@Subculture), Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble (@New School), Chris Lightcap's Superette (@New School) and finally Nik Bärtsch's Mobile (@New School).

Here's a few words I had with percussionist/composer Adam Rudolph who was with his Moving Pictures Octet at Subculture on Saturday, Jan. 7th, one of my favorite Winter Jazzfest venues, underground, spacy, good stage and sound. Adam Rudolph's music is unique and embraces music forms, languages, instrumentation and cosmologies from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the African Diaspora, Here's an excerpt of the Octet shot at The Jazz Gallery.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Adam that was a really great set at Subculture Saturday the 7th, I really enjoyed it, I'd been wanting to see you since you came at the Mtl Jazz Fest back in 2010...So what are your impressions / afterthoughts after the concert...
------------------------------------------------------------
AR - We we happy with this particular configuration of Moving Pictures, there was a special chemistry with all of the musicians playing a lot of new music that I'd written and that
we were playing in public for the first time, we had recorded this music and it will be released in March on Glare Of The Tiger. I've done many recordings of my compositions and
everytime I record I always try to do something I've never done before, something fresh, reflecting new interests, and concepts that I'm researching. A combination of that and working with these musicians, a lot of them have been developping these concepts with me for a number of years. Kenny Wessel (gtr) and Graham Haynes (cornet/trpt) started working when I moved back to NY in 2005, Ralph Jones (flute) I met in Detroit in 1974. Hamid Drake (drums) and I met in a drum shop when we were 14 in 1969. Hamid and I recorded with Don Cherry. So there's this really long share history. Alexis Marcelo (piano/rhodes) I met working with Yusef Lateef. Everybody in the group besides Ralph and Hamid are in NY and also play in my Go: Organic Orchestra which is my 33 piece world music orchestra, so there's a big overlap. I don't play percussions in that orchestra but conduct it. So everybody knows the concepts that we are doing. I wanted to choose musicians that I call R&D musicians, we come out of the same school, like I learned with Yusef Lateef where we're really interested in researching elements, being studious, pushing the boundaries. Yusef Lateef used to say to me that we we're evolutionists. You know people talk a lot about the tradition, my idea of the tradition is not to do "what" the elder musicians do, or your mentors do, but to do "how" they do. That relates to the idea of creative process, and I think creative attitude, how you think about what you do, being able to invent new processes, looking at elements, like intervals and forms, rhythms in a very deep way. It's also a life attitude.

------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Adam I heard a lot of great music with roots in african music, middle eastern music, cuban music, japanese music, avant-garde or free jazz, do you soak it all up and then create?
------------------------------------------------------------
AR - Inspiration can come from so many things. And of course coming up two of my very important mentors, I came up playing in their groups, Don Cherry and Yusef Lateef pointed the way and at that period in the late 70s everybody was looking to work and collaborate with musicians of other cultures. It's not a matter of, for example, of picking up an instrument from that place or even gratfing some kind of riff or style, or melodies, or rhythms from those places. Style is transitory but the elements (like intervals or forms in the Western way of understanding music for example) are universal. I'm very interested in working with forms. I decided that I wanted to move beyond harmonic chord changes and into something else. So you heard rhythms that maybe remind you of those but none of those were really from those places. There are patterns from Africa that could ressemble elements from India for example. My idea with Moving Pictures and Go : Organic Orchestra is that I want to be my own prototype. I want the music to sound like itself, of course you're always going hear references, but it sounds completely like itself. Yuseef used to say that "the tradition is to sound like yourself". For me it doesn't make sense to try to play the music or stylistic forms of yesterday. Like Thelonious Monk, he's playing his life experience. Charlie Parker used to say "you have to live it to play it". I'm very inspired by the way Miles Davis was as a bandleader, one of his great gifts was that he knew and understood what musicians to put together, working with that chemistry of musicians, he knew how to create compositional environnement to be challenged and to shine throught. So that's what I do with Moving Pictures, I write music thinking of those musicians. Like that last piece we played "Wonderings" which is kind of dedicated to Yusef and Don. And that opening part I really wrote that as a vehicule for Ralph Jones (flute) and the second part was for Graham Haynes (cornet/trpt).
------------------------------------------------------------ 
CT - At the concert I sensed a lot of sharing led by you, is the collective aspect of your music important?
------------------------------------------------------------
AR - The collective aspect is everything. In some way I'm the driver because I compose the pieces as environments and inspirational forms and contexts for everybody to play as deeply as they are and as they can. I'm trying to find ways for their voices to shine through. I go all around the world and teach and play with the Go : Organic Orchestra and I always tell the musicians - that come from all kinds of backgrounds such as classical, jazz and different cultures - three things in what I call spontaneous composition (I don't say improvising anymore) : there's listening, then there's imagination, and the third thing is sharing. Sharing in projecting your ideas whatever you're playing because it's really there to serve the upliftment of the collective creative moment. So it's very collective. But it's not a free improv thing either. Everybody has a role to play, like a character in a play and we all talk to each other. What one might want to say is up to the individual musician.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Where does your love of percussions come from?
------------------------------------------------------------
AR - When we talk about who we are, our genetic and cultural background, we always start with our family.  So my dad was a real lover of music, a genuine lover of music, he saw many concerts and he took me to see Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Stan Getz, Max Roach, Mongo Santamaria, took me to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and had a huge record collection. I had my little go-around with classical piano lesssons but that didn't really agree with me as a kid. When I was around 14 the neighborhood I grew up in was were a lot of AACM (Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians) musicians lived, and people would play hand drums in a park near to where I lived, I used to go out there and then I would get a turn to play...so it came to me. Then I studied afro-cuban, asian drumming, tablas, went to Africa but I never had the thought of wanting to play in those traditions. I wanted to understand them, to respect them and love them but how could I ever play rumba like a cuban person? So I always wanted to develop my own language and my own approach to playing hand drums. So I never went to school with books or anything like that, I would hear something and would figure out how to play it. I'm self-taught. I was very influenced at first by Mtume who played with Miles and then I found out that Mtume's teacher was this guy called Big Black, a great hand drummer who'd played with Dizzy Gillespie and Randy Weston for years, and he had an original way of playing that I would call african-american hand drumming. So I used to hang out with him and he showed me just a couple of little ways of ways to approach the drums that opened the doors for me to be able to develop my own voice on the drums. His way of approaching the drums allowed a lot more freedom. I don't call what I do jazz, sometimes I describe the music, like Yusef Lateef would, as "autophysiopsychic" music.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - If you could play with any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
------------------------------------------------------------
AR - In some ways I feel like I've already played with them, trumpeter Don Cherry and multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef. I got to know Ornette Coleman and I think it would've been a great thing to play in one of his groups, and of course, like everybody, Miles, and early Weather Report, McCoy Tyner also. And as a trap drummer, Thelonious Monk's group in the 60s.
------------------------------------------------------------
Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures Octet : Adam Rudolph - percussion, electronics / Graham Haynes - cornet, flugelhorn, percussion, electronics / Ralph M. Jones - flute, reeds /
Kenny Wessel - guitar, electronics / James Hurt - percussion, bata, keyboards / Alexis Marcelo - fender Rhodes, piano, percussion / Damon Banks - electric bass / Hamid Drake - drums, vocal, frame drum, congas, bata.
------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday, January 7th set list at Subculture (all music composed by Adam Rudolph) : Drum Call #2 / Estacticized / Dakpa #1 / Rotations / Dakpa #2 / Ciresque / Glare Of The Tiger / Wonderings.
------------------------------------------------------------
Photo credit : Charles Daniel Dawson

For more info : www.winterjazzfest.com

Claude Thibault, Editor
sortiesJAZZnights.com

This feature article is presented in collaboration with Twigg Musique



Bassist Omer Avital's Quintet at the NY's Zinc Bar Friday January 6th, part of the 2017 Winter Jazzfest, one of my fav concerts.

 

omer_avital_150X150.jpgOne of my fav concerts at the NY 2017 Winter Jazzfest was bassist Omer Avital's Quintet at the Zinc Bar on Marathon Day 1, January 6th 2017. I'd seen and filmed him with his Quartet at Upstairs back in 2012 and it was a treat to see him once again. I caught up with him at home a few days after the concert.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Omer that was a great concert at Zinc's last week, how important are your roots in your music?
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - It's an integral part of what I do and it's been different in different phases in my life. I grew up with a certain type of music, then I heard all kinds of music and fell in love with jazz and blues and Middle Eastern music. I thouroughly studied and played these styles and later on rediscovered some of my heritage, my cultural traditions, which was very rich, whether it's North African music of different varieties or yemeni music in general or music from the Levant. Sometimes it was more naturel and sometimes I actually studied it, for example I studied the oud and its specific kind of music. So I guess it's been weaved into my life and musical journey. Most of what I do is jazz which kind of takes everything into itself while keeping it's original intention anyway.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - This was, I think you said, a premier NY gig for this band...
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - This specific band has been alive for 10 years off and on, the last 3-4 years have been very steady and growing. This is actually the 3rd version of the quintet and this one is very very good. I'm very excited about it, actually everybody's very excited and yes it's the first time we played in NY. Pianist Eden Ladin joined us this summer. We made a record soon after the Zinc concert and it should be out in the fall. Everything we played at the Zinc will be part of it. This band is going on the road next week starting with a real nice concert at Tel Aviv's Opera House with two great  singers that I love from over there, one of them is Ravid Kahalani, a Yemenite singer and the other Haya Samir, one of the greatest singers from that area. So we'll do more of that kind of Middle Eastern music with the quintet, which I've never done before in this kind of setting. Then we're going to Milano, Italy and then to France, Switzerland, and London, and on we go. We'll be touring almost every month in Europe.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - You played "Beauty and The Beast"...what is that piece about? it sounded familiar...
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - I agree with this feeling of familiarity. I think it's an achievement if it does that. My explanation - and I've heard that before about my songs - is that I write them like this, when I write a song and it sounds great, I didn't really write it, I just heard it. Where did I hear it?, I don't know, it comes from inside. So that feeling of familiarity is something that I'm in touch with when I write the music. That's the spiritual take, the more physical take is that we're influenced by things all the time because that's how when you get to those moments, I love the greatest music in the world and I try to take some from everybody, so I think that a song like Beauty and The Beast, when you hear it at first it's like the perfect song and it doesn't need anything, it has that sixties vibe and a little of Wayne (Shorter) and Herbie (Hancock) but it's not like this in form and it may even remind you of some modern european music and at the same time it's a little soulful. It's got all these parts. I wrote it in part when I was at the University of Jerusalem 14 years ago studying classical composition and also in part after 10 years in NY, and at that point I had a different style. I was listening to Bartok and Stravinksi and I wrote a bunch of pieces that I never released. So ideas for that piece also came from that period where I was going for something a little more chromatic, modernistic. So that's the story about that tune. It's very different from the rest of my songs. It's been also recorded by saxophonist Greg Tardy on his last album., Chasing After The Wind.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - You've always got some very exciting drummers...in Montreal a while back at Upstairs when I filmed you on "One" you were with Jonathan Blake and at the Ziinc Bar you were with Ofri Nehemya...do bassists have a different way of choosing a drummer?
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - I think everybody's looking for that kind of stuff in a drummer but I guess so, I guess you're right, I never thought of it like this. I've played with all kinds of different drummers. I don't really have a kind of drummer that I like to play with, I've played with different types of drummers. Obviously hooking up with the drummer is essential, I'm definitely trying to get to those levels of tightness and drive.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Your fav bass players?
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - At some point I think I tried to transcribe and learn most of the bass players, I had phases, like everybody. At some point it helped me create my own sound so I didn't really sound like anybody else. I have many favorites...everybody...basically. Like Ray Brown for the swing, the solos and the smile in his playing, Ron Carter for his bass lines and smooth approach, Charlie Haden for the melodies, Garrison for the feel, Scott LaFaro for the courage he had, Mingus for the soul...so it's endless you know...Jaco Pastorius at some point in his early period and on and on...Eddie Gomez. At some point it would just try to get into whoever I could...Sam Jones was also really one of my favorites. So all kinds of different people in different periods. But then I moved on to sax players like Charlie Parker for example, because transcribing sax and piano solos really helped me get away from the bass sound in my solos, I wanted to play solos like a sax player.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - If you could play with anybody at all, dead or alive, who would that be?
------------------------------------------------------------
OA - There's so many...I would say Beethoven performing the 9th Symphony, also Charlie Parker, just being anywhere near Charlie Parker, obviously all the greats...like Art Blakey, Elvin Jones. Elvin Jones is one of my favorite musicians, he's one of my greatest influences in my music because he's sort of re-invented rhythm and the way we know it.  Whatever I do rhythmically comes out of Elvin Jones. I know a lot of people that played with him but I never got to play with him, I heard him many times and never understood what he was playing, it's like magic. Bud Powell would be great to play with, also...Jimmy Hendrix. A lot of times when you grown up you try to imagine what's inside Charlie Parker's brain, and I also spent many years trying to imagine what Beethoven or Mozart thought when they played. Zohar Argov - a great Israeli yemenite singer, one of my idols - I grew up listening to him, he revolutionised a certain kind of singing. I would've loved just to play a moment with him. But in the end it's all about you and your music because anything that you want, you're the only one who can do it...
------------------------------------------------------------
Omer Avital Quintet : Omer Avital - bass / Asaf Yuria - sax / Alexander Levin - sax / Eden Ladin - piano and keyboards / Ofri Nehemya - drums
------------------------------------------------------------
Friday, January 6th set list at the Zinc : Daber Elay Africa  / Turkish Coffee Blue / Beauty and the Beast  / Immigration  / One Man's Light Is Another Man's Night  / Bombolero
------------------------------------------------------------
For more info : www.winterjazzfest.com

Claude Thibault, Editor
sortiesJAZZnights.com

This feature article is presented in collaboration with Twigg Musique



Harpist Edmar Castaneda at NY's New School 5th Floor Theater, Saturday January 7th, part of the 2017 Winter Jazzfest, another one of my fav concerts.


edmar_castaneda.jpgHarpist Edmar Castaneda was also at the Winter Jazzfest on Marathon Day 2, January 7th 2017 with his World Ensemble. His music is a great mix of Colombian-inspired harp music (llanera) and jazz. I'd never heard much jazz on the harp so this was a unique first. I had a few words with Edmar at home in Queens.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Is the Edmar Castaneda World Project your main project ?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - I have different projects that I work with but the World Ensemble is something new, a 9-piece band with musicians from all over the world, from Israel, Switzerland, Chile, NY,  Colorado...and Colombia.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - The instrumentation of the World Ensemble is also unique and the connection in between the harp, harmonica, flute, trombone really stand out...how did that happen?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - I actually chose that instrumentation because I regularly play with all these musicians and I know them well. Each of these guys have a different way playing...an a passion for playing. And they bring their influence from their countries in the World Ensemble. So I just got my friends together and I arranged these instruments (flute/soprano sax/harmonica/trombone) like a big harp, which is what I play with my right hand, with the piano supporting it all. I orchestrated the whole band like a big harp. And they all have their own sound. I really love their playing.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - How did you start playing the harp?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - It actually started with when I was 7, dancing on Llanera, a typical Colombian folk music. The harp is the main instrument of this music from the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. So that's the first time I heard the harp, after that I started studying it when I was 13.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - How did you into jazz?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - When I was 16 we moved to NY and that's where I heard jazz for the first time. I got connected to Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Miles and I fell in love with the music.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - With jazz, did you have to re-invent your way of playing the harp?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - Yes I did, playing the bass lines, the harmony and the melody all at the same time. I actually studied and graduated college as a trumpet player because I wanted to learn the language of jazz and because I couldn't do it with the harp. So the trumpet was a bridge for me, to understand and to feel jazz. This music that I write is influenced by the Colombian folk music llanera mixed in with brazilian, african, jazz, funk, and NY's influence as well, and improvisation. Because the harp is diatonic I had to create a way of playing sharps and make it sound not as much diatonic as it is, as well as create different modes and possibilities. I'd already changed the look of the harp, the strings and other things but this harp that I'm playing was built by a french company that I work with, Camac, so we did this together. They created the levers that I use for the half-notes. It's called the EC Llanera.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Are you influenced by bass players?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - Yes, like Jaco Pastorius for example. But there's so many, I learn from them, for example with John Patittuci that I play with. Marcus Miller also.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - If you could play with anybody, dead or alive, who would that be?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - I would play with God, I would be happy forever.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Tell us about a WOW moment in your carreer?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - So many but I guess one would be when I played with Paquito D'Rivera for the movie Calle 54 at the Beacon Theatre, I'd just finished College and I was quite young and had studied all these jazz greats and they were all playing together that night. That was WOW!
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - What's coming up for you?
------------------------------------------------------------
EC - I'll be doing a world tour with pianist Hiromi including a concert at the Montreal Jazz Fest June 30th, 2017.
------------------------------------------------------------
Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble : Edmar Castaneda - harp /  Sholomi Cohen - sax / Marshall Gilkes - trombone / Itai Kriss - flute / Andrea Tierra - vocal /  Gregoire Maret - harmonica /  Pablo Vergara - piano, keyboard /  Dave Silliman - percussion / drums
------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday, January 7th set list at the New School : Entre Cuerdas / For Jaco / Jesus de Nazareth / Carrao Carrao / Quita Pesares
------------------------------------------------------------
For more info : www.winterjazzfest.com

Claude Thibault, Editor
sortiesJAZZnights.com

This feature article is presented in collaboration with Twigg Musique



Rachel Z and Omar Hakim have got their Eyes to the Future with OZ Experience at NY's Zinc Bar for the Winter Jazzfest.


rachel z omar hakim 150x150 good.jpgRachel Z is pianist/keyboardist and has played with Steps Ahead, Wayne Shorter, Victor Bailey, Stanley Clarke, and more. Her music moves in between rock, jazz, EDM and other influences and forms, with drummer/husband Omar Hakim, the OZ Experience. Omar's played with Weather Report, David Bowie, Sting, Madonna, Dire Straits, Kate Bush and Miles Davis, just to name a few.  I'd first heard Omar back in 1988 when he was in the house band of NBC's really great Night Music tv show, probably the inspiration behind both Quebec's music tv shows Beau et Chaud and Belle et Bum. So, a few weeks after their Jan. 6th Winter Jazzfest concert, I caught up with them in the NY home.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Rachel and Omar that was a really great concert at the Zinc Jan. 6th, I really enjoyed it, I'd been wanting to see Omar since the Night Music days - that's a while back - as well as Rachel, so this Winter Jazzfest concert was it...so what your impressions about the Zinc concert ?
------------------------------------------------------------
RZ - This concert was billed as Rachel Z but it was actually our band, the OZ Experience, with our music. It was an interesting response because some people were not expecting this. There were some older people I think, that were like wow what's that?...that sorta wild. One thing that I liked is that WBGO (NY's jazz radio) has this next generation of deejays at the concert (a great support to us), and they were so excited, the kids were going - oh we can't wait to play this new record - Eyes to the Future - when it comes out.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - The pieces that you played will be on your upcoming Eyes to the Future, when will that be out?
------------------------------------------------------------
OH - No release date yet, but we're shooting for summer/fall of this year. We're almost done with it actually, we still have some more work to do on it in the studio but we're having a blast with it, I think it's coming out quite beautiful. It's interesting because this time we realised that we want to experiment and really come up with a new signature sound for our band using a lot of our experience musically, and not be afraid to blend things together that would sort of be a blend in a new way for us. We've been listening to everything from rock to EDM to alternative rock, and all sorts of jazz, and hip-hop jazz, and you know we're sort of watching everything but at the same time we are creatively reacting or responding musically to everything that we like. Inside of the experiment it takes a moment to distill it all into a cohesive idea but I notice that as we play the music more and more live, it helps us focus our concept even more. But the time we're finished with this thing we'll definitely have identified a new approach for our band making live shows very interesting for the audience.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - So how is the OZ Experience (quartet) different than the Trio of OZ...
------------------------------------------------------------
OH - Well I think right away we've gone from being an acoustic trio doing kind of acoustic jazz arrangements of our favorite alt-rock songs and some originals to a more electric sound. The last few times I played at the european jazz festivals, I noticed that those festivals didn't really have a lot of jazz. I was seeing people like D'Angelo headlining the shows, and a lot of other amazing artists headlining as well, very big sounding productions. You know the audience is getting younger and younger and I realised that it will be important for us to prepare to headline bigger stages, to come back with a bigger sound, and a more fun listening experience for our potential younger audience. And I think that inside of blending these styles together, we're still connecting to the spirit of improvisation in the music. We don't have to actually call it the J (jazz) word per say but we can still use our jazz language and leverage it in hopefully something that will be interesting, a new blend of sounds, something interesting for the audience. That's the goal.

RZ - You know the Trio of OZ still exists, it's the acoustic trio, this is the electric band and that's why it's called the OZ Experience. In regards to the compositions, what's different about our stuff, it sort of leans towards the harmonies that I used with Wayne Shorter on High Life, so that harmonic experience that I got with him, I'm taking it and putting it into some of these songs, and that makes it fun to play over, but also kinda of hard to play over. So you keep your Giant Steps elements that are always a challenge but also the four on the floor elements, so it's disguised, in a certain way. Some listeners might not know what it is, but that's what we're doing.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - I was going to ask you if you thought jazz had to re-invent itself to stay alive, but you've kind of already answered that in a certain way...
------------------------------------------------------------
OH - You know I played in so many of those festivals for years and years and years, in all kinds of configurations, acoustic jazz, fusion, funk configurations, I even played at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Nile Rodgers and Chic, so I watched the jazz festivals morph into a whole new presentation of music that's not necessarily jazz anymore, and that's ok. What we've always known about jazz is that jazz morphs, it changes, at one point in North America it was the pop music of that period. The one thing that jazz has always done is take the dance beats of the moment and create interesting music on top of that. So our goal is not to stray away much from that. I notice that when you say the word jazz to young people, they almost go running away screaming, so we don't want to alienate any listener from the experience of improvised music and the language of jazz / improvised music keeps the music very interesting. So our goal is to find melodic content that connects with the listener but at the same time slowly introduces moments of improvisational ideas and concepts that engage them. It's a fun experience for us.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - On your FB page it mentions a new genre which is improvised EDM (electronic dance music)...tells us about that...
------------------------------------------------------------
RZ - I fell in love with some new stuff a few years ago called progressive house, with deejays and bands like Tonight, Disclosures, and Daft Punk and I thought wow there's a lot of improvisation going on in that music but there doing it with sound, they're taking different things and putting them together kind of like what we do in jazz. So we're trying to weight out how far into EDM we're capable of doing, it's an art form that I have great respect for. Like Eyes to the Future and also Lotus in London, those tunes have four on the floor, they have textures but they also have to some degree jazz solos going on in between, also UH OH which has a reggae beat in there, a tip of the hat to New Order - one of my favorite bands. Omar's actually played on a Daft Punk record and they used so many of his amazing beats put together in their special deejay and magical way, so we went wow this is really inspiring because this is what we do. People sample jazz so why not sample ourselves and develop things using Ableton Live. At the Winter Jazzfest we didn't go all the way there yet, in some ways we haven't completed the metamorphosis, the butterfly isn't born yet. We're also doing a tune from the Foo Fighters (These Days) a tip of the hat on what we did on the Trio of OZ, because we'd done many tracks of other people like New Order, Death Cab For Cutie, Sting, The Police, so we did a bunch of covers and people really enjoyed us ruining their songs (laughs). Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) is a great guy and he did say that we could do These Days, so we played it in 15/8. We both love the alt rock world and history of alt rock. So there's a lot to be combined from all those other genres with the sophistication, harmony and melody of music like Wayne Shorter, Weather Report.

OH - Considering that standpoint I don't want to attach the EDM word 100% to what we're doing either. From my perspective it's important to use the elements of these differentlanguages that we express ourselves in but I don't want to create an expectation by jumping in on an existing bandwagon. I think it's important to freely explore dance beats, EDM sounds, alternative rock textures, jazzy improvisational moments, and just let it become what it going to become. Somebody's gonna figure out a name for it! (laughs). My job is really just to come up with the music.
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - How does that work being a married couple and a collaborative musical couple?
------------------------------------------------------------
RZ - For me as a woman in jazz, it's the ideal dream. Omar's an amazing man and a super sweet guy, you know like, the best. For me it's really perfect because when I go on tour with other bands it gets really lonely after a while and it's not that entertaining to go drinking or hanging out. So a tour without Omar becomes meditation, running, and the music has to be really epic, like with someone like Peter Gabriel or something like that. So it's a perfect situation to have my favorite drummer have an interest in doing this, and that's kinda of separate from the marriage because we hadn't really intended on playing together when we got together. Certain things happened, like I cleverly booked gigs with drummers that made me sound bad and he could'nt take it (laughs), so he stepped in on his white horse. Actually I didn't really plan it but I wish I had because it sounded real good, and now we do play together.  But I'm sure I drive him nuts (laughs).
------------------------------------------------------------
CT - Both of you have played with some many awesome musicians, is there a particular WOW moment for each of you that had a unique impact?
------------------------------------------------------------
OH - I can honestly say I've had a few of those. I was still living at home and 22, one day when I arrived my mom had taken a phone message, a gentleman had called about an hour ago from LA, he had a very strange name, it started with a Z, and something about a Weather Report, so it tooks 3 seconds to put together who that was from, and of course she'd misplaced the number. I finally got it and called the number and Joe Zawinul hired me on the spot because of the recommendation that came thru several people that he respected and trusted. Thanks Gil Evans and Miles for the strong recommendations. Another moment was when I worked in the studio with Mark Knopfler on Brothers in Arms, while I'm there with Mark, Sting walks in and starts telling Mark about his new band, I got introduced and after I worked with Sting on The Dream of the Blue Turtles and on Bring on the Night.

RZ - There were a couple of great ones, one was when I got in Steps Ahead, I got a message from my roommate, a guy had called and said something about stepping on the head. I thought one of my friends was messin' with me so I didn't call for a few days, but I got a call back and that's how I ended up in Steps Ahead, wow, that's crazy. The other was when I was on tour with Pino Daniele, I got a message asking to call back Real World and that were looking for a keyboard player for Peter Gabriel, I thought someone was messin' with me  again and I didn't call back right away. I did call and it was really Peter Gabriel. I had to do a blind audition where they record you playing, then Peter listened to the different recordings and finally chose me...Another one was when I called Wayne Shorter to play on my Columbia record, he said he couldn't, but asked me if I could play on his!...wow that a much better idea I said! That was great because that turned into High Life. Those two bands were the most suited for what I heard in my head. With Peter it was
about the sound element, pop and melody and with Wayne it was the harmony, how he constructed melody over complex harmonies and how he got the cry, picking the perfect note with 16 chords per bar. Being a sideman was always an apprenticeship, my ultimate goal was to be a leader, so I've been focusing on my solo carreer since then with a couple of great young bands like with Terri Lyne Carrington and others, and of course the Trio of OZ and the Oz Experience.

------------------------------------------------------------
CT - If you could play with any artist, dead or alive and that you haven't, who would that be? could be Jimi Hendrix, Beethoven, anybody really!
------------------------------------------------------------
OH - Oddly enough you mentionned Jimi Hendrix and that would be one, I did really love and admire him, I was pretty young when he passed away, I'd read somewhere that there was talk of a collaboration in between Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis and I thought wow this is going to be something and a week later he passed away. I was really heartbroken, I loved his music and his spirit of adventure.

RZ - I would've also liked to play in that Jimi / Miles collaboration, that would've been nice. Kate Bush for sure. Be a robot with Daft Punk! Playing McCoy Tyner's part with John Coltrane.
------------------------------------------------------------
Rachel Z Omer Hakim Oz Experience : Rachel Z - keyboards / Omar Hakim - bass / Sandro Albert - guitar / Jonathan Toscano - electric bass
------------------------------------------------------------
Friday, January 6th set list at the Zinc : Eyes to the Future / Humor & Nudity / UH OH / Sensual / Lotus in London /  These Days
------------------------------------------------------------
For more info : www.winterjazzfest.com

Interview : Claude Thibault, Editor
sortiesJAZZnights.com


This feature article is presented in collaboration with Twigg Musique



Facebook Twitter Youtube