Jazz is Life Music

Greetings readers. I’ve been rolling around the net checking out all the Grammy happenings online from the official Grammy site to Facebook to Twitter and see that, as usual, there’s a lot of buzz. About a half hour ago, I finished a recording session with a talented keyboardist and friend. As I listened to him play the piano tracks, I thought about his love for the instrument he plays and the level of training he has, he delivers his playing, oftentimes, via jazz progressions. I began to think about how musical education in the schools greatly lessened in importance of over the years. There are many dynamics that keep a young musicians desire alive other than formal school training, but the facts are clear that the importance itself has diminished. Jazz has been no stranger to this dissipation. One could say that the advancements in music composing technology has added to the lack of importance AND possibly the desire to learn an instrument when many composing tools (digital audio workstations) come complete with samples and loops designed to compose entire songs with at least mouse clicks on a workspace. As a guitarist for 30 years AND an electronic musician, I can embrace both methods of composing music, and frankly, they marry well. It’s the experience and memory of taking guitar lessons, playing in the high school jazz ensembles and having the opportunity to take part in school music programs that I found to be most enriching as a musician.

I came across an interesting article by Wynton Marsalis: Jazz Is Life Music. If you are fan of jazz and especially a musician, give it a read. Here’s an excerpt:

“”How to make students want to learn…hmmm…. My father used to say, Ê»You can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him thirsty.’ The best way I’ve found to combat the haze of uninspired participation that engulfs some of our young is for the director to be aggressively Inspired. Yeah, that’s what we need to do out here: stay inspired no matter what.
” You can read the entire article, originally appearing in the Oct 2009 Downbeat Magazine, here.

::: oceans of rhythm :::


Stefon Harris and Blackout/Urbanus – Nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album – 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

Good evening readers. It’s Friday night, a little after 10pm and I’m finally settled down in the studio after a LONG work week. Hope this blog post finds you well. Stefon Harris and Blackout is a group of young, very talented jazz musicians that have been nominated in Category 44 – Best Contemporary Jazz Album, for their release, Urbanus. As I listen to the CD in the background, I think of the category they’re nominated for, and the category keyword that remains most descriptive is the adjective contemporary. Take a listen to Stefon discuss the essence of Urbanus, the second CD as the group, Blackout

Stefon Harris, is what is known in the jazz genre as a “young lion”, due to, of course, his age in comparison to the age of legendary jazz musicians who have achieved what he is doing, but at a later age. I first discovered Stefon by his second CD, Black Action Figure, which was released in 1999 on Blue Note Records. I’ve always liked the vibes (Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, etc), and to hear a fresh new, and young vibraphonist on the scene was akin to cool water and I’ve been a fan ever since. Fast forward to the more recent recordings from the group, Blackout, He is associated with the subgenres hard bop, post bop and progressive jazz, but infuses comtemporary stylings into his music. He’s quoted in the December 2009 issue of Ebony Magazine as saying “There is a misunderstanding of what jazz is…jazz is incredibly pliable..our music is about the here and now; it is not about the past. People think we’re mixing jazz and hip-hop, but I think that this is what jazz is now. My music is indicative of my generation… and old school artists and fans should embrace all jazz forms”.

I, especially as a musician, agree full circle with that. I’m definitely liking this release, and see Stefon Harris as being on of the primary vibraphonists on the jazz scene for years to come.

Stefon Harris & Blackout

Stefon Harris – Vibes/Composer
Marc Cary – Keys
Ben Williams – Bass
Terreon Gully – Drums
Casey Benjamin – Alto sax

On the web:
Official Website
Facebook Fan Page
Ben Williams (bassist) – Twitter
Stefon Harris discusses Blackout
NPR Favorite Sessions: Stefon Harris and Blackout at WBGO-FM