7 years ago

Volume 6 Issue 9 - June 2001

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  • Toronto
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· ' years. At that time

· ' years. At that time he did not know that he was ill. Life was going to be ideal. No more of that responsibility, making sure that 20 or 30 musicians were in the pit. No subs, no crises., Now he's getting rid of all that stress, the moving stress was over. This was, I think, August of '99, he started feeling uncomfortable and early , September, I remember Rick Wilkins had a gig re-recording some cues for a Wayne and Shuster special that Frank Shuster was hosting and Moe almost didn't make that gig. He had gone in for tests and that 'day was waiting for the results. They did come in and were not very . pleasant, however he was very courageous and fought the battle like so many people do and got himself in shape for that target date of June 2000, jazz festival. JG: But, you know, his attitude was so positive. GB: You'd phone him and say, 'Moe, how are you doing and he would say, oh, fine, everything's cool. And then, after he did those gigs and I remember, just like it was last night, Rob featured Moe on 'Things Are Getting Better' and a few other things and he just played his ass off. He just played so beautifully and we were all in tears and so happy for him to see that he was playing, thinking that maybe, we'll, it's going to be OK. That was the last time he played. PN: The last that we know of. He could be having a ball in the land of2 and 4. GB: It's still hard to believe that he won't be phoning me to say, Guido, have you been paid for that gig? A very nice guy - a very nice friend, and if Moe was your friend, you were blessed. PN: We went on a world tour in 1967. Moe was in the orchestra, and Moe and I and Barbara Lownsbury, one of the Lownsbury sisters. We were gone for three weeks, four weeks to India and all over the place doing concerts at the Commissions, but Moe and I and Barbara shared the same three seats on the plane. I had the window seat, Barbara was inthe middle and Moe was on the aisle. Everybody sat in the same seats for three weeks. But Moe and I, when we landed in Saarbrucken, and I'll never forget, we both came back to the plal).e, and we'd 34 wholenote JuNE 1, 2001 - JuLv 7, 2001 bought this brandy, German brandy, big 80 ounce bottles iliat cost us like a dollar ten or something, unbeknown to e'!ch of us, we didn't know the 'other had bought it. We get to Africa, Accra, I guess. Anyway we had to go across the Equator and I think it was Moe who got the idea we should all have a smash going across the Equator, so everybody had a shot of brandy, the whole plane, except the crew, all snapping! Because the plane had had to sit on the tarmac without air conditioning and when we got on the plane to fly to Dar-Es­ Salaam, the thermometer - the red was right up at the top and didn't come down for hours, even after we got up in the air, so everybody had a drink from these 80 ounce bottles of brandy, and everybody was, on one little smash, the whole band was ..... ! GB: Is that the same tour where Teddy Roderman was betting with some of the guys in the band, because everywhere the plane landed, there was always someone, usually a lovely lady, who would know Moe and -'Oh, Moe Koffman! Moe!' ... in every obscure country and landings and airports and Teddy was betting with some of the guys artd saying, 'Oh, here, this is like noman's-land and nobody's going to know Moe. So he'd take the bets and sure enough, the plane would land and the daughter of some diplomat or some such thing · would say Moe Koffman. All over the world .. . . JG: Well, Swinging Shepherd had a lot to do with that. It really made him a household name. GB: After Swinging Shepherd, he had the taste of a hit record and he kept on trying to get more hits. And they were not terribly jazzy, but I think we all did that. I was seeking to get some kind of an instrumental hit, myself in those days and doing a lot of commercial cover charts of pop hits. JG: Moe did the K-Tel route. GB: Yeh! He did. But anyway, basically deep down inside, it doesn't matter what we've all done musically, as you get older, you realize you always go back to what inspired you to be a musician in the first place. JG: That's interesting. I think a lot of us do that. GB: And it's jazz, of course. When you can afford to play jazz, you go out·and play it again! • New Improvised Music in T"Oronto: The Younger Voices £l'. Phil Ehrensaft The velocity of jazz's trajectory to a full-fledged art music has been stunning. In 1920, jazz was an urban African­ American folk music. By the late 1930s, Goodman and Ellington were in Carnegie Hall. Then within a decade the bebop revolution effectively transformed jazz into a rapid-fire chamber music, reintroducing to Western art music the improvising that had disappeared after Beethoven and Schumann. (A word of caution: the term improvisation is a misnomer. Real-time composition, requiring a pace of mind-body coordination way beyond human capacities for spontaneous action by performers, is a more accurate take. Many, many hours of disciplined practice are required to internalize a set of musical modules, and the myriad ways they can be combined, h1 order to "improvise." Jazz improvisation, like conversation, won't gel unless each participal).t has a font of Knowledge, knows how to listen to others, and can respond creatively. Think of it as the · attentiveness required of a string · quartet, moved up several notches.) Bebop's improvisational ante was upped again from the late fifties through the early seventies by the two strands of the "New Thing~: free jazz and avantgarde. Free jazz jettisoned the harmonic structures and steady pulse of bebop, opening every dimension of the music to simultaneous improvisation, typically performed at searing energy levels. Avant-garde jazz intermingled composed elements and free blowing. The composed elements involved increased attentiveness to contemporary classical music and nonwestern art music. Jazz styles created after bebop have effectively blossomed into what can be termed "New Improvised Music." This covers the spectrum from Third Stream music; avant-garde, free jazz, and Asian American jazz through to · the post-jazz school of improvised music arose which received various labels. We'll use "Euroimprov." This article focuses on three of Toronto's younger, "thirtysomething" performers of New Improvised Music who will help define the future of the music. Thirty-somethings are, after all a crucial cohort for the future of any musical form . There's been a decade after collecting a diploma to hammer out one's musical identity, learn the ropes. as a professional musician and make a long-term commitment to what can be an unusually trying profession. It's a high-energy . phase of the life cycle: a persisting will to climb new mountains combines with more savvy on how to negotiate the path. The three: classically trained bass player Rob Clutton, whose interests and competence span the spectrum of improvised music, from jazz standards to Euroimprov; Dr. Rob Wannamaker,. a mathematician who has directed his focus . towards composition and Euroimprov, and who is also Information Central for the Toronto scene via the Soundlist e­ mail calendar and web site; and percussionist Mike Gennaro, whose abidingly curious mind took him on a musical journey from indie rock to Euroimprov and avant-garde jazz. Gennaro is also the organizing force behind Toronto's improv loft scene. Clutton is one of a new breed of artists comfortable and creative at multiple points along the improvised music spectrum. This multivalency is a delightfully positive development in a jazz and improv world notorious for factionalism. The presence of pan-spectrum players who rank among the top performers for each of their musical points of interest helps calm unnecessarily troubled waters. The most visible example of a pan spectrum player is thirtyseven year old trumpeter Dave Douglas, simultaneously Down Beat critics' 2000 best jazz artist, jazz album and trumpeter, and winner of the award for up-andcoming jazz composers most worthy of future attention. Douglas is a key figure in New

York's avant-garde "Downtown" scene, plays an el(ceptionally fine neobop tJiUffipet when revisiting standards, and is the best Klezmer trumpeter in the business. He also composes classical music. And among his avantcgarde role models were the likes of bassist Charlie Hayden, who ' accompanied Ornette Coleman in creating their pillar of the "new ·thing," but is also noted for his understated and loving approach to jazz standards. And the godfather of New York's Downtown scene, John Zorn, has one of the meanest alto· saxophones around in each of the multiple genres that fuel his passion. This is the kind of path that Clutton is carving out for himself. The range of his playing extends from Steve Koven's piano trio, which has a regular gig playing standards at the Crowne Plaza, to frequent appearances at the· Friday night improv concerts performed at ARRA YMUSIC's studio loft. Clutton is the bass player for . NOJO (Netifeld-Occipinti Jazz · Orchestra), the Toronto-based experimental big band that is well regarded in North American jazz cirdes. The Elbow duo, collaboration between Clutton and guitarist Tim Postgate, another mover and shaker in the local improv scene, has been going on for ten years. Postgate is also a member of Rob Clutton's sextet, which has just issued a very fine CD, Tender Buttons. Another intriguing duo involves fellow bassist Victor Bateman. T!) the quiet-spoken Clutton's ears, some of the most fascinating music happens when people who usually play "free jazz" switch gears to play free above the harmonic and rhythmic structures of bop. Free jazz opens up every dimension of music for simultaneous ) improvisation. Clutton would like to try playing and composing music where one dimension at a time is open for open experiments while the other elements are held . constant. Rob Wannamaker comes to improvisation from an entirely different place. He is primarily a composer who also has a passion for playing and supporting improvised music. Wannamaker's preferred strands of improvised music issue from European innovations that ,. emerged from the 1960s - onwards. One strand emerged directly from European jazz, especially in London. Some of the U.K. 's best jazz musicians were inspired by the New Thingin New York and Chicago. They created a vigorous free jazz scene in London. At a second stage, there was a natural curiosity not.just to play this challenging new American music but also to make original, indigenous contributions. The net result was an improvised music that, among other things, moved away from the African­ American rhythmic instincts and intense energy levels that permeate avant-garde jazz. A third stage proceeded when some people began to think . about improvisation that proceeded from the framework of European composed music. Wannamaker points, for example, to performanees by the British guitarist and musical thinker Derek Bailey, who employs structures that clearly parallel Webern's compositional techniques. I'll put in my o·wn two cents here by suggesting that this decision would likely not have happened without jazz rekindling the impmvised dimension of classical music, which has been dormant since Beethoven and Schumann. When Wannamaker arrived PHILIP L. DAVIS Luthier formerly wit/1 J.J. SchrO

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