Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two Good Downbeats? In One Year? Naaahhh...

It's true. Although it isn't quite as good as the Vijay Iyer-Jason Moran-Matthew Shipp cover which featured Jenny Scheinman and Kurt Rosenwinkel, the new Downbeat is absolutely killer. Can you remember the last time (discounting that issue, of course) that Downbeat managed to run feature articles on three real-live interesting musicians? Musicians whose music could actually be qualified as experimental? And this time the didn't even temper Bill Frisell's all-inclusive nature by calling him the Wynton Marsalis of, I dunno, Seattle. The other main articles are about William Parker (a free jazz musician!) and Tomasz Stanko (a EUROPEAN (occasional) free jazz musician!).

But, as always, the best section is the "Players" section (not to be confused with the "Playaz" section- originally created for Miles Davis); this time around it features my favorite young trumpet player at the moment, Mathias Eick. As much as I love Christian Scott and Ambrose Akinmusire, Eick is the only young musician (period.) who has anything approaching tact in his playing. And then, of course, there are the extremely interesting musicians that I'd never heard of that I am presently listening to (harpist Edmar Castaneda and Anne Mette Iversen in this issue). In all honesty, I occasionally wish that Downbeat were simply a 90 page "Players" section.

Granted, though, if it were I wouldn't be able to gripe about Downbeat's occasional faux pas. There was one I could find in this issue, and in all honesty it's pretty small and most people will not notice it. However, in spite of that, it is a huge faux pas. In a review of "In Sweden: November 22, 1950," critic John McDonough writes that "after a prolific 65-year recording career, [Arne Domnerus] remains active today at 83." Those of you who read this blog are aware of the fact that Domnerus is dead. Granted, he probably died after Downbeat went to press. But still.

Also, in a random sidenote: would I be correct in saying that the contrabass sarrusophone is making a come-back in jazz in a big way? I saw not just one, but two references to the absurdly obscure, gigantic behemoth of a double-reed instrument in this issue. I'm almost tempted to turn it into a Where's Waldo style contest for you readers out there, but I'll give them away: James Carter owns two (TWO!!!! WHERE DOES HE FIT THEM?) of them, and Scott Robinson apparently plays one on his new record, "Forever Lasting" (HOW DO YOU PLAY IT?!).

Next time I'll have a round-up of some recent free-jazz recordings, including the new CD from the Anthony Braxton-Milford Graves-William Parker axis.


Grant said...

The sarrusophone is actually a pretty fun instrument to play. Fingers just like a saxophone (without a few of the alternate fingerings). Made to be played with a double reed, but there are also single reed mouthpieces for it.
Lenny Pickett (formerly of Tower of Power) has at least a tenor and a contrabass sarrusophone (yes, they come in every size that the saxophone does).
As for size, well, it still takes up less room than a tubax or a bass sax (to say nothing of the contrabass sax) ;-)

Ambrose said...

Hey Callum ,
when my friend sent me the review of my album , I simply shook my head while thinking WOW this guy really doesn't get it ( not talking about me or my music ) - I would expect this amount of ignorance from a critic (non-musician ) but recently a friend of mine told me you play saxophone and that fact makes me extremely sad . Music is not something to be judged or compared , im sure you've heard this before but obviously you haven't learned its value . Would you compare plato and Aristotle? better yet - two memoirs honestly written by two different people with completely different experiences/beliefs . Im starting to feel like I've already wasted too many minutes on this subject . As I go I want you to know two things - one - I am not writing this out of anger but out of concern - two - think of all the time you spend Critiquing ( being a critic ) and think about if you spend that amount of time being the change that you want to see in other people how much happier you would be .