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C.P.E. Bach, with a portrait of his father, Johann Sebastian, behind him.

By Bradley Bambarger <2019>

It’s hard for us to picture bewigged figures of the 18th century as rebels akin to rockers or rappers, but German composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach — usually referred to now as “C.P.E.” Bach — made music that was just as iconoclastic in its day. …


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Ryan Truesdell conducting the Gil Evans Project big band at the Jazz Standard in New York City.

By Bradley Bambarger <2018>

When Ryan Truesdell was asked to catalog the manuscripts of Gil Evans by the late arranger-composer’s family, this former assistant to composer/bandleader Maria Schneider — herself an assistant to Evans in the 1980s — scarcely realized that he would eventually be conducting his own virtuoso big band devoted to playing the music. This group, dubbed the Gil Evans Project, has played its home club of New York City’s Jazz Standard now for seven straight years, along with recording two albums, both produced by Truesdell. …


By Bradley Bambarger <2006>

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Fleetwood Mac made Lindsey Buckingham rich and famous, or perhaps it was he — as studio whiz and perfectionist driving force — who made a journeyman blues band a rich and famous pop group. But for all the rewards, the singer/guitarist could seem constricted by the Mac’s soap opera, his artistic ambitions bound in the bubble of money and relationships.

At Manhattan’s Town Hall, Buckingham howled with the delight of a free man, seeming far younger than his 57 years as he unveiled songs from a new solo album and cherry-picked highlights from his back pages. …


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Lester Young swinging in his prime.

By Bradley Bambarger <2016>

There are lacunae in the canon of any art — lost paintings, burned books, vanished architecture. When it comes to jazz and the pre-war, pre-tape era, such blank spots are sizable. The studio recordings of those days were necessarily brief to accommodate the three-minute time limit on the side of a 78-rpm shellac disc; those records only hint at what jazz musicians were creating live as they played expansively from night to night. Live broadcasts from clubs and ballrooms were sometimes captured off the air onto acetate disc recorders — though usually in poor fidelity and not always surviving down through the years. …


Book review: SIBELIUS AND HIS WORLD edited by DANIEL M. GRIMLEY (Princeton University Press)

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By Bradley Bambarger <2012>

Since 1990, the Bard Music Festival and Princeton University Press have produced a series of essay collections devoted to a single classical composer and “his world,” focusing on canonical figures from Haydn to Copland. These books are invaluable opportunities for music lovers — whether lay or professional — to delve more deeply, guided by top scholars. Sibelius and His World, the 22nd in the series, is characteristically absorbing. …


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Pat Metheny, as composer, rehearsing with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

By Bradley Bambarger <2017>

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet had just premiered the biggest work of its career, the nearly half-hour Road to the Sun, composed for the group by jazz guitar icon Pat Metheny. Most witnessing the LAGQ’s autumn performance at the University of Denver, with the attendant exhilaration and applause, probably considered it business as usual. After all, the LAGQ had helped make its name in the mid-Eighties with an arrangement of Manuel de Falla’s 1915 ballet El Amor Brujo, a sizable work that revealed the young group’s ambitions in pioneering a modern guitar quartet; moreover, the LAGQ played not only fresh arrangements of old music over the decades but also newly commissioned works, as the foursome influenced classical guitarists around the world to form their own quartets. But even for a group renowned for its precision — and an ability to cross genres with aplomb — the LAGQ had never encountered a composer quite as painstakingly devoted to achieving the sound in his head as Metheny. …


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By Bradley Bambarger <2005>

One might not think that something as seemingly abstract as an hour-plus instrumental jazz composition would be the stuff of a manifesto. But guitarist Pat Metheny’s ambitious new work is rooted in a political, or at least philosophical, statement.

The Pat Metheny Group’s album The Way Up consists of a through-composed, many-hued suite, composed by Metheny with longtime keyboard partner Lyle Mays and performed with a fresh incarnation of his electric, multicultural six-piece group. Metheny says the suite’s expansive character stems “from a rejection of all the scaling back in our culture, where so much is reduced to sound bites and nuance goes out the window. …


Book Review: SPIRITS REJOICE! JAZZ AND AMERICAN RELIGION by JASON C. BIVENS (Oxford University Press)

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By Bradley Bambarger <2015>

Interviewing clarinetist Ned Rothenberg about the confluence of jazz and religion (or at least jazz and spirituality), author Jason C. Bivins got a cautionary reply: “I wish you luck, but you’re trying to grab smoke here. I guess what you can do is put the smoke in a container so you can look at it.” This idea resonates throughout Bevins’ book Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion. The writer, a professor of religious studies at North Carolina State University who also plays jazz guitar, conveys rigorous thought and research via his text (being as quick to quote Walter Benjamin as he is Ralph Ellison). …


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Eric Clapton joins Buddy Guy onstage.

By Bradley Bambarger <2007>

“The blues had a baby, and they named it rock’n’roll” so Muddy Waters sang. The blues seeded rock from Elvis Presley to The Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin, and it’s still an essential strand of popular music’s DNA.

The first entry in this multi-part series on building a blues library focused on the genre’s rural roots, covering such country-blues kingpins as Robert Johnson and Skip James. The second traced the blues in its urban strain, from Bessie Smith to B.B. King.

Here, the spotlight is on the blues in the post-rock era. It’s a big tent that has room not only for Muddy Waters protégé Buddy Guy, but also The Black Keys, a young rock duo inspired by backwoods electric blues. …


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Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues,” in a 1920s publicity shot.

By Bradley Bambarger <2007>

Were we able to walk into a 1920s plantation juke-joint or even a South Side Chicago club in the late ’40s, it would feel so alien in some ways that it might as well be another planet. But the music — the blues — would sound familiar. The blues genre is the common gene that now binds most American popular music, from jazz and soul to rock and hip-hop.

The blues were heard in New Orleans and New York not long after they were born in the dying echoes of the 19th century. But when millions of African-Americans migrated from the rural South to the industrial North after World War II, the blues could be heard in urban areas like never before. The musicians thrived as workers wanted a taste of down-home after they clocked off. …

About

bradley bambarger

Longtime music journalist, from Billboard to Gramophone to DownBeat to Medici.tv, etc. Founder/curator of the Sound It Out jazz concert series in New York City.

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