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Bebop Spoken There

Jeremy Pelt: "I'm so much into melodies and into sound, and the presence of sound, that I don't necessarily want to try to play in between the cracks of a note." - (DownBeat November 2020)

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

Postage

11,999 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1139 of them this year alone and, so far, 86 this month (Oct. 26).

Coming soon ...

IT IS ADVISABLE TO CHECK IN ADVANCE WITH THE VENUE THAT THE GIG IS ON.

OCTOBER

THURSDAY 29

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Abbie Finn Trio - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity (upstairs). It’s Abbie’s birthday!

Maine St Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Sunniside Road, Sunniside NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:00-10:00pm. Free. Note earlier start/finish.

FRIDAY 30

Neil William & Ben Holland - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity. Jazz standards from the 1920s & 30s.

SATURDAY 31

Alice Grace & Pawel Jedrzejewski - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. £10.00. Online booking (to book a table). Limited capacity. Alice & Pav join a multi-bill of entertainers (magician etc) to celebrate Prohibition Bar’s fifth anniversary. SOLD OUT!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Q & A w. Charles McPherson

Legendary saxophonist and composer Charles McPherson recently took part in a question and answer session with BSH's correspondent Russell with some interesting and informative answers. Charles McPherson's new album Jazz Dance Suites will be reviewed on BSH shortly. Our thanks to Lydia Liebman of Lydia Liebman Promotions for setting this interview up.

Photo (left) is courtesy of © Antonio Porcar.

Photo of Camille and Charles McPherson (below) is courtesy of © Tariq Johnson.
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Bebop Spoken Here (BSH): Hello Charles. Thank you for taking the time to talk to Bebop Spoken Here. It's good to know that a jazz blog here in Britain is able to connect with a musician based in San Diego! First of all, how are you in these strange times?

Charles:  Missing traveling to Britain, for one thing!  Thank you Bebop Spoken Here for the interest!  Really missing a lot of what my “concert season” was going to be.  It’s hard to see everyone out there not working; concerts just ending.  The news in the U.S. and how our leaders are handling things is deeply troubling, but I’m hanging in there. 

BSH: In March the ongoing pandemic brought an abrupt halt to concert engagements and studio recording sessions. How have you been occupying your time? Have you taken the opportunity to practice more than usual or perhaps write new material or have you been inclined to take time out to reflect on the current situation?

Charles:   I always practice/play hours every day when I’m home, so no more than usual.  I’ve been more inspired to play than compose, but once new ideas come, it’s hard to turn that off.  “Reflect on the situation”--if I spend too much time “reflecting”, I’m constantly consumed with rage, and I’m trying to live life as well as can be.  I’m teaching online much more than I ever have; that’s been a source of staying connected.  I’m reading more, trying to stay in shape.  Waiting for this all to end so we can all get back out there and play. I had a lot of interesting projects/performances cancelled!  (I’m not the only one)   

BSH: Many musicians have embraced online live stream gigs as a means of supplementing their income or simply to stay in touch with other musicians and the wider jazz community. Have you watched any of the online events and have you considered performing a live stream set?

Charles:  I’ve watched quite a few, and some good ones!  I’ve participated in a way, by having pre-recorded live concerts released that would have never been widely seen. I’ve done quite a few interviews for all sorts of media; that’s been interesting.   I’ve had to stay clear from getting too close to anyone besides immediate family, because of Covid 19.  I may be streaming with one of my favourite pianists, Randy Porter soon--I’ll stay as active performing as possible. 

BSH: Some years ago you were appointed composer-in-residence with San Diego Ballet. As a jazz musician have you found working with a dance company requires a different approach to composition? To the casual observer dance, unlike jazz, doesn't lend itself to extended improvisation or do you see it differently?

Charles:   It’s all been an enlightening experience in many ways.  One of the Suites, “Song of Songs” has a theme--a story from the Old Testament, and once I got going on that, it inspired much of the mood & melodic ideas of the music.  Most of the writing has more extended forms, thematic links between movements, and more rhythmic hits even within improvisational times so the choreography always has something to hold on to.   Another work I did for strings (on this recording one part was adapted for just piano, bass and alto:  Reflection on an Election) had no improvisation in it, but my part & a bit for the bass.  I wrote everything out for everyone.   I learned a lot from that, and hope to do more string writing.  You’ll hear more contrapuntal writing in this group too.  For instance, after watching so much dance, I “see” more people moving and think of multiple melodies.  My classical pianist wife Lynn helps a bit with that too--hears what I’m doing and comes in and suggests putting lines together.  She’s contributed to a few of the works.  That’s been different.  So yes, the approach is different, but I believe that its added dimension to my writing.  I’ve also arranged two little suites for trio/quartet that have been a lot of fun:  A “Gershwin Medley” and most recently a “Tribute to Bird”.    Audiences have loved them. 

BSH: Your daughter Camille (see photo) is a dancer with San Diego Ballet. You must be very proud of her achievements with her home town dance company. 

Charles:  I absolutely am.  Her first pro-job was a trainee at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at 18, and when she was hired here in San Diego, I was elated.  I had no idea at the beginning that we would be working together, but as I said in the liner notes:  This work is dedicated and inspired by Camille.  None of it would have happened if she didn’t dance here in SD, and under her boss Javier Velasco, who loves jazz and really does an amazing job with my music.  It’s been a win-win on many levels, and I’m beyond proud.   

BSH: Jazz, dance, film - you have successfully embraced several art forms. If someone asks what your occupation is, do you reply: Jazz musician?

Charles:  Yes. 

BSH: You composed Reflections and Hope around the time of the 2016 US election. How do you reflect on the outcome - Trump is in the White House - and do you remain hopeful?  

Charles:  There is a short middle movement called “Turmoil” within that piece.  I think I feel that more than “hopeful”.  It’s devastating that Trump was elected in the first place, and it just keeps on getting worse, now people are dying because of him.   I have to be “hopeful”; I have kids, grandkids and a bunch of great-grandkids.  On a daily bases though, it’s tough.  You may hear that on the recording:  “Reflection on an Election”.   I can say much more, but I’ll leave it there for now.  Trying to stay hopeful……. 

BSH: Bebop Spoken Here was created a little over twelve years ago but as jazz fans we were present at some of your gigs here in Britain long before then. Some of those gigs were more than forty years ago! To this day we fondly recall those occasions when you hooked up with a British rhythm section to play a string of jazz club dates. Looking back, were you aware at the time that some of us Brits knew all about your Prestige albums (Bebop Revisited, Horizons and others), your time working with Charles Mingus and, of course, your part in recreating Charlie Parker's signature sound for the film Bird?

Charles:  Yeah, I was.  A lot of fans came up and talked to me.  I’ve always enjoyed playing for British audiences.  They’re there because they love the music, and it’s an intelligent audience. 

BSH: Is it true that as a young man living in Detroit you got to hear the house band at the Bluebird which at the time boasted a line-up including the likes of Tommy Flanagan or Barry Harris, Thad Jones, Pepper Adams, Paul Chambers and Elvin Jones? What a band!

Charles:  Yes, it’s true!  This club was right down the street from my house. Lonnie Hillyer, my trumpet player friend & I used to stand in front of the club in the summer time on weekends and listen to these great musicians play--when I was too young to go in.  The club owner, Clarence, invited us in on Sunday if we came in with our parents.    We even sat in a few times as a kids.   Lonnie and I both joined Mingus’ band at the same time.  

BSH: That was way back when. Today it must be a thrill to work with so many talented young musicians. Tell us about your upcoming album Jazz Dance Suites.  

Charles: The first full suite, “Song of Songs”, inspired by the Biblical Story and collection of ancient Hebrew love poems that celebrates the beauty and power of God’s Gift of love & desire.  Every tune was written with either the feeling of unrequited love, yearning for love, dancing in-love, praising love, or simply celebrating love.  A lot of the tunes hold together thematically, using a bit more Middle Eastern scales than I typically use.   “Sweet Synergy Suite”, not quite the full suite here.  Some sections didn’t stand well alone for a recording, but this work was my first attempt at putting together 6 diverse compositions that would work well for choreography, and of course be fun to play!  I’ve performed several of them a lot live, and fans have loved them and hoped to be able to take them home---here you go!  “Reflection” - very personal for me; especially in the original form, but here to.  I’ve played it like this in clubs a few times; it leaves people feeling how I felt after that election.    

 I hired some of my favorite young players:  Terell Stafford on trumpet: really fun to play with. Great lines beautiful trumpet sound. I hope we get to play a lot more.  Randy Porter and Jeb Patton on piano--great pianists with wonderful ears that know the history of this music.  They both come from the right spot--the tradition of all the past greats.  David Wong on bass:  full, rich bass sound, nice line and improvisation, and a very nice young man that is a delight to play with.  Billy Drummond on drums:  Love Billy.  Adds the perfect groove every time.  Yotam Silberstein on guitar:  a young gifted player from Israel who loves American Jazz and knows the language well.  Lorraine Castellanos singer from San Diego that also played the guitar here on all the original shows.  Her voice was perfect for my music; she has a clear concept of how to project her soul.  She sings some of my lyrics in Hebrew too, that was her doing!   We recorded at Van Gelder Studio--the sound and working with Maureen and Don Sickler was outstanding.     

BSH: Once we get through this pandemic it would be great to see you playing some gigs here in Britain. If you do make it over here be sure to let Bebop Spoken Here know. You'll find us in the front row!  

Charles:  I absolutely will be back, and I’ll surely let you know!  Best to everyone in Britain.  You all are great fans of jazz, and I appreciate it every time I get to visit!  Thank you. 

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