Music Review: Yvonnick Prene’s Jour de Fete

Jour de FeteBefore Yvonnick Prene I never considered the harmonica.

I’m embarrassed to admit that the extent of my knowledge even around harmonica and jazz mixing together was an odd little collaboration from the 1990’s. It was The Glory of Gershwin headlining the legendary harmonica player Larry Adler. The CD, like most collections, has some high points (Peter Gabriel doing “Summertime,” Sting performing “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and a spirited “Rhapsody in Blue” with Mr. Adler taking on the clarinet part) and some definite low points (Cher). You can’t put a CD on like that and just press play, you skip tracks. Your musical sanity demands it.

In many ways I am a jazz snob.

  • Electronic instruments can wait at the door (Sorry Miles Davis)
  • I don’t care for too much experimentation (Sorry Miles again) unless it is in the solo
  • Smooth jazz puts me to sleep
  • I feel more at home in the world of hard bop and be bop where the saxophone is king

Basically, even in that little rundown, I’m not sure where the harmonica fits in. It’s an anomaly, a glitch in the system, a hiccup; an almost hypnotic variation on the human voice, able to show as much emotion, passion, and charm, but fitting in… where?

Yvonnick Prene’s new CD Jour de Fete opened my beady eyes to new possibilities in jazz… and frankly, for me as a snob, that is kind of cool. Continue reading

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Finding the Soundtrack of Jaleel Shaw

Jaleel Shaw's MasterpieceI live vicariously through Jaleel Shaw.

Before I fell completely into the pool of being an author, for a time I dipped my toe in jazz.

I don’t know why I was so drawn to playing saxophone, but there was something that took my breath away immediately with it (not always a good thing to have happen while playing a reed instrument, by the way). A sax can convey so much, with the power to move you to tears or to get you to your feet to cheer. Two things I have seen happen live, but honestly never when I was performing.

For almost a decade it was an obsession, and not an evening would go by when I wasn’t at a lesson, taking part in a rehearsal, or practicing up in my bedroom. Because, I believed, with enough practice, yes, I could sound like Charlie Parker.

It was a happy dream, and I felt like I was doing something important while under it.

Looking back now, I can almost laugh at my passion around it, but for years, I would fall asleep each night with Bird and Branford Marsalis playing on repeat on my CD player; certain I could get their chops through a form of musical osmosis. Continue reading

My Online Literary Experiment: Be John Coltrane

One of my favoritesSince I started my online literary experiment, Permanent Spring Showers, a novel written off-the-cuff, with a new chapter each week, I’ve had quite a few writers ask me about the experience.

Some seem to have a dark fascination, much like a driver passing by an accident on the road, while others seem to be excited by the prospect, wondering if they will risk attempting the experience themselves.

If you have been following these occasional editorials I  have created around the experience… well.. you can tell it is kind of emotional with a lot of highs and lows. Basically, the best way to explain what it does to your nerves is what you experience while writing a book but heightened a great deal and rushed, since there is always the pressure to make it work and you can’t go back. Because it has to work, and if one chapter falters I have no excuse but to continue. So somedays I think I am the biggest idiot in the world, while on others I would kiss a mirror of myself. (Actually, I’ve been known to go through those feelings in the same hour of working!)

This Friday, I am sharing the last chapter (which is in a first draft form now) and I am now, finally, more in a position  to look back over the experience and feel out how it worked for me… and one word comes forward more than any other:

Jazz Continue reading