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Gonzalo Rubalcaba


kad

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That-- I mean, what-- uh--

 

My brains just fell out. Those guys can play a little bit, yeah?

 

FWIW I barely recognized the tune as being Spain, and if this were my first time hearing it I wouldn't know how to wrap my head around it either. The characteristic chords and the comping were there after a little while, but without having had the frame of reference of hearing the song in other settings (including the original), I think I would have been a lot more lost understanding the harmonic underpinnings of the song itself.

 

You like what you like. You don't like what you don't like. There shouldn't be a problem here.

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But I didn't have to go to film school to help me make that decision.

 

But if you DID go to film school, you would evaluate the film with a more complex set of criteria, and most likely walk away with a somewhat different (more informed) opinion.

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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For perspective, rock music is to today's youth what jazz music was to those of us entering our middle age years. I can't relate at all to the new music; nor can they relate to rock... or jazz.

 

I was brought up on jazz, as my parents were into it in college and thus had an extended collection of 10" and 7" records (12" records were rare until the 60's). It is hard to know if I would be into it if I had not been exposed from the crib onwards.

 

McCoy is very sloppy. I prefer him in a big band context, as it mutes some of his repetitive aggressive playing. I saw him three times in Boston in the 80's, with a trio, and walked out after the first set each time as it was all the same intensity level and I had had my fill. But I love his big band material.

 

There;'s no reason to feel guilty about not liking a genre, but I think it is good to keep an open mind and ask yourself, as you have done, whether it is a matter of easing into it and exposure, to pick up the vocabulary so to speak. For me this was the case with country, which I now deeply admire and respect (though I still don't like to listen to it very long due to the relative monotony of allowable singing styles).

 

Well on McCoy being sloppy, I guess we have our own opinions, n I respect yours, but when u listen to some of the recordings he's done, as I mentioned, his 1st lp as leader, well, he simply kills it and actually plays great jazz piano. The arrgmts are killer also.

When u talk McCoy, I think of him as 2 players, theres the older McCoy style which to me anyway, was a pure form of jazz piano, and the later McCoy where he started to do a lot of the modal things, where his playing changed quite a bit. When I sit down and "mess" w/McCoy stuff, its always the old McCoy that I do. Then theres the intensity..if u ever saw McCoy w/Elvin, then u know where Im coming from...the wall of sound. I could never walk out on McCoy...the older one or the newer one...

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Dan,

 

But I didn't have to go to film school to help me make that decision.

...and neither did a lot of very successful jazz musicians. But the one's that do happen to "speak the language" (whether via proper schooling or not) will likely have a very different set of criteria than those that don't play an instrument at all.

 

 

Fulc,

 

You like what you like. You don't like what you don't like. There shouldn't be a problem here.

I'm not aware of anyone having a problem. Try to think of it this way: If you're a musician, you're a communicator to the extent that you want to be. As such, it helps to understand what appeals to your audience and why. This understanding can help you when creating your presentation or when creating music, so as to better reach your intended audience. This semi-off topic discussion is exploring how non-musicians perceive a type of music that is largely appreciated mostly by musicians with a different set of "ears" than the non-musician, that's all. There's no "problem" at all; just a discussion. To simply say, "You like what you like. You don't like what you don't like," is to ignore the reasons why that's the case. It's your choice to make of course, but I choose to ask why nonetheless.

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cnegrad, I can't say I disagree with your points, which are valid, but I don't think you're giving the non-musician enough credit for what's going on on stage. If it were only musicians attending live performances, or buying the discs of other musicians, the halls would be 75% empty, and sales would be..even worse? Non-musos might not get the same technical earful out of a performance as yourself, but I don't think it lessens the experience for them.

 

Per your last post, I really don't think someone like Keith Jarret writes music with the intention of better reaching his intended audience, much less any other jazzer.

 

To re-iterate my point on 'showboating', I happen to like that point in the show where the band lets loose & takes it to the next level.

 

It's funny, the 2 times I saw Gonzalo, once with Charlie Haden, and solo, he didn't do any of the pyrotechnics.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

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Charlie Haden says more with one note than most players say with hundreds, and encourages those he works with to make every note count as well.

 

I once saw him where he played the same note for twenty minutes, with the bow. He modulated the note considerably during that time. He was emulating the way whales sound. Blew my mind.

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JJazz+ and Carlo said:
Non musicians can hear the same notes that the musicians hear, it's not like Swahili.

I respectfully disagree. I can listen to a soloist and hear all the choices that he makes with regards to his choices in altered chord tones, substitutions, etc, and a non-musician cannot. In a case like this, I can "speak the language", and the non-musician can't. He may be touched by how emotional or energetic the solo is, but if he doesn't "speak the language", then his experience is very different than mine. Not necessarily better or worse, but very different, and that's intriguing to me.

What you're doing there isn't speaking, it's analyzing. The language is sound as emotion, not what substitution is being used on the fifth bar of Stella. What we work on, what we study, what we obsess over are ways to take that fifth bar of Stella and turn it into the emotion we are seeking for the 'uneducated' listener. It's like Dizzy said, they don't care if it's a flat five or a ruptured 127th as long as they can dance to it. In other words, as long as the music connects on an emotional level that the audience can relate to, you're speaking the language - analyzing the choices of the player is not.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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Dan,

I don't think you're giving the non-musician enough credit for what's going on on stage.

Carlo said the same thing. The implication is that I'm somehow demeaning or being condescending to the non-musician audience, and that's not how I feel. I'm trying to say that my experience as a musician listening to jazz soloists is so different from what I think that a non-musician experiences, that I wish that I could just flip a switch and hear what they hear, so as to better understand how they perceive things, that's all.

 

Per your last post, I really don't think someone like Keith Jarret writes music with the intention of better reaching his intended audience, much less any other jazzer.

Communication is practically all that Chick Corea has talked about for decades since he created RTF. And that's most certainly what Herbie was doing with his more commercial releases like "Sunlight" and "Rockit". Joe Sample talks about this in his Keyboard interviews as well. These are but a few examples.

 

 

Kevin,

What you're doing there isn't speaking, it's analyzing.

It's more about how I'm trying to explain myself, however poorly that may be. (It can be tricky discussing audible concepts with words, and not be misunderstood.) Yes, I know what those things are just by hearing them. But I'm not consciously thinking in that terminology or technique when I'm playing or listening. I hear something, and can follow what the soloist is doing, period. I know the terminology and can communicate with you here simply because I know what these things are called, but I don't think that way when I'm listening. I just listen and react, that's all. Don't penalize me for using the proper nomenclature in our conversation.

 

what we obsess over are ways to take that fifth bar of Stella and turn it into the emotion we are seeking for the 'uneducated' listener.

I would be very surprised if most non-commercial jazz artists agreed with that statement. I don't think that I've ever heard a non-commercial jazzer express that a desire of theirs was to reach the 'uneducated' listener. There's nothing wrong with that goal in and of itself, but it's usually the more commercial artists that feel that way.

 

It's like Dizzy said, they don't care if it's a flat five or a ruptured 127th as long as they can dance to it.

I somehow doubt that Miles felt that way about Bitches Brew, if Dolphy felt that way about The Third Eye, or if Trane felt that way about Giant Steps.

 

as long as the music connects on an emotional level that the audience can relate to, you're speaking the language

I've already stated previously that an emotional performance is the key to reaching most any audience. My discussion here is simply wondering if there's any more to it than that.

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What you're doing there isn't speaking, it's analyzing. The language is sound as emotion, not what substitution is being used on the fifth bar of Stella. What we work on, what we study, what we obsess over are ways to take that fifth bar of Stella and turn it into the emotion we are seeking for the 'uneducated' listener. It's like Dizzy said, they don't care if it's a flat five or a ruptured 127th as long as they can dance to it. In other words, as long as the music connects on an emotional level that the audience can relate to, you're speaking the language - analyzing the choices of the player is not.

 

Well said Kevin - I can really see both sides on this one. For me personally, when I listen to another artist's work, both sides of my brain are hard at work - the left side analyzing and the right side enjoying. However, when I compose or arrange music, I give very little thought to theory (although 30 years of studying music theory is always present in the background to be accessed as needed) - I am very much in a "right brain" emotion-driven mode.

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Carlo, this Richter's Chopin is absurd!!! It's way faster than Pollini's (wich, IMO, is rhe reference to Chopin's etudes)

 

Maurizio Pollini is my reference has well. This may be faster and quite unbelievable, but it still doesn't change my opinion. Has they say..."He's da man"!

 

I heard Pollini about 10 yrs. ago at the Dorothy Chandler (pre Disney Hall) doing all of OP.10, 12 in a row. Incredible!! Just like the record has they say....

People are screaming, literally going crazy (this was his first ever visit to LA)....for an encore he comes out and does the Bach Prelude #1 from Book I of the WTC. Talk about a contrast!...it was probably the most profound night of music making I've ever heard in my life. I learned a lifetime lesson that night.

It was his statement saying...look at all this superhuman technique I possess, yet can climax on one of the simplest pieces of great music ever written.

 

Sorry for the temporary detour...now that I think of it, I guess it really isn't.

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Cnegrad, a few more thoughts.

 

You might say it's not the case, but you're drawing a strong line beween musicians and non-musicians here, and I think there's simply no need to do that. The point for a musician to learn complex techniques in harmony and improvisation is not just to learn "how it works", and maybe recognizing those techniques in the work of others; that would be a very modest goal... this "understanding" it's only the first step: All the techniques in the world must be assimilated, digested, become second nature, and included in one own's expressive language.

 

And it's that expressive language that the musician is presenting to the listener, as a whole. NOT the techniques used. In fact, analyzing music just by dissecting the kind of techniques that the composer or improviser has used would be very poor, primitive analysis. They can be of interest to musicians only - but the listener, thank god, doesn't need to be aware. What the listener - hopefully - gets is the artistic project, the overall musical shape.

 

Of course, the musician *should* know his tools; the more tools he's able to use, the bigger his vocabulary, which is the ground on which he builds his music. But we shouldn't confuse the vocabulary with the finished novel.

 

About being "commercial"... I think you can do deep, artistic, music that's very accessible, and deep, artistic music that's a lot harder to grasp. At the same time, 'easy to get' music can be both meaningful and expressive, or stupid at the point of dementia. Same for 'complex' music. Now add all the intermediate gradations... then add all possible individual perceptions. Final results: There's no hard rule about that.

 

Joe Zawinul has said it in a much more concise way: When asked about the process of putting together a new Weather Report album, he said, "It has to have a certain accessibility, which has nothing to do with making concessions".

 

 

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Maurizio Pollini is my reference has well. This may be faster and quite unbelievable, but it still doesn't change my opinion. Has they say..."He's da man"!

 

I heard Pollini about 10 yrs. ago at the Dorothy Chandler (pre Disney Hall) doing all of OP.10, 12 in a row. Incredible!! Just like the record has they say....

People are screaming, literally going crazy (this was his first ever visit to LA)....for an encore he comes out and does the Bach Prelude #1 from Book I of the WTC. Talk about a contrast!...it was probably the most profound night of music making I've ever heard in my life. I learned a lifetime lesson that night.

It was his statement saying...look at all this superhuman technique I possess, yet can climax on one of the simplest pieces of great music ever written.

 

Sorry for the temporary detour...now that I think of it, I guess it really isn't.

 

I've always admired Pollini's astonishing technique, but I don't care for his interpretation of the Chopin etudes - a bit too mechanical for me. My favorite interpretation of the etudes (thus far) is that of Abbey Simon. His interpretation, IMHO, has the perfect balance of technical precision and emotional depth.

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Carlo, Thanks for your reply.

 

You might say it's not the case, but you're drawing a strong line beween musicians and non-musicians here, and I think there's simply no need to do that.

I'm aware that I was drawing a line between what I was thinking a musician perceives as opposed to what I thought that a non-musician perceives. But I see by the responses here, that that was a mistake.

 

The point for a musician to learn complex techniques in harmony and improvisation is not just to learn "how it works", and maybe recognizing those techniques in the work of others; that would be a very modest goal... this "understanding" it's only the first step: All the techniques in the world must be assimilated, digested, become second nature, and included in one own's expressive language.

I'm aware of that as well. But in the course of this thread I've also become aware that though one may have assimilated all those tools so that they indeed become second nature, that one should nonetheless refrain from discussing those techniques on an internet forum, or the mere mention of perceiving those techniques will cause many to jump to the conclusion that the actual discussion of them in this context is evidence that one must not be assimilating and using them correctly. That's unfortunate. Believe what you will, but since you haven't heard my playing for any appreciable length of time, I would hesitate to make that judgment.

 

the listener, thank god, doesn't need to be aware. What the listener - hopefully - gets is the artistic project, the overall musical shape.

And that's exactly what I was exploring here; how the listener perceive the end result. And I got the answers that I was looking for.

 

Of course, the musician *should* know his tools; the more tools he's able to use, the bigger his vocabulary, which is the ground on which he builds his music. But we shouldn't confuse the vocabulary with the finished novel.

Agreed. But evidentially there is no way to discuss the way the mind perceives that assimilated knowledge on an internet forum without others assuming that the mere mention of that process is proof that one must not be doing it correctly.

 

Regardless, thanks everyone for your replies. It's been helpful.

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I don't want to go on ad infinitum... though...

 

in the course of this thread I've also become aware that though one may have assimilated all those tools so that they indeed become second nature, that one should nonetheless refrain from discussing those techniques on an internet forum, or the mere mention of perceiving those techniques will cause many to jump to the conclusion that the actual discussion of them in this context is evidence that one must not be assimilating and using them correctly. That's unfortunate. Believe what you will, but since you haven't heard my playing for any appreciable length of time, I would hesitate to make that judgment.

 

Now you are moving the focus that you have set yourself in the first place, and I'm not sure if I like it. No one in this thread has ever said or implied that techniques are not to be discussed, and I have not commented about your own musical abilities or perception.

The whole point, instead, is that you started by saying that musicians "get" what's happening in a complex piece because they have studied the techniques, and you were wondering if non-musicians, not having studied those techniques, could "get" the same kind of experience.

My response to this has been that the techniques are only the starting point, so any discussion about "getting" a piece should take that into account. This does *not* mean that discussing the techniques is not useful - of course it is. But since we're talking about a different level, the two things don't go together, or do so only in a very partial way.

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

This is a quick cut/paste from the only other forum I participate in, and I will wordsmith it later if I have a chance, to be more specific to the conversation in this topic.

 

----------------

 

As someone mentioned Gonzalo Rubalcaba, I can't help but to mention some details about this genius, having just met him in person a few minutes ago (he performed at my company's auditorium this evening as part of a private party in advance of the SF Jazz Festival).

 

Gonzalo spent the first eight to ten years of his career in his native Cuba, taking a two-pronged approach that remains ahead of the game some twenty years later. A classically-informed acoustic route used one set of musicians, occasionally augmented by orchestral players, and during this period he composed and recorded the amazing "Ebony Symphony" (a tribute to Duke Ellington's "Ebony Concerto", if I'm remembering my titles correctly and haven't switched them around), which is one of the most passionate compositions I have heard in my lifetime. It is unavailable in the US, and I scored my copy while on an official (i.e. legal) trip to Cuba a decade ago.

 

I met Gonzalo's father while in La Habana as he was the house pianist for Hotel Inglaterra where I was staying. A totally different style, and though my memory is vague, I recall him being more of a Stride pianist. I inquired of his health, and Gonzalo says he is now 83 and on tour -- so he belatedly has been discovered, even though not part of the Buena Vista Social Club. It is really amazing how different father and son are in their playing styles.

 

Gonzalo's other project at the time was a bit of an experimental synth-laden jazz fusion set that shared a couple of the same musicians as the acoustic project but also added horns. I'm not sure what synths were available to him at the time in Cuba, but they almost sound to me like some of those Russian synths that have now become such collectors' items.

 

Gonzalo as a person is graceful and does not display ego or self-importance. He seems to be in a bit of another transitional phase at the moment, looking forward to eventually pulling upon some of his earlier directions, but focusing now mostly on continuing to establish himself as a premier talent within the traditional Modern Jazz field in the US.

 

He spent at least a few years in the Dominican Republic as a waystation on the way to the US, and I also recall a few times in the more distant pass when he was denied performing here due to the embargo (more specifically, he could not bring his preferred Cuban musicians with him to the states; I think he himself was probably allowed entry as he was by then in the DR and not in Cuba).

 

Charlie Haden was the first American jazz musician to "discover" him and to start introducing him into the mainstream of American jazz performers. He has certain;u had no shortage of willing collaborators since then, and I think he also eventually successfully got some of his former compatriots into the US -- at least for recording sessions.

 

I learned a lot of exciting things about this man and his musical goals during our conversation this evening, but feel it would be a betrayal of trust to publish them here as it was probably understood to be a private conversation given the fact that it was in the setting of a private function.

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Thanks, Mark.

I think I would like to visit that forum, is it All About Jazz?

 Find 675 of my jazz piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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No, it's Unicornation, which is my main forum as Digital Performer is my lifeblood :-). Rubalcaba was brought up as an example of how the next two generations are still producing their own virtuosi to take the places of those who have gone before (in response to someone else's cynical post about there not being any good younger musicians -- of course Rubalcaba by now is close to middle-aged).

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Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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