The Jazzcat

Archive for March, 2011

The TORD GUSTAVSEN ENSEMBLE Performce at the Skirball Cultural Center

by on Mar.24, 2011, under News


It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to visit the Skirball Cultural Center for a lovely performance, much too long. Yatrika Shah-Rais, themusic director at the Skirball as well as radio program host at 90.7 KPFK, hasalways had the knowledge and sensibilities for exquisite sound in music andbooking the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble is no exception.


Quite often I think about how American jazz influences and effects the lives of other countries and how that sound gets transformed and comes back to affect our lives. Of course when we travel overseas to perform we expect to be greeted with great success and appreciation for the time, honor and dedication American musicians put into the music.  What do Europeans think? Are they given the same opportunity to unleash their creative forays into the music here in the states? In the case of the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, the answer is yes!


The music is so mellow and melodic in a very cognitive spacious sense. ECM Records have always had artists on their label that tend to lean to the peaceful side of the music. In this case, peace and spirit are not the only elements that make this music wonderful. There is a conscious sense of thought in the phrasing that goes off the beat and path of melody without being on the edge. I like my music thought provoking and edgy usually gives me my fill because melody is so predictable. However, Tord along with Mats Eilertsen on bass and Jarle Vesesdat on drums play with this translucent touch and each tone seems to rise with clarity into the stratosphere.  The forth member of the ensemble is silence. The space is used to surround the sound and protect the note as the amplitude rises to normal and a few clicks below. Yes, the audience is listening, and the music encapsulates the room with the slow, fulfilling warmth.


Each piece is a story that takes its time to be told. We sit here as eager children on the lap of our elders while being soothed and consciously comforted by the whispers of sounds that are not boisterous, but caressing, interesting and captivating. Mats makes use of his bow and with the lightest touch on the strings, we sense gentle, opaque refractions of classical in the midst of the structure of the jazz. I did not get a sense of improvisation nor did I encounter any cliché’ quotations, simply honesty in the strength of original music.


As a man in a film walks alone and contemplates decisions that will greatly affect his life, so goes the music; a virtual series of short stories that sonically begin and leave you with a solution or your own conclusion.  You don’t have to hit hard to have your swing the soul in the music. Oslo Norway has put a pin on map in the US!


LeRoy Downs




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Tord Gustavsen and his Trio

by on Mar.24, 2011, under Uncategorized

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SF JAZZ and the SF JAZZ Collective 2011, The Pinnacle of Excellence!

by on Mar.22, 2011, under News

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there is ever a city that is doing it right and supporting the music to the nth

degree, it is San Francisco. SF JAZZ is the preeminent sponsor and supporter

for Jazz music, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word.


everyone has their own take on jazz and what it means to them, but the art form

has grown, developed and elevated. SF JAZZ continues to branch out and touch on

new dimensions, showcase new young talent, address a multitude of cultures and

all the while embracing this amazing conglomerate of sound and evolution under

the umbrella we call jazz.




is clear that much time and dedication is taken to bring the public a pallet of

color through the experience of the music from historic, global, strings, vocal

aspects and more simply by viewing the calendar of each season that they

present.  Where else in the world does

jazz take such a prominent visual front seat? There may be a few cities that

believe in the music and San Francisco ranks among the top!




embryo of this organization is in its 7th year and that, of course,

is the ever-evolving SF Jazz Collective. Ever evolving in the musical

sensitivity of its individual players to the homage and direction that the

music is honoring.


SF JAZZ is known for having the performances hosted around the city in places such

as Herbst Theater, Masonic Hall, The Palace of Fine Arts and more. In May of

2011, the world will be listening and watching as ground breaking ceremonies

will be in full swing as SF JAZZ cracks the dirt on the construction of the new

SF Jazz Center.




specifically for the growth of the music and its audience, The SF Jazz Center

will be our monument that will stand prominent with other institutions for the

arts such as the Opera and the Symphony only reflecting its vision on the

brilliant spectrum of America’s only true art form, Jazz!


there is a campaign to raise funds and if you happen to have a cool 5 mil in

the pocket, then Randal Kline and the rest of the folks will be much

appreciative or if not, perhaps you can support the effort by becoming a member

of SF Jazz at




SF Jazz Collective however continues to be a bright and shining example of exemplar

talent, ingenuity, strength and diversity coming together to speak the common

language of the music on high! Every year the SF Jazz Collective has honored one of

the legendary greats in jazz music from Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, McCoy

Tyner, Wayne Shorter and a few others. This year, The Collective has taken and outside

the jazz box approach and is honoring the music of Stevie Wonder!  Jazz musician, not really but in terms

of influencing the lives of these young and wonderful musicians and everyone

else for that matter, there is no question that we all have been inspired by

the wonder of Stevie.




you speak on demographics, across the board there is no denying that Stevie

Wonder has been apart of each one of our lives no matter which genre we claim

as our own.  It is kind of

ingenious in a sense because one of the main goals as a musician or a supporter

of jazz is to get more people to listen to the music. Jazz is funny because the

mere mention of its name can summon the power, energy and strength from all of

us creative types towards its magnetic force, while repelling others like Kryptonite.  The difference being

the open vs closed ways of thinking. Those who don’t know the music are always

up against those of us who do and we tend to puff the big jazz chest out making

sure others know that we are so knowledgeable about jazz. Sometimes our passion

for the music is too overwhelming for the person who is not that familiar with

jazz and it turns them off to the experience. Everybody knows the music of

Stevie Wonder so it is a perfect opportunity for anyone to get in on the music.



can be a tricky situation because each individual of the SF Jazz Collective is a

leader and a superior master of creativity. They have to come together,

approach the music of this popular artist and arrange it in such a fashion as

to entice the new comers with its familiar melodies, while at the same time not

locking into those melodies and providing the cerebral pathways for those

seeking higher elevations in the music. 

Tough job, but the SF Jazz Collective covers all of the bases and with this

winning formula, they are certainly on the right path to securing the future of

the organization and the music.




a Collective so each member is a spokesperson for the band. Stefon Harris steps

to the mic and you feel all of his joyous energy around his memories of

listening to Stevie when he grew up and how those were some of the first sounds

to start shaping his identity. He and Eric Harland talk about that and how

experiencing life with their young children respectively allow them to feed off

of that energy to arrange, write and create new tunes. Miguel Zenon arranges

Stevie’s “Superstition”, Ed Simon – “My Cherie Amore”, Matt Penman with

“Creepin’” while, Eric, Stefon, Kevin Eubanks and Mark Turner arrange new


“Songs in the Key of Life” indeed!



Click for schedule and tickets


makes all music wonderful and the SF Jazz Collective has arranged Stevie’s music in a

warm and inviting way so all are welcome. Nostalgia, melody and on the spot

creative solos is what brings the music all together. Live is the best way to

experience these compositions. The room, the energy of the audience and the way

the instruments are attacked to produce the sound does not come through on CD.

So make note, SF JAZZ has an entire array of music programs suited to please

each and every taste bud. Check out the SF Jazz Collective of course, but don’t

forget that the multitude of fragrant sounds of the SF JAZZ Spring Season is

blooming right now!


LeRoy Downs

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