Bartók’s Surprising Influence on Jazz

There are some fascinating connections between jazz and the music of Béla Bartók. Both have a pristine, highly-ordered sense of structure. Both are built on complex rhythmic grooves which grow out of a folk tradition. Jazz pianist Dániel Szabó delves into this subject in a recent article where he writes, Whenever I hear the second movement of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, the extraordinarily tight rhythm, the shifts in emphasis, inserting 3/8 phrases …

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Keith Jarrett: “Ol’ Man River”

Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple. -Keith Jarrett Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert were all masters of keyboard improvisation- the ability to use a well known melody as the basis for completely new, spontaneous music. Perhaps no one alive today continues that tradition more eloquently than jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett describes the process in mystical terms. He says that his hands take over …

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Remembering Steely Dan’s Walter Becker

Walter Becker, the songwriter, guitarist, bassist, and record producer, passed away on Sunday. He was 67. Becker is best known as the co-founder of the band Steely Dan, active between 1972 and 1981 and again from 1993 on. He played guitar and bass and co-wrote songs along with the group’s lead singer and keyboardist, Donald Fagen. Steely Dan’s music is a unique blend of jazz and rock. Filled with ear-catching harmonic sophistication, it …

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Remembering Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth, the legendary British-born jazz fusion guitarist, passed away earlier this month. He was 70. Holdsworths’ stunning virtuosity and harmonic innovations influenced rock guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen. He was called “the John Coltrane of the guitar.” In 1983, the New York Times’ Jon Pareles wrote: He pours out notes in a liquid rush without slurring a single one. His sense of harmony reveals itself in daring melodic extrapolations and in chords that …

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Jason Vieaux: “In a Sentimental Mood”

American guitarist Jason Vieaux is our guest soloist for this weekend’s Richmond Symphony concerts. His Grammy-winning 2014 album, Play, includes this beautifully atmospheric performance of Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood: An interesting story surrounds the 1935 composition of this famous jazz standard. According to Ellington, We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company, threw a party for …

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Jason Vieaux: “Images of Metheny”

Here is music which seems strangely appropriate for the unofficial end of summer. It’s an excerpt from classical guitarist Jason Vieaux’s 2005 album, Images of Metheny, which pays homage to the music of the Pat Metheny Group. Something interesting happens when Metheny’s glistening, electronic-based, Brazilian-tinged jazz fusion is transferred to the intimacy of the solo guitar. Letter from Home is the final track on the Pat Metheny Group’s 1989 album by the same name. This …

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Bill Evans: Some Other Time

To finish the week, let’s step into the jazzy, dreamlike serenity of Bill Evans’ Some Other Time. The melody is by Leonard Bernstein. It comes from the end of the second act of On the Town. The 1944 musical, which offers its own touch of dreamy surrealism, follows three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in wartime New York City. In its original form, the song flirts with the blues with its surprise lowered seventh. …

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