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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Keith Jarrett and the Power of Two Chords

Two chords, set in a continuous loop between tension and resolution, provide the foundation for this powerful solo improvisation by pianist and composer Keith Jarrett. It was the final encore from a concert in Tokyo in 1984. Jarrett (b. 1945) is an American pianist and composer who moves freely between the worlds of jazz and classical. (Listen to part of his recording of J.S. Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier here.) He talks about improvisation in …

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Marking the Tenth Anniversary of Katrina

As we mark the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here are the soulfully defiant sounds of the New Orleans-based Treme Brass Band. This is music that proudly proclaims, “we’re still here!” It’s the same sense of spirit that emerges from the solemn jazz funeral procession that suddenly turns into an uplifting street celebration. I heard the Treme band when I was in New Orleans, earlier in the summer. Here is Jesus on …

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Three Musical Portraits of Cuba

Cuba is home to one of the world’s richest musical melting pots…the vibrant convergence of west African and European (especially Spanish) musical traditions over 500 years of history. From rumba and son cubano to Afro-Cuban jazz and salsa, this Latin musical stew often features dizzying rhythmic complexity while retaining a suave sense of “cool.” Clave rhythm, the source of this “cool” complexity, gives Latin music its unique sense of swing. It’s a rhythmic …

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