5 Pieces All Classical Pianists Should Know

pexels-photo-237469

There are so many amazing pieces to choose from! This list could have easily listed 50, but these pieces are some of the most iconic and popular in history.

Click here for the full post

Advertisements

How Women Took Over The London Jazz Scene in 2017

2017 saw the beginning of a new generation of young women establish themselves as the new voices and faces of the male dominated UK Jazz scene.

15181704_1811122549164469_4088625110465203911_n

From left to right: Cassie Kinoshi, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Richie Seivwright (source)

The collective Nérija released their self titled EP in late 2016 and were awarded the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 in addition to their Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nomination. The eclectic nature of the EP reflects not only the different ethnicities and broad influences that the individuals bring, but showcases writing, arranging and improvisational skills reflective of young musicians who are not just improvisers, but keen students and lovers of the music they play. Though many in the band have studied and performed with some of the best jazz musicians in the country, there seems to be a strong sense of purpose to use those lessons and experiences to push boundaries and create an authentic reflection of the cultures these musicians come from.

‘Making sure that people can view jazz as an accessible, down to earth music that is meant to be relatable is really important to me…’ – Cassie Kinoshi

DNAtZKFXcAAIApE

Cassie Kinoshi at SEED ensembles EP recording (source)

This thirst for knowledge, exploration and educating their audiences is exemplified in the work of Cassie Kinoshi, the alto saxophonist for Nérija and leader of the 10 piece band SEED Ensemble. Her politically charged music is encased in harmonically complex passages and lively rhythms, with each composition specifically written in response to situations she has either personally encountered or wider issues such as the lack of recognition for the contributions of Caribbean, African and Asian soldiers during both world wars in the UK. She appeared on my podcast earlier this year and spoke about her wide range of influences including Langston Hughes and Jackie McClean, as well as her views on many issues surrounding the state of jazz today. Cassie was joined by other band members including tenor saxophone and flautist Chelsea Carmichael (who could be seen performing at the BBC Proms this year) as well as trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey to recorded SEED’s eagerly anticipated debut EP earlier this year. Don’t be surprised come summer to see them performing at festivals not only across the UK, but hopefully around the world too.

I’ve had the pleasure of performing with Sheila Maurice-Grey for almost two years and I am constantly blown away not only her musicianship, but by her work ethic. Booking, organising, performing, and writing alongside other projects are just some of the activities that these women do almost daily. It’s not just about the ability to perform that separates these musicians from many others, it’s a statement about work ethic that is familiar to many people of colour; you have to be twice as good to get half as much. Sheila performed with rappers Little Simz and Kano this year, as well as with Nérija and leading the band KOKOROKO to cement her place as a musician to keep an eye on in 2018.

KOKOROKO’s front line consists of Cassie Kinoshi and trombonist Richie Seivwright who play music ‘inspired by Fela Kuti, Ebo Taylor, Tony Allen and the great sounds that come out of West Africa’. This cultural influence is not only heard but seen in how many of these musicians present themselves on stage, removing themselves from the traditional aesthetics of suit wearing musicians and cocktail sipping audiences by wearing West African prints, singing, dancing and inviting their audiences to do the same. As Cassie told me, this is not the result of detailed marketing strategies and planning but rather one of comfort and personal taste; headwraps and jazz are no longer mutually exclusive.

a0419997143_10.jpg

Nubya Garcia’s 5ive album artwork (source)

Saxophonist Nubya Garcia appears in a headwrap on the artwork of her EP entitled 5ive which also features Sheila Maurice-Grey on the track Lost Kingdoms, a tune which has over 200,000 plays on Spotify alone to date. Since the release in May 2017, she has gone on to perform in Brazil, appear on BBC Radio 6 with Gilles Peterson, headline at Ronnie Scotts as well as playing in the band, you guessed it – Nérija. She has appeared in numerous articles detailing her work and career path, all seemingly vying to speak to one of the faces of the new London jazz scene before she becomes an international star. Her EP reflects her eclectic influences, with her laid-back style of improvisation and rhythmical interaction with her band engaging the listener without the use of clichéd licks and phrases. Like the music of her contemporaries, you can hear an underpinning of a solid jazz theory education, but diffused into the many different styles personal to members of Nérija, SEED and KOKOROKO. Nubya received a British Jazz Rising Star nomination in 2017, a category which also included fellow saxophonist Camilla George. Camilla’s debut album Isang earned her glowing reviews in the Evening Standard and The Guardian, paving the way for her to support legendary singer Dee Dee Bridgewater at the EFG Jazz festival in November 2017 amongst numerous other gigs up and down the country. Next year promises to be another fruitful one Camilla who Jane Cornwell referred to as ‘the girl with the golden touch’.

camilla george

Camilla George (source)

#jazzmum was a hashtag used by Nubya herself to describe pianist Nikki Yeoh who won Jazz FM Instrumentalist of the year in 2017. Although she is not new to the scene having performed with the likes of Chick Corea and Courtney Pine, I’m excited to hear great things from her in 2018, having seen her live with Denys Baptiste earlier this year. Honourable mentions go to Yazz Ahmed who released her album La Saboteuse this year to critical acclaim, guitarist Shirley Tettah who is one of the driving forces in Nérija and pianist Sarah Tandy who features in the Guardians top 40 newcomers of 2018.

One of the most striking aspects about all of these musicians’ success is the sense of community. Most of these musicians mentioned have played together either with Tomorrows Warriors or Jazz Jamaica, and still supporting each others’ projects, contributing to the London sound which is gaining international attention. It’s encouraging to see these women utilise the resources available to them and producing music which is able to speak to so many people on a multitude of different emotional and intellectual levels.

It’s not hard to see that Jazz in 2017 belonged to these remarkable women. In addition to creating great music, they carry a sense of humility that seems to acknowledge what they are doing, but realise that the possibilities are endless, and that 2018 looks set to see a continuation of the new London jazz sound as led by these talented and hard working women. 

Why you shouldn’t freak out in auditions

I get a Facebook message the other day asking me if I’d like to come to an audition.

Me, audition.

I haven’t done one of those in years.

Not that I’m above all of that by any means. It’s just that for the last few years, work in the music industry has come through word of mouth, not from auditions or interviews. But surprisingly I’m not nervous. I’ve been doing what they’re asking for for years so realistically it shouldn’t be a problem, even though this audition could open up some doors to some pretty big stages. Plus the date falls on our day off from our current tour. Perfect.

Until I get there.

I’m in the heart of Mayfair, the most expensive purple spot on the Monopoly board, in a swanky dim lit club where everyone around me is wearing brands I can’t pronounce. I zip my faux leather jacket up to the top to cover my slightly faded white M&S shirt.

There’s another sax player who plays before me and that’s when the nerves start to kick in. He’s a really great player and I’m thinking that at least if he leaves the room when his audition is over, there’s only 3 people left to be embarrassed in front of.

He decides to stay to offer me moral support.

I appreciate this though. I actually want him to get the gig. He’s a cool guy wearing a cool suit – I’d hire him after that performance!

Anyway, I did what I had to do and they smiled afterwards. Good sign. Myself and the other sax player left and had a coffee and geeked out about all things saxophone and music.
Why share this story?

Before I started playing I thought a few things:

I need to practise

Maybe I’m not good enough

I really need to practise

When I got the email a few hours later letting me know that they want to work with me, I thought:

I need to practise

I’m glad I was ready

I hope the other guy got a similar message

I really need to practise

I realised that I felt confident before I heard the other player, but when I did, fear and doubt started to creep in. That email just affirmed to me that you are good enough. You haven’t got this far out of sympathy or charity. You’ve worked hard and the benefits of that are slowly coming.

The same goes for you.

You’ve got this.

Now go and practise.

3 Tips To Find The Perfect Music Teacher

Teacher assisting a girl to play a guitar in classroom at school

Your child wants to play an instrument.

Great.

So you’ve been on a websites and asked friends, trawled through endless names, elaborate biographies and dodgy videos. Once you’ve located a few hopefuls, what should you do?

Ask questions
First of all, its important to know what youwant. Just because Pete Howard* has performed on TV many times, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to teach your tired child a C major scale after school. Take the time to call any teachers that have potential and tell them about your child, what you want from a teacher and ask what they want from you. The more questions you ask, the better informed you’ll be. It’s like buying a car. Most people will buy car that will not only take them from A – B, but will make the journey as smooth, comfortable and be as reliable as possible. A child’s music teacher can potentially shape the rest of their musical lives. Take your time, get informed and ask questions.

Trial lessons
Again with the car analogies. Test drive! Thankfully many teachers will offer a free trial lesson so take advantage! Visit a few and again, don’t make a decision in a rush. Use this time to see how the teacher interacts with your child, if they are only interested in going from point A to point B, or more invested in the journey. Also, try and sit in during that first lesson. Clearly the teacher in question will be trying to impress you, but it’s best not to just rely on your child’s decision.

Communication
Talk to your child and the teacher. Many children after having one introductory lesson with a smiling and friendly teacher might be inclined to approve without much thought. Try to find out why your child likes the teacher (just saying they’re nice is not reason enough) and even what they didn’t like.

The same goes for the teacher. Be open about your schedules, expectations and the role music plays in your family. Allow the teacher to see if they can fit into your child’s life, after all, they also need to make a decision whether they can really help your child or not.

A good teacher can help your child learn an instrument. A great teacher can help to shape their whole musical lives.

 

*random made up name. If he really exists, I’m sure he’s a great teacher…

#Saxthem

It’s the NFC Championship game on the 22nd Jan 2017 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. As traditional before a sporting event in the US, the national anthem was performed. This was a special one with saxophonist Mike Phillips stealing the show before the opening kickoff. 0
Hear how he uses the blues scale at 0:44 add a different ‘flavour’ to the anthem. He doesn’t play the anthem in strict time but instead emphasises different parts of the melody (0:37 for example) by adding extra notes and using particular saxophone techniques. He builds the anthem at 1:06 and uses a technique called circular breathing to extended the note on the word ‘free’. One of the reasons Mike Phillips’ version is so special is because you can hear that this is his clear interpretation of it. He isn’t trying to copy anyone else. He’s played with the late great Prince,  Stevie Wonder and countless other superstars but always retains his unique sound and energy.
National anthems, hymns or other songs with deep meaning do not have to be played in a solemn or sombre way. By watching this video and others like it, children can begin to understand that any song can be interpreted by a performer in any way, and like Mike Phillips demonstrated, if you can do this well, people will remember it forever.

Go Falcons!!

Reblogged from www.nateholdermusic.com

 

Pops Is Still Hot After All These Years

Miriam Makeba

MIRIAM_MAKEBA_111674066

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 Nov 2008)

Miriam Makeba was born in South Africa, but spent the first 6 months of her life in jail after her mother was arrested and sentenced for selling homemade beer. She first started singing in her primary school choir, and was due to sing for the visit of King George VI, but he drove by her and her choir while they stood waiting for him in the rain. At the age of 18, not only gave birth to her daughter, but was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, she was treated successfully by her mother who was a traditional healer-herbalist.

Her musical career got a big break when she was first featured on a poster, and sang with the South African jazz group called the Manhatten Brothers. In 1956, she recorded and released the song Pata Pata, which made her a household name in South Africa, and over 10 years later, her album Pata Pata peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in 1967. She recorded over 100 songs with the Manhattans, which allowed her to sing with artists like Dorothy Masuka, Abigail Kubeka and Mary Rabatobi. She toured Africa for 18 months after being recruited as a soloist in the African Jazz and Variety Review and became the female lead role in the South African musical named King Kong.

Her career continued to take off and she appeared in a film entitled Come back Africa. She was invited to the screening at the 1959 Venice film festival, and later flew to New York and played the Village Vanguard jazz club. She met and sang with Harry Belafonte at John F. Kennedy’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden and met the President later that night. her South African passport was cancelled and she testified against apartheid at the United Nations, with Guinea, Belgium and Ghana offering her passports. She won a Grammy in 1966 for her album with Belafone called An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba, and other songs such as The Click Song and Malaika became famous worldwide.
This all came to an abrupt end when she married the Black Panther Stokely Carmichael in 1968 as her record contracts and tours were cancelled. She relocated to Guinea where she became their official delegate to the United nations, and in 1975, addressed the United Nations for the second time.

Everybody now admits that apartheid was wrong, and all I did was tell the people who wanted to know where I come from how we lived in South Africa. I just told the world the truth. And if my truth then becomes political, I can’t do anything about that.

Her career includes performances at the Rumble in the Jungle fight between Ali and Foreman in 1974, and the Graceland Tour. She went on to record with artists such as Dissy Gillespie, Hugh Masekela and Nina Simone, performing at Nelson Mandelas 70th birthday tribute, and even appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show in 1991. She was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the FAO of the United Nations in 1999, and won the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United National Association of Germany in 2001. When she died in 2008, she the world mourned a woman who had stood up against apartheid, one of the first internationally famous African vocalists ever, and recorded music that still has relevance today.

And why is our music called world music? I think people are being polite. What they want to say is that it’s third world music. Like they use to call us under developed countries, not it has changed to developing countries, it’s much more polite – Miriam Makeba

Miriam+Makeba

Bob Marley – Redemption Song

filepicker-cB7LfqxGRfqNVG60woPs_Bob_Marley

Redemption Song – Bob Marley

There aren’t many songs or artists for that matter, whose music and messages have stood for something much more than music to dance or sing along to. Bob Marley’s Redemption Song was written c.1979 and was part-inspired by a speech by Marcus Garvey. Although much more can be said about the man, his music and this song in particular, in this case, the lyrics say it all.

Redemption Song

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my ‘and was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall dey kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

Watch the great man sing and play it here

Lord Kitchener

Lord-Kitchener-007

Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts)  (18 April 1922 – 11 Feb 2000)

Even as the Trinidadian Lord Kitchener stepped off the Empire Windrush in 1948, he was singing the song he wrote on the famous boat, ‘London is the place for me’. Kitch brought a twist to the calypso that already existed in London, with the likes of Sam Manning and Rudolph Dunbar already plying their trade in the capital. The difference was, that fresh from his 6 month tour of Jamaica, he was already adapting his music to his surroundings.

London is the place for me
London, this lovely city
You can go to France or America
India Asia or Australia,But you must come back to London city.

Kitch’s lyrics, instead of conforming to the norm and singing for pure entertainment, he took Calypso’s original meaning (coming from the word ‘kaiso’ in the Hausa language) by acting as a contemporary griot, commenting on social events and criticism of government. he wrote songs such as Cricket, Lovely Cricket to celebrate the West Indies beating England in 1950, My Landlady which spoke about struggles to pay rent, and If You’re Not White, You’re Black.

Your Negro hair is obvious,
You make it more conspicuous,
You use all sort of Vaseline,
To make out you are European…

He also commemorated Ghana’s Independence with the song Birth Of Ghana:

This day will never be forgotten,
The 6th of March 1957,
When the Gold Coast successfully,
Get their independence officially,
Ghana…

He also paid homage to some of the bebop artists of the day on Bebop Calypso and the jovial Love in the Cemetery. His most successfully commercial song was Sugar Bum Bum which was written in 1978. He made some of the funniest, introspective and historically significant calypso of his time, and had an influence on Ghanaian highlife music due to his tours there, and won many awards in his native Trinidad all the way into the 90’s.

Rudolph Dunbar

Rudolph DunbarRudolph Dunbar (26 Nov 1907 – 10 June 1988)

Rudolph Dunbar was born in Guyana, and began playing the clarinet in the British Guiana Militia Band after being inspired by their arrangements of Wagner and Elgar when he was 14 years old. He moved to New York at the age of 19 to study at the Institute of Musical Art (now Julliard), majoring in composition, piano and clarinet. He became involved in the Harlem Jazz scene and featured on recordings by The Plantation Orchestra.
He moved to Paris in 1925, and spent time in Vienna, studying with some of the top musicians in Europe including Felix Weingartner and Louis Calusac. He was once invited to give a private recital to the widow of Claude Debussy of members of the Paris Conservatoire. He then moved to London and set up the first ever clarinet school, which lead him to write the textbook Treatise on the Clarinet (Boehm System) which became the standard reference work for the clarinet.

In London, he made pioneering recordings with the All British Coloured Band and Rudolph Dunbar and his African Polyphony. He also composed a ballet score Dance of the Twenty-First Century, which was broadcast nationally. In the years following, he became the first black man to conduct the London and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as conducting in Russia and Poland in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

Unfortunately, he has never truly been recognised as a pioneer not only of classical music, not only of British classical music, but of Caribbean music too. With so much focus on the likes of Louis Armstrong and other African-American musicians, the feats of many Caribbean musicians in Europe and indeed has gone under the radar. Let’s help change that.

#hiddentalent