Two fine jazz guitarists Benson and Klugh:
Music connects people
Jazz as an example of multi-cultural thinking
by jun asuncion
Let me say at this point that we love classical music. That’s the foundation. This interest is reinforced and being kept alive due to this City’s rich cultural Life. Just think of the Tonhalle, Kongresshaus and the Opernhaus. Here we have witnessed the finest classical concerts, seen and heard very fine Artists. Our acquaintance with the Teuscher family (see teuscher.com) has also opened up for us more possibilities in experiencing the classical world. Mr. Dolf Teuscher loves classical music and supports generously these Classical Houses as well us young artists.
In as much us we love the classical genre we also love good traditional folk music of the world like Filipino Folksongs,Spanish Flamenco and of course the whole spectrum of black music, especially jazz and the blues. We also possess a rich collection of Christian music since we used to play in a church band for some time.
I cannot write about music experience without mentioning my fascination of flamenco in the nineties. Flamenco was my blues, so to speak, at that time.The three elements of Baile (Dance),Cante (Song) and the Toque (guitar play) represented for me a world of pathos that is unequaled, eine Einheit (a oneness) of pure beauty and tradition so cohesively strong that it’s impossible to break it than to break the Spanish republic itself. It is not only an art, but a world that lives not only on stage but is very much alive in this mediterranean country especially in the regions of Andalusia, Malaga, Cordoba and Cadiz.
To visit a flamenco concert is to witness emotion and passion in action.You will feel the Sangre the moment the guitarist takes his position and strikes the first chord of that phrygian progression, when the cajun starts to beat, when the singer cries out the initial melody and, finally, when the dancer begins to tap the floor with her shoes and stretch out her arms gracefully in the air at the same time arching her body with such a pride and slowly moves to the front to declare herself. And then to push it all, come the rhythmic clappings with such dynamism and elan vital. Right between your very eyes begins to unfold the spirit of Flamenco, always a tour de force performance that will blow all your blues away whether you like it or not.
There is a flamenco argument that will force out the Duende in you the moment you’ll be in such a performance: Paco De Lucia, he is the ultimate flamenco guitarist (listen to him play), the absolute statement of Flamenco music. I will not dare to describe him more for I will be doing injustice. I can only add that when I saw him twice performing live my soul was nearly extracted out of my body, twice! See for yourself in youtube some of the uploaded clips of his performances and describe to me his music if you have the courage enough. I only have the courage to refer to you his recordings of Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranzues, the music of Manuel De Falla and the Doce Canciones De Garcia Lorca. If you want more, then check for yourself his whole Discography on the net.
But my ”working” music is jazz. Jazz is a pefect medium to relate with others and a tool to create music. For me, it’s really the best example of multicultural thinking for you have to be open and sensitive to other elements that come your way. When I was in Manila two years ago, I enjoyed the music I was getting in the streets. I don’t mean the loud music from the jeepney or taxi stereos but their very own rhythmical hornings. I got a lot of musical ideas listening to them and would memorize the best. Once at home I would play it on the instrument, embellish it with some chords and there it is, a new piece of music! I did that several times and ended up with some new pieces.
In the meantime these pieces are all gone for I never recorded them anyway. The way that I got them easy and free from the air, they vanished also quickly into thin air. This is what I mean by Jazz as my working music, it’s a tool I employ to put shape to my perceptions in my daily life, keep it and then maybe forget it next. I don’t think jazz musicians are fond of recording. For the purpose of selling their music they record cds. But for themselves alone, they don’t even listen to them. It’s a working music in the sense that it’s the music that runs almost 24 hours a day when I’m at home. So you see jazz people do listen to jazz, but mainly to other people’s work. Here I always listen to radioswissjazz. Back to Manila traffic, the jeepney, taxi and bus drivers never realize that with their impatience and aggressions they are unwillingly composing music!
So, for some of you, enjoy listening to jazz music in the streets of Manila once you get yourself stucked in a traffic, and let the jeepney driver keep the change for his music. If you live abroad you would miss your rides in Manila. You wouldn’t hear such creative sounds here in Zürich, except for the disturbing sound of a neighbor complaining about the noise of the children playing on the streets. That’s why this city is not a place for jazz music. It’s just too quiet so don’t expect jazz to spring out of a place like this. Have you been in New York? It’s like Manila! It’s oozing with music.
However, I confess that Switzerland is home to some famous Jazz Festivals on Earth (and also has produced some excellent jazz musicians). Think about the annual Montreaux Jazz Festival in this scenic alpine town of Montreaux, Jazznojazz and the Lugano Jazz Festival.They were and are frequented by famous jazz musicians. So this land is good for such festivals and concerts because people can pay. But it’s far from being a breeding ground for jazz music. It’s not in the nature of this alpine population. Jazz was born out of jam sessions among neighbors and here you can forget about this.This alpine population does not possess this natural rhythm that’s at the root of jazz and this sense of flirting with the unknown, sometimes with chaos, that one has to totaly depend on his improvisational skills to come out alive-or not alive-,who cares?, out of the situation. No, this is not for them for they are used to having a clear plan of order for everything. Jazz makes them nervous, it’s too irresponsible music, it’s too individual, politically incorrect. Classical music is closer to them, for before playing they know already in advance the first and the last note of the piece.
Talking about jazz, in particular guitar jazz, I advise you to check out guitarists like Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, John Abercrombie and John Mclaughlin. They are fine musicians. My advice: Should you be expecting a baby boy soon, consider naming him also Pat or John for it seems that the Pats and the Johns are destined to be excellent jazz guitarists! I’ve seen Pat Metheny two years ago during his THE WAY UP Tour. It was a revelation! The sound was typical Metheny and Lyle Mays’s chemistry:harmonically dense and complex, spiced up with soaring and, at times, haunting sounds from Metheny’s strings, the whole sound structure being hold together intact by the rest of the band, each one being a master in his own right. And when Antonio Sanchez is sitting on the drums then your evening is a double treat.
Nevertheless, there is a name I always go back to in order to put things in their proper places again when it comes to jazz guitar and that is George Benson. I’ve seen him twice and both concerts were a blast. After these concert nights I think everybody went home healed! I happened to talk to Pepe Lienhard, himself a respected swiss musician and bandleader, about this concert and he said “I think he is still the best jazz guitarist around”. Apart from his virtousity, he just sounds fresh and dynamic all the time and his lines are smooth, full of body and soul, rippling, bopping and bluesy, his guitar tone always full and round. He is a jazz guitarist par excellence. He plays just like he is in person, humble and no intellectual, esoteric or whatever kind of claims. He just play music that sounds good and is there to make his listeners happy.The singer George Benson? Oh, it’s a special category in itself. See and listen to his playing in youtube.com or visit georgebenson.com and discover more.
During the early nineties’ I learned jazz guitar from a greek jazz guitarist Theo Kapilidis at the Academy Of Contemporary Music,visit theo-kapilidis.com, a great guitar player and a very good teacher. Learning jazz guitar is no easy task. In fact, I’m still a beginner in many ways. From him I’ve learned the techniques of constructing chord melody solos of jazz standards and those lovely jazz chords. Theo, thanks again for your time and teachings!
There is a famous jazz guitarist who came one day to give a workshop that I fortunately attended. He is Joe Diorio. Small in stature yet big in sound, indeed, a jazz guitar monster. From him I learned the importance of focus and sensitivity to the small details of techniques that could lead one to discovering his own sound and personal approach to jazz guitar playing. Visit him in youtube and listen to the way he plays jazz blues.You will learn a lot.
Well, talking about the blues is always like talking about one’s family: it leads you to tradition all the way back to your ancestors more often than not. In the blues family you’ll ultimately end up to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Johnny Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Eric Clapton to name just a few. One knows that blues is the foundation of modern music including jazz. It is really, no doubt about that. The blues as a song form is simple,- 8 or 12 bars, your choice, and three chords to work with. Easy, yet it could lead you to heaven or hell, again, your choice.These same three chords had led to the killing of Robert Johnson in his time, to wealth and celebrity of Eric Clapton or the Rolling Stones in our time. Well, who got the authentic blues now?
Bored to death with just three chords? Then it’s time you consult Roben Ford. He knows the way out. He is at home in both worlds, the jazz and the blues and he sounds really good. It’s like when you are busy working on something while the blues special is running on the radio. Nothing special really for everything you hear is blues, you know, all these familiar riffs. But then you suddenly, quite unconsciously, turn your head to the radio because of a different guitar blues now being played.This could only be Roben Ford on the guitar. A virtouso in many ways but it’s the elegance and harmonic sophistication in his playing that separates him from the rest. I was blessed when he came to our jazz school in the early 90’s- The Academy Of Contemporary Music (now Zürich Jazz School) – to give a concert in that small club where we- the class or the band- also used to play, especially during practical examinations. And there he was, just five meters away from my seat, strumming my blues with his fingers! Well, there was nothing left to be said after his playing, I got nothing, nothing but the blues.