Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier Profiled

Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, performing a...

Source: Village Voice.

One morning last June, Sylvie Courvoisier logged onto Facebook in her Brooklyn apartment and, like much of the jazz world, was profoundly saddened to learn that Geri Allen, the visionary pianist, composer, and educator, had passed away unexpectedly at age sixty.

Courvoisier, one of the most consequential pianists to emerge from the downtown free-jazz scene in the last few decades, had been a longtime admirer of the older musician ever since seeing Allen perform at the Jazz Festival Willisau, in Courvoisier’s native Switzerland, when she was sixteen.


Vijay Iyer Profiled

English: The Vijay Iyer Quartet performed an i...

Source: Mercury News.

The 46-year-old pianist-composer-bandleader — who performs Jan. 18-21 at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco — might downplay all the critical acclaim. Yet, it’s hard to ignore his burgeoning cheering section, which includes DownBeat, the influential jazz magazine that has bestowed Iyer with its most prestigious award — artist of the year — on multiple occasions.

The Genius and the Tragedy of Julius Eastman 

Source: The New Yorker.

Julius Eastman is the kind of American genius not enough people know about. I first heard of him from the composer Nico Muhly; for years, Eastman had been a known-ish quantity in music circles, but even there he was something of a mystery, owing in part to the fact that he died under unhappy circumstances. Born in New York City in 1940, and raised in Ithaca, he had a younger brother, Gerry, who ended up playing guitar for Count Basie. As a student, Eastman earned his degree in piano and composition at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia. But Eastman’s gifts were not limited to paper. He had a remarkable voice—deep, soulful, nuanced—that attracted attention.

Nicole Mitchell Profiled

Source: The New York Times.

Ms. Mitchell, 50, the artist-in-residence at this week’s Winter Jazzfest in New York, brings an eclectic ear and a frothy vigor to her instrument. The flute is rarely given much of a chance in jazz — maybe it seems too quiet, too liquid, too fey — but she has transcended all that, becoming a leading voice of the music’s cutting edge.

Yet Ms. Mitchell has the demeanor of an author more than a protagonist. Her projects typically begin with a conceptual narrative and end as a group endeavor, with many voices spilling into a collective expression. What can sometimes be forgotten is that Ms. Mitchell is probably the most inventive flutist in the past 30 years of jazz. So too can the fact that all her music — from its fetching melodies and shadowy harmonies to the synergistic resolve of her bands — flows from her careful engineering.

Hermeto Pascoal Profiled

Source: NPR.

Brazil’s Hermeto Pascoal is a legend among musicians and fans for his ability to conjure beautiful sounds out of just about anything — from tea kettles to PVC pipes to traditional woodwinds.
Earlier this May, the New England Conservatory awarded Pascoal an honorary Doctorate of Music degree and in July, the 81-year-old released No Mundo Dos Sons, the first album from him and his group in 15 years. Pascoal can come up with a melody at the drop of a hat. He says he’s written 9,000 compositions and most, if not all, were created on the spot. “It’s because I’m 100 percent intuitive,” he says. “I don’t premeditate anything. I feel it. When something happens, I don’t say, ‘Now I’m going to do that.’ No. If I want to write the music, I start creating. Every piece of my music, even the one I write on a piece of paper, I consider an improvisation.”

Eight Artists on the Legacy of Pauline Oliveros

Oliveros (right) playing in Mexico City in 2006

Via The Vinyl Factory.

From her years as Director of Mills College’s Tape Music Centre, as a teacher at USCD, as founder of The Deep Listening Institute, and from a back catalogue of musical collaborations that is as varied as it is vast, Pauline Oliveros leaves behind her a legacy that is enduring and unmistakable.

To reflect on and celebrate this boundless influence, we spoke to several people who worked with her, learned from her, or were inspired by her in some way. From her contemporaries in experimentation, to those pushing the boundaries in dance music, the following gives an insight into just some of the ways Pauline Oilveros’ legacy lives on and how it will continue to do so for years to come.

John Corbett on Sun Ra

Via Lapham’s Quarterly.

He employed anachronistic singers like Clyde Williams and Hattie Randolph. He played familiar compositions with double-entendre titles especially meaningful to him, such as “East of the Sun,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,” “I Dream Too Much,” “Out of Nowhere,” “This Is Always,” “Second Star to the Right,” and “Over the Rainbow.” Never mind that Ra is known as one of the most adventurous and innovative figures in the history of the twentieth century. That he brought synthesizers to jazz. That his costumes and light shows paved the way for psychedelic rock. That he wrote apocalyptic and deeply philosophical poetry. That he identified as an extraterrestrial. That outer space and the unknown featured as prominently as ancient Egypt in his unique proto-Afrofuturist weltanschauung, which often manifested as a circus-like performance troupe that he called the Arkestra.