Archive for category music

Music for Monday (or more babes playing crazy piano)

Came home today with  the last movement of Prokofieff’s Piano Sonata No. 7 playing in my head, for some reason. Haven’t heard it in years. The first time I heard it was I think Martha Argerich playing it. I heard it once. I told my piano teacher “I want to play that!” She freaked out. I bought the music and practised on my own anyway. Of course, I couldn’t play it, but it is just such a cool piece, especially the final (3rd) movement, which only lasts a few minutes, a few muscle-exhausting, head-banging, emotionally-draining minutes.

It being several decades since I heard this piece (why the hell it should be in my head, then?), I couldn’t remember its name, only that it was by Prokofieff. After floundering around unsuccessfuly on the internets thingies, I finally remembered Argerich had played it. Cue Youtube. It’s a lousy recording, taken by someone in the audience, and the sound is less than ideal and there’s the back of people’s heads all over the place. But. There’s a backstory. In 1990, Argerich was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Treatment was successful and it went into remission. Only to flare up again in 1995. This time it had metastasized to her lungs and lymph nodes, usually a death sentence. But the John Wayne Cancer Institute did surgery on her lung and gave her an experimental vaccine. It worked! In gratitude, Argerich did this benefit concert at the Carnegie Hall.

Argerich is a badass. She doesn’t move around much in this performance, but her 3rd movement is fast (though no faster than her previous recordings of this piece), and when she’s finished, no messing around, she just stands straight up! “That’s it, folks! Time to go home!” (If you want to jump to the 3rd movement – my favourite part – it starts at 13:23). (One of her daughters – she has 3 by 3 different fathers – made a movie about her mother which sounds fascinating: read a review of it here.)


YouTube kindly suggests similar videos you might be interested in, and high on the list was the same piece of music played by another dame, Russian (or to be precise Georgian; they might not like being lumped with the Russians, like the Scots hate being called English, quite understandable). Completely unpronounceable name, but great playing: much clearer than Argerich’s, imho, and perhaps the 3rd movement taken a little faster. I like the way she grabs the back of the seat after finishing the piece, as if the piano (or the piece) had thrown her off after a titanic struggle): here’s S. Prokofiev Piano Sonata no.7 Opus 83 (B) By Khatia Buniatishvili


Read the rest of this entry »

Music for Sunday

My wife and I are both fans of jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and many years ago went to see him play in Osaka. He was back in Osaka a few days ago, but cut his performance short because he was distracted by the poor manners of the audience who made so much noise coughing and whatnot that he just stopped playing and walked out. This is something of a trademark for Jarrett. Back in the days when he did long solo improvisations, he would suddenly stop and walk out when the inspiration left him, i.e. when he’d had enough, as he did in the Osaka concert I went to see.

A google search for this recent walkout got no results, but there are plenty of irate Japanese comments from locals. Apparently, he cut short not only his May 6 Osaka concert, but also his May 9 Tokyo concert. I hope Sir Paul McCartney doesn’t do the same at the Budokan!

My wife had some fantastic jazz piano playing while she was surfing  the internet. When I asked her who was playing, she told me Hiromi Uehara. If you were one of those who spent good money to see Keith Jarrett and were disappointed, or if you weren’t but just love jazz piano, or simply enjoy watching musicians having a blast, here’s Hiromi playing one of her own compositions, the fast and furious “The Tom and Jerry Show”.




O Holy Night

It’s not Christmas, but who cares! This is a beautiful song. It’s not the version of Holy Night I learned as a child, and perhaps for that reason I prefer it. Tracy Chapman’s slightly tremulous delivery adds a unique charm to this particular version.

[yframe url=’’]


Baby Mamas

[yframe url=’’]

Tags: ,

Jaco Pastorius, John Scofield and Kenwood Dennard – The Chicken Studio – YouTube

We musicians may get a kick out of this stuff but to other people it just sounds like some 70´s porn soundtrack

via Jaco Pastorius, John Scofield and Kenwood Dennard – The Chicken Studio – YouTube.

Beautiful, luscious, laid back, sexy… Go Chicken!

[yframe url=’’]

Jaco Pastorius, a tortured soul towards the end of his young life. Man, could he play.

Check out this stunningly beautiful piece by the “Trio of Doom” (Pastorius, John McLaughlin and Tony Williams. After listening to the first few minutes of this song was enough to persuade me to hop over to my online music store and buy the cd. )

[yframe url=’’]



Music, rhythm, joy, spontaneity, life

Take a look at this amazing movie (see the trailer below). I saw the movie this afternoon. It was followed by a live performance by the boy himself, Takeo. Both were brilliant. The movie is in Japanese with no subtitles, so for those who don’t understand Japanese, here’s a brief summary.

Takeo is now about 25 years old. He has Downs Syndrome. He still couldn’t walk at the age of 3. He loves music and has a good sense of rhythm. His mum noticed this and helped and encouraged him. Downs kids are not easily educable (tho there’s a wide spectrum of disability), yet we see Takeo learning complex rhythm patterns. When he was 11,  he encountered the Senegal Sabar drum. He was apparently taught Senegal drumming by a Senegal drummer, Wagan N’Diaye Rose, who has given many drumming workshops in Japan. The movie shows footage of a visit by Takeo to Senegal for a Senegal drumming workshop, which includes jam sessions with the celebrated African musician (and Wagan’s father) Doudou N’Diaye Rose. We also see scenes of Takeo playing the drums, marimba, xylophone, piano, and other instruments, both alone and with others, notably an elementary music school teacher who invites Takeo to his home/workshop/studio and lets him play with whatever he wants, and a jazz pianist who enjoys improvising with Takeo and lets Takeo do the same.

The movie ends with an extraordinary performance by Takeo under a baobab tree – he first approaches the tree slowly and bowing, he plays a drum underneath its boughs, pausing every now and then to sing or to pick up a stick to drum with but you get the feeling he’s still feeling the inner silent rhythm even when he’s not drumming, and he finishes by backing slowly away from the tree.

[yframe url=’’]

After the movie finished to loud applause, a troupe of musicians came in playing a variety of African percussion instruments, followed by Takeo himself. When they were all assembled on the stage, Takeo motioned to them all to stop, but they did not immediately obey. Takeo then took the mike and began talking, tho it was hard to understand what he was trying to say. One of the musicians eventually got tired and cut off his mike and started playing, but Takeo obviously didn’t like this and sulked, refusing to play.

The musicians were very good and the rhythm was infectious. A woman in the audience got up and began dancing, as did several children. She moved to the front and danced around Takeo. Slowly, he melted and began dancing with her, then playing the drum he was carrying. Suddenly the piece ended and the room erupted in applause.

My daughter was there right in the front row. At one point she stood up and approached the drum set Takeo was playing and began tapping on it.  She too has Downs Syndrome.

Here’s a 2006 video of Takeo playing the balafon:

[yframe url=’’]

Homepage for the movie:

Here’s a similar performance to the one we saw, with the same musicians “Malaika”, playing in Osaka, Japan, earlier this year. It’s really interesting to see how musicians and audience react to an unpredictable player! It looks like he’s just doing his own thing, following his own drum as it were, and then he and all the other players come right into sync and finish all together. Astounding.

[yframe url=’’]

Tags: , ,

Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Other Western Artists are Minor in Japan | Marketing Japan

A Japanese professor of English was lamenting to me that Japanese young people these days are not interested in going abroad to study English. (He thinks this presages the end of Japanese civilization.)

Today, I read a post that I think goes some way to explaining this phenomenon.  For better or worse, I think  the days of “admiration” for the West “akogare” (longing and admiration) are over.  Mike Rogers’ main point is “You might think that major Japanese artists all suck and I might well agree. But I will add that they suck no more or less than most big western (especially Top 40) artists! But no one can sneeze at Japanese bands that can sell out an entire week at the Tokyo Dome. And the list of bands that do is long.”

For many years, Japan and Japanese rock stars have had an inferiority complex towards western artists as they deservedly should have. But nowadays, things have changed in Japan. And, when they can make this kind of money playing in Japan – and never make near that amount in the west – all the while western artists come here to make big money – why bother going to play in the USA?

Sure, the big name artists still dream of becoming big in the west too, but the west doesn’t hold the allure it once did for people. And that’s not just people in Japan, but, I think for people all over the world.

Sure, some dream of Hollywood and New York, but when it comes to the big name Japanese artists (who don’t sing in English anyway) it’s no longer practical to even consider trying to break into the USA market… Most certainly isn’t profitable.

These big name Japanese artists can stay at home, in their comfy chairs, and copy the western artists that they are inspired by and make those musicians’ music their own.

The domestic audience doesn’t know the difference.

via Marketing Japan: Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Other Western Artists are Minor in Japan.


The two of us

When I first came to Japan, I stayed in a small house belonging to a local worthy. His son was about my age, and we soon struck up a friendship, tho he didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak any Japanese. On the first or second meeting, he gave me a cassette tape of a compilation of Beatles songs that he’d put together himself. I took it home and played it, and got a blast from the past. There were a couple of songs on there in particular that I hadn’t heard since the first time I’d heard them back in the 60s. They came through with a gentle yet shattering force.

This was one of them, played here in a studio version.

[yframe url=’’]

The YouTube comments tell me that Paul and John weren’t really speaking to each other by this time, which gives this song a particular poignancy: as you watch and listen and remember that they weren’t on speaking terms (I think none of them were, by this time), the words to the song “the two of us” and “going home” and the general “happy nostalgia” feeling of the song stands in marked contrast to the complex cooperation going on as they play this song, flawlessly.

However, comments on another performance of this song reveal that the song was never about John and Paul, but about Paul and Linda.

The comments are added to the video of a performance by Paul McCartney in Red Sqaure in Moscow  in 2003.  Having had several glasses of good wine by the time I watched this, I was struck again by some sentimental aspects: there are young people enjoying this song who are young enough to be Paul’s grandchildren, yet this song speaks to them, too (watch for the two dancers in yellow).

The song is performed by Paul playing the acoustic guitar, as he did in the first video. The bass is played by someone else, but in any event it IS a bass, whereas in the original performance, the “bass” was played by George on a regular, not a bass, guitar. I think George’s bass line was more musically interesting than the one in Red Square, but then I’m a sucker for complex melodic lines.

Here’s Paul in Red Square. Those opening sixths are unmistakable and instantly recognizable, even thousands of miles and over 40 years away:

[yframe url=’’]


[yframe url=’′]

I like this song, but this is a remarkable performance by any standard.