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September 28, 2009

Béla, Edgar, and Friends

A little off topic here, I had the chance to attend the Oregon Symphony at the Schnitzer Concert Hall on Saturday conducted by Carlos Kalmar. Along with a couple compositions by Dvorák and Suppé, Chris Thile sat with the symphony to perform his Mandolin Concerto. This was followed by Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Zakir Hussain performing two movements of their The Melody of Rhythm.

Along with jazz, I'm a huge bluegrass fan. I pick the 5-string to the best of my abilities quite often. I believe the two genres have more in common than many would think. So when I had the chance to see
Béla pick his banjo in person -- even though this was no bluegrass show -- I was happy to jump right on it. The handful of hours seemed to go by in mere minutes as we were entranced with both the spectacle of these intricate compositions and the technical awe that the symphony, conductor Carlos Kalmar, and these four head lining musicians possess.

Zakir Hussain plays the tabla with ease and pizazz as he is able to mimic and appropriate melodies that Edgar or Béla Fleck throw out. The three if them would often seem like they were competing in a playful way as you could tell the each them were enjoying every moment on stage. The blending of the symphony created an overall sublime experience. The only thing better would be Ornette Coleman playing with the 1972 London Symphony Orchestra.

After the main concert performance the four men rejoined on stage for about 45 minutes of improved tunes. To me that was the best part as I always dig smaller groups. Edgar Meyer is sick on that bass. There's no other way to describe his playing. I wish I could see him sit in on one of Ornette's groups.

A great steak dinner, some of the best live music I've seen all year, a couple signed CDs, a hand shake with Béla Fleck, and a few whiskeys later, I ended the night one happy camper.

September 15, 2009

More Blue Note on NBC... Again.

Someone over at NBC loves old jazz record covers, especially Blue Note -- with good reason of course. This caught my eye on the Tonight Show last Friday night.