Thursday, April 28, 2011

My review of the Gulf Jazz Fest is up via KM

Thanks to my friends at, who posted my review of the Gulf Jazz Fest. You can see it here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Muddy Waters' After the Rain: The Lost Album

During the late 60's, with special thanks to Jimi Hendrix, blues label Chess Records headed by Leonard Chess, urged Muddy Waters to record a psychedelic sounding rock based album of his blues standards.

The resulting album was "Electric Mud". Muddy disowned it, and almost everyone in the blues circle hated it. It didn't make it less popular though; it was Muddy's highest selling album. sound is very much as you expect from the 60's... highly distorted, open jam type riffs/structure, wah-wahs, bass clarinets etc. It's not my favorite but I do think it sounds pretty cool.

Another album was released called "After the Rain" in '69, a follow up to "Electric Mud". It featured less over the top sounds, but that spirit was there. If you hear some tracks of the album on Youtube, you will see the sound is very powerful yet very bluesy and Muddy delivers some high octane vocals and slide work, and his blues band is featured too (Otis Spann on piano, John Oscher on harmonica).

I cannot find this album at respected online stores anywhere. Electric Mud is easily found. Please send me some leads to buying this album for my Muddy collection!!

Post featured in!

Our friends at have been very generous to feature my opinion piece on Jazz at their site.

Special thanks to Michael Ricci for publishing it. You can see it here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jazz: For all, or the few?

Let's face it... Jazz as a musical force is not what was back in it's heyday. Yes, Jazz continues to evolve with it's never ending strive for innovation. Jazz radio stations remain very popular, and as I hear from Voice of America's Jazz America program every Saturday morning (Kuwait local time), the amount of new Jazz that comes out is phenomenal, given it's dwindling sales and lack of promotion.

I feel I have to take something off my chest.

Jazz has always been not just a music genre that looks to be sophisticated in it's technicality, but it's also a social movement. From the late 20's swing era, commonly associated with speakeasies where alcohol in the US at the time was illegal, to the 30's with movements led by Louis Armstrong, 40's with Bebop legends Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, 50's Hard-Bop from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, to the avant-garde 60's of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sun-Ra and to the 70's & 80's with Jazz Fusion, and the revival periods with Wynton Marsalis, to today with Nujazz and chill out DJ's worldwide etc.

Almost every era had a social impact and aspect to it. Mainly it was a movement of the African-Americans and is associated with their struggle, to how Jazz was significant in teaching freedom concepts in the former USSR and the other socialist bloc countries for example. It's not just art but a form of expressing the inner self.

Due to Jazz at this point in time being mostly for nostalgic fans and "heritage" supporters, and the new-thinkers who want to move forward with this music (the never ending debate within the Jazz community), we get a new divide, which is, is Jazz for everyone, or an elitist group of individuals?

The Gulf Jazz Fest, due to happen in Kuwait & Qatar this month's end, which has happened every year and is in it's 6th year now, to me was a sort of an anomaly.

The performers who come here in the past were classical ensemble pieces, mostly from East European countries. This year looks to be more promising, as the talents are more "Jazz" oriented than before. I'm not into vocal Jazz but I'm interested in the Jarek Smeitana Trio.

Here's the catch... the ticket is KD 22/- per person. That's about $ 80.

Right... so a movement were New York club tickets were going for $ 2, musicians lining up Paris subways playing for all for spare change, and where the music mattered, we have to pay a lot of cash for an upscale dinner at a hotel.

I understand that inflation, high costs, etc come into play here.

But in February, the Chris Byars/Ari Roland jazz ensemble, played for FREE, a real New York sound. You can see my review here:

So was it because of music subsidies by the US Embassy they played for free?

I consider Jazz to be the music of the people ... musicians gotta make money (I know how it is... being a musician). But if I were to create a Jazz quartet and play, I would be doing it for the love of the music and spreading the word.

In comparison, the New Orleans Jazz Festival (April 28-May 8, 2011) costs $ 60 (about KD 17) for each 3 days. But it's a real festival with hundreds of bands for the whole day over 3 days and is not meant to be for a group of individuals who are in the socialite region of the community. In day one alone, there are 12 separate tents (one for each style of music including Blues) and over 50 bands.

Maybe I'm overreacting here, and call me old fashioned, but the music that is Jazz is not meant to be a social status or an elitist high class of music. It started by the people, and it is for everyone. Jazz is a free form art in improvisation, displaying talent and showcasing skill, but also expressing the feelings of the moment.