Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dom Minasi, Juampy Juarez, Harvey Valdes - ¡Power Trio!

Blaise Siwula / Dom Minasi: The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing

Blaise Siwula / Dom Minasi: The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing

Baise Siwula / Dom Minasi: The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing (2015)

Published: February 25, 2015

Blaise Siwula / Dom Minasi: The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing
Saxophonist and clarinetist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Dom Minasi share a unique musical vision and seamless camaraderie. Years of performing and  recoding together have crystallized their adventurous outlook and their intellectual communion. The sublime set of spontaneous duets; The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing is the perfect showcase of these attributes.

Siwula and Minasi weave elements from various genres into the half a dozen, stimulating improvisations that comprise the album. "Upstream Boogie," for instance starts out as a deconstructed rondo as Siwula's warm, resonant clarinet and Minasi's percussive guitar engage in a circular, sinewy dance up and down the scales with breathtaking agility. Their showcase of virtuosity is not at the expense of artistic creativity. The piece evolves in a series of fast, repeating motifs into an intelligent and emotive exchange of ideas. It concludes with Minasi's thick chords chiming against Siwula's troubadour like woodwind song.

Elsewhere on "Ballad For Miss-Begotten" the pair build a bluesy atmosphere with Minasi's cascade of slow simmering notes and Siwula's evocative, vibrato filled saxophone. The passionate dialogue maintains a definite earthy rawness all the while progressing into a cerebral, contemplative stream of consciousness conversation that is provocative and unfettered. The tune delightfully wavers between avant-garde extemporizations and earlier swing styles. Siwula eschews honks and wails in favor of lithe, up-tempo, free flowing ad lib lines, laced with reserved excitement and subtle ardor. Minasi's rhythmic flourishes contain fragments of trad jazz cadence.

Despite the angular and often dissonant nature of these harmonic explorations they all subsume a strong melodic undercurrent. On the title track Siwula's fiery boisterous clarinet winds tightly around Minasi's intricate tonal patterns resulting in swirls of bright sounds that swing with their own internal "logic." A bittersweet lilt accents their flirtations with atonality.

This intellectually thrilling and innovative album requires and rewards close and attentive listening. It is certainly not for background ambience but it does have a surprising accessibility that will satisfy and captivate a wide range of open-minded music fans.
Track Listing: Bird Mixology; Upstream Boogie; Ballad for Miss-Begotten; Polka For A Left Footed Frog; The Sunshine Don't Mind My Singing; Sign On The Dotted Line.

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: reeds; Dom Minasi: guitar.

Record Label: Nacht records

Style: Modern Jazz

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday, April 22, 2013

They Had A Dream

They had their dream,
They had their guns
They quietly moved among the crowd and
planted their bombs hoping to run.

Two brothers with one thought in mind,
Kill people
Doesn't matter what kind.

For all they knew they  could hurt their own
but the first to die was a child of eight,
an unknown.

They ran like the dogs they were.
 Shooting in the streets, fighting for their lives with the guns they got somehow.
They killed again but one would die
the other escaped and hid in a boat,
thinking some how away he would float.

Now in a hospital charged with his crimes
Surrounded by those who brought him in
Do you think he knows what he has done?
Do you think he knows, he was wrong?

Guess he and his brother didn't know

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Started On A Sunday

The sun rose early that Sunday morning. As the night sky disappeared and the Sun glided over the rising buildings the sound of birds started filling the air with the natural sounds of their music. Very soon there would be men, women and children in the streets strutting along to get to their destinations. The markets were starting to get busy while a cool breeze swept over the city. But this Sunday was different. There was a soft whisper among the folk.” He’s coming, he’s coming”! Some knew but many did not. “ Soon he’ll be here”. “Who will be here”? “Haven’t you heard”? “They say he is the Son of God”.“The Son of God”. What’s his name”?” I think they call him Jesus”
Three hours later riding on a donkey followed by his disciples Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem. As he passed by, palms were laid in his path and people reached out, called his name and tried to touch him or even look for a glance their way for it was said that he was a healer, a miracle worker and with a look or a touch you could be healed from whatever ails you. It was rumored that he commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead and Lazarus rose. Never in the history of the world had there been such a healer. Maybe he is the Son of God!
The high-ranking Rabbi’s of the Jewish community met Jesus.He was taken to the temple and asked many questions such as, are you Who are you? He answered, “I am who am” The Rabbi’s did not understand. They thought that the man who stood before them was a charlatan, or at least arrogant enough to think he is the Son of God. In their minds he did not fulfill the prophecy claiming the Son of God would someday appear. After all, although he understood the scriptures he was only the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself.
The line that separated the Jews from the Romans was very thin and to have a Jew claim he is the Son of God or the King of the Jews would not only create havoc among the population but also damage the political lines between the two.
Something had to be done. But what? Secret meanings were held. It was decided he would be brought to the governor, Pontius Pilate, to decide. But how will this be done? Someone knew Judas. Judas was in debt and needed money. He probably could be persuaded to lead the Roman guard to Jesus to arrest him.
On Thursday night at dinner with his disciples, Jesus told them that someone in the group would betray him and he would be arrested that very night. Many of the disciples shouted, not I lord, not I. Jesus also claimed, “As the cock crows three times, one of you will deny knowing me”. Shocked again they shouted not I, not I. He told them I must pray. “Come to the Olive garden and wait outside while I speak with my father”. While still praying a group of Roman soldiers arrived being led by Judas. They asked which one of you is Jesus. Judas told them he is not here. He is in the garden. The soldiers tied Jesus’ hands behind his back. Informed him he was being charged with heresy and led him away. The disciples yelled and screamed and begged, but there was nothing they could do.
That night Jesus was put in a dungeon. He endured torturing and the laying of a crown of thorns on his head. Bleeding he awaited his fate. The next day, he was brought in front of Pontius Pilate. At the town square in front of many people, the governor asked, what do you want of me? The Rabbi’s said that this man is a criminal. He claims to be the King of the Jews and the Son of God. Pilate said it was not a crime and he went to a bowl and washed his hands as a symbolic gesture. “Sire this will not do. Something has to be done” Pilate said let the people decide. The angry mob clamored and yelled for crucifixion. Along side this holy man was a thief and a murderer. All three would be executed in the most horrifying way.
The Roman guards placed a heavy wooden cross on Jesus’ shoulders and he was ordered to carry that cross a very long distance to Mount Calvary. On both sides of the road the crowd jeered and taunted him. They were same people who laid palms in his path a few days before. The trek to the mountaintop was difficult. Jesus fell three times and each time he was whipped and told to get up. Finally exhausted he reached his destination. He was stripped of his robe and put atop the cross. The other prisoners were tied to their crosses, but Jesus was nailed. His cross was raised and put into the ground. The mountaintop was filled with all kinds. Many were his followers who looked on in disbelief and cried. Others were part of the mob that enjoyed watching a man die. Others were curious to see if this was truly the Son of God. Maybe he will perform a miracle and step down off of his cross. Hi mother Mary and Mary Madelyn stood in front of the cross and wept uncontrollably.
Jesus suffered for three hours. It was said that he cried out before he died, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. To make sure he was dead, a Roman soldier stabbed him with a spear. His body was taken down and brought to a tomb. Both Mary’s washed and anointed his body with oils and wrapped it in a clean white robe. The tomb was sealed with a big stone.
It is said that an Angel appeared to Mary and told her that Jesus would rise in three days. Three days later the big stone that sealed the tomb was set aside and Jesus’ body was gone.
Many of his disciples said that Jesus came to them as they hid from the Romans. All believed it was Jesus except Thomas. But this man standing in front of Thomas showed him his wounds and Thomas believed. A few days later as each disciple ran from the city in fear of being arrested too. The cock crowed three times and as a Roman soldier pointed to Peter and accused him of being one Jesus’ disciple, Peter denied it three times.
The Question Is:
If Jesus died to save us, why aren’t we saved? If the Christian Religion was formed based on the teachings of Jesus, why has the Catholic Church accepted pedophiles into the priesthood and protects them? Why throughout the years have the Christians done so much wrong and have contributed to the downfall of society as we know it? Don’t you think if Jesus came back he would be disgusted the way we have turned out. Wouldn’t he ask himself, I went through all that for nothing? Do you think if he knew how we are now, he would have gone through all that suffering and pain? I doubt it. And if God the Almighty is All That Is, he knew this was going to happen. So what was the point of putting his son through all that?
Questions, Questions and More Questions!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's The Point

By the time I was 14 years old I had studied the guitar seven years and was playing at church dances in and around New York City. I played in a few different bands, and because my repertoire was limited, I would bring music with me till I could memorize the songs that were needed. Sometimes the leader of the group would bring the music. The most important thing was that I was playing my guitar in front of an audience. That need became a very significant part of my life. As a beginner performer, there were many times I played for no pay. I needed the experience. I got my union card when I was 15 years old and for all intensive purposes I was a professional musician. A year later I was backing up 50’s type singing groups at rock and roll shows and getting paid. At eighteen I was a full-time musician but a year before while still in high school, I started playing in nightclubs. I’d work till three or four in the morning then go home and sleep two or three hours and then go to school. I did this two or three times a month, but I did work every weekend. I was like most young people who had a part-time job to earn money, except my part time job was being a musician. Through my earnings I was able to buy the things I needed to sustain myself as a musician: new guitar & amp, strings, picks, a tuxedo, guitar lessons and eventually a car.

When I graduated from high school. I went to college but my heart was into playing. I dropped out of college and started working as a full-time musician, which meant I had to get a cabaret license; during the 50’s and up to 1967 in order to work in New York City nightclubs, a cabaret license was a requirement. You couldn’t get a license until you were finger printed to see if you were convicted or arrested for any crime. Of course I wasn’t, but many great artists, such as Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday had their cabaret licenses suspended because of drug charges, and Lenny Bruce for his reputed obscenity.

I remember sitting on a bench filling out the application and sitting next to me was a face I recognized, but couldn’t place. He was very congenial and we spent our time waiting and talking. I finally said, “ You look so familiar, have we met before?” I introduced myself and he put out his hand and said “I’m Maynard Ferguson”. I practically fainted. I’d seen Maynard play many times at Birdland - my home away from home. A few minutes later he was called up to the window, finished, smiled and said goodbye. To me that was a great experience meeting someone who contributed to jazz. Up until I was fifteen, my heroes were athletes, but that all changed when I started listening to Jazz and hanging out at Birdland.

In the fifties, Birdland had a ‘peanut gallery,’ which meant anyone under eighteen could sit in the back of the club, have soda and watch the greatest Jazz musicians in the world perform. There were always two acts on the bill. My heroes and teachers were Johnny Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, JJ Johnson, Horace Silver, The Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis with John Coltrane, and the list goes on and on. Every time I discovered someone new I would buy their records and they would become part of a long list of influences and heroes. I didn’t know or care about their personal lives. All I knew is they were great players and I wanted to do what they could do and that desire is still with me to this day.

In the late fifties, early sixties, musicians were paid $25-$50 dollars a night in bars and lounges. Of course the famous musicians were paid much more, but I am talking about your everyday working musician. In those days, musicians were put into categories:
1. Studio Musicians- recordings, jingles etc.
2. High End Club Date Players - with big-name band leaders who played parties and social functions for the rich
3. Club Date Musicians - Weddings, Engagement Parties, Barmitzvahs etc.
4. Show Musicians - Playing for Big Name Acts at Night Clubs
5. Broadway Show Musicians
6. Jazz Musicians
7. Latin Musicians
8. Bar and Lounge Players
9. Classical Musicians - Free-lance and Orchestra.

The highest paid musicians were the Studio, Broadway and Classical Musicians. The lowest were the Latin, Lounge and Jazz Musicians. The point is, everyone got paid. It was during that time, that I was a regular working musician. I worked in all the above categories except the Classical and Latin fields. I was so busy, I kept myself working and three other guitar players busy too.

Along came the mid-seventies. Electronic synthesizers had taken the place of many musicians. Studio musicians ended up playing for Broadway shows. When the synthesizers invaded theatre music, those musicians ended up playing weddings. Then came the disc jockeys replacing live music with recorded music at weddings. They put those musicians out of work. The big show bands that backed up famous acts at hotels in New York City had stopped in the early seventies and the Catskills show bands were gone by the late eighties and the musicians union was just about broken. Non-union musicians could play anywhere and the bandleaders did not worry about paying scale to their players. That also meant health and pension benefits went out the window. At the same time, studio and Theatre musicians who most likely started off as Big Band or Jazz musicians, but needed to make a living ended up in the studios or playing in the pit for Broadway shows. They still had a need to play Jazz and in order to satisfy that need, and since they didn’t need the money, they would play in bars and restaurants for no pay. (The beginning of the end)

There was a rise of Jazz Departments in Colleges and Universities throughout the USA. In the past, Jazz Study was unheard of in colleges except for a few. All of a sudden, every school in America had a Jazz Program offering degrees in performance. I personally think that these programs were created so that jazz musicians could work. Every kid who dreamed he could be the next Coltrane or Miles Davis, enrolled in these schools and graduated with a degree.

What this meant is - a lot of kids with degrees could play a lot of scales and understood all the modes and all the theory associated with jazz and if they were lucky enough to have good teachers, they could play some Jazz. They weren’t experienced Jazz players, but the potential was there. The problem was and still is, where do they go to get this experience and did their schools teach them how to survive as musicians? The answer is a decidedly, No! The school advisers and teachers did give them some advice: if you want to get the experience you need, go to New York where there is great music& energy, and eventually if you’re lucky, you will make it.


The worst part of this advice is, these kids think if they come to New York they’ll take the town by storm. They were ‘so successful’ in college - everyone told them how great they were, they assume by coming to the Big Apple, they’ll meet lots of musicians, which they do, but they think there is so much work, they’ll immediately find work. But they find at least another hundred players as good, if not, better - and most of them are out of work and barely surviving. They all have part-time or ‘day jobs’ and are living with roommates. The roommates are usually musicians and all of them have a need to play. In order to fill that need, they play at make- shift jam sessions or after-hours at some club. But playing at sessions with other musicians doesn’t fulfill their need to perform in front of an audience or help them make a living at their chosen craft.

So what do they do? The same thing that the studio players did years earlier, they play in bars and restaurants for no pay or a pass-the-hat situation, which means after the set someone goes from table to table with a hat, (or basket, bucket,) hoping the customers will donate money for the musicians. Sometimes the musicians themselves would go around with the hat. All of this in the hope they can satisfy their need to perform and be heard or even ‘be discovered’ while earning a few dollars to pay for the subway ride home.

Passing the hat does amazing things for your ego and sense of self worth. You fool yourself into believing that you are contributing to the Jazz effort and at least your music is being heard. Some musicians get so depressed they quit with a sense of failure. They get ‘normal jobs’ and live a life filled with frustration and unhappiness.

Then there’s the ‘artist’. This is a person who has ‘hung in there’ for years and has developed a style of playing he/she can call his own. No one sounds like them and they are the future of Jazz. The problem is no one cares - or at least very little – or is willing to pay these great artisans of improvisation. Another problem is because the music is advanced, where can they play? If you are not a proficient grant writer, your chances of winning a grant are null and the gigs you want to create never happen.

If you are a well-known player there are only a few places in New York City where you can perform. But how many in New York are known players? Being a ‘star’ doesn’t necessarily make you a great musician, some are not very good, but a ‘star’ is well- known and can draw an audience. That’s why they make the big bucks and because they ask for big salaries, the clubs are asking for a lot of money from the public to see one set.

You try to get an agent or manager and even though they recognize your artistry and like your music, you have to ‘make it’ before they will handle you. It is a never-ending cycle.

There are only a few super-stars in improvised music. But the highest paid star is probably Cecil Taylor. Most people, except for the so-called ‘in crowd’ know who he is but very few, except for some musicians, understand his music. He is well paid and greatly appreciated overseas more than here in the States.

During the sixties and throughout the country, began the end of jazz as a popular music except for Fusion, a combination of Jazz and Rock. Some jazz musicians hated this music and I personally think it was created to try and bring in young people. Miles Davis was the leader of the pack with his recording of “Bitches Brew”. Miles was forever changing and if the young supported Rock ‘n’ Roll, why not have them support Fusion too? It certainly made Chic Corea, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Keith Jarrett and more major stars. But Rock ‘n’ Roll had taken over the airwaves, and Fusion didn’t last very long. It is still around, and in the last twenty years, jazz has wears many hats: Swing, Be-bop, Modern, Post Be-bop, West Coast Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Fusion, Latin Jazz, Smooth-Jazz, Third Stream, Free-Jazz, Improvised Music etc. In the late sixties, early seventies, Free Jazz musicians in New York City reverted to playing in lofts. People would come in and pay a few dollars, sit on pillows, couches or on the floor, and listen to free jazz, which was considered angry and far out.

After a while as the decline of jazz continued, and the rise of rock, disco, & pop music kept growing, the loft scene slowly disappeared. Many of the loft players went to Europe to work and live where Jazz was and has always been looked on as the highest form of art and was honored and respected there.

In the mid-eighties with the emergence of Wynton Marsalis, jazz began to slowly re-emerge and become popular again. Because of Wynton and many like him the public began to be more enlightened and appreciative of jazz. There also started what I call a separatism that has become very divisive and has worked against the jazz community.

Coming up as a young jazz player, I watched black and white musicians working together. There was camaraderie among them. If you played jazz and were really good, you were accepted, no matter what color you were. I played along side some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world and it didn’t matter what my color was, but in the last twenty years that has changed. Instead of working together to keep a unity between jazz musicians, there has become a divide that has hurt the jazz community. There’s a segment of musician out there who tells us what jazz is and ‘should be’ and that it shouldn’t be called jazz anymore. The word jazz brings with it tones of racism and bigotry. Many of the jazz giants such as Max Roach, Duke Ellington, Monk and many more hated the word ‘jazz’, but despite their efforts to change it, the name stayed the same. It seem every 20-30 years the same issue comes to the forefront. Now they claim they want the name changed to BAM in hopes the new name would reign in a missing black audience.

I firmly believe you're not going to bring back Black audiences to Jazz by changing its'name to BAM or whatever you want to call it. I think the best way is education. Since Jazz is and has been American Classical Music for over seventy years, it needs to be part of the curriculum in grade schools, even pre-schools. All of us should be working towards this goal. There are many teaching artist working in the public school systems throughout the USA. We need to encourage them to teach and use Jazz as part of their program. We need to get school boards and legislators to encourage teachers to teach about jazz in their music appreciation programs and if there aren't any music appreciation programs, start them. Don't wait for Black Appreciation Month to let kids know who Duke Ellington was. One week and one name out of one month a year doesn't cut it.

I was a teaching artist in the NYC public schools from 1995-2001. I taught Literacy through song writing. I started with the Blues and moved on till I got to Jazz. The kids not only learned to appreciate and enjoy the music, some of them actually learned to scat sing.

What is confusing is, if you hate the word so much, then don’t accept teaching positions in College Jazz programs or perform in Jazz Concerts or Jazz Clubs. If it is expected that clubs like The Blue Note Jazz Club will change to The Blue Note BAM Club or the Sedona Jazz Festival will change its’ name to The Sedona BAM Festival-it will never happen. Clubs and Jazz Festivals throughout the World have spent tons of money promoting and paying artists to perform Jazz, after all these years it won’t change.

As jazz emerged again, along came the old and new improvisers. But there was no place to play except the Knitting Factory, and a few other places, which were door gigs (same as pass the hat except patrons paid at the door). Eventually more performance spaces emerged. Along with the performance spaces came the bar gigs which were also door gigs. The prices at some of these door gigs were dictated by the cubs and sometimes by the musicians. Some places called them donations. If you wanted to perform, these were the conditions you had to deal with. The problem is, you must provide the audience or you will not make any money. That means before you play, you have to promote the gig. Promoting the gig will cost you money. If you intend to treat your musicians with some dignity, you pay them out of your own pocket and you keep whatever is made at the door. Ninety-eight percent of the time you will loose money especially if the venue wants a guarantee. That means they get a cut, whether there is money to be made or not. You also shouldn’t book a gig three nights in a row at different venues or even one per week. You want as many people to come to your gig so it is best to have one gig. You can’t expect your friends, family and fans to show up three times in a week. You’re lucky if they come once a month.

With the advance of technology and recording equipment, many musicians whom a Major Record Company couldn’t sign or Independent Label began to self-produce. Putting out one CD a year, which was and still is, very expensive. But they could recoup their expenses at gigs. Many musicians take door gigs because they can sell their CD’s - but with the dawning of digital downloads, very few people buy CDs. If you do or don’t have an audience, and can’t sell CDs, what’s the point?

Most radio stations and reviewers require CDs. They haven’t kept up with the technology that is now available. I understand that change is hard, but it must be dealt with in order to help artists. If you, as and independent artist, only put out digital downloads, you are still required to send them CD’s with art work, liner notes in other words the whole package in order to get radio play and reviews. So it will cost you some money and the chance of recouping your investment is not good. All and all, these are impossible situations. Some magazines (even though they won’t admit it) will not review your CD, unless you advertise with them. Radio station directors decide whom they will give radio play to. To be fair radio stations and jazz journalists are overwhelmed with music and it is impossible to give everyone a chance, but review and play the same people over and over again doesn’t seem fair. In essence your career may be in their hands. If you are part of the new improvisers scene, your music will only be played on college radio stations. At least the college music directors are opened minded to new music and some of them accept digital downloads, which isn’t the case for the commercial jazz stations.

A few months ago at a performance venue in New York City, an argument over money ensued between the leader of the group and one of the managers. It became violent and the manager punched the musician in the eye. The musician wore glasses. He ended up in the hospital getting stitches and is lucky he is not blind. Word spread throughout the musical community and many musicians have banned that venue. This was beyond unforgivable. This is no way to treat artists and musicians. Needless to say no one I know has worked there again.

What has happened to us, that our need has outmoded our dignity? It’s time to stop playing door gigs and passing the hat. Stop playing for nothing and stop playing. You may say if we stop, someone will come along and play anyway. They won’t play if there are hordes of musicians outside of these gigs carrying signs that say Pay or We Don’t Play. Ask the customers going into the bar/restaurant if they would work for nothing. It may be considered harassment, but something has to be done! If this happens at every venue in New York and Brooklyn and then spread throughout the USA and Europe, it just might make a difference. If we can’t get that grant that will pay us, then go find another way or don’t play. Somehow we have to get back the respect that we as artists have lost. You wouldn’t call and electrician or plumber to fix something for you for no pay and if you did, would they show up? They have a service that requires pay. We as musicians have a service that requires pay too!

“But I play for the love of it”
Well play for the love of it at home if need be and let the musicians who need the money get paid.

I know we say to ourselves, what about all the hours of studying and practicing I’ve done, or the two hundred thousand dollar education I got, isn’t it worth something? Yes it is, so why play for nothing? Some musicians want the reputation, but that rep won’t put food on the table. Remember the venue you are playing in is making money, but you’re not and the only reason they are making money is because of you.

In our neediness to play and perform, we have lost sight of who and what we are and most of all we have lost our self-worth. Throughout the world, and especially in the USA, greed has been the dominant force adding to the decline of civilization. In this weakened economy the rents for all these venues are high and getting higher all the time. In order to sustain, the clubs and performance venues must charge more, but charging more does not mean ‘don’t pay the musicians’. As the prices go up, the amount of work goes down.

You can blame Wall Street, Politicians, anyone you like, but the truth is we have to blame ourselves. It is unbelievable to me that clubs and venues throughout the city and Brooklyn, not only don’t pay their musicians, but they are booked seven nights a week with non paying performances and because musicians are clamoring to play (I would say work, but playing for no pay is charity), these venues are booked six months in advance, There is something definitely wrong with this equation.

Until we regain our self-worth, nothing will change and nothing will change till we change!