Category Reading…

Jazz in the Hollywood Machine: ‘Whiplash’, Insider Anxiety, and Riffing Violence

So the other day I finally watched Whiplash, in part because of the attention the film garnered on the Oscars. And I didn’t hate it. I mean, as a jazz musician, educator, and an empathetic person, there’s a lot to dislike and revile about the plot and particularly about the lightning rod bandleader Terence Fletcher, the […]

Methodological Potentiality and the Untranslatable: Sounding Difference in the Translating Riff. A Response to Helga Zambrano

Thanks to my colleagues at Ethnomusicology Review for inviting me to submit a response to a recent article on the Cuban poet Nicolas Guillén and Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. My article is posted here, but I’m including the text below as well. In her article, “Reimagining the Poetic and Musical Translation of ‘Sensemayá,’” Helga Zambrano presents […]

A belated happy 1st birthday to TRoS & the best 2013 jazz albums I (haven’t yet) heard

Such is the life of full-time professor who blogs part-time: lesson plans, class prep, and grading always come before new posts (the numerous half-drafted entries notwithstanding). I have been so immersed in grant applications, freelance academic writing, but most especially my majors-level jazz theory & improv course that I even forgot to mark the one-year […]

Considering the Approach before the Aesthetics: Vijay Iyer’s Research and Writings on Jazz

As a recently announced recipient of both the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant” and a professorship at Harvard University, pianist Vijay Iyer is commanding a level of public attention seldom witnessed among those in the jazz world. The attention has drawn praise and ire, with opinions ranging from extolling his virtues to questioning not just his […]

Enunciating Power and Ex…Plosive Time: Cécile McLorin Salvant’s “Woman Child” and Silence Undone

Of all the countless, captivating moments I have heard and re-heard in WomanChild, there are two that struck me right away—on my first listen to the album—and that continue to surprise me each time I hear them. I haven’t been able to let these moments go—not for the three months prior to the album release […]

Book review…Jean-Michel Pilc, “It’s About Music: The Art and Heart of Improvisation” (Glen Lyon Books, 2012)

An intimate look into the philosophies of pianist and educator Jean-Michel Pilc, It’s About Music provides a potent and widely applicable model for artistic growth through fostering essential musicianship and the individual creativity of the student of improvised music. Pilc’s inspired pedagogy leads through clarity of thought and the power of suggestion rather than heavy-handed […]

Inspired Intuition and Dissociative Play: The Improvising World of Jean-Michel Pilc

One of my old piano teachers used to tell me, “Play the note all the way to the bottom of the key.” His advice was less about volume than about intent: he was cautioning me against the timid play of young improvisers. In that moment, I might know generally what I hoped to accomplish, but […]