Dhafer Youssef again…

…because I just can’t seem to get enough of this guy.

Les Ondes Orientales‘:

Wow!

And check out this ensemble with that Norwegian guitarist, a beautifully brassy clarinet (to which there must be some sort of story), and a hammered dulcimer looking (but not played that way) zither instrument called a qanun, that I’ve not heard of before.

What a wonderful show this must have been.

Note to self:  do not pass up a chance to see this guy.

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Bach, ‘Ciaccona’, on Yepes-pattern guitar.

Oh, hell yeah.  This right here.

It is only partial praise to say that I dig Moran Wasser’s arrangement here;  the source material is such a solid masterpiece that any arranger would seem to have nearly unlimited freedom to stretch out and experiment without breaking anything.  Nonetheless, a convincing job adapting the extended pitches;  absolutely lovely tone;  and well played.  Bookmarked!

My first real exposure to J.S. Bach’s Partita for Violin #2 (aka simply Ciaccona, Chaconne, etc.) was Bert Lams’ wonderful arrangement for the California Guitar Trio, and in many ways I still prefer much of Bert’s phrasing and accents to anything else I’ve since heard.

What’s interesting to my ears, here, is that the CGT‘s timbres, produced by flatpicking steel strings on the “plasticy, plinky” Ovation guitars with which they began their adventure back in 1991, certainly contrast dramatically with Wasser’s Yepes-pattern extended range classical guitar, played fingerstyle.  The contrast deepens as well when you consider that the tonal range of the CGT’s six-string Guitar Craft-tuned guitars (C2 to G4, open) is actually greater than the tonal range of the usual Yepes tuning (D2 to E4), spread out over its ten strings–although I can see the eleventh, harp-style string on Wasser’s instrument here, and haven’t tried to figure out exactly what he may have done with that or even the rest of his tuning–so who knows?  Vive la différence, right?  What a wonderful world that we have both editions to admire.

And hell, the piece was originally written for solo violin, after all, and while expanded-range orchestrations are wonderful and lovely, you don’t exactly…lose much, staying within the original pitch range, which bottoms out at G3.  I’ve expounded before on this marvelous and maddening clip of Mike Marshall, informally playing the piece on mandolin (which is tuned identically to violin):

Simply lovely–even in the bootleg-informal setting, with the maddening gap (sigh).

And, just to round things out, why not include a clip of Rachel Podger, playing the piece on a baroque violin, in an attempt to get as close as possible to what Johannes Brahms might have heard, when he was inspired to say of Bach’s composition:

On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.

That would have been a heckuva calling card for Bach, had he been alive to use it.

So, do you get the feeling that somehow I like this piece?

(I know, that’s some low-hanging fruit. right there.  Guilty as charged.)

 

UPDATE:  By further happy accident I also ran across this wonderful performance, with excellent visuals of the player’s hands.

I must can haz bookmark.  🙂

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal.

As part of my ongoing delight at the new Toumani Diabaté station on Pandora, I have found myself specifically captivated by the duets of kora maestro Ballaké Sissoko and cellist Vincent Ségal.  For the dedicated lover of mutt music, there is so much to like here.  The textures of these two instruments are just lovely together;  between Ségal’s fluid transitions between arco and pizzicato playing, and Sissoko’s masterful muting and control of attack (on what is inherently a sharp-attack instrument), it is easy to forget it’s just two guys playing.  Stylistically, too, one can hear so many influences, even as it sounds completely unique and original (to my ears anyway).

The audio alone is more than worth the listen, but once again, YouTube does provide the ability to watch them play–and…wowzers!  Check out this “Tiny Desk Concert” from NPR:

So awesome to get to see things so “mundane” as Sissoko expertly tuning his old-school instrument…the direct and indirect interplay between the two players and the two personalities…and a closeup of Ségal’s ability to get flute-like timbres out of his cello (!)…

Watching, too–the non-visual interplay between the two–makes me really wonder how much of this may be improvised.  Clearly there are some places where it must be at least partially written (some lovely rapid unison lines) but I would not be surprised at all if some of it is improvised.  (Will have to see more to have a better guess…oh darn.)

Oh, and the tune that prompted the post in the first place?  That one is called “Balazando”.  This is how it sounds on the record, and this is what it looks like when we get to watch:

Daang.

What a marvelous duo.  More of that will always be okay with me!

Now I’m juiced again.  🙂

Rob Brown on Vinnie Colaiuta.

I don’t even recall exactly how I first came across this clip of YouTuber Rob Brown discussing what might be called a “Vinnie moment”, but it deserves a bookmark here–both for the obvious agoggery, and also for Brown’s delivery, which is truly giggle-worthy.

For those who aren’t familiar with the name, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is generally regarded as so far advanced as to be nearly an alien intelligence on the kit.  Even Zappa’s other drummers talk about him in a way that’s not unlike hearing guitarists talk about Allan Holdsworth.  To wit:  there’s good, there’s great, there’s amazing, and then there’s Vinnie.

So it’s not surprising, perhaps, that this Rob Brown might periodically look for whatever Vinnie is doing lately, to analyze and bring to his audience.  Apparently he struck a rather thick vein of gold:

So, I’m watching him do his thing, and then, all of a sudden, in the middle of this song…there’s a two-bar break, for a drum fill…

…he pulls this fill…right out of thin air.

and we cut to Vinnie, who plays something that at first glance might just seem like a smooth roll which nonetheless ends with a nice resolving flam.

Cut back to Rob, who hilariously shakes his head and goes all verklemptthis is what cements the need for a bookmark for the video as a whole.

I saw this drum fill, and I absolutely lost it.

The dude, with the calmness of somebody just sipping a coffee and reading the paper on the beach, just decides to announce that he’s Batman.

He then breaks down the fill for the aspiring drummer, and it quickly becomes apparent that this was no random drum roll.  Not hardly!  Inside two bars of 4/4, Colaiuta fits three groups of five sixteenth-note triplets, orchestrated as a first group of five that repeats itself, and then a concluding group that exits with a whole beat left over for separation.

Sounds like Vinnie.  While it’s not that nobody else could play this kind of fill, what makes him so special is that he really does just come up with things like this on the spot, all the time–fully orchestrated, thought out, appropriate to the music, and delivered with a precision and calmness that belies all The Awesome that’s really going on while you’re not looking.

Anyway, bookmarked.  Both the Rob Brown breakdown:

…and also the source material, which is indeed interesting on its own!

 

All the gain.

I’ve lately been enjoying the YouTube channel of “Scottish guitarist and luthier” Colin Scott, who seems to have a unique take and respectable presentation style about a number of both connected and disconnected subjects of interest.

And I keep coming back to this clip, because it keeps on making me giggle.

There is a followup, in which he actually does a demonstration that makes the point rather well.

“All the gain”.  The instructor in me just loves how powerful and memorable that imagery is.  Not likely to forget that point now!

Lots of other good stuff there, too.  I thought I’d leave a bookmark here for my own reference.  🙂

Toumani Diabaté.

Recently at a friend’s house for dinner, the background processing part of my mind quickly picked up on the background music station that was playing on Pandora.  The general aesthetic was often beautiful, and on several pieces I picked up a sound that was clearly not a guitar, not a harp, not a hammered dulcimer–and yet reminiscent of all of these things.

The sound was mesmerising.  It bore insistently into the part of my hindbrain where I live, and I kept trying to figure it out.

Oud?  No.  I’ve never heard an oud played like that;  I’m not sure it would be physically possible for a single player to do it, even if highly skilled in harp-style playing technique.  It didn’t sound like an instrument that is played lute-style on a fingerboard, but the string sound was clearly in that category nonetheless.

Koto?  The string sound was close, but it just didn’t seem right.  Koto was my initial guess, but again I’ve never heard koto played like that, and koto players almost always employ at least some of the string-bending articulation that goes with the traditional styles.  Whatever this was didn’t seem to employ any of that.  No, it was something else, and I simply could not figure it out.

So, in the interests of not wanting to be unsociable in this nagging quest to test myself (I love my friends), I just asked.  And that is how I became introduced to the Malian kora, and to Toumani Diabaté.

Holy virtuoso, Batman.  How crazy is it that I have gone this long without hearing this man’s work?  It’s not like I’m alien to west African music–but then again most of my interest has been in the magnificent drum rhythms, not the melodies.

Very well then.  I’ll consider myself both humbled and delighted for the discovery, however late.  (Things like this make me wonder:  what other loveliness might I stumble over tomorrow?  And that makes me smile.)  Needless to say, I’ve now got a Pandora station seeded on Toumani Diabaté, and thus far I am extremely impressed both at the general aesthetic of where Pandora has led me therefrom, and also at Diabaté himself, who appears to be both technical wizard and master of feel. Check this out as just one example:

Even among all the other obvious awesomeness, his muting really stands out, to my ears.  Wow.  And for an even clearer view of the playing style, watch him here with his father Sidiki:

So…insistently…lovely.

Had to dish a bit here, and lay the bookmarks.  Yes, add all this to the short list please!