Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 73: Glenn Gould "Glenn Gould at the Movies" & Jan Garbarek "Visible World"

Sliding through the crate it's two CDs that I thought would be a good idea to have but wasn't anxious to listen to immediately, or ever since they were never opened. Also, today we get to the 100th Amazon player widget. For those with adblock, it's a little player box above each post that allows you to listen to samples of the disc I'm listening to if it happens to be available for download at Amazon. So far, 100 of them have been.

Glenn Gould
Glenn Gould at the Movies

I was trying to think about what I'd say about Glenn Gould because classical CDs have proven to be a little on the difficult side for me to create content about and I realize something, I'm more interested in Glenn Gould as a character, or element, than I am as a performer.

There's that Cuban cigar element to his playing. That kind of thing where you think, "How much better can it really be?" until you actually hear it. Well, alright, that's pretty amazing in a world of just amazing piano players...big deal, right?

Except for what that means. I tend to think of Charlie Parker in the same way and have even used him in the Albatross that way. That monumental performer that sort of owns an instrument or a style in a way that sort of becomes unrepeatable. There have been great saxophonists since Bird, there have been great guitarists since Hendrix, and there have been great piano players since Gould. But they don't get 'the' spot. A transformational piano performer now will be the 'greatest since Gould...'

There is a novel I keep wanting to read (but c'mon, it's seriously a 200 page paragraph...) about the two piano players that show up to study with Horowitz at the same time as Gould and what that does to them. That's the kind of thing that fascinates me about Gould. Not so much the legendary status or what it was like to 'be Gould,' that kind of thing doesn't interest me. What interests me is what it's like to live in the immediate world someone like that creates, how does that change you're view of self if you're an amazing piano player in the same time and place as the amazing piano player?

This is stuff he either selected or recorded especially for films, or was used in films after his death.  The first half is a bunch of harpsichord pieces played on a piano, which always feels wrong to me, but there's nothing really behind that.

On the last track he goes with 'original instrument' by playing the Art of the Fugue on an organ.

Jan Garbarek
Visible Worlds

 So there was this CD I got as a promo, it was one of those rare 'classical sensations,' not as big as Chant, but did well. And this time, it was something I actually liked quite a bit. The vocal group the Hillard Ensemble recorded some motets and Norwegian saxophonist Jan Gabarek improvised over them. It actually sounded pretty cool, I loved it. I played the hell out of it at the store and even managed to lose it a few times as a personal copy and had to replace it more than once. In fact, I'm pretty sure I no longer have it, but here's hoping because on Amazon it ranges from fifty to seventy bucks, apparently.

I even attended a concert performance of that in the Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill seated right behind some important Norwegian, I don't remember now if it was a politician or a member of the royal family. All I can really remember is thinking it would be really funny to lean forward and ask if he knew of my mom's family. It was a good night for impulse control.

The success of that CD meant that there were suddenly going to be a lot more Jan Garbarek CDs. Awesome, I thought. Sucker. For the most part, Garbarek produces some pretty mild smooth jazz, though still manages to have long open solos instead of repetitive riffing, but that's what he plays. Which I guess goes to why they selected him of all people to perform with the Hillard Ensemble, but I was hoping for more experimental stuff. I mean, he is a European jazz artist, most of the European jazz artists I had run into were mostly pretty caustic free jazz artists.

Not Jan, he's mellow. And I have multiple CDs by this guy. As far as I know they're all like this.

There is no liner notes to explain the theme of this album, just this rather intense photo of Mr. Garbarek. He kind of looks like he's about to perform a feat of mentalism with his sax rather than play it.

I sound like I'm hating on him for not living up to my completely made up expectations of him and my own bias' against smooth jazz. And I guess I am, if I was fairer I'd not that he really isn't that 'smooth' with his smooth jazz, this stuff is just out there enough to avoid being played on the Quiet Storm.

I wasn't prepared for the last song to have lyrics. Of course, I have no idea what she's saying.

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