Saturday, 31 December 2011

Best of list ... for me.

It's fun to see all the best of lists appearing. I sent mine off to the Free Jazz Blog today which as usual Stef asks us to do and which is fun, you have to think through what albums you've reviewed and enjoyed most this past year. Of course it doesn't represent reality at all as you can only say what you've listened to and naturally that isn't the best of anything. However, what's great is that you get to look at lists of albums and take note of those that look interesting. I'll certainly be trying to get hold of quite a few interesting things I've noticed on other peoples lists and you'll notice below a short list of 'I should get hold of this one' which might be just as enlightening.

What I heard and liked (a lot) in 2011.

- The Engines - Brass and Wire
- Peter Evans Quintet - Ghosts
- Twelves - The Adding Machine
- Red Trio + John Butcher
- Nate Wooley - Trumpet/Amplifier
- Peter Evans - Beyond Civilized and Primitive
- Russ Lossing Trio - Oracle
- Noel Taylor & Alberto Popolla - We All Fall Down
- Motif - Facienda
- Jeff Davis - We Sleep Outside
- Peter Evans and Nate Wooley - High Society 
- Fond of Tigers - Continent and Western (didn't arrive at my place until 2011)
- Pikapika Teart - Moonberry (an excellent prog-rock band from Siberia)
- Mark Hanslip and Javier Carmona - Dosados
- Examples of Twelves - Things Will Be
- Ochion Jewell - First Suite For Quartet
- Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny - Lollipopocalypse 

What I noticed on lists that looked real interesting (take note to get hold of).

- Foton Quartet - Zomo Hall
- Hera - Where My Complete Beloved Is.
- Chris Dingman - Walking Dreams
- Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms
- Scoolptures - White Sickness
- Hopscotch - Hopscotch

There's certainly plenty of stuff out there that I didn't mention or just missed off the list. It's interesting to see how commercial the year has been on other fronts and I must say that much music that I've heard this year is leaning towards the pop vein. The development of the prog-rock, post-rock market is sounding more and more like U2's Joshua Tree album but without vocals and so gone are te days of real melodic (or experimental) exploration as King Crimson or Soft Machine and C°. One look at the BBC's round up of the year shows how depressing things have become when taking into account the X-Factor craze, convincing people that they have some sort of talent rather than understanding they are pale imitations of stars they admire.

Much of the market is geared towards these stars and lists such as Free Jazz Blog (for the full list click here) show there is still a strong following of real exploratory music. Unfortunately I don't know of any blogs (please tell me in the comments section) who are more dedicated towards electro acoustic music and reactions towards this area of the music world. I myself get the chance to see in Brussels the electro acoustic music festivals run by Musique et Recherche and so in recent festivals I've had the chance to discover many interesting composers working in this area. My favourite discoveries - in 2011 - were Suk-Jun Kim, Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay and Monty Adkins, all of whom worked in different areas, musically speaking. Suk-Jun Kim has won many awards for his compositions some of which I heard at the festival, and his work is full of humour whilst fairly abstract. Interestingly enough PA Tremblay and Monty Adkins (both based in the UK) seemed to work in a way that was far more 'musical', so making their work extremely accessible to the average listener- if they ever get a chance to listen.

Anyhow, I will be interested to see what happens in 2012, crisis and all, as often music produced in politically difficult climates can often bring great results. I'll also be keeping an ear open on the Polish Jazz front as this seems to be an area where music is fast developing, but where the general public is still ill informed. Happy listening in 2012.

Friday, 23 December 2011

New news from the OPen Source

As usual it's always great to post an update on work, and in this case one of my favourite projects OPen Source. We had a few concerts throughout this last year (2011) which were very successful. Unfortunately with music such as this finding concerts is not so easy .... bad luck really as the music is such fun to play and actually far more challenging than playing a jazz standard (and believe me i do a lot of that).
 We've been talking about putting together a recording for some time now, but as always there's always not enough time or whatever. The other problem we have is not having a permanent drummer. Our first drummer Antonio Pisano had to head back to Sardinia for a change of lifestyle which he hadn't foreseen. I liked his playing very much as he often approached the music from a very interesting 'rhythmic' area. He also had the possibility to play percussively, or with swing, in fact an all round great drummer. Since then we have been working with the great Joao Lobo who also happens to live in Belgium and so happens to work often with our bass player Hugo Antunez. However, after a long pause we started working again and recorded a new session. Here it is (or at least the first part) with drummer Jakob Warmenbols doing a great job on the drums.

Here's '1st Part' which if I remember correctly is about 17 minutes.

  1st part - December session

I'm waiting for Augusto (Pirodda) our pianist to send me the final parts - not sure how many there are - so I hope to post these up before the end of the year. If you have 17 minutes to spare sit down and enjoy the OPen Source session from early December 2011. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Peter Evans - Beyond Civilized and Primitive

It seems the solo trumpet is coming back into it's own. In the past year I've reviewed two new releases (and this is the third) containing solo trumpet music. Granted one was a trumpet duo, and both records had the same musicians on them. The first record (an LP) this year was from Nate Wooley, a great rethink of the trumpet as a sound source. The second was the duo from Nate Wooley and Peter Evans called High Society, an equally interesting take on how two trumpets can make a coherent (and interesting) trumpet record, yet never fall back on the trumpet as we imagine it. And so here we are again with a solo trumpet record, this time from Peter Evans. In a way these three albums could almost make a 'triptych' when considering the two trumpeters (*) three albums between them.

Anyhow, what about the record :

The LP (the product) -
Normally you wouldn't discuss album covers in a review but in this case it seems an important part of the 'whole', a beautifully produced LP from Dancing Wayang records. In this day and age where in general we get cheaply produced CDs with nothing in/on them, it's a pleasure to buy records that are filled with first-class music, but are also works of art in themselves. The LP is beautifully packaged, if only simply, with (see above) a wonderful screen printed cover which folds out. There's a lovely inlay card which  has the details of the music on it, printed on high quality card (like a wedding invitation) with close attention given to layout, fonts, and all the rest. To add to that the first 100 LPs (**) get a free mini CD with various out-takes or more likely extra material.

The LP (the music) -
On the earlier - solo/duo - records mentioned, the emphasis seems to have been on the trumpet but not as a trumpet. On this release the trumpet is recognisable as 'itself'. However, you don't get any Dizzy Gillespie licks or Lee Konitz solo type improvisations, the music is probably very much influenced by the works European sax improvisers such as John Butcher or Evan Parker, I'm sure one could site such trumpet masters Leo Smith and Bakida Carroll as people who have also worked in the solo area producing very interesting and influential works like this one. One thing that connects us to the Euro sax tradition is Evans use of the circular breathing technique in a way that enables him to produces hypnotic lines - such as Evan Parker - that can continue ad infinitum. Of course, that's not the whole record, Peter Evans has produced a well balanced program of 6 pieces (three per side) using a multitude of techniques and ideas. The titles are all taken from Ran Prieur's 'Beyond Civilized and Primitive' and read like titles from a Charles Mingus album. In what way Evans (and the music) connect with Prieur's ideology is unknown but the titles conjure up images questioning what we perceive as conventional.

The first track 'complexity, change, stability, giving, freedom, and both the past and the future' is (in fact) a very simple and peaceful statement which develops into longer lines. Evans use of re-shaped sound makes one think of a trumpet played backwards, a technique he's used on other records (albums). On 'History is Broken' (Tk 2) the trumpet may be used as we expect but Peter Evans use of circular breathing makes this piece into a hypnotic soundscape that is punctuated by the sound of air being drawn in as the phrase/line grows blurred as it becomes frantic. Once the (long) line  -  a sort of contemporary flight of the bumble bee - is started (there are no breaks) one wonders how it will end, an abrupt pause only ends up heightening the tension as draws to it's conclusion. 'What is possible?' the last piece on side one returns to a relaxed and meditative state, using over dubbing to produce a large organ like chord drone bringing us back to the first idea (Tk 1) of melody and re-shaped sound.  Side two brings new elements to the table and works mostly with re-shaping the sound of the trumpet. The long titled : 'We like hot baths and sailing ships ......... we get eaten by roving gangs.' (there are 59 words all in all) being an experiment in multi tracking and re-shaped sound whilst the second track develops what is considered as trumpet playing by using anything but notes. The last piece of this excellent release 'our nature is not a location' reminds us of the peaceful simplicity of a solo trumpet, yet as anyone who knows Evans playing will know purity, projection and extremes are never far as we a caught out at the closing notes.         

The Mini-CD (if you bought one of the first 100 records) -
4 tracks make up this mini CD. Although it may be unintentional, it seems the mini-CD has a more abstract direction. The music on here takes (to my mind) a different direction to the accompanying LP, and in a way it's a perfect compliment, giving us a different style of music which is constantly probing and fascinating. 

Photo triptych of Peter Evans taken and created by C. Neil Scott.

Anyone who is curious to see how the trumpet and contemporary improvisation is developing will be more than satisfied by this release. I will certainly be following other releases on this label to see what other goodies they bring out next.
* = Is that 'trumpeters' or 'trumpetists'?
** = Limited edition of 500 ..... buy now or regret, it seems they sell out of most of their pressings!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

24 hours - Mingus on Mingus

Last 24 hours!! "Mingus on Mingus" can be real because of you.
Thanks to all the support we are receiving. We still need to make the last sprint.
Help us by pledging to the project and spreading the word to everyone around you.
Let's get on the Big Screen!

This is the link:

All my best,
Valeria Rios

Thursday, 15 December 2011

3 days to go - Mingus on Mingus

Here's the latest mail from Kevin Mingus. As you can see they nearly have the money to make the Mingus documentary to become a reality. Spread the word, who knows maybe you know someone who can help? 

I know Valeria has been the one to be in touch with you all while her
and I worked side by side this month. I wanted to let you know how
moved I am by your openness to support this project.  I could not
think of a more fitting context under which to present Mingus on
Mingus than that of the dedication, love and drive you have for this

Your posts have connected us to a community which is now in support of
the project.

We have 3 DAYS LEFT and I graciously ask you for one last push. We
need you to reach out once more to let folks know we are in THE FINAL
PUSH! Please let your readers know how far we have come, what we have
accomplished together and the bit we need to go.

Thank you very much

Kevin Ellington Mingus


You can also go directly to the Kick Starter site here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Sam Trapchak - Lollipopocalypse

As always some things just drop out of the air as a big surprise, and here Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny - Lollipopocalypse CD is one of those. As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting it's always nice to get new music sent on to you by musicians that enjoy your music articles. Along with Free Jazz Blog (which I also write for), the amount of new musicians and styles that I get to hear is quite astounding, free jazz, grunge jazz, books and all sorts. Of course the time taken to listen to and write about these little treats can sometimes take up much of your spare hours, and of course sometimes the music is not always so interesting .... but I must say that so far I've been lucky on that count.

The album in question ..... Lollipopocalypse is one hell of an album, introducing me to new players and also to a new writing talent (and naturally strong compositions). In fact it was this aspect that jumped out at me when I started to listen to the album. Something that often takes a while to 'get into', or get used to, was quite immediate on this record. Sam's tunes are instantly attractive but also have a complexity that makes the music very interesting. One can't help but notice Dave Holland's  influence (or style) over the tunes, different rhythmic figures and time signatures combined with contrapuntal melodies, and also the groups sound concept. However, the playing of the musicians is certainly not a pale imitation at all but a very mature sounding band with their own voices.

 Long Live/Less Say (tk3)

The guitar work of Tom Chang and the outstanding Greg Ward (on alto sax) make the album a real pleasure to listen to with strong solos throughout. I particularly enjoyed Greg Ward's sound which conjures up the history of the saxophone, on 'Losing You' (tk5) he plays with a maturity that brings to mind Johnny Hodges' vibrato, slurring, and sound concept in general, however, on the other tunes Ward's sound (and concept) is very modern. The tunes 'Long Live/Less Say' (tk3) or the opening 'Different Dance' (tk1) have lurching odd meter melodies and grooves which provide exciting rhythmic territory for Greg Ward to really shine on. Tom Chang's guitar playing on these tracks provides an image of a completely mature player. 'On the Cusp of Cancer' (tk2) is probably the only 'rocking' tune on the album and here Chang opts for an out and out raunchy style which suits the music very well. Other treats are 'Tongue and Groove' (tk4) a simple melody filled with rhythmic surprises, the lovely ballad (already mentioned) 'Losing You' (tk5) , the surprise ending of the title tune 'Lollipopocalypse' (tk7), or 'Precious Few'  (tk6) a brooding tune with  one of the few bass solos nicely featured. In fact the quite presence of the leader Sam Trapchak sometimes makes you forget whose date this is until Sam finally takes a solo! The rhythm section of bass and drums with drummer Arthur Vint keeps this music swinging and relaxed on (often odd meter) tunes that are never showy, just tasteful.  

Sam Trapchak fits nicely into the 'CDs that drop out of nowhere' category, as new CDs (or LPs) mean new names to discover. On Sam's CD the only name that seemed familiar was that of Greg Ward (alto sax), the other musicians Sam (on acoustic bass), Tom Chang (guitar) and Arthur Vint (drums) didn't ring any bells - adding to the albums discovery value! Greg Ward, already a name on the jazz streets in the US, certainly helps this record to be a successful project. His cutting alto sax with a sound that moves between Johnny Hodges and Steve Coleman is quite infectious. Having said that the other musicians on this album all come through with the goods needed for this music and a very high quality at that. Certainly an album that I would recommend to anyone interested in mainstream modern jazz who likes their jazz music served up with melody, swing and a modern edge that makes the music contemporary.


Footnote : To save any confusion ...... the group is called (if I understand correctly) 'Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny'. The album's title is 'Lollipopocalypse'. I didn't get any details of the record label but the disc is available via Sam's website or through CD Baby.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

More from Mingus on Mingus.

The documentary team have received many inquiries concerning relationship between Mingus on Mingus and Sue Mingus:
- Is Sue affiliated to the Mingus on Mingus project?
- Why is Sue not supporting the project?
- Why there is no information on the project on the Official Charles Mingus Website and Facebook page?
- Why is Sue not listed as an interviewee?
To that end Kevin Ellington Mingus have written the following Open Letter (see below).

We have 10 days left and we've got some support from you, please, we need to push harder and as you'll notice from the letter we are working quite independently. Now more than ever we need to spread the word to make this project real.
Open Letter


I have never had access to or financial benefit from the Estate of Charles Mingus. Throughout the years, I have made many attempts to forge a connection. All have been rejected.

The love and joy with which Charles has been presented to the world was central in my understanding of him. However, his image and memory have been closely guarded and controlled. One voice cannot define the legacy of a man who touched millions.

Feeling resistance to reach into this side of my heritage led me to discover a better way of understanding my grandfather and my own lineage. This belief is realized in this documentary, collecting different perspectives that all together shape a more complex and genuine figure of Charles Mingus as a man and as an artist.

While the lack of support from the Mingus Estate is disheartening, the warmth and encouragement I receive from Charles’ children and the jazz community is what makes this journey so special. Their faces, voices and all the intangible power of what they share are the greater part of the fabric I am weaving into my story. The story of jazz, Charles and me.

Kevin Ellington Mingus

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mingus on Mingus

Update November 2011

Just a quick post to bring to peoples attention the page dedicated to the new documentary being made  'Mingus on Mingus' (look at the top of this blog - Mingus Film Page), a documentary film being made by Charles Mingus' grandson. The film company will be sending out updates regularly to various blogs/websites so as to keep people up to date, this blog included. If you're interested to know more please follow this link to get more information.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ochion Jewell - First Suite For Quartet

What's most interesting when writing about music is that you don't always get to choose what you listen to. The choices we make about what's on our turntable or in the CD player at any moment are based on what we like, when we like it. However the advantage of listening to music not chosen by oneself has the advantage of discovering new music and sounds. Some music is very difficult to describe and so write about (*), other times the records are easily digestible over and over again. Of course there are a few which somehow never really catch your imagination and so lay in a pile of 'what could I say about this', but you can't like everything even if you except (and I do) the John Cage philosophy that everything is music (**).

Dawn of Midi
 The other nice thing is that you occasionally get updates from musicians who's records you reviewed or mentioned on earlier posts. One post from Dawn of Midi seems to get many visits on my blog, which doesn't surprise me as the groups first album was an excellent (very accessible) free jazz record which deserves to be heard by a wider audience. Two of the musicians in Dawn of Midi, pianist Amino Belyamani and drummer Qasim Naqvi, have been working recently with saxophonist Ochean Jewell and so when Ochion recorded a CD they immediately suggested that he send a copy to Cardboard Music. And that's where you get lucky ... unknown records from unknown musicians.  

Ochion Jewell's - First Suite for Quartet.
Ochion Jewell's CD titled First Suite For Quartet released on David Binney's Mythology label, seems already one step ahead of your 'average' first CD release that I often get to hear. With such a grandiose title I was curious to see if a through composed piece of 48 minutes could hold my attention, and especially for a first album! Many first albums often attempt negotiating tricky chord progressions combined with displays of multiple time signatures and out of control technique, making for awkward and often unsatisfactory listening. Here Ochion Jewell has written music which is immediately spiritual in outlook and very mature in content. The fact that Ochion seems to be working with some of the Dawn of Midi hints that he must be interested in working in a more open area of improvisation. On First Suite For Quartet there's a fine blend of 'improvised' music and structured improvisation on the album, it seems the compositions are open ended enough to allow for each player to express himself. The music is however not 'free jazz', but certainly related to the modern school of 'melodic-free'(***) ... if such a school exists yet (LOL). There's plenty of interesting directions taken within these tunes which keep you guessing, tempo changes, rubato sections, modal ostinato riffs,  romantic melodies that gently unfold, and even some driving post Coltrane(ish) ideas that give the soloist time to blow hot and cold. The musicians work within the suite format letting the tunes unwind at their own pace, giving the music a sort of natural flow that links the sections together organically.

Ochion's arrangement of the material is central to the success of this project. The tunes are played in solo, duo, trio or quartet formats, with much attention given to dynamics, giving the music relief and so maintaining interest throughout. As for individual tunes there seems little need to comment as the music flows from the start with the opening soprano sax/piano duo, through to the closing minutes with a re-harmonised version of 'You are my Sunshine', bringing the album to a close with a (lovely) piano trio! In fact the music is best heard as the suite that it is meant to be, with the tunes being carefully ordered to allow each tune/track to flow effortlessly into the next. Finally, I should add that the playing (from the musicians) on the album is impeccable, played with just the right amount of solo space, in/out playing and no waisted notes.

A Snakeride Through The Fog (Tk 2)

Footnote : I'm not sure that this is Ochion's real first record as the article here seems to say there is another record to be found elsewhere. However if First Suite For Quartet is anything to go by it would be well worthwhile checking out his other work.

The Band : Ochion Jewell - saxophones, Amino Belyamani - piano, Sam Minaie - double bass, Qasim Naqvi - drums.
The Tunes : 1. from dust 2. A Snakeride Through the Fog 3. "...but that there goes the baddest lone-ass wolf I ever did know.." 4. ()zero -1() 5. nectar 6. Atonement 7. You are my Sunshine

Mythology Records MR1012.

(*) = I can think about an amazing Michael Moser record Resonant Cuts that I still haven't plucked up the courage to write about as the music is so difficult to put into words. However it's a real pleasure to listen to!
(**) I suspect that John Cage never heard Star Academy or X-Factor!
(***) What's 'melodic-free'? Well, I suppose what I mean is the more modern area of improvisation which keeps melody as it's central idea, but experiments with rhythm and tonality. Some examples of this range from Keith Jarrett's classic 4tet (with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion) to more modern groups such as Mujician, Dawn of Midi, Clusone Trio, Atomic or Cecil Taylor's earlier work even. I will try to blog about such groups at a later date!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

World Music, where 'are' it's roots? PT 1

World jazz, where did it all begin, if in fact it did really have a starting place. Recently I was listening to an excellent recording of Steve Lacy playing a piece - which I'll talk about later - called Clichés. It made me wonder when (and how) did world/folk influences really become what could be defined as a real jazz form of it's own. Naturally jazz in all truth is a type of folk music that developed away from it's simple roots as folk music and which then quickly mutated into it's own sophisticated art form known as jazz. It would be interesting to know how many of the early musicians played both types of music i.e. performed traditional music and more western influenced popular forms which gradually became known as blues (and the beginning of popular music aka 'jazz'). So in fact jazz is world music and oddly enough it's staring us in the face since the beginning of the 1900s. But what is  interesting and ironic is how gradually musicians have made an effort to include or reintroduce other folklore elements into the music ... but with a more direct approach adding rhythms, scales and modes and even just titles. I wouldn't attempt to cover all the different types of music that has made this symbiosis of styles, in fact you'd need a whole blog or book based on just this one element to discuss and cover all the subject well enough to do everyone justice. Most people - in the present day - think of mundane world fusion of styles such as Urban Trad or River Dance as what world music is and at it's best. However, it's interesting to look back at some of the trends that were present in creating this form of music.

Although there must be earlier examples of world music influences Caravan - written by Juan Tizol in 1937 - could be one of the earliest examples that clearly used folk music as a source, not only in it's rhythms (which developed with every incarnation), but also the use of minor harmony and title all help to conjure up far away places. Be-bop composers soon picked up on names and rhythms (with even more complex harmony) such as Dizzy Gillespie's Night in Tunisia, the experiments with Machito or Mario Bauza known as Cubop. These experiments in fusing Latin rhythms with jazz probably opened musicians eyes to other possibilities. Musicians began using titles with exotic references which conjured up jazz's roots - ex : Appointment in Ghana or Khalil the Prophet - Jackie McLean, Search for the New Land - Lee Morgan or whole albums such as Tijuana Moods - Charlie Mingus  and of course Africa Brass from John Coltrane. These are just a few titles that immediately come to mind, however there are literally dozens of other examples all of which (to greater or lesser degrees) touch on and integrate folk forms into the music.

When talking about world music and the development of folk forms and jazz Yusef Lateef would have a chapter all to himself. Apart from the name change William Huddleston to Yusef Lateef one only has to look at a list of his album titles to notice the world music influence. Titles such as Prayer to the East, Eastern Sounds, and Jazz 'Round the World clearly set an agenda for the music there within. What (to me) is so satisfying in Lateef's music is the deep blues feeling blended with a very individual use of instruments such as the shenai, oboe or argol. It's also interesting to see how Lateef blurs the boundary between blues, jazz and far eastern music often using 'pedals' in a very interesting way (listen to Sister Mamie below). This system imitates the same stylistic method as a blues-man such as Son House, whilst also conjuring up the idea of far eastern (or near eastern) modal music (*). Yusef Lateef also used an oboe which gave the same 'nasal' sound that many double reed instruments from the far and near east produce, but in Lateef's case he would apply these to such tunes as Love theme from Spartacus (on Eastern Sounds) or a blues from Ma Rainey See See Rider (from Live at Pep's). In fact his use of various instruments  gives much of his music a folk influenced sound, but Lateef's main instrument was surely the tenor sax, and he always had a very beautiful sound. He (unlike many today) was also able to control his harmonic knowledge using only what was needed (when needed), but it always contained the essence of the blues.   

Sister Mamie - from Live at Pep's (1965)

However not all musicians tried to conjure up images of early black American history, others such as Bill Smith's Folk Jazz (from 1959) were also acknowledging Americas roots in Europe, and probably one of the first breakaway 'fusion' albums especially when considering it's creation date from 1959. What's most interesting is the repertoire that Bill Smith used. Among a few gospel type titles he also plays an English folk tune, sea-shanties, and a children's melody - Greensleeves, Blow the Man Down, A-Roving and Three Blind Mice (!). However, whereas Yusef Lateef used different atmosphere's and rhythms for his music Bill Smith just kept with the standard 4 or 3 to a bar swing. However, Lateef's concept shows that not only is he interested by the melody, but also the atmosphere and rhythm, creating a real world (jazz) music. Of course Bill Smith wasn't the only one interested in European influences, others were also working along the same lines trying to develop a well rounded American folk fusion.

Jimmy Giuffre is someone who (early on) developed jazz and folk music as a style. What's striking about Giuffre's style is it's debt to Americana as a musical genre (something that guitarist Bill Frisell would continue in the 90s). Unlike Bill Smith, Giuffre didn't use 'traditional' folk tunes but created his own traditional sounding music, quite an interesting idea in itself. His compositions could well be seen in the same light as that of Aaron Copeland, a mixture of romanticism and atonality. Even when Giuffre moved away from his very accessible trios - with Jim Hall and either Bob Brookmeyer or Atlas/Brown/Pena etc - Giuffre maintained an element of European romanticism in his more experimental style as it developed into the 60s and probably explains his  success in Europe whilst America struggled to understand his music at that period. Giuffre's music also contained elements of the blues, although one could argue that they were a more cerebral version. However, Giuffre like John Carter (see below) took his ideas of music much further becoming one of the founding fathers of avante-garde/third stream music.

Jimmy Giuffre Trio - Two Kinds of Blues (1956)

Other visionary musicians working in this same direction were Archie Shepp - The Magic of Juju ('67), Pharaoh Sanders - The Creator has a Master Plan (from the album Karma 1969) and Don Cherry (see below). In fact it seems that the search for African American roots inspired what could be responsible for instigating folk jazz, better known as world music, and it's fun to think that musicians searching for there own roots developed a new form of music, rather than consolidating the original source as they probably hoped. Of course the 60s and 70s were a very colourful and productive period for music and the arts in general. Cross fertilisation of material was the order of the day and everybody was trying to 'get back to their roots' in some form. Black American soul music, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, hippies, folk clubs and coffee bars, new movements in dance and painting all helped move the arts world in new directions and especially that of integrating ethnic influences into everyday culture.  

Whereas before musicians added simplistic stylistic elements to give their music  a ethnic feel  as the 70s approached artists started to take folk music and their own roots more seriously in academic terms. Musicians such as John Carter have been overlooked when discussing serious musical fusions of styles. His interesting 5 part series of records (no longer available) which combined the history of black Americans through music is completely unique. One could argue that  Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music - Dauwhe, Castles of Ghana, Dance of the Love Ghosts, Fields, Shadows on the Wall - is true world music even though not easily accessible in modern terms of what most people expect from 'folk fusion'. Unfortunately due to his early death Carter's music has never been written about or researched as one might have expected. Carter's music was not only experimental and intellectual but unlike music such as Anthony Braxton or Bill Dixon it finely balances avant-garde jazz and folk roots making it easily approachable.

'Dance of the Love Ghosts' - from the album of the same name (Gramavision 1987)

Finally, (for this part) Don Cherry is an interesting case of a musician that very early on successfully started integrating other folk forms into his music. Cherry successfully integrated many elements into his music through his world travels and interest in other cultures, integrating Tibetan chants, Griots rhythms, Indian music and general world elements. In 1978 he would form Cadona along with Colin Walcott and Nana Vasconcelos which although was probably not the most interesting fusion group of all time it have have a huge influence on the sale of world music in jazz.

See Part II of this blog post (when I write it .. LOL) to see where the music went. Names such as Jan Garberek, ECM, John Surman, Matt Darriau or Pachora. And the list goes on....!

(*) Dewey Redman also used this technique and instrument on his music.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Peter Evans & Nate Wooley - High Society.

Of course the fun of having your own blog is the chance to write what you want when you want, although one does try to keep up a certain rhythm. I just sent in my review of Peter Evans and Nate Wooley's - High Society (Carrier Records), one of their latest projects. It was as you'll see from my review below (on Free Jazz Blog) that I really enjoyed getting into this one, and my initial doubts soon melted away the more I listened to this rather intriguing record. It's amazing to think of how two trumpets - who avoid sounding like trumpets - can create such a rich texture of sounds and music (in the broadest sense of the word). Hearing this record tied in nicely with other music that I've been listening to recently and in particular Steve Lacy's solo work and somehow I was kind of reminded of his endless search for new ways to present his instrument, using the voice, clapping or just making strange duck sounds. And it is also not so often that music comes along that not only inspires but challenges in this way, giving one new ideas on what could (or can) be music. I had to smile at times whilst listening to this as I thought of various jazz blogs and journalists who would not call this either jazz or music. I also wondered what the likes of Wynton Marsalis or Kurt Rosenwinkel would make of this and I should add many of my - mainstream - musician friends would probably not be so enamoured with such a challenging album either. However it seems to me better to develop the unknown rather than perfecting the past when it comes to improvisation and sound. Here Peter Evans and Nate Wooley manage to stay away from any clichés of sound that their instruments would normally be associated with and it is only on the 5th track that the sound of the trumpet actually appears for the fist time ... even if a little modified. 

Anyway read the review below to have a little idea of what I blabbing on about, I hope you get a chance to hear the album one day.   

Peter Evans & Nate Wooley - High Society (Carrier Records, 2011) *****

Being a musician and playing a wide variety of music means that my family (kids and wife) are used to hearing wild sounds emanating from the hi-fi from time to time. But in certain cases I realise that maybe some music is not for wholesale consumption, and this .... is one of them! It's almost like a dream come true for a horn player (in this case trumpets) to be able to sound like Jimi Hendrix playing with feedback, however, it's more difficult to set fire to your trumpet, even with lighter fuel, you can hear Wooley and Evans had great fun making this recording. 'High Society' is as fascinating as it is unforgiving, there's no way out and no reference points to the trumpet as we know it. If you've heard Nate Wooley's Trumpet/Amplifier record then you'll already know how Wooley's starting to develop his style using this set up, here we have both Peter Evans and Nate Wooley blowing hot and cold through their trumpet/amplifier set ups.

It's almost impossible to give musical images for these tracks. Tracks such as I (track 3) make you wonder if the microphone is inside a turbine in a rocket engine, or is that the sound of something out in the desert somewhere? The two horn players use flutter tonguing, blowing, sucking, singing, spitting, banging the pistons, hitting the trumpet, it's all there. The fourth track LXVII starts like two wild animals in a fight, there are growls and screams, rattling, industrial crashes and explosions, music that's not for the faint hearted. However each track is so fascinating that you find yourself absorbed by the sounds as they change throughout each piece, each idea worked on and pushed to it's extreme and obvious conclusion. The sixth track 'XC' is a fascinating piece as .. shock horror .. you get to hear a real muted trumpet sound as it's starting point. The track develops over 13 plus minutes into a real tour de force of sounds, feedback, screams, singing and real trumpet sounds, never  dull moment.

Finally I should say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed listening to this one, and for something that is rather abstract. The music which although very intense is (I found) always interesting to come back to and I'm intrigued to see how they'll develop and follow up wonderful recording. I can only finish with a often used phrase from our chief critic and editor Stef ......... Highly Recommended. 

Tags for this music could be - the wind, the sea, the washing machine, car engines, radio interference, food blenders, vacuum cleaners and the list goes on!


This is the last track #6 from the album it's titled XLV. There's no reason why I choose this piece except that it was the last on one on the album, which seems a good a reason as any .... don't you think?

Check out the article on Nate Wooley's Trumpet/Amplifier here


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Sons of Bitches Brew?

Miles influence vis-a-vis pop and jazz, or funk and jazz had a devastating effect on some areas of this music, giving birth to many hybrid 'blacksploitation' type groups. It also seemed to give an open message saying that jazz musicians can also make pop music, whereas in reality they cannot! In the same way Waldo De Los Rios seemed to think that classical music can be pop, although in reality it only becomes a form high kitsch, which then sells due to it's novelty value. Today hundreds (no thousands) of students in jazz schools, and worst still practising jazz musicians and teachers, still think that the word funky means playing two chords with b9s, b13s, augmented this and demented that as chord types, all on top of a back beat.  

Miles Davis always craved for a recognition that was not only unnecessary but musically unhealthy and spent much of his later years producing music that verged on the edge of MOR or FM, something that his early collaborators could have never imagined. To put it bluntly, he was so busy wanting to be something that he could never be, a pop icon. Unfortunately he wasted (in my humble opinion) many years of his life trying to get recognition for, or from, the world of pop music. However, like many jazz musicians Miles did not understand that pop, like jazz, is a way of being and not something that can be easily imitated. His initial experiments in this field started with In a Silent Way but quickly developing into something far more muscular in the form of the well known Bitches Brew. Although I won't go into those albums here it's certainly interesting to see how Miles developed this area of jazz up until his initial retirement in 1975. Up until that point Miles had been keenly interested in various forms of music and particularly that of modern electronic music such as that of Karlheinze Stockhausen. It seems that he was also very open to the idea of a form of free jazz and certainly used many musicians who were developing more open forms of improvisation. Pete Cosey or Sonny Sharrock on guitars, or Keith Jarrett's use colour in his electric piano solos (an area which he developed in his 'free form' quartet with  Redman, Motian and Haden) showed that Miles was open to other forms of soloing other than that of post-bop. Unfortunately when he returned in 1981 it seems that he had no more stomach for wanting to push barriers aside and was yearning more for stardom on an equal to such as Prince, The Crusaders, Earth Wind and Fire, or Michael Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Sting or James Brown.

Sly and the Family Stone - circa mid 70s
However it would seem that Miles' influences have touched on more recent generations who have seen his earlier work - from his electric period - as a positive message. Over the years I've come across some excellent examples of the spin off from Bitches Brew  influences from the 70s period Miles. Some examples that immediately spring to mind are Brownman (I think it's Nick) or French trumpet player Erik Truffaz (*), London bands Led Bib and Dog Soup all work on a vibe that brings to mind the experiments of the electric period of Miles Davis. What's also interesting to note is how these groups seem to have not wandered off into out and out commercial zone in a way Miles did, making for what in the long term a more interesting and satisfying type of jazz that retains rhythm as it's central focus but interesting harmonic colours also. Watch the Erik Truffaz concert from Avignon on Youtube to see how accessibility and art can go together.

A few months ago I wrote a few words about Example Of Twelves last (it's Pt 3 of a trilogy) and latest release Things Will Be. I was so inspired by this wonderfully understated piece of music that I immediately decided to see what the other two parts of the puzzle would offer - part one of the trilogy is called The way things are, and part 2, The way things were. Riaan Vosloo the leader (and main composer) kindly offered to forward the other two records to me as I'd been so enthusiastic to hear more from this group. The second album which I will no doubt talk about at a later date is a wonderful lush album mixing strings and rhythm section but what I discovered on the first album was not only a pleasant musical surprise but also a rather interesting look at an almost modern day version of Bitches Brew.

Although the album has nothing directly to do with Miles Davis - or not that I know about - I was  immediately reminded of Miles due to a very small quote from In a Silent Way. I wonder if Fulvio Sigurta (**) even realised at the time that this strong interval (G# up to F) would be so suggestive? Anyhow, from then on the music develops in a way that leads the listener through a series of beautiful soundscapes, each one connecting with the next. Part 1 Beginnings/Endings uses a series of weaving chords which somehow mirror the same ambience and scheme of In a Silent Way/It's about that time! The don't keep this as the only idea, the music drifts as in a dreamlike state, Fulvio Sigurta leading the band via gentle phrases. The music changes little by little leading in a logical way to the second section - Part 2 The Madness. This is where the music takes on a much heavier direction leaving Jonathan Spall's alto sax to lead the way with some strong soloing eventually letting the rhythm section (or really the mixing Vosloo) weave a hypnotic spell over the music. What I also find so interesting about this piece of music is the way that Riaan Vosloo has combined so many areas of music - film scores, jazz, trip hop, dub and a few others - into one long flowing piece of music.

Part 1 Beginnings/Endings II

Part 2 finishes with some wonderful clarinet playing (also Spall) in what seems like a small contemporary classical interlude, a duet with piano.  However this is only a brief interlude and the trumpet brings back a post Miles atmosphere with brooding lines that are treated electronically. Another influence that although never hinted at is that of Pharaoh Sanders and maybe Alice Coltrane also, if only by the spiritual feeling that the music suggests (and the titles).    

Part 3 Though lovers be lost, love shall not II

The final part 3 starts with double bass over electronically manipulated pianos and various electronica, giving an impression of a modern day raga, something that Talvin Singh has used in his interesting Indo-fusion projects. Here the listener is brought to the end of this long sonic modal voyage without really noticing .... is it possible? Riaan Vosloo does this with a very nice idea of bookending the beginning and the end with the same ideas of ethereal voices speaking over (or under) the waves of music, leaving the listener to hear the music disappear as if like a boat drifting off into the mist.

Part 2 of the trilogy to follow - The Way Things Were!

All the music is available on Impossible Ark Records.

 * = it's worthwhile watching the various parts of Eric Truffaz in Avignon. I've seen him in concert and can highly recommend the band (and the man). He seems to be able to let the music develop by itself yet - like Miles - move the music in the directions needed, and when needed.
** = Listen (if the links still correct) to Flavio's latest release on Cam Jazz - here.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Music Village - 16/09/11 - Brussels.

Of course one has to blow one's own trumpet (sax in my case) from time to time, why not! If you're in Brussels (Belgium) on Friday why not pop down to the Music Village for a couple of sets of hard-bop?

Every year I try and do a couple of 'straight ahead' gigs based on stuff that I like in the mainstream catalogue. This year Bruno Castellucci kindly offered to play the gig with me. I'll be accompanied by (as you'll see below) my good friends : Ron Van Rossum (piano), Bart Denolf (bass) and the wonderful Jean-Paul Estiévenart (on trumpet). Jean-Paul also plays in my Al-Orkesta project, but that's another story and CD. We'll be playing again early in 2012 for all those interested.

In the meanwhile here's the poster for the gig. Maybe see you there!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lacy's not here, but where is he?

I was moved to write this little blogpost after searching in vain for hours, days and weeks for recordings of the late Steve Lacy (1934-2004). How sad it is to find that half of his recordings are either no longer available but also difficult to obtain even if they are still in someone's catalogue.  Of course if you check around Amazon or other online sales services you'll find the usual glut of mainstream albums that Lacy recorded, but not however the more interesting stuff which in general has gone 'underground'. Steve Lacy's Solo in Mandara a rare 1975 solo recording made in Japan is nowhere to be seen any more. In fact I noticed on a site (after being sold) at the price of 511$ !!!! I wonder what Steve Lacy would have thought about that? It seems sad to me that albums such as - Live: At the Unity Temple, Clinkers, Weal and Woe (£66 on Amazon UK) or the two wonderful albums with Mal Waldron - Live at Dreher, Paris 1981 Volumes 1 and 2, are either out of print or nearly impossible to buy for the average mortal. I must say that I haven't downloaded so much material before, but in the case of Lacy one only has that nowadays (the net) as a source of his work. It's sad to think that his family isn't seeing a penny of any of this, due to the rather narrow minded view of those holding the master tapes. What's even more absurd is the idea of some great record sitting in it's cover never being played because it's to rare and irreplaceable. It's like having a picture that you keep covered up - and it does happen also!

Steve Lacy's rare - Solo at Mandara ('75)
 Luckily Snips : Live at Environ a wonderful live solo recording from Steve's first return to New York in the early 70's is easily available and full of wonderful music. Some people say the recording quality is not top notch, which is true when listening to his other recordings, but the music is so good there's really no excuse not to have a copy of this in your collection. The last track on side one of this double CD is called Snips. I've included a sound bite of this track so you can hear the atmosphere and the great music.  
Steve Lacy - Snips : Live at Environ
Snips - Tk 7 from the above album.

What also astounds me about Lacy's work is the originality of his approach in developing his material. I must say that I have never transcribed any of his music, somehow that seems pointless, after all it's about improvisation at it's highest level. Lacy obviously didn't use a bop vocabulary either which makes his work even more interesting - no approach tones, no 2-5-1 patterns, few (if any) running scales with tensions such as flattened 9th's or augmented 13th's. There are surely a few  standard ideas, but not in the conventional way that most jazz musicians use them, even the more avant-garde players (*).  I notice when working from the Slonimsky Thesaurus of Scales and Patterns that you find much material that (I suspect) Steve Lacy must have studied and developed over his career, especially in his solo work. Below I've included a (long) track from Live in Mandara it's 35 minutes in length - please take time to listen to it. Here you'll hear many characteristics of Lacy's playing style, taking themes or interval sets to develop his amazing improvisations. It's one piece on the record, however you'll hear how he pauses between pieces before setting off into the next theme  - listen also for the uses of multiphonics, repetition, extremes of register, slap tonguing, over-blowing, singing/growling and the rest.

  Six Pieces from the Tao : Existence, The Way, Bone, Name, The Breath, Life on it's Way

It's also interesting to note whilst listening to these recordings the originality of Lacy's sound and approach. Lacy worked on the music of Thelonius Monk all his life, and also with Monk. It seems the most important lesson Monk taught Lacy was to be an original. Monk had such a truly original style - i.e. it's difficult to copy his playing without sounding exactly like him. Lacy also has a style that is also truly original and thus difficult to imitate without becoming a clone, a true compliment if ever there is one! 

Not only was Steve Lacy a musician but also a thinker, that is to say his music is also about intellect. One can learn much about Lacy and his philosophy in 'Steve Lacy : Conversations - Jason Weiss' a book recommended to me by Sam Newsome another fine soprano player also influenced by the work and innovations of Steve Lacy. Jason Weiss has brought together 33 +/- interviews with the man himself from 1959 to 2004 (he also died the same year). The interviews show someone  that is highly cultured, not what most people imagine when thinking of your average 'jazz musician'.  Lacy certainly isn't to be classed as a jazz musician and was probably the prototype for today's clean living 'open minded' improvising artist, yes I use the term artist. His music and concepts seem to have influenced many artists. Moving to Europe in the early seventies, his interest in Oriental culture  like that of John Cage seemed far ahead of it's time and his compositions often used  haiku poetry for inspiration. He also combined his poetry into his pieces working with the likes of Robert Creeley or Brion Gysin (also a close friend) among others. On Hooky (Snips : Live at Environ) one hears Lacy shouting "Don't go to school, don't go to school" using it as part of the music, the rhythm of the phrase helping shape the melody that follows. I should maybe add that it was a also a message (or mantra) for those in 'jazz schools' which Lacy thought destroyed individuality and so detrimental to the development of jazz.  

A collection of interviews with Steve Lacy spanning 45 odd years.
Finally, there seems much in Steve Lacy's work which is being forgotten by the mainstream music media. College's still only teach post-bop as 'the' music of improvisation. It is normal that whilst we ignore such important advances made by Lacy we are somehow keeping jazz and improvised music from developing into more fruitful areas. I hope that someone will one day collect together much of his vast catalogue and re-issue what to me seems an essential part of today's improvised music scene, and one of contemporary musics most important figures.

Postscript :

Although I only mention Steve Lacy's solo work one should also remember that he also worked  with his  groups, which I have to admit (I'm ashamed to say) I know very little of. I hope to remedy this in 2012!
(*) One player does come to mind is the great Lol Coxhill, a true individual in the improvising world. However, you can hear similarities between Lacy's style and Coxhill which are probably unintentional.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Mouldy Figs or just jazz?

I was amazed to read this morning the fuss that's being stirred up from Kurt Rosenwinkel's Facebook post denouncing the state of jazz today. Fortunately for me I don't have Facebook, and certainly think that any posting via such a ridiculous site is a little lame, but that's another discussion. However it seems that various bloggers have moved in to give their view on the subject, and an interesting view it is. Here's the two blog-posts that inspired me to write a little something - Peter Hum and Ronan Guilfoyle (both interesting writers - and musicians - to follow on a regular basis). As I already mentioned I didn't (haven't) read the original posting that started all this off but wonder why there is so much confusion in what is and isn't good - in this case - jazz?

When I was at art college we had a class called 'value judgements' which meant discussing what is and what is not art. It was an interesting class and one that I have probably carried with me since those days as a way of accepting as much as possible. Often in the final analysis one can only say 'I don't like it' and nobody can argue with that, and if you're sensible you're open to change your opinion at a later date. The discussion being argued (about jazz) is who decides - musicians to be precise - who owns the quality control for jazz, or who sucks and who doesn't. Musicians have been arguing since ever, Louis Armstrong famously said that be-bop was Chinese  music. The boppers called the old school musicians 'mouldy figs', although they had far too much respect for Louis to say the same of him. One wonders what the jazz scene was like in 1930, were there as many 'bad' musicians around as now? I wonder what Armstrong or Buddy Bolden would of thought of Nate Wooley's Trumpet/Amplifier record (I wonder what Kurt Rosenwinkel would think also)? Probably best not to ask, some people can only understand and except their own view of the world, other ideas can be very unsettling.  I should add that remember that Lennie Tristano couldn't swing and was too intellectual,  John Coltrane played too many notes, his music was labelled 'anti-jazz', and that Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock was subversive music!

What is jazz anyway, and who's aloud to play it?

However, it seems Kurt Rosenwinkel's remark is based on the ability to play jazz, the ability to make it good and look after it (?). Dwayne Burno, another  musician who has strong opinions about quality control, seems to agree with KR and angrily says 'most jazz sucks today .... etc' (one should read what he says as it's too long to quote here). One has to wonder who sucks, and why? It is true, as Ronan Guilfoyle points out, that nowadays everybody thinks they should record and sell CDs, due to the facility in accessing recording technology, either on their own label or via the net. With the death of the music industry there is no more quality control -I'm not sure it was always 'good control'. But what frightens me more is the attitude of labelling good and bad, to swing or not, this is jazz and that isn't? The likes of King Crimson, Jimi Hendrix, J.S.Bach, Steve Reich or Gang Starr  have - to name only a few - all had wide ranging influence over the direction of jazz, or should that be bad influence? Should we blame these influences or praise them and accept that this is a natural process in the development of jazz and other musics? Does that mean that we should be pure to the cause of jazz and if you listen to anything else then you should immediately remove the term jazz music(ian) from any references to you or your groups, not teach in any jazz type schools and the rest? I hope not!

I suspect that Kurt Rosenwinkel's remark was made without the intent to produce soooo much talk around the blogsphere as it has. What is probably more interesting is the reaction it has made and the rabid bile that it has inspired some people to write over what remains a very cloudy area as to who can and who can't. Finally James Hale says in a response to the Facebook post :

'.... young listeners who have wondered what they should check out in jazz. Maybe they just shouldn't bother; they can never be as good as Rosenwinkel or Burno. Someone better is always going to be judging you.'

If I understand him correctly I don't agree, after all that's exactly the point be your own voice and nobody can touch you, something that cannot be taught in a school. Maybe my Value Judgements class was right?

Footnote : If you're wondering who the soprano saxophonist is in the skip (and what he's doing), it's  the great Lol Coxhill. Lol is one of the icons of the improvised music world  and a bastion of self expression, he would be completely amazed that anyone would want to be anything else than themselves!


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Apple Mac - a few complaints?

I wouldn't normally write a post about computer related problems as I'm actually more interested by music and other issues. However, after spending a whole evening on a bug in the computer I thought about writing this little 'open letter' to Apple Macintosh which I've often thought could be a great company, but somehow isn't, even thought they invented the iPhone, iPods etc.  

I'm rather interested with the announcement by Steve Jobs of his retirement from Apple. Will anything change in this rather closed community? Even though I'm one of the Mac owners (in April 2011 Mac had 5% of the market share - PC 92%) I can't say much for the company except that I enjoy using it's operating system. Apart from that there's not much that really makes Mac any better than Microsoft. 

The other night I had a small (still unresolved) problem with my Safari (4.1.3) browser which won't keep it's cookies, causing me to constantly sign in to all pages such as Twitter, Hotmail, Blogs etc. I was reminded exactly how user 'unfriendly' Apple is when it comes to their clients. One of the first things I noticed when becoming a member of the Apple clan is their pretence at being a comunity, but with no real leader - Steve Jobs is just 'Mr Inventive', he doesn't care about what the average  Mac users 'user experience' really is, a little like a politician and a citizen - they're both out of touch with reality! If you have a problem then you're on your own, there is no support, rather strange when you think of how much you pay for your computers operating system. In fact there's very little in the way of feedback from the company itself, it's impossible to contact them and have any real dialogue. Will Tim Cook make a change in the way Apple carries itself as an arrogant company with no transparency and who refuse to address their clients questions and problems? I expect not, but who knows.

Some of the issues that I feel strongly about are actually quite simple things that could be easily remedied. I also feel that by addressing these issues Apple Macintosh would be a much stronger competitor on the market. Some questions (or examples) of a more market/user friendly policy could be as such :

a) Why does Mac insist on trying to sell 'Apple Care' at an extremely expensive price? Would it not be more logical to include this in all purchases of their products? Some people working at Apple mentioned that they don't sell very many Apple Care products, due to it's ridiculous pricing. My thoughts on the matter are that if one included it - all computers at Mac would be guaranteed for 3 years - it would be an excellent selling point. After all don't Mac believe in their own products enough to put their money where their mouths are?

b) What's all the pricing about? How comes different products are priced differently depending on the continent? I find it rather strange and most un-ethical that (as an example) a Macbook Pro costs :
 - In the USA :1199$ (832€ - on the day I converted the $)
 - In Europe : 1199€
 - In the UK : £999 (1130€ - on the day I converted the £)

Notice the difference of 332€ between the Dollar and the Euro, how come Apple has to charge the difference (at a higher level) to European users, do we deserve it? The UK price is a little more difficult to understand due to the fluctuation of the pound. But I find the fact that the Euro price and Dollar price are exactly the same, creepy almost. Are Apple so lazy they just thinks of a figure, and then place a dollar sign or Euro after it?  Just from the €/$ figures above there's a difference of 44%(*), how can it be justified? I should also add that you CANNOT buy you Apple products over the net from the USA to Europe although I suspect this may also be a international thing, however I imagine Apple doesn't want this either.

c) How can a company exist without real online support? After all Macintosh do make computers, don't they? I find it interesting that there is NOWHERE to actually contact Apple (directly) about their products such as Logic, Garage Band, Safari, iPods, iTunes etc. You are 'advised' to go to the Apple discussions forums on their site to solve any problems you may have! Isn't this a little sloppy for something that you pay for? Imagine feeling ill and being told by your doctor to go and find the problem on a chat-room somewhere! Or that the car you bought isn't working, or the phone no longer functions, your electricity is off .. and then being told to "look it up on the web". To me it's simply unacceptable,  I can't understand why European law doesn't oblige them to have a service, and that doesn't mean taking your computer into a shop (and leaving it with them for weeks, and pay to have someone look at it).

d) Why won't Apple tell us what's coming and when, why the secrecy? Can't they interact with their customers on the development of their products? This way we as the consumer can plan our purchases a little more correctly, and that means less waste in this so called eco-friendly age. As an example - recently (well a few years ago) Apple did away with firewire without telling anyone beforehand. What did that mean? Well, Mac had been pushing Firewire products for years - useful for back-up media, film and music software (among others) - and many people had spent much money on these products only to find from one day to the next that it had disappeared, with no explanation - Apple decided that they didn't owe answers to anybody. They have continued it but in a rather modified version on certain computers.

e) In the chat-room forum on Apple's own site NO negative comments or criticisms of Mac and  it's policies, products, updates and changes,  are allowed - they're deleted by an administrator almost immediately! Rather odd I find for a so called 'alternative' company that is meant to be used by alternative thinking people, the so called hippy generation. Why can't Apple accept negative criticism and use it in a positive way to develop their products - hopefully to suit our needs and not their pockets.

f) etc, etc .......... I'm sure if you use a Mac you can add quite a few of you're own complaints.

It will be interesting to see if Macintosh can keep a hold on their market in the next few years. I suspect that they will have a hard time unless they're prepared to compromise, and even now it maybe too late. Other people are starting to make 'Apple' products, but cheaper and better. The iPhone market is up in the air, and Apple wish to keep hold of it, can they? The Hackintosh is already creaping into the market, and of course Apple Macintosh wish to stop it. What is a Hackintosh you may ask? Well, PC's are basically computers that run with Microsoft  Windows  or Linux  (a freeware operating system). They are cheaper because there are dozens of different makes on the market that all have Microsoft system licences, and of course have to compete between each other for a slice of the market. This doesn't always mean quality, but it does keep the prices down. Hackintosh is basically the same, why not have other computers running OS X it would be more competitive and would maybe help Apple to become more transparent?

For the moment I'll carry on using my Mac until it breaks down (it already has problems), but after that I have to start wondering is it worth it, will Apple start listening, or do I follow the Hacks and get on with my own agenda?

Interesting Hackintosh links :

How Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 into an OS X Netbook.
Install OS X onto your Hackintosh PC 

(*) Maths is not my strong point, so the percentage is my rough calculation.

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