Passings and Memories

A MOMENT OF SILENCE: (…) for the late Alice Coltrane and Michael Brecker — two very
different but equally important jazz figures who passed away
michael_brecker.jpgon the same weekend and who leave behind
a void in the immediately perceptible musical cosmos. But we have
recorded evidence of their work and the lasting memories of live
encounters which hum in the mental recesses. For Brecker, there are
warm memories from Campbell Hall just two years ago, when he was
part of Herbie Hancock’s project and sounding great, shortly before
being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), to which he
succumbed. A kindly monster of a tenor player, Brecker was one of a
handful of jazz musicians who could keep things real and exciting
on both ends of the jazz spectrum, from the modern mainstream to
the funk-fueled, and marks of his influence are everywhere in

Coltrane has been a much more elusive musician, although we
heard her a year ago in a striking, strange, and ultimately
transcendent performance at UCLA, interacting
beautifully with her son, the increasingly bold-sounding tenor
saxist Ravi. That was her first official concert in her adopted
hometown in decades, just as her fine, flowing 2004 album
Translinear Light (on Impulse, the label that released
most of John Coltrane’s visionary ’60s work), was her first
recording in a quarter century. But she had something special to
give, a fact not always recognized by naysayers and cynics.

After her husband John died in 1967, Alice — an accomplished
jazz keyboardist from Detroit — moved to Woodland Hills to be your
average suburban mother and started a Vedantic ashram in Agoura. For a
while, you could find Coltrane on the netherchannels of late-night
TV, her show mixing spiritual meditations delivered in her
tranquil, hypnotic voice, with musical peregrinations on harp and
synthesizer. Whether or not you were spiritually in tune with her
Vedantic faith, the show was trippy, in the best, deepest way.

SLICES OF NAMM: At most conventions, one
expects a certain commonality among the conventioneers. Not so at
the Alice_Coltrane_umvd002.jpgannual expo, gear-and-riff circus known
as the NAMM show (National
Association of Music Merchants). Last week, NAMM
descended on the Anaheim Convention Center, unleashing its spin on
the state of the musical equipment (and, of course, software) art.
Music is a vast and varied world: so are the character types who
flock here from around the world, including scowling rockers, nerdy
software geeks, and plenty of men and women in suits — it’s all
about business, after all (snippet overheard, from one suit to
another: “Those guys are on a death spiral.”).

Two local companies regularly found at NAMM were strong
presences this year. Renowned custom guitar pickup, amp, and
accessory company Seymour Duncan
unveiled a new active humbucker and a cool distortion box, the Lava
Box. Warwick — the German
bass company with a Santa Barbara-based distributor — sported a
booth with a Tiki/B-movie theme, its exotic natural wood basses
looking vaguely, cheekily ominous in context.

Musicians and other living things love to stroll the aisles,
indulging their knowledge-expansion appetite, and their gear lust.
There are musical interludes galore — from a twangy Telecaster
picker to a hairy distroto rock riff slinger; from a clean jazz
guitar duo in the Thomastik Infeld corner to guitarist Wayne
Johnson’s Metheny-ish stuff, showing the new electric model in the
popular Taylor guitar
booth. Celebrities of various genres and vintages show up to press
flesh and sign things. Last Thursday afternoon, a spidery line
waited for an audience with Van Halen’s bassist, Michael Anthony,
while a less shaggy, more neatly dressed female contingent swarmed
around Rick “Jessie’s Girl” Springfield, who gamely signed glossies
and posed with giddy Jane Does. Life goes on. Ditto, NAMM.

TO-DOINGS: Hot picks this week include Bobby McFerrin
and Voicestra, Tuesday at Campbell Hall; Al Jarreau, Friday at the Chumash
Casino; and the remarkable Missourian country bluesman
John Long
, Saturday at Warren Hall at the Earl Warren

(Got e?


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.