The Blast

Varese on Charlie Parker
July 20, 2010, 9:11 pm
Filed under: classical, jazz, music

In the 1920s, french composer Edgar Varese held a certain contempt for jazz music. However, the advent of bebop changed this attitude, and Varese went on to hold workshops such notable jazz artists as Charles Mingus, and at one point almost had Charlie Parker as a pupil. Quoting Varese in an interview reprinted in Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington:

With jazz, the ones who could have been good become very conventional. I heard the man who was playing—what was his name? He died. He was a god of music in that field. He played a kind of saxophone—Charlie Parker. At that time he lived in New York. He followed me on the street, and he said he wanted to be with us. The day I left I said, “We’ll get together. I’ll take you for my pupil.” Then I had to catch my boat. It’s when I went to Europe for Déserts. And Charlie Parker died in ’55, in March. Oh, he was so nice, and so modest, and he had such a tone. You could not know if it was an angelic double bass, a saxophone, or a bass clarinet. Then one day I was in that big hall there on 14th Street, the Cooper Union. Somebody said, “I want to meet you.” She was the widow of Charlie Parker. She said, “He was always talking about you, so I know all about you.” And that man was a great star. He wanted to study music and thought I had something for him.

Recordings of Varese’s workshops with Charles Mingus and others made in 1957 can be found here.

via the always excellent Alex Ross

Edgar Varese


Brian Wilson to Finish Gershwin’s Incomplete Works?
October 11, 2009, 10:36 pm
Filed under: classical, jazz, music

Apparently, the trustees to George Gershwin’s estate have selected Brian Wilson to complete the unfinished works of George Gershwin.

Todd Gershwin [George’s great-nephew and a trustee of the George Gershwin family trusts] said a collection of several dozen song fragments, ranging from “a few bars to some almost finished songs and everything in between” had been sitting virtually untouched for more than seven decades. He and other trustees began reaching out in the last year or two to find contemporary artists who might be interested in completing those musical bits and pieces.

Wilson, who says “Rhapsody in Blue” is his earliest musical memory, said the pieces he’s working with are very likely to remain as instrumentals, and that they could easily wind up as three-minute pop songs. But he’s also holding open the possibility of expanding them to more substantive pieces.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was curious to see how this turns out. I’m not the biggest Brian Wilson fan in the world, but it could potentially be pretty interesting. I can’t help but think of other musicians that would be better suited, capable, or interesting in fulfilling this role. A few off the bat:

1. Paul McCartney: for whatever reason Brian Wilson was selected, McCartney would have been better in the same regard;

2. Wynton Marsalis: makes the most sense to continue in Gershwin’s style given his deep roots in jazz and classical music; and

3. Bobby McFarrin: a wild card pick that I think would have been the most interesting.

4. Perhaps a compilation with contributions from several artists? That would make for a great album that I would buy immediately.

Any other suggestions on who may be a good fit for continuing/completing Gershwin’s work? Is Brian Wilson a good choice?

I spotted this first on Marginal Revolution, whose commenters could not help themselves with title possibilities:

I, for one, look forward to Porgy and Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Ann.