As the universal language, music has always had one problem: how to translate the words so that everyone will understand their meaning. French, Portuguese, English, and several African dialects are quite familiar to jazz fans. Some listen to German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese or Spanish singers often. Are we fluent in these languages? It's not necessary. Pagliacci had a passionate story to tell, and even those who don't know Italian understood his message. Priests sing the mass in Latin, and only a small percentage of the flock cares to translate literally. It's the general meaning that matters.
Bobby McFerrin overdubs to create a choir of voices that seem to come from different countries around the world. His wordless application for this album resembles a collection of different languages. From Northern Europe, through Africa, Asia, and the Americas, he wanders. By coupling his composed impressions with carefully crafted "languages," McFerrin takes the listener on a world tour. Along the way, he brings us swinging, inventive jazz that derives from the tradition. By limiting the session to vocals with moderate accompaniment, the singer assures the listener of a memorable adventure. Variety weaves through the album gracefully because of its contrasting regional impressions. However, the lack of a sideman soloist to share the spotlight rolls everything together in one long haul. It's like viewing the slides from your brother-in-law's summer vacation.
Two tracks stand out for their variance from McFerrin's suite-like journey. Chick Corea's "Windows" features an exemplary piano/vocal duet, while the final piece finds the singer/pianist/composer wandering aimlessly in search of his audience. It's impressionism, but this time the focus sends the listener back in time to the earliest forms of vocal music. Bobby McFerrin is an outstanding communicator. This time out, he takes the listener on a long and arduous journey, adds a little swing and doo-wop to the itinerary, and ensures that we all catch on.
Track Listing: Invocation; Kalimba Suite; A Silken Road; Fertile Field; Dervishes; Ziggurat; Sisters; Circlings; Chanson; Windows; Marlowe; Mass; Pat and Joe; Taylor Made; A Piece, a Chord; Monks/The Shepherd.
Personnel: Bobby McFerrin- vocals, keyboards; Chick Corea- piano, electric piano; Gil Goldstein- accordion, keyboards; Keith Underwood- wood flutes, contrabass flute; Richard Bona- bass, guitar, percussion; Cyro Baptista- percussion; Omar Hakim- drums; Taylor McFerrin- beatbox on "Taylor Made."
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.