Esperanza Spalding @ Gesu – Centre de Creativite, Montreal 7/2/09

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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Day 3 of my jazz week, and I get a second chance at seeing Esperanza Spalding here in Montreal, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

This time, without a thunderstorm overhead, I am able to fully engage and immerse myself in the music and experience that is, Esperanza.

Esperanza played a balanced mix of songs from her previous two albums and many new songs we can expect will likely show up on her upcoming album (which is supposed to be a hommage to Nina Simone). I had a smile on my face the entire performance. I couldn’t wipe it off even if I tried. I was head-boppin’, foot-stompin’ all the way through.

A few thought-provoking ideas went through my head as I was enjoying the concert:

1) You’re only as good as the musicans you play with:
Esperanza played with a stellar, yet young group including Otis Brown (bass), Ricardo Roach (guitar), Geonese (?) (piano). Keep an eye out for any and all of these musicians, as I am very sure they will all lead very successful and distinguished careers as the leaders of their own jazz groups. With the type of music that Esperanza and many of the younger groups are playing, they require each musician in the group to be fully adaptable and possess many different musical specialties.

2) A glimpse into the New Contemp Jazz direction:
Esperanza is not the only artist playing multiple styles fusion. But different from the type of fusion Miles Davis pioneered (Fusion with instrument, sounds and a heavy influence from the then fresh avant garde/free jazz movement) The new fusion is about fusing different styles of popular music genres into Jazz: Rock-Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Trip hop-Jazz, R&B-Jazz, Hip Hop-Jazz. The contemporary jazz musician like Esperanza (an like Christian Scott or The Bad Plus) are arranging each song as it should be arranged, whether it is a Jazz rhythm line supporting a pop song, or a jazz song in a the context of rock.

2a) Successful players must be masters at a multiple number of different genres:
What this means for all contemporary musicians and those up & coming, is that if these advancing artists are constructing this paradigm, all subsequent jazz musicians will need to master not only jazz, but a number of other genres as well. We will see not only specialists in one instrument or style in Jazz, we will see more musicians who will be specialists in multiple genres to master New Jazz Fusion.

2b) Each song is a different kind of fusion:
No longer will a full album be made to reinforce one jazz genre. As we saw in Esperanza’s second album which had three distinct types of fusion equally represented throughout the album, we’re going to see more musicians have consecutive songs distinctly different from one another. It may alienate some listeners, especially those that only like one kind of style/genre/fusion.
But this type of each-song-stands-on-its-own album fits into the iTunes-style of music selling: Now that music listeners & buyers are purchasing each song at a time, and less and less purchasing whole albums, it allows a listener to choose the type of fusions that are most appealing to them from that one particular artist.

Esperanza’s first album set a foundation that established her firmly as a young-rising talented artist in the jazz arena. Album two threw together a few different styles Esperanza could do to show her verasity. It also helped the record label learn more about which styles are most commercially viable. Now with sneak peeks at some new songs, we have an idea where her next album is going: further into fusion: soul, rock, world-music into jazz.

Esperanza’s show illicited continuous standing ovations from the audience, resulting in two encores.

In the subsequent days after Esperanza’s performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I saw and read a number of very strong and positive reviews from her performance. But I think the clearest indicator of how successful her performance at the jazz fest was the fact that all of her cds were sold out in every single music store I could find (and I went to all of the stores, my friend wanted to buy the album but we couldn’t find it anywhere).

Bravo to Esperanza Spalding! The highlight of my few days at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Fest.


Microsoft, Google, Apple Part 1: Digital Ecosystems

Posted: January 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I think its fairly clear the direction we’re all headed. The movers & shakers of our generation, whether we love them or hate them, are busy at work creating competing information/media/communication ecosystems for us to live in.

Want to access the internet? Microsoft has IE running off Windows, Apple has Safari running off Mac OSX and Google has Chrome which, for now, is just running off Windows but will eventually run off of everything.

How about doing work? Google Docs are 24/7 networked up-time, Microsoft Office has a lot more bells and whistles but you pay a pretty penny for this stand-alone product.  And Apple’s iWork is just prettier.

Big on entertainment? Apple’s iTunes has cornered the music market and offers some of the best webcasts, games & apps in a sweet GUI.  Add to that Apple TV and all these goodies can be accessed not just on your computer but in your livingroom too. Microsoft’s Xbox attacks the entertainment question from the gaming angle, but with MMO and SecondLife-like Avatar capability now the norm, interactive communication is a readily available function available on your bigscreen tv.  Xbox’s next iteration will see Blu-Ray player capabilities, and its cooperation with Netflicks brings a mountain of new content.  Google has YouTube.  And as it inks more syndication agreements for YouTube content, it spreads its net wider.  Even now, record labels and broadcast networks are sweetening to the YouTube platform as ad revenues start coming in.  YouTube has become today what MTV was for the MTV generation.

Microsoft’s MSN Messenger vs. Apple’s iChat vs. Google’s Gtalk.

Microsoft’s Hotmail vs. Apple’s Mail vs. Google’s Gmail.

Microsoft’s MSN Live Spaces vs. Apple’s iLife vs. Google’s Blogger.

With Apple’s domination of mobile music with iPod and pioneering of mobile digital communications with iPhone, the digital ecosystem continues to extend.  Microsoft is fighting an increasingly uphill battle with the Windows Mobile Platform, and its Zune, while the first in its product segment to boast Wi-Fi capabilities, far trails Apple’s iPod.  Google has gotten into the mobile game in a paradigm-shifting way with the open source Android platform a year ago. Now with the T-Mobile G1 phone, or any of the other new Android phones coming out in 2009 from Huawei, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, Google is on its way to being a household name for mobile devices.

So catering to your whole digital life, Microsoft, Google and Apple have each created separate digital ecosystems for you to inhabit.  Whether its on your desktop, laptop, in your livingroom with your big-screen TV or out-and-about with your mobile device, these three digital giants have some product to keep you linked into their domain.

These three are building their digital ecosystems in different ways though.  Microsoft, coming from a long heritage of selling installation-based software maintains the philosophy that the device doesn’t matter, but a digital ecosystem is all about a software ecosystem.  Albeit, Microsoft has made forays into devices with the Zune and Xbox, with fair success.  In part, Microsoft has seen the success of Apple’s approach.  Apple maintains the philosophy that a digital ecosystem is derived from the complete user experience in a hardware-software bundle.  As a closed system with high standards and high focus on the User Interface both virtual and real, Apple has produced hit after hit and everyone is taking notice.  The closed system also makes Apple’s ecosystem particularly sticky with things like DRM in addition to general design appeal.  Selling these hardware-software bundles at a premium price, you’re literally ‘buying into’ Apple’s ecosystem.  Finally, Google’s philosophy is similar to Microsoft’s, in that the digital ecosystem should be primarily software, and should be run/accessed from any device regardless who made it.  Where Google differs from Microsoft is that instead of selling installation-based software like Microsoft, Google’s ecosystem is web-based with little or no download/installation required and -even more shocking- Google is offering its ecosystem for FREE. Google’s ecosystem is powered by ad dollars.

Three digital ecosystems, one selling installation software, one selling hardware-software bundles, and one offering free use of software hosted online while making money from some other guy.

Which ecosystem will we eventually find ourselves in? Is there room for more than one?

Well, its a question of screen size.

Read it here in Part II.