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Miroslav's "Universal Syncopations"

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by Lovebown, Nov 17, 2003.


  1. Lovebown

    Lovebown

    Jan 6, 2001
    Sweden
    Has anyone listened to
    Miroslav Vitous' new album ? I'm interested and think I'm going to buy it tommorow. Lineup seems to be
    miroslav - bass
    chick corea- piano
    john mclaughlin - guit
    jan garbarek- sax
    jack dejohnette - drums

    Reviews?

    /lovebown
     
  2. I picked it up a while back and it's pretty keen. There's a bit of deceptive marketing involved, as most of the tracks are trios of Garbarek, Vitous, and DeJohnette. However, you could do a lot worse than an album like that!

    Anyhow, Garbarek's playing is spectacular and Vitous' contributions are his usual bits of subtle genius. I'd definitely recommend this.
     
  3. Lovebown

    Lovebown

    Jan 6, 2001
    Sweden
    I'm very satisfied with this record! At first it sounded kinda stereotypical ECM but the album grew on me and now I really dig it! Miroslav has a really nice sound and his chops are obvious here.

    The interaction between dejohnette, garbarek and vitous is great as you mention.

    I'm recommending this one as well!

    /lovebown
     
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Very interesting record. There's great-sounding interaction, if perhaps a bit tentative at times.

    Then you find out why: In JazzTimes, Vitous says that he tracked with DeJohnette then flew the tape around for dubbing by Garbarek, Corea and McLaughlin. In that light, the record is a masterpiece on one level and a travesty on another, but an even-more-fascinating piece no matter what.
     
  5. Lovebown

    Lovebown

    Jan 6, 2001
    Sweden
    Wow?! Hmm.. that is interesting indeed!
    Perhaps that can explain some of the stuff that is seemingly done without cues and so forth?

    Either way, I'm very pleased with what Miroslav is doing here composition- and basswise...

    /lovebown
     
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I've thought a lot about this record and its author. Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for UpBeat.

    -----

    “Jazz Without Moment”
    Miroslav Vitous: Universal Syncopations
    ECM 1863 038 506-2

    If musicians appear on a record without ever playing together, are they a band? If the music they improvise is recorded at different times by playing to a tape, is it “jazz?” These are the questions which underlie consideration of Miroslav Vitous’ new ECM release, Universal Syncopations.

    -----

    The names on the cover are as familiar as they are notable: Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek and Jack DeJohnette. However, even a cursory listening reveals a quality of hesitancy which rarely characterizes these famously-interactive performers. Mr. Corea and Mr. McLaughlin are justifiably-renowned, among other things, for their ceaseless generosity as accompanists, tossing out ideas which propel their colleagues to the highest realms. What makes them so quiet here?

    The answer, Mr. Vitous tells JazzTimes, is this: “The whole band never played together on any one piece. I basically laid down the foundation together with Jack [with] each recording his contribution one by one and . . . it took 14 months of editing in the end to place everything exactly where I wanted.” In other words, Mr. Vitous still has enough good-will to interest leading improvisers in performing his compositions, but only at their own convenience. He no longer has what it takes – whether in cash or cachet we will never know – to make them carve time in their schedules to actually play with him. Rather than make, say, a trio record with Mr. Garbarek, Mr. Vitous decided to persevere with a digital pseudo-band and hope that listeners would perceive artificially-assembled juxtaposition as real-life interaction. The result is truly tragic as a reflection both of where he has arrived and what might have been.

    Over the years there have been an endless series of efforts to define exactly “what is jazz,” most with an emphasis on the exclusionary rather than inclusive. The question Ornette Coleman posed in 1960, whether compositional structure is necessary to jazz, reverberated across the landscape at length before arriving at a resolution. Similarly, the question which Mr. Vitous’ erstwhile colleagues such Mile Davis and Herbie Hancock uttered around 1970 – whether music made with electric instruments is jazz – was, after great exploration, ultimately answered in the affirmative. To this day, players and writers argue relentlessly over whether swing is essential to jazz, whatever the shape or instrumentation involved.

    Herbie Hancock’s recent discussion in the Portland Press-Herald provided an answer which best resonates for me: He says that the essential quality in jazz is risk itself. A piece by Thomas Conrad in the April, 2004 JazzTimes takes a similar position. Mr. Conrad alludes to “the quality of immediacy [which is] essential to jazz. That quality originates, not from the assumption that the notes have never been played before, but from a sense that they have come into being, in real time, as urgent creative impulses.”

    Ever since Les Paul invented multi-track recording musicians have struggled over exactly this point. Charles Mingus over-dubbed his bass part on The Quintet Live at Massey Hall, a set long hailed as “the greatest jazz concert ever.” Many of the finest jazz records have benefitted from the opportunity to fix a part which went slightly awry. (I’ve done the same on occasion, without regret and, I believe, without compromising the essential qualities in my music or my recording.) Even the drastic editing Teo Macero performed on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson preserved the efforts of live players striving together, however much their work may have been chopped, stitched and formed into Mr. Macero’s creative quilt.

    I am in no position to decide where the line should be drawn, if indeed there is only one answer to that question. But Mr. Vitous’ new record obliterates any pretense of toeing that line. The essential sense of urgency and immediacy is absent from Universal Syncopations. And so with good reason: It is unrealistic to expect even artists of the highest caliber to project those qualities when the working environment is suffused with the knowledge that every aspect of their playing will be adjusted to the boss’ satisfaction at a later time.

    Universal Syncopations showcases fine compositions with echoes of many of the places which Mr. Vitous has visited in his lengthy career. However, as a performance record, the disc works better the closer it keeps to live interaction. From the first, the link between Mr. Vitous and his rhythm-partner Mr. DeJohnette on drums is strong, if drier than expected. The trios with Mr. Garbarek sound fine. But with each expansion of the lineup, the pretense of interaction becomes exponentially more difficult to pull off.

    Universal Syncopations has received some good reviews, but the more effusive focus on the strength of the roster and appear to have predated the news that these players did not work together in the conventional sense. Those who marvel at the quality of Mr. Vitous’ compositions and the clarity of the recording on miss the point. Mr. Vitous and ECM have not sold this disc as an astoundingly high-quality compositional demo. They told us that this is was a “jazz date” when, in fact, there was no date at all. In the interactive, urgent, risky, improvisational music we call jazz, that makes all the difference.
     
  7. Thoughtful review, Sam. Thanks.

    I haven't heard this CD, but I remember Jaco Pastorius taking a lot of heat for using a similar method on a track from "Word of Mouth." He laid down an ostinato bass line and took the tape around to a bunch of top-name players to lay tracks over. Jaco said that as they were playing, he would slide little bits of other guys' tracks in and out to get a reaction. I remember liking it, but it occurred to me that Jaco was making some kind of statement about using the studio itself as an instrument.
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Mr. Hancock, the famous percussionist? :meh:

    Anyway - I think I'm with Sam and have avoided this disc. There's nothing like live Jazz and although I buy a lot of classic Jazz from the 60s and earlier, my currenet record buying is often based on going to a Jazz gig, liking the band and buying a CD there as a kind of momento of the night!

    Of course I have lots of albums where there is no pretense that anything was a result of contemporaneous collaboration - so does it matter? Well, the thing about Jazz, is often that it is about more than the sum of its parts - in this case it's impossible for it to be anything else.

    Last weekend I bought an interesting CD - recorded live in Europe, which might also pose the same paradox!!??

    "Scorched" (Scofield Orchestrated) is a collaboration between Marc-Anthony Turnage (highly-rated British contemporary classical composer) and John Scofield (well known US Jazz guitarist).

    So - Turnage took several of Scofield's tunes and orchestrated them for a full symphony orchestra and a Jazz big band - set against an amplified Jazz trio.

    So the live performance alternates the big band/orchestra playing writtten compositions - with a trio of Scofield himself on guitar, John Patitucci on bass and Peter Erskine of drums, who are all at some points improvising based on what they get from the orchestra and the writing of Turnage - who says he improvises all the time - just very slowly and on paper!! ;)

    Is it Jazz....?

    Don't know - but I like both aspects - the complexity of Turnage's writing and the energy and interaction of the Jazz trio - I enjoy both and respect them for what they are trying to achieve! :)

    I suppose the difference with the Mitous, is that there is no sense of a compromise being made for non-musical reasons - everybody is being true to themselves and is not limited by money or time-schedule considerations - they were true to their art!

    Whereas, I suspect that what Sam is saying, is that Vitous was compromising his? :meh:
     
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    So, you've posted a comment on a record you have purposely avoided listening to.
     
    RBrownBass likes this.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    No - why so hostile? - I posted a comment on a record I bought last weekend and asked you a question about whether you thought Vitous was compromising his art?

    So - shoot me!!

    I honestly cannot see what I have done wrong - are you trying to hound me out of this forum?? :confused:
     
  11. Lovebown

    Lovebown

    Jan 6, 2001
    Sweden
    Regardless if it's "jazz" or not , the record is well worth checking out. Everybody involved is playing with a great sound, especially Miroslav and some of his ideas are really interesting and unique.

    I think Miroslav Vitous is a nice example of a "modern" double bass player who can hold down a groove, and also do advanced solo fligths and can do great interaction within a group. A great inspiration to me at least.

    /lovebown
     
  12. McBass

    McBass

    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    Miroslav is a wonderful bassist and his playing on records like atmos and star is powerful and beautiful but, he almost literally phoned it in on this record. The way they played the initial bass and drum tracks left nothing for soloists to grab on to or react to. It sounds to me like John Mclaughlin has no idea what to play. It's very easy for a musician or record company to assemble a group of world class musicians who've never even rehearse together let alone perform, and sell a decent amount of records just based on the credibility of individual players. I'd rather hear great music than legendary musicians any day.
     
  13. hieronymous

    hieronymous

    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    I agree with Bruce, this is a really harsh comment.

    Maybe an emoticon was missing? If you read it, "So, you've posted a comment on a record you have purposely avoided listening to ;) ", then it's ok.

    However, someone that considers this album a "travesty" is probably pretty uptight - haven't seen you playing with Weather Report or John McLaughlin, but you seem pretty willing to determine what's "Jazz" and what isn't...

    "Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny" - Frank Zappa
    That's my story and I'm sticking to it... :ninja:

    PS I didn't realize the rules were so strict that one had to have listened to an album before making any kind of post. Punishment being a snide comment.

    PPS Wish they were this strict over in electric bass land. I started a thread on bassists that use distortion and one guy kept complaining about Cliff Burton and why did people consider him such a great bassist. But I didn't complain, just ran with it and tried to answer his questions. Maybe it was a bit off topic but SO WHAT - IT'S JUST A WEBSITE THE BASS!!! no reason to be rude :eek:

    but then again, I've already crossed that line in this post :bag:
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - I was responding really to the article posted and comments made by by Sam,(copied above) which I thought were interesting and was comparing what was said there, with a recent record I bought, which is somewhere between Jazz and through-composed music - but was actually a recording of an actual live performance.

    I thougt it might make an interesting debate - maybe not? :meh:
     
  15. hieronymous

    hieronymous

    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    I hope it was an emoticon issue. :) ;) :D

    If it was, ignore my post :ninja:
     
  16. hieronymous

    hieronymous

    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    And I haven't listened to the album!!! :eek:

    But I really want to, and I'm almost at the point of shelling out the $30 (3000 yen) it's going to cost me here in Japan :eek: :eek: :eek:

    Despite (or because of?) Sam's review :ninja:
     
  17. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I've never used an emoticon.

    It's too bad that you and Bruce think that I was too hard on Bruce. Let's try and stay on topic, though please. On the topic:

    Get the record if you want it; a lot of people love it. Form informed opinions. Post them.
     
  18. This is somewhat off topic but did any of you's hear Stanly Clark and Miroslav during the 80's ? They did a bass Duo tour and it was amazing! playing both Double bass and electric. I heard them when they got to Wellington New Zealand and I couldn't speak after the concert .... Just totaly mind blowing!