My neighbor Kirkland plays piano for hours every night. I often hear the rumblings of his fingers through my bedroom wall – the melancholy sadness of Tchaikovsky, the jovial vaudevillian feel of Ragtime, the mourning sounds of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Kirkland emphasizes the climax of a song through loud carnal hits at the piano keys and then creates the lows through hushed minor chords that reach a deafening silence. On the nights Kirkland plays, it feels like the scope of human emotion lies within the space between his keys.
When I run into Kirkland in the building’s lobby some mornings, all semblances of his dramatic and showy piano playing have dispersed. He is exceedingly quiet and his eyes dart from side to side but never are steady enough to make direct eye contact with me. He says a quick hello and then rushes off. Is it his piano that does all the talking for him?
In our short existence here at The Revivalist, we have already explored a huge range of issues that are at the center of where jazz is heading today; the intersection of hip-hop & jazz, the influence of the seminal Miles Davis album Bitches Brew on new jazz movements, an exploration of the new vanguards of jazz. Although we were fascinated by these themes, we still kept coming back to fundamental questions about musicians. Why do musicians make music? What are the forces behind their creativity? How does the relationship between a musician and his instrument foster the underlying spirit of jazz?
At the heart of every incredible musical performance is a musician who has a dedication and love for their instrument. The musician and his/her instrument, like Kirkland and his piano, is a relationship that extends a musician’s creative expression, adding a near mystical addition to a musician’s personality. How do we explore something that is so abstract? How do we understand the relationship a musician has with their instrument? We realized the only way to even begin answering these questions was to document the lives of musicians and their instruments and to spark these conversations within musician communities. This issue is a testament to those conversations.
I’m thrilled to announce the launch of The Instruments Issue, the latest of our bi-monthly issues that centers on exceptional, challenging or thought-provoking moments and movements in jazz. At the heart of our creative energy for this issue is an insistence on understanding the musician’s experience and illuminating the mystery around their instruments.
Esperanza Spalding was known in the jazz world long before her landmark Grammy win for “Best New Artist.” Adept in vocal and instrumental performance, composition, and with the ability to sing in three languages, it’s no surprise why. But as the following interview with The Revivalist illustrates, she is also deeply thoughtful and eloquent when it comes to explaining her ideas about art, music, and the factors that inspire her work…READ MORE
A trombonist masters an instrument and is considered a musician. A music lover masters a beat machine and is considered a producer. Both individuals become adept at their craft and produce amazing sounds after years of practice. What, then, qualifies one tool as a musical instrument and the other as a piece of equipment? The definitive answer is not simple, and though it may exist, does not necessarily reside here as much as it does in semantic arguments. What remains constant is that whether the tools born of technological advancements in sound are used as standalone workhorse modules or in concert with live instruments and other electronics, the individuals forging sound from them will continue to be musicians in their own right and on their own terms…READ MORE
At 37-years-old, Nicholas Payton has amassed a great deal of experience in music, but after talking with him it seems, more-so in life. He is a man of fiery passion and concrete ideas. You are just as likely to be inspired by his blog posts as his trumpet wizardry. Yet, for someone of such heated views, he is also extremely soft-spoken and controlled. Read on for a window into how Nicholas Payton sees our society and it’s implications on life as we know it…READ MORE
There is a curious and organic movement back to a unifying root. Where the jazz world of today seems eons away from brokenbeat, dubstep, and house, they are more similar than you think. In the case of broken beat, a direct lineage from Lonnie Liston Smith, Herbie Hancock and other left field electro mavens of their times, the exploration of meter, the accented and off kilter movements of rhythm, the pulsating syncopation and emphasis on the snare, the exploration of space and melody are all ways in which a free movement to create new expressions emerged while preserving the danceable aspects that jazz once was, or is…READ MORE
Movement is a universal contingency of music, yet, it seems as if the tradition and emotions are being repressed even as music continues to create the grooves we yearn for. This is a problem for piano maestro Jason Moran. Not only does he want to make you dance, he is now custom tailoring an entire show to make sure you dance. Read below as we discuss everything from composing music with the intention of spurring movement to his aspirations for working with some of the most lyrically astute emcees of today…READ MORE
Miles Davis once famously said, “It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.” He meant that there was another way of entering jazz than through rapid-fire chord changes and solos; that restraint could be just as illuminating, if not more so, than the blistering dexterity so common to his day…READ MORE
Compiled by Eric Sandler