Monday, November 5, 2012

Chris Wabich - Break the Mold

Important news about one of my previous interview subjects, drummer Chris Wabich!  His podcast for Break the Mold came out today.  Chris recorded this when he was just off the road and jet lagged, so he discusses multiple topics at random even MORE than usual!

You can find the podcast at iTunes through this link:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Two Questions: Summertime Bass Edition


It's always nice when you go to a jazz performer's gig and find yourself equally impressed by the playing of their sidemen.  That's how I first encountered bassist Boris Koslov.  He was with the Misha Piatigorsky band, backing Mark Murphy at a NYC gig.  My friend and I actually paid rapt attention during the bass solos!

I soon learned that there are many more sides to Boris' music.  He performs with various configurations of the Mingus band, generally on Monday nights at Jazz Standard.  (Often you can find him playing Mingus' own lion-headed bass.)  He's been involved in the popular BeatleJazz project and is co-leader of Opus V, along with Alex Sipiagin, Seamus Blake, Dave Kikoski and Donald Edwards.  (Allow me a little plug for the latter:  they've just done a second recording for Criss Cross and will be touring in August.)  Among the many other jazz artists he's worked with are Jaleel Shaw, George Colligan, Bobby Watson, James Moody, Benny Golson, Donny McCaslin, Brian Lynch, Ray Vega, Eddie Palmieri, Michel Petrucciani, Michel Legrand, Joe Locke, Mark Whitfield, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Robin Eubanks and Urszula Dudziak.

In spite of being such a busy guy, Boris answered my usual two questions, during a break between sets by the Mingus Big Band.

1.    What made you decide on a career in music? 

Rather hard question because I made the decision when I was 15.  I just loved the way it felt and I just loved the way the music made me feel and I always thought that, if it makes me feel so good maybe if I can learn to play it and, you know, change something to the way I feel I can make other people feel better.  Also I kind of felt that it connects people.  By the time I was 15, we had a program in Soviet Union, when you would enter the competition and you could enter college before finishing your high school after the 8th grade.  Then you would finish your high school while in college, while already getting a professional education.  So, I wanted to play bass guitar and at the same time, I was really into another connecting type of hobby or potential career, which was transportation, in particular, railroad.  I had to make a decision when I was 15 basically, and I thought I made the right one, because now I am on the plane and train so much that sometimes now I’m wondering if it’s still my hobby or not.  But I thought it was initially all about connecting people.

2.     What is it you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music? 

It was the love of jazz definitely.  But when I say jazz, I really mean the love for the time-based music, because I think most of the music that comes out of folklore:  African, Caribbean, Indian, funk and everything that we know as pop and jazz music in the American music; it’s all time-based.  The notes matter less than the rhythm.  That’s the key that’s what interestingly enough oftentimes is being overlooked during the jazz education process, as I see it.  And it took me a while to realize that, but it’s that initial attraction that really made me move towards jazz.  I was attracted to rock and roll as many young kids initially.  We had a very scarce supply of rock and roll or jazz things back in Soviet Union, and I was also really into Dixieland and Louie Armstrong and whatever my father had in the house.  It’s just the groove or the rhythm that really got me.  And later on, it was the level of conversation that potentially happens with other players and subsequently, the audience, that got me really attracted eventually in '91 to the decision to move to New York and try myself out, where it was basically to learn how to better groove and deal with time and how to better communicate.   I found myself as sort of like hitting a wall a little bit, because I was invited to play with all the best bands at the young age of 22/23.  They put me "Number 1" Young Jazz Musician, and I knew that I was very green, very raw.  That’s what decided on my career in New York, as opposed to staying in my hometown of Moscow.

You can get a good idea of Boris Koslov's marvelous bass technique by watching this video:

To get even more information on Boris Koslov, go to his site at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Two Questions: West Coast Percussion Edition

I first met LA-based drummer Chris Wabich when I attended an NYC gig by an early incarnation of Sketchy Black Dog.  However, I soon discovered that he wears many musical hats and crosses many genres.  Among the highlights have been a stage production of Frank Zappa's "Joe's Garage", plus the soundtracks of the TV shows, "Malcolm in the Middle", and "American Idol" as well as the film, "Wild California".  Furthermore, he has been involved in recordings with such varied performers as Ludacris, Sting, Stanley Jordan, Jimmy Haslip, Lalo Schifrin, Sheila E., Alex Acuna, Turkish superstar Omar Faruk and Prog Rock legends Kevin Ayers,  Mike Hoffman and Richard Sinclair.  In 2010 Chris participated in Mark Murphy's latest CD, "Never Let Me Go", and he currently is one-half of the World Music duo, Wahid.

During a break from his busy schedule, Chris agreed to answer the usual two questions.  

1.  Why did you decide on a career in music?

Actually i didn't!!!  It was a natural series of events.  I just loved playing with anyone and everyone as a kid, and it was never enough. my first "real" sort of gigs were when I was 15, winning an audition with the local symphony beating out the local college kids.  The same time I started subbing in at local country clubs playing big band music for people in their 60s and 70s who used to actually dance to Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, etc. eventually I was the house drummer in a few places and had no social life as a teenager... I was the kid and all the 60 something year old musicians would try to help me swing better. once I learned the songs it was easy, but before then...sorry guys!!

What's funny is that these days I feel exactly the same way. Whenever I have a performance and the music is good, I'm ready to play even more. sometimes even after a double header or triple header day I feel like "is that all you got? come on!!" however if someone in the band is killing the vibe, I'd rather be a shoe salesman.  

2.  What is is you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

Jazz for me is about connecting with your emotions.  I am a jazz person whether I'm playing rock, latin, or whatever.  I think melodically all the time.  I want to get inside the songs and weave lines around them.  I want to set the mood and play to elevate the song.  Being primarily acoustic, jazz leaves more room for me to express color and nuance. when things are unnaturally amplified, it takes the sonic interaction and intent out of how acoustic instruments were meant to blend with each other.

If I'm allowed the space to color and find new things, I'm the happiest person.  I also love playing ballads with the right people. that is where the true music comes out, no jiveness or shredding or practiced licks, a one-time performance of color.   On the flip side, if my life was just that it would be really boring, to be the tinkly, feel good, in a sweater gentleman... Above all, I'm constantly on the search for the night/gig/band with the "sweetest" grooves and players.  It doesn't have to go to the moon and back on every song (which is so common in jazz), just keep the established vibe and make it relevant to YOU.  Think of Wayne Shorter 60's... pretty sweet eh?

To see a video of Chris Wabich playing drums during a 2012 performance with Sketchy Black Dog, click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Kerouac Connection - Amram and Murphy

Jazz and Jack Kerouac have been closely linked ever since the publication of On the Road, with its depiction of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty at a West Coast jazz gig.  This connection continued in the experimental short, “Pull My Daisy,” which included Kerouac’s off-screen narration while fellow Beats such as Allen Ginsburg and Gregory Corso acted silently on the screen.  The score of this film was written by another onscreen participant, musician/composer David Amram.  Of all those involved with this project, the last man standing may well be Amram.

Jazz vocalist Mark Murphy also has his own Kerouac connection.  While he never directly collaborated with Kerouac, he paid tribute to him in a couple of iconic albums, “Bop for Kerouac” and “Kerouac, Then and Now.”  Not only do they contain music inspired by Kerouac and the Beats, but Mark reads selections from some of the writer’s novels, including the haunting ending of On the Road, which precedes the equally-moving Fran Landesman song, “Ballad of the Sad Young Men.”

In my own personal Kerouac connection, I expect to be seeing both Amram and Murphy this coming Saturday.  Thinking about this made me realize that not only are both still actively creative artists in their 80s, but they both have gigs coming up very soon.

David Amram is the special guest with Carol Sudhalter’s Astoria Jazz Band (quintet) at Sunnyside Reformed Church this Saturday night, April 21.  It begins at 7:00 p.m. and includes a concert, oral history, Q&A and jam session.  The address of the venue is 48-03 Skillman Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104. 718 426 5997.  This is a free event made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered by the Queens Council on the Arts. 

Mark Murphy, who turned 80 this past March 14, has been celebrating his milestone in a series of birthday concerts around the world.  During the next one, which takes place at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club on May 21, he will be further celebrated by other singers who are friends and/or have been influenced by the master.  Of course, Mark himself is slated to sing a few songs, carefully picked from recordings spanning 50+ years of excellence.  The two sets are happening at 8:00 and 10:30 p.m.  The club’s address is 131 West 3rd Street, New York, NY 10012.  For more information, you can call 212-475-8592 or go to Blue Note-NY’s website at

Jack Kerouac would have turned 90 years old this past March 12.  While he no longer walks physically among us, at least it’s nice to know that his legacy still lives on, not just through his books which are being read by the latest generation of free spirits, but through appearances by free-spirited elders such as David Amram and Mark Murphy.

 (Photo of Mark Murphy courtesy of The Jazz Paisan)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Return of Sketchy Black Dog

Sketchy Black Dog, the band that proves jazz, classical and classic rock can co-exist and combine to produce beautiful music, is back to grace the stage of the Iridium in New York City. This is taking place on Thursday, February 2, with two sets at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. The last time Sketchy (as it's known to its loyal followers) performed in the Big Apple, during the Winter Jazz Fest/APAP week, it packed the clubs with fans who whooped and hollered after each set.

Here's the lineup of marvelous musicians who make up this band:

Misha Piatigorsky, piano
Chris Wabich, drums
Danton Boller, bass
Monica Davis, violin
Hilary Castle, violin
Colin Benn, viola
Agnes Nagy, cello

To see three video examples of the band in performance, click on these links:

Sketchy Black Dog

Open Window

Fala Bicho

If you want to experience the magic of Sketchy live, get more information at