On September 16th, my mentor El Payo Humberto and I appeared on a program called Radio Duende, hosted by flamenco and music lover Emel Sherzad. Good conversation, classic flamenco recordings, and a few solos and duets... check out the following link and click "Listen Now" to stream it from the KFAI archive!
The great American guitarist and composer Frank Zappa once asked: "Does humor belong in music?" The answer to that question was, according to Zappa, a resounding yes. As someone who primarily focused on rock music, particularly as a form of social/political commentary, he incorporated humor into his music at almost every opportunity. Many of the songs he played with his band The Mothers of Invention are incredibly funny; using humor as a way to catch the audience's attention was a brilliant move on his part since it also had the consequence of people paying more attention to the lyrics and noticing the underlying message.
But does musical humor exist outside of lyrics?
As you guys will find out with the coming blog posts, I am a huge fan of the ECM record label. They release a lot of very high quality European jazz, and their back catalog features some of the greatest recordings of all time (more on those later). Several years ago, I came across a recording by the Italian pianist Stefano Bollani called Stone In the Water, a pretty serious and musically mature work (P.S. Check out who wrote the top rated review on Amazon!). Shortly afterward, I bought a few of his other records... one of which surprised me in how not serious it was (in a good way). And, with one track in particular, how funny it was!
Tico-Tico No Fuba is one of the most famous Brazilian songs of all time, having been covered by artists from across the world. Unfortunately, with so many covers out there, a lot of them tend to sound the same. However, this particular cover, which I first heard on Bollani's album called Carioca, is anything but orthodox. The theme kicks in at 2:07, and Bollani has done something very clever with it. Every couple of measures, he changes the key by half a step. I literally laughed out loud when I first heard it just because of how utterly bizarre it sounded. But, oddly enough, it works. And what's especially ridiculous is that Bollani is able to improvise on the reworked theme, a testament to his incredible musicianship.
So, to return to Zappa's original question, does humor belong in music? Do experiments like Bollani's key-shifting Tico-Tico have musical merit, or are they nothing more than gimmicks? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Hello and thanks for stopping by the new website! As the name implies, this blog will be about 'the good things' in art, whether they are traditional or modern. As my mentor, flamenco guitar instructor, and dear friend "El Payo" Humberto Wilkes so astutely noted -- and to whom I give credit for the blog's name -- truly good things are timeless, and can be from "yesterday, today, or from tomorrow". I will be posting as regularly as I can, so please check back often!.
To start with, here's the title track from legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia's latest studio album, Cositas Buenas (translation: good little things!).
I had the good fortune of seeing the master live twice -- once in Chicago in 2004 during the CD release tour for Cositas Buenas, and another time in Minneapolis in 2012. Although I wasn't able to meet him in 2004, apparently the second time was the charm!
I also had the privilege of playing for Paco and his group after the show -- a nerve-wracking experience to say the least, but one that I am immensely grateful for!