The modern music scene easily goes beyond various genres and generate new timbres. Together with a classical piece of the Middle Ages, I have selected three modern pieces which exceptionally stimulates our imagination.
The first time I listened to “La Folia” was around 1970 on the record of Frans･Brüggen, the fantastic player of the recorder and who was also famous for leading the orchestra later in 18th century. The number in the album, “Lachrimae Pavan” had the title, “Variations on La Folia,” and I found out the Italian baroque composer, Arcangelo Corelli, had written the variation of this piece. Although various performances remain, what is interesting is that the progression of gloomy melodies and minor harmonies of “La Folia” may have even influenced modern pop and rock. If that is true, it seems that “La Folia” or something similar to “La Folia” has been passed down in people’s hearts for over 500 years.
It seems that “La Folia” was generated originally as a dance music in triple time somewhere in Iberian Peninsula, gradually changed its form and has passed down in various formations. In the album titled “La Folia 1490-1701,” we can listen to the eight performances showing how <La Folia>’s melody or style developed over those years. Corelli’s 1700 version is the seventh number. It is performed by the ensemble led by Jordi Savall who was born in Barcelona and he is performing the viol. This is the disc we can play with the timbres of the Middle Ages transcending time and space.
This is the collaborative work by the Polish singer-songwriter, Anna Maria Jopek, who is also known through the collaboration with Pat Metheny, and the greatest jazz sax player, Branford Marsalis. The voice of Jopek who has tried to shed new light on the folk music of her own country is fully transparent and beautiful, and together with her expression, the naïve and warm atmosphere spreads around, numerous Jopek’s original pieces were written by getting inspirations from the traditional Polish melodies and tunes.
The voice of Jopek singing in a straightforward manner and Branford’s soprano sax stays close to her voice, the obbligato is performed and the ample dialogues develop. The ensemble with string instruments quietly envelop the two. It is a dim delineation where everything is so casual as if the sound flows naturally. The fantastic music goes across every national boarder and gets deep inside of our heart. The calm expression of <A Farewell to Maria> which was written to the memory of the Polish Trumpeter, Tomasz Stanko, who passed away two years ago, is also touching.
“Remain In Light” is the masterpiece the American Rock band “Talking Heads” released in 80’s. Rather than calling it simply the new wave, the music full of afro-funk roughness gives a huge impact even among the rock fans at that time. That historical album was covered entirely by the world-known singer born in the Republic of Benin in West Africa, Angelique Kidjo. That being said, the Angelique’s approach was boosting “Remain In Light” further while stirring her blood.
When I think of the fact that the original was released 40 years ago, it is surprising that “Talking Heads” got too much ahead of times, however, Angelique Kidjo, who regenerated that and made it to more stimulus piece of music is even more formidable. The sounds added by percussion and brass section is definitely danceable, wild and gorgeous. Amid such sounds immeasurable music roots of Kidjo as an African artist emerges. She was listed by the Guardian as one of the “100 most inspiring women in the world,” and this work in 2018 had the effect of bolstering her reputation. Her new piece, “Celia Cruz” (Universal Music UCCM-1252) released last year is dedicated to the Cuban maestro, Celia Cruz, and is another masterpiece where she thoroughly demonstrate her personality.
Dominic Miller has been Sting (the popular rock singer)’s right hand man and the guitarist for his band for close to 30 years. While playing pop music in Sting’s band, “Absinthe” is the second album he released from ECM purely showing 100 % of the musical landscape he had in his mind, the sunlight and green sky of the southern France where he was born and raised.
His concept, as he mentioned by himself, is the contrast and collision among colors in the light, and lots of his sounds reminds us of the paintings of the Impressionists. The sounds created by the five members—adding Manu Katche, the talented percussionist born in France, Santiago Arias, the active bandoneon player based in Buenos Aires—are freely floating around the space. While creating a feeling of floating in the ambient air, the sound of Dominic’s guitar is the formidable core. The title “Absinthe” is the name of a liqueur with high alcohol content. As the name indicates, this is the prime-quality uncategorized music which makes me feel like daydreaming.
Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to JAZZ JAPAN, STEREO, and others. He joined a big band, Shiny Stockings, as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).