Donal Fox!

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I know I am supposed to spruce up the blog with references to pop culture, but I don’t know how to do that. I’ll leave that to education bloggers at the Fordham Institute and to Jay Greene’s crew.

It’s Sunday so cut me some slack, and let me tell you about an incredible night of music. Last night I was blown away by one of the greatest nights I’ve spent listening to music in a long time. Scullers has some great acts, but last night I went to see Donal Fox and was completely blown away. I mean completely blown away. Technically blown away, musically blown away, still blown away.

Donal Fox owns his piano in a way few people I’ve listened to do, and he’s got a quartet that is so tight, that is the tightest rhythm machine I have ever heard, and so darn subtle.

I’m no music expert, but I am super-interested in it, and try to keep up with new talent, but I had only heard Donal’s name and wasn’t familiar with his work. And he is not new. Here is the terse wikipedia entry on Donal:

Donal Fox (born July 17, 1952) is an American composer, pianist and improviser in the jazz and classical genres. He has received several awards, including a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition and a 1998 Fellowship from the Bogliasco Foundation. He has also been nominated for the CalArts/Alpert Awards in the Arts. He was the first African American composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony (1991-1992). In 2008, Mr. Fox was awarded the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award in Music. The annual prize is awarded to composers of “exceptional accomplishment” and “outstanding artistic achievement.”

Huge accomplishments but delivered in terse and quiet language — the same way he speaks on the stage. The entry is silent on the fact that he lives right here in Boston. That in itself makes this a great city!

There was no differentiating members of the band — they were attached to each other like marionettes pushing each other in different directions. It was one of the most dominating musical acts I have heard in a long time — you sat there mesmerized. Last time I felt like that was when I saw Astor Piazzolla in 1985. That’s a long time. His sound is all his own, and his precision on the piano — and the precision of his band members — was unreal. You hear a lot of Bach and classical masters, on the jazz side lots of Lenny Tristano and Monk. Try this piece on youtube from his Monk and Bach project. Or this from his Scarlatti project, which has compositions from all periods including Piazzolla’s tangos.

And while you are at it, you might want to take a quick listen to some of Piazzolla’s own work — I mean he was one of the great composers of the past century. Here is the Milonga del Angel, and here is the Muerte del Angel.