Thursday, August 21, 2014

Madison Ballet's Upcoming Season: Snazzy and Family Friendly

Butler, Quirk and Luksik in Who Cares?        ©SKepecs 2014

by Susan Kepecs
In the decade since Madison Ballet’s performance at Overture’s grand opening, the company’s scaled a metaphorical mountain.  The climb wobbled unsteadily for seven years and then, two seasons back, the organization simply sailed to the city’s cultural summit.  The number of talented professional dancers on full-season contract expanded, allowing for the kind of consistent training and personal rapport that turns a bunch of well-trained but disparate ballet dancers into a bona fide company.  And artistic director W. Earle Smith’s urban-sexy rock ballet Dracula – a choreographic coup that premiered in February, 2013 and returned by popular demand for Halloween that year – plus the acquisition of two stunning Balanchine ballets – kicked the repertory up to new heights.  Reviewing the company’s spring 2013 repertory concert, Exposed, I wrote “Madison Ballet really has arrived.” 
That statement was premature, from Smith’s perspective.  “Yes, we have arrived,” Smith said the other day, “but this is going to be the season that proves it.” 
Luksik in Groovy  ©SKepecs 2014

The 2014-15 season is bigger and more well-rounded than any in the past.  Two full-length ballets, two repertory concerts, an appearance in Overture’s tenth anniversary celebration, and two (possibly three) tours are on the calendar.  For the first time, the entire company – larger this year than last – will be in residence full-time, on a 32 week contract.  Rachelle Butler, Marguerite Luksik, Shannon Quirk, Phillip Ollenburg and Jackson Warring – well-known to Madison audiences – return, joined by five new dancers and three promising apprentices.

  On September 19 the company tours to Menomonie, to perform at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, which – who could imagine? – made CNN’s list of the world’s 15 most spectacular theaters --  The program reprises this spring’s sparkling Repertory II concert at the Bartell:  Smith’s La Luce D’Amore, a slightly tongue-in-cheek,very neoclassical pure ballet piece done to a set of Neopolitan folk tunes; Smith’s free-spirited, dance-full-out ode to the ‘60s, Groovy; and – the pièce de résistance – Balanchine’s jazzy, sassy, Gershwin-scored masterwork Who Cares?

A week later – September 27-28 – the company performs excerpts from Groovy and Who Cares? in a private performance for Overture donors, as part of the center’s gala tenth anniversary festivities. 

In keeping with Overture’s first-decade celebration – also the tenth-year anniversary of Madison Ballet’s current Nutcracker – that production gets a revamp this December. “We’re using the same sets,” Smith says – they were acquired in 2004, for Overture’s debut season – “but we’re but we’re sprucing everything up.  We’ll be premiering a lot of new costumes, new lighting, new choreography.”  And for the first time the holiday ballet, often the youth audience’s first introduction to both dance in performance and live classical music, runs December 13-27 – three weekends rather than two.  

Nutcracker: Mother Ginger and the Pulcinellas   ©SKepecs
Like its 2014 predecessor, this season’s Repertory I concert, February 6-7 at the Bartell, showcases a variety of outside choreographers.  The purpose of this practice is twofold: it expands Madison Ballet’s relationships with other dance organizations, and, just as importantly, working in the very different styles these guest artists bring in stretches the dancers’ powers of technique and interpretation. Last season Smith invited a slate of UW-Madison Dance Department faculty members to set their works on his company.  This season’s Rep I – still partly in the planning phase – will include works by General McArthur Hambrick (yes, that’s his real name), who’s on the dance faculty at West Virginia University, and Jacqueline Stewart, of Chicago and New York.
These are really interesting choreographers, with radically different approaches.  “Hambrick and I danced together a hundred years ago at what’s now known as Texas Ballet Theater,” Smith says.  “He left Texas for Broadway.  He’s one of those quadruple threats.  He’s an unbelievable dancer, and besides being involved in musical theater he’s a choreographer, singer, director, and arranger” 
He also records with his own gospel group, the Joyful Noise Choral Ensemble.  I have no idea what kind of piece a multi-talented choreographer like Hambrick is going to set on Madison Ballet, but excerpts of his neoclassical ballets posted on YouTube reveal the background he shares with Smith. 
Jacqueline Stewart, artistic director of Jaxon Movement Arts in Chicago and New York, will also have a piece on the program.  “She’s a true urban contemporary choreographer,” Smith says.  “Her stuff is crazy.” 
He means that as a huge compliment. On the company’s website,, Stewart calls her works project-based dance art inspired by current events and the urban environment.  The videos she’s posted are more Pina Bausch than Nederlands Dans Theater or Hubbard Street Dance Chicago – super edgy, and bristling with visual and psychological punch. 

On March 13 the company takes to the road again, performing the three repertory works on the Menomonie program at the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh. 

On March 28-29, Madison Ballet presents Smith’s lavishly neoclassical Cinderella at Overture Hall.  The full-length story ballet, with it’s exquisite Prokofiev score, its jewel-toned, Victorian Romantic costumes and sets and its fantastical fairy variations premiered there in 2005; it was reprised in 2007 and 2010.  Smith might have chosen to do something experimental instead – more like Dracula than Nutcracker.  “But in celebration of Overture’s tenth anniversary,” he says, “we really wanted a season with two wonderful family-friendly ballets that provide lots of performance opportunities for kids.”

       Revealing another side of Madison Ballet, Repertory II, at the Bartell on April 17-18, promises sophisticated excitement.  The company premieres two newly acquired Balanchine ballets: the deeply romantic, hair-unbound "Elegie" movement from Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, choreographed in 1970, and the exquisite 1960 Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, to music originally composed for Swan Lake (but not used in Petipa's original).  The latter is legendary for its daring partnering and its flashy female variation.  “And there’ll be something of mine on the program,” Smith says – “probably two of my pieces.”  He won’t reveal what those will be – one might be brand-new – but he hints at the other, which I swore I wouldn’t name since it’s not yet set.  All I’ll tell you right now is that if he picks it, Rep II will end the 2014-15 season on one big, bright, snazzy, jazzy note. 

DakhaBrakha comes Back!

by Susan Kepecs
Ukrainian altermodern quartet DakhaBrakha (the name means Give / Take) comes to Overture’s Capitol Theater this coming Thursday, Aug. 28.  I surprised myself by loving this band’s hauntingly soulful sound at last year’s Madison World Music Festival, since my taste in world music generally swings toward all things Latin.  And I far prefer world music that I can pinpoint, culturally speaking, to the spurious syntheses of roots-related sounds that abound lately on the world stage. 
But I had a hard time pinpointing what it was that I liked so much about DakhaBrakha, with its unlikely “ethno-chaos” (the band’s term) instrumentation – cello, piano, trombone, bass drums, zgaleyka (Russian bagpipes), garmosha (Russian accordian), and an assortment of originally indigenous sound-makers including digeridoo and various hand drums like tablas and djembes.  So what, exactly, was Ukrainian about this band, other than the musicians’ tall, furry hats, which I took to be a postmodern deconstruction of Cossack headgear from the Ukraine steppe? 
Given the raging east/west conflict over Ukraine (or, more specifically, over Ukrainian shale gas and the country’s rich agricultural sector – good articles here, here, and here, it seemed important to get a better handle on contemporary Ukrainian culture.  So when I found out DakhaBrakha was coming back to town I jumped at the chance to talk to them.
Marco Halanevych, the band’s lone male, graciously answered my email questions.  (The three women – ethnomusicologists who’ve combed the Ukrainian countryside for years, learning their country’s traditional songs – are Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsibulska, and Nina Garenetska).  I did a little bit of transliteration on Halanevych’s text, to make it read smoothly for US audiences – I’m pretty good at this kind of thing, but any mistakes in interpretation below are my own.

CulturalOyster: From what I’ve read DakhaBrakha has been around for a number of years, and you have several albums – is Light, from 2010, the most recent? Please talk about the band’s history.

Halanevych: DakhaBrakha was created 10 years ago by Vladyslav Troitskyi, director of private Centre of Contemporary Art, for his theater project, "Ukraine Mystical." Vlad asked the women, who are professional folklorists, to make some experiments and try to create something new, create a new myth about Ukraine. The whole project was devoted to searching of new identity for Ukrainians, and the women were resposible for the sound part of it. I was an actor in this theater project, and I accidently walked through during this conversation [between Troitskyi and the women], so Vlad proposed that I join them. Also, the women are professional singers but [at that time] they didn’t play instruments.  So we just took some percussion instruments, which Vlad had from his travels, and tried to listen – first in silence, and then to the best examples of different world music. 
We’ve recorded five CDs, and a new soundtrack for the 1930s film Earth, directed by Dovzhenko Oleksandr in 1930 and considered an all-time masterpiece. [Check this out, film buffs:].
After Light we recorded the Khmeleva Project with the Belorussian instrumental trio Port Mone, and also Earth was released as a DVD several months ago.  Now we are thinking about creating a CD like a musical trip through Ukraine, all different parts of it. We have some drafts and maybe it will be recorded as one track. We want to create a special video design for this trip, to show the beauty of our land.  I hope we will do it in winter.

CulturalOyster: Where does DakhaBrakha fit in the history of Ukranian art?  I’m thinking that in the late nineteenth – early twentieth century Ukraine had a number of famous avant-garde artists – in a sense the great ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, who was born there though he trained in Russia, but also the painter Mykhailo Boichuck, and the sculptor Alexander Archipenko, who were persecuted in the 1930s by the Bolsheviks.  In what way does DakhaBrakha – especially with the band’s origins in experimental theater – link back to that earlier current? 
Halanevych: Yes, you are right, Ukraine had a great writers, artists, actors, directors in this period of time. But Soviet times were hard for Ukranian culture.  It was only supposed to be done on special official terms.  Some of this pseudoculture we still have in our times. But even during the Soviet time we had really talented and even genius artists. As I've mentioned before, we [DakhaBrakha] try to create a new myth about Ukrainian culture, to open Ukraine not only to world but to Ukrainians also. Of course it's very global mission. First of all we play music we like, and we play it in a way we like. Then all of our other senses fall into place. And we are really lucky and happy that in some way our sensibilities coincide with the feelings and images of different people throughout the world.

CulturalOyster: The tall fur hats are a play on Cossack culture, yes?   You also had a beautiful painted cello when you were in Madison – does that have a traditional cultural backstory?

Halanevych: About the hats – not exactly. The Cossack hats were shorter and only for men. But as we are not an authentic [folkloric] band we understand that we can't wear pure Ukrainian traditional costumes. They have to be pastiched, as is our music. We have to be very natural and modern, and theatrical at the same time. These hats and costumes (we have several) were created especially for our performances.  The hats became our signature, and we joke that they are our connection – our conductors to the Universe.  As for the cello – the ornaments on it repeat the visuals of traditional Ukrainian carpets. Nina painted it herself. It’s an interesting thing that a lot of people even in Ukraine accept our images as being very familiar and traditional, but of course they understand that it's only stylization. The same is so about our music - it's all fusion, but on very rich background. 

CulturalOyster: You said something in the interview on the RockPaperScissors website [ ] that gets to the heart of what I want to ask you.  You said you “try to shift the emphasis of traditional sounds.”  To me, your music sounds like one of the most interesting and ethereal global fusions I’ve heard in ages – you were my favorite band at the Madison World Music Festival last year.  If I were to put a label on your wonderful song “Baby,” for instance, I’d say it sounds like a prehistoric spiritual from Motown’s ancient counterpart.  “Zhaba” sounds so African – like tribal music from Zimbabwe.  “Karpatskyi Rep” sounds partly Ukrainian-folk to my untrained ear, but it’s such a mashup of other sounds, even hip-hop – I can’t quite explain it to myself. So here’s my question: Ukraine’s cultural position between eastern Europe and Russia makes it hard for me, as a non-Ukrainian, to grasp what’s most characteristically Ukrainian – and yet I know that no matter how far afield it goes, your music is somehow rooted in traditional Ukrainian songs.  I think right now, given what’s going on in your country, it’s really important to understand your culture, so – can you talk a little about that, and describe the Ukrainian roots in your sound?
Halanevych: The background of all our music is the Ukrainian singing tradition – vocal polyphony. That helps to describe any emotion in any style. The women – they are professional ethnomusicologists – have a great collection of Ukrainian folk songs that they recorded during their own field expeditions, as well as songs recorded by their teachers and their colleagues. And in our music we give these songs new life.
We can combine several songs together, or change melody and rhythms totally but not change the lyrics.  A lot of the songs are from pre-Christian times and still have their magic genetic codes. For centuries they’ve accumulated all the destiny and pain, all the tenderness and power, all the love and crying of Ukrainians. We just use these codes in a way that is closer to our modern and urban consciousness, the way we feel it now. We are happy that even though people don't understand the lyrics (there are so many dialects that even not all Ukrainians can understand all the words), they can feel the emotions and create images in their minds. In this way we can share our unique culture with people around the world, and we can them tell more about our culture, about our passion and nature, and most importantly, we can inspire them to feel all of these things.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crash, Fall, Fly!

                                                                     all photos © SKepecs 2014

by Susan Kepecs
SHAKE HIT CRASH SLICE FALL ROTATE FLY ESCAPE WRITHE BOUND TUMULT ROCKET.  That was the program for STREB: Forces, the tour-de-force Elizabeth Streb show at Overture Hall last night (April 16).  Right off the bat you knew this was revolutionary.  I can’t count the times I’ve been busted by the Overture police for trying to sneak a few flashless photos at a performance, but I can tell you how tickled I was when MC Zaire Baptiste told the audience to ignore the theater’s prerecorded admonishment about your electronic devices.  “Madison, Wisconsin, make some noise!” he exhorted.  “You need to keep your cellphones on!  Turn on your cameras!  Load your pictures on Facebook and Instagram and let everyone know how much fun you had!”
So here, in celebration of this act of imagemaking liberation, and in lieu of a review, I’m doing just that.  Streb, the empress of extreme action, straddles the line between mad physicist and artistic genius with her choreographic explorations of what happens when humans in flight collide with gravitational forces.  Projected in black and white video on the backdrop, she offers some insights into each piece. “I’m interested in the crashing,” she explains. There’s an undercurrent of deadpan humor in her commentary, delivered with thoughtful urgency: “It’s so visceral when you hear that sound.”
“Forces” is a full-throttle immersion in Streb’s idiosyncratic vision, which rests, in part, on improbable devices she designs as impetus for action.  “I’m interested in hardware no one’s ever seen before,” she says. These inventions themselves are sculptural. The lighting, and the projected backdrops behind the movement, are painterly.  David Van Tieghem’s electronic score is onomatopoetic, wooshing and smashing in concert with the action and augmented by by the grunts and cheers of the company’s extreme action specialists as they execute their flights and impacts, plus the audience’s gasps.  The whole thing’s a sort of good-humored, death-defying circus and Baptiste is the carnival barker, calling out the names of particular feats and configurations. “The Tasmanian Devil!”  “Double Cheeseburger!” “The Wheel of Fortune!.”

This is HIT.  The auminum poles frame a sheet of plexiglass; the action specialists swung around the top bar and slammed into it, or hurled themselves at it from the floor until finally it seemed to shatter. 

In SLICE, the action specialists dodged this spinning steel I beam -- jumped over it, outran it, bopped up and down beneath it -- and somehow nobody got smacked.

FALL (no photo):  “I think everone can fall from 10 meters – I think not everyone wants to,” Streb says on video.  “A great action artist can’t worry too much about their future.  
“A mouse can jump from an 11-story building and walk away; a person would shatter; a hippopotamus would liquefy.”
 The action specialists ride a rising beam, from which they fling themselves onto the mat – fly, thud!  The heights from which they fall, and the miles per hour of their descent, are projected behind them.  The beam reaches the 22-foot mark. Daredevil Cassandre Joseph is the last one left.  She looks down, walks to the end of the beam and mimes giving up. “If you want to see Cassie jump you have to make more noise!” Baptiste advises.  The crowd yells; Joseph returns to the middle of her precarious platform and jumps / flies / belly flops onto the thick mat below. “35 mph” flashes on the wall behind her. 
              For ROTATE (no photo), an enormous turntable spins speedily on the floor; the extreme action specialists bellyflop onto it and ride it around upside down, standing on their hands.  Ballet-trained action specialist Jackie Carlson grand jetés on this turning surface.  “Nijinsky!” Baptiste calls out. 

Streb, projected, told the story of Lawnchair Larry, who tied 45 helium balloons to an ordinary outdoor seat and sailed over Los Angeles.  In FLY, Carlson sailed around in the grasp of this gyrating fork, posed in attitude or beating entrechat quatres.

ESCAPE was more flight-of-fancy than action feat, though requiring abundant physical control.  This action specialist, whose name I didn’t catch, flailed like a trapped spider inside a small, bright box suspended some 10 feet or more over the mat.  He flung himself, body smacking against the container’s sides; stretched horizontally across its cramped space he scrambled up and down the walls; he flipped and somersaulted and finally, in darkness, lept free, thudding onto the mat below. 

“Action heroes imagine something before it exists,” Streb says.  Look at the Wright brothers – before them, no one had learned to fly.  “Bullriders, laborers, people who climb the highest mountains – they’re action heroes following their dreams.” 

In BOUND – for me, the most kinesthetic piece on the program – it sent my own dreams swirling that night – Streb’s action heroes, bound with cables to clotheshanger-shaped contraptions suspended from the battens bounded, spun, flew and somersaulted, bashing against the back wall on which projections of
buildings, continents, oceans and the moon slid by with increasing speed.

TUMULT (no photo) looked Olympic; against snowy projections, action specialists in red suits ran up a slope and tumbled down, leaping over each other like participants in a log rolling contest.  “Chuck your friends!”  Baptiste yelled.  One specialist flung the others, gathered at the top of the slope, to the bottom.

And then there was ROCKET, starring this tilting, spinning yellow gizmo.  “You have to mount a machine and learn its tricks,” Streb says – a quote she attributes to the Wright Brothers.  And that’s what the action specialists do.  They spin around inside this outré piece of moving hardware, dance in it, run like gerbils in it, climb up and down it, fling themselves off of it. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, as Baptiste would say, was the Streb Extreme Action Company at Overture Hall Wednesday night. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Conversation with Brian Lynch

                                                                                  © Tomoji Hirakata

by Susan Kepecs
Brian Lynch, honcho of hard bop trumpet con o sin clave, master transcender of the line that divides Latin jazz from straight ahead, comes to UW-Madison to lead a four-day workshop in the School of Music’s jazz program.  It’s a tremendous opportunity for the students, and also for the public, since we get to hear Lynch ply his chops with the UW Jazz Orchestra and the UW Honors Jazz Band at Music Hall on May 1 under the auspices of the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Isthmus Jazz Series.
Lynch, who grew up in Milwaukee, is a literal link between old-school training by apprenticeship and today’s academization of jazz.  While getting his BA at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Jazz Institute in the mid-70s, he apprenticed with Brew City jazz icons like saxophonist Berkeley Fudge and guitarista Toty Ramos’ La Chazz, back when it was a Fania-style salsa band rather than the Latin jazz outfit it is now.  (FYI, Cardinal Bar owner Ricardo Gonzalez brought La Chazz, in its salsa band incarnation, to Mad City on several occasions including one at the old Bunky’s, on Park and Regent, and another, I think, at the Cardinal’s long-gone sister, Rick’s Havana Club).
In 1981 Lynch traded Milwaukee for Manhattan.  He skyrocketed as a sideman, playing straight ahead with Horace Silver (1982-85) and salsa with Fania All-Star Hector “el cantante de los cantantes” Lavoe (1983-87) – not Fania’s, or Lavoe’s, best period, but still.  Lynch’s next leap landed him long-term spots with el grán maestro Eddie Palmieri (with whom Lynch has appeared here twice in the last decade) and, from 1988-90, with hard bop maharajah Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers.  The last of Blakey’s trumpeters (he died in 1990), Lynch followed in the enormous footsteps of Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis and Terrance Blanchard. 
Also in the late mid-80s, Lynch emerged as a leader in his own right.  Today he has 18 albums out under his own name, with two more in the mill.  His work’s rich with the fabled history of the idioms he plies.  He lays funky, Lee Morgan-like riffs over the slightly deconstructed bugalú “Dance The Way U Want To” on ConClave Vol. 2 (with his Spheres of Influence ensemble, Criss Cross 2010).  The haunting, melodic lines he puts out in his tribute to Freddie Hubbard’s smoky ballad “Eclipse” (Tribute to the Trumpet Masters, Sharp Nine 2000) are a smidge smoother than the original, but hark back beautifully to the best times of bop.  Lynch’s salsa chops sizzle on “Guajira Dubois,” off The Brian Lynch / Eddie Palmieri Project / Simpático (ArtistShare 2006), for which the two leaders won the Best Latin Jazz Grammy in 2007.   
A performance and recording career like Lynch’s would’ve been plenty before the 1970s, when institutions of higher learning, including UW-Madison, started adding jazz musicians to their faculties.  But now that so many of the best players also teach, the Brew City-raised trompetista gains economic security and the opportunity to pass along the torch as associate professor of jazz trumpet at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami.  You can’t duplicate the urgency and grit of old-school jazz, with its strong sabor of seamy nighttime streets, in the academy – and too many young players with fancy jazz educations have come through here lately playing dull bossa-pop with a global tinge or cerebral chess-game improvisations that just don’t swing.  But musician / profs like Lynch help save the music from this watered-down fate.

I spoke with Lynch on the phone last week. about his own history, the music today, and the realities of the accelerating academization of jazz.  Here’s what he had to say:

CulturalOyster: Growing up in Milwaukee with a name like Lynch, how did you come to play with La Chazz?

Lynch: By aspiring to play with musicians like Berkeley Fudge and Manty Ellis [both, I believe, were Wisconsin Conservatory faculty at the time], and by being attuned to the authentic jazz community.  Latin music was never too far from the foreground when you’re listening to jazz and involved in it.  In the era I grew up in so much of the music had Latin influence, whether it was Horace Silver or McCoy Tyner or even the fusion bands.  It wasn’t hard to make the move once I was exposed to salsa, to be really intrigued with it and feel really comfortable with it being an integral part of my musical consciousness.  A lot of the guys in La Chazz were jazz players – I knew Toty Ramos as a fine jazz guitarist before I knew he played Latin music. 

CulturalOyster: Tell me about some of the big influences on your career after that.

Lynch:  Obviously, working with Palmieri and Blakey – those were dream-come-true kinds of situations. Freddie Hubbard was one of my idols – I followed him around like a puppy dog.  One of the high points of my life was when he welcomed me as a Jazz Messenger.  Of course playing with Horace Silver was my first big small group jazz gig.  Working with Hector Lavoe for five years gave me my salsa button, as Eddie [Palmieri] would say.  The AfroCuban tradition and bebop / hardbop are my touchstones, but I’ve played a really wide swath, from bebop to punk.  I worked with Lila Downs [on her 2008 Manhattan Records release Ojo de Culebra, as well as on Simpático] and Prince [on his 1996 three-CD Emancipation album].  I played and recorded with one of my closest friends from Milwaukee, James Chance or James White, as he’s variously called, who became a controversial figure in punk funk or no wave in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.  I still like to keep up with what’s going on, I look for adventurous music. If you’re a serious musician you’re always developing, no matter what era you come from. 

CulturalOyster: In the bio on your website you say that jazz today draws on a wider variety of musical styles or genres than it used to.  But your tribute albums [Tribute to the Trumpet Masters and three Unsung Heroes volumes, Holistic Music Works 2008-2009] prove that for you, jazz history runs deep – and also, it seems to me that most of what you do, despite the “spheres of influence” concept, sounds happily old-school.  What am I missing?

Lynch: Yeah, if old-school means connected with tradition, I do old-school in the sense of being a hardbop alumnus of Horace Silver and Art Blakey, or in the sense of swingin’ Latin jazz.  My music is comprehensible – I don’t like head-scratching music.  I like do to music that has a strong narrative sense, that tells a story.  Perhaps it’s because my own personal sense of adventure is more nuanced than the novelty some people like to hear.  The thing I want from all the music I aspire to is the ability to be spontaneous.  My metaphor for improvisation is that it’s sort of like you’re bobsledding downhill, through terrain.  When we improvise we’re negotiating musical terrain, making a pathway in it.  You can go through that terrain or fly over it or drop bombs on it.  But I feel like some music today doesn’t negotiate it.  Bebop is the consummate technique of having an intimate relation with the musical terrain of time and space, the ability to control it moment by moment but not planning it out in advance. That intimate relationship with what you’re playing that the bebop masters had – great great rumberos have it too.  When you listen to the Muñequitos de Matanzas, when you see what the quinto [the little, high-pitched drum] player does – that’s what a great bebop trumpet player does, it’s what Miles [Davis] did.
CulturalOyster: You teach in an enormous academic music program – what do you think about the ever-expanding academization of jazz?

Lynch: It’s interesting that jazz is in the academy.  Academia itself is becoming more and more inclusive.  I think schools should reflect everything in American life, and the idea of jazz studies at least partially comes from the cultural studies programs of the ‘70s – many jazz programs came out of the black studies departments then, or linked to them.  Madison’s an example of that, with Richard Davis [who was hired by the School of Music in 1977] and his relationship with Afro-American Studies. 
            But it’s a complex and fascinating subject.  Probably what you’re questioning is whether being in the academy is helping or not helping the music.  I’d say it’s what you make of it.  There are more and more practitioners of the music with genuine credentials in the schools now.  In my modest way I’m part of that.  Teaching is transmitting what I’ve lived – my journey as a trumpet player and a person expressing himself through the music.  And for someone still actively involved in the search, being in an academic setting has great value – as a teaching artist I’m actively fostering my own musicianship and still trying to progress.  Being in the institution is like being in research, I’m expected to do research when I’m out traveling the world – it’s work to share with my colleagues and my students, and it’s an adaptable paradigm that hopefully works very well. 
I’m very involved in recreating for my students some aspects of things that have been lost.  The culture has changed, we’re not in 1960 any more. So we have to consider the conditions that created the music, whether it was jazz, Cuban, or rock n’ roll. Those situations are gone and we don’t want to go back to 1945 – I wouldn’t want this generation to go through what musicians dealt with then [poverty, the ghetto, violence, hard drugs] – so we have to come up with alternatives.  For me, teaching music is partly about talking about the things that interest you. I look at the social elements, the culture and the life under which the music flourished – the music itself encompasses all that, if you read enough into it.  You’re right – I’m oriented toward having a historical base under what I do.  I’d have been a historian, if not a musician.  It’s important to understand not just the notes but where the notes came from. 
The music conservatory in the ‘70s had a very loose atmosphere compared to what goes on today.  But I think young musicians are looking for the same things I was – you know what’s happening and you seek it out.  I looked for the music I wanted, in the places I knew it was.  I don’t have a PhD, but I’m supervising five doctoral candidates. I feel like I have to be a Zen master – give ‘em the questions they have to ponder.  They’re all different as players.  Some come in with a lot of experience – I’ve got a piano player who’s out working with Arturo Sandoval right now.  Others are really good, but they haven’t done anything.  They have some interesting topics for their dissertations, but the dissertation’s not enough.  You gotta go out and make a record and make it good enough to get played on the radio and make yourself a little name, or else you go right from school into teaching.  There’s too much competition for that – too many guys like me looking for those jobs.  You gotta bring the street back into it. 
What’s the street?  It’s just a community of practice; it’s not about what you do on the street, it’s about the abilities you get from that way of getting to the music. 
So in the academy it’s about what happens on the bandstand – you have to bring the bandstand back into the classroom.  I get an ensemble of kids to play my music.  I help them work on it, but they’re in my band and I expect them to make me sound good – I don’t want to suffer, so they must play well. 

CulturalOyster: You’re doing a short residency here on campus, and then performing with the UW Jazz Orchestra and the UW Honors Jazz Band at the end.  So as I understand it it’s just you, no sidemen on this trip.  Can you really get a group of students ready to perform with you in four days?

Lynch: I believe I’ll have some help.  I’ve sent my music out in advance – I’m sure they’re rehearsing.  I know Johannes [Wallman, director of the UW-Madison School of Music Jazz Studies program] – I know he’s a very estimable educator and a fine musician and he’ll be taking care of business.  And four days is beautiful, you can get a lot out of that experience.  It’ll give everyone the stimulus to play their best, not just for me but for themselves.  It’s always the art of the possible, for all of us. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun, and I’ve heard good things about the program and how it’s expanding.  I’m looking forward to it.