Monday 18 February 2013

Here are some initial notes from Masonik's Paul Andrews on our current Rebetika project.

As an improviser and a saxophonist, scales have been with me throughout my career. I first realised their importance while studying Jazz at the Sydney Con.
Modal Jazz (eg.Miles Davis; Kind of Blue 1959, John Coltrane; My Favourite Things 1961) has a firm tonal centre which almost restricts the improviser, in fact locks him in to a possibly limited exploration. Scale choices become crucial. During “So What” a key change of a semitone is enough to open the door to a myriad of possibilities from just two modes.
This relationships between two or more modes has been a part of my explorations in Jazz and in my World Trio; BLUE NILE with Peter Biffin, with INDO JAZZ and Arthur Gracias, currently with MASONIK. In the making of Masonik’s album; Vedantic Chapter, we were able to study Hindu rhythms and Indian themes, including some modes, (the tabla and saranghi players are Indian)
I was attracted to the similarities’ between these and the Melodic Minor Scales, especially on the soprano saxophone and discovered that some modes implied certain rhythms and naturally worked, yet others resisted forward motion during my improvisations. Hindu scales often contain a flatted second, and major sevenths with the minor modes. These are also common in Jazz, as (eg. C7b9 C-maj7 ) The saranghi and sitar set the tonal nuance and I followed, bouncing from each other’s explorations of texture and melody. The tabla can be felt often in multiple time feels (4/4 over ¾ and 12 over 4, 7/4 or 11/4) they are all there and moving, generating us to further explorations. My timbre and tones were influenced also, by the sounds of the shenai and other double reed instruments used in Indian music. This allowed me to explore new and interesting tone qualities of the soprano saxophone and bass clarinet. (multiphonics, false fingerings, vocalising etc).
Throughout my research of the REMBETICA project I have found many similarities, alongside some very new (for me) challenges and techniques. Firstly, I have to deal with some quarter tones and this provided me with some saxophone fingering challenges. I have had to design some new fingerings to accommodate these tiny intervals..
I am exploring minor modes including the Phrygian Mode (b2nd); also the Dorian, Locrian and Mixolydian modes. I have noticed that some melodies and instruments used are Turkish in origin, while others are Greek or Middle Eastern. The reference to the Greek Blues is reflecting the similarities between the two genres. (personal stories in song, depicting the tragedy and depression in their lives, 1930’s). Often, moaning is heard as part of the lyrics. The call and response aspects are here too. A certain MINIMAL approach was apparent, especially in the ensemble accompanying.