Merry Christmas!

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h=”300″ height=”199″ />Christmas is almost here, and we wish you a happy New Year and wonderful holidays!

As the US Embassy Podgorica Charge d’ Affaires Bennett Lowenthal said recently at the press conference with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, Christmas is the only American holiday that is related to music in a very special way, and this special connection is in the songs of Christmas, including the traditional Christmas carols and the modern songs written for and about the holiday. We had a chance to buy zithromax hear some of these wonderful melodies, arranged or composed by the phenomenal Carla Bley. That was our Christmas gift to you.

In addition, now we present you a few abstracts from our conversations with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow – conversations we had at the press conference in Podgorica, right before the “Carla’s Christmas Carols” concert. Carla told us about her life-long “Christmas carols” project, including her wish to mix “the white” and “the brown” of Christmas, and how stories don’t matter when it comes to music after all. Steve told us about Carla. Enjoy!

Carla Bley:

This project started probably when I was a child, I always loved the Christmas Carols. Later, I did arrangements of them for a school book from Scholastic. Scholastic is a publisher for children’s schoolbooks and I did the Christmas Carols book for them and I made sure that there were no funny notes in there. I wanted everything to be the note that was written by the composer, or the note that was most accepted by people who sang in a choir… So, I had a chance to do the arrangements of, maybe, 40 Christmas Carols in that book. I also played in church, the piano or the organ, so I knew them all. Ten years later, when I went to New York City, I got all the jazz musicians to bring their instruments one night at the Christmas party and handed them these parts and said: here is some beautiful Christmas carols to play, and I had some of the greatest musicians in the world playing “Silent Night”. And they had a good time doing that. And then, a year after that, I was doing a project at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock and, again, I brought up the Christmas carols and this time I made another bunch of arrangements – some of them amusing, some of them, again, absolutely classical. So, by this time, I had a shelf just weighed down with ideas for a Christmas album – but nobody wanted to hear it. “The London Brass” asked me to write a piece for them and I said: “Great! I wanna do Christmas Carols!” I never heard from them again. I just could not interest anyone in them! They all thought it was a commercial enterprise, something like: “Oh, let’s all put on Santa’s suits and make a funny album about a reindeer”. I didn’t do anything like that. To me, this is quite sacred. When I combine things, like for example “Silent Night and Day” where I combined “Night and Day” and “Silent Night”, it’s not a funny thing to do. They happened to work perfectly together. That’s why I did it.

So, finally, my big break came. In Germany, there is a city called Essen and they have a huge philharmonic organization – gorgeous building, I think it was designed by a famous architect. I had a residency in Essen, one year of doing one thing for one band, one thing for another band, a couple of projects of my own, working with the student big band. And at the very end, Michael Kaufman, the man who run the place, asked: “What would you like to do, what would you really like to do, what have you always wanted to do?” and I said “OK, I know you’re gonna say no. Christmas Carols?” He said: “Yes!” and I said: “Could I do it with a brass group?” and he said “I myself am a trombone player! Of course, you should do it with brass!” I thought: I have died and gone to heaven! I was so happy! So we did it! We did it with the very people you’ll hear tonight.

Who composed the original Christmas Carols and are they originally American or European is almost irrelevant. If you think of Christmas Carols you

think of Western Europe or America. I’ve tried to give different approaches – for instance, “Away in a Manger”: I thought, since Jesus was born in a desert, in the Middle East, he’s not from London, you know! “Jesus Maria” is about a little Mexican boy who asks his mother why he has a girl’s name, and his mother tells him the story of Jesus and Mary. I like to bring in a sort of a “brown Christmas”, instead of a “white Christmas”. This is not just the people in England and Germany and America; this is all over the world. In Africa, there are people singing Christmas Carols. A lot of religious Catholic people play a lot of Christmas music, all over the world, not just in those Western European places. “Jingle Bells” we made into reggae, and that’s from the Caribbean. That’s again a brown thing. “It Came upon a Midnight Clear” we do with the New Orleans approach; we do it like New Orleans street brass bands – another brown Christmas thing. Just keep that in the back of your mind – I kept it in the back of mine.

A while ago I made a record called “Looking for America” and on that record everything had to do with America, one way or the other. But, I included South America, because America is two continents. So, there were things on there also with a Latin feel and – back to the brown theme! But, I don’t really have much interest in anything at this moment, except big band music, which has no programmatic content. It is just notes. What I’m doing now is just music, no story. Stories are rare; I don’t always tell stories.

Steve Swallow:

My sense is that Carla is a force of nature and, just as it’s impossible to stop the wind, I think basically

it’s impossible to influence the direction of Carla’s creative output. I’m not even sure to what extent she’s in control of the situation, as well. She writes every day, except when we’re on tour, playing concerts – which is, for her, kind of vacation, because she gets to leave for the moment the business of writing music. But when we’re at home, seven days of every week she adheres to a very strict and very specific schedule for writing music and does it in a very private way, in her own music room. At some point in the process of writing her music, I can be useful because we play together the pieces that she’s working on and she’s able at that point to make some decisions about how practical what she’s written is and I’m very happy to be useful in that regard. But, essentially, she’s an uncommon force of nature and I stand back and watch it happen.

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