It's been quite a stormy week here in southern N.J. and I'm looking forward to the sunny days that the Weather Channel is forecasting for this week. Still, the rainy days gave me some extra time to practice and read about Cuban musical history and styles, and to plan the Gil Thompson Cuban Jazz Duo's performance for this week at Martini Beach in Cape May (Wed. 7:00-10:00pm). Every week we work to add something new to our repertoire of Cuban music and Latin Jazz. Actually the majority of our music was originally written for and performed by large groups. The percussion section of a band which plays Afro-Cuban music usually has at least three members who perform on the Congas, Timbales and Hand Percussion instruments( Guiros, Claves, Shakers,etc.) My percussionist Dave and I spend a lot of our rehearsal time deciding what are the most important elements in the percussion part of each number, and condensing it into something that one person can play. This means that most songs have as many as three (or more) distinct rhythm parts being played at once by one musician (not an easy feat)! On the Piano, I handle the Bass part (tumbao), the Melody and when possible , the Montuno (rhythmic piano part) or Orchestral or Chordal parts. As a two man band we find ourselves really challenged sometimes to make it work, but at the same time, we both love the musical freedom that it gives us. Needless to say, that we never find ourselves bored by any of our numbers, no matter how many times we have played it in the past. Being Jazz musicians, we are always discovering something new in every song as far as Melody, Harmony, and even Rhythmic style (Afro-Cuban music has so many to choose from) ! Of course ,we also have a great audience and performance setting at Martini Beach. With the ocean view and the room decor, it's easy to imagine myself playing in a 1940's club in old Havana (sometimes I almost expect Ernest Hemingway to come through the door). Maybe I watch too many old movies like "To Have and Have Not" and "Islands In the Stream", but I think that you get the idea. Well, I guess it's time to call it a day, but I hope that you will join us on Wednesday at Martini Beach for another evening of Cuban Music.
Monday, August 15, 2011
It's Sunday night and I'm already looking forward to performing Cuban music at Martini Beach on Wednesday! Every week as I practice and try to gain more knowledge and understanding of the many styles of music that developed in Cuba, I find myself reading and learning more and more about the island's history and people. Just as Jazz developed as a result of the merging of Western European and African elements, Afro-Cuban music owes it's existence to the harmonic and rhythmic contributions of these two continents. I find however, that the scale tips a little more toward complex rhythm in Afro-Cuban music. Even today the use of many authentic African instruments and and musical traditions remain fairly intact in Cuba. This is really visible in the style of music known as Rumba and it's three main sub-styles. My Percussionist, Dave, has been studying these styles for decades now and is quite knowledgeable about many of the rhythmic patterns and their significance in the music and social culture of Cuba. Some of the music that we perform already features more African based rhythms, as in the "Conga/Carnival parade" type of numbers that we feature every week. We are hoping to add, in the near future, a few more numbers which demonstrate other examples of these styles in familiar Cuban songs. Well, It's time for me to wrap this up, but I hope that you'll join us at Martini Beach in Cape May on Wednesday(7:00-10:00 pm) for another evening of great Cuban Music.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Well, it's after midnight and I'm wrapping up another evening of practicing and arranging music for this week's performance at Martini Beach (Wed. 7:00-10:00 pm). We've been having a great time every week with the combination of Cuban Music and Mojitos ! If you've already joined us during the past two months, then you probably recognized many of the songs that we've played. You probably grew up hearing some of these on the radio or TV and perhaps didn't realize that they were actually composed and popular in Cuba before they made it here! During our performance you will probably recognize the more familiar styles; Mambo, Cha-cha, Guajira (like the song "Guantanamera") and Bolero ( soft,romantic ballads). We also include other Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz styles during the evening. At or near the beginning of some of our sets you may notice some short "classical" sounding pieces, played on piano with a light,elegant percussion part. These are the Danzas and Danzons. These styles were very popular in Cuba during the 1800s to early 1900s. They were primarily used in "high society" functions and social clubs. They are an important part of Cuba's musical history, and their influence is very visible in the Afro-Cuban music and Latin Jazz of today. Well, I could go on and on about this exciting genre of music , with it's numerous styles and great history, but my clock tells me that it's getting pretty late, so I'll hope to see you Wednesday at Martini Beach for another night of Real Cuban Music with the "Gil Thompson Cuban Jazz Duo"!
Saturday, July 30, 2011
What a great night it was last Wednesday! I could feel the enthusiasm and energy from the audience throughout the evening as I watched them move and tap to the rhythm of the Cuban music that we performed. If there was a dance floor, I'm sure that some of them would have been using it! Along with the applause that we recieved (after almost every number!), making eye contact with so many of the audience and seeing the excitement in thier faces was one of the greatest rewards of being a musician that I could recieve. This is the reason that I became a professional performer years ago, and it continues to drive me to reaching for higher goals in my art. For this upcoming performance (Wednesday August 3rd 7:00-10:00pm) I am preparing some new Cuban music to add to my repertiore. As usual, I am drawing inspiration and musical ideas from recordings of the great Cuban pianists who were major performing icons of the 1940's and 1950's. I also spend a lot of listening time dedicated to the music of the great "orquestras" and Cuban big bands of that time period and before. This is the only way that I can get an understanding of the true "feel" and meaning of this music. I am so thankful to live in a time when technology allows me to be able to find these restored vintage video and audio recordings so easily. When I was a teenager all that we had were records, and later cassette tapes. Now I can go online and find information about any song or artist in seconds. Well, It's time for me to get back to the piano. I hope to see you Wednesday night at Martini Beach!
Monday, July 25, 2011
As I am preparing for week #6 at Martini Beach in Cape May with my Cuban Jazz Duo, I remember that this is the week of the Puerto Rican Festival in Vineland N.J. where I now call home. I'm especially looking forward to the Saturday night event in the park which consists mainly of kiddie rides, vendors of Latin American food and novelties, and what interests me most, the continuous performances of the numerous bands. Merengue, Latin Jazz, and Salsa fill the air
as the audience moves to the rhythm, and some even dance as couples to the live performances. This is one the events that really sparked my interest in Latin music decades ago. Since then I've performed in and led a number of Latin Jazz bands and began to spice up my repertoire for the Gil Thompson Trio with Latin and Brazilian musical phrasing on the piano. As I learned more about Latin American music, I began to realize and recognize the differences of the styles of different Caribbean countries, which ultimately led me to develop a strong taste for the music of Cuba. I spent a lot of time (and money) acquiring videos, CDs and books on Cuban and Latin Jazz, concerts and musicians. I was and still am especially interested in the pre-1960 music, and the lives of the famous performers, and composers of the island, as well as the effect that history, all the way back to colonial times, influenced the development of all of the different Afro- Cuban styles of today. In my weekly performance I try to include as many of these styles as I can, from Danzon to Conga to Bolero to Guajira to Mambo and Cha-cha, as well as some Latin Jazz from the USA. Every week as I practice and study, I discover more and more how much there is to learn, and my interest in this music continues to grow and be renewed.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
My 5th week of performing Afro -Cuban music at Martini Beach as a piano and percussion Duo, and it still feels as fresh and exciting as the first night!! The staff and audience are wonderfully receptive and we always have a great time. I totally enjoy performing for and interacting with them. Between the weekly performances I'm not only arranging and learning new music, but I'm also exploring Cuban musical history and tradition, along with studying the numerous Cuban percussion rhythmic styles and piano techniques of past and current Cuban musicians. My goal is to continually grow as a Latin Jazz pianist and to improve with every performance at bringing authentic Afro-Cuban music to my audience as I continue to explore this exciting and challenging genre of music.
Friday, July 8, 2011
I'm back at Cape May with my new act, " The Gil Thompson Cuban Jazz Duo". We perform on Wednesdays at 7-10 pm featuring Piano and Latin Percussion and are coming up on our 4th week at Martini Beach Restaurant. We will be adding pictures and sound clips to the website soon. We have been very well received by the patrons and we've had a great time. If you enjoy an ocean view, Mambo & Cha cha and Mojitos, please come out and join us on a cruise to circa 1950's Havana: *a three hour tour*.