Django Bates is one such man. Although he is fairly unheard of here, across the pond he is a celebrity. The pianist, composer and Eb Peck horn player has all but created a movement in Britain where he started a band more than two decades ago fusing a slew of concepts and an ingenious knack for finding that little thing (that you and I might over see) out of which to build a beautiful and intriguing piece. He has always surrounded himself with like-minded virtuosic and open-minded musicians such as Stian Carstensen and Ian Ballamy. He is known for taking sounds we know and recognize and twisting them into nostalgic sounding twisted new tales of wonder. His command of composition and musical execution is so virtuosic that the only way to keep it all down to earth and get to the heart of the music is with a sense of humor. For instance Bates wrote a brilliant piece called Early Bloomer which is based on an ascending three note theme and plays on the sense of tension a resolution: the piece is subtle and full of breathy winding counterpoint, and ends on a unison note which... goes on for about two minutes, thereby reaching the moment of awkward and going well beyond!
When he lead a residency at New England Conservatory during my studies, he had the band march around in the big beautiful concert hall for the last piece. The band was marching, playing an anthemic piece to a thundering audience, one by one exiting the stage through a door. Well the last musician in the parade was a Tuba player, just as he was about to exit the stage he was shut out and left standing there alone. It was a beautiful statement and also incredibly funny. (Django apologized afterwards as the gentle being that he is and the Tuba player kept laughing)
I want to share with you the sides of Django Bates that I have been able to find on the www but before I do that, for all the fans of Django, he has two new great records. A trio record called Beloved Bird, which is a tribute to Charlie Parker and Spring Is Here (Shall We Dance?) which features his large ensemble.
Here is a song to learn intervals:
Django Bates the pianist:
Here is a look into how the man's mind works:
And here he is leading the Danish Radio Orchestra: