A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Renowned guitarist returning to Jazz in June with futuristic new style
Fareed Haque is headlining the Norman festival Friday with a new band, new instrument and new music.
The renowned guitar virtuoso is certainly embracing the cutting edge, returning to Norman’s Jazz in June festival this weekend with a new band, new instrument and new music.
Voted 2009’s Best World Guitarist by Guitar Player Magazine, Haque and his 2-year-old band MathGames! will headline “Jazz Under the Stars” Friday night at Brookhaven Village. The acclaimed player and professor “recently returned from interstellar pan dimensional time travel” to bring his new project’s “jazztronica” sound to Earth, according to his website.
“I think the futuristic concept is just in the idea that these things can go together. And if there is a spirit in the universe thatexists to bring it all together, she probably has a great sense of humor,” I think like the real serious, serious futuristic music is probably gonna be fun and light and at the same time heavy,” Haque said by phone Monday from his home near Chicago, where he was about to go into the studio and finish recording the next MathGames! album.
“You know, I’m a classical guitarist with these degrees and a professorship at a university. And the other teachers they just look at me like I’ve got six heads when I come onstage in a cheap plastic jumpsuit.”
Haque, 50, began experimenting with “jazztronica” and formed MathGames! shortly after he was introduced to the Moog Guitar, which the company best known for its synthesizers debuted in 2008. Developed by Paul Vo, the unique electric guitar lets players control the energy level in the strings.
“Because it’s driven by magnets, you can hold a note indefinitely. So I can hold one note with one finger and play other notes with the other fingers. … much the way a keyboard player would hold a melody note and play others. I can do that on the Moog Guitar, especially because I have classical and jazz guitar techniques in my background,” I can use some of those techniques and really hold notes out and create some different kinds of sounds,” he said.
“In addition to that, the strings, if I play a chord, will just hold and because of the nature of the overtone series, they’ll kind of morph over time. So when you’re playing the instrument, it does kind of do its own thing. And that gives kind of a surreal aspect, a spontaneous quality to the sound.”
“So I began to see a connection between jazz and electronic music, and that’s what MathGames! is doing,” he added. “I’m playing the Moog guitar, and we have an electric jazz upright bass. The drummer has electric and acoustic drums.”
While electronic music often is preprogrammed in nature, the Moog Guitar creates a spontaneity that appeals to his jazz background.
“Stuff kind of happens when you’re playing that’s different, and that’s real cool and exciting to listen to. So it has an organic nature to it, but it is very electronic and modern in its sound. You create electronic music but in sort of an organic way, which relates well to jazz,” and to the roots of the music,” said Haque, who was born to a Pakistani father and Chilean mother and whose extensive childhood travels influenced his music.
“A lot of electronic music is the opposite of spontaneous. … Unlike digital technology, which is very linear, this is very geometric in its proportion. Things happen that are always sort of in relation to what the string is doing, so the sounds that come out of the guitar have an organic nature.” So it’s really cool and fun to play with.”
“The truth math” found in music and nature is the kind MathGames! enjoys playing with, he said.
“I think most people distrust math because math is approached in a linear fashion, but the math in nature is much more complex and at the same time, much simpler,” he said.
“You know, every snowflake is a snowflake yet no two snowflakes are the same: That’s math at work. So “The true math is much, much more deep and profound and sexy and fun and crazy. You know, the figure of a woman is a mathematical formula, and when it’s right, it drives the world insane. When you start playing with math in music, you start finding all kinds of proportions that line up.”
Haque first played Jazz in June with Cuban jazz master Paquito D’Rivera and later with his jam super-group Garaj Mahal. Alongwith performing Friday night, the guitarist will teach a Saturday clinic on “The Math of Moog and 21st Century Guitar.”
“It’s very well-produced … and there’s so much enthusiasm for new music and old music,” he said of Jazz in June, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. “I feel like it’s a real healthy festival and pretty progressive in a lot of ways.”
Since he considers himself pretty progressive, too, MathGames! features a visualist who plays with the band.
“I think we live in an age where the audio/visual experience is more integrated than it was even a few years ago … so we’re kind of embracing that and trying to take it somewhere new,” he said, adding that’s part of the reason for the plastic jumpsuits.
“The objective is that when the films are projected that we become part of the film,” he said. “Well, and it’s mostly just … extra-terrestrial sanitation. You know, we try to keep ourselves as pure as possible.”
30th Annual Jazz in June
When: Friday and Saturday.
Where: Various locations in Norman.
More on Jazz in June
“Jazz Under the Stars” at Brookhaven Village, 3700 W Robinson.
A Taste of Herb: 7:15 to 8:45 p.m.
Fareed Haque and MathGames!: 9:15 to 10:45 p.m.
“Jazz in the Park” at Andrews Park, 201 W Daws Street
The Paseo Street Walkers: 6:45 to 7 p.m.
The Justin Echols Jazz Trio: 7:10 to 8:35 p.m.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: 9 to 10:45 p.m.
Norman High School Jazz Combo: Intermissions between 6 and 9 p.m.
11 p.m. Saturday at The Performing Arts Studio, 200 S Jones Ave.
Hosted by The Justin Echols Jazz Trio
CLINICS WITH THE ARTISTS
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at The Performing Arts Studio, 200 S Jones Ave.
11 a.m. to noon: Fareed Haque — “The Math of Moog and 21st Century Guitar”
Noted jazz guitarist and instructor Fareed Haque proves the future now as he explores some of the latest technology and sonic possibilities available to the jazz guitarist. By breaking down music at fundamental levels and smoothly rearranging it into something never defined before, Haque blends funky jazz and modern instrumentation to take you out of your head and out of this world.
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.: Justin Echols — “A Standard Approach: The Crooner’s Guide to the American Songbook”
Any jazz musician who has ever attended a jam session knows the value of having working knowledge of the “standards” – songs that have stood the test of time. Similarly, vocalists benefit by having knowledge of the so-called “American Songbook.” But knowing the words or basic musical framework of a song is just the beginning. The real trick is to make such familiar material your very own. Justin Echols offers insights and tips on how to approach these songs.
2 to 3 p.m.: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band — “The First Thing About Second Line”
The tradition of street parades with brass bands and “second line” dancing is but one of New Orleans’ many colorful and unique musical traditions. The Big Easy also is well known as a hotbed for funk, blues, zydeco, hip-hop and much more. So it made perfect sense when the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band combined influences to become the most inventive band of its kind and paving the way for a new tradition to emerge. Join them as they share their story … and that of the city they call home.