Meilana McLean Gillard: Saxophonist
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Meilana McLean Gillard: Saxophonist


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The best kept secret in music


"The 2007 IAJE Convention"

The 2007 IAJE Convention

The International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) put on their annual
convention this year in New York City. The world’s greatest jazz
schmoozeathon, the IAJE convention is the only jazz festival that I know of
where jazz is often very much in the background in favor of passionate 30-
second conversations. Whether it be reuniting with old friends, hobnobbing
with famous and accessible musicians (“look, there’s Billy Taylor!”), trying to
pick up important information in seminars and panel discussions, going out
of one’s way to snag free sampler CDs or begging for work, many of the
7,000 attendees at the IAJE have their own strategy.
It is always a bit entertaining visiting New York City, particularly when one is
a foreigner from Los Angeles. While New Yorkers seem to speak a similar
language, there are differences in the cultures. They actually think that
when it is 50 degrees in January, it is a heat wave; we in L.A. know that when
it is under 70, it is freezing. New Yorkers were bragging about their summer
weather when by a fluke it was actually two degrees warmer one day than in
Southern California. But when I woke up my first morning and noticed these
white things dropping from the sky that someone called snow, I laughed for
five minutes.
Unlike in L.A., New Yorkers do not jump in their cars every time they have
to travel more than a block. Cabs, buses and trains actually have riders and
are not just props for the movies. Driving in NYC would be suicidal and a bit
fruitless anyway since there are no parking spaces, buses go faster than
cars, cabs go faster than buses and jaywalkers completely rule the city. It is
easy to separate the tourists from the natives. When the traffic light turns
red, only the tourists hesitate about crossing the street, knowing that if they
jaywalked in Los Angeles, they would be run over with the blessings of the
Also different about NYC is that restaurants have places to check one’s
coat, many people wear hats, scarves and gloves, the food tastes better in
NYC, hotels and restaurants have their heat on so high that one completely
thaws out from freezing weather within three seconds, and the entire
population of Glendale can fit into one of the 80-story buildings. Also
unusual is that jazz clubs tend to be filled on most nights, and that listed in
the local jazz paper Hot House are 176 establishments in NYC (147 in
Manhattan) that feature jazz on a regular basis. 176!
The night before the convention began, I saw the Mingus Big Band during
their regular Tuesday night engagement at the Iridium. With altoist Vincent
Herring acting as a witty emcee, the band romped on such numbers as “Gun
Slinging Bird,” the obscure and dramatic “Pinky,” “Passions Of A Woman
Loved,” “Sweet Sucker Dance” and “Song With Orange.” The personnel for
this version of the big band included such notables as baritonist Ronnie
Cuber, altoist Dave Binney, pianist Orrin Evans, tenors Craig Handy and
Wayne Escoffery and trombonist Conrad Herwig, with Ralph Bowen sitting in
on tenor during “Song With Orange.” Seeing the Mingus Big Band digging
into such complex and colorful material (with 11 horns often playing different
parts) makes most other jazz orchestras sound straight-laced in comparison.
The IAJE Convention included such notable events as performances by
One For All (with Eric Alexander), Double Image, Ingrid Jensen, the Charles
Tolliver Big Band, a highly rated set by singer Anne Ducros, Peter
Apfelbaum, Dave Liebman, singer Julia Dollison, the Anita Brown Orchestra
and debuts of new commissioned pieces. There were also extensive radio
seminars, a panel discussion on jazz on TV, a talk on Jazz and Politics with
Dave Douglas, Charlie Haden and Loren Schoenberg, a discussion of
producing Miles Davis albums (with George Avakian, Bob Belden, Teo
Macero, George Duke and Marcus Miller), a talk by this year’s NEA Jazz
Masters, a discussion of the Monterey Jazz Festival, an interview on stage of
Ornette Coleman by Greg Osby, Nat Hentoff reminiscing with Phil Woods,
and a Downbeat Blindfold test of Ron Carter. Despite my best efforts, I
missed all of these along with dozens of other potentially worthy events. One
just cannot be in eight places at once and still visit the extensive Exposition
Hall, not to mention engaging in a countless number of conversations.
Among the many people who I enjoyed talking to and seeing along the way
were the legendary singer Carol Leigh, Brooke Vigoda, Madeline Eastman,
Corina Bartra, Janet Lawson (a major vocalist who is making a comeback
after a serious bout with bad health that temporarily took away her voice),
Barbara Paris, Ken Dryden, Jim Snowden, Joan Bender, Al Julian, Herb
Wong, Frank Tiberi, Mike Brignola, Jane Burnett, Larry Cramer, Alexis Cole,
Rick Stone, Tim Jackson, Kendra Shank, Kellye Gray, Ellen Johnson and Ali
Ryerson plus quite a few others.
I - Scott Yanow (personal website)

"I've Become a Gillard Groupie"

I’ve Become A Gillard Groupie
Filed under: Ramblings — EMadmin @ 1:18 am
That’s right. And I’m not ashamed to say it. And why? Because Meilana Gillard’s version of “In A Sentimental Mood” is one of the most enthralling renditions of the song I have ever heard. Technically flawless, inventive, colorful. Her improvisations are dead on and I dare anyone out there to show me a better contemporary version of the song. I used to think no one could ever beat the Coltrane/Ellington combo. That version of the song has to be the quintessential one. Then I heard Sonny Rollins play it and that one just knocked me out. I mean, as much as I love what Coltrane did with the song, I’m almost tempted to say that I love the Rollins version even more. I shudder sometimes listening to that deep tenor with the tasty little vibes comping behind him. Incredibly romantic. Django’s version ain’t bad either. Fact is, it would be very hard to screw up “In A Sentimental Mood” no matter who played it. But you know what? All of the aforementioned versions of the song were played slow and easy, meditative. The song is a ballad. I’d never really heard it played at medium tempo and especially not at a fast tempo. Then I heard Ms. Gillard’s version.

Before I continue, let me give you an idea of why this praise for Ms. Gillard’s song is genuine and not at all profitable to me.

What’s the worst thing about running a little radio station on the web? One doesn’t get paid for persuing their passion. What’s the best thing about it? One doesn’t get paid for persuing their passion. What I mean is Dimensions In Jazz, Forever Cool, Evening Melancholy — we play what we play because we love the music. Not because some boss tells us this is what we have to play, not because society dictates to us what the top 40 tunes are. We play what we want and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year of our own money simply because we adore the music and the people who make it. Having said that, you should now realize that my praise of Meilana Gillard’s song is not provoked by any perks. It simply comes out of absolute admiration.

Art is subjective, I know. Lester Bangs wrote an entire glowing article on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album — he loved it so much (as do I). I gave that album to people and they just shrugged. You can’t point to art and say that this is objectively beautiful. It doesn’t work that way. You could listen to Gillard’s version of “In A Sentimental Mood” and shrug as well, and you would be absolutely right in doing so. You have a right to your opinion. But so do I. And all I can say is that from intro to coda this tune is pure magic to me. The arrangement is brilliant. What Gillard does in her improvisation is an adrenaline rush in itself. And it’s not the big swooping changes that get me. It’s the little things she does. It’s the little flourishes, the hints of her personality within the tune that get me. Bird could do that, Lester Young as well. The little things like when I hear Vince Guaraldi play “O Tannebaum” and I hear that little *ding* right before he digs further into his improvisation. That one note adds so much color to the song. Gillard does that a few times with “Mood” and it’s like she’s giving us a little smirk.

I don’t often go on and on about a certain song, but I’ve listened to this one at least two or three times a day for the past week and I still notice little nuances that I didn’t hear before. And maybe you think that this is a bit much just for one tune. But Kenny G has sold millions of albums and not once has he knocked me out with any of his tunes like Ms. Gillard has with her arrangement and her playing. This is jazz. This is why I play this music and read about this music and lust for this music. Tunes like this one make me feel alive. They make me feel like someone gets it!

So, yes, I’ve become a Gillard groupie. And I’m proud of it! - Evening Melancholy Online Radio


Meilana McLean Gillard: Intrinsic Evolution 2006 single
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Feeling a bit camera shy


Meilana McLean Gillard is an exciting, young tenor saxophonist and composer residing in Brooklyn, New york. She enjoys creating music that is not held captive by any particular genre or label and takes full advantage of NYC's vast artistic culture. Most-recently, you can find Meilana performing at various New York city venues like Minton's Playhouse and Sweet Rhythm with such artists as Charli Persip and Tyshawn Sorey. Meilana recently recorded with Joan Osborne and Greg Osby. Gillard leads her own groups "Quintet Nouveau" and "Heartland" and co-leads "Symmetry" with Mingus Big Band Baritone Saxophonist, Lauren Sevian. Look soon for a nonet led by Gillard. Meilana has been a member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra since 2001. She has performed with artists such as: Lou Rawls, Rene Marie, Johny Mathis, Mary Wilson, Debbie Reynolds, Toni Tennile, Benny Rietveld, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Gary Bartz. Gillard was born in London, UK in 1981. She relocated to the miniscule village of Ridgeway, Ohio at a very young age where she began to study music at age 7 and saxophone at age 11. Through her teens she won several awards for her efforts as a jazz soloist. Gillard studied for 2 years at Ohio State University under "Beatles" saxophonist, Gene Walker where she became developed an obsession for composition and arranging. She abandoned her small-town life in pursuit of knowledge and the desire to play with musicians of the highest calibur. Meilana moved to New York City in 2003 and began study at the New School University Jazz Program(class of 2005) where she studied privately with Seamus Blake, George Garzone, Tim Price and Dave Glasser.