Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 6: Casa da Mãe Joana and Count Basie

The prime stack is starting to vanish (well, shift the width of one cd on the bookshelf it was on) and it's getting close to the time I'll have to start pulling CDs out of the storage bags (they are currently for the most part packed into several re-usable Safeway shopping bags. I buy those bags with great intentions, but those intentions tend not to come with me when I leave the house to shop...).

I still haven't come to any decision on what to do with the CDs once they've been 'processed.' Certainly with ones that I find upon review may not be necessarily ones that I would like to drag from place to place a certain point on the near horizon this will start to be an organizational issue. For the time being, however, I can continue to put the issue off, so on to today's selections-

Various Artists
Casa da Mãe Joana
Casa Da Mãe Joana - Samba Music

I was going to blame this on The Buena Vista Social Club, but once I was able to find a release date, it came out a year before that film. Of course, this is Brazilian (the title translates to "The House of Mother Joana," which essentially means a place where anything goes, everyone does what they want. I wish I had known that when I was dating a Joanna...I don't think she would have gone for it, but I could have tried...) and The Buena Vista Social Club was Cuban, but there was a time after the release of that movie when labels emptied their South American catalogs in the hopes of catching some of that glancing glory...or at the very least hoping that shoppers couldn't tell the difference between Portuguese and Spanish.

But this is actually just a small label's compilation of various Brazilian artists. There is no translation of the lyrics, no English liner notes explaining the nature of the compilation or who the artists are. It's from a New York based label, but it is not for novices. Unless said novices are either willing to fake it or admit that they were diving in feet first.

This is where my hypocrisy would show. I would scorn 'coffee table' CDs. Essentially the same as the books, it was music that you didn't listen to on your own, it was music you displayed conspicuously and played for people knowingly when they came over, reciting the facts in the liner notes as if you  knew that beforehand and went to the 'special store' (or major chain that carried this kind of stuff...) to buy it. Or Starbucks. This CD could easily be a CD at Starbucks.

But then, I have it. I wanted it, no doubt. Oh, but my reasons are pure...I'm an amateur musicologist, remember? I'm actually interested in into the Albatross it went, unlistened to, but if there was that moment where someone needed Brazilian folk music, I would have it. Oh so different than the coffee table collector. In my head.

My arrogant pretensions aside, it is pretty cool. The instrumentation is light, obviously the cool Brazilian rhythm flows from song to song. If the Toots made me feel like talking about lost loves while driving along a Mediterranean coast this obviously cruises Rio finding new loves. I've never been to either place, but old movies assure me these are the appropriate actions.

I have to admit, once I translated the title I was expecting something a little more down and dirty and not so easily related to The Girl From Ipanema. But hey, for all I know, they're singing about having kinky kinky sex. I'm pretty sure someone's mentioned Carnivale a few times.

I think that every instrument has the music that redeemed it. The saxophone was lucky enough to get jazz, guitar got rock, even the accordion gets the tango, the flute gets Brazilian music. I don't know for sure, but I imagine unlike in other situations, after the singer the Brazilian flute player gets all the chicks. Or dudes, depending on gender and preferences.

I have a huge soft spot for women singing ballads in a foreign language.

Fifteen tracks in fifty-three minutes kind of breezes by. Ah, a saxophone has made it into the mix. The music manages to be fairly busy without being overwhelming at all. The guitars are in constant motion, even when they're comping it's fairly animated, and there is another guitar flying through arpeggio figures. And that doesn't mention the three or more percussion elements. I knew for a long time that jazz had become fascinated with this but never really stopped to think about why, but that has to be a huge factor. So much going on, freedom for the entire band to really let loose in the song without getting in the way.

Count Basie
Cocktail Hour

This is actually a double CD, but one of the CDs has flown the coop. That's not really that uncommon, I am pretty sure that most of my doubles are missing at least one. I'd find the track or tracks that I really liked on one of the CDs and that's the one that would end up homeless after being ejected from whatever device I was using at the time. Actually, if I think about it, I might know where this disc's companion might be on one of my cd carriers.

Because no matter how overwhelmed I got with music, there's no Count Basie CD that wasn't played at least a few times.

While I've been a little unkind to big band music, Basie is a special case. My high school big band was fashioned after Basie, that's what we listened to, we played predominantly Basie charts (mostly Frank Foster arrangements), that was the band we were meant to sound like. Our guitar player learned to ape Freddie Green even though the insistence that he replicate that sound would eventually start to chafe.

For my part, Lester Young was my first love on the sax. He was so smooth. I even momentarily experimented with holding my sax out way to the side like he did so he could hear himself over the powerful Basie brass. But our brass, while powerful, wasn't that powerful, and a tenor sax can get heavy. I even eventually bought a pork-pie hat, though I can't pull it off quite like ol' Prez. No one can, really.

This is the quintessential cool in a big band, what a big band is meant to sound like, that smokin' Kansas City sound.

And to top of all that bombastic swinging horn with sparse, almost absent piano solos...only the notes that are needed, perfectly placed. He could (and would) lay it down if need be, but only if need be. That's cool, to take a three note figure and make it a smokin' solo completely in place amongst the shouting horn section, the lion tamer in his element.

Cocktail Hour is a CD series of collections from various jazz artists. The sleeve is simply an insert card advertising other Cocktail Hour CDs in the series for other artists. No notes on the selections. Few 'trademark' standards on here, no One O'Clock Jump or April in Paris. This is deep catalog. The recordings sound old, there's no indication. You have to rely on your ear to see if which set of players it is.

Great lyric,
"First name James, my second name I've never been told
My first name's James, my second name I've never been told
Been chasin' women since I was twelve years old."

This disc has Cherokee on it, notorious in jazz circles for its difficult bridge to improvise on. There's a quote about someone 'growing up' or 'cutting their teeth,' or something 'on the bridge to Cherokee.' I wasn't able to find the quote, but some guides on the bridge I might come back to. Apparently at the time I was too daunted by the bridge to Cherokee to put the CD with that chart on regular rotation. But here it is...Basie tackling it with ease. I have to admit that this chart gets stuck in my head a lot and I had forgotten that the melody was the 'dreaded Cherokee.'  It doesn't sound so menacing...listening to something like Giant Steps you can hear, even if you don't understand, something about those changes is daunting, but Cherokee seems gentle until you have to string a solo across the bridge...

"She's built up from the ground" is one of my favorite blues descriptions. I'm not even sure what it's supposed to mean.

Another version of Oh, Lady Be Good. This time only glancing blows at the melody while people take their solos. Still, gonna be stuck in my head all weekend.

For some reason, iTunes decided this was 'pop.' I didn't even look what it decided the Brazilian music was...Latin, it seems.

Day six down. Pretty awesome way to end it, too. Once again, join the Facebook group to get a sneak peak at what's coming. Or make suggestions on what to do with the processed CDs...

No comments:

Post a Comment