Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 9: Angel Music Sampler; Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis "Straight Blues"; Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Dennis Chambers, Joey DeFrancesco "The JazzTimes Superband"

I'm going for a triple today, but that's not a symptom of some sort of extra burst of productivity or anything, it's really more because I happened to remember a particular CD as it came up and know it was more or less just a single/sampler. I know this because it was supposed to be a second chance promo to replace another that had presumably been lost. I say 'presumably,' because there's no telling, really. I may find at some point in this project that the original CD is still around, it just got buried.

This happens a lot. There are a few CDs that I have either acquired multiple times or straight out purchased several times. In fact I was more prone to having to replace purchased CDs because they migrated the most. So one of the things I expect to find going through all of this is a lot of duplicates. First up is one of the leading candidates.

Emily van Evera
Vision: The Music of Hildegard von Bingen

This represents probably the highpoint in my time as a buyer. While I still got to call myself a 'buyer' and while I bought for a large number of sections, the sales from those sections were a fraction of a fraction of the pop/rock/soul/hip-hop etc music that actually ran the store. I was a buyer, but I still spent most of my time doing other things. The real buyer spent all of his time talking to reps, going over catalogs, running reports, doing what you expected buyers to do while I closed out drawers and filed new product and occasionally pretended to look at catalogs to get out of closing out drawers or filing new product.

But then came Chant: The Origins, Form, Practice, and Healing Power of Gregorian Chant, and suddenly everyone was falling all over themselves to have this collection of medieval music from the Church. Gregorian chant was hot in a way that would have seemed comical before. This did more for Gregorian chant than Enigma.

So now the Classical buyers were actually getting wooed. And I got to go to my first luncheon where I ate fancy food, listened to a presentation and was given swag. And I was paid for the whole deal. All to sell this CD to my store, essentially someone taking the work of Hildegard von Bingen and putting it to electronica. The response to the popularity of Chant was to re-boot Enigma.

But it didn't matter. I was wooed. No-one wooed the classical buyer. I liked it. I wanted to be wooed again. So I put on the fur hat, got out the diamond tipped cane and I pimped. And I listened to the CD, regardless of what my other tastes were. And heaven help me, I actually liked some of the tracks. So when I lost the CD I wanted that song back, so I grabbed this promo. The problem: It was a sampler that had one track, and it wasn't the one I liked. So, I stuffed it into the Albatross.

I would see it now and then and know that it was the CD of disappointment. What I hadn't realized is that it wasn't just a single, there are three other tracks on it. The racily titled Thunder Entered Her by iTunes doesn't know, and some Busby Berkeley compilation by more people iTunes doesn't know.

The two upfront pieces go together, Thunder Entered Her and Vision are both classical-infused and a little foreboding. Thunder Entered Her is heavy, deep voices backed sparsely by equally deep organs. It's cool, but I feel like I'm about to walk in on something I shouldn't, involving robes and fancy knives. Somehow we make the transition from that to We're in the Money, which is only foreboding if you've actually seen The Gold Diggers of '33. Despite film school's efforts, I still associate this song with a prematurely elated Daffy Duck.

It occurs to me that now I could use my own Amazon player to find the %(*#& track I liked from Vision and get it once and for all...but I don't know that I would even remember it. Ultimately, I can't think of who this music was for. Too dance-y for the Enya crowd, not dance-y enough for the unce unce crowd, it ended up just being one of those 'bridge to nowhere' cross-overs.

This took longer to write than it did to listen to. Twice. Moving on...

Actually, I have to make an addendum - Thunder Entered Her was by 20th Century composer John Tavener and on iTunes the two last tracks are mismarked, which makes sense now. What I thought were ill-fitting bits of score to a Busby Berkeley film were in fact selections from an Itzhak Perlman recording Bits and Pieces called Sweet Remembrance. I guess I should read the CDs more often.

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Straight Blues

More water damaged liner notes means that I don't get to see what this CD has to say for itself. With the frequency of damaged liner notes I think I'm giving the impression that I lived in a flood plain or something. A number of CDs in The Albatross were soaked when a roommate had left a sink on when drunk, and some more were damaged when, during a hasty move to a small space, I ended up storing some of them outside without really realizing it. Plus, you know, I can't have nice things.

This album gets off to an awesome start. It's a slow, groovin' bit called The Rev which features some Hammond B-3 organ and flute as well as sax. Considering the menacing organ I just listened to, this is a pretty sharp contrast. I have to say, I love the sax and am happy Adolphe Sax (absolutely not making that up) invented it, but the B-3 organ might be one of the greatest instruments ever invented.

I cheated a little bit and looked this album up, because we've gone from a smokey blues bit to a larger band all of a sudden, and I wanted to know who the other players were. So apparently this is a collection of recordings from a few decades of Lockjaw's playing put together with the theme being 'blues.'

Makes sense, the blues and sax go together in much the way that jazz and sax go together.

Sweet, the organ is back. According to the back of the CD, there is a veritable who's who of musicians on this album, including Jimmie Smith, Count Basie, Shirley Scott, Eric Dolphy and more.

Davis has that dirty, lowdown sound that I was never able to pull off. It's as if his sax has one of those '10 pack a day' smoker voices that can sometimes be strangely sexy. It's sweaty sax.

Even when doing ballads like Untitled Blues, there is that constant growl.

This is kind of how I pictured jazz in my head before I started to learn anything about it. I thought it was dirty, smokey, and gritty. I thought saxophones growled all the time and I was doing it wrong. I thought you listened to it in hot places where women would button their shirts low and hike up their skirts to keep cool. Saxophonists would walk across the bars during their solos, bass players would always be smiling big and nodding at people, and everything would be slightly sepia toned.

I don't know where I got this impression. It's never turned out to be true. Even though still edgy, even Davis doesn't really growl all the time, the women at jazz shows are modestly dressed, air-conditioners are usually functioning well, and none of the saxophonists I saw ever even left the stage for their solos. Maybe it's because I live in Northern California. Maybe because it's a fiction I created in my mind from a misunderstood hodge-podge of representations of jazz and blues in movies and TV. Maybe it's a little of both. I don't really know.

I think sometimes you can rate the potential awesomeness of an instrumental track by its name. The more nonsense it is, the better the chance that it's going to be fairly funky. If it seems like a reference to something work-a-day and fundamental, even better. Case in point: the swingin' but still funky Pots and Pans. If it had included a dialectic abbreviation, like just 'n instead of and, this would have probably been even funkier. Those are the rules. I don't make them, I just make them up.

I'm beginning to have a fascination with the way iTunes labels. As far as I know the last CD (admittedly obscure, being a promotional CD sent to sellers) was completely mislabeled, and the World Flutes 1 CD sort of gave up. This one has been labeled "R&B." While this is certainly a strong influence of R&B, I think someone tuning in for some Ray Charles or, for some reason, Usher, might end up a wee bit confused,

With all the legendary jazz out there it's easy to let legendary jazz slip through your fingers. I feel like this is the case with Davis. I clearly should have been listening to more of him, I was just too busy listening to other completely awesome saxophone players.

Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Dennis Chambers, Joey DeFrancesco
The Jazztimes Superband

Every once in a while there is some sort of gathering that is dubbed a 'superband'. The problem I've always had with this is that in jazz it happens all the time. On almost any given legendary jazz performer's album you'll see a list of also legendary performers. I mean, just on that last Lockjaw Davis album that happened several times.

I guess that might be a rarer occurrence today with less jazz sales and performers not having to be quite as mercenary in their work to get by. No longer as easy to just record under another name to avoid a contract restriction, more agents and managers involved, not to mention egos, so a 'superband' is more of a special occasion than in the past. But as good as these players are, referring to them as a 'superband' makes me wonder what we would call things like the gathering that happened with "The Quintet" with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus? (Incidentally, I'm seriously hoping that CD pops up during this. I bought it a long time ago and I fear that it has been genuinely lost).

This is that sort of clean festival jazz. Like how I imagine those big headliner festivals. I don't know if 'new' jazz still sounds like this, but this was certainly big in the nineties. Direct mic on the drums, the 'dreaded bass direct,' a highly arranged head. It's good...just something always sounded off to me about these recordings. I think maybe--this is the kind of jazz my first instructors listened to, and I of course was looking for that aforementioned sweaty nastiness, so this always sounded like I had made a mistake, asked for the wrong thing. I hadn't realized that 'jazz' was a pretty broad term yet. So there is always perhaps an unfair hint of disappointment in listening to these.

I might have been excited to get this only to realize I got the wrong Brecker brother (kind of the same moment of discovery I just went through)--I would occasionally forget if it was Michael or Randy who played the sax. Michael Brecker did a lot of fusion that I just couldn't get into, but he really could play and when he did 'straight' jazz it was pretty good, if I remember.

I think that's what I'm cuing into, a bunch of guys who do a lot more fusion than 'straight' jazz doing a 'straight' jazz album. They're still damned good at it, but there's that lingering film of fusion from how it's recorded to how they comp. Still, though, they are flying through Oleo and it's pretty cool.

iTunes has decided that this is Bob Berg's CD, probably because he was listed first.

I'm having a hard time coming up with things to say about this. It's not bad, I'd stop the dial on the radio if it came on. If someone played it I might go, "Yes, this is a thing I like." It even has Freedom Jazz Dance on it. It's good I guess... if I didn't have all that Lockjaw Davis to listen to after all the other awesome stuff ahead of it...

Sort of unfair to new players, I guess. But I don't think that happens across the board. There are new players (or new in the nineties) that I really could get into. I guess if I had to slot it somewhere it would be 'music I might not listen to on purpose, but wouldn't mind if it came up.'

No comments:

Post a Comment