Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 19: Arnett Cobb/Dinah Washington "Cobb and His Mob in Concert" and The Canadian Brass "Super Hits"

As the CDs have emptied from the bag, it has started to lose integrity and the CDs have degenerated into a pile in the bottom of the bag. As a result, the selection method has become less meticulous and there is a more honest "reach in and grab two" bingo style method in place now.

I know that none of this really matters as long as I don't actively select the CDs. I guess it wouldn't matter if I did that either, but this method feels more honest and interesting to me. Certainly more representative of my relationship with the Albatross.

So, lets get to what has come up in today's musical bingo-

Arnett Cobb
Cobb and his Mob in Concert featuring Dinah Washington

Once again I wander into the world of people I know of but don't really know. I was likely more excited about Dinah Washington than about Cobb.

Well, more than likely this was one of the CDs handed directly to me by a small label rep who was being especially nice to me. Most of the Big 6 reps visited me only briefly - I made them very little money so they didn't care. They were nice enough, but I was the short pit stop on the way out the door before they went off to a big store to woo their main buyer.

But small distributors, especially ones that had a lot of jazz and classical labels on them, they treated me like big shot. Well, not really a big shot, but they were nice to me the way that the Big 6 reps were nice to the store's main buyer.

So I'd get handed these promos personally instead of in mail addressed to me or handed out with a bunch of other crap on the way out the door. And it would usually be something obscure, or like this with black and white packaging and all of the original recording imperfections in place (it actually sounds like it was recorded straight off someone's old record) and I'd always say about the same thing, "Cool" or "Sweet" or some equivalent and then struggle to see if I could remember anything about the artist being handed to me while simultaneously trying to mask the fact that I didn't already know. A great deal of my experience in music is based on bluff.

It's too bad I didn't actually listen to this album or look into it, because I have a longstanding love of 'jump-jive' or 'jump-blues' or whatever you want to call it. I had run across a band at the Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee (now apparently called the Sac Jazz Festival & Jubilee) called Fat Sam's Band that did Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan tunes and I was completely taken. I even went and got pleated pants and suspenders despite having sloping shoulders that made suspenders a comically bad idea.

Years later, of course, jump-jive or "swing" would get a huge flash in the pan revival with Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Brian Setzer and his Orchestra, Lee Press-on and the Nails (which a friend of mine from college ended up playing for), and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (who did other songs as well, and while I'm biased I think they best embodied the idea of a modern jump-jive band in that they didn't just do 'revival swing' but modern influenced music with horn and swing elements added as well).

I thought my ship had come in, that the music I liked was going to be popular and therefore available. But the revival went from popular to comical faster than pogs (famously at the store there was a 12 hour pogs fad where from opening people started playing pogs, people spent their lunches getting pogs, employees were throwing down in the aisles...and by closing time the fad was over and no one had pogs the next day. If you didn't work that day, and I didn't, you were not part of that flash in the pan.)

So I never got the benefit of the revival. I got a few early albums on the up-swing (ha!), but the digging out of classics of the genre didn't happen with the exception of Louis Prima because the fade had come and gone before people could make it to their back catalog.

But I did get this. While not as 'hot' as Jordan or Calloway, it's still a pretty good sample of a genre that I tend to think of as only having two people in it at times.

The Canadian Brass
Super Hits

Let me just state right off the bat, I love Canadians. So far, every Canadian I've met has been kind of awesome.

This doesn't of course mean that I like all things Canadian. I mean, there's no Celine Dion in this collection no matter how free it would be.

But I do like the Canadian Brass. It's the kind of appreciation that comes from getting free CDs, however, because I don't know that I would have come across them otherwise. I think I recall being amused at a classical album being titled "Super Hits".

It does have a brass rendition of Scarborough Fair by Paul Simon with an odd assortment of acoustic and electric guitar and harpsichord. And the ubiquitous Canon in D by whom I once heard referred to as the original one hit wonder, Pachelbel.

Essentially that's what this album promises and delivers, the stuff you know but don't know you know in brass form. Since the saxophone wasn't invented until 1846 and no composers really took to it save a small handful, I'm free from my normal biases to be able to say that my preferred instrumentation for 'Classical' music. (Note for pedants: I use the commonly recognized term because no other term has come up that isn't also clumsy as well as not commonly recognized. Yes, 'classical' is actually a relatively short period covering only certain composers. You get an 'A' on your music appreciation quiz. But it's also a term that everyone, even you, recognize to cover the rest of it and stomping up and down about it just annoys everyone but yourself, like clicking a pen in a quiet room...)

These are relatively short selections making the overall album not very long itself, only 43 minutes. The longest track is 5'30", most are around three minutes or less.

This also makes it more 'shuffle friendly.' One of the frustrations I have with iTunes is the inability to embed a play list, so that when I hit 'random' I don't have to, say, break up the Kronos Quartet/Allen Ginsberg recording of Howl, or a concept album like the earlier Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking can stay together. CDs were able to have their tracks run smoothly together but I haven't been able to adjust the settings on iTunes to either not have a brief pause between tracks or cross-fade them so that I lose the beginning and end of each track. And if I do manage to find that sweet spot, something will eventually happen to re-adjust my settings. Very frustrating.

Not a problem with this classical CD because all the tracks are short stand-alones.

There's something dignified about brass. I think maybe because I associate it with Charles Koralt and the news magazine show Sunday Morning. Certainly makes me feel a little more dignified than sitting in a worn In 'n Out Burger t-shirt with old Hanna-Barbera cartoons playing in the background actually is. By the way, classical brass arrangements kind of make an awesome soundtrack to The Huckleberry Hound Show.

There's a nice departure with a New Orleans flavored rendition to Amazing Grace.

It's easy to get hypnotized by this music, which is exactly what just happened to me. I kind of spaced out to it until it came to an end. Rather nice, glad it's on the hard drive and not languishing in obscurity...

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