Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 26: Woody Herman and his Herd "Woody Live: East-West" Tony Williams "Young at Heart" Blue Note Years V.3 Organ and Soul

This may not be as much a function of the Albatross as it is the way I actually function. Sometimes I do want to put away the CDs that have been playing around in my rotation, but I don't always have the time or the inclination to find the case. So I just put them in any one I can find.

I've talked about this before, the Fake Out. But there was an aspect of the Fake Out that I hadn't mentioned, the Double Down. More than one CD in a case at a time.

Well, today there is a Fake Out AND a Double Down at the same time. What I thought was going to be my second comedy CD, a Berkeley concert by Lenny Bruce is instead two CDs that I'm kind of hoping make it (as I type this I haven't tried to injest them.) But it's two cases so I'm just going to go with the rule that they both have to go in.

But first up, yet another big band CD...

Woody Herman
Woody Live: East and West

I really have to find out what's making these CDs so expensive. I mean, I'm limiting myself to Amazon because...well, to be honest I want a new music player and if for some reason people start reading this blog and want the music I'm listening to I'll get a few pennies towards that goal, but at $30-some dollars for a used CD I might be better off opening a used store.

If only these CDs were in anyway good condition. Well, this one is, I just opened it and there isn't any damage, but for the most part.

So yeah, more big band. What to say? I rather like Woody Herman more than I realized. Which I now realize is something I discover every time I listen to Woody Herman. There's a lot of energy to his arrangements and his bands playing, even when doing ballads like I Remember Clifford. And then, of course, there's Four Brothers, which you always wanted to be in a sax section so bad ass that the leader decided to do Four Brothers. I'm not as fond of the James Bond love theme sounding Free Again, however.

The Preacher is on here, the first combo jazz number I performed in public. I really like this piece, nostalgia aside. It made me think that Hard Bop was where I was at, but it didn't work out that way as much.

Interestingly, the liner notes is written by someone who has almost the same trajectory, talking about knowing Herman is important etc etc (he goes a little further, but it's the liner notes), but not realizing he actually likes Herman until he listens to the album. Of course, being liner notes, it's a little over the top in its exuberance:
...But if there were to be a subtitle to this fine album, after listening to it joyously several times, I'd have to call it Woody Live East and West or, The passion According to Now, because in its fervor there's sure and steady voice that speaks of the immediacy of the Age in wich it is sounded--an immediacy formed the best of the Past, the Zap of the Present, and the nervy, uncertain excitement of the Future.

These are apparently the original liner notes from the 1967 release, so all that "Now" and the "Future" talk is keeping with the times. I mean, we were two years away from landing on the moon.

Listening to this live recording on headphones you get to hear snippets of people saying things to each other on the bandstand. No good dirt, but it's still kind of cool for some reason to hear someone try to get Woody's attention or Herman comment on solo.

This is another short album, too, at just under 40 minutes (almost a dollar a minute if you buy it new...seriously, what's up with that? Is it that they'll print one just for you if you really want one?)

This last track has an awesome title, Waltz for a Hung Up Ballet Mistress.

Tony Williams
Young at Heart

Tony Williams is one of the concerts I went to blind. I knew he was supposed to be good, so I went. From my senior year in high school up until about the time I moved to the Bay Area, I would make regular trips down to Kimball's East, Yoshi's, Kimball's and various other places to see jazz artists on their way to japan (at least that's what a few of them told me.)

That was the other strange and cool thing, quite often they would talk to me. Not all of them, and not always the band leaders, but with a strange frequency they would pick me out and talk to me. The most shocking instance was the Tony Williams concert because I hadn't really even expected to see anyone, but Bill Pierce was sitting on a bench in the lobby and, being a saxophonist, I was trying to inconspicuous but totally noticed him. That's when he said, in his characteristic gruff jazzman's voice, "What do you play?" Not "Do you play," what. I don't know if he figured that the only reason someone so young would be at that show was because they were a young jazz musician or what, but he pegged me. He instructed me to sit down and we talked through the intermission. I honestly don't remember about what, I was absolutely floored that the dude I just saw completely nailing it on stage a few minutes ago was having a conversation with that he solicited.

This became a bit of a norm for me. I started more or less going to shows with the reasonable assumption that I might meet the performer and have a casual conversation. I don't know if it was mojo, or just the novelty of youth showing up, or what, but I was getting to meet some incredible people. When I became a buyer it actually became expected. The first time I met Branford Marsalis said he remembered me, Terrance Blanchard told me a great story about Art Blakey, Tony Bennett shook my hands like a movie mobster. But it was that first contact at the Tony Williams show that sort of stuck for me.

Hands down, drummers form the best bands. For all the jokes about drummers and musicians, at the very least in jazz, they really know how to pick 'em. A good drummer makes all the difference in the world, and of course, Williams is very, very good. Because of that first show I was always excited to get a Tony Williams promo when it came out, though I may have actually bought this one, I seem to remember having it a pretty long time, and the CD certainly shows that. I wasn't able to rescue the title track.

This particular album is just a trio, so no horns. Just straight piano trio stuff with a lot more drum features that would normally happen. It's got standards like On Green Dolphin Street and Body and Soul, some out-of-cannon selections like The Beatles Fool on the Hill. I want to characterize this but it just sounds like my first few years out of high school when I listened to stuff just like this all the time.

Oh yes! This Here, I fucking love this chart. I always forget its name, so I glazed over it when the track listings came up, but this is one of the coolest hard-bop pieces around. Sweet, thank you Albatross for eventually putting this back up. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!! Cruel fate, it's a damaged track! Sadness now surrounds me...

Various Artists
Blue Note Years 3: Organ & Soul 1956-1967 Disc 1

The anidote to sadness is the Hammond B-3 organ, preferably played by Jimmy Smith. And Blue Note is here to deliver. The rep that handled Blue Note was pretty kind to me even though he didn't have to be. It was a big label distributor and I was going to carry his stuff regardless of how he treated me, but he knew I was a real fan of jazz and he made sure to hook me up with a lot of great stuff. Most of my really great classic jazz stuff is Blue Note, partially a function of Blue Note being THE jazz label, and partially a function of this guy hooking me up.  I mean, I was a soft touch. Truth be told I probably wasn't that good of a buyer, I just don't think anyone had the heart to remove me.

On the subject of performers talking to me, Jimmy Smith is an early early instance. So early in fact, that I didn't know who he was. And it wasn't my charms at all that were involved. I had been going to local jazz clubs for a while, to the point where the local jazz musicians had gotten to know me and my friend, the piano player I mentioned in the Henry Mancini entry.

It was a piano player that we had come to see when he started talking to an old man who had come to talk to him. He seemed to get pretty excited and let the old man sit down and start playing. We were bummed, to be honest. We thought the guy we had come to see was letting some cat sit in so he could go flirt with chicks. It wasn't out of the question. But instead he came and sat at our table, beaming.

"Do you know who that is?"

"A friend of yours?"

"That's Jimmy Smith, man. He just moved here!"

Yeah, nothing. We had never heard of him. But he was pretty cool. He later came over and talked to us as well, and we tried our best to hide the fact that we had no idea who he was. Joe, the local piano player, had filled us in enough to fake it. It wasn't until much later that we discovered who we had the privilege of meeting. Of all the encounters, his is the one I most wish I could redo.

Most people 'know' (even if they don't actually know it) Jimmy Smith for the organ figure in the Beastie Boys' Root Down sampled from the track and album of the same name.

Smith is the end all for organ for me know. To the point where I don't really know any other organ players. I have a few of these compilations, mostly gained for the exact purpose of finding other organ players. I don't want to be left flat footed if I find myself in a small jazz club and some other legendary organ player walks in.

Though most of these tracks are led by saxophonists or guitarists, two instruments that go well with the Hammond. I don't have the case anymore (apparently) so I don't have the list of band members to go by.

This kind of music almost demands that everything be in sepia tone and wearing tank tops and suspenders.

Disc One opens and closes with the lengthy tracks, Jimmy Smith's twenty minute The Sermon and then Grant Green's fifteen minute Blues in Maude's Flat (which is a clever name...) Every thing else hovers around six minutes long.

Organ music is awesome. I must have been playing this one a bit, and that's how it wound up in the Lenny Bruce case. I hope I find Disc Two.

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