Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 65: The Country Gentlemen "On the Road (and more)" and Rodney Jones "The Undiscovered Few"

I wish I had some sort of Halloween theme to today's entry, but the CDs are still more or less random (alright, I threw one back because it would have meant a triple day.) There is a change up in the style of CD but really, not out of character. Ah well, I hope your Halloween is cool if you do indeed celebrate it, if not, here are some CDs that don't have anything to do with Halloween anyway, so you're not missing out.

The Country Gentlemen
On the Road (and more)

What Buena Vista Social Club did for Cuban music, O Brother Where Art Thou? did for folk and bluegrass. Truth be told it didn't take much to prompt some sort of sudden stampede to a certain type of music. A song by Iz appears on E.R., suddenly everyone is a fan of Hawaiian music. But a full movie, documentary or not, that can send people into a fury.

Of course, I have this CD, so that means that I had to have gotten caught up in it somehow, though there are even odds I picked it up merely because it said "On the Road," which is probably even more of a poser move, really.

Which is not to say that I don't really like bluegrass, and even had picked up some promos before O Brother Where Art Thou came out. But I'd be kidding myself if I didn't admit that there was a sharp increase afterward, both from heightened interest and from increased availability.

This is pretty straight O Brother style, it turns out. The Country Gentlemen are well known enough that I knew about them before I looked at the CD, so it's not entirely certain I have this promo just because of the movie. But it's standard issue, 'folksy' vocal harmonies, simple danceable rhythms.

Not the Rawhide I was hoping for.

Now they're doing an Englishman singing bluegrass music...strange. There is a lot of banter with a corny dry wit. There's a section where he 'introduces the band' each other.  He almost introduces a feature player with 'here comes trouble." It's hokey but also has a charm to it.

And of course there is plenty of religious music going about.

Rodney Jones
The Undiscovered Few
I have well noted trepidations about guitar, and as I had discussed earlier, often you can judge a CD by its cover. But if I had thought about it this really would have fit into Blue Note's pattern, it's not really a weird angle, but there is that forced perspective putting the guitar in the foreground, so it's just a modern version of their classic cover picture.

But even though the electric guitar almost always makes things sound a little fusion-y, this is a progressive modern jazz CD like Terrasson or Kirkland or any of the other modern jazz players that I've put in so far. Which is great, because I love that stuff.

The liner notes are fairly philosophical, kind of bordering between the land of a pop Buddhist, a twelve step program graduate and a self help book. It's the usual artist statement, the commitment to the (in this case unnamed) influences that formed his understanding of music, a little wax nostalgic about his early encounters with music ("As a young child of six or seven I remember sitting underneath an old cabinet-style record player. I would listen and dream.")

But then it wanders into contimplation of the human journey and that whole "Who are we and why are we here," bit. The Undiscovered Few, it turns out, are his four principles that have some sort of importance to (at least to him) human existance. They are-
  1. The Desire to know myself
  2. The Experience of finding myself
  3. Being Myself
  4. Willingness to take the next step
Each principle of course is followed by a detailed description of how this is important to his life and life in general and how it made him a better person and guitar player. None of this shows up on the track list, you have to read the liner notes for that.

That's sort of the advantage/disadvantage of wordless jazz. The album, with certain restrictions, can be more or less about whatever you decide it's about and you can assign whatever meaning you want to it. But unless the person listening to it reads the liner notes (and presumably agrees with you) they're pretty much going to assign whatever meaning they want to it. And it might be, "This is some smooth music to play while I try and make it with my lady." Or just decide that My Favorite Things is about someone's favorite things. Or a tribute to John Coltrane. Or just a chart you dig.

There isn't a set group on the whole album, there are various larger and smaller groups depending. Greg Osby makes a few appearances on alto saxophone. Violinist Regina Carter does a duet with him on Through the Eyes of a Child. In that regard there is a lot of variation on the album.

All of this is making the Australian V8 Supercars race at Surfer's Paradise a little more mellow, despite the knife fight for first place in the last few laps.

Regina Carter returns for another duet, this time called Tears of a Forgotten Child. Makes you wonder what that child saw through his eyes in the first duet...

The album opens and closes with barn burners, holding a soft gooey center of gentler tracks. Ah, but it ends on the still enigmatic jazz fade out. Still don't get that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 64: Betty Page Private Girl:Spicy Music & Tim Berne's Blood Count "Memory Select: The Paris Concert"

Even though they're not a huge, raging success I kind of am digging the playlist posts because it gives me short term benchmarks to look for. Like, I'm kind of excited that we're almost halfway to the next one.

Various Artists
Private Girl
So before 'hipsters' became 'fucking hipsters,' there was the nineties. Well, alright, hipsters have more or less always been fucking hipsters, it's just that in the nineties the internet wasn't developed enough to pour so much concentrated and self-aware hate on them.

But all the conspicious affectations were there, vintage lunch pales and ironic t-shirts and a concentrated and meticulous air of not-actually-giving-a-shit.

The kitsch and irony of the time, as I've talked about before, had a lot to do with the lounge scene. Tiki gods, Mancini music, island themes. And an essential element of any kitschy vintage scene is and always will be Bettie Page.

In the great vin diagram of tastes, this is where me and 'hip culture' intersect. Lounge music is really just a variation of 'cool jazz,' and sometimes contains elements that I really like, like surf guitar or a growling saxophone. Hell, I even like the whole 'Tiki' look--there's a throw away Halloween decoration in my Bus I call Voodoo God (not Tiki, I know) who protects the Bus. (It is important to remember that Voodoo God does not protect the Bus from breaking down...a caveat I have been forced to add...)

And I really like Bettie Page. It all started with a copy of The Rocketeer a friend showed me when I was in junior high. He had been Dave Stevens' neighbor and had this signed copy of a book I had never heard of (it was years until the movie was made) that contained something I already dug, vintage action sci-fi and the romantic interest who I was later to learn was modeled off Bettie Page (Dave Stevens was later able to interview Bettie on a recording that is already on my hard drive).

So I snatched up these promos like a rabid dog. There are a few in this series, Danger Girl, Jungle Girl, and Private Girl. I have all three, or at least had. My favorite by far was Danger Girl, which I actually tried to load onto the hard drive years ago but was too scratched. I was only able to save my favorite track, Mood One by John Barry. Jungle Girl actually came up today but it was empty. So Private Girl is the only one to survive onto the hard drive.

Each one has a pretext for the selection. Danger Girl is "Burlesque music," Jungle Girl is "exotique [sic] music," and this one is "spicy music."

Though the music is just pretext. What these CDs really are is another collection of Bettie Page pictures fitting into the theme of each album. The collected music is just a bonus, really. But I really actually like some of the music, especially the ones on Danger Girl, obviously.

The music ranges from that 'cool jazz' variation to something you might expect on Lawrence Welk. It certainly starts to turn Sin City into a different movie...

The songs are short, too, twenty-eight tracks not even amounting to fifty minutes.

These collections are really reliant on context. Without them I'm not sure I'm going to associate it with this collection. It's just going to be more of that quirky 50s and 60s music I have lurking on the hard drive. A lot of flute, a lot of organ.

Tim Berne's Blood Count
Memory Select: Paris Concert 3
Here's a pretty sharp contrast. The second track on this disc is longer than the entire last disc. In fact, only two tracks make up this particular CD. It's stealth Winter & Winter, it came in a conventional jewel case instead of the corduroy one. Mostly because this isn't the Winter & Winter release but the Verve one. But there is a Winter & Winter release of this album.

But still, you can judge a CD sometimes from its cover. If it's a saturated picture of a man taken at a weird angle, it's probably a Blue Note CD from the sixties. If it's a picture of a man in blue collar settings, probably blues. If it's abstract art, good chance it's some high concept European free jazz.

Which is exactly what we have here. You know you're dealing with some really out there stuff when there are things like only two tracks on a CD that's over an hour long. Or there are no liner notes, just more abstract art.

The band is made up of Berne and Chris Speed on woodwinds and then guitar, upright bass, and drums. The music is rhythmically unteathered and full of the squawks and pops that people tend to associate with free jazz (if they know what free jazz is).

For all the 'freeness' in free jazz, modern free jazz has some pretty elaborate arrangements. The long piece, Eye Contact, have actual movements to it separated by wild solo segments. And this is not uncommon in modern free jazz, especially coming out of Europe.

I really dig this kind of stuff but it's hard to find other people willing to stomach it. Every once in a while you run into that Mike Patton fan that is able to relate in some ways to the music. Or I wear someone down and eventually ease them into the wilder elements of jazz. But usually, this music is the music I play to ensure I'm alone.

It's not without its melodic elements, they're just punched with chaos and walls of sound.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 63: Jack Jezzro "Elegance: The Trio Recordings" & Alan Pasqua "My New Old Friend"

I hate the bottom of a bag. I don't even know why. Sure, some of the self selecting that insures that some of the bottom of the bag is not going to be all that great. But ultimately, this stuff is randomly assembled, no one bag is any different than the other, but so far I get pretty anxious to move on to the next bag, like I'm convinced that next one has all the treasures I've been looking for, and I could get right to it, if it wasn't for these blah CDs I have to do first. I wonder if it actually makes me meaner to the bottom of the bag CDs.

Jack Jezzro
Jazz Elegance: The Trio Recordings

Not the greatest sign when iTunes thinks that this is an easy listening CD, despite the complete insistence of the title that it is in fact jazz elegance...

But yeah, it's winery jazz. A little guitar trio playing some mellow standards and some original bits. Good enough to listen to, not aggressive enough to disturb your wine tasting experience.

I was fairly sure that this is what I was going to end up playing. I'm always down on it in these posts because it isn't as dynamic or weird or whatever as the other CDs, but I don't really have a problem with it ultimately.

The liner notes flip the order of things a little bit, almost like the person sensed that he'd have to address up front that this was going to be a light weight set of recordings. He goes into all the 'flash' criteria people use to determine the value of an artist and implies that another measure, 'taste,' should be applied. Then the usual tour through the selections, timeless melodies etc. But usually the resume comes before all of this, but instead it follows. Ah, and it's because it includes him having released a few 'easy listening' CDs before this album, as well as apparently television soundtrack work. The salesmanship had to flip there a little bit to sell him as a jazz artist in spite of some of his background instead of because of it. His resume as a studio musician and bass player in an orchestra aren't the usual jazz bonafides that you can build on, so on the second page of the notes they go.

I've played about half the songs on this album.

I had this elaborate plan on prom to play Prelude to a Kiss at some point in the evening on my sax and then we'd have a crazy romantic kiss immediately afterward. It was a long walk for a kiss, and of course not necessary. We just started making out when she switched to comfortable shoes. That was right before we found out that I had parked in the front yard of a church. This is a pretty ridiculous pattern of me wanting the names of the jazz tunes to do the thing that they are, Maiden Voyage, Prelude to a Kiss...I guess I should be careful now who I play Serenade to a Cuckoo around, that's a mixed message that won't be fun to unpack...

This album brings the number of versions of Round Midnight to four. I suspect by the end of the project I should be able to create a fairly substantial play list of just Round Midnight. This version is about what you'd suspect.

Alan Pasqua
My New Old Friend

From guitar trio to piano trio, it's a light jazz day today. I don't know if this is going to be light weight or not yet, it's still loading, but Wichita Lineman is on here, so my chances are pretty good. I don't see any vocal credits on here, so at least there is that.

There are no liner notes to save me this time either, just a dedication to "you, the listener." What a weird affectation. "Oh, I'm the listener...I was wondering what my role was in this thing."

Alright, we're underway. Before reading the track list and the credits I was kind of looking forward to this CD because it was a different kind of case for the CD. That can be an indicator of music that is also different, a little out there. Or that the manufacturer had a different supplier for their CD sleeves. This time it's the latter.

Since I don't have liner notes I had to go to our old friend Wiki, turns out that he is the guy who did the theme to the CBS Evening News. And apparently played with a lot of 80s rock bands.

Ah, the whispery voiced back up 'aaah la da dah' girl usually reserved for bossa nova recordings. Highway 14 must be a pretty mellow stretch of road.

Not to be outdone, this album brings the number of versions of Body & Soul up to five. I should start taking predictions on what's going to be the most represented song by, like, the 150th day or something.

It may not be possible to do an instrumental version of Wichita Lineman and not have it sound like we should be in an elevator. Smile is the same story, but it's such a pretty tune it doesn't matter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 62: Don Byron "Music for Six Musicians" and Wayne Shorter "Juju"

Today represents two musicians I kind of backed into knowing, so to speak. They were either tangential to something I was into or they did one thing that I found curoious and as a result (and since whenever they released something I got it for free from the label) I started following. Also, today represents the first time something is verifiably from the actual rotation section of the Albatross because it comes from a sleeve to a broken CD carrier. On with the show...

Don Byron
Music for Six Musicians

I have to keep checking because I become convinced that this album is already on the hard drive, but it's not. I listened to it enough that much of it is pretty familiar, even though that had to be a fairly long time ago because I don't remember this being available during that brief window in which I had a CD player in the short lived Vanagon.

Not that I associated any of this familiar music with this album. There is the slam poetry opener that I knew as soon as it started, but if I had remembered those lines separately I would not have thought immediately, "Oh, that Don Byron CD I used to listen to..." In fact, I was surprised to hear slam poetry when what I was expecting was just some progressive jazz played on a clarinet.

This, I believe, never really had a case, so it's little torn sleeve is as much home as its ever known.

Outside of the poetic opening it's pretty straight forward progressive jazz stuff, complex rhythms, some collective improve, dissonance, lots of counter-everything. I don't know that what makes up the six musicians stays the same from track to track, since I don't remember the electric guitar that's making a showing in "I'll  chill on the Marley tapes..." on (The press made) Rodney King (responsible for the LA riots). The track names, by the way, are awesome. A little dated in their politics (a reference to both Rodney King and Ross Perot...), but that's fine. In ten or twelve years some rabid downloader is going to realize he has all this unlistened to music and start whatever indulgent method is available to him like blogs now about going through all his music and commenting on the outdated politics of half-term Alaskan governors and modern day tea partiers. And maybe people who do stunts to become reality TV stars. Or maybe by then we'll have given up and everyone will be reality TV stars.

The cool thing about being political in jazz is you really only have to come up with the snappy title and you're done.  Well, unless you're Moss Allison, then you have to use dry wit in lyrics, apparently.

The music is as eclectic as I come to expect from Byron. Not so much as A Fine Line, more than Bug Music. Right down the center of variation. The relatively short The Allure of Enlightenment is a calm and melodic contrast to the previous Crown Heights. I'm more familiar with the beginning of this album than I am its end. I don't know if it's because by this time I was well into playing a video game and not paying attention, or if it stands out less, or if I simply just stopped playing it early on each time and moved on to another CD.

Wayne Shorter

The internet has effected me. I feel the urge to create some sort of graph or something starting with Sidney Bechett and placing saxophonists along it in relation to which direction they took the horn and where they sit. Because in my mind at least, I start to do that in some form or another. There are groupings, like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Paul Desmond all sit grouped up in one part of the graph, the 'mellow side.' Then there's Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Hamiet Bluiett on the crazy side, and just a little in from those guys would be Pharoah Sanders and Rashaan Roland Kirk, and a little further in Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. But here's where the graph would get confusing for me, anyway, is finding the distance on a different axis between Shorter and Rollins. Rollins is more bombastic, more Kirk, and Shorter is more manic, more Dolphy. Of course for any of this to make any sense you have to know who all these players are, and if you do then you don't need the stupid chart.

Wayne Shorter is on or near everything cool at one point or another, which I guess would come from being part of not only Miles Davis' amazing group ("The Quintet" as some have called it) but also part of a whole lot of other people's amazing groups. Whenever I want to find an example of jazz albums I should have to demonstrate my collection's lacking, about half the time the example I bring up is a Wayne Shorter album. Half because he's a remarkable player with some landmark albums, but the other half I think is because he's one of those guys that people know is awesome but don't buy the records that he heads. I might be projecting here, but most of the time when I was able to look at a serious collector's stash, Shorter wouldn't really come up as often. Shorter albums don't appear on lists as much unless the list goes past twenty or so, but when it does the person making the list lavishes it with praise. I don't know what the distinction is or really even if it's just in my head. I was relieved that the CD had been pulled out, that at least I listened to this one when I got home, but not as often, apparently, as Don Byron's CD.

This is, of course, another Rudy van Gelder edition from Blue Note. If I had been tagging RVG CDs in the posts I'm pretty sure that would be the top tag. Everyone of the RVG Edition CDs has the exact same graphic on the back. There's that pose, the universal gesture, apparently, of someone wearing headphones indicating, "Shut up, I'm trying to hear something..." You see that all the time in movies...hell, I do it when I'm recording audio on a shoot. You're trying to pinpoint something in the audio and you tilt your head even though you're wearing if I crook my head just right the proper audio will fall into my ear and I'll get what I'm looking for. Like for no reason we all become Nipper the RCA dog twisting it's head in front of the gramophone. I'm not sure why in the hell we do this. Alright, in movies it is really the only way to visually indicate that the person on the headphones hears something important and is trying to figure out what it is. And maybe it's just reflex because in every other situation if we move our ears we can hear certain things better and it's not like that reflex is going to go, "Oh, hey, the speakers are attached to your head...moving it won't matter." But it's still kind of silly.

I wonder if I could rate artists on how easy it is to do something else while listening to them. I don't really know how to do it without it sounding like a bad thing. I get distracted on a lot of the CDs, they're usually around an hour long and if I sat here with my fingers on the keyboard for the whole hour the posts would be crazy long nonsense, and already they're too long for one of my only readers. But for some of them I enjoy having them play and then merrily go about my business stumbling around the internet until "Shit! The CD is over and I haven't said much of anything!" Then I don't know what to do. It's hardly ever that I just didn't like the music, but rather I just didn't only listen to the music, I guess. And they don't have any tracks where I go, "What the hell is that?" which isn't a bad thing, necessarily.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 61: George Duke "After Hours" & Mose Allison "The Mose Allison Chronicles - Live in London V.1"

Well, I'm all caught up on the 8tracks thing. Now I can do them as I go so it's not so time intensive. Back to our regularly scheduled program.

George Duke
After Hours

I have to admit, I was rooting for this homeless CD to not make it. The back is fairly scratched and in fact a few of the tracks didn't make it over in their entirety. But now I'm a little bummed about it because it's not the worst thing.

First, I thought that George Duke was a guitar player, apparently not. Keyboards. I associated him largely with smooth jazz, but while he is playing fusion it's not as...mellow. Well, this second track is. But the first one was kind of funky.

I just cringe when I get titles like "After Hours." I tend to expect Tim Meadows to introduce it on 'The Quiet Storm.' To be fair to Duke (who has an impressive resume looking at Wiki), the only thing that separates After Dinner Drinks from a 'straight ahead' jazz piece is the synthesizer sounds and drum machine feel.

I've added to my dissapointment because I couldn't get the CD to play directly, so I listened to it from the library. But I forgot to turn shuffle off, so for a minute when the first track was followed by a blues song I found myself going, "Well, there's a direction I didn't expect." But when that lead into the theme to Space Ghost I knew I had screwed up.

This is kind of soundtrack jazz. Not necessarily porn soundtrack jazz, maybe romantic montage soundtrack or something to that effect. Or parents jazz. It's hard to get excited about but seems unnecessary to trash it. I wish I had started this CD earlier, though.

Together as One is more or less a straight up piano trio piece, a ballad of course.

Once again I'm letting my bias towards smooth jazz color how I approach the CD since it's really not that bad.

I must have listened to it, it's been out of its case for a really long time. Though I probably gave in after the first few seconds of the first track to move onto something else.

Mose Allison
The Mose Allison Chronicles - Live in London

Ah, back to straight ahead land. I have no idea how 'straight ahead' became the distinctive phrase for non-fusion jazz. I don't even know how many people use that, it's just what I heard when I was a teenager and wanted to make that distinction.

I don't really know anything about Mose Allison. He's one of those that I think I should know, I just don't. There are a lot of those in my promos. I would get them and if the rep handed them to me directly I'd say something open ended and vague like, "Sweet, thanks man!" like I was a fan or something, but mostly it was "Great, now I can figure out what this artist is all about!" But then I never took this CD out of its case, so I never learned what Allison was all about.

Like, I wasn't expecting singing. Which is, apparently, what he is known for.

This is live, obviously, but the location is pretty awesome. It's at a pizza place in London where, according to the liner notes, Allison plays at quite a deal. He seems like a half way between a Bob Dorough/Randy Newman and Dr. John.

I got distracted during Middle Class White Boy and I think I missed something. But it's a long CD and I'm kind of tired. Now instead I'm getting a sorrowful rendition of You Are My Sunshine...

Much is made in the liner notes and other sources about Allison's dry wit. He may or may not be that prototype for singers with that folksy jazz songs with ironic lyrics.

Days 51-60 Sampler

And now I'm caught up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 60: Avishai Cohen "Devotion" & Lee Morgan "The Rumproller"

Well, it's a day without Duke Ellington, so that must mean it's another day for a Blue Note Rudy van Gelder recording. That and a CD I know nothing about and don't have any liner notes for...away we go...

Avishai Cohen

There's got to be a term for this. Someone has to have identified this as a distinct style and I just don't know about it yet. It's a certain kind of progressive sound that was really popular in the 90s (I don't know if people are still doing it now). It's really distinctive of that 'young gun' crowd I had talked about earlier, the new wave of academic jazz performers.

Wiki isn't really any help here (I suppose I rely too much on Wiki, and I certainly understand its weaknesses, but I decided that there was no point in pretending to be an expert on these performers, rather be honest about the fact that quite often I have to look them up since this should be about my impressions of them in regards to having carried it around for so long instead of presenting myself as any kind of authority.) Anyway, Wiki sites a blend of Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences in his jazz, which might be the case in his current recordings more than it is here. There are certainly some different harmonies and rhythms here, but this sounds very much in that class of Jacky Terrasson or other progressive jazz artists of the 90s. This is not to say that they sound exactly alike or that there is no individuality to their performance. One of the great things about jazz is that even the same artist would have a hard time sounding the same twice in a row.

But I'm starting to feel like I could listen to the first few bars of a recording and go, "That guy was young and new in the 90s." The music is both sparse and complex, segmented in a way that older forms of jazz wouldn't be. There is a lot of layering, which seems contrary to that 'sparse' comment, but it's not thick layering, if that makes any sense. Tempo changes, time changes, even style changes within a single piece are not uncommon. Unison lines trade up with counter melody and repeated figures. And the playing is always very aggressive, even during ballads.

He apparently came up through Chick Corea so that makes a certain degree of sense, because in a lot of was Corea might be considered the father of this kind of sound. Maybe not, since I'm just now piecing this together, but I put it at good odds.

Also not uncommon is the sort of newish third (fourth stream?) style that will make use of larger string arrangements and even, apparently, electronica like in Ti Da Doo Di Da. But this is a bass player's album, so it might just be an excuse to use a different bass, which has a pretty odd tone on it. My brother might be able to identify it, I'm not that good with electric instruments.

Well, there's that Middle Eastern/Eastern European influence, it's pretty present in Linda De Mi Corazon. And the Eastern European again (complete with voice at the beginning calling out in an accent, "Igor come! We play Slow Tune!) is heard on, of course, Slow Tune. And apparently the next two tracks. So basically he backloaded and grouped up all of that so that I would look silly declaring it not present after only the first two tracks...

Lee Morgan
The Rumproller

Seriously, how can you go wrong with an album called The Rumproller? So it's another Rudy Van Gelder edition hard bop Blue Note album. For a moment they felt left out, what with all the Duke Ellington going on the last few days. Hard bop is creeping up on blues and big band for most represented in the Albtross so far. And blues is kind of cheating, since I don't divide that up into 'Chicago blues' and 'country blues' etc. Without that it would be big bands followed closely by hard bop.

Seriously, though, that opening track rocked.

The problem with having so many of these RVG editions is that I'm running out of things to say.

At one point I was given a large collection of mock up album covers for all of these editions, well, not me--the store. So everyone got to pick through them and I got what was left. The problem was that the best ones were also the coolest looking ones, so I didn't really end up with that great of a collection. I haven't seen that in a few moves, so I'm guessing it didn't survive, so it's probably for the best that I didn't score the cool ones. Though I may have had this one.

There's a kind of cool 'hard bop meets calypso' recording called Eclipso on here.

Another contender for awesome track name, this CD closes out with Venus Di Mildew.

Days 41-50 Sampler

Just in time to be behind again...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 59: Ali Farka Toure "Radio Mali" & Duke Ellington "The Best of Duke Ellington Centennial Edition"

I continue to be amazed at how grouped up these CDs are. It's like the CDs that were alike wanted to hang out together or something.

Ali Farka Toure
Radio Mali

I've talked before about my failed amatuer ambitions towards ethno-musicology. One of the underlying curriousities that drove that was the circular notion of influences and cross fertilization that music undergoes. Ali Farka Toure is a fantastic example of that.

I'll admit that I didn't really know anything about him, so after writing that first paragraph I did the "don't say something stupid" Google search to see if I was about to get a detail wrong. Instead I made the same observation that everyone has made about Toure's music, about the intersection of traditional African music and music that is influenced by traditional African music.  I just called the sky blue...

Well, regardless of how well tread and obvious my observation is, it's still pretty intriguing to hear Africa re-absorb the blues. I don't have any translations or liner notes to go on to see the translations of the lyrics, so I don't know if subject matter carries over or not. I know that the music remains solemn and mournful sounding.

According to Wiki this is a compilation of earlier recordings, which makes sense since the style, instrumentation, and recording quality shift around from track to track.

There's a bit of a pedal tone to some of these tracks that becomes sort of hypnotizing.

Duke Ellington
The Best of Duke Ellington Centennial Edition

Another day, another Duke Ellington tribute. This one features recordings from Ellington himself, however, from a box set (I believe) that spans his entire RCA recording career.

At least they resisted the temptation to make Take the A Train the first track (it's all the way down at number 8).

This instead features some early recordings, and oddly enough the recordings I'm more familiar with as far as Ellington goes. I didn't, for whatever reason, listen to many of the Strayhorn era and later Ellington but rather a lot of these rough early recordings. It might be that I just picked up anything with Ellington on it from the bargain bin and that was filled with recordings that had cheap rights. Or maybe there was a focus on early recordings at the time I started listening to jazz. I don't know, but albeit still well known pieces like Black and Tan Fantasy and East Saint Louis Toodle-O are instantly recognizable to me and stir up that weird nostalgia for when jazz was still a new world to me. Same goes with Rockin' in Rhythm, I would hum the squeaky saxophone line to this day really, though I don't often remember the name of the song indicating I probably listened to it on tape most often.

Sure enough, the music here is presented in chronological order so that the listener gets to speed read through Ellington's 50some year long music career and hear how his music evolved. Honestly, the best way to put together a compilation of this kind.

Bitter sweet is that two of my favorite and most moody Ellington pieces, Mood Indigo and Creole Love Call are stuffed together on a medley with Hot and Bothered. Granted it's a long medley, over seven minutes which is pretty ground breaking for the time. Also, apparently, when they recorded it they did it from two distinct mics with a time delay so the person who remastered it was able to do so in stereo, pretty cool.

I had a recording a long time ago in which Ellington narrated Mood Indigo explaining that the song was a boy and girl who met every day to play, and they loved playing together, but today it was raining and they couldn't see each other, and this was their mood. Now that I think about it, it might not have been a recording but rather something I read, but I seem to hear that story in my head being told by Duke. Either way, the song has remained heartbreakingly romantic in my head ever since. I heard a story about Creole Love Call, too, something about a singer humming the melody to a set of riffs that eventually became Creole Love Call, but that's less vivid. (According to Wiki, it's actually a melody lifted off King Oliver...not nearly as romantic a notion as the story I had heard...)

Well, apparently there are lyrics added after the fact to Mood Indigo making it not at all about that. The internet ruins some perfectly good myths sometimes.

Now I have another version of Day Dream, this time as a feature for Johnny Hodges, a saxophonist I got into when I felt like most of my playing was going to be in big bands anyway. Plus, it was hard to find an alto saxophonist that wasn't under the shadow of Bird.

So that's four versions of Take the A Train so far, and we've really barely started with the project. Work Song is closing in with a more eclectic spread with a Latin version, Duke's version, and a surf version. Though it's cheating a little, the surf version was already there. I went through my 'surf thing' after I left the store. I mean, I still like it, but there was a six month 'collect all the surf I can' bender I went through while in college. And of course it's a different Work Song with Ellington.

Never knew there were lyrics to Come Sunday, either. I kind of prefer it without lyrics, it was another one of those moody Ellington songs that I really liked. To complete my tour of moody Ellington, Sophisticated Lady is coming up in two tracks. I hadn't realized that my favorite Ellington was in his ballads as much.

Days 31-40 Sampler

Almost there...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 58: Angel Sept. 2000 Sampler & Ellingtonia: A Tribute to Duke Ellington

I should remember these moments every time I start a new bag or whatnot. These moments where I start doing the CDs I avoided because I didn't think they would be interesting or whatever. So what happens is that there is a big stack of CDs I dread for like a week and half. This is not the best sell for the post that is about to follow, I'm sure it will be awesome...

Various Artists
Angel Sept. 2000 Sampler

This is probably the most amount of prep I've done in the set up for the post. And not really much of it will matter.

I've done these kinds of CDs before, these are the pre-release samplers that would be handed out in advance of the actual releases to both garner my excitement and presumably for me to play in the store to excite customers (the latter hardly ever happened.)

I would almost never listen to these unless for some reason there was something on there that I recognized or was intrigued by, but it would have to stand out because I hardly ever read them either.

For today's post I actually found five of the seven albums sampled here for the player. I could have just put the individual tracks that are actually on this CD in the player to be better representative, but I didn't think of it until I was well underway, so I didn't. Also, iTunes was unable (for the first time) to identify this CD so I got to be the one who labeled everything. After musing on how to label classical CDs in the player I finally decided the best way to go about it was to consider the performer the artist and to list the name of the track with the composer first. My logic being that if I wanted to hear a specific piece I would more than likely know who wrote it, so I could look for, say, Respighi if I wanted to hear Pines of Rome. This is undermined by the fact that I had to look up how to spell his name.

I've always wondered how much is put into these samplers. I mean, these aren't for general release, they aren't themed and packaged on anything other than, "This is the stuff we're putting out next month." But it's still a sales job, I'm being the one sold. How much consideration is put into how the tracks work together, over which performance is selected? It's (presumably) for a discerning audience, but it also has to work for people like me and 'below,' who either know some classical but don't listen to enough to be that up on it or people who just don't hate classical but it's not their thing.

As it is it's a pretty accessible collection. These aren't daring selections without being 'classical greatest hits' kind of stuff. It's heavy on the opera, but I don't know if that's a product of the selection or just that September was big on opera. The selections are also consistently moody, which I think has to be a matter of selection. I don't obviously think the sampler is assembled like I would the last second before a road trip...I just wonder what the criteria is that goes into it.

As if to punctuate the moodiness of the CD, there's a Chopin Nocturne. Chopin has become the Dali print of a college music collection. I run into a lot of college age people who will casually list Chopin as part of their 'classical cred.' I suppose the next thing I should do is scoff at this and offer up other composers that should qualify, but frankly I like Chopin, too, and there are worse things that they could like.

It ends with a modern composer conducting his own piece. It has a kind of 'overture of dances' feel to it where the piece builds to an intensity, becomes a lot faster, and then breaks down so it can build back up again.

Various Artists
Ellingtonia: A Tribute To Duke
I think my fastidiousness borked iTunes. Building on what I had done in the last CD I went through and corrected all of the artist listing on this CD, but now it won't recognize the whole thing as one album in that little flip-book cover viewer it has, so it lists it as an 'unkown album.' But when I click 'get info' it knows exactly what album and associates the art with it.

Curse you digital media...

Anyway, here's yet another tribute to Ellington. This one is made up of either Canadian performers or performers who spend a lot of their time in Canada. I dig Canada, and apparently from the liner notes, so did Duke.

This was recorded for Ellington's 100th anniversary (which is probably why I have so many of them, aside from him being an immensely influential performer and composer). I don't know if it was assembled from already available recordings or if it was recorded special for this album. The groups are pretty different in their approach so far ranging from regular swing combos to big bands to a simple guitar and vocalist singing one of my favorites, In a Sentimental Mood. I never knew the lyrics to that song. I still don't for the most part, she had that 'jazzy Novocain' style of singing where the words kind of bend together.

The liner notes mine the more obscure and far ranging elements of Ellington's compositions in a classic liner notes 'look what I know' kind of display, but the selections are straight canon. Only thing missing is Satin Doll, though it does end with a Mingus composition that itself is a tribute to Ellington.

Also, if I had finished reading the liner notes I would know that in fact these are recordings lifted from other albums and assembled here, each track is credited with its original album release. I guess you could look at that as the cheap way to go, to assemble stuff already paid for in your library, package it up, find a jazz critic to write a blurb inside the liner and you're set. But in a way it's almost a more honest tribute, what better way to show the influence of Ellington than being able to pull together a bunch of tracks from unrelated artists who were already performing his works for no other reason then they were good.

I used to play the snot out of Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me. I have no idea why I dug that song so much, except maybe the little figure in the A melody that would happen between phrases. Maybe it was because I actually knew the lyrics (which a girlfriend at the time forbid me to sing because she felt like I was singing to her my intent to cheat on her...).

I don't know what it is specifically, but piano pounders really like Lush Life.

The last three tracks move a little away from the standard Ellington catalog with recordings of Melancholia, Day Dream, and Chelsea Bridge.

Days 21-30 Sampler

Still catching up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 57: Luiz Bonfa "The Composer of Black Orpheus Plays and Sings Bossa Nova" and Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra Rachmaninov Symphic Dances and Stravinsky Jeu de Cartes

Every time I start to think I'm about done with this bag another pack of unprocessed CDs pop up. The themes are staying pretty consistent, though.

Luiz Bonfa
The Composer of Black Orpheus Plays and Sings Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova is somewhere between a successful date with The Continental and a dirty phone call. This might have a lot to do with the fact that I keep listening to this stuff on headphones, But it's that whisper singing that they do, it always gives me the impression that they're telling me something dirty.

I don't speak Portuguese, so maybe they are. Who knows. It is certainly one of the most mellow forms of music out there.

This is kind of a classic LP, I think. For some reason when I think of LPs it's always something like this, like 'so and so plays such and such.'

I know I know Black Orpheus but I can't think of it right now. This certainly provides a different feel to The Hurt Locker.

I'm starting to dread the bossa nova CDs because I didn't really have much to say about them in the first place and now I'm pretty much tapped out as far as insight goes. This recording bounces back and forth between the 'full orchestra' kind of stuff and the more simple percussion and guitar.

Of course I made the whisper sing comment, and the last track actually starts off with them really whispering "bossa nova cha cha" in my ear. Awesome.

This is a really short album, less than 40 minutes. This is the kind of thing where normally they would add bonus tracks to the original recording to fill things out, but not this time.

Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances Op. 45, Vocalise op 34 no 14 / Stravinsky Jeu De Cartes
This was an especially difficult type of classical CD to file. The Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra wasn't necessarily an in demand orchestra. But then it isn't a single composer CD, so how do I file it so that whoever might be looking for it would find it?

Sony Classical seemed to put preference towards Rachmaninov. But it's not like Stavinsky is a complete unknown.

Ultimately I erred towards the standard I had set. I had laid this out earlier, if it was a single composer it would be filed by composer, multiple composers under the performer. So the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra got a leader card.

I didn't get far enough to do a lot of studying of Russian composers. I know that Charlie Parker was obsessed with Stravinsky and piano players love Rachmaninov.

iTunes has an even harder time with classifying the CD since it attributed the whole CD to Rachmaninov, even the Stravinsky pieces.

This album contains a performance of Vocalise, which somewhere I also have performed on a theremin. Kind of awesome.

I'm as stuck with mainstream classical as I am with bossa nova, I don't really know what to say. I'm guilty of letting classical be background music, but really there's so much that goes on in music like this that it deserves more attention, not less. Somewhere we flipped it, classical became background music and we give attention to simpler, more repetitive music. I understand why that is, but it's still kind of backwards.

Days 11 through 20 Sampler

So I'm going to roll these out as embedded players over the next few days until I'm caught up. I've gotten some traffic from 8Tracks (Welcome, enjoy your stay!) so I don't want the embedded player to be the top entry if they do come over, so I'm pairing them with the daily posts.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 56: Bobby Hucherson "The Kicker" and Cuba Caribe

Yesterday I noted that there was a surprising concentration of Latin music, most of it Cuban. Well, actually now that I think about it it's either been Cuban or Brazilian. I've already talked about why there was an explosion of Cuban music in record stores, so having them makes sense. I just didn't expect them to all be in one place. There is another one today and tomorrow I can see another bossa nova CD waiting to be listened to.

Today brings the Albatross up to 20 gigs. It's going to be a bit until we get to the point where it won't fit on an iPod Touch. I think at this rate it will fit its entirety on an iPod Classic. If only this blog had actual readers, I could get one...ah well...

Bobby Hucherson
The Kicker

Fun fact (alright, not all that fun), Joe Henderson appears on this album called "The Kicker" and has his own album called "The Kicker" which is what I, in my sax-centric ways, almost put in the player instead.

There are three vibes players now on the hard drive with no repeats. Not an easy feat.

I have some sort of Joe Henderson connection (not the six degree kind, rather that he was someone of some importance at some point, like I had an album of his I liked or he appeared a lot on things I liked or an instructor really liked him so I listened to him a lot...I don't think any of those are it though...dammit) that I can't remember now. I wish I could remember it because it would give me something to build on here.

It's another Blue Note CD and another Rudy Van Gelder recording. I wonder if this dude ever just got sick of awesome jazz. "How was work, honey?" "Ah, you know...just another set of legendary performers laying down another set of landmark tracks that players will be wearing their record players out on...same ol' shit...gah. Whats for dinner, anything good?"

This CD barely survived, and whats worse is I think the damage is recent because the card doesn't look too worn out. That's the back of the CD, obviously. I just have that card and barely enough ring left to hold the CD. I really need to get a handle on the CDs or this is going to become really difficult.

Huh, according to Wiki (which may not be true, obviously) this album wasn't released until 1999 even though it was recorded in 1963. No reason is given.

The whole album has a kind of laid back feel to it, as you would usually expect with a group headed by a vibe player, but still enough groove to it that it doesn't become too mellow.

I feel like I should have been including the line ups for all these CDs to track how much cross polination there is between them. Not too long ago a Grant Green CD went on the hard drive and now here he appears as a side man on Hucherson's CD.

Various Artists
Cuba Caribe

Aaaaand more Cuban dance music. This is from Hemisphere.

All of this scrambling to capitalize on Buena Vista Culture Club didn't really work. Unless it was actually someone from the film most people weren't interested. The movie had opened them to a new style of music, but the exploration stopped right there and no further.

Even a sampler like this was just too much for a lot of the people to venture into. It was a safe philosophy to have, I guess. They had been presented with a relatively successful film that assured them that these guys were cool, anything else they'd have to start making their own selections, which actually might mean buying some stuff they didn't end up liking. The cynic in me wants to say that was the greatest fear right there. They might 'not like' the wrong thing, and then their new found connoisseurship would collapse. Better be predictable and within the lines then venture out and have to pretend to like stuff you don't.

Though really it was probably an economic issue. They already knew they liked the people in the movie, they don't know who any of these people are, they're not going to spend $100 just to explore Cuban music when they're going to be listening to their Peter Gabriel and U2 and Paul Simon and Sting CDs most of the time anyway, just buy what you already like. Can't really fault them for that, I guess.

This music kind of sneaks up on you. I don't really know that much about Cuban music (despite my recent volume of listening...) so I don't readily make the distinctions between the different groups. Instead I allow myself to be distracted while the music plays and then all of a sudden I find myself halfway through a song going, "Wait, this is pretty cool."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Indulgence--Now You Can Listen, Days 1-10 Sampler

Well, I found a way to do the super indulgent thing I had mentioned earlier with less effort and more importantly, no cost to me. I still secretly hold out hope that this will somehow raise enough money for an iPod Classic which would fit the entire Albatross on it, but that isn't likely so there's no need to make it worse by actually spending money...

So here it is, I've always been a little frustrated that all you can do is read me talking about music with, at best, 30 second samplers from the Amazon player. If I was still in college, this would have taken the form of a weekly radio program where I pull out the best of the weeks music and play it for you. Well, now I can do that without having to come up with radio breaks.

Introducing Project:Albatross' new play lists. Every ten days of the blog, I'll make another play list highlighting tracks from those ten days that I either really liked, was surprised by, or at the very least mentioned so that you can hear them in their entirety. Or you can listen to them, go, "Hey, I like that, what the hell?" and then go back and find the blog entry on it.


Day 55: Los Hombres Caliente V.2 & Jose Rizos Jazz on the Latin Side Allstars V.2

I'm back into mystery territory, I don't really know when or where today's CDs came from. And another mystery that probably won't be solved until we're much deeper into the process. Also, today is the day for second volumes.

Los Hombres Calientes
Volume 2

Usually I just take the liner notes out and scan them, but I was too delighted by the sticker on the cover of this one insisting that 30% of the music was free. During the set up I've been trying to come up with how that was supposed to work and I haven't yet. It's not like this is a re-issue of an old LP, this was recorded in 1999, Jason Marsalis is the other other Marsalis brother, the drummer. With the father being a piano player I was really hoping there was just one more in the wings that played bass and we could have the Marsalis Sextet.

I don't think that this CD sold at a particular discount. All CDs have the same capacity. I'm not really sure how the 30% became free.

Alright, enough of that.

I may actually have this album twice. What's worse is I may have bought the other copy not realizing I had this unwrapped copy already. Or I have both volumes and I'm thinking of the first one, but the first one has a different cover and this is the cover I remember. With Bill Summers, percussionist from the Headhunters, leading this expedition it is heavy on the afro-cuban side of things. Not surprising given the title of the group. But with two percussionists on top of the bill, it's going to be rhythm heavy.

Mayfield's trumpet is recorded or mixed in an odd way to make everything sound like its in the same room, a more 'natural' approach to recording that essentially feels like the trumpet is further away than the rhythm section. It's kind of distracting, if I'm being honest. Though I don't know if I would have noticed if I wasn't listening to it on headphones.

Blues De Enredo finally delivers on full on percussion feature you'd expect from an album like this where the whole toy box is brought out. I have to admit I really like that kind of thing. It's the closest thing I imagine there getting to that 'musical moment' where people walk in and pick up a percussion piece and join in. I always end up with the stupid fish, though.

The best possible way to end this album would be to revisit Bill Summer's Headhunter days with a latin version of Chameleon, apparently paired up with We Want the Funk. Naturally this means we're not getting the nearly 20 minute long progression that Chameleon can take on, but it's still pretty rump shaking.

Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars
Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars 2
So, because I wrote down and hit 'publish' my whole disbelief regarding the whole idea of 'cubop,' which of course means that a bunch of other CDs would pop up with references to cubop, including a label.

This is apparently an all-star super band of Latin jazz performers from the LA area brought together to perform in celebration of a radio program of the same name.

According to the liner notes, what makes this special is they didn't just get together for an extended jam session but actually rehearsed and came up with new songs.

I'm kind of stunned at how much the Albatross is grouping together. There today two Latin jazz albums, there's at least one more in the wings. I had that run of blues and the gathering of hard bop Blue Note CDs. There has been no real effort to organize the Albatross by any stretch of the imagination. On top of that, once I'm about a quarter of the way into a bag it becomes a giant jumble anyway. And yet the music does seem to be grouping together. Either that or I'm about to find out that there really isn't that much drift in the Albatross after all.

All of the truly out of line CDs ended up in rotation. There was about 400 CDs that were stolen when my bus was broken into 3 weeks after I installed a stereo in a vehicle with no door locks. I really miss having a stereo in the bus, though. But anything that really stood out made it into rotations like that and are either lost now like in that theft, damaged beyond playability, or already on the hard drive. Like the best promo I ever got is already on there. I've wandered into pre-amble style writing here, but it's just a good live performance of afro-cuban jazz. I don't really know what else to say.

It does end with the coolest track with the coolest title, McKibbon Walks the Talk, which goes from smokey to smokin'...alright, I feel bad for having written that sentence. I'm sorry.

I hadn't quite realized that the last track is just over twenty minutes long. It's managed to go through a few evolutions, I imagine to showcase each of the all-stars on the stage as a sort of grand finale.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 54: Uri Caine Ensemble "Wagner E Venezia" & Leo Kottke "One Guitar, No Vocals"

Today actually represents two very different artists that I became aware of solely through random promos that I subsequently became huge fans of. One of the CDs isn't even a promo, I bought the CD and was happy to do it. Today is an awesome day, which probably means I won't really write much. We'll see.

Uri Caine Ensemble
Wagner E Venezia

I've made a few halted, insufficient attempts to describe Uri Caine in previous posts and I still don't really know how to do him justice. I'm stoked that there are MP3 downloads from Amazon for this album because when my words fail at least those of you without adblock can hear samples. But even then, thirty second snippets won't really do since his music really builds on itself and you have to give it time to accumulate.

In fact, that's exactly what he does here on this live album. The CD opens with the sounds of the crowd talking amongst themselves, that pre-concert chatter in the foreground. Faintly, you can hear the sounds of violins tuning up, or so it seems, until they come together in a nearly imperceptible isn't until the 'song' is over a minute and half in before the audience realizes the show has started.

Caine has an almost 'will it blend' approach to re-imagining music. You find yourself kind of playing 'spot the influence' as his arrangements jump from one to another. One minute you're listening to a straight forward rendition of Tristan and Isolde and then, and you're not always sure when this happened, there's an accordian in there somewhere. In the end you've walked from classical through klezmer, a few forms of eastern and western European folk, and progressive jazz and you have no idea how you got to any of it but it all fit together seamlessly.

I was hoping wiki could help me out here but all it really did is tell me he is from Philly (I seriously assumed he was from eastern Europe somewhere, nope, born in Philly lives in New York) and that I have eight other albums I need to seek out. As it is, I have his acclaimed Mahler album, this Wagner one I thought I had put on the drive but hadn't, a Mozart album I'm really hoping still exists somewhere, and Primal Light. The Mahler and Primal Light had already made it on to the hard drive.

I stumbled on Caine through a Winter & Winter sampler that had some absolutely amazing stuff on it. It's also where I discovered Big Satan and a few others with less catchy names. It more or less established that if that tell tale corduroy cover indicating Winter & Winter was there, what was inside was awesome. Unfortunately this didn't translate into sales and Winter & Winter went through a small distributor if I remember correctly, so I didn't really get a lot of promos, so I would end up ordering them for the store and then buying them myself.

Compared to some of the more elaborate take offs on the Mahler album, these interpretations are relatively tame. Relative, of course, only to Caine himself.

It takes a special composer and performer to make the accordion awesome.

How do you top ending a piece with the ringing of nearby church bells? By doing a Uri Caine version of Ride of the far with accordion and pizzicato strings and a hint of Sorcerers Apprentice. He's doing it as kind of a bounce or waltz...awesome. It's the heaviest song this side of Carmina Burana in classical music and he's given it a light bounce. This is what I'm talking about. Love it, love everything about it.

Leo Kottke
One Guitar, No Vocals
I somehow ended up with Kottke's iconic 'Armadillo' album (6 and 12 String Guitar) as a promo. I don't really know how, I guess because it was 'folk' or something. I kind of remember just picking it up out of the box and thinking, "Huh."

When I got it home, though, I was smitten. When that dude with the dreamy hair and less shirt than recommended sits down to noodle on the guitar, this is what I want to hear him play. So so often that is not even close to the case. I guess he can't be blamed, I'm not his target audience, I don't want to be wooed by him, I just don't want to be annoyed by him and his aggressive strumming of some half-figured out Alice and Chains song. (is it a dated reference? Yes, but I don't run into douchy guitar guy much anymore so it remains relevant to when I was, so there...)

Actually speaking of douchy guitar guy, while driving around with my brother a week or so back we saw the most metal dude ever, walking in long sleeve black in 100 degree weather with a guitar slung over his back, no case. This has nothing to do with Kottke, but I just remembered that and thought his metalness should be recorded.

Kottke is another one of those guys where a lot has been written about him and I feel silly trying to say something new about him. There are a couple styles of guitar playing that I actually like and this is one of them, that sort of simple/complicated folk guitar, no heavy handed strumming going on her or over involved picking, just enough warmth and complexity. It's pretty easy to let this music kind of take you in.

As the title suggests, there are no vocals, which was the case with the Armadillo album, but the 'one guitar' bit sort of implies that there is going to be just the guitar. Not so, every now and then a little texture is added by an organ and perhaps a synthesizer. A little distracting to be honest.