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.

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