Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 72: Duke Ellington "Mood Indigo" & Don Byron "Romance With the Unseen"

You know what had to happen was that I mentioned that there were performers making several return appearances here and now they're all vying for top spot. Yesterday's Miles CD gives way to some more Don Byron (who has his third, I believe CD go on) and Duke Ellington who may or may not be pulling even. Peaking ahead there's even a Jacky Terrasson, but it's actually the exact same Jacky Terrasson that just went on the hard drive, so that hardly counts.

Duke Ellington
Mood Indigo
More Ellington. Another compilation, this one seeming on the cheaper 'might find this at a gas station' variety. These so far have been older, lower fidelity recordings of early Ellington. The liner notes are pretty sparse, containing an almost dry history of Ellington's beginning in music and a list of luminaries that he's performed with.

I tend to think of this kind of big band recording as 'cartoon jazz,' though that might conjure images of close harmony female vocals personified as singing flowers. It's not quite that, but it still has that mono recording quality, kind of muted sound that comes from a combination of old recording equipment and an air-tight horn section.

The back of the CD is laid out weird, too. It sets up columns for track title, composer, and publisher, all in equal font. It's such a strange way to lay the whole thing out. A lot of times the composer and publishing info is left out of the main listings, or if it's included it's much, much smaller. This kind of borders on data entry style. A little weird.

I'm sort of grasping at straws. Already with Ellington there's not much left to be said about him, but worse than that this is the fifth time he's come up. On the plus side, now I know the name of a song that I often would have in my head, Things Aren't What They Used to Be. And you can never have too many versions of Black and Tan Fantasy. Also, Sophisticated Lady ties Round Midnight for most represented song, which I didn't really see coming. Though it is a cool song. I play it every time I get a hold of a bari sax.

Don Byron
Romance With the Unseen

Don Byron is third on deck. I don't remember if this was the empty sleeve or not, but Byron was one of those artists whose labels would give me advance releases and then the actual CD when it came out. I would usually forget I had the CD originally and end up taking both. So there is a fair portion of of the Albatross that is duplicate CDs. At one point I had like five or six of the same Screamin' Jay Hawkins CD. Sadly, they all met unfortunate demises.

One thing I can say about the Don Byron CDs that have gone in, they so far have been three different CDs. The only thing that's really carried over from one to the other is his skill at the clarinet. In that respect this is perhaps the most 'straight ahead' of the three CDs. No crazy instrumentation, no wild arrangements, straight quartet...

Of course as soon as I say that, extended electric guitar solo. But still, the most straight ahead of his recordings.

I'm starting to think that I should keep track of Beatles tunes that appear on jazz albums, because there are a lot it feels like. Byron has chosen I'll Follow the Sun for his album. I guess I can't be one to judge, in my high school senior year jazz concert I did Yesterday with the guitarist.

This is always the ideal, is an artist who experiments, who tries and delivers different things. But the counter-argument is, I guess, that most people--and with reason--want the same thing, or at least a little bit of predictability. Because of the nature of my collection and the way I dealt with it, I haven't for the most part known which Byron album is which. But I have felt a need to listen to Byron only to find out that wasn't the Byron I was yearning for, it was instead the much different Byron of the CD I just put in.

If an artist experiments then there's the risk, or rather the near certainty, that the experiment won't be to your liking. Even if you're Miles Davis, you can find Davis 'camps' among those that appreciate him and there are those that like the fusion stuff and those for whom Davis more or less stopped playing jazz. I was able to see him about a year before he died, and during a brief moment where he thought he'd address us (by speaking into his bell mic) someone started shouting "Play All Blues." Jackass, this wasn't a shitty downtown jazz bar, he's not going to play All Blues, and now I won't know what he had to say. How did you buy a ticket for Miles Davis thinking that All Blues was even a remote possibility?

So anyway...

Some of it is not going to be something you're into. And so now the artist doesn't get the superlative, 'Consistent.'

It works for him, though, I guess. I mean, he kept releasing albums that I would get promos of, so that's good. It's good to hear some inconsistency now and then.

As part of the Albatross' effort to tie everything in, two days after the Basquiat CD goes in, a CD with a track called Basquiat goes in as well. I really should look that guy's art up some time. Basquiat turned out to be a kind of haunting track, really.

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