Monday, October 31, 2005

The Ramones: Ramones Mania (Sire, 1988)

At their core, The Ramones, despite making some very good albums early in their career, were essentially a singles band, a throwback to the surf and early rock and roll bands of the 1950s that pumped out the classic 45s. This is a two record or one compact disc compilation that distills their most well known material. The gang from Hollis, Queens put out a bevy of classic songs during the 1970s and a great many of them are included here like 'Blitzkrieg Pop,' 'Beat on the Brat' and 'Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment.'

The well began to run dry a little bit during the 1980s so the second record is a little bit spottier than the first, but the boys were still able to write a few memorable songs like the infamous 'The KKK Took My Baby Away.' If your music collection has room for just one Ramones set, this album is as good as any by collecting the classics and boiling down the dross.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Interesting Articles

There are a couple of interesting articles on the web site. The first is a very interesting interview with Ken Vandermark:

I'm instigating this new project in Norway, the Powerhouse Sound group. I really really love the funk and reggae genres of music and the possibilities that are there to try to coordinate stuff that would work in an improvising setting. So, this band is going to be a group designed to deal with those kind of rhythms and textures.

A faux "Dear John" letter to The Bad Plus has more to do with Columbia Records and the RIAA then the band:

Maybe the words Suspicious Activity, the first from you during an encounter this week, should have tipped me off. But the little words, as is often the case, were what really hurt: Content Copy Protected CD.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Interesting article has an article entitled America's newest hitmaker: John Coltrane about the new Coltrane releases storming the jazz charts:

In a surprising development, saxophone trailblazer John Coltrane accounted for two of the top three jazz albums last week, 38 years after his death. The two-disc Impulse! set "One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note" entered at No. 3 on Billboard's top jazz albums chart for the week ended October 16. Sitting at No. 2 was Blue Note's recently released album by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with Coltrane, "At Carnegie Hall."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

John Coltrane: One Down, One Up Live at the Half Note (Impulse, 2005)

This release collects radio broadcasts of the classic John Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones at the end of that great group's tenure in mid 1965. At this stage, their improvisations had grown to epic length, and some were clocking in at nearly one hour in length. These were recorded for the Portraits in Jazz radio program at the Half Note in New York City and one caveat that must be mentioned is the announcer who speaks over the music at times. Also, due to the extreme length of the performances, some songs are not presented in their complete length.

It's a little odd dropping in during a long bass solo as we enter during the midway point of the title track, but any disconcertion fades as the rest of the band joins and then launches Coltrane full blast into a monstrous twenty-five minute solo that became something of a legend amongst collectors of bootleg performances. This really is something special both in terms of the stamina involved and the amount of improvisational ideas being used. Eventually Tyner and Garrison drop out and the music becomes a breathless duet between Coltrane and Jones.

'Afro-Blue' actually sneaks in as a full-length performance. McCoy Tyner gets in an excellent solo, he was starting to feel uncomfortable with the direction of the music at this point of his tenure in the band, but he really rises to the occasion here with a thoughtful and well performed solo. Lengthy performances of Coltrane standards 'Afro-Blue' and 'My Favorite Things' are also present. The band played these compositions every night, but they always kept their improvisations fresh and the ones presented here are no exception.

The sound quality of this release is quite good. I have heard a bootleg version, and this officially released version is a definite sonic improvement. Although not perfect, this is a worthy and interesting release that is far from barrel scrapings and is well worth the time of Coltrane fans.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, October 24, 2005

Interesting articles has a very interesting interview with longtime friends Sonny Rollins and David S. Ware:

Sonny Rollins and David S. Ware, two of today's most important jazz musicians, are friends. For the first time, they speak together to the press about their music and spirituality.

Always on the lookout for interesting new projects to get involved in, Dave Douglas has turned to scoring the silent films of "Fatty" Arbuckle:

(Quoting Douglas)
"He's really up there with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and actually predates them. A misconception people have about Fatty Arbuckle is that his films were just about a guy in a bowler hat and people getting hit in the face. Just this nasty slapstick. But when I started watching the films, I found them romantic and really innocent. The humor is really subtle and the acting is kind of balletic. There's something very loving, very devotional. I liked that."

There's an interview with Mose Allison that includes this very funny passage:

"I used to tell a joke. Mose the singer and Mose the songwriter got together and said if we could just get rid of this piano player we can make some serious money... the fact is that I try to play jazz piano, and I keep at it, but nobody knows what my classification is. They ask me if I'm a blues person or a jazz person, but I don't consider myself anything. That's up to other people. I've never seen me, you know?"

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, October 21, 2005

Interesting Articles has an interesting profile on trumpeter, flutist and composer Don Cherry which focuses on his post Ornette Coleman solo career:

“Don Cherry had an effect on people everywhere he went, because whenever he was in town, everybody would show up... things started happening around him because he was such a fun person to be around,” so the words of Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger, who met Cherry in the early 1960s during the trumpeter's initial stay in Scandinavia.

The other comes from which excerpts a book about artists using humor as a means of rebellion:

There were times in his career when Louis Armstrong removed the trickster mask, or at least wore one more thinly veiled. Sometimes he showed great courage as a prominent public figure, speaking out on behalf of social justice.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bittorrent Boogie - Woogie

The Libertines were one of my favorite modern rock and roll bands, continuing the punk influence of The Clash (and produced by Mick Jones, no less!) Their demise via drug-induced debauchery (Libertine Pete Doherty introduced his then girlfriend Kate Moss to cocaine, how sweet!) , pretty much robbed me of any chance of seeing them perform live, but this torrent of a performance from Le Cat in Bordeaux, France captures them in fine form playing a mix of tunes from their first album and the music that would make up their second album. The sound is not perfect, being an audience recording, but it's good enough to make out the palpable excitement that created such a buzz around this band.

Henry Threadgill has been continually shaking up the jazz scene since he broke out of Chicago with some other AACM stalwarts. After leaving the great trio Air, Threadgill has formed many bands, which feature his unique compositions as well as distinctive alto saxophone and flute playing. This is one of the earliest Threadgill concerts I've seen for torrenting or trading, and it offers a fascinating glimpse into his development as a musician. Joined by a killer band of Chico Freeman - reeds/flute, Muhal Richard Abrams - piano, Fred Hopkins - bass, Steve McCall - drums the band plays two long improvisations which allow everybody to stretch out. Of particular interest is near the very end of the concert where the band drops into a very Air-like old-time jazz passage. Great stuff!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More Interesting Articles (Yes, I am a Geek)

Being a librarian as well as a music nerd, I can resist passing along an interesting blog post from the American Library Accositation regarding the future of music:

Their theory: that music, entertainment, and access to information will be billed at a rate lower than cell phones as delivery mechanisms become cheaper to build. This model is subscription-based. You pay monthly for access to the global jukebox of all music and more.

Also a thought-provoking article about music overload, from Stylus Magazine. With yahoo music and bitorrenting, I can agree:

I still felt more of an attachment listening to an actual CD, or even MP3s ripped from a CD to an iPod, than streaming downloaded MP3s through my PC, just because there was an actual thing onto which I could focus attention, perhaps.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Interesting Article

There's an interesting article on that talks about some of the live jazz reissues that have come out this year:

It's been a year of archaeological wonders for jazz fans, one in which long-lost recordings of legendary concerts have been excavated, restored, and released on commercial labels. The highlights...

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Record Shopping

After eight days of non-stop rain and flooding, the sun finally shone again, and I took it as a sign to go to my friend John's record store, Izzy's and indulge in some vinyl shopping. Yes, I did actually go outside too, hooking up the mp3 player and going for a long hike at Cheesequake State Park.

Here's the swag from Izzy's:

Jimmy McGriff - Stump Juice
This is Wes Montgomery
Milt Jackson - Second Nature: The Savoy Sessions
Andrew Hill - From California With Love
The Best of Louis Jordan
Jaki Byard - Family Man
Richard Davis - With Understanding
Wayne Shorter - Odyssey of Iska

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Bad Plus - Suspicious Activity?

The Bad Plus' second album of 2005 is a companion to their Blunt Object live album released earlier in the year. This album also captures some of the compositions they have been playing during their recent extensive touring. The title refers to the band's suspicion of the American government, but whatever your political views, the band continues to move forward with its adgenda of interesting compositions and quirky cover tunes.

Drummer Dave King dominated the performance the band gave in Princeton that I was lucky enough to see, and he contrimuted a couple of interesting and clarion compositions here, with the thumping "Anthem of the Earnest" and the song that has become their theme of late, the politically inspired "The Empire Strikes Backwards." The real hero for compositions on this disc. however, is bassist Reid Anderson. His moody, deeply textured compositions make him the heart and soul of the band. Ehere King provides the thunder and pianist Ethan Iverson the wit, Anderson provides the poetry and grace that make the band a complete whole. Songs like "Prehensile Dream" and "Lost of Love" show a deep consciousness and empathy that people don't often expect when listening to The Bad Plus.

Of course, this wouldn't be The Bad Plus without a quirky cover and in this case it's the theme from the film "Chariots of Fire." It is very interesting how they approach this song. The structure is deeply improvisational to begin with and then finally climax the improv with the very familiar melody. With this album, The Bad Plus have begun to escape the enfant terrible tag they have been burdened with in the past and strike out on new and ambitious territory.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, October 13, 2005

John Coltrane at the Half Note

The New York Times has an interesting article interviewing Ravi Coltrane about the release of John Coltrane's One Up One Down:

"This Half Note material really comes at a summit," Mr. Coltrane said by phone recently from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where he was on tour. "It's the high point of a sound that the band had been cultivating, basically, since 1961. The music that was recorded there comes at the strongest point of that band, playing that sound. Right after that, they start changing and going other places."

There's also a short video clip of Ben Ratliff reviewing the album here.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yahoo Music Unlimited

I signed up for the Yahoo Unlimited music service a few weeks ago and so far I have been pretty happy with it. They offer unlimited streaming and downloading of 192 kbs .wma files which can be transferred to a compatible mp3 player and stay playable as long as you keep up with the $6.99 per month subscription fee. They music sounds fine on my Zen Micro mp3 player but isn't available to iPod users because that particular cultural icon doesn't support .wma files.

While the service is geared toward the pop end of the market in terms of music selection, the mainstream jazz selections are quite good, with albums from their supported labels appearing on their release day. As I write this, I'm listening to the new release of John Coltrane at the Half Note which was released yesterday. The service is also quite valuable in terms of checking out music you're not sure to like. A good example of this is the new Wynton Marsalis album Live at the House of Tribes. I have found much of Marsalis' recent music to be lifeless and bland, but was intrigued by this release which has been favorably compared to one of his last great albums, Live at Blues Alley. So it was nice to be able to stream the album and really check it out before looking for it on CD.

In the end, if you like a lot of different types of music, have an mp3 player that is supported and aren't attached to having the physical artifact of a CD, Yahoo Music is a good choice for digital music, offering a lot of music for the least cost of all the streaming music services.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, October 10, 2005

John Coltrane at the 1/2 Note

The New York Times has a review of the soon to be released archival concert of John Coltrane's quartet live from the Half Note entitled Coltrane: Volatile, but Always in Control:

In the spring of 1965, John Coltrane's quartet played several gigs at the Half Note Club in Manhattan, some of which were recorded for WABC-FM radio. Tape traders have long known about them, and the music has circulated since the late 1960's, but generally not in complete form, and not sounding nearly as good as they do now.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Lonnie Smith - Turning Point (Blue Note 1969, 2005)

Organist Lonnie Smith in his pre-turban days on Blue Note playing a very poppy organ funk groove record that was recently re-released by the label as part of the Connoisseur Series overseen by Rudy Van Gelder. The album kicks off with "Seesaw" featuring an organ groove over lock step drums and trumpet and tenor saxophone providing flourishes. "Slow High" adopts a mid-tempo funky groove with a good tenor saxophone solo by Bennie Maupin who really digs deep into the tune, moving it beyond simple soul-jazz.

An attempt to cross over to the pop audience come with an odd choice of the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" as a cover tune. The song begins with Smith setting an eerie tone to the song on organ growing nearly maudlin with the melody. Maupin’s tenor again steps in to save the day and he kick starts Smith into a grinding organ solo that breaks the drums loose from their shackles and the group takes flight for one of the few times on record. The title track rounds things out with the organ building uneasily and then dropping into a straight ahead groove over horn riffs. Lee Morgan’s trumpet solo solos over an organ and drum groove. Smith pulls out up-tempo solo to instill some life into the proceedings and take things out.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, October 07, 2005

Profane, but worthy

WFMU's Beware of the Blog has the transcript of comments by "Little Steven" Van Zandt as the keynote speaker at the Radio and Records 2005 Convention:

You're gonna replace Elvis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Lloyd Price, and Fats Domino with, all due respect, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees? You're gonna replace primal, vital, timeless, forever cool rock and roll pioneers with disco? Disco?

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Interesting Articles

There are a couple of very interesting articles in the Village Voice this week. The first one takes a look at jazz violinist Billy Bang and how he's using music as therapy to confront his painful memories of serving in the Vietnam War:

The South Bronx had degenerated into a war zone, and many of his friends were so fucked-up he wondered if he had been safer in Vietnam. He climbed on and off a law career track, read politics, fell in with a gang of would-be revolutionaries. On a trip down south to buy guns, he picked up a pawn shop violin—figured that at least was an instrument he knew something about. He stuck with it, moved downtown, picked up pointers from AACM violinist Leroy Jenkins, did the late-'70s loft scene, called his first group the Survival Ensemble. Bang worked on the avant-garde fringes for decades, gigging with Sun Ra, recording occasionally in Europe. By 2000 he was so broke Justin Time's Jean-Pierre Leduc talked him into writing an album about Vietnam and the nightmares that haunted him.

The second article is one of my favorite jazz writers, Francis Davis, writing about one of my favorite bands, The Bad Plus:

Make no mistake, the Bad Plus play top-notch jazz. And except for their rock covers, their reaching out to a larger audience involves not a hint of condescension (unlike "O.G.," most of their originals eschew a stated pulse, much less a groove). What overcame my skepticism was their version of Ornette Coleman's "Street Woman" on last year's Give—a careening interpretation that suggested a noble lineage I could kick myself for not getting on my own.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Gang of Four – Return the Gift (V2, 2005)

Can a vaguely Marxist punk rock band from the 1970’s still be relevant in the mid-2000’s? Well, after hearing their influence in a stream of British punk-pop bands like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, Gang of Four returned to find out with a reunion tour. Instead of chronicling this by cranking out a quickie live album or disc of new material, the band went into the studio and re-recorded some of their most well-known songs. While this may seem like a cash-in ready made for disaster (middle aged musicians trying to regain their radical youth) the results are remarkable and the disc simply kicks butt from start to finish.

Beginning with an update, “To Hell With Poverty 2005” the bands trademark angular guitar riffs are in place, sounding only a little updated for the garage rock revival. As for the song itself, it resonates as much today as it did back in the days of punk filled London squats. The other politically charged tracks on this album like “He’d Send in the Army” and “Not Great Men” blast the status quo while supporting the underclass. "Capital" is a blasting indictment of the culture of debt: From the moment I was born/I opened my eyes/I reached out for my credit card! It’s not all clenched-fist anthems however, the band’s most well known tune, “Anthrax,” is here equating love to poison and chemical warfare. “At Home He’s Just a Tourist” is another great cautionary tale of suburban blight. It’s great to hear these songs brought alive with such enthusiasm, and it’s easy to see why this band has been such an influence on modern rock and roll. Highly recommended.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1 (Surfdog, 2005)

Ex Stray Cat Brian Setzer has been on a rockabilly kick throughout his carreer from that great retro-rock band through the big band jump blues group he led through the 1990's. This is his first outright tribute to the rock and roll of the 1950's and the legendary Sun Records label that launched the careers of people like Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins (not to mention Howlin' Wolf and James Cotton as well!) He nails the sound very well, with just raw guitar, bass and drums driving the sound forward. Hardly going through the motions, this is a very exciting and refreshing disc.

A number of popular standards from the era are here beginning with rave-ups like "Red Hot" and "Put Your Cat Clothes On." Carl Perkins looms large over the proceedings with "Boppin' the Blues" and the immortal "Blue Suede Shoes" and there are a couple of tracks from left-field such as the funny "Flyin' Saucer Rock and Roll." Setzer even gets in a nice period feel original called "Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford." He and the band do the originals proud throughout this tribute so if you are a fan of his previous projects or of 1950's rock and roll in general, this is a fine addition to your collection.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monk and Coltrane Mp3

For any doubters that may be out there about the Thelonious Monk w/ John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall release, check out the mp3 posted at the excellent Jazz and Conversation blog. Believe the (considerable) hype, this is the real deal.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Interesting Blues Article

Thanks a lot to Jim Hauser for allowing me to re-print his thought-provoking post on the blues as protest music:

In response to my post on blues as protest, there's been some discussion about the importance of understanding the blues vs. blues as entertainment. Here's an example of why I think it's important to understand and not just be entertained.

A few days ago, I saw John Mellencamp on the Tavis Smiley program. And
Mellencamp was complaining about rap music. He indicated that this type of
music has him concerned because it's setting back black America. He said
something like rap (i.e. gangsta rap) is nothing but Stagger Lee in gold chains.
He's right about Stagger Lee. Gangsta rap is Stagger Lee--magnified and
multiplied 1000 times. I know that he has a love for the blues, but, based on
his comments, I doubt that he understands the blues.

The blues--at its core--is a music of resistance. All black music is. And
Mellencamp doesn't understand that Stagger Lee, a black man who was so ba-a-a-d
that he could do as he pleased, was a manifestation of an oppressed people's
will to be free. Maybe Mellencamp would find Stagger Lee more to his liking if
he did a little research. If he did, he'd find that great black writers like
James Baldwin and Sterling Brown saw Stagolee and other legendary black badmen
as heroes. Baldwin even wrote a poem about him titled "Staggerlee Wonders."
And both writers loved the blues.

I've been researching Stagger Lee for years and I've even created a
devoted to him. I have recently become more and more interested in trying to
understand the significance of gangsta rap. Like Mellencamp, I'm a blues lover,
but I've got very different ideas about gangsta rap. Here are my thoughts:

Gangster rap might be at least partially understood by looking back at Richard
Wright's "Native Son", one of America's most important novels. Wright's novel
showed the dehumanizing effect of racism on the oppressed. Native Son's main
character, Bigger Thomas, is a literary version of Stagger Lee. Bigger was a
big and powerful black man who bullied his friends, hated everyone (black and
white), and committed murder. He was a monstrous by-product of racism. Native
Son was Wright's warning that white America's racist ways would come back and
bite it in the ass. And now gangsta rap is like a pit bull with a grip on both

White America tried to escape Stagger Lee and Bigger Thomas by moving to the
suburbs and by building gated communities. Bigger Thomas envied the freedom and
riches of white America and he had a burning desire to get his piece of the pie.
He finally found a way to get that piece. He changed his street name from
Stagger Lee to Ice-T, Ice Cube, Schoolly D, etc. And he smuggled himself into
white America by stowing away in the stereo systems of the children of the
people who built those suburban havens of "safety."

And the devastating effect of this is that the white Americans who sent Lloyd
Price's "Stagger Lee" to the top of the charts now have grandsons who want their
ride pimped and think it's cool to apply terms like "bitch" and "ho" to women.

Ralph Ellison's novel "Invisible Man" argues that racism has terrible effects on
both sides of the racial divide. White America suffers for its racism and
gangsta rap is a great and totally unexpected example of this. But not
unexpected to all--if Wright and Ellison were alive today, they would point to
gangsta rap and say "I told you so." While we fret over terrorism, we are blind
to an even bigger threat; our failure to correct the injustices of centuries of
slavery and racism is causing America to crumble from the inside.

When John Mellencamp goes on national TV and starts talking about gangsta rap setting back black America, he's only partially correct. It's setting back black AND white America. And if he's going to finger point, he should point out that white America is really at the root of the whole thing.

I can understand why Mellencamp, much of white America, and many African Americans do not like gangsta rap. But, personally, I hold out a lot of hope for it. Why? Bob Marley once was a representative of the rude boys, gangsters who were the Jamaican counterpart to Stagger Lee. (He and his band, The Wailers, were originally named The Wailing Rude Boys.) Today, he is a symbol of human rights.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sonny Rollins

The New York Times is carrying a great article entitled Listening to CD's with Sonny Rollins:

But on the subject of music other than his own, the basis of our meeting, he is more forthcoming. Mr. Rollins had chosen a short list of pieces for our session, the point being to listen through his sensibilities. He was careful to contextualize his responses, but essentially remained open to exploring any idea. And his responses were fairly fresh: he said, regretfully, that for 20 years he had not really listened much to music, to protect himself from too much information. "It's not healthy," he admitted. "I would like to be able to listen to CD's. I enjoy it, you know."

Send comments to: Tim