Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Interesting articles

The Grateful Dead fans are up in arms that the bands concerts have been removed from the Internet Live Music Archive:

The Grateful Dead, the business, is testing the loyalty of longtime fans of the Grateful Dead, the pioneering jam band, by cracking down on an independently run Web site that made thousands of recordings of its live concerts available for free downloading. The band recently asked the operators of the popular Live Music Archive to make the concert recordings - a staple of Grateful Dead fandom - available only for listening online, the band's spokesman, Dennis McNally, said yesterday. In the meantime, the files that previously had been freely downloaded were taken down from the site last week.

The New York Times also reports on the recent trend of jazz musicians taking their inspiration from indie rock (thanks, Brian!):

Jazz and indie-rock, if not opposites, are distinctly unrelated; what they have most in common is a vastness that strains the terms of genre. It doesn't take much cynicism to suspect "Gold Sounds" and its label, the upstart Brown Brothers Recordings, of crossover designs. You would have to go back at least a generation to find a time when jazz claimed an audience as robust as indie-rock does today, and one as socially connected, fiercely protective and doggedly partisan. (On second thought, partisanship is another thing the two scenes have in common.)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Traffic Gold (Island, 2005)

For a band that put out relatively few albums during their brief career, Traffic has spawned any number of anthologies, with more in the works to be sure. This two CD set takes the place of the excellent Smiling Phases compilation, which has lamentably fallen out of print. Part of the reason the band had such strife during its first few years was the split personality of the music, between the shorter poppier songs of Dave Mason and the longer jazz-influenced jams of Steve Winwood. This compilation reflects that split with the first disc highlighting some of the Mason inspired pop hits like 'You Can All Join In' and 'Feelin' Alright.' Some of the finest music the band achieved was when the two influences meshed together, as 'Dear Mr. Fantasy' has become one of the most memorable songs in 1960's rock and roll, and the 'Glad/Freedom Rider' medley is an equally fine suite-like performance.

After Mason's departure and Winwood's brush with super-stardom in Blind Faith, the re-formed Traffic struck out into looser more jam based music. The end of the first disc and the whole of the second shows this transformation with the incorporation of tunes like the traditional 'John Barleycorn Must Die' arranged for acoustic guitar and flute, and the epic length 'Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.' There is also included here a lengthy jam-band style version of 'Gimmie Some Lovin' which was a hit for Winwood during his stay with the Spencer Davis Group. This compilation works well as a compromise between a strictly 'greatest hits' set, and a longer b-sides and rarities collection, including both the well know songs and longer album tracks. Fans looking for a taste of the band without collecting the original albums would be wise to consider this set, as it is a well thought out and accessible collection.

Today's Spins:
World Saxophone Quartet Experience
Nick Curran Nitelife Boogie
Rahsaan Roland Kirk We Free Kings

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Miles Davis Enters Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

(From BET web site) Posted Nov. 28, 2005 -- Miles Davis will forever be remembered for his distinctive, if delicate, trumpet sound, for his amazing combos and for crafting unforgettable jazz classics, such as Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. Today, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation places his musical eminence in the development of rock by announcing that he would be one of the new 2006 inductees into its hallowed Hall of Fame.

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Ornette and TBP in Newark

Sigh, I wish I could have been there, but alas it was not to be. Ornette Coleman and The Bad Plus rocked the house in Newark:

Now 75, the alto saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist is a bona fide jazz legend who only plays a select handful of dates each year, one of which will be Saturday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark with The Bad Plus in support. 'You need more than just players to make music' Coleman argues. 'I have to find those other people, too. I have not with this group, but I am constantly looking for them.'

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Interesting Articles has an interesting article and interview with Bernard Stollman who founded the ESP label in the 1960's and who has recently reactivated the imprint:

A young woman came to me who was a choreographer, a very lovely woman, and she said I understand you're helping musicians. I said yes, I am sympathetic to their struggles, and she said 'why aren't you helping Ornette and Cecil? I remember I said Ornette and Cecil who? She was aghast, they're the princes of modern music and you don't know them? That's just terrible. Look, I've talked to them about you, and they both want you to manage them.

Pop Matters has an interesting article about the resurgence of the piano trio, looking at groups led by Brad Mheldau and Uri Caine as well as The Bad Plus:

By the 1950s, the piano trio format on its own had become the most important and flexible unit in jazz. It was, in fact, a perfectly balanced stool with three legs. The jazz drummer not only keeps time, driving the music forward, but also establishes style; swing, funk, bossa nova, ballad. The bass player keeps time and establishes harmony with his note choice. The piano player plays the melody with his right hand and harmonies with his left. The formula is so airtight, so utterly logical and "classical", that it can be hard to tell the difference between a Bud Powell trio recording from the '50s and a Mulgrew Miller side from the day before yesterday. The trio led by Bill Charlap in 2005 emulates the 1962 Bill Evans Trio without a trace of stodgy nostalgia.

Today's Spins:
Elvis Costello - CW Post College 1978
Traffic - Gold (disc one)
Mississippi Fred McDowell - Unitiled LP
Sonny Simmons - The Traveller

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ben Monder - Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005)

Guitarist Ben Monder's new CD is in a quintet format where he is joined by Theo Bleckmann on vocals, Kermit Driscoll on bass, Ted Poor on drums, and Skuli Sverrisson on bass. They make some very deeply layered and atmospheric music. Leading off the disc is "Still Motion" with Blackmann's spooky wordless vocals echoing Monder's gauzy guitar like the soundtrack of a haunting. The longform title track runs the gamut from the peaceful serenity of a guitar trio to Sverrisson's thundering drum solo, with the whole band coming back together sans vocals for a fierce improvisation at the end.

"Echolalia" brings Blackmann back into the fold for a gentler tune backed by Sverrisson's sensitive brushwork. "Double Sun" is another lengthy track which builds slowly to a noirish intensity, like something that should be used in a throwback crime film as part of the soundtrack as the protagonist walks the dark, wet streets late at night. "Rooms of Light" starts with Hendrixian feedback prodded on by blasting drums and pulsing bass. Monder shapes and folds his guitar lines much like a sculptor would while Blackmann's scatted vocals weave in and out of the music. The nearly cross over into progressive rock territory, but never dip into pretension. “Spectre” ends the album on a more contemplative note.

This is an album of deeply textured and cinematic music. It would be really interesting to hear Ben Monder get the chance to do some film scoring as a future project. But in the meantime this album should appeal to a wide range of music enthusiasts.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

New Podcast

I have a new Podcast available (34 mb) with some examples of what I have been listening to over the past week or so. Please note that there is 25 seconds of dead air in the file before the music starts.
Here's the setlist:

The Bad Plus - The Empire Strikes Backward
Brian Setzer - Flyin' Saucer Rock and Roll
Ben Monder - Still Motion
The Deadly Snakes - High Prices Going Down
Dave Douglas - Ramshackle
The Fleshtones - Pretty Pretty Pretty
Eyal Maoz - Lost
The Ravonettes - Red Tan
Either Orchestra - Soul Tezeta
Wilco - Shot in the Arm

Please send an e-mail or leave a comment if you get a chance.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Kresten Osgood w/ Lonnie Smith and Michael Blake Hammond Rens

Here's something of an odd combination that works really well. Danish drummer Kresten Osgood is joined by downtown saxophonist and Jazz Composers Collective member Michael Blake and one of the quintessential grooving Hammond B-3 organ players, 'Doctor' Lonnie Smith for a lengthy set of music before a live audience. It's a testament to the players involved here that everything works so well despite their possibly divergent styles. Across the whole of this long (two maxed-out CD's) album of gutbucket organ jams, blues and ballads the players make their individual presences known while staying clearly focused on communicating with their colleagues on the stage.

The music on these CD's looks back on the glory days of the organ trio in the 1950's and 60's, where every urban center had one or more clubs that featured a stripped down trio of Hammond organ, saxophone and drums. This is very user-friendly music and many of the tunes stretch out for considerable lengths of time allowing for plentiful solos from everyone involved. Michael Blake stands out in particular, getting a very deep, dark, earthy tone on his tenor saxophone that he had not shown in some of his other projects. If you are fan of organ trios, or or freewheeling jam sessions, this is a set to keep an eye out for.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NPR has a very interesting interview with John Zorn about how the Masada songbooks has grown and has been adapted by other musicians:

In his original group, John Zorn played saxophone alongside a trumpeter, bass player and drummer. But the catalog was designed to be played by any group of instruments, and Zorn's discography has since expanded to include renditions by klezmer bands, jazz combos and vocalists.

Today's spins:
Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Here Comes the Whistleman
Wilco - Kicking Television
Muddy Waters - King Bee

Monday, November 21, 2005

Odds and Ends

The blog Spread the Good Word spreads the bad news about the death of legendary guitarist Link Wray, and has sports some mp3's to boot:

Mr Wray passed away at the age of 76 in Copehagen where he lived since 1983. Though rock historians always like to draw a nice, clean line between the distorted electric guitar work that fuels early blues records to the late-'60s Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, Townshend mob, with no stops in between, a quick spin of any of the sides Link recorded during his golden decade punches holes in that theory right quick.

The Nation's web site offers up a huge review of new and upcoming books on jazz:

For the jazz musicians and jazz journalists struggling for mainstream attention, the sky could appear to be falling, but judging from the deluge of recent books, the music's shelf life is just beginning. Jazz, more than any other musical genre, currently dominates academic presses; compared with pondering the use of the grace note in Haydn, chasing the path of Django Reinhardt or a riverboat band might even seem sexy. Hip-hop is so recent, rock and roll so flaky and ubiquitous. Scholarly presses are more willing to admit jazz's importance today than they were when the music was at its most vital stages of development.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Bad Plus - London Jazz Festival 11/11/05

The Bad Plus' set from the London Jazz Festival was a short, crowd pleasing one. This concert hit many of the highpoints of their current music, starting with the mid tempo composition 'Let Your Garden Grow' by pianist Ethan Iverson that presents an impressionistic and classically trained feel. Drummer Dave King's throbbing anti war epic 'The Empire Strikes Backward' always receives a warm welcome overseas in the current climate, and is particularly memorable here. Led by King's raucous drumming, 'Empire' is an impressive performance.

Things calm back down with the mid tempo interesting feel of bassist Reid Anderson's 'Rhinoceros is My Profession.' Finally, the requisite quirky cover is the theme from 'Chariots of Fire' which starts with a very abstract view of the song and gradually moves back, building tension until finally reaching a climax with the very memorable melody. This is the perfect song for the group to cover as they have always had a flair for the dramatic and cinematic in their music. One wonders why they haven't been called upon to score a film. Maybe that lies ahead in 2006.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

My man David Murray

The Radio 3 web site has a review of the David Murray concert from the 2005 London Jazz Festival:

But it's on the show-stopping dance-floor filler 'Gwotet' that Murray really shines, with a solo so full of authentic fire that it transcends any notion of mere technique. This is direct, soulful communication and clear proof of why he's considered by many to be the leading tenor player of his generation.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Book review: Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello by Graeme Thompson

The chameleon of British rock and roll, Elvis Costello is the subject of this biography, tracing his roots from the show bands of his father to the pub rock of his youth and then finally to his fateful breakout in 1977 with his band The Attractions. Costello became the enfant terrible of pop music and brilliant albums and the requisite tales of rock and roll debauchery followed. Thompson recalls details of the antics best he can, as he didn't have access to Costello in the writing of this book, and had to rely on the accounts of others and the media.

Costello is one of the few rock musicians who became more interesting as he grew older and more mature. His interests grew to include country music, standards of the 30's and 40's and rhythm and blues all of which he incorporated in his music. His career and life have had their ups and downs as Thompson chronicles, but this biography comes at an interesting time in Costello's career. Now in his 50's and no longer the young punk, he's putting out some of the best music of his career and showing no sign of slowing down. An interesting if trashy biography.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cellar Door Update

Along with many others, I have been anxiously awaiting the Miles Davis at the Cellar Door boxed set, which has been postponed due to legal wrangling. Paul Tingen, who wrote the very interesting book Miles Beyond has an update of the proceedings:

The latest news in the Cellar Door boxed set saga: a new release date has been set for December 17, though the 27th has also been mentioned. I'm still waiting for official confirmation from Sony Columbia, but given the events of the last months, that would hardly set things in stone. The problem remains the Miles Davis Estate, and mainly Miles's nephew, Vince Wilburn. A few weeks before the original release date last September he wanted the credits of Adam Holzman and Bob Belden changed from 'produced by' to 'compiled by.' Understandably, this was not something these two, or Sony, were happy about. Moreover, the Cellar Door set had been more than five years in the making, so the timing of the demand reeked of a hidden agenda.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First Impressions

Just a quick take on some of the music I have purchased recently. Full reviews to follow soon, I hope!

The Deadly Snakes Porcella: The Deadly Snakes seemed to get lumped in with the other members of the garage rock revival like The White Stripes and The Greenhorns, but their range may surprise people. Calling on a wide range of styles, from rock to pop and R&B, this is a very adventurous record.

Broken Social Scene (self titled): A super-group made up of various members of the Canadian indie rock community, BSS is another band that thrives on the lyrical and musical diversity of their members to create a wide-ranging musical stew that runs the gamut from 'traditional' Pixies-inspired indie rock to the dreaded emo. The thought of a band with a rotating cast of 15+ band members playing a two-disc epic may cause some head-scratching, but the music holds up quite well.

Claudia Qunitet Semi Formal: Nominally led by John Hollenbeck, Claudia takes a kitchen sink approach to music by adding jazz, classical, avant-garde and even a warped pop/lounge sensibility together. Drums and vibes meet freaky organ and clarinet and some occasional skonkin' saxophone for a very unusual and unusual sound.

Polysoft Tribute to Soft Machine: Polysoft is an improvising French band that paid tribute to the legendary prog-rock/jazz fusion band Soft Machine by inviting a few of the older band's members to join them in creating new improvisations based on old Soft Machine compositions. Turns out that the old songs hold up quite well, with a three horn front line juxtaposed against a shimmering backdrop of fender rhodes piano, organ and guitar.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Interesting Articles

The Washington Post has an interesing article about a famous blues fan and club owner: Morgan Freeman, Down Home: "Freeman and Luckett opened the club in May 2001, transforming a 1900s cotton warehouse into a gritty concert venue where the music is earsplitting and the decor is frat house-meets-dance hall."

The Miami Herald also travels to Mississippi with the article Love the blues? It all began in joints like these. "Moreover, the blues here is no series of historical markers erected by the Hellhound-On-My-Trail Antiquarian Society: Clarksdale has shops, music rooms, juke joints and major festivals celebrating this direct ancestor of rock 'n' roll. And it's far enough inland that it escaped damage from Hurricane Katrina."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Torrential Torrent

William Parker Quartet - St. Anna Arresi, Italy 9/3/04 Of all of William Parker's cracking bands, this quartet is amongst the most popular. With Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto saxophone, and Hamid Drake on drums, the band burns at any tempo, but prefers the edgy half-light territory between modern hard bop and free jazz. This concert finds the group playing two very long improvisations, one clocking in at twenty-six minutes, and the other at forty-six! Far from a free-for-all blowout, however, the band moves through sections of improvisation in a suite-like manner with plenty of time to split into duos and trios.

The music becomes quite percussive at times with Drake delivering all types of rhythms and Parker's bowed and plucked bass keeping the pulse of the music moving forward. Brown and Barnes make an impressive front line with the formers tart, lemony alto juxtaposed against Barnes sputtering blasts on trumpet. In a more adventurous day, this group would have been a cinch for a Blue Note recording contract, but at least they have been recorded on the courageous AUM Fidelity label. This band has a couple of exciting and accessible CD's on this label, and they are well worth seeking out.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Interesting article

Here's an article profiling tenor saxophonist and composer Pharoah Sanders, who recently turned 65.

A quiet man, Pharoah Sanders is an originator. Though he is a man of few words he is definitely not short on talent or heart. The regal one stands on stage bending notes cognizant of the carefully nurtured bond he's fashioned between himself and the horn of the Gods.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Blogging Musicians

I wish more musicians took the time to have a weblog... it's a great way for them to get their ideas out and interact with other musicians and fans with little cost except time, which is at a premium for musicians like everybody else, I guess! Here are a couple of musician blogs I enjoy:

Gary Lucas: Lucas is a musical renaissance man, playing everything from jazz to blues to rock and everything in between. He currently leads the wonderful Captain Beefheart tribute band Fast 'n' Bulbous in addition to other musical projects.

Jessica Williams' The Zone: Williams is a very highly regarded jazz pianist and composer currently recording for the Max Jazz label. I discovered her blog through the jazz blog Rifftides.

Listening to: Rashanim - Masada Rock (Tzadik, 2005)

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Alan Silva and William Parker A Heroes Welcome (Eremite, 1998)

Silva and Parker are best known as the first call bassists for avant-garde jazz for their particular generations. Silva performed with such luminaries as Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor and Parker is best known for his long stint as the bassist in the David S. Ware Quartet. What is particularly interesting about this live duet performance, is that Silva stays away from the bass for the most part, creating huge slabs of orchestral sounding music using digital MIDI keyboards, and interjecting pointed comments with acoustic piano. Parker holds the whole concept together and keeps it from flying off into the void on bass, switching with aplomb between plucked and bowed bass. It is an interesting concept that sounds something like Sun Ra would have tried if he had turned his hand to avant garde classical composition.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Top Ten Jazz Blog

This came as an e-mail today. I've never heard of this site, but it's a nice honor regardless.

Congratulations!!! Our editors have selected your newsfeed to be featured in one of our Top 10 Sources sites. You can view the site that features your site by clicking here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chasing Mustafaa

I heard from my friend John that he had uncovered some more jazz records at the store where he works. Never one to refuse a little record shopping on my day off I went up there only to find they were his records. Mustafaa... again. Let me explain. In the jazz vinyl bins of records stores up and down the east coast of the United States there are classic records from the 60's and 70's and the cover of each one has written in bold magic-marker script... Mustafaa. Who is this enigmatic man of mystery, and why have I found his records in stores from Albany, NY to Alexandria, VA? Why did he sell his records? Is it like The Da Vinci Code - if I collect all of his records, will the meaning of life be revealed? The plot thickens...

Oh yes, these are the records I bought:

Milt Jackson - Vibrations
Blue Mitchell - Heads Up!
Johnny Griffin - Wade in the Water
Johnny Griffin & Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis - Lookin' at Monk
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The best minds of my generation... wasted

As Pete Dorherty, late of one of my favorite rock and roll bands, The Libertines, prepares to release a album with his new band Babyshambles, he conducts a deeply disturbing interview with the Guardian:

Is it true that he and Moss are hoping to have children together? "I've got two," he says. Two, I say, baffled - I knew that he had one. He repeats that he has two children, and that he sees one of them. "Poor little fucker. My sister sees him all the time, so there's affection as a family for him. I don't really want to go into that because it's not fair on the kids or the mother. It's enough for me to say I love them and would do anything for them."

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Mat Maneri Pentagon (Thirsty Ear, 2005)

Violinist Mat Maneri has been very active on the avant-garde scene over the past couple of years, recording acoustically for the Leo Label, and in more electric and eclectic settings for the Thirsty Ear label. Like his previous Thirsty Ear albums, his new album, Pentagon, mines the rich legacy of the electrified music produced by Miles Davis from 1968-75 except in this case with the violin taking the place of the trumpet.

This is not an album of slavish emulation however, far from it. The band uses the music of the past as a jumping off point, using rippling electric Fender Rhodes piano, electric violins and horns. These are the most successful tracks along with the final track, 'America' which ends the disc on an elegiac note with a short acoustic violin improvisation. Along with the somewhat groove oriented tracks, there are some spacier tunes that allow the band a little more room to move. Vocals do pop up on a couple of occasions, with a female vocalist giving a haunting, breathy reading of the standard 'Motherless Child.' Mat's father, the legendary saxophonist Joe Maneri takes a scat vocal as well, albeit of limited effectiveness.

Overall, the album feels a little bit scattered with a mix of acoustic, electric and vocal tracks. A focus on one of the three would have led to a more coherent and consistent flow of music. Nevertheless, when the music and the musicians click, especially on the electric tracks, the results are impressive. I hope Thirsty Ear considers a live album of the electric side of this group, they must be a blast in a small club.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sam Rivers - Paragon (Fluid, 1977)

Sam Rivers has recorded in many settings over the years, but he keeps coming back again and again to the trio format. On this album, he is joined by regular cohorts, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul. The trio format allows the opportunity for Rivers compositional ideas to be fleshed out while still allowing the musicians room to stretch out and improvise on the melodies with quite a bit of freedom.

Rivers is the star of the session as can be imagined and his full arsenal of tenor and soprano saxophones as well as flute are on display. Holland and Altschul are both solid and fluid in their supporting role throughout this excellent session. Apparently this music is still in vinyl only limbo, but anyone with a turntable and a taste for adventurous music should keep an eye out for this wonderful record.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More Monk and Trane

Here is yet another article about the Monk and Coltrane reissue, with a smattering of Coltrane at the Half Note thrown in for good measure, by one of my favorite jazz writers, Francis Davis:

The chance discovery of the Carnegie Hall tapes at the Library of Congress earlier this year created an anticipation not witnessed in jazz since . . . well, not counting the 1945 Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker Town Hall concert that beat Monk and Coltrane to the market by just a few months, you'd have to go all the way back to new releases by Coltrane and Miles in the 1960s, and I'll leave it for you to conclude what this says about jazz in 2005.

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