Sunday, February 29, 2004

Today's Spins:

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats
Soledad Brothers - Live
Albert Ayler - Lorrach/Paris 1966
Joe Louis Walker - She's My Money Maker
Dexter Gordon - Landslide
Big Joe Williams - Crawlin' King Snake

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Today's Spins:

Dave Liebman Big Band - Beyond the Line
The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Grant Lee Phillips - Virginia Creeper
Paco de Lucia - Cositas Buenas
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath - Bremen to Bridgewater

Send comments to: Tim
Reissues and Copyright

There is quite a difference between American copyright law and that of European countries. In many European countries, 50 years after a recording has been made, copyright restrictions cease and the music becomes fair game for any record label to release.

This has become something of a double-edged sword for music fans. On the one hand, it has led to dubious releases lacking in sound quality and discographical acuity. On the other hand, if offers music which is often vital and important at a reasonable price.

The major labels have really been there own worst enemies in this matter and have brought this upon themselves and music fans. For years, and even now, the Charlie Parker discography has been an absolute mess, shamefully treating one of the most important musical figures in American history. Innumerable compilation discs with titles like “Greatest Hits” and “Bird Plays for Lovers” were issued while a true summation of his music was lacking. European labels like Definitive stepped in after the 50 year mark began to be passed, issuing reasonable collections – Savoy and Dial master takes, and complete collections of Parker’s recordings for those labels. This did justice to discographical order, but often the music wasn’t taken from the original master tapes and the sound quality was left wanting.

When the Parker material was finally released by a major label, it was in a gigantic boxed set that boasted a price tag of over $100. This left music fans who couldn’t afford it to scramble to pick up scraps or turn to these gray market European recordings.

Before we brand the European labels as the savior of the little guy, though much controversy still reigns. “John L.” writing on the Organissimo forum says:

As you may have noticed, the market has become flooded by JSP sets recently, although most of these sets differ little from the products of labels like Proper and Definitive that exploit the liberal copyright laws on the continent. The remastering on many sets is no longer first generation. Still, they are making great music in good sound quality available at a very low price.

JSP is an English label, which issues inexpensive boxed sets. They have won much praise for their collections of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. On the Devil’s Music blues forum, “Montgomery Cleft” comments of the recent JSP pre-war blues reissues:

But their more recent box sets, of Lemon, McTell, etc. seem to come from various sources, basically from whatever they can get their hands on. The sound quality, then, differs from track to track, and the EQing they do often makes things worse. I've found their very recent reissues to sound muddy and extremely inconsistent. On the other hand, the price is right, and they almost always do complete works (though some of their "complete" sets have several notable omissions).

This really sums up the nature of the problem that music fans face. Either accept poor sound quality and other problems but get the music at a reasonable price or shell out a large amount of money to by lavish boxed sets from the major labels.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 27, 2004

Sad news, the great R&B saxophonist A.C. Reed has passed away.

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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Today's Spins:

White Stripes - Peel Sessions
Various Artists - Hellhound on My Trail: The Songs of Robert Johnson
The Kinks - Something Else

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Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet (Abko 1967, 2002)

The Rolling Stones were at the height of their powers when this record was waxed in the late ‘60’s. Mixing their blues heritage with the raucous energy of rock and roll led them to produce one of their finest albums. This was when the band really mattered, before they become and empty shell trudging on toward corporate sponsored mediocrity.

“Sympathy for the Devil” has become one of the most overplayed songs in rock music history. Part of the problem of hearing this record a long time after it came out is that you lose the context from when it was released. Or in my case, having been born years after it came out.

The bluesy tunes are the heart and soul of this disc. Mixing electric and acoustic blues with some excellent Jagger/Richards songwriting. “Salt of the Earth” is a fascinating song which celebrates the common man, interesting since it comes from a band which always tried to exude power and arrogance. “Dear Doctor” also mines the country blues very effectively.

It’s important to listen to this disc with fresh ears, considering the lumbering dinosaur this band has become. While they may never have truly been “the world’s greatest rock and roll band” as they claimed, they were a formidable unit up until 1972 as this record shows.

Rating: 10

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Palmetto Records has some fantastic music for downloading. Most of the downloads are unreleased tunes from sessions that yielded Palmetto recordings, so even if you have some of their CDs already, it's worth checking out. Also, if you have a question about their artists or CDs, e-mail them, their customer service is excellent.

Send comments to: Tim
Today's Spins:

Bad Dog Blues Radio
Netscape Radio - Avant-Garde Jazz station
The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Jackie McLean - Destination Out
Chick Corea - Music Forever and Beyond, Discs 1-3

Send comments to: Tim
Joel Frahm and Brad Mehldau - Don't Explain (Palmetto,

Mellow, mellow, mellow. This compact disc should be
yellow. OK, sleep deprivation aside and no more
terrible puns. This is a quiet series of duets between
the tenor and soprano saxophonist Joel Frahm and
pianist Brad Mehldau. Frahm came to my attention by
appearing on one of my favorite CDs of the 1990's,
Matt Wilson's "Going Once, Going Twice" and Mehldau
has been around for quite a while now starting out
with Joshua Redman, before striking out on his own
with a series of trio CDs for Warner Brothers.

Some of the best music to relax to is a well performed
jazz duet. The collaboration between Houston Person
and Ron Carter collected on the 32 Jazz set entitled
The Complete Muse Sessions is a fine example of this.
Frahm and Mehldau keep the fireworks to a minimum on
this disc which is mostly an exploration of standards.

Two versions of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight"
anchor the disc, one keeps pretty much to the standard
melody of Monk's classic, while the other version is
more exploratory, shining a light into the dark
corners of this knotty composition. Other performances
of note include jaunty explorations of Sonny Rollins'
"Oleo" and the standard "Get Happy."

All in all it's a set of solid mellow music suitable
for a late night of reading or relaxing. I'm more
impressed with Mehldau as time goes by. On previous
recordings, I found his music cold and distant, but on
this disc, with the spotlight off of him and playing
with a close friend, the music is warmer and self

Rating: 7

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

My whopping check from the antitrust CD lawsuit came through for $13.86! If you are interested in information about this, check out their website.


It is a pleasure to bring thais matter to a satisfactory conclusion and to return value to the consumers who purchesed CDs while the challenged pricing policies were in effect.

The lawsuit doesn't really seem to have had much of an impact... the Universel group is supposedly dropping it's prices, but other then that CDs are still an expensive habit.

Send comments to: Tim
Today's Spins:

Netscape Radio - All Blues station
Joel Frahm and Brad Mehldau - Don't Explain
Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
Noah Howard - At Judson Hall
Gateway Trio - Montreal 7/7/95

Send comments to: Tim
Gary Burton – Duster (RCA 1967, Koch 1997)

Duster is considered to be one of the first jazz fusion albums recorded, bringing together the intricacy of jazz with the energy and drive of rock and roll. This record is actually quite jazzy, and doesn’t have quite the experimental bent of the Miles Davis fusion records of the period.

Burton is joined by Larry Coryell on guitar, Steve Swallow on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Coryell does get in a few good high-intensity solos, but much of the music takes on a mellow, contemplative vibe (no pun intended.) “Ballet” and “Sweet Rain” introduce the group’s sound dynamic – shimmering vibraphone, electric guitar and bass, backed by Haynes nimble and tasteful drumming. There’s some interesting group interplay as well as solid soloing from all involved.

It’s a solid and interesting record, Burton’s early career was filled with interesting work with Stan Getz, Carla Bley and others. This is jazz with a low-level electrical jolt.

Rating: 7

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Today's Spins:

Black Keys - Various EP's
Gary Burton - Duster
James "Blood" Ulmer - No Escape From the Blues
Joel Frahm & Brad Mehldau - Don't Explain
Captain Beefheart - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Send comments to: Tim
If you stick around long enough, even the radicals become mainstream. Here's an article from the New York Times about the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by supposed arch-conservative Wynton Marsalis performing the music of supposed arch-radical Ornette Coleman.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Today's Spins:

Steve Earle - Just an American Boy
Eddie Gale - Ghetto Music
Steve Coleman - On the Rising of the 64 Paths
Gang of Four - Entertainment!
Black Keys - The Moan
Various Artists - Blues Foundation Presents Blues Greats

Send comments to: Tim
The Verve Recordings of Joe Louis Walker

It’s interesting to read the reviews of Joe Louis Walker’s Verve recordings on the All Music Guide, they don’t exactly dump on them but they don’t quite get the priase of his earlier High Tone records. Walker continued to mine his mix of gutbucket blues and soul music with a hint of gospel, as he had been doing for his while career.

The JLW record sets the tone, Walker roars with strong and stinging guitar solos on the uptempo numbers like “On That Powerline” and the soul-tinged “I Need Your Lovin’” Also, his soulful vocals get a chance to shine on the slower tempoed numbers like the poignant “Inner City Man.” A nice touch comes at the end with an acoustic duet between Walker and James Cotton.

AMG says that Blues of the Month Club is Walker’s weakest, and while perhaps it’s not quite as strong as some of his more powerful material, there are still some gems. “Bluesifyin’” grinds a slow slide groove while Walker talks about the blues greats of the past and present. Great Guitars sets Walker up in the time honored major label tradition of the guest star laden compact disc. Walker rips it up and truly holds his own with some great players like Otis Rush and Scotty Moore. There’s some killer songwriting as well, songs like “First Degree” and “Cold and Evil Night” play off the dueling guitars with some excellent singing.

The Preacher and the President really mines Walker’s soul and gospel side. Walker’s final release of his Verve contract was one of his best. Silvertone Blues gives Walker a chance to stretch out on the guitar, vocals and also investigate the gospel music he was involved in before returning to the blues. In a sense, this album was the culmination of all the disparate parts that make up Walker’s musical personality. Verve let him go after this record, and Walker took a break from recording for a couple of years before starting an excellent series of gutbucket blues recordings for the British JSP label as well as some more experimental recordings on other labels.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Today's Spins:

Dr. John - Mos' Scocious: An Anthology (Disc One)
Richard Hell & the Voidiods - Blank Generation
John Hicks - In Concert

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A Note About Concert Trading

I have written on this blog a few times about concert trading and thought I might elaborate on this a little bit. There is a group of hardcore music fans and collectors who are not satisfied with the officially released output of particular artists and bands. These collectors build up collections of live concert recordings, outtakes and unreleased or out of print recordings and trade them to other collectors. Trades are done on a strictly not for profit basis, this is only to spread great music that might otherwise go unheard.

In his liner notes to Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Dog Years on the Fourth Ring, Joel Dorn writes:

Let me tell you about tape collectors. For decades now, live performances by every major artist in every kind of music have been recorded. Legally and illegally. Radio, TV, concerts and clubs. A very small percentage of the people who make or possess these tapes ever do anything even remotely illegal or immoral with them. Lovers and collectors; were it not for their passion, the real history of 20th century music would be much less complete. They don't do anything but collect the tapes and trade them with other collectors from all over the world.

Some of the more savvy bands even have trading policies on the Internet, this is from the Black Keys web site:


We encourage fans to tape Black Keys performances but only within the guidelines established below:

No live recording, regardless of quality or format of distribution, is to be exploited commercially by anyone in any way at any time without the band's explicit, written permission. In other words, you are free to trade recordings or even give them away but we do not want to see them offered for sale at any price, even if the price quoted is ostensibly only to cover the costs of duplication, packaging, and/or shipping.

Also, one of the major hubs for collectors, Tape Trader Network, states:

The Tape Trader Network caters to traders of non-commercially produced recordings of live musical performances. Individuals who sell tapes or trade commercially recorded material are not welcome here.

It's a fun and interesting hobby. Yes, like everything else in life, there are some people who do not abide by common sense, but thankfully those are few and far between.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 20, 2004

Today's Spins:

Neil Young - Rotterdam 12/13/89
Charles Mingus - Mingus in Monterey
Gary Burton - Duster
Various Artists - Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Holmes Brothers – Simple Truths (Alligator, 2004)

The Holmes Brothers keep on trucking with their mix of rhythm and blues, soul, blues and gospel. This is their second album for the Alligator label but their “genuine houserocking music” esthetic doesn’t seem to have affected the band. Their previous album, Speaking in Tongues was a breakthrough for the band and a glorious success so this album was highly anticipated.

What makes the Holmes Brothers so interesting is that while they don’t write many of their own songs, they have such a fascinating way of interpreting other people’s songs. Here, they give a wonderful stripped down reading of Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” which really gets to the heart of the song and its message. Same thing with Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” which shows off the Brothers amazing vocal harmonies. A touch less successful is the gospel rave up treatment given to the modern rock tune “Shine.” In a sense, it should fit right into the band’s gospel heritage, but the arrangement of the song just doesn’t click.

But really, that’s the only thing that could be considered a mis-step on this record. This band has locked onto a foolproof formula where they can cover everything from country, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” to the contemporary folk of Gillian Welch’s “Everything is Free” to the straight-ahead blues of the standard “Big Boss Man.”

This is just a rock solid disc of roots music and is recommended to anyone who appreciates honest music, shorn of all the BS.

Rating: 8

Send comments to: Tim
Today's Spins:

Bob Dylan - Desire
Holmes Brothers - Simple Truths

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A few Internet radio picks:

Radio @ Netscape Plus: I probably listen to this the most due to their jazz avant garde station which plays a surprising variety of very interesting music. The also have a variety of straight-ahead jazz and some nice blues stations. Approx. 175 stations in all, mostly commercial free except for a few promo blurbs.

WPRB: This is the Princeton University radio station, they are a great resource for indie rock, and also play jazz in the late morning and early afternoon.

WBGO: This is a Newark based public radio station playing mainstream jazz and some news programming. They have a blues hour in the afternoon Monday - Friday.

Bad Dog Blues Radio: Bad Dog is a weekly blues radio show broadcast from Rochester, NY. Older broadcasts are archived.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Today's Spins:

Tony Malaby - Apparitions
David Murray - Hope/Scope
"New Rock" Mp3 playlist

Send comments to: Tim
There's an interesting article and short interview with Elija Wald, author of Escaping the Delta on the VOA News web site. Here are a couple of excerpts:

In Escaping the Delta, Elijah Wald writes that blues music should be celebrated not just in scholarly documentaries, but for what it originally was - a form of popular entertainment among rural southern blacks.

(Wald discussing Robert Johnson) "... and he was not all that distinctive for those times. He certainly is not revolutionary. Whereas if you hear him coming backwards from the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, you've never heard anything like it before, and he knocks your socks off."

(Wald on blues evolution) "Blues had evolved steadily as black popular music. And black people started calling their music soul music and then funk music and it was still an evolution of the same music. But white people picked the blues up because they were nostalgic. They wanted somebody they could imagine sitting on the front porch in Mississippi with a guitar. And that took them straight to Robert Johnson."

I still haven't had a chance to read this blasted thing, it's been sitting in our cataloging department waiting for a record for the longest time. It's interesting that Wald tries to place Johnson in context of his time and contemporaries... you have to wonder if there wasn't the story of Johnson selling his soul to the devil, a story that piqued all the interest, that Johnson might just be remembered as another good musician along with Son House, Tommy Johnson and the rest of his colleagues from that time.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Today's Spins:

Derek Trucks - Raleigh, NC 1/18/03 (Set One)
Netscape Radio - Avant Garde Jazz Station
The Byron Allen Trio

Send comments to: Tim
There's a great article by Dave Douglas in the March 2004 issue of Downbeat, here are a few excepts:

"Avant Garde" is a term that is used more often than not to marginalize music or musicians who challenge the orthodoxy of the time.

Is it really true that musical developments of a half century ago represent the vanguard of current musical activity?

But genre and style have increasingly become an excuse not to hear the music at all. Rather than dealing with the physical reality of music, they connote given ideas about music, ignoring the real sensory experience of the thing itself.

Most of these comments were given in context to the trombonist Roswell Rudd stating that he felt that he should not be labeled as an "avant-garde" musician. I agree with both Douglas and Rudd that labels often do place musicians in boxes that they find very hard to escape. I enjoy both so called mainstream and avant-garde jazz and often it is hard to draw the line between the two. The mainstream jazz station WBGO will play the wonderful music by Dave Holland regardless of its often experimental nature, but will ignore the often melodic and beautiful music of William Parker because he has been labeled and "avant-garde" musician.

Douglas' remarks about musical development are also interesting. If you look at the mainstream music of jazz today, you see music modeled on the hard-bop of the 1950's while mush of the "avant-garde" seems to be compared to the early avant garde of the late 50's and early 1960's. I wonder if this is really true, or if a lot of the commentators (myself included) are not placing the current music scene in the proper context without burdening it with history.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, February 16, 2004

Today's spins (so far):

R.L. Burnside - Misc. mp3's
The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & the Lash
The Saints - I'm Stranded

Send comments to: Tim
Blues legend Buddy Guy has started an interesting new venture. His club Legends will be offering CDs of Guy's performances via the Internet. It will be interesting to see what kind of a response this will receive. I saw Guy in concert several years ago and it was a strange concert. He jumped between songs ending them halfway through to jump into another. But he is capable of an excellent concert - his 1996 album Live: the Real Deal was a tight strong document of how good Guy can be when he plays with discipline.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Today's spins:

Netscape Radio - Avant-garde jazz station
Sun Ra - Squat Theatre, 1982
Nucleus - Live in Bremen
Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East/West
Hancock/Hutcherson/Colley/Carrington - The Hague 7/11/03

Send comments to: Tim
Free and legal mp3 download update:

Steve Coleman's mp3 page is back up and running. This is an amazing resource if you are at all interested in Coleman's music. Make sure to check out his essay on music distribution entitled Why Do I Give Away Some of My Music? still has that excellent Miles Davis show from 7/26/69 posted as well as a couple of concerts from bands I'm not familiar with. has added some solo Jack White to their recent posting of the Peel Sessions material. has some mp3's scattered around. Click on the artist you are interested in and then look for hyper-linked tracks.

Future Reference is a site documenting the Chicago improv scene.

John Hiatt's web site has live mp3's for downloading.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Today's spins:

Miles Davis - Jack Johnson Box (various tracks on shuffle play)
Netscape Radio - Electric Blues Station (they played a great cut from a new Delbert McClinton live CD)
Roy Campbell - New Kingdom
My Morning Jacket - Songs: Ohia
Miles Davis - Tokyo 1/22/75

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 13, 2004

Alice Coltrane – World Galaxy (Impulse, 1972)

I had been trying to track this record down for some time now and was very happy when I finally got a copy via ebay at a reasonable price. This is available on disc, but only as a very expensive Japanese import. On this record, Alice Coltrane continues her spiritual and musical quest playing piano, organ and harp; aided by Frank Lowe on saxophone, Reggie Workman on bass and Ben Riley on drums. There is a large string section on some tracks and a couple of guest appearances.

The music begins with an interpretation of a song indelibly linked to her late husband, “My Favorite Things.” But this edition of the old standard takes moves in a fascinating new direction. Alice plays some beautifully pointed organ and piano, with the stings not acting as a sappy background, but as a swirling, whirling foil to her playing. The strings and harp take center stage on “Galaxy Around Olodumare” and “Galaxy Around Turiya” as the music builds to a meditative drone.

“Galaxy in Satchidananda” features some of the organ work for which she is famous, unlike any of the famous jazz organists to come before her, she has a very unique sound, influenced by eastern and spiritual music. Alice’s guru makes a special spoken word appearance to promote peace and love, and then the band glides into a portion of “A Love Supreme” in which Alice’s now funky organ plays off against guest LeRoi Jenkins violin to an interesting effect.

All in all, it’s a very interesting album. Perhaps some aspects are a little dated, particularly the guru’s narration and the string orchestra draped over some parts of the music like a heavy velvet curtain, but most of it holds up quite well. Alice Coltrane’s music is overdue for critical reinterpretation and a re-issue program from Impulse, since she made music that is well worth exploring.

Rating: 8

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Looks like there's good stuff on the way from the BBC:

Jez Nelson and the Jazz on 3 team continue to prove that Jazz is not dead (and neither is it smelling funny) with a great selection of gigs and sessions from cutting edge bands. Upcoming are sets from the trio of Ellery Eskelin, Andrea Parkins and Jim Black (13th Feb); drummer Bobby Previte's homage to surrealist painter Joan Miro featuring some of the finest players from Downtown New York (20th Feb); plus a live set from young Britjazz outfit Polar Bear, led by ace drummer Seb Rochford (27th Feb). As usual, all the programmes will be available to listen to for a week online... Jazz on 3 - Fridays, 11.30 pm, Radio 3

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Elliot Sharp’s Terraplane – Do the Don’t (Zoar, 2003)

Elliot Sharp is best known as a downtown New York experimental guitarist, associated with John Zorn’s loosely affiliated group of musicians. But he has also released some bluesy music before, most notably Blues for Next, a two disc set that came out in 2000. Joining Sharp on this disc is David Hofstra on bass, Sam Furnace on saxophones, Sim Cain on drums. Eric Mingus and Dean Bowman join the group for vocals on three songs, and blues legend and former Howlin’ Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin sits in on three tunes.

“Life in a Crackerbox” sets the tone for the disc, it’s a mix of traditional electric blues and Sharp’s experimental bent. Sharp plays some nice slide guitar that gradually gets wilder as the song goes on. “Lost Souls” features the vocals of Mingus and Bowman. They keep a gospelish groove going with a tale of greed and loss. Furnace gets a grinding alto solo while the rest of the band keeps a bubbling funk feel underneath. Sharp gets another nice solo; it’s interesting how he mixes the blues groove with his penchant for avant-garde experimentalism.

“Stop That Thing” finds Sumlin sitting in and playing some elegant and restrained guitar. “Scramble” starts with crunching guitar, giving way to nasty slide. Furnace drops in for an intense saxophone solo, channeling a little David S. Ware in the process. Sharp takes his solo way out, beginning with electronically altered guitar and then giving way to some greasy slide to take the song out. “Oil Blues” brings the vocalists back in to make a witty commentary about the energy crisis. “Please Don’t” is the centerpiece of the disc. Sumlin sits in and the band is hitting on all cylinders. The song jumps from the start with the band blasting out and the vocalists testifying about the perils of city life. Sharp breaks out a particularly fractured and snarling solo.

Sharp takes several interesting guitar solos which show his deep respect for the blues form without compromising his experimental nature. This is a very interesting disc and is recommended to adventurous blues fans.

Rating: 8

Send comments to: Tim
This popped up on Yahoo's feed of Bliiboard album reviews:


There is nothing more exciting than a brilliant production concept brought to life. This is precisely what New Orleans-based Tangle Eye (Scott Billington and Steve Reynolds) has accomplished with this remix project. Billington and Reynolds have taken some of Alan Lomax's best field recordings from his Southern Journey series and created an instrumental arrangement for each voice. The results are uncanny. Some songs -- including "Heaven," "Holler" and "Soldier" -- are intensely beat-rich, making them perfect for club DJs. The tunes "Hangman" and "O Death" are elegant, moody, traditional songs. "Chantey" -- taken from "Menhadden Chanteys," performed by Bright Light Quartet -- is perfectly re-imagined as a reggae tune. "Rosie" is a work song transformed into a fiery rock number, animated by the sizzling slide guitar of Jeff Raines. At the heart of every track remains the original voice Lomax recorded (between 1947 and 1960). Tangle Eye has masterminded one very special remix CD.

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There's a short interview with Buddy Guy in the new issue of Rolling Stone.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Village Voice's "Pazz and Jop" 2003 year end music poll is here.

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Bill Frisell - Brooklyn 6/8/02: This concert has Ron Miles and Jenny Scheinman in tow, and took place prior to the release of The Intercontinentals. Some of the material seems to come from that record, but with the quiet and space arrangements for this drummerless group, it’s hard to tell. There is a chamberish, recital feeling to the music which is quite beautiful, but never really seems to find its bearings. Miles has a wonderful stentorian tone – he’s somewhat forgotten amongst the flashier mainstream trumpet players like Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton. Jenny Scheinman fits in really well with both Frisell and Miles, her flexibility allows her to move with ease between classical, world, jazz and the country influenced Americana that Frisell favors.

I’ve been getting into the album Chutes Too Narrow by the indie-pop group The Shins lately. Usually, I just groan at really poppy music, but this just kind of burrowed its way into my mind and won’t let go. The pop sensibilities of the group definitely come to the fore on the album but it’s not the pandering kind of MTV style pop, but with a song that mentions Sir Thomas More how could it? The music mixes acoustic and electric instruments with vocal harmonies to good effect as well as witty, interesting songwriting. If all pop music was this good…

Send comments to: Tim
I hit Izzy’s Records in Linden, NJ on Sunday and found some pretty interesting music to satisfy a vinyl compulsion:

Lonnie Smith – Think!
Muddy Waters – King Bee
Roland Shannon Jackson – Texas
Talking Heads – The Name of This Band is Talking Heads
Chris McGregor – Brotherhood of Breath

They all look good, but the one I’m most excited about is the Talking Heads record which covers the band’s live performances from 1977-1981 and is OOP on compact disc. I think the McGregor is available on disc, I became interested in it because it gets a lot of airplay on Radio @ Netscape’s “avant-agrde” channel. It’s a progressive big band outing from 1970. Listening to it I was very impressed, it brought to mind some of Sam Rivers large ensemble recordings. The AMG review recommends this to fans of Don Cherry or Sun Ra. I agree, it’s really interesting stuff.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, February 09, 2004

If anyone's interested, here are the jazz and blues Grammy winners announced last night:

"Matrix," Chick Corea, soloist
"Alegria," Wayne Shorter
"Wide Angles," Michael Brecker Quindectet
"Live At The Blue Note," Michel Camilo With Charles Flores & Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez
"A Little Moonlight," Dianne Reeves
"Sacajawea," Wayne Shorter, composer (Wayne Shorter)
"Timbuktu," Michael Brecker & Gil Goldstein, arrangers (Michael Brecker Quindectet)
"Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey," Tom Piazza, album notes writer (Various Artists)
"Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey," Steve Berkowitz, Alex Gibney, Andy McKaie & Jerry Rappaport, compilation producers. Gavin Lurssen & Joseph M. Palmaccio, mastering engineers. (Various Artists)
"Blues Singer," Buddy Guy
"Let's Roll," Etta James

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 07, 2004

We hosted the Christopher Dean Band at the Library today. I was worried that they might be a little too loud for our regular concert attendees, but everybody seemed to enjoy it and they played at a comfortable volume. It's a treat to see a good live blues band in person, and they were good - playing a mix of blues and soul, standards and originals. Hope to see some good live jazz soon... I'll have to get my courage up and take the train into New York.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 06, 2004

Thelonious Moog – Yes, We Didn’t (Grown Up, 2003)

Thelonious Moog consists of Steve Million and Joe "Guido" Welsh playing the compositions of Thelonious Monk on vintage synthesizers, backed by a few side men playing bass, drums and other sundry instruments. This music is not for the straight laced jazz snob without a sense of humor because while it is not strictly speaking a novelty item, liberties are definitely taken with the music.

“Off Minor” jumps out of the speakers with layers of synthesizers that lend a mod-60’s movie feel to the music. “Bye-Ya” on the other hand plays Monk’s staccato melody with a series of quack like notes. Imagine Carmen McRae as a duck singing Monk. The melody of “We See” comes off as a science fiction theme; you can almost imagine this playing in the background of an old Star Trek episode. “Yes We Didn’t” samples spoken word over a medley of Monk compositions, it’s fun stuff and obvious that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously.

These descriptions aren’t meant to scare you off, on the contrary, Monk’s melodies are durable and they are treated with the utmost respect by the musicians. These guys really know their Monk (and their Moog too!) and manage to have a lot of fun without turning the music into a parody.

Rating: 8

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Emusic has added the Delmark label to its roster which brings some nice blues and jazz into play. So far, the most interesting jazz has been a disc from Chicago saxophonist Ari Brown entitled Ultimate Frontier which is a very interesting mix of inside/outside music. One of my all-time favorite blues records has popped up, Junior Wells' Southside Blues Jam but since I already have a nice vinyl copy of it, I haven't downloaded it. But if you're an Emusic subscriber and a blues fan, don't pass it up - it's equal to Wells' other epic Delmark release Hoodo Man Blues. Looks like there's also some Byther Smith available, but I'm biding my time with my downloads. Hopefully they'll keep the Chicago Jazz and blues coming.

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The Howlin’ Wolf Story DVD (Bluebird, 2003)

The Howlin’ Wolf Story is the first DVD in Bluebird’s “When the Sun Goes Down” series of blues recordings. There is really nice concert footage especially of the Wolf playing on the TV show Shindig with the Rolling Stones in attendance. Surrounded by young hipsters, Wolf belts it out like nobody’s business. Also, there are amazing clips of Wolf and his band in live performance with an out of control Chester Burnett licking his guitar like he was just about to eat it – talk about a showman! Also, there are some wonderful interviews included with former band members and Wolf’s family.

Rating: 9

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I have been reading Perry Robinson's new autobiography The Traveler, he's an interesting guy - musician (solo and also with luminaries like Dave Brubeck, William Parker and Henry Grimes) as well as an occasional magician and numerologist!

In a recent concert trade I picked up a wonderful two disc concert by the Santana/Shorter Band from the 1988 North Sea Jazz Festival. If you enjoy fusion, it's definitely worth your while to try to track down some of this music. Hal Miller used to say that people were working on some of this material for official release, let's hope so because it's great stuff.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dave Douglas – Strange Liberation (Bluebird, 2004)

Dave Douglas’ new project finds him in a very jazzy vein, bringing back the group with which he recorded the excellent album The Infinite – Chris Potter or reeds, Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes, James Genus on bass and Clerence Penn on drums. The wild card is the extra band member – Bill Frisell on guitar.

Ben Ratliff noted in the New York Times (below) that there is a very Wayne Shorter like feel to the compositions on this album, but there is also some of the feel of the music of Miles Davis’ early electrical period. Douglas is a very political artist and the title track is a poignant statement of his views on the current conflict. He solos in a reserved way over the group and then gives way to Frisell who explores the theme with a gentle yet probing solo. The melody is yearning and yet hopeful as if despite all of the recent trouble there is still reason for hope.

“Skeeter” begins with another low-key statement of the melody. Uri Caine takes a very laid-back solo and then Chris Potter and Douglas return on bass clarinet and trumpet to take the song out. “Just Say This” keeps the mood melancholy with some very Miles-like statements from Douglas to open the song, taking a mournful solo with a slow late night noirish feel to it. Potter comes in on tenor and keeps the backstreets at 3 a.m. feel going with a meditative solo backed by some very jazzy and tasteful chords from Frisell and vibraphone like notes from Caine. This is beautiful although very restrained music, saying less with more.

“Seventeen” ups the energy level a little with Douglas soloing over a rapid drumbeat. Chris Potter kicks in with a very assured and confident sounding tenor saxophone solo. Caine get a nice solo spot of the electric piano and then Douglas swaggers back in playing a fast paced solo to end the tune. The next three songs all feature Bill Frisell – “Mountains From the Train” has him using electronically altered guitar loops against subtle electric piano and a soft and subtle trumpet solo to create a very peaceful feeling. He comes out blasting on “Rock of Billy” which I expected to be very much in the mode of the “Americana” music that he had been playing of late, but turns out to be an upbeat electric jazz composition, also featuring an excellent forceful solo by Douglas. Finally, “The Frisell Dream” features him juxtaposed against an attractive trumpet solo.

“Catalyst” ends the disc on a very upbeat note, with a strong and forceful tenor solo by Chris Potter who really makes his presence felt on this disc, not only as a soloist, but on the ensemble passages as well. All in all, this is an excellent slice of modern jazz. Dave Douglas has a reputation for bouncing from project to project and from group to group, so it would be nice to see him stick to this format and group for a while to see what effect regular touring and recording would have.

Rating: 9

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Here's a link to a very interesting web site called How the Blues Affected Race Relations in the United States.

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The White Stripes Peel Sessions are available for download here. They cover several blues standards including Death Letter Blues, John the Revelator and St. James Infirmary.

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Monday, February 02, 2004

This is Ben Ratliff's review of the new Dave Douglas disc Strange Liberation.

"Strange Liberation" is the best album in several years by Dave Douglas, a prolific trumpeter and bandleader. It doesn't take long for each of his new bands to sound good, but a lot depends on the material these bands are working on. Mr. Douglas is project minded, not just writing to the strengths of his players but often composing with specific goals, homages or sound combinations in mind.

This album, on Bluebird/Arista, is by his three-year-old quintet (Chris Potter on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Uri Caine on piano, James Genus on bass, Clarence Penn on drums) with the guitarist Bill Frisell as a sixth member. There is no stated theme, but there is Mr. Frisell, and that can quickly become a theme in itself. His sound is so distinct and enveloping that he can be a dangerous presence on another person's album: if the inviter doesn't have a strong enough group concept or leaves Mr. Frisell lots of room, the album quickly becomes dominated by the guest. That doesn't happen here. Mr. Frisell is folded into the group more or less as an equal, and Mr. Douglas heads him off at the pass by writing some pieces that are tributes in the best sense. They do not imitate Mr. Frisell's music; they suggest many facets of it, and in Mr. Douglas's voice.

Mr. Douglas also grasps that Mr. Frisell is not just one kind of musician; he is about 30 kinds at once. So the record pulls in various directions: Wayne Shorteresque songs containing mysterious melodic lines countered by strong harmonic motion (the tracks "Strange Liberation" and "The Frisell Dream"), a quiet, repetitive lullaby with a guitar drunk on electronic looping and effects ("Mountains From the Train"), rugged rhythm-and-blues that changes into 4/4 swing ("Rock of Billy").

Meanwhile the band has the rhythmic drive and timbral originality — especially with Mr. Caine's Fender Rhodes electric piano and Mr. Potter's bass clarinet — to go up against Mr. Frisell properly.

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Grachan Moncour – New Africa (BYG/Actuel, 1969)

New Africa came after Moncour’s brief stint with with Blue Note and was recorded in Paris, with the leader on trombone, Alan Silva on bass, Roscoe Mitchell on alto saxophone and piccolo, Sunny Murray on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, and Archie Shepp sitting in on the final selection, playing tenor saxophone.

“The New Africa Suite” leads off and takes up most of side one (many of the BYG releases are being re-issued as budget vinyl as well as compact disc.) The suite begins with a slow meditative groove from piano, bass and drums which sets the tone for the first section until Moncour enters and the tempo picks up. The music swings pretty hard, belying the avant-garde reputations of the players. Moncour solos at length over a swinging tempo, with Murray, Burrell and Silva laying down a nice swinging carpet for him to improvise over. Mitchell enters as Moncour’s solo ends and he’s blowing some sweet, swinging alto which he gradually takes more out as his solo develops. Moncour then re-enters near the end of the suite with Mitchell switching to piccolo. The deep sound of the trombone and the sweet sound of the piccolo make for a very interesting combination. The suite comes to an abrupt end almost as if it was still a work in progress.

Ominous piano chords and slurred trombone usher in the second tune “Space Spy.” Mitchell solos in a fractured manner over an unsteady beat and the whole feel of the music is like walking through a funhouse where all is not as it seems. Burrell’s dark flavored chords predominate the music invoking the paranoia of the Cold War.

For “Exploration” we leave the world of espionage behind but stay in outer space. Burrell begins with a fragmented opening backed by Murray playing a skittish and nervous rhythm on the drums. The horns come in collectively improvising as Murray increased the pace. Roscoe Mitchell steps outside the spacecraft for a very exploratory solo, after which the rest of the band returns to the fray, improvising together before Burrell and Murray bring everybody back to earth stating the dark-toned theme before ending the tune.

The record ends with “When” with Archie Shepp joining the group on tenor saxophone. Moncour enters the music swinging and strutting, assured and confident. Shepp joins in, keeping his tone clean at first, he begins to strut his stuff as well throwing in some squeaks – if this song were a person, it would be strutting down the street with it’s head held high and it’s chest out! Shepp then takes the tune way out with some very Pharoah Sanders like wails as Murray prods him to dig in. Trombone and tenor end the tune with a collective duet over the soaring rhythm section.

Rating: 8

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Sunday, February 01, 2004

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery – The Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (Verve, 1966)

After very successful tenures for smaller labels in the 50’s and early 60’s both Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery moved into the big time, signing to Verve Records in the mid 60’s. This is the second of their two collaborations together, the other being The Dynamic Duo, released the year before.

Where the earlier record was dominated by big band charts, five of the six selections here focus on the core band of Smith, Montgomery, Grady Tate on drums and Ray Baretto on congas. The country music warhorse “King of the Road” is an odd track to start with, but it actually works quite well. Montgomery gets a nice solo spot, which features his distinctive use of octaves. Smith sticks close to the melody with an almost vocal-like solo. The moody and mournful “Maybe September” opens with Jimmy Smith playing with an almost church-like hymn feel giving way to Wes’ sad and moody single note solo. Side one closes with “OGD” which finds the group swinging again – Montgomery firing octaves over Smith’s comping and a heavy backbeat. Smith’s solo really turns up the juice, grinding and swirling over broken-beat percussion. He hands control over to Wes for a final run-through of the melody before taking it out.

“Call Me” kicks off side two with a latin feel, over which Montgomery weaves an interesting solo which alternates between piercing single-note soloing and chopping octaves. “Milestones” gets the full out big band treatment beginning with the (large) horn section blasting out the fanfare-like melody before giving way to Montgomery’s solo. He’s got an uphill battle going up against not only Smith’s organ fills (tasteful) and the horns which tend to blare and drown out Montgomery’s mild tone. Smith fares better in his solo spot, the organ much better equipped to stand up to the bombastic horns, whose sheer volume tends to overwhelm the music. Things get back on track with the final selection, “Mellow Mood,” which opens at a mid tempo without horns and allows the two principles to improvise collectively as well as trade solo spots.

All in all, this is an interesting meeting of the minds. While big bands and heavy arrangements played a big part in these two men’s work for better or worse during this period, this is a nice glimpse of two giants playing in a relatively unfettered atmosphere.

Rating: 8

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Sad news from Pi Records:

We have just learned of the passing of Malachi Favors. As most of you
know, Malachi was the long-time bassist for the Art Ensemble of Chicago,
for which he anchored the rhythm section for 35 years. A profoundly modest
man, Malachi, rarely drew attention to himself. Nonetheless, he was among the most
influential bassists in helping to establish that instrument’s role in "avant-garde" jazz.

We have had the pleasure of working with Malachi over the past few years,
first with Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet on “The Year of the
Elephant,” and more recently, with The Art Ensemble of Chicago on “The
Meeting” and the upcoming release “Sirius Calling.” We at Pi are honored
to have worked with Malachi. His legacy and influence will continue to
resonate on.

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