Saturday, April 29, 2006

Now, I really don't need another toy, especially one that encourages me to buy more vinyl, but I'm awfully tempted after seeing this on Wired Magazine's Listening Post: "Those hankering for an easier or simpler way to record vinyl onto a computer (whether for digital listening or sample harvesting) now have a one-stop solution, the Ion Audio iTTUSB Turntable with USB Record. Plug this into your computer's USB port, read the short, simple tutorial on how to use the included open-source Audacity software, and you're up and running. "

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, April 28, 2006

April Podcast

Songs that have caught my ear over the past month in a conviently downloadable medley format. One file, 1 hour and 3 minutes in length, 43 mb in size.

Artist/Group - Album - Song Title

Little Milton - Rockin' the Blues - Blind Man
Joey DeFrancesco - Organic Vibes - Little B's Poem
The Clutters - T & C - Clash City Girl
Duke Robillard - Gambler Blues - Groove-A-Rama
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Best Of Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You
Calexico - Garden Ruin - Nom de Plume
Otis Rush - All Your Love I Miss Lovin' - Woke Up This Morning
Medeski, Martin & Wood - Note Bleu - End of the World Party
The Stoneage Hearts - Guilty As Sin - Biff Bang Pow
Juke Boy Bonner - The Sonet Blues Story - Lonesome Ride Back Home
Jesse Van Ruller - Views - Gladiator Glamour
Big Joe Williams - The Sonet Blues Story - Levee Break Blues
The Stems - Terminal Cool - Make You Mine
Champion Jack Dupree - The Sonet Blues Story - Drinking and Gambling
Cassandra Wilson - Thunderbird - I Want to Be Loved

Right-click on the link below and then left-click on "save target as." Then choose where you would like your computer to download the music file.

April Podcast

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Welcome to custom-made online radio | Chicago Tribune: " and Last FM do their jobs in different ways, but both are that future: music boiled down to a science, where radio plays only the music you like. Your 'neighbours' have similar tastes, and you can discover new music, regardless of label affiliation and without repetitive set playlists. Welcome to personalized radio. Oakland-based Pandora and London-based Last FM are helping artists and listeners find each other in a way traditional and Internet radio have never done before." (Thanks to the excellent Largehearted Boy blog)

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas has written a very thoughtful post about the Miles Davis Cellar Door 1970 boxed set on the Greenleaf Music Blog: "I have often thought that Miles created the ultimate artistic illusion: he played so much music on trumpet that he fooled people into believing he couldn't play the instrument. There was so much music happening they couldn't hear the trumpet playing. To me that's one of his great contributions to the modern language of the trumpet: that it is primarily a MUSICAL instrument."

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Chick Corea - Rendezvous in New York: Sings/Sobs Trio (Stretch, 2004)

Via Netflix I've been dipping into the massive ten DVD Rendezvous in New York set that legendary pianist and composer Chick Corea put out a few years ago, and this was one of the DVD's I was most looking forward to seeing, a re-uniting of Corea with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Miroslav Vitous - the group that cut the classic album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs for Blue Note in 1968. The music and the musicians have lost none of their power and grace, exploring a couple of Thelonious Monk tunes, "Rhythm-a-Ning" and "Straight, No Chaser," and a wonderful romp through the knotty Corea original "Matrix."

A couple of standards round out the disc, "But Beautiful" and "How Deep is the Ocean." The trio works on such a telepathic level that the music is very tight and solo space abounds. Haynes in particular is a blast to watch play as he's clearly having a ball. The only possible complaint could be that the disc is too short, clocking at a club set length 55 minutes with a very short interview with Corea tacked on as an afterthought. Short as it may be, this is a wonderful video presented in a classy setting, and the music is outstanding.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, April 23, 2006

DVD Review - You See Me Laughin' (Fat Possum, 2003)

Subtitled The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen this DVD documents the music and lives of the Mississippi bluesmen that the Fat Possum label brought out of obscurity, or at least into less obscure obscurity, if such a thing is possible. R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough are the most famous of the musicians profiled here, but also featured are Cedell Davis, Asie Payton and T-Model Ford. Each has an amazing story to tell, but perhaps none more than Davis who survived a multitude of childhood diseases including polio, and a severe beating that left him hospitalized for 5 months. He re-learned to play the guitar in a unique manner and kept right on playing the blues. You really get the sense of the grinding poverty in which the musicians live and the great spirit they brought to their music. Several of the musicians profiled here have since passed on, but this video and the music they have left us will be an unending tribute to their artistry.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bittorrent Boogie - Woogie

Mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal. So I'm stealing this idea of a regular column of the comings and goings of my of bittorrent downloads from my friend Todd.

New This Week:
Tom Waits - Clank Boom Steam Compilation
Sun Ra & His Arkestra - Carnegie Hall, NYC, July 6, 1973
Sam Rivers - Matt Bevel Institute, Tucson, AZ, May 21, 2005
Luciana Souza and Romero Lubambo - North Vancouver, BC, Canada, November 4, 2005
The Faces- Live At Budokan Hall, Tokyo, February 20, 1974

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chris Potter: Raising the Bar: "I think that in general audiences appreciate courage. Of course they appreciate musical skill and being able to present a set that makes some sort of sense, that's not all one texture or another. In general I try to give audiences a lot of credit in that they're going to respond to the creativity going on."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It was a bitter-sweet feeling to see this amongst this years list of Pulitzer Prize winners:

A posthumous Special Citation to American composer Thelonious Monk for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.

Monk, of course is beyond reproach as one of the finest and most unique composers of the past century, and deserves any accolade that could be given him. He is also quite dead. Where was the Pulitzer committee when Monk was alive? Where were they when the New York City police department revoked his cabaret card on a trumped up narcotics charge and kept him out of the city's clubs for years? Where was the committee when Monk was written off as "too strange" for jazz, before he was chiseled into jazz's Mount Rushmore?

Amongst jazz artists who were alive when Pulitzer came knocking, Duke Ellington humbly refused the award - the same couldn't be said for Wynton Marsalis who trumpeted (no pun intended) his award from the mountaintop. With so many great composers in jazz and blues today, it high time for the Pulitzer committee to start recognizing worthy musicians while they are alive and able to appreciate the accolades. There are plenty of Halls of Fame for the honorable dead, let's honor the living while we still can. How about a Pulitzer for Sonny Rollins? Sam Rivers? B.B. King? The time is now.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Juke Boy Bonner - Sonet Blues Story (Verve, 2006)

Verve's re-issue series of the French label Sonet includes a disc by Texas one-man-band Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner, a guitarist and singer who accompanied himself on harmonica and percussion as well. Bonner was a tough Houstonite like his predecessor Lightnin' Hopkins, and he fought many health and financial problems in his too-short career. This disc features some driving guitar work and ripe harmonica as well as Bonner's unique tales.

"Tired of the Greyhound Blues" is a an account of his travels as he scrapes to make ends meet as a working musician - he has clearly paid his dues in full as can be seen in other heartsick laments like "Problems All Around" and "Lonesome Ride Back Hone." But Bonner's songs aren't just tales of heartbreak and woe. The strangely titled "Yammin' the Blues" shows him ripping into his guitar and harmonica and "Real Good Woman" finds him extolling the virtues of that certain perfect female. Bonner's career was too short and came at a time when many were turning away from the traditional blues and gig opportunities were becoming scarce. Still this disc shows that he was a formidably talented bluesman and is a fine testament to his talent.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Calexico - Garden Ruin (Quarterstick, 2006)

Calexico emerged from the American desert southwest a couple of years ago with a unique sound that mixed traditional instruments with electric rock and roll to produce a sound that was quickly embraced by the alternative rock community and musicians like Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and Neko Case. With this album they tone down the quirkiness that had been threatening to pidgeon-hole them a little bit, while still maintaining a distinctive feel to their music.

What separates this album from their previous work is the focus on traditional electric guitar driven rock 'n roll and a more clearly defined structure to their songs. The band comes blasting out of the gate on the opener "Cruel" and doesn't let up for most of the LP length album. There are not a lot of flashy guitar solos on this record, but the more structured nature of the music should broaden the bands appeal beyond indie hipsters, while the deep songwriting should keep the cries of sellout to a minimum. Some deft acoustic guitar and percussion gives the music depth and there are even some delicate synth flashes that lend a prog-rock like sheen to a few of the songs. This is an interesting step forward for a uniquely American rock and roll band, and should win over a new group of fans - recommended.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, April 17, 2006

Neil Young urges Bush impeachment on protest album - Yahoo! News: "Veteran rocker Neil Young has recorded a protest album featuring an anti-Iraq war track with 'a holy vow to never kill again' and a song titled 'Let's Impeach the President,' the singer said on Monday. The 10-track set, called 'Living with War,' was recorded this month by a 'power trio' -- electric guitar, bass and drums -- plus trumpet and a 100 voices, the 60-year-old Canadian-born musician announced on his Web site."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Vibraphonist Gary Burton and Guitar Prodigy Play Birdland - New York Times: "Generations, the quintet Mr. Burton is leading this week at Birdland, came about after his recent retirement from Berklee, where he mentored young musicians, by instruction or example, for more than 30 years. (Not all of them were distinguished dropouts.) The ensemble serves, pointedly, as a showcase for his latest protege, Julian Lage, an 18-year-old guitarist. The group highlights Mr. Burton's instinct for scouting out guitarists - Mr. Lage caught his ear as a gifted 12-year-old - along with his commitment to jazz's youthful qualities."

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Newark Star-Ledger jazz scribe Zan Stewart writes in today's paper Corea Trio adds up perfectly: "Such was the case Tuesday at the Blue Note, when the innovative pianist, keyboardist, composer and bandleader Chick Corea joined forces with bass master Eddie Gomez and vigorously inventive drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira. Prior to a performance Sunday in Florida, the fellows had never worked as a threesome. But they have roots."

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shake Off the Heel of Your Corporate Overlords: An Editorial

I've always found the Miles Davis boxed sets Columbia releases to be an iffy proposition. The Devil on one shoulder covets these shiny boxes because of the coolness value and also the supposed re-mastering and copious liner notes. The Angel on the other shoulder says you already have most of this music already on LP or CD in an easier to digest album format - why do you want to wade through 10 alternate takes if each track? But like most Americans, I pay scant attention to the voice of reason and usually pick up the shiny toy. Altruism isn't exactly a value that music companies cherish, and these boxed sets, running anywhere from $60 to $100 take rampant consumerism to a new level.

It's the perfect corporate coup - take the music from a dead musician who can't complain, the music that most jazz fans already own and put it in a bright shiny box with a few unreleased alternate takes that were probably left in the can for a good reason and turn up the hype machine full blast and voila! It's a guaranteed money maker. The music was already hailed as classic in its original form and inducted into the canon, so critics pretty much have to lavish praise on this newly minted holy relic. But wait, the Angel screams, exasperated, - they are selling you something you already own at twice the price! Yet I still walk zombie-like to the computer to pre-order. Must have new shiny thing...

With the foolishness involved with the Miles Davis Complete Cellar Door Sessions, I finally snapped and listened to the Angel. Originally scheduled to be released in September 2005, the set was delayed for three months because of legal wrangling involving the Miles Davis estate, and in particular, Davis' nephew and former sideman Vince Wilbon. According to Davis biographer Paul Tingen:

"A few weeks before the original release date last September he (Wilbon) 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, and Belden's and Holzman's involvement must have been clear for ages, so the timing of the demand reeked of a hidden agenda... There are reports that it's driven by Wilburn's personal resentment against some of those involved in the making of the Cellar Door, including Holzman. My own, entirely speculative, take on it is that Wilburn has a love/hate relationship with his uncle and his music. On the one hand he owes his entire income and reputation to his uncle (what noteworthy things has Wilburn done on his own since 1987?) - on the other Miles hurt Wilburn badly when he sacked him from his band in 1987"

This whole mess just seemed really foolish - if you want people to shell out $100 for music that has been very heavily bootlegged over the years, why push back the release date and miss the holiday gift giving season over something as patty as a line in the credits that few people will read anyway? It smacked of egos out of control and greed running rampant.

I finally relented and bought the Cellar Door boxed set when it appeared on the web site of deep discount e-tailer last week for the much more reasonable price of $35.94. I also picked up a copy of the Miles Davis Second Quintet 1965-68 boxed set at Izzy's Records fire sale for $34.00, again, a much more reasonable price. I guess the moral of the story is that people will shell out for the boxed sets if they are presented at a marketable price, and without foolish sniping amongst the compilers.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cassandra Wilson - Thunderbird (Blue Note, 2006)

Vocalist Cassandra Wilson is tagged as a jazz singer, but really jazz is just part of a repertoire that also includes blues, r&b and pop. Her choice of cover material over the years has been eclectic and has added to her popularity. On this album she adds some subtle electronics to the diverse mix of instruments that includes downtown guitarist Marc Ribot. My favorite tracks on the album are her takes on the blues, particularly "I Want to Be Loved" which has been recorded by a host of blues luminaries. The polish supplied by the production and the sampling does tend to give the album a little unnecessary gloss - a little more grit and spontaneity would be welcome.

The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics (Warner Brothers, 2006)

Although the Flaming Lips have made a name for themselves as a navel-gazing psychedelic group, there is a great pop sensibility at work amongst the band's music. On this album they balance the bizarre story of an intergalactic wizard with a trippy mix of pop-prog that even throws in some anti-establishment political commentary and life and death philosophical leanings... pretty good for a band that's known for hopping around in bunny suits in concert. "Free Radicals" and "Haven't Got a Clue" are the most overt statements of the album, particularly on "Haven't" where they allude to the desire of punching a certain person in the nose. On the other hand, "The W.A.N.D." and "The Wizard Turns On" uses the trippy, goofy concept as an excuse to jam and show off their instrumental skills.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, April 07, 2006

Julian Priester / Sam Rivers - Hints on Light and Shadow (Postcards, 1997)

This is a most unusual album - multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers and trombonist Julian Priester accompanied by Tucker Martine on electronics spin through a series on avant-garde soundscapes. There are moments of old-school clarity where Rivers slides onto the piano bench to back up Priester's trombone slurs, but also moments of science fiction cinematography where Martine plays back loops of swirling sporano saxophone and gives them echo effects juxtaposed against a wall of synthesizers. Although the music sometimes flies outside of the realm of "jazz" entirely, it is interesting to see how these two veterans react and improvise in this new and alien environment. Hearing Rivers magical flute playing multi-tracked and remixed was a treat, although his scat singing may startle the uninitiated. Fans of either Rivers or Peiester or followers of the music outside the mainstream should enjoy this out-of-the-ordinary disc.

Newport Jazz '05 (PBS, 2006)

PBS ran a nice little documentary on last years Newport Jazz Festival last night with some good footage of a few bands and what looked like a pretty large and supporting audience. They kicked it off with some clips of the Wynton Marsalis and Patricia Barber groups - they sounded OK, but I would have liked to have heard Marsalis in that hothouse jam environment that produced last years surprisingly excellent House of Tribes CD. There was some great footage of the Dave Holland Big Band playing a blasting track featuring superb baritone saxophone and trumpet solos as well as crack ensemble playing. They Medeski, Martin and Wood track that added some grease to the proceedings, and then founded things out with a track from Joshua Redman's Elastic Band. It made for a decent snapshot of the festival, but left me wishing they could have skipped the rest and sown the whole Holland set. But I guess in this day and age, beggars can't be choosers and getting *any* real jazz on TV is a feat in and of itself.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, April 06, 2006

William Parker - Long Hidden: The Olmec Series (AUM Fidelity, 2006)

Bassist and composer William Parker has his hand in many musical pies and the world is better for it. On his most recent album, he mixes tracks from a variety of sources to come up with an interesting cohesive musical whole. Parker also writes stories and poems about the characters in his music and looks for the spiritual path in all things musical. He dedicates this album to the Olmec people who lived in the area that is today Mexico before the era of the Maya and the Aztecs.

The album begins with a lengthy bass solo - Parker improvising alone on the spiritual "There is a Balm in Gilead" with a deep and resonant feeling. Also included as solo bass performances on this disc are "Cathedral of Light" and "Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy" which demonstrate Parker's prodigious bass playing talent, both with speedy abstract bow playing, hypnotic and trance inducing, like a Native-American ritual in its own right, prompting a quizzical "what is that?" from the person I share my office with while I was listening to this one afternoon at work. There are also full band tracks, where Parker's bass anchors The Olmec Group, made up of saxophonist Dave Swanson and a group of young meringue musicians in their early 20's (no, I am not making this up!)

The Olmec Group has a very interesting sound, using a lot of percussion and accordion to lay down a groove for Swanson to improvise over on "Pok-a-Tok" which develops a great world music meets jazz feel, somewhat akin to the music on the records that trumpeter Don Cherry released in the mid-70's. Cherry was a big influence for this recording as he gave Parker his first Doson Ngoni, a beautiful Malian stringed instrument that he plays unaccompanied on three tracks. The music is a light, gentle sound, somewhere between a banjo and a kora, reminiscent of the music Praker performed on his wonderful Eloping With the Sun CD, which made my top 10 in 2003. Parker fans and world music buffs should get a lot of enjoyment out of this mix of the cultural and the spiritual.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bittorrent Boogie

Chris Potter - Rotterdam 4/1/06:
This is a concert of Chris Potter's "Underground" band live from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Backing him are Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on keyboards and Nate Smith on drums. While Smith holds down the traditional duties of a post-bop drummer, Taborn and Rogers produce an ever shifting electronic soundscape for the saxophonist to improvise over. He does this brilliantly, weaving great billowing swathes of sound that duck and weave though the music in lengthy improvisations that in some cases double the length of the studio versions. The final tune may well be the highlight, Potter lays out for a great length of time allowing the band to play like a power trio of the gods. Rogers in particular plays with a rockin' intensity only hinted at in his recent Criss-Cross releases. When Potter does re-enter the fray it is with renewed strength and energy for a fluid and intense solo. If he's going to keep leading bands like this on stage and disc, there's a lot of great music to look forward to.

Ray Davies - Toronto 3/30/06: After releasing his stellar solo album Other People's Lives, it's only natural that Ray would take his act on the road - this time with a crack band playing versions of songs from the new album and classics by The Kinks. The band rocks out really hard on "The Tourist" with abundant guitar solos and very strong vocals from the great man. If you've heard the Kinks live album On the Road then you know that Ray enjoys a good singalong, and the crowd here really knows their stuff, signing with gusto on "Set Me Free" and of course "Lola." Ray Davies really seems revitalized by the success and warm reaction he's been receiving from fans and critics and it translates here into an excellent concert.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, April 02, 2006

SF Jazz Collective - 2 (Nonesuch, 2006)

The Joshua Redman led SFJazz Collective super group (Redman, soprano and tenor; Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone; Nicholas Payton, trumpet; Isaac Smith, trombone; Renee Rosnes, piano; Bobby Hutcherson, vibraphone and marimba; Matt Penman, bass; and Eric Harland, drums) plays the kind of music that is reminiscent of the good natured jamming of the old JATP tours, complete with enthusiastic applause. The music on this album has a slick and polished sound even when recorded live. Each year, the group pays tribute to a distinguished composer with new arrangements of their music along with some original compositions. This year's honoree is John Coltrane. The group plays the melody of "Naima" in a beautifully wistful manner before giving way to Bobby Hutcherson, who solos very well, getting a ringing resonating sound from his instrument. Pianist Rene Rosnes is featured on "Scrambled Eggs," while "Half Full" also builds slowly to a fleet piano solo.

"2 and 2" works in some intense horn soloing over the bands riffing before the music backs off into a probing tenor saxophone solo and an impressive drum solo. The Coltrane composition "Crescent" takes on a darker hue, with some fine trumpet from Nicholas Payton - it would have been very interesting (to me anyway) to see what this band would have done in interpreting one of Coltrane's late free performances. "Africa" starts dark and mysterious before an intense and very Trane-like tenor solo breaks loose. The album is rounded out by the original "Development," which starts with a world music like feel and moves into a upbeat pyrotechnic Payton solo. While no new ground is broken on this disc, there is plenty of fine playing from all concerned. Fans of the musicians involved and of mainstream jazz should enjoy this CD.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, April 01, 2006

This is heartbreaking... one of my favorites: Jazz alto saxophonist Jackie McLean dies at 73 - "Jazz alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, a performer and educator who played with legendary musicians including Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, died Friday. He was 73."