Friday, June 30, 2006

Champion Jack Dupree - The Natural and Soulful Blues (Atlantic, 1960)

Champion Jack Dupree had a very long and successful career in the blues making many albums for many labels. His zenith may have come in the late fifties and early sixties when he had a very successful run at Atlantic Records. This album finds Jack's strolling piano and booming voice backed by bass and drums. He sings a touching tribute to a friend in "Death of Big Bill Broonzy" and a very nice version of the standard "How Long Blues." He can't resist getting a few shots in during "Mother in Law's Blues." When the fellas ask Jack why he keeps bringing his wife to work, Jack responds with a wink that his wife is so ugly that he can't bear to kiss her goodbye in the morning! The album ends on a gentle note with Jack playing a couple of instrumental pieces, "The Dennis Rag" and "The Slow Drag" which show off the instrumental skill of the small group. It's hard to go wrong with any of Jack Dupree's music from this time period and this excellent album is no exception.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bittorent download: Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi - Nice, France 7/21/71

This is a wonderful live recording of the Mwandishi band featuring Hancock on electric and acoustic piano, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Bennie Maupin on saxophone and bass clarinet, Billy Hart on drums, Julian Priester on trombone and Buster Williams on bass. Where a lot of the concert tapes of Hancock's bands from this period have muddy and murky sound, this one is crystal clear and you can really hear the dynamic improvisation the band had going on. There are only three selections here, but each clocks in at around twenty minutes, making for a generous amount of fine music. "Ostinato (Suite for Angela)" begins the music with Hancock on electric piano spinning a funky improvisation backed by bubbling bass clarinet and electric bass. After hearing the band milk this groove for nearly twenty minutes, it's amazing to hear them shift gears on a dime and move into the extended acoustic improvisation of "Toys" featuring a beautiful upright bass solo for Williams. The Hancock band always seemed to mine a spacier groove than the Miles Davis electric band, and the final track "You'll Know When You Get There" sets up a patient, spacey nearly psychedelic groove. This is a wonderful concert in excellent fidelity - hopefully it will be released to the general public at some point... collectors shouldn't have all the fun.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Mekons - Fear and Whiskey (Sin, 1985)

The Mekons were one of the original guttersnipe punk rock bands to emerge from the Sex Pistols wake as British punk exploded in the mid-70's. Always more then a prototypical punk one-trick pony, the band has experimented with many genres during its 30 year history, few with as much success as their original melding of rock and country music, Fear and Whiskey. Sounding like the bastard child of an unholy union of The Buzzcocks and Johnny Cash, this album has become a cornerstone in what would become alt-country. Some of the band's finest songs are here, like the weep-into-your-bottle tale of "Flitcraft" and the bouncing punk-pop of "Hard to Be Human." The most successful aspect of the music comes from the band never trying to pretend that they are a true country music outfit, but respectfully borrowing from the rootsy genre while all the while retaining their DIY punk roots.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

John Lee Hooker - Live at Cafe au Go-Go (Bluesway, 1967)

On this album, John Lee Hooker leads a cool after hours band featuring some amazing piano work from Muddy Waters alum Otis Spann in this live recording. Starting off with Hooker's deeply ominous "I'm Bad Like Jesse James" where John Lee describes all of the danger his former friend is in after fooling around with his wife

They may shoot you
They may cut you
I just don't know...

"When My First Wife Left Me" brings things even farther down into the alley with Spann's rippling piano and Hooker's minor key guitar playing and deep baritone voice describing his descent into the blues. John Lee knows he'll "Never Get Out of These Blues Alive" and sings it backed by his own dark percussive guitar sounding stark against the more sophisticated backing of the band.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Thanks a lot to Taran who pointed me to his excellent free-jazz podcasts - check them out! taran's free jazz hour: "Broadcasting free jazz, avant-garde jazz, creative and improvised music. The show brings you the opportunity to hear the sounds created by the jazz greats of yore as well as contemporary artists keeping the flame. Almost all of the featured music is on small independent record labels who are doing a damn good job of documenting it."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thomas Chapin Trio - Ride (Playscape, 2006)

The Thomas Chapin Trio was one of my favorite bands of the 1990's. Their mix of exuberant swinging and free-form excitement was a joy to hear. Sadly, it all ended with Chapin's tragic death from leukemia in 1998. Drummer Michael Sarin and especially bassist and composer Mario Pavone have continued to make excellent music in the intervening years, but this archival release of the Chapin Trio performing line at the North Sea Jazz Festival brings back fond memories of what a truly special band that was. The concert begins with a lengthy performance of "Anima" which shows the band improvising collectively with a near telepathic level of communication and also making way for some excellent solo space, particularly for Sarin who takes an exciting and propulsive drum solo. This lengthy 17 minute performance is a very exciting, edge of your seat performance. "Pet Scorpion" stings like its namesake with a muscular free-ish alto saxophone workout.

"Night Bird Song" puts Chapin's delicate flute on display. Along with Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Chapin must be considered one of the finest flautists jazz has ever produced. And like Dolphy he took a lot of inspiration from birds and their song. There's a lengthy impressive bass introduction by Pavone here too, filled with dark and meaty sound. Chapin switches back to saxophone for some bluesy soloing on the interior of the song. Sarin takes a very nice swinging drum solo as well before the band comes back in fully with Chapin on saxophone (sopranino?) for a Kirk-like improvisation and then back onto the flute for the ending melody statement. "Aeolus" also brings back the flute for a reflective melody before setting off an an exciting solo flute interlude with spoken effects with a haunting flute and bass section following. "Bad Birdie" and "Changes Two Tires" (the title referring to some touring misadventures) picks the pace back up with Chapin back on saxophone and Pavone and Sarin in strong support. A frenetic improvisation of The Beatles "Ticket to Ride" ends the set to great and well deserved audience applause. This is a wonderful snapshot of one of the finest improvising ensembles of the 1990's and highly recommended to anyone interested in improvised music.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Vision Festival - Jazz - New York Times: "The Vision Festival, which rumbled through its 11th annual incarnation last week, draws a wide variety of sounds into its bear-hug embrace. But the festival has a clear personality, and certain musical qualities prevail: polyphony and atonality, rugged texture and roiling time. By those standards the five ensembles convened at the Orensanz Center for the Arts on the Lower East Side on Saturday night fulfilled what amounts to a conventional role."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Charlie Musslewhite - Delta Hardware (Real World, 2006)

Charlie Musslewhite has been on the blues scene for close to forty years now, and his latest album continues his career long melding of his deep south roots and the rough and tumble blues he developed in the clubs of Chicago playing with the likes of Big Joe Williams in the 1960's. Musslewhite has long been an advocate of the working class, writing songs and playing music about the hard times and the good times of life in America. He has one of his strongest songs in this area on this album with "The Invisible Ones" about the plight of the working classes in America. "Black Water" takes a look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina and those that were left behind in the wake of the government foul-up.

"Good Blues Tonight" lightens the load a little with some groove based blues. Along with "Church Is Out" and "Town to Town" this song shows that the blues is just as good for having a good time as it is for social protest. The band is solid and cuts a rock-hard groove, while Charlie's harmonica is as expressive as ever with plenty of swooping and stinging solos. The only quibble I have with the album is with the production. The vocals seem a little distant and separate from the music at times which give things a disjointed feel. I understand how albums are made (sort of like sausage, right?) with vocal booths and mixing boards, but something should have been done to better integrate the vocals and the music into a more closely hewn organic whole. But overall it's a small quibble amidst a solid blues album.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Vision Festival: On the Fringe and Reveling in Rhythm - New York Times: "Fittingly, this year's edition bears a dedication to Mr. Rivers. Wednesday's program was billed as 'Lifetime Recognition: Sam Rivers Day.' Mr. Rivers presided over the occasion with grace and good humor. At 82, he is irrefutably an elder statesman, but he wears that distinction lightly. In an evening bracketed by two of his working bands, he conveyed a sense of mischievous, ageless wonder."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New Podcast available... click here to download. Songs that have caught my ear over the past couple of weeks, 58:49 in length, 40.3 mb in size. Setlist:

Artist - Title

Soledad Brothers - Good Feeling
Sonny Sharrock - Black Bottom
Susan Tedeschi - Evidence
Joe Locke - Opus De Funk
Can - Uphill
Jimmy McGriff - The Worm
Lime Spiders - Save My Soul
Bobby Previte - Oceana
Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint - Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?
Dave Pike - Bronx Blue
Trio Beyond - As One
Gotan Project - Criminal
Bobby Hutcherson - 'Til Then
Sam & Dave - Soul Man

Let me know what you think, send comments to: Tim

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Chasin' The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker by Brian Priestley (Oxford University Press, 2006) + Incurable Blues: The Troubles and Triumph of Blues Legend Hubert Sumlin by Will Romero (Backbeat Books, 2005)

There have been a score of biographies about Charlie Parker, some more reliable than others. Priestley, who wrote an excellent biography of Charles Mingus several years ago, dispenses with the more dubious Parker stories and legends to deliver a short and concise history of the man and his music. The actual narrative of the book is less than 150 pages, but when you consider that Parker only lived to be 35, that seems understandable. The book moves briskly through his childhood in Kansas City and apprenticeship in the band of jump blues legend Jay McShann and then on to the formative years of bebop. His complex relationship with Dizzy Gillespie and other musicians of the period is explored as well as his love-hate relationships with promoters and record label heads like Norman Granz. There is some discussion of his drug and alcohol addiction, because it played such a large role in Parker's life and eventual death, but that subject is handled with honesty and tact and never lowers the book to a tabloid-like tell all, but keeps the focus squarely on the music. The final third of the book is an exhaustive discography of all of Parker's known recordings, useful, I suppose to the hard core collector only, but the biographical section should appeal to anyone who is looking for a concise and well written account of Charlie Parker's brief life and career.

Romero's book, while admirably bringing attention to an unjustly overlooked musician is a bit more of a slog. While it does provide some valuable insight into the Howlin' Wolf band (Sumlin was Wolf's guitarist for 16 years) and Sumlin's subsequent solo career, there just isn't enough depth, and many of the interviews take on a superficial quality. Interviews with other guitarists and Romero's own analysis continually fall back on the fact that Sumlin is a great guitar player. He is, no doubt about it, but the book nearly becomes a love letter from a smitten fan at some points. How many times can you say "one of the greatest guitarists?" Part of the problem is just the fact that Sumlin is obviously a quiet and humble man who is not comfortable talking about his past, so the book becomes a rambling hagiography. This could have been excellent if it was edited with a critical eye and presented as a long article in a journal like Living Blues because at his best Romero writes with an easy-going fluidity that serves his subject well. And he has obviously has listened to the recordings and done much research. But there just isn't enough to warrant a book length monograph.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thanks a lot to The Bad Plus for mentioning my blog in theirs. It's quite humbling to know that people in a band you really like read your blog! DO THE MATH: Relevant Weblogs: "From Tim's very diverse blog, here is a nice review of a Bobby Hutcherson CD that features the legendary Albert Stinson. Stinson died tragically young, and Oblique is one of the very best places to hear him. Stinson had some sort of intersection between Gary Peacock and Ron Carter going on. Larry Grenadier, Joe Martin, Ben Street - they all give it up for Albert Stinson."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dizzy Reece - Star Bright (Blue Note, 1959)

Trumpeter Dizzy Reece moved around quite a bit as a young man, from Jamaica to London and then finally to New York City where he hooked up with Blue Note Records. On this album, he is joined by a big time hard-bop crew including Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums. A Reece original "The Rake" opens the album with a smooth descending bass intro that leads the group into a strutting theme. There is a confident trumpet solo over walking bass, piano and drums, before Mobley steps up and emits a fluid and pungent solo. Kelly sneaks in a probing piano solo over bass and drums and then the horns come back in together to play the theme of the song.

"I'll Close My Eyes" features trumpet over hopping piano trio accompaniment for a melody statement before Mobley jumps in for a smooth and confident solo over an upbeat tempo. Fast paced trumpet re-enters and Reece plays a strong, lengthy solo before giving way to piano and bass solos. "Groovesville" has a jaunty Red Garland-ish piano intro before the trumpet enters. Mobley takes a deep solo, then Kelly gets another nice feature over bass and drums. Both horns come back in staggered formation to finish the song. "The Rebound" finds the group charging out of the gate together before Reece takes over with a strong solo over a thumping bass line. He hands off to Mobley who continues to keep things moving along at a brisk pace. The merry-go-round of solos then moves to Chambers who takes a deeply felt bass solo with the horns riffing underneath. Things calm down to a medium boil with "I Wished On the Moon" with Reece taking a long, unhurried solo. Mobley's solo swings well at this tempo as well. Kelly takes a swirling solo on piano before the rest of the band returns to take the song out.

"A Variation on Monk" smoothes out some of Thelonious's rougher edges on the final tune with some jumpin' blues flavored piano and the band riffing hard on the opening. Mobley gets the opening solo here in a change of pace coming on strong and fast. Good solos emerge from Reece and Kelly and some hard drums breaks draw attention to Taylor in between the horn riffs before all the musicians return to the hard chugging melody to finish. Hard bop fans should find a lot to enjoy on this one with some great individual solos and solid ensemble work. Hopefully this re-issue will help this overlooked figure get some well deserved recognition.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Two Jazz Festivals, JVC and Vision, Take Over the City - New York Times: "Even in an average week there tends to be too much jazz in New York for any one person to see. But the next two weeks are too-much squared, with two major jazz festivals, JVC and Vision, happening simultaneously and the city's nightclubs doing their best to keep up the momentum for concertgoers both local and international."

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bobby Hutcherson - Oblique (Blue Note 1967, 2005)

Oblique was released about halfway through vibraphonist and composer Bobby Hutcherson's excellent mid to late 60's association with Blue Note Records. Here he is joined by drummer and composer Joe Chambers, a frequent Hutcherson confidant, young bassist Albert Stinson and pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. A heavy hitting lineup for one of Hutcherson's few quartet records for Blue Note. "Til Then" starts off the proceedings with a gentle, lullaby like melody and some dreamy sounding chords from Hancock which add to the feel of the music. Hutcherson takes a faster paced solo, dancing and weaving around Hancock's comping. "Bi-Sectional" has a more abstract feel, much closer to the work that Hutcherson did with the likes of Andrew Hill and Eric Dolphy. The liner notes to the CD lament the early death of bassist Albert Stinson, and he makes quite an impact on this song along with Chambers who is all over the drums with some thunderous playing.

"My Joy" returns to a gentle melody, starting as elegiac and sad before the musicians take off an a more urgent improvisational flight. Stinson again stands out with a fast paced and fleet bass solo. The next composition, "Oblique," matches its title with a percussive melody and some very fast collective improvisation. Everybody has to play at a very high level to interact so well at such a fast and complex pace. Joe Chambers gets the nod with some very impressive drum fills. "Subtle Neptune" is a gentle Brazilian flavored piece of music taken at mid-tempo. There is some excellent percussive playing all around especially from Herbie Hancock who takes an excellent and inventive solo. The disc ends with a Hancock composition, the title track from the soundtrack of the movie Blow Up which has a beautiful and memorable melody that the musicians build a strong dark flavored improvisation upon. All in all, this is very good hard-bop jazz with a nice mix of tempos and flavors in it.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Village voice > music > by John F. Szwed: "It's as if Sun Ra planned the hopelessness of the task from the beginning. Pick the best of what might be an infinite number of recordings? Nobody has them all or knows how many exist. Find the recording dates of music made by people for whom time meant nothing, who often mixed together recordings from different years?"

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Monday, June 05, 2006

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (V2, 2006)

This is the highly anticipated "supergroup" collaboration between Jack White of The White Stripes, Detroit pop-rocker Brendan Benson and two members of the Cincinnati garage rock juggernaut The Greenhornes. The resulting album is a very short, somewhat uncomfortable mashup of seventies-style classic rock and Beatle-esque pop music. The album has a bit of a tossed-off feel to it, but does have a few tracks that rise above to become memorable. The single "Steady, As She Goes" starts off the album with an ominous bass riff, before resolving into a song that sounds like the White Stripes with a little extra heft in the bass and drums department.

"Hands" piles on the overdubs into a mass of sound that at best approaches psychedelica, and at worst nears Boston-like 70's AOR sludge. There are some other worthy songs here, "Blue Veins" cuts a grinding, late night bluesy groove, and "Store Bought Bones" recycles 70's rock in an impressive fashion. This might seem like damning criticism, but with this much firepower on hand, the expectations were so high and the media onslaught so steep, that the production of a merely OK album seems a little disappointing.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

June Podcast

Songs that have caught my ear over the past month in a conviently downloadable medley format. One file, 1 hour in length, 41 mb in size.

Artist/Group - Album - Song Title - Time

1. Vibes - Cha-Ha (3:41)
2. Koko Taylor - Yes It's Good For You (2:42)
3. Revolutionary Ensemble - Berlin Erfahrung (5:25)
4. Ponys - Fall Inn (3:35)
5. Mongo Santamaria - Havana (5:00)
6. Dr. John - Blues in the Night (4:39)
7. Henry Threadgill - Paper Toilet (5:37)
8. Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' Hopkins - Hopkins Sky Hop (2:14)
9. Wild Bill Moore - Swingin' For Pappy (2:54)
10. Henry Kaiser - Brokedown Palace (4:36)
11. Cal Tjader - Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro) (2:28)
12. Gang of Four - Damaged Goods (3:26)
13. Tortoise - Unknown Title (5:08)
14. Harmonica Shah - I've Got To Help My Own Damn Self (5:14)
15. Mummies - (You Must Fight To Live) On The Planet Of The Apes (2:53)

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

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, June 02, 2006

Harmonica Shah - Listen at Me Good (Electro-Fi, 2006)

Harmonica Shah (what a great stage name!) kicks it out old school, hurling great meaty slabs of blues harp and chest thumping vocals backed by a tough and gritty crew that is with him all the way - through the tough streets of the Motor City where gang warfare takes down mothers and babies, past the bill collectors who will give him no rest, over the bossman who will give him no sympathy and finally to the graveyard where he can finally lay down his weary blues. Is there a better musical city in the world than Detroit? You have to be tough as nails and smooth as glass just to survive and the music that comes pouring out of that crucible is frequently amazing whatever the genre.

The supporting cast that makes the blues great is all present and accounted for as well, legions of cheatin' women and lyin' men await, but Shah chucks the whole damn lot and declares "I've Got to Help My Own Damn Self" because "Bullets Don't Care" and he's surrounded by "Lies, Lies, Lies." This is raw and unpretentious workingman's blues and Shah delivers it with total conviction. In a world filled with posers and wanna-be's, Harmonica Shah is the real deal - listen at him good, indeed, because they don't make old-fashioned street savvy music like this often enough anymore.

Send comments to: Tim