McBridal Shower

I love upright bass, so by bass player Christian McBride I have as stand-alone Gettin’ To It (1994) , Parker’s Mood (1995), Number Two Express(1995), (as mp3) fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Handcock (1997), Sci-Fi (2000). I first heard Christian as a sideman with sax player Joshua Redman – he was a strong support player but when I found Gettin’ To It his first release as leader I was eager to hear him get to it.

Bouncy, contemplative, fresh with a great version of The Stars Fell On Alabama – on this Joshua Redman is a sideman, along with Roy Hargrove on trumpet. Excellent, accessible jazz. On Parker’s Mood he is part of trio with Roy Hargrove & Steven Scott. As the title indicates, this a tribute set of Charlie Parker tunes given not-overly-respectful reinterpretations.  On Express he is joined by old school masters Chick Corea & Jack DeJohnette for another great set. The fact that he attracted these jazz icons speaks to his chops & reputation.

The Hancock tribute is excellent even though there is no piano in the bass, trumpet, drums trio. Adventurous rethinkings of Hancock that actually explores rather than treats the material with such respect it might as well be on a museum shelf. 

Sci-Fi, is, as the title suggests, a bow to the jazz-rock  sounds of Miles Davis &, yes, Herbie Hancock. In fact Hancock joins in on keyboards & even David Gilmore of Pink Floyd makes an appearance. No one really thinks of Pink Floyd as jazz-rock but Atom Heart Mother ranks up there with Inner Mounting Flame. Another homage that explores rather than replicates that time era.

You cannot go wrong with with any jazz lp that includes Christian McBride as leader or as a sideman.

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Joni and Ancestors

 On an mp3 collection I have by Joni Mitchell: Live at Club 47 – 68, Clouds, Ladies on the Canyon, Blue, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira. as well as: Mimi & Richard Farina: celebrations for a grey day; Malvina Reynolds: Sings The Truth (Little Boxes): Melanie: Candles in the Rain. As Joni stand alones: For The Roses, Court and Spark, hits 1. Plus Herbie Hancock’s jazz homage – The Joni Letters.

I enjoy Joni Mitchell but I am not a huge fan. I certainly respect her as an artist & love her willingness to follow her musical muses regardless of commercial appeal. But if I never hear ‘Both Sides Now’ again I’ll be fine 🙂 As I look over the rack listings for the lps I have my favourite remains ‘Songs To Aging Children Come’ which, as I age, becomes even more pertinent.

I never really followed her career’s ups & downs, or her private life so I hear her songs without that baggage. There are cuts on each of these lps I love, some lps that I can’t name a track from. I find that one of the lps suffer from a mix that buries her voice in such way that it is lost, to my ears. Tracks slip into one another – if there were no silence between them I wouldn’t know when one ended & another began.

Unlike similar female artists, such as Laura Nyro, she survived in the  male-dominated & dictated music industry. She didn’t get buried for forging her own path or for not selling zillions of singles. 

On this mp3 collection I put her into context with other California folkies. Mimi & Richard Farina: celebrations for a grey day – this is sweet, folk-rock with a tinge of jazz, bluegrass. Richard’s early death turned him into a legend. 

Malvina Reynolds: Sings The Truth. Best known for the hit Little Boxes (the precursor in a way to Big Yellow Taxi) this is protest music in a fun 60s way. Almost traditional folk this a lost treasure full of sharp social commentary. The New Restaurant is timeless, as is Little Boxes – some things never change. 

Melanie: Candles in the Rain. Melanie owes a lot to all the above. She managed some top ten hits then sort of faded away.  Lay Down owes much to the Edwin Hawkins Singers for its success. ‘Look What They’ve Done To My Song’ is a classic but in her case it’s also come ‘’Look What They’ve Done To My Career’ when her label dropped her for refusing to produce lps on demand.

The Grinding

Festive readers, I am pleased to bring you a wrap up of the week-end’s events.  The highlight of which has to be the annual Lighting of the Trees. Held in several locations in the hills about Crab Apple Corners the horizon is illuminated by the first official rite of the season.

I choose to attend the ceremony at Hijil’s Farm – they had obtained two of the remaining stand of ancient red wood sycamores and had them flown in for the occasion. Trees so large they needed two helicopters to carry each of them.

The first flame was applied to them by our local Miss Pig Driver, Tanis-Lotus Flatly. The trees did us the great honour of being slow to ignite, but once they had been engulfed in flames the look of joy in the faces of the children was worth the wait.

Once these two trees were in flames, burning torches were taken to the sites where other trees were ready for the ceremony. The Great Maple at McCracken’s of Daw Hill was the next to be torched and quickly one could see similar fires all across the country side. Hijil’s Farm perched atop Green Bluffs gave us a splendid view of the various tributes to the season.

Once the first two trees had been burnt to cinders our parish Vicar Father Frank did The Grinding and was quickly joined by the other men who were of age, to participate in this ritual.

I was thrilled to be offered by my one and only Hank Grebly the fruits of his grinding. A jar filled with these delicate ashes and moose fat can sit proudly on any mantle piece. There will be enough here to guarantee me a year of fertility and good weather. After all, it only takes a pinch a day, tossed into the wind to catch the eye of the spirits for protection.

The carolling at St. Sufferer’s Cathedral was once again a thrill, especially now that the bells have almost been tuned. The climax of each verse is a ringing of these bells that echoes though our happy valley and shimmers through the fragrant smoke produced by the Lighting of the Trees.

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Joe Henderson

At one time Eve Arden was playing the gal pal in every other movie, then Joe Pesci was doing the same sort of pal thing for another generation. Sidekicks who were more than mere foils for the lead but brought an energy than enhanced even the palest material. There was time when it seemed Mary Clayton was singing backup on every pop recording out of Britain. 

Jazz also has famous side men & one of them is tenor sax player Joe Henderson, who over decades, starting in the 50’s, recorded with nearly everyone, including Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock & Miles Davis – to name a few. His style went from hard bop to jazz-funk fusion to not quite mellow explorations of music by Jobim, Gershwin. He was always tasteful, edgy when needed & inventive without calling attention to himself. 

As a group leader I have his early Mode for Joe tucked in a Jimmy Smith mp3 collection. As stand-alones I have Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn; So Near, So Far: Musings for Miles; Double Rainbow: Music of Jobim; Big Band; Porgy & Bess. Any of these is not only a good introduction to Henderson but also to the musicians he is exploring.

A word or two about Billy Strayhorn. He was writer, pianist, arranger for Duke Ellington for many years. He was totally out as a gay man from the get-go & survived behind the scenes on his talent. He never became a ‘headliner’ thanks to being out. Read ‘Lush Life’ the David Hajdu biography of Strayhorn for a look at an amazing life.

If you want to start a jazz exploration any Joe Henderson is a perfect place to start.

The Red Menace

“In light of recent events Mr. Razov will not be returning to the chess club this year.” Mr. Bannister 

shrugged.

There was a mutter of dismay.

“I know he has been a great teacher for you.”

“We wouldn’t have won the inter-provincials without him.” Harold slumped in his chair.

“I know we’ll miss him, but you won’t forget the strategies he showed you.”

There was only seven of us in the Davisville High-School Chess Club but we had done better than any of the sports teams in the school. But of course the sports teams got the most notice. Our first place trophies didn’t even end-up on display with their third place runner-up plaques.

“Let’s draw to see who’ll play who today.” Mr. Bannister forced a smile. 

The recent events where Mr. Razov being hospitalized. He’d been found badly beaten on the steps of his little house. No one knew why. The police had issued a ‘no information at this time’ statement to the paper a week ago with no follow up.

We suspected it had something to do with his being from the Russia. Some speculated that the Soviet Secret Police had come to make sure he didn’t spill state secrets or something like that. Maybe wanted to stop him from teaching us chess. He had been a Grand Master before he escaped to Canada.

“I know you are worried about Mr. Razov but you have to be able to focus on anything to be a champion. After all he won his world title while planning to escape, knowing full well they had his family back there.”

Herbie Hancock

By Herbie Hancock I have, in a couple of mp3 collections: Maiden Voyage 1965/ Blow Up 1966 / Jazz Africa 1986/ Village Life 1985/ Round Midnight 1986/ VSOP 1977/ Sextant 1973/ Thrust 1974/Future Shock 1983/ Sound System 1984. As stand-alones I have: Head Hunters 1973, In Concert with Chick Corea 1978, Dis is Da Drum 1994, The New Standards 1996, 1+1 with Wayne Shorter 1997, Directions in Music 2002, The Joni Letters 2007.

So I am a bit of fan but not as compulsive as I was about Coltrane. Hancock’s career spans decades (from the 50’s to now), genres, styles & fads. The early work is impeccable, tasteful acoustic jazz piano in various groupings. His early solo work is inventive, melodic & not overly aggressive. His work with Miles Davis is equally as strong, even when he solos with Davis he is in the background. He was never a keyboard show-off.

Then came fusion which was pretty much launched by Miles Davis’s monumental Bitch’s Brew. Hancock played with Davis but does not appear on the Brew recordings. Brew resulted in a jazz/rock fusion explosion with amazing work by John Mclaughlin, Larry Coryell, Chick Corea, Weather Report & of course Hancock. While the bulk of these musicians stuck to their jazz roots Hancock went further & further & ended up deep in electronica – some of his lps were called sound effects by reviewers at the time. This is when I started listening to him 🙂 The first might have been Sextant, which I still find hypnotic.

Unlike some of the other fusioniers he never got caught up in eastern mysticism instead he went back to his African roots for some excellent lps. His pop MTV break through was Rockit where he explored, the then state of the art dj scratching & other hip-hop recording techniques – programmed beats & the like. This lead to This Is The Drum with experiments in sampling, mixed with his funky jazz which were, to my ear, highly successful.

He didn’t abandon ‘pure’ jazz & released great work with V.O.S.P & duets with Chick Corea. Playful & worth tracking down. He then returned to a more traditional sound with The New Standards, & 1+1 with Wayne Shorter. Sweet evocative & kind of sexy. The most recent piece I have, a gift from a friend, is The Joni Letters – this is a tasteful & intense set of  jazz explorations of Joni Mitchell. A remarkable album by a musician who was always unafraid of exploration & challenging himself.

Sunday Drive

“You aren’t the boss of me.” How many times did I yell that at my stupid brother before he smacked me?

“I may not be the boss of you, but my hands are. So shut the fuck up, or we won’t go the beach again.”

I sat in the back seat of the car, pulled myself into a corner and glared at him.

“And if you are thinking of telling Dad – think again – because I know what you did.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Prove it.” My brother smiled over his shoulder.

“Just because you are two years older than me & can drive the car, doesn’t give you …”

“I said shut the fuck up. Or I’ll … lock you in the cabin for the day. At least I’m taking you out to the beach. What more do you want.”

“When did Dad say you could take the car?”

“He said I could drive it as long as I stick to the private road to the lake. I’ll do that.” He stopped to turn around to swing at me again. “If you just shut the fuck up.”

I yanked the car door open and ran down the dirt road.

“Where do you think you’re going? There’s no where to run to you little twerp.”

It didn’t take him long to catch me. Him the sixteen year old football hero. Me the runty little brother. Sometimes people didn’t believe we were brothers, we were so different. Him big bulky. Me small pale. I’d rather read but was always forced to go with him even when he didn’t want to take me. Going to the beach was his idea.

He had me in a head lock and was dragging me back to the car.

“You fucking little shit head. I’m not going to put up with this all weekend. I told Dad not to send you up here, but no he though it would you good to get out of the house for awhile. You little prick. Now if you don’t behave I’ll have to … tie you up & lock you in the trunk.”

I wriggled out of his sweaty arms. “You aren’t the boss of me. Just leave me here. I can find my way back to the cabin. I don’t want to go the beach while you mope around with those ugly girls from Peter’s Point anyway.”

“Good. I’ll leave you here.”

He got back in the car and drove down the lane. He stuck his head out the window. “By the way the cabin is locked. Have fun. Fuck head.” 

He drove away. I squeezed the spare key to the cabin in my pocket.

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every Tuesday 2019

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet