MMMostly Jazzy

Working though the M’s in my jazz collection with a part of stand-alones by Medeski, Martin & Wood: keyboards, drums, bass. It’s A Jungle (1993) (Coltrane, Monk), Shack-man (1996). Fun organ based smooth jazz – the organs sound is breathy as opposed to Jimmy Smith’s. The group aims for a funky jazz vibe & are fun but two cds was enough for me.

Next is Pat Metheny. I have as either stand-alone or mp3: Water Colors (ECM 1977), American Garage (ECM 1979) Rejoicing (w Charlie Haden) (ECM 1984), One Quiet Night (2003), The Way Up (2005). He has played as sideman with endless others. His guitar playing is often subtle, somewhat in the Wes Montgomery style but not as relaxed. These are all excellent & any lp he plays on is worth having. One Quiet Night is a relaxing, romantic acoustic set. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection is Egberto Gismonti, (Brazil) – Magico 1979 (w Charlie Haden). Another amazing guitar player – inventive, smooth & worth tracking down. Some George Benson:  The Other Side of Abbey Road (1970), White Rabbit (1972). I suspect Abbey Road is one of the most covered Beatles lp – I have at least two other complete track-by-track set of jazz covers of it. Benson is a guitar player with a great pop singing voice. White Rabbit is a set of pop covers, or rather interpretations, fun but not as interesting as Gabor Szabo. 

Art Pepper: New York Album (1979) Pepper plays a vibrant sax  & this is an excellent set, s bit romantic but solid jazz – none of the pop cover stuff. Charlie Hunter Trio: Bing Bing Bing! (1995) funky jazz with a great guitar sound – here the trio is more like a sextet with horns added to the sound. Finally some Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Worlds (1975); Noonward Race (1972 Live at Mar y Sol Festival) – this live track is a race that left me breathless & glad that I had hunted down this live set.

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McAttack

Ray McKenzie And His Orchestra: Count Basie’s And Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits (1974) This is an lp to cd transfer of a double lp by this orchestra. In jazz this is a big band with several saxes, horns, piano etc & is not to be consumed with a symphony orchestra. These are decent interpretations of the hits. Nothing radical 🙂 

On a genre hopping mp3 cd that runs too nearly 8 hours of music I have Gary McFarland (vibraphonist) Essential Jazz Moods 50 tracks some with Anita O’Day, Gabor Szabo, Steve Kuhn. This is a massive compilation of McFarland’s recordings in the late 50’s to Mid 60’s. His work with Gabor Szabo is amazing, as is Szabo anyway. I think I paid $5.99 for this via iTunes & was not disappointed – a fine purchase for anyone who wants an instant good jazz collection. 

I watched a documentary about the Birth of Disco – Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa was one of the first major hits of the genre. Disco was diverse before diversity became a must. I have The Very Best Of (1997): which includes Soul Makossa & Manu Safari (1998). He is an excellent sax player & if you want powerful African jazz this is for you. 

Here too is Franz Waxman’s Peyton Place (soundtrack 1957). Waxman was the John Williams of his day, responsible for dozens of fine film soundtracks. The title song was impressed on my brain by the TV series. I’m a Peyton Place fan & once had a pirated copy off the entire series (picture quality got worse & worse). The 1957 movie is sordid fun & the music is sublime.

Finally to round out the mp3 cd is some Billy Preston – Wildest Organ in Town/Club Meeting (1966/67). When I discovered that Preston was gay I added these jazz lps (his pop is fine too). This is funky stuff in the Jimmy Smith mode & love it when it comes up in my play rotation. The story of his life is heartbreaking – internalized homophobia has killed too many.  

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McMusic

There’s no denying that I like an organ’s thick juicy sound. My love started with that Farfisa bounce in 60s garage rock – i.e. 96 Tears. It expanded with Vanilla Fudge, ELP. I think on of my fruit jazz organ lps with Jimmy Smith’s Monster (more about him when I get to ’S’].

Back in the day when I flipped though bins of 2nd hand cds I came upon Brother Jack McDuff (1926-2001) lp: Gettin’ Our Thing Together (1968) which had one of the most hideous covers I’d ever seen, so I bought it for fifty-cents. He’s a funkier version of Jimmy Smith. On this mp3 collection I have Do It Now (1967)/Gettin’ Our Thing Together (1968)/Moon Rappin’ (1969),  Sophisticated Funk (1976). All great fun & worth checking out.

Also on this mp3 cd is Booker T & The MGs: Time Is Tight: This is a three cd set that covers all their studio lps up to & including ‘Melting Pot.’ Now this is funky is a more soulful way, more pop than jazz. All the hits are here: Green Onions, Hip Hug-Her as well as endless tasty cover versions of the Beatles, movie themes (Hang’Em High) & original songs. The group was also the house band for a couple of labels i.e. Stax, Atlantic & played on hundreds of number one singles by a list of stars too long to include here.

Booker T was also highly influential on many British groups: Procol Harum owes them a debit of gratitude, as does Pink Floyd whose long dreamy passages could be by Booker T. At one time I had the lp Melting Pot as well as a cassette of ‘Greatest Hits.’ Melting Pop is a masterpiece that transcends genre & if you don’t have it – get it.

Next on the shelf is the stand-alone of Jimmy McGriff’s (1936-2008) – Tribute to Basie (1966). Another fine jazz organist this is a, as you might guess, more of a big band work out with organ instead of saxes taking the lead. Another cd I picked up flipping through bins at a 2nd hand music store. Now I flip though iTunes for obscure old school disco.

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Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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Hola Flora e amigos

I have two mp3 cd collections of Latino music anchored by Flora Purim – a diverse mix of Spanish & Portuguese musicians, of vintage & modern artists.

By Flora Purim (Brazil) I have Butterfly Dreams (1973), Stories To Tell (1974), Open Your Eyes You Can Fly (1976),Everyday Everynight (1978), Sings Milton Nascimento (2000). (elsewhere I have her work with Chick Corea, & Airto Moreira)

I first heard her with Chick Corea. Chick is one of the lollards of jazz-rock & also a jazz piano god. As a result her first few lps have a strong feel for jazz-rock but in a much more Latino direction. She a clear soaring voice that is comfortable with adult pop, avant guard experimental, folk & jazz. Check out Dr. Jive on YouTube – it is an amazing rush of energy & merges her sensibilities in an almost psychedelic explosion. I love all these lps.   

Flora didn’t appear in a void though, she was preceded in the 50’s by Yma Sumac, a Peruvian-American coloratura soprano with a range of over four and a half octaves. I have her Mambo! (1954) , Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Voices of the Xtabay (1950). The queen of exotica she picked up where Carmen Miranda left off with a series of amazing, authentic recordings that haven’t been bettered. The original cover art alone on these is amazing. Grab a hits collection.

Sergio Mendes Brazil’66 brought an interesting spin on Latino music by interpreting current pop songs as sambas etc. I have Fool on The Hill (1968), Four Sider (1972). They mix Brazilian standards as well thus exposing us try their native sounds as well. A bit middle-of-the-road – an easier to take version of Flora Purim lol.

If you want to step even deeper try Sivuca (Brazil): Sivuca (1978), Quinteto Ulrapuru (2010) – I had his 78 lp on vinyl on the east coast & loved it – playful, romantic street/folk music. the 2010 lp is mature & verges of modern classical. Hermeto Pascol’s (Brazil): Eu e Eles (1999) Is a fun, quirky work – he plays in the studio with sound effects & almost silly vocal styles: words gargled with water. 

Violeta Parra (Chile) (1917-1967): Las ultimas composiciones, is best known for ‘Gracias a la Vida’ which is given an amazing recording by Mercedes Sosa. Parra is a folkie solo singer – a sweet voice, an acoustic guitar with songs of political protest, love & hope. Obscure, mind you. She reminds me of the 60’s coffee house scene.

Mane Silvera & Swami Jr.- Ima: with Silvera on sax, Jr. on acoustic guitar. I borrow this cd from the library, made a cassette copy & then downloaded the mp3 – I love love love this jazz duo – playful, lyrical & one of my favourites. Who could resist a musician named Swami Jr? I love the playing of both these  musicians & have more by each elsewhere in my collection. This is a must have.  

Jon Hendricks’s Salud! Joao Gilberto (1963) is a pleasant exploration of Gilberto that was ahead of its time. Easy listening takes on classic songs by one of America’s foremost male jazz singers.

In this collection are couple of Spanish lps as well. Antologia Del Tango Argentino – a collection of archival tangos – yes there was a major recording industry outside of the USA. Finally a dip into more recent sounds with Orishas (Cuban hip hop): Emigrante (2002), El Kilo (2005). Energetic, passionate & full of samples of Cuban big band & jazz. Remarkable modern music.

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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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March With Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is gifted musician & an articulate jazz historian. In my collection I have as mp3,  Think of One 1983 & as stand alone the Standard Time series vol 1 1987, Intimacy Calling 1990, Resolution of Romance 1990, Midnight Blues 1998,Monk 1999. At one time I had on cassette some of his classical work but when those tapes give up the tension ghost I didn’t replace them.

His taste is impeccable, his trumpet playing is precise, his sideman are cream of the crop & he is one of most revered of modern jazz musicians. But I find him a little too reverential. I guess, thanks to Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, I prefer my jazz to be more than tasteful. Marsalis recordings are museum pieces & even a little stiff. Highly polished but no sweat.

Marsalis also shows the difference between mere instrumental covers i.e. James Last, The Ventures doing Strawberry Fields Forever, & jazz interpretations i.e Coltrane doing Greensleeves. There was, maybe still is, a trend in jazz for this sort of cover work – Miles Davis doing Porgy & Bess vs Stan Kenton doing West Side Story. I enjoy both but Kenton’s is clearly for a less, shall we say, jazz audience.

I enjoy Marsalis when he comes up in rotation to be played but I don’t find myself going back to him the way I do with Miles Davis or Coltrane. Marsalis is the epitome of traditional non-big band jazz – though he has recorded with larger groups but his focus is on intimate settings. If you are unfamiliar, nearly any of his lps are a good place to start. The Resolution Of Romance features a great version of Skylark.

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Pointers for Cabaret Singers

I loved the Pointer Sisters from the get go. Their first several lps were an eclectic mix of the Andrews Sisters harmonies & swing, raunchy r’n’b, country, blues, pop & eventually, high energy dance music. The retro big band sound had been heralded by Bette Midler but the Pointers took it in a less camp direction.

I remember seeing them on Carol Burnett’s show doing Shaky Flat Blues. I have The Pointer Sisters (1973), That’s A Plenty (1974), Steppin’ (1975), Energy (1978),  Break Out (1983). I loved the dense harmonies on songs like Jada, the funky energy of Wang Dang Doodle, their take on Springsteen’s Fire. As they progressed their look change too from the almost church late’s 30’s look to a take change shirts & high-heels disco look. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection are The Ray Charles Singers: Songs For Latin Lovers – a great version of Desafinado – more sweet harmonies. The Manhattan Transfer: The Best of – featuring Java Jive; Swing: this is another group that mined retro 40’s, 50’s with bouncing harmonies, great orchestrations & even some ‘original work’ like the Twilight Zone & Birdland – the hits collection is excellent.

Now a deeper step back in time with some real cabaret stars. First is a great fake-live album by Marlene Dietrich: Wiedersehen mit Marlene. The audience reactions are from her actual shows but have been layered onto some studio recordings. Next is the legendary Mabel Mercer: The Art Of, which includes  Little Girl Blue (later done by Janis Joplin). She has gravelly gentle voice with an unhurried jazzy take on classic songs. Jaye P. Morgan, a nightclub singer who became a TV personality (or maybe it was the other way around) with a sweet voice for songs like My Heart Belongs to Daddy.

Finally the legendary Bobby Short: Live at Town Hall. He has one of those jazzy voices that is an acquired taste – urbane, slightly naughty & sophisticated. This is a fun set of show tunes, jazz standards & a nod to pop music of the time. If you want to dabble in cabaret singers Mabel Mercer is your best bet.

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Gunn Mann

Soundtrack composers are easy to dismiss for the mass appeal of their work – populist & therefore shallow. Henry Mancini is one such composer. The range of his musical ability is staggering when one looks at the span of his career. Academy awards only testify to the popularity of his work not of its quality.

Also with time, even his timeless pieces have taken on a sort of nostalgic campy quality. A song like Moon River seems quaint. I have always loved his music for Peter Gunn & have the original TV soundtrack. When you get past the Arch of the Cue Balls you have a fine, state-of-the-jazz art album that can stand with anything by, say, Horace Silver.  Quincy Jones Plays Mancini is a great set of covers. I love Baby Elephant Walk.

I guess I am a Herbie Mann fan, at least of his work up to the mid-70’s. The first Herbie Mann I heard was Push Push way back in 1971. I loved it & the use of harp in jazz was a revelation. I had that lp & replaced it with the cd. I found the double lp Evolution of Mann remaindered at Zellers & it covered the earlier part of his career, eventually I did the conversion from lp to cd. Stone Flute, & Gagaka I also had as lps at one time & both are stunning sets.

As mp3 I have by Herbie Mann:  Flute Flight 1957, Flute Soufflé 1957, Do The Bossanova 1962, The Complete Latin Band Sessions w Chick Corea 1965, Impressions of the Middle East 1966, Gagaku & Beyond 1976, Two Amigos 1990 w Dave Valentine, Beyond Brooklyn 2004 w Phil Woods. Stand-alones: lp to cd transfer of Evolution of Mann: a sort of hits collection; Stone Flute 1969 meditative with strings includes stunning take on The Beatles ‘Flying’, Push Push 1971 w Duane Allman Gene Bianca on harp. 

Mann was a world music fan before it was on trend. He explored Latin, Japanese, Northern Africa music with musicians from those areas. He steeped himself  in the sound & sensibility & co-created memorable music. I love the Gagaku work. Where to start? I’d go with Push Push. Don’t let his hairy shoulders put you off.

Rounding out the Mann mp3 cd compilations are: Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin’, Moving’ Along. Early work by Wes with his trademark fluid jazz guitar. Stanley Jordan: Magic Touch – modelled after Wes, another deft guitarist. Art Pepper: The Trip – excellent sax with more of a hard bop edge. Some mid 50’s sleaze adventures, where you feel the tassels twirling around your nose as you listen: Strip Tease 50’s Classics: by the likes of Dave Rose, Sonny Lester – songs like Strip Poker, The Stripper; Buddy Bregman: Swinging Kicks. Burlesque A Go-Go: various rock-a-billy for peelers.

Perhaps the ultimate Bond soundtrack by John Barry: Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey delivers the best Bond title song of all time. Finally as a break from all that:  Don Slepian: Electronic Music From The Rainbow Isle – a moog, computer music pioneer; Szatvari Csaba: Galilei’s Nightmare – new ageish sound textures.

Take The Plunge

the room was full

maple leaves sumac oak

aspen poplar beech

more leaves than the eye could see

could gave names to

rose lilac no flowers just leaves

stacked

each one tagged 

ready to be discarded

<>

leaves fluttering chafing rustling

at each breath I took

whispering to each other

that I was there

shuddering 

at the sight of my rake

they feared the rake

<>

the brown big bag behind my back

wasn’t going to hold them all

I’d need more bags

more rakes

<>

the leaves trembled in anticipation

to be stuffed crammed

longing to be taken outdoors

to become compost

for future leaves

<>

I didn’t know where to begin

were there stairs

the house was crammed

floor to ceiling

nothing could be seen

leaves crumbling 

stumbling 

over one another

more arrived every minute

squeezing though cracks in the wall

down the chimney

<> 

it was an endless task

I began raking 

pulling them from under chairs

bag after bag

line the curb

yet the house never emptied

all around me 

the swirl of leaves

green red black pointed waxy

I couldn’t get down the stairs

my rake was useless

they no longer had fear

no bags left and there were more

<>

catalpa palm smoke tree

I climbed out to the porch roof

the street was an ocean

the bags I had tenderly packed

had all broken open

children where running and playing

diving through the leaves

never touching the ground

unaware of the dangers

beneath the glorious tempest of leaves

<>

I took the plunge

(2008)

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Ottmar Romero Arthur

By German guitarist Ottmar Liebert I have stand-alone cds: Nouveau Flamingo (1990), Borrasca (1991), Solo Para Ti (1991), The Hours Between Night + Day (1993). He’s classified as new age but for me is more ‘interesting’ than that label. An amazing acoustic guitarist his playing is precise, emotionally appealing & rarely sleep inducing – sleepy is what ‘new age’ implies to me. His sound is consistent through the cds I have & this there is a predictability to the music but it always a welcome presence. The lps become progressively more reflective & less flamingo. If you are unfamiliar Nouveau Flamingo is a great start.

Another fine acoustic guitarist is Brazil’s Romero Lubambo. I have his as part of Trio da Paz’s Black Orpheus (1994), & his solo Lubambo (1999). Both are amazing latino jazz with a touch of folk. The Black Orpheus is an incredible reworking of that sound track. The original soundtrack is also sensational & was responsible for the rise of world music – the film is also amazing. The Trio is joined by the likes of Herbie Mann in their exploration of the soundtrack. His solo work is less folksy, more jazzy & timeless. Very different from the Liebert treatment of latino music – not as slick. Some of it moves from jazz into contemporary classical. Both of these are worth searching out.

Now we come to Hawaiian Arthur Lyman. I have The Best Of 1996 (compilation): American jazz vibraphone and marimba player. His group popularized a style of faux-Polynesian music during the 1950s and 1960s which later became known as exotica. Exotica is a fun blend of cocktail piano jazz with jungle sound effects – bird, monkeys – plus percussion. Songs would have titles like Sleepy Village Sunset. 

Lyman came by his faux by being real a Hawaiian. His piano playing is thoughtful & easy but don’t mistake it for gimmick. He influenced Dave Brubeck & countless other more serious jazz pianists. Exotica  itself spilled over into what became World Music. Countless groups, from Santana to Pink Floyd, also used sound effects so the Lyman influence transcend his niche. Try him you won’t be disappointed.

Arts und Krafts

Kind readers, one thing your reporter neglected to mention in my wee report yesterday was the Christmas Arts und Krafts display at St. Sufferer’s Cathedral’s Fun Fair. Like many of you I have seen my share of knitted booties for rifle stocks and candle holders made out of moose dung but there were some unexpectedly fine pieces from the near by College of Arts and Reconstructionist Designers of Palmixalitato County.

I am well aware of the rivalry that has been going on between the students in that county and our own but remember we did trounce them the last three years in the Provincial Open Court Peach Pit Curling Play Off. So we can afford to allow them to excel at something and excel they did at the Fun Fair.

There were the many charming crystallized bones pieces from the Anatomy of Design classes there. I was particularly taken by the crystallized moose bone reproductions of the Departments of the Cross that one Leslie-Ann Marie-Betty McDellon had created. 

I can’t imagine what sort of skill it takes to do such fine work but I can certainty respect the work that it took. 

Also many were charmed by the spiderwood furniture Gregh O’Treple has wrought there. A sturdy eight legged rocking chair with a fine webbed seat and back was very comfortable to sit in for long periods of time. He hopes to follow in the family footsteps and may be opening his own furniture and restraints shoppe right here in Crab Apple Corners. He will surely be missed in Palmixalitato County. But their misery is always our gain.

Another feature of the Fun Fair that cannot be neglected was the food pavilion. Over 20,000 were seated at one time for a fine feeding of Trish Creamly’s delicious sprung bark toffee pie. Trish you have out done yourself this year. Just save that recipe for my wedding reception. I know if you keep your hands on the crust you’ll keep them off my man – just kidding folks.

The children at the Fun Fair were also treated to a production by the local Armature Theatre Guild. They performed tragic scenes from various plays. The beheading of John the Baptist brought the crowd to their feet and kudos must go to Hank Grebly who did a fine job in the title role of that piece.

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