Posts filed under “Digital Media”
The most interesting Jazz album I have heard this year has been Herbie Hancock’s tribute disc to Joni Mitchell — River: The Joni Letters.
Mitchell’s poetic folk and jazz style lends itself well to a more pure jazz interpretation, and Hancock does just that. It does the material great justice.
Considering how fabulous the disc is, it sold next to nothing before winning a Grammy for Album of the Year — and not a whole lot more since. That’s a shame, as it is a cool delight. Perhaps last year’s messy and inconsistent A Tribute To Joni Mitchell is to blame… except for k.d. lang’s languid version of Help Me, the rest of the album was mostly a bust.
That’s a shame, because this album really deserves a chance to shine on its own. Hancock is a legendary jazz musician, keyboardist, and producer. His star-studded list of vocalists includes Corinne Bailey Rae ("River"), Norah Jones ("Court and Spark"), Tina
Turner ("Edith and the Kingpin"), Luciana Souza ("Amelia"), Leonard
Cohen ("The Jungle Line"), and Mitchell herself ("Tea Leaf Prophecy"). Saxophonist Wayne Shorter adds a smooth and mellow flavor throughout.
One of the highlights of the disc is River (see video below). Hancock creates a fine balance between jazz improvisation and adult pop. Listen to how he arranges this song, pulling its jazz essence to the fore, while Corinne Bailey Rae wraps her voice perfectly around this Mitchell composition.
Perfect for our Friday Night Jazz session . . .
Herbie Hancock featuring Corinne Bailey Rae – River
Saw ‘em live a few times, most recently on Wednesday night at the Beacon Theater. If you ever get a chance to see a concert in a small venue with large artists, its a very interesting experience (3rd row center doesn’t hurt either).
Their music is characterized by "complex jazz-influenced structures
and harmonies, literate and sometimes obscure or ambiguous lyrics,
filled with dark sarcasm." They are known for their "adroit musicianship
and studio perfectionism." (Wiki)
I was trying to figure out the best way to recommend material from The Dan — which albums you must own — but I simply cannot offer up anything better than the 4 CD box set.
Steely Dan are justly famous for their use of "chord sequences
and harmonies that explore the area of musical tension between
traditional pop music sounds and jazz." These 4 CDs reveal a musical dynamism that is unmatched in modern
music. The lyrics are sardonic,
engaging and humorous. Indeed, it is one of the greatest catalogues in the annals of
pop/jazz music history. That’s one reason why Steely Dan makes my short list of greatest American Rock and Roll bands. (Note that on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums, Pretzel Logic is #385 and Can’t Buy a Thrill is #238.
Also of note: Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980 contains what may very well be the best Amazon review I have ever come across.
Your other option is to grab a few single discs. If I had to cut it down to just 3 CDs, here’s how I would roll: Surely, you can pick any of the five early Dan CDs — all are great — but my favorite is 1975′s Katy Lied ($7.97). The album saw took otherwise classic rock style songs, and arranged and played them in a jazz idiom. With Michael McDonald’s background vocals, the Dan infused a smoky Soul flavor. It was complex mashup of styles that worked wonderfully.
My second disc choice has to be the great Aja, a groundbreaking 1977 CD. It was a favorite of audiophiles, stunned recording engineers, oh, and dominated FM radio for a year. Aja was even more heavily jazz-influenced than Katy Lied, and was graced with top-notch jazz musicians: Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter and Chuck Rainey.
Aja won numerous awards, shot into the Top Five in the U.S. charts within three weeks of release, and was one of the first American LPs to be certified ‘platinum’ for sales of over 1 million albums. It was that good. Aja is #145 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums. If I have any complaint about this slick disc, it was that the radio play was so overwhelming it became a bit played out way back when.
The third selection is Donald Fagen’s solo disc, The Nightfly (a previous Friday Night Jazz selection). Even if you get the Dan box set, you have to add this CD to the mix. The WSJ called The Nightfly "one of pop music’s sneakiest masterpieces" and I think that moniker fits well. The key to this is the music’s timeless quality. It was retro back in
1982, and over the years, has never grown to sound tired or even of a specific era. It remains fresh, even 25 years later.
Not only did the CD win critical acclaim amongst the jazz and pop
reviewers, but the disc delighted audiophiles of all stripes. You see, The Nightfly was one of the first fully digital recordings of popular music. Add to that the usual crisp, sleek production The Dan were famous for, and you have a recipe for a phenomenal recording.
Any of the above provides a rewarding aural experience. These are amongst the best music from the 1970s/80s era, and indeed of all time.
Before we jump to the videos, one little bit of trivia: Since both Becker & Fagen were avid readers of 1950′s "Beat" literature, they decided to name the band "Steely Dan" after a dildo in William Burroughs’ "Naked Lunch" . . .
videos after the jump.
They call it a"back-of-the-napkin analysis of the lifetime worth of the most requested rock
tune in history:"
"In the big, bad game of rock and roll, “Stairway to
Heaven” is undeniably a winner. Released by Led Zeppelin in 1971, the
eight-minute song is considered a musical masterpiece and is one of the
most-played rock tunes of all time. Proving its longevity, “Stairway” hit the
U.K. charts again last fall and was a top download in the U.S., after Zeppelin’s
first downloadable album launched on iTunes. But because the band is notoriously
protective of its work, “Stairway” hasn’t met its full moneymaking potential.
While other artists have made big bucks by licensing songs to Hollywood and
Madison Avenue—think of Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick” in that Victoria’s Secret
commercial—Zeppelin has shunned most opportunities. We consulted executives in
the music, advertising, and entertainment industries to come up with some
numbers, real and potential, for the value of “Stairway."
That seems a little rich to me, but hey! It is Stairway. . .
Portfolio July 2008 Issue http://www.portfolio.com/culture-lifestyle/culture-inc/arts/2008/06/16/Stairway-to-Heavens-Revenues
Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)
November 8, 1971
Led Zeppelin to Make Its Songs Available Digitally
NYT, October 15, 2007
Videos after the jump . . .