Posts filed under “Friday Night Jazz”
Books & Music.
This began over the summer — I was done with my book, and I really wanted to read something mindless, having nothing to do with Wall Street or Washington DC.
That’s when I started reading Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of “Pink Floyd. To paraphrase, reading about music is like dancing about architecture.
However, it mis much less an abstract experience when you can combine the two.
What made the book so interesting is that many years ago, I had been given as a gift the Shine On [BOX SET].
(I think you can see where this is going).
It is quite an intriguing experience reading about the early days of a seminal rock band, while listening to each of their albums in sequence and simultaneously with each relevant chapter.
This may be terribly obvious, but I had never done this before.
The Pink Floyd book is by Mark Blake, and I am about 2/3rds of the way through it — past the Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals — and its terrific mindless fun.
I don’t know how many BP readers are Floyd fans, but I can imagine it would work for any major artist or band with a significant catalog, a box set, a good biographer, and some Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll in their history: Think the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, CCR, — even the gloved one.
Its a fun way to kill some hours on the beach or where ever you like to chill out.
I will be interesting to see what other combos can be made . . .
Last year, we took an eclectic look at some of the lesser known works of Miles Davis.
Tonight, I want to go in the opposite direction, and simply focus on one disc: Kind of Blue.
Why? Well, it is the 50th anniversary of the recording of Kind of Blue.
If that is not reason enough, then consider the simple fact that it is Davis’ best-selling album. Indeed, it may very well be the best known jazz record of any artist, of all time.
Even though it was released almost 50 years ago, it still sells over 5,000 copies per week today.
In addition to its commercial success, it has come to be described by many Jazz critics as the greatest jazz album of all time.
Writing in AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted:
“Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of “So What.” From that moment on, the record never really changes pace — each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality.”
And Charles Gans of the Associated Press takes a look behind Davis’ masterpiece:
Today, the five tunes on “Kind of Blue” — particularly “So What” and “All Blues” — have become deeply embedded in the musical landscape. But at the March 2 and April 22, 1959, recording sessions, nearly all the tunes were new to the band members, who didn’t even have a chance to rehearse them. Davis gave the musicians written sketches of the scales and melodies, offering brief verbal instructions about the feeling he wanted on a particular tune.
Davis was moving away from bebop with its complex harmonies and improvisations structured around chord changes. The trumpeter asked his musicians to play in a modal style — a concept developed by pianist-composer George Russell — in which the musicians improvised on scales, with the soloists having more freedom to explore long melodic lines.”
The one jazz record to own even if you don’t listen to jazz — the band is extraordinary: John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on saxophones, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. I recently received a remastered CD of kind the album, thus retiring my scratchy hiss and pop laden vinyl version. (And another intelligent CD pricing: $6.99 at Amazon)
For those of you looking for some , check out NPR: Kind of Blue (54 minutes)
videos after the jump . . .
I have the lead quote in the this page one NYT Business section article on the Markets — which came out prior to this NFP: “Less-worse isn’t the same as better,” said Barry Ritholtz, chief executive of FusionIQ, a research firm. “We want to see ‘good.’ In order to grow profits, in order for earnings…Read More
Last week, we saw Continuing Claims decrease — proof, said the green shooters, of the imminent economic recovery. Only, not so much: Those of you (who can still afford the luxury of) a trusty Bloomberg will note the ‘exhaustion rate’ for jobless benefits – EXHTRATE – reveals that people are not leaving the pool of…Read More
I’ve mentioned Madeleine Peyroux in the past — most recently, in our Best of for 2007, where we noted “Her smoky voice and fresh soulful delivery are perfect for the mix of acoustic blues, country ballads, classic jazz and torch songs she sings.”
I happened to notice she is playing Town Hall on 06/18/09 (123 W. 43rd St. in New York) and that was enough of an excuse for a summer Friday Night Jazz.
For those of you not familiar with Peyroux or her fabulous vocals, she careens from a very Billie Holliday-like sound to Josephine Baker, Edith Piaf, even k.d. lang.
Her latest album, Bare Bones, is a mellow, enjoyable foray into the Peyroux mix of Jazz, Blues and Country. The odd song out that stands out compared tot he rest of the disc is the Steely Dan feeling song, “You Can’t Do Me.” Peyroux sings:
“You know I get so blue
And I go down like a deep sea diver,
out like a Coltrane tenor-man,
Lost like a Chinese war baby ? (gone, gone, gone!)
Blewed like a Mississippi sharecropper,
screwed like a high-school cheerleader,
Tattooed like a popeyed sailorman ? (gone, gone, gone)
I am glad to see she is having a little lyrical fun.
This album stands in stark contrast to her debut disc — 1996′s Dreamland — a stripped down showcase for her musical chops. The spare arrangements set off her voice well; most listeners were stunned to learn Peyroux was just a 22-year old Georgian living in Paris.
Her breakout album was Careless Love — a contemplative, moody, jazz foray filled with delightful moments of jazz perfection. For newbies and on a FNJ session, I would go with this disc. Its the album that can make you ask “Norah who ?
Half the Perfect World was a little softer jazz-pop. Its filled with familiar covers, a few surprises, and most of all, that wonderful voice. It is still worth a throw.
videos after the jump
Singer Peyroux Returns with ‘Careless Love’
NPR, October 3, 2004
Madeleine Peyroux’s Nearly ‘Perfect World’
NPR, January 16, 2007
It’s that time of year again!
Following our successful outings the past four years, we’re at it again. Our (belated) Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2008.
There are a gazillion Best of Lists out there (and one list to rule them all). Most of these lists aren’t relevant to adults (yes, I am now putting myself into the category of adult, about 26 years late). If you have a family, career, hobby, you probably don’t watch a ton of films or listen to 200 new CDs each year.
Hence, this list. Rather than cranking out yet another list of CDs you likely never even heard of (much less even heard), this is a more useful list: What a relatively informed music fan has been playing the hell out of all year. These are what was most frequently spinning in the car/ipod this past year — my personal soundtrack for 2008.
Let’s get busy:
• Elvis Costello & The Imposters Momofuku: One of the greatest rockers of all time returns to form. This disc reminds you why Elvis was so great — hard edged yet hook laden, rock-n-roll with catchy tunes, and as Elvis always does, lyrics that are both witty and acerbic. His none-too-subtle wordplay remains as clever as ever.
Is Costello really that curmudgeonly Englishman? His recent US television appearances (A Colbert Christmas, ) somehow belies the acerbic anger of his music. Perhaps writing whimsical melodies as counterpoints is the way he exorcises his raging demons.
Regardless, much of this disc sounds like the The Attractions have reunited, none the worse for the passing of the years. The classic early-Attractions organ, the driving rhythms all give Momofuku its familiar feel. I am a huge fan of Elvis, but especially the early work: My Aim Is True, Armed Forces, and This Year’s Model. No Hiding Place, American Gangster Time, Flutter And Wow, Stella Hurt and Pardon Me, Madam, My Name Is Eve could have fit in easily on any of those classic discs. Its a return to his 1977 song writing punk, and is Costello’s most straightforward album since Punch the Clock.
This CD has the added attraction (no pun intended) of being one of the most overlooked albums this year.
• Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters: Speaking of overlooked: The mellowest selection this year is this gorgeous stunner that slipped by nearly everyone. That is, until it won both Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album atthe Grammy Awards in February 2008.
The disc is lovely — cool and richly textured all the way through. As both a pure Jazz disc, and as a reinterpretation (homage really) to Joni Mitchell, it is a delight to listen to. The guest musicians are terrific: Hancock’s delicate piano playing matches well with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and they are joined by guest vocalists Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Luciana Souza, as well as Joni Mitchell herself. The sublime recording perfectly captures the poignancy and melancholy of the songs in their languid new jazz format.
Trivia: Not only did this disc face stiff competition from Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Amy Winehouse, and Vince Gill, but River was the first jazz album to win “Best Album Grammy” in over 4 decades. The 1965 winner was the brilliant Getz/Gilberto (Stan Getz and João Gilberto). Time will tell if River has the staying power of Getz/Gilberto — but its off to a good start.
I guarantee that any jazz fan will find this disc a wonderfully enjoyable diversion.
• Death Cab for Cutie Narrow Stairs: One part King Crimson, One part Coldplay, 2 parts Ben Gibbard.
I find this album vastly more satisfying than 2005′s Plans, which was too uneven, but had a few great songs. Narrow Stairs is more open, consistent, and has less of a restrained formulaic feel to it. Like Plans, it has a few high points, but doesn’t suffer the same weaknesses of the last album.
The first two songs — Bixby Canyon Bridge and I Will Possess Your Heart — are immediately recognizable as Death Cab’s, but have have a harder edge and a better (for lack of a superior word) flow. No Sunlight is a typical DCFC pop song, as is Cath…
Where the disc really soars is on Grapevine Fires, a song I played compulsively all year. Its a gorgeous melody, deftly using subtle instrumentation and lush harmonies to full effect.
If this is what Chris Walla’s production does, he should have been used by Coldplay (rather than Brian Eno). No one is going to accuse this disc of being overlooked. It haunted me most of the year, with melodies I could not get out of my head.
Bonus — the MP3 version is $5.
• Adele 19: Imagine a smarter, sober version of Amy Winehouse, and you get Adele Adkins. Her voice is bluesy, rich, voluptuous. In addition to Winehouse, her other influences include the likes of Etta James, Dusty Springfield, and Billie Holiday. Those 4 alone are reason to give this disc a whirl.
The jazz influence gives her voice a timbre, almost a world-weariness, far beyond her 19 years. Much of the disc itself is spare, stripped down. You can only produce songs like “Best For Last” or “Crazy For You” with just a bass, a piano, and Adele’s vocals with a very special voice, and she delivers.
Despite being a technical virtuoso, she knows what to do with her instrument, as opposed to the histrionics of a Mariah Carey. For those who say she has no Winehouse influence, listen to “Chasing Pavements” or “Cold Shoulder”).
• David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today I was such a big Talking Heads fan that I bought the last Eno/Byrne disc, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and actually listened to what was essentially an early experiment in mash ups, loops and recording technologies.
This disc is nothing like that earlier effort. First off, it was made to be listened to, a huge improvement over the prior effort. The new album is intriguing and surprising in how accessible and interesting the songs are.
Surprisingly, this is the closest to a Heads album we have heard from him since the end of the T-Heads. Given how prolific and eclectic Byrnes has been since then, that’s saying something.
Byrne himself has described the music as ”folk electronic gospel” to which I would add new age, pop and ambient.The music is slow-to-midtempo, and Eno’s effervescent sonic gloom always nearby. Yet despite this, the disc is uplifting. Its sublime, kinda bizarre — and very listenable.
Bonus: $5 MP3 download of the album too good a deal to a pass up.
I got off to a late start working on my annual “different” music list. I have about 10 discs this year that qualify, and I wanted to see what I missed over the last few months.
One thing that surprise dme were the number of discs I went to check out that they were all available in MP3 format at Amazon — 50 Albums for $5 dollars or less.
At the same price, I prefer the physical format — but at $5 and under, the MP3s are a no brainer.
Amazon has a number of promotions going on. One is 25 days of free holiday music in MP3 formats. I downloaded Calling on Mary by Aimee Mann, Midnight Clear by Andreas Vollenweider, Ave Maria by Heart, Coming Home For Christmas w/Victoria Shaw… by Jim Brickman.
100 Days, 100 Nights (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings)
Strange Overtones (by David Byrne and Brian Eno)
Here’s a few highlights from the increasing selection of reasonably priced ($5.00) downloads:
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
David Byrne and Brian Eno
Viva La Vida
Well, given what a mad week/month this has been, and how overdue this is, its that time: Without further adieu, Satchmo:
I’m sure you’ve heard a Louis song or three: Hello Dolly, When the Saints, What a Wonderful
If that’s all you know of Satchmo, you are missing out. Considering his innovations as an artist — amazing song-writing skills, unique vocals, mastery of the Coronet and the Trumpet, especially his stratospheric solos — these well known ditties are practically boring.
Oh, and after he forgot
the lyrics on the 1927 song "Heebie Jeebies," he invented Scat singing.
He was one of the most influential musicians in jazz history, setting new standards for originality and invention.
There are a couple of ways to get to know the works of Louis Armstrong: The most basic is to grab one the Best Of discs. For those of you who want to go this way, try the The Definitive Collection.
The collector types are more inclined to go for the complete earlier years, including his various ensembles known in this box set: The Hot Fives & Sevens. (Note that Columbia version is considered a much inferior remastering: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings).
But of all of the Louis Armstrong works out there, none are more delightful than the many duets he recorded with Ella Fitzgerald. Aside from the small fact that her voice is incomparable to any female jazz singer before or since, there is a strange and beautiful complementary combination that is so unique and incredible. I can listen to these all day long — they are unique works of art.
You can also check out Porgy & Bess soundtrack, but that is more for fans of that show.
(NOTE: There are all manners of different variations of these, so look at the song list before buying variations of the same album.)
From a WSJ article this past summer:
"From 1925 to 1928, bandleader and trumpeter Louis Armstrong led a recording group, known as the Hot Five and Hot Seven, through nearly 90 recordings. These tracks are now considered among the most seminal, enduring and influential recordings not only in jazz but in American music and include "Big Butter and Egg Man," "Hotter Than That," "Struttin’ With Some Barbecue," "Potato Head Blues," and "S.O.L. Blues." In these dozens of sides, Armstrong abandoned the traditional collective improvisation of New Orleans-style jazz and almost single-handedly transformed the music from a group art into an art form for the soloist. He left behind two- and four-bar breaks of earlier jazz in favor of entire choruses of improvisation. In the 1920s, Armstrong would, more than anyone else, take the role of soloist to new heights in American music.
Besides his technical mastery, what else set him apart? His big, beautiful tone; his rich imagination as a soloist; his perfect sense of time; his deep understanding of the blues; his projection and authority; and the force of his musical personality.
And he boasted a gift for personalizing the material he recorded, transforming it into music that is unmistakably his in sound and style and ownership. The essence of jazz — making something new out of something old, making something personal out of something shared — has no finer exemplar than Armstrong."