Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Last week: Squier; worst band; jazz in Sq Hill

Playing right now: Booker Ervin - That's It!

I went to Jerry's Records yesterday and even though I had a boatload of albums that I want to listen to, and several that I need to review in the coming week or two, I had to buy this Booker album. He was a tenor sax player best known for his work with Charles Mingus on albums like Mingus Ah Um. And I'm pretty sure was connected with the "Texas tenor" style, because he was really soulful and had a beefy sound. But hearing him in the context of a quartet, w/o Mingus' dynamic personality, he sounds a bit like Coltrane, tone-wise. Which is no slight to either of those guys. This is a good album. Plus it has Pittsburgh native Horace Parlan on the 88s, along with his steady trio mates Al Harewood (drums) and George Tucker (bass).

The other album I bought at Jerry's was Billy Squier's Don't Say No. Now, I hear you laughing out there. "Billy Squier, what the hell? 'The Stroke' is a goofy kinda dumb song." Well yeah, "The Stroke" might not be "Misty Mountain Hop" but it's fun and it's bride price gets upped when it's in the company of "My Kinda Lover," "In the Dark," and "Lonely is the Night." FOUR CLASSIC ROCK SONGS ON ONE ALBUM??!?! C'mon, brothers and sisters, when was the last time you saw someone do that? You think Blink 182 or Green Day is capable of that? I'll answer that for you. "No." Plus some of the deep cuts on Don't Say No are pretty nice pieces of boogie rock too. In short, Billy did everything Foreigner tried to do, and did it a lot better. He's the template, man.

Plus, I've heard it said that Mr. Squier fancies the men instead of the ladies, which boosts his cred with me even a little more. I mean, Rob Halford --- sure, I guess you saw that coming, unless you miss the clues like me. I wore the same studded wristband in the early '80s, but I thought it was punk rock, not heavy metal and I thought Halford was your typical sexist dude who could found in the front row at the strip club with Vince Neil.


But I'm getting offtrack. So Billy Squier is gay too. More power to him. Where is he these days? I want to add him to my list of people whose touring band I would like to join. Billy, if you're reading this, I'm a bass player of 20 + years. I'll play "The Stroke." Do I have to sing on key?

Speaking of bands of dubious merit......
When is someone going to come out and tell the truth about the band Morningwood -- that they're the worst band around at this moment. Surely I can't be the only one to feel this way. But since nobody else has come out and said it, I will:

Dear Morningwood,

You guys are horrible and I feel really embarassed for your singer. Sure she has a great set of pipes, but all that gesticulating during songs makes me think that you find your gestures clever and witty when in fact you just look, um.....really embarassing.

I first stumbled across them when they opened for Gang of Four last year, which was ironic because Morningwood seemed like the type of band that somehow would have wound up on a bill with Go4 in the early '80s. They really sounded like the kind of band that existed in the 80s that was somewhere between Pat Benatar and "quirky" rock. During the set, the singer - whose name I would know if I was more responsible, but that would require another run downstairs, which I don't feel like making at the moment - added to her performance by putting on a headband and doing aerobics during the guitar solo; did the move-the-hand-down-in-front-of-the-face-change-expression-from-happy-to-sad thing that we all learnend when we were 14. Ever seen an insecure person try to win people over with jokes that aren't funny? Know how that makes you feel? Yeah, that's how I felt.

The reason all this is coming back to me now is that Morningwood was on David Letterman last week and I had to watch to make sure that they were the band I saw open for Gang of Four and that they were indeed as awful as I remembered.

The answers were yes and yes.

The band's whole shtick seems very early '80s, which is the time when I was in high school. Said singer reminds me of someone who might have been in the drama club. A normal gal; not nubile, maybe a tad chunky -- and let me say now that, despite what I feel about this band, it's nice to see a female singer that ISN'T nubile and pre-fab -- who knows how to sing. And decides to give this rock music thing a show, acting mock-sexy, but funny at the same time.

That's the only way you can explain the moment during last week's performance when she turned around, leaned backwards and gave her body a good shake. Was she making fun of go-go dancers? Did she even think it through that hard? Well, it looked bad.

In conclusion: Morningwood -- worst band at the moment.

I dug out some of my Charlie Parker Verve albums last week. There was an original copy of a Parker Verve album up for auction and I was going back and forth on it. Twice now, the bidding opened at $3 and no one bid. It looks to be in fairly decent shape, outside of a few album cover wear marks. But I have all the tunes. The album is called Swedish Schnapps and features mostly quintet stuff with both Miles Davis and Red Rodney. All of it is one volume 2 of the Verve two-fer that I have. Of course, it'd be cool to have the original, but after I play it a few times, would I ever go back to it? Hell, I almost forget I had Mulligan Meets Monk until yesterday. (I played it over breakfast today. See previous listings commentary.)

One of you reading this (is there anybody out there?) should bid on it. It's a great record. Take the temptation away from me.

But in listening to those Verve albums I realized that I don't like a lot of the Bird With Strings sessions. The first one, with "Summertime" and "Just Friends," that included Mitch Miller in the orchestra, are pretty good, but the 1950 sessions just don't seem to gel that much between the arrangements and his playing. The early ones have a sense of adventure to them at least, especially "Summertime," which is downright haunting. The rest are kind of nice.


Last Friday, I went to Gullifty's in Squirrel Hill to see my buddy Don Aliquo play. Gullifty's just started having jazz in the past few months and I've been meaning to get in touch with Don again. We met when I decided to do a story on him for InPittsburgh in 2000 and we've kept in touch. Although it's been close to 2 years since I last saw him. Sure enough, on Friday morning I heard a plug for this gig on WDUQ, so I decided to check it out.

He sounded really good, and the group he had included the drummer that I like best behind him. John Schmidt. This guy really knows how to light a fire under a band. Trumpeter Sean Jones sat in for a few songs. He really seemed to have a Dizzy style going during some of his solos, but the way he constructed things was pretty innovative and also it complemented and Don, and maybe even gave him a kick behind to get him to play even better.

In closing I have to mention that I grew up in Squirrel Hill and even though there were occasional shows at the American Legion Hall on Forbes back when I lived with my folks, Squirrel Hill was never really a live music 'hood. So it was pretty mind-boggling when walking out of Gullifty's at 1:30 that I wasn't on the South Side or the Strip or even a block from my house in Polish Hill. I was on Murray AVenue, the area where residential tranquility and commerce come to commingle. And it's only a mile from my folks' place.

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