Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday music of a different kind

The wife and I got some time to go out tonight without the kid so we went to Gooski's. Might sound like a squandered night out to some people, but we had a great time.

Among the songs we played on the jukebox while we were there, having drinks and eating wings, I played "Out From Blown Speakers" by the New Pornographers and "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television. Talk about a couple of songs that'll get your heart pumping. I didn't realize that LJJ was the uncut full version of the song, without a fadeout in the middle. I love that song anyway, but when the second guitar solo kicks off, man, it goes into outer space. I think that's Verlane soloing there and there's that moment where he gets locked into a string-bend and it's like he's really trying to channel Coltrane. Maybe he doesn't actually get there, but the fact that he takes a shot at it and has no inhibitions or delusions of grandeur - you can FEEL it in the way he plays - makes it so powerful. Plus the rhythm section is really grooving too.

"Out from Blown Speakers" is from the second Pornographers album The Electric Version. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but when that came out in 2003 or so, I thought it was going to save the world. I hadn't heard their first album but this one hit me over the head with a seventh chord. That's the way pop music in the new millenium should sound, it seemed to tell me. I was working at Pulp at that time, and I remember saying something in print about how I only allow myself to get hyperbolic two or three times a year, and that album was one of those times. It was so good to hear it tonight. So good without making me feel bad about those days of my life being over. (One of my ex-Pulp co-horts was sitting with me at the time too, coincidentally.)

Every Christmas Eve, I think back on certain Christmas Eves past and where I was. This year, I remembered 1981 in particular. That year, I was a freshman in high school. My great-aunt had just died a month prior, thus closing the door on that generation of the Cordic family to me. (My grandparents on that side had died before I was born.)
My brother John came over to spend Christmas Eve at the house and he brought with him a stack of vinyl by a bunch of bands I was largely unfamiliar with: okay, I knew Killing Joke but not their "Turned to Red" EP; Rip Rig & Panic's God was weird because it had a picture on the cover that appeared in Life, some band called the Birthday Party and an album called Prayers on Fire, which I thought had a song called "200 Music Girl" until I looked at the cover and realized it was "ZOO Music Girl."
There were probably a few others but those were the ones I remembered best. John played the solo piano track from RR+P in the living room and later we were in my room - me, Bre'r John, Tom and maybe young sister Claire - checking out the records. My piddly phonograph didn't have any bass signal which pissed John off.
It was a watershed time for me because I was just starting to realize that, yes, this punk rock stuff that John listens to is really speaking to me and this is what I'm into and besides if kids in school are going to ostracize me, well I ought to give them a good reason to ostracize me.
That same day, I got a package I mail ordered from a record store in California: I got a used copy of Moby Grape's Grape Jam (oy.......) and a new copy of Talking Heads '77 (hmmm, what's this herky jerky stuff all about?). That was the crossroads for me: '60s fanaticism giving way to more modern music. The next morning, Tom would give me a copy of King Crimson's Discipline.
And a few days later, I would venture into Heads Together and buy the copy of Still by Joy Division because John recommended it and because they covered "Sister Ray."
I had absolutely no reference point for dark music like that at that point. The cover of "Sister Ray" was the closest thing to a reference point, but that was only one track on a double album by a band that couldn't be bothered to list their band members' names.
But I kept playing it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Coffee and jazz

Playing right now: Brook Benton - It's Just a Matter of Time [is that the correct title?]

Every Friday at work, I sample a different coffee for two hours. A couple months ago, I convinced the heads of the store to change the satellite radio to jazz for the duration of the sample. Usually at 1:00 p.m. - technically the start of the demo - I'm doing some last minute scrambling to get stuff together. Not this week. I was ready before 1:00 and not only that, after making the inner store announcement that I was starting, I walked onto the floor in time to hear Hank Mobley kicking off "This I Dig Of You." I should've taken it as an omen of good things to come. Because the music selection was pretty solid - Monk's Blue Note version of "Misterioso," some Jazz Messengers, some solo Lee Morgan which I think came from The Rumproller, which I still need to get one of these days.

When I was getting ready to leave around 7:30, they still had the jazz on and Bobby Timmons' trio version of "Moanin'" came on. One cat who works there wondered who it was because he said he didn't like it. I assured him it's a great version and that he just misses the horns that he knows from the Art Blakey version. I just bought that Timmons album last week and it kicks serious butt. He was a real bad ass. He did just as much for hard bop as Horace Silver, he just died young. I might go burn that album to disc for my work buddy now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A reunion show? I'm there

Playing right now: Nothing but the gentle lull of the space heater in the baby's nursery.

The last couple shows I attended were both reunions of bands that I used to see between two and 10 years ago. What kind of person am I becoming? One of those people (let's call them "new parents") that eventually only goes to one gig every six months on the stipulation that it has to be something that reminds them of their past?! Uh oh..........

Alright, I'm exaggerating a bit.

The first of these shows was indeed a reunion, in this case the band was Blogurt, which included my dear friend and musical comrade Aimee, who honked on the bassoon before she gave it up for the drums and a new band with me. They played at Gooski's right around Halloween. [Yeah, I'm slow on the blogging, and desparately trying to improve....] Their initial run took place in the early '90s, fronted by a tall schnoz of a guy named Dave, with another Dave being the other mainstay of the group. The first Dave's brother was with them on this recent night, filling the second guitar seat.

It was a good set. I could tell they were all really working hard to keep the music together because they were underreheared. But they are all such good musicians that it sounded really good. They just didn't take it to the level where they could all rock out onstage. So, all in all, it was a good night.

The second show was the CD release for the Breakup Society, who released Nobody Likes a Winner on Get Hip. Also on that bill was BS frontman Ed Masley's old band the Frampton Brothers. That band was together throughout the '90s. It was while they were playing that I made the observation about only being out at reunion shows. If I was REALLY neurotic, I'd let that freak me out. But I'm not. I'm just looking for fodder for blog entries. (By the way, it was a good show by both bands and Ed's still an amazing songwriter. I believe that so much, I'll be saying it in print in some magazine somewhere soon.)

After thinking , when my son was born, that I'd hang the bass up, possibly for good, I went back on that idea and returned to the stage Thanksgiving weekend. The Living Praise Choir had a show at Howler's but their current bassist (or my fill-in, depending on who you ask or how you look at it) couldn't make the gig, so they asked me.

I told them that I hadn't picked the instrument up in seven months and that I didn't have time to practice. But I remembered the songs, so I could do it if they were cool with that caveat. They said yes.

So sure enough, I listened to the disc of their recent set on WRCT, figured out the arrangements for the new songs and felt like I was ready to go. I got the bass out of its case about an hour before we played. That was the first time since the Amoeba Knievel show (which happened when Donovan was four days old) that I touched the instrument. I wasn't as fast around the fretboard, but I wasn't blistering up my hand either. We all agreed that the band was missing something w/o lead guitarist Rob, but we had a good time. The other bands - Black Bear Combo from Chicago and Ishtar from here - played sort of Eastern folk musics, albeit quite differently from each other and they played good sets.

Maybe someday I'll do another show. Or go to one.

Maybe I'll go the see Rufus Wainwright in January. (Sigh)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Jazz in prime time

Playing right now: Dionne Warwick - I Say a Little Prayer (on WJAS-FM)

Last night on CSI, they played "Very Special," a song from the Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach album Money Jungle. It was in a bar scene and it set the mood appropriately.
Someone who works on that show must have a good record collection.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Steady diet of Monk

Playing right now: Nothing. Earlier I was listening to a new CD by a bassist named Alper Yilmaz. It's a little electric, with a lot of rhodes and alto and soprano saxes on the frontline, which makes for an interesting and unusual pairing.

I have distinct memories from my high school years about when I bought certain records. For instance, the day after Easter was always a big shopping day for me because we always had that day off from school. In 9th grade, I bought John Cale's Honi Soit; 10th grade, Soft Cell's The Art of Falling Apart and Echo & the Bunnymen's Porcupine and Dream Syndicate's Days of Wine and Roses. It gets a little fuzzy on the next 2 years. If I looked through my albums I could probably tell you. On a day that school was cancelled due to cold weather, I bought Arto Lindsay's first Ambitious Lovers album and Art Pepper's Smack Up.

And so on and so on.

Earlier this week, I pulled out Monk's Concert at Town Hall on Riverside with the big band. I think I bought that on Veteran's Day during 12th grade. I definitely remember that I had that Monday off and the night before, a band of kids that went to my high school had played a show at the Electric Banana. I was there and the show pissed me off because naturally I was jealous that it wasn't me up there. And also I thought they sucked. Me and a couple girls I knew split during the band's set and got pizza. I don't know how I wound up getting invited along because I wasn't part of their crew but I had a crush on at least one of them, so I was ecstatic to be invited.

So anyhow, I don't recall if that was Veteran's Day time or not, but we didn't have school the next day and I went and bought the Monk album at the Record Recycler. This was late '84 when Fantasy just started releasing OJCs, "Original Jazz Classics", that reissued all the great stuff that Riverside and Prestige put out in the '50s. Back in the pre-digital age, this was really the first chance to check out a lot of that stuff for a person like me who was just getting back into jazz. (A year later, Blue Note would come back to life too and start reissuing albums.) They were cheap too. I was reminded of this when recently buying a Coltrane OJC that still had the banner sticker on it with the $5.98 list price. (And the Recycler only charged $4.99!)

My Monk collection started right at that time and I chose so good ones to begin with. I had just bought Brilliant Corners which is probably one of his boldest albums. The writing on there was genius, plus he had both Sonny Rollins and the late alto player Ernie Henry on the frontline. Then I bought Town Hall which I still think is a great representation of his music. The extra horns really serve it well, bringing out the voicings of his chords. "Off Minor" has always been one of my favorite Monk songs and the version on this album is amazing. In the middle eight, the low brass really drives it along. No wonder I look back so fondly on that time. I had all that music to keep me company. Plus when I met my friend Steve Heineman at a party just a month or so later, I walked into his apartment and that album was playing. Man, did I think that was cool.

Funny, "Crepiscule with Nellie" is probably one of my absolute favorite Monk tunes but I didn't really dig it right away on that album. It doesn't have the romantic feel of some of the other versions of it.

I busted out that album a couple days ago and it still sounds as good as it did back then. I suppose it'll always be good music to usher in the fall.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

88 keys and I still had to break through the window

Playing right now: Paul Bley - Mondsee Variations (ECM)
I'm downloading it, and the player that I have does downloads in reverse, so I just finished Variation X and now Variation IX is on. I thought about listening to something else until it's done but I figured, it's taken me this long to listen to it, forget about order. I'll listen to it in the right order later (maybe), right now I just want to check it out.
I get so caught up in "the way you're supposed to listen to music" especially for the first time, so it ends up causing me to put off the first listen for a long time. "Oh, I can't get through all of it now." "I know I'll pay more attention while I'm driving, but I'll be at work in 10 minutes so why bother trying to make a dent in it now anyway."

So we have a looooooooooooot of catching up to do, peoples.

Last month Matthew Shipp played at the Warhol. Ben Opie opened the show, getting more surreal in his solo performance than I've ever seen - taking his horn apart at one point and blowing weirdly through various parts of it.
Matthew played a great set, seguing about 7 or 8 pieces together for one long continuous tune. He threw in some ballads, including "Angel Eyes" one of my favorite unsung cry-in-your-beer tunes that Nick Cave really ought to tackle. I had forgotten how interesting it is to watch Matthew's arms as he plays. They kind of roll around over the keys, like he' stemming the tide.
This reminds me that I need to get out my copy of One, his solo album.
After the show I got to talk to him a little bit. (I had interviewed him for City Paper a couple weeks prior, so it wasn't completely out of the blue.) He was really nice, and pretty talkative for someone who's also a bit shy. After a few minutes, he said, "So, you're a Lyndon Johnson buff, right?"
Now, here's the story. When I graduated from Pitt in 1993, I was a Johnson buff. I read his memoir (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography (very good). For about six months back then, I was really into LBJ's legacy. He was a lot of things, we all know, but dynamic, persuasive and troubled were a couple of them. So he's a good read. Plus he was a good ol' Texas boy that passed the civil rights bill, so there's a lot of variables here.
But how the hell does Matthew Shipp know this about me?! It's kind of like if Cecil Taylor asked me about recording at Noise New Jersey with Kramer.
OK, maybe not.
But you get the idea.
Matt was a little vague about it at first, but then he finally admitted that he looked me up online, and that's where he found it. Geez, I didn't know I was worth the effort. Or that this particular skeleton was readily available. I googled myself a few days later and found out that if you type in my name along with that of our 36th president it takes you to the profile on this blog.

Let's stick with the piano theme for this entry.

I think I'm getting onto a Monk kick again. Maybe I subconsciously realized he would've turned 90 this month were he alive.
I won a copy of Criss Cross on eBay a couple weeks ago. (I had a beat up copy of it, but never play it. And the same person auctioning this album also had a copy of Giuseppi Logan's first ESP album. AND I WON BOTH! Anyhow...) It's a pretty good album. And it made me get out Underground, another one of his Columbia albums, and play it.
Now I've always held that Monk's Columbia period had some high points, but that it mostly replayed his past achievements and wasn't as inspired as either the Riverside or Blue Note periods. (The later Black Lion albums were great, but maybe because they were the first time in a couple years that Thelonious was allowed to be himself and he really rose to the occasion. Or maybe it was because they came from just two sessions.) Also, all the Columbia albums are quartets with tenor man Charlie Rouse and a few different bassists and drummers. Charlie's great but sometimes I've been in the wrong frame of mind and his Monk-like approach and lack of sustain sometimes bugs me.
But I started to rethink that position and wondered if I need to buy all of the Columbia albums I don't have to be sure. I went to Jerry's on Monday - for the first time in over a month - and lo and behold, there was a copy of Straight No Chaser a Monk album that I'd put off for years. Typical me, here's what I thought : Hooray! Talk about timing.... Uh, I don't know. I just read that the CD version restores the tracks to their original lengths. Maybe I should wait and not get it. It's a reissue anyway. The label isn't 360 Sound..............[sound of frustration] IT'S FOUR DOLLARS. Buy it. The CD is going to be at least $10. And you never listen to it. And you won't read the liner notes for a month after you get it.
So I did.
And it's pretty good. There are a couple things on there that he hadn't recorded previously, like "Japanese Folk Song" which may or may not be one. (The liner notes state as much and I forget what the label says for a songwriting credit.) He redoes 2 songs from a Prestige album and they're both deep cuts to begin with, so it's cool hearing them revived.
All that Monk has me dreaming about the other discs I have by him - the Blue Note box (my first Mosaic purchase and one I got in high school; damn, I thought I has hip), the Black Lion box, the albums I bought used this year that I forgot I had.
"Carolina Moon" is on the Blue Note set and for whatever reason it's been in my head for about a week. Keep in mind this is - to use that phrase again -- a deep cut very much so. But last night I heard it at work, on the satellite jazz radio station. Is that crazy or what? I guess with those satellite stations, no song is too obscure, but I found it pretty cool that this was one that they would pull out. So I went home and dug out the box last night and played the side with that song on it. It was his final session for the label where he used three horns - unusual for the time - and recorded some really off kilter but brilliant songs.
I feel asleep before "Carolina Moon" came on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What, no Paul Chambers?

Playing right now: you mean in my head? I think it's Jimmy of those trio things. But not Free Fall. I bought that recently and that stuff is cah-ray-zee.
But seriously, folks the room is silent, save for the thump that Donovan just made in his crib. (Is that a hint, boy?)

Last week I bought a pile of records from a woman who had yard sale a few weeks back. At that time, she said there were a bunch of records in her house and that if I left my number she'd get back in touch with me. That usually never works, but this time not only did it work, but she also had a bunch of jazz. Good stuff too - lotta Blue Note that dated to the late '60s/early '70s, judging by the record labels.

For the uninitiated, Blue Note's labels changed slightly as the years went by: first they had a Lexington Avenue address on them, then the address changed to W. 63rd Street, then it simply said "New York, NY." Liberty Records later purchased the label so it said "a division of Liberty Records," and later it was a division of United Artists.
Lest I be neglectful: some of those early records had the coveted (and I'm not kidding) deep groove, which is the groove/impression underneath the label, just below the "33 1/3 Microgroove" on the label artwork.
These things get collector's slobbering. When I see one on eBay, it's more a case of "Wow, it'd be nice to have that, but oh well," during auctions. That mood changes to "People are crazy," when you see how much the winner bid on it.

I think I've talked about that in earlier posts, so let's get back to our story.

She took me up to the room where seven overstuffed boxes of records sat and yes, there was much jazz. The Blue Notes were folks like Stanley Turrentine and Duke Pearson, who I'm curious to hear. Mosaic Select reissued his albums in one mini box but some of the descriptions gave me pause. Now I can see for sure what he's all about. But I did find a nice copy of Lee Morgan's Delightfulee too.
I found a copy of the Fugs second, and best, album with the rare cover, the red shield with their bodies superimposed on it. And a mono copy of the Mothers' Freak Out.
All in all, I got a little over 100 pieces. That ought to hold me for awhile.
When I got home that day I was looking at the Mosaic catalog in my bathroom and saw the Paul Chambers set they have and it reminded me that I had been dreaming of finding a copy of his Blue Note album Whims of Chambers. Aw mannnnnnnnnn, I thought. And how about some Larry Young? A nice copy of Unity would've blown my mind. That came out around that time.

I can't be satisfied.

Friday, September 07, 2007

They Only Come Out at Night - Here's why

Playing right now: "Little Melonae" from the Miles Davis/John Coltrane box....

The following post was started almost a month ago, before the Max Roach post. I fell asleep while writing it, saved it as a draft and didn't get back to it till now....

Playing right now: Cecil Taylor - Indent (solo LP for Arista Freedom)
I've been getting back into Cecil a little bit lately. I got this record from that guy w/the massive LP collection, plus there's a '70s live album and the duets w/Max Roach that I all just bought recently.


A few weeks ago at work, they were playing the cool AM hits of the '70s satellite station and all of a sudden "Hangin' Around" by the Edgar Winter Group came on. That was surprising because, as good as that song is, I figured it was too deep a cut, following in the footsteps of "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride." ("Frankenstein" was played a few hours later, and two more times over the next couple days.)

That night I had to pull out They Only Come Out At Night, the EWG album that includes all over those songs. And it made me wonder why that album isn't held in higher regard. What a band -- for starters, you have Edgar, but his cowriting and singing partner was none other than Dan "Several years before 'I Can Dream about You'" Hartman. On top of that, guitar duties were handled by none other than Ronnie Montrose, who sounds like a killer axeman who never got much credit (aside from this album) except for being the guy who had Sammy Hagar is his band before Sammy went solo and later hit it big in Van Hagar. Just goes to show you how your career will tank when you call your album Jump On It and you put a picture of a woman's crotch on the cover.

But I digress....

Chuck Ruff was the drummer on They Only Come out and while he never went on to fame and fortune (as far as I know) he did have the long hair and dreamy eyes that could make a '70s girl swoon. With Rick Derringer producing, this album can't miss! And it really doesn't. Even Dan's sappy songs are pretty good. In "Autumn" the way they all chime in with the bridge does give it some degree of pathos: "Well I lost my looooover/ and my summer too." Kinda like when the Turtles sing a dumb lyric and those harmonies make it sound like poetry. You can hear the roots of "I Can Dream About You" if you listen hard, but the big really kicks it up.

Music geek tidbit: The mix of "Free Ride" on the album is different than the single. The latter has more wah-wah and a better guitar solo. I think the percussive, whacka-whackas have inspired some of my lead bass playing moments over the years.

So you need to own They Only Come Out At Night. It's great. Edgar's been trying to recapture that ever since and he's still trying. My friend Mike said he saw him at a Rib Cookout or some such event and it was really awful.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Joy Spring" not so joyful now.

Playing right now: Anthony Braxton - For Alto

Last night I had to drive to the CVS so when I got in the car I put the radio on. It was tuned to WDUQ and the song playing was in the middle of a drum solo. It sounded familiar, something I had probably listened to a lot when I was in college and got to know well. (This is a recurring subject to me - how there was a time I knew music so well I could pinpoint the player in seconds, something that doesn't happen now.)

Anyway, I thought it was Max Roach and if it was Max, it must be "Joy Spring" one of my favorite songs that Clifford Brown wrote and recorded with Max. Sure enough I was right. Ha cha! Another point for me.
Then an NPR announcer came on, talking about Max's start in music when he was 20. "At the end of his life...," he continued.

WAIT A MINUTE, I thought..........."the end"??

Yeah, Max died yesterday morning. And it bummed me the hell out. Maybe it's because I have a son now and I can see that whole circle of life thing happening in front of me. Maybe it was because I felt mildly depressed all day yesterday for no particular reason, and quite possibly, maybe, I won't say for sure....I was somehow picking up on the fact that another jazz legend - this time one from the upper echelon of groundbreakers - was gone. Maybe I was feeling sad because, when I got the paper off the porch yesterday morning, I saw a bird on the ground who was still breathing but on its way to death......and maybe it happened at the same time that Max left this world.

Yes, I know that the bird metaphor is better used for Charlie Parker, but it seems like a syncronicity worth mentioning. And if this sounds maudlin, take a look at today (8/17's) installment of the comic strip "For Better Or For Worse" and try not get really nauseated. What I'm telling is real.

Anyhow, this blog is quickly becoming a place where I write about recently deceased musicians, which says something about me and the world of music I guess. I won't dwell on the saddness of Max Roach's passing, or "what this means for jazz." You can read that in more depth and detail somewhere else. (Might I suggest I'm sure there's something good there.)

The one thing I will say is that Max was badass until the end. He didn't take any guff from people. He was a civil rights activist in the '60s. In the '90s he was an outspoken supporter of rap, saying it was the true representation of black youth. And he supposedly clocked an interviewer for disaggreeing. He was so badass he could play solid bop and then turn around and play with Cecil Taylor and hang with him as well as Andrew Cyrille or Sunny Murray. Check out Max's Columbia album Chattahoochee Red to see how he was still pushing modern ideas within a straight ahead structure. And a few years ago, he and Clark Terry made an album together that was really bold too.

I guess I just contradicated myself, expounding about the genius of Max as I just did. If you really want to pay your respects, listen to his solo on the Jazz At Massey Hall album during "Salt Peanuts." Listen to how he builds on ideas, until he has Dizzy screaming in excitement. Listen to any and all Clifford Brown/Max Roach albums. Me, I'm thinking of picking up We Insist - The Freedom Now Suite because it's pretty intense and scary and moving.

And that's the way heavy music should make you feel.

My dad once met Max at a show up in the Hill. He addressed my dad as "Mr. Shanley," although he was clearly older than Pop by a few years. My dad didn't feel right, and said he felt that he should be addressing this gracious fellow as "Mr. Roach."

Addendum 11/10/12: I've been getting literally about 10 spam comments a day on this post so I'm dismantling the ability to comment on it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

We lost another one, folks. I just talked to him.

Playing right now: Miles Davis - Complete Plugged Nickel set

As you might have guessed from previous entries, I get a little whistful or sentimental when I hear about the death of musicians I like - Andrew Hill, Alice Coltrane, most recently. Part of this is the whole idea that these people are irreplaceable. They were unique individuals and no one is doing things quite the way they were. Plus, I like holding onto things, and don't like the idea of people "leaving" us.

So today when I got word of the passing of Boots Randolph, it felt especially odd. Not because I'm a big Boots Randolph fan. Sure, I like "Yakety Sax" but I never bought any of his albums. His music was a little more of a punchline in my "serious" jazz tastes. He was more of a pop player, sort of like Herb Alpert (who I like, but that's a different story).

No, I felt odd because I might very well have been the last person to interview Boots before he fell ill and eventually passed at the end of June. I was definitely one of the last people to talk to him. JazzTimes had me interview him because he put out a CD of straight jazz tunes, the first ever in a career that yielded 50+ albums.

....Geez, I wonder if his message is still on my answering machine........

Anyhow, he was a really nice guy, in the old school gentleman sort of way. Polite, talkative, forthcoming, candid -- we started out talking about the US Open that was happening at Oakmont that week. "Is that ever a badass golf course!" He had just turned 80 about a week prior and didn't sound it. He was looking forward to going on the road to promote this album. Who know how long it was between our talk and the day he was admitted to the hospital. I could figure out the days but in another way, I don't want to. That's a little to do. I wonder if our conversation was still in his mind when he checked in.

Make your own jokes about me killing him. I'd rather not. He and I would probably both find it funny, though, so go ahead.

Oh, by the way, you can now buy ringtones of "Yakety Sax." Maybe that'd be a good homage.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stop me if you've read this one....

I really like Lee Morgan. If you were to ask who was my favorite all time trumpet players in jazz, he'd probably rank either first or second (behind Clifford Brown). He had a really unique solo voice - bluesy, funky, with a lot of those half-valve squirts - and was a great writer too.
So it's kind of ironic that I forgot the albumin the last couple entries his when listing all the records I bought . Charisma is the name of the album, which also features good ol' Hank Mobley.
OK, I think I finally listed all of them.


The theme of tonight's entry is the issue of buying too much music and not having the time to listen to it. Gone are the days when I could spend most of the eight-hour work day listening to music while I worked. Or having it be part of my main working gig. So that leaves the time that I'm home and the time I'm in the car. And when I'm home I want to spend most of that time with my wife and kid (or blogging), or sleeping.

Aw hell I'm whining again. Here's what I'm getting at...

I just bought a buttload of cds over the past couple weeks, plus I came home from 2 house sales last Saturday with about 40 records under my arm. The majority of them only cost a quarter each so I snatched up things that I might otherwise avoid.

The first sale had a Frank Sinatra album marked at $3, which was $2 more than the other albums. Fair enough, I guess. Ol' Blue Eyes can be sort of collectable. But in that same stack I found a Hank Ballard & the Midnighters album that's worth somewhere between $100 and $400. And the Isley Bros' Shout, original mono. $150 mint. Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits on Chess. $100. All of these were $1 each.

Funny the value people put on stuff.

The second sale was the quarter a piece one. I got there early but the folks didn't seem to mind. They had a fairly big stack of records out already but the guy kept bringing out more. And more. And more. After the fifth stack, he asked if still wanted to see more. Damn buddy, you want to sell them don't you? There were about 6 albums by Sandy "Let there Be Drums" Nelson, so I picked up two or three. I don't know, anymore seemed excessive. There was a nice copy of Grandpa Jones' Fifteen Cents is all I've Got, two Alvin & the Chipmunks albums (Songbook and ...Sing Dr. Doolittle). God Bless Tiny Tim. Three Connie Francis albums (same thing goes with Sandy Nelson. I don't need a copy of Connie singing "Oh Suzannah.)

They also had a bunch of '60s 45s. One I got was the Rolling Stones' "Lady Jane." I've always loved that song. The acoustic guitars sound so crisp. The harpsichord is a nice touch. And Michael Philip Jagger sounds less like the cad and more like the gracious gentleman in it. And when he sings the word "my love," he always sounded to me like he had a cold and was actually singing "by lub."

On top of all those, I bought about eight CDs over the past two weeks. Let's see if I can recall them:
Sonic Youth - Sister
David Torn - Prezens (has Tim Berne on it)
Roscoe Mitchell - Sound
Charlie Parker - Overtime (a comp that has pretty much all the Verve Diz/Bird/Monk masters, some Savoy and a one w/Lennie Tristano that I don't have)
John Coltrane - Traneing In

........I've actually listened to all of them at least once. I had to go the Maryland for work this week and swore I'd hole myself up in my hotel room with all the music and just listen in the evening. It sort of worked. But I kept falling asleep.

While in Maryland I found a beat up but playable original copy of Monk Plays Ellington, Antietam's Music from Elba and Franklin Bruno's Bedroom Community. I was happy to find them but felt like maybe I should take a break from buying stuff and get caught up with what I have. Record buying is losing its appeal. Oh now, I'm getting old!

Friday, June 01, 2007

How could I forget these?

Of course, there were a few records that I got in the record hunt (see last entry) that I had neglected:
Cecil Taylor - Indent
Sam Rivers - Crystals
Charles Tolliver - The Ringer

Those are three names that you shouldn't forget, but of course when you have piles of albums that are stacked with no rhyme or reason, it's easy to do that.

I won my first record in Jerry's Records jazz auction!! Finally got lucky. It's Wayne Shorter's Adam's Apple. I also bid on Bobby Timmons and Archie Shepp but didn't get them. Wish I could stay home from work and just listen to it today. I could stop up there, come home and listen to it and when I'm done listening to that, get into the CDs I bought yesterday: Albert Ayler's Love Cry and Sunny Murray's Sunny's Time Now. I checked them each out once already, but want to hear them again. In fact yesterday I drove around with Donovan in the car while playing Albert Ayler. Don't worry I kept the speakers in the back seat on low volume so as not to freak him out and have him do his own Ayler imitation.

I think I'm actually going to try to get to some estate/house sales this weekend. Jennie is having one here on Sunday in case anyone is interested. 10 a.m. No earlybirds, folks.

Dawn of the concept album

There's an article in the Post-Gazette about today being the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (I was in utero at the time of the release.) And guess what the first line/paragraph of the story was..........can you guess...........c'mon, you can see it coming.........................

"It was 40 years ago today."

Geez, oh pete, did they have to go for the obvious cheap line?! I read that news today, oh boy. I bet when people heard that album that thought "It's getting better all the time." And it really didn't matter if they were wrong or right. How many more Beatles lyrics can I throw down to make the point that I hate when people use that Entertainment Tonight fluffy style of writing. Plus they overlooked the fact that "A Day in the Life" was not merely a John song but the fusing of an unfinished John song with an unfinished Paul song, and probably the last healthy collaboration those two had.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The first big vinyl hunt of '07

Playing right now: Miroslav Vitous - Universal Syncopations II (upcoming CD on ECM)

This story happened about two months ago, but it was the kind of adventure for which this blog was created, so better late than never....

I was looking around on Craig's List and saw a posting for jazz and soul albums that I guy in Pittsburgh was selling. Ha cha, I thought, that's for me. I've never taken action on a Craig's List posting before but figured there was gold in them hills, so now was the time. It was about 11:30 on a weekday morning when I called and spoke to the seller's mother, who said the guy was still in bed. It was hard to tell from her voice how old she was or how old the guy might be. Between that call and a callback a few minutes later, we made arrangements for me to come and check them out the next morning. I had to work at 2, so 11 would be a good time to stop by.

When I went into work that afternoon, I mentioned my upcoming journey to a friend of mine who's as fanatical about vinyl as me. I asked if he wanted to come along and he said sure. The ad had mentioned something like "rare soul and jazz" and "make a deal for anyone buying a lot" so I figured this wasn't going to be a case of finding Hank Mobley Blue Notes or original Coltrane Impulse albums for a buck a piece. He probably wanted to sell things for what they're worth. My friend and I both decided we'd limit ourselves to $50 so we wouldn't go crazy.

The next morning we were greeted by a guy who didn't look a day older than 25. He took us up to his bedroom and let us run wild through the shelves of vinyl that he had. And it was insane. Doubles of original James Brown albums on King. Almost all of the Pharoah Sanders albums on Impulse. The Jazz Messengers (WITH MOBLEY!) on Blue Note, with the West 63rd Street address on the label. The Silhouettes album on Segue. I think there was some Nathan Davis on Segue too. This kid knew his stuff. I meticulously pulled bunches off of the shelves and looked at covers while my accomplice just made a big stack of stuff that looked interesting to him.

After about an hour we reached the saturation point. Neither of us wanted to look at anything else. Between the two of us, we scoured the shelves anyhow. There was an additional rack of psych and rock stuff which included Love's first and Forever Changes, but nothing I wanted.

I kept telling myself to keep a poker face when it came time to figure out a price. I had grabbed $70 thinking that the extra $20 might give me a little bit of leverage, to perhaps talk him down to $50 and get a better deal with the extra cash that I forgot I had.

Well, that mindset changed when he told my friend that his stack, about 70 albums high, would go for $300, to which my friend didn't bat an eye. Damn, brother, you're better at this than I am!

My stack was $150, or $100 without the Silhouettes album. I finally paired it down to $70 and got the following:

The West Coast Pop Arts Experimental Band - s/t
Jackie McLean Plays Fat Jazz (on Jubilee)
Dizzy Reece - Possession, Exorcism, Peace (a '70s album by the Jamaican-born trumpeter who did some albums on Blue Note during the '50s; unfortunately this isn't very good)
Bill Evans - Further Conversations With Myself (yellow label promo, mono)
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Jazz Cornver of the World Vol. 1 (see reference above)
Pharoah Sanders - Karma (my friend was cool enough to let me have this one, since I've wanted it for a while)
Joe Henderson - In 'n Out ('70s Blue Note reissue, still haven't played it yet)

Seemed like a good take: $10 per album, some of which were worth more than that, some less.

Oh and my friend? He bought $50 worth of his pile that day and went back the next day for the rest. Crazy, huh? He brought another co-worker who is even more into collecting than us.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

the weird 45 of the day that I loved in 1974

Playing right now: WJAS-AM. "My Kind of Girl" which I think is by Steve Lawrence.

When I visited my folks on Mother's Day, I grabbed a handful of 45s that I got from a neighbor when I was about 7 or 8. They were all radio promos, and most of them had the same song on either side, mono and stereo. Well, some of them are pretty rare, according to the Goldmine book. One is a 45 by Nolan Porter on ABC. I played it a lot and really liked it. Luckily it's not beat to crap because the book says a mint copy is worth $100. That's for the stock copy with an A and B side. Wonder how much a promo is worth.

Along with The Blast Furnace Band & the Grapevine Singers' "Hammerin' Hank," the other oddity is "Take Away Her Heart of Stone" by someone/some band named Kenny, on Atco. It's kind of a soul-doo wop '70s tune because there are back-up guys doing accompanying vocals. (My friend Eric and I always got a kick out of the basso guy's counter melody under the other's "HEART! Of stone." After the third shout of that phrase, bass dude comes in with something like "going to leave me on myyyyyy ownnn." Then the lead voice comes in. It's kind of falsetto and sounds like it was recorded from across the room, with reverb coming across it in the process. When I first heard it, it was hard for me to make out lyrics to songs that weren't on the level of "I Love Trash" but all these years later, it's still hard to make out what this shrieker is saying. But it's still catchy, with a good four-on-floor beat.

One of the producers on the record is Bill Martin, who could very well be the same Bill Martin that wrote songs for the Monkees. I think he wrote "The Door Into Summer" and definitely wrote "All of Your Toys" which didn't make it onto Headquarters because he wouldn't give up publishing rights. (It's on Missing Links and the complete Headquarters box.) The other producer is Phil Coulter who doesn't ring a bell to me.

Any Google search of the artist and song title only yielded copies of the single that people were selling. The title alone brought up bibilical references.

So the question remains - who is Kenny and what is the story behind "Take Away Her Heart of Stone"? My guess is it was recorded as a one-shot and when it didn't take off, Atco gave Kenny the heave-ho. But I'd love to hear any info that anyone has.

And by the way, I'm not going to part with this record. Too much sentimental value. And the stereo side is pretty scratched up anyway.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where's Howard Devoto?

Played a little bit earlier: Shelly Manne - Daktari
Music inspired by, or from, the tv show of the same name - can't say which, because I haven't read the liner notes yet. But it's a hoot, from cover (Shelly sitting at a drum kit surrounded by a sitting lion and two monkeys, one blowing a clarinet the other playing a guitar) to vinyl (a lotta percussion, not unlike one of those Visual Sound RCA albums; plus several reed players including Bud Shank).
This was one of the records Grant gave me when he was in town, the weekend before Donovan was born.

(Right now, nothing is playing because the baby just went down for the night. I just wanted to make sure this didn't have another "nothing playing right now" opening.)

Every couple of years I go through a phase where I'll pull out one album by Magazine and play it, then feel compelled to pull out all of their first three albums, plus the singles collection. I was really into that band when I was in high school. Of course there was the Buzzcocks connection (vocalist Howard Devoto was on their first EP) but I remembered my brother bringing home Secondhand Daylight when I was all of about 10, and I was impressed by it. I bought their first three albums pretty quickly and loved all three. The live Play was kind of pointless, except for one new song, so I sold it. During college my friend Frank gave me a new copy of it and Magic Murder and the Weather, their final album that I never got around to buying. Now I have the complete set. (Note: the red US version of After the Fact is a much better singles collection that the green UK counterpoint.)

All this comes into play because this morning over breakfast, I pulled out Secondhand Daylight and played side two. A couple of the songs had been going through my head at work and I couldn't take it any longer. I needed to hear them for real.

It's taken me awhile to realize that this album is inconsistant. It short circuits three songs in, after a strong showing, but it regains momentum on side two and holds its own until the end. Once, post-high school, I played the instrumental "The Thin Air" for my friends Patty and Tim (at that time current and future bandmates, respectively) and they both infuriated me by saying the song sounded like Pink Floyd. But they were right. It's mid-tempo with a metronomic beat and there's a sea of keyboards. However, there's more of a melody to it. This is followed by "Back to Nature" which is also pretty art rocky, starting with Devoto's voice and piano, before murky synths (played by Dave Formula, a rather homely Brit whose name I love) cue in a jumpy riff marked by some especially skiterring bass lines from Barry Adamson (later of the Bad Seeds).

After "Believe I Understand" comes a song that sums up the smug, intellectual cockiness that Magazine/Devoto was known for. The song is called "Permafrost" and it depicts the narrator running into an ex. The chorus consists of the lines "As the day stops dead/ at the place where we're lost/ I will drug you and fuck you/ on the permafrost." Nasty, nasty line, but such delivery. Plus John McGeoch plays one of the nastiest guitar solos in that song, which is really simple but escalates into a tumbling cascade of notes that get more dissonant and icy as they proceed. The whole thing is creepy and great.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll pull out The Correct Use of Soap, their third album. That's good breakfast music.


A couple weeks ago, I got word that the band Fake Brain broke up. They were from New York and played a few shows with the Mofones and we hung out both here, after shows, and in New York when I went up there. All good things must come to an end, and they had a good run while they were around: three great CDs, lotta tours, a rock opera. And the rock opera could've broken them through to bigger audiences if someone decided to back them. Jennie and I saw them perform it in New York in the fall of 2005 and it was hilarious.

But it makes you wish that bands like them - smart, funny without being jokey, catchy - could've gotten somewhere before they decided to call it quits.

I'll miss those guys. They'll always remind me of the period of my life where I had just bought a house and Pulp was really getting its sealegs and the Mofones were reaching their potential. Those were the days........ I'm thinking of the kick-ass omelettes we had with Fake Brain at DeLuca's the day after one all comes back to food..

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Andrew Hill RIP

Playing right now: Ron Carter - Dear Miles, (Blue Note)

The June issue of JazzTimes was in the mailbox this morning and I have about six reviews in it. But that moment of euphoria was cut short when I read the death notices. Pianist Andrew Hill died on April 20. That's the first I'd heard about it. (The lesson here is that I need to look at the magazine's website more frequently, but at the same time, a newborn will often prevent that...)

I suppose it was only a matter of time. Andrew was 75, and was diagnosed with cancer just as he was making he return to Blue Note with his album Time Lines (which is reviewed here in a post from about a year ago. Look it up. Read it. Buy the record.) It's hard to say whether he went out on a high note (no pun intended) in that he was finally getting the recognition and respect that eluded him lo these last 40 years, or that he's going to join the roster of jazz innovators that will be bigger in death than in life (a la Mingus, Parker, Herbie Nichols).

But at the same time, Hill probably wouldn't like to be judged by which side of the success meter that he falls on. He'd prefer that people listen to the music. That's my guess at least. He never stopped making it. There are over a dozen albums on Blue Note that are still in print and all of them have the kind of music that makes you stop in your tracks and say, "Wait, what's he doing here? It starts in a familar setting but the music is going places that I never thought of. Two basses? That's crazy. They aren't playing together but they're moving together." Alfred Lion, who started Blue Note Records, considered Andrew the last big innovator on the label, someone on the same scale as Thelonious Monk.

In addition to the Blue Note ones, there are solo albums, some weird sessions for Arista-Freedom that include Lee Konitz and a bunch of large ensemble albums, which are especially deep.

Do yourself a favor and find a couple of them for yourself. Listen closely. And tell Andrew, thanks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

There's such a lot of world to see....

Playing right now: The Best of Mancini, specifically "Moon River"

On Sunday afternoon, I played my son - who is five weeks old as of today - this album. It was my first attempt to, uh, educate this newborn on some of the music that impacted his old man at a young age. And I couldn't resist making him listen to "Baby Elephant Walk," truly one of the greatest songs there is.

Before you write me off, please don't take this story at complete face value. I know the kid didn't comprehend any of this. He won't remember any of it. He won't pick up on the nuances of the way Hank Mancini uses low brass and drums in "Hatari."

That's why it's funny. It wasn't about him. It was really about me. Me reliving a period of my life when the greatest thing in the world was when the 8-track tape of this album finally made it's way to that point in track 3 when the calliope started up and the trombones (muted bass trombones seem to be a Mancini trademark) kick it. (The family 8-track of the album eventually wore out and I bought the album.)

And there's something about "Moon River" that makes me rather wistful these days. Maybe it's due to that episode of "The Simpsons" where Nelson gets all choked up when Andy Williams sings that song. Or maybe it was that time, about 10 years ago when I heard it on WJAS and got REALLY EXCITED. Then I stopped and wondered what that was all about.

"Days of Wine And Roses"......that's so wistful too. There's a headstone in Homewood Cemetery with the entire lyrics carved into it. Wow. Those two loved each other. I love the movie of the same name with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. It rips your heart out, but it's so well done. Jack Lemmon doing drama is intense.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

writing writing writing

Playing right now: Nothing, but the new Tanya Kalmanovitch/Myra Melford CD was going a little bit ago. And "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" will be on pretty soon. So I want to hear that.

This week was a big one for me and reviews. I turned in four to JazzTimes on Monday and four for Harp between Thursday and Friday, and I wrote a mini-feature for them this morning. The piece was about Gang Font feat. Interloper, which is not a hip-hop band or a jazz group w/a dj, but in fact a band that features the Bad Plus' drummer Dave King and Husker Du's Greg Norton, who hasn't really been in a band in over 15 years. I interviewed him probably two months ago and was sitting on it until now. The stuff is kind of prog-y, with a little bit of Captain Beefheart guitar in it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I'm back....I mean, I'm still here

Playing right now: in my mind, a song from Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Natural Black Inventions album. But nothing on the cd player or turntable

Dadgum, I haven't posted in ages. I got overwhelmed with freelance writing and auction stuff. Then my son was born on April 3.

But I will start posting more. I have a bunch of stories that date back a while. And a pile of discs that I'd like to talk about.

In the meantime I'll leave you with a quick thought: I just read in JazzTimes that Anthony Braxton is a big Johnny Mathis fan.

Crazy, huh?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Look here.....

.....Just discovered that the Vandermark review is up:

Shanley reviews online

Playing right now: Paul Chambers - Go
(It's actually the Mosaic box set that compiles everything Chambers and Wynton Kelly did on Vee Jay. I was looking through the Mosaic catalog recently, wondering if I should get the Mosaic Select box of Chambers' Blue Note albums. I think I was piqued by the fact that Coltrane plays on a lot of it, so I figured it must be good......Rather than buying it, I figured I'd pull this out. The main problem with it is that nearly every song has an alternate take, which dilutes the strength of the whole album.)

I spent the day writing. Both Harp and JazzTimes took me up on concert reviews for their websites. For Harp, I reviewed Savage Republic's performance from last Friday. AND IT'S ALREADY UP ON THE SITE! Go to to check it out.

Since last weekend was the big double-shot of music, I went to the Warhol Museum for the Vandermark 5 show the night after Savage Republic. I'd tell you about it, but I'd rather you read it too. Not sure when that will be up on the JT website, but you can go to to see.

Greg Norton from Husker Du is a band again. Or at least he's recorded a new studio project that includes the drummer of the Bad Plus Dave King, keyboardist Craig Taborn (plays with Tim Berne) and guitarist Eric Fratzke (who plays in Happy Apple w/King). It's kind of proggy and little like Beefheart at times. I'm hoping to interview Mr. Norton. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

New Wave Cabaret; Brian Allen CD

Playing right now: Judy Henske - Little Bit of Sunshine...Little Bit of Rain

Last night was the New Wave Cabaret; the first one in 5 years. The 31st Street Pub was packed, which made me glad. When we got there at a little after 9, it was still fairly empty, but I guess that's because most folks didn't believe it would really start that early. It did and not only that, it ended early because everyone was good about getting on and off the stage so things were ahead of schedule.

The Yes Darlings' set went over really really really well. We played the B-52's "Strobe Light," with me doing the Fred Schneider part and Hille and Aimee doing the Cindy and Kate parts. Then we did the Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" with Hille moving onto drums and Mike switching to French horn and singing. He looked really good standing with the mike and singing, and the French horn was a great idea.

Amoeba Knievel was up next, which made things easy for me. Since we didn't get a chance to practice last week as a 4-piece, we were sort of winging it. Mike, Tommy & I got together last Monday and the two of them got together with Bob yesterday. Things were a little slippery but it held together pretty well, for the most part. We did Ian Dury's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" which has an absolutely crazy bass line. Man, who played that - Jaco Pastorius? Steve Swallow? It's in F, and it's hard to maneuver on the neck.

But that one held together pretty well. PiL's "Rise" was a little fast to begin with and then some of the cues were a little sloppy. At the same time, we were the only ones who could pick up on that. It went over really well with the crowd. And it was the perfect song for Tommy to sing.


Dadgum, it's cold. I brought a space heater up here to the office for extra warmth and blew out a fuse. So I'm going without it. And actually in here, it's not too bad.



Synapse (Braintone)

Among the legions of musicians that play in a style often called free jazz, very few of them are trombonists. AACM vet George Lewis is probably the first one that comes to mind, with Albert Mangelsdorf and Steve Swell being uncovered after further brainracking.

So Brian Allen is one of the few, with five releases to his name, and a backlog of performances with people like Anthony Braxton, Ellery Eskelin and Roswell Rudd (another 'bone man, though not someone who still takes things out.)

On Synapse, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby (Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, among others) and drummer Tom Rainey (almost everyone, most recently with Tim Berne and Mark Feldman) join him for eight tracks that presumably were totally improvised. All three players receive writing credits and most of the albums sounds like two- and three-way conversations where moods are expressed rather than musical structures. The whole album (which lasts 50 minutes) could very well have been one continuous performance banded into separate tracks.

Allen doesn't get caught up exploring his instrument's flatulent possibilities (one personal turn-off with free brass players), instead concentrating on the mid-range, with which he displays a brawny tone and a strong melodic sense even in the freer moments. Without any chordal instruments to ground them, Allen and Malaby could have easily opted for stratospheric blowing. But that doesn't come until the second half of the 12-minute closer "Espancino." Before that, they engage in a pointed dialogue ("Tageshif"), egg each other on ("Briesrock") and keep things spare to create suspense ("Tenrayle"). Rainey again proves himself to be a drummer who can both support a band and build ideas around them as they play.

Steven Byram, who has designed many an a CD cover for Tim Berne, has done the same for the cover of Synapse. His unhinged style, which captures the essense of the music inside, is highly distinctive, and hopefully free fans who recognize it will be compelled grab Allen's work off the rack and check it out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hamilton, Joe Frank, Reynolds, Dewey, Cheatham & Howe

Playing right now: Nothing, but I was playing Duke Ellington's Anatomy of a Murder soundtrack a little earlier.

I've been away from this blog for too long.

For a week or so I thought that maybe I should only buy new releases. That way I could get caught up in what's happening now instead of just rehashing the past. I also thought, after getting a series of reviews done for both Harp and JazzTimes, as well as an article for a new local magazine, that I should stop buying anything and just listen to what I have here.

Well, that lasted..........maybe.............a week. Maybe 2 weeks. But today I traded in a pile of things at Jerry's and got three new albums. One is the Duke album above, then Johnny Griffin Live in Tokyo (Pittsburgh native Horace Parlan is on it, so I couldn't pass it up) and Judy Henske's Little Bit of Sunshine, Little Bit of Rain, which I wasn't too keen on at first. This sounds crazy but she sounded like she was oversinging and it really clashed with the string arrangements. By side two I was warming up to it, so maybe it just takes some getting used to.

A couple weeks ago at an estate sale, there was a copy of the Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds album with "Don't Pull Your Love Out" on it. I had that album when I was in second grade. My folks got it for me for my birthday and I really liked it. My theory is that Dunhill Records saw them as a cross between the Grass Roots and Three Dog Night. I think I wore out the album and put it in the free box at a record store during high school. So when I saw it at the sale, I thought about getting it. The group came up in conversation at work a few weeks prior, so things were pointing in favor of buying it. Then I remembered some of the sappy songs on it..........looked at the record.........I think it had a warp..........naw, put it back, I thought.

So today I decided to look for a 45 of the song that I really like from the album, which is "Goin' Down." Fat horn arrangement, soul lick, gravelly vocal (I think it's Joe Frank, but I'm not sure), had to get it. And I've played that sucker a couple times today and have enjoyed it every time. Now I imagine myself fruitlessly trying to explain to people that they had other and better songs than "Don't Pull Your Love."

One thing: I still can't understand the chorus line. "I can't see/ turn around...." then I always thought it was "....gonna be/goin' dowwwwwwwwwwwn," but it always sounded like "gonna we," which my 8-year old mind never questioned. Maybe I should listen to it again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Losing two giants

Playing right now: Nothing

Woke up this morning and read that Alice Coltrane died on Friday. She was only 69 years old. She seemed like a really cool lady, really spiritual in a way that was genuine and not flaky. And she made some pretty great music. That was a really big surprise.

And if that wasn't bad enough, a few minutes later, I heard that Michael Brecker died. He had been sick for a while with a rare strain of a bone marrow disorder. A lot of musicians and non-musicians tried to help him when he needed marrow donations and it seemed like he was on the road to recovery. Maybe that's a naive thought, but I was hopeful. Just read that he recorded one final album too.

It's said that these things happen in threes................

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tell me about Mabel Mercer

Playing right now: Mabel Mercer - Midnight at Mabel Mercer's
A few years ago, Mabel passed away and there was an article about her in the New York Times. She was a really popular dinner club singer, a contemporary of Bobby Short (with whom she recorded at least one album). The article said that a lot of people hated her singing voice, including - I think - Cole Porter. He couldn't stand her, and told her so.
I'm not sure why, but after reading the article, I started to wonder if she was on Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. I remembered seeing a lady singing for King Friday, and one of the songs she did was "Lazy Afternoon." For a couple years, I've come across her albums at Jerry's and every time I'd look at them and think that some day I had to get one. I bought this one back around November.
I'm still not sure if she was the woman on Mr. Rogers, but she does sing "Lazy Afternoon" here. That song occupies a weird space in my head because as a kid, I used to listen to a record by a folk group called the Serendipity Singers (you know the New Main Street Singers in A Mighty Wind? Same idea. A million members, too many guitars, too many big, toothy smiles.) and they covered "Lazy Afternoon." So did - at the other end of the musical spectrum - Cecil Taylor in his early days. And Grant Green, who played it in 5/4. (I have the latter 2 versions on their Mosaic boxset collections.)
Anyway, it still very well might have been Mabel on the show.
As far as the album goes, it's funny because sometimes I listen to it and she sounds like a matronly lady with a warbly voice. She's not a jazz singer, certainly not like Billie Holiday who used any technical shortcomings to her advantage. This is music from a different era, when people would go to supper clubs and listen with rapt attention to singers. (The liner notes talk about Joe DiMaggio "and his former bride" once being in the audience.) No one has the attention span for that anymore. Or the scratch to spend a night out on the town that way. And no one wants to shut up for that long.

This morning I finally finished what seemed like a marathon of CD reviews that have been hanging over me for a couple weeks. Four for JazzTimes (filed on Monday), two for Harp (finished this morning). Yes, I got a few more things in Harp! Ed Masley isn't stealing everything from me. (Just kidding, Ed.)
I also had do an interview on Saturday for an article that was due Monday morning. It's for a new magazine called Table. It's a local, really nice looking quarterly about food.


Since I had yesterday off from work and the Harp reviews were short, I didn't do any writing during the day. Instead I spent the morning cleaning a batch of 45s that I picked up a couple weeks ago at a flea market. While that was going on, I listened to the Decemberists' The Crane Wife CD which I picked up last week. In all that time, I hadn't had a chence to listen to it. It sat on the kitchen table for a week!

At first it sounded kind of ...................normal. I was expecting and hoping for something a little weirder. But with each song it started sounding a little better. This is a typical thing for me. It takes me a while to get used to it. Several albums didn't grab me until I hit side two, at which point I started reevaluting side one. Have to spin this CD again. Maybe there will even be time to sit and follow along with the lyric sheet.
Yesterday's listening also including Judy Henske's High Flying Bird, which I bought the same day as Mabel. I love Judy. She has such a great voice; a real belter.

On Saturday, I went to my first estate sale in a while. There were a bunch of 45s. (What is it with people in Squirrel Hill getting all these promo 45s?) I walked out with 23 of them, some as curiousities, some as genuine "finds." The biggest surprise was a record by Michael Blessing. If the name doesn't sound familiar, it's Mike Nesmith's pre-Monkees stage name. According to the Goldmine book, a near mint copy of it is worth $150. And this one isn't too too far removed from that.
Not that I expect to get three figures for it. But I should be able to make back the $5.75 I paid for all 23 discs.
It's time like that that I remember, yes, sometimes it's worth it to get up at 7 on a Saturday.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Playing right now: Duke Ellington - Money Jungle

Followup to previous post: I was sitting on New Year's Eve, listening to a mix CD made from a few years earlier and "My Little Red Book" came on, making me realize that I didn't mention Arthur Lee in the list of folks we lost in 20-ought-6. Didn't list Syd Barrett either. D'oh.

Then a spirit from the dead snuck up behind me and whacked me upside the head and yelled, "HEY!" in a raspy voice.

It was James Brown.

I'm not only about jazz, peoples. One of my resolutions was to get back into more of the rock saddle.