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.