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.