[Grain of salt alert: this is coming from someone who still can't make heads or tails of hyperstition. Maybe I'm slow.]
Look, I take it as a given that anything exclusively appreciated by the white middle classes is probably suspect. They / we are not the engine of popular culture, that's obvious...
This is, I feel, the crux of Mark K-Punk's epic Glastonbury rant, even though it only comes in the comments. It's hinted at in the body of the piece:
balding accountants getting down to Basement Jaxx, Jemima studying Fine Arts at Sussex being 'blown away' by Macca ('he was so gid!')
What irks me about this line of argument (apart from the fact that I'm a Sussex alum, perhaps) is that it is bases musical value judgements on who makes music and, worse, on who listens to it. While a music and its audience are not wholly separate things, invective based on the perceived origins of both generally has little to do with the quality of the music. What if you like something, only to find out that it is made and/or listened to by the wrong people? Granted, Mark does also throw in
The bill was almost parodicallly LCD MOR, so safe and organic and wholesome and unimpeachable and uncontroversial:
Macca! Oasis! Franz Ferdinand!
but this is counter-balanced by a rather absurd focus on age:
No black folks of course unless they're well into their sixties (James Brown; Toots and the Maytals), but no whiteys EITHER unless they're into their sixties (Macca) or sound like they could be in their sixties (Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters)...
Yes, James Brown has been thoroughly de-fanged: do music stores still carry a non-Greatest Hits album? But the generalisation is spurious: the best concert I saw last year was given by Peter Broetzmann, who must be at least approaching sixty, if he hasn't passed it by now. This also ties in with the aspect of community and embourgeoisement.
I mean, music in a field - in the daytime? Wtf? It's almost deliberately delibidinizing....
Apart from questions of sound quality, I find it odd that quelqu'un qui parle d'embourgeoisement would also deride the outdoors as a venue for music. It seems to me that taking music indoors is the first step towards gentrification: chamber music, the merchant's daughter playing the latest tunes for her parents in the salon, the rigidity of the concert hall... Contrast this with music colliding with the living sounds of the market-place, the gypsy's assemblage of mobile homes, the instant mash-up of rolled-down car windows and street-corner musicians... Similarly, having something more than a weeks-long generation gap is less a sign of stagnation than of community. Let's see where James Brown came from and what crowds he played for before becoming internationally famous.
Can they be hip enough? Could they make music hip enough? Could they make music at all? Crucially, I must believe so. Then again, I'm not very worried about who's driving pop culture. I'm more worried that people are able to take themselves out of commercial relationships to everything and create their own art: strum or paint or run or write or talk. It's our first line of defence against so many alienations, that to deny people even the possibility of doing this or doing it vicariously, even implicitly, rankles me.
They / we are not the engine of popular culture, that's obvious...
Too much complexity is hidden in this assertion to let it stand unquestioned: commercial engine? creative engine?
A tactical nuclear strike wd have taken out virtually everything that's debilitating, deadening and reactive about the Brit culture industry
Irony (cf. comments)? Hyperbolic sarcasm, more likely. And yet: Muse is probably in Mark's LCD MOR sights, so the news of the death, at Glastonbury, of the band's drummer's father and the subsequent cancellation of future concerts is a step in the right direction, no?
I'm gone, this post is still very rough.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
[Grain of salt alert: this is coming from someone who still can't make heads or tails of hyperstition. Maybe I'm slow.]
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Tomorrow I'm off for two weeks in Martinique. Haven't been there in 4.5 years and haven't been on a family holiday in the same amount of time, I don't think. Not so long ago it was hard to get the four of us on the same continent...
I don't know what blogging conditions will be, but I'll try *not* to post anything the whole time. It should do me good.
Anoyingly, I'll have to miss the Tour de France passing through my little village, possibly the rest of Euro 2004 and probably a job opportunity... Them's the breaks, as they say.
Two Belgian albums this time, one by newcomers, the other by a veteran pianist.
Jazzisfaction - Issues
A very good Belgian debut, full of trumpet-led landscapes, some moody, some sunny. And a nice electro remix to cap it all off.
Diederik Wissels - Song of You
A very arranged album, but one that falls flat because there are only 3 good songs and the solos are transparent at best. There's also a kind of annoying bourgeois air about it all.
Monday, June 28, 2004
Saturday, June 26, 2004
The Observer's Top 100 British albums led to the obligatory, more or less righteous, reactions from various quarters.
I'm crap at making lists, but Evergreen Daze's yeah everything on this list I have and genuienly (sic) enjoy struck a chord and got me thinking about music I really have a strong connection with. Beyond mere appreciation, listed below is music I've lived with in one way or another. Because of my absurdly bereft-of-music childhood, my tale is a lot shorter than others', but here's my honest answer, 20 albums and 3 entries that aren't albums. Many of these I wouldn't even list among my favourites, but they've earned their spots here nonetheless. They're presented roughly in the order in which I encountered them.
"Feelin' Hot Hot Hot"
I don't even know who sang this, but it reminds me of all those Carribbean expat parties back in the Kenya days, growing up.
Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle
The first album I ever bought, on cassette, was Kriss Kross's debut, but the first I really got into was this one, a little over 10 years ago. I listened and listened, learning all the lyrics. A few years later, I bought Tha Doggfather, but quickly lost interest. I still like hearing Snoop's trademark laid-back flow, however. I'll note my enjoyment of Eazy-E's It's on (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa here, but after a while I noticed that it was starting to corrupt my mind. Thinking about it, it probably marked the very beginning of the decline of my involvement with hip-hop.
The Fugees - The Score
Wore headphones to school and listened to this all day long and felt cool. Our sort-of school radio station (actually, simply a stereo playing into a hall), of which I was a peripheral member, was playing the "ooh-la-la-la" single that came out before "Killing Me Softly," so I felt justified in going with the commercial flow. I was miffed when, in their year-end Top 10, Time (hmm, I wonder if Jon Abbey was working there at the time?) called this "thinking man's hip-hop." My anti-mainstream media feelings have yet to develop to Carlin-esque proportions, however.
Tupac Shakur - Strictly For My Niggaz, All Eyez On Me
I started out with an unmarked tape of the first album, I wasn't even sure who it was. From the latter, "California Love" and "Trading War Stories" stick most in my mind.
Xzibit - At the Speed of Life
With Snoop and Tupac, Xzibit completes my "finest voices in hip-hop" trio. I wonder if they've ever appeared together on a track. I bought 40 Days and 40 Nights but paid little attention to it, whereas Restless got some play, despite a number of weak tracks.
The Roots - Illadelph Halflife
I think that this was the first album I bought because of things I read on the Internet. The Roots kept on being mentioned on various hip-hop sites, so I got this unheard and haven't regretted it since. Soon after, easter 1997 I think, I went to see the band in London. Back then, Rahzel still toured with them, it was incredible. Now I have all the Roots' albums and remain a huge fanatic (I've seen them in concert four more times), even if I don't visit okayplayer.com anymore. I'm worried about The Tipping Point being their first stinker, as the first single is very bland. I take heart in the fact that I also found "Break U Off" bland when I first heard it, but Phrenology turned out great anyway. The Roots led to the Common (Like Water For Chocolate), D'Angelo (Voodoo) and Mos Def (Black on Both Sides).
Count Basie compilation
Mid-way through university, hip-hop was getting boring. After a brief blues phase, I moved on to jazz. My father had (and has) a huge, mostly jazz, record collection, which he never got to play because, I suppose, of my mother's hyper-sensitivity to "noise." Just its presence, though, sufficed to make me naturally assume that jazz was a "higher music," one that I'd have to come around to eventually. A cheapo Basie two-disc compilation was my starting point, and had me dancing.
Art Blakey - Moanin'
I've already said it all. One of my best listens to this was while strolling on the outskirts of Salamanca, Spain. It was a sunny day, but a bit cold.
Dave Holland Quintet - Prime Directive
This is probably the album that has most accompanied the growth in my understanding of jazz. I know that that sounds pompous, but I can't put it any other way. I bought it because I was reading Robin Eubanks's thread on Jazz Corner (he seemed like a cool guy) and there were glowing reviews everywhere. At first I clung to the great melodies and Billy Kilson's drumming, but over time I kept coming back to it and came to appreciate the solos as well. A number of albums and concerts later, I'm still in their thrall.
Roots Manuva - Brand New Second Hand
Probably one of the last hip-hop albums I paid a lot of attention to. I even tried to penetrate Manuva's cryptic narratives. I rarely succeeded.
Steve Coleman - The Way of the Cipher
I first heard this at a friend's house. He only had an unmarked CD-R, but the musicians were announced at the end, allowing me to track the album down, with some friendly online help. At the time, it was a kind of Holy Grail for me: jazz/hip-hop fusion that actually worked! Gene Lake held it down something lovely. Nowadays there are other Coleman albums I prefer, but this was my entry point.
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
I had unsuccessfully tried listening to Bitches Brew and Dark Magus, but IASW made them audible to me, as well as transporting me into the blissful zero-gravity of its space-funk. Also, it fits nicely into my "Miles x9 trilogy:" Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, IASW. I'll footnote Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else here, for its definitive version of "Autumn Leaves." Not only the head, but also the hand-off from Miles to Cannonball.
John Coltrane - Blue Train
In the Eurostar waiting room at Waterloo Station (or was it Brussels?), I read the first or second chapter of Invisible Man, then put on the headphones to hear this. The effect was almost overwhelming: Coltrane was blowing exactly what Ellison had written, the Black American experience was contained in both and they reinforced and enhanced each other.
I can't single out an album because, great as they all are, they're all equally flawed. The first one I got was Donny Hathaway, I think. If I remember correctly, I checked Donny out because I kept on hearing and reading references to him. He couldn't write a tune and stay focused on it like Stevie, but in a way Donny's emotional impact is deeper. The live version of "A Song For You" is his greatest moment, in my opinion.
Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
I alreay had Hotter Than July and my favourite song, "They Won't Go When I Go," is on Fulfillingness' First Finale, but Innervisions, my second Stevie purchase, is the album that really turned me on to him.
Outkast - Stankonia
"Bombs Over Baghdad," "Gasoline Dreams," Big Boi's verse on "I'll Call Before I Come:" getting hooked on Outkast was inevitable after that. ATLiens still strikes me as their best album. It was weird to suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, hear the source of one of one of their most effective samples live.
Anne Wolf - Amazone
One of the first albums I reviewed. I played it so much that even my girl-friend could sing along to the solos.
Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra - "Les folies de Cécile"
The band's "hit" tune. I drove my girl-friend crazy sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, hitting the play button again and again as I taught myself to play the melody on a tin flute I had bought in Ireland.
Mal Waldron - One More Time
One of the few albums I've heard that I firmly believe will be in jazz magazines' "Best of the '00s" lists. I saw Waldron three nights in a row in Brussels, playing with a quartet. The first set of the second night was the best 40 minutes of music I have ever experienced: I was almost levitating from sheer happiness. I didn't get to talk to him, but he did smile at me and crinkle his eyes. That was enough.
Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner
Just because hearing it for the first time was one of those "Yes, this is it, this is fucking it!" moments. First heard about it on the blogs, naturally.
Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
I could have put Ah Um or Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, but re-listening to this one relatively recently (I shelved it for far too long in favour of the more tune-laden MMMMM. Well, I shouldn't say "for far too long" as I believe that music comes to you when you're ready, always in good time) opened up new worlds to me (Mingus will do that to you), thinking about how it is possible to write what amounts to a symphony using the jazz language (almost) exclusively. And of course, those flutes rock (I wonder if Dave Holland had them in mind when he wrote "Conference of the Birds?")
Dexter Gordon - Complete Blue Note Recordings Disc 1
Only just heard this, but I was entranced by Gordon in a way repeated listens to Go have failed to do. I think I'm ready now.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Blogger has now enabled free audioblogging. I wonder if music bloggers would be interested in doing something similar - but far more interesting, naturally - to what the NYT does in their multimedia features: discussing a track while it's playing. For the moment, the only available number is in the US, so I won't be trying it out, but maybe someone else will?
SF-J says Usher cheats on his girlfriend in "Yeah!":
The lyrics are about a guy meeting a girl in a club and cheating on his girlfriend
There's probably a back-story I'm not fully aware of, but it seems to me that Usher arrives at the club with his friends, firmly intent on getting some on-the-side action, a girl starts throwing herself at him, Usher is strongly tempted but finds redemption on the dancefloor (and the wherewithal to remain stoic). In the video, he appears to go home and be dragged into the bedroom by his girlfriend. Of course, all of this is shrouded in ambiguity and ellipses, so who knows?
Lil Jon urges Usher on by yelling “O.K.!” and “Yeah!” and not much else.
But how can you ignore his enthusiastic Let's go! right after Usher sings She's going to my head now/Got me thinking that it might be a good idea to take her with me/(pause)She's ready to leave. But our hero is conflicted: I gotta keep it real now...But that just ain't me. Then again, right after that line there's a big Hey! that sounds like a "yeah, right." All this to say that the commenting Lil' Jon is doing in the background is very cool and enriches the narrative.
the only sign that the chorus has arrived is a sour little flute sound bumping leisurely down to land on a blue note
I just love how the flute pops in out of the blue and strolls through the chorus without a care in the world.
Is it just me, or is Ludacris getting less funny by the day?
Thursday, June 24, 2004
I'm a jazz fan
It might seem like a weird thing to say, but recently I've been surprising myself: the urge to balance my listening diet is dissolving, my enthusiasm for jazz is increasing. It's a happy surprise, somehow similar to perpetually re-discovering just how much I love the woman I've been with for 8 years. All the more so when she can, as she did last night, suddenly say that she doesn't like Keith Jarrett's vocalisations. Bless her, I need to subject her to some more Jarrett soon.
Down in the Cellar
Listening to this as it downloads leads me to one conclusion. Miles, Gary, Keith, Michael, Jack and Airto, mid-December 1970, in Washington D.C.'s Cellar Door: the funkiest band in the world, surely? Just because Keith renounced electricity, doesn't mean we have to: he was awesome on keyboards, bursting out of sputtering clouds of notes with gloriously radiant funk. David had expressed some reserve at Jack's jazz-rock playing but (granted, he's playing funk here) he sounds great to me. And is there really any need to discuss Miles's supremacy as a player of funk? Apparently a Complete at the Cellar Door box is in the works. An alternate, funkier Live-Evil drawn from the nights without John could, I'm sure, turn around many (if not all) of the post-Bitches naysayers.
Re-listening to some of his early quartet albums to verify ressemblances with Dennis Gonzalez's NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed, a shoo-in for my year's best list, highly recommended!). Ended up opining that an album like The Shape of Jazz to Come did as much to liberate/redefine improvised melody as Kind of Blue. Just listening to Mingus's Ah Um and thinking about how Mingus created the impression of free jazz through superposition (his mid-size bands could sound chaotic, taken as a whole, but can always be broken down into coherent, interlocking segments), while Ornette achieved his goal more directly. And how the best description of Mingus I've ever read is still "It's like putting on a tuxedo and rolling in the mud." I'm annoyed I can't remember the source.
Rightly or wrongly, some people consider Ornette's albums to be the saxophonist's best work, but I don't think that Cherry's best playing is to be found there, far from it. Not that I have much of it, but Complete Communion and El Corazon seem *so* much better to me, as representatives of Cherry's work.
At the mid-way point
The year's half done, here are some hot albums in no qualitative order:
Ben Allison & Medecine Wheel - Buzz (Palmetto)
Bruno E - Lovely Arthur (Trama)
Dennis Gonzalez - NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed)
Frank Hewitt We Loved You (Smalls)
Joel Frahm - Don't Explain (Palmetto)
Josh Roseman Unit - Treats for the Nightwalker (Enja)
Louis Sclavis - Napoli's Walls (ECM) (okay, it's 2003)
Maak's Spirit - Al Majamaa (Igloo)
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Change of the Moon (Igloo)
Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra - Lobster Caravan (De Werf)
Stefano Bollani - Smat Smat (Label Bleu)
Steve Coleman - Lucidarium (Label Bleu)
The Claudia Quintet - I, Claudia (Cuneiform)
Tomasz Stanko - Suspended Night (ECM)
Reviews of (almost) all of these are either online (see the article index) or forthcoming.
Chris Potter - Lift (Sunnyside)
Frank Kimbrough - Lullabluebye (Palmetto)
Fred Hersch Trio - +2 (Palmetto)
Jacob Young - Evening Falls (ECM)
Youngblood Brass Band - center:level:roar (Ozone) another 2003 entry, but I just heard it
Brad Mehldau - Anything Goes (Warner) because it's too comfortable a record
Magic Malik - 13 XP's Songs (Label Bleu) because it's incredibly weaker than his previous two, which were fabulous. While I'm at it, the hidden track at the end of disc 1 of 00-237 is hilarious.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
This is the third time I've seen Jef's trio in the space of a few months. I even passed up the France-Croatia game to go see the concert. Following someone like that (I also see him regularly in Pascal Schumacher's Quartet and a few days ago got a CD with Jef as sideman) creates an interesting tension: I've built up so many reference points that there's a sort of objectivity within my (strongly favourable) bias. I can hear (to a degree) when he's pulling an old trick out of the bag and when he's doing something new. I can hear the trio (Piet Verbist on bass and Teun Verbruggen (photo) on drums) evolving, its repertoire getting sharper. I revel in the always radically different piano intros to "When Spring Begins," which have ranged from maudlin hymn to austere abstraction.
One major evolution was the trio's interpretation of standards. Back in March, they had only recently started integrating standards among the original compositions (mainly written by Jef, some by Piet). They slipped into a kind of pastiche of Miles Davis's first quintet's rhythm section or amused themselves by superposing 3 tempi, which "sounded very much like bad jazz well-played." Pleasant, funny, even, but anecdotal. Now it's a different story.
The second set was having a little trouble taking off, when on the fourth song Jef opened with a beautiful, long piano intro. He's a big fan of Russian composers and I think he was taking his not-too-abrasive dissonances from there* (that's another positive evolution: the increasingly imaginative integration of classical music into his jazz playing). The trio eventually slid into "Blame It On My Youth." The slow and spare accompaniment complemented Neve's dramatically pianissimo forays into the upper register, the intro's classical bent came back in discreet touches. Bill Evans probably owns this tune, but Jef was staking a strong claim.
The magnificent first set ended with "Get Yourself A Wheelchair." This tune is as cock-sure as the title suggests, racing between three different tempi. What made it really impressive is that the tempi weren't simple multiples of each other and that the trio didn't jump-cut from one to the other, but accelerated and decelerated together towards the new tempo, over a bar or two.
You know you're gaining fans when people recognise unreleased tunes. When Jef announced "Lament," the person in front of me commented knowingly (in Dutch) to his neighbour "That's a really great tune." It won't remain unreleased too long though, as the recording sessions for Jef's second album are done.
* Not that I actually have any firm knowledge to base that on.
Monday, June 21, 2004
I've moved the link to Bagatellen from "Links" to "Blogs" because as Joe Milazzo said somewhere in this giant commenting frenzy:
At the end of the day, and certain appearances to the contrary, Bagatellen is much more of a true blog than it is a "magazine" in the manner of STYLUS, DUSTED, ONE FINAL NOTE, PT, or the example of your choice.
Last night I saw 40 minutes of a Ray Charles concert from 1991. Charles was full of energy, feet flying and diction, as always, hindered/made better by teeth seemingly too big for his mouth. The only unfortunate thing was that he wasn't with his big band. Instead, he had a drum/bass/guitar rhythm section and rather large string and (classical) horn sections to accompany him. No back-up singers, either.
Still, the first song shown was an* english version of Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas," which opens:
If you go away
On this summer's day
You might as well
Take the sun away
* A more faithful translation
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Well, the Coltrane documentary will have served at least two purposes, this being the second.
While I admire (really) Marcello's ability to diss jazz musicians (or specific contributions) like they're pop musicians, it's hard not to say something about my man Booker. But let's stick to the positive. Eric Dolphy + Charles Mingus, but how can you leave out "Stormy Weather"? October 20, 1960, Mingus and Dolphy alone together (almost), making some of the most soulful, heart-rending sounds ever. I love it because it shows how Dolphy, without straying too far from the in he Parker lineage, could be one of the purest, most imaginative and most powerful carriers of emotion in all of jazz. Contrast with Curson's brief incursions: right away, you hear playing, you hear blue notes. Mingus and Dolphy aren't carrying that baggage.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
The Naked Maja goes into the documentary far more deeply than I did. *Half-assed excuse alert* Actually, Marcello reminded me of a few things I noticed, but did not mention here.
I'm hearing people scream SO WHAT? already Not me.
Coltrane is allotted 45 minutes in a vacant post-World Cup slot whereas if, say, Michael Frayn popped his Chablis tomorrow he'd get a suffocatingly reverent four-part series Isn't that post-Euro Cup? I don't know who Michael Frayn is, but it is indeed sad that one of jazz's only two (in the mass popular imagination, the other being Miles) eminently cool figures can only carve out 45 minutes of TV time for himself. The BBC did, however show a two-part Miles documentary and the Ken Burns thing. I saw neither.
But at no point during the programme did Yentob convey the impression that he had to make this documentary, that he was so consumed by the consumption of Coltrane that this programme could not have waited. I got the impression that by the angle was to make us understand the source of
the fascination for Coltrane: the church, the WKCR orgy, the Japanese fan(atic). Consumption by proxy.
From heroin to clean to LSD. Even before this documentary, I'd wondered what was up with that. Miles's cold turkey drug break is also well-known, but his autobiography makes it fairly clear that he continued taking various drugs, just not to the point of re-becoming a junkie who stole his friends' possessions to get his fix.
"I would like to be remembered as a saint" I'd never heard that one before, it was rather strange.
yes, musicians are sometimes HAPPY shock horror! I'd read that Coltrane rarely smiled for pictures because he was embarassed about his bad teeth. After finally seeing a picture of him smiling, I can see that that was indeed the case. As one who also modified my way of smiling because of my teeth (and not just for pictures), I understand. The funny thing is that those unsmiling, far-off-in-the-cosmic-unknown gaze photos have greatly contributed to the Coltrane myth.
an overly diplomatic McCoy I was hoping for some discussion of why the Quartet ended (and maybe, why did Garrison stay), but no possibly negative comments on Coltrane were possible, apart from the happily-ever-after and oh-so-inspiring drug addiction tale.
Meanwhile, Yentob walks right past the Village Vanguard without mentioning it, and walks into a deli which used to be the Half Moon club. It was the Half Note, but I found that funny too. Especially as the narrator is saying something along the lines of "I went looking for the scene of some of Coltrane's greatest performances" as he walks past the VV.
Not a word about how his influence spread into rock and even pop - the ghost of Hendrix must be wondering if he's deliberately being written out of history
Hendrix being written out of music history? Where do you get that impression from? The pop connection could have been interesting (thought it probably whouldn't have been done well in this show), as jazz has always served as an interface between high and low.
crucially NO Alice Coltrane I'd be very surprised if they didn't ask her. Maybe she turned them down. Of course, they could have made it more explicit that she replaced Tyner, especially as Alice is on-screen several times, both as a wife/mother and as a performer. Less crucial, but equally puzzling, was the absence of Ravi Coltrane. Or, indeed, any sense of the legacy of Coltrane beyond those who played with him (Tyner, Shepp, Ali).
BUT HOW GOOD WAS 'TRANE AS A FREE IMPROVISER? I'm not sure that this is as crucial a question as Marcello makes it. Why this one rather than "BUT HOW GOOD WAS 'TRANE AS A BEBOP IMPROVISER?"? Marcello mentions the live version of "A Love Supreme," I would also put Sun Ship up as a good example of the Classic Quartet playing free.
What bothered me more was the documentary's description of only latter-day Coltrane as "experimental," when he was clearly experimenting and experimental right from the beginning. Cf. some of the fumbling he does on Walkin' or Tenor Madness.
there was nothing in this documentary which would have been likely to convert an unbeliever I find that difficult to determine. Ultimately, what converts people is the music
I forgot to mention that Benny Golson also appeared - he seems to be everywhere at the moment, doesn't he? Kenneth Clarke popped up too. I'm not sure why, as he had nothing coherent to say.
Just watched this on BBC 1. This Guardian article sums up the only misgivings I had with how it was made: sound and image not always matching up, the narrator's more than dubious claim that John Coltrane more or less invented the avant-garde and glossing over Coltrane's struggle to actually become THE John Coltrane.
Otherwise, there was lots of compelling stuff. The paintings of Coltrane as an icon, with a halo around his head, were rather scary, though it was nice to get a feel for the African Orthodox Church of St. John Coltrane after reading so many mentions of it. I'd never heard Coltrane's voice before, so that was nice. Bravely, the soundtrack included as much wild, free stuff as gorgeous ballad playing. However, despite a sampling of Blue Train, his pre-Quartet, more bop-related style was absent. Every time I hear Coltrane or Miles Davis (there was also some footage of them playing together, which was marred by poor sound: a buzz was added to everything they played), I wonder why I listen to anything else: the power of their music truly is something else.
Peripherally, Eric Dolphy was shown briefly on flute. I've always found that his goattee gave him the coolest profile in jazz. Andre 3000 looks a lot like him. McCoy Tyner is seen playing, both then and now. What an odd hand/finger position he has. However, the snippet we got to hear from some playing he did for the camera was awesome. Archie Shepp also talked and played, but, shot as his chops are (and as much as I enjoyed seeing him live), I'm not sure it made for good TV.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Kelis on Jonathan Ross
Kelis has gold teeth. Not just one or two, but *all* of them. Hopefully, those were fronts. Bad enough on your average ugly dirty south rapper, it's criminal on a potentially beautiful woman.
Donna Summer on Jools Holland
The highlight of the show: Summer sings "Let It Be" with Jools on piano. Not knowing anything other than "Love to Love You," her voice is a revelation.
Saul Williams on Trevor Nelson
Holy Shit. "Bloodletting:" fury and power combined with perfect control (diction and articulation) to devastating effect. Incredible. What was actually said (Amiri Baraka Black rage kind of thing) in his spoken word poem mattered less than the delivery: one couldn't help but be shaken to the core. It was weird to see something meaningful on the normally full-of-fluff "Lowdown."
Britney Spears: closet jazz fan
Unexpected "sultry" jazz (swing, walking bass, there was even a piano solo) renditions of her early hits, "Hit Me One More Time" and "Oops I Did It Again" in a taped performance from her current (?) Onyx Hotel Tour. Going by her wardrobe at the time, she was taking it all the way back to the original New Olreans brothels. Which is just what the genre needs, if you ask me. Who said MTV doesn't pay attention to jazz?
"Everytime" made me cry. Britney is alone at a grass-covered piano, playing and singing (really singing, unlike other songs where she has to dance) the song. The camera never shows you her hands, though. A shot from the back, I think: "Her arms aren't moving much." The song picks up a bit, with other instruments joining in. Britney gets up and walks away from the piano. Piano part continues as before. Cue two full minutes of laughter (hence the tears) on my part.
Props for using a real band. For a few minutes after these two tunes, they got to play some funk solos and pretend they were in the NPG rather than backing Britney. The drummer had something I'd never seen before: attached to the front of his bass drum(s) there was what looked like a snare drum. Anyone know what that's all about?
The Veils - "Lavinia"
I'd already heard and liked the single version of this song, but hearing the lead singer sing it accompanied only by an acoustic guitar brought it to another level, for me. I still don't have much of a clue of what he's talking about (whatever it is, it sounds Important!), but the cracked, leaping emotion in his voice more than made up for it, carrying enough meaning for anybody to grasp. It's kind of like the pain of slithering over broken glass. What really struck me, though, is how much he sounded like Archie Shepp's saxophone in his ability to transcend a melody with a splintered tone. It might get over-bearing if he does it for every song (I haven't heard any others), but it works very well here. Speaking of acoustic versions...
Phoenix - "Everything Is Everything"
Caught the last minute or so of a voice + acoustic guitar version of this while shopping for a clothesline. While you'd guess such a version would involve high-energy staccato strumming, this was a slow and somber rendition that eliminated the original version's tension between bubbling rhythm and downcast lyrics. Very weird, but not in a good way, unfortunately.
Take your time
Listening to Hail To The Thief (remember that album?), I found myself wishing that writers could wait 3, 6 or 9 months before reviewing an album. Let it sink into your subconcious rather than force 10 listens into a week. A high-school french teacher once compared cramming for an exam to splashing water into a glass, as opposed to slowly pouring it in. In which case does more water end up in the glass? I find that even when I haven't listened to something for a month or more, it has discretely worked its way around my mind. Maybe I have a more time-elastic reaction to music than up-to-the-zeitgeist music journalism demands. A blogger who shall remain nameless because I can't remember who it was described situations in which the reviewer is aloud one listen, supervised by label employees, before writing the article. Good enough reason to remain an amateur.
Lenny Kravitz - "Where Are We Runnin'?"
Have you seen the video to this? It's kind of like an art-house-meets-Led Zeppelin version of Britney's "Everytime" video, isn't it? For Lenny, even debauchery is done in a 70s style. As for the song, well, you think it's going to get good when Kravitz shouts "Where you runnin', girl?" to kick off the drum breakdown, but then, instead of a Polaroid picture moment, all we get a short guitar solo. My screen is congenitally dark, I can't make out the last scene, when Lenny is looking at himself in the mirror. Does anything interesting happen?
I checked out the Candi Staton reissue after hearing so much raving about it, only to find it rather predictable. I'm glad to see that I'm no longer in a minority of one, even though I'm far from [fretting] sometimes that I've probably heard all the great early-'70s deep Southern-soul records already. Of course, the album is also totally irresistable, if only because the soul music template is coming from is totally timeless (check out those quietly hopping trumpets on "He Called Me Baby").
Various people have been picking up on the Keeping Score website, which is based around the the San Francisco Symphony's performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and it's an awesome website, indeed.
In the "Match the Music" section, I associated (some of these feel a bit embarassingly obvious, sorry):
-Klimt's "The Kiss" with Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night," although Bartok's "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" could have fit, with its slightly exotic feel (I thought about putting it with Berteaux's "Selim III," but the sultan seems rather too relaxed and Bartok rather too busy).
-Kandinksy's "Contrasting Sounds" with Berg's "3 Orchestral Pieces."
-Davis's "Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors - 7th Avenue Style" with Copland's "Music for the Theater": both have a joyous hustle'n'bustle about them.
-Chagall's "The Wedding" with Mahler's "Symphony No. 1".
-Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" with Ravel's "Valses nobles et sentimentales," mainly because the background figures at the beginning of the sample seem to imply that things aren't quite what they seem and points to much more below the surface of the melody.
-Munch's "The Scream" with Brahms's "Violin Concerto" because the latter has the sweetest melody, which the character in the painting is attempting to escape from.
-Monet's "Impression: Soleil levant" with Debussy's "La Mer." Simple-minded, I know.
-Raphael's "The Small Cowper Madonna" with Mozart's "C Minor Mass."
Despite being more linear, Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio could almost fit the Kandinsky and Davis paintings. I could find any matches among the four remaining paintings/music samples.
What's your take?
More in the life in the music business series:
after recording and promoting two albums, Semisonic had accumulated millions of dollars of debt, an amount from which mere platinum sales couldn't begin to extricate the group.
Initially, he is scared and alienated by the road. At the group's first McDonald's stop on its first tour, Slichter is surprised to find his bandmates and their sound man sitting at three separate tables eating in silence. He later asks Dan:
'' 'Dan, do you find the road to be an emotionally cold place?'
'' 'What do you do about that?'
''Without lifting his eyes from the page, he spoke. 'Eventually, you'll grow to enjoy that coldness and learn to crave it.' ''
Not many newly signed musicians seem to remember that, from their artist royalties, they are going to have to pay back every penny the label is spending on them, right down to the lunch tabs ostensibly picked up by the local reps.
''I always thanked the locals for lunch, and then one day it occurred to me. . . .
'' 'Dwayne, that's a corporate Amex, right?'
'' 'And you write ''Semisonic'' on the credit card slip, and that gets billed to our recoupable account, right?'
'' 'So really, shouldn't you be thanking us for lunch?' ''
So, Benny Golson's in a film? Spielberg probably also has Moanin' sitting on a shelf.
Ratliff muses: You've possibly written more standards than any other living jazz composer.
How many would that actually be, ten? a half-dozen? It's kind of depressing. As for other contenders to that title, Wayne Shorter comes to mind, but who else? Chick Corea? Pat Metheny? Herbie Hancock? Would it be safe to say that their generation (around 60) is the last to have composed new jazz standards? I'm a fan of Dave Holland's compositions, but they don't seem to have caught on, despite his being around the same age as the above-named. Do people play Marsalis (B. or W.), Dave Douglas and other 40-ish leading lights get their compositions played?
Monday, June 14, 2004
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KELIS TO REMOVE HER GOLD TEETH FOR NUPTIALS
R&B singer Kelis' family have banned her from wearing her new gold teeth when she weds Nas this summer.
The couple -- who have been showing off their matching $36,000 caps in London this week -- are planning a traditional wedding, but Kelis is convinced her rapper beau will ignore her family's pleas.
She says, 'We're going to have a traditional wedding and my family don't want me wearing my gold teeth.
'But Nas is his own man, so no doubt he'll still be wearing his.'
This explains that but does little to still my rising doubts about Kelis and Nas's lucidity.
Friday, June 11, 2004
I picked this one up because its round, pink, transparent slimline case intrigued me. The only info is printed directly on the CD: Conrad Schnitzler, Rot, "Meditation" 19'44", "Krautrock" 20'09", Recorded in 1972, plate lunch music, pl01. A quick look around the Internet reveals that Schnitzler was a German sound artist (rather than musician) working in experimental electronic music from the '60s on.
"Meditation" begins by setting up a handful of drones that remain very nearly up until the end of the track. The other main element are regularly-paced synth notes with "bouncing ball" effects trailing behind them. At one point, the textures start to shift, with long, carefully-shaped notes reminiscent of Big Fun's trumpet layers. The track ends with an homage to tonality (ie. arpeggios) after the drones have been stripped away. Apparently, Rot was culled from an installation in which the machines were set in motion, then left to their own devices; that process is quite audible here.
"Krautrock" is more percussive and twitchy. It begins with mechanical birds warbling in some alien jungle, as ground-crawlers create an ad hoc rhythmic foundation. 8-9 minutes in, something magnificent happens: a few layers are dropped and the slightest inkling of a synth-percussion-driven beat (actually, my tapping foot probably contributed as much to the beat as anything on the disc) emerges, a wonderful kind of minimal techno. At first elusive, the blissful beat is reinforced by a latin clave before fading away, as these things must.
Rot is the product of a time when the year 2000 still meant flying cars, food pills and holidays on the moon: now kitsch sci-fi movie sounds make up its vocabulary; gaudy uniforms, plastic aliens and goatteed evil-doers abound. I couldn't help but think of Keith Rowe and Toshi Nakamura's Weather Sky. They knew what the year 2000 really was about: we still haven't launched ourselves into inter-stellar regions, so they must work on a smaller scale than Schnitzler's planet-conquerors; machines are talking to us (or is it for us?); we need subtlety and quiet in order to listen for missives from a desperately empty universe.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Being the ego-centric bastard that I am, I checked my Technocrati linkage and came across a couple of new blogs.
What I Like About...
This is a specific-project blog. The very first sentence I read there was This is not music that came from silence. How could one not continue reading after that opening? A few posts later, Isaac says:
The French knew swing even before the States were anything. Lully's band of string players answered the royal demand for dance tunes with enough elegance and motion to be remembered hundreds of years later. When we think about Jazz we must remember that it is not a simple fusion of African and European traditions. Because of Lully, I suspect the European contribution was not devoid of rhythm and I would not be surprised to learn that the African influence included pitch organization.
is josh roseman
If you're wondering "who?", Josh is a trombonist. I've seen him play once with the Dave Holland Big Band. He has a relatively new CD out called Treats for the Nightwalker, which is just as intriguingly weird as his blog. It's a rather good album, with a massive rotating cast, groovy, fusiony at times (but never overwrought) and richly orchestrated, intricate without being overly intellectual. Kind of like Steve Coleman reading pulp on the beach. There's plenty of audio on the blog too.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
In this Greg Osby starts out on a tired subject, but throws a nice spanner in the works.
Everyone wants to write their own new music and be responsible for the development of something that's completely devoid of any kind of historical references. . . . You hear players, they're proficient, they have great technique, great facility, great sounds, but they lack the depth of someone who has — I hate to use the term ‘paid their dues' but they really haven't. They've paid academic dues, but they haven't paid homage dues, they haven't paid road dues, they haven't paid acknowledgment dues. Acknowledgement of great players. And by great players I don't mean the top 10 great players — the Coltranes, the Parkers, the Monks, the Rollinses, the Wayne Shorters. I'm talking about the periphery cats — the cats that these people admired and in many respects were just as deep: the Eddie Lockjaw Davises, the Eddie Harrises, the Sonny Stitts, the Booker Littles, the Herbie Nicholses. These people were incredible theoreticians and conceptualists and they just didn't get the break. This is every one's obligation who participates in this music — they're obligated to study to the Nth degree every facet of what went into the development of this great music.
Anything that goes against the Succession of Great Men view of musical history is fine with me.
This was this blog's original remit (hence the clever title, see), but it soon feel by the wayside. Still, there are only three online venues that regularly cover Belgian jazz: Jazz in Belgium (obviously) and Citizen Jazz (see links on the right) and Zicline. So it's a rather underreported on area. Here's a quick and sloppy and not-very-informative round-up of some good stuff. Just because I can.
Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra - Lobster Caravan
On their first album, you could pick out the separate elements (Indian and African musics, swing, rock, techno, imaginary folk...) that went into their crazy mix. Now, it's much more difficult to do, as things have blended together in a more personal, more detailled and more "produced" sound. The new one is less tuneful than the old one, as tubist/trombonist/composer/clown Michel Massot has taken a bit of a back seat, but when he does step up, he turns out a couple of beautiful tracks. Otherwise, Jean-Luc Evrard's guitar is more present and roaring than ever, the music is more aggressive and, despite an overly fragmented feel, better than before.
Maak's Spirit - Al Majmaâ
Their first album was a live quartet date, the second a sextet studio session and the third a sextet + the Moroccan Gnawa Express + a Malian kora player captured live in various places. But somehow it all makes sense. While others have worked with a kora or Gnawa musicians before, bringing two different African traditions together is pretty rare, it seems to me. The repertoire is a mix of Maroccan traditionals and original compositions. As you might have guessed, it's a percussion- and chant-heavy, rocking affair. When the (electric) bass kicks in on the first track, it gives the song a Bill Laswell ethno-dub kind of feel.
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Change of the Moon
I can't remember if I've recommended this album before or not. Regardless, I can't say a bad word about this one, as these are some of my favourite musicians here. Melody, dynamics, energy, cleverness and bravura. I've lost count of the number of concert reviews I've done here, so I'll just leave it at that.
Fabrice Alleman Quartet - Sides of Life
A more mainstream album, but a very fine one. Saxophonist Alleman writes most of the tunes, pianist Michel Herr provides his trademark classy restraint and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse his beautiful boom and guests chip in when needed: guitarist Peter Hertmans provides a nice shuffle-blues solo, trumpeter Bert Joris is, well, Bert Joris.
Jazzisfaction - Issues
Wide open, melancholy landscapes sometimes tinged with electricity dominate on German (but based in Belgium) trumpeter Peer Baerlein's debut with his quartet. The blurry romanticism is enhanced by Peer's soft, lyrical trumpet, Yves Peeter's delicate drumming and the fact that no-one touches their instrument more than they need to. There are enough changes in mood and tempo (such as a more confident paso doble) to keep this one interesting, however. Drummer/producer/label boss Dre Pallemaerts adds a great remix at the end, sampling and cutting up one of the songs and adding his own drumming underneath.
Sunday, June 06, 2004
Chromatic Musings points to an interview with Chuck D and Hank Shocklee:
Stay Free!: There's a noticeable difference in Public Enemy's sound between 1988 and 1991. Did this have to do with the lawsuits and enforcement of copyright laws at the turn of the decade?
Chuck D: Public Enemy's music was affected more than anybody's because we were taking thousands of sounds. If you separated the sounds, they wouldn't have been anything--they were unrecognizable. The sounds were all collaged together to make a sonic wall. Public Enemy was affected because it is too expensive to defend against a claim. So we had to change our whole style, the style of It Takes a Nation and Fear of a Black Planet, by 1991.
Shocklee: We were forced to start using different organic instruments, but you can't really get the right kind of compression that way. A guitar sampled off a record is going to hit differently than a guitar sampled in the studio. The guitar that's sampled off a record is going to have all the compression that they put on the recording, the equalization. It's going to hit the tape harder. It's going to slap at you. Something that's organic is almost going to have a powder effect. It hits more like a pillow than a piece of wood. So those things change your mood, the feeling you can get off of a record. If you notice that by the early 1990s, the sound has gotten a lot softer.
"It hits more like a pillow than a piece of wood." I'm still pondering this.
The Village Voice is running a jazz mini-series. Let's see.
Band in My Head by Greg Tate
I'm in the middle of a post that crosses paths with this article once or twice. I feel very small right now. Go read this. Wynton Marsalis as P. Diddy: isn't it obvious?
Darn That Dream by Martin Johnson
OK, jam bands, again. Next.
Crossover Realities by Larry Blumenfeld
We learn that there are three kinds of crossover: musical, commercial (ie. shifting/expanding fanbase) and institutional (ie. getting a job because the music isn't paying the rent). A few straw men are burned down (Louis sang and played? Miles never let fans hold him back? Really? Oh yeah: Was Miles interested in Sly & the Family Stone simply because he envied their income?: where's the contradiction? (cf. the Tate article: Miles's greatest enemy was good taste, and vice-versa))
Miles's post-Bitches Brew music inspired an endless wave of fusion, occasional glimmers of creativity subsumed within a sea of banal sound, and in the years since, jazz has not successfully crossed into non-jazz venues.
You might not hear much J.A.Z.Z. on commercial radio, but I hear a lot of snatches (and sometimes more) of it in lots and lots of music: Radiohead, St-Germain (and busloads of house music), Prince to name a few.
So we needn't run from the crossover impulse. It's cursed us with some miserable music. But trust me—it's a blessing.
Oh, Greg Tate said this so much better a few links earlier.
Fleishedik and Milchedik by Francis Davis
I've been reading a lot of Davis (Francis) recently: cf. his archives at The Atlantic (you have to lowercase the D in the URL to get the article to appear. Someone notify the webmaster). That famous Ernest Ansermet quote has me thinking that he understood Tate's Ignant 85 years ago.
The Joan Baez of Jazz by Tom Smucker
Smucker's by now, we've got plenty of distance from Coltrane—too much
Davis's Anthony Davis's X—not a jazz opera, whatever that might be, but a legitimate one in which jazz from ragtime to Coltrane and beyond played an integral part. Given the decelerated pace of jazz evolution, that period feels like just yesterday.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
I've just finished reading Alex Ross's mega-article on Radiohead and it's well, well worth your time. Apart from everything else, I love how, at the end, he drops in [Colin Greenwood] picked through some LPs and CDs, putting on Brad Mehldau, leaving it up to the reader to figure that one out.
An aside: does anyone know how to access the New Yorker's archives? I can only ever manage to access the current The Critics > Music article.
Friday, June 04, 2004
Rhythm in rock songs, an example. Heard Fountains of Wayne's "Mexican Wine" on the radio today. First you have a harpsichord playing in straight-eights, then the big guitars come in in the same steady rhythm. The former is a dainty enough sound, but the latter overload the rhythm and make it plod, don't you think? (I know at least one FoW fan reads this blog...) In any case, it's just one example of the rythmically very boring rock I hear a lot of.
"I don't want to have sex with you... at all" is by a Belgian duo called Sold Out, on a brand new album called Stop Talking. It's wonderfully dripping with disdain and free of pointless explanation/rationalisation, which is what differentiates it from the Pink/Avril songs.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
So, it's nice to read tributes here and there, even if Carlos Santana thinks certain big media outlets were conspicuously quiet. But then you read something like this
Thank you for sharing information about the Jazz
Foundation and their important charity. They have an
arrangement with Englewood Hospital in New Jersey
whereby jazz musicians without medical insurance are
treated at no cost.
It is not a coincidence that this is the hospital
where Elvin Jones received his treatment.
and you remember what was said in Barney Kessel's NY Times obituary and begin to think that, yeah, appreciation is nice and artists live on dreams and such, but it would be nice if they could die with a bit more than that. That's one way of putting it, the other is fuck you, pay me.
I'm now a published, translated (into all of one (1) languages!) and paid writer. Let us rejoice.
(Rekto:Verso May 2004, available free all over Flanders)
You can see a scan of the article in Dutch here. Maybe I'll get the English version published somewhere, someday.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
My first OFN feature article is a Smalls Records label profile. It starts with an overview of the label's mission and then reviews their first four releases. If you're going to buy only one, make it Frank Hewitt's We Loved You.
I found out that it was online when Smalls Records (website) producer Luke Kaven sent me an incredibly deep, thoughtful and detailled rejoinder to the article. I hope that his e-mail (or something similar) will be reprinted on OFN. Failing that, I'll see if I can put it here. It's rare to get this level of written response from a review. I shouldn't be surprised, really, as practically every e-mail I've gotten from Kaven has been thought-provoking.