Archive for May, 2006
I thought I’d take a jazz break for a couple of completely unrelated pop songs that have re-turned me on lately.
The Toys > A Lover’s Concerto
The Toys were truly a one-hit wonder. A great underrated producer, Bob Crewe (The Four Seasons, Mitch Ryder), took Bach’s Minuet in G, put on a Motown bass lined married to a girl group trio, and presto! one of the greatest tracks of one the greatest pop years (1965).
John Coltrane had become a star in the Miles Davis’ bands in the 50s. Listeners, even Miles, sometimes “complained that Coltrane played too much for too long. But it was the long, feverish solos that became the pillars of Coltrane’s legacy.” As a young guy on college radio I embraced this stuff without truly loving it all that much.
Ballads changed all that for me and thousands of other listeners. Signed to a new label, Impulse Records, his producers successfully showcased Coltrane as the revolutionary firebrand while holding on to the straight jazzers who came along from Miles. I know it worked like crazy for me.
Romantic, even ecstatic, this 1962 album introduced me to classic jazz in the most perfect way. Coltrane shows his complete mastery of the form, in the guise of a beautiful song, played very straight without a ton of obvious improvisation. Every track is worthwhile, but the one here composed by Jimmy [Read more…]
In 1969, when this album came out, my music bible was Rolling Stone; I tried to get my hands on every album they reviewed. Once Lester Bangs (before he went completely punk and heavy metal) declared Emergency as the future of rock’n’roll. What did I know from Tony Williams? When he said “rock’n’roll” I thought that’s what he meant. If Lester said it, I bought it.
Geez, what a mistake this was, I thought at the time. My roomate Rodney and I would play the first minute of the record about once a week, and scratch it off the turntable in revulsion. This record was rock and it wasn’t jazz. Future? Sure hope I don’t live to hear it.
Based on my last couple of posts, I couldn’t figure out whether to go backwards or forwards in time, so I’ll continue through my personal musical journey that got me jazz engaged.
As an unrepentant pop rocker coming out of high school, I had no interest at all in jazz until Tony Williams left Miles Davis and started what was essentially a hard rock band with jazz players (more on that next time). For me it was a short leap to Ornette Coleman, who, while being a total, pure jazzer, was crazy enough but bluesy enough for any rocker. Or so it sounded to me. And just the title of this album made me think (correctly, as it turned out) that he was more interested in the future than the past, which as a card-carrying teenager, I had no interest in.
Charlie Haden made his reputation in the early 60s with Ornette Coleman’s avant garde jazz revolution (after a mid-western childhood playing with his family’s country & western band). After a period of drug addiction and resurrection through political action, he settled back on the West Coast, taught and CalArts, and resumed an early interest in duets (with among others Pat Metheny, Kenny Baron, and Ornette). This album with Hank is my favorite of a great bunch. A combination of gospel songs and church hymns, they’re interpretations by two of the sublime players of their generations. Easy going down and smart at the same time.
Charlie Haden: bass
Hank Jones: piano
Jason Plapp (co-creator of Bradwurst, “the only character who’s ass you can see from all directions”) asked me about some jazz he could check out. I assume because I started my career as a jazz record producer. So Jason’s giving me inspiration to search out and post some of my favorite jazz tracks. There won’t be any other rhyme or reason other than that I like them, but maybe they’ll be useful pointers. And I’ll link to Wikipedia biographies to help guide whatever sketches I put up.
Hank Jones is one of the great journeymen of his (and our) time. He comes from Detroit, made his name as a bebopper in the 40s, and settled in as one of the most versatile stylists of any era, equally comfortable in music popular before and after his coming of age. His brothers Elvin (from John Coltrane’s great quartet) and Thad (Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band) also [Read more…]
And I’ve got to say, it took me years to realize that Killing Floor was one of the 50 greatest songs written and by one Chester Burnett, aka the Howlin’ Wolf. (It was probably the anti-Vietnam War Lyndon Johnson snippet at the beginning re-casting the title sentiment that threw me off.) The track hits the groove from the first downbeat and never lets it go. No one cares that Nick Gravenites is a white guy, Mike Bloomfield plays his guitar to prove his reputation, and Buddy Miles is so solid you don’t wonder why Jimi Hendrix wanted to play with him so badly.
I don’t think it’s nostalgia that makes me play loudly over and over. The original is [Read more…]