Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thoughts on the sublime

I have a new (relatively) iPod Shuffle that I keep randomly restocked from a digital library that currently approaches 5,500 songs, mostly jazz and blues, and listening to the iPod walking to lunch today it came up with “Giant Steps,” causing me to pull the full CD out for a listen on the Denon.

I was struck again by the power and beauty of Coltrane’s playing and by the realization that sometimes music and musicians become famous for their obvious sublimity, as in the case of “Giant Steps.” A nice thought in this era of lip-syncing, modular divas.

The Shuffle must have liked it, too. It came up with “Blue Train” right after. Also sublime.

Strolling Abbey Road

originally uploaded by mrgreg.
These are my friends David Dewar, Bob Bohner, Rodd Zolkos and Kathy Willhoite replicating (kind of) the famous Beatles walk across Abbey Road on our trip to London last week.

Rodd was the real yeoman. It was a cold day and he did it sans shoes.

Traffic is required to stop for pedestrians at this crossing. I can't believe anybody in the know still drives the stretch, which is a tad popular with walkers and gawkers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Wish I'd been there

Great story by the great Nat Hentoff in today’s Wall Street Journal about the new Hyena Records release of a live Joe Williams concert at a little club in Providence, R.I., in 1962. Big Joe walks in and finds Ben Webster sitting in the corner with his sax and asking to sit in. And the rest is history. Good thing somebody brought a tape recorder. Better thing somebody saved the tape. Best thing my man Joel Dorn, late of 32 Jazz and a lot of other stuff, decided to produce this CD, “Havin’ a Good Time.”

My big purchase

I got the Mosaic reissue of “The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Band Sessions” recently. It’s not cheap ($78 with shipping for four CDs), but I don’t recall ever being happier with a music purchase right now.

I love this band, in which trombonist Bob Brookmeyer played as big a role as Mulligan, and the sound, liner notes and packaging are super.

The third disk with the live Village Vanguard concert from December 1960 and featuring Clark Terry’s beautiful trumpet is particularly good and you can get it as a reissued single CD from Verve. “Blueport” from this set is just an all-time classic.

On the Mosaic disk you also get a Webster Hall, New York, performance from July 1961, which may be even better than the Vanguard concert. Doc Severinsen fills in for Terry and it makes me regret that he’s known more for being Johnny Carson’s foil than as a fine jazz trumpeter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Strange Fruit

Since airline travel is more about waiting these days (ridiculous forced check-in two hours early on international flights, long lines to check in anyway as airlines continue to become Greyhound and exhibit no concern with customer service whatsoever, slow security checks that make us marginally safer if at all) than actually traveling I had plenty of time to do some reading on my London trip.

I finished “Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song” by David Margolick. It’s a nice read and a good look at the myths and realities of what has to be one of the most powerful songs, and powerful series of jazz performances, ever.

Billie Holiday didn’t write it and it wasn’t written for her, contrary to urban legend. However, she certainly owned it artistically and emotionally. Makes me sad every time I hear her sing it, but I’m compelled to put it on periodically.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Music to stay awake by

Trying to keep myself up and moving this afternoon, so I can get my biological clock off London time, I'm listening to "In the Wind: The Woodwind Quartets" by the late Makanda Ken McIntyre. Think World Saxophone Quartet with more instruments and fewer players.

In fact, McIntyre played all the instruments and parts himself (from various flutes, clarinets and saxophones to unusual, for jazz anyway, axes like the oboe and bassoon) and then assembled the pieces into "quartets" electronically. It's cool. A little like African-tinged chamber music. I wouldn't want to listen to it every day. But I am going to get up some mornings and have a hankering to hear it.

Back from London, town not towen

originally uploaded by mrgreg.
So if you know the Stephen King story set in the London suburb of Crouch End, or know the movie "Shaun of the Dead," you'll appreciate the pilgrimage I had to make there on my trip to England last week.

I got back yesterday and I miss the beer already.

I caught Scott Hamilton at Pizza Express Jazz in Soho and he and his quartet were excellent. Their recent "Live in London" CD is now on my to-buy list.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fathead and the Lamehawks

Listening to "It's Mr. Fathead" this morning, a vintage 32 Jazz, the little label I miss, title I got on Amazon marketplace from Caiman, with which I've had great dealings. I dropped $40 on it, but it includes all four of David "Fathead" Newman's initial albums, including "Fathead/Ray Charles Presents David Newman." You can find these singly and I think they're fine hard bop-post bop-soul jazz neighborhood pieces. Some great sidemen as well, including Ray Charles and also Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers. Fathead plays a mean flute and the alto as well as his tenor.

I'm glad my friend David Dewar, Kansas faculty member and big Jayhawks fan, was on an airplane to London last night. At least he'll be able to concentrate on pub crawling next week and not have to spend any time worrying about NCAA basketball.

Now I really am on my way to GB, in a couple hours anyway. Cheers.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Egyptians considered it bread

originally uploaded by mrgreg.
This is me drinking Belgian beer in a Paris cafe. For the next week, I'll be drinking British beer in London pubs.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Just getting started, more coming

This is my test of Blogger and I'm just getting started so more will be coming after I get back from vacation in London. In the meantime, here are some recent jazz CDs I've sampled and highly recommend.

John Ellis, "One foot in the swamp." Funk-eee.
NOJO with Sam Rivers, "City of Neighborhoods." Pretty free big band and a legend to boot.
The new reissue of "Miles in Tokyo." I kind of wish Sam Rivers had played with Miles Davis longer.