Friday, February 29, 2008

Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo, Telarc

Cahl, bless his heart, sent me this. Now, I like Otis Taylor anyway, because he's one of a few modern blues guys whose CDs I cue up and never am quite sure what's going to hit my ears next, which is to say he advances the art in a jazz-like way that isn't always the case with the blues today.

But this is even a step beyond that involving, as it does integrally, the banjo, an instrument I basically loathe as a device employed mostly by peckerwoods.

Taylor, a stellar cast including my men Corey Harris, Guy Davis and Don Vappie, whom I saw playing in Orchestra Hall in Chicago last fall, recapture the banjo, an African-American instrument at its roots, not only for the blues, but I'd say folk, jazz, rock and more (and just see Live Your Life for all of them).

Check out Hey Joe for a serious rock-blues employment of the banjo. Who knew?

I've sung Little Liza Jane since I was a kid, but I will sing it far more cooly now that Davis has showed me how.

Five Hundred Roses is what you might get if John Lee Hooker had been a banjo player.

The banjo wasn't always, clearly, the purview of Grand Ole Opry white boys, as Vappie et al make clear on the trad New Orleans tune Les Ognons and, ditto, Alvin Youngblood Hart on Deep Blue Sea.

Still the extensibility happens mostly in the tunes penned by Taylor, of which there are plenty.

This is not your father's, assuming he was an inbred mofo, Dueling Banjos.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is your brain on jazz...

Interesting study scanning the brains of jazz musicians with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging as they improvise (on a keyboard in this case).

The crux: performance-monitoring regions of their brains shut down and various areas associated with dreaming, with all of the senses and with regulating emotions kick in, in addition to an area involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts and behaviors.

In other words, they stop thinking about what they're doing on a conscious level and just let it come to them, which sounds a lot like Mr. Sonny Rollins describing what happens to him in concert, or Michael Jordan in one of those stretches where he'd hit every shot he tossed up for that matter.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanks, Teo

So sad to read that Teo Macero died. He produced a ton of stunning
sessions by jazz artists from Monk to Wallace Roney.

I owe him big for some of my favorite Miles Davis electric music, which
is some of my favorite music period, including In a Silent Way, which I
think is Miles' masterpiece. Not to mention Sketches of Spain.

I won't say Miles couldn't have done it without Teo, but he would have
had to find (and later did) someone to take Teo's place and the stuff
might not have been as uniformly interesting and evolutionary (and
later wasn't}.

I hope they're working somewhere tonight.

Teo was a pretty good bop sax player, too, which people tend to forget.