Friday, July 31, 2009

Just sayin'

The Sound of the Wide Open Spaces, Riverside, is supposed to be all about James Clay and David "Fathead" Newman, but ya know, Wynton Kelley clearly gets his. As for those Texas tenors, Some Kind of Mean is just plain nass-tee, and I mean that in the best sense of the term.

Fathead trots out his damn mean flute on What's New, too. Which rhymes, by the by.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Charles Tolliver Big Band, Emperor March, Half Note

Now I've got to see the Penguin movie, because if it inspired Tolliver to write the title track on this those most be some hip, if flightless, birds. Boffo alto solo from Todd Bashore. Marcus Strickland and Billy Harper also play in a big band that can hold forth with any big band I've heard north of Ellington and Basie.

If that's not enough saxophone goodness, Bill Saxton might top everybody in his tenor solo on In the Trenches. The band's got other instruments, too, and although the session was recorded live in concert, you wouldn't know it from the nearly flawless, but still edgy, playing by all of the musicians. In the Trenches is a wonderful, modern bop homage. Bird, and the birds, live! Also Dizzy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cool things about George Russell...

...that I've learned in reading about him since his passing this week.

He made his performing debut at age 7 singing onstage with Fats Waller.

He played drums professionally before college and played with Benny Carter's band.

Asked in 1958 if jazz had a future, he said: "If America has a future, jazz has a future. The two are inseparable." (Amen, brother.)

He actually composed Cubano Be/Cubano Bop for Dizzy Gillespie, probably the most influential early melding Afro-Cuban music and jazz.

Of course, I already knew that his creation of the Lydian concept led to modal playing led to Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme and lots and lots of other great things. Russell's own Ezz-Thetic with Eric Dolphy is a classic.

He said this about the Lydian: "It comes from Pythagoras. It's a reflection of nature. It wasn't in any way a jazz thing, but a way to appreciate the laws of tension and release, a way of understanding Bach, Ravel, and Stravinsky -- and seeing Coltrane, Monk, and Miles Davis as musicians who were part of the same continuum."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cormac McCarthy, Picture Gallery Blues, Green Linnet

"The watches are melting, I've lost my sense of time," the line that begins the title track, makes me think of Dalí paintings, but there isn't anything surreal about this CD, except maybe the fact that he has the same name as the author of No Country for Old Men. His songs also are by no means as dark as the other Cormac McCarthy's books, any more than they're surrealistic. I think he's kind of an East Coast version of Dave Alvin (roughly similar voice and country, bluesy, rocky music mix) with some Van Morrison, Harry Chapin (Blue Cadillac and Marigold Hall remind me of Harry songs), John Prine and even Tom Waits in him. Pleasant. Chris Botti slips in on trumpet and is quite complimentary. Last Ditch is a sad song about life, death and the sea that, rendered in Portuguese, would probably make good fado.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So good it hurts

I am watching the Mariza concert DVD Concerto em Lisboa again and thinking how lucky I am to have seen her in a small venue with a few hundred people. There must have been thousands in the concert recorded for the DVD. In the more distant seats, it probably would have been hard to see her even on the big screens next to the stage. (You could hear her though, I bet.) I got to sit in about the fifth row and see live just as much as the camera captured. Gave me goose bumps then, gives me goose bumps now.

Luís Guerreio on guitarra Portugeusa is fine on this, too. Desejos Vãos with the Lisbon Symphony is so beautiful it's painful. Chuva is one of the more earnest singing performances I have ever seen. Then, she makes herself cry (OK, and me, too) on Ó Gente Da Minha Terra...and the crowd goes wild (and me, too).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mariza, Concerto em Lisboa, Silva Screen

DVD I bought of live CD I downloaded. Her concert at Purdue this spring was my entrée to fado and the thing is this, her voice is amazing. She is the modern incarnation of Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues, the most famous of fadistas.

But her voice is massively enhanced by her presence, which is equally stunning. Every emotion in the considerable emotional palette of fado music is etched in her face and body language. This is the chief value of the DVD in a concert recording that is, essentially, a best-of session. And it's magnificent, from the opener Loucura, through Meu Fado Meu and on. Henceforth, when anybody asks me about the fado jag I am on, I will loan them this.

Gianluigi Trovesi, Profumo Di Violetta, ECM

Gianluigi, who blows a mean sax, not to mention piccolo and clarinets (see Euridice and Frammenti orfici), fronts an opera band, the horn-heavy kind Verdi liked, in hommage to the city bands of his youth. An opera ensues and is converted into, at mildest, third stream music and conventional jazz that ranges from elements of Gershwin to bop and, at interludes, fusion and free jazz, if not all the way to Albert Ayler at least Ornette Coleman. It's a pretty good trick, all in all.

Although I'm left wondering whether to park it in the jazz or classical sections on my shelves, I know it would compliment either. Not the kind of thing you want to approach without being committed to appreciating its intricacies. Worth every minute if your mind is right.

Jackie McLean, One Step Beyond, Blue Note

When jazz musicians use the waltz form, I sometimes hear it right away (for instance, in Sonny Rollins' Valse Hot or Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby, two favorites). Frankenstein took me three listens but I finally could discern the relationship between it and the Blue Danube, which is, in fact, there underneath all along. Makes the cut more impressive when you do find the thread, start following it and realize how intricately modern a structure these guys have been able to build on the waltz foundation, and not illogically. Everything Jackie McLean produced from the early to late '60s was pretty much a Frank Lloyd Wright.

Grachan Moncur III produced a couple laudable sessions (Evolution and Some Other Stuff) in this period as well, so the pairing of the two, who are complementary, is a bonus. The use of a rhythm section with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes instead of a guitar or piano also makes this interesting. Teen Tony Williams, pre-Miles, is the drummer. He has a solo on Saturday and Sunday that shows why Miles would soon steal him.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A big Boilermaker hello...

...from space, no less, on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marie de Lourdes Machado, Fados do Fao 38, Movieplay

Like listening to a CD of vintage Bessie Smith recordings. Her voice isn't stunning in the mold of Amalia Rodrigues then or Mariza now, but she owns the material no less than Bessie Smith owned, say, St. Louis Blues. Or Balanca Balanca and Meu Filho in the case of Marie de Lourdes Machado. It's about the affinity, in the chemical sense of an attraction that bonds substances, between the singer's life and the material. Wonderful instrumental backing on this, too. Part of a discontinued old-timey fado series I've been able to find a few discs of used or surplus. I would happily buy more.

I can't find a lot of biography for her on the Web, but I did find this: "In 1937, the Portuguese guitarist Armando Machado and his wife fado singer Maria de Lourdes Machado opened Adega Machado, which is considered to be one of the oldest fado houses in Lisbon." Must go there.

I also found this YouTube video, slide show (embedding was disabled, although I don't see why). Pretty scenery. Boffo soundtrack. Limited time investment for the payoff.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Fully Celebrated, Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, AUM Fidelity

Perfect music for a ritual sacrifice...just kidding. Weird title aside, it's a somewhat strange jazz trio date that sounds like Ornette Coleman meets funk and Monk (nowhere more than on Moose and Grizzly Bear's Ville) with some Albert Ayler, Mingus and Eric Dolphy in the mix. Alto guy Jim Hobbs doesn't dip much below the high register. I'd swear he's playing a soprano most of the way. He brings Thomas Chapin to my mind, notably on Reptoid Alliance. The title track is surreal, which makes complete sense.

No gypsy guitar from Django Carranza, whose job instead is to lay down the beat for the proceedings, noticeably on Enemy of Both Sides, where he's really the centerpiece. Pearl's Blues (Your What Hurts?) makes me think of a twisted Tiny Bubbles, while Conotocarious is a free jazz romp and Brothers of Heliopolis has a Chinese thing happening. Dew of May begins like a quiet morning with coffee, a donut and a paper, after which you reluctantly exit the La-Z-Boy and get some stuff done. Timo Shanko on bass plays right along all along. Endearing after a few listens, over the course of which I keep hearing new things.

Monday, July 20, 2009


A 40th anniversary of the first moon landing site from the cradle of astronauts and quarterbacks.

First and last men on the moon were Boilermakers baby, for a bit longer anyway. But we'll always have Neil "Mr. No. 1" Armstrong.

Probably a flaw in my character, but I really have very few vivid memories of childhood, despite generally having a good time. One of them is watching Armstrong step on the moon on an old black and white TV.

I also remember Drew Brees throwing that TD pass to Ike Jones to beat No. 4 Kansas State with 1:25 left in the 1998 Alamo Bowl, but that was in color. I didn't get to drink a few beers in celebration in '69 either. I think I'll just have to make up for it tonight.

God bless Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan. Also Drew Brees.

A baker's dozen at random...

...from my iTunes library.
1) Poinciana, Ahmad Jamal (all about space with him, which Miles so loved, and Ray Crawford on guitar plays right along); 2) The Doors, Take It As It comes (hey, pass the peyote); 3) Essaouira, Thomas Chapin (on bass flute rather than saxes, he died far, far too young, Mario Pavone on bass is stunning); 4) Need to Be, Dewey Redman (not much avant-garde about it, Dewey spinning straight hard bop with his tenor, and darn good at it, too); 5) Recuerdos, Enrico Rava (Enrico with no piano or guitar, just drums bass and Javier Girotto on saxes, leaving the trumpet master with maneuvering room, which he uses to fine advantage); 6) I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart, David "Fathead" Newman (big band Fathead, who could have done Duke proud as well as Ray Charles) 7) Can't Get Out of This Mood, Nina Simone (that voice purely her swings)

8) E Viemos Nascidos Do Mar, Ana Moura (she's singing of the sea in a lively fado fashion and it is so good); 9) Men at Work, Bill Barron (he's showing how hard bop can logically segue into the '60s New Thing with great sax playing and a superior ensemble); 10) There Shall Be No Night, Duke Ellington (and of course, his band, maybe his best band, at Fargo with Ben Webster getting more out of a short solo than most guys get out of an hour); 11) Luck Be a Lady, Frank Sinatra (as if the Chairman isn't enough, the backing band is Count Basie and his Orchestra, you could take Frank out of it and it would still delight); 12) You Turned the Tables on Me, Billy Mitchell (Dizzy dug this Detroit tenor, with good reason); 13) All Day Long, Rusty Bryant (R&B tenor legend works an alto with Grant Green, who's date this could be, on guitar and Sonny Phillips on organ, bluesy and funk-eee).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

White water, white death

The raging rapids of Wildcat Creek. OK, more like noisy riffles.

What I learned on my first paddle there this morning: if you're going to be headed upstream, pack your canoe pole and some rope and expect to do a bit of walking because there are more than a few spots too shallow to move enough water to make headway.

The ride back down was a lot of fun though.

Nice scenery. I saw another heron and a possum climbing a tree and got up close to a turtle, happily not the big snapping variety.

Friday, July 17, 2009

M for Mississippi (Vol. 1), various real live blues artists, Broke & Hungry Records

I have a policy, when Broke & Hungry Records releases a CD, I buy it. These guys find and record bluesmen, primarily from Mississippi, who have, for the most part, never been touched, sadly, by attention much beyond their communities nor commercial considerations (not so sadly, although I wish they could receive the financial recompense they richly deserve without it). In short, whatever they release is "pure" blues from the state and region that's always been the major wellspring for said.

So when they did an award-winning DVD documentary about the artists with whom they have worked and subsequently released not one, but two discs of the music from it, I was on the hook. Blues you say? Try I'm a Bluesman from Terry "Harmonica" Bean. And then you have Black Mattie's Face from the Mississippi Marvel and Lightnin' Malcolm and Hip Shakin' Woman from T-Model Ford and Stud. This stuff is frigging as blue as it gets. Give It All to Me, Baby from Cadillac John Nolden and Bill Abel and The Woman I Love from Pat Thomas? Blue, blue, blue. Bring It on Home from the Robert "Bilbo" Walker Band is soul with a lot of blues flavoring it. Rosalee from L.C. Ulmer is pure Delta right out of Charlie Patton. Hey, the CD just ended. Think I'm playing it again?

Old News Borrowed Blues, Warren Smith, Engine

Mingus and Sun Ra for the 21st Century with a dollop of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. I swear I just heard Joe Daley slip a chorus or two of Young at Heart in on the suite Free Forms 1-4, on the euphonium no less. Claire Daly, a favorite, has a great baritone sax solo that doesn't sound like anything but what's coming out of her head.

Testimony to the versatility of Cecil Bridgewater that he's on this as part of Smith's Composers Workshop Ensemble big band, but then I have to think he and Smith, both Illinois guys who immigrated to New York (from Champaign and Chicago respectively) and became first-call players in a huge variety of settings have known each other for a long time. All works by Smith, Lock the Toilet door is Monkian modern bop, while Rivers State Suite has an Afrobeat, reggae thing going and One More Lick for Harold Vick gets at the nature of the late, great tenor saxophonist's playing without in any way imitating him. Magnificent.

If fado is sad...

If fado is sad, when it is sung
It only brings to tears
Those who have a heart

--Dom António de Bragança, famous fado composer

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This might be the best thing ever...

Oatmeal stout and Heath Bar ice cream, I am drooling just thinking about it.

And what if you took a scoop of this ice cream and placed it in an actual pint of oatmeal stout? Screw root beer floats.

I bet a bowl of it would go good with Scotch, too.

The Art of Portuguese Fado, Celeste Rodrigues, Collectables

I know this is probably heresy, but I feel like I'm closer to real fado, at least its essense as a folk music, than with Amalia Rodrigues, her older sister and inarguably the most famous of fadistas. Celeste's singing is haunting to me rather than bringing to my mind the opera, as Amalia often does. Not to say Celeste can't make her voice soar. She can. I suspect this is more like what I will hear when I find that little hole-in-the-wall fado club of my dreams.

An informative review of the CD can be found at the wonderful All This Is Fado, a Web log about "Portuguese Fado in English."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Enrico Rava, New York Days, ECM

Another noir sound track from ECM great for a rainy day or a dark mood, although I wouldn't suggest it for the prone to depression. Better something more lively, like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Still, musically the guys on this rate with anybody in the Messengers pantheon, from Clifford Brown to Terence Blanchard, not to mention Wynton Marsalis, and Jackie McLean to Javon Jackson, not to mention Branford Marsalis. I mention trumpeters and saxophonists, because Enrico Rava (it's his date) and Mark Turner are the front line here. I always dig Enrico, but I bought this primarily to hear Turner, a tenor who doesn't get enough attention beyond the realm of New York clubs, it seems to me. He's every bit of Joshua Redman, who has a higher profile and a lot more CDs to his credit as the leader.

The interplay between Turner and Rava is like listening to an aural puzzle being put together. The pieces fit and make a nice picture. The solos and the seamless ensemble working wrapped around them on Outsider and Certi Angoli Segreti are typical. Not much fire (Thank You, Come Again is about as warm as it gets), but it's like having ice water douse you on a hot day. Sends a chill or three down your spine. Stefano Bollani on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Paul Motian on drums stick mostly to the background but are important pieces of the puzzle nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dawn Clement, Break, Origin

I thought it was cool when Dawn Clement ended her first CD by playing AND singing Tom Waits Midnight Lullaby, her only vocal. On piano, she has a fluidity and tone akin to Vince Guaraldi but more percussive (on Break, check out Distant Oasis) and with flashes of the approaching things from odd angles you get with a Herbie Nichols or Monk (on a breakneck Sweet and Lovely).

The roots in Monk on Break aren't as evident at the keyboard, however, as in her singing, which she does on more than one number in this outing, including positively Monkian versions of All of Me and Dream a Little Dream of Me. She may not be a great singer in the Ella Fitzgerald sense, but then neither was Billie Holiday nor is Jolie Holland (whom I like a lot) today. Nonetheless, they sure can use what they've got effectively to get the point across. Ditto Dawn Clement, with the added attraction of being able to play jazz piano on the level of just about anybody on the scene now. Matt Wilson on drums and Dean Johnson on bass are great teammates for her. That Wilson's sticks never overwhelm points to the power in Clement's playing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sonia Tavares, Reformacao, Sonia Tavares

From the first time I put this on, I thought of Jimmy Rushing and as I sit through a fourth listen I come up with a couple reasons. First, when she sings, you have no doubt what she's singing, her voice is powerful and you can apply the same word to her enunciation (check out Los Piconeros). Jimmy Rushing gets characterized as a "blues shouter" for similar qualities in his singing. But I always thought that was an inaccurate description because Jimmy Rushing had in reality a very classy voice.

And that's the second reason Sonia Taveres brings him to mind. Her singing on this disc is just classy, near operatic in places (Demora, Ai Mouraria and Nada P'ra Frazer, for instance), a quality in the best fado tradition of Amalia Rodrigues, which Jimmy Rushing had in a bluesy and jazzy sense as well.

The set offers lively tunes, too, like Tirana Mito. I think of Licao de Fado as being mysterious. She's a Canadian and I ordered the CD from her Web site. Sonia mailed it herself and then sent me a nice e-mail to let me know it was on the way. Like I said, classy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thoughts on the river

Pretty boat.

You can park yourself on an island in the stream, get on that river and let the current carry you where it will, or take a paddle in your hands, bend your back and choose your own destination.

Friday, July 10, 2009

On bad beer

I have to admit that sometimes after I drink a certain number of good beers, I switch to Miller or even, sorry, Miller Lite because once you're well lubricated why waste the prime stuff?

Then I usually pay for it the next morning by feeling like somebody has beaten me with a baseball bat.

Mass market American beer also is nice on a hot day, for example after mowing the lawn, I guess because it's like drinking ice cold water with taste, albeit not much taste. Then again, I don't mow my lawn.

Pass the Dogfish Head.

Three reasons big brand American beers suck, which the corporations that make them have the audacity to tell you is good for you.

Of course, there is no such thing as bad free beer.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Jackson's send off

As I've stated, I think the level of coverage (and its almost complete lack of context and perspective) of this whole thing has been criminal.

And not, evidently, a victimless crime either:

"Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles said that Jackson's memorial service cost $1.4 million.

"Spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the costs included extra police on the streets, trash pickup, other sanitation and traffic control for the Tuesday event.

"Three thousand police officers, almost one-third of the force, were on hand to ensure that the Jackson events proceeded smoothly, Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell said.

"The city, which is $530 million in debt, set up a Web page asking Jackson fans for donations to help with the expenses.

"Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich does not want taxpayers to pay a penny for the service, his spokesman said Wednesday.

"The city attorney does not want something like this happening again, the city paying for a private event," spokesman John Franklin said. "That's especially in a cash-strapped city, where people have been furloughed or even lost jobs."

I'm with the city attorney.

Here is a little measured perspective:

"You'd have to make a desperate effort not to know that Michael Jackson (until recently excoriated by the media) had died, and you'd have to make a similarly desperate effort to know that we've knocked off one wedding party after another these last years in Afghanistan. One of these deaths -- Jackson's -- really has little to do with us; the others are, or should be, our responsibility, part of an endless war the American people have either supported or not stopped from continuing. And yet one is a screaming global headline; the others go unnoticed."

And here is a Brit view with the subtlety of a blow from a cricket bat (a tad too heavy-handed, I think, and I especially don't like the Hitler analogy, but you have to say it gets its point across):

"The parallels between Graceland and Neverland are expected and wholly unsurprising: it is what happens when incredible fame, fortune and near-limitless power are bestowed on young men with no real education and no intellectual interests. The pleasures of the inhabitants of the two mansions are near-identical: lying in bed, attended by lackeys, while you indulge your sensory pleasures: food, small boys, whatever."

Please let it all be over soon.

Tania, Fado Inspirado, Alexcia Records

I notice more zippy fado tunes, like Alamares, Fadinho de Ti Maria Benta and Rapsodia Lisboeta (which reminds me of Brazil, the song not the country) on this disk than some others I own. Sometimes I think of it as being at "cantina" pace (Mexican or Star Wars ) and other times it brings to mind, say, Emmylou Harris' Rollin' and Ramblin' or Wheels of Love.

I may be thinking of Emmylou, too, because that's the kind of voice Tania has, higher than a Mariza or a Lizz Wright and somewhat thinner, which isn't to say they aren't fine voices. In baseball terms, they're breaking ball as opposed to power pitchers, relying on subtlety, not that they can't both throw heat in selected spots. Tania, a first generation Portuguese-American, tends to pound it more on slower, melancholy fados (and there are several, despite my earlier comment about this being noticeably zippy) like Abandono, Amor de Mel, Amor de Fel and Mar Portugues. The accompaniment is generally the traditional guitarras and bass with a drum and bowed strings slipping in at least once. Consistently captivating.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

That's a lot of MP3s

This is a nifty graphical explanation of how much a petabyte, which will be the size of the average hard drive in not too many years, represents in storage capacity.

An element I found interesting was the change in the price of a gigabyte of hard drive space in just the last nine years, from $228 to 88 cents. One company claims it will have a petabyte drive on the market in 2-5 years for $750, which will likely be $500 six months later and $250 a year after that. A petabyte is a million gigabytes, by the way. Makes me nostalgic for that 10-megabyte drive I thought was so big in my late-80s Mac.

Zoot Sims, Morning Fun, Black Lion

I never knew Zoot Sims could sing...and I still don't. Just kidding, he does a credible job on I Can't Get Started, but his tenor, absolutely Cookin' on things like Count Basie's The King and Box Cars, is the attraction. Bob Brookmeyer serves as co-leader and is right there with him. Some super ensemble work by the two.

I kept noticing the pianist then finally took a look to see who it was. No wonder I noticed: Hank Jones. Bill Crow on bass and Jo Jones on drums are perfect pieces for rounding out this group. That old saying about you can't beat time? They might not have been able to beat it, but they sure could fight it to a draw.

Mostly rousing, even with a ballad such as Lullaby of the Leaves, bop yet really swinging at the same time. Might be the best I've heard from Brookmeyer's valve trombone, up there anyway.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Carla Pires, Ilha Do Meu Fado, Ocarina

If Patsy Cline sang fado, which is to say her voice may not soar like Mariza's or have the near-operatic quality of Amália Rodrigues, although she played the young Amália in a musical about the life of the most famous of fadistas.

But it's a wonderful voice nonetheless (silvery is a word I want to use) made the more so by her skillful modulation of it.

Nice selection of songs with a range of tempos and a mix of both irony and melancholy. Aprende O Meu Coracao (Learn My Heart) is the kind of song Madeleine Peyroux might sing, if she sang fado. Guitarras only on the accompaniment, and a fine job of it they do, definitely a selling point for this disc. I particularly admire the pulse laid down in Fadista Louco and Alfama, not to mention the stellar soloing between the sung choruses. A fado CD not to be missed.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Crazy Rhythms, 2 Chucks, Savoy Jazz

The 2 Chucks are Charlies Kennedy, who passed in April, and Ventura, the former a little bit Chu and a little bit Pres, the latter by way of Hawk, Ike Quebec and Bird. C.K. makes his horn dance on the title track and he's nifty throughout. But the supporting cast really strikes me in his five selections, Al McKibbon on bass in particular. He doesn't really solo or do anything fancy yet is so solid in the foundation he lays, I can't help but marvel at it. Pianist Johnny Guanieri and guitarist Bill De Arango produce some nice solos on what is small group swing advanced enough for the time (1945) to display elements of bop. Lovely version of I Can't Get Started. De Arango has some Django in him.

Ventura's five songs are dandy, too, starting with a wailing Dark Eyes. He's likewise pyrotechnical on Charlie Comes On and Jackpot, but leavens those with a ballady Ever So Thoughtful and a swift yet less frenetic Big Deal. Specs Powell does some laudable drumming.

That's how I roll

Nice long paddle this morning under cloudly skies and with a few sprinkles. Along the way, I saw a Great Blue heron, a muskrat, a turtle and a scary catfish about two feet long.

Then I started thinking about those movies where a giant alligator shows up in some place it shouldn't be, and I paddeled faster. Hey man, I saw Lake Placid. I know how this works. OK, that was a crocodile, but same outcome.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A baker's dozen...

...randomly generated from my iTunes library.

1) Ca Mi Queria, Cristina Branco (surprisingly light-hearted fado); 2) Como Fue, Ibrahim Ferrer (melancholy big-band-backed Cuban jazz singing); 3) If It's Good (Then I want It), Louis Armstrong (Pops sings, then blows, it's good, I want it); 4) Every Time It Rains, Randy Newman (I love him when he's ironic, but he's a balladeer nonpareil as well); 5) Twisted, Wardell Gray (if Charlie Parker played tenor); 6) Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant Part 1 & 2, Return to Forever (groovin' long-form fusion); 7) Stompin at Decca, The Django Reinhardt Festival (violin and saxophone capture the gypsy's essence and a guitar in the mode of the master follows, plus ensemble)

8) Deep Blue Sea, Nat Simpkins (sax, organ and guitar, to have sex by, naturally); 9) Scrapple from the Apple, Charlie Parker (what more need be said); 10) There's a Small Hotel, J. J. Johnson (lyrical isn't a term you associate with the trombone, except maybe with this guy); 11) Lonesome Home Blues, Tommy Johnson (who's not Robert, but pretty much as good); 12) The Porch Faces Sunset. Richard Leo Johnson (who coaxes a symphony out of a piece of National Steel) 13) Go Ahead John, Miles Davis (pulse, drum, thrash, a compact funk-eee omelet)

Frank Macchia, Saxolollapalooza, Cacophony

Big band...sound, in any event. Six reeds and drummer Peter Erskine. Macchia did the arrangements for a sax sextet a long time ago and finally got to record them, and some new ones, with a bunch of pro-phuker on-call L.A. reedistas, including Eric Marienthal.

Down By the Riverside is a very New Orleans second line rendering as is Java, big time. Beautiful version of My One and Only Love with Gene Cipriano on bari carrying it. They do more interesting things with Working Day and Night than Michael Jackson ever did, I venture. Duke and Juan Tizol would have dug the version of Caravan, which just popped the word intricate into my mind. Eminently swinging Shortening Bread, thoroughly bluesy Creole Love Song (Marienthal's closing solo is just soaked in the blues), odd but intriguing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that begins noirish and ends choir-like. This is boffo music.

Cristina Branco, Sensus, Decca

Grew on me through three listens. Initially, I thought it wasn't very fado on the front end, more Latin jazzy. My Love is like Barbara Streisand singing My Funny Valentine, only not the same words and in Portuguese. But this, and the piano accompanying her, doesn't negate the fact that it is fado at its roots. The comparison also is a commentary on her voice, which is marvelous.

The Portuguese guitar kicks in on the next track, Songs of the Mountain Women, and we are back in traditional fado territory. She makes fado of Shakespeare on If Thy Soul Check Thee, and darn good fado, too. By Sonnet Destroyed we're in proper, gut-wrenching fado mode. He Only Wanted is actually kind of hopeful.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

As per Michael Jackson...

In the last hundred years, there have been many, many musicians, even limiting it to Americans, at least as, and in some cases more, significant: Joplin, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith, Woody Guthrie, Gershwin, Sinatra, Ella, Armstrong, Ellington, Miles, Monk, Patsy Cline, Mingus, Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Barbara Streisand, Philip Glass, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elvis, Prince and Springsteen. Make your own list.

Jackson made (some) interesting music and was, up to an obvious point, good at marketing himself. He has a measure of cultural relevance as a black man (albeit apparently not willingly) who crossed boundaries. Then again, so does Sonny Rollins (willingly, I might add) and, when Mr. Rollins, or Fred Anderson, for example, pass, the media and thus the world will scarcely notice the ripple, which I find truly sad.

The venerable New York Times on the day of Jackson's death led its Web page with five, count them five, stories about it. I guarantee that on the day Quincy Jones dies, the NYT will not lead its Web page with five stories about it and not because he lacked importance in comparison to Michael Jackson by any rational measure. What he lacks is a freak show quality to his life. Prurience is not the same thing as significance.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Helder Moutinho, Luz De Lisboa, Ocarina

"One may ask: the fado singer sings the fado, or is himself that very fado he sings?" Theme of Au Vieux Chanteur, To the Old Singer, one of 11 excellent fados from Mountinho, the first male fado singer I have encountered since I became interested in the music who really grips me.

The others haven't been bad, just not as emotive as the many women whose fado CDs I now own, which is important to me because, while I am learning more with each disc, I still understand just a little Portuguese and it's the emotion, not the words, invested in the music that really attracts me.

Someone like Mariza, Ana Moura or Cristina Branco it makes no difference that I don't understand (most of) the words she's singing, I can understand what she is singing about without knowing (most of) the words, a power that comes, perhaps, because they are the fados they sing. Ditto this guy. Also, excellent Portuguese guitar playing from Paulo Jorge Santos.