Friday, September 30, 2011

Gigi Gryce, Doin' the Gigi, Uptown

George General Grice, Jr., AKA Gigi Gryce and Basheer Qusim, got sick of the music business early in the 1960s and went into teaching disadvantaged and troubled kids using music as a tool. When he died in 1983, too young at 57, they named a school after him. So he left a heck of a legacy.

What he didn't leave was a big recorded legacy and while his students are richer for the career change, those of us who appreciate the music of a gifted alto sax player, composer and arranger admired by his peers could be excused for ruing it, if just a little. However, we're richer now, too, thanks to this collection of never-before-released cuts from studio demos and live radio and TV sessions (with good sound throughout).

We get some of Gryce's compositions, but what I really like about it is his rearranging of some well-chewed standards, which renders, for instance, Take the A Train and Stompin' at the Savoy in a way that retains the essence of the originals while sounding like almost entirely new songs. Gryce is in excellent form on both those cuts, and most of the others as well, making me think of Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt (on alto) here and Benny Carter or Johnny Hodges there, while nonetheless always being Gigi.

The other revelation to me is trumpeter Richard Williams, who appears on most of the tracks. He's every bit of Kenny Dorham and Donald Byrd (another bandmate of Gryce's) and also died too young, of cancer at 54 (this I do not like).

Ranges from classic bebop to sophisticated stuff akin to the modal productions of Miles Davis around the same time, all of it good for many listens right out of the box.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nothing to fear, but fear

"Fear. It's the oldest tool of power. If you're distracted by the fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."

-- Fox Mulder

Gee, why didn't the Koch brothers think of that?

Never mind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Pops said

"What's money anyhow? You make it and you might eat a little better than the next cat. You might buy a little better booze. But you get sick just like the next cat, and when you die you're just as graveyard dead as he is."

-- Louis Armstrong

Amen daddy!

Ana Popovic, Unconditional, Eclecto Groove

Ana Popovic sings a little like Big Mama Thornton (and Helen Reddy) and plays the guitar a little like Stevie Ray Vaughan (and Robert Cray), which is kind of weird when you consider she's from Belgrade, and I don't mean the one near St. Louis, or even the ones in Maine and Montana. Still, you know it's true, music is a universal language and I might say the blues is universal, too.

In any event, Count Me In and Soulful Dress are going into the running playlist Mix 26.2 because you hear them and the feet must move. Sonny Landreth adds a second slide on one tune and there's some b-a-d bad organ and harp playing in the bargain. It's all good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Danielle Ate the Sandwich sings her excellent song American Dream with some kids/fans from North Carolina.

Amusing Danielle Ate the Sandwich video. They blew her off in Kentucky so I got to see her in Indianapolis. Her voice is even more wonderful in person. The CD is her latest, Two Bedroom Apartment, and it's boffo.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Townes Van Zandt, Live at the Old Quarter, Fat Possum Records

Townes Van Zandt wasn't a stunning guitar player and his singing voice wasn't all that great but, man, he could play and sing. And write lyrics that melt your heart and stir your soul and can feel so sad even when they're funny, like Talking Thunderbird Blues.

Country blues, maybe not officially, although I'm not uncomfortable classifying it that way given tunes such as Chauffer's Blues, which could have come right from the Delta. Call it Country and Western Folk meets the Blues Folk, and a copacetic meeting it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And I don't mean in a Halloween way

The Way the Whole Thing Ends on Gillian Welch's The Harrow & The Harvest, Acony, is about the most haunting (new) tune I've heard in a good long while. She may be a folkie, but I hear some Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday in there, not to mention some Woody Guthrie and Mississippi John Hurt, with a nicer voice but no less emotive.

Really good guitar playing as well.

The murder of Troy Davis by Georgia got me thinking

"Whether the trial witnesses against him were lying then or are lying now, by fighting against his requested relief Georgia is saying that its interest in the finality of its capital judgments is more important than the accuracy of its capital verdicts."

-- From a thoughtful Atlantic piece by Andrew Cohen.

So if government is "bad" when it taxes you, what about when it kills you, and with more than a "reasonable doubt" that you did the thing for which you're being killed? Why aren't John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, et al, stepping up to the plate on that issue?

Of course, we know where Rick "Serial Executionier" Perry stands.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saudade on Sept. 11

This evening I am listening to Portuguese fado music. The fado is rooted in the concept of saudade, loosely translated an intense longing for things lost. Lives, for instance, thousands on this day 10 years ago, hundreds of thousands since, mostly without purpose. Or the rule of law that says one may not be held indefinitely without a trial by a jury of one's peers, or even without being charged with any crime at all. Or the idea that a person should be judged on content of character, not choice of church or of headdress. Or the right to communicate and/or travel freely without being surveilled by the CIA and the New York City police and strip searched, virtually or literally. Or the notion that state-sanctioned assassination inevitably leads to more problems than it solves. These, and an economy devastated by 10 years of ill-advised and ineffective war, are the wages of 9/11, or, rather, our reaction to it. Celebrate that.