• 5000+ Artists. Time for a reset?

    Fev 17 2012, 15h01

    I was so looking forward to the threshold of reaching 5000 artists in my last.fm library. My music library on my hard drive lays claim to 7095, but I know that at least a couple hundred of these are bizarre naming variants from files I have picked up. Like a cold from a stranger, when you shake hands by exchanging files, sometimes you get unhealthy results.

    Attaining 5000 was thoroughly anticlimatic. I had been hanging in the neighborhood of 4980 for what seemed like months. Each new artist added seemed to represent a long stretch of listening without encountering anyone new--new to me anyway--and so, one day about three weeks ago, I stopped looking at my last.fm tally. Screw it. It was gonna happen or it wasn't, no big deal. Gone was the imagined thrill I had built for myself, wondering which gem would emerge from the accumulation of some 40+ years of collecting music, and the last 15+ collecting most of it digitally, either by transfering my vinyl & cd collections to digital magnetic storage or buying from CDBaby, eMusic, Squidco, and other online merchants.

    What happened? One Saturday, I was slaving the morning away cleaning up duplicates using the (imo) awesome dupeGURU music edition, I realized that I had 20-30GiB of music files gifted to me by my son in LA, honestengine, which coincidentally included music he had at one time or another recorded from my files/lps.

    I took a break to do some other stuff around the house, & just let the Banshee wail. (For the unwashed, Banshee is an open source media player that is the default player in ubuntu 11.04 and after.)

    Instead of poetic, mystic insights about myself gleaned from the final 10 artists from 4991-5000, I got new entries from such unrelated artists as Cornish In A Turtleneck, The Long Blondes, Indian Jewelry, and Big Star. OK, so some of these aren't exactly new to me--I know I've been overdue to listen to Big Star, but I still don't see what the whole furor is over their music. I liked Alex Chilton's solo work more than Chris Bell's and Cornish in a Turtleneck reminds me that WCBN-FM has been rockin' the free-form for about 35 years now.

    As I look at my top 20 most played artists overall, I find that there are a couple that I rarely listen to anymore (Joe Maneri, Frank Zappa), and a bigger handful of artists that are in MY top 20 because holgagirl NEVER logs in under her own name & just hits the genre=hiphop button (MIA, MIA/diplo, Mos Def, Gorillaz, Astronautalis). I'm thinking of doing a clean slate, reset the controls for the heart of the sun, cleansing of the last.fm palate to see what if anything would change.

    I guarantee that Warren Defever's ever-changing (syn. quixotic, chameleon-like) vehicle His Name Is Alive will be at or near the top, along with current co-leaders Miles Davis and Sun Ra. Can't get enough of that.

    Not that this should be of interest to much of anyone but me, I still would be interested to hear from friends whether they think I ought to pull the reset lever or not.
  • Soul/R&B Starter Set for StDionysus

    Mai 23 2010, 20h31

    StDionysus said:
    I'm looking for RnB/Soul recommendations. My knowledge in this field is very limited.
    Something along the lines of Marvin Gaye, Issac Hayes, O.V Wright, Bill Withers etc. (Maybe even more stuff by said artists)

    I apologize if this has been covered a hundred times.


    Well, I'll second the reco for Superfly.

    So, cutting a pretty wide swath from the ridiculous to the sublime, here are ten in no particular order:

    The Pharaohs Awakening
    Bobby Womack Understanding
    Percy Mayfield Poet Of The Blues
    Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back
    Baby Huey & the Babysitters
    The Living Legend
    Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights
    The Impressions The Impressions (the "birthplace" of Curtis Mayfield & Jerry Butler)
    Rufus Thomas Walkin' the dog
    Black Merda Black Merda
    The Bar-Kays Money Talks

    This is just a surface skimming of some artists that you might like. Plenty more roads to travel down if you like (any of) these. Black Merda & TThe Pharaohs are the most energetic, with the Bar-Kays close behind.

    The Bar-Kays were Isaac Hayes backing band & Stax/Volt house band. They are part of the whole Memphis soul contingent: Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MGs, Steve Cropper, Otis Redding, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Screamin' jay Hawkins.

    Half of The Pharaohs became the Phenix Horns (Earth Wind & Fire) & the other half stayed with their avant-garde jazz mentor Phil Cohran, who was part of Sun Ra's band in the 50s. Black Merda & The Pharaohs were mainstays of the Chicago hard rock tinged R&B scene in the 60s, as contrasted with the more soul oriented Curtom (Curtis O. Mayfield) brand, represented here by the Imperials & Baby Huey, and above by Superfly.

    Percy Mayfield (no relation) was a Texas R&B man who went west to LA during the 40s. He was a prolific songwriter, and had just started to hit it big when he had a bad car crash that left him with a scarred face, shattered confidence, and a bottle habit that would never quit. His is a much quieter R&B.

    Bobby Womack started his career as a gospel singer & teamed up with Sam Cooke. He has penned hits for more other artists than for himself, but his Understanding & the next year's Across 110th St. collaboration with J.J. Johnson are classics.

    Mavis Staples is arguably the most well known part of The Staples Singers (Respect Yourself; I'll Take You There). The album here was a major step back to the big leagues, produced by Ry Cooder and reaching across genres to create a new R&B classic.

    Sharon Jones is one of those "overnight sensations" who only took about 30 years to get noticed. She moved to Brooklyn as a teenager and in the 70s had all the work she could handle as a back up singer, but by the 80s her style of singing--a voice similar to Betty Davis or Bettye Lavette--was not well received by the recording companies. Desco Records (check this label out for amazing retro-soul albums) signed her in the 90s and in the 00s, she teamed up with the Dap-Kings (whose sound is also fairly synonymous with the Soul Providers, Desco's house band) & has put out three pretty nice albums to date.

    Depending on which way you go, I can recommend more...
  • 25 John Zorn Albums selected for Rohit

    Jun 28 2009, 17h32

    25 Zorn Albums for Rohit

    Bar Kokhba Sextet - Lucifer: Book of Angels Vol. 10 (50th Birthday Series) 2008
    Buck Jam Tonic - Buck Jam Tonic 2003
    Derek Bailey, George Lewis, John Zorn - Yankees 1983
    John Zorn - Alhambra Love Songs 2009
    John Zorn - The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays the Music of Ennio Morricone 1985
    John Zorn - The Bribe 1998
    John Zorn - The Circle Maker - 1998
    John Zorn - Filmworks X - In the Mirror of Maya Deren 2001
    John Zorn - Filmworks XIII - Invitation to a Suicide 2002
    John Zorn - The Gift 2001
    John Zorn - I.A.O. 2002
    ]John Zorn (Naked City) - Naked City 1989
    John Zorn - New Traditions in East Asian Bar Bands 1995
    John Zorn - Redbird 1995
    John Zorn - Six Litanies for Heliogabalus 2007
    John Zorn- Spy Vs. Spy : Music of Ornette Coleman
    John Zorn & Dave Douglas- The Stone Issue One
    John Zorn & Bobby Previte - Euclid's Nightmare 1997
    John Zorn/Electric Masada - At the Mountains of Madness 2004
    John Zorn & Fred Frith - The Art of Memory 1994
    John Zorn, George Lewis, Bill Frisell - News for Lulu 1988
    Masada - Masada Vol. 2: Beit 1995
    Pain Killer - Execution Ground 1994
    The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet - Voodoo 1985
    Wadada Leo Smith, Susie Ibarra, John Zorn - 50th Birthday Celebration Vol. 8

    count =25

    Zorn, obviously, is a touchstone for many people interested in expanding the language of what we--in our admittedly limited way--call jazz.

    The suggestions here were assembled for our Music Advice Center colleague Rohit, who casually asked for a few suggestions of where to start with the massive catalog of Zorn's recordings. The list above is alphabetic (according to our traditional nomenclature) and the list below is chronological by submission by our contributors: matetoth, trombipulation, djjazzpants, cjcarne, and me, beelzbubba.

    Some of the reviews of the albums are personal opinion, and others, including the cover images, are from All Music Guide. Minimal editing to the original posts was provided by beelz. Original posts can be found starting at: http://www.last.fm/group/Music+Advice+Center/forum/40095/_/171367/40#f9767340.

    Voodoo is Zorn with his cool-bop best manners on, proving false the canard that avant-garde players can't play. Zorn and collaborators Horvitz, Drummond & Previte roll through 7 Sonny Clark tunes with aplomb. Clark was largely unknown to me before I picked up this album on Black Saint. That didn't hold for long. I have to say I play Zorn's version of Clark as much as I play Sonny himself.


    Filmworks X: In the Mirror of Maya Deren is one of the beautiful, lyrical, haunting Filmworks series, and one that I mentioned above. Here Zorn plays piano, with Jamie Saft on organ, Erik Friedlander on cello and Cyro Baptisto on percussion. AMG calls this the most accessible of the Filmworks series and I guess I won't argue. This is a stellar album.


    Next a bit of quiet, minimalist Zorn.



    You can't get wider extremes in one artist, I don't think. Redbird is a minimalist tribute to the painter Agnes Martin. This is Zorn as 20th century composer, he doesn't play here.



    Pain Killer, for most of its brief life, was Zorn plus Bill Laswell and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. Execution Ground was their best, imo, and often gets categorized as death metal, but I have to believe most death-metal heads would argue. It definitely has elements of thrash jazz, ala Brotzmann and Laswell's Last Exit.


    News For Lulu
    Reviewby Scott Yanow
    © 2009 Macrovision Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

    Avant-garde altoist John Zorn teams up with trombonist George Lewis and guitarist Bill Frisell to form a unique trio. Without the benefit of piano, bass, or drums, they interpret the hard bop compositions of Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, and Freddie Redd, generally not even the better-known ones. The performances are quite concise (Dorham's "Windmill" is covered in 40 seconds), respectful to the melodies, and unpredictable. There are hints of the avant-garde here and there, but also plenty of swinging, bop-oriented solos and coherent ensembles. Very intriguing music that is highly recommended to a wide audience of jazz and general listeners.

    John Zorn & Fred Frith - The Art of Memory




    Simply a great slab of improvisation from two masters of the art.

    AMG Review

    Based upon the ancient Roman methodology for remembering architectural sites and the meanings built into their structures, guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Zorn pull out all the stops in creating a body of improvisation that does not rely on symbolic invitations or responses, but is instead a collaboration that builds an imposing musical structure from forgotten trends, hidden sonic languages, and metaphorical tonal construction. From the opening moments of "The Combiner," where Frith twines his guitar from the table into a rope with Zorn's microphonics and multivalent scalar invention, you can hear a sort of communication being authored just beyond your reach. That the dynamics of the collaboration match so perfectly, offering glimpses of both restraint and tension before obliterating them with humor and pure aggression, should be no surprise -- the pair sought to do this from the outset. In "The Ladder," Frith moves himself into a corner with funky soul chords and splattered arpeggios that Zorn picks up and transforms into a mutant vanguard swing. The tempo is dizzying as Frith rips open his chords for their found sonic elements and Zorn goes in to shore up the idea, flipping it over and turning it inside out as only a master improviser can do. By the time you reach "The Fountain and the Mirror," the players have switched roles many times, each playing support and leader, turning what were merely notions for collaborating along a certain path into audible bodies with their own pulses, minds, and blood. This is a revelatory album, and a near matchless collaboration.


    John Zorn - The Big Gundown



    Something completely different from the tough improvised music of the above - this is Zorn showing off his fun side. A veritable plethora of downtown musicians shine on these re-imaginings of Morricone's great scores. I got this when it came out and it was one of my earliest introductions to the 'avant-garde'; it remains a favourite.

    AMG Review

    On this intriguing concept album, altoist John Zorn (who also "sings" and plays harpsichord, game calls, piano, and musical saw) utilizes an odd assortment of open-minded avant-garde players (with a couple of ringers) on nine themes originally written for Italian films by Ennio Morricone, plus his own "Tre Nel 5000." These often-radical interpretations (which Morricone endorsed) keep the melodies in mind while getting very adventurous. Among the musicians heard on the colorful and very eccentric set (which utilizes different personnel and instrumentation on each track) are guitarists Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid, percussionist Bobby Previte, keyboardist Anthony Coleman, altoist Tim Berne, pianist Wayne Horvitz, organist Big John Patton, and even Toots Thielemans on harmonica and whistling among many others. There are certainly no dull moments on this often-riotous program.

    John Zorn - The Circle Maker



    This is a two disk set of what might be called chamber jazz. Zorn composes but does not play. The musicians on disk 1 are the Masada String Trio: Cohen, Friedlander, Feldman. On disk 2 is the Bar Kokhba Sextet--the string trio plus Ribot, Baptiste, and drummer Joey Baron. The tunes are from the Masada Songbook. Cohen, Dave Douglas, Baron, and Zorn put out something like 20 Masada quartet disks (Beit / Two is my favorite); by the time of the albums Filmworks VIII and Bar Kokhba, Zorn was reimagining the Masada work performed by other voices. The Circle Maker is as near-perfect a recording as I can imagine.


    John Zorn - Six Litanies for Heliogabalus 2007



    Let's jump ahead to some newer Zorn, and some that he actually plays on. (I found myself picking some favorites but without the trademark alto.) This is sort of a third in a trilogy, the first two Moonchild and the second Astronome are the trio of Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron. For Heliogabus, add Jamie Saft on organ & keyboards, Zorn on Alto, and Ikue Mori on electronics, and then toss a trio of female voices for an otherworldly choir. As the AMG reviewer Thom Jurek tells us, Zorn states in his liner notes to Astronome that his objective was to create "a methodology 'combining the hypnotic intensity of ritual (composition) the spontaneity of magic (improvisation) in a modern musical format (rock).'"



    Review

    This 1997 duet recording between drumming ace Bobby Previte and saxophonist John Zorn is indicative -- pretty much -- of what Zorn's music was like at the time: There are plenty of hard bop linguistics mixed in with film noir themes and screeching, burning skronk. There are also short, lucid moments of melodic tranquility that prefigure much of Zorn's work from 1999 on. But mostly, this series of duets reveals something else, that two players from similar backgrounds, who have played in the same bands together and can understand each other on an almost symbiotic level, can still approach the same musical problem from two different sides and come up with the same answer. Nowhere is this clearer than on sections ten through 14 (there are 27 sections in all), which total about seven of the CD's 41 minutes. Here, Previte hears Zorn insistently and responds with short, crisp rim shots, rolling tom-toms, and scattershot cymbal runs that tend to stretch out the time, turn it loose from its constraints inside the work, and move forward into whatever frame Zorn chooses next. For his part, Zorn hears the thrumming of the cymbals and decides to speed up the piece in order to match Previte's double time. They both arrive in the pocket at the same time and kick the energy into an overdriven state of chaotic -- yet jubilant -- free improv, where there are no ties to gravity at all until Previte introduces a tom-tom and Zorn responds with a gorgeous angular legato. This is only one of dozens of surprises on Euclid's Nightmare. Zorn fans will be familiar with the level of histrionics employed here, while followers of Previte's more refined work may be put off by the constant atonality of the work.




    Buck Jam Tonic is a double album of improvised music by John Zorn, Bill Laswell & Tatsuya Nakamura . The album was released on the Japanese Wilddisc label in 2003 and is comprised of one disc mixed in Tokyo and another mixed in New York City. A vinyl edition was also released containing only the Tokyo mix.




    AMG reviewer Stacia Proefrock writes:"Themes of beauty, sexuality, and violence run throughout, the first and last pieces maintaining a narrative quality while "Hwang Chin-Ee" consists of short lyric pieces. The album as a whole is quite moving; it often contains a fragile beauty like a child on the verge of bursting into tears. This is one of John Zorn's greatest achievements to date." That about sums it up. Fred Frith, Bill Frisell, Anthony Coleman and Wayne Horvitz, Zorn, Joey Baron & Samm Bennett.


    As far as I'm concerned, get any/all of the 50th Birthday Celebration series, recorded at Tonic in NYC in September 2003. I think I have them all. OK, I'm not really keen on the Masada Guitars 50th Birthday, but maybe you will be. In any case, this one, with Wadada Smith and Susie Ibarra, flat out kills for fans of free improvisation. For the first set, we have a reprise of the Zorn/Previte alto & drum symbiosis. The second set adds Smith's trumpet to the mix. The finale Full Fathom Five is a raucous romp.


    I love that Zorn treats a lot of his music/compositions as repertoire, to be replayed and reconfigured for different timbres/voices. Case in point:


    Masada, Beit was the first exposure I had to Zorn where I first started to "get it." I'm a huge Ornette fan, but Spy Vs. Spy just hit me wrong. I haven't revisited that one in years--maybe I'd think differently now. But I paid full price for it and it wasn't cheap. Not many places were stocking Zorn in the late 80s. But now it was 1995, and my town has a well known summer art fair, which also serves as an excuse for merchants to have "sidewalk sales." Tower was having a huge sell off of inventory, which meant in those days that a label was getting new distribution and they sold off the old copies from one mfr/distr in anticipation of stock from a new source. DIW--the publisher of my copy--was at that time Japan only, and these imports were astronomically priced, but on that day, DIW were like $5 or $7 apiece. I picked uup some David Murray, Lester Bowie, Butch Morris, and oh yeah, since I really liked Dave Douglas and Joey Baron, I figured I'd give Zorn another chance. This disk, Beit, was the impetus for me to begin to tell any/everyone I knew who was interested in excellent music that Zorn was the shit. No doubts about it. From the opening to the close, Beit grabbed me. This is a perfect quartet in the piano-less post-bop genre. There's obviously the Hebrew folk music influence, klezmer if you will, but filtered through Ornette and Berne and Hemphill. This quartet rocks, swings, blisters, and burns. From that moment, I've been hooked, and I've rarely been disappointed.



    Now, 13 years later, Masada, Beit has been translated through the Bar Kokhba Sextet. Remember them? The Masada String Trio plus Ribot, Baron, and Saft? The Book of Angels series is fueled by Zorn's intense interest in Jewish mysticism, and here they take the earlier Masada book two and bring to it a chamber jazz elegance that loses very little in the translation. It worries me a little that some of my favorite Zorn albums are cataloged by AMG as among his most "accessible"--this one is no exception, they say you could play it for your grandmother & she'd get it. I dunno about that, but like Circle Maker, this is a gem.



    The compositions on this soundtrack are great. Fantastic motives that crop up repeatedly in differents moods, with different instruments playing the leads. And the men playing those instruments are outstanding. I am not sure who deserves more credit on this recording, the composer or the musicians. Zorn does not play on this one, but 4/5 of the musicians (Marc Ribot-Guitar, Erik Friedlander-Cello, Trevor Dunn-Bass, Kenny Wolleson-Percussion) on it are Tzadik regulars, and the fifth man (Accordionist Rob Burger of the Tin Hat Trio) is fantastic.


    Allmusic.com reviews:



    For a change, the descriptor insert included in a Tzadik release isn't all hype. Alhambra Love Songs does indeed contain "some of the most beautiful and soothing music Zorn has ever written." This 11-cut set is an eclectic homage of sorts to the San Francisco Bay area and the musicians who have and continue to make it their home. Written for a piano trio consisting of Rob Burger, bassist Greg Cohen (who alternates between upright and electric), and drummer Ben Perowsky, what's most important to remember when popping this into the deck is that these are indeed "songs." They all have direct melodic themes, lyric harmony, and follow a linear trajectory from one place to another. Zorn puts that in the listener's ears on the very first cut, "Mountain View," dedicated to Vince Guaraldi. It doesn't merely nod to the late pianist and composer of the Charlie Brown television themes, it evokes him directly, utilizing his sense of lithe, lyric theme and simple rhythmic sensibility in a hummable melody. It's delightful. "Pacifica," dedicated to mystic Harry Smith, is more elliptical and mysterious in presentation, but just as melodic and accessible. And that's the point. The Tzadik insert also namechecks Ramsey Lewis and Henry Mancini as well as the words "easy listening mode," but these influences aren't all that pronounced. But this doesn't fall into the category of one of Zorn's challenging series of recordings, either. It is simply a set of gorgeous songs with a variety of jazz, television, cinematic, and landscape themes written into their melodies, all dedicated to various musicians, composers, actors, poets, and other persona whom Zorn holds in high regard. Some may wonder initially if this fits in best with The Gift or Dreamers, and it sounds nothing like either recording. These tunes -- be it the tender "Half Moon Bay" dedicated to poet and translator Lyn Hejinian, or "Moraga," scored for Clint Eastwood, which evokes both his cinematic work as an actor and his work as a composer, or the ever so brief and utterly lovely "Miramar," for Terry Riley, which envelope the listener in pulsing rhythmic repetition before whispering itself out on the individual notes of its chords -- all have the same effect: one of complete listening pleasure. These small tunes will get inside your head and remain there, prompting you to listen to this set over and again. Each track is different from the last in theme, mood, and construction, but follows its thematic strategy almost to a fault. The band is fantastic. Burger's percussive touch on the keys is a plus. He never hits too hard, but he's a very rhythmic player. Add to this the brushwork of Perowsky and the always inventive, sensitive, and often subtle work of Cohen, and you have a unit that can swing when the tune calls for it, let a piece breathe, or playfully get inside it. Alhambra Love Songs is a gem, and will literally bring joy to anyone who gives it an honest listen.




    John Zorn's Bribe is a continuation and extension of his album Spillane. Like its predecessor, this album features almost the same lineup of extraordinary NYC improvisers including pianist Anthony Coleman, drummer Bobby Previte, organist Wayne Horvitz, turntablist Christian Marclay, and harpists Zeena Parkins and Carol Emanuel. Unlike the fast-spliced pace of Spillane, which functioned as its own narrative, the music on Bribe is allowed to stretch and develop because it was composed as a background for the dialogue in three 30-minute radio plays by Terry O'Reilly (it was later adapted to a stage production). O'Reilly described his creation as "low art; " along the lines of little respected categories such as pulp fiction and B-movies. Zorn then constructed appropriate music, continually switching styles and filling it with pop references. The overall mood of Bribe is also different from Spillane and much of Zorn's work (excluding Film Works, Vol. 7), in that it maintains a light-hearted approach, weaving music box chimes and carnival sounds into the music. A nicer mood pervades this release, yet given its kaleidoscopic and slightly demented tone, it certainly can't be described as relaxed. Then again, maybe "relaxed" isn't too far off, after all -- perhaps by playing a supporting role to the production's cast instead of driving the concept, the musicians were able to enjoy themselves a little more.

    This list is showing me (beelz) two or three things, so far.

    First, there are still new albums of Zorn's for me to go get. I don't have either of those last two Matetoth recommended. And I want them.

    Second, this list is rapidly filling up and there are at least ten more that I think could go on the list (but in the end I think many are at least similar to other ones here and thus the intrepid explorer must go out and discover).

    Third, I forget what third was.

    So my latest two adds:



    I was going to call this review Johnny Zorn meets Psycho-Surf. But let's see what AMG has to say. The review is by Sean Westergaard. He's been a disk jockey at our local free form radio station and used to work at the premier Ann Arbor record store, Schoolkids Records. SEan's a good guy. I believe him. Plus I've got the record and I have to say: Yep...

    Reviewby Sean Westergaard
    Shattering expectations has been a hallmark of John Zorn's career, but The Gift might surprise even longtime fans. It's basically Zorn's exotica record; a tribute to the sound made popular by the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. A core band of Downtown heavyweights provide you with an easy-listening sound that conjures images of sand and surf, and warm summer nights. Of course, as conductor and arranger, Zorn is ultimately responsible for the sound, but what you hear is primarily the guitar of Marc Ribot, and the keyboards (mostly Wurlitzer and Farfisa) of Jamie Saft. Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron, and Cyro Baptista are the rhythm section, with Ned Rothenberg joining in on shakuhachi on one track, and another augmented by a string section and the trumpet of Dave Douglas. Zorn has been able to draw from an incredible talent pool for many years now, and always knows how to get fabulous performances out of them, no matter what the context. Although the New York scene is notorious for its noisemaking ability, people should stop being surprised at their ability to turn in beautiful, understated performances; and this recording is a prime example. The tunes have a laid-back beach vibe that cries out for cold beverages in the twilight. They succeed perfectly in creating the feel of classic exotica (à la Denny or Baxter), but still maintain their individual identities as players. Towards the end of the recording, the music takes a slightly spooky Morricone-esque turn (on "Bridge to the Beyond," the only track on which Zorn performs, on theremin and piano), but the reprise of "Makahaa" brings you right back to the islands. The Gift shows another more accessible side to John Zorn (see also Bar Kokhba and The Circle Maker). It might be said that he's mellowing with age, but expect the unexpected from Mr. Zorn. Despite the undeniable beauty of the music, underneath the pretty pink wrapping and bows of the outer slipcase, Zorn has included several paintings of young girls in the cover art that some people might find slightly disturbing, as if to underscore the idea that beauty itself is highly subjective.



    Now, I have a video recording of Electric Masada at a jazz festival in Nancy, France. I don't have this recording made at two live dates in Moscow & Ljubljana, but again, I trust Westergaard and I count the DVD of Electric Masada as one of my favorite live albums. So go out on a limb with me here:

    Reviewby Sean Westergaard
    John Zorn's At the Mountains of Madness presents two sets (Moscow, Ljubljana) recorded at the end of a lengthy European tour. The band is exactly the same as on The 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 4 and many of the same tunes are performed, but the performances actually feel very different. Perhaps there was something of wanting to put on a good show for the Europeans vs. playing comfortably at home in familiar surroundings (at Tonic), but this set is a good deal rowdier than the 50th Birthday Celebration. Certainly, the band is at the top of their game after all the touring, and everyone seems to have kicked up the energy a notch or two. There's a lot more conducted improvisation than on the previous Electric Masada release. Ikue Mori's laptop contributions seem to play a more prominent role, and Marc Ribot does some thoroughly deranged things with a delay (which haven't been heard on an album before). Jamie Saft and Zorn are also in fine form and the rhythm section is amazing, especially the dual drum attack of Kenny Wollesen and Joey Baron. Thanks to their improvisational skills, you hardly notice that the program is much the same on both discs. Score another one for John Zorn and company. At the Mountains of Madness is a winner.



    Allmusic.com:

    A collective improvisation by Derek Bailey on acoustic and electric guitars, George Lewis on trombone, and John Zorn on alto and soprano saxes, clarinets, and game calls. Subtle, droll, hilarious takes on the trivia of baseball sounds: Lewis speaks through the trombone "ball one, ball one...." There are snippets of a slipping and sliding version of "Take Me out to the Ball Game" and so on. Sections are titled "City City City," "The Legend of Enos Slaughter," "Who's on First," followed by "On Golden Pond," a tongue-in-cheek tone poem of the flora and fauna and mosquitoes. "The Warning Track" is about a very tiny railroad system .

    Spy Vs. Spy: Music of Ornette Coleman



    Old school jazz fans might very well be horrified at this tribute to Ornette Coleman by saxophonist, experimentalist and musical deconstructionist extraordinaire John Zorn. Coleman's retooling of jazz syntax, his theories of harmolodic structure ... Full Descriptionand, moreover, the tenacity of his radical vision, have clearly had enormous influence on Zorn who, it might be said, has carried his mentor's torch into a chaotic musical universe that includes pop genres and hyperactive collage. Here Zorn applies his Coleman-inspired free-form ballistics to Coleman himself.

    SPY VS. SPY features 17 Coleman compositions, sequenced chronologically with tracks ranging from 1958's SOMETHING ELSE to 1987's IN ALL LANGUAGES. But while the music here owes Coleman a debt in conception and attitude, it is far from a straightforward tribute. In fact, Zorn's approach borrows at least as much from hardcore thrash, as the songs are executed at a breakneck pace, with each collapsed to under three minutes of earth shaking drums, rumbling bass and squealing twin saxes. The set should prove of interest to Coleman collectors, Zorn fans and avant-noise enthusiasts.

    Goldmine - Highly Recommended "...a masterpiece of mayhem."

    Live Recording
    -CD Universe Review



    The Stone, Issue One
    John Zorn / Dave Douglas | Tzadik (2006)



    By Brian P. Lonergan
    One of the more striking aspects of the playing on The Stone, Issue One, especially the interplay between altoist John Zorn and trumpeter Dave Douglas, is the sense of immediacy and transparency about the music. It's as if you have a clear window into the improvisatory act, witnessing pure, unpremeditated creation as it happens for the very first time.

    Recorded at the nascent Alphabet City club known as The Stone, this disc is essentially an untitled suite of alternately serene, grooving and anguished music, with Zorn and Douglas joined by Mike Patton (voice), Rob Burger (organ, electric piano), Bill Laswell (bass) and Ben Perowsky (percussion). The Stone was voted one of AAJ:New York's Best Venues for 2005, and with this special release to benefit the club, it's easy to see why.

    The "Introduction" creates a tranquil ambience filled with shimmering organ chords and gentle electric piano tones. But that serenity is soon shattered by “Interlude 1” and a rising, anxious howl that opens up the tormented world of Patton' visceral and spastic extreme vocals. (Picture the cartoon character the Tazmanian Devil in violent death throes and you're about halfway there.)

    By "Part One" the third track, the full ensemble finally joins together. Laswell's bass, Perowsky's drums and Burger's organ create a spacey groove above which Zorn's alto and Douglas' trumpet dance in intervals that sound plucked from the Middle East or perhaps North Africa. Some extreme sax technique leads to another brief 'Interlude" where it's often difficult to tell sax from trumpet from voice.

    "Part Two" provides another loose framework for the horn players to explore extended, thoughtful and impassioned solos. The climax of the suite comes at the end of this section, with both horns building in an emotional crescendo. And while the remainder of the piece may be denouement, it's still beautiful, especially Douglas' low, muted trumpet phrases throughout the pensive "Postlude."


    Track listing: Introduction; Interlude 1; Part One; Interlude 2; Part Two; Interlude 3; Postlude; Coda.

    Personnel: John Zorn: alto saxophone; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Mike Patton: voice; Rob Burger: organ, electric piano; Bill Laswell: bass; Ben Perowsky: drums.



    For me this album was so obvious I almost forgot about it. I'm never sure whether to call it a Zorn or a Naked City album, but Zorn wrote or arranged all the music, and the band, containing Zorn, is known as Naked City. This album seems to be either greatly liked or disliked by people, and instead of finding professional reviews I want to post two short reviews from Rate Your Music which highlight the two contrasting views I've come across when discussing this album.

    "What a bunch of self-indulgent ass-fisting this is. Pretentious 'noise for noise's sake' annoying splattered over boring elevator jazz and the occasional semi-rock bits. Screeching tuneless saxophones that sound like someone getting their balls sliced up in a blender, and vocals by someone in the middle of giving Satan a fucking blowjob. You might be able to scrape together enough decent material off of this to make a decent EP, but as it stands, I can't see a reason for this to exist other than to give smug avant-dickbags something to jizz all over."

    "Even if continuously referring to any kind of music known, all blended in fury with reiterate attacks and counterattacks as some ravenous primeval organism of its prey would do, this is someting without memory.
    Or with NO past at all."

    Reviews are from here.



    The final selection is I.A.O.

    I picked I.A.O. because it seemed to me to encompass all of the selections in its range and depth, and its similarities yet differences with and from all of those, Finally, I couldn't pick between the Music Romance albums. I prefer #2, but I think it is weaker overall than #1--it just hits some higher highs, for me. We have some representatives of Filmworks already listed. While the casual Zorn explorer will not be happy with all of the FW series, nor perhaps will every one with a larger collectionof Zorn be thrilled with each FW. But 8 is a good 'un and deserves perhaps honorable mention. Pain Killer in the Birthday series replaces Mick Harris with Hamid Drake. It is perhaps Pain Killer's finest moment. But I think we've already pointed our friends in the direction of the 50th Birthday series and to Pain Killer as a group. Madness, Love, and Mysticism is another fine chamber set with trio compositions for violin, piano, and cello and a composition for solo cello. Excellent, but again, well represented in the list above.


    What sets I.A.O apart for me is that the musicians are a group who've appeared in many configurations over the years with Zorn. The lineup includes: "Cyro Baptista, Jennifer Charles, Greg Cohen, Beth Hatton, Bill Laswell, Rebecca Moore, Mike Patton, Jim Pugliese, and Jamie Saft. They appear only one, two or three at a time. Each of the seven movements is based on a specific, non-reoccurring instrumentation, and explores a form of meditation, trance or anything possibly leading to spiritual revelation." (Couture, AMG). Most of these solo. duo, trio trance movements are among Zorn's lighter fare, not interms of composition, but perhaps I mean in tone. While there are elements of drone, there's nothing particularly brooding or dour, yet pensive and contemplative are qualities embraced. Then, the penultimate track, "Leviathan," is a palate cleanser of unexpected fury and a sonic assault worthy of the most distilled Naked City or Pain Killer outing. And then, the closer, "Mysteries,{ acts as if none of that happened or mattered at all if it did happen, with a bit of e-piano and percussion.

    Like the list above in its entirety, I.A.O. represents a range of Zorn's interests and abilities.

    For those who are looking for where to start with Zorn: you know your own interests best, so find a descriptor that lines up with your senses and dive in. Then watch as the ripples go further out and you get more familiar with Zorn's compositions and become less concerned with whether it's jazz or not.

    Comments? Sins of (c)omission? Edits needed? Let us know.
  • Milestones in a Last.FM Scrobbling Experience

    Jun 17 2009, 22h39

    I don't feel right posting this in my profile--too showy--but I thought it was a brilliant little piece of data mining.

    Last.FM Milestones:10000th track (6 Mar 2005) :
    Tokyo Kid Brothers - Throw Away the Books, Let's Go Into the Streets
    15000th track (19 May 2005) :
    Miles Davis - Calypso Frelimo
    20000th track (3 Sep 2005) :
    Madvillain - The Illest Villains
    25000th track (11 Dec 2005) :
    Lee Fields - Let a Man Do What He Wanna Do
    30000th track (31 Mar 2006) :
    Sly & The Family Stone - (You Caught Me) Smilin'
    35000th track (5 May 2006) :
    The Aliens - Robot Man
    40000th track (25 Jun 2006) :
    Abdullah Ibrahim - The Mountain
    45000th track (25 Aug 2006) :
    The Roland Kirk Quartet - Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith
    50000th track (14 Nov 2006) :
    The Charlatans - The End of Everything
    55000th track (17 Jan 2007) :
    Gato Barbieri - Merceditas
    60000th track (20 Mar 2007) :
    Oneness of Juju - African Rhythms
    65000th track (3 May 2007) :
    Clusone Trio - Ao Velho Pedro / Marie Pompoen
    70000th track (27 Jun 2007) :
    The Awakening - March On
    75000th track (1 Sep 2007) :
    Chrome - Future Ghosts
    80000th track (8 Dec 2007) :
    Lacey Phillips - Soldier's Joy
    85000th track (4 Feb 2008) :
    Bishop Norman Williams and the One Mind Experience - hip funk
    90000th track (28 Mar 2008) :
    Raymond Scott - Ripples (original soundtrack)
    95000th track (28 May 2008) :
    Moondog - Symphonique #3 (Ode to Venus)
    100000th track (8 Jul 2008) :
    Abdullah Ibrahim - Blues for a Hip King
    105000th track (28 Aug 2008) :
    Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra - Boulevard De L'Independance
    110000th track (23 Oct 2008) :
    Outkast - We Luv Deez Hoez (feat. Backbone & Big Gipp from Goodie Mob)
    115000th track (21 Dec 2008) :
    Lord Nelson - A Party for Santa Claus
    120000th track (26 Feb 2009) :
    The Roots - Rolling With Heat
    Generated on Jun 18 2009
    Get yours here
  • 25 Great Non-Trad Lead Instruments Jazz Albums

    Dez 4 2008, 18h12

    Some year end recommendations posting. The Jazz Desk at MAC came up with this list back in August (yeah, I've got some catching up to do).

    Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Jazz Sahara (1958)
    Alice Coltrane - Journey In Satchidananda (1971)
    Art Blakey - The African Beat (1962) [with chief bey's percussion ensemble]
    Bengt Berger - Bitter Funeral Beer (1981)
    Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble - Live in Greenfield, Massachusetts, November 20, 1999
    Clusone Trio - I Am an Indian (1994)
    Colin Walcott - Cloud Dance (1975)
    Derek Bailey & Min Xiao-Fen - Flying Dragons (2002) [pi'pa]
    Don Cherry - Eternal Rhythm (1968)[whistle flute]
    Dorothy Ashby - The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby (1970)
    Henry Kaiser Charles K. Noyes Sang-Won Park - Invite the Spirit 1983 (1983) (kayagum)
    Joe Harriott and John Mayer Double Quintet - Indo-Jazz Fusions 1 & 2 (1966)
    Leroy Jenkins - Solo (1999)
    Madlib - Shades of Blue (2003)
    maleem mahmoud ghania - Trance of Seven Colors (1994)
    Mats Gustafsson With Barry Guy and Raymond Strid -You Forgot to Answer (1995) <fluteophone>
    Peter Zummo - Experimenting With Household Chemicals (1995)
    Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble - The Singles (2007)
    Rabih Abou-Khalil - Blue Camel (1992)
    Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (1971)
    Rufus Harley - Re-Creation of the Gods (1973) [bagpipes]
    Shakti With John McLaughlin - Shakti with John McLaughlin (1976)
    Van Hove Bauer Bauer - PijP (1997)
    Tom Varner - The Mystery of Compassion (1992)
    Yusef Lateef - Eastern Sounds (1961)

    count = 25

    I usually post some framing with notes about individual albums, the evolution of the list as the MAC/Jazz group add selections, but with the year end and semester end at hand, I will just point you to the first post in this thread and if you are looking for some listening material a bit outside the sax/trumpet/piano/bass/drums bop mode, then follow along and let us know what you think--here or at the Jazz Desk.
  • McCoy Tyner--Where to start?

    Jul 28 2008, 21h01

    Quoth zorzynek:
    McCoy Tyner live was one of the best things that happened to me in past few years. I see You're heavily listening to that guy. I never got into his discography. Any ideas what should I check out first? (Of course, I know his recordings with Trane, it's solo records I'm interested in.) Thanks in advance.



    I'll divide Tyner's magnificent career as a leader into four phases:

    1. Tyner as a leader while still in the Coltrane Quartet
    2. Tyner on Blue Note after the Coltrane Quartet
    3. Tyner on Milestone 1972-1981
    4. Tyner after Milestone/1981 onward


    Tyner's albums on Impulse! are more tentative but also more lyrical and romantic than his middle period recordings. He is still in the Trane quartet at this time and so is not as assertive as he would be as he matured--but he was still in his early 20s at the time, so it is understandable.

    Reaching Fourth is probably my favorite of that period, a trio setting--something he wouldn't record again for another dozen years or so--and it is lovely. The other Impulse! recordings are all good (and Tyner's good is better than many pianist's 'excellent'); Inception is a really nice debut for the young McCoy Tyner. Nights of Ballads and Blues has an intriguing lineup, and we're left to wonder what this band may have put together over time, but John Gilmore took a lot of "outside" jobs in the late 50s/early 60s, not only because he was a cited influence on many of the post-WWII tenors and thus producers wanted to work with him, but also because the Sun Ra band was in transisiton, and I think Gilmore's talents helped bring cash into the Arkestra's coffers. But I go back to Inception and Reaching Fourth more than the others from this period.

    The second period was after leaving Coltrane. Although McCoy played on many, many Blue Note records from 1960 onward--considered by many as one of the Blue Note "house" pianists--there is a curious gap in Tyner's discography as a leader. His last Impulse! record was in 1964, Although he was considered one of the house pianists at Blue Note from 1960 on, his first Blue Note as a leader was 1967's The Real McCoy. From 1960 through 1970, he played piano on albums by Joe Henderson, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley, and Stanley Turrentine, to name just a few. Tyner's "sound" helped define what many of us think of as the Blue Note sound of the 60s. There may have been a contract problem with Impulse! that prevented him from being employed as the leader on Blue Note until 1967, but in any case, Wolff & Lion used a collegial structure so that Tyner's "Real Mccoy" sounds a lot like Henderson's, Shorter's, or Hubbard's dates. McCoy was still growing as a composer and a leader. Biographers say that this was a time of struggle for Tyner--he wasn't making much money from recording and had a young and growing family to support. By 1970, he was considering making driving a cab his full time work instead of just using it to supplement his music.

    But during that time, he recorded Expansions, Time for Tyner, Extensions, and Asante. Each one of them has its strengths, Expansions and Extensions are similar to each other in that Tyner uses Gary Bartz and Wayne Shorter on alto & tenor respectively. Extensions, with its national Geographic cover, adds Alice Coltrane on harp. Throughout his Blue Note career, it sounds as if Tyner is trying to remember, recreate and expand on the high points of the modal art of the Coltrane legacy. This is not a bad thing at all, and the music stands the test of time well.

    But in 1972, Tyner was encouraged by Orrin Keepnews to put his all into reviving his recording career. They began their association with the astounding Sahara, and for the next ten years, the two of them, both geniuses in my opinion, shifted the band's personnel, the size and timbre of the band, here focusing on a tight ensemble, there on a big band, with a solo here, and strings there.

    There's hardly ever a false step taken on any of these. And with Milestone, Tyner's percussive left hand (and he is left handed) takes center stage and becomes a driving force. Critics of Tyner point to albums like Song for My Lady and Sahara as evidence that he "plays too many notes." Takes all kinds, I guess. I love this period. Sama Layuca is a rumble in the jungle, Song for the New World shows Tyner's orchestral conception of the jazz big band.

    I saw Tyner many, many times from 1972-1980, including one memorable night from the Enlightenment/Atlantis era when we sat just above Tyner and his keyboard at the old Jazz Showcase when it was in the basement level of the Happy Medium nightclub on Rush Street in Chicago. Tyner held a running banter with us the whole night, clearly enjoying being on top of his game. Azar Lawrence and Ricky Ford were two of his usual saxes during this time, and it's always been a disappointment to me that neither of these horns ever achieved a fraction of the fame they seemed destined for.

    I've got most all of the Blue Note and Milestone recordings up through 1978's The Greeting. Top of the pack of the Milestones are:

    1. Sahara
    2. Sama Layuca
    3. Enlightenment
    4. Focal Point
    5. Echoes Of A Friend
    6. Song for the New World
    7. The Greeting
    8. Atlantis
    9. Song For My Lady

    and yet, others like Fly With The Wind, Horizon, Passion Dance or 13th House are hardly a half-step off any of these. I'm prejudiced more in favor of the ones I've heard over and over. I've never been disappointed with any of those 1978-1982 Milestone recordings either.

    In 1982, Tyner's contract with Milestone expired and he by then he was recognized as one of the finest musicians alive and one with an enviable and lengthy discography. he joined Columbia for a while, but the recording business itself was in flux. He's recorded for a number of labels in a variety of contexts after 1982. I'm not as familiar with a lot of this work--I bought several, but I never warmed to Alex Blake's bass work. He's a fine bassist, but there's something in the sound of his amplified pick up that's never struck my ears just right, and so I avoided Tyner's recordings after that time.

    I've seen him a handful of times since 1980, and he clearly has earned his elder statesman reputation and his playing is still epic. I can't advise on recordings after 13th House, but I am sure there are many that are first rate. For me, Tyner's prime recordings outside of Coltrane's band are on the (seemingly hundreds of) Blue Note recordings where he is either a leader of a sideman, and then the peak is on the Milestone records produced by Keepnews, arranged and directed by Tyner.
  • Mark: 100 Thousand Plays, Last Tango in Paris, FWIW

    Jul 10 2008, 18h44

    I noticed that I recently passed one hundred thousand plays as a last.fm user/subscriber. Yes, I am an obsessive who had to know what the tune was.

    As befits, it was a particularly poorly tagged short piece from the Last Tango in Paris (OST); the track was Last Tango in Paris Suite: Part 4, but of course if you count back in my plays, you won't find it tagged so neatly.

    I have fond memories of both the artist Gato Barbieri, anda the movie.

    Start with the artist, Leandro "El Gato" Barbieri, the Argentinian tenor saxophonist. I think the earliest I heard him was on a Don Cherry album, either Complete Communion or Symphony for Improvisors.

    But it equally could have been Gary Burton's A Genuine Tong Funeral.

    All of these albums were out for several years by the time I started getting into jazz, and I found that my meager part-time-job funds traveled a lot farther when I went downtown Chicago to the third floor of Rose Records or over to Washington Blvd. to Rolling Stone Record Outlet. Part of the third floor of Rose and nearly all of Rolling Stone were devoted to cut-outs, the cents-on-the-dollar castoffs of the music business.

    Rose probably bought truckloads from whatever source--this was where I could get Actuel and America label French disks along with the Candid and Barnaby and RCA/Victor lps for 99 cents. Alan Silva, claude delcloo, jacques coursil unit. Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Buell Niedlinger. And the Blue Notes that had passed their expiration date, like the Cherry classics and most of Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner's albums from the 60s.

    Over at Rolling Stone, the big finds were almost always the Atlantic or United Artists records, especially the twofer best-ofs on Atlantic. Mingus again, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. On UA, the twofer best-ofs had a plain-brown-wrapper kind of look, and some were from Polydor's Blue Note family and others were not: Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, McCoy (again), but also Steve Winwood. $1.99 would get two disks.

    But the Last Tango in Paris (Ultimo tango a Parigi for our Italian friends) OST was rarely found in the new albums or the cutouts. I looked for that thing for years. OLiver Nelson leads the orchestra and Gato swells, swirls, and wails against a romantic wash of strings. Fortunately for all of us who are captivated by Barbieri's tenor can get the Rykodisk CD that Barbieri himself presided over, adding the Last Tango Suite to the original soundtrack, a suite he put together from the bits and pieces he recorded as cues for the film.

    From about 1972 to 1975, Barbieri was part of the Impulse! jazz family, which at that time featured and released amazing albums from Barbieri, Michael White, Keith Jarrett, Marion Brown, and Sun Ra among others, and they seemed to tour through Chicago endlessly.

    Go see Jarrett with the American quintet at Alice's Restaurant in Evanston, and next week Barbieri at Ratzo's or Michael White at the Brown Shoe.

    Ratzo's was a restaurant & club on Lincoln (iirc), and that's where we saw Barbieri several times. I'm rather tall, so I was surprised to meet Barbieri and find that those sounds came out of a fairly diminuitive man--no more than 5 ft. 5 or 6 inches, but a giant none the less.

    Oh yeah, what about the movie? Ah, well, one of the reasons that you couldn't find the OST is that when it was released, LTiP was X-rated, which at that time in Chicago meant age 21+. It came out in the states sometime in 1973 and played to critical acclaim, but I knew nothing from films (a streak I have kept pretty well intact) and so in 1974, my friends & I were all turning 21.

    Phil K-- the older brother of one of my friends was one of our musical and cultural guides. We'd go to Phil's apartment and get pretty toasted in one form or another, listen to music or go out for cheap entertainment. One night, Phil saw that the local cheap movie house was showing an X rated double feature: The Naughty Stewardesses in 3-D (slightly NSFW)and Last Tango in Paris.

    Well, you didn't have to use much arm-twisting to get a carload of horny 20 year olds to spend one dollar to see a literary achievement like The Naughty Stewardesses in 3-D. I mean, Flaubert probably wrote the screenplay, right?

    We sat through that abomination--the 3-D effects were about on the same level as House of Wax, except instead of a fli-back paddle, they used a pool cue that might've poked an eye out. No, none of the naughty bits were 3-D enhanced, at least as far as I recall. I might've fallen asleep.

    Ah, but Last Tango in Paris. For years I thought it was a comedy (my evening's preparations included a giggle inducing substance), but I fell in love with Maria Schneider (the actress, not the band leader, though she's not bad either) and I fell in love all over again with Barbieri's keening tenor.
  • Music Advice Center: Where to Start with Sun Ra?

    Jun 17 2008, 19h24

    astro1_rohit started this list. If I remember correctly, he wanted to have a listener-collected and compiled list of about 15 albums to guide an unfamiliar listener into the waters called Sun Ra and the Solar-Myth Arkestra. (Pinning down the name for the Arkestra is a little like settling on a name for a deity--there are a 1000 names for the joy of the Arkestra.)

    Rohit suggested that we tag the entries using commonly agreed upon top level tags to describe the music on the albums. Electronic, soul jazz, free jazz, bebop, big band. You get the picture. At first, I argued with Rohit that someone who was looking for soul jazz, after listening to Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou Donaldson, Gator Jackson, Eddie Harris, might think they had left reality behind looking for Sun Ra's soul jazz. And, I too, momentarily left my senses when Rohit described an album as free jazz. I argued with him that it was not! free! jazz!

    First let me apologize to Rohit. As I have listened to hour after hour of Sun Ra over the last two weeks, I have to agree that from the perspective of listeners now approaching Sun Ra, much of his catalog would have to be called free jazz.

    I explain my perspective below in the write-up of Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow. I trust you'll see how I deluded myself into thinking it was not.

    And not that those tags couldn't fit Sun Ra, I just don't know if they help--in such a large catalog--pick an entry point without some framing for why one think sso. I mean, I have around 45 or more Sun Ra albums, but I couldn't say I had ever heard either of the albums Rohit nominated, so I wondered why these are great places to start with El Ra. I'm intrigued, of course, and will go out and get those on his recommendation, but the tags tell me nothing.

    As if you could not tell by now, I am a huge Ra fan, one who had the thrill of seeing the Arkestra many times in many configurations. Once, he led a conga line around the Quiet Knight on Belmont in Chicago, the band passing through the audience, Ra pausing every several people to embrace them and whisper in their ear. In mine, he said: "To live forever, you must give up your death. Give up your death and live forever!"

    And so, to the list:

    Quoth Sun Ra:
    the music is different here, the vibrations are different... not like planet earth... planet earth sound of guns, anger, frustration... there is no one to talk to on planet earth to understand... it would affect their vibrations, for the better of course... equation wise, the first thing to do is consider internal linktime as officially ended... we'll work on the other side of time... we'll bring them here through either isotope, internal linkteleportation, transmolecularzation... or better still, teleport the whole planet here through music..


    For those who will remain skittish, I'm going to recommend a compilation, released in 2000 on Evidence. It is still widely available, and its name is Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel. I hesitate to put "best ofs" or greatest hits compilations on these sorts of lists, because I think it is a cop out to say that this serves as the best introduction to an artist.

    In Sun Ra's case, I'll put this one as an addendum to the MAC Where to Start with Sun Ra Guide, because as accessible as Evidence tries to make this 18 song anthology, the Sun's peculiar rays manage to shine through. Also, because of the format, Evidence picks only a smattering of Ra's best known works but still manages to show the arc (the Ark?) from intergalactic swing band to full-blown Cosmic Exploration.

    Music Advice Center: Where to Start with Sun Ra


    (alpha by album title)

    Sun Ra - Angels And Demons At Play + Nubians Of Plutonia (1960 original releases on Saturn Research); These two albums span a range of recordings across six or so years, from their extended residency at Club de Lisa to the verge of their move to New York. I picked this one because it is easily available in this twofer form, and because together they take Sun Ra from his Ellingtonia-on-steroids (Urnack, Tiny Pyramids, Angels & Demons) to the verge of the anthemic compositions that would repeat through much of the rest of his career (Nubia, an abbreviated Watusa, Aethiopia).

    Sun Ra - The Antique Blacks (1978) [electronic, free jazz, psychedelic]

    Sun Ra - Astro-Black and Space is the Place (1972; Impulse); During the early 70s, Sun Ra improbably landed a contract with ABC/Impulse records. Impulse released a lot of the old Saturn Research recordings with new artwork and liner notes, but also some new, then-current material. Much of the ABC/Impulse catalog reverted to the Ra collective, and a lot of these were repackaged as twofer CDs. My next selection is two Impulse albums that should have been packaged as an Evidence two-for-one, but I don't think they ever have been. Astro-Black and Space Is The Place are a faithful presentation of what the band was like in performance (although these are studio recordings) in 1971/1972.

    Here's an important distinction to remember about Sun Ra and his Arkestra that will help erase the line between "live" and "studio," at least before the giant leaps in digital recording technology that started to be commonplace in the 80s, and also between the typical US venues that the Arkestra played live in the 60s and 70s. Many shows in jazz clubs that would book Sun Ra had an almost equal number of people in the band as in the audience. OK, that's an exaggeration, but it was common for a "crowd" of 30-50 to see Ra before he started to get a lot of festival bookings and caught on with the college crowds. The next consideration is that the band, the lifestyle, was no act. While I am uncertain how much the band put stock in Ra's Myth-Science, his creation and salvation stories are not all that unbelievable stacked up against Elijah Muhammed's "Dr. Yakub" and in fact share a similar outer-space origination myth. I note this because there was an element of communal living to the Arkestra, so when they played "in studio," that usually meant within the living complexes the band had fashioned in Chicago, New York, and eventually, Philadelphia.

    So a "studio" audience frequently had as many fervent and appreciative guests as a live performance. So when I say that Astro-Black and Space is the Place capture the essence of what the Arkestra played live, you can believe it. Both feature the vocalese of June Tyson. No, she's no Jeanne Lee or Abbey Lincoln, but I don't believe they could dance or choreograph as well as Tyson could, so, nyah! Both albums feature the African Liberation (but in this case liberation for the entire planet) chants that became a fixture with the band from the mid-60s on (It's after the end of the world...don't you know that yet?!?!?!) and through the two albums you get the sort of scope of a typical Arkestra concert, the cosmic explorations on the Solar Sound Organ, the Ellington-on-speed double time jump tunes, the free-sonic-jazz, and the rhythm and repetitions, the walking on a riff of the Sun Ra experience.

    Sun Ra - Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy + Art Forms of Dimension Tomorrow (rec. 1961-1963?) Evidence 2-for-1 cd release mid 1990s); The first album I ever had by Sun Ra was Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow, that I bought around 1969 or 1970. I was not yet "into" jazz, although I had probably a dozen jazz albums by 1970. So, yeah, I had this album that I bought at a record shop because Ra's reputation was HUGE around Chicago, and I heard a couple of tunes on Triad Radio, a progressive free form station in Chicago. They played Kraan, Amon Duul, Krokus, Elmore James, Etta James, Mingus, Coltrane, and, yes Sun Ra.

    And my stereo consisted of a turntable, an all-in-one Panasonic tape player/AM-FM receiver, and headphones. I'd put on my headphones and fall asleep with Art Forms for Dimensions Tomorrow playing.

    I didn't have any language for "jazz" at that time, so I related to Sun Ra's freeform explorations from music I was more familiar with, that of Harry Partch and Edgar Varese. It seemed to me that Ra had some fringes-of-mainstream jazz mixed in with this free-form musique-concrete. So, I was still an outsider to jazz at that point and all my subsequent listening to Sun Ra made me put him in a category where he played raucous interpretations of mainstream jazz along with 20th century "classical" explorations. As I've been listening to John Gilmore rip the ever-lovin' out of the tenor, I shake my head and say, "Sorry, Rohit, you ARE right, this IS free jazz."

    Now, I put Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow on my list of albums to start with for Sun Ra because, well, because I started listening to Sun Ra with that album. Satellites Are Spinning is still a favorite, and at times, I am that 16 year old again, in bed under the rafters in my parents' unfinished attic, reading Catch-22 or Been Down So Long (It Looks Like Up to Me) or with all the lights off and the rumble of the heavy traffic providing muffled percussion to the Arkestra.

    You can get Art Forms as a twofer with Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy. I had to buy them as vinyl. On the plus side, I still have my vinyl.

    Sun Ra - Discipline 27-II (1973) [free jazz, soul, vocal jazz]

    Sun Ra - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Vols. 1 & 2 (1965 original release dates on ESP); I had a completely other pick in mind when I started writing about A&D/Nubians. I was going to choose Lanquidity which is from the third great period, the space-jam jazz band. It's very accessible even for those who may be afraid of what they've heard about Ra rather than having actually heard him.

    But for those looking for the more "free" as in free-improvisational, largely amelodic Arkestra, I'd start with ESPdisk 1014 and ESPdisk 1017, available again as a twofer: The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Vols. 1 & 2 (find the 2006 remastered version, ESPdisk 4026). This is the height of Ra's free jazz period, the claiming of the terrestrial territory of New York City, the Chicago hard bop receding in the mirror. This was a seminal album in the jazz world, its impact massive and well beyond its relatively small sales at the time. There is a later recorded--and much later released Volume 3. Can't say I've heard it.

    Walt Dickerson and Sun Ra - Impressions of a Patch of Blue (rec. 1964? Verve CD release 1999); Impressions is a duet, an anomaly to the list, but not to anyone who has spent anytime delving into the Ra catalog. Impressions of a Patch of Blue, recorded in 1964 or 1965 with Walt Dickerson on vibes and Ra on piano or clavinet. The eight tunes are Dickerson & Ra's impressionistic arrangements of the movie score for the MGM movie A Patch of Blue, starring Sidney Poitier. This is a side of Sun Ra often overlooked, but present throughout his life, I'd argue, the cinematic sweep, the sound of the atmosphere that accompanies life as it is lived on the screen. One of two disks known/available from this duet. Dickerson was also once part of the Arkestra, but had a long career on his own merits. Sadly, Walt Dickerson died last month.

    John Cage and Sun Ra - John Cage Meets Sun Ra (1987) John Cage Meets Sun Ra, Meltdown MPA1. The two giants met at Coney Island, June 8, 1986, 22 years ago this week. Ra improvises on his Yamaha keyboard & Cage reads interludes from Empty Words (part IV). An arts organization put together something called Sideshows at the Seashore, and these two shared the stage for communal improv. I never knew this existed until Paul D. Miller gave a lecture at the U-M School of Architecture & Urban Planning, and his alter-ego DJ Spooky & I were giggling like fools over some of the rarities in his stacks. I saw this and was stunned. I guess I put it into the introduction to Sun Ra sets because a part of Sun Ra's persona wanted to be taken seriously, very seriously as a 20th Century composer/performer. I saw him play Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion & Celeste on his rocksichord with an army of percussionists and two guitarists and a bassist for the strings. For a complete introduction to Ra, you have to hear the Fletcher Henderson, the Cecil Taylor, the Bud Powell, the James Brown, the Pharoah Sanders, and the Bartok in him. btw, the Cage people have made it possible for you to find out more about this and to hear it at: http://www.johncage.info/cdlabels/meltdown1.html

    Sun Ra - Lanquidity (1978; cd release 2000); Lanquidity is, again, one of those chill-out groove albums from Sun Ra to play for your skeptical friends when all they've heard or experienced from Sun Ra is the riotous cacophony of Solar-Myth or Nothing Is. Rhythm and repetition are two keys to Sun Ra, and Lanquidity came at a time when Sun Ra was hitting a glorious stride, but was already so far out of the popular mainstream opinion that these albums (Lanquidity, On Jupiter, Sleeping Beauty) had the sort of limited pressings and availability that plagued the Saturn recordings in Chicago. Limited distribution, a fierce (and justifiable) resistance to manipulation by record companies, and the ability to answer in 3-hour sentences when a simple Yes or No would suffice kept Sun Ra out of the public consciousness.

    Sun Ra - Live at the Hackney Empire (rec. 1990; CD release 2000 on Leo); Which brings me to the next one, which is a live date from the Arkestra, but by this time (1990), Ra is an elder statesmen, he's appearing in a concert hall(?) on Live At The Hackney Empire. Guest artists include Charles Davis on baritone sax, Talvin Singh and Elson Nascimento on percussion, and India Cooke on violin. This one presents 2 & 1/2 hours over two disks (on Leo) of the band in concert as it was sequenced. Leo also recorded and released an Arkestra performance the night before in France, The Pleaides,
    which included a dozen Parisian symphonic musicians. The material was substantially different between the two nights--but this was typical of the Arkestra. When you've had the nucleus of a band together for 30+ years, you tend to develop a deep play book.

    Sun Ra - Music for Tomorrows World (rec 1960; rel 2002)

    Sun Ra - Outer Spaceways Incorporated (1968; Black Lion); Outer Spaceways Incorporated is a gem that was released on Black Lion in the late 60s. The contrasts between the laconic rhythmic chanting (We Travel the Spaceways) and the airy, piano-flute-bass-percussion of Spontaneous Simplicity keep the listener interested, and the introduction to the Arkestra rewards the seeker for the effort. Also released as Pictures of Infinity. Same album. The CD adds one track (which I don't have.

    Sun Ra - Sleeping Beauty (lp 1980, check Dusty Groove for upcoming cd release June 15) Now for the late night, soulful-but-funky Sun Ra: Sleeping Beauty. This is what I've refered to as the jam-band Ra. I'm sure this is what Trey Anastasio must have heard as an introduction to Sun Ra, the trilogy of Lanquidity, On Jupiter, and Sleeping Beauty. Eddie Gale, Michael Ray and long time Ra colony member Akh Tal Ebah are on trumpet here, and John Gilmore, Eloe Omoe, James Jacson and Marshall Allen all play reeds, and someone credited in some places as "The Disco Kid" plays guitar. On all three of the albums cited, the band gets into a cosmic groove, with mystic crystal revelations from June Tyson and others, and Ra's suggestions become lengthy groove based solos for at least a couple trumpeters and a sax or two. Julian Priester supposedly guests on trombone, at least on Lanquidity. I don't have credits handy for Sleeping Beauty or On Jupiter. But of the three, I highly recommend dipping the toes in with Sleeping Beauty*.

    Sun Ra - The Solar Myth Approach Vols. 1 & 2 (rec. 1967-1971; LP releases, 1971; 2-for-1 CD rel. 2001); The Solar-Myth Method 1&2 are two further excursions into out-there from El Sun Ra. They were released on BYG-Actuel (and rereleased on Varese-Sarabande) and fit in well with so many of the other explorations on BYG during that time: Alan Silva, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry's Mu Parts 1 & 2, Claude Delcloo.

    Sun Ra - Some Blues But Not the Kind That's Blue (rec. 1977; Atavistic CD/eMusic release 2008); The Atavistic label (Chicago) newly unearthed and just released (2008) this 1977 studio recording of mostly standards, interpreted Ra style. I think the title is completely apt, as you can hear the deep connection with the blues that makes up this whole band. John Gilmore is in fine form. There's little of the Cosmic Sun Ra on this, but it's also safe to say that this is not a Stan Kenton band playing the same tunes. A similar album, also well worth it, but very rare, is Blue Delight, which was on A&M for some strange reason, and included Don Cherry and Tommy Turrentine as well as several Arkestra alumni, who had moved on.
    ************************

    Fifteen years after his ascension back to Saturn, we can be thrilled by this strange little being once again.

    ************************

    *Personal aside: this one is another album that confirms that the reissue companies wait until I hunt down obscure vinyl or cds before they rerelease material. I finally got an lp of Sleeping Beauty in decent condition, but a white label pressing, so no personnel, no liner notes, no artwork. $25 to a starving overage graduate student is a lot of money. So, it's coming out on CD this month. Other recent (last several years) where this has happened to me: Richard Davis Now's The Time/Epistrophy, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Clifford Jordan In the World. Several others. Do you guys want me to let you know when I buy something oop on vinyl, so you'll know that the cd is coming?
  • 25 Great Tenors Tag Radio

    Mar 11 2008, 16h06

    I just noticed that my 50th journal was a list from the Jazz Desk at the Music Advice Center about 25 Great Tenors in jazz.

    To commemorate my 50th, I created a PTT (pure track tag) radio for 25 Great Tenors Not Named Coltrane or Rollins or Henderson. So, if you're interested in making this radio available to a wider audience, then may I recommend that you use the above link to open the tag list "25 Great Tenors Not Named Coltrane or Rollins or Henderson" and then cut & paste: 25 Great Tenors Not Named Coltrane or Rollins or Henderson to tag these tracks. I think if we get four people to do this, then it becomes a global track tag radio available to all last.fm listeners.

    I was not able to find streamable tracks for Doyle, Odean Pope, or Getatchew Merkurya; Rudolph Johnson is on the Jimmy McGriff selection, John Gilmore on the Andrew Hill, and Mats Gustafsson is on the AALY Trio + Ken Vandermark.

    At a minimum, you can use the track list to play an assortment of these fine tenors to check them out before buying their work.
  • 25 Great Tenors Not Named Coltrane or Rollins or Henderson

    Mar 9 2008, 3h55

    You know how this works by now, right? Over at the Music Advice Center's Jazz Desk (resident director Beelzbubba), we start a list, give it a name and some vague parameters, and then readers contribute their nominations. The purpose is to promote listening to jazz of all styles and genres. I openly admit to my bias toward post-bop and American free jazz post 1959 to present. What I'm saying is, new blood and divergent viewpoints are always welcome. One list ends, another one starts up soon.

    Oh--this list? Early on, I should have amended the title to include Shorter, Webster, Hawkins, Lateef and Young (at a minimum), but other than Wayne, none of the others had albums nominated.

    25 Great Tenors Not Named Coltrane or Henderson or Rollins or Webster or Hawkinsor Lateef or Jacquet or Youngor Byas or Berry or Getz

    Albert Ayler - Live in Greenwich Village (1967)
    Archie Shepp - Fire Music (1965)
    Arthur Doyle - Alabama Feeling (1978)
    Billy Harper - Black Saint (1975)
    Branford Marsalis - Requiem (1999)
    Charles Gayle - Repent (1992)
    Chico Freeman - The outside Within (1978)
    Clifford Jordan - In The World (1972)
    David S. Ware - Godspelized (1997)
    Dexter Gordon - A Swingin' Affair (1962)
    Dewey Redman - Look For the Black Star (1975)
    Frank Wright - Shouting The Blues (1977)
    Getatchew Mekurya - Negus of Ethiopian Sax (2002)
    James Carter - In Carterian Fashion (1998)
    John Gilmore (on) Andrew Hill - Andrew!!! (1965)
    Mats Gustafsson (The Thing) - Live at Bla (2004)
    Michael Blake - Kingdom of Champa (1998)
    Odean Pope - Locked & Loaded: Live at the Blue Note (2006)
    Peter Brotzmann - Machine Gun (1968)
    Pharoah Sanders - Karma (1969)
    Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle (1973)
    Rudolph Johnson - The Second Coming (1974)
    Sam Rivers - Inspiration (1999)
    Von Freeman - Doin' It Right Now (1971)
    Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil (1964)

    Total Count: 25


    I could easily have added five or ten more to the 25 here--but you already knew that. Apologies to Fred Anderson, Joseph Jarman, Yusef Lateef, George Coleman, Steve Coleman, Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, Steve Grossman, David Liebman, Joe Lovano, Frank Lowe, Chris Potter, Ken Vandermark and on and on.

    The final four added to this list were: Branford Marsalis--to me, just a notch behind Wayne Shorter as a composer and player. And Shorter should have been on the list of Great Tenors Not Named "X" to begin with--my oversight--and I think you can add Yusef and Booker, Hawkins, and Young without blinking. Branford has several lp's nominated as pick selections by AMG, but I picked Requiem for two reasons. First, because it is the last recording with his longtime pianist foil Kenny Kirkland who died too young, and as I recall, because of complications from a long term addiction, and the album is "as is"--that is, they tried to replace Kirkland or rework some of his parts, but gave up on that, preferring to leave first takes as they were recorded, and the music stands up well. Second, because Marsalis shows the depth of his compositional acumen, and throws a nod to one of his influences, Keith Jarrett, which was surprising to me because of the famously bad blood between Jarrett and Branford's younger brother, the trumpeter, whatsisname, er Wynton.

    Next up is James Carter, who like Wynton, schooled with the Jazz Messengers (at 17!)and Lester Bowie's ensembles before going out on his own. Carter's debut JC on the Set and the followup, Jurassic Classics are arguably stronger, but In Carterian Fashion puts Carter in groupings with three different organists. As in most Carter albums, there's a mix of originals and standards, but the standards are off the beaten path.

    Michael Blake's "Champa" is a debut album that captured my attention like few others, with the exception of JC on the Set. Unusual instrumentation, arrangements, voicing and composition in painting an aural landscape of his wife's native Vietnam, this one is rarely far from my cd player. Blake apprenticed with the Lounge Lizards prior to becoming a Downtown Darling.

    Finally, Rahsaan Roland Kirk could be on the list of almost any reed instrument masters short list, but the saxophone concerto on Prepare Thyself is a masterpiece of circular breathing, and a tour de force of playing in any case. Some of you may know of the long standing fight between long-time Kirk producer and friend Joel Dorn and the Guinness Book of World Records, the latter of whom recognizes Kenny G as the record holder for circular breathing. Seems the criteria was to hold one note the longest, not how long one might play without stopping for a breath by mouth. Gorelick held one note for about 45 minutes. (Some say it was the most interesting work they ever heard from the G-man!) The record came many years after Kirk was already gone, so no opportunity to hold one note was available, in spite of tapes and personal testimonies from those who'd seen Kirk play for hours without stopping--and those who are familiar know that this might be while playing up to three instruments at any one time.

    I had the good fortune to see Kirk on many occasions. One of my favorites--and forgive me if you've read me say this before--was at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago when a kid in the front row (no, not me) lit up a huge Marley conical spliff and Kirk caught the scent immediately; the kid offered it to Kirk, whose prodigious pulmonary capacity torched the fattie til there was just a pinch between thumb and forefinger--hardly enough to pass back, but he did. And, while still holding the smoke in, he tells the kid "Next time, bring the good stuff," and without missing a beat launches into a tenor explosion of a Coltrane medley, the smoke curling out of the bell as he played.