Archive for the ‘Music’ tag
photograph © Herman Leonard –1 Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington at the Downbeat Club
I’ve always loved this photo, especially Duke Ellington’s expression of unmitigated joy…
Duke Ellington sits at the piano in a blackened theater, a brilliant shaft of light casting him in heroic silhouette.
Billie Holiday (sic – actually this is Ella Fitzgerald) stands before the microphone, lips slightly parted – as if in mid-phrase – smoke billowing softly behind her.
Oscar Peterson performs in close quarters with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis, Peterson’s hands a blur above the keys of his piano.
The black-and-white images could be the work of only one man, Herman Leonard, perhaps the most revered jazz photographer of the 20th Century and the subject of an exquisitely produced new book, “Jazz ” (Bloomsbury, $65). Though not the first, and probably not the last, published collection of Leonard’s photographs, “Jazz” captures the textural sumptuousness of Leonard’s photography, while crystallizing his personal philosophy about the music.
Leonard, in other words, chose to celebrate the jazz life, rather than demonize it. While many jazz lensmen sensationalized the dark side of jazz – as in those ghastly photos of a drug-ravaged Chet Baker toward the end of his life – Leonard went in the opposite direction. To him, jazz musicians were to be admired, not scorned or pitied. He saw poetry where others saw melodrama; he portrayed romance where others focused on decay.
(click to continue reading A new collection of Herman Leonard’s photography, ‘Jazz,’ portrays the music in a heroic light – chicagotribune.com.)Footnotes:
- Tribune typo labeled this woman as Billie Holiday [↩]
Sleep apnea begone!
Seemingly operated on the same sort of principle as a shofar1, but more difficult to get a good solid sound, probably because the mouth opening is wider. Still pretty fun, though tiring.Footnotes:
We’ve discussed Cocksucker Blues before,1 but apparently if you are wealthy enough2 to purchase the Super Deluxe package release of Exile On Main Street, you’ll be able to see snippets from Cocksucker Blues:
It’s hard to know what the Stones expected from [Robert ] Frank, whose previous films, including the Beat landmark “Pull My Daisy” (1959), showed little interest in conventional narrative of either the fiction or nonfiction variety. (At one point, Frank theorized he was chosen because his friend Danny Seymour, who appears in the film, was adept at procuring hard drugs, which made him a valuable commodity in the Stones’ circle.) In any case, the Stones didn’t like what they saw — or at the very least considered it unwise to release. According to one account, Jagger told Frank he liked the film but worried that “if it shows in America, we’ll never be allowed in the country again.” The band successfully sued to prevent the release of “Cocksucker Blues,” with showings limited to those at which Frank was physically present (a requirement that has been slightly loosened in recent years as the 85-year-old Frank’s ability to travel has been curtailed). Video was verboten as well, of course, although VHS bootlegs and now Internet downloads have always been within the reach of the curious and determined. It’s also made appearances on various streaming video sites, although its tenure is inevitably short-lived.
“Cocksucker Blues” is infamous for its scenes of debauchery, like an incipient orgy on the Stones’ private plane where women shriek as their shirts are pulled off and Jagger and Richards bang instruments like a satanic house band. (Carefully edited snippets appear on the “Exile” DVD, although the Glimmer Twins now seem to preside over a mild outbreak of tickle fighting.) But such spectacles would hardly have damaged the reputation of a band whose image was based in excess. And besides, the Stones are absent for many of the movie’s most notorious scenes, including those in which unidentified hangers-on stick needles in their arm and a sperm-spattered naked woman sprawls on a hotel bed and fingers her crotch in postcoital reverie.
What was perhaps more damaging — and, to the outside observer, most intriguing — is just how dull the life of the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll band could be. At times, Frank goes out of his way to portray the drudgery of life on the road, as when he intercuts footage of a couple shooting up in a hotel room with scenes of Keith Richards quietly playing cards. In one sublime sequence, included on the “Exile” DVD, a lugubrious Richards makes a slurred and unsuccessful attempt to order a bowl of fruit from a woman in a Southern hotel.
There’s concert footage as well, much of it astonishing; many fans regard the 1972 tour as the Stones’ finest hour. It’s a shame the “Exile” DVD only shows us the second half of their duet with Stevie Wonder, who toured as their opening act, picking up with “Satisfaction” but omitting the segue out of Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” But the vividly colored stage performances only heighten the dolorous feel of the black-and-white behind-the-scenes footage. In his novel “Underworld,” whose third section is named for the film, Don DeLillo described it thus: “The camera phalanx in the tunnels. People sitting around, two people asleep in a lump or tripped out or they could be unnoticeably dead, the endless noisy boredom of the tour — tunnels and runways.”
(click to continue reading The Rolling Stones’ forbidden documentary – Documentaries – Salon.com.)Footnotes:
Duly noted. And, ouch, that’s gotta sting a little.
Not long ago, Kenny G put out a recording where he overdubbed himself on top of a 30+ year old Louis Armstrong record, the track “What a Wonderful World”. With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can’t use at all – as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.
This type of musical necrophilia – the technique of overdubbing on the preexisting tracks of already dead performers – was weird when Natalie Cole did it with her dad on “Unforgettable” a few years ago, but it was her dad. When Tony Bennett did it with Billie Holiday it was bizarre, but we are talking about two of the greatest singers of the 20th century who were on roughly the same level of artistic accomplishment. When Larry Coryell presumed to overdub himself on top of a Wes Montgomery track, I lost a lot of the respect that I ever had for him – and I have to seriously question the fact that I did have respect for someone who could turn out to have such unbelievably bad taste and be that disrespectful to one of my personal heroes.
But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis’s tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture – something that we all should be totally embarrassed about – and afraid of. We ignore this, “let it slide”, at our own peril.
His callous disregard for the larger issues of what this crass gesture implies is exacerbated by the fact that the only reason he possibly have for doing something this inherently wrong (on both human and musical terms) was for the record sales and the money it would bring.
Since that record came out – in protest, as insignificant as it may be, I encourage everyone to boycott Kenny G recordings, concerts and anything he is associated with. If asked about Kenny G, I will diss him and his music with the same passion that is in evidence in this little essay.
(click to continue reading JazzOasis.com – Pat Metheny on Kenny G.)
Louis Armstrong is an American hero, Kenny G, not so much…
Via Aaron Cohen, Kottke guest blogger.
(Merge in HD function in CS5)
pretty good busker, didn’t get his CD though, didn’t have time to cross over the median.
apparently featured in some form at Explore Chicago (the official tourism site for the City of Chicago), though for the life of me, I can’t find where. They must not give credit to the photographer correctly. Remind myself not to add anything else to this Flickr group.
Update: ah, found behind the Wall of Facebook. Still, I don’t think I’ll add any other photo to Explore Chicago until the photos are not restricted to viewing by Facebook users only.
I wish more newspapers would praise Iggy Pop on their editorial pages. Sigh. Much more interesting than sales tax increases or whatever topic de jour.
“Before he began flogging car insurance, Iggy Pop, aka James Newell Osterberg, aka the Iguana, aka the Godfather of Punk, was the singer for the Stooges. Well, we say singer, but he was more like a human shock absorber for a band that did not so much give concerts as go to war with audiences. Going by this newspaper’s review page yesterday, some of that antagonistic spirit is still on display as the band tour the UK this week: our man noted that Iggy Pop ‘flings himself into the audience at the slightest provocation’.
Such gonzo hostility was never merely a matter of idiosyncratic stagecraft, but ran all the way through the band’s albums too. Search and Destroy, on the 1973 classic Raw Power, sums it up nicely: ‘I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm / I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb’. Like many good things in pop music, the Stooges came out of industrial Michigan in the 60s, but Iggy’s band didn’t go in for Motown’s melodic optimism; no, their songs were marked by a reckless nihilism. I Wanna Be Your Dog, for instance, combined lyrics such as ‘Now we’re gonna be face to face / And I’ll lay right down in my favourite place’ with a leering, distorted guitar and a one-note piano riff. Perhaps their best album was Metallic KO – ostensibly a concert recording, but it sounded more like what would happen if you stuck a rock band in a Cortina and drove them off a cliff. Its high point? That would have to be Louie Louie, which must be the closest pop has ever come to a public flagellation.”
(click to continue reading In praise of … Iggy and the Stooges | Editorial | From the Guardian | The Guardian.)
Wowsa. Ella Fitzgerald Live at Montreux 1969
and of course, the original Cream version is much different. Good in its own way, but a bit over-played, and ultimately not as much fun, at least for me.
(via Chuck Sudo)
Sad news, Alex Chilton died, entirely too young.
Pop hitmaker, cult hero, and Memphis rock iconoclast Alex Chilton has died.
The singer and guitarist, best known as a member of ’60s pop-soul act the Box Tops and the ’70s power-pop act Big Star, died today at a hospital in New Orleans. Chilton, 59, had been complaining of about his health earlier today. He was taken by paramedics to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.
His Big Star bandmate Jody Stephens confirmed the news this evening. “Alex passed away a couple of hours ago,” Stephens said from Austin, Texas, where the band was to play Saturday at the annual South By Southwest Festival. “I don’t have a lot of particulars, but they kind of suspect that it was a heart attack.”
The Memphis-born Chilton rose to prominence at age 16, when his gruff vocals powered Box Tops massive hit “The Letter.” The band would score several more hits, including “Cry Like a Baby” and “Neon Rainbow.”
After the Box Tops ended in 1970, Chilton had a brief solo run in New York before returning to Memphis. He soon joined forces with a group of Anglo-pop-obsessed musicians, fellow songwriter/guitarist Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, to form Big Star.
The group became the flagship act for the local Ardent Studios’ new Stax-distributed label. Big Star’s 1972 debut album, #1 Record met with critical acclaim but poor sales. The group briefly disbanded, but reunited sans Bell to record the album Radio City. Released in 1974, the album suffered a similar fate, plagued by Stax’s distribution woes.
The group made one more album, Third/Sister Lovers, with just Chilton and Stephens — and it too was a minor masterpiece. Darker and more complex than the band’s previous pop-oriented material, it remained unreleased for several years. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine would name all three Big Star albums to its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
[Click to continue reading Memphis music legend Alex Chilton dies » The Commercial Appeal]
I’ve loved Big Star for as long as I knew their music (probably late 1980s or early 1990s), and the box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky was my favorite collection of last year. Big Star rewards repeated listens, especially with headphones.
Sigh. I’m sure there will lots of obituaries around the web, Big Star and Alex Chilton had influence far beyond their units-sold1.
Hello, I’m (downloading) Johnny Cash1
The lucky recipient of a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card (and a whole lot of press) is 71-year-old Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia —a retired real estate agent, onetime Navy radar operator, and grandfather of nine who just wanted Johnny Cash’s 1958 single “Guess Things Happen That Way” for his new Nano, a birthday gift from his children. And he bought it on a PC: “I do not own a Mac, no,” he chuckles. “I knew somebody was going to ask me that question.”
Sulcer has spent the last day fielding calls from, among others, Apple head Steve Jobs (“I thought it was my son, he’s always a joker. I kept saying, ‘Come on, Kevin, I know it’s you!”) and Cash’s daughter Rosanne (“she had her husband, who is her guitarist, play the song to me over the phone. That was real nice.”).
He has been a devoted Johnny Cash fan for most of his life, he says: “I went to Georgia Tech on a football scholarship, broke just about every bone in my body. All those boys on the team, we just loved country music… My whole life, I had never understood why people go see movies twice, but I’ve seen [Cash biopic] Walk the Line four times. My kids finally bought me the DVD. And I was pretty sure I had all of his music, but I was just checking iTunes, listening to those little 20 or 30 second clips, and I found this one. It has some good pickin’ in it!”
A sweet story, really. The song itself is pretty typical for a Sun Records Johnny Cash song; also there’s a version floating around the intertubes that is a duet with Bob Dylan, circa Nashville Skyline.
from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jobs congratulated him, thanked him for using Apple products and chatted a bit.
“He was real nice,” Sulcer said. “I told him I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed iTunes and the iPod. I really enjoy country music.
“He asked me if I played the guitar, and I said, ‘Oh my goodness. That is my lifelong frustration.’ “
Sulcer has been trying to learn the picking style of Luther Perkins, Cash’s guitarist, but he has not had much luck.
“[Jobs] said he had been messing around a little with [the guitar], too,” Sulcer said.
Later Thursday, after his doctor appointment, Sulcer was expecting calls from near and far. Apple public relations people have been calling him to ask whether he would consent to an interview with Rolling Stone, the rock magazine, and other publications.
“I said, ‘Rolling Stone is going to be so disappointed with this old man.’ “
He did get a call he found a little more special. “Rosanne Cash also called this morning to thank me for listening to Johnny Cash,” Sulcer said. She told Sulcer her father would have turned 78 on Friday. Then she had one more surprise for him: Her husband, musician John Leventhal, played the song he bought over the phone for him.
[Click to continue reading Woodstock man wins $10,000 iTunes contest | ajc.com]
Wow, talk about nostalgia. I remember when Poi Dog Pondering used to busk on The Drag1 near the UT-Austin campus. Amazingly, they are still around, and still performing.
Poi Dog Pondering is digging deep into its mid-1980s roots and original influences to play two shows at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and 27 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
“We’re sort of in the mood for a much more intimate show,” said Frank Orrall, lead singer and leader of the 23-year-old bohemian band. “Our last show there was kind of a big bombast with 18 people on stage. We’re approaching the show in a way so that we can take advantage of the intimacy of the Metropolis Theater.”
I think I still have their first album (on vinyl, of course) in storage back in Austin. They played at a house-party we had in a co-op I used to live in, that was probably the first time of several I saw them play on a stage. Even once, here in Chicago sometime in the 1990s, if memory serves. Can’t say they were a particular favorite, but their live shows were pretty good.
Damn, now I feel old…Footnotes:
- Guadalupe Street [↩]
If I get a chance, I’d like to hear this performance. You should go if you can.
Chicago Opera Vanguard continues it’s 2009/2010 Season with the Chicago premiere of WINTERREISE by composer Franz Schubert. WINTERREISE’s limited run begins Friday March 5 in the Fasseas White Box Theatre at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 North Dayton Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
The most difficult journey begins with a single step. The team behind last season’s hit Orpheus & Euridice bring you a new look at Schubert’s beloved and haunting song-cycle of love and loss. WINTERREISE! This romantic masterwork receives the unique staging that only Chicago Opera Vanguard could conceive!
Premiered in 1827 and traditionally relegated to the concert hall, Chicago Opera Vanguard has put the task to Artistic Director Eric Reda to create a unique, highly visual staging of the work in the raw, storefront theatre aesthetic for which he has become know in the Chicago theatre and music scenes. Joined by an impressive team of performers and visual artists from across Chicago’s creative community, this is a “Winter’s Journey” that will not soon be forgotten!
“I have been haunted by these songs since first hearing them over two decades ago and have always been struck by the operatic scope of their construction,” says COVArtistic Director Eric Reda. “I am so excited to explore and share WINTERREISE not only as a dazzling musical masterpiece, but also as a dramatic tour de force.”
WINTERREISE (Winter Journey) is a cycle of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller, best known as the song cycle set for male voice and piano by Franz Schubert (D. 911, published as Op. 89 in 1827). It is the second of Schubert’s two great song cycles on Müller’s poems, the earlier being Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795, Op. 25, 1823). These two works, in their scale, their dramatic coherence and power, their musical and literary unity, and their interpretative demands, stand in a league of their own within the song-cycle genre.
In his introduction to the Peters Edition of this work, Professor Max Müller, son of the poet, remarks that Schubert’s song-cycle has a dramatic effect not unlike that of a full-scale tragic opera. While normally presented in a recital setting, the work’s strong narrative through line and emotional intensity has prompted several international stagings in the past.
“I like these songs better than all the rest, and someday you will too,” Franz Schubert told the friends who were the first to hear his song cycle WINTERREISE.
WINTERREISE performs 8PM Fridays and Saturdays & 3PM Sundays, beginning Friday March 5, in the Fasseas White Box Theatre at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 North Dayton Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. General Admission is $25; a limited number of $10 student discount tickets are available for all performances. Tickets are available online at www.chicagovanguard.org. Running time is approximately 80 minutes with one intermission.
[Click to continue reading CHICAGO OPERA VANGUARD | SEASON 0 - GREEK]
Tinariwen is by far one of my favorite discoveries of recent years. Love their sound, hypnotic, desert blues. Awesome stuff.
Since the late 1970’s, on and off, Tinariwen has been a voice for the Tuaregs, a nomadic minority who attempted a rebellion in 1990 against the government of Mali. The band’s founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, and the musicians he gathered as Tinariwen (which means “deserts”), wrote songs at first as propaganda. Now its lyrics, by the two lead singers who took turns as frontman — Mr. Alhabib and Mr. Alhousseyni — are solemn, filled with longings, memories of “freedom fighters,” homesickness and a determination to hold on to Tuareg identity.
The group had heard rock as well as African and Middle Eastern music. Its instruments are acoustic and electric guitars and electric bass, with a lone hand drum for percussion. They applied Western instruments to the traditions of home: gnarled picking patterns from West African lutes, call-and-response vocals, three-against-two rhythms, a high descant sharing a melody, the modes and inflections of North African and Arabic music. The melodies are as straightforward as folk tunes, but they tug against the harmony in ways different from Western pop or rock, and the vocals stay unpolished — like the voices of footsore travelers, not slick performers.
Tinariwen’s songs extend minimal materials over time. Instrumental passages are more like incantations than solo and backup; guitar lines are bonded to the rhythm, with a twang glinting through now and then. The songs are comparable, inevitably, to a journey through a desert landscape that only appears unchanging to those who don’t perceive its details. A vocal quaver, a guitar trill, some new quick notes in a bass line, a flicker of extra drumming or a burst of ululation from the group’s female singer, Wonou Wallet Sidati, all became events. When some songs picked up speed, in triplet rhythms with handclaps resembling Moroccan gnawa music, they sounded ecstatic.
A few songs revealed that Tinariwen is persistent, not provincial. There were hints of blues and reggae, and in one song, Mr. Alhousseyni placed a repeating guitar line in the foreground: a full-fledged rock guitar hook. But Tinariwen has clearly decided not to change too much for outsiders, and stubbornness only makes its music stronger.
[Click to continue reading Music Review - Tinariwen - Hot Breath of Saharan Rock at Highline Ballroom - NYTimes.com]
A wonderfully apt description actually: this kind of music is subtle, rewarding multiple listenings to discover nuances. A casual listen might not reveal how the music shifts in time, this is not Auto-tuned pop music.1Footnotes:
- Reminds me of a long-lost friend from Morocco, a drummer, and student at UT, who basically pontificated the same thought to me one evening. I’ll tell you more in person if you are interested. [↩]
Well, not all the good names, of course, the English language is resilient. Still, why can’t band names be re-used like movie titles are re-used?
When former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones recently formed a new rock band, the music flowed easily. The struggle: inventing a name for the group.
Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning.
“Every other name is taken,” Mr. Jones explains. “Think of a great band name and Google it, and you’ll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page.”
The available supply of punchy one- or two-word band names is dwindling. So, many acts are resorting to the unwieldy or nonsensical.
Among more than 1,900 acts expected in March at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, are bands with the names And So I Watch You From Afar, and Everybody Was In the French Resistance…Now! The f-word1 is part of 100 band names in a media database maintained by Gracenote, a unit of Sony Corp. that licenses digital entertainment technology.
For the generations of musicians who have taken up guitars and drumsticks, picking a band name has been as crucial as teasing out a distinctive style—and usually the name comes first. For a lucky few, a word or phrase can become iconic. The Beatles, before they were legends, were briefly the Silver Beetles, a nod to Buddy Holly’s Crickets. Jerry Garcia discovered the name Grateful Dead in a dictionary.
[Click to continue reading From ABBA to ZZ Top, All the Good Bands Names Are Taken - WSJ.com]
Though we haven’t yet made it into the Allmusic database
There are about 1.4 million artist names, including 29 individual musicians named John Williams, in the database of Rovi Corp., which owns Web sites including AllMusic.com and licenses editorial content to Apple’s iTunes and other music services.
Last year, Rovi added an average of 6,521 new names a month to its database. And the repeats are piling up.
Yet another gossipy book about the tabloid years of Led Zeppelin, ignoring, again, the actual music, its influences, how it was created, how it shaped music that followed, yadda yadda.
Rick Moody writes:
Young rock enthusiasts! The thing that this sensational material neglects is the music. In Wall’s biography you will learn that Page has voted Tory repeatedly, and you will learn that Peter Grant, the Zeppelin manager, also snorted mountains of cocaine and was very large, and you will also get very many italicized second- person portions of the text — the deep history — passages that are more showoffy than necessary but easily skimmed. What you may not get enough of is the astonishment of the music. Because, no matter how horrible they were as people — and, frankly, they do seem as if they were rather unlikable people who wasted immense talent in a spendthrift fashion — the music is still remarkable, even when borrowed. What enabled that spooky end section of “When the Levee Breaks,” which used to give me the chills when I first heard it in the eighth grade? What about Robert Plant’s amazing harmonica solo on “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” on the considerably underrated “Presence”? And what about the Indian strings on “Kashmir”? Whose arrangement? And beyond saying that Page and Bonham banged out most of “Kashmir” by themselves, what accounts for this mesmerizing and timeless composition? And is it really possible that John Paul Jones has nothing to say, though many of the really interesting frills and ornaments are his? The tamboura on “In the Light,” or the electric piano on “No Quarter” or the lovely faux-Cuban piano riff on “Fool in the Rain.” Should we not, young rock enthusiasts, use language, use paragraphs, to account for these splendid moments?
Maybe this is arcana. And maybe the time for arcana is past, the time for the picayune details of dinosaur rock — such that it’s the dirt, not the song, that remains the same. Maybe some publisher was looking over Mick Wall’s shoulder saying, “Put more about the shark incident in there!” Or maybe the members of Led Zeppelin are themselves somewhat to blame, as Robert Plant muses aloud at one point, despairing of the true story ever getting out: “We thought it was time that people heard something about us other than that we were eating women and throwing the bones out the window.” Indeed! Wall is conflicted enough about the facts that he allows this mythologizing title to be appended to his work: “When Giants Walked the Earth.” But these were no giants, these were just young people, like you, who for a time happened to have more power and influence than was good for them. In the midst of it all, they made extraordinary music.
So far, the best book I’ve read about the band and its music is the 33.3 book by Eric Davis, though even this dwells1 on a discussion of Satanism and the occult as far as it related to Led Zeppelin.
- amusingly, actually, and one of the highlights of the book [↩]