and a little Otis Spann

…and here’s a little Otis Spann: 

Well, you can’t listen to jazz ALL the time….

Yes, there are times when even I get tired of listening to jazz. Hard for me to even conceive, but it does happen. When that happens – and here’s the stretch – I go for pre-1970 blues record. Stuff like Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf are popular, and great of course, but they’re just the tip of a very big ice-berg. As much as I like the blues, I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert -not by a long shot. But here’s a few good things I’ve hit upon this week. Here’s a little Magic Sam:

I got a mention in DownBeat….

However small and insignificant it might have been. A while back I reviewed an album by John Vanore & Abstract Truth (read the review here).

Contagious Words

I really liked the record, and I said so. Yesterday I’m flipping through the newest issue of Downbeat, and there’s an add for the record and don’t you know, they quoted the review and had my name on it. That was kind of cool.

Nalu

I just finished reviewing a great record, Nik Keusen’s Blau and their record Nalu. The record label, Tone-Music-Records appears to be dedicated to grove and minimalist music with almost mathematical composition. Pretty neat stuff.

Unless you're a complete stick in the mud, you can't go wrong with this one.

I’ll add a link to the review when AAJ has it published, but in the meantime, I’ve got to say, I haven’t enjoyed a new record that much in quite a while. It’s some far out Swiss tunes, with ambient beat drones on the Bass Clarinet and some really subtle melodies. It’s a good listen. Best of all, in the process of writing the review, Mik himself was gracious enough to provide some very detailed answers to questions about his music, some of which appear in the review, and others that I may save for a follow up article. He definitely has some very strong ideas about his own music and what he’s trying to accomplish with it. It seems that everything is tightly constructed and there are no accidental happenings here.

Check it out if you have a chance! You won’t be disappointed.

The Reviewing Challenge

There have been some unexpected challenges with reviewing new records. Sometimes they’re good problems – too many records, and not enough time – and sometimes they’re matters of personal style or taste. I thought I’d share a few of those conundrums. Of course the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

I readily admit to having pretty straightforward taste in jazz. I like melody, although it can be adventurous and improvised. I like the band to sound like they’re playing together, even if they’re making it up as they go along. I believe there is a fine line between complexity and cacophony, and that successfully riding that edge can be exhilarating, but if you go to far it just dissolves into a mess.

Like anyone else, I have tastes and preferences, and things that I just don’t dig. Don’t bang on a piano, with no notes, chords, or rhythmic structure whatsoever and try to tell me its music. It may be an intellectual exercise of some sort, but it isn’t music, unless you take it somewhere. The first audiences to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony must have been somewhat disturbed at the beginning of the fourth movement, as the piece is seemingly broken into bits and fragments, with no discernible melody or theme and just notes in small groups. But, the thrill of hearing it all reconstructed as the Ode To Joy was then, and remains today, one of the greatest moments of musical resolution ever written. Jazz, at its best has that same capacity, and can be just as thrilling if the deconstruction doesn’t become the ends unto itself. I know there are both musicians and fans who would strongly disagree with this position, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I don’t like the Hammond B3. There. I said it. It sounds like the pleading wails of 1000 starving cats. One particularly criminal butcher who’s been on a relentless tare of covering pop and rock songs…. never mind. You get the idea.

I do enjoy listening to jazz vocals in foreign languages. I think its really interesting to be able to listen to the voice as an instrument- the timbres, the range, and the timing – as an instrument, unencumbered by what the singer is actually saying. Not exclusively, of course, but this is a little quirk I like to exploit when I can.

But that’s enough for now. I’m sure I’ll have more latter.

How Music is Done.

This thing is nothing but fun. See the Hi-Fi tab.

Cary V12R

Thanks, Dave Post

Many thanks to Dave Post of the band Swingadelic for the note regarding their album The Other Duke. Terrific record and absolutely worth checking out. Greg