Today’s edition of Exfiltration Radio looks at making songs from other songs. I started making it just as an exercise in a certain type of 1980s dance music, but realized that what drew me into these songs were the bits of other songs and sounds that popped their heads up in the mix. And why not? The 1980s were when sampling came into its own—whether the cut and paste techniques of Steinski or the early digital sampling exercises of Art of Noise. Even some kinds of remixes fall into the pattern, where a song is deconstructed to its component pieces and augmented with other sounds to make something new. And weird, don’t forget weird.
Do not attempt to adjust your set, there is nothing wrong.
Jazz – Steinski (What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective)
Close (To the Edit) – Art of Noise ((Who’s Afraid Of) The Art of Noise?)
Regiment – Brian Eno & David Byrne (My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)
Megamix – Herbie Hancock (Megamix)
Love Missile F1-11 (Ultraviolence Mix) – Sigue Sigue Sputnik (The Remixes)
Push It (Remix) – Salt-n-Pepa (Hot, Cool and Vicious)
Pump Up the Volume (USA 12) – Colourbox (Best of Colourbox: 1982-1987)
Wise Up Sucker (12″ Youth Remix) – Pop Will Eat Itself (This Is the Day…)
Beef – Gary Clail & On-U Sound System (End Of The Century Party)
God O.D., Pt.1 – Meat Beat Manifesto (Storm The Studio (Remastered))
Justified & Ancient (Stand By The Jams) – The KLF (Justified & Ancient)
Paranoimia – The Art of Noise with Max Headroom (Paranoimia (12″))
As a singer, I am not a solo artist. I did not study at a conservatory, and don’t have a book of solos that I have practiced and performed. So when someone asks me to sing a solo in church, I have to really dig deep to figure it out.
This time, I agreed to sing a solo for Mark Morgan, our music director at Hancock United Church of Christ, with plenty of lead time, so I started thinking about what to do. My thoughts turned to shape note music; Mark shares my interest in early American hymn tunes, and it struck me that I might be able to find something. So I turned to my copy of Southern Harmony.
The Southern Harmony and Musical Compendium is the lesser known spiritual brother of the Sacred Harp, which is well known as the hymnbook preserving the shape note tradition. The Southern Harmony is the product largely of one man, William Walker, who both wrote new tunes and borrowed existing ones from the folk song all around him. I learned about the Southern Harmony, as so much that I know about shape note singing, from the Boston Camerata, who included “The Midnight Cry” on their Christmas album Sing We Noel.
So I opened my copy of Southern Harmony. And I found “Complainer.”
At first I giggled at the title, and skipped past it. Then I flipped back and hummed the tune to myself. Later, having put the book back, I was still hooked. So I decided I had to do something with it.
The problem was the text. Like many 19th century hymns that call to mind Terry Gilliam’s “God” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail—“Like those miserable psalms, they’re so depressing!”—the text was, shall we say, a bit of a downer, particularly in the ending:
I read that peace and happiness meet Christians in their way, That bear their cross with meekness, and don’t neglect to pray But I, a thousand objects beset me in my way So I am filled with folly, and so neglect to pray.
Also, the original text was five verses long. About two or three too much. So I decided to bring in another text to supplement it, and after searching quite a bit, I found another text, this one from the Sacred Harp, in 184.108.40.206 meter, ironically in my sister’s church service while we visited.
It’s been quite a rollercoaster of a year, for all sorts of reasons, and there were times when it felt like we were hunkering down and waiting for a beating to end. But people are getting vaccinated now and it’s spring, and suddenly it seems reasonable to start hoping once more.
Musically, the period I associate most with “hope,” as opposed to “nihilism” or “despair” or “80s hair,” is the time from the late 1990s through about 2003 or so, which produced some of the loveliest songs of hope and happiness I can remember. Part of it was the rise of indie rock, part probably the sustained recovery of the world economy. Maybe it was just that I got married at the beginning of the period, who knows? For whatever reason, it feels like a good time to dust off some of these tracks and start hoping again.
Do not attempt to adjust your set…
Untitled 4 (“Njósnavélin”) – Sigur Rós (( ))
Scratch – Morphine (Yes)
The Laws Have Changed – The New Pornographers (Electric Version)
When You’re Falling – Afro Celt Sound System (Volume 3: Further in Time)
The Way That He Sings – My Morning Jacket (At Dawn)
Diamond In Your Mind – Solomon Burke (Don’t Give Up On Me)
Brief & Boundless – Richard Buckner (Since)
All Possibilities – Badly Drawn Boy (Have You Fed The Fish?)
Time Travel is Lonely – John Vanderslice (Time Travel Is Lonely)
Shine – Mark Eitzel (The Invisible Man)
Why Not Smile – R.E.M. (Up)
You Are Invited – The Dismemberment Plan (Emergency & I)
Where Do I Begin – The Chemical Brothers (Dig Your Own Hole)
I’ve been going down a rabbit hole in my listening lately, as I grow increasingly conscious that great artists live among us… but perhaps not for too much longer. One I’m thinking about right now is the great saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.
I started listening to Shorter over 30 years ago, thanks to a CD copy of The Best of Wayne Shorter: The Blue Note Years that I found in Plan 9. Like all single-disc anthologies (and like this mix!), it’s a sparse summary of an astonishing period of creativity and excellent performances. But it hooked me… especially the opening track, the title from Shorter’s sixth album, which manages to be both relaxed and full of tension at the same time thanks to his unshowy use of modal scales.
I think I heard this album before I came across the Second Great Quintet recordings he did with Miles, which included many of Shorter’s compositions (especially the great “Footprints,” heard here) in very different arrangements. Miles’s version of “Footprints,” on Miles Smiles, ups the anxiety in the modal scale through tempo and urgency, especially in Tony Williams’ polyrhythmic drumming. I also looked backwards in time, finding some of the great recordings that he did with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (and recently uncovering some of the sideman work he did for some of his colleagues, including Lee Morgan here).
Thanks to early-90s bias against fusion (which, in fairness, had fallen pretty low by the late 1980s), it took me years to discover Weather Report, particularly the first album, and I only recently began to listen to some of Shorter’s mid-1970s output, which featured a more accessible side of the great composer on songs like “Ana Maria.” And his late-period works with Danilo Perez, John Pattituci and Brian Blade continue to blow my head off with the genius of the collective improvisation, even as they document Shorter’s declining physical stamina. (He retired from performance in 2019 due to mounting health issues.)
Like that first Blue Note compilation, this sixty minute set is necessarily scanty, but hopefully will convince you to seek out more of Shorter’s work as well—and to utter a silent word of thanks that we walk the earth at the same time he does.
Speak No Evil
Speak No Evil
Ping Pong (No. 1)
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Complete Studio Recordings (with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter…)
Yes or No
Miles Davis Quintet
Aung San Suu Kyi
Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock
Adventures Aboard The Golden Mean (live)
Wayne Shorter Quartet
Herbie Hancock Quintet
A Tribute To Miles
I was a sixth grader in 1983 from a very white part of town. I went from going to school less than two miles from my home to getting on a bus and riding 40 minutes every day to my middle school, one of two sitting next to each other on the edge of downtown. (Kind of reverse-busing.) The bus was loud, the older kids were scary. But… someone always had a radio.
Technically, they had a boom box. But no one ever seemed to be playing a cassette; it was almost always tuned to one of the local stations, often Z-104. I had grown up in a house that played classical radio, and when not that, easy listening (WFOG!), so the top-40 stuff that was being played was new to me.
So was the other stuff that was sometimes played. I don’t remember the station identifications, but a fair amount of what I remember wouldn’t have been played on Top-40 radio — think “Roxanne, Roxanne” or “Electric Kingdom.” So part of my memory from this time comes with no liner notes and I’m still finding some of the songs.
But the stuff that stuck the longest, earwormed the most thoroughly, was probably the adult contemporary balladry of the time. Many of them aren’t great songs! But they’re really easy to get into, even for a pop music neophyte — the “quiet storm” jazz crossover stuff like Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo” flavored some of what was going on (there’s a common thread between this stuff and Sting’s Dream of the Blue Turtles that also touched the Pointer Sisters; listen to “Automatic”).
And then there were the really goopy ballads. Anita Baker need have felt no shame for “Sweet Love,” but oh man, “On My Own.” And “All Cried Out.” I banished them so far from my memory, I never even touched them when going through 1980s music in a series of ten mixes starting in 2003. But they’re there, and some of them might be worth more than you think.
Just maybe not Gregory Abbott. (Oh well well.)
One last note: I was reminded about more than a few of these songs courtesy of Stereogum’s The Number Ones column, which is essential reading. I’ve linked a few articles below for further reading on some of the tracks, but you should really read the whole thing.
Rumors – Timex Social Club – Timex Social Club (Un, Dos, Tres…Playa Del Sol (12 Magic Summer Hits))
Radio People – Zapp (The New Zapp IV U)
Fresh – Kool & The Gang (The Very Best of Kool & The Gang)
In My House – Mary Jane Girls (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Mary Jane Girls)
Juicy Fruit – Mtume (Juicy Fruit)
Mr. Wrong – Sade (Promise)
Automatic – The Pointer Sisters (Break Out)
Sweet Love – Anita Baker (Rapture)
Love Zone – Billy Ocean (The Very Best of Billy Ocean)
I’ve been listening to a lot of classic Blue Note recordings recently—thanks to a bad HDTracks habit—and what struck me the other day is how the composition of the recordings changes the further back you go. What had become a jazz-funk fusion label by the 1970s was principally a hard-bop label in the 1960s with an incredible stable of performers (even if you could expect to find some of them, like Bobby Hutcherson or Grant Green, on recording after recording during the period). But if you look even further back, the label was unearthing and recording new artists in the early to mid-1950s, like Jutta Hipp, Horace Silver, Gil Mellé, Kenny Drew, and others, on albums that bore the common title New Faces, New Sounds.
So this session of Exfiltration Radio digs into our current crop of new faces and new sounds, with a setlist that is heavy on the current crop of London jazz geniuses (Theon Cross, Nubya Garcia, Sarah Tandy), a few new faces from around the edges of Bandcamp (Joe Fiedler’s nutso take on Sesame Street, Chip Wickham’s meditative cuts from Qatar, the absolutely intense Damon Locks, the Lewis Express), the intense hard bop of Connie Han, the stretch music of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah—and a few old souls, including the drum-led trio of Jerry Granelli playing the music of his colleague Mose Allison, and the Afrofuturist spiritual excursions of Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids.
Do not attempt to adjust your set!
X. Adjuah [I Own the Night] – Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (Axiom)
For the O.G. – Connie Han (Iron Starlet)
The Colors That You Bring – Damon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble (Where Future Unfolds)
Activate – Theon Cross (Fyah)
Tico Tico – The Lewis Express (Clap Your Hands)
People In Your Neighborhood – Joe Fiedler (Open Sesame)
Baby Please Don’t Go – The Jerry Granelli Trio (The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison)
Timelord – Sarah Tandy (Infection In The Sentence)
Dogon Mysteries – Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (Shaman!)
La cumbia me está llamando (featuring La Perla) – Nubya Garcia (SOURCE)
There have been such a lot of mixes this year! It’s almost as if we’ve doubled down on music making to compensate for the otherwise almost complete lack of normalcy.
This time I revisited an old mix in progress that had been kicking around my iTunes—er, Apple Music—library for at least seven or eight years. Originally titled “Unrepentant Throwbacks,” this one went after a certain strain of college rock that emphasized guitars, odd lyrics, borderline competent vocals, and weird band names. You know, like R.E.M..
Only there were probably hundreds of bands that mined the same lode that they did, who never looked beyond their original sound and never got the major league deal. I asked some friends on Facebook and got over 100 great suggestions, which I couldn’t fit into this sixty-minute slot. I’ll post the full list later; it was awesome.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this sixty minute blast of nostalgia, which for some of you will take you back to before you were born. And see you again, sooner than you think.
Fun & Games – The Connells (Fun & Games)
Do It Clean – Echo & The Bunnymen (Songs To Learn & Sing)
I Want You Back – Hoodoo Gurus (Stoneage Romeo)
Watusi Rodeo – Guadalcanal Diary (Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man)
Talking In My Sleep – The Rain Parade (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip: Explosions In The Glass Palace)
With Cantaloupe Girlfriend – Three O’Clock (Sixteen Tambourines/Baroque Hoedown)
Kiss Me On The Bus – The Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
I Held Her In My Arms – Violent Femmes (Add It Up (1981-1993))
Voice Of Harold – R.E.M. (Dead Letter Office)
Writing the Book of Last Pages – Let’s Active (Big Plans for Everybody)
Think Too Hard – The dB’s (The Sound of Music)
Spark – The Church (Starfish)
My Favorite Dress – The Wedding Present (George Best Plus)
Muscoviet Musquito – Clan of Xymox – Clan of Xymox (Lonely Is an Eyesore)
Tripped Over My Boot – Storm Orphans (Promise No Parade)
I had to do a presentation at work, and someone asked me the question I’ve been waiting for all my life: “What’s your walk-on music?”
I answered, immediately, without hesitation: “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets.
See, the jazz-inflected hip-hop that was being made in the early 1990s, when I was in college, was the first hip-hop that I learned to appreciate. Before then I was as casually racist about “rap music” as any kid raised on classic rock radio in the South. But then began my great awakening. I don’t remember what the first thing was; probably Gangstarr’s “Jazz Thing” on the Mo Better Blues soundtrack. Eventually it completely got under my skin, with the result that this was a playlist that was a complete joy to put together.
Sure, a lot of it is the Native Tongues groups — Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest. There’s also a lot of groups influenced by the scene, like Us3 (the Blue Note hosted group that actually played their samples), the Roots (of course), the crazy MF Doom + Madlib collaboration Madvillain; and latter day follower Kero One. And off to the side stands Gangstarr and Guru, who arrived at the combination of jazz and hip-hop through their own path.
There’s also a lot of actual jazz in these tracks, whether sampled (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on “Rebirth of Slick”, Lou Donaldson on “Le Bien, Le Mal”, Roy Ayers on “Borough Check”, Grant Green on “Vibes and Stuff,” Bill Evans on “Raid”, Jimmy McGriff on “God Lives Through”) or live: Ron Carter playing along with MC Solaar on “Un Ange en Danger” and Roy Ayers (again!) playing with the Roots on “Proceed II.” Both of the latter are on the fantastic compilation Red Hot and Cool, which I can’t recommend highly enough, especially for the tracks from the Pharcyde and the Last Poets, neither of which I can play on the radio.
Wherever the music comes from, that funky music will drive us til the dawn. Let’s go! Let’s boogaloo until…
Please do not attempt to adjust your set. There is nothing wrong. We have taken control as to bring you this special show, and we will return it to you as soon as you are groovy.
Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) – Digable Planets (Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time & Space))
Proceed II – The Roots with Roy Ayers (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
Manifest (Alternate) – Gang Starr (No More Mr. Nice Guy)
Because I Got It Like That – Jungle Brothers (Straight Out the Jungle)
I Got It Goin’ On – Us3 (Hand On The Torch)
Plug Tunin (Last Chance To Comprehend) – De La Soul (3 Feet High And Rising)
Kool Accordin’ 2 a Jungle Brother – Jungle Brothers (Done By the Forces of Nature)
Vibes And Stuff – A Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)
Borough Check – Digable Planets (Blowout Comb)
Un Ange En Danger – MC Solaar with Ron Carter (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
Raid (Feat. MED) – Madvillain (Madvillainy)
Give Thanks (feat. Niamaj) – Kero One (Windmills of the Soul)
God Lives Through – A Tribe Called Quest (Midnight Marauders)
Le Bien, Le Mal – Guru Featuring Mc Solaar (Jazzmatazz Volume 1)
It’s that time again… time for the Godfather to grace you with an hour of weird music. Today’s playlist comes from the cusp of jazz’s transition into fusion and dives into the music that came around In a Silent Way, still one of the most revolutionary recordings in jazz.
In this 1969 record, Miles had reached the end of standards, the end of modal changes, the end of the post-bop revolution he had led with his second great quintet. He was listening to other innovators, working beyond jazz, especially Jimi Hendrix. And most importantly, he was continuing to surround himself with musicians who innovated, listen to them, and push them to take their performances beyond where they could on their own. (He also sometimes claimed authorship of those songs, but that’s a different story.)
The sound at the back of this new direction in jazz was the electric piano (usually a Fender Rhodes) fed into the echoplex and joined by musicians who were playing, as Miles said on the back cover of Zawinul, “cliché-free,” not relying on changes or modes but on rhythm and vamping and atmosphere and sometimes incredibly gorgeous scraps of melody that come and go in the middle of the track like smoke.
One of the things that’s hard to appreciate just by looking at the track titles is how much of this music was made by the same handful of musicians. Let’s take a look:
Herbie Hancock (electric and acoustic piano) plays on “Doctor Honoris Causa” (which Zawinul dedicated to him for his honorary doctorate from Grinnell), “Mountain in the Clouds,” “Opus One Point Five,” “Filles de Kilimajaro,” his own “You’ll Know When You Get There,” and “In a Silent Way.” Miroslav Vitouš (bass) is on “Causa,” “Mountain,” “Orange Lady,” and “Water Babies.” John McLaughlin (electric guitar) is on “Mountain” and “In a Silent Way.”
Billy Hart is on “Causa” (percussion) and “You’ll Know” (drums). Joe Henderson (tenor sax) is on “Mountain” and his own “Opus One Point Five.” Jack DeJohnette (drums) is on “Mountain,” “Opus One Point Five,” and “Water Babies.” Chick Corea plays electric piano on “In a Silent Way” and drums and vibes on “Water Babies.”
The great Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) is on “Orange Lady,” “Filles De Kilimanjaro,” his own “Water Babies,” and “In a Silent Way.” Airto Moreira plays percussion on “Orange Lady” and “Water Babies.” Ron Carter is on “Opus One Point Five” and “Filles.” Tony Williams plays drums on “Filles” and “In a Silent Way.” And Joe Zawinul plays on “Causa,” “Orange Lady,” and his composition “In a Silent Way.”
It’s not surprising that some of the tracks seem to blend seamlessly into each other. It’s more surprising how distinctive the musical identity of each track is. Definitely worth an hour, and then many more checking out the albums these came from.
Do not adjust your set; there is nothing wrong.
Doctor Honoris Causa – Joe Zawinul (Zawinul)
Mountain In the Clouds – Miroslav Vitous (Infinite Search)
Orange Lady – Weather Report (Weather Report)
Opus One Point Five – Joe Henderson (Power To The People [Keepnews Collection] [ Remastered ])
Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro) – Miles Davis (Filles De Kilimanjaro)
Water Babies – Wayne Shorter (Super Nova)
You’ll Know When You Get There – Herbie Hancock (Warner Archives)
In A Silent Way – Miles Davis (The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions)
I wrote two posts from 2018 on finding a copy of part of the premiere recording of Randall Thompson’sThe Testament of Freedom (part 1, part 2). Recorded at its initial performance on April 13, 1943 in Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia by the Virginia Glee Club and rebroadcast over the Columbia Broadcasting System, the recording of the work is significant for all sorts of reasons—the commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s 200th birthday, the premiere of one of Randall Thompson’s most significant works, the occasion of greatest music-historical significance that the Glee Club was ever involved with, the connection to World War II.
Over the past few months I’ve gotten a few questions in the comments that I thought I’d answer here.
Can you supply label scans of these discs?
I didn’t originally take photos of the labels, but here they are.
I am a music researcher into Columbia Electrical Trancription 16″ record pressing that feature matrix numbers. Alas, this is not one of those. The record I received was a 12″ 78RPM record that featured just the last movement. Apparently there was, at one point, a multi-record album of which this was just the last piece.
Would I be willing to digitize the entire performance? I would, if I had it. As it turns out, as noted in the original post, the record I have is just the last movement, and judging from the College Topics article it was part of a set. I suspect the only place that has a full set of all the discs of the original recording is the University of Virginia Library. That said, they have already digitized it and could probably arrange access.
I started doing one of those “post an album cover a day” things over on Facebook, and because I’m bad at following directions I’ve been doing a couple a day and also writing about what the albums meant to me. In the process I’ve found a lot of cases where I could have sworn I wrote something previously about albums that meant a lot to me, but … crickets. So I’m treating those cases as writing prompts and you get to read them. Ha-ha!
So, Nusrat. I because aware of the great legend of Qawwali the way most Westerners probably did initially, through Peter Gabriel. Just as “In Your Eyes” boosted the Western stardom of the remarkable Youssou N’Dour (previously), Nusrat appeared on Gabriel’s Passion, the (slightly-more-than-a) soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. I consumed the album the summer between my junior and senior years in high school—actually bought it in a record store in Blacksburg while I was at the Virginia Governor’s School for Science at Virginia Tech. I don’t know that I fully appreciated what Nusrat was doing on “Passion,” but I at least knew who he was.
The packaging of the album, which was the first release on Gabriel’s Real World label, also hooked me. The front covers—all bold images, with titles and artists only present via stickers—combined with the rainbow stripe along the side. The rainbow was actually an indexing system, with each stripe standing for a continent or region and an icon in each showing what regions the recording was from. So I kept an eye out for Real World recordings and started frequenting the world music sections of the record stores I visited.
Fast forward a few years. I had become friends with Tyler Magill through the Virginia Glee Club, and he was a more voracious listener and musical cosmonaut than I had ever dreamed possible. So when he and his housemate Burt started raving about the insane things that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was doing on his albums, I finally bit the bullet and purchased my first of his recordings, Shahen-Shah.
Calling me unprepared is probably an understatement. The harmonic language of the music was familiar enough on first listen; most of the works seemed to be variations on a few simple chords, with harmonium and choir underpinning the melodic improvisations. But what improvisations! Nusrat or his disciple Ali would essay the melody, and then flip effortlessly into a vocal run across one or more octaves. The rhythmic complexity beneath the apparently simple surface was mesmerizing. I must have listened to “Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande Nah Dalo” a dozen times. (It later made an appearance on one of my best early-90s mixes.)
The reverberations Shahen-Shah made through my life were pretty deep. I sought out all the Nusrat I could and dug deeper for more world music. I used some of Nusrat’s tactics, particularly flipping to a different modal scale in the middle of an improvised run, in my own singing, particularly when we performed Babatunde Olatunji’s “Betelehemu” in my fourth year. And one memorable autumn night I attended a performance by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party in Washington, DC. (It was mesmerizing. I have at no other time in my life been the only white American in the room, but by the end we were all on our feet singing along with “Jewleh Lal” and “Mustt Mustt.”)
It was the summer of 1990. I had just graduated high school. I had a little pocket money, from graduation gifts and maybe from a job, though I can’t remember which one. (I had stopped working at Sam’s Comics and Collectibles several years prior. Maybe I carried on at CEBAF for one more summer.) And most importantly, my parents had given me my first CD player, an all in one CD + cassette + (rarely if ever used) radio. So I went shopping for music, at the little store at the corner of Denbigh and Warwick (Tracks? Mothers? I think it might have been both at one time or another).
Though I’m fuzzy on some of the surrounding details, I still remember the first stack that came home with me that summer, which included Branford Marsalis’ Crazy People Music and the Kronos Quartet’s Black Angels. I still can’t say what attracted me to the latter. I had probably heard someone talking about the nerve of the string quartet from San Francisco that played Hendrix and Monk, and had an ambient sound piece on one of their albums called “A Door is Ajar.” (It is exactly what you think it is.) But nothing prepared me for this.
“Black Angels” was an avant-garde composition protesting the Vietnam War, written by George Crumb in 1970 and incorporating amplification, percussion, chanting and more. It’s completely mind-blowing and I suspect that my mind never fully recovered from the initial threnody, “Electric Insects.” But it’s followed by a realization of the great 40-voice Tallis motet “Spem In Alium,” performed in overdubs; Istvan Marta’s “Doom. A Sigh,” which sets the quartet alongside two Romanian women lamenting the disappearance of their traditional village life; a quartet setting of Charles Ives’ 1942 anti-war song “They Are There” alongside the composer’s own voice; and a shattering performance of the Shostakovich Quartet no. 8.
By the time the disk finished, I was a lifelong fan of the Kronos Quartet; of avant-garde classical music; of Tallis; of Shostakovich; of the string quartet form. And of music. I think this disk was the first time I really realized the power of unfamiliar sound to pull my mind out of its normal travels.
I ripped the CD years ago and don’t play it as much any more, but this spring I found a rare LP copy on Discogs and listened to it again. It’s still as powerful 30 years later.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing I’m very scared for this world, I’m very scared for me Eviscerate your memory Here’s a scene You’re in the backseat laying down, the windows wrap around To the sound of the travel and the engine All you hear is time stand still in travel And feel such peace and absolute The stillness still that doesn’t end But slowly drifts into sleep The stars are the greatest thing you’ve ever seen And they’re there for you For you alone, you are the everything
I think about this world a lot and I cry And I’ve seen the films and the eyes But I’m in this kitchen Everything is beautiful And she is so beautiful She is so young and old I look at her and I see the beauty of the light of music The voices talking somewhere in the house, late spring And you’re drifting off to sleep with your teeth in your mouth You are here with me You are here with me You have been here and you are everything
Sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing I’m very scared for this world, I’m very scared for me Eviscerate your memory Here’s a scene You’re in the backseat laying down, the windows wrap around To the sound of the travel and the engine All you hear is time stand still in travel And feel such peace and absolute The stillness still that doesn’t end But slowly drifts into sleep The greatest thing you’ve ever seen And they’re there for you For you alone, you are the everything For you alone you are the everything
As I wrote last month, our twice-a-year Hackathon would have started yesterday, if not for the Current Unpleasantness, and this mix would have been on the “air” (or our virtual radio station) at 10am this morning. Following in the steps of previous volumes “The Low End Theory” and “The Mighty Hammond,” this is a jazz mix that focuses on the contribution of one instrument, the vibraphone.
For me, the vibes are the instrument that makes midcentury jazz cool—not in the sense of Joe Cool but in the elegant, restrained tone they bring in the hands of a master like Milt Jackson. It was therefore a surprise a few years ago to find their avant-garde side, first in the hands of Bobby Hutcherson (who plays on four tracks in this set), then my more recent discovery, Walt Dickerson. I had to cut the set for time, but there are some pretty significant modern vibes players out there too who are well worth checking out, including Joel Ross.
I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed putting it together, and remember, stay positive.
Delilah (Take 3) – Milt Jackson And Wes Montgomery (Bags Meets Wes!)
First Things First – Red Norvo (Hi Five)
Wait Til You See Her – George Shearing Quintet (I Hear Music)
Mars – Gil Melle (New Faces – New Sounds)
Serves Me Right (Take 5) – Cannonball Adderley (Things Are Getting Better)
Death and Taxes – Walt Dickerson (Spiritual Jazz 10: Prestige)
Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro) – Cal Tjader (Talkin’ Verve)
Latona – Big John Patton (Let ’Em Roll)
Jean De Fleur – Grant Green (Idle Moments)
Searchin’ the Trane – Bobby Hutcherson (Spiritual Jazz Vol. 9 – Blue Notes, Part One)
The Original Mr. Sonny Boy Williamson – Archie Shepp (On This Night)
Visions – Sun Ra and Walt Dickerson (Visions)
Guide to the players:
Milt Jackson (tracks 1 and 5) — most famous as the longtime vibes player of the Modern Jazz Quartet, he appears to have played with everyone in the classic post-bop era.
Red Norvo (track 2) — 1950s bandleader, played with Frank Sinatra on a few tours
Marjorie Hyams (track 3) — American jazz vibraphonist who played with everyone from Woody Herman to Mary Lou Williams to George Shearing
Joe Manning (track 4) — not much is known. Recorded on Gil Mellé’s first Blue Note session.
Walt Dickerson (track 6, 12) — jazz post-bop and avant-garde player noted for his collaborations with Andrew Hill and Sun Ra
Cal Tjader (track 7) — probably the most famous non-Latino player of Latin jazz. Brought cool to soul jazz.
Bobby Hutcherson (tracks 8-11) — bandleader who guested on many 1960s Blue Note and some Impulse sessions, including these featuring Joe Henderson, Grant Green, and Archie Shepp