New mix: Exfiltration Radio: The Mighty Hammond

It’s another Hackathon at Veracode, and time for another playlist. This time around we get an hour of jazz and jazz-adjacent Hammond organ, for your ass. This is not your ballpark organ music, he said, glaring sternly at the interrogator; it’s something that should be deep in your soul.

There’s lots of Jimmy Smith on this, as God intended, but there’s also Groove Holmes and Ronnie Foster and Jimmy McGriff and Dr. Lonnie Smith and James Brown and the latter-day Delvon Lamarr and… just listen already!

  1. Iron LegMickey & The Soul Generation (Iron Leg)
  2. The CatJimmy Smith (Talkin’ Verve)
  3. Finger Lickin’ GoodJimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes (Dueling Organs)
  4. I Want To Hold Your HandGrant Green (I Want To Hold Your Hand)
  5. Top Going Down, Bottom Going Up (Live)Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (Live at KEXP!)
  6. Mystic BrewRonnie Foster (Two Headed Freap)
  7. The BirdJimmy McGriff (Groove Grease)
  8. Sagg Shootin’ His ArrowJimmy Smith (Root Down)
  9. Devil’s HaircutDr. Lonnie Smith (Boogaloo To Beck)
  10. Grits (Extended Version)James Brown (Grits & Soul (Instrumentals) [Expanded Edition])

Estévez, Cantata Criolla

Rehearsal of the Cantata Criolla, April 8, 2019, James Burton conducting

It seems like only a year or two ago that John Oliver was tapped on short notice to conduct the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, taking over for an ailing Kurt Masur (it was seven years ago last month). This week history (sort of) repeated itself.

We were due to sing with the great Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel in a concert of music by Venezuelan composers. Our piece was to be the Cantata Criolla of Antonio Estévez, a fantastical piece that combines Venezuelan folk music and stories, a singing duel with the Devil, high modernism and Gregorian chant into one spectacular cazuela gaucho.

And then, after a weekend in Boston conducting Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, among other works, Dudamel aggravated a wrist injury and was unable to conduct. Two of the works, never performed in Boston and little known, had to be removed from the program as there was no way to adequately prepare them in time. But James Burton, the TFC’s current conductor, had been working closely with us on Cantata Criolla for about six weeks, and was tapped to conduct the piece so that we would preserve at least some of the original plan for the concert run.

The first concert was last night and was incredible. James got incredible colors out of the orchestra and chorus. The attack of the cicadas was actually frightening. And I’ve never heard an orchestra produce a sound like steel drums before, but Estévez’s orchestration and the precision of James’s conducting brought out a distinctly festive flavor to parts of the singing duel between our complero protagonist Florentíno and El Diablo. It’s a fun work and I’m looking forward to a few more performances.

Music roundup

It’s a measure of how busy I’ve been over the past few months with work that I didn’t post at all in December. So much for New Years resolutions!

Here’s a few things that came across my radar while I wasn’t posting, starting with music:

Funky16Corners: The Return of the Mothership. Looks like I’ve been sitting on this one for a long time, almost a year! Great hour long mix of afrofuturistic funk, rock and related grooves (listen directly).

Stereogum: Ugly Beauty: The Month in Jazz – September 2018. Always a good read, I’m pointing back to this column from a few months ago thanks to its review of Randy Weston’s life and career. I got to see Weston play over 25 years ago at UVa and the fierceness of his playing stuck in my memory, along with pointers to the Alice Coltrane Warner Brothers recordings and Temporary Kings, both of which I need to actually go back and listen to…

Aquarium Drunkard: Spiritual Jazz Sunday. This came out as I was working on my “Holy Ghost” mix. It was worth looking over to see what I should include and where I should diversify (for instance, avoiding leaning too heavily on the John Coltrane/Alice Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders axis).

Doom and Gloom from the Tomb: Duke Ellington and His Original Cotton Club Orchestra – Publix Allyn Theatre, Hartford, Connecticut, April 11, 1932. Eight minutes of history from the earliest known existing Duke Ellington radio broadcast.

Stereogum: Watch Paul Simon’s Record-Breaking 9th SNL Performance. Because “Can’t Run But” is one of my favorite of Simon’s songs and I love that he decided it needed more attention.

Mark Guiliana: Thank You (featuring Brad Mehldau). A really lovely Thanksgiving present from Guiliana-as-songwriter, featuring Mehldau’s poignant performance of his tribute to his mother before she passed away.

Bach Collegium Japan Chorus: Verbum Caro Factum Est – a Christmas Greeting. I had the great pleasure to sing with Masaaki Suzuki a few years ago (Bach’s St. John Passion), and am looking forward to hearing this Christmas recording even after the holiday has been put away for another year.

Spain: Blue Moods of Spain: a History, Vol. 1. Archival recordings from before the band’s official birth.

Exfiltration radio: Thirty years ago today

This is the second of two recent Hackathon playlists, and where The Holy Ghost was all about the Spirit, this one’s all about the body.

I have trouble believing that 1988 was thirty years ago, but then I also have trouble believing that my being old enough to drink happened before some of my youngest coworkers were born.

Lots of material that I omitted that might have made a volume II, in favor of more recognizable (though still oblique) corners of 1988. But it’s worth recognizing that the iconic rubbery shredding guitar on that iconic early Morrissey solo number is by none other than Durutti Column frontman Vini Reilly. And that Janet Jackson wouldn’t do anything as innovative as Rhythm Nation for basically the rest of her career (though she’d have bigger hits). And that Madonna would ultimately prove more transgressive than what Thurston did to “Into the Groove,” but that the combination of the two would be as dark and unsettling as Leonard Cohen. And… Well, you get the picture. There was a lot of darkness around the corner everywhere in the late 1980s.

  1. Eye of Fatima, Pt. 1Camper Van Beethoven (Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart)
  2. Birth, School, Work, DeathThe Godfathers (Big Hits, Skinny Ties:New Wave)
  3. In Your RoomThe Bangles (Everything)
  4. I Don’t Mind If You Forget MeMorrissey (Viva Hate)
  5. Peek-A-Boo (Single)Siouxsie and The Banshees (Peep Show)
  6. Cupid ComeMy Bloody Valentine (Isn’t Anything)
  7. Everybody KnowsLeonard Cohen (I’m Your Man)
  8. Into The GrooveyCiccone Youth (The Whitey Album)
  9. Miss You MuchJanet Jackson (Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814)
  10. Silver RocketSonic Youth (Daydream Nation)
  11. ColdsweatThe Sugarcubes (Life’s Too Good)
  12. Dad I’m in JailWas (Not Was) (What Up, Dog?)
  13. Don’t Believe the HypePublic Enemy (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back)
  14. ChristineThe House of Love (The House of Love)
  15. Carolyn’s FingersCocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll (Remastered) [Remastered])
  16. Under the Milky WayThe Church (Starfish)

Exfiltration Radio: the Holy Ghost

It’s been a hard day for many folks, after a hard year and 259 days. But in these days you have to do what you can, and not worry about what you can’t.

For me that translates to seeking out what’s important in music. Which is why the fifth volume in my series of one-hour Exfiltration Radio shows is about spiritual jazz. 

(Why that name? The music takes some of the techniques of free jazz and infuses it with the searching, looking beyond that Coltrane brought to the table with A Love Supreme. It’s a broad banner, as the multiple volumes of the Spiritual Jazz compilation series show.)

This one mixes up a track from one of my favorite McCoy Tyner albums, his Extensions, with other tracks from Alice Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the redoubtable Pharoah Sanders, and a few other goodies that I’ve found over the years on Bandcamp or other spots. It’s a good one-hour introduction if you’re feeling sinister—and it’s a good reminder that not everything that is in the world is of the world.

Enjoy…

  1. Rainbow WarriorsAlan Braufman (Valley of Search (Reissue))
  2. Journey In SatchidanandaAlice Coltrane (The Impulse Story: Alice Coltrane)
  3. Message From The NileMcCoy Tyner (Extensions)
  4. Dance! Dance, Eternal SpiritsJoe Bonner with David Friesen, Billy Harper, Virgil Jones, M (Black Saint)
  5. ElijahDonald Byrd (A New Perspective)
  6. Ja MilHastings Street Jazz Experience (Spiritual Jazz)
  7. JuJuWayne Shorter (JuJu (Rudy Van Gelder Edition))
  8. Spirits Up AboveRahsaan Roland Kirk (Volunteered Slavery)
  9. ColorsPharoah Sanders (Karma)

Music roundup

There are a bunch of recordings and bootlegs that I’ve been trying to check out over the summer. Here’s the list, off my browser tabs and onto the blog:

Yo La Tengo: Two live radio sessions from 1997, circa I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One. Little capsules of perfection.

Herbie Hancock: 1972-03-25, De Doelen, Rotterdam, Netherlands. A surprisingly acoustic session from the Mwandishi period.

Prince and the Revolution: Dream Factory, via the Albums That Never Were blog. A reconstruction of the album that would have been Prince’s last with the Revolution and which eventually morphed into Sign ‘O’ The Times.

Musicophilia blog: The home of the 1981 post-punk magnum opus mixtape has no fewer than three big sets I’m looking forward to digging into: The Sensory Replication Series, which explores mixing ambient and atmospheric tracks with music of all other kinds and genres; Post-Punk 1968-1977, which locates the roots of the “post-punk” era in much earlier music; and Afrominimalism 1966-1978, exploring non-Western versions of minimalist composition.

Last, not a bootleg but something I’m really excited about, a lost Thelonious Monk session from Copenhagen, with Charlie Rouse on sax, cunningly titled Mønk. I’ve pre-ordered the 180g vinyl and I’m really looking forward to hearing the set.

 

Friday random 5, swimming in soup edition

It’s a muggy muggy day in the Boston suburbs. Let’s stay cool with some Random 5!

  1. Oingo Boingo, “Nothing Bad Ever Happens” (Skeletons in the Closet – The Best of Oingo Boingo)
  2. Zola Jesus, “Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake” (Conatus)
  3. Chamber Domaine, “Requiem für Eine Polka, for Piano and 13 Instruments” (Henryk Górecki) (Górecki: Life Journey)
  4. Katie Hanley & Godspell Ensemble, “By My Side” (Godspell – 40th Anniversary Celebration)
  5. Go-Gos, “Lust to Love” (Beauty and the Beat)

Morning listening: Daniel Bachman, “New Moon”

Aquarium Drunkard: Daniel Bachman, The Morning Star. I’ve been listening to a fair amount of “American primitive” guitar work recently—mostly guitarists who follow in the steps of John Fahey, but also the psychedelic work of Steve Gunn and, especially, the rural energy of Daniel Bachman. I’m pretty excited to get Bachman’s latest release, The Morning Star. There’s a good combination of hypnotic guitar-work and hypnotic drone in the excerpt posted here and on Bachman’s Bandcamp page. Now the only decision is, digital download only or digital + vinyl?

Bonus, via Doom and Gloom from the Tomb: a twenty-minute live Bachman set from Philadelphia last January.

A Pizzetti Prelude

Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Seiji Ozawa Hall, James Burton conducting, July 20, 2018. Photo courtesy Jon Saxton

I’m still a little weak-legged this morning after last night’s TFC performance. It’s not common for me to feel so completely drained, but our Prelude concert last night, with works by Pizzetti, Palestrina, Rossini, Lotti, and Verdi, took everything I had.

I was unfamiliar with Ildebrando Pizzetti and his works before this concert. From my exposure to him through his Requiem, he embraced older sacred music traditions, filtering them through twentieth century ideas of tone and form. The Requiem has echoes, consciously or un-, of earlier Renaissance works, including what I still insist is a nod to Tallis in the setting of “Jerusalem” in the first movement.

Our director, James Burton, pulled those connections to the fore by programming the Requiem alongside works by Palestrina (“Sicut Cervus”) and Lotti (the “Crucifixus a 8”). But Pizzetti owed a debt to his immediate forebears, too, with the operatic sensibilities of Rossini and Verdi both present in his writing. From those artistic forebears we added the Rossini “O salutaris hostia” and Verdi’s great “Pater Noster.”

If you put all those works together, you have about an hour of a cappella music by Italian composers in Latin and Italian. To intensify the drama, James interleaved the other works between movements of the Pizzetti—the final order was:

  • Requiem aeternam (Pizzetti)
  • Sicut cervus
  • Dies irae (Pizzetti)
  • O salutaris hostia
  • Crucifixus a 8
  • Sanctus
  • Agnus dei
  • Pater noster
  • Libera me

We transitioned between movements attaca (without a break), and performed without a piano, taking the pitch from James and his tuning fork. And I think it was some combination of these things—the intense drama of the music, the quick transitions without a break, the unrelenting mental focus—that left me literally shaky. That or hypoxia. There are some seriously long lines in all the works.

But I have a new composer on my list of “must listens” now, and a new appreciation for others that I’ve sung for years. It was a great night.

Here’s a taste of the Pizzetti, from our Thursday rehearsals, that gives you a hint of the remarkable G Major beauty that raises its head above the clouds.

Quiet time

The blog is quiet this week thanks to another Tanglewood outing, my second and last for the summer. This week I’m here exercising my straight tone, singing with Herbert Blomstedt on the Haydn Missa in angustiis (aka “Lord Nelson Mass”) and singing a chorus-only Prelude program featuring the Pizzetti Requiem and a set of related Italian choral music.

My colleague Jeff has written about the Pizzetti, so I’ll just add that Pizzetti’s allusions in the piece are maddening. So far I’ve found the connection to Tallis’s Lamentations of Jeremiah in Pizzetti’s setting of the word “Jerusalem” (first movement), and I’ll post others as I find them.

Tanglewood – Chichester, Barber

The first Tanglewood Festival Chorus residency of the season is concluded and it was bittersweet. I got to watch my colleagues perform an astonishing La bohème on Saturday, took in the final rehearsals of the newly formed Boston Symphony Children’s Chorus (though wasn’t able to see their concert), and performed Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” for the first time with the BSO (and about the fifth time in my life).

All of which was a pretty good warmup to the highlight of the weekend, the memorial concert for John Oliver. There were about 175 choristers from all eras of John’s tenure on stage in Ozawa Hall. We performed a set of songs by Samuel Barber, of which I had only performed “Heaven-Haven” (some twenty-eight years previously, with Mike Butterman and the Virginia Glee Club); was familiar with (but had never sung) “Sure on This Shining Night,” and had never heard (“The Coolin” and “To Be Sung on the Water”). The chorus came together in passionate song remarkably quickly, considering how long it had been since some of the members had sung with the TFC (thirty years or more in some cases).

And I was by turns amused and deeply moved by the remembrances by TFC members Brian Robinson and, especially, Paula Folkman. And doubly so by the brief remembrance held earlier in the day at John’s tree (not the one above; I’ll get a picture next week) where Mark Rulison and a crowd of alumni, friends, and family gathered to remember John.

Rebuilding

Twelve years ago, on one of my first trips to Tanglewood, I discovered the hedge maze that abutted the Lawn next to our usual practice spot, the Chamber Music Hall. Cloaked by twelve foot hedges, the center held a fountain overflowing with flowers. Beyond lay a memorial bench commemorating the donation of the Tanglewood property by the Tappan family. The bench was evocatively ruined. It still had a commanding presence but the cracks that ran through it seemingly threatened to send part of it toppling to the ground. Behind: a fifteen foot hedge. Beyond: the road, then the world.

This year we arrived at CMH to see a temporary fence and a blue sky gap in the hedge. The fence surrounded a batch of new hedges barely eighteen inches tall. Beyond: the bench, rebuilt. Without the overgrowth of hedge, the now-reknitted bench, still awaiting the reapplication of its bronze dedication letters, curved like a oyster, inviting and naked. The dark tangled beauty I remembered from twelve years ago was gone, but another beauty now sits revealed, waiting for its letters.

Friday Random 10: No Lights edition

Haven’t done one of these in a long time, but a partial power outage at work seems like a good reason to start. Here are the first ten tracks that have spun up from my music player today. I will confess to cheating a little by removing that one Johnny Mathis Christmas tune that came up in the middle.

  1. The Flaming Lips, “Goin’ On,” At War with the Mystics (Deluxe Edition)
  2. Jonny Greenwood, “Bode Radio/Glass Light/Broken Hearts,” Bodysong (Music from the Motion Picture)
  3. Nine Inch Nails, “The Downward Spiral,” The Downward Spiral
  4. Bruce Cockburn, “Yanqui Go Home,” Stealing Fire
  5. Donny McCaslin, “Warszawa,” Beyond Now
  6. Prince, “4 the Tears in Your Eyes,” The Hits/The B-Sides
  7. Pink, “Just Give Me a Reason,” The Truth About Love
  8. Zapp, “So Ruff, So Tuff,” Historia de la Musica Rock: Locas
  9. Red Steagall, “Bob Wills Music” (from my friend Catherine’s mix “Texas Radio and the Big Beat”)
  10. The Bad Plus, “Thriftstore Jewelry,” Prog

Opera crash course

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in opera recordings for the past four or five months. I didn’t have many (well, any) opera recordings prior to that, save a fantastic Colin Davis recording of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust that I ordered after we performed it with the BSO last fall (under Charles Dutoit, but that’s a different story). But then the records started arriving…

There’s something pretty fantastic about being a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus: your fellow musicians are all well connected to people who have been making and living music for a long time. One of my fellow choristers, for instance, is good friends with the former head usher at Tanglewood. And it turns out that he was a rabid collector of opera recordings, and now needs to downsize his collection. So she asked the group at large, Does anyone want some records? Reader, I said yes.

And then the first batch of recordings arrived a few months ago: two cardboard boxes full of opera sets, most only played once. Huge amounts of Massenet and Verdi, some Douglas Moore (The Devil and Daniel WebsterThe Ballad of Baby Doe), and Meyerbeer and Richard Strauss and Tschaikovsky and…

Needless to say, I’ve been kept busy digitizing and listening. And in the process I’ve learned that I really like listening to opera. It wasn’t something that my family prepared me for—while classical radio was on all they time in my home when I grew up, it was almost always instrumental or (sometimes) sacred choral. Opera was something that we occasionally would tune into with Saturday afternoon Met broadcasts but wouldn’t seek out. My perspective began to change after I started singing in opera choruses with the TFC, but this immersion is really starting to make me want to listen to more.

Which is good, because two new boxes arrived last week. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me…