Obsolete Media pt. 3, in which Christmas comes early

Yes indeed! The mystery DATs were the master recordings from the 7pm and 9:30pm performances of the Virginia Glee Club 57th Annual Christmas Concert! Notable as the Glee Club’s first Christmas performances with conductor Bruce Tammen, the unedited tapes include the full range of a Glee Club Christmas, including audience carols, the eternal struggle between the Four Calling Birds and Three French Hens during the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” solo performances by Jayson Throckmorton, Craig Fennell, Eric Buechner and Bill Bennett, and some seriously moving renditions of favorites like the Gretchaninoff “Nunc Dimittis” and the Biebl Ave Maria. To say nothing of riveting announcements by Glee Club president Drew Cogswell.

I’m going to try to make the whole concert available somehow, but for now here’s a teaser: Club’s performance of the Marvin V. Curtis arrangement of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” from the 7pm show. Enjoy!

Adventures in obsolete audio, pt. 2: not there yet

I had hoped to do a “big reveal” post on the contents of the DAT tapes I wrote about a few days ago. Instead, I have a few learnings about DAT players.

First, DAT players are more like VCRs than cassette tape players. Instead of moving the tape past a playback head, DATs (and VCRs) wind the tape around the playback head. This happens even when you are rewinding the tape.

Second, rewind is a little more complicated on a DAT and sometimes the player can stop the rewind. If you just press rewind again, sometimes the player gets confused. Then if you go to eject the tape, you’ll end up with the tape partly pulled out of its case.

Third, you can re-spool DAT tape with a pencil, but it’s slightly more complicated. You first have to push the tabs down on the bottom of the tape and slide the bottom back so that you can get to the sprockets, then use the tip of a pencil to do the rewinding. (You can’t push the pencil all the way through thanks to the clear plastic on the other side of the tape, meaning it’s a slower process.)

All of this is to say I’ll be able to hear everything on these DATs, once I figure out how to safely rewind them.

UPDATE: It turns out to be a pretty simple proposition. The player was stopping the rewind because the spools weren’t operating smoothly after more than 20 years of inactivity. The fix, as suggested by this paper on DAT preservation by an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, is simply to fast-forward the tape to the end, and then to rewind it to the beginning. We’ll have audio soon!

Adventures in Obsolete Audio, part 1

Sometimes life moves faster than even the makers of cutting edge technology can predict. This is certainly true for computer technology. It can be hard to realize, but the same is true for audio technology —the vinyl revival notwithstanding.

Case in point: Digital Audio Tape.

Remember DAT? If you were a consumer of music in the 1990s, probably not. But if you were a performer, especially in a small ensemble, you probably remember that one guy who had the DAT recorder. They seemed, for that small market, ubiquitous. All the small form factor of a cassette—but digital! Boy, you can almost smell the early ’90s, can’t you?

So what happened? In retrospect, the window between the advent of digital recording technology and convenient, low cost, high-capacity hard disk and solid state storage was pretty short. And DAT disappeared. As far as I can tell, no one is manufacturing the player/recorders any more. You can still find them on eBay, commanding a small premium.

Which is why I was grateful that my friend in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Lauren, had saved one in her attic. And it works! Now I can listen to what’s on those four mysterious DAT tapes that I’ve had for six years.

What tapes? Well, that’s a story for another day.

New mix: The Low End Theory

(No, it’s not a Tribe Called Quest mix.)

Last Hackathon I made an hour long mix of Hammond organ centered jazz. In retrospect, while the listening was great, it felt like it didn’t go far enough into the different types of performance techniques on the organ, or different styles. So this time, I decided to do something a little more subtle, and focus on the bass.

It can be hard to appreciate what a bass player brings to your typical small group performance. But you can start to dig in just by considering the different choices available to the bassist: acoustic or electric? Pizzicato (plucked) or arco (bowed)? Holding down the root of the chord, or playing a counter-melody? There are a bunch of different bass players on this mix, and each of them approaches their role very differently. Enjoy!

  1. Re: Person I KnewBill Evans Trio (Chuck Israels, bass) (Moon Beams [Original Jazz Classics Remasters])
  2. Tale of the FingersPaul Chambers (Whims Of Chambers)
  3. CaravanDuke Ellington With Charles Mingus (bass) & Max Roach (Money Jungle)
  4. Moment’s NoticeJohn Coltrane (Paul Chambers, bass) (Blue Train)
  5. EurydiceWeather Report (Miroslav Vitouš, bass) (Weather Report)
  6. Jimmy´s ModeJohn Coltrane (Jimmy Garrison, bass) (Stellar Regions)
  7. Red ClayFreddie Hubbard (Ron Carter, bass) (Red Clay)
  8. EpilogueMiroslav Vitouš (Infinite Search)
  9. Little SunflowerChristian McBride (Number Two Express)

New Mix: How I feel on the inside

It’s that time again… time for a new Hackathon radio mix. The latest entry in the Exfiltration Radio series deals in spookiness and mystery, and lots and lots of black. It’s a gothic and goth-adjacent postpunk sort of set, and it’s a lot of fun even if you don’t wear black on the outside. Another one is coming soon, so stay tuned!

  1. 10:15 Saturday NightThe Cure (Three Imaginary Boys)
  2. Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Official Version)Bauhaus (The Bela Session)
  3. Pink Flag (2006 Digital Remaster)Wire (Pink Flag)
  4. Not Great MenGang Of Four (Entertainment!)
  5. ShadowplayJoy Division (Unknown Pleasures)
  6. Gathering DustModern English (Mesh & Lace)
  7. In the Flat FieldBauhaus (Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions)
  8. HalloweenSiouxsie & The Banshees (Ju Ju (Remastered))
  9. SomewhereThe Danse Society (The Indie Years : 1983)
  10. Love Like BloodKilling Joke (Night Time)
  11. Lucretia My ReflectionThe Sisters of Mercy (Floodland (Deluxe Version))
  12. A Short Term EffectThe Cure (Pornography)
  13. Song to the SirenThis Mortal Coil (It’ll End in Tears)

New Coltrane

VinylFactory.com: Previously unheard 1964 John Coltrane album released for the first time.

This is an even bigger deal, arguably, than last year’s Both Directions at Once, which I liked but which was ultimately a little … unmemorable? The title track of Blue World is a burner that reminds me of “Equinox” and other great John Coltrane Quartet classics. Listen now:

Unmentioned in the coverage I’ve seen is that you can pre-order the vinyl version of the album in the uDiscover Music store, ahead of its September 27th release.

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.