Exfiltration Radio: All Possibilities

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…

  1. Untitled 4 (“Njósnavélin”)Sigur Rós (( ))
  2. ScratchMorphine (Yes)
  3. The Laws Have ChangedThe New Pornographers (Electric Version)
  4. When You’re FallingAfro Celt Sound System (Volume 3: Further in Time)
  5. The Way That He SingsMy Morning Jacket (At Dawn)
  6. Diamond In Your MindSolomon Burke (Don’t Give Up On Me)
  7. Brief & BoundlessRichard Buckner (Since)
  8. All PossibilitiesBadly Drawn Boy (Have You Fed The Fish?)
  9. Time Travel is LonelyJohn Vanderslice (Time Travel Is Lonely)
  10. ShineMark Eitzel (The Invisible Man)
  11. Why Not SmileR.E.M. (Up)
  12. You Are InvitedThe Dismemberment Plan (Emergency & I)
  13. Where Do I BeginThe Chemical Brothers (Dig Your Own Hole)
  14. I’m Still HereTom Waits (Alice)

Exfiltration Radio: Shorter story

Lee Morgan’s “Search for The New Land” session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 15, 1964. This is the cover shot for Shorter’s “The All Seeing Eye.”

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.

Enjoy…

  1. Speak No EvilWayne Shorter ( Speak No Evil )
  2. Ping Pong (No. 1)Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers ( Complete Studio Recordings (with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter…) )
  3. EddaLee Morgan ( The Rumproller )
  4. Yes or NoWayne Shorter ( JuJu )
  5. FootprintsMiles Davis Quintet ( Miles Smiles )
  6. TearsWeather Report ( Weather Report )
  7. Ana MariaWayne Shorter ( Native Dancer )
  8. Aung San Suu KyiWayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock ( 1+1 )
  9. Adventures Aboard The Golden Mean (live)Wayne Shorter Quartet ( Emanon )
  10. PinocchioHerbie Hancock Quintet ( A Tribute To Miles )

Exfiltration Radio: I feel no shame

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.

  1. Rumors – Timex Social ClubTimex Social Club (Un, Dos, Tres…Playa Del Sol (12 Magic Summer Hits))
  2. Radio PeopleZapp (The New Zapp IV U)
  3. FreshKool & The Gang (The Very Best of Kool & The Gang)
  4. In My HouseMary Jane Girls (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Mary Jane Girls)
  5. Juicy FruitMtume (Juicy Fruit)
  6. Mr. WrongSade (Promise)
  7. AutomaticThe Pointer Sisters (Break Out)
  8. Sweet LoveAnita Baker (Rapture)
  9. Love ZoneBilly Ocean (The Very Best of Billy Ocean)
  10. Stop to LoveLuther Vandross (80’s Pop Hits)
  11. On My OwnPatti LaBelle (’80s Pop Number 1’s)
  12. Shake You Down (Single Version)Gregory Abbott (80’s Pop Hits)
  13. All Cried Out (with Full Force)Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (80’s Pop Hits)
  14. Human Beat BoxFat Boys (Fat Boys)

Exfiltration Radio: new faces, new sounds

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!

  1. X. Adjuah [I Own the Night]Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (Axiom)
  2. For the O.G.Connie Han (Iron Starlet)
  3. The Colors That You BringDamon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble (Where Future Unfolds)
  4. ActivateTheon Cross (Fyah)
  5. Tico TicoThe Lewis Express (Clap Your Hands)
  6. People In Your NeighborhoodJoe Fiedler (Open Sesame)
  7. Baby Please Don’t GoThe Jerry Granelli Trio (The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison)
  8. TimelordSarah Tandy (Infection In The Sentence)
  9. Dogon MysteriesIdris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (Shaman!)
  10. La cumbia me está llamando (featuring La Perla)Nubya Garcia (SOURCE)
  11. Blue to RedChip Wickham (Blue to Red)

Exfiltration Radio: your transfer, your hand, your answer

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.

  1. Fun & GamesThe Connells (Fun & Games)
  2. Do It CleanEcho & The Bunnymen (Songs To Learn & Sing)
  3. I Want You BackHoodoo Gurus (Stoneage Romeo)
  4. Watusi RodeoGuadalcanal Diary (Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man)
  5. Talking In My SleepThe Rain Parade (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip: Explosions In The Glass Palace)
  6. With Cantaloupe GirlfriendThree O’Clock (Sixteen Tambourines/Baroque Hoedown)
  7. Kiss Me On The BusThe Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
  8. I Held Her In My ArmsViolent Femmes (Add It Up (1981-1993))
  9. Voice Of HaroldR.E.M. (Dead Letter Office)
  10. Writing the Book of Last PagesLet’s Active (Big Plans for Everybody)
  11. Think Too HardThe dB’s (The Sound of Music)
  12. SparkThe Church (Starfish)
  13. My Favorite DressThe Wedding Present (George Best Plus)
  14. Muscoviet Musquito – Clan of XymoxClan of Xymox (Lonely Is an Eyesore)
  15. Tripped Over My BootStorm Orphans (Promise No Parade)
  16. Baby JaneWaxing Poetics (Manakin Moon)
  17. UntitledR.E.M. (Green)
  18. Embodiment Of EvilMeat Puppets (Up On The Sun)

Exfiltration Radio: À Paris en France comme dans la Rome antique

Guru and trumpeter Brownman

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.

  1. Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)Digable Planets (Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time & Space))
  2. Proceed IIThe Roots with Roy Ayers (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
  3. Manifest (Alternate)Gang Starr (No More Mr. Nice Guy)
  4. Because I Got It Like ThatJungle Brothers (Straight Out the Jungle)
  5. I Got It Goin’ OnUs3 (Hand On The Torch)
  6. Plug Tunin (Last Chance To Comprehend)De La Soul (3 Feet High And Rising)
  7. Kool Accordin’ 2 a Jungle BrotherJungle Brothers (Done By the Forces of Nature)
  8. Vibes And StuffA Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)
  9. Borough CheckDigable Planets (Blowout Comb)
  10. Un Ange En DangerMC Solaar with Ron Carter (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
  11. Raid (Feat. MED)Madvillain (Madvillainy)
  12. Give Thanks (feat. Niamaj)Kero One (Windmills of the Soul)
  13. God Lives ThroughA Tribe Called Quest (Midnight Marauders)
  14. Le Bien, Le MalGuru Featuring Mc Solaar (Jazzmatazz Volume 1)

Exfiltration Radio: jazz in inner space

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.

  1. Doctor Honoris CausaJoe Zawinul (Zawinul)
  2. Mountain In the CloudsMiroslav Vitous (Infinite Search)
  3. Orange LadyWeather Report (Weather Report)
  4. Opus One Point FiveJoe Henderson (Power To The People [Keepnews Collection] [ Remastered ])
  5. Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro)Miles Davis (Filles De Kilimanjaro)
  6. Water BabiesWayne Shorter (Super Nova)
  7. You’ll Know When You Get ThereHerbie Hancock (Warner Archives)
  8. In A Silent WayMiles Davis (The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions)

Exfiltration Radio: ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space

Feels like a good time to go to outer space! Here’s an hour of space-themed tunes for this Friday that veers from funk to jazz to whatever the heck that Flying Lotus track is. Enjoy!

  1. Also Sprach ZarathustraBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Karl Bohm (2001: A Space Odyssey (Soundtrack))
  2. P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)Parliament (Mothership Connection)
  3. SpacePrince (Come)
  4. Leave the PlanetGalaxie 500 (On Fire)
  5. SpaceM.I.A. (MAYA)
  6. Space Is the PlaceSun Ra (Space Is The Place (Original Soundtrack))
  7. The PlanetsGary Bartz NTU Troop (Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru)
  8. Innerstellar LoveThundercat (It Is What It Is)
  9. Boom Boom SatelliteSigue Sigue Sputnik (Dress for Excess)
  10. See The ConstellationThey Might Be Giants (Apollo 18)
  11. Space Station #5Montrose (Historia de la Musica Rock: Locas)
  12. Hallo SpaceboyDavid Bowie (Outside)
  13. SatelllliiiiiiiteeeFlying Lotus (Cosmogramma)
  14. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In SpaceSpiritualized (Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space)
  15. Space SuitThey Might Be Giants (Apollo 18)
  16. DriftBrian Eno (Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks)

Testament of Freedom record: more details

I wrote two posts from 2018 on finding a copy of part of the premiere recording of Randall Thompson’s The 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.

“Nusrat, he’s my Elvis”

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.”)

And my love for Nusrat deepened my love for Jeff Buckley when I heard the extended version of his great Live at Sin-É, when he declared, “Nusrat? He’s my Elvis,” and went on to deliver an absolutely perfect rendition of “Yeh Jo Halka Saroor Hae.”

So yeah, feels like a good day to pull out some Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan again.

Kronos Quartet, Black Angels

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.

You Are the 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 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

New Mix: Exfiltration Radio 13, Positive Vibrations

Illustration credit: “Monty Stark/Stark Reality,” Espontaneo on Flickr.

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.

  1. Delilah (Take 3)Milt Jackson And Wes Montgomery (Bags Meets Wes!)
  2. First Things FirstRed Norvo (Hi Five)
  3. Wait Til You See HerGeorge Shearing Quintet (I Hear Music)
  4. MarsGil Melle (New Faces – New Sounds)
  5. Serves Me Right (Take 5)Cannonball Adderley (Things Are Getting Better)
  6. Death and TaxesWalt Dickerson (Spiritual Jazz 10: Prestige)
  7. Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro)Cal Tjader (Talkin’ Verve)
  8. LatonaBig John Patton (Let ’Em Roll)
  9. Jean De FleurGrant Green (Idle Moments)
  10. Searchin’ the TraneBobby Hutcherson (Spiritual Jazz Vol. 9 – Blue Notes, Part One)
  11. The Original Mr. Sonny Boy WilliamsonArchie Shepp (On This Night)
  12. VisionsSun 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

The vinyl inheritance: really, really finished

I’ve written before about the project to rip all my vinyl, and about the various donors to what is currently a towering stack of unshelved records. But today I finished making my way through the very first group of donated vinyl, a set of about 100 records from my in-laws.

The last album, which sat untouched for almost a year, was a ten-record set of classical “greatest hits,” presented (though not played) by the great Arthur Fiedler. It’s got a little of everything around the world, if by “the world” you mean Europe (including Russia) in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a Reader’s Digest compilation, which of course means it’s Pleasure Programmed® (though it didn’t come with one of the amazing “pleasure programmer” card inserts). In this case, it just means that the selections are organized geographically — not always by country of origin of the composer, given that the Hungarian record features works from Italian, German and Swiss composers, in addition to the inevitable Franz Liszt, but by “mood.”

But it’s a pretty good tour of the canon and adjacent islands anyway. My wife, who is not normally forthcoming with musical memories, noted that she used to spend many hours with this set. Guess I have something to do with my time now that we have many hours at home…