Exfiltration Radio: riding in a wonderland

“Portrait of woman wearing dark suit, possibly Vera, holding record album,” Charles “Teenie” Harris (c.1960). Courtesy Carnegie Museum of Art.

So you’re stuck at home this Christmas. You have Covid, or someone in your family does, or both. Might as well crank the music up, and what better way to ring in the season than an hour of Christmas jazz?

This set, and yesterday’s, have been percolating for a few years, ever since my “Off Kilter Christmas” showed me how hard it was to trim all the holiday music I wanted to share down to an hour. But when I was putting together yesterday’s set, I realized I had something like four mixes worth of material, so I started separating the jazz out… and what came was remarkably coherent. Though maybe that says more about my record collection than fate. The track listing is below, though be prepared for Babs Gonsalves to pop up a few times.

“Sleigh Ride,” Duke Pearson (Merry Ole Soul). Pearson was, in addition to being the A&R man for Blue Note Records in the 1960s and composer of the great Donald Byrd track “Cristo Redentor,” a pretty fair pianist and arranger. This uber-cool take on “Sleigh Ride” is viewed through the prism of spiritual jazz, with a drone in the bass and drums that’ll knock your socks off.

“Marche Touche,” Classical Jazz Quartet (Christmas). This record is one of my happy discoveries this season. Featuring Ron Carter on bass, Kenny Barron on piano, Stefán Harris on vibes and marimba, and Lewis Nash on drums, this take on the March from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” is something else.

“Littler Drummer Boy,” Tia Fuller (It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue). If you want a modern classic of jazz interpretations of Christmas standards, I’d check out this compilation. Fuller’s take on “Little Drummer Boy” is representative, with a combination of traditional melodic interpretation and contemporary rhythm.

“We Three Kings of Orient Are,” Ellis Marsalis (A New Orleans Christmas Carol). This standout album from the late patriarch of the Marsalis clan has a lot going for it, especially Jason Marsalis’s beat on tracks like this one.

“Carol of the Bells,” Wynton Marsalis (Crescent City Christmas Card). I remember listening to this with my family with some puzzlement when it first came out. Now I love it: the horn line that shifts around the beat with each chorus, the typically crunchy Wynton chords, the classic Wynton Marsalis Septet members throwing everything into the arrangement (yes, that’s Marcus Roberts, Wycliffe Gordon, Todd Williams, Wessell Anderson, Herlin Riley, and Reginald Veal on the track).

“White Christmas,” Ill Considered (An Ill Considered Christmas). The Ill Considered Christmas album might be the 21st century equivalent of Crescent City Christmas Carol for dividing family opinion. There are some mighty interesting reharmonizations on this album. But I love the inclusion of Eastern melodies over the traditional Irving Berlin tune here, and the band is uptempo and bright.

“Christmas Time Is Here,” Ellis Marsalis. A second track off Ellis’s Christmas album, this is a solid reinterpretation of the Vince Guaraldi classic and a completely different mood from “We Three Kings.” Contemplative and mellow. You might want to refill that eggnog.

“Vauncing Chimes,” Bobby Watson (Blue Christmas). This contemporary collection from Blue Note has a bunch of fairly faithful covers of classic jazz arrangements, but this one actually comes from a different 1991 compilation and is a retitled version of “Jingle Bells,” with Watson’s saxophone taking us on a tour of the outer reaches.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith (Christmas Cookin’). A top five holiday jazz album, Smith’s Hammond organ sizzles throughout this set. While I enjoy the numbers with orchestration in this set, this cut just has the trio, and they make a joyful noise.

“Here Comes Santa Claus,” Ramsey Lewis Trio (Sound of Christmas). This set from 1961, like the Jimmy Smith set, has trio numbers and orchestral arrangements, and this is also “just” a trio setting. But with Ramsey Lewis at the keys, it might as well be an orchestra. Rambunctious, bluesy and jolly, this’ll have you wondering what you put in that eggnog.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Bill Evans Trio (Trio ’64). Just why the otherwise straight album by Evans, Paul Motian and Gary Peacock contained this cover of the Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie holiday standard is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is the high level of artistry on this track, with Evans, Motian and Peacock displaying telepathic abilities throughout. Worth the price of admission for Motian’s bass part alone.

“Sleep, Holy Infant, Sleep,” Dave Brubeck (Christmas Lullabies 12”). I don’t know too much about this vault issue, which was a Record Store Day release a few years ago, except that Brubeck demonstrates a delicacy of touch and interpretation that’s characteristic of some of his later Telarc recordings. This is, true to the release name, a lovely lullaby.

“Auld Lang Syne,” Bobby Timmons (Holiday Soul). The great soul jazz pianist and composer Bobby Timmons sees us out, with a great soul-inflected cover of the New Years Eve classic (or, depending on your leaning, unofficial University of Virginia alma mater).

Enjoy!

New mix: Exfiltration Radio: tinsel covered Christmas blues

“Cold War Christmas, 1960,” from Shorpy.com

It’s time for more Christmas craziness, so break out the eggnog, put up your feet, close that window that’s blowing open, and enjoy! Big range this time, with tracks from Yo La Tengo, Low and Jane Siberry joining the expected bits of old blues and funk.

The tunes:

  1. The Last Month Of The YearVera Hall Ward (Where Will You Be Christmas Day?)
  2. Getting Ready for Christmas DayPaul Simon (So Beautiful or So What)
  3. A Groovy Christmas and New Year (Kojo Donkoh)Houghas Sorowonko (A Groovy Christmas and New Year (Kojo Donkoh))
  4. It’s Christmas TimeYo La Tengo (Merry Christmas From Yo La Tengo)
  5. Christmas In Jail – Ain’t That A PainLeroy Carr (Where Will You Be Christmas Day?)
  6. When It’s Christmas Time on the RangeBob Wills (Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree II: The Eggnog Is Spiked)
  7. To Heck With Ole Santa ClausLoretta Lynn (Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree – A Vintage Holiday Mixtape)
  8. The Christmas BluesBob Dylan (Christmas In the Heart)
  9. Santa’s Got A Bag O’ SoulSoul Saints Orchestra (Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree II: The Eggnog Is Spiked)
  10. Merry Christmas BabyBootsy Collins (Christmas Is 4 Ever)
  11. Xmas Done Got FunkyJimmy Jules & Nuclear Soul System (Santa’s Funk & Soul Christmas Party Vol.1-3)
  12. Christmas on Riverside DriveAugust Darnell (A Christmas Record)
  13. Have Yourself a Merry Little ChristmasDread Zeppelin (Presents)
  14. Go Where I Send TheeFred Waring & The Pennsylvanians (The Sounds of Christmas)
  15. Some Hearts (at Christmas Time)Low (Some Hearts (at Christmas Time))
  16. Like a SnowmanTracey Thorn (Tinsel and Lights)
  17. Are You Burning, Little Candle?Jane Siberry (New York Trilogy III: Child (Music For The Christmas Season))
  18. SherburneAlabama Sacred Harp Singers (Where Will You Be Christmas Day?)
  19. Merry ChristmasA Festival of Village Carols, Grenoside (English Village Carols: Traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines)

Christmas comes but once a year, but when it does, it brings good cheer.

Listen…

New mix: Exfiltration Radio: cuisine internationale

Image courtesy Rod Waddington, Flickr

Another Hackathon mix! This one is about finding different states of mind in music from around the world. The mix is heavy on African music from different countries, but there’s a healthy dose of other stuff too. Track notes below.

“Ali’s Here,” Ali Farka Toure (Niafunke). I learned about Ali from his collaboration with Ry Cooder in the 1990s, Talking Timbuktu. But this solo album is grittier and deeply, deeply funky.

“Durgen Chugaa,” Shu-De (Voices from the Distant Steppe). This album of Tuvan throat singing is infamous in my family; I was blasting it in my first post-college apartment when a knock came at my door, and the melodious sounds of throat singing were the first things that Lisa heard when she met me for the first time as she and our mutual friend Shel met me at my door. Reader, she married me anyway.

“Shamas-Ud-Doha, Badar-Ud-Doja,” Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Shahen-Shah). My favorite of Nusrat’s albums for Real World. I began to learn vocal improvisation technique from listening to him on this track.

Wagane Faye,” Youssou N’Dour (Badou). An early recording of Youssou from the mid-1980s, parts of this song would end up reprised on his Set album from 1990 as “Medina.” This version skips the xylophone-like synths and saxes and just goes full-out as a live band cut, much heavier on the percussion and other dance elements.

“Living Together,” Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila (Mambo). I slept on this early-90s Real World album and am sorry I did. Great Tanzanian funk that fits nicely with the Senegalese sound around it.

“Gainde,” Omar Pene & Super Diamono (Direct from Dakar). Late-1990s Senegalese mbalax from the great rival to Youssou N’Dour.

“Na Teef Know De Road of Teef,” Pax Nicholas (Daptone Records’ Rhythm Showcase). A legendary track. Nicholas was a member of Fela Kuti’s band Africa 70 who recorded this solo album in 1973 in Ginger Baker’s well-equipped Nigerian studio with many of Fela’s musicians. Apparently Fela didn’t like the competition, and told him, “Don’t you ever, EVER play it again!” And thus the recording remained underground for more than 30 years.

“Pop Makossa Invasion,” Dream Stars (Pop Makossa – The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon). A great song from a great compilation of highly danceable funk from Cameroon, all following the original release of Manu Dibango’s legendary “Soul Makossa.”

“Lonyaka,” Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Classic Tracks). I love the mbube style showcased in this track. There’s a reason that so many people fell in love with this band when they heard it on Graceland.

“On the Street,” The Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble (The Wild Field). A completely different singing style from Pokrovsky’s pioneering folk ensemble, this traditional song comes from a region of Russia that adjoins Ukraine, and so has a completely different meaning today than when it was released over 30 years ago.

“San Vicente,” Milton Nascimento (Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical). There was a pretty notorious cartoon that ran in a student magazine when I was an undergrad, picturing Peter Gabriel and David Byrne as carpetbaggers due to their leveraging world music sounds in their pop music. The accusation has a ring of truth to it, but both musicians did their best to provide the musicians with whom they collaborated with a broader platform, Gabriel through his still-vital Real World label, and Byrne through Luaka Bop, a more eclectic group that began with this release. Brazil Classics 1 highlights some of the musicians who worked with Byrne on the Talking Heads release Naked and Byrne’s solo debut Rei Momo, including Nascimento, a dean of Brazilian folk music.

“Voyager,” Kudsi Ergüner & Süleyman Ergüner (Sufi Music of Turkey). A hypnotic album I found in college showcasing the ney flute of Kudsi Ergüner and a very different sound from the Sufi tradition that manifests in the qawwali singing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

“T’Amo,” Tenores di Bitti (S’amore ’e mama). Lest we think that remarkable vocal styles are a strictly extra-European phenomenon, give this track a listen. The Sardinian ensemble on display here does things with overtones that you normally have to travel to Tuva to hear.

“Svatba,” Bulgarian State Television Female Choir (Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares). Still hair-raising more than 30 years after these recordings hit the United States.

“En Mana Kuoyo,” Ayub Ogada (En Mana Kuoyo). The liner notes for the album describe this song as a “parable suggesting that the person who hurries eats his sesame seeds with sand.” I feel seen.

“Gut pluriarc with one man’s voice” (Instrumental Music of the Kalahari San). This uncredited performance, just a man and a stringed instrument, reminds us that there is still so much to listen to and learn.

Anyway: Enjoy!

New mix: Exfiltration Radio, Cooking With Fat

It’s a Veracode Hackathon, so it must be time for an Exfiltration Radio playlist! This time, naturally, the musical choices were influenced by all the Miles-related jazz I’ve been writing about over the last few months, as well as an unlikely source: my Apple Music library maintenance.

So, when you source your library from iTunes Store purchases, third-party high-res music providers like HDTracks and Bandcamp, and CD and vinyl rips, you end up with pretty big music files and a lot of music. Too much music to fit on the internal hard drive of most Macs. I’ve been using an external drive for my media for many years now. Mostly it works fine. When it doesn’t, though, it’s disastrous. There is some kind of error condition in Apple Music that causes it to freak out when the external drive is temporarily unavailable and re-download all the music in the iCloud library. Which is OK, I guess, except when the external drive comes back online, you now have two copies of all the music in your library. Or, if it happens again, three.

I’ve figured out a rubric for cleaning this up, which will be the subject of another post. But I’ve been going through all the music in my library album by album, and in the process creating new genres to make it easier to find some types of music. In particular, the genres that inspired this mix were Jazz Funk and Fusion. The latter needs no explanation due to our journey with Miles; jazz funk is just the hybrid of a bunch of different strains of African American music with a heavy focus on improvisation over a funky beat. The end mix combines some tracks I’ve already written about with some more modern jazz from my collection; I’ll provide notes for each track below.

“Wiggle-Waggle,” from Fat Albert Rotunda: the track that got the most comments from my write-up of Herbie Hancock’s TV show soundtrack, with friends noting how it sounds like this track dropped in from another dimension.

“Chunky,” from Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at the Montreux Jazz Festival, by Ronnie Foster. I’ve programmed Foster’s great “Mystic Brew” in past Exfiltration Radio segments, including the Hammond special. This is a live version of the opening track from the same album, Foster’s great Blue Note debut Two Headed Freap. There’s a lot that’s different about his approach to the Hammond organ compared to earlier artists, but all I can say is: he funky.

“Flat Backin’,” from Moon Rappin’ by Brother Jack McDuff. Speaking of earlier artists, a lot of McDuff’s early work was squarely in the “soul jazz” category (like his great Hot Barbecue), but by the time of this 1969 album McDuff was on another planet, and the electric guitar and bass land the music in Funklandia.

“Funky Finger,” from The Essence of Mystery by Alphonse Mouzon. We have seen Mouzon on the first Weather Report album, but his solo debut for Blue Note is another thing entirely. Despite the name, it’s got less of the mystery of Weather Report and more of the funk, and this track is a great example.

“Sugar Ray,” from Champions by Miles Davis. “That’s some raunchy sh*t, y’all.” Listen to how the chord changes are so wrong, the way they just walk over to an adjacent major key and then settle back into the original as though nothing happened. Also note the remarkable Wayne Shorter solo.

“Superfluous,” from Instant Death by Eddie Harris. Sampled on “What Cool Breezes Do” from Digable Planets’ Reachin’, this is an instant classic.

“The Griot,” from Henry Franklin: JID014 by Henry Franklin, Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Composer Younge and former Tribe Called Quest member Shaheed Muhammad have been having a blast recording albums with their jazz idols in the Jazz is Dead series, and this newer release with bassist Franklin, who played with Freddie Hubbard, Bobbi Humphrey, Archie Shepp, Willie Bobo, Stevie Wonder and others, is a tasty slice of funk anchored by his acoustic double bass.

“Tell Me a Bedtime Story,” from Fly Moon Die Soon by Takuya Kuroda. This funky cover of Herbie Hancock’s original from Fat Albert Rotunda is a great example of latter-day jazz-funk, with the arrangement draped (or smothered, depending on your taste) in layers of Fender Rhodes, synths, and electric bass. Kuroda’s incisive trumpet anchors the arrangement and lifts the funk to another level.

“Timelord,” from Inflection in the Sentence by Sarah Tandy. A great 21st century London jazz album, featuring Tandy on both acoustic piano and electric keys, the latter notably apparent in this moody track.

“Where to Find It,” from SuperBlue by Kurt Elling. I’ll write more about this track another time, but it’s worth noting that Elling is one of the few vocalists to brave the task of putting lyrics to modern jazz tracks like this one, Wayne Shorter’s Grammy award winning “Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Enough words. “We have taken control as to bring you this special show, and we will return it to you as soon as you are exfiltrated.”

Exfiltration Radio: Flute’n the Blues

Hubert Laws

This go-round of Exfiltration Radio investigates an unusual jazz instrument, the flute. This one has been bubbling around in my mind since I started putting jazz mixes together. I kept running across unusual instrumentation on some of the recordings, well beyond the sax or trumpet plus piano/bass/drums that I first started listening to thirty years ago. First it was organ, then vibes, and today I finally started pulling together this playlist, which focuses on that other woodwind, the flute.

One thing that jumped out at me in looking through the credits on these tracks is the number of flautists who were also, or even primarily, known for their chops on the saxophone. James Moody, who leads off this set with his famous false start from his Last Train from Overbrook album, was one, but then there’s Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson on Alice Coltrane’s “Blue Nile,” and Yusef Lateef (who here is playing the xun, or “Chinese globular flute”).

But part of the fun of this set for me was digging into some of the artists who were best known for their work as flautists. Hubert Laws, whose playing graces “Windows” (here drawn from the Chick Corea compilation Inner Space, but originally released on his own Laws’ Clause), is all over recordings from the 1960s and 1970s where the flute appears — in fact, he’s also on “Blues Farm.” (There is an alternate universe in which this mix is all Hubert Laws, all the time.) Bobbi Humphrey’s fine playing on “Harlem River Drive,” though drenched in 1970s production values by the Mizells, is outstanding, as is the more modern playing on Chip Wickham’s “Soho Strut.” Finally, we come somewhat full circle on Matthew Halsall’s cover of Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda.”

So kick back, dig, while we do it to you in your earhole.

  1. The Moody OneJames Moody (Return From Overbrook)
  2. The Plum BlossomYusef Lateef (Eastern Sounds)
  3. The Great Pumpkin WaltzVince Guaraldi (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown)
  4. WindowsChick Corea (Inner Space)
  5. Blue NileAlice Coltrane (Ptah, the El Daoud)
  6. Harlem River DriveBobbi Humphrey (Blacks And Blues)
  7. Blues FarmRon Carter (Blues Farm)
  8. Nancy WilsonBrian Jackson, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Adrian Younge (Brian Jackson JID008)
  9. Soho StrutChip Wickham (Shamal Wind)
  10. Dogon MysteriesIdris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (Shaman!)
  11. Journey In SatchidanandaMatthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra (Journey In Satchidananda / Blue Nile)

Exfiltration Radio: doing it in the mix

Boris Blank, of the 1980s band Yello, with the Fairlight CMI sampler

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.

  1. JazzSteinski (What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective)
  2. Close (To the Edit)Art of Noise ((Who’s Afraid Of) The Art of Noise?)
  3. RegimentBrian Eno & David Byrne (My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)
  4. MegamixHerbie Hancock (Megamix)
  5. Love Missile F1-11 (Ultraviolence Mix)Sigue Sigue Sputnik (The Remixes)
  6. Push It (Remix)Salt-n-Pepa (Hot, Cool and Vicious)
  7. Pump Up the Volume (USA 12)Colourbox (Best of Colourbox: 1982-1987)
  8. Wise Up Sucker (12″ Youth Remix)Pop Will Eat Itself (This Is the Day…)
  9. BeefGary Clail & On-U Sound System (End Of The Century Party)
  10. God O.D., Pt.1Meat Beat Manifesto (Storm The Studio (Remastered))
  11. Justified & Ancient (Stand By The Jams)The KLF (Justified & Ancient)
  12. ParanoimiaThe Art of Noise with Max Headroom (Paranoimia (12″))

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)

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