Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Greetings... and some music... Howling Wolf... Paul Butterfield... Steve Lacy...John Zorn... Funkadelic... Thelonious Monk... Lennie Tristano...

Seasons greetings to all. It's been a while... but I've decided that there might be some life in the mp3 free download and obscure chat formula still - maybe a concentrated look at a track or two could still be interesting in this age of mass album downloads - well, before they shut us all down, or try to... I live in the hope that the Internet can resist the fools and thieves - i.e. politicians - and their attempts at policing the Anarchosphere...

To the music: here comes the Taildragger – the mighty Howling Wolf performing 'Shake for me.' Taken from a live recording from the American Folk Blues Festival on tour in 1964.  Guessing at the lineup, Hubert Sumlin contributes some stinging sharp guitar, comping and single note lines that lock nicely with Sunnyland Slim's piano.  Classic Chicago blues...

Some rocky white blues edging into r and b/soul stylings with the addition of the horn section – Paul Butterfield and his band at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Playing 'Driftin' Blues,' I'm guessing this is the same lineup that recorded 'Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw,' so Keith Johnson on trumpet leading it in before the vocal takes it up, shadowed by Elvin Bishop's guitar. Butterfield takes a harp solo, three eloquent choruses that build nicely. Video of the performance here

Steve Lacy with bass and drums playing 'Blue Jay' from his album 'The Holy La,' recorded in France in 1998. Despite all his years playing, there was always an early morning fresh jump out of bed feel to his work.

John Zorn in 1998. From the album 'Downtown Lullaby,' this is '228 West Broadway.' Bit of a curiosity, interesting in the sense that the musicians: Zorn plus Wayne Horvitz, keyboards, Elliott Sharp, guitar and Bobby Previte on drums freely improvised the material in the studio and then added the titles – all New York addresses that refer, I think, to loft spaces where they have played. Oddly eastern feel to it - Elliott Sharp's electric guitar weaving in and out of Zorn's alto over minimal drums that build into a backbeat that stops just under four minutes in as Horvitz drops in some sprinkles of keyboard, reforming again after half a minute, adding some cymbal splash. Starting to get more interestingly tangled together, Previte mixing up the rhythm, keyboard dropping in some chordal crashes. Ebbing away and down as Zorn plays with a fragment of melody, tossing it around gently. Out on faint scuffling drums and a dying guitar note.

Mr Clinton from 1974. 'Alice in my fantasies,' from 'Standing on the verge of getting it on.' I first got into George C when I bought a copy of Parliament's 'Chocolate City' in a Dublin cut-out bin, circa 1976(? - That was a heavy Black Bushmills year). Not sure how the new prez will work out after a decidedly jumpy start, but let's be charitable in hard times: 'You're the capital, C.C.' This is a wild ride which cuts through a few genre barriers, rock colliding with funk in a heavy guitar-laced track, some weirdo vocal giving way to the mighty 'Smedley Smorganoff,' the criminally unsung Eddie Hazell blasting out some fierce wah wah, fading out somewhat abruptly. A bit of fun...

Monk, the first album he made for Columbia – 'Monk's Dream' – and take one of 'Bye-ya.' Another album which is important to me – I bought this when I was living with my first wife in some glorious boho dump in London – our first 'apartment.' Used to play this on a portable record player... it was my birthday present from her that year. Frankie Dunlop's drums open by spelling out the rhythm of the theme, when the band come in they accentuate Monk's compositionary vision - a seamless mix of rhythm, melody and harmony. Charlie Rouse takes a jaunty solo, followed by Monk in expansive mood, prodding and flowing in equal order, jumping off a riff to roll down on his patented whole note runs. A solo that amply demonstrates how he respects his improvisational start points. But everything on a good Monk track (which was most of them) always comes together - not always on first listen if you don't understand his vocabulary but there is always a supreme musical intelligence at work. Tunes are never just vehicles for blowing - over the years that I have been listening to his work, since that mind-blowing performance in 'Jazz on a Summer's Day' which opened my very young ears further to the possibilities of modern jazz and beyond, I have never bought into the myths that he was some kind of mad primitive. Monk was an exotic character, which is part of his appeal, but the vision behind the music and the man should be acknowledged more. It looks as if the new biography may go some way to rectify some of the idiocies - can't wait to grab a copy in the New Year. Apparently Bill Evans thought that Monk's singular vision was due to not being exposed to Western classical music, some kind of idiot savant... which demonstrates my point. Yes he was, Bill...

Another pianist/visionary who suffered at the hands of critical myopia - ironic, given his own disability - was Lennie Tristano. While Monk had at least a good measure of success in his life and is still acclaimed critically, Tristano was never as highly regarded - yet he was one of the great pillars of modern jazz with a unique take on linearity and melody. Here he leads a powerhouse lineup - Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz on saxophones, Billy Bauer on guitar, Arnold Frishkin, bass and Denzil Best on drums. One of those corny titles: 'Sax of a kind' - ha ha - which disguises a fleet and intricate theme. Bauer solos first, fluently - he was a fine bebop guitar player - followed seamlessly by Tristano, over to Konitz then Marsh, a brief trade between the saxes then into the theme before you realise it. One flowing whole, no joins - fascinating, how Tristano taught his methods of improvisation to pupils who remained of his school while developing their own distinct approaches.

Back soon...

Howling Wolf
with possibly Sunnyland Slim (p) Hubert Sumlin (g) Willie Dixon (b) Clifton James (d)
Shake for me


Paul Butterfield
Paul Butterfield(v,hca)
with possibly Elvin Bishop (g)David Sanborn (as) Brother Gene Dinwiddie (ts) Keith Johnson (t) Mark Naftalin (keys) Bugsy Maugh (b) Phillip Wilson (d)
Driftin' Blues


Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy (ss) Jean-Jacques Avenel (b) John Betsch (d)
Blue Jay


John Zorn
John Zorn (as) Wayne Horvitz (keys) Elliott Sharp (g) Bobby Previte
228 West Broadway


George Clinton/Funkadelic
Spaced Viking; Keyboards & Vocals: Bernard (Bernie) Worrell
Tenor Vocals, Congas and Suave Personality: Calvin Simon
A Prototype Werewolf; Berserker Octave Vocals: Clarence 'Fuzzy' Haskins
World's Only Black Leprechaun; Bass & Vocals: Cordell 'Boogie' Mosson
Maggoteer Lead/Solo Guitar & Vocals: Eddie 'Smedley Smorganoff' Hazel
Rhythm/Lead Guitar, Doowop Vocals, Sinister Grin: Gary Shider
Supreme Maggot Minister of Funkadelia; Vocals, Maniac Froth and Spit;
Behaviour Illegal In Several States: George Clinton
Percussion & Vocals; Equipped with stereo armpits: Ramon 'Tiki' Fulwood
Rhythm/Lead Guitar; polyester soul-powered token white devil: Ron Bykowski
Registered and Licensced Genie; Vocals: 'Shady' Grady Thomas
Subterranean Bass Vocals, Supercool and Stinky Fingers: Ray (Stingray) Davis
Alice in my fantasies


Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk (p) Charlie Rouse (ts) John Ore (b) Frankie Dunlop (d)
Bye-ya take one


Lennie Tristano
Lee Konitz (as) Warne Marsh (ts) Lennie Tristano (p) Billy Bauer (g) Arnold Fishkin (b) Denzil Best (d)
Sax of a kind