Live at the Bee Hive - Clifford Brown and Max Roach (Columbia)
Friday, May 7, 2021
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
This Beach Boy tune, from their landmark album Pet Sounds , is one of those songs, significant because principle songwriter Brian Wilson had begun to wander from the teen beach-babes-cars-surfing tropes that endeared he and the Beach Boys to the world and began to write material that contained a telling element of introspection. This melody is gorgeous, the peerless harmonies gliding along like light feathers on the breeze of a tentative and ascending melody, the odd intervals combing for an effect of naive plain speak, a young person aware that there is something more to this world than distractions. A writer greatly influenced by the subversive genius of Chuck Berry, a black musician vested in the blues and swing, who could bright and verbally inventive lyrics about being a white teen innocently looking for fun and distraction, Wilson here seems to pick up the theme of where the Brown Eyed Handseom Man had left off: School is a drag, and cruising for fun is fine and all, but a whole world unknown is rearing itself over the horizon as senior year ends and graduation ends.What now ? This seems to be what the song is asking. The narrator remains painfully young, but there is genuine introspection in a mind formerly the exclusive property of youthful impulse. Who is one going to be in the world of jobs, mortages and taxes?
What is one supposed to be in this world? What others expect him to be? Or to be his own person, ignoring advice, constraints, societal mores and laws? Or a combination of all these things, somewhere in the middle, defined, distinct, whole, happy, productive, creative? The song is not profound in message, it is not even poetic or artful in any way rock critics would desire,but it is beautiful in terms of being that moment when the music softens,the drummer lays out, and someone removes them self form where the action is to some other space inside their soul, reflective for a moment, perhaps indicating a prelude to a searching, innovative life. Nice jam/
Friday, April 23, 2021
They and bands like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath were a grounding principal--rock and roll is beautiful because it's energetic, awkward, and stupid, but profoundly so. There are "concept albums" I admire and still like, if not listen to, but I won't name them here. I am pleased, though, that the idea of the Album being a literary object has been dropped in a deep grave and had dirt thrown over it's remains. What we can thank the late McClaren for is reminding us that rock and roll is a loser's game, the noise of the empty stomach made worse by broken promises where ever a good person woke up with full knowledge of the truth of their lives under the campaign banners and cheers for a loving God. Since I'm making a cursory mention of Chuck Berry in connection with the Sex Pistols, it's worth mentioning here that Greil Marcus, the grayest and gravest presence on the pop/rock/culture-vulturing punditry hierarchy, has a nice stretch of descriptive prose in his mystical history of rock and roll and rebellion Lipstick Traces about the Sex Pistols rehearsing Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." It seems they never get it right for all the angry and frustrated attempts the Pistols have at the song, but Marcus does a bit of his magic and describes the energy in the room as he imagined it, making the increasing verve, the theoretical channeling of frustration and spite into inspiration and useful energy seem believable. This is a Marcus specialty, creating more mythology from details culled from far fetched sources. That's why I continue to read the man.
Over all, the whole phenomena of ELP was a fever that took too long to run its course, but for all their mechanical onanism, they did at times amuse me or impress me to an extent. Tarkus, their 1971 studio album, was such an extreme example of unplayable , undanceable, unlistenable, jig-sawing time signatures that I wound up respecting it as something wherein we have a band that accomplished exactly what they set out to do, produce a loud, grinding, smoke and spark belching bit of unlovable Avant Gard music. I would assert that if a college music department had their resident experimental music ensemble take up this album as a proposed project in search of some grant money, it would come pouring it.
That is say that it's very unloveability fits right in with much more contemporary noise makers at the edges of listenability. Also, these fellows had the the chutzpah to take Copeland's sacrosanct "Hoe Down" and turn it into a keyboard dominated speed metal blitz. I loved that.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
Fred Simon and Michael Bard, a pianist and multiple reedman respectively who' ve been around jazz circles in seeming anonymity the past few years, here emerge from relative obscurity with their first record Musaic It's a release that plays-it-safe: the melodies are pleasant and draw on a number of recognizable sources, the rhythm section does its chores competently, and the solos display the requisite knowledge of technique. But, the music never takes chances. Technical competence aside, the moves are second guessed and have a familiarity to them not unlike a song you've heard too often for too long and desire nothing less than to be rid of the tune for your remaining lifetime. It does not move this listener, who may be accused both of jazz snobbery and, no doubt, of having listened to too much solos that have more to do with practice than performance. To restate, the skill is is high among the particulars, but this is more paycheck than pay off. Simon and Bard s insistence on maintaining a· status quo - their sources sound like an overly-familiar crossbreeding of Paul Winter, Oregon and Brubeck: with a dash of Ellington thrown in for good measure - makes the stuff on Musaic merely run of the mill. Even Larry Coryell's appearance on the funk jam "Fancy Frog" fails to rise this effort above the level of shallow breathing. Coryell is his generation's essential jazz guitar innovator who has recorded an impressive array of off-the-grid improvisations in an increasingly restrictive jazz-pop-rock genre. Simon and Bard's preference for the most somnambulant variation on that once galvanic arena seems to lull the guitarist into an uncharacteristic mellowness. The music is not atrocious. It's nice and would make the ideal backdrop for when your mother was over for dinner. This is the music you put on when you're loading the dishwasher.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
|photo by Tore Saetre (c)|
I had the amazing luck to have seen Chick Corea five times, three times with Return to Forever, a dazzling and powerful jazz-fusion band fueled in major portions by Corea's protean skills as a composer. Let be known that it wasn't just Corea alone that drove RTF to fusion greatness, as the work of guitarists Bill Connors and Al DiMeola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny contributed in large measures to elevating brain-scrambling virtuosity to something highly, creatively musical . But it was Corea's vehicle over all, his compositions deftly bringing in the warring genres of classical, Latin-jazz, bop, blues and progressive rock bombast into a coherent and cohesive whole. There were hard time signatures and severely rapid changes in tone and attack, but Corea had a true composer's sense of pacing, structure, of linking a variety of moods and color, into contiguous wholes that continually and (seemingly) organically morph into new shapes. There was a sense of the story teller , the saga ,the musical journey in his finest work both in RTF and in his ceaseless solo albums and projects. I was additionally blessed to see Corea as well in two other contexts, one in which he shared the stage with fellow Miles Davis keyboardist Herbie Hancock for an evening of inspired duets, and with the Chick Corea Acoustic Trio at the now-gone Elario's in LaJolla, two experiences that impressed for no other reason than that I haven't witnessed a better improvisor at the piano. His mastery of the instrument was absolute, his attack was crisp , fiery , elegant, resonating, endlessly inventive. As you might expect, his long career has seen him take many fruitful and some not-so-fruitful turns and that his body of work is simply too massive to comment on cogently here. But let us remember that Corea was firmly wedded to the jazz tradition despite his avant gard bone fides with Anthony Braxton and Woody Shaw, or his eventual crossover appeal to rock and pop audiences. Some time ago he recorded a tribute album to the late pianist and likewise protean composer Bud Powell with a select group of young jazz turks. It is a wonder tribute, and will end with a post of my review. Take off your hat, bow your head and have a good thought, we have a lost a great art ist.
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Lenox Avenue Breakdown- Arthur Blythe (Columbia)
McLaughlin,the principal composer here, has taken on a new maturity as a composer as well. Where much of his writing in the past seemed to be little more than tricky unison parts. employing Indian and neo-classical modes with little substantive guts underneath the dizzying dexterity, Electric Dreams material cuts a wider swath. The band's unified character gives the variety of approaches -Basie blues, poly-tonal funk, Coltranish chases - a coherence that last year's recipe hodgepodge, Johnny McLaughlin. Electric Guitarist, lacked. Unlike Electric Guitarist, a session where McLaughlin employed different musicians on each track, Electric Dreams has a central character. This album is by recipe hodgepodge, Johnny McLaughlin. Electric Guitarist, lacked. Unlike Electric Guitarist, a session where McLaughlin employed different musicians on each track, Electric Dreams has a central character.
The high points on the album are many, but especially exciting is "The Dark Prince," a fevered stretch of extended bop acceleration, where McLaughlin fuses the melodic sense and chordal strategies of Coltrane and Parker with the with the quirky meters of his Mahavishnu period. Though the purist elements of the jazz audience might dismiss this tract as mere facile Clash and showboating for its own sake. McLaughlin’s solos are nonetheless crisp. concise. elegantly phrased and to the point. The closing guitar keyboard shootout between he and Goldberg is an enthralling example of two musicians pushing themselves to their respective creative limits. "Miles Davis " (so named. as a return compliment to the trumpet player who named one of his songs "John McLaughlin" on his Bitches Brew is heart burn with musical notation after a delicious but over-spiced meal. It’s at this point where I turn off the music and walk into the sunlight of the spirit.
(Originally seen in the UCSD Daily Gaurdian.)
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Draw The Line -Peter Alsop (Flying Fish)
(Originally in The UCSD Daily Guardian)
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Emotional Rescue --The Rolling Stones
Although Some Girls was a wide improvement over the phoned-in raunch-rock the Rolling Stones came to specialized in after Exiles on Main Street, I never thought it was really that good. There were no songs on the par with "Satisfaction," "Sway," or "Backstreet Girl" (to choose three from a sizable collection of classics). Still, I didn't think that the Stones would go as slack and indifferent to their legacy as they sound on Emotional Rescue. Might it be that they’ve become so world weary that their sense of cruel irony, which was always a refreshing bracer against the worst collective delusions and naivete of major b ands that wanted to be relevant in turbulent times, has been dulled to the degree that they’re reduced to the status of cranky uncles at the family Christmas table. They don't sound angry or outrageous, they sound as though their feet hurt.
Maybe they’re jaded, maybe they're tired, maybe they're just burned out by the stress of being the "world's greatest rock and roll band." but whatever the cause, the symptoms are apparent and irritating. Keith Richards and Ron Wood charge through Chuck Berry riffs like drunks stumbling through plate glass, Charlie Watts drumming has never sounded more uninteresting, and Bill Wymans' bass work sounds resembles nothing so much as sleepwalk proficiency. Jagger is the only one who sounds as though he's having any fun, but I suspect its fun for the wrong reason: he knows precisely what he can get away with throughout the songs he sings With a leering, mocking contempt.
The problem is that the contempt is aimed not at any of the sacred cows the audience likes to see slaughtered as a matter of routine. Rather, the smug superiority of persona and derisive disgust seems aimed toward the audience, the the front row to the cheap seats. This is to say that the cynicism that comes easily and too convincingly for the Stones signals a flatlining of their imagination. Living up to your reputation isn’t the same as creating something a few of us would so preciously term art.
(Originally seen in the UCSD Daily Guardian).
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Directions - Miles Davis (Columbia)
Intensities In Ten Cities - Ted Nugent (Epic)
Saturday, December 26, 2020
What song is going through my head? An old one, old, "Dreams of Milk and Honey" by Leslie West and Mountain, from the second side of their album Flowers of Evil, recorded at the Fillmore East in NYC in 1971. It is one of the great moments of Hard Rock guitar, with a great, lumbering riff that distorts and buzzes on the low strings with crushing bends and harmonics squealing at some raging pitch that might make one think of natural calamity, a force no power could withstand. West, never the most fluid guitarist, had, all the same, a touch, a feel, a sense of how to mix the sweet obbligato figures he specialized in with the more brutal affront of power chords and critically rude riff slinging. The smarter among us can theorize about the virtues of amplified instrumentation attaining a threshold of sweetness after the sheer volume wraps you in a numbing cacophony, but for purposes here it suffices to say, with a wink, that is a kind of music you get and accept on its own truncated terms or ignore outright. His guitar work was a brick wall you smashed into at an unheard number of miles an hour and, staring up at the sky, you noticed the bloom of a lone flower, not to mention a halo of tweeting birds and la-la music.
There is an aesthetic at work here, but it might as well come to saying that you had to be me, at my age, in 1971 when I was struck by this performance to understand a little of why I haven't tossed the disc into the dustbin. He is in absolute control of his Les Paul Jr., and here he combines with bassist Felix Pappalardi and drummer Corky Laing in some theme and variation that accomplishes what critic Robert Christgau has suggested is the secret of great rock and roll music, repetition without tedium. There are no thousand-note blitzkriegs, no tricky time signatures, just tight playing, a riffy, catchy, power-chording wonder of rock guitar essential-ism. I've been listening to this track on and off since I graduated from high school, and it cracks me up that my obsession with this masterpiece of rock guitar minimalism caused a few my friends to refer to me listening yet again to my personal "national anthem." This is the melodic, repetitive grind I wished life always were, endlessly elegant and stagnant, shall we say, in perfect formation of the senses, hearing, smell, taste, the arousal of dormant genitalia, all big and large and grinding at the gears that sing sweet mechanical song of intense love heavier than any metal beam you might care to bite into. The combination of Felix Papalardi's whiny voice singing his wife's bullshit lyrics can ruin any buzz you have going for you. It's the live material that kicks it, with lots of fat, snarling Leslie West guitar work twisting around a punchy set of slow, grinding, distorted hard rock. Yes, arrangements do count, even in rock and roI might have even lit a Bic lighter for this tune. is something beautiful in that as well but, alas, the end result of that is the end waxing poetic. Alas. Sing it, Leslie.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
(Originally posted in 2018, it merits a reprint now on the 40th anniversary of the singer's death.)
Monday, December 7, 2020
Leslie Gore was one of those pure pop singers like Gene Pitney and Neil Sedaka who had an appealing, earnest voice that could manage the hooks and addictive choruses of the songs she performed. Like Pitney, her song "It's My Party (and I'll Cry If I Want To)" was a catchy distillation of teen heartache and anxiety, an age where neither female nor male could help but continually compare their inside turmoil with what seemed cool and calm of the appearances of friends, associates, and other hangers-on. Am I good enough? Smart enough? Pretty/handsome enough? Pitney and Gore were the heralds of awkward teenage blues, that time of life when hormones are kicking in and extending their reign from the brain and the appendages they command, a set of years where self-esteem is rare and fragile where it exists at all.
Not much has changed, just the style of clothes, the music soundtrack, and how far past first base you have to go to fit in, or at least seem to. Pitney was dour, moody, full-time drama queen in his string of hits, tunes he sang masterfully. He had a range, of course, easily witnessed with a listen to "I'm Going to Be Strong", "It Hurts to Be In Love", but it also had the strange quality of being scratchy, a strange impression of the gruff textured rhythm and blues singers he admired, and a certain "girlishness" as well. He had a fast vibrato, a quiver that would appear in the center of a phrase, making keywords seem suddenly uncertain, nervous, subject to glandular swings of mood, oftentimes undercutting the stronger voice, the more stoic, stronger pronunciation where Pitney reached down to an unnaturally low register as a means of constructing a solid, masculine calm. The singer was fascinating and melodramatic, and his performances were a clash of emotional raw ends. But what really hits a nerve with Pitney's voice was the higher register, which he could twist and torture with deceptively able finesse to create a sense of a young and sensitive young man tasting for the wrong time the bitter fruit of breaking up. Neal Sedaka's song title "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" offers a clue to the genius of Pitney, who explodes the minor key agony of teenage breakup blues and expand the melodrama to the extent that it's tempting to apply "Wagnerian" to his extreme style. Maybe not so dramatic.
Leslie Gore was pop music for young people and I have to say that I found myself liking more than a little of it when I listened to TOP 40 radio. She was pop personified, the girl singing into the mirror as she prepared for a school dance for which she had no corsage nor date, singing her woes and insecurities into the reflection, watching her image, hair parted on the wrong side, watch on the wrong wrist, admit to the worries and dread of not being in the center of the party, not being interesting enough for a boy or a girl to talk to, someone for whom being friendless was worse than the death. Death, to her thinking, would be a release from this hell of other people's happiness mocking you without end, amen.
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
The Wayne Riker Gathering
We range from the subdued and conversational truth telling of Leonard Patton's reading of the B.B.King classic "Everyday I Have the Blues "(composed by Memphis Slim) , a vocal marked both by restraint and conviction in the singing while the band provides a sprite, marauding groove, to the classic blues shouting brought on by Scott Mathiasen on Freddy King's "Tore Down" ( written by Sonny Thompson), a snappy and strutting shuffle highlighting the singer’s grand and soulful rasp over the percolating ensemble. Shelle Blue’s reading of “W-O-M-A-N” , composed by Dorothy Hawkins, Abbey Mallory, Jean Mitchell and Jamesetta Rogers, is a sexy and assertive response to the male-point of view of “I’m A Man”, reminding everyone in the room that women are full partners in the life they have with their mates. The B.B. King arrangement of “Rock me Baby” is sufficiently growled, groaned and soulful as rendered by Deanna Haala’s declarative voice .
Michele Lundeen’s vocal on the blues -torch song ballad “That’s Why I’m Crying” (composed by Samuel Maghett) brings a hint of the sassy earnestness of Eartha Kitt to the testifying. Riker’s guitar fills and his solo on this tune, incidentally, are quite thrilling, responding to the highs and lows of Lundeen’s matchless singing.Singer and guitarist create unbearable tension until Riker cuts loose with a bravura solo, eloquent and slashing. The solo is an exquisite showcase of two-fisted blues work, as is , in point of fact, the entirety of Blues Lightning. Buy the record and do as I do and place the disc on while having your morning coffee. Twenty minutes of that in the A.M. and I am ready to seize the day.