Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Miles Davis - Jean Pierre (Live in Montreal 1985)

Got Miles on the mind...

This sing-songy little melody was one he used often in his later years. Like a lot of the short motifs he came up with to use as a foundation for improvising, it's not as simple as it sounds. This band knows what to do with it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greenwald on the US Media's Coverage of Foreign Affairs

The one sometimes referred to as Glennzilla explains how to tell enemies from friends. Once it's all laid out like this, it seems pretty clear.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Miles Davis - Baby Won't You Please Come Home

When Mr. Davis left the planet on this date in 1991, he left behind a body of recorded work so large that it would take a good part of anyone's life to hear it all, just like it took him to create it. Case in point: "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" is a ballad that doesn't appear on any of his best-of compilations, but it blows me away. There's one moment when the logic that an ordinary soloist would follow when constructing a solo would require that he blow a quick run of several notes -- instead he plays two notes, quietly. Genius. Recorded in Hollywood, California on April 16, 1963, with Victor Feldman on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Frank Butler on drums.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Frank Rich On Obama's Choices in Afghanistan

The Timesman lays it out. One thing that occurred to me reading this article: Obama may never get to do many of the things that he might have, because he's going to have to spend so much time and energy on the messes that Bush left behind.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Comedian Harmonists - Creole Love Call

Pre-Nazi Germany's favorite vocal group perform Duke Ellington. Everything that sounds like a horn is actually a human voice. And, if you're curious, there was a film made about the group in 1997.

Recorded in Berlin, September 1933.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Butthole Surfers - The One I Love

Psychedelic Texans cover REM in front of a group of human beings. Note the Gibbytronics at the end.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trevor Rhone and "The Harder They Come"

If you're not familiar with the name Trevor Rhone, that's not unusual. But he was a key figure in a cultural touchstone of the last fifty years.

When the movie The Harder They Come was released in 1972, it did much to raise awareness of reggae music, as well as Jamaican culture in general, throughout the world. Trevor Rhone was one of the two screenwriters, but the only black Jamaican of the two. When you watch the trailer below, notice that much of what we see is about community, a vibrant world in which the story is set, that is in some ways more important to the movie than the plot. Trevor Rhone, British-trained but a native Jamaican, was well-placed to serve as a bridge between his homeland and the outside world. He made the most of the opportunity. He spent most of his life as a playwright in Jamaica, placed within, celebrating, and reflecting his community.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Danny Gatton & Joey DeFrancesco - Well, You Needn't

I think I've posted a track before of B3-meister Joey DeFrancesco with guitarist John McLaughlin. Here he is with Master of the Telecaster Danny Gatton, doing Thelonius Monk's "Well, You Needn't."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Red Foley - Peace In The Valley

There are lots of things to say about Red Foley: that "Peace in the Valley" was the first million-selling gospel record, that he was the first country singer to record in Nashville, that he was Pat Boone's father-in-law, that he has two stars on the Hollywood walk of fame, that he died on this date forty-one years ago (thanks, Wikipedia!) -- but for this song let's just note two things. First, Foley sang this song at Hank Williams's funeral. Second, this recording is about as good an example of America's tortured race relations as you will ever encounter. "Peace in the Valley" was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, sometimes called the "father of gospel music," for Mahalia Jackson. Foley's vocal inflections are clearly based on those found in African-American gospel music. Was Foley stealing? Or did he truly love this song so much that he felt that to not copy, to instead "whiten," would in itself be disrespectful? My own feeling is that to see it as an either/or choice doesn't work, but then I'm familiar with the work of Eric Lott. I've noticed that not everyone is. It would be nice if more people were.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Belly Button Window -- Jimi Hendrix Cover

To commemorate the date on which JMH left the planet, a tribute. This guy obviously loves the song, and never overdoes it. The fact that he doesn't bother to fake an American accent, and that the video is homemade, just add to the appeal for me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

RIP Mary Travers

An underrated voice. Here is a live recording of PP&M's version of the old song "The Water is Wide," with Paul on guitar, Peter playing alto recorder, Dick Kniss on bass, and Mary in front of thousands of people singing solo.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Krugman on Why the Stimulus is Not Enough, Part 3

Krugman has been doing some research.

So we’re something like 8 percent below where we should be. That translates into lost output at a rate of well over a trillion dollars per year (as well as mass unemployment). And we’ll keep suffering those losses, even if GDP is now growing, until we have enough growth to close that gap. Since there’s nothing in the data or anecdotal evidence suggesting any gap-closing in progress, this is a continuing tragedy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll RIP

So this is the obvious choice now that Jim Carroll has died, but sometimes the obvious choice is the right one.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frank Rich On Obama vs. Drama

Frank Rich, a former drama critic, looks for a little more clearly expressed passion from the central onstage character.

Health care reform, while an overdue imperative, still is overshadowed in existential urgency by the legacies of the two devastating cataclysms of the Bush years, 9/11 and 9/15, both of whose anniversaries we now mark. The crucial matters left unresolved in the wake of New York’s two demolished capitalist icons, the World Trade Center and Lehman Brothers, are most likely to determine both this president’s and our country’s fate in the next few years. Both have been left to smolder in the silly summer of ’09.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

George Jones - The Grand Tour

Happy birthday to George Jones, seventy-eight today. What a voice. "The Grand Tour" is, in a sense, the counterpart to his former spouse Tammy Wynette's song "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Anniversary

Recalcitrant computer, so minimal post. Just a note that for anyone who was alive that day, this date will never again be ordinary.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Elvis Costello - New Amsterdam

"New Amsterdam" has been one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs since I first heard it. It was on the Stax-flavored Get Happy! album, but stood out as being much more low-key than the other tracks. I love the bass line in the chorus.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Krugman on the Public Option

Before the president speaks tonight, Krugman discusses the key sticking point in health care reform. In a nutshell: sooner or later Democrats have to take a stand against Reaganism — against the presumption that if the government does it, it’s bad.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Muddy Electric Mud

Recently got the Muddy Waters album Electric Mud, which has the reputation of being a disaster but which Chuck D among others has praised in recent years. It is an odd mix: in 1968 the young Marshall Chess, son of Leonard, decided that Muddy should be recorded in an "up-to-date" setting, i.e., quasi-psychedelic guitars and pounding beats. The results are...interesting. One thing to note is that Muddy is on form -- whatever the drawbacks of the final result, Muddy's vocals are strong and sure.

For my money, the best two songs are the only really new ones. (Of the eight tracks, five are re-recordings of songs that Muddy had done before, and one is a Rolling Stones cover.) Here's "Herbert Harper's Free Press News," complete with 1968-style title.

In addition, here's one of the musicians talking about the recording of the album, along with Howlin' Wolf's contemporaneous and similar The Howlin' Wolf Album.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Krugman on Economics as a Field of Study: Past, Present, and Whatever the Hell Comes Next

The maestro talks about his profession, and manages to make things clear without saying, "I told you so." Be aware that it's an NYTimes magazine article, and therefore pretty long.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Randy Newman - I Miss You

Breaking the unwritten rule to not post the same artist two days in a row unless there's a good reason, here's some more Randy Newman. For no good reason other than that I was thinking about this song. Love gone wrong...sigh.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Randy Newman - Texas Girl At The Funeral Of Her Father

Yesterday I was thinking about my family, and remembering my mother's mother. This song is dedicated to her memory.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Sort of Koan

Remember two things:

Life is too short to waste time trying to get everything perfect.

And, life is too difficult to be able to get away with being even a little bit sloppy.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Django Reinhardt with Stephane Grappelli - Sweet Georgia Brown

Along with the rest of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. For some reason the last fifty-five seconds is silence.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

RIP Larry Knechtel

When I started this blog, I didn't think I'd be doing so many "In Memoriam" posts, but there you go, the future always remains unpredictable. Today we acknowledge the passing of Larry Knechtel, session musician extraordinaire, who contributed to so many songs in the sixties and seventies that it would be impractical to list even a portion of them. But that's what a session musician does, play sessions, hitting about three a day on average, if the work is there. Do that a few years and you've done thousands of recording sessions. Some of them may be big hits.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the best session musicians is versatility, the ability to be proficient on several instruments. For instance, you probably wouldn't guess that the same person who played the prominent bass part on this song also did the prominent piano part on this song (in fact the piano is almost the only instrument for the first two-thirds of the song). I certainly didn't know it. So take a moment to remember Larry Knechtel, who wasn't famous enough to have his death make headlines on August 20, but whose work you've probably been hearing all your life.