the giddy vol. 4 - the christmas edition

what could be better than christmas music?  here are my favorite moments from the best stuff on the planet...

brian mcknight home for the holidays - bethlehem
i kid you not - the byline for this photo claims that brian can "sing your mother out of her panties".  no thanks.  he's got a great voice and an equally good ear, doing work with his family from take 6 and banging out tunes on the piano.  i don't really care for the entire album, but this track is fun. i like the organ and could use more volume in the backs when the parts split in the chorus.  i can't resist doing the air cue when the drums come in up front, but my favorite part is the synth brass part in the chorus, occurring first at 1:00.

whitney houston do you hear what i hear - a very special christmas
make no mistake about it - girlfriend can turn it out.  early whitney (you know, before she got all coked out with the king of r&b) is some of the best pop stuff out there.  her voice is so easy and clear, and she's got that bottom jaw vibrato thing mastered.  i like the drag snare figure that persists throughout and dig the key change you can see from a mile away.  her ad libs are wonderful.  my favorite part on this track is at 2:12, when i don my choir robe and sing "peace" with the background singers smack dab on beat 2.

take 6 & stevie wonder o thou that tellest good tidings to zion 
this is seriously one of the most amazing recordings of music that i have ever heard.  the ears on these guys are unfathomable, and our hero steveland morris wrecks shop on lead vocals.  take 6 sounds ridiculous here, with incredibly smooth voice leading and clever hemiolas.  their phrasing is impeccable, providing a backdrop from which stevie can absolutely dominate.  this track, from the quincy jones handel's messiah cornucopia of r&b artists, possesses so many wonderful moments.  i appreciate the dynamic contours in the backs, love the reverb on the snaps, lip sync the "ooh-ah, ah-ooh", dig the scoops, but get my mind blown by stevie with a lick that starts at 3:17 and finishes with a swallowed angst-riddled belt at 3:24.  it gets no better, folks.

bruce springsteen santa claus is coming to town - my hometown
i remember first hearing this on Q102 while jamming out in my cracker box bedroom.  i convinced my dad to drive me to the store so i could buy this single on 45 with my paper route money.  this particular cut began my infatuation with live recordings.  i'm not a big bruce springsteen fan per se (but my kids turned me on to this video about the boss).  the jingle bells are a nice touch, the snare on 4 up front feels good, and the dynamic drop at 3:09 is cool, but my favorite part hits at 3:49 when bruce is so overcome with the giggles that he can't finish the last riff into the out chorus.

frank sinatra jingle bells 
this cut is a favorite of our family.  simon and sonja danced together by christmas light one memorable evening, and it was the most precious thing i have witnessed.  i like frank just fine, but we are collectively more into the background singers.  i like the wordless back lines they sing after the second verse, and dig frank's swing feel in the chorus that follows, but our favorite part happens at 1:33 when frank joins the singers as they spell out the title of the tune.

andrea bocelli adeste fidelis - my christmas
this dude kills.  we heard this version of the holiday staple last december while we sat through the credits of that jim carrey 3d animation movie.  andrea sounds tremendous, and my favorite part hands down is the high f# he sings for 24 (!!!) seconds.  i spread my arms out wide and try to sing along, but a) don't sound near as good, b) can't hold my arms out for that long, and c) need an oxygen tank by the end.

hall & oates it came upon a midnight clear - home for christmas
i would be forever elated if i could sing like daryl hall (and would shoot myself in the face if i looked like john oates, especially post trademark mustache).  this pair of pop music sensations have become caricatures of themselves, their legend strengthening in an underground fashion, but there is absolutely no denying how prolific they were and continue to be.  i was overwhelmed with joy and had to sit down in the worn out couch at the public library when i noticed that they have a christmas album.  i love the acoustic guitar, the egg shaker, the reverb, and the string orchestra.  this is the type of arrangement that makes impossible for me to hear this tune any other way.  my favorite part is the way that daryl hall flips into his falsetto at 1:39.  so tender, so intimate, so perfect for that spot in the tune.

my sister and i grew up listening to this record overdriving the speakers on our parents' modest stereo every holiday season.  my favorite singer of all time is dolly parton (with bjork and nat cole tied for second place), and both she and kenny sing their tails off all over this album.  i dig this track in particular, although i'll agree that the video is pretty corny. the best part hits at 2:44 when the backup vocals appear out of nowhere and push that sus chord out of its displacement and into the denouement before the hook revs back up.  i literally held my breath while watching this video the first time, wondering as the time elapsed in the progress bar if the clip would last long enough to get to that spot.

want more giddy?      volume 1     volume 2     volume 3


over and over and over again

i believe in establishing continuity in my music while pushing my creative envelope tirelessly.  i am ok with constantly retreading my musical path, but not at the expense of chasing new ideas.  i have certain sounds that i like from particular musical sources.  i’m not big on learning patterns and licks because, seriously, who cares that you memorized a formula in all 12 keys and are ready to pull the trigger at any moment.  however, i am intrigued with various intervals and the design of improvised lines, so i may try to cop the gist of something and infuse it into my playing.  i continue to attempt balancing spontaneity through improvisation while codifying my own vocabulary.  bean, bird, and trane all did this.  

i also think it’s valuable for bands to pound out the same landmarks in the set list.  this marketing tactic gives people something to look forward to and keeps them engaged.  when pat metheny took his 99-00 trio out, they started most gigs with bright size life.  fans of the bad plus waited impatiently for the power trio to play their rendition of smells like teen spirit by nirvana.  a quartet i led in college would always close each gig with mo’ better blues, signaling the end of the show.  pop/rock acts often suffer from this beast that they built.  bob seger was just in town, and i’m sure the crowd wouldn’t let him leave until he busted out old time rock and roll (and probably slipped him a sucret when he graveled his way through we've got tonight).   

christmas around our house is full of tradition.  we run the same annual protocol when we decorate the crib for the holidays, yet manage to work in a new wrinkle or two to break the monotony.   first thing's first - we make our way out to flowerama, pick out a good looking tree, snap a picture with it, then try to jam it into the back of our stationwagon.

then we put on some christmas hats, crank the holiday jams, open up the big green tubs of ornaments, and go to town.  

next, we assemble our willow tree nativity collection on top of our china hutch while talking over the story of christmas (mary, joseph, and them other jokers).  the real fun starts afterwards, trying to remember which animals go in which box.  

when the weather is cooperating, me and the boys hang up lights all over the outside of our house.  each year, we augment our display with the least tacky item we can agree on. this year, we picked up an inflatable elf and nailed him to the front of our house.  score one for the kids.

we're a quirky family, building our foundation on keeping inside jokes, possessing memories like elephants, and never getting rid of dilapidated decorations.  the singing penguins are my favorite.  they are a mix of dollar general and schoenberg.  dig the shifting tonal centers!  we won this trio at a faculty christmas party.  people usually regift stuff like this at the next holiday soiree, but not us.  that would erode the very core of who we are.  enjoy...


the giddy vol. 3.

freddie hubbard hoe down - blues & the abstract truth
what a great tune!!!  i'm an eric dolphy nut and went through a period where i was gobbling up every audio treat i could find.  the lineup on this record is fascinating (evans, haynes, pc, oliver), and freddie hubbard's blue collar trumpet playing plays the foil to my hero.  this tune is often the stepchild to the popular stolen moments, yet is undoubtedly the best chart on the set.  my favorite part showcases freddie's persistent pursuit of the line as he pushes into his second chorus at 1:16.  he knocks, knocks, knocks, and won't be denied as he kicks down the door to a 9 bar lick stacked with vintage hard bop vocab.  eric's alto solo that follows is delightfully urgent. this album is a must have.

guillermo klein miula - filtros
i stumbled upon this record through my perusings of do the math, the blogging podium for pianist ethan iverson.  i admire the bad plus, respect ethan's knowledge, and follow his threads when i can.  this band is chock full of great players (cheek, monder, mchenry, zenon, ballard) which made it even more alluring.  i'm not big into latin music, but this record kills.  my favorite part follows the trombone solo at 3:53 with a 7/4 pointillistic that does some taffy pull metronomic modulation (that i still don't understand) for about 45 seconds.  i dig that it makes musical sense and is not stuck in there for the "hey look, i can do snazzy things with counting that you ain't up on" effect.

wynton marsalis chelsea bridge - tony bennett sings ellington
i bought the this tony bennett album strictly for educational purposes, and was pleasantly surprised when i noticed that one of my favorite tunes had made the list.  chelsea bridge is full of great harmonies, reeking of strayhorn.  i was all geared up to hear tony croon with orchestra on this gorgeous number, yet became struck with an ill tummy when i heard the polarizing wynton marsalis plunging his way through the melody.  he's a tremendous trumpeter but can be a real ass. nonetheless, he sounds incredible on this cut.  great pitch, unparalleled control, stylistically on point.  my favorite part is the way he finishes the form proper at 3:13 by going all 8va on it.  i could live without the gritty cadenza that follows soon thereafter, so i usually race back to my stereo and hit stop before that part.  childish, i know, but hey...

hank mobley remember - soul station
hank sure does have the smoothest sound.  so even, so calculated.  it took me forever to get into his playing. i'm not a big fan of the era from which he hails, because the tunes were always a big turnoff.  one of my private students (who can really blow) turned me on to this record, and this tune in particular.  hank sounds great on the whole side. it's rare for me to have listened to an entire album.  usually i get buried in the first couple of cuts, which is where this track lies.  my favorite part is the way that he wraps around to the top of the next chorus at 1:31. hank mobley is the billy dee williams of tenor saxophone.

frank morgan all the things you are - major changes
my folks are not music people.  my mom is a retired lunch lady who loves the beatles, probably equally for their singable tunes and their cutesy mop top haircuts.  my dad is a retired truck driver who made us listen to financial advice from talk show legend bruce williams that he had recorded on cassette. nobody in my family stuck the silver spoon of music in my mouth, so there was a high level of aimless energy when i expressed significant interest in playing music.  my parents were in omaha one weekend, popped into a record store to buy me a poster of a saxophone and heard this album on the speakers.  my mom picked it up, brought it home, and put it on the record player.  i fell in love with frank's sound, yearning and searching while fighting back the tears of heartache.  my favorite moment on this cut occurs at 4:51 on the out head.  i love the way frank gets to the high E. i do the bridge this way every time i play the tune, tipping my cap to frank morgan (and no, this guy is not the wizard of oz).

dave douglas penelope - the infinite
musically speaking, i think dave douglas may have saved my life.  i first heard him on in our lifetime and myra melford's above blue, then witnessed him soon thereafter at the sanctuary with his string quartet (feldman, friedlander, cohen, sarin).  his originality was the final nail in my coffin, ultimately convincing me that there was something appealing about improvised music.  he is a creative windstorm, although sometimes over saturated with projects (most of which i sponsor with my hard earned bucks).  this album is an homage to miles, and this tune fuses two tunes (miles runs the voodoo down and boplicity) into one.  i dig the way uri caine's rhodes blankets the background.   my favorite moment rears its head at 3:05 when, after the band concludes the first statement of the cool melody, dave drives out of the history books and into a refreshing new edition of jazz music.

i felt like i had finally struck gold when i first heard bruce hornsby. his piano playing has the type of clarity that i prefer, and the tunes had just enough feel-good country vibe with musical twists.  his vocals were always cool, and the harmonies fit my falsetto fine and dandy.  this is one of his lesser known tunes, in the shadows of the way it is (and the subsequent tupac track).  i played and sang this tune for swing choir auditions in high school. why didn't someone stop me?  the video here leaves a lot to be desired, including jack nicholson behind the kit, the phony clarinet solo, the dx-7, and bruce's cuffed sleeves.  nonetheless, my favorite part surfaces at 3:50 when bruce bangs out those four As back to back (belly to belly, it's a zombie jamboree!!!)

the giddy vol. 1   the giddy vol. 2