rtr: we the common

thao & the get down stay down
this was one of those cheap album lures that amazon threw up on their mp3 page, twisting enticingly in front of me while subliminally whispering “sink your teeth into this and, while you’re here, one-click your way to a hundred bucks-worth of stuff you think you need”.  the samples sounded great.  i like that there is a body of work from which to draw, and her association with the creative fountain that is radiolab.  plus, the name of the supporting group is out of sight, on par with ornette & prime time and bruce hornsby & the range.
me and this paper abe lincoln took the plunge. 

thao is sitting around my right ear.  i assume that ‘the get down stay down’ is hanging out moreso in my western aural hemisphere.  is this a conscious decision to present them as two entities through the panning, or do I mistakenly have the right channel goosed?  i really dig her voice and i’m not afraid to admit that i am probably missing the lyrical poignancy.  i usually do.  this first tune is in bite size pieces, which fits my attention capacity like a glove. 

i like the funky intonation in the loose call & response backs around the 1:50 mark of age of ice.  it reminds me of how some treat the lyric on that gershwin tune the same way – “the way you sing off key”.  i’m in favor of the effects on the vocals, treating them same as the instrumentalists tweak & tweez their weapons.  and i'm feeling thao's unison backing tracks, preserving that human element while letting you know this is not some studio project.  close but no cigar. 

holy roller sounds great.  what a hook!!!  i appreciate not getting beat over the head with repeated emphasis of the chorus.   if you let me digest the music on my own, i can come back up in due time and tell you if I like it or not.  all of these tunes weigh in under four minutes.  i like the compositional efficiency and look forward to hearing this material live.   this album reminds me of the fiery furnaces.  when I saw them in concert (thank you joel), some of the tunes stuck to their brevity while others opened up for both the musicians and the audience. 

this interchangeability should be used more liberally in the jazz world.  just because the form rolls over every 32 bars and you didn’t get it all out on six whacks doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to budge back in line for a seventh.  some blame aebersold playalongs for this.  they play a bunch of choruses of a standard, and folks practice ideas and improvising strategies along with the rhythm section recording.  fine - but playing live ought to consider the flow of the set and the kickback of the listeners and the awareness to what the music bubble surrounding the musician needs.  pretty sure it’s not another selfish chorus of retribution.

“you are good at what you do, you are bad at what you are”

i love the trumpet fallout in move, and now the bowed bass - supa dupa low vibe of clouds for brains.  cheers to going for an effect instead some brilliant orchestral execution.  there are times and places for all wonderful things in the world of art, and that balance gets out of whack without quirky and technical and systematic and heartfelt abstracts firing on all cylinders.  this is a great record for my head.


the giddy vol. 11 - father's day edition

cannonball adderley one for daddy-o somethin' else 
this tune reeks of quintessential cannonball.  time to stretch, space to burn, moments for heavy vibe.  i don't really care for too many alto players, but cannonball is always somebody i have in mind when i forage through hard bop settings.  his sound is full of joy and tenacity, and the tunes he sits within most comfortably allow him to shine.

big daddy kane i get the job done - it's a big daddy thing
i'm not sure i ever really thought kane was a good rapper, but damn this is one smooth character.  great stage name, cool album titles, and clever analogies (seriously - who do you know that can work debarge and calgon into the same verse?) the self-proclaimed "tasty side order" is still getting it done, as witnessed on the dave chappelle block party flick.

ricky skaggs my father's son - brand new strings
i've always loved that nasal diphthong bag from which ricky skaggs sits & spins.  the smooth blend of simplicity and complexity found in good bluegrass music has given me a musical second wind.  i am becoming obsessed with figuring out how to make it work in my own musical pursuits.  the sentiment of these lyrics reflecting my upbringing is an obvious bonus.

johnny cash daddy sang bass - live at san quentin
i love johnny cash's deep rolling voice and the earnest delivery he unabashedly lays out alongside his western swagger.  i doubly love the irony that my daddy, a fun-loving tone-deaf trucker, can't hold a tune in a bucket.  don't make me no never mind.  i love him just the same (and get plenty of comic relief from his occasional singing performances).

marilyn crispell little song for my father - vignettes
this is such a beautiful album.  i learned of marilyn through her work with the braxton quartet.  i took a chance on this ecm cut, and it does not disappoint.  her solo inventions are hauntingly captivating.  i can feel her touch through my headphones, and am led through her thought process in the same way that mahler and hindemith welcomed their listeners.

bennie wallace big jim does the tango for you
my old jazz teacher hipped me to bennie's big swinging bite. dave holland and elvin jones round out the trio.  bennie has a captivating vertical sensibility and an obvious working knowledge of old school sultry tenor playing.  he combines dolphy's up & down game with ben webster's breathy shakes at the end of phrases.  refreshing.

george michael father figure - faith
i love love love this tune.  i went through a big george michael phase back in junior high.  i remember buying the "faith" cassette from k-mart (complete with the extra unnecessary plastic comb appendage), only to have my mom turn me back around and return it immediately.  the video is so great.  we did a 3x5 indian raga version of this classic.  


rtr: le sacre du printemps

i'm sitting at a picnic table beneath an outdoor overhang at the park, waiting for simon to finish a summer basketball session.  i really need to shower.  the cool wind feels good on my oily skin, which is acting like a protective sheath. good thing nobody is out here looking at me, aside from the thankfully uninterested parks & rec people.

i’ve never heard this complete work before.  i like stravinsky’s writing; his use of color combinations, adventurous lines, crafty harmonic movement, and drive.  there is a lot of music I’ve never heard – an embarrassing amount, actually.  this is the summer i get even further out of my box and embrace the world around me.  yesterday was me learning how to shoot while my son drives the car in his new “fast and furious” xbox game.  today is rite of spring.

my faves, the bad plus, are doing a version of this for their trio.  i want to hear the real deal before learning their reimagination.  i know a bunch of old school soul music from hip hop samples, and want to dig around and understand the musical origins of other things along with their path traveled.  bill evans said that those who look furthest into the future are also reaching the furthest back into the past.  establish a balance, get informed, and take action (but don’t wait around for this magic recipe to show itself).

harbingers of spring - i really like the immediate and challenging use of the winds.  this primal string rhythm throbs, firmly establishing a vibe for the entire work.  go flutes!!!  I like the bow attacks on the strings, the passing lines that require you to really count and see the continuation of the idea.  reminds me of wayne gretzky, talking about how he became a hockey whiz. the great one 
separated himself from the pack by being able to see three plays ahead.  bobby fischer would tell his opponents that they should forfeit instead of getting beat. 

spring khorovod - man, I bet brass players like playing this.  everybody probably likes playing this.  cool bottom lines in the lower woodwinds.  robust advanced counterpoint to the floaty string chorus and the obligatory french horn passages.  why do they get all the good parts?  blasty brass always sounds good when it doesn’t splatter and sacrifice pitch.  
CSO has got that on lock.  pedal in the flutes while woodwinds transition into games of the rival tribes.  inventive.

i love the moving parts within.  i started out singing in vocal jazz and, as much as I hated the actual singing part, i fell for certain arrangers (gene puerling, clare fischer, the take six guys) that would actually give something to the tenors and altos.  it keeps the players engaged, the audience fighting for detailed understanding, and all insisting upon repeated performances and listens.

wise elder - damn, this one is cool.  great rhythmic articulations, counting, dramatic percussion lines, heavy (in the head) shift to dense ideas at the sacrifice: introduction.  so far, the rhythmic stuff and the thickness, stick-to-your-ribs ensemble writing is carrying the work.  the meat is usually found in melodic heroics, but that has yet to carry me through.  and – news flash – CSO is pretty good.  woah.  i bet ozawa is gearing up for his second wind in this movement.  not that you take any plays off so to speak, but the orchestra can shape these phrases and cover you while you rehydrate and get back in to the game.  

mystic circles of the young girls – beautiful round lush playing in the upper strings.  alto flute?  woodwinds huddle up and attack again.  here come the strings, finally getting a brief sniff of the action.  great writing, crunchy voicings.  passing around the short melodic idea, allowing it to naturally adjust with the new orchestratioi pairings. 

glorification of the chosen victim – here comes the gist of the opening material, with a new twist.  this is amazing.  how have I not heard this before?  the slips in the high voices, the emphatically argumentative response in the middle voices, the deep sawing by the bass section.  so good.  tribal, african, comprehensive.  i wonder how many times people played these lines for stravinsky, with different lineups and players, so he could evaluate and hear new things and revise?  thank goodness there wasn’t a finale playback to kill the creative juices needed for such a seminal work as this.

time is flying by in this work.  i usually steer clear of longer pieces because i stink at focusing for big stretches of time, but this is cruising through my ears.  bass clarinet is hard, so i’m appreciating the music and the musicianship with both barrels.  and i’m a sucker for pizzicato, especially when it is accentuated with percussion that isn’t overbearing. 

stravinsky is allowing you to join him for the climax, not giving it away or shoving it down your throat.  I’m buying it hook, line, and sinker.  slow play.  quick crests in the cymbals and matching dynamic crescendos in the brass cumulate to take you to the top.  love the quick flute ditty and half-hearted string tremolo before getting whapped over the head with the final blow.

this recording of CSO with seiji ozawa (who i thought only conducted boston) belongs to the wife.  i am lucky to have a built-in cross disciplinary library and real life resource to open my eyes to new music.  i need to know my stuff better, but want to know everyone else’s simultaneously.  visual, theatrical, literary, musical, philosophical.  it’s a big world out there and a short life we lead.  giddyup.


maple bacon

various media sources have hit me with the alert: today is national donut/doughnut day.  i didn't know this was a thing. is this a thing?  i've read that the first friday of every june is the day dedicated to an only-in-america holiday.  i rolled up to my favorite place in town and doubled up on my breakfast dessert (and one for the wife, who figured she'd celebrate right along with me).

i can only eat them on occasion; a special pick-me-up for when life is kicking my butt, or when i have actually overcome some minor obstacle that has nagged me for too long.  donuts are my kryptonite.  coupled with my middle age metabolism, i'd be the size of a house if i ate them on a regular basis.  my friend jackie works at the hy-vee bakery here in town, and she is the size of a twig.  how does she do it?  i used to work at cinnabon, and now can't bear to choke another one down.  maybe she overdosed on donuts?  what an awful life to live...

i usually need just one donut to curb my cravings.  i eat it slowly, allowing all five senses to go haywire.  this infrequent yummy reminds me of the incredible taste, the delicate texture, the buzz in my forehead from an instant sugar rush, and how much better the coffee is as it washes the sweet remnants down my throat.  (i predictably make a beeline for the bathroom about 15 minutes later, but that's probably too much information to share with you.)

sometimes teaching music gets me away from listening to music for pleasure.  i am often checking out youtube links that someone has suggested (like the sun ra clip from sanborn's night music below), singles off their ipod (like these tracks from mudvayne) and copies of stuff that people think i should check out.  i listen critically, evaluating the material, searching for strategies of how i can incorporate these sounds into my playing, wondering why i was made aware of this particular song - did they simply want to share the sounds or do they think it's right up my alley?

every time i hear chris potter play live, i only need one song.  i remember checking out his quartet at the dakota jazz club a handful of years ago.  i was sitting really close. potter played his first tune - okinawa - and it was amazing. his tone was balanced, his ideas fresh, and his masterful agility was on point.  i was ready to split.  my wife told me "hey, we paid for these seats, we should at least make it through the first set."  i'm glad we did, of course, but was completely satisfied with just one snapshot of his artistry.

best donuts in the world?  i just ate my two culinary delights from dutch oven bakery, an old school joint that blows away the competition.  my crew likes "hot now" glazed donuts at krispy kreme, and will hit them up whenever they are in sight. our family's top pick is voodoo donuts in portland, or.  last summer we flew into seattle and, once we secured the rental, drove 175 miles to this donut shop.  that box of goodness we called lunch was totally worth it.