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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Program notes for the May 10, 2014 Unpopular Music webcast

The blog seems to have gotten away from “top [fill-in-the-blank] of [today's date]” format, which was really the format of the (off-line) music journal I'd been keeping for myself, largely as a writing exercise (itself, largely as an effort to “just do something”). The process of singling out a song, or two, or five, or whatever to write about has largely been replaced by adding said two-to-whatever songs to the playlist for the next webcast. So now, to get some more writing done, and, let's face it, create some more “content” for the blog, I'm going to try (at least this week) to write some “program notes” for the webcast.

I first heard Katie Lee singing Real Sick Sounds on a compilation called “Beat Jazz - Pictures from the Gone World volume 2” and enjoyed it's depiction of the lover of dissonant and off-beat music. Further research led me to the album “Songs of Couch and Consultation” a sort-of song cycle of psychologically themed songs which also include The Will to Fail, the Guilty Rag, Shrinker Man, and others, collectively a hoot-and-a-holler.

The main tune and the vamp that proceeds it from Inside Straight by Naked City always put me in mind of a late-night talk show theme. I swore upon first hearing it that if I ever had my own late-night talk show, this would be my theme. Since this is about as close as I'm ever going to get, here it is.

Bookioni features half of the great Steve Lacy sextet in a rollicking performance. The album Bye-Ya was released posthumously (hence the title, OK, Monk's tune of that name is on there, too) but I'm not sure if referring to it as “one of his last recordings” is correct. The recording is from 1996, and Lacy lived until June 4, 2004. The discography at Wikipedia lists another twenty or so titles after this, so I guess I'm wrong.

I'm not sure how I first came across Tony Malaby's album Novela. The combination of tightly arranged medium sized ensemble and ripping improvisation is (hopefully obvious from the show) one of my favorite things. I was developing an interest in the pianist Kris Davis, who handles the arrangements here, and that probably had something to do with it.

The Giants of Jazz tour seemed to be a marriage of convenience for those involved; In 1972, bebop was sort of passe, what with all the various fusions getting all of the attention, so this economy sized package of legends (Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Al McKibbon, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt and Kai Winding) was probably an offer the musicians could not refuse. According to Robin DG Kelley's biography, Monk didn't get along with Dizzy all that well, felling Dizzy exploited his ideas without giving him enough credit. 'Round Midnight is one of Monk's more engaged efforts on the record, and Dizzy’s playing over the standard introduction is quite something. This is (definitely) one of Monk's last recordings, despite his living for about another ten years.

I first heard Harvey Averne's arrangement of The Word (originally on the Beatles' Rubber Soul album) as a sample on Cutting It Up from Tom Caruana's Wu-Tang Clan vs. the Beatles mash-up album Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers. Looking up the album, Viva Soul, also revealed it to contain the source of Terry Reilly's early tape piece You're Nogood. Otherwise, Averne was unknown to me until I heard him sitting in with DJ Trouble on WFMU where he and his cohort Joe Battan reminisced about their development of the Latin Soul sound in the late-sixties. (They'll be on her show again Tuesday, May 20)

Steve Lacy's Napping (with his famous long-running Sextet this time) features some lovely rhapsodic piano from Bobby Few. It's too bad I didn't think to match this up with the Liszt piece (les Jeaux d'Eaux a la Villa d'Este) from last week's show.

This Julius Hemphill piece is the kind of thing that represents my anti-genre arguments. Now, I often say that genre is mostly useful for knowing where to find a record in the store, literally or figuratively. As for the literal problem, this was released by Tzadik records, a jazz label, but in its “composer series”, which bills itself as “new concert works exploring and exploding the world of classical concert music”, so off to the classical department for you. So it's a mostly written-out piece by a jazz musician, played by jazz musicians, but getting labeled as classical, which ends up being ignored by both camps. Which is too bad because “Water Music” as some stunning sounds, arranged for a variety of woodwind instruments in Hemphill's distinctive dissonant-yet-lyrical vocabulary.

Bill Buford's Feels Good to Me was an album I discovered in high school and held a certain influence over me at the time. It brought me forward from the kind of progressive rock that Bruford had played in Yes and King Crimson to the jazzier material here, more harmonically and rhythmically complex. It was also one of the few records I could find featuring Allan Holdsworth on guitar at a time when his greatness was being talked about everywhere and taken for granted, but no one seemed to have ever actually heard him play. The vocal and lyrical contributions by Annette Peacock on Adios a la Pasada and a couple of other tracks were something else all together, I didn't quite know what to make of them. The range of delivery from speech-song to full out belting were impressive, as was the Zen wisdom of this song in particular. It's a song that's always been a favorite.

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