Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Arranger/composer special pt.1: Johnny Richards, Gigi Gryce, Quincy Jones

In the heyday of swing a lot of the bands had similar repertoire - the tunes the public wanted to hear. What made a band stand out was how they played it. It was not the star soloist that made the band, but the person who put the spotlight on the soloist: the composer and the arranger. Really? - you say, - the arranger? who cares about the arranger? Look at Ellington's orchestra. After going solo, none of his former stars - Johnny Hodges, Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, - ever achieved artistic heights comparable to their work in the Duke's orchestra. Duke's (and Strayhorn's) writing highlighted their special talents and hid their shortcomings.
In the search for the ever-smoother, most commercial sound, a lot of swing music became completely scripted. That prompted the backlash of bop and the following styles that focused more on the improvised, spontaneous communal music creation. The pendulum swung back, and some say it went too far: the music industry found it easy to package and sell the myth of the dissipated genius (Bird), the lonely visionary (Trane), the jazz version of a rock star (Miles) - each image quite fascinating, but still incidental to the music itself. Of course, our celebrity-centered culture swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. The idea of superiority of improvisation over anything and everything else gradually spread from the recording company promos to the listening public to the musicians and jazz educators, and lead to the stagnation of the style. A million young musicians in a hundred thousand jazz classes play the same Real Book tunes in the same head-solo-solo-solo-trade fours-head format as they played forty years ago.

However, there was a time before jazz got run over by the thousand little Coltranes, a time when the pendulum stood just right, a time of bold experiments that fell through the cracks. Fifties were the time when that perfect balance between writing and improvisation was briefly found again. I would like to present today two artifacts from that era, two albums that put the improvising virtuoso's wild flights of fancy within a framework of carefully thought-out, painstakingly constructed arrangements, two collaborations between a writer and an interpreter, each greater than the sum of the parts.

The star soloist on the first one is Art Farmer, one of my favorite trumpet players. While writing this post, I realized that a lot of his best work were collaborations with master writers/arrangers - see his Jazztet LPs with Benny Golson or his Baroque Sketches album (+ +). As the name suggests, here he "Plays the Arrangements and Compositions of Gigi Gryce and Quincy Jones." From liners:
Quincy went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood while Gigi dropped out to anonymity of the Long Island education system before he died in his native Florida in 1983.

Art Farmer Plays the Arrangements and Compositions of Gigi Gryce and Quincy Jones [1954]
With Charlie Rouse, Quincy Jones, Horace Silver, Percy Heath, Art Taylor, and others.
320kbps, 84mb on depositfiles
1. Mau Mau
2. Work of Art
3. The Little Bandmaster
4. Up in Quincy's Room
5. Wildwood
6. Evening in Paris
7. Elephant Walk
8. Tiajuana
9. When Your Lover Has Gone

Another pairing of a brilliant soloist with a great writer is an album of Sonny Stitt playing Johnny Richards, profiled here before. The sound is a bit muddy, but the music is fascinating.

Sonny Stitt Playing Arrangements From The Pen Of Johnny Richards [1953]
With Kai Winding, Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Jo Jones, Don Elliott, and others.
320kbps, 52mb on depositfiles
1. Sancho Panza
2. Sweet And Lovely
3. If I Could Be With You
4. Hooke's Tours
5. Loose Walk
6. Pink Satin
7. Shine On Harvest Moon
8. Opus 202

PS I am introducing two new tags.
composer+arranger is for albums that either are an original work of a single composer (Mary Lou Williams, Lalo Schifrin, Moacir Santos, Bob Graettinger) or bands focusing on the work of a certain composer (Pixinguinha, AR Rahman, Mancini, Carl Stalling).
I also realized I have Art Farmer on a few of the albums posted here, and a few more are coming up, so there's a label just for him.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Zé da Velha & Silvério Pontes - Só Pixinguinha (2006)

Choro is one of my favorite Brazilian music styles. The stuff I posted here before (1, 2) is all original, historical choro from the early XXth century. But the style - now over a century old - is still going strong. The modern performers have the same problem as the jazz musicians in US - how do you stay true to the spirit of the music without falling into cliches? There is a modern duo that does so successfully: Zé da Velha (trombone) and Silvério Pontes (trumpet/flugelhorn). They found the right balance between respect for tradition - after all, this album is all out of Pixinguinha's songbook - and bringing jazz and samba elements to the mix.

Zé da Velha & Silvério Pontes - Só Pixinguinha (2006)
ul.oz or zippyshare
1. Já te Digo
2. Carinhoso
3. Diplomata
4. Chorei
5. Sensível
6. Cascatinha
7. Desprezado
8. Ainda Me Recordo
9. Ingênuo
10. Trombone Atrevido
11. Os Oito Batutas
12. Sedutor

Thursday, December 2, 2010

QotD - Hesse on recorded music

And in fact, to my indescribable astonishment and horror, the devilish tin trumpet spat out, without more ado, a mixture of bronchial slime and chewed rubber; that noise that owners of gramophones and radios have agreed to call music. And behind the slime and the croaking there was, sure enough, like an old master beneath a layer of dirt, the noble outline of that divine music. [...] Observe how this crazy funnel apparently does the most stupid, the most useless and the most damnable thing in the world. It takes hold of some music played where you please, without distinction, stupid and coarse, lamentably distorted, to boot, and chucks it into space to land where it has no business to be; and yet after all this it cannot destroy the original spirit of the music; it can only demonstrate its own senseless mechanism, its inane meddling and marring. - Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf

Is that poetic or what? "Bronchial slime and chewed rubber," that's a great name for a music blog.

QotD - Sleazy on CDs

I would have thought that CDs were things that homeless people hang on their super market shopping carts to make them look less depressing but apparently some Americans still buy them for the data they contain. - The late Sleazy of Throbbing Gristle and Coil

Monday, November 29, 2010

How come I never heard of this guy?

Chung! Chung chung!

Edison Machado É Samba Novo (1964)

until today the single most important Brazilian instrumental music album ever released.

This one is widely available elsewhere on the web, but it seems to only be known among brasileiros. I believe it deserves wider recognition.
Firstly, the all-star cast. Edison Machado, the drummer and bandleader, is truly a towering figure of the Brazilian musical scene; he played with everyone and then some, defined the whole bossa drumming style etc.etc. Meirelles on the winds, a composer and leader of seminal samba-jazz band Meirelles e os Copa 5; he wrote five tracks on this album. Raulzinho - trombonist, composer and future bandleader, "the Hendrix of trombone". Tenorio Jr., the legendary piano player. But the magic touch that turned this into gold came from Moacir Santos, of whom I was raving before; he was the mastermind, arranger and producer on these sessions and there are three of his tunes on here.
Secondly, the tunes are really strong - ALL of them. There's not a single weak track; not only the solos are rippin', but the writing is very melodic and catchy and the arrangements are inventive - unlike a lot of post-50s jazz.
Finally, the album came in that brief moment when the musicians were ready to make Great Art, but the record execs still wanted pop music. So while their North American contemporaries were putting out album-long epics, here the Art is pressure-packed in two-and-a-half minute bits that explode with intensity. The whole album is one second short of half an hour, which is just the right length to leave you wanting more... Whenever I put it on, I usually listen to the whole thing straight through - and it happens often! I've had it for about three years, and it's showing no signs of getting old.

Edison Machado É Samba Novo (1964)
Edison Machado - drums
Tenorio Jr - piano
Sebastião Neto - bass
Paulo Moura - alto sax
Pedro Paulo - trumpet
Edson Maciel - slide trombone
Raul de Souza - valve trombone
J. T. Meirelles - tenor sax

55mb on depositfiles
Large back cover scan with liner notes etc.

01 - Nanã (Moacir Santos / Clóvis Mello)
02 - Só Por Amor (Baden Powell / Vinicius de Moraes)
03 - Aboio (J. T. Meirelles)
04 - Tristeza Vai Embora (Baden Powell / Mário Telles)
05 - Miragem (J. T. Meirelles)
06 - Quintessência (J. T. Meirelles)
07 - Se Você Disser Que Sim (Moacir Santos / Vinicius de Moraes)
08 - Coisa Nº 1 (Moacir Santos / Clóvis Mello)
09 - Solo (J. T. Meirelles)
10 - Você (Rildo Hora / Clóvis Mello)
11 - Menino Travesso (Moacir Santos / Vinicius de Moraes)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lord Kitchener - Klassic Kitchener Vol.1-3

Lord Kitchener - Klassic Kitchener Vol.1-3
REUP: 192kbps, 242mb on depositfiles

When A Man Is Poor
Trouble In Arima
Tie Tounge Mopsy
Cricket Champions
Old Lady Walk A Mile & A Half
Chinese Never Had A VJ Day
Steel Band Music
If You're Brown
Doctor Kitch
Batty Mamselle
Law And Order

My Pussin
Flag Woman
One To Hang
Panorama Night
Take Yuh Meat Out Muh Rice
No More Calypsong
Handy Man
No Melda
Love In The Cemetery
Mama Dis Is Mas
The Road
Miss Tourist

Pan In A-Minor
Pan In Harmony
Sugar Bum Bum
Symphony In G
The Symptoms Of Carnival
The Bees Melody
Gimme The Ting
The Spirit
Pan In The 21st Century
Curfew Time
Tribute To Spree Simon


A few albums I uploaded for a fellow calypso fan, might as well share the links here.

A Guide to the Real Calypso
A CD that came with a japanese book of the same name.
VBR, 86mb on zippyshare
1. Atilla & The Huns – West Indian Rhythm
2. Gerald Clark And His Caribbean Serenaders – Flores De Trinidad
3. Atilla & The Huns – Man Man Biscoe
4. Atilla & The Huns – Women Will Rule The World
5. The Executor – Three Friend's Advice
6. Lion – Ugly Woman
7. Sam Manning – Medley Of West Indian Song
8. Wilmoth Houdini – He Had It Coming
9. King Radio – Chip Chip Water
10. The Caresser – Ah Gertie
11. Tiger – Next Door Neighbor
12. Mighty Destroyer – Mother's Love
13. Lord Invader – The Sport Pool
14. Lord Beginner – Norah The War Is Over
15. Duke Of Iron – Box Car Shorty
16. Macbeth The Great – Old Man
17. Trinidad Blues-Calypso – Lord Biginner
18. Lord Kitchener – Is Trouble
19. Mighty Terror – Calypso War
20. Wonder – Follow Me Children
21. King Fighter – The Two Old Lovers
22. Lord Melody – Mama Look A Boo-Boo
23. Mighty Sparrow – Simpson

Duke of Iron - "Calypso!" (1957) in 320kbps and "Duke of Iron Sings Calypso" (incomplete)
118mb on mediafire or megaupload
Man Smart, Woman Smarter
Music Lesson
Meringue Jenny
Creole Girl
Last Train
Last Watch
Loving Woman Is A Waste Of Time
Man Is Easy Fish
Mambo Calypso
Clear De Road
West Indies Serenade
Duke of Iron Sings Calypso
I Left Her Behind For You
A Better Woman Than You
Fifty Cents
The Walking Department Store
Calypsonian Invasion
It's The Rhythm We Want
Pepper Sauce Milly

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Max Roach - Award-Winning Drummer (1958)

I said before that I consider the Clifford Brown/Max Roach group to be the pinnacle of jazz (one of many, yes). They left behind many excellent recordings - B&R On Basin Street, Brown and Roach Inc., Study in Brown - but not enough: Brown's death in a car crash in 1956 terminated this tandem. However, Roach moved on to more great things - after Brown's passing, he again hooked up with a trumpeter who also was a prodigy, a legend in his own time, and also was to die young: Booker Little. The brass section on this album is also powered by George Coleman on tenor sax, who went on to greater fame with Miles' "Second Quintet" and Herbie Hancock group, and Ray Draper on tuba, in a league with such jazz mavericks as Julius Watkins (french horn) and Don Elliott (mellophone). Also notable is the absence of piano: a setup that seemed groundbreaking when pioneered by Mulligan in the early 50s, it was becoming accepted, and then even preferred for the harmonic freedom it allowed - especially by the new generation of the free jazz players. This group exploits the flexibility fully, with rhythmic shifts and turns and the tuba alternating between the role of the third horn and a third rhythm player.
Same lineup also recorded another excellent album, Deeds Not Words, available here (notice the password) or here.

Max Roach - Award-Winning Drummer (1958)
Max Roach (drums)
Booker Little (trumpet)
George Coleman (tenor sax)
Ray Draper (tuba)
Art Davis (bass)
320kbps, 85mb on depositfiles
1. Tuba de Nod
2. Milano
3. Variations on the Scene
4. Pies of Quincy
5. Old Folks
6. Sadiga
7. Gandolfo's Bounce

Finger Poppin' And Stompin' Feet - 20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions For Minit Records 1960-1962

This blog has been semi-dormant lately. I might post a few things in the near future but the text would be brief.
Here's a compilation of Allen Toissaint's songwriting/producing work from the early 60s - that great New Orleans sound on the crossroads of blues, soul, girl-group pop, R'n'B, early funk... He is the great unknown figure behind the scene. I knew a few hours' worth of his songs before I first heard his name: "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" as covered by Ike and Tina Turner, "A Certain Girl" (Yardbirds), "Pain in My Heart" (Otis Redding), The Stones' version of "Fortune Teller," several covers of "Get Out of My Life, Woman", "Lady Marmalade" which I actually played in one of my bands, several superb tracks by Irma Thomas (It's Raining, Take a Look, Cry On) etc.etc.

AMG review: Allen Toussaint is a giant of American popular music, but his work was primarily behind the scenes as a songwriter, producer, arranger, and sessionman. Even as a leader, his songs and recordings became better-known through interpretations and assimilations from such artists as Glen Campbell, Lowell George, and Bonnie Raitt, instead of his darkly sensual, funky records of the '70s. That's why a collection like Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet: 20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions is so welcome -- it shines a spotlight on Toussaint's most influential work as a producer and songwriter, all from the vaults of Minit Records. This is hardly the totality of Toussaint's contributions -- not only are his solo recordings nowhere to be seen, such brilliant work as his collaborations with Lee Dorsey are nowhere to be heard on this disc -- but it's an exuberant celebration of a musician at the top of his game. Plus, it's just a hell of a good listen, nearly a greatest-hits collection of New Orleans R&B as a whole, thanks to such classics as the Showmen's "It Will Stand"; Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-in-Law," "A Certain Girl," and "I Cried My Last Tear"; Aaron Neville's "Over You"; Jessie Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Pt. 1"; Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller" and "Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)"; and Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My Heart" and "It's Raining." In addition to those, there are lesser-known gems from the same artists, plus cult artists like the Del Royals and Allen Orange, which add seasoning to a collection already bursting with flavor. Even if you already know Allen Toussaint's work and reputation, it's a revelation and a joyous listen. And, needless to say, it's also essential to any pop or R&B collection.

Finger Poppin' And Stompin' Feet
20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions For Minit Records 1960-1962
REUP: 320kbps, 94mb on mediafire
1. The Showmen – It Will Stand
2. Ernie K-Doe – Mother-In-Law
3. Aaron Neville – Over You
4. Allen & Allen – Heavenly Baby
5. Jessie Hill – Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Pt. 1
6. Ernie K-Doe – Tain't It The Truth
7. Irma Thomas – Cry On
8. Allen Orange – True Love Never Dies
9. Aaron Neville – Let's Live
10. Ernie K-Doe – Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta
11. Jessie Hill – Whip It On Me
12. Benny Spellman – Fortune Teller
13. Ernie K-Doe – I Cried My Last Tear
14. Benny Spellman – Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)
15. The Del-Royals – Always Naggin' (Grumblin' Fussin' Nag Nag)
16. Irma Thomas – It's Raining
17. Ernie K-Doe – A Certain Girl
18. The Showmen – 39-21-46
19. Irma Thomas – Ruler Of My Heart
20. Jessie Hill – Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Pt. 2

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yiddish Songs - Traditionals 1911-1950

Yiddish Songs - Traditionals 1911-1950
CDs 1+2, VBR, 198mb on megaupload or rapidshare
CDs 3+4, VBR, 176mb on rapidshare or megaupload
Tracklist in comments
The first two CDs came out separately with the following artwork:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Johnny Richards - Mosaic Select

Johnny Richards is known for the wrong reasons. His main claim to posterity is writing Sinatra's "Young at Heart", but pop hit songwriting is not what he really is about. The tides of exotica movement brought ashore his album Rites of Diablo, it often shows up on the "lounge" blogs, but his best work is anything but easy listening; engaging, cerebral, complex - yes, easy - no.

Throughout 1950s and 60s Richards was the arranger/composer at the forefront of the "progressive jazz/third stream" movement. He wrote charts for Stan Kenton's Orchestra, led his own band for a while, and did movie scoring in Hollywood and in the UK. His music is an amalgam of his many influences and experiences: while jazz in spirit, it has cinematic sweep, and uses a multitude of hues in the palette. Complex structure, penchant for dissonance, and bold use of symphonic instrumentation (French horn, oboe, bassoon, tympani, tuba) come from his studies with Arnold Schoenberg; his feel for the latin rhythms, as seen on Kenton's Cuban Fire! and his own Aqui Se Habla Espanol, stems both from his Latino heritage and his travels through South America; on Kenton's Adventures in Time Richards was the first to use unusual time signatures in jazz context, predating the experiments of Don Ellis by almost a decade.

At the time, the "third stream" experiments were very influential and visible in the music of West Coast "cool school" and in a lot of Miles' work, from Birth of the Cool to his collaborations with Gil Evans. But in the long run, the highest peaks of the genre proved to be too cerebral and unaccessible - not only for the listening public, but even for the majority of musicians.

At the bottom I will include a thorough review of Annotations of the Muses taken from The Essential Jazz Records: Modernism to postmodernism; among the players on it are the great jazz guitarist Johnny Smith (who, incidentally, also played on the Arnold Schoenberg's Serenade, Op. 24), and Ray Starling, one of two jazz mellophone players in the world.

Johnny Richards - Mosaic Select
CD1: rapidshare, filefactory, megaupload: Annotations of the Muses EP 1955, Wide Range 1957 + unreleased material, 95mb
CD2: mediafire, megaupload, rapidshare - Experiments in Sound 1958, The Rites of Diablo 1958, 103mb
CD3: mediafire, megaupload, rapidshare - My Fair Lady - My Way 1964, Aqui Se Habla Espanol 1966, 118mb
Tracklist in comments

Johnny Richards
Annotations of the Muses
Legende (A) LP1401
Joe Wilder (tpt); John Barrow (ft h); Julius Baker (fl); Robert Bloom (ob); Vincent Abato (at); Harold Goltzer (bsn); Johnny Smith (g); Jack Lesberg (bs); Sol Gubin (d); Richards (comp, arr).
New York City, early 1955.

Annotations of the Muses: Calliope • Clio • Erato • Euterpe • Melpomene • Polymnia • Terpsichore • Thalia • Urania

Reputedly the only jazz musician ever to dedicate a piece to Ghengis Khan (First Heard [E] FH45), Richards was never in good odour with the pseudo-highbrows of jazz. They strongly disapproved of such things as The Rites of Diablo (Roulette [A] 52008, 1958) with its innovative placing of choral voices in the big-band context, later taken up by Don Ellis. Usually Richards's works have a particularly strong rhythmic orientation, for example the six-movement Cuban Fire for Stan Kenton (Capitol [E] CDP796 260-2, 1956), which centres on a fuller integration of Latin rhythms and big-band scoring than has often been achieved. Better still, and in fact one of the most satisfying records Kenton ever made, is Adventures in Time (tCapitol [E] CDP855 454-2), a main point of which is the fluent use of uneven time signatures such as 5/4 and 7/4.
Unlike most jazz composers, Richards was at his best in large-scale works, especially when he could plan a session or group of sessions as a whole. All too many jazz 'suites' and supposedly long 'compositions', including some by band leaden of far greater renown, are merely assemblages of random short pieces which display few essential — which is to say musical — links, if any. Probably Richards's finest single work, Annotations of the Muses, is the opposite case, though it should at once be noted that its completely unified fabric could be woven only at a cost which other jazz composers have likewise had to pay. As in such pieces as Ellington's Reminiscing in tempo or Dameron's Fontainebleau, there is very little improvisation, this amounting to no more than a couple of solos each by Wilder and Smith.
No background to the title of this work or to those of its individual movements is offered by the sleeve note so it ought to be stated here that in Greek mythology the muses were the goddesses of the arts — as they were then conceived — and were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. In the order in which Richards takes them they were: Calliope, who presided over eloquence and epic poetry, Clio over history, Erato over erotic poetry and elegy, Euterpe over music, Melpomene over tragedy, Polymnia over lyric poetry, Terpsichore over choral dance and song, Thalia over comedy and Urania over astronomy. Except occasionally in the most general sense, as with the elegiac warmth that informs the Erato movement, Richards is wise enough not to attempt to portray, barely to suggest, these areas of responsibility. What is important is that this mythological subject matter led him to a quite remarkable variety of invention on melodic, rhythmic and harmonic planes, and just as much in terms of orchestration, the range of instrumental colours, textures and blendings being extraordinary. And not only blendings, for Richards invention on melodic, rhythmic and harmonic planes, and just as much in terms of orchestration, the range of instrumental colours, textures and blendings being extraordinary. And not only blendings, for Richards often writes in such a way that rather than fusing together, the instruments stand off from each other. Given the work's frequently rich counterpoint, this is crucial.
He is much aided in this by using the well-differentiated components of a classical wind quintet as his basic resource, adding to them only a trumpet and a pianoless rhythm section. An element in the music's organization is interplay between the wind quintet as a separate entity and the ensemble as a whole, though it should be stressed that this is only one of a considerable number of stratagems used. Doing without set chorus lengths or repeating chord sequences, the work is freely composed yet maintains formal lucidity throughout. Questions about the jazz or classical origins of the many techniques of writing employed never arise because this music flows with apparently unforced naturalness through its diverse moods and several climates of expression.
Each movement has a distinct character but they are linked in three larger sections. In fact these nine pieces for nine instruments are arranged in three groups of three. Smith in places acts as an intermediary, joining together movements or sections thereof, occasionally leading, often accompanying. Gubin's timpani are sometimes prominent also, but essentially Annotations is a great extension and purification of several aspects of Richards's work for Raebum, and was to a degree anticipated by specific pieces such as Cartaphilius (Hep [E] CD42). Another possible influence was Tommy Talbot's group of 1946 scores for Raeburn using woodwind, french horns and a rhythm section, and an earlier precedent was the Alec Wilder octet with flute, english horn, clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon which supported Mildred Bailey on some of her 1939-40 recordings.
Although not inherent in the programmatic titles, it is a sign of the quality of Richards's imaginative response to them that these nine movements, rather than seeming like stages in a journey as in a true suite, appear to radiate from one central experience, their great variety notwithstanding. Indirect proof of this was given when he made a later recording of the Terpsichore movement by itself (Capitol [A] T981, 1958). Removed from its context, this made very little impression and its character was virtually destroyed by transfer to conventional big-band instrumentation. A further, if slightly paradoxical, indication of this work's unity as much as of its diversity is the frequency of its shifting into and out of tempo, the range of tempos indeed being exceptional. This draws attention to the fine performance it receives. Richards evidently chose his men well, for the playing is full of subtle nuance, and although this is music of very unusual character, its interpreters demonstrably understand it completely.
The fact that it was issued on Legende, a minor Roost subsidiary, has obviously not helped this work, but it is supposed to be pan of the task of critics and historians to find out about obscure yet valuable endeavours. In fact, the literature of jazz appears to be innocent of any reference to Annotations of the Muses. Richards's score stands as a small but absolutely distinctive monument, however, and one that will continue quietly to demand the attention it deserves. M.H.
"The Essential Jazz Records"