Friday, December 29, 2006
What's that? You demand a third consecutive post with out-of-print Maceo, Pee Wee and Fred? Well, since you insist. Here they are performing as the J.B. Horns in 1990. The dated production doesn't do them any favors, but all three men offer fine solos on this innocuous groove. I'm still awfully shaky about living in a world without James Brown.
Brazilian composer Braguinha has died.
My review of Tuesday's Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert is here.
I continue to carefully study the new Village Voice jazz poll. I'm frantically searching for glimmers of hope. The presence of few artists under the age of forty is damning.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
The race is run.
Bootsy Collins' Blasters of the Universe isn't very good. The 1994 double CD feels tired and played out. The strong Fred Wesley vehicle I feature here is an exception. It sounds like nothing so much as an obscure Stevie Wonder instrumental. Bootsy, of course, is another alumni of James Brown's school of funk.
At the risk of sounding like a drug-gobbling freak, I experienced an epiphany as I listened to the official remix of the Beatles' "A Day In the Life" last night. The song speaks directly to my existence in ways I'd never realized. Such are the pleasures of old sounds in new suits. On a related note, you're not hearing Love until you listen to the DVD version in surround sound.
I'm all for creative packaging. Yet the new Mos Def looks awfully silly on store shelves. Maybe it's supposed to look and feel like a burned CD-R that a local rapper pushes on you in the parking lot, but that doesn't make me want to drop money on it. Even worse, the CD was loose in the plastic case in the copies I handled this week.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
As I'm still reeling from James Brown's passing, I'll indulge in a related project. This out-of-print disco-era session was produced by George Clinton. Issued under trombonist Fred Wesley's name, the usual suspects- including Maceo Parker, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell- are also heard here. The "Purple Haze" reference is far out.
"Time for devastation!" I love this absurd vintage television advertisement for a Savatage concert. A couple of these guys went on to create the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which I experienced last night.
This recap of the year in jazz only reinforces my bleak assessment of the genre's prospects.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Make it funky.
Oh, man. I'm supposed to be at work right now. But it wasn't until I opened this morning's newspaper that I heard the news. James Brown died Christmas morning. He was 73. There's little need for me to recount his accomplishments or impact in this space. He was a giant. Brown played a well-received performance in my town on September 14 of this year. I was at another show. I saw Brown only a couple times- from a distance at a festival and at a lackluster 1993 concert. I'm not the first person to suggest that "Mother Popcorn" is one of the great artistic achievements of the last century. A few months ago I put this song on repeat for a couple hours. Its complexity and mystery only deepened with each listen. That statement might also apply to the entirety of The Godfather's personal and musical life.
Friday, December 22, 2006
As I'm shell-shocked from the inescapable barrage of holiday music, I won't spotlight seasonal music in this forum. However, there's plenty of music that is just as spiritual as the most familiar hymn or carol. This gorgeous ballad is one such example. Kenny Burrell's gentle work on acoustic guitar, Cedar Walton's lush piano and the sensitive rhythm section of Rufus Reid and Lewis Nash are capable of moving a listener to tears. It's from 1991's Sunup To Sundown.
My review of last night's Cowboy Mouth show is here They're not one of my favorite bands, but there's no denying their power.
This is my first There Stands the Glass post using an Apple. I'm sure it'll get easier, but right now I'm completely befuddled.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Blue Van are one of the better retro-garage bands I've heard over the last five years. The new Dear Independence is filled with references to The Byrds, the Kinks and the Nuggets collections. This song gets a lot of little details right, like the organ intro, the tamborine and the primitive riffing. I have the Danish band near the top of my "must see" list for 2007.
Few music videos are worth nine minutes of your time. I'll make an exception for Leslie Hall. This footage of an in-store at Amoeba Records is something else. I'd describe it for you, but I don't think you'd believe me.
Even though I realize that it's just a marketing gimmick, I'm excited that Stax Records is in business once again.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Journeyman bluesman Homesick James died on December 13 in Springfield, Missouri. Most biographers believe he was born in 1910. He'd become a blues festival staple over the past couple decades. This is a solo performance recorded in California on February 3, 1994. This date has been issued a couple times, but is currently out-of-print.
Even though the first single is an monumental piece of music, I didn't buy the new Nas CD yesterday. There's still so much neglected music from the past year around my home that needs to be digested. I couldn't justify adding to the stack.
Having been on every side of the consignment process, I found this Offbeat story about the effect of Tower's bankruptcy on New Orleans musicians very interesting.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I saw jazz pianist Kenny Barron perform Friday night. As I indicate in this review, I wasn't entirely pleased with the concert. While at least one reader disagrees with my assessment, I submit this video of Barron's drummer Francisco Mela as Exibit A in my defense. While Barron is among the most elegant of jazz musicians, I prefer the edgier side he displayed with Sphere, the Thelonious Monk tribute band, as heard on this Gary Bartz composition from the group's self-titled out-of-print recording from 1998.
Does anybody else remember Skafish? Not only is the new-wave oddball still around, he has a new jazz trio Christmas CD! My pal Lee featured this most unlikely of albums on the radio yesterday.
Kenny Davern died on December 12. He was 71. The clarinetist is heard to good effect on this 1977 video.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Characterizing Brett Dennen as a promising singer-songwriter sells the young man’s fully formed talent woefully short.
So Much More, along with his new seasonal song, “The Holidays Are Here (And We’re Still At War),” are strong evidence that Dennen’s idealism, melodic sensibility and gentle voice of protest will play an increasingly prominent role in the musical landscape for years to come.
The unedited transcript of an email interview There Stands the Glass conducted with Brett Dennen follows.
There Stands The Glass: A good friend of mine who mostly listens to punk music recently raved about you. Does this surprise you, or are you finding that you’re making inroads with people not typically into singer-songwriter stuff?
Brett Dennen: Well when you mix punk and folk together you get "polk", which is closely related to "polka" which we know has nothing to do with either the previous, so lets just say people are attracted to what speaks to them, and what speaks to most folks is truth. My music is one hundred percent truth.
TSTG: When will love come set me free? Has it set you free yet?
BD: Yes it has. Listen to what is inside of you. Spend some time on your own. Forgiveness will set you free also.
TSTG: Many of your songs, including "The One Who Loves You the Most," clearly echo Bob Dylan’s work. Even so, I don’t have the slightest inclination to compare you to Dylan. Why do you suppose that is?
BD: We were both born on a Tuesday.
TSTG: The lyrical content of a few of your songs are equal parts political and romantic. Why do you choose to directly tie these two subjects together?
BD: Love is thoughtless, all emotion. Politics is manipulative. It utilizes the mind. They couldn’t be more opposite than that. I like the balance.
TSTG: You come across as a super nice guy on So Much More. Are you?
BD: Why yes I am. Sometimes people tell me that I am not nice, but I believe that is their own insecurities talking. If someone feels as though I was not nice to them, it was me acting on behalf of what is best for me. I cannot let my own desires suffer so that I can take care of someone else’s feelings. That is called being a "push over."
TSTG: Have you heard Love, the new Beatles mash-up? If so, what do you think?
Is that the new Vegas thing? I have not heard it.
TSTG: Here’s a blurb about you in a trade magazine advertisement: "The Oakdale, CA, native continues to grow his fan base with a live show consisting of the honest songwriting of a Jack Johnson, the guitar work of Paul Simon and the attention grabbing energy of a Ben Harper leaving all in his wake of yearning for more." Setting aside the quote’s problematical grammar and non sequiturs, what’s your assessment of this description?
BD: I think comparisons are what people need in order to categorize. You can’t understand something until it is categorized. I am flattered. I am big fans of all those guys. I met Jack Johnson, he is about the nicest guy you will ever meet. A friend of mine is friends with Harper, so I am guessing he is great as well. As for mister Simon, he is in my opinion, the greatest living songwriter, and please feel free to quote me on that.
TSTG: Do you tour with a band? Did you consider recording So Much More as a solo acoustic album?
BD: Yes I tour with a band. No it is not an acoustic album. I consider it folk in a blender.
TSTG: Do you have a master plan of how you’d like your career in music to progress? Would you rather become a beloved cult artist like Loudon Wainwright III or a pop superstar like Dave Matthews?
BD: No man. I am fan oriented, but I also want to reach a lot of people through the mainstream channels. I will find a place that is just for me.
TSTG: This is a wild stab in the dark, but do you listen to much Chris Smither?
BD: Never heard of him.
Dennen’s tour schedule is loaded through March. So Much More is available here.
Friday, December 15, 2006
This out-of-print compilation of Atlantic Records hits has the dubious title of The Golden Age of Black Music (1970-1975). In addition to this elegant, gospel-based Southern soul smash, it's loaded with hits by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Spinners and King Floyd. The executive producer for all these songs is Ahmet Ertegun. He played a significant role in "the golden age" of popular music. The consummate music industry executive died yesterday. He was 83.
I wrote about last night's visitation service for Jay McShann here.
Speaking of the death of American music traditions, the local public radio station ran this great feature yesterday about an unfortunate change at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. The story airs the dirty little secret that guys like me always knew but dared not speak aloud lest we spoil the party.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Not many people appreciate Blue Days Black Nights, a bleak work from sometime Kansan Freedy Johnston. The 1999 album is already out-of-print. While it's not a jazz album, it sounds like Johnston had been listening to a lot of tragic ballads by the likes of Billie Holiday, Chet Baker and Nina Simone. With its mournful strings and pitiful lyrics, "Moving On a Holiday" is a natural fit for one of those "Bummer Christmas" novelty compilations.
This promises to be the best party ever. I love Mac Lethal's self-deprecating hip hop and can't wait for his Rhymesayers debut in 2007. I just need someone to drive me home.
I'd like to get my hair cut like Gary U.S. Bonds' in this odd film clip from 1962's "It's Trad, Dad!"
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The first fifteen seconds of "He's Frank (Slight Return)" will make you wonder why The Monochrome Set weren't as big as XTC or Wire. It's just as nervous, dark and catchy as anything in the first round of "New Wave." The song is available on this excellent survey of the band's career.
There's a lot of terrific stuff on this free Christmas compilation at Pure Volume. I especially like the contributions of Jesse Malin, Paper Route and Liam & Me.
The criminal element lined up to buy the new Young Jeezy CD early Tuesday morning. I could scarcely keep it on the shelves at my job.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
In yet another example of a music blog instigating music sales, I finally bought the most recent Rachel Ries CD after Songs:Illinois (link to the right) has repeatedly touted her merits this year. Ries manages to tap into a sweet and lovely vein of folk that avoids treacly cliches. She's more straightforward than Gillian Welch and Jolie Holland, but no less enchanting.
I have nothing against Taylor Hicks, the gray-haired American Idol. But I was horrified when I examined his new CD today. The embarrassing photographs on the front and back cover are extraordinarily unflattering. It's like his image consultants couldn't decide if he should resemble Clay Aiken or Chris Daughtry.
The fine jazz blog Words and Music (linked to the right) uncovered this breathtaking Miles Davis video from 1970. It's disturbing even now.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Songs: Illinois recently posted a song from Charlie Louvin's forthcoming release. Although Elvis Costello is a poor substitute for Charlie's late brother Ira, it made me recall the joy of first discovering classic brother band music. I was completely floored when I bought Are You From Dixie?: Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930s as a new release in 1988. The lively old songs by the likes of The Blue Sky Boys, the Monroe Brothers and The Delmore Brothers made me realize that music recorded even before my parents were born could still speak directly to me. The compilation is out-of-print, but this Dixon Brothers collection is still available.
I was bitterly disappointed in the production values of last night's T.I., Jim Jones, Young Buck and T-Pain concert. My review is here.
Good news for any publication needing a gifted and universally respected music and business writer- my old friend Chris Morris is available.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Jay McShann died yesterday. The Kansas City blues and jazz legend was 90. The Kansas City Star has a nice survey of his career.
Although we lived in the same city, I never knew McShann beyond shaking his hand a couple times. It always frustrated me that I only saw him perform in concert halls and at festivals. I would have given anything to see him play in a small nightclub. I'll nod in approval if you want to call it art, but his good-time party music is meant to be heard in a smoky room with a drink in your hand. For the last twenty years I kept hoping that I'd stumble into him at a jam session or that a jazz bar would book him for an extended run. It never happened.
I collected McShann's recordings to compensate for that absence. Given the general level of disinterest in the history of seminal jazz, it's not surprising that large swaths of McShann's catalog are unavailable today. I can recommend his recent recordings for the fine Stony Plain label, but I'll highlight three of my favorites from McShann's youth.
Blues From Kansas City: The Original Decca Recordings contains terrific remastered versions of his essential material. Alas, it's out-of-print. Yes, that's Charlie Parker on the alto solo at the beginning of "Hootie Blues." My favorite McShann session is contained on the out-of-print Roll 'Em CD. It's a low-down 1969 French recording with guitarist T-Bone Walker. McShann reprises one of his classics, "Say Forward, I'll March," on 1972's Going To Kansas City. It's a friendly saxophone battle between Buddy Tate and Julian Dash, but McShann puts them both to shame with his jaunty solo at the 1:45 mark.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Too late now.
Looking for proof that not everything in the '80s was golden? This out-of-print CD from the former J. Geils Band frontman is highly coveted by collectors. I'm still quite fond of its big hit, "Come As You Are." But the production of the album's opening track is hopelessly dated. Wolf is a gifted soul singer, yet this song sounds like it belongs in a 1987 aerobics class.
My official review of last night's epic show by The Hold Steady is here. A very brief but apt review is here.
As traditional markets for record labels and artists continue to diminish, many are exploring creative ways to forge direct ties to new and existing fans. A great example is Tennessee band Paper Route. They're offering a free downloadable Christmas EP, complete with art, at their MySpace page. The best part? It's really good. They list Emmylou Harris and The Flaming Lips as influences, and that musical intersection is where Paper Route resides.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
It's just odd.
I've been so giddy with anticipation for tonight's Hold Steady show that I was tempted to drive halfway across Missouri to see them Tuesday night in Columbia. When I try to explain the band's appeal to my straight (i.e. non-music obsessive) friends, I explain that they combine the traditional rock'n'roll evangelism of Bruce Springsteen with the punk ethos of American punk bands like Husker Du. It's not hard to imagine The Hold Steady covering this song from Warehouse: Songs and Stories, especially if you picture Craig Finn replacing Bob Mould's stutter at the end of "It's Not Peculiar" with the words "down on the banks of the Mississippi River."
NPR's Day To Day program ran this compelling feature on Israeli group The Idan Raichel Project today.
The New York Times details the blogging shenanigans of jazz enthusiasts today. The excellent Destination Out, which I link to on the right, is name-checked in the story. Maybe those guys would stop hating on me if I quit posting snarky comments on their site.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I know embarrassingly little about traditional and contemporary Mexican music. I listen to Spanish-language radio in my car and watch Univision regularly. But most significantly, I interact with passionate music fans from Mexico at one of my jobs. Even so, I never quite grasped what all the narcocorridas discs were about until I read this Los Angeles Times story today. The compilations' cover art typically picture guns and trucks. This gorgeous son is a lament about men who mistreat their wives and daughters. It has absolutely nothing to do with contemporary drug wars, but it'll do until I become a narcocorridas expert. The song is available on this fantastic box set.
Colorado alt-country act Drag the River is on a treacherous cross-country tour. The song "Beautiful and Damned" sounds perfect on these dark winter days.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear an instantly recognizable contribution from Jon Langford on the weekly radio show This American Life. The sublime "Babysitting"-themed episode has various acts cover "The Perfect Nanny" from the Mary Poppins soundtrack. Download it at iTunes and hear the onetime Mekon and sometime Waco Brother at the twenty minute mark.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Out of gas.
Few independent record labels have made a more valuable musical contribution over the past quarter-century than Hightone Records. They provided a home to the likes of Robert Cray, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Dave Alvin and Gary Stewart when some of these artists were completely out of favor. The recordings of these and lesser known artists quickly made the Hightone imprint a stamp of quality among roots music fans. The label recently issued American Music: The Hightone Records Story, a box set documenting their history. This fine little raveup by The Imperial Crowns is from a humble Hightone survey of the Los Angeles blues scene in 1990.
The only good thing about finding myself home alone without a female companion last Saturday night was the freedom to watch a tribute to Pantera on MTV2's Headbanger's Ball. The onslaught gave me deeper appreciation for Dimebag and a new distaste for the band's vocalist.
Friday, December 01, 2006
An overt homage to the socially conscious work of Bobby Womack and The Temptations, "Summertime In the City" is an uncharacteristically funky song from 1974 by soul vocal group The Manhattans. The song is not included on any of the readily available Manhattans compilations, such as this otherwise impeccable set of their late-period hits. One vendor is selling this CD for crazy money.
I had planned to catch The Republic Tigers and two other first-tier local bands last night, but I was snowed in. I've heard unflattering things about the Tiger's ability to present these incredible psychedelic pop songs on stage, but I can't imagine how songs this beautiful could ever be rendered as anything less than staggeringly brilliant.
My reviews of the new Damien Rice and Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood releases are here.