Monday, August 30, 2010

When The Right Singer Finds The Right Song...

...there's no doubt.  Jeff Tweedy, who played on one of the finest CCR covers ever recorded, is now part of another one. [via]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, [insert pianist here]

My recent acquisition of the Geri Allen-Charlie Haden-Paul Motian album In the Year of the Dragon got me wondering, how many Haden-Motian piano trio sessions are out there?  With the help of some online discographies, I've come up with the following (I put an asterisk* by the ones I've heard):

w/ Keith Jarrett:
Life Between the Exit Signs
Somewhere Before
Mourning of a Star

w/ Geri Allen:
In the Year of the Dragon*
The Montreal Tapes
Live at the Village Vanguard

w/ Gonzalo Rubalcaba:
The Montreal Tapes*
Discovery: Live at Montreux

w/ Enrico Pieranunzi:
Special Encounter*

w/ Paul Bley:
The Montreal Tapes

If anybody reading this knows of any I've missed, please let me know in the comments section, because the ones I've heard so far have me wanting to "collect the set". 

Haden and Motian established themselves as one of the great one-two bass-drum punches as members of Keith Jarrett's "American Quartet" (presumably continuing the work they began on the Jarrett trio dates, which I haven't yet heard), but with the Bley and Allen collaborations, they made a strong case for themselves as the go-to partners for pianists with strong, slightly off-kilter musical personalities.  In the Year of the Dragon is an ideal piano trio record: beautifully equilateral, with all three musicians contributing compositions and continually pushing the others out onto the improvisational edge, where these players thrive.  Sounds, tunes, ideas jump off the record.  Lesser piano trios can slip into an undifferentiated, though polished, beige haze.  Geri Allen is allergic to beige, and Haden and Motian are at their best working with bolder colors. The only other Allen-Haden-Motian trio record I've heard, Etudes, is at least the equal of Dragon and gets to some different places stylistically (including a very memorable take on Herbie Nichols' "Shuffle Montgomery").

After a few listens, I haven't quite been able to get a bead on the Pieranunzi (Special Encounter).  It's safe to say that he's operating on a high level in the flowing/European classical-influenced/Bill Evans line.  There's beauty here, but I haven't dug deep enough yet to see what else is going on.  I can unhesitatingly recommend another Haden-Pieranunzi session, Silence, with Billy Higgins and Chet Baker* (the only time they appeared together on record?) sounding surprisingly great together.

Since writing the above, I've picked up the Montreal Tapes with Gonzalo Rubalcaba.  The Cuban pianist must have been in his mid-twenties at the time of this live recording, and he plays with exuberance and a kind of personal, idiosyncratic virtuosity.  The track list on this live set (part of a series of Haden discs, all recorded in 1989, that I'd like to get more of) has no real low points, but finishes particularly strong with three familiar but extremely welcome selections: "Silence", one of Haden's most beautiful compositions and one he's returned to often; Ornette's early gem "The Blessing", a great fit for this trio and a tune Haden had played on 30 years prior at the Hillcrest with Paul Bley; and "Solar", the Miles tune that's been recorded by several great pianists, starting (as far as I know) with Bill Evans at the Vanguard.  If I was going to make any criticism of this excellent album, it would be that it doesn't quite achieve the superb three-way balance of the trio with Allen. I don't know if this holds true of this trio's other records, but Rubalcaba and Haden seem to be in the fore, slightly overshadowing Motian, though he gets his licks in and is more than solid throughout.

One trio I'd like to hear is Haden and Motian with Ethan Iverson, who has often expressed his love for, and debt to, the Jarrett American Quartet.  As far as I know, they haven't recorded and I missed their run at the Vanguard in '08 (though I have seen Iverson and Haden as a duo). In fact, it was Iverson's recent, exhaustive piece on Ron Carter-Tony Williams trio sessions that inspired me to finally finish this piece that I've had sitting around in draft form for months.  Iverson refers to Carter-Williams as "the Rolls Royce", which begs the question of what to call the high-performance machine that was Reid Anderson and Nasheet Waits at Small's earlier this month with Iverson and Mark Turner.

*The idea I had of late-period Chet Baker, previously informed almost exclusively by the Let's Get Lost soundtrack, had to be recalibrated after hearing Silence.  Baker here doesn't sound anything like the mythical burnt-out junkie, slouching through Europe toward an increasingly inevitable death.  He's swinging, floating along, sounding like he's glad to be in such good company.  Even though Haden is the nominal leader, it's Higgins that sets the tone, his joyful playing ruling out the possibility of any musical moping.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Four Things Found On The Internet

This photo book, from Thurston Moore's new publishing concern and featuring the work of former Village Voice photographer James Hamilton, looks like it could be some kind of milestone in the photos-of-musicians genre.  That Johnny Rotten photo!  He looks downright huggable, almost angelic. [via]

The limited exposure I've had to Tao Lin's work (like the majority of the small minority of people who've heard of him, I have a greater familiarity with his self-promotional stunts and shenanigans than his writing) has left me intrigued but a bit doubtful of the success (in literary terms) of his admittedly distinctive project.  I didn't really "enjoy" but was at least semi-engrossed by his recent account of being arrested for "trespassing" at NYU, but this piece in Canteen is a pretty impressive literary performance, bordering on heroic feat of sustained concentration (actually, I think "heroic feat of sustained concentration" might more accurately describe the act of reading the piece).  I hate to go here, but it did remind me a little bit of a DFW footnote (like, say, some of the longer ones in Brief Interviews) in its "how long can he keep this up?"-ness.

I'm glad somebody (Ben Ratliff, though there are probably others by now) has written about the "new" (1940) Savory recording of "Body and Soul", a sample of which was posted by the Times yesterday.  I don't really have enough knowledge of the state of jazz saxophone circa 1940 to know just how far ahead of its time Hawkins' playing is in this sample, but it seems like he's making some pretty strikingly radical choices here.  The playing is so much more modern-sounding than the recording that it produces an exciting friction (frisson?) - there must be a good analogy, but I can't come up with it.  It's not like he's into Dolphy territory exactly, but it's hard to believe anybody else was playing like this 70 years ago.  It's also hard to believe that I'm posting about a 47-second sample of something.  Obviously, I'm eager to hear the whole thing.

And last but far from least, rare foulmouth Elvis blues (with commentary by Nick Tosches!).  The Hound should be declared King of the Internet, at least for today, for posting this.  Go listen before somebody makes him take it down.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chew On This

Am I crazy, or is this new group Woodworms trying to pass off a boiled-down pastiche of Konono No. 1, Andrew Hill's Compulsion, and Darin Gray's St. Louis Shuffle as an original concept?  So derivative.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Look Into The Gorilla's Eyes

Recently came across Spanish photographer Amparo Garrido's website and was especially taken with her photos of dogs and gorillas, putting me in mind of Werner Herzog's quote (which I can't find or remember precisely - was it from Grizzly Man or Burden of Dreams?) about how your beloved family pet would be quite willing to kill you for food if it came to that.  In trying unsuccessfully to find the Herzog quote, I discovered that at least two people on Flickr have cats named for the great director.  Unsurprisingly, both cats appear to be Brooklyn residents.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

The John Lurie piece in the new New Yorker is really something.  One of those (less than weekly) occasions when I'm glad the Selected Ballads household has a New Yorker subscription. 

I may have been primed for the which-one-is-crazier story of Lurie and his friend/stalker by having just finished John Gilmore's Hollywood memoir Laid Bare, in which fame and its frequent companion self-destruction are major themes.  I might do a post of some of my favorite quotes from Laid Bare, which will certainly include the description of Dennis Hopper as "a goat in Miss Tweedle-dum's parlor". 

If you haven't already seen it, you've probably at least had someone recommend it to you, but I can't let a post mentioning John Lurie and Dennis Hopper end without urging you to rent, buy, or YouTube Lurie's Fishing With John.  Or, at a minimum, the legendary Tom Waits "fish in his pants" episode.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Wes Anderson Sucks, Spike Jonze Sucks..."

Could this Vincent Gallo interview be the inspiration for the instant classic Scharpling-Wurster "Sucks" bit from the Best Show on WMFU?  Check out Part 1 of the Gallo interview starting at around 14:08 and decide for yourself. [Gallo interview via].

The Best Show episode in question (from 7/6/10) is archived here.  Even funnier to me than the ten-minute-long list of "sucks" novelty records was the list of Newbridge-area power pop bands recorded by Wurster's strangely principled audio engineer:

Lovely Boys
The Bill Bixbys
The Craigs
Sherbet Falls
The Album
[a name I couldn't make out - Wurster almost loses it as this point]
I Love You The Ghost of Andrew Davis
Bam Bam
The Resistance (a "white power pop" band that sounded like "the Rubinoos fronted by Goebbels")

I really want to start a band called The Craigs.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Wave Jet Age

It looks like this appeared a few years ago, but I've just discovered a very cool thing: old issues of St. Louis new wave/punk/pop/rock'n'roll 'zine Jet Lag available online with commentary by co-founder (and longtime community radio DJ) Steve Pick.  Highlights are too numerous to mention - just starting browsing anywhere - but I was particularly intrigued by Beatle Bob interviewing Chuck Berry (and giving him a sort of "blindfold test") in issue #7.  Check out Pick's commentary on this issue in the blog - apparently, there's been some speculation about the authenticity of the interview, given B-Bob's occasional willingness to sacrifice truth on the altar of rock'n'roll.  (If I haven't done so before, I'd like to state that, on the divisive issue of Beatle Bob, I am firmly in the pro-Bob camp.  As a general rule, it's good to be in the same camp as Robert Pollard.) 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

? & The Mysterians @ Damrosch Park, 7/31/10

F**k yoga, I wanna get on whatever health and fitness regime ? (of ? & The Mysterians) is on.  Unless it's yoga, in which case I will start doing yoga.

"96 Tears" came out 44 years ago, and these guys are still killin' it.  Of course, maybe in Martian years, ? is still the young man that his on-stage energy (the man can dance!) makes him seem to be.  Rock'n'roll.

Bonus Links
Check out this Flickr set of the Lincoln Center gig (w/ Ronnie Spector joining in on "96 Tears"!!!)
What the photos don't capture is the blinding light that was coming off ?'s sequined outfit

And don't miss the Hound's ? post, including a good comments section