Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pole Position

Krzysztof Komeda -- the alpha and omega of Polish jazz -- would have been 83 today.
He scored all the best Roman Polanski films and laid much of the foundation for the Eastern European improvised music renaissance of the last 50 years.
He died in 1969, just four days short of his 38th birthday, but he left a prolific legacy that continues to have a huge impact -- on jazz players in general and pianists in particular -- the world over.
Even if you've never heard of him, you've almost certainly heard his music, via the classic 1960s movies Knife In the Water and Rosemary's Baby.
He died because he was horseplaying around at a Christmas party in Los Angeles in 1968 and got accidentally pushed off a steep embankment by a friend.
In honor of Komeda, please enjoy this 1967 Polish TV program of his Quartet, this one featuring another lion of Euro jazz: the trumpeter Tomasz Stanko.
Krzysztof Komeda Quartet 
"Jazz w Filharmonii"
Poland Television performance

01 Requiem for John Coltrane (AKA Nighttime Daytime Requiem)

Total time: 31:50

Krzysztof Komeda - piano
Rune Carlsson - drums
Roman Dylag - double bass
Tomasz Stanko - trumpet

PAL DVD from kinescope recorded by Polish TV
2.08 GB + bonus FLACs/April 2014 archive link

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Birthday Bow

Lakshminarayana Shankar -- better known as the violinist extraordinaire L. Shankar -- is 64 today, so I've been plotting which direction I should go in terms of a celebratory post. Should I put up an unissued, complete concert of the titanically talented Indian fusioneers Shakti? Nah, that's more John McLaughlin's imprimatur, even though Shankar shines and shines brightly in that band.
How about a Peter Gabriel concert where the birthday bow is sawing away? IMO one of the finest moments of L. Shankar is the PG non-LP track "Across the River," in which he is sort of the star. But again that's just side work for this guy, Frank Zappa, Gabriel, the list goes on. Since our friend Pino (in the chatbox to the right of these words) mentioned this birthday was coming up, I've been trying to figure what to post that would accurately reflect the magnitude of the musicianship of Shankar in the spotlight. Well, whaddaya know? It turns out I have just the thing.
When I watched this the first time, I was totally lost in it by the second tune. These ECM records from the 1980s where Jan Garbarek is the co-soloist were always among my favorites on that label, so a couple of years ago when I came across this, it put my jaw to the floor real quick fast.
There is little to say except the basic honest essence of it: this is as beautiful and as elegant as music gets. The playing of both L. Shankar and Garbarek isn't just technically astonishing or fluent or outright spectacular... it's a near-religious experience. Lemme tell you that Jan Garbarek blows his shoes and his socks off in this show, just barefoot ballet out there. It's so emotional yet so controlled, and seems to infiltrate the very soul of melody, what he's doing. And today's birthday person goes off with his usual sensual array of melodic outpourings, as well as getting into some crazy pizzicato plucking that sounds very guitarlike through the processing he's using. I've always thought of Shankar as sort of the stringed instrument equivalent of trumpet guru Jon Hassell, and here his tone is highly reminiscent of Hassell's on the contemporaneous (1985) ECM release Power Spot, translated of course to the violin. Beautiful playing from two colossal masters of their instruments here, folks, as if you needed to be told that.
All that said, here it is... it was recorded onto Super VHS tape in the mid-eighties off German television, so forgive it if it's a little long on the hiss side. Someday they'll rebroadcast it in HD and we can all die happy and fulfilled. Overall it's a great capture, with vivid colors digitized with care. I could watch this hour of power over and over again and I wouldn't be surprised if anyone who grabs it feels the same after a view or two. Plus you get Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain manning the percussion, two masters in their own right. You crazy ECM heads that read my page better get clicking down below, this one's for Pino and all of you.
L. Shankar * Jan Garbarek * Trilok Gurtu * Zakir Hussain
Deutsches Jazz Festival
Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks
Frankfurt, Germany

 01 I Know
02 Watching You
03 Song For Everyone
04 Percussion Duet
05 Unknown
06 Paper Nut
07 Psychic Elephant

Total time: 1:00:06

L. Shankar - electric violin
Jan Garbarek - saxophones
Zakir Hussain - percussion
Trilok Gurtu - percussion

PAL DVD from master Super VHS tape
All right, enjoy this one cuz it's pretty darn enjoyable... if I ever found out this concert was to be officially released I might camp out in the doorway of the music store or something. And let's not forget that this day in 1950 we had a true treasure join us here on this rock, and we wish the maestro L. Shankar a very melodious and harmonious 64th anniversary of born-ness, with many many more to come. --J.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Punjabi Vacation: Qawwali World

Another day, another seminal and powerful musical icon... here comes an anniversary special celebrating its 24th birthday today, courtesy of the immortal Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
This one was taped from the mixing desk during a tour of Japan in 1990, and on it you will hear one of the most distinctive voices of our lifetimes. He is probably the foremost Qawwali exponent and the most revered practitioner of that particular strain of Sufi devotional music ever born. He passed away in 1997 but his music will be around forever plus one day. I talk about him -- "is" -- in the present tense, even though he's dead many years.... such is the lasting power of his impact.
He isn't so much a singer as a shaman. If by some strange omission you've never heard him or heard of him, the only way I can think to describe what he does is that he conjures a kind of ecstasy with his voice and through the power of the accompanists behind him, supplying an onslaught of tabla and percussion that at its peak resembles a herd of stampeding elephants. 
I've always been that card-carrying atheist who adored gospel and religious music of all faiths, and who thought religious devotion, as an alleged gateway to the Celestial Divine and the highest vibrations, should only be expressed in song... no talking, just singing and playing. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan proves this power, because I don't speak a word of the Urdu or Punjabi or Persian in which these love songs to God are sung, but somehow I feel like I totally get what he's singing about.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan * Quaw'wal and Party
You-Port Kan-I Hoken Hall
Gotanda, Tokyo, Japan

01 Allah Hoo
02 Shams Ul Doha - Badr Ul Duja
03 Haqq Ali Ali
04 Allah, Mohammad, Char Yaar
05 Nami-Danam
06 Dhamadham Mast Qalander

Total time: 1:37:25

disc break can go after track 03
soundboard master cassette, fan remastered
Just go ahead and hit the button if you're uninitiated... if you know Nusrat, you've probably already hit the link. Either way do enjoy this transcendent show, recorded this day in 1990, and I'll be back on the 26th with a li'l treat for my friends in the chatbox immediately above and to the right of this text field (stay tuned Pino!!!!). --J.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Taurus In the Arena of Life: A Gig of Mingus

92 years ago, someone came into the world who would leave it -- only 56 years later -- in a vastly different condition than the one in which he found it. This iconoclast's name was Charles Mingus, Jr., and he was a true one-off in a hundred million ways.
One of the most influential composers and musicians of the 20th Century, Charlie did it his way and only his way, with nary a fuck given or expected in return. Just his effect on bass players alone is not quantifiable and beyond estimate. People will play his music millennia from this moment, long after our children's great-great-great-great grandkids are but a distant memory. He spared no derision for the assholes of this world, and his legend reflects that attitude.
There are pillars of American music and then there are monuments for whom pillarhood is but a fraction of their worth. Charlie Mingus is one of those rare ones where you could say there is jazz (all music really... his influence extends far beyond just jazz) before him and jazz after him, and there really is not much of a comparison between the two.
No, Mingus isn't just the name of a Joni Mitchell record (his last work was a collaboration with her in 1979). If you need proof, I'd offer this triple CD, unreleased live LP, recorded for the Atlantic label 42 years ago and shuttered away in the vaults since. Taped at the ultra-legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott's in the summer of 1972, this sprawling (three hours plus!!) set finds Charlie and his Sextet in top notch exploratory form, with most of the tunes clocking in at an adventurous 20+ minutes... indeed, many are over a half an hour. I even tacked on a couple of bonus cuts from an FM broadcast of the same tour, with the group joined for a 34-minute nutzoid slow blues improvisation and a version of When the Saints Go Marching In by none other than Dizzy Gillespie.
Ronnie Scott's
London, UK

01 Orange Was the Color Of Her Dress
02 Orange Was the Color Of Her Dress (alt. ending)
03 Blues In F

Total time: 57:54

01 Mindreader's Convention In Milano/Koko (theme)
02 Pops
03 The Man Who Never Sleeps/Air Mail Special (theme)

Total time: 1:00:29

01 Fables Of Faubus
02 Blues Medley Improvisation*
03 When the Saints Go Marching In*

Total time: 1:14:35

Charles Mingus - bass
Jon Faddis - trumpet
Charles McPherson - alto sax
Bobby Jones - tenor sax, clarinet
John Foster - piano, vocals on CD1/track 03, CD2/track 02 & CD3/track 02
Roy Brooks - drums, musical saw
*Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet on CD3/track 02, vocals on CD3/tracks 02+03

unreleased pro-recorded Atlantic LP from 1972

*bonus tracks:
1st gen off-air FM broadcast reel
2nd Nice Jazz Festival
Les Arenes de Cimiez
Nice, France

Can you tell I revere this man? Millions do; it's not like I'm alone in my adoration of him. Right now I'm just sitting here hoping that they teach kids who he was in music class, so they can be inspired in similar ways to how us old folks feel. Do they have that anymore, music class? Or did the Koch Brothers use their Congressfolk they own and operate to abolish that as part of their initiative to ensure 21st-Century Mad Max gulag status for the USA? I'm not certain, but I am sure that some towering musical figures -- like the birthday dude here, born this day in 1922 -- deserve your attention and respect more than those rotten-to-the-core sociopathic Captains of Malevolent Industry ever will. Charlie'd have told them where to put it, I guarantee you that much... he'd probably have titled a song after them, something like "Fables of Fuckheads". --J.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love Is the Drug: Easter In Oaksterdam

As I celebrate the dual holidays of Easter and 4/20 by feeling the sweet smoke raising my mood from the dead, let me take a moment to post this killer show that took place 35 years ago this day in the USA's capital of cannabis: Oakland, California. It features a suitably legendary band of our lifetimes: Roxy Music.
This one comes from the Manifesto tour of 1979, the venue being the old Oakland Auditorium on 10th St. in downtown Oakland, which was rechristened the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium when it was renovated in 1984. It's appropriate to post a Bay Area concert today, given that the "420" euphemism for pot was born in Marin County, at San Rafael High School in 1971 via the famous "Waldos". No, it hasn't a thing to do with the fact that when you multiply the numbers in Bob Dylan's "Everybody Must Get Stoned" song (Rainy Day Women #12 & 35) you get the same number. Which is still an amazing coincidence.
Bill Graham himself introduces Roxy, who storm through an 80-minute set of some of their (to that point) greatest hits in front of a raucous Oaktown audience. I'd venture to guess more than a few of them were sampling some of California's herbal finest before, during or after the performance. Some may indeed still be high three-and-a-half decades later.
I took the liberty of slightly remastering and reworking this impeccable-sounding 15ips pre-FM reel from the vaults of KSAN-FM, bringing the different segments into consistent volume alignment and moving the erroneous track markers around to be in more appropriate places. I also trimmed the long periods of applause between the encores so that it would all fit on a single CD (it ran about 82 minutes before), and tagged the files correctly. All this, to take an already amazing sounding tape into the realm of "this sounds like an official live record" territory.
Roxy Music
Oakland Municipal Auditorium
Oakland, CA

01 Bill Graham intro and crowd
02 Manifesto
03 Trash
04 Out of the Blue
05 Angel Eyes
06 A Song for Europe
07 Still Falls the Rain
08 Mother of Pearl
09 Ain't That So
10 Stronger Through the Years
11 Ladytron
12 In Every Dream Home a Heartache
13 Love Is the Drug
14 Editions of You
15 Do the Strand
16 Re-make/Re-model

Total time: 1:19:41

Bryan Ferry - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Phil Manzanera - guitar
Andy MacKay - sax and oboe
Paul Thompson - drums
Gary Tibbs - bass, vocals
David Skinner - keyboards, vocals

15ips pre-FM KSAN-FM reels, remastered by EN
499 MB FLAC here
Yes, that's the opening act for the European leg of the 1979 Roxy tour you see on the right in the programme there... it's The Tourists, aka the original band that featured Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart before they branched off to become The Eurythmics in the early 1980s. Anyway this is a burner of a Roxy set... if you wonder about the chops and professionalism of musicians like this, I'd refer you to the performance of "Angel Eyes" here, in which Bryan Ferry messes up and starts singing with a couple of bars of Andy MacKay's sax solo still churning. The band barely miss a beat, reslotting the song's chord changes almost imperceptibly without the slightest hint of the total train wreck that would have befallen lesser musos if front of thousands of people in such a situation. Of course it matters not... let's face it, the crowd is so high, they likely wouldn't have noticed if the band launched into a reggae version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb". It being almost 4:20 pm on 4/20 in the East Bay, I do believe I'll join them... I wouldn't want to disappoint The Waldos, now would I? :D--J.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekend at Bernie's

Sorry it's been so long... I am overcome with work and back trouble, so it's hard for me to pay attention to this thing right now. But I will drop by for a couple of 4/20 weekend posts, beginning with a 70th birthday shout out to today's honoree: Funk warrior and founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, Bernie Worrell.
I thought of posting a P-Funk piece for today but said to myself, why not feature BW out front, instead of as just one musician among the 37 people onstage? So I decided on this smoker of a set from Bernie's WOO Warriors project, which finds the man and his band stomping through a whole slew of classics made famous by George Clinton's Parliafunkadelicment Thang.
It's also a rarity for here in that I get to post a birthday show for the birthday boy, complete with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung to him by his bandmates. Bernie was born on 4/19 and this performance is from 4/20, so it's close enough for Jazz, as they say.
Anyway there isn't too much to say about this concert except that it's in a very small club near where I used to live on Long Island and a great time is had by all. The P-Funk mantra of "It ain't nuthin' but a party, y'all!" is in full implementation here, and Bernie and his ensemble don't disappoint the assembled Funkateers with 100 minutes of uncut Bomb.
Bernie Worrell and the WOO Warriors
The Downtown
Farmingdale, NY

CD 1
01 Intro
02 Jam
03 Why Can't We WOO Together
04 Gamin' On Ya
05 Super Stupid
06 Red Hot Mama
07 You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks
08 Drums
09 Volunteer Slavery
10 Outerspace Ways, Inc.

Total time: 52:13

CD 2
01 Biological Speculation
02 Happy Birthday, WOOniverse
03 Trash A-Go-Go
04 Standing On the Verge of Getting It On*
05 Cosmic Slop*
06 Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples
Total time: 48:45

Bernie Worrell - keyboards and vocals
Jen Durkin - vocals
Greg Fitz - keyboards and vocals
Gary Sullivan - drums
Donna McPherson - bass
The Flash - guitar

*with John Hickey - guitar

SBD/AUD matrix recorded by the soundman with Bernie's permission
I'll be back again tomorrow with an Oaksterdam special for the 20th of April, but for now fire up this burner of a show from one of Planet Earth's "Lords of the P," as we celebrate the first man ever to use a Moog synthesizer to play the main bassline of a hit song. Can you Bernie Lean? I can Bernie Lean. --J.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Herbie the Funk Bug

I hope you're all ready to funk and funk hard... what else is Saturday for, anyway? Today's installment brings us a birthday tribute to a behemoth of the last 50+ years of music on Earth. If you're looking for a figure more at the cutting edge of sound for longer, I'm afraid you'll be hard pressed to discover one. To put it more bluntly, you'll be looking a long, long time.
Born this day in 1940, Herbert Jeffrey Hancock is a name synonymous with the most tasteful and lasting trends in jazz and the popular music of our lifetimes. Herbie needs no fanfare but since it's his 74th b'day today I am gonna break out the trumpets regardless.
Speaking of trumpets, he started with Miles Davis in the mid-Sixties classic Quintet, and things have only gotten more influential since. One of the pioneers of the electric streetfunk sound that dominates popular culture today through hip-hop, his 1970s bands Mwandishi and Headhunters laid the trail for everyone that followed. There's a reason why 1973's Headhunters debut LP is still the top-selling jazz recording in human history, and it's not because you can't dance to it.
Don't believe me? You may not realize this, but music and its toppermost players used to be a mutual admiration and education society, before punk came along to brand all skilled musicians as traitors to rock-n-roll's eternal three-minute, two-chord backseat love song. Witness this little exchange between myself and King Crimson's Robert Fripp about Herbie, concerning how things used to be, if you need convincing.
This, as Robert says in that diary entry in answer to my story, is music that just goes higher and higher, and every time you're sure things have plateaued and you can take a breath and wipe off the grease, it ramps up again to take you further still. If you're looking for the pure, uncut funk, I don't see how that journey doesn't begin and end with these Headhunters here. And this is to say nothing of Herbie's other adventures in straight-ahead jazz before this stuff in the '60s and his sample-heavy electro-dance music afterwards in the 1980s.
So in honor of this esteemed birthday occasion, I offer you this utterly mind-cooking, pristine quality DVD of a full, 65-minute funk rumble featuring this most legendary band at the peak of their powers in the mid-'70s. Recorded for WDR's Musikladen in 1974 and rebroadcast on German TV in 2010, please welcome one of the deepest, most funkified groups ever to walk on a stage on this planet.
Herbie Hancock & Headhunters
Bremen, Germany
November 1974

01 Palm Grease
02 Sly   
03 Butterfly
04 Spank-A-Lee
05 Chameleon

Total time: 66:27

Herbie Hancock - keyboards
Paul Jackson - electric bass
Bennie Maupin - saxophones
Bill Summers - percussion
Mike Clark - drums

PAL DVD from 2010 WDR-TV rebroadcast
OK? That's my story and I'm sticking to it... maybe when KC tours in the Fall you'll go see them and turn around at intermission, only to find Maestro Herbie seated directly behind you. And I didn't even mention how this one time I saw him play in San Francisco and he did the whole first half of Dolphin Dance on the inside of the piano, just on the strings in there. But either way, enjoy this return to the 1970s and get those heads bobbing like a Saturday demands... it's Herbie Hancock's big day and heavyweights such as he deserve the undivided attention of your hips immediately. --J.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Hub Is In the Air

I have about four million hours of work today to do, but before I descend into that I wanna pop this one up real quick. This titan of the trumpet passed in 2008 at the age of 70, but April 7th is his birthday so I can't let it go without sharing this gem.
There are so many seminal jazz artists born on 4/7 that it was almost impossible to pick one: Billie Holiday (1915 -- I'll get to her next year on #100, trust me), drum legend Pete LaRoca (1938), pioneering bandleader Mongo Santamaria (1922), saxophonist Bob Berg (1951), and piano man Alexander von Schlippenbach (also 1938... that's three heavyweights born all on the same exact day!) each celebrate birthdays today. As does sitar superstar Ravi Shankar, who'd have been 94.
I decided on Freddie... WTF? He's only arguably one of the top 5 on his instrument in jazz history. Wait'll you hear him team up with Hadley Caliman (a criminally underrated reeds/winds maestro) and vocalist extraordinaire Leon Thomas for this mesmerizing couple of sets from their 1979 tour of Europe. This one is a pre-FM reel -- the sound once again entirely indistinguishable from an actual official live recording -- from the legendary jazz spot Onkel Po's in Hamburg.
What I dig most about this concert is the consistency of the playing across all the different styles of music. I was also struck by the singing, given that Leon Thomas often annoys me when he focuses too much on just the yodeling thing to the detriment of his other vocal capabilities. No such problem here... in fact, I might nominate this as my favorite recorded evidence of LT, who integrates all his tools into a scat/sing/yodel assault on the mind. And I don't have to tell you that the rhythm section is tight and that Caliman and Freddie blow like gods with brass instruments in their hands, do I?
 Freddie Hubbard Quintet featuring Leon Thomas
Onkel Po’s
Hamburg, Germany

Set 1
01 Love Connection
02 Little Sunflower
03 Cousin Mary
04 Let the Rain Fall On Me
05 Song for My Father
06 Chains of Love
07 One
Set 2
08 Blues for Duane
09 Take It to the Ozone
10 One of Another Kind
11 Here's that Rainy Day
12 A Night In Tunisia
13 After the Rain
14 Straight No Chaser
15 Boom Boom Boom

natural disc break is after Track 09, making CD1 total 1:14:04 and CD2 1:07:21

Freddie Hubbard - trumpet & flugelhorn
Hadley Caliman - tenor sax and flute, percussion
Billy Childs - acoustic & electric piano
Larry Klein - bass
Carl Burnett - drums
Leon Thomas - vocals on tracks 3-7 and 11-15

pre-FM reels from the archives of WDR Radio
This is a burning show with a ton of diversity, ranging from hardcore bumpin' funk showcases to straight-ahead balladry to jazz standards like A Night In Tunisia and After the Rain, sung by Leon Thomas with actual lyrics. All in all, it's 2+ hours of awesome both in terms of the performance and the sound quality, so press that button and infuse your Monday with magnificent music! And of course we honor the great Freddie Hubbard, the birthday boy born this day in 1938. --J.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Shoot Out the Candles

Welcome to Thursday, the 65th birthday of the man who might just be the current living Heavyweight Champion Guitar Player of Earth. He first burst upon the world in mid-1967 at the age of 17, smack in the middle of Swinging London but not a part of its expressly psychedelic six-string stereotypes, so prevalent in those days.
Beginning as a charter member of Brit folk-rock originators Fairport Convention, proceeding through the (best husband-and-wife duo ever?) years with ex-wife Linda, and continuing over the course of the subsequent decades on his own... who can top the résumé of Richard Thompson? 
I know I can't. One time I met him and shook his hand and I thought I'd be picking up the crushed bones of my fingers for the next six hours. Hendrix had petit little-girl hands compared to RT, I mean it. Sometimes as a guitar player you watch him and you wanna say the guy doesn't have a 7-fret reach... he has a seven-fretboard reach. I have personally heard world famous players refer to him, in hushed, reverent and vaguely jealous tones, as The Humbler.
This is a cripplingly unfair 'slinger on either acoustic or electric, manipulating both in ways that leave seasoned guitar experts convinced there's someone else offstage playing that second part. But there isn't. If anyone alive can play with an amount of technical prowess and raw emotive power in excess of what RT can do, they oughta be locked up for having too much talent. Or at least forced to share with the rest of us who pick it up and sound as if we're playing it with our feet.
I dithered all day trying to choose a concert to post, because I have so many of his that my head started to spin just deciding. There's no one single show or era that defines him, so I went with one of my favorite tours behind one of my favorite records: 1985's Across a Crowded Room. This is the lossless digital audio soundtrack of the laserdisc -- remember those? -- of the long-form concert film that came out concurrently with the album, and has never been seen since or issued on DVD, save a couple of bonus tracks on other home video releases.
Richard Thompson
Across a Crowded Room live
Ottawa, Canada

01 Fire In the Engine Room
02 She Twists the Knife Again

 03 Shoot Out the Lights
04 You Don't Say
05 Wall of Death
06 Little Blue Number
07 When the Spell Is Broken
08 Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?
09 The Wrong Heartbeat
10 Summer Rain
11 For Shame of Doing Wrong
12 I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
13 Nearly In Love
14 Love In a Faithless Country
15 I Ain't Going to Drag My Feet No More
16 Tear Stained Letter
17 Living with a Skull and Crossbones
18 Withered and Died

Total time: 1:23:59

Richard Thompson - guitar, vocal
Christine Collister - guitar, backing vocal, percussion
Clive Gregson - guitar, organ, backing vocal, lead vocal on "Summer Rain"
Rory MacFarlane - bass
Gerry Conway - drums

digital video laserdisc soundtrack
EDIT: this complete concert has been released by Real Gone Music
you can & should buy it right here
So there you have it: 80+ minutes of brilliant songwriting and facemelting guitar molestation from one of the planet's foremost living exponents of both. I should mention that if you're still stuck in 1995 and want to burn this to CDs, there's a natural break after track 10; otherwise just load it into your iThingy and let it rock. And of course all praise is due to Richard Thompson -- the guest of honor, born this day exactly a century after the Days of '49... and he's had pure gold rushing out of his fingers ever since.