Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Extra Bass Hits: Grand Stan

When last we spoke, we were mourning the loss of one of the beasts of the bottom end, so it is only fitting that we return with a birthday tribute to another bass deity, still going strong at 64 today.
Is there a more diverse, more elegant, more ferociously creative player of any instrument than Stanley Clarke? An all-time innovator whose approach to electric bass -- adapted from double bass technique -- is widely imitated, he's scored dozens of films seen by millions of people and played in (and led) all-star ensembles, including of course the one featured here today, often viewed as the greatest fusion band ever assembled.
When I think of Stanley Clarke, which is not infrequently, I keep coming back to the word elegance. Of all the zillion records I have heard that he is anchoring at the bottom end, I can't recall him ever playing a single note or phrase that seemed superfluous or unnecessary. Everything he plays evinces a sort of effortless perfection, no matter the context.
He is another whose exploits on both electric and acoustic have almost come to define the instrument in our lifetimes. Plus, he did the music for the original Pee-Wee's Playhouse... I mean, who can say they played for both Horace Silver and Pee-Wee Herman?
A short list of films he's helped soundtrack includes What's Love Got to Do with It, Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Book of Love, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die. A short list of Jazz luminaries he's played with includes Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Dexter Gordon, Gato Barbieri, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders, Gil Evans and Stan Getz. And he's still only 64 years old, so there's likely much more to come.
Even if he had done none of the above, he would still be important for just the way he holds the electric bass in his hands. Applying double bass technique to electrics, his posture and right arm/hand positioning is extremely influential on any number of players who've come around since he hit the scene in NYC in the early 1970s.
Of course, his record School Days (from 1975) is widely held to be one of the most impactful, in terms of its effect on subsequent bassists, that will ever be waxed. And then there's this little jazz-rock ensemble, of which he was arguably the anchor if not the foundation.
It's funny because I was never a big fan of the most popular version of Return to Forever, Chick Corea's fusion project that became one of the most revered of the genre in the mid-'70s. I always preferred the records with first the amazing reedsmith Joe Farrell and then guitar maestro Bill Connors, which I felt were more understated and less pyrotechnic before Al DiMeola showed up to scald the air with 128th notes that could strip the paint off cars at 20 paces.
Today's share hails from that second RTF period, with Bill Connors preceding Al D. My favorite RTF record is coincidentally the one where Stan shines the brightest, 1973's Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, featuring his delicious composition "After the Cosmic Rain" (my fave RTF cut!) and this sizzler of a set includes that song and comes from German TV at the end of that tour.
This was taped for WDR-TV's extraordinary Musik Laden program (the awesome Musik Laden Extra series, which if it were ever officially boxed up and issued I might lose my mind), but was somehow never aired. It's sourced from the original station masters and exquisitely remastered (both video and audio) by the fantastically talented archivist Tooleman. In no way is it discernible from the prospective official release for which it so manifestly begs.
Return to Forever
Musik Laden Extra
WDR-TV Studios
Bremen, Germany
March 1974
(likely afternoon of 3.27.1974)

01 Hymn of the 7th Galaxy
02 After the Cosmic Rain
03 Some Time Ago
04 Bass Folk Song
05 Space Circus

Total time: 43:26

Chick Corea - keyboards
Stanley Clarke - bass
Lenny White - drums
Bill Connors - guitar  

unaired station master tape, remastered by the Tooleman
2.23 GB total/June 2015 archive link
This set really revolves around Stan and that's why I chose it to post. He takes an absolutely mesmerizing unaccompanied, extended solo on the stand-up and also a pretty tight duo turn, with incomparable drum dervish Lenny White, on an unbelievably funked up electric break that will fail to move only the deceased... and you may even see them get up to get down. So pull it down and let's celebrate one of the foremost avatars of The Low End Theory ever to grace the stage: the utterly grand Stanley Clarke, born this day in 1951!--J.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Schindleria Praematurus Vale: A Fond Fish Farewell

Not the best way to begin a Sunday morning, but I regret to inform you that Chris Squire, a founder and the only constant member of seminal proggers Yes since their inception in 1968, passed away last night from leukemia. He was 67.
I am kind of speechless right now, but I will do my best. There are few people I look up to as a bass playing person more than Chris Squire, and I'm certain beyond doubt that I am nowhere near alone. The low end is a lot lighter now that he's left.
Absolutely one of the most influential on the instrument ever to grace the stage, you could say he almost singlehandedly changed and broadened the palette of the electric bass guitar, by virtue of his unique choices of instrument and technique. Before him, bass players were in the background, and almost always opted for Fenders. He was perhaps the first to use a Rickenbacker and play exclusively with a plectrum, as well as focusing a lot more on the upper registers of the instrument... all almost unheard of when Yes had their big debut at the famous farewell concert of Cream at the end of 1968.
There's a story that Paul McCartney tells about that night at the Royal Albert Hall. The Beatles' bassist was there, with his songwriting partner John Lennon in tow. After Yes unleashed a completely DNA-altered version of the Fab Four standard Every Little Thing, he alleges Lennon whispered in his ear, "See? THAT is how our music is supposed to be played onstage."
It'd be a contribution to the continuum worth its weight in platinum if that were the extent of Chris' prestige. But this guy was the linchpin of one of the truly enduring bands of the Rock era, and was the only one to appear on every single one of their records over the last 47 years. Just his vocal harmonies with Jon Anderson alone have so much to do with their trademark sound and what makes them what they are.
Dubbed "The Fish" by peerless drum-beast Bill Bruford because he was one of those people who liked to take long baths and showers, Chris Squire wasn't just some technically proficient Prog Rock geek. If you don't believe me, I'd suggest popping the Vincent Gallo film Buffalo '66 into the DVD deck and checking the final scene, which is set to the epic drum-and-bass break in Yes' Heart of the Sunrise. If that doesn't illustrate what this man means to the bottom end of our lifetimes, nothing will and you should just give up and listen to Nicki Minaj sing about stupid hoes.
The music of Chris Squire and of Yes will last centuries and more. I remember one time last year I was hanging out with my friend who is in his early 20s, and I put on Close to the Edge. As Siberian Khatru faded out, he -- who had never heard of or heard the music -- opined that whoever made it must have spent years honing it layer by layer in the studio, shaping it into the perfect blend of symphonic grandeur and rock-n-roll thump that it was and is. They just don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.
I kind of threw this up here straight out of bed, so forgive me if it isn't as articulate a tribute as I might produce after some breakfast and coffee. My words aren't the point anyway, because there aren't any to describe what Yes has meant to me as a music fan and player for my whole lifetime. I apologize for the scattered nature of these sentences and would only ask that you accept today's share in reverent memory of this most extraordinary musician.
Yale Bowl
New Haven, Connecticut

01 Yours Is No Disgrace
02 I've Seen All Good People
03 Clap/Classical Gas
04 Perpetual Change

Total time: 39:00

Jon Anderson - vocals, keyboards & percussion
Bill Bruford - drums
Steve Howe - guitars, mandolin, vocals
Tony Kaye - keyboards
Chris Squire - bass, vocals

master soundboard reel, restored & remastered by GenM & RMCH
This tape is legendary. The story goes that the taper showed up at the mixing desk right as the band went on -- they were opening the show on their first US tour -- and just assumptively plugged his reel-to-reel deck straight in, with nary a peep from the guy mixing the show. He captured a five-headed beast in full flight that night, and thank Providence and that relaxed early-'70s atmosphere that he did. Anyway pull it down, run yourself a hot bath, and soak in this steamroller of a set as we remember one of the true pillars of the bass and of Progressive Rock, gone from us now but never to be forgotten.--J.
3.4.1948 - 6.27.2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Satin Dolphy

Happy weekend! Today was a tough toss-up between two absolute musical titans, and presented a difficult choice. But let's save the post about the extraordinary and foundational erstwhile Beach Boy Brian Wilson for another June 20th. Today I decided to blog upon one of the true pillars of Jazz, replete with a truly beautiful concert comprising his very last recordings.
Today would have been the 87th birthday of Eric Dolphy, simply one of the most exquisite musicians (and by all accounts, humans) ever to grace this Earth. He only lived to be 36 years and 9 days old, but not a single second of that precious time went to waste.
It's almost impossible to describe the significance of this man unless you are familiar with his work. One of the musicians most revered by other musicians in American history, he has been tributed by heavyweights from Charles Mingus -- with whom he famously played and toured just months before he passed in one of the greatest groups ever to grace a bandstand -- to Frank Zappa, who named a composition after him (The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue) and claimed to have felt his influence most profoundly. When he died, his brass instruments were given to John Coltrane, his best friend, who played Eric's flute and bass clarinet until he passed in 1967.
Ah, yes. The flute and bass clarinet. Before Eric came along, the flute was used sparingly in Jazz and wasn't really thought of as much of an instrument of improvisation. The bass clarinet was nowhere to be found until he broke it out, on the (utterly, mind-alteringly astonishing) Coltrane set Live at the Village Vanguard from 1961. His use of these then-unusual axes completely altered the trajectory of what was acceptable in the music, especially for the flute, which became much more ubiquitous once he showed the way. This was nowhere more in evidence than on his tremendously influential 1964 opus, Out to Lunch, surely one of the most loved and obsessed-over Jazz LPs that will ever be made.
Out to Lunch, Ho. Lee. Shit. That is a record that totally changed my life, just speaking for myself. What gets you so deep about Eric's music is the elegance he renders from such a sophisticated and unusual harmonic approach. His harmonies often seem to owe just as much to Béla Bartók as they do to Charlie Parker. But there's nothing thorny or difficult about his stuff. He could play the most strangely dissonant, wide intervals and somehow imbue them with a sense that it was supposed to be this way and the fact that it was meant all was right with the world. He also swung like a rampaging beast.
This man, this man whose music moves people like no other in the pantheon of improvised music... just listening to this concert I am sharing today I am transfixed by the beauty and intricacy of the music on display. The tragic, wholly unnecessary (and yes, racist) circumstances of his early, untimely death -- he was an undiagnosed diabetic who collapsed on stage in Berlin 18 days after this recording and was taken to a hospital where the doctors just assumed he was a heroin-overdosed Jazzbo stereotype and erroneously gave him detox gear along with insulin -- do nothing to diminish the impact his music continues to pass down the ages to new players seeking new and fresh directions. Not just in Jazz, but across the board.
Which brings us, of course, to what I am going to share in honor of this exemplary musician and person today. His last record, unsurprisingly titled Last Date, is technically not the last recording he ever made. Nine days later he was taped by the ORTF in Paris, and the first four songs of the set have appeared on the famous European bootleg label Westwind over the years in various forms and releases, all out of print now except for a 2013 unofficial vinyl reissue. I bring you today the complete concert, including the last two songs... one of which is perhaps the most legendary performance of the Coltrane standard Naima ever recorded, with Eric taking the tune into absolutely uncharted territory with the bass clarinet. This show is 64 minutes of bliss and in complete form is considered the Holy Grail of his output.
Like I said at the top, today would have been Maestro Eric's 87th birthday, so I pulled this set out, dusted it off, and sprinkled a bit of sonic pixie dustings around to get it really humming. I felt it sounded a little flat at the high end, so I improved this with the Sound Forge 9 Graphic Dynamics tool, as well as removing most of the vinyl transcription crackle from the solo passages in Tracks 05 and 06, sourced as they were from another tape originally. I also tagged the files. This I feel brings this seminal date into clearer focus and I dare say until we get a legitimate, complete issue of it this will be the best version available of what amounts to an hour and four minutes of absolute ecstasy, at least for me.
Eric Dolphy Septet
Le Chat Qui Pêche
Paris, France

01 Springtime
02 245
03 G.W.
04 Serene
05 Ode to Charlie Parker
06 Naima

Total time: 1:04:39

Eric Dolphy - alto saxophone (Tracks 02 & 03), bass clarinet (Tracks 01, 04 & 06), flute (Track 05)
Donald Byrd - trumpet
Nathan Davis - tenor saxophone
Jack Diéval - piano
Jacques Hess - bass
Franco Manzecchi - drums
Jacky Bambou - congas (Tracks 02, 03 & 06)

probably two sets of FM master reels, remastered by me
There are no words to describe how awesome this set is and how much Eric Dolphy means to me, Jazz, and music in general. Pull this down and bask in the glow of absolutely unparalleled and elegant artistry at its finest, and remember to remember this incredible man, born this day in 1928.--J.
6.20.1928 - 6.29.1964

Monday, June 15, 2015

Just a Good Ol' Birthday Boy

Welcome to the working week! I have no money, little food, I'm out of my medicine, and have almost no hope to survive the next month of life, but so what? I have an internet connection and 7 TB of unreleased music in these here vaults, so what does it matter if I eat? You don't care and that makes two of us.
Today's honoree is a special one, just like always. Seldom do I get to share a birthday tribute recorded on someone's actual birthday.
The man in the black hat would have been 78 today, had he not passed away in 2002. He is one of the central figures in the transformation that took place in the 1970s, when Country music branched off into what we now term Americana. He did it by infusing the idiom with a new sort of attitude, more in line with the hard-living Rock musicians of the era. At the time, it was called Outlaw Country.
It also helped that he was a visionary, top-drawer songwriter, able to pen odes to real life that did much to break Country free from its stodgy traditions. Now, there's a radio station or three in every city, North and South, that plays this kind of stuff, watered down as it's become over the 40 years since it broke out.
Listening to this show, you get the sense of a guy making progress against his demons and having a great time onstage. I have a bunch of radio broadcasts of concerts of his, and there's a few of them where it's pretty obvious they just woke him up from a cocaine-alcohol binge to go on and play. Not the case here. He's got his wife -- the thoroughly awesome Jessi Colter -- along for the ride and they are taking care of business.
There will only ever be one of him. You couldn't construct a songwriter of this caliber in the lab, they just happen once in a great while. How many people over the course of a lifetime in music did he touch and bring Joy? Not countable. We are gathered here today in the spirit of appreciation of the one and only Waylon Jennings.
Waylon Jennings
E.M. Loew Center for the Performing Arts
Worcester, MA

01 Luckenbach, Texas
02 Are You Ready for the Country?
03 Clyde
04 Happy Birthday to Waymore
05 Amanda
06 I Can Get Off On You
07 Lonesome, On'ry and Mean
08 I May Be Used (But Baby I Ain't Used Up)
09 Bob Wills Is Still the King
10 Kissing You Goodbye
11 Dreaming My Dreams with You
12 Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand?
13 Good Ol' Boys
14 Jessi Colter intro + Happy Birthday
15 You Make the Sun Want to Shine (w/Jessi Colter)
16 Good Hearted Woman
17 Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line
18 Honky Tonk Heroes
19 Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?
20 Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
21 Ain't Livin' Long Like This
22 outro instrumental
23 I've Always Been Crazy

Total time: 56:36

Waylon Jennings - vocals, guitars, banjo
Dan Mustoe - drums
Ralph Mooney - pedal steel guitar
Gary Scruggs - guitar, vocals
Jerry Bridges - bass
Rance Wasson - guitars, vocals
Floyd Domino - keyboards
Jessi Colter - vocals

FM master tape, remastered by me
374 MB FLAC/June 2015 archive link
This is a vital, electric performance in which a great time is had by all. Waylon's pedal steel player Moon is blazing into the upper ionosphere. Why, it's the only birthday show I've ever shared where the artist sings Happy Birthday... to himself. And then the audience sings it again! So pull it down, crank it up and celebrate the outlaw life and endless legacy of Waylon Jennings, born this day in 1937!--J.
6.15.1937 - 2.13.2002

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Inter 'Nette, Explorer

I just heard about the passing of one of the last living treasures of Jazz, so I am here with an appropriate tribute to one most worthy.
There isn't a whole lot to say except "thank you". There aren't many records that you could say are life-changing for a person, but The Shape of Jazz to Come was surely one of them for me.
Composer, instrumentalist, inventor of the concept of harmolodics, and yes, one of the few artists ever -- OK, the only one -- to have played with both Eric Dolphy and The Grateful Dead. I'd say he'll be remembered and talked about -- and most importantly, his music played, argued over and performed -- for a long, long time. Like forever.
I was lucky enough to catch him once, in the mid 1990s at the SF Jazz Festival, so I feel like at least I got to see the man play. If I hadn't I'd be even more bummed right now. I bet some of the folks heading to those last Dead shows in Chicago were hoping he'd turn up and sit in one last time. The stories of the other times -- with him spiraling off into half-hour free-jazz interpretations of Dark Star's chord progression and Space's spaces whilst the other guys were towed behind in bewilderment for the ride -- are absolutely legendary.
There are unique artists and then there are one-offs. Ornette Coleman, who died of heart failure this morning at 85, is firmly and forever in the latter camp. Allow me to share a vintage Body Meta concert, recently rebroadcast on European satellite radio, from 1978 as a tribute to this fallen giant of the music of the world.
Ornette Coleman Sextet
Quartier Latin
Berlin, Germany

01 Dream Talking
02 Mukami
03 Macho Woman
04 Song X

 Total time: 1:21:36
disc break can go after Track 02

Ornette Coleman - saxophone and violin
Bern Nix - guitar
Charlie Ellerbee - guitar
Albert Arnold - bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson - drums + percussion
Denardo Coleman, Jr. - drums + percussion

Astra Digital Radio rebroadcast, I think from 2011
Pull this down and enjoy it as we celebrate a life that almost could not have been more groundbreaking, more innovative, or more well lived. For almost 60 years this guy graced us with his challenging ideas, forms and sounds, and now that his time has gone he deserves to be acknowledged as one of the pillars of music in general and Jazz in particular.--J.
3.9.1930 - 6.11.2015

Sunday, June 07, 2015

We the Purple

Hey there! It's been a while but I am back for a Sunday birthday celebration worthy of royalty.
You know full well who this is just from the picture, so let's dispense with the formalities. There was a time -- coincidentally around the time of this epic post I am sharing today -- when he was everywhere and a half. Biggest star on the planet, bar none.
Rather deserving, too. It's rare that someone with this much talent in so many areas -- musician, guitarist, composer, conceptualist, producer, studio proprietor, hit filmmaker -- can break through to a situation where they are able to apply all of it to the whole like this guy has done for merely the last 35+ years. You could make the argument that he is the biggest music person of our lifetimes.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson this day in 1958 -- yes, that is really his name -- and still doing it... there will only ever be one Prince. He's 57 today so let's fire up a share worthy of such a superstar, shall we? File this one under "needing a reissue ASAP".
Yes, this is another one where you just shake your head and wonder how this concert -- aired live via worldwide satellite TV as it happened -- has never seen the light of day as a legitimate DVD release. It's not like this is a marginally popular artist here.
I mean, I can see why the record industry is reticent to issue archival material from say, Hatfield and the North or Diamanda Galas. Those are cult artists and it's unlikely the suits would see a return on their investment. But this was the most popular tour of the whole decade. There's no way it can only be available as a laserdisc out of print for 30 years, can it? The movie that went with it is still as popular as ever. Astonishing, but I can't say I am surprised.
Prince and the Revolution
"Syracuse and the World"
Carrier Dome
Syracuse, NY

01 Let's Go Crazy
02 Delirious
03 1999
04 Little Red Corvette
05 Take Me with U
06 Yankee Doodle Dandy (interlude)
07 Do Me, Baby
08 Irresistible Bitch
09 Possessed
10 How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore
11 Let's Pretend We're Married
12 International Lover
13 God
14 Computer Blue
15 Darling Nikki
16 The Beautiful Ones
17 When Doves Cry
18 I Would Die 4 U
19 Baby I'm a Star
20 Purple Rain

Total time: 1:56:24

Prince Rogers Nelson: lead vocals, guitar and keyboards
Wendy Melvoin: guitar
Brown Mark: bass
Matt Fink: keyboards
Lisa Coleman: keyboards
Bobby Z.: drums
Eric Leeds - saxophone
Sheila Escovedo - percussion
Miko Weaver - guitar
Eddie M. - saxophone
Juan Escovedo - percussion
Susie Davis - tambourine
Jerome Benton - dance
Greg Brooks - dance
Wally Safford - dance

NTSC DVD from the 1985 laserdisc
remastering by fullasoul

4.15 GB total/June 2015 archive link
Obviously this is a document of an artist at the absolute peak of their powers, in front of an adoring audience and on TV screens worldwide, so I needn't bother to hype it. What I will hype is the utterly incredible remastering job done on this by fullasoul... you will be hard pressed to distinguish this one from an official release and even the artwork (included) is gorgeous... not easy to achieve with a decades-old video like this. But like I alluded to earlier, all stops must be pulled cuz this isn't just anyone's birthday. This is royalty we are dealing with here! This is Prince.--J.