Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Buddy System

It's Thursday and time for the last post of July, where we give it up to one of the greatest living guitar heroes.
Yes, Buddy Guy is 79 today. I hope you know who Buddy Guy is. Some of the bestest guitar players ever to live have called him mentor. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton come to mind. Today's share has him jamming, on his 53rd birthday, with yet another.
He's been doing it a long time, hence the accolades. He wouldn't be ranked #30 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time poll if he hadn't. But don't let that wretched rag's opinion discourage you from understanding he's really all that and a bag of picks, either.
Phrases like "Last Living Legend of the Blues" get thrown around a lot, but now that B.B. is gone, Buddy might be the last man standing in this regard. You hear him play one stinging phrase and you know it's him and that signature, machine gun tone.
There are a million possibilities in terms of what to share to honor him today, but whenever I can do a birthday set on someone's actual birthday I tend to go for it. This one is an hour, apparently recorded onto DAT off the mixing desk, from Buddy's 53rd birthday party at his club in Chicago called Legends. It features Buddy trading pyrotechnic fret-frying duties with another of his many heavyweight disciples, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
These two first played together in 1977 and were best friends right up until SRV's untimely death in the helicopter crash disaster in 1990. This crushing sixty minutes of mayhem dates from 1989, when SRV had sobered up and was playing at the absolute peak of his powers. He would be dead within just over a year of this performance.
And what a performance. There isn't all that much singing... these two axe-grinders prefer to light up the air around their amplifiers with chorus after chorus of blazingly intense pentatonia. Obviously the packed house goes wild with each six-string salvo and things reach a fevered intensity, with BG and SRV trading boasts and blasts of blues over the 18+ minute finale. After an hour of all this, you need a rest.
Buddy Guy & Stevie Ray Vaughan
Chicago, IL

01 It's Still Called the Blues
02 Champagne & Reefer
03 Mary Had a Little Lamb
04 Leave My Girl Alone

Total time: 56:33

Buddy Guy - guitar & vocals
Stevie Ray Vaughan - guitar & vocals
piano/bass/drums/sax - unknown

1994 Swingin' Pig boot CD of a master soundboard DAT
I have no idea who the other players are on this show, but we know who's playing the guitars, at any rate. My advice is to pull this down and play it exceedingly loud, for the maximum celebration quotient to be achieved. After all, it's Buddy Guy's 79th birthday -- and the 26th anniversary of this blistering set -- and the occasion demands nothing less!--J.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pigs Fly: Pork Pie In the Sky

Welcome to the working week, and more music no one cares about or remembers! Today is the 41st anniversary of one of my favorite shows ever, by anyone. I'll try to keep this short and to the point.
Is there such thing as a free-funk supergroup? I'd make the case for Pork Pie, the all-star band assembled by Dutch keyboard whiz Jasper van't Hof in the mid-1970s. All five players' reputations precede them.
This is a positively nuclear set, recorded this day in 1974... the two incredible records this band made (The Door Is Open and Transitory) don't come close to the volcanic power they were capable of onstage. Watch out for Belgian guitar maestro Philip Catherine and of course reeds/winds virtuoso Charlie Mariano, who blows his brains out for the entire hour.
A couple of years ago when I got this from a pre-FM source, I almost peed myself with glee... only to find out there were some digital dropouts/errors when it was transferred from the original reels. I repaired these and trimmed down the German MC's introduction (which went on for 6 minutes!) and removed his outro (another 3!), leaving mostly just the astonishing music.
 Pork Pie
Balver Höhle
Balve, Germany

01 intro
02 Epoch/Transitory/Angel Wings
03 Pudu Kkottai
04 Bassamba/March Of The Oil Sheikhs
05 Unknown/Unexpected

Total time: 58:11

Jasper van't Hof - keyboards
Charlie Mariano - reeds & winds
Philip Catherine - guitar
John Lee - bass
Aldo Romano - drums

pre-FM reels, repaired by me
There isn't much to say about this concert and this band other than don't let the fact that you've never heard of them deter you from making their acquaintance. The way they straddle the line between spontaneous invention on the fly and structured composition leaves me jaw-to-floor every time... think a more far-out & jazzier mid-Seventies King Crimson with often simultaneous soloing from the frontline. Definitely one of my all-time favorite performances by anyone... pull it down and you'll see why.--J.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flight to the Finnish: Jukka's Wild

You woke up today, and I know exactly what happened without even having turned on the surveillance cameras I have so stealthily installed on your computer. You opened your eyes, glanced at the clock radio, and wondered aloud... what have I become? Where is my life going? And why I am I not ingesting some vintage Jazz-Rock from Finland today?
I don't often post pics of Scandinavian hippies holding cats, but when I do, I accompany them with 40 minutes of smokin' playing (including word association games in other languages) and high-energy fusion footage from one of the foremost exponents of such sumptuously spankin' sounds.
Yes, folks, this page gets so black and white sometimes. Jazz heroes and Rock stars, how homogenous, huh? Always Americans and Brits, totally skewed in favor of English speaking countries. How do you stand it? Sometimes I myself nod out during writing these things. The cure for insomnia, and in FLAC format no less so you get those high-resolution, lossless snores.
So it's in the spirit of diversification -- or at least of the ability not to put everyone into a coma with Creedence Caucasian Revivals and polemics about how the porcine purveyors of phony pulchritude-for-profit paid the players in powder (oh, pshaw!) -- that I bring you today's fantastic Finnish fare.
You might not know the name of Jukka Tolonen, but he is one of my favorite guitar players and certainly one of the finest living axemeisters currently inhaling oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. From his time as the star of Scandinavian Prog Rockers Tasavallan Presidentti ("President of the Republic") to Wigwam to his leadership of some of the most incendiary fusion ensembles of any nationality, his reputation precedes him in parts of the world not named "America".
This little film of his band will surely hip the uninitiated. It dates from 43 years ago today and consists of a PAL DVD -- sourced from a 2008 digital rebroadcast -- of Team Tolonen tearing up a set in front of an appreciative outdoor audience in what looks like an idyllic, picturesque place. 
It comes from the 1972 Pori Jazz Festival and was originally shot for a Finland TV special on the man. He and his quartet blaze through a number of Mahavishnu-meets-Trad-Gras-och-Stenar (now there's a future post to make y'all go "Just who in the actual fuck are these dudes?!?") instrumental pieces that go through all sorts of dynamic and rhythmic changes on their respective journeys. It ends up sounding like a sort of Miles-Live-and-Evil funkfest crossed with a Progressive Rock-ish, pastoral edge -- complete with stellar close-ups of Jukka's vintage Cry-Baby wah-wah pedal -- and if you love those kinds o'music, you really do need to get a-clickin' on the link below. That's real talk. Or puhua todellinen. There, I said it.
Jukka Tolonen Quartet
Pori Jazz Festival
Pori, Finland

01 Interview, part 1
02 Mountains
03 Last Night
04 Interview, part 2
05 Rambling
06 Interview, part 3
07 encore applause
08 Impressions of East

Total time: 39:54

Jukka Tolonen - guitar
Pekka Pöyry - saxophone, flute, percussion
Heikki Virtanen - bass guitar
Reino Laine - drums

B&W PAL DVD from a 2008 digital rebroadcast
Watch out for the horn player, the astonishing Pekka Pöyry, in this... he is burning it down whenever he puts the reed in his mouth, and spends the moments he isn't doing that smacking a cowbell around like it owes Christopher Walken money. Of course Jukka -- who in the years since he was fronting the Finnish version of Return to Forever has become born-again and a primary purveyor of Christian music -- shreds and caresses his (I think) Gibson L-5 for the duration. It's a serious burner -- I wouldn't have put up such an obscure nugget if the music featured wasn't at the "incinerating" end of the "blazing" spectrum -- recorded this day in 1972, and therefore at least a couple of years before this kind of music started its slow, shark-jumping decline into the all-frets-no-feelings noodlefest a lot of it became. So have at it and enjoy. I'll be back tomorrow with yet another PAL DVD of something I think you might actually recognize! :-P--J.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sidewinder 77: Praising Lee

It's Friday and I am back with a birthday tribute to one of my all-time favorite musicians ever.
The sad story of his life should be made into a Hollywood biopic. It has it all: unparalleled talent and potential, triumph, innovation, tragedy, despair, drugs, redemption and untimely, violent death. That he is but a footnote to the history of American music, barely thought of today, drives me to write this post and make my feeble attempt at disclosing how much he means to me.
There will never be another Lee Morgan. That he only lived to be 33 years old, and in his short time experienced so much agony and trouble, does not diminish his impact and influence, particularly among other musicians. His story should serve as a cautionary tale-among-tales to anyone thinking there is any refuge in hard drugs.
He burst upon the scene almost fully formed, a protege of the legendary (and also gone too soon) Clifford Brown, hired at age 18 by Dizzy Gillespie... then (along with Miles Davis) the pre-eminent practitioner of the trumpet. When finances forced Diz to disband his orchestra and return to smaller ensembles, Lee started making his own records for the Blue Note label he would come to almost singlehandedly save from bankruptcy. In the process, he helped to popularize a precursor to the music that rules every corner of the world today. All on the strength of one song, that wasn't even supposed to be on the record in the first place.
See, what we know and love and call "funk" today wasn't always a staple of popular music. At one time, it didn't even exist outside of the New Orleans "second line" revelers at Mardi Gras. That all started to change at the end of 1963, all because Lee needed one more track to fill out the comeback LP he was recording.
He likely never would have had to come back, had he not met Art Blakey and joined the Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s. Ol' Art might have been a great drummer, but the man was a dirty rotten devil in disguise, having introduced several of his sidemen to heroin as a mechanism of controlling them. He promised Lee he'd have him "turned on" by the time he was two weeks in the band, and he was worse than right. His trumpeter took to the drug like a duck to a dinner plate, and it haunted him for the rest of his brief life.
Of course, it wasn't just Art's fault... he was a lifelong junkie too, albeit a "functional" one. The broader blame lies with the wretched, shallow trench called The Music Business. Back in the day it wasn't the thieving technodweebs of Spotify and Apple Music destroying the artists; it was the racist club-owners and label honchos, who in many cases paid the players in drugs. Lee -- barely in his twenties -- was cast into a labyrinth of lowlifes and was never able to completely extricate himself from its web.
When he returned from rehab (with a fridge full of Methadone) to New York City in 1963, having left The Messengers a couple of years previous, he set about recording the album and the song that would come to define both him and a whole new style of music, called Boogaloo. An antecedent of the deep Funk sounds that would, by the time 10 years had passed, take over the world, this style found its apotheosis in a throwaway track Lee scribbled out on a roll of toilet paper in the studio when he needed one more number to fill out the record. It was called The Sidewinder, and it changed the world in ways that still resonate to this day, 43 years after he left us.
The Sidewinder was a first, all right. It raced up the pop charts -- heck, all the charts: Jazz, R&B, you name it -- throughout 1964 on the strength of its unauthorized use in the Chrysler ads that had aired during the previous autumn's World Series telecasts. 
Lee, or anyone at Blue Note for that matter, were never asked by the carmaker for permission, hence it became one of the first modern examples -- perhaps the very first -- to precipitate a lawsuit for copyright infringement in a TV commercial. Nowadays, every corporation has 22 lawyers on call 24 hours a day to make sure no such litigation ever becomes necessary, and Lee jumping out of his chair watching the auto moguls make off with his song is one reason why. It was by no means the end of his activism on behalf of musicians and composers.
He, and several other heavyweights including (most worthy future blog post) Rahsaan Roland Kirk, once interrupted a live taping of The Merv Griffin Show in 1970 by walking onstage banging on percussion instruments, demanding that network TV give airtime on their talk and variety programming to Jazz music, which was then on the serious decline that has ended with its sad status, today, as the least popular genre of all in the country of its origin. Had he not battled heroin addiction for much of his time, there is simply no telling what he would have accomplished, both musically and in terms of the social activism in which he became involved toward the end of his days.
But back to 1963 and The Sidewinder. You could make the argument that the song Lee tossed off in the studio is the Ground Zero of Funk... the track that demonstrated exactly how popular and profitable music built upon the various New Orleans dance rhythms could be. Once that song hit, everyone started to get in on the act. The story goes that James Brown saw Lou Donaldson's band play in 1965 -- Lou being another Blue Note stalwart who'd jumped with both feet onto the bandwagon The Sidewinder had started, taking it even deeper into the pocket with the assistance of drum deity Leo Morris (Idris Muhammad to you) -- and decided then and there it was time to unleash the Cold Sweat-inducing, head-bobbing ultra-funk he had in mind upon the world. And the rest is history, as they say.
Lee Morgan, forced as he was to lead off almost every record after that first foray into funk with a track designed by the label to duplicate the success of the slithering Sidewinder, resisted the profit play of the easy cash-in even though it would likely have made him a very rich man. Towards the end of his life, he began to integrate electronics and dance rhythms back into his music, but only in his own, iconoclastic way. 
After he died, some of the musicians with whom he surrounded himself -- from Headhunters reedsman Bennie Maupin to flautist Bobbi Humphrey (the first female artist ever signed to Blue Note) -- carried on in his wake in pursuit of The One. But the most singular element of his tragedy, to me, is what he would have gone on to do -- in the aftermath of the advent of the fusion he helped to inadvertently invent -- after his last record in 1972, finished just days before he was killed by the woman who had rehabilitated him back to the bandstand in the mid-Sixties only to shoot him dead between sets at a club date in NYC when he drifted from her imperious control.
Forgive the length of this scattershot screed, but I feel it necessary to presage today's share with at least some of the story of this most extraordinary musician. Maybe someday his life will be made into the film he so richly deserves. Until then, it might all seem like water under a leaky bridge, but I have always felt compelled to tell the tale of the pioneers who got scalped, so to say... that's one reason I have this page in the first place, you know? So please accept this mammoth concert -- recorded for French radio in 1961, towards the end of Lee's time with Blakey, and issued over 20 years ago as part of the flood of gray-area releases that came out on fly-by-night labels when the European copyright laws lapsed in the early 1990s (and meticulously remastered by me all day yesterday) -- as but a small token of the esteem in which I hold the music and legacy of the man who is, for me, the Jimi Hendrix of Jazz: the most magnificent Edward Lee Morgan.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
Paris, France
EN pre-FM remaster

01 The Summit
02 Yama
03 Close Your Eyes
04 Dat Dere
05 'Round About Midnight
06 So Tired
07 My Funny Valentine

01 It's Only a Paper Moon
02 Noise In the Attic
03 Moanin'
04 I Didn't Know What Time It Was
05 Blues March
06 A Night In Tunisia

Total time: 2:29:39

Wayne Shorter - tenor saxophone
Lee Morgan - trumpet
Bobby Timmons - piano
Jymie Merritt - bass
Art Blakey - drums

1992 Trema Records CDs, out of print since forever, remastered by me
I apologize that these words are so rambling and inarticulate; it's impossible to tell Lee's story in any kind of truthful, unsugarcoated way and not have to be typing through these tears hitting the keyboard right now. Do yourself a favor and honor him today -- first by pulling down this barn-burner of a concert in which the front line of Lee, living musical monument Wayne Shorter (now, perhaps, the greatest living Jazz composer), and Bobby Timmons (yet another casualty that Art Blakey found it necessary to "turn on") destroy the Paris Olympia with chorus after chorus of blazing, chops-defying solos -- and then purchasing the man's albums like The Rumproller, Search for the New Land (my personal all-time favorite Jazz composition), and of course the mighty Sidewinder that kind of started it all. Lee Morgan -- an almost-forgotten hero born this day in 1938 and gone way too soon from our midst -- merits every iota of your undivided attention.--J.
7.10.1938 - 2.19.1972

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Oh Say, Can You CCR

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Oooh, that red, white and blue
And when the band plays "Hail to the Chief"
Oooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, son
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no
Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand
Lord, don't they help themselves, y'all
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no, no
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask 'em, "How much should we give?"
Ooh, they only answer "More! More! More!", y'all
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no military son, son
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, one

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no, no, no
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son, no, no, no!
 Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fillmore West
San Francisco, CA
44th anniversary EN pre-FM remaster

01 stage & tuning
02 Born On the Bayou
03 Green River 
04 It Came Out of the Sky
05 Don't Look Now/Door to Door
06 Travelin' Band
07 Fortunate Son/Commotion
08 Lodi
09 Bad Moon Rising
10 KSAN-FM aircheck
11 Proud Mary
12 Up Around the Bend
13 Hey Tonight
14 Sweet Hitchhiker
15 announcement: 3-year anniversary of CCR closing the old Fillmore
16 Keep On Chooglin'  
17 Bill Graham outro

Total time: 59:51

John Fogerty - guitar, harmonica, vocals   
Doug "Cosmo" Clifford - drums
Stu Cook - bass, vocals

KSAN pre-FM master reels, remastered by me
notes on the remaster by EN
Well, this show, oh my. They sound like they are trying to rip the audience's face off... it's so metal! A real CCR headbanger, recorded 44 years ago today. Maybe Tom Fogerty quitting at the end of 1970 forced his brother to turn up, so crushingly loud is this performance by El Cerrito's finest (I live in Richmond, just steps across the I-80). But, alas, it came from old reels and the highs were not so high; a bit of a muddy beast it was. So I spent 7/3 working on bringing the top into alignment with the bottom, with a splash of paragraphic EQ here and a dash of Sound Forge 9 Graphic Dynamics there. A day later and it's ready to blow up your BBQ like a stick of dynamite inserted in the steaks. It Came from Out of the Sky... and stepped on San Francisco. How Carlos Santana followed this stomper of a set is not known, but what is clear is that this is an hour of absolutely face-frying shit from CCR as they close down the Fillmore West... which is now a Honda dealership at the corner of Van Ness & Market in SF. Anyway enjoy and have a great 239th birthday America!