Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cat's Cradle

I overslept a bit thanks to some cannabis-infused ghee butter, but I am marginally awake enough now to post this birthday tribute to an absolute Jazz legend!
I have said it 100,000,000 times, but you can really tell the Hall Of Fame-type players from how many notes of theirs it takes to name them. Today's honoree is one of those that there's probably 3-year-old children that could recognize his tone and sound, both of which are almost entirely unique to him and which he has been utilizing on his Jazz journey for, oh, just the last 50 years.
Possibly the greatest living Latin Jazz veteran on the planet, Gato Barbieri came from the heart of Argentina in the mid-1960s and immediately began to straddle the line between the explosive free playing then prevalent and the deeply passionate, romantic tone and timbre for which he would become known. Not too many players who are known for smoother sounds today came out of the Free Jazz firmament, but this is one.
Just as much a teacher as a musician, perhaps Gato's biggest contribution has been Latin America, his series of albums exploring the folkloric roots of Latin Jazz that he inaugurated on the venerated Impulse! label at the dawn of the 1970s. The four installments of that cycle are surely among the most blazing examples of the genre ever created. The fourth one, a live record recorded at The Bottom Line in New York City and the rarest of the bunch, is as deadly a scorcher as you'll find from that decade.
And he is still doing it at the age of (wow) 81. Or is it 83? There's some dispute as to the exact year, but so what? One of the saxophone heroes I have never had the pleasure of seeing in concert (that has to change soon), the guy is still out there playing and doing his thing. Not many Jazz musicians even live into their eighties, much less play, but Gato shows no signs of stopping and that is one reason to get out of bed in the morning.
To commemorate the man's 81st (83rd?) today, I have decided to share my personal Gato Barbieri tape, culled from his most iconic early-70s output. Well, sort of anyway. See, I used to have a cassette way back when that was 90 minutes of him, but good luck figuring out what songs were on it as it's been lost, along with my tape deck, to history. So yesterday I raided the archives and reassembled it, or something close to it, from more modern sources. You should have seen me trying to hook up the Victrola to the laptop.
Gato Barbieri
El Sublime

01 Introduction to The Third World
02 Nunca Mas
03 El Sublime
04 A John Coltrane Blues
05 Carnavalito
06 Encuentros
07 Gato Gato
08 Viva Emiliano Zapata
09 Latino America I
10 Haleo and the Wild Rose
11 El Gato

01 Milonga Triste
02 Tupac Amaru
03 Yo Le Canto a la Luna
04 Latino America II
05 Bolivia
06 El Sertao
07 La China Leoncia pts. 2 & 3
08 Brasil
09 Last Tango In Paris (Jazz Waltz)
10 Vidala Triste
11 Mate

Total time: 2:38:19

compilation assembled by EN from Gato's Flying Dutchman and Impulse! catalogs
I am listening back to this now and what a burner it is. I always thought Gato sounded a little like Pharoah Sanders and a little like Albert Ayler, but with a totally unique spin all his own and like I said recognizable by one eighth note from the man's horn. Anyway enjoy my little reconstructed mix here -- and a very happy birthday, and many more, to El Maestro Gato Barbieri -- and I shall return in December with yet more fluff for your filters :D--J.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Clash of '82

Welcome to Friday and a sweet anniversary remaster from a Thanksgiving past.
This hour of mayhem comes from the Jamaica World Music Festival of 1982, which featured one of the most eclectic lineups of all time. Everyone from Talking Heads to Jimmy Cliff played.
Joe Strummer from The Clash, who co-headlined, refused to go on unless he got assurance from the promoters that some of the Jamaicans outside the gates would be let in for free.
The Clash finally went on at 4 in the morning, when most of the festivalgoers were sleeping. Once The Clash started playing, they were no longer asleep.
This concert comes from the brief time Terry Chimes was back on drums after Topper Headon had been sacked for drugs the previous May. This lasted until the following Spring, when Chimes quit to become a chiropractor and The Clash entered its implosion phase.
It's sourced from a master soundboard cassette. As per remastering, it didn't require much at all, but because I thought it was a little flat and dead on top (that Dolby B?), and also because the kick drum seemed a bit loud to me, I set about adjusting things in Sound Forge 9 for an optimal listening experience. A little EQ, a little Graphic Dynamics enhancement, a little alignment along sector boundaries, and a touch of titling and tagging as well as new md5s and ffps, and here we are.
The Clash
Jamaica World Music Festival
Bob Marley Centre
Montego Bay, Jamaica
EN SBD remaster

01 introduction
02 London Calling
03 Police On My Back
04 The Guns of Brixton
05 The Magnificent Seven (incl. Armagideon Time)
06 Junco Partner
07 Spanish Bombs
08 One More Time
09 Train In Vain
10 Bankrobber
11 This Is Radio Clash
12 Clampdown
13 Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
14 Rock the Casbah
15 Straight to Hell
16 I Fought the Law

Total time: 1:00:38

Joe Strummer - guitar, vocals
Mick Jones - guitar, vocals
Paul Simonon - bass, vocals
Terry Chimes - drums

 soundboard master cassette, transferred by Charlie Miller and remastered by EN
I suppose the big feat of audiological necromancy in this one was the last tune, which had a bizarre and inexplicable cut about 18 seconds in... I painstakingly reconstructed the missing section -- using a few seconds from the repeating part towards the end -- to play as seamlessly as possible and I think I did a darn good job mashing it up. It's way better than how it was before, anyhow. What's a few microseconds when you're fighting the law and the law wins, amirite? Play it loud, Happy Thanksgiving, R.I.P. Joe and do enjoy this snapshot from just before The Clash, well, crashed.--J.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Miss Family Robinson

It sucks that the only time I get to post anything is when someone passes away, but here I am again this afternoon with yet another memorial tribute to yet another fantastic musician who's gone to join the band in the big room.
Yesterday Cynthia Robinson, co-founder and trumpet player of Sly and the Family Stone, died of cancer at age 69. The woman who exhorted Planet Earth to GET ON UP AND DANCE TO THE MUSIC has left the building.
Yesterday afternoon, drummer Questlove from The Roots penned a tribute in which he referred to her as music's original hype-man (hype-person?), and describing how her vocal rejoinders to mainmen Sly and Freddie Stone in that group provided a great deal of the party-with-a-message vibe so crucial to the success of a band whose influence upon all music since sits just north of inestimable and just ahead of unquantifiable. Also, she could play the shit outta the horn.
The music we love is usually assumed to revolve around the names we know and the faces we recognize, but it's people like Cynthia who provide the glue and the chops on which the greatest and most lasting of musical constructs often hang. When the initial, classic core Family Stone splintered apart in 1971, Cynthia was the only one to remain with Sly, and she eventually reunited with slap-and-pop bass guru Larry Graham (there's a birthday honoree for another post) in his seminal funk aggregate Graham Central Station later on in the 1970s.
Players like Cynthia don't get enough of the kudos when it comes to recognition for their contributions, what with our culture driven as it is by big names and sweeping gestures. But it's people like her that make it all go and in a lot of ways make it what it is. When I was a little kid and Sly and the Family Stone would come on TV, it was Cynthia and Rose -- the two women -- that I would watch and pay attention to. I don't for a moment imagine that I was alone in that.
These woman paved the way, too, because it wasn't always that way. A racially-integrated, multi-gendered band was next to unheard of before Sly and Cynthia put it together. Today of course it's taken for granted and the music industry is full of powerful superstar women who have the reins of their own careers, but back in the day things were a whole lot less diverse. 
It may sound far afield, but people like Cynthia Robinson are one big reason why, decades hence, people are in a position to look at the Taylor Swifts and the Lana Del Reys and accept them as the natural part of the musical landscape that they are. Generations ago, it wasn't always so inclusive for a woman in the industry, dominated as it was and still is by some of the most unethical sausages ever to roam the Earth. Prime movers like Cynthia Robinson are one reason that situation has evolved some from those darker days. Obviously there's a lot further to go, but if not for these folks we'd be a lot way further behind.
So to commemorate the passing of this lovely, brass-blasting lady I have dug out an exquisite PAL DVD -- the first HD Video I have ever shared here -- of Sly and Company on the European TV show "Swing In" from the sweaty, seminal summer of 1970. This is a full half hour of this group on their particular brand of fire and I'd advise that it is certainly not to be missed, as we will so miss Cynthia.
Sly & the Family Stone
"Swing In"
The Lyceum
London, UK

01 My Lady
02 Sing a Simple Song
03 Stand!
04 Everyday People
05 Dance to the Music
06 Music Lover/I Want to Take You Higher

Total time: 27:24

Sly Stone - vocals, organ, guitar, bass guitar, piano, harmonica
Freddie Stone - vocals, guitar
Cynthia Robinson - trumpet, vocals
Jerry Martini - saxophone
Larry Graham - vocals, bass guitar
Gregg Errico - drums
Rose Stone - vocals, piano, electric piano

HD PAL DVD from the pre-broadcast tapes
All right, I will be back Friday and Saturday with two more wildly eclectic posts for November... I wish you all a tremendous Thanksgiving and remind you, should you need to be reminded, to keep Cynthia Robinson -- a world-changing woman despite the fact that many don't know her name or who that lady with the trumpet was -- and all her many families in your thoughts.--J.
1.12.1946 - 11.23.2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Toussaint: The Overture

This is a sad post to have to write and I wish I didn't have to do it, but unfortunately I must.
We are extremely spoiled by the music of our lifetimes, us modern humans. We go through our lives nearly oblivious to the fact that we are the beneficiaries of more recorded and live music to choose from than any people who have ever lived, anywhere on this planet. The idea that the last 50 years of human musical culture have been the most extraordinary and prolific in our history is nearly entirely lost on us in our daily lives, even as we bounce from YouTube video to Pandora playlist to iPod to Bluetooth and into the local record shop on our way to Amazon.
Certain people have come along and had their lifetimes overlap with ours, and it's those heavyweight artists that have made this recent period of musical diversity and excellence what it has been. In the pantheon of such luminaries, the case can be made around American music -- and specifically the music emanating from the essential focal point of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana -- that the most essential and formative of them all was Allen Toussaint, who passed yesterday at the age of 77 after a life in music that can only be described as masterly.
The list of artists he discovered and produced and for whom he penned songs is, well, endlessly infinite. The number of timeless classics that came from him is equally as astonishing. The Meters. Lee Dorsey. Dr. John. Workin' In a Coal Mine. Yes We Can Can. Mother-In-Law. Freedom for the Stallion. I could go on. And on. And on.
And this is to say nothing yet of his own records, especially the 1970s ones on Warners that just get better and better the more times you spin 'em. And of the collaborations with a hundred million others from Elvis Costello to Labelle (he produced Lady Marmalade, which is likely still playing on at least 10 radio stations as I type this, for them in 1974). And of his founding of a studio space in which a zillion classics were laid down, Sea-Saint. And here you were, thinking it was an achievement that you made it out of bed this morning.
I mean, if he had just brought the world The Meters and called it a day, they'd be building monuments to him anyway. Most people think James Brown is the primary Funk architect, or George Clinton. Those guys are obviously as integral as it gets, but for my money the man who did the most to invent the genre from the ground up was Allen Toussaint, one of the most revered, covered and sampled artists ever to live.
Like I said it's very sad to have to write this, but the man lived a long and fantastically influential life and spent his time down here as well as a person can spend it, so there is cause for celebration of a lifetime well-dispatched amid the grief we are all feeling at the loss of this lion. To this end I will share a tremendous solo performance of his -- taped for TV at a jazz festival in Spain about 6 years ago -- and starring the man, his compositions, and an epic Steinway & Sons grand that he simply demolishes for an hour of his greatest hits.
Allen Toussaint
33 Festival de Jazz
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

01 Instrumental/Yes We Can Can
02 Sweet Touch of Love
03 What Do You Want the Girl to Do?
04 Singin' the Blues
05 Medley incl. Sweet Georgia Brown & St. James Infirmary
06 Medley: A Certain Girl/Mother-In-Law/Fortune Teller/Working In the Coal Mine/A Certain Girl (reprise)
07 Soul Sister
08 With You In Mind
09 Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)/unknown instrumental/Tipitina
10 Get Out My Life, Woman
11 All These Things
12 Long, Long Journey
13 Southern Nights
14 Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

Total time: 1:01:50

Allen Toussaint - solo piano & vocals

PAL DVD from the 2009 RTE satellite broadcast
So I hope y'all pull this down, and that you'll find the time also to sample some of the other tributes that are justifiably flowing around the life and music of this most eminent Maestro of our world, who left us yesterday after so many decades of so many beautiful and funkable sounds. My advice is to give him the joyous and celebratory New Orleans funeral he deserves, straight down the Bourbon Street of your mind, by playing and enjoying some of the incredible things he left for us to play with. Yes we can, I know we can and yes we can can... great God Almighty, if we want to yes we can!--J.
1.14.1938 - 11.10.2015

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Video Gram

It's time for the first post of November, starring an innovator of Cosmic American Music who'd have been 69 today.
People call what Gram Parsons started "country-rock". Gram Parsons hated that term, perhaps more than any two words in the English language. Nowadays there's twelve radio stations in every city that play it, and it's called Americana.
Back when he was around, there was no name for it. The rock people (the hippies) and the redneck roots people hated each other... perhaps even more than Gram Parsons hated the term "country-rock".
It's funny how some people can be dead at 25 and wait until age 75 to be buried. Then there's other folks who're the opposite, and cram ten lifetimes into a mere quarter century of one. Gram here is firmly in the latter category.
Possibly the most productive trust fund baby in music history, Gram was heir to a Florida orange juice fortune and never had to work a day in his life. The legend has it that he never set out to merge the disparate realms of country music and rock-n-roll... he just played and sang what sounded good to him in the way it sounded best. Planet Earth would never be the same.
Gram would likely tell you it's all the same, and that music is music and he was just singing a song. These days we take this stuff, embedded as it is the collective consciousness of our country, for granted, as if the perfect synthesis between rock and country -- equal parts twang and bang -- is just a natural facet of existence. As I alluded to earlier, it was not always this way.
Of course the hindsight of history shows us that Hank Williams I was essentially the first modern songwriter, and the 20th century kind of proceeded off him into the Rock era anyway, filtering through R&B. In a certain way, all Gram Parsons did, monumental as his achievement was, was return Rock to one of its fundamental sources and ensure that country would always feed its roots.
He began this journey first in his International Submarine Band -- where the Cosmic American merger took nascent shape -- and then through seminal, terraformative stints in first The Byrds for their impossibly brilliant Sweetheart of the Rodeo LP, and then the equally-as-marvelous Flying Burrito Brothers at the end of the Sixties. All this before breaking out on his own. It's impossible to escape the fact that the entire history of the country-meets-rock project runs through the Nudie suits in Gram's closet. Which should have been declared a national landmark if it hasn't already.
He only made two (watershed) albums before passing away at the ripe old age of 26 from an overdose of hard drugs. He also somehow managed to discover Emmylou Harris -- herself only one of the greatest vocalists of this or any other lifetime -- in the process, and it has fallen to her to continue the man's legacy for lo these many decades. Today's share, which is a killer, is central to that effort.
This is an NTSC DVD of the pre-broadcast tape of the incredible "Sessions At West 54th" program from 1999, convened by Emmylou to promote the tribute album to Gram's music she helped curate, The Return of the Grievous Angel. It has all sorts of Americana heavyweights from Gillian Welch & David Rawlings to Steve Earle in it, all paying homage to Gram's indispensible ouevre and performing some of his most treasured songs.
An All-Star Tribute to Gram Parsons
"Sessions At West 54th"
Sony Music Studios
New York City, NY

01 opening
02 John Hiatt intro
03 Return of the Grevious Angel - Emmylou Harris & Ryan Adams
04 High Fashion Queen - Steve Earle & Chris Hillman
05 Hickory Wind - Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
06 Hot Burrito #1 - The Mavericks
07 dialogue: Emmylou Harris & John Hiatt
08 Sin City - Steve Earle, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
09 dialogue: Emmylou Harris & John Hiatt
10 One Hundred Years from Now - Wilco
11 dialogue: Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, & Chris Hillman
12 Juanita - Sheryl Crow & Emmylou Harris
13 dialogue: Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, & Chris Hillman
14 band introductions
15 Wheels - Chris Hillman & Jim Lauderdale
16 dialogue: Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, & Chris Hillman
17 A Song For You - Whiskeytown
18 In My Hour of Darkness - Victoria Williams & all performers
19 credits

Total time: 55:49

the house band:
Bernie Leadon - mandolin, electric guitar
Greg Leisz - guitars, lap and pedal steel
Buddy Miller - bass
Paul "Wix" Wickens - keyboards, accordion
Ethan Johns - drums

NTSC DVD of the pre-broadcast tape from "Sessions @ W. 54th"
This is a powerhouse performance -- taped on the 26th anniversary of Gram's death -- of the type you often get when you gather a bunch of musicians in one studio and tell them to play what inspired them to become musicians in the first place. Please pull it down and check it out, remembering simultaneously to honor Gram Parsons, the man whose insistence that strange bedfellows make the most passionate lovers resulted in the world-altering combination of two very different but ultimately compatible genres, and who was born this day in 1946.--J.
11.5.1946 - 9.19.1973