Friday, April 29, 2016

And the King of All, Sir Duke

It's time to start the weekend off in style, with a birthday tribute to someone without whom the landscape of culture and music as we know it would simply not be even remotely the same.
April 29th is well-known as the birthday of Willie Nelson -- an absolute Maestro of the music of our times without peer -- but that isn't who I'm talking about today. I have tributed ol' Willie Hugh before on here and he'll get his day again on this page, there is no doubt. 
But today is about someone whose contributions to the continuum are so monumental, without him there might not have ever even been a Willie Nelson. That sounds like an exaggeration, but when it comes to Duke Ellington, there isn't any such thing as hyperbole.
He was born at the end of the 19th century and would, before too long, begin shaping the sonic profile of the 20th and beyond. If I had to cite one figure, one central person that I'd put up there as the alpha and omega guy of the music of our lifetimes, it would have to be this man. You could make the argument that before he took Jazz and orchestrated it into all the different manifestations of American music it informed, there was no American music to speak of.
We were recently, and still are, mourning the untimely death of Prince, and it serves well to quote Miles Davis, who often referred to the mercurial Minnesotan as "the Duke Ellington of Rock". Very telling, as coming from someone like Miles -- himself inarguably one of the most formative musicians of all times -- there could really be no higher compliment to be paid an artist.
When Duke passed in 1974 --  after a lifetime altering the musical DNA of Planet Earth several times over -- Miles dedicated his then-new record, Get Up With It, to him. A year later, Stevie Wonder wrote a song canonizing him, and rightfully so. It's no stretch to say that the music of our world was in one, undeveloped, germinal state when Duke showed up, and by the time he departed things were in a completely different place, almost unrecognizable from where they had been.
Everything that could possibly have been written about Duke Ellington and his signature, writ large over the music and culture of our time, has been said, so anything I come up with is just gonna be redundant and obvious. Best to just get to the share and get out of the way, am I right?
This web channel in Norway has recently been streaming rebroadcasts of vintage Jazz performances from Norwegian TV of the last 50 years, and oh my brothers and sisters I am collecting them all, make no mistake. This one comes from precisely that series, and showcases 40 minutes of Duke and his Orchestra in full flight at the end of 1969. Look out for alto titan Johnny Hodges and trumpet deity Cootie Williams getting in on the swing of things.
Duke Ellington & his Orchestra
Bergen, Norway

01 Take The "A" Train  
02 Cotton Tail  
03 Up Jump  
04 La Plus Belle Africaine  
05 Come Off the Veldt  
06 El Gato  
07 Don't Get Around Much Anymore  
08 Solitude  
09 It Don't Mean a Thing  
10 Be Cool and Groovy for Me
11 Ocht O'Clock Rock  

Total time: 40:07

Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Harold "Money" Johnson - trumpets
Lawrence Brown - trombone
Chuck Connors - bass trombone
Russell Procope - clarinet & alto saxophone
Norris Turney - flute, clarinet. alto & tenor saxophones
Johnny Hodges - alto saxophone
Harold Ashby - tenor saxophone & clarinet
Paul Gonsalves - tenor saxophone
Harry Carney - clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor & baritone saxophones
Wild Bill Davis - organ
Victor Gaskin- bass
Rufus Jones - drums
Tony Watkins - vocals
Duke Ellington - piano

flv file of a 2016 NRK webcast of a concert shot in B&W for Norwegian TV in 1969
That'll do it for April's foolishness... I will return in May with a bunch more Twizzlers for your tweeters and wizardry for your woofers. In the meantime, I highly recommend pulling down this slice of unreleased Ellingtonia -- there isn't much out there still hiding when you're talking about a figure this monumental -- and Take the "A" Train straight into your weekend! And of course, long live Duke Ellington... born this day 117 years ago and in no discernible danger of disappearing.--J.
4.29.1899 - 5.24.1974

Thursday, April 21, 2016

...and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

I woke up today ready to post a birthday tribute to one of my favorite Jazz musicians, who was born this day in 1933. Trumpeter and author Ian Carr will have to wait, however, as events have once again intervened in the most tragic and shockingly awful way.
There really are no words for this one. I was staring at my phone as this news broke just aghast, wishing I could have made it not so, the latest celebrity death hoax. So so sadly, it isn't a hoax. This morning we lost an icon's icon, a musician's musician and an avatar for the ages.
I don't believe it, but Prince died at age 57 this morning, of an undisclosed flu illness that had overtaken him in recent days out of nowhere. He just played a month ago on his solo "Piano & Microphone" tour here in Oakland, and had shown up that week at the Warriors game at Oracle Arena in a style that made Stephen Curry stop splashing half-court warmup threes just to watch.
This is just not real, I am sitting here staring at my fingers, speechless. Maybe my tears can type this out, a new Morse Code for a new era of sadness. We are talking about someone who can and did do it all and sell tickets afterwards. Every instrument mastered. Every recording technology conquered. Every fashion sense pioneered. Almost every note and gender-challenging move an innovative, perfect one. Even as a bizarre symbol without a name for a while.
They are yakking it up on my TV right now about how of all artists of our lifetimes, Prince recorded every day since he was 19 years old and now that he has departed, the archival releases we will see will be likely among the very greatest of any artist's ever in human history. 
Honestly? Right now I'd rather he be alive, but thanks anyway Brian Williams on MSNBC... sheesh he ain't even cold yet and you're stalking those Purple Rain outtakes and a real issue of The Black Album and The Work.
Like I said, I really have no words to describe what this man meant and means and will mean to the cultural landscape of our lives. In the coming hours and days, as with David Bowie just three months ago, you will read and see and hear innumerable tributes. Every single one will be deserved to the power of necessary. This is someone where you're gonna remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard this morning's news.
What to do? What to share? I have a bit here, several iconic and killer shows and sessions and whatnot. I settled quickly on the definitive edition of a definitive show, from just days before the release of the record that made him the ultimate superstar he became. 
This was remastered and made into a beautiful package, with lovely sound and artwork worthy of an official release, by a triumverate of heavyweights from the fan community and is in every way worthy of this most exquisite, standard-setting songwriter, conceptualist and player.
 Prince and the Revolution
First Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

01 Strawberry Shortcake (PA) + drums check
02 17 Days
03 Our Destiny
04 Roadhouse Garden
05 Interlude
06 All Day All Night
07 Free
08 Noon Rendezvous
09 Erotic City
10 Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)
11 When Doves Cry
12 Happy Birthday interlude
13 Irresistible Bitch
14 Possessed

Total time: 1:19:59

Prince Rogers Nelson - lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards
Wendy Melvoin - guitar and vocals
Brown Mark - bass guitar and vocals
Lisa Coleman - keyboards, piano and vocals
Matt "Doctor" Fink - keyboards and vocals
Bobby Z. - drums

master soundboard recording, equipment unknown; possibly taped by Prince himself on his 26th birthday
remastered jointly, with immaculate artwork, by Anonymous, Free Boot Generation and 4DaFunk
595 MB FLAC/April 2016 archive link
This is a monster, Earth-shattering set that takes up a full CD, showcasing an artist about to explode across the world like a supernova... and all recorded on his 26th birthday, likely by the man himself, as he is known to have taped everything. All I can say is pull it down and let it help you grieve the way Prince would have wanted you to remember him, in full funk flight and leaving it all onstage as no other could or perhaps ever will again. We will not see his like in a long, long time. Goodnight, sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.--J.
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the Purple Rain
6.7.1958 - 4.21.2016

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Dream Sequence

Gosh, there's been so many deaths. When was the last time I posted something that didn't concern someone being born or dying? The rainy Saturday vibe leads me to correct that situation with an anniversary gem from 39 years ago today.
In archival and bootleg trading and torrenting circles, there are more than a few bands that have embraced the sharing of their concerts as a way to engage with their public and keep their name fresh in the news. Today's share comes from just such one of these groups, who allowed an entire comprehensive and career-spanning series of their live material to be constructed by their fans in the early 2000s. The show I am posting today comes from that very series.
Tangerine Dream are the band and, well, it's no exaggeration to state that they are one of the earliest progenitors of the Electronic Dance Music that rules the world these days. Not because they made anything resembling EDM or its offspring. They just enlisted their friends to build the first arpeggiating sequencers, back when no such thing existed.
Back then (1973), it was much simpler and the machines could only hold at most a few notes or digital gestures. But the spacy, arpeggiated voyages these guys initiated using those devices for rhythm and repetition sparked a multitude of revolutions in a bunch of different directions from Disco to House and on to today. The joke goes that to remix T-Dream's Ricochet from 1975 for today's dancefloors, all you'd need to add was a plodding kickdrum square on the beats and a sexy female voice exhorting the assembled ravers to shake their moneymakers.
So on to the Tangerine Tree and today's epic concert. In around 2004, fans of this classic band approached since-departed founder Edgar Froese about assembling an archive of the best versions of all the broadcasts and bootlegs from across their storied career. To their amazement, he agreed to help out on the project, and by 2006 a massive archive was completed, comprising over a hundred volumes of the Tree and its many Leaves.
Today's share is Volume 18 of the Tangerine Tree, broadcast live over Montreal's legendary CHOM-FM on April 9, 1977 during the US tour that produced the seminal live LP Encore. This is a complete, unoverdubbed concert of what many consider the definitive incarnation of TD, with the trio of Froese, Christopher Franke and Peter Baumann delivering two hours of trance-inducing, pulsating burblings and sequencer grooves -- all buttressed by more mournful and romantic Mellotron than you can shake a tape loop at -- from back when electronic music was synonymous with improvisation.
Tangerine Dream
Place des Arts
Montreal, Canada

01 Part I
02 Part II
03 Part III

01 Part IV
02 Part V
03 Part VI

Total time: 1:54:52

Edgar Froese – guitar, Moog modular synthesizer, Mellotron Mark V, Steinway Grand Piano, Oberheim Four Voice synthesizer, ARP Omni synthesizer, Palm Products GmbH 1020 synthesizer, Projekt Elektronik sequencer, mellophonium, guitars & effects
Peter Baumann – Projekt Elektronik modular synthesizer, Projekt Elektronik sequencer, Fender Rhodes, EMS Vocoder, Mellotron M400, ELKA Rhapsody 610 string synthesizer, ARP Pro Soloist synthesizer, voice
Christopher Franke – Projekt Elektronik sequencer, Computerstudio digital sequencer, Oberheim OB-1 synthesizer, ELKA Rhapsody 610 string synthesizer, electronic percussion, ARP Pro Soloist synthesizer, Oberheim sequencer, Moog modular synthesizer, Mellotron M400

volume 18 of the Tangerine Tree series
master off-air CHOM-FM reel, remastered by the TT team

706 MB FLAC/April 2016 archive link
This was actually officially released back about 10 years ago, as part of the "Bootmoon" series that featured official CDs of some of the Tangerine Tree volumes... but there was a catastrophic mastering error and discs from a 1981 concert ended up in the boxes for 1977! Then they tried to fix it and instead one of the tracks on CD2 got repeated twice! So this edition is really the only one to contain the correct version --  ah, the music industry. Anyway pull this bubbling sucker down and let it take you on a Saturday journey through spacescapes of  Saturday sequencer Satori! What the hey, at least no one died yet today.--J.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Sing Me Back Home: Bakersfield of Dreams

I woke up today completely unprepared for the Daily Death, but that doesn't mean I can't step up to the plate with the instant tribute to the latest fallen hero of the music of our lifetimes.
The other day I was saying how the great ones have that dramatic flair, and leave it to today's late great honoree to prove me right. For in the 2 1/2 years I have had this page, this is the first time someone has managed to pass away on their birthday.
The idea that Merle Haggard almost made it to 80 -- he turned 79 today -- is pretty astonishing in its own right. I was just thinking that the Highwaymen are down to just Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson now. That's only half the Highwaymen! This let's-lose-an-avatar-of-modern-music-every-12-hours thing is getting old and I'm ready for it to stop.
Yes, the hard-living outlaws who brought Rock-n-Roll swagger and substances to Country music are dropping like flies... we can only hope ol' Willie Hugh is smoking enough of the Private Reserve to stick around for another few decades. I always thought it amusing that Merle's most famous song was a legendary anthem about straight, clean living... and he sometimes claimed to have written it while high. The promo video for he and Willie's song that came out last year featured the two sharing a joint.
He spent most of the 1950s in jail, and was introduced to notorious inmate Caryl Chessman being thrown into solitary confinement in San Quentin. After seeing Johnny Cash perform at the prison in 1958 -- and having played the fiddle and guitar since age 12 -- he made up his mind to turn his life around. Upon release in 1960, he began to do just that. His criminal record was expunged in 1972, and he was given a full pardon by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan.
After seeing some songwriting success in the 1960s, his biggest hit was released at the end of 1969, at the height of the Viet Nam War. Needless to say, it struck a nerve. It might be the most seriously-taken character study ever in American music. Merle claimed it was done to support the soldiers, but also as a parody of the uneducated redneck attitudes still so prevalent in the US even today... "Okie" being a disparaging term for a backwoods Oklahoman.
It was at that moment that the Outlaw stuff really started in earnest, and soon you had Merle, Waylon Jennings, Willie, Cash, and a host of others plying the territory between Rock and Country for the rest of the Seventies. Merle in particular, along with others like Gary S. Paxton, is notable for his role in defining the Bakersfield sound that really jumped off in the late '60s.
There may be 10 radio stations in every city that play this kind of music nowadays -- it's currently called "Americana," a genre folks like Merle Haggard helped to invent -- but back then it was not the case. Fast forward to today and the capper on a 50+-year career.
So on birthday #79, Merle the Pearl has been sung back home, but not before altering the DNA of the sonic landscape for all that will follow. To honor the man I have pulled out and dusted off a tasty 75 minutes of he and his Strangers at Opryland in Nashville over the July 4th weekend 34 years ago, sourced from the original Silver Eagle pre-FM reels and delivered here in pristine, may-as-well-be-an-offical-live-record condition for you.
Merle Haggard & the Strangers
Nashville, TN

01 Misery and Gin
02 Brain Cloudy Blues
03 I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink
04 You're My Favorite Memory of All
05 Silver Wings
06 Workin' Man Blues
07 Always Late with Your Kisses
08 Our Paths May Never Cross
09 Miss the Mississippi and You
10 Mama Tried
11 Today I Started Loving You Again
12 San Antonio Rose
13 Swingin' Doors
14 All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers
15 Big City
16 Leonard
17 Stay All Night
18 Faded Rose
19 A Maiden's Prayer
20 Fiddle Breakdown
21 I'm Almost Ready
22 The Bull and the Beaver
23 Okie from Muskogee
24 Rainbow Stew

Total time: 1:14:22

Merle Haggard - guitar, vocals
Roy Nichols - guitar, harmonica, vocals
Bobby Wayne - guitar, vocals
Jimmy Belkin - fiddle
Tiny Moore - fiddle
Mark Yeary - piano
Dennis Hromek - bass
Don Markham - saxophone, trumpet
Norman Hamlet - pedal steel guitar
Biff Adam - drums
Leona Williams - vocals

Silver Eagle master pre-FM sourced, likely from reels
423 MB FLAC/April 2016 archive link
This is a sweet and highly representative tape of Merle at pretty much the peak of his powers, accompanied by a crack band with two fiddlers and tingling pedal steel. Pull it down, fire it up, and rest assured that the Universe will never supply us with another Merle Haggard, who was born (and is gone) on this day but managed to cram a pretty fine 79 years between those two dates.--J.
4.6.1937 - 4.6.2016

Sunday, April 03, 2016

San Leandro

It's a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, breezed by melancholic thoughts of another absolute titan of the music of our era -- one I just birthday blogged last Thanksgiving, nonetheless -- who has sadly left the stage for the very final time.
He just turned 83 years young last November, and here we are saying our farewells. Biggest regret is I never got to see him live, and had made up my mind that next time he played here in Oakland or SF, I'd be there or be square. Now it seems I will not get that chance.
He was scheduled to play a gig at Washington DC's Howard Theater only tomorrow night... maybe the most fitting end would have been him falling, unconscious, to the bandstand after one last chorus of I Want You, coincidentally his biggest hit record and written by the last guy I honored on this page just 2 days ago, Marvin Gaye. Don't laugh... he just missed doing that by about 36 hours. The great ones always have that dramatic flair, don't they? I'll probably die trying to rinse the FM static from a T. Rex bootleg from 1973.
I've been listening a lot to today's honoree's early 1970s monumental classics of everything, like The Third World and the standard-setting Latino America series, because I have a close, treasured friend who (despite being half my age) is deep into Jazz, so for his birthday last November I gave him a whole bunch of those records on CD. 
Now, whenever we hang out, Bolivia and El Pampero never seem far from the playlist, and each time I hear those slabs of interstellar vibration pouring out of my friend's speakers, I become that much more impressed and involved in the music of Leandro "Gato" Barbieri, the Argentine saxophone colossus who left us yesterday at 83 after a career that can only be described as beyond Earth-shattering.
Last November I shared a pretty bustling 2CD compilation I constructed of my favorite Gato jams, which can be found here.
Additionally, allow me to post this extraordinary 15 minutes of footage shot (I think) by Italian television for some sort of segment or special on Jazz or Gato or both in the Spring of 1972, just as he was about to explode with the sensuous, landmark and award-winning Last Tango In Paris soundtrack that made him a superstar. 
This is two tunes in some grainy-but-grand B&W film -- if I had to speculate, I'd say at most a minute of it was ever shown, and likely with an added voiceover -- shot in Rome, and features the man's quintet of the time, which includes, among others, the monumental Lonnie Liston Smith on piano. I had missed it being posted on my favorite BT tracker a few months back, but snagged it last night and share it here in the gracious spirit Gato embodied.
Gato Barbieri Quintet
Rome, Italy

01 Tupac Amaru improvisation
02 untitled improvisation (fades)

Total time: 15:14

Gato Barbieri - tenor saxophone, percussion
Lonnie Liston Smith - piano
Jean-François Jenny-Clark - electric bass
Marvin Patillo - drums
Naná Vasconcelos - congas, percussion

720p mpeg file of a master VHS, made from an Rai 3 "Schegge" rebroadcast on Italian TV sometime in the early 1990s

433 MB/April 2016 archive link
This footage also features another titanically talented musician --  one that also sadly passed away recently -- whom I have been intending to tribute: the Brazilian percussion Maestro Naná Vasconcelos. Man, is it hard to keep up with the funeral schedules or what? I was posting a bunch of stuff to the cloud last night, so in lieu of a full post on him (which I'll do at a later date cuz he is well beyond worthy of it), you can find the tremendous Codona concert from 1978 that I posted in honor of Don Cherry's birthday in 2014 right here.... Naná is 1/3 of that group and is all over that tape like cane on the brazos. 
That's Naná on GB's left in that shot. And of course, as we enjoy this fine Sunday full of the very finest music, let's be sure we remember Mr. Gato Barbieri, whose music will forever burn with an unparalleled passion and vitality even after he'll be gone for centuries.--J.
11.28.1932 - 4.2.2016