Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oslo Jams II: Mingus and Them

It's the weekend and I am about to go on a mini-vacation, but before I do allow me to feature the second of these NRK-TV vintage rebroadcast posts, recorded 46 years ago. This one's a rare gem indeed.
The man leading the band through this 40 minutes of Heaven on Earth needs very little if any introduction. If you are unfamiliar with who in the world Charles Mingus was and is, you need either a lobotomy or a history lesson, perhaps both.
Concert footage of this particular seminal figure of legend is pretty hard to come by, especially when it's a full set like today's show is. Most amusing about this one is that the screen says "Quintet" at the beginning of the performance, yet there are six guys onstage. Maybe they have a problem saying "Sex"? Who knows.
It makes precisely zero difference, it's forty minutes of Mingus from his 1960s/70s era with alto deity Charles McPherson, for goodness' sakes. Like I said yesterday, you will see rebroadcasts of material like this on American TV roughly when Fox News endorses Frantz Fanon for president.
The thing with these Norwegian TV archive things is that the HD files -- they come in either FLV or MP4 format -- are only on the NRK site for a night or two, then they disappear. So muchas gracias to the people yacking them down in the HQ format before they recede into the aether once again. Sure beats Full House reruns from 1993, that's for sure.
Look out for McPherson obviously and piano Maestro Jaki Byard manning the ivories in this footage... how stuff like this has never been officially released is equivalent to cultural suicide, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But still.
Charles Mingus Sextet
Newport Jazz Festival
Oslo, Norway

01 Orange Was the Colour of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk (C. Mingus)
02 All Too Soon (D. Ellington)

03 Mood Indigo (D. Ellington)
04 Take the "A" Train (B. Strayhorn)

Total time: 40:48

Charles Mingus - bass
Jaki Byard - piano
Eddie Preston - trumpet
Charles McPherson - alto saxophone
Bobby Jones - tenor saxophone
Dannie Richmond - drums

MP4 files of 2 consecutive Norwegian TV rebroadcasts from the NRK website
the screen credits say "Quintet" but there are six players onstage LOL
I might sneak another post in at the end of the month for Halloween, but until then this will be it, as I am not around for most of next week for my 50th b'day celebration down in SoCal. Has it been three years, really? When I began this thing I didn't think I'd have the stamina or discipline to make it last three months, but here we are. Many thanks to everyone who reads this page; please continue to pull down and enjoy what happens here, cuz I do it all for you! That and to illustrate what the pathetic music industry can't, anyway.--J.
4.22.1922 - 1.5.1979

Friday, October 21, 2016

Oslo Jams: MJQ on NRK

I am dropping into Friday with a set -- really two short sets -- from one of the foundational groups, taped 46 years ago today back in a time before time, when our species actually used to put Jazz music on TV.
These guys brought a kind of classical precision and aura to, well, modern jazz. They were what used to be called Third Stream, striking a kind of chamber jazz balance between formality and improvisation.
This 45 minutes of Peak Awesome was captured from the Norwegian TV web channel, as part of their ongoing rebroadcast series of vintage Jazz performances. You will see stuff like this on American television at approximately the same time benevolent extraterrestrials land at the Village Vanguard in NYC and play Charlie Parker's Donna Lee on diamond-stringed Space Harps.
Now that I think about it, these lads were kind of a supergroup before there was such a thing. I mean, cats used to be in each others' bands, but The Modern Jazz Quartet was a group with its own name and identity, not just the primary vehicle for one of the members whose name it bore.
This here is the classic MJQ, from just before they splintered apart in 1974. The Newport Jazz Festival had an annual tour of Europe back in the day and this show -- aired over two rebroadcasts -- was a part of that excursion.
These are FLV files captured directly from the NRK website, and are available from there only for a very limited time before they disappear, but I am trying to bring you the best of them here when the opportunity, like today's anniversary of this one, presents.
The Modern Jazz Quartet
Newport Jazz Festival
Oslo, Norway

Part 1
01 Romance
02 Summertime
03 It Ain't Necessarily So
04 My Man's Gone Now

Part 2
05 Blues Milanese

06 A Cold Wind Is Blowing
07 Adagio (from Concierto de Aranjuez)

Total time: 48:02

Milt Jackson - vibraphone
John Lewis - piano
Percy Heath - bass
Connie Kay - drums

FLV files of the complete set, rebroadcast via webstream on the NRK website in 2 parts
As I was saying this one was filmed in Oslo 46 years ago today on October 21, 1970... there's also a Buddy Rich performance from the same day we can save for his birthday, with a right to your brain if you want it! Obviously everyone is wondering why I avoided Dizzy Gillespie today, but he (like Buddy) is 100 in one year, so we'll get to those guys at their appropriate centennial moments. Anyway, do pull down and enjoy this NRK FLV of the MJQ in full WTF... rare footage indeed from an astonishing series not sold in stores!--J.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Almost Grown: Berry Treasure

I am back again, starting the last week of my Roaring Forties with a necessary tribute to an ultra-mega-legend turning a prodigious 90 today.
He is considered by many to be the singlemost significant figure in the creation and codification in culture of both the musical and personal-style content -- the "stance" -- of the music we call Rock and Roll.
He began in the 1950s -- when he was first to score multiple smash hits with his brand of riff-laden, harder-driving R&B that was just beginning to be called Rock -- and continues to this day, when (astonishingly) he is in the midst of recording his first studio record in 37 years.
In the beginning, it was he who most inspired the artists who formed the initial British Invasion of the early 1960s. Keith Richards essentially grafted his entire guitar style, wholesale, onto the Rolling Stones' initial forays, and The Beatles covered several of his songs.
And his influence is not limited just to Brits, either. Ted Nugent -- not the usual guy for me to quote, but appropriate here -- is on record saying that if you don't know the vast catalog of riffs invented by today's birthday boy backwards and forwards, you can't play Rock guitar and should quit immediately.
At its inception, when Rock music and attitude were just beginning to form like the early stars and galaxies of the primordial firmament, Chuck Berry -- born this day in 1926 and still, somehow, rocking -- galvanized it into a unique expressive art form with its own legs and duck-walking, guitar-flipping pyrotechnical style.
The Beach Boys borrowed his melodies for several of their biggest hits, most notably Surfin' USA. Guitar players the world over sat up and took notice, and still do, as he is one of the most emulated players ever to pick it up... when Jimi Hendrix played behind his back, he was imitating several luminaries, but chief among them was Chuck. What he started -- maybe not so much started, but honed into the first viable version of itself, from which all else followed -- echoes through the DNA of the music of our lifetimes like perhaps no other person you could name.
Ninety is quite an achievement, especially for someone who has toured and lived the life of a traveling troubadour for longer than my old ass has been alive. That he is finishing a new album -- his first original set since 1979! -- ought to give the lie to how active and awesome we all think we are at our respective vintages. Suddenly, getting three chapters proofed for my work doesn't seem like such a mountain to climb.
To commemorate the occasion of his milestone 90th, I have thrust into the cloud a pretty wild performance from the mid-1960s, when he went to Europe and began to really tour extensively there. This was taped for Belgian television in February of 1965 and features the man in league with some crack Jazz players keen to rock out and competent enough as sidemen to keep up. It's a PAL DVD and seems sourced right from the original master tapes, and was prepared by noted archival audio/video boffin JTT, who always does it impeccably right.
Chuck Berry
"Face au Public"
Universal Studios
Waterloo, Belgium

01 intro
02 Maybellene
03 The Things I Used to Do
04 Roll Over, Beethoven
05 Memphis, Tennessee
06 No Particular Place to Go
07 Promised Land
08 Johnny B. Goode

Total time: 27:49

Chuck Berry - guitar & vocals
Willie Albimoor - piano
Ed Rogers - bass
Willie Donni - guitar
Eddie Hunton - drums

PAL DVD, likely from the BRT-TV master tape or a rebroadcast (hence the logo), prepared by JTT
This is a half hour of highly representative Rock from one of its true Samurai warrior-masters, complete with all the tricks and flair and captured at the peak of his innovative powers. It isn't often I get to celebrate someone who is still among us who is turning 90, so pull it down and see what all the fuss, 60 years after he hit the scene, is all about. And the happiest of birthdays to Chuck Berry... sweet little sixteen, times five, plus ten today!--J.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mailman Among Men

Welcome to the working week and the second consecutive birthday post, this time in honor of one of the acknowledged greatest living songwriters of our age. Or any age.
Yes, it's a happy 70th birthday to the man my mom refers to as Porcupine Hair. As in, "Joshy, who is this guy who sings the Blow Up Your TV song? He is on PBS right now, and he has Porcupine Hair."
He didn't always have spiky, porcupine hair. That was a function of age, I think. He did, however, always write some of the world's most perceptive, gently incisive, memorable-character-driven, harvest-homespun tunes the second he came on the scene -- touted as the New Dylan, or one of them anyway -- 45 years ago.
That's pretty good, not bad. He can't complain. I guess if you had to describe the music of John Prine -- born this day in 1946 and joining the septuagenarian ranks as we speak -- in one phrase you might say he was like a cross between Tennessee Williams and Hank Williams. The original Hank Williams.
He is perhaps the most famous singing postman in human history, essentially becoming a performer because after his shift as a mail deliverer one night in Chicago in 1970, he attended an open mic at the legendary folk club The 5th Peg, and he decided he could do it better than the 15 amateurs he saw get up to play. As it turned out, he was not exaggerating.
Has JP ever written a forgettable, throwaway track? I am sitting here trying to think of a song of his I do not thoroughly enjoy. None are coming to mind. He has a new record out too, a follow up sequel to one of his most celebrated platters, which was called In Spite of Ourselves and featured him in duets with some of the Country greats, on all classic cheatin' songs. This new one, For Better or Worse, follows a similar tack, but this time it's duets about slightly more happy, begrudgingly contented couples! I need to get my ass to Amoeba Music and grab a hold of that new one.
I am sitting here going over in my mind how many incredible, indelible tunes he has given us. From Sam Stone -- one of the greatest anti-war missives ever crafted -- to Lake Marie, I can think of dozens upon dozens. He likes to say they are all the same song, with the same chords, but that those same three chords still sound good to him. I am not prepared to disagree.
I have dozens upon more dozens of JP shows and concerts, spanning his whole career, so when it came to today's share I had a range of choices. I settled upon a sparkling concert, taped in the summer of 1978 for (is it the greatest radio station of all time? The point could be made) WLIR-FM on Long Island at the even-more-legendary My Father's Place (is it the greatest small club of all time? The point could be made) in the Village of Old Roslyn, and sourced from a master cassette of the original, pre-broadcast feed.
As I said, JP is turning a milestone 70 on the 10th day of this 10th month, so in honor of that septoccasion I ran this through the machines a bit and tried to free the high end from the compressed, claustrophobic sound it previously featured. Because this appears to be a stage-mic situation, with the vocal mics fed through the board for that singing-up-front type radio concert vibe, the band comes through a little on the muddy side on the ensemble tunes.
I smashed it up between a taste of the Graphic EQ and Graphics Dynamics tools in Sound Forge 9, and smoothed out the volume track to track, as it was somewhat this side of all over the place. Additionally, I stripped in, and matched the best I could, the very beginning of Paradise, which was missing from this tape.... I used the Bottom Line, NYC FM broadcast of 2 days before (July 11th) of which I saw a boot CD just the other day in Amoeba Berkeley. Now it seems a tad more like the typical, balanced pre-FM fare we all know and love so well. I titled and tagged the files like I always do, and I separated the radio intro by (WLIR legend of my youth) Larry Kleinman, so you can get right to the music if you want.
John Prine
My Father's Place
Village of Old Roslyn, NY
EN pre-FM master cassette remaster

01 intro by Larry Kleinman
02 Spanish Pipedream
03 Often Is a Word I Seldom Use
04 Fish and Whistle
05 Crooked Piece of Time
06 Blue Umbrella
07 Illegal Smile
08 Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone
09 The Bottomless Lake
10 Sam Stone
11 That's the Way That the World Goes 'Round
12 Quiet Man
13 There She Goes

01 Try to Find Another Man
02 If You Don't Want My Love
03 band intros/Pretty Good
04 Bruised Orange
05 Hello In There
06 Grandpa Was a Carpenter
07 Paradise
08 Please Don't Bury Me
09 Sleepy Eyed Boy
10 Treat Me Nice
11 Sweet Revenge
12 Lawdy Miss Clawdy
13 Saddle In the Rain

Total time: 1:51:11

John Prine - guitar & vocals
Howard Levy - keyboards, harmonica, mandolin, pennywhistle, vocals
John Burns - guitars, vocals
Tom Piekarski - bass, vocals
Angelo Varias - drums

master cassette of the WLIR-FM pre-FM feed, remastered 10/2016 by EN
This is captured at the height of John's mythical Bruised Orange tour, and I think I got it into a sonic territory less distinguishable from an official live record and more towards a quality worthy of the exquisite and intimate performance, taped as it was at one of the all-time legendary, long-gone clubs of the fast-passing Golden Age. At least it's an improvement and likely sounds a Maywood acre or two better than the condition I found it in. Anyway, enjoy and a million more fish and whistles to songwriting deity of distinction John Prine, before he is at last seen off to Heaven.--J.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Invisible Man Made

I have been away with various aches, pains and a bad case of bronchitis, but I am back today and tomorrow with honoraria and rare fare for the debonair and unsquare.
Let's get it started with an unsung champion music maker whose face and name are a tad on the obscure side, but whose creative contributions are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe.
Strangely, I was preparing this post to commemorate his passing last week at 66, when I discovered he had left us just a few days shy of his next birthday, which would have been today.
He began in a multinational disco band as its brains and songwriting engine, and they ended up having global dancefloor hits that still can and do rock the party.
His greatest fame, however, came when Quincy Jones tapped him to write songs for who would become the top selling act of all time. Beginning in 1979, he penned a fistful of definitive tracks that catapulted Michael Jackson from mere superstar to global icon.
Michael's solo breakthrough, Off the Wall, contains several of his most multiplatinum, zillion-selling compositions. Thriller, its follow up, contains several more. The thing they have in common is that they all went to #1 on multiple charts and hung out there for a while.
In fact, every one of those tunes is being played somewhere in the world, at all times, and will be forever. The argument could be made that these songs established the modern paradigm of funky dance-pop as we know it today.
Did I mention he created what is possibly the catchiest song of any kind ever written by anyone? There isn't a day that goes by when I am not walking around humming (or making up really dirty lyrics to) Boogie Nights. I think they named a famous movie after it, if I am not mistaken.
Which brings us to the band he masterminded and helped conquer the 1970s dance charts, which was called Heatwave. This seminal outfit brought together musicians from several different cultures, all synthesized into grooves so infections and funky you almost have to change your drawers after hearing one of their records. It was in Heatwave that today's honoree first honed the template he would take into the ionosphere and beyond on those astonishing, modern-music-defining MJ albums.
To properly mark the occasions of both his passing last Tuesday and his birth 67 years ago today, I have accessed a gem of gems, which was issued on one of those (unsanctioned) ARD label DVDs from the early 2000s and hasn't been around much since. Someday, the entire Musikladen series will become available, straight from the WDR-TV archives. Until then I bring you Heatwave, at the height of their powers, on that unparalleled German show from the Fall of 1976.
"Musikladen Extra"
WDR-TV Studios
Bremen, Germany
Fall 1976

01 Walking In Rhythm
02 Fly, Robin, Fly
03 Living for the Weekend
04 Sing a Song
05 Girls
06 Rollercoaster
07 Always and Forever
08 Super Soul Sister
09 Too Hot to Handle
10 Boogie Nights

Total time: 45:20

Johnnie Wilder - vocals
Keith Wilder - vocals
Rod Temperton - keyboards, percussion, vocals
Ernest "Bilbo" Berger - drums, vocals
Eric Johns - guitar, vocals
Mario Mantese - bass, vocals

grey area PAL DVD on the ARD label, issued in 2001 only in Germany and not seen since, from WDR-TV masters
only one song (Track 10) aired 3.26.1977, the rest was never shown
You will have noticed I have not said his name, but he was nicknamed The Invisible Man, and that moniker was appropriate as he was one of the true underappreciated heroes of the music of our lifetimes. This fact is no more disputable than the blueness of the sky. Please pull down this 45 minutes of pure '70s disco-funk bliss and give thanks and praises for the life of Rod Temperton, born this day in 1949 and whose music and songs will be played until the end of time. Always and Forever, in fact.--J.
10.9.1949 - 10.4.2016