Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hidden Handy: Indian Summer of '79

After almost two weeks unblogged, I have resurfaced with a gorgeous and criminally undercirculated gem of a concert that is celebrating its 38th birthday today.
If you don't know the name of John Handy, you should... he's only one of the greatest musicians to walk the Earth during our lifetimes. He started out in the early 1960s with Charles Mingus and proceeded to go out on his own, lighting up the Monterey Jazz Festival of 1965 with certainly one of the most incredible ensemble performances in the history of Jazz, which was later issued on one of the genre's most revered live records.
This concert is just as transcendent, and dates from the late 1970s and Handy's second Seventies World Fusion project to feature legendary Indian sarod player Ali Akbar Khan. While their 1972 collaboration was mostly a duo, this show features as all-star of a band as you could put together.
Yes, this is a quintessential quintet JH has got onstage with him, with Brazilian guitar visionary Bola Sete, tabla deity Zakir Hussain and violin master L. Subramaniam rounding out the ensemble. When Handy finally got around to making a record of this project in 1980, a couple of the players had moved on.
Yes, this one was taped for National Public Radio on this very day in 1979 and boyo, whatta performance. As I was saying, Zakir Hussein and Bola Sete did not make the session for the one 1980 LP this group made, so their presence here makes a special hour of music even more special, composed as the lone piece was especially for this, this group's debut concert.
I remastered this powerful hour of entrancement a bit, hoping to make it about the very best it can be. I did little revision of the sonics, except to work on the slightly dull low end (in the tablas especially) and overall just bring the soundstage to the fore, as it was sort of flat sounding and a bit lifeless in terms of heft and fullness. I used Sound Forge 9 Graphic EQ and Graphic Dynamics tools for the fattening, and if I do say so now it sounds nearly indistinguishable from an official release.
John Handy's Rainbow
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA

01 John Handy interview and radio intro
02 Rainbow
03 radio outro

Total time: 1:00:45

John Handy - saxophones
Ali Akbar Khan - sarod
Zakir Hussain - tabla
L. Subramanian - violin
Bola Sete - guitar

master reel of a "Jazz Alive" pre-recorded FM broadcast from National Public Radio (U.S.A.), remastered by EN
This is, as I said, an hour of lilting, drone-slithering power, reminiscent of John McLaughlin's Shakti but not entirely as chops-focused as that group, and this Handy dandy quintet captures an organic vibe not unlike something, say, Don Cherry might mastermind. Anyway I thought it deserved a birthday refresh session, so I did the deed...  pull it on down and groove to it endlessly!--J.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ode to Joy

The weekend brings a tasty birthday post, all about someone who didn't live awfully long yet who made a very significant impact.
He committed suicide two months shy of his 24th birthday a long time ago, in despair, among other factors, over the clandestine affair he had been having and terrified of hurting/losing his wife and their then-newborn daughter.
The band he helped start only made a handful of records while he was alive, all of them among the most beloved and influential of our lifetimes.
When he passed, his bandmates decided to carry on in a different, more purely electronic direction. Then they became one of the most influential groups ever, all over again, in their new domain.
Certainly one of the most unusual and uniquely, darkly riveting frontmen of any band ever, his broodingly paranoid lyrics, often amelodic speech-singing style, and spasmodic stage dancing cast a tremendous shadow, even now almost 40 years since his demise. More than one film has been made about his tragically short, but hugely impactful, life.
Listening back to the 90 minute live compendium I put together to honor what would have been his 61st birthday today, I can't help but be struck by how dangerous and unhinged he sounds, and how his hyper-intense, commanding style of performance couldn't help but become iconic because it wasn't an act.
I remember at the beginning of the 1980s, hearing Joy Division first come on WLIR-FM in Garden City, NY. Obviously Love Will Tear Us Apart was all over those airwaves back then, but I remember being most captivated by his ballad -- one of the only non-punkish, mellow JD tracks -- called Atmosphere.
That track, with its repeated plea to not walk away, sounds like it's about the extramarital situation that eventually contributed to him ending his life. It never has failed to reduce me to instant, blubbery tears from the first time I heard it in around 1981.
Not that that was the only reason he took that final step... there was also the mental illness from which he suffered -- and the increasing epileptic fits, which he feared might curtail or end his ability to perform -- plus the terror he apparently felt about Joy Division becoming big enough to have been on the eve of departing for their first US tour at the time, in 1980.
This is all water under the bridge, because for 23+ years Ian Curtis lived. And whilst he did, he left traces and tracks that will live on long after all of us are gone from this place. Joy Division -- still probably the most famous and adored of the Post Punk bands -- became New Order post-Curtis, and set about inventing modern electronic Rock music as we know it.
There isn't an awful lot, in terms of high-quality archival material, of the former, as they only existed for about three years. Of course they were taped from the audience a whole bunch of times, but most of those dubs, unfortunately, sound like they were recorded by a tin can positioned roughly four city blocks from the stage.
Luckily there are a few radio sets that got captured back in the day, several of them issued at the start of the 2000s in incomplete, somewhat shoddily-produced form. One in particular remains -- stunningly -- unissued officially, with an incorrectly-tracked, inferior sounding bootleg box set from 2001 its only above-ground appearance thusfar.
Even luckier, there five years ago surfaced in trading circles the (nearly complete) pre-FM reels of this performance -- recorded for Dutch radio -- and oh my goodness, is it the Holy Grail of JD shows as was always advertised.
For inclusion here, I have substituted the opening track (on the pre-FM tape it's a very incomplete fragment) from another oft-bootlegged French radio concert from three weeks previous, as well as bonus material from an infamous gig -- in which the band's equipment temporarily malfunctioned -- in the UK a month later. All three component performances that form my little mashup have been meticulously remastered by an audio-expert Joy Division obsessive, and are likely to be the best-sounding form in which these incredible documents may ever circulate.
Joy Division
live in Europe

01 Passover
02 Wilderness
03 Digital
04 Day of the Lords
05 Insight
06 New Dawn Fades
07 Disorder
08 Transmission
09 Love Will Tear Us Apart
10 These Days
11 A Means to an End
12 Twenty Four Hours
13 Shadowplay
14 She's Lost Control
15 Atrocity Exhibition
16 Atmosphere
17 Interzone
18 Colony
19 Incubation
20 The Eternal
21 Warsaw

Total time: 1:31:11

Tracks 01 & 18: Les Bains Douches, Paris FR 12.18.1979 fage FM remaster
Tracks 02-17: Paradiso, Amsterdam NL 1.11.1980 surfling pre-FM "Definitive Edition" remaster
Tracks 19-21: The Warehouse, Preston UK 2.28.1980 fage FM remaster

disc break goes after Track 11

Ian Curtis - vocals
Bernard Sumner - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Peter Hook - bass
Stephen Morris - drums
engineered by Terry Mason

an assortment of fan remastered pre-FM and FM captures
I truly cannot believe the Amsterdam, France and UK FM broadcasts of this utterly iconic and thoroughly uncompromising band are not available commercially from the most pristine sources, but that's the music industry for you on any day ending in "y". No matter, for that's what I am here for --  to fill in the gaps the suits are either too profit-motivated or too stupid to make right.
Ian Curtis -- surely one of the most beloved and imitated singers in all of Rock history on the basis of a mere three years of recording and performing activity -- deserves not one bit less, if you ask me. He was born this day in 1956 and didn't even make it to 1981, but as I said what he expressed and how he expressed it can never, ever die... not as long as people are still listening. I hope this hour-and-a-half of irreplaceably coruscating music helps keep you listening.--J.
7.15.1956 - 5.18.1980

don't walk away
in silence

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Holy Ghost Ride

For my next trick, let's fire up a birthday tribute to one of the true innovators, and someone I have admired my whole adult life for his sheer lack of given fucks.
He barely lived to be 34, and while here enjoyed a tortured existence being pulled in several directions by his record label, himself, and the times.
Decades later, he is in less than no danger of ever being forgotten, and has become a stealth influence not just on Jazz, but on music as a whole.
He may have jumped into the East River between Queens and Manhattan when it all became too much, but today he is considered part of the formative triptych of Free Jazz: Coltrane the Father, Pharoah Sanders the Son, and he the Holy Ghost.
His influence has, in the nearly 50 years since his death, expanded far beyond just improvised music, with tendrils of his explosive style and conceptions about music and sound finding their way into Rock, Punk and R&B.
Full disclosure: I have loved and identified with the story and music of Albert Ayler since I was a teenager. For me, he is one of the most revolutionary figures in the vast continuum of American music.
He was twisted in the most ridiculous directions when he was alive. The critics reacted with a combination of mockery and mystification, even as deities like 'Trane championed his ideas.
Coltrane insisted Ayler be one of two musicians to play at his funeral when he knew he was dying (the other was Ornette Coleman). While alive, he took it upon himself to help support AA financially.
Their record label, the legendary impulse! imprint, tried to make Ayler into a Rock star, emphasizing as the Sixties went by his attempts at integrating Soul and R&B into his repertoire. It didn't work. At all.
It doesn't matter. His music is so revered by other players that over the years, every so often, a tribute project appears to play his compositions and keep his name in the spotlight. Today's share features a scintillating concert by just such a group, this one featuring a quartet of absolute heavyweight Jazzers paying him a most deserved homage.
A Tribute to Albert Ayler
Rencontres Internationales D'Jazz de Nevers
Théâtre Municipal
Nevers, France

01 intro
02 Holy Ghost/Spirits Rejoice/Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe/Mothers
03 D.C.
04 Roy Campbell intro
05 Change Has Come/Truth Is Marching In
06 outro

Total time: 1:10:41

Roy Campbell - trumpet, flugelhorn, pocket cornet, flute
Joe McPhee - tenor sax, pocket trumpet
William Parker - double bass
Warren Smith - drums

digital capture of a 2009 France Musique broadcast
This show is absolutely blistering, and all four participants do tremendous honor to AA's work. Watch out for reedmelter Joe McPhee -- someday he's gonna get his own tribute on this page -- as he channels everything Ayler, right down to the wide, emotional vibrato for which the man was so famous.
He would have been 81  years old today, born as he was in 1936, but as I stated his music was/is so pure and so evocative and individual to him that he will never, ever die. Anyway latch onto the tribute show I have put into the cloud and if you don't know, you'll eventually begin to understand what makes Albert Ayler one of the most unique, committed and intense musicians in any genre, ever.--J.
7.13.1936 - 11.25.1970

Monday, July 10, 2017

Elf Is On the Way: RJD 75

OK, this is maybe somewhat unusual for me, but look at it this way: this is surely the only page on the internet where you get the titans of late-1970s free jazz one day, and the heroes of heavy metal the next.
Every once in a while, I have to slip a Phil Collins or a George Michael in there, so's you don't start thinking I'm some sort of skronk-jazz dweeb blogging obscure brass players from the comfort of mom's basement.
Today we work to shatter those stereotypes with a 75th birthday bash in honor of a man who made his first single as a teenager at the dawn of the 1960s, and who went on to become one of the most iconic voices in Rock.
I seem to favor these types: the ones who are identifiable by one note. When this guy opened his mouth, you knew who was singing after approximately a quarter of a nanosecond. He may have been on the small side physically - I met him once and he could not have been much over five feet tall -- but vocally he was bigger than a breadbox and then some.
He is also responsible for that double horns thing with the fingers, which he claimed he got from his oldschool Italian grandma when she'd ward off the Evil Eye. I know the profiteering clown from Kiss tried to copyright it, but then that's what makes him a profiteering clown.
Sorry assclown with the oversize tongue and self-image... Ronnie James Dio got there first. He was born this day in 1942 and he passed seven years ago, but he'll live on long after the phony greasepaint and logofied lunchboxes proffered by the profiteers fade from history.
He started out as the 1950s became the 1960s, leading various pop groups until he settled on the name The Elves, which he changed to Elf as the 1970s began. They made several proto-metal albums that are considered foundational to the genre today.
Eventually he was tapped by Ritchie Blackmore to front the post-Deep Purple band Rainbow, which he left in 1980 to replace a druggified Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. For many people, the few records he waxed with the latter are the best they ever made.
He split Sabbath in 1982 and put together his own group, imaginatively named Dio. This became one of the most beloved Heavy Metal ensembles of all time, with their first two albums constantly featured in whatever Top 50 Metal LPs Of All Time list you happen to have up on your computer screen at the moment.
So for RJD's 75th birthday, I dug out this incredibly-recorded and beautifully transferred full pre-FM concert of the first tour of that band, made from Westwood One LPs. After some serious declicking and remasterizzation by me, it now sounds indistinguishable from a seriously heavy, official "Holy Diver In Concert" album, recorded as it is in Selland Arena in Fresno just like the live Black Sabbath record "Live Evil" to which Ronnie contributed so much... he actually mentions this towards the end of the performance.
Selland Arena
Fresno, CA

01 Stand Up and Shout
02 Straight Through the Heart
03 Shame On the Night
04 Children of the Sea
05 Holy Diver
06 drum solo
07 Rainbow In the Dark
08 Heaven and Hell
09 guitar solo
10 Heaven and Hell (reprise)
11 Don't Talk to Strangers
12 Man On the Silver Mountain (incl. Starstruck)

Total time: 1:11:20

Ronnie James Dio - vocals
Vivian Campbell - guitar
Claude Schnell – keyboards
Jimmy Bain - bass, vocals
Vinnie Appice - drums

pre-FM LPs from Westwood One, transferred by Talbe1019 in 2010 and declicked/declipped and otherwise optimized by EN in 2017
This is a strange one for me, but I figured 75 is a milestone and this classic bootleg -- which I cleaned up from the pre-FM LPs that went out to radio stations back in the pre-CD days -- deserved to circulate without all the wretched surface noise and clipping, so away I went.
Anyway, please pull it down and enjoy its earsplitting virtues, and as you do please remember to pay birthday homage to its mastermind Ronnie James Dio... if you don't he'll put away those guardian horns and the Evil Eye will getcha     \m/  \m/   --J.
7.10.1942 - 5.16.2010