Sunday, September 30, 2018

Air Apparent: Steve McCall 85

Don't sweat... I am keeping track of the departures and will catch up to them with the necessary archival tributes... there may even be a CD currently fetching 200 bucks on Amazon if you're patient. The last bit of September here, however, must be devoted to one of my personal favorite drummers and a true unsung hero of the music of our age.
Born on this day way back in 1933 and gone from us nearly 30 years, he's still one of the most unique voices on his instrument we'll ever get to hear if we live to be 1,000.
It's sad that he's so underappreciated that there's barely any photos of him on the internet, but if life success were measured by that, we'd all be kneeling in prayer to Paris Hilton and this post would be all about the pioneering bass clarinet skills of Kim Kardashian.
 We won't be talking about those ladies 30 minutes after they're gone, but our honoree today is dead 30 years and I'm writing a reverent tribute to his mastery, so spare me the fifteen minutes.
Better to be known for -- in addition to the overall, unparalleled artistry and the several zillion other projects of which he was an integral element -- having been one-third of one of the truly exploratory ensembles of 1970s Jazz (and improvised music in general) which was called, simply, Air.
His two comrades in this band -- surely one of my favorite groups of any kind, ever -- will someday soon also grace this page. They are the reed- and mind-bending saxmaster Henry Threadgill and the late Maestro of the contrabass, Fred Hopkins.
These three titans of modern music come from Chicago's mid-1960s social and creative cauldron of boundary-shattering change, and today's tributee was instrumental in the establishment of that city's ultra-legendary cultural and musical non-profit institution, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).
In addition to being the pulse of Air, our b'day hero played on dozens upon dozens of albums with artists across a whole spectrum of improvisation and Jazz.
Although he only lived to be 55, Steve McCall -- as fluid and melodically gifted a drummer as any I know I'll ever have the privilege of hearing -- means as much to me as any musician I can name, and indisputably left a genuine, gargantuan imprint upon the music of our lifetimes.
To celebrate this first-ballot firmament hall of famer, I have got an incredible document of Air from smack dab in the middle of the 1970s Spiritual/Loft/Free/Unlabelable Jazz pinnacle, sourced from an almost-perfectly recorded FM master reel and taped at the 1977 Moers Festival in Germany.
Moers Jazz Festival
Moers, Germany

01 Burkhard Hennen announcement
02 Celebration
03 No. 2
04 Great Body of the Riddle Or Where Were the Dodge Boys When My Day Started to Slide
05 Angel Sun

Total time: 1:06:32

Henry Threadgill - alto saxophone, flute, hupkaphone, bass saxophone & percussion
Fred Hopkins - bass
Steve McCall - drums & percussion

off-air FM master reel
I shall return in October with all sorts of autumnals, and we'll celebrate the five-year anniversary of this page on the 25th, so stick around. And also, let us never forget Steve McCall, who'd have been 85 today but whose light-and-shade will never fade.--J.
9.30.1933 - 5.24.1989

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Les Is More

I realize there's been a departure, and I'll get to Marty Balin soon, but it's gettin' time to close out the month of September with back-to-back posts concerning two monsters of the rhythm section, both celebrating birthdays.
The first one is 55 today -- young!! -- yet has been around for well over a quarter century, somehow.
One of the music of our age's true eccentrics, he is considered one of the greatest bass players currently breathing.
He's been a part of countless, and sometimes all-star, groups, but it's one band that he's most beloved for, having founded them in the 1980s and continuing to now.
Back decades ago, he auditioned for one of the world's most revered Metal bands by asking if they wanted to "jam on some Isley Brothers tunes". They rejected him because in their words, he was "too good".
They were right.... he is pretty good.
He's better than merely good. You look at his career thusfar -- looking past the ridiculous humor and funny stage clothes -- and you see a musician's musician who's seemingly never made a record that wasn't completely on his own terms.
He's someone whose style, tone and megapercussive attack are instantly recognizable from just a handful of thunder-thumbed notes.
He probably wanted to be Verdine White or Louis Johnson as a kid, but we're eternally grateful he grew up to be Leslie Edward Claypool -- usually just Les -- born this day in 1963.
He's been a part of many stellar projects and ensembles, many of them featuring heavyweight players of the firmament. But it's his band Primus for which he is likely most known and respected.
Something like a cross between Devo and the small group ensembles of Jaco Pastorius, their music is among the most beloved and emulated of our epoch. Someday, he may even have his own cannabis strain, if he already doesn't.
To commemorate the occasion of him turning 55, we have one of the classic Primus boots, taped in Dallas 25 years ago on their tour for my favorite record of theirs, Pork Soda. This one's fan-remastered for maximum thump, too.
The Bomb Factory
Dallas, TX

01 Jerry Was a Racecar Driver
02 Bob
03 My Name Is Mud
04 Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers
05 Frizzle Fry
06 Seas of Cheese/Pork Soda
07 The Air Is Getting Slippery
08 Spaghetti Western
09 Harold of the Rocks
10 Nature Boy
11 DMV
12 Toys Go Winding Down/Pudding Time
13 Here Come the Bastards
14 Fish On intro/Tommy the Cat

Total time: 1:20:33
disc can be overburned or put break after Track 08

Les Claypool – vocals, bass
Larry LaLonde – guitar, banjo
Tim "Herb" Alexander – drums, marimba

Michael Wilker master digital sbd remaster
This one is essentially 80 minutes of Les and the boys flattening a highly enthusiastic (and occasionally, as he notes, obnoxious) audience.
I'll be back tomorrow with something completely different all about a seriously unsung hero of mine, but today we sail the seas of cheese with our favorite birthday fisherman, Les Claypool. Long may he angle!--J.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Blue Flute Juice

Welcome to a Flute Punch Sunday and a tribute to one of my favorite players of ever.
There's so many big birthdays on September 23rd and I still have a few years before I get to them all, but I decided on this person today because he's as deserving as any of the more notorious names on the 9/23 list.
When I was learning the drums I must have practiced to his records as much as any others.
It's appropriate, for he is responsible for some of the deepest Funk of the whole era.
His run of albums at the turn of the '60s to the '70s is a deep as it gets, and has resulted in him being responsible for one of Hip-Hop's most recognizable sample loops.
That picture is a hint, yes. But he's got so much funky feel in his tunes and in what he plays, the whole of Rap could have been based squarely on his recorded output and have lost none of its drive and pelvic propulsion.
His style all goes back to The Blues, and he never strayed far from pentatonia. Even his more out-there and jazzier excursions keep at least a toe rooted in the Delta.
One of the catalysts behind marrying Jazz and Rock together in organic and fascinating ways, he is one of the people responsible for some of the greatest Fusion records. One of them -- got-damn, it's a beast -- is actually titled, simply, Fusion.
He's allowed, as he is one of Fusion's original architects.
What he might be best known for, though, is the technical innovations he brought to the table. After a motorcycle accident left him unable to play with same embouchure as he had previously, he began to experiment with ways to overblow and even talk/sing into his instrument, along with like-minded contemporaries like Rahsaan Roland Kirk creating a whole extended sound palette in the process.
Overall one of the most essential flautists of the Jazz century, no one played it quite like today's 76th  birthday boy, Jeremy Steig. He left us a few years ago but the impression he left remains indelible.
To celebrate we have a sweet German radio rebroadcast of two different sessions from the man's heyday, in the company of some serious heavyweights including bass deity Ron Carter and keyboard Maestro Joachim Kühn.
Jeremy Steig

01 radio introduction
02 Nardis
03 She's a Beauty
04 Rustique

Total time: 56:00

Track 02: 
Ulm, Germany

Jeremy Steig - flute
Ron Carter - bass
Louis Hayes - drums

Tracks 03 & 04:
Stuttgart, Germany

Jeremy Steig - flute
Joachim Kühn - electric piano
Siegfried "Sigi" Busch - bass
Aldo Romano - drums

digital capture of an SWR2 cable rebroadcast of two Süddeutscher Rundfunk German radio sessions
I'll be back to wind down September's waning week with additional vaulty treats, but today we honor Jeremy Steig, born this day in 1942 and forever rocking the Sure Shot.--J.
9.23.1942 - 4.13.2016

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Runaway Success: Joan Jett 60

Welcome to the weekend and milestone birthday time for another luminary of the firmament.
She began as part of a legendary band, but found her greatest triumphs after splitting from them at the end of the 1970s.
She might never have broken out as a solo star, to the world-ruling degree she did, had it not been for the help and promotion afforded her initial solo LPs by a seminal radio station.
The breakthrough came just as legendary WLIR-FM on Long Island in NY was transitioning into a "new music" playlist that would feature a whole host of post-punk and New Wave bands and artists.
In the Summer of 1981, WLIR began to play her new single in heavy rotation. Then MTV came online in August -- just two weeks prior to this performance -- and the track and its video became the global anthem of the season. It's still considered one of the most beloved songs of the 1980s.
Born in 1958, she is turning the big 6-0 today, and wouldn't you know it, the show I selected to work on and share comes from one of those incredible WLIR "Party In the Park" broadcasts they used to do back in the day.
This tape is so golden, because it's dubbed direct onto cassette from the original, live remote feed... vintage, virgin WLIR air!!! I swear that radio station filled every waking hour of my high school life, 1980-84. If they'd have let me listen to it all day in school, I would have. Gladly.
If you went by the sheer number of bands they helped establish, WLIR might be the most significant radio station of our lifetimes. There aren't too many that could say they had a full-length documentary made about them, but WLIR-FM in Garden City -- perhaps the last of the classic FM stations of the Rock era -- is one of them.
This capture is no exception to the myth. It sounds like the whole concert start to finish -- I can't even determine where the tape flip is -- even though the ultra-classic original vinyl boot of this performance contains an extra song no one is really certain comes from the same show.
Even the date was uncertain -- it was thought to be from either the 8th or the 15th -- but someone posted their original ticket to a thread about it online, and it's from the 15th. These outdoor free shows took place every weekend of 1981 and went out live on WLIR.
It was also filmed, although no footage has ever surfaced from it save a few tunes in a WLIR promo video from 35 years ago about the "Party In the Park" series.
I slightly reworked it to bring out its "balls" and give it more of the necessary heft, and I think I did a decent job. I decided to leave out the mystery track, which sounded way thinner and was difficult if not impossible to sonically match and effectively integrate into the main tape.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
WLIR-FM's "Party In the Park"
Fireman's Memorial Park
Hempstead, NY

01 WLIR-FM intro by Denis McNamara & John DeBella
02 Bad Reputation
03 Be Straight
04 You Don't Know What You've Got
05 Bits and Pieces
06 Wait for Me
07 Summertime Blues
08 Victim of Circumstance
09 I Love Rock 'n' Roll
10 Nag
11 Crimson & Clover
12 You're Too Possessive
13 Love Is Pain
14 Black Leather
15 Do You Wanna Touch Me
16 Star Star
17 Shout
18 band introductions
19 I Love Playin' with Fire
20 Wooly Bully
21 Rebel Rebel

Total time: 1:15:10

Joan Jett – vocals, guitar
Gary Ryan – bass, vocals
Lee Crystal – drums
Eric Ambel – guitar, vocals

pitch-corrected cassette master of an original WLIR-FM broadcast of "The Party In the Park";
slightly refurbished by EN, September 2018
This set is near to flawless anyway, as Joan and her mates destroy the packed field as a slow drizzle falls. It almost plays like a live Greatest Hits thing, really.
I'll be back -- maybe tomorrow, not sure yet. But Joan Jett -- how many women and girls has she positively role modeled for? How much great music has she given us over her 40+ years doing it? -- is 60 today and that's a reason to celebrate! That is, if you love Rock 'n' Roll... I know I do.--J.