Friday, August 25, 2023

Weathering Heights: Wayne Shorter 90

Weather Report - Directions

Like I promised when he passed in March, we're gonna revisit one of the all-timers on what would have been his 90th birthday.

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said about someone of this caliber.

Here's something: when Tina Turner ran away from Ike and had nowhere to go and nothing to get there with, this guy took her into his home and helped her begin to fashion a career on her own.

We all know where he came from, that sick lineup of The Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan alongside.

Then it was on to the Second Great Quintet of Miles Davis, at the bleeding edge of the music in the 1960s.

He began recording as a leader during this time, and produced several bedrock, pillar albums for the Blue Note label in the 2nd half of the decade.

As the Sixties ended and the fusion stuff came in, he conspired with another cat from Miles' electric band to create something totally unprecedented at the time.

It was at the start of 1971 that two groups hit that would essentially define Fusion for everyone else that would follow.

Both would cause audiences and fellow musicians alike to plumb lose their minds.
One was The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The other was called Weather Report, and was the brainchild of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, the latter of whom was born this day in 1933.

The two bands couldn't have been more different whilst playing the same basic style of music.

Mahavishnu was string based, with guitar and violin prominent.

Weather Report had no guitars at all but for the electric bass, and was woven primarily around Zawinul's multiple keyboards and synthesizers, and of course the horns of today's birthday boy.

WR went on for 15 years with varying personnel around Joe and Wayne, but here's a fine example of them that just so happens to have been taped 50 years ago tomorrow, during their Sweetnighter period.

Weather Report
Jazzfest Châteauvallon
Ollioules, France

01 percussion intro
02 Boogie Woogie Waltz
03 125th Street Congress
04 unidentified fragment
05 Sophisticated Lady
06 Early Minor
07 Directions
08 In a Silent Way
09 It's About That Time
10 band introductions
11 medley incl. 125th Street Congress [reprise] & Seventh Arrow [theme]

Total time: 1:27:36
disc break goes after Track 06

Wayne Shorter - saxophones
Joe Zawinul - keyboards
Miroslav Vitous - bass
Dom Um Romao - percussion
Greg Errico - drums 

digital capture of a 2022 France Musique rebroadcast
some missing bits patched (with an unknown-but-low gen FM cassette capture) 
and reassembled in (more or less!) the likely correct performance order by EN, August 2023
590 MB FLAC/direct link

I reoriented this one to include the bits not aired in the 2022 France Musique rebroadcast, whilst reordering the tunes to play, more or less, in the correct order as performed. The fragment bit was originally ahead of 125th Street Congress, but I thought the overall show flowed better with it after so that's what I did. If this is unacceptable, you're more than welcome to kill me.

I might do one more for August, or I might not, we'll see. But I thought it necessary to get your weekend working with more Wayne, with the forecast being for some very heavy Weather.--J.

8.25.1933 - 3.2.2023

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Ghost Dance Away

Robbie Robertson - It Is a Good Day to Die

Sunday means the second of two memorials for the weekend, with another recently departed superstar taking center stage one last time.

He started out in his native Canada in the early 1960s, soon finding his way into the touring band of someone from Arkansas.

In this group, he met an additional four people: one, like the leader, from Arkansas and three other Canadians.

A couple of years after he joined, the entire band broke off as a unit and became the backing group for some character called Bob Dylan.

Then they all moved in together, not far from Dylan's place in upstate NY, into a big pink house.

They installed a basic recording system in the basement, and then all heck broke loose and the face of all popular music became genetically altered by their existence.

Called simply The Band, there is music before them and there is music after them, and those two things are very different.

Today's guy was essentially the main man, writing most of the material, even though the group contained essentially five frontmen, depending on whatever song was being performed.

I suppose the supreme irony is that a band of mostly Canadians could become one of the main pillars in the music now called Americana. Well, Canada's in North America, isn't it?

Eventually the other four guys got hooked on bad drugs, and our hero knocked it on the head with one final blowout concert before embarking on a solo career.

Of all of them, he was really the only one that got anywhere on his own. He passed last week at 80, leaving only one of them still left alive.

Being half Mohawk, one of the places Robbie Robertson got to was a concept record about his Native American roots.

This 1995 project toured in Italy, of all places. Don't believe me? I have irrefutable proof!

Robbie Robertson
"Music for the Native Americans"
Italy 1995

01 Ghost Dance (w/Red Road Ensemble)
02 Mahk Jchi (w/Ulali)
03 Golden Feather (w/Red Road Ensemble)
04 Eagle Dance (w/American Indian Dance Theater)
05 Cherokee Morning Song (w/Rita Coolidge, Priscilla Coolidge & Laura Satterfield)
06 It Is a Good Day to Die (w/Red Road Ensemble)
07 Crazy Horse (w/John Trudell & Bad Dog)
08 Skinwalker (w/Red Road Ensemble)
09 Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (w/Buffy Saint Marie)
10 Coyote Dance (w/Red Road Ensemble)
11 Hoop Dance (w/American Indian Dance Theater)
12 Coyote Dance (reprise w/all) 
13 Fire Dance outro (w/all)
14 RR announcement
15 I Shall Be Released (w/Rita Coolidge & Elvis Costello)

Total time: 1:01:42
Tracks 01-13: Palacongressi, Agrigento IT 2.11.1995
Tracks 14-15: Festa Del Lavoro @ Piazzi San Giovanni, Rome IT 5.1.1995

audio sourced from 2 Italian RAI-TV broadcasts of indeterminate origin
retracked, repaired & remastered by EN, August 2023
419 MB FLAC/direct link

This one is a bit rough sounding hisswise, but I did the best I could with it and it's the only documented, pro-recorded performance of this (yes it's transfixing) material.

I've got still more planned for these hot August nights, but I wanted to make sure I paid tribute to Robbie Robertson, as formative a figure in the music of our age as anyone you could name.--J.

7.5.1943 - 8.9.2023

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Divining Rodriguez


Rodriguez - Forget It

The next segment of the busy weekend is the first of two memorials for two superstars that passed away last week on consecutive days.

I covered this guy once before, but now that he is gone I'm gonna do it again, because he was that good.

He was so good that it took decades for him to get his due.

Once he did, he took his rightful place as a full-on rock star.

It didn't start out that way. As everyone is now aware, his two '70s albums sold roughly 14 copies apiece back when they were released to an uncaring public more attuned to T. Rex and The Band. But more on that tomorrow.

It took an extraordinary migration of his albums across the world -- from Detroit to Johannesburg, in fact -- to globally reveal his exceptional songs.

There's really no explaining it, other than to say that liberally-minded white kids in 1970s/1980s South Africa somehow got a hold of this man's records... and used them as fuel for the eventual overthrow of the Apartheid system.
I know it sounds incongruous and impossible, yet there it is.
That's it: 20 songs so cynical and biting in their study of the human condition, strangers culturally removed from the conditions that produced them by tens of thousands of miles were able to cast off the shackles of history with those tunes in their headphones.

It's a story so fantastical they hadda make a movie about it.
When that film hit, all hell broke loose and our hero began his resurrection, ascending to heights most songwriters only ever dream of... except his big success came much later in life.

So now Rodriguez -- some people are so cool, they only need to go by one name for you to know who they are, but for the record his first name was Sixto -- has moved on to join the firmament of the musical immortals.
Obviously he's a tough one to cover, with a 40 year career gap where he was mostly inactive and building/demolishing houses in his native Detroit.

But for a brief time as the 1970s ended, he did get some traction in (of all places) Australia and New Zealand, with tours there during that period.
Lucky for us, one of those tours produced a live record, only ever issued Down Under in 1981 and never rereleased in the digital era.
Good luck finding any sort of lossless vinyl rip of this LP. Well, good luck unless you're reading this page right now, anyway.
Live in Sydney, Australia 1979

01 Can't Get Away
02 Street Boy
03 Like Janis
04 I Think of You
05 I'll Slip Away
06 A Most Disgusting Song
07 Forget It
08 Inner City Blues
09 Halfway Up the Stairs
10 To Whom It May Concern

Total time: 40:08

Sixto Rodriguez - guitar & vocals
Steve Cooney - guitar & mandolin
José Guadiana - flute
Jake Salazar - bass
Doug McDonald - drums

beautiful vinyl rip of a just-unsealed LP only ever released in Australia and New Zealand in 1981
recorded at the State Theater, Sydney AU 4.6.1979 & the Regent Theater, Sydney AU 4.8.1979
volume increased +4 dB throughout by EN, August 2023
never yet reissued in the digital era
166 MB FLAC/direct link

I'll be back -- a little further down the crazy river -- with Memorial #2, but I wanted to make sure the Cold Fact that Rodriguez was as awesome and impactful a songsmith as any that has graced our lifetimes was made clear. And don't forget it!--J.

7.10.1942 - 8.8.2023