Sunday, May 19, 2024

Art for Art's Sake


Art Pepper Quartet - Yours Is My Heart Alone

We're brightening Sunday with the first anniversary post in a long time, stuck in birthday land as I have been since March.

How I've never covered this dude before, in 10 1/2 years of this page, I can't say. It's an awful lie of omission, and it changes today.

Did anyone see the HBO documentary series about Synanon? This guy was in it for a quarter of a second.

As notorious for his heroin-related jail stints in San Quentin as he was for music, today's honoree achieved his goal of dying as the world's foremost alto saxophonist.

He's gone 42 years now, can you believe that?

Having been raised by his abusive and alcoholic asshole parents before being exiled to grandma's, he was able to rip hearts from chests from a tender age, using only his trusty sax.

Another of those rare players we laud on here -- the ones that you know it's them after a single note or phrase -- he's as beloved and as influential on Jazz as he ever was.

There's this other music blog I frequent, and half the posts are of him, or at least it seems that way.

He's a little like Lee Morgan, in that he featured astonishing technique coupled with a sophisticated but universally basic and translatable emotional quality. Usually it is one or the other, but the rare cats have both.

The poor guy only made it to 56 -- drugs and traveling made sure of that -- but in the sense that matters his music is eternal and he can never die.

Take as an exemplar this delicious, full concert France Musique (FM for short) rebroadcast a couple of years ago, recorded in Paris in 1981 at the end of dude's run.

That's the thing about Art Pepper: no matter what sort of pharmaceutical depredations he put himself through, his playing never suffered.

Art Pepper Quartet
Espace Cardin
Paris, France

01 Ophelia
02 Mambo Koyama
03 Here's That Rainy Day
04 Landscape
05 Yours Is My Heart Alone
06 Avalon
07 Patricia
08 Rhythm-A-Ning
09 That’s Love

Total time: 1:45:20
disc break goes after Track 05

Art Pepper - alto saxophone & clarinet
Milcho Leviev - piano
Bob Magnusson - bass
Carl Burnett - drums

digital capture of a France Musique rebroadcast from 2021
some applause transitions smoothed -- with volume boosted +3 dB throughout -- by EN, May 2024
719 MB FLAC/direct link

This one was a little chopped up between tunes, with the applause skittering hither and yon. I inserted a few transitional tags to smooth some of these out, and cranked it up 3 dB also. Nothing else was changed.

I'll be back on the weekend with something so cool: the first centennial I've ever done for an alive person! And a stellar 100 one to boot.

That's coming, but Art Pepper blowing up the Cardin using only his horn is here and now! I'll get him again on his big birthday next year, but I didn't wanna wait that long to let Art imitate Life as only he could!--J.
9.1.1925 - 6.15.1982

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Battery Included: Billy Cobham 80

Billy Cobham - Antares

All right, it's time for a milestone birthday bash to snatch your cymbals right off their stands.

I've covered this guy before, but a heavy hitting hero such as he deserves additional glory.

He first broke into the public consciousness as one of the many drummers on some record called Bitches Brew, at the end of the swirling Sixties.

When next he was sighted, it was in 1971 behind the giant, see-through Fibes kit in a somewhat influential group called The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

These Mahavishnu guys were pretty popular, or so I am told. When they first came out, the lines went around the block, up the avenue and across the country and the world.

Musicians who caught them during this initial exposure were next to be found throwing their instruments into the nearest ocean.

After everyone fished their guitars and violins out of the large bodies of water, music changed and Fusion grew up. At least for a few years, until it got repetitive and too chopsy.

As any band is only as great as its drummer, it's needless to say that what this guy did at the backline of Mahavishnu made ten trillion other players immediately set about imitating it, to varying effect.

In 1973 the original TMO split up amid the usual hatreds and clashes. Then our hero started making equally-as-beloved solo platters and the rest, as they say, is hitstory.

It's really not an exaggeration to say it: there is drumming before Billy Cobham, and there's drumming after Billy Cobham.

It's almost like the difference between B&W and color TV.

Unimpeachably one of the fastest, grooviest, thunderous and most precise players ever to touch a stick, when you hear him at his finest you almost wonder why anyone else bothers.

Which brings us to some of the dude's most very finest, assembled into a colossal 2 hour and 40 minute masterclass by me from some of these illicit tapes Bill Graham recorded in secret back in the day, and are now for sale -- with wrong information, often inferior sound and dubious copyright -- by his monetaristic descendants.

Billy Cobham
The Bottom Line
New York City, NY USA

01 drum solo intro
02 Antares
03 AC/DC
04 Ayajala
05 BC talk incl. band introductions
06 Leeward Winds
07 On a Magic Carpet Ride/Stratus
08 La Guernica
09 La Guernica pt II incl. drum solo
10 Stratus
11 Antares/Puffnstuff incl. Stratus (reprise)

Total time: 2:40:54
disc breaks go after Tracks 04 & 07 (or Track 08 if you like)

Billy Cobham - drums, electronics & percussion
Mark Soskin - keyboards
Randy Jackson - bass
Ray Mouton - guitar
Charles Singleton - guitar 
Alvin Batiste - saxophones, clarinet, flute & percussion
everyone - vocals on PuffnStuff

320/48k webstreams from Wolfgang's Vault
spectral analysis is lossless past 20k, so essentially equivalent to a preFM source
converted to 16/44 CD Audio, assembled, repaired, tracked, denoised, edited & remastered -- with erroneous titles corrected -- by EN, May 2024
965 MB FLAC/direct link

These files they have streaming over there are 22 kinds of messed up, but when I work on them we see the spectral goes clean to 20 kHz, which is 5 kHz more than you get from, say, a France Musique DVB rebroadcast, and essentially equivalent to a preFM source... so why not, I ask? It took days and days to get this put together from the mistitled mess it was in, but then that's my job, right?

So Billy Cobham is 80, can you believe that? I hope this little bombshell of a set gets your weekend and beyond grooving properly, in accordance with the fiery Fusion filigree contained in its bits. It may be B.C., but it lives firmly in the future!--J.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

WATT Prophet


Carla Bley - Blunt Object

We continue the Merry Month with -- can you believe it? -- the second post about a female in a row! At this rate, I'll have to turn in my Sausagefest badge and quit eating tube steak.

Today's madwoman would have been 88 today, had she not had the audacity to pass away last October after a career in music like no other.

Born in Oakland, California -- where else? -- she started her singular journey as, of all things, a cigarette girl at Birdland in the 1950s.

There she met pianist Paul Bley, and they were married soon after. And divorced soon after that. Around 1960, she began to have her compositions recorded by other artists, eventually helping form the Jazz Composers' Orchestra with her next husband -- trumpet star Michael Mantler -- in 1964.

To have an outlet for their recordings and those of the other JCOA artists, the two formed JCOA Records. This gave way to their seminal WATT label, which became distributed by Manfred Eicher's ECM and became home to a whole passel of unbelievable LPs in the 1970s and '80s.

As gifted a composer as almost any of the last 60 years, her stuff is really down to her eccentric and one-of-a-kind tunes, which straddle just about every conceivable genre and flavor.

The first time I ever remember becoming aware of Carla Bley -- born this day in 1936 -- was on the seminal TV show Night Music in the late 1980s, when she blew everyone's mind alongside Bootsy Collins in an epic and bizarrely unforgettable segment.

I've covered her before, but since she left this realm I made up my mind I was going to do so again when her next birthday came around.

One of the most bootlegged Jazz artists ever to swing it, for some reason Carla Bley was featured in a million radio concerts over her lengthy career.

I must have 50 shows of hers, mostly from European radio. But my favorite one is this one, taped off the BBC almost 40 years ago and featuring some of her funkiest songs.

Look out for bass brahmin Steve Swallow here, who slathers his slinky-toned sounds all over the place and gives it all a slithery, supple kind of low end as only he could do.

Carla Bley
Bracknell Jazz Festival
South Hill Park Arts Centre
Bracknell, UK

01 Pink Panther Theme
02 Antidote
03 Blunt Object
04 Misterioso
05 Light or Dark
06 Night Glo
07 Fleur Carnivore
08 Joyful Noise
09 Song Sung Long

Total time: 1:20:45
disc break goes after Track 04, or this can be slightly overburned

Carla Bley - keyboards & organ
Michael Mantler - trumpet
Ray Anderson - trombone
John Clark - French horn
Earl McIntire - tuba & bass trombone
Steve Slagle - alto & soprano saxophones, flute & clarinet
Tony Dagradi - tenor saxophone & flute
Ted Saunders - keyboards & organ
Steve Swallow - bass
Victor Lewis - drums

PsyKies' off-air, 1st gen VHS tape of the complete, original 1986 BBC Radio 3 FM broadcast
slightly edited, denoised, retracked & remastered by EN, May 2024
531 MB FLAC/direct link

I'll continue dancing about the Maypole next Thursday, with some wicked shit I have cooked up to celebrate a milestone percussion person, so all you Fusioneers better get your hi-hats a-snatching on The One in preparation.

Today, however, we tribute the fantastic Carla Bley, who'da been 88 just like the keys on her piano today!--J.

5.11.1936 - 10.27.2023