Music Review

Darius Jones Switches Genres

A jazz-identified musician who, for this release at least, is working in the classical realm, Jones is an excellent alto saxophonist, but also a consistently interesting composer, so this move to fully notated music for an a cappella quartet of female singers is hardly too big a hurdle for him to clear. The degree to which I loved this on first hearing, however, surprised me; this isn't just interesting, it's downright masterful.

This is the fourth volume in Jones's Man'ish Boy series, which I have never really understood the finer points of. That this one's sung doesn't help, because the 'words' are in an invented language of short syllables; the press release says it's a song cycle for a sacred alien birthing ritual. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Bud Powell Born 90 Years Ago

No jazz pianist in the last 45 years has been uninfluenced by Bud Powell, because his work in the early days of bebop with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie established the prototype for the style's pianists, at least in a group setting: quicksilver, horn-like figures from the right hand, jabbing harmonies from the left that add off-kilter accents to the rhythm. (When playing solo, and sometimes on ballads in trio, Powell deployed a fuller, more lush style derived from Art Tatum, with some of his friend and mentor Thelonious Monk's style mixed in.) He left surprisingly few official documents of his collaboration with Parker and Gillespie, with most coming after the style's foundation because of two recording bans. By then he had already become a leader in his own right and had begun recording a legacy of not just great pianism but also his unique compositional style. Read more »

They Got the Steely Dan T-Shirts: The Debate Continues

As I mentioned in its introduction, my Ste ely Dan appreciation last week stemmed from an email exchange with several other people. And my article was not the last word by a long shot. One of the participants, Tony Alterman, is responding with his own album-by-album review, and his brother, CultureCatch's own Ian Alterman, is pitching in with his own observations. Here, with punctuation corrected and tangents omitted, is the origin of the debate and its continuation. Read more »

Song of the Day: Forster Anderson - "Red"

"Red," the new roots-rock single from Australian singer-songwriter Forster Anderson debut EP Banter is available for pre-sale on download from iTunes. The song explores the mind and psyche of a pyromaniac's modus operandi and the senseless destruction that ensues. Moreover, the tragic bush fires that ripped through the Australian State of Victoria in February 2009 and killed 173 people occurred while Forster was backpacking through Colorado, USA. This is his homage to that horrible event.

A Highly Personal Retrospective Appreciation and Ranking of Steely Dan's '70s Albums

Recently a bunch of us were emailing back and forth about something and a tangent appeared in which we were ranking our favorite Steely Dan albums in order -- sticking to their '70s albums, their prime period. Read more »

Surprises from U2

The biggest story of the week is Songs of Innocence, the U2 album available for free from iTunes. It's not, however, considered a big story for the right reasons.  Read more »

Remembering 9/11

John Adams's response to 9/11, On the Transmigration of Souls is a bit under a half hour in length, but seems timeless. Partly this is the lack of narrative, partly Adams' shimmering music. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Little Milton Born 80 Years Ago

Little Milton (born Milton James Campbell on September 7, 1934 in Inverness, Mississippi; his father was Big Milton) came up singing the blues and by the '70s had moved into hardcore soul. He was a master of both styles.

In 1953 Ike Turner recruited Milton for the legendary Sun Records. His Sun singles didn't achieve success, and he spent subsequent years hopping from label to label until he started a label, Bobbin, with a St. Louis DJ. When they had a falling out, Little Milton moved to the Chess subsidiary Checker (which had been distributing Bobbin), even bringing at least one track recorded for Bobbin. Soon Milton branched out from performing to producing and managing other performers, and also gained his first hit (on the R&B chart) in 1962, "Mean to Me." Read more »

Song of the Week: Benjamin Booker - "Have You Seen My Son?"

The afro bluesy punk rock 'n' roll stylings of New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Booker are a breath of fresh air. (Think The Black Keys meet The Strokes.) Produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), this lean 'n' mean guitar/bass/drums track is a gut punch to the over-processed pop crap currently being force-fed by automated DJs. His self-titled debut album was released a few weeks ago via ATO Records. Buy it now! And my wish is that he and Ty Segall record and/or tour together. Now that would be one badass collision of rawk!

Song of the Day: Hilary Scott - "Flowers on Mars"

A pure, honest voice currently deserving a much wider audience, Missouri-based Hilary Scott's a natural talent, and her heartfelt Americana tunes have an infectious and growing quality. "Flowers on Mars" is from her latest album, Freight Train Love (Belltown). Give this veteran singer-songwriter a watch and listen and become a believer.

ANNIVERSARIES: Dinah Washington Born 90 Years Ago

Dinah Washington (8/29/24-12/14/63) was one of the last great examples of female blues singers regularly working in a jazz band context. Many aficionados would say that she was surpassed in this style only by Bessie Smith. First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story, the two-CD set that proudly features the commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1993 to mark the 30th anniversary of her premature death at age 39 (from an overdose of alcohol and diet pills), offers the finest overview of Washington's artistry, ranging from her first records under her own name in 1943 to her classic material for the Verve, Mercury, EmArcy, and Wing labels from 1946 through 1961 (with at least one item from every year in that span), missing only her last two years, when she was on Roulette. Read more »

Song of the Day: First Aid Kit - "Master Pretender"

Loyal readers know my profound affection for Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. Here's a wonderful live acoustic take on a tune from their latest long player Stay Gold (Sony Records). Catch them live.

ANNIVERSARIES: William "Count" Basie Born 110 Years Ago

Born on August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey, William James Basie was taught piano by his mother. At age 20 he moved to Harlem, center of the jazz piano world at that time, and soon began touring with various groups. He first gained fame in Bennie Moten's band, based in Kansas City; when Moten died in 1935, Basie formed his own group incorporating many Moten men.

Columbia Records producer/A&R man John Hammond heard Basie's band on the radio and made the first recordings of the band in 1936, but it was when Basie started recording for Decca in 1937 that he made his most classic records. The three-CD set The Complete Decca Recordings is the crucial documentation of what may have been the hardest-swinging big band, and additionally shows why Lester Young became an icon of the tenor saxophone. Each of the three discs in this set is devoted to one year of the period 1937-39, after Basie and his band had moved to New York City. Read more »

Song of the Day: Joseph Arthur - "Robin"

Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur shares his poignant and heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams. Please listen and share. As Robin once said, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."

Frans Brüggen R.I.P. October 30, 1934 – August 13, 2014

Frans Brüggen, who died today at age 79, co-founded the Dutch period-performance collective ensemble The Orchestra of the 18th Century in 1981 and continued to lead it even after he had to do so while seated. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that he planned to conduct until he dropped dead, and he did. And before his conducting career, he arguably did more to return the recorder (AKA flûte à bec, flauto dolce, Blockflöte) to prominence than anybody else in the 20th century. Brüggen's talents and intellectual devotion to period performance were recognized early; at age 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He was one of the pioneers of "early music"/"period performance," a giant in his field, and his prolific recording career enriched the world immeasurably. Here are a few samples of his virtuosity. Read more »

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