Archive for the ‘jazz’ Category

Good Stuff for the 4th

July 8, 2009

MB had friday off work and then she took a vacation day on Monday, so we had a nice four-day weekend together. Friday was a kind of putzy day, painted a bathroom that really needed painting, got the last of the plants in the ground that we’ve been trying to plant for a month or so, drank some good beer (Left Hand Warrior IPA, semi-sweet but a pretty good hop bite at the end) and went out to dinner.

Saturday, our good friends John and Hilary from Minneapolis came to town for the night.  It’s always great to see them. The day was oddly rainy and kind of cool for the 4th of July but it was just right for us. We thought about going down to the I.C. jazz fest but decided we’d rather cook out and hang out with a good bottle of wine (or two) and talk. The weather cleared and it was a beautiful summer evening. Kebobs on the grill with cous-cous, a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape that John brought, lemon cake and berries, and good conversation late into the evening. Fireworks surrounded us but all at a distance, some lights arcing above the trees, but mostly flashes and lots of noise. Really a perfect 4th for us.

Sunday morning we went for a nice hike on the Sac and Fox trail with J & H, some pretty good birding considering how dense the foliage is now (and John taught me the Common Yellowthroat’s song so that now I can recognize it). After J&H headed up to Minneapolis, MB and I headed down to the Jazz fest. We saw just a bit of Chris Potter. It sounded good, but it was a little more dissonant than we were in the mood for at that point. But the combo of Bill Frisell followed by Dave Holland was brilliant all around.

I have been a long time Frisell fan. Now he’s not exactly what I’d call energizing music (for that, see upcoming comments about Dave Holland or last year’s fest with Bonerama and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). The music is rather hypnotic. It was really perfect for a hot summer afternoon with the sun setting behind him as he worked his loops, and echoes, and delays to sublime effect, circling around themes and teasing them out, easing in to strains of Americana classics and dissolving into some molten psychedelia and back out. As much as I’m a fan of Frisell, though, what really made this show was the cornet of Ron Miles. His sound was absolutely crystalline and fit in with Frisell’s guitar work brilliantly, at times the two of them melding into one distinct sound, at times perfectly complementing and counterpointing.Their version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was stunning, fresh and innovative while still carrying the emotional depth of Cooke’s original. As I say, it’s not jump out of your seats music, it’s much more about subtlety and sonic textures and landscapes. Really a lovely, lovely set. Here’s a video I found of Bill with Ron Miles. They didn’t have the sax with them, and this drummer is different (but Tony Scheer was on bass), but I wanted a video that caught Frisell and Miles, so enjoy:

Dave Holland I was not as familiar with. Certainly I know him from his famous work on bass with Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew era and know his name quite well, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the end, I think that made it an even better show for me. His band is simply stellar: Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Chris Potter on saxophone, Steve Nelson on Vibes, and Nate Smith on drums. Like Frisell’s set, this was also about exploring sonic landscapes, and they covered a wide range of textures and emotions, all of them were driven by Holland’s stunning basswork. But unlike Frisell, this music was at times jump out of your seats music. They received many long standing ovations throughout the show as the band played with an unbridled passion and energy. Each member of the band is an incredible soloist, but what really moved me was the ensemble work. When all went together, the musical textures created an amazing tapestry of sounds that would almost feel as if it were going to explode, that it would be impossible to pull back together but just at the edge of real chaos Holland would pull them back in.  “Secret Garden” highlighted some great improv solos and numbers like “Lucky Seven” and “Easy Did It” really highlighted the ensemble work. A great, great show. Here’s a clip of “Easy Did It” from last fall, unfortunately a very short clip and they’re really just getting rolling as it ends, but a bit of a sense of what the quintet sound is:

Then, finally, for Monday MB and I went biking along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. A perfect sunny, warm, breezy day. We got back and made barbecued tempeh on the grill, put it in sandwiches with roasted poblanos and another really nice evening. As I said, the perfect long weekend for us. And we hope you enjoyed your holiday as well.

And Another Big Birthday

May 26, 2009

In my last post, I wished happy birthday to Bob Dylan.  That’s a birthday I’ve known for a long time. I had no idea that his birthday was so close to another huge musical milestone, though. Tomorrow is the birthday of jazz genius Miles Davis. Many thanks to Pete Lee on Bop Street on KFAI for letting me know this historical date.

Miles Davis(p)1988 Fantasy, Inc.

Miles was born May 26, 1926 in Illinois and died September 28, 1991 in Santa Monica California.  As with Dylan, I trust that any readers of the Street Parade know the astounding influence he had on music of all kinds and I won’t replay it all here. So the question is what do I suggest for a tribute. I love it all from his Birth of Cool to his Kind of Blue to his work with Coltrane to his electric fusion–it’s all great and you can’t go wrong.  Generally, I suggest a classic album to pay tribute to a musician, but here’s what I recommend for Miles: put on 4 discs continuous: Jack Johnson, In a Silent Way, and both discs of  Bitches Brew. Now turn it up loud and let yourself sink into a jazz meditation for several hours. If you come through the other side unchanged, well, your mind is far more twisted already than mine. Enjoy.  And, just to get you rolling, here is some classic Miles from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. My wife who isn’t really a fan of the fusion Miles (much preferring the Birth of Cool era) watched the documentary of his Isle of Wight festival and walked away fairly glazed and dazed muttering, “oh, I get it…”

New Music

January 28, 2009

OK, it’s actually a post about old music, but new to me.  MB got me a copy of Badfoot Brown and the Bunions Bradford Funeral Marching Band for Christmas and it’s becoming a regular in the playlist.  Badfoot Brown is actually Bill Cosby and this is an instrumental album originally released in 1971.  The album consists of two long instrumental fusion tracks in the vein of Bitches Brew.  At times fusion, at times pure funk groove, at times dissonant jazz, at times psychedelic weirdness, and at times all of the above at the same time.   It’s clearly got strains of Bitches Brew and some of the insistent repetition of In A Silent Way in it, and a bit of Sun Ra to boot, but this isn’t just to say it’s just derivative avant-jazz; it has its own wonderful funky sound altogether.  Personnel are not listed and there are different reports of who plays on this album but the Village voice among other point to Charles Wright’s Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (of “Express Yourself” fame) as the most likely band members beyond Cosby himself on piano.  I have long enjoyed the Bill Cosby/Quincy Jones “Original Jam Sessions 1969” with the likes of Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Jimmy Smith, and Milt Jackson. It’s an album that shows the range of jazz that Cosby truly loved; but the Badfoot Brown opens a whole new dimension, Cosby at the helm of some true funk genius. The Jam Sessions album was clearly a compilation of diverse music; this is one solid groove. Yes, the Cosby of today may not appreciate the attention this album is receiving with its re-release (I think he’d rather forget that era in light of his current mindset and politics), but it’s one of my new favorite things and worth a good listen.


Iowa City Jazz Fest, Part II

July 6, 2008

Yesterday we went back down to Iowa City for some more Jazz Fest fun. A great day of music and sun and food and beer all around. We missed out on Euforquestra but showed up in time for some of Garaj Mahal. Garaj really taught me the problems of fusion jazz. While I appreciated the spirit they brought to their explorations, they were so darned earnest about it all that it didn’t really move me. In many cases, there’s a fine line between truly innovative work and boring in fusion, and sad to say that Garaj landed on the latter. Didn’t really do anything for me. We saw some of Groove Ship on a side stage and they put on a solid show (but not up to last year’s side stage band, The Diplomats of Solid Sound–great band!). The IC Fest is really good for veggie street fair, good falafel, soba noodle stir fries, indian food from the veggie restaurant Masala, fine pizza from the Wedge, etc. but they really need a beer booth I think. Beer was strictly a cooler enterprise which we did just fine with.

The headliner of the night was John Scofield and the Scohorns. The horns were a great addition to the Scofield trio sound, really rounding out that jazz guitar. He still puts on a good show with lots of improvisation and a full array of styles. His version of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” with some traditional New Orleans horns thrown into the mix was quite nice. He also played a long jam of semi-country, semi-jazz rambling that really fit the twilight perfectly. As much as I enjoyed Scofield, though, the night truly belonged to the penultimate act, Bonerama. That’s trombones, folks–get your mind out of the gutter.

Bonerama is an astounding band from New Orleans. I’ve always loved the funk of New Orleans Brass Band music, but they stretch even that to its limit. There is a drummer, guitar player, a sousaphone, and four trombones. I don’t care if you do or do not like trombones, if you do or do not like New Orleans jazz, you should see these guys if you get a chance.  They brew up a ridiculously fun stew of funk, soul, r&b horns, and draw from a broad range of styles and covers in their own inimitable style. From Led Zeppelin to Edgar Winter to John Coltrane to Johnny Cash, all in their own voice (yes, in fact, Folsom Prison Blues works just fine as a trombone ensemble). From straight ahead jazz, to contrapuntal syncopated improv, to rock, to freestyle; they shifted seamlessly from style to style and maintained this incredible groove that you couldn’t help but be caught up in. Clearly the highlight of the weekend.

Here’s Bonerama doing a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” in an in-store performance in New Orleans’ Louisiana Music Factory (one of my favorite places). The little bit of vocals here are misleading as the singer is actually incredibly powerful (the previously mentioned version of Folsom Prison Blues was downright scary in his voice) while he’s clearly a bit weakened by the jazz fest festivities here, but the mix of horns gives at least a glimmer of what they do. Like I said, just check them out if you get a chance.

July 4: MMW

July 5, 2008

Well, as truly screwed up things are here in Eastern Iowa these days, it’s nice to be able to celebrate. Most of Cedar Rapids festivities went under, but I was really happy to see the Iowa City Jazz Fest went on as planned. The old capital area of Iowa City/University of Iowa is on a hill and was unaffected so the three-day fest goes on despite the miles of sandbag walls you see coming in to town, or, worse, if you have to come in through Coralville as we do, the miles of washed out, muck filled, incredibly stinky areas of town. Businesses washed away, no power still, and the odor of mold, mildew and sewage laden water is overpowering. But alas, that’s not what this post was about, right? Right. Last night we went to see Medeski, Martin, and Wood at the Jazz Fest. Incredible show. I’ve been a long-time fan but had not had the opportunity to see them. Yea, it’s got that whole jam-band ambience to it (something I tend to distrust these days as its anything goes attitude seems to make audiences less discriminating about really good music from just jamming), but the fact is these guys are just amazing musicians. I’ve known Medeski is a genius on the keyboards, but by the end of the evening the person that was really amazing me was Chris Wood on bass. He was getting sounds from his instrument that I didn’t even know were possible. Mostly, we sat fairly far back but once in awhile I went up close to fully experience it–hadn’t had that heart-pounding high-volume bass experience in a long time and they delivered some serious power. Good stuff, through and through. I’m not going to miss Bonerama from New Orleans and the great jazz guitarist John Scofield today! Here’s a little clip of MMW you might find interesting: